Monthly Archives: August 2011

Apples, bananas and iPads

On the day that Steve Jobs announced his retirement I discovered something very important and potentially worth a fortune that Apple have overlooked or chosen to keep hidden.

Being something of an amateur artist with a penchant for computer gadgets, I’ve been very excited about the ArtRage app and the iPad. Drawing and painting with your fingers is OK and some good effects can be achieved but sometimes a little bit more is needed and that is when I yearn for a stylus.

Trouble is normal styluses don’t work and there aren’t many sources for the very specialised ones that will work. And they are expensive. I tried making my own but the result was clunky. Eventually, I ordered a brush from Nomad in the USA. The very best at $24.

So you can imagine my chagrin when I discovered, after accidentally leaving the fruit on top of my iPad, that a banana works as a perfectly good stylus/brush. And it’s great to eat afterwards.

But seriously, there must be money in this – either from Fyffes or from Apple.


the folly of MADness

Follies are great fun. The Victorians, especially liked building them. They serve no particular purpose other than being bizarre and hugely extravagant. Rather like the nuclear bunker in a farmer’s field at Kelvedon Hatch. This immense underground structure was to be the seat of regional government for the east of England in a the aftermath of a devastating nuclear war.

broadway tower - an 18th century folly

kelvedon hatch entrance to nuclear bunker - a 20th century folly

This place was top secret until it was decommissioned in 1992 with the end of the “Cold War” after which farmer Parrish was allowed to have his land back complete with the bunker that is now open to the public and which Louisa and her family and I explored.

Somehow , though, this cavernous subterranean structure with it’s makeshift furniture, equipment and models seemed surreal and a cross between Disneyland and a place of madness. The mannequin of Margaret Thatcher in one of the command rooms was hilarious if only this bunker hadn’t been build in deadly earnest for the aftermath of an apocalyptic atomic war.  Communism versus Capitalism was the tension that drove the arms race but Mutual Assured Destruction kept the bombs from falling (except at Hiroshima and Nagasaki).

There was, too, something bittersweet about the bunker; a bit like the Berlin Wall where it was a pleasure to clamber over it and celebrate it’s downfall, yet also a  sadness that so many lives were wasted  because of it. Ironically, in the souvenir shop in Kelevedon Hatch, this ultimate bastion against the Soviet threat of communist world domination, the memento I bought was a military forage cap that turned out to be Red Army surplus!

But they also sold On The Beach by Neville Shute.

weedy tweedy

Some would say I am obsessed with the widower Jack Tweed. Rubbish! I just like to keep abreast of what local-boy-made-bad has got up to. After all, he and I have dined together in Zizzi’s  and both enjoy a drink at the King William and he went to the same school as Danae and part-owns Deuces, a pub near where Louisa and Julian live.

And now I have another link: he has been sentenced for yet another violent physical attack by my  friend Susan Mann JP at Redbridge Magistrates Court. She let him escape a jail sentence (Jack already has two) possibly mistaking him for Pete Doherty. Sue is chuffed at the press coverage of her very sensible verdict and punishment. Some links:

The Independent

The Mirror


The Mail

The News of the World ……oh dear! Not covered by this paper.

Horsington House and other places I have briefly lived in

Oddly enough our holiday home in Dorset was close to places I had lived in as a child. I moved to Axminster in 1956 (I’m pretty sure of this date as my school made a big fuss celebrating a running achievement and this, I think, was Gordon Pirie‘s success at the 5000 metres). The place was called Three Ways House and we inhabited a couple of rooms upstairs. It wasn’t difficult to find as I remembered it being close to The George which is now gutted and derelict. The town seemed shabby and down-at-heel.

Midge Ure lived here

Hawkchurch is nearby and we moved there from Axminster into St. Faith’s cottage (now known as Hypatia Cottage) and quite smart looking. It had two bedrooms and a living room and kitchen. Here it was I pumped the organ instead of singing with the choir at Colonel Greenshield’s daughter’s wedding. The Old Inn, where I played, is now a restaurant pub. I looked for signs of the Hayballs who were corn merchants and had a finger in every pie, but there was no sign. Sic transit. Whilst Axminster had seen better days, Hawkchurch was certainly on the up but in a smug way; there was no life in the place compared with Axminster – grimy but still kicking.

looking down to St. Faith's cottage

the avenue between the church and Greenshield's house

On the way home I detoured to Templecombe and found Horsington House, the Dr. Barnado’s home where my brothers and I stayed in 1959. We went into care when my father was on the run from the police. It was from here we Barnado’s boys had a holiday in Weymouth under canvas and a coarse youth thrust the Sunday Express in my face, pointing at an article and asking if that was my father. The headline read: Divinity Master Imprisoned for Embezzlement.

Horsington House is now a private home

It was Percy Smith who arranged our being in care at Horsington House; I think he wanted the three of us to be together instead of split up between separate care providers. Percy was the vicar at Hawkchurch who founded the Pilsdon therapeutic community for troubled people. I don’t remember much about Percy, although he befriended my parents and I was in his church choir, and would have quite liked to have met him again but sadly he died in 2010.

Marshwood Manor

sunset at Marshwood Manor

lyme regis

We’ve been used to spending some time holidaying as a family in Southwold, ever since my back operation prevented me from going to China. My consolation prize, as it were. But now the family has increased to twelve the place in Stradbroke Road, just up from the lighthouse, is too small; anyway, it’s been sold. So, Marshwood Manor was a new, and unknown, venture. But one which proved to be very pleasurable – a large country house in an estate of outhouses and fields of cattle and with a swimming pool and play areas for children and adults.

Our activities (apart from enjoying the house and eating and drinking and having fun) included a day at Charmouth searching, like Mary Anning, for fossils, looking up my previous homes in nearby Hawkchurch and Axminster, watching the night sky now that the stars were visible again, eating fish and chips on a hillside in Lyme Regis that overlooked the Cobb, a noisy lunch in Bridport, and a  superb meal at the River Cottage Canteen in Axminster.

charmouth - looking for fossils

the hill overlooking The Cobb

Maiden Newton was nearby so we were able to collect Judy Stinton, one of Sheila’s oldest friends, and bring her back for lunch and a catch-up of news.

Towards the end of our stay we had the news that Kiri was being induced and Lily May (born 19th August 2011) is now a grand-niece.

Lily May

hug a hoodie

I can remember the 1981 riots which also coincided with the arrival of a new Conservative government and new stringent financial strictures. I can remember Thatcher claiming that it was alright to be greedy but even she didn’t go so far as to hug a hoodie as Cameron once said we should do. Not that he’d say that now after having to cut short his Tuscan holiday to sort out 3 days of rioting in London and elsewhere. But he did. And he said: “Because the fact is that the hoodie is a response to a problem, not a problem in itself.” I wonder if he’ll act upon his admonition?

I had Esme with me all day yesterday and we went up  the High Road looking for lunch to find everything shuttered up and people in a panic. Loughton was to be one of the next “hit” spots. Can’t think why. Nowadays it is all nightclubs, restaurants and tanning shops, nail bars and hair-dressers. The discerning youth call it “Fake Valley”. But, by evening,  the heavy police presence in London, and their declared determination not to stand and watch, seemed to have calmed things down. We heard the clatter of mounted police riding through the town later in the night and someone caught the image for Twitter.

the mounties get their hoodies?

We were all checking the news on twitter and getting more immediate information than the radio or tv could provide. But so were the rioters. Events move so quickly nowadays.

There were incidents of banks and shops being smashed and burnt around where Danae and Nathan, Louisa and Julian and  Thom live and work. Thom, particularly, is shocked about the Sony depot at Enfield being torched (we could see the plume of black smoke from Loughton and soot and ash fell all day) as that was the main depository of DVDs in the UK and marketing films is his business.

ash from Sony found in our garden

It was fun reading the overseas reactions to our problems. I specially liked Iran’s press urging restraint and dialogue rather than force and a need to respect the civil liberties and human rights of the ‘demonstrators’. Schadenfreude. But, hopefully, the belated reaction of the government and police will now prevail, though I fear the country still has a deeper malaise to work through.

I know the scum pillaging and looting are just parasites but they are a manifestation of society’s unhappiness at the way that bankers have dumped us in a horrendous financial mess that our corrupt politicians, corrupt police and corrupt press are too gutless to tackle. Cameron now says the hoodies are “sick” but what made them ill? Perhaps its their mums and dads whose apathy has allowed the bankers, politicians, police and press to continue their rapacious exploitation.

Postscript: There is a good article on this subject in the Guardian by Russell Brand.

There is also a good clue by Paul in the same paper: 23d “Banker’s daily crime?” (5)