31 January, 2009


Curly, who is a little too proud of her intellectual prowess, took our Loeb Virgil to school for show-and-tell on Friday and informed the class that "arma virumque cano" means "of arms and the man I sing". She did not tell them that this is all the Latin she knows...


Here's the nation's favourite poem, from Mr Kipling:

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

His son was killed at Loos in 1915.

Credit crunch reading: Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem. And back issues of The Garden (journal of the RHS) kindly donated by a Freecycler.

22 January, 2009

When the Rudyards Cease Their Kipling and the Haggards Ride No More

Am reading Kim with Mo in the evenings - I must say, for a Nobel Prize winner, Kipling is an amazingly pleasurable read. My credit crunch reading is now Kipling's poems.

Watched Mortimer in Tuscany on iPlayer, which combined with the Castiglione, has made me want to drop everything and jump on a Ryanair flight to la bella Italia.

My God, will this winter never end! Have booked AirAsia flights to KL for August. Now I feel poor.

Ate at the new Rasa Sayang in Chinatown week before last - not bad. Planning to go to a Szechuan place in Bethnal Green that got absolute glowing reviews from the Observer, for Chinese New Year.

Saw Defiance. I wouldn't mind being stuck in a woodland shelter with Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber in all their rough partisan-garb over the winter.

08 January, 2009

Credit Crunch Reading

I am doing credit crunch reading, which is when, instead of buying new books, you just read the books that you bought years ago and never got round to reading. So far, I have read a collection of Joseph Brodsky's essays, On Grief and Reason, which has made me want to go back and re-read Auden; Spoken Here (a book about disappearing languages) by Mark Abley, which dovetailed nicely with our recent visit to the Babylon exhibition at the British Museum (I want to learn cuneiform!); and am just starting on Castiglione's The Courtier, which actually I have read, but that was 25 years ago and I did not get the point of it at all. Surely in a quarter of a century I will have gained enough to wisdom to actually see why people go on about it so?

In order to stop the children's brains turning into mush I have commanded them to learn a new poem each week. To hear Curly reciting Blake's:

"The angel who presided o'er my birth,
Said, "Little creature, formed of joy and mirth,
Go love without the help of anything on earth."

is to encounter hitherto unexperienced expanses of cuteness.

03 January, 2009

Abort! Abort!

Had a very abortive day today. First we went down to the Northcote Music Shop to get Mo a boy's guitar, but the chap there said he was big enough to use a fullsize one - and we already have a fullsize guitar - so we came away.

Then we went to the Battersea Dog's Home to see about getting a dog, but all they had were Staffies that had been abandoned by their hoodie thug owners, none of which (the dogs and the owners) were suitable for families with children, so we came away again.

Then we went up to King's Road to get a matching lamp for the one that my dear little squish got us for Crimbo, only to find that there is no longer a Habitat on King's Road. So we came away.

Then we went up to Peter Jones to see about getting some door numbers for our front door, only to find that they no longer do them. We went up to the 6th floor to see about getting personalised stationery, only to find that LSS and I disagree on the paper weight, colour, font, layout and everything else that it is possible to disagree with on the subject of stationery. So we came away.

So the only thing we accomplished was getting a single fitted sheet for Mo's bed. And now LSS has gone to Sainsburys to buy a huge vat of mushroom soup, to drown our sorrows in.