.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;} <$BlogRSDURL$>

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

get human.com logo

For Klingon, press one

I forget now how I ended up as a maverick customer service supremo but it started in Hong Kong back in 1996, writing English language scripts for already gracious and willing local staff, and continued in Seattle as an entrenched email/phone rep, rising to quality checker and trainer and general all-round pontificator.

Now that I'm finally heeding Doctor Phil and getting real about where my talents lie, I concede that I'm not *actually* cut out for that trade so much as the rôle of traitor mole behind enemy lines, watching for a chance to snip red tape and stick it to The Man with furtive deliveries of vox humana, common sense, and Gordion slicings through nitty rules.

Your Call Should Be Important to Us, but It's Not: I'm sorry I can't find the link because Feb 26's Sunday Times Inside the News~ "Under new management"  section by William C Taylor was excellent on Paul M English's Get Human cheat sheet to scything through automated interactive voice-response systems.

A 'must' of a link to this

"Consumer movement created to change the face of customer service. This free web site is powered by over one million consumers, and the site is run by volunteers who demand high quality customer service. Our site has information for many types of companies including credit cards, finance companies (banks and mortgages), insurance companies, cell phone providers and many others."

UK-bound, I'm already poring over this lot.

Deserving the widest broadcast and support.

Outlook not working

FYI, pals - I seem to receive but not reply from my seanet address.

My gmail address seems to be working.

forget me not

Bagels, Beans ... and Victoria's Secret

What a relief not be jetting gentlemanly into that good night but departing troublesome and immature as ever.

One never knows how one'll react 'til the crunch comes.

I thought perhaps that packing and saying goodbye to so many genuinely decent and mature pals might have a sobering melancholy effect and a calm descend: come clean, beg forgiveness. Find God.

Apparently not.

Having waffled on about the Forget-Me-Not-Fairy plate, I decided that I *would* get it to Julie, via good old Bagels and Beans.

Looking round for suitable packing and drab anonymous container, I spotted the Victoria's Secret bag from that day in Silverdale when I must have handed my bellissima more money than I realized, because back she came, laden with caskets and creels - and a VS sachet.

The perfect holder for the Fairy plate.

Every red-blooded man should once in his life sidle into a discreet café and leave some intriguing sachet for a woman on whose marriage certificate his name nowhere appears.

Likewise, every honest lady should run the gauntlet of entering somewhere public and ask sans giveaway blush if anything has been left for her.

Of course, a real cad would say nothing and simply let madame ask for what she assumes will be an anonymous brown package and be handed that tell-tale luminous pink bag, to titters and admiring glances all round.

But I respect J too much and Ted is wiry and fit, and checking in with a black eye and numerous abrasions would cause me to be taken to one side for interrogation and unseemly probings.

I was fond of that bag. It provided me an eye-opener and glances both admiring and resentful.

Having arrived on time - as is her wont - The Spitfire begged a further 20 minutes to spend even *more* of doting papa's donation. (I had *indeed* over-bribed la petite). Which left me to stroll around the Mall, at first self-conscious but with increasing boldness as the ego-trip dawned on me.

  • Passing couples each reacted differently: the women would note the bag with approving smiles and nudge their companion as if to say, "See? *He* buys his wife nice things."

    Hubby would scowl at me as if to signal, "Traitor".

  • Next, it hinted that even a has-been like me could pull a chick of Victorian secretiveness.

  • Monday, February 27, 2006

    vic sec for julie

    Sunday, February 26, 2006


    As I move from divan to chair to stool to floor, my goods and chattels borne aloft by local sale vultures, I see the finishing post loom and am reminded of Paul and his words of widom about the home stretch.

    He was a retired secret service type whose tired memoirs I promoted - a spook whose cover had been plamed and wouldn't settle for a desk and the sugary tea and grotty buns they serve down in the canteen.

    He'd vanished into the City as some sort of security whizz and then emerged to write his book when the D-Notice no longer applied.

    End phase: We'd been walking to some bookshop in north London and I'd muttered contentedly about the winning post being in view.

    "Careful, old chap - dangerous sector, the end-phase. Touch of the Stockholm Syndrome: you see things working out the way you've planned and you fall in love with that one solution, lose flexibility and distrust and go with the flow. That's when Sod's Law hit you with a sandbagged sock on the back of the noggin."

    Wonderful old guy of the old school, still living in a world of the Great Game.

    Bags of fascinating jargon.

    One day he phoned me in his usual hushed tones - I kept waiting for him to ask, "I take it we have a clear line?" - to announce, "I fear I may have caused a wheel to come off the op', dear boy."

    I thought he meant he'd pranged his Bentley but it was just some interview I'd set up.

    "Saw your boy, and well done briefing him so well - I spotted the informed questions - but we rather fell out over the damn'd James Bond probings..

    Sorry, but we might have lost that one."

    The interviewer himself reported "brill interview, Chris - good one there, mate."

    Whereas most of my authors reported, "Seen the interview", Paul would phone to confirm, "Seen the despatches. What do you think? If it's ok by you, old horse ...."

    I'd tell him it was fine.

    "Just don't want to let you down, old chap."

    Whenever we went for a TV interview - which terrified him - as we entered the studio, he'd murmur "red sector, chum".

    As actual publication day approached, he'd talk of "end phase" and send me well-wishing cryptic postcards.

    When my own publishing house let him go and another took up his disastrous next novel, he'd call me: "God I wish I had you as DIF (Director in Field) - the child they've assigned me lacks any field craft and seems utterly unreliable."

    He'd lunch me at strange clubs, peopled by twitchy spooks put out to field, some of them still carrying the marks of heavy questioning or last minute exits of blown missions.

    He'd introduce me as "officer Holmes" and I'd try to bulk up and look tough as they shook my hand with direct gaze and that nod shared between fellow agents in the field .

    I attended his funeral and I wish I'd had a button-hole camera to snap the faces round the grave: brave men from another time who'd done their  time and been left out to dry.

    End phase: And so to my own insignificant finalities.

    Change of address: Not only did I leave it too late (one month's notice, yo), but they don't forward to foreign parts.

    Which leaves me the option of naming and addressing my ex- and the danger of her opening a bank letter that reveals my win on the lottery and my paltry monthly $575 child support as ... well, paltry.

    Accounts cancellation: Everything went fine, everyone precise and efficient, getting the date right, lulling me into false security phase.

    Lifeline, Dept of "Ready When You Are, Mr Meyer": My cell phone. I know my script off by heart. I call the number, get a sweetie with the delightful accent of a daughter of Pancho Villa.

    She enunciates the script with courtesy and precision.

    I give her the date of cancellation - March 6 - and she puts me on gentle hold as she does her thing, returning often to apologize for delay etc..

    At last, with many thanks for my patience, confirmation that my account has been cancelled.

    "Er ... just to make sure, you *do* have the date right?"

    "Yes, your account is cancelled."

    "But not now?"

    "Yes, your account is now inactive."

    "But I said ...."

    Forget it.

    Her terrified voice at having got anything wrong rang of starving family back home.

    "No, that's fine. Excellent. Thanks so much. Very efficient."

    f-m-n fairy_r

    Forget-Me-Not Fairy

    I'm wishing I'd recruited the cherubic Forget-Me-Not babe sooner in my own  travails.

    As I enter "End Phase", to quote a spook author (more anon in next post), I sense wheels coming loose and that ol' familiar panic closing in.

    All perfectly standard Busker emotions which mean nothing more than that I'm on course and within schedule.

    I think this is why God left us in open-code beta mode; so He and the lads could have a giggle at times like this.

    life raftAs clear from photo left, I'm literally cornered and down to bare essentials.

    Feels good.

    The "Forget-Me-Not Fairy" Plate: I had intended this for Julie but having sold my wheels from under me am immobile.

    All the Fairy's fault, hanging up there invibly on the wall, but it is a gem of history and I'm probably giving away (or consigning to dumpster) an heirloom.

    Wiccan: When Elder Treasure was born (and christened) - in distant San Antonio* - out of the woodwork came all manner of distant relatives of dubious earthling provenance who sent her mega fung-shui gifts to see her thru life and counter-act her dad's incompetence in allowing her to be born "abroad".

    One such gift was a splendid plate that I see changed angle from one snap to another. Ulp

    From the shot of the reverse, you see it has one small (and very rusty) triangular hook with which to hang it.

    changed angleShifty: How why it should shift angle from pic topic is beyond me and not a little sinister.

    It dates from many years before Georgina's appearance in 1984, and probably hung in some Yorkshire nursery, bestowing elephantine memory to generations to Holmeses and Sutcliffes and so forth.

    Pity it didn't radiate some of its powers to Dad, but there you go ....

    wordingWording:All is explained on the reverse, and is clearly old and verie Englyshe from the sheer provocative quaintness of the wording:

    I've marked [sic] where sensible readers would assume a typo.

    In particular, note the curious apostrophe in " 'toys" - what could it have been? I know that to her dying day, Aunt Miranda spelled it 'bus for omnibus, but what could 'toys be an abbreviation for?

    And what about that "blue an pink"? Am - was - I sitting on a unique mis-spelling of "and", making the platter even *more* valuable?

    Could the badly timed selling of my car have deprived Julie of an item that would have fetched enough at Christies to pay for her angelic daughter' education, yea unto Ivy League and beyond, *plus* her and Ted's comfy retirement to a sun-kissed isle?

    Verily, Le Bon Dieu mocketh us.

    Back to the wording, I of course thrill  to the pink/blue profiling and wish now I'd let it hang backassward to provoke our more feminist pals, but the chance is lost.

    It reads:

    "The Forget-me-Not Fairy"

    From "The Festival of Flower Fairies"
    Collection by Cicely Mary Barker
    Plate Number 196877

    "Where do fairy babies lie
    Till, they're old enough to fly?
    Here's a likely place, I think,
    'Mid those flowers, blue an [sic] pink.

    (Pink for girls and blue for boys:
    Pretty things for babies 'toys!)[sic]
    Let us peep now, gently, Why,
    Fairy baby, here you lie!
    Kicking there, with no one by,
    Baby dear, how good you lie!"

    At the very bottom, a reminder that the plate is, "A work of art not intended for food use."

    * A dusting of Fairy dust descends and I recall an amusing tale of Hong Kong's 1841 signing over to the Empire.

    Captain Elliott was the Britisher who handled it from our side. I can't remember the name of the hapless Chinese pol who handled the Middle Kingdom's side of the deal.

    Either way, they both caught hell, Elliott for being conned into accepting a useless "barren rock" and the Chinese official for giving away such a gem.

    Years later, the Chinaman had the chance to inquire after Elliott.

    He himself had been stripped of all possessions, his wife misused before being sold into slavery, his children sent to the work house.

    "And Elliott seen-sang?" he delicately asked.

    "Absolute disaster, " came the reply, "Punished beyond cruelty.

    "Despatched as British consul to Texas."


    Saturday, February 25, 2006

    Peter Principle

    Well, there I go goofing again.

    I'd thought that Laurence J. Peter's Principle was the one about tasks expanding to fit the time allotted . It is of course the one about successful members of a hierarchical organization being eventually promoted to their highest level of competence.

    I'm talking about Task Time meeting Procrastination.

    Awake this morning at my usual apneic 5am, utter panic at having left things too late to be out in time for the bulldozers to move at sparrow fart on March 1.

    Typed out more announcements for pasting up in all eight condo entrances and set about piling the junk high for dumping.

    Called all the utlities and folks one lets know on such occasions - gosh they're efficient down the phone.

    Mind you, it could  be my laborious spelling out a Greek forwarding address that makes them sit up. One's usually trading one address for another, hence still in their clutches, so the threat of beating a path thru unmarked olive groves to retrieve a crippling $60 concentrates the mind.

    My posters offered assorted goodies at $0.00 O.N.O and barely had I reached the last condo than the cell phone starting burping.

    The first couple I showed round appeared interested in my burly glasses and delicate crystal.

    "So how much you asking?"

    "I dunno - $1 each? 50¢? $10 for the lot? $5.00?"

    Nervous looks.

    "Well, usually with these sales ...."


    "Well ..."

    I sweep up a fistful of wine, sherry and port glasses. "If we're quibbling over zero, they couldn't be much cop."

    I drop them into the black sack. Tinkle of breaking glass. Follow them with the heavy beakers. More glass sounds. Grab a handful of cutlery and hold them up - for the dumpster?

    Too late: Into the waggah.

    Subsequent visitors seemed quicker off the mark - grabbed the coffee maker and a lamp for a paltry $5 each.

    Hesitation over the CDs - into the bin.

    Pondering over the electronic stapler - bin.

    Goodness, this makes a man decisive.

    Belles Fleures by Belles Filles

    A breathless runner with forked stick hammers at my door:

    Stop Press: Favorite former co-workers Suzanne and Sarah have bought Matthiesen’s Flowers, "a little flower shop in Columbia City", where e'er that be.

    Next year sees its 100th birthday so they're keeping the name.

    The gals start official work on March 1st – so look or log in but certainly place huge orders.

    Burn it into the Rolodex:

    Matthiesen’s Flowers
    4873 Rainier Ave. S.
    Seattle WA 98118
    Tel: 206.722.2200

    Thursday, February 23, 2006

    ferrante program

    Groucho Soirée

    Feb 22, and down to The Playhouse (Box office 842 8569) for Bainbridge Performing Arts' presentation of the talented Frank Ferrante's uncanny portrayal of Groucho.

    I needed to relax and guffaw and the rubbery Ferrante was my man, aided by Mr James Furmston's subtle tickling of the ivories.

    I arrived early to watch people arrive: Bainbridge theatre-goers don't enter as others do, which makes them a spectacle unto themselves and worth the price of the ticket even before curtain-up.

    Bags of un-swagger, plus of course they dress like nowhere else on earth for an evening out.

    But they do bring their young - beetle-browed sons and frisky daughters, in dutiful attendance but wondering what on earth they're doing there.

    Then the show begins and they know precisely the fun they're in for.

    Ferrante has a good intro - coming on in mufti and looking like nothing more than someone's good Jewish son.

    As he chatters he sits and makes himself up - a smear here, a daub there - and suddenly before our eyes he's transformed into El G himself.

    Wonderful banter with the audience - dang, I'd love to witness duel between FF, our own Improv magicians, and Dame Edna - and spot-on recreation of Groucho himself.

    A fitting bookend entertainment for me on BI, seeing as how my first dinner a fortnight's hence in London will be at that showy Dean Street club.

    It's after my time there, so I always get appallingly insolent service until my grand hosts turn up, after which it's forelock tugging and lickspittle obsequy which is how it should be.

    girl at ticket officeSitting observing my fellow audience, I was struck by the beauty of the young lady in the ticket office.

    Seeing as how I'm leaving the country - hence little threat as a stalker - and knowing how we don't grow pulchritude like that back home, I made so bold to ask permission to snap her.

    I even offered to mail her copies of the snaps but she sensibly slapped me down with the assurance that she doesn't do email. Quite right, too.

    Good heavens - such an obvious line. If I overheard some wrinklie trying that fake line on my own girl, I'd lay the horse whip on him before he could say cheese.

    girl at ticket office_2Irony of ironies, babelicious as la blondista might have been, just inside the ticket office and seated below view was the Island's real  stunner whom I'd never have *dared* ask to snap but who's worth an aeon of Sports Illustrated calendars.

    Wonderful evening and what a good theatre in which to enjoy such an intimate show.

    Booking my air ticket, I find that a round-trip costs less than half an elusive one-way ticket, on top of which I've been warned that it's a kamikaze givewaway not to want to return and one gets rolled over something awful by security.

    So, anticipating withdrawals, I've booked my non-return to coincide with the BPA's next dazzling show.

    dad n daughter

    DQ Cop-out

    Loaded the jalopy with books and bombed down to Port Townsend to sell for needed cash.

    Spotted Mike Murray in the queue, choice purchase in his hand.

    Nice drive, that Bainbridge-Townsend run, but you've got to have your CDs lined up:

  • Eddie Williams
  • Bert Jansch's 'Nicola' album
  • Dylan's 'Hurricane' and 'Mississipi'
  • I'd say Dylan en tout  but driving needs attention
  • Paco de Lucia
  • Miles' Porgy and bess
  • Francoise Hardy
  • Frisell's Nashville.

    en route from port townsendNot a damn'd place serving decent lunch nosh, so I pocketed the $200 and headed home, belly full of yearning for one of those DQ burgers and iced tea that were such regular fixtures of Anna's and my weekend sorties to Poulsbo.

    Pulled into the carpark and sat there looking at our usual table.

    Couldn't get out the car.

    Sat gazing in, images of past snacks running thru my mind. Tears streaming.

    Gunned the Volvo and headed home.

    One thinks one can handle it - anticipated all the big hits, but it's the sneaky small stuff that gets under the guard and opens the floodgates.

    The astute and literate Mr Wells nailed it in a comforting private email. If he'll allow:

    "So sad, so true.

    Joan Didion: The Year of Magical Thinking.

    Her husband keeled over at the dinner table, massive coronary. She writes of grieving. Avoids the obvious memory places, but is caught short when she least expects it."

  • Water

    I've blogged earlier on the curious behavior of Minol, the company that monitors my water consumption and sends me such quaint billings.

    When I first took 3-weeks leave to visit my folks abroad, I returned to a heftier bill than if I'd actually been in situ.

    Three years later when I profited from a whole 7 weeks away, I had to wonder if it'd've cost me less if I'd left the shower running and offered a tap for watering the condo's entire lawnage.

    In fact, I personally adjusted my payments to reflect what I felt I didn't owe and, despite veiled threats over my credit standing, still haven't coughed up full payment, nor seen it reflected in my credit reports.

    Now I'm packing to leave, and contacting the various utilities, including advance notice to Messrs Minol with a gentle reminder of previous odd behavior and assurance that, once ensconced in my shepherd's cottage in distant Nissaki, I shall be far too busy tending my flock and ripping off rich tourists to convert my paltry Euro shekels into Yankee dollars to pay for precious water I've long since ceased consuming.

    The hitherto unresponsive Minol CS dept has been stirred to increasingly urgent and threatening emails, to which I've replied with my usual dithering helplessness.

    The best I've been able to come up with is a contact address of Spiros Vassiliou, capo di capi of Corfu's underworld.

    The funny thing is that they'll probably get paid for whatever they bill for the next 10 years:

    Spiros is such a jet-setting villain, and runs so many mistresses worldwide, that he'll probably assume it concerns the bubble baths of one of his honeys he's set up in a Bainbridge love-nest and pay the damn'd thing rather than have his wife stumble across a final demand and cause greater grief than just paying the wretched bill.

    Bill Cowings

    Excellent piece by the Review's Tristan Baurick on the retirement after 15 years of WSF's personable Bill Cowings.

    Arriving direct from Hong Kong on that May day in 1995, I was taken aback to be mooching off the early ferry to be greeted by the energetic Bill greeting each of us with rapid-fire customized "Good morning good morning good morning"s.

    Bill's a big guy, looming over us, so he was able to stand there at the gang plank, jabbing a finger at the stream of shuffling commuters so each one knew exactly the greeting meant for them.

    Back then, it seemed as if everyone knew him because there were many greetings in return.

    Later, I noticed fewer reciprocal responses until it reached a point where he'd simply stand there in respectful silence, his face suddenly breaking into that smile whenever anyone bade him their own g'day.

    Wasn't there a Nordies ad in the P-I with Bill looking resplendent in some natty duds?

    Baurick absolutely captures the generous spirit of the man and well done the editor for giving his piece pride of front-page place.

    I started reading it as a celebratory farewell but the piece takes a sombre turn with mention of Bill's knee trouble and WSF's difficulty in finding him a replacement role.

    That Bill needed to sue must have saddened him.

    There are always two sides to these disputes, so who can tell what was going on, but I was saddened by the image of him signing his papers and then being told he was done and being escorted off, sans chance to say goodbye.

    The agreement reached with WSF might have barred Bill from "speaking about broader grievances that also led to his early retirement", but Baurick's piece is a formidable PR coup for the "Good Morning Guy" to which I'm sure WSF spokeslady Susan Harris-Huether has been instructed to draft a business-speke response. But Round One definitely to Bill.

    Whatever the facts, I hope Bill's departure from our lives is remembered less for any sour ending than for the sunshine he brought us all.

    God bless him and all good wishes for a deserved happy retirement, full of the friendship he made inspired.

    Wednesday, February 22, 2006

    Lincoln Square Tumble

    As far as I can make out, help was on the way and the five trapped shoppers had been informed of this.

    All they needed do was sit tight.

    What on earth prompted those blithering idiots to try their own makeshift exit?

    I suppose there'll be all sorts of recriminations and trumped up charges as if Jeremy Johnson's tumble was the fault of the elevator malfunction.

    Terrible that it jammed at a height to make the fall fatal.

    A bruising 15 feet or so would have been more fitting: Lay him prone in a hospital bed, immobile to wriggle out of scolding by the authorities and finger-wagging mockery from shocked kith and kin.

    I've lived with elevators all my working life and would never try clambering out between floors lest the damn'd thing suddenly lurched back into motion and - Final Destination-style - sliced me in two, which I recall happening to some New Yorker.


    Tuesday, February 21, 2006

    Sir Ronald Holmes, and Busker's late father. Photo courtesy of Frank Fishbeck

    Saturday's Child

    My original title had been Wild Colonial Boy, to provide a bumptious contrast to that pic of my dad in sober serious mood - and because, born in Oz, I too have a touch of colonial wildness about me.

    But the tutting side of the family strikes me down for such frivolous disrespect.

    Pity, because I wanted to imagine dad pausing from his duties as celestial District Commissioner of The Lord's Elysian Territories to raise a quizzical brow at such lèse majesté.

    Also, it allowed a neat segue into referencing my own Saturday's Child and what she might have chirped up with - and her grandfather would have smiled to hear -

    "Yo, grandpa - is all cool.

    "Dad's not dissing you."

    No, indeed.

    But that's what blogs are so good for: the prompt stomping on the "too-clever-by-half" factor.

    saturdays child cover, photo by frank fishbeck

    Speaking of Saturday's Spitfire, if it strikes one as strange that a Seattle-based 15-year-old should be conversant with the Hong Kong of the 1960s, it's entirely thanks to mountain scaling, Hasselblad hefting, all-round good guy, the remarkable Frank Fishbeck and his gorgeous book of black & white snaps of Honkers in the Sixties.

    alhI couldn't resist capturing those shots of la jeune studying page 82 of Frank's book whereon appears her grandad, Sir Ronald Holmes CBE MC CMG, in full colonial monty: topee, dress medals, ceremonial sword.

    How he would have loved to have known both his grand-daughters, but The Spitfire in particular because she would have cheeked him and kept him on the run and listened agog to his clear and patient explanations of everything under a young gel's sun.

    grand-daughter and grandpaHow might it have gone?

    "Dad - grandpa is like totally  cool. He knows *everything* . "


    Exasperated Knight of the Realm: "I can't for the life of me make out if my cellular phone is out of batteries or ..."

    Spitfire: "Grandpa - give it here. (Ripple of nimble fingers) OK, so you hit this button and then here.

    Who do you want to call?

    "K, I'm putting Pericles' number in your address book. OK - it's ringing.

    "Hey Pericles - grandpa wants to talk to you.

    "Grandpa - it's Pericles."

    Gramps: "Thank you, darling."

    (Deathless stare at useless son, signaling that certain core talents clearly skip a generation)

    page spread of sir ronald holmes from saturdays child by frank fishbeckSeizing the initiative: I've read many accounts of Hong Kong's red-alert 'troubles' of 1967 and few seem to do justice to my father's part when he acted as Colonial Secretary for six crucial months.

    In his eulogy in Hong Kong's St John's Cathedral, Friday June 19 1981, Denis Bray nailed it bang to rights:

    "At the height of the disorders, his speech in LegCo declared the Government's resolve to 'seize and retain the initiative' [which] marked the turning point from a restrained commitment to the active pursuit of trouble-makers before they could launch their forays."

    In fact, during my 1980s return to work in Hong Kong, I met many local Chinese who remembered full well Dad's part during those perilous days.

    Denis again:

    "The speed with which he could grasp ideas from even the incoherent, the style and precision of his writing, his transparent honesty and absence of humbug made him the most delightful colleague and friend."

    And a great dad, I may add.


    "His death robs him of the reward of retirement.

    "He was one of the founders of postwar Hongkong.

    "We who live in the place he helped to create come pay our tribute to him today."


    Pedant post-script: Never let it be said that this blog stints on education.

    Dad would have liked and noted this finesse.

    I can't remember after whom Mt Everest is named - some cartographer, I dimly recall - but I adhere in my pedantic way to the excellent story I read that he insisted on his name being pronounced "Eve Rest", and waxed grumpy at hearing it delivered Ever-Rest.

    Anyway, to cite Hillary, they knocked the bastard off.

    Monday, February 20, 2006

    album 1964

    Wingèd Chariot

    Dept of Tempora Mores

    Nothing like a good spring clean to root out one's roots:

    Over there, top right, Busker's first album snap (Summer 1964)

    Balliol freshers Left: Balliol freshers, 1965.

    (Third row back; ninth from left; 'Y' shaped bib, just over the dusky Kwabe M'boto's left shoulder)

    Below, circa 1996, La Famille Buskère, Bainbridge Isle. L-r, Busker with Spitfire; maman matriarch; brother et wife; elder daughter.

    family busker n harry Right, August 2000: Busker feeding trusty grizzled Lurcher hound, Harry.

    (Guitar picker pls note 20-year-old auburn-hued Ovation (left) and $2K Taylor.)


    I know.

    One can Hire a Teen (BYS office, 842-9675) for the donkey work, but far more effective (if gruelling) is to recruit a daughter.

    They bring admirable qualities to the task:

    • They positively *bustle* - speedier than the camera's lens can capture.
    • They know one's dithering ways, and bully.

    • They recognize what you're packing and what you're ditching:
      • "Dad! You're not dumping this?"
      • "I'm not?"
      • "Da-a-d!"
      • "OK, add it to the package."

    • "You never wore this - junk it."

    • They multi-task with the blurred speed of summer lightning.

    • They can *fold*

    • They can pack

      ("Don't chuck those pillow cases: I can use them to put the paintings in")

    • They think ahead: "Pay attention - I'm splitting your camera stuff between boxes so the Customs don't think they're new."

    • They *really* think ahead:

      "Dad, you're like sending your passport  sea-mail?"

    But they do expect some readies.

    Totally worth it.

    Kultur & Cuisine

    Thwarted a few weeks back by that windy power cut, The Spitfire and I decided to seize the sunny Saturday and treat our jaded palates to a film 'n' food fest.

    First to the Poulsbo Régale for the intellectual treat of Final Destination 3, pronounced the laughably worst movie we'd seen for many a moon.

    No matter: this is *our* movie, and we are the dad/daughter Ebert & Roeper experts on the Destinaggers franchise.

    We were 2 of the 15 audience at the 4:25 showing and it surpassed even *our* giggly anticipation of badness. But, as La S pointed out , it delivered the goods of teens being killed off in supposedly ingenious ways.

    In fact, only the Valley Babe duo being trapped and fried in their tanning capsules came close to fulfilling expectations; the rest was rubbish: Dangling scimitars over the jocks' barbells; horse spooked by fireworks, dragging girl by the neck before causing pennant to impale the daffy Asienne; truck fan belt trepanning idiot photographer? Too silly n obvious.

    OK, perhaps nail gun peppering the florist had a certain visual je-ne-sais-quoi, but overall it was rubbish.

    Mais tiens! My intellectual readership will find even this description *too* enticing ....

    My problem was that Mary Elizabeth Winstead as lead babe Wendy was simply too unfanciable to attract any sympathy or interest.

    Madoka: But nothing could spoil the day because we'd booked for that culinary paradise, Madoka.

    I tell you, Alvin and José have got it right and it's no longer a question of just turning up in one's finery and looking important enough to be seated in a shot: Booking is essential.

    We'd eaten upstairs on the two other occasions so it was interesting to sit downstairs and watch the galley slaves at their wizardry.

    Despite being packed and busy with that hum of contented clientele bending to the task of serious scoffing, the staff itself glided about their jobs with calm efficiency.

    I'm a dry sherry man, finding it the perfect aperitif, but the cook had downed it all so our brisk serveuse (about whom more) brilliantly suggested a Bombay gin martini which turned out to be one of the best I've savored.

    We started with prawns and for the main platter I chose duck and La S went for the curry risotto.

    "But dad, you *never* have duck!" hissed the Pomegranate of my Loins.

    Sage paternal nod. Glug of the Bombay. "Sweetie - when dining where they get it right, one owes it to the place to take such 'risks'. "

    Absolutely delicious, and the glass of rouge (in those sensible goblets) went down like velvet.

    Prawn note: Don't - like me - turn away more bread. The sauce cries out for dunk power.

    In fact, on an earlier visit, we'd been sitting in front of empty prawn plates when the alert Brendon whizzed by and stopped to suggest more bread for that very purpose. Full marks to the lad, who I might have praised as going far except that he's far too suave and handsome for his own good on top of which he is - or was , if there's any justice in this world - the swain of the divine Brianna (not in evidence that evening).

    Sarah: I *knew* I knew our cheery waitress from somewhere, and after a few quaffs of vino plucked up courage to ask.

    But of course! I knew her from years back for her cheery help at Silver Screen.

    She went off for schooling in Malibu, of all places, at which I look most askance.

    As I explained to my darling, when the young travel abroad for higher education, it should be to some siberian outpost like South Dakota or Fargo, where pinch-faced crones serve gruel and water and nights are spent under thread-bare coverings, whimpering for parents who sit chortling on some Greek isle, served Madoka-quality gin slings and oblivious to their darlings' existence.

    Ms Sarah is my ideal waitress. Customers are such pains - always requiring this or that and expecting to be waited on hand and foot. Jolly hockey sticks types like Sarah are worth their weight in rubies: They save time by riding rough-shod (in the nicest possible way) over the small stuff and their sheer ebullience makes it impossible to whinge without seeming petty.

    You can't train that sort of thing: it's bred in the bone, so bravo Sarah and bravo Madoka management for enticing only the best.

    When I win the Powerball Lottery and come back to set up my Basil Fawlty-style "Buskin' Bites" nosherie, my poachings will be

  • That expert barman
  • Brendon and Brianna
  • Sarah
  • Last - so as not appear *too* obvious - the lovely and classy Anne-Marie - surely one of the Island's *true* beauties?

    Dessert: Like any good Yorkshire lad, I grew up on lemon curd. My Gan-Gan would serve it on brown bread for high tea.

    We weren't going to go for pudding but my eye was caught by the dessert menu's inclusion of a lemon curd tart which we shared and found most convincing.

    Footnote: Those smoothies. When I called for l'addition, the dessert was on the house on account of my having scribbled some words about the place in this blog.

    Superb evening, the sort that gives good living a good name.

    I shall sorely miss experiences like my evenings at the Mad'.

  • Saturday, February 18, 2006


    Baglin' 'n' Finaglin'

    Down to the Bagel & Broonzy for a swan-song croon before packing the Ovation away.

    Tight quartet of in-crowd intimes. Perfect evening.

    Usually, I fiddle with sizes of pics and strain for witty captions but I can't be bothered right now.

    That's how we looked last night, that's how we played, and if you were there you'll know we sounded O-KAYY.

    More important to get the pics up pronto and worry later about any fancy-pants identifying lingo.

    Sad in a way to think of this part of my strumming days soon to be over.

    When I got home, I made myself a cuppa and looked back over some previous evenings - like the luthier post, or that evening - or even *that* time.

    Good days, treasured memories.

    The divine Chele whom I'll really miss.

    Contemplative Mr Hager in background.

    The London Starbucks will be horrid and the staff will be surly, and I'll miss John and Lisa like hell.

    Here is the disturbingly fanciable Lisa taking her old man to the cleaners over a hand of Texas Hold 'Em.

    I wasn't quick enough on the shutter to capture her dealing the ace up her sleeve.

    I love that Larry Dewey.

    He plays ace guitar and is so nice with it.

    Taking a break

    Another superb latte coming up.

    Just when I've dropped enough $1 notes into the tip jar for the staff to be polite, off I jet to house-train a new Brit breed of uncouch baristae.

    "You what? Speak up. Hurry along there, got others in line, you know ...

    'ere Doris, this berk wants a 'single tall lartay with hazlenut', can you believe?

    "Yerss, chief, coming right up."


    Larry in action.

    He played a killer cover of Marty Robbins' Devil Woman and was nice enough to nod approval of my desperate plonking away on the top D minor.

    Great song and thank you Bagels for being there as host for the types who play it.

    Lisa cheating at cards

    The Bageleria

    Harpist/guitarist extroadinaire, Jim Griswold, sitting back and just savoring the sound.

    JIm is a walking pickin' encyclopedia of the great blues pickers and I wish I'd stuck around to pick his brains, steal what technique I'm up to, and hear him play a lot more.

    The Gang in action.

    Note the talented Dave Hager on tuneful pipes.

    Dave and Jennifer are a great duo and also alwayd friendly when we meet.

    I keep going on about how disgustingly nice everyone is among the Bagel/Seabold coterie - well, they are.

    Just shows what a nasty piece of work *I* am, expecting folks to be as rude and dismissive as me.

    NP, my uppance cometh with my return to London where I'll get dollops of my own medicine. And serve me right.

    The great Larry Dewey

    Peddy File: In anticipation

    Dang that Ølsen knows his PR: Sold his guv'nor's technique to them DC dudes:

    Feb 20 Time mag's excellent Blogwatch not only points me to some excellent new blogs worth monitoring but reports how:

    "So-called citizen journalists bagged another trophy last week when THE SCIENTIFIC ACTIVIST discovered that NASA public-affairs aide George Deutsch--accused of trying to muzzle agency scientists on the issue of global warming--had never graduated from Texas A&M University, a detail the 24-year-old presidential appointee later explained away by saying his résumé had been written in anticipation of a degree [My darkening].

    "After he resigned, THIS BLOG TITLE FOR SALE praised the sleuthing as "proof that blog journalism is real."

    Meanwhile, THE VELVET BLOG pondered updating his own résumé "in anticipation of graduating from Harvard and running a Fortune 500 company."

    Julie's Stolen Laptop

    Talk about lousy things happening to lovely people: My heart just plummeted to read Julie's story of *both* their laptops being nicked in the land of the Mounties.

    And what guts to sit down and write it out with such soul-baring honesty.

    Being thieved is such a personal tragedy and affront and no-one can else feel it or offer real sympathy.

    Through carelessness or plain lack of forethought, I've been stolen from many times and I've never learnt from it. Certainly, I've never learnt from any of the sympathy I've been doled, usually lightly veiled "told-you-so" homilies that are excuses for the sympathizer to dive into sob stories of their own, the last thing I care about or want to hear.

    Mrs Leung has that knack of opening a vein and putting things out there that make me clutch my own emotions and wonder how on earth *I* would phrase such a cri-de-coeur.

    Well, I'd rant and rave and eff and blind and bring down curses on the wretches.

    It's the feeling of violation that makes one want to take pliers and blow torch to the villains' private parts. And the sheer helplessness.

    I think Julie is right to write it out and I hope she's getting support and listening ears because I think one needs to vent rather than internalise.

    I've been burgled many times, always as a result of lack of forethought and simply ignoring the signs. Only twice have I had any satisfaction, which I list at the end to prevent this being the sort of indulgent, useless post I mentioned above.

    JL's plight resonated with me because I'm soon to return to a London that is much more dangerous and crime-ridden than the city I left 20 years ago.

    I keep telling my mother to take care when she returns from Greece to her posh Sloane Street rez, and about which I am already having nightmares of being mugged just as I shove the key in the lock and being forced upstairs at knife-point where they'll ransack the place and ... who knows how they'll button my lip?

    Paranoia be my guide.

    I've never had anything nicked that contained months of work or vital data but J's post set me thinking and I can't conceive how I'd set about rectifying it all.

    I've filed Julie's tale for future reference and comfort because even in the midst of despair and rage and all those unidentifiable emotions, she looks to the good stuff such as Ted's calmness and sympathy, or her own efforts to be strong.

    I'd collapse; then I'd make sure I'd not missed any further wallow-able nooks and emotional crannies. Then I'd fantasise about buying the gun and taking them out. Then I'd wallow a bit more and plumb further negative depths ... then I'd do it all over again through the lens of a bottle of rotgut whiskey, no doubt with phone in hand to ensure that all my pals had their ears thoroughly bent in the bargain.

    I'm dumping all my self-help cognitive psycho babble tomes and sticking to the far more practical and muscular Seedling of hope and goodness.

    Revenge: I can scoff it hot or cold.

    Back in 1969 when I had my first bedsitter off Baker Street (I know, too corny: Holmes? Baker Street?) I had a guitar and vinyl LPs nicked by my Aussie neighbors he day before they moved out.

    My fault in not realizing that the cleaning lady first unlocked *all* the apartment doors and *then*started her dusting and hoovering.

    Much whining to the local Fuzz who were totally unsympathetic.

    Then one day I noticed that they were still receiving mail, which used to be laid out on the hall table, an unspeakable lack of security that would never pass muster these days.

    I removed each one, opened and read them and soon enough arrived a letter from a pal which identified which part of the land of my birth the thieves came from.

    I'd already been in touch with my Oz cousins, cursing that side of the family and receiving nothing but mockery back. With the letter, I got some action, big-boned Bruce writing back to say that he was on the case and to send him all data I could supply.

    I forwarded everything, from personal mail to bank statements and soon enough I heard from the thuggish Bruce that he'd set the trap:

    "G'day, Sandie - you don't know me but I'm a mucker of Terry's from the Old Country and I'd really like to touch base with that bastard and sink a few jars with him - maybe strum a bit of the old guitar, know what I mean?"

    "No worries, Bruce - hey, I don't have Terr's new address but if you look in on the Mackenzie pub any Friday, reckon he's there strumming."

    "You're a love! Ta, darling! Tell him I said hi."

    Armed with a photo of me and my precious Tatay, and in company with assorted fellow thugs who'd *pay* for the slightest legit chance to get in a punch-up, Bruce looked in on the Mackenzie and sure enough there was chummie wielding my axe.

    According to Bruce, it was a cinch:

    "Bloody oath, mate, just sorry you weren't there. Even before I confronted the bastard, he'd made some remark to Big Tony that didn't go down too well so it was hammer and tongs.

    Afraid the old guitar didn't come out of it too well - Lani used it to smack some geezer who'd grabbed a chair, but there's a cheque on the way and a cutting from the Herald about how their pad was crammed with stuff they'd made off with on their travels.

    Tony says thanks a ton for cueing him in. Any more tip-offs? He's on a roll!"

    Mr Alex Baggio, of Pittsburgh, PAFairfax Road: My next satisfaction happened at my next apartment, a plush 3rd-floor flat off Swiss Cottage that I was hosting a pal I'd met in Corfu, gentle giant Alex from Pittsburgh.

    We'd gone out for our usual Saturday pints at the local Britannia Arms when Al remembered he'd forgotten the chord chart we were going to talk over.

    We both went back and as we started up the stairs met a pasty-faced cove coming down, Al's guitar case in one hand and a bag of stuff in the other.

    I made to say something pathetic but Al gripped my elbow and stood aside for the guy to come down. As he got level, Al grabbed the guitar with one hand - "I'll take that" - and whacked him across the face with the other.

    I'm not a fighting guy, so I have quaint ideas of fisticuffs, such as one builds up the violence. Al just hit him *hard* and when he hit the marbled floor whammed the heel of his boot into his knee cap.

    "We need to talk," he started to say, but just then a *second* creep descended and stopped at the landing, looking a bit shaken at the sight of his pal writhing and screaming.

    There was no way past us except down the final flight of stairs, so the bloke put down my stereo and best suit (still on its hanger) and took out a switch-blade knife which he flicked open and stood there waving it.

    I remember saying "Jesus, Al!", but all he said was a rumbling "Sweet" at the same time unhooking his heavy leather belt from his jeans and wrapping it loosely round his right knuckles.

    Thief #2: "I'll f***ing cut you, man".

    Al started up the stairs, his belt looking dangerously loose for a make-shift knuckle-duster as knifey waved the blade in pseudo-fighter fashion.

    Instead of using it to punch, Al let it unravel in one smooth motion and, holding the tip, whipped the heavy buckle across the guy's face, shouting "ASS-hole!".

    Almost simultaneously, he grabbed the outstretched wrist, knife no longer pointed with any vigor, and simply heaved him over the banister for the 10-foot drop to the hard floor below, vaulting it to land next to the prone thief and kicking his head down onto the marble. Which he did again. And again, with appalling violence.

    Blood seemed to spatter everywhere.

    Thief #1 was trying to sit up and Al turned and asked "You want summa that? Yeh, right." Shake of dazed head.

    "Get my belt." Which I did and he heaved the two bodies together, wrapped it round their necks and cinched it tight til their eyeballs were bulging.

    "You choking?" Nods. Wink at me, "That means you muthas still breathing - another notch, I reckon."

    Frantic red-faced waving.

    "Gimme the suit. No, gimme the hanger."

    It was one of those wire dry-cleaner numbers. He took it, expanded it to fit round their heads and then told them to hold real still as he directed the hook up towards an eye of #1.

    "Buddy boy," he said to the other, "keep still or you'll take your mate's eye out."

    Trussed, bleeding, choking, with the wicked curve of the hanger inches from an eye, they lay moaning but very still.

    The lady from Apartment 1 had come out and Al asked her very politely to call the police.

    Looked at me: "Not that you were thinking of, but don't touch the blade. The cops will check for prints."

    The whole thing had taken - what? - 20 seconds?

    More interesting was how Al seemed to shrink in stature and verbal confidence as we gave our statements and I could see the fuzz's slight puzzlement at the sheer damage wreaked.

    It was messy and we were interrogated as if *we* were the culprits. Luckily, in my state of shock, I supported Al's hesitant description of how he got lucky in his panic, lashing out with his belt and scoring a lucky hit, losing his balance and accidentally treading on a body part; panicking and using whatever he had to "secure their passivity until your law enforcers arrived."

    When all was said and done, and we'd mopped the claret off the floor, we went next door and bought a bottle of Lagavulin and knocked back a few.

    "I mean, f*** 'em, dude," said Al as I sat there shaking and shivering. "That asshole coming down the stairs with my guitar - I almost lost it."

    Over dinner at Peter's that night he laughed:

    "Ya know, that was like a normal Saturday night back home.

    Jesus, Chris, you know what almost threw me? It was their not doing a single thing right.

    Don't you guys know how to fight  round here?"

    Thursday, February 16, 2006


    One of those too ghastly moments when one wishes the aisles would open and just swallow one, fits of giggles and all ....

    1515hrs, Wednesday, Safeway: Unchained the gang from their stalwart scrubbing and sweeping for a rewarding junkie comfort food binge.

    Down to Safeway where we made straight for the Ben & Jerry.

    Impossible to miss her, costly tan, bouncy gait, immaculately clad in natty Olympic leisure gear, red and blue piping topped off with matching bonnet, every second thread proclaiming "Torino".

    A leetle fleshy round the jowels but in good nick "for her age", as the horrid children waspishly allowed.

    Our downfall was having had a good giggle over NBC's pretentious use of 'Torino', made worse by a witty comment on that morning's NPR on the same subject.

    As we queued to pay, les jeunes checked the aisles for her whereabouts before launching into loud and vulgar joshing:

  • Torino!
  • Firenze!
  • Roma!
  • Toscana
  • Napoli
  • Sicilia
  • Sardegna
  • Piemonte
  • Shrouda


    "Shrouda di Torino!"

    More hoots of unseemly laughter, horrid creatures, all the while looking out for our Targé-clad athlète d'un certain age.

    A nudge and a nod to look derrière - ulp, blush.

    There behind us in Bonnie's queue was the butt of our childish hilarity.

  • The Best of Baccy

    Ghastly headline by the Grauniad that certainly doesn't travel over to these parts, but a good reverberating article that hits all the points.


    Paul Burka off to a good start in Slate on the Cheney shenanigans.

  • Who was in charge?: In other words, no one ... leaving the three hunters in Dick Cheney's party on their own while hostess Katharine Armstrong watched from the car.

  • At what range was Whittington hit? Official story is that the blast from the vice president's shotgun hit Whittington at 30 yards, for which range the pattern of wounds between lower chest and forehead makes a pretty tight zone.

  • Whose fault? What's irking folks is White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan's bid to place blame on the victim. It's the shooter 's duty to know what he's shooting at - and where his buddies are.

  • Monday, February 13, 2006

    boss web design

    Courtesy of Linkfilter 's mikeykid, design tips from scratch.

    Sunday, February 12, 2006

    Bow down to her at Midnight

    Me panicky packing, she methodical n organised.

    We need a break; she produces coffee and bread and mascarpone.

    From years back she produces lines I tossed off:

    Do you remember that moment in
    a Surrey pub? We should have talked then,
    those years ago.

    And the time, about then, we shared
    a bedroom but not the bed
    at the end of a garden at the end of
    a party at the end of an era

    We should have spent all night talking then,
    lying in the bed we never shared, afterwards,
    warm and sticky and smoking a cigarette.

    Talking at the wrong time has been our silence
    or, rather, not not talking when there was still time:
    when a possibility of action
    and a hundred small decisions
    could have made a kind of revelation.

    She speaks them so simply, recalls them with such honesty. I'm reminded ...

    I tell her: You've not met Richard.

    You must read him.

    Saturday, February 11, 2006

    jason whitton, Liquid Lounge

    Jason Whitton

    First I review talented country crooner Jason Whitton's fine Thriftstore Cowboy album with its hypnotic opening track, "Alibi".

    Next, friendly informative "Jack" posts a helpful comment, that

    "JW's a real deal too. Plays and writes his own music. His own lyrics too.

    Saw him play recently and was hooked. One of the few people that can play, sing in tune and his jokes are actually funny.

    Quieting a room full of drunks with Sunflower was rather impressive."

    Then I muse aloud on how nice it would be to have the full chords to Alibi, and lo! Next thing, I know JW's attentive marketing maven has brought my plight to The Man himself, who writes in,

    "Hey there -- This is Jason Whitton.

    I heard it through the grapevine that you were looking for the chords to Alibi. Thanks for the cool review, by the way.

    So, you've pretty much got them. First of all, I've got my guitar capo'd on the 4th fret. Verse - C/G to G sus.

    Chorus - E min to A min

    Bridge- It starts with "And you'll ask me for forgiveness" - I believe you call it G/B, what I'm playing there. Then for the next chord, you just drop your index finger from the low E string down to the A string - "Now I'm asking for forgiveness" - because I'm not sure of the name, but you repeat those chord changes twice through the bridge.

    Then, "And I'll pray for your clarity" is considered the third verse, which begins with the C/G again.

    I hope this is not too confusing. I hear you're going on a trip. Safe travels. Hope to hear from you soon!!



    The sort of thing to make one's day, and make *me* even more determined to noise Whitton's skill abroad ... which reminds me, better look up the Greek for "Alibi"

    Now from this courteous bunch, a further friendly Comment from the excessively talented Jon Mattox, wishing me a

    "Hi Busker. Thanks for the kind words about Jason's album.

    The typo on my blog has been addressed, and those responsible have been shot.

    Late night HTML haze, I suspect."

    Talk about a star-studded blog - when I bring out my fluting Oxford-accented cover album of the best of Whitton, I'll have my sleeve notes right there in my 24K comments.

    Thinks (bubble bubble)  ... I'll need backing to do justice to my JW rip-off, and I can just see accountant Pericles' eyebrows rocketing as he ponders the cost of flying out a full complement of top session dudes.

    I'll tell him, Relax - just one ticket, for Kyrios Mattox, and we'll have more talent in the Greek isles than has been known since Homer laid down that killer lyre soundtrack to the Iliad.

    Avid Avian

    Perfect timing - just as I pack my cases to swan off to family in Corfu and Tuscany, the feathery 'flu touches down in Puglia, Calabria and Sicily as well as  northern Greece.

    Well, that's it - not much stopping it now: the perfect beach-head for it to mix 'n' match and frolic and finally mutate into the dread human-habitat lurgy it yearns to be.

    Africa looks to be straining for 1st place.

    Poultry sales plummeting to ... er ... chicken-feed.

    Olympics: No cases in 'Piemonte', so no panic in fair Torino among the Olympii.

    A mere 600 miles' distance as the swan flaps, I'd show a little more cave avem  - on the other hand, can you imagine how NBC's cup would o'erflow if they found themselves covering both the Games *and* a plague outbreak? Cripes that would send their stats soaring.

    Maybe Premier Berlusconi will use some of his Jesus powers and head it off.

    Ah well, at least when I get over there I'll be able to add personal touches to my despatches from the front.

    Pandemica's Box: Worst coming to worst, advice for burying les morts

    Herewith homework to save me repeating myself once it all reaches fever-pitch.

    Addenda: I can't keep up with the new countries joining the parade, or at least it's getting harder to seamlessly weav them into the body of the post.

    Will have to just list newcomers below:

  • Like Austria, Germany and Iran
  • Plumage Put-down: bang go any plans to flounce through Kerkira Immigration in my showiest boa.
  • "Endemic in Europe" - New Scientist (no less)
  • Et maintenant - Canard Aviané: la belle France
  • Blighty readies

  • Friday, February 10, 2006

    Phooey to Foiled Foe Ploy

    I'm only a member of the UK Special Forces Club in London thanks to my dad's war time rôle in BAAG, but even a squit like me is hearing queries of the Gnome's claim to have thwarted an attack on some LA skyscraper - Liberty Tower, Library Tower ... all names seem the same to GW.

    It'll come out in the wash, but what's dangerous for the Hobgoblin is to go for short-term preening without first checking with those who were monitoring the scene in the first place.

    Hell hath no leakage like spooks undermined.

    Look forward to more disgruntled leaks from the ferrets in place.

    Given the traditional distance and rivalries between our respective security services, if there's rumbling in the Brit camp, gawd knows what the American secretives know and will now spill.

    Pulpit for Vinci Critics

    Report in today's NYT about Sony's movie of the Da Vinci Code and its web site (still under construction when I tried it) "well ahead of the movie's release on May 19 — that will give a platform to some of the fiercest critics of "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown, the book that is the movie's source."

    I think they slightly miss the point: it's not the *movie* that'll deserve criticism but Brown's appalling literary  style.

    Even before I knew of the genius but bankable miscasting of Tom Hanks, I acknowledged that it'd make one hell of a flick - if only they'd got Sophie Marceau for the sexpot.

    Yes, indeed - Brown shares Stephen King's talent for wasting no time on familiarity or fondness for the alphabet and just getting on with churning out a great page-turner.

    To hell with mere cartoons - why can't we mobilize some of that verve and energy from the Prophet's devotees into bands of Truss Irregulars to get equally steamed up and tinder-box ready over shoddy writing?

    Hope springs eternal: perhaps by May everyone will be so thoroughly pissed-off and confused that they'll welcome a little cross-over and the two camps can swap causes.

    I shall be in London so I can blog despatches from the front. Then come summer I shall be taking the azure waters round Corfu where I'm sure I can whip up discontent over those icons of St Spiridon.

    Speaking of bankable casting, I wish someone had screen tested me for the Oxford-educated English prat that Brown describes with such cardboard incompetence; I'd have been perfect and it'd have silenced me in a trice.

    Speaking of Albion idiots: a TV crew came out to Corfu to make mockery of the tourist English drunkards as well as root out some of the resident ex-pats for special treatment.

    They fastened on Lady Holmes, flattering her with feigned interest in her famèd garden, and Mama of course agreed.

    Wonderful, Lady Marjorie - oh, and since it's TV, we advise our guests to dress up a bit."

    Pete and I arrived a few days later and the first we heard was Mum's hesitant, "But I never dress up for even the smartest garden tour - it just isn't practical ."

    It doesn't take years dealing with these media creeps to smell a rodent: forget it, I told her. You dress like normal.

    I also made a few phone calls to old pals to get some lowdown on the presenter and, sure enough, their stock in trade was to mock and lampoon.

    Up turned the crew with all their fancy cameras and assistants; up turned the compère in his all-white plantation-owner's gear, complete with white hat and southern gemmun weskit.

    "Oh, we thought our producer had mentioned the dress code. Not to worry, there's time to change as we set up the lighting."

    Mother under strict orders to shtoom and leave the talking to her mastiff sons, Pete and I gave our most dazzling smiles and assured mein host that their interviewee was perfectly dressed for the occasion and they need lose no time getting on with the show.

    The thing about real gardeners is that they have a genuine enthusiasm that shines like laser thru even the most reptilian attempts to hold them up to mockery.

    Plus, most of the barbs and traps went right over darling mama's head, as she led the interviewer along her garden of paths, his white brothel creepers slipping in the mud and his fancy white hat catching on the brambles.

    Not that Pete and I weren't at our most courteous and obliging. Goodness, if we'd known he'd arrive in his Colonel Sanders gear, we'd have prepared Mint Juleps instead of boring ethnic mezzès and ouzo for the crew.

    One of my pals had sent me the cast list for the show, including the management team, which enabled me to ask how *was* Alan Yentob these days and Pete to extend an invite to Miranda Hughes-Hallett to get it together and take up his (fake) invite to take up his invite to visit him in Verdigliana.

    "You, too - come and do a piece on me. You clearly travel with an army of fit camera wielders and muscular boom operators ... do your filming, a decent lunch, and a couple of hours weeding and digging before catching the next flight out of Pisa."

    Mum: "What a splendid idea!"

    Sickly looks all round.

    Wednesday, February 08, 2006

    2 candles

    Birthday Bowl

    Feb 4 saw the ageometer click over to three-score years, 'pon my soul.

    Offspring and lovers are kind enough fib that I look not a day wrinklier than 59, and I choose to believe them.

    candleWith whom better to celebrate such a terrifying milestone than my own Grade A Honorette spitfire?

    I had plans to splash a bit of dosh around, thanks to all the rejected novels that booksellers won't buy but which turn out to be worth a bit online.

    Cursory feelers point to my sitting on an unsold library around the conservative $800 mark. Let the bidding frenzy begin.

    ronnie woodNothing but the best for me and my gal, and I'd planned a Madoka nosh-up and Nanny McPhee at the good old Pav'. (Speaking of McPhee, why are folks like IMDb consistently unhorsed in their misuse of "reign" as in "Governess Nanny McPhee uses magic to reign in the behavior of seven ne'er-do-well children in her charge"?

    Emma Thompson: That Ms E! How I fancy her.

    Glorious moments on a recent chat show when she was punting the movie:

  • There was a studio fire while E was in her Nanny gear. Up rolled buff fire fighting dudes, at which Emma started flirting like a badger ("And what's *your* name? And which fire station are *you* from?"), forgetting that she was in full grotty warty McPhee gear.LOL.
  • Disarming grump by ET about it taking longer to make her up to look glam for the chat shows than for her Nanny look. Gosh, that lady is fanciable.

    Back to the partying and movie-ing: Of course, an enronian wind blew us no good and we were left powerless in Gaza which totally befuddled Young Miss who lives her life according to 'lectricity.

    Instead, I served cold cuts and salad and three different puddings in between which we read from improving tracts or I plucked the guitar across my Dowland repertoire.

    cold cut bday luncheonTo the Spitfire's horror, we were also reduced to "conversing" on my approaching departure and the loneliness of long-distance fathering.

    From the day our first daughter emerged into the San Antonio sunlight, I've nursed the fond image of grilling boyfriends and sitting up late at night, horse whip on lap. awaiting the nervous tread of a late-delivered darling home from some den of sin.

    Alas, I shall be deprived that pleasure, unless their mother agrees to the strategic placing of webcams etc.

    The Game: I'm not a football fan but I tuned in for the commercials so I saw that Ben Roethlisberger TD on a third-down rollout. Duude - talk about short of the goal line! You *saw* him furtively slide the ball over the line.

    We wuz robbed.

    metrion coffeeMetrion: Our fave coffee shop, what with it being round the corner from the Glass Onion music emporium.

    Their staff are friendly and informed and I wish the landlords would at least allow some decent signage in return for the crippling rent.

    Natch, Her iPodness got on the phone to check the scene over in queensiest Anne (Dan and Joanne are a "couple"; Ted is out; Louisa has dumped Brandon and is waiting for Russell to get the hint and ask her out - Ms Spitfire's forte, meanwhile (so *she* says) chapless herself. Hrrmph - like yeh, not if the looks she gets in Safeway are owt to go by)

    Super Bowl Commercials: I enjoyed them and thank-you whoever re-ran that commercial with the bosomy bra-strap busting babe.

    Hef n babesHef: Really! That Mr Hefner and his trio of blond chicks, the goat.

    Years back, I was playing the guitar in the Windsor Castle pub up Baker Street when a vicuna-collared smoothie customer handed me his card and offered a job plinking in one of their lounges. It didn't last, I didn't pay earn my £19 per night but I met some wonderful customers, acted as go-between for some lucrative liaisons, and my 2am suppers with the girls was fun and joy.

    I was way below the radar of the Bunnies but when my book PR career took off and I attended some posh parties frequented by the moneyed punters, it was an ego-trip to turn up with some of the dazzling ladies with whom I'd kept in touch.

    The trick was to gauge my indignation at having my companion seduced away by some Player: not too vociferous but not too compliant.

    keef RGood times. Years later when I could afford to dine in the hot spots, arch unsmiling beauties would sashay in and then come rushing over to my table for a hug and a "You must meet my husband, Lord Wotsis-Face."

    Clearly no competition or any part of the gal's history, I'd be introduced as an old friend, one of the *Yorkshire* Holmeses, and of course Belinda or Saskia or Juliet would make sure her sugar dad sent over a bottle of the best.

    mick jThe Stones: Stroke of brilliance to have Mick et co do the half-time music, and I loved the news that none of the footballers could name a single single by the boys.

    Mick fit and cavorting as ever, the bastard.

    soloKeef looking like death warmed up and blasting it on the guitar.

    Wonderful, brilliant. What a band.

    Monday lunch: D threw his usual magnifico BBQ with steaks of the best and single malts flowing.

    The totally foxy B was present.

    I'd brought along my Jason Whitton review copy that D played non-stop and everyone loved.

    B and I danced close and found that, in the immortal words of the Whitton song, "we're not so different....

    Boast script: Speaking of Jason Whitton, check out who is honoring this blog with a friendly informative comment. Right on, dude - JW himself.

  • This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?