Thursday, July 31, 2014


Spartans were renowned for the rigour and spareness of their upbringing. The main reason for that was that they were heavily outnumbered by the slave population (the "helots") and so they concentrated on breeding hardy, courageous males who could defend their city from within and without. Sparta was in the region of Laconia and the Spartans' reputation for keeping words to a minimum gives us our adjective "laconic." On one occasion an enemy sent a messenger to Sparta saying that if they (the enemy) invaded Laconia, they would destroy Sparta. The Spartans sent back a one word answer: "If."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Sketch of the day

Monday, July 28, 2014

Answer phone

My dear elderly friend who died on St Swithun's Day always used to answer her phone thus: "Dursley 3307!"  How many people do you know who still answer their phone saying its number?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Corax and Teisias

Corax (Greek for "crow") of Syracuse who lived in the first half of the fifth century BC is said to have been the first Greek teacher of oratory or, to use its Greek name, rhetoric. His most famous theory is The Doctrine of General Probability which states that people believe what they think is likely to be true, for example, that a small man would not have beaten up a much larger man.
Teisias was a famous pupil of Corax. Teisias asked Corax to waive his teacher's fee until Teisias had won his first lawsuit. However, Teisias avoided going to court. Corax then sued Teisias for the fee, on the rationale that whoever won the court case, Teisias would have to pay the fee. Teisias then claimed that if he lost the case he wouldn't have to pay because he still wouldn't have won a lawsuit and if he won there would be no penalty because he'd be awarded the money. The judge then threw them both out of court calling them "a bad egg from a bad crow."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


My friend is doing a survey: whom would you choose as the most inspirational orator you have come across and why? Answers please!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thought of the moment

When sorrows come, they come not single spies
But in battalions.
Now onto the 12th death of the year so far...

Monday, July 21, 2014

Poem of the day

The Lady With The Sewing-Machine
Across the fields as green as spinach,
Cropped as close as Time to Greenwich,

Stands a high house; if at all,
Spring comes like a Paisley shawl — 

Patternings meticulous
And youthfully ridiculous.

In each room the yellow sun
Shakes like a canary, run

On run, roulade, and watery trill — 
Yellow, meaningless, and shrill.

Face as white as any clock's,
Cased in parsley-dark curled locks — 

All day long you sit and sew,
Stitch life down for fear it grow,

Stitch life down for fear we guess
At the hidden ugliness.

Dusty voice that throbs with heat,
Hoping with your steel-thin beat

To put stitches in my mind,
Make it tidy, make it kind,

You shall not: I'll keep it free
Though you turn earth, sky and sea

To a patchwork quilt to keep
Your mind snug and warm in sleep! 

Edith Sitwell

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Malaysia Airlines again...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris is an excellent read. The facts of the Dreyfus case which rocked France in the 1890s are beautifully presented by an array of colourful characters and the tale told is gripping: a real page turner. Emile Zola, the most famous protester of Dreyfus' innocence, died in an accident in 1902, aged 62. His friend Anatole France said this at his funeral:

"Before recalling the struggle undertaken by Zola for justice and truth is it possible for me to keep silent about those men bent on the destruction of an innocent man?...

How might I remove them from your sight when I see
Zola rising up, weak and disarmed, against them?
Can I hide their lies?
It would silence his heroic righteousness.
Can I hide their crimes?
That would conceal his virtue.
Can I silence the insults and calumnies which they have pursued?
It would silence his reward and honours.
Can I hide their shame?
It would silence his glory.
No, I will speak.
Envy him: he honoured his country and the world by a vast and a great act.
Envy him, his destiny and his heart gave out the greatest.
It was a moment of human conscience."

Friday, July 11, 2014

Grace of the day

God of goodness, who blessed our food
Keep us now in pleasant mood
Bless the cook and all who served us. 
From indigestion, Lord, preserve us.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Poem of the day

You told me, in your drunken-boasting
How once you butchered prisoners. That
was good!
I'm sure you felt no pity while they stood
Patient and cowed and scared, as
prisoners should.
How did you do them in? Come, don't
be shy:
You know I love to hear how Germans die,
Downstairs in dug-outs. "Camerad!"
they cry;
Then squeal like stoats when bombs
begin to fly.
And you? I know your record. You
went sick
When orders looked unwholesome:
then, with trick
And lie, you wangled home. And here
you are,
Still talking big and boozing in a bar.
Siegfried Sassoon (1917)
This poem was censored during the First World War

Wednesday, July 09, 2014


My 92 year old aunt is exhausted after Wimbledon. Her friends are looking forward to watching the golf but she has no interest. One tv sport (apart from cricket) she does enjoy is snooker and she told me this:
"Many years ago, a friend came over and I said we must watch the snooker. She had no interest in the game but I persuaded her to watch it and she really enjoyed it. She said watching it on a colour television made all the difference!"

Monday, July 07, 2014

Blind tasting

My dear husband has been visiting Waitrose stores far and wide to track down the 2009 Mountford Village Pinot Noir Waipara and I must say it was worth the effort. The winemaker at the estate is a blind man from Taiwan called CP Lin, pictured above with his faithful dog Winston.  Here are Jancis Robinson's comments:

The vines are nearly 20 years old and were grown along biodynamic lines (but without certification) on Kathryn Ryan and Kees Zeestraten's clay over marl with the limestone deposits beloved of burgundy fans in the Burgundy hot spot of northern Canterbury in New Zealand's South Island. C P lost his sight at the age of 13, got a maths degree in Christchurch and then one in winemaking at Lincoln. He is well known for his tasting acuity and memory, and played a major part incidentally in making the exceptional reds of Warrumbungle in an uncharted corner of New South Wales.

Friday, July 04, 2014

A quick buck

In 2011, the wife of the head of the central bank of Switzerland was caught insider trading. Now the wife of the Foreign Minister of Oman has been exposed as an addicted gambler. Nora Al-Daher is suing The Ritz casino for not telling her to stop gambling before she lost £2m in an evening in 2012.Good luck!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Turn the lights on

Westinghouse has built only four of the fifteen nuclear power stations ordered by the Chinese government. None of them has been switched on so the surrounding villages are without electricity. Why? After the Fukushima disaster, the government doesn't want to spark mass protests.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Cartoon of the day

Private Eye

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Painting of the day

An elegant breakfast table painted by Henri Fantin-Latour in 1872.