David Copperfield and a guilty secret earworm

Many congratulations to the Watermill Senior Youth Theatre for a fantastic production of David Copperfield, which finished its run last night.

The production climaxes, both bizarrely and magically, with the cast miming to “Top of the World” by the Carpenters. Our resident teenager had not heard of the Carpenters. This led me to go into my “Best voice ever/terrible waste and tragedy” riff about Karen Carpenter.

I now have an extremely pleasant earworm. It’s cheesy. It sounds as though it’s played on a cheap Bontempi organ. But it’s magical.

The glorious days of the railway remembered

Ian Hislop goes off the rails is worth watching on BBC iPlayer. He looks at the impact of Beeching’s Axe, which hacked off a significant chunk of the British railways system.

The programme ended with that glorious Flanders and Swann song “The Slow Train” which is on YouTube below.

Sadly, despite its rich rhyming potential, F&S did not mention Bude, whose railway station was closed down and is now replaced with housing. I was on the last train out of Bude, alongside my grandfather, who saw the first train coming into Bude.

Lord Carey – bless him

I have read Lord Carey’s article in the Mail, so you don’t have to. The headline is: “The PM’s done more than any leader to make Christians feel they’re persecuted”.

The basis of his thesis is:

-A ComRes poll that I can’t find on the web yet
-Crucifixes at work
-Changes to a parliamentary chapel
-Equal marriage, including ramifications for employees such as teachers

I think we Christians can sleep safely at night. By introducing the word “persecuted” in connection with British Christians, Lord Carey is doing a grave disservice to those Christians throughout the world who actually are persecuted and who are in danger of injury or death because of their faith.

We live in one of the only two countries in the world where religious leaders sit in parliament as of right. (The other country is Iran). Indeed, in his retirement, Lord Carey himself sits in parliament. Our Head of State is head of the Church of England, which is the established church.

I think we ought to remember all that before getting too carried away with what dear old Lord Carey has to say.

Update: ComRes have now published the poll referred to in Lord Carey’s article. You can read it here.

This Johnny Cash tune is stuck in my head. There is only one thing for it!

I think I’ve mentioned that I am fan of the oevre of the late Mr Johnny Cash. A fine singer. He would have got the thumbs down from Simon Cowell for being out of tune, I reckon.

But I don’t like Johnny Cash enough to have “Thing called love” going around in my head for five days! There are limits.

I blame it on Nat West and their blessed e-ISAs.

Anyway, there is now only one thing for it. I have to lance the boil! So I am now listening to the tune at full ear-bleeding volume over and over again to try to rid myself of it!

I do like the backing vocals, I must say. And the blessed and late Ray Moore, the best deejay in the world EVER – bar none, used to introduce this song by saying that Johnny Cash plays the guitar with his foot at the start of it….

The extraordinary case of the wrong Miliband

imageIt seems that Moving to New York is replacing the Chiltern Hundreds as the place where resigning MPs go. First, Louise Mensch. Now, David Miliband.

It is remarkable for an MP to stand down with such suddenness. Presumably, he wants to get out of his brother’s hair.

Since Ed Miliband was elected Labour leader, David Miliband has made the odd speech in the Commons, each time showing remarkable skills of articulation, passion and intelligence. – Each time raising an unspoken banner saying “It should have been David”.

The one with the looks, the brains and the gift of the gab is moving to New York, while we’re left with the one with the adenoids.

Photo: Some rights reserved by john.puddephat

Bull-on-bull action and the Two Cocks brewery

Some rights reserved by ScootieWell, if that doesn’t get my hitcounter going mad with two second duration visits, I don’t know what will….

I just watched last night’s Countryfile in the bath via iPad and iPlayer. Well, I thought it was impressive anyway.

One of their segments brought back memories.

In about 1973 when I was 14 years old, one of the little after school clubs I joined paid a big dividend. Chess club was a bit staid. As was Geography club. Snore. But the Young Farmers’ Club was definitely the place to be – being, as we were, on the edge of Exmoor, 600 feet above sea level. West Buckland School is a superb and thriving school and it has always had a touch of the farm about it.

“Next week we’re visiting the AI centre in Tiverton” our teacher Mr Avens announced.

At first, to a bunch of teenage boys, this did not stir much excitement. But then, as word spread round as to the meaning of “AI” (Artificial Insemination), the boys in the Young Farmers’ Club of West Buckland School started to get positively gleeful about the prospect of this visit.

It did not disappoint. The whole visit was given a Monty Python air, as we had to don blue plastic hats and overshoes. My, how we laughed.

But the climax of our teenage glee came when we were shown the bulls. Needless to say, the man showing us round had to explain how they actually did IT. How did they actually collect the semen from the bulls?

My, how we sniggered, as the poor chap explained that one of the men there had to don a plastic mac (I’m collapsing with silly giggles at the very thought of it!) and thrust this long receptacle up or down (or both) the bull’s penis as it mounted another bull or, sometimes, without any mounting at all.

Gales of exploding laughter, there was, as soon as we boys could politely relieve ourselves!

Anyway, Countryfile reported this week that 40-50 year old semen collected from bulls is still being used to inseminate cows to rejuvenate the South Devon breed. Indeed, they showed us such an insemination. So semen collected shortly before or after our Young Farmers’ Club visit to the AI centre in Tiverton, is still being used to procreate beautiful cattle! Incredible!

In order to justify the, frankly, over-egged title of this post, I finish with this: My nearest and dearest has brought the Two Cocks brewery to my attention. It’s based at Christmas Farm, Enborne, Berkshire. As soon as I am released from my lenten waggon trip, I will search out one of their brews pronto.

Photo above: South Devon cow (or is it a bull?) – Some rights reserved by Scootie.

A little bit of calm reflection on the Royal Charter and bloggers

Some rights reserved by Ben SutherlandI’ve been doing a little bit of Googling to find a few informed articles on the Royal Charter and bloggers. The passage of time and a bit of reading does the world of good.

Only last Monday there was panic in the blogosphere, exemplified by Iain Dale, for whom I have the greatest of respect as a blogger and a broadcaster, saying he’d have to shut his blog down because he’ll be covered by the Royal Charter.

I hope and trust that, by now, Iain and other bloggers have realised that the Royal Charter simply sets up a recognition body, so that the references within it to “relevant publisher” (defined in schedule 4 of the document as including “a person (other than a broadcaster) who publishes in the United Kingdom a website containing news-related material (whether or not related to a newspaper or magazine)”) purely refer to membership of or employment by the recognition body.

So panic over – on that front, anyway.

Tim Lowles on Informm’s Blog explains it all very well. Tim is Senior Associate in the IP and Reputation Management team at Collyer Bristow.

The Crime and Courts Bill amendment 18 refers to the management of exemplary damages by the courts. The Bill defines “relevant publisher” slightly differently, referring to “a person, who in the course of business (whether or not with a view to profit), publishes news related material-
(a) Which is written by different authors;
(b) Which is to any extent subject to editorial control”.

So one-man band authors would not be covered by the Crime and Courts Bill amendment about exemplary damages. I will shortly be posting a YouTube video of Leo Sayer singing “One Man Band” to celebrate this fact.

But bear in mind that all bloggers and tweeters are already open to being sued and potentially having to pay out on a whole range of existing issues such as defamation, breach of privacy, incitement, breach of copyright etc etc.

It’s worth noting that Hacked Off appear to have been appalled by the blogger/Twitter implications of the Crime and Courts Bill amendment and have proposed another amendment to rectify it in the Lords on Monday, according to their website:

For what it is worth, we believe the potential impact on bloggers and small publishers was unforeseen – an accident in the drafting – and we know of no reason why politicians might resist efforts to put things right.

If the amendments that we propose are accepted, almost all bloggers, with a very few, rare exceptions, will be completely untouched by the changes.

We hope that this reassures bloggers that they’re not being forced into a new system; though they would be welcome to join if they wished.

Brian Cathcart of Hacked Off has written a very good article which reminds us of the words of Lord Leveson which have been carried through into implementation by the proposed Royal Charter and the two associated Bill amendments:

The legislation would not give any rights to Parliament, to the Government, or to any regulatory (or other) body to prevent newspapers from publishing any material whatsoever. Nor would it give any rights to these entities to require newspapers to publish any material except insofar as it would require the recognised self-regulatory body to have the power to direct the placement and prominence of corrections and apologies in respect of information found, by that body, to require them.

It would be great if a few more people read that and Brian Cathcart’s article as a whole. To say that we’ve had “state regulation of the press” introduced this week is simply not true.

Radio 4’s Media Show, presented by the superb Steve Hewlett, has an excellent discussion of all this, including an interview with Helena Kennedy QC here.

I close with the words of Lord Puttnam from the Guardian’s Comment is Free:

I hope the events of this past week signify that we have collectively turned the page, and that politicians of all persuasions now recognise that the regulation of the media, entirely independent of government, and backed by appropriate powers of civil enforcement, is one of the fundamental guarantors of a healthy democracy in the 21st century.


Photo above: Some rights reserved by Ben Sutherland

4×4 off-road experience – great, but forget the adrenalin

My nearest and dearest treated me to a 4×4 off-road experience for Christmas. …There was me expecting to be careering around at 50 mph – a real boys with toys adrenalin experience!

In the event it was all done at 1 mph (I kid you not) and my foot only touched the accelerator four times in two hours.

That said, it was a hugely educational and rewarding experience, greatly enhanced by listening to the instructor, who has lived and breathed 4x4s for over thirty years. Very interesting. …And driving them is a bit of an counter-intuitive thing….

Here’s a clip of the 4×4 in front of us negotiating one of the hills: