In the latest London Review of Books there is a long article by Christopher Tayler, Heir to Blair, on the Conservative party under Cameron. In his research he gives the doubly alarming information that he attended a meeting of local Tories at the University of Kent, addressed by Oliver Letwin, alarming firstly because, when I was a student there, no senior Tory would have got near the campus without a ducking in the Keynes pond. In those days, 1974-78, Tory students would often, as a provocation, invite national figures from the Party to address them, in the hopes that counter-demonstrations would be organised, become violent, and the infant Thatcherites could paint themselves as defenders of free speech against the Bolshevik mob. But at Kent they never dared.
The second disturbing thing is that Tayler reveals that both Letwin and the local Tory student Gauleiter hang pink ties round their necks, as if this were part of a Cameronite uniform. I have several ties in pink, in light coral, salmon, flamingo and shrimp, wearing which I used to think I cut something of a dash. Must I give them up, lest I be mistaken for a hoodie-hugging Thatcherite-in-green-clothing?
Apropos, I have had a wonderful idea: the Tie Blog. Each day I shall photograph the tie I am wearing, and post it to a photo-blog. It will take time, but the end result will be a unique document of man's alienation in the early years of the 21st century.
Ober J, Scheidel, W, Shaw B, Sanclemente D Towards Open Access in Ancient Studies: The Princeton-Stanford Working Papers in Classics Hesperia 2007 76(1): 229-242 if your institution doesn't subscribe, there's a copy in Princeton's repository
Tim Coates is all of a quiver over a leaked copy of the minutes of CILIP's Policy Development Committee Meeting, which he claims shows "civil war" in the profession. Like most leaks, the reality is less exciting, merely consisting of some mild but justified criticisms of the MLA's Blueprint for Excellence document. I can't help feeling that if we in CILIP had a more open policy towards publishing the minutes of Council and committee meetings on the website, the question of leaks, "secret notes" and other cloak-and-daggery would not arise.
Last week I amused myself by attending the London Book Fair, organised by Reed Exhibitions, of arms fair fame, but there were no land mines to be had at Earl's Court, as far as I could see.
The fair is odd: one would think the exhibitors were there to sell their products, but the bigger the publisher, the more unfriendly their staff, or so it seemed to me. One can loiter for hours by the larger stands, quite ignored by the stand holders, wrapped up in their own conversations, or eating their lunch. The stands are decorated with gigantic picture of authors and book jackets. The sight of an enormous Gordon Ramsay is not cheering. The foul-mouthed one's portrait, of a size that would have made the most megalomaniac dictator blush, suggests that his book is not the point. Elsewhere, someone was flogging the dead horse of the next Harry Potter, and someone else a compilation of Tolkein's shopping-lists. The way these behemoths dominate does not make for an encouraging view of the future of publishing.
On the Google and Microsoft stands, the former were advertising Google Book Search, the latter Live Book Search, to be launched over here in the autumn. The pleasant young woman who demonstrated the latter couldn't answer my questions about how it might integrate with institutional portals, or whether it supported Boolean searching. Their main selling point seemed to be Google-bashing; they want to present themselves as more observant of copyright than Google.
If my integrity was not compromised enough by feasting with the panthers of the arms trade, I went in the the evening to the relaunch of the Wellcome Library where, in speeches from Mark Walport, the Director, Frances Norton, Clare Matterson and Sebastian Faulks, I learned
that the Wellcome has a large collection of the calling cards prostitutes or their pimps used to leave in London telephone boxes
from Sebastian Faulks that he used the Library extensively in researching the history of psychiatry for his last novel Human Traces
and, which I should have remembered, that Henry Wellcome was no friend of novelists, he being the first husband of Syrie Barnado, later to marry Somerset Maugham, See Beverly Nichols, Of Human Bondage; Wellcome cited Maugham as co-respondent in the divorce, although she had left Wellcome for an affair with Gordon Selfridge.
The Wellcome's considerable wealth is being used in private equity bids, notably in the consortium trying to take over Boots. Their financial director has no difficulty with this: neither, I'm afraid would Henry Wellcome have had, if he were still alive. Many people are surprised to learn that the biggest funder of medical research in this country is not the public sector Medical Research Council but the private sector, unaccountable Wellcome Trust.
In London for the London Book Fair, (report to follow) I find that it is one of those interesting days when National Hunt and flat racing are equally interesting. While Newmarket has the Nell Gwyn Stakes, Cheltenham has the less romantically named Faucets For Mira Showers Silver Trophy Chase.
I take the following:
Newmarket 310: Hamoody
Newmarket 345: Sander Camillo
Cheltenham 405: Madison du Berlais
Newmarket 420: Fishforcompliments
I don't know if I can keep up. There's another Hamilton article, this time simultaneously on 3AM and the Guardian's book blog by A. Stevens, and the Old Vic are to stage Gaslight in June.
What is it about 2007 that means that there should be this growth of interest in Hamilton? I'm not complaining in the least.
"Sit down man, you're a bloody tragedy" is both an insult shouted at Ramsay McDonald by James Maxton of the ILP and a rather fine blog on architecture, culture and politics, under the undoubtedly true epigraph, "there is something aphrodisiac about wet concrete". In a recent post the author discusses "David Adjaye's great, Scheerbartian Whitechapel Library," and says, with uncanny perceptiveness, "you can't unreservedly enjoy it, because some bit of glaring Blairist idiocy will hit you - in the Library's case, the moniker 'Ideas Store' (imagine the focus group meeting on that one - no, library's a bit fusty, call it a store and people will come, you know like they do to Bluewater, sniff sniff)..."
"So ought each knight, that use of perill has, In swimming be expert, through waters force to pas". Spenser, The Faërie Queene, v.ii.16 In this April heatwave, in the absence of shoures soothe, I have been thinking of river swimming. I have never swum in a river down here, indeed have not swum in inland waters since last summer, when I enjoyed the Cam. The Ouse beckons: the Cuckmere looks less possible. I know my father had a copy of Nicholas Orme's Early British Swimming, but I have been unable to find it; there are still copies to be had from the publishers, the University of Exeter Press. I have ordered a copy, and while searching for it, came across a fascinating article on swimming in Spenser by Michael West.
Orme, Nicholas Early British swimming, 55 BC-AD 1719: with the first swimming treatise in English, 1595 Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1983
West, Michael Spenser, Everard Digby, and the Renaissance Art of Swimming Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 1. (Spring, 1973), pp. 11-22. Available online if your institution subscribes to JSTOR.