Tuesday, October 30, 2007

October's almost finished

Not had a great month so I will be glad to see the back of it. Just one more day to go. Still we have seen Gordon Brown in his true colours which definitely don't have much red in them. How could so many Labour MPs not at least put up some token resistance to him in the leadership elections. They can't all be after jobs, can they?

I have now seen The Londoner newspaper. For a freebie from Ken Livingstone it is a very well done tabloid. Must have been the only way he figured he could get good press. I suspect the press barons will never forgive him and one step out of line will be all it needs, but let's hope Ken stays on the straight and narrow as Boris as mayor is just too awful to imagine.

Friday, October 12, 2007

UK Post Office Workers

The Post Office workers have never been very militant. In 1971 Thatcher pushed them into a national post strike and beat them after 47 days. Tom Jackson was then their leader and a moderate left with nowhere else to go. Thatcher's government was in training for what was to come later with far stronger unions.

Fast-forward 36 years and we have Gordon Brown, New Labour and the ex-Saatchi and Saatchi spin doctor, Adam Crozier, doing it all again. Suddenly after years of not hearing it we are now told what "Spanish Practices" are. Come on Brown, if the worse you can say is they start work too early and then finish early then, no matter what spin you put on it, it is you and Crozier who are the aggressors.

Of course if your economic policies are Thacherite like Brown's then the destruction of basic infrastructure like the postal service is OK... but what about the Minister of Health? Alan Johnson, it's no good making statements about NHS administrators when old work colleagues of yours are in so much trouble. Didn't you ever benefit from these Spanish Practices? Isn't it about time you resigned from this government or are you totally without principles?

Alan Johnson

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Labyrinth Makers by Anthony Price

I should have taken the copy of "I Claudius" by Robert Graves that I was half-way through with me to Chiang Mai, but I forgot it. That was the main reason for my visit to Gecko Books in Chiang Mai on Saturday. Staying overnight up a mountain hotel it was either TV or reading. At the shop I picked up two paperbacks, The Labyrinth Makers by Anthony Price and a Strip Jack by Ian Rankin.

The Labyrinth Makers was Price's first book, published in 1970. I thought I had read all his books but I didn't remember the story from the back cover blurb. Either I never had read this or that is some of the memory I have lost. (There do seem to be whole periods covering years that have gone.)

I do rate Price up there with Graham Greene and John le Carré as one of the best English writers and story-tellers. This book didn't change my mind and I finished it yesterday in 3 days. If you like the Smiley stories from le Carré then I suspect you would like the David Audley ones from Price. The funny thing is that I have nothing in common with either of these characters so that can't be why I like reading their authors.

A break from the Graves book isn't such a bad thing as you do have to concentrate to follow the Augustan family relationships. I started the Rankin book with the knowledge that if I liked it as much as the Price book I would have enough reading to last me to the grave;-) Rankin is a prolific author and his Inspector Rebus series has done very well, both as novels and as TV. The much more modest background of this leading character should allow me to identify more closely with his rather than Price's character, yet it isn't working. Maybe it's a Scottish thing or just Rankin being a much younger writer than the others, and me of course. I won't give up on it though as it might grow on me.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Returned from North Thailand

We arrived in Bangkok yesterday morning after an all-night drive down from the north. We had left our hotel, half-way up a mountain, in Mai Rim at eight in the morning to drive up to Mae Hong Son via Pai and then to drive south again, ending up in Bangkok. We turned east at Mae Sariang as it started to get dark, took the road to Hot, Li and then Thoen to get back on the main Bangkok road.

I will add bits about this trip as I get time, but some of the highlights were the Gecko Used Books shop in Chiang Mai, which must be the best in Thailand; the link is here, The Daraphirom Palace Museum in Mae Rim and the Thai-Japanese WW2 museum in Khun Yuam. There are few clickable pictures below.

Statue of Princess Dara Rasmi
Daraphirom Palace Museum

Daraphirom Palace Museum
Daraphirom Palace Museum

Japanese WW2 Shrine in Khun Yuam

Japanese WW2 Museum in Khun Yuam

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

John Ball or John Bull

"When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman?". So said John Ball, a hedge priest in the 14th. Century. Released from Maidstone prison during the peasants revolt, he preached to Wat Tyler and his Kentish rebels on Blackheath. He was hung, drawn and quartered in front of Richard II in 1381.

John Bull was an 18th. Century fictional character. This Pickwick look-a-like was meant to represent all that was good in the English country yeoman.

I wonder which of these two Englishmen the Scot, Gordon Brown, would identify the most with? I have a sneaking suspicion it's the 18th. Century John.