Thursday, December 08, 2016


Funny thing about selfies. They're everywhere. Why are we so fascinated by our reflection? Narcissus?

 For me, it's like those identity parades where a presumed witness is asked to point out the presumed guilty person. I'm trying to find out if I'm the same person I think I am. Which means, I suppose, the one I WAS. When? Yesterday? 20 years ago? Or much much further back? Am I guilty of nostalgia? Choosing a time when I was "really" me, as opposed to the more-or-less me whose selfie you're now seeing? It's a puzzle.

I used to paint a self-portrait nearly every year - much better kind of selfie, commonly practiced by the A-list (just noticed that A-list sound like Elites - ha!) of artists through the centuries.

That's about all I have to say on this subject for now. What do you think, if anything, about photos of yourself, taken by you or anyone else?

Wednesday, December 07, 2016


Politics schmolitics, some facts are too important to ignore. I'll change the subject next time but right now I must share this important article.

Saturday, November 26, 2016


For those who don't know Léo Ferré here he is with  Comme à Ostende. There are many videos of Ferré on Youtube, including this song performed when he was much younger and stronger-voiced than in this version, but I like it and his appearance suits the words. (Lyrics below, with my translation).  Ferré was a poet, composer, classically trained musician, conductor and actor,

Ferré, along with Georges Brassens and Jacques Brel, belongs in the French 'chansonniers' tradition  of troubadour poets/composers/singers. They were by no means pop stars although they eventually attained popular acclaim and respect and have influenced countless serious artists internationally.

Friday, November 25, 2016


I said  I'd do it so I did. I think it's a bit better than the other translations I've seen out there but I know it's not perfect. I offer this to anyone who wants to sing along with Brel in English. Please form an orderly queue.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


Acting on a recommendation by English Man, I went last night to the wonderfully nostalgic Wilton's Music Hall  for a performance by Camille O'Sullivan of some Jacques Brel songs. I'm very familiar with and a long-time fan of Brel but had never been to Wilton's or heard Camille and both were definitely worth a trip to the eerie no man's land that is Aldgate East at night. Miles of deserted glass-fronted office buildings dotted here and there with sad, empty little fast-fooderies like a jumble of ill-assorted type faces in a short-sighted sentence. Then a leaking railway bridge, forlorn boarded-up shops and then....a sign! 'Wilton's Music Hall' with an arrow pointing to a side alley, voices, lights, warmth, people crowding into an ambiance that is not of this century and all the better for it. My seat was directly behind a spiralling carved wooden pillar redolent of all the hands which stroked it over the years and I forgive it for making me crane my neck to see Camille O'Sullivan on stage.

She was a seasoned, confident performer, chatting in an intimate Irish lilt as if she knew everyone in the room (maybe she did) but when she sang, the voice soared powerfully away from you and was all about her - and why not? It made for a great show wasn't Brel enough for me. I do not mean that she should have impersonated him - of course there are innumerable covers of his songs. It's just that if you've seen and heard Brel, well, I don't think Camille really gets him. Partly it's the execrable English translations and partly because her emphasis is on showbiz whereas Brel was all about the words, the content of his poetry, articulated musically, forcefully, making sure his 'message' hits you - he was a kind of preacher, like it or not, and when he was bad he was lousy and when he was good he was sublime. Here is one of his sublimes, in my opinion. You really need to hear the words but I haven't found one decent translation on the internet. I'll search again or might have to do it myself.

UPDATE: Just done it. Could be better but anyway.... See next post.

Camille was best in the lusty, boisterous numbers which she performed with punk-ish and puck-ish energy but she lost it in the quiet ones. Ne Me Quitte Pas was sentimentalised out of existence. She did sing a few of the original verses in French but that couldn't erase the saccharine of the English translation or her catch-in-the-throat little girl interpretation. 
I never understand why some excellent singer/songwriters accept to have their lyrics translated so ineptly - no self-respecting poet or novelist would. But anyway, it was a good evening and I'm glad I was there. Here are some pics I took, behind the spirally pillar, in dim light.

Saturday, November 19, 2016


Fantasy isn't politics (well, this could be argued) so I'm allowed to break my resolution for a minute.

In case people ouside the UK don't know what this is about, the government has just awarded the Queen a 66% pay rise to fund a £369m ten-year refurbishment of Buckingham palace, in a time of austerity (for everyone except the wealthy) and of drastic cuts to the NHS, education, libraries and other essential public services.

 I couldn't resist a What-If fantasy.

P.S. It seems to have provoked a discussion on Facebook. Anyone interested can see it here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


That's it. I'm not posting about politics anymore. I've bought a ukulele.