Sun, 30 Aug 2015
Traffic Calming

It's not everyday you come across a "car" that looks like this, parked up near London's Mall. Looks like a 70's era Batmobile to me and it definitely drew some attention.

I overheard the owner (or driver) telling someone how they had to plan their route carefully to avoid any speed bumps (the car rides low), and how it wasn't very waterproof. Maybe not a good combination in London. Better in Gotham!

I didn't hear the engine running, perhaps just as well.

Tue, 25 Aug 2015
The Future Self

Anatoly Karlin writes about starting blogging again and about dealing with motivation and productivity. Regarding procrastination, something we all do sometimes but can become a big problem for some of us, he has an interesting comment :

When you are procrastinating, you are essentially trusting your future self to do the work that your present self does not want to. But if you make a habit of procrastination, of being unreliable, would it then be rational of your present self to depend on your (presumably equally fallible and unreliable) future self to do that what your present self is too lazy and slothful to do today? It’s grossly irrational and irresponsible!

In Why We Procrastinate, Alisa Opar posits that procrastination is something that we do because we do not consider our future self as being the same person we are. The background to this is the British philosopher Derek Parfit's view of a person's identity as something that changes as they move through time. We are not the same person in 10 years time as we are today: we see our future selves as strangers.

This idea of people becoming different people as they age, and their changing identity, is something that the writer and philosopher John Gray has brought up in his writing. Gray's an interesting writer but I had to pause my reading for a while to recover a bit of optimism about the human condition.

Sun, 23 Aug 2015
Building a City

I watched the BBC's Building the Ancient City and was relieved it was a good, straight-forward history program presented by a proper Professor (Professor Wallace-Hadrill of Cambridge University).

History programs are quite popular and the BBC is well known for doing them well, but in my experience they have been getting worse with far too much emphasis on fancy graphics, portentous presentation and celebrity pomposity. Sometimes, half the show seems as much a "trailer" (for the next 10 minutes) as useful content. Give me Wallace-Hadrill or the great Kenneth Clark any day.

Wed, 12 Aug 2015
Flapping and Squawking

I didn't expect to come across a parrot in a tree on Clapham Common a couple of weeks ago, and it actually turned out there were three parrots in the same tree. I haven't seen them since in my walks but have definitely heard them! Luckily, I managed to get a fairly decent photograph to prove it.

Mon, 10 Aug 2015
Harmonium at the Usher Hall

The Usher Hall in Edinburgh was transformed last week, looking very colourful as part of the Edinburgh Festival opening.

This was the Harmonium Project by a company of artists and technicians called 59 Productions ("We combine technology and art to tell amazing stories").

Harmonium is a choral symphony by John Adams, an American composer, and each movement covers a whole poem by John Donne and (two by) Emily Dickinson. The production involved the projection of light and colour onto the outside facade of the hall, alongside the music itself. It must have been quite a show but nerve-wracking for the organisers hoping the weather stayed good!

You can catch some of the Usher Hall show on YouTube. You can also listen to all the music on YouTube.

Pictures from The Guardian.

Fri, 07 Aug 2015
A Tibetan Adventure

The Rose of Tibet
By Lionel Davidson

Lionel Davidson was a British writer whose first novel, Night of Wenceslas, was published in 1960. His second, The Rose of Tibet, was published in 1962 and I recently finished reading it. He wasn't very prolific, and sometimes took a long time to produce a new book (e.g. 14 years before his last), but he is considered by quite a few people as one of the best novelists no one has heard of!

The Rose of Tibet is a classic adventure story really, about an English teacher who travels to Tibet, sneaking in to the closed country to search for his missing brother. The year is 1951 and dark portents and prophecies are everywhere in the country, as China readies itself for an invasion. We not only have a Chinese invasion, but a beautiful abbess of a remote monastery, a fortune in emeralds, hidden secrets, monkey gods and a desperate survival strory. This sort of book would make a great film, perhaps in a similar spirit to an Indiana Jones.

From :

The Rose of Tibet (1962) is Lionel Davidson’s second novel. His extraordinary and thrilling tale of a haunted land is among the very finest of its kind and prompted Graham Greene to remark: ‘I hadn’t realised how much I had missed the genuine adventure story until I read The Rose of Tibet ‘. Its combination of adventure and travelogue is further proof of Davidson’s great variety as a writer, and caused Daphne du Maurier to say: ‘It has all the excitement of King Solomon’s Mines ‘.

I'm with Graham Greene on this: it's very refreshing to read such a cracking adventure story again. I am looking forward to reading more.

I think the books are out of print, which won't help gaining an readership. I read mine as an e-book but definitely want to see paper versions. They definitely deserve better. I was struck by the extremely glowing reviews I came across a few years ago on the web for this book and his first.