Aural upgrade

Aural delight and life enhancer

After some to-ing and fro-ing over SmartWatches, Alexander (King of Tech) nominated a pair of AirPods as one of his (many!) Christmas 2018 presents. To be fair I was a little sceptical and feared that, kept in a separate charging capsule, they would be all too likely to be lost within about a week of their first use.

A couple of weeks later I asked said offspring how they were going. “Brilliant!”, “They’ll change your life.”, “Get some Dada!” and so, after at least hours of scepticism, another pair of AirPods were acquired. Alexander turns out to have been absolutely right: they are a life changing acquisition. I now spend practically all my waking hours listening to music. They may reduce the probability of sharing other people’s music unintentionally somewhat, but nevertheless… these little beauties have brought music back front and centre to my ordinary life. Why suffer a train journey unenhanced by Scarlatti ever again?

One further aural background thought en passant. I seem to have given up Radio 4 entirely now. The “Today” programme went first, then “PM” and “WATO” and now I only go out of my way for “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” (appropriately enough), and “Just A Minute” and only occasionally attempt to keep up with “The Archers” on Sunday mornings. Radio 3 has filled the gaps and aural joy has been accompanied by much greater happiness. It may have something to do with avoiding the absurd predictability of the BREXIT disaster and the ubiquity which it’s totally unsurprising disastrous management has caused.

Maybe I’ll go back to Radio 4 after BREXIT is done with (if it ever is, I doubt it.)

Boston snowstorms

January snowstorm, Back Bay, Boston, january 2005
Marlborough Street, Boston

News of the “Arctic surge” in the US North East reminded me of when I was living in Marlborough Street in Boston back in 2005. One morning in January I woke up to an eerie silence to find a real winter wonderland.  Two feet (yes, really!) of snow had submerged the cars on the street overnight. Unbowed, a few hardy Bostonians were snow-shoeing down the street to work.  I thought then “If this was London, no-one would be getting in to the office for a week!”  They have proper snow in Boston.



A change of pace: Saxon churches of the Cotswolds

Saxon Churches in the Cotswolds
10 of the best

I have been too lazy recently.  Cricket and QPR seem to have monopolised my concerns.  There are many more interesting subjects (and not just because of the Ashes drubbing being administered in Sydney currently.)

So, a more diverse set of topics must be encompassed.  Starting with, hopefully not entirely predictably, Saxon Churches on the Cotswolds.

St Michael's Church, Duntisbourne Rouse, Cirencester, Gloucestershire
St Michael’s, Duntisbourne Rouse

The Saxons had their pick of locations and as a result built their churches on some stunning sites.  The Guatemalan highlands, the Patagonian desert and the Makgadikadi pans may be more exotic, but Saxon churches have given me some spine-tingling moments.  It’s something about the “fit” of the buildings and the landscape, a sense of centuries of quiet devotion and a spooky sense of “presence.”

This sense is exaggerated in the Cotswolds by the perfection of the landscapes in which this handful of churches sit.  My Top 10:

St Michael’s Church, Duntisbourne Rouse
Church of The Holy Rood, Daglingworth
St Mary’s Church, Edgeworth
St Andrew, Miserden
St Bartholomew’s Church, Winstone
All Saints, Turkdean
Church of the Holy Rood, Ampney Crucis
St Peter’s Church, Ampney St Peter
St Mary’s Church, Bibury
St Andrew, Coln Rogers

all on a Google map, to make visiting easier.

The Cotswolds had formed part of the Kingdom of the Hwiccas, a Christian Saxon tribe in the Celtic Christian tradition.  The Hwicce, ruled from Worcester, became part of the kingdom of Mercia after the Battle of Cirencester in 628 and maintained a gradually diminishing separation of identity as control wavered between Mercia and Wessex through the formation of the English, or more properly, British, Kingdom.

Dust to dust…

Australia win the Ashes series at the WACA, Perth, 18th December 2017
Back to Australia

So that’s that then.
The Ashes return to Australia and deservedly so.
There’s a lot of “England were competitive” talk, which I won’t add to. It seemed like a dismal performance to me.
Australia won by an innings and 41 runs in Perth and there never seemed an instant in which an English victory felt as though it was a realistic opportunity.
Simply not good enough.

Strangely chipper

Joe Root, England loses Second Ashes Test, Adelaide 6th December 2017
Well, not so much…

Well, winning in Adelaide was a brief and rather unlikely dream.  TMS in the dark with a cup of tea as England faded from hope at 176-4 to defeat by 120 runs at 233 all out was not exactly entertaining, but it was so much better than it might have been at the end of England’s first innings that I felt really OK about it.

It turns out to depend on Cook and Root.  While/if Cookie stays in, England can accumulate and if Root gets set then the side can deliver.  The bowlers showed they could “do it” in the Australian second innings.  The sides are closer than the first two scorelines have suggested and it could still fall England’s way in Perth next week.

David Davis, House of Commons Brexit Select Committee, 6th December 2017
“I’m enjoying this” (not)

That and then the DUP intervention in the Brexit negotiations: a disaster that might just salvage a sensible conclusion to the first round of negotiations despite the appearance of confusion and incompetence. They are clearly going to become the themes of Brexit sadly. No-one is going to forcibly pick these negotiations up by the scruff of the neck and produce a route towards the exit doors that everyone (or possibly anyone!) will agree on. Stand by shambles.  This is the problem of electing second division players as Prime Minister and then not giving them first class advice.

but then, as always, the clouds part

Joe Root, Steven Smith, Nathan Lyon Day 4 of the Second Ashes Test at Adelaide, 5th December 2017
Joe batting at the end of “Day” 4 in Adelaide

The most thrilling night’s Ashes cricket I can recall.  The phone buzzed me awake Lyon’s dismissal taking Australia to 71-5 at about 4am.  Stay with TMS and forsake sleep?  Preparing myself for an Australian rear-guard action, Handscomb almost immediately followed Lyon back to the pavilion.  Oh the joy…who needs sleep??? From 90-7 to 138 all out. Thrilling.

What on Earth was Steve Smith’s decision not to impose the follow on all about?  It makes no sense to me at all.  Thinking ahead to the rest of the series before the game was in the bag maybe?

Still, if you were going to bet on something an England second innings batting failure would have been a fair guess – but, no! lo, verily 179-4 with Joe Root still in and Woakes kind-of-nightwatchmaning and 177 runs to win on the last “day”.  It doesn’t get much better than this.  The odds must still be with Australia, but still….there was a fight and some fair cricket…it’s what the Ashes are about.

In other news

Arlene Foster rejects Ulster "alignment" with Ireland
Bowled Arlene!

All this cricketing wondrousness came after a day of shock and surprises in Brussels as the DUP (predictably) exercised their muscle to prevent a disastrous potential concession by the UK desperate to get the trade talks underway.  It’s kind of embarrassing that it took Arlene Foster on the stairs at Stormont to snatch negotiating success from dismal failure.

I guess there’s a slight glimmer of a chance that May knew that the DUP would do this and so played the Irish, but it seems likelier that Foster and the DUP saved the Union.  Which is quite something.

Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker
No deal today thankfully!  It was the wrong deal.