Cod psychology

You will feel more strongly about the dangers of over-fishing after you have seen Greta Scacchi, naked, with a cod.

You see. It’s true! Now join the campaign at the end of the line.

PS Enjoyed the headline at the Adelaide News – ‘Greta nudes up to save fish’

PPS Is Rankin a great portrait photographer? Be convinced at rankin portraits

blogging Life

The revolution will not be televised

But is bursting with the power of a thousand suns across the internet

The Ayatollah Khomenei returned to Iran in February 1979 on a chartered Air France 747 –  the seventies equivalent of the sealed train in which Lenin travelled from Zurich to the Finland Station (St Petersburg) in April 1917.

And while Tehran erupts, Ahmadinejad visits… Moscow.

Books Life

Proust and Joyce meet, 18th May 1922

The two greatest novelists of the 20th century met only once. At a supper party at the Hotel Majestic in Paris on May 18th 1922 given by the rich Englishman Sydney Schiff and his wife Violet.

The party, at which Stravinsky and  Picasso were also guests, was held to celebrate the first night of Stavinsky’s Renard with choreography by Nijinska.

Unfortunately things did not work out quite as might have been hoped.

Joyce arrived late, drunk and inappropriately dressed. “Joyce complained of his eyes, Proust of his stomach. Did M. Joyce like truffles? He did. Had he met the Duchesse de X? He had not. ‘I regret that I do not know M. Joyce’s work,’ remarked Proust. ‘I have never read M. Proust,’ Joyce [lied] …  ‘If only we’d been allowed to meet and have a talk somewhere,’ remarked Joyce sadly afterwards.”

In July/August, Sydney Schiff tried to organise for Proust to sit for a portrait drawing by Picasso. Sadly, nothing came of the project. Proust died later that year on 18 November 1922, aged 51.


Marcel Proust











Sources: John Richardson’s biography of Picasso and George Painter’s biography of Proust

Life Music

Helen Yorke recital, May 30th in Dorchester

I have mentioned Helen Yorke’s recitals a while ago in this blog and am pleased to say she has another, larger event coming up, this time at the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester on May 30th.

Here she will be accompanied by Tom Randle, tenor. They will play music by Bernstein (excerpts from West Side Story), Duke Ellington, Quilter, as well as solo piano – pieces by Bach, Chopin and Rachmaninoff.

Helen  is a truly exceptional pianist. She has given piano recitals worldwide and worked with American singer Renee Fleming for over a decade. She presently teaches at Trinity College, London and at the Birmingham Conservatoire.

Tom Randle made his debut as Tamino for ENO, and since then has enjoyed critical success with many of the world’s leading opera houses and orchestras.

Tickets are  £12 each, with interval refreshments provided. Reserve your ticket, call 01305 264038 or email Helen directly

Life Music

Keith Richards

There is a fabulous photo of Keith Richards in today’s Guardian, which has the most beautiful colours and which gives a real sense of the journey, written in his time-worn, uncompromising features, from young blues enthusiast to old bluesman. The picture of a rock ‘n’ roller who tracked the history of the music to its source:

[photograph: PR] 

Read the article here. Though not exactly full of new information, it does highlight one of the most important cultural/historical features of the Stones’ early visits to the US, in their music and in their insistence on having the early bluesmen on their TV shows as guests, that of bringing to the attention of Americans – particularly of White America – their own, ignored musical heritage.

I think we just thought it was our job to pay back, to give them what they’ve given us. They’ve given us the music and the friendship, and let’s stand up, be men, and give them a blues, and it went to No 1. Mr Howlin’ Wolf, he didn’t mind at all. It was maybe a moment of bravado, in retrospect, but it worked. We have been blessed by the music that we listened to, and let’s see if we can actually spin it back around and make American white kids listen to Little Red Rooster. You had it all the time, pal, you know. You just didn’t listen.

We’re all listening now: where is the article placed? In the culture section. Roll over Beethoven!

Books Life

Love in the Dark Country

I was just checking something for a new project and came across this wonderful poem on Clive James’s website.

It’s by Kapka Kassabova, a poet I have never read before, but this poem is so beautiful I am immediately writing this because you absolutely, positively must read it. WITHOUT DELAY.

Born in Bulgaria in 1973 and domiciled in Auckland, Kapka Kassabova (I read) is now based in Edinburgh, when not roaming the world. Her main collection of poetry is Someone Else’s Life, published in Britain by Bloodaxe and in New Zealand by the Auckland University Press. 

Now … read the poem!

Books Life

“Live all you can;

it’s a mistake not to. It doesn’t so much matter what you do in particular, so long as you have your life. If you haven’t had that what have you had?”

from The Ambassadors by Henry James

I am not a great Henry James fan, and had not come across this quote until a request for help for an essay subject from Kate got me googling.

As it happens, the book I was just reading, Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, simply by listing a random array of possibilities, brilliantly captures all that can be wonderful as a parent, and what can be missed. And that it’s often the seemingly small, inconsequential things in life that really count in the end.

Their father had never taken them to the open-air pool on Jesus Green, played rousing games of Snap or Donkey, never tossed them in the air or caught them or pushed them on a swing, had never taken them punting on the river or walking on the Fens or on educational trips to the Fitzwilliam.

Case Histories is a strange combination of the jolly and the terrible that somehow works. With a light touch and decptively simple, short sentences Atkinson illuminates both the terrors and joys of life, brilliantly interweaving the viewpoints of narrator and character, often within a single paragraph. And the message (to use a crude phrase), perhaps the same message of all art (?) – 

Live all you can, it’s a mistake not to.

Business development Life

On being different

A couple of exceptional programmes on radio four last week, the first being David Walliams on Desert Island Discs. This is a fantastic format – who hasn’t fantasised about being the guest? Whilst over the years it has gone through phases of being fairly anodyne, now, with Kirsty Young, it makes compelling listening. It’s amazing how she gets her guests to open up.

Each week is practically a masterclass in establishing empathy and conducting an interview. Never more so than with her justly celebrated interview with David Walliams last week, who gave us an extraordinary insight into his life – what it is, being him. I was about to give a link to listen again, but find you can’t listen again. So don’t miss Richard Madeley next week.

But one programme you can listen again to, and I urge you to do so, is the Woman’s Hour interview with Catherine W Hill, which I heard completely by chance driving to a meeting.

A truly remarkable person who survived Auschwitz and went on to become, as Radio 4 puts it,  the ‘doyenne of Canadian style’ championing designers such as  Versace and Armani in her influential boutique ‘Chez Catherine.’

Asked what made her successful, she replied

‘You have to have the right product, you have to fall in love with it, you have to enjoy it and you have to give something … the most important thing a person can have is empathy, and curiosity … When I opened the store I never thought about how much money I might make, I thought about what can I achieve? How can I be different?

I am looking forward to reading her book, which is in draft at the moment, titled, brilliantly,  ‘Dressing The Wound.’

As it happens, being different was also one of the topics in media life coach Joanne Mallon’s newsletter last week:

When you are in business for yourself, it stands to reason that you will be passionate about what you do. Otherwise you’d go and do something much easier like get a real job, right?

Sometimes it can be a short sharp thunk in the head to realise that not everyone shares your passion. And when it comes to media interviews, really no one cares about what you do. They care about the results. They’re interested in your story – where does that passion come from? What differentiates you from everyone else in the same business as you? Why did you choose that particular niche instead of another one?

Hone in on what it is that makes you different, and you are on your way to discovering what makes you news.

Happily here, now, in the west we are in a place where difference can (generally) be celebrated. What’s different is what makes us news – but in a good way.

Catherine Hill trod a fine line when she gave in to the impulse to tear a strip from the bottom of her camp uniform and wear it as a scarf. It made her stand out: a risky business in Aushwitz, that brought her to the attention of the prison guards. As it happened, the action probably saved her life, but it could so easily have been different.

Which (almost) connects with today’s news story that MI5 kept the enigmatic and brilliant photographer Lee Miller under surveillance for 15 years, and a good excuse (if one were needed) to feature one of my favourite photographs – of Lee Miller in Hitler’s bath, Munich 1945:

Read article by Antony Penrose, her son, in the timesonline here

The photo can be seen in larger format at

blogging Life Work life

On being remarkable

Well I told you this blog is bang up to the minute. Following various links (now a tangled web of forgotten steps floating in cyberspace) I came upon – ‘found’ wouldn’t be the right word; I wasn’t looking for it – a blog post from Seth Godin on ‘Why bother having a resume?

Topical in the current climate, but actually written back in March 2008, so almost a year ago. How some things endure. Even today. Actually, his words have become ever more relevant.

A resume, he argues, de facto defines you as unremarkable. It positions you as ‘just more fodder for the corporate behemoth. That might be fine for average folks looking for an average job, but is that what you deserve?’

If you need a resume, you don’t have a reputation that precedes you; or extraordinary letters of recommendation from people the employer knows and respects; or … ‘a blog that is so compelling and insightful that they have no choice but to follow up.’

Ah, so I’ll be OK after all!

In her comment on Seth’s post (yes, me and Seth go way back; or should that be Seth and I?) eSoup takes up the challenge and raises the bar just that bit higher, translating his comments into a list of things to do:

1) Create a blog that is so captivating, so ingenious, so clever, so compelling and so insightful that your potential clients feel a thrill of anticipation at the thought of meeting the person behind the blog.

Dear Reader, feel the thrill and do it anyway. Do get in touch; I know you want to.

PS I’ve just read Seth’s post for today, February 24th, where he celebrates his 3,000th blog post. That is a mighty achievement, especially given the frequency of posting and consistent quality. Seth Godin, this new blogger salutes you.

Books Landscape Life

The blue of the sea

I started reading ‘My Cousin Rachel’ (by Daphne du Maurier) because we were going to Fowey in Cornwall for the weekend, where she lived (see below).

Despite the bravura opening – ‘They used to hang men at Four Turnings in the old days’ (she certainly knew how to write an opening sentence) – I was struggling to get into the book and, though making sure to take it with me, needless to say didn’t even open it when down there. Then I read this paragraph:

… I paused and looked back over the sunken fence. The wagons were silhouetted on the further hill, and the waiting horses and the moving figures black dots on the skyline. The shocks of corn were golden in the last rays of the sun. The sea was very blue, almost purple where it covered the rocks, and had that deep full look about it that always comes with the flood tide. The fishing fleet had put out, and were standing eastward to catch the shore breeze. Back at home the house was in shadow now, only the weather-vane on the top of the clock tower catching a loose shaft of light. I walked slowly across the grass to the open door.

The lyricism of this passage brilliantly captures the Cornish coastal landscape, and deftly, imperceptibly, draws you into the scene with the use of ‘that’ – . ‘had that deep full look about it …’ You are there.

This is followed in the next sentence with ‘the fishing fleet had put out’ … echoing the inexorable movement of the tide, in and out, and of the ebb and flow of life – and death. We are perfectly in the landscape, and in the moment of the story, experiencing timelessness and the passage of time, and change, thinking about the past whilst moving towards the open door of the future.

Now I’m enthralled.

Plans … and life.

What started out as a spur of the moment, kind of work-related plan for a long weekend in Cornwall became something else entirely as we tried to set out on the Friday – the day of the heaviest snowfall in Dorset for twenty years.

And no, we didn’t admit to the policeman, who turned us back barely five miles from home, where we were really headed. That we were trying to make a 150 mile journey ‘in this weather’. We finally managed to slide back home, and waited out an hour with a cup of tea but, unable to settle, we once more took to the road, this time heading south and west as opposed to north and west. But not for long. A lorry had spun on the road, creating miles of tailback. We had to turn back home once more.

But Saturday morning broke in dazzling, frosty sunshine, so we headed out again and this time made it all the way. So we finally got to see the blue of the Cornish sea, in bright February sun. Even if we didn’t, this time, get to the gates of Menabilly, one of the inspirations for Manderley:

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive and for a while I could not enter, for the way was barred to me.

Life Work life

If we do not change direction …

… we are likely to end up where we are headed.

I like this quote, a Chinese proverb brought to my inbox in David Allen’s ‘Productivity Principles Newsletter.’ Gives a different angle on (and is probably the source of, come to think of it) the now too familiar ‘if you keep on doing the same thing, you’ll keep on getting the same results.’ And also throws a side glance on the also now very familiar exhortation beloved of business gurus and coaches – never give up.

But what if one is headed in the wrong direction? Change tack, must be the answer. And how do you know if you are headed up a blind alley or just about to turn a corner? That’s the 64,000 dollar question, especially in these times of crunch. But, to be sure, the first thing you (by which I mean, of course, I …) need to do is to take stock of the situation; get a hold on where you are …

David Allen, productivity guru of GTD (Getting Things Done), has good stuff to say on this too:

Capture. Get the data. Acknowledge what’s true. (We have ____ in the bank. Our expenses are ______ . I feel insecure and apprehensive. There are no debtors’ prisons.) And clean up. This is when it’s super-important to identify and get a handle on all the open loops pulling on your attention.

Clarify. Identify the outcomes and projects you now need to focus toward, and of course, what actions you need to take. (Re-do personal budget; talk to partner re: asset inventory.) Get all your attention-grabbers processed. And leverage the heck out of the two-minute rule. Being an instant executive is the best cure for transcending a funk.

Organize. Get your lists and systems current and complete. Your psyche needs the freedom that affords to concentrate and direct your thinking.

Reflect. You may need to do Weekly Reviews daily. You must keep situational awareness vital and present to be able to trust your intuitive responses, which you will be calling on frequently. Regularly engage in forest management (instead of tree-hugging), so you can see smoke from a distance.

Engage. Keep moving. Pick an action and do it. Don’t get hung up on priorities. It’s much easier to control a boat that’s got way (momentum through the water) than one simply at the effect of the currents. It’s easier to know your priorities by taking an action that’s not so important than by stressing about them.

This is where getting control morphs into gaining perspective, and the Horizons of Focus come into play. Obviously goals and plans and job descriptions may need a recalibration. But, in addition, give yourself permission to acknowledge and take advantage of the deeper conversations with yourself and other key people in your life that will undoubtedly come closer to the surface in rough seas. …

The point is to make what you’re doing conscious and directed, instead of reactive and contracted. I’m not an advocate of a Pollyanna positive-thinking philosophy. Pretending that life is rosy when that’s not your experience is self-delusional and counter-productive. Rather, GTD is a positive-directional approach. Certainly being able to maintain a positive vision amidst the challenging and often messy day-to-day stuff is a wonderful life skill to hone. But you may need to be judicious and pick your battles. Though the storm you’re in is probably going to make you stronger and wiser, right now you might not like it. Your choice is how you get through it – as victim, or as captain/commander. In other words: life’s a bitch, and what’s the next action?

Pick the right battle.

You can sign up to the GTD newsletter at

Books Life Music

It is written

I’m still buzzing from seeing Slumdog Millionaire at the weekend. A stunning film pulsating with life, brilliant colour, sadness and joy. It’s beautifully shot and well worth seeing on the big screen. We were right up at the front, in the second row (by chance rather than design), and – once the eyes had adjusted! – the images completely filled our field of vision. Awesome.

Playful, engaging, thought-provoking, this modern Dickensian fable plays with questions of chance and destiny in a thrilling and satisfying way, balancing light and darkness, terror and pity, laughter and joy. See it!

Otherwise, last week was one of loss – Updike and John Martyn. Two Johns; only just realised that. Here are a couple of my favourite Updike quotes, by way of In Memoriam:

Writing and rewriting are a constant search for what it is one is saying.

Sex is like money; only too much is enough.

Can’t resist a thrid:

We are most alive when we’re in love.

And finally … can’t end today without a mention of the snow, this evening giving a satisfying crunchiness as I fed the pigs.

May you never lay your head down,
without a hand to hold.
May you never make your bed out in the cold.

Just like I’m greeting some brother of mine,
you know that I love you true.
You never talk ‘n’ judge me behind my back
and I know that there’s those that do.

Oh, please, won’t ya please, won’t ya bear it in mind
love is a lesson to learn in our time.
And please, won’t ya please, wont ya bear it in mind for me?

John Martyn


Hail to the (new) Chief

the guardian

… So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America’s birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

“Let it be told to the future world…that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive…that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it].”

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

What a great moment.  Yes we can – Now we must.

Books Landscape Life Poetry Work life

Be drunk

‘You have to be always drunk’ wrote Baudelaire, and how right he was. Right now, I’m drunk on this frozen landscape, and drunk on trying to capture its beauty and the play of light in the crisp, rosy dawn.

Drink in the moment. Cold pastoral!

Be Drunk

You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it—it’s the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk.

But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: “It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.”

by Charles Baudelaire
Translated by Louis Simpson

Cold stream