28 October 2009

Circulation of Blood

Who discovered the circulation of the blood? If you're British, you probably think it was William Harvey (in 1616, you might add, if you're feeling show-offy). If you're Swiss or Spanish, though, you may not need telling it was Miguel Serveto (Michael Servetus), in 1553. I'm grateful to Samia Hurst (the French-speaking bio-ethicist whose blog I follow with bewildered fascination) for her post yesterday, marking the anniversary of his death by fire at the command of John Calvin. If you can read French, go and have a look, but in any case, check out his wikipedia entry. What a life! And what a wonderful advert for atheism. Obviously one of the smartest men of his age, he ended up sentenced to death by both protestants and catholics. And in the middle of it he made the discovery of pulmonary circulation, but because it was published in a book full of heresy (excellent firewood!) all but three copies were lost.

So we can continue to feel some patriotic pride in Harvey's discovery.

24 October 2009

Dreaming of work

This is a post about a dream I had last night. I state this as fair warning. Look away now, is the best advice.

Simply, the dream was that I was back at work, and that my desk was piled up with all the work I left behind three weeks ago, as if they were expecting me to come back and finish it. I felt really anxious about this.

OK. That's it. As dreams go, not very interesting for me, the dreamer, or for you, the tellee. But not very embarassing either. Quite obvious in its meaning: I'm just about coming to the end of the time a holiday might last; I need to decide inside if I'm going back to that job or not. It still feels as if I could turn up on Monday and say, hi, I'm back, how've you been? Obv, that's not going to happen, and dreams like this are part of interiorising that.

Also, I suppose, there's a statement that I believe they won't be able to manage without me. A wish that someone will say how indispensable I was. In reality, of course, they're more likely to shout at me for all the shit I left behind. That's the main reason I don't plan to go to the office anytime soon.

17 October 2009

Charlton 2 Huddersfield 1

The first chilly day of the season, and a cracking game. Huddersfield were a delight to watch - totally committed to going forward, even before they went behind (to a headed goal by Sam Sodje from a really badly defended corner) after 7 minutes. It looked like it might be a high-scoring game, but although that didn't really happen, it could have. Huddersfield were always keen to try a speculative shot, and both sides had chances. They equalised (with a brilliantly taken freekick) shortly before half-time, and the second half saw Semedo on to strengthen midfield. Almost instant result, with Macleod scoring within five minutes. After that it was a flowing, open game, certainly the best this season.

Despite the referee. He was really hopeless. Huddersfield's goal - although they deserved it - came from a completely invisible foul, while other fouls were completely missed.

No home league game now for a month.

12 October 2009

Brain of Britain

I've just seen that the new series of BoB starts on R4 this afternoon, and it's being chaired by Russell Davies. That's bad news because it must mean Robert Robinson is even more indisposed than he was last year, when he seemed immobile and frail, like an elderly Davros.

It's just over a year since my first, and probably only appearance on BoB. Robinson was in position before we went into the theatre, and we were told he would go straight home in a taxi after the audience had left. He was just like he's always been, prone to erudite rambling. In the heat before mine a blind contestant mumbled his answer, and Robinson cupped his hand to his ear to encourage him to speak up.

I decided BoB was not for me after a string of questions I neither knew nor cared about. Who's Westminster Abbey dedicated to? Name one interesting fact about golf. And the killer was to give the name of the tidal current in Japan, which literally means 'black tide'. I thought those cunning Japanese might have given it a French name - marée noire - to fox their enemies. The fact that it's the only translation of black tide I can think of also played a part.

I'm glad Robert Robinson did host it, though. His style is part of a disappearing world. And I hope that, however unwell he may be, he's still in fine pedantic form.

11 October 2009

Charlton 0 Oldham 0

One thing I've rarely discussed in these post-relegation football posts is the quality of refereeing outside the premiership. First the good: there's a healthy absence of ego. Few games are ruined by a referee wishing to be the star of the show. The worst-refereed game I've seen since relegation from the Prem was two years ago, when a prem referee - slumming it, and obviously not liking it - managed to give out 10 yellow cards in a far from dirty game, but completely missed the foul that put Todorov out for the rest of the season. We won't forget that, Rob Styles, should we ever meet again.

But the bad is that sometimes some absolute howlers are made. Even if they don't affect the outcome, even if they are balanced out, they destroy your faith in the officials. Yesterday's referee, G Horwood, and his officials were in that category. Some utterly capricious refereeing means that no-one quite knows what rules apply.

It wouldn't have made a difference. Oldham were appallingly negative, playing for the draw from the start. They just decided to soak up Charlton's possession play, which they did very well, helped by the weakness of Charlton's front line. Shelvey really seems to have lost the plot at present, playing much too deep rather than keeping on a fairly tight radius off Burton. Also, for some reason he's still the principal dead ball player, although Nick Bailey seems much more dangerous. Izale Macleod came on in the second half, to miss two fairly straightforward chances.

Definitely two points dropped rather than one gained, but it shows that Charlton need to have a strategy for this kind of game: when you're totally on top in midfield but can't convert it into goals, what you gonna do? Clearly, what's needed is to put more players forward, but if even Shelvey isn't getting in dangerous positions, the goals aren't going to come.

06 October 2009

Charlton 4 Barnet 1

Charlton's PR team did their best, selling this as a historic match, the first time Charlton have played in the Johnstones Paint Trophy, but it didn't really work. Less than 5000 turned up, including a small but noisy band of Barnet brothers, who kept singing till the end, to their enormous credit. And their team wasn't bad. They took the lead after 12 minutes and it seemed that Charlton's inability to do anything in any cup was present again. The team was quite experimental, and you could see there wasn't the understanding between players that was so marked in the early games of the season. Anyway, we prevailed, and while the scoreline is flattering, the win was well-deserved. As always, other blogs will give a more detailed report of the game.

I specialise in mood and atmosphere, and I found the game hard to follow simply because I was sitting in a different position from usual - still in the West Stand but close to the south end. The PA is barely audible there, there was really bad internet reception on my phone, and a group of North Stand refugees behind us were chanting throughout the match with their usual lack of wit (but with admirable stamina).

But the benefits of a small crowd became apparent after the match. I'd driven, for the first time in ages, and parked easily reasonably close to the ground. And lack of traffic meant I was home half an hour after the final whistle. Let's not get promoted, huh?


Just look at this: fresh bread from my oven. It's ages since I've made my own bread, but being at home all day, it's an easy thing to do, and I have to say, it's tasty. This is baked using Allinson's Seed & Grain Bread Flour so it's chewy and probably fairly healthy.

I'm having a lazy day today - and why not, after the stress of yesterday. Training a group of 25 second-tier council officers, most of whom seemed to be reluctant victims. I could sympathise; the course isn't for them, and they ought to know most of it already, being in the positions they are. 

So, what have I done today? A few emails etc, the bread of course, and I've been reading Briggflatts, Basil Bunting's verse "autobiography". He's difficult, but worthwhile, I think. It will take a few more readings before I'm really at home. Here's the second stanza:

A mason times his mallet
to a lark's twitter,
listening while the marble rests,
lays his rule
at a letter's edge,
fingertips checking,
till the stone spells a name
naming none,
a man abolished.
Painful lark, labouring to rise!
The solemn mallet says:
In the grave's slot
he lies. We rot.
Actually, I could have chosen a more cheerful extract, but I think that is typical of the simplicity of the language but the complexity of the allusions. The themes in this stanza repeat throughout the poem. It's good to be able to read something slowly, without any pressure to respond.

And I've now got very clean fingernails. (Anyone who's ever made bread will know what I mean.)

01 October 2009


I'm currently ambling through the best-deserved hangover in my life. Last night we celebrated the early retirement of the four of us, with an absolutely brilliant party at St George's Tavern in Victoria. The place was packed and rocking, and it was good to see so many people who'd come back - often many miles. People had turned up from Ludlow, Corby, Newcastle and even Normandy! It was the best leaving party I've ever been to, and not just because it was mine. It was so great to see so many old faces and to see them having such a good time. I can't remember feeling happier - I was beaming all evening like an idiot.

Thanks to everyone who came along - I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

Photos, by the way, are viewable on my facebook page.