Looking Back At 2018: Part 1

Great Britain

Glancing back over the past year, I’m amazed how many subjects we’ve dipped into, and the range of our conversations. Here are a few quotes from the blog in the first half of the year. And this is without starting on readers’ comments!


From ‘Sublime Moments’:

‘When watching stories on film. I live for the moments when everything comes together in a sublime meld of imagery, language and sound. Watching ‘God’s Own Country’, one of the year’s best British films, it seemed at first to be another BFI-funded test of patience, especially as it began with a monosyllabic farmer putting his arm up a cow.’

From ‘Murder Your Darlings’:

‘Type the words ‘Lost Work’ into Wikipedia and see what comes up. You’ll be there for days. TE Lawrence lost a 250,000 word manuscript of ‘The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’ on Reading train station. Gilbert & Sullivan lost their first work, ‘Thespis: Or the Gods Grown Old’, Thomas Hardy destroyed his first rejected novel, Brahms destroyed 20 string quartets – the list is endless.’

From Why James Bond May Be Over’:

‘We currently live in a world of virtue signalling, safe spaces and trigger warnings…which brings us, it seems, to Bond, James Bond (one of the best examples of diacope, the repetition of words for emphasis). In the novel of ‘Goldfinger, James Bond packs off his girlfriend to buy him a baguette and some wine, and generously adds, ‘get something for yourself’. I can’t remember whether he gives her a slap on the bottom as she goes, but he does in the film version. A new generation of readers and viewers is taking issue with the sexism we always knew was inherent in Bond. But this is, frankly, shooting fish in a barrel.’


From ‘Aspects of London – the Centre of Magic’:

‘London is torn between the city it is and the one it wants to be. It’s filled with invisible lines dividing class and politics, real and surreal, and it has meridians, which provide longitude and project imaginary pathways across the city. I grew up next to the most famous one, the Greenwich Meridian – it was always fun to straddle the line which separates east from west in the same way that the Equator separates north from south. But George III’s Thames meridian had another purpose; to link sacred spots that would form a paradise on earth. Paths cut through the landscape can still be found.’

From ‘In Praise of Middle England’:

‘Could it be that ‘Middle English’ denotes certain values, traditionalism, democracy, common sense, fair play? A certain tepid stability? The weather in Middle England is not bad, the people are quite nice, the food is okay, the life is quite comfortable. There are too many qualifiers in that last sentence, but it’s how things are. If you draw a snake running diagonally from top left to bottom right through England, that’s the band in which more than half the UK population live. It’s the middle in every sense, solid, respectable, unimaginative, kindly and, with the exception of London, a bit right-leaning.’

From Nymphs, Begone!’: ‘‘The Chariot Race’, based on the life of Porphyrius the Charioteer, is hard to fault as a painting but is lowly narrative art (naturally, I love narrative art). In the gallery’s basement are stacks of art waiting to jostle for limited wall space. The Waterhouse painting, which shows young girls luring Hylas to his death, has been taken down ‘to prompt conversations about how we display and interpret artworks in Manchester’s public collection’. Ie. in a time of virtue signalling and trigger warnings, is it offensive to have nude women in art?’


From ‘Bookshops VS Amazon’:

‘How do publishers keep their edge against a global giant? They need to form closer bonds with bookshops. Some have adapted to new technology while others still feel trapped in the distant past. They must rebuild the idea of reader loyalty and not go to war with self-publishing but learn from their world, creating more interesting spaces for books, getting books to shops quickly and easily. The book market is no longer just about reading but augmenting the experience. Print and digital are just delivery systems. It’s the words entering readers’ minds that matter.’

From ‘Patriotism & Me’: ‘I was born in South London and my entire family lived there. Nobody had any connections with the countryside. The first time I ventured into a rural area alone I was 26 and was thrown out of a field. I managed to go to the North-West and completely miss the Lake District. I’ve still never been. Great swathes of the country are missing to me. I would love to go, but heading off for a weekend into the wet countryside is much harder if you don’t know anyone who knows the terrain.’

From ‘Shakespeare-Phobes, Here’s How to Get the Bard’:

‘The first thing to do is hie yourself to a theatre or watch a play on DVD. First time around you will understand, on my estimation, 40% of what you hear. What you’ll get is the rough shape of the story. This is the precise point when you’ll feel like going back to Game of Thrones. There are some things you should know. The jokes are generally dreadful. The plots are unnecessarily convoluted. There are always at least two characters who could be dispensed with (literally so in the case of ‘Hamlet’). The dramas are punctuated with really stupid bits of crowd-pleasing business. The unicycling drag queens so beloved of new directors really shouldn’t be there.’

6 comments on “Looking Back At 2018: Part 1”

  1. Ian Luck says:

    I think that a lot of people are put off Shakespeare (or whichever variant of his surname you prefer) at school, where, it seems, only the dullest of the man’s works seem to be taught. All the ones that everyone knows bits of, all the ones that spring up with monotonous regularity, like Equisetum arvense through tarmac. If fourteen year olds were given something like ‘Titus Andronicus’ to read, then they might actually enjoy his work. It also helps if you have a teacher with an atom of imagination; when I dared to suggest to my English Lit. teacher that, surely, Shakespeare would have spoken with a Midlands accent, and not in the cut glass capitals of the RSC. I was cordially invited to leave the room. “Thou smellest of mountain goat!” should have been my parting words, but alas! I only saw that (and it is a contraction of a larger quote) on a badge many, many years later.

  2. admin says:

    Good point about the accent. The current RSC ‘Merry Wives of Windsor’ relocates the action to Essex with hilarious results.

  3. Wayne Mook says:

    I always remember a friend doing Macbeth in the a broad Manchester accent, ‘Is this a daggor…’

    And Manchester Art Gallery trying to be relevant, the room is called The Pursuit of Beauty but they picked the wrong picture (Hylas being the beauty being pursued.) and did in such a ham-fisted 6th form politics style way. They weren’t even consistent in their statements. As a Mancunian, sorry for that.


  4. Jan says:

    Hiya Chris don’t forget the Bronze age cemetery in Greenwich Park. The lumps bumps + trumps largely being ignored by tourists in their hurry to get to the Obsevatory + Meridian.
    The remaining part of this cemetery is supposed to be the tiny remnant of a vast site.

    There’s the sunken well telescope at the observatory( largely ignored)

    Really interested in theories of a thriving pre Roman London @ present.
    Did u get my E MAIL about the Crossrail project delays? This tablet has being doing a lot of fail to send lately.

    Am in London for a chunk of January. Lots of places to visit. Hope all well.

  5. Helen Martin says:

    Peter, a problem with recordings such as the one embedded in that interesting article is that there is so much echo that it is difficult to hear unfamiliar sounds and you are left with the rhythm of the speech.
    I’ve wondered about the accents of the Shakespearean actors, too, and wondered if there would be a mishmash depending on where the individuals came from. How did the London audiences react and is that where certain accents came to be labeled as ignorant, country, and undesirable?

Comments are closed.