22 May 2012

Chariots of fire and adverts come to Wells

The Olympic Torch came to Wells, Somerset, today and attracted quite a crowd, including all these people waiting expectantly on Cathedral Green. I hadn't intended to go (honest) but the glorious weather proved too much for me - and here are some pictures and a video taken by mistake on an iPhone with a screen that's more or less invisible on a sunny day.

I suppose someone has to pay for it all, but I hadn't expected to see specially designed chariots advertising Coca Cola and Samsung coming into Sadler Street a few minutes before the torch itself:

Then, when the moment everyone had been waiting for finally arrived, I hadn't expected the torch bearer still to be wearing his pyjamas. Nor had I expected the honour of carrying the torch to be given to someone who looked about as keen on running as I am...

16 May 2012

Laughs from Liberal Lords

Regular readers will know that I take a very dim view of the way successive governments have avoided doing anything about how seats in the House of Lords are allocated (e.g. HERE).

So, although I find myself much closer to Lord Ashdown's position on House of Lords reform than that of Lord Phillips of Sudbury, I spent quite a lot of time yesterday trying to find a clip of the above that could be embedded here - for purely entertainment purposes, you understand.

It's a reminder to those of us who bemoan the passing of the Jimmy Young Show on BBC Radio 2 of one of the regular features that made it so worth listening to. In his former life, Lord Phillips was better known as the solicitor Andrew Phillips, who appeared with Jimmy Young as the 'legal eagle' giving legal advice to listeners from 1976-2002.

Loss of the good natured banter between him and Jimmy Young is but one of the many reasons why I've hardly ever listened to the programme since it became the Jeremy Vine Show.

Another is that I thought that David Aaronovich, one of the occasional stand-ins for Sir Jimmy, made a far better job of it than Mr Vine has ever done - but, for reasons best known to the BBC, didn't get the job when they decreed that the time had come for Jimmy Young to retire.

10 May 2012

More reign on its way from Prince Charles

Our thanks today for the widely tweeted news that BBC Scotland has employed a promising new TV weather forecaster, who's not afraid to insert one or two of his own ad-libs.

Knowing that Prince Charles was an avid fan of the late Spike Milligan, I was mildly disappointed that he resisted the temptation to emulate one of his hero's sketches, in which he too had stood in front of a weather chart.

As Milligan got towards the end of his 'forecast',  he said "and now for a look at tonight's weather...", raised the chart (which turned out to be in front of a window), looked through it and announced "looks pretty nice outside tonight, folks..."

8 May 2012

Relaunching the coalition and the cost of Etonian English?

'About a month ago, I blogged about a speech by the leader of the Labour Party in which Ed Miliband used quite a lot of verbless sentences (HERE).

Today, I'm grateful to Stefan Stern for alerting me via Twitter (@stefanstern) to an article by David Cameron in today's Daily Telegraph, presumably written as part of the coalition's 'relaunch' after Tory and LibDem losses in the recent local elections.

For Mr Stern, it (rightly) reminded him of the 'content-free' political speech by the late Peter Sellers - which you can enjoy in full HERE.

Miliband was making a speech, but Cameron was writing an article
In the case of Ed Miliband's speech, one of the comments on my blog pointed out that had the full stops been commas, the verbless sentences would no longer have been verbless and could have served as useful stage directions to help the speaker to deliver his messages in nice short chunks.

I can see (but don't agree) that some speechwriters might want to make a case for verbless sentences when writing for clients speaking in our sound bite hungry world.

But I cannot see any justification (or excuse) whatsoever for leaving out verbs when writing an article that is explicitly intended to be read by readers (of a supposedly 'quality' newspaper), as in the following two paragraphs, purportedly penned by the Prime Minister - which, apart from the first sentences, degenerate into verbless lists:

'This is painstaking work.
'Seeing through the reductions to government spending.
'Cutting regulation and business tax to help the private sector.
'Helping start-up firms, investing in apprenticeships and boosting trade to help rebalance our economy in favour of enterprise, manufacturing, technology and exports.
'And repairing our wrecked financial system so that we can have confidence in our banks and they can lend properly again.'
'I’m proud of the battles we’ve fought in the first two years of this Government. 
'Battles that we won in education, so that schools toughen up on exams, insist on discipline, and have the freedom to do what teachers and parents want. 
'Battles that we won against the teeth of Labour opposition on immigration control and welfare reform, too.'

If this is the kind of English you end up writing after being educated at Eton, I'd be asking them for my money back if any of my sons wrote like this (which, I'm glad to say, they don't).

Or, if it were a ghost-writer who actually wrote this stuff for Cameron, s/he should be sacked forthwith and sent off for intensive private tuition with Mr Gove.

I'd also quite like to know who pays for such illiterate scribes to work in Downing Street - tax-payers or the Conservative Party?

Sarkozy & Hollande both call for 'respect' for each other

Although I had to rely on translations of the concession and victory speeches by outgoing President Sarkozy and President-elect Hollande, both struck me as having made pretty respectable jobs of them.

And 'respect' was definitely le mot du jour, with loser and winner both calling for it to be conferred on the other.

Nor does it seem likely that either of them had in mind the contrived acronym on which the British political party of the said name is supposed to be based - Respect, Equality, Socialism, Peace, Environmentalism, Community and Trade Unionism - which I don't think quite works as an acronym in French...



7 May 2012

Putin, Pomp & Circumcision

We Brits sometimes boast that we're rather good at organising formal state occasions. On this evidence, the Russians don't do a bad job at it either.

I was intrigued to see that this particular clip on YouTube (HERE) cuts just as he gets his speech out of his pocket. 

And was it just a coincidence that the timing of this historic event coincided with the election of a new President of the French Republic? 

I look forward to looking more closely at his speech - but I haven't forgotten (and hope others won't forget) the putrid prose that President Putin has been known to peddle in the past...

5 May 2012

Losing words from Clegg, Cameron and Livingstone

Contrary to what some commentators have been trying to make out, there's nothing unusual about government parties suffering heavy losses in mid-term local elections.

Nor is there anything unusual about leaders of defeated parties saying something encouraging to their supporters,  especially those who've just lost their seats - and Messrs Clegg and Cameron were quick off the mark (in that order) with fairly brief interviews that did the job yesterday morning:

But while council seats had been falling to Labour up and down the land, the voters of London rejected Labour veteran Ken Livingstone in favour of re-electing Boris Johnson for a second term as their Tory mayor.

As the votes were being counted, Ken must have been hard at work preparing his five and a half minute losing speech. If this was to be his last election, he was jolly well going to make the most of it by letting Londoners know what they'd all be missing, what further disasters Boris had in store for them and just how badly they'd all been let down by the media.

Because yes, folks, maestro of the media though Ken may have been for the last 30 years, it was the media that did for him in the end - or was it?