My reviews and links to follow later but I note the following recommendations.

Neil McCormick, Teleg  15.2.14, on Angel Olsen:  “26-year-old from Missouri has been making a quiet stir among listener who like their music raw, smart and direct … her tremulous vocal hints at Orbison-like expanses of emotion framed in a scruffy low-key country noir.  Download Iota.”

And, same critic, same paper, on Nina Persson:  “Persson was a rock pin-up during the 90s, the blonde and beautiful frontwoman with sleek Swedish guitar band the Cardigans, whose Lovefool was one of the songs of the decade.

Sample Angel Olsen at



Also in the Sunday Telegraph 15.2.14 is a nice essay by Dolly Alderton on the pleasures of the Desert Island Discs archive of podcasts.  For the full article, see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/10622509/Castaway-cares-my-Desert-Island-Discs-addiction.html

She says:  “By being given an insight into the music taste of great people, the likelihood is you will discover some great musicians. I found out about The New York Dolls through Morrissey’s eight records, Mara Carlyle through John Snow’s and The Blue Nile by way of Annie Lennox.

“On the flipside of this, sometimes you are left completely surprised by a castaway’s taste in music and how they listen to it. In Nigella Lawson’s episode, she admits that she has never sought music for solace and instead only turns to it for dancing. This leaves us with a surprising track list of Eminem, The Chemical Brothers and Wheatus …

“Charlie Watts, arguably the greatest and much over-looked Rolling Stone, paints a surprising picture of himself during his 43 minutes: a long-serving husband, control freak and jazz drummer who didn’t find drugs until mid-life and now keeps horses and spends money on suits. But my favourite of all time is Lynn Barber, who nails the three vital requirements for the perfect castaway with aplomb: good, juicy anecdotes; killer soundtrack; painful, almost uncomfortable honesty. When I am boring someone about Desert Island Discs, which is inevitably during most conversations, I always tell them to start off with Lynn Barber and I know they’ll be hooked from there.”

The Lynn Barber programme is at


Her playlist is at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00t3345/

Catch Paul Buchanan from Blue Nile singing Are You Lonesome Tonight? with trumpeter Chris Botti n Los Angeles …


Sample Mara Carlyle at



This is a stub for a post to my series Online & Off at





The latest round of accusations of not-a-lot-really, which allegedly happened several decades ago, makes me wonder again if we would not be a happier and healthier society if the State withdrew from any pretence at all of trying to control sexual behaviour – except, say, where it crosses into the territory of actual bodily harm.

From my occasional involvement in reporting on sexual accusations for newspapers, I know people sometimes make them up, for various reasons.  I also know that the press was unforgivably abject and lazy about Jimmy Savile for years and its anger at him now, like its outrage about what happened at Hillsbrough or on Bloody Sunday, is partly driven by guilty over-compensation.  On the other hand, in the case of Savile and similar, I don’t think we were turning away witnesses wanting to talk and willing to go on the record.

From this weekend’s papers, I note a letter in the Telegraph from Ellie Green, Charvil, 15.2.14 …

SIR – I was a professional dancer in the Seventies, appearing on Top of the Pops for a year.

It was the fashion to wear a dress so short that any slight movement meant one’s underwear could be seen. I would wear knickers over my tights that matched my dress, as it was expected that the cameramen would try to get shots of these while we dancers gyrated on a platform.

We dressed provocatively to get noticed. I can remember that if the DJ or one of the production team didn’t make a pass or pinch my bottom there was a feeling that I was not attractive. I did not find it offensive – I am of the era when you were flattered if a builder whistled at you.

I am in no way endorsing inappropriate behaviour, but for the “carnival princess” who accused Dave Lee Travis of assaulting her to say she has suffered40 years of hell is hard to believe

I was fortunate that during my year at TOTP I did not encounter Jimmy Savile.

I do still have my album signed by Tony Blackburn, which was presented to me for winning Best Dancer. I was invited to the BBC bar, where even Morecambe and Wise flirted.


In the Guardian 15.2.14, Stephen Poole reviewed Perv : The Sexual Deviant In All Of Us, by Jesse Bering.

“Given consent … Bering’s position is that anything goes ….

“The most demonised members of modern society, Bering says, did not choose their orientation either. ‘Telling a paedophile that he needs to be attracted to grown-ups, not kids, is like telling a lesbian that she just hasn’t found the right guy.’ Bering displays an impressive sympathy for the cultural devil, imagining the sheer fear in which paedophiles must live. ‘These people aren’t living their lives in the closet; they’re eternally hunkered down in a panic room.’”

 “What some will find most controversial is Bering’s argument about images involving children. The available research suggests, he writes, that possession of such material is not a predictor of future child abuse, but actually helps forestall it by providing a fantasy outlet. So if governments are really interested in preventing harm to children, he argues, they should provide existing material to paedophiles. Much better, of course, would be synthetic or digitally simulated imagery, the making of which involves no children at all, but Bering points out that this is already illegal almost everywhere – an example of the quixotic official attempt to regulate desire as thought crime.”

I do not want to endorse this point of view because I have no interest in it and it is dangerous to even help air it.  But I have sat through court cases where apparently harmless men have been terribly punished,  leaving their families broken and weeping, for simply looking at pictures in their attics..  And I have heard and read of prosecutions which made me wonder if the victims were really helped by the thunderousness of the adult response to their experiences.



The Environment Agency sounds reasonable when it says it sometimes makes sense to stop working against Nature.  Trouble is, once this attitude has quietly become policy, and led to mapping of areas considered only borderline worthwhile, it becomes an excuse for convenience.  I have tried a few times to get explanations for farmers of Environment Agency decisions on dredging, pumping, etcetera, and by the time the decisions are taking effect, it is hard to pin down who made them and on what grounds. As for the Treasury guideline that every £ spent should reap £8 in damage avoided, the trouble is that the sums are done by the Environment Agency.  Anyway, why such a high threshold, in comparison to the cost benefits analysis for, say, high-speed rail?

Christopher Booker, in Sun. Telegraph 16.2.14 and previously, suggests that the equations have been skewed, anyway, by EC regulations requiring dredged silt to be treated as toxic waste, so that work which has been considered worthwhile for hundreds of years is suddenly too expensive.

Booker also, of course, challenges the view that what we have been through is a disaster caused by climate change.  He says:

Look at the analysis of rainfall data on Paul Homewood’s website, Not A Lot Of People Know That.  There is no upward trend.  Even January’s continual downpours made it only the 16th wettest month since records began in 1766.”




Anthony Peregrine in Telegraph 15..2.14 makes a case in favour of escorted tours by bus.

Critics still charge that because you’re mob-handed, you miss what one woman on a discussion forum called “opportunities for serendipitous interaction with locals”.  In truth, locals are often over-rated.  Some want to mug you,  many serve appalling muck and – unless you’re fluent in Turkish or Mandarin Chinese – “serendipitous interaction” is reduced to pointing with silly grins.”




Decca Aitkenhead, Gdn 15.2.14, reported an interesting exchange with Katie Hopkins, Sun columnist and general-purpose controversialist. After explaining how she has become famous, the report said:

If you managed to miss all of that, you would get an idea of her style from her reply when I ask if she’d call herself a snob. “Oh, definitely yeah, 100%. I think it’s really important to be snobby. Do I think social mobility policy will ever work? Absolutely not. Is social class a much more efficient way of getting people to the top? Absolutely. Social class has worked for years. Born into the right family, go to the right schools, even if you’re not super bright to start with, you’ll turn out bright. You go to the right university, you get the right job, you have the right connections, you’ll make it to the top. Job done, very efficient.”

Efficient at what? “Efficient at getting smart, well-connected people to the top. It is efficient, because what public money was required to move those people to the top? None.” That would depend on whether we want the best people at the top, surely, or just the cheapest way to get some people to fill up the top? “Oh, for goodness sake,” she exclaims impatiently. “It’s this whole state school thing: ‘Oh, there are a couple of bright sparks, let’s invest £50m trying to get the two or three that might achieve to the top.’ Or, shall we take really clever people and not have to spend any money on them, and get them to the top because they’re connected and went to brilliant schools and their families will support them and they’re fantastic? So why bother with social mobility? Why does it matter? Why? Why? I don’t understand the obsession with it.”




Impressions from Chagford, the Didsbury of Devon – A boutique called Filly & Bounder. Restaurant called Whiddon’s Eatery. All reminds me of my mate John’s summary of that Saturday morning slot after Today on Radio 4 – “posh people trying to be funny”.



To add to my Filofacts on Vinology …

Victoria Moore in Telegraph 15.2.14 says Casillero del Diablo, from Concha Y Toro of Chile, is “one of the best-value and most consistent” brands on the planet, especially its Cabernet red, and is now on a footing with New Zealand’s Brancott Estate and Spain’s Campo Viejo.




In the Telegraph 15.2.14, Laura Pullman gives a fairly detailed description of how to skin and stuff a mouse, based on a best-selling £75 course at the London Taxidermy Academy.  Next-stage courses are £250.  You can buy a mouse-stuffing kit for £25.  One of the taxidermy tutors tells Laura the job has put him off cured meat:  “I had some Parma ham after working on a bird and they smelt exactly the same.”


Also of possible interest, some illustrated extracts in the Sunday Telegraph 16.2.14 from Peter Doyle’s book, The First World War in 100 Objects



And, same publication, but not yet online, Theodore Dalrymple on killer girl Joanna Dennehy and why kids from nice families choose to live on the wrong side of the tracks.  He quotes a nice French phrase for it – “nostalgie de la boue, or yearning for the mud”.




Patrick Collinson, Gdn Money 15.2.14, gives some advice on getting rid of a banger.

Worth checking back for readers’ comments at …

He was trying to sell a dead 13-year-old Alfa estate, in need of an MoT.

Autotrader suggested advertising it at £600 but didn’t check if it was a runner.

Gumtree was a possible advertising site he didn’t try.

Webuyanycar.com quoted £285, assuming one month’s MoT and two sets of keys, plus driven delivery to a local centre.

Scrapyards signed up to cartakeback.com or rewardingrecycling.co.uk quoted £150-£200 delivered, £50 less for collection.

A dodgy scrapper offered £120 cash but cash payments are illegal.

Road tax is reclaimable via gov.uk/apply-for-tax-disc-refund-form-V14/

Donate your wreck to charity via giveacar.co.uk or charitycar.co.uk or oxfam.org.uk/



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