What price art, in a world where it no longer pays?

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Fatima turned the key slowly and pushed. The front door opened with barely a click. She smiled to herself. She’d got the whole routine down to an art now:

Wait round the corner until seven forty-five, as that’s when the evening matches kicked off, then open the door quietly. The first and fifth floorboards in the hallway were loose and creaked, so you had to dodge them. The same was true for pretty much all of the stairs up to the first floor, with the exception of stairs four, five, seven, ten and twelve.

Once you were up on the landing there was no way to avoid him hearing you, but you’d now given the landlord a choice: come up and pester you for your daily rent, or miss vital minutes of the game. The game always won out, especially with pay-per-match prices what they were these days, and by full time he was always too drunk to remember to ask. …

The Greek God of failing upward takes on a new role: Master of Intelligence.

Chris Grayling in front of a Union Jack
Chris Grayling in front of a Union Jack

“I’m so glad we could meet like this, Mr Grayling.” She said. “Diplomacy is better over golf.”

“Mini-golf, Miss Romanova.” He corrected, with genteel patriarchy. The distinction was, he felt, important. They were quite different sports.

Chris reflected on how his life had changed so suddenly. Just two weeks ago he’d been sat at home, enjoying the quiet life of a backbencher. He’d even found time to start a new hobby, creating YouTube mashups of Thomas the Tank Engine brio and popular music — anonymously, of course.

Indeed, he’d been in the middle of a particularly ambitious mashup— a double bridge jump and crossover set to NWA’s Fuck tha Police — when Dominic Cummings had called. …

How bad aircraft design and demand for cheap air travel helped cause two of the worst air disasters in recent history.

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A Boeing 737/8 MAX of Batik Air Malaysia at Kuala Lumpur-KUL, Malaysia

The morning of 29 October 2018 dawned bright in Jakarta. As the sun rose over Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft operating Lion Air flight 610 taxied for takeoff.

In the flight deck of PK-LQP that morning were captain Bhavye Suneja and his first officer Harvino. With over 6,000 hours in the air, Suneja was no novice, although Lion Air’s aggressive approach to promotions had seen him reach captain earlier than he might at other airlines. Harvino, who like many Indonesians used only one name, was also relatively experienced, with over 5,000 hours.

Certainly, the trip to Pangkal Pinang was one they had made many times before. From almost the moment flight 610 lifted off, however, Suneja’s control stick began to shake. The aircraft was warning him that something was wrong. …

More random PTerry fanfic, prompted by Twitter conversations and… events.

“How do you think he’s doing in there?” Captain Angua asked.

“Oh I’m sure the Comm…” Carrot caught himself just in time. “I’m sure the Patrician is taking it all in his stride.”

It has been said that over time buildings become more than just objects, that they evolve personalities of their own. This isn’t true, but history is messy and prone to leaving excess deposits of narrativium in certain places. The Patrician’s Palace of Ankh Morpork, formerly the Royal Winter Palace, was practically built out of it. So as soon as Captain Carrot finished speaking, a scream erupted from the Patrician’s office. There was no other option. …

As the UK goes full ‘Jingo’, the gaping literary maw left by Terry Pratchett’s death looms larger every day.

DISCLAIMER: This is just silly fan-fiction. It popped into my head over lunch after tweeting about how we need Pratchett’s insight (and anger at injustice) more than ever right now and has been dumped on this page as literary diarrhoea. Vimes, Lord Downey et al. are not my characters. Go buy Terry’s books, you will love them. I particularly recommend Jingo right now or The Truth.

“I just think we should get on with it.” Said a reedy voice from the other side of the table.

An awkward silence descended over the council chamber. That special kind of silence that only happens when someone puts their hand up during “any other business” or when an elderly relative tells a joke about trolls during Hogswatch dinner. …

It doesn’t matter whether you are ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’. By proroguing parliament Boris Johnson has permanently wounded British democracy.

Sir Thomas More
Sir Thomas More

When I was fifteen, I remember being very annoyed at my GCSE English teacher. While other classes were studying Romeo and Juliet, My Fair Lady, and other stuff we’d all vaguely heard of, she insisted that we do different books and plays to everyone one else.

My, and indeed my classmates' outrage at the time was in part because this drastically limited the pool of people we could copy homework from. With hindsight, however, it was arguably one of the most brilliant and life-changing things a teacher ever did for me. …

One in eight British men believe they could score a point against Serena Williams. Andrew Neil interviewed two of them last night.

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The fact that a not-insignificant percentage of men massively overrate their abilities — particularly in comparison to women — is depressing, but not particularly surprising. Actual science tells us that men are far more likely to apply for jobs that they aren’t quite qualified for than women.

Sometimes that’s because we interpret our abilities more generously than the opposite sex. Sometimes it’s because we’re convinced that we can fake it until we make it. In the BBC’s interviews with Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson last night, both of those tendencies were brutally and horrifically on show.

When he’s on form Andrew Neil is a brilliant interviewer, even though — or perhaps because — he doesn’t prefix every statement with the words ‘As a Jeremy Corbyn supporter…’ Something that some very vocal and definitely-not-antisemitic parts of Twitter seem to feel should be mandatory at the BBC. Neil’s own views on Brexit are diametrically opposed to my own, but he’s a brilliant interviewer who doesn’t suffer fools lightly, regardless of whether their beliefs align with his own. Last night he was clearly prepped and ready to deal with the two heavy-weight fools coming his way. …

Arabian scholars, air raid sirens and a September Brexit. To the rest of the world this is political madness. In Britain it’s just a Tuesday.

There’s an old saying about how you can boil frogs without them noticing, as long as you do it slowly. After a week or so away from the news (I was running a conference) I’ve decided that this logic absolutely applies to British politics now too.

I mean, where do you even start this week? It’s only Tuesday and already enough has happened to fill several of the more surreal episodes of Black Mirror.

Let’s start with Britain’s pub-bore-in-chief, Nigel Farage. Footage has emerged of Farage entering a Brexit Party event to the sound of air raid sirens. …

Nimoy’s legacy lies in the millions of people who he empathised with and inspired. That legacy is now more important than ever.

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“My folks came to the United States as immigrants, aliens, and they became citizens. I was born in Boston a citizen; I went to Hollywood, and I became an alien.”

Leonard Nimoy spoke these words to Radio Boston in 2012. They were intended to be in jest, but it is hard to argue that they aren’t also true. Right up until his death, that alien — Star Trek’s half-human, half-Vulcan “Mr Spock” — was the character with whom the whole world most associated Leonard Nimoy, who died four years ago now at the age of 83.

It also hides the internal battles that Nimoy himself had with the character. Nimoy’s first autobiography, I Am Not Spock, published in 1975, was an effort by the actor to try and explain the complex emotional relationship that he had built up with Spock, whose approach to life was (at least at the time) very different from Nimoy’s own. Spock was a man driven by logic, thanks to his Vulcan side and upbringing, but also constantly struggling to find a balance with the emotions that came from both his human side and those around him. By contrast, the real life Nimoy was, if anything, the opposite — an immensely creative human being, but one constantly aware of the expectation by fans that he would be the logical character he had portrayed on screen. Throughout the book a young and idealistic Nimoy tries to explain the difficulties of living up to the expectations of Spock’s fans whilst also carving out his own life as an actor, photographer, poet and musician, but as Nimoy himself would later admit, the title was a poor choice. …

While the Remainers cling to the hope of a delayed no-deal, in the darkest of corners Rees-Mogg plots.

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I never thought Baby Boomers essential.
They’re crude, and unspeakably plain.
But maybe, they’ve a glimmer of potential.
Allied to my vision, and brain.

I can tell from the Mail’s comment section,
That of immigrants you’re terrified.
But afeared as you are, pay attention!
Let’s say it’s about national pride.

It’s clear from your voting intentions,
That to Farage you were all running scared.
But we’re talking EU secession!
Don’t let the remoaners catch you unawares!

So prepare for the chance of your lifetimes!
Be prepared for sensational news! …


John Bull

Writer and historian (military & transport). Editor of London Reconnections and Lapsed Historian. I focus on ordinary people who did extraordinary things.

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