Will Self, writer of occasional interest, has had a go at George Orwell. In an article on the BBC, (a somewhat ouroborostic bit of content given Orwell’s role in much the same sort of position for the Beeb), Self describes Orwell as a “Supreme Mediocrity”.

It seems pointless to rebut Self’s preposterously contentious article in any depth, given that the argument is based on a Will-full misreading of ‘Politics and the English Language’. He suggests that ‘the George Orwells of this world’ are cultural conservatives, reactionaries who ‘would rather peer at meaning by the guttering candlelight of a Standard English frozen in time, than have it brightly illumined by the high-wattage of the living, changing language’.

Orwell and his supporters may say they’re objecting to jargon and pretension, but underlying this are good old-fashioned prejudices against difference itself. Only homogenous groups of people all speak and write identically. People from different heritages, ethnicities, classes and regions speak the same language differently, duh!

…’prejudices against difference itself’! This is the sort of rhetoric one might use to lambast people who object to “txt speak”, or any other modern innovations they suspect of being a bit foreign or liked by the youth, as debasements of our great and noble tongue. It’s a fair point in some ways. Languages are living and changing (although one could begin to dim Self’s de-lux metaphor by asking why language needs to be examined at night time anyway).

However, none of this is relevant to a discussion of Orwell’s essay, because Orwell isn’t talking about demotic Anglo-Saxae, the vernacular, street speak, and especially not about everybody speaking in the same way. He is discussing obfuscation in political discourse, and the obfuscating political discoursers who create it. It’s in the title, duh!

Orwell’s target is the generators of phrases (and situations calling for phrases) such as ‘friendly fire’. Self’s a provocateur. And he has succeeded in getting me geed me up enough to write something. Gah!

Fresh outrages with children’s clothing and social nudging at Tesco.

Recently acquired for our 21-month-old female child: the kind of funky “Digi Robot” pyjama set, in exciting oranges, blues, stripes…

By far the nicest jammies in the (limited) selection available, and she loves them. In fact, within seconds of seeing them she had stripped off, the quicker to get into them. Yet they are, somewhat perplexingly, labelled “boys pyjamas”.

Here are some other pyjamas with which you can “update his nightwear”:

"...because Mummy is soft as shite."

“…because Mummy is soft as shite.”

And here, by contrast, are some “girls pyjamas“:

Sarcastic captions fail me.

Sarcastic captions fail me.

The more I think on these colour associations, and the not-so-subtle social nudges provided by the stuff written on clothing, when I consider our two year old daughter and the choices being made on her behalf by Tesco and all the other outlets getting all pink and beauty sleepy in her face at every turn, the more… well, actually, it makes me just baffled. Like, whaaat? I really don’t get it. How is orange male? Why is that strong just like daddy? What if boys want to be beautiful and/or sleepy? How many meetings have I missed?

Then I worry. It’s not just Tesco, of course. It’s everywhere. It’s constant. So the problem must be me. In the face of this realisation, I think, what sort of monster have I become? Buying something intended for a particular function, then transgressing social mores and chromatic decency by misusing it!

Then I think, right. I want a king size bag of blue grips over here for all the males, and a queen size bag of pink ones over here for the little ladies. Now we can all GET A GENDER-APPROPRIATE GRIP.

A lengthy gap between posts.

Busy, busy! Enjoying summer holidays, watching lots of sport, playing in the sandpit, tending the garden, building a chicken shack…

Normal service should resume in the next week or so. Having typed that, the youths’ exam results are published in the next week or so, so I shall be doffing beachwear, gardener’s weeds and carpenter’s apron in favour of donning the mortar board. This post may end up a lonely placeholder between June and November. Although there’s nothing like some pressing task to make doing something else appealing…

Still, actually making a chicken shed! It has been proving an intriguing project. That may well be the next, more lavish post up.


When the world and I were young – just this morning – I heard that the songwriter Gerry Goffin had died. This was, in one of life’s funny little correspondences, only a week or so after I saw an intriguing documentary about his former writing partner and former wife Carole King.

Gerry Goffin wrote the lyrics to many of late 20th century pop music’s most enduring tunes: Will You Love Me Tomorrow, Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp), He’s In Town, Up On The Roof, Saving All My Love For You, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman… Perusing a list of songs he wrote is quite an eye-opener – Glenn Medeiros, indeed!

Anyway, I had cause to be in the car this afternoon and enjoyed a very loud tribute, consisting of repeated listens to my personal favourite, this genius social commentary and guitars number, from 1966 – Pleasant Valley Sunday by The Monkees.

Every single time. Mr Goffin, many thanks!

Author JK Rowling, the BBC reports, has contributed cash and controversy to the debate on Scottish independence in the UK.

She marked her £1 million donation to the ‘Better Together’ campaign, which aims to keep Scotland in the UK, by suggesting that some nationalist critics in Scotland were “a little Death Eaterish for my tastes”.

“Death Eaterish”…

The Death Eaters, to gloss for people who have not read the Harry Potter books, are pure-blood supremacist wizards, who wear a special mark on their arms and follow their dark leader, operating outside the normal laws of magic.



Death Eaters

Death Eaters

Some Scottish nationalists are a little bit like Death Eaters, though, to use Rowling’s whimsical analogy. Definitely not the SS.

Given the potential consequences (positive and negative, on all sides) of Scotland choosing independence from the UK, we will of course see such high profile figures choosing to draw attention to the referendum, and particular arguments.

I am amused but a bit discomfited by the commentary associated with this development, where the foregrounded issue seems to be Rowling so doing in such a self-reflexive manner. It is almost as if this point is secondary to Rowling proving Godwin’s Law at a relatively early stage of proceedings.

Still, it will almost certainly get dirtier, tricksier, as the campaigns before the referendum intensify. And definitely populist, lowest common denominatorish. Perhaps we can look forward to, say, the cast of Taggart throwing out epithets such as “murderous-criminal-like”. Or Ian McDiarmid: “Sithy.”

Ooh! My Interactive Talking Tablet comes in blue or pink.


…but what is it saying?

Today, remembrance services in Europe mark the 70th anniversary of “D-Day”, June 6th 1944.

D-Day was quite an undertaking. It marked a decisive moment in the Second World War, the history of Europe, the world.

There was – and remains – no doubt in the minds of the people taking part that they were engaged in something important.

I bought this book second hand some years ago:


Among its pages, this note and inscription:


Such finds are one of the reasons I enjoy and love “real” books.

The language used by Eisenhower is unequivocal: “this great and noble undertaking”. It has been a powerful experience watching the veterans on the footage today. Even the youngest of them, 15 at the time according to some accounts, are nearing 90. They’re still standing up for the prayers.

Of course, the date in the book is intriguing. I will do my best to find out who W Beecham (?) is or was, and provide an update on them.

The choice of book is intriguing as well. It confirms a thought I was having earlier, that it is important also to have an understanding and respect for imagination and human creativity as ways of making sense out of a sometimes brutal world.


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