In early September 1997 my girlfriend, using a pistol, shot me in the back outside 11 Rue Chamagne Premier, Paris. Staggering down the street, left then right, before collapsing, I made three extravagant shapes with my mouth and called her a louse. It was she who had betrayed me to the cops. She did nothing more than move her thumb across her lips. Thus we recreated the final scene of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1959 film A Bout de Souffle. Continue reading
This blog was created by me twelve months ago. Re-reading the posts now, they cover some diverse oddities: boxing, nail polish and Dada, the First World War, excrement, post-war Paris bebop, burnt manuscripts and the severed head of a regicide, a urinal, Hitler’s bath and Leica cameras. What possessed me in my mid 40s to start writing for the first time? Why am I despatching these absurd contemplations out into the world? Continue reading
In 1940 Charlie Chaplin released his film The Great Dictator, a satire about Hitler (a man with whom he shared a particular style of moustache). Chaplin’s tramp in the film is a Jewish barber who has lost his memory in the First World War and after years in hospital is released into a militarised Germany under a dictatorship he does not recognise. He looks identical to the country’s dictator, Adenoid Hynkel (also played by Chaplin), and the plot tumbles into a burlesque of mistaken identities. Hynkel is sent to a concentration camp and the barber, now removed from the ghetto and resident at the autocrat’s palace, makes a rabid and hysterical speech in favour of peace whilst lambasting the evils of racism. Chaplin watched Hitler speaking in Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will many times in order to mimic the rhetoric. Continue reading
The Daily Telegraph carried a piece by Dan Hodges today, written in the wake of the Shrien Dewani acquittal. He asks the question: why are legal systems weighted in favour of those standing trial? He was struck by the judge’s phrase in her ruling ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ and writes that it is time to ditch the principle. The reason he gives is that if the standard of proof in criminal trials was lowered to ‘on the balance of probabilities’ more guilty people would be convicted and that is a good thing for society.
Next week at Sotheby’s an engraved bronze relic from 1658, taken from the coffin of Oliver Cromwell, is for sale. It is to be sold in London on 9th December 2014 in the English Literature and History Auction and can be yours for about £12,000. Cromwell was buried as a King but exhumed as a criminal. The bronze plaque, engraved with the coat of arms of the Commonwealth, was buried with him in his coffin at Westminster Abbey in 1658 and purloined by the Serjeant of the House of Commons, James Norfolk, when Cromwell was dug up on the orders of the Restoration Parliament in 1661.