Peter Healey's blog

Just another WordPress site

This year is the 60th anniversary of the English queen coming to the throne.  Michael Gove, who rather disturbingly has some responsibility for the minds of our children as our Secretary of State for education, has suggested that people across the country should club together to buy the queen a new royal yacht.  A royal yacht, it should be pointed out, does not mean some 5m dinghy of the kind that will be raced in the forthcoming Olympics, but a full size oceanic ship, costing £100m or more.  For one of the world’s richest women, a real present from the nation.

With one small nudge, this idea could be developed into something that could be welcomed by all who are seeing their jobs disappear, their pensions and other benefits cut, their social services compromised or privatised, as we appease the bankers. The tweak would be that all who subscribed to the building of the royal yacht would have their own cabin on board, and would have a lifelong duty to accompany the queen and rest of the royal family whilst the ship endlessly cruised the world, seeking those who appreciate the true social value of the passengers.

One can only imagine the great surge of emotion here as the ship leaves port for the start of its never-ending voyage, the enthusiasm of our farewells.

A real present to the nation.

With apologies to Douglas Adams

Coincidences

No comments

Cambridge University is doing some research on coincidences.  Here are my two:

Music coincidence

Some eight years ago, after a period of some difficulty in finding a job which suited her, my step-daughter got a job with a company called Saffron.  Cue great pleasure in the family, which was visiting Hungary at the time for a family event.  In my case this took the form of singing to my stepdaughter, no doubt with boring repetition, the first words of Donovan’s 1967 song Mellow Yellow, (familiar to me since I am of his vintage): “I’m just wild about Saffron, and Saffron’s wild about me…”

Back in London she took up the job and one evening we went out for a drink to celebrate.  Just as we walked through the door of a local bar in West Hampstead out of the music system came Donovan’s voice singing “I’m just wild about Saffron, and Saffron’s wild about me…”

Coin coincidence

The second coincidence took place on 1 July 2003.  This account is as I sent it to a colleague in an email the next day, although with some names and subject details left out:

Yesterday I had lunch with X from Y. X told me, amongst other things, that the Z consortium had got some 800k euros from the King Baudouin Foundation to carry out some experimental research. He was considering using the grant to pursue either subject A or B.

On my way back from lunch in the tube yesterday I was thinking of the grant and its unusual provenance in the King Baudouin Foundation, which I hadn’t heard of before.  I was also idly musing about how to spell Baudouin and not confuse it with Bedouin, the Arab tribe.  When I got home I decided to go to the gym and was packing my gym bag – used several times a week – when I noticed a glint of silver in it.  I reached in and pulled out a coin – it was an old Belgian franc piece with King Baudouin on the obverse.

We are spending the New Year in Hungary (until yesterday the Hungarian Republic) which more and more becomes dangerous to its people and its neighbours.  A few days ago it failed to sell its short term bonds and paid nearly ten percent interest to market its ten year bonds (some way beyond the rates regarded as unsustainable by  Greece and Italy).  On the last working day of 2011 it passed legislation to remove independence from the central bank – a move which disqualifies it from IMF help.  Without IMF help it is pretty much bound to default, and in consequence anyone who has any money is rushing to get it out of the country…there is a report from Italy tonight that the EU will suspend Hungarian voting rights, on the grounds presumably of the end of media and judicial independence in Hungary and the vague territorial threats to the country’s neighbours (pre Trianon Treaty greater Hungary maps and bumper stickers are popular here).

Hungarian economic and foreign policy seems to have progressed beyond rational thought.  Certainly there is no calculation of political advantage.  The Prime Minister Viktor Orban has dismissed recent warning letters from the EU and US as exaggerated and irrelevant.

The country seems to be living out some huge political psychodrama in which it is always the victim.  There is a strong flavour of national paranoia in everything from the national anthem onwards.  Hungary doesn’t do, but is done to.  Officially here the fascist and socialist periods don’t exist. The Fidesz government has used its two-thirds Parliamentary majority, won in the election of April 2010, to introduce a new constitution which declares that Hungary was officially occupied from the German invasion in 1944 to the fall of socialism and indeed the law now declares that the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSP) last in power until 2010 (and the biggest opposition group in the current Parliament) are identical to the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party (MSMP) which seized power in 1946-48 after the Russians expelled the Germans and took power. This means that in theory their MPs can be removed from the national and European Parliaments and their assets seized.  All street names etc are being put back to what they were in the late thirties, and the flavour of the state is that of the Horty regime of that time.  (The constitutional narratives here are at the best confused.  Although there has been no king since the declaration of the first republic in 1918 the ancient Hungarian crown sits in pride of place at the centre of the Hungarian Parliament building.  Horty declared himself regent which some think to be Orban’s delusional aim).

All this revisionism is convenient in covering up the massive betrayal of the Jews by ordinary Hungarian citizens in 1944-45 plus many killings in the early days of the socialist period.  Again, officially Hungarians are not responsible.  They are the innocent victims of other histories.

Some here believe that the government wants to fail and to leave the EU, often cited here as another foreign burden on the long-suffering Hungarian people.  Kati had coffee yesterday with the well known economist Janos Kornai who predicted a putsch from Jobbik, the explicitly anti-Semitic and anti-Roma party. We will see.

The only good news is that the world is waking up to all this.  I remember the same time last year when we were lobbying MEPs against Orban becoming EU president there was little response and the wretched Barroso embraced Orban and  said he believed in Hungarian democracy….

There is perhaps less good news from herein Hungary itself.  We attended a demonstration outside the Parliament last night in the closing hours of 2011 which were also the final hours of the third Hungarian Republic, which dated  from the collapse of socialism in 1989 (the rumours are that the barriers are going up to prevent any further demonstrations in such a symbolic place).  It was of course also New Year’s eve, and therefore perhaps not the best time to organize a sombre political event.  Nevertheless, it was not encouraging in terms of numbers: two to three thousand at most ands although some friends were there from the younger generation, few young people.  One of the more complete failures of the last few years has been the Hungarian education system’s utter failure to engage the young in debate on and respect for democratic freedoms.  Club Radio, one of the last brave independent stations to defy state media control, broadcast the event so we can only hope that, starting with the New Year’s demonstration tomorrow, numbers swell into an irresistible popular movement for change. Without such popular support, the outlook for Hungary and its region is bleak.

The UK & Europe

1 comment

In June 1975 there was a referendum in the UK on the country’s continued membership of the European Economic Community, as it then was.  I was then a (relatively) young married professional, with one child, and another on the way, in my second period of membership of the Labour Party after some disillusion during the first.  The party was split on Europe, with the right wing arguing broadly in favour, and the left against, on the grounds that the European Community was a rich nations’ club, which would inhibit the development of links with the wider non-European world, which is where their and our interests lay. In this they had something in common with the Conservative right, whose interests in the wider world was justified on more explicitly pro-Commonwealth (or neo-colonialist) grounds.

Having said this, it is fair to say that in the tradition of British pragmatism there was much less debate on these fundamental issues of national orientation or identity.   Dean Acheson’s 1962 speech at West Point suggesting that Great Britain had lost an empire but not yet found a role had not really sparked a response within the UK; it seemed to be largely seen as a presumptuous judgment from a country that was itself new to the world government game.  The Atlantic was very wide between the times of Suez and Thatcher, and the two countries view of each other at this time, as seen through their leaderships, were as of regimes in different eras – seen most clearly in the contrast between the sharp progressive proactive image projected by President Kennedy and the urbane reactive Edwardian style of Prime Minister Macmillan and the out and out aristocratics of Lord Hume, who succeeded him.  So it is hardly surprising to say that much of the 1975 debate was around Britain’s economic advantage in or out of the EEC, and the fear of out determined the decisive majority in favour of in. In fact you can argue that since the loss of empire most debate about the future of Britain has been defined in terms of what the country is against rather than what it is for.

I can remember that the referendum was a big deal for me.  I thought that it was going to be historically decisive, that it would determine almost everything about Britain’s future.  I also remember that in my mind neighbouring European countries, some ahead of us economically, all of them seemingly ahead of us in the de-colonialisation of the mind, offered somewhere far from the grouse moors shooting parties, something that smacked of a fairer, more progressive future.  It was the DNA of the British culture cultural politics, the slowing but never-ending dance with the ghosts of empire taking place behind the media facade of “swinging London”, that I found suffocating.  I thought that all that imperial, class ridden baggage, and the politics which it entailed, would be swept away in the hurricane of the resounding referendum ‘yes’: Macmillan’s famous ‘wind of change’ which he had applied to apartheid South Africa, finally striking home…

Last month the British satirical magazine Private Eye produced a 50th anniversary issue front cover.  Prime Minister Macmillan was shown in a picture from 1961, the year of the magazine’s foundation, and David Cameron in 2011.  The caption, headed “how satire makes a difference”, made it clear how little had changed:  as they put it, an old Etonian prime minister, from Britain’s most elitist ‘Public’ School, surrounded by cronies, making a hash of running the country.  Of course a huge amount has changed over the 50 years of Private Eye, or the 36 years since the referendum, but there is also a little too much made over that period of the continuity of tradition, a country a little too fond of looking at itself in the mirror of a carefully crafted historical narrative, one in which the class and ethnic divides and the innate sense of British exceptionalism – that great distorting lens – all of which we have recently started to surmount, are still in place and seem in fact to be gaining ground in many aspects of British culture.  A key part of that narrative, British militarism, has been given fresh impetus by Blair’s wars, both the ‘liberal interventionist’ ones and those which seem almost to be pursuing imperialism by proxy in support of the United States post 9/11.  The regular return of British forces’ bodies from Afghanistan, itself an echo of the 19th century imperial Great Game, became ritualised by the people of the Wiltshire village of Wootton Bassett that the cortege passed through to the extent that they earned their town’s name a “Royal” appendage.  We had a Royal Wedding in 2011, and have the Queens’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.  Eton mess, a rather boring dessert invented in the school, has crept back onto the gastro-pub menu.  Downton Abbey, set in a country house pre- and post- the first World War, has been the most popular television series, alongside a renewed enthusiasm for the costume dramas of the nineteenth century.  So much for my 1975 dreams.

Early on Friday morning in Brussels British exceptionalism hardened into British isolationism as David Cameron vetoed the pursuit of a solution to the Euro crisis through a European treaty.  Cameron’s stated rationale was that he failed to get assurances that his European partners would not pursue increased regulation over the UK financial sector, a sector whose lax regulatory practices contributed to the 2008 banking crisis, as is documented in a report from the Financial Services Authority published today.  His real reason seems to have been the immediate pressure he faced in the House of Commons last Wednesday when a core of hardline Conservative eurosceptic MPs urged him to show “bulldog spirit” (a reference to Churchill) in defending British interests.

This he claims to have done, but it is hard to know what he has achieved.  He is likely to end up one against 26.  He received no assurances of any kind from his European partners, many of whom will regard his action in trying to block a solution at Europe’s hour of need as perfidious.  His insistence that nothing has changed in the UK’s place in the Institutions of EU-27 may be constitutionally correct, but it is politically naïve to suggest that it will not work out differently as the new European position unfolds, particularly since he has created every incentive for others to work against the UK.  Scotland, which claims that its interests have been changed without consultation, may develop fresh impetus towards independence. The wider world, which regarded Britain as a friendly entry-point to European markets, may no longer think this a safe place for inwards investment.  The big business organisation the CBI is worried, and the London stock market today has headed down.  The poorer people, the little people no doubt in the eyes of some of the Eurosceptic MPs, will soon start to suffer.

What should happen next?  Much may depend in the short term as to whether  Cameron can convince others that he had a strategy rather than a spasm in Brussels early on Friday.  From my point of view I believe that we have to fight euroscepticism and the xenophobic nationalism which fuels both it and the worst aspects of British debates about immigration.  This is a political and economic fight, certainly, but a cultural one too, about the representations of Britain that glorify an inglorious past (more on this later) and seem happy to draw on it to support increasing militarism and social inequality in the present.[i] It is long term fight, which needs to portray positive models to which we can aspire. To people who say “but you want to be just like Sweden,” I would answer “why not?”

In party political terms, it is hard to know where support for this battle is to come from.  The government is a coalition between Cameron’s conservatives and a Liberal Democrat party which has traditionally supported Britain leading in Europe, but the signs are not good.  They have become the political camp prostitutes of Cameron’s low intensity class war, always being willing to be screwed and screw others for a few baubles.  There has been a bit of response to Lib Dem grassroots pressure from Nick Clegg over the weekend, but the business secretary, who must know how much more difficult Cameron has made his job, just stopped short of resigning and the chief secretary to the treasury, whose life reducing the deficit has also been made more difficult, this morning offered an astonishing performance in defence of the coalition continuing and reform being secured from within.  Given Cameron’s actions to date, it is hard to see how building on this prime minister in try to reform from within can have any chance of success within his party or carry any political legitimacy abroad. The man will be trusted neither for his judgement, nor for his solidarity.

Labour, my former (and to date only) political party wasn’t solely responsible for getting us into our economic mess, but soft regulation and the start of costly (and in one case illegal) wars did start on its watch, and it has failed to show political courage in facing up to its recent past under Blair and Brown, support for rendition and torture included.

The best we can hope for is that the coalition breaks, the government is defeated and that we can start building a future in which obsessional fantasies about Britain’s past no longer lead us into deeper fantasies about our geopolitical choices for the future. It will require close engagement and hard work, not just as I believed just after the 1975 referendum, the tides of history.


[i] It is interesting that for a short period after the decision at the European Summit on Friday it appeared for a period as if the only country that would be taking the same position as the UK was Hungary, a country which itself has something of a history of narcissism, albeit with large doses of paranoia and self-pity added to the mix.

From time to time I send letters to the Guardian newspaper, a decreasing proportion of which get published. It is probably fair to put these up here to illustrate my follies, and some of the follies of the times from my perspective. This one is from Thursday, just before the Brussels summit at which the UK found itself in a minority of one:

The UK is irrelevant to the immediate solution of the Eurozone crisis and will deserve obloquy from the 17 if Cameron petulantly demands that the European summit revolves round his trailed version of national interests. Perhaps he should realise that “complete independence for our financial sector”, one of today’s demands from his back-benchers, is hardly a reassuring slogan in the light of what the financial history of the last four years has done to Europe’s pensions and jobs. Much of what else his party think necessary to preserve our identity seems to our European neighbours like the old arrogant British habit of dancing with the ghosts of empire rather than having the courage to do what others less obsessed with their own history have done: look at the world honestly as it is and learn, adapt and profit accordingly.

Fair shares

No comments

Today was a public sector workers strike in Britain, over the value of their pensions.

I am not sure about the value of the public sector worker’s case.  True, when I worked in the public sector, on essentially the same conditions as a civil servant, a good pension was seen to balance poor pay.  People were seen to be sacrificing the potential of much bigger rewards in the private sector for a few years of guaranteed comfort at career’s end[i].  Furthermore, each public servant contributed to their pensions from their salary, and it could be argued that by doing so they reached some kind of contract with the state of cost-sharing contributions towards agreed benefits.

However that last few years have now become quite long, and the volume of the required public sector payout has significantly increased as a result.  The expectation of life for men at the pension age of 65 is now 18 years for men and 20.6 years for women, and further these figures have in recent years been going up by about 2 months each year.   State retirement pensions, as well as private and public sector pensions, have to adjust to these new realities, and as far as state retirement pensions are concerned, have done so rather timidly: the Chancellor (finance minister) announced yesterday in his autumn statement that the age of eligibility for state pension would go now up to 67 by 2026.

Despite all this I am on the side of the strikers and demonstrators today for one simple reason – because it is clear that overall the way that we have adjusted to the financial crisis fails any test of fairness, either in the sense of making those responsible for some of the poor decisions that got us into this mess in any sense accountable, or in the sense of equitable burden sharing.   Further, there is a real question as to whether the burdens need to be at this level at all, particularly when growth may be sacrificed on the alter of deficit reduction.

Paul Krugman is very entertaining about this in today’s New York Times, suggesting that the contemporary politician in his or her knowledge of economics is equivalent to the medieval physician’s knowledge of medicine: bleeding both then and now being being fashionable then it must follow that if there is anything wrong with the body politic it must be because it hasn’t been bled enough.

How was such ignorance built?  The serene business school in which I work has a large atrium looking out on the less than fully developed edges of West Oxford, now getting like everywhere a bit scruffier.  Plenty of space both there and in other halls of learning for Aldous Huxley’s modest plaque of atonement reading “Sacred to the world’s educators: si monumentum requiris, circumspice”.


[i] This makes a bit specious the current government claim that public sector pensions can take cuts because they are significantly better than private sector pensions. Plus this argument does not recognise that much of this public-private gap has emerged quite recently – in actuarial terms – from the collapse of private sector ‘final salary schemes’ over the last ten years or so.

Halfway Somewhere

No comments


In 2006 I was the convenor of a major conference organised by my Institute in Oxford. Called Tomorrow’s People, its aim was to consider – from scientific, social and ethical perspectives – radical attempts to enhance human capacities and lifespan.  The book of the conference was published in 2009[i].

The gerontologists at the conference fell into two camps – Aubrey de Grey and everybody else. Everybody else saw ageing as a process arising from the complex interplay of multiple biological and environmental factors involving accumulating cell damage, all of which which had to be understood and tackled in a cumulative, incremental scientific programme whose immediate objective might be to achieve an additional span of healthy life of about 7 years.  Aubrey de Grey – a slight man, informally dressed with a spectacular beard which makes him look something like an old testament prophet – agreed with the causes but not the treatment.  For him the perspective was that of an engineer:  accumulating cell damage was effectively ageing, and ageing could be halted or reversed by removing or repairing the damaged cells. He called his approach ‘Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence’, or SENS. The SENS approach identified seven main types of cell damage, which, when effectively countered, de Grey believed, would not only stop but reverse ageing and eventually allow people to live to the age when the length of life would effectively be limited only by the chances of death by accident or homicide – about 1000 years. To dramatise his point he said that the first person to live to 1000 had already been born.

In describing the reactions of the ageing research community in his piece in the conference book de Grey quoted Gandhi’s aphorism:  first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they oppose you; finally they say that you are right and that they supported you all along.  In 2005 when we were trying to get a full range of opinion involved in our conference the matter was certainly at the second to third of these stages.  Provoked by an article from de Grey suggesting that the research community should get behind SENS because of the opportunity to save thousands of lives, 27 leading research scientists signed a journal article entitled ‘Science fact and the SENS agenda: What can we reasonably expect from ageing research?’ [ii] De Grey responded in the same issue and the two camps were entrenched – persuaded to share a platform at the Oxford meeting but only just.

De Grey continued to pursue his path, but wisely developed a broad definition of SENS when recruiting to annual SENS conferences he organised, and benefiting from the rapid development of parallel streams of innovative science in tissue engineering and other approaches to what has become known as regenerative medicine.

On 2 November 2011 Nature published online an article online entitled ‘Clearance of p16Ink4a-positive senescent cells delays ageing-associated disorders’ by a team of eight scientists associated with the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in the US and Groningen University in the Netherlands.[iii] This type of senescent cell causes age-related pathologies to the eye, to sub-cutaneous fat and to skeletal muscle.  When removed for life from the bodies of the mice the experiment studies, these disorders were delayed in appearing or their further development was stopped.  The authors conclude that their data ‘indicate that cellular senescence is causally implicated in generating age-related phenotypes and that removal of senescent cells can prevent or delay tissue dysfunction and extend healthspan.’  In other words, the experiment provided proof of concept for the SENS approach.

At the 2006 conference Aubrey de Grey said that the implications of these radical life technologies would hit the public in about ten years.  After the publication of the recent Nature article I sent him a note of congratulation and said that it appeared that five years after the Oxford conference his timetable seemed to be well on track. He modestly replied that there was still a long way to go.   However, now that we are halfway to somewhere very significantly different from where we have been on lifespan and ageing it may be time to work on the range of possible social, economic and ethical implications with a new sense of urgency.


[i] Peter Healey and Steve Rayner, eds., (2009)  Unnatural Selection: the Challenges of Engineering Tomorrow’s People.  Earthscan: London & Stirling, VA

[ii] Warner, H., et al. (2005) Science fact and the SENS agenda: What can we reasonably expect from ageing research?’ EMBO Reports, 6, 11, pp 1006-1008

[iii] Darren J. Baker et al. (2011) Nature doi:10.1038/nature10600

Received 08 May 2011 Accepted 30 September 2011 Published online 02 November 2011

Anonymous

No comments

A new film Anonymous sets out the latest and least probable of the theories that suggest that Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare. In this case the putative author is Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford. As the critics tell us, this particular candidate needn’t detain us long: there is no evidence linking him with Shakespeare’s plays, and he died before 10 of them were written.

Oxford does share an aristocratic status with others whose names have been put forward – not by themselves, it should be added: nobody has claimed in their lifetime or their wills that they were the true author of plays that even in Shakespeare’s lifetime were noted works. So to believe this conspiracy theory we have to accept that ‘the true author’ was remarkably unmotivated by fame or profit. One can speculate that an aristocrat might be such a person, and might regard such a deception as some kind of courtly game. Undoubtedly too aristocrats of the time had the leisure time to write, and many did so. But as has been often said, a deeper and more disturbing prejudice lies behind the denial of Shakespeare – an unwillingness to accept that a poor boy could be a great poet and playwright. Great things are the preserves of great men (usually men) from great families.

There are several things that are surprising about this theory of art, apart from the fact that there is little evidence to support it: for every Michelangelo there is a Leonardo. It is less surprising that such sentiments should persist in the UK, which has had difficulties in shaking off its traditions of deference and currently if anything seems to be reinventing them. But why should such a vapid theory become such a big production number in the home of modern republican democracy, the United States? Is this a small sign of a transition to more imperial styles of popular culture, on parallel tracks to Hollywood’s poorly evidenced claims to a monopoly of deeds of valour in world war two?

But in contemporary American popular and political culture of the United States respect for evidence itself seems to been having a hard time. The legacy of Postmodernism seems to have become a licence to believe almost anything: creationism, collateralised debt obligations, tea party economics. Debate is lionised, conviction is preferred to evidence, action legitimises, as in the extra-judicial killing of those on the national ‘most wanted’ list.

In a chillingly cynical piece of commercial marketing, Anonymous has been promoted in the US through the distribution to schools of classroom packs to promote debate on the movies’ theories. Some schools apparently accept these, seemingly unaware that instead of honing the debating and analytic skills of their pupils they are deadening them. Ironically, Shakespeare, who understood better than most the black art of aligning historical narratives with the realities of early imperial power, might not be turning in his grave.

Thomas

No comments

My grandson Thomas, who will straddle my life and something that might be near to immortality, was born today, weighing in at 2.44 kilos. Son of Kate and John, brother to Anna, and cousin to Julia. I will meet him for the first time tomorrow, but I want to mark his birth by just recording for him some mundane everyday aspects of my day and my thoughts which may be of interest to him in 10 or 100 years time. I will pick up this theme from time to time.

I have spent the day working in a university in Oxford, one of the world’s great universities according to annual ratings published today, and the place where your parents met. I am trying to build a research proposal whose task is to assess a range of technologies which may one day help combat anthropogenic climate change by either reflecting some of the sun’s radiation back into space, or directly remove from the atmosphere the chief gas thought to be responsible for the global warming that is one of the chief features of climate change. I am listening to a radio programme – monophonic sound broadcasting – from a national broadcaster called the BBC that points out that one consequence of the temperature rise and the melting of sea ice may be the reduction of krill, a base of the oceanic food chain. If the proposal gets written in time and uploaded to the funder’s computer by the time you are 14 days old, it may lead to a 9 partner team from 3 countries getting 1 million of a currency called euros which will enable us to work on these issues for 2 years.

I travelled to Oxford by taking a bus, an underground train and a surface train powered by diesel. The distance was 100 km and the time from door to door took two and a half hours. On the way I had a small handheld computer/telephone on which I could receive messages, read electronic news sources, and get various other sources of information or entertainment through slow 3G downloads or from an internal 32 gigabyte memory. I also bought a 32 page hard copy of a newspaper called the Guardian, which doesn’t provide much news in relation to much opinionated comment which reinforces by liberal left political and social beliefs.

The Guardian recorded a lot of discussion of whether the global economic system can survive a meltdown that will undercut living standards in the rich part of the world where we live, and threaten rising living standards for those who we somehow tolerate having very little, in material terms or in terms of their individual freedoms.

Now back at home I am writing this in a flat overlooking the cemetery on Willesden Lane, a memento mori for the remnants of the mortal. I got home to find that my lovely wife, your grandmother by marriage Kati, who departed today for a long weekend in her native country Hungary, had left lots of sticky notes with hearts and kisses everywhere I might go in the flat – she has such a warm generous mind.

Later tonight I will watch 2D television on a screen some 60 cm diagonally across.

Tomorrow I get an even slower train down to Blackheath to meet you for the first time. It will be so good.

The sound of London’s Notting Hill Carnival reaches us at our flat from some 3 kilometers away. Last year it was the boom of crowds and the occasional snatches of music. This year it was police helicopters.