July, 2003

David Kelly Affair Rumbles On

Well Sunday arrives and now it seems that the blame is being placed on the BBC. The only big defence of the BBC I’ve seen was a vehement one from Rod Liddle, ex-Today editor until fairly recently.
All this nonsense about sources is pathetic and not worthy of a reply, but it worries me when I hear Gerald Kaufman (who chairs the Select Committee for Culture, Media & Sport) suggests that the BBC’s future is at stake, I’m outraged. How dare he! Gilligan is still saying that he reported what he heard accurately, and I don’t actually doubt that. There were other sources for Gilligan, and he probably included their views in his report. He shouldn’t have to tell us his sources.
And we’re hearing very little about how it is that David Kelly’s name was let into the open. Just saying that it was inevitable is simply not on. Governments can keep secrets if they want to, and they put his name out – or at the very least gave enough clues that anyone could work out the name, which they were then happy to verify. I look forward to hearing the outcome of that.
The whole thing sickens me. And I lay the blame at the door of number 10. Maybe not Blair himself, but certainly Campbell. Everyday, someone reports something somewhere which others disagree with, but this report was not that important – it was a trivial detail.
We still need full and proper reasons for our going to war. I think my thoughts to some extent are reflected in a piece from yesterday’s Guardian by Malcolm Rifkind of all people.
I think this excerpt in particular sums it up for me:
The issue is not whether the world is a better place without Saddam Hussein. Of course it is. It would also be a better place without Robert Mugabe, Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro and a host of other tyrants and despots, but there is no intention of the British government to support wars in order to get rid of them.

Le Tour’s Hotting Up

This year’s Tour is excellent. Armstrong is in his expected yellow, but it turns out that Jan Ullrich is second by just 15 seconds and only a week to go. And Alexandre Vinokourov from Kazakhstan is just 3 seconds further behind.
Another big day in the Pyranees tomorrow, and there’s another Time Trial, where Ullrich really gained ground, in a couple more days.

The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

This is another of those books that was sold to me on the cover alone. Actually, it was the title alone that did it.
I saw this book all over the place before finally picking it up in a buy 2 get a third free promotion.
Anyhow it’s a very entertaining book set in Botswana – effectively a series on short stories as Mma Ramotswe sets up her detective agency. The next book is out shortly.

Vendetta Against Gilligan Turns To Tragedy

Well it looks as though the ridiculous mole-hunting of BBC correspondent Andrew Gilligan’s source within the MOD or Security Services from which he made “sexed up” report claims, has lead to tragedy.
David Kelly earlier this week was questioned by the Commons foreign affairs select committee, but whether he was actually Gilligan’s source remains to be seen.
There is a lot of bad feeling in the air about this, and I think that it’s safe to say that Alistair Campbell has got to go now, and a full inquiry held. This whole thing has come from the government squirming about over the reasons we went to war.
This whole Gilligan thing has been a complete facade, and has been there for no other reason than to distract attention from the real reasons we went to war. There have been no WDM’s found.

The British Film Industry – Alexander Walker

Today’s Evening Standard carried a large tribute section to Alexander Walker today.
When I got home this evening, I flicked around looking for something to watch and stumbled upon Alex on the BBC Parliament channel. They were showing coverage of the Culture Media and Sport committee from Tuesday 17 June at which Alexander Walker was one of the three witnesses.
What he spoke about was very eloquent, and his points well made. You couldn’t really find fault in anything he said. I don’t know how well or not he was at the time, but as all his obituaries have said, he was perfectly turned out, and could speak at length and knowledgably.
The other witnesses were easyJet, and more to the point easyCinema’s Stelios Haji-Ioannou. His new cinema in Milton Keynes is trying to work on a yield management system similar to his airline, internet caf�s and car hire businesses, but the studios are unwilling to supply him with first run films on that basis.
Finally there was Tessa Jowell who was quite defensive in her answers, as you’d expect her to be.
I thought that for the most part, the committee seemed very knowledgable and asked some good questions. I look forward to their report.

Water Water Everywhere

Nor Any Drop To Drink (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Taylor Coleridge).
I got back today to find that I had no water. But not only me – everyone in this part of Enfield is suffering. I was told this by the guy in the Co-op, although he seemed quite keen to sell me bottled water.
On my way to the flat, I saw a kid on his bike with a box. A closer examination showed it to be a Thames Water box of water (similar to a very large winebox).
I had a bit of a scout around but couldn’t find any distribution lorries, and there was no card in my door.
I had a look on the Thames Water website which in turn lead me to the Thames Water UK site, and then on to Newwave online site.
None of these sites were especially dynamic, and there was absolutely no mention of a major North London outage anywhere, because press release section aside, there was no area set up for it. In other words I pretty much have to phone their customer service line to learn more. I didn’t bother, thinking that holding on for a long period to learn that they’re working as fast as possible seemed pretty pointless.
There were no news sites which helped – no local Enfield news. And the BBC London site just had news of an outage somewhere else yesterday. So how do I get emergency supplies? At least I have my free half-litre of Highland Spring, that they were handing out on the tube earlier this week, so I won’t die of thirst.

A Little Excitement

I was sitting down earlier, finishing off The Life of Pi in the heat of my living room, when I heard an argument through my open back window.
I listened a little, and it sounded like someone was going to do some serious injury to someone else. There were at least two pleading voices saying that they’d been doing nothing. As I peered out to see if I could see anything, it became obvious that they were denying trying to steal a car.
The thought that flashed through my head was that the owner had chased after them and caught them. But I was hearing two voices and I still couldn’t see where the sounds were coming from, but it sounded to me like it was right below my window.
Then I saw two police escorting the lads away from an alley that runs to a neighbour’s back garden. The young lads were handcuffed to the two policemen, who were now walking around to the street front.
Naturally I moved to a front window, and saw them being escorted to a waiting police van on the road that’s at the other end of the alley opposite my front door.
I can surmise that someone in that street saw them doing some mischief to a car – possibly trying to break in – and that the police arrived promptly and chased the youths into the dead-end alley in which they were eventually apprehended.
Good work!

The Life of Pi

This was the Booker winner earlier this year, and I wasn’t totally sure about it. It had received good reviews, but since it’s the story of an Indian boy (not Greek as maybe the title suggests) travelling across the ocean in the company of various animals including a Bengal tiger, I took the book to be some kind of allegory – perhaps a fable.
Well I can report back that this isn’t the case. I found the start of the book a little slow and all over the place, but the heart of the book was excellent.


My book reading is playing its usual game of jumping around a little, but having quite enjoyed slugging back the last Inspector Banks book I read, I picked up another at the weekend. In Aftermath, the crime – a very grisly one – has already been committed and the killer is fighting for his life within the first pages, so where does that leave Banks?
Well things aren’t quite that simple, and the story moves at a pace, picking up threads of plenty of contemporary and less contermporary crime stories of the time (well 2001 when this was written) – with a fictionalised Tony Martin who shot a burglar to his house as a bit of a backstory, and references to the Cleveland abuse scandals of the early nineties.
Anyway, a quick page turner, and now I’m in a dilemma. The next volume is out in paperback in September according to Amazon. But in the meantime, I could start at the beginning of the sequence. Not that I don’t have a lot to read already…

Alexander Walker

Sadly Alexander Walker, film critic for over 40 years at the Evening Standard has died at the age of 73. You didn’t always take his side of things with films, but he always remained an excellent and never less than fascinating film reviewer – one that I’d always read.
The Standard’s obituary is here, The Guardian’s here, The Independent’s here, The Times’ here, and the BBC’s here.