Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Save Victory in a Bottle

For the last year and a half Yinka Shonibare's version of HMS Victory in a gigantic glass bottle (above from this post) has been standing on the 4th plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Its stay is coming to an end early next year and rather than be sent off into the sunset like The Fighting Temeraire it has been proposed that it be purchased for the nation and located outside the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

I think that's an excellent idea and will be adding my name (and dosh) to the list at the Art Fund's web site.

But it seems that not everyone is in favour - as the first comment on the site shows!

Oh dear :(

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wild Beasts in Shepherds Bush

By a bit of diary juggling and frantic tube connections just managed to squeeze in a trip to the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire to see Wild Beasts, and it was fab.

If you don't know them Wild Beasts are a guitar based band from England's Lake District, though they have recently migrated south to London by way of Leeds. They have an unusual sound, as if they are the chamber music of rock, a falsetto voice over metallic chords. 

Here it was a bit more full blooded, with heavy base tuned to make rib-cages and the sticky floor vibrate. Maybe a little too heavy for the delicate numbers but it certainly gave the Hooting and Howling song an edge that's not there in the CD.

It was a great set, reinforcing how good their writing is, quality that gave them a Mercury Prize nomination. Again and again I'd find myself thinking "Oh I like this one" with the occasional "I really like this one".

The gig ended with "The end comes too soon", its climactic chord held for minutes, shimmering around the theatre, circling an audience looking up, as the band retreated into the stage's shadows to drink a glass of wine.

It was a bold, almost experimental move, a far cry from mainstream pop risking comparison with prog-rock excesses, but for me it worked, creating a memorable experience similar to the hypnotic effects of Steve Reich.

A good evening out in London town well entertained by a band worth watching out for.

Links here to reviews from The Independent, Daily Mail and Star.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Buff's Press Conference

Recently Buff Staysail threw his sailor's hat into the ring to start the long road that could lead to the White House. Alas the press conference that followed did not go smoothly, as this transcript reveals....

Buff Staysail

G'day my fellow Americans! Any questions?


Is Buff Staysail your real name or is it actually something like Islam?

Buff Staysail

Are you kidding? I'm Buff Staysail!! Buff by name and Buff by nature!!

Yachting World

Is it true this story we hear about you behaving inappropriately with the fair Sabrine during the America's Cup in Valencia?

Buff Staysail

I have no recollection of the incident you are describing.

Sacramento Bee

What's your foreign policy, Buff? How you getting on with your Uzbekistans and Azerbaijans?

Buff Staysail

My peep are on the case and have told me what to say.

Buff squints so he can read out the following text written on his hand

I love Israel above all else and my foreign policy documents will have ... er... the words "Pro Israel B.S." stamped on them.

Buff's Ma

What a fibber you are Buff! All this stuff and nonsense about being born in Hawaii - it was in the Royal Brisbane of course! Didn't stop crying for a whole day!

Buff Staysail

Ma? What are you doing here?

Buff's Ma

You drag me all the way from my cosy retirement home to hear you say you love this Issy floosy above even me!!

Buff Staysail

Ma, not now!!

Buff's Ma

You come home with me right now young man! And I discover if you've been misbehaving on those trips to Europe you'll be in real trouble!

Buff Staysail (exiting)

Yes ma.

Oh no! Looks like Buff won't be allowed out for a while.

Maybe you Americans have something else to be thankful for.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Buff for President!

G'day all! Buff Staysail here! Buff by name and Buff by .... er... I mean my fellow Americans!

Yes, Buff Staysail is throwing his sailor's hat into the ring and entering the race for the presidency!!

But surely, Buff, you are about to ask, don't you come from Queensland, Australia?

A good question, and until recently I would have said too right cobber, till it was discovered I was actually born in Hawaii - and yes, we will have copies of the birth certificate for you once we have sorted out some Paintshop Pro technical difficulties.

But sure, Buff, your next question would be, do you think you are qualified?

Actually turns out I'm just the man for the job. You know when ol' JP goes barfing on about global warming and evolution it goes wooosh over Buff's head but it seems like that's just the ticket to get the ticket.

As to policies my corner stone is the 8-8-8 program - but hold your horses, let me explain.

Firstly, nine sounds like nein which is what a NAZI might say.

Secondly, eight sounds like ate which is what an AMERICAN would do.

Thirdly, 8 is smaller than 9 so the rich would pay less tax, and if there are any of the 1% out there reading this blog, there are significant tax benefits in funnelling your campaign contributions via the Billionaires for Buff vehicle.

Anyhow that's enough of your's truly, you good folks all have questions, you know, about the America's Cup, Lib ............... er ............. ..................... er ............. ................... .................... Liberia??

Anyhow, nows the time to give it your best shot. What's on your mind?

This is Buff Staysail, over and not out but listening!!!

.... oh, yes, and Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Book Review: Atlantic

I actually finished this book a few weeks ago but pressure of work meant this review had to be put off.

In one way its a shame, as many of the minutiae of Simon Winchester's weighty tome have already merged together in one almighty swell. But maybe that is appropriately like the great ocean it describes.

This impressive book uses as its frame the seven ages of a man's life as given in Shakespeare's As you like it:

Infant: here we learn about how humanity first discovered the ocean - maybe very young in our history, on shores of South Africa

Schoolboy: in which various expeditions are sent out to turn those here be dragons and the edge of the world myths into charts and scientific discoveries

Lover: describing how the Atlantic has been portrayed in the arts, in art, music, novels and plays, including of course Shakespeare - who can forget The Tempest?

Soldier: alas these waters have run red too many times in our history as the blood of good men and women has dissolved into the sea, from the Romans to the Falklands.

Justice: ok, well in fact this section looks at trade, from the infamous slave trade to the beaverings of the Hanseatic league, to the packet ships and telegraph cables

Pantaloon: with old age creeping in Winchester looks at how we have despoiled our own environment, such as the catastrophic (and rather stupid) over fishing of the Newfoundland Grand Banks

Sans everything: takes the big view of an ocean that is getting bigger as sea levels rises and storms and flood threaten our great cities, and yet in the very long term is doomed as continents divided rejoin, squeezing the Atlantic away

Its one of those books that demand phrases like large canvas, for it is a huge subject. But Winchester does it proud, and his travels have given him a rock to build on.

From the south and being locked in a prison cell in Argentina during the Falklands war to the far north and being stuck by bad weather in a distant Greenland fjord called Scoresbysund, his many travels and experiences add flavour, colour and a human scale.

If I had to quibble I'd say the structure doesn't match the standard story structure, making it at times disjointed - oh, and the hardback version is too heavy.

But overall I really enjoyed this read and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. Just make sure you get the paperback version!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Three Volvo photos

Its been another manic week of work after a weekend of family business, so blogging has been firmly in the back seat. I've had just enough time to follow the Volvo Ocean Race, though its been a bit of a procession after Groupama's diversion to the Canaries (bravo for taking the risk).

Unlike the last post this one show photos of real Volvo yachts. Above is from the 2005-06's in-port race in Portsmouth, while below is another Solent sail, a day trip I had out on News International which competed in the 2001-02 circumnavigation:
Finally, below is another Volvo 70, Ericsson (the one, I think, from 2005-6), spotted in Stockholm during the Square Metre Rule Anniversary back in 2008:
Next week's schedule not looking much better than last, but will be keeping an eye out on those ocean racers. Tactics for the next stage look more interesting, with all sorts of route wiggling options to get them to Cape Town.

Soon we will all be able to put our feet up and relax.

Updated: for O'Docker here's a fourth picture (see comments):

Friday, November 11, 2011

Three photos for the Volvo

It's been one of those massively hectic weeks where have really valued escaping even for a few minutes onto the Volvo Ocean Race web site. Compared to meetings, presentations, teleconferences, papers, projects, networking etc etc sailing non-stop four hours on four hours off seemed like a really good way to spend one's time.

So in return here are some of my photos with indirect connections to the Volvo. For example the one above I took when sailing near the Canary Islands which Groupama has, in an interesting navigational choice, just passed to the east (bonus marks for identifying the class of yacht).

Below are fishing dhows in Abu Dhabi, which is also the name one of the teams in the VOR. Alas they had a rather too dramatic start to the leg to South Africa, dismasting before they'd even left the Med.

So this is what Abu Dhabi didn't see - one of the Pillars of Hercules, the Rock of Gibraltar. When I was there we had no wind whatsoever, and hence had to motor. We passed a racing fleet that was drifting rather a lot:

The forecast is for posting to remain doldrum like erratic for the near future, but hopefully will be back in the trades shortly afterwards.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Volvo Crumble

Its come around again, the Volvo Ocean Race, and I can just see my productivity falling. A minute in the morning checking the positions over the first coffee and then again in the afternoon over a cuppa tea, it all adds up.

But what is this? Already things are falling apart with a full third of the fleet (ok, two boats) out of action, with a dismasting and hole in the hull of another.

Watch this space, as they say. Hopefully nothing will happen similar to those dramatic events in the Celebrity Yacht Race - as covered by our very own Buff Staysail - which sailed those very waters back in 2007.

The photo above, btw, is of my apple crumble (caramelised apples underneath, brown sugar and walnuts in the crumble) - yum - as requested by Baydog.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Fireworks night

I love a good fireworks show.

Tonight London smells of gunpowder on an evening dry and brrr! cold - but I've just had home made apple crumble fresh from the oven.

That was pretty good too.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Season of mists on the Thames

Its the season where you seem to get all sorts of weather in quick succession.

One day you need coat and umbrella, the next the skies are blue and the talk is of Indian summers. Its also seems to be the time of year when mists roll down the Thames along with the tide.

Its rather poetic, as the bridges at Putney dramatically rise from the clouds (above). Lighters are unmasked, glimpsed briefly and then the curtain is drawn across again:
Wraiths, columns of air and suspended microscopic droplets of water, stalk down river.
Then the sun bursts through, evaporating these apparitions and imaginations, and it is time to get back to work.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Single handed sailing

I was going to follow up yesterday's post with a health and safety report into Slocum's voyage around the world, but it seemed a bit too easy.

You can just imagine it: "no up to date charts, not even a single GPS or EPIRB, no radar reflector, log burning fire risk, no life raft or grab bags bla bla bla."

But there does seem an important issue here - can single handed sailing be sufficiently safe that it can be encouraged through organised races?

I dunno......I mean, one person can't be on watch all the time, and the stats show it is a lot more dangerous than crewed races such as the Volvo starting this weekend.

Double handed seems to be a better solution. No more "around alone" but "sail with a mate" - unless of course you're lucky enough to "meet and fall in love".

After all even Slocum got married - not just once but twice.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Cockleshell Heroes Health and Safety Report

Last night the BBC had a TV program about Operation Frankton, the operation that was turned into the film Cockleshell Heroes. I had only heard a little about this WW2 raid by on Bordeaux by canoe and so found it very interesting indeed. 

However in addition I was lucky enough to be sent anonymously the following Health and Safety Report:

Diversity Objectives

The first question about this raid comes from the selection of the commandos, and whether there was a proactive inclusivity policy? Given that all marines were white males, I think not!

Time Management

The unit set off from a submarine in the English Channel in the evening of the 7th December 1942. Over the next few days it was clear that the marines were forced the exceed the mandatory working hours limits laid done in EU Directive 2003/88/EC. Furthermore the anti-social hours were counter to good home/work balance and there were no child minding facilities.


The unit were in paddling low profile kayaks, painted a dark colour, at night, in a busy shipping lane up the Loire river with a significant amount of traffic (Nazi patrol boats), and yet they didn't have a single high visibility jacket between them! Why?

Stress Management

At the entrance to the river were a number of tidal races with overhangs resulting large waves with steep sides. In the confusion and conditions several boats were lost, either to the elements or ending up in enemy hands. Only 2 of the 6 boats made it through.

In such situations it would be understandable, as an act of respect and sensitivity to those lost, to return immediately for intensive counselling at the Happy Bean Bag Therapy Centre. That they continued is indicative of a retrograde phallocentric management style rather than modern inclusive whole-person holistic decision making.


The remaining commandos then encountered some local French fishermen and their families who provided them with fresh bread and half a bottle of red wine. At no point did they enquire as to whether they used approved baking processes or what the bread's use-by date was. As to the consumption of alcohol while carrying high explosives, well words fail me!

Health and Well-being

After leaving the fishermen, the remaining two kayaks paddled on up the river, covering 25 miles in one stretch. And yet none of the team was a qualified physio-therapist and the constant repetitive motion was simply asking for RSI!


On reaching Bordeaux the two kayaks split up and laid their limpet mines against the sides of ships trading with the enemy. In the resulting explosions, yes, they did destroy 5 or 6 ships, but did no one consider the noise and provide them with ear protection? That is was ISO 4869 is for people!!

International Impact Analysis

At this point they ran away - and not just back to home as they should. The remaining four (well two, as the other team were captured) made their way through France, into Spain and thus to a Crown Dependency, Gibraltar. Did they have no idea of the amount of paper work that would generate? Had they no consideration for others??


Officially the two survivors, Major Hasler and Marine Bill Sparks, were welcomed back with a DSO and DSM respectively.

But if Health and Safety had had their way they would have been awarded an F-.