My dear friend Ewen Green died last week at 47, after years of wrestling with multiple sclerosis. His obituary appears in today’s Independent.
I don’t often have patriotic moments, but my British heart swelled with pride when I read these words:
Figures from Mintel reveal that we eat a tonne of crisps every three minutes in the UK.
I think that’s a tremendous (multi-) national achievement. I’m not sure, however, that this is the reaction I’m supposed to be having.
If there are any Calendar Bores out there, can he or she (but, more likely, he) tell me how often the French Republican New Year and the Jewish New Year coincide? It seems that from sunset this evening until midnight Paris time we have overlapping New Year festivities, which I don’t think I’ve ever noticed before.
(Will French Republican Jews celebrate with especial vigour this evening, or do they worry that that would compromise their French Republican identity? I like to think that they will.)
It is, of course, DÃ©cade I, Primidi de VendÃ©miaire de l’AnnÃ©e CCXV de la RÃ©volution today, in the ongoing calendrical celebration of the people’s triumph over monarchical tyranny that is the French Republican Calendar.
Following Bob Timbs’s by-election victory in Lye Valley last night, the Labour group is once again the largest group on Oxford City Council, and that’s a very good thing.
If anyone reading this falls into the “have read Alasdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue more often than most and thinks it’s a pretty good book” category, can you drop me a line.
… to my brother Michael’s new blog, Closely Watched DVDs, devoted to the world of Czech cinema.
Hurry over there now to learn the handy Czech phrase, “Tomorrow I’ll wake up and scald myself with tea”*, and do remember to go back every day in January, when he’ll be presenting his Jan Å vankmajer blog-retrospective.
[* The only Czech phrase I can really remember from the time I tried to learn the language is the equally handy, “I think there’s going to be a revolution in the West soon.”]
Stephen Marks points me to this one-stop shop for all your Russian / Soviet anthem needs.
There’s an astonishing collection of recordings of the song formerly known as the Hymn of the Soviet Union here — Paul Robeson, obviously [and there’s more on Robeson today here]; but also the broadcast from the Victory Parade in Moscow in June 1945; a wartime version for the BBC conducted by Sir Adrian Boult; sung in Moscow before a rugby international against Wales; various pop and rock versions; and what may be my brother’s favourite recording of anything ever, the Leningrad Cowboys and the Alexandrov Red Army Ensemble performing Gimme All Your Lovin’ / The Hymn of the Soviet Union as part of their epic 1993 Helsinki concert, the Total Balalaika Show; and so on, and so on, and so on.
And there’s more…
There’s the only recording of the Internationale made by a Nazi band, at the time of the 1936 Olympics (though in the end the USSR team didn’t show up). There are three pre-Revolutionary recordings of Bozhe, tsarya khrani, better known as the main theme from the 1812 Overture (and another recording by the Pipes and Drums and Military Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards). There are lots of recordings of related songs, parody versions, historical curiosities.
It’s a fabulous, fabulous collection (and these are terrific songs, too). Why haven’t I stumbled across it before?
Please note (above) that today is “Jour de la raison”, as we’re into the annual cycle of holidays that closes out the French Republican Calendrical year, so can we stop talking like pirates and start being rational.
(Don’t worry: it’s just for one day.)