Sunday, November 30, 2008

wall business, Almagro, good read

Posted by Picasa Interesting things go on in walls and sprout from them.

In conversation with a friend, who is reading Don Quixote, I recall - it must be 25 years ago - driving across the dusty plain of La Mancha south of Ciudad Real. Our destination was the town of Almagro where we were to stay in one of the state owned paradors, a former convent. The town was famous for two things - its 16th century theatre on one side of an unspoilt arcaded square of the same era, and a gastronomic speciality - pickled berenjenas or aubergines. The theatre retains its original pit open to the sky and must have seen original performances of the plays of Lope de Vega and Calderon de la Barca. It is still used for drama festivals today. The aubergines were sold in specially made earthenware pots, which added greatly to their charm. I doubts if this expensive form of packaging for such simple fare is available today, but I know that the aubergines can still be bought in specialist food stores. What was most interesting about the spicy brine in which they are pickled is that the recipe goes back to the occupation of Spain by the Moors, as does the word berenjenas. In doing some research at the time, I found an almost identical recipe for the pickle, which originated far away from La Mancha in the Middle East.

Recent conversations here and elsewhere about books, read and unread, puts me in mind of my Mother, who was a member of Boots Lending Library, now long forgotten as a source of reading matter. Unlike my father, she would not have called herself a bookish person, and, if pressed on the matter, would have admitted that there might be too many books around, unused and gathering dust, for comfort. She did, however, like a good read and was not too troubled about what it might consist of. Boots lending library branches were invariably on the upper floors of the chemist shops, with which the name, Boots was and still is chiefly associated. And she would often send me, an eager 8-year old, upstairs, while engaged in shopping downstairs, to exchange the book she had recently finished. "Just tell the girls, I want a light novel", she would say. "They know what I've read". For a long time the term "light novel" seemed to me to be about its avoirdupois , something to be added to the burden of potatoes and cabbages in the shopping basket, rather than the nature of its content, and even today, when reading a large and heavy duty book in bed (how much more manoeuvrable are paperbacks), I can hear her reminding me to ask for a light novel, and think to myself, that she may well have been right in her preferences.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

unexpected, angels, books

Posted by Picasa I nearly didn't bother to photograph this bottle stuck in a hedge. But I rather like the way it turned out.

When I enter the train, there is a conversation in progress between a young woman and a middle aged man, which keeps me entertained all the way to London. He is writing a homily (there is some discussion about whether this is the right word) to be given at a funeral on the following day. A picture of the deceased emerges in episodes as he describes him. She is the daughter of a clergyman and talks a bit about her father. The homily-giver has an open pad on the table in front of him, on which he is drafting his homily. As he talks about the deceased, he tries out various phrases on her."He wasn't a particularly religious man," he says as he write the words, "but he lived his faith. He lived his faith, that was the sort of man he was." They begin to talk about angels. What sex are angels? " he asks. "Androgynous," she says, Then comes an anecdote about some angels in a nativity play, one of whom had "a wing which needed a bit of attention". "'Your wing needs a bit of attention', that's the sort of thing he would say. Or Christmas is coming you're going to have a lot to do". The young woman leaves the train at the next station and the homily-giver is left to go over his notes. I am not, it seems, the only person who has been listening to this conversation. As the train draws into the terminal, the man sitting directly opposite me takes a book called, I think, "Living after Death" from his brief case, writes something on the inside cover, introduces himself and presents the book to the homily-giver. As I leave the train the homily-giver, in saying thank you, explains again about the homily he is preparing.

I have been thinking about the stack of -books begun and half read, unread, intended to be read - which Lucy Kempton describes in her blog, Box Elder. I imagine a lot of people have similar book towers. I know I do. I can see mine as I type. I have a friend who reads everything she reads from beginning to end -The collected poems of Shelley, The whole of Dante, The Odyssey. Nothing she begins is unfinished. I admire he application but cannot hope to emulate it. I have long given up any thought of reading Montaigne's essays or The Thousand and One Nights, which form a solid foundation for my own skyscraper, from beginning to end. But so much do I like books that I don't feel guilty if I never finish them. I console myself with the thought that to dip into them is better than never to open them at all. And besides it gives me pleasure to look at the books, as it gave me pleasure to look at the photo of Lucy's stack and to consider the items there that are familiar to me.

Friday, November 28, 2008

promise, cup of tea, sandwich

Posted by Picasa Spring can't be too far off when you see buds like this waiting for the winter months to pass.

The introduction of a cup of tea - a soap opera cliché - as a solution to the trials of everyday life is part of the way we think about England. So I am surprised, the other day, when reading Les Thibault by Roger Martin du Gard, to find the author, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1937, using the a cup of tea in a French setting. "Laissez-moi vous faire une tasse de thé," says a character, a doctor as it happens, to his brother who has got into trouble and needs to be calmed.

The crow, which I have come to call Mr Crow, because he seems so human in his ponderous habits, is back in the Grove. I was just thinking that I hadn't seen him for a few days, when he flies in front of me and, his wings spread, flops to the ground. He has part of a sandwich in his beak which he proceeds to demolish on the grass, pecking at the ground in between beak fulls, perhaps to augment his meal with some nourishing worms.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

sheep...gum, footsteps

Posted by Picasa... in a brick wall.

The gum busters are in town. Removing discarded chewing gum from the streets of Tunbridge Wells seems to be like painting the Forth Bridge. When you finish you have to start again. I watch the machine operators progress accross the paving, with their scraper/power hoses infront of them like hockey sticks. Spray rises around them in clouds.

As I walk across the Grove, dry leaves crackle as the wind drives them along the paths. They sound like running footsteps and I look over my shoulder to see if anyone is behind me.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

platform end, generations, grafitti

Posted by Picasa While waiting for the train to London, I explore the "up" end of Platform I. My camera is at the ready. Without trespassing, I take some photographs like this one. It shows the entrance to the tunnel which passes under the centre of the town and beneath the disused cinema. As I walk away, a pleasant young railway employee approaches me. "Are you alright?" he asks tactfully. "Only I saw your camera!" I ignore the non-sequiter and refer to my interest in odd corners of buildings and crumbling engineering structures, in signs and symbols. I am not sure how convinced he is but apparently dismisses me as harmless.

Lunch with my son and daughter and the eldest of my grandsons. Daughter has to hurry off to a meeting, but as we leave the restaurant, the three of us, about to go our separate ways, ask the owner of the restaurant to photograph us. On returning home, I look at the photograph and realize that, while I think of myself as being of average height, I appear to have become a dwarf, in comparison with the two successive generations beside me in the picture. They tower above me, the younger now an inch or so taller than his father, who is himself well over 6 ft. Yes, there is a certain pride and wonder at such offspring, but also, for the first time, some sympathy for stature-challenged dignitaries like President Sarkozy, who must often worry about where they are standing when in a group photograph.

As the train enters London I am, as usual, fascinated, by the graffiti, which cover the walls beside the railway lines outside London Bridge station. I have a guilty admiration for the energy which they display, modified only by dismay at the general absence of wit or talent in their execution. I think, however, of the New York artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, who graduated from graffiti to produce, sometimes enormous, graffiti-like paintings, which made him famous during the last years of his brief life. "Every single line means something," he is supposed to have said. Words, which could be challenged by those who have to remove acres of spray paint from often inaccessible and apparently interminable brick and plasterwork.

Then there's Banksy, whose amusing and well observed graffiti on the walls of urban building are now famous and valuable in the art market, but that's another story.

Monday, November 24, 2008

another blackbird... mug in hand, skies

Posted by Picasa ... in another hedge.

In a window, I catch sight of a hand below the outline of a head. The hand is holding a mug ... of tea, coffee, hot chocolate? There is something reassuring and comforting about this domestic image though it is not meant for prying eyes like mine.

With the sun low in the sky and clouds blown and shredded by the wind I keep looking up. There's much to capture with the camera - fleeting abstract images or monsters of the kind, which Dave King shows and describes in his latest post.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

pyracantha, cold, Lego

Posted by Picasa So intent is he on his feast, this blackbird looks worried by my attentions, but is reluctant to fly away. He holds a berry in his beak for a moment, before swallowing it, but I miss the moment with my camera.

The cold weather, when it arrives, is like an old friend, the way weather used to be at this time of year and is supposed to be. But, this morning, a fall of snow, confident for an hour or so, settles on roof tops, trees and hedges, before melting in the cold rain, which takes the place of the snowflakes drifting past the window.

In a basement window, I two small boys assembling a vast structure of Lego bricks on a table, just right for a wet Sunday afternoon. It whets my appetite for the neatness and versatility of Lego, which has long been out my range of activities. Oh the satisfaction of clicking together two bricks in a firm but impermanent union!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

looking up, knocked down, panicum

Posted by PicasaLate afternoon sky, late in the year.

It seems that the deserted cinema site and the shops that form part of it, in the centre of Tunbridge Wells, are a step nearer demolition. The cinema is not a memorable example of 30s architecture and certainly looks a mess now. Nobody will weep for its removal. Though many will doubtless dislike what eventually comes in its place. New buildings are seldom admired. If they are architectural masterpieces, it will probably take a new generation to appreciate their merits. If they please the majority and offend the minimum number of people, they will probably not be masterpieces. Meanwhile in the empty window of one of the empty shops, the notice, everything knocked down first the prices , then the shop, strikes you as one of those statements that have a disturbingly general appliciation.

In a vase, some panicum grass, a lovely ornamental grass with panicles of tiny flowers. The flowers are so small that it is hard to discern their features, though they appear as bright points of light, that shiver with very little reason. A garden plant in this country, Panicum viratum, (also known as panic grass, switch grass, wobsque grass and black bent) grows wild in the prairies of USA. In the US it is also used for ornamental purposes, and I read with pleasure on the web site of a US garden centre: "In the fall we love to watch the quail foraging in our panicum".

Friday, November 21, 2008

unexpected, alighting, card

Posted by Picasa An unexpected and very welcome country walk with the sun out and wayside sheep grazing contentedly.

In the train, an announcer uses a word that is seldom heard in conversation. "Passengers should alight here for Knole Park", she says. I enjoy the sound of this elegant word, but try as I might I cannot see myself alighting anywhere.

Every year when I make our Christmas cards I have to relearn the appropriate parts of Paintbox I enjoy making cards, but not making the same mistakes every year. This year the consolation is that I make fewer mistakes and learn to find my round them more quickly than I have in the past.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Common, leeks, jump or kick

Posted by Picasa Sunshine on the edge of the Common.

When I buy some leeks from the convenience store in Grove Hill Road, I break the tops and bend them over so as to fit them in to my shoulder bag. The owner, who once lectured me on the indiscriminate use of plastic bags, breaks off his telephone conversation in a language I can't identify, to say in English "well done," as he hands me my change.

This morning on the radio I distinctly hear the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson twice speak of "jump starting" the housing market in London. At least, I think to myself, he hasn't said "kick start", which every body else says nowadays; and I feel a ridiculous glow of pleasure. But the glow quickly fades when I read, this evening in the London Evening Standard, a report on the interview, which falsely attributes to him the phrase "kick start". Perhaps it was intended to mean the same thing (though of course it doesn't), but what is so irritating about it is that the forceful image of someone starting a motor bike engine with a stamping motion of his booted foot, has become meaningless. Most often now, you could say start or restart and convey the same thing more effectively. I was glad of "jump start", because it seemed fleetingly to refresh the metaphor. But I defer here to Barrett Bonden, who will know all about jump starts and kick starts and the machines to which they used to apply before you could, as I believe you can now, push-button start them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

ladybird, limping, questions

Posted by PicasaThis unusual ladybird, which has a hint of tortoiseshell about it, was on an urgent errand, when we met, across a pub table.

"Are you limping?" asks the young woman who manages the Compasses pub, as we pass in the street.
I don't think that I am, or have any reason to, but to acknowledge her concern, I reply: "No. I must be walking unsteadily because I've had a good lunch."Good for you", she says, touching my elbow.

What Lucy says in her comment on my post yesterday rings a distant bell. I do remember being told as a child not to be inquisitive. "Curiosity killed the cat", they'd say. She's right: a lot of people are afraid to ask questions. It's always struck me that such reticence is a mistake and a relic of a strange, bourgeois inhibition. It is a rule which I have resolutely ignored. Without curiosity, we would have no great inventions and no great novels, to mention just two areas of human achievement. Besides, for the most part, people like being interviewed and welcome the opportunity to talk about themselves, or to express their views.
I suspect that the reluctance of visitors to your house to let their eyes rest for a moment on your bookshelves or even the pictures on your walls, is another aspect of the same basic fear. Though of course it may be that they are just not interested.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

window, teeth, conversation

Posted by Picasa Most of the pictures I have taken of the deserted cinema in the middle of Tunbridge Wells, have been at the back of the 1930's building. I take this one of an upper floor window from Mount Pleasant and find, as usual, that its features become more interesting, the more you look at them.

I see, in the driving seat of a passing car, a woman with a piece of paper in her mouth. She holds it between her teeth, with a purposeful expression the way dogs do.

Thinking about how to help conversations along, it occurs to me that conversationalists should, first of all, possess the gift of curiosity. This should lead them to prompt and assist those, who are are finding it difficult to express a complex idea, by trying to share their thought processes. The very opposite of trying to get the better of them. For what is difficult to express is sometimes the most worth while.

Monday, November 17, 2008

cover, understanding, conversation

Posted by Picasa Plants grow in unlikely places, like this one, in a man-hole cover.

Enter into the minds of others, see what you can find there, try to understand the landscape and return to look into your own mind, to discover the features that there are in common, and whether you now understand them better. This, not entirely original thought, I arrived at recently, a propos nothing special, other than a way to avoid misunderstandings, wars, divorces, bitterness and hatred. Then, today, I find this quotation from the nineteenth century divine, Cardinal Newman: "Reflect, gentlemen, how many disputes you must have listened to, which were interminable, because neither party understood either his opponent or himself."

I hear someone on the radio talking about conversation. Is it an art? If it is, is it dead? If it's dead has it been killed by the computer, the television, the mobile phone? Does it matter if it has? What nobody seems to be saying is that conversation is something shared. You have to listen as well as speak. And when more than two people are present, everyone should try to be silent except the person who is speaking. People should be encouraged to speak in turn, so that all can relax and not worry about not having a say. And in particular they should not have to listen to or partake in competing arguments at the same time. In such an atmosphere people may learn to be amusing and to amuse, to enlighten and be enlightened.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

abstract, never apologise, balls

Posted by Picasa I nearly discard this photograph. Then I decide to keep it for its abstract qualities. There is one of those green, plastic garden buckets outside the house. In the recent storm it has filled up with water and collected a number of leaves, which have sunk to the bottom. Specks of vegetation float on the surface of the water, a segment of which catches the light and serves as a mirror, while the remaining segment, in the shade, holds its transparency. But what is this? Beneath the mirror segment, you can see through to the same layer of leaves at the bottom of the bucket, but the mirrored light has robbed them of definition, as though on an over exposed film. Meanwhile, some plants, which lean over the bucket and the sides of the bucket itself, show up in yet another layer of reflection.

You don't like to be jostled. In the supermarket, jostling is part of the game. Urgent men and women, who are often harassed by children, push and shunt trolleys like dodgem cars. But for me, it's elbows in, and attention to trolley skills. With that, comes a tendency to apologise, which can be superfluous, as this morning , when I inadvertently nudge a stationary, unmanned trolley, when reaching for some potatoes. "Sorry," I say. "Sorry." But no one notices and the trolley remains impassive.

In a wet front garden, I see a number of apples fallen to the ground. Covered with a greasy layer of fine rain, they are just the colour and size of cricket balls. You don't often see so many cricket balls together except perhaps at net practice. Then, in another garden, I see no fewer than four footballs, lurking at the edge of a lawn, and the thought occurs to me that it is usually only professionals, who have more than one or two sporting items around at one time. When I played tennis I had, not an armful of rackets such as you see, nowadays, at international tournaments, but only one, which when not in use, was carefully preserved in its press. But those were more frugal times.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

leaf prints, clear, ads

Posted by Picasa After heavy rain, leaf prints again, this time on the paving stones of the path leading to our front door. I resist the temptation to modify the photograph, and show the shadowy images as they appear.

Having switched to Google Mail and acquired a new email address, I no longer have spam to contend with. Instead Google picks up the words that occur in the emails, and feeds you with links to advertisers. This happens to the emails, which automatically relay comments made on this blog. So that this morning in response to my reference to a garlic crusher, there are links in an adjoining window to: hire/sales of mixers, spreaders and crushers; crusher spares; impact crushers; and, introducing an even more surreal dimension, jaw crushers.

Free working space in any work room or study has to be protected. I have a work table as well as a desk. Anything left on either, not directly connected with work in progress, I have a compulsive need to remove. And that goes even for dust.

Friday, November 14, 2008

duet...crusher, single

Posted by Picasa ... for two screws.

I am reminded of a discussion between web loggers Barrett Bonden and Lucy Kempton on the subject of garlic crushers, by a garlic crusher of what strikes me as sublime simplicity in one of those mail order catalogues that arrive through the post at this time of year. It is made of stainless steel and looks like a miniature rolling pin except that the central cylinder is deeply grooved so as to crush a clove of garlic over which it is rolled. The caption points out that the stainless steel has the effect, when rinsed with your hands under cold water, of removing garlic smells from your fingers.

People often remark on single shoes, which turn up by the side of the road or in hedgerows. So when I see a shoe, in good condition, as I do today on the corner of Little Mount Sion, I am not alone in wondering about its provenance and the reason for its solitary state.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

shoots, two worlds, steam

Posted by Picasa November 13, and these daffodil shoots are pushing through fallen leaves in the Grove.

Through the glass door of an antiques shop in the Pantiles, I see, past tables of glass and china, a window at the back of the shop; and through the window, another world, where Frant Road and its motor traffic, exists side by side with this more modest world designed for pedestrians.

From our bedroom window, this morning, I watch the steam rising from a central heating vent on the side wall the side of the house opposite. The rising sun catches this moving and ever changing, curtain of mist. Through it, we see the dark outlines of the trunk and branches of the tulip tree, which sometimes seem to be mere shadows on its surface, and sometimes shapes of a more solid and permanent kind.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

holly, picnic, lost and found

Posted by PicasaThe berries are just now at their brightest in the variegated holly tree at the entrance to the Grove.

Who will join me on a cyber picnic? You have only to bring a location - all locations will be shared and infinitely interchangeable. Food and drink? Never mind the expense. Everything is virtual. For the time being my contribution is a tortilla espagnola, a Spanish omelet (eggs, onion and potato), which you cut into wedges, rather like a cake, and which is delightful eaten cold, and works well as finger food, essential for a picnic. To go with it, Krug Champagne, bottles and bottles of it.

Where were the three anthologies of poetry and pictures called Voices and published by Penguin Education, for schools, which I had loved for years because of the freshness and oddness of choice. I look everywhere for them. I think for a time that I may have given them to a grand child. Then, today, I find them shuffled on to an alien shelf. I'm suddenly glad that I didn't give way to a generous urge in this instance. Where else would I find, from Child's Bouncing Song by Tony Connor,
"Who're the gentry
Down our entry -
Mrs Smith's got two T. V.'s
What if her coat
Is a fur coat,
All her kids are full of fleas".?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

sunshine ...,counting, missing

Posted by Picasa... on the staircase.

After yesterday's wind and rain, we are , this morning, because there are so few of them left, beginning to able to count the remaining leaves on the tulip tree and the lime tree, on which we look out from our bedroom window. The invidual, golden leaves wave at us slowly in the breeze.

A few days ago I finished the first of the three volume edition of A La Recherche du Temps Perdu. At first it was a relief to be able to read something less demanding. But I am beginning to miss the intensity of Proust's searching analytical style, which, because it requires such close attention,
makes you feel as though you are involved in the world he describes. Perhaps this is some sort of recidivism. I expect I'll be back inside soon.

Monday, November 10, 2008

decomposition, cold and stormy, out of tune

Posted by PicasaSeveral years ago I found this leaf skeleton on the compost heap. I subsequently scanned it and used the image in the design of a Christmas card. By reversing it, I was able to put it and its mirror image side by side so that together they looked like a pair of wings. The recent photographs, which I have been taking of leaves reminded me of it. Here is the original image that I made. I know that, should I ever want to, I could make another, because I preserved the original leaf between the pages of a notebook and find that it has remained intact - something which I treasure, a piece of the most delicate filigree, worked by the same processes (fortunately arrested in this instance) of decomposition, that turn leaves into leaf mould.

Last night the wind blew and the rain beat against the windows. Which Victorian novel begins with the words "It was a cold and storm night"?

If there were a gift that I would ask of a passing genie it would be to be able to sing in tune. Sing, I can and with pleasure, but because I cannot achieve the notes I look for, it has, out of kindness to others, to be a solitary pleasure. So for the time being I must console myself with this poem by the American poet Stephen Crane, which I have just come across:
" There was a man with a tongue of wood
Who essayed to sing,
And in truth it was lamentable.
But there was one who heard
The clip-clapper of this tongue of wood
And knew what the man
Wished to sing,
And with that the singer was content.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

unexpected, Autumn, tea

Posted by Picasa Pay in the sky.

Voici moins de plaisirs, mais voici moins de peines.
Le rossignol se tait; se taissent les sirènes. Agrippa D'Aubigné (1532 -1630), sums up the sadness and the consolations of Autumn.
Here are fewer pleasures, but fewer pains as well;
The sirens fall silent, and the nightingale.

Tea is no longer merely tea. Just a few of the "teas" I noted this morning on sale in Sainsbury's: Blueberry, White Peony, Fennel, Peppermint and Eucalyptus, Echinacea. Moroccan Mint, Red Bush.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

nibbling, reading, butcher

Posted by Picasa These creatures, which live in the Grove, eat with great intensity. As they rotate an acorn between their paws, they look as though they are praying. Or sometimes give a passable imitation of Jonny Wilkinson about to kick a penalty. Occasionally they are so busy that they forget to scamper away at the site of a bloke with a camera. "It would make a good coat, " says Heidi.

A review of a book called Magic Moments by John Sutherland fills me with longing and nostalgia. The following quotation from the book, (at the top of my wish list) sums up its subject matter - early reading: "...between the ages of 10 and 13, bookish children can be observed experiencing reading rages. They grind their eyes and push their noses against the page. They hoover up, obsessively, everything by their favourite authors ... they slow their furious pace down as they near the end, so as to savour the last, delicious drops of narrative. At no stage in life is reading more intense."

A new shop opens today in Chapel Place today. It is an old fashioned butcher's shop. Strange to say it fills a gap in Tunbridge Wells, where you would have expected old fashioned butchers' shops to flourish like retired colonels and rich, but frugal elderly ladies. Meat, poultry and game are engagingly displayed in a way that no supermarket quite manages to do. And, parked outside the shop, as though as a symbol of integrity, is an old fashioned butcher's bicycle with a large basket on the handlebars.

Friday, November 07, 2008

clematis orientalis, traffic lights, planting

Posted by Picasa The seeds of this clematis are often more impressive than the the bell-shaped yellow flowers.

Late afternoon in the town, and the changing messages of the traffic lights are reflected by the wet tarmac so that the lights and their reflections seem to be conversing with one another.

In the Grove, a solitary gardener, the sun low in the western sky, has the pleasant job, this afternoon, of planting new saplings. "Five oaks and a beech" he tells me. He saws posts in to suitable sizes (to stand about a meter above the ground) and bangs two in on either side of each tree. Also buried with each tree root is a length of hose, of which the top stands just proud of the ground, to allow economic watering precisely where it is needed, when the dry weather comes.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

window, closed, dripping

Posted by PicasaBehind the deserted cinema.

For at least a year, the shop in Mount Pleasant, which sells bed-linen, curtains, towels and the like, has had a closing-down sale. "Everything must go," a placard used to say, a note of the Apocalypse I used to think. Today the doors have closed. "Closed for good," says the placard.

On my way home, I cut across the Grove. There is a fine, soundless rain. I stop and listen. No one else is there. From the branches, where the misty rain has collected to form larger drops, the big drops fall noisily. The occasional leaf, heavy with moisture, floats down in an almost vertical direction

portrait ...election, celebration

Posted by a puddle.

On the eve of the American election, a Tunbridge Wells travel agent, which specialises in the USA, in aid of a sales promotion venture, holds a mock election. Two of its employees, wearing masks of the rival candidates, parade up and down the street called Mount Pleasant. A local tv station reporter and camera man arrives. People gather. Despite its reputation as the heart of Conservative Britain, Tunbridge Wells comes out overwhelmingly in favour of the democrat who is eventually to win the real election.

Yesterday when the results are known I have a long standing lunch engagement with Barrett Bonden, technology blogger and Proustian, at a favourite Indian restaurant. To celebrate the Obama victory we share a bottle of Champagne, which augments the usual tipple, Kingfisher beer. The owner of the restaurant says that he stayed up until 2.30 pm that morning until he was sure of the outcome. America has suddenly become a better place; and the world too, you might say. The lateness of this blog which should have been posted yesterday, is in part at least, due to the the delayed effects of Champagne and Kingfisher.