The Last Day of Our Acquaintance

The news about Sinead O’Connor in recent years hasn’t been good, so sadly her death last month wasn’t as much of a shock as, say, Dolores O’Riordan’s, but it’s still awful. She would have made a brilliant elderly firebrand. An interview with Shirley Manson of Garbage on how the world destroyed her idol rings so true.

The video of her cover with the late Terry Hall of 1970 Eurovision winner Dana’s “All Kinds of Everything” is lovely, especially the moments where her face lights up. It’s available on her Collaborations album of 2005, if you’re wanting to track down a clean recording.

I hope we’ll get to hear her delayed—and now final—album, No Veteran Dies Alone.

20 August 2023

One in the Breech

It started with a tweet highlighting an episode from On the Air, a series of short animations from BBC Northern Ireland of talk radio from The Gerry Anderson Show dating back to the 2000s. The hypno-hen soon went viral, and now the late broadcaster’s family have set up a website in his honour.

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2 October 2022

The Royal Mile

Procession of the Queen’s coffin up Edinburgh’s Royal Mile
Click through for a gallery.

I was in at the office today, with its view onto Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. As we approached the starting time of the procession of the Queen’s coffin to St Giles, I ducked downstairs to take some photos, joining some colleagues behind the locked gates of Moray House. After twenty minutes the chatter died down and a sea of arms pointed their phones downhill; members of security walked past, followed by two officers on horseback, the hearse, and the King and his siblings walking slowly behind; then a string of cars, one with Camilla, the rest all Range Rovers; and then it was over.

Apart from a barking dog and a crying baby, the crowd was hushed at our part of the Mile. A few moments earlier, though, a protestor had let Prince Andrew know what he thought.

This procession only took place because the Queen died in Scotland; otherwise the focus would have remained on London. I don’t expect to see another like it in my lifetime, even if I’m around for another king.

12 September 2022

A Normal Day

UK newspapers after the death of the Queen
Our local corner shop yesterday.

Electronic billboards across the land are displaying pictures of the Queen against a black background, making it look like we’re hosting the world’s biggest philately convention. Paddington has sent his condolences. The royal beekeeper has informed the Queen’s bees that the Queen (though presumably not their queen) has died. Even the Cromwell Museum has retweeted the local mayor’s condolences.

Any understandable sympathy one might feel for the human beings at the centre of all this is going to be stretched to the limit by this marathon of mourning. Twelve days is longer than some overseas trips.

At some point in the next day or so, Edinburgh residents will have the chance to file past the Queen’s coffin in St Giles. Given that we’re here, it would seem a missed historic opportunity not to add to the throng, and so despite having exceeded my annual royal threshold I imagine we will. Please adjust your estimates of the scale of monarchist grief accordingly.

(I’m reliably informed that “telling the bees is a tradition in many European countries in which bees would be told of important events in their keeper’s lives such as births, marriages and departures and returns in the household”. Feeding the workers’ obsession with the lives of their keepers, eh—more relevant than I thought.)

10 September 2022 · 2 Comments

The Head on the Coins


I really couldn’t be bothered posting about the inevitable ascent this week of Liz Truss, fourth in a line of decreasingly appealing and increasingly appalling Conservative prime ministers, but I suppose I’d better mark the day when we woke up as subjects of Queen Elizabeth II and will go to bed as subjects of King Charles III. It’s my first experience of the death of a British monarch, and provided I stick around for the average lifespan won’t be my last.

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8 September 2022


Sir Clive Sinclair, who launched countless programming careers, has died at the age of (ZX) 81.

No one in Australia would remember him for his failed C5 electric trike (we never saw them, except on news reports), but a mate in high school had a ZX81, and I still remember pressing my fingertips firmly on its flat plastic keyboard. Even though it couldn’t do much, it looked great, with its sharp black corners and red lettered logo, like KITT from Knight Rider. In rural Tasmania in the early 1980s, it was pretty cutting-edge.

I can’t think of too many of the personal computers of the time that were so closely associated with a single individual. None of us knew who’d founded Acorn, or who the Vic was behind the VIC-20. Even Apple had two Steves, not one. Clive was one of a kind.

18 September 2021

A Walk in the Black Forest

Tim Brooke-Taylor, one third of the legendary comedy trio The Goodies, has died of Covid-19. A contemporary and sometime-colleague of the Monty Python team, he appeared in the original version of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch on At Last the 1948 Show, and was also a member of the long-running BBC radio panel show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue. But to a generation of children in Britain, Australia and elsewhere, he was the Union-Jack-waistcoat-wearing Tim from The Goodies, the BBC television comedy show that dominated the 1970s.

I’ve been feeling particularly bereft since seeing this news today, as Tim and the rest of the Goodies were giants of my childhood TV-viewing in Australia. I’d been rewatching some episodes with my daughter in recent months, and he was just as brilliant in them as I’d remembered, even if some episodes haven’t aged as well as others. On radio, he sounded as sharp as ever, well into his seventies.

Goodbye, you wonderful, funny man.

12 April 2020

Not Funny

The death of Terry Jones the other day left me wanting to write everything about what he meant to me as a young fan of comedy, which meant I ended up writing nothing. Here he is talking about his dementia in 2017. What a gift to us all his life and work were.

Commenting on the death of Nicholas Parsons is more manageable, if only because his legacy was more focussed. Growing up in Australia I knew him only from The Goodies, where he was a regular target of jokes—affectionate ones, I realised in hindsight, although they were clearly having a go at a side of him that came across (from a younger man) as smarmy and patronising. After moving to the UK I grew to love listening to him on Just a Minute, and am glad I was able to do so for almost two decades; how extraordinary that that was less than half of his reign on the show.

31 January 2020