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Jane and I went up to Nethy Bridge, near Aviemore, and stayed at the Lazy Duck in one of their Eco-Lodges. Which is a cabin built for two, with electricity, gas cooking, and (distant, wobbly) wifi, right next to a large duck pond full of a variety of different species of ducks.
Loads of photos and four videos )

Interesting Links for 22-09-2017

Sep. 22nd, 2017 12:00 pm
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Interesting Links for 20-09-2017

Sep. 20th, 2017 12:00 pm

Interesting Links for 19-09-2017

Sep. 19th, 2017 12:00 pm
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The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (John Le Carré, 1963)
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (dir Martin Ritt, 1965)
A Legacy of Spies (John Le Carré, 2017)

‘Peter Guillam, staunch colleague and disciple of George Smiley of the British Secret Service, otherwise known as the Circus, has retired to his family farmstead on the south coast of Brittany when a letter from his old Service summons him to London. The reason? His Cold War past has come back to claim him. Intelligence operations that were once the toast of secret London are to be scrutinised by a generation with no memory of the Cold War. Somebody must be made to pay for innocent blood once spilt in the name of the greater good.’

From that advance plot summary, I expected A Legacy of Spies to be a follow up to the events of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or its immediate sequels. In fact, it turns out to be a quasi-sequel to The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Le Carré’s third novel but the one in which he broke out into mainstream success. I say ‘quasi-sequel’, because A Legacy of Spies revisits, and even to an extent retcons, the events of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and indeed can to a substantial extent be seen as a prequel, setting up some of the important plot points and filling in some key events between that book at Le Carré’s first novel (and introduction of George Smiley), Call for the Dead.

I’d never actually read The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, although I’d long ago seen a plot summary that revealed the key twist. (So, by the way, does this review, hence the cut below.) I read A Legacy of Spies when it came out, saw that it referred back heavily to the events of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold so then read that, and then out of curiosity watched the 1965 film, which currently features on Netflix’s list.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (book)

I won’t spend too much time on the original novel; if you’ve read it, you’ll know how good it is. If you haven’t – well, rather than have it spoiled, I suggest that you go and read it yourself. It’s short by modern standards, very readable, and although the underlying plot is complex (as much as I can say without spoilers) everything is clearly explained.

(Spoilers from here)

Discussion of crucial bits of plot )

A Legacy of Spies is highly recommended, although if you’ve not read The Spy Who Came in from the Cold I’d strongly suggest reading it beforehand. And once you’ve done so, look out the 1965 film, which stands up very well indeed.




Interesting Links for 17-09-2017

Sep. 17th, 2017 12:00 pm

Interesting Links for 16-09-2017

Sep. 16th, 2017 12:00 pm
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I am angry about subscriptions

Sep. 15th, 2017 01:13 pm
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When I rule the world the mechanism for cancelling a subscription will have to be at least as easy as the mechanism for setting one up.

So, for example*, if you can take out a subscription to the Financial Times online in about 30 seconds online, by clicking on a few options, then you should be able to cancel your subscription by clicking on something on your subscription details on their site. And they should not require you to email their support desk, reply with a second email explaining why you don't want it any more, and then answer a phone call wherein they offer it to you cheaper and then have to insist that, no, really, you don't want it any more.

The rule shall, instead, be that if ten random people take longer to unsubscribe than they did to subscribe that your home page will be replaced by a big flashing sign reading "We will treat you badly in the hope of holding on to your money."

Secondary rule: No introductory offers. Free trials are allowed (but must be easily cancellable, as above), but you can't offer new people a better deal than your existing customers. Introductory offers are a way of tricking people into signing up, and then hanging onto them when inertia stops them from cancelling/moving. Instead you must offer a good deal in the first place, which is sustainable, and which is easily compared to your competitors. I know this makes life harder for companies who are trying to hide long-term costs from their customers. I really, really, don't care.


*Or, possibly, exactly what happened to me at lunchtime.

Interesting Links for 15-09-2017

Sep. 15th, 2017 12:00 pm
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Interesting Links for 14-09-2017

Sep. 14th, 2017 12:00 pm
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Interesting Links for 13-09-2017

Sep. 13th, 2017 12:00 pm

Morris first aid

Sep. 12th, 2017 09:28 am
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 We were dancing at Swanage Folk Festival this weekend and I had the usual use of our team first aid kit, a child with a scratched finger needing a plaster (it's hardly ever team members needing it).

However, not long after, a dancer twisted a foot mid-dance. He swapped out and tossed his stick to me and we finished the dance without missing a step. After the dance was over, I got out the emergency ice pack and a crepe bandage and applied both. By the afternoon (with the bandage re-applied) he was well enough to walk the procession, but sensible enough not to try stepping.


There are days when I'm very glad that I carry that kit around wherever we go.

(The item that I deliberately included in the kit, but hope never to have to use, is an eye pad. One has to be realistic about the risk of stick injuries when it comes to Border morris.)

Apart from having the right kit to treat the injury, the other big plus for me was that the dancer in question knew I could instantly replace him and we swapped without affecting the dance at all.  I
 work hard to learn every position in every dance (which is not to say that I never make mistakes) and it means that I can fill in almost  anywhere.  Some dancers only ever learn a single position.  They'll dance second in line on the left in dance A and in position 3 in dance B and so on.

I tend to visualise dances from an overhead viewpoint, so I see the overall pattern and that means I remember "First corners cross" rather than "I swap places with Henry". I've also been dancing for most of my life, so half the patterns are second nature anyway.

Interesting Links for 11-09-2017

Sep. 11th, 2017 12:00 pm
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Dancing Horses -the one I missed!

Sep. 10th, 2017 01:41 pm
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 Yesterday at Swanage Folk Festival I was lucky enough to see one of the best dancing horses of all.  The Minehead Hobby Horse is one of a very rare breed (there's another one at Padstow, but that's about it).

It's a wild and energetic animal and it led the Swanage procession and I suspect the young man inside was totally exhausted by the end.  (I gather he had rope burns from all that energetic swinging)

Here's some footage of it from another occasion.  It's the Sailor's Horse from Minehead -which may help to explain why it looks as much like a boat as a horse, but it definitely has a tail!


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Kate G took me to see Fleabag at the Fringe. It was incredibly well written, as you can tell from the Guardian's write-up of a different production. And the performance I saw, although not performed by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, was still magnificent. Bleak, funny, touching, and at one point had me cringing horribly in my seat. Totally worth seeing if any productions come anywhere near you.

And then Jane and I watched the TV series. Which was not _quite_ as bleak at the play, but did a fantastic job of turning a 1-hour play into two and a half hours of TV. Well worth tracking down, and I'm looking forward to seeing what she does with season two.

The Galloway Hoard at the National Museum of Scotland. Jane and I have memberships, so we went to see a talk on this, and then went back a few days later to see the hoard itself. It's a remarkable find, and one of the most significant Viking finds ever in Scotland. They're trying to raise the money to keep it in public hands, so if you'd like to help with that click here. While we were there we also went to see the Bonnie Prince Charlie exhibition, which made me realise how little I knew about that chunk of Scottish history. Fascinating stuff, particularly starting from a position of no knowledge. I must do some reading.

The Great British Bake-Off. Scandalously, I'd never watched any of this, so Jane introduced me to season two before we watched the new season, so I could see what it was like before it moved to Channel 4. I enjoyed it, and am now enjoying the new season just as much. I know that the faithful will be missing Mel and Sue dreadfully, but I'm quite enjoying the Sandi Toskvig/Noel Fielding relationship, and the only real negative to me is having to fast-forward through the advertising.

Wind River. Gorgeously shot and acted, this is a solid thriller/crime story set in beautiful countryside. A death in a Native American reservation in snow-covered Wyoming provides an excuse to dig under the surface of what the bleak surroundings do to people lives and relationships. It's not quite as good as it could be, but it's solidly entertaining. The main drawback is that they've dropped two white people into the central roles, and the female roles are all weaker than the male ones. I was hoping, at least, for Elizabeth Olsen's FBI agent to be an equal partner with Jeremy Renner's tracker, and for the two of them to fill in each other's weaknesses. As it was, you could have removed her from the film and not lost a huge amount of the plot. And you could have made him a Native American without losing anything from the plot. Still worth seeing, but could have been done better.
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