Tuesday, 23 December 2014


A wise man heeds the voice of his son. 

The world is composed of order and chaos, of love and conflict. Where do we find ourselves on this axis? Have a look and ask yourself. You might be surprised. 

Saturday, 29 November 2014



The doors opened. He quickly cast a practised eye down the carriage and spotted an open seat. They were like gold dust, with commuters slumped silently in this moving sepulchre, each person in their own private world. Gratefully he eased himself down, and assumed what he called the position, his rucksack on his knees, his wrists looped through the straps on each side, his arms thus balanced needing no armrest. After thirty years of commuting on the Tube, he had developed the ability to fall asleep in this position almost immediately, head erect, feet flat on the ground, knees evenly spaced. At this time of year, with the shortest day only a week away, the distinction between day and night was horribly out of kilter. Life was lived in a crepuscular funk, the grey of London sleepwalking each day through different shades eventually to black, only to start the same cycle all over again. Christmas was less than a month away, but with his children long since gone, the familiar mixture of angst and creativity (what present should he be getting?) had dulled with time, replaced with a vague sense of dread. Life should be lived forward but remembered backward, he had read somewhere, but at this point in his life the road ahead seemed very short, and the rear view mirror filled with too many images and feelings.

He closed his eyes, but having been ill the previous week, he was not hopeful that sleep would come easily. The antibiotics he had been given heightened his senses, he thought. Each cough or sniffle down the carriage was a coded signal for his body to react in the same way, and he didn't want to give into another coughing jag. All he heard was the rustling of papers, the squeal of the brakes as the train stopped, and the mellifluous tones of the pre-recorded announcements. He gave up on sleep and began glancing around at his fellow passengers, oblivious to his attentions.

Across from him sat a middle-aged woman in black with precision-cut highlighted blonde hair, Anna Wintour-style. She was very thin with wrinkled skin like parchment and her mouth was set in a permanent frown. Her eyes were fluttering, and it was clear she would have no trouble whatsoever falling asleep, he noted jealously. Her lids drooped, opened, drooped again, fluttered, and stayed shut. Her head pitched forward onto her chest (too thin to call it anything but a chest), and he noticed the tiniest chink in her otherwise perfect coiffure, the faintest hint of her dark roots. Sic transit gloria mundi, he thought to himself, and his gaze turned elsewhere. The train stopped, a seat came free diagonally opposite to his right, and a young girl sat down. He looked at her. His wife always admonished him for staring at people in public. His rejoinder was that it was not staring, but observing. 

The girl was twenty-ish, dressed in de rigeur jeans, and somewhat anachronistic Doc Martins. Her ears were pierced in several places, with a delicate hoop through the top of one ear. No tats, as far as he could tell. She would only be called edgy by someone on his side of the age divide. She wasn't beautiful, but striking. Yes, striking, that was it. Her hair was plaited and wound up from the nape of her neck in a lopsided bun. Her face was like a painting, long like a Modigliani painting, with a thin nose and lips which seemed too narrow for her face, as if they had been painted on.  A Madonna with no child possibly. He was intrigued. Because of the angle, he could observe unnoticed. She was unaware of him, or if she noticed, she didn't care. That was for certain, but was par for the course. He had long since reconciled himself with the unpalatable fact that he had become for all intents and purposes, invisible. Especially to anyone under thirty.

The woman in front of him, her head at an unnatural angle, started and woke up. He looked at her but her eyes registered nothing, and her mouth remained fixed downward. He threw in the towel, and put on his earphones and closed his eyes. By and by, a sad song came on called Lost Soul,  one which for him had taken on a special poignancy. It was a duet and the lyrics, like all good lyrics, seemed to have been written for him.

He sat alone with a pencil in his hand
All day long he drew careful on the paper
In the end just a picture of a man

Just a picture of a man. Too right, he thought. Aren't we all just pictures of ourselves?

When the chorus came on and the singers' harmonies meshed perfectly, he felt a lump in his throat.

A lost soul coming down the road somewhere between two worlds.

He opened his eyes, and for some reason his attention was drawn directly to the girl at right.  Her face was turned in his direction, but she was not looking at him. Gazing at her own thoughts, possibly. But slowly her eyes welled up, and a tear fell from her eye onto her left cheek. She wiped it away, but not self-consciously. She was lost in herself.

He looked around the carriage. No one else looked up. He looked back at her and her eyes were still welling.

What makes people do the things they do? Our lives are full of days identical save the scissor cut, like those paper dolls cut from patterns which string out once they are unfolded. What makes one of those paper dolls step out and start dancing on their own? What makes a certain moment special, or even memorable?

He closed his eyes and began to imagine what possibly had made this girl cry. He thought back on his past, a distant past when youthful feelings fresh as snow were now buried in the permafrost of his memory. He was lucky to have married young, the best decision he had ever made, but this had nothing to do with his wife, or indeed his life. People cry when they see autumn trees in a mist, at movies, for the most obscure reasons. Who could ever know the real reason?

Impulsively he opened his rucksack and pulled out his notebook and a pen, turned to a page near the back which he could afford to tear out, and began to write. Urgently, the words poured out.

I don't know who you are
I don't know why a tear
Is falling down your face
I don't know what or who
Has caused this pain
And led you here to this sad and lonely place

He looked up. He closed his eyes and thought a moment, and continued writing. The words came a little harder, as if he were wrestling with a deadline.

Still I know no matter what
Moments like these will never last
You may think heartbreak is the danger
But as sure as tomorrow shall come
Heed the timeworn words of this old stranger:
This too shall pass

He read what he had written. He looked at the girl. Her expression had not changed. She of course had no idea what was going through his mind. Nor should she. He tore out the page, and folded it.

He had made up his mind what he was going to do.

He always acted on impulse. Over the course of his lifetime, sometimes it worked, and sometimes not. But once an idea came into his head, no matter how crazy, he generally acted on it.

The train came to the next station. The young girl got up from her seat and came towards him to exit, as he was sitting right by the door. As she passed by, he reached out and touched her arm. She paused, and looked at him. Excuse me, he said, and handed her the piece of paper. Their eyes met briefly, a quizzical look replaced by an infinitesimal moment of what...recognition? Her brow knitted. She took the note and hurried past. The doors closed.

He sat back in his seat and looked around. No one else had seen this moment. The woman in front of him was fast asleep, her head pitched forward as before. He remembered what he had read about practising random acts of kindness daily. This thought comforted him. He closed his eyes and turned up his music, now on a happy song. Maybe individuals can make a difference.


Chloe was late. She was supposed to meet Justin at Sloane Square, but just before she got to the station he had texted her. Sorry, hun. Can't make it. Something came up. Hun. She hated when he called her that. Something. It was always something. This was just another in a long series of disappointments kept. What an asshole, she thought to herself as she sat down. She would just go home. Another evening ruined. She started to feel sorry for herself, and her eyes stung with anger and regret.  

She stayed on the train to Barons Court. Maybe she would go buy groceries and fix herself a meal.  As she turned to get off the carriage, some man touched her on her arm. She looked at him uncomprehendingly. What the hell? He handed her a folded piece of paper. She rushed off the train. 

What was that about? she thought to herself. 

She unfolded it and started to read it.

I don't know who you are.....

Just what I need, she thought. She read no more, crumpled the piece of paper, and tossed it on the platform before heading up the stairs and out into the night.


The old school is no more.
Everyone is yearning
No one is learning
Society is burning
Yet the world just keeps on turning.
Wake up people.
Before it is too late.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014


With post-nasal drip. 

I know. It is not the next line you were looking for. But that is my life this week.

My friend Tom Wells told me he cracked a rib once from a coughing jag. Sure, I thought to myself when he told me. Hard to imagine. Not any more. My ribs are sore. I have gone through four boxes of tissues. I briefly blacked out and hit the closet door after one particular violent upheaval, anything to get that grotesque cloying, tickling, gagging effluence out of my body. Suffocating from within. And all because of some microscopic organism, or even worse, a collection of RNA strands coming from God-knows-where, invisible to all but an electron microscope, which have latched onto my cells like some unwanted interloper and have wreaked havoc. At least it is not Ebola.

But back to this post-nasal drip thing. The body's answer to Chinese water torture, a slow steady almost imperceptible stream that courses down the back of your throat while you lie there trying to fall asleep, timed precisely to hit critical mass (expectorable mass, or hocking velocity for the uninitiated) at the exact moment you have dozed off again, setting off another involuntary reaction of coughing.

What kind of sadistic barbarian invented this body defense mechanism? I have done the lot. Sleeping propped up on two pillows to steepen the angle of attack. Lozenges. Night Nurse. Day Nurse. Robitussin. Olbas steam inhaling (now there's a good one, if you want to try and see your body turn itself inside out once that supercharged eucalyptus steam hits your lungs). A brief respite, but only brief. The more times you wake up, the more tired you get, the more your body fights, the more you wake up, the more tired you get and on and on. It has been four days. At least now I can write about it.

I know what you are thinking. Man up, you big baby. Self-indulgent claptrap. Yeah...well you're probably right. Pretty small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. 

But I have gotten it off my chest, if not out of my chest, if you catch my drift. 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014


...though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are-
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, yet strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Brian sent this, forwarded on by Ned, and it sums up the spirit of the weekend. It shall be engraved on the trophy.
To quote the polar explorer Ernest Shackleton: The old dog for the hard road.

Thursday, 6 November 2014



Williamsburg Va
31st October-1st November 2014

Two days of intense competition 
The USA vs. Europe in tennis/golf and the substitute sport, bowling.

To celebrate the birthday of Randy Case

Andrew, Rob, Chad, Ned, Eric, Randy, Mike, Tom
with Brian and Robbie

 The awards ceremony

The Captains, Eric (Europe) and Randy (USA)

Brian and Ned

                             Andrew                                               Mike

                               Ned                 Rob and Eric

           Papa Case                                     Tom and Mike

 Shelley feeds the masses
 The CASE clan, including Papa and Mama Case
 The Golden Horshoe

 Los Tres Amigos
The BB (Big Ben)  Trophy and the Runner UP EPIC FAIL! button

The US won, and put down the first marker (see red square). The next one will be in Spain in May 2016, when Europe will try and put in the next blue brick.  See you there!

It was all about friendship, really.

Thanks to Rob Case for his photos!

Saturday, 11 October 2014


In 1974, as a student in the UK, I took a train from Edinburgh to London, sharing a compartment with a young squaddie back from duty in Northern Ireland. A ginger-haired Geordie with bad teeth and long bright red sideboards out of kilter with his close-cropped hair, I personally witnessed him drink 19 bottles of Newkie Brown (and somehow miraculously not pass out) whilst he railed on about life in the Army. I was a young product of US Southern life of roughly the same age, and I was amazed, appalled, and frightened, to be frank, as he would tilt over towards me and confide in beery breath: "British army, Best in the world, mate". I would nod and resume nursing the beers he proffered me as his drinking taillights disappeared into the distance.

I saw the movie '71 last night about a young squaddie in Belfast in 1971, and I was taken back to that train compartment, and I realised that then, and perhaps now, I just did not have a feckin' clue.

'71 is an astounding first film from Yann Demange about the kaleidoscopic moral inferno which was Northern Ireland at that time. It is a film where the bad guys are indistinguishable from the good guys, where fear, hatred, intimidation, treachery, manipulation, strength, frailty, stupidity and even mercy all exist side by side in a hellish maelstrom. The hero is a young squaddie from Derbyshire played brilliantly by Jack O'Connell (watch him and learn) who is caught behind enemy lines (ie. on the wrong side of the street in Catholic Belfast) when a house search goes horrible wrong, a riot ensues, and he is separated from his squad with a fellow squaddie who gets his face blown off. O'Connell is the type of actor who says little but says everything with a glance, a dip of the head. His performance is mesmerising, and halfway through the movie you find you have been drawn into his terror, your stomach knotted with fear, as somehow he has to survive the night and escape in an utterly alien landscape with, as they say "the enemy within."

There are almost too many fine performances to pick out. Kudos to Demange for extracted every last ounce from everybody, and making everyone very very believable. There is an astounding cameo from a young Loyalist kid old way beyond his years, the nephew of a para-military commander who intimidates everyone twice his size as he roams the night plotting against the Finian basterds. There are so many discordant notes in this symphony: the rat faced ruthless intelligence officer, the posh lieutenant in way over his head, the West Indian staff sergeant trying to mold young scared soldiers who can't see who they are fighting or why, the dead eyed young IRA footsoldier press-ganged by the Provos into becoming a gunman, the ex-Army doctor and his daughter who save O'Connell's life. It is a world where black and white have long disappeared into the grey of moral confusion from which no-one emerges unscathed. 

And this is all woven by the gifted conductor Demange into a masterwork which captures the sharp ambiguity, if that is possible, of those times. As I replayed the movie in my mind in the middle of the night (always a sign of a very good film) it brought back those memories of a naive schoolboy next to a drunk boy who had already become a man whether he wanted to or not. I really didn't have a feckin' clue. 


Friday, 5 September 2014

250. A film of film

A film of film
 D. Eric Pettigrew
      Music by 
Roman Tobias Pettigrew

250 images. 250 memories. 250 moments in a life.

Thursday, 24 July 2014


I saw a programme about India's Hill Railways. At one point, a man who had been married for 28 years and whose obvious happiness was borne in the love he shared with his wife, said the following about marriage.

Marriage is about four Ts.






True words. Simple. But simple things last.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


These are three views of the same painting in our friend's house in Asthall, a painting which changes as you walk down the hall in much the same manner as the eyes which follow you around the room. It is all a matter of perspective, as explained Leonardo Da Vinci in his notebook. Mathematics. The brain. The vanishing point. Perspective.


June 2014

Wednesday, 4 June 2014


Where does a road lead? Away, especially if you have resolved not to turn back. Locke is a road movie, but a road movie unlike any you have seen before. One road, one man, one night. A journey inside the mind and heart of a man whose life is about to change forever. A road trip which hurtles unavoidably towards a denouement and proves that an action movie needn't have much action in order to be taut, compelling, and totally engaging.

Locke is a construction project manager responsible for pouring the foundation of gargantuan buildings. His character is like the concrete he pours; dense, slow, measured, and ultimately solid. Each pour is a complicated mix of materials, men, red tape, and timing, and there is no room for mistakes. Everything must be perfect. First time. Only time.  Except it isn't, of course. Humans are involved, with all their foibles. There is a crack in the edifice, and the crack has to do with a woman. Locke is leaving his job to attend the birth of a child he has fathered as the result of a one-night stand with an unstable older woman who has made her own choice. They don't know it yet, but he is leaving behind his wife and the two boys he adores. He is also quitting his job the night before the biggest non-nuclear project pour ever in Europe.

But you don't know this immediately (unless you have read this). All you know are the hands-free phone conversations that Locke (played immaculately by Tom Hardy in a mellifluous Welsh accent) has with his boss, his Irish tippler assistant Donal, his wife and kids, and the other woman. All you see is Locke's face and the reflections of the lights in the rain as the road draws him inexorably through the night towards London and an uncertain future.

Locke is faced with a perfect storm of unpalatable choices of his own creation. His dialogue with his wife (played admirably by Ruth Wilson), his other woman and his work colleagues are excruciating. And exhausting. The night rolls on. Locke has to decide. The road or concrete. Crack, or crack on.

A must see.

Five stars. 

Tuesday, 20 May 2014


May 2014

Burlington Vt
April 2014

Monday, 28 April 2014


I wrote this many years ago, for my friends John and Lynn Herbert. Our lives are intertwined.

I have dedicated this to my wife Christina, who has shown me after 34 years just what love means, and has taken me down the corridors of my heart.

And the music is by my son Toby, who has written so many songs that are etched on my heart, knowing that he too will open a door in the corridor of his life.

Thursday, 24 April 2014



Burlington VT
April 2014

Tuesday, 8 April 2014


De gustibus non est disputandum.

Interesting wine labels in the Burlington Coop. 

Burlington VT
Apr 2014

Friday, 4 April 2014


A roundabout in Winooski Vermont is an unlikely place to find world class cuisine, one would think. Unless of course you have the practiced eye for interesting places my wife has, who spotted this gem on one of our daily pilgrimages into Burlington, where we were visiting our son. And what a spot!

Many years ago, Jon Landau of Rolling Stone wrote: I have seen the future of rock and roll and his name is Bruce Springsteen. In a strange kind of way, this creative eatery has broken the mold, and has built a new paradigm for a food lover's future. Descended from the experiences of seasoned food truck connoisseurs brother and sister Nathaniel and Laura Wade and friend/husband Aaron Josinsky, they have created a way of presenting food which is at the same time profoundly creative and somehow familiar. MLC (it has established itself enough to be referred to as an initial) describes itself on the sign: Luncheonette, Bar, Supper. An open plan kitchen/bar transforms itself from a jaw-dropping and reasonably priced purveyor of lunchtime sandwiches (for instance, a Reubenesque Dunnski or a take on fried chicken Frank's Buffalo Hot Sauce sandwich and the spectacular cholesterol-infused Filthy Fries which meld crispy fries, pork belly, parmesan dust and a├»oli mayonnaise) into a highly, highly sophisticated restaurant at night. 

Misery Loves Company reminds me of two morphed tapas places which are favourites from my travels: Helsinki's Javintola Juuri ( which means root and spawned Sapas or Suomi Tapas) and London's The Shed, which has Mouthfuls, Fast Cooked and Slow Cooked tapas. MLC changes the format. You can either have small starters (Snacks $6-9), medium Plates ($12-15) or Full On Meat and Three ($38 up). The latter scared me off, until I saw the portions and realised this is feed-a-small-family fare and includes three generous side portions. But let's not quibble about the price. What price a lifetime memory?

Forgive me playing the Mr World Traveller foodie card.  This is astounding stuff. 

To wit, chicken wings marinated in fermented black beans and smoked in MLC's own smoker. Yubu cheese with fried soya milk film crisps (or some such, I got lost in the explanation by the voluble and friendly bartender). They make their own cheese, and the by-products are used as flavourings. For instance, in a dish called Aged Raw Beef, Brown Cheese, and Mustard Sprouts which had me scratching my head and wondering how the hell they do something so sublime, Chef Aaron explained. The brown cheese is whey from a Danish cheese they make which is reduced 90% to leave an acidic residue which they use instead of citrus. Yes, this IS rocket science. And art. And finger-as-squeegee food. We left not a single morsel. Not one.

So where does the misery come in? It seems the journey from food truck to restaurant has taken 11 years, and gaining this level of sophistication has been, well... Miserable with a capital M. Worth it if there is company to share the fruits of your labour with, I guess. There is a french saying which says: Pain is the art entering the apprentice. And make no mistake about this place. This is food art at the highest level. In Winooski, or anywhere for that matter.

Five stars. 

Sunday, 9 March 2014



A poem for a friend.
A song by my son.
A picture for each memory.

Thursday, 6 February 2014


Robber Barons of Sleaze
Flim-flam men
From the Temple of Greed
Bad seed
Shameless scammers
Whose veins course
With Bad Intent
Masked in bonhomie
They murder sleep
If you let them
Better to bleed words
On a page
And let them carry thoughts
Down a dark stream
To the black bay
And wash away
And wash away
To sleep
And start afresh
Another day.

Monday, 27 January 2014


A memorable night which affirmed the saying: You can't make old friends. Lovely to share the moment with people we have had the honour of knowing from all over the world.

Missing in this photo are John, Lynn (Herb was ill unfortunately with a Asian bug), and Joyce, who took the picture because I was so lame I could figure out how the autotimer worked.