Sunday, 30 March 2008

Making websites

During a break from blogging I have been looking at websites again. I haven't set up any new ones for some months because of the travails caused by my former webhost, but now that is all over and I have a large amount of diskspace to spare in my domains I am going to start again. I make websites mainly for charities, friends and acquaintances or anyone who would like to have one and has no time or inclination to bother with designing one, registering a domain name and so on. This is the sort of thing I do:

for small businesses...

...for artists

...or for musicians.

So, if there are any readers of Other Men's Flowers who would like to look at the details HERE and then form an orderly queue, I shall be happy to hear from them.

Friday, 28 March 2008

The Prince's eggs

Jeremy Paxman, in his book On Royalty, repeated a story he had been told by "one of the prince's friends" about the boiled egg that Charles enjoys after a day's hunting: it is alleged that seven of them are cooked for different times so that he can select the one that has exactly the desired degree of hardness.

Paxman describes this as so preposterously extravagant as to be unbelievable, but does not dismiss it out of hand, saying that it can sound credible because so many jaw-dropping stories have emerged about the way the prince's household is run.

Whether it is true or not, this suggestion hurt Charles so much that he found it necessary to have a denial published on his official website, though whoever wrote this obviously hadn't read the book because the allegation is quoted as referring to a breakfast egg, and even the eccentric Charles can hardly have a day's hunting before breakfast.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

A hat for a Head of State?

This man, Ma Ying-jeou, a candidate for the presidency of Taiwan, is wearing a traditional aboriginal headress which he clearly believes may improve his chances. He may well be mistaken in this, but the Reuters photo appeared in at least one European national daily so he is certainly ahead of all his rivals in terms of world-wide publicity.

He looks a jolly fellow; let us all wish him the best of luck.
P.S. Since I wrote this last week, it has been announced that he did win the election.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Comme d'Habitude

Four years ago I discovered that My Way was a French song and posted a rather feeble note remarking unjustifiably that the French words didn't seem to fit the tune. This month was the thirtieth anniversary of the death of Claude François, who composed the original version, and Marcel Berlins in the Guardian makes some much more pertinent observations.

In French, the singer tells how he tries to carry on as usual while his love is ending. When Paul Anka put English words to it, with Frank Sinatra in mind, he turned a "delicate French song about love, loss and regret into a crass hymn to selfishness, an excuse not to care for anyone else's feelings and a justification for bad and boorish behaviour. The rhythm of the music has changed too, from sentimental to aggressive, from I'm so sad to Screw you".

Yes, indeed. But Berlins reflects that while François may have resented this, he would have been consoled to some extent by the large royalty cheques that flowed in (and are still going to his estate).

You can hear the what the somewhat androgynous Claude made of it here.

Saturday, 22 March 2008


I have long hated the taste and smell of this without ever having heard of it, for I have only just discovered that it is another name for coriander. I don't care if Cato recommended chopped fresh coriander as a garnish to encourage an invalid's appetite; great Roman statesman or no, the man was clearly a silly old fool, for its taste is foul.

The etymology of the word says it all: it derives from the Greek koris, meaning bedbug, and the foliage of the plant has an odour which has been compared, unfavourably, with the smell of bug-infested bedclothes.

(The seeds are another matter, and used in cakes, stews, breads and, for example, garam masala, are a pleasant aromatic spice with no reminder of the vile taste and stench of the leaves.)

Of course, anything which repels people of cultivated tastes—Tony Blair, say, or the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber—always has its admirers among the undiscriminating, and there are a few websites expressing their aberrant views. Happily, these are far outnumbered by sites like this one, based on the reasonable premise that no normally functioning human being would ever in a lifetime consider coriander/cilantro edible.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

What matter to me if their star is a world?

[Robert Browning]

There is a restaurant twenty miles from where we live which we have visited as often as we could ever since it opened, for it is the best within fifty miles. This year it gained a Michelin star, and we feel slightly superior to the riff-raff who are now flocking to it just because a tyre manufacturer in Clermont-Ferrand says it's good.

Of course the extra business a star brings is not to be sneezed at, and happily the prices have not yet soared and the food and service is still exemplary; the only change for old customers is that one has to book even longer in advance than before. For the staff, however, the influx of braying foodies holding their wine up to the light and generally showing off their knowledge by being demanding is something of a downside. But we usually go at unfashionable times when the other diners are mostly, like us, quiet browsers and sluicers, and we will continue to go as often as we can.

I won't mention the name or location of the restaurant because it doesn't need advertising (it never did), but we are not so selfish as to want to to keep such a treasure all to ourselves. It may well be that there are readers of Other Men's Flowers who would like to visit it, so any attractive and amusing couples who live in south-east England have only to send me an email inviting my family and me to be their guests at dinner there, with a bottle or two of some modest claret and perhaps a couple of glasses of the 1963 Dow to finish with, and I will be happy to suggest a convenient date, reserve our favourite table and give full directions for finding the place.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Choo kiko wapi?

Any old East Africa hand will tell you that that this is how you say Where is the toilet? in Swahili.

Happily, I have spent very little time in Dar es Salaam and have never thought it important to memorise this phrase or indeed to learn Swahili. In fact it is a long time since I set out to learn any languages at all; I first started to acquire a knowledge of colloquial English many years ago and I am now as fluent in it as one needs to be to cope with everyday life, though of course I have forgotten much and sometimes have to pause when writing or speaking while I struggle to find the right word.

But for the past three weeks I have been wrestling with a new and difficult language called Apple. Having realised after a quarter of a century of subservience to William Gates III that there is a world outside DOS and Windows which should be explored, I have acquired a MacBook. Through something called a Time Capsule (a menacing little white box which gets hot) it connects to an assortment of venerable equipment (though not, sadly, to my lovely old black 1985 vintage Apricot, which sits on a shelf in proud isolation), and I have to communicate with this dissonant assemblage in two different tongues.

It's rather like a European trying to learn Japanese: easy enough to remember that doitashi mashite means you're welcome, and that F11 on a Mac does the same as Windows-Shift-M on a PC, but the whole mindset is different: you have to unlearn things that always seemed naturally right, and acquire habits that seem perverse.

Anyway, during March I have made some progress, thanks to the help of a kind friend who set it all up and is instructing me in the arcane rituals of Macdom; besides being a poet of note he is a technological genius with more than a decade of Mac experience behind him, and today is his birthday.

I haven't as yet done anything useful with the MacBook, but I have played happily and created some pretty things, like this display of a selection of my websites and blogs:
[I shall not report further progress or indeed return at all to this topic; I do not wish to be like Stephen Fry, an erudite and witty man who nowadays spends much of his time writing unspeakably tedious articles extolling the virtues of various bits of electronic kit that take his fancy.]

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Recycling (1)

Recycling, v. According to the OED, the word was first seen in print in 1926 in the Journal of the Institute of Petroleum Technologists, referring to an industrial process.

It was not used figuratively until forty years later, and ever since then all kinds of things have been re-cycled: hot money (Guardian, 1969); the output of the secondary schools (Nature, 1973); workers without jobs (Black Panther, 1973); fads (Weekend Magazine, Montreal, 1974); OPEC funds (Newsweek, 1974); repeat offenders (Washington Post, 1978), and so on, to this day.

I'm punctilious about putting bottles, paper, and plastic containers out for re-cycling, and it has now occurred to me that I should take the same care with the contents of Other Men's Flowers. Of course, the 741 posts currently mouldering in OMF's archives are unlikely to cause large-scale pollution , or to contribute towards global warming by giving off methane, so they are not an environmental hazard: it is a question of energy-saving, an equally important concern. If at least some of these items are re-used there will be a huge reduction in the amount of energy expended in creating new ones.

So I have decided that, starting today, the first post in every month will consist entirely of some old items, unchanged but dusted off and economically re-packaged with merely a note of the category and a description linked to the original. All these appeared in 2004:

Are actresses all actors these days?

Pea-pushing: A sport in decline

An inspired choice of a screen name

Noël Coward speaks

Comparing the great ones

A sly tribute to Somerset Maugham