‘… Rowe’

This week, having had the astounding privilege of welcoming a new baby called Ivy into our family, I've been wracking my brains to find a decent answer to the question, 'What will I call my children?'

It's a difficult question, you see, since any soubriquet will have to compliment the existing surname.  But I have put in the work.  Here are some names that might precede Rowe with the required degree of elegance/insouciance:

Fay (or Fair)

Plus, if one becomes a professional wrestler, there's always:


Children.  For me.  Aren't you just longing for that day?

The Enduring Beauty of the Public House

'We dined at an excellent inn at Chapel House, where Johnson expatiated on the felicity of England in its taverns and inns, and triumphed over the French for not having, in any perfection, the tavern life:


There is no private house [said he] in which people can enjoy themselves so well, as at a capital tavern.  Let there be ever so great plenty of good things, ever so much grandeur, ever so much elegance, ever so much desire that everybody should be easy; in the nature of things it cannot be: there must always be some degree of care and anxiety.
master of the house is anxious to entertain his guests; the guests are anxious to be agreeable to him; and no man (but a very impudent dog indeed) can as freely command what is in another man's house, as if it were his own.
Whereas, at a tavern, there is a general freedom from anxiety.  You are sure you are welcome: and the more noise you make, the more trouble you give, the more good things you call for, the welcomer you are…  No sir, there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn.'

[Boswell, recording the words of Dr Johnson, in about 1775]

Uncle MisterDavid

I have an Uncle David (my Mum's brother), and now – I AM ONE!!

Get in!!!

My sister gave birth to a little (well, actually quite big – 8lb 9) scraggle of helpless humanity this afternoon, just in time for Mother's Day :)  I talked to them about half an hour ago, and heard a crackling cry.  Fricking hardcore.

So anyway, huge congratulations to Matt & Sarah and their new little girl:

Ivy-Mei Sullivan


A Few Thoughts on Technique

One of the truly perspective-changing things I've come into contact with this year has been the concept of technique – it's been written about by loads of people, but the main guy was a Frenchman called Jacques Ellul.  He died in the early nineties.  The reason that technique has been such an eye-opener is because it's such a simple concept, but its application is so widespread that it has kind of changed the way I look at pretty much everything.

Very simply speaking, technique describes how we humans are constantly attempting to make things easier or better for ourselves by inventing more advanced methods (usually involving technology), but that, having created these systems, we become dependent on and enslaved by them and end up forgetting what it was that we had wanted in the first place.

However, the easiest way to explain the concept is to give examples, so here are some clumsy attempts:

School is technique
We have no need for it, in order to become educated, but to make it easier for governments to standardise education – so that everyone gets taught the same stuff to vaguely the same standard – we have this huge system.  Unfortunately, we've kind of forgotten what on earth we wanted to be educated for.  To pass exams?

Democracy is technique
It was invented to give every citizen a say in national leadership, so that life could be better for the ordinary person.  But in the last ten years, we've had wars fought and people killed with democracy itself as the big utilitarian Greater Good – as if putting an X in a box was ever really supposed to be an end in itself.

Money is technique
It was invented so that bartering could be standardised, but now it (and the amassing of it) has become the assumed goal in our society.  To own lots of pieces of metal.

iPhones are technique
They have been brought about because of the demand to have constant access to everything that might be needed, all of the time.  Unfortunately, they also mean that poor, overworked businesswomen can no longer genuinely go home from work.  Yes dear, it may help you advance in your career, but is your career really the reason you are alive?

Blogs are technique
In an ideal world, we would all have the people we most care about living a few streets away, but instead we are all flung to the nations, unable to cross paths without astounding expense.  Therefore, it sometimes helps to have a way of keeping vaguely up-to-date with our long-lost loves, and to process out loud in their digital presence.  But it's a poor second best to a cosy pub or a grassy bank.

And this is Kenneth Williams, pointing out the drawback in the technique of specialised expertise; that the cleverer we get, the more ignorant we are about everything about which we are not expert:

[hence my longing to be a Renaissance Man – to be passably reasonable at pretty much everything]

A Cracking Song For Lent

Man made the buildings that reach for the sky
And man made the motorcar and learned how to drive
But he didn't make the flowers and he didn't make the trees
And he didn't make you and he didn't make me
And he's got no right to turn us into machines

He's got no right at all
Cos we are all God's children
And he's got no right to change us
Oh, we gotta go back the way the good Lord made us all

Don't want this world to change me
I wanna go back the way the good Lord made me
Same lungs that He gave me to breath with
Same eyes He gave me to see with

Oh, the rich man, the poor man, the saint and the sinner
The wise man, the simpleton, the loser and the winner
We are all the same to Him
Stripped of our clothes and all the things we own
The day that we are born
We are all God's children
And they've got no right to change us
Oh, we gotta go back the way the good Lord made
Oh, the good Lord made us all
And we are all His children
And they got no right to change us
Oh, we gotta go back the way the good Lord made us all

This is a Kinks song (a slightly obscure one) - isn't the sentiment wonderful?  At present, one week in, I'm feeling like the purpose of Lent is to remind us of who we really are – shorn of our accessories – in God's sight.  We are all God's children.

And, with perfect timing, I spent about an hour this afternoon holding a 6 week old baby, utterly powerless and dependent, in my slightly-shaky arms.  Beside her parents, she has very few superfluous attachments or unnecessary collections of stuff – we haven't taught her to 'need' them yet.