Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music. [Take two]

The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not mov’d with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.

William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

It remains one of my favourite quotations. So much so I felt like using it again, having already started a post with it nine years ago.

A close friend sent me a music-related link a few hours ago, and I wanted to write about it straightaway.

I wanted to.

But I couldn’t.

The link wouldn’t let me.

Every time I decided I’d had enough, I’d get enticed to wander down another rabbit hole. With glee. Considerable glee.

There was, (and still is) a part of me that wondered whether I should share the link. I thought about it. Thought hard. And found myself singing along to Mama Cass: Was I to blame/for being unfair? And chuckling as I went down another rabbit hole.

Unfair. Yes, unfair.

If you like the kind of music I like, you may be in for a wasted weekend. An enjoyable wasted weekend. A very enjoyable wasted weekend.


There. I’ve gone and done it.

I did warn you.



Father and son: a post for the cricket-mad

Cat Stevens, Father and Son, Tea For The Tillerman, 1970

One of my favourite songs, from one of my favourite albums, written and performed by one of my favourite musicians. I’ve had the pleasure of watching him perform “live” a couple of times, and I treasure those memories. [I was really looking forward to watching a performance of Moonshadow the musical, but it didn’t quite work out. Don’t think it made it out of Oz.]

Father and son. My father passed away very early morning on 20th May 1980; not surprisingly, he was on my mind these past few days. I still think about him every day, I still miss him every day, I still celebrate memories of times with him. I was one of five siblings, and our mother is still alive; we all continue to remember him with sadness and with joy. My youngest sibling turned 50 earlier this year; my mother turned 75 only a few years ago; I’ll be 60 next year; as the anniversaries stack up, I spend more of my time reminiscing about the joy.

Joy there was, and joy in plenty. Joy across the splendid time that was guaranteed for all while he was around, a splendour the family has been able to hold on to through times since, times hard as well as times easy. And we’ve known enough of both.

This post is tangentially about some of those joys. Cricket. A warped sense of humour, more warped than normal when it came to wordplay. And a level of obsessive-compulsive behaviour. These are a few of my favourite things.

And so to the post.

There was a time when pubs were pubs, filled mostly with regulars, where everyone knew you by name and where the person behind the bar would know what you normally drink. A pint of the usual, Dave? That sort of thing.

It was a time of saloon bars and public bars, of dartboards and of unhealthy snacks and even more unhealthy oodles of cigarette smoke.

It was a time when landlords and landladies had to find creative ways of pulling the locals in during the early part of the week, rather than just relying on Friday and Saturday doing their bit for God and country, aided and abetted by bits of Thursday evening and Sunday lunchtime.

Or, to quote the title of another wonderful Cat Stevens song, Tuesday’s Dead.

The pubs tried many techniques to resuscitate Tuesday. One of which was the pub quiz.

This meant that for a couple of hours every Tuesday evening, one part of the pub would be full of would-be Masterminds earnestly arguing about obscure things and occasionally hitting on the right answers. A splendid time was guaranteed for all.

Not everyone was earnest, and not everyone took it seriously. There was a regular undercurrent of chatter and banter, often asking questions that weren’t quite kosher. [Example of a kosher question: Sunderland in 1979, Villa in 1981, who in 1980? Or, name 3 England captains that played for Scunthorpe. The non-kosher variety? Which is the odd one out? 17, 29, 33, 47, 54. I won’t tell you the kosher answers, they’re good, nice questions. But the answer to the last question is unfair-by-design. Basically it’s whatever the others don’t come up with. And then, as you prepare for a quick getaway, you say to the others “Number xx. Doesn’t come with rice”.

Many of the questions of the not-quite-fair variety had to do with sport. Usually football, but not necessarily restricted to football.

One of my favourite such questions was very tongue-in-cheek. Which father-son combination scored the most runs in Test cricket?

The answer was — yes, you have my full permission to cringe now— Miandad. Javed Miandad, to be precise. Pronounced, for the sake of this answer, Me-and-dad. Cringe away.

The first time I heard that monstrosity was in the mid-late 1990s, a time when we were all getting used to the phenomenon of being connected to the Web.

I was intrigued by the mock and unfair question. Could it be? After all, Miandad was no mean bat, he’d scored an entirely respectable 8832 runs. At the end of 1996 (around the time I’d checked on the data) he was 4th on the all-time individual list.

The imp in me asked myself, I wonder if any father-son combination in history has scored more than Miandad. So I checked. And the answer was a resounding no.

Me-and-dad was the undisputed “father-son” champ.

And then I forgot all about this.

Today, while reading something else, I saw a reference to the Me-and-dad  question, by now a chestnut.

And I said to myself, I wonder. Is it still true? Has no father-son combination beaten good old Javed?

So I checked. Again.

Went through the whole list of father-son combinations that have played Test cricket. All 45 of them.


Oh frabjous day.

Found that Javed had been deposed.

We have a winner.

Micky and Alec Stewart scored 8846 Test runs between them. 14 more than Me-and-dad. And, in the bittersweet way all such statistics are formed, it took Alec till his very last Test innings to score the runs that would take Stewart father and son past Miandad.

The Me-and-dad question won’t work any more. Hasn’t worked since 2003.

Anyway, for those who are interested. Here are the 45 father-son combinations that have played Test cricket, and the runs they’ve scored between them, as of today.

  1. Micky and Alec Stewart 8848
  2. Colin and Chris Cowdrey 7725
  3. Len and Richard Hutton 7190
  4. Hanif and Shoaib Mohammed 6620
  5. Lala and Mohinder Amarnath 5256
  6. Vijay and Sanjay Manjrekar 5251
  7. Dave and Dudley Nourse 5194
  8. Everton Weekes and David Murray 5056
  9. Nazar Mohammad and Mudassar Nazar 4391
  10. Peter and Shaun Pollock 4388
  11. Alan and Mark Butcher 4288
  12. Lance and Chris Cairns 4256
  13. Chris and Stuart Broad 4226
  14. Jahangir and Majid Khan 3970
  15. Geoff and Shaun Marsh 3948
  16. Walter and Richard Hadlee 3667
  17. Ken and Hamish Rutherford 3220
  18. Vinoo and Ashok Mankad 3100
  19. The Nawab of Pataudi Senior and Junior 2992
  20. Pankaj and Pranab Roy 2513
  21. Datta and Anshuman Gaekwad 2335
  22. George and Ron Headley 2252
  23. Jim Parks Senior and Junior 1991
  24. Joe Hardstaff Senior and Junior 1947
  25. Yograj and Yuvraj Singh 1910
  26. Rod and Tom Latham 1511
  27. Lala and Surinder Amarnath 1428
  28. David and Jonny Barstow 1329
  29. Fred and Maurice Tate 1207
  30. Zin and Chris Harris 1155
  31. Walter and Dayle Hadlee 1073
  32. Roger and Stuart Binny 975
  33. Frank and George Mann 657
  34. Giff and Graham Vivian 531
  35. Rodney and Aaron Redmond 488
  36. Andy and Malcolm Waller 465
  37. Mac and Robert Anderson 428
  38. Brendon and Doug Bracewell 377
  39. Arnie and Ryan Sidebottom 315
  40. Ron and Dean Headley 248
  41. Jeff and Simon Jones 243
  42. Hemant and Hrishikesh Kanitkar 185
  43. Wynne and Grant Bradburn 167
  44. Charlie and David Townsend 128
  45. Malcolm and Kyle Jarvis 62

Rainmaker, make me some rain

Rainmaker, rainmaker

Make me some rain

Make all my crops grow tall

Winwood/Capaldi : Rainmaker, Side 2 Track 3

The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys, Traffic, 1971

Perspective matters.

Every childhood memory of rain that I have is filled with joy, with energy, with positive things. The feeling of elation walking along the Maidan in Calcutta, being able to smell the rain before it reached me. Hearing, almost feeling, the earth get its thirst slaked. The utter shock of getting completely drenched in mere seconds, caught in a Bombay monsoon downpour. Walking serenely while getting seriously wet, stopping only to shake the drops off your eyelashes so you could see. Looking forward to the rough-and-tumble of an afternoon football match played in mud, glorious mud.

Rain was when the streets flooded and you fought your way to school, thigh-deep, occasionally waist-deep, in rainwater. Rain was when you knew the school would be shut when you got there, but it didn’t matter, because you then had the joy of splashing your way back home.

Rain was when you did crazy things like this.

Yes, when I think of rain, I don’t think stuff like “into every life some rain must fall” or “don’t rain on my parade”. I think Thank You God.

This is a thank you post. Not a Thank You God post: thanking God is something I do do, but mainly in private and not usually via a blog post.

This is a thank you Steve Winwood post.

Over the years, many of my childhood heroes have passed away; a disproportionate number appear to have done so this past year or two. That has made me feel sad. And it made me think I should make the time to say thank you to heroes of mine who are still alive while they are still alive, rather than linking to eulogies when they’re no longer with us.

So thank you Steve Winwood.

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 13.45.35

I’ve never met the man. But I’ve seen him in concert ten times, and loved it every time. In fact, over the last thirty years, I’ve watched Steve Winwood more often than I’ve watched anyone else, including the Dead or CSN/Y, which is saying something. I’ve seen him at the Odeon, the Empire (multiple times), the Royal Albert Hall, and even a couple of times as far away as Shoreline.

At the Roundhouse (one of my favourite venues) in 2010 I was in row one standing, pressed right against the barriers in front of the stage, touching distance from his piano. It was amazing. Until then the nearest I’d got to him was when I visited a pub somewhere out west, I think it was in a village near Gloucester, sometime in the early 1980s, and he was there.

I still remember my utter joy when I saw this:

Screen Shot 2016-05-08 at 14.39.20

Yes I know, it probably wasn’t him, it was more likely to be someone who looked after his account. But then again….. this filled me with child-like joy, enough to ping my siblings in India. That should tell you how much I really like Winwood as a musician and as a performer.

You should, too. If you haven’t already been converted, just listen to his stuff. Go here, to his website and to his vaults, explore, enjoy.

The early years, with the Spencer Davis Group; the incredible times with Traffic, both before and after Blind Faith; the superlative sessions that became Blind Faith; and the consistently delightful solo career since. Fifty years, thirty albums, a joy throughout. [I shall resist the temptation to say a Sea of Joy throughout].

From the “is this really a white man singing? ” raw power of Gimme Some Lovin’, through the gentle sadnesses of Evening Blue or (Sometimes I Feel So) Uninspired, the soaring sequences of Had To Cry Today, the folksiness of John Barleycorn or Forty Thousand Headmen, the sheer poetry of Can’t Find My Way Home, the metamorphosis into Higher Love and Roll With It and Back In The High Life Again and When You See A Chance. A metamorphosis that continues today, over half a century since he began.

Make the time. Listen to Winwood. Go watch him in concert while you can. You won’t regret it.

I’ve been doing it for years, and I’m immensely grateful. Thank you Steve Winwood.

And (in advance of next Thursday), happy 68th birthday.

Crosswords and buses

Sometime next year, it will have been fifty years since I first completed the Times crossword, some weeks short of my tenth birthday. For many years it wasn’t just a pastime, it was an addiction, something I’ve written about before, most recently here. Doing the crossword was part and parcel of getting ready for the day, as habitual and routine as having the morning’s first cup of coffee or cigarette.

We used to spend weeks every summer in Madras with my grandfather. Initially it was in Tambaram, at his “Professor of Chemistry” house at Madras Christian College. By the time I was hooked he’d moved to Adyar, and I still remember, vividly, having to make the daily trip to a little newsagent in Luz who carried the Calcutta Statesman, just so I could do the day’s puzzle.

When I came to England I continued with the habit, and even entered the national championships. In those days it used to be called the Cutty Sark; by the time I stopped going I think it was called the Langs Supreme. I made the national finals a few times, when there were still a few hundred competitors left; I never quite made it into the Elite top group. When they stopped allowing people to smoke at the table I stopped entering. Nicotine and caffeine were very much part of my crossword-solving experience.

That was a long time ago. It’s been years since I’ve smoked, years since I’ve had a cup of coffee. Once I’d given them up, I wondered if I’d ever go back to regular crossword solving. I went in for one of the competitions a few years ago just to see what would happen; qualifying wasn’t a problem;  the absence of cigarettes and coffee didn’t appear to be an issue; but boy was I rusty. Slow. Ponderous. And so I didn’t get very far that day.

This year I’ve been getting back on the crossword bicycle. And quite enjoying it again sans nicotine, sans caffeine.

A few days ago I was travelling to the US and, while waiting for the plane to take off, polished off the day’s challenge. The topic came up in conversation with a fellow passenger, and I recounted my Calcutta experiences.

That made me wonder whether the Statesman still carried the puzzle, and so, when I returned to the UK, I checked. Apparently it stopped some years ago, although I see the Hindustan Times has stepped in to continue the syndication.

Then, yesterday, a good friend, Rory Sutherland, tweeted me a link to this wonderful article, a fascinating study of the people who solve proper cryptic crosswords, and of the expertise deployed.

And then, today, I came across Rose Wild’s rejoinder to Ian Baird’s concerns on the evolution of the cryptic crossword. [Sadly behind paywall]. It’s about how idiom and slang enter and exit the crossword pantheon.

Looks like stories involving crosswords follow the pattern set by London buses.

Incidentally, the research article referred to by Rory contains two and a half of the answers to the prize crossword in today’s Times.



Portuguese for “Slightly out of tune”. And the name of a wonderful bossa nova song written by Antonio Carlos Jobim. A song that made its way into my heart via the brilliance of Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd et al on an album called Jazz Samba.


I didn’t just fall in love with the song, I fell in love with the very word itself, what it meant, what it stood for. Slightly. Out. Of. Tune. I was eighteen or nineteen and it described, perfectly, how I felt about myself and about the world then.

[I was lucky enough to be able to see Charlie Byrd when he visited Calcutta soon after, something I wrote about here.]

At the heart of my slightly-out-of-tune-ness was something I couldn’t quite put my finger on then, a sense of being at peace while in disequilibrium.

That was a long time ago, while I was still in my teens. In eighteen months time I will be 60.

This morning I went shopping for a razor. Ever since I left India, in 1980, I’ve been a Gillette man, listening to the siren call of their marketing while moving from the Trac II through the Sensor and the Sensor Excel to the Mach. More recently I dallied with King of Shaves and then tried one of these newfangled subscription services.

I don’t particularly like shaving; I’d much rather have a beard; but my wife doesn’t like beards, they’re not easy to keep clean and now I have to think about how my grandson would feel. So I go shopping for a razor.

Of late, particularly since I switched away from Gillette, I have been less than happy with my shave. Five o’clock shadow at variable times of day. So I went shopping for a razor.


That’s the kind of razor my father used. Maybe old habits die hard. But it’s the kind of razor that I came back home with today. Habits. What would you do without them?

It wasn’t quite the razor my dad used. What was metal was now ceramic. The child, the young man, the nostalgist in me, only wanted one thing: that the blade-box had a tiny slit through which I could slide the next blade when needed. And it did. So all was fine with the world.


Hmmm. Why am I prattling on about razors and shaving? Have I finally lost it (if I ever had it, I hear you murmur)?

That blade, that blade-box, that razor, they all represent something that’s been part of my ethos ever since I could use words like ethos.

And that is this: to be able to cherish and hold the past while knowing it will never be back, to live in and to keep learning from the present knowing it will soon be past, and to look forward to the future and to keep applying whatever I’ve learnt, knowing that it too will pass.

[Occasionally I run out of steam or joy or optimism or whatever, and for a very short period I am empty. Blank. At my wits’ end. But those times are rare, and they too tend to pass.]

I love spending time with my mother and with my siblings, with my cousins and aunts and uncles, the family I grew up with, and I love reminiscing with them.  I do that in the here-and-now.

I love spending time with my school and college friends, some of whom I’ve kept in touch with for over fifty years. I love keeping in touch with colleagues whom I’ve worked with over the past four decades.

I love spending time with my wife and my children and my grandchildren (OK, my single solitary grandchild, if you insist on being pedantic; I live in the hope and expectation of more, many more).

Memories. Memories of shared experiences, of laughter and tears, of pleasure, even occasionally of pain.

It’s not wrong to look back and to remember, fondly, how things used to be.

It’s important to see that things have changed. When I meet my mother and siblings, I have to understand that they are not the family I left in India when I migrated to England in 1980. They have experiences that weren’t shared with me, experiences with their husbands and wives and children and colleagues and neighbourhoods; experiences with laughter and with tears. Memories.

When I go to Calcutta, I have to remember not just that it’s not the Calcutta I left in 1980. I have to remember that it will never be the Calcutta I left in 1980. It too has experiences that aren’t shared with me.

Change is not an easy thing to deal with. Cataclysmic change even less so. When I was younger I was fascinated by stories of great civilisations. How they came into being. And how they stopped being. How what’s left of them influences what today is.

Even today, I continue to be fascinated by the rise and fall of many things: civilisations, empires, cities, towns, religions, fashions, diets, everything. Which means I read and re-read a strange pantheon of writers: Jane Jacobs. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. Joseph Tainter. Just to give you a few examples.

Change is not an easy thing to deal with. Cataclysmic change even less so.

Some people would like to Make America Great Again. Some people would like to Make America Great Britain Again. We want to airbrush and photoshop history, we want to cocoon ourselves and escape from today’s reality.

We want to turn back time.

Wouldn’t it be nice if…..

Many of the things we invent to solve some problem or the other come with the risk of creating new problems while solving old ones. Much of our angst comes from using tools designed to solve old problems to try and solve new ones.

We want to put the genie back in the bottle.

Wouldn’t it be nice if….

I want to be able to marvel at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, at Indus Valley Civilisation, in just the same way as I want to marvel at Incan or Aztec or Mayan or Greek or Roman or Egyptian civilisation. I want to be able to look at the chili pepper I am about to eat and reminisce about the role that Columbus and da Gama played in introducing that spice into Indian cuisine. I want to be able to celebrate and to mourn the past without trying to force-fit it into the present.

Kevin Kelly, in one of his excellent books, said something about one of the roles of technology being to speed up evolution. I like that. I really like that. [Incidentally, I hope to be spending time reading his latest book, The Inevitable, as soon as I can lay my hands on it].

There’s a lot of anger in the world right now. Maybe it’s always been there, but right now it feels to me as if I’ve never seen this level of anger before.

If that anger was deeply rooted in seriously depressed economies, large swathes of people completely unable to make ends meet, increasing ill health, severe repression, considerable growth in crime, a general and growing concern about personal safety,  and a bleak outlook for the future overall, then it’s the kind of anger that makes for revolutions. Maybe. My gut says it isn’t so. My gut says it’s more to do with the sweeping changes we’ve had even in my short lifetime, and the disaffection that such change entails.

For sure there’s a lot of turmoil. States “failing”. Refugees in their millions. Whatever the reason and the stimulus, there’s a lot of turmoil.

That turmoil doesn’t just challenge the status quo, it sets back any attempt to reverse that status quo back into a cherished past. Make <historical-civilisation-of-choice> great again.

So there’s a lot of anger. Some of that anger is directed at the pillars of erstwhile society: the government, the politicians, the priests, the policemen, the financiers, the industrialists. Big is not beautiful in such times. Some of that anger is directed at the symptoms of change, some at the tools of change.

The anger is about the change.

Not all of that change is reversible.

So I remain unangry. I remain desafinado.

Slightly out of tune.