Monday, December 23, 2013

Steph Booth: Labour says No to Cherie Blair's step-mum

Steph Booth
You would think that being the step-mother of Cherie Blair might count for something within the Labour Party. Yet writer and political activist Steph Booth - fourth wife of actor Tony Booth since 1998 - has discovered that extensive relevant political experience (quite apart from family connections) counts for little or nothing to the worthies of socialism-lite.

For I learn that Steph's application to join the Labour Party local government panel - to be included on the list of potential candidates for 2014 council elections in Calderdale (in West Yorkshire) - was rejected back in October. She was told she had insufficient experience. But as Steph says: "I've been in the Party since 1982 and fought every local and national campaign since. Wrong kind of experience I suppose."

She adds: "The local government panel have yet to forgive me for insisting the election of our PPC [Prospective Parliamentary Candidate] was open and fair - ie. they could not slip in their own preferred candidate. They were very cross when I got the general secretary's office to enlighten them about procedure."

Many will say this is a healthy sign that a direct family link to Labour aristocracy is entirely irrelevant - and perhaps it is. But others may speculate whether such a link works against Steph's interests given the controversial figure ex-PM Tony Blair has become, both within the Party and nationally. Certainly she has never attempted to capitalise on her position within the Blair/Booth family and has only asked to be rated on personal political merit.

Final word to Steph (half in jest?): "Maybe I should read the runes and just give up on the Labour Party?"

Meanwhile, she has her work cut out caring for husband Tony who has Alzheimer's. She is currently filing occasional pieces to the Irish Times on life with the actor.

In one article she reveals: "After becoming a pensioner himself Tony [Booth] began to channel some of his political energy into the pensioners’ movement in the UK, speaking at rallies and conferences. His activities were sometimes an intense irritation to his son-in-law, Tony Blair, who was then the British prime minister. My Tony wasted no opportunity to inform the other Tony just how poor the provision for pensioners was in the UK and how much better it was in Ireland, urging the prime minister to do better." To read more, click here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Madame Arcati's Six Best Books of the Year 2013

Who isn't trying to flog a book these days? Independent publishing is fracking vast quantities of creative gas long ignored under our nose. Kindles everywhere are growing slow on free and cheap literary downloads, perhaps one day to be read when the kids or pets have flown and the only alternative to a heart-warming phone chat with one of Esther Rantzen's Silver Line Friends is that book you meant to read 20 years ago. 

Excellent books are there to be found, and here's Madame Arcati's brief guide to the six best this festive season (all titles hyper-linked to Amazon):

Madame Arcati's Most Excellent Book of the Year 

Divine, darling. Or, as Craig Revel Horwood might say if not too busy eyeing up male dancer buttock curvature, 'fab-u-larse!' Published last year, the paperback released a few weeks ago, this is by far the most fascinating survey of paranormal sightings and encounters I have ever read.

Ingenuity starts at concept stage. Clarke sets out not to debate whether ghosts exist. He is much more interested in the anthropology of spectral experiences and research - or put another way, in relating true-life ghost tales, the 'scientific' attempts to understand them and in classifying the different types of spook: elementals, poltergeists, etc.

This is clever and fortuitous because Clarke knows he'd lose most of his mainstream critical audience if he entertained the notion, even for a moment, that ghosts exist as sentient post-mortem entities. One feature of secularism and atheism is the absolute conviction that life starts and ends with synaptic crackle 'n' pop. But there's no question people have ghostly liaisons. I have seen a ghost. You probably have. Pliny wrote of a haunted house in 100 AD. The materialist will flesh out any unscientific explanation-away provided no concession is made to afterlife drivel. The winner is not rationalism but a replacement irrationalism.

Clarke knows all this as a veteran Poirot of psychical inquiry. So instead he sits us down by a log fire, creeps us out with weird tales, documents the countless vain attempts to solve the mystery of hauntings and treats the topic (of ghosts) as an aspect of immemorial human experience.

Clarke writes tremendously well - an essential component of any effects-driven tale both to satisfy the Bunsen burner know-all and trembly Susan Hill addict. The slightest hint of irony here and there gives sceptics their calorific fill while oo-ee-oo narrative pleases the rest of us. He is unafraid of the plodding nature of prose, the focus on patient set-ups - Gore Vidal called this vital writerly process 'grazing'. The cow's temperament is vital to story-telling.

I also commend Clarke's end notes which combine scholarly learning with a sly sense of humour. At the very least you end up sceptically well-informed and enthralled.

Madame Arcati's Most Promising Foreplay Read of 2014

The View from the Tower by Charles Lambert

One of the joys of reading is the foreplay. Before immersion I like to examine covers, read blurbs, savour hints in reviews or previews, gaze at the author pic (if any), perhaps tantalise myself with a glimpse of the first and last pages (I am intolerant of sequence and secrets - no author will control moi). Charles Lambert is new to me, I have not read his fiction yet; but we are engaged in foreplay (one-sidedly I hasten to add). I am sampling his work at present. I intend to go all the way with his novel The View from the Tower, published on 2 January 2014.

This is the second in a Rome-set trilogy, so really I ought to consummate with the first in the series, Any Human Face (published in 2011). 'A dark and fast-paced literary thriller about love, sex, art and death,' is the terse description. I have the book in front of me. On the cover, a slim man in a black suit gazes warily up an ancient alleyway. An old-style pale blue motor scooter before him startles the period monochrome. Is the man hunting or being hunted? I don't know.

I may read Any Human Face first. It has Malaysian nuns killing time at a second-hand bookstall - a sufficiently kinky observation to grab my attention. I suspect Lambert notices much that is surprising. I can smell his curiosity and his taste for the perverse. The View from the Tower is 'a psychological thriller about love and betrayal, and the damage done when ideals and human lives come into conflict.' But I suspect it's rich in peculiar detail, too. That's what I want. Isn't foreplay fun

Madame Arcati's Best Poppet Book of the Year 2013

I just know I would hate art critic Brian Sewell in person. That face, fixed in a state of appalled shock. That voice, strangled to last-breath whine by an odd form of hostile genteelness - the sharp chip in the Whittard of Chelsea teacup rim. In death his visage will slowly, ineluctably draw into one final pull of grotesque disapproval, perhaps impossible in life, now achievable by the new physics of rot. Not even Tracey Emin's art could trigger such a look.

Yet even a glorious cunt has his good side. Should you have a tail, a long tongue and a readiness to shit in public - Brian's all yours. Preferably, you will not bore him with actual speech but simply advertise your wants with a growl and a howl. Brian has loved 17 doggies and there's little they can do to sour his canine fetish. One bark and I'm already thinking of RSPCA extermination. But Brian loves the constant music of dog - and the relentless me-ism, the diva presumptions, the bad breath and foul turds. Why, he has four dogs at a time in his bed.

Brian is probably correct in thinking that dogs share with us the same range of emotions, hence the peculiar show that is Crufts. What perhaps he adores about them is their immediacy and lack of guile, that unmediated need for a cuddle and a scoff and walkies that requires nothing more from us than basic delivery followed by unconditional gratitude (the dog's).

How can one fail to be ensorcelled by evidence of the total collapse of Brian's default snobbery and disdain in the presence of his best friends? Meanwhile, dog walkers should continue to place street dog turd in plastic bags. Such sights please me no end.

Madame Arcati's Most Wondair Book of the Year 2013

The Mitford Girls' Guide to Life by Lyndsy Spence

I reviewed this delightful book back in August (click here) and am not in the least surprised at its success. It's quirky, quintessentially English (which is odd because Lyndsy is Irish - I think), a guide and etiquette book of sorts but also a wallow in 20th Century interwar eccentricity. Daffy is another word that comes to mind.

Lyndsy has gutted the lives of the Mitford girls and turned them into parables, bullet point social codes and how-to guidance to live this life successfully. From Unity's fixation on and pursuit of Hitler we learn: 'Don't rush head first into an encounter with your idol as this will label you as another fan. Edge your way in slowly and discreetly.' This example does raise a question over the precise location of Lyndsy's tongue at times (in cheek, perhaps?) but there is sufficient quantity of information on the Mitford lives to reassure on overall deadpan purpose. Certainly I learnt a great deal more about the Mitties.

Lyndsy Spence is an author to watch. She is very young - and driven by a passion for old school glamour and style. Not only has she founded
 The Mitford Society with a large following but she has found time to release the first of the The Mitford Society annuals which comprises many features and essays on the aristocratic clan. One piece is authored by me - I take you to the Arcati Horoscope Revue Bar where we learn more about the astrology of the gels as stripper potential is appraised. It's all done in the best possible taste.

Madame Arcati's Most Peculiar Novel Award 2013

Death Flies, Missing Girls and Brigitte Bardot by Kenneth George King

Quite the oddest book I ever did read is this outré and outrageous nugget which bears the name Kenneth George King. Call me a spoilsport but one may as well know that the author is Eurovision's very own bastard son and general vile perv, Jonathan King - the man who gave us Everyone's Gone To The Moon. This fact alone will cause certain flowers to wilt. But hardier annuals and the odd cactus or two will be rewarded in their staying power. By the end of this book you will be dreaming about flies, naked boys and sex stars and other causes of ruin. JK has well and truly gone over to the surreal side - and the result is something most interesting.

Now that we live in a world of Twitter and gnomic ejaculation, King has produced what seems like a cut-up novel thrown together kaleidoscopically for attention deficit consumption. This is not quite Burroughs cut-up style but the many autobiographical bits strewn through the narrative have a snip-snip-paste quality. We learn quite a lot about prisons, Arab straight boys who like homosex, Barbara Windsor, a bit about Bardot of course and her right-wing husband, and, oh, glam hot places where JK goes for his hols. And about police procedure.

But what's it all abaht? Well, yes. Good question. There is indeed a car accident in Morocco. And girls go missing in England, as the blurb promises. A killer lurks and plots and an old 'superb' detective sniffs. Flies offer clues of sorts. Different voices tell us what they see and do, not all of their perspectives entirely relevant; but always fascinating. That's what it's all abaht.

We are told on the cover that the novel has been submitted for the Man Booker Prize 2014. If an astrology novel can win, so can this.

Madame Arcati's Novella of the Year 2013

You're Never Too Old by Fiona Pitt-Kethley

The world could do with a few more Fiona Pitt-Kethleys. Here's a woman who could give Boudicca a run for her money. I love her poetry. I adore the stories about her. Non-payers will soon discover what I mean. You cross Fiona at your peril. She lives in Spain with her chess champion husband and family and cats. She cooks.

Here's the thing about her very short novel, available only on Kindle at 77p. It's not about James Bond - it can't be because the Ian Fleming estate wouldn't permit it. No siree. No, let's get this straight. It's not about Bond, James Bond. It's about James Round - a retired spy. The sort of 'feisty oldie' Fiona worships. Perhaps Round sees himself as a latter-day Bond. We all have our dreams. In another universe I'm a pop star. Friends with Michael.

Anyway, Round is ancient. He's stuck in some cold hovel in Scotland. He longs to get back to his old life of action, double agenting and leg-overing nubile pin-ups. A chance meeting re-opens up his life and before you know it he's on a spying mission to a spa in Israel with senile drunken secretary Penny. Oh the fun we have. Round ain't passed it. It's treble dry Martinis all round.

I love Pitt-Kethley's droll, throw-away humour, the teasing satire and the hopeful moral for the silver surfers. Saga magazine should serialise this tale. You'll smile and you'll laugh.

Friday, November 29, 2013

David Montgomery imposes "urinal cake" on Bristol

The morgue that is David Montgomery has resurrected himself with some hideous-sounding company called Local World which has somehow got its bony claws on loads of UK regional newspapers and websites. Its plan is to replace hacks and subs with content managers or skimmers of online content (aka plagiarists on the cheap) - and today, Local World closed Bristol ents site Venue. As a parting shot, its writers wrote the following (I've copied it because the site was not permitted to attain heritage status but was terminated instead - if this a copyright breach, someone contact me at

Dear Local World,

So, here we are then. Friday 29 November 2013. Venue’s last day on Earth. Hours from being swept away as part of what you so dreamily term “the development of the what’s on module.” Sometime in December, we learn, will re-emerge, like butterfly become grub, as Because, heck, nothing answers “Hey, where to find what’s happening in town tonight?” quite so snappily as Given a firm push, a downhill gradient and a stiff following wind, it just rolls off the tongue.

It may surprise you to learn we don’t necessarily have a problem with you closing the Venue website. Don’t get us wrong, it is curious timing. As you know, the most recent figures for daily page hits are: August - 44,162; September - 48,544; October - 55,824. Nevertheless, the two remaining of our number, working part-time on alternate weeks, would be the first to admit that Venue is a husk of its former self. Frankly, they’ll be glad to be put out of their misery. Where once they were part of a vast team of journalists delivering informed, first-hand comment from every last facet of city life, today our hapless duo struggle to do much more than pass on received opinion and rehash press releases. Naturally, we don’t have to explain this process to you, Local World, but we’re keenly aware that newcomers to the site might look at recent content and wonder at our concern.

We’ll come to that shortly, but, this being an open letter, a brief history lesson for the uninitiated (we’re being tactful here, Local World - we’re all too aware you haven’t got a fucking clue yourselves). Venue magazine began life in 1982, covering Bristol and Bath and surrounds, but swiftly fter 18 proudly independent years it was sold to Bristol United Press, owned by your predecessor, the Northcliffe Newspaper Group. Last year, having suffered death by a thousand cuts and a colourful assortment of full-frontal stabbings, the magazine was closed down. Today, it’s fallen to you, Local World, to apply the coup-de-graceless and bring down the final curtain on 31 years of work.

And hand it all over to the Post.

The Post, which decreed all street art as vandalism for years, and yet today, having so very belatedly recognised which way the wind is blowing, reaches for Banksy with the same onanistic lust the Express reserves for Diana.

We’re not going to claim we ever “championed” Banksy. We never really went in for “championing”. We simply covered everything we considered of value. So we might not have “championed” street art, but we did report t. Always. Even before 1985, the year of Arnolfini’s seminal ‘Graffiti Art’ exhibition, featuring work from the UK’s first wave of can-wielders. One of them was called 3D, or Robert Del Naja. He went on to co-found Massive Attack. We put Massive Attack on the cover before they’d even released a single.

Do you see what we’re driving at here? Have you any idea the number of wonderful bands, and theatre groups, and artists, and voluntary organisations, and filmmakers, and minority groups who had no voice anywhere else, at all, ever, and poets, and DJs, and on, and on, who claim inspiration from something they read in Venue? We make no assertions for the influence of our opinion; we simply did our level best to place a mirror in every last corner of Bristol, no matter how hidden, and allow the city to reflect back on itself.

And you want to hand over that legacy to a paper whose management - not journalists - are the precise equivalent of those radio stations which promise “your better music mix” and then put the same few songs on repeat. Which claim “the best new music” and fail to add “once it has charted and proved its popularity.” You want to hand over that legacy because, to quote from a staff email you neglected to send us, “The existing Venue website has really good functionality with a real blend of music reviews, listings, restaurant reviews etc, etc. This is a fantastic opportunity to grow our digital audience and a great platform to sell advertising on.”

Do you have any idea how much that hurts, Local World? Of course you don’t. You who boast all the cultural hinterland of a freshly discarded wet wipe. (Though you do have history, of course: born earlier this year, the helplessly stumbling result of a merger between Iliffe Media and Northcliffe, with a profit forecast of approximately £30 million - that debt-free dowry from the Daily Mail General Trust was a lovely gift, no? And they absolved you of responsibility for the deficit on that pesky old final salary pension scheme. Ah, Local World! You are to localism what urinal cake is to mountain freshness.)

And now you presume to inherit our work. We were writers, Local World, photographers, not “content providers”. We were bound together not only by our city, but by a love of language, of striking image. Our editors consistently backed our individual judgement and allowed us complete freedom of expression. As a result, Venue inspired a loyalty out of all proportion with the pittance it paid. Local World, we put our very heart and soul into our catalogue of work. And if you think you can now simply walk in and trample on its remains, then you can, with the very greatest lack of respect, fuck the fuck off.

Because we, the undersigned, do hereby assert our full rights under copyright law. It really would be for the best if you were take a moment to visit [page is no longer - MA] on the Venue website. Sit down, take a deep breath, and pause and reflect on this: “This website and its content is the copyright of the individual authors credited.” Please be assured we did not pull this phrase out of our collective arses, but out of legal statute. And if we perceive so much as a single full-stop, a solitary pixel of our work when your shameless hijacking is unveiled, then you in turn can expect to perceive a court summons. We are, to put it in terms you regularly use but cannot hope to understand, passionate about defending our legacy.


Robin Askew
Lesley Barnes
Tony Benjamin
Melissa Blease
Anna Britten
Darryl Bullock
Charlotte Butterfield
Jay Chakravorty
Hannah Chapman
Matt Collins
Marc Crewe (deceased)*
Stephen Dalton
Ellen Doherty (deceased)*
Carl Dolan
Rebecca Ewing
Kristen Grayewski
Elfyn Griffith
Tom Hackett
Mike Harley
Steve Henwood
Gareth Jones
Nic Matthews
Tamar Newton
Huw Oliver
Julian Owen
Emma Parkinson
Kid Pensioner
Tom Phillips
Leah Pritchard
Pat Reid
Jo Renshaw
Andrew Rilstone
Stuart Roberts
Anna Rutherford
Mark Simmons
Delia Sparrow
Joe Spurgeon
John Stevens
Campbell Stevenson
Nick Talbot
Lou Trimby
Tom Wainwright
Cris Warren
Ben Welch
Kirsten Williams
Kate Withers
John Christopher Wood
Adam Workman
Steve D Wright
Nicola Yeeles

*Because if there is an afterlife, and we don’t add these enduringly lamented names to our treatise, we’ll never hear the end of it.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Madame Arcati books: Curtains and Lifesurfing

Something had to give, in this instance, you. I had to get my books done hence the blogging silence. And now they're out. The latest is my novel Curtains. I have already endured the drapes jokes. Free copies at Dunelm! Well, curtains certainly play an important part in my fiction, not least to expedite "those crucial eye journeys" good manners forbid us, as one of my characters puts it. Sharp-eyed readers will however discern other types of curtain.

Curtains is set in the world of high fashion mags, but it's not bitterly celebratory The Devil Wears Prada or ambivalent Glamorama. It's a slice of meringue with a crunchy satirical base and a heroine editor who starts fictive life by being blown up on a seaside pier with a fruit knife in her hand. How this pitiful fate befell her is the preoccupation of the story, a piecing together of a crazy puzzle whose pieces tend to melt at the edges. That's all I'm saying.

To find out more about Curtains, and what some critics have made of it to date, click here.

It's currently in paperback and kindle formats. Take your pick, poppets. And for a chance to win one of four copies up for grabs visit my friends at the Anorak news site. click here.

My other title is Lifesurfing: Your Horoscope Forecast Guide 2014 - the title says it all really. It debuted at No 1 in Amazon's astrology bestseller chart. It offers a monthly breakdown of your year ahead by star sign. An obvious stocking-filler - or a lovely gift to yourself. This too comes in paperback or kindle format - click here. 

With each purchase I'm offering a free intro birth chart analysis - with proof of purchase (I'll ask a very simple question). For this I'll need your date and location of birth as well as clock time if possible. Email:

Friday, October 25, 2013

Curtains - a novel not quite like any other

My novel Curtains is out in early November, available only through Amazon in paperback and kindle formats.

A near-death fashion empress writes: 

"This much I recall: I was boarding the Brightworth Pier and I may have just said good evening to the tollgate master when the explosion occurred. In my right hand was the fruit knife with which I planned to end the life of Max Cochrane...."

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Does the Daily Mail hate you?

Here's the definitive way of finding out. A simple, brief quiz. Click here.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Toby Young, Wikipedia and the 583 entry edits!

Toby Young
One of the tiresome chores of life is maintaining the polish on one's public profile. Don't I know it, poppets! If anyone doubts this, check out Toby Young's impressively anal attention to detail in his Wikipedia entry. Since January 2012 to the present (alone), he has made about 60 corrections, amendments and emendations. 

Some are perfectly understandable. On 28 August 2013, for instance, he added an apostrophe to Earl's Court. And on 27 April 2012, he deleted the word "stint" to avoid repetition. I like this. Editing is a much neglected art. Other edits suggest a dynamic growth in minor celebrity selfie-dom. On 2 August of this year he writes: "I deleted the ref to my father cos it implies I was the beneficiary of nepotism which I wasn't. The admissions tutor later told me that Brasenose were legally obliged to honour the mistaken offer. Nowt to do with my dad."

My favourite, of 25 March 2013, reads: "I deleted the last line as it was clearly inserted by a political enemy. I write six or seven pieces a week. Why single this one out?"

One or two may be of interest to any future biographer of this titan of bloggers, commentators and things called free schools: "I corrected 'brief time at Cambridge' to 'two years at Cambridge' and deleted 'early stages' since, in fact, I abandoned my doctorate after two years."

The entries go back quite some way. 14 July 2009 offers a glimpse of a fast-changing journalistic life: "I've updated a few career details. I no longer write a column for the Standard and now write a restaurant column for the Independent on Sunday. How do I change the summary at the top?" In November 2009, he excelled himself with 19 revisions.

Not all the interventions are Toby's by any means. But here are some fascinating stats:

Total number of revisions: 583 (since 2004)

Average number of edits per year: 64.11

Number of edits in last year: 98

Number of users: 215 (!)

This last figure is testament to Toby's interest value to embryonic biographers - some among these "users" will have probably inserted a few of the "facts" he has had to correct. However the top user is... Toby Young! He has made 194 edits since 2007. The average time between his edits is: 1 week, 5 days, 4 hours, 44 minutes, 32 seconds.

Frankly, I'm impressed. How does this delightful Libran find the time?

Toby's Wikipedia entry, click here. Stats obtained via the "view history" link

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Roger Lewis: 'What do you think of my son Oscar's movie?'

I love this highly original, dreamy short film by Oscar Lewis - son of Seasonal Suicide Notes author and Daily Mail book reviewer Roger Lewis. Titled "John and Iris", it brings to life, in animated line drawings, the reminiscences of his grandparents (John and Iris Dickens) on 65-plus years together. Roger tells me: "Oscar has been working as Tom Hollander's production assistant on a film about Dylan Thomas, A Poet in New York, which is being shot on location in Cardiff. Now one of the reasons why I left South Wales for good as a youngster is that it wasn't in any shape or form Manhattan."

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Cops seize Putin/Obama cock painting ahead of G20 summit

Vera Donskaya-Khilko's Wrestling
Russia's descent into homophobic fantasy finds many different forms, the latest being the police seizure of this painting from an erotic museum in St Petersburg. Artist Vera Donskaya-Khilko's Wrestling depicts Putin and Obama engaged in a manly preening battle of exaggerated phalli - actually, just about everything in the work boasts an oversized cock or is an oversized cock. According to The Art Newspaper (click link for full story), the police raid occurred ahead of the recent G20 summit - which sounds a good excuse to remove from sight anything that does not meet with the approval of the ludicrous muscle Mary presently running Russia.

On the other hand, Blogger, run by Google, does not like depictions of cock either. So, choose your favourite censor.

Duncan Fallowell and his Platinum Peepshow movie

Which reminds me, I must make some videos to promote moi. Meanwhile, Libran Arcatiste Duncan Fallowell (or Lad F, as I may start to call him) has posted this self-advertisement on YouTube for his upcoming Platinum Peepshow - described in his Wikipedia entry as "a second collection of profiles and commentaries...on the subject of art, fashion and entertainment."

The Peepshow vid washes the brain with images galore pertinent to Lad F's slebby career encounters and cultural interests. Gilbert & George, Lulu (I think), Bowie, royalty, bloody-nosed Jay Kay and all sorts of other whatsname detrital meme resonances. Warhol would have loved it - especially the monotonous electronic drum beat.

I really do think it's time BBC4 commissioned a special fly-on-the-wall portrait of Duncan - of two hours duration at least! It would have to involve some sort of journey - Brecqhou perhaps or a return to Gozo (actually, Venice would be perfection - a major assault on brochure dreams by a jealous lover, Lad F himself). In his youthful dotage, DF finally has proper, grown-up recognition (having won the prestigious, literary PEN/Ackerley Prize last year for How to Disappear: A Memoir for Misfits - now out in paperback, Kindle and other formats) and his worldly drawl would snap up new fans in an instant. 

Anyway, watch the video - it's just a minute or two long.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

PayPal - still stuck in the Diamond Jubilee

Paypal invites me to learn about attracting more customers from Europe - the link takes me to an article which begins, bang on the moment: "2012 is a huge year for the UK with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games taking place over the next few months. Both events are expected to bring millions of visitors to the UK, along with billions more TV viewers." 

How could I have missed it all?

Monday, September 02, 2013

Will US strike Syria? I look at the astrology

A number of you have emailed me about the astrology of the US/Syria situation. Will the US attack? Astrology is not about inevitabilities but trends and likelihoods. So here’s my analysis in plain English – with footnotes for fellow astrologers.

In the week of September 9, the US Congress will be asked to back President Obama’s proposed military action against Syria. I have chosen September 9th for this forecast because this marks the first day of the US government’s debate. I looked at three natal-transits charts: Syria’s, the US’s and Obama’s. All three charts suggest a likelihood of US military action against Syria.

Syria (1 January 1944, midnight, Damascus)
On the 9th, violent and disruptive energies are present.[1] Actions decided on between September 9 and 11[2] will have the quality of violence with a transformative effect – whether this happens days or weeks or months later. The action is aimed squarely at the governing power[3]. At the same time, there is a major indication that power is exerted over the governing authority in some shape or form – and this indicator remains valid to October 29[4]: it therefore may be the case that Syria is subjected to external attack by a foreign state – this is one of a number of possible scenarios. The Syrian government is nonetheless confident, even smug – this could be because of perceived successes or misjudgement – or a miscalculation.[5]

US (4 July 1776, 5:10 pm, Philadelphia)
On and around the 9th, the US chart reflects an instinct to act on high principle[6]. There’s a sense of ‘social duty’ and of public/media debate involving government.[7] And there’s a high likelihood of a decision to take military action.[8] The focus of this action is another country (or ‘abroad’).[9] From September 16, the risk of military action increases.[10] However the legality or constitutional justification appears confused.[11] If the congressional debate is not finalised before September 13 (Friday), there’s a chance the US will decide against war.[12] So, Obama is less likely to win support the later in the week a congressional decision is made.

Obama (4 August 1961, 7:24 pm, Honolulu)
On or around the 9th, Obama is under tremendous strain and possible criticism. Actions can be thwarted or questioned – some sort of deception cannot be ruled out.[13] But by the next week, the 16th onwards, Obama appears to be in much more energised form – the planets support a war-like identity in this time.[14] The weekend of September 14-15 also could be crucial for decisions related to military action.[15]

For Obama the challenge is to make real a principle or ‘dream’.[16] At worst, there is likely to be confusion between fact and fantasy and the challenge to make clear what is murky or concealed. At best, law and clarity can be applied to an area of chaos – the area identified as foreign by house position.[17] However, the triggering of a chaotic indicator in the chart is an unfortunate development, suggesting a debilitating period ahead for Obama, especially if he’s acting on misinformation or against government wishes.[18]

What can't be ruled out is that Obama launches a military strike against Syria without Congress' approval.

[1] Tr Mars conjunct natal Pluto in Leo in 10th
[2] Above conjunction in orb
[3] 10th house
[4] Tr Pluto conjunct natal Sun in Capricorn in 3rd
[5] Tr Jupiter conjunct natal MC in 10th
[6] Tr Mars in Leo on natal True Node in Leo
[7] Tr Mercury conjunct Midheaven
[8] Tr Mars sextile natal Uranus
[9] Natal Uranus on descendant
[10] Tr Mars ingresses 9th house (Equal House)
[11] Tr Saturn inconjunct natal Uranus
[12] Tr Sun conjunct Neptune in 10th (Sept 14-16)
[13] Tr Mars square natal Neptune
[14] Tr Mars conjunct Sun
[15] Tr Sun conjunct natal Mars
[16] Tr Saturn conjunct Neptune in 9th
[17] 9th
[18] Natal Neptune in 9th

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Liz Jones 'airbrushed' out of Marie Claire's history: tsk

Liz Jones
Now that Liz Jones is my fiancee - this may be news to her, but that's none of her business - I have to communicate my distress over Marie Claire's treatment of its former editor. Today, in the Mail on Sunday, she tells her followers that the magazine has 'airbrushed' her 'into oblivion... Stalin fashion'. Its UK quarter-century birthday issue fails to make any mention of her in a piece about its 'powerhouse' past editors, starting with Glenda Bailey, who once helped raise sales with a supplement featuring hundreds of disembodied penises. 

Liz writes:
'Makes you wonder what other hard facts of life have been erased in this strange celebration of the magazine’s championing of ‘real women’... I despair that the current incumbent as editor, Trish Halpin, didn’t have the balls to explain her decision to airbrush her magazine’s history. Can we ever believe a word she says again.' 
Apparently, Liz had been booked to do an interview for the celebratory piece. But then she blew it with the serialisation of her memoir in the Mail which made claims of Marie Claire's less than admirable commitment to staffers who take maternity leave, among other things. On the day the serialisation appeared, Liz received an email from the magazine: the editor and art 'director' had 'rethought' the feature and wouldn't be going ahead - but any travel expenses would be reimbursed.

This is no way to treat a high profile former editor who was always going to amplify a slight via the good offices of Britain's leading Middle England newspaper. What was Trish thinking? Trish, I see, is on Twitter but has yet to tweet anything to her 1500+ followers. I really don't see the point of tweetless Twitter accounts. Do you? Such silence is the media equivalent of celibacy and should not be encouraged. Look what celibacy turned Catholic priests into.

I know from bitter experience that glossy magazines find it hard to cope with contention. But a magazine that can deify cock should surely be able to embrace Liz.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Review: The Mitford Girls' Guide to Life by Lyndsy Spence

Quite the most delightful book release of the season is Lyndsy Spence's The Mitford Girls' Guide to Life. Each afternoon these past few days, at around three, I revived the gilt-rimmed bone china, poured Darjeeling (lemon no milk), nibbled digestives (but no dunking) - a faintly-quaintly sensurround of this kind is recommended for added enjoyment of the book - and lapped up the wisdom filleted from the extraordinary lives of the six aristocratic sisters, aka the Mitford Girls.

As 4,000 One Direction fans fill Leicester Square (as I write) for the boy band's film premier, what could these poor screaming wretches learn, say, from the chapter, Fan Devotion: A Cautionary Tale? Unity Mitford's adoration of Hitler provides the lesson. 'When one sits behind him,' she noted of Hitler, 'it's like sitting beside the sun. He gives out rays or something.' To fanatical Directioners - as One Direction fans are termed - Spence might offer this advice, based on Unity's sly stalking of the Führer: 'Don't rush head first into an encounter with your idol as this will label you as another fan. Edge your way in slowly and discreetly.' 

Play your cards right and you, too, could end up as Mrs Harry Styles.

There is no end of advice on all range of activity. Letter-writing the Mitford way? 'If you are sick, make a conscious effort to bake the letter in the oven as this will kill any lingering germs.' However, 'if you dislike the person you are writing to, by all means feel free to send the germs as well as your love.'

And should you desire to run away, as Leftie Jessica did, this nugget shines among many others: 'Open a bank account as soon as possible.'

Prepare to enter a world with its own language. 'Farve' and 'Muv' are translatable - Farve, by the way, could not abide jam running down the side of the jar. 'Wondair' is rather baffling. Does it mean 'wonderful'? Well you'll have to read the book. There are 'Hons' and 'Counter-Hons'. Beyond the cod advice, Spence immerses us in Mitford miscellanea. Muv, for instance, is buried unembalmed in Swinbrook, Oxfordshire. Not wondair!

This is a clever book indeed. Its self-help pose could herald the start of a whole series of books which turn celebrity lives into bullet-pointed parables, without the tiresome linear corset of traditional biography, birth to death to seance. At the same time, this new tribute genre permits author and reader a good biscuity wallow in the adored life. Fact and goss are savoured, played with, re-presented. If I didn't know better, I would say Lyndsy Spence - who bears an uncanny resemblance to Katie McGrath's Morgana in BBC series Merlin - must be some kind of benign stalker, the fan who will not boil the bunny, drawn to glamorous enclaves for a painless poke around.

The Mitford Girls' Guide to Life tickled me from start to end. And Madame is not easily tickled.

The Mitford Girls' Guide to Life can be bought here.

Madame Arcati's interview with Lyndsy Spence, here.

Friday, August 16, 2013

William Cash - one of the WI pensioners bites back

Cool reception: The Gatehouse, Upton Cressett Hall, Shropshire
Further to my post yesterday on the banning of a Women's Institute branch from William Cash's Grade 1 Elizabethan moated manor house in Shropshire, Upton Cressett Hall - he escorted 27 pensioners off the premises after one of them asked to take a leak - an anonymous fan (of mine) has drawn my attention to further distressing developments pertaining to William's gorgeous home.

For I see that on Trip Advisor, Upton Cressett Hall is uniformly trashed by six reviewers purporting to have visited the mediaeval property. 'Unbelievable arrogance and greed. Such a pity, with some forethought and consideration this could be a most enjoyable visit. 5 stars for the Romanian lady who served tea and cake,' writes one Terence James of Shrewsbury.

Another appears to respond to the infamous episode of early August during which he ejected the 27 WI pensioners. Cathy writes:
'Well our local ladies group had a fun afternoon as Mr Cash is totally disorganised and has a very short fuse. He'd booked in 2 groups by mistake. The outside loos were locked and he didn't have the key, and disaster struck when another visitor went to use the loo in the house and shut the front door - everyone locked out! He lost his cool and ranted threatening to cancel the tour. eventually he or his staff got in through an open window. We had our tea and cake then a tour of 3 rooms - very disappointing. We were then treated to Mr Cash having a discussion with ladies from the other group which turned into him yelling and shouting at them to leave and he forcibly ejected them from the property! Not his finest hour and we certainly would not recommend this.'
Oh dear. Perhaps William should stick to journalism where 'yelling and shouting' are at least a time-honoured tradition.

To read other reviews of Upton Cressett Hall, click here.

To visit Upton Cressett Hall, click here.

Listen to William describe his home, click here.

To read my post on how William threw out the pensioners, click here.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

William Cash bans 27 WI pensioners from home over loo row

Upton Cressett Hall in Shropshire
It has been ages since I wrote of the poppetiest of the Arcati poppets, William Cash. To be brutally honest, when I warm to someone I tend to lose interest. The thaw began after the odd Twitter exchange with his former second wife Dr Vanessa Neumann - usually described as the 'glamorous, intellectual Venezuelan fire-cracker who once dated Mick Jagger'. William has given the world many laughs - usually because of the unintended consequences of his extraordinary obsession with life's baubles. But at least he has turned this amour into an editorial expression with Spear's - 'the essential resource for high net worths.' (Or put simply, not you, probably)

You may not know this, but these days the poppet lives in a rather grand Grade 1 Elizabethan brick manor called Upton Cressett Hall in Shropshire. Its history is a roll call of royals, dukes and others with the hereditary X factor. One of its owner-occupiers contributed to the Armada Fund in 1588, for instance. And one of its bedrooms is named after Baroness Thatcher! 

Much to my amazement, parts of the property are open to the public. Which brings me to the saddest tale of the season.

William maintains a blog on a website dedicated to his home. And the latest post is entitled, 'Why I banned the Women's Institute from Upton Cressett'. It is a narrative of woe you must read if you have half an hour to spare - it's rather long. But compelling. I won't bore you with the he-saids/she-saids, suffice to say that an 'owner tour' disintegrated into farce when William came to blows with a branch of the visiting WI.

Problems began one early August day this year when a floral-skirted old cunty dared to address him as 'staff' and demanded to know where the toilets were. There are none. Now, I should have thought a public convenience essential in a place open to the public and where they tend to drink tea and eat scones. William was taken aback. But he recovered and pointed to a private 'loo under the stairs.' Following more peculiar antagonism, at some point everyone was accidentally locked out of the Hall and William threw a strop, banning all 27 members of one WI branch at a stroke. He even escorted them ('mostly white haired pensioners in summer suits or sixty plus blue-rinse members of the jam-making and Order of the WI Battle-Axe variety.') to the car park.

William is sufficiently self-possessed to spot his inner Basil Fawlty and send himself up a little. But I mean, where's his, er, famed noblesse oblige?

To read William's blog, click here

Friday, August 09, 2013

Eric Joyce MP - the abstract painting that created the fuss

The recent fuss about Eric Joyce MP and his tigressy moll India Knight stirred up some media confusion. The wonderful artist M.K. Hajdin has revealed that she produced two artworks of or for the lively MP for Falkirk - one a literalist sketch, the other an abstract landscape.

Now, the abstract landscape is immediately below - the version India was rude about. Plainly she is no art critic. Then again, she doesn't claim to be Brian Sewell - can you imagine her immersing her arse in the sea as Brian once did on TV, nude? Frankly, Eric should return the abstract 'gift' to M.K. in my opinion. She claims he helped colour the work - he insisted on more red. M.K. writes on her site 'Halfway through [painting], Joyce said it wasn’t red enough, so I had to add a lot more red and adjust all of the other colors.  It’s got more red in it than I’d use, normally, but that’s what he wanted.'

Red, Purple, Green, mixed media, 70 x 100 cm, by M.K. Hajdin

Artist Rachel Mai says in her critique of the abstract: 'It seems to describe a rather materialistic personality of someone who has little communication between his conscious and his sub/ unconscious minds. Red, the base chakra, works for groundedness, prosperity and success. Hence for the Chinese, red is their "lucky colour". However, it is not usually considered an elevated colour for the aura and having a lot of it can indicate a base consciousness.' Rachel's Facebook page is here.

And this is M.K.'s sketch of Eric:

Gore Vidal, Fred Astaire and the cock size question

Will Gore Vidal be remembered 50 years from now? I doubt it. Myra Breckinridge will, by 2063, be a forgotten contribution to a vast library of late 20th century transgressive fiction. Vidal's first gay novel The City & The Pillar - a bold work of juvenilia for 1948is already just italics. No one reads it. The historical novels? See the fate of Barbara Cartland's oeuvre. The scintillating essays? See last season's collections with front row Anna in her shades: instant period pieces. In other words, Vidal surfed the earthly moments splendidly but left no timeless time-capsules. 

However, Vidal fans can cling to one hope for his immortality - he could survive in time's freezer as a case study. He fucked thousands, mainly other men. Rampant cockery and cuntery have their own heroes - or case studies. I won't name them; google 'em. Now, this November, a new book is released which examines the extent of Vidal's cockery. Penned by someone called Tim Teeman, it's titled In Bed With Gore Vidal: Hustlers, Hollywood and the Private World of an American Master and promises to be 'explosive'. That's a publishing word for 'sex life not shared by publisher'. Readers may say, as they flick over the kindle pages on the bus, 'How did he find the time?' That's what 'explosive' amounts to these days.

More importantly, did Gore Vidal possess a massive cock? The book will answer this question. But why wait for publication day? Here's the answer Tim offers prematurely:

'One of Vidal’s oldest friends was Scotty Bowers who had sex with, and procured sex for, celebrities including Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, and Vidal himself. “Gore had a medium-sized cock, seven inches, he looked circumcised but wasn’t,” Bowers recalls. The few times Bowers had sex with Vidal was “pleasant, not mad love.” Vidal was always “on the ball, not bashful or shy, rather aggressive and pushy,” and was “more or less into a quick trick. He did everything sexually: you sucked his cock, he would suck yours, but he preferred to fuck. He was young and hot and sex was rather quick.”' (From the Daily Beast)

I had no idea Gore had sex with Fred Astaire.