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The first woman to conduct the last night of the BBC Proms.

I heard this on BBC Radio 3’s Words & Music last night, the theme or title of which was “Nocturne”. The poem struck me as rather beautiful, so I thought I’d post it here. I am pleased to say that this poem does not, and never will, reflect my own feelings. Just in case you were wondering …

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
Write, for example, ‘The night is starry
and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.’
The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.
Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.
She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.
To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.
What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is starry and she is not with me.
This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
My sight tries to find her as though to bring her closer.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.
The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.
I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tries to find the wind to touch her hearing.
Another’s. She will be another’s. As she was before my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body. Her infinite eyes.
I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.
Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.
Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

(translated by W.S. Merwin)

Elbow performing at Manchester Cathedral. The song is “Lippy Kids” from their album Build a Rocket Boys!.

This captures some of the atmosphere of this amazing gig which I walked into Manchester to see.

(Source: Daily Mirror)

Amy Winehouse’s grieving mum Janis says her daughter was “a physical wreck and completely out of it” the day before she died. Janis spent several hours with her tragic daughter after turning up at her home unannounced. But 27-year-old Amy was in such a bad way that her minders had to help her down the stairs.

This contradicts reports last week that she had beaten her drug and alcohol demons – and adds weight to friends’ fears that she had fallen back into her old ways. At her funeral on Tuesday, her ­devastated dad Mitch said Amy had given up drugs and had been winning her battle with alcohol. But Janis, who had called at her daughter’s home just after midday on Friday, told a friend it seemed she had hit the bottle again.

“Amy was completely out of it,” she said to the friend. “She was in such a state the guys minding her had to go upstairs to get her and help her down the steps. It looked like she had been out drinking the night before and was still drunk or hung over.”

Police are now probing who Amy spent her last hours with and ­whether she was supplied with drugs including ecstasy the night before her body was found at 4 p.m. last Saturday at her home in Camden, North London. It could take up to four weeks for toxicology tests to come back to determine the cause of death.

Janis also told her friend: “I don’t know what happened on that Friday night. I was told she was seen drinking in the bar at the Roundhouse that evening. But how much she drank and what happened next is a mystery. I just think she put her body through too much and it just gave up. If you continue to neglect yourself, there is only so much it can take.”

Amy’s close pal Tom Wright – son of BBC Radio 2 DJ Steve – says friends had turned a blind eye to her using “social drugs” like ecstasy and cannabis on the basis she had quit using crack cocaine and heroin.

Tom, who had not seen Amy for about six months (so really close then), said: “I think maybe some people made a distinction between the hard drugs of her past and the social drugs of the present. I don’t think that’s acceptable but it’s the only explanation I can think of for what happened to her.”

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She does the weather on BBC Breakfast. So she tells you how many inches you can expect, etc., etc.

As usual, I sincerely hope that if you typed in one of these search terms, you found what you were looking for.

I am not making these up.

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Tom Brook was the first British journalist to report live from the scene of John Lennon’s murder outside the former Beatle’s home in New York on 8 December 1980. Here, he gives his personal recollections of what it was like to cover the shooting, and its aftermath, for BBC News:

On the evening of 8 December 1980 I was a young inexperienced journalist living in New York who’d recently arrived from London. I was totally unprepared for the drama that would unfold.

It began with a late night phone call from pop impresario Jonathan King, who was then a columnist for BBC Radio 1 living in New York. He told me he’d heard reports of a shooting outside the Dakota, Lennon’s home, and that the former Beatle was possibly the victim.

Before long I was racing up 8th Avenue in a taxi and I arrived at the Dakota sometime after 11.00 p.m. bearing a tape recorder and notepaper.

There was an eerie silence – the street had been cordoned off – there were a couple of police cars outside the entrance to the Dakota – a few people had begun to gather.

Minutes before I arrived at the building, Lennon had been rushed to nearby Roosevelt Hospital – hauled over the shoulder of a policeman. Dr Stephan Lynn and his team at the emergency room worked frantically to try to bring him back to life.

A few days ago Dr Lynn told me exactly what was going on inside the resuscitation room. As he recalled: “He had no signs of life, no blood pressure, no pulse. He was unresponsive. We opened his left chest, I did it, with a scalpel. We made an incision.

“I actually held his heart in my hand as the nurses rapidly transfused blood. I tried to massage the heart as we put blood into his body. We knew that there was no way that we could restore circulation, there was no way that we could repair the massive injury to all of the blood vessels in the body.”

Outside the Dakota I was trying to get in touch with my colleagues in Broadcasting House in London where it was before dawn.

There was no breakfast television in those days, radio ruled the morning airwaves but international communications were far from instantaneous. There was no internet, no email, no texting, no mobile phones, in many instances no direct dialling to London.

From a public phone booth not far from the Dakota I managed to get through to Today – the night editor told me to get whatever I could but to make sure I got back in touch by 6.30 a.m. when the programme went on the air.

I returned to the crowd which was now growing rapidly. I recorded people’s comments. Among the tearful and grieving was a young woman from Britain who said “I feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach”. Those words summed up exactly how everyone felt.

I persuaded the night duty clerk in a building opposite the Dakota to let me use his telephone so I could feed the taped comments to London. Sending audio to London in those days was cumbersome.

You had to unscrew the mouthpiece from a telephone handset and then attach a special lead with crocodile clips – the other end of this lead connected to the output of the tape recorder. It was a precarious and tricky operation – but it worked that night.

The clerk wouldn’t take any money for the gigantic phone bill I must have clocked up. He told me he didn’t want any payment because he loved John Lennon and his music.

Pretty soon I was broadcasting live. I’d always been a big John Lennon fan. His music and lyrics had really engaged me.

On the air, the late Brian Redhead, who was co-presenting Today, pressed me for some detail and I remember finishing off his question with the words: “…and now he’s dead.” I was pretty composed – but the finality of that statement got to me. I thought I might lose it.

I’ve kept some of the notepaper I used from that night. I had to file for the Radio 4 bulletins. Every time I’d write out a rough script the facts would change so there are all kinds of corrections.

There’s a lot of scrawl – it began to get messy. It was stressful and the story was very emotional.

The crowd was expanding exponentially. Soon it was several hundred strong. People arrived at the Dakota in tears, bearing candles, they sang Lennon songs, it became an all-night vigil.

A few days ago I learned that for one of Lennon’s famous acquaintances – American singer-songwriter James Taylor – the violence of that night came very close to home: “It seems amazing to me now, but I lived in the building one up from the Dakota and I heard him shot – five, just as quick as you could pull the trigger, about five explosions. And his assassin had button-holed me in the tube station, the subway stop, right in front of 72nd Street the day before.

Sean Lennon says it’s always difficult when the anniversary comes round and he tries to look out for mother Yoko Ono “The guy had sort of pinned me to the wall and was glistening with maniacal sweat and talking some freak speak about what he was going to do and his stuff with how John was interested, and he was going to get in touch with John Lennon. And it was surreal to actually have contact with the guy 24 hours before he shot John.”

It took Yoko Ono some time before she began to talk publicly about the night. I interviewed her just before the second anniversary of Lennon’s death in 1982.

To her it seemed like her famous husband was still among the living. In a composed voice she told me: “He’s still alive, he’s still with us, his spirit will go on. You can’t kill a person that easily, that’s the way I feel about it.”

Sean Ono Lennon, Yoko Ono’s son by John Lennon, was only five when his father was killed. He was at home in the Dakota when it happened.

To him it’s a difficult anniversary: “It has been 30 years since he passed away, and this time of year I tend to just sort of look out for my mum and make sure that she’s alright. That’s basically it, I just want to make sure that she’s ok.”

The anniversary of Lennon’s death has brought forth an outpouring of unadulterated admiration from both his fans and some of the biggest names in the music business.

U2’s front man Bono, who was passing through New York at the time of the shooting, says: “I just know I wouldn’t be standing without him, and my whole life as an artist was kind of shaped by him and I can’t exaggerate enough the effect his music had on me.”

Lennon probably wouldn’t be happy with all this retrospective praise.

In one of his last major print interviews published in Playboy he said: “I don’t have any romanticism about any part of my past. I don’t believe in yesterday. I’m only interested in what I’m doing now.”

John Lennon may not have wanted to dwell on his past but judging from all anniversary tributes, millions of us remain, 30 years after his death, intensely interested in him and his music.

I just saw an interview on the BBC with one of my favourite writers, P.J. O’Rourke. When asked about Sarah Palin, he struggled to say anything polite, then finally managed:

“She’s carrying too much sail for her hull.”

Incidentally, this Sarah Palin pic can be found on Google by using the search term “invisible dicks”.

The only Sarah Palin joke I know is the one where you ask someone “Where does Sarah Palin live?” then when they say “Alaska” you say “Oh thanks, would you?”.

Salford Quays

(Source: Manchester Evening News)

The man who is leading the BBC’s move to Salford has hit out against a ‘pathetic’ slur campaign against the north.

Peter Salmon, director of BBC North, took the extraordinary step of speaking out after a series of ‘grim up north’ stories in the national press claimed there was a revolt among staff unprepared to give up their London homes for MediaCityUK. Mr Salmon, who has been involved in programme making in Manchester and London for 20 years, accused critics of a ‘mud-throwing campaign’ against Salford. He said it was ‘unforgivable’ for London-based media to peddle old stereotypes and mislead people into thinking the city was an undesirable place to live. He said stories suggesting BBC bosses – including himself – were not committed to the project were ‘outrageous’.

Mr Salmon told the M.E.N: “People are throwing mud and hoping it might stick at the north which I think is unforgivable. We are trying to build on what Manchester has had in its DNA for years and years – lots of entertainers, great storytellers, wonderful journalists, a great television company, the world’s first soap opera. Instead, they dredge out all those old stereotypes about why it is so dreadful in the north and so wonderful in the south which I think is out of date and pathetic.”

Flagship shows including Match of the Day, BBC Breakfast and Blue Peter, will begin moving to MediaCityUK next year. But the national press has run a string of stories – illustrated with what Mr Salmon called ‘misleading’ images of the Salford Quays site – claiming that staff would rather quit than move.

Last weekend, it was announced that human resources director Paul Gaskin was quitting his £190,000-a-year job because of concerns. Mr Salmon’s deputy, Richard Deverell, will not be moving immediately – a decision the director said was due to ‘complex’ family reasons.

Mr Salmon’s own commitment was questioned in some quarters after he revealed that he and actress wife Sarah Lancashire – best known as dippy Coronation Street barmaid Raquel Watts – would only be renting a home in the north west. He has now confirmed they plan to buy a family home in the region as soon as the move would not disturb their children’s education.

Fuck ’em.

Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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