Some might say this life was a failure

If, by the end, Simon Norton was concerned that his life had not been what you would expect of one of the cleverest men in the world, he did not show it.

This was the man who as a child was fêted as a prodigy in the Daily Mail and The Sunday Times. Yet as he sat amid the accumulated detritus of his basement — a tidy mind in an untidy world — he displayed little worry that his was not the position of eminence most readers would have predicted years ago.

He was the mathematician who gained his first first-class degree aged 17, who began his second hailed as among the most promising prospects of his generation — and who, indeed, had some notable success in his twenties. In the dim half-light of his Cambridge flat, however, he did not appear to be bothered whether after that he had really fulfilled his potential — whatever that means.

Well, yes, mathematical genius, has breakdown, leaves maths. So, a failure then.

Norton was unambitious and never quite of this world. He was also generous, concerned and kind. He did not have a partner, children or many close friends, but what he did have, wherever he went, was a way of eliciting fondness.

When he died, on February 12, the family said they were surprised by just how many people wanted to pay tribute. “Simon’s funeral was attended by mathematicians, bus campaigners (who look very similar to some mathematicians), publishers, grateful former tenants — a peculiar and lovely mix,” said Alexander Masters. “Afterwards we all ate jaffa cakes (Simon’s favourite biscuit) and went on an hour-long bus ride round London, in celebration.”

There’s a certain glorious – and rather English – victory to that life.

Is she really allowed to say this these days?

Karl Lagerfeld is dead, and the fashion industry he presided over from the house of Chanel rends its garments and calls itself heartbroken. His muse, a white cat called Choupette, which exists largely on Twitter – a metaphor for his misanthropy so pure I thank him – was photographed in a mourning veil, thanking us for our words of condolence. That his best beloved was literally inhuman, and very small, is no surprise. (It is rumoured that, if she exists, she will inherit his fortune, though that is illegal in France.)

I do not think Lagerfeld really liked women. It is impossible to watch his work and think he did

Is it politically acceptable to say that gay boys don’t like women these days?

The couture shows in Paris, at which he excelled, power the global fashion machine and send it to the duller parts of Earth. He decided what was lovely and what was not, who should be noticed and who should be ignored. None of this would matter if it didn’t have that power – fashion, when cornered, cites its triviality as a defence – except it did. The machine sold perfumes and handbags (almost no one can afford couture, and that kind of money is a sickness in itself) by offering an ever-receding image of beauty that no normal woman could ever attain, let alone hold. The girls who wore his clothes, which were as insubstantial as a fleeting dream (he was an artist, and his works expressed his philosophy perfectly), were very young and tiny. They seemed, when you watched them, only just born, with no blemish on them, existing only for the adornment of Lagerfeld’s feathers and bows.

The rest of it seems to be fat bird whining about fashion models.

On the subject of tomorrow

Let’s put a name to one Stan Chamberlain 149 Sqdn lost over Germany 7/8 September 1941in Wellington X9705. 5 others lost with him. His only child, a son, was born after he died. Standing in front of 6 gravestones and especially holding the telegram received by Ellen is extraordinarily moving. Real real people. I wear a poppy not glorify but to remember. My FiL has lived with the loss his whole life.

We who grow old remember….

Not bad, not bad at all

When a doctor gave him a long and convoluted explanation as to why he was going to stop treating him for sepsis, the monk interrupted him: “You mean I’m dying?” The doctor nodded. Sangharakshita looked thoughtfully at the pile of audiobooks that had just been stacked by his bed. He smiled and said: “You had better put those back.”

A different one. Heard from someone who was there. Actually, who was a flight controller there. However, this could just be a good story, really don’t know.

Plane coming in to land on carrier. Obvious that it’s not going to make it, it’ll splash and badly. Last words of pilot “Cancel two late lunches.”

Eh?

With quiet stoicism, Taverner completed 41 missions over two tours as a navigator flying in Halifax bombers with No 51 Squadron. For this he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The odds on aircrew surviving a single tour of 30 missions were about 1 in 6. The odds on surviving a second tour were even worse.

5/6 ths of Bomber Command aircrew died over a 30 mission tour?

5/6ths of crews lost at least one member of crew over a 30 mission tour?

Or they’ve got the odds the wrong way around – 1/6th died?

Doesn’t quite work

A raconteur with a pro- nounced sense of humour and a taste for the fine things in life, Jago was a repository of stories related to the alcohol industry. His first big success was to reinvigorate the almost forgotten Croft Pale Cream Sherry. He recalled walking into the sample room at Vila Nova de Gaia in Porto at 10am one day in 1963 to find George Robertson, the chairman of Croft, sampling an old tawny and smoking a large Havana. “I was priggishly shocked,” he recalled, then “George said: ‘Everyone smokes a cigar when they drink port.’ ”

Sure, it’s two stories got mixed. But tawny, Porto, that’s port, not sherry.

Still at least the Times has Tom Jago, correctly, inventing Bailey’s not the oft attributed Tony O’Reilly. Which is one of those stories where anecdotes and quotes migrate to a more famous past person – there’s an awful lot that Twain or Churchill didn’t say but others did.

Nice story

Of Peter Stringfellow:

Even as he came to rely on hearing aids and cosmetic surgery to hold the advancing years at bay, he continued to date girls less than half his age. When he was in his sixties one of his girlfriends asked him to send flowers to her mother on her 40th birthday.

Fun for Bathonians

Sir Roger Bannister
Gentlemanly athlete and physician who was the first person to run a mile in under four minutes, but was prouder of his achievements in neurology
….
The family moved to Bath, Somerset, when the war broke out. His daily walk to the City of Bath Boys’ School ended with a sprint up 150ft of steps, and he soon broke the school’s cross-country record.

City Boys’ is now Beechen Cliff. So those steps are those leading up from the station/Widcombe to Alexandria Park. Yep, they’ll get the lungs and legs working. I’ve walked them.

Once.

Gone ’round the other way ever since.

Good planning, not perfect, but good

The art of the lifetime savings hypothesis is that you should die around and about when you run out of money. Or, obviously, run out of money around and about when you die:

All Creatures Great and Small star Robert Hardy had only £165,000 in his will.

Good planning there.

A mixture of lifetime gifts to the children, a solid pension or annuity which dies with you, some cash of course for uncertainty. But we pass this way but once, enjoy it while we can but really do try not to run out.

Of course, that lifetime savings hypothesis, along with income smoothing over time, must be wrong for it is neoliberalism associated with Milton Friedman. It’s just remarkable, for something so obviously wrong, how often it works out that way.

Reports of my demise are sadly premature

A former Big Brother contestant has been left furious after the Channel 5 show announced her death and paid tribute.

A message posted on the Twitter account read: “So sad to hear that Rebekah Shelton, who appeared in #BBUK 2009 as Rodrigo Lopes, has passed away aged just 32. Our thoughts are with her friends and family, from everyone here at Big Brother UK.”

Dozens of news reports emerged on Friday morning that Rebekah Shelton had died “unexpectedly”.

Devastated fans remembered her as one of the “most loveable housemates” as they mourned her “death.”

However, it turns out the reports were false, and Ms Shelton posted a furious video on Twitter.

She said: “I’m not dead!!!!!! Please stop spreading this news!!!!! My lawyer is already working on this and this person who wants to spoil my happiness is going to pay for it!!!”.

Can’t recall who made the first comment…..

There’s a great truth here

Asked in later life if she was aware of the mesmerising power of her beauty as a 19-year-old, Keeler answered: “I don’t think young girls know they’re beautiful. Although I must admit there wasn’t much I couldn’t get or do if I wanted to then. I was a shy girl. I had rosy cheeks. I hated them. I blushed easily.”

Female beauty certainly eases the path through life. And it comes as something of a shock to many who were that this effect fades.

It explains a certain amount of the modern world that this is so…..

I loved these columns

However, it was the content of the column that may perhaps never be equalled. Each week, using the pen name of Daedalus, he wrote about an ingenious invention that was on the edge of plausibility, but was entertainingly fictional. It was not so much science fiction as technology fiction. As he put it: “Daedalus is ideally just beyond the edge of possibility, but only just. I can’t overtly break the laws of physics, and my arguments are always carefully buttressed by scientific facts . . . nonetheless, one should have the feeling that the argument has gone off the rails somewhere.”

The ones that struck were where some new discovery was slightly perverted into the foundation of a business. That just didn’t, really, make sense but did superficially.

Something of a pity that this appears to be where the professor of practice has got his economics from.

Oh, very clever

An alternative epitaph might have been delivered by Max the macaw. Blazer’s wife had taken the bird after their divorce and returned it to him a year later having taught it some choice phrases. Henceforth, as Blazer took business meetings at Trump Tower, the macaw would squawk: “You’re a dope.”