Vague ramblings

The price of delay: two weeks that killed thousands

Posted in Reason by Ian Cundell on 26 April, 2020

I’ll just leave this here…


  • The Liverpool – Madrid match was the same week as Cheltenham;
  • 2020 data only from week eleven, when the first death was recorded, if I remember correctly
  • Covid19 incubation period 5-10 days, with fatalities between 10 and 14 days;
  • The weekend before lockdown, loads of people when to Snowdonia, parks and beaches.

There is blood on hands and its stain is called herd immunity.


Contact light?

Posted in Life, Reason, That which is cool by Ian Cundell on 20 July, 2019

There is something that has puzzled – and amused – me for the fat end of 50 years. I have no clue how many times I have listened to the audio of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s descent to the Lunar surface, and every single time it has set my pulse racing.

Think about it in the context of what some of the words being used meant. “60 seconds” and “30 seconds” are calling the amount of fuel left. They had thirty seconds to land or they had to abort and Armstrong was having to fly around a bit to find a better landing spot than the boulder-strewn one intended.

And then there are the 1202 and1201 alarms as the LEM’s computer declared that it couldn’t cope. Armstrong and Aldrin could, as could Jack Garman, who had prepared a list of every possible computer error and its implications. “Go” Guidance Office Steve Bales and then Capcom Charlie Duke relayed, within a couple of seconds.

Forty feet, down two and one-half. Picking up some dust.

30 feet, 2 1/2 down. Faint shadow.

4 forward. 4 forward. Drifting to the right a little. Okay. Down a half.

30 Seconds.

Forward drift?



And then, with out a trace of the tension must have inhabited every molecule of his being, Aldrin announced the moon landing with the casual air of an Australian asking if you want a beer:

“Contact light”

Go and listen to it. It’s that rising inflection, the antipodean interrogative, as it is known these days. He had just taken part in the greatest thing science and engineering has ever pulled off, and couldn’t have sounded more at ease if he’d been reading out the baseball scores. How staggeringly cool do you have to be to show such aplomb at a moment like that? 

I find it funny, incongruous and absolutely bloody marvellous.

And I am so glad Dad let us stay up and watch it, and then got us out of bed in the small hours to watch the next part – exactly 50 years to the day (near enough to the hour) before this photograph was taken:


Exactly 50 years later...

Once upon a time we dreamed and dared

Posted in That which is cool by Ian Cundell on 16 July, 2019
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Coming home, losing touch and the penalty of missing

Posted in Life, Musing, Personal by Ian Cundell on 11 July, 2018

Paul Kirwan was one of my circle of chums when I was at LSE, a garrulous and quick-witted son of Essex, a Billericay boy through-and-through.

Chuck that first reaction away – Paul was all the good bits of “Essex boy” without the whole “dodgy wide boy” crap. Don’t get me wrong: some of us learned the hard way not to play him at pool for money, but he was cheerful, witty and generally fun to be around. He was also the best assembler of a three-Rizla spliff I ever met.

I’ve been thinking about him a fair bit since England earned a place in the  World Cup semi-final

It wasn’t just the fun and games. During my Masters exams I was having my usual stress-fuelled existential crisis, such that some kind soul thought I was a suicide risk. I wasn’t, but I was feeling a strong urge to chuck it in. As I leant on the balcony of Carr Saunders Hall’s cafeteria – a makeshift study space – Paul wandered over and asked what was up and I said I felt like jacking it in. “Well that would be bloody silly after coming all this way,” he said and slapped me on the shoulder before heading back to his own revision. It was just the kick up the arse I needed at just the right moment,

So it was no surprise that, come Italia ’90, when the important England matches were on we ended up at his flat just off Russell Square, which he shared with his girlfriend (and future wife) Julie. We thoroughly enjoyed his delighted phone call to his Irish dad when  England won and The Republic didn’t. It went right to the fateful semi-final against West Germany. When Chris Waddle’s penalty ballooned over the German goal Paul took it harder than any of us (and we were all pretty gutted). Yet it is a treasured memory of the bit “when Lineker scored” from the song.

Time moved on and it was no surprise that Paul got offers from all of the big six (as then was) accountancy firms and before too long he had moved to Boston. We kept in touch for a little while, but this was the days when even email was in its infancy and a lost contact list meant we lost touch. As with many of that cohort, the four winds took us where they would.

But that semi-final has been a bittersweet memory of the pain of defeat and pride in performance for 28 years.

Twenty eight years.

It’s also nearly ten years since Paul died. I only found out about six months after, by chance, doing a bit of random “I wonder what they’re up to” Googling. His obit was the only place he showed up  – other than as a listed partner on some Deloitte report or other – and it wasn’t until I saw the photo that I was prepared to accept it was the right Paul. I don’t know what happened – he was prone to black moods, but also fond of an ‘occasional’ kebab or burger – and a letter to Julie was unanswered. I didn’t really expected a response after all these years, but I couldn’t just let it pass.

Since I have other friends in Boston, I had simply assumed that sooner or later we would catch up. But the next time kept getting put back to next year, then the next.

Fuck me, 42 is no age.

So, come the final whistle this evening, win or lose, give some thought to the pals you haven’t seen for a while, and maybe check in to find out what they thought of the match.

Because Paul would have bloody loved it.


Night, lights

Posted in That which is cool by Ian Cundell on 24 December, 2017

A couple of weeks ago I drove down Olney High Street and as I passed One Stop it seemed to me that the lights were designed to offer a path to the church end of town. I don’t know if that was intentional, although the effect would be even more compelling were the spire of St Peter and St Paul Church more brightly lit. But that’s a small grumble: the lights made for some cool pictures, so enjoy the video.

Merry Christmas and all the best for 2018.

November 11

Posted in Musing by Ian Cundell on 11 November, 2017

One reason why, two words that matter

Posted in Life, Personal, Personal stuff by Ian Cundell on 24 April, 2017

I don’t know who did it.

It is likely that she (or he) was younger than me, since Carr Saunders Hall was mainly full of undergrads and I was one of the small group of postgrads; it is probable that he (or she) was one of those who volunteered to staff the front desk out-of-hours; I suppose it is possible that it was one of my friends, but really they are the sort of people who if they have something to say about me, would pull me aside and say it to me. But I don’t know.

What “it” was, was this:

Smack in the middle of exam revision time, I wandered into Carr Saunders and the woman on the desk (a fellow student – I can still picture her: quite tall, short red hair, but for the life of me cannot recall her name. Maybe it was her.) said “Ian, Ed has said can you pop up and see him.”

Ed was Ed Kuska, former US Marine (or so the legend went) and Warden of Carr Saunders Hall. I can’t recall if I went straight up to the warden’s residence, but when I got there Ed sat me down and told me that somebody had reported concern for my welfare and, in particular, that I might be a suicide risk.

Now, you need to know that I was very aware of how eccentrically I acted at exam time. I was (and am) pathologically incapable of sitting and thinking. I need to pace. I preferred to revise in the bustle of the bar, rather than the silence of the library or solitude of my room. This restlessness drove a lot of wandering the corridors deep in thought, at all hours of the day and night, randomly stopping wherever I happened to be, to write something down or look something up. Reading that back it doesn’t seem anywhere near as bonkers as it looked in real life. Anybody from Kingston or Francis Bacon would have recognised it, but it hadn’t occurred to me that people at LSE had never seen me in exam mode.

I was not – and never have been – a suicide risk, at least in part because I have seen the devastating impact of suicide. I explained to Ed that it was usual exam behaviour for me and that I would be right back to normal after the last exam (or 13 hours sleep after the last exam, as it turned out). I was somewhere on a slightly wonky spectrum between embarrassed and amused.

In the vanishingly unlikely event that you stumble upon this tale and recognise yourself, these are my two words that matter:

I have thought about this occasionally over the years, especially when I was in chronic clinical depression and when I was finally being treated – it was a little spark in the gloom . And I’ve thought about it quite a bit over the past couple of weeks, having watched the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.

This is an unflinching and harrowing tale of the events that led to Hannah Baker, a high school junior, taking her own life. Katherine Langford’s stellar performance in the lead made me cry for a fictional character for the first time in a very long time. I think anyone who cares about people should watch it – not just in school but in any cohort, be it college, the workplace, the armed forces. It is not easy viewing. It goes to the very darkest of dark, dark places. But I think it might be important, because it is the first time I’ve seen these issues taken on so directly, entirely without the cloak of metaphor.

I still am somewhere on the ’embarrassed-amused’ spectrum. But there is something that has muscled in as the three or so decades since have passed: I am grateful.

And this is my one reason why: That a nameless member of my cohort saw something alarming and took action to ensure it was dealt with, took action to protect me.

How fucking cool is that? And how likely is it that my mystery benefactor has, in those three decades, done much the same for other people in real distress and in urgent need of somebody to give a damn? Pretty much odds on, I’d say.

So, in the vanishingly unlikely event that you stumble upon this tale and recognise yourself, these are my two words that matter: thank you.


Housing: if only there was a way to encapsulate the problem….

Posted in Life, Urbanism by Ian Cundell on 10 February, 2017

So a housing White Paper came out. It called for a wider range of housing providers. Up to a point.

If only there was a single image that encapsulates where the real problem is. If only there were… oh. Wait.

If only there was a way to encapsulate the problem

If only there was a way to encapsulate the problem

Death, the people and journalism: the year of stupid

Posted in Musing by Ian Cundell on 31 December, 2016

This has been a stupid year.

Death was stupid

I know death is pretty stupid at the best of times, but couldn’t it at least have taken an out-and-out evil twat, as well as all the nice people? Not some half-witted, brainwashed suicide bomber, but someone who actually matters? How hard would that be?

The people were stupid

Ian Dunt make a cracking case that it is quite OK to tell Trump voters they are idiots. He’s right: the left (especially the Old Left that has hijacked the Labour Party) ascribes everything bad to structural defects in the economy, the right subscribes everything bad to personal choice. But the truth is that there are manifestly huge structural defects with the economy (unless you are loaded, in which it is all tickety-boo), but nobody is forced to do bad things. At least not until they have a gun to their head. Voting in such large numbers against your own best interest – perhaps for no reason other than spite at the mythical “liberal elite” – is an act of idiocy.

But there is a corollary. To seek to punish “London” (a place with some of the poorest people in the UK) for its alleged sins, by spitting in the face of the one organisation that was actually providing funds (yes, the EU 100% funds UK regional policy) is an act of self-destructive idiocy. That it delivered a Prime Minister with delusions of Margaret Thatcher, but a fraction of the intellect, just compounds things. Boris Johnson in the FO. Idiocy.

Journalism was, and remains, stupid

Every time an attempt to make journalism accountable for its wrong-doing happens, it gets met with cries of “freedom of the press”, rather ignoring that we don’t have a free press. We have a private press, which even in definitional terms is quite different – but is grotesquely so when the concentration of ownership is thrown into the mix. That’s a sort of meta-stupid. The press will be free only when it is without both government and proprietorial influence.

But that is nothing compared to how journalism has fuelled the flames of fascism (not “populism”, not “alt-right”, fascism). That it has done so with the most breath-taking credulity beggars belief. Do not call yourself a journalist if all you are doing is recycling, be it a press release from the Government Press Office or tweets from the Orange-headed sex offender. You stupid fucking fucks were complicit in perhaps the greatest electoral fraud in history and you didn’t even try to be part of the solution. Far more clicks to be had in Clinton’s emails that Trumps sex offending or his, you know, clear and present danger to US national security.

And I’ll probably have a stroke if I get into the British media’s “let’s use balance as an excuse to avoid asking awkward questions” approach. Seriously: never once challenging a toff City dealer’s man-of-the-people act? Andrew Marr’s feeble interview with Marine Le Pen? Failing to call Jo Cox’s assassination an act or terrorism? “Balance” is not a substitute for truth, stupid.

How is that modern journalism on the one hand claims to be important, since it holds the powerful to account, and on the other soils is collective underwear when asked to do so? Fascism isn’t beaten by indulging it, but by confronting it.

Yes, social media compounds your challenges in all its click-baity shallowness. But just as structural challenges don’t force you to be criminal or stupid, social media doesn’t force you to be dickheads. Do you job or stop pretending that you are not part of the problem.

That gun to the head might come quicker than you think.

Anyway, at least we still have JK Rowling. Have a read of this thread, and all the best for 2017.:

Aberfan: how bright their frail deeds.

Posted in Life, Various meats by Ian Cundell on 21 October, 2016

Aberfan – 50 years ago today – is the earliest memory to which I can put a specific date.

I don’t know if I can truly remember the World Cup final in the same year, because the key imagery has been shown so many times I can’t sort real memory from received memory. But Aberfan is fused in my mind by a single image from TV news, a rescue worker (in my 6-year-old head a soldier, but more likely a policeman or a Welsh miner) giving a young girl a hot drink in one of those enamel tin mugs.

The treatment of the victims’ families was a disgrace and shows that callous indifference by the Establishment knows no party allegiance, but an appalled nation responded with a kindness and generosity that seems to belong to an earlier era. In this – of all miserable years – the British people, I think, would do well to remember how bloody marvellous they can be.

Ask any émigré of Welsh descent where they want to go when visiting the Old Country, and Aberfan is high on the list – as it was with my Canadian relatives – as a place to pay their respects. The pits are all gone now, along with the lethal slag heaps, but the memory remains.

Anyone who has ever read accounts of the disaster will appreciate how touched by genius this Karl Jenkins tribute is. The quiet morning, the unmistakable Welsh accent of the hymn. And then, and then…

Tip: it does not end when you think it does:

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