No Complaints #17: Death, Dancing and Ditums

I hereby declare this, my small portion of the internet, to be a dress-free zone. You’re welcome.

Things to read

“When I lock eyes with a stranger on Johannesburg’s streets, there is a flicker, a flash communication, so fast it is invisible, yet so laden that no words might describe it. This stranger may be a man in a coat and tie, or a woman who wears the cotton uniform of a maid, or a construction worker stripped to the waist. Whoever he is, he clocks me as I pass, and reads me and my parents and my grandparents; and I, too, conjure, in an instant, the past from which he came.”

Almost my entire family is in Johannesburg. One day, I’d like to be able to go back, too. Email to Pocket.


“Enthusiasm in France for [Hugues de Sade’s] notorious 18th-century ancestor is now such that the count has begun his own line of luxury goods, Maison de Sade. He started with Sade wine, from the family’s ancestral region of Provence, with the signature of the marquis on the label. He also offers scented candles and soon plans to add tapenade and meats. ‘It is quite natural,’ Hugues explained. ‘The Marquis de Sade was a great gourmand. He adored fine wine, chocolate, quail, pâté, all the delicacies of Provence.’ Hugues said he is now in discussions with Victoria’s Secret for a line of Sade lingerie. ‘We are in the early stages, but the signs are promising.’”

The death and life of the Marquis de Sade. For generations, his descendants tried to erase his existence from the family record. Now, they’re cashing in. Email to Pocket.



“There are some lives we read backwards, from bloody exit to obscure entrance, and Jane’s is one of them. She was beheaded in 1542, with Henry VIII’s fifth queen, Catherine Howard. She was one of Catherine’s ladies, and for reasons which remain inaccessible to us, she had helped the dizzy little person carry on a love affair with a courtier, Thomas Culpepper. She passed on letters and misled and misdirected Catherine’s other attendants; while the lovers got down to business, she snoozed in a chair. Whatever emotion she felt when she found herself sentenced to death, it can’t have been surprise.”

The tale of the other other Boleyn girl, i.e. Jane Rochford, Anne Boleyn’s sister-in-law. As told by Hilary Mantel, of course. Email to Pocket.



“Sometimes she would sit in on local court cases. On other days she could be found in the Barbican music library, examining scores or engaging in spirited and intelligent conversation about music and musicians; or she would chat with prommers outside the Albert Hall. On other occasions she would feed the pigeons and tend to the vegetation in her car-park home. Until recently she attended evensong at St Nicholas Church, Chiswick, her singing notable for its clarity and beauty.”

The obituary for Anne Naysmith, aka “the car lady of Chiswick”, a concert pianist who slept rough in west London for 26 years. Email to Pocket.



“It would be called Dances Any Body Can Do. And they would be mostly household dances, like, dance in a doorway, dance on the stairs, dance in a bed, and other dances that you can do that would be very simple. And I’d like to do a second book called Advanced Dances, and those would require more technical proficiency. And then I’d like to do a third book, and those would be called More Advanced Dances, which would be very difficult to do, like dancing on the tip of a candle flame, or dancing on a cloud…”

How do you write down a dance?. Once you accept that expressing movement with static symbols on paper is near-impossible, things can get a whole lot more abstract. Email to Pocket.

Things to listen to

The Mispronounced Item is a new podcast I’m already bumping to the top of my “to listen” queue every week. Like all the most listenable shows, it’s really very simple: Sarah and Nathan Ditum run down what they’ve been watching, reading, playing and writing that week. They’re both writers (Sarah for us at the New Statesman, Nathan for the Guardian and Edge and lots of other places). It’s a deceptively easy listen – the 30ish minutes of each episode whizz by in what feels like a lot less – and has more than once had me grinning at strangers on my commute (Nathan’s Alec Guinness-as-an-ant impression in episode three has a lot to answer for in this regard). They haven’t been doing it all that long, but already they’ve got an easy overlapping dynamic that immediately makes you feel like you’ve dropped into an ongoing conversation that’s completely on your level. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that they’re married, I don’t know. Anyway, they are doing an excellent job of making me better informed about pop culture, politics and the internet, and you should subscribe right now.

Things to watch

Rain is hard.

Cromwell is smart.

You Don't Own Me.

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

What now?

The guest gif

Me, sensing that it might be spring soon.

THE END. See you next time*!
*Next time will probably be next Friday. If you want to suggest things I should include in the next one of these, please do reply and send me links.