No Complaints #95: Ham, Hamilton and Hanks

At the risk of sounding like an obnoxious YouTuber who keeps talking about their “secret projects”, I will hopefully be able to explain very soon why this newsletter has been a bit intermittent/unpredictable over the past few weeks.

In the meantime, to everyone who has emailed me to so kindly check, be reassured – I’m not stopping doing it! (If you’d like to make a contribution towards its continued existence or guilt-trip me into sending it more promptly, forward it to a friend or make a donation.)

Things to read

“In 2015, after consulting an obscure set of notes Elgar wrote about the Variations, Padgett believed he finally found the right counterpoint, the one Elgar intended. It’s a mashup of the three famous renditions of the hymn: the 16th century Martin Luther version, the 18th century Bach version, and the 19th century Mendelssohn version. Played backwards.”

This story is bananas, for the following reasons: one, Elgar hid a secret coded tune in the Enigma Variations; two, he never told anyone what it was and it’s been driving academics nuts ever since; three, a creationist from Texas now thinks he’s worked it out. Email to Pocket.


“When communities secretary Sajid Javid delivered his white paper aimed at fixing the UK’s housing crisis in the House of Commons this week, he spoke of ‘young people, faces pressed against the estate agent’s window, trying and failing to find a home they can afford’. Maybe he doesn’t even realise the torment of a Rightmove trawl; he doesn’t know that you can take that disappointment home with you, see it relayed on a glowing iPhone screen, as you limit yourself to a sensible sum – four and a half times your combined household salary, say – and watch the website announce that ‘your search has returned 0 results’.”

Great piece about the sickening horror of the UK housing market, and the “bad luck and good luck” that allowed the writer a bit of wriggle room in it. Email to Pocket.


“ROBERT: (Pause.) I remember ham . . . lots of ham.
OPERATOR: In a sandwich?
ROBERT: No. No sandwich. Just ham pieces. (Pause.) There were also some . . . spoonfuls of chocolate frosting, two or three . . . green peppers, I think, and yogurt. A large tub of yogurt. Peach.
OPERATOR: OK, Robert, you understand that what you just described isn’t really lunch, right?
ROBERT: It is lunch. When there are no rules, it is lunch, Cherise!
OPERATOR: Did you at any point dip the green peppers in the peach yogurt?
ROBERT: Probably. Sorry.”

I don't work from home, but I know this would be me if I did. Email to Pocket.


“And here Hiddleston does a brief impression of Tom Hanks (he does very good impressions of everyone, including me after a day) that is hard to describe, except to say that it summons Tom Hanks in a very profound way. Its only flaw is also part of its charm: While he does the impression, he’s also looking at you to see how much you’re enjoying it, and then he can’t stop smiling when he sees that you are, so ultimately what you get is an impression of Tom Hiddleston enjoying himself doing a Tom Hanks impression. ”

This profile of Tom Hiddleston is so quotable, it was hard to pick this bit. Also, it’s such a good bit of sustained in-the-moment feature writing you should read it even if you don’t want to see lots of pictures of a handsome man in a series of nice brown suits. Email to Pocket.


“In orchestral music, trumpets tend to sit at rest for hundreds of bars, and then leap in with a loud, high pitched riff. In an irony repeated endlessly in life, the more confident you are, the more likely you were to hit those high notes, which needed a quick, perfectly pitched blast of air. It is not for the faint-hearted.”

This is excellent column about what being a women who plays the trumpet can teach you about confidence. Email to Pocket.


Things to listen to

Do you like Hamilton? I really like Hamilton. I also really like podcasts about Hamilton, particularly The Room Where It’s Happening and The HamilcastThe former is a really slick interview show that has had some really great guests like Rachel Bloom and Alex Lacamoire, and the latter is a lovely, informal chatty podcast, which is completely open and unashamed about how deeply they love this musical.

(I wrote a bit more about Hamilton podcasts here.)

+ Also: I was on the 21st Century Life podcast talking about doing a podcast and this newsletter (my interview starts three minutes in).


Things to watch

I liked Megan Tan's Ted talk.

Can't wait for the new Anne of Green Gables adaptation.

Best of luck with the wall.

Things to attend

14 March, 7pm, The Book Club, Shoreditch

My podcast co-host, Anna, and I are doing another SRSLY Harry Potter Quiz! It goes on sale at midday on 15 February, and this is the link you need for tickets. (Just an fyi, the last one of these we did sold out in 10 minutes, so if you want to go make sure your team is poised to book!)

Compulsory medieval thingamabob

“Now, be a good lion and hold my book for me quietly. NO ROARING.”

The guest gif

Keep smiling.

If you have a suggestion for something I should look at, hit reply to this email or talk to me on Twitter.

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THE END. See you next time!