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It's September.

The Ashes are over. Corbyn has been elected by the Labour Party to lead them in to opposition. Doctor Who is about to start infuriating me again. So, it's time for Strictly Come Dancing.

And here, in response to the literally requests, is my opening assesment of the runners and riders in Strictly Come Dancing 2015.

In this post I'll be giving a paragraph or two on each couple, consulting Wikipedia for biographical information and considering how what I've seen of them in the Partner Matching Programme and what I know of their professional partner and considering how I think they'll do in general.  I don't have ready access to Twitter at the moment so an analysis of their Twitter reach and a final predicition will have to wait until later in the week.

In the order in which they are mentioned in the Strictly Come Dancing blog.

Ainsley Harriot and Natalie Lowe. Celebrity celebrity chef Harriot is paired up with the Lovely Natalie Lowe.  Natalie is one of my favourite pro-dancers and is good at training up celebrities and getting the best out of them.  Ainsley has some natural affinity for dancing judging by the way he bops around the kitchen. He's a likeable and enthusiastic guy.  This bodes well. If Lowe can get him some decent technical proficiency early on and steer him through the early rounds I think he's in with a good chance of doing well.

Jay McGuiness and Aliona Vilana.  Jay is a member of boy band The Wanted. Aliona is a past winner with Harry Judd, a former member of boy band McFly. In recent years Aliona hasn't prospered on Strictly, going out in the first two rounds with Tony Jackin and Greg "the Pudding" Wallace.  Boy band members tend to do well. They are used to moving to music and usually have a decent native support.  I didn't catch Jay's dancing ability during the group dances.  Boy band membership says he'll get through the first few rounds easily.

Jeremy Vine and Karen Clifton. I like Karen Clifton as a pro-dancer. She did well to steer Scott Mills as far as she did last year. However, her track record is limited. Vine appears to be able to move in time to the music. He's an engaging character but I'm not sure there is a huge cross over between his natural constituency and those who vote in Strictly Come Dancing votes. I can see him doing well in ballroom. For me a bit of an unknown quantity.

EDITED TO ADD: Clearly an unknown quantity as I've mistaken Karen and Joanne Clifton.  Karen Clifton has a bit more of a track record than her sister-in-law Joanne with some decent places in previous years.  She's quite a determined and driven pro. I'm not sure the change in personnel changes my assesment.

Iwan Thomas, and Ola Jordan.  Ola Jordan is a past winner, and a past winner with an outsider. She's good at making her celebrity dance partners train and her choreography is of a high standard and gets the best out of her partners.  Her Charlston with  Chris Hollins was game changing. Iwan, in turn is an Olympic athelete. They are fit and they know how to train. He's also got a bit of a deeper constitutency through appearing in light hearted panel shows.  The question is, is he a Louis Smith or a Victoria Pendleton. Will he love the dance and will the dance love him.  If he can move then he's a good candidate for finalist.

Jamelia and Tristan MacManus.  Jamelia is a musician which a somewhat checkered media profile. Tristan MacManus was partnered with Jennifer Gibney (not Grey) last year.  Jamelia should be able to dance but I'm not sure how popular she is. Tristan is an unknown quanity.  I don't know.

Kirsty Gallacher and Brendon Cole.  Housewives' Favourite Cole is teamed up with For the Dad's Gallacher in a combination sure to re-kindle many flagging middle-aged marriages.  Cole, a past winner, has a decent track record in the show but in recent years he's failed to convert good field position in to wins. His tendency to stridently support his partner is both a strength and a weakness. Gallacher has long career in sports journalism on Sky. She's an undoubted beauty.  How popular this makes her in with Strictly voters I'm not sure. A wild card here is her public support for the Union in IndyRef.  She may well find that the state of Scottish politics is such that an anyone but Kirsty campaign takes off. Or not.  As usual, the key factor here is whether she can dance. If she can move well and has chemistry with Cole she should do well. If not, I'm not sure he native constituency will carry her very far.

Kellie Bright and Kevin Clifton. I think Clifton, Kevin (one of three Cliftons on the show) is a superb dancer and coach.  Bright, of popular Continuing Drama Eastenders,  is an alumni of the Sylvia Young school. This has finalist written all over it.

George May Foote and Gionvanni Pernice. May Foote irritates the living heck out of me. It's a Skinstead thing. An irrational dislike (unlike my dislike of Steven Moffat, which is perfectly rational). Pernice has no Wikipedia entry.  I'm sure they will do well but I don't care to think about them.

Helen George and Alijaz Skorjanec - always a hard one to judge, where you have a popular actor who is popular for being in a popular programme you, yourself, didn't much care for.  Helen George has name recognition. Alijaz is a previous winner. Probably strong contenders to do well.

Daniel O'Donnell as the old school joke goes is not a famous Irish revolutionary. Famous enough to be a cultural icon he certainly has a powerful name recognition factor. He works in the music industry which I feel ought to help with some moveing to music. However, he's in his 50's, so I'm not sure how well his body will stand up to the training schedule.  He's paired with the Kristina of  Troy. Kristina has a mixed record in Strictly. Her best place is runner up in 2014 with Simon "from Blue" Webbe. Can he dance?  Does your mum like him? Will she vote for him?  Daniel O'Donnell is the Jeremy Corbyn of this year's Strictly.  A psephological nightmare.

Peter Andre. Peter Andre. Peter Bloody Andre.  Known for Mysterious Girl in more ways then one.  My own view of Andre is that he's a decent bloke trying to do his best and that this comes through when he talks.  Which should make him a sympathetic figure.  He's very well known. Janet Manrara, his partner is less well known. She worked well with Jake Wood last series, going out late in the series.  Given Andre's personably personality, his name recognition, his musical career and Manrara's coaching ability Andre would be my pick for finalist and probably winner.

Anthony Ogogo is an Olympian and a boxer.  Olympians ususually do well. Boxers do not. Personally, I'd never heard of him, but then Olympian Boxers are not my bag baby.  He's partnered with new professional Oti Mabuse. She is so unknown that she doesn't even have her own wikipedia page.  I'm not hopeful. I expect Olympian grit will take them about half way and then boxer stiffness and Mabuse newness will trip them up.

Katie Derham.  Is partnered with Anton du Beke. So she's not going to win.

My personal favourite, BBC weather present Carol Kirkwood is partnered with current champion Pasah Kovalev. At 53 Kirkwood might suffer from not being as physically fit as some of the younger, sportier contestants.  She's affable and has the full might of the BBC Breakfast mafia on her side. She's good mates with former winner and BBC Breakfaster Chris Hollins. Not sure that's enough to take her further than half way.

Anita Rani and Gleb Savchenko I know nothing about, not being a watcher of what my brother in law refers to as CitydwellerFile I can't speak to either it's appeal or hers. She's paired with new boy Gleb Savchenko. When I search for him in wikipedia wikipedia coyly suggests that I might like to create a page for Glen Shevchinko.  This does not bode well.  Dancing will be the key here. If she's rubbish, out early. If she's good, she'll survive the early rounds clear out.

And that concludes this year's Strictly opening review.

I'll try to keep up to date with weekly reviews and some psephological analysis as work and health allows.
I have not been successful in my bid to be elected to the Electoral Reform Society Council.

Once again I managed a respectable mid-table exit from the STV election. I expect I shall stand again next time round.

I picked up a decent number of first preferences. It's always gratifying, humbling and surprising to be someone's first choice for something. Thank you to those of you who gave me a high preference.
I am quite excited about the latest referendum in New Zealand. They are considering changing their flag from the Australian Flag the current design adopted in 1902 to another design, which it is hoped would better represent the New Zealand of the 21st and 22nd Centuries.

They have canvassed designs in an open competition, reduced the 10,000 suggestions to a long list, and further reduced that to a short list.

New Zealanders will vote on the top candidate from the 4 entries on the short list using the Alternative Vote and then the winner of that referendum will go (mast) head to (mast) head, pole to pole, flago i flago against the Australian Flag the current New Zealand Flag.

Which seems to me to be a reasonable and democratic way of deciding on whether to replace a current incumbent and with what. It's the system I advocate for deciding on electoral reform, or house of lords reform.

More details below.



I wonder what designs we would be offered in Scotland if we ran the same process
To London last weekend for the second part of my four part birthday celebration, a trip to the Oval with my dad and his mate Dave to watch England play Australia.

The three of us often go to the cricket together. We have a well worn routine. This weekend was not much different.

Dad and Dave had tickets for Friday, Saturday and Sunday with me joining for Saturday and Sunday - days 3 and 4 of the Test.

I flew down on Friday night and met up with Dad and Dave for our traditional Friday night dinner in a Greek Cypriut restaurant. Dave has a mate who goes there every week and we've been going there with him, regularly, for twenty years. We're welcomed and the portions are significant. One meze and kleftico later we collapsed on the sofas at Dave's to watch the highlights of the days play from the Oval. In reply to Australia's 481 all out England were 100 and something for 8.

The plans for Saturday were to make our way to the Oval, watch the cricket then join one of Dad and Dave's old school chums and his wife for dinner.

In many ways the cricket went as expected. England's last batsmen put up a bit of spirited resistance, scoring 36 in a few overs from boundaries. Moheen Ali is fine stricker of the ball. I can see the arguement for him opening. I could see it all the more quickly a few moments later.

Johnson dismissed Wood and Ali in consequtive balls to dismiss England for 149.

Uniquely, Clark enforced the follow on. It's a great shame he's only really discovered himself as a Captain in his last test.

Just time for me to purchase myself an Australia Green and Gold polo shirt and cap.

So after a short break we sat down to watch England's second innings. It was better but not good. Cook looked tenacious and prudent yet aggressive and I could see him standing out there for two days like Atherton but late in the day a Captaincy Combo of Clarke and Smith undid him a little short of a well deserved hundred and a heafty Australian victory looked enevitable. Much consulting of weather forecasts. Rain on Sunday, but probably not until 2. That would give Australia a whole session to take 4 wickets.

We broke for dinner in a Sardinian restaurant. Lively chat, largely about Corbyn and holidays. Lovely food and wine. I had calamari stuffed with calamari, fillet of lamb and a creme catalana. Very lovely. Home, to watch the highlights of the cricket on the sofa.

Between the cricket I'd managed a good few hours of conversation with my dad. It was lovely to spend the day with him.

On Sunday Dave opted out of the cricket. I could see his point. He's likely to travel half way across London and watch 8 overs of cricket and his team badly beaten and then travel home in the rain. Dad manfully agreed to chum me down to watch Australia win.

As it happened the rain came early and heavier than forecast and caused a little bit of anxiety. Light showers at 2 became heavy shower at noon. Australia had only taken two of the necessary four wickets with Ali and Butler looking in decent nick. Advantage still with Australia but you'd always want to finish off the match rather than be sitting about in the damp wondering if it might rain for weeks.

By chance Widgetfox, her husband and father-in-law were at the Oval too. So, Dad and I met up with them and had a chat. Somehow I got myself in to a discussion about electoral systems with WidgetFox's father-in-law, the key motif of which seemed to be Me: the thing you thing FPTP does, it doesn't do. Him: But I like the thing that FPTP does. Dad opted out of the rest of the day, instead chosing to head back to Ealing to watch the Grand Prix and some football. I rebased myself from my seats to the spare seats next to WF.

After an hour and half of rain play resumed. As advertised it didn't take long for the final two wickets to fall.

Australia win the fifth test but lose the series 2-3 and the Ashes are placed in the temporary custodianship of England.

Widgetfox and I didn't stick around for the presentation but instead went for a walk in Green Park and St James park and talked hither and thither. It was lovely although neither of were really as cheerful as we usually are.

Home afterwards via the Docklands Light Railway (there's more of it than you think) and London City airport (there's less of it than you think).

Home fairly late. A lovely bottle of whisky from some friends as a birthday present. Still tired. Fell asleep on the sofa on Monday night after MLW went to bed, the wrong move as it wasn't great sleep and the Captain decided to wake up at 4.45.

My thoughts on the cricket.

It's been a funny old series. Both sides have looked brittle - in particular the batting, but the bowling has at times also failed to make an impact. All the matches have been very lopsided and increasingly so. It's not provided much entertainment. A 2-3 loss probably seems fair but the whole thing appears to have largely been a crapshoot rather than a test of cricketing ability. I look forward to better cricket and a better result in 2017 and 2018.
As a birthday treat My Lovely Wife took me to see three comedy shows at the Fringe on Wednesday.

We went to see

The Thinking Drinkers Guide to the Legends of Liquor


Mark Steel's Who Do I Think I Am


Chris Turner - XXV


All of the three shows were very good, enjoyable, and funny. Worth the entry fee.

The Thinking Drinkers is a mix of anecdote, sketch comedy and stand up based around a semi-serious consideration of the role that alcohol has played as lubricant to thinking and living in civilised society. Drink less, drink better is their watch word. The show is silly, in a good way. Included in the ticket price is a tasting of some nice beers and spirits. The feel of the show reminded me of the Doug Anthony All Starts in their early years. Tom and Ben are likeably, funny guys with excellent knowledge of their subject.

Mark Steel is a very polished comedian with huge experience. Left of center, in fact too left wing for the Labour Party. Very enjoyable. This was a stand up show about being adopted and finding his natural parents. I'd have enjoyed an hour of his stand up with out the incredible, I mean literally incredible, story that he told of how he tracked down his birth mother and father and their lives. I won't spoil it in case you are going to see it. If you are then I think the surprise and the way the story unfolds is part of the experience. If you're not going to see it, then google is probably your friend.

It is frankly the story of the century.

The final show was Chris Turner's XXV. For full disclosure Chris is sort of cousin of mine. He is the nephew of my sister-in-law and therefore my grown up nephews' cousin.

Anyhow, he's a stand up who does improvised rapping. He's very clever and charming. The rapping is very impressive.

Having done some improv in my time I've a little insight in to how you work an improvised component of your routine. So I spent a little time figuring out how he did it. Like magic, once you know how the trick is done it can be difficult to sit back and enjoy the wonder of experience but I was able to concentrate on enjoying the show and not working out how it worked because, again, it's hell of a tale.

Chris opens the show by explaining how, approaching his 25th birthday, his new girlfriend asked him if their relationship was serious and enduring and if he was committed to it and that he'd had to tell her that at the age of 15 was diagnosed with a rare, fatal growth disorder and given ten years to live.

Queue an improvised rap about the contents of people's handbags. Which actually fits in to the story about how being given only until you are 25 really, really motived Chris to do what he wanted to do, which was to become a rapper.

MLW and I had an interesting conversation about the similarities between improv, rapping and facilitation in the bar after because that is what the Fringe is for. There's a tripartate focus. What am I saying or doing now. What do I need to say or do later. How do I make all of this hang together. They are also things that appear magical from the outside but which rely on a set of learnable behaviours on the inside.

So it goes and all washed down some decent but very strong blonde beer and fueled by gormet burgers.

Home for cake and rum.
It is my birthday. I turn 40 today.

And I feel very happy about it.

I have a loving family, A Lovely Wife, good friends, a happy home in a beautiful city, a secure, prestigous, interesting and well paid job, some time to spend enjoying my hobbies, my children thrive and my parents enjoy good health and new adventures.

And although I'm younger than I'll be and older than I was, that's not unusual and I can look forward to the future with good physical and mental health. I feel energetic and ready to make good use of the next year, the next ten years and the rest of my life.

So there is lots to reflect on positively here and lots to celebrate.

Happy Birthday to me.
1. Marmite—love or hate?
I do not think I have knowingly consumed marmite. I did not much care for vegemite. I do like gentlemen's relish. Ah, the salty goodness of anchovies on toast.
2. Marmalade—thick cut or thin cut?
Thin cut. Thin cut for the love of Dawkins. Have we lived and fought in vain?
3. Porridge—made with milk or water?
I make mine with milk. In the microwave because I live in the 21st Century and not some chocolate box version of a foreign country mis-named Scotland where you have to get up before you were born to make porridge over an open fire with a spurtle.
4. Do you like salt, sugar or honey on your porridge?
My prefered topping for porridge is maple syrup - because a) I live in a globalised economy with ready access to cheap products and produce from around the world and b) I like maple syrup on my porridge. The Captain does not. He likes it plain. He's weird.
5. Loose tea or teabags?
6. Where on your door is your letterbox?
It sort of spans the space between inside and outside. To be frank, I'm thinking of getting rid of it.
7. What's your favourite curry?
Usually either a lamb rogan josh or a lamb green herb, although there is a very good Indian restaurant in Birmingham where they do a rather fine lamb shank.
8. What age is the place where you live?
Built in the 1870's according to the title deeds, making it about 140 years old. Strangely, we are only the third family to live in it, which is nice.
9. Where do the folks running your local corner shop come from?
They are mostly university students, so from all over.
10. Instant or fresh coffee?
I prefer fresh but I have to be careful not to have too much caffeine, like I have today. WhoooHOOO.
11. How far are you from the sea?
Some four miles.
12. Have you travelled via Eurostar?
I have not.
13. If you were going to travel abroad, where's the nearest country to you?
England. I do not recognise the unilateral declaration of independence made by the so called Kingdom of Fife.
14. If you're female (or possible even some males) do you carry a handbag?
I often carry a handbag - I'm helpful that way, if my wife needs me to carry her handbag I will.
15. Do you have a garden? What do you like growing?
I have a small garden that is stuffed full of shrubs. I am working on it's 3rd and 4th dimensions. It needs more flowers.
16. Full cream, semi skimmed or skimmed?
I prefer full cream. My wife prefers skimmed. We compromised on skimmed until the Captain was born, when MLW discovered he needed the cream for the vitamins and now we have full cream.
17. Which London terminal would you travel into if going to the capital?
Depends a lot where I was coming from and which capital I was going to.
18. Is there a local greasy spoon where you live?
Not particularly. I live in a posh bit of Edinburgh. Even the greasy spoons use olive oil.
19. Do you keep Euros in the house?
I currently have Euros, US dollars, Australian dollars in the house.

I also have about 100 billion Euros worth of New Greek Drachma which I unwisely offered to look after for my friend Yanis in case he needed them. They take up a lot of room.

20. Does your home town have a Latin, Gaelic or Welsh alternative.
No, there is no where like Aberdeen.
21. Do you have a well known local artist or author?
How local do you want? I think there are two just round the corner.
22. Do you have a favourite Corrie character?
I like Andrea Corr.
23. Are your kitchen sink taps separate or a mixer?
My kitchen sink taps are a mixer - another product of the 21st century I am happy to adopt.
24. Do you have a favourite brand of blended tea?
Not particularly.
25. What's in your attic if you have one?
I have a sort of loft. The pluarality of the volume is taken up by Christmas decorations and the water tank (which I want to get rid of).
26. If you go out for a cream tea, what jam do you like on your scone?
Depends on my mood and what jam is on offer.
27. Talking of scones—scon or scown? Jam or cream first?
28. Barth or bath?
The large container for cleaning small boys or the small Roman city?
29. Carstle or castle?
30. What flavour of crisps do you favour?
Thai sweet chilli
31. If you go to the chippie, what do you like with your chips?
32. Take away, take out or carry out?
Take away.
33. If you have one, what colour is your wheelie bin?
I do not have a wheelie bin.
34. What colour skips does your local skip hire use?
I neither know nor care.
35. Do you celebrate Guy Fawkes?
I'm not a big fan of catholisism, terrorism, tyranny, state sponsored torture, absolute monarcy, the death penalty, ultra-montainism or treason. So it's difficult to pick a side here. Also, Edinburgh saves its fireworks for Hogmaney and the Festival.
36. Dettol or TCP?
I don't mind, just so long as you don't put coke in it.
37. Do you have a bidet in the bathroom?
No one lives in my bathroom.
38. Do you prefer courgettes or aubergines?
That really depends on what I'm using them for...
39. In the 'real world', do you have friends of other nationalities? Which nationalities?
From memory, English, Australian, USian, Irish, Londoner, German, New Zealander
40. Do you have a holy book of any sort in the house?
In terms of foundational texts of world religions I'm pretty sure there is a Christian bible somewhere and I may still have the Book of Mormon. There may be others. Or none.
41. Do you prefer a hankie or tissues?
Wet wipes.
42. Are you a fan of crumpets? What do you like on them?
I prefer totty to crumpets.
43. Doorbell, knocker or both?
I prefer knockers to doorbells. (Fuck me, I've turned in to Sid James).
44. Do you own a car? What sort?
I do not. If I did, it would be like I like my women, small, compact and battery powered.
45. What sort of pants do you guys prefer? Y fronts or boxers?
Technically I believe they are called trunks.
46. Anyone still a fan of suspenders?
Most enthusastically.
47. Do you have a favourite quote from the bard?
The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.
48. Do you like toasted muffins?
Yes - often as part of a bacon and egg sandwich
49. Do you think a traditional trifle should contain jelly?
I do, but it should also contain plenty of custard and sherry.
50. Do you attend regular religious worship? Of what kind?
I do not. I am a lapsed, or perhaps resting, evangelical atheist.

My daughter has some course work for A level English. She needs to pick a work of Dystopian Fiction to compare in some way with Margaret Attwood's Handmaid's Tale.

So recommendations sought of an interesting work of  Dystopian Fiction and some interesting potential points of comparison.


Whilst walking round the Dean Cemetary over lunch this afternoon I was caught out by the rain and sheltered under a tree. Looking around I caught sight of a few flags clustered around a memorial stone. Confederate flags? Once the rain eased I made my way over to the memorial. The flags were Confederate flags. Two battle flags and the flag of Mississippi. The enscription on the stone was too weathered and too wet to read but it looked like I had found a Confederate War Memorial in Edinburgh. But too whom?

The answer is one Colonel Robert A Smith, of the 10th Mississippi Regiment, who was killed leading his men in an attack at the Battle of Mumsfordville, September 14, 1862.


He had been born in Edinburgh but followed his brother to the United States and settled in Jackson, Mississippi. Joined up, was elected colonel of the regiment and

The wikipedia article on Colonel Robert A Smith


and his life and times


Col Robert A Smith's Memorial in Dean Cemetary Edinburgh



His actual grave


And the memorial erected on or near the site Mumsfordville Battle

I am standing for election to the Council of the Electoral Reform Society. My election statement is below. Two other Unlock Democracy Council members are also standing, James Grindrod and Stephan Carter. We hope that having some cross over of membership of the two Councils will help the two organisations work well together.

You can still join the ERS and vote in the election. In order to vote you'll need to be register by the 24th July.


The last Council election had about 650 voters so your vote could well be influential. Also you can experience voting using STV.

Danny Zinkus Statement ERS Council Election Statement

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