“Better than birthdays”


Even if I think about it very hard, I don’t remember the specifics of birthdays as much as the emotions – clutching excitement, a great feeling of being important and cherished, candles yes, cake yes – images-12but overwhelmingly special.   I have friends older than me now who cannot enjoy birthdays any more. They are just evidence of time passing. Funny cards don’t make them smile and they decry presents as “unnecessary.”   And as you get older, especially if you live alone, and for very often for good reasons – getting enough exercise, eating properly, seeing somebody with whom you can exchange at least greetings and probably chat – life becomes ritualised, even as in this case the ritual of denial.

It took me ages to accept that I was so used to shopping for hordes, that I bought too much and it was a frightful waste.   And then I noticed that I was in danger of “it’s Monday, I must do …” whatever it was.   Why should every Monday be the same?18fde72   So I began to consciously welcome changes to routine.   A warm memory of my mother is when I welcomed her to the flat in which I was living with my first husband, deprecating my efforts to make her comfortable and she hugged me “Forget it. I don’t need all that.” As she got older, her needs became simpler. It was a good lesson.   And some of my friends live a distance away and some have schedules that are very demanding. So what we have come to is rather wonderfully that any day could be your birthday, any settled pattern can be thrown to the four winds.

I don’t see as much of LM who has been my representative and my friend for 20 years as I would like (she should be paid for living) but to her among other things I owe my introduction to Lord Dodo’s loose leaf cookery book, an enormous white hydrangea in a matching basket, the most beautiful flowers for Christmas/New Year/or any other excuse: care packages of salads, soup, bread and anything else that caught her eye, and the steps,cc579b3b-76e7-49bd-9aa5-941566e21264-jpg-_cb317968543_ the solid platform short ladders you need when you can’t stretch easily any more.   Definition of a friendship – when your friend arrives with something useful out of the blue.      You get all those feelings I described of myself as a child.

Pam the Painter came to lunch on Friday and handed me a small china mug with an English bullterrier on it (and it is, as my father would say “a good one” ie the right shape) and a witty comment and I got all wet eyed.   She found it in her parents’ house during monumental clearing out and thought I might like it. I do.

"meet Jimmy Choo"

“meet Jimmy Choo”

On Saturday Percy Snowdrop (a film academic who teaches in the north) came through and I went him to meet him near the British Museum. He has a small carefully chosen collection of drawings and pictures (he started at art school) and he showed me on his tablet his latest acquisition – a signed drawing, a wonderful drawing by Jean Cocteau.  2013_2_l_ange___jean_cocteau_textiles_coussin_1_det_pdf_ht As he is the only person I know who would want such a thing, I don’t know who was more excited.   And I know that he got ploughed over by his editor this year and consigned a book into limbo he had deeply believed in.   Part of my admiration for him is that he loves to teach and I cheer for the self belief that drawing embodied.

I go to the market most Saturdays, I pick up this and that in independent chemists, I do the laundry.   Not this week. I bought a book and a card and I sat and drank tea and ate apricot tart and told stories and heard stories and saw him off to Kings Cross.

When I was a kid, there was a song which began “A very merry unbirthday to you,” which became a family sentiment, if you forgot, were late or away for a birthday.   But I like this version even better.   I don’t give a damn about the years, they are going to come anyway.   I care about contact and thought and pleasure and joy, mine and everybody else’s.   The world is hard, it always was. Welcome to better than birthdays.sparklers-5

…those perinativity blues

You always know when Christmas is coming because every price you can see goes up and there is nothing to watch on television. Never privy to a programming meeting, I imagine there is a sense of defeat in terrestrial television which just gets passed on to the poor licencees in the form of the same films and the same programmes, over and over, for some weeks, until The Big Day is in sight. Then they pull out the stops and give us Glenda Jackson in a one off drama which had better be good. Not that I have misgivings about Glenda: I have seen her on stage, interviewed her and met her as an MP and she is All Right. Which is more than you can say for all sorts of other people.

And incidentally in a severely underhyped three part series on BBC2 called Vienna Blood (not the finest script but mostly finely played by actors I have never heard of

“the wonderful Amelia Bullmore”

and a cabaret singer in Ep.1 to beat Deitrich, Lenya and Lemper into the proverbial cocked hat) there was the most chillingly effective evocation of anti-semitism. And I haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere. Does this mean people don’t notice or don’t care ? And hooray for the thoughtful and emancipated Muslims who offered their sympathy and said they too experienced reaction against them and nobody seemed to care.

When I enquire after Ginny’s health (real friend, fake name) she involves peri menopause. That’s the time of build up to the change of life. I’ve hijacked the prefix because however much I like Christmas and for all sorts of reasons, getting there ie the peri bit gets tougher and tougher in the sense of a mouthful of frankly stringy something (I would say meat but with vegan being one of those omnipresent invocations of the present time, maybe I should say palm hearts – which I only ate once and seemed to spend weeks removing from my dentistry.)

Perinativity means £20 for a bunch of rowan (“silly money, Anna” said the flowerseller, money he’ll take because he’ll get it.) Perinativity means you can’t get what you want to buy for anybody you care about except what the retailers want to sell you. A quiet day (a Tuesday) in Portobello offered a constructive step on the long road towards fulfilling a project for my son and “sales of work” (especially if they can find an appealing name) will flourish this year, because that’s where those of us who care will hope to find “smalls” – interesting individual gifts for a price we can afford.

The internet may have dented retail but retail hasn’t helped itself. You go into these enormous stores and they are full of too much for too much, much of it badly made, gimcrack and ugly. Everybody is fed up, the air is stale with entitlement and the gap between the sellers and the buyers, and you know well that whatever you’re looking at will be knocked down in the sales which inevitably follow, whether pre or post Christmas. Whole floors of stores are empty in London but the craft sale I went to yesterday (run by Selvedge, hooray for Polly Leonard and her elves) was busy and enthusiastic, in talk, look and sales.

Perinativity means that, unless I am very fortunate, I won’t find anybody in the NHS who can advise me on whether I have an infection or have just inherited tissue paper nails from my mother. Properly trained and interested dermatologists are provided privately – if you can scare up several hundred pounds. However the best shampoo I found this year (and ecologically acceptable in

composition and packing) costs £5 – Sheen – on line after the shop in which I found it closed after a couple of months. I haven’t tried any other shampoo bars – they’re all much pricier and I like this one -but I fear they may be a coming thing – which means the price will vault.

Last night I thought with renewed affection of the dermatologist I visited 35 years ago with a rash where I had abreacted to a range of cosmetics. It wasn’t a great matter but it was stubborn and wouldn’t clear. “Milk” he said “out of the fridge on clean cotton wool.” Still works.


When you live on a restricted income (like many of us) a constant internal dialogue goes on between you and yourself. It features phrases like “wait a bit”, “why not ?”, “just this once …” and “you’re a long time dead.” Anything to do with money in this sense is highly emotional. Your cheap isn’t my cheap, my pricey isn’t yours. You can be good with money and not very good at enjoying yourself. You can have a wonderful sense of living in the moment and never plan for the taxman whose arrival in your life is as inevitable as night follows day.

I remember a campaign to promote selling flowers which featured the phrase “Treat yourself” from which I recoiled. Most of us can remember circumstances in which money was so tight

“forgive me the dollars,I liked the image!”

we couldn’t “treat” ourselves and many of us will equally well recall occasions when we lashed out for a £5 bottle of wine or some reduced daffs, and promptly felt better. I have stood in the darkness of a winter evening wondering if I should really buy whatever it is (I am talking about change of £10 which for long tracts of time was a sizeable amount to me) before deciding yes or no. And of course when you haven’t got it is when you want to spend it most.

It was my mother who taught me about “a Christmas present for yourself.” In her case it was almost always her favourite cologne or her preferred brand of stockings – which tells you how long ago that was ! I have often bought a Christmas present for myself but I never thought of it as a treat. If somebody else gives you a treat, it’s fine – if you do it for yourself, it seems sort of sneaky.

“Treat” has becomes aligned with that old saying “everything you really like is either immoral, illegal or fattening.” Immoral ? An affair with a married person, in the widest interpretation of the term. Illegal ? Unlikely. Fattening ? Don’t very often think about it. My mother’s father brought his children up to eat in a very enlightened way, she passed on to my sister and me and it has certainly served me well. I remember reading in a Nigel Slater cookery book “when you’re eating alone, set the table prettily and light a candle.” My kind of treat. It works. Calories ? Fuel for the machine. No fuel ? No function.

This week I recalled to a friend how a masseur rescued me in the terrible painful months after my marriage broke up. I didn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep and when I got to 70 hours plus without closing my eyes, I grew frightened. I had interviewed this woman. I got in touch with her school and asked if somebody could come to see me. She herself arrived . Slightly stunned, I let her in and she administered the massage of my life, everything, my head through my hair, all the awkward places, with perfect propriety and great skill. I remember fading into the endless billowing gentle waves of heavenly peace, and hearing the front door click shut. I slept 16 hours. When I came to, I rang somewhat embarrassed and she said “There is no charge, Anna. You were in pain.” Now that’s a treat.

What you may discover with a treat that is consumer durable ie a garment, a piece of jewellery, some cherished object, is that more than being a treat, it is a talisman. It tells you something about yourself. And that change takes place as soon as you own it. Maybe it becomes less important because you no longer yearn for it, you have it. Or maybe it just becomes part of your self image.

But a treat you share is different again. Neither Wal nor I have a much of a sweet tooth. He could live on smoked salmon and I am a fruit bat. But offered dessert after the lunch from heaven in Paris recently, we found a pudding made up of pieces of day old kugelhopf turned over in butter, with small green gold plums and cream. We shared a portion. He sent me a picture of it yesterday, asking “Remember ?” I put it with my treasures.


Prince Andrew and I have vanity in common – though mine is in a minor key compared to his dissonant symphony. His lack of judgement brought me to a place I had never been before: I thought of writing to the Queen to express sympathy, solidarity and respect. How not to spend your wedding anniversary. Still, I suppose we should be relieved to discover that even an android can overstep the mark. And will somebody in the Royal Press Office please ensure that Sarah Ferguson never makes another public statement without clearing it with the Family first ? I’d have thought this was a basic professional courtesy. So ill advised to put social media in the hands of the stupid. If Prince Andrew is this “giant of a principled man” as she calls him amid all the other guff, why did she divorce him ?

Never has Windsor looked more like a business – supported by the worker bees, here are the loyal cadres, there the new recruits, middle management, the wild cards, and the Queen, the boss. God bless the Boss. Are we ever going to miss her when she’s gone. And the fashionable murmurings about the irrelevance of a constitutional monarchy should reflect that in a General Election hallmarked by various versions of untruth, the monarch represents a much needed buffer zone. She doesn’t tell us the whole truth either but at least we have a clear picture of why “never apologise, never explain” has been an effective strategy. She has a recognisable morality. Darned rare.  Wholly absent from any of the current crop of major politicians. Which is why the thinking public is so frightened.

Disarray is not local, it’s everywhere. Haven’t you thought how the Chinese must be cheering the toxic air and now water in India ? Takes everybody’s mind off theirs. While the pitched battle for a perceived liberty in Hong Kong means we remain gripped by the newreels and haven’t thought about what they divert our attention from, which will surely be the same kind of cyber abuse into our elections as President Macron highlighted in his own campaign.

It took the scorched feet of a koala to bring home to a friend the enormity of those bush fires in Australia. Jane Harper has written two very good novels around the Australian “dry” but this is not just an Antipodean state of emergency. It impacts on the environment, everybody’s environment, because air travels. Like bad news.

The week that British news media focussed on what was called the worst scandal of the NHS, spanning 40 years, special measures and horrid things happening to parents and children, a young woman (37) sat in my kitchen and talked about her experience 9 years ago in a major London teaching hospital, having her first baby. Her pain was denied (“It’s a first baby, it isn’t that bad” this from another woman, not a doctor) until her heart stopped at which point, her husband ran, physically seized and brought in a midwife, and all hell broke loose, emergency operation, baby saved and this woman was in a coma for 24 hours, from which she remarkably recovered.

There is a big bullet to bite on the NHS. It came into effect in 1946 or 7, when the population of the country was half what it is now and the average age of a working man at his death was 67. Medicine is a much more complex and expensive issue than ever it was, people’s expectations of the length of life and wonder of medicine have grown exponentially and so while the present Tory head honcho (health) is telling us how he’ll defend our rights to a home visit, if you listen to the doctors’ proposals, they are quite sensible. Something’s got to give. Let’s start somewhere.

Long ago, I was taught that a breakdown could be a breakthrough I hope so.

*First heard from the lips of Charles Laughton in a political thriller called Advise and Consent.

fire and flood

My mother described the car that hit my father ( in a mercifully minor accident) as grey.   He saw it as brown. It was black.   “People fear different things” said my mother. What did the difference in colours mean ? “I am scared of water, your father is scared of fire.”

She certainly was scared of the weight of water and I am too. Under the sea may thrill David Attenborough but I recoil. Ancient peoples made elements into gods because they were largely beyond human control and I have no trouble with that aspect of human history.

Of course this is a matter of degree and containment. When an ember fell through the side of the fireplace and I saw it burning, quite by chance as I closed everything up for the night – you’d have been impressed at how fast I moved – I was !   I seized a flowerpot from the garden, filled it with earth, raced back in and damped down the fire. It was a freak, it was small and I could manage it.   Not like those ravening bushfires in Australia, or the ones we saw in mainland Europe and California earlier in the year.

And I really felt for the woman in a Yorkshire village who spoke to camera last week – “Round here, we’re used to rolling up our sleeves and getting on with it. But the council has known this was likely for 48 hours and we haven’t even got sandbags.”

I was about 10 when my mother tapped the photograph in the paper, on her way out back to the kitchen to check on the toast. – “Poor devils !” There were pictures of flooding.   “It’s the worst” she went on. I asked why. “Because even if you can save things and dry them out, they stink and you don’t want them.” And this is a long time before sewage was the feature in flooding than it is now.

You can’t choose between fire and flood – they are both out of control.   But you can feel sympathy with people who thought they had made some kind of arrangements to respond and then discover it doesn’t apply.   You want sandbags ?   Make your own. The local authority will tell you it’s short of money and it probably is: the list of things covered by the money we pay into the pot gets longer and longer, and less and less practicable.

You could divide your horrors into the avoidable and the rest, the tolerable and the rest.   It doesn’t mean I will never see a spider again but I can minimise our interaction. And I am bigger. I may never have to smell tripe cooking again, thank you heaven.   But interminable rain, strong winds, devouring flame, are not in my hands.

Yes, we have made a complete mess of the world and I am torn between noticing how long it has taken the BBC to focus on this (see Seven Worlds, One Planet) and realising that it is so unremittingly grim, that we are now counterracting the disturbing visuals with interminable music, in case, God forbid, somebody should think about it.

Last week, I went to meet Snowdrop who lives in Cumbria and his train took 11 hours.   The restaurant behaved exemplarily, Madame explaining “What does it matter ? We are ‘ere…” and the couple at the next table insisted I had a glass of wine with them, while I waited.   (Chivalry is not only not dead, it is live and well and living in Esher.) I also found an old paperback, pristine under its plastic cover, about a man whose life was with Burmese elephants* , which emphasised how the balance between what was needed, and who could accomplish it, with the best goodwill and results all round, seemed smaller in scale and thus more applicable than some specialised tome.   It is dated, very much of its time and it won’t please everybody but I have long meant to read it and so I did.

The difficulty with horror is that you are either overwhelmed by it or you block it out. To consider it or address it some way is much harder work.   And too many of us only see as somebody else’s business, not ours.

*Elephant Bill by J..WillH     H.Williams


I played Anne Frank in the Diary at the Middlesbrough Little Theatre, directed by Arnold Fry, the year I took what were then called my GCE O levels.   And I remain nicely haunted by one of her most famous quotes “In spite of everything, I really believe that people are good at heart.” Over the years I have read books reflecting the refractions from the prism of her one life – more information about the occupation of Holland, the concentrations camps, the aftermath of great suffering personal and social, but the simplicity of this belief lingers with me. She was only 13.   At that age, you don’t necessarily see the complications. You just see the wishful heart.

By the time I was 19, I was in New York where the issue of the day was the voter registration drives, to get numbers of the Afro-American population enrolled as part of the (don’t laugh) democratic process. Most of the people I knew thought it was the most important thing and we sang and shook boxes for collections, stuffed envelopes and signed petitions.

In my 20s I found the one of the more difficult areas of the Women’s Movement to which I committed then and remain committed. I became pro abortion.  No I don’t mean using it as a backup to contraception, a word we hardly ever hear nowadays. I do mean the merciful provision of an appropriate intervention.   There is not much point in talking about over population or the expanding threat to mental health if you aren’t going to talk about which child and why. (This risks over-simplifying an intricate matter – but that’s the limitation of 750 words.)

At about the same time I married a man who was involved in the liberation politics of South Africa, the background of which horrified me –misery, violence, torture, naked exploitation and hunger. Let them have the rugby – they have little else.   Following suffering at the hands of the other, they have been ripped off by their own. It is a rich and beautiful country in which large numbers of its indigenous citizens lack work or running water.

Once, in answer to a radio question, I replied that I believed in God.   And a young man got in touch to tell me how good that was to hear, from a public person of advanced age, without defence or over explanation.   The “you call it this and I call it that” is too often beyond me. I believe in something bigger and simpler in outline, far beyond the hearts and mind of men.

Because when you read about mankind – human beings – it is hard not to lose hope.   I’ve read the New York Review of Books for 50 years plus, and last night I read about the stripping of the wildlife and thus the people from the Bering Strait.  This was the original land bridge from Asia into America thousands of years ago, peopled by tribes whose way of life was predicated on maintaining a balance between the number of species that lived there and the number of those they needed to kill to eat and stay alive. In due course came the Whites, who raped the oceans and caused the death, mostly by starvation, of many who had lived there, not counting them as important of course because they were Native.   And whole genera of whales were stripped of their heads, oil and blubber with the rest left to rot, where in the hands of the Inuit peoples who lived there, using everything was a matter of honour – of belief, you might say.

Last year in an effort to understand why certain books sell millions, I read two international bestsellers. And hated them.   They were unremittingly miserable. I suppose it’s the same thing as those people who stand and watch – or worse take pictures of – car crashes or explosions. Does it make you feel better or make you feel worse ? Or both at the same time ? The recitation of ugliness and misery for entertainment leaves me cold, it’s far too important for that.

And then this morning I read a review of a book by Caroline Moorehead, who has written three previous books about people doing good things in terrible circumstances and this latest is a tribute to the forgotten thousands of women who risked all in the struggle against fascism in Italy in WWII.   It’s our old friend, doing your best, and belief is like a candle in the night.

Floating Coast: an environmental history of the Bering Strait by Bathsheba Demuth published by Norton

A House in the Mountains: the women who liberated Italy from fascism by Caroline Moorehead published by Chatto

weights (waits?) and measures

When Wal was robbed in Barcelona (he and his SO -significant other- Howard travel widely for targeted shorts breaks, heaven knows where they get the energy), he lost among other things, a keyring I gave him and he arranged to have it copied. And he wanted to refill a favourite mustard which you can no longer buy in London.   So he invited me to Paris for a weekend, I assented delightedly and we planned travel, check in, lunch, do the errands and then the time would be our own. 

We found the business on two sides of the road – here the shop which referred us across the street to there, the studio, where the very pleasant young woman with whom he had spoken on the phone had lied in her teeth, nothing was ready to pick up and she was having the day off. Just as well. I watched Wal roll up his sleeves, muster all his French and his considerable determination. One young man gave up and grumbled, an older woman stopped what she was doing to watch in appal (who is this insistent man?) but the designer was interested and sympathetic and the day was almost won.   I sat outside, where the runner offered me wine, water, coffee ? And I said thank you, no thank you and grinned. Wal’s world view is predicated on getting it right. And he will.

Eventually he came out into the unseasonably warm afternoon, to explain to me that they hadn’t been able to admit that they didn’t have the core part on which the thing is based but once that was discovered, and he could get it, everything was going to be all right. And how nice they’d been and the young designer really got the message … none of which is a surprise to me.

I first heard of the monitorial method, where those who know teach those who don’t – be it ever so little – in Jane Eyre. And now – he handed me the empty mustard pot so he could look at his map – “There’s just this.”   Wal’s mother, one of the first female executives in the movie industry, came years ago to Paris for couture to be bought, copies to be made and accessories to be acquired. So he knew where he was. The weather was far too warm for us in the clothes we were wearing so we were shifting things from hand to hand, carrying things, and somewhere in there, I dropped my handbag briefly. And when we arrived to buy the condiment, I had to confess that the mustard container was broken. He was amused and I was mortified. And we made our way back to a cold drink and a seat in the sun, past a band playing rock outside the Town Hall. 

Wherever Wal goes he is accompanied by twinks and burps on the phone – whether it is advertising updates or the security system at home – he is self described as paranoid. I am sure you get used to it with horrid ease. But I don’t have a mobile and for the first time in ages, I didn’t bring a book. I brought a couple of articles I wanted to read, one of which will send me off to try a famous book I have never been quite sure about but I didn’t put the tv on, I didn’t listen to anything except what was round me and I tried to be, to give time its appropriate weight and enjoy it for the duration of the things we were doing, whatever they were. “We did 77,000 steps” said Wal congratulatorily (the figures are wrong, I couldn’t care less) “that’s 750 calories we burned.” And I who have always walked distance and never knowingly measured my steps or burnt a calorie looked at him with my mouth open.   He says he didn’t seek this, it’s just “on the phone” but I wonder. Still if it gives him permission to eat a croissant or two, good luck.

Because in between three wonderful lunches and three wonderful dinners, we did nothing. And very nice it was too. We sat in the sun and purred like old cats. Time without weight, time beyond measure.

“originally a brewery, now Bofingers Brasserie. beautiful to look at, Sunday lunch and the regulars even get to snooze between courses…”


There is a bright green cycling scheme bike neatly parked on the pavement outside the flat.   Modern times come to the door.

“antique bicycle and rice straw.”

In my experience, far too many bike riders resemble yobs (both sexes) with wheels. They don’t want the cycle lanes, they want to create havoc on the road. They don’t read or observe the Highway Code. They see themselves as a cross between superheroes and a superior form of life as in “ I’m a cyclist …” As in “I eat brown rice” 40 years ago.

There are things I don’t like about modern life. I don’t like the fact that Microsoft decided to update my screen and when it couldn’t fit the programme, it went through the whole process twice more, leaving a functioning pc useless. Thanks to the computer man, it was straightened out but this took time and (unchanging fact of life) time is money. 140 pounds – you can’t have the pounds sign. It doesn’t work, the “ and @ are transposed and various short cuts are only effective in the short term.

I admire Bill and Melanie Gates, the sensible arrangements they have made with regard to their children who would otherwise inherit untold wealth and the good use they have made of that wealth in countries that need it. But right now I could scream at Microsoft – no customer service, no helpline and a very cross out of pocket OAP.

“a faster computer it is alleged.”

The computer man fixed the big stuff. The small stuff is intractable. And please don’t says “It’s just …” because “just” is a four letter word. The world is not just for the technically deft. There are more people over 60 in this country than previously documented.

Of course you can’t run life for the elderly but you could run it a bit more inclusively. However what is included varies according to fashion. Women were very in one year, then men with prostate or testicular cancer: rarely men as a genus and rarely women who don’t want children, or carers. Colour is variable – though there are a couple of heavily publicized black activists who do not seem to understand that race isn’t only a matter of black and white

“Lady Margaret Hall”

but of black, white and everybody else. In their mouths race is not a matter of inclusivity but rather a new exclusivity. Oh and women are “out” this year, according to a friend on the receiving end of one of these.

In the past small action groups were to be admired – a club for children with a rare skin condition, for older children of various ages with abilities but not fluent English, a group to talk to and with the families of those with chronic illness, and my most admired – an organization dedicated to the sexual problems of the disabled where I once found a counsellor who could work in “sign”, bless her.

Now numbers are part of a new pornography. If you haven’t got a million followers, you don’t count. How many people are displaced, living in what are really parallel universes, is one of the most eerie aspects of modern life.   What drives us apart and makes us run parallel flourishes. And the crossover points are still what they always were – power, money, drugs and sex – see Spiral (BBC4 Saturdays). Actually, less sex – there isn’t time. It is a post AIDS world.

Yesterday I exchanged speaking glances with a neighbour I have known as she grew up, just getting off the telephone to her father about the Brexit vote and she remarked that we – and it – would have been better served as a democratic process with an all party committee from the outset. As it is, it is now highjacked into endless splits and party loyalties – parallels again. And we know one thing about parallel lines. They may run forever but they do not meet. In spite of the enormous numbers that are bandied about, whether in the description of street demonstrations or Jennifer Aniston on Instagram, this is parallel experience. Where is the coming together, the exchange, the willingness to make room, to accommodate ? Will nation speak unto nation (as said Lord Reith) or more to the point, machine to machine ?

“thanks to The Economist”