However, you have to keep your hand in where writing is concerned and so, I reasoned, what better way to discipline one’s thoughts than reviving the old blog? Andrew Marr doesn’t like them, so that’s a point in their favour straight away.
In the intervening six months some things have changed and some have not, as things in life tend to. I have moved to Highgate, North London, from Croydon, South London. I did not set out to live ‘up there with all them pop stars and celebrities’ as a cab driver recently put it, but by chance I did and I find it rather agreeable, far more so than Croydon, a town where the worst mistakes of capitalism and socialism meet and hold on tight to each other like comic drunks on ice.
I still work for a national tabloid and I still like to mouth off about politics and culture. But you will have noticed that this blog is no longer called Better Than a Dead Lion.
My circumstances and my approach have changed and I feel this demands a different title. Kolley Kibber is of course the nom de plume, so to speak, of Fred Hale, the Daily Messenger journalist who is murdered by Pinkie Brown at the beginning of Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock for exposing a slot machine racket. The above picture shows Alan Wheatley playing Hale in the film version, a favourite of mine.
Hale is also a keen follower of the Turf, tipping Ida Arnold the winning Black Boy at 10/1. I myself have a interest in racing and I will write here occasionally on my punting adventures and reflections on form study. Racing, and gambling on racing, often has a way of illuminating, or rather complimenting, what the great writers and philosophers have had to say about existence.
Greene explains Kolley Kibber as a preface to the novel:
During the summer season in England certainThis blog is a sort of Kolley Kibber route card left on the internet, if that is not too fanciful; reports from wherever my mind or body wanders. In the film of Brighton Rock, when Hale leaves a card on the magazine trolley at WHSmith's at Brighton Station, you can just spot 'Kolley Kibber Adventure Card' printed on it, so that gives me my title.
popular newspapers organize treasure hunts at
the seaside. They publish the photograph of a re-
porter and print his itinerary at the particular
town he is visiting. Anyone who, while carrying
a copy of the paper, addresses him, usually under
some fantastic name, in a set form of words, re-
ceives a money prize; he also distributes along his
route cards which can be exchanged for smaller
prizes. Next day in the paper the reporter de-
scribes the chase. Of course, the character of Hale
is not drawn from that of any actual newspaper-
I think the blog will be more descriptive of a life led than just the old soapbox but you know me. This government is starting to look like it could end up as bigger disaster as Project Blair, and the boy Ed – whose £1.6million ex-National Trust house is not far away from where I live and Marx lies – shows no sign of bring sense to the Labour Party.
And to finish, the opening page of Brighton Rock, one of the great openings I reckon:
HALE knew they meant to murder him beforeI hope you few, you happy few, are still there to read this blog.
he had been in Brighton three hours. With his
inky fingers and his bitten nails, his manner
cynical and nervous, anybody could tell he didn't be-
long belong to the early summer sun, the cool Whit-
sun wind off the sea, the holiday crowd. They came in
by train from Victoria every five minutes, rocked down
Queen's Road standing on the tops of the little local
trams, stepped off in bewildered multitudes into fresh
and glittering air : the new silver paint sparkled on the
piers, the cream houses ran away into the west like a
pale Victorian water-colour; a race in miniature mo-
tors, a band playing, flower gardens in bloom below
the front, an aeroplane advertising something for the
health in pale vanishing clouds across the sky.
It had seemed quite easy to Hale to be lost in
Brighton. Fifty thousand people besides himself were
down for the day, and for quite a while he gave him-
self up to the good day, drinking gins and tonics wher-
ever his programme allowed. For he had to stick closely
to a programme : from ten till eleven Queen's Road and
Castle Square, from eleven till twelve the Aquarium
and Palace Pier, twelve till one the front between the
Old Ship and West Pier, back for lunch between one
and two in any restaurant he chose round the Castle
Square, and after that he had to make his way all down
the parade to West Pier and then to the station by the
Hove streets. These were the limits of his absurd and
widely advertised sentry go.
Advertised on every Messenger poster : "Kolley Kib-
ber in Brighton today."In his pocket he had a packet
of cards to distribute in hidden places along his route :
those who found them would receive ten shillings from
the Messenger, but the big prize was reserved for who-
ever challenged Hale in the proper form of words and
with a copy of the Messenger in his hand : "You are
Mr. Kolley Kibber. I claim the Daily Messenger prize."