I dreamed I couldn’t see the future and like Caliban I cried

October 21, 2015

CalibanIt’s Back To The Future day. I remembered how in The Tempest Caliban dreams sweet dreams and cries piteously on waking up

I did have a dream last night. It was soon after a discussion on BTTF on Newsnight with the wonderful Peter Snow. In my dream I was defending an assertion that there was no way of seeing the future. I was in a lecture room among mostly friendly academics. That bit of the dream is possible if relatively rare.

How can you say that? I was asked. It goes against all your writings on creativity. Still in my dream, I produced a yellowing diagram. It was a flow chart showing how creative ideas can be produced systematically. It seemed close to something I might have written about in the 1980s. I struggled to explain it, to defend the claim I had made by reference to it.

I woke up more than a little disturbed. It was then I remembered Caliban’s speech. Shakespeare has given the monster a beautiful exposition of human aspirations.

Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again: and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,
I cried to dream again.

Ho Hum.

Happy BTTF day.

A horse, a horse my kingdom for a horse even if it’s a retired hack from the police service

March 3, 2012

A highly-charged symbolic story has emerged around David Cameron’s ride on retired police horse Raisa. Headline writers demonstrate their creativity

The New York Times captured the symbolic dimension to the story neatly:

Prime Minister David Cameron’s ride on a retired police horse in the Oxfordshire countryside appears, for now at least, to lack the elements of a full-blown scandal. But as political symbols go, the horse and its links to the tabloid newspaper scandal roiling the country seems likely to become, at the least, rich fodder for political satirists and cartoonists. In Brussels on Friday [March 2nd 2012], Mr Cameron was peppered with as many questions about Raisa, the horse, as about Britain’s refusal to sign on to a new treaty.

Henry 5th and all that

It set me wondering about the potency of horses in narrative. Where better to start than Shakespeare? The hero king Henry 5th and the villain Richard 3rd are tales retold as great movies with the monarchs and their nags as the stars.


The story seems to have attracted the press after initial press statements had appeared to be unconvincing denials of a matter of fact, namely that the Prime Minister had ridden on a horse pensioned off from the police service and placed in the care of horse trainer Charlie Brooks. Mr Brooks is the husband of Rebekah Brooks, who is involved in the hacking stories at News International. Both are close friends of David Cameron , as is a senior policeman who may have helped in the arrangement to pension off Raisa, the nag at the centre of the story.

Beyond the rational

At a rational level, some kind of plausible explanation can be constructed. On the other hand, you might think that on a rational level there doesn’t seem much point in such an exercise. It will take a lot of effort to find serious wrong-doing. The potential of the story lies in the symbolism of a cosy group of wealthy friends using friendship to get further unpaid privileges.

Symbolism and leadership

It is a case of symbolic leadership, as portrayed, say, by Sir Lawrence Olivier mounted on his horse before the battle of Agincourt. It might also be seen as more a narrative interpretation of leadership. The symbolism is of Mr Cameron enjoying himself with his friends through privileged access to the aging Raisa. Faint echoes of Animal farm also seep into mind.

What the papers said

The whole episode offered creative opportunities for headline writers. The mirror went for losing the reins I did horse around with Sun’s old nag. The Telegraph offered
Horsegate: the PM will forever be saddled with Raisa‎. The Guardian went for the old cliche of closing the stable door

To be continued

Julius Hussain: BP as Shakespearean drama is now playing world-wide

April 14, 2011

The BP drama is now playing world-wide. Tony Hayward has been cast as the flawed leader brought down by his recklessness. Echoes can be heard of the tragedy of Saddam Hussain, and his defeat by the coalition of the willing


BP could face a wave of protesters and angry shareholders at its first annual general meeting since a disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It is almost one year since 11 workers were killed when a drilling rig leased by BP exploded, unleashing millions of barrels of oil. Fishermen from the US are set to be among protesters at the AGM in London. Meanwhile, BP is trying to save a £10bn alliance with the Russian state-owned oil company, Rosneft, from collapse. The share swap deal would have resulted in both companies jointly exploiting potential vast new energy reserves in the Russian Arctic Circle. It was a key part of BP’s turnaround strategy and aimed at delivering future growth…


Scene one

The shareholder’s forum

Angry shareholders
Lord Browne and Dudley [a BP executive]

Dudley: In faith, can these be holders of our shares
Our people, true to our venturings?

Lord Browne: What’s friendship when the chips are down?
They come from deeply watered gulf
And arctic wastes with angry tales
Of treachery. Hear what they say:

1st angry shareholder: You killed our hopes, our family, our shores

2nd angry shareholder: And now abandoning the wasted West
You freshly seek alliances of shame
To the East ..

Lord Browne: Enough. The West is done I say

1st angry shareholder: Not done for us. Nor yet enough by far
The evil Julius did not act alone

Dudley: Nor did he, though he bore the shame alone
And works now but to right those dreadful wrongs

Lord Browne: ‘Tis said he raises a new army for those purposes

2nd angry shareholder: His purchases. How will they meet our needs?
All must be paid, repaid and paid again
And still will not put right our angry wounds

Lord Browne: Friends, bondsmen, journalists, lend me your ears
I come to bury Julius, not to praise him