I had a very pleasant time at my brother's house for Christmas. It was nice to see my nieces and nephews excited by the festivities. I took some care in selecting presents for them. Unfortunately, they didn't seem that impressed. So I expect I failed in that endeavour. No doubt I'm useless at selecting presents. Ho Hum. But they were very happy about Christmas anyway, and their much better presents from their parents.
I gave my brother - a fan of old school heavy rock - 'Live and Dangerous', Thin Lizzy's live double album from 1972, generally regarded as their finest moment. Well, when I say double album, I bought it from iTunes so it's not an album at all, just computer files that you put on a disc, which is not the same at all. You know, the world really was better when you had giant album covers, with pictures and lyrics and stuff.
My brother gave me a book of Pliny's letters, and this was something I really wanted, and is one of favourite presents ever. Pliny the Younger wrote a first-hand account of the eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii in 79AD, and his letters are full of many interesting pieces about life in Rome.
A few weeks ago I took part in a film about Les Carter, a birthday present from his partner Crissi. My part involved being filmed in the rain in front of the Brixton Academy, talking about Les. That went quite well. Well, I hope it did, I haven't actually seen the film. But I was pleased to make a contribution anyway.
I wonder why the Brixton Academy, which is a music venue, chose that name? Academy really means an institute of learning. Every academy takes its name, ultimately, from the school of philosophy founded by Plato around 385 BC at Akademia, close to Athens in Greece.
Plato was a pupil of Socrates. Something that always surprises me is the way that Socrates and other philosophers managed to be so civilised in the midst of continual strife. For instance, Socrates would be wandering around Athens, teaching philosophy, and then suddenly the order would come for everyone to turn up next day with their weapons, and three days rations, because they had to go to war. So Socrates would march off to war, take part in some bloody battle, march back to Athens, and then get on with teaching philosophy. That happened to him on various occasions. Amazing really. I'd have liked to learn philosophy from Socrates, but I'd have been useless at marching off to war.