Betty White

What can I add to all of the tributes? An animal advocate, a World War II volunteer, a talented comedienne – it has all been said these past ten days. I, of course, first really saw her when I was a kid watching The Mary Tyler Moore Show with my mother. I watched it again in reruns…and again…and again. I must have encyclopaedic knowledge of the show. I also loved The Golden Girls as did my parents. My father took to nicknaming my mother “Rose,” as the absurd and lengthy stories she told over the years – filled with Norwegian names, all preposterous – were so like Rose’s St. Olaf stories on the series. Hard to choose a preferred Betty White moment, but this comes close – two brilliant performers combined with great writing. Enjoy, and RIP, Betty.


January 6 is always a bittersweet day for me. There’s still an element of post-Christmas letdown, especially since this is the day I take down all of our decorations. I’m a traditionalist: Christmas decor goes up the first Sunday of Advent and comes down on Epiphany. So there’s that to bring on some blues. And, of course, it is also my oldest brother’s birthday – he would be 73 today. Always missed. I can hear him saying, “Rondi, enough with your post-holidays lollygagging! Get on with it.”

So yeah, I’m going to try.

Llwyn On: The Ash Grove

I watched How Green was my Valley last night, and, of course, went through about fourteen boxes of Kleenex. Music is such a big part of that film and while I love “Men of Harlech” and “Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer,” I think my favourite musical moment in HGWMV is the Welsh version of “The Ash Grove.” It is sung by the townspeople as Ivor and Bronwyn leave the church after their wedding. Here is a version from Thomas L. Thomas, the Welsh baritone.

Sir Tony Blair

This – everything. One hundred percent. Blair’s knighthood is long overdue.

He saw in Kosovo a resurgence of ethnic conflict in Europe and outlined his Chicago Doctrine of liberal interventionism. He saw public services that had benefited from significant injections of resource without enough in the way of reform. There is courage with him, too. It would have been easy for him to do a Schröder or a Chirac in the aftermath of 9/11 and pander to domestic anti-Americanism. He would have won plaudits from his own party, the media and the liberal intelligentsia. Instead, he stood by the US, not least over Iraq, because he considered it a moral struggle and thought by America’s side was where Britain ought to be. Approve or revile his decision, he made it aware of the political costs at home… Does he deserve a knighthood? Of course he does: for service to our country, for service to his party, for the wise counsel he provides on everything from the Middle East to Covid-19. The only question is why it took so long for him to become Sir Tony.


Tutu and Didion

Too lazy to write two posts, so I will include both of these very different people here. Bishop Tutu died and the laudatory headlines were everywhere. Would anyone, I wondered, have the courage to write about his, er, uncomfortable relationship with Jews and the Jewish state? Melanie Phillips to the rescue with this must-read. (I had not been aware with just how vile some of Tutu’s views were. Now I – distressingly – am.) Apart from Phillips, though, there has been little criticism or challenging of Tutu – it reminds me of when Helen Thomas died and nobody would mention the antisemitic elephant in the room. It was all, what a feminist icon, blah blah blah zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

My internet friend Rick McGinnis (still have not met him, but hope that I will, one day, post-pandemic) wrote about Joan Didion three years ago. An original take – as he calls it, her “uncomfortable fit” in American (counter) culture.