Sunday, 17 June 2018

What Was All The Fuss About?

It has taken me a few decades but I have finally watched all of Blade Runner and I am left with that same strange feeling of disappointment that accompanies every viewing of 2001 A Space Odyssey. I must say I am not entirely convinced that the emperor is actually wearing any clothes. I don't mean that it is a bad film, just not the great one I have been told to expect. I enjoyed the film noir stylings, but then again I am a sucker for film noir. What is more, the Vangelis score may have sounded terribly state of the art back in 1982 but now sounds merely dated. 6.5/10.

Some weeks ago I granted the old (1958) Dunkirk a mark of 7/10. At the time I said that I had yet to view the modern offering of the same name. It had come highly recommended to me and, on that score, it was not quite as good as I had expected - the recommendation had though come from a peerless source. That said, this an impressive piece of immersive film-making which borrows from the Saving Private Ryan school of noise and visuals. And it captures gallantry which is the most important point. 7.5/10.

Finally a film of a book - The Constant Gardener. The source novel is from John le Carre, a writer I hugely admire, although I would admit a preference for the Cold War tales. This is his dispiriting but enlghteneing tirade aginst big pharma. It works as a film. I don't personally subscribe to the notion that big pharma is ineluctably evil but it does have to be said that I've negotiated with some of these blokes and the whiff of shitbaggery is never altogether absent. 7.5/10.

As I Trudged The Mean Streets Of Four Oaks

I say trudged but in fairness it was what passes for running on the part of the Big Fat Pig. Those out for  Sunday strolls greeted me cheerily and a small boy waved. My four miles felt beneficial after a Saturday of slobbery. My best runs come when I have something other than the discomfort of running to ponder - and today there was plenty to keep me ruminating. I mused only briefly on the shameless mendacity of John McDonnell who could be heard spinning his web of cheery Bolshevism on 5Live this morning. I am also past worrying about the scandalous mess our political class is making out of Brexit. I have achieved a mood of oblivious determinsm - que sera sera as we used to sing at the football.

No I turned my mind away from my tired limbs and fell to consideration of two sporting stories. Firstly, rugby union and England's capitulation before South Africa - England Shambles . Tackles missed, penalties gratuitously conceded, points arrogantly spurned, there was very little to like in this performance beyond a sterling first dozen minutes. Please don't tell me about the long and exhasusting season they have just completed. I get it, but this is international sport, it's not supposed to be easy. Moreover South Africa's best two players, Faf de Clerk  and Duane Vermeulen, are respectively at the end of an English season and (possibly more ruinously) a year in French club rugby. Topping the whole sorry tale, certain of the England players decide to behave with a singular lack of dignity in defeat. Nice one lads. As for the Springboks - welcome back to the top table, taking the seat vacated by England.

Talking of behaving badly - hang your heads in shame Phil Mickelson and the spineless half-wits of the United Staed Golf Association who were too timid to disqualify him at the US Open - Crazy Golf. 

So there I am then - polishing my halo as I help myself to another pork pie. Big Fat Pig, out. 

Monday, 11 June 2018

God Is In His Heaven And ...

All is well with the world. Well perhaps that is a bit strong but I, at least, feel well. I have cut the lawn, cut the verge at the front (having abandoned hope that the Council might actually deliver on one of the few services we get these days), I have taken the cuttings to the dump, and I have trimmed the hedges at the front. Now I am sitting in the garden felling vaguely smug. I have even remembered to text my little brother to wish him happy birthday.

We spent the weekend on Anglesey, the Groupie making and fitting curtains, me mostly loafing around. This loafing included watching an extraordinary game of rugby between South Africa and England. It ended (deservedly) 42-39 in favour of the hosts - a match in which neither defence really showed up. South Africa now have a proper coach again and went back to their proper and formidable smash-mouth methods - big men running very hard. Breathless stuff. Modern tackling technique is found wanting in the resulting collisions, a point I have been boring people about for ages.

My old mate Trump skulked away from the G7 Summit and took to Twitter to slag off other world leaders, Justin Trudeau getting particular treatment. Trump is presently in Singapore readying himself for the Battle of the Coiffures when he meets the only man in the world with a more daft hairstyle than his own, Kim Jong-un. Meanwhile in amongst the usual offensive guff Trump makes a fair point (though not untypically he does do with the wrong numbers) when he bemoans the inequalities in the funding of NATO. You can see why even fair-minded Americans (there are loads of them be assured) might assume that other countries are rather taking them for granted. Noblesse oblige? Well yes, but not to the point of taking the piss, so be careful what you wish for.

Do you know what? My garden is looking rather good so I'm going to sign-off and then sit out here reading a good book. All that will be missing is a glass of something alcoholic and chilled because my tiny health-kick has me being abstemious on Mondays. TTFN.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Big Fat Pig Redux (Continued)

The Pig is feeling saddle-sore after taking the newly serviced Precious Bike for a spin this lunchtime. Managed just over an hour with a few hills thrown in for good measure.

if ever a bloke deserved a drink

On cycling, read the account of Chris Froome's heroic effort on stage 19 of the Giro - Giro Stage 19 . You may recall that I included Froome in my list of greatest sportsmen last Christmas and I stand by that classification (indeed the Giro victory endorses it) despite the loud accusations that he is a drug cheat. I don't buy that. Too much to lose. Perhaps I am guilty of wishful thinking but I find Froome's brand of unshowy courage and determination a perfect tonic in a world where some would have us believe that image is everything.

Meanwhile, chapeau to various American sportsmen who have declined to visit the Trump White House. Normally I would regard this sort of virtue signalling as tiresome but when directed at Trump I will make an exception.

All in all feeling a little more chipper then. Still not firing on all cylinders but the Pig hereby announces that he won't let the bastards get him down and that he is setting the satnav for Wellville. See you there.   

Monday, 4 June 2018

Things Ain't What They Used To be

It's me, I am still here but I haven't been in the mood for blogging. I've been lacking in inspiration, alternating between high and low moods, with my family and friends the cause of the highs and the perfidy of mankind the harbinger of the lows. Neither of these factors is new and, you might very well observe, this state of affairs has never stopped me droning on at you in the past.

So what's different? This question has been gnawing away at me and I have had to conclude that what has drained away my will to write, has been the lack of any reliable prescription to cure the ills of the world. You know me - usually I think I know the answers (well some of them) but just now I feel defeated. Defeated by Trump perhaps. I no longer wake with the vague hope that overnight America will have found a sense of decency and taken steps to remove this wretched man. I am resigned to his awfulness. Will democracy ride to the rescue? I just have this horrible feeling it will not, that America is to remain calamitously divided and damnable. We should not be surprised by any of this - the almost equally loathsome Bill Clinton has this week averred that, given his time again, he would handle the Lewinsky Affair exactly as he did when in office. The man, like Trump, is a cad.

Pop Will Eat Itself - quite possibly the greatest rock band name of all time. My old mate Adam Dolgins wrote a whole book on that very subject by the way (band names that is). You will (if you read me regularly) have heard me use this delicious phrase (PWEI) before. It's one of my favourites and I think I most often use it in the context of the parlous state of that loveliest of games, cricket. Because here's the skinny, Cricket is not so much eating itself as devouring itself like a deranged self-harming tiger. T20 - here's another skinny: it's not fucking cricket. With this one I am pissing into a strong prevailing wind but that doesn't mean I'm not right. I look at my collection of Wisden almanacs and wonder how long it will be before there is no first class cricket to contain within those yellow dust jackets. A nice aside, Pop Will Eat Itself (the band) issued a track Reclaim the Game, though their context was the game of football. At least we don't have anyone force-feeding us abbreviated football. Not yet anyway.

On my recent journeys on public transport in Porto and Bilbao, I was struck by the unaffectedly polite cheeriness of the commuters and the cleanliness of the trains. Taking a train in England is so often a dispiriting experience. Does it have to be this way? I don't think it's the infrastructure so much as the people. Or maybe the infrastructure has deteriorated so much that we find a retreat into oafishness our only coping mechanism.

You see what I mean - I've become a right misery guts. Let me then introduce a moment of good cheer. I'm going to buy myself a new lawnmower, petrol and self-propelled of course. The current precious mower has done twenty years of loyal service and I want to retire it before it gives up the ghost altogether. I like petrol mowers. I like a tidy lawn.

Another reason to be cheerful, I ran four and a bit miles this morning. Slowly but continuously. I have a vague notion that I'd like to do a 10k in the autumn. Should be manageable, even for these old bones. Big Fat Pig redux.

You know what, just typing this blog has cheered me up. A problem shared etc. Thanks for listening.    

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Home, Briefly, And Then Away Again

No sooner returned from Porto than off on my travels, this time to Bilbao for the European Rugby Finals.

Potentially a rum decision to take the events to the Basque Country (it's not Spain, as several locals informed us) but, credit to the organisers, it went off splendidly. The city was brilliantly welcoming and the place was awash with partying rugby types - perhaps not everybody's cup of tea but compared to football fans we are a harmless bunch. A pharmacist (I was sponsored by Gaviscon for the six days) commented on this very fact when taking my trade on the second morning.

Lots to eat, rather more to drink and not quite as much culture as when in Porto. Notwithstanding that I ought to know better, this was one of the best tours I've been on. Thanks to JRS, BH, ATJS, AO and TW who put up with me for the duration and were princely company.

The very new and sparkly San Mames Stadium was host to the Challenge and Champions Cup fixtures - a cathedral of sport, simply stunning. Less stately but still impressive was the municipal sports park in the outlying town of Getxo, served by the clean and efficient Bilbao Metro and where JRS and I (the others were sleeping off a late one - very) watched ESTM of Moscow defeat RK Heidelberg in the Shield final on Saturday morning. A good game of rugby. The game of the weekend was however Friday evening's sixty-one point thriller between Cardiff and Gloucester - spoils to Cardiff by the odd point in those sixty-one.

The main final between Leinster and Racing 92 was, in contrast, tryless but enthralling, the sheer physicality perhaps masking some deficiencies in execution. Leinster prevailed by a late penalty.

Most memorable moment of the trip. Meeting Scott Quinnell in the lounge at Heathrow? Lovely chap, but no.. For me it was that game of head-butt the ice cube demonstrated by the lunatic and musical group of Clermont fans we encountered on Saturday night. Don't try it when your sober.

Shamefully I have to fess up that although we walked around it, we never made it to the inside of the Guggenheim. Transpires it's not open on a Monday.

Back home to some stark realities - my PhD has stalled so needs resuscitating and, more worryingly, Trump is still in power. 

Friday, 4 May 2018

Porto 4

We fly home today and will be sad to leave. In my case sad but considerably fatter. The food here has been right up my street - unpretentious but appetising. We had a superb lunch here in Porto yesterday at Postigo do Carvao in the old town, once again at a fetchingly low price. It was cod with potatoes and cream (a sort of sublime fish pie if you like) for the Big Fat Pig and hake for the Groupie. Washed down with a Douro red. Once again change from €50 even with a deserved and healthy tip. Our waiter had faultless English, he had been born in London but his family returned to Portugal when he was six. A Liverpool fan, he proudly showed me his tattooed forearm bearing the club crest.

a long way down
I think this is the hilliest city I have ever visited and almost any piece of sight-seeing involves a climb - which only serves to sharpen the appetite and to convince you that you deserve the culminating food and wine. So yesterday's late lunch had been earned by an ascent to the imposing Cathedral followed by traversing the vertiginous Ponte de Dom Luis I. At almost every turn there is an impressive church, complete with an altar surmounted with intricate carving. The Cathedral tops the lot, literally sitting at the top of the old town.

cathedral carving
I'm sorry dear reader that I have lost my cynical voice during this trip. Porto is bosting. No doubt the flight home will transport me back to my accustomed world-weary self.