Friday, 29 May 2015

What Did I Do To Deserve That?

I've been making a concerted effort to keep myself sound of body and mind. The body is catered for by the running which continues to go quite well. I didn't get out whilst in Anglesey last weekend and instead rather overfed and overwatered myself. Compensation came in the shape of seventy minutes up and down the local hills on Tuesday and three sharper efforts to round the week off. As for the old mind, I visited Waterstones to spend some vouchers and any bookshop visit always fills me with good intentions. Under this new ascetic regime I have largely foresworn the perils of daytime television (dangerously addictive) and instead got stuck into a variety of tomes. For most of my life I have read only one book at a a time but I have now adopted my father's method and I have two upstairs books and three downstairs on the go.  My reasoning is that if it is possible (as it is) to imbibe more than one television serial at a time then one can do the same with books. Yesterday I finished off Waugh's A Handful of Dust, quite simply a masterful novel, one I first encountered as a set text for English A level. The modern edition I have just finished includes as an appendix the alternative ending that Waugh was forced (for copyright reasons arising from the ownership of an original short story that went on to become the concluding chapter of the novel proper) to write for a serialised American edition. The author himself described it as a 'curiosity ' when it was appended to a 1963 reprint. 'Travesty' might be more apt and you rather suspect that Waugh bashed it out for the money, tongue admirably and firmly in his cheek.

Other books in the midst of which I find myself include Mrs Barrington's Life of Walter Bagehot, Atlas Shrugged (itself something of a curiosity but not unfascinating), Hearing Secret Harmonies and Jamaica Inn. Catholic tastes? That was rather the image I was going for.

Preferable to Blatter
Finally I get to what I meant to say and what you were entitled to expect from the heading of this post. I  did, between books, dip into the BBC News yesterday and I saw two reprehensible characters: that awful con-man Sepp Blatter was distancing himself from the chicanery at FIFA; Alex Salmond was giving  a withering speech in his new home, the House of Commons. Both in their way loathsome but there is an important distinction. Salmond is merely objectionable but acts within the law (even those he abhors). Blatter is either a kleptocrat or a massive idiot incapable of seeing beyond the end of his administrative nose. As I write this the good burghers of FIFA are voting on Blatter's continuation in office. Nobody is predicting that he will do other than survive. Hang your heads in shame.  

Monday, 25 May 2015

Man And Seascape

They're amongst my favourite things, the points where man and nature merge. Thus I like the bulky brutalism of the Wylfa nuclear power station against the North Anglesey coast. I will have to get used to calling it  Wylfa Newydd as the old magnox reactor is being superseded.

Yesterday we walked at a more subtle point of intervention, Penrhos Coastal Park - OS Landranger sheet 114, grid 275805. Car park borders shore before giving way to a tarmac path past the memorial to a local boy (he was hardly a man) who fell at Bluff Cove in The Falklands. The tarmac soon defers to rougher gravel paths laid through the woodland, which surrenders to the coastal path. And you stand on an unblemished beach with the cooling tower of Anglesey Aluminium behind you (the Park was endowed by that company) and peer across the bay to the great sea wall at Holyhead and witness a car ferry commencing its progress across the Irish Sea. All is unspoilt. It may change but my point, I think, is that change is not automatically bad. There is outline planning permission for the construction of a holiday park at the site. My instinct is that I like it as it is. My instinct is not infallible.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Of Food And Sea Air

At the old country estate for the weekend and spent yesterday doing a rather fabulous impression of nothing much before walking round to Red Wharf Bay for dinner at the Ship Inn. The food here is good - not cheap but a cut above average pub fare and served with a pleasing speed, not that they rush you away once you've eaten, you can sit and enjoy a second bottle of wine. We did. The choice of wines is pretty good and they boast that they are the only pub on the island with the Cask Marque. Certainly the pint of Adnam's I took as an aperitif was spot on. As for the food I had the lamb koftas (good though I could probably have handled one more - but I am a greedy boy) and Sharon had the smoked mackerel which she proclaimed very good. As is only right in a pub both dishes came with chunky chips. We both had a satisfyingly dark chocolate and beetroot (yes I did say beetroot) cake for pudding. Taxi home for five quid and then another bottle of wine whilst taking in the kitschfest that is Eurovision. As an antidote to that we caught the tail end of a broadcast of the incomparable Muse from the Radio One Big Weekend.

Off for a coastal walk soon and tonight is barbecue night. It's a hard life,

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Of Food And Love

It went well - the Nigella chicken and chorizo was a smash hit - check out the recipe at Spanish chicken.

That was the food and what of love? Well I cooked it for my parents and, do you know what, I don't say it often enough - I owe them rather more than a solitary lunch. There are tiny little bits and pieces (mostly the bad ones) that I have done for myself but on any rational calculation I am the product of their selfless commitment to family. I hope they enjoyed the chicken.

While I wasn't cooking, eating or drinking today I wallowed in the coverage of the test match and the PGA golf. The cricket was terrific - a clatter of early England wickets followed by a very spirited fight-back and a final (last ball of the day) leveller for New Zealand. Under an English sun what could be better than to be at Lord's watching proper cricket? Proper cricket mind you.

The garden is looking good but my precious lawn probably needs another cut tomorrow. And finally, I've just had a text from Viperjohn to alert me to 33% off Pol Roger at Majestic for the next four days. Tempting, very tempting.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Of Exercise And Eating

The training is going well at this early stage and giving me a feeling of outrageous well-being. On Monday I ran for an hour, an important personal milestone. I confined myself to my local circuit of the small estate over the road, its great attraction being that I am never too far from home if my body gives out and it does not involve any steep hills. The problem with our location is that we sit at the top of a hill - great for views and avoiding floods but carrying with it the inevitability of a concluding haul up the slope if I venture very far.

But sometimes I do want to head down the hill for a change of scenery and Tuesday was such an occasion. Still a little tender from the hour on my feet on  Monday I was aiming for forty minutes and managed only a leaden-footed thirty. I risked the hill again today and set myself a target of thirty minutes but was pleased to do forty. Yesterday was definitely one of those days when the gods are against you. The rain it did rain and the wind it did blow, hell it even bloody hailed. Thus did I set out in my long tights and my waterproof jacket though I have to confess I did not abandon the Oakleys. Result? No rain, no hail, just a strong wind which always seemed to be against me and which inflated my jacket like a spinnaker. At various points I felt like I was going bloody backwards and it took me an indecent time to pass an old lady with a shopping trolley. Memories came flooding back of losing in a sprint finish to a bloke in a rhino costume in the 96 London Marathon. Great moments in sport.

Pig's training regime
Diet. I'm attempting the 5/2 diet - this is the one where you fast for two days and eat normally for five. I've been fasting today and although I feel vaguely virtuous I feel rather more hungry and I am being tormented by cravings for a glass of red (also verboten).

Tomorrow I will be answering a challenge I have set myself. I am cooking lunch for my venerable parents. We are to have Nigella's chicken and chorizo. I raided Waitrose this afternoon and I'm well psyched.

This is BFP signing out. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Of Bonuses And National Treasures

The bonus? Well, courtesy of the good people at Coral that 20/1 winner I boasted of was paid out at double the odds. So 40/1 - if only it were ever thus. I wait in vain for the muse to revisit me.

OG's turf accountant of choice
National treasures: I've written before of my absolute and unreserved admiration for Clive James and, yes, I know he's not even British but he has honoured us by making this his home and here he will (all too soon we are informed) die. BAFTA gave him an award last week which he accepted with characteristic wit and wisdom. I have no idea whether he is as venerated in his native Australia but one hopes so. Perhaps not a national treasure then but a galactic treasure.

Peter Kay. If you haven't already caught the first four episodes of Car Share I command you to do so immediately via iPlayer. Simply bloody funny and warm. Up there with his earlier magnum opus Phoenix Nights.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Arithmetic Progression

I had a little flutter yesterday, well four to be precise. As Sharon pointed out this would be a bad habit to get into but don't worry I've got it under control. Famous last words.

20/1 shot - never in doubt
Four televised races from York (a lovely course by the way - IW and I had a memorable day there in an earlier age - Jack Charlton introduced us to John Charles) and I got better as the day wore on. First race, fourth place at 12/1; second race, third at 6/1; third race, second at 5/2; fourth race, 20/1 winner. Yes you did read that right, a 20/1 winner.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015


I've been feeling a bit low today - discouraged by my own humanity/fallibility. Nothing too bad but a minor quake of pessimism. And so I took to the roads, first on foot for fifty exhausting minutes, and then for the same time in the precious Jag, having first had to jump start it out of its neglected slumber.

The soothing power of running and the energising power of the four litre V8. Marvellous self-indulgence.

Now I feel better and tomorrow is another day.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Many a Fine Tune

I was reading about Walter Bagehot's childhood (I do know this is sad but it's what I do) and found a bizarre letter from Bagehot Pere to the schoolboy Walter, in which the father recites great chunks from Palmerston's 1842 speech on free trade. My Dad never sent me letters like that when I was a teenager. But this last is besides the point, because I found myself taken with what Palmerston had to say.
Why are lands the most distant from each other brought almost into contact by that very ocean which seems to divide them? Why, sir, it is that man may be dependent upon man… It is that commerce may freely go forth, leading civilisation with one hand, and peace with the other, to render mankind happier, wiser, better. Sir, this is the dispensation of Providence, this is the decree of that power which created and disposed the universe; but in the face of it, with arrogant presumptuous folly, the dealers in restrictive duties fly, fettering  the inborn energies of man, and setting up their miserable legislation instead of the great standing laws of nature.
Free Trade Dude
Pretty neat really. And now pose the question to yourself - does the modern United Kingdom stand for that vision of free trade or not?

More importantly, BFP, after a few days of dissolution, hit the roads again this morning with a resounding thud. Forty-five minutes. I was going to fast today but am seriously contemplating having a glass of red and a banana. Life in the fast lane.

Friday, 8 May 2015

General Election VI

Well what a funny old night. Undoubted highlight: Vince Cable and Ed Balls both out of the House. Those who live by the sword indeed.

What to do about Scotland where the voters are now behaving as the English have learned to do in European elections, that is to vote for the party that doesn't believe in the institution to which they are sending representatives?

What to do about the electoral system, wherein UKIP can win four million votes (hugely outstripping the eviscerated LibDems) but only one seat?

The Conservatives have a scant majority and we will thereby live in interesting times - not always a curse. We will also live in a country where, when push came to shove, most people simply could not imagine Ed Miliband as PM.

A complaint about the timbre of the media coverage - in particular could the BBC please get rid of that smug twerp Andrew Neil, or at the very least compel him to drop the laughable comb-over.

Finally a thought (not mine) that I was saving up for the advent of a  Miliband led coalition:
Then you will see the rise of the men of the double standard - the men who live by force, yet count on those that live by trade to create the value of their looted money - the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue.
Hitchhikers of virtue - I love that.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

General Election V

I'm feeling a tad guilty about my unrelenting cynicism. This morning I swam in a fine municipal baths and later I will get to exercise my franchise at my leisure. As I glibly took in the lunchtime news on Sky I saw footage of riots in Burundi where there is controversy about the forthcoming presidential election. A man was today burned alive.

BFP training fuel
Last night I polished off a bottle of pleasant red wine - Villa Maria Pinot Noir 2011. It was a leaving gift to me from a co-worker whose estimation I value. That made the wine taste all the better.

And he makes it fast with one more thing - we re-watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind on Tuesday. Halliwell is rather sniffy about it but I thought it stood up well. 6.5/10.

Remember to vote.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

General Election IV: The Others

These I have trouble with: the Greens, UKIP, and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. The trouble is that I rather like them.

The Greens bring an entirely new slant to politics by its severance from any meaningful relationship to economics. They can seem laughable but their sincerity is their greatest weapon. I happen not to agree with most of their prescriptions, perhaps having an excessive faith in man's ingenuity. A sort of Green Objectivism might make some mischievous intellectual appeal.

UKIP - a single issue party with dreadful growing pains. A pity because the single issue is  a bigger one than our non-neophyte political class would have us believe.

TUSC - the vehicle for Dave Nellist and his Trotskyist chums. I feel quite nostalgic for their politics. Welcome back lads.

So that's it. And after all that I only get one vote. One last point - what would be so terrible about a minority government followed by a further early election? Cameron can shove his Fixed Term Parliament Act up the proverbial. Nuff said.

Happy voting one and all. Just do vote - you won't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket.

General Election III: Liberal Democrats

Nicholas William Peter Clegg (who Benn-like prefers to be known by his diminutive 'Nick') may have become a toxic brand but you have to give it to the boy - he has come up with best soundbite of the campaign.
I'll add a heart to a Conservative government and a brain to a Labour one
I particularly like the disdain for Miliband implicit in that choice of words.

But sadly he still has St Vince of Twickenham in tow, a man who makes Ed Balls look self-effacing.

General Election II: Labour

Somewhere in my archive (ok it's a collection of mouldering boxes) is my copy of the 1983 Labour Manifesto, memorably described as the longest suicide note in political history. Plain, stark-staring bonkers it may have been but at least, as I recall, it was literate. Its 2015 cousin is full of grammatical infelicities. Now these things probably don't matter to many people aside from me but it betrays a concerning lack of sincerity. The Labour Party is at its best when it is being socialist but even with Red Ed in charge they have lost the courage of their convictions. Instead we have the party of Ed Balls and Harriet Harman. God help us.

For what it is worth I believe Ed Miliband when he says "The fundamental truth that runs through this manifesto is that Britain will only succeed when working people succeed." I'm afraid I also strongly believe that he is worse equipped than even Cameron to deliver on the standard sententious drivel.

Now I have to have a rest and gather my strength to opine on the rest of the clowns. Actually they're not all clowns but I think you'll be mildly surprised in whose direction I doff my cap.  

General Election I: The Conservatives

There's no avoiding it - it's make your mind up time. To which end I've been scouring the manifestos for you. A dead sea of platitudes.

So here is all you need to know about the Conservative manifesto. In fact it appears in the Foreword to the eighty odd pages. All (or pretty much so) thereafter is an  attempt to bribe people with my money and yours, this being the unthinking modus operandi of all our major parties - what we might term the Attlee Legacy, that doughty survivor of the Thatcher Revolution.
It is a profound Conservative belief that our country is made great not through the action of  government alone, but through the flair, ingenuity and hard work of the British people.
Let me be quite clear, this (to my mind) admirable affirmation of proper political will is hardly at all borne out by the Con-Dem efforts of the last five years, but at least the Tories have not so lost sight of the mantra that they are unable to repeat it.

That my friends is as good as the political thinking gets these days. Thus do I have to part company with one of my heroes, Rod Liddle, who has come out and explained that he will be voting Labour (you can track it down at Call me insane but I'm voting Labour - brilliant as usual). I have no great faith that the Boy Cameron really knows enough of the world to live by these words but at least he is still capable of mouthing them.

Labour to follow.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Support Your Local Pig

There's no going back now - I've made a public commitment and more important than that I have promised Daughter Number Two that I'm going to do it. So, barring illness and injury (either of which will have to be suitably severe) on October 11 I will be in Rachel's company as we run the Royal Parks Half Marathon. Many, many, many moons ago Big Fat Pig (aka BFP, that's me not Rach) did the full London Marathon and although he finished he did get badly dehydrated and lost a sprint finish to a bloke in a rhino costume, who in turn was just touched off by a man with a false leg. So you will appreciate that BFP does not do this thing lightly.

BFP in his Oakleys
Both Rachel and I will be raising funds for Mind, the mental health charity, something close to my heart as our resident mentalist. If you are minded to support our efforts you can find my giving page at David Roberts's Giving Page

After the rigours of a week in Ireland and in particular the onboarding of enough calories to sink a battleship, it was with some trepidation and an inevitably heavy tread that I set out for my latest run this morning. All went to plan and I shuffled about three miles. This afternoon I have been to the chiropractor for the first time in an age and was rewarded by three resounding cracks of the spine - by my simple reckoning the louder the crack the better the value for money you are getting.

My training regime will include red wine -which is good for your heart. In moderation. That's my story and I'm sticking got it.

Friday, 1 May 2015

End Of Trip Report

Let's get the golf out of the way first. Horrible quite horrible - I refer there to my own form not the venues or the company, all of which were exemplary.

A big Overgraduate shout-out to local organiser Tony Boland and our personal organiser Will Macfarlane. Two giants in the land, figuratively if not literally in the case of Tony. Will returns to his candidacy in next week's local elections and to support his estimable wife Sue who is standing for parliament. That they are standing for the Greens is something over which this blog will draw a polite veil. I admire their conviction and commitment if not their politics.

So it is back home for BFP (bigger, fatter and pigger after the attentions of the chefs of Dunmore East) to the prospect of the election and the reality of unemployment. I'll keep you posted.