Friday, 31 July 2015

Ludicrous Hair

I am scratching my head to decide whether there has ever been a more ridiculous political figure than US Presidential wannabe Donald Trump.

Flock of Seagulls tribute band
He is not the first candidate to say stupid things - I won't even give you a list of comparables because it's too long. However I genuinely cannot think of a more laughable hairstyle - not even Leon Brittan's comb-over.

Is his ability to make money even admirable? Does it give him a perspective from which to govern? Should more be made of those failed ventures where he utilised the bankruptcy laws to defy creditors? None of these questions matter in comparison to this one - can the Western world really afford to be led by a man who looks so downright bloody stupid? That's The Overgraduate for you, asking the questions that really matter. Tomorrow global warming, what's wrong with warmer weather? 

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Cricket Lovely Cricket

As it turns out I don't have to leave the country to make our cricketers play well. I am still in the UK and they stand on the brink of a demolition of Australia, an improbable rejuvenation after last week's capitulation. Test cricket is where it's at - don't let anybody tell you otherwise.

There are worse ways to spend the evening

I took in most of the day's play on the radio (no sport is better suited to audio coverage) whilst driving to Anglesey for one of my inspection visits at the old country estate. All is well, indeed made better by the nine holes of golf I treated myself to under a blameless, cloudless sky. As I stood on the ninth green at Baron Hill I forgave myself the fluffed chip and took in the view of the Menai Straits. A chap could do a lot worse. I have suppered of chili con carne and Weetabix (not together you understand) and am washing it down with Waitrose Good Ordinary Claret. I have Evelyn Waugh with me to round off the night - Scoop.

My golf? Petty crap I'm afraid. But tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The Further Ballad Of Mikey B

You may recall Mikey B, he being the recently retired tax partner at KPMG who last year incinerated his golf glove in an attempt to dry it in an Irish oven. Well he is now taking advantage of his retirement by playing lots of golf at his home club, Woburn. This is a very plush set-up that is the only institution to boast three courses in the Golf World UK Top 100.

It transpires that Mikey B is a very poor judge of character and thus he invited the OG and Big Willy Mac (you've met him before, he organises the annual Ireland trip) to join him for a game on the Duchess Course yesterday. A cracking day of sport and one which the OG managed despite his lack of practice not to disfigure too much with his incompetence. Big Willy had one of his frequent on-days and took the spoils.

A lot of trees and not much room for cat swinging

The Duchess course is carved out of the forests of the Woburn Estate. It is apparently the narrowest of the three courses, which is just as well because I don't believe I've ever played a narrower. Each hole scythes its sway through the woods without being overlooked by any other. Any errant drive has no chance of finding another fairway. This is a strong test of golf and the mark of its quality is that I enjoyed it thoroughly despite its marked unsuitability for my own broad-brush brand of golf.

So, many thanks to Big Willy for doing the driving and particular gratitude to Mikey B and Mrs B who put us up and put up with us on Sunday night and ensured that no golf was played with an entirely clear head. This lack of mental clarity is a feature of all my golf these days but yesterday's pleasurable experience has made me vow for the umpteenth time to play more often and to get to bed early the night before I do so. Fat chance.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

To Cut a Long Story Short

We treated ourselves to a new garden last winter. One of the casualties of the beautiful new arrangement was the rather scabby old shed. So far so, good but the lack of the shed (and my failure to erect the proposed new one - the story gets even longer if I expand on that subject) has meant the precious mower sharing garage space with the precious Jag. Pushed into the background and shamefully neglected has been the precious bike. So today I girded the old metaphoricals  and cleared out the garage thus liberating the bike. Now I can store all three of my preciouses and have ready access to each. I spent an oily hour changing a tyre and gave the bike an overdue clean and polish. She sits resplendent and tomorrow morning I plan to give her a gentle outing, judging this to be more tolerable for the calf injury.
All buffed up and beautiful

As I toiled inefficiently at the tyre I listened to the Alpe d'Huez denouement of the Tour de France. Brilliant and spoiled only by the infantile French tossers whose response to another British victory is to make wholly unfounded accusations of drug abuse and to gob on the toiling members of the ultra-efficient (and I grant thereby hard to love) Team Sky. The French have been waiting a long time for a Tour winner, though they might like to reflect that we waited a damn sight longer for a Wimbledon winner without feeling the need to start expectorating in the direction of the victors. Allez Froome. And chapeau to Nairo Quintana who attacked heroically on the Alpe but came up just short.

Au revoir one and all.

For Breakfast ...

I have mostly been eating pancakes, bacon and maple syrup (which I cooked myself - except for the syrup obviously) washed down with prosecco and damned fine coffee.

After a foul day weatherise yesterday, it dawns bright and clear today. A bit of gardening followed by a barbecue beckons. Top draw.

Incidentally I have spoken to the Sugar Mummy and she prefers to be known as the Groupie, so we will revert to that.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Advent Of The 1/3 Pounder

I forgot to write about it whilst in America but I was struck by the cultural symbolism of the radio advertisements for Macdonald's new third pounder. It may be apocryphal but internet legend has it that attempts to launch a previous such burger in the 80's failed due to American mathematical ignorance - focus groups established that a majority of punters thought a quarter pound was more than a third.

Two for my mate BFP please
The jet lag seems finally to have been defeated so today has been one of office hours even though I don't have an office to go to. I have filled the unforgiving minutes by: reading (how did I ever go off this?); getting my hair cut (usual number two buzz-cut); thrashing inexpertly at some golf balls (an invitation to play at Woburn on Monday has been procured from Mikey B and I haven't played a stroke since signal failure in Ireland); jump-starting the precious Jag (flat battery due to underuse), driving it around for a bit (nice) and peeling spuds for this evening's chips. Now waiting for the Groupie to return from work at which point the allegedly healthy fryer goes on. Actually now that the West Coast tour is over I suppose she ceases to be the Groupie, and since she is my keeper maybe I should shed my other aliases and go under 'Kept Man'. Does that make her the 'Sugar Mummy'?

Further evidence that I must be going soft in my dotage - I found myself mildly well-disposed to Noel Gallagher in his Desert Island Discs appearance this morning.

I had taken a hatful of dvd's with me to America but in the event only watched some Phoenix Nights and a solitary film - a Bette Davis melodrama The Letter. Rather good. Based on a Somerset Maugham story it is a clever little morality tale about the veneer of western decency contrasted to outwardly shabby oriental morality. Davis again confirms her willingness to play unattractive characters and, more than that, to excel at it. 7/10.

The Sugar Mummy has returned and the chips are nearly done. I'm going to have a dipping sauce of strawberry balsamic vinegar as bought at Pike Place Market in Seattle.

PS. Did I say strawberry balsamic? Who ever heard of such a thing. I meant raspberry balsamic.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

I'm Only Saying

I'm trying to ignore the Labour Party leadership campaign - it feels like intruding on private grief. However I have to say that I have been looking at pictures of Andy Burnham and he has gone up in my estimation because it does appear that he is being unnecessarily modest about his pre-political life as the pilot of Thunderbird 1.

Andy Burnham

Scott Tracy

Circadian Dysrhythmia

Or jet lag to you and me. It has hit me harder than after previous trips. Another sign of age? Oh well, bugger it, I feel on more solid ground today if not totally wound tight for intellectual action.

Having been lame with my calf injury for the past four weeks and having eaten a grandiose super-sufficiency on holiday I went out for  a run yesterday with not inconsiderable trepidation. I did a steady three miles and felt no ill effects. I was stiff of muscle when I woke today but decided I was well enough to venture forth once more. Wrong. The calf twinged (no more) in the third mile and, defying past macho practice, I stopped immediately and sloped back home to ice the muscle - few things are more embarrassing than being the middle-aged man walking in lycra. I am controlling my habitual pissed-off pessimism - for now - but if the problem persists I reserve the right to moon around swathed in self-pity.

I got back to this country just in time to see our cricketers revert to type and get well and truly marmalised by the Australians. Resistance was there none. For the good of English cricket I may have to decamp once more. Would a few days in Anglesey be enough do you think? I'll do anything for the good of the country.

Final reflections on the West Coast interlude. Bloody good. Favourite bit? The Oregon Coast. Best beer - Flat Tail Brewing's Tailgater Kolsch (admit it you didn't expect me to nominate a lager - neither did I but it fitted its moment perfectly). Best city - Vancouver. Best food - Paley's in Portland, by a country mile. Best Shakespeare play - still Antony and Cleopatra. 

I bought some necessary supplies in Sainbury's on Monday and the young man on the till hoped I would 'have a nice day'. I was tempted to favour Peter Ustinov's recommended response, 'thank you but I have other plans', but bit my tongue and reflected that good service works both ways - both server and served need to conspire in the transaction. In America I was a willing conspirator. I shall endeavour to be so on home soil.

Have a good day now.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Back In Blighty

I am not a good traveller. I fret that something is going to go wrong. So when we approached Vancouver in the small hours of Saturday morning I convinced myself there would be no taxis to get us to the Airport Fairmont. Wrong. Next I fretted that we wouldn't get the desired seats on the plane. Well I was partly right on that score but the Groupie did some skilful negotiation and we were placed alongside each other. And then in a piece of great good fortune the seat on my other side was not taken and I luxuriated in a double space for the width of the Atlantic.

Thus had we made it to London in good shape. All that was left was the train back to Brum. On which I now sit, part of a seething mass of sweaty humanity, trying to ignore the pissed-up Scotsman behind me who has with him two bottles of Coke and a full bottle of scotch which he plainly intends to empty before the ultimate destination of Glasgow. It's good to be back.



the dragonfly steals a
view and blurred enhances
coy fine flirting with a
purpose kissing water

a nature

and climbing clarion
clattering the human
dragonfly spies for fire
purpose pilfered water


Saturday, 18 July 2015

Train Delay

We're on the way from Portland to Vancouver - slowly as it happens. We are three and a half hours in and already two behind schedule. But at least the internet thingy is working so I can bore the world in the accustomed manner.

Not in the Michelin Guide
It occurs to me that I omitted to mention the epicurean inconsistency in yesterday's eating. As I last blogged, we ate in the evening at the outstanding Paley's Place. Which was nice. At lunchtime we had nachos, fries and a beer (well the Groupie had wine) at the salubrious Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar franchise in downtown Portland. Which was also nice - and that, I think, is my point.

I've just watched the first episode of Phoenix Nights. Peter Kay, genius.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Goodbye To All That

Sitting in reception at the Inn at Northrup Station having checked out of our last US hotel room. All that is left now is train to Vancouver, one night there and the plane home tomorrow.

It has been nothing short of fabulous and we treated ourselves to a highfalutin finish last night at the highly recommended Paley's Place. This was food and wine out of the top drawer. Mildly pretentious? Possibly but sometimes that can be nice. I wore long trousers for the first and only time on this holiday. Details at Posh Nosh Portland .

Portland grew on me. I strongly suspect it is a great place to live because food, wine, beer, coffee are abundant in independent splendour. Possibly not a great choice for a lengthy holiday stay unless of course you want to do the said food, wine, beer, coffee to death. Incidentally, Portland is the site of the first ever Fred Meyer store - our new retail fave.

I should have known it would happen - I logged on with a strong foreboding and found that England have capitulated in the cricket. Still tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

No More Driving On The Right

Transport of delight
The OG tour bus has rolled back into the city, latest stop Portland Oregon. The tour bus (Ford Focus) has been returned safely and unmolested to Avis after fourteen hundred miles of faithful service - BFP doesn't do downtown driving, it is safe for neither him nor the locals.

First impressions of Portland are favourable - we even had a taxi driver who was listening to the BBC, what a dude! BFP/OG and the tour groupie are shacked up in the uber trendy Inn at Northrup Station, so cool it is bordering on glacial. The room has two televisions (but no pool to throw them into) and a kitchen. Dig the vibe at Northrup Station .

But enough of Portand for that will surely follow. No I must boast (that is the only fair word) about the day OG and groupie had yesterday. We breakfasted of donuts, tea for her and coffee for him. We then set out with every intention of buying lunchtime provender from the artisan bakery in Yachats. It was closed and this was our first stroke of luck because it drove us into the arms of the retail giant that is Fred Meyer, Florence, OR branch. Shopping is something America does better than us - simply put there is nowhere in England where one can buy four 250 ml picnic cans of Californian pinot grigio (for $4.99 mark you), two quality sandwiches, A tub of varied olives and peppers, a tub of fresh fruit, and a University of Oregon teeshirt all in one place. With air conditioning that actually works and toilets (sorry restrooms) that are fit for use.

The drive to Florence was fortuitous because the views going South-bound on Route101 are even more stunning than those we had seen coming up the other way. The Oregon coast is indescribably awesome so I won't bother, I'll instead cull a couple of pictures from the old inter web thing and hope they give you a flavour. Put it this way, I'm relatively well travelled but, in the words of the song, I ain't never seen nothing like this. The first is of the Oregon Dune Belt; the second of the beach at the Muriel L. Ponsler Memorial Picnic Area  off 101. We walked for a mile in each direction and saw, in mid holiday season, only twenty living souls - and four of those were dogs. Muriel must have been some woman to merit a memorial like that.

Finally a word for a fine end to a fine day - dinner at Ona in Yachats was very much up to scratch: chicken which Mrs OG/Groupie described as fabulous; surf and turf for OG/BFP in which the turf was good and the surf divine. We will be back to Yachats and, given the journey from Brum, that's quite a promise and quite a recommendation of a heavenly spot on the map.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Yachats, Oregon

Pronounced 'Yah-hots' apparently, this coastal town (or probably more accurately a village) is simply gorgeous. There is sand and surf and the interior rises steeply away from the sea into forest. On the hills are stunning houses. We are staying at the idiosyncratic (you have to climb around the toilet to get into the shower) but definitely loveable Deane's Oceanfront Lodge just outside the town - it has its own path down to the beach and they have a free DVD library for the use of patrons and complimentary coffee and donuts (more local spelling) each morning. Yesterday the weather was milder than has been the norm but that made it nice for an exploration of the local coastline and was certainly not enough to keep me from my obligatory dip in the ocean - cold but great waves for body surfing. I missed having the girls with me so that we could have done some 'nutter running' which was our patented method of running into the oncoming tide heedless of the temperature before diving into the oncoming swell. Doing it alone would have felt wrong.

We have filled our last two evenings by watching Meryl Streep films from the library at reception, US television being dauntingly multifarious and unnavigable. The House of the Spirits tried to do too much, based on what I must assume is a sprawling novel by Isabel Allende. It also had the implausibility of Jeremy Irons as a Latin grandee. However the narrative string was arresting and it was worth staying to the end. Just. 5/10.

Last night's offering was rather better and I'm surprised that we had never come across it before. Marvin's Room is littered with luminaries - Streep, Diane Keaton, Leonardo DiCaprio and a bit part for Robert De Niro. It takes the dysfunctional family trope to laudable heights and has comedy and tragedy running together in believable balance. You are reminded just what a considerable screen presence DiCaprio possesses as his young self goes punch for punch with his elder cinematic co-stars. 7/10.

More walking today and I may even buy another teeshirt. Tonight we are dining out. The standards set by our experiences thus far are high but Ona looks to be Yachats' plushest destination and therefore promising. I will have to take great care in choosing which teeshirt to wear.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Welcome To The Hotel California, Briefly

We left Ashland behind us yesterday with good memories and then took a circuitous route to our latest stop so that we could say we have been to California. The mountains of Southern Oregon/ Northern California are spectacular, steep slopes dominated by what we botanists call bloody big trees. And after the mountains comes the coast - about which one can only say, bloody hell, or perhaps in the vernacular, awesome dude. Mile upon mile of pure Pacific Ocean, sometimes surmounted by cliffs and then by the Oregon dune belt. Also awesome was the pizza we had for lunch in the town of Brookings.

Globe on steroids?
Now we are in Yachats, Oregon, staying within a stone's throw (well perhaps a few throws of a stone) of the ocean and miles of flawless sand. But more of that later. I need first to divest myself of my thoughts on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. We saw a fine production of Antony and Cleopatra in Ashland's Elizabethan Theater (there's that spelling thing again) and it made an interesting contrast with my beloved Globe back in London. The playing spaces are similarly configured though Ashland is grander. Both are open to the elements - elements which in Ashland's case had flash-flooded the town just three days before our arrival. Where the Globe makes few concessions to the creature comforts of the spectator (the discomfort is part of the fun) Ashland is far more concerned about its customers - there is legroom undreamt of in even the most modern British theatre (there's that spelling thing again) and the roof covers all but the stalls. Tellingly, no one stands up in Oregon. Thus Ashland is Elizabethan(ish) in its acting environment but doesn't leave you squirming as the drama unfolds. There is also a notable difference in how the stage is utilised. The Globe knowingly eschews modern usage - no electronic sound system for example. Ashland does use amplified effects to augment the play and even had electronic surtitles to tell us where each scene was set. None of this was objectionable because, as he generally does, the Bard brings you back to the play. The programme notes (Ashland's substantial programme is free to each playgoer - a nice touch) correctly described Antony and Cleopatra as Shakespeare's most cinematic play and this production raced along nicely. There were nice directorial touches where scenes were made to overlap as the separated principals saw each other in their thoughts. A very good night and here's a tip should you ever be in Ashland and want a drink and bite to eat before the play, either make a reservation in advance (there are three theatres in the Festival and therefore three audiences worth of people descending on a smallish town) or do as we did and go to the Redzone Sports Bar. There were sixteen screens showing baseball but most importantly it had clearly been discounted by theatre-goers as a suitable venue for pre-show drinks. It's actually fine and you'll get a seat and the obligatory swift service. I had deep-fried mozzarella cheese sticks and a pint of IPA. Which was nice.  

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Oh Me Of Little Faith

I have made a habit of being overseas for defining parts of memorable test series with Australia. In 1977 I was camped at the snout of an unmapped glacier in Iceland and thus missed the return to test cricket of Geoff Boycott and the emergence of the force of nature that was Ian Botham. Four years later I was coaching basketball (yes I do know that sounds implausible, in fact risible) in Massachusetts when Botham almost single-handedly wrested the Ashes from Australia. Communications being what they then were we relied on World Service reports relayed from base camp in Iceland and in 1981 my mate JRS posted me the press cuttings which I would read aloud to my fellow English counsellors at Camp Half Moon.

Well here we go again but now the internet makes the scores readily accessible. Last night I shared with you my instinctive fear that England might snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I woke today to find that Australia were already seven wickets down so my trepidation moved on to the Cardiff weather perhaps saving the Aussies. By the time I had finished a splendid breakfast the game had been won. Will my return home be a bad omen? If so I have decided where I am going to stay - at the Kriselle Cellars vineyard.Dave's Oregon Office

Terroir and tasting room
We discovered their sauvignon blanc last night and today we paid the vineyard a visit. We tasted: the 2014 sauvignon blanc (perhaps even more attention grabbing than the 2013 we had already encountered); the rose; a cab franc/malbec/cabernet sauvignon proprietary blend; the malbec; the cabernet sauvignon; and the tempranillo. All admirable but that sauvignon blanc is the star. It seems they can sell all they make this side of the pond and my internet explorations suggest no UK distribution. Which means we will have to live off the memory of their modern and friendly tasting room with its mountain views and fresh fired pizza. Just to round things off there was live blues music from Rogue Rage Duo (Big Will Macfarlane, bless him, would have loved it) and the retired gentleman who shared our table was the former Attorney General for Nevada, a job which entailed having armed guards. Now that's a real lawyer.

Tonight it is Antony and Cleopatra at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival which as any fule kno is Shakespeare's finest play so they better make a good job of it. All I have to decide is which teeshirt to wear for the occasion.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

A New Discovery On The Oregon Trail

There are a lot of seemingly silly little things to love about America. The quality of the service (helpful but unaffected) is one I keep finding myself banging on about. But it's other stuff that makes you happy - the size of parking spaces (such that you can actually get out of your bloody car unlike your modern British multi-storey) and the general good manners on the freeway.

Go on you know it makes sense
And here's another reason to be cheerful - we've found an Oregon sauvignon blanc that stands up to the  New Zealanders. Ladies and gentleman the OG gives you - Kriselle Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2013. Mr and Mrs OG found it on the wine list at the The Brickworks in Ashland and were so taken that they found a post-prandial offie (liquor store as the locals would have it ) for a second bottle which is being imbibed as OG himself types away in the salubrious confines of the Oak Hill B&B. It's only rock and roll but I like it, like it, yea, yea, yea.

The miracle that is the internet means that I can keep tabs on the cricket scores from home and I am slightly concerned about the triumphalist tone of the BBC coverage of the first test - clearly all has gone swimmingly thus far but please boys let's not count our chickens. I will log on tomorrow with trepidation.

Friday, 10 July 2015

The Wrong Side Of The Road

The big cities have been left behind and OG therefore trusts himself to get behind the wheel. Our transport of delight is a Ford Focus - an uninvolving vehicle if truth be told but automatic transmission is a decided benefit when you are trying your damnedest to stay on the right side of the road.

Base for the last few days has been Corvallis, Oregon, home of Oregon State University (Go Beavers!) and a delight. This town of fifty-six thousand souls has no fewer than seven artisan brew-pubs (there might be more in which case I apologise). We have drunk and eaten in three of them and would recommend all, but, drumroll, my favourite (marginally) is Flat Tail (beavers have flat tails - geddit?) Truckloads of beer to choose from plus monster portions of honest bar food. It goes without saying that service throughout the town has been uniformly excellent. Tomorrow will take us down Highway 5 to Ashland at the southernmost extreme of Oregon and the delights (hopefully) of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

To help me master this wrong side of the road stuff we took a motor tour of the Willamette National Forest yesterday. Oregon is implausibly stunning - big landscapes, big skies and big blue lakes. We hit the road again today and took in the Oregon Garden, eighty acres of flamboyant planting - the Oregon Garden .

Thus far I have bought three teeshirts. More will follow.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Jackson Pollock - Seattle Art Museum

So anxious was I to tell you how many bars I'd visited in Seattle that I omitted to mention the Seattle Art Museum. An interesting space with a growing and youthful collection. Student discount again allowed.

I think I get the point of Jackson Pollock. You have to see the paintings up close to appreciate the textures and layers. Seattle are justly proud of their freshly restored 1947 Pollock. The reproduction below does not do it justice of course.

A New Poem

Training Exercise (Amtrak Cascades 4 July 2015)

The Poem that is never read
Is locked and lost within my head
No verses that have run and fled
You'll have to have these ones instead.

I wrote it down some weeks ago
A villanelle with metric flow
There comes the pattern that you know.

I lost the pad I scrawled it in
Where I was starting to begin.

These rules are made to be broken.

. _  / . _  / . _  / . _

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Land Of The Free

We arrived in town on July 4 which meant huge crowds at Pike Street Market but lots of downtown shops closed for the celebrations. That sealed state carried over into Sunday so Seattle has been a slightly surreal city experience until today when all seems to be up and running again. Just in time - we move on tomorrow.

Home of Starbucks, Home of Microsoft, home of, well you get the picture, Seattle likes to think of itself as hip and thrusting. I think it's just about right in its self-estimation, though there are rather more down-and-outs on the sidewalks than a city should feel comfortable about.

You should see the queues to enter the original Starbucks down at Pike Street. We went elsewhere, not from any right-on animus against the coffee moguls but because there are other treats to be had - on the Starbucks thing I do have to say that I think Margaret Hodge (the cheerleader for the Starbucks lynch mob) not only looks a bit like Polly Toynbee (are they ever seen together?) but talks through much the same orifice.

As appearing on a teeshirt near you
So should you be in town don't miss the Pike Street Pub and Brewery - Where everybody knows your name . Now you can if you wish read the predictably faint praise reviews from beer nerds or you can take this experienced drinker's word for it - the place is fun. It is also commercial (I've bought the teeshirt) but, hell they're entitled to make a living. They also serve passable wine by the glass should you want to take the darling heart for a tipple and the food is on the money, especially the salmon sandwich. Actually 'sandwich' is a misnomer, it's more of a slab of good fresh fish in a bun. With fries of course.

In a bizarre game of football last night USA beat Japan 5-2 in the final of the FIFA Women's World Cup. Sharon and I watched this whilst gorging on oysters and garlic fries in the J & M Bar in Pioneer Square - Seattle's oldest bar - I was drinking the local Mac and Jack which carries a kick. Service absolutely top drawer. That overreaching toss bag Sepp Blatter did not lower the tone by daring to turn up. Which was nice.

A long way up but there is
 a very fast elevator
Today we walked down to the Space Needle at the vibrant Seattle Center (that's how they spell it and it is their city after all) but did not go up because we had already taken in the much higher and much less hyped tallest building in town (indeed loftiest publicly accessible observatory on the West coast) the Columbia Center. So vertiginous that not only is there a Starbucks on the ground floor but another one for good measure at the half-way point on the fortieth floor.

Finally there has to a word for the Pike Street Market - all sorts from tat to tasteful and fish stalls the match of anything anywhere. If you were massively disciplined you could just cruise the crowded halls and sate yourself on the free samples. But if you are human you will crack and buy something - anyone for Aged Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar?

By the way and apropos of nothing at all, Brad Freidel walked into the Vancouver Starbucks from which I blogged at the weekend. In town for the women's final perhaps?

This is BFP signing off on behalf of The Overgraduate from the Polar Bar at the Arctic Explorer's Club in Seattle, where he has just finished the first bottle of a very presentable Washington State sauvignon blanc. God Bless America.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

More Dining

Tucked just off the main drag of Vancouver's Gastown we (or more accurately Sharon) found another little gem for an early dinner (earliness explained below) - see Alporto

A nice prosecco was taken. We both settled on a pizza. These were delayed because the perfectionist chef was not satisfied with the first ones out of the oven. We were kept informed of progress and given complimentary starters to keep us occupied - a subtly spiced gazpacho. At the end of the meal we also got free, but wholly unneeded, liqueurs to compensate for what had been only a slight interruption. The pizzas were properly Italian in type and on the correct side of superb. Change from $100 (before the richly deserved tip). A great discovery - 7.5/10.

We dined early because we have had a pre-dawn start today and this missive therefore comes to you from the Amtrak Cascades train from Vancouver to Seattle. We've just crossed the border and they haven't got me yet. The cinnamon rolls from the buffet car are sodding enormous and reasonably priced. It's a beautiful day and the views are stunning. Sorry in a way to have left Vancouver but there are new discoveries awaiting us.

Last but not unimportantly I have bought myself a Vancouver souvenir teeshirt to augment my collection of snappy casual gear. Girls go crazy for a sharp dressed man.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Fine Art, Food And Drink

It would be difficult to overpraise Vancouver, surely one of the most liveable cities in the world.

Yesterday started with a visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery, a grand but apparently inadequate space - they are at the start of a project to move to new premises. Exhibits of varying quality but the star turn undoubtedly Of Heaven and Earth: Five Hundred Years of Italian Art, a visiting show of paintings from the Glasgow Municipal Galleries' Mclellan Collection. To cap the experience they gave me student discount.

Mucky Italian picture
We exited the gallery to midday heat and had what I (after due deliberation) have to say was the best street food I have ever eaten. Stand up and take a bow Mr Shawarma halal chicken purveyor of Robson Square. Nothing short of superb.

Devour some art and then some chicken
Onward thereafter (after detour due to the map being upside down) to Gastown, the oldest part of town where we sat outside at the Chill Winston and enjoyed just enough (never too much, Heaven forfend) sauvignon blanc and predictably charming Canadian service.

Mellow out man
All in all a great day but journalistic ethics do mean that I have to disclose that it was Sharon's fault that we got lost. Not perfect after all.

Today has dawned sunny and we will do some more urban wandering before we move on to Seattle tomorrow

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Turning Left And Arriving

Well actually a minor disappointment - the layout of the plane was such that we turned right. But thereafter all was well, service spot on and usual comforts. The food (lobster to start, responsibly sourced haddock to follow and a nice cheese board to finish) was presentable and a wide choice of wines, most of which I tried. Didn't watch much on the screen but rather managed to snooze whilst listening to Radio 4 programming. Tres satisfactoire as some Canadians are wont to say.

Third floor corner suite ours for now
We were arriving in Vancouver on Canada Day which meant an interesting taxi ride through the downtown thronged streets - we had a diminutive driver in a responsibly sourced Prius (Sunshine Cab S31) who must have broken some sort of record for lane changing as he negotiated us to the Fairmont. Vancouver is an exceptionally civilised city as betokened by the fixed fare from airport to centre - absolute bargain at $31.

Multi grain bagel for breakfast. Weather fine. All well in the world.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Turning Left

It's holiday time and we're doing it upmarket. Virgin Train business class to Euston, followed by taxi to Paddington and then the very satisfactory Heathrow Express (Business First natch) to the airport. Now reporting to you from the BA South Lounge in Terminal 5. A bit busy if truth be told but the wine and food are all free and gratis so I'm getting stuck in before we head for Vancouver. An oddity is that the wine list seems to eschew the New World. I'm grinning and bearing it in my new spirit of entente cordiale.

Meanwhile the world outside bakes in 35 degree heat and I've spent barely any time away from air conditioning. Life's been good to me so far. More to follow.