Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Tea And Art

First up was high tea at Fortnum & Mason, which I can confirm is rather nice. In fact the tea itself is the least impressive bit. I'm more of a coffee man myself. What is undeniable is the very British niceness of the sandwiches, savoury scones and pastries - savoury because that is what I had opted for. As many top-ups as you require, both liquid and solid. Jolly good fun.

After that it was over the road to the Royal Academy to take in the Summer Exhibition. Keen readers might remember that the Groupie and I attended this gig a few years ago as corporate guests. This time we were paying our own way. Perhaps it was the need to put my hand in my pocket but I didn't think there were quite so many impressive exhibits this time around - mind you, and on this topic I say this very advisedly, what do I know?

The Small Weston Room is entirely given over to a collection of photographic prints of industrial subjects by Bernd and Hilla Becher. These are arresting and, ooh err missus, well hung. As for the rest, not a lot I'd make wall space for. The OG Award for best in show goes to exhibit number 865, Stromboli Crater by Emma Stibbon (yours for £7850), drawn in ink, charcoal dust and volcanic ash. Honourable mentions also for: Storm Over City II, 199, Bill Jacklin; Strolling Geisha, 337, Anja Kempa; Library of Memories, 340, Anja Kempa; Mr and Mrs Bowles of Ballyward (After Gainsborough), 453, David Hamilton; The City Divided, 577, Peter Freeth; Selina Hearse, 937, Eugen Raportoro.

I repeat, in this as in much else, what do I know? 

I Suppose I Might Be Old

People I rather like have taken to social media to characterise me a racist, xenophobic, selfish, uneducated, old cretin. I may be a tad touchy but I feel slightly affronted by this description - a description which apparently applies unqualified to anybody one suspects of having voted Leave in last week's referendum.

Libby Purves did a fine job of castigating the hysterical left in her Times column yesterday. I'd give you the link but you can only view it if you subscribe to the Murdoch empire so I won't bother. I won't attempt to do again what she has already done so adroitly but I will just defend myself.

Racist? Please don't bandy this thing around. It is wounding and scurrilous. Some of my best friends etc. Same goes for xenophobic. A belief in the nation state does not exclude a nuanced internationalism. A European alliance will remain a sine qua non of peace but it does not have to be an undemocratic bloated technocracy.

Selfish? No, the selfish thing for lucky old me would be to deny my romantic attachment to democracy and not rock the economc boat. My theoretical net worth (such as it is) plummeted on Friday. The material franchise is not mine to give away.

Uneducated? Well, immodestly, two degrees and a professional qualification might suggest otherwise. I may of course be wrong but I do at least have the intellectual equipment and humilty to accept that others may not always agree with me. Indeed most of the time all the evidence is that most people don't share my views. I live with it, I don't wail and bleat and hurl unmediated abuse.

Old? Well yes, you've got me there. Cretin? Really not for me to judge but here's the thing: I got a vote and I used in the way that I thought best suited the perpetuating of representative democracy in a viable nation state. I judge that to be in the long term interests of generations to come and most particularly my own children. I did not do so lightly. I was not persuaded by the infantile antics of the main players in either campaign.

Stop insulting me please. You demean yourselves. I'm sorry we do not agree. These things happen - in a democracy.





It's Only A Game

Dear Reader,

what a shameful (yes I think shame does just about come into it) performance by the glorious multi-millionaires carrying the proud name of English football last night. A memorable 1-2 defeat at the hands of the mighty Iceland, population about the same as Leicester.

Whoops
 So it is with some modest joy that I confess to my Icelandic heritage and will today use my actual name - Dagbor Overgraduatesonn. Watch us as we go forward to topple yet more giants of the game. Afram Island (look  it up).

We Icelanders don't really play rugby so my favourite team is England and, wouldn't you know it, they have just won a series in Australia 3-0. All hail Sir Eddie Jones. I've been reading the Welsh message boards which are cheerfully fatalistic about the tanning they took from the All Blacks, and even on those forums there is grudging praise for what England have done, interspersed, of course, with some complaints about Australia scoring more tries and the unreliability of the referees - even including some carping at the special one, Nigel Owens. Steady on chaps.

I've been down in that London for a long weekend and I'll shortly let you have some thoughts on that and the general madness of the post-apocalyptic world of the Brexit referendum. But first I've got to go and get that three lions tattoo removed.

Yours in sport,

Dagbor.

Friday, 24 June 2016

The First Of The Few

Old films. I like old films. Tiring of the tide of euodrivel on the news this morning (whatever have we done to deserve a chippy little twerp like Tim Farron?) I decided to take in a film. The First of the Few is the patriotic (made in the midst of WW2) telling of the genesis of the Spitfire. The effects are understandably creaky but the whole is charming, disarming and moving. 7/10. Oh and by the way Leslie Howard (who directed and starred) was thought to look a little like my beloved airman Grandfather. The film's concluding on-screen epitaph is quite properly left to Churchill.
Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few

Waking To Brexit

I was woken by an animated Groupie announcing that the EU referendum had gone the way of the gay Brexiteers. Must admit, even though I voted for it I had no expectation of being on the winning side of the equation.

I have also woken to the self-fulfilling prophecy of falling markets and we have already had one dead cat bounce. Expect volatility - aggressive traders love volatility. The pound has also collapsed. Nobody seems to be pointing out that this will make exports cheaper.

Cameron is going. He announced his political demise with educated good grace but, all in all, I'm afraid it's good riddance to bad rubbish. And can you make sure you take that George Osborne with you please.  Both men behaved despicably during the campaign.

The news shows are quite telling - the poor old BBC is relishing the financial furore and cannot quite believe that the silly old electorate has departed from its patrician orthodoxy. If you want a more balanced take on it all skip up the Sky menu to the foreign news channels where the speculation is quite sensibly on the broader European implications and the possible (and much to be desired) halt of the longstanding integrationist madness.

The economic issues clamour to take all the attention but let us take a step back and applaud an endorsement of rather old-fashioned democratic principles. It's not all about money. Just for once let us humour a romantic notion of universal suffrage.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Two Good Things I Read Today

On the ghastliness of recent politics:
So with the Referendum. Combining bare-faced lies with lurid, mendacious threats, neither side seems to care less what it says. But that is the nature of political populism: its unabashed shamelessness and manifest contempt for the electorate. The irony is that electorate, however Twitter-crazed, would rather not be treated like cretins, so they fully reciprocate that contempt. (Peter Jones, Spectator 18 June)
Indirectly, on the greatness of Queen Elizabeth II:
It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness. (Proverbs 16:12)

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Holidays 16.8 - Sweeping Up And Ending

The Queen gets longer at Balmoral but hey ho OG and Groupie must leave the country estate today and revert to the sunny North of Birmingham - Groupie to hard labour and OG to try to make some discernible progress on his doctoral thesis. It has been a great break and we seem to have dodged the terrible weather that has affected the Midlands. Pleasingly it is raining on the island as we pack up - always nicer to drive away from inclement weather.

Whistler included himself in the mural
We did make it back to Plas Newydd for a mooch around that most habitable of country piles. As ever I loved the Whistler mural. It graces the dining room so that lucky guests were either facing the beautiful Menai Straits or the imagined glories of the mural. I bet food tasted good either way. It may not be highest art but, if pressed, it would win my vote as my favourite painting. It does however depend for its effect on being seen in situ.

Monster portions
It has been sitting rather prosaically on our route along the A5025 for the near two decades that we have been coming here but it took us until this Friday to try out the Panton Arms at Pentraeth. We had missed a trick. Really rather good - I enjoyed a couple of pints of Flintshire Bitter and the food was beyond passable: Groupie raved about the haddock and chorizo risotto and my burger with added pulled pork was generous and tasty. One to visit again.

The island is beautiful but it can be too tempting to keep visiting the same few places. Yesterday we broke new ground and were the better for it. Penmon Point itself was not new (although it had been several years since we were last there) but we headed westward on the coastal path and found some glorious new views. Fortified by that healthy staple, ready salted crisps, we later walked from bridge to bridge at Menai Bridge, commencing at the Telford suspension bridge and getting all the way (there is now a goodish new tranche of the coastal path that hugs the Straits) to its younger, vaster cousin, Stephenson's Brittania Bridge, before returning along the road. Very satisfying and it left us with a good appetite for our final dinner of beans on toast swilled down with champagne.
We walked from here ...

... to here
What you need at the end of a good day is a film that makes you smile. Despite its manifest absurdities, Independence Day did its job. Definitely not a great film but one that fulfils its limited purpose. And Will Smith is most certainly one of those actors who fills the screen. 5.5/10.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Some Good Stuff From Yesterday

Rodding blocked drains is by definition a foul task but its successful conclusion, that moment of gurgling whoosh, is immensely satisfactory. Yet more satisfying is achieving this effect with a new claw tool acquired from Toolstation for the princely sum of £2.10, that's two guineas in very old money. Toolstation therefore joins the OG list of approved suppliers.

Viewing treats last night were first War of the Roses and then an episode of Third Rock from the Sun. The former is worthy even as nothing more than a primer on 1980's style and excess, but in fact offers rather more than that. It is a black, black comedy narrated by a lawyer from which the institution of divorce emerges blacker than black. Funny and relentlessly unromantic. 7/10.

Third Rock is a reminder just how good the high production values of American sitcom can be. Clever and funny.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Holidays 16.7 - The Middle Class At Leisure

National Trust membership is de rigueur for the ageing middle class, or so it would seem. OG and Groupie have, of course, been members ever since they were young fogeys, which was, naturally, shortly after they were amongst Thatcher's chosen few - the original yuppies.

I have already championed the rhododendron garden at Plas Newydd and the remarkable mural in the dinning room at that property. But we have been getting full value from our membership this week so today the story of two more gardens and one quite arresting property.

The laburnum arch at Bodnant
First of all a garden which comes without a house - well not quite accurate because there is a house at Bodnant but it is not in National Trust care. It is only the gardens that have been bequeathed to the nation. They are enough. I'm no expert so won't essay a description except to say that there is a photegenic laburnum arch; there is a photegenic series of water features; there are photegenic formal gardens; there are photogenic massive trees; there are - well, you get the picture.
A river runs through it

Bodnant is testament to man's penchant for accommodating and improving mother nature. As a postsctript: if using satnav, ensure that yours is not set to avoid all tunnels. It transpired that our was so disposed - why would this be - are Koreans ubiquitously tunnel-phobic?

Treardurr Bay...  Nice.
Before I return to National Trust properties, a word for Trearddur Bay where we walked pleasingly yesterday and got sun-burnt. A stunning coastal resort. I think we have to admit that the south of the island has even better vistas than the north where sits the OG country estate. Oh well.

Today it was the turn of Penrhyn Castle. This huge folly is gloriously bonkers. Don't let the name fool you. This was not built for miltary purposese. It is a mock Norman fortress established at the behest of Richard Pennant (1739-1808). It always puts me in mind of the fictional Xanadu, lair of Charles Foster Kane in Citizen Kane. It is impossible to imagine anything quite so grandiose being attempted by a potentate of modern British industry. Just at the moment (and credit to the National Trust for this) there is an 'installation' on show which draws parrallels between Penrhyn and the architectural adventures of Las Vegas. It does not avoid the awkward truth that some of the Pennant fortune that paid for the building (most of which came from the local slate industry) had the taint of the slave trade upon it. No matter, go and have a look and be awed by what can be achieved. It does have gardens which, if you want to be hyper-critical, are looking faintly tatty but this place is all about the bricks and mortar.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan / A stately pleasure dome decree

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Book Review - Polonaise

Piers Paul Read writes with a catholic sensibility which I find attractive. In particular I remember fondly reading The Free Frenchman on a flight to Australia.

Polonaise ranges over four decades of life for an aristocratic Polish family, the house of Kornowski. We see them fall from eminence, we see communism and fascism wash over them, we see them in permanent Parisian exile and, in an ironic denouement we find the family fortune 'rescued' by immersion in dissipated English aristocracy.
Krystyna blushed. 'I'm only ever happy in the present,' she said. 'The past has unpleasant memories, and the future has fears.'
Read's prose is spare and efficient as he skips over the decades. That spareness can make the occasional diversions into immorality all the more effective. A good read. 7/10. 

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Holidays 16.6 - A Castle, A Pub And A Film

To Beaumaris and what was to have been Edward I's greatest castle. Rather in the manner of the best public works projects it ran into a financial hole and was left half-finished. Still pretty awesome. Spotted visiting this World Heritage Site at the same time as ourselves was a scouse plonker who proceeded to scale a sheer wall for the amusement of his toddler. It was difficult not to want him to fall off.
The greatest castle never built

For lunch we ducked into The George and Dragon Hotel. A proper old pub: low ceilings, beams, three beers on draught, and passable wine. Also plain but very adequate pub food. OG and Groupie each had the sausage, egg and chips at £6.00. Perfectly good. I could imagine settling down to a drinking session in the place, which is a compliment. Sometimes plain pleasures are what the doctor ordered.

In the evening we watched the film that won the Best Picture Oscar for 1940 - Hitchcock's Rebecca. Great fun. They don't have an Oscar for the best use of shadow but if they did this film would be right up there with Touch of Evil vying to win it. 8/10.
 

Monday, 13 June 2016

Should The United Kingdom Remain A Member Of The European Union Or Leave The European Union?


That is it, the question that will confront those of the enfranchised who choose to visit the ballot box on 23 June. In a display of rare reticence OG has thus far kept his powder dry, bar the occasional condemnation of samples of the multifarious cant and highlighting of some (rare) decent journalism. But you can only escape my ministrations for so long and today I will try to explain where I have got to and how.

Let us first make crystal clear what this is not about for me – economics. Or rather it is not about the false promises of either side in this vile campaign as to what continued membership or Brexit will mean for the UK. Here’s the unvarnished truth – no one knows what will happen, any more than they knew what was going to happen last year – how’s that forecasting going lads? David Cameron and his dissembler in chief, Gorgeous George Osborne, have continued the good work of those prize shits Blair and Brown in suborning our once reputable civil service so that we are presented with economic ‘facts’ signed-off by the Treasury based upon contrived assumptions and presented in terms of deceitful formulae (GDP per household anyone?). Bollocks, to put it politely.

No the clouds have parted and what it is about for this spectator/participant is the desirability of the preservation or otherwise of a democratic nation state, most particularly the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. And in fact the answer to this conundrum has transpired to be easy – I have no title to use my vote to dispense with democracy. I hope I can convince you that mine is a moral stance.

The first thing to acknowledge is that the good old state has pressures enough from within even before we get to the question of the EU and that elusive and mistreated beast sovereignty. It is clear that a vocal minority of Scots no longer have any wish to be aboard the three hundred year old ship. A disgruntled minority of the English would gladly wave the ingrate Scots goodbye as they disembark. That is for another day.

The campaign has been an unedifying joke – the Remain team lining up behind Cameron’s wanton dishonesty and willingness to say anything to win, while the Brexiteers wail ‘liar, liar, pants on fire’ and conspicuously miss a series of open goals. Pitiful. Anyone for ‘democratic deficit’? It seems not.

Define your terms. By the nation state I refer to a state that conjoins the political entities of statehood to the identifying entities of a nation, that is to say mechanisms of governance accepted (more or less willingly) by a people of shared inheritance, most obviously the geographical inheritance of a nation race. This definition gets a little frayed around the edges (not least the Scottish edges) but I take it as proven that there is still a majority population that both feels British and wishes to be governed as British.

I also take it as given that most of that British polity would think themselves (in so far as they think about these things at all) governed under universal suffrage by a sovereign parliament. And this, for me, gets us to the core of the referendum question. Because (and with profound apologies to Joni Mitchell) I’ve looked at sovereignty from both sides now, from give and take, and still somehow, it’s sovereignty’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know sovereignty at all. Or perhaps I do. The news is this: a surprising proportion of our legislation (perhaps as much as half, though there is no reliable way of measuring legislation – you could I suppose just weigh the printed matter) emanates from the EU. It is not scrutinised or amended by our ‘sovereign’ parliament. Not a problem you might say, because there is a European Parliament which includes our elected MEP’s. That would have some weight were it not for the fact that the EU Parliament has a consultative role only, not a legislative one; it is not sovereign. The sovereign bodies are the Commission and the Court and we don’t get to vote for those. As Tony Benn said (and we’ll hear more from him later) if you can’t change the man who makes the decisions, you’re not living in a democracy.

Now let’s be clear, living in a democracy is not the only option but in western terms it is the one unstintingly endorsed in public utterance by the bien pensant. Now proclaiming oneself to have undemocratic leanings might be an amusing dinner party gambit but it wouldn’t be the tone to take if running for office. Democracy is the perceived ‘given’ of our constitution. And yet, ironically, fudging the issue of democracy is the great achievement of the EU. Since its foundation it has never had democratic goals. Quite the contrary, it was the passionate brainchild of internationalists who rated the assertive nation state as the harbinger of war. Its huge administrative machinery is the weapon of mass suffocation by which nation states are quietly euthanized for their own good. Ask the Greeks. And I simply do not buy the arrogant patrician assurance that the EU can be reformed by the actions of good men. We have been hearing that tune for four decades. It never happens.

History is partial, so here’s mine. The rise of the nation state had been a four hundred year project. It is not historically inevitable but it was the dominant model in the technologically stunning twentieth century during which armed empires crumbled and were replaced by empires of influence. In that twentieth century we saw two World Wars, a near calamitous Cold War, various proxy wars and vile local pogroms. Universal suffrage was a twentieth century gift (at least in the West) but with it came a problem – people have a tendency to daftness, prejudice, nationalism and plain selfishness and betray an unholy cocktail of these influences when they vote. Perhaps democracy isn’t the answer after all. Thus do benign clever people conclude that the polity needs to be protected from itself. Technocracy is the answer – a system of governance where decision-makers are selected for their technical skill. By whom? By other experts of course. This is the hinterland and history of the EU: a deliberately constructed monolith of political and economic management whose very design attempts to resist the tectonic shifts inherent in that venal and dangerous chimera, democracy.

But isn’t a little trade-off of democracy an acceptable price to pay for decades of peace, prosperity and cheap holidays? Actually no. I’m an old cynic but, do you know what, I rather like the tenor of democracy. For me it is the tenor of individual liberty – a liberty in which the freedom of your fist ends just short of my nose. It is not the tenor of collectivism and prescribed decencies. I admire Bernard Levin, a commentator who despised accommodation with the undemocratic left or right and who concluded as long ago as 1979, ‘That there is no such thing, in the long run, as a state which is both collectivist and democratic.’ The EU (‘le Grand Projet’) has wrapped itself in the soft woolly blanket of peace and soothing internationalism and that disguise is enough for a lot of well-intentioned people. Take for instance the assembled hordes of knee-jerk liberal luvviedom, our unimpeachable artists and actors, who have thrown the weight of their rectitude behind le Projet. Never let the facts get in the way of a nice sentiment. Perfectly decent politicians have also been conned. Look at the admirable and dignified William Hague who has bought hook, line and sinker the Foreign Office canard that the technocrats are our sort of chaps and can still be reined in. Newsflash – they stopped listening years ago.

How do I assess our increasingly desperate Prime Minister (and his sinister side-kick, the Chancellor) in all of this? Is he deluded? Of course he is, like everyone possessed by a messiah complex. As with Blair, so with Cameron – he knows, absolutely knows, what is best for us and he must do anything to keep us from self-harm. That includes shameless lying. The lying is not confined to the Remain campaign but it is most abject coming from the Queen’s first minister.

I’ve started so I’ll finish. This liberty, this democracy, what do they look like? With apologies for my own inadequacies I will quote Bernard Levin at length. The argument for freedom is ‘not to be understood in terms of material betterment’ alone. Much less, might one add, when the ‘truth’ of material betterment is manifested by Gorgeous George’s dodgy dossier.

This is not an argument (though it has often been used as one) for telling the poor not to mind their poverty. It is an argument for believing that only as individuals can we hope to realize our full potentiality, and that anything which denies or restricts that realization denies salvation itself. “If you wanted to put the world to rights”, asks Solzhenitsyn’s Nezin in The First Circle, “who should you begin with: yourself or others?” And Evelyn Waugh put it even more neatly in a radio interview, part of which Ronald Harwood incorporated in his stage adaptation of Waugh’s autobiographical novel The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. Asked “You have not much sympathy with the man in the street, have you?”, Pinfold replies:



You must understand that the man in the street does not exist. These are men and women, each one of whom has an individual and immortal soul, and such beings need to use the street from time to time.

Despite all the accumulated evidence that I might be wrong, despite that loutish yet enfranchised idiot behind whom I sat at the cricket recently, despite my own economic interests (I’ve made my pile and the status quo suits quite nicely) I still trust the people. All the people, making manifest their views in a representative democracy. And neither the people nor their representatives may take it upon themselves to give away the gift of democracy bequeathed to them.   That gift had been hard-won by our betters. This was Tony Benn (a man who could be unmatchably wrong on the detail but was never wrong on the principles) speaking in the Commons at the time of the Maastricht Treaty debate:

If democracy is destroyed in Britain it will be not the communists, Trotskyists or subversives but this House which threw it away. The rights that are entrusted to us are not for us to give away. Even if I agree with everything that is proposed, I cannot hand away powers lent to me for five years by the people of Chesterfield. I just could not do it. It would be theft of public rights.

So this is where I stand. I stand for the nation state as the viable vehicle for democracy in the sceptred isle. I was endowe for my lifetime with public rights and I have the opportunity now to reclaim the portion of those rights carelessly given away by my representatives. It is our imperative to cherish those rights and to hand them unalloyed to those who succeed us. I am not persuaded that there is even the remotest of possibilities of preserving those rights within the European Union. Others disagree – they are, I believe, at best deluded, at worst mendacious. 
    

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Holidays 16.5.1 - Familiarities

Rather than watch England play football (although I caught the last quarter so saw our brave millionaires surrender a lead and draw with Russia) Groupie and I watched a familair film last night. I may nave reviewed it on here before but I make no apology for again recommending The Dish. It is sweet and nice and completely without cynicism - sometimes that is the sort of gentle familarity one needs. 7/10.

A much less welcome familiarity comes with the pictures of English football fans rioting in Marseille. I really don't care that the Russians and the French seem also to be implicated. This is and always has been our disease - search out the pictures and you will see the ugly truth in the shaven heads, tattoos, pot bellies and blood stains. Scumbags - Hitler (whom some of them affect to admire) had a word for them: untermensch.
The English abroad
  

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Holidays 16.5 - Summer Rugby

Perhaps it is programmed into my partly Welsh genes (courtesy of the paternal grandfather whose moniker I share) but this Englishman is a sucker for the Welsh anthem and I've head it twice today. First up it was the rugby against New Zealand this morning and forty minutes ago it was a resounding rendition at the football in Bordeaux.

We did take a strenuous (at least that's how it felt to my aged legs) stroll round to Moelfre Sailing Club but most of the day has been taken up with watching test rugby from the southern hemisphere. The Welsh were more ambitious that has been their norm under Gatland and led the All Blacks for three quarters of the match but there was something inevitable about the Blacks pulling cruelly far away at the end. New Zealand have lost a phalanx of the great to retirement after the RWC triumph but they still have all the elements required at the best test level: athleticism, technique, fitness, persistence and deftness. In the final count it is that deftness that Wales fall most obviously short in. That is not to say that Faletau and Liam Williams did not have strikingly good games. One imagines that New Zealand will be the better for today's match and it might turn into a long thankless couple of weeks for the Welsh as they face the remaining two tests.

King for a day
England downed Australia 39-28 in Brisbane. Another cracking good test match and a notable scalp for Eddie Jones' men, but he will know that there is much still to work on, not least dealing with Australia's waves of runners and sorting out kick-offs (both taking and receiving). James Haskell had one of those games that the gods allow to precious few - simply massive. Expect next week in Melbourne to be thunderous as the Aussies throw it all at England.

Even more stunning and as this very post has been written, Ireland have played the Springboks for sixty minutes with only fourteen men (their imported South African, C.J. Stander sent off) and have beaten them at Newlands. Now that really is what I call a result. And Wales are 1-0 up in the Euro 16 football. Time for this Englishmen to roll out his heritage and cheer on the land of his (grand)fathers.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Holidays 16.4 - Aborted Barbecue

I should be standing proudly over the barbecue doing man's job as custodian of the fire. But it's raining. It is Wales after all.

But at least it stayed dry as we walked on the beach at Newborough and along the forest trails. Newborough, interesting. Historically the village was founded when the invading English cleared all the native Welsh out of Beaumaris. Bloody English. As for the vast forest it was planted between 1946 and 1974 and it holds together the duneland. Cracking.
Top spot

It's still bloody raining. This wasn't forecast. I'm going to have to grill the burgers and sausages. Life can be a trial.

Holidays 16.3 - The Birds

I was out running this morning - yes I know I had said that I wasn't going to do it anymore but I have brought the old (very old) mountain bike to reside here at the country seat and when I took it out for a spin the other day I came to a grinding halt at the first hill of any substance. The superior gearing on the Precious Cannondale has made a wimp of me and I can't move the bloody old machine. So, ill-advisedly, I ventured forth to shuffle the mean streets of Benllech. You've guessed it - as I  approached the three mile mark (this it seeems is my watershed) the left calf gave its telltale twinge. Bollocks. Still I did stop at the first sign of damage so hopefully this afternoon's planned beach walk will be alright. Getting old is a pig.

Runner's enemy
Before my injury trauma I had been attacked by a flock of seagulls. Honestly - the bastards kept dive-bombing me. It was like Hitchcock's The Birds. Well, I exaggerate, but it was mildly disturbing. Do they react to the colour red? Answers on a postcard to etc.

Barbecue tonight. Sod any diet. 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Holidays 16.2 - A New Contender

A day of familiarity and at its end a new discovery right under our very noses.

the Whistler mural - a national treasure
Familiarity - the rhododendron garden at Plas Newydd. Rhododendron are an invader but now glowingly assimilated and at the far end of the Plas Newydd estate they make a pretty picture - as can be seen from the OG + Groupie papsnap hereto attached. As for Plas Newydd, well we didn't have time today to trot through the house (we are National Trust members natch, compulsory at our age and station in life) but everyone, and I mean everyone should do so because of the Whistler mural.

The new discovery: The Tavern on the Bay, a restaurant and bar at St David's Park, Red Wharf Bay. Now you would have thought that putting a gastro pub type operation on a holiday park would be a recipe for disaster. Well, I'm still not quite clear how they've got away with it but most assuredly they have. Yes there are families there but the service is so swift and charming that you are taken aback.  A light and clean room with panoramic views from Moelfre to the North and the great Orme to the South. Bosting. None of this would work without the food being good and the news is that it was more than good. OG had a steak which was terrific (and he's fussy on steak) and the Groupie loved the chicken in a parmesan sauce with onion rice. Nice chablis to wash it down. We'll be back. Within the week I suspect. Genuinely arresting experience - Tavern on the Bay

Holidays 16.1

The Boy Roberts and the Groupie are at the country estate for a long break. No foreign holiday this year what with us being poor and all.

First built by the Welsh, captured by the English and  recaptured by the Welsh
We sat together in the grounds of Criccieth Castle yesterday afternoon and beheld a perfect sun flecked sea. As Joe Walsh correctly said (and as I've oft quoted before) 'life's been good to me so far'. Criccieth is genteel, yes that's the word, genteel. No, bonheddig, which my dictionary tells me is the welsh descriptor. There is a pleasing plenitude of civic grass and an absence of seaside tat.

Criccieth took me back to 1968 when the Roberts family took its annual North Walian holiday in the town. I recall it vividly because it coincided with the final Ashes test at the Oval, a game most remembered for its denouement when Derek Underwood felled the Australian batting to deliver an unlikely victory for England. But my memory of the match (which I followed in the newspapers, there being no television in the rented house) was the batting of Edrich and D'Oliveira, their scores still burned in my mind - 164 and 158 respectively. Edrich (like me left-handed) was a particular hero.

I have it in my mind that something earth-shattering also happened during that late August week to burn itself on my eight year old consciousness. False remebrance has always told me that it was the shooting of Robert Kennedy but that in fact occurred in June of 68. Checking back I note that our holiday in fact coincided with the rolling of Soviet tanks into Prague and the end of the Prague Spring. Cursed to live in interesting times.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

The Greatest

You think the world was shocked when Nixon resigned?
Wait 'til I whup George Foreman's behind.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
His hand can't hit what his eyes can't see.
Now you see me, now you don't.
George thinks he will, but I know he won't.
I done wrassled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale.
Only last week I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick.
I'm so mean, I make medicine sick.
Prior to the Rumble in the Jungle 1974
Muhammad Ali 1942 - 2016

Friday, 3 June 2016

This French Gadgie May Just Have Had A Point

Il dit "Non"
This is what that well-known anglophile General de Gaulle had to say about us in 1963 when rebuffing our first attempts to join what was then the European Economic Community:
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England in effect is insular, she is maritime, she is linked through her interactions, her markets and her supply lines to the most diverse and often distant countries; she pursues essentially industrial and commercial activities, and only slight agricultural ones. She has in all her doings, very marked and very original habits and traditions.
He had a point you know. Only saying.