Sunday, 15 October 2017

God Was In His Heaven

The sun shone, God was in his Heaven, The 1st XV won, and all around was the company of good men. I took Dad to the rugby club yesterday and it made me feel glad to be alive and to be part of the brotherhood that is Aston Old Edwardians. We are far from consistently perfect but the small moments of perfection still thrill me.

Where is rugby football at? Well, the administrators in their attempts to confect things for television have bound themselves into an injury crisis born of the supposed ingenuity of coaching. The way I was taught to tackle by that great man of Neath Ray John (still going strong - I saw him earlier this week) has become unfashionable, notwithstanding that it is the safest and most effective way of grounding an opponent. Oh well, what do I know?
not actual gameplay footage

To continue the theme of satisfying experiences, today I have cut the lawn. Stripes a-go-go.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Back On The Chain Gang Again

Holiday well and truly over. Post-holiday sulking almost over, situation not assisted by the bloody right calf straining itself when out for a run on Tuesday. Doesn't seem too bad, certainly not as marked as the repeated injuries I used to suffer, but all intimations of mortality are unwelcome. Particularly unwelcome as the wider Aston Edwardian community tries to negotiate two significant deaths.

Harold Jessop was described to me (by a man who would know) as 'the first modern school teacher'. But he was so much more than that - as a rugby master he inspired umpteen generations and was counted by the genius that is Gary Street as his greatest influence. But above all else, he was a complete and unmediated gentleman. He led a full life but the world is nonetheless harsher for his passing.

Terry Green was another schoolmaster, not one who taught at Aston but a man who played his rugby at Aston Old Edwardians - an inspired and beguiling captain of lower teams, an urbane referee, and a cheerful and always encouraging chairman of the club in my year of captaincy. He was serving as a governor at School when he was taken too soon from us. His funeral was a celebration of a life well-lived, and definitely the only such occasion I have encountered where an Elvis impersonator was part of the proceedings. Beautiful. Terry was one of the two most artfully amusing men I have known - both are now dead. As I've had cause to quote before: ' I have the only cure for life/ and the cure life is joy/ I'm the crying man that everyone calls laughing boy.'

Saturday, 7 October 2017

What I Did On My Holidays: 9

We're back at home now after a drive that couldn't have been much different from the difficult journey up to Northumberland. Then we seemed to be in one traffic jam occupying most of Yorkshire whereas yesterday we sailed home with minimal delay. We had pizza for tea to ward off post-holiday blues. I washed it down with a nice chianti.

Our penultimate full day on holiday took us to Alnwick Castle. Fabulous - don't be tempted to do the garden and the castle together in one afternoon. If you must do both on the same day, make sure it is a full day. The state rooms in the castle are particularly impressive - monumental spaces and magnificent art on the walls. Also some of the most knowledgeable and approachable room attendants known to man. As you can probably tell I really liked the place. Hats off to the resident Percy family who seem to me to be handling their great good fortune with an appropriate touch. Oh, and don't worry - they don't overdo the Harry Potter connection.
Dining Room at Alnwick Castle

Our last day took in some beach walks in high winds and an evening meal at the Potted Lobster in Bamburgh. Bloody good, most particularly the salt chilli squid I had as a starter - The Potted Lobster

Final thoughts - Northumberland, a magical county, particularly in the lucky weather we encountered. I have had a monopoly over the company of the Groupie for a fortnight and that can make a magical place seem even more enchanted. Am I glad to be back in the luxuries of home? Not quite yet, but I'm getting there. And anyway we're making a very swift run up to Anglesey tonight to see how the installation of new kitchen and bathroom is going. Not exactly the Percy family but we should count our blessings.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

What I Did On My Holidays: 8

Back to Cragside today, not to revisit the house but to attempt to do justice to the massive estate. You could quite profitably spend the best part of a week getting to know the forests and lakes. There is a six mile road around the estate with numerous parking areas with intersecting walks commencing in them. We found time to do five walks from four of the car parks. Best views are from the Maroon Trail from the Crozier Car Park. What a place.
What a place
We indulged our habit of breaking the journey back here to have a pint of Black Sheep and a large sauvignon blanc at the Victoria Inn. Also a delicious but unnecessary portion of chunky chips. This really is a great part of the world. Gavi going down nicely - will be eating hunter's chicken shortly. As little orphan Annie used to say - it's a hard knock life.

Monday, 2 October 2017

What I Did On My Holidays: 7

Kelso Abbey
We conducted a whistlestop tour of the Scottish Borders today, pride of place going to Kelso which (and I may be miles wide of the mark here because I have done no research) exudes an atmosphere of dignified affluence, nowhere better exemplified than in the strikingly well maintained Garden of Remembrance. Kelso may very well be the pie capital of the world - only £1.10 for a chicken curry pie, this a full seventeen pence less than the excellent chicken and mushroom pie I had in Alnwick last week. Can we take these prices home with us please?

We crossed back into England for dinner and on that subject I have some exciting news for you. It is official, OG has spoken and the Groupie will verify his claim - Lewis's in Seahouses is the best chip shop in the world. Yes even better than the Golden Fry in Benllech. Fabulous chips and divine haddock. Fizzy wine for pudding I think.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

What I Did On My Holidays: 6

Yesterday back to Alnwick but this time to visit the Alnwick Garden, a modern wonder of creativity and monumentalism.
The Grand Cascade at the Alnwick Garden
Today has been one of sporadic rain and high winds but in the face of my lethargy I plodded for four miles this morning. Coupled with our walk this afternoon from Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle I now feel ready for pesto pasta and vinous accompaniment. Judging by the clatter of bottles we delivered to the bottle bank at Craster we have been doing well by the vintners of the world.  I'm also doing my bit for brewers - two pints of Black Sheep at the Jolly Sailor in Craster. Bosting.

A two week holiday still doesn't feel like enough to do justice to this fabulous area. It's a hard life being me.

Friday, 29 September 2017

What I Did On My Holidays: 5

Unwooded, ergo imitation chablis
Two days to report. First up we went to Warkworth. Cracking castle, cracking beach. Northumberland really is, well, cracking. On our way back to base camp here in Bamburgh we had a couple of false starts in sourcing an impromptu early dinner (it is out of peak season after all and publicans have better things to do than keep kitchen staff primed for stray Brummies) but got lucky when we found the Joiners Arms at Newton-by-the-Sea. Now styling yourself a "gastropub" can be a hostage to fortune but they carried it off. Only slightly flaccid chips stopped this being a full-on five star encounter. The Groupie and I shared a stellar baked camembert, served with rustic toast. None of the components is difficult to produce passably but to get it as right as this deserves plaudits. Interesting wine list also, including a Chilean unwooded chardonnay, Campesino 2016. A nice change from habitual sauvignon blanc. Altogether worthy of a detour - Joiners Arms

We awoke to rain today, the first daylight precipitation we have seen. This suggested a take it easy sort of  a day so that is what we did. We ventured to Alnwick so that I could indulge my passion for second-hand books - Barter Books in Alnwick is simply bloody enormous. A good outing for me - found a first edition of Friends In Low Places by Simon Raven to add to my unimpressive collection. Also picked up a massive biography of Don Bradman and an early Piers Paul Read - I do love my catholic authors. After taking in downtown Alnwick we accidentally (well we knew we were going somewhere but we weren't aways sure which somewhere it would turn out to be) lighted upon Alnmouth. Quelle surprise, another cracking beach.

Tonight I will mostly be drinking malbec while the Groupie takes part in a terribly important conference call. I must say I'm rather glad that 'Dave the Mogul Years' is behind me.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

What I Did On My Holidays: 4

I'm such a good boy. I roused myself from another sound slumber and warded off the worst effects of over-eating (says he hopefully) by taking on another four mile run - this time into the dunes and out again (via someone's drive - sorry about that, I got lost) and then round the village green a few times with the castle lowering over me. Back to base for coffee and a bowl of Shredded Wheat. Breakfast of champions.

The Groupie had to do some work (boo) but when that was done we went for a good walk - into the village and over the golf course for  a couple of hours. There are people who know stuff who think Bamburgh Castle Golf Club the most picturesque in Britain. Who am I to argue? I played there years ago with my late and lamented mate Rod Meere.

We stopped off on our return journey at the Victoria Inn to reward our efforts. The Groupie had her usual sauvignon blanc and I went for the Black Sheep Bitter, which as any fule kno is damned fine beer. Damned fine thick-cut chips with our drinks. Naughty but nice and we are on our hols after all. Curry for tea - I may have to run more than four miles next time.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

What I Did On My Holidays: 3

Or to be more precise, what I finished reading on my holidays: All Families Are Psychotic by Douglas Coupland. I recommend this cheerfully, darkly, weird novel. It mixes multiple points of view with a bit of science, outbreaks of violence and even a smidgen of fantasy. Made me laugh and cry - well not literally but you know what I'm getting at.

Today we went to what is officially (OG has spoken and the Groupie endorses his view) the best National Trust property - the phantasmagorical Cragside, a wild architectural experiment perched halfway up a hill and with massive introduced forestry and gardens sprawling at its feet. It was the brainchild of the first Lord Armstrong, one of those polymath Victorians who leaves you feeling utterly inadequate - he was a solicitor turned engineer/industrialist who made his home the first in the world to be lit by hydrolectricity. I remember being gobsmacked when first we visited twenty years ago and it did not disappointment on return viewing.

Drinking rioja and about to have a mince pie - it will soon be Christmas you know.

Monday, 25 September 2017

What I Did On My Holidays: 2

No running today. Another great night's sleep. Weather a tad gloomy but no rain on the righteous - it all fell before we set out for Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Tasted fine to me but what do I know?
Visited the regimental museum of the King's Own Scottish Borderers - such places are always good for administering a healthy dollop of humility. Walked the town walls and had coffee and dime bar cake before heading back to Bamburgh. Stopped off in the village for a pint of VIP Village Bike, brewed in Alnwick. Went down well enough with this non-expert. Groupie stuck to sauvignon blanc. Will be having chilli con carne for us tea.

We have been treating ourselves to old episodes of Phoenix Nights. Peter Kay - bloody genius.

All still well in the world.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

What I Did On My Holidays: 1

We started by spending far too much time in the car - problems on the A1(M), lots of problems. Got here in the dark and struggled with the key safe so had brief visions of sleeping in the car, but the Groupie intervened and all got sorted. Accommodation is plush - bloody enormous television. Slept like a baby.

Awoke to enjoy the views of the Bamburgh dunes, possibly my favourite vista in the world. I love this place. Went shopping in Alnwick - you can always rely on Sainsbury's. Ate and drank a lot and fitted in one walk along the world's best beach. Groupie made Mediterranean tray bake chicken for tea - top notch tonto. Swilled down some Dao Agenda. Slept like a baby.

This morning - four mile run down to the golf course and back. Richly deserved bacon sarnies for breakfast. Costa Rican Tarrazu coffee. Most excellent.

We were going to walk from Embleton down to Dunstanburgh Castle but the path was overgrown so we we headed off in the opposite direction on the coast path - start along the sixth fairway of Dunstanburgh Castle Golf Club; onto the beach going North; to Newton-on-Sea and beyond; track inland on the way back, finishing via the Embleton dunes; Guinness and  a fruit scone in the golf clubhouse. Most excellent - legs stiff now, first glass of wine now half done. Groupie watching Great British Bake Off - in which regard we have to say well done to Channel 4 who have stuck to the tried and tested format and done the right thing by a modern British institution.

Just to make sure that I don't get too happy, as I channel-surfed I came upon Diane Abbott addressing the Labour conference. I mean really, what a five star, designer plonker. Worse than Theresa May even. I'm going to think about something nicer - the evening is drawing in but I can still just about see those Bamburgh Dunes. Life is good, soon be dinner time, first glass now finished.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Disney now own the Star Wars franchise (and that term is properly applied here) and there have been mutterings that this cannot be a good thing. Well, after the dross of Episodes One, Two and Three, methinks the anoraks do protest too much. Episode Seven was very good and, having finally got around to watching it, I must say that the spin-off Rogue One, is very far from being the opportunistic money-grubber it could so easily have been. Actually I'll rephrase that - of course it's opportunistic and will doubtless have grubbed up plenty of dosh but, and here's the rub, it's rather bloody good. It even has a little to say about the blurred areas between good and bad in any conflict. I like a bit of nuance. Not too much mind. 7.5/10.

You can overlook the good things on your doorstep. So with Aston Hall, stately in the park and a couple of healthy stone throws from my alma mater. I hadn't been there since my teens. If you're at a loss for something to do and you're in the vicinity go and check it out. The Groupie and I were there courtesy of the Birmingham Independent Food Festival - food outlets dotted around the grounds of the Hall with booze and music also on offer. The weather was kind (to us at least - it rained only as we went home) and we Brummies were out in force. Luigi's Pizza was excellent and so was the curry (I know, we're pigs - at least I am) and the two bottles of Italian fizz. Don't worry I wasn't driving.
Welcome to sunny Aston
More good news - I'm still running and the calf muscles are still behaving. Mind you it took me an age to reach and overtake the pensioner walking his dog ahead of me this morning. I began to wonder if he was taking the piss.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Plus Ca Change

I have three pieces of recreational reading on the go at most times: early evening non-fiction; daytime fiction; nighttime fiction. From the first of these the following caught my eye:
"The Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950, called for a 'supranational community' to be established in Europe. The first stage was to pool coal and steel resources in order to improve the efficiency of the European economy. From this would eventually emerge a project with the professed aim of establishing 'ever closer' political union in Europe." Citizen Clem, John Bew
Prime Minister Attlee's government is described as 'squirming' at Schuman's proposal - Schuman, by the way, was the Foreign Minister of the West German government. At least Attlee understood what this all meant - later governments practised wilful ignorance or plain deceit. Take your pick. And we are now squirming all over again, which probably serves us right.

My musical tastes puzzle me - today I have been listening to John Denver, a voice as clear as those mountian streams he sang about. 

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Played With An Oval Ball

We are ... Penn State. 109,898 - I'll put it in words as well so that you can see I mean it - one hundred and nine thousand, eight hundred and ninety eight. That was the announced attendance as Penn State downed Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon at Beaver Stadium. Raucous and joyous.

Perhaps twenty people (I didn't count them) watched the lower team game at Sunnybank Avenue earlier in the day. Dad and I were amongst them. We repaired to the bar in the second half and the throng greeted dad like the hero he is - one of Aston Old Edwardians' Honorary Life Vice Presidents, an honour we don't just fritter away. Where else would you rather be?

I was fulsome in praise of the start to the Aviva Premiership last weekend. Weather and human weakness intervened this weekend although there were exceptions - not all was as dire as Friday's Sale v Newcastle. Still the best sport in the world mind. No matter what all those people at Penn State might think.  

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

To Hell In A Handcart

That's the way the world is going but there's no spiritual profit in saying it anymore. Everyone can tell we're absolutely buggered and there's no novel spin I can bring to bear. It is all souring my mood so I'm going to change the subject.

I'm listening to Seventh Sojourn, the 1972 Moody Blues album. This is making me feel all nostalgic for that other dire political decade and it reminds me that I had a bloody great time in the 70s despite all the degaradations that life chucked at us. So I'm trying to be positive and I'm going to walk on the sunny side of the street. In that spirit I have been running again and I was like one of those boxers toiling to make the weight - I had put on my rainproof jacket (didn't need it as things turned out) so ended up sweating like a Big Fat Tonky Pig. I'll tell you what, water tastes bleeding lovely when you've been for a run. Water as soon as I finish the run, then a shower and a cup of damned fine coffee after that. Next on the menu could be some red wine but it's s a bit early yet.

What else can I tell you? Rugby - an exuberant start to the Aviva Premiership with high skills and high ambition on display. This bodes well. Also exuberant are the Currie Cup in South Africa and the NPC in New Zealand, but where oh where are the crowds? So far as one can judge there's no bugger turning up to watch, which, in rugby's bible belts, does not bode well.

I'm going to forswear the red wine just for the next couple of hours but might have a slug with the pork steaks I'm cooking for tea - plain grilled with steamed vegetables. Less is more.

Rest in peace Walter Becker who passed recently. Half of the brilliance that was Steely Dan - another reason to view the 70s with affection. 

Monday, 28 August 2017

Au Jardin De Chez Nous

I sit in our garden typing and looking up to be transfixed by the parabola of the water sprinkler as it feeds what I have to concede is the rather nice planting. I can take no credit for the scheme, concocted as it was by the designer under instruction of the Groupie. My contribution is limited to destructive tasks (horticulturalists deem it pruning) and the cutting of the lawn. Still it is a nice place to be. I have a glass of chilled water to hand and, bad form I know, also a glass of cold red wine. This, of course, is one my rare social faux pas. The red in question is Porta 6, Vinho Regional Lisboa. Great label.

Summer will subside into Autumn, this mixed season perhaps my favourite time of year. Rugby will be back and over the long horizon comes Christmas, which, now I think about it, is also perhaps my favourite time of year. Actually, I like people better at Christmas and I like the weather as it is now.Then again, I love long sunlit June evenings and my best rugby was played in the mud of the new year. I shouldn't have started down this line, but I'm not deleting it.

We've watched another good film, in fact very good - Nocturnal Animals. A story within a story, the second layer of the confection bearing tones of Cormac McCarthy. That's very much a compliment in case you're wondering. The ever reliable Amy Adams and Jake Gylllenhaal star and this is a nicely creepy psycho-thriller, albeit I was not entirely convinced by the enigmatic ending - couldn't think of a better one mind. 7.5/10.

I'll tell you what's funny: That Theresa May that's what; that Donald Trump that's what. Satire. I'm here all week.

Monday, 21 August 2017

It's Just a Matter Of Putting One Foot In Front Of The Other

That's all there is to running, so I keep telling myself. Oh and you also have to pray (perhaps that's a bit strong - fervently hope then) that the bloody calf muscles hold up. And as you know the new orthotic insoles seem to be doing a job on the bloody calf muscles. So even on  a dank Monday morning after a dissolute weekend I was up to putting one foot in front of the other. Three miles of distance run. And it has the desired effect. Endorphins a-go-go.

But none of this improves, except on a very local level, the world at large. I heard that bloody Theresa May this morning giving forth on the enforced silencing of Big Ben (the tower needs refurbishing) - well quelle surprise, she even sounds ineffectual on that matter. Mind you, a good thing coming out of the confected silly season rage about that topic, is that John Bercow seems to be in the critical firing line. We don't like him - we've met him.

I have another film of merit to report: Disney Pixar's Inside Out. Honestly it is really sweet (not sure I've ever used that phrase before - too saccharine for the house style?) and one heart grabbing moment had Daughters Numbered One and Two (aka the Two Man Idiot Show - back in Brum for the weekend) reaching for the tissues. 8/10.

So often we come to good television late and courtesy of Netflix - thus with the bleak medical comedy Getting On. This is very dark stuff but with just enough human edge. Particularly brilliant is the jargon-fluent male Matron, Hilary Loftus played by Ricky Grover. If you haven't encountered one of his species, that is to say the over-promoted and clinically useless, then you are very lucky and have probably never worked in the health sector. If you don't laugh you have nowhere to go but to weep. Co-scripted by Jo Brand, Vicki Pepperdine and Joanna Scanlan (all of whom are integral to the ensemble piece) this is one to track down if you managed to miss it on the first pass. 

Friday, 18 August 2017

Oh Brother Where Art Thou?

Not a plaintive cry for absent bin-men, but the title of the Coen brothers' film. In any case the much maligned bin-men have now made their first appearance of the month and the streets of Four Oaks are smelling a little sweeter - honestly, I could smell the refuse when out running.

Oh Brother Where Art Thou? Let no one tell you that Fargo is not one of that small coterie of genuinely great movies. From the same auteurs we get Oh Brother, and no it's not as good but that is hardly the point. It is still better than most run of the mill cinema. The credits claim inspiration from Homer's Odyssey - this is stretching it a tad, but adds to the fun. What we do have is a sequence of gently comic episodes tellingly shot and acted. It made me smile - and the bluegrass music is good. 7/10. 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

You Can't Always Get What You Want

What I want and what I haven't yet been able to obtain is a copy of the article Presentism and Anachronism: the Case of Titus Andronicus. You  will, I am sure, understand my eagerness to read this page-turner. I'll get there eventually and will share the juicy bits with you. That should keep you logging on.

What I would also like is to have been a better athlete. Still I did manage a three miler today to add to yesterday's hilly four. This gives me a feeling of remarkable well-being. One method I have adopted to keep my sad old legs moving is to detour through a pub car park - the smell of food cooking is a great incentive. Do you think Mo Farah trains that way?

Monday, 14 August 2017

Admirable Stategy

Our bins haven't been emptied for three weeks now, courtesy of the industrial action ('strike' in good old fashioned parlance) by the City's binmen. But here's the clever part: they're only partially on strike; they down tools for an hour at a time but still take up their various entitlements to breaks etc. So they're still picking up a wage whilst managing to cause absolute havoc. As a strategy you have to admire it - it's pretty much flawless when ranged against the insubstantial intellectual might of a Labour controlled administration. Me? I relay my rubbish direct to the dump when taking the grass cuttings - the price of having a nice lawn (which thanks to the good people at Top Grass I now have) is that it needs to be cut weekly. It grows like Topsy and not a weed in sight.

you can't get me I'm part of the union
I have been listening to the Strawbs - who knew they were so good? Not I certainly but I have to confess that the more I try, the less I seem to know. Tempus will keep on bloody fugiting. Mind you I strode (alright shuffled) four miles on the hills of Four Oaks this afternoon. Mens sana in corpore sano and all that jazz. My expensive orthotic insoles (touch wood) have done the trick. What I need now is an expensive product that will magically prevent me from being unutterably shit at golf.

Ooh, forgot to tell you - Bridgnorth Golf Club - nice but OG not up to the job. Trounced by my little brother.   

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Donald Trump's Hair

I'm fascinated by Trump's hair. Try out this rather good article on the semiotics of the Trump mane - We shall overcomb

The irony should not be lost that this article appeared in a 'newspaper' that no longer appears in print. The post truth era is with us.

Things Ain't What They Used To Be

But what the hell, let's get on with it.

It is hardly a novel observation that the pair of wankers currently rattling nuclear sabres at one another have the very worst hair ever seen on a public stage. Nevertheless it is worth saying and I congratulate whoever produced the photoshop that transposes the two coiffures. Funny.

What has been cheering me up in these dire times? A few things actually. I have been running without triggering my calf injuries. Which is nice. We are enjoying the subtitled Spanish thriller Se Quien Eres (I know Who You Are) on BBC 4. Which is nice. I saw a cracking Titus Andronicus at the RSC this week. Bloody but not unfunny. Which is nice. We really enjoyed Brooklyn - a beautiful piece of cinema. 8/10. Which is nice. The garden looks good. Which is nice.

So keep on keeping on.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Ennui 2017

More precisely a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction. More bluntly - 2107, WTF?

Those of you paying attention (and I accept that there aren't hordes of you, but enough to constitute a gathering) will notice that I have been blogging only fitfully. Que causa (you see what I've done there - that's the second bit of foreign lingo I have gratuitously lobbed at you)? Well, I'm actually in quite good spirits so far as my own situation is concerned but boring you with gloating about what a lucky boy I am would be an abuse of this self-built platform. Mind since you ask: the Groupie is very well and building work at the country seat proceeds excitingly.

Life's compensations
No, what it is, I just have the feeling of the world going ingloriously down the shitter. The man who ought to be the leader of the free world is a boastful ignoramus - such small credit as he might be due for some anti-statist sentiments is more than negated by his unbelievable crassness. The woman who ought to be the leader of the free British (and I don't mean the Queen) is plain and simple not up to the job. Jeremy Corbyn is, well, Jeremy Corbyn - trust me on this, the man has the intellectual acuity of a plank.

But worse than that - what the bloody hell has happened to the top order batting of the England test team. This afternoon Joe Root has made a fifty in his tenth consecutive match for England. Only two of the fifties have been converted to centuries. He's a a terrific player but, I'm sorry, that pattern doesn't win tests consistently. Just as pop will eat itself, so the inelegant monster of Twenty20 will, if we are not very careful, devour proper cricket. Just look at the mess that is the former glory of West Indies cricket.

Hey, ho, this is a nice rioja.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The Great Unloved

I've allowed the dust to settle on Chris Froome's latest Tour de France victory to see if it might garner more praise for him than the three previous triumphs. It has not. This remarkable professional earned a mere £400,000 for his three weeks and two thousand miles of toil - compare this to the more than three times as much that the equally steely (and similarly unloved) Jordan Spieth accrued at the Open golf. That's market forces for you.

The French like (the emphasis being on that 'like') to think that Froome is a drug cheat, their principal ground for that conclusion being that he is not French. There is no evidence to support this taint but then again I suppose that we do have to concede that we were all duped by the remarkable and villainous Lance Armstrong for the best part of a decade.

For my part I find Froome heroic, as on reflection I do Spieth. It is no crime to be stoically and obdurately bloody good at your job. Chapeau.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Golfing Extremes

Away with the boys last week for QMT Golf Tour (it's a long story and I won't bore you with the background to the name) in Cheltenham. Great fun and a deserved victory for my little brother WJR.

We played at the quaint and challenging Cleeve Hill Golf Club, perched atop the hills outside the town and buffeted (this is an understatement) by strong winds. Not a tree in sight but lots of sheep and the challenge was definitely too much for your correspondent. Great fun. My back is killing me.

Cleeve Hill - twinned with the Moon
Yesterday I watched the final round of the Open, golf's finest tournament. Rory McIlroy had spent the week casting shots to the wind but still rallied to finish fourth. He has talent to burn, but seems rather too intent on actually burning it. Contrast with the less gifted Jordan Spieth. He is not one of the long bombers who can make your average tour event so dull, but he is a thorough professional who ekes the maximum out of what he has got. Plus, of course, he is quite the best putter I have ever seen. I must confess that until he took that excursion onto the practice ground to play his third to the thirteenth (after a drive that would even have shamed me) I found him difficult to warm to, but that was the point when I twigged that he is a thoroughgoing tradesman. This is admirable where McIlroy is I'm, afraid, annoying.  

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Cafe Society

Woody Allen's films can be mistaken as slight. They are not. Just as The Great Gatsby should not be judged by the number of pages, Allen's cinematic novellas should not be disdained as lacking the epic. He is a master of his own very particular craft.

Cafe Society is (another Allen characteristic) wistful and affectionate if still cynical. Allen scripts for Jesse Eisenberg exactly the sort of role he would have written for himself three decades ago. Eisenberg is very good. New York is at the heart of the film, or perhaps more accurately, New Yorkers are at the core. Los Angeles gets a mention and is beautifully shot (this is Allen's first venture into digital cinematography) but the characters get their full rounding when back in New York.

What Allen does, he does masterfully. This is a rather beautiful little film. 7.5/10. 

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Old Soldiers

A couple of old voices have been heard again this weekend. Voices of men I have railed at in the past.

Let's get the more tiresome of them out of the way. St Vince of Twickenham aka Sir Vincent Cable is back in the House of Commons and is once again spouting paternalistic drivel. He now ventures that he can see Brexit being still-born and that the status quo ante will assert itself. This is what C.H. Sisson deemed the loathsome 'apologetics of fact'. Cable comes across as reasoned and sensible - which is quite a stunt when you are offering up tired statist bilge. You have to admire his chutzpah I suppose.

Another man who likes the sound of his own voice is Lord Digby Jones. However when circumstances confine him to the broad question of commerce as the only engine for growth, he does us all a favour. He was on Week in Westminster yesterday and you should track it down on iPlayer. Nice one Digby. Not bad for a Brummie lawyer. 

Lions 2017: 10

And so it all ends level, one test match each and a drawn final test. Modernists are bleating that we should have had extra time. They miss the point.

JRS and I sat together in his lounge clad in our vintage Lions shirts and he fuelled me with damn fine coffee and bacon rolls. We were a lot drier than tweve years ago when we also sat together through a final test at Eden Park in the teeming New Zealand rain.

a force for the good of the game
Well done the Lions and we should not stint in congratulating Warren Gatland - I have never shied away from my view that his record with a talented Welsh genereation has been disappointing but on this tour he was single-minded in his negotiation of a murderous schedule and he put his eggs in the test basket. He did it well. Mind you his decision to leave Itoje out of the starting lineup in the first test still seems misguided.

Some observations. Owen Farrell had a testing time at centre but didn't miss a kick at goal. He would always be my first name on the team sheet. There was a moment early in the second half when the All Blacks scorned a kick at goal. Had an England team taken that decision it would be derided as arrogance - an accurate estimation. Sam Warburton comes over as a thoroughly decent cove. The put-in to the scrum has become a joke. This needs addressing or else we will hear again the Aussie cant about 'depowering' the scrum. The forward pass seems to be legal if you happen to be New Zealand. This also needs adddressing.

Overall it will do world rugby no harm for there to be a dent in the All Black hegemony. The voices of club rugby in England who seek to diminish Lions tours should be ashamed of themselves. The Lions 'brand' (as we are encouraged to see it) has a power to benefit the game at large - look beyond your own narrow horizons boys.

Oh and finally, who was the blogger who advised that the draw was an interesting bet? Yes that was your old friend the Overgraduate. Did he remember to have a bet himself? Did he bollocks. Oh well, it's only a game. 

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Phew What A Scorcher

Big Fat Pig and the Groupie are in that London for a couple of days. It's bloody warm out on those mean streets. We ate Greek last night accompanied by some surprising and pleasant Macedonian wines. Big Fat Pig went back to being Very Big Fat Pig. Such is life.

worn ironically natch
After eating we took a moonlight stroll to the top of Primrose Hill and looked out over the lights of that London. There was the smell of illegal substance in the air - reminded me of the odour of a Wishbone Ash concert at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1978. Far out man.

I had Chinese food for lunch toady at Camden Market. Which was nice. I bought a tee shirt, a nice little Cold War chic number emblazoned 'CCCP'. I'm so hip. I may become a Corbynista. Don't fight it, just go with the flow man. BFP out.

Monday, 3 July 2017

This Week I Have Mostly Been Watching ...

House of Cards - which is back on Netflix and remains nicely acerbic. Who would you rather was President,  a psychotic utilitarian like Francis Underwood or a bombastic ignoramus like Trump? Tough call.

Sounds of Cinema - on BBC4, a series of documentaries by the brilliant Neil Brand. I urge you to catch this on iPlayer.

it rains a lot and people get killed
Hinterland - which brings gruesome murder and its concomitant the maverick cop to Aberystwyth of all places. It rains a lot.

Dicte - Danish crime. Not scandi-noir, more scandi-gris. It doesn't rain quite as much.

Gardeners' World - this is an age thing. And thank you BBC for the apostrophe.

Lions 2017: 9

Hands up, you got me. I really didn't see that coming. It was a 24-21 thriller edged by the Lions, so it is back to Auckland and all to play for. Wish I was there. The bookies still make the All Blacks a prohibitive odds-on favourite but the Lions have shortened a little and the draw at 22/1 looks a fun bet.

An oddity is that when you re-watch the match without the passion that accompanied the actual event, you have to say that the Lions didn't play that well. Yes there was passion and an impressive commitment but on another day the stream of penalties conceded would have put the Blacks out of sight. Mako Vuniploa had a mare and wins the Stuart Hogg Award for that distinction. He seemed to have caught brain-freeze from Sonny Bill Williams. Williams deservedly saw red but his dismissal oddly appeared to faze the Lions more than it did New Zealand.

Nice to report that we can make a presentation of the Ronan O'Gara Gobshite Award to T.J. Perenara, the All Black replacement scrum-half. Rugby knows no better comic irony than to watch an All Black's righteous indignation at alleged off the ball interference. Priceless.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The State Of The Union

I have been laid low for a couple of days by an unpleasant stomach bug. I'll spare you the details.

There's only so much sleeping and feeling sorry for yourself that you can do in these situations so instead I have been ruminating angrily on the state of the nation. I've looked at it from every conceivable angle and, do you know what, it's a sodding mess.

Theresa May missed a trick (something she transpires to be bloody good at) by wooing the DUP. Rather than getting into bed with the not entirely pleasant Ulster crew she should have made great play of governing without a majority, confined herself to moderate legislation and dared the newly emboldened socialists to be the ones who bring her down and pitch the nation into yet another unwanted election. Part of me actually wants us to have a Corbyn government if only so that I can commence a string of blogs under the title 'I told you so - welcome back to the 1970's.'

evidence of the social contract 1979
Schadenfreude - now there's a nice German word for the way the rest of the EU have responded to British electoral deadlock. We should let them have their day and remember that revenge is a dish best served cold. This is going to end in tears - everybody's bar the Germans who will, of course, win on penalties.   

As I say, a sodding mess.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Lions 2017: 7 & 8

Given how much I love rugby my state of ennui following last Saturday's first test comes as rather a surprise. The match was full of red-blooded endeavour and the Lions scored that magnificent try, but the truth is that the outcome was a product of that great enemy of top-class sport - inevitability. At no stage did I think it likely that the Lions would win.

The All Blacks are superb - they have taken basic skills and learned to perform them at pace and at the point of physical exhaustion. The experience for an opposition must be akin to standing in the path of an intractable threshing machine. Mistakes are forced, so that as estimable a player as George Kruis was made to look slow and clumsy. Why was Maro Itoje not on the field from the start?

And so on to Wellington, a fine and hospitable city. I have never known an atmosphere to match that in Wellington tweve years ago - an atmosphere that briefly tricked us into believing the threshing machine could be stopped. We were wrong, very wrong as it happened. Daniel Carter beat the Lions almost on his own. That, mind you, was an All Blacks team much less strong than the present incarnation.

This morning, a thriller as the dirt-trackers tossed away a healthy lead and were held to a thrilling 31-31 draws by the Hurricanes. The chatter is that Henderson, Lawes or possibly both may have forced their way into the test squad for Saturday. All I will say is that Itoje must surely start.

Finally, a word on cheating, more particularly All Black cheating. How come people have only just noticed that they cheat? I've known for years. All top sides cheat and it is only to be expected that the best team will have the most proficient cheats. What is disappointing is the licence that their sheer efficiency seems to win from referees. I rather suspect that your workaday international official is as daunted by the threshing machine as everyone else in its path.  

Thursday, 22 June 2017

On The Road

Driving to Anglesey to do final prep for the arrival of the builders. I switch the radio over to take in a bit of Jeremy Vine on Radio 2 - I find him tolerable. What do I get? Ed sodding Miliband that's what. Whoever thought that was a good idea - you're a moron.

Arrive on the island and Very Big Fat Pig drags himself out to pound the streets of Benllech. He gets dive-bombed by seagulls and generally feels pretty shit but this is the fourth consecutive day with exercise (two bike, two runs) so the fight is now in hand. Watch out beer belly (more wine belly these days I suppose) - your days are numbered. Hopefully.

Also I've been dipping back into The Archers. Is there any young member of the Archer extended family who isn't a wanker? The writers must hate yoof. Still nice to be back in Ambridge again.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Lions 2017: 6

That's better. The midweek side showed pride and no little panache in dispatching the Chiefs 34-6. Jack Nowell found salvation from the memory of the horror show that had been his Lions debut and took two tries with aplomb. The second was a particular beauty which showcased the pace and intelligence of three further good footballers - Tipuric, Williams and Daly. If the test team are better than even that, then there is some hope.

the end of a great move
So roadside assistance from the dirt-trackers and all four wheels are back on the wagon as we head to Auckland for the first test. Of course the All Blacks are favourites. They have pace and power to burn and even their cheating is better than ours (nice to see the lazy runner back in his native land) but there is hope. Paddy Power have the All Blacks at 1/5, Lions at 7/2 and the draw a mildly interesting 22/1. By my calculation the last drawn NZ v Lions test was seventeen matches and forty-six years ago, so perhaps we're due.

Stuart Hogg Bloke Having A Mare Award goes to the Chirefs' hooker Liam Poltart whose throwing went askew and whose scrummaging foundered on a mighty shift from Dan Cole. It is these things that maketh of you a man.

Changing the subject, Big Fat Pig managed to strain his groin (adductor longus for those who prefer their Latin) in the act of hitting a golf ball in Ireland all those weeks ago, Age being what it is, he has been suffering ever since and getting no exercise. He has however done a lot of eating. He is now a Very Big Fat Pig. The sheer bloated nastiness of his physique shamed him onto the Precious Bike for a short spin yesterday afternoon in the broiling sun. Today it is marginally less hot but close. In for a penny, in for a pound, VBFP is going to go for a short run. All great endeavours start with a small commitment - the mission is to lose the 'Very' and get back to the relative comfort of mere Big Fat Piggery.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Lions 2017: 5

I've decided that a man like me should take a position on spelling - so from now on it will be wagon not waggon despite what my proprietary spellchecker is telling me. Wagon, wagon, wagon. There, that's settled.

All of which leads us to the question of wheteher or not all the wheels are back on the Lions' wagon after today's 32-10 defeat of the New Zealand Maori. I tend to the view that they are not - I'm an old-fashioned boy and the mid-week results do matter to me and the fact is that these Lions haven't yet registered a mid-week victory.

But today was impressive enough - powerful up front, if still lacking precision in what they call the red zone. No Having A Mare Award today though, had he been on longer, Greg Laidlaw looked in the mood to make a challenge. This on the day that Scotland won in Australia wthout him. That Scotland result puts Gatland's decision to call up four more Welshmen to bolster his squad look rather parochial.

All roads led back to Auckland and the thunder of test rugby. Ben Te'o may well have forced himself into the starting line-up but, if fit, Farrell must surely start at 10. Now that Hogg has departed the scene, I like Halfpenny at fullback, kicking his goals and leaving Farrell free to bring his will-to-win to bear without any distraction. Kruis and Itoje to start at lock please. Warburton misses out I'm afraid. My fear is that Gatland will take that as his cue to pick Alun Wyn Jones and make him skipper. Make no mistake, Jones is a superb player, but Kruis has to play and he and Itoje are more than the sum of their parts. But what do I know?

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Mad Dogs And Englishmen

Good firm walking sand under my feet, the tide advancing but allowing me to navigate most of the bay. A dog barmily thrashes through the surf after the ball tossed by its owner, stripped to the waist and trousers rolled to the knee - I don't know for sure that either dog or man is English but it's a good line. Difficult to judge who is the more excited, man or dog. A sparsely populated summer beach in a warm light breeze. Few things are  better. I walk round to Red Wharf Bay and sit outside at the Ship Inn to down a glass of Shiraz, tannins not too overpowering. Nice.

Now I'm doing something I rarely do - listening to Rod Stewart's early albums on the Mercury label. What a voice. People rave about his live performances and I can quite imagine they are right. He does a residency at Caesar's Palace in Vegas. Now there's an idea.

I watched a film last night. Al Pacino in full-on catholic angst mode. No, not The Godfather. No it was a film of similar vintage, Serpico. Gritty and worthy and Pacino gives of his best but for all its good intentions the picture is somehow uninvolving. A curio of a soundtrack as well, featuring slugs of classical music over scenes of New York griminess. 6.5/10.

Every Democratic Cloud ...

Parliament is hung. Speaker Bercow was re-elected unopposed. But ... but, Alex Samond lost his seat and Tim Farron has resigned as Lib Dem leader. Is it too much to hope that the skids might indeed be under the dreadful Trump. I suspect that will be too much to ask. Oh well, I am in Mon and the sun is shining. Might go and dip my feet in the sea.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Lions 2017: 4

Well don't I feel a prat (or is that pratt - either will do apparently) - I signed off my last blog by saying that all four wheels were still just on the Lions' waggon (or wagon if you prefer - I'm ambivalent). Not so fast there Dave. The Lions went to the spiritual home of the ruck, Otago, and lost narrowly but, from where I sit, deservedly. The full-back position is seemingly cursed. Stuart Hogg is out of the tour after his collision last weekend with Conor Murray's elbow and Jared Payne now had a decidedly dodgy outing in the position. Not bad enough for the Bloke Having A Mare Award mind - nobody was quite that bad.

from the spiritual home of the ruck
The worrying thing for the Lions is that they were outpaced and out-driven (there's that home of the ruck thing you see) by a Highlanders team missing half of their regular starters. In The Land of the Long White Cloud there is no hiding place. Spines in lines please boys, as Coach Silverwood used to shout whilst tapping the errant on the head with a touch flag. You can't have too many rucking drills.

Talking of prats (or pratts), what about Stuart Barnes on Sky. Step away from the hyperbole please.

As we have already said, don't I feel a prat/pratt. I also ventured in that last blog that we seemed to have found ourselves a decent cricket team. Whatever happened to them - they got demolished in the Champions Trophy by Pakistan that's what happened. Oh well it's only a game, as they never say in New Zealand.

So three wheels on the waggon and we're still a week and a half away from the first test. It's not meant to be easy folks.

Outside bet? Patrick Reed at 80/1 to win the U.S. Open. You've got to speculate to accumulate.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Lions 2017: 3

It's back on track. Not a try in sight but a potent Crusaders team successfully strangled. Still not much sign of Howley's chaos theory but we can wait. More of chaos theory below.

The Stuart Hogg Bloke Having A Mare Award sadly has to go to Hogg himself once again - not his fault this time but he had to be helped from the field after colliding with a stray elbow from his own scrum-half. As for those emerging with plaudits it is good to report quite a few. People are gratifyingly starting to get just how good a player George Kruis is. The front five all shone and behind them Murray and Farrell at half-back were effective. When Watson came on for the unfortunate Hogg, he too was impressive. The wagon rolls on to Dunedin with all its wheels intact. Just.

friendly fire
As for chaotic rugby, did you see the Argentina v England match on Saturday night - England (missing thirty players to a combination of the Lions and injury) won by the stupefying scoreline of 38-34, the final decisive try being scored by a Rugby League convert winning his first cap whose only prior contribution had been two missed tackles. He was one of ten debutants on the night, one of them an eighteen year old flanker. Bloody impressive. Bloody chaotic.

Adding to a somewhat surreal atmosphere of English competence, the country seems to have found a half decent cricket team (albeit coached by an Australian and led by an Irishman), and we have just won the Under 20 World Cup at football. Who needs a functioning government? Given that the opposition to our footballers came from Venezuela, the answer would appear to be no one.

I've Been Avoiding The Subject

I went to bed last Thursday with a bad feeling about the whole election farrago. I awoke on Friday to find my unease was fully justified. In surely the most catastrophic act of hubris since Edward Heath had the temerity to ask the unions who governed the country, Theresa May managed to lose the moral high ground to a third rate terrorist apologist and his sidekicks Madame Stupid and the Smiling Larcenist. Apparently the young are to blame - perhaps they will have to live with rampant inflation and a stony-broke Treasury before they realise just how shit a place Britain can be. Perhaps they might like to take a look at how Venezuela has ended up - why it seems only yesterday that Citizen Ken was using taxpayer money to laud the 'achievements'of Hugo Chavez. Corbyn was another cheerleader, natch.

Actually I don't blame the young. I've totted it all up and I blame ... Theresa May and the boneheads who advised her that this was the right time to open the Pandora's Box marked 'Dementia Tax'. Still the good thing about a hung parliament is that the shit-for-brains politicians will find their legislative ambitions stymied and might just leave us alone to order our lives as we see fit. Fat chance. And if I hear one more pudding-brained cretin telling me that all that is required is for the 'rich to pay their fair share' I might swing for someone. I'm not particularly rich (despite rumours to the contrary that I may have started by my irresponsible lifestyle) but I am one of Larcenist McDonnell's target group and I can tell you this, John Boy, I've always paid my due and it has felt like plenty. The problem is the use to which successive politicians of all hues have put it.

When in doubt reach for a quotation from a nineteenth century French economist:
Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state wants to live at the expense of everyone.
All is well in the world - beer is being brewed
But not to worry, ICW and I had a long and liquid lunch on Friday and if we didn't put the world to rights we at least agreed that between us we could do a better job at practically everything - governing, running the Lions tour, and so on and so forth. We were fuelled by Sutton Pale Ale at the Brewhouse and Kitchen in Sutton Coldfield. Politics is only politics but mates are for life.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Lions 2017: 2

Well that didn't last long did it - the unbeaten record I mean. The Lions came up against what would appear to be the weakest of the NZ Super franchises and came up six points short. Worse things happen at sea but all the same it makes for a bleak outlook.

Award winner
We have instigated a new award - instead of the Ronan O'Gara Gobshite Award we now have the Stuart Hogg Bloke Having A Mare Award. This prize has been endowed in honour of the shocker said Hogg (a recipient of the O'Gara Award in the past) had last Saturday. Two contenders today, both of whom I rather like as players: Liam Williams came off the bench and practically the first thing he did was to  get sin-binned; however for a sheer shocker he couldn't quite match poor old Jack Nowell. Whatever defensive system Andy Farrell has got them playing, Nowell obviously missed the memo. Like I say, he's a wholehearted player I like, but facts is facts.

Where does this leave the tour? The omens are not propitious but all is not yet lost. Owens, Itoje, Lawes, Tipuric and Stander impressed in the pack and, despite his gobshite tendencies (I mean he is a 9 after all), I am an admirer of Rhys Webb's game. Of the remaining backs Elliot Daly had moments, but the remainder looked prisoners of the apparent lack of an attacking scheme. Perhaps Gatland and Howley are keeping their powder dry. Incidentally, Howley had talked of chaos theory and rugby before the game. Friend of this site, the divine Gary Street, will I hope confirm that I was venturing my own chaos theory of the game as long ago as 1989, backed up by my own scratchy collection of game tapes. I used to be a prophet.

Talking of genius (Street not me) it is worth mentioning that I passed the morning in the company of the cleverest man I know - he is my doppelganger (or am I his?) Professor David Roberts. His sagacity rather daunts me but he left me with fresh enthusiasm for the long slog of the PhD. Next stop is my chapter on everybody's favourite slasher play, Titus Andronicus.     

Monday, 5 June 2017

Lions 2017: 1

Twelve years ago JRS and I went on our rugby follower trip of a lifetime and watched the inept Lions getting mauled by the All Blacks. Despite the poverty of the Lions' rugby, it was a fantastic outing - and we were privileged to be at Wellington for Daniel Carter's defining masterclass on how to play the game.

Well the Lions are back in New Zealand and, judging on Saturday's evidence, they are going to have a crack at being even less effectual than their ill-starred predecessors. Let us hope the half-baked display was an aberration.

Let's be optimistic. Who came out of it with any credit? Kyle Sinckler perhaps (though I couldn't detect any scrummaging superiority). Ben Te'o definitely. Ross Moriarty very definitely. That's it I think. And as for the much vaunted Stuart Hogg, well best to gloss over his game. He seemed to have conscripted Johnny Sexton into his personal Hell.

Do I wish I was out there in a rugby crazed land to watch the Lions getting crapped on? Too bloody right I do.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Isn't It Nice When Things Work Properly

Whilst British Airways spent the weekend looking like the most disorganised company in the world - BA IT meltdown - and the Conservative Party continued in its self-inflicted death spiral, we had a nice couple of days at the old country estate. Things worked properly.

The drive to Mon took less than three hours without a single traffic jam. The journey home also came in at less than three hours including a stop to buy safety snacks (this is family slang for emergency rations) which included very satisfactory chicken balls. Not sure how much actual chicken was in them but they tasted great.

Even the bank holiday weather worked with us. We walked round to Red Wharf Bay, enjoyed a couple of outdoor drinks at The Ship Inn and the rain left us alone. Glorious. Main object of the visit was to firm up plans for the kitchen extension and allied works of improvement. Meetings with both kitchen designer and builder were fruitful so it's full steam ahead.

Nice. And we drank champagne while watching a silly but enjoyable film, Jack Reacher. He may be as mad as a box of frogs but you have to concede that Tom Cruise has presence. 6/10.  

Monday, 29 May 2017

The Clowns Are Still With Us

The forthcoming election appears cursed. Never before in the field of electoral combat has such unremitting drivel issued forth from so many.

If polls are to be believed a third of the country is content to wake up on 9 June and find Diane Abbott as Home Secretary. Meanwhile four tenths of the country can find it in their hearts to renew power in the hands of whichever clown came up with the Tory policy on social care. Give me strength. To cap it all we are asked to take Nicola Sturgeon (leaderene of a provincial faction) seriously - this a woman who is not even a candidate in the election.

One is left to sift the rubble of a collapsed citadel of good sense for the least bad option. To help you, here is a link to a clip of Corbyn's mash-brained moral relativism on his mates in the IRA. Corbyn Equivocates (Note also the BBC's craven and inaccurate captioning of the piece). "Clown" is a decidedly generous appellation.

Still, things could be a lot worse - Donald Trump could be President of the USA.  

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Hence! Wilt Thou Lift Up Olympus?

The revolting events in Manchester need no commenatry from me. I did start to pen something but it was plainly inadequate. Damn them all to Hell.

To more cheerful things: a trip yesterday to Sheffield to see Julius Caesar at The Crucible. This was the first Shakespeare I ever studied seriously, back in 'O'Level days. I have heard it said that it is an unsatisfactory play, what with the titular charcter getting brutally bumped off by half-time. This misses the point - it is replete with fascinating characters aside from Caesar himself. Brutus is tragic, Cassius intriguing and, on the periphery, Lepidus's lack of substance sets us up nicely for what is to come in the even better Antony and Cleopatra.

The Crucible is a great viewing theatre and this is an excellent production - the first segment chillingly political and the second searingly military. I even sort of enjoyed the steamy rail travel that allowed me to have a couple of glasses of perfectly passable sauvignon blanc.

And isn't it a small world? As I was quaffing first of the said glasses I spotted S with whom I had worked at London 2012. Of all the gin joints, in all the places etc. We chatted amiably and parted to watch the play, presumably never to meet again. Rather British, I call it.   

Monday, 22 May 2017

That London; Hell Is Other People; Lives Of The Rich And Famous

An interesting and, on balance, most enjoyable Sunday. On the train to That London with Joey Barton sitting in our carriage, presumably en route to watch his boyhood team, Everton, who were at Arsenal. He behaved himself. So did I. Tempting to know what the odds on that double would have been. Should have asked him.

Rather bloody lovely
Once in That London we went for a longish walk on Hampstead Heath in the company of Daughters One and Two (I say that as if there might be more - there aren't). Now, I'm ashamed to admit it but notwithstanding my time at university in the Big Smoke, I'd never made it to Hampstead before. Rather bloody lovely - the sort of place where people can afford to be liberal. I pinched that line from an old friend from college days.

We rewarded our exertions with a late lunch at The Holly Bush: nice pub, good food, notably good service. recommended.

Hell is other people, most particularly on crowded trains going back to Liverpool full of football fans. At least they don't smash the trains up like they used to. Joey Barton was in our carriage again. What were the odds? Oh sorry already done that gag. Is Barton stalking me? Am I stalking him? He was not the only footballer on the train - two coaches of first-class had been commandeered for the Everton team and sundry hangers-on. They denied entry to autograph seekers but Barton duly signed for two youngsters. good on him.

A prejudice confirmed by yesterday's lunch: fish and chips should always be haddock rather than cod.

Friday, 19 May 2017

A Frenzy Of Righteous Apathy

I was wrong - turns out politics hadn't got interesting again. It has just got infuriating.

A snap election and Trump under constant scrutiny, this ought to be meat and drink to a rent-a-mouth like Big Fat Pig/OG/the Boy Roberts. But instead I simply haven't got the energy to emote. They've worn me down, the whole shameless shower of them.

The Labour Party has produced a manifesto to trump their elongated suicide note of 1983. Into the market-bashing space on the left that Labour has vacated comes no less a figure than Mrs May. Hands up for the managed economy anyone. All the Lib Dems can offer me is Tim Farron - and I can't quite put my finger on the reason but if I had to punch just one politico in the face, it would be him. Oh hang on I was forgetting bloody Trump. Mind you, I'm not taken in by the synthetic rage of certain Democrats who still seem to be in denial about the fact they lost to the shit-bag in the first place.

I recommend that you turn off the news and go to iPlayer and watch a nearly fifty year old masterpiece of television - Kenneth Clark's wondrous Civilisation.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Of Samosas, Pork Pies, Haggis And Rugby Football

Oh and I should have mentioned the beer because there was plenty of that as well.

Just back from the European Finals Weekend in Edinburgh. A bloody great trip. So first of all big thanks to our organiser JRS - good hotel, good driving, looked after the kitty and even got us kitted out in matching shirts and rain tops - tops which have what AW (who couldn't remember the word 'hood' - it's his age) termed an 'integrated hat'. I think AW might very well be the funniest man in the world. What great company - blessings to aforesaid JRS and AW and also to AS, AO and BH.

Food of kings - or should that be maharajas?
Samosas: BH had brought a megabox of Indian provender. I had samosas for lunch on Friday, supper on Friday (actually the wee hours of Saturday) and breakfast on Sunday. I like samosas.

Pork pies: AO is a titan in the pork pie industry - and no, I'm not making that up. He brought a megabox of pork pie based provender. I had pork pies for lunch on Friday and for lunch on Sunday. I have also had a pork pie back at home today. I like pork pies.

Haggis: AS (who has claims to be the most civilised front row forward in history) had booked us into Howies for lunch on match day. This sheltered us from the rain (although we did, of course, all have integrated hats with us) and the provender was excellent. I had the cullen skink as a starter and the haggis for main. I like haggis.

The rugby? Well, Friday's Challenge Cup was a poorish game between two sides, Gloucester and Stade Francais, who looked terrified of winning. Still, the ultimate Stade victory was a reward for the titan that is Sergio Parisse. And I had samosas for supper so not a bad day at the office.

Saturday, and the Champions Cup Final was a different cup of tea. Played at a giddying pace and full of thunderous defence, Saracens and Clermont Auvergne served up a treat, deservedly won by Saracens whose athletic professionalism really ought to be admired, not cavilled at by the jealous. I had a Macdonalds for my late supper. Which was nice, but not as good, in the wider scale of things, as either samosas or pork pies. Or indeed haggis.

Life is good.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Send In The Clowns

Politics, bloody politics. They're all over the place, these politician clowns.

Plankton brain - went to Cambridge
Please tell me there is not a more asinine, plankton brained pile of uselessness than Diane Abbott. If you haven't heard it yet track down her car crash of an interview on LBC earlier this week. At last the world begins to realise just what a berk this woman is. She is the Shadow Home Secretary. Nuff said.

Graduate of the Bercow Likeability School

But worse, although no longer an active politician, there is still Gorgeous George Osborne, bizarrely transfigured into editor of The London Evening Standard. He now stands outside Westminster lugging rocks at those (principally Theresa May) he deems to have diverted him from his manifest destiny. Sad and funny. At least Abbot isn't getting paid the fortune that Osborne's grimy paws are raking in.

If I ruled the world
And just to ensure that we at the OG are not accused of provincialism, it is right that we should alert you to a bloke strutting around Europe showing the modesty and self-awareness that used to be the sole preserve of Juan-Antonio Samaranch, the fascist who ran the Olympics. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you His Supreme Smugness Jean-Claude Juncker.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Children's Films That Adults Can Enjoy

Exhibit A: the Pixar imprimatur.

Exhibit B: Finding Dory. It finds time to be both funny and moving and the climactic car chase (yes, an animated car chase) is especially good.

Watched it last night with the Groupie and a sadly ill Daughter Number Two. 7.5/10.

The Kindness Of A Stranger

It is the second night of the Dunmore East Golf Classic and the boys are eating at the Azzurro restaurant. Their fellow diners are all golfers.

The scene of the drama
A senior gent at the table next to ours starts to cough uncontrollably. It dawns on the rest of us that he is choking. Big Fat Pig gets to his feet just in case he has to administer the Heimlich Manoeuvre. Both he and the victim are relieved when the lady at the third table betrays her medical training and skilfully performs said Manoeuvre. The gobbet of steak is ejected. Gratitude is expressed and everyone returns to their food. The manager brings a glass of Prosecco to the good lady and thanks her for saving the man's life. He then produces a glass of the same for the choker and thanks him for not dying in the restaurant. The room rings with applause. The food is good.

God is in his heaven and all is well with the world.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Lads On Tour II

It's over - and we partied like men on a mission, which was justified because we may not be back. There has been sensible talk of knocking it on the head and Big Fat Pig will definitely be missing because he has promised to be with the Groupie to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of their meeting.

Well how was the golf? I opened with a display of near competence at Dunmore East, a result made all the more remarkable by my being scandalously hung-over. As the alcohol coursed less thickly with the passing hours so I found myself with a minor case of the shakes which made teeing the ball a matter of high comedy.

Dunmore East Golf Club - Big Fat Pig had six pars
Next was the dreaded Faithlegg. The Pig has been known to suggest that the site should be bulldozed. Nothing this year caused a reversal of this opinion. Played like a clown; course was a bit tatty and the administration was woeful.

Tramore was in good nick but the Pig's game was not. Last up was Waterford Castle and the Pig played much better if still without anything remotely like distinction.

Good food was eaten, drinks were drunk in good company. I will miss it if we don't do it again. The thought of never chatting again to 'Flat Top' Pat from Dublin is mildly vexing. Thanks as ever to Big Willy who had the thankless task of marshalling the Pig and Viperjohn.

One last thing  - I greatly enjoyed the confit of rabbit at the Lemon Tree Cafe.  

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Lads On Tour

On the ferry as I write this, probably my last missive until I am back on board next Friday. It is not that they don't have Internet access at the places in which I will be drinking in Ireland, but rather that I can't risk leaving the computer in a bar somewhere. I know my weaknesses.

Mention of weaknesses brings me nicely onto my golf at Bull Bay yesterday. Actually not totally terrible but definitely not totally good. Big Willy naturally won the Bull Bay Classic playing off his ludicrously generous new handicap. Viperjohn and I trailed in his wake, as is our destiny.

The Irish Sea is mill-pond still which bodes well for the week to come. We leave behind the banalities of a British election campaign. Ahead lie fun and laughter and, who knows, maybe even odd incursions into golfing competence. Don't hold your breath.

Bull Bay Golf Club as photographed from my private jet