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.