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.