Friday, July 29, 2005

Bobby's all right

He's a natural born poet, He's just outta sight *
Or maybe that should be...
Oh, hear this Robert Zimmerman I wrote a song for you **

The other night Mary and I listened to More Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits and it reminded me just what a genius he is. Not that the world needs me to tell it that. He is one of the great poets of the 20th century. It was a joy to chill out on the sofa and listen to a giant of the musical landscape.

* Telegram Sam by Marc Bolan and T.Rex
** Song for Bob Dylan by David Bowie

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Violent and abusive behaviour

I am used to seeing signs at the airport declaring that violent and abusive behaviour towards staff will not be tolerated. At the check-in desk, at the security gate, in the customs hall. But wasn't that always true? And what is the point of stating the bleeding obvious? Like some aggressive type is going to be deterred by a notice. Could somebody explain this rash of nugatory notices to me?

Will we start seeing them in the sandwich shop next, "Anyone head-butting the staff will be refused ham and cheese on brown!" I would like to see the reverse notice: "Polite and patient behaviour will be very well received. Anyone showing such behaviour will be greeted pleasantly and may even be allowed to jump to the head of the queue :-)"

Anyway I was at St George's [Healthcare NHS Trust], Tooting, yesterday and they have them there too! Is the level of incivility increasing or are we just more vocal about it? Shall I put on my "grumpy old man" head and start on about the decline in manners and the collapse of civilisation at we know it. Well, sorry, I don't see that way. However it does seem that there were 84,273 reported violent or abusive incidents towards NHS staff in 2000/2001 which really is unacceptable given the dedication they show toward their patients.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Hit the freeze frame button

If the previous visit revealed disappointing progress this trip unveiled b*****r all progress. As soon as we left last time they must have hit the "Freeze Frame" button.

We arrived Friday morning to find Francesco, the trullaro (a stonemason specializing in trulli), hard at work. Given the "spot the difference" effect it smacked more than somewhat of "s**t the client's are coming, get down there pronto and look busy!"

Still all was not wasted. We spent three pleasant nights staying in the heart of the centro storico of Locorotondo in some excellent self-catering apartments we found through Sotto le Cummerse. We ate and drank Italian style and went shopping.

We went with Daniele to three shops to order, respectively, a wood-burning stove, a double and two single beds, and a credenza and cupboards for the living areas. Daniele will be taking delivery on September 15 by when, he assures us, one half of the property will be habitable. It better had be as Pete&Amanda are coming to stay as our guests the following week.

And he has a second deadline when Mary's sister and Mother come to stay at the end of October. By then he has to get ready the second half of the property, that will eventually become our home, for the girls to go shopping in order to kit it out.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Daisy, Daisy

Give me your answer do *

Today Mary and I cycled in to work together most of the way; not on a tandem but in tandem. We brought up Mary's folding bike up from the cottage on the train Monday and today she led me a different route in.

Normally I do no-brainer, shortest distance road route. Mary favours more scenic (and probably safer) cycle routes courtesy of the London Cycling Campaign's cycling map. This led us through Battersea Park and past the Peace Pagoda.

It was, in truth, a pleasanter route and I may well consider adding a few minutes to my journey in exchange for an improved two-wheeled lifestyle.

* Daisy Bell Harry Dacre, 1892

Monday, July 18, 2005

Chateau Climens 1991

I thought the 1988 Chateau Rieussec was superb but Saturday evening a half bottle of Chateau Climens 1991 just knocked me out. I kept going "ummmm!" and going back for more.

Parker in his book on Bordeaux doesn't give tasting notes for the 1991 but he cites Climens as a personal favourite and I am right there with him. And the Chateau itself (hardly an unbiased view) rates the 1991 vintage as one of their favourites.

It was all Parker said, but I don't have the book to hand to quote him. Grilled pineapple comes to mind - tropical fruits with toffee notes. An intensity of flavour that was just fantastic. Plenty of botrytis but not too cloyingly sweet and with a lemon tang in the after-taste to give it some character. Fabulous!

Friday, July 15, 2005

A survivor's blog

This is a blog worth reading: Survivor's Diary

Rachel from north London was in the bombed carriage of the Tube train travelling from King's Cross to Russell Square on the Piccadilly line. She has told the BBC News website about her experience and has been making daily postings.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Full of fruit goodness

Pret are a fine sandwich chain and I normally buy my lunch there but I do think their copywriters should be kept on a tight leash.

Their granola bar advertises itself as "Full of Fruit Goodness". B*****ks! It's a solid briquette of cereal held together with sucrose. Pure carbohydrate. Good fuel for the body and if the odd bit of dried fruit contributes any vitamin content of significance I would be very much surprised.

But the pièce de résistance is the blackcurrant drink "Naturally Low in Fat". <Voice="John Cleese">Of course it is! It's a FRUIT! No ANIMALS were slaughtered in the making of this FRUIT drink!<Voice="Normal">.

Mind you it is a bit like the "Reduced Fat" Lurpak spreadable butter we buy. Basically they have worked out how to pump more water into it but they are hardly going to label it "Increased Water"!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Collecting for Charity

The girl in Covent Garden, fundraising for charity, was most surprised that I stopped for a chat when she asked if I had a couple of moments. It seems Natalie Perez (for that was her name) had had a dispiriting morning trying to accost tourists (not interested) or office workers (too busy).

She was expounding the virtues of Friends Of the Earth through the use of carefully crafted, closed questions along the lines of "If you could save the planet with no effort on your part would you be interested?" Like who's going to say no. All part of a script for getting "Yes" answers to draw the mark in.

I explained that we were all "donation-ed out" what with the monthly contributions to MacMillan Fund and Cancer Research, not to mention Children in Need, Red Nose Day and the Tsunami Appeal. But I do talk to strangers and FOE is a worthy cause even if I was not inclined to contribute. It seems her spirits were improved by having someone actually stop, so I wished her good luck and went on my way.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Jazz at the Tower

Not just any old tower, The Tower of London that is. Sunday night M&M went with sister Jane and friend Heather to Jazz at The Tower. Picnic beforehand in the moat followed by a two-part set. Part A was the James Taylor Quartet followed by a relaxed (as a newt) interval then Part B was Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames.

A cracking evening with fine sets from both bands. JTQ cranked out the blues / funk / soul a lá Blues Brothers and GF was a showman schlepping out "Yeh, Yeh" which segued into a medley of fine old standards (give the punters what they want).

It was odd, not to say surreal, however, to have as an MC a genuine Beefeater.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Cleopatra's teeth

The reason I had always planned to work at home Friday was not the bombings but that Cleo was going in to Cedar Vets for a teeth scale and polish (it just worked out that way). This procedure is done under a general anaesthetic which is always a concern especially for a 15 year old cat.

I was, I admit, a little nervous having lost Oliver and Oscar in the last two years. As it was she came through with flying colours: teeth gleaming and not one extraction. The reason to do it now is preventive to try and avoid a toothless old age for her. Happily I seem to have got the timing right.

She is doing very well for a cat of her age which I attribute to her beings a GPM (General Purpose Moggie). The feline equivalent of a mongrel, a bit of mixed parentage seems to imbue her with hybrid vigour. I must ask Ian if he knows how her litter mates are doing.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Mark and Mary are OK

A number of friends have emailed to check that we are OK. We are fine and unaffected by the bombs (in the physical sense). We are both working in central London (me only 1/2 mile from the bus bomb). But both safely in our offices before it happened. I cycle in so getting home was easy. Mary walked down to Vauxhall (avoiding Waterloo) and got a train home. Working at home today.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Tempest at the globe

Tuesday night I took Dad to see The Tempest at The Globe Theatre as a belated 80th birthday treat. Much to my amaze he had never seen the play though he has seen many others. But then, hey, I have never seen King Lear. An unusual production but enjoyable and entertaining. Google "tempest globe review" to see what the critics thought.

It did remind me of the time Dad took me to the RSC at Stratford to see Peter Brook's production of "The Dream" way back nearly 25 years ago. That was a uniquely magical performance and a true example of the ability of the theatre to transport you to other realms. It has remained with me to this day.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Name check for Charlie

On Tuesday night I popped down to the cottage to drop Molly (Mary's Morris Minor) round to the garage for its MOT. On the train back in the morning (the 6:50 from Southampton Airport) I got chatting to a woman who was not a regular commuter. She was saying how kids were not as polite as they used to be; she was pregnant and hoped that she could bring up her child with good manners but was concerned it would be considered odd by its peers.

I was saying that the unruly ones are the ones that make the news and there are plenty of well-mannered, well-brought up children about. I cite my nephews (on my sister's side) as fine examples (see clip-clippety-clop). And so, also, it is true on my brother's side.

We went round to S.O. Sarah's on Saturday for the residents' association annual summer event. There was Lorenzo and his mates likewise "handsome, tall, and strong". All charming and polite, confident and self assured. I am sure I was never that poised at that age. Similarly for Lorenzo's girlfriend, Charlie, and her crowd. Anyhow I promised Charlie I would give her a name check on the blog so (hoping I got the correct spelling) there you go, Charlie!