Thursday, July 12, 2018

My People Were Fair... 50 Years On.

"One day we change from children into people."
 - Seagull Woman by Marc Bolan.

It was in the summer of 1968 that the Tyrell Corporation decanted me, aged 15 and a half, with a poorly implanted set of childhood memories. My real life memories started that summer.

It seems to me that even since then I have stumbled through life like a sleepwalker, scarcely conscious of the world around me, in it but not of it. I never had a plan, a dream, an ambition, a goal. Looking at my life and career in retrospect it may look, from the outside, like a carefully planned arc but nothing could be further from the truth. I meandered aimlessly though the next 50 years like a magpie picking up shiny things, letting serendipity guide my choices, trusting in the bounty of the universe to provide. I will never write my autobiography. I struggle to remember what I had for dinner last night let alone what happened in my early years.

I think my school report July 1963 (age 10) says it best "Mark's work is all done rather slowly and he is rather absent minded. With his intelligence he should be nearer the top of the class." The story of my life in a nutshell. Not so much "absent minded" as "in a little world of his own".

Adulthood and memories really began that summer with early morning cycle rides in the sunshine from Kenilworth to Baginton where I spent the holidays helping to excavate a Roman fort (and that is a story in its own right). And on that ride Tyrannosaurus Rex’s new single Debora was playing on infinite repeat in my mental jukebox.

And then in July the magic that was "My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair But Now They're Content To Wear Stars On Their Brows" with that wonderful cover art by George Underwood (responsible for some of the most iconic album covers ever and Bowie's mismatched eyes).

Growing up in leafy Warwickshire my only entrée into music was watching Top of the Pops. Neither I nor any of my friends read NME nor Melody Maker. I have since met contemporaries who grew up in London and had easy access to see all manner of bands before they were famous playing in local pubs and clubs. They were sneaking out to gigs aged 16 while I was goody-two-shoes doing my homework, watching telly and going to bed early.

It never occurred to me in my naivety that you could actually go and see bands live nor would I have had the confidence to do so at that age. To see anyone well known would have meant a trip to Birmingham Town Hall by public transport.

It was John Peel on Radio One’s Top Gear show that broadened my horizons beyond TotP and introduced me to Tyrannosaurus Rex and I was entranced by the sound. So when the first single was released in May that year I rushed out and bought it. That had to keep me satisfied for a couple of months until their debut album was released in June.

The record shop in Kenilworth was run by an old lady, or she seemed old to me at the time. It was a dark and gloomy store with wooden browser boxes. It was mostly given over to classical music but she did have a couple of boxes for records labelled “File under Pop for Popular”. I must have had to order in this LP as I’m sure she wouldn’t have spontaneously bought it for stock.

When I got it home I played side one several times before I turned over to play the other side. I wanted to make sure I could extract maximum enjoyment, sensation, appreciation, novelty from the first side before revealing more gems on the second side. After all you can only hear it for the first time once and I didn’t want to rush things.

As I have written elsewhere (see my review written in 1999) my copy was missing the lyrics sheet. Being unable to decipher much of the words I had to just let the sound wash over me and interpret as best I could what was going on.

Little did I know then that this was to be the start of a strand running through my life. Buying all the singles and albums for one thing. Actually going to concerts and seeing Tyrannosaurus Rex and then T.Rex live. Then some fallow years, followed by discovering the World Wide Web in 1996. One of the first things I googled in Altavista (remember Altavista?) was Marc Bolan and discovering that I was not the only fan on the planet [Note: I am amused to see that I used lower case 'google' as a verb, a lot like using 'hoover' for 'vaccuum'].

The final few years of the last century were early heady days of connecting with people worldwide and sharing knowledge and enthusiasm. Several hand crafted fan sites and the Tilldawn mailing list united scattered fans. I discovered that there was a Bolan scene that had been rumbling along under the radar all that time and I have since been to several anniversary Bops and met up with a number of fans in real life ([25/55], [Bolan Bop 2009]).

Back then though this was all in the future. The triple vintage of '68, '69, '70 - the Tyrannosaurus Rex years - were halcyon days indeed. Schoolwork was easy, O-levels were a year away, home life was fine, I had my hobbies and books. All I knew was that I was happy, carefree, cycling in the sunshine, listening to the magic that was Tyrannosaurus Rex.

"And your days of love always in a dream, you know."
 - The Time of Love is Now by Marc Bolan.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Jawbone at the Green Note Cafe

Camden, London. Thursday 14-June-2018

Being a great fan of Marcus I was pleased to see that he was playing in London while I was back in the UK. We have seen him many times but the first time with this band. Here in "Jawbone" he is teamed up with the brilliant Paddy Milner, who we have seen several times at Ronnie Scott's as part of the support act, on key boards. Rex Horan on bass and Evan Jenkins on drum complete the line-up.

Got a really good seat with only the sound engineer between me and the stage.

They did not do so much original material but more a set comprising a variety of covers from their favourites: Memphis Slim, Leon Russell, The Band, Little Feat, Tom Waits.

Interesting to see Marcus dialling it back from the main man to front man as part of an ensemble of equal. Unsurprisingly it was an evening of excellent music. I spoke to both Paddy and Marcus afterwards and I fear I may have gushed a little but why not? Bought the CD and vinyl of their latest album as a treat for later.

All sorts of thoughts wander through my head during gigs. I got a momentary flash of cat guilt - I've left the cat home alone, did I remember to set the timed cat feeder, will I get home to a piteously starving moggies! Oh no, phew, we don't have a cat any more. I still get occasional feline flashbacks especially approaching home and opening the front door in anticipation of a furry welcoming committee.

Got chatting to the bloke next to me who was also on the Merlot and when I went to get a refill he suggesting splitting a bottle - a more cost effective purchase. Not sure I needed that last glass but I had nothing in the diary for the next day so "hurrah!".

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Salento Parkrun Number 6

Lecce, Puglia, Italy. Saturday 09-June-2018.

It seems like I’m collecting parkruns.

For those of you who don’t know there is a clue in the name. People gather in hundreds of parks up and down the UK, and in parks around the world, at 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning to do an organised 5K run.

Mostly I have done my parkruns in Tooting Common. But as we travelled about the UK for various weekends away I have picked up Parkruns in Scotland, Ireland and England (North and South).

I very nearly added an Italian Parkrun in Florence when Mary was planning to do a language course there. But in the end her trip was curtailed so that never happened.

Last time I looked there were no parkruns in Southern Italy. But then last month we had some visitors who said “there is a Salento Parkrun” and, lo and behold, someone had just started up a parkrun outside Lecce. It is run by Italian, Saverio, who had lived in Maidenhead for some time and discovered park run. On his return to Italy he decided to start up a local event. Inspired by our guests we decided to combine an early start for the park run followed by a visit to the beautiful city of Lecce.

This parkrun being in its infancy there were only eight runners and four of them were from our party. It is a very different experience running round the olive groves of a national park compared to running around Tooting Common where the first two runs in 2018 had over 800 runners!

It was only the sixth Salento Parkrun and our friend Sarah was able to set the female course record; unfortunately another UK visitor knocked her off the top spot a week later.

The 'A' is missing from my vest because I put the iron-on letter upside down and ironed it onto the sheet of paper.

One of the runners was visiting from Sicily and shot off like a greyhound and was round the course in 19:09. Me, I was happy to have managed it in under 30 minutes.

Garmin timings:

When I was back in the UK for a week I decided not to do my usual Tooting run but instead cycled up to Wimbledon Common so that I could add another unique Parkrun to the list. That is now nine different locations I’ve done park run.

Again under 30 minutes so again happy with that.

When I go back in September I think I’ll have to pop over the river to Fulham and bag Parkrun location number 10.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Nubya Garcia at Ronnie Scott's

London. Saturday 28-April-2018.

One of the (many) good things about Ronnie Scott’s is that we get to discover new musicians that we might otherwise not hear. With the larger venues you know already who you are going to see, that’s why you’ve booked. With Ronnie’s we look at the programme and think “they sound interesting, we’ll go see them”. For the weekend, early shows you get a double dose of discovery as there is a support act as well.

This time the support act was a classical string quartet called String Ting, part of Tomorrow’s Warriors initiative aiming to encourage diversity in jazz. It made for a very interesting and intriguing listen; "St James's Infirmary" given a new twist.

Nubya Garcia fell into the category of new-to-us musicians so we went with an open mind. Mind you, you can’t go far wrong with a quartet led by a saxophonist. Apparently she is winner of The JazzFM Award “Breakthrough Act of the Year”.

I can do no better than quote from Jazz in Europe’s review:

“With an incredible line up, the young saxophonist delivered a sound show.”

“Performing some pieces from her last album [...] Nubya Garcia demonstrated what a major talent she is. The chemistry between her and her fellow musicians was superb.”

“This thing we call jazz is definitely alive and well and Nubya Garcia is one musician we need to thank for this!” Full review... 

Another good thing about Ronnie Scott’s is that the artists usually come out from the green room to have a drink at the bar afterwards so you can mingle and thank them in person for an excellent set. Here we have three members of String Ting chatting to Nubya right next to our table; you don’t get that at the O2 Arena!

Yet another excellent evening.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Toyah Willcox at the 229 Club

229 Great Portland Street, London. Thursday 26-April-2018.

The "Acoustic, Up Close and Personal" tour.

This is the third time I have seen Toyah. The first was way back in 1983 when she appeared at the Young Vic in the play Trafford Tanzi. The second time was in 2003 in the musical Calamity Jane which got an indifferent review from The Guardian. This time we were here for her own music.

Alerted by SongKick to this gig, we ordered our tickets. When they arrived there were no seat numbers and we were a bit concerned that it was standing room only. As it turned out we needn’t have worried. There was seating it was just unnumbered, first come first served. We were able to get reasonable seats not too far back.

Toyah earlier posted a picture of the dress she was going to wear and indeed that is what she did wear. The static picture does not do her figure nor decolletage justice she is in great shape and looking lovely.

In the lights the outfit was a very sparkly rainbow affair.

The line up was:

  • Toyah Willcox: vocals
  • Chris Wong: acoustic guitar and backing vocals
  • Colin Hinds: acoustic guitar and backing vocals
  • Mike Nichols: double bass

One thing I like about live gigs is when the artist chats a bit about each song and gives you some background about how they came to write it or some context about the time when it was written. Toyah did this with every song which made it a much more interesting concert.

Unsurprisingly she did the well-known hit singles as well as a number of other tracks from her back catalogue which as usual you could just tell that many of the loyal audience members knew off by heart. She also did a couple of surprising covers. The first was “These boots were made for walking” by Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood, one of my dad’s favourite songs. The other was “Echo Beach” better known in the version by Martha and the Muffins which was very pleasant listen.

One thing I noticed about some of audiences, maybe it is the older demographic, is it they are much more respectful of the artist and pay greater attention. There was no sea of iPhones, everybody was actually focused on the music and enjoying the live atmosphere. The one exception was when Toyah invited us to come up to the stage and take selfies with her she came up to the front of the stage and posed for pictures.

An excellent concert from an iconic artiste.

Monday, April 23, 2018

London Marathon 2018

London, England. Sunday 22-April-2018.

The story can now be told...

I entered this year's London Marathon under a cloak of invisibility! I had said to all my friends that the Brighton Marathon 2017 was a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to sponsor me. When I did not *run* the entire Brighton Marathon I was so disappointed (extreme British understatement). I *only* ran 22 miles, walked the rest and jogged across the finish line. How can I now go back to my friends and ask them for sponsorship for a second marathon?

This time I took the approach of "under-promise, over-deliver". The plan was that only after I ran over that finish line would I send out that begging email. And, heaven forfend, I failed to run the entire distance or fail to hit the money target I would make up the balance myself. Beforehand I had told no-one other than those who explicitly asked if I would do another marathon - I cannot tell a lie. Unfortunately I did not deliver.

I failed to complete the London Marathon basically because I made the beginners' mistake of starting off too fast. I went with the 5:00 pace runner to prevent this but she set off too fast. I made an error of judgement and kept up with her instead of dropping back and running my own pace. I burned too much energy too soon, went wobbly at the 18 mile mark and was steered to the nearest St John's Ambulance so I could collapse and throw up. Not fit to walk the remainder, I took the sensible option and retired.

I cannot ask for sponsorship for something I didn't do but if people would care to make a donation to Blue Cross that would be very much appreciated. Blue Cross animal hospitals and pet care clinics provide free veterinary treatment to sick and injured pets when their owners can’t afford private veterinary fees.

You can do so via my Virgin Money Giving page.

Thank you to all my friends for their support and encouragement.

The full story:

Before last year’s Brighton marathon I did 35 training runs totalling 259 miles. This time I did 61 training runs totalling 454 miles! Practiced taking in isotonic gels every 5km. Practiced a slower, consistent pace. Best fit time prediction: 4:54:42.

Best fit graph of all 61 training runs

This year I went with the 5:00 pace runner instead of last year's 4:30 pace runner. Still not enough. Again caught out by the heat and the pace at the start (the latter an error of judgement on my part).

My last two experiences of pace runners was that they were metronomic and a great way to keep the right pace. The London Marathon pace runner set off too fast. She did the first 5 km at 6:41min/km, equivalent to a 4:42 marathon time. Eighteen minutes faster than the target. Same again for the second 5 km that included a couple of individual 6:16 minute kilometres which is a 4:25 marathon - way too fast for me and the heat of the day.

The third 5 km she did at 6:49 min/km, equivalent to 4:48 marathon. As I said before, my mistake was keeping up with her. After the first couple of km I should have said to myself, "Sod this for a game of soldiers. It's too fast. I'll drop back and plod at my own pace". Emotionally though, the pace runner was my lifeline, to drop back I felt I would be all on my own, no support.

This is me in the yellow baseball cap just behind the pace runner at 7 miles, near to the Cutty Sark.

People say how great the London Marathon is, what a wonderful day, how much they enjoy running it, a fantastic event. For me it was a horrible day. All I saw was the heels of the pace runner, all I felt was discomfort as I ran too fast. I was mostly oblivious to the crowds, I did a few high fives but mostly didn't have the energy to spare to acknowledge the shouts of encouragement from the crowds.

The organisation of the marathon is fantastic however not so good if you have to drop out. It took ages for Mary to find me and a nightmare to retrieve my bag of belongings.

At the end of the day my sentiment was "If today were a fish I would have thrown it back".

So what are the positives?
  • Money is being raised for a worthy cause.
  • I suppose I must be fitter (but I don't feel any different). 
  • I now know the answer to the question I posed three years ago, "How hard can it be to run a marathon?".

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Catfish and Zoe Schwarz Blue Commotion at the Half Moon

Putney, London. Sunday 25-March-2018.

We have wanted to see Catfish again since since we saw them at the Great British Rock and Blues Festival 2017. But their tours dates and our peregrinations never seemed to coincide until now. Quick! Tickets booked and table reserved for pre-gig dining.

I was visiting Mum that afternoon and arriving just in time. The joys of modern technology: Mary texted me a photo of the menu so I could choose while I was still on the train and she could order so that my food was ready as I was walking in the door.

The format was an hour from each band. Catfish were as excellent as last time.

Then Zoe Schwarz and her band on for the second set.

Matt Long, lead guitarist with Catfish, joined Blue Commotion for a couple of songs before the venue's curfew kicked in.

As ever at this venue I am amazed that you can get two hours of excellent live music for a tenner. I tell you I don't get the economics of being a musician. The venue is small and I doubt there were 60 people in the room. Subtract the overheads, room hire, etc. then divided by the number of musicians it can scarcely be a living wage.

Maybe they get a percentage of the bar takings? Unlike New Orleans, not even a tip jar. However they do sell a fair few CD's so that must help. We bought Catfish's CD, we could have bought it online but we prefer to buy direct from up and coming bands like this.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

NOLA '18

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. Thursday 15 to Saturday 24-March-2018

New Orleans is without a doubt my favourite American city.

When our friends Tim and Sarah came to visit last year Tim revealed over breakfast that he was going to celebrate his 60th birthday with a trip to New Orleans, their first time. The trip was paid for with air miles and an AMEX two-for-one companion voucher.

Unbeknownst to me, Mary had her iPhone out under the table and was checking our air miles balance and reward flight availability. She held out the phone to me and I nodded. "Would you like us to join you?", we enquired. They were delighted. And so it came to pass. We booked into the same hotel where we stayed on our very first visit, Le Richelieu, and the first booker recommended the second so we got a few dollars off.

Fast forward six months...

As we had been to New Orleans three times previously we were able to make suggestions and recommendations, revisiting places that we knew and discovering some new ones.

Thursday 15-March-18.

After the journey and impending jet lag we kept lunch simple at the French Market Cafe, a beer at the Crescent City Brewhouse and a bit of a rest.

That evening we were off to the Palm Court Jazz Cafe for supper and music. We had booked way back and were expecting to see Tim Laughlin but unfortunately he had diary clash that evening and so was not appearing. Still we had a good time and rebooked for his next appearance which was while we were still in NOLA.

Friday 16-March-2018.

We did a wander around the French Quarter to get Tim and Sarah oriented.

Preservation Hall: music venue for trad jazz, possibly overrated.

Madame John’s Legacy: A claimant to being the oldest building in New Orleans.

A riverfront street car.

Local delicacy.

Being Paddy's Day on Saturday there was already a lot of green being worn and two Paddy's Day parades, one on this Friday and another on the Saturday. We watched the parade and acquired some green beads to wear tomorrow.

That evening we were off to Frenchman Street on the edge of the French Quarter for an excellent supper at a new discovery, Marigny Brasserie, and then to DBA's to listen to the Honey Island Swamp Band who play "bayou americana" style.

Saturday 17-March-2018.

We took the streetcar out to the Garden District and picked a self-guided walking tour leaflet from Commander's Palace. We then proceeded to walk our little legs off looking at all the lovely old buildings. Supper at the previously visited EAT New Orleans.

Sunday 18-March-2018.

Lots of street music on the Sunday include a surprise appearance by a visiting band. They mingled in with the crowd and even invited the bride from a hen party to join the band. I couldn't help noticing the cheerful disregard for the "Church Quiet Zone" notice.

We chanced upon the lovely Kingfish cocktail bar during happy hour and so had to stay for two. Then off to NOLA restaurant, one of New Orlean's finest.

Monday 19-March-2018.

A swamp tour in high on the list of things to do in NOLA.


Racoon aka Trash Panda.

Cypress trees

Feral pigs

After all that eco tourism it was time for culinary tourism at another of NOLA's finest restaurants, K Paul's Louisiana Kitchen.

Tuesday 20-March-2018.

As I was in training fo the London Marathon I couldn't relax even on holiday. Up early thanks to the time difference and a quick half marathon before breakfast!

My route was out along the Saint Charles streetcar line, a circuit of Audubon Park and back to the hotel. The guy in the tourist office had suggested St Charles Avenue. What I had not realised was that joggers ran along the tracks, facing oncoming trolley cars of course, and would jump sideways when a car passed their way. So I did the same.

Then a relatively quiet day of tourism starting with coffee and beignets at Café Du Monde.

That evening happy hour at Kingfish cocktail bar again then back to Marigny Brasserie for a meal with live music.

Wednesday 21-March-2018.

New Orleans School of Cooking demonstration.

There were tastings but still room for more so we went for a late lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. - boiled shrimps, not sophisticated dining but filling.

Free blues concert in Lafayette Square.

Free classical concert in St Louis Cathedral.

Supper in Orleans Grapevine wine bar.

Thursday 22-March-2018.

Cycling madness as we hired bikes with no gears and no brakes and went for long cycle along the levee.

We were out for four and a half hours and cycled 32 miles. On the way back we passed through the Garden District for another look at the lovely architecture.

Friday 23-March-2018.

Tim and Sarah went off to visit the World War II museum while we had a quiet day by the hotel pool.

Back to the Palm Court Jazz Cafe to see Tim Laughlin and excellent seats as we had booked reasonably in advance.

Saturday 24-March-2018.

Then off to the airport and home. Boo!

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

North Italy Wine and Food at Philglas and Swiggot

Battersea, London. Wednesday 07-March-2018.

A more modest food and wine tasting after the previous night's tasting. The fourth Italian tasting in three weeks. In our rush to get the bus home I left my tasting notes and pen in the shop. When I realised literally a couple of minutes later and ran back the shop it was already shut up and by the next morning both notes and pen were gone! Fortunately Mary still had the list even if not with tasting notes; the stars indicate Mary's rankings.

Presented by Michelle Cherutti-Kowal, a Mistress of Wine, this was an excellent tasting that gave us a chance to try a number of new-to-us grape varieties and wines. Here is what I remember of the wines:

  • The Fratelli Berlucchi was a very pleasant sparkling.
  • Pieropan is an old favourite that we always enjoy, this was no exception.
  • The two nebbiolo based wines showed well.
  • The Tommasi Amarone was nectar in a glass, delicious.

The food was antipasti of salumi and cheeses followed by a pasta with rabbit ragu from Osteria - Antica Bologna next door. A good hearty winter meal.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Fontodi Chianti Classico Wine Dinner at Planet of the Grapes

Bow Lane, London. Tuesday 06-March-2018

Sometime you go to a wine tasting event and lose your notes. That happened twice to me this week; this is the first. So all I am left with is a hazy recollection of a splendid meal present by the suave Signore Manetti himself, all Italian charm and a fund of stories about the estate and his family. Much more interesting than what you read on the back label.

Update 25-April-2018: found my tasting notes. C=colour,  A=aroma, P=Palate. Not worth transcribing. They are really only memory joggers for me and this long after the event not of much use. I would only highlight the Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ‘Vigna del Sorbo’ 2014 as the wine of the evening for me. It also does show the prices these wines can command.

Below is the blurb provided by POTG and the menu.

2018 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the year that the Manetti family purchased the derelict estate in Panzano's Conca d'Oro (or golden shell); a natural amphitheater in the heart of Chianti's original 'Classico' zone. In that time Fontodi has risen to become one of the undisputed stars of the region, and Fontodi's wines are considered benchmarks for all of Tuscany.

Fontodi's owner; the legendary Giovanni Manetti, will be at Planet of the Grapes Bow Lane to talk us through the history and philosophy of his estate, and to guide us through a stunning line-up of his wines; including two vintages of his flagship Flaccianello.


On Arrival
Crispy Clams & Arancini with lemon & chilli
‘Meriggio’ Sauvignon Blanc 2016

1st Course
Pasta fresca, porcini & tartufo nero
Chianti Classico 2014
Chianti Classico ‘Filetta di Lamole’ 2014

2nd Course
Rabbit, fennel salami, lentils & caramelised carrot
Chianti Classico Gran Selezione ‘Vigna del Sorbo’ 2014

3rd Course
Char grilled sirloin ‘Fiorentina’, rosemary potatoes & greens
‘Flaccianello della Pieve’ 2013 (from magnum)
'Flaccianello della Pieve’ 2014

Dessert Course
Stef’s world famous Paris Brest
Vin Santo del Chianti Classico 2007

Now that is what I called a meal - fantastic food and matching wines. Hic!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wine Wednesday at Unwined - Central Italy

Tooting Market, London. Wednesday 28-February-2018

Like buses. Nothing for ages then two wine tastings come along all at once. After last Wednesday's tasting here we are again back at Unwined in Tooting. This time all Italian wines from central Italy:

Falesco Vitiano : Grechetto : 2016 : Umbria : ITA £13.50
Cantina Orsogna : Pecorino : 2016 : Abruzzo : ITA £16.00
Villa Cialdini : Lambrusco Grasparossa : 2016 : Emilia Romagna : ITA £16.50
Vincola Carassanse : Montepulciano/Sangiovese : 2016 : Marche : ITA £11.50
Isole e Olena : Sangiovese/Canaiolo/Syrah : 2014 : Chianti Classico : ITA £26.00
Antonio Camillo Morellino di Scansano : Sangiovese : 2016 : Maremma : ITA £16.00

For a change Laura decided to play a 2, 1, 1, 2 formation, the inverse of last week:
  • First an A-B comparison of two white grapes, Grechetto vs Pecorino
  • Then a curve ball with the Lambrusco
  • Next the first of three Sangiovese based reds
  • Finally an A-B comparison of two Tuscan reds
The Grechetto very pale yellow with apple on the nose. On the palette it was like unripe cooking apples. Way too tart for me but Mary liked it. Or "crisp" as Laura euphemistically called it in marketing speak. Depends on one's personal taste. Me, I don't like sharp wines; Mary's Sauvignon Blancs are safe from my depredations.

The Pecorino is one of Mary's favourites. Also pale yellow and I got something a bit tropical on the nose. Tastewise an improvement on the Grechetto moving from cookers to Granny Smiths, Mary got white peaches, with a fuller, creamier texture than the first.

Poor old Lambrusco has had a bit of a bad rep. in the past but this is a proper example of the quality end of the style. Purple in colour, frizzante and raspberry, almost bubblegum on the nose. Red fruits on the palate, cherry and strawberry, and some tannins. It went very well with the parmigiano reggiano that Laura supplied to taste with this.

Then on to the reds...

The Vincola Carassanse was a very intense red, you couldn't see your fingers the other side of the glass; there was a hint of brick at the edge. I didn't get much in the nose but it was a bit nippy and the reds were possibly a little too cold to show as well as they could.

Tooting Market may be an indoor market but there are no doors and it was below freezing outside; the space heaters kept off the worst of the chill but we all kept our coats on.

The last pair were not dissimilar to each other. The Isole e Olena was ruby colour, showing some tertiary aromas, a hint of cedar, and some tannins. The Morellino was a murky ruby with tertiary notes of leather and sottobosco, and more pronounced tannins. Both lovely and a show of hands was fairly equally divided. They definitely need to go with food. Some Tuscan wild boar salami would be lovely.

There was some discussion about the Super Tuscans: an unofficial category of Tuscan wines, not recognised within the Italian wine classification system. It reminded me of when Mary and I went to San Gimignano and found some Ornellaia at an unmissable price. We snapped up six bottles and then had to buy a extra wheely case to bring them home. Ever since then it has been known as "The Italian Case"