Monday 31 December 2007

Looking Back

As I sit here at my computer on New Year’s Eve, eating a bag of Fair Trade Bombay mix, and drinking a bottle of Nicholas Feuillatte Champagne, I’m trying to think of something clever to write to sum up 2007. Not sure why I’m not drinking ale, and I’m failing miserably on the summing up. The year 2007 wasn’t a fantastic year for me, although there were probably more good times than I can possibly remember. We had a great holiday in Alsace. The lady got a much more interesting and better-paid job. And there were a number of nice outings and weekends away. To counteract that some shit happened; I was diagnosed with skin cancer, and we have so far failed to sell the house (with very little prospect of a sale in the near future), so no move to Norwich just yet. Bugger.

Quite by accident, I’ve just come across an article about the New Forest, on the website of The Boston Globe. I am immediately transported back to my childhood. I was probably about 10 or 11 and we had embarked on our first camping holiday. We were headed for Dorset. It was in the days before many major motorways, and so to avoid a lot of traffic, and being in the school holidays, it had been decided that we would travel overnight. We stopped for a few hours passed London, and all five of us tried to get some sleep. Mum and Dad managed some, but it was impossibility for excited children. After the early hours catnap we hit the road again, just as dawn was breaking. I could make a smutty joke about ‘the crack of Dawn’ at this juncture, but rest assured readers I’ll not bother. It was breakfast time as we came upon the edge of the New Forest. Our stomachs were rumbling. Time to stop. In this age of Health & Safety etc. etc. it’s probably not allowed, but on that morning Dad got out the Primus stove, started pumping away at it, lit it, and proceeded to fry up. Sausages, eggs and bacon in the New Forest. Mother busily buttered bread, or was it rolls? I can’t quite remember. I suppose it’s why barbecues are so popular, as you can’t beat the experience of food cooked and eaten out of doors. It assaults all of the senses. I’m sure in terms of what someone like Heston Blumenthal does it was very mediocre fare, but to a little lad on his first experience of a camping breakfast, it was the best meal I’d ever had. Still today I would say that it was certainly the best breakfast I’d ever eaten; Great smell, great taste, priceless atmosphere and beautiful surroundings. The memory of the smell, the air and the early morning dew on the leaves and plants will I hope never leave me.

I’ve looked a bit further back than just the past year. Thank you The Boston Globe for jogging my memory.

Monday 24 December 2007

Saturnalia I presume

Whenever you hear the phrase ‘political correctness gone made’ you know very well that it’s a hoax with no or very little basis of truth and the flames of this outrage (driven invariably by bigotry and xenophobia) usually being fanned by the likes of the Daily Mail. This sort of Neanderthal thinking always raises its ugly head at this time of year, when normal right thinking people who dare to describe the period around the winter solstice as anything other than Christmas get labelled as p.c. nutters.
As an atheist, I use the term Christmas along with a number of other labels to describe this time of year. My personal favourite is Yuletide because I just happen to like the way it sounds. But I wouldn’t care if the word Christmas were banned from common usage. Festivities in aid of the Winter solstice have been around a lot longer than the notion of monotheistic delusions about worshipping a magic man with a beard. So quite frankly I don’t give a shit what people call it, as long as they don’t call it the holiday season or holidays. Holidays are what you go away for when you take time off work. Often somewhere warm, but not exclusively. Holidays ain’t fucking Christmas!

The Daily Mail squad, in a hang-up from Victorian times, are so morally and probably sexually repressed that they can’t cope with anything that challenges social conventions that owe their ancestry to the time when ‘we were not amused’.

Thursday 20 December 2007

Bring back hanging for everyone

I think that the Kenny Richey case is a perfect example of why on a practical level the death penalty is totally and utterly wrong. Apparently there was an occasion when he was an hour away from being executed before being given a reprieve. Surely there is no justification for executing an innocent, or even possibly innocent, person. One of the many things that the American right-wing red-necks and Daily Mail readers have in common is that they confuse Justice with Revenge. Justice is only justice when the higher and pure moral ground is taken. State murder is just as wrong as murder by an individual. What right has any person to take the life of another? If you say ‘none’ then you are arguing against the death penalty. If you say ‘some’ or ‘plenty’ then you are saying that murder is acceptable, therefore why are you making it as a crime and one punishable by death at that?

For those of a religious disposition, who believe in a creator god, to take the life of anyone is a blasphemy. You are setting yourself up as an equal to your god. From what I know of the mainstream religions it’s not the done thing. For those of us that don’t need the crutch that is religion, but care about humanity, it would be hypocritical to preach that something is wrong and then go and do the self same thing. Legitimising it under the framework of law doesn’t make it any more justifiable, or any less abhorrent. And for those a little more intellectually challenged (Sun readers etc.), two wrongs don’t make a right!

As I write this blog, Kenny Richey is apparently quite ill it would be a bitter irony indeed if he did not make it to become a free man.

Sunday 16 December 2007

I suspect I'm Compo

On Friday night I met up with my two oldest friends for a drink and a meal. One of them, my best friend from school, I had not seen for nearly two years, although we had chatted on the telephone during that period. There were lots of things to catch up on, so we all had much to say over our very mediocre meal. I can't remember exactly how it came up, but I think we were talking about concerts, plays, shows etc. that we had seen and were going to see, my best friend from school said, I don't really like comedy". I was quite shocked by this. How can you not like comedy? In our youth we tried to write comedy scripts together. All rejected by the BBC I might add. He was a big fan of The Goons, The Good Life and Woody Allen. What he went on to clarify was that he didn't like comedy nowadays and thus had stopped watching or listening to any of it.

As far as I'm concerned three of the most important things in life are music, ale and comedy. Life without them would be most unpleasant; culturally inert. For the weak willed it might be enough for them to turn to religion. Not my friend though as he's a vicar in the C of E. And despite the fact that he goes to cricket matches, ballet, Katie Melua concerts and drinks lager he's still a great bloke and remains a good friend. I think the friendship between the three of us has survived because we all enjoy taking the piss out of each other, knowing that we can all take it. And whilst we do not all share the same interests, we have enough overlapping ones to make it a viable and sustaining trio. We also share vaguely similar political views.

In our earlier adulthood I often used to suggest that we would end up like Compo, Clegg and Foggy out of Last Of The Summer Wine. We could never agree on who would be who!

Compo, Foggy & Clegg

Saturday 8 December 2007

Holiday Season

What the fuck is the ‘holiday season’?
I know one thing, it isn't now. The holiday season is all year round as people take holidays all year round! I suppose typically people take the majority of their holidays in the summertime, although winter breaks have become a lot more popular. So there you have it the holiday season is all year. So unless you want to show yourself up as the wanker you possibly are, stop using the wretched term.

Sunday 2 December 2007


This week's news on the housing market told us what we already knew; houses just ain't selling at the moment. Our house has been on the market since the beginning of September. It is in what we know to be 'a desirable part of town'. Yet we have only had four viewings. I'm not a big lover of estate agents, I think you pay an awful lot for not a lot, but I feel confident that our current agents have worked as hard if not harder than most around. There seems to be a lack of confidence, first time buyers seem to have gone away. Consequently the market is stagnating. The time of year now doesn't help either. I suspect it could well be summer before we get to move to Norwich. Oh well!

Sunday 25 November 2007

Neither were Gerald

I've agonised about whether or not I should write about the following subject. I've been concerned that it might be seen as looking for sympathy. I can assure you that I'm not. I'm writing about the following because I want to raise awareness.

Nothing can prepare you for being told that you have cancer. When you are first told it's a tremendous shock. You feel numb. It brings home to you that you are indeed mortal. My lady had been getting on at me (in a nice way) to get a two-coloured mole that I had on my arm checked out by the doctor. Eventually I did. It wasn't my normal doctor that I saw, but one at the practice who I think is close to retirement. He pronounced that “it is probably nothing to worry about”, but arranged for me to have it removed a week later by my doctor. I don't really believe in omens, but as I walked down to the doctors the following week for my surgery, a wasp flew into my face, landed on my lip, and as I brushed it away the bastard stung me. There I was lying on the operating chair with a fat lip while a piece of me was being removed. It didn’t look or feel good.

A week later, I returned to have the stitching/wound examined, being told by the nurse that it was healing up nicely. Indeed it healed up to what looked like quite a nice little scar. About three weeks later I got home from work to find a message on our answer phone from my doctor asking me to ring him. My heart sank. I knew exactly why he had rung. He told me that the tests on the mole that he had removed had shown that it was a superficial melanoma. He was going to refer me to a skin specialist at the hospital. The appointment at the hospital revealed that I would need to have more skin removed from my arm where the melanoma had been to see if there was any more cancer present. After an inspection of my torso it was decided that I was also to have a mole removed from my face. Two separate operations. I also had my initial wound and two moles photographed with measurement stickers stuck on me prior to being snapped.

The first operation at the hospital was to have the extra skin removed from my arm. It was quite a hefty cut, which now it has healed, looks like an act of desperation where I've tried to slit my wrist at some point in the past. Thankfully when the results came back there had been no more cancer found. But there was still the matter of the mole on my face. This was quite a painful experience. The doctor was very good. After lots of grinning and general face making he took his pen to my face and mapped out the incision he would finally make. I think the pain was mainly due to the blood vessels and nerve ending on your face being close to the surface. Or something like that. It started to heal up nicely and will hopefully blend into my face quite well. My only hope was that I didn't have to have more surgery.

Yesterday a letter arrived from the consultant. I wanted to know the results but at the same time I was somewhat apprehensive. I was so overjoyed when it said that the second mole was benign and that no further treatment was required. Words cannot explain the relief I felt!

I would urge anyone that has either two-coloured or odd shaped moles about their person to go see their doctor. I'm so glad I did!

the mole that is no more

Tuesday 13 November 2007

Join the R&B Liberation Front Today

Have you noticed that in your local record shop slushy soul ballads and sugary 'black' pop music is being wrongly categorised as 'R&B' or ‘RnB’? Radio stations are also referring to it by that genre. R&B or more correctly Rhythm and Blues is music with a driving rhythm and back beat akin to rock n roll. Watered down soul it ain’t!

We call upon the faithful to gird your loins and join us in Musical Direct Action
Something I've started to do and I urge others to do the same, make a stand, and join our guerrilla war. Go into your local record shop, surreptitiously remove non RnB from that category on the shelf, and place it in a more relevant section, unfortunately shops tend not to have a section marked 'shite' so my suggestion is 'easy listening'. Next deposit real R&B in its rightful place.

If there is enough of a groundswell we might actually get record shops and the music business in general to stop using this misnomer. And even if it doesn't you've at least got the consolation of knowing that you've irritated and confused some spotty Herbert in the record shop. It’s got to be worth doing just for that.

Join us brothers and sisters. R&B needs you in its darkest hour. Help stop the misery of hapless yoof wandering around dazed, confused and under the misapprehension that worthless acts like Beyonce, Lemar, Mary J. Bilge and Nas are Rhythm and Blues. Let’s restore the true meaning, as personified by George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Dr Feelgood, The Pirates, Muddy Waters, Fats Domino, Dr John, Long John Baldry, Elmore James, Bo Diddley, Big Joe Turner, Chuck Berry, The Yardbirds and early Rolling Stones to name but a few.

Write letters of complaint. Get moving those CDs today. You know it makes sense

Thursday 8 November 2007

Can I get?

They are just three little words. Sometimes they are preceded or followed by please, but not always. So why do they irritate so?

I’ll set the scene. You are in a restaurant, the waiter or waitress comes to your table and asks you if you are ready to order. You open your mouth, and you start the sentence with, "please can I get". What is the waiter or waitress supposed to think? Is the customer after their job? The response to the poor unfortunate retard should be that it is the job of the waiting staff to serve the customer, therefore it is the waiting person that ‘gets’. Only in a self-service establishment does the customer ‘get’. Besides customers going and getting their food from the kitchen probably contravened health and hygiene laws.

In the unlikely event that someone who uses the phrase "can I get" reads this. I say unlikely because it is the phrase of an illiterate. The correct way to ask for something from a person that is going to serve you is "please could I have" or "please may I have".

"Can I get?” A hanging offence if ever there was one!

Thursday 1 November 2007

David Cameron Ate My Hamster

He didn't really, but I expect he will do equally nasty things to this country when he gets to Nº 10. Yes Nº 10, for it is my fear that Labour is going to lose the next election. It is so painful watching the government just piss things away like they seem to be doing. Apparently today would have been the day of the election that never happened.

Come on Gordon, get a grip, or we are fucked!

P.S. never trust the Tories with the economy because they'll take some for themselves and give the rest to their mates.

Sunday 28 October 2007

North/South Divide

The North/South divide is essentially an invention of hacks that never venture beyond the M25. Those London centric pontificators of the unreal. This article in the Observer has irritated me no end.

The first point to make is there is no clear divide. North merges into south in many ways over various geographical locations.
Apparently "The new line, devised by Danny Dorling, professor of human geography at the University of Sheffield, is based on a number of more recent socio-economic developments, including rising house prices, increased life expectancy and voting patterns.". Bollocks ! There is no way that it can ever be that clear cut. How does the saying go, "Lies, damn lies and statistics" ?

Academics know that if they present this sort of stuff it will be published, and journalists love to write about and print it. It is effectively mutual masturbation.

I’ve got news for Prof. Dorling and hack Day. There are two other significant points on the compass, and I live in one of them. The East. It ain’t North and it ain’t South. I suspect that those in the West Country get equally pissed off, not to mention inhabitants of the Midlands. I’m sure like their papers, journalists would like life to be black and white, but thankfully it is not.

Thank you and have a nice day.

Thursday 11 October 2007

Matinee Idol

Being born and bred in a brewing town, it’s hard to imagine what life must be like living in a dry area, e.g. a remote village without a pub. For me it would be a horror of horrors. Equally as bad, and very much a reality for me, is living in a town without a record shop.

A year ago Bury St Edmunds had an MVC and a Fopp. Then MVC went into receivership. Fopp bought MVC. Fopp went into receivership. Result - droves of portly, balding middle-aged blokes, desperately trying to hang on to their misspent youth and not the spare cash in their pockets, bereft of a refuge on a shopping trip to town. Now I know that you can just about get any CD on the internet, and I have in fact made purchases this way, but it ain’t the same as rifling through racks in a shop. Rifling and wondering, "have I got this album on vinyl or CD" or thinking, "this looks interesting, I might give that a go". The only choice, if choice is really the word, is now Woolworth or Tesco with all the limitations that that implies.

I’m a great lover of rock-a-boogie music sung in a British regional accent. Arctic Monkeys and The Proclaimers being two obvious example exponents of this fine art. But for the last few months I’ve been champing at the bit awaiting the release of Jack Peñate’s debut album Matinee. My biggest worry was, "where am I going to get it from ?". Release date had been advertised as 2/10/07. Came the day and I went in search, but alas my search was fruitless. I searched subsequent days, still nothing. After the weekend I discovered that the release date had been delayed by about a week. Got me greasy mitts on it yesterday. Fan-bloody-tastic ! If you’re not familiar with this bright young upstart, then I could probably best describe him as a cross between Mike Sarne, Billy Bragg and Jamiroquai. Some might even compare him with Paul Weller or Lily Allen. He’s a lively performer who bounces around stage playing a mean guitar. Jack Peñate is rock ‘n’ soul !


Saturday 6 October 2007

Sunday 30 September 2007

Sur le Continent

Last weekend we had a trip to France. It was a quick hop under the channel and a short drive down to the Cote Picarde/Baie de Somme area. It appears to be one of those areas that is bypassed or ignored by the British. Some French friends of ours have a mobile home down there, and we had arranged to meet them for le weekend. I’m sure I’m missing the point but the actual Baie de Somme was not over impressive. It’s obviously a place that is important in natural history terms, although not important enough to stop French hunters being let loose with guns to blast ducks and goodness knows what else to kingdom come. In many respects the bay is not too dissimilar to The Wash, just longer and thinner. Sadly we didn’t go armed with binoculars so we couldn’t see the Phoque.

There are some wonderful little towns near and on the coast, including one called Brighton, which is nothing at all like its namesake in the UK. A mix of sleepy promenades and buzzing bars and restaurants seem to be the order of the day in most of the towns. The weather was gorgeous but surprisingly the people were not in great abundance. It was just so pleasant wandering around.

Fishing is a significant industry on this part of the coast. This means that there are an abundance of fish stalls and fantastic fish restaurants. Saturday night saw us out at a restaurant in Fort Mahon Plage; it is supposedly quite famous throughout France. You can believe it as the food was fantastic. There were also queues outside the door for the second evening sitting. They were turning people away in droves. It was a good job our hosts pre-booked our table. I had Hareng Doux for starter followed by the ubiquitous Moules Frites, the like of which I’d never tasted before, and for pud a couple of dollops that were L’Ile de Flottant. Scrummy.

Me skimming stones

It was a hectic weekend bombing down there and back in such a short space of time. Plus when you get there you don’t want to come home. The journey was helped and made a lot easier by both The Armchair and Thomas Tom. I hope we can return soon.

P.S. Sorry for any French misspellings but I couldn’t be arsed to check the correct ones. Why our closest neighbours haven’t learnt to adopt English yet is beyond me. If the Americans can just about manage it surely the French can!

Tuesday 18 September 2007

Ain't that right boy

This morning as I was driving to work I saw this old boy in a flat cap walking along the road holding a radio close to his face with the aerial up. In the age of the MP3 player, headphones etc. it’s good to see that parts of Norfolk are still in second gear when it comes to the juggernaut that is technology. I can just imagine him saying to a contemporary over a pint in his local hostelry, ‘these new wireless transistor radios are something, only trouble is it makes the Light Programme sound a lot different !’.

Sony ICF38 Portable AM/FM Radio (Black)

Friday 14 September 2007

Are you a beer drinker?

If you’re a beer drinker you might have heard of Michael Jackson. He was to many, a guru and the most famous beer writer in the world. Sadly he died of a heart attack a few weeks back. He had also been suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Alan of A Good Beer Blog is suggesting a world-wide toast to the late Michael Jackson on 30th September and give to a Parkinson's disease charity. This call has been inspired by a national toast to MJ that has been organised in the USA.

The idea is to raise a glass and raise some money for charity. Please click here to read more about Alan’s suggestion.

Please try and organise something in your part of the country. Stonch brings news of something happening in London.

Please support the call. It's your round!

Please pass this on/tell the world about it.

Wednesday 12 September 2007

Brave new world

I know that there is universal disappointment that we still haven't got the rocket packs, protein pills and robot generated infinite leisure time promised during the white heat of technology era. But all the boffins that are out there working on this important stuff need to cease immediately, and get onto an idea that I've just come up with to save the planet.

Climate change is probably the biggest challenge we've ever faced on earth. There's an awful lot of talk above reducing our carbon footprint, but not always the practical solutions. I've come up with a cunning plan to sort the world's energy problems and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels in one fell swoop. I'll explain:

The answer lies with the male gonadicus danglii. It doesn't matter how cold I am there is always one area of my body that is boiling hot, namely the underpants region. Now the science of heat exchange is a well-established one, and so is generating electricity from the process. I also read recently that scientists have successfully transmitted electricity by Wifi. So there we have it, the answer to all our energy problems. All that has to be done is to join those three things up issue all us men in the world with ACDC Wifi Y-Fronts and Bob's your uncle, lashings of electrically (as Catweazle used to say). Sustainable energy, well at least for 5 minutes at a time anyway. Should I patent it ?
Can I retire now ?

Perhaps the title should have been Pubic Service Announcement or How Green is my Valley.

Thursday 6 September 2007

Olive Branch Pub Named 'Michelin Pub Of The Year 2008

Seems like the pub we stayed at early this year has won an award:

Olive Branch Pub Named 'Michelin Pub Of The Year 2008'
Easier - Chester,UK
The Olive Branch & Beech House in Clipsham has been selected as the Michelin Pub of the Year 2008 in Michelin's Eating Out in Pubs guide which is launched ...
click here...

Tuesday 4 September 2007

Vive la Revolución!

I was intrigued by the feature on the Today Programme on Radio 4 this morning about my favourite writer George Orwell. Apparently the government have just released secret service files that they had on him. Now call me an old pedant, but I can’t believe that even our secret service could have been stupid enough to have a file on George Orwell. They probably had one on Eric Blair though. It turns out he wasn’t a threat and/or a communist. Well bugger me; you only have to read his books to work that one out!

I harbour a hope that, languishing somewhere in some dusty corner of mid to late seventies filing, there is a faded dossier containing details about me. After all I went on those ‘troops out’ marches, watched by Special Branch photographers on the roofs of buildings lining the routes. As a member of the Labour Party Young Socialists I help organise a summer school to which we invited and were seen socialising with a Sinn Fein member. I even attended the odd communist party meeting, although I never considered joining them. They were too earnest, too impractical and too fucking irritatingly anal. I also did my fair share of anti-Nazi/anti-racism marches. So I should be most displeased if I ever discovered that I didn’t get a mention somewhere for being a possible threat to national security. If I’m not I shall feel highly cheated. It will mean that I sat though things like endless debates with Militant Tendency devotees for nothing. Actually that’s a lie, as you didn’t debate with Militant Tendency, they were so far down the food chain that they were incapable of rational debate or even thought. They thought what they were told to think and managed to repeat it ad nauseam, and at every opportunity. Oh happy days!

Sunday 2 September 2007

RIP Michael Jackson

I was saddened when I read the news on Friday evening that Michael Jackson had died.

I was weaned on ale, but my tastes were restricted to mainly East Anglian real ale. That was until Channel Four screened Michael’s singular and most excellent series The Beer Hunter in the late Eighties. Or was it early Nineties ? After that I wanted to try as many different beers as I could, particularly Belgian ones.

When we set up the beer shop his Great Beer Guide was our bible for deciding what to stock out of what was available. He was also responsible for liberating many, many people from the idea that it was wine that had the exclusive right to be drunk with food. Beer he taught us was so much more versatile and complimentary towards food than wine could ever be.

Thank you Michael for opening my eyes, and taste buds to the diverse range that is beer. You changed my life !


It’s been a long hard slog but over the last few months but we’ve now managed to get our house onto the market. Two years of setting up and running the beer shop took its toll on the house and us. The house had been used as a storage extension for the shop and had also been neglected in the decorating/DIY stakes.

We’ve de-cluttered, decorated a number of rooms, hacked back the garden and put in a new pond, sold the shop fittings that were filling up our garage after the shop closed and cleaned and tidied the house from top to bottom. Phew !

Now all that has to happen is it being sold. Gulp ! Easier said than done I suspect in today’s climate. Anyway fingers crossed we can sell it and then start seriously looking for a house in Norwich.

Normal blog service should now resume.

Sunday 15 April 2007

Last Weekend

The Olive Branch

We've both not been feeling too well of late so it was good to get away Easter weekend. It was a delayed break that we should have taken at the end of last year but due to personal circumstances we were unable to. We were much looking forward to it.

We were booked into a B&B in Rutland called the Beech House. It is opposite and run by a pub called the Olive Branch in the picturesque hamlet of Clipsham. B& B doesn't really do it justice as it's certainly more luxurious than a four star hotel. It was perfect accommodation.

The Olive branch also has a reputation for food and on the Saturday night it most certainly lived up to its reputation. I had a wonderful mackerel starter, followed by duck, and then we plumped for the cheese board with an amazing red Leicester called Sparkenhoe. Red Leicester to me had always been an okay cheese, but just that. Sparkenhoe is just wow! All this wonderful food was washed down by a very fine Chapel Down 2003 Pinot Noir from Kent. All in all, a bloody good meal.

Sunday night's meal was a bit of a disappointment. The starter was okay, king prawns with a chilli sauce. For the main course I opted for the Olive Branch fish & chips. Not a good choice. I've tasted better from our local 'Chinese' chippy. I think they must have had a different chef on. Never mind I made a very good discovery Bellevue Kriek Beer is an excellent accompaniment to fish, especially fish and chips.

They had three ales on tap while we were there, Fuller's Chiswick 3.5%, Olive Oil 3.6% and Grainstore Ten Fifty 5%. Of course I tried them all! Chiswick is a favourite of mine, as eulogised after my trip to the Norwich Beer festival last year. Olive Oil is the Olive Branches house ale, brewed by Grainstore. A copper coloured ale, a bitter with a good rounded flavour. Grainstore's Ten Fifty is a malty, not too bitter ale, same style but head and shoulders above Old Speckled Hen.

The Olive Branch is a great place to visit. Give it a go.

Beech House