Monday, 29 June 2015

Brother, can you spare a dime?

I love the Greeks. I always have done.

They have - up until now - been proud, independent and virtually self-sufficient.

They created philosophy and the concept of social harmony and cohesion, even before the Romans.

The Nazis fucked them over in WW2, and so did us Brits. They have always been at the arse-end of Europe - at least Turkey were our traditional enemies.

What has happened to them? The same as happened to the rest of the world.

Some bastards lent them money in the full knowledge that they would be incapable of paying it back should anything go wrong, and it has gone wrong. This unscrupulous financial practice is identical to what has caused the other, main crash in the rest of Europe.

Ok, the more successful amongst them have not been too keen on paying taxes, but how do they compare with all those U.S. and other multi-national corporations who do the same but milk the system?

Their only hope is that - with the collapse of the Greek Euro - the stock markets around the world will take a hit they cannot afford to take as well.

Shame, shame, shame.

Drawbridge mentality

I woke up this morning with a very bad feeling about the immediate future. I hope I feel a bit more positive later on. Surely it could not be possible to let the whole of Greece slowly starve to death in this day and age? When New York City declared itself to be bankrupt, everyone just carried on as normal, so I assume that all debts were just wiped off and Wall Street started afresh the next morning.

It wasn't that long ago when every bad thing that happened here was blamed on the Dutch. The world has become a lot smaller since then. Even farmers are no longer able to earn an honest day's pay for an honest day's work.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Mardle Pudding

Mark Rasdall

I'm thinking about food today. I know there are a lot of blogs which think about little else, and I know that weekends are the time when thousands of Brits set aside hours to think about it, read about it and paw over virtually pornographic photographs of it, but last night I dusted some meat with a blend of spices from Araby, the results were marvellous for the effort involved.

Also, there has just been a radio program about catering in the Houses of Parliament which listed the hundreds of animals, birds, fish and obscure parts thereof, served to the guests at Coronation banquets. I have been cynically wondering if this particular program was deliberately timed to taunt all devout Moslems in G.B. who are currently denying themselves even water between sunrise and sunset - a rather petty form of revenge for not being lax Christians?

Our pub has just started serving home-made and outdoor-cooked burgers on Saturday afternoons, beginning at 2.00 pm - just after lunchtime. This is so Bell, and I think that the main reason that they are not offered earlier is that the chef cannot be bothered to get out of bed in time to make them for lunch. This sounds a harsh thing to accuse him of, but really it is said with fond affection. The Bell would not be The Bell if it was staffed with efficient early risers, and I much prefer going in there when the bar staff are more pissed than I am.

The burger menu consists of a meat and a vegetarian option. The meat is described as having 'scorched' coriander with it. I can't think of how you cook a burger on a griddle without scorching the coriander, so maybe this is the cook putting a positive spin on an inevitable outcome. "That coriander looks a bit burnt. I know, I'll call it 'scorched coriander'!"

Restaurants have all but stopped using silly descriptions of food presentation these days - a few years ago, an egg could not simply sit on top of a pile of spinach, it had to be 'nestled on a bed' of it. Meat could not be just grilled, it had to be 'seared'. You could not pour olive oil on anything, it had to be 'drizzled'.

Somewhere, out there on the Cambridgeshire fens, a restaurant will forever exist (if you can find it) called 'Warwick's'. Staffed by a highly dysfunctional and disparate group of people, this family-run business serves every type of local produce except eel. There is a curse on eels associated with the area which precludes them from the menu.

The last I heard of them was that they had just discovered the recipe for the legendary Mardle Pudding, written on an old bit of paper stuffed behind the frame of an ancient painting hanging on the wall over the fireplace of a lonely and isolated pub.

Mardle Pudding is the culinary equivalent of The Funniest Joke in the World - once tasted, never forgotten. Whole lives have been changed and even ruined in the eating of it.

I often consider driving all the way to the fens to try and find Warwick's, but I am not sure if I would have the courage to order the Mardle Pudding - assuming that they have been foolhardy enough to actually make it.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Another quiet Christian

An edited transcript of a phone conversation I had with a very old and very good friend, not 10 minutes ago:

"Mr Allinson. It's Mr Bushell." (My usual greeting)

"Mr Bushell! How lovely to hear you, Dear Boy. How are you?"

"I am fine, thank you. How are you?"

"I am croaking. This will be the last time we speak to each other, I think." (I come clean about prior knowledge)

"Yes, so I heard. Remind me what it is again?"

"Lung cancer, but I am extremely fortunate. I am in no pain and the doctor says that I will just not wake up one morning."

"Which morning will that not be, have you any idea?"

"Two to three weeks, I think. Emma has just left. I am so fortunate to have the children living close by. How's Jackie?"

"Oh, she's fine, thanks. She's out just now, otherwise I would hand you over."

"How's things in Bath? How's Rupert?"

"He died about 4 years ago, followed about 6 months later by Sheila."

"Oh, did he? Did she? How's Robbie?"

"He died too. Emphysema. That was about 3 years ago."

"Ah. How's Jeff from The Yellow Shop?"

"He's fine, but his mother died 2 weeks ago." (Jeff is almost 70)

"Ah. Some stupid cancer research charity contacted me the other day, and said that with the right funding, they could eradicate cancer in a matter of years. Then where will we be? We've got to die of something, and I am 83. I don't think many people will be coming to my send-off."

"You might be surprised if you were around to witness it."

I remember all those days and nights in the Paragon Wine Bar, the loves and arguments, the friends overseas who still hanker after those days, but - surprisingly - I do not feel sad. I feel almost as fortunate as Colin seems to.

"Anyway, Dear Boy, lovely to hear from you, but I am getting tired now so I have to go. I will get Emma to call you to let you know when I die. Goodbye. God bless."


I didn't tell him I loved him, but maybe - hopefully - I didn't have to.


Good job I am not planning to go down to Pilton Farm today. I have been at home with a painful and disfiguring illness for the last couple of days, and I think it is going to take the rest of the weekend to get over it.

Everyone says how corporate the Glastonbury Festival has become over the last 15 years, but hasn't everything? The lot who went to the very first one (of which I am one) are now around 65-70 years old and run corporations. They still go, leaving their adult children and grandchildren behind. The rot set in when they first installed cash-points there, and a a group of armed robbers turned up from Bristol to empty them.

I have to admit to very fleeting pangs of FOMO (fear of missing out) every year around the Solstice though, but they don't last long. It is the biggest party in the world, after all.

The worst thing is the sudden appearance of strange bar-staff in the pub. They are - like me - the sort of people who are not interested in big parties, and they are - also like me - rather boring to hang around with for too long. I sometimes like big parties, but only in small doses.

The Dalai Lama is making a guest appearance there this year, I have heard. I (along with about 500,000 other people in Somerset) wouldn't mind meeting him for a quick chat and maybe a little blessing thrown in at the end of it.

It is so long ago now, that I cannot remember who exactly I borrowed the Triumph 500cc Twin from to ride down to Pilton Farm. I think it may have been Simon F. I do remember the owner being a little miffed when I returned it with a burnt-out clutch though. I hate clutches, which is why all my cars have had automatic gear boxes for the last 20 years.

All the way there - from Surrey - the speedometer told me I was travelling at 30 MPH, even when not moving at all. My freshly pregnant girlfriend was riding pillion, which is possibly why the clutch burnt out. I was accused of trying to induce a miscarriage by the girl I had just been to Scotland with, before I learned of the pregnancy at all.

At the top, main entrance to the Pilton festival site, there was a police barrier, which they called 'Checkpoint Charlie'. I managed to persuade the coppers there to let me down to the field whilst still on the motorcycle, using the pregnancy as an excuse. She was, I insisted, in a sort of itinerant confinement.

Whilst one copper radioed through to the lower checkpoint, another motorcycle-riding policeman gave my bike the once-over, staring at the speedo which read 30 MPH. He tapped the glass with his knuckle, but the needle stayed in the same position.

"It broke about 10 miles back," I lied.

"Oh really?" He was obviously not convinced.

I actually parked the bike right up against the main stage - unthinkable these days - and having taken a brief look around, decided I hated it and wanted to go home right then. I lost the girlfriend as soon as I parked though, and didn't find her again until dawn, having spent the night in a brown paper bag. She had run off to get some free food from the Hare Krishna lot, and she ate for two.

If you know what to do, it is quite possible to ride a motorcycle without using the clutch for as long as you want - in this case, about 150 miles. Red traffic lights can be a bit of a problem, but there were far fewer in those days.

Ok, I will admit to watching Dolly Parton pretending to play instruments via catch-up last year, and I expect I will sneak a look at whoever is headlining this year too.

Who is headlining?

Thursday, 25 June 2015

From Spring to Winter without anything in between

Europe - as a social marketing concept - is going down the toilet.

Right from the start it was an economic carve-up, and the golden blend of arms-dealers and global bankers who saw a unique opportunity to make a very fast and very quick buck by moving into several oil-rich companies for humanitarian reasons, have brought all the chickens home. Our home.

Poor old Italy, and poor old Calais, having to fend-off all those refugees from the oil-rich zones which are now being occupied by the Islamic State armies, now that we cannot afford to wage any serious war against them.

Poor old Greece (the people, not the shipping magnates) having to ask Germany for another bail-out, and poor old Germany for having to fulfil their promises about unification all those years ago.

It ought to be a good thing that G.B. has not signed up to the Euro, but those bankers are not going to go down without dragging everyone else with them.

What a shitty, stinking mess, and I defy anyone to say otherwise and be believed.

Every politician involved in the latest round of talks is talking sense. Why? Because there is nothing left to be talked.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015


When I hit what I call the bottom, I think of others who have gone a fuck sight deeper than me.

Tonight I am counting my blessings, by which I mean that I am making imaginary comparisons with imagined others, whose circumstances I can only imagine.

John has put up a load of crucifixion images which relate to the abuse - in one way or another - of children. The artist is from Cuba, a country which, for the last 50 years or so, has not been known for its sympathy toward Christians, homosexuality, or anything else which could be seen to fly in the face of the revolutionary father's vision of society.

I keep finding out that some of the most extraordinary, ordinary, bog-standard people I know just happen to be quiet Christians.

I could name them and you would recognise their names, but - what the hell - what difference would it make?

You don't have to be a church-goer to have Christian values, and you don't even have to be a Christian either.

Don't worry, I am not turning into a God-botherer.