Archive for December, 2006

I am at The Bollo…

I am at The Bollo. It is 8.05 and I feel like a BBC ’embedded’ reporter in a war zone. The mood is tense and expectant. No-one here is sure what is going to happen tonight. Bar crew have been preparing for an influx of drinkers with a precision I was able to witness first hand. I saw the Stella and Champagne bottles being loaded into the shelves. I counted them in..and, later, I will count them out.

We know that there will be a large number of ‘revellers’ appearing later. A Japanese TV reporter I spoke to earlier (a Japanese station appears to be covering the event) told me that he felt they would come over the hill like Zulus…’thousands of ’em’, at about 9.00. In the meantime, we can only wait…

8.25 pm first wave starts…

I am standing at the Bar. In front of me is a small notice board which advertises ‘shots’. We saw the first signs of action a few moment ago… a quick strike… a group of young women drinking pints…

8.45 pm. I have just had a quick drink with Tim Graveney – who popped in for a quick one. He knows about cricket. I shall not, however refer to the cricket, save to report an email (cleaned up slightly) which I received the other day.

A young boy is sitting in class. He looks sad and depressed. The teacher goes over to him and asks “Why are you looking so sad.”

The boy turns to her and says “My dad is a pole dancer in a nightclub.”

The teacher, taken aback, and slightly shocked says “Are you telling the truth?”

“No”, replied the boy “He is playing cricket for England, but I was too embarrassed to tell you that.”

9.00 pm Just a jump to the left.

“It’s astounding
Time is fleeting
Madness takes its toll
But listen closely”

The noise of horns and the crack of crackers is like a Turner painting… a snow storm, a maelstrom….. I can barely think. Smoke rises from the tables and the build up to the ‘shock and awe’ of the New Year has begun…

A man dressed in a corset, high heels and stockings, who appears to be commanding the latest group to secure their position in this West London gastropub, told me that it was only a matter of time to a new world… and that he was watching the position closely. He may have been a Navy Seal.. he may have been SAS. It didn’t matter. He seemed to know what he was doing. I turned to ask him another question… but he had gone…

9.30… the power is waning…

I am still at the Bar… the final waves have arrived. It was precise, almost surgical… It has not been easy to report live from The Bollo… I am getting some unusual looks… my battery is dying… I may be gone for some time…

10.11 pm… Returned to The Staterooms

I left The Bollo a few minutes ago… and have returned to my Staterooms in West London. I was a bit hungry – and was fortunate in finding some cheese in one of my fridges – a Red Leicester.. and some Jacob’s crackers. I had, of course, anticipated eating a three course meal tonight – but… that was not to be. So… Jacob’s crackers and cheese it is!

I am now drinking La Rioja Vina Ardanza 1994 – I had a case of it a short while ago, a gift from a good friend. I don’t appear to have much of the case left. It is delicious…and gives one a clarity of thought and exposition… It reminds me of our European history and how we took many hundreds of years to become democratic – to the point where David Cameron can announce today, that he wants the Conservative Party to represent working people… excellent idea…. wonder why Tony didn’t think of it first.

10.27 pm… Romania and Bulgaria join the EU.

It is highly unlikely that I would, in any other circumstance, have posted on this blog that Romania and Bulgaria have joined the EU. But… I just happened to click the BBC website to find something interesting to read or watch and saw this announcement. I understand, given that H M Government miscalculated the number of Polish emigrants when Poland joined, that we are restricting the right of Bulgarians and Romanians to work in the UK? I may have misread a report along the way. I read the BBC story – but just cannot be bothered to analyse it…. so, if you are minded to do so (to see how strict the EU is going to be with the new entrants and learn about ‘waning enthusiasm’ for expansion – here is the story.)

If you a ‘europhobe’… this map will irritate the hell out of you! Great BBC graphic!

I really am off now… to watch Jools Holland, eat Red Leicester cheese and drink a glass or two or Rioja.. Happy New Year.

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I am delighted to see the back of 2006. Curiously, because of a cock up on arrangements, changes of plans, illness and alcohol abuse – I shall be spending New Year alone… well.. I may go to The Bollo for a few drinks – as I still have my table booked and I will take my laptop and blog from there as the Rioja takes effect.

On the other hand, I may just stay in… and read The All England Law reports or Modern Law Review. We shall see.

Happy New Year to all who visit and contribute with comments…

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They hanged Saddam…

On Saturday 30th December, at dawn, they hanged Saddam. The moralo-philosophic issue is clear – at least to the people of nations who no longer use the death penalty and those who are opposed to the death penalty on moral grounds. World reaction has been varied. How did you feel when you heard the news?

I woke at 6.00 this morning – later than usual. The news depressed me because I feel that we have been diminished by this war and the very public execution of a man who brought misery and death to many. (I leave the issue of ‘legality of the war’ to one side for this post.)

The very specific point I make (The wider issues are known to us all – whatever your view) is that it is simply not good enough for The Foreign Secretary to issue a statement that ‘We’, as a country, are opposed to the death penalty, but, at the same time, state that Saddam has been ‘called to account.’ I do not criticise the Foreign Secretary for doing so. I simply feel that our Prime Minister should have made the statement.  Blair took us into this war, with the support of many, and he should represent us as the spokesman of Britain in this very public execution and ‘incident of policy and war’.
Pretty well every other world leader made a statement on the position of the country which they represent – from what I could glean from the net. It is unlikely that the British Government was not informed that Saddam was to be executed this morning. So why was it left to the Foreign Secretary to make a statement? Perhaps I am out of step on this one? It would not have taken much time for Blair to do a piece to camera or send a statement to the ‘apparatus of government’ – he usually manages to get his views through, even, if you will forgive the ‘gallows irony’, he wants to bury the news he is putting out. What was Blair doing today? Sun bathing? Playing his guitar?

What is my position on the execution? I suspect very similar to many…

I am opposed to the use of the death penalty on moral grounds (I am not a religious man) so I cannot condone the use of the death penalty in Iraq – however much I might understand the suffering of those who suffered under Saddam.

If you really want to see how ‘agonising’ it was for TV and Press to cover the execution of Saddam … read this rather tawdry story from the International Herald Tribune..

Here is one quote from the story..

“I didn’t want them to rush into it,” Capus said. “I wanted them to be cautious. I didn’t think there was anything to be gained by being first with the pictures of the body.”
EDIT>>>  Inevitably, a full un-cut version of the execution was on the net within hours – taken with a mobile phone.

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Christmas greetings: Drafting of…

I received this from a friend…

Dear Charon,

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially cohesive, trans-national, gender neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, exercised according to accepted best practice traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all and a fiscally successful, financially prudent, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2007, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society are helping build a fully inclusive and socially democratic European Union (not to imply that the European Union is necessarily more inclusive or socially democratic than any other place, country or region of choice), and without regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, or sexual orientation of the wishee or wishees.

This wish is limited to the customary and usual good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first. ‘Holiday’ is not intended to, nor shall it be considered, limited to the usual Judeo-Christian celebrations or observances, or to such activities of any organized or ad hoc religious community, group, individual or belief (or lack thereof).

Note: By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher at any time, for any reason or for no reason at all. This greeting is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. This greeting implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for the wishee her/himself or others, or responsibility for the consequences which may arise from the implementation or non-implementation of same. This greeting is void where prohibited by law.

Not only that, Merry Christmas……

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Pigs don’t fly…even in Belgium

Perusing The Sun website… I came across this story:

BELGIAN police are hunting a mystery British motorist who out-ran traffic cops at 150MPH.The driver, in a high spec Audi RS4, shot past a patrol on Saturday night, heading for the coast. The officers chased but could not catch him.

A spokesman said: “It caught them off guard so unfortunately he escaped. It had British plates but we did not get the whole number. We urge the driver to hand himself in.”

Will this driver hand himself in?
I suspect on this one the Belgian Police will just have to be more alert next time.

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Out of the box today…

It is Boxing day…and I feel like putting together a collection of random thoughts…

Continuing my Chef motif – I was amused by this quote (Pandora’s quotes of the year: Independent 26 December) which I had not seen before.

Gordon Ramsay is talking about Raymond Blanc..

“I couldn’t give a fuck what that jumped-up little French twat thinks. The only reason he’s in Britain is because he failed in France. When I heard that Maison Blanc had gone tits up, it added two inches to my cock!”

Government announces that NHS treatment may be denied to those who inflict ill health upon themselves – smokers, booze bingers and fat people

The Independent reported today: Smokers, people with alcohol problems and the obese could be denied priority treatment on the NHS if they do not try to change their lifestyle.

I thought Blair had been educated at Fettes – but it appears that he may also have trained as a Norland Nanny . In fact the entire government appears to have been on a secret distance learning course with some online ‘nannying’ provider – except, John Prescott and John Reid who, mercifully, seem to be unreconstructed ‘bruisers’ of the old school. Smoking is banned in public from 1st July. The government are moving in on drinking and, with perfect timing, during the annual British gorgefest, are now giving the obese a kick up the arse – if you will forgive the metaphor.

Britain is now the ‘fattest’ country in Europe. Apparently – smoking related illness costs the country £1.7 billion. (How do they calculate such matters with precision?). I have no idea how much tax revenue smokers and drinkers bring to the country – but I am pretty sure someone at HMRC does. The Independent states that drinking related disease costs the country roughly the same – but then declares that the obese are costing us £7 billion. At least we are winning at something these days… the cricket isn’t going terribly well.

And…so to Peerages, Knighthoods et al

Yet again my envelope from the Palace has been lost in the post – C’est la vie, as we say in West London. We live in a wonderfully eccentric country and the pageant and history (bloody though it has been) forges our eccentricity and talent and culture as a nation. Does it really matter if someone wants to call themselves ‘Lord Perjury’ or ‘Sir Alan’ or run onto stage as ‘Sir Mick’? Not really. I shall content myself with being called ‘Citizen Charon’ and continue to wave my glass around another glass and say the toast “To the King across the water” while taking of the vino rosso.

British wine challenges French…

Some years ago I was invited to drink a glass of white wine from Kent. I did not enjoy it and reached for the Gaviscon. In fairness, I don’t drink white wine much. I find it too acidic after the first half bottle. Things have changed. The Sun (Forgive me – it is Boxing day and I had a bit of time on my hands) reports that British wine is improving because of global warming and we are winning awards.

I suspect it will take a few more years of global warming before the reds match the standard of the whites? I drank a glass of German red a couple of years ago – interesting, but not robust enough and made me rather sombre – which, cannot be said about their beers. After drinking a couple of Weiss beers and a few Bavarian lagers, I found the ‘oompah’ music excellent and started asking where I could buy some lederhosen and those curious hats with feathers in them.

I shall return.. later. I am going to get something to eat. Restaurants have opened in Chiswick. My curious meal of yesterday – AllBran, Jacob’s crackers and excellent Red Leicester and grapes, and a bottle of Rioja gave me a different perspective on life. I am dining with an Italienne tonight and will eat more sensibly. A piu tarde.

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Christmas message…and other things

I thought I might start by offering useful practical advice…

One too many drinks left you dizzy? Put your hand on something stable. The part of your ear responsible for balance — the cupula — floats in a fluid of the same density as blood. “As alcohol dilutes blood in the cupula, the cupula becomes less dense and rises,” says Dr. Schaffer. This confuses your brain. The tactile input from a stable object gives the brain a second opinion, and you feel more in balance. Because the nerves in the hand are so sensitive, this works better than the conventional foot-on-the-floor wisdom.

Why Rumsfeld got fired… This film is clever…and amusing.

As it happens… I have had quite a sensible day so far. Out on the motorbike early to take advantage of the clear roads. It was cold, but bracing – a short trip down towards Eton and then back to find our local Convenience store was open and, surprisingly, a coffee bar where I had several espressos. No newspapers, so I occupied myself by explaining to several puzzled tourists that Britain would be closed today. They were eating a loaf of freshly baked bread (no butter/marmalade/jam) at a nearby table and were obviously not aware of the possibility that absolutely nothing is open in this part of London. They looked hungry and a bit depressed. I suggested that they go up to Central London. As I never use the tube or buses I was not able to give an opinion on whether these services were running.

I could not be bothered to go to Sainsburys at the weekend to buy any food for today. I am unikely to pass away in the night with malnutrition… as I am dining on All-Bran, some toast and marmite and some very good cheese. I also have a bunch of grapes and enough Rioja Vina Ardanza 1994 Gran Reserva to see me through to the 4th Test tonight. Sometimes it is good to de-tox. Very relaxing.

Spot the apostrophe error on this M&S teashirt.

I remember, some years ago, we produced some black polo shirts to market our online CPD courses. The first proof shirts came back with the logo ‘Legal Practioner” instead of ‘Legal Practitioner.’ No-one spotted it – until, thankfully, I was trying one out at The Bollo and a friend asked me why I had a typo on my polo shirt. Easily done! ‘The Paris in the the spring’ syndrome.

Primrose Hill gets a kicking from Rod Liddle – excellent stuff.

I rarely enjoy restaurant reviews – but read them, nevertheless. Rod Liddle, writing in the Sunday Times, has excelled himself. I shall give you a taste of things to come with a few brief extracts: “Primrose Hill is a square mile or so of upper-middle-class mewing; pricey, dull, conservative, utterly dead to the rest of the world, home to our ruling class from all the estates, one through to four. Just to say the words “Primrose Hill” requires that strange, strangulated tightening of the mouth you get when suddenly — because you are in polite company — you are forced to swallow your own vomit.”

Liddle was reviewing ‘Odette’s’… and he comments: “Odette’s, you see, has a famous chef in residence — Bryn Williams, who has cooked for the Queen. Cooked for quite a few queens now he’s in Primrose Hill, I would guess.”

Liddle was not impressed with the cloves served with tuna: still — clove? With tuna? “It was an appalling combination. Any flavour the tuna may have possessed got its head well and truly kicked in. It was close to inedible; it reminded me of toothache. My girlfriend refused to swallow. Again.”

Read the full review – it certainly amused me. The waitress at Cafe Rouge, where I had scrambled egg yesterday, looked very puzzled when I started laughing.

I am off to eat some Toast and marmite… I shall return…possibly.

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