Warmer Climes

The year is really picking up. As you can see in the below post and here if you crane your neck a bit, Saturday was Benj and Ros’ house warming. This was excellent for many reasons. Firstly I just got to see their last flat before they moved and while it was well appointed and homely, Ros was able to give me the tour to entire place without requiring me to move anything except my eyes and my head. A bit. This upgrade has a bit more breathing space and enough room to swing Molly. I think it’s great that the whole family (pictured below; left to right – Benj, Molly and Ros) now has a more permanent, not to mention larger, space to entertain me in get on with their lives in. I know there is decorating afoot (the wardrobe is coming along nicely) and I’m sure the place will be thoroughly resplendent before too long (the red wine skirmishes notwithstanding).

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Secondly, since Alex and Soni (and Jill for that matter) now have their own Isle of Pleasure too and Meg and Kelvin are plotting their own domestic set-up in Brighton things are really starting to come together and I’m delighted for you all. The weekend heralded a sense that hopefully we can all start seeing more of each other soon. Of course there were absent friends as there invariably are with these situations all of whom were missed.  Do try and see that it doesn’t happen again, would you, there’s good people.

La Grande Bouffe

And before you ask, no this nothing to do with porn, thank you very much. The weekend was an absolute triumph; veni vidi, er, I ate a lot. We’d all arranged to meet at Alex’s place and upon arrival, she and Soni continued their aggressive entertaining campaign which involves the guest being caught off-balance by the opulent surroundings before they are made as comfortable as possible and subsequently plied with as much good food as they can take (in this case upwards of six – count them – types of humous, pitta, salad and some lightly fried chorizo). My personal theory is that they plan to prevent all of their guest from leaving, it’s a sort of “Isle of Pleasure” surrounded by Canada Water, Surrey Water and The Thames. Later Alex, Dave and I crossed from the Pleasure Isle to the Spice Island, which is the girl’s local, to meet Meg and Kelvin fresh from their flight from Swansea (I use “flight”  in the sense that they were fleeing the place rather than they arrived in a plane). After a few drinks (two pints of Hoegaarden) we decided to eat before the party – here I made the mistake of assuming that The Spice Island’s tapas would be substantial. Three shrimps, five button mushrooms and a couple of olives later I was ready to (eat more, actually) party. We all piled into Alex’s car and drove down to Brixton stopping off for supplies (a bottle of Ernst & Julio Gallo Zinfandel and six Kronenberg – yeah, I was impressed…). On reflection the lack of food to weigh me down freed me up to bounce round Benj and Ros’ new place and talk utter rubbish at people all night. I also got to thank Dan’s girlfriend Audrey for the recipe she gave to Ros for butternut squash risotto with oranges that Ros and Benj prepared last for me last year. That had been the night that Ros had proudly shown off her electric peppermill with an inbuilt torch so you could illuminate what you’re seasoning, or would help you find your way to the fusebox during a powercut and leave a trail of spice to prevent you getting lost on the way back. Next morning in order to combat a terrible hangover (I blame the Spice Island) we bought in a Full English Kit and some Resolve (a but like Pro-plus with chalk). Dan was giving me a hand with cooking and we realised that since two men were tending more than one type of sausage and suitably attired (I was wearing an apron and Dan had his Russian hat) and everyone was waiting around expectantly, it was virtually a barbeque and so we armed ourselves with Kronenberg. After consuming bacon, sausages, scrambled egg, mushrooms, tomatoes, beans, toast and coffee Dave and I just had time to get our stuff together and head back to The Isle of Pleasure on the Northern Line (taking time to argue a few of the rules to Mornington Crescent) before the roast chicken was served.  This was accompanied by stuffing, bread sauce, potatoes, carrotts, parnips, peas,  gravy and a side salad washed down with twelvty bottles of good red. We finished off with ice cream (chocolate and black cherry) and a mini chocolate muffin. Everyone then seemed to feel that what was needed was a shot of lemon liquor but at that exact point I felt as if this would have been the wafer-thin-mint that exploded the fat man.

The Big Issue

Oscars have come and gone. I missed the ceremony this year but I did see the BAFTAS which were probably better due in part to the nominees (“The Constant Gardener” replaced “Munich” in most categories and is clearly a better film). The academy selected the films they believed were the most important films of the year. But which film has the issue that should be praised above the others? I haven’t yet seen “Good Night, and Good Luck” (attacking current media info-tainment and attempts to limit free speech) or “Capote” (the only film to be nominated that is more character study than issue-driven) but am sure that they will be well worth a look. On Saturday Hannah and I happened to rent Best Motion Picture of the Year; “Crash“. This was an excellent film, very well handled and the way the separate stories and characters were affected by each other was beautifully done but we both felt the race issue but a bit heavy handed and forced in places. Here reality seemed to be distorted to make things seem worse than they are (like the state of relationships were made to out to be nothing but hellish in “Closer“). Maybe I’m just being naive, being white and middle class and not living in the U.S., but have these issues not been dealt with and addressed in cinema countless times over the last few decades (e.g. “To Kill a Mockingbird“, “A Time to Kill“, just off the top of my head)? Is the situation not better now then it has been in the past or are racial prejudices and racial tensions so bad now that this film is really that important? Certainly the script has been around since at least 2001 according to the IMDB (where these links will take you). I just thought it was a very well made film that was refreshing in that every racial group demonstrates their own predjudices e.g. the Don Cheadle character referring to his girlfriend/partner as being Mexican when she is infact half Puerto Rican and half El Salvadorian. This too has been done before in films like “Traffic“.
Even “Brokeback Mountain” which was also excellent is deemed important not because it is a wonderfully written love story that is superbly filmed and acted but because it is a gay cowboy love story. I just thought it was great because the gay characters were not relegated to the side lines or presented as being riotously camp so that they were the focus of humour but this has similarly been done before in other genres (E.g. “Wilde“, “My Own Private Idaho“). Maybe because these films remind the viewer how much worse the situation could be (i.e. if the whole of the U.S. went back to the racism and homophobia that it had in the 60’s), they are considered safe and worthy of being rewarded and why more revealing and potentially dangerous films like “The Constant Gardener” and “Syriana” were kept out of the best picture and best director categories. “Philadelphia“, which isn’t a great film, managed to show a sympathetic and realistic gay character and a black character who is biggoted and predjudiced in the same film and that was over ten years ago. If the academy is arguing that “Crash” and “Brokeback Mountain” deserved to triumph because they are well made films then that’s one thing but I suspect that it was their issues that lead them to victory and kept other well made films out of contention.

The Bat, The Bramble and the Cormorant

I was reminded of this fable this weekend. Not because of the moral of the story but because it would make a cool name for a pub and exactly what I’d name mine if I ever opened one. Hannah had taken me to two pubs in Oxford, one called The Lamb and Flag (we think it was – Hannah remembered where the place was but we never actually ckecked the name and we passed a different Lamb and Flag later so either Oxford has two, or we went to a pub with an entirely different name…) and The Eagle and Child. Now I think I’m right in saying that The Lamb and Flag probably has Navy origins what with associations to the royal navy flag and/or Lamb’s Navy Rum. I might be wholly wrong there. The Eagle and Child did have a display that babbled something about somebody’s coat of arms and a child that was raised by an eagle and underground tunnels (that are still there apparently). Unfortunately it wasn’t really very interesting and I had forgotten the story before I left the place (and not due to drinking as I was only on my second).

My pub would boast a display that recounted how a bat, a bramble and cormorant met and decided to go into business together. They agreed that each of them would bring something to the new venture in the way of capitol with the bat securing a large monetry loan, the bramble arranging to buy a large quantity of cloth on credit and the cormorant getting his claws on a large stocklpile of copper. The three needed to transport their wares abroad but whilst they were at sea fell victim to a violent storm that scuppered the ship. The three partners made it to land but the ship and all of their goods and monies were lost. To this day the bat never goes out after dark fearing he will run into his creditors, the bramble strives to catch the clothes of passers by hoping to recover some of his cloth and the cormorant flies over the sea looking for traces of the lost cargo of copper. The moral is something like, make sure you make careful investments, or choose your business partners carefully, lest you spent the rest of your life affected by your misadventures. I’m sure there’s more to the story than that but I couldn’t find anything further. This fable never seems to get the exposure of stories like The Hare and the Tortoise or the Fox and the Grapes but I will always love it because it has the coolest name. You might say to your mate, “Fancy a pint at the Bat, Bramble and Cormorant?” or “Got absolutely leathered in the Cormorant last night?”. Although having said that people would probably just shorten my pub’s name to “You and Dave goin’ down the BBC later?”. At least you won’t mistake it for another pub.

Travels

March. I can’t believe it’s come around so quickly. I no longer feel I have to hide indoors away from the icy climes and now that the Winter season of quality TV including Life on Mars, Hotel Babylon, Eleventh Hour and the two recent Poliakoff dramas, Friends and Crocodiles and Gideon’s Daughter is drawing to a close, I feel a desrie to roam around and visit people at weekends. My Spring ’06 Tour takes in a visit to Oxford to see my friend Hannah (and her brother Robbie, who is just back from a recent jaunt to South Africa); a housewarming party in Brixton hosted by my good friends Benj and Ros, where I’ll also get to see lovelies Dave and Alex; a return to dear old Bristol for a catch up with folk there that will most likey include heavy drinking (as every trip to Bristol invariably does) and finally a weekend visiting my pal Rich who has recently moved into a new pad between Stoke and Stafford. It will be interesting to see if this can achieved with my complete and total lack of money but I really feel that it is time to stop feeling sorry for myself and get back in touch with the physical world 🙂