Thursday, August 25, 2016

Salad, Aunty Beeb and the Nanny State

I’d intended this post to be about eating salads but it morphed into something else along the way which may make it a difficult read but that is how I certainly and I suspect most others think; in a random fashion with new ideas falling over old ones on a sort of higgledy piggledy fashion.  So that’s how it’s going to be.

Many days when I am working I go to a local supermarket for lunch.  They have a really extensive buffet that has grown remarkably over the years.  It is the best one around of its type by far.  My eye was caught by a mound of attractive looking food that turned out to be sesame chicken but as I was on the lettuce routine I avoided the hot dishes and moved to the cold thinking “does anybody really like this stuff?”  I didn’t think ‘stuff’ I’m afraid, but I do try to be polite.

Whoever came up with the notion of eating green plants in the first place?  Our Neanderthal forebears undoubtedly ate them in the thousands of years before people in the Fertile Crescent discovered mutant grass, farmed them and called them ‘crops’ at a stroke creating civilisation as opposed to a mass of nomadic hunter gatherers not much different to rodents or other beasts.  (Thank you by the way). That was years ago.  Surely we’ve moved on from that?

However as someone who fairly recently stabilized his weight at yet another higher level than ever before, I was stuck with the greenery.  I do blame Italy for this as Viv and I had a wonderful couple of weeks there in spring; Naples, Amalfi Coast and Rome.  Certainly we didn’t stint on anything whilst we were there which is why I am now reaping this whirlwind of greenery rather than tucking into something rather tastier and more calorific – something the Fertile Crescent taught us: calories are good.

Anyway who came up with the idea of eating these greens these days?  Certainly there’s millions of diets all decrying some other, older strategy in favour of their no-fail alternative.  And who are these people that come up with this nonsense anyway?  Nutritionists or some such, I suppose.  And what makes them the fount of all knowledge?  Throwaway ridiculous degrees at universities that really should know better in my view are responsible for an awful lot of this.  Get a degree in Applied Flower Arranging and in an instant you are an expert and can become a consultant and write a book.



I’m just reading a book called the End of Big by a guy called Nicco Mele which is an interesting read by the way. The hypothesis is that with radical connectivity (i.e. the internet, Moore’s Law, etc.) old institutions are becoming redundant or obsolete.  This has always been the way of course but things are speeding up.  Mr. Mele talked about government, newspapers, big business and the like saying that we have more capability ourselves now and can compete effectively so don’t need all that old stuff.  This is simplifying of course but these days that is the point.

Take journalism for example.  Mr. Mele says that no more will there be investigative or accountable journalism and I think he is dead right.  The need for it will be there but nobody will notice any more.
My de facto news source has always been the BBC and several years ago I was pleased as Punch to read that many regional newspapers and radio stations in the US had given up on covering international and even high level US news because the BBC simply did it better.  They turned that side of things over to the Beeb and went local.  I was really proud of the BBC thinking they’ve reached that stage because they haven’t sacrificed quality.

That was a few years ago for just last night I was ‘reading’ the news section of the BBC website and really was pushed to find any news at all.  For sure the BBC is run by a bunch of liberal lefties who are so politically correct as to make any position taking virtually impossible (except about Donald Trump strangely about whom it is perfectly acceptable to state any position at all, rather like Nigel Farage of UKIP too). But there wasn’t any real news.

One headline in the UK section was about 5 people who had died on the beach at Camber Sands, a popular resort beach in Sussex on the south coast.  The article could say nothing about who, where or why only – and this is the important thing – relying on what other people who had actually been there saw, thought, felt or imagined.  Much of the article was pictures of tweets and the scribble that accompanies them.  No journalism at all.  Given that even the Police these days employ PR people simply to tweet messages to the world about investigations and you realise that the ‘journalist’ probably hadn’t left his/her desk to write the piece.  Given also that Twitter gives you 144 characters to say anything – equivalent to a 20 second sound byte used everywhere these days – and one has to conclude that Mr. Mele is right on the button.

How profoundly depressing this all is.  All you need to do to be successful in the world these days is to have a degree in Media Studies or something like that and talk a half way decent 20-second line of patter no doubt in Estuary English.  No need to argue a point, justify a position, present and argue varying hypotheses… Just tweet.

The BBC often ends up articles asking for ‘Readers’ Views’ – why, for goodness sake?  Will someone saying that it’s a shame really add anything to the piece?  It also carried on with ‘Related Articles’ the first of which was entitled ‘How to Stay Safe on the Beach’ and was written by some patronizing moron as though he/she was speaking to a 6 year old.

For that is exactly how the public is being viewed and at times I think they are right.  Certainly in the UK it has become the super-nanny state.  PC is everywhere.  Opinion is virtually outlawed.  When I was young at school, if I fell over and scraped my knee drawing blood I’d go to the wash basins and wash it off and then maybe tie it up with something (even my rather disgusting hanky) and go and do it all over again.  Just like everyone else.  I imagine today being rushed to the school nurse for a check up, being sent to counselling for the trauma with parents looking for someone to sue while the school issued an apology stating that it would introduce new school rules to prevent such an event ever happening again. (Makes me think of regulation, compliance and all that other totally useless stuff that we have to put up with because we aren’t able to look after ourselves… like good little children).

To my mind the recent Brexit vote was people rebelling against this Establishment/nanny state nonsense.  Trouble is that it is the new Establishment who has to navigate their way through the actual mechanics of the process.  Makes me think of the Who’s anthem “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and its last line “Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss”.



And still I have to eat that bloody salad!


Am I Allowed to call Paris Gay these days?

Like a previous trip I have been extremely remiss in not staying current on these posts.  However I did use that wonder App called Track My Tour (please tell Chris that I sent you if you check it out) which did a much better job.  Here is the link to this part of the trip -- Click here.

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It has been quite a few years since I was in Paris and it was nice to be back despite the recent spate of horrific terrorist attacks.  As a result of that security was tight but it appeared to be administered in a fairly haphazard manner.  I suppose it is really difficult to make sure a city of 10 million people are all kept safe from random, senseless attack but they sure tried and started with the big event of that time which was the French Open tennis tournament.

Sorry about the Facebook logo

This was Viv's 4th event on the Grand Slam circuit so something we'd been looking forward to.  Our plan was to watch the first 4 days.  The tickets though were a real pain to get.  Corporate and VIP buyers had first dibs, followed by members of the French Federation.  Then and only then did the public have a chance -- that was us.  Everything was pretty much gone so we asked the Bermuda LTA to see if they could help us out.  It took ages so I'd gone out and bought 2 days already by the time the French Federation came back but the result was 4 days straight: corporate hospitality day 1, ground pass day 2, stadium day 3, ground pass day 4.



We discovered the grund pass days were a waste of time as they sold thousands of ground pass tickets but the practical reality was that most of the 12 outside courts could hold fewer than 100 spectators.  That meant the queues to get into the outside events were endless -- we were told 1 hour for Court 2 and we were 10th in line.  So in fact we bagged the final ground pass day and went sight seeing instead.

Paris is a truly great city to sight see.

As regular players, Viv and I have constant fascination for how the game is played.  The TV most always shows the down the court view.  That view is certainly great for the TV watcher but gives absolutely zero feel for hard the players work and how hard they hit the ball.  All the time.  We'd watched Djokovic and Nadal in Rome in possibly the best match we've ever seen and to no surprise at all found out that everyone (and that includes even the slightest of the ladies) beats the ball really hard.  Every time.  We watched a terrific ladies doubles match on an outer court with 2 Japanese playing 2 French.  One of the Japanese a tiny left hander who served no harder than I do but boy did she follow that up with amazing ground strokes!

The first day in retrospect was probably the best tennis day and coincided with our best seats of the week -- this was our corporare day out.



Hideously expensive but great food and wine and wonderful seats at the side about 10 rows up from the court in the middle.  Gilles Simon is a player I really like and on the TV he looks languid and barely mobile, most times rolling the ball down the middle of the court in a pleasing manner to his opponent.  In real life he is really tall and skinny, moves incessantly and quickly from side to side, up and back and really, really beats the lights out of the ball.  Every time.  He won something like 55% of the points so won in straight sets very easily.  That's the wonder of the game!

Next was Richard Gasquet who has a backhand of dreams.  I struggle with mine... I blame my arthritis of course.  But his is wonderful and he hits it really hard, all the time.  And he doesn't miss that much.  Really these guys are very, very good indeed!


Struggling with his backhand
Organisationally however the tournament is a mess and the French Open has now surpassed the US Open as my least favourite major tournament.

Missing that last day though gave us the chance to both enjoy some better weather (it rained a lot) and see some wonderful sights.

I like cheesy, touristy things.  I also like public transport and the Paris Metro was terrific too.  But most of all that day I liked the Tuileries and the Musee de L'Armee, a tribute to French military but really mostly to Napoleon.

Nice arch, shame about the...
The French are great.  They dumped their hideous monarchy over 200 years ago and essentially forced the state to be separate from the church and progress.  Along the way of course there were hiccups but thankfully Napoleon sorted out most of the early ones.  People remember his generalship but don't fully acknowledge how he changed the world for the better and for the long term.  The Code Napoleon was an attempt to order everything and still stands in the guise of civil law around the world these days.  He was a phenomenon although rather dismissed by the British because (a) we fought against him for over 20 years and (b) he lost at Waterloo.  Indeed P.G. Wodehouse, that paragon of English writers had one of his more brainless characters say about Napoleon: "The only thing he ever did was to get hammered at Waterloo."

Love the lower lip.  Doubtless in one of his grumpier moments.
The British of course living up to their reputation of perfidy did fight endlessly against the French but rarely on land and before Waterloo, rarely against Napoleon.  They did however pay the Prussians, Austrians, Russians and anyone else who offered to fight.

Napoleon died on St Helena probably of stomach cancer according to the wonderful biography I just read (they think that because a number of his male relatives all died early of stomach complications) and was brought back to Paris in triumph in 1840 by Louis Phillippe (before he was deposed, nice try mate!) and re-interred at the Tuileries.

Nifty little, understated tomb of the great man.
Go there and glory in it.  Then go to the museum and relive many of the battles that marked French history.  This is done through very clever dioramas with commentary that take you through each battle step by step, before, during and after.  Very effective indeed.  I could have stayed their 4 days but Viv would likely have objected!

Next time I return, I promise to spend more time and see more sights.  But I did see a couple of the biggies!



The Foodie's Edition

Like a previous trip I have been extremely remiss in not staying current on these posts.  However I did use that wonder App called Track My Tour (please tell Chris that I sent you if you check it out) which did a much better job.  Here is the link to this part of the trip -- Click here.

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It is annoying as you get older that your weight becomes more difficult to manage.  Remember when you were young you could eat and drink anything and everything and stay skinny as a rake?  Well forget it as you get older.  My weight seems to stabilise every so often at a level 5 pounds higher than it was before.  Mind you I suppose if I suddenly lost weight, that would be a bad thing.  But I do wish it wouldn't always be so.  

I've been around the same level for over 10 years now and all of a sudden when we got back from holiday in June, that level was now 5 pounds higher and try as I might (and I do confess to being very weak willed so my trying could really be better) I seem to have anchored around that level.  Viv tells me my tummy is hard now!  Just great.

I suppose it really is my fault going to places where the food is soooo wonderful.  Combine that with my weak will and an abundance of wonderful wine et voila!  There you have it.  Chub central.  So take a look and see when you could have said No.

Fragolini -- the perfect way to end a meal

Gelati -- simply the best way to pass the time walking back to the hotel

Amalfi anchovies

Home cured prosciutto

Home made gnocchi with clams from Amalfi fresh off the boat

Home made pasta with pesto and lemon sauce

The perfect end to a meal -- home made Limoncello from Amalfi

Fresh fish medley in Amalfi

Whole Barzino in baked sea salt

Linguine with anchovies, of course from Amalfi again!

Local seafood stew with Octopus to the fore

Multiple mini bruschetta

Home made (by us) mozzarella treats

Home made pasta with sage and spring onions

Local veal

Deep fried anchovy treats this time!

Home made linguine with red clam sauce (with shells)

Local linguine with lemon sauce

Amalfi anchovies

Home cured prosciutto again this time with home made mozzarella

Risotto alla limone at the lemon farm, just wonderful

Porchetta from Rome

The BEST linguine carbonara in the world from Maccheroni in Roma

Our shared meat plate in Rome

And the best linguine with anchovy oil in the world!!!

Who would have better will power than I faced with such delicacies?


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Algarve Interlude

Like a previous trip I have been extremely remiss in not staying current on these posts.  However I did use that wonder App called Track My Tour (please tell Chris that I sent you if you check it out) which did a much better job.  Here is the link to this part of the trip -- Click here.

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Viv's brother and family moved to the eastern Algarve from Abu Dhabi last September and loved being there.  The children went to an international school close by whilst Anton and Catherine enjoyed the life of lotus eaters.  We were intrigued and had never been so in the week between the Italian Open and the French Open thought why not?

The Algarve is pretty much the furthest south east you can go in Europe (not counting the islands off the coast of Africa which really shouldn't count) and where they live is not more than 20 kms west of Cape St Vincent, the south easterliest part of all. That's where we spent our week and it was lovely.

Very south easterly as you can see!
History wise, the area is both fascinating and downright dull.  The Romans were there of course but quite why and what they did is a bit of a mystery as there was/is nothing anywhere nearby as most of the land these days is national park so cannot be built upon.

But before the new roads funded of course by cheap EU loans, there were few roads here and more to the point no real reason to come here.

Cape St. Vincent

Of course Henry the Navigator being both enthusiastic and progressive built a fort at Sagres right next to Cape St Vincent from which all the many great voyages of discovery were launched.  After him however there seems to be a 500 year gap until the British tourist arrived on the many huge sandy beaches here and then little by little towns grew up again and more Portuguese moved back into the area.

Cape St Vincent from Fort Sagres

We tend to forget that like their large neighbour Spain, Portugal was ruled by a dictator for just as long.  Salazar finally popped off  in 1970 with his dicatorship lasting only 4 years more (2 years before Franco died coincidentally).  This is what Wikipedia says about him:

After the 28 May 1926 coup d'état, with President Óscar Carmona's support, Salazar entered public life, initially as finance minister and later as prime minister. His Estado Novo would come to allow him vast power over Portugal. Opposed to democracycommunismsocialismanarchism and liberalism, the ideology of Portugal was conservative and nationalist in nature under his rule. Salazar also favored and advocated for Catholicism, but argued the role of the Church was social, not political, and enabled the Concordat of 1940.
Salazar used heavy-handed censorship and an ubiquitous secret police to quell opposition, especially that related to the Communist movement. He supported Francisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War, and like Franco kept his nation neutral during World War II
As a result of this, Portugal has been largely held back and remains an intensely conservative country.  Still lovely nonetheless.
I was pleasantly surprised by the beaches.  I'd thought to never see a more beautiful beach than Horseshoe Bay but here there are dozens, maybe hundreds even.  Stunning scenery, beautiful walks.

One of dozens, maybe hundreds of beautiful beaches
The population here swells in the summer months when tourists flock through nearby Faro Airport to resorts such as Lagos (pronounced a whole lot different to that city in Nigeria -- more LARGOSH) so Anton had rented a place for only the 9 off peak months to play tennis, golf, walk and eat lotus before considering the next step.


And why not?  This is a helluva nice place to be.




En Route...

Like a previous trip I have been extremely remiss in not staying current on these posts.  However I did use that wonder App called Track My Tour (please tell Chris that I sent you if you check it out) which did a much better job.  Here is the link to this part of the trip -- Click here.

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I have been really remiss in finishing the tour blog as I see its been a month since the last one but life has interfered here in Bermuda.  A bit of work and lots of parties in particular!

July is the month of Cup Match -- the hottest time of the year both weatherwise as well as party wise.  It is a 2-day cricket match pitching the East End of the island (St. George's) against the West End (Somerset).   I find it curious that nobody really minds that the correct parish name is St George (singular) without the possessive something spelling that is common place here.  Mind you I worked for 3 years in Government when I first arrived and every day walked down from the 5th floor where my office was just so I could see the spelling of the Department of 'Eduaction' down there on the 3rd floor!

However as a spectacle, Cup Match is hard to beat.  We have our issues in Bermuda, everyone does, but this occasion is special.  Everyone is in a good mood and particularly is in party mode.  The build up is for at least the week previously and the ending continues well into the next week encompassing a ridiculous event called the Non-Mariners Race when thousands moor up or head to Mangrove Bay in Somerset and just act silly.  This is THE time to be in Bermuda!



But the reason for this post is to was lyrically yet again about the amazingness of technology and in particular this app that I use called Track My Tour.  The guy who put it together (Chris) deserves amazing plaudits for this.

What I particularly like is the fact that I don't have to remember where exactly I am for this app (and of course my phone) does all this for me.  So when I made the post about being probably somewhere over the island of Sardinia, later on I was able to confirm just that -- see here.

Now I do realise that this is pretty standard now that we have GPS on our side (yeah right -- convince me that Big Brother isn't watching us!) and can tell to within however many feet it is just where we are, but I remember losing my keys a couple of days ago and couldn't find them anywhere.  No GPS there so I hadn't a clue nor a hope in finding them (as it turned out they were in my bag but that isn't the point).  But Chris' tool can let me know where I am any time of the day or night.  Brilliant!

The next two points were in Mallorca (see here) and then it really was the mainland and finally Lisbon.

Thanks again Chris!  Great App!!!