Second book in the Gift Trilogy

On Sale Now

On Sale Now
The Gift

Out Now!

Friday, 12 July 2019

I'm with Fred R Barnard

Sometimes life gets in the way, and the words won’t come. But luckily, Fred R Barnard comes to the rescue. In 1927 he came up with the quote ‘A picture is worth ten thousand words.’ It was later watered down by others to just ‘a thousand words.’ But I’m with Fred, who was probably in much the same position as myself. Nothing to offer but 6 pictures which by my estimation is a good 60,000 words.*

The first two were taken from an evening walk behind our house. ‘It will be good for you . . . You’ll enjoy it,’ they said. Hmm.

The next batch come from the house of some good friends on the Kymin, which overlooks Monmouth.  Now that, I did enjoy. Friends, a full stomach and fine wine. Even the sky turned up trumps. You can see the ‘sugar loaf’ and the Welsh hills in the far distance, Monmouth immediately below.

For those who like tiresome quibbles  

Friday, 5 July 2019

Counting sheep in wolves clothing

Last night, I tossed and turned in bed, Corbyn and Boris running around my head—a nursery rhyme I could have done without. After several sleepless hours, I worked out what was bothering me. Tom Watson. The prospect of a National Government, a government of ‘unity’ where no unity exists. Either that or a Labour Party in name only attracting or coalescing with other political interest groups.

The problem is the likelihood of a General Election coming sooner than possibly expected. In such a scenario the ‘Establishment’ is caught between a rock and hard place. Does it dislike Brexit so much it’s willing to risk a Jeremy Corbyn government? And against that, how easy would it be with a Boris Johnson alternative? Certainly it's in overdrive maligning both men.

Jeremy Corbyn

Boris Johnson

If we look at the Labour Party first, it’s clear that elements of the deep state are in the process of bringing down Corbyn, using Civil Service slurs that the Labour leader is losing his marbles and/or the sledgehammer of ‘anti-semitism’ to achieve its ends.

I have no doubt there is some anti Semitism in the Labour Party dependent as it is—in some areas—on muslim votes. I also have no doubt that the issue has been exaggerated and weaponised, repeated ad infinitum by a cooperative media until the possibility has become a fixed and unarguable truth. Fixed and unarguable truths are hard to swallow coming from the mouths of such dubious characters as Watson, and the even more unpleasant self-serving creature , Margaret Hodge. But clearly Watson is on manoeuvres.
Tom Watson
Margaret Hodge

Then we come to Boris Johnson. I’m not an ardent and uncritical fan of Boris. His flaws are apparent. But it is clear he is in the eye of the storm in terms of media flak. No doubt there is hope that his ‘opportunistic streak’ will see him bend to ‘reality’ and that like Jeremy Hunt he will be another ‘Theresa May in trousers.' But the greater fear is that he won’t, and thus, day after day sees the steady and incessant drip of media poison. News is made as much as reported.

So—assuming a Johnson premiership— as October 31st approaches and Brexit looms near, the Establishment is caught between two stools. Will it even contemplate derailing Brexit at the expense of a Corbyn government, and is this what the current anti-semitism hysteria all about? 

If there is a coup against Corbyn it will take place in the next few months or just after the end of October. The Establishment would much rather see men like Keir Starmer and Tom Watson as kingmakers in the chaos of a failed Brexit. And if one of the consequences is the destruction of the two major parties, then a National Government, perhaps even without elections, becomes a feasible prospect. 

Disgruntled with the whole damn business, I went to the toilet and eventually fell asleep.

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Scumbag Maggot

If you’re lucky, you might spot signs of Harry and Meghan’s wedding, some windblown confetti stuck to a lamppost, or even a feather from one of those ridiculous hats. My wife and her friend spotted some Morris Dancers, for whom I retain a soft spot, having once fiddled for a Welsh-dancing troupe, but I was treated to a tour of the Windsor and Eton brewery, a far more attractive proposition. Their mission statement is to ‘make Windsor more famous for its beers than any other attraction.’ Well, good luck with that, though if this blog post helps, you know where to send a crate of your finest.

We walked up to a fairly nondescript building in a nondescript street of terraced housing, through a plate glass door, and into a small and bland looking drinking area full of serious men (and women, though they were fewer on the ground) The smell was something else and my nose and throat quivered.

The guy who showed us around was made for the job, beard, jolly and plump, and with the gift of the gab. We learned a lot in under an hour and drank a lot too. I was dubious at first, when he asked us to chew some barley grain, probably one of the most unexciting tastes the world has to offer. You might as well be chewing  wood pellets with a residue of sweetness; a homeopath might detect a touch of the field. Then he moved us on to a partially roasted barley grain, and when he thought we were ready, one fully roasted. He spoke with the fervour of a wine connoisseur or one extolling the virtues of Lebanese or Acapulco Gold. I kept tasting small variations in wood, though three small glasses of beer admittedly helped.

Things became exciting when he pulled down bunches of hops from the rafters. I love a hoppy tasting beer but what we did next was something else. We followed instructions, rubbing the leaves into the palm of a hand with a vigorous thumb. We rubbed until our palms were green. ‘Now,’ he said, ‘I want you to lick those palms.’ The tongue puckered. I thought it was going to wither and die. ‘A little goes a long way,’ he told us, unnecessarily, I thought.

But then he divulged the secret, the El Dorado of beermakers, and why people drink more beer than perhaps they should: its achieving a perfect combination of bitter and sweet in the beer. It’s like playing yo-yo with the tastebuds of the tongue: your first sip, a refreshing mix of sweet and bitter but leaving that bitter aftertaste. This leads on to another sip in the unconscious hope of washing it down. It’s a vicious or virtuous cycle, depending on your point of view. Damn clever either way.

They have an astute symbiosis with the Windsor estate. Their barley comes from the Windsor farms and they feed their slurry to the Windsor pigs. They don't miss a trick, marketing a new beer for Harry and Meghan's wedding. 

We also learnt why most British and American lager is rubbish. The original lager yeast came from Bavaria in the C16th and had been cultured to ferment at low temperatures for a very long time, thus giving it a rich and subtle taste. It can take months to mature (Lagern meaning ‘To store’) This is anamatha to industrial breweries which takes shortcuts to hasten the process. It’s why lagers are served ‘chilled’. Drink it warm at your peril.

We finished with a scumbag maggot. It was interesting.

Friday, 21 June 2019

It's not FGM but then we're not trees

A mountain of cork as you enter.

A week or two ago we went to the David Nash exhibition in Cardiff. (Who he? I would have been the first to ask) but it was an interesting experience, seeing ‘wood’ in so many guises.  In an interview with the Guardian, he said:
 “I’d like people who visit to think they have been engaged with something, taken out of their normal chain of thought and feeling. I’d like to think people will find it joyful.”
Joyful wasn’t my initial experience, but slowly, accumulatively, I saw ‘wood’ in an entirely different way.

He rejoices in the texture of wood, here the trunk, and below it's top, which resembles the surface of 
an alien planet. 

This has been charred and then rubbed with linseed oil.

Nash doesn’t just sculpt windfall and dead trees, he buggers about with live trees; unobjectionable in most cases. I particularly liked his ‘Ash dome,’ a circle of 22 trees planted in a secret Ffestiniog vally in 1977. Guests are escorted there blindfolded so that the location remains concealed. Unfortunately ash dieback is killing his piece of living sculpture, which Nash accepts as part of the art. “Fungus is a natural force.” Undeterred his dying ash dome is now encircled by 22 oak saplings, which in time will replace it.

What I did find objectionable (on a primitive gut level reaction) was his treatment of living birch trees in the interests of art. He has planted a copse of them but allows no branches. As soon as one shows it is neatly lopped off to encourage straightness and height – a copse of silver birch spears. I don’t like gelding pets, docking ears or tails, and I hate with a vengeance the Japanese art of Bonsai where trees are deliberately dwarfed by ruthlessly trimming their roots. It’s not FGM, but then we are not trees.

Nash is getting on a bit now and his outlook is perhaps understandably jaundiced.

“People are parasites, the land’s slowly dying.”

“There’s a certain dullness I can feel. I don’t know if it’s me or if it’s actually there. I can feel a lack of vibrancy in the land. When I look at the Moelwyn Mountains, which I’ve looked at since I was four years old, they don’t seem to have that dynamic they used to have. There’s something in the texture maybe. It’s a feeling not a fact.” I imagine it’s a feeling shared by most old codgers, either that or he needs to visit ‘SpecSavers.’

There’s no doubt David Nash is one hell of fine artist. Also a visionary in the style of an Old Testament prophet:

“We are killing ourselves. There are too many of us. I think there will be some huge plague or pestilence.”

And then every tree will breathe with relief.

And for those who'd like to see more of his exhibits

A nice Henge like quality, but again close ups invite you to explore the texture of wood.

Is it just me or am I seeing fossilised 'Pac Men' 

One lugubrious serpent

Two lugubrious serpents

And the rest, feel free to label as you see them

A close up of a larger piece, purely for texture