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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

It’s only Rock and Roll. (Or it was)

A champagne king with his own island in the Thames estuary is hosting a rock and roll event in early September, though the tickets - £445 – are pricey. But then bear in mind what you get for your money: gourmet food like cod loins, ox cheeks and foie gras prepared by Michael O’Hare, a Michelin trained chef. Moreover, with certain ‘acts’ concertgoers are to be served oysters and champagne.
And we’re not talking Budgens Champagne.

Mr Krug has thought long and hard over which champagne would best accompany the music, even bringing an Oxford professor into the equation. Professor Charles Spence is an expert on ‘the interplay between taste and sound receptors in the brain.’ In his own words ‘savouring a masterfully crafted champagne while listening to a piece of music allows one to travel down direct pathways to the emotions.”

The question arises as to what champagne might best accompany this?

The clip is not chosen at random and not a drop of champagne was involved. Now, however, Mick Jones of the Clash is trying to re-engage with his roots. He is one of the headline acts at the Krug Festival and waxes lyrical about what concertgoers will get for their money.

They will, for example, get close to real rock stars: “at Krug Island you will be right there, meeting the artists, talking with them, partying with them, singing along.” He waxes on: “Good wine, good food, good music, rock stars and a private island sounds all right to me.” Rock and Roll, Mick.
Here just about sums it up.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Australians are discussing whether wild dogs should be exported to China and korea for food, whilst others believe Kangaroos should be farmed in preference to cattle because they emit less green house gases. Tactful word, emit. I imagine foie gras and champagne will cause some emissions.

Post script:
Really an excuse to play more clips: The Stones 1971 at the Marquee intimate even without oysters and champagne
The Beatles at the Cavern, reeking intimacy but again no champagne.
And to finish, a rare Stones I remember seeing at the time. Crisps and beer but no champagne.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Tis the season to be jammy

I’ve been tip-toeing around the damson trees, speaking in the same hushed tones as those about to take their cat to the vets—to be put down or spayed— in this case pruned. Seriously pruned. I’ve managed to delay it until next Spring but sentence has been pronounced, and there’s no getting away from it.

As though suspecting our intent this year’s crop has been spectacular. I’m up to my ears in damsons. My hands are brown in damson juice, and I have bags upon bags of stoned damsons occupying every inch of freezer space. It’s why you rarely hear from me between August 19th to August 23rd. Our damson trees are akin to Swiss cuckoo clocks, fruiting the same time every year. And I’m as predictable as a Swiss cuckoo clock, making mountains of jam and gallons of wine…and blocking the freezer. Squirrel Nutkin on speed.

But there’s no getting away from it. Our trees are rumbustious bullies crowding out other plants and throwing much of the garden in perpetual shade. One branch has almost reached a bedroom window. Give it a year and it will be plopping ripe fruit in my mouth while I sleep.

So this year I was brutal in collecting the damsons I normally wouldn’t reach. Extendable lopping shears cut through the higher branches, bringing them down in a flurry of fruit. That’s the other weird thing about damsons. Other trees you’re advised to prune only in winter. Not so with Damsons – spring to autumn being the best time to prune. Despite the brutality, the trees continue to dominate. I suspect they know and are extending their hold, like Hitler before Stalingrad. 

I give them a consoling pat.

Next year it is likely I’ll have less fruit but far more time. Here’s hoping it extends the life of two old trees and jam production resumes in 2018

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Clark Gable's butler

In 1940, a ‘furtive delicate man, with a pencil moustache and darting grey eyes’* was arrested in Jersey for a minor fraud. Unfortunately for him, Jersey then was under German occupation and an anti German leaflet was found in his possession. A further month was added to his six-month sentence. The unlucky man was Charles, Anthony Faramus, former hairdresser and dishwasher and barely twenty years old. In Ben Macintyre’s words: ‘…tall and slender, he looked as though a puff of wind might blow him away.’*

His luck took a turn for the worse when, in prison, he hooked up with one  Eddy Chapman, a wily adventurer and crook. Chapman persuaded Faramus that the best, indeed only way to escape German occupied Jersey was to offer themselves as ‘spies’ for the Germans. A letter was duly sent to the German governor of Jersey and apparently ignored, until one night there was a thunderous knocking on their door in the small hours of the morning. The Gestapo, more suspicious than impressed, arrested them and whisked them to France. Eventually the Germans decided that a tough and resourceful crook would, with the right training might prove a useful agent. They had no use for a shy hairdresser and and Faramus was left in his cell to rot.

Before seeing him for what may have been for the last time, Chapman urged Faramus to trust him, and that whatever happened he would somehow protect his friend from further harm.

They were empty words. Chapman might well have thought he could negotiate Faramus’s safety in exchange for what he was offering the Germans. The Germans saw things differently. Faramus would be a  pawn for Chapman’s good behaviour – a fictitious pawn for—unknown to Chapman, Faramus was promptly removed to Buchenwald concentration camp, where things went from bad to worse. Failing to see an approaching Warrant Officer and removing his cap in time, he was sent to Mathausen-Gusen, a concentration camp for the ‘incorrigible.’ There, inmates were worked until they dropped dead.

Somehow this delicate man with the pencil thin moustache survived, but only just. In May 1945 the 41st U.S. Cavalry liberated Mathausen-Gusen concentration camp and found, amongst an army of ‘emaciated ghosts,’ Anthony Faramus, his body traumatised by diphtheria, scarlet fever, gangrene and dysentery. He’d lost seven ribs and one of his lungs, which he eventually lost, was riddled with TB.

Faramus was nursed in an RAF hospital and released with £16 and a weekly stipend of £2. But Anthony Faramus was not yet done with life. He  became a film extra, and with exquisite irony, played minor roles in war films such as Colditz and King Rat. Then he emigrated to America and became a butler — to Clark Gable.
Faramus eventually returned to Britain where, despite having only lung he became an active hunt saboteur, eventually dying in 1990 aged seventy.

What happened to the even more remarkable Eddy Chapman? I suggest you read Agent Zigzag by Ben Macintyre,* which I strongly recommend.