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Thursday, 27 October 2016

Welsh whisky and labial entanglement

For those more used to brief ‘wine notes'  like 'vanilla undertones'  etc, try this on for size. You might find it easier to read the transcript below.

"Welsh whiskey is the most wonderful whisky that ever drove the skeleton from the feast, or painted landscapes in the brain of man. It is the mingled souls of peat and barley washed white with the waters of Tryweryn
In it you will find the sunshine and shadow that chased each other over the billowy fields, the breath of June, the carol of the lark, the dew of the night, the wealth of summer and autumn’s rich content—all golden with imprisoned light. Drink it, and you will hear the voices of men and maidens singing the ‘Harvest Home,’ mingled with the laughter of children. Drink it, and you will feel within your blood the startled dawn, the dreamy tawny dusks of perfect days. Drink it, and within your soul will burn the bardic fire of the Cymri, and their law-abiding earnestness. For many years this liquid joy has been within staves of oak, longing to touch the lips of man, nor will its prototype from the Sherry Casks disdain the more dulcet labial entanglement with any New or Old Woman."

Doesn't this create a craving where none existed before? Especially if you're a 'new' or 'old' women.' 

It was my brother-in-law's birthday treat, and we duly set of to the foothills of the Brecon Beacons where the wonderful Penderyn Distillery is hidden.

It's stylish but not much to look at from the outside. Inside, magic is born. 

Before the tour of the distillery actually begins you whet your appetite in a small but informative ‘museum’ where the history of welsh whiskey – from the ice-age to the present day is portrayed. From the ice-age? Were Neanderthal’s drinking Welsh whiskey? Not quite. It was from that period the aquifers beneath the distillery came into being. So many fascinating snippets. Welsh whisky was being produced from the start of the C19th until the damnable Temperance Movement put it out of business. 

The Penderyn Distillery was conceived in the minds of three drinkers who spent most of their time in the pub just down the road. They knew of the aquifer, had the vision but no money. No problem. By 2000 production had started and now they are going from strength to strength (in terms of alcohol content literally) and picking up award after award.

And then the distillery itself. The pictures can tell most of the story. For technical details should you want to make a lego version at home, this site is useful and this

                                           Some are matured in bourbon casks
                                           others in madeira casks. It tells in the taste.

                                                       And now for the tasting



Friday, 21 October 2016

Bring back the Picture House!

I’m always getting stick for failing to use the word cinema. I was brought up in a world of ‘picture houses,’ which, to me, is a clear and understandable concept. What’s with this Johnny- come-lately, this French import—cinema—an abbreviation of cinematographe? In our new glorious post-brexit age it’s time we began to cherish Imperial Measures and Picture Houses.
                                                              The Astoria

                                                                  The Paramount
                                                                      The Palace 
                                               The prosaically named Walton Picture House
                                                           Astoria at night

                                                                  The Carlton 

Above are some of the Liverpool ‘picture houses’ I went to as a child. Pure dream factories. But in Monmouth, I live close to a gem, a ‘picture-house’ of faded grandeur and steeped in history.

It was built on the foundations of an old coaching house, The Bell Inn. Known as The Assembly Rooms (very Bath and Jane Austen) it was granted an entertainment licences in 1832.

In 1850 it became The Theatre Royal, briefly doubling up as the town’s Corn Exchange before morphing into a roller skating rink at the end of the C19th.  The C20th saw big changes. In 1910, as Monmouth’s first cinema, it became…wait for it….the ‘Living Picture Palace and Rinkeries.’ Rolls of the tongue, but the Edwardian flourishes didn’t last long. In 1912 it became ‘The Palace’, later the ‘Scala’ and ending up as the ‘Regent.’

In 1928, after extensive refurbishment it reopened, aptly renamed, ‘The New Picture House,’ and in 1930 showed the very latest ‘talking pictures.’ Monmouth was agog.

Like all good things it fell victim to the curse of the ‘modern’ in the 1960’s, stopped showing films, and re-opened as a Bingo Hall, closing again in 1983.

But Monmouth is the town of happy endings. Now known as the Savoy, it was leased to the Monmouth Savoy Trust, local volunteers and enthusiasts who run it as a going concern for the people of Monmouth. It enjoys no public funding and costs £50,000 a year to run.

In 2004 the Heritage Lottery Fund contributed to renovating a faded interior, restoring the famous red velvet curtains, the incredible gilded plasterwork and glass chandeliers. As a Lancastrian, it’s a joy to sit back and enjoy the Lancastrian Rose, and the Lancastrian portcullises of Beaufort à all the fruits of living in a Lancastrian town, the birthplace of Henry Vth. My wife, coming from Yorkshire is less enamoured.

                                                     Lancastrian rose and chandelier 

And if you get bored with the film you can always enjoy fragments of the original wall paper.

The latest films are shown in this wonderful picture house, as well as presenting live performances from music to comedy and amateur drama. Long live the Savoy!

Savoy pics Dilly Boase

Friday, 14 October 2016

Slippery times

It seems to me we’ve reached the stage where media prepares public opinion for decisions the powers that be have already planned.  The horrible massacre of Muslims at Srebrenica was emblazoned across the world and sparked the invasion of Serbia. There was no publicity on the same scale of previous massacres by Muslims of Serbian villagers in the surrounding area. Both sides were guilty of ethnic cleansing, but we chose to take sides and the public were duly prepared. 

Now we cannot escape the daily output of events in Aleppo. Anyone who reads a newspaper or watches the news ‘knows’ the Russians and Assad are the bad guys who are bombing innocent people for the fun of it, because they are savages, or both. There is barely a mention of the fact that terrorists—rebels (choose your label pick your side) are fighting against the government using the local population as a human shield. Equally culpable, you might say, but barely a mention, for we have chosen our side—ostensibly fighting for ‘democracy’ along the ‘democratic’ states of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.

But back to Aleppo. We are being primed for a more muscular policy, ‘No fly zones’ for starters.
And when we shoot down a Russian plane, (or indeed a Chinese plane, for China is siding with Russia and Iran) alternatively when they shoot down one of ours what then?
And more importantly how far can we trust any such claim made?

In the late C18th Sweden provoked a war with Russia by dressing up some of their troops as Russian soldiers before attacked their own border. The Nazis played a similar trick prior to invading Poland.
In 1931 the Japanese destroyed part of a Japanese owned railway China (the Mukden incident) and thus excused their own full-scale invasion of China.
In 1964 you had the Tonkin Gulf incident when non-existent North Vietnamese torpedoes attacked an American warship, giving Lyndon Baines Johnson the excuse to bomb North Vietnam.
Whether fabricated or engineered aka The Lusitania or even valid but blown up out all sense of proportion aka ‘the War of Jenkins’ ear’ we are drifting into dangerous waters with talk of no fly zones. 

We can delude ourselves that the internet and non-mainstream outlets now acts as some kind of corrective to  traditional media, but even that is now colonised by string-pullers and tweet- merchants operating on an industrial scale. For example, the first link in this post takes you to a Russian source. Smoke and mirrors; who do you trust? 

My golden rule is that when every news outlet is saying one thing, for example Trump is a voracious sex pest, I treat it with a bucket of salt. It may be true. It may not be true, but for me the media has called ‘wolf’ too often in sly and sometimes hysterical terms.

 In the early part of the C18th we went to war with Spain because Robert Jenkins had an ear cut off. The innocent ear was exhibited in Parliament—such excitement. Had they had twitter in those days, my God. The resultant war with Spain did not however lead to Armageddon.