Sunday, 5 July 2015

Halal... is it meat you're looking for?

This shows both how our local newspaper is so bleeding lazy, and how our pub is so desperate for publicity - I have been designated as official photographer for the Grand Opening of the recently refurbished Ladies Toilets to be held at The Bell this afternoon.

Ok, it is also the second AGM of the current community ownership to be held elsewhere, but really. It has taken them two years to tart up one toilet, and now the outgoing Board Members want their 2 minutes of glory and gratitude and I am the only fool who agreed to take the photos.

It could be a laugh though. Our next to useless rag is constantly showing page upon page of 'society' gatherings, with solicitors, estate agents, local business people and their wives and husbands, standing around with glasses of Champagne in salubrious settings with inane grins on their sun-tanned faces. Our yearly party is going to be held in a toilet. Like I say, it could be a laugh.

My plan is to leave it as long as possible so that everyone is as drunk as possible and gurning into the lens like loons.

The newspaper has been very specific as to the brief: The pictures must all be of groups of people facing the camera, and not with their backs turned. They want a minimum of 15 shots, and preferably 30 or more, in which case they will give us a 4 page spread. I wonder if we are paying for it. I bet we are, but will only find out next year during the Treasurer's report.

The pictures must be of a high resolution, so I have turned off the compression on my 14 MP Olympus and turned on the red-eye reduction to hope for the best. It can be quite gloomy at that end of the pub, and we could not fit everyone comfortably in the toilets, let alone get far enough away from them to get them all in shot, so I will have to use flash.

The laughs come in because The Bell is considered - by some people - to be a bit on the rough side. That is not to say that we don't get our fair share of solicitors and estate agents coming in, but they try to stay incognito when getting pissed on 'Badger's Arse' bitter - four pints for the price of three, so long as you down the jug in one.

The rest of the clientele is made up of hippies, musicians, both, alcoholics and left-wing lunatics, both, plus an incongruous sprinkling of right-wing UKIP voters, huntsmen, both, who cannot be bothered to walk into town to find an establishment more suited to their political leanings.

Last year, The Bell made it into the national news by refusing to serve Nigel Farage if he was going to be filmed by the BBC at the same time.

Last week, a group of shaven-headed EDL morons sat in the garden, unmolested by everyone, then stuck a tiny, anti-Moslem card on the wall before leaving.

Why don't they like Moslems? Because, they said, they are cruel to animals... Yeah, right.

The above title is a genuine sign in the window of a Halal butcher in Bristol. I wonder if they knew Lionel Ritchie was going to play at Glastonbury?

Saturday, 4 July 2015

The sinister side of Jane Austen

It is only July 4th, and I am already thinking about Christmas - you have to begin early when making videos and I may have left it too late already. I am starting to get ideas for another 3D video-mapping event for the pub, hence the above image. See yesterday's post if you don't know what I am talking about, or don't bother if you don't care.

Every year, I try and break the previous year's record by being the first person to mention Christmas on a blog post, and this year I have created a record which will be hard to break in the future. Mentioning it on January 2nd doesn't count. We are not even anywhere near the 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness' yet, and by its mere mention, I have broken two records in one post.

Think chintz. Think robins on logs. Think snow and lots of it. Think fictitious Victorian childhood. Well that's what I am thinking anyway, in this 80 degree heat.

There is a shop right next to the Abbey here called 'December the 25th', and - yes, you guessed it - it sells nothing but all the crap everyone seems to go in for at Christmas. The music played in it is nothing but carols, Bing Crosby and all that sort of very seasonal thing.

When it first opened about 6 or 7 years ago, I gave it until just after the real December 25th to fold up and go bust, but - unbelievably - it is still going strong. I don't recall seeing anyone go in or out of it at any time I have walked past it, and it is now such a fixture in the street that I don't even notice it when I do walk past.

Maybe it imports guns from the Czech Republic, or cocaine from Columbia, and is just a front for some much more lucrative business - a business which sells stuff which people actually want all year round?

Maybe it is just the perfect corporate example of how - if you want to be unobtrusive - you dress as outlandishly and embarrassingly as possible so that people avert their eyes in shame as they walk past?

The Jane Austen festival is coming up in a few weeks. Last year, the 'Janeites' broke all previous records for the most people dressed in period Jane Austen costume to assemble in one place at one time, as about 550 of them promenaded through Bath, studiously ignored by the locals.

Maybe the J.A. Festival is the AGM for all the mules and smugglers associated with the December 25th shop? A sort of Christmas party for criminals?

Friday, 3 July 2015

You get what you pay for

I had a message from a Board Member of the pub, asking if it would be ok to show the video mapping event on screen at the end of the AGM which is coming up this Sunday.

Fine, I said, but the best copy on You Tube has a fault with the soundtrack which repeats itself quietly but obviously, a second or so before the climactic build up which ends with the bell going 'bong'. The more I listened to it, the more bloody irritating it became, so I asked the film-maker to clean-up the soundtrack for us, which she duly did and sent me a compressed copy of about 380 MBs. All fixed and much better, so I said I would forward it on using the We Transfer system of sending large files which email alone cannot handle.

Here is the latest version on You Tube (you could be the 4th person in the world to have viewed it so far...):

A couple of days before, I had complained to my server about how expensive our broadband was, especially since we do not watch any TV channels unless they are streamed through iPlayer as a catch-up. They put me through to their loyalty department quickly (they are not normally quick) before I left them for a different server.

The bloke in that department said he could knock-off £10 per month and give me unlimited usage of the net, so long as I signed up for 18 months. I said no deal unless I could sign up for the usual 12. A short pause followed, then he told me he had swung it for 12 months, with half price service for all of them, plus line rental.

Ok do it, I said, and signed up thinking I was very clever.

When I tried to send the video via We Transfer it all began well, then the system told me I only had another 3 hours to wait before the little film was safely transferred.

I went onto the specifications for the new broadband deal, and saw that the download speed was a reasonably healthy 17 MBs per second. The upload speed, however, was 1 MB per second or less, depending on how lazy it is feeling.

It's a good job I don't want to show everyone my holiday snaps on Facebook...

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Jane Austen sex in the back of a Hansome

One foot either side of the line. Walcot Parish - St.Michael's Parish. I am a bit mystified as to why they should put an apostrophe in place of the 't'. S' Michael's Parish is hardly conversational, and it is not as if the letter-cutter had an arduous task.

These were cut into the wall of an early Victorian chapel for reformed prostitutes. Bath had plenty to choose from in those days, but now there are hardly enough to go around and the ones that you can find also have a little side-line as crack-dealers.

In the mid 18th century, Bath was teeming with prostitutes and gambling-houses. Yes, genteel Bath was built on vice. Most permanent residents - of which there were comparatively few - made their money from sugar, spice and all things nice - including slaves - but the social architect made all his money from card games.

It is very difficult to open licensed gambling houses in Bath now, let alone brothels. People have tried and failed.

I have a brilliant idea - open a a Jane Austen themed brothel. All the girls could dress up in bonnets and prim dresses, and giggle behind fans.

I have a woman friend who is a taxi driver here, and recently we used her services to go to a concert out of town, taking my German mate as a treat.

My taxi driver mate is always suntanned, and has a raucous laugh which is almost out of control and very infectious. She uses it a lot.

When she took us back to Bath around midnight after a long and mirth-filled drive from Frome, we all got out and waved goodbye. Thomas the German gave her a massive tip because he enjoyed himself so much.

A little later when talking about our driver, Thomas said, "I think she has the sort of voice that when she is a bit older, she will piss herself a little when she laughs."

I saw her the other day and told her what Thomas had said, through the open window while she was stationary at some traffic lights. She almost wet herself laughing before the lights went green.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Brother, can you spare a dime?

I love the Greeks. I always have done.

They have - up until now - been proud, independent and virtually self-sufficient.

They created philosophy and the concept of social harmony and cohesion, even before the Romans.

The Nazis fucked them over in WW2, and so did us Brits. They have always been at the arse-end of Europe - at least Turkey were our traditional enemies.

What has happened to them? The same as happened to the rest of the world.

Some bastards lent them money in the full knowledge that they would be incapable of paying it back should anything go wrong, and it has gone wrong. This unscrupulous financial practice is identical to what has caused the other, main crash in the rest of Europe.

Ok, the more successful amongst them have not been too keen on paying taxes, but how do they compare with all those U.S. and other multi-national corporations who do the same but milk the system?

Their only hope is that - with the collapse of the Greek Euro - the stock markets around the world will take a hit they cannot afford to take as well.

Shame, shame, shame.

Drawbridge mentality

I woke up this morning with a very bad feeling about the immediate future. I hope I feel a bit more positive later on. Surely it could not be possible to let the whole of Greece slowly starve to death in this day and age? When New York City declared itself to be bankrupt, everyone just carried on as normal, so I assume that all debts were just wiped off and Wall Street started afresh the next morning.

It wasn't that long ago when every bad thing that happened here was blamed on the Dutch. The world has become a lot smaller since then. Even farmers are no longer able to earn an honest day's pay for an honest day's work.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Mardle Pudding

Mark Rasdall

I'm thinking about food today. I know there are a lot of blogs which think about little else, and I know that weekends are the time when thousands of Brits set aside hours to think about it, read about it and paw over virtually pornographic photographs of it, but last night I dusted some meat with a blend of spices from Araby, the results were marvellous for the effort involved.

Also, there has just been a radio program about catering in the Houses of Parliament which listed the hundreds of animals, birds, fish and obscure parts thereof, served to the guests at Coronation banquets. I have been cynically wondering if this particular program was deliberately timed to taunt all devout Moslems in G.B. who are currently denying themselves even water between sunrise and sunset - a rather petty form of revenge for not being lax Christians?

Our pub has just started serving home-made and outdoor-cooked burgers on Saturday afternoons, beginning at 2.00 pm - just after lunchtime. This is so Bell, and I think that the main reason that they are not offered earlier is that the chef cannot be bothered to get out of bed in time to make them for lunch. This sounds a harsh thing to accuse him of, but really it is said with fond affection. The Bell would not be The Bell if it was staffed with efficient early risers, and I much prefer going in there when the bar staff are more pissed than I am.

The burger menu consists of a meat and a vegetarian option. The meat is described as having 'scorched' coriander with it. I can't think of how you cook a burger on a griddle without scorching the coriander, so maybe this is the cook putting a positive spin on an inevitable outcome. "That coriander looks a bit burnt. I know, I'll call it 'scorched coriander'!"

Restaurants have all but stopped using silly descriptions of food presentation these days - a few years ago, an egg could not simply sit on top of a pile of spinach, it had to be 'nestled on a bed' of it. Meat could not be just grilled, it had to be 'seared'. You could not pour olive oil on anything, it had to be 'drizzled'.

Somewhere, out there on the Cambridgeshire fens, a restaurant will forever exist (if you can find it) called 'Warwick's'. Staffed by a highly dysfunctional and disparate group of people, this family-run business serves every type of local produce except eel. There is a curse on eels associated with the area which precludes them from the menu.

The last I heard of them was that they had just discovered the recipe for the legendary Mardle Pudding, written on an old bit of paper stuffed behind the frame of an ancient painting hanging on the wall over the fireplace of a lonely and isolated pub.

Mardle Pudding is the culinary equivalent of The Funniest Joke in the World - once tasted, never forgotten. Whole lives have been changed and even ruined in the eating of it.

I often consider driving all the way to the fens to try and find Warwick's, but I am not sure if I would have the courage to order the Mardle Pudding - assuming that they have been foolhardy enough to actually make it.