Monday, 25 July 2016

Frühstück before breakfast? No fear!

So we come down to the breakfast room in Frieburg, Germany, and we all have hangovers. As usual, Mick's is the worst hangover.

If we have a minor head-cold - a common event in a three month tour - then Mick's, of course, has to be worse than ours. It is worse than ours by a factor of about ten, and worse than influenza by a factor of about three. He is a professional actor.

The waiter asks us all individually if we would like tea or coffee, and we answer in the same language as asked. It's not V2 Rocket science - tee oder kaffee?. Then he comes to Mick.

Mick just says, "I would like some breakfast, please" - in English - in a reasonably polite manner. The waiter repeats the question, and Mick repeats his answer, but this time a little more curtly.

German breakfasts in hotels such as ours usually involve a choice of cereal, some bread, processed ham, processed cheese plus a croissant with a sachet of jam if you are lucky, and all can be  - must be - collected by hand at a table somewhere in the room. They were world leaders in the concept of personal breakfast rubbish bins, though. The waiter's only job is to ask you if you want tea or coffee.

So the waiter asked the question again as us two Brits looked on in mute amusment, to see what would happen next. This is when Mick had a major melt-down.


The waiter gave up, and walked back to the kitchen.

Corrine looked at me as Mick put his aching head in his hands and smiled conspiritorially.

"You do realise that you have just asked the waiter for 'four pieces', don't you?"

Sunday, 24 July 2016

The elephant in the room

The white elephant in the room gets a breath of fresh air in this hot weather...

Waitrose, Bath, July 24th 2016.

A Canterbury Tale

Here is a treat for you, and especially for Weave - Powell and Pressburger's 'A Canterbury Tale' - full length escapist film in glorious black and white. My all-time favourite film.

Just in case you cannot reach the full-screen button on this blog, I have put a link to it below, direct to You Tube. Put aside an hour or so to watch it.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Behind green doors

Last night's vivid dream entailed me answering a knock on the door of the big old house I was brought up in, and opening it to find several hundred people standing outside, and their spokesman - a famous, suited, T.V. personality - insisting they had the right to enter and take it over.

I was dressed in pyjamas, and I physically pushed him back and slammed the door on him before going back inside and wondering what to do next.

This house was - and still is - situated in a very leafy and wealthy area of Surrey, and the kitchen side-windows are set at a high level to prevent the servants from being distracted from their work by looking out of them. Most kitchen windows of houses with servants had them set this high, as did a lot of schools. The recently disgraced 'Sports Direct' company here has overcome the problem of workers becoming distracted in their warehouses by having no windows at all, I would guess.

In the days of my childhood, all - or most - of the employed gardeners in that area were Italian, and I guess that many stayed behind after the war when they were deemed non-dangerous and given work in the various communites where they were P.O.W.s. This is why there are so many Italians in Wales.

We could never afford a gardener on our two and a half acres, but the neighbours both sides could. One Sunday, we had all settled down to a roast dinner in the kitchen, when we heard some groans and garbled Italian pleas for help, and we looked up to see a half-severed hand, dripping with blood, being waved above the window cill. Next-door's gardener had somehow got it caught in the mower when clearing grass from the blades, but had obviously not bothered to turn the machine off beforehand. I didn't eat much lunch, and neither did my sisters.

The original owner of our house had shot and killed his Italian gardener, reputedly for having an affair with his wife.

During the inquest as to what happened that day in our garden, the owner said that he saw some bushes moving and thought it was a rabbit, so shot through the bush. The court accepted his explanation. Maybe the rule about always having to have a clear shot at your target did not apply to Italians at the time. Attitudes change.

Today, in Australia, you are seven times more likely to be murdered than the rest of the population if you are an indigenous Aborigine. I believe it was only a few decades ago that it became illegal for white people to go hunting Aborigines as if they were fair game animals. If they killed each other, nobody cared.

Attitudes usually change by example and peer-pressure, and this is why I love Dr Samuel Johnson so much. Not only was he an extremely clever bastard, but he was an extremely humane one too. A rare combination, especially 260 years ago.

Friday, 22 July 2016

An old man speaks

A whole year has past, and now it is almost time for H.I. to begin the first Summer School again. I wish I could show you pictures of the church, but until I find a way of getting all 2500 photos out of the old iPhoto and into the new, this will not be possible. Any suggestions?

This year, I have selected the (fully clothed) model - she is a young friend who also just happens to work in the pub. Our pub has the (unjust these days) reputation of the bar-staff ignoring customers, so at least I know she can sit still without moving for an hour at a stretch. That was an in-joke.

57% of the running costs of our pub are wages, so the bar staff have some justification in believing that the place is there for their benefit, but the days of lolling around or looking at their phones have been curtailed by the board, who have cut their hours but not their workload down.

Since Britain turned into a nation reliant on service industries, I cannot decide if I prefer the dauntingly efficient and humourless manners of a professional French waiter, or the endearing - if irritating - British waiter/waitress who has to go to the kitchen to ask the chef to describe one of the dishes on the menu when you ask about it.

What I can't stand is the way that nothing is 'a problem' to some young waiters here, and they wait until you have just put a forkfull of food into your mouth before asking, "Is everything alright for you today?"

No, on balance I'll have the surly Parisian waiters in restaurants, and the no-nonsense, buxom blondes (of myth) in British pubs. Now I sound like Nigel Farage.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

What does 'feck' mean?

We have been watching 'The Thick Of It' on DVD recently, because we didn't see it when it first appeared. If you ever want an insight into the inner workings of the Blair government, look no further, and be prepared for extremely bad language.

Armando Iannucci (Italian Scottish) recently said that he does not need to write a further, modernised series, because all this stuff is being played-out in public for real, and besides, Peter Capaldi is a bit busy being Dr Who right now.

I just looked out of the window to see my dapper Irish priest friend, Father Joe, walking down the street. He is dapper because he wears colourful shirts and stylish hats, and I have never seen him in priest's garb. I only call him 'Father' behind his back, but in a friendly sort of way.

He seems to be a priest without a church, and I believe the street children of Brazil are his flock. He lives in an annex of the huge Catholic church here, and I think he has a girlfriend. This may be utter slander, but he is usually with a woman who is every bit as stylish as him and they tour the charity shops with each other as if they are in Harrods. Today he is on his own.

When I used to see him on a regular basis, I wondered how he made any money, but he told me he had a meagre stipend from the Church which he had to scream for, and supplemented his income with scams like smuggling emeralds out of South America to try and sell to dealers in Hatton Garden.

I put him in touch with a gem dealer I sort of knew there once, and he went up to London with his booty to show him. When he returned, he said what a lovely man the dealer was and how good it was to see a framed and signed photo of the President of Israel on his office wall. I understood what he was trying to tell me.

After some toing and froing between London and South Africa, the jewels were deemed 'fecking worthless', and Father Joe asked me if I could think of anything else he could bring back to the U.K. from Brazil. I suggested cocaine, and he said he had already thought of that, but wasn't so stupidly bad at business to know that he would end up with a bullet in his head if he tried.

Like  every other Irish person I have met and asked, Joe could not tell me the meaning of the word 'feck'. I still don't know if it is an expletive or not, but these days (see the script of In The Thick Of It) it doesn't seem to matter.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

A to B

We aren't used to this heat. Everyone's getting fractious. A water-fight in a London park turned into a knife-fight yesterday, as I tried to catch up on sleep in the back of the Volvo.

Another trainee paratrooper died of being pushed too hard in the sun in the Brecon Beacons yesterday too, just as two did in exactly the same place last year.

I recieved a text from Network Rail warning me of cancelled trains to London because of the risk of derailment through buckled lines. Since they welded all the rails together to make the journies quieter, the expansion both ends of a 150 mile stretch must be measured in yards. I don't know.

Shippers are causing me the biggest problems right now. This is their job description: They are to take an item from one place and deliver it to another. That's it. How can they fuck-up so regularly?

The prospect of red sandstone dust sticking to all the exposed parts of my body (not the parts I used to want to expose) makes me reluctant to go to work again today.

As Winston Churchill once said, the conditions are always perfect for drinking Champagne.