Disaster on the 05:57hrs from Petersfield this morning as outrage, disappointment and defeated resignation rippled through the ten carriage train as the early wave of City bound commuters learned from Pat, OC the Tea Trolley, that, “sorry, no teabags; they forgot to load the teabags.” There is nothing guaranteed to more upset the dutiful equilibrium of the early morning commuter than no tea on the tea trolley. No tea trolley at all would be better than watching the approach of the trolley with quiet satisfaction, knowing that a hot brew is moments away, only to be thwarted by sloppy loading at the depot. This is the sort of lost nail that can lead to the loss of a pretty important horse. Were markets to crash later today, the cause may not be the US GDP or the FOMC statement falling short of market expectations but rather the lingering sense of disbelief and hopelessness of the CIO’s, fund managers and traders on the 05:57hrs from Petersfield.
“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible." T.E. Lawrence; Seven Pillars of Wisdom
Now, in the first of what is about to be a regular feature of roving restaurant and pub reviews, (that’ll be mostly pubs with the odd restaurant), we’re going to break new ground. I’m fed up with all the Whinging Wendies on Tripadvisor and the like so I’ll do it myself and find something nice to say about everywhere I go. This shouldn’t of course be difficult given no proprietor sets out to give his guests a bad time, that would just be insane, so let’s accentuate the positive starting with Gaucho in Richmond.
Now Gaucho in Richmond is a wee bit off my beaten track but a family birthday celebration necessitated the trek down there. I totally misjudged my timings though and I arrived at the pretty riverside location a full 70 mins early, having found the over ground from Waterloo a pretty swift 16min journey. What then to do?
Fortunately, help was at hand at the bar where I decided to get into the South American spirit of the thing and ordered a Mojito. Warning! Be bloody careful with these blighters for they go down rather more swiftly than might be considered wise on a Monday evening. In fact, so refreshing was the first that I had a couple more. That, and the fact that the restaurant appears to have more helpful and pretty waitresses per square metre than most set the evening square and good. The rest of the evening is something of a blur but the food was apparently good; Mrs Flashbang said so.
There you are then, if peckish or thirsty in Richmond, wheel down to Gaucho, do the whole “Our Man In Buenos Aires thing,” and the Mojito’s, the waitresses or the food will put a smile on your face. What not to love?
One of the really cool things about this summer, and the unusually hot weather, is the way our girls have thrown themselves into the current fashion for all things Sixties with unbridled enthusiasm. I'm observing from afar with similar unbridled enthusiasm, for the Sixties that I remember growing up in as a child was just about all in black and white in my memory........... I kid you not. Even so, as a five year old the last thing I was interested in was what clothes girls were wearing. I lived in a world of lace up leather shoes that hurt like buggery for the first three months, shorts, balaclava's and two-sizes-too-big duffel coats and avoiding the big boys in 4b.
But, and I'm just putting it out there, the Fashionista's weren't the first to generate this revival, no Sir. May I draw your attention to the epic 2011 "Ken & Barbie," Haslemere Rugby Club rugby tour to Gloucestershire and the proud winner of the Best Dressed Tourist Award, (my first sporting award and quite fairly awarded I thought because I took a change of dress for the evening).
Quick tip for the girls here loves; the high heel thing doesn't really work with short skirts, well not unless you have legs like Cyd Charisse. Follow my lead and stick to flats as I'm demonstrating above.
Where Crumble goes, the fashion world follows.
After a long dark, dreicht winter most trout fisherman can hardly contain their boyish enthusiasm as the new season approaches which on most British rivers is in April / May. Most hope for their opening days to coincide with the Mayfly, that transitory entomological phenomenon that live for a year or so as nymphs on the river bed before emerging as an adult to mate and die, usually within a day. The trout, having endured a winter every bit as barren and boring as the fishermen, gorge themselves on the swarms of Mayfly in what is known as “Duffers Fortnight.” For the Mayfly, it’s a short, wistful existence predicated on breeding but they have a charm and elegance for lovers of river life that passes as soon as it arrives leaving us with long sultry and tough days of summer fishing when the sated trout lose interest.
Of course in America they do things differently. Somewhat predictably even the Mayfly come Super Sized and this year the town of La Crosse in Wisconsin is enjoying not so much a hatch as they are an invasion. As far as I can surmise huge swarms of Mayfly are far from unusual but to have them so numerous that they show up on weather radar and block out the sun is going a wee bit too far. Still, the good people of La Crosse can at least go about their business safe in the knowledge that all the Mayfly will soon be dead and their town has suddenly become famous across the world.
Back to the gentler waters of the chalk streams of Hampshire and indeed gentler times. Here’s the late, great countryman himself, Jack Hargreaves telling us about the Mayfly in his Out of Town television series. We’re blessed that at least one man took the time to explain and teach us all those years ago about a pre-war countryside way of life that has all but vanished. Top man, top programme.
Well, I sat down last night in front of the television with a bottle of red aggravator looking forward in a ghoulish sort of way to laughing and cringing my way through the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony in a re run of the bloody awful Olympic Opening Ceremony. Strangely.... I found myself getting drawn in and enjoying it.
Ok, some of it was a bit shortbread tin and heather kitsch but actually, that's what most people want and expect. There were some low points, obviously there were. Susan Boyle managed to leave most people with bleeding ears and the Pipes & Drums could have done with another 50 mins of exposure but then that's just me. Most teams looked as if they’d dressed themselves after ram raiding TK Max or clearing the shelves of a closing down charity shop. The biggest home nations obviously won gold and silver here. The English team came out looking like a bunch of cheap 1970’s gigolo’s and the Scots were apparently dressed by an art student working on a theme of “throw up you can wear” and a healthy supply of Perthshire tearoom curtains. Odd isn’t it that the best dressed teams seemed to come from the smallest countries.
The highlights for me included that amazing violinist, Nicola Benedetti (who goes straight to the top of the TMC list), and most of the girls in the Welsh team who just looked terrific; I may now have to support Wales except in rugby sevens were I sincerely hope they crash, burn and fail to score a single point and exit the competition never to play the game ever again. Actually, I shouldn't knock the Welsh, if only because they brushed all the winging about the accommodation aside at the Dehli Games, got on the plane and got on with the job.
I thought the charity thing was a cool idea and was happy to chuck a fiver in the pot. All in all, its set the stage really well and has to be the best Commonwealth ceremony ever. Big congratulations to Glasgow who everyone seems to agree this morning are the knock down winners of the Games and deservedly so.
The best thing about the Games though, which I genuinely hope are a massive success, is that they deliver a healthy poke in the eye with a sharp stick to most of the self obsessed and cynical short term Charlies in Westminster who have done the square root of bugger all to support the Commonwealth over the past fifty years. The Commonwealth only exists because of the dogged perseverance and patience of the Queen whose vision for the Commonwealth has seen off generation after generation of doubting politicians to the point where we might rightly ask, "has it indeed ever been stronger and is not its role more relevant today than ever it has been?" The second biggest Commonwealth supporter is of course the Duke of Edinburgh and I'm putting my stake in the ground as the third. With so much tension and strife in the world the Commonwealth is an interesting and useful diplomatic back channel outside the usual power blocks but one which retains individual State independence and importantly, integrity through the leadership and patronage of HM. Its a family of shared blood, history and values which very much ought to be celebrated and not ignored or treated like some embarrassing anachronism.
Oh and just in case anyone else felt short changed by the Ceremony organisers and their parsimonious use of the pipes & drums here you go, enjoy!
And sadly the Crumble Crew have, with heavy hearts, bid a fond farewell to Crumble Towers and moved the family lock, stock and barrel + 3 Labradors down to Compton, about 15 miles south of Haslemere. This of course will provide a new and rich seam of blog material but my, the South Downs; who would have thought one could enjoy a Big Sky so close to Haslemere - I feel like its Montana. Truth be told, it's 15 miles and about fifty years; what is there not to like about a pub with dog biscuits on the bar or another that does take away fish & chips of a Friday.
Mrs Flashbang and I were, for once, in agreement that change was required after nearly twenty years in the Haslemere area and are enjoying the move despite some emotional resistance from the Crumble Kids; which is rich given they've all but permanently left home less the youngest who anyway is off to the Arctic tomorrow for a month. The dogs meanwhile put up sterner resistance. Well, Gunner at least did. In fact he was the only one to mount a display of defiance, lying down on the path resolutely defending his home as the removers wisely stepped around him. Gurkha meanwhile treated them with bored indifference while Diesel thought a bunch of new playmates had come to play.
The movers by the way, were a local firm called Colwin Removals and a better bunch of lads you won't find. They worked like Chinese Coolies, were very considerate of home and goods, were good humoured and importantly, priced themselves very competitively. I couldn't recommend them enough and incidentally, ours was a pretty big move out of a quirky ancient listed house into........ well another quirky remote house!
and my, we do get some interesting weather!
The Rockford Files, (I remember thinking how cool it would be to have a telephone answering machine when first I watched it), all 124 wonderful episodes, 1974-1983, and how good was Stewart Margolin as Angel and Joe Santos as Sgt Dennis Becker. All the greats are checking out……………..
…. Jim Rockford; “You know what's wrong with karate Jerry? It's based on the ridiculous assumption that the other guy will fight fair.”
The Flight MH 17 row continues to escalate; why is it so difficult for someone to get on a plane and go and talk to Putin? The traditional mediator at such times, Germany, has excused and absented themselves from the process. Mrs Merkel must swing into gear, far from protecting Germany's interests she will achieve the opposite in sacrificing the long term good for short term industrial interests.
My view from the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis is that I wouldn’t trust either side as far as I could throw them and propaganda and misinformation continues to stream from both sides. The EU are absolutely culpable in precipitating the crisis in making impossible demands while making unfulfillable promises. Like it or not, EU meddling resulted in the overthrow of an elected government and having lit the fuse the EU stood back, turned and ran away. Now we have nigh on 300 innocents dead, and many thousands more in Ukraine itself and the European economy under threat of being destabilised.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world has accepted at face value the assertion that rebels downed the civilian aircraft. That may transpire to be fact but should be left to clinical investigation. Russia’s Defence Ministry is challenging the allegations and has produced evidence suggesting a Ukrainian fighter jet had tracked the airline despite early assertions from the Ukrainians that no fast jets were in the air. The Russians have also challenged the Americans to produce the satellite imagery they say they have showing that the missile was launched by the rebels. There are many more conflicting assertions and pieces of supposed evidence out there, such as the report of a Spanish air traffic controller working in Ukraine who said the Boeing was under escort by two Ukrainian fighters, and I know not which may or may not be accurate. I would simply encourage a healthy scepticism of the output of both sides. We’ll get the truth, eventually.
As an aside, I'm no fan of John Pilger and am diametrically opposed to just about everything he stands and has stood for but its a funny old world. So warped and pliable have political principals become in our modern world and so diluted has the integrity of journalism become that I find myself in almost absolute agreement with his thoughts on the Ukraine in this pretty searching and articulate piece from his blog. Worth a read.
One further point. Much has been made of lack of respect for the dead. If looting has taken place its unforgiveable but amongst the swaggering gangsters it is also clear that many local volunteers, firemen, miners and the like, have collected bodies and body parts. That is a traumatic experience. My old company was at Lockerbie, (after I had left them), and did just that job. The legacy of social problems and PTSD among those men lingers on and in fact I attended a funeral just two weeks ago, the cause of which may well stretch back down the years to Lockerbie. People who haven’t been handed a plastic bag and been asked or told to “go and collect” shouldn’t be so quick off the mark to criticise. It’s not a nice thing to have to do.
The Scottish independence debate has so far been characterised by a poverty of original clear thinking. The paper below by Paul Marsh, Emeritus Professor of Finance at the London Business School and Scott Evans of Walbrook Economics, about the merits of Scottish independence from a stock market perspective, changes the tone somewhat. In it, they soberly de-construct how Scotland would have fared since 1955 with its own stock exchange and how it would fare as an independent country.
With the clock running down we urgently need more input of similar calibre. One could be forgiven for thinking that the actuality of the situation is that Salmond & Co are dreading the "Oh bugger, that wasn't supposed to happen, what now?" moment if they actually do win while one might be left to think that Cameron & his playmates, latterly supplemented with a squadron of clickty-clack heeled media friendly thirty-something women junior ministers, won't shed a tear because the embedded Labour majority at Westminster will be gone forever.
Hull City Council have announced a scheme to create their own crypto currency with which citizens may be paid for doing jobs that benefit the community and which may then be used to pay for local services such as public transport, food banks or even council tax. At last, a council that is thinking and doing.
Notwithstanding it may be an April Foll story, (although the story was circulating yesterday), this is a great piece of mutually supporting creative planning. Designed to tackle local poverty, without knowing it they've just drawn the blueprint for what a Big Society really is. They probably also don't realise that I proposed a similar Community Credit scheme three years ago in a piece called, oddly enough, "Creating the Big Society," But hey, this isn't about trying to catch some airtime for a good idea that someone's else has also come up with! The important thing is that they're doing something about it.
The elegant enhancement in my scheme though is that citizens could also be fined credits / Hull Coins / widgets for minor offences and be forced to earn them through community work, or use those already earned, to pay the fines off.
Anyway, I take my hat off to Hull, salute their innovation and applaud the can-do and will-do attitude. As an aside, what a great thing to do to bring a community together some 100 years after the same community stepped forward to help their countrymen and raised four Pals Battalions, the 10th Easy Yorks (Hull Commercials), 11th East Yorks (Hull Tradesmen), the 12th East Yorks (the Hull Sportsmen) and the 13th East Yorks, (T'Others) .......... only in Yorkshire.
In a worrying incident this morning, several hundred passengers on the 06:45 commuter train from Salisbury to London have become stranded in Matlock, Derbyshire; some 150 miles from their intended destination. In what Network Rail managers called, a rail traffic control nightmare, the South West Trains service was redirected several times following an electrical fault which delayed the train at Basingstoke.
Mr Roy Parrish, Director of Services for Network Rail said, "The train experienced electrical issues at Basingstoke and was moved temporarily onto another line to keep the main line clear. When the fault was cleared it was unfortunately not possible to move the service back because of other services using the main London line." He went on to explain that once on the Reading line it was easier to divert ahead via Reading but due to confusion there, the service was misdirected to Oxford by which time it had been inadvertently labelled in the Network Control Centre as a train destined for Birmingham New Street. Mr Parrish continued, "immediately the error was spotted, a decision was taken to bypass Birmingham and route the service up the Sheffield line from where is would continue to Doncaster and join the high speed East Coast line back south to London. The train though, broke down en route to Sheffield several miles outside Matlock."
Although it sounds like a comedy of errors, a harassed Mr Parrish explained, "it really is just an unfortunate sequence of events. I want to emphasise that passenger safety has not been compromised and everything that can be done is being done to get these people to their destination."
Passengers on the train however, vented their anger and irritation to news desks by mobile telephone. Mrs Margaret Evans-Pritchard (67), a retired teacher from Shipton Bellinger was an exception and said in a telephone interview, "it's all been rather fun really, a sort of mystery tour and the Peak District is so pretty at this time of year." However, a Mr Francis Dart, (45), an insurance broker from Salisbury, summed up the prevailing dark mood on the train when he said, "it's utterly absurd. What should be a one and a half hour journey has taken all day going in the opposite direction and now we're stuck in the middle of nowhere with only one loo between us. Just sums this country up."
Investigators from the Rail Accident Investigation Branch are said to be not involved given no incident has actually taken place but, they may take an interest to see if lessons can be learned, an unnamed spokesman said.
South West Trains said they were confident of getting all the passengers to their ultimate destinations in time for work tomorrow.
Good morning and the schools and universities are starting to break up for Easter from this weekend and families will begin to drift off on holidays after the quarter end. Many will be drawn to the slopes to enjoy a last blast down the piste while others will seek more tranquil and warmer climes. Not me. I’m off to Wolverhampton, the Cote d’Azur of the West Midlands where I shall be at my post with water, hot sweet tea and jelly babies to hand supporting one of the Crumble barking mad loons in his attempt to complete the Tough Guy marathon.
Much maligned Wolverhampton is apparently the 9th unhappiest place to live in the UK and was disappointed in 2009 to be beaten by Detroit, Accra in Ghana, Los Angeles, San Salvador and four others for the Lonely Planet title of the worst place to live in the world. It was only included in the list, (the Lonely Planet hadn't actually been that deep into the Midlands), because of a reader anecdote that quoted a Wolverhampton man at Ground Zero just after 9/11 when George Bush visited. 'Bush comes up to shake his hand asks him where he's from. The man replies 'Wolverhampton'. 'I don't know that place,' says Bush. 'What state is it in?' 'The man from Wolverhampton looks around him and replies, 'It's pretty much like this really.'
Well I’m not having any of that nonsense and you can look forward to my Monday reportage on the trip as much as I’m looking forward to going.