Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Apparently I don't drink enough. 

I better be more specific. I can assure you that I drink plenty of wine - though one can never have enough I feel. I also drink more than my fair share of coffee.

What I don't drink enough of is water. It must be true. My wife keeps telling me so. My doctor keeps telling me so.

I have every sympathy with W. C. Fields who said that he never drank water because of the disgusting things that fish do in it.

Now I have been handed a book by Dr. F. Batmanghelidj which explains how water is a virtual cure-all for most of the body's ailments. It makes compelling reading and let's face it, anyone with 'Batman' in their name must be worth giving it your attention.

So I've succumbed. I can't get enough of the stuff. I'm drinking it morning, noon and night (and peeing at dawn, midday, afternoon and evening). Soon I expect to be fizzing with health.

I will let you know how I'm getting on  just as soon as I am out of the toilet long enough to report on it. 

Sunday, 28 October 2012


It was Douglas Adams (1952-2001), perhaps best known for his Science Fiction writing, who was quoted as saying:

'I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.'

The term 'deadline' is mainly used in business circles as the time when a piece of work must be finished. 

It sounds pretty threatening doesn't it? The implication seems to be that if Joe Bloggs is late in submitting the piece of work assigned to him then he  too will become the late Joe Bloggs.

The origins of the word are equally sinister. During the American Civil War, when prisoners were captured, there was often nowhere to imprison them. The solution was to herd them together and then draw a line around them in the dirt with the warning that if they crossed the line they would be shot. Literally a dead line. 

Must dash. My wife has given me a deadline for emptying the dishwasher. 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012


It was John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (just call him John) who famously wrote 

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

The avenues of history are littered with them.

There were cuddly types like Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, Roman Emperor from 54 to 68 C.E who was guilty of many murders, including his wife’s. 

Or everyone's favourite Francisco Pizarro who, along with his brothers, personify the very worst manifestation of the “Conquistadors.” Their pillage and rape of the west coast of South America destroyed the indigenous culture and looted it of its vast wealth.

Lest you think that these lovelies were all male we have Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed who has been labelled the most prolific female serial killer in history and is remembered as the "Blood Countess."

Now we can add as a footnote to the list, the name of Jimmy Savile, who although he didn't murder anyone as far as we know, used his celebrity status as a power to procure and molest young girls and women.

The chilling thought is that in the case of each of these people, others either assisted or turned a blind eye to their wicked deeds.

Sunday, 21 October 2012


The first half of this piece on wine and food matching seems to have been received favourably. This conclusion looks to inform you of a new taste which you may not be aware that you had.

We discovered last time which wines to drink with some of the basic food tastes so sweet foods need an even sweeter wine, acidic foods need acidic wines, bitter tasting foods need a sweetish wine with low tannin to balance them and salty foods bring out the fruitiness of strong reds or a nice oaked chardonnay.

You were aware of these sweet, salty, acid, and bitter tastes but may not have known that there is another taste called 'umami' which was officially recognised in 1985. This is the savoury taste which you get with tinned salmon, eggs, asparagus or cooked mushrooms.

The best wine to pair with these foods is again a low tannin wine. Pinot Noir would be a good accompaniment. 

As a general rule of thumb,  powerful food flavours need a powerful wine to match them and vice versa. But remember, apart from sustaining life, food is also useful since it gives you a good reason to drink wine - if you needed one.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012


I recently undertook an accredited wine course with an exam at the end which I hopefully passed and will thus be fully licensed to drink wine.

I thought I would pass on some tips about matching wine to food which you might find helpful. I have suggested wines to go with certain food types but of course you can find a wine below and reverse the process to see which food to serve with it.

I would stress that these are merely guidelines and ultimately, it's all down to what works for your personal taste.

Acidic foods:
If the food you are serving is acidic e.g. fish with lemon or pasta with tomato, you need an acidic wine to balance it. The food will make the wine taste fruitier and a bit sweeter but less acidic. Example wines would be a Chablis or if you prefer red, a Sangiovese.

Salty foods:
These will make wine taste fruitier and richer so if the food is bacon, nuts or crisps for instance, uncork your favourite rich red wine, a Shiraz perhaps. If you prefer white, try an oaked Chardonnay.

Sweet Foods
We all know that a 'pudding wine' will go best with a pudding but what if the food is a sweetish tasting main course like some Asian or creamy dishes? These will make wine taste less sweet and more bitter unless of course, the wine is sweeter than the dish as it is with pudding wines. Try an off-dry Gewurtztraminer or Riesling wine.

Oh and the best wine to have with fish and chips? Try champagne - it works a treat!

More to follow...

I hope you found this helpful. Don't bother to thank me, just send a nice bottle of Argentinian Malbec - my favourite.  

Sunday, 14 October 2012


Notwithstanding the fact that hers are now mere sockets, Jane Austen and I never saw eye to eye.

At school I was once asked to read 'Persuasion' and then write an essay about it. I recall that I managed about half a page which basically said that while reading the book I spent my time either fighting sleep or wondering whether suicide might be a suitable response to the novel.

My teacher wrote 'D+ - a more reasoned criticism was called for'. He also gave me a damning school report which didn't impress my parents. Despite this, I passed both my 'O' and 'A' level English with flying colours.

I was reminded of this when reading of John Gurdon whose school report read:

'A disastrous half (term). I believe he has ideas about becoming a scientist ... this is quite ridiculous ... it would be a sheer waste of time'.

Luckily John wasn't put off. An Oxford graduate, he was knighted in 1995, is a fellow of the Royal Society,  a fellow of Churchill college and has a Cambridge research institute named after him. Just to finally rub salt in his teacher's wound, he has also just won the Nobel Prize in Science.

I expect the Nobel committee in Stockholm to be contacting me very shortly.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


Last time I wrote, I listed a few much loved possessions in my study and challenged you to glean what you could about me from them. Here's the facts.
On the desk:
An 'Almost Impossible' puzzle book
I'm a sucker for puzzles and do them every day to keep my brain from crumbling
A bottle of ink
I love to write with a 'proper' pen and have studied calligraphy in the past.
A memory stick
I've been totally hooked on computers since the Sinclair spectrum days around 1980. Worked for IBM and did some programming in 'Fortran'

A wine voucher
Love my wines and am studying to get accreditation so I can appreciate them even more

A bridge book
Bridge Grandmaster confirming my geeky status

A packet of stamp hinges
... and if the geeky status was in any doubt, I collect stamps too :)

Lying around:
A book called 'Who do you think you are?'
Have studied  genealogy and created my family tree.

Some model canal boats
Love being on the water and crew for the Willow Trust, a charity which gives free day trips to the needy.

A small picture of a Cornish harbour
One of my favourite places for a holiday

A little pile of pre-decimal coins
Because I'm that old and that nostalgic. I had a friend once who bought an old car for seven and sixpence. It lasted three days which got us home and back for the weekend.
Two model cars
Love driving

Some model houses from Amsterdam
My wife and I have often said that if we didn't live in England we'd live in Amsterdam. Wonderful city.

Sunday, 7 October 2012


I'm sitting in my study. Do not for a second imagine anything grand. It's a tiny room crammed with a desk, a chair, cupboards and shelves. 

It also contains some much loved possessions.

Looking round at them I realise how much they say about me. Why not play detective and see what you can glean about me from this selection of items?

On the desk:
An 'Almost Impossible' puzzle book
A bottle of ink
A memory stick
A wine voucher
A bridge book
A packet of stamp hinges

Lying around:
A book called 'Who do you think you are?'
Some model canal boats
A small picture of a Cornish harbour 
A little pile of pre-decimal coins
Two model cars
Some model houses from Amsterdam

I'll elaborate on these treasures in my next scribbles.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012


It often strikes me, now I'm a Granddad,  that there is a common bond between the old and the very young. They both seem to sleep a lot.

Some babies sleep for up to twenty hours per day, with short periods of wakefulness.

One reason for all this sleep is the fact that the baby is still adjusting to a new environment, and experiencing rapid growth at the same time. A lot of sleep for babies early on is a good thing. Growth hormones are secreted by the pituitary gland at a much faster rate while babies sleep.

Babies sleep so much because that is part of the natural order of things. Basically, baby knows best. 

The elderly are supposed to need less sleep as they age but if, like me,  you have ever visited an old people's home and seen the rows of sleeping seniors sitting round the lounge in the middle of the afternoon you would disagree. 

The question is, now that I have started to have a nap in the afternoon, does that mean I'm into my second childhood?