Ref! The final whistle

The candid thoughts of former Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.

 Referee

Evening lads,

I see we’ve all woken up, then. From the snooze that was the England-Slovakia game, Baz. Load of rubbish, wasn’t it? And all the people who were talking Sam Allardyce up beforehand, about this system he had that the players could fall back on, well it didn’t look like they were particularly inspired, did it? And him sitting there like a face in the crowd.

No, I’m sorry, Dave, but I don’t reckon he’s up to it. I’m really sorry to be negative about it. Particularly as this is the last Ref! blog. (EDITOR’S NOTE: I TOOK  BREAK BUT NOW I’M BACK. MAYBE NOT EVERY DAY, BUT SOMETIMES)

Why? Because the guy who writes this stuff is packing it in, that’s why. He says he’s been doing it for a year and has had a lot of fun, but he’s got other things to be getting on with. So that’s it.

He’d like to thank everyone for their support, blah blah blah, but what good’s that to the likes of us?

Cheers Gary, no drink thanks, I’m not in the mood. Rather sad actually, gents. It’s been a significant part of my life these last 12 months and I’ll miss it.

But all good things must come to an end and we’ve had the 90 minutes plus stoppage time on this. And all the other threads, Dave, yes. Our colleagues in the expat, pedant, film, pop music, food and religion departments – all the same bloke, as it happens – all packing it in.

So there we are. Nothing more to be said. Anybody wishing to contact the miserable git can use his email address: chrismorvan@gmail.com

Bye.

 

 

 

Bloke in the Kitchen. Chemical assistance

kitchen

Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking

Degrees of cheating II

It sometimes seems as though the food purveyors of the 21st century are determined that we should all be overweight, with high blood pressure and blood sugar .

Those of us who like to eat a healthy diet without going down one of the extreme routes (raw, vegan, low-carb etc.) can see what appears to be a healthy option on a menu, but when it appears in front of us it’s been tampered with, spiked with things we don’t want but which the providers think we secretly do.

cheat food 1
Boiled eggs, green leaves, tomatoes, a bit of this, a bit of that and an oil and vinegar dressing. All your own work, no hidden bad stuff and a easy as pie (easier, in fact)

One of the best salads I have ever had was a mountain of green leaves served in what looked like a chamber pot. It was exactly what I was in the mood for (serving vessel excepted): the kind of meal that makes you feel good as you eat because you can imagine it doing you good.

Try that in a fast food restaurant and it will come with croutons (i.e. fried bread) and bacon bits (i.e. salt and fat), with a bottled dressing that tastes great but contains who-knows-what. This is a form of cheating that insults our intelligence. We have decided that we’re not going to have the burger and the bun and the fries and the ketchup or the fried chicken with the fat that runs up our sleeves. We know the result will be short on the sort of excitement, comfort or whatever people experience with a  load of hot fat and starch. But these people don’t take us seriously.  It’s like asking for an alcohol-free cocktail but receiving something with a little vodka and a splash of Grand Marnier because we can’t be permitted to miss out on the fun.

Help yourself to a mound of vegetables in a Chinese restaurant and you will more than likely be ingesting monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer that has bothered people since its introduction more than 100 years ago. While what we know simply as salt – sodium chloride – has the very well documented result of raising blood pressure (which in most cases is a bad thing), MSG is a bit of a mystery. On the plus side is its undeniable capacity to make things taste more appealing, adding a sort of savoury flavour that is known as umami, it also produces a wide array of symptoms in some people which others may experience to a lesser degree and just describe as generally “feeling a bit weird”.

As the cook in charge of our kitchen, it is our choice whether we use these things, in moderation or at all.

While it would be unreasonable in many cases to not use salt, it’s important to know what needs it (from a flavor point of view) and what doesn’t. A plate with a lot of vegetables, for example, needs a bit of help. If you want to enjoy a muscular dollop of spinach you will need to liven it up with a sprinkling of salt or a small chunk of butter.

Something that recently came out of the sea, on the other hand, needs no such assistance, so your grilled or lightly fried fillet of mackerel benefits just from a squeeze of lemon juice.

You may find that what you prepare doesn’t quite match up to what you are served in a restaurant, but if that is because it doesn’t contain the volume of salt, sugar or whatever, it’s your choice: go against your principles or serve it as you want it to be.

cheat food 2
Nip down the shops and get what? That won’t be necessary, friend.

As for bacon, while it is undeniably one of the stars of the breakfast plate, to throw it into every meaty dish you make is to throw in fat and salt, so it’s worth thinking about that. Similarly, if you add complexity to a stew or some other multi-ingredient dish (curry, chilli etc.) by adding Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, mustard or whatever fancy condiment caught your eye when you went shopping, bear in mind that they all contain salt, so you don’t need to automatically chuck a handful of that in too.

MSG? The simple answer is: don’t do it. Try harder in other ways. Better raw ingredients. Marinate it. Cook it longer. Cook it quicker, whatever it needs. There is nothing traditional about MSG. It’s a modern phenomenon that may eventually be discredited and abandoned.

Proper cooking – making things ourselves, rather than using ready-made dishes – is seen by some as making work for ourselves, and sometimes after a busy day it is a relief to stick a frozen pizza in the oven and switch off. But there is a lot of satisfaction to be had from doing it yourself. And if it doesn’t taste quite like a professional’s version, maybe that’s because they’re cheating and you’re not.

 

 

The wisdom of pop songs – The nature of love

The human condition explained in three-minute bursts

It’s all very well the world’s songwriters basing their work on being in love, but there is a rather basic matter to be sorted out beforehand. To quote Howard Jones, “What is lo-o-o-o-o-o-o-ove anyway?” We can disregard the next bit, “Does anybody love anybody anyway?” because it’s a nice line and he had a song to finish.

But the first part is a question that has been asked many times, from Foreigner’s whingeing “I want to know what love is” to Haddaway’s Trinidadian-German inquiry that comes just before “Baby don’t hurt me”.

So we know that whatever love is, it’s potentially hazardous.

Michael Jackson pointed out the difference between falling in love and being in love on his 1979 album Off The Wall. He can’t take any credit for such an incisive thought, though, because It’s The Falling In Love was written by Carol Bayer Sayer and David Foster.  Bayer Sager was well qualified to express an opinion, having been married to a record producer, had a relationship with the composer Marvin Hamlisch and spent most of the 1980s married to Burt Bacharach before ending up with a former chairman of Warner Brothers. She’s a pretty nifty lyricist – or knows people who are – as we can see by her quirky solo hit You’re Moving Out Today, co-written by Bette Midler and Bruce Roberts. Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t it infuriating when you can’t tell who did what?

Meanwhile, back at the concept, what is love? Is it that intense longing that comes at the start or is that just a form of lust and therefore doesn’t count? It’s certainly a confusing element, as the Partridge Family’s David Cassidy  demonstrated via I Think I Love You. You think? You only think? Come back when you’re sure. In fact the singer is not trying to make progress into a girl’s clothing by this  cautious expression of emotion: he’s afraid of suffering “a love there is no cure for”. Or rather the songwriter Tony Romeo was. That was his big moment, although he wrote other hits including Lou Christie’s I’m Gonna Make You Mine.

The Detroit Spinners didn’t seem to be afraid in their 1973 hit Could It Be I’m Falling In Love, written by Melvin and Mervin Steals (unless someone is winding me up about those names). They were just The Spinners in their native America, but in the UK we had a famous folk group of that name, so they were obliged to amend theirs.

Falling in love is the easy bit, as anyone who has been around that particular block knows. Falling in love only takes a minute, to quote Tavares before the disgraced English pop jack-of-all-trades Jonathan King grabbed himself a local hit with his own version.

In 1967 Diana Ross and the Supremes had given voice to Holland-Dozier-Holland’s (keep falling) In and Out of Love, a sort of sung expression of the old saying that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince.

It’s sustaining it that’s the hard part, staying in love while life goes on around you, and the young can’t write about that because they haven’t experienced it yet. Therefore it falls to a slightly older crowd to bring it to us. Country music is a good source of such ageing wisdom, as evidenced by Shania Twain’s 1997 crossover hit You’re Still The One, co-written by her husband and producer Mutt Lange. Sadly, he is probably not still the one in real life, because he screwed the whole thing up by having an affair with Twain’s best friend and they divorced in 2010.

Billie Jo Spears spoke for a generation of still-in-love and still lusty women with 1975’s Blanket on the Ground, in which she proposes sacrificing a some of her precious  bedding to have a nostalgic romp in the dirt with her husband. Didn’t they have sleeping bags in her one-horse town?

A very different take on the subject comes from Jamaican singer-producer Sean Paul, who is breathtakingly frank when he tells his lover:

Blessings loving from the start but you know we had to part
That’s the way I give my love
I’m still in love with you
But a man gotta do what a man gotta do

And he’s not talking about having to go off to war or some other mitigating circumstance. It’s a track from his second album Dutty Rock, dutty being the Caribbean form of dirty.

But we can’t leave the subject on that note, so let’s turn to Al Green, with his typically chirpy Still in Love With You and Thin Lizzy with a very different song of the same name.

This love business is a marathon, not a sprint.

 

 

 

 

Kaycee’s Klasic Films – Local Hero

Siobhan Kennedy-Clarke’s classic film reviews
Our fictitious reviewer Siobhan (KayCee) didn't have much of an education but she's passionate about films

Hero 1

This was written and directed in 1983 by Bill Forsyth, the same guy who did Gregory’s Girl and he is Scottish and likes to set his films in Scotland and use Scottish talent they’re very patriotic the Scots and if you’ve ever been there you will know there is a lot of beautiful unspoilt countryside and coast which is probably because of the climate it’s cold and wet a lot of the time so you can’t turn the coastline into a load of beach resorts.

That is kind of what the film is about there’s this rich American businessman Mr Happer (Burt Lancaster) who is the boss of the Knox Oil Company in Houston and he wants to build a refinery on the coast in northern Scotland because as you probably know there is a lot of oil and gas under the sea up there and oil rigs all over the place. He sends one of his young executives Mac McIntyre (Peter Riegert) to scout the place. Mac doesn’t see why he should have to actually spend time there because he could wrap the whole thing up with two or three telexes which was a sort of quick communication method before email and Whatsapp. I think.

Anyways he has to go and the Scottish guy who meets him over there and shows him around, Danny (Peter Capaldi the current Doctor Who) is  a quiet country lad and Mac is a stressed out city high flyer. They’re looking at a bay in a small village and its peaceful and lovely Danny is in love with this marine biologist played by Jenny Seagrove but she’s too sophisticated for him if you know what I mean.

Mac checks into a very small hotel run by Gordon (Denis Lawson) and his wife Stella (Jennifer Black) sorry about all these brackets and punctuation it gets on your tits don’t it? Gordon is quite similar to Mac in some ways but has lived a very different life and you can gradually see them both thinking that.

It’s the kind of small place where people sometimes have two jobs to make ends meet and Gordon is not just the hotelier but also the local accountant/business adviser.

The company really wants to buy the beach and a lot of the locals are willing to sell because they would become rich beyond their wildest dreams but the stumbling block is Ben Knox same name as the company see so there’s a link there. He’s played by Fulton Mackay who was famous as the prison warder Mr Mackay in Porridge TV comedy.

You can’t help being drawn into the peace and tranquility just like Mac is and he’s also very struck by Stella and Gordon knows but doesn’t mind funnily enough. Gordon even suggests one night when they’re both drunk that they should swap lives and Mac would have the hotel and Stella with it I don’t know if that’s romantic or pervy really but they don’t do it so I don’t suppose it matters.

hero 2

Big boss Happer eventually comes over partly because he is an astronomer and wants to see the Northern Lights those natural colours in the sky they get sometimes. What happens in the end well you’ll have to watch it yourself what would you like to happen in the end? It’s just a film that makes you feel good and you escape your life wherever that may be and live in a Scottish village by the beach for a while.