Kaycee’s Klasic Films – Coogan’s Bluff

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

Ive talked about Clint Eastwood here before, a couple of times in fact and its not that I’m obsessed with him or nothing but he has made a lot of movies ain’t he and in different styles. So now I’m looking at my favourite non-cowboy one Coogan’s Bluff. I could of gone for Play Misty For Me cos that’s good too but Coogan’s is the one I always go back to.

Its about a law man in Arizona who takes time off from tracking villains in the desert to go to New York City to bring back this guy Jimmy Ringerman whose on the run. Clint plays Coogan who wears the old cowboy stuff pointy toed boots and  hat maybe a Stetson I don’t know. And people keep calling him Tex because he looks like he’s from Texas.

He gets ripped off by a taxi driver who takes him all round the houses to get where he’s going and Coogan spots that they pass Bloomingdales twice (big department store). And the guy charges him extra for luggage because he’s got this little briefcase with him.

Nice lines here: the guy on hotel reception charges him extra because he hasn’t got luggage and Coogan goes “there’s a taxi driver in this town that’d give you and argument”.

We know, Clint, it’s Arizona. But blimey, don’t you look young.

Coogan has no patience with the slower NY way of justice and just wants to get Ringerman without waiting for the court to authorise it so he pees off the detective he’s dealing with (Lee J. Cobb nice performance). And he meets a probation officer Julie played by Susan Clark who never really made it but must have been only inches away cos she’s good and really pretty. She just couldn’t get past actresses like Katharine Ross I guess still she done a few things.

And Ringerman’s girlfriend is this tiny little thing Linny Raven (Tisha Sterling) and she fancies Coogan and it’s like his duty in those days to doink her just because she’s there and he does and she tells Julie all about it.

This was 1968 and there was cycle delick music around then and the scenes in clubs and parties are full of weird music and stoned people.

There’s a motorbike chase which might a peel to some people blokes I guess but what I like about the film is its quite funny and Clint’s so cool.

I guess its just personal preference I know there’s nothing here that makes the film a mantelpiece but it’s a nice way to spend an hour and a half and that’s the name of the game as they say what game I don’t know the game of life maybe the game of what am I going to do tonight when I ain’t going out.

The wisdom of pop songs – Mr and Mrs

The idea of singing to a real person – or perhaps inventing a person and singing to them – but not in a boy-girl-I-love-you way can be effective. Anything that brings realism to art tends to give it credibility. In the case of pop music it can add a touch of originality by shifting the listener’s perspective.

Take, for example, Outkast’s Ms Jackson. He’s sorry, the singer is, for hurting Ms Jackson’s daughter, and I have always had this mental picture of him in Ms Jackson’s kitchen, having gone round there to apologise. The popular video actually shows her driving round to have it out with him, curlers in her hair and all. That’s one reason I would rather just listen to a song, rather than watch the video, because the visuals are just someone else’s interpretation.

I’m not putting that video up because I would like you to use your imagination.

The music borrows from Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin, the section known as The Bridal Chorus (and colloquially as Here Comes The Bride), which imparts a certain romantic air, and the song has a catchy hook; in fact you could say it consists largely of the hook, even if he does wander off down a lane of incomprehensible soulbrutha chuntering (and when I first  read the lyrics I had less sympathy for the guy because he’s whingeing – although some people might think he has a point. For me, finally watching the video was like wandering innocently into the wrong part of town and being confronted by gangsters).

Having set up in my own mind the image of being in the woman’s house, there is also the possibility that Ms Jackson is an attractive woman in her own right and that our penitent hero has noticed this. It wouldn’t be the first time a boy has fancied his girlfriend’s mother.

Again, the video takes a different view, casting Ms Jackson as the kind of old dragon no cool rapper would be interested in. So, sadly, the more I look into this song, the less it seems to be what I originally imagined, and would still like to imagine. Quite a moving little pop experience, though, if you keep other people’s images out of your head.

A similar kettle of fish (sorry, what a vile expression) exists in the very different Mrs Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter, as sung in 1965 by Herman’s Hermits. Either despite or because of its self-consciously Manchester accent, this was a big hit in the USA, but it wasn’t originally released as a single in the UK. They loved our regional accents in the States, lapping up the Beatles’ pronunciation (thur instead of there and so on), and Davy Jones flew the Mancunian flag in The Monkees. Even now Americans talk of how they love a “British” accent, whatever that is.

This is one Mrs Brown’s lovely daughter: Polly Brown of Pickettywitch. Looks a bit Sheryl Crowish, doesn’t she?

The original version of Mrs Brown had been recorded a couple of years earlier by the actor Tom Courtenay for a TV play.

And even that isn’t the most interesting thing about the song, because you’ll never guess who wrote it. And I mean never, because without  some monstrous clues and guidance, surely no one would get anywhere near it.

Trevor Peacock.

Who? Not the stuttering villager in The Vicar of Dibley?

Yes, him.

And, as Barry Norman used to say, why not? Young people desperate to get into the entertainment field will try anything, and clearly Trevor had all-round talent.

Despite the accent giving it a slightly comic feel, the song is a poignant little thing. Again, the singer is addressing the mother, but in this case it’s the girl who has dumped him and he’s saying “tell her that I’m well and feeling fine” while secretly hoping Mrs Brown will shake her daughter by the shoulders and tell her not to be so stupid because he’s a nice boy and he’s crazy about her.

In the mid 70s Billy Paul brought us Me And Mrs Jones, about an extramarital affair which he wants to keep secret but has no intention of ending. It’s the sort of love song that requires us to either ignore or forgive the circumstances and just concentrate on the genuine love that’s going on there.

Brazenly borrowing the title, Amy Winehouse gave us a very different story on a track from her miraculously good album Back to Black. It’s hard to work out what she is really trying to tell us, but she and Mr Jones are apparently getting it on. Listeners of a sensitive disposition should prepare themselves at the start of every verse for the invented word “f***ery”, which can be translated as mischief, stupidity, treachery and probably many other things. She’s having a go at her man for making her miss the Slick Rick gig and thinking  that she didn’t love him when she did. And she’s not going to put him on the guest list for her own gig because he has had a lot of other women.

But is Mr Jones the object of her affections as well as her tirade? As is so often the case, we can’t be sure, because it’s just a pop song, with words being thrown at a vague subject and the main requirement being to fit the lines and rhyme where necessary rather than to make a cohesive story.

Jones is a popular name in songs, even cropping up in the Bee Gees’ highly unusual New York Mining Disaster 1941. “Have you seen my wife, Mr Jones?” one trapped miner says to another, presumably showing him a little black and white photograph. The song is nothing short of a triumph of craft over subject matter and shows the inventive side the Gibb brothers exercised before discovering that smartly tailored disco music and gimmicky falsetto singing could make them a thousand times more money.

Paul Simon hit a seam of pure gold when fashioning a song out of the 1967 film The Graduate. Anne Bancroft’s simmering older woman, Mrs Robinson, inspired Simon to one of his most enduring successes and to his credit he did it without resorting to sexual fantasizing, delving into her mind rather than her underwear to explore what made her as she was. Many years later George Michael would use Mrs. R’s “Would you like me to seduce you?” line in Too Funky.

The ultimate “cougar” before the term was even coined. Anne Bancroft seduces a generation

For me, though, even that brilliant musical psychoanalysis  is eclipsed by Simon’s song about an architect. So Long Frank Lloyd Wright is a beautiful piece of wistfulness reflecting on a friendship between two men. And it’s not even based on fact. Legend has it that Art Garfunkel challenged Simon to write a song and gave him the most unlikely subject matter, which the master turned into a hypnotic three minutes that makes the listener feel sad about something that not only they didn’t experience, but never happened.

So, with all due respect to the millions of songs that take liberties with our willingness to believe, once in a while somebody creates a song that is the equal of any poem by any celebrated man of words of any era.

It’s not just the song, of course: that is just the framework on which the layers of sound are added through  spellbinding production, and if you or I had a go at this one open-mic night there would be precious little magic in the air. But the recording as issued on the album Bridge Over Troubled Water is one that I would be very tempted to put in a time capsule for future generations or people from another planet to marvel at.

 

Kaycee’s Klasic Films – Sideways

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

This 2004 film won loads of awards and it wins my award for the best film of 2004 not that I take much interest in the Oscar and all that it’s a load of old tosh ain’t it just fills a gap at a quiet time of year the year after things really happened. Its about the California wine country or about two old friends who go there for a sort of stag week people want more than a stag night or a hen night these days which I suppose is okay if you can afford it. The most I ever managed was two days in Bournemouth when my mate Mel got married and we was only supposed to be there one night only we got plastered and met some guys.

And that’s sort of what happens here. Jack (Thomas Haden Church) is getting married to this girl from a wealthy family and he probly loves her you never really know do you but he wants to have a last fling before the handcuffs go on so he goes off to the wine country with his mate Miles (Paul Giamatti). Jack is this outgoing fun guy who is supposed to be an actor but all he’s getting is jobs doing voiceovers for radio commercials the kind where they spend half the time cramming the technical stuff into it as fast as they can. I suppose if your being sympathetic you could think he feels a bit of a failure and wants to cheer himself up. But the one who really needs cheering up is Miles whose a teacher but still trying to make it as a novelist and he’s depressed cos his ex has just got married again.

They meet a wine lover called Maya (Virginia Madsen) who Miles kind of knows and he doesn’t realize she fancies him but Jack being a bit of a lad knows these things and he spots it straightaway. But Miles is too shy and too down to make the most of it it’s a shame when that happens ain’t it girls because we have to show the stop sign a lot and when we give the green light its frustrating when the guy dosen’t respond.

Come on Milesy. Everyone knows what that look means.

Anyways Jack also meets a wine waitress or something called Stephanie (Sandra Oh who looks Vietnamese or something only she’s got a long face – seriously) who is more like him looking for a good time. But he dosen’t tell her he’s about to get married of course.

They go on a double date and end up back at Maya’s place and your just wishing Miles would realize he’s got it made but he’s too slow to catch a cold and although Jack and Stephanie get it on it ain’t very x-certificate in Miles and Maya’s pants.

Now we get to the part where I don’t know how much to let on without spoiling it but it don’t take much to realize Jack ain’t going to get away with it and sure enough Stephanie finds out and freaks out and belts him in the face with her motorbike helmet. Which leaves the problem of how to explain his smashed up face to his fiancée when he gets home.

Its good fun this one and you can take it a bit serious if you want but its still amusing and its kind of good quality I don’t know how else to describe it. If a young director did it with a young cast and aimed it at younger people it would be smutty and tasteless ooh listen to me I’m all classy in my old age.

Its extremely good put it like that and you feel glad you watched it cos its like having a good bottle of wine instead of some special offer crap from Afganistahn do they make wine there probly not its too dusty.

 

 

The wisdom of pop songs – O Caroline by Matching Mole

The way it goes in writing this blog is that sometimes I’m enjoying it so much and the ideas are coming so thick and fast that something slips through the net. And so it is that in this case I must apologise not just to you but to myself for omitting this beautiful, haunting song by Robert Wyatt.

Wyatt, for those who may have missed him throughout his long but low-key career, started out as the drummer with The Soft Machine, a jazz-rock band that emerged from Canterbury, England, in the late 1960s. Why is the city worth mentioning? Because it spawned a host of talent around that time and there was a cohesion to it all: musically sophisticated, jazzy and with an understated English eccentricity about the lyrics.

Names? Soft Machine, Caravan, Hatfield and the North among many. As for musicians, in addition to Wyatt, there was Kevin Ayers, Daevid Allen of Gong fame and Dave Stewart (not the Eurythmics one, but he had a couple of surprising hits with Barbara Gaskin). Those are the people you might have heard of, the tip of an iceberg of people who are musicians but not potential celebrities. If, like me, you spent a lot of time hanging around in record shops after school, you will recognize names such as Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper, David Sinclair, Pip Pyle, Pye Hastings and Elton Dean.

Some of them are dead now, while others have made a career out of it without necessarily making much money.

As for Robert Wyatt, he overcame the adversity of being paralysed from the waist down after falling out of a fourth floor window at a party and has continued making music. His guileless, angelic voice has given a new twist to such pop hits as I’m a Believer and Yesterday Man, while his version of Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding gave the anti-war song (about building ships for the Falklands conflict) a poignant edge quite different from Costello’s own treatment.

This Caroline song is by Wyatt’s band Matching Mole (a literal French translation and wilful mispronounciation of Soft Machine). Listen to the first line: “David (Sinclair)’s on piano and I may play on a drum”, which leads into his reiteration to Caroline of his love and devotion, and the fact that they once expected to marry, but clearly things have changed. That girlfriend was Caroline Coon, an artist who briefly managed The Clash and who was also celebrated in The Stranglers song London Lady.

How did this song fail to be a hit when released as a single? Maybe it is possible for a record to be too good, too sophisticated to succeed.

The wisdom of pop songs – Caroline

With a sizeable part of the pop music canon devoted to songs about girls, their names inevitably crop up as the lovesick boys profess their undying devotion. And one name crops up a lot: Caroline. It’s not as if the world was full of Carolines, and it doesn’t rhyme with many things, but songwriters seem to like it.

So off we go on a journey that starts with Neil Diamond, whose Caroline of choice was apparently sweet (and he rhymes it with “inclined). So was Status Quo’s muse shortly afterwards, if a muse is somebody who inspires you to “really wanna make ya”).

The Beach Boys had already used the name for one of Brian Wilson’s trademark heartache ballads Caroline No, about a girl who has grown up too fast and left the boy trailing in her wake. It happens, Brian. But there’ll be another one along in a minute.

Former Zombies lead singer Colin Blunstone’s breathy 1971 ode, Caroline Goodbye, was about a real girl who people of a certain age will know. Caroline Munro was Blunstone’s girlfriend, an aspiring actress who entranced a generation of  young men with her TV commercial appearances as the Lamb’s Navy Rum girl before graduating to film, notably in the Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me.

Around the same time Lou Reed, under the influence of David Bowie but just before his breakthrough Transformer album, recorded Caroline Says, a prototype of Reed’s strange era when he attempted to be camp and which heralded songs such as Satellite of Love.

In the early 1990s an American heavy rock band called Concrete Blonde had an album called Bloodletting and from it issued the single Caroline, with vocals by Johnette Napolitano (a woman) and the most fluid guitar work in rock history by half man, half octopus James Mankey.

And then there was the late, lamented Kirsty MacColl, destined to be killed by a powerboat while swimming in Mexico. With MacColl’s knack of sounding like the rather naughty girl next door, her Caroline song deals with not wanting to see her friend because she feels guilty, having just  pinched her boyfriend.

Fleetwood Mac’s contribution comes on 1987’sTango In The Night. Caroline here is both “crazy” and “lazy”, which is nothing more than lazy writing, with Lindsey Buckingham having stumbled upon the art of sometimes making a hit through production rather than songwriting.

By coincidence, former Mac guitarist Danny Kirwan, many years after his introduction by Peter Green, had his own C-song, a typically dreamy piece of work by a man who was by all accounts (and presumably still is) intense and serious. If you’re heard His Fleetwood mac song Dragonfly you will recognize this one as being his.

In 2007 a slightly oddball English girl, Kate Nash, had a surprise hit with Caroline’s a Victim, which is refreshingly raw in the era of computer-smooth pop.

So that’s plenty of Carolines and it doesn’t even take into account the Carolinas ( James Taylor) and Caroles of this world (Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones, Al Stewart on Modern Times, Neil Sedaka singing about Carole King and so on).

Not a bad tally for a name that originally, according to some sources, meant a follower of King Charles an certainly owes its start in life to versions of that male name (Karel in German, Karol in other languages). It just has a ring to it, I suppose, and like most things about pop songs, you shouldn’t think about it too much anyway.

The wisdom of pop songs – The thrill of the foreign lover

Foreigners. How exotic they seem, just because we don’t know much about their culture and their country. We romanticize their urban squalor when it is no more attractive than a council estate in Grimsby. We think they know things we don’t – about love, sex, food, wine, football, all the simple pleasures of life.

And English-speaking songwriters enshrine these thoughts in three-minute paeans (a work that praises or honours its subject, according to my phone’s Merriam Webster dictionary).

So let’s hear it for the foreign boys and girls who have moved our lyricists and tunesmiths in the pop music era.

Beginning with… The Girl From Ipanema, of course. This was actually written by the celebrated Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim and originally had lyrics in Portuguese before Norman Gimbel gave it some English language words. And it was made famous in 1962 by Astrud Gilberto, a Brazilian songbird who made up for the fact that she couldn’t sing her way out of a paper bag by exuding a charmingly off-key vulnerability.

So it’s not really about a foreign girl after all, because it was written and sung by Brazilians about one of their own. But it was so popular with British and American singers that it sounds like a gringo’s song of adoration for the exotic beauty who’s on her way to the beach – and not the pebbles of Brighton or the fish-and-chips  aroma of Blackpool, but what we fondly imagine to be a beautiful, pristine expanse of sand populated by sparsely clad totty of Ms Gilberto’s ilk.

This leads naturally, if unfortunately, to the disgraced entertainer Rolf Harris, who recently did time for sex offences. In 1968 he had a minor hit in the UK with the utterly Ipanema- style Fijian Girl, who was “undulating by”, if you please. Don’t you undulate at me, young lady, or I’ll put you over my knee.

Meanwhile in the southern USA, country singer Marty Robbins brought us a tale of ill-starred love as a man in El Paso falls for a Mexican barmaid, his passion for whom leads him to shoot a cowboy she’s flirting with and go on the run, to eventually be shot dead himself as he flees the law. See, just because a woman makes a good chilli con carne doesn’t mean she’s not trouble.

The Beatles made passing reference to Ukraine girls and Moscow girls in Back in the USSR, Paul McCartney’s affectionate riposte to the Beach Boys’ glib assessment of various geographical groups of American girls, Back in the USA.

In 1970 Canadian band the Guess Who sang scathingly about an American Woman they wanted nothing to do with, and whether this was really about American politics and business rather than a woman doesn’t actually matter. It’s a solid, catchy bit of pop rock with a nice guitar riff, and that’s all we’re concerned with here.

Getting back to the Americas, Neil Young seems to have a bit of an obsession with that region’s past, and in 1979 on the stupendous album Rust Never Sleeps he fantasised about a native American beauty, Pocahontas, who famously married an Englishman.

Staying on that side of the Atlantic, British folk-rockers Stackridge brought us a panoramic piece of whimsy in The Road to Venezuela, which conjures up a South American atmosphere without ever getting very specific. There’s pampas grass, llamas and a millionairess involved but the singer doesn’t end up with her. It’s just a breezy, acoustic guitar-driven few minutes that seems to take you somewhere but doesn’t really, which after all is kind of pop music’s job.

A little-known  gem from 1994 is British band The Auteurs’ New French Girlfriend, which again creates an appealing feeling without completing the story. French girls are lovely and he’s got one on tap – that’s the deal here.

So, with all the thousands of Polish and Latvian girls in the UK, plus Latinos and heaven knows who in the US, it seems the local guys are happy with the home-grown talent. But of course a few years in your adopted country makes you part foreign and part local, as Bruce Springsteen shows us all over his album The Wild The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, with songs such as Incident on 57th Street, in which Spanish Johnny woos Puerto Rican Jane, while another Latin lovely, Rosalita, gets a song all to herself.

Kaycee’s Klasic Films – What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

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

This is a classic example of how people should be careful what they call a film. The title is corny not as clever as it is supposed to be and tells you nothing about what you can expect when you watch it. I know it don’t pay to look too deep into this sort of thing because you’ll find something that contrer-dicks what your saying but really I steered clear of this film for years no decades because it just sounded so stupid.

And then I was desperate one night looking for something on Netflix that I hadn’t seen already and this is Johnny Depp and Leonardo Di Caprio and I’ve seen the directors name Lasse Hallstrom even if he sounds Swedish or something and I don’t want to watch nothing in a foreign language but he’s been around for a bit . Turns out he directed a lot of Abba videos so he’s not that interlechal after all. The foreign ones always sound clever and mysterious just because of their names I reckon. Anyways so I thought why not lets give it a go??

And it turns out its really good like I don’t know whose best Leo or Johnny there both brilliant Johnny is  Gilbert the oldest son of this family the Dad’s dead and the Mum is about 20 stone and never leaves the house. Small American town where nothing happens and you know what happens when nothing happens if you see what I mean. Gilbert works at a grocery store and he’s just an ordinary man but he’s Johnny Depp so obviously hes gorgeous Hes having it off with an older woman Mary Steenburgen but he spends most of his time looking after the family cos his mum can’t and Arnie that’s  Leo is what used to be known as mentally retarded I don’t know what they call it now something that don’t say nothing. But hes a happy sweet teenage kid and Leo does him so you really like him and he don’t overdo it so the boys an idiot and you don’t laugh at him or nothing. He likes climbing the water tower which is like really high and dangerous and it scares everyone when he does it and Johnny has to go and get him down.

A girl Becky comes into town with her grandma you know straight a way she’s the love interest for Johnny and she is which adds something your grateful for in this case because it could be a bit grim other wise.

What happens well its not the kind of movie where lots of stuff happens and your racking your brains to follow it well I am usually so all I’m going to say is that its well worth watching an you’ll be surprised how good Leo is. Somebody must of thought he was gonna be a star when he was very young and this part shows you straight a way that he was a great actor.

 

 

Ref! On Moses and exhaustion

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

 Referee

Evening lads,

That’s about it domestically, then. No, she hasn’t kicked me out, Dave, very funny, I’m talking about the football. After the Cup Final, yes. Funny, isn’t it, you feel like you have to call it the FA Cup Final these days , whereas in the old days there was only one cup final and it was the football one at Wembley in May. Now they’re all over the place: other sports, women’s versions…

Anyway, it wasn’t a bad end to the season, particularly for the Chelsea-bashers who like to see them get beaten. They were all talking about how lethargic the Blues were and how great Arsenal were, but I don’t  know if lethargic is the word. They were exhausted because of the season they’ve had, and they didn’t actually need to win the cup because they already had the Premiership and a place in the Champions League next season.

They’ve been playing above themselves for nine months. Great players and great manager, but they still had to dig deep to get the job done, and the Cup Final was actually something they could have done without. I reckon Victor Moses’ performance summed it up. He’d been going like a one-armed paper-hanger all season, doing two jobs and charging around when really he’s an attacking midfielder, so the tackle he got booked for was just him saying he’d had enough and why did everyone keep having to have a go.

Then the dive in the box, same thing. I reckon he was quite glad to get sent off in the end. I don’t even think he’ll be so keen to do that job next season; we might have seen it all this time, he’s given everything he’s had.

Yes, Baz, seriously, I know you’re a bit anti-Chelsea yourself, but put yourself in their position. Liverpool bugging them for a few months and then Spurs took over. It’s like the rest of the league was doing a relay against them. People even started feeling sympathy for Man City, who I reckon are the least likeable club now.

Arsenal? Good for them. They’ve had a hard time and whether Wenger stays or goes, he’s got another cup to think about. And the club’s got the Europa League next time, which Man U and Chelsea have both shown is worth winning.

Cheers, Gary, I’ll have a blue cocktail. Blue Curacao and lemonade with a shot of vodka and a squeeze of lemon. No, Dave, it’s not a poof’s drink, just because it looks nice. You stick to your cloudy pints of ale but some of us have emerged from the swamp. The primeval swamp, Baz, where human life apparently came from. Nobody really knows, it’s just another unproven scientific question, like whether Messi or Ronaldo is better.

One thing that is for sure, though, is that we’ve had some good football this year. Spurs have been great and if they’d started like they finished they’d have won it. The point is, can they keep the team together and win something next year? Everybody wants Dele Alli. Walker’s off almost definitely. Lloris could be. Kane’s not going anywhere, but they’ve got to either keep the nucleus or build a new one around him. And Pochettino, yeah, Dave, if the manager goes, that could be the worst thing of all.

City have to rebuild, United have to breathe some life into their football, although Mourinho’s such a grinder that he won’t be bothered as long as they get results. Liverpool have to hang onto Coutinho and bring in some real big guns, but for the last I don’t know how many years they’ve been buying people you’ve never heard of even if they’re quite expensive. Same with Arsenal.

So yes, Baz, that’s it for the summer apart from the Champions League final next week, but there’s no English interest in it, so I don’t even know if I’ll watch. There’s cricket now, gents, and we’re quite good at that now. Pity the Spanish and Italians and Bayern Munich don’t take that up. We’d murder them – for a few years, at least.

 

 

 

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.