The Lords, Then Lord’s, Plus A Coincidental Segue Between The Two, 1 February 2018

Just before Christmas , I received an invitation from the House of Lords to give some follow-up evidence to the evidence I gave on Brexit back in October 2016 – click here or below to read about that first occasion:

Two Visits To Two Different Lord Places In One Day, 27 October 2016

You can also read the report that came out in March 2017, which (I was pleased to discover) cited me several times – click here.

Anyway, I decided to make it a Lords/Lord’s day again, so booked to play real tennis late afternoon.

On this second occasion, the chair of the committee, Lord Witty, was away, so Lord Aberdare took the chair. I have embedded the vid below.

You can judge for yourselves how it went. If you are a Facebookista, you can see how my Facebook friends reacted by clicking here.

I think my key moment was at c10:36 (about 30 minutes in) when I made the topical West London analogy of the slightly leaky pipe c/w the major burst water main. Much of West London had been without water pretty much all day on the day before the hearing – which I found rather nerve-wracking while I prepared, but it did lend me a useful analogy.

I did say some other stuff too, so it is certainly worth getting a bucket of popcorn and hunkering down for an hour of viewing.

16 months deeper into my real tennis career (and into Brexit of course), I kept thinking during the hearing that the name “Lord Aberdare” was familiar to me in a tennis context…then wondered whether I was getting confused.

When I got to Lord’s later, I saw that, as I had half remembered, the name “Lord Aberdare” was all over the real tennis Gold and Silver Racket honours board.

It transpires that our man, the current (fifth) Baron Aberdare‘s, grandfather, who was the third Baron Aberdare – click here or picture below for bio – had a twenty-or-so year cricket playing career for Middlesex County Cricket Club before and after the First World War and also went on to dominate amateur real tennis between the wars; probably one of the greatest amateur real tennis players ever.

by Walter Stoneman, bromide print, 1930.  From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:The_3rd_Baron_Aberdare_in_1930.jpg#file – see there for full details of non-free use rationale, which also applies to my use.

You’d have thought that this wonderful coincidence would have inspired me to a great victory on the tennis court that evening…but you’d be wrong. The 3rd Baron would not have been impressed by my performance on the court…

…I wonder what he would have made of Brexit and or my performance before the Peers? Would he have yelled “better than half a yard” or “hazard the door” to mark the end of my pivotal speech?

Brexit, Middlesex cricket and real tennis…the story of a fair chunk of my life at the moment, I suppose.

Z/Yen Seasonal Lunch And Outing, Watermen’s Hall & The Cinema Museum, 15 December 2017

Z/Yen returned to the scene of last year’s “crime” to take our seasonal team repast at Watermen’s Hall again.

Last year the Ogblog report of the event was combined with a couple of other events of mine. If you want to compare, you can read all about the 2016 happenings by clicking here or through the link below:

Three Seasonal Events In Four Days, 13 to 16 December 2016

There was a very enjoyable pre-lunch Champagne reception, as last year, with everyone who is dining at Watermen’s having a chance to mingle. This year, coincidentally, one of the guests (at one of the other tables) is Kit, who lives in Janie’s former street and is an old friend of ours – small world, eh?

But soon we move on to the five course meal. The menu will be revealed along with this year’s song lyric further down this piece.

The main course, the goose, shown below, was the third course.

Our goose was cooked this year

I sat opposite Shivangee, who politely told me that i have been pronouncing her name wrong all the while. She looks surprisingly perky in the following picture given those circumstances:

Shivangee looks happy while pepping up the veggie option

We swapped rural India stories and I promised her I’d link her through to the most bizarre thing that ever happened to me in that part – here and below is that link:

The Day I Was Press-ganged Into Becoming a Live Cricket Commentator

But if Shivangee thought that I could talk plenty over lunch, she was soon to meet a real pro in the commissionaire at the Cinema Museum – more on him later.

In fact there is a very jolly, convivial, chatty atmosphere at Watermen’s. The alcohol flows lavishly through the courses, with a very interesting white port aperitif, white wine, red wine and the more familiar ruby port at the end of the meal.

Lunch.

To the left of me – Linda seems to be holding court…
…to the right of me, is Elisabeth in full flow, or is she literally chewing the fat?

With all of those courses, a room full of dinners and an appointment at the Cinema Museum to get to, we broke with tradition and decided to sing the Z/Yen Christmas song at the Cinema Museum instead.

But before that, secret Santa was a must at table. I was given some pencils with negatively-motivational messages on them. Is someone (Santa) trying to tell me something?

The Z/Yen staff also each got a Raucherman – one of those artefacts that you didn’t know existed until you were given one, then you realise that your life has previously had less meaning and that now, with your Raucherman, you are that much closer to being fulfilled.

We arrived at the Cinema Museum some while after the originally appointed hour, but still were asked to wait a while so that the head honcho, Martin, might address us (and take our money) before handing us over to commissionaire Maurice, who told us all about it and more besides.

So while waiting, we sang the Z/yen Christmas song.  A delightful Egyptian lady, Meena, was joining our tour and joined us in song as best she could:

WATERMEN AND LIGHTERMEN AND Z/YEN – 2017 Version

(A seasonal song to the tune of “Winter Wonderland”)

VERSES ONE AND TWO

Parsnip soup, fit for galleons,

Salmon soused, in medallions;

We’ll eat Christmas lunch, Z/Yen Group as a bunch;

Watch us put on weight at Watermen’s.

At the start, we’ll be perky,

By the end, stuffed like turkey;

Five courses of nosh, all terribly posh;

Watch us put on weight at Watermen’s.

 

MIDDLE EIGHT

After eating goose with Christmas trimmings,

We’ll tuck in to Perouche cheese with pear;

After Christmas pud, you must be kidding,

With rum sauce that could be a warning flare.

 

VERSE THREE

Then in Lambeth you’ll see ‘em,

Tour the cinema museum;

The Z/Yen team en masse, with guts full of gas;

Walking off their lunch from Watermen’s.

(RISING/ROUSING FINALE): Let’s hope walking makes us Lightermen!

 

Z/Yen Group 2017 Christmas Lunch at Watermen’s Hall

(The Company of Watermen and Lightermen)

Menu

  • Parsnip & Chestnut Soup
  • Medallion of Scottish Salmon, Champagne Sauce
  • Roast Breast of Goose & Confit of Leg, Tarragon & Ginger Crust, Red Currant Jus, Chateau Potatoes, Sugar Snap Braised Red Cabbage Broccoli & Baby Carrots
  • The Cook & The Butler World Famous Traditional Christmas Pudding, Christmas Pudding Ice Cream, Oranges in Caramelised Oranges, Rum Sauce
  • Yule Log of Perouche Cheese with Pear

No it is not the same song as last year – totally different.

Totally. It’s a different menu for a start.

Once we were in the extremely talkative and capable hands of commissionaire Maurice, we were soon singing again – this time the ABC Minors Club Song.

Commissionaire Maurice gets us singing and thinking about old cinemas

The big thing about that site for the Cinema Museum is that it is the site of a workhouse in which Charlie Chaplin lived briefly as a kid. Sadly the site is being sold and the museum is at risk, unless its joint bid with the Peabody Estate sees off the hard-nosed commercial interest in the site.

There is an on-line petition – click here to find it.

Talking for Britain – don’t mention Brief Encounter to Maurice

It was a quirky tour but very interesting. I remember some of those old cinemas, not least the ABC in Streatham Hill, the Odeon a bit nearer Streatham proper  and the Granada across the road from dad’s shop on St John’s Hill. Linda remembered similar from her youth. Maxine and her friend, who came along just for the tour, must have wondered what on earth Maurice was talking about half the time.

A few of us retired to the Old Red Lion in Kennington for a drink and a chat after the tour. James Pitcher proved very good at asking and Alexandra proved very good at answering pub quiz type questions such as “which two tube stations have all the vowels in their names” and “which tube station has six consonants in a row in its name?”. We spent quite some time trying to solve the mystery of the beautiful film starlet whose picture we couldn’t identify. James “phoned a friend” who rather brilliantly responded Pier Angeli rapidly and correctly. Respect.

We drew the line at playing the truth game and at that juncture decided to draw stumps on a hugely enjoyable Z/Yen Christmas event.

An Evening Of Economics With Eno Comics, Economy, 20 November 2017

Brian Eno is a very charitable fellow, so invitations to visit his place are often on behalf of a charity for which he is a formal patron or simply a charity he feels motivated to help.

Economy – click here to find its website ecnmy.org – is a new charity which has entered Brian’s orbit and for which he kindly laid on this event at his studio.

Brian had mentioned the forthcoming event to me some weeks ago, when we ran into each other on the street, so I had saved the date. Brian had told me to expect Ha-Joon Chang and Yanis Varoufakis. I had read the former’s book, 23 Things…, back in the day, but had not got around to reading any Varoufakis. So I one-clicked a copy of And the Weak… , reading it a week (ironically) before the event.

I highly recommend the latter book, btw, especially the “modest proposal” appended at the end of Yanis’s book. Those nine pages should be getting far more thought and attention; they should be required reading for anyone who cares about the future of Europe and European people.

Brian hadn’t mentioned Ayesha Hazarika ahead of time so I had to look her up; a former advisor to the Labour Party and the Remain campaign, now seeking solace in comedy. Sounds like a natural progression to me.

Comedy and economics sounded like my kind of thing.

Before the main event, over pre-panel drinks, I met some very interesting postgrad/researcher types, plus several of the Economy charity’s staff and trustees. A very bright, young and friendly bunch.

Economy’s big thing is to try and make economics understandable to the general public; a very laudable aim. I tried not to bore people too much with tales of  The Price of Fish derring do

…but I do find it hard to express how I feel about making economics meaningful and comprehensible without reference to the book.

I didn’t notice anyone sidling away from me and one or two of the Economy people tried to encourage me to ask a question for the panel session, which I didn’t really want to do and in the end I was rather glad I didn’t get around to it.

Some of the Economy team, Brian and the Panel, photograph “liberated” from Victoria Waldersee (centre)’s twitter feed

As is so often the case with this type of event, the best bits were before and after the formal session. Not that the formal session was all that formal.

Ayesha set the tone for the formal session by being really quite funny when introducing herself and in her early responses. Good self-effacing stuff. Ha-Joon and Yanis picked up on the irreverent tone, but I don’t think either of them should give up the day job for comedy.

Victoria Waldersee of Economy did a superb job of trying to cram a heap of questions about important economic & political issues into a 45 minute panel comprising three people who all talk for a living.

Predictably, the answers didn’t get all that far during the panel session; it reminded me a little of Question Time on the TV – except that on this panel all of the opinion was pitched as anti-economics, anti-capitalist and anti-establishment…

…which is fine as far as it goes, but I wanted to hear what was suggested in the place of everything that is wrong and heard little in terms of alternative proposals and solutions.

More confusingly, I found the panel sometimes at variance with the charity Economy’s raison d’être, with Ha-Joon and Yanis both suggesting that it is impossible to teach economics to youngsters without indoctrinating them with neo-classical economics clap-trap. I don’t agree. We might need a significant shift of emphasis or lens for teaching young people the right building blocks, which means that we might need to teach a lot of teachers to teach differently, but ignorance of vital topics is surely not bliss. Surely it is possible (even if difficult) to change curricula?

Yanis’s big takeaway on education is that young people should be taught economic and political history and not taught that pure economics is sort-of about maths. I buy into that part.

I don’t buy Ha-Joon’s rather emphatic view that economists are to blame for the 2008 crash and each of the preceding market bubbles and failures in the past 100+ years…

…that sounded a bit like a bigot’s rant against his least favourite ethnic group, immigrants generally or some despised far-away nation. Ha-Joon is clearly not a bigot, but to attribute blame so simplistically does an injustice to the undoubted quality of his own mind.

Such simplistic, finger-pointing style was in part a symptom of the shortness of the formal discussion and attempts to match Ayesha for comedy. The audience (there must have been a hundred or so of us crowded into the studio) lapped up the irreverence generally; I suppose that reaction egged on the Professors to attempt greater heights of mirth.

Ayesha, in fact, cleverly switched away from unsubtle comedy when she described her experience of politicians grasp of inflation (almost non-existent) and when she explained inflation in simple, human terms – hard working care workers no longer able to feed their families without resorting to food banks because the prices have all gone up while their wages haven’t.

Very subtle, a very sardonic humour style; it reminded me stylistically of my Norman Lamont song from NewsRevue 25 years ago – click here.

So by the end of the formal session I was convinced that Economy is a good cause but I was not convinced that the formal panel discussion had relentlessly advanced the charity’s cause; economists and economics had been all-but universally damned.

Indeed, so nervous was I of being thought of as having anything to do with that maligned category of people, economists, I didn’t dare mention my Keele connections – click here if you dare – which I always thought of as being “very much of the left” but with a balanced, open-minded aspect; clearly not sufficiently left in some circles.

I didn’t even dare chat about the fact that Janie and I were going to a preview of the Modigliani on Wednesday, just in case we were mistaken for acolytes of Franco Modigliani, the Nobel-winning corporate finance economist… 

…rather than Amadeo Modigliani, the painter & sculptor of long-face fame, being featured at the Tate Modern.

OK, I’m now exaggerating for effect…must be catching.

I had some really interesting conversations after the main event; a real mixture of people. One very interesting fund manager who reads books but was now trying to spend the rest of the evening incognito, some more of the Economy people and a very pleasant chat with David Graeber, for the first time in a couple of years.

As always, I thoroughly enjoyed an evening at Brian’s place, meeting interesting people and having my thoughts severely provoked.

I’d like to help the charity Economy if I can; I have one or two ideas…

Z/Yen Team Outing To See Middlesex Hammered By Hampshire At Lord’s, 3 August 2017

Lord’s Resplendent Early Evening, Photograph by Alexandra Karathodorou

For several years, the traditional fixture for the annual Z/Yen visit to Lord’s has been a Middlesex v Surrey match, ever since the Z/Yen Awayday during which Garry Sobers watched the Z/Yen team play cricket – click here for that story; most years the T20 game.

But this year, several key people were unavailable for the Middlesex v Surrey T20 fixture whereas, unusually, most people were available on 3 August for the Middlesex v Hampshire game.

Our Z/Yen contingent contained representatives from across the globe, ranging from “home of cricket” places such as India and Middlesex, through moderately-cricketing places such as Nepal to places where cricket is a rarity, such as the USA, Greece, Germany and Surrey. (I couldn’t help myself).

On this occasion, pretty much everyone got behind Middlesex (why not) although Linda, with her Southampton F.C. connection, felt torn between the two sides.

But we had to forgive Linda, because she had brought the food. Loads of it. Following the success of Xueyi’s Chinese picnic choices last year, Linda had returned to Xueyi’s recommended place and mostly stocked up with delicious Chinese nibbles.

Linda Likes Her Food Choices, Photograph By Alexandra Karathodorou

There was a good crowd at the match and a very jolly atmosphere. Unlike last year’s good close match, Middlesex, a depleted side by this stage of the tournament this year, didn’t put up much of a fight – click here for scorecard.

Possibly the most interesting moment on the field of play was towards the end, when a fox invaded the pitch. How it got through Lord’s security without a ticket and (worse) entered a hallowed part of Lord’s inappropriately attired is anybody’s guess.

Z/Yen At Lord’s Under Lights, Photograph By Alexandra Karathodorou

But in many ways these outings are as much about being convivial team picnic outings as they are about the cricket. The weather smiled on us; a mixture of sun and clouds, but no rain. The Lord’s experience is always charming and special – and because we chose to come a bit later in the season than usual, Z/Yen people got to see Lord’s properly under lights when it got dark, which is differently special.

Three Seasonal Events In Four Days, 13 to 16 December 2016

Mark Keegan Admires His Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Trophy Moments After John Random Awards Mark With That Great Honour, 15 December 2016

Brian Eno Singsong and Party, Brian’s Studio, Tuesday 13 December 2016

The first of my “three dos in four days” was at Brian Eno’s place – I have been invited to such dos on several occasions now, often but not always at this time of year. I have known Brian from the health club (BodyWorksWest, formerly known as Lambton Place) for quarter of a century or more.

The party is combined with Brian’s a capella choir gathering, allowing neophytes and bathroom singers like me to have an occasional go.

I thought I arrived in quite good time on this occasion, but the singing was well underway when I arrived; the regulars presumably having made a punctual early start.

The songs chosen were quite relentlessly morbid at first. There is usually a fair bit of spiritual blues material, but this set seemed especially bleak, with unfortunate folk being hanged for crimes they didn’t commit and all sorts. It wasn’t too difficult to pick up on the tunes quickly enough – I suppose that’s why they choose this material for the more open sing-song, but it didn’t feel much like party music at first.

The last couple of numbers were a bit more lively – not least All I Have To Do Is Dream at the end, sung in a doo-wap style. It helped me that I was standing next to a couple of very able, presumably professional singers, upon whose rhythms and harmonies I could latch. A few people afterwards asked me if I was a professional singer, but I’m sure they must have been hearing the sound emanating from those guys, not me.

Brian said that he couldn’t hear me this time, which is a good sign; presumably therefore an improvement on last time. But perhaps he also was deceived by my co-location with the professional-sounding guys.

Anyway, as on previous occasions, I also found the rest of the party great fun, meeting and chatting with several very interesting people. I also danced a bit to some excellent party mix music, well designed for the purpose (mostly 1970’s dance, with some earlier and later stuff thrown in).

I didn’t stick around until too late – I had a scheduled client call quite early the next day – so (as on every previous occasion) I missed the blood, guts, ambulances and police cars stage of the party. Brian subsequently told me that the emergency services stage failed to occur this time, to his intense disappointment.

 

Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Dinner, Café Rouge Holborn, 15 December 2016

Since around the turn of the century, when fellow NewsRevue writer, Ivan Shakespeare, tragically keeled over and died while jogging, several of us have gathered a few times each year to keep in touch and reminisce about our NewsRevue days. Just before his death, Ivan e-mailed a few of us suggesting that we should regroup for that purpose, but never lived to see his idea to fruition.

Quite early in the life of this occasional gathering, it became part of our tradition to play a comedic quiz or two towards the end of the evening. I think it was John Random who initiated that idea, but several other people, occasionally contribute a quiz. Gerry Goddin latterly contributes a variant in which we all have to try to write jokes on suggested themes and Gerry allocates points (or deducts points) based on how well the jokes go down, his perception of each joke’s quality and/or Gerry’s authoritarian whim.

For the December gathering in 2002 (I’ll get around to Ogblogging it in the fullness of time no doubt) I went into a local tourist gimcrack store and bought the cheapest, tackiest piece of porcelain royal memorabilia I could find; then I emblazoned it with a legend declaring it to be the Ivan Shakespeare Memorial Trophy. Since 2002, that trophy has been played for earnestly each year. Nine different people have held the trophy over the years; I am proud to be able to state that I was the 2004 winner.

Anyway, it seems to be getting harder and harder to find a venue that operates flexibly enough for a rather haphazard bunch of former (and in some cases current) comedy writers to gather in mid December. Café Rouge Holborn has become the regular venue for the past few visits, but it seems they tried to impose a Christmas season “pre-ordering” regime on us, which was somewhat beyond the capabilities of John Random’s organising and our ability to be organised by anyone or anything.

So, half-a-dozen or so of us had pre-ordered and Café Rouge assumed that there would only be half-a-dozen of us (despite John booking the table for 10); which proved problematic once the eighth and especially ninth person showed up.

To be fair the staff tried their best in what seemed to be chaotic circumstances and did relocate us to a table for 10 quite quickly.

But poor Jonny Hurst ended up waiting for best part of an hour before any food was brought to him at all, at which point a starter and two main courses all turned up at once. I was half-hoping that Jonny would say, “do you know who I am? I’m Jonny Hurst, the chant laureate, that’s who”. Jonny might even have been forgiven for “doing a Jeremy Clarkson”…but Jonny is far too mild mannered and polite for any of that, even when he has a real hunger-on and everyone around him is tucking in.  Respect.

Eventually we played the quizzes. Colin Stutt offered a small quiz to warm us up, but the main quiz, for the trophy, was a very imaginative effort from John Random which comprised 10 maps, each of which had a location marked with a year. We had to name the movie that was made in that year set in that place.

I was pleased with my 7 out of 11 (one map had two years and therefore two movies and two points) but Mark Keegan pipped a couple of us 7-istas with 8 out of 11 to claim the trophy yet again – his fourth victory in 15 years. Respect.

Gerry Goddin ended the evening with one of his joke-fest games with some especially harsh marking  and the predictable result that Barry Grossman’s jokes pleased him more than anyone else’s – it is nearly always Barry who wins, very occasionally me.

A most enjoyable evening.

 

Z/Yen Group Christmas Lunch at Watermen’s Hall, 16 December 2016

For the first time in Z/Yen’s 23 Christmases, we decided to do Christmas lunch rather than dinner this year.

Linda and Michael conspired to find a five course extravaganza of a lunch at Watermen’s Hall, which seemed just the ticket in the circumstances. It’s a comparatively intimate and relaxed atmosphere for a guild’s hall; but now that Z/Yen is that much smaller, our group wouldn’t completely dominate the room.

Michael pipped me an e-mail the previous weekend to ask if I would write one of the traditional Z/Yen singalong songs – normally but not absolutely always my gig. 

(Previous Z/Yen Christmas events and songs will be Ogblogged in the fullness of time).

Anyway, the sight of the five course menu and the name of the Company that resides at Waterman’s Hall inspired a simple but effective song to the tune of Winter Wonderland – click here or below for a YouTube with Bing and lyrics.

But before exercising our lungs, we ate the following excellent five course meal, washed down with some fine wine and (for some, not me) port.

Z/Yen Group 2016 Christmas Lunch at Watermen’s Hall

(The Company of Watermen and Lightermen)

Menu

Torched mackerel, pickled and salt baked beetroot, horseradish crème fraiche

Smoked ham hock and chicken terrine, pickled apricots, watercress salad

Butter roasted Norfolk turkey, sage and apricot stuffing, bacon wrapped sausages, brussels sprout choucroute with chestnuts

Star anise poached pear, almond crumb, whipped clotted cream

Christmas pudding, brandy sauce

Michael kept me and Xueyi talking about GeoGnomo for a fair chunk of the meal, but otherwise we managed to steer clear of work chat.

Michael was also keen not to torture too many people with our song, but once there were only a few stragglers left (apart from we Z/Yen folk) we found a surprisingly receptive audience; indeed those Watermen and Lightermen joined in the singing with us, rounding off a fine afternoon.

♬ WATERMEN AND LIGHTERMEN AND Z/YEN ♬

( A seasonal song to the tune of ♬”Winter Wonderland” )

 

VERSES ONE AND TWO

Mackerel torched, beetroot pickled,

Ham terrine, we’ll be tickled;

We’ll eat Christmas lunch, Z/Yen Group as a bunch;

Watch us put on weight at Watermen’s.

At the start, we’ll be perky,

By the end, stuffed like turkey;

Five courses of nosh, all terribly posh;

Watch us put on weight at Watermen’s.

 

MIDDLE EIGHT

After eating turkey laced with trimmings,

We’ll tuck in to star anise poached pear;

Christmas pud as well, you must be kidding,

The brandy sauce could be a warning flare.

 

VERSE THREE

Head for home, very slothfully,

On the trail back to Lothbury;

Let’s hope that we scoff…ing walk our waists off;

Walking all the way from Watermen’s.

(RISING/ROUSING FINALE): Let’s hope walking makes us Lightermen!

The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography From The Sir Elton John Collection, Tate Modern, Then On To A Z/Yen Alumni Drinks Gathering At The Phoenix, 9 November 2016

Tate Modernist Selfie
Tate Modernist Selfie

As a Tate Modernista, Janie gets invited to previews and we are keen to take advantage of those when we are able. For that reason, we had booked out this particular afternoon, which also turned out to be the one date that worked for several Z/Yen alumni for a gathering.

It wasn’t complicated; we decided to combine both, making the timing of the Tate Modern visit fit nicely into that late afternoon slot.

So we worked in the morning and over lunchtime, then met up at the Tate Modern around 15:30 to see The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography From The Sir Elton John Collection – click here for details.

It is an eclectic but fine collection; I very much enjoyed seeing the many Man Ray and André Kertész examples (I’ve long been a fan of theirs), but was also especially taken by the Dorothea Lange portraits, which I thought were especially good and with which I was not so familiar.

Then on to The Phoenix on Throgmorton Street, via the office. When we arrived, Linda was worried that it might just be we three, but I think she was just fretting a little because one or two people had to drop out at the last minute. Steph, Mary, Richard, Elisabeth and Christiano all turned up, which made a good size of group.

Janie and I didn’t stay all that long; Janie had booked early work for the next morning and was starting to struggle a little with a niggling abscess. So I took her home, cooked some pasta with one of Alistair Little’s ragus and put the wee bairn to bed early.

 

Talking Ethics At University of Sussex, Followed By Dinner With Sidney & Joan Pizan at The Salt Room, 28 October 2016

After my slightly nerve-wracking House of Lords experience yesterday, another busy day.

An early visit to the gym, then back to the flat to allow in Steve the window cleaner while I did my month end paperwork, cleared my e-mails and stuff. Then to the house to pick up Janie and off in the direction of Brighton.

A relatively event-free journey until we get very close to the Hotel Una indeed, when we hit gridlock on the sea front road. We can hear sirens and nothing moves for ages. In the end, we turn off the main strip and I drop Janie near the hotel, where she can walk one minute round the corner to Regency Square, while I can turn around and drive back out of town to the University to be sure I’m there on time.

The seminar is a rather academic-oriented affair organised by the Department of Philosophy, although I am one of three guest speakers from the world of commerce. We try to cover rather a lot of ethical ground in one afternoon, perhaps a little over-ambitious, but no-one seems to mind, especially once the wine and nibbles arrive.

I abstain from the wine but (having skipped lunch for a small snack before departure from London) indulge a little in the nibbles and some juice before making my excuses and heading back to the hotel.

Rather a rapid turn-around at the hotel, which made the luxury of the place seem somewhat surplus at that hour, but then we went round the corner to the Salt Room, where Sidney and Joan had already made a start on a bottle of very jolly Sauvignon Blanc.

It was lovely to see them both. Sidney had very kindly brought me as a gift a couple of his very beautiful old books on London. We chatted about all sorts of things, tried not to get too grumpy about politics and enjoyed a very good meal.

We didn’t have starters (except Joan who made a main course of two starters). Sidney and I both had a delicious skate wing dish, while Janie had partridge, which she described as lovely. Some good sides and some more of that Sauvignon Blanc. The maître d’ brought us some fish croquette balls to share while we waited for our mains, which was a nice touch. Our French waitress was delightful too.

Sidney and Joan shared a desert, as did Daisy and I. I also ordered some amazing chocolate pebbles which I remembered from the previous visit.

After dinner, we strolled round to the Hotel Una and showed Sidney and Joan the bar, the breakfast rooms and our bedroom. I demonstrated my ukulele skills; pleasent enough but rather a come down from our family’s profound talent with the violin, Sidney and I both felt.

The plan had been to get Sidney and Joan a cab from the hotel, but with a second wind they decided to stroll to the bus stop (we walked with them) as they live but one stop down the road.

I then buried my nose in the books Sidney had given me, until Janie reminded me how tired I must be.

A really nice evening, it was.

Two Visits To Two Different Lord Places In One Day, 27 October 2016

A morning visit to the House of Lords, to give evidence to a select committee hearing on Brexit for Professional and Business services.

I don’t normally mention work-related stuff on Ogblog, but this one sort-of bleeds into “work life”, as Brexit is rather important stuff generally right now. Here is a link to the business write up on Now and Z/Yen – click here.

I wrote up a small piece about this on Facebook too – click here – as I know quote a lot of my Facebook friends are interested in Brexit. Some business around Lord Whitty’s coughing and Bob Fleming’s Folking Classics is quite amusing on that thread.

I think it went OK. I said what I really feel AND they let all four of us panellists go after the hearing, rather than “taking us by boat to the Tower”, so by that criterion I think it went really well.

In any case, you can judge for yourself.  The transcript comes out about a week after the hearing – but if you like telly you can watch the vid straight away and the latter remains live for about a year – click here or below: 

Back home to clear my backlog of messages and the like, then after a quick bite of lunch on to the other Lord’s to play real tennis. Perhaps liberated from the fear of noble shackles,  I played well today, in contrast with the shocker I played yesterday.

I was due to have a jam with DJ this evening, but he deferred to another date as he is a little poorly. So I ended up having a quiet pasta supper and an early night – probably just as well as I was very tired and had another busy day lined up for tomorrow.

A Works Outing To The Middlesex v Surrey T20 Match At Lord’s, 21 July 2016

A Pokémon Displaying A Worrying Level Of Indifference To Cricket (with thanks to Xueyi for capturing the little fella)
A Pokémon Displaying A Worrying Level Of Indifference To Cricket At Lord’s (with thanks to Xueyi for capturing the little fella)

For several years now, it has been a Z/Yen tradition for a dozen or so of us to visit the Middlesex v Surrey T20 match at Lord’s. For several years, the tradition was also to witness Surrey thrashing Middlesex and for the assembled throng to try consoling me and Jez with “maybe next year” platitudes.

But last year, for the first time in yonks, Middlesex won the match. Better yet, this year Middlesex were sitting a bit higher in the table than Surrey ahead of the fixture, with both sides desperate for the points to help achieve knockout-stage qualification. A big game.

However, I had some difficulty persuading Xueyi to attempt watching cricket again. Her previous visit (two years ago) had left her cold in several respects; not least the chilly weather but also finding the cricket hard to fathom and finding the “M&S picnic nibbles” not quite to her taste. I suggested that I might take a trip to Chinatown and stock up with Cantonese bakery delicacies as the centrepiece of the picnic if that might persuade Xueyi to join us. She said it would.

I was working from home that day, so I chose to make my Chinatown hike reasonably early to be sure of a good stock of the day’s bakery delights. I googled to see if my old stomping ground was still top notch for this purpose and discovered that, indeed, Kowloon in Gerard Street is still highly regarded, especially for its massive cha siu baos and gai mei baos. I was introduced to that place in the late 1970’s/early 1980s when doing holiday jobs for Newman Harris in Cavendish Square; the Chinese Malaysian trainees and I used to make a lunch of those big tasty buns. It must be a good 25 years since I last went there, though.

Picture by Anthony Baby from (optional) This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
Cha Siu Baos – Picture by Anthony Baby from (optional) – This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

On the way, I recalled that the place used to be cash only and made sure I had drawn enough money just in case. Indeed, the place was utterly unchanged including the hand-scribbled order ticket and the cash only payment desk. I went a bit mad buying lots of baos, plus some cha siu pastry ones and some sweet melon pastries too.

I called Xueyi to let her know that I had bought loads of food and also to ask her to let Linda know that we wouldn’t need much else for the hoards, but Xueyi clearly had other ideas, not least a fiendish plan to get some smaller delicacies from her favourite dim sum joint; Orient London. Like me, Xueyi went a bit mad getting loads of cha siu pastries (smaller than the Kowloon ones, but, frankly, much finer) and also some very juicy and delicious prawn spring rolls, which were surprisingly good cold. Also some Cantonese brisket beef slices.

Cha Sou Pastries - by Terence Ong - licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Cha Siu Pastries – by Terence Ong – licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

In her fervour, Xueyi neglected to pass on my message to Linda, who went down to M&S and bought a fair selection of nibbles just in case my Chinese food idea didn’t go down well with everyone.

Anyway, to cut a long story short the Chinese delicacies went down very well with our team and there were plenty left to feed other spectators sitting near us and Linda had lots of M&S food to take home with her for the weekend.

Why were we there? Oh yes, a cricket match.

Barmy Kev came and sat near us but for some reason chose not to join us when invited. Perhaps he thought we might have designs on his bottle of wine (as if we didn’t have plenty of that too). But soon Kev realised that he had no corkscrew, so (not for the first time in my life and surely not for the last) begged the loan of a corkscrew from me and then demonstrated for about 5 minutes how very bad his screwing technique is for one so experienced as he – Kev’s MTWD write up, here, does not do his demonstrable incompetence justice. There was a big crowd cheer when he eventually withdrew the cork.

Meanwhile, Xueyi (from Nanjing, China) and Ashley (born in Jamaica but raised in the USA and therefore strangely aware of but not well versed in cricket) asked quite a lot of sensible questions about the game and then settled down to finding pokémons in the crowd, which they seemed to be able to do with little difficulty and much delight (see photo).

Marc (sitting next to me) tried to argue a social justice case for Surrey to win the match because Middlesex won last year; this was about as convincing to me as his “Brexit leave” arguments.

Linda was especially interested in the progress of our sponsored player, Ryan Higgins, as for once our sponsored player was actually playing in the fixture we attended. He took an early catch, bowled well restricting the scoring/taking a late wicket and eventually scored the winning runs in that tough run chase. Not bad. Here’s the scorecard. Even better, Ryan Higgins took five wickets the next day as Middlesex recorded back to back wins; a real breakthrough period for the promising 21 year-old. Our boy.

Regardless of whether they focus on the eating, drinking, pokémons and/or cricket, the Z/Yen team always seems to enjoy this outing. There was a record crowd for a domestic T20 cricket match in England that night 27,000+, so it seems that we’re far from the only bunch that finds these T20 evenings a fun and enticing proposition.

Trying To Work, Somerset v Middlesex Day 4, At The Flat, MTWD Report, 13 July 2016

I know from my own years editing the Middlesex Till We Die (MTWD) website that one of the toughest jobs is getting enough articles for the winter. Sportnetwork require regular editorial material as the quid quo pro for providing their site and system.

So when I chatted with Barmy Kev in the autumn, explaining to him what Ogblog is about and offering him some ideas for pieces, the answer was, “I could do with some stuff for after Christmas”.

So here is a link to my first MTWD article for some years, which relates to my doings/listenings on 13 July 2016.

I suspect that many county cricket lovers occasionally have afternoons like that when the matches suddenly get very interesting indeed.

Yes I did catch up with my work in the end as well, thank you for asking, for those Ogblog readers too lazy even to click the link and read a few hundred words. Honestly.