Wednesday, 26 October 2022

A joke of the first water

The A.B.C. Murders (Hercule Poirot #13) Sometimes you just want to read a page-turner, and you can't beat Agatha Christie for that. I've been working through John Curran's 2009 list of the best 10 Christie mysteries, and have reached number four: The ABC Murders.

One of the pleasures in reading Agatha Christie is that of getting reacquainted with old friends. In this case it's Hercule Poirot, the indomitable Belgian detective, installed "in one of the newest type of service flats in London" and exercising his "little grey cells" in investigating "only the cream of crime."

Tuesday, 25 October 2022

Address to a Crisp Sandwich on its feast day

Today we celebrate crisp sandwiches. The humble snack now has its own annual feast day on 25th October, which is also, of course, St Crispin's Day.

If you're new to this delicious treat I recommend you read The Guardian's How to eat: a crisp sandwich. It's very important to use the right type of bread (mass-produced white sliced toastie loaf) and spread (salted butter), as well as the correct style and flavour of crisp.

A few friends are coming round this evening for a traditional Crisp Sandwich Supper and we'll all be wearing our Apparel of Laughs crisp sandwich t-shirts. The butties will be solemnly piped in, piled on a silver platter. We invited the face of Walkers Crisps, Gary Lineker, to recite the Address to a Crisp Sandwich, but sadly he wasn't available.
Address to a Crisp Sandwich

Praise be to you, my childhood treat,
The best of butties, hard to beat.
Today's your day, today we meet
To celebrate.

Wednesday, 19 October 2022

Books are where things are explained to you; life is where things aren't

Flaubert's Parrot Three books have coloured my view of French literature, all set texts for study. They each feature a miserable woman, living a depressing life and turning to adultery as an escape: Marguerite Duras's Moderato Cantabile and its metaphorical magnolia flowers is a book I never, ever want to read again; Emile Zola's seedy Thérèse Raquin, saved only by its Parisian setting; and worst of all, Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary and its intensely annoying eponymous protagonist.

Monday, 10 October 2022

Not my idea of fun

My idea of fun Will Self's My Idea of Fun had been sitting on my shelf for about 20 years. I'd started it, didn't warm to the first few pages, so set it aside for another few years and tried again.

Reader, I finished it, but it wasn't my idea of fun.

Saturday, 8 October 2022

A remarkable escape from slavery

Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom: Or, the Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery I was surprised to discover within one branch of my family's history, a chemist-druggist who travelled to America in 1862, leaving his wife behind, to join the Unionists of the American Civil War. He remained in the USA after the war ended and became a naturalised citizen. What on earth drove him to do that? Here's an hypothesis: perhaps he'd come across Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom, the remarkable story of how two slaves escaped their bondage and gained their freedom.

Monday, 3 October 2022

Jimmy's Angels

Image: Sarah Jones, license CC BY-SA 2.0
I'm watching Leah Williamson lift the UEFA 2022 trophy and I'm not ashamed to say that tears are running down my cheeks. Forty-five years ago a few friends and I experienced our own success in the Beautiful Game, a much smaller one admittedly, but nonetheless a victory.

It was Monday morning, March 1977. English, maths, double German. My favourite subjects. Not such a bad way to start the week.

Tuesday, 27 September 2022

The Yachtsman's Ale

A little ditty I wrote to mark the return of the Monaco Yacht Show tomorrow. It's inspired by AA Milne's The King's Breakfast.
The Yachtsman told
The Captain, and
The Captain told
The Cabin-boy:
"Buy some ale and cheddar cheese
Before we set to sea."
The Captain asked
The Cabin-boy,
The Cabin-boy
Said, "Aye aye Skip.
I'll get it chop-chop from the shop,
That's just beyond the quay."