27 December 2012

Albums of 2012 Pt I

It appears to have been a very good year for music, I worked this out as I had real problems chopping this years releases down to 10, I got it to 19 without too much trouble, after that no much how much coffee, xmas cake, or booze I threw at the problem, I was stuck. In the end I cut and pasted those that really rocked my world and felt sad for their brethren.


But firstly, disappointments of the year. And I know this section will annoy some people...

Steve Hogarth / Richard Barbieri - Not the weapon but the hand
I love the music, but found the lyrics a bit off. It's grown on me, so I haven't given up hope. And yes, Neil's labelling of this as 'HairyBaby' has stuck.

Anathema - Weather Systems
I wasn't in love with the previous album, and this one is a natural progression from it. So if you loved the last one, this one is even better. Except for me! Personally, their highlight is still A Natural Disaster. I just find WS very samey and lacking balls. Subject matter also grates with me.

North Atlantic Oscillation - Fog Electric
I loved their first album, bloody marvellous. This one lacked the vibrancy and quirky charm of the first one. Oh well....

Squackett - A Life Within a Day
The theory was great, Chris Squire and Steve Hackett record an album. Sadly the product didn't live up to the expectation, it came across as a 2nd rate Hackett album. I spun it few times and yet cannot recall anything from it.

The xx - coexist
Loved the first one. Brilliant stuff, delicate, quiet, breathy, and different. The sophomore effort doesn't challenge the first one, it follows the same structure, but came across to me as too derivative. There's a couple of great tracks on it, so all is not lost !! Bring on the third...

Those I cut before from the Top10

Leonard Cohen - Old Times. It's a piece of lovely Cohen, he's got no right sounding this good. Really. I loved it.
Peter Hammill - Consequences. I wanted this in the top10, I really did. It's such a fascinating absorbing album. But went for TAAB2 instead. 
The Eastern - Hope and Wire Double album of Christchurch alt-country goodness. This may yet sneak into the top10, possibly at the expense of Marillion....
Admiral Fallow - Tree Bursts in Snow Quirky Scottish pop. Love it. And one of the best gigs of the year (Leicester) for me, and (yayayayay) I get to see them in Scotland next week....
Jack White - Blunderbuss I'm not a big White Stripes fan, but this was interesting fun rock. 
Rush - Clockwork Angels Ooohhh something addictive, and was a contender for the top10, but was reasonably easy to cut - the last 3-4 tracks on the album are up there with the best Rush have every released.
Pineapple Thief - All the wars It reminds me of Manic Street Preachers, it's very good indie-rock, but on album it does seem to lack some passion? Is that just me? I dunno, live - they were brilliant and the songs came alive something fierce. 

And sometime in the next few days, the top10.

me x

16 December 2012

Interviews at Work

We had an internal vacancy at work, which I felt i should apply for - admittedly on the understanding that I'd be filling in space as the role was set up for someone else.

Anyway, the day turned out to be amusing. I walked in, as I usually do, it was cold but not freezing (been kinda mild this winter, so far). I got about 40 mins in, and discovered my bag and unzipped itself and my shirt had made a break for it.

So I turned around and pottered back (25min) to find my shirt. It looked ok, so I figured it was *slightly* closer to work than home, so turned around and headed back the way I'd been/gone already.
The walk to work took about 1h45, as opposed to the usual 50-55min.
Things were looking good.

I had a shower, put on the shirt, the tie, and approached the mirror to adjust the tie. A brown, mud looking mark, was visible on my shirt. CockityBollox. But aha, if I kept my left arm still, I could hide the mark. Result!!!

Those of you who know my talking style, know I wave my hands, those who have been lectured/tutored by me, know its even worse then...
So basically, I went for a Stroke Victim look, rather than my standard Gay Expressionalism. This worked, and hopefully didnt look too odd.

Presentation went well, managed to get my points across well - I thought so anyway. And the questions seemed intelligent, suggesting I had managed to get things across.

Didn't get the role. No surprise there. Oh well.

Me x

21 November 2012

Mornings do not get better than this

As the Starks say, winter is coming.
Winter, today, consisted of steady rain on a darkened morning. Chilly, without being cold. My head stuffed up with cold, but everything seemed alright, as The Blue Nile's 'Hats' was playing.

There's something about Paul Buchanan's music, it's impossible not to be happy, or at least relaxed, when he's whispering in your ears. It's like being enveloped by whisky fumes. Aural seduction.

Hats and A Walk Across The Rooftops have just been re-released with bonus discs. While you're picking those up, Mid Air has also been released with a bonus CD. And yes, even though I bought the vinyl I succumbed to it. He is that addictive.
Here's Paul on Jools Holland.

b (blissed out - OOHHH vinyl releases in time for xmas....)

15 November 2012

Autumn Internationals Wk1 and 2

Autumn Internationals Week 1 and Week 2 predictions

This time before the matches kick off. Radical or wot?!

Italy v Tonga  28 - 23  my pick, italy by 10
I don't think anyone watched it, really, why would you? Close, suggesting either Tonga have improved (unlikely) or Italy are worse than I thought (probable). What we can take from this, potentially the ABs will break 100 this weekend. Italy may score a couple of penalties, maybe a try, but if they break double figures, it'll be a win for them.

Aus v France  6 - 33  my pick France by 3-5
Notable for the fight, actually I say that as that's all I've seen of the match. I thought about watching it, but decided my hair care routine was more important. France, the team who came 2nd in the World Cup, turned up - rather than France, the 15 men on a pitch as they've no-where else to go. And so the Aussies went down, like a roo to an 18 wheeler. Result!

Wales v Argentina  12 - 26    my pick Wales by 5-10
The match fitness of the Puma's came through. Wales looked kinda lost, and the two tries by the Puma's were straight out of the Southern Hemisphere playbook. Comments by the UK press focussing on the forwards had given away that they didn't know much about the Puma's, and my pick that the backs were going to be very competitive with the Welsh was proven true.

Scotland v All Blacks  22 - 51  my pick NZ by 20+
The Scots turned up to play, indeed if they play like that in the 6 nations they would make the top 2 or 3. But they won't. I'm getting used to that, makes me homesick as a Wgtn supporter…
The speed of the All Black ball use highlighted the difference between the Northern and Southern hemisphere teams, quick clearing of ruck, maul and scrum ball gives the backs more time to demonstrate their skills. Scotland did well, but were ultimately the victim of poor defence giving away three tries in quick succession, ruining any chance they had of holding the mighty blackness.
It's not looking good for other 6 nation teams…

England v Fiji  54 - 12  my pick, Eng by 20+
England were on a hiding to nothing here. They beat the Fijians by a significant margin, as they should, but really they didn't look very good. And they're a professional team, Fiji come together for these matches from all over the world, with little time to develop combinations. This shows with their lack of structure in defence and attack. A continual problem with Fiji 15 a-side teams. 
England, contrary to the English press, are not looking good. Their turnover ball is slow, the backs don't seem very organised, and the forwards seem back to the lumbering best. Ok, possibly not quite as bad as in the past, but certainly not as fast and skilled as other countries. England's buy-in of other country off casts is paying off, or rather Leicester's purchase policy as a feeder team for England, is paying off.

Ireland v South Africa  12 - 16  my pick SA by 10-15
Ireland, since the last 6 nations, and through the World Cup, have looked tired and uncreative. I suggest a kidney transplant. 
I never said it was a good joke. 
South Africa are not looking much better, but they were quicker. And that's always going to pay off. Dull and boring game, which Ireland did not deserve to win, and honestly, never looked like winning.

This weekend….
Wales v Samoa
Wales have rolled the changes, over the half the team, following last weeks game - and resulting from (mainly) injuries. 
Samoa will hit hard, but I don't think they've got the structure to compete for 80 minutes. I also suspect the Welsh are fitter.
Wales by 10.

Italy v NZ
Pasta eaters will be on the field looking like smurfs. That's about as positive as it gets.
NZ by 60+

England v Australia
Could be the most interesting of the games this weekend. Aussie are playing like crap, and should be pretty embarrassed by their surrender to the cheese eaters. This should hopefully make them go out and take it to the English. 
I suspect the English will win. But in the spirit of grumpiness, I'll stick my neck out and say:
Aus by 5.

Scotland v SA
If Scotland play as they did against the ABs they should win (presuming they tighten their defensive holes). Sth Afr are not looking very quick or creative at the moment, and Scots do have some world class players at the moment.
Scotland by 7.

France v Argentina
Good France turning up twice? It's possible, but unlikely. I also think the Puma's are still underrated by the press here, so I'm going for:
Argentina by 3-7.

10 November 2012

Rugby Autumn International Series

Bit late, but well, it's not like that's a surprise.

Wales v Argentina
this should be the best of the matches. I suspect the UK press has underestimated the Pumas, and their emphasis on the Puma scrum suggests they haven't seen much of their recent play. The logical money should be on Wales, although their tight 5 have been, as usual, decimated by injury. What might be more of a factor is that Argentina are battle hardened from the Aus/NZ/SA/Arg series, whereas this is the first Welsh test for awhile.
I would expect the Welsh fitness to be higher, as thats something they do focus on, so the clincher is likely to be Welsh discipline - they do give away a lot of penalties, and the Pumas have good kickers.

Pick: Wales by 5-10.

England v Fiji
The press has been trumpeting a new beginning to English rugby, as they do every year, and every year howls of derision are heard outside of the RFU. Stuart Lancaster does seem to have a clue on how to meld a team, and the complete restructure of the RFU does hold out some hope. Having said that, if they don't beat Fiji convincingly then Lancaster maybe following the house of L last King (Henry VI).

Pick: England by 20.

Ireland v SA
Not the best season for SA, but unless Ireland have found some fresh ideas and new blood, SA should still win this. The lack of tighthead props in Ireland has been dramatically exposed with a new boy, from NZ, being parachuted in - of the four major Irish rugby teams, three have foreign tightheads, and the only local boy is injured. Heh heh.

Pick: SA by 10-15.

Italy v Tonga
Couldn't care less.

Pick: Pasta eaters by 10

France v Aussie
Could be an interesting game, not sure if it's on TV tho'. France could play very well, and Aussie are not having a great time of it. So it should be close. The French provincial teams are playing well, so I think I'd back the French.

Pick: cheese eating surrender monkeys by 3-5.

Scotland v NZ
Scotland haven't beaten NZ in 107 years of rugby. This weekend will not change that. The potential exists in the Scottish team as their players are good, and play well as a team - mainly as they're drawn from the Glasgow and Edinburgh Euro teams so know each other well. NZ are on a blinder, and are probably playing better now than they did during the world cup, new blood is performing well (that is not a twilight reference), and I'll try to avoid bringing it up on Tues.

Pick: NZ by 20+.

Love, B

15 October 2012

Whisky Show 2012

The third outing of our yearly trip to the Whisky Show in London. A cold (ish) morning, brisk, and the unwelcome discovery of no coffee on the train. Ah well, I wasn't likely to have any as we were pottering around Borough market before the show.
Monmouth was, as expected, packed, so we went to the coffee stall at the back of the market. It does make me happy having good coffee, shame I have to head to london for it.

After acquiring some chocolate to keep S happy, we wandered through the whisky shop, where I singularly failed to convince Alec to buy me expensive bottles of whisky. Bastard.

And so we queued. Or rather, I queued, and Alec ran his virtual news service.

This year we had decided we may go for quality rather than quantity, and thus not get too drunk (foolish thinking!). And, although ruining the experience for Rich, I'd decided not to make full tasting notes, rather just note what we'd drunk. Therefore the latter sections of this blog won't have the translational issues of previous years - where 'sweet' could be variously read as sweet / sushi / salmon / sordid etc.
Links to buy from our favourite indie booze store Loch Fyne Whisky as/where I coudl find them.

And so it begins...
Glendronach 14yo oak, very sweet, long finish 7/10

BenRiach 20yo, very very nice, long finish  8.5/10 [my notes say, buy a bottle] LFW

BenRiach 16yo peated, very nice 8/10 LFW

Glenfarclas 105 20yo, sweet sherry lovely, all the goodness of the 105 but subtle, mature - 9/10

Adelphi blend hey it's cheap, it tastes damn good, and it gets my thumbs up

Adelphi Springbank salty very long 8/10

Adelphi Macallan light pretty typical Macallan, not really liking this one 6.5/10

Glen Moray 16yo kinda light 6/10 LFW

Glen Moray 25yo (new cask sample) - mushroom!! 8/10

Glen Moray Chenin blanc, I liked htis, shame I can't seem to find it anywhere 8.5/10

Glengoyne - first bottling 7/10
Note, Glengoyne have just refreshed their lineup and website, worth a look...

Glengoyne - 18yo  43% which is replacing the 17yo. Hints of apple, but still sherry goodness. Very tasty 8.5/10

BBR Clyneish 1997 14yo 7.5/10 it appears Clyneish are improving...

BBR Aberlour Cask #3919 quite a kick on this one

BBR Glenlivet 1973 (tho I think the link is the 74) 8.5/10

BBR Cognac XO spicy 8/10 I keep meaning to try more cognac, but get sucked into whisky instead...

Kilchoman Single Cask exactly what I want from an Islay dram, cask strength, ballsy, great 8.5/10

Brora 35yo - this is what I spent my dreamdram token on. I love Brora.
Nose: sweet, lovely floral, marshmallows, sarsparilla
Palate: sweet, floral
Finish: mid-long, absolutely wonderful.
I'm biased, but 10/10

Johnnie Walker Double Black (£35) 7/10; Platinum (£70) 6/10
hey we've no excuse other than it was something we wouldn't normally drink. the double black was much better than expected.

Talisker 25yo
Nose: dead
Palate: quite nice, interesting, smooth
Finish: short
8/10 yeah before this I didn't like talisker, but this was very nice

Talisker 30yo LFW
Nose: very oily; Palate: sweet, saltiness;
9/10 - my notes say 'fuck!!!!' as this totally blew my preconceptions of Talisker out of the window. But at £250+ I wont be having it in my collection anytime soon.

Caol Ila 25yo LFW (think it was this one)
Nose: great. petrol, rubber, salt, rhubarb, custard
Palate: sweet, salt, peat ??
Finish: peat, short

Balblair 1979 nofinish 5/10

Balblair (I think) 12yo doublewood very nice, the notes either say very sweet or hairy sweat, your call 7/10

Balblair New spirit. Quite smooth, not nearly as exciting as the Kilchoman, but in interesting.

Dalwhinnie Rum Caribbean not much flavour, very sweet 5/10

Dalwhinnie Single barrel 15yo

Benromach 30yo apples!  but very nice 8/10 LFW

Linkwood 25yo G and M 9/10

Strathisla 1970 apples on nose, leather and sherry notes, oak, lingering sherry, short-med finish 9/10

English whisky company Chapter 12 Sherry cask 46% 8.5/10

English whisky company Chapter 11 peated 8/10

Penderyn Madeira - very sweet, green apple, and something indecipherable 6/10

Penderyn peated, very weird 4/10

Glenrothes John Ramsey bottling 9.5/10
Glenrothes 1995  LFW
Glenrothes 1988
Basically, you can't go wrong with Glenrothes. Never had a bad one...

Glenglassaugh NEW! but sadly i can't read my notes :D I have a feeling the next release is called Evolution, but whatever it was, I gave it 8.5/10

Glenglassaugh 26yo 40% bloody nice, but I already knew that

and possibly something else, the notes are illegible. It appears to be a Glen something.

All in all a very very good day. We managed to get home (an achievement) with minimal damage to anyone else. And I survived Freshers Fair on Sunday morning, although it's fair to say I'd rather have been lying in bed.

Love, B

14 October 2012


Periodically Thurs Night Music Night gets a thematic makeover, last week I decided to go with everything had to be at 45rpm, hence Life@45rpm.

Out of a sense of wanting to share the excitement with everyone, here's the list of what was played, along with some videos where (in)appropriate.

This worked so well, and I've still a large number of 45's which weren't played, that there could be another night or two in the future. Sadly for listeners, not much more cheese of the Alf/The Firm/Europe/Spitting Image level, so some cheap second hand purchases may have to be made.

Rush - Time Stand Still 12"
Fish - Suits (ok, so it's an album, but the vinyl was pressed for 45rpm)
Freddie Mercury - The Great Pretender 12"
Queen - I'm going slightly mad 12" [with the brilliant Lost Opportunity]

Marillion - Lavender 12"
Talk Talk - Living in another world 12" (orig)
Alf - Stuck on Earth 12" [best 25c 12" I've bought]

Dire Straits - Twisting by the pool 12"
Pet Shop Boys - West End Girls 12"
Pineapple Thief - Sherbert Gods 7"  [I can see what he was trying to achieve, but it's also pretty clear why he disowns this!]
Admiral Fallow - Beetle in the box 7"

Trembling Bells - New Year's Eve's the loneliest night of the year 7"

Europe - The Final Countdown 12"

The Firm - Star Trekkin' 12"
Spitting Image - Santa Claus is on the dole 12"

Queen - Breakthru 12"
Marillion - Sympathy 12"

Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Welcome to the pleasure dome (12xztas7)
FGTH - Power of Love (12ztas5)

Love, B

Gigs: Karnataka

I got hooked on Karnataka a couple of years ago when they played as a support act at the Summers End festival. As happened to at least three bands I discovered that year, they promptly imploded. In the spirit of Steve Austin (or dolly), they've been rebuilt. And so I toddled along to their gig on Friday in Leicester.
The wins
Hayley, the new vocalist, is brilliant. Power, passion, and technically seems to absolutely nail it. I'm not a huge fan of female-vox as they can get a bit screechy (I'm all about delicate). But she's perfectly in tune, and didn't push her voice to painful limits.
Gathering Light material and older stuff sounded fab, really gutsy.
Guitarist was on fire for the older stuff

The losses
Sadly the Y theatre was too big for the number of punters, although having a doors time of 830 and the band turning up onstage at 840 seem to have caught some people out as more turned up about 20 minutes in.
There did seem a number of people upstairs, and most were buying CDs so hopefully not too damaging for the band.
Guitarist seemed out of tune, I'm all for bending notes, but the plan there is for them to resolve correctly - this seemed more of a problem for the new tracks, so maybe it's a work in progress.
The new tracks, they didn't grab me. Bits of the new stuff later in the set seemed better, but none had the hooks of Gathering Light. At times it all seemed a little AOR, not bad, just not grabbing me.
Sound was muddy and unbalanced. And this wasn't just me, ended up talking to a couple of other people who made the same comment. Ian's bass was very muddy, which was unfortunate as all the cool runs in their music got lost. Keys were also very low in the mix. To a certain extent

Overall, an enjoyable gig. I'll probably get the new album when it comes out (2013) to see how things improve in the studio. I was disappointed by the new material, but hey I'm more than happy to wander down for a gig. I'd recommend going along to the rest of the tour...details here.

And a sample :

12 October 2012

Gift horse articles in the news

You can't make this stuff up, courtesy of France and the USA. Two stalwarts of quality news.

Yes, I'm not sure the word 'euro' makes any difference there either. The key, and brilliant, points to this story:
  • person is unemployed
  • the bill was more than 5000x the GDP of France
  • "...told by shrugging staff there was nothing they could do."
The real bill was E117.21. 

Which the company eventually let her off paying. Damn socialists.

Todays vital lesson, don't try cooking squirrels with a propane torch.

Sadly the winner who did this isn't a contender for the Darwin awards. But the potential is there, go team Propane Squirrel !!

Coming soon, possibly a book blog, a whisky blog, and a music blog. 

No really, I'm feeling in a bloggy mood.

2 October 2012

iphone and i'm not dead

In the wake of the continuing Samsung v Apple court cases:

I'm waiting for the pr0n industry to sue over the iPhone6.


4 August 2012

Elderly Promming Ninjas

This is a cautionary tale: Beware elderly Promming ninjas.

(for non-Brits, this is the BBC Proms, as in the classical music series that results in the (in)famous Last Night at the Proms, the 'kerchief wearing, Union Jack waving, Land of Soap and Water night of all things British - well English anyway).

I was down for a few Proms gigs (Mahler and Stravinsky mainly), went for a wander around my usual haunts on Saturday, including getting some Asafoetida which no matter where I am, proves difficult to find. Thanks to the Borough market for supplying it.
Headed to the Proms, thoroughly enjoyed it, and felt twinges in my foot during the second half. Meh, thought I, a manly man, simply a grumpy muscle. Things got worse during the night, to the point where I couldn't sleep, so had a shower figuring if it was muscular that should relieve pain.

That didn't work. So poked at it. This located the (very) sore part, and from my years of explaining anatomy (badly) to impressionable 1st years, I figured I'd broken a metatarsal, or in language the Brits will understand, the footballers injury. I pottered off the hospital early Sunday morning, managing to split between the drunks leaving, and the kids sports injuries coming in (result!). My diagnosis was treated with a patronising grunt.
Poking was done, until I called time on that. An Xray of the offending foot, and voila, vindication ! Go me. Since I had a reasonably heavy Sunday and Monday, a cast was slapped on, pain relief drugs provided, and a stern warning provided not to put weight on the cast, or get it wet.
I crutched (is this a verb?) off, promptly got caught in a London mini-torrential downpour (mini in time, not torrential-ness), caught a bus, then had to cope with the tube. The tube is distinctly unfriendly to people with: suitcases, wheelchairs, crutches, indeed any minor ambulatory ailment is ruthlessly exploited.

As you'll have guessed the cast was a bit of a mess even before the Proms that evening. Pain was present, and so that magic elixir, booze, was employed. Things improved dramatically. Great gig.

So what caused this eventful cast inducing break? I'm putting it down to those grey haired elderly classical loving prom going retired ninja's.
A more prosaic view could be me slipping when getting out of bed, slamming the great toe against the door, and causing merriment to S and I since it didn't hurt, rather it just looked dumb.

Love, your new favourite grumpy cripple, B

8 July 2012

Cooking with Bruce : Of marinades and slaw

Hey look, that incredibly popular occasional series 'Cooking with Bruce' is back. Brilliant!

i've decided to explore marinades a bit over the coming weeks, so this will act as a record of what I play with. This has been driven by a strange stirring for the sauce/marinade used on pork ribs, which is odd, as I hate pork ribs. So the following will be using vege's, but can be applied to meat, since that's where I'm ripping the ideas from.
Oh and in a gadget update, I've got a blender. For me, this counts as a massive gadget update, since my kitchen is oddly gadget free.

Chinese 5spice style marinade
4 garlic cloves chopped roughly
ginger - thumb of, roughly chopped
100ml dark soy sauce (or mix of dark/light)
100ml hoisin sauce
50ml honey
1t chinese five spice powder
1T sunflower oil

Blend all these. Roughly chop your veges, I used capsicums, carrots, quorn, chillis - so pretty much what was left in the house. Combine marinade and veges. Bake at 200C for 45mins.

Thai slaw
Carrot, peeled then grated
2x celery stalked, finely chopped
1-2c red cabbage, grated
1 red onion, grated
1 chilli, finely chopped

1T rice vinegar
1T palm sugar
2T lime juice
2T fish sauce
1T chilli sauce
(combine and mix)

Mix slaw, toss dressing through slaw.

Serve the veges/marinade on rice and shake some sesame seeds over it. Slaw on the side baby.

B x

6 July 2012

Whisky Cabal 8: SMWS and a couple of hangers on including Glenglassaugh

We realised some time had passed since our last (group) whisky imbibing, mainly as we are really bad at getting organised. But we made it happen, we made it real.

Glenglassaugh Revival 46%

The first whisky released from the newly restored Glenglassaugh distillery. Alec and I have followed them at Whisky Shows, and become quite addicted. Ok, very addicted.
They did bottle their first cask, but that was going for around £100, so we said no to that. But picked up the Revival, a snip at £35.
Nose: sultanas, pears, sherry, strudel, hint of sulphur
Palate: honey, warm, caramel, nutmeg, wasabi (yes, thank you Dr Death)
Finish: caramel, long, very long, warm
7.5 /10
We liked this a lot, it's a very nicely balanced whisky, you'd guess speyside, but you wouldnt guess how young it was. Basically, it all bodes very very well for them.


SMWS 66.32 "Roly Poly Pudding" 13yo dist 1998 1/752 bottles 58.6% refill ex-sherry gouda

And back to our usual SMWS bottles, this one from the Ardmore distillery.
Nose: sherry, citrus, cookie dough, spritzic, sweet
Palate: very smooth,honey,
addition of water
Nose: burnt carbon, increase sulphur
Palate: sweet, honey, tangy
Finish: long, and builds in heat

We liked this, but it didn't thrill us, and wasn't as good as the Revival.

SMWS 39.85 "A whisky to dream about" 29yo dist 1982 1/274 bottles 57.4% refill hogshead ex-boubon
This from Linkwood. Who I've got a softspot for.

Nose: citrus, tangy, lemonade, tiramisu
Palate: lemon, citrus, tiramisu, grapefruit, lime
Finish: medium-long, honey, dry

This one split the tasting panel, admittedly we're known for disagreement, and discussions on the finer points of grading do last for hours. But as this was only whisky number 3, we weren't too split.
7.5 - 8 /10

On no account should you add water. This brought a grading of :

SMWS 39.82 "Suede shoes walking through clover" 13yo dist 1997 1/603 bottles 60% ex sherry refill butt
Look at us, vertical tasting on Linkwoods!

Nose: spritzic, burnt, coffee, pepper
Palate: cloves, pepper, nutmeg, caramel, turkish delight
Finish: long, warm

Addition of water produced more salt on the palate and : 5-6 /10

This one was a lucky dip by the tin-arse cabal member, he who keeps getting brilliant whiskies by random selections.

Aberlour A'bunadh Batch: 37; 59.6%; Spanish oloroso sherry butts
I threw this in to scare the crap out of the cabal.

Nose: sherry, fudge, oloroso sherry, "manly dram"
Palate: sherry monster, raisins, prunes
Finish: long, sherry
"The Nigel Tufnel : for when you need a little bit more"
"Co-op: God with food"
"I've had weaker sledgehammers to the face"

Basically, £37 of extreme sherry.

SMWS 64.36 "Marshmallows in a duffle bag" 7yo 1/257 bottles 60.3% 1st fill barrel ex-bourbon
This from Mannochmore, who we have had some love towards in the past...

Nose: sweet, sherbets, 'love hearts', marshmallow
Palate: vicious bananas, fizz bombs, , pineapple
Finish: massive
addition of water
Nose: wet sheep-lanolin
Palate: parma violets

This whisky was appreciated by the panel, and was best summed up as:
"Barely legal evil whore"

SMWS 125.59 "Spun sugar on polished wood" 10yo dist 2000, 1/620 bottles, 59.7%, 2nd fill ex-sherry butt
From that little known distillery, Glenmorangie.

Nose: wood polish, heavy, full bodied   [who wrote this crap?]
Palate: smooth, warm, happiness, manuka honey
Finish: short
But we agreed it's the best Glenmorangie we'd had. None of us are fans, it's too light, too emasculated. This at least demonstrated they can make interesting whisky, even if it's then suppressed and mixed to boringness for retail.

SMWS 71.34 "Rabbit, ginger, and treacle tart" 13yo 56.8% refill gourda ex-sherry
This from the Glenburgie/Glencraig (closed) distillery.

Nose: bread and butter pudding, caramel, toast (maybe, can't quite read it), wood polish, chocolate, apricots (again, maybe), ginger, manuka honey, malt loaf, sulphur
Palate: sweet, oaky  [so how did we get so much on the nose, and write nothing on the palate?]
Finish: warm and long
Again, split the panel:
neat: 5-7/10
water: 3-4/10

Not liked by the panel. Our notes describe it as stunning on the nose, and vicious on the palate. A marmite whisky.

There we have it. We all survived.

B (on behalf of the cabal)
PS: we had the wrong SMWS code for Roly-Poly pudding, it should have been 66.32 - amended 17 Dec 2013

30 June 2012

Another 10,000 rocking in the free world

And hello all !
Loving the English weather. Its summer, and today is alternating between sunny and heavy rain, with a delightful background of muggy and strong wind. Brilliant. Admittedly it is Wimbledon, so business as usual.
Eventful week of floods at work, the local town, and indeed much of the country. Summer Rocks !!!

Another 10,000 tracks on the last.fm account, the last one (80,000) was in Feb, oohhh look self-referencing, go me.
So what's been amusing my ears over the last six months?
Top Artists
In order 1-10: Marillion / Pet Shop Boys / Queen / tom Waits / Jethro Tull / Rush / Bob Dylan / Radiohead / Dream Theater / Elbow

Just realised my furniture restoration images havent been uploaded, so that could be this weekends work...

me x

24 June 2012

Movies: Of black woman and ponds

The consistent rain implies that summer has arrived in the UK. therefore plans for a Saturday night consisted of movies.

First up was The Woman in Black, starring Harry Potter/Daniel Radliffe in a movie from the rebooted Hammer films crew. It's a ghost/thriller set in extremely Victoria gothic surrounds, piling atmosphere almost beyond cliche. Having said that, it works reasonably well. The plot is vague - it's never really explained why HP/DR needs to go to the small village, aside from to tidy up papers from a widower who had died sometime before.
There's a lot of 'look at this, it'll be important soon', and the music isn't subtle in signposting what will happen very soon now.
But, it's watchable, delivers some reasonable horror and HP/DR is a good actor. I'm not quite sure he had the gravitas to pull off the role, but given the entire movie is him - I think it must have worked as I wasn't bored.

Keeping with the horror vibe, we went for what turned out to be a very odd British horror-comedy, Black Pond. It's very character driven, and relies on dialogue rather than atmosphere.
A stranger enters the Thompson's house forcing the family to engage with each other for the first time in years. Their dog dies, and so the children come home, increasing familial interactions, and conflict.
The main story is told in flashback interviews which is how we discover the family were accused of murdering the stranger. Their responses to this rely on the middle class English stereotypes, of not really talking about it, or missing all subtextural clues in general speech.
The movie does wander off occasionally into a delicate psychedlic trance, which feels slightly forced, but does work well to emphasise differences between external and internal dialogue. I'm guessing it was this whimsical approach which prompted the Guardian review to say "If Syd Barrett had ever written and directed a movie, it might well have looked like this". I don't comppletely agree with this, as Syd's brand of psych was more abstract than what Black Pond achieves. Kermode also enjoyed Black Pond on it's DVD release.

Simon Amstell pops up as a psychiatrist, effectively playing the Amstell of Buzzcocks and Grandma's place. I think it works, although it does seem weirdly OTT comic for the rest of the more situational comedy.
Over all, for a debut, and cheap debut, it's great. And defintiely worth watching. Here's the trailer.


18 June 2012


I've taken the week of work, ostensibly to support the Olympics stuff and to bugger off to some opera mid-week, but really it's for sanity.

So today, Monday, I'm watching movies - bgrades, lots of glorious bgrades.

First up is This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse, the second movie in the Coffin Joe boxset I picked up. I'm loving his stuff, dark, twisted, funny, cheesy but still good - and Coffin Joe has the best lines 'Man's immortality is through the fetus'. Currently a large number of tarantula spiders are climbing over a bunch of hot babes who may, depending on their suitability, become the unworthy host for Coffin Joe's offspring. Oh and there's a hunchback, who appears to have a football on his back.
I do like bgrade babes, none of your scrawny models, all curves. Great start to the day! Sipping Peoples Coffee and pondering moving from the couch to get some salmon bagels. 
But for all the bgrade-ness, Coffin Joe's movies do have real atmosphere, and CJ himself is quite impressive onscreen.
Oh things don't look too good for the babe castoffs, a large number of snakes have been loosed in their prison, so CJ is making sweet lovin' to the chosen unworthy to the sweet sounds of screams and death.

Oh dear, CJ's true love didn't work out. She loved (feared? I got confused) him, a sign of weakness apparently. And has left the scene. But wait, what's this, a new chick - exciting. Shock, horror, CJ is having his way with her! After a poker game.
There's a comedy dwarf jailor !!!

It's a bit long, but worked.

How could a movie with it's premise of Osama Bin Laden coming back as a zombie fail? That's right, it can't.
Gung ho platoon (Nato) fighting zombies. Even better? cute blonde killing with a katana. FTW.
Theres emotional investment, one of the guys has been bitten. And one of his platoon has to kill him. Oh I almost cried.
And now a long exposition of how the zombies happened, and why the platoon is kinda lost.
"There's a fine line between dead, and not-so-dead"
The platoon finds an American chick, Dusty, who is hunting her brother (derek). Oohh another zombified platoon, so they shot him. Which caused emotional trauma to katana girl. She dealt with her issues by some slow-mo katana shapes. Brilliant.

It is also, apparently, essential as a Nato gunboy, to run around topless. And have unlimited ammo. It's like the Easy level on a FPS.

In all respects, this movie should be watched, it's fun, rocks along, and has zombies:

And now a break for some brunch.


6 June 2012

Terence Rattigan

I'm reading, or about to, the play 'Deep Blue Sea', and there's a potted history of Rattigan to start the book.

It includes these brilliant lines:
"...his ill-judged musical adaptation of French without tears, Joie de Vivre (1960), was a complete disaster, not assisted by a liberal dose of laryngitis among the cast, and the unexpected insanity of the pianist."

Excellent (emphasis mine).  And a reference for those you playing at home:
The Deep Blue Sea 'Terence Rattigan' with introductions by Sean O'Connor and Dan Rebellato. NHB London.

27 May 2012

Old beer - 1979 Thomas Hardy's Ale tasting

Most beer is bought to be drunk, quickly. There are very few beers which are brewed to be aged like red wine. Thomas Hardy's Ale is one of them. The stuff has had a convoluted history with production ceasing, starting up again, bottle sizes changes, closing again, starting, and currently ceased. I've got a number of bottles (15) from 2004-2008, but I managed to get two bottles from 1979 on ebay. Here's my tasting notes:

Thomas Hardy's Ale 
Bottle H 7561
1 Jan 1979

Brewed and bottled by: Eldridge Pope and Co. Ltd.
180ml (6.34 fl.ozs)

poured smooth and clear, no fizz, cloudy but no obvious sediment, quite thick

marmite, vegemite, red wine, sweet - marshmallows

very strong, tangy, bitter, complex, slightly musty, quite similar to an old complex red wine, 
hint of fizz, coffee - but percolated coffee, not espresso and not filter, lots of malt (like drinking maltexo?)

warm, honey, long, more old red wine, not a fresh NZ red, more an old vine aftertaste, and later on, an odd musty note (which I've had with younger TH ales)

Overall, very similar to other Hardy's Ales I've had, but more so, less fight in it than the younger ones I've had. I don't know if it's improved over a 10 and 12 year old I've had, so it might be worth trying my 2004 brew shortly.
It seemed quite high in alcohol content too. 

Here's some pictures of the event, apparently that rarity - a sunny day.


In which manliness is attempted

This blog is not known for its how-to guides, nor its swashbuckling descriptions of Hemingway-esque manliness. The sole attempt consists of booze reviews, and even then, although in some quantity, there is a prerequisite of quality. My man card could be in danger. My plums replaced with raisins. Etc. etc.

So when the washing machine died, I stripped down to a loincloth, oiled myself up, and went into battle.
I say died, it was more gradual expiration, the spin sounded laboured, then slowly gave up going around in full circles, deciding a range of 270degrees was enough for it, a full 360 was just us being so goddamn unreasonable. Only then did it decide that 270 was too much, and no spinning would be even easier for it. Damn you sirius cybernetics corporation.

I found my tools, switched off the machine (I'm not that manly), upended it and promptly would have had entered a wet t-shirt competition - if I hadn't been thoroughly oiled, a displaced kiwi Adonis.
Hmm. I guess that'll count as hydrating the raisins.

I pulled the filter / drain apart, it was kinda clogged, so cleaned that. I say filter, it's more of a ball at the end of a tube. That's not a euphemism, get your mind out of the gutter, pervert.
That didn't fix things either. So I replaced the brushes, yes, that's how old school washing machines are, they use brushes. I figured a £15 outlay to see if it fixed things was reasonable. It turned out to be pretty easy to replace, and they were warn and looking quite soot covered. I was hopeful.
Sadly, no zombie washing machine action for me. That meant it had to be the motor itself, which would cost me around £100. A new machine was about £240.

Discretion being the better part of valour, we have a new washing machine being delivered next weekend to celebrate the Jubilee. I know, I bet Liz and Phil are doing the same.

Mostly-Manly, B

24 May 2012

The aged live, and the young(ish) pretender

If you'd told me at the beginning of the year that two of the best concerts I'd go to would be from artists who started in the late 1960s, I'd have called you an idiot.

However if you had said that, I'd now owe you an apology.

A month ago I saw Jethro Tull/Ian Anderson touring Thick as a Brick 2, which is all sorts of excellent. In fact it's got that highly annoying problem of good Tull albums that it seeps under the skin and you find yourself reaching for it time and time again.

Last night I went to see Focus at the Musician in Leicester. I went in only knowing that one track, and was blown away by a masterclass in jazz-rock-metal. Yes I suppose you could call it prog, but I'm not sure that really explains them, there's far more jazz in there than most prog, although the hardrock/metal bits fit well within the prog-metal genre.
Led by the hammond organ / flutist Thijs van Leer the band is very tight, and rocks hard. It's quite hard to describe their style, since it's all over the place - without being annoyingly so. Everything seems very organic, the sign of a good band, and the musicianship is great. The guitarist, Menno, in particular, was cranking of disgustingly good solos - and without the histronics of some guitarists - win! I liked the lack of vocals (in a classical sense), made for an interesting change.
Really pleased I went, and I they've got a new album out soon - I picked up a live in europe CD, which I was going to link to from their website, but its pretty crap selection. And I can't find it on amazon.

Focus are doing a reasonably extensive UK tour at the moment - definitely worth going.

Last week I went down to London for the Steven Wilson gig. I'll admit, I love the new album (grace for drowning) but this gig. Bloody hell. Definitely something else. And likely to hit best gig of the year. I also have utmost respect for SW for dumping Porcupine Tree after their most successful album and releasing something completely different and utterly engaging. Even non-prog people are liking this - i've inflicted it on a number of people now and the odd combination of very tune based, jazz, pop, rock seems a winner.


14 May 2012

aMSN, MacOS 10.7 (Lion), iTunes - music artwork display

Ok, probably of limited interest to 90-95% of readers, but:

My iTunes artwork isn't displaying when I use aMSN. This obviously upsets me, hugely.

Lion is a 64bit OS, aMSN (both SVN and standard release) appears to be 32bit. And that's why the two don't play nicely.

But there's a quick fix.

Close iTunes. Go to the Applications folder, do a Get Info, and select Open in 32-bit mode.

This seems to work. Although I've noticed that you need to start aMSN before iTunes - especially if you use a remote storage location (NAS) for your iTunes library.

Why, of course my life is exciting.

2 May 2012

metal gigs !!!!

Well ok, two of the three are metal, and the third won a metal award.

Are as brutal live as they are on record. I've only got one album, Obzen, but I like it. Very dry, exact, and immensely heavy. Brilliant stuff.
However, as a live act, it became monotonous. Sure the crowd were really into it, but I felt songs weren't distinct, and a large element of blandness pervaded the second half in particular. Stage presence was low too, I guess there's only so much you can do with chugging guitars...
I'm pleased I went, but I doubt I'll go again.
What really stood out for me were the support band, Animals as Leaders. Think of a heavy version of King Crimson, so heavy take on jazz - 'Red' era KC perhaps? Anyway, I really liked them. No vocals either which made a nice change.

Here's the title track from Obzen

and some Animals as Leaders

Ian Anderson / Jethro Tull
 It's been ages since I saw Tull, admittedly Tull without most of the band. But really, Tull is Anderson. I went in with quite low expectations, after all he's been performing for years. Although the quality of the new album, Thick as a Brick 2, was a good sign.
The gig was a double header of TaaB and TaaB2. Which was brilliant. There's always a good dose of humour at Tull gigs, and although the audience was getting on a bit, they seemed right in to it. I was quite surprised that he'd sold out the Derby Assembly Rooms, but it's a good venue (unless you are buying beer) with excellent sound.

Really enjoyed this, likely to be one of my top gigs of the year - and I'd recommend picking up TaaB2 - Tull at their very best.

Paradise Lost
I'm not a huge fan, but they were playing in N'ham, so nice and close. And I do really like a couple of the albums, One Second and Host.
This was in the Rescue Rooms, which is a smallish venue, with expensive beer, although they have Harvest Pale on, so it's good beer.
I had been warned that live, the band wasn't great. Or rather the lead singer didn't always seem to be into it. This appeared to be the case here. I thought he was mixed a bit far down too, and that didn't change wherever I stood, which didn't help. Good band, and I enjoyed the new stuff, whcih seems to have gone back to their earlier metal roots (compared to one second and host). Probably enough that I'll pick up the new album, at some stage.
It's all very doom and goth, but it's good stuff. Some excellent work by the guitarists, but the gig did seem rather short, I counted it as less than 90 mins which for a band with an extensive back catalogue seems a little cheap.

Here's some PL

29 April 2012

Whisky tasting - somewhat impromptu

Countryfile was on, and somehow that inspired me to taste some whiskies - or rather drink the miniatures I had lying around.
Oh for regular readers, Loch Fyne Whiskies have a new website, mmm pretty booze.

Glencadem OB 15yo 46% - a freewee sample from LFW

Nose: fresh cut grass, hint of salt, manuka honey
Body: warm, manuka honey, full mouth feel, hint of salt, lemon
Finish: med-long

7/10, ok so 5ml isn't a lot to do a decent taste with, but on sample i'd say it's worth checking this whisky out. sweet but with a hint of bitterness, quite full in flavour for a 46%. Seemed damn good to me.

Clynelish OB 14yo 46% - a freewee sample from LFW

Nose: salt, turps,
Body: warm, tangy, liquorice, honey, full,
Finish: tangy, but short

6/10 Clynelish frustrate me. So close to Brora, and yet so far away. Why?! Admittedly this one seemed quite interesting, and the 5ml didn't give me enough to really judge, I suspect I'd like this one if I bought it - so maybe the older Clynelish get, the better they'll be? They're certainly getting up to the age of some Brora's so fingers crossed.

Glengoyne Single Cask 21yo Sherry Butt cask: 1391; 52.2% miniature

Nose: sherry, lemonade, light
Body: sherry, almost over-powering, honey, tang, pepper
Finish: very warm, but oddly light,

7.5/10 Ok, so it's a sherry monster, but it's also a lot lighter than expected. I've got a bottle of 21yo SC, which I may taste after this, but his is too much sherry, too little complexity. If you want a sherry monster, which had wonderful flavour, go for the Glengoyne TeaPot Dram (see review - search for scotch on my blog).

and in the spirit of research, I've dug up my 21yo Glengoyne for comparison.

Glengoyne Single Cask 20yo Spanish Oak Sherry Butt; Cask 1384; Bottle 426/592. 54.2%

Nose: sherry, smooth, polished wood
Body:  smooth, sherry, honey (bitter), complex, warm, hint of musty [in a good way],
Finish: long, very long, warmth which grows, honey, lovely.

9.5-10 /10 Incredible the difference between the two really, more evidence of the variety between casks. And why you want to bottle at the right time, was that one year too long?


22 April 2012

Comparative Genetics or Why Science Is Cool

This could become a much longer post, if I go hunting for some references and think about it, but since I'm on a train you can have the abbreviated version.

Bacteria and stuff are known to be able to do very little for a long time. Think of them as road workers/Ministry of Works etc (as an aside, I saw 9 of them the other day, two were working, the other 7 were doing valuable work holding up shovels and their obviously exhusted bodies). But even for bacteria new research concerning melting Antartic glaciers is pushing it.
Read the summary here.

One of my biggest annoyances when doing comparative DNA work between tuatara populations was the inability to use ancient DNA sequences to see how island isolation had affected the populations. Admittedly using turtle/croc DNA was an OK substitute in some cases, but it didn't give much info on recent (1-2million year) evolution of the species.
Potentially the DNA from these glaciers will allow just that. How F'ing cool is that?!

It's not exactly the same as what I wanted to do, as bacteria evolve much quicker - they can tolerate sequence change better - and have much shorter lifetimes, and so more generations in which to evolve change.


12 April 2012

Of Gigs and Exhibitions

Been awhile since I blogged about stuff, and as usual there's been a fair number of gigs/exhibitions involved. This is unlikely to be all of them, but briefly:

The main exhibition I've seen in this period was the Hockney at the RA. I really did not like this. I couldn't manage to engage with any of his pictures, they struck me as boring. Sure, strong colours, but they suffered, for me, from the problem painting of scenes often does - take a f'ing picture instead. I want paintings to challenge perception, stretch things.
This was the first time I've had such a feeling of almost physical revulsion to paintings.
I did love what he did in the multimedia section, I thought that was quite clever. Although a more mixed approach could have been better, for example different screens showing differing seasons, which in a composite display would have been quite cool.
I think what really struck me was the lack of creativity, it's all very samey, very mass produced. Or at least, it felt like it to me. Soulless.
I know there's a couple of artists who read this who've been, what did you think?

SeYes - The Musician, Leicester
A Yes tribute band, weren't too bad, vocalist was excellent. Seemed a bit rough in places, but enjoyable - and I can't complain at £7 entrance... I can complain about the fucktard who stole my bike tho'...

Tinderbox and Little Johnny England
I don't know if I should admit this, but I appear to be going through quite an English folk phase. In some ways, Paul T is to blame for reawakening my interest in Fairport Convention. Viewers of my last.fm page may have noticed repeat plays of John Babbacomb Lee. Frank Turner's most recent, from last year, has strong folk elements, at least lyrically so blame can be pushed at him too. Obviuosly I'm too weak to resist these two strong influences.
Tinderbox are a duo from Bournemouth (according to their website) on guitar and vocals. Very delicate, and very very good. The superlatives in the reviews on their site keep using the word 'gorgeous' and that's about right. There's sound samples on the site...

Little Johnny England I really enjoyed them. I'd had some beer, but as I'm writing this to the sound of the most recent CD, and enjoying that too, I think my beerview was still right. Electric folk? story based lyrics, and more importantly melodeon solos. They all seemed very good at what they do, and seemed to be having fun - which seems a good sign for a band... English folk seems a bit more subdued than Irish, less bitter, for some reason ! Oh and they even had reels and hornpipes, which didn't me angry, so they must be good!
Here ,have a video

Polar Bear described as avant-garde jazz worried me slightly, as I've been to a couple of those and hated them. Especially as this was led by two saxophonists. I shouldn't have worried, I thought it was all pretty safe - obviously those years of listening to King Crimson etc have made my avante-garde antenna a bit stronger. Very musical, lyrical jazz. And their album is out on vinyl, which I didn't pick up. But may yet...
Here, another video;

Ssshhhh don't say it too loud, but the new album is rather good. I went along to the gig for the cheesy prog factor, and came away a teensy wee bit impressed. The new (again?!) vocalist has a rather impressive set of pipes on him. And any band with the John's (Jowitt and Mitchell) will always get my vote (yes Jowitt is back in). All seemed to be having fun and the sound was superb.
As mentioned, for those of you who have slipped from the Arena fold, I know I had. It's worth picking up the new album, typically OTT subject matter, but musically very enjoyable.
here's a teaser video for the album.

The Watch - Genesis cover band
Fantastic. Want to hear Gabriel era Genesis? The Watch deliver.

Yes, a prog double-header. How happy was I !

Love B

Winning coolest kid in school competitions

I'm sure I'll blog something more worthwhile shortly, but in the meantime...

5 year old brings step-fathers heroin in for show and tell.


29 March 2012

Elbow, music, beer

I frequently dispair over the crap on the radio, frequently may be stretching it since this involves having the TV on a music channel, or the radio on commercial station. Neither can be called frequent.

But then my faith is restored by BBC 6Music.

And more importantly, by the fact that in this world, a band as brilliant as Elbow are both cool, and popular. No matter how much SiCo is in the world, this balances everything. I'm sitting here watching the bonus DVD to the reissue of Cast of Thousands, and rejoicing in all things Elbow. A bunch of blokes, who obviously like their ale, smoking, and in a superb piece of video making, fishing. yes, a video of an Elbow song while the boys go fishing. Bet that's never occurred to MDNA or Lady Gaga [see how hip I am].

This post may have been brought to you by some (vagueness ensues!) Belgian ales [geuze boon; rochefort 11 at least - i can see those bottles]

me xx

23 March 2012

6 nations : final round and summary

The final round of 6 nations fell on the day when we were heading down to London for the David Hockney exhibition, so watching the games was iPlayer that evening and Sunday morning.

Italy v Scotland
The wooden spoon, and in the context of this years games, loser for the downtrow. Scotland looked abysmal, doing all the bad stuff they've become specialists in - ball dropping, fumbled passes, general confusion at ruck time. Italy were made to look good by comparison. Actually Italy didn't play too badly at all. This may herald the end of the scottish coach, Andy Robinson hasn't had the best results from a team who, potentially, could do quite well. If they mastered the basics, and had a bit of belief there's quite a good team lurking in there.

Wales v France
This was for the grand slam (Wales already having won the triple crown). In the time honoured fashion, the erratic French team turned up. It wasn't a pretty game, although in places the French looked good with some creative use of the backline. But Wales deserved to win this.

England v Ireland
heh and played on St Patricks Day too. As I've mentioned, the Irish team is looking old and bereft of ideas. This was clearly demonstrated as England, who are looking a more organised unit, ripped the Irish.
I'm not convinced over Stuart Lancaster's experience, but he has fashioned an interesting attacking, young (for England) team. They haven't been tested by a good team - Wales were playing very badly when they beat them - but they look good. And it would be a foolish English RU if they overlooked Lancaster. I'm not sure he needs an assistant coach, as has been suggested as a role for Nick Mallett (Italy and SthAfr).

Overall, quite a dull tournament. Wales deserved to win, even if they played badly a lot of the time. Wazza Gatland (I'm determined this will catch on) should have a productive few years with the team.
I don't understand the love of the up and under kick. 8 times out of 10, it goes to the opposition with no chasers and is essentially useless. And yet it's used all the time over here. Stupid.
The ball handling skills are also poor, which probably explains why the speed of passes and backline moves appear slow. It all seems laboured in the backline, and no-one really hits the line at pace - or more accurately, at pace on the angle.
I think that's tied in with the lack of vision at first-five/half-back, most attack is one off the ruck. Which is quite easy to defend against, hence the smash up, ruck, smash up etc appearance of most games.

The end of year tour by NZ could be a bit messy for the locals...

12 March 2012

6 Nations : Week 4 - maybe?

Honestly, I have no idea what week this is. Let's just call it four.
This past weekends games ranged from disappointing to annoying. Which maybe a good summary of the 6 nations.

Scotland v Ireland
I'm sure the Scots will mark this one off as another growing experience, or somesuch. But honestly, the amount of growing and learning experiences they've had over the last 2 years and their inability to catch the ball at vital times, y'know, by the tryline, suggests an ability to learn slightly less than a well concussed heavy weight boxer.
Contrary to other games, which they should have won, this one they probably deserved to lose. I realise there are qualifiers there, mainly as I think Ireland are very over-rated team. They are getting old, and it shows.
Stand out for me was Richie Gray.

Wales v Italy
Wales cocked this up royally. Sure the Italians are improving, and should have beaten England a couple of weeks ago, but the Welsh were playing very very well. They didn't in this game. In fact, they looked rubbish, very little go forward ball, and general confusion in their backline.
Final scoreline flattered them, but I suspect Warren Gatland wasn't holding back.
Speaking of Wazza, I love his pre-match interviews, it's so obvious he doesn't want to be there, and every curt response ends with an unspoken 'now fuck off'. Go on, watch the next one, it's hilarious...

England v France
Supporting France appears akin to supporting Wellington. I'd picked the French to be 1 or 2 in the 6 nations this year, and generally it started well.
But whatever team turned up on Sunday, really wasn't convinced winning was something they wanted to do. Useless bastards. I think I yelled at them as much as I do when watching Scotland. FFS.
So for a match they should/could have won, they managed to piss around, look confused and directionless, and only pull out the good stuff with 15mins left. FFS.

All of which is making Lancaster's bid for England coach look better by the day. I have to admit he's done amazing things to turn the team around, and they now have a backline that catches, runs, and scores tries. Slightly concerning from my perspective. I think as a team, it's too early to be saying they've got a good one, but the signs are there. They haven't been pushed hard yet in the 6 nations, and Wales were playing badly when they almost lost to the England (rather than England almost winning).
I don't think there's the toughness in the team yet, but sadly it appears to be growing.

This brings up a provisional team for the Lions this year, to be coached by Wazza. So here's my not really thought out picks:
Matt banahan; manu tuilagi (tho i think he doesn't have the skills yet); ben foden; ben youngs; owen farrell;

tommy bowe; jamie heaslip;   -def not Sexton

entire frontrow; luke charteris; faletau; halfpenny; hook; north; priestland; jamie roberts; sam warburton (probable captain); lydiate;  -- yes ok, most of the welsh team.

richie gray; david denton (maybe, he seemed quite good...); lamont;

Now, I haven't gone through and worked out if this actually selects a complete team. All I've done is flick through the teams and listed those I've thought are playing well.


5 March 2012

Whisky Cabal 7 : Where we experience the Americans, and retreat quickly to the spiritual homeland

The cabal assembled, although one of number had to call off with illness, so we were back to three. But many whiskies, so we coped.
All links, as expected, to our besties at Loch Fyne Whisky.
Here's a pic of the line-up including a glass for absent, poorly, Dr's. (apologies for the horrendous photo, I've chastised my phone, and it's apologised profusely)

We opened with a bourbon - for variety, and to see how the bourbon flavour affect the whisky.

Woodford Reserve Bourbon, distillers select.
Nose: bourbon, fruity, lemon, PVA glue, phenol
Palate: undergrad drink, vigorous
Finish: warm, but short
4-5/10 as a whisky
None of us are bourbon drinkers, but were keen to try some. Thanks to Beaux, we could. We ain't sold on it, we appreciate what it does for scotch, but on it's own? probably not. I may try making some bbq sauce (Rich, any recipes...?). I'm not saying no to trying more, but dunno if I'll rush out either.

Glenrothes 1994 Signatory Vintage 17yo 239/805; dist 28.01.94, bot 07.04.11; 46%, sherry butt
Nose: toasted marshmallows, burnt fireworks, rubber
Palate: sultanas, tangy, honey, cloudy lemonade
Finish: med - long
The main comment, very very drinkable. You cannot go wrong with this baby.

7-7.5 /10

Tomintoul 16yo 40%
Nose: parmesan cheese, old wood chips, cut grass
Palate: good fighty, tangy, lemon, bourbon, thick mouth feel (2 of us, the usual dissenter piped up to say no)
Finish: short, manuka honey
6.5-7 /10
Again, very drinkable. Just not quite in the Glenrothes class.

Bruichladdich 10yo 46%
Nose: hint of old socks, artificial smoked fish
Palate: salt, smooth, smokey, sherry?
Finish: long salt, growing

This is, apparently, LFW's bottling of the year. We can see why. It's a superb stuff. Our tasting notes don't do it justice, but we really like this. It's everything a whisky should be.

Glengoyne Teapot dram 58.8%
Nose: sherry 'oh sir'
Palate: fcuking sherry monster, sugar, honey, molasses, sherry, honey - did we mention sherry?
Finish: long, hot, honey

Only available from Glengoyne, hence the link heading off to them rather than LFW. This is a brilliant sherry monster. Neil and I tried a number of their really expensive whiskies, and this kicked them into touch.
Addition of water gave cut grass and wet sheep on the nose (yeah, ok, wet sheep was mine)

Bunnahabhain 2001 Signatory Bottling 57.7% 10yo 572/581; dist 21/09/01 bot 25/11/11' sherry butt cask 1765
Nose: sweet, marshmallows, love hearts, teardrops
Palate: sweet, salt, pears, vanilla
Finish: med-long, sweet, prickly
Definitely drinkable. I'm annoyed tho as I'm having to reassess my view of Bunna, which I had thought was overrated, but appears to have come right over the last few bottles I've had...

BenRiach 10yo Curiositas 40% 
Nose: salt, phenol
Palate: salt, peat, sweet
Finish: short
7.5 /10
Not a lot of subtlety in this. It says salt, it delivers salt. You want sherry? Don't buy this.

BenRiach Solstice 17yo 50%
Nose: salt, sweet, peat, treacle tart
Palate: salt, sweet, stupid port, fruits, nuts
Finish: med-long

It's fair to say the 15yo Solstice and I had a deep and passionate relationship. On so many levels did I love it. It was stupid, it was complex, it was imminently drinkable.
The 17yo is less bats arse mental, and as a result loses a bit to the 15yo. I won't say it's more mature, as it's still stupidly ridiculous. But slightly more under control. Sadly LFW are saying it's out of stock.

Springbank Rundlets and Kilderkins 49.4%
Nose: salt, peat, phenol, wet woollen sock
Palate: smooth, sherry, xmas cake, raisins, rhubarb
Finish: smooth, medium
8.5 - 9 /10

My Springbank had died, and this was it's reincarnation. It's not half as aggressive as LFW suggest (...a cross between Vinnie Jones and Sid James...).
A bit of background (thanks google and my long history of drinking...), a runlet is an archaic size of wine cask, holding about 68 litres, and the kilderkin a size of ale cask, holding about 81 litres. The reason, I suspect, Springbank have used these is that it causes whisky to develop quicker - smaller sized casks develop quickly allowing quicker bottling as the flavours have come through.
Either way, very interesting and good dram - recommend that one too.


28 February 2012

load of old fat

Interesting report this week demonstrating that most published diet plans are a load of tosh. See here. Basically it appears the models of the NHS and the US NIH are flawed, they assume if you cut 500 calories, you'll lose 450gm a week. I've argued in the past that has to be flawed, weight loss (and gain), no matter how rigidly one sticks to the regime, is not a constant procedure - there are peaks, troughs, and plateau's.

I suspect most people wouldn't believe these numbers anyway.

If they did, then the impact of believing in the numbers would lead to depression as weight doesn't disappear as expected. Things start off well as the first 5-10kg is largely water, after that it's all nasty.

What redeems the diets is that the main focus is changing behaviour, which can lead to a useful feedback mechanism.
* change food types you eat
* change quantity of food
* change exercise regime

That strikes me as being a more useful focus of the plans, the weightloss can take care of itself. Kinda.

yeah im just blathering. whisky post should be here in the next day or two since the cabal covened last night.

11 February 2012

6 nations week1

currently on a train, so missing todays games of week2. will try and catch up tomorrow...

Anyway week1 summary:
France v Italy
the French played well enough to confirm their status as tournament frontrunners. Italy looked better than expected, and demonstrated some inventiveness, but the French played well as a team - and looked like they were enjoying it. distinctly different to the RWC and Lievrement's reign.
they were, mostly, consistent and looked to be playing good attacking rugby that wasn't affected too badly by brain meltdowns of the sort we all know and love from the french rugby teams. Still placing france as top of the 6 nations, but Italy may be looking at a 4-5 position.

Wales v Ireland
Ireland looked distinctly overrated. Wales, without their first choice frontrow, looked dominant, attacking, and their backs were very very sharp (and large, George North is a hugely talented monster, NZ should buy him - I'm sure his grandmother was born in NZ...).
Although all the pundits are talking up Ireland, I'm going to say they will be mid-low (3-5) int he final rankings. Wales are the only team who can beat France.

England v Scotland
FFS. For a team who had so much ball, how many times could one bunch of idiots drop it when there's a chance of scoring. Line-breaks, good running, all let down by basic errors of ball handling and badly organised rucks/mauls. Fckn Scotland. Dan Parks had a shocker, and has gone back to retirement. Normally a superb place kicker, things were not going his way. It seems unfair to blame him for the result, since the rest of the teams inability to do anything well certainly didn't help.
England looked better than normal, and appeared to have forwards who thought the ball should go to the backs. Weird. Lancaster seems to be working some kinda of magic to the team, so either sense will prevail with the English Rugby Union and he'll be out on his arse, or a miracle of stone-rolling proportions will occur, and he'll get the permanent job. Of course if he does, no-one in the RFU will support him, and they'll undermine every decision. So either way, business as usual.


9 February 2012

another ten thousand

I've hit 80,000 at last.fm and so it's time for a recap of the last three months. I don't really care how long it's been since 70,000 - which may have something to do with beer and whisky. and so I've decided a three month review is about right.

Top Artists
I think it's far to say, no massive surprises here.
Marillion (107); Porcupine Tree (85); Spock's Beard (65); Queen (63); Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (63); Rush (61); Pink Floyd (59); Alan Parsons Project (59); Tom Waits (55); the Who (51).

Even I'm a bit embarassed at how old, and predictable that is. Oh well. It's not like any of them have massives of plays...

If we switch to Overall things don't change too much (I can report that Gazpacho hit the top10 for the last 12 months, yayayay).

Marillion ; Tom Waits; Porcupine Tree; Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds; The Pineapple Thief; Bob Dylan; Queen; Rush; Genesis; Dream Theater.

Exciting stuff!!

Tonight is, as you've probably guessed, music night. Beer has been consumed (Meantime IPA - I think, Guinness, and an Innis and Gunn - which did not hold up well to the other two), and whisky has appeared. I defend this as it was snowing and I must keep warm. Currently sipping a nice SMWS Mortlach which has interesting sulphur overtones. Unlike some whisky drinkers, I'm not averse to sulphur, indeed my Port Ellen has strong overtones - and I love that.
Sweet sounds have been provided this evening by:
Marillion - Misplaced Childhood
Harold Faltermeyer - Axel F (12" M and M mix)
Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick
Wild Bill Ricketts - Wild West  [this is new levels of brilliant bonkers, great stuff]
Steve Hogarth/Richard Barbieri - not the weapon but the hand
Peter Gabriel - Up

not sure what will come up next, am pondering Dream Theater, Black Clouds and Silver Linings. Maybe a little excited as I'm seeing them tomorrow !


Winter biking

At what point do you call it quits, admit winter has struck, and stop biking to work?
It's not that I'm cold during the bike ride, these puppies have seen to that (photos will incur a charge), and the ice has melted from the snow last weekend.

no, I believe the time to question one's sanity is when snow is smacking you in the face as you decide that hey, what's required is more speed. Ok, I defended that as the beer was at home, and I wasn't at home.
But still, odd feeling and a wee bit chilly.

Oh, and I think I should be the English football coach. I even participated in a conversation about it with people who follow football.
I've mastered the basics, forwards should put the ball in the net, not near the net, and backs should stop the opposition forwards from getting near the net. Midfielders should do everything. Goalie's should stop balls going into the goal. See, I'm a natural and have isolated where the English team have gone wrong.

I can also cope with the £6m that Capello was getting. I'll buy some of you a bottle of whisky as a reward...

Love, Coach B.

4 February 2012

6 nations, predictions

better get some predictions in for the 2012 season before kick off - which is about 40 mins away.

After the amusement of the World Cup there's been a bit of a clear-out. In English minds this should lead to a fresh committment for the national team. In reality, it's likely to lead to a confused team unsure whether to specialise in defence or attack. I suspect they'll end up in no mans land and lack leadership for the close matches.
Position: 3-4

Not looking good at the moment. I'm sure someone will say never underestimate the Irish, but on current form, never overestimate the Irish would be better.
Position: 4-5

There's a belief in Welsh rugby which has been missing for sometime. Warren Gatland has both national fever and injuries (5 first choice players at last count) to combat. They looked good in the RWC with a good blend of experience and youth. Presuming they can cope with the injuries, they could do quite well.
Position: 1-3

I like the country. I like the national drink. And so I tend to be blinded to the inherent problems of the Scottish rugby team, they remind me of supporting Wellington - erratic, and unlikely to go the distance. A few retirements won't have helped for experience, but maybe a fresh approach could help?
Position: 4-6

With the unstable nature of the other teams this year, this maybe the year Italy don't get the wooden spoon. Who knows. Hard to pick, with Nick Mallet being kicked out as coach, it's an open book...and remember the Italians did beat France in last years 6 nations...
Position: 5-6

Who the hell knows. Really, any position is entirely achievable by the French. They were crap in RWC, until the final, without a coach. I'm going to presume they've got a plan, and organisation (of course I'm not laughing here).
Position: 1-2

Yeah I'm hedging here. Oh well, kick off in 20 mins with Italy v France. Then later Scotland v England. Brilliant.


31 January 2012

oop norf

I was in Scotland. This was entirely Neil's fault. He foolishly suggested his whisky collection needed a clean-up, and I had leave to use up. Foolish. These focussed things need a name, and to reflect death of bottles, and referencing another less well known whisky event, this was called 'Whisky Undead'.

I spent a few days in Edinburgh before heading over to Glasgow and the whisky cleanup. Again, very little snow up that way, so a bit chilly but nice. Wandered around the revamped Museum of Scotland, which can get a bit confusing being spread over many buildings and levels. But interesting. I learnt more about the early globalisation by Vikings than I expected to.
And lots of early record players. Mmmm shellac. Can't wait until Steve Wilson releases on it...

Unconsciously I'd ended up in Scotland on Burns night. So after some beer and food, and wandering around, I ended up at the SMWS rooms. Reasonably quiet in there, but was nice to have a couple of drams. Ended up chatting to the pipers who were filling in time before the haggis malarky in one of the dining rooms. They regarded Burns night as a great way to earn far too much money for doing nothing, can't say I blame them for that. Oh and the old one was called 'Old Jock'.

Spent the morning at the Modern art gallery which was cool - not quite so taken with the sculpture stuff, but the exhibition of  Cadell was great. I'd never heard of him either, but his use of strong colours, and in particular black, worked for me. Not as taken with his paintings of Iona, but the rest of them made up for the landscapes. He seemed an interesting mix of impressionist and yet quite influenced by the linear nature of Art Deco. Worked for me.
And all this for 7 quid. I know. Ridiculous.

Wandered around the old town a bit, and came across the surgeons museum. It seems to be in a state of flux with a number of displays of the diarama / context kinda stuff you see in modern museums, and a large number of old school cabinets. All containing lots of pieces of dead people. Many of these focussed on how guns/warfare caused people to have had better days. Great stuff.
Interesting look at how mustard gas (?) caused general badness to lungs. Oh and the expected collection of cancers, polydactyly, and general mutants. Gotta love those Victorians.
Oddly, no gift shop. I'm guessing that'll turn up in a year or so as it moves to a more modern version of a museum.
I enjoyed this, or rather I enjoyed the curiosity cabinet approach. the newer displays didn't do anything for me.

Oh, obviously visits to Artisan Roast occurred too. Or as I prefer to call it, the Deluxe of the North. The good news is that they are opening their own online shop, so the ordering problems through Pekoetea should be alleviated. Pekoetea don't appear very good at keeping the webpage reflecting actual stock levels.

Friday involved meeting Neil to view some Turner's. The Vaughan bequest to the National Gallery, which is only brought out in January. I know, it's like everythign came together. It's almost freeky how the mass of colour gradually reveals more and more detail - in his later paintings. The earlier stuff is far more classically defined. Oh go on, have a guess which ones I like...
WE had wandered through a not very good exhibition before this, but didn't do much for me.

Then we found beer. Something I could grow to like. May have ended up at the other SMWS rooms (in Leith) for dinner and, oddly, whisky.

Saturday meant a gentle wander to Glasgow, and then a trip up to Glengoyne, a distillery we've been known to appreciate. Tried some whisky. Tried one only available from the distillery, although it's now online, and found that it was good. Reviews shall follow.

Whisky Undead went ahead, and involved whisky, food, great company, and the killing of 4 bottles. Ideally we'd have killed more, but many bottles were more full than expected, and it wasn't a heavy session of boozing. Honest.

Nice brekkie on Sunday, and a long train journey. Damn stupid Sunday trains.

Huzzah for Scotland!!