General Plea from a Libertarian

January 7, 2013 at 6:16 am (labour party, Max Dunbar, strange situations, Tory scum, welfare, whiskey, wine)

Some truly crazy ideas have been bouncing around various Whitehall policy departments. Taken together they give a sense of a general trend.

Back in December we had the welfare card proposal, so that unemployed people couldn’t spend their benefits on cigarettes and alcohol. This week: an idea that fat unemployed people should be ordered to exercise or else lose benefits.

Many people will approve of these ideas, because they would make life difficult for people on benefits. The rationale is ‘You are dependent on the state for your income, so we have a right to dictate how you spend it.’ But there is no way that the government will stop with welfare claimants. Plain packaging, minimum pricing, proposals for legal limits on sugar and fat content will affect working people too. If unemployed people should have a welfare card, why shouldn’t working people get paid in food vouchers? After all, otherwise we would just waste our salaries on Camel Lights, pizzas and red wine. And we are all dependent on the state to some extent. Even Jeremy Clarkson drives on publicly maintained roads.

Under a Tory led austerity government you would at least expect negative freedom. They won’t empower you, or help you out in hard times. You could at least expect them to leave you the fuck alone. But they won’t leave you alone. The Fabian authoritarianism that New Labour brought into public life has not been abandoned: quite the reverse.

So they cut essential services – sickness benefits, debt advice, legal representation, you know, things that people use, stuff that matters – while grasping for more and more control over what people do in their free time.

It is a kind of government by brainstorm or thought camp, where bizarre and silly ideas are implemented with seemingly no thought for the science, the economics or the practical reality of people’s lives.

Of course sometimes we need to be protected from ourselves.

But people also need the freedom to make their own mistakes.

prohibition

DoH launches new public health poster campaign

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Kingsley Amis on The Hangover

December 24, 2011 at 1:24 am (literature, whisky, wild man, wine)

British novelist and comic writer Kingsley Amis prepares for another sip of wine

 

The Hangover by Kingsley Amis (from ‘Everyday Drinking – The Distilled Kingsley Amis,’ Bloomsbury 2008).

 

What a subject! And, in very truth, for once, a ‘strangely neglected’ one.

 

Oh, I know you can hardly open a newspaper or magazine without coming across a set of instructions – most of them unoriginal, some of them quite unhelpful and one or two of them actually harmful – on how to cure this virtually pandemic ailment.

 

But such discussions concentrate exclusively on physical manifestations, as if one were treating a mere illness. They omit the psychological, moral, emotional, spiritual aspects: all that vast, vague, awful, shimmering metaphysical superstructure that makes the hangover a (fortunately) unique route to self-knowledge and self-realisation.

 

Imaginative literature is not much better. There are poems and songs about drinking, of course, but none to speak of about getting drunk, let alone having been drunk. Novelists go into the subject more deeply and extensively, but tend to straddle the target, either polishing off the hero’s hangover in a few sentences or, so to speak, making it the whole of the novel.

 

In the latter case, the hero will almost certainly be a dipsomaniac, who is not as most men are and never less so than on the morning after. This vital difference, together with much else, is firmly brought out in Charles Jackson’s marvellous and horrifying The Lost Weekend, the best fictional account of alcoholism I have read.

 

A few writers can be taken as metaphorically illuminating the world of the hangover while ostensibly dealing with something else. Perhaps Franz Kafka’s story The Metamorphosis, which starts with the hero waking up to find he has turned into a man-sized cockroach, is the best literary treatment of all. The central image could hardly be better chosen, and there is a telling touch in the nasty way everybody goes on at the chap. (I can find no information about Kafka’s drinking history.)

 

It is not my job, or anyway, I absolutely decline to attempt a full, direct description of the Metaphysical Hangover: no fun to write or read. But I hope something of this will emerge by implication from my list of counter-measures.

 

Before I get on to that, however, I must deal with the Physical Hangover, which is, in any case, the logical one to tackle first, and the dispersal of which will notably alleviate the other – mind and body as we have already seen, being nowhere more intimately connected than in the sphere of drink.

 

Here, then, is how to cope with:

 

THE PHYSICAL HANGOVER

 

1. Immediately on waking, start telling yourself how lucky you are to be feeling so bloody awful. This recognises the truth that if you do not feel bloody awful after a hefty night, then you are still drunk and must sober up in a waking state before hangover dawns.

 

2. If your wife or other partner is beside you, and (of course) is willing, perform the sexual act as vigorously as you can. The exercise will do you good, and – on the assumption that you enjoy sex – you will feel toned up emotionally, thus delivering a hit-and-run raid on your Metaphysical Hangover before you formally declare war on it.

 

WARNINGS. (i) If you are in bed with somebody you should not be in bed with, and have in the least degree a bad conscience about this, abstain. Guilt and shame are prominent constituents of the Metaphysical Hangover, and will certainly be sharpened by indulgence on such an occasion.

 

(ii) For the same generic reason, do not take the matter into your own hands if you awake by yourself.

 

3. Having of course omitted to drink all that water before retiring, drink a lot of it now, more than you need to satisfy your immediate thirst. Alcohol is a notorious dehydrant, and a considerable part of your Physical Hangover comes from the lack of water in your cells.

 

…At this point I must assume that you can devote at least a good part of the day to yourself and your condition. Those who inescapably have to get up and do something can stay in bed only as long as they dare, get up, shave, take a hot bath or shower (more of this later), breakfast off an unsweetened grapefruit (more of this later) and coffee, and clear off, with the intention of getting as drunk at lunchtime as they dare.

 

Let me just observe in passing that the reason why so many professional artists drink a lot is not necessarily very much to do with the artistic temperament, etc. It is simply that they can afford to, because they can normally take a large part of a day off to deal with the ravages. So, then:

 

4. Stay in bed until you can stand it no longer. Simple fatigue is another great constituent of the Physical Hangover

 

5. Refrain, at all costs, from taking a cold shower. It may bring temporary relief, but in my own and others’ experience it will give your Metaphysical Hangover a tremendous boost after about half an hour, in extreme cases making you feel like a creature from another planet. Perhaps this is the result of having dealt another shock to your already shocked system.

 

The ideal arrangement, very much worth the trouble and expense if you are anything of a serious drinker, is a shower fixed over the bath. Run a bath as hot as you can bear and lie in it as long as you can bear. When it becomes too much, stand up and have a hot shower, then lie down again and repeat the sequence. This is time well spent.

 

WARNING: Do not do this unless you are quite sure your heart and the rest of you will stand it. I would find it most disagreeable to be accused of precipitating your death, especially in court.

 

6. Shave. A drag, true, and you may well cut yourself, but it is a calming exercise and will lift your morale (another sideswipe at your Metaphysical Hangover).

 

7. Whatever the state of your stomach, do not take an alkalising agent such as bicarbonate of soda. Better to take unsweetened fruit juice or a grapefruit without sugar.

 

The reasoning behind this is that your stomach, on receiving a further dose of acid, will say to itself, ‘Oh. I see: we need more alkaline,’ and proceed to neutralise itself. Bicarbonate will make it say: ‘Oh, I see: we need more acid,’ and do you further damage.

 

If you find this unconvincing, take heed of what happened one morning when, with a kingly hangover, I took bicarbonate with a vodka chaser. My companion said: ‘Let’s see what’s happening in your stomach,’ and poured the remnant of the vodka into the remnant of the bicarbonate solution. The mixture turned black and gave off smoke.

 

8. Eat nothing, or nothing else. Give your digestion the morning off. You may drink coffee, though do not expect this to do anything for you beyond making you feel more wide awake.

 

9. Try not to smoke. That nicotine has contributed to your Physical Hangover is a view held by many people, including myself.

 

10. By now you will have shot a good deal of the morning. Get through the rest of it somehow, avoiding the society of your fellows. Talk is tiring. Go for a walk or sit or lie about in the fresh air. At 11am or so, see if you fancy the idea of a Polish Bison (hot Bovril and vodka). It is still worthwhile without the vodka. You can start working on your Metaphysical Hangover any time you like.

 

11. About 12:30pm, firmly take a hair (or better, in Cyril Connolly’s phrase, a tuft) of the dog that bit you. The dog, by the way, is of no particular breed; there is no obligation to go for the same drink as the one you were mainly punishing the night before.

 

Many will favour the Bloody Mary. Others swear by the Underburg. For the ignorant, this is a highly alcoholic bitters rather resembling Fernet Branca, but in my experience more usually effective.

 

It comes in miniature bottles holding about a pub double, and should be put down in one. The effect on one’s insides after a few seconds is rather like that of throwing a cricket ball into an empty bath, and the resulting mild convulsions and cries of shock are well worth witnessing. But, thereafter, a comforting glow supervenes, and very often a marked turn for the better.

 

By now, one way or another, you will be readier to face the rest of mankind and a convivial lunchtime can well result. Eat what you like within reason, avoiding anything greasy or rich. If your Physical Hangover is still with you afterwards, go to bed.

 

Before going on to the Metaphysical Hangover, I will, for completeness’s sake, mention three supposed hangover cures, all described as infallible by those who told me about them, though I have not tried any of them. The first two are hard to come by.

 

• Go down the mine on the early-morning shift at the coal-face.

 

• Go up for half an hour in an open aeroplane (needless to say, with a non-hungover person at the controls).

 

• Known as Donald Watt’s Jolt, this consists of a tumbler of some sweet liqueur, Benedictine or Grand Marnier, taken in lieu of breakfast. Its inventor told me that with one of them inside him, he once spent three-quarters of an hour at a freezing bus-stop ‘without turning a hair’. It is true that the sugar in the drink will give you energy and the alcohol alcohol.

 

At this point, younger readers may relax the unremitting attention with which they have followed the above. They are mostly strangers to the Metaphysical Hangover. But they will grin or jeer at their peril. Let them rest assured that, as they grow older, the Metaphysical Hangover will more and more come to fill the gap left by their progressively less severe Physical Hangover. And of the two, incomparably, the more dreadful is…

 

THE METAPHYSICAL HANGOVER

 

1. Deal thoroughly with your Physical Hangover.

 

2. When that ineffable compound of depression, sadness (these two are not the same), anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future begins to steal over you, start telling yourself that what you have is a hangover. You are not sickening for anything, you have not suffered a minor brain lesion, you are not all that bad at your job, your family and friends are not leagued in a conspiracy of barely maintained silence about what a s**t you are, you have not come at last to see life as it really is and there is no use crying over spilt milk.

 

3. If necessary then, embark on either the Metaphysical Literature Course or Music Course or both in succession (not simultaneously). Going off and gazing at some painting, building or bit of statuary might do you good, too.

 

The structure of both courses, hangover reading and hangover listening, rests on the principle that you must feel worse emotionally before you start to feel better. A good cry is the initial aim.

 

HANGOVER READING:

Begin with verse, if you have any taste for it. Any really gloomy stuff that you admire will do. My own choice would tend to include the final scene of Paradise Lost. The trouble here, though, is that today of all days you do not want to be reminded of how inferior you are to the man next door, let alone to a chap like Milton. Safer to pick somebody less horribly great.

 

Switch to prose with the same principles of selection. I suggest Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich. Its picture of life in a Russian labour camp will tell you that there are plenty of people who have a bloody sight more to put up with than you (or I) have or ever will have, and who put up with it, if not cheerfully, at any rate in no mood of self-pity.

 

Turn now to stuff that suggests there may be some point to living after all. Battle poems come in rather well here. By this time you could well be finding it conceivable that you might smile again some day. However, defer funny stuff for the moment. Try a good thriller or action story, which will start to wean you from self-observation and the darker emotions. Turn to comedy only after that; but it must be white – i.e. not black – comedy: P.G. Wodehouse, Stephen Leacock, Captain Marryat, Anthony Powell (not Evelyn Waugh), Peter De Vries (not The Blood of the Lamb, which, though very funny, has its real place in the tearful catagory, and a distinguished one). I am not suggesting that these writings are comparable in other ways than that they make unwillingness to laugh seem a little pompous and absurd.

HANGOVER LISTENING:

Here, the trap is to set your sights too high. On the argument tentatively advanced against unduly great literature, give a wide berth to anyone like Mozart. Go for someone who is merely a towering genius. Tchaikovsky would be my best buy, and his Sixth Symphony (the Pathetique) my individual selection. After various false consolations have been set aside, its last movement really does what the composer intended and, in an amazingly non-dreary way, evokes total despair: sonic Metaphysical Hangover if ever I heard it.
If you can stand vocal music, I strongly recommend Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody – not an alto sax, you peasant, but a contralto voice, with men’s choir and full orchestra.

 

By what must be pure chance, the words sung, from a – between you and me, rather crappy – poem of Goethe’s, Harzreise im Winter, sound like an only slightly metaphorical account of a hangover.

 

They begin: ‘But who is that (standing) apart?/His path is lost in the undergrowth,’ and end with an appeal to God to ‘open the clouded vista over the thousand springs beside the thirsty one in the desert’. This is a piece that would fetch tears from a stone, especially a half-stoned stone.

 

Turn now to something lively and extrovert, but be careful. Quite a lot of stuff that appears to be so at first inspection has a nasty habit of sneaking in odd blows to the emotional solar plexus. Jazz is not much good for your M.H., and pop will probably worsen your P.H.

 

But if you really feel that life could not possibly be gloomier, try any slow Miles Davis track. It will suggest to you that, however gloomy life may be, it cannot possibly be as gloomy as Davis makes it out to be. There is also the likely bonus to be gained from hearing some bystander refer to Davis as Miles instead of Davis. The surge of adrenalin at this piece of trendy pseudo-familiarity will buck up your system, and striking the offender to the ground will restore your belief in your own masculinity, rugged force, etc.

 

WARNING: Make quite sure that Davis’s sometime partner, John Coltrane, is not “playing” his saxophone on any track you choose. He will suggest to you, in the strongest terms, that life is exactly what you are at present taking it to be: cheap, futile and meaningless.

 

* Wine maketh merry: but money answereth all things — ECCLESIASTES

 

Drinkers

 

I never tasted [whisky], except once for experiment at the inn at Inverary…It was strong but not pungent…What was the process I had no opportunity of inquiring, nor do I wish to improve the art of making poison pleasant — SAMUEL JOHNSON

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Mississippi Goddam: where’s Dave?

May 9, 2011 at 7:17 am (blogging, Jim D, New Orleans, song, United States, whiskey, wild man, wine, women)

Having a life outside blogging is obviously a good thing. As, no doubt, is being driven round dixieland by Madam Stroppy in a red Mustang convertible

…but let’s hope Dave comes back one day.

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Amis on Drink: Mean Sod’s Guide

December 27, 2010 at 12:14 pm (beer, Christmas, expenses, food, Jim D, whisky, wine)

[At this time of austerity many of us neverthless feel obliged to hold a party. So here are some useful tips from Kingsley Amis, the master of mean-spirited parsimony and calculated vindictiveness at party-time]:

The point here is not simply to stint your guests on quality and quantity – any fool can pre-pour Moroccan red into burgundy bottles, or behave as if all knowledge of the existence of drink has been suddenly excised from his brain at 10 p.m. – but to screw them while seeming, at any rate to their wives, to have done them rather well. Note the limitation: your ideal objective is a quarrel on the way home between each husband and wife, he disparaging your hospitality, she saying you were very sweet and thoughtful and he is just a frustrated drunk. Points contributing to this end are marked *.

* 1. Strike at once by, on their arrival, presenting each lady with a rose and each gent with bugger-all. Rub this in by complimenting each lady on her appearance and saying in a stentorian undertone to the odd gent, “I heard you hadn’t been so well” (=pissed as a lizard every day) or “You’re looking much better than when I saw you last” (ie with that emperor-sized hangover).

2. Vital requirement: prepare pre- and post-dinner drinks in some undiscoverable pantry or broom-cupboard well away from the main scene. This will not only screen your niggardliness; it will also make the fetching of each successive round look like a slight burden, and *will cast an unfavourable limelight on any individual determined to wrest additional drinks out of you. Sit in a specially deep easy-chair, and practice getting out of it with a mild effort and, later in the evening, a just-audible groan, though beware of overdoing this.

3. As regards the pre-dinner period, procedures vary. The obvious one is to offer only one sort of drink, a “cup” or “punch” made of cheap red wine, soda water, a glass of cooking sherry if you can plunge that far, and a lot of fresh fruit to give an illusion of lavishness. Say you invented it and add menacingly that it has more of a kick than might be expected. Serve in small glasses.

The cold-weather varient of this – same sort of wine, water, small glass of cooking brandy heated in a saucepan, pinch of nutmeg on top of each glass or mug – is more trouble, but it has two great advantages. One is that you can turn the trouble to positive account by spending nearly all your time either at the cooker, conscientiously making sure the stuff goes on being hot enough, or walking from the cooker – much more time than you spend actually giving people drinks. The other gain is that after a couple of doses your guests will be pouring with sweat and largely unable to take any more. (Bank up the fire or turn up the heating to aid this effect, remembering to reduce the temperature well before the kicking-out stage approaches.)

If, faced with either of these, any old-stager insists on, say, Scotch, go to your pantry and read the paper for a few minutes before filling the order. * Hand the glass over with plenty of emphasis, perhaps bawling as you do so, “One large Scotch whisky delivered as ordered, sah!”

Should you feel, as you would have reason to, that this approach is getting a little shiny with use, set your teeth and give everybody a more or less proper drink. You can salve your pocket, however, by adding a tremendous lot of ice to fill up the glass (troublesome, but cheaper than alcohol), or, in the case of martinis, by dropping in an olive the size of a baby’s fist (see Thunderball, by Ian Fleming, chapter 14). Cheat on later drinks as follows: in preparing a gin and tonic, for instance, put the tonic and ice and thick slice of lemon in first and pour on them a timbleful of gin over the back of a spoon, so that it will linger near the surface and give a strong-tasting first sip, which is the one that counts. A friend of mine, whose mother-in-law gets a little excited after a couple of drinks, goes one better in preparing her third by pouring tonic on ice, wetting a fingertip with gin and passing it round the rim of the glass, but victims of this procedure must be selected with extreme care. Martinis should be as cold as before, but with plenty of melted ice. Whiskies are more difficult. Use the back-of-the-spoon technique with coloured glasses, or use then darkest brand you can find. Water the sherries.

4. Arrange dinner early, and see that the food is plentiful, however cheap it is. You can get away with not serving wine with the first course, no matter what it may be. When the main course is on the table, “suddenly realise” you have not opened the wine, and proceed to do so with a lot of cork-popping. The wine itself will not, of course, be French or German; let us call it Ruritanian Gold Label. Pour it with ceremony, explaining that you and your wife (*especially she) “fell in love with it” on holiday there and will be “interested” in people’s reactions. When these turn out to consist of polite, or barely polite, silence, either say nostalgically that to appreciate it perhaps you have to have drunk a lot of it with that marvellous local food under the sun, etc., or announce bluffly, “Doesn’t travel well, does it? Doesn’t travel.” Judge your audience.

5. Sit over the remains of dinner as long as you dare or can bear to, then take the company off to the drawing-room and make  great play with doling out coffee. By this stage (a vague, prolonged one anyhow), a good half-hour of abrupt and total forgetfulness about the very idea of drink can profitably be risked. At its end “suddenly realize” you have imposed a drought and offer brandy, explaining a good deal less than half apologetically that you have no cognac, only a “rather exceptional” Armagnac. This, of course, produced with due slowness from your pantry, is a watered-down cooking brandy from remote parts of France or from South Africa – a just-potable that will already, did they but know it, be familiar to those of your guests who have drunk “Armagnac” at the average London restaurant. * Ask the ladies if they would care to try a glass of Strelsauvada, a “rather obscure” Ruritanian liqueur made from rotten figs with almond-skin flavouring which admittedly can “play you up” if you are not used to it. They will all say no and think highly of you for the offer.

6. Play out time with groan-preceded, tardily-produced, ice-crammed Scotches, remembering the recourse of saying loudly, * “I find myself that a glass of cold beer [out of the cheapest quart bottles from the pub] is the best thing at this time of night.”

7. Along the lines of sticking more fruit than any sane person could want in the pre-dinner “punch” or “cup”, put out a lot of pseudo-luxuries like flood-damaged truncheon-sized cigars, bulk-bought * after-dinner mints, bankrupt-stock * vari-coloured cigarettes, etc.

8. Your own drinks. These must obviously not be allowed to fall below any kind of accustomed level, however cruel the deprivations you force on your guests. You will naturally refresh yourself with periodic nips in your pantry, but going thither at all often may make undesirable shags think, even say, that you ought to be bringing thence a drink for them. So either choose between a darkly tinted glass (“an old friend of mine in Venice gave it me – apparently it’s rather valuable, ha, ha, ha”) and a silver cup of some sort (“actually it’s my christening-mug from T.S. Eliot-believe it or not, ha, ha,ha,”) which you stick  inseperably to and can undetectably fill with neat whisky, or boldly use a plain glass containing one of those light-coloured blends known, at any rate in the U.S.A., as a “husband’s Scotch” – “Why, hell, Mamie, just take a look; you can see it’s near as damn pure water,” and hell, Jim, Jack, Joe and the rest of the crowd.

9. If you think that all or most of the above is mere satirical fantasy, you cannot have been around much yet.

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Hurricane: the People’s Champion

July 25, 2010 at 9:54 pm (beer, Champagne Charlie, drugs, sport, whiskey, whisky, wild man, wine)

RIP Hurricane, 1949 -2010

The People’s Champion found dead, alone and emaciated in his flat. He was poverty-stricken, toothless and had endured two major operations for throat cancer. But…

…(in the words given to him by actor Richard Dormer in the one-man play Hurricane)…

“Don’t pity me. I’ve stood on top of the world.”

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Books of the Year #1

December 12, 2008 at 10:51 pm (beer, Champagne Charlie, comedy, literature, trivia, whiskey, whisky, wine)

Our leading writers make their selections from around the world:

CHARLES CHAMPERS

The combination of classical learning, lavish book production and  a hint of scholarly controversy makes Il papiro di Artemidoro (LED: Editizioni Universitarie di Lettere Economia Diritto), edited by  Claudio Gallazzi, Barbel Kramer and Salvatore Settis, one of the the most important books of the century so far. On the other hand, if you want practical guidance on  piss artistry, try this:

Especially useful (and I recommend this to my colleague Mr Priest, a notorious tightwad when it comes to buying a round), is the section entitled “The Mean Sod’s Guide (incorporating The Mean Slag’s Guide)“. To give you a flavour:

The point here is not simply to stint your guests on quality and quantity – any fool can pre-pour Moroccan red into burgundy bottles, or behave as if all knowledge of the existance of drink has been suddenly excised from his brain at 10 p.m – but to screw them while seeming, at any rate to their wives, to have done them rather well. Note the limitation: your ideal objective is a quarrel on the way home between husband and wife, he disparaging your hospitality, she saying you were very sweet and thoughtful and he is just a frustrated drunk…

“(#8): Your own drinks. These must obviously not be allowed to fall below any kind of accustomed level, however cruel the deprivations you force on your guests. You will naturally refresh yourself with periodic nips in your pantry, but going thither at all often may make undesirable shags think, even say, that you ought to be bringing thence a drink for them. So either choose between a darkly tinted glass (“an old friend of mine in Venice gave it me – apparently it’s rather valuable, ha ha ha“)  and a silver cup of some sort (“actually it’s my christening-mug from TS Eliot – believe it or not, ha ha ha”) which you stick inseperably to  and can undetectably fill with neat whisky…”

As for hangovers, Kingers provides the following sound advice:

* If your wife or other partner is beside you, and (of course) is willing, perform the sexual act as vigorously as you can. The exercise will do you good and – on the assumption that you enjoy sex – you will feel toned up emotionally, thus delivering a hit-and-run raid on your metaphysical hangover (M.H.) before you formally declare war on it.

“Warnings. (i) If you are in bed with somebody you should not be in bed with, and have in the least degree a bad conscience about this, abstain. Guilt and shame are prominent constituents of the M.H., and will certainly be sharpened by indulgence on such an occassion.

“(ii) For the same generic reason, do not take the matter into your own hands if you wake by yourself.”

Not everyone likes this book (eg John Crace), but then you can’t please ‘em all. can you? I enjoyed it (despite Amis’s disrespect for my own favourite tipple), and laughed out loud at parts. Published by Bloomsbury at £9.99.

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No no no, over here!

November 5, 2008 at 1:07 am (blogging, blogosphere, United States, voltairespriest, whiskey, wine)

Oh for the love of God Charlie, all it takes is a bat of the eyelids, huh? I shall never allow you a small wine spritzer ever again if you continue to misbehave in this fashion, you cad!

No, join me. I have nuns!

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I’m still alive!

July 17, 2008 at 6:23 am (AWL, beer, blogging, voltairespriest, wine, women)

Sorry for the long absence everyone, just thought I’d reassure (some) and disappoint (others) that I’m still about and alive and kicking. Been a bit busy with other stuff, is all. I’ve been loving everyone else’s work though.

I’ll get around to writing something semi-serious as soon as possible. However I was wondering in the meantime if anyone had a report about the Ideas for Freedom event last weekend? I had been planning to go but then at the last minute I, err, decided to do something else instead. Nevertheless I’d like to know what happened and furthermore it’s been a regular “feature” of this blog for a couple of years now to do a report on the event which is a little more impressionistic and informal than the AWL’s own.

Now I’m off to slink back into the background. Ahem.

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A Meal and a Half

April 29, 2008 at 6:53 pm (food, voltairespriest, wine)

And now for a completely different subject. Here’s another random recipe, this time from Martin Blunos. Sure beats the crap out of spam casserole. Having recently been learning about new ingredients, I’m told the secret’s in the wild garlic leaves…

Roast best end of lamb with garlic fritters and a wild garlic cream sauce

Serves 4

Preparation time 30 mins to 1 hour

Cooking time 1 to 2 hours

Ingredients
21 small cloves of garlic, skins on
a little water and a little milk to cover garlic in a pan
sprig of thyme
a pinch of sugar
250ml/8fl oz chicken stock
250ml/8fl oz lamb stock
50ml/2fl oz quality white wine
double cream, approximately 100ml/6½tbsp
salt and pepper
1 lemon, juice only (to taste)
4 portions of best ends of spring lamb, trimmed and prepared
a little oil and butter (preferably clarified) to seal the lamb
flour for dusting
300ml/½ pint beer batter (see below)
enough oil to deep-fry the garlic
a handful of fresh wild garlic leaves, central stems cut out (or enough wild garlic to taste as it is is a pungent herb)
Beer Batter
180g/6oz plain flour
30g/1½oz fresh yeast
5-10ml/1-2tsp white wine vinegar
a pinch each of salt and sugar

Method
1. Place 20 cloves of garlic in a pan and cover with half cold water and half full fat milk. Add a pinch of salt and sugar and the sprig of thyme.
2. Cut a round of greaseproof paper the size of the pan and butter one side. Place the round, butter side down in the pan to cover the garlic.
3. Place the pan on a high heat, bring to the boil and then reduce heat and simmer gently until the garlic is cooked through.
4. Remove the paper, strain off the liquid and allow the garlic to steam dry. When cool, peel off the outer skin of the garlic and cut out the germ of the garlic clove. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
5. Make the batter by mixing all batter ingredients together. Allow to stand for 20 minutes. Meanwhile to make the sauce: in another pan, add the white wine and the remaining garlic clove, crushed. Bring to the boil to remove the alcohol, then add the lamb stock and chicken stock. Bring back to the boil and let the liquid reduce by a third.
6. Add the double cream and bring back to a gentle simmer, reduce to a rich and creamy consistency. Adjust the seasoning and finish with a little lemon juice. Pass through a fine strainer or muslin into a clean pan and keep warm until required.
7. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
8. Heat a little oil and (clarified) butter in a pan. Season the lamb and then seal in pan on all sides.
9. Once sealed, place in a hot oven to roast for about 7-8 minutes. Remove from the oven and cover with foil and leave to rest in a hot place, like above the stove, for at least 20 minutes.
10. To make the garlic fritters: heat the oil for deep-frying in a pan. Dust the garlic cloves in a little flour and shake off the excess. Dip them into the beer batter and deep fry until golden and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and drizzle with a little lemon juice and season with salt.
11. Cut the wild garlic leaves into squares and stir into the prepared sauce. Let the leaves wilt in the heat of the sauce.
12. Spoon the sauce onto plates spreading the garlic leaves evenly.
13. Cut the best ends into cutlets and lay cut side up on top of the sauce. Place five garlic fritters around the lamb and serve with seasonal vegetables of your choice.

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Happy Weekendy

December 1, 2007 at 10:35 am (beer, cyberspace, deviants, drugs, voltairespriest, wankers, whiskey, whisky, wild man, wine)

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketWell, in spite of being skint, I’ve come to a decision. I’m going to pawn the family jewels and spend the proceeds on a train fare to London to have a few beers. Sorta logical decision you make on a Saturday morning.I’ll be joining an unlikely crew. They’re known to some as a group of bullying AWL hanger-on white supremacist tolerators who are not even politically active outside of blogging, and who have formed a self-selecting clique. Mind you, there is another point of view which says they’re a group of politically active socialists of various (and often opposing) political stances, who are strongly anti-racist and anti-sexist, and who become really quite welcoming if you buy them a pint. Of course certain of them happen to disagree with Andy “hard boiled” Newman, hence the Kim Il Sung style denunciations that I have conglomerated above. Salt mines for me then…All I’d say is come along (Euston Flyer, 4pm) if you’re free, meet the individuals concerned and judge for yourselves. Heck, even you should go Andy – I’m willing enough to forgive and forget…

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