Sunday, 29 November 2015

Tim is all over the place

I’m in the business of filling in time, which is not the same as wasting it.  I never waste the stuff, whatever appearances may suggest: there’s always an outcome of some kind, however inconsequential or trivial it might appear to uninformed outside observers.  For example, writing that last sentence filled in several minutes, which obviously weren’t wasted, otherwise I’d have deleted it, wouldn’t I?

So it was that this evening I found myself browsing through some old notebooks.  This was very interesting.  I discovered, for example, that in 1983 I went through a demented phase of serving up Chinese banquets: to whom, or why, I have no idea.  Here’s the list of ingredients for one such (provide your own punctuation* if you will):

Walnuts sesame seeds star anise mooli yellow bean sauce squid red pepper mangetout oyster sauce dry sherry mushrooms water chestnuts spring onions (lots!) beef chicken breast aubergine watercress pork eggs lapsang tea

I also, some years earlier, apparently became briefly obsessed with reading the Chambers Dictionary, from which I noted several definitions that amused or intrigued me.  Here’s just one:

Musique Concr├Ęte: a kind of mid-20 C music, made up of odds and ends of recorded sound variously handled.

Well, that was fun!  And the plumber’s coming in the morning to fit my new taps.  Isn’t life joyous?

*My fingers typed ‘punchuation, which I rather like.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

There's no answer to that

A neighbour was holding forth about the need to support local shops and businesses.  I observed that she actually had her main weekly shop delivered to her by Ocada.

"Well," she replied.  "I don't even leave the house.  You can't get more local than that, can you?"

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


Willie Walsh, the CEO of IAG, which owns, amongst others, British Airways, has opined that the best way to fund the third Heathrow runway is to introduce toll roads around  the airport, because otherwise it'd be unaffordable.  'There is no point in having infrastructure if people won't use it because it's too expensive,' he is quoted as saying.  Walsh doesn't specify which roads, but it must be the M4 and the M25, because there aren't any others.  Clearly, this will encourage rush-hour commuters to get value for money by catching aeroplanes instead, won't it?
I imagine, however, that Mr Walsh simultaneously subscribes to the published Airports Commission declaration that this runway will bring some £211 billion of benefits to the British economy by 2050, although it isn't stated with any precision where this bounty will come from.*
Like I said...

* Not, presumably, Sharm el-Sheikh, at least for now.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015


The first time I visited Paris was in the late summer of 1963.  I’d just finished at University, and was at a loose end, so when my friend Brian invited me to join him and his parents on a three week camping  holiday in Europe, I jumped at it.  I had just inherited £200 from an aunt: what better way to invest it?  We took it in turns to drive fairly directly as far as Sorrento, and then meandered back northwards.  I can’t honestly remember the details (I vaguely recall visiting the casino in Monte Carlo), but I do know that we had planned in a two day stopover in Paris.  We camped in the Bois de Boulogne.  The idea was, obviously, to catch the sights, but that didn’t happen.  Brian and I spent the entire two days in the Louvre.

My second time was in about 1992, for a business meeting.  I flew over in the morning, had a very long lunch at which our French hosts insisted on serving roast lamb with mint sauce (very good at diplomatic manoeuvring, the French), possibly conducted a bit of business for an hour or two in the afternoon, and missed my flight home.

The last time I went to Paris, about twelve years ago, it was the full four day tourist circuit.  We walked and Metro’d for hours, ate andouillettes and fruits de mer and I forget what else, oh yes, a marvellous pizza; and, please, don’t believe that canard about the Parisians being unfriendly.  Rude, yes, but unfriendly?  Not in my extensive experience.  I loved it, and them.

Did I say ‘the last time’?  No way.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015


Am I alone in thinking? 
Jezza has got into trouble for saying that he’d never ‘press the button’.  Well, of course, it’s not his to press anyway – he couldn’t do it without the say-so of America – but leave that aside.  My question is: who would?  I think they are obliged to stand up and fly their mad flag. 
(Of course, not having the damn things in the first place, putting ourselves on a level footing with, say, Germany or Sweden or Australia, would help with any moral dilemma that deluded people like  General Sir Nicholas Houghton might believe to exist.  But leave that aside too.)
Corbyn may be saying that he would, if in control, refuse to retaliate.  Quite reasonable, I'd have thought.  Pressing it second isn’t really an issue, because the Destruction part of M.A.D. has already been achieved, so it becomes a bit academic.   “They killed us, but we killed them too, so we’re quits, and everything’s hunky dory, no harm done” isn’t a position I can imagine any political leader, even the maddest, taking.  And it would be particularly academic for most of us, because we’d be dead.
The plain truth is that the only real moral dilemma is: would you press it first?  So if Mr Corbyn is stating that he would never, under any circumstances, be the first button-presser, then I’d be surprised to find any of our leaders, current or aspirant, disagreeing.   So can they please just say so?  It’s time somebody broke this MAD vicious circle.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Cutaway lugs

A chance encounter with a Claud Butler bike has untapped a torrent of memories.

I learned to ride a bike when I was about nine (which was rather late for me).  I have no memory of the bike on which this took place, but I do remember the process.  My father insistently taught me, and I doggedly refused to be taught, until one day when I was on my own I got onto the thing, in the back garden, and taught myself.  After that there was no stopping me.

For my twelfth birthday I was given a proper bike, or at least my parents’ notion of proper.  (They were overprotective of me, I now know.)  There was some subterfuge involving, I think, a cricket bat, which somehow couldn’t be unwrapped until I’d been taken down to the garden shed under some pretext, there to be unveiled this gorgeous Raleigh, in a colour I’d now call magenta but then saw as very displayable red.

It wasn’t, of course, my dreambike.  That would have entailed full drop bars, alloy rims, 10-speed Derailleur gears, many other features I can’t remember:  all mounted on a Claud Butler racing frame with, crucially, cutaway lugs.  These latter were supposedly designed to reduce weight, which was ridiculous – they were an early manifestation of teenage designer bling, and hence heavenly.

I didn’t have any of that.  My bike had semi-drops, chrome-plated  rims which rusted if not oiled weekly, a sprung saddle, three-speed Sturmey-Archer, old lady mudguards and, most dreadfully, a chain guard, in matching colour trim!  But it was still near the top of the local game, and I loved it.

Customisation rapidly followed, of course.  The chain guard was the first to go.  I can’t remember the other tweaks I snuck in behind my parents’ backs.  I do remember the parentally approved water bottles, and can still taste an aluminium-tinged warm sip through a plastic straw.  We discussed the feasibility of taking a hacksaw to those clunky lugs to make them look like cutaways; even, I think, drawing fantasy designs. 

It was never going to be the racing bike I craved.  But I can remember, quite vividly, the short and long expeditions it carried me on.  That was my first taste of real freedom, granted me, intentionally or not, I’ll never know, by my parents. 

I’ve no idea what happened to the bike.