Not spud enough…

We went out for lunch today here.

It seemed nice from their web page so I booked.

It was in order to meet up with our nieces and their families to exchange Christmas presents.

It involved popping down the M1 and then right hand down a bit onto the M25 and then to a village called Chenies and a place called the Bedford Arms Hotel.

About 50 minutes in all so we could rendezvous equidistantly from Milton Keynes and Twickenham.

It was lovely to meet up, swap news and see some new great-nieces too.

But the food…

Abysmal.

The hotel – really a traditional pub with the rooms in annexes – has a rosette awarded by the AA for ‘culinary excellence’.

One rosette is awarded to:

Excellent restaurants that stand out in their local area. The food is prepared with care, understanding and skill, using good-quality ingredients.

Well, the first sentence tells me that in the case of this particular place the restaurants nearby must be pretty bloody awful. I daresay some of the second sentence is true – re the ingredients – but they were prepared so lacklustrely that you couldn’t really tell.

I had a Sunday roast – roast rib of beef, Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and a mixture of vegetables including carrot, cauliflower, broccoli, mangetout, green beans and courgette. all served with gravy – and horseradish sauce if you wanted it.

The beef was OK – not overcooked, but not very much of it. The vegetables were fresh, although I don’t see what’s wrong with just a couple of sorts – why do you need SIX vegetables fighting it out? The Yorkshire pudding was homemade, although it had suffered from being cooked too far in advance of being served. What got me, though, were the potatoes, which weren’t particularly nice – roasted from raw I’d say, rather than parboiled then roasted – but only TWO in number…

The cost was £11.95 which I think was a lot to pay for basically a pub lunch and not a very good one at that.

I’d had a very similar meal the week before at one of these places. I’d put the food on a par with the Bedford Arms and the surroundings were rather nicer, but it cost us only £3.99 a head…

What’s more, it was only the meat and accompaniments that were served to you – all the potatoes (two sorts!) and vegetables (including cauliflower which was au gratin and not just plain) were there for you to take as much or as little as you liked.

All fresh – apart from the peas – and whilst the beef wasn’t that clever there, the gammon was particularly good (as good as home roasted) and the turkey (a meat of which I’m not too fond anyway) more than adequate.

Fantastic value.

Now, whilst I realise that the Bedford Arms is an independent restaurant and the Crown Carvery place we went to last week is part of the vast Mitchell & Butlers pub chain, that’s still a hell of a lot of difference pricewise for a comparable meal.

Three people could have had a well-cooked and substantial roast Sunday lunch at the Carvery for what it cost one at the Bedford Arms Hotel.

Of course a small place hasn’t got the bulk buying power of a chain and the pricing reflects this but for three times the cost I should expect something much better and I just didn’t get it.

But my main quarrel isn’t the price so much as the fact that my lunch today had just two potatoes – as did everybody else’s.

Potatoes are cheap for heaven’s sake!

It would probably cost a couple of pence more to give you four of the buggers instead of two.

So why scrimp on them?

So you have room for a dessert?

Beats me.

After all, the French give you a basket of bread with your meal whether you’re having the menu prix fixe or not so you can get your carbs.

Anyway, roll on next week and Normandy when we can be relatively sure that no matter where we eat out the food is going to be good, the people who prepare it understand what they’re cooking with and you’re not going to feel peckish an hour afterwards...

Clarkson and Hislop stabbing update – where’s Piers Morgan when you need him?

The Mail has updated its Have I Got News For You story.

Now it has graphic images – if you’re squeamish I suggest you google for some soothing pictures of kittens – of the horrific injuries inflicted by the hulking brute Clarkson on the pocket-sized satirist.

However, you can say what you like about BIG JEZZA (I’m a fan and I just wish people would start to only take a mere one percent of what he says seriously) but the Mail story does refer back to an earlier act of physical violence on the part of the petrolheaded lunk for which even his sternest and most vociferous critics should forever owe him a debt of gratitude.

Clarkson later told Hislop he was the second person he had wounded in his life.

The Top Gear host has had an ongoing feud with journalist-turned-TV personality Piers Morgan.

Clarkson famously punched Morgan in front of journalists at the 2004 Press Awards after the latter published photographs of the car enthusiast kissing his female boss four years previously.

Morgan admits he was hit three times, ‘two to the right temple and one to the forehead’ and was left with a scar above his eyebrow.

In an appearance on Parkinson, Clarkson admitted he was ‘ashamed’ of it, declaring it had been the first fight he’d ever been in.

He said: ‘We don’t get on so I punched him.’

Now, I’m not a physical or violent person and I only like seeing fisticuffs when they adhere to the Queensbury Rules but I’d have paid good money to see Clarkson deck that smarmy little shitweasel Moron.

My only regrets about the incident are Jezza’s own regrets and that he didn’t follow up the attack on Moron with a swift kick in the bollocks when the smug bastard was groggy…

Oscar

Oscar seems none the worse for being nut-free.

Here he is looking particularly handsome last night:

p10002511

Brutal petrolhead ‘Big Jezza’ Clarkson stabs Private Eye’s cuddly Ian Hislop with pen on TV

Ian Hislop was left bleeding from a puncture wound to his face after a confrontation with Jeremy Clarkson on Have I Got News For You.

Fuck me…the Mail gets worse – if that’s possible…

It was a small scratch with very little blood resulting from Jezza throwing a pen at Hislop.

As for a ‘confrontation’, it was the usual HIGNFY boyish banter – hell, it might even have been scripted as most of the programme is.

So, not some full on stabbing after a major argument.

That’s all right then…

Frankie Boyle – the Mail hates him

I’ve probably laughed more at Frankie Boyle than any other comedian in 2008, although Russell Brand’s new series of Ponderland had its moments.

Anyway, here’s Frankie’s best ever moment in ‘Mock the Week’:

(pretending to be a waiter taking an order in a restaurant)

Yeah, there’s a vegetarian option…You can FUCK OFF.

Squeaking in a close second (probably because it really pissed off the Daily Mail) is his joke about the Queen:

(pretending to be Brenda)

I have had a few medical issues this year I’m now so old that my pussy is haunted.

It was broadcast at the height of the Ross/Brand fiasco and did the Mail ever have a major bug up its ass over it:

While fury against the BBC over Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross was at its peak, the corporation brazenly aired a highly offensive remark about the Queen.

During the comedy show Mock The Week on Wednesday evening, Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle made a ‘disgracefully foul’ so-called joke.

Sometimes I think that the Mail might have a mole writing for it.

I mean, how can you take this quote from the Boyle story the tiniest bit seriously?

The Daily Mail has uncovered further examples of bad language and degrading remarks given airtime by the corporation.

‘Uncovered’?

WTF does that mean?

Is that ‘uncovered’ as in ‘I watched ‘Top Gear’ and ‘uncovered’ the word ‘cock’ even though it was so cunningly concealed’?’

It makes it sound as if this is cutting edge, investigative, undercover journalism – not some lazy, pissed-up, overpaid, illiterate, self-aggrandising  hack regurgitating what he’s heard during his 3 hour lunch break in the pub over his 6th pint of beer…

More GTCE bullshit

What a crock of shit.

So, teachers should be role models and the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) is drafting a code to restrict their lives outside school.

What about a code of conduct for the people who should really be children’s role models?

Their fucking parents...

The Mail gets a bard on

Ah…the Immortal Bard…William Shakespeare…

I’m partial to a bit of Shakespeare – not all of it, but there’s little doubt that there are some great lines in there that are as relevant today as they were when first spoken.

Over the years people have experimented with the plays; sometimes successfully, sometimes not. We’ve had them in modern dress, with actors exchanging roles, transplanted to a different country or era, almost totally rewritten…in fact, if you can think of anything new you could do to a Shakespeare play then it’s probably been done already.

It speaks volumes about the man that over 400 years after his death his plays are still being performed and new ways found to stage them.

Even today Shakespeare appears in the headlines:

Audience members flee ‘pornographic’ sex scene in Shakespeare play

Yes, the Daily Mail’s at it again…

So, if you don’t want to hear another rant,  just move on to another entry, or another blog, or another bit of the interweb.

Outraged theatre-goers walked out of a performance of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, describing a simulated sex scene between two men as ‘pornography’.

Children as young as eight were among the audience at the performance of The Comedy of Errors at The Old Laundry Theatre, in Bowness, Cumbria.

‘Pornography’?

Well, according to some audience members it was.

I’m actually getting a bit hacked off over the way that this word is used. It’s hardly ever used properly – just lazily inserted into a sentence to indicate something vaguely sexual and, depending on the context, offensive.

The true meaning of ‘pornography’ is the depiction of erotic actions with the intent to sexually arouse.

Thus, if you can see nakedness and sexual acts that don’t set out to turn you on, it’s not porn.

Sometimes something that calls itself porn doesn’t turn you on, even though the intention was there.

Occasionally you see something that was never intended to be porn but you think, ‘Mmmm’.

It’s all extremely subjective, which it’s bound to be as there is no standard format for arousing people and all people are different in what arouses them.

Now, from the description given in the Mail’s story I’m guessing that there was no attempt to whip any faction of the audience into a sexual frenzy:

…one of the play’s characters Dromio (was) guarding a door when a man dressed as a woman walked up to him, pulled down his pants and Dromio’s pants, before the pair simulated sex.

No genitals were on show, but buttocks were visible.

Here’s an outraged Mrs Greaves on the scene:

The portrayal of a sexual act was upon us without warning, before anyone realised, and there is no off-button at the theatre.

‘Afterwards the Dromio character was portraying that he was in some pain and walked around doubled up. This was supposed to be funny but I didn’t find it amusing.

‘They then had some slapstick with breaking wind, and bare buttocks were on show through the door.

The theatre’s manager said:

‘The incidents which seem to have caused offence were an actor playing a clown showing his bare bottom through an aperture 30cm x 30cm and another clothed clown simulating a sex act.

So, we’ve got a square foot of bare arse, some fully clothed man-on-man action and a fart.

Well, the arse and fart are just ‘Carry On’ stuff – harmless, typically British humour.

As for the simulated sex act – with no cock/arsehole interface involved – I can’t see that that would be outrageously explicit. Just a bit of  fully-clothed dry-humping.

If there were 8 year olds in the audience then they wouldn’t have known what was intended to be shown – if they did then you’d have to wonder what their parents were teaching them – and if it was noticed by the kids, which it possibly wouldn’t be in many cases (children very often ignore what they can’t understand)  then if I was asked ‘What are those men doing, daddy?’ I’d simply reply, ‘Oh, they’re just playing, Hermione.’

(I don’t actually have a daughter called ‘Hermione’ – I was just taking a cheap shot at the sort of people – perhaps even Daily Mail readers – who would name their kids something like that…)

Mrs Greaves again:

‘There was nothing on the ticket that said it was unsuitable for children.

‘There were other people expressing their disgust at what had gone on. There was a feeling of shock.

‘There were definitely younger people than my son. In the row in front of where we were sitting I could see children aged between eight and ten.

Personally, I wouldn’t take an 8 or 10 year old to see a Shakespeare play in the first place. Great as the Bard is, I’m guessing that most children of that age would prefer to see a pantomime or something similar.

The story has true moments of slapstick:

One theatre-goer Chrissie Greaves, 56, attended the performance with her husband and 15-year-old son.

She claims an elderly man was so disgusted at the scene he vaulted over a barrier in order to escape the auditorium.

‘He landed with a bit of a jolt and I felt really sorry for him,’ said Mrs Greaves, from Kendal.

‘I applaud his lightning reaction. I only wish we and others had had the presence of mind to follow him.’

The Mail’s story is such a perfect example of the rag’s capacity to appeal to the most narrowminded members of our society with sensationalist headlines and moralistic breast beating. It sets itself up as some sort of public watchdog over bad language and sexual references yet it preaches values of avarice and greed and promotes the superficial throughout its pages.

In reality it has all the social conscience of Atilla the Hun on PCP but very little of the charm.

I’m convinced that this style of ‘journalism’ – and I use that term very loosely – threatens our personal freedoms and enables a minority to bring about changes in what we are allowed to experience in the media – look at its stance during Sachsgate, for example.

It’s not just trivial, self-righteous and intolerant – it’s downright dangerous.

Of course, all newspapers promote certain attitudes and political persuasions but the Mail seems hellbent on some sort of campaign to hurl its readers into some sort of cluster-wank orgy of refusal to acknowledge personal freedom in what people can read, watch, say and hear.

And the alarming thing is, it’s getting quite successful at this…

My head hurts

I’m still trying to make sense out of what Gordon Brown – our esteemed Prime Minister – has said about oil prices.

He’s claiming that the volatility of oil prices has jeopardised the global economy by forcing interest rates to remain high over the last few years…not any more, matey…

So, define ‘high’, Gordon?

A rather nifty chart here shows that on February 7th this year UK interest rates stood at 5.25% . Then they started to fall as the performance of the global economy started to reveal the effects of the looming subprime situation in the US.

However, for the nine years previous to February 2008, the interest rate rattled around within a fairly narrow band between 3.75% and 6.00% and no-one thought that they were particularly high during that time.

Just in case you can’t be asked to click on the link, here’s a graph showing the UK interest rates for the past 20 odd years.

Nowadays we’d love that degree of stability and welcome the higher rates (higher than they are today) as a sign that money was moving around within the economy…

In fact, you have to go back to 1992 and the preceding 8 years or so to find interest rates in double figures.

We had a mortgage then but I don’t remember much about coping with what would now be considered punitive interest rates – perhaps I’ve blotted it all from my memory…

Anyway, I digress.

So, what’s Gordon banging on about?

Has he harboured a long-felt desire for rates just above zero all these years and just never said?

Beats me.

Shame he did bugger all about it, eh?

Anyway, he then goes on to say that we need to invest more in alternative fuel technology.

Now, as I understand it, when oil prices go up the duty on fuel goes up so that the motorist may have to pay more but the government gets more revenue in the form of increased duty.

Could this bonus not have been used to fund more research into alternative energy?

Too late now though – it’s propping up the banks…

Personal financial footnote – I’ve just bought some euros for our New Year break.

I got a rate of 1.01 euros to the pound…ouch!

Stagg hunt

I watched a programme last night about Colin Stagg, the guy who was wrongly charged with the murder of Rachel Nickell in 1992.

It was a BBC ‘Rough Justice’ special and told the story of how Stagg was ‘caught’ by the police after an elaborate ‘honeytrap’ set up by a criminal psychologist along with a rather over-zealous detective and a very creative undercover policewoman.

The case was thrown out of court after Stagg had spent 13 months on remand. The judge’s comments afterwards were very scathing indeed and accused the police officers involved of “excessive zeal” and “deceptive conduct of the grossest kind”.

Fortunately, the real muderer is now known – already an inmate of Broadmoor – if further proof was needed of Stagg’s total innocence. That case concluded yesterday with Robert Napper sentenced to be held indefinitely in Broadmoor.

Apart from the murder itself which was frenzied and sexually motivated and committed in front of Rachel’s two year old son, the most distressing thing about this case was how Stagg was hounded by a large proportion of the press long after the original case against him was thrown out of court and, as far as the police were concerned, was always ‘in the frame’ . Due to a desultory and rather dubious ‘flashing’ charge, Stagg was referred to as a ‘pervert’ periodically in the red tops and subject to all the usual lurid stories from people who professed to know him.

The reason Stagg found himself  the police’s chief suspect was due to the very new technique of psychological profiling which, once aimed his way and only his way, convinced the police that he was their man.

He fitted their profile almost perfectly.

During the programme facts emerged about Stagg both from the guy himself  as well as the film’s narrative – he was a body builder, he was into Wicca and interested in the occult, he was a loner, a virgin at 30 – which were used by the police to construct the case against him and convince them of his guilt.

He comes across as an articulate and literate guy, with certain idiosyncracies, who some people might find ‘odd’ – particularly back when he was arrested. However, nothing he said or did made him stand out in any significant way. We all have our ‘little ways, don’t we?

Stagg recently won compensation of £706 000 and received a very full apology from the Metroplitan Police. He’s also written two books about his experiences from which he still seems traumatised.

He should be allowed to now recede from the public gaze as much as he wants to and any slightest doubt about his innocence and any innuendo about his personal idiosyncracies should not be allowed to appear in print.

So, bang on cue, let’s hear it for the Daily Mail…

Yes, that pathetic, petty, pernicious rag has just run a story on him.

£706,000, an apology from the Met and Colin Stagg is still bitter

Well, wouldn’t you be?

The  whole story is strewn with little details that just come across as sniping at the guy.

Stagg’s first priority after the car is not to move upmarket, but to buy his grim council maisonette in Roehampton, a short walk from the murder scene.

He issued a statement of thanks for the ‘grovelling’ apology – and posed with a brand-new £27,000 Toyota Rav4 he bought himself as a ‘present’ with his compensation.

When police arrived there back in 1993, a sign on the door announced: ‘Christians keep away. A pagan lives here.’

Inside were books on witchcraft, an altar and a black-painted wall decorated with chalk drawings of horned gods. Pictures from pornographic magazines adorned other walls. Books on the occult are still on the shelves, but a 50-inch plasma TV now dominates the living room and a new flame effect fire adds a homely touch.

Stockier now than when he was arrested, Stagg added: ‘I never want to talk about the case again as long as I live.’

He is not quite as media-shy as he claims, however. He wrote a book about his experiences, has given interviews for cash – and has just spent months with a BBC film crew. But his girlfriend – for whom he has bought a new patio, and lavished presents on her children – insisted to the Daily Mail yesterday: ‘Colin just wants to get on with his life like a normal Joe Public.’

Miss Marchant confirmed that Stagg retained his interest in the occult, ‘but not in an evil way’ and said he was an extremely intelligent self-taught individual who ‘flies through the Times crossword’, but at heart is just ‘a normal regular guy’.

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me getting irate at the Mail again, but I get the impression that the whole article begrudges him the money and looks down its nose at this ‘parvenu’. ‘He’s STILL bitter with all that money and look, how weird, he’s going to buy his grotty little flat but only after his new car and 50 inch plasma TV.’

All right, he’s made money speaking and writing about his experiences but it’s not as if he’s cashing in on any criminal activity and after being branded as a pervert and, through continual innuendo in the press over a period of many years, never allowed to get on with his life, how the hell else is he going to survive? A pervert and suspected murderer and rapist isn’t exactly employable, is he?

Speaking of money, the Mail rather conveniently neglects to mention that the undercover policewoman who took part in the honeytrap operation did all right out of the case. She received a pay out of £125 000 for ‘serious psychiatric injury’ – her solicitor’s words, not mine – due to the undercover work she carried out to trap Stagg, blaming her senior officers for this. It has to be said that the Rough Justice Special I saw suggested that she was very used to this sort of work…

Furthermore, the Mail story dredges up details – details that the police viewed as evidence of his guilt but were later shown to be totally irrelevant – that seem to combine to say, ‘OK, he’s innocent but he likes porn, has books about the occult and doesn’t welcome Christians, so he may not be a murderer but he’s still a bad person.’

Well, I’m not into porn, but I do have some books about the occult and I always tell Jehovah’s Witnesses, or any other religious group, who knock on my door to politely fuck off – so does that make me an ‘undesirable’ in the eyes of the Mail and its bovine readership?

I hope so.

Read the whole article here, and then tell me if that isn’t a squalid piece of hack journalism that speaks out of its smug, self-righteous middle class arse and fastens on every detail that reveals Stagg as not conforming to the paper’s own definition of a Mail reader…

Yet another mutual masturbation story from the Mail making its readers feel good about being such a narrow-minded and intolerant shower of tossers.

The Mail goes (Photo)shopping

I see the Daily Mail isn’t averse to a bit of Photoshopping.

During the course of scanning the online version I came across this picture on the frontpage:

DesandDaughter

The story was the usual self-righteous tosh about how two DJs – students at a uni radio station as it turns out – were sacked for certain allegations they made on air about Des O’Connor’s daughter.

Interestingly, it had the following picture in the article itself:

Desdaughter

Seems familiar, doesn’t it?

Somehow it’s comforting to know that their graphics department is as in touch with reality as their news team…