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[/audioplayer]Aren’t Buddhist monks adorable? They meditate for days without needing to go to the toilet. They talk to each other in ‘grasshopper’ haikus. Their pot bellies are full of wholesome vegetarian fare.
Driving along in the car, listening to the radio news, the boyfriend turned to me and said he thought the Michael Fabricant row a very strange one. Fabricant was being pilloried for having tweeted that he could never go on television with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown because he might ‘end up punching her in the throat’, but my man said he didn’t see what the fuss was about. ‘After all,’ he said, ‘I feel like punching you about 50 times a day.
Remember when masturbation was something everybody did but no one talked about? It was not most people’s idea of a conversation starter. Certainly nobody boasted about being a self-abuser. It was seen as a sorry substitute for sex, a sad stand-in for intimacy.
Not any more. Masturbation has been reinvented as ‘self-love’, a healthy and positive form of self-exploration. Where once schoolboys were told it was a sin, now they’re told it is essential to good health.
Like any sensible, prosperous Englishman in his middle years, I spend every winter in Thailand. Indeed, I’ve been visiting the country for three decades: I can still remember my first hotel in Bangkok, a beautiful teak-stilted villa down a rat-infested alley which had the singular facility of offering heroin on room service.
I went with the intention of staying a week or two. I ended up staying four months: the heroin on room service proved quite distracting.
Nigel Farage turned down an alliance with Marine Le Pen in the European Parliament not because her ‘far right’ Front National party is in fact — unlike his Ukip — ‘far left’ on most economic and social issues, but because it has ‘anti-Semitism in its DNA’.
Instead, Nigel Farage, the ex-commodity broker from Sevenoaks, has formed an alliance with the ex-comedian from Genoa, Beppe Grillo, leader of the Movimento 5 Stelle, which is an internet copy-and-paste version of Mussolini’s Fascist movement.
It may seem like stating the obvious, but to me the best wines are food wines, meaning those that should never be far away from a plate of something they match perfectly. A dish with the right wine is a meeting of two halves to make a whole experience that stays in your memory for ever. The best of British ingredients are very deserving in that respect. Who can deny the mineral flavours of salt marsh lamb a wonderful Languedoc red, or sweetly spiced Cornish crab a golden Pouilly-Fuissé? For this midsummer menu we matched the best with the best, kept it simple, and witnessed some very happy marriages.
In 1751, William Hogarth was asked to create two prints: one depicting the evils of gin, the other the virtues of beer. Hogarth must have received a pat on the back from the brewers who commissioned him, because ‘Gin Lane’ cast gin as the greatest of all evils. It ruined mothers, and caused starvation, insanity and suicide. In ‘Beer Street’, industry and commerce thrive — and everyone is a picture of health.
A mixed case arrives from Corney & Barrow. My orders are to improvise so I pull out a bottle at random. Here it is. El Campesino, a 2013 Chardonnay (£7.13), from Chile, which has a full, direct flavour and a slightly bitter tang that cuts against the sweetness. The Dionysian experts who scour the earth on Corney & Barrow’s behalf describe it as ‘fresh’ and ‘modern’ but not ‘overly oaked’. That, I presume, is a reference to cheapskate vintners who chuck oak shavings into the barrel to enhance the flavour.
11 p.m., Saturday 14 June. Football fans gather before the TV in anticipation of England vs Italy. There is quiet, save for the click and hiss of fresh lagers being opened. Football and beer are indivisible.
The football was forgettable, and so — in most cases — was the lager. When was the last time you guzzled Carlstellabourg and were conscious of taste? You drink lager without noticing it.
Craft beer is another matter.
When the editor of this special suggested I might try some wine for him (did he need to ask twice? No!) it’s fair to say that New World wines weren’t my first pick. ‘How about Eastern Europe?’ I said, with an eye to Macedonia. Or failing that, Germany? It’s far too long since I’ve tasted Frankenwein and you can’t get the best stuff here for love nor money. I was perfectly game for English wine. But nope.
When I was stationed in Kentucky I never drank bourbon. It wasn’t until I came to London that the drink became something special to me. I always passed a bowling alley on Brick Lane with fluorescent lights and unmarked taxis waiting by the door. One night they had two for one drinks, so I went inside. It was just as I suspected: clattering pins and certified drunks. But the barman, Mike, loved bourbon.
It is blossom time in Tokyo. An unruly pack of journalists, photographers and TV crews prowls the corridors of the Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa, where a world championship is taking place. Where’s the smart money going? Who’s looking good and who’s out of sorts? Who stayed out last night and who was tucked up in bed nice and early?
‘That’s Bruce, the coach of the Canadian team, he’ll know what’s cooking,’ mutters a colleague as an anxious looking guy scuttles past.
The Immigrant Church at Sletta emigrated from North Dakota 18 years ago. Built on the prairie by Norwegian settlers in the 1900s, but latterly abandoned, it was deconstructed, transported and rebuilt on the island of Radøy, off Norway’s west coast. Now it presides over the West Norway Emigration Centre, a monument to the Norwegian diaspora, where it has since been joined by a jailhouse and four other buildings also salvaged from the American Midwest.