Saturday, 26 October 2013

So Farewell then Mugwump

RIP Mugwump

Mugwump the cat died peacefully in his sleep on Friday last. Not for him the long slow drawn out decline into illness, kidney failure or melanoma; that slow, protracted, lingering death of the spirit which ends in the finality of the veterinary surgeon’s examination table and an overdose of Nembutal. It is perhaps entirely appropriate that he should choose now, of all times, to pass beyond the veil. As I struggle with the words to illuminate a fictional struggle to come to terms with a long-awaited death, 265,000 words and counting, and the joy to be found in the simple and quotidian pleasures of life, he should discover that moment to eat his final meal, lap the last of his water and lie for the last time contented, bushy tail across his nose, on the old pillow in my study while I wrote.

His age was a mystery, perhaps fifteen, perhaps older; teeth are the only guide in a cat whose provenance is not known. Young, as cats go, but he was big, very big and so unlike the usual inner-city moggies which infest the gardens and patios of any street in a large town or city. His was a life, I suspect, that was a minor struggle except in his final years; that endless search for food, for shelter, for warmth that is the constant battle for the homeless and unloved, the pitiful plight of the unhomed.

So farewell, Mugwump; you purred like an idling Ducati 1100cc.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Weymouth, OGWT and the Sounds of the Seventies. (Your mother wouldn't like it)

There are certain sights one does not ever forget; the wizened old man, who is your father, as he draws his last breath; the first Mediterranean sunset seen through your lover's hair as she gazes up lovingly from her Greek cocktail;  Gaudi's Sagrada Familia; Debbie Harry's crotch, without underwear, seen from the mosh pit; Tina Weymouth playing bass.

The Tom Tom Club were at Glastonbury this year (Tina Weymouth and hubbie, Chris Frantz) and it reminded me of the iconic performance, the first time in the UK I think, of Talking Heads on the Old Grey Whistle Test (OGWT) performing Psycho Killer and Weymouth, stick thin, dwarfed by the Fender Mustang and looking so very intense as though she had only just learned the bass lines that day and needed to concentrate on getting what is a very simple riff right in every measure not just the first one. That memory stayed with me all through the intervening years until......

I used to watch the OGWT every Tuesday without fail and when I heard, about ten or twelve years ago. that the BBC were going to release a collection of clips on DVD, the first thing, in fact the only thing, I looked for was whether 'Psycho Killer' appeared on the disk. It does and without looking for whatever else was included, I went down the record store and bought my copy; it would be worth it if that was the only track that I liked. I liked the idea of Weymouth on tap!

The BBC subsequently released two additional DVDs with further extracts from the programme and I have spent the past five or six hours watching them again in awe and amazement at how good the performances are even after all this time. I had only just started going to gigs and concerts in 1971, when the programme first aired, and it was the only showcase for the sort of music I liked that was available on TV. Radio had been slightly ahead of the game with, first, the Saturday afternoon John Peel show and then the weekday, at 6pm, 'Sounds of the Seventies', which dared to play Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Soft Machine. even the Electric Prunes, if you were lucky. Chart music ruled and even 'Colour me pop', a music programme geared to display the advantages of colour TV was only notable for one single performance; the Nice playing the cut down version of 'America' which peaked at number 21 in the pop charts.

The OGWT, despite its heavy reliance on 'west coast' American music was a gateway into just about every kind of music that was either established in a small way, mostly in the clubs, or was yet to garner an audience bar a few cognoscenti. Although the programme did run through a brief period in the early to mid-seventies where bands mimed to a backing track, only the vocal were 'live', on the whole the bands and the singers were live. If you were of a mind to go and pay good money for a gig on the basis of a performance on the programme, you at least knew what you would be getting.

I had my first exposure to Phillip Glass via the OGWT (Movement 3 of 'The Photographer'*) which prompted an unsuccessful search around record stores the following day for a copy; I had to wait until the Saturday when I could get to HMV with its vast classical collection. I would never have found Stanley Clarke if it were not for an early show featuring Chick Corea and his group; the performance by Stanley on the programme on the release of 'Schooldays' only cemented the initial impression. Jan Akkerman and Focus, with Thijs van Leer hamming it up on yodelling vocals; Heads, Hands and Feet, with the amazing Albert Lee; Lowell George and Little Feat; Bonnie Raitt**; the tragic Judee Sill.

Over the four DVDs, the music almost defines English hippiedom; Friday nights at the Lyceum, Sunday afternoons and evenings at the Roundhouse, the rag-tag remnants of the Isle of Wight which so tried to emulate Woodstock and largely failed. With such gems as the full ten plus minutes of Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Free Bird' before a live audience; Bob Marley's 'Stir it up' at least a full year before the landmark gig at the Lyceum; Tom Waits' 'Tom Traubert's Blues'; Nils Lofgren at the piano performing 'Going back'; Gary Moore and 'Don't believe a word' with only five strings***; the 'weird sisters', Dan van Vliet and James Osterberg Jnr****; the Texan trio of Freddie King, Johnny Winter and Billy Gibbons*****; the man that has made an entire career out of aping Jimi Hendrix, Robin Trower and later PIL's hypnotic 'Careering' with the quite wonderful Jah Wobble's bass guitar; the Banshees' 'Metal Postcard'; REM's 'Pretty Persuasion' in the days when Stipe had hair; the Adverts****** and 'Bored Teenagers', as much a rallying cry to late seventies UK disaffected youth as Richard Hell's 'Blank Generation'. And finally, 'At Seventeen' by Janis Ian; a song which has scarce a rival in the 'ode to adolescent angst' stakes for all that Ms Ian was writing about a female growing up as a 'plain Jane'.

Of course the show was not without its embarrassments; 'I will follow' by U2 complete with Bono's mullet and 'Riverdance' impressions and Adam Clayton posing like the 'New Romantic' he always wanted to be; the Who miming badly; John Cooper Clarke with more of his abysmal poetry, even Ginsberg would be ashamed of such drivel; the noise that was The Jesus and Mary Chain. The surprise of the of the 4 disks? Howard Jones, synth star of the eighties, with hair, lacquered to within an inch of its life, to match, performing 'No-one is to blame'.

Any regrets? Only one that I can think of. They could find space for the execrable John Cooper Clarke but not for Vinegar Joe with a (very) young Robert Palmer and Elkie Brookes; seriously missed opportunity there!

* About the photographer, Eadweard Muybridge, he of 'galloping horse' fame. Also, the last man to be acquitted of obvious murder in California for 'justifiable homicide'; he shot his wife's lover.
** Whose version of 'Too long at the fair' as performed live at the BBC theatre for the show still brings me to tears.
*** The top 'E' broke about 2 bars into the song; didn't slow him down at all! He still careered through the solos, his fingers all over the shop like little pink maggots with St Vitus' Dance
**** Captain Beefheart and Iggy Pop respectively
***** And don't let anyone try and tell you that SRV is fit to wipe this trio's boots.
****** Strangely, a last minute replacement for Blood, Sweat and Tears; what was the BBC thinking of?

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Silly mid on, the Third Man and Papa joue au cricket

Cricket, it must be said, is a strange game, Except perhaps in recent years, it is only played in countries which have the legacy of 'Empire'; the West Indies, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Australia and New Zealand. It is mostly thought of as a curiously idiosyncratic game played by 'Englishmen', although it is perhaps no less curiously idiosyncratic than baseball; at least when the English play a 'Cricket World Cup', other nations are invited to play, as opposed to a 'World Series' when only American teams are eligible! 

Not to mention that Baseball is merely the children's game of 'Rounders' with a slightly bigger bat, oversize gloves because the sissies that play baseball cannot catch and hold onto a ball without some aid and an obsession with statistics. As Baseball is to Rounders, so American Football is to Rugby, mere unflattering, pale imitations. The only game the Americans ever improved on was 'Netball' (I do not mean Basketball, which is Netball but with dribbling), although it was the native Americans who improved Netball by inventing  lacrosse, which has a lot in common with the old Irish sport of 'Hurling' and is only marginally less violent and dangerous.

Cricket is a game to which one must have the very essence inculcated at a very early age otherwise the game remains, and will ever remain, largely unintelligible.  At its most basic, it is a comparatively simple game. The sides are composed of 11 men plus one 'substitute', the 'twelfth man'. who usually has only one job; to bring the drinks out on especially hot days. One side 'bats' in pairs and one side 'fields', much like an innings in baseball. When 10 batsmen have been 'dismissed through a variety of means, batsmen must bat as pairs, the other side bats and the previously batting side fields.. (Depending on the particular variety of cricket being played, they may repeat this process, each side gaining two opportunities to bat and field and the scores being aggregated.)

However, cricket is the ultimate game designed by a committee constituted a long time ago when England was decidedly different to the modern day. The pitch on which the ball is bowled to the batsmen is twenty-two yards long. This is a 'chain', an old English unit of measurement from a seventeenth century surveyor's method of surveying known as "Gunter's Chain", comprising one hundred links which measured sixty-six feet (twenty-two yards) in total.  A cricket ground (the "outfield') will normally be circular or oval with at least one axis of about one hundred and fifty metres and no axis greater than about one hundred and eighty metres..

At each end of the pitch, also known as 'the wicket' or 'the square' (although it is rectangular in shape), are three 'stumps', poles of wood driven into the ground, equally spaced to form a barrier nine inches wide and twenty eight inches high. Across the top are two smaller pieces of wood, 'bails', which are set into narrow grooves along the top of each stump. This is also, to promote terminal confusion, termed 'the wicket'

A line a marked in the pitch four feet away from the stumps at each end and, normally fifteen feet in widthm this forms the 'crease'. It is from these two lines that the distance of twenty two yards is measured, not from the stumps. The crease performs two main functions; the bowler's front foot must not go beyond the crease when bowling; the batsmen have to have their bat or one foot behind the crease to be considered 'safe', similar to the 'plate' in baseball.

A batsman can be dismissed,  be 'out', in a myriad of ways. The most direct is for the batsmen to miss the ball and have the ball hit the stumps, although at least one bail must be dislodged*; the batsman misses the ball but, in the opinion of the umpire, the batsman's body, usually the legs, prevent the ball from reaching the stumps (known as 'leg before wicket - lbw); the batsman hits the ball but a fielder catches the ball before it hits the ground; the batsman misses the ball or hits a glancing blow and the ball carries to the 'wicket-keeper' (who performs the same function as the 'catcher' in baseball), and the 'keeper' may break the wicket if the batsman is outside of his 'crease'; the same also applies as either batsman is running between the stumps and the wicket is broken at either end and the batsman, or more usually his bat, is not inside the 'crease', it is the batsman who is running towards the broken wicket who is 'run out'; the batsman breaks his own wicket with his bat or a part of his body; the batsman deliberately handles the ball to prevent it hitting the stumps. There are many ways to 'be out' but only one way to 'be in'; keep hitting the ball along the ground.

Each team will usually have five specialist batsmen who must also be good fielders, a specialist wicket-keeper, who should ideally be a good batsman, and at least three specialist bowlers and a couple of 'all-rounders'; batsmen who can bowl or vice versa. Unlike baseball where one pitcher must master a number of different pitches, cricket teams rely on fast bowlers with speeds of 100mph, medium-paced bowlers with speeds in the high seventies and even slower 'spin' bowlers. Each bowler type has particular strengths and is used at various stages of a ball's life in the match. Balls are usually changed after 480 deliveries (eighty 'overs' of six balls per 'over'), the leather covering and stitching became damaged after being hit by the bat so many times, although the fielding side does not have to change, if it would be tactically advantageous not to do so, unless the unpire deems the ball unfit.

When the ball is new, and therefore at its fastest, the fast bowler will be used. He will aim to make the ball bounce in general just over three quarters of the distance of the pitch, ensuring that the ball should be no more than twenty eight inches from the ground, when it should hit the wicket if the batsman or his bat does not get in the way. The bowler may choose to make the ball curve towards or away from the batsman  (similar to a 'curve ball' in baseball) before it bounces, make it curve towards or away from the batsman when it bounces or bowl a straight ball. He may also seek to intimidate the batsman by bowling a 'bouncer', where the ball is pitched for the bounce around half way between the wickets and is approaching head height when it reaches the batsman**.The most difficult delivery is the 'yorker' where the bowler aims just before the batsman's bat to try to get the ball to bounce into the tiny space  underneath the bat. Bowling deliberately so as not to allow the ball to bounce is either bad bowling, 'full tosses' are the easiest balls to hit, or frowned upon, and likely to garner a warning from the umpire, if the aim to hurt your opponent. Similarly bouncers bowled with the express intention of physically intimidating the batsman, as in 'body line bowling', a tactic used by the English during a tour of Australia in 1932, is not considered to be in the spirit of the game.

The medium-pacer has most of the same tricks that a the fast bowler has but because of the slightly slower pace of the ball, there is a much greater opportunity for the ball to swing away or towards the batsman. The 'spin' bowler is slower still and imparts a far greater spin to the ball by a flicking of the fingers thus making it difficult for batsman to gauge the flight of the ball before it bounces and to predict which way the ball will go after it bounces; the best spin bowlers, Shane Warne, Derek Underwood, Bishan Bedi could disguise the movements of the fingers so as to make it nigh on impossible to tell what the ball would do, how it was spinning, and thus make it difficult to anticipate and plan one's shot. The 'ball of the last century;, bowled by a spin bowler, is here; it 'breaks', turns, upon bouncing around two and a half feet from its previous flight path.

The fielding side has the same number of fielders as in a baseball field, nine. However unlike a baseball team where the field positions are fairly fixed due to the placement of the diamond 'plates', the positions for fielders in cricket can change markedly with every bowler depending on their pace; it may be different for every batsman, depending on their strengths or weaknesses or their love of a particular stroke; whether it is an attacking field, designed to force the batsman into errors or a defensive field, designed to cut down the numbers of 'runs' that the batting side can score. The names only serve to promote confusion among the less than knowledgeable: first to fourth slip, gully, square leg, deep square leg, short leg, third man, cover, point, cover point, long leg, silly mid on,*** mid on, long on, silly mid off, mid off, long off etc etc.

Scoring is also achieved in a number of ways; by hitting the ball and running between the creases before the ball can be returned to break the stumps, both batsmen must make it to their respective creases at each end before a run is scored; by hitting the ball across the 'boundary, the perimeter of the outfield, if it bounces it is an automatic four runs, if it does not bounce it is an automatic six runs; if the batsman misses the ball and it is also missed by the fielders behind the stumps, the batsmen can choose to run as though the batsman had struck the ball, these are 'byes' and are recorded separately but added to the total of actual runs; balls pitched wide of the batsman, usually more than five or six feet, can be deemed 'wides' and are the equivalent to byes and may be 'run' in the same way. If a bye or a wide should reach the boundary, not unusual with fast bowlers, then the 'run' count rises to four.

Traditionally the game was played over five days. Each day would begin at eleven o'clock and would end at seven o'clock with a break for lunch at one thirty for forty-five minutes and another break for 'tea' at, usually, four fifteen of between fifteen and thirty minutes.  This in the main accounts for the bewildering British practice of always stopping for 'tiffin' about four-thirty mid-battle which confuses our allies and, until we taught the French after the Normans to respect our customs and teach their European neighbours to do likewise, led to successful invasions by hordes of Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Jutes as well as Danes, Norwegians, Swedes and Normans before 1067. 

However, with the ever diminishing threat of invasion and with the ever dwindling attention span of modern audiences, the one day match became far more common, games restricted to 120 balls per side (20 overs), and following the 'Kerry Packer Circus' of the late seventies, even floodlit matches have became commonplace.

In many ways, it is sad that cricket has marched down the same road as football, Formula one, Rugby, track athletics, tennis and become the plaything of the media companies and the sponsors. It was too much to ask that cricket might have preserved its unique olde worlde charm and quaintness in an era of rampant capitalism and consumerism. Ah well, c'est la vie!

Finally, because I have at last found it after many years of searching, I give you the title of this blog. Transcribed from a piece in 'The Times' in the late fifties or early sixties, this is a classic instruction set in how NOT to use a dictionary. A glossary is provided at the end for those unfamiliar with the cricket terms mistranslated (deliberately).

Tu aimes jouer au cricket?

Papa joue au Cricket. C’est une grande allumette - une deux-jour allumette.

Papa est dans le pré tout le premier jour. Il laisse tomber deux attrapes, et manque trois balles dans le profond, qui vont à la borne pour quatre. Beurre-doigts!

Son capitaine le met sur à bouler. Il boule deux larges, et trois pas-balles. Il est frappé pour six. Il boule des plein-jets et des long-sauts et des demi-volées. Il est ôté. Il a l’analyse- Pardessus: 3; Pucelles: 0; Courses: 38; Guichets: 0

L’autre côté accourt une vingtaine de haute taille. Papa s’assied dans le pavillon. Il est dernier homme dedans. Il regarde son capitaine, qui fait un siècle. Après un premier guichet debout, les guichets tombent.

Le filateur en prend quatre; un attrapé à court troisième homme, un dans le ravin, un autre à niais moyen-dessus, et le dernier vaincu par un qui va avec le bras.
Le marchand de vitesse fait le truc de chapeau parmi les lapins: un joliment pris à jambe-carrée, un dans les glissades, et l’autre battu et boulé tout au dessus de la boutique.

Les joueurs courent. Le guichet-teneur casse le guichet. Celui qui court n’est pas dans son pli. Il est couru dehors.

Papa est dedans. Il saisit sa chauve-souris. Il marche à la poix. Il prend milieu et jambe. On boule. C’est un casse-jambe. Papa ferme ses yeux. Il coupe en retard. Il manque. On boule. C’est un Chinois. Papa ferme ses yeux. Il accroche. C’est un coup de vache. La balle lui frappe le genou. Le pré hurle, “Comment ça?” L’arbitre lève son doigt. Cloches d’enfer! Papa est dehors, jambe-devant-guichet. Il n’a pas cassé son canard. Hélas!

une grande allumette - a big match (though not of box of marches variety) 
deux larges - two 'wides' (see above)
trois pas-balles =
three 'no balls'
plein-jets -
full tosses, deliveries where the ball fails to bounce 

des long-sauts - long hops, a failed 'bouncer' which is not bowled fast enough and is easy to hit 
des demi-volées - half volleys, failed yorkers, the ball is hit immediately after it bounces
Pucelles -
maidens, overs in which no runs are scored
une vingtaine -
a score but not as in 'twenty'
dedans -
'in' (to bat)
un siècle - '
make a century', score a hundred runs
Le filateur -
the spinner, the bowler who spins
un attrapé à court troisième homme-
one caught at 'short third man' (a fielding position)
un dans le ravin-
one caught in the gully (a fielding position)
un autre à niais moyen-dessus -
another at silly mid on*** (a fielding position)

le dernier vaincu par un qui va avec le bras - the last was beaten by one which followed through with the arm, ie did not veer to one side after the bounce
fait le truc de chapeau parmi les lapins - 'the trick of the hat out of the rabbits'  (ie a hat-trick - three wickets from 3 consecutive balls from the 'rabbits', those batting 8th,9th and 10th. 
un joliment pris à jambe-carrée - one nicely taken (caught) at square-leg (a fielding position)
un dans les glissades -
one in the slips (a fielding position) 

tout au dessus de la boutique - all over the shop (place). Everywhere.
son pli -
his crease (see above)
couru dehors. -
run out
chauve-souris -
the batsman's bat, not a pipistrelle 

poix - pitch but not as in 'tar' 
Il prend milieu et jambe - he takes 'middle and leg'. The batsman on taking stance asks the umpire at the other end to tell him where his bat is in relation to the wicket. Middle and leg means one and half stumps in from the the right as the umpire sees it. The batsman marks that with his bat and this allows the batsman to know his position relative to his wicket.
On boule. C’est un casse-jambe -
They bowl, It is a leg break. A spun ball which goes down the batsman's left side and turns (breaks) towards him on the bounce 

On boule. C’est un Chinois - They bowl. It is a Chinaman, A 'Chinaman' is a delivery by a left-handed spin bowler which goes to the right of the batsman and turns towards him on the bounce. The equivalent for a right-handed bowler is known as a 'googly'
Il coupe - To 'cut' is to hit the ball to the right of the batsman
C’est un coup de vache - I have no idea what is implied here unless it is something along the lines of 'he made a mess of the stroke'; assuming that 'accroche' is meant to mean hook as in ** below. 
jambe-devant-guichet - leg before wicket (lbw) (see above)
“Comment ça?” -
"Howzat"  (How is that2) The traditional cry when you think that the batsman is 'out'
L’arbitre lève son doigt -
The umpire's way of signalling that a batsman is 'out', he raises his index finger
Il n’a pas cassé son canard - 'not breaking your duck' means not to score.

* I seem to remember a test match in which the batsman mistimed his shot, the ball sneaked behind his bat and rolled into the stump. The bail was not dislodged and the batsman remained 'not out'.
**You can usually tell these as soon as the ball leaves the bowlers hand because it is slightly later in leaving the hand, thus giving you ample time to duck. Even with a helmet, it is not wise to try to 'hook' a genuine fast bowler. The timing required to both hit the ball, as it approaches you, behind you and to roll your wrists so that the ball is directed downwards is devilishly difficult; it is easier to duck, although the 'hook' when it comes off is a very spectacular stroke. There is a great example of one of the masters of the hook, David Steel, here , it is the second of the three strokes, during his mauling of Aussie Jeff Thompson, one of the top three fast bowlers anywhere at that time. There's another here by Ian 'Beefy' Botham against the same bowler which if anything looks even more spectacular; and in an era without protective helmets. (Incidentally, first worn by English batsman, Dennis Amiss, during Packer's 'World Series Cricket' in 1977, although in that case it was a motorcycle crash helmet.)
*** A position on the batsman's left side very close to the batsman and the position that I was fielding on the only occasion on which I have been knocked out playing sport. I did not get my hands up fast enough to catch the ball, it was well struck by the batsman, and it hit me square on the forehead. The position is aptly named because you do have to be  (very) silly, stupid, to field there. Helmets, what helmets?

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Affentorplatz, Schwalbennest and eine alte Gasse in Cleeberg

Google Earth is really some marvellous software. I have had it installed for years now and have scarcely opened it, let alone viewed it. For some reason today I went off on a trip down memory lane and using Google Earth to find it and street view to look at it, I viewed Affentorplatz* and the environs in Sachsenhausen, Frankfurt-am-Main. To a large extent the place had scarcely changed at all, although I did not recall the benches and umbrellas which stood across the way from the row of bars which line the entrance to one side of the square. However I was surprised to note that the garage which stood at the side of bar, above which I spent many happy days, had disappeared; the old wooden gates, through which one gained access to the apartments above, had gone and have now been replaced by an Irish themed 'pub'.

I have fond memories of Haxen**; Ribbchen*** und (Sauer)Kraut; Blutwurst**** exploding in the pan of boiling water; Apfelwoi***** out of the jug or better still from the tap in the kitchen while I washed the dishes; pork 'crackling' from the Haxen sandwiched between great chunks of Bauernbrot******; Sliwovitz******* in its distinctively shaped bottle or Korn********, both in quantities sufficient to pickle my still juvenile liver. Ah, happy days!

I also managed to find my way to the Eisernesteg (the iron footbridge across the River Main, pronounced Mine) which saw many a staggering and unsteady promenade as I found my way back after a night at my second favourite bar which sold Bavarian Bock bier, rich and dark and guaranteed to get you hammered in short order!

I next went north to the little village of Cleeberg in the Taunus, although there did not seem to be a 'street view;, it is only a little village, so I had to content myself with digging out a couple of photographs taken back in the early eighties.

It is, I think a cause for deep regret that I lost all contact with the particular individuals associated with these places; especially as they were so very kind to me. I do sometimes wonder if I should not ever have embraced the rat-race and the pursuit of something which vaguely resembled a career and not just simply continued to bum around relying on the generosity of strangers and friends alike but we make our own bed and it is we who must ultimately lie in it!

So here is a brief photographic souvenir of more carefree days when the burdens of a mortgage, a seven-days-a-week job, the care of ageing parents and the fall-out from one too many failed relationships did not loom so large on my horizons and did not impinge so on my psyche:

The bar as it appears now, having been renamed 'Plateau'; no longer a bar/restaurant but a live music venue. The garage, which used to belong to the bar and the residents of the apartments above, is now an Irish theme 'pub'. The old, and immensely tall, wooden gates, through which you gained access to the apartments above, are no more. The memory of that kiss at those gates no longer has anything tangible to hold it fast and it will now fade, I fear, whether I will it or no. The bars to the left of the photograph have no doubt changed but 'Struwwelpeter'********* is still there; no doubt still ripping of the tourists as it ever did.

The bar, 'Das Schwalbennest' - the swallow's nest - as it was in 1972. The 'Apfelwoi' jug can be clearly seen on the counter, in its cradle', it was far too heavy, full of Apfelwoi, to be lifted unaided. The beer pump is Henninger, of well-known-landmark-tower fame, the schnapps was behind the bar and the kitchen behind that.  The legend over the bar roughly translates as: "A little loving, a little drinking, a little eating should make for happy memories."

The village of Cleeberg as seen on an overcast and dreary day from a hill just outside the village. I truly wish that I had photographs of it in the sunshine; it was so picaresque and beautiful.

The house, where I stayed, and some of the adjoining out-buildings, shot from the 'Alte Gasse', the 'old alleyway', just outside of the stables which were to the left as you see it.

The bar in the basement to the building shown in the foreground of the above photograph. The animal skins are real. Note the solitary beer pump; 'Licher Bier' if I remember correctly.

And, into this mix of adolescent fantasy and adult reality, I wish to stir in, mix on my palette, the real sense of youth, the feeling that "they can't catch me'........................ 'cause if you get too close, you know I'm gone like a cool breeze!' So, I give you the artist, in his 'studio', toiling away at his art; Malcom Goodson and his mentor 'M. Felix le Chat':

In the 'studio', Felix offering guidance whispered into the artist's ear. The picture is of a cuckoo, painted in watercolour, on CS10 board; a prototype for a print. The castle behind the artist was a twice scale, in pen and ink, rendition of Christian Jank's watercolour sketch of 'Schloß Falkenstein' for Ludwig II of Bavaria.

Someone once wrote of my sage and teacher, for an exhibition of the painting, I think:

"The artist, Malcolm Goodson, pictured here with his mentor and long-time partner, the late Felix Le Chat, has no formal training in art (or anything else for that matter). Concentrating exclusively on birds, painted in a detailed and precise style in watercolour, his work hangs as far afield as Bermuda, the USA, Germany, and London, SW9. (As well as his mum's house.)

Rescued from obscurity, and alcoholic oblivion,  by M. Le Chat in 1983, the artist was tutored for many years by Felix. The artist now owes his not inconsiderable skills in staying out all night, catching mice, playing with balls of wool and peeing in the bath to M. Le Chat's excellent and generous patronage. Any skill that the artist may have acquired in painting is entirely accidental and fortuitous and is his own responsibility."

Fear not, gentle reader, for the brevity of this post; copious footnotes follow! I apologise for going back on my word to steer clear of foreign language titles but I could not resist.

PS I no longer wear the ring, the reasons for which, if you read from 2008 (!), should be clear, although never in plain view!

* Affentorplatz, literaly 'monkey gate square', has no connection with monkeys. Up until the early 19th century, there was a gate in the city wall called 'Affentor' on this site.  However, the 'Affen' of the name may relate to Asch-affen-burg (castle on the ash river), the road to which the gate gave access to. I remember on my first visit to Frankfurt, I became 'lost'.  'Could you direct me to Affentorplatz?' I asked a sweet, young lady. 'You're standing in it," she replied. You see, I may not always know where I am but I always am where I should be!
** Haxen, the forelegs of pigs, or wild boar if you can get them. Slow roasted so that the fat turns crisp; absolutely divine!
*** Ribbchen, (little ribs). Pork chops like you have never seen; twice as thick and twice as large as in the UK.
**** Blutwurst (blood sausage) is the German equivalent of 'Black Pudding'.
***** Apfelwoi=Apfelwein=cider. THE drink of Sachsenhausen and a source of much profit for those who keep bars. In 1973, wholesale, Apfelwoi cost DM 0.75 per litre, retail DM 0.75 per quarter litre!
****** Bauernbrot, literally 'farmer's bread', is bread baked from sour dough, circular and roughly 18" or more in diameter. The tourists got the edges, I got the middle! Filled with Haxen fat! (NB: pre-stroke days!)
******* Plum 'brandy'. Ubiquitous throughout Eastern Europe. I think Serbian is best, although I have only tried Polish, Bulgarian, Croatian and Serbian! The Serbian comes in quite distinctive, wonderful bottles.

******** Korn is not the band (if it were it would be spelt KoЯn) but grain spirit, Schnapps, usually distilled from rye. which is only marginally more palatable than moonshine or poteen but only about half as lethal. Under-filtered vodka in my estimation.
*********Struwwelpeter, 'shock-headed Peter', a well known character from Heinrich Hoffmann's 'cautionary tales'. The poem, in English and German versions, complete with original illustration all courtesy of Project Gutenberg, is below:

Just look at him! there he stands,
With his nasty hair and hands.
See! his nails are never cut;
They are grimed as black as soot;
And the sloven, I declare,
Never once has combed his hair;
Anything to me is sweeter
Than to see Shock-headed Peter.

But if you would prefer it in German:

Sieh einmal, hier steht er,
pfui, der Struwwelpeter!
An den Händen beiden
ließ er sich nicht schneiden
seine Nägel fast ein Jahr;
kämmen ließ er nicht sein Haar.
Pfui, ruft da ein jeder:
Gargster Struwwelpeter!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Literary Pretensions II, Realism and Slugs

I have been thinking about fiction today; you know, that thing that people do when they have too much time on their hands and do not have the peculiar bent for philosophy.or carpentry. As a species we are fascinated by story, imagined or real,  whether it be the tale of bored, suburban housewives leading bored, boring lives or the derring-do on the high seas by Cap'n Jack and his merry band of cut-throats; whether it be tales of impossible gods, and demons, or the impossibly insignificant 'homme quotidien' and his ultimately wasted life; we love tales of courage, bravery and it matters not a jot whether the courageous one is a man or a woman or a rabbit; we adore tales of cowardice, moral turpitude, that slow disintegration of a man, or a woman, or come to that matter a rabbit, into that long, slow shredding of what she, or he, was.

The love of story is, on the face of it, a perfectly natural adjunct to the profound sense of self-awareness human beings have and the acute and sometimes painful knowledge that we have that our lives seldom attain the heights or plumb the depths of what human beings are capable of; we live in a mainly quotidian existence of work, love, babies and the occasional pint down the pub. You may think that you lead an exciting and fulfilling life but in comparison with Sherlock Holmes, Aragorn, Mr Darcy, Scout Finch, Lisbeth Salander,  Isabelle, the Marquise de Merteuil, Fiver, Purdy and Pongo, Buck;  you do not.*

Fiction, and to a lesser extent non-fiction, although no less powerful for all of the tedious facts cluttering up the place, allow us to vicariously live someone else's life who does attain the heights and plumb the depths of what it means to be human, our emotions and experiences.

However, I have a problem. In a nut-shell; how real should fiction be? Quite obviously, first base must be that the tale should have a fundamental grounding in the world we all know and experience; we would have little interest in a novel entitled 'A day in the life of a bacterium - the world of stimulus and response', although we have little difficulty relating to the higher animals such as mammals, birds, even dinosaurs, suitably anthropomorphised.**

In the realms of science-fiction or fantasy, although all fiction is fantasy to a greater or lesser extent, this 'grounding' is all that is required; it is quite acceptable to have blue grass and red skies in sci-fi, six legged 'horses' and magical swords in fantasy. However, if your tale is outside these strict genres, how much reality should you include or, more importantly, omit; in fact, is it acceptable to omit anything, must you do your research down to the finest levels of details?

I had an idea to continue a story; a story that I wrote earlier in the year as a way of confronting certain demons from my past (or one in particular). In some bizarre fashion, it turned into a perennial question; how do you hurt someone who has lost everything? Give him back something broken. Over the past few months, I decided that I could not leave it at the point at which I originally concluded it and decided to continue it as a love story that is not a love story.

I included various elements into the story because I have a fair degree of pre-existing knowledge about the things discussed; I did not need to do much 'research'. However, quite early on, I decided to include a holiday, a 'Grand Tour', into the plot. I have been around Europe a fair bit and I thought that descriptions of architecture or art from earlier centuries would perhaps be mildly interesting. It was then that I faced my dilemma.

I should be as accurate as I could be in describing the actual buildings or paintings, to be sure, describing the 'Mona Lisa' as a portrait of an eighteenth century, regency dandy painted by Cézanne would serve to do nothing except brand me as surrealist of the worst kind; but what of the itinerary? Where would I stay? How would I get where I am going? Should the route from (a) to (b) be a genuine way of travelling to and from a destination? Should I make any description of such routes conform to the architecture or landscape of the actual route?

Given my minuscule readership should I be even bothering to think about this? And even if my readership were large, would it make any difference to my characters, their reactions, their emotions if I were to have them walk down 'Totallyinvented Allee' on their way to 'Schloß*** Nymphenburg' in Munich or have them eat at 'Das Schwalbennest' in Salzburg?**** I cannot see that it would make a blind bit of difference and yet I am irrevocably drawn to research flight times, hotels, where they are, how you get from (a) to (b),  whether there is a good Google street view of the routes I might want to take, consulting maps, finding the nice restaurants etc just in case my memory has faded too far. Why? Who could possibly give a flying fuck?


Except me.

And that is surely the reason we do anything; it is always for us, irrespective of any charitable or altruistic intent we might have. (Or perhaps I just have too strong an affinity with novelists who do spend month after month researching their novels!)

 Useful factoid #438: I murdered a slug today; it had made its way to my kitchen sink without leaving a trace of its route! (Up the drain?) I killed it with salt (I could have used silica gel or anhydrous copper sulphate but I had none to hand) The slug's body has a higher percentage of water than most animals and an excessively permeable membrane-like skin. The salt literally soaks up all the moisture from the slug; death by dehydration. I was not proud of my feat but slugs (and slime moulds) are two animals I hate the most, contrary to my normal nature-loving persona.

* In case you need help with the literary allusions: Sherlock Holmes, from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective stories; Aragorn from JRR Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings'; Mr (Fitzwilliam) Darcy  from Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice'; Scout Finch, lawyer Artemis Finch's daughter in 'To kill a mockingbird' by Harper Lee; Lisbeth Salander in Stieg Larsson's 'Millenium' trilogy; Isabelle, the Marquise de Merteuil from Pierre Laclos' 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses'; Fiver, the rabbit in Richard Adams' 'Watership Down'; Purdy and Pongo, the parents of the 101 dalmatians in Dodie Smith's eponymous novel; Buck the sled dog in Jack London's 'Call of the Wild'.
** Vide, 'Raptor Red' by Robert Bakker. A tale of a Utahraptor in the early Cretaceous period. At least it is broadly factual, if a mite speculatory and with 'confused' timelines; Bakker was one of those responsible for the so-called 'dinosaur renaissance'
*** Should I even worry about whether it is 'Schloß' or 'Schloss' (castle); the Germans have changed their minds so many times that I am terminally confused. The 'ß' is often technically an 'sz' and the symbol is pronounced 'Eszett' in German.
**** Should I worry about the correct gender? Der (m), die (f) or das (n)? (It is neuter, I checked!) This is the name of an actual restaurant where I got drunk more often than I care to (or can) remember, although it was renamed 'Die Karotte' back in the mid-seventies when it became a music venue and is now 'Plateau'. (Neuer Wall 15, am Affentorplatz, in Sachsenhausen, Frankfurt-am-Main, if you are ever in the vicinity.)

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Televison, the Benefit of Hindsight and Trafficking

Television is largely an ephemeral medium. In fact most television barely attains a sell-by-date which is twenty four hours after its initial broadcast; the soaps, the 'reality TV' style programmes (Big Brother, I 'm a Celebrity), any TV programme broadcast between the hours of 9.00am and 7.00pm, any programme which purports to showcase 'new talent etc, in other word 90% of TV

Occasionally a programme or series of programmes fetches up our screens which cause you to think again about the insubstantial nature of television. The reasons, which will be blindingly obvious to most, to wit the programme must be considered (preferably) good at the time of its original broadcast but more importantly must still be considered good now, is that a certain time must elapse before a programme might be considered worthy of the accolade 'classic'.

Programmes that spring to mind, in their entirety, are:  Loach's 'Cathy Come Home'; Attenborough's 'Life on Earth'; Bochco's 'Hill Street Blues' (first 4 series); Jacobi's 'I, Claudius'; Larbey and Esmond's 'The Good Life'; LaPlante's 'Prime Suspect'; Bronowski's 'The Ascent of Man'; Clarke's 'Civilisation' to name a few. Of those which are more patchy in nature: 'Monty Python'; Gelbart and Alda's 'M*A*S*H'; Charles, Burrows & Charles' 'Cheers' and its spin-off 'Frasier'; Gerald Wiley's work for Ronnie Barker*. Of later series or serials perhaps Straczynski's 'Babylon 5' and Moore's 'Battlestar Galactica'; Ryan's 'The Shield' and Simon's 'The Wire' might grab a place in that august list of 'classics' in the next decade.

I was reminded of this by a mini-series (2  x 2 hour episodes), which was first broadcast in October 2004 and is currently being shown on 4oD, Channel Four's on-line service**, and which both highlighted a very real problem in Europe at the time (and it still is a major problem) and which garnered a shedload of BAFTA's (the UK's equivalent to the Oscar) including Best Drama and Best Actress.

The problem highlighted by the drama, the trafficking of women (girls) from Eastern Europe into the sex industries in major western European cities, including London, where I live (!), was both realistic, in much the same way as 'Saving Private Ryan' is realistic, you might bend the story but the facts underlying it remain just that, facts, and in its graphic nature in not shying away from the reality of the women's or girl's situation or circumstances.

The obvious allure of the major centres of population, London, Paris, Berlin,  Amsterdam and the slightly lesser cities, Manchester, Rouen, Frankfurt-am-Main, Rotterdam do attract women, girls, some of whom are genuinely attracted by the lure of 'easy' money plying 'the trade' on the street, out of illegal cat houses, or legal brothels. However the evidence suggests that large numbers of women, or girls, are lured it into it by the need to feed a habit, acquired when they were at their most vulnerable, ie just off the train; because they become trapped by the eternal dilemma of no home, no job and no job, no home, merely feeding yourself becomes a major concern.

What the drama showed in almost, but not quite, too much detail, was how the women were physically intimidated by those males (in the main) responsible for effectively trading in human beings for money; we used to call it slavery, which it is, but we have managed to 'downsize' the term used to 'sex trafficking' *** in much the same way as we have demoted 'genocide' to 'ethnic cleansing'. I do wonder why the word 'slavery' is no longer used; I do not think the women or girls  represented in the drama would deem their experience better then that experienced by the plantation slaves of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.****

Of course, the Director, David Yates, responsible for the last four Harry Potters, although I have stopped holding it against him, actually did a REALLY fine job and was ably assisted by the Director of Photography and the performance of the actress, in what I believe was her first English language role, Anamaria Marinca*****, for which she won the BAFTA. As a master class in tearful, vulnerable Eastern European young females, who are as hard as nails, sort of, she knocks the pants off Mira Furlan, although that just may be the material; I have not seen Furlan's 'Medea' so would not want to do her a disservice. Even though at twenty five, she was perhaps slightly too old to carry off the ingénue at the beginning of the film, by the end she shows sufficient maturity to carry off the women embittered by the events of the previous years but still retaining her compassion for the child and the man that 'befriends' her. (John Simm - famous in the UK for his role as the Master in the rebooted Dr Who)..

In the end, I suspect that the problem is not going to disappear down one of society's plugholes anytime soon. As long as there is a demand for sex for money, and that does show any signs of slowing down, there will be prostitutes, whores, ho's, slatterns, doxies and a myriad of other names testament to man's (and I mean men's) fascination with that most curious of sub-species; those people that think it is a good idea to trade that most basic of biological and emotional imperatives for money. We do it for food and basic shelter, so why not?

The essential thing to do is to wring the control out of men's hands. The first step along the way if to legalise and tax it; so that the women themselves have a least the same basic rights as the rest of us. In a number of countries, ie the UK, they do not; they engage in illegal activity and therefore are not accorded the full protection of the law. The second step is to form co-operative groups, whether self governing or 'controlled' by a madam, whichever suits; they would be policed and protected by their own employees, not pimps. 

Step three is to make it preferable to go to a legal brothel or sole trader rather than an illegal one; do not let us kid ourselves, the illegal activity will still go on providing a healthy profit can be turned. Make it uneconomic, the repeal of the prohibition laws in the US, which made booze largely not worth the risk of bootlegging, is a case in question and the illegal activity will largely cease. Finally, and the biggest hurdle of all, make men not want to engage in pointless, loveless, passionless, perfunctory sex for money. 

I do not know, or have ever known, anybody who has used a prostitute, and use is probably the right word here, on anything but a one-off basis; the first time; as a treat on your birthday with someone who really knows how to pull all of the strings. I mean really; no kissing, no touching, except for two body parts, no fondling, maximum time allowed fifteen minutes, no cunnilingus (not that you would necessarily want to), no bring your sexual partner to orgasm. Really, you might as well go fuck a hole in a tree, or your fist! 

Your average King's Cross bunk up? I would not touch them with yours; no disrespects to the ladies trawling King's Cross. So, what is the difference between me who does not****** and the people that do?

Pointless factoid #607: The Swedish versions of the films based on Henning Mankel's 'Wallender' books are being broadcast (again) here with English sub-titles. Curiously the title and end credits are in German not Swedish! I must confess to preferring the Swedish versions with Rolf Lassgård as Kurt Wallender to the British version with Kenneth Branagh, who does actually play the character in broadly similar fashion. She Swedish versions are over twice as long (4 hours as opposed to 90 minutes) and this must surely make for a more satisfying adaptation.

* Gerald Wiley was of course Ronnie Barker. If he did nothing else, and he did so much more than that, the four candles/fork handles sketch will surely go down in history as the best, or worst, play on the English language and how she is spoke. (HERE if you have not seen it)
** Which incidentally is also showing the very hit and miss comedy sketch show,, Smack the Pony, which when it does hit, really hits and which is worth seeing for the wonderfully versatile, talented and staggeringly attractive (Sarah-)Doon  Mackichan.
*** The drama is entitled 'sex traffic' and 'pandering to the prurient interest' it does not.
**** And I have already had my rant on the so-called 'Atlantic triangular trade'.(See HERE)
*****Also famous for giving that other Eastern European, Marinca is Romanian, Olga Fedori, who is Ukrainian, a run for her money in the acting as well as the weirdly attractive stakes, in Holby City's episode set in Kiev.
****** No, I am not swimming in a glorious sex crazed orgy of licentious lust.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Seasick Steve, Locusts in Brussels and Beware! Ofcom is watching

Oh, all right, I give up, I capitulate, I surrender, I submit, I am throwing in the towel.  I have to share the highspot of the year so far (last post); Seasick Steve at Glastonbury with the awesome J P Jones* on bass! It is strange that every generation seems to throw up one act that is an absolute must if you are organising a music festival. My generation had the Edgar Broughton Band** and, later, Rory Gallagher; it seems that this generation has chosen Seasick Steve. Not quite as good as Rory (who is?) but he plays a mean bottleneck all the same! Anybody that can play bottleneck on a guitar made from two hub caps*** and a garden hoe deserves respect! He also has the best song title that I have come across in a while; "I started out with nothin' and I still have most of it left".****

In the UK, in line with most other western democracies, there is an enormous fondness for legislating the hell out of anything and everything; making rules about how we behave or others behave towards us. Nowhere is this love of rule-making so adored as in the European Community (EU) where vast hordes of bureaucrats, like locusts in a grain field, populate Brussels in an orgy of legislation, proposed.legislation, pipe-dream legislation, pie-in-the-sky legislation; the world's pine forests are seriously under threat from this avalanche of paper which descends, unbidden and largely unread, from Brussels. The only job market which is expanding in the EU is for 'Compliance Officers', those charged with reading this guff and explaining clearly in words of one syllable to just about anybody what it all means and how you avoid running foul of the law.

Mocking the flood of legislation is easy; an April Fools prank by a newspaper a few years ago which reported that the EU was proposing legislation, to limit the curvature of bananas which could be sold, was widely considered not to be beyond the pale. However, whilst they may go over the top on occasion, the legislation is after all drafted by lawyers who, as a profession, are not renowned for either their brevity or their unwillingness to dot 'i's and cross 't's, the legislation does genuinely provide, in the main, genuine and much needed safeguards for the population as a whole. Employment legislation, protecting the rights of the downtrodden workforce; safety of medicines, it does what it says on the tin; the right to a fair trial, however much the media try to scuttle it; the protection of basic human rights, we, in the UK at least, do not have a formal, written constitution or Bill of Rights as in the US.

I was reminded of this by a casual perusal of the 'OfCom Bulletin' and a post I wrote earlier in the month about journalists (here). OfCom, OFCOM or Ofcom, ofcom,***** whatever, is an independent, quasi-government body which was established to regulate, inter alia, broadcasting, in its myriad of forms, and provide advice and adjudication on the various items of legislation which relate to broadcasting; it is similar to the Press Complaints Commission but scarcely has the same air of 'lap-dog subservience' that the employer-led PCC has. It is also has the responsibility of licensing companies providing such services; no licence, no broadcast!.

So what has got me mildly warm under the collar? A television documentary (in Channel 4's usually excellent 'Dispatches' programme) about the NHS and the effects of cuts in 2011, when the programme was broadcast. In common with all documentaries about the NHS over the last thirty years, it was somewhat critical of the health service in general and one Health Trust in particular. So far, all fine and dandy; one of the prime benefits of good journalism is that the population as a whole get to learn about things which they do not want you to know. A major feature of this documentary, which it shares with other programmes in the same series, is its use of undercover reporters and secret cameras which not only elicits information not readily available from 'official sources' but makes for good, impact-rich television.

The documentary made use of a number of secretly recorded conversations with staff, two nurses in particular. The reporters had been told prior to their investigation that they were not 'to lead' people, not ask 'leading questions', which from transcripts they seem not to have done; these 'interviews', for that in essence is what they were, took the form of  'idle gossip around the water cooler', It is a truism to suggest that employees, especially in such a demanding a job as nursing, do, on the whole, have certain 'issues' with their employer; everybody, no matter how good your employer, whinges from time to time.

These two nurses were not shy about voicing their opinions on what was wrong with the NHS, this Trust and especially the Accident and Emergency Department at that hospital; basically too many bureaucrats performing useless tasks in order to satisfy a Minister who was more concerned with numbers and cash then patient care. As anyone who is familiar with the NHS, this sort of criticism is almost universal among the medical and dental professionals and endemic in ancillary staff (porters, cleaners etc). So what is my beef?

They broadcast the show, it airs at 8.00pm and so has a high 'potential' audience, with all of verbal criticisms intact, although they tried to make the speakers anonymous by blurring the faces which is fairly pointless among people you know or work with every day. Good, you say; the general public has a right to know of staff concerns, the so-called 'public interest defence'. Only the two nurse in question were not asked whether, in the light of their ignorance of the purpose, they were happy for their comments to be broadcast. It surely begs the question; are journalists (and programme producers) so arrogant of their purpose that they cannot see that they might be putting the two nurses at risk from the very people they were critical of? However, it is very unlikely that the two would have agreed; the NHS can, at times, be a capricious employer!

In the event, both nurses were disciplined, both nurses with suspension and one with a 'written warning' and one with dismissal. Anyone who has undergone 'disciplinary action' or the threat of it knows that, even in a trade unionised environment providing support, advice and representation, it is a traumatic situation. To put those nurses through that without even asking for consent, well words fail me!

This tale has a sort of happy ending. The nurse who was merely warned subsequently left of her own accord; I can well imagine why. The nurse who was dismissed subsequently won her case for 'unfair dismissal' and got her job back, although I am unable to find out whether she is still at the same hospital; doubtful I would have thought. And OfCom?

"Therefore, on balance, and given all the factors referred to above, Ofcom concluded that the broadcaster’s right to freedom of expression and the audience’s right to receive information and ideas without interference, in the circumstances of this particular case, did not outweigh the legitimate expectation of privacy that Mrs Millington had in relation to the surreptitiously filmed footage of her broadcast in the programme without her consent. Ofcom concluded that there had been an unwarranted infringement of Mrs Millington’s privacy in the broadcast of the programme."

The full text of the adjudication is here. It starts on page 61 of the downloadable pdf.

* Yes, that John Paul Jones; he of Led Zeppelin fame. He sure looked like he was having a lot of fun.
** And who managed to get thousands of people to chant in unison, "Out, Demons, Out!" In deference to the Fugs, from whom the EBB stole the song, few people in the UK had heard of the Fugs let alone heard them. The 'demons' were the occupants of the Pentagon and the White House; this was the height of the Vietnam war..
*** From an old Morris Minor, one of the few cars you could buy in 1950's Britain. Here's what the cash conscious motorist was driving back in the days of austerity:

And here's the racy convertible; 0-60mph in about 2 minutes. I once saw a black one at a local park's weekly 'classic car drive thru' which was decorated with US style 'hot-rod' 'flames' all along the sides.

**** Although the best song title in history must go to Charlie Mingus' "The shoes of the fisherman's wife are some jiveass slippers".
**** In the wake of the deregulation (de-nationalisation) which was so much a feature of Margaret Thatcher's tenure as Prime Minister, the Brits embarked on a wave of 'Of's, ('Office of'); Ofcom (the communications industry including broadcasting and the phone companies); Ofwat (the water supply and treatment industry); Ofgem (the gas and electricity industry including the National Grid) although in Northern Ireland, in deference to their Irishness, they have a separate body called Ofreg, Office for the Regulation of Electricity & Gas. By the nineteen nineties such acronyms had largely fallen out of favour and the Office of the Information Commissioner (which performs the regulation of the Data Protection Act (1998) and the Freedom of Information Act (2000) is known as ICO, Information Commissioner's Office. I still prefer Ofdat!