Thursday, 8 February 2007


We regret the suspension of services at saminengland. This is due to unofficial industrial action by saminengland's social life. Management anticipate a resumption of services imminently, but sources close to saminengland say 'I wouldn't bet the farm on that.'

Wednesday, 31 January 2007

Keep your eye on the ball: Globalisation

This isn't an old-fashioned, tweed-and-pipes rant on the ills of globalisation -- at least not of the kind promoted by vitriol-inked, wanna-be NPR luddites. No, this is a serious observation that, what with cultural and economic convergence, it's becoming increasingly difficult for me to identify my sporting home. Yeah, yeah, you can stop sniggering. I know I'm not a known sports buff. But it's not just me. While there are fairly obvious personal reasons why I support England as a football side, to prove my point, I only need to point to Brad. Although Tottenham Hotspur may be just another feather in his cap(s), isn't it odd that while he's selected a London team to support, I'm thinking it might be nice to support LA Galaxy (see ad, left). Anodyne, I realise, but then given Liverpool's behaviour today, I feel I had little choice but to move on. Without saying too much, let me just say it became personal.

Anyway, let's forget about sports altogether and focus on food. The soup pictured here is extraordinarily simple. Had a leek and some old cabbage at home. Bought a chicken from my butcher on Saturday. Made fresh chicken stock on Sunday. Cook leek, add chicken, stock, cabbage, salt and pepper, and voila! Football seems insignificant.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Wood panelling

This is for Jaime, who has an improper attitude towards wood panelling. This little photo of my sitting room should demonstrate how tasteful wood panelling can be.

And don't forget that you can get wood panelling for your PSP, too.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Australia Day

I am sure I do not need to remind any of you that yesterday, 26 January, was Australia Day. It also happens that my Australian officemate's birthday was last week, and I failed properly to mark the occasion. To my great discredit, I didn't buy him a gift, a card, or even a beer. So I thought Australia Day would be a good opportunity to set things right, and therefore as I rifled through my stationery cupboard before work yesterday morning, I was rifling with a purpose: I needed a card that encapsulated the patriotic fervour of the occasion with a subtle twist of the 'happy birthday' about it.

For obvious reasons, I settled on this card, a drawing of a Nepalese tiger. Obvious to me, at least, as it was the only thing I had that wasn't a Christmas card. But I did have the sense to realise that maybe Matt wouldn't appreciate the connection between a Nepalese tiger on the one hand, and his birthday and Australia Day on the other.

I did not know precisely what Australia Day celebrated, but I did know quite a lot about how it is celebrated. I think it's fair to say that what Mothers' Day is to cards, Australia Day is to beer; for although the Aussies, like Americans, like a good barbecue on their national holiday (26 January being summer Down Under), unlike their former colonial cousins, Aussies also like to demonstrate their not inconsiderable drinking skills on this day.

Anyway, I had this card of a Nepalese tiger, and so I wrote something along these lines:

Dear Matt

As you no doubt realise, on 15 January [Matt's birthday] in 1832, Lord Ablemerle, travelling from Nepal, released a pair of Nepalese tigers (pictured on the front of this card) in Victoria for the anticipated sport of hunting them. The tigers, however, did not thrive in the Victorian
climate and migrated instead to Queensland [Matt is a Queenslander], where they multiplied until a remarkable thing happened.
On Australia Day 1850, a mild-mannered Queenslander returned from the bog to find a Nepalese tiger drinking his beer. The man was natually outraged, and the story of the tiger spread quickly throughout Queensland, until hunting parties were organised and the Nepalese tiger was completely eradicated from that part of the world.

In consequence of these two dates, it struck me that no card or day could be more appropriate than this card and today to wish you a happy birthday and a happy Australia Day.

Many happy returns


It did not take Matt long to work out that there never was a Nepalese tiger in Queensland.

Now, in the course of yesterday, I attempted to learn, by asking Australians, what Australia Day commemorates. I had initially mistaken Australia Day for Federation Day, when Queen Victoria (pictured left) in 1901 ratified an Act of the UK Parliament which granted Australia the right to federate (the act has not yet been repealed). Clearly, Australia Day does not celebrate the more recent Australia Act 1986, the British Act which finally gave Australia judicial independence from the Privy Council in Westminster. And as the Queen is still the head of state in Australia, there is no question of Australia Day celebrating the birth of a republic.

One Australian suggested that Australia Day was the day in 1770 when Captain Cook (pictured right) sailed into Botany Bay. As it happens, and as I'm sure you knew already, Australia Day was the day in 1788 when the First Fleet (pictured below) sailed into Sydney Cove to settle New South Wales (today known as New South Wales).

Sadly, our Australia Day celebrations were marred by Matt being required to work late and by the rest of us being unable to get into any of London's many heaving Australian bars, and so the evening's festivities were spent in English pubs, and a bar called Jack's in Southwark. And although the evening was eventful, I will stop here and simply say 'The end'.

Friday, 26 January 2007


So, last weekend I tried to go to Austria for an extended skiing weekend (Thursday to Sunday). 'Tried', I say, because the weather was so bad that the trains were cancelled, and so we ended up catching a black cab to Stanstead. Instead of taking 40 minutes, it took 4 hours and £150 to get from the City to the airport, meaning that almost all of us missed our flight.

I should probably explain, briefly, that I was travelling with 42 people - let's call them 'friends'.

Although 6 people had made the flight (surprisingly, all of them a more exalted type of friend than the rest of us), 36 of us hadn't. A very kind individual, whose generosity will remain anonymous, said that he and his partners would pay for us all to get flights the following day (Friday), and that they would pay for our hotel accommodation.

Given that we were not the only unlucky people to have suffered missed or cancelled flights, it is not surprising that the hotels were completely booked out. Travelling another 4 hours back into London when we had to catch 6:30 am flights was not an option, and so one of my friends offered to let us sleep on the floor of his family home, a farmhouse (actual farmhouse not pictured) -- but only after sampling the delights of his local, the Green Man.

Some people would question the sagacity of inviting 36 friends back to the sanctity of the paternal home. But to invite 36 friends home straight from a lock-in at the pub is verging on demented.

Although it would make for very entertaining reading to describe what happened when we arrived at Ed's house at 3:30 am, I will skip ahead.

Some of us landed in Munich, which is in a different country altogether from our ski resort. Others landed in Linz, which was not really where they were supposed to land. Others made it to Salzburg (much better). I was among those who landed in Munich, where someone was meant to be waiting for us with a car, but as it happens, no one was waiting, and so we caught a EUR 350 taxi to Kaprun, in Austria.

Arriving in Kaprun was depressing. It was raining, and there was no snow on the ground. The only thing I knew about Kaprun in advance of our arrival was that 150 had burned to death in a horrible accident involving the funicular train in a tunnel going up the mountain to the slopes. But we took consolation in Austrian pils, and what I must admit was surprisingly good Austrian food.

From this point, the weekend improved markedly (and so becomes rather boring to narrate).

The following morning (Saturday), we went skiing - something I had not tried in 13 years. What I hadn't quite realised as we drove through the rain-sodden streets of Kaprun the night before is that, to get to the ski slopes, one ascends to a height of some nine thousand feet onto a glacier, and so there was plenty of snow.
That night, while we were all embarrassing ourselves in front of the locals by dressing as characters from "The Sound of Music" (I think I'm the only man who didn't dress as a nun), it snowed.

The trip back was painful, and I've been running a sleep deficit every since we returned.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007


This is the first thing I saw this morning.

I'll write about my experiences in Austria this past weekend when I get a chance.

Monday, 15 January 2007

London Underground

By popular demand:

I was out for a friend's birthday party on Saturday night, and after the party broke up, sometime after midnight, I meandered down Oxford Street to Bond Street Tube station (pictured above) with friends who were in search of a kebab (

Once my friends had managed to get what they were after, I went into the Tube station. Now, it's a truth universally acknowledged that if you have partaken of an alcoholic beverage or two of a Saturday night, no matter what time it is when you finally turn up to the station, you will magically find yourself catching the last tube home. I suspect the government has hidden sensors which measure the alcohol levels in your blood as you walk down the street and plan the timing of the last trains accordingly. Being on the last tube is an experience. Usually people do not speak to each other on the Tube. But on a Saturday night, everyone talks to everyone. Between fragments of conversation with the people around me, I was reading David Copperfield. I was particularly amused by the following exchange: An English girl leaned over and asked me, 'what are you reading?' The people to my right were all French, with halting English. One of the French guys looked at the book and said 'Dickens'. The girl leaned in more closely, looking at my book, and said, 'No, he's reading David Copperfield!' The French guy just shrugged.