Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Spendrups julbrygd, from progressive Sweden

Obviously, when I said I wouldn't review another beer for a while, I was lying out of my arse. A recent trip to IKEA provided the opportunity to purchase some Swedish beers. And why not? Spendrups Julbrygd is strong dark lager that is as black as pitch, with a sugary molasses flavour. The taste and smell are quite walnutty. Despite the richness of the flavour it is quite easy going down, and while it would take me longer to drink than a pint of lighter lager, it still isn't sufficiently aley to take a significant time to drink.

This is a Christmas lager, and with the nutty and almost fruity texture, it almost reminds me of Christmas cake, except drinkable.

I was pleasantly surprised at this one because I bought the regular Spendrups last time I was in IKEA, and I wasn't too impressed. Good for a change, but not the sort of thing I would drink every day.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Quilmes - Argentina's favourite beer

A robust and slightly acidic, almost citrusy tasting 4.9 per cent brew from Argentina. Orange in colour, and very crisp, it is actually pretty good, despite having read several duff reviews online describing it as "watery" I don't think it is watery at all. It's golden and quite strong tasting. It sort of reminds me of Sleeman's, which my Canadian readers, if there are any, will probably like. It was tempted to compare it to Cruzcampo, the Spanish beer I reviewed last week, but it's not really a fair comparison. Quilmes goes down way easier than Cruzcampo. Definitely a beer for a sunny day.

This will be the last beer review I do for a while, before I get another crate in. I intend to order another one online and hopefully will be able to keep this section of my blog going. As for the other beers I bought from that speciality shop in York, Tusker will be getting drank alongside some jalof I am sure at some point in the future, and Brooklyn is being saved for Superbowl Sunday. Bring it on.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Scarily productive

I don't usually talk about my writing projects, mostly because I don't want people to think I'm a pretentious wanker, but some of you will know I am currently writing, or at least trying to write, two novels. I suffer from writer's block something horrible, and I regularly come up with an idea that I think is absolutely brilliant, is all I can think about, then start writing it and give up. This often happens when I hit a hump like introducing a new character and not being able to get them right, or hitting a particularly difficult piece of dialogue (I hate writing dialogue).

However, I have been ridiculously productive with my writing projects over the last two weeks, so I am just writing this blog to congratulate myself. Taking into account I only really find the time to write three nights out of the week and very often I'm too tired to do it, and when I do sit down to do it, I either get stuck or am so disgusted by how rubbish something I have written previously is I close everything down and give up. I am pleased to report, that in the last two weeks, I have not done that. I have made real progress on one of the novels, writing myself out of a massive corner, and I have even started on a short story - the first non-novel project I have done in a year or so.

Ernest Hemingway said "The first draft is always shit" and I think that has really helped me, because now I don't feel I have to make every sentence perfect before I move on. The other phrase which is helping me I can't attribute to anyone in particular, and it is "write through the shite". I can always go back and fix it later, and I will have to do a second and maybe even third draft in any case. Anyway, if I can just keep up this rash of productivity then I will one day be able to sell some books, quit my job and live on a yacht.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Spain's Cruzcampo

(Pictured: The jolly little Spaniard couldn't give two shits whether you like his beer or not.)

Although I'm still officially suffering from Threebola (like Ebola, but three times worse) but I'm now off tenecilin (like penicilin but ten times more powerful) so I can enjoy a cerveza or two again. This time, it's Spain's Cruzcampo that is under scrutiny. I must confess, this is not the first time I have had a Cruzcampo - they have it on draft at the Hub in Edinburgh, and the pint I had was decidedly minging. However, I'm not one to deny a beer a second chance, so I am sitting down with one just now. It's the type of beer, I think, that really needs to be got out of a bottle - it's a pilsner with a sharp taste that just seems soapy and kind of acrid out of the tap. Or maybe I just got a bad pint, I don't know. Using my complimentary Cruzcampo glass (complete with a picture of a smiling raffish early-modern chap with a feathered cap leaning jauntily on a barrel and drunkenly raising a flagon of beer, always a winner), it's a much more pleasant drinking experience. It has a deep, wholemeal-bready flavour, and just a bit of an aftertaste. It's another 5 per center, but it still tastes pretty light, and in colour it's a very light yellow. I would draw comparisons with San Miguel, or even Kronenbourg 1664, while keeping in mind that Cruzcampo is probably a superior beverage to both. Not bad at all, and I will give the Hub's pints another try.

On another beer related note, I found a specialty beer store in York last week and came away with a few bottles of my old friends Brooklyn, Tusker and Keo. I polished off the Keo last night while watching True Blood, but I'm waiting for some sort of sporting event with hot dogs before I touch the Brooklyn. Man, I love beer.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Columns from last while...

(Meades: "Somewhere on the spectrum" according to my ever politically correct mother.)

NOBODY happened to catch that ‘Jonathan Meades: Off-Kilter’ documentary on BBC4 last week, did they? Of course not, it was on BBC4. But if you had watched it, you might have been a little bit offended. Have a look on BBC iplayer and you’ll see what I mean. The show featured the verbose Mr Meades driving around what he calls “the football pools towns” - towns only known in southern England from playing the football pools, which are however quite familiar to you and I, since we live in them - all the while displaying a smug sense of intellectual superiority.
While Meades, who has presented programmes on architecture and written restaurant reviews for The Times, is often funny and a great deal of the comments he makes about the bleakness of Scottish towns are quite accurate, I feel he is a little bit uncharitable.
In his brief visit to Kirkcaldy, for instance, Meades describes Raith Rovers as “up and down like a barmaid’s knickers, not that barmaids are reputed to wear that particular garment in these parts”. While it would not be appropriate for me to pass comment on the underwear habits of female members of staff in Kirkcaldy’s many drinking establishments, I have to say that it is awful presumptuous of someone whose sole experience of the town is driving past Stark’s Park, filming a 30 second piece to camera and then retreating to a four-star Edinburgh hotel at the licence-payer’s expense.
Elsewhere in the show he suggests that Fifers and Scots in general are workshy drunks who sustain themselves on a diet of deep fried Mars Bars. He tosses us accolades like “highest teen pregnancy in western Europe” “highest rate of alcohol related brain damage in western Europe” and “more likely to get assaulted in Scotland than anywhere else in western Europe”. I would suggest that if Mr Meades ever returns to Fife, I don’t much fancy his chances. He even goes so far to say that the fact we have “the lowest life expectancy in western Europe” is sweet release from all the post-industrial ghastliness that we have to put up with on a daily basis.
This is, I think, unfair. I have often been surprised by this tendency, undeniably southern English and very specifically London based, to see not only Scotland, but northern parts of England as well, as if they were parts of the third world. The British media, which sees London as the centre of the universe and anything past the Watford Gap typified as ‘north’, makes programmes for a southern audience, never for one minute considering what it must be like for a Scot watching it. I would like to see how they would react if I made a programme in which I went down to London and essentially poked fun at their culture, food and architecture. If I provoked the stereotype that all Londoners are wishy washy new media types or crooked bankers, all of whom are privately educated and seemingly allergic to graft, I wonder how it would be perceived there?
Speaking as someone who has lived in both Scotland and England, I can with confidence say that the problems that my home country experiences are exactly the same as the ones experienced down south, and that if I had a choice between facing a generic Scottish ned or a London chav, I would face off against the ned any day. At least you know you aren’t going to get shot.

MICROSOFT’S decision to block Xbox users who have modded their console to play illegal copied games will no doubt be seen by most as a strike against ne’er-do-wells who broke the rules and are getting what they deserve. However, this is undoubtedly a watershed moment in the battle against computer piracy, that most hard to prosecute of crimes.
Indeed it might seem unnerving to some people, who spend there time and a significant portion of their bandwidth downloading games, movies and music from the internet. These are the people who should be watching out now that Microsoft have taken a stand.
Earlier this year, the founders of peer-to-peer file sharing website The Pirate Bay were jailed for a year in Sweden in another swoop against piracy, which ended up achieving absolutely nothing since the site, now owned by a Seychelles-based company, is still online and its users are still distributing files willy-nilly with no fear of the authorities. But, I think, things soon may change. In this current climate, even profit generating industries like video games need to guard every penny jealously, and with the industry losing as much as $750m a year, Microsoft’s decision, however unpopular it may make it with users, makes sound business sense.
The argument against piracy has been around for ages, ever since music companies first kicked up a stink about people taping their records (remember them?) and swapping them with their friends. One copy means one less record/CD/DVD/game/cinema seat sold, so less money for the industry, less money for the artists and people who actually produce the entertainment that we consume, therefore a decline of quality all round.
Except this hasn’t happened, not to any great extent. The film, music and game industries still make huge revenues, largely for the suits in charge rather than for the artists. The film industry will never be taken down by illegal downloads, mainly due to the fact that watching a film on a 15” laptop screen is mince. People tend still to go and see the movies they would have on the big screen, and reserve the small - or very small - screen for films they weren’t significantly curious about to go and see in the cinema. The music industry has been hit worst by downloading, because the experience of listening to an album can be easily replicated on a computer, provided it has decent enough speakers. You can even download the album art to go along with the tunes. However, this is offset by the way the music industry has used the internet to market and promote bands. In fact, many music acts even rely on the free distribution that file-sharing provides to get their songs out in the first place. Games are the most difficult thing to pirate, because of the specialised knowledge required to download the right files, get a crack for the game, and burn or mount .iso files. This ensures, at least for the moment, a dependence on retail to buy games.
In the future, when we look at the early days of the internet, they’ll look at it as the biggest free-for-all in history, a sort of electronic equivalent of the gold rush. The powers that be have made huge steps in the regulation of file-sharing and it won’t be long before they develop a fool-proof method of policing and punishing persistent offenders. Maybe it won’t be legal punishment, but broadband providers have been kicking around the idea of banning the IPs of file sharers for good. So if any of you sneaky people have been trying to get your entertainment without paying for it, shame on you, but watch out, because you could live to regret it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


THE OTHER day I was walking down the High Street and I happened upon a mother pushing her child in a pram. The kid couldn’t have been more than a year old, but believe it or not, he was sitting there in the pram with his greasy, chubby chops wrapped round a Gregg's sausage roll. And we wonder why there is this upsurge in children too obese to toddle. The stuff that some parents feed their kids is absolutely appalling. I was told an apocryphal tale by a health professional once, involving a mother feeding her baby blended Big Macs instead of baby food. Parents should definitely know better than to encourage children to eat unhealthy fast food at a young age. We already have a huge problem with obesity without them starting the next generation down the path to an early heart attack.
We reported last week that something like 149,000 great British pounds was spent on providing giant-sized hospital beds and winches for obese patients at Fife hospitals. Does anyone else think that that is totally outrageous? Think of the amount of equipment that they could have bought with that money, from x-ray machines to incubators for premature babies. Of course, I would never suggest that we don’t have a responsibility to treat obese people on the NHS, but I have to say I find it very hard to be sympathetic for people who allow their bodies to get into that condition. And by “that condition”, I don’t mean people who are a bit tubby. Most of the foods and drinks that taste good make us a little bit plump and that is fine - all it shows is that you enjoy life. What I am talking about is the people who are let themselves get so abnormally giant that they can’t move and claim they have “mobility difficulties”.
OK, so there’s a fat gene, but you can’t all have it. I think people just need to take better care of themselves. After all, we all know what we can and can’t eat to stay healthy, and we know that we need to exercise. This is a well published scientific fact. If people choose to ignore it, they will have to pay the price.
I hate that they give these overly fat people mobility scooters to drive around on. Having to walk around would do these people some good. I disapprove of people trying to legitimise being overweight by turning it into a disability. A disability is something you’re stuck with, not something you can sweat out with a couple of trips to the gym and a few less burgers. To me it’s all part of the sad victim mentality that so many people in this country seem to have that they use to excuse themselves from working. It’s just unfair on all the people who through no fault of their own find themselves unable to move around.
People who are obese should be forced to run in a treadmill like a hamster and generate energy for the rest of us. We could dangle a steak bake in front of them and let them go. We could cure our obesity problem and our rising energy problem in one go. There we go, job done. No need to thank me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Zambia's Mosi

I get to experience this beer courtesy of Drew Johnston's healthy professional interest in maintaining my rampant alcoholism. Not unlike Tusker, this cheeky little number from the banks of the Zambezi is 4% and goes down real easy. Like its Kenyan cousin it definitely assumes "thirst quencher" status. Pale yellow in colour, and light, crisp and breezy to the taste, it is a really refreshing beer.My favourite thing about it is the way it manages to balance fizziness and gassiness, if you know what I mean. I can't see myself ever getting gassy from drinking this. I have to say, from my experiences of both Tusker and Mosi, I'm actually really impressed with the quality of African brewing I've sampled so far. I'll have to see if I can get my hands on some more. Man, I love beer.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Kenya's Tusker and France's Desperados

Yes, you are in luck today. I'm also going to do a couple of beer reviews. I mean, I may as well, I'm drinking anyway. This is Tusker, the national beer of Kenya. This is the first African beer I've ever drank, and it's not bad at all. At 4.2% it's not the strongest lager in the world, but it's got a surprisingly robust flavour for how light it is. It's a pleasant dim amber colour and probably fits heavily into the 'thirst-quencher' category that a lot of beers from warmer climes tend to abide to. In a way, its quite similar to Keo, although I think that Cypriot beer may well be quite a bit stronger. Anyway. I like it a lot. Good fact about Tusker that I learned by reading the back of the bottle: Did you know that Tusker was the name the elephant that killed George Hurst, one of the founders of the brewery. And for some reason they saw fit to immortalise the homicidal pachyderm by naming the beer after it.

Let's be honest. Desperados is a girl's drink. I don't care if it's 5.9%, has tequila in it, or has a tough, Mexican wanted poster typeface on the bottle. El Mariachi or even Inspector Yuen from Hard Boiled would probably spit it out if they drank it. It tastes like Babycham. It pretends to be Mexican, when it's not, and it pretends to be a guy's drink, when it's not. It's a girl's drink. Fact. I'm just telling you this to put the review in context. I don't dislike it, the limeyness is pleasant, and it goes down very easily. It is very noticably intoxicating though, even though you can't really taste the tequila in it. There's also something very dry about it, putting it firmly in the 'drink to get pissed' rather than 'thirst quencher' category, which is what I like about Corona and Sol, the beers that Desperados seems desperate to ape, albeit in a much stronger way. Put it this way - I would buy a crate of this if I was trying to get blazing, but not just for the pleasure of drinking. Having said that, I gave one of the bottles to my wife and she said it was the best beer she had ever tasted. Ergo: girl's drink.

Cook Like A Bastard - Episode 2: Singapore Noodles

Ni hao, motherfuckers. You know, helping people is my game. I like to help people make delicious dishes to eat and enjoy alone and in company. I like to help share my knowledge and help show the poor, gastronomically retarded people who shop at Iceland and eat the same food all the time that it is easy to cook a decent meal from scratch for a decent price. And if you fuck with me, I will help you in another way. I will help you to die.

It's not just Ramsay I dislike, weak and ineffectual Jamie Oliver also ires me. Middle-aged women may love you, Jamie, but I can see through you. Jamie Oliver wouldn't last two seconds in the joint, unless he shaved his ass and became somebody's man-wife. He'd turn punk in a second, no doubt.

Enough of this sorry shit, Oliver.

This episode, I intend to show you how to make Singapore noodles, a curry-based noodle recipe that is the ultimate collision between Indian and Chinese cuisines. Quite how the Chinese got hold of curry, I don't know, but they certainly put it to good use in this spicy, savoury and deeply delicious dish. All qualities are relative. Feel free to jack up the chili rating if you so desire. Something that I didn't do, but would probably work well, is to add ground peanuts or cashews to the mix. Maybe next time.

What you need:
Noodles (rice noodles if you have them)
Mushrooms, chopped
Mangetout or petit pois
3 tablespoons groundnut oil
1 1/2 tablespoons of garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
2 chilis, chopped
Water chestnuts, chopped
3 spring onions

And for the curry sauce element:
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
3 tablespoons store bought madras curry paste
2 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar or Shaoxing rice wine
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
Half a can of coconut milk
175 ml of chicken or beef stock

For the egg element:
Couple of eggs
1 tablespoon of sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper

For the meat element:
Pork, ham, chorizo, prawns, chicken, or whatever meat you want to put in it

I find it helps to split this recipe into five phases: meat, spice, vegetable, curry, and egg. This recipe is actually unbelievably quick to put into practice, you will find that it's all the chopping and mixing that takes all the time. Prepare all the materials above before you start, mixing the curry and egg elements in separate bowls. First things first, boil your noodles for 3 to 5 minutes, then sieve it out. Then pour through some cold water and toss with a little sesame oil. This will stop the noodles from congealing in an unpleasant manner.

Put the noodles to one side and heat the wok. Always heat the wok before adding oil. Not quite sure why this is but I am reliably informed that it is good practice. If you are using pork or chicken add it now and stir fry until sealed. For chicken, give it a little longer. You don't want to mess with chicken. It can be a most unforgiving meat. When you don't see any pink left, pop in the garlic, ginger, chillis, onions, and stir fry that sucker until the meat is coated in its goodness. Then add the mushrooms, water chestnuts, mangetout or petit pois and spring onions. Stir fry until the mixture shrinks.

Now comes the moment of truth: dump in the noodles and stir like a maniac. Make sure it doesn't stick. You should add your curry mixture - which should be a thin and oily sauce - now. Continue to stir, making sure it doesn't stick. Give up around five minutes until the moisture has evaporated off. Then add the egg mixture and stir until the egg sets. Garnish with coriander leaves, or don't bother if you're a pleb, and serve with Tsingtao beer. Job done.

Give me a show, BBC.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Hello peeps. As most, if not all of you will know, Kaki and I got married nearly three weeks ago, and this is the reason for my lapse in blogging. Since most of my readership were probably at the wedding, I will scrimp a bit on the details and say it was a thoroughly enjoyable day for all concerned, not least the people who drank themselves into comas.

Feeling pretty good to be a married man, though in reality I think it doesn't actually feel that different. I have pretty much considered Kaki and I "married" since we first started seeing one another 4 years ago, but there you go. So same old Dave, if anyone was worried about me up and changing on them.

In other news: met Gordon Brown this week, at Kinghorn Ecological Centre. I was allowed around 60 seconds to ask him whatever questions I wanted, so long as they were about Kinghorn Ecological Centre. So I asked "How do you like Kinghorn Ecological Centre?" He said he approved of it. It's not like I had any barbed questions up my sleeve, but it wasn't great to have people telling me what he would and would not talk about. Anyway, he seemed all right, looking perhaps a little pale, but certainly like he would rather be mucking around with ducks in Kinghorn than being spit-roasted by Cameron and Clegg on the floor of the House of Commons. Urgh, actually that is a truly horrible image. I meant metaphorically spit-roasted. You're sick in the head.

Had a bottle of this while I was on my holidays: Black Isle Organic blonde. It's a natural tasting, wholesome and full-flavoured lager that has made me vow never to drink Tennants again. That is it. Never again. Why should I? I deserve better.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


Men Without Hats are by far the best musical group consisting of a man, a woman, a dwarf and a dog that has ever existed.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Brooklyn Lager - USA

This is a first for me. An American beer that isn't like making love in a canoe ("Fucking close to water!"). Brooklyn Lager boasts that it's the "pre-prohibition beer" which may or may not be true. Still, there is something distinctly classic tasting about this reddy-ambery, malty, yeasty, floral and quite strong lager. Drinking it makes me think about hot dogs and baseball, and I delight in the idea that depression era pissheads might have sipped this while looking nervously over their shoulders in damp basements and wearing fingerless gloves. I think I will be having a bit more of this in the future. Probably Americans look down on this stuff derisively but it is still quite a novelty for me. Like it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cook Like A Bastard - Episode 1: Lamb Saag

(From the rather crap picture, this looks quite minging, but I assure you it is not. God dammit, I'm celebrity-journalist-chef, not a photographer)

Konichiwa, bitches. I read an article not long ago that said that precisely one quarter of Britons (that's a metric quarter, not Imperial) can't cook a meal from scratch, and the other 75 per cent have trouble with anything more complicated than spag bol. "Holy shit!" I thought "Can my countrymen really be that dense? I bet the French don't have this problem."

Contrary to popular belief, cooking is easy. In fact, it can be piss-easy. All you really have to be able to do is follow a simple set of instructions. In essence, as a wise but crude man once said, and I paraphrase: "All you have to do to succeed is not be a mong." Are you a mong? Yes? Well, Cook Like A Mong is next door. This is Cook Like A Bastard.

Cook Like A Bastard is the most important event in culinary history. Gordon Ramsay can swear, sure, but can he swear as well as me? Gordon Ramsay makes talk that we do not care to understand. I will give it to you straight, idiot-style, and thereby drag you kicking and screaming out of the gastronomic muck.

I remember a time when also when I couldn't rustle up grub to save my life, and was content to eat Chicken Mcnuggets morning noon and night. I called it "childhood". Now that I am a grown up however, I must be able to prepare my own food.

As a man, there are only really two types of meals that you need to be able to make:
1) Meals to seduce.
2) Meals that you make because you want to eat them.
Today's recipe falls firmly into the latter category.

I pretty much learned to cook so I could cook curry. Curry is, as has been observed often by rational men around the globe, the greatest foodstuff in existence. It comes in many forms, but my current favourite is this delicious Saag Gosht (literally, spinach lamb). It is minty, herby, and leafy. "But hey!" I hear you cry. "Minty, herby and leafy! That sounds like the sort of pretentious shit that celebrity chefs always spin! I thought you were going to give it to us straight, Dee Oh Double Gee!" Well, listen up suckers, I am giving you this straight. The main ingredients are mint, herbs and leaves, therefore it is minty, herby and leafy. I speak the truth, straight into your mind-sponge.

So if you want to make a curry fit for Lenin himself, just follow these simple steps. Go ahead, it's not rocket surgery!

INGREDIENTS: Many chefs will start a recipe by saying "I only work with the finest ingredients". Good for you, shitbird, but until the book people give me the money I'm due, I will have to make do with the cheapest. Anyhoo, all you need is:

500g Lamb fillets (or chicken, if you are poor or unimaginative)
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 bunch of spinach leaves, roughly chopped
1 tub of fresh cream, 300ml ought to do it
Ghee if you can find it anywhere, otherwise oil

FOR THE MARINADE: chop up the lamb and stick it in a tupperware container overnight with the following:
2 tsp of garam masala
1 tsp of cumin powder
1 tsp of turmeric powder
Pinch of salt
2 green chilis, or more if you are an ultimate badass
1/2 cup of mint leaves
1/2 cup of coriander leaves
4 cloves of garlic, mashed
1" piece of ginger, chopped or ground
1 cinnamon stick

1) When working with meat, it is imperative that you start the night before so you can leave it to marinade for exactly 24 hours. Anything less will not give you a complete food experience. White people, with the exceptions of the ostentatious French and the Fascism-prone Italians, never marinade anything. This is wrong, wrong, wrong. This is why the British have a reputation for bland food. So take all the stuff for the marinade, chop it up together with the lamb and leave that bad boy in the fridge. If you possibly can, mortar and pestle spices and leaves into a paste, if not, roughly chop everything, chances are it will dissolve during cooking anyway.

2) Heat the ghee, or more probably oil, in a wide, flat bottomed pan. Some people like to add the meat first, but I tend to always start with the onions, because I like mine crispy. I'm a barbarian that way. So slam the onions in with the garlic and fry them for a minute or two.

3) Add the meat and marinade. Stir fry until the meat is sealed, and then some. Should be about 5 minutes (that's metric minutes, not Imperial).

4) Now it's time to plop in that cream and shortly thereafter, the spinach. Drop the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.

5) When the spinach has broken down and dissolved, the sauce is a thick and luxuriant green, and the lamb dark and enticing SERVE THAT FUCKER RIGHT THE FUCK UP with pilau rice and naan bread. Drink a fine Indian beer with it, or if pressed, shit domestic piss.

6) I am king.

I hope you have enjoyed this introductory session of Cook Like A Bastard. That will be £50 please.

If Gordon Ramsay comes around here, I will choke-slam him through a table and put him in the beast choker until his balls burst and his eyes pop out his fucking skull.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Deathmatch of the Day

Who would win in a battle of looking like a nazi? Udo Keir or Jurgen Proktnow?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Keo Premium Beer - Cyprus

For my birthday I was gifted with a crate of international beers, so I thought I would enlighten you to the relative merits of a few of them. I have in my hand at this moment a cold glass of Keo Premium Beer, brewed on the island of Cyprus, and fiercely proud of the fact. It's a light, crisp tasting beer that's damn good if you are drinking because you are thirsty. It's not gritty or synthetic tasting like a lot of other beverages I can name, in fact it's refreshingly natural tasting. The blurb on the back of the bottle says it is unpasteurised, but this makes no sense, because how can beer be pasteurised? Surely that's only milk and cheese? Nevermind, its a good beer that goes down easy with a bit of a wheaty aftertaste. Give it a go next time you're in Cyprus.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Column for Dec 4 2008

Johnston Press owns this shit. Reprint it and I will cut you.

AFTER watching Channel 4’s ‘Cutting Edge: The Fun Police’ last week, I’ve started thinking seriously about health and safety. We are, we are told, all in a significant amount of danger at any given time, in any given location, especially at work.
My own workplace is no different. The Fife Free Press office has wheens of posters (well, three) telling us of ways we could come a cropper. You know the sort. Pictures of people with haircuts from 20 years ago tripping over conspicuous cables, or slipping in spilt coffee with looks of shocked stupidity on their faces. We were recently handed a risk assessment checklist that basically asked us to assess the risks of sitting at a desk and using a phone. It’s as if they think the phone cord might leap up and garotte me, or that the chair might throw me off and roll all over me with its little plastic wheels. About the biggest danger I’m in is the danger of a coronary from my increasingly sedentary lifestyle. Then there’s fire. In the event of a fire, as we know, we should proceed in an orderly fashion to the nearest fire exit (usually just the door you normally use). But if there really was a fire in the building, would you honestly go in an orderly fashion, or would you run full-pelt towards the door, shoving over co-workers and leaving them to fend for themselves? That, I think is the purpose of all of these fire drills - so that when a real fire actually happens we just won’t believe it and tramp out miserably like usual.
Whenever you get a new job, of course, you have to go through the bother of learning how to survive in the jungle that is the modern workplace all over again. You will be sat down, and usually shown a video containing all the common sense things that we really ought to know anyway. Things like: don’t stick your extremities into machinery, and don’t try to reach things on high shelves by standing on top of a swivel chair in high heels. Since I myself don’t wear high heels, this isn’t a problem for me, but it does make me wonder what sort of a person would do that sort of thing in the first place. I mean, for that to appear in a health and safety video it would have to have happened to someone at least once, correct? I would like to meet that woman. I bet that every time she and her colleagues are called for refresher health and safety training she hangs her head in shame as she is taunted with great vigour.
One thing the video will always tell you is the correct way to lift a box, even if your job does not actually require you to lift boxes. I have absolutely no idea why this is. One thing I do know is the apocryphal tale that once a weight lifter lifted a heavy dumbell wrong and their bowels fell out. Maybe this is the same principle. We couldn’t have someone’s bowels falling out of them at work, could we? I can hear it now: “Where’s Jimmy?” shouts the manager. “His bowels have fallen out!” comes the reply. “Well then,” the manager tuts, “he should have lifted that box with his knees, not his back!” That’s you telt, Jimmy.
I suppose that health and safety videos, in the end do offer some sage advice, even if in an emergency it tends to go out the window. My own dad, the scientific genius that he is, once nearly crispy fried himself trying to put out an electrical fire with a water fire extinguisher. This is something I would avoid, firstly because I saw a health and safety video that explained to me that water plus electricity equalled death, and secondly because my own keen sense of self-preservation (cowardice, to some) would not allow me to do something as dangerous as fighting a fire.
To be perfectly honest, with the amount of training in health and safety I’ve had I must be a black belt at avoiding injuries and/or death by now. Even from primary school it was instilled in us. We had visits from policemen, telling us how to cross the road properly, visits from firemen, who gave us little cartoon pictures of homes in which we had to circle every fire hazard we saw. Let me tell you there were an awful lot of hazards about. In fact probably only reason some of us go out now is because there are so many things that can kill us in our own homes. Thanks for nothing, school! I know virtually zero about science or mathematics, but I do know an awful lot about fire safety. I’m just another member of the mollycoddled, paranoid health and safety generation.

Column for April 2

This is property of Johnston Press. Reprint at your legal peril.

LAST week’s FFP story about KHS pupils boycotting Council-enforced healthy school lunches got a bit of discussion started in the office the other day. I’ve come to the conclusion I don’t really blame the pupils. I was the same when I was in school, nipping off to the shops to buy chip butties, pot noodles, and most importantly pies. Is there really anything better than a decent steak pie? I spent a couple of years living abroad (for work rather than legal reasons, in case you ask) eating rice and fish almost exclusively and sometimes I would wake up in the night clawing at the air, trying to grasp the beautiful, crusty steak pie that I saw in my dreams. Have I ever had dreams about salad? No.
There are two things teenagers hate more than anything else - healthy food and being told what to do. Imposing a healthy menu on them from above has only made them recoil further from the idea of healthy eating. Personally, if I was in charge I’d just let them have the standard school menu, because surely its better to have them eating a hot meal in school - even if its not the healthiest in the world - than going out and eating absolute junk. That way the school could covertly control what goes into the food without them knowing. Clever, eh?

THE Jacqui Smith porn expenses claim scandal has certainly not portrayed the Home Secretary or her hubby Richard Timney in a particularly good light. In addition to finding out a little too much about Mr Timney’s leisure activities, we’ve also learned that the pair have a chronically bad taste in films. What sort of person would need to watch ‘Ocean’s 13’ twice? As for ‘Surf’s Up’, the surfing penguin epic, I hope that one was for the kids.

THIS week I also watched the G20 with interest. The thing that interests me most is that the two world leaders who always seem to be having most fun are Silvio Berlusconi and Nicolas Sarkozy. In every picture they appear to be grinning like loons or laughing maniacally. I also worry about how orange Berlusconi is. He looks like he is made of plastic and almost certainly has doll’s hair.
Sarah Broon also hosted a girl’s night in for the other halves of the leaders. I’ll tell you who I feel sorry for: quantum chemist Joachim Sauer, husband of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Who did he have to hang about with? He couldn’t go to the G20 or the girl’s night in. At least Richard Timney was probably free.

THIS weekend I intend to do nothing. Absolutely nothing. This was my plan last week but I was cruelly suckered by unplanned appearances from friends and various other obligations. On Saturday night I intend to drink beer and watch ‘Mad Max’. I will not leave the flat unless absolutely necessary, and by that I mean if it catches fire is subject to some other catastrophe. I think I will have a pretty good time.

THIS WEEK ... tried to persuade fashion columnist that what women really need are utility belts ... cooked pad thai, peri-peri chicken and rice and peas ... played ‘Call of Duty 2’ on the ancient Xbox

Not blogging

Wow! I've been a lazy asshole! It's been nearly three months since I have posted anything at all on this blog. Perhaps it's because I know have a newspaper to write every week, and blogging seems less fun. I promise I will do better.
I'm going to reprint some of my columns here, and hopefully that will keep my adoring public sated. If there is still anybody out there. Maybe nobody reads this at all... Maybe I'm just talking to myself... Ooh, scary. Comment so I know I'm not going ga-ga.

Holy Hell! Aren't you a lucky bunch! Two scoops of vintage Blackwood, coming up!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Misadventures in journalism

Apparently the following is too close to libel to print in an actual newspaper, so here is an unpublished column. This is my opinion, and it's fair comment so don't bother suing me. I haven't got any money anyway.

Lewis Moonie has been taking up a disproportionate amount of my time the
past few weeks. He has been keeping a low profile, which is not
surprising considering the myriad of transgressions that the media have
been accusing him of. Being a reporter in the local paper of the area he
served for so long, it falls to myself to obtain a quote from Lord
Moonie. Just one quote, I think, and I will go away. Sadly, all attempts
to contact the peer and erstwhile Kirkcaldy MP have all failed. I have
phoned, phoned and phoned again, but to no avail. I have left dozens of
messages. In a fit of blind panic, I even went to his house to post a
letter through his door politely requesting an interview. This attempt
also did not bear fruit.
It seems, however, that I am not the only one suffering from Lord
Moonie's reluctance to speak to the press. Huffy reporters have been
plopping phrases like "Lord Moonie was unwilling to comment" and "Lord
Moonie did not return our phone calls" into their articles all over.
Some reporters from a publication that will remain nameless even went to
his house to ask him for an interview there. Apparently, he yelled at
them to get off his land and threatened to summon the polis. It strikes
me that by releasing even one press statement, he could stop the press
hounding him. I know this for a fact. We are a lazy bunch - why bother
interviewing someone yourself when you have a juicy press release? After
all, the other three peers all commented, Lord Taylor even apologised in
the Lords for any ills he may have committed, and nobody is bothering

I was disturbed to read that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
(PETA) had sent a letter to the owner of the famous Anstruther Fish Bar
urging them to change their establishment's name to the Anstruther Sea
Kitten Bar. Presumably, this is to point out the hypocrisy of carnivores
eating some types of animals and not others, and to tastelessly try to
put us off our food. First and foremost, this parallel is nonsensical,
because kittens and fish are nothing alike. Fish aren't even cute and
you can stroke or play with them, so why not eat them? Even kittens eat
fish. The fish deserve it.
I would also like to state categorically to PETA, right now, that if I
was hungry enough, I would eat a kitten. I know, I know. I consider
myself a cat lover, but if there was no other meat on offer, then I
would be forced to get my proteins somewhere. Animals are animals, and
provided I had formed no emotional bond with said cat, I would have no
problem devouring kitty burger or even cat curry.
I honestly think there are things more pressing in the world than
complaining about people eating animals. Another thing that annoys me is
when people raise money for animal charities. I say we sort out the
ethical treatment of animals once we have attained ethical treatment for
people. People in some parts of the world live in worse conditions than
most animals in this country, in crippling poverty or under threat of
violence and torture. I say give money to charities that would help
them, and forget about the animals.
When was the last time a fish did anything for you, anyway?

This Week: Got stuck into series 3 of The Wire... Re-read Watchmen
comics in anticipation of next month's movie release ... got down to
cooking some serious cuisine in my new flat's spacious kitchen