Monday, November 30, 2015

Smoke and Fire

I read over the weekend the Hang Fire girls (Icons passim) are going to be opening a restaurant in Barry early next year, and also:
Hot out the smoker, Hang Fire Smokehouse announce cook book deal
They have been crowned ‘Best Street Food’ by the BBC, were the first to bring slow and low BBQ to Wales, launched Wales’ first craft soda, fed international celebrities and served thousands of plates of American style barbecue at events up and down the country, but things just got bigger for Hang Fire Smokehouse, as they announce a brand new cook book for 2016.
The book will tell the story of their journey across America, including pictures and tales of their adventures, how do build your own smoker, detailed knowledge about grilling and smoking and will contain over 100 the recipes. The book is due for release in spring of next year.
You can't accuse them of sitting on their laurels.

In other BBQ related developments, when I made my excuses and left the pub on Saturday to attend to my smoking brisket in the slow cooker experiment, Kevin G told me about Harrison Ovens - artisan, charcoal fuelled, closed chamber, multi function ovens - manufactured ten or fifteen minutes walk from my house.

Pork belly, slow cooked in the Harrison S using indirect heat. Only one and a half hours to cook to perfection!
Posted by Harrison Ovens on Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Could there be some synergy here? We can dream.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Curate's egg

The seconds lost a home league game to Old Alleynians today, but the firsts beat Farnborough comprehensively in a friendly. I lost track of the score. They must have got over sixty.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

I'm Guy Fieri and we're rolling out..

I very, very rarely get to the bottom of Marlborough Road and turn right so I was later than many finding out that what was once the A. P. Chemist will from tomorrow have reopened as Canedo, a Portuguese cafe and deli. (Sharon has immortalised the A.P in a painting. Click on the image for the Smarts' website.)

I am also reliably informed that there is a new Chinese restaurant, Ding Xiang a little further up the High Street on the left.

|Next, over the railway bridge at The Little Taperia, a south London pet shop has been turned into the home of great tapas.

Just a little past that Tooting Market is now open late on Friday and Saturday evenings; with bars, restaurants and stalls open until 10.30pm.

Myself (shouting from an open top red car): THAT’S ALL HERE, RIGHT HERE ON DINERS, DRIVE-INS AND DIVES.

Friday, November 27, 2015

among the bouquinistes

As I am far too high toned for Black Friday, I have been reading instead in the Grauniard of the upcoming auction of Pierre Bergé's personal library; 1,600 books, manuscripts and scores ranging over six centuries with an estimated worth £30 million.

As an added bonus the piece is written in a breathless, affected and frankly hilarious style.
It was literature that gave the young Bergé his lucky break, although this good fortune was at first well disguised. On his first day in Paris, as he was strolling the Champs-Elysées, a Surrealist poet called Jacques Prévert fell from a window and landed on top of him. A winded Bergé chose to see this defenestration as an augury that the French capital had been waiting for him. He embarked on a career in antique books, truffling for overlooked treasures among the bouquinistes, the bookstalls on the banks of the Seine. In the brilliant young tailor Yves Saint Laurent, he recognised another man with an eye for a silver lining. “Christian Dior fired him, and on the same day, he told me we will set up our own business, the house of Yves Saint Laurent.”
That is right, as he was strolling the Champs-Elysées, a Surrealist poet called Jacques Prévert fell from a window and landed on top of him. What more could you ask for? Read the whole thing here.
“The sun sinks. The cafe teems with life.
Ah, Paris!
A clock in the rue Manet strikes six-thirty, and I think of those words of de Gourmont.”
Beachcomber (be the name still running the game).

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Original Gangstas

Here is the Bomber with Callum back in 2007. I think we had gone to see the 3D version of the Simpsons Movie. The baseball caps were promotional freebies and the glasses were needed for the film experience. Or perhaps the boys actually were eight year old gangsters.

Callum's at the Chelsea academy now and even has a couple of caps for England U16s.

Watch this space.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Ben and I went along to Caveman BBQ after his orthodontist appointment yesterday as planed a few weeks back. I had burnt ends and he had a pulled pork sandwich.

This has encouraged me to try my hand at US style barbecue again. It's a bit chilly to get out in the back garden with the smoker at this time of year, but someone has come up with a scheme for smoking meat in a slow cooker that another blogger has tested and approved.

I've already got Jim Beam oak barrel smoking chips. The trick appears to be to give these a long soak, drain them, wrap in parchment or foil which you then perforate, and then place the packet in the bottom of your crockpot and popped the rubbed joint on top.

I'll probably try it on the weekend.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Useless Box

A comment has appeared (passim) on a decade old post alerting me to a fresh source of Beachcomber at I am grateful.

If I can only put down Dr Strabismus' mancan of wine, and tear myself away from Charlie Suet's Useless Box, I will check it out.

J.B. Morton, once a satirist, now an elegant weapon for a more civilised age.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Mr. Calzaghe

I'm hearing nothing but good things about this new, theatrically released, Joe Calzaghe movie. I was at his both his professional début and, with with both my brothers and my Dad, at the Kessler fight that he considers his finest performance. I've even got a boxing glove signed by him on the wall in my office for goodness sake, so I have to see it.

I'll pencil in watching it with Ben on Thursday.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

all the romance of the novel

A first win in a league game in the Surrey top flight for the Old Ruts U15s today as the boys beat Richmond 24-21 away in a seven try thriller.

We went 7-0 up then 14-0, were pegged back to 14-7 then 14 all, went 19-14 up and then conceded another try (the conversion of which was disputed) to go 21-19 down with minutes to go, only for Silas to touch down in the last move of the game to give us a  24-21 win (and a four try bonus point).

I think it is the best team performance I have ever seen from them. It was very gratifying to see early season weaknesses that KCS had exposed comprehensively addressed and even turned (the breakdown for example) into positive strengths. Richmond came third in division one last year. This is a mighty scalp.

I am off down the pub shortly. The Ruts bonus point translating to bonus pints for me.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Oxford American


I think we will need a copy of this each, John.
The Oxford American’s 17th-annual music issue features the state of Georgia! The magazine comes with a 25-song CD compilation that showcases music by Georgia artists such as James Brown, Sandy Gaye, Gram Parsons, Otis Redding, OutKast, Indigo Girls, Drive-By Truckers, the Allman Brothers Band, and many more. Browse the table of contents below.
The Music of Georgia
Editors’ Note
There’s nobody like Blind Willie McTell
by Peter Guralnick

The moony lyricism of Johnny Mercer
by John Lingan

Pondering the Indigo Girls, awaiting clarity
by Jamie Quatro

OutKast’s Southern Stank
by Kiese Laymon


Gram Parsons’s prophetic Nudie suit
by Elyssa East

The Skillet Lickers’ pickin’ picnic
by Greg Reish

MC Shy D, an original ATLien
by Will Stephenson

Thomas A. Dorsey unites gospel and blues
by Dom Flemons

The Allman Brothers’ wild South
by Amanda Petrusich


Savannah, metal, and mourning
by Bill Dawers

Hip-hop and black history in Albany
by Regina N. Bradley

Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn soul
by Brian Poust

Life and Death in Cabbagetown
by Abigail Covington

Why Athens?
by David Barbe

Welcome Hinges
by Art Rosenbaum

The Cos-mo-pol-i-tan Sound
by Patterson Hood

Plus: anecdotes, images, and memories from around town


Calling Little Richard
by David Ramsey

Beverly “Guitar” Watkins at seventy-six
by Rachael Maddux

Bessie Jones, vision and voice
by Nathan Salsburg

In defense of Dave Prater
by Jonathan Bernstein

Fiddlin’ John Carson’s darkest murder ballad
by Christopher C. King

Ray Stevens remembers a comedy song
by Jewly Hight

The genius of Fletcher Henderson
by Cynthia Shearer


Rico Wade’s Dungeon Family reunion
by Rodney Carmichael

Sharon Jones comes home
by Maxwell George

In the cosmic mind of Col. Bruce Hampton
by Lance Ledbetter

Killer Mike turns forty
by Austin L. Ray

Janelle Monáe looks toward the future
by Brit Bennett

Dust-to-Digital’s unheard magnum opus
by Wyatt Williams

Friday, November 20, 2015

Peter O’Brien

18th November: The committee, members and friends of St. Peter’s RFC, would like to send their sincere condolences to the family of Peter O’Brien who died this morning. Peter was a well loved and exceptionally popular member, who represented the club in baseball and rugby. He was a founder member and current (three times) club champion of St. Peter’s Bowls Club. Peter was a family man. Husband to Marie and father of Keiran, Hannah, Sean, Rachel, Martha and Dominic; son of Sheila and Bart; brother of Bernard, Kevin and Catherine. He will be sadly missed.
Two workers who died in an explosion at a Cardiff steelworks have been named as Peter O'Brien and Mark Sim.

I didn't know Peter, but I was in university with his brother Bernard. I guessed the relationship when I heard the news yesterday, and had it confirmed by my brother Vince this morning.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

This Sort of Thing Is My Bag Baby

I must get along to this exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in Euston some time between today and the end of February ............ and - in the interests of balance - to the Old Rutlishians' Wine and Cheese Evening on December 4th.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Jonah Tali Lomu, MNZM (12 May 1975 – 18 November 2015)

RIP Jonah Lomu. I was in Hong Kong (Dickie and I were visiting Kev) for the 1994 Sevens where he burst onto the international rugby scene.

I also remember that his brother ended up playing in Cardiff for the Old Illtydians and that I met him down the club in Splott. I could never quite get my head around how that might have happened, but happen it did.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

La Marseillaise

Allons enfants de la Patrie,

Le jour de gloire est arrive!

Contre nous de la tyrannie,

L'etendard sanglant est leve,

Entendez-vous dans les campagnes

Mugir ces feroces soldats?

Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras

Egorger vos fils, vos compagnes!

Aux armes, citoyens,

Formez vos bataillons,

Marchons, marchons!

Qu'un sang impur

Abreuve nos sillons!
Arise children of the fatherland

The day of glory has arrived

Against us tyranny's

Bloody standard is raised

Listen to the sound in the fields

The howling of these fearsome soldiers

They are coming into our midst

To cut the throats of your sons and consorts

To arms citizens

Form your battalions

March, march

Let impure blood

Water our furrows

Spelling out the lyrics of the French anthem in English shows how eerily apt and prophetic it is as a response to Friday. I hope the home fans sing it along with the visitors at the France-England football match at Wembley tonight.

Monday, November 16, 2015

It's the Arts

After we got back from the Winchester game yesterday, I took myself off to catch the tail end of the Open Studios Art Show. I hadn't even heard of the Wimbledon Art Studios until Andy posted in Facebook that Sharon was exhibiting. "It Just Shows to Go Ya," when one considers that it is only a mile and a half away from my house.

I was quite staggered by the scale of the thing. Reading Sharon's potted biography among her paintings I found that she graduated from Camberwell College of Art.

Ben's art teacher in school has been trying to persuade him to take classes there on Saturday mornings but to no avail. If we are ever at a social event that the Smarts are attending as well I ought to introduce him to Sharon. Maybe she could enthuse him? She and Ben are the only two people that I know who carry sketch books. They would have that in common, and it is more than you can say for me.

Here's a video of the last Open Studios, back in May.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

It pays to increase your word power

There was more Marquis of Queensbury than we are used to in the Ruts away game at Winchester earlier today. An hour and a half down the A3 for a punch up seems a bit extravagant. I could have just gone into Ben's room this morning, tuned him with the business end of a baseball bat and saved on petrol.

One particular donnybrook after a late tackle is lodged in my mind. An aggrieved Winchester prop came up off the floor and gave Sid the time-honoured two palm to the chest who-the-fxxx-are-you shove that we have all delivered when wronged, only to find he was pushing an immovable object and succeeding in nothing more than bouncing back and knocking himself down again. A one-in-all-in mêlée ensued, but an atavistic part of me thrilled as the ref sent him scowling and gesticulating to the touchline.

Prodnose: Donnybrook?

Myself: Named from Donnybrook Fair, a notoriously disorderly event, held annually from 1204 until the middle of the 19th century. A brawl or fracas; a scene of chaos.

Prodnose: Atavistic?

Myself: Relating to or characterized by reversion to something ancient or ancestral.

Prodnose: OK. I'd still prefer to have it in English though.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Kalashnikov, grenade and suicide attacks across French capital.

I was at the Guardian Centre in Colliers Wood last night, at a quiz to raise money for MertonVision, who, this year, celebrate 50 years of providing services, information and support to residents of the borough with a visual impairment.

Just as I was starting to think what a comfortably heart-warming evening it was social media reports started coming in via peoples' mobile phones of the atrocities in Paris.
Paris terror attacks: Isil terrorists gunned down disabled people as woman held dying Briton in her arms
Us and them. How can we be the same species as the people who did this? Words fail me.

The last book I read was The Gun: The Story of the AK-47. I have been thinking about it a lot today.
The AK-47, or 'Kalashnikov', is the most abundant and efficient firearm on earth. It is so light it can be used by children. It has transformed the way we fight wars, and its story is the chilling story of modern warfare.
C. J. Chivers's extraordinary new book tells an alternative history of the world as seen through these terrible weapons. He traces them back to their origins in the early experiments of Gatling and Maxim, and examines the first appearance of the machine-gun. The quest for ever greater firepower and mobility culminated in the AK-47 at the beginning of the Cold War, a weapon so remarkable that, over sixty years after its invention and having broken free of all state control, it has become central to civil wars all over the world.
The Kalashnikov is the main tool that was used in yesterday's massacres. It is estimated that 100 million Kalashnikov-family weapons have been built of which 75 million are AK-47s,

That genie is not going to be stuffed back into the bottle God help us.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Move Along, Nothing to See Here

I hurried along to at 10 sharp this morning only to read:
The on sale of Prince - Piano & a Microphone tour has been postponed and will not be going ahead at 10am this morning.
More details regarding purchasing tickets to follow.
So that is that then, at least for the time being.

In other mind-numbingly tedious news, I have discovered that the key ingredient in the pork pibil, Ben and I enjoyed recently is aciote paste and I can get it from

Wahaca - Mexican Food at Home has been added to my wish list as well, for what it is worth.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


It was initially reported that the tour was announced during a press conference at Prince's Paisley Park studios in Minnesota over the weekend.
Prince allegedly told attendees: "Why do this now? For several reasons. For starters it is a challenge. I rarely get bad reviews because this is something that's been perfected for over 30 years. You have to try new things. With the piano it is more naked, more pure. You can see exactly what you get."
Friday 27th November – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall – Doors: 17:00
Friday 27th November – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall – Doors: 21:00
Sunday 29th November – London Theatre, Royal Drury Lane – Doors: 15:00
Sunday 29th November – London Theatre, Royal Drury Lane – Doors: 19:00
Tuesday 1st December – Birmingham Symphony Hall – Doors: 17:00
Tuesday 1st December – Birmingham Symphony Hall – Doors: 21:00 
Tickets on sale 10am, Friday 13th November at
You will have to excuse me at 10am tomorrow as I try and snaffle a couple of tickets for a London show at The earlier one may be easier to swing than the later.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I just kept plugging away

I read a Guardian interview with Henry Slade (one of the guys who emerged with credit from England's World Cup disappointment) yesterday. He says
“I went to the Devon county trials as an under-15 and I didn’t get in because they said I was too small. I was gutted but I reminded myself that you usually end up being taller than your mum and she was 5ft 11in. So I had hope.”
Does Slade believe English rugby is too caught up in physicality, at the expense of skill?
“From my experience, yeah, in the lower age groups. Other boys had a lot of skill and they weren’t picked for the county side because they weren’t big or powerful – even if you could see the smaller kid would be better in the long run. A lot were lost but, in my case, I just kept plugging away. It comes down to mentality, doesn’t it? If you’ve got that competitive edge it makes you stronger. I kept trying and trying and it paid off eventually. But it was a long road.”
Food for thought. Especially as I got an email in the afternoon from Surrey Rugby saying that Ben has been nominated, by the head of rugby at his school, for the U15 County Player Development Programme and inviting him to an Assessment Day early in December.

"I just kept plugging away."

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The story of the first Sex Pistols gig

Forty years ago. Goodness me.

We have to wait until December next year for the 40th anniversary of the Sex Pistols in Caerphilly though. See for the skinny on what was the talk of the playground in St Illtyd's.

Monday, November 09, 2015


David Davis looks tired and puffy-eyed. It’s the morning after Theresa May’s unveiling of the government’s flagship investigatory powers bill, and he has spent the night getting to grips with its 296 pages. The battle over the bill is going to last for months and Davis, who from the Conservative backbenches has become one of the foremost defenders of civil liberties, will be leading the critics, but he knows this initial period is crucial in shaping public attitudes.
“The government had the most amazing propaganda blitz,” he says. “GCHQ had a three-day advertorial in the Times with gushing pieces from young journos, so we knew we were going to get some sort of heavy-duty spin on all of this, and the spin was in my direction – we’re going to be more transparent, we’re going to have more accountability, we’re going to bring in the judiciary, we’re going to limit it. All of it turns out to have been overstated. They’re making lots of rhetorical moves in the right direction, but the substance doesn’t add up. There are loads and loads of holes in it. My impression is they didn’t finish writing the bill until the day before they published it.”
Two and a half years on (Icons passim) David Davis is still fighting the good fight; Tooting's finest. If I agreed with him 100% before, I agree with him 110% now.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

"The whole game is Beast Mode"

The Ruts away game at Hove was cancelled today due to waterlogged pitches. It is pity that I didn't know on Friday as I could have gone back to Cardiff to check on Mum and Dad.

Alex has come back home with Ben after training to check out Call of Duty: Black Ops III - an early Christmas present I have been talked into.
IN THE YEAR 2065, cybernetic advancements give rise to augmented human soldiers, a new breed of badass charged with preserving our way of life. Their mission leads them to a seedy bar in Singapore, where they encounter an underworld boss and his elite squad of mercenaries. Among them is a 5-foot-11, 215-pound battering ram of a man who's exactly like the world's most ferocious running back circa 2015: the Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch.
OK. Now that we have the Seahawks/ Ben on the XBOX connection sorted, my life is starting to look more coherent, (52 seconds into the trailer is where we start making sense.)

Saturday, November 07, 2015


Now that is something that should have been in SPECTRE!
The carefully choreographed aerial showcase involved the world’s largest passenger aircraft flying at 4,000 feet in two holding patterns. The A380 aircraft was then joined by the Jetman Dubai duo, experienced pilots and operators of the smallest jet propelled wing, who were deployed from a helicopter that hovered above the aircraft at 5,500 feet. The duo conducted formations on both sides of the aircraft and joined to one side thereafter before breaking away.
Can I have a jet propelled wing as a combined Christmas and birthday present?

Sticking the boot in to James Bond's latest outing has reminded me that last night I realised that a major plot twist is, to all intents and purposes, lifted - postmodern self referentiality ahead - from Austin Powers in Goldmember.

Friday, November 06, 2015

A Spectre is haunting Europe

Ben and I went to see the new James Bond film in the Wimbledon Odeon last night, and both of us found it - for all its UK box office domination - rather dull.

What wasn't dull though, was the adventurer's selection menu that we shared at the branch of Wahaca (Thomasina Miers' Mexican market food chain) downstairs in the same building before the showing.

I am recording it here so I can work through versions myself over time at home:

Salmon sashimi tostadas
Pork pibil tacos
Chipotle chicken quesadilla
Rajas tacos
Huitlacoche empanadas
Smoky cauliflower cheese
Sweet potato

Churros y chocolate to share

The tacos were particularly good, though the churros were a bit heavy for my taste. To think that we went straight from this great grub to a Bond film whose first sequence is set in Mexico City on the Day of the Dead, and even that couldn't save the movie for us.

I have another Spectre tie-in. Last week I was downstairs writing (fuelled by loathing of Sam Smith) my own James Bond song at the piano, when I decided to take a sandwich up to Ben in his room. When I arrived he was drawing in his sketch book.

"What's that?" I asked.

"A steam punk cat."

And sure enough it was, complete with leather flying goggles and an intricately detailed bronze exoskeleton.

The design is available for license, if Barbara Broccoli is looking for a new villainous hench-pet for Bond 25.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

While the world burns

Exhibit A: Hi-tech backpack that becomes a frontpack invented by British engineer

Exhibit B: London bar to sell world's first transgender beer brewed from hermaphrodite hops

The New British Empire
Like the industrial revolution before it, our postwar culture is a success story built on geographical opportunism and an indefatigable entrepreneurial spirit. Just as the industrial revolution transformed British society, creating new wealth and a thriving mill-owning middle class, so too have money, marketing flair and creative invention underpinned our cultural development. It is, after all, a development that has been driven by a handful of inventive, single-minded, and savvy entrepreneurs.
Up to a point, Lord Copper. Dr Strabismus has the floor.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Deep South

I am just off to Virgin Active where I will be continuing with Paul Theroux's Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads on my kindle while I knock out half an hour on the static recline bike.

Travelling with him through North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas, and from soul food cafe to soul food cafe has made me wonder how John and I let our Route 55 trip  go off the boil.

I got a text from the latter over the weekend:
I was looking to see what the Hang Fire girls were up to and stumbled across The Smoke House in pontcanna. Worth a visit I suspect. Good
luck to Ben and the Ruts.
He is obviously still as interested in BBQ as I am and goes on the to-do list for next time I am back visiting mum and dad.

My own peregrinations have pooted forth Caveman BBQ in Great Bookham. It is just down the road from the practice where I take Ben each month for his orthodontist treatment. The next appointment is on November 24 (Vince's birthday) so we will pop in for some brisket when we are there.

It is also just round the corner from Howard of Effinhgam school where Ben and Rutlish have an away game on Friday in the County Cup. (Addendum: This game is actually on Nov 20th.)

Deep South; past the Fortnum-Mason line, y'all.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015


Prodnose: So that is what it is, how remarkably uninteresting.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Sonny Bill

It seems like the entire world (including me) fell head over heels for Sonny Boy Williams after he gave his World Cup Winners medal to a young fan who had been clotheslined by an over zealous steward.

SBW was playing rugby league in 2014 and has signed on to play sevens for New Zealand next year targeting the Rio Olympics. England would never have selected someone with such an independent cast of mind for their World Cup squad. Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

It is also quite striking that neither he, nor Nehe Milner-Skudder, nor Steve Hansen (who wanders over to see what is happening) overreact to the guy who knocked the kid down. Play what's in front of you and don't fret about what led up to it.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

the Strabismo desk

I have popped into the office on the way back from the Brighton game. We lost but it was a useful friendly and I thought Ben played well.

It is odd to be here on Sunday, but if I had one these new desks that the heirs of Dr Strabismus have been working on I might never leave.