Monday, August 21, 2017

Cabeza de carrera

After the Grand Départ, the first proper road racing stage of La Vuelta 2017 was to take the cyclists along a route very familiar to me. They were to ride more or less parallel to the railway line which took me for so many glorious summer holidays to Cap d'Agde.

The peloton came off the causeway at the upper right, separating the Étang de Thau from the ocean, and then skirted the Village Naturiste I knew so well in the twenty years from 1977. 

I was unable to make any screen capture of the Vuelta coverage on the Eurosport television channel, and so readers must take my word for it... it was on this stretch of highway that the cyclists proceeded, with the very recognizable silhouette of Mont Saint-Loup on the horizon, looming benevolently over the coastal resort.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


The Romans called the settlement Colonia Nemausus. The amphitheatre in the French city of Nîmes, built in 70 AD, hosts the team time trial that kicks off La Vuelta 2017 this Saturday evening. When the racers enter Spain they will deal with formidable climbs in Catalonia, although Barcelona is not on this year's route and that is probably a blessing.

Given that I've just received a correctly remunerated assignment from Abu Dhabi, I shall certainly cheer on the Team Emirates team!

Moving on

It has eaten up and chewed out three Trump operatives, and now the job of White House communications director has fallen to Hope Hicks, a 28-year-old political neophyte, former model and a graduate of my alma mater in Dallas, Southern Methodist University.

And Bannon, in the shot embedded below chatting to her, is suddenly yesterday's man.

I wonder if Herr Drumpf has noticed that Miss Hicks is very pretty?

“No tinc por!”

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A levels

Explainer: Jessi's mother complains that my blog posts too often assume more background understanding of an issue than some readers may have. Hence it behooves me to add here that 20-year-old Malala is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. She is known for human rights advocacy, especially the education of women in her native Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school. She was injured in 2012 by a Taliban gunman when he attempted to murder her. More here.

from Gizmodo
"Malala Yousafzai will be studying 'Philosophy, Politics and, Economics' (PPE) at Oxford... a degree that has gone on to produce three British prime ministers, three Pakistani prime ministers, and three prime ministers from Australia, as well as other world leaders from Thailand, Ghana, and Peru. In the UK, it’s been described as the degree that 'runs Britain'. No other university, course, or private school pervades the British elite in the same way, according to a report by The Guardian. This was highlighted during a single day of campaigning in the 2015 general election, when the leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband (who studied PPE at Oxford), released his party’s manifesto. It was analyzed by the BBC’s then political editor, Oxford PPE graduate Nick Robinson, examined by the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Oxford PPE graduate Paul Johnson, criticized by the sitting prime minister, Oxford PPE graduate David Cameron, and defended by Labour shadow chancellor, Oxford PPE graduate Ed Balls. In 2015, no fewer than six members of the cabinet, including the foreign secretary and chief secretary to the treasury, were Oxford PPE graduates."


from The Guardian
"The United States has never been immune to fascism. But many commentators still feel uneasy speaking about fascism in America. They still consider fascism to be foreign to American society. They often assume that American exceptionalism makes the country immune to any fascist threat. Fascism has no place in our master narrative of American history. And yet it has never been more important to acknowledge the history of fascism and neo-fascism in America than it is today. Over the last five years, according to a recent study by George Washington University, white nationalist and neo-fascist movements in the US have grown by 600% on Twitter. Although they remain fringe groups, Trump’s victory has given them new confidence. Never in history have they felt more empowered. Many of them saw his election as their victory."

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


The Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is observed on 15 August in Bavaria and the Saarland, although not in the rest of Germany. With what solemnity and artistic mastery is the ascension to heaven of Mary, body and soul, depicted by Tizian.

And yet must we not ask whether we are dealing here with Fake NewsMary's presence at Pentecost is the Bible’s last reference to the mother of Jesus, scripture is silent about what happened to her thereafter. And yet since the fifth or sixth century the Assumption has been celebrated. In furtherance of what agenda, I wonder? An attempt to co-opt the long-established Roman Feriae Augusti and give them Christian re-branding? After all, turning the festival of Saturnalia into Christmas worked quite well for the spin doctors of old.

Hauser and Wirth

Iwan Wirth was recently judged in ArtReview magazine’s “Power 100”, to be more influential than Charles Saatchi, Christie’s chief, François Pinault, or the million-dollar-a-canvas painter Gerhard Richter. Wirth opened his first gallery in his hometown of Sankt-Gallen while still in his teens, selling Le Corbusier drawings and Miró prints, and in 1992 teamed with wealthy Swiss collector Ursula Hauser and her daughter Manuela (whom he married a few years later) to deal on the secondary market in Zurich.

In the English county of Somerset, Hauser and Wirth bought Durslade  Farm when it was a picturesque ruin. Renovated it provides art-exhibition and education spaces, film screenings, a two-acre landscaped park and a world-class restaurant and bar. Durslade Farmhouse was recently awarded Art Hotel of the Year 2016 by Leading Culture Destinations. The gallery’s onsite restaurant, Roth Bar & Grill, supplied directly by the Wirths’ farm, is included in the Michelin Guide 2017. The heart of the project is an ambitious artist-in-residence program, which has already started with a year-long visit from Pipilotti Rist, along with her ten-year-old son.

'Everything is going to be alright' in Scotland, too. The Fife Arms hotel in Braemar is currently undergoing extensive restoration and expected to reopen in 2018. 

When I was a wee lad in Braemar and we had occasion to go for tea to the hotel, probably invited by one of Pa's parishioners, I wonder if in 1944 we had to take our ration books with us!

Monday, August 14, 2017

¡Ay, caramba!

A high-society wedding in a country far away would not normally elicit from me any comment. In this instance, however, I've met very briefly the handsome bridegroom, a very visionary young entrepreneur in the crypto currency game, Bitcoin and Etherium and such arcane innovations in the booming 'FinTech' sector. I have the feeling that Daniel will go far.

As for his lovely bride, I have known her since her birth! I treasure the photo embedded below, of both Dominique and Jessi as babies and I was trusted with the task of feeding the girl who married at the weekend.

Certainly D&D make a handsome couple and I wish them every happiness.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Happy holidays

Yeah, just 57 degrees Fahrenheit! It doesn't seem to me much like high summer. Although this year it doesn't bother me as much as it might have done years ago. I am now very much an ancient stay-at-home pensioner. It used to be that I'd do shopping outings on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. This implied an outlay of between EUR 16 and 20 per week for beer-and-espresso breaks. Saving that amount makes a lot of sense when there is a dearth of paid freelance work.

It also seems to me that this is a summer which is notably uninviting, with forest fires threatening holiday beaches and unregulated hordes of tourists turning city sightseeing into a full-contact endurance sport.

In the meantime this summer I'll settle for getting my fresh air via the door to my little balcony, not a glamorous holiday destination, although much enhanced on the rare warmer days whenever Jessi is visiting Auld Da in Munich! 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

28 flavours of nostalgia

Howard Johnson’s restaurants in no less than a thousand locations across the United States had their cultural peak in the early 1960s, four years after I made the notes above, excerpted from an address to my high school assembly and recounting my impressions of our family's arrival in New England a year earlier. Howard Johnson’s served more meals outside of the home than any entity in America, except for the U.S. Army. Probably already forgotten by most people under 50, it would be impossible to overstate the impact that Howard Johnson’s had on mid-century American culture and dining. Its vision of consistency, reasonable pricing, and quality food, replicated ad infinitum by franchisees along the highways from coast to coast, established the blueprint for the modern chain restaurant.

Today my sister Pippa, who in 1955 had been equally amazed, alerted me to the fact that only a single Howard Johnson’s remains and is for sale. Surely a Wolfgang Puck, a Nobu Matsuhisa or a Ludo Lefebvre should pay a tribute, with at the very least a 'pop-up' HoJo serving food that inspires, recalling the American icon and the memories of a generation that grew up passing time on road trips by spotting orange roofs?