Monthly Archives: May 2011

Cream tea

I was complaining about my recent ‘cream tea’, courtesy of a German airline. Regardless of Nicola Morgan’s tale* of her Taiwanese visitor who accidentally put whipped cream in his tea and pretended it was quite nice, tea really tastes better without. (*Your cream in the tea story reminds me of when a Taiwanese man came to stay and we thought it would be nice to show him an “English” tradition. — Anyway, inevitably, he dolloped the clotted cream into his tea while our mouths were too frozen to warn him in time. He pretended it was delicious…)

So why call it cream tea?

I recall my first almost encounter with the stuff, back in January 1978. A group of us were driving from Harwich to Brighton and needed to stop and feed en route. I would guess we were in Kent, somewhere. It was Sunday evening and it was before everywhere started being open for business at all times, day and night. So we were grateful to find somewhere reasonably nice looking that was still open.

We ordered tea and scones. We knew that much. ‘Do you want cream tea?’ asked the waitress. ‘No, we’d like it with milk’ we replied, thereby narrowly avoiding a lovely treat.

Cream tea

I believe we all learned about cream teas during that spring term in Brighton. We certainly spent enough time at the Mock Turtle tea rooms, debriefing after exams.

Later on, also in Brighton, the Resident IT Consultant and I used to calculate whether we could afford a cream tea at the end of our Sunday walks. The tea usually won, because what’s the point of having walked to Rottingdean and then not having tea? £1 is what it cost in those far flung days.

Those foreigners not too stupid to ‘get’ what cream tea really is, tend to like it a lot. You sort of learn that it’s something you order when you’re doing touristy stuff in England (and Scotland if you visit Nicola Morgan).

Round about the time we relocated to Manchester, friend Pippi reported that someone from her local Swedish paper had visited that north western paradise, and how he had gone to the tourist information and asked where he could find somewhere nice for cream tea. They had looked at him bleakly and informed him that they didn’t engage in such things in Manchester.

Absolutely right!

Now it’s a lot easier, with lattes and muffins all over the place. And if you want cream in your tea, all you need to do is fly with certain airlines.

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Roger Whittaker, Köln, 2011

Roger Whittaker concert

Seeing the hordes of grey-haired fans walking towards the concert venue – in this case Köln’s Lanxess Arena – it’s easy to be dismissive of the ‘easy listening’ aspect of Roger Whittaker’s repertoire, but when you know for a fact that two hours later those fans will be dancing in the aisles, you understand that Roger is no ordinary singer.

Speaking of aisles; this time Roger entered from the back, and came down the aisle on my side. He often does this, but usually I sit on the left, whereas this year Son and I were on the right. I’m glad that Roger moved accordingly. The young and callous Son wondered if Roger was up to all this, but on studying his sprightly climbing of the stairs onto the stage concluded that he needn’t worry.

Roger Whittaker

For the most part the programme was similar to the last few tours, with a couple of new songs thrown in. We like the old songs. Why change a winning pattern?Wonder what I would have thought 42 years ago if I’d known that I’d be in Köln hearing Roger sing New World in the Morning in German all those years later? Most songs were in German, with a few sung in English. I think you get more of them the further west Roger is.

Roger Whittaker

Most of the band have been with Roger for several tours and so has singer Angie Horn, while Anya Mahnken was new, and she has a great voice. Good old Künstlerbetreuung George Thornton was there, handy with his mobile phone when Roger felt the need to phone up for 2000 beers for his friends in the audience. I suppose we needed to drown our sorrows over this being Roger’s very last last tour. He did seem to mean it. The ‘goodbye Köln’ sounded heartfelt.

Roger Whittaker

He started with Albany and went on to Alles Roger and Shannon River Lady. Mexican Whistler, The Last Farewell and Sawa Sawa were followed by Sieben Jahre, sieben Meere, Die letzte Rose and then it was time for another bad green hat to accompany Uncle Benny. I think Roger could do with a hat-putter-on person, as this hat was very flat and lopsided, albeit covered in shamrocks. We had Chengalip where we all hey-heyed as well as ever, and the girls persuaded Roger he’s not quite past it as far as Blue suede shoes is concerned. The first half ended with Liebe endet nie.

Anya Mahnken, Roger Whittaker and Angie Horn

Then it was time for more beer and sausages for the German audience, with the odd Brezel thrown in. Not sure if people were cutting down on the eating and drinking, but there were definitely fewer gifts and flowers. Times are hard. I don’t think it’s that people don’t feel Roger doesn’t deserve gifts.

Roger Whittaker

Dankeschön and Goodbye Geronimo kicked off the second half, and after River Lady Angie sang Leben mit dir with Roger and with Anya he did Ein schöner Tag. Das Lied von Aragon is always stirring stuff and that goes for Die Schneeweißen Tauben, too. Wir sind jung and Lass mich bei dir sein were followed by the appropriately titled Abschied ist ein scharfes Schwert. I’m sure I saw Roger wipe away tears.

Roger Whittaker

Eloisa sort of finished the second half, except we always know it doesn’t. Roger took very little persuading to sing Danke Deutschland, which brought everyone to their feet. Yes, even me. As I wasn’t actually taking notes at the time, being too busy with the dancing (all right, the wriggling of hips and things, and stamping of feet and clapping of hands), I have totally forgotten what the next song was.

Roger Whittaker

But we all know what has to come last; Ein bisschen Aroma. Roger went over to George for a quick sip of something, before launching into the last (?) Aroma for Köln.  Most of us who could, flocked to surround the stage, stamping and clapping and singing along. And as usual Roger disappeared off, leaving the band to finish. Though he did stop to say goodbye, so maybe he really means it this time.

Martin Meyer, Roger Whittaker and Roland Cabezas

(Photos by Ian Giles)

As Deeks said,

I would if I could. But I barely can, and what a dreadful sentence that is. In more ways than one. RSI, dear readers and I’m off on a three day enforced silence. But NCIS: Los Angeles finished so high after such a very good second season that I must say something.

As cliffhangers go, that was quite a good one, in a quiet kind of way. Hetty might not be about to be shot or otherwise murdered – immediately – but it’s interesting. It will be especially so if and when Callen bursts through the door, seeing as he’s ‘dead’.

Yes, as someone said, that rooftop looked very similar to Dom’s last rooftop, but maybe L A is full of such rooftops. What do we Europeans know?

Nice to see more of Vance in L A, and I know some viewers can’t stand Nell, but she’s really growing very nicely. She is my most popular search on here, and I only wish I had far more facts to offer up. But at least she and Eric didn’t resign.

Apart from the fact that Hetty’s replacement doesn’t seem capable of actual management, I quite like her. Something could develop there. But more as an agent than as boss. In fact, she’s a Macy look-alike, isn’t she? She looks like she too could have annoyed Gibbs at some point in the past.

And speaking of Gibbs, we need some thoughts on the end of season eight. But not here and not now. As for L A, I reckon the ending will have people waiting for September already.

Eurovision – a post script

Not only am I a fortunate witch, but my earlier post on Bookwitch about it being a small world, is definitely true here. Less than four years ago Son told me about his teacher in one of his subjects at university. (Isn’t it nice that he talks to me?) It took me a while to make the connection, but his teacher began reading and commenting on the witch blogs. Apart from being nice, Lauren also knows more than I do about most of my Culture topics. If I need to know something, I can always trust her to sort me out. If I’ve seen something early, she saw it before me, and some. And she always has the DVD box set.

So it’s hardly surprising that she went to the Eurovision dress rehearsal last week. And she promised to bring me back a little something. I’m very grateful to her, and I apologise for any suffering that might have taken place in the interests of this post. Over to Lauren:

My initial comments after watching the dress rehearsal/jury final were as follows…

Intro act: surprisingly entertaining, and probably justifies Stefan Raab’s presence as host. He certainly wasn’t there for his English skills or suave appearance in a suit! (Question: will international audiences find German humour funny?) Anke Engelke is fantastic, however. We left the hall shouting ‘Danke, Anke’, and weren’t the only ones. But I’m fairly sure it wasn’t coincidental that she did all the linking moments which required actual brainpower…

The songs: My favourite – Iceland. Crowd favourites – Germany (obviously), Ireland, Sweden, UK. Grandma’s favourite – Finland. Bookie’s favourite – France (?). Dark horse – Azerbaijan. Trashiest outfit – Slovenia, closely followed by Hungary. Weirdest act – Moldova. Most of-out-tune – Lithuania. Most overshadowed by background action – Ukraine. What were they thinking? – Georgia. Dodgiest hair – Denmark and France. Most retro – Serbia. Welcome back – Italy. Nice but bland – Switzerland. Best ‘feelgood numbers’ – Romania, Spain, Iceland. Best voice – Austria. Biggest fear – that Ireland wins! (Does Europe have *less*’ taste than Britain?)

It was interesting to see how different things sound in the hall and at home on television. A few acts improved noticably between Friday and Saturday – Italy was much better, and more in tune, as was Serbia and Georgia (whom I still couldn’t stand, but at least resembled a rock song instead of a mistake) – while others remained abysmal. (UK, for a global pop act you really need to try and find a tuning fork somewhere…)

The arena felt smaller than it appeared on TV, but they had transformed the football stadium very well. The atmosphere was incredibly friendly, complete with face painting, cocktails and a lot of strange outfits. One amusing thing to note was how obvious the pyrotechnics are in the arena – the fireworks almost deafened us, and Greece’s flames felt rather like an instant blowtorch. I wouldn’t want to have been sitting any closer.

Also entertaining was watching the mock vote after the interval act (forgettable). Apparently the video links need to be rehearsed too, so we were witness to a selection of actual hosts and substitutes in dreadful clothes reading a selection of fake numbers. This requires more skill than you’d think – the ability to announce ‘This is the result of the Moldovan’ and recite 8, 10 and 12 points is not exactly universal.

I watched the actual final at a party with a group of dedicated Eurovision fans, and none of us could agree on a potential winner, so the fairly wide distribution of points didn’t come as much of a surprise. We tipped Italy, just, over Serbia (who we knew would never win given they didn’t sing in English.) However, we suspected Euro-popular but bland would probably just make it, so the eventual winner wasn’t a great surprise. (They’d been my dark horse). I think we thought Sweden might just make it over the line instead. Italy’s position caused great jubiliation at our party, and some irritation – not only did we vastly prefer the song, none of us can possibly travel to Baku next year.

That’s probably enough rambling to be going on with. The whole occasional was ridiculous, but it was certainly an experience, and I’m very glad I went, even if I couldn’t get tickets to the actual final.

Danke, Lauren. So grateful that someone is mad enough to travel far and wide for some culture.

Case Sensitive

They don’t always get things right when dramatising books for television, do they? Especially not the books you’ve actually read. To watch, or not to watch?

I didn’t have time to catch Sophie Hannah’s Point of Rescue under its new title Case Sensitive over the recent Bank Holiday, but we watched at our earliest convenience the other night. That way we also got both parts at the same time.

Sophie writes long books, so I had concerns that two hours minus commercials wouldn’t be long enough. Needn’t have worried. This was perfect. Probably one of the more successfully dramatised crime novels I’ve seen. The plot had obviously been boiled down somewhat, but not so anything vital went missing. And at first I had looked at pictures of the two detectives and thought they didn’t look a bit like they do in my head. But they did act like them.

Sophie Hannah, Point of Rescue

I’ll want to see more of them. The only problem with Charlie and Simon were that they didn’t get to begin at the beginning. This is Sophie’s third novel, and the socially awkward event they are both skirting round happened after the first book (I think) and is referred to in the second story. So we can’t very well go back. Or maybe we can? It would have been so easy to have them fall in love, whereas they are both so prickly and wounded and it’s hard to see them ever getting close again. Darren Boyd played Simon Waterhouse better than I could have imagined possible.

The plot is one I first heard Sophie describe at an event, before the book was published, and it’s as chilling as all her crime plots. I’d be scared to be inside her head, but at the same time she is spot-on with her observations on the lives we lead. Not that I go round murdering all day long, but you know what I mean.

More than one husband with more than one dead wife and daughter, and a general confusion of who is really who, all the while there might be an insane murderer out there. Rupert Graves looked suitably suffering as one of the bereaved husbands.

I hope there will be more. Although I have to admit to having read only the first three books. On the other hand I bought the fourth book twice, which might make up for things.

Eurovision Song Contest 2011

Eric Saade, Sweden

Don’t get all excited. I have nothing terribly deep to say about this. Poor Daughter ‘had to’ attend a friend’s 18th birthday, but left early to watch on the box, two hours behind everyone else. It felt slightly weird to sit down to listen to the songs when most of the world was almost at the nul points point.

Can’t say there was much to get excited about this year. Didn’t think much of the Swedish song when I first heard it in February, but it was surprisingly good compared to many. Would like to know what that Graham Norton meant when he said we’d smile (or was it laugh?) when Jedward came on. We hoped for the best, but found nothing to smile about. The fact they didn’t win was a relief, but he won’t have known about that.

Graham’s commentary was enough to make you wish Terry Wogan would return from the dead. What’s that? He’s not dead? In that case, what’s he doing not being on the programme?

They all seemed to sing standing or generally cavorting on some kind of weird, large plastic button. Some songs were better than others. I have reached the stage where I don’t keep track of songs, so can’t say if there was one I preferred. Not Azerbaijan, that’s for certain.

Whereas it’s good that performers are now more fully dressed than they used to be, to wear your trousers down at knee level is so not an attractive look. Just saying.

The good thing with watching a recording was that even Daughter got too tired to stay up until the bitter end. I was fascinated by Twitter and Facebook, as everybody were all so far ahead. When Daughter asked did I know who’d won, I said yes, and she said to tell her and that way she could go to bed.

This shortened the night by at least 90 minutes.

The other thing about Twitter was surprise at who actually watches, and that they don’t mind admitting it. And I speak as someone who doesn’t think Eurovision is a joke.

Yet.

The Doctor’s Wife

Am I the only one who doesn’t feel that the Doctor can have the Tardis for his wife? Even if she is sexy? That said, it was a good episode, and maybe they should ask Neil Gaiman to write some more.

Neil Gaiman, Suranne Jones and Matt Smith

And preferably they should gag the Times who reputedly provided the full plot in today’s paper. Bad enough when they do that in a review after the programme’s been on.

Great to have Rory as ‘the pretty one’. No reason he shouldn’t be. Amy can’t have it all. Fun with the Doctor building himself a new old Tardis. Looked a bit half-built to me, though. And a well spoken baddie is always charming.

The Doctor's Wife