Sunday, March 02, 2008

Argentina Christmas 07

December 07 - January 08
Christmas in Buenos Aires is a lot warmer than that in London. Venturing south for the third festive season in as many years was a delight. A great pleasure to be back in leafy Barrio Norte and then, after a short bus ride (by the argentine measure) to the ever-lovley Estancia San Miguel inhabited by its ever-colourful inhabitants including Matteo the tango-dancing dog. Persuading the Don over copious vasos di vinho tinto worked a treat, and sure enough morning dawned with keys in hand of one of the His Excellencie's luxury motors. Off we set on an haphazard cross-continent trip with map and mate, taking in Santa Fe, Cordoba, San Luis, Mendoza, Neuquen, Rio Negro and of course La Pampa, secca y humida. A lively new year was ushered in gorging on the fine steaks and world-class vinatages of the Mendoza bodegas, and at journey's end at a very windy and cold 12,000ft we stared across Acongacgua into the mountains of Chile only to called back by the irrating ever-present 'better' conscience. Many miles of road and several unusual introductions were rewarded with days of siestas and lawn-tennis back at the ranch coupled by the inauguration of the annual San Miguel International Jazz Festival with the Don and his troop beating the rhythms all night long with guitar, bass, drums, piano and voice. Can't wait for next year! Sadly the sands of time trickled only too fast. Your interepid explorer had to return to the frozen north and our livley hostess headed for the sun-soaked beaches of Uruguay. Muchas gracias a todos. Viva el matetito!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Hereford Cricket

16 June 07

A delightful weekend hosted by ND at beautiful surroundings of Gatley. A loose band of cricketing afficianados assembled to form the Gatpack, and enter in to the Herefordshire annual round-robin county social tournament. Despite the monsoon rain we pressed on in the mud and our leading batsman Paget, C inaugurated proceedings after two pints of lager and a warm glass of chardonnay. This was prior to the lunch interval and before setting eyes on any crease (including the ones on his trousers). A team of stylish supremacy with reliable all-round talent the Gatpac snatched last place from a wealth of half-hearted cricketing has-beens. Spirits were subsequently much revived by the luxury Sunday lunch proffered by Lady H with anecdotes of younger days with Jubbles and the Jaipurs. Memorable in excess.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

'You're mad . . . well it probably wouldn't work if I wasn't.'

At World's End - June 7th
A welcome return by Captain Jack and his piratical escapades in the third of this blockbusting trilogy. Gore Verbinski is on more than fine form after a luke-warm middle set, which, as El Blogador so rightly points out, is as much to do with the resurrection of Cpt Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush) who most superbly fulfills all of our piratical expectations.
An engaging plot-line of love, trust and betrayal is as old as mankind himself. There can be little doubt that the basic structure rest firmly on well-trodden ground, and is not so very different to that of Star Wars whose success it seems to have mirrored. With the Black Pearl replacing the Millenium Falcon, the somewhat bland Will Turner struggles to save his pouting princess, and the love triangle is completed by the eccentric Cpt Jack, not so very dissimilar to the Skywalker, Leia, Solo trio. Furthermore in a contemporary sweep the evil empire is replaced by the wicked corporate monster and its subsequent destruction at the hands of plucky underdogs surely accounts for this currrent success as it did for George Lucas in '77.
El Blogador further points out that the film is refreshingly free of bogus counter-cultural cause which undermines so much of the Matrix trilogy, however I do not believe it is entirely devoid of content. In our rapidly homogenising age it taps in to and voices our own not-so-latent concerns about globalisation and social and cultural pasteurisation. In a rare moment of consensual sincerity Messrs. Barbosa and Sparrow survey the slain Kraken. 'The world is a smaller place' mutters one ruefully. ' No' replies the latter ' not smaller, there's just less in it.'
The greatest vehicle for our attention however is its excellent humour, and here one of the finest supporting roles is Jack Davenport playing the straight man to Depp's eccentric. This he achieves with consummate ease in such away that adds a unique Carry On humour, something that has perennially evaded the Hollywood moguls. The humour is ingenious as with its almost surreal one-liners it draws us in to the secret band of piracy and makes the viewer identify more closely with each character. 'Sea turtles' growls Capt Teague in a moment of abstracted humour and we chuckle knowingly at the piratical in-joke.
Most of all I enjoyed the sincerity with with the director passes a nod to a few of his distinguished fellows, a gracious cinematic respect for those gone before takes on a more visual conceit. A nod to Stanley Kubrick in the superb manifestation of Davy Jones's locker, a tot of rum to Sergio Leone in the six man standoff (with Morricone-styled music supplied), and a rattle-of-the-cutlass to John Woo as the wicked Cutler Becket descends from the poop as his ship disintegrates behind him in all-but balletic motion. My favourite of all, and I am sure I am not imagining this, the hat-waving to Werner Herzog's Fitcarraldo as the Pearl cascades majestically down a hillside of sand.
This film does what it says on the tin, even it took three episodes for someone to finally don an eye patch. Furthermore anyone who can create and entertain so many people from so many cultures and countries deserves some respect. Apart from all that it is a darn good yarn - so raise the colours high for the sheer entertainment, and as for the rest just take what you want, or rather, 'take what you can .....'
Arr arr.

A view from on high - Lords May 07

They say two swallows don't make a summer however it would appear that several drafts of Pedigree finest pale ale do. Managing to finally sort my life I joined cricketing afficianados N&J Dunne at our favourite haunt for a full afternoon of test match cricket. The day was made all the more enjoyable by a change of field placings from the Mound Stand to the Vodaphone corporate hospitality suite (courtesy of Elvis) where the aforesaid ales were lavishly on tap. In the words of Felix Lighter it was great to see 'the usual goon squad' around the ground. A delight as always to catch up with the ever-effervescent father of my spiritual advisor (aka God-daughter Eliza) who was inbibing the summer spirit joyfully with the assistance to two jugs of Pimms. I left him and his compadres to enjoy the cricketing from their view on the picnic lawn, and have subsequently ascertained that this finest of gents went on, in true Hogarthian fashion, to 'nod-off' off on his train home, alight at entirely the wrong station, arrive over an hour late for his dinner engagement and have to be helped into his seat at the table. What happened later is not for these pages... such are the joys of the season!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

You should have been here yesterday - Southwest Swell June

2 June 07
Great to be back at the Cove, albeit shrouded in a deep and haunting sea-fret, and much enjoyed the ever-lively company of our very-own captain Jack. Festivities were inaugurated by a rousing late night vino-tinto fuelled chorus with eighty-five flaming candles for an impromptu birthday celebration. Subsequent sore heads were assuaged the following day with the refreshing atlantic breeze.

'You should have been here yesterday' said my sister ruefully. This did not lighten my mood as we stared gloomily at the becalmed fog-bound ocean, however whistling for the wind bought smooth waves on a misty Sunday morning. Great to be back in the sea even if the blue chariot was being clamped by some thug in the car park :o(

Very unamusing.

(Photo attaced: The author's summer residence.)


26th May 07

A real treat to been invited over to the opening of the latest exhibition at Lismore Castle Arts, Titled/Untitled like Hymns Ancient and Modern is a feast of juxtapostion. A series of superb portraits from the Devonshire family archive by a smattering of classy old masters hang in an impressive new gallery wing alongside cutting-edge video installations from the extensive Rubell collection, Miami, colourfully installed in the nearby stable mangers. Thought provoking and highly entertaining for all this display and these beautiful grounds are an experience to be sought out, advisedly after one of Dennis's equally cutting-edge lunches. Gracias to WB and the ever-lovely Laura.

(Photo courtesy of Lismore Castle Arts: Richard Long Exhibit)

Friday, June 08, 2007

Eine gluwein fraulein, schnell ja!

March 18th.
During the oh-so-dark and chilly winter it is a saving grace to spend days in the elegant and secluded mountain village of Klosters. many thanks once again for another seasonal visit chez Fattorini. Arriving in what seemd like mid-summer we were quickly doused by the largest snowfall of the season and spent the ensuing days sking through fresh powder fields albeit in the re-freshing temperature of-12c. Needless to say there were the usual antics, and many thanks to our real-life argentinian ski-champion CL for rescuing a badly need hat that some idiot (me) had manged to throw off a cliff, (photo attached). This was a mere side-show compared to the alarm call from legendary Aunty K who, concerned as to the safety of her favourite son Sebastiano, called out the swiss mountain rescue one evening as an apocolyptic sun descended into the maelstrom of a snarling blizzard. If only he and his wayward friends had thought to lift the phone from its receiver at their warm and comfortable bar stools in the Schwendi hutte halfway down the Gotschna . . .

Thursday, June 07, 2007

South Atlantic Swell - Ipanema January 07

11 January 2007
Nothing like beating the northern winter and starting the year with an Ipanema swing. The waves packed an enthusiastic punch and the ocean was surprisingly chilly however the locals proved to be warm and friendly. My thanks to the de Souza Machado for their true Brasileiro generosity and kindness.

Very nice to have Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountain in your line up at the start of a new year. Obrigado Brazilia!

Buenos Aires - Christmas 06

25 December 06 - Christmas Day.
Managed to escape the insanity of Christmas and head across the equatorial divide to the soft summer breezes of South America. Christmas with the Ruedas was certainly one to remember. Their generosity, kindess and latina charm was unsurpassed, even if the lovely Anita's festive rempages meant empty beer cans in the neighbours garden. Lazy days, and hot nights amongst the brights lights and tree-fronded courts of Buenos Aires swept past. Retiring from city life we escaped for memorable New Year celebrations of assados (and a lot of vino tinto) courtesy of Don Miguel at the glorious Estancia San Miguel, where my easygoing gaucho life continued, floating on a lilo of Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie and all-time favourite Stan Getz. Don't recall doing any washing up ... rsrsrs. Many thanks Mildred.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Western Swells Autumn 06: Dead Man's Chest

Friday 13th, October. Not the most auspicious of days to travel on - I was awaiting the hand of fate not to be disappointed as I turned in through the gates of the Cove. It is rare to see our very own captain Jack ruffled and off kilter, but arrival saw my host ashen-faced and shaken by an ghoulish encounter with the notorious eighteenth century smuggler Captain Carter, King of Prussia. I turned to heartly reviving his spirits with drafts of the finest Total Blackout at the hearth of the Falmouth Packet. It soon became clear that it was not so much the eerie encounter with this ghostly apparition, and his far from haunting wife, but that the fact that they had cruelly relieved him of a chestful of shiny dubloons - more ales were ordered. Despite the evil portent subsequent days of late-summer sunshine matched the glassy Atlantic swell which lazily rolled in. Many happy hours were spent on favourite sands, empty and enjoying a well-earned rest after the frenzied humm of summer. My thanks to Pete and Hannah for their warm and generous hospitality, and a pleasure to meet their new arrival the lovely Isolde. It was with a heavy heart that the road home was trodden.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Wild Gilbert

On the subject of Hurricanes I came across this photo the other day, courtesy of the National Hurricane Centre (US). Gilbert (September 1988) as I understand it, was one of the worst and most intense hurricanes ever recorded in the northern hemisphere. At its peak the winds reached 222 miles per hour as it raked the entire island of Jamaica. Looking at the tiny dot representing the eye of this behemoth, it is amazing to think that anyone or any-ting survived this, I should remember as it past right over my head. The stories of Gilbert, me and the beaches of western Jamaica are longer than I have space for in these pages, however it still makes me chuckle to remember how I ended up in the dock of the 'parish' courtroom of Savannah-la-Mar with half a dozen rastafarians courtesy of Gilbert. Needless to say I was not the one at the thick end of the wedge.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Duty first, self second

The Queen: 20 September 2006.
A cracking perfomance by Helen Mirren as the title role in this chronicle of the latter days of August 1997, as the royal family struggles to come to terms with the ramifications of a car accident in Paris. Stephen Frears' direction is not without humour, and succeeds in avoiding both schmultz snd sicophancy. More that just a biopic study of the tri-partite tensions between the monarch, the House of Wales and the Palace of Westminster, the film reveals the proximity to popular hysteria and civil unrest that was almost precipitated by this crisis. Reassuringly it is clear that the British, unlike our continental cousins with their tumbrils and guillotine, manifest their revolutionary tendancies with flowers. At the heart of the film is the evocative scene when the Queen inspects the mountain of bouquets outside the gates, the very flowers she suggests only moments previously be swept aside for the changing of the guard. A strong supporting cast led by Michael Sheen as Tony Blair 'with his cheshire cat smile', and Sylvia Sims as HRH Queen Mother only serves to further enhance the entertainment. It is interesting and somewhat ironic that Mirren, an ardent republican as I recall, should play such a role so well.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Western Autumn Swells 06: Hurricane Florence

17 September 2006: Hurricane Florence.
The extended tribe had been keeping a sharp weather eye on this particular depression swirling around the Atlantic seaboard of Amercia, and the drums had been beating well into the night. Sure enough come Saturday morning the horses were saddled and the dusty road west trodden at speed for another autumn surfari. An easy sun- soaked Saturday afternoon on the western shores bobbing about in the blue, followed by a round of the habitual boule little prepared us for the kraken to follow. Woken from my slumber under the open skies to the boom of swell on the reef I knew, before I had even opened my eyes, that this was indeed the day. We were not proved wrong. A hearty cooked breakfast courtesy of our ever-lovely support team set us up for one of the most exciting of days as can been seen above (courtesy of, snapped at around 11am that morning. A perfect swell of well over head- high waves battered the sandy shoreline and after a surprisingly easy paddle out much time was spent paddling back in, springing up and subsequently tumbling back down into the 'heavy soil' spin cycle of the Atlantic washing machine. A day we had all been practicing for was well rewarded. Spat back on to the beach in due course we were resuscitated thanks to the kind preparations of the support team and its much appreciated argentine Mate. (Team: The Longboard, Smaug, Cousin Jim, Il Surfero).

Monday, September 11, 2006

An Afternoon at Lord's

Saturday 5th September
The summer of idle cricket gazing was set to continue with a further visit to Lord's. Eagerley anticipating a full day's play hopes were initially washed away with heavy grey skies and perpetual drizzle. To make matters worse it quickly emerged that our tickets has gone awry along with our host, last seen a few short hours before heading gaily into the nightclubs of Chinatown. Desparate phonecalls proved fruitless, however miraculously a lunchtime ressurection saw us swiftly ensconced in our seats as with impeccable timing the covers came off and play commenced. Against all odds the weather held off and the afternoon saw sparkling cricketing action along with the corresponding refreshments, albeit England losing to an emminently superior Pakistani team. Always good news to see the usual goon squad in attendance around this ground, and retire to the boozer for a few pale ales.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Western Swells Autumn 06: Hurricane Ernesto

September 7th
The autumn swells have arrived. Many thanks to hurricane Ernesto for seeing us off to a fine start, with a legendary day on the Devon north shore. Having eagerly studied the charts, a window of opportunity presented itself with optimal swell and minimal wind. The tricky part was prizing surf-legend Giles 'the longboard' Dunn away from his Mac, (and more importantly his blushing new belle). Mission accomplished a breathless day of glassy peeling head-high waves was much enjoyed under a sunny and breathless sky. Our thanks go to Vic and Perry who kindly put-up these migrant surf-gypsies offering true Hardyesque hospitality of the finest pies and ales at the inn. Such a shame that someone left the lunch in the 'fridge. (Team: The Longboard, Il surfero).

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Southwestern Summer Swells of 06

August: Mere mention of the words 'north shore' inspires images of the world's most beautiful and awe-inspiring Hawaiian waves, however it would be churlish to imply that our recent palm-fronded destination was other than north Cornwall. In the perpetual search for the perfect wave it might be argued, with good reason, that Trevose Head in August is perhaps a bit of a long shot. Finely curving swell peeling across the bay showed surprising alacrity despite its diminutive size. There is, nonetheless, a lesson to be learnt in everything. Paddling out in to the extensive blue calm is more of a tonic to the soul than almost anything else, and much of this was done. The day was won however by bravest of the brave, my ten year old nephew who, venturing out one morning with Il Surfero and surf-warrior cousin Jim, displayed his natural aptitude at sitting, turning, paddling and falling off whilst Mother stood rigid at the shoreline white faced and wild-eyed. Should this brief encounter inspire him further to a lifetime of surf-infested happiness than these indeed were no less than perfect waves.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

'Well well well, my dear old thing...'

Friday to Sunday 4- 6 August

My thanks to impeccable hosts WB and the Dunnes. Invited to stray from his habitual southern hunting grounds your intrepid blogger ventured into the arcadian shangri-la of the Yorkshire Dales, and the saxon halls of these northern bretwaldas. Friday night fleshpots of Skipton were justly rewarded with an easy Saturday of nordic axeplay. With the anticipation of Sunday Test cricket your ever-effavescent author rose early for breakfast to witness our host (above) up and wrapped in pristine deep-pile bathrobe dispensing grannie's vintage claret down the drain at 8.15 in the morning. Somewhat unerved at this unaccostomed eccentricity Il Surfero pushed on through with trademark nonchalance and cool. Any enduring trepidation was swiftly allayed. Subsequently ushered into the VIP suites of Headingley cricket ground, and treated with true northern hospitality we savoured the finest of cricketing days gilded by an unexpected visitation from the great Henry Blofeld to boot. What more can be added - the very best of days.

The Don Bradman of Dulwich

Saturday 29th July

Once again thanks to our 'GL' for dragging our energetic author from under the duvet on one of the southwest's finest of summer days. A smokescreen invitation of sedentary spectatorship lured our unsuspecting blogger far south of the Thames to sunny Dulwich where he was swiftly projected into bolstering team membership for the Sussex Swans (the legendary Australian rules team) against the London based Antelopians. Cricketing prowess has never been finer with Samsom running amok with the bat and ball and Il Surfero sweeping the Swans to overwhelming victory with a late play over of minimal pace and bounce snatching the final wicket, (all credit to the alpargatas).

Monday, August 07, 2006

Assados, Mate and Alpargatas

Sunday 23 July.

Having survived her Cornish surf-ari our 'guapa linda' returned match with entry to the Gold Cup polo final at Cowdray. Alpargatas were dusted off and despite our cheering on of the heavily Argentine Elliston team a last minte goal in the final nail-biting chukka sprang-board the Blackbears into pole position. Disappointment was swiftly digested with the assistance of assados at the hospitality suites. A fine day.

'Drink up me hearties...yo ho'

10 July 2006.

As many of our more regular readers will know, your favourite blogger is easily entertained. Nonetheless I urge all of you able to think and speak at the same time to treat yourself to a viewing of this latest epic. Reminiscent of Eli Wallach's mexican stand-off as 'Il Brutto' I will be eagerly pushing forward Ms. Zidane to the Hollywood moguls for the leading role in the final part of this swashbuckling trilogy.

The finest of nuptials

Saturday 24th June:

Congratulations to the Verners. Summer is never summer without a wedding and I was delighted that my old and trusted friend was at last tieing the knot. Under a cloudless sky the blushing bridegroom and bride invoked the four winds and exchanged vows in the cathedral of the Dorset countryside. In pursuit was a rousing and heart-warming chorus to the third hymn, ' Tuma Mina, So man dla, Roma n na, Mo di mo'. A brief interval later our host leapt knaked into the mill-pond somewhat startling a number of the elder, and indeed not so elderly, relatives.

Southwestern Spring Swells of 2006

May 29th 2005.

A rare treat to spend a few days in the company of such an Argentine beauty. Stealing her away from her beloved beau was no easy task, however worth every minute as we sped somewhat slowly down to the great southwestern spring swells. As we can see here Mildred is blissfully unaware of the eight foot wave about to break though her open window. Looks like I shouldn't have parked on that double yellow line after all. (Team: Il surfero and MIss Buenos Aires).

Nothing like the sunshine.

Out west somewhere hot.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


Zidane: Well, this head-butting episode now seems to have been the highlight of the 06 World Cup eclipsing any other kind of goal scoring achievement from around the globe. We still don't know what caused this incident. Was it a racist affront or just a storm in a tea cup? Will we see ZZ flung out of history and and butt his way into legend for standing up for the rights of oppressed minorities? I suggest the role as a Bond nasty could be the next step, or better still the irony of redress in finding an italian director to cast this latter day 'Spagetti' hero in a Christmas blockbuster.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Welcome to Life and the Perfect Wave

Please join your intrepid host in another lifetime's perambulant karmic search for answers, enlightenment, and the perfect wave.

(Above: The elusive wave photographed by the author in the late 70's.)