Monday, 30 August 2010

A cheese too far

Cheese seems to attract poetasters, for there are hundreds of odes to it. Here is one written by Deric Guest, and published in Wine and Food, André Simon's Gastronomic Wine Quarterly, in 1950:

How shall my palate aught but fickle be
Confronted with such wealth of choice choice—in Brie,
Blue-veiny Dorset, Wensleydale and Dutch,
Stilton and Gruyère, Shabzieger and such
Exotic brands—for Nature sets no term
To the emulgent products of the lactic germ!
To wash down hunks of cheese from Lancashire;
Broaden my vowels, don corduroys and foster
The yeoman spirit bred on Double Gloucester?
Or, with abandoned braggadocio, dare
The cloying decadence of Camembert?

Passing over the pleasure of finding aught, emulgent and braggadocio cropping up in a bit of facetious doggerel about cheese, it is interesting to note that while most of the named cheeses are not exotic to us now (this was written in the grey postwar days when we still thought olive oil was only for pouring into your ear), one of them is no longer widely known.

Shabzieger? Haven't seen that in Tesco's. Surprising, when Wikipedia, spelling it slightly differently, tells us that it was first made by Swiss monks in the 8th century, that it is produced exclusively by Gesellschaft Schweizer Kräuterkäse-Fabrikanten (well, it would be, wouldn't it?), contains blue fenugreek, and is sold abroad under the name Swiss Green Cheese. It was introduced into New York pharmacies in the 1800s under the brand Sap Sago: perhaps they tried to sell it under that name over here too, which would account for its lack of appeal nowadays.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Great inventions of the last hundred years

Much of my long life has been devoted to the preparation and execution of deeds of unsolicited benevolence, with occasionally, for a change, some completely justified malicious actions causing great distress to the ungodly. In between these tasks I have had many utterly brilliant ideas come to me, often when I am having an attack of OAB. Any of them would make the world a better place. Sadly, it was never possible for me to take any of them forward to a patentable or even marketable stage for various reasons, the most usual one being that to achieve this would call for great energy, hard work, drive, some relevant skill or knowledge, and iron determination. None of these things are within my range and that prevented me from getting any further.

Here are four of them; skip the first if you are easily disgusted:

1  Pukejoy
Everyone knows how awful it is when you think you are about to be sick; you dread the pain and humiliation and the horrid taste you are left with. If you sip a glass of Pukejoy it will neither bring on nor delay the event, but it will ease the expulsion and leave in your mouth une sensation de fraicheur agréable with an overtone of  lemon, spearmint or kiwi fruit.

2  Tyresave
When an aircraft's landing wheels hit the tarmac there is a puff of smoke; this is the tyres burning rubber as they have to accelerate from zero to the landing speed in fraction of a second, and is why the hugely expensive tyres have to be replaced frequently.
It would be quite simple to fit vanes to the wheels, so designed that they will start to revolve in the slipstream as soon as they are lowered. The speed at which they revolve will depend on the speed of the aircraft, so with careful design they will hit the tarmac at exactly the speed needed to ensure that there is no puff of smoke.

3  Styenka Razin
This is the name of an old Russian song to which I intended to write some English lyrics and HERE I explain how Dusty Springfield's brother stopped me from doing so

4  Patients' Symptom Reporting System
This is based on three undeniable facts: that doctors' time is precious, that the waiting room reading matter is always depressing, and that an increasing number of patients would like to tell  tell a computer what is wrong with them rather than a doctor.
In the waiting room there would be a couple of old PCs donated by local firms and a notice would ask patients if they would like to record their symptoms. Those that do can sit down at a screen and switch on: there is no logging on and they are not asked to type in their name: instead, a question appears: What seems to be the trouble? There are a dozen answers offered and the patient chooses one, perhaps my elbow hurts. More questions come up: what they are depends on  the answer given to the first; these might be all the time?, or just when you bend it?, etc. Then so on until the questions have been answered, or the patient is called by the doctor, or just gets fed up. The last button is pressed and the program prints a report and deletes all the information that has been put in. The patient trots into the doctor with it; reading it takes him 30 seconds and he can then carry on the consultation, having saved himself the first  three minutes.

As I explained, none of these brilliant ideas will ever be exploited by me. Of course, someone else might take them up and try, and unless he can produce a document dated prior to this post proving that he thought of them himself then I shall call in m'learned friends; I might well be open to offers over 40%.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Soldiers of the King, Part Two

Warning:  Here are more maudlin reminiscences, continued from  HERE; two clicks on Page Down will move you on to something that may be more interesting.

...After a while it occurred to me that I could have another go at getting a commission, and so I asked to be put in front of a Unit Selection Board. This consisted of the CO and the adjutant, and much to my surprise they agreed that I should be sent back to England for a War Office Selection Board; this was probably because they couldn't find much use for me in the Middle East. While I was waiting they made me a corporal ("umbasha" in Arabic, I rather liked the sound of that) with the idea of giving me some experience in leadership. This was well-meant but very silly: anyone can be a subaltern, but NCOs need to be made of sterner stuff, which I wasn't.

They also posted me to the GHQ Car Company in Fayid, which was a rather up-market affair which had the task of driving senior officers up and down the Suez Canal Road in Humber Super Snipes. It was a nice change, and it was there that I picked up a remark that gave me more pleasure than anything else I ever heard said during my two years service.

We were taking down to Alexandria a brigadier who had just flown in to Suez with his family. I was sitting in front with the driver and the brigadier, his wife and his two small children sat in the back. A few hundred yards ahead we  saw some sort of disturbance going on: no shooting, but a crowd of fellahin throwing stones and generally getting stroppy. We stopped, I cocked my (empty) sten and we sat there and thought for a bit; the children started to chatter with excitement, but the brigadier remained utterly calm and took control:
"Quiet, dears," he said "Daddy's trying to make an appreciation of the situation".

And so the days dragged on, the only event worth recording being a bad attack of Gyppo Tummy which kept me busy during the whole of my twenty-first birthday and the night that f0llowed.  I began to realise that if I was to get home in time to go to Officer Cadet School,  something had to happen soon. My CO, a pompous double-barrelled ass, gave me a cheery greeting from time to time but clearly wasn't interested in furthering my military career. So I did what any ambitious aspiring officer would have done and wrote to my mother; with the help of my brother-in-law she concocted a letter to our MP pointing out that if they didn't get a move it would soon be too late for me to fulfil my destiny. He replied that he was putting my case to the Secretary of State for War, who in turn promised to send a "hastener" to my unit.

To my huge surprise, my mother then received another letter saying that I was to be sent  to England within three weeks. The CO sent for me a couple of weeks later: "Good news, corporal, you're going home!".
"Oh, yes, sir", I replied, "I know, my mother told me last week". He never spoke to me again.

By the end of that month I was on a flight to England.

[Continued HERE 

Sunday, 15 August 2010

A list of gullible idiots

After the Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology, and later the BMA, have clearly and unambiguously recommended that homeopathy should not be financed or supported in any way by the NHS since it is of no value other than as a placebo, it is surprising that the coalition government appears to be evading the issue.

Or perhaps it is not so surprising, since this two hundred year old quackery still has many adherents, most of whom have no idea of its principles, which are clearly nonsensical. For a list of people who believe that magic water with no active ingredients remembers what it once contained and can cure almost anything, look at this petition, now closed after gathering 3,907 signatures.

And there is also an Early Day Motion submitted  by the absurd David Tredinnick and signed by 27 MPs calling on the government to ignore the BMA's recommendation and let homeopathy flourish.  Sadly, among the deluded signatories is Caroline Lucas, the Green Party's sole MP; this may discourage some from voting for her party, which presumably shares her superstitious beliefs.

Somewhat diffidently, I must note that a glance at the list of petitioners suggests that the great majority of them (twenty out of the first twenty-five) are women. There is absolutely no conclusion to be drawn from this, except that in my frivolous little poll a few years ago I was wrong about homeopathy being equally appealing to both sexes, but spot on in my conclusion: that women are more superstitious than men.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Vulnerable men in danger

I have been closely following a worrying case which is currently being investigated by the state police in Massachusetts. A fifth grade student named Betty (to protect her family, her surname has not been published) has been accused of grooming a middle-aged man on the internet. His name is given as "Fatso" Schlegel, and he is an unemployed steel worker aged 54. For months, Betty had been carrying on an email correspondence with him, masquerading as an imaginary steel worker called "Plug" McCory, a man with an unpleasant skin disease and a criminal record.

She gained Schlegel's's confidence by pretending that her (Plug's) interests—shooting craps, pool and possum-hunting—are just the same as his, while concealing her real obsessions, which are Barbie, Sweetie Belle's Gumball House and Snickers.

Her object, of course, was to lure him into a meeting, and she even sent him a photograph of some of the men she tells him that she hangs out with, promising that she would bring them along so that they could all play seven-card stud together. She did not intend to molest him, but was intent on enjoying his disappointment when he came face to face with an adorable golden-haired poppet rather than the bunch of smelly overweight thugs with whom he had been hoping to bond.

Fortunately the police stepped in before the meeting could take place, and we may hope that a stiff custodial sentence for Betty will be a warning to others who might attempt such cruel impostures.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Let me have men about me....

No, on second thoughts let me not. Samuel Johnson noted a useful word for the one in four men and one in three women in the UK who are overweight:

gorbelly [from gor, dung, and belly, according to Skinner and Julius. It may perhaps come from gor, Welsh, beyond, too much; or, as seems to me more likely, may be contracted from gourmand, or gourmand's belly, the belly of a glutton.] A big paunch, a swelling belly. A term of reproach for a fat man.

(According to the OED, Skinner and Julius were right.)