Monday, November 30, 2009

Pass Notes: Sir Jacob Astley

Who is he then? A notable Royalist commander of footsoldiers in medieval times, who fought at both battles of Newbury along with other Civil War battles such as Edgehill. He gained his soldiering experience in the Dutch, Danish and German armies as well as supporting the King is his endeavours against those dour parliamentarians.

Not to be confused with: Rick Astley, a Lancastrian eighties pop phenomenon, thrust into the spotlight by those chart topping producers, Stock Aitken Waterman and made doubly famous by the practice of linking to his most popular video on Youtube, whilst visitors think they are headed somewhere else entirely.

Why is he in the news? Who, Rick? No, Jacob: a rather handsome portrait of him has come up for sale at a London dealers for the princely sum of £16,000. West Berkshire Museum is appealing for donations to help preserve the painting for the good folk of town and their descendants.

How much do they need to raise? I have already told you, £16,000.

Crikey that's a lot. They ought to have a telethon. They could call it Museum in Need or something like that. Come to think of it, that Rick Astley could play a benefit concert, where he plays all his hits.

I don't think he has any associations with Newbury though.

Shame. He does share a name with the great man.

Do say: "For the Crown! For Prince Charles! For the Duke of York!"

Don't say: "Never gonna give you up; never gonna let you down; never gonna turn around and desert you!"

With thanks to the Guardian and the Newbury Weekly News.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Song for Le Manoir aux Quat Saisons

Saturday, October 03, 2009

YouTube - Chromeo - Night By Night (Skream Remix)

Strip away the pomp rock; darken the mood; retain the breathy original vocal with its stylised vocoder treatment and undercut with snare and lashings of deliciously thick, oozing bass. If you like your dubstep glammed up and ready for nightfall, you'll love Croydon-based Skream's remix of those anachronistic Montreal rockers, Chromeo's latest outing.

There's ne'er a song that cannot be improved by running it through the wringer of the remix process and this is no exception. A slice of deconstructed funk from the New World, bettered by the best of the Old World order. Skream is at the peak of his powers, as judged by recent top tunes such as his superior arrangement of La Roux's 'In for the Kill'. Long may he continue to re-imagine likely and unlikely chart challengers.

Watch it here - you know you want to: YouTube - Chromeo - Night By Night (Skream Remix)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Time for a Change?

Is it just me or is it just my body clock that refuses to believe it ought to be doing everything an hour earlier?

I still wake up and feel hungry on Greenwich Mean Time, so I guess I'll have to adjust gradually over the next few days like everyone else. It's a weird thing, this convention that the whole country is suddenly flung into a new time zone. It is like travelling but without the stress, and lo and behold the view out of you front door stays much the same as it did too.

What with the recession raising its angry voice over the winter, perhaps we are moving from meaner times to greener times, as those shoots of the same hue struggle to raise their heads above ground. Perhaps the recovery starts here. The downturn could be a figment of our collective consciousness, much as the summer time is today. If we all think, act and behave as if it is over, it could, just could be all over.

Just as Pestonmania talked us into this economic situation, it ought to talk us out of it again. Sometimes perception is everything.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Urbane Renewal

The seasons have ticked by in a full 360 spin round the sun and we find ourselves back in the depths of winter. Short, dark, misty days punctuated with depressing news stories about the global slowdown, job losses and celebrity misdemeanours. Hard then to break into optimistic vein looking forward to a new year of opportunity, discovery and self renewal.

Into this maelstrom of confused emotion, Channel 4 launch us headlong into TV chef heaven with their now annual 'Great British Food Fight'. How many times does an event have to occur before we can call something annual? Twice will do. Hugh, Jamie, Gordon and Heston - not the latest boy band, but four of the UK's leading cooks. A quartet destined not to indulge in broth spoiling, but to kick start a campaign or two to celebrate all that is great in the state of this nation's tucker and to rid Britain of poor animal welfare.

We need heroes especially at a time like this: leaders who can inspire action in Joe and Joanna Public by getting them to think about what goes on their plate and in their mouths. This is what the 'GBFF' is all about. We try to do our bit - buy organic, free range, locally sourced but there is always more that can be done to eradicate questionable practices from the food chain and to improve the quality of our daily bread.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall may have an exceedingly long and posh name, but he is incredibly down to earth. That's where his roots are or rather those of his vegetables, which he lovingly tends and eulogises over the myriad ways to enliven the taste between ground and table. The pictures that accompany his weekly Guardian column can best be described as 'food porn' (all sensuous close-up and loving lighting), but the copy is definitely by someone who knows his onions ( and leeks).

He isn't afraid of tackling big business either as his campaign against Tesco's cheap chicken has shown. Price is a sensitive issue for many, but for those with a conscience, the sight of mass produced birds, as re-created by the River Cottage master, is fowl play indeed - proof if any be needed that the pursuit of profit can lower standards to the gutter.

Jamie Oliver is another veteran campaigner. His cheeky-chappy persona is employed to great effect in changing attitudes to the convenience meal and to the fast food culture that had permeated our schools. He has championed the underdog too - recognising talent amongst the unemployed and putting it to good use in his restaurant kitchens. His no nonsense approach wins many friends.

Gordon Ramsay is a campaigner too: he has a talent for self promotion matched only by the likes of Richard Branson. Nevertheless, his sheer exuberance and genuine excitement at what can be created in the domestic kitchens of Brown's Britain inspire many of us to don apron, sharpen kitchen weaponry and take the food fight to one of his sumptuous dishes. His passion for his subject erupts in the Tourret's-like outbursts for which he is justly famous, but there is another side to him. He lavishes praise on those that deserve it, whilst heaping withering scorn on the hapless cooks that he meets in his pursuit of bad food around the country.

That just leaves the mighty Heston. What job will the experimental chemist and kitchen alchemist take on? Blumenthal's mission, that he has chosen to accept, is not to tackle the standard of grub in the M4 service station that bears his name. That would be a step too far, maybe. No, far better to beef up the Little Chef. You wouldn't have thought that he would have stayed that way after all those greasy breakfasts, would you? Put the 'midget cook' on a rigorous training schedule, and build up those muscles I say. Perhaps the Fat Duck proprietor (what is is with all these size-ist references?) will heed what I say, perhaps not - but it is bound to be highly entertaining.

These shows are generally aired in January: a month when many of us are in reflective mood - regretting the excesses of the festive period, and hungry for a period of de-toxification and general self-renewal. They capture the spirit of the moment and leave us optimistic for the opportunities offered by the year ahead. The gradual re-emergence of the sun from its winter hiding place assists the healing process for us Northern-latitude folk. Spare a thought then for Equatorial bound people where the days vary little from one season the the next. They don't have the luxury of an Earth centred biorhythm, beating out the passage of time. No metaphorical skin-shedding for them. Boy are we lucky or what?