Wednesday, 21 January 2009

A pair of quadruple whiskies and another pair of pints...

It is possibly one of the most quoted movies of all time. I know people who have memorised the entire script word for word. There are no special effects or fancy Computer Generated Images. And Hugh Grant isn't in it. Yet there can be no doubt that Withnail & I (Richard E Grant and Paul McGann) is one of the most endearing British movies ever released and a timeless cult classic. It is illegal to make it through university without having watched it at least once a term. The BBC reports that Uncle Monty's desolate cottage, in which our two favourite out of work actors 'accidentally' went on holiday, is on the market for a tempting £145,000. This has certainly provided food for thought for this particular blogger. I for one would gladly give up my current life to eek out the more rustic Cumbrian way of life so beautifully captured in Bruce Robinson's tale of two drunken thespians. Who hasn't thought about barging in on the Penrith Tearooms and demanding the finest wines available to humanity, or spending an evening at the Crow? Which student hasn't contemplated necking a bottle of lighter fluid when bereft of alcohol? Who hasn't considered fishing with a shotgun when desperate for "something's flesh"?

No matter how many times I watch this low budget classic, I never get bored of it. Anyway, I can't resist it - please allow me to quote some of my favourite scenes (courtesy of IMDB):

First Policeman: [Having just pulled Withnail driving the beaten up Jaguar drunk & speeding] Bit early in the morning for festivities isn't it sir? [He eyes the pile of empty bottles in the passenger seat]
Withnail: They're not mine, they belong to him [He gestures vainly to the back seat]
First Policeman: [Wrinkling his nose as the smell of Withnail's breath hits him] You're drunk Withnail: I assure you I'm not officer, I've only had a few ales
First Policeman: Out of the car please Sir. [Withnail does not move, the Policeman opens the door abruptly & Withnail spills out then stands against the car, propping himself up - the Policeman offers him a breath test]
First Policeman: Would you fill this bag please sir? [Withnail shakes his head]
First Policeman: Are you refusing to fill this bag?
Withnail: I most certainly am
First Policeman: I'm placing you under arrest.
Withnail: Don't be ridiculous I haven't done anything. Listen, my cousin's a QC
Policeman Two: [Who has been listening - screaming] GET IN THE BACK OF THE VAN!


Monty: As a youth I used to weep in butcher's shops


[approaching the pub]
Withnail: Right, here's the plan. First, we go in there and get wrecked, then we eat a pork pie, then we drop some Surmontil-50's each. That way we'll miss out on Monday and come up smiling Tuesday morning.


Withnail: Right, you fucker, I'm going to do the washing up!
Marwood: No, no, you can't. It's impossible, I swear it. I've looked into it. Listen to me, listen to me! There are things in there, there's a tea-bag growing! You haven't slept in sixty hours, you're in no state to tackle it. Wait till the morning, we'll go in together.
Withnail: This IS the morning. Stand aside!
Marwood: You don't understand. I think there may be something alive.
Withnail: What do you mean? a rat?
Marwood: It's possible, it's possible.
Withnail: Then the fucker will rue the day!

Top Gear's Big Secret About To Be Revealed?

On Barack Obama's first proper day as US President, ITN's Evening News ran with the headline that an impressionable 15 year old schoolgirl, who was missing for about 36 hours, had been found safe and well in France having run off with a pervert. But it was BBC's 'Newsbeat' which has surely unearthed the big story, with the news that the identity of Top Gear's mysterious test driver 'The Stig' may at last have been revealed. He is reported to go by the name of Ben Collins, and while there are no unhelmeted photographs, it inevitably just a matter of time. The world awaits.

Monday, 12 January 2009

The Count Claims Another Victim in Thrilling Lakeside Final

Chekov has poetically described the joys of darts, and I for one am sad that we will have to wait another 51 weeks for the return of The Count, Wolfie, Bobby and co. The thud of the steel tips into that cork circle is surely one of the most satisfying sounds in sport (alongside Anna Kournikova’s forehand grunts).

This year’s tournament produced some memorable games, not least the Final, in which Ted Hankey almost contrived to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It would have been painful to watch Hankey if O’Shea did clinch it but thankfully he stumbled across the finishing line. One thing that really comes across when watching these players is the simple humanity and realism of it all. There is no pretentiousness and the players, whilst obviously disappointed in defeat, appear happy to take a place in the audience and cheer on their pals.

My favourite moment this year was a live interview between Ray Stubbs and Ted Hankey, who had just won his quarter final. Hankey was providing us with a detailed account of the benefits to his game of relative sobriety and a new found ‘healthy’ lifestyle. Stubbs then enquired as to whether he was now away to get some rest and prepare himself for the semi final. “No” was Hankey’s response. “I’m away for a fag”! Superb.

Liverpool Stutter as Benitez Falls into Sir Alex's Trap

Liverpool extended their lead at the summit of the Premier League on Saturday with a 0-0 draw against Tony Pulis’s well organised Stoke outfit. But the feeling amongst supporters is one of deflation and yet another missed opportunity. Many will see this as two points dropped for the Merseysider’s, but in truth they were lucky to escape the Potteries with a point, such was the dismal nature of their performance. Indeed, this was one of their worst showings of the season – all the more strange following such an impressive display in their last league outing against Newcastle. Yet again Rafa Benitez demonstrated his unpredictability by selecting Dirk Kuyt as a lone striker and leaving both Torres and Keane on the bench. It has been blindingly obvious for the past two years that Kuyt is not suited to leading the line by himself. Sure enough the Reds failed to create anything of note in the first half. Benayoun, having recently vented his frustration at not being a first team regular, was dire. Frustratingly, it took Benitez until after the hour mark to introduce Torres, but even he could not find a way past a stubborn Stoke rearguard. Gerrard glanced the post in the dying minutes, but a defeat would have been harsh on Stoke. The Reds now face a difficult run of fixtures including a Merseyside derby and the visit of Chelsea to Anfield. I will be surprised if they remain top by the end of the month.

Aside from the match it was manager Rafa Benitez’s bizarre press conference on Friday which drew most of the focus at the weekend. His verbal attack on Alex Ferguson has apparently backfired already, with Manchester United easily brushing aside a hapless Chelsea side 3-0. Quite why he felt the need to get involved with Ferguson at this stage of the season, particularly in such a calculated and predetermined fashion (he produced a sheet of A4 at the press conference) is anybody’s guess. Some have pointed to Ferguson’s assertion a few weeks back that Liverpool do not have the experience to go on and win the title, but in responding to this Benitez has fallen into his trap. This is a classic Ferguson tactic – making a seemingly unremarkable observation through the press and waiting for his opponent’s response. There was absolutely no need to pick a fight. I suspect he was also trying to put Ferguson off balance ahead of a key game, but following yesterday’s result it has apparently had the opposite effect. Or maybe he is attempting to emulate Jose Mourinho’s famous ‘outbursts’ in trying to get under Ferguson’s skin. However Benitez’s mannerisms, personality and slightly fragmented English does not help him in such situations. As far as I am concerned he would have been better advised to retain the moral high-ground and just keep quiet.

Regardless of the spat, Manchester United’s recent good form looks ominous, whilst Liverpool retain an air of inconsistency. Sadly United are huge favourites now to go on and claim a 3rd successive title.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Tasting Notes - Taylors Late Bottled Vintage 2001

As my drinking habits mature, I am becoming quite fond of the occasional port. Although I am by no means a connoisseur (yet), I am aware that Taylor's are one of the biggest names in port production. They are, if you like, the 'Ferrari' of the port industry. I enjoyed this 2001 as a Boxing Day aperitif, prior to imbibing in the more serious post dinner business of Jack Daniels. Indeed, I enjoyed it so much that I have since acquired a further bottle for my own casual consumption. It is of a deep red appearance, and slightly opaque. To the nose it is peppery and packed with fruity aromas, including rhubarb and perhaps a hint of elderberry. On the palate there is much more fruit, a hint of 'summer pudding' and dark, rich tannins infused with feint notes of licorice. The finish is bold and lasting, with a sweetness emerging and woody spices on the death. Highly recommended.

Shooting Stars

One of the best offerings on TV over the Christmas period was the Shooting Stars documentary. What a great show this was!


I'd just like to wish all my readers a very Happy New Year. I hope all your wishes for the year come to fruition. Personally, I am aiming to ease back on the bottle and find some stability. My blog has suffered recently due to excessive drinking. A friend of mine once said "Listen son, keep some perspective. Don't enjoy the high's too much, and then the lows will be easier to deal with. Stay on the middle ground." I think I know what he means.

I'd invite all readers to share their new year resolutions.