Arrival

And lo did The Weary Traveler arrive in the Scepter’d Isle, whereupon the fiend Mr. Free Market did take him straight unto a drinking place called The Something Or Other, and did ply this jette-lagged scribe with full many a pint of ale:

…and in vain did your Humble Narrator protest that this was too much, and that he would pay for this loathsome excess in the morn; but his protests avail’d him nought, for his so-called friend simply prevailed upon the publican to bring yet more of the same to the counter, and from good manners did he imbibe all that was put in front of him, yeah until foul drunkennesse did descend upon his poor brayne.

And all that The Weary Traveler could later recall was loud laughter, good tymes, fysshe & chippes, and perhaps pinching the bottom of Mrs. Free Market, for which he hopes she will forgive him. Or maybe ’twas the bottom of Mr. Free Market — the memory be vague ‘pon this point — in which case he got what he deserved, the bugger.

Another Dinner Guest

In an earlier post, I talked about my favorite all-time dinner guest, David Niven. Yesterday I was asked about my favorite living dinner guest, and I do have one, but I need to explain my rationale first.

A dinner party is not a place where I want to engage in deep philosophical discussions, or intense socio-political debate. At a dinner party, I want to be entertained, and the wittier, more erudite guest will always get the nod ahead of someone like, say, Thomas Sowell, who is beyond-words brilliant and a wonderful person to know withal. (My respect for Dr. Sowell is immense. I’ve read pretty much everything he’s ever written, and whenever I see one of his articles online, it’s “drop the baby and get over there” time.) But while Sowell is a brilliant man, he’s not a polymath like I am — most experts are pretty focused on their areas of expertise — and nah, I want a guy like myself, who’s interested in everything, the kind sometimes called a “Renaissance Man”.

Enter Stephen Fry. Read more

Road Music

As a general rule, I don’t listen to music in the car, other than perhaps Dallas-Fort Worth’s classical music station WRR (101.1 FM) if I’m caught in a traffic jam.

On long trips, however, and especially driving through the bleak nothingness  that is northwest Texas, some sterner stuff is needed. Here’s what I brought along for this particular trip:

  • Steely Dan: Citizen Steely Dan
  • Procol Harum: Prodigal Stranger, Shine On Brightly
  • Lindisfarne: Magic In The Air
  • Kate Bush: The Kick Inside
  • Chicago: Greatest Hits Vol I and II
  • Genesis: Duke, …And Then There Were Three
  • Level 42: Running In The Family, World Machine
  • Joe Walsh: Look What I Did (greatest hits)
  • Wishbone Ash: Time Was (greatest hits)
  • Earl Klugh: Heartstring, Living Inside Your Love
  • Strawbs: Bursting At The Seams
  • Peter Skellern: Sentimentally Yours, Cheek To Cheek

…and some classical stuff that nobody’s interested in: Schumann, Rachmaninoff, Saint-Saëns, Chopin, the usual stuff.

Yeah, it’s a strange assortment. I like variety in my music. And yes, they’re all CDs. I see no reason to buy online music when I already have most of what I like to listen to.

 

Bucket List Entry #6: Monaco Grand Prix

Today sees the Formula 1 Grand Prix at Monaco, and while I’ve seen a couple of Grands Prix before (at the old Kyalami track in South Africa, back when SA was still on the F1 calendar), this one is #6 on Ye Olde Buckette Lyste.

So why Monaco, you ask?

For pretty much the same reasons as to why I would want to watch cricket at Lord’s: because Monaco is one of the oldest racing venues — hell, they were racing at Monaco (1929) before there was Formula 1 — and unlike most of the other F1 venues, it takes place inside a city, on city streets. It is one of the crown jewels of motor racing (Le Mans and the Indy 500 being the other two), and it’s one of the few times I can be swayed by that awful word “prestige” when applied to an event.

Besides, it’s Monaco, FFS, itself the crown jewel of of the Midi.

But enough about the place. The race itself is impossibly difficult: winding through narrow city streets, there are no gravel runoffs, very few cushioned buffers (mostly, they’re stern, unforgiving Armco barriers), and if it starts to rain… oy.

Pole position in qualifying the day before almost guarantees victory the next day, so difficult it is to overtake someone. Here’s the famous Fairmont Hotel hairpin (taken at 30mph):

But let there be a slip-up in the pits, a bad tire decision or even a millisecond’s inattention by a driver during the race, and everything can change in a heartbeat.

Fortunately, I can get in to watch the race from a decent location (at time of writing, good Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise) because Longtime Friend and Bandmate “Knob” lives in Monaco, and I have a standing invitation to visit and stay with him for the occasion. For obvious reasons, I couldn’t make it to Monaco this year — e.g. poverty, bad timing etc. — but next year, Rodders [obscure British TV show reference]

Bucket List Entry #5: Cricket At Lord’s

To most Americans, “Cricket” is a darts game, or else a stupefyingly-boring sport played by Brits, or something.

To me, and to millions of people around the world, cricket is the ultimate gentleman’s sport: leisurely, subtle, with occasional moments of great excitement and still-more periods of escalating, gut-wrenching tension made all the more so by the quiet  hours that led up to them.

I’m not going to bother to explain the mechanics of the game: either you know how cricket is played or you don’t, and that’s it. Suffice it to say that there are essentially two kinds of cricket: first, there’s a quick slogfest that takes just a little longer than the average baseball game, but wherein over three hundred runs can be scored by each batting side (as opposed to the average winning baseball score of only four or five runs… talk about boring). It’s called “limited overs” cricket, and as the name suggests, each side gets a set number of “balls” (pitches) to get the highest possible score, the winner getting the higher score. I don’t much care for limited-overs cricket, because it’s just a slogfest (and therefore more popular with hoi polloi, go figure).

The second type of cricket is called “Test” cricket and is played between different nations — mostly, it should be said, by England and the former British colonies: Australia, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Bangladesh and the West Indies. (Other nations also play cricket, e.g. Scotland, Holland, Zimbabwe, Kenya and even the United States, but those are considered lower-class competitions, not Test matches per se.)

Test cricket is played over a much longer period of five days, and each side gets two innings to bat and field. (Unlike baseball, in which only three batters play per innings, cricket has all eleven players bat consecutively in a single innings.) If you think that a game which takes five days is going to be unbearably dull, well, it sometimes is. But that very dullness is not dull for the players, as each side attempts to penetrate the defenses of its opponent whether by bat or by ball, and dullness can be turned into heart-pounding excitement in a matter of seconds, let alone minutes. Over those five days, well over a thousand runs will likely be scored by the two sides — unless of course it rains (something which happens from time to time in England) and the match becomes shortened. It is also possible that five days will yield a draw rather than victory for one side.

Anyway, having not explained cricket to people who aren’t familiar with it, allow me, then, to introduce you all to #5 on Ye Olde Buckette Lyste.

5. I want to watch a cricket match, and preferably a Test match at the Lord’s ground in St. John’s Wood, London.

Lord’s is rightly called the “home of cricket”, and cricket has been played there since 1787 (admittedly, in three different locations, but the current ground had its 200th anniversary in 2014).

Currently, South Africa is touring England, and the first Test will be played at Lord’s on July 6-10 — and Mr. Free Market has informed me that he’s trying to get tickets for at least one of the days. (It’s a difficult task because both England and South Africa have very powerful teams at the moment, the rivalry goes back well over a century, and interest is therefore keen among the sport’s many followers.)

I’m holding thumbs on this one, but I have to say that if he’s unsuccessful, I’ll settle for watching a county match (between the home team and any other county side). It’s Lord’s, FFS, and it’s my personal haj (if you’ll excuse the cultural appropriation).

(Some people may comment on the unsightly colored advertising splodges on the otherwise-emerald-green turf. Don’t get me started.)

And about that rain business:

Colloquially, that’s known as Pub Time. And yes, I’ll be taking my brolly and wellies, just in case.


Incidentally, the darts game known as “Cricket” in the U.S. is called “Killer” everywhere else in the world. Just thought I’d clear that up.