Prole Drift

I think it was the late (and much-missed) Paul Fussell who in one of his books (either Class  or Bad ) coined the term “prole drift” to describe how American society was shifting inexorably towards the working classes in terms of clothing, manners, taste and so on.  (Aside:  I love books written by ur-patricians like Fussell because I’m one of them, and unashamedly so.)

So I gladly admit to bias when I read articles like this one:

Almost a quarter of the population of Marlow in Buckinghamshire are aged over 65 and many of them think a Wetherspoons pub will attract ‘the wrong sort of people’.

For Readers of the non-Brit persuasion, Wetherspoons is a massive chain of pubs found all over the place, whose modus operandi  is typically to buy a failing pub (or any failing business, for that matter) and reopen it (sometimes under its own name even) as a place that sells cheaper fare — beer, wine, food whatever — to attract a large and it should be said loyal customer base.  Needless to say, the toffs and trendies tend to look down on Wetherspoons because inevitably, the kind of people attracted thereto are quite definitely Not Our Kind, Dear.

So this latest kerfuffle in Marlow should be seen in that context.

As it happens, I’ve actually been to Marlow simply because in looking for a place to have lunch while on a road trip, I took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up there.

It is undeniably beautiful, as these English small towns go, but like the curate’s egg, only in parts.  While the main street is lovely, there are also parts that resemble Typical Brit Suburbia (i.e. fugly semi-detached dwellings) with a population to match. Not Yorkshire Mining Town, to be sure, but not a place where Mr. Free Market would feel at home either.

Here’s what I discovered when I retraced my steps and went back up to Marlow Road (the main drag):  fucking hell, it’s an expensive place to eat and drink, even by Brit standards.  Worst of all, the high street pubs are of the gastropub variety — at least, the ones I looked at were — and when I finally did find a place to eat — off the main street —  I ended up ordering a simple cheese sandwich, chips and a pint which still set me back close to £10 (which was a lot, back in the early 2000s, when the same meal in London cost me just under £5).  I don’t remember which pub it was, but it sure as hell wasn’t The Coach (as mentioned in the article).

So I can see why Wetherspoons would choose to open one of their corporate or franchise pubs there, because if you’re not one of the Snooty Set, there’s nowhere to get a decently-priced pub lunch in Marlow.  And while the Snooty Set are well represented in the town’s demographics, there is also a sizable percentage of people like, well, you and me;  and that that makes for a sound business case.

Finally, I find the outrage at the “prole” Wetherspoons to be hypocritical.  Why?  Because on that same Marlow Road can be found a Domino’s Pizza and Subway sandwich shop.

And if that ain’t prole, I dunno what is.

Not Even For The Chocolate

I’ve recently been hammering on about re-visiting Britishland and doing a pub tour of the villages therein.  But I’ll be skipping this one:

Tiny English village is like going back to the 1960’s with chocolate-box houses
Located in southwest Birmingham, Bournville is a tiny village that was built by the Cadbury family.
The model village was founded by George and Richard Cadbury, the sons of John Cadbury.
You don’t have to be from Birmingham to instantly recognise the name, Cadbury, with the chocolate giant celebrating its 200th anniversary this year.
John Cadbury originally opened a small shop on Bull Street where he sold tea, coffee and hot chocolate.

All well and good.  However:

Because of its Quaker heritage, there are no pubs in Bournville.

So… pass, then.

Not that I’d want to go anywhere near Birmingham anyway, having been warned off by Mr. Free Market and other such worthies.

Here’s an alternative:

More my kind of place altogether.  That’s in Burton, Gloucestershire:

Note the uh, other attractions thereabouts.  Yes, altogether much better than some silly Quaker stronghold.  And they even serve brekkie.

Itchy Feet & A Thirst

Just as a pretty girl makes one’s loins stir, and a lovely gun makes the trigger finger twitch, this article by Tom Parker-Bowles makes me want to sell everything I own and take a trip to Britishland, just to visit the pubs he talks about.  I mean:

The 50 cosiest pubs in Britain. From roaring fires in winter to breathtaking riverside views and — of course — a fine selection of local ales on tap, the watering holes you’ll want to linger in

To my absolute chagrin, I haven’t been to any of them;  although I would put some of my favorite pubs — e.g. The King’s Arms in All Cannings, Wilts. — against all of them.

And leaving The George Inn in Norton St. Philip off the list of West Country pubs is nothing short of a travesty.

Of the Haunch of Venison in Salisbury, or rather its omission, we shall not speak.

Frankly, I don’t care about the view in a pub — unless it’s that of a pretty barmaid — because I go to a pub to drink and make merry with friends and not to look out over a valley, a canal or the sea.  Atmosphere is the thing, only in that it makes the merrymaking easier and me less likely to leave after only a cursory pint (it’s happened).

Also less important is the food;  I look with alarm at some of Parker-Bowles’s choices (caramelized shallot and thyme tarte tatin — WTF is that?), when all I’m looking for is a decent fish & chips, a sausage roll or even just a toastie or cheese sarnie.  (Fortunately, I see that Mr. Parker-Bowles dined mostly on good pub fare like toasties, stews and ox-tongue sandwiches.  Attaboy.) Whatever.  I don’t go to a pub to eat, FFS, I go there to carouse.  Eating is best done in restaurants or at street stalls, where booze is the accompaniment rather than the raison d’être.  Of “gastropubs” we shall not speak, either.  (Okay, just one:  I remember going to one such excrescence in London somewhere, and upon reading the menu that featured overpriced crap like “Sea salt & cracked black pepper squid, £28.75”, asked for a bag of potato crisps — to be met with a supercilious sneer and a “We don’t serve that kind of thing here” response.  I left after drinking only half my pint of — mediocre — ale.)

Anyway, as I said at the start, I need to get over there and try some (all?  ye gods) of these places out for myself.

(I know, I know:  a half-pint?  It was my “taster”, followed soon by a full pint, or maybe two.  My memory is somewhat fuzzy, as often happens.  That was at The Haunch.)

Also, I need to revisit some of my old haunts:

Let’s just hope they all survived Teh Covid.

But I sure as hell won’t be going to this foul place, and that’s for sure:

For nearly 200 years, the Stag Inn has been the beating heart of a tiny village. But a recent revamp has split opinion, with some welcoming the modernisation and others claiming its ‘spit and sawdust charm’ has been ruined by being turned into a trendy gastropub.
Critics say unacceptably avant garde measures at the drinking hole in West Acre, Norfolk, including graffiti in the toilets, an upmarket menu with options such as venison burgers, and garishly-coloured furniture have driven them away.

Me, too.  No pics because ugh, as you will see if you dare to click on the link.

Going Greek

New Wife sent me this pic, suggesting that it might make a nice break from my usual laptop wallpaper fare of gloomy Paris streets and snowbound European countrysides:

It’s lovely, and it shows a part of the world — the Greek coast or Greek Islands — that I’ve never visited before (I know, I know).  One day, though… and she wants to go (back) very badly indeed (yeah, she’s been there, pout pout).

(cue Greek music)

What gets me is not so much the scenery as what the table evokes in me, which is:  Greek food.

I love it.  One of my favorite restaurants in the world used to be the Greek-Cypriot Kolossi Grill in London (now permanently closed because Covid, apparently grr grrr grrrr), because

Greek food + Greek wine + shouting Greek waiters + Greek atmosphere = Kim In Heaven

There’s not a single Greek dish I don’t enjoy (unless it’s crap like octopus etc. which I won’t eat in any language).  Spicy lamb, Greek salata and souvlakia… my mouth waters as I write the words.  On one of my trips Over There, I found a Greek gyro stand just off Shaftesbury Avenue and ate there four times in a single week.

And let’s hear it for retsina — or, as most non-Greeks cruelly call it, Lysol.  I can’t drink it unless I’m eating Greek food, but as an accompaniment thereof I won’t drink anything else.

Back when I lived in the Chicago area, I had the real pleasure of meeting up with one of my old South African friends, a Greek named (not George but) Paris, and his wife Debbie, who had all just emigrated from South Africa and taken a job in Chicago.  Of course, he wanted to know about things like Greek food stores and restaurants, so I pointed him at those and suggested we try out the nearest Greek restaurant from our houses (and not one of the ones in Greek Town Chicago).

Anyway, we walked in and Paris did the Greek greeting thing with the owner (thereby ensuring that we’d get the good Greek food and not the shit they pass off on non-Greeks — yeah, it happens).  When we sat down, Paris took away my menu and said, “Let me do the ordering” and I acquiesced with pleasure.  We ate Greek style, i.e with huge plates of food in the middle of the table, from which each diner helped themselves according to preference.  I of course had something from every damn plate, and Debbie  said, “Kim, are you sure you have no Greek blood in you?  Because there’s stuff here that I don’t even eat.”  I would have answered except my mouth was full.  And yes, there was retsina, gallons of the stuff;  and at the end of the evening, Paris wouldn’t let me pay for anything because, as he put it, “It’s such a pleasure to see a non-Greek enjoy Greek food as much as you do.”  I would have replied except I was lying on my back, groaning from Teh Gluttony.

Good times, good times.

Where was I?  Oh yes, the Greek thing.

As I said, Greece is the one place in Europe I haven’t been to — no reason, I just never got there for some reason — and I have to admit that I am a little intimidated by the language barrier.  I’m not that way anywhere else in Western Europe because of my French and German, and even in Italy and Portugal I can get by, at least to the point of understanding street signs and menus. But Greek…?  The different-looking alphabet means I’m clueless, and whereas I usually just grab a phrase book and learn a few things in the native lingo before I go somewhere, places that don’t use the Western alphabet are ummm more problematic.  (One of my Greek buddies wickedly suggested that my German would get me around quite well in Athens or the Islands, but I wasn’t born yesterday.)

Not that it matters much.  If I somehow got the opportunity to go to Hellas, I’d be there in a shot.  I can deal with the language problem when I get there.

After all:  how bad could things get?

Relative Pricing

As Loyal Readers all know, New Wife is currently back in the Former Racist Republic to dote over the latest grandson.  While there, of course, she has been shopping up a storm — which I don’t mind because of the exchange rate (R1.00 ZAR = US$0.05).

And as long as she spends it on food, I don’t care.  Here, for example is what she’d pay for pigs-in-a-blanket at the supermarket:

For the mathematically-challenged, that works out to thirty of those freshly-baked puppies for US$5.

When people talk about the evils of inflation, let me remind everyone that when I left the Racist Republic in 1986, the exchange rate was about 50 cents (SA) to the dollar (US).  That’s what an annual “official” inflation rate of ~15% will do to your currency over thirty-odd years.

Anyway, after getting several pics of that nature, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll head over to Dunkin Donuts.  That’ll show her.

Too Much (Hot) Air

Apparently, we’ve been drinking champagne All Wrong:

A wine expert has revealed why you shouldn’t drink Champagne out of a flute [glass, not musical instrument — K]. Master Sommelier Olivier Krug, from Krug Champagne, was a guest on the ‘Got Somme’ podcast hosted by Angus O’Loughlin and Carlos Santos, and suggested using ‘proper’ glassware — such as a pinot noir or chardonnay glass — to taste all the elements of the champagne.


I’ve never cared for champagne:  too gassy, mostly crap-tasting inferior wine, it’s a triumph of marketing over quality.

“Ah but Kim, you’ve just never tried the really good stuff!”

LOL.  I remember once going to a brand promotion party at some mansion in Newport RI and being given a glass (or two) of their “premium” plonk — from memory, it retailed for $420 a bottle, in the 1980s — and thinking that it tasted like inferior fizzy apple juice.  I’ve forgotten the brand;  Dom Perignon?  Moët et Chandon?  Taittinger?  Bollinger?  But it wasn’t Veuve Clicquot, which really does taste like inferior fizzy apple juice.

Frankly, I find that champagne / sparkling wine works best as a component of the brunch staple, Mimosa (or Buck’s Fizz, as the Brits call it), as long as the drink contains much more orange juice than champers.
[Side note:  don’t bother using freshly-squeezed OJ in a Mimosa:  ordinary pasteurized crap works just fine, in fact Tropicana may be even better fit for purpose than the pricier-than-gold squeezed.]
And if you’re going to mix champagne with anything, you may as well save your money and use Korbel or the like, rather than the aforementioned overpriced Frog Appellation Controlée* stuff.

Okay, I’m just a Bloody Peasant and you’ve bought into the whole Champagne thing:  here are a couple of places to get a “best of” list:  18 Best Sparkling Wines to Drink in 2023 and 12 Best Sparkling Wines From All Over the World.

All that said, one of my favorite apéritifs is called a Golden Dream:  peach-flavored schnapps and (any) sparkling wine 50-50%, with a tiny drizzle of brandy (poured gently over an inverted teaspoon so as to lie on the surface of the drink).  Be warned:  drink this lovely stuff in moderation, or extreme shit-facery will soon follow.  Cheers.

*For the non-cognoscenti, only sparkling wine produced in France’s Champagne area may be called “champagne”;  all others must be labeled as “sparkling wine”, regardless of quality.  It’s all part of the marketing.