Wednesday, September 22, 2010

have I got shoes for you

You remember how, back in the day, you could take your worn-down shoes to a strange little bloke in a brown coat in a dingy little shop somewhere and get them repaired? New soles, heels, that sort of thing. I have a vague memory of a bloke in Newbury who used to run one of these sort of businesses from a disused railway carriage in a siding at Newbury railway station, along with the usual key-cutting and shoelace-selling, plus probably bestiality and serial killing I shouldn't wonder.

Of course this sort of business still exists, it's just that they're generally branches of Timpson's and therefore a bit more well-lit and fragrant and respectable. I am delighted to be able to tell you that Timpson's have an online shop where you can not only buy the usual shoelaces but also, fantastically, segs. I had no idea you could still get them.

Anyway, the point of all this is that these places are all well and good (apart from the bestiality and serial killing) for classic shoes with the leather and hard rubber soles, but many of today's hip and happening modern shoes have softer rubber soles which you can't really nail a replacement heel (or segs) to. Here's an example: my much-loved Petroleum suede loafers. Nothing wrong with them in the uppers department, but many years of wear and tear have taken their toll on the heels, as you can see. But what to do? As I say, nailing a spare heel on isn't going to work.

Fortunately help is at hand from the totally awesome and gnarly world of skateboarding. It turns out that the abrasive top surface of the modern skateboard, designed to stop you from sliding off when executing a reverse 720 goofy nosebone tail grab, or something like that, is a bit hard on the old Vans, and so something is needed to repair the associated wear and tear. And that something is: Shoe Goo! Available from many respectable online retail outlets, including SkateSlime and Amazon. In theory, as well as being good for sticking flappy bits of sole down and filling holes, Shoe Goo can also be used to rebuild worn soles back up to their former dimensions.

So I had an experimental initial application, during the course of which it became clear that a) it does go impressively hard and rubbery once dry, but b) it's quite runny before that, and that therefore some sort of temporary supporting structure would be required to build the heels back up. A bit of masking tape ought to do it. You'll need an applicator (and they don't supply one with the goo); I'd suggest a lolly stick or one of those little plastic spatulas you get with Araldite.

Run the tape round the heels, press it on, then pipe the goo into the required areas.

Results: not half bad actually. As you can see there's still room for improvement, though, particularly with the shoe on the left.

So, take two, same drill. The stuff dries sufficiently to remove the tape within 24 hours, but another day or two before actually wearing the shoes is probably prudent.The weird shiny transparent look soon scuffs up once you walk around a bit.

For total future peace of mind you could of course embed some segs in the still-soft goo. Maybe next time.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

push my special button

Is it just me or do those funky new shape Glade Sense & Spray room freshener thingies remind you of anything? I mean, in terms of the shape, and the positioning of the boost button?

Click here for a possibly slightly NSFW clarification of what I mean. I wonder if that was deliberate? I can only guess that maybe it was meant to resemble a sort of miniature chimenea of some sort, but, well, that's not what it looks like to me.

for you tommy the fringe is over

Not so long ago Thomson Local ran a competition to find Britain's Punniest Business - the idea being that people sent in amusing (but real) shop names like The Frock Exchange, Hair Apparent, Curl Up And Dye, etc. The resulting top 10 has a few gems in it like Touching Cloth and R. Soles, plus a few more rubbish ones. They don't mention Beaver Liquors, so I assume that one is specific to the USA. Here's a list of a few alternative suggestions.

Here's another one, which just happens to be situated pretty nearly across the road from my house. In common with a lot of them, it's a hairdressing business.

Well, I assume it's a hairdressing business, just from the name, though I don't recall having ever actually seen it open for business. It would be a terrible shame if the eye-watering punniness of the name wasn't enough to keep their heads above water, financially speaking. Interestingly there are identically-named businesses in both Southampton and Plymouth, and a very similarly-named one in Swansea, though I suspect these are all independently-run businesses who just had the same terrible idea and assumed no-one else had thought of it.

Just up the road is another interesting one:

Obviously Garth Marenghi is branching out from novel-writing to catering. Probably just as well.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

abandon pope all ye who enter here

I think we can probably rule out the possibility of the Pope using the platform provided by his visit to Britain to engage in a massively elaborate self-parodic piss-take, as he doesn't seem to possess the self-deprecating humour required (well, he is German, after all). So I think we can judge it to be likely that Poe's Law doesn't apply, though of course one of the central planks of Poe's Law is that you can never tell whether invoking Poe's Law is appropriate or not.

One does wonder after yesterday's speech, though, whether (to nick a phrase from this discussion) some sort of Satire Event Horizon hasn't been crossed whereby parodying the insane ramblings of religious leaders becomes pointless, as it could never be funnier than the real thing. I should say up front that I completely accept that membership of the Hitler Youth was pretty much compulsory when the young Josef Ratzinger was a teenager, and that therefore his having been a member in no way implies he was sympathetic to the regime (equally, it should be said that there were those who took a principled stand and refused to join). But nevertheless he was there at the time, so he ought to know better than most what was going on, and so to make the absurd claim that the Third Reich was an atheist regime creates a bewildering Ouroboros/Möbius strip of self-referential irony that will make your head hurt if you think about it too much, not to mention setting off the Godwin's Law alarm more times than you can shake a stick at. Not content with claiming that the Nazis were atheists, he then goes on to imply that all atheists are Nazis! Nice. Some people have suggested that this was all a devious and deliberate attempt to create an argument that would rumble on for the duration of his visit and keep awkward stuff like the child abuse scandal off the front pages. It's possible I suppose.

Other places have lengthy comment threads refuting the Nazi/atheists thing, notably here and here. Even the Daily Mash article gets the history pretty much correct, which I suppose just illustrates my point above, i.e. it's more sensible and informative than the actual news coverage. A very very brief Bluffer's Guide to the subject follows:
  • Mein Kampf is full of Christian talk and invocation of God to justify Hitler's insane ramblings, as were Hitler's public pronouncements while Chancellor. Interestingly, just to address another canard (the Nazis/Darwin one) the word "Darwin" appears not once in the book.
  • The German Army wore belt-buckles with "Gott Mit Uns" on them as part of their standard uniform throughout World War II.
  • The German people (who did all of the actual killing, let's not forget) were almost to a man either Catholics or Lutherans.
  • The corrosive anti-Semitism that underpinned a lot of the Nazi atrocities can be directly linked to Christianity, and Martin Luther in particular.
  • While it's possible that Hitler only paid lip-service to religious belief, it seems likely that at best he privately believed in a slightly twisted form of Christianity with a bit of paganism and occultism thrown in.
  • It's important to realise that the "Hitler was secretly an atheist" argument doesn't work anyway (even if it were true), as the people doing the actual killing certainly weren't.
  • While we're talking fallacious arguments, the "Hitler was evil so therefore he can't have been a Christian" argument doesn't work either.
  • Finally, even if Hitler had been an atheist, and even if his regime's monstrous crimes had been done specifically in the name of atheism, none of that would have any bearing on the truth claims of either atheism or any religion, Christianity included.
A suitable response to all this nonsense would probably go something like Tim Minchin's Pope song. You can never see Adam Buxton's Trifelge Putinard clip too often, either.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

wears the beef

The mighty all-seeing and unforgiving eye of the Electric Halibut has languidly turned its fishy gaze on the world of what the kool and krazy kids are calling "pop music" this week. And in its inimitable style it has noticed a couple of interesting things:
  • Cheryl Cole's new single Promise This is the second single in recent times to heavily cannibalise the old French nursery rhyme Alouette, the first being Mark Ronson's Bang Bang Bang. Far be it from me to suggest that the lovely Cheryl or her musical handlers are doing the old Madonna-esque trick of nicking musical ideas and stuff from people far cooler and more innovative than herself, but, well, there you are, I've done it now.
  • There was much amusing furore surrounding Lady Gaga's somewhat outlandish choice of outfit for the MTV Video Music Awards, specifically a dress and shoes combo made entirely out of raw meat. Since that's a Daily Mail article, you can be pretty sure that additional humour will be available in the comments, and sure enough here's a good example:
    Find me a picture of The Beatles wearing showers on their heads. Or Sinatra wearing a suit made from gnomes. Coldplay performing with suits of cheese and Onions. This woman is pathetic. Dressing up absurdly is all it takes to be a big star in the music industry these days. Its moronic, shallow and just plain attention seeking behaviour. As for the dress? Its as fake as Cheryl Cole performing live without miming...
    Yeah, those proper pop stars back in the day would never resort to the sort of stupid antics that today's modern so-called pop stars get up to. I mean, posing while festooned in raw meat? Please. Those nice lovable mop-top Beatles would never stoop to such blatant publicity-seeking tactics. Oh, wait.

the last book I read

Light On Snow by Anita Shreve.

12-year-old Nicky Dillon and her father live on the remote outskirts of a New Hampshire town, where Dad ekes out a living hand-crafting Shaker-style furniture. On one of their evening constitutionals out in the woods Nicky and Dad find a baby abandoned in the snow - wrapped up in a sleeping bag, but abandoned nonetheless.

They bundle up the baby and rush off to the local hospital, where, once it becomes clear the child is in no danger of dying, the police take an interest. Suspicion initially falls on Nicky's father, but soon it becomes clear the mystery woman gave birth in a room at the local motel, from where a set of bootprints lead into the snow.

We're starting to wonder what Nicky and Dad are doing way out here at this point, and where Mum might have got to. So we get a bit of back-story: the whole family used to live in New York, but moved away after Nicky's Mum and her baby sister Clara were killed in a car accident a couple of years previously. No sooner do we learn all this than the baby's 19-year-old mother Charlotte turns up - Dad is a bit of a local celeb following the dramatic baby-rescuing, and she wants to thank him. Dad isn't too keen to talk to her and has half a mind to turn her in to the police, but then the snow comes down and the house is temporarily cut off.

By the time the snow clears some resolution has happened: Charlotte and Nicky have bonded over some girly talk of periods and the like, Charlotte and Dad have had an air-clearing talk about the baby-abandoning incident (the no-good boyfriend - a rich college kid - was largely responsible, Charlotte being too traumatised by all the pain and gore to know much about it), and the subject of Mum & Clara's death has been dragged out and given an airing, Nicky and Dad having been reluctant to talk about it before. Charlotte is going to have to face the music with the law, but kindly old Detective Warren probably won't be too hard on her. Meanwhile the baby has been released from hospital and re-housed with some foster-parents, and all in time for Christmas too.

So it's all fairly cosy then, the baby providing a means for the family's grief over their own loss to be confronted and resolved. Not much unexpected really happens, though as with the earlier Anne Tyler book it's not really that sort of book anyway, the point being the characters and your caring about what happens to them. In that respect it's nicely done, Shreve's economical style being quite well-suited to a tale of repressed emotions and failed communication. You might still argue that it's a bit light and inconsequential, as Julie Myerson does in this Guardian review; this one in the Independent is quite a bit more complimentary. My own view probably falls somewhere between the two; it's a bit fluffy, but it's very readable, the characters are neatly drawn and you want to find out what happens, which is good enough for me. For what it's worth I thought it was better than the slightly more ambitiously-plotted The Weight Of Water, which is the only other Anita Shreve book I've read.

Those of you endowed with sharp eyes or prodigiously long memories will know that the review of The Weight Of Water was the very first one I ever wrote for this blog, way back in September 2006. Well, I can reveal that this one, a smidgen over four years later, is the one hundredth one I've written. The first thing to say is that no, it's not a coincidence that the hundredth features the same author as the first. Sneaky, huh? Secondly, here's a few stats:
  • 25 of the 100 were by women, 75 by men. That's a 3:1 male-domination ratio, not good. Must try harder to smash the patriarchy.
  • 100 novels in 1475 days equals a novel just over every fortnight.
  • Those 100 books comprise 28,398 pages, at a rate of 19.25 pages per day.
  • My concerns about reading opportunities drying up once I was no longer trekking in to work on public transport have proved (mostly) groundless. 40 novels in 573 days pre-driving at an average of 21.01 pages per day, 60 in 903 days since at an average of 18.12 pages per day. Down a bit, but not much. 
  • Longest book on the list: The Corrections at 653 pages. Oddly, this was immediately followed by the shortest, Bonjour Tristesse at 108 pages.
  • The only authors to feature more than once are: the aforementioned Anita Shreve, Iain M Banks, Joyce Carol Oates, Cormac McCarthy, Michael Dibdin, Lawrence Durrell and TC Boyle. All of them have appeared twice. That means that the 100 books featured 93 different authors. Also, 42 of the featured books were the first book I'd read by that author, which I like to think reveals a commendable willingness to try new things.
I will now, to use a cricketing metaphor, take a fresh guard and go for the double-century. Join me if you like.

Friday, September 10, 2010

physics vs. theology: friday night smackdown

A lot of column inches, real and virtual, have been devoted to the entirely unremarkable story of Stephen Hawking and his pretty bland assertion that you don't have to invoke God as some sort of Prime Mover in order to explain the origin of our universe, though clearly you can if you really want to, something I thought was already pretty well understood by everybody. But, wearyingly, it seems to have been the catalyst for a spectacular outbreak of inane drivel from a variety of sources.

Actually, to be fair, this Independent article is pretty good, and makes the obvious point that even if you do hold to the need for a Prime Mover in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, all this gives you is a sort of non-interventionist Deism, and therefore the detailed claims of specific regular real-world intervention by God which underpin every organised religion cannot be true. So in other words it doesn't get you very far, and really if you're saying that God basically only "exists" in the sense of having any influence over anything in the first 10-43 seconds or so of the universe's existence, you really want to consider cutting the cord and abandoning the idea altogether.

Sadly it's downhill from then on; this Daily Mail article is basically your standard Prime Mover argument, which as ever falls down either on requiring some special pleading for God as an "uncaused cause", or on disappearing up its own arse in an infinite regression of things causing other things, this one in the Independent is basically some stereotypically woolly Anglican waffle about how complicated everything is, and how nice churches and village fêtes are, and what a lovely cake the vicar's wife made for Harvest Festival. Note the textbook association of atheists with stridency, arrogance, fanaticism, etc. throughout as well. Finally, oh fuck, it's Baroness Greenfield.

Part of the reason for the hysteria seems to be that Hawking mentioned God a couple of times in A Brief History Of Time (which I should disclose at this point that I've never read all the way through) without specifically denying his existence. It seems pretty clear that Hawking's God is very much like Einstein's, though, i.e. some slightly woolly "spirit of the universe" pantheistic thing.

My only complaint with the Julian Baggini article, now I think about it, is the oft-trumpeted assertion that because some scientists profess a belief in God, science and religion must therefore be compatible:
If top scientists such as John Polkinghorne and Bernard d'Espagnat believe in God, that challenges the simplistic claim that science and religion are completely incompatible. 
Of course it does nothing of the sort; it merely shows that the human brain has a remarkable capacity for compartmentalisation that allows it to believe incompatible things at the same time. That's fascinating in itself but is in no way proof that religion and science are compatible, because they clearly are not - unless your religion is of the aforementioned undetectable Deism variety, in which case you should consider taking Occam's Razor to it.

I suggest we let MC Hawking have the last word.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

the last book I read

Weekend by William McIlvanney.

There is to be a literary study and appreciation weekend on the fictional  Scottish island of Cannamore (which judging by the notes in the acknowledgements section at the end of the book is loosely based on Tiree). As we join the story various people are preparing to set off - Kate, Jacqui and Alison are having a drink in a wine bar and mulling over the bed-hopping shenanigans at previous years' events and the prospects for similar activities this year; writer Harry Beck (still living off the glory of his only novel some years previously) is hanging out in a bar trying to pick up women; retreat organiser Andrew Lawson is guiltily preparing to leave his wife, who has late-stage multiple sclerosis, in the hands of a carer for the weekend; friends Vikki and Marion are both having second thoughts about attending, but neither wants to let the other down by backing out.

So things are set up for a bit of a David Lodge-esque academic romp, with various entertaining bed-hopping and farcical Brian Rix style quick-into-the-wardrobe-it's-my-husband stuff, interleaved with a bit of literary deconstruction just for good measure. And we do get some of that stuff, but not quite in the manner we might expect.

We get the rug pulled from under us straight away, as the narrative skips the attendees' arrival on the island and the first day's academic activity and leaps straight to the early hours of the morning after, at which point various sexual psychodramas are in the process of being played out. Jacqui Forsyth has ended up in bed with lecturer David Cudlipp (a serial seducer at these events, who we gather had had a similar liaison with Alison the year before) and on their returning to his room to pick up some extra booze it transpires that his wife has come to pay him a surprise visit to announce the success of their lengthy quest to adopt a child. Quick, into the wardrobe, it's the wife, etc. Andrew Lawson has ended up in bed with Vikki Kane and unsurprisingly finds himself even more guilt-stricken than before at his abandonment of his wife. Kate Foster, who came to the island with hopes of finally losing her virginity, has managed to do so successfully at the hands of Mickey Deans, an aspiring young writer. Meanwhile Harry Beck, who would normally be wading into the licentious proceedings with some gusto, is having an existential crisis over his past misdemeanours, both his reckless treatment of women and his drunken misbehaviour at various book readings, reflection which seems to have been prompted by his brief encounter with Mary Sue, the woman he met in the bar (and subsequently slept with) the night before the trip.

Further complications ensue, for Vikki and Andrew in particular - it is revealed that Vikki has had a diagnosis of breast cancer and will have to undergo a course of treatment that may well include a mastectomy on her return to the mainland, and when Andrew checks in at home before leaving he learns that his wife has died while he has been away.

All of this is interspersed with various snippets of literary critical analysis as delivered during the weekend's lectures, mainly Andrew Lawson's thoughts on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Harry Beck's deconstruction of the legend of Oedipus. Oddly enough Kleinzeit had a bit of a running thread of this sort as well, though it was the legend of Orpheus in this case. There are a couple of other echoes of previous entries in this series as well - David Lodge as already mentioned, but also The Accidental in the constantly switching viewpoints without any immediate clue as to whose viewpoint it is, so we have to try and work it out as we go. There's no particular resolution of anything at the end, either; now obviously the counter-argument to this is that that just reflects real life, and perhaps so.

Anyway, it's very clever and nicely observed, but as this Independent review says, it's "easy to admire, though curiously uninvolving" - a bit like Eclipse. Just to drag in yet another previous review, here's a flattering piece in the Guardian from Irvine Welsh, similar to the one he provided for Winterwood. Again, he's more enthusiastic than I would be, but not by such a wide margin in this case. I just wasn't quite sure what it was for - a psychological analysis of modern sexual manners and mores? An illustration of the impossibility of being "good", or at least avoiding inflicting pain? Perhaps.

William McIlvanney is the brother of celebrated sports (and specifically boxing) writer Hugh McIlvanney, and the author of several other celebrated works of varying degrees of dark Scottishness, including The Big Man which was made into a film with Liam Neeson.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

incidental music spot of the day

Sufjan Stevens' Casimir Pulaski Day during a sequence where Matt Baker went kayaking on Loch Etive during tonight's episode of Secret Britain (it's about 18 minutes into episode 4 if you're looking for it within the next seven days, otherwise you're out of luck; try this live rendition instead) Despite the really irritating "we'll be going on a journey" preamble that all these programmes have to have by law these days this was really quite interesting, not least because it included a couple of places that I've either been to recently or mentioned here:
There was a brief snatch of Death in Vegas' Girls (about 50:25 or so) as featured in (among other places) the Lost In Translation soundtrack as well.

i've got the power

Also, continuing the strange items found in the shed theme from the first shed post, I had to move this off a shelf earlier as a prelude to demolishing the shelf. Anyone know what it is? And before you say "it's a 6-volt sealed rechargeable lead-acid battery", I can see that; what I want to know is what it's for, i.e. what did it come out of? Any ideas?

2010: the year we make contact.....with a big hammer

It's been a while since I spent any serious time in the shed, mainly through having to get on with higher-priority stuff like decorating the bedroom. That's nearly finished now, though, so I decided to take advantage of a weekend at home to have a crack at bending the shed to my will.

As I said before, my predecessor's enthusiasm for DIY and general handyman-style tinkering led him to install an awful lot of workbench, far more than I need. So the first thing to do was remove some of it. As you can see from the photo above, the shed door is about a third of the way along, which divides things up into a short and long end, all with workbenches along the full length of the walls, and across the ends. The plan was to remove all the workbench and shelving from the long end in order to accommodate the gym equipment (which had been in the basement in the old place), leaving the workbench and shelving in the short end to accommodate various junk vital items. Well, it was either that or turn it into a boat and then back into a shed again, and to be honest that works better with a wooden shed than a breeze-block one, especially the "boat" bit.

So, to work! The benches were securely screwed together via various diagonal struts to some beefy battens on the wall. So, clearly, some judicious removal of screws would result in the whole lot gradually coming apart like some giant jigsaw, at which point all the bits could be neatly stacked for redistribution either to a good home or the wood bin at the local tip. So I removed 99% of the screws, the remainder being too deeply embedded in the wood to get at or having heads that were too stripped to get a screwdriver to. Some of the shelving obligingly came apart at this point, but strangely the workbenches remained as solid as a rock. Evidently my predecessor had not built them with any possibility of their subsequent removal in mind, and had decided that in addition to a couple of hundred screws of various sizes he'd better liberally smear everything with wood glue and/or No More Nails, just to be sure nothing short of a direct thermonuclear strike was going to shift anything.

Clearly less restrained and refined removal methods were going to be required. I made a quick dash to B&Q and returned with a wrecking bar and a lump hammer. I then sawed through the diagonal struts and started prising things away from the wall with the wrecking bar. So reluctant were things to shift, even then, that before they eventually did I managed to exert sufficient force on the workbench and the wall behind it to crack the render on the outside wall of the shed. At this point things were going to end in one of two ways - either the workbenches were going to surrender, or they were going to goad me into demolishing the entire shed in my attempt to remove them. Happily it was the former that eventually came to pass, and eventually I was left with an empty shed (well, aside from a couple of battens, but they can stay where they are).

There was one more task to do before I could install the gym equipment: find somewhere to hang the punchbag. Now this originally came with a frame which was easily accommodated in the basement as it was enormous, but space is at a bit more of a premium here. So I removed one of the plasterboard panels in the ceiling to see what (if anything) was up there, only to find some nice sturdy roof joists, at which there was much rejoicing. One bit of wood drilling and another trip to B&Q to buy a length of chain and a pad saw (for cutting rectangular holes in plasterboard) later and the punchbag was up, and all the other stuff could be set up. Take a look:

Short of getting hold of a bit of carpet to go under everything I reckon that's the job just about done. A more detailed photographic account of the whole process can be found here.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

a turd class compartment, please

Ah, the golden age of rail. Steam, separate compartments, porters lugging your numerous valises and portmanteaux onto the train for you, the dining car, dastardly Russian double agents drinking red wine with fish, the swines, Jenny Agutter waving her knickers at you, the tart, everyone on the entire train taking turns to stab you to death, the bastards. Great days. Also, all that business about not using the toilet while the train is in the station; I mean, good lord, the days when you could just dump the contents of the train toilet directly onto the tracks. Imagine!

Except, apparently, unbelievably, that still happens. I was regaled only this week with a charming tale of a train pulling out of Newport station, on which someone had evidently just indulged in some ill-timed transit of solids and flushing thereof, resulting in the evidence of their defecatory endeavours being deposited, coiled and glistening, on the tracks as the train departed. Yes, unbelievably it is still legal to fling turds from a moving train into the British countryside, as long as a) you do it via the designated and certified turd-flinging chute and b) you do it while the train is in motion so that the solids hit the track at 70+ miles per hour and are therefore pulverised into a fine spray of warm shit. I do find it utterly extraordinary that this is still legal - I should caveat that by saying that it's probably not legal to build new trains with such primitive plumbing arrangements; the new Virgin trains have something much more closely resembling an airline toilet, and which presumably involves some sort of internal storage tank. The older-style trains (the ones old fogeys like me still call "InterCity trains") still use the just-fling-it-on-the-tracks approach, though. I can see the argument that converting the old rolling stock would be expensive and disruptive and that it's probably better, on balance, to let the old trains be phased out and replaced rather than do a refit, but it's still mildly extraordinary to me that it is in some circumstances OK to throw liquidised raw sewage around the British countryside. And yet when I drop my trousers and curl one down on the lawn at Windsor Castle I get an ASBO. It's political correctness gone mad.

Friday, September 03, 2010

just a wick one

Here's my latest whisky bargain: Old Pulteney 12-year-old, currently retailing for a knock-down 20 quid at a Tesco near you (that's around 5-6 quid off the normal price).

The Old Pulteney distillery is in Wick, which is way up here, and is therefore the northernmost mainland distillery in Scotland - only the two Orkney distilleries, Scapa and Highland Park, are further north. In case you're wondering, as I was, this is the same Pulteney that the Pulteney Bridge in Bath was named for - specifically Sir William Pulteney, whose wife Frances owned large amounts of land around Bath. The Wick connection is that Pulteney commissioned Thomas Telford to build a harbour and a town to go with it on the outskirts of Wick; this ended up being called Pulteneytown (though this name doesn't seem to survive on any of the modern OS maps), and this is where the distillery is situated. The geography I've just described makes Old Pulteney a Highland whisky, which as I've said here means it's from my favourite whisky region.

Geography isn't necessarily a reliable guide to how a whisky's going to taste, but if you decided that, since Old Pulteney is located in between Glenmorangie and Highland Park, that it would therefore lie somewhere between the two, taste-wise, it just so happens that you wouldn't be far wrong. It's got the same slightly shortbread-y, custard-y thing as the Glenmorangie (this will be because both whiskies are matured exclusively in American ex-bourbon casks, unlike the Highland Park which uses sherry casks, as does the Dalmore) with just a hint of something a bit darker and oilier, which might be licorice or might be tractor tyres or something like that. There's just a whiff of something salty like seaweed or herrings as well, and a waft of smoke just to keep things from being too sweet and undemanding. It's much lighter and more polite than the Highland Park, which is much more of a teeth-rattling slap in the chops with all the sherry wood and smoke, and remains my favourite thing ever, whisky-wise, but it's nonetheless really very good indeed. The distinctive knobbly bottle shape mimics the shape of the distillery stills, incidentally.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

you be careful out among the english

A couple of recent additions to the photo galleries which may or may not be of interest:
  • Firstly some photos from Jim's stag weekend a couple of weeks ago - as befits a group of gentlemen of advancing years we skipped having it large in Ibiza or Riga and opted for a weekend canoeing down the River Wye instead. We hired canoes from Monmouth here, got dropped off in Ross-on-Wye on the Friday night, sampled the fleshpots of Ross till the early hours of Saturday, and then after a hearty fry-up and lots of coffee clambered into our canoes and gingerly set off downriver. We stopped at the Courtfield Arms at Lower Lydbrook for lunch (where, coincidentally, we'd stopped on the bikes during the cycle tour of the Forest of Dean a couple of years ago) and then pressed on to the campsite at Symonds Yat for Saturday night, taking in a lengthy session at the Wye Knot Inn just up the road. After another fry-up on Sunday it was a leisurely couple of hours' paddling (with a brief bit of excitement early doors while shooting the Symonds Yat Rapids) back to Monmouth to pick up the cars.
  • Secondly, some pictures from last weekend's barn-raising and barbecue at my parents' place - not quite on the scale of the building work in Witness, but then again there weren't as many of us, and we were fortified with a barrel of Adnams rather than lemonade. On the upside, no-one woke me up at 4:30am to bellow "TIME FOR MILKING" at me either.