Two glorious days on the Old and some reflection

What a tonic it was to get out on the Old on Thursday and Friday in the beautiful sunshine of still spring days.

I played with caddie Dom on Thursday and then partnered two guys up from Edinburgh. Neil turned out to be a director of Livingston FC and Martin is a neighbor of a good pal in Greenbank. He is a member of the R@A and what a golfer! Turns out he was Lothian Boys champ.

All lovely guys and great company.

I was passing by Jim Wilson’s bike shop on Pipeland Road during the week and we had a chat. He showed me a picture dating back to 1980 and the golf team which won the Scottish University’s Champ that year. It was the year before I came up to St Andrews but I did know a few of the faces. Don Galbraith, Graeme Murray, Johnathan Forster and Dave Turner. A few of them had been at Johnathan’s 60th in Monifieth at the weekend I believe. Yes, they are no longer all the fresh faced young men in the photo but I dare say not much has really changed. Apart from Johnathan having got through 3 wives I believe. But I suppose marriage may not be for him.

Nice to see that close comraderie still there after all these years. I still remember Johnathan holding forth in his inimitable way in the bar of the St Andrews Club, drinking beer and playing dominoes, as was the want after our Wednesday medal on the New Course.

Halcyon days indeed.

Don Galbraith is still omnipresent in Edinburgh and as keen on his golf as ever. He has been a member of the R&A for forty years now. We set up a golf business in the nineties, had a lot of fun but never made our millions. Highlander Golf like my ski venture, The Big Fun Company, is alas no more.

But I wonder what the rest of the guys got up to? I know John Hall made it big in debt management and bought a rather splendid house on Archerfield Links, but I’m not sure about many of the others.

People would never have guessed at my non-career path, from failed chartered accountant to ski bum to finance industry to Moray House to roustabout to ski instructor to ‘golf teacher’ to gardener to insurance clerk to wine salesman to florist to plongeur to cafe owner to ski bum (yes again!) to restaurant owner to caddie to ‘writer’ to …

Yes, you will have to wait for this one!

I suppose all I really know for sure now is that I’m not overly good at the big corporate thing and am probably not the most politic bloke on the planet. And further, I’m majorly more adept at one side of a bar than the other.

I’ve had fun though.

In fact it’s been a bit of a blast.

For the life of Roald Dahl

I loved the way Roald Dahl described his daily routine.

It went something like this: Up about 8am and my wife brings me breakfast in bed 5 days out of 7, the other two days I get it (equitable enough I suppose), read The Times, up and bath, then to the writing shed in the apple orchard at 10, two hours work and in for a G&T and lunch, a wee repose and some betting on the nags, tea and up for 2 more hours writing, back in at 5 for a whisky and dinner with a splash of claret.

Now that’s the life for me!

And he lived in an idyllic English country town with all the idyllic English country town thing going on. You know the quaint cottages, sublime pubs, butchers shops selling Old Spot and all that forever England stuff.

He did come across as a bit of a rum chap mind and seemed acutely intelligent. Nice with it too.

Lovely life if you can get it I suppose. But he made the very interesting point that a main part of his success was the routine of just writing and getting down to it basically. Obviously he had his fair share of ability and all that, but it had to be eked out.

Anyway that’s the life for me I think. Ok I would probably choose the Cotswolds over Buckinghamshire but it would be the same old world idyll. Away from the trammelling world to be lost in childish imagination and beauty and books and beer.

But I’m letting my imagination get away with me here.

Anyway, hope to see some of you down at Cheltenham next week.

I’ll be hanging out in The Hollowbottom as usual.

And I can’t see beyond Allaho and Minella Indo by the way. But don’t bet your house on it.

Especially after my recent form.

0.1 per cent

0.1 per cent of the US population owns more wealth than the bottom 90 per cent.

That is a phenomenal statistic and means that some Americans are seriously minted.

I suppose we must surmise that Trumpy owns 0.05 per cent of US wealth but we can’t be sure as he won’t let anyone see his tax returns.

But the extremity of that polarization is disquieting at the least. And I suppose it really explains a lot of what we are seeing in American politics today and producing such impossibly nauseating and smug human beings like Trumpy and Roger Stone.

In business as well this polarization pervades. I think the average remuneration of a US CEO is about 15 million bucks a year.

But it’s when money and its influence seep into the fine pillars of justice that we should really begin to worry. And this is manifestly happening in the US. What with the joke impeachment trial and now Bill Barr, the Attorney General for god’s sake, looking like he’s about as malleable as the bunch of crony half-wit Republican Senators swearing oaths, swallowing and spewing lies in the most esteemed and lauded chamber in the country.

Sickening what?

It’s a national televised extortion racket of the highest level, smack in the face of plain and evident truth.

But that’s where we are I’m afraid and that’s enough of that.

On this side, we still have the PPE Oxford thing and all the dullness which goes with it. I’m with Dom Cummings on this and desirous of some radical changes in the old blobosphere. I can’t wait till the Conservatives get a bloke or lass from somewhere like Govan into their ranks and make them Chancellor. That would be entirely refreshing and good for all. Someone that responds to Boris with an ‘Aye’ or ‘ok pal’ or ‘hud ye’r wheesht’ or even may I suggest ‘ok outside now’. That would stop the irksome waffling.

Of course, I am not averse to well spoken public school/Oxbridge/Harvard types. Indeed I went to a public school myself. But give me a Billy Connolly type and accent any day.

They said that about Churchill. Not that he had a Govan accent, but that his voice carried great weight.

The voice does count for a lot. And I’m afraid Boris is too blustering for me. Fine in a Wodehouse book. But Churchillian? Nay.

Onto sport.

Wales are intimating that France will cheat at the scrum in their forthcoming match? Doesn’t everyone cheat at the scrum? The straight put-in now goes directly to the number eight. The poor hooker is snookered.

And there is an awful lot of dirty play now seeping into the international game which is a shame. The poor blokes can’t have more than two beers without being dumped, coaches are being blamed for poor performance and the national anthems are becoming the highlights of the match because there is so little open play and good old fashioned rugby. It’s like watching rugby league or, god forbid, scottish football.

And I’m of the opinion that bonus points should be awarded now for national anthem singing. Then we could maybe shelve that Eurovision Song Contest thing, like we shelved Europe.

It’s a knockout.

Remember that one? With that smarmy presenter chap, Hall, now in jail.

That was at least entertaining. Amusing even. The programme I mean.

Like when I mentioned to this hedge fund manager, Jann, who’d just joined Wentworth Golf Club for a squillion bucks.

Me ‘Oh my Dad’s friend used to live in a house on the 17th fairway’

Yann ‘Wow that’s cool’

Me ‘But he ended up in Wandsworth’

Yann ‘it’s nice there too’

Me ‘ No. The prison’

I actually have a friend who ended up in Wandsworth. And you couldn’t meet a nicer bloke.

Funny old world.

Ok I got that wrong

But I didn’t expect that in one of the most important trials in American history they wouldn’t call for witnesses.

It’s hard to fathom the above fact but it’s sadly true.

The American democratic process is shot through and the parlous state of its partisan politics laid nauseatingly bare, at the highest level.

The reality is that the world now is at the mercy of a laquered, mincy-haired, smug faced oaf who has the values of a dodgy, down-town second hand car salesman.

And worse, he is backed up by spineless millionaire sycophants who value the Dow Jones and their seats above oaths and their duty to the American people.

Deary me.

So what else is up? Not too much I’m afraid apart from feeding the roses and deciding on the way forward with an Edinburgh bistro.

On the sporting front, we’ve got the Calcutta Cup match in Edinburgh at the weekend and I strongly fancy Scotland. As long as Hogg doesn’t try pointless (yes indeed pointless) one-handed put-downs.

That honestly was a shocker. Even more so the fact that he pretended that he’d not done it. The camera doesn’t lie Stuart.

Also, I certainly hope that we don’t see any nudging off the ball and cheap penalties forsaken like we did against Ireland. We don’t want to go the way of football. It’s a bloody game after all.

But I do think the French merit winning the Six Nations Championship on the back of their crowd’s performance in singing the Marseillaise last Saturday in Paris.

That was truly awesome.

By the way has anyone read Bryson? I am gobsmacked at how mediocre he is. And the bloke has sold millions of books. How?

I am guilty partly, as I thought I’d take one on holiday ‘Neither here nor there’, recounting his journey through Europe.

I am not sure if he was trying to be funny when he put the following anecdote in about his pal’s chat up line in Amsterdam. But unfortunately after having read his book I do believe it was some attempt at humour.

Here goes.

The chap, seemingly, went up and tried the following line on several women.

‘Excuse me, I know you don’t know me but will you help me move something 6 inches?

I presume there was a massive amount of incredulity and a rightful demand to know just what at this juncture.

To which his friend seemingly replied ‘2 ounces of sperm’

Bill intimated that his friend’s line of chat up was not a successful one.

Well bowl me over Bill.

How on earth did this man become such a successful author by putting crap like this in his books? That’s almost as bad as listening to Lyndsey Graham orating.

Help ma bob. Lordy me. Get me a train. God save America or something to that effect.

Trump finally stumped

Is this finally Trump’s Nixon moment and the smoking gun?

Surely the Bolton book revelation is the ball that knocked his middle stump for six? I’ll be damned if he is not out with this one.

Sorry about the cricket analogies, but I’m rather partial to following the old game these days. Been listening to the South African Test. It’s just a shame they cut the Johnathan Agnew commentary from the coverage.

Because that man is sublime. The most wonderful and delightful sports presenter out there. His sonorous tones are a Cotswold landscape on a spring day. He is sprung rhythm, fresh, endearing, humble and kind. He is wise and insightful and clear minded.

I’d chuck him in the Commons any day. Imagine someone like Aggers in there? What a blessing and a relief to us all it would be.

He is the antithesis of that ghastly bloke across the pond. That irksome, slippery, floppy, smug, loathsome, ghastly bag of tricks of a human being at the centre of the circus that is American politics.

But enough of that. For as Rabbie says:

‘Then let us pray that come it may,

As come it will for a’that,

That Sense and Worth o’er the earth,

Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ ‘that’

Apart from these thoughts nothing much is afoot. The students are back and I take it the in-word at the moment is ‘literally’?

Because I can’t walk past a group of them without hearing one using it and with such emphasis. Well I suppose it’s better than ‘sweet’ or ‘grizly’ or ‘honestly’.

Anyway, ‘minerality’ is the big word in wine at the moment, by all accounts. Except no one can really explain what they mean by it. They got a bunch ( forgive me) of wine buffs together including that Oz Clarke chap, but they were at a complete loss to agree on it. Someone said it was just a metaphor.

He listen guys, I’m at pains already to get any of the subtleties of a wine masters’ description without you guys beginning to throw in metaphors too!

Elsewhere in the world our restaurant is going through a personality crisis. There are many things on the table at the moment, it’s just a pity none of them is food.

Unfortunately we are still closed.

We should resolve matters in the next week.

But don’t hold your breath.

A wee rant

Ok I’ll admit that there are a few hings that annoy me. Fund Managers exorbitant charging rates, Town Council Planning Committees, Meghan Sparkle, modern cricket gamesmanship, the ‘professional’ football foul, smoking, tasting menus, Iranian international diplomacy, Boris Johnson, Ben Stokes, Chris Evans, Matt Wallace and that Guiliani chappy.

I see in the US now that over half the money in equities is in tracker funds. Doesn’t that quite smack in the face and rather undermine the principle of the whole sector? Yes. Seemingly some journalist chap threw darts, when blindfolded, at the stocks list and they outperformed more than half the funds advised by Hargreaves Lansdowne, that large and respected investment platform.

My money is staying on the horses.

Now, in my day cricket was a gentlemanly game played with smiles and decorum and all that. But now there is a lot of back chat out on the field. It was discussed at the last Test Match and some buffoon commentator tried to justify it on the basis that he thought it was integral to the competitive spirit.

Lordy me. Can’t you have a competitive spirit without goading the opposing captain for being gay?

Again. Lordy me.

The ‘professional” football foul is one of the main reasons I don’t like footy. That and it nearly always being 90 minutes of tedium. At least rugby is only 80 minutes and you get lots of breaks when they haves scrums.

And that’s another thing I should have added. The scrum put-in must be the laughing stock of the century. And what about the poor wee hooker? He’ s now basically redundant and just spends half the game sandwiched between 14 sweaty bruisers collapsing upon him in most instances. Who’d be a hooker?

Now, this tasting menu fad is getting a bit out of hand. As that food journalist Raynor said rather aptly at the weekend ‘tasting menus are like double maths, something you have to endure and pay for after’.

Yes last time I think I paid £80 a head, without wine and remember being decidedly hungry after.

But it’s a very hard game this restaurant business as I’ve found out. I now fully get John Cleese in Fawlty Towers.

And of course, the funniest sketch ever in screen comedy ‘ my dear, what do you expect to see out of a Torquay bedroom window? …. giant roving wilderbeasts, the hanging gardens of Babylon?’

Now that is funny.

Bill Bryson and Frank Skinner take note.

Back from the wildernesses

This might not be such a major world changing event for everyone, but I’m back on the blog.

A bit like being back on the sauce I suppose but with less dire consequences and probably more fun.

As some people may know I’ve been in Edinburgh, attempting to open a restaurant. And it’s been rather exacting to be honest. The learning curve has been incredibly steep but I must say I now know how a good and successful restaurant should run. It’s just the putting it all into practice that is the issue.

However, I will not elaborate lest I get myself into rather deep and perilous waters. But what’s new.

Anyway, here I am having a lovely repose back in St Andrews and contemplating my future. And this may I say is the tricky one. An option is to do nothing, establish my wee man shed in the garden and write my memoirs.

But that would be entirely silly. There’s not much to say and people wouldn’t believe what I’ve been up to either. Also I’d have to either do a quick Reggie Perrin or publish anonymously. The latter appeals more as the North Sea is not overly welcoming.

Anyway, I do have a few ideas and you will have to glue yourself to my blog to find out.

Now, that at least is relatively interesting.

Or maybe deathly dull in the Icelandic!

 

 

 

The Headingley Test

I listened to the closing moments of the England cricket Test against Australia on Sunday in disbelief.

Ben Stokes had brought off the most remarkable victory in international cricket history. With last man Jack Leach they had to score 73 to win. And win they did.

But it was the closing moments which were wholly and utterly remarkable. Stokes was first dropped, then with the entire Australian team surrounding the boundary he hit a six which just got over the leaping fielder. He then went for a crazy single with two to win and stopped, only to leave Leach stranded half-way down the pitch. At this point it was surely all over and what a tragedy it would have been. But Nathan Lyons somehow fumbled the incoming throw. Then the next delivery from a riled Lyons hits Stokes on the pads, but umpire Watson gives ‘not out’. The camera clearly showed differently, but the Aussies had used up all their reviews and the last one rashly. A single was then achieved to cleverly put Stokes on strike in the next over. The English now cannot lose. The tension is immense as fast bowler Cummings scorches in to deliver the vital ball to Stokes, who simply battered it through the covers for four and the whole of Headingly and England erupted in jubilation.

This was immense. I had to watch the replays several times later on TV to take it all in.

But imagine being there?

The wonderful commentator Johnathan Agnew said that he had never seen anything like it and I don’t think he ever will again.

Don’t we just love sport in this country? It’s something we are very good at and it is something that this country revolves around. Whether it’s WImbledon or the Boat Race or Ascot or The Open or the rugby. We excel at it. And this Test Match was at the pinnacle of that.

It’s a shame we don’t have a Johnathan Agnew in golf mind you. For old Aggers is simply sublime. A wonderful commentator on the game. His timing, his knowledge, his sensitivity, his passion. His niceness actually. He does come across as a very decent bloke indeed and you can hear and see everyone responding to this. It’s heart warming and life giving. I really can’t get enough of Aggers.

There is a wonderful anecdote from last summer about someone who had written a letter to him which he read out on air. About how this chap’s father had sublimely drifted to another world, in the utmost contentment, listening to the kindly and euphonious tones of Aggers on Test Match live.

What a way to close your innings.

But in golf we are bereft of good or even decent commentators. There is no one near the level or pitch of Aggers. Ok we had Peter Alliss for donkeys and he indeed still pops up from time to time on the feeble Beeb coverage of the Open. But he never did it for me. Rather far too self-obsessed I felt and always annoyingly trying to be funny. But not very.

And then we have the likes of Ken Brown and Ian Carter and Ewan Murray who are mind blowingly boring. And then Sir Nick Faldo over on Sky of course.

Oh deary, deary me.

He’s about as inspiring as a kick in the head.

Anyone for cricket?

 

The Open Shop, St Andrews

I have previously written about my disbelief in the renaming of the Old Tom Morris Shop as ‘The Open’ by the Links Trust.

This morning I was wandering down by there and I saw Old Tom’s great, great, grand daughter (sweeping outside the shop as she owns the flat above and indeed the shop). At least I think she’s direct lineage or maybe she is just his great, great niece or whatever.

Anyway, I asked her what she thought of the renaming of their historic shop and she most politely said ‘I really can’t comment. It’s been sub-let to the R&A’.

Well I said. I can comment.

‘It’s an absolute shocker’

And she carried on her sweeping and made no comment.

While I’m on this theme, I may add that we have finally come up with a name for our bistrot in Edinburgh. It’s to be called ‘Leopardo’

This has been a painstaking process. In fact, it’s taken two years to get to Leopardo, via Old Flower Shop, Wild, Gardner and Costa, Leftbank, The Crazy Duck, The White Duck, The Blind Duck, Riverside Cafe, Sika, Idiom, Air Cafe, Ulysses, Velvet, Untitled, Little Sicily, Palermo, Aeolian and many, many more.

I finally settled on Bang, Bang, Bang. But no one was overly enthusiastic, apart from moi of course.

For I thought it was kind of memorable and had some latent, nuanced, obscure, underlying humour, given Alessandro’s Sicilian heritage.

But it was not to be.

We ultimately had a vote and Leopardo won handsomely.

Let’s say a slightly more conservative choice.