28 May 2014

Young Love

The recent actions in Santa Barbara, according to media reports, were perpetrated by a frustrated college student who was unsuccessful with women. His problems, apparently, started at a fairly young age. The killings prompted recollections of my own childhood interactions with the opposite sex. These were, I can happily report, overwhelmingly positive.

From a very young age I was attracted to girls. Fortunately it was reciprocated. Today there are too many girls to remember by name. There were a couple of girls in my neighbourhood, including the cute heiress of a family of well-known New York supermarket moghuls. My recent Interwebz research indicates her current looks hardly justify my early interest, more proof (as if more were needed) that the ageing process is much harsher for women than it is for men.

In what was apparently my earliest sexual harassment case, in 3rd grade I was reported to the teacher for kissing the girls, which resulted in my father sitting me down and having a talk. He explained, as best as I can recall, that girls do not appreciate being kissed without being asked first. It struck me as nonsense, for much of my experience with them up to then involved them initiating contact with me.

As expected, this didn't put much of a damper on my girl-chasing activities. In fact the girls were all too eager to kiss me and show me their goods, which resulted in my being made quite aware at an early age of the peculiarities of the female anatomy. In suburban New Canaan, Connecticut in the 4th grade, at the risk of sounding vulgar, fingering was the done thing.

I do remember, however, the names--and other details--of a couple of teenage babysitters, as well as those of a beautiful young exiled Persian nanny. Which are topics for a future column.

26 May 2014

Hussar Style

Manly Essence

22 May 2014

Uncle Val's Botanical Gin

If I don't seem quite like myself lately, it's probably because I've been drinking a new gin.

The drink in question is Uncle Val's Botanical Gin from 35 Maple Street in Sonoma, California. I was first introduced to this gin at a local cocktail establishment and was instantly smitten. I keep a bottle on my cocktail cart.

How does it taste? It's very floral. It contains cucumber, lemon, sage, and lavender. But unlike Hendrick's Gin, in which the cucumber is very strong, here it's the lemon that predominates. As the website describes it:

'Raise your glass and you’ll notice crisp aromas of sage and juniper. Your first sip will bring out a bright lemon taste, which gives way to a warm, spicy, lavender finish, softened by the coolness of cucumber. Each sip bolsters the botanical flavors, along with a continuous presence of piney juniper.'

Uncle Val's reminds me of a more flamboyant version of Bombay Sapphire, my go-to gin. It's a superb spirit for your summer cocktails. I heartily recommend it. Enjoy.

20 May 2014

Nelson's Trafalgar Coat

Detail from painting by Lemuel Francis Abbott

19 May 2014

TS Eliot at Love Beach

Love Beach, New Providence Island, Bahamas, 1957

15 May 2014

Sloane Pubs

'It is almost a quarter of a century since the cowboy look was the height of fashion. It was a time when blue jeans, leather jackets and snakeskin boots trod the plains of Chelsea and Knightsbridge and groovy Sloane Rangers drunk themselves stupid in the pubs of Knightsbridge and Belgravia - in particular at The Australian, The Admiral Codrington and The Grenadier. These three pubs were once as hip as The Met Bar, downstairs at The Pharmacy or the Long Bar at The Sanderson Hotel.

 So it was a delight to see that Madonna - in her new western look - repaired to the Grenadier pub in Wilton Row after her Brixton Academy show on Tuesday night, and not as expected to the Microsoft party in Brick Lane. The real private party was in the pub after closing time in the tiny mews behind Wilton Crescent, a few hundred yards from where the American singer rented a house last summer. Ali G, Mel C, Goldie and Kelly Brook were all there, so too was Madonna's boyfriend Guy Ritchie. The fat black Mercedes choked the little cobbled street.

It is a generation since pubs like The Grenadier were in fashion. Then the young trustafarians enjoyed a rite of passage in the dimly lit saloon bars of SW1. The teenage snog, the early retch from a bellyful of rum and coke and, of course, the first bread roll thrown in jest were all once enacted at either "The Admiral Cod" in Mossop Street, or The Grenadier in Wilton Mews, or The Australian in Milner Street.

They were the spiritual (and spirited) London bolt holes during the Sloane years, that brief period at the latter end of the last century when the civilised world gaped at, and very occasionally aped, the young Gucci-shod upper-class Hooray Henrys and the ra-ra-skirted Marlboro-smoking Sloane Rangers. The Official Sloane Ranger Handbook ("The First Guide to What Really Matters in Life') then described the Admired Codrington, for example, as the Young Sloane HQ.

Now, 20 years later, the old Hooray bars have returned to prominence. Imperceptibly, they are emerging as the chic watering holes of the new young rich, where the bright young things, celebrities, PRs, advertising executives, City slickers and the Prince William set hang out.

The Grenadier is so popular on a Sunday morning that you need a ticket to order a Bloody Mary. It is Chris Evans's favourite pub. Saffron Rainey, co-owner of Woody's, drinks there, and it is an occasional haunt of Lady Gabriella Windsor. Lord Edward Spencer Churchill (the respectable and rich stepbrother of the dissolute Jamie Blandford) drinks around the corner at the Admiral Codrington and the actress Joely Richardson often eats there. So too does the restaurateur Gordon Ramsay and the perfume queen Jo Malone. The young royal circle that includes Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, Tom Parker Bowles and Prince William's chums the van Cutsems patronise all three, while the socialites like Catrina Skepper, Emma Gibbs, Johnny Yeo and Sheba Ronay provide the fashionable Shakespearean chorus.

Twenty years ago The Sloane Ranger Handbook noted: "On any midweek evening a dozen or so Hooray Henrys can be found in the SW1 pubs surrounded by other Sloane Ranger men. They are clearly discernible by the desperate dogged expression of men yearning to get pissed and steal a yellow zebra-crossing beacon." Once they were a haven for under-age drinking (it was jokingly claimed that you weren't allowed in unless you were under 18). They were where you could be introduced to soft and hard drugs and probably where you met your future spouse. But by the Nineties they had run their course, and their more infamous patrons like Dai Llewellyn, Lord Bristol and Jamie Blandford had vanished into death or respectability. By the time the Nineties were in full lime-green swing, the then chic were living in Daphne's opposite the Michelin building in South Kensington and only a few hundred yards from The Grenadier. It was Eurotrash's hacienda. The handsome European Mogens Tholstrup became the pin-up for the new vogue that patronised his restaurant. It was the neighbourhood local for Ivana Trump, Koo Stark and Britt Ekland. It was home to those glorious Nineties celebrity names like James Palumbo, Andrew Neil, Cosima von Bulow and Tania Bryer (how quickly we forget) who all revelled in the limelight at the blond Dane's eaterie. But now Mogens, his blond highlights and his glittering comrades have been downgraded to the Diary of The Week pages of Hello! magazine.

And into the vacuum has slipped the revamped Admiral Codrington, the unchanging Australian (which too is occasionally visited by Madonna) and of course The Grenadier. The young Sloanes may have moved on from blue jeans and cowboy boots to Joseph flat-fronted black trousers and Gina sandals, but they still need to get sloshed and whoop it up. The three establishments are still there fighting to be the most fashionable, but Madonna's Tuesday night party has successfully put The Grenadier firmly into the new Sloane groove.'

Sloane Pub gets Madonna boost, London Evening Standard, 30 November 2000

13 May 2014

On the Nigerian Affair

Let it be known henceforth that I shall be abstaining from 21-year-old blonde hotties, innumerable bottles of Veuve Clicquot, and weekend excursions to St Barts until those poor little African-American girls are returned to their rightful owners. Let the deprivations commence.

Nigel Farage: Vorsprung Durch Stil

'Euroscepticism is taking hold even in the country at the heart of the European project. And one of the continent's chief Eurosceptics, British politician Nigel Farage, has become an idol to some young Germans - to the consternation of many others.

For rebels, they appear extremely polite, are impeccably dressed and display a distinct lack of piercings or tattoos.

Germany's Junge Alternative (JA), or Young Alternative, may be dissidents - a Eurosceptic youth movement determined to overturn Germany's long-standing pro-European orthodoxy - but they are very conservative ones, advocating a crackdown on immigration and crime.'

Germany's youth rebels against EU, BBC, 11 May 2014

12 May 2014

Ratting Porn

Nosher in Africa

"By 2000, however, a new business opportunity arose. Several other freelance intelligence men were interested in west Africa, including a jovial and sandy-haired individual called Nigel Morgan. A Briton of Irish descent, Morgan is a former member of the Irish Guards (he calls them the Micks)  where he worked in military intelligence. His character is one that the novelist Graham Greene might relish. He trained briefly as a Jesuit priest, shortly after working for a thinktank that advised Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. Known by friends and neighbours as Nosher or Captain Pig, he has a startlingly red face, the sort that glows in a dark room, having spent years under the African sun while swallowing pints of pink gin and tumblers of whisky. His love of hearty English food, rich cheese and cigars is matched only by the pleasure he takes in spinning yarns and arguing about politics."

- Adam Roberts, The Wonga Coup: Guns, Thugs, and a Ruthless Determination to Create Mayhem in an Oil-Rich Corner of Africa (2006)

07 May 2014

Bongo Drums on the Pacific

Taking a stroll along the beach with my Laguna Beach crew recently, I stumbled upon this scene (at left) of local musicians generously giving an impromptu recital. It was a wonderful, unexpected sight, and a rebuke to those who say the civic spirit is dead in America. We stayed for a few minutes. The tune seemed a bit heavy in the percussion instrument department, and if you asked me to identify the specific composer of the piece being performed I could not do it. Alas, my knowledge of the more esoteric corners of the classical canon is wretchedly inadequate. The gay atmosphere was briefly marred by a dirty long-haired drugged-out hippy who somehow managed to crash the event, and who spent the whole time rather censoriously picking up imaginary pieces of rubbish from the grass. As my crew and I turned to leave I gazed one last time upon the scene before me and for a very brief moment it seemed perfectly emblematic of our glorious civilisation.


06 May 2014

Reds Don't Surf !

05 May 2014

Itchycoo Park (Small Faces)

Hornets of Kensington. Not fashion. Style.