Saturday, 4 October 2008

Blogger Me ?

Why does the Blog get such a bad press? It is a genre which goes back to the very beginnings of the essay as invented by Montaigne. He chose to write about the only subject of which he was the greatest expert, Himself. Which pretty well defines the Blog.

Writing one is a great source of pleasure. The first time in my life I have defied Dr Johnson who claimed that no-one but a blockhead writes, except for money. If you write for money you are limited by what your paymaster wants to read. I wrote a vituperative column on the death of Princess Di when a fever of hypocrisy gripped the world.

The page one splash of the National Enquirer online that morning was all about the secret love life of the randy Princess. By lunchtime it had changed to some slush about the Queen of Hearts and how she was mourned by the world.

The Editor of the Liverpool Daily Post refused to publish my observations.

I get great pleasure from reading the blogs of other people. I particularly enjoy the blog of an “old” chum, Daily Express reporter Mary Duffy( I also enjoy Mary Beard; Revel Barker’s weekly trip into newspaper nostalgia (Gentleman Ranters); Cathy Buckle on the horrors of life in Zimbabwe; the intermittent despatches from a girl in Baghdad; Azelea, a delightful American girl whose Blog title is a quotation from Cicero “To Each His Own is Beautiful”. This week she is worried that she is going to die. I commend to her my good friend Geoff Mather’s Perspective Blog.

Mather, who has an exotic acquaintance we would all covet, was Features Editor of the Daily Express in the days when it was still a newspaper. He is both entertaining and erudite. A thoughtful Buddhist, he writes this week of the white light which we are supposed to see at the moment of death. It is a well known Buddhist concept and is the pure mind of Enlightenment. He also quotes the Tibetan Book of the Dead which says we have 49 days before we are reborn.

I received news this week which suggests, in Noel Coward’s words, that “Time’s winged chariot is beginning to goose me”. I have to say that 49 days isn’t very long for R and R before I have to go through the whole tiring business of another life. Possibly on the pavement of some crowded Indian city.

I have lived a life of vast entertainment, enjoyed some success and experienced moments of great happiness. I would not go quite so far as Gilbert Harding who confessed in a television interview that he would be glad when the future is over.
However, I am living in a world where I increasingly feel a stranger. This week on You Tube I watched great comics like Rob Wilton and mourned their surly successors whose idea of fun is to be rude about everyone upon whom they can lay their scrofulous tongues I also heard on You Tube an interview from Radio Birmingham so inept it made me ashamed of my once and only trade.

I have watched the laughter leave the face of once Merry England. Frankly, 49 days is not enough. Not perhaps oblivion but certainly a good lie in.

A traveller to strike envy into the heart of Marco Polo, the time approaches for the Head Ferret’s Great Expedition. In December she redistributes the nation’s wealth taking costly gifts round her family like some transvestite Magus. In her absence Plas Skidmore goes on a war footing. Plates, nil; spoons, one. Oxtails, two. Eaten from the pan. Despite Christmas, December is my favourite month, gastro-wise.
There was for a while, you may recall, a ban on oxtails but my tradition was not interrupted. Black market connections were established by my policeman father when he joined the wartime crime squad designed to eradicate it. Within weeks, our house was so full of groceries I thought I was the son of a uniformed grocer. Since then I have established my own naughty network and contraband tails continued to wag.

Should you be minded to try a carnivore’s Ambrosia, here is the definitive recipe for a ragout. Two oxtails are required. Remember second helpings.

First make five gallons of cider. True, a litre is sufficient for the ragout but, in matters of drink, the wise err on the safe side.

My ancestor Viscount Scudamore brought the first red streak apple to Herefordshire from his Paris Embassy, prompting the poetic tribute in Evelyn’s Pomona: “Of no regard till Skydmore’s courtly hand, taught it its savage nature to subdue.” I use cider in his honour. He also bred the first Hereford cattle; designed by heaven to provide tails that swish with a cry of joy as they leap into the frying pan.

Water can be used; but never by me, except for pre-cooking, soaking and boiling. If water IS used, adding two tablespoonfuls of red wine is essential.

After boiling and draining, put oxtail pieces into a large paper bag with seasoned flour. Shake and transfer to bacon-scattered pan for flash frying in butter. Remove. Replace with onion stuck with cloves, bouquet garni, carrots, seasoning. Flash fry. Mix tomato juice, beef stock, plump garlic and cider with meat and veg. Casserole gently for four hours. Cool. Skim fat.
Add carrots, turnips, leeks, potatoes and - a personal preference - haricot beans. Cook for three quarters of an hour.

Now comes the magic bit. Thirty minutes before serving, add a tablespoon of raisins which have been swollen and two dessert spoons of pine kernels. Just before serving, correct seasoning and sprinkle with bitter chocolate. Attack with spoon. Trust me. It gets better every day.

No Comment!

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs. "—Thomas Jefferson, 1802