Thursday, January 31, 2013

Manners makyth man

A book lying around at Winchester hospital was Modern Manners Defined which is a collection of essays by various comedians. One of Giles Coren's behavioural rules is "Don't reach, ask. Or, better still, wait to be offered." His mother told him not to ask for anything, for example, salt and pepper, when he was dining at other people's houses but to wait until it was offered. "But what if nobody offers?" he asked. "Then they are very rude," she replied. In extreme circumstances, he might say to the person next to him, "May I pass you anything?" They should then reply, "No thank you. May I pass you anything?" Then he might ask if it wasn't too much trouble to pass the water jug. Coren observes that this system only works if others know of it. At a recent Christmas lunch for 12 people, he heard his mother ask, "May I pass anybody anything?" Everybody just carried on eating, elbows on table, mouths open, one or two muttering, "No I'm fine thanks." He remembered her old advice and said, "No thank you, Mummy. May I pass you anything?" It turned out she wanted the sprouts.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Winchester hospital

The aged P has emerged from Winchester hospital today, fully recovered and able to walk again. He'd fallen a couple of weeks ago in the house and his legs were completely jarred. His poor eyesight and memory were assets in so far as he forgot he was in hospital. "When is this European holiday coming to an end?" he asked on one of my visits. It was also fortunate that his hearing's not acute. On his third and final ward, the voice of a wailing woman from along the corridor outside could often be heard, "Help me! HELP ME!" I asked one of the nurses why she was so distressed. "She's fine," the nurse replied. "I can be sitting there, talking to her and suddenly she'll call out. Her dementia makes her forget where she is and her brain automatically triggers those words."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Celebrity quiz of the day

The photo was taken in the 1920s. The person's still alive...any guesses?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Railway greats

There was consternation on South West Trains yesterday when, ten minutes after its scheduled departure time, the train was still sitting at Waterloo and passengers in the last five coaches were advised to move down the train as, due to a defective door, those five coaches would not be leaving the station. There was a stampede onto the platform and a dash towards the front of the train. While this was happening, there was another announcement, "The defective door has now been mended. Would all passengers from the last five coaches please return to their seats." It wasn't obvious how the crowd hurrying along the platform would hear this message.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Question of the day

"The next Conservative Manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next Parliament...When we have done so, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice - stay in the EU on these new terms or come out altogether... We will complete this negotiation and hold this referendum within the first half of the next Parliament" says David Cameron in his long-awaited speech on Europe.

In other words, a referendum will occur if the Conservative Party is elected and if it is able to negotiate an acceptable new settlement with Europe.

What probability do you give to a referendum being held in 2017?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sporting heroes of the era

Monday, January 21, 2013

Bad old joke of the day

George W. Bush visits Algeria. As part of his program, he delivers a speech to the Algerian people: "You know, I regret that I have to give this speech in English. I would very much prefer to talk to you in your own language. But unfortunately, I was never good at algebra..."

Friday, January 18, 2013

Winchester winter

Bit of a blizzard here this morning.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Islamabad today

Police are using tear gas in Islamabad today at anti-corruption marchers led by Tahirul Qadri, a Muslim cleric who's flown in from Canada to fight for just elections. The Supreme Court has now called for the arrest of Prime Minister Ashraf for accepting bribes for infrastructure projects.

Monday, January 14, 2013


NMFs (non-Muslim foreigners) could order alcohol in their rooms at the Marriott in Islamabad, which would arrive in paper bags or bin liners. There was also a cash bar tucked away in the basement of the hotel. The selection of drinks on offer couldn't be described as wide: red (Shiraz) or white wine (Chardonnay), whisky, gin or vodka. No cocktails, nor champagne. The final night of the weddding was the most formal: a reception for 250 people followed by dinner. Each table setting had a white and red wine glass but hopes were dashed by the waiters who asked, "Coca Cola or Sprite?"

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Islamabad adventure

The year began dramatically with an arsonist in Winchester destroying Phase Eight on the High Street, trying to burn down an Indian restaurant and then setting fire to the bookstall in The Close which badly charred the door to the Deanery. He was caught and his motive revealed: to get back to three meals a day and a roof over his head in prison.

We then dashed off to a wedding in Islamabad which was a three day event which triggered all senses except the one pertaining to alcohol. Sufi singers, garlands of marigolds and red roses, saffron scarves, goat's meat which melted in the mouth, the softest cashmere imaginable, pink tea and the orange orb of the sun setting in the mist behind the Faisal mosque, all contributed to an unforgettable experience.

The flight was also spectacular: the snow-clad mountains of Afghanistan glistened in the morning sun. Dark blue rivers ran through deep valleys and we saw what looked like a walled town alone on a vast plain. Islamabad, however, was shrouded in unseasonable fog so all flights were delayed or diverted. We spent half an hour at Lahore but sadly weren't allowed off the plane to whizz around the Mughal remains. Next time, inshallah...