Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Atheists Unite!

I am very pleased to note that we seem to be entering a new phase in the embryonic Atheist renaissance going on currently. There has been talk for some time within Atheist circles about how we can raise public consciousness for our themes and ideas, until now this has been quite a challenge for those wishing to steer down a more political and influential path.

Atheism is not an alternative “religion” (much as the religious would like people to think it is) and it has no dogmas or rituals, it is simply a lack of belief in God (also usually anything supernatural), because of this there is very little cohesion in the broader Atheist movement because there is nothing to coalesce around other than the absence of faith. There is strong evidence for this lack of cohesion, for example, it is interesting to realise that Atheist numbers in the USA far exceed that of the Jews for instance, but everyone knows how powerful the Jewish political lobby is in that country; Richard Dawkins likens organising Atheists to “herding cats”.

Hopefully we have seen the beginnings of a change in that situation, as of Monday “The Out Campaign” was officially launched at Dawkins WEB site see here although the campaign is currently small scale and a little amateurish I’m sure with the level of interest and momentum that Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris (among others) have built up it will catch on quickly and gain constituents. The scarlet "A" symbol has been chosen to represent the campaign (I hope they checked that no one needs this font to be licensed)

Currently the campaign is mainly oriented around getting Atheists to “come out”, rather in the style of the gay rights campaign of a similar ilk back in the 80s; the general gut feel of the movers and shakers is that there are a lot more Atheists out there than our establishment bodies would have us believe. I also think that we will encounter a lot of “fence sitters” who are either too afraid or too apathetic to emerge from the closet as well. Why bother?, I hear people ask, well I think it’s a simple fact of life, unless politicians, businesses, communities and governments realise how numerous we are (i.e. what power our influence potentially wields) our views will continue to be marginalised and iron age religious bigotry will continue to rule unchallenged over many parts of this little globe of ours, question is, are we happy with that?

My personal hope is that this campaign will expand and encompass many more goals over its life, for example,

  • How we acquire political clout
  • Establish our manifesto, i.e. church-state separation
  • Raise funds
  • Handle the media
  • Influence the zeitgeist
  • Develop institutions
  • Reach out to people under the cosh of oppressive theocracies
  • Build community

Exciting times.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Species of Parent

I recently stayed at a “family friendly” hotel in Fowey in Cornwall (UK), see here for a review of it. Whilst we were there it was interesting to do a bit of people watching and being a geek one of the little games I played was to try and categorise the parents I saw and their interactions with their children into groups, the groups I came up with were as follows.

Psychotic – Parents who seem determined to commit infanticide by pushing the perceived interests of their children above and beyond all reasonableness, you can especially easily identify them when sport is involved, they are the over animated ones jumping up and down on the touch line bellowing at their 3 year old to “crush the opposition” and “get in there, break his legs” and so on. Adrenal glands way too big, frontal lobes way to small…

Deer in the headlights – This group is clearly identified by the daft grin that seems permanently welded to their faces, soppy dopes who seem to walk around with their heads tilted at a 45 degree angle inanely smiling, then saying “ah”, as young Tommy projectile vomits semi-digested stringy cheese all over your new suit.

Pistol Whipped – It’s hard not to feel utter contempt for this group, sad bastards with dark rings around their eyes and nervous twitches; their little angel rules their very existence, every ridiculous fantasy, whim and desire of their spoilt brat of a child is fully catered for, every sweet, ice cream, toy or game is procured immediately or else an infeasibly loud screaming fit ensues. Strangely they all speak using an odd squeaky “baby” language, sometimes amusingly forgetting to flip back to normal when talking to adults, spooky.

Hippy – The hippy group are the ones that just don’t give a shit, to all intents and purposes they don’t actually have children, they merely have small unpleasant associates that they occasionally negotiate unsuccessfully with. These are the kids that take a dump in the middle of a crowded restaurant whilst the parents continue chatting and looking on over their cups of herbal tea; these are the group whose offspring seem never to sleep or wash and who seem oblivious to the rest of humanity until they are beaten to a pulp by the Psychotic kids, these parents do “indignant” best of all.

Paranoid – When placing myself in a group this would be it; these are the conflicted buffoons who follow their kids around eternally picking up their detritus and constantly warning or chastising them for nearly breaking their own neck (or some other kids’ neck). This group is just paranoid that their kids are going to do something anti-social or embarrassing, of course, that’s exactly what always happens. Clearly this pitiless existence is very stressful, secretly this group wants to be in the hippy group but just can’t bring themselves to be that inconsiderate.

Clearly hybrid configurations are possible, i.e. Paranoid mothers and Psychotic fathers; amusingly though this simple classification seemed to cover it.

Fowey Hall Hotel

Our main family holiday this year was to spend a week at Fowey Hall in Fowey, Cornwall; the Hotel is now part of the Luxury Family hotels group, see here this is a small group of select hotels in the UK that specialise in child friendly “luxury” holidays that cater for families that have young children who want 4/5 star accommodation, food and service but also need childcare, children’s facilities and organised child oriented activities. A couple of years ago we spend a long weekend at the Moonfleet Manor hotel which is also part of this group so it was interesting to compare and contrast these two establishments.

The main building of the hotel was originally built in 1899 by Sir Charles Augustin Hanson, 1st Baronet of Fowey and Lord Mayor of London (1917-18) he was also an MP for Bodmin in Cornwall (1916-22); apparently it was the inspiration for “Toad Hall” of “Wind in the Willows” fame, a children’s book by Kenneth Grahame. The high vantage point is superb, probably the best in the whole of Fowey, great views of the river estuary and Fowey town; it also serves up views of the medieval blockhouses guarding the entrance to the harbour and on out to cliffs and the open sea.

The décor and atmosphere of the communal areas of the hotel are great; the character of a stately home has been well preserved. There are dinning rooms, libraries, drawing rooms as well as games and meeting rooms, a splendid terrace soaking up the great views along with small but mature gardens concealing a conservatory style pool, several trampolines, play area and a kids club with full day-care/nursery facilities and a play room housing table football, pool and table tennis etc. Overall the quality of the facilities was good; their condition was satisfactory rather than pristine with some (i.e. the pool) in need of a refresh or updating baring in mind the price and marketing positioning of the hotel.

Our room was probably one of the biggest in the hotel; actually it was two adjoining rooms each with its own bathroom and a little hall area between them. Availability was scarce when we booked and all that was available was half-board and the “Charles Hanson” room; it was nice enough i.e. great views and clean, but the state of decoration was generally poor for the money. Creaky old wardrobes, rattley sash windows, cheap curtains and badly faded tapestries, I guess some people like this authentic “moth-eaten” feel, but personally I thought it badly needed modernisation and redecoration. The room had a cheap LCD TV and bargain basement DVD player (which worked most of the time); the kid’s room just had a cheap CRT TV which frankly was rubbish, the equipment was decidedly 2 star and we hardly used it. Apparently (according to other guests) there were other rooms in the hotel (in a new extension wing) that were very well equipped, i.e. modern stylish bathrooms, up to date AV equipment and contemporary furnishings etc. but sadly we didn’t get a chance to look at them during our stay.

Generally the pattern of activity flowed pretty much the same for us on most days; a hearty breakfast was followed by putting the kids into the club for a couple of hours at around 10am; this was nice as it allowed us adults to chill out over a cup of tea and a good read of the papers etc. (although the last Harry Potter book came out this week so that featured high on the “to-do” list of most people). After picking up the kids at midday we usually headed out for the day, things like beaches, attractions, parks and organised outings were in order along with a spot of lunch. Typically we got back at around 5pm when kid’s dinner was served. The hotel offers the concept of a separate children’s dinner from the main “adult” dinner, this was an extra charge, but at £7.50 per child offered reasonable value and certainly a convenient way to maintain “home like” eating schedules, we took advantage of it every night.

In-between kid’s dinner and adult’s dinner several activities were on offer, games (i.e. Xbox, Playstation, Monopoly etc.) and (weather permitting) outdoor sports like football, cricket, badminton etc. although this is one area where the facilities were particularly poor, cricket was 4 stumps, one adult size bat and a tennis ball (hardly suitable for 5 year olds); football was a ball and the same 4 cricket stumps for goals. The “sports” were supervised by hotel staff (usually a solitary young member of staff) mostly they seemed pretty disinterested in the whole thing, which often degenerated into chaos as the older kids pummelled (figuratively) the younger ones, inevitably it ended in tears.

After bathing and settling the kid’s down to sleep we prepared ourselves for dinner; each room has a listening device connected to a central console in the reception, the idea is that if your child cries out or makes a noise then the staff come and get you. This seemed to work ok, luckily neither of ours gave us any trouble (must be all that sea air!); human baby sitters were available but at extra cost, since we ate in the hotel every night we didn’t really need them.

The overall dining experience was good; the main dining room was reserved for adults only; however children could still eat with their parents in an adjoining room (I am amazed by how many 2-3 year olds were still running around after 9-10pm). This was a very good scheme as with so many children in the hotel, the noise and general mayhem of the day did wear you down after a while and having dedicated “Adult time”, i.e. peace and quiet was great. Three courses were on offer every night, a fixed, unchanging menu of 5-6 starters, 8-9 mains and 5-6 desserts with a single varying “menu of the day”, the selection was fair, plenty of fish and shellfish, surprisingly no beef (although steak appeared once as a daily menu item), one lamb, one chicken and one pork dish the rest seafood of varying kinds. On Sunday the chef obviously took the day off and we were all treated to a BBQ; I wasn't that keen on this idea, the food was fine, but the restrictions on kids in the main dinning room were lifted and boy was that unpleasant, over tired brats endlessly tearing around your table, simply not conducive to an enjoyable dining experience, we were in bed by 9pm that day.

The presentation of the food was very good; the quality was generally good although some dishes were a little bland (i.e. the tian of crab starter), the desserts were the highlight for me, generally they were excellent. The wine list was limited to around 50 bins and hardly any well known producers; I think they had tried to “represent” every conceivable country and grape so that people could at least find one thing they recognised; however in doing this it was a kind of “jack of all trades” but master of none. I found it very difficult to select wines from this list, the mark-ups seemed inconsistent and I suspected that the wines were chosen for their “margin potential” rather than their quality. This is not a hotel for wine geeks; they even committed the cardinal sin of advertising one vintage and serving another. One night I ordered a 2000 Stags Leap Petit Syrah (£59), this is a £20-25 pound wine (retail) but 2000 was an excellent year in Napa so I thought I would splash out; when the bottle arrived it turned out to be a 2004, when I mentioned this to the waiter he looked at me as if to say “so what it's the right wine isn't it?”, for a wine geek this is about as bad as it gets. The Bordeaux and Burgundy selections were poor, fringe/unknown producers, poor vintages and 5X+ mark-ups, Italy seemed reasonably represented but again, no one I’d heard of, South Africa & Spain seemed the best value with the rest a real mixed bag of odds and sods.

Overall this was a good, not great, holiday, the kid’s really enjoyed it and we genuinely had time to relax and recharge. The location (i.e. Fowey) was lovely, the views were great and there was plenty to do and see in the surrounding area. In terms of the hotel itself I’d say the following,

Excellent things

  • Kid’s club
  • Location, buildings, atmosphere and gardens

Good things

  • Dining experience, food
  • Indoor facilities, games, library & communal areas
  • Attentiveness of service, general efficiency

Poor things

  • State of décor & equipment in our room (Charles Hanson)
  • “Sports” in the evenings, lack of proper equipment & supervision
  • BBQ on Sunday (at least the lifting of child restrictions in the main dining room)
  • Overall value for money

Unacceptable things
  • Wine issues
  • Loud music from the kitchen (just below our room) at 5:30am!
  • Rattling windows (a couple of nights it got windy)
If I had to compare Fowey with Moonfleet Manor I'd say that Fowey was definitely better for (adult) food and dining, childcare and general location/atmosphere however I think Moonfleet scored better on facilities for sports and games, having a large indoor sports centre all of its own.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Chastity ring case- update

I read a news item yesterday that reported the outcome of the "chastity ring" case bought before the high court last month and which I wrote about recently here .

It's good news, Christians 0 - Rationality 1 i.e. they lost and ended up having to contribute to the schools costs - thank god for that!

Friday, July 13, 2007

La Tupina, Bordeaux

It’s a well known phenomenon that when a restaurant is able to claim “the best” of something and that claim is replicated in a few trusted places in the media it really doesn’t matter how many Michelin stars it has or indeed where it is, it will always get a regular stream of customers eager to “try” whatever the superlative item is and thereby judge the claim for themselves, La Tupina is such a place. The item in question at this particular establishment is the ubiquitous “chip” (or French fry). It seemed strange to me that a restaurant in a back street of Bordeaux, France would claim to offer the best chips; surely that honour would fall to a suitably endowed Belgian or English café, mais non!, and I during my recent visit to this fair city I couldn’t miss the opportunity to try them.

How to describe La Tupina, well, imagine a Provençal kitchen complete with roaring fire, chequered table cloths, suitably rural paintings and decorated plates nailed to rustic stone walls (a little worse for wear). Then picture every nook and cranny of those old walls filled with dusty old bottles of exotic looking fluids and shelves lined with Armagnac stretching back to before the First World War and you are just about there.

I’d say the atmosphere was “casual”, no fussy waiters or intimidating doormen, it seems almost like a bistro, however it’s quickly evident that this is a “serious” establishment, good quality stem-ware, crisp service and my goodness the odours coming from the kitchen and the open fire, just heavenly. It was clear from the menu that this is the kind of place that knows what it does well and sticks to it; mainly traditional dishes not too many choices and a simple wine list with the usual token 1st growth at a ridiculous mark-up. We opted for a set menu as it seemed to cover the highlights well, I chose a foie gras terrine to start followed by “7 hour lamb” and my wife went for a hot goats cheese salad with roast duck as a main course (we carefully noted that the duck came with the celebrated “chips” that I was so anxious to try). For the wine geeks, I chose a Lafon-Rochet 2001 at 60 Euros; I had never tried this vintage before but had enjoyed a few bottles of the 2000 and 1997 previously, I hoped that the lighter style and smoky-plumy character of this 4th growth St. Estephe wine would provide a reasonable backdrop to the various roast dishes we had ordered.

Quickly and efficiently an appetiser of bread, charcuterie, raw vegetables and what can only be described as an assortment of “pork scratchings” appeared with this we started to understand what this place was about. The deep fried meat wasn’t actually pork; it was duck fat or skin deep fried until crispy and coated something nice, yum, but not for the feint hearted! After finishing our starters (not that memorable) and an appropriate break the mains arrived, the lamb looked wonderful, almost black in colour still on the bone with some kind of wine based sauce which it had obviously been basted in; had it really been roasting for 7 hours, well a single touch of my fork practically melted it, I have never tasted such tender and flavoursome lamb superb. I didn’t actually try the duck, it looked good however my wife thought it was just OK, nothing special. Now for the main event, the chips, these weren’t your average MacDonald’s fries or even premium M&S oven chips, oh no, hand cut, irregular shaped fantastically crispy "door stops"; deep fried in duck fat over the open fire in tiny iron skillets, boy oh boy, these were chips with secondary flavours; crispy, ducky, creamy in the middle, salty with a finish of pure wood-smoke, I could have eaten many times my own body weight of these. Were they “the best”, well, I’ve had some great chip experiences in Belgium and Holland double fried, with mayonnaise etc.; it would be a close run thing, but just maybe! After the main courses we had some cheese and finished off with chocolate cake (oh my!) with custard and I had cooked pears & ice cream.

In summary this is a great little place, simple and rustic but of very high quality, if you have any concerns about cholesterol, fat, offal and blood or don’t like duck then don’t bother, but if you are looking for an authentic south-western French style of cooking then La Tupina is not only Robert Parker's favourite Bordeaux eatery but definitely one for your list too!

Thursday, July 05, 2007

What exactly does Jack Straw stand for?

In a recent TV interview Jack Straw the ex UK foreign secretary and current MP for Blackburn was discussing the recent attack on Glasgow airport; he proposed that we [the public] should not associate this atrocity with any particular religion, HUH?, run that by me again, so the fact that a flaming lunatic jumps out of his crashed jeep was shouting "Allah, Allah" doesn't some how give the game away? does Jack think that the public are so stupid that they haven't already made that obvious and unequivocal link already?

He went on to say that Islam is a "wonderful" religion; hold on a minute, is this the same Jack Straw that just last year declared that Muslim women shouldn't wear the veil because it is "culturally divisive". Lets get this straight, when a religion inspires you to run through a crowded airport "on fire" its "wonderful", but when it inspires you to throw a sheet over your head it's divisive... sorry Jack I don't follow your logic there.

In my opinion the only sane thing that anyone can hope for is that (religion or no religion) rationality will prevail and that in the end the Human "prejudice gene" that seems to precipitate all cults and religions will be consigned to the "junk DNA" of our descendants. Come on natural selection, do your thing (hold on, maybe it already is...)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Wine tasting in Bordeaux

I recently had a long weekend in Bordeaux, the main purpose of which was to relax and spend some quality time with my wife away from the kids (thanks Nanna & Grandad!), of course Bordeaux wasn't selected at random, that location facilitates two of my most favourite past-times namely, eating good food and tasting fine wine! We arrived Friday evening and departed the following Monday afternoon, a short but very enjoyable trip during which we visited a number of Châteaux in the Medoc and St. Emilion.

Here are the tasting notes for all the wines I tried (some at the château and some over dinner/lunch) - scoring using a "Parker" 50-100 point score.

Ch. Lafon Rochet 2001, St. Estephe

I have tried a couple of vintages Lafon Rochet and always found it to be a reliable and interesting wine. The quality of this estate seems to be steadily increasing, the 97 was above average, the 2000 is really good and this 2001 is also excellent VFM at around £22/bottle. Dark, complex and full bodied. Black fruits and earth on the nose, good mouth feel, reasonable finish, soft tannins with a slightly "dusky" feel to it, drinking OK now but plenty of life left in it yet 5+ years [89+]

Ch. Haut Bages Averous 2001, Pauillac

Pleasant nose of red berries, some “greenness”, lively in the mouth, fresh good finish; would appear to be good VFM at £20/bottle, 5+ years left probably with some improvement [87]

Ch. Lynch-Bages 2001, Pauillac

This was my fourth outing for the grand vin of this Pauillac 5th growth, although that classification is a bit of a joke, it should be more like 2nd these days, I've previously tried the 98 which I thought was good, and the 2000 which was great, this was somewhere in between. Cassis and red fruits on the nose, medium depth, not as lively as the 2nd wine of the same vintage and perhaps a little closed at present? Probably wise to wait 5 years or so for this one although I doubt it will ever become a blockbuster like some of their better years i.e. 1989, 1996, 2000 etc. but I'd be happy to own some never the less 10+ years [88]

Blanc de Lynch-Bages 2004, Pauillac

A wonderful discovery for me, unfortunately they only make 1500 cases a year. So refreshing, citrus fruits, well integrated oak, some sweetness (apparently there is some Muscadelle in the blend) Medium bodied, aromatic and went superbly with the langoustines in a rich sauce that I had with it. I imagine that this has some legs too; it seems to have plenty of body to last and improve over time 5+ years [91+]

Ch. Bernadotte 2001, Pauillac

Quite similar to the second wine of Lynch-Bages from the same vintage; fresh, up-front nose and taste, also quite tannic with a reasonable finish so I would imagine there is no rush to drink this. Value wise, at around £11 this seems ok but certainly not at the same QPR level as a lot of new-world Bordeaux look-a-likes, 5+ years [88]

Ch. Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2004, Pauillac

Bright red colour, fairly dull nose but there is fruit there, cherries, cassis and cocoa. Big disappointment in the mouth, chewy, slightly bland with strong dry tannins, clearly very young and potentially closed down at the moment? I’d give this plenty of time to come around, only because of the good name of the estate rather than any special tasting insight on my part, but at £55/bottle I won't be stocking up on this any time soon. 10+ years [88+]

Alter Ego du Palmer 2000, Margaux

Nice nose & deep colour, red fruits, tobacco, earth. Smooth accessible, drinking well now but will certainly improve. Around £35/bottle which I suppose is about right for a 2000 2nd wine from a top estate, went very well with the beef fillet I had with it, got better over the course of the meal (2+ hours) in the decanter. 10+ years [90+]

Ch. Houchat la Rose 2002, Fronsac

Tight upfront fruit on the nose, wood, resin, red berries, bright red in colour. I would imagine that this would be a splendid food wine for “lunching ladies”, not too heavy (12.5%), accessible but more serious than most roses. I’ve not tried too many wines from Fronsac, but this is a good one IMO, around 10 euros 5+ years [88]

Ch. Rozier 2004, St. Emilion

Blackcurrant and red fruits on the nose, wood & vanilla evident, good rich colour but a lighter style of Saint Emilion, well balanced for such a young wine, overall not too shabby for an average year. 5+ years [88+]

Ch. St. Andre Corbin 2004, St. Emilion (St. Georges)

Typical St. Emilion nose, dark colour, blueberries and vanilla with some more complex notes of chocolate and tobacco hiding underneath its youthful surface. Smooth and well balanced but surprisingly complex for this price point (£12), a very good wine. 5+ years [89+]

Ch. St. Andre Corbin 2005, St. Emilion (St. Georges)

Very nice nose, blueberry/vanilla, yum! Perhaps a little unbalanced at this stage but nothing unexpected, tannic but definitely good fruit under that, should improve and last for a good few years, great value at around 20 euros, but might be hard to find in the UK 5+ years [90+]

Les Cedres de Franc-Mayne 2004, St. Emilion

Tight, slightly green, nice fruit but difficult to get past the initial attack which is a bit harsh. It will probably settle down a bit with time 5+ years but not something I’d rush out to buy [86]

Ch. Franc Mayne 2001, St. Emilion Grand Cru Classe

“Dull” is my overriding impression of this wine, small nose and weak in the mouth, finish not bad but very tannic; at over £20/bottle I’m really not impressed [84]

Ch. Franc Mayne 1997, St. Emilion Grand Cru Classe

Tried this one 5 years ago and I thought it was very poor, perhaps this wine needs a long time to come around? This showing proved much better than the previous one, but still only an average wine in my view [82]

Ch. Le Bon Pasteur 1997, Pomerol

I was talked into buying this by our waiter at a restaurant in St. Emilion after my first choice wasn’t available, I wasn’t keen since it cost 90 Euro, I’d never tried it before and my impression of 97 right bank wines is not great, anyway, I caved and I’m glad I did, this was really nice. Good nose, smoky, cherry, black current, smooth, balanced and very well integrated oak. Full bodied and showing well, interestingly it improved over the course of the meal as well, suggesting it has legs left yet. 5+ years [91]

Fugue de Nenin 2006, Pomerol

Second wine of Chateau Nenin, first time I’d tried this in fact I hadn’t realized Nenin even had a 2nd label. Barrel sample, so pretty full on, bubble gum nose, plenty of fruit, strong tannin fabulous colour, I think this will be a very good wine, early drinking but complex enough, 10+ years [88]

Ch. de Nenin 2004, Pomerol

First sampling for me of Nenin, I like it. The 2004 is still very tannic, pretty much what you would imagine the owners of LLC would produce from Pomerol. Good dark colour, black fruits, plumy, fleshy, long finish. 10+ years [89+]

Chapelle de Pontensac 2004, Medoc

Second wine of Chateau Pontensac, my first sampling of this wine, superficially simple in colour and nose but actually some structure here, a “classic” claret style as you would expect from the LLC stable 5+ years [88]

Ch. Pontensac 2006, Medoc

Subtle nose (more so than the second wine), great colour, still very tannic as expected and very classic in style, quite austere but I like that; Opened out noticeably over the course of 10 minutes in the glass revealing cassis, earthy notes and some dark fruits, I suspect this will be a very nice wine in 5-10 years time [89+]

Clos du Marquis 2006, St. Julien

One of my favorites and certainly one of the best 2nd wines of the Medoc IMO, quite restrained on the nose at this stage but you get the impression that there is stuff going on with this wine. The 2006 CDM contains a high percentage of Cabernet Franc (13.2%) this year for the 1st time which came from a parcel in the Grand Vin vineyard, apparently it didn’t ripen fast enough for inclusion in the grand vin. The head of the chais at the château thought that this inclusion has revolutionized the CDM this year, he believes that it will add complexity and flavour to the wine which previously has not been there. I think its hard to tell at this early stage but it looks promising, I shall certainly be investing in a few cases. Still great value at around £25/bottle easily of 3rd or 4th growth quality, 15+ years [92]

Clos du Marquis 2004, St. Julien

Classic CDM, still way too young to drink, this needs at least 8 years to come around and gain the complexity that is evident in the raw materials now. Dark ruby in colour, red berries, earthy, tobacco on the nose, very fine for this price point but still a little “tough” and tannic for all but the most devoted of fans. 10+ years [90]

Ch. Leoville-Las Cases 2006, St. Julien

It was a real privilege for me to taste a barrel sample of the grand vin, particularly from such a good year, my absolute favorite Bordeaux wine (so far!). Very deep colour, not a huge nose at this stage but boy is it classy, the people at LLC are such professionals; Classic, powerful, amazingly tannic leaving my mouth feeling like it had been inverted, brooding fruit lurking under the surface, huge finish measured in days rather than seconds, is this better than the 2005, it may well be close. 20+ years [96]

Chevalier de Lascombes 2002, Margaux

The second wine of Chateau Lascombes, I was interested to try this since I visited this estate just after the take over and the 2000 vintage heralded a step change in quality at this 2nd growth Margaux. I liked it, not huge, fairly “international” in style but pleasant with a pork fillet for lunch. Light ruby in colour, red fruits and slightly spirity on the nose, smooth in the mouth, medium finish, altogether not too shabby. 5+ years [87+]

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Bishop solves mystery of climate change...


Its official, the “right reverend” Graham Dow (aka the Bishop of Carlisle) knows the actual mind of God.

This extraordinary revelation means that Dow now knows how God wants us all to behave, what we should do in our bedrooms and with whom, what constitutes “good” behaviour, what constitutes “bad” behaviour and how God would like us to treat Planet Earth. Dow has also been informed by God what the punishments for indiscretions to these rules are and to whom those punishments are currently being administered, in fact he is so sure about all of this that he is willing to spill the beans in a national newspaper. Of course, the precise details of how this "revelation" process actually works are scarce, but clearly any man that dresses in a frock and walks around with a bent stick has a certain gravitas that demands ultimate respect, so who are we to question him?

Now then, this good ol’boy of the Anglican Church calmly and confidently brushes aside the combined life time’s work of hundreds of climatologists, meteorologists, environmentalists and countless scientists from dozens of disciplines to pronounce that the reason for the recent flooding in northern parts of the UK is that (wait for it) his "God" is displeased with us for being nasty to the planet and tolerating gay people. (Thank goodness I don't live in Brighton, so much water and so much "life-style" in close proximity, that's just got to be asking for trouble!)

Well I'm glad that's all clear for everyone now, so it's, bollocks to the weak Atlantic jet stream, bugger the increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere; screw the gulf stream, the man with the bent stick and the frock has the answer, "God did it", wow, how compelling, this is all the evidence anyone could ever need. Clearly, we should just form a militia, round up a few queers (or maybe just men that wear frocks?), pass a few discriminatory laws and then all of our SUV, holiday home, BBQ fantasies will be realised.

Genuinely ignorant people find stupid reasons for phenomenon that they don't understand or can't explain, this basic human behaviour is common to us all, we crave explanation and would rather make something up than have none. In atheist circles this kind of reasoning is generally known as the "argument from incredulity", i.e. I have no clue how this works so therefore "God did it"; but this is worse, this is institutionalised ignorance. In Dow's case, he has the privilege of a first class education and a public platform provided to him by two millennia of persecution, extortion and tyranny by various Christian religions, more worryingly he is supposed to be a "leader" to quite a few C of E faithful, and yet clearly the man doesn't even know what he doesn't know!

Great job Graham, really insightful, but next time, before you try and explain an act of nature, try reading a few books first (preferably ones that are less than 2000 years old) then you might actually start to discover why climatic or natural events like floods, hurricanes, tsunami, tornadoes and the like really happen. Guess what, your "God" turns out not to be involved at all.