mercredi 15 juin 2011


Last Thursday, 09 June, was a great day. Jerome, a friend from church who is also a corporate pilot working out of Geneva, invited me to accompany him on a day-trip to Alsace.

From Geneva, the 330km-long road to Colmar in Alsace is pretty straight and runs parallel with the sloping vineyards that flank Lake Léman. After 170 km the Bernese Oberland, which has to rank amongst some of the world’s most stunning mountain scenery, is visible in the far distance over to the right. Make sure you open your window when you pass the NESPRESSO factory just before Berne (coming from the south) for some delightful aromas, which should also wake you up. As you're on a Swiss road, you just need the vignette costing CHF 40 a year, which entitles you to use all of the Swiss motorway network. So no expensive toll roads, which you encounter from here on the road to the Ardèche via Lyon.

'Bah the Ardèche! Best thing to do is drive through it!' Jerome remarked as we sat back and marvelled at the beauty of God’s creation whilst listening to a lifetime's collection of Genesis and Peter Gabriel CDs.

I can only agree and as Jerome is a Frenchman he must be in a position to judge!

Last September, we drove to the Ardèche for a two-night stay. When we arrived at the hotel at about 2.30 pm on the Sunday, everything was mysteriously locked up! Mein host, who later strutted around the restaurant with the mischievous half-grin of Basil Fawlty, arrived at 5.45 pm after his Sunday lunch and siesta. Too bad for the unfortunate French chap who'd been walking all day and had left his belongings in the hotel after breakfast as he subsequently missed his connection to Paris.

As in Fawlty Towers, the wines on offer were appalling - yet we were a stone's throw from Tain l'Hermitage where the excellent Crozes Hermitage is grown!! – and the food was decidedly canteen/ school dinners.

Personally, I don't think you can compare the Ardèche with Alsace, where you'll always find a warm welcome.

After arriving in Bergheim at noon, we had lunch at Chez Norbert, where the service and food were excellent and I’ve never seen such a varied collection of 150 cl bottles of eau-de-vie – there must have been sixty! Three courses for two with wine, beers and coffees came to just €69 so top quality at bargain basement prices, which just about sums up Alsace!

Not wanting to imbibe too much before a visiting a favourite vintner, Koeberlé-Kreyer in nearby Rodern,, we declined the lemon sorbet accompanied by a glass of marc de Gewurtztraminer for arrosage purposes and opted for the non-alcoholic rhubarb and raspberry sorbet. Alas, these arrived with two small glasses of 45 % kircsh. Well, when in Alsace do like the ........

But Alsace isn't really French or German, though some Alsacians may claim to be French. It has the best of both countries, which is perhaps why it is so unique. When I first visited le val de Villé,, for a two-week holiday in July 1982 I never wanted to leave.

Certainly returning to work in London on the smelly, overcrowded 7.47 from Ascot after this trip wasn't easy. So, thanks Dad – it was your idea that we went to Alsace in the first place.

Now, almost 30 years later I'm hooked on Alsace. It just has everything: great people, superb wines, flavoursome beers - producing half of France's beer, and fairytale scenery. The climate in Colmar is the second hottest in France, after Bordeaux. Any one of its picturesque Medieval villages with half-timbered houses nestling amidst a sea of vines would be a great place in which to retire.

Hence the necessity of regular visits!

jeudi 26 mai 2011


So what is actually being done about malaria? I hear you ask.

Well, quite a lot actually. Especially as winning the fight against malaria is crucial to achieving six of the eight Millennium Development Goals. Since 1998, efforts to defeat malaria, which is both preventable and treatable, have been coordinated by the Roll Back Malaria partnership (RBM) in Geneva. Comprising malaria-endemic countries, their bilateral and multilateral development partners, the private sector, non-governmental and community-based organisations, research and academic institutions and foundations, RBM exemplifies the cross-sectoral collaboration needed to defeat malaria. Its structures guide and facilitate every step in effective global malaria control.

After the first World Malaria Day in April 2008 and Ban Ki-Moon’s prioritising of malaria control as a global public health issue, world leaders and the global malaria community launched the ambitious Global Malaria Action Plan – GMAP - at the September 2008 MDG Malaria Summit in New York.

The GMAP, a global framework for action around which partners can coordinate their efforts, presents: (i) a comprehensive overview of the global malaria landscape ; (ii) an evidence-based approach to deliver effective prevention and treatment to all people at risk ; and (iii) an estimate of the annual funding needs to achieve the goals of the RBM Partnership for 2010, 2015 and beyond.

The GMAP outlines RBM's vision for a substantial and sustained reduction in the burden of malaria in the near and mid-term, and the eventual global eradication of malaria in the long term, when new tools, such as a vaccine, make eradication possible.

Anyway, the targets of the GMAP are to:

Achieve universal coverage (of anti-malarials such as insecticide-treated bednets etc.);

Reduce global malaria cases from 2000 levels by 50% in 2010 and by 75% in 2015;

Reduce global malaria deaths from 2000 levels by 50% in 2010 and to near zero preventable deaths in 2015;

Eliminate malaria in 8-10 countries by 2015 and afterwards in all countries in the pre-elimination phase today; and

In the long term, eradicate malaria world-wide by reducing the global incidence to zero through progressive elimination in countries.

To achieve these targets, the GMAP outlines a three-part global strategy:

control malaria to reduce the current burden and sustain control as long as necessary;

eliminate malaria over time country by country; and

research new tools and approaches to support global control and elimination efforts.

Barriers to the implementation of GMAP are resource gaps : to scale up interventions; produce and deliver nets and treatments; and develop endemic countries' capacity to control malaria. Promotion of new initiatives and solutions and assessment of their impact by monitoring malaria cases is also crucial.

The GMAP is the universal roadmap to ensure nationwide malaria control and elimination.

In April 2009 an exciting initiative, the Affordable Medicine Facility for malaria, the AMFm, was launched in Oslo. One of the main building blocks of GMAP, the AMFm will put affordable life-saving malaria drugs within reach of millions of people, especially children, in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

Industry on the African continent, where malaria costs businesses and economies $12 billion annually in lost productivity and accounts for almost 20% of all child deaths, is also getting its act together and playing a crucial role in malaria control.

The report Business Investing in Malaria Control: Economic Returns and a Healthy Workforce for Africa – authored and published by RBM and launched at the World Economic Forum Africa in Cape Town on May 5th, 2011 – examined evidence from case studies in Zambia, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana and Mozambique. It revealed that the benefits to companies of implementing effective malaria control programs for their workers are significant.

In Zambia, for example, combined data from Zambia Sugar, Mopani Copper Mines and Konkola Copper Mines showed that spending an average of just $34 per employee per year over the period from 2000-2009 on malaria control, resulted in a 94% drop in malaria related lost work days per year. The economic return for these companies was very significant. Investing in malaria control brought these companies an internal rate of return (IRR) of 28% annually (IRR is a rate to measure and compare the profitability of investments).

So, the future of the malaria landscape looks a lot brighter than it did 10 years ago and it's all to play for!

Sources: Roll Back Malaria partnership, WHO, Geneva

mardi 24 mai 2011


Sadly today, bad news and gossip sells newspapers!

It's almost unbelievable that this week the British tabloids are full of the story of an overpaid, oversexed footballer who has cheated on his wife. I bet he regrets his dalliant actions now! But, does the average man in the street, who works hard to provide for his family, really care about a celebrity's infidelity? It is sad if he does!

World poverty and disease certainly put everything into perspective. Last year, 881,000 people died of malaria. Just imagine, almost a million people dying from a preventable, treatable disease. Alarmingly, far more die from hunger each year.

At least 24-hour fasting gives one a sense of what it 's like to go to bed on an empty stomach. But tragically, children in Africa often go to bed without having eaten anything for days.

Perhaps we in the West could curb our oppulent lifestyles to correct this woeful imbalance.

'It's not my problem!' I hear you protest.

I know these are difficult times in which there are bankruptcies and redundancy, but if you have spare change in your pocket then you're richer than the world's 3 billion people who eake out an existense on the meagre $2.50 they earn each day. Imagine trying to prepare two daily meals for four with £1.80!

But it doesn't have to be this way. You can do something about it!

We only get one crack at this life. Wouldn't it be great to know, at the end of your life, that you'd made a difference to the world's poorest people. After all, we're only really fulfilled when we're helping those less fortunate than ourselves.

The money you saved by not buying a daily newspaper (yes, just 80p.!) could support a child in the Third World and transform his/her life with the provision of a coveted education, the ticket out of the poverty trap.

Somebody once said that when you transform a child's life you transform a community. If enough people in the affluent West sponsored children overseas with charities like Compassion, Toybox, Unicef and World Vision, then lives, communities and nations could be lifted from poverty once and for all and allowed to flourish.

On my travels to south Asia in the year 2000 as Editor of The Leprosy Mission (TLM), I saw the amazing difference that micro-credit finance schemes made to leprosy victims' lives.

When one lady in Bangladesh told her husband she had lepsrosy, he kicked her out of the family home warning that he never wanted to see her gain as she'd disgraced the family name. With nowhere to go, she then went to a TLM hospital where she was cured of her leprosy and then given a loan, after some training in a marketable skill, to set up a small business.

When her business started to thrive and she became a respected member of her community, even more so than before she had leprosy, her husband begged her to take him back!

I would even buy a paper if it featured true stories of people who have overcome seemingly insurmountable hurdles and appalling disabilitiess to transform their communities in the Third World !

mardi 19 avril 2011


I was just wondering when it's going to rain? Here in southeastern France, we have had little rain this winter.

The brewers must be tearing their hair out at the lack of rain as it takes 7 pints of water to make 1 pint. 'How come?' I hear you cry. Cleaning and sterilising the brewing kit out after brewing is a lengthy process, which consumes much of the water. Then there's the rain needed for the barley and hops to grow, but that's sent from above anyway.

I don't believe all this global warming nonsense because there is one person who's in charge, the Creator God, and He knows what He's doing. However, the winters don't seem to be as harsh as say in the 1990s.

I remember rinsing a fermenting bin next to my drain in late November, 1996. When the water from the hose hit the concrete slabs of my front path it froze instantly. Real weather then!

The next day, I started early and set the water to reach 65 C, which took about 45 minutes. I shouldn't have rinsed the fermenting bin then as a neighbour tore around the Close on his motorbike and skidded on the ice that resulted from my rinsing water. Thank goodness he didn't come off and wasn't hurt - he would have sued me had it beeen 15 years later!!

Sorry Alien (that was his nickname), I totally forgot about water and ice!

lundi 18 avril 2011


Don't get me wrong, I love the River Cottage series on Channel 4 tv!

I think Hugh Fearnley- Whittingstall is a great chef with sound principles - an all round good egg then. He lives in an idyllic part of the world and the innocence and beauty of life in rural West Dorset comes across in the programmes.

But as an experienced homebrewer of both real ale and wine, I've noticed that the recipes given in the programme for making alcoholic drinks are just off the wall.

I would challenge anybody to brew a ginger beer with a Bordeaux yeast in just 2 days - as they claimed in last Saturday evening's show. The yeast needs at least 7 days to ferment all the sugar. The method of pouring the mashed root ginger straight into plastic bottles - and not starting with an anaerobic fermentation process in a plastic bucket and then syphoning into demi-johns before bottling - was also ridiculous. I was amazed that none of the bottles exploded. Why rush anyway when you're living in beautiful Dorset!

Hugh, you have a great programme BUT you need some expert advice on how to make alcoholic drinks if you're concerned about their flavour! Britain has a great heritage of homebrewing, especially since it wasn't always safe to drink from the local water supply.

The hobby of brewing real ale form malted barley and hops and making wine from the wonderful British seasonal fruits are so satisfying and may soon become a necessity as the price of a pint/glass of wine in the pub and supermarket reach heady heights. Gooseberry - aka the poor man's grape - wine is a fantastic drink and not dissimilar to a fine Chrdonnay!!!!

Homebrewing is not rocket science but the keys to it are hygience, a little know-how and patience. The latter two are sadly lacking at River Cottage............

mercredi 13 avril 2011


Almost 20 years since I was presented to HRH Princess of Wales (Diana to you and me!) on 13 June 1991 directly after my last Final BSc Degree exam, which I started at 6am. She had amazing eyes and I was so nervous that I forgot to wish her a happy Birthday for 1st July, which is also mine. She would have been 50 this year and so proud to see her son William marry, no doubt.

Rev Dr Tony Lloyd, my boss at The Leprosy Mission (TLM) who travelled extensively with Princess Diana when she was TLM's patron, said that by shaking hands with, and comforting, a leprosy sufferer Diana did more for the cause of leprosy in 3 minutes than TLM had done in 150 years. Within an hour the pictures and footage of this had been beamed around the world.

I interviewed Dr VJ Kumar, the surgeon who'd shown Diana around TLM's hospital at Anandaban, near Kathmandu, when I toured India in the autumn of 2000. Seeing such talented individuals give their lives and sacrifice their careers to help the poorest of the poor was amazing and the epitomy of a Christ-like work.

Had somebody told me that almost nine years after meeting Princess Diana, I would be working for one of her favourite charities then I would have recommended they see a doctor. But life is sometimes like that. We never know what wonderful things God has in store for us.

After interviewing Pastor John Arul, who runs an ever-expanding orphanage in Tamil Nadu, in Salisbury in 1999, he prayed that I would one day see his work. Exactly a year afterwards I was meeting him at the airport in Madurai, southern India.

John's orphans all slept on concrete floors and were so beautiful. As well as feeding and clothing them, John also educated them. They were all so happy to be away from the clutches of ruthless begging gangs, who gauge these little ones' eyes out so that they can beg for them. One dear little girl, Priya, who was then aged about seven , said to me, 'Will you pray for me Uncle Simon?'

After praying for her there and then, I hugged her and said I would continue to do so.

Meeting Princess Diana in 1991 helped me secure the Editor job at TLM. Touring India and the Far East to see TLM's work and interview medical staff increased my appetite for helping the poor.

Personal experience suggests that we can only really be fulfilled in our working lives if we are making a difference and improving the lot of those most in need.

mardi 12 avril 2011


We've just returned from a week in Interlaken. It's the second year we've been there and no, I definitely didn't go for the beer! The local brew, Ruggensbrau, is a rather bland, uninteresting beverage that typifies 'Eurofizz'. Not sure where their malting barley comes from, certainly not Wiltshire!

But other than the beer, it's a great place to stay. The produce in the local COOP shops is on a par with that which you'd find in Waitrose, and far cheaper. Just can't believe the steak - it melts in one's mouth. So yes, we enjoyed all of our evening meals on the large balcony overlooking the mountains. Sorry, Interlaken restaurateurs!

The scenery is so breathtaking that it often makes one envious of the people who live there. But then, according to a retired company director whom I met in 2006 in a distillery in Villé, Alsace, and who'd travelled extensively in his career, 'Switzerland is the most beautiful country in the world.'

No need to deck off to the US for scenic photographs when you live at the crossroads of Europe!

Our appartment, with a balcony looking straight on to the Jungfrau, was very comfortable and we frequented the swimming pool/ spa in the hotel. I also enjoyed walking around the park opposite and broke last year's record of 38 minutes by 5 minutes. Suppose it's about 2.2 km all round. So, 30 minutes next year is something to aim for!

We went half way up to the Jungfrau to the Kleine Scheidegg where, at 2,061 M, it was alarmingly warm at 13 C. Our coffee (a mere snip at CHF4 or £2.80 per cup!) was ruined by the continual buzzing of a low-flying helicopter ferrying crates of lager and supplies into an adjacent field for the James Blunt concert, which took place on the following Saturday, 09 April.

No, it wasn't beautiful!

More like a pain in the rear end as Lexi, my wife, would say!

Got back on Saturday afternoon to hear the sad news of my great Auntie's death. Still, she'd had a great innings and was seven weeks short of her 94th Birthday. During WW2 she worked in Baker Street, London for Leo Marks, the genius who invented the poem code for SOE agents operatiing in occupied territories. The Silk and the Cyanide by Marks is a cracking read.

Death, or passing from this life, comes to us all. But the amazing story of Easter - Jesus Christ's suffering and death on the cross - put an end to death.

At the church service on our Sunday in Interlaken - where it was nice to sing English hymns in Swiss German, but I understood very little of the sermon and had to rely on Lexi to translate as the dialect is off the wall! - the preacher said that Jesus is the bridge between man and God

'For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.' John 3.16..

Now that really is something to smile and be joyful about. And all you have to do is believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and then live as his disciple. Then you'll be on the path to true happiness.

Will there be any beer in heaven? I hear you ask.

Hopefully not Ruggensbrau!

mardi 22 mars 2011


Last Sunday night we returned from a fab weekend in Munich. A truly beautiful City with breweries galore. If I were a betting man I would wager on Munich winning the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. But sadly, these things aren't always meritocratic.

The accommodation was excellent and I pigged out on the 12€ buffet breakfast, which was enough to last the whole day. We felt uncomfortable drinking a beer in the snooty Ratskeller as the trade was mostly for meals, and we'd only ordered a small basket of 5 pretzels ( a rip-off at 6€). But we should have headed underneath the tower to the right of the Rathaus where there was a beer garden with an atmosphere more convivial than that of the upmarket, here-to-be-seen Ratskeller.

Strange that I brewed a beer called Festlich - a rich porter brewed with pale and chocolate malts and spiced with root liquorice - in November 1998 and Colin, the then landlord of the Bennett Arms in Tisbury, tried some and declared,

'You should be proud of that because I'd sell that in my pub anyday!'

Alas, I only had a 5-gallon brew length!

Anyway, what I meant to say was that Festlich in German = convivial so if you're ever in Munich and ask for a litre of Festlich, they'll think you've lost the plot. .. .Just like that nasty little Austrian corporal who thought he could, and nearly did, change the world forever...How true the quote, 'evil happens when good men do nothing'.

Watching the fairytale rotating figures beneath the Rathaus clock just after 5pm later that day was definitely a highlight and brought to mind the age of innocence before the two World Wars.

On the way back to the airport, we passed the site of the 1923 Beer Hall putsch and I wondered how so much evil could have taken root in such a wonderful place.

We arrived with four hours to spare at Munich airport, the first in the world to have acres of solar panels on its roofing, so once I'd purchased my malt whisky in Duty Free, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that the teas, coffees, hot chocolate from the vending machines were all free!

Bliss for a coffee/tea-aholic like me!

When we arrived home after the 1 hour flight to Geneva, I was pleased to see the Chelsea v. Man City result.

So a return trip to Bavaria is now definitely on the cards!

jeudi 17 mars 2011


I'm sitting here infront of my computer screen hoping for inspiration.

With so much around us to admire in God's wonderful creation, perhaps writter's block is just a figment of the imagination. I often find that if I close my eyes and ask God for inspiration then the words and ideas flow freely. After all, God is unchanging and longs to hear our prayers.

The programme last night on BBC2 about the Amish community was much better than having to endure Chelsea's lacklustre performance against the under-performing Danish club. Surely every shot at goal should succeed when football is now such big business.

If John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors or Bjorn Borg continually served double faults/ hit volleys out of court, their earnings would have soon nosedived. But with team games, and indeed teamworking, there only needs to be one shining example of brilliance for the whole team to triumph/flourish.

Back in 1990/1991 as an Undergraduate, I was thotoughly bored by the nonsense and pyschology of Belbin and teamworking, which had something to do with Henley Management College (HMC).

Later in 2003, as Editor at The Leprosy Mission TLM), I was even more amazed when the new boss on the blockt decided that hiring a management consultant from HMC could boost income. Sadly, and inevitably, to no avail. The powers that be in their infinite wisdom had failed to recognise that TLM was a pastoral medical Mission for which God had provided the funding, and professional staff, for over 125 years. We live and learn!

And now my writer's block has disappeared, I will sign off.....

mercredi 16 mars 2011


Is it really twelve years since Man Utd won the treble! An amazing match, but I only saw the end of the second half and extra time as I'd been sailing that evening in Poole Harbour, which was an hour's drive from where I was then living in Tisbury, S. Wilts.

Thankfully, I didn't fall in the drink that night. But it was nice to test the efficiency of the buoyancy aid one night when I was tacking and my grip slipped on the side of the dinghy. I fell head first into the sea and was instantly flipped onto my back. I admired the amazing azure skies as I floated like a whale in the luke-warm water!!

The trouble with having stiff legs, though I have to laugh about it, is that you never know where you're going to end up. Even when the only imbibing you've done is of tea. The longer you sit down, the stiffer the legs become so the secret is to keep moving but as a journalist/writer/editor who often gets lost in the text on which I'm working for hours on end, this is easier said than done.

But I can't complain at life. As my paternal Grandfather used to say, 'there's always somebody worse off than you!'

Almost a month after Utd won the Treble, Richard, my best friend from Undergraduate days, was killed in a car crash on the Dublin to Belfast road on 15 June 1999. He was only 31 when he died and his computer company was just on the brink of taking off. I still think of him, and the shananagans we got up to as Undergraduates in the Welsh Valleys from 1987 to 1991, often.

We never know what lies around the corner on this earth. The best thing about Rich was that he lived life to the full. Once when riding his motorbike back to Carrick Fergus, after lunch at his mothers', he stopped to lie down in the middle of the road so that his girlfriend Jane, who was following in the car, would think he'd had an accident. Unfortunately, Jane knew that he was mucking about and drove on by. Richard didn't realise this and when another driver stopped, got out of his car and rang for an ambulance, a shouting match ensued! Another time he took a chainsaw to the potting shed. Well, it was all extra fire-lighter!

In early August 1996 we all went up to Fermanagh for a camping weekend . When we were packing the tent away on the Sunday afternoon, Jane misplaced the bracelet that Richard had given her when they'd first started dating in 1990. Poor girl was distraught and Richard was not too pleased either!

'That cost me a month's wages. I bought you that shortly after we first met!' he'd chided.

After thirty minutes of frantic searching for the errant item of jewellry, Richard produced it from under a rug and started howling with laughter...

We'd been Technical Students at CERN together in 1989/1990 and lived in what can best be describes as a 'dug-out' in the basement of a house in Prevessin. We often talked about life and death issues and one night I asked him whether he believed in Christ's Ressurrection from the dead.

'He did it!' I remember him saying.

It's the only truth we can hold onto in life's storms. But the secret to a fulfilled life is to focus on the Lord Jesus in the good times as well as the bad. If we shine Christ's light to others and live our lives for them then one day when our lives are ended here we will meet the Lord and He will say to us, 'Well done good and fiaithful servant!'

Just looking into the eyes of the Son of God will be amazing.

mardi 15 mars 2011


The season has definitely changed from winter to spring, but we shall see whether a final cold snap awaits. Certainly not as good watching Ice Road Truckers with outside night temperatures of 9 C.

Can Chelsea finish of Copenhagen tomorrow night? Moan Utd tonight so I won't be watching.
England RFU performance v. Scotland last Saturday was decidedly dull and the Scots were a trifle unlucky. Ireland in Dublin won't be a push-over either , unless England raise their game substantially. World Cup Finalists in November? The doubts are now creeping in?

But we have the whole summer to look forward to before we're freezing by the fireside again. The smell of freshly cur grass... oh lummy, the hay fever season fast approaches!

But considering the current tragic happenings in Tokyo, if you have spare change in your pocket, a meal to eat at night and a bed to sleep in then you are truly blessed.

vendredi 4 mars 2011


Finished the editing work, which I do on a freelance basis for an international NGO based in Paris. All about coal-fired power stations. Wouldn't set the world alight, but quite interesting.

After dropping Lexi, my wife, off at the bus this morning a lorry almost hit me on a bend on the hill back up. Road hog was right over the white line and I had to brake suddenly to avoid him hitting me and my careering into a concrete wall. When in France..............generally the standard of driving here is very poor as they drive too fast and don't anticipate.....
Anyway, back to my creative writing next week!
Then Chelsea v. Blackpool on Monday evening. My heart wept when the two teams met in the September clash as the youngest of the three sons of a soldier who'd recently been killed in Afghanistan was Blackpool's mascot; his Dad was a keen supporter. I wished Blackpool would have won that day and wondered whether Chelsea would have let them. But life's not like that, sadly.

Nothing, most of all the Premiership, really matters in such circumstances. Bringing comfort to those whose lives have been shattered by tragedy and helping them to move on is much more important!

jeudi 3 mars 2011


Today, 03 March 2011, is World Book Day. Eight years ago, I was sitting in a ward in Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, waiting for a bed to become vacant.
The 7-hour operation the next day on my lower spine saved my life as the excruciating sciatic pain was becoming unbearable and draining me of all energy. A cocktail of drugs to numb the pain had no effect whatsoever other than send me to outer space.

What I remember most about the op was the theatre nurse whamming a catheter into my dubree just before play started. Waoh, it did hurt and when I came around, I had one hell of a back ache. When I returned to the ward the next day - I spent the first night in intensive care - my beautiufl new pyjamas and unopened bottle of Ribena had gone walkabout and been exchanged for an old pair of oversized white cotton pants - hardly Noel's Swap Shop? Alas, I never examined them, for fear odf finding something nasty inside, and preferred to send them to the sluice room!

Two days later when I sat up and got out of bed, I was able to walk upright and on my heels again - an absolute miracle, after 38 years of a stooped gait, due to a severe head injury suffered as a child.

Anyway, back to World Book Day. As a writer and journalist, I love reading as it gives me ideas for future work. But by far the best book in the world, and the one that is alive and can speak to us all, is the Holy Bible.

If you've never read it, look at St John's Gospel in the New Testament - it's just brilliant and you'll also kick yourself that you'd never read it before!

mercredi 2 mars 2011


I'm repentant this morning of my lack of faith in Chelsea. Totally brilliant game with Chelsea pushing ahead against Moan U for most of the second half. End to end Roy of the Rovers type stuff! All downhill now for the reds, I'm afraid... but can the Blues sustain it?

If so, a second or third place finish is assured !

Certainly if Torres finally finds his feet - his disallowed goal last night was superb! ! Christian brother Mike from St Andrews Baptist Church, Shepperton, will be vindicated as he told me, in the bleak midwinter, that Chelsea would finish third this year.

All eyes on the Champions' League now!!!

mardi 1 mars 2011


Yes, for my sins - and there are many - I'm a Chelsea FC fan, since the age of 7 when Chelsea played Leeds in the FA Cup Final and I momentarily fell out with a best friend over the impending match!

But English football, and the yobs who play it, is ridiculous beyond belief now.

Two-thirds of the world' s population starves whilst idiots on England's Premiership turf are paid a weekly sum equivalent to an amount that would feed a whole community in Africa for a lifetime!

Think Ashley Cole should go to Bisley if he's taking up the airgun: it could be somebody's eye next time.

Nothing like skiiving and mucking around on the job...

Moan Utd tonight - we'll be lucky with a draw!!

I don't belieevvve it!!

dimanche 27 février 2011


I thought England were a bit lucky against the French yesterday and my euphoria after the hammering of Italy two weeks ago soon dissipated after such a promising start. It seems that gone are the days of an England steam-rollering, so reminiscent of the early 1990s.

Still, France are a much better side than Italy and just before half-time, I was saying goodbye to the Grand Slam. The England v. Ireland game should be interesting as Ireland slotted three tries in against the French. Not so sure now that the boys can win the World Cup, unless handling and discipline improve....

Even though the French may not really like les rosbifs, they're not all bad! Alsacians can certainly brew a good litre of malty lager, as well as make some of the finest, best value, white wine in France. No, it's not all sweet either! But please don't tell your neighbour! Otherwise my annual jaunts to Colmar to stock up on wine and schnapps may be wrecked by the eternal Brit abroad.

Snow forecast here next week. Woke up to a light dusting last Friday morning, but it soon melted. Thankfully, our 5 square metres of logs delivered last May aren't yet depleted. Probably, 21 days' worth left. Then the Ice Road Truckers will have safely returned to their homes and be tucked up in their nice warm beds in air-conditioned homes!

Fancy driving blind, and on ice?!? Must be mental!!!

lundi 21 février 2011


And anyway, beer is 90% water, but the next time you're waiting to order at the bar, I wouldn't mention this to your landlord if I were you! So the brewers, like the petroleum companies, are just glorified tax collectors.

A really excellent bottle - conditioned real ale - which my brother-in-law and Chef John King once described as 'like drinking anaesthetic' is Brakspear Triple. At 7.2% ABV this is a real winter warmer with generous malt and citrus hopiness to be savoured on a Friday night by a roaring fire, or, in our case, woodburner. Don't drink it on any other week night as you may not be able to do your work the next day. The cheapest I've seen it is at £2.05 in Sainsbury's but my Uncle Keefe - yes, another real ale homebrewer - tells me it's available in Morrison's for less than this. Under two quid for a pint of draught beer in a bottle? - that's what I call value!

So with all this revenue coming in from exorbitant excise duty on alcohol and fuel, why are the public finances in such dire straits?

Fighting a war on two fronts. Now that does cost dear!

dimanche 20 février 2011


Just can't believe that a pint of beer in a pub is almost £4, close to the hourly minimum wage.
No wonder, the UK's pubs are closing. But it's no better in France though some excellent bargains can be had in the French supermarkets, that is if you like Leffe and Grimbergen.

When I used to brew real ale, from barley and hops, in the 1990s in a freezing garage in Wiltshire it worked out at under 5p. a pint. Okay, so it took 8 hours, but after 8 hours I ended up with 40 pints of nectar, which at today's prices would cost £160.

So, you spend £2 to make £160 worth of real ale. That's what I call value. Watching the mashing of the malt is amazing as it looks like porridge and smells heavenly!

But don't tell any of the big brewers I said this!!

mardi 15 février 2011


I can't believe that those who cause damage to public buildings, as happened in the recent demonstrations in London over the changes to the Student Grants' system just receive a custodial sentence.

Surely, members of 'rent a mob' would think twice before wielding the hammer if they had to pay for the damage they caused.

As a person with a long-term physical disability, I was also horrified to see the police drag a young man from his wheelchair. Shades of krystal nacht?

sign of the times!

There's not much to shout about if you're a Blues (Chelsea FC) supporter. The new signing failed to move into second gear last night against neighbours Fulham. Wonder if he's related to Miguel Torres, who produces some truly excellent wine in the Penedés region of Spain?

For those who endured it on Sky Sports, perhaps you'll hope that you never hear Glenn Hoddle's mundane platitudes again. Bring on Motty!!! At least the Hammers secured the Olympic Stadium as their home ground from 2014. My late Grandfather would have been pleased as is my brewing dynasty friend, Chris from Oakhill! Scandalous to have allowed Spurs to go in with the bulldozers. Did you retaliate also when you heard his lordship on BBC Breakfast tv last week with the cry of , ' Shut up Sugar!'

Raining in France/ Switzerland today. Colder weather on the way for the end of the week! They had to make the snow for the Wrorld Skiing Championships, which were held near here last week. Is there yet a sting in the tail of the global warming myth?