Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Thunderbirds are Go...again!

Agent Triple P's all time favourite TV programme when he was little was Gerry Anderson's seminal Thunderbirds; quite simply the best children's TV series ever!
We had models of all the Thunderbirds craft, an International Rescue hat and got TV21 magazine every week to enjoy further adventures of the Tracy family, as brilliantly drawn by the peerless Frank Bellamy.  So the recent announcement of a new series fills us both with excitement and dread.

Thunderbirds 2004

The 2004 film Thunderbirds was a ghastly travesty and the barrenness of the production was exemplified by the dreadful and needlessly fussy updating of the Thunderbirds craft.

Thunderbirds 1965

The original Thunderbirds craft are design classics (with, perhaps, the exception of the space station Thunderbird 5 which Anderson was never happy with) and were the work of Derek Meddings who would go on to be an Oscar winning special effects designer (special award for Superman in 1978).  

Thunderbirds 2015

Four things, however, give us hope for the new series which is scheduled for 2015; a rather depressing fifty years after the originals were released.  Firstly, the updated Thunderbird 1 (above) is a much more subtle update of the original than in the 2004 film.  Secondly, David Graham, the original; voice of Parker will be voicing that character once again, half a century later.  Thirdly, although it is a CGI series they are using models for the craft.  These always look better than pure CGI as was shown by Peter Jackson in his original Lord of the Rings trilogy (c.f. The Hobbit).  Fourthly, Rosamund Pike will be providing the voice of Lady Penelope which indicates that the producers have a decent budget.

Tracy Island 1965

Tracy Island 2015

Can't wait!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ola Jordan pops out...

...too a nightclub this week but she seems to be having trouble controlling her top!


Monday, September 8, 2014

The return of Strictly Come Dancing for 2014


Triple P has been away for a time but is now back and looking forward to the return of Strictly.  Not a very stellar cast this year and seemingly aimed more at the age group for the X-Factor with which it is going directly up against in the schedules.


Three pieces of rent-a-totty this year should engage our interest over the coming weeks.  Firstly, toy-boy snatcher Caroline Flack who will be hoping for a ratings defeat of X-Factor after Simon Cowell kicked her out of her Xtra-Factor presenting job.   Top bet to have a fling with her dance partner (but see below).


Secondly, girl group The Saturdays singer Frankie Bridge who is already looking like a great little mover.  We can't say we know or could name even one song from The Saturdays (unlike Girls Aloud) so they really are a triumph of image over music.

Finally, slightly more famous singer Pixie Lott (top) who Triple P sat on the next table to once while having afternoon tea in The May Fair hotel.  She impressed us then with her toned thighs in a very short skirt so we hope she will remain in for some time.

So Rachel Riley, from last year's show, has owned up to what was completely obvious to everyone else: that she is having a fling with her professional dance partner Pasha Kovalev.  Flack is Kovalev's partner this year so that could be interesting.  Expect Riley to turn up on the live shows to keep an eye on him!

Ola is back but has been told off by the BBC for criticising the show so we don't think she will come back next year.  It all depends on the ratings!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tour de France Food and Drink stages 13-16

Over half way there now but this year's route continues to be a culinary challenge.  One dish we had to make was the very first thing Triple P learnt to cook: Coq au Vin.  Perhaps more typically associated with the Burgundy region, in fact it is pretty ubiquitous in France, where you just bung in the local wine and call it Coq au whatever the locals drink.  This was an ideal solution for Stage 13 which cut just south of the Beaujolais region and clipped the top of the Rhone.  

We first cooked this delicious concoction of chicken, bacon, onions, wine and mushrooms about forty five years ago, under the supervision of Triple P's father and a famous chef and it has been a regular ever since.  Although it is not exactly a delicate dish it has always been a hit with young ladies.

Stage 13

We used the recipe from one of our favourite cookbooks, Great Dishes of the World;  not that we really need to refer to the recipe.  This is not our original copy ,which disintegrated a few years ago.  Fortunately, we managed to get a pristine copy in the RNLI charity shop in Yarmouth two years ago.

The orange enamel casserole Triple P cooked it in was the original one we first used in 1969, which Triple P's father had bought in a shop in Perigueux for the then staggering price of £5.  Worth every penny, of course!

Anyway, the accompanying wine really had to come from the Northern Rhone.  The closest wine town to the route was Condrieu but as a very aromatic white this wouldn't really have gone with a dish cooked in red wine so we went just a little way south of the route for a St Joseph, which worked perfectly.  

Stage 14 saw us in the only full day in the Alps, in a sadly wine free region.  We looked about 25 miles north, however, and alighted on the town of Chambéry, home of our favourite vermouth, as we find the French one more delicate than the Italian versions.  They are also, these days, made in a rather less industrial way than their Italian cousins, using real herbs from the mountains rather than just flavourings.  Nice just with ice, it's also my preferred vermouth for Martinis.  In France you can also get Chamberryzette, a version deliciously infused with strawberries.  Girls like it.

Stage 14

After a heavy dinner the night before we just had some light Abondance cheese from Haut-Savoie which is actually closer to Stage 11 than Stage 14. This was the nicest cheese of the Tour so far.

Stage 15 was a quick whiz through Northern Provence with plenty of wine options on the way.  However, as the stage finished in the splendid Roman city (Nemausus) of Nimes (home of denim too, of course) then it had to be a Costières de Nîmes.  The vineyards here have been producing wine here for over two thousand years and the region was settled by many veterans of Caesar's campaigns in Egypt, which explains the symbol of a crocodile chained to a palm tree on  the local coat of arms.

Time for another lighter meal so just some typical Provencal tapenade and some picholine olives (no more cornichons for a while!).  Olive and anchovy tapenade was, appropriately, recorded in Roman times as olivarum conditurae.  Some nice crunchy picholine olives added another local touch.  These are, also, particularly good as the olive in a Martini.

Next time it's another big casserole!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The strange cast of the British Airways safety video

Agent Triple P spends a lot of his time flying around the world (or, more accurately at present he spends a lot of his time trying to avoid flying around the world) which is a problem as he hates flying. Not just find it all a bit inconvenient and tiring. Hates it! We am terrified for almost every minute we are inside these hideous, claustrophobic tubes. 

We hate taking off ("Oh. it's the most exciting bit!" says our particular friend S from Vancouver - no it's not it's the bit when you are most likely to drop out the air and crash in flames), we hate landing but most of all we hate turbulence.  We grab the seat in front of us in terror.The amount of turbulence you experience in planes has gone up enormously since Triple P  was travelling a lot in the eighties and nineties. Turbulence then was a rare occurrence. Now it seems to be the norm. We hate it! We think that either the wings are going to fall off due to chronic metal fatigue or that without lift under the wings the plane will just drop. Turbulence is a sign that the magic that keeps aeroplanes in the air is wearing thin. Soon there won't be enough magic to go around (a weakening in the Force) and planes will all start to drop out of the air.

This brings us on to airline safety videos.  We are currently reading the amusing confessions of a couple of air hostesses and one of the (many) things that annoys them about passengers is the fact that they don't concentrate on safety briefings.  It seems that the greater part of air hostess training is not taken up with things like learning how to pour tea on the move but with safety training.  Ignoring this, because you have seen it all before, really gets to them, therefore.  On British Airways, which is the airline Triple P uses most, they have a strange animated video giving all the safety features of the aircraft and what to do in an emergency.   We must have seen this hundreds of times now but it's the cast of typical passengers that gets to us.

First up we have mop-haired boy.  Well, we assume it's a boy.  He is excitedly looking out of the window of the terminal with his toy rabbit, which he then stupidly drops, only to have an impossibly glamorous BA air hostess recover it for him.  Now some airlines are famous for their attractive cabin crew but BA isn't one of them.  We have, perhaps, seen two who are what we would describe as world class in thirty years of business travel.  We have seen twice that in a single Air China first class cabin.

Anyway, our next cast member is international business man.  Or is he?  We think he looks exactly like Fred Astaire so, as far as we are concerened he is international dancing star.

Next up it's the most notable passengers.  Yes, it's the lesbian fashion bloggers.  or, at least, that's what they look like to Triple P.  In the animation they are always eyeing each other up: this can't be an accident - they are just so gay!

Here impossibly glamorous stewardess points out that the Club Class toilets are free if they want to go inside and have a quick snog.  They're both eyeing her up now and wishing the loo was big enough for a Sapphic threesome.

Here they are dreaming of getting down to it properly when they get to New York.  We find these two characters strangely fascinating and someone really needs to produce a Hentai-style cartoon of what they get up to in their hotel room after they land - ideally involving the stewardess.

Finally, we discover that mop-haired boy is part of a family (where were you when he dropped his rabbit, eh?).  Not just any family, though, it's politically correct family.  Good grief they've even included a redhead! It doesn't matter, though, because the cabin pressure has dropped and you're all going to die!

Hot in the City

 The Embankment, this week

It's not much fun having to trudge up to the City, at the moment, with the temperature in the high twenties and even low thirties.  Britain is not equipped for this sort of weather!  No air conditioning on public transport and having to wear a wool suit, shirt and tie is not much fun on an underground train where the temperature is around 38 degrees.

Blackfriars, this week

The worst thing, of course, is that all the women are wearing flimsy skirts or dresses and even shorts.  That's just the office workers, not the tourists who this year are making tiny shorts distractingly ubiquitous.   There has been an attempt by the fashion industry to flog ankle length dresses this summer but Agent Triple P hasn't seen many even though, on the right figure, some of them are engagingly clingy.

Jaw dropping Eastern European example of tiny shorts at the station this week

We think that women who work in offices should be made to wear suits like men!  Currently the situation does not exactly lead to a situation of equality.  "I want to be treated the same as men in the workplace (fair enough) until it gets really hot and then I want to dress as if I am wandering around a Mediterranean fishing village."  Forget it, ladies!  However nice you look in your abbreviated garb you should be made to suffer like us!  That's real equality!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tour de France: Food and drink stages 8-12

Thumbs up for the Tour so far

It's something of an odd Tour de France route this year.  No Brittany, no Normandy and no Loire.  In fact western France has been pretty comprehensively ignored this year, apart from a couple of stages in the south west.  So, Agent Triple P's culinary Tour goes into Alsace and the Vosges for the next three stages which is about the only area of France he has never been to, in over fifty years of travelling there.  

Stages 8 and 9

Our lack of knowledge also applies to the wine and food of the region which is, not surprisingly given it's history, rather Germanic.  We struggle with understanding Alsatian and German wines, especially as regards how they are classified and organised regionally.  Neither seem very popular in a Britain now largely focussed on new World wines and, in fact, our local Tesco didn't stock any Alsatian wines.  This may also have something to do with the fact that these areas are less popular with British wine-loving tourists.  Anyway, this is a long-winded way of saying that when we bought the wines to accompany this part of the Tour we had no idea what we were buying.

Stages 9 and 10

These were the first table wines of our vinous Tour, having left the beer and fizz behind in the first seven stages and we spread the two bottles we bought over three stages.  Both, at £9.99 and £10.49, were rather more than we usually pay for everyday drinking but, as ever, at this price range, the extra was worth it.  The Pinot Blanc from Calvet was quite floral but, oddly, also musky. We had low expectations of it but it was very good.  Sainsbury have just dropped it to £6.99 (annoyingly) and it's a bargain at that.  The Pinot Gris from Cave de Beblenheim had a lovely straw colour with an unusual smoky taste and rather oily texture. Both were very good but the Pinot Gris just edged it.  Splendid!

Now what food could we have to match these wines?  Well, it obviously had to be something regional, so we went for that prototypical Alsatian dish choucroute garni.  Not having been to the region and had it in situ, we just turned to one of the greatest cookbooks ever written, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1961) by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle and Julia Child. Child used the success of this book to launch her popular TV series in the US.  This absolute masterwork is the only French cookbook you will ever need and our copy is very well thumbed indeed.

Stages 8 to 10

Anyway, here is our version of the dish.  Not ever having had it before it was hard to tell if our approximation of it approached the real thing but it included most of the key ingredients: wine, pork, fat bacon, Frankfurters, smoked sausage, potato, apple, juniper berries and, of course sauerkraut.  The fact that it worked perfectly with both wines was probably the best way of telling that it was a success, we think.   Served with a good French, wholegrain mustard, of course, we made so much of it that it easily lasted three days!

Stage 11

So, leaving Alsace, the Tour took one of it's transfers for a stage from Besançon to Oyannax through the Jura.  We're never going to find a wine from the Jura in  a local supermarket, we thought, and we were right.  Fortunately, a locla wine shop actually had a wine from the Jura.  This was a direct hit too, as the Tour rote passed through Arbois, which is about 25 miles south-west of Besançon.  We can't say I have had a wine made from the poulsard grape before and it reminded us of some of the red Swiss wines we used to have in Zurich, which were not that distinctive and equally overpriced.  Still, you have to suffer for authenticity, sometimes!

Stage 11

To go with this we had some of the local cheese of the Jura, Comté, which was a typical semi-hard cows milk cheese from the region.  Frankly, we needed something a bit lighter after all that Choucroute and sausage and this, which came from Tesco's surprisingly good regional cheese selection, was nicely nutty.

Stage 12

Stage 12 started in the Beaujolais region and we managed another direct hit on the route for this stage as the peloton went over Mont Brouilly, on the slopes of which are grown the grapes for our favourite of the Beaujolais crus.  Duboeuf's Beaujolais Nouveau, a brilliant way to sell a usually horrible wine, was always one of the better ones so we thought this was worth a go.  It was definitely Beaujolais, without taking the enamel off your teeth.  Back in the eighties Agent Triple P and his friends would always drink Beaujolais Nouveau on the third Thursday of November and all the City wine bars would offer it.  This seems to be a habit that has almost died out now.

The race finished in Saint-Étienne, from which comes the rather extraordinarily named and interestingly shaped Jesus a l'ancienne sausage, one of the very best cured sausages we have ever had from anywhere.  It was perfectly set off by a good helping of cornichons.

Cornichons are not the same as the similarly sized gherkins sold in Britain.  The key difference is the vinegar they are in. Cornichons have a very light vinegar flavoured with tarragon and mustard seed.  You also usually get a few tiny silverskin onions in the jar too.  They are neither as sweet nor as sour as some of the equivalents you get in Britain and the US.  They really set off sliced cooked meats and pate perfectly.

Next we whizz across the Northern Rhone and into the Alps, before descending into Provence.