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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Viennese Whirl - but not for Triple P



Agent Triple P is feeling rather Viennese and frothy at present because we have been listening to a lot of Johann Strauss.  Now this is not our usual listening at all.  When listening to classical music, as we largely do, we prefer late romantics like Mahler, Sibelius, Rachmaninov, Rimsky-Korsakov, Khachaturian et al.  However we recently found ourselves writing a ballroom scene in our ever expanding erotic story Les Soeurs Croissant  and needed some appropriate music to write to.  As we were in Bucharest at the time we had to confine ourselves to what was on our iPod, which turned out to be just The Blue Danube, taken from a Herbert von Karajan compilation of Strauss music.  We hadn't put the rest of the CD on the iPod, however, and the Blue Danube just reminds us of spaceships so we put aside writing this scene until we could obtain some more Strauss, which we duly did on our return.




Now long ago Agent Triple P loved Johann Strauss and, indeed some of the very first records we owned were Strauss compilations.  In fact, we think that this one (above) was the first record we bought with our own money in about 1970.  Up until this point Triple P's only LPs were a handful of hand me downs from our aunt who had recently got married and passed us her duplicates.  Thus we had a collection that, in total, included, the Beatles' Revolver, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour.  In addition we had Beethoven's 3rd symphony (still our favourite Beethoven) and Dvorak's New World.




It's odd seen from today's perspective, where music is so ubiquitous that you can carry it around with you all the time, but back in the sixties although most people had record players not many people had any actual records.  Most households triple P visited had perhaps a dozen or maybe even less.  Triple P's parents owned about eight records.  The record player was in the living room so, in Triple P's family, whatever was played had to be acceptable to all.  Strauss caused no arguments and so we soon acquired a second compilation (above).  These records cost 99p at the time so were a big hit on our 50p a week pocket money.  It was only when we got our first record player, which we could have in our bedroom that our record buying expanded.




Triple P does not enjoy dancing and, indeed, we are very suspicious of men who do.  Our view is that it is something you have to endure at a certain age when you are trying to meet girls and it is to be avoided if at all possible.  Most men are bad dancers and those that are good are looked on with suspicion by other men.  Women, on the other hand, are much more likely to have had some form of dance training and so are able to deal with the basics.  Women like men to dance with them but are then very critical of them if they are no good.  We suspect that we have only danced (or an approximation of it) half a dozen times at most and we have to be really drunk to do so.  A girlfriend once took Triple P to a ballroom dancing class in advance of some event and we found it quite impossible to remember any of the sequences of movements needed.  Even though it was just the two of us and the teacher we felt totally awkward, stressed and self-conscious. We did not return for a second lesson!


Last time we were in Vienna we took this picture of the Johann Strauss monument


We enjoy watching good dancing, however, and the waltz can look quite splendid especially when done en masses as seen at the New Year's Day concert in Vienna.  

It is often said that anyone can dance but we actually don't agree with this.  You only have to watch the early rounds of Strictly Come Dancing or Dancing with the Stars to see that some people just can't do it; and these are people who, presumably, think they can or they wouldn't have entered in the first place.  We think dancing is an innate ability, like being musical, having ability in languages, being good at maths or drawing.  While you can improve a little through teaching, if you don't have that basic ability nothing that anyone does for you can help.  It is best just to acknowledge your limitations, therefore! 

So we will enjoy our nineteenth century dance music and just be glad that we weren't around at a time when formal dancing was a required skill in society!

Calendar Girl May: Rachel Stevens



FHM love pop poppet Rachel Stevens so it is no surprise to find her in this year's calendar as well as last year's.  Our entry last year told you everything you need to know about the London lovely.




Still, this gives us an excuse to post a couple more pictures of her.  As we just got her entry in in may we are intending to post June's calendar girl rather earlier in the month.




This year Rachel has revealed that she is back in the studio recording her third solo album.  Excellent!



Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Eurovision Song Contest 2012


Greece's Eleftheria Elftheriou and her sparkly knickers

Well, another tragic performance by The UK at Eurovision, as we came second from last (again).   Oh well, one place higher than 2010 when we were dead last.  Having been one of the most successful countries for decades (won 5 times, second 15 times) our performance in the last ten years has been dismal:  last three times, second to last twice, third to last once.

Who knows what came over the person in the BBC who chose 76 year old Engelbert Humperdinck as our representative.  He hasn't had even a modest hit since 1976.  The decision must have been made after a long lunch, we can only suppose.

The BBC puts in a huge amount of licence payers money to this political back slapping contest.  Given that Jade Ewen came 5th in 2009 it can't just be that everyone hates us in Europe (actually we all hate you too, Johnny Foreigner!).  Most other countries field their top artists but, of course, none of ours need the international exposure that these Balkan and Baltic nonentities crave for.  We haven't fielded a major artist since Olivia Newton-John in 1974 and, to be honest, she was still on her way up at the time).

I'm afraid there is only one solution for next year:  the UK's nemesis bomb - One Direction!


Eleftheria Eleftheriou.  Try saying that after three glasses of Ouzo


Personally Agent Triple P's favourite was the repetitively named Eleftheria Eleftheriou and we were surprised that her catchy Europop number and sparkly knicker-flashing rountine didn't place her higher.  It would have been most amusing to see what the Greeks would have done if they'd won, given the cost of mounting the competition!  




Eleftheria is actually a Cypriot and competed in the Greek X Factor.  She was a candidate for Cyprus' Eurovision entry in 2005 and Greece's in 2010.  Interestingly she studied at the University of Surrey in Guidford, just down the A3 from Triple P's house.

We have to say that we can't understand the appeal of the Swedish winner, especially in what was a rather stronger year than recently.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Girl with Panhard




Zakkers has asked Triple P to find a good picture of a pretty French girl with a nice French car and we think that this 1968 advertisement for the Panhard  24C fits the bill very well.  

This was the last car that Panhard built.  From 1968 onwards they have focused on military vehicles, especially armoured cars.

Agent Triple P remembers seeing these elegant cars on his holidays in the South of France in the 1960s and we even had a toy one.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A healthy Olympics



Here's something which you wouldn't see these days; those patriotic chaps at peddlers of death, Rothmans, donating money to Britain's athletes for the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Forty years later, of course, we wouldn't contemplate such a thing. The Olympics are about fitness, health and looking after your body. Wait a minute, isn't the official restaurant of the Olympic site...McDonald's?

Plus ├ža change, as our little Froggy chums would say...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Calendar Plane of the Month May: Junkers Ju52-3M



First flown in 1930, the Junkers Ju 52 was the main transport aircraft of the German air force right through WW2.  They were used to drop paratroopers in the world's first major airborne operation against Holland in 1940.  The Portuguese used them in action as a paratroop platform as late as the sixties in Angola.  There were also popular both before and after the war as airliners.  Nearly 5,000 were produced of which 17 still exist in museums and another eight are airworthy.

This seaplane version served in the Norwegian campaign in 1940 and later in the Mediterranean.  We've not built one of these (the floatplane version is comparatively recent) but it looks good and purposeful.

Friday, May 18, 2012

No pajamas in Hall!




We were amused to see that students at Triple P's alma mater had taken to putting up notices outside Hall to request that other students stopped turning up to breakfast in their pajamas.  This, said the offended students, was "slovenly".  Why is it that we think that these complainants were most likely to be (tweed jacket wearing) denizens of the Stallybrass law library?

We are surprised that anyone even owns pajamas any more amongst the student population, unless they are all girls wearing the typical La Senza pink and black items we have encountered recently.




Frankly, the most offensive clothes we saw at breakfast when we were there were always worn by dim Tim who seemed to wear a cricket sweater every day, even in the winter.  He annoyingly always used to have two cooked breakfasts, polishing off the first one and then saying, "can I have another "me-yal" please?"  He actually managed to turn the word "meal" into two and a half syllables.  Triple P just wanted to thump him with  a cricket bat.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Agent Triple P...back in action







We are away from the UK for a bit so there will be less posts for a while.  We have come to a country that produced one of Agent Triple P's favourite women from when he was a teenager.  It's the first time we have been to this particular country but arrived too late last night to have seen any local women yet....


For little girls get bigger everyday

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Bentley Mulsanne Turbo



This, for Triple P, is the most evocative motor car advertisement of recent times.  The brilliantly retro production for the Bentley Mulsanne Turbo; Bentley's successful attempt to redefine the marque as a sporting alternative to the rather staid Rolls-Royce.  It was named after the Mulsanne straight on the Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans where Bentleys won four consecutive victories from 1927-1930.  Bentley was bought by Rolls-Royce in 1931 and for many years Bentleys and Rolls-Royce cars had been identical except for different radiator grills.  The new car, whilst looking identical had an engine boosted by a Garrett AiResearch turbocharger which could power it along at a very un-Rolls-Royce-like 135mph.  Mainly aimed at the UK market as emissions regulations elsewhere would have made it illegal, Bentley underestimated the demand.  Aiming at producing 100 a year they eventually had to increase production to 200 a year and newly delivered cars were selling at £120,000, which was twice the list price.


Cover art for the German edition of Role of Honour.  The artist has struggled with rendering the Mulsanne's distinctive radiator


Its coolness was cemented when it appeared in two James Bond novels written by John Gardner: Role of Honour (1984) and Nobody Lives Forever (1986).  We always thought it made a better literary successor to the original  Bentley 4 1/2 litre from Fleming's books than any number of Aston Martins.




The styling of the advertisement harks back to the glory days of racing Bentleys in the twenties and thirties and the reference to the "silent sports car" is to the old advertisements for the car.  Around ten years after the Mulsanne Turbo was introduced we were driven down to the South of France in its successor, the Turbo R.  It made the twelve hour trip seem effortless but used up an enormous amount of fuel!

The Mulsanne Turbo re-established Bentley as a more sporting marque and paved the way for the current footballers' favourite the Bentley Continental.

Monday, May 7, 2012

More Olympic lovelies



When Triple P used to watch the Olympics in the old days there were never any attractive female athletes, particularly from Britain, whereas now we seem to have a whole batch of lovelies representing the country. 

The first Olympics we remember seeing on TV were those from Tokyo in 1964 (helped, no doubt by the catchy Tokyo Melody theme tune).  We also remember watching some of the swimming events on TV from Munich in 1972 whilst on a school trip to France.  We distinctly remember being taken by all those fit looking women in swimsuits.  Down on the beach at Pourville we also remember being distracted from WW2 bunkers by some French girls in one piece swimsuits.  This was the first time we had really registered girls at all.  By the end of the school trip Triple P and one of his school friends had got some French girls into our dormitory with some local cider and started to play strip poker.  We never looked back...

So we were particularly appreciative of this fine study of Great Britain's freestyle swimming squad consisting of (from left to right) Amy Smith, Caitlin McClatchey, Keri-Anne Payne, Georgia Davis and Jemma Lowe.  Good luck ladies!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Calendar Girl April: Olga Fonda

 This is a very unflattering shot


Still trying to catch up on our backlog of monthly posts, so here is April's FHM calendar girl, Olga Fonda.  Another girl we have never heard of (and, we suspect, neither have most people) she is a Siberian model/actress now living in America, hence the change of her surname from its original Tchakova. 




She was an exchange student at a school in Maine returning to Siberia only to return to the US to study at the University of Maine before going to Los Angeles where she was spotted by a modelling scout.   She has had a few very minor TV and film roles and a bigger one in last year's Real Steel (2011) as a Russian oligarch's daughter.




You wouldn't know it from these terrible FHM (top two) pictures but she is actually a very pretty girl and does not have a blobby nose nor a deformed stomach.  




FHM call her one to watch but her prospects won't be that good if they continue to use these terrible pictures of her.  As we can see from the other photos here she scrubs up very nicely indeed.




Models successfully making the transit to the big screen are a very rare thing and she is already 29 years old so her chances of being the next big thing are slight, we reckon.




We have watched an interview with her and she still has a fetching, but commercially disastrous, Russian accent so she will need to work on that.




Lovely!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Oxford student Madeline Grant fined for "great rack" comment



Outside the Radcliffe Camera (appropriately)

Here, for Zackers, is deluded student Madeline Grant (whose parents obviously can't spell) who was fined £120 today by the Oxford Union for bringing it into disrepute by trying to win a job as the Oxford Union librarian by claiming she had a "great rack".

Now, as a life member of the Oxford Union himself Agent Triple P wonders where her level of disrepute sits compared with inviting, say, Jordan, to speak in the Union or, indeed, the amount of cash provided by Conservative Office to fund William Hague's campaign to become Oxford Union president.  Sadly, its just another victory for the politically correct brigade.




No, we have two issues with Miss Grant's declaration.  Firstly, if you claim to have a great rack you demonstrably need to have one and on the evidence of this picture we would venture that said upper body profile so visible in other pictures is the work of that pernicious item the padded bra.

Secondly, don't use American slang.  No proper Briton would call it a rack!  

You deserve to be fined, young lady!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Retro Food 1: Fray Bentos Corned Beef and Pies

Agent Triple P's mother was not what you might call a great cook.  In fact, you wouldn't call her a cook at all.  One of the abiding aural memories of our childhood was the sound of our mother scraping the burnt bits off the toast every morning.




Unlike today, when busy mothers (and we have a great deal of sympathy for women who have to provide multiple meals every day for their families - it's not surprising many don't enjoy cooking) can resort to microwave meals, back in the sixties the choice of convenience food was much less.  We remember having quite a lot of Fray Bentos tinned pies when we were small and, indeed, a lot of their corned beef too.  This is tinned corned beef, of course, (called bully beef by Triple P's father and everyone else who ate it in the British Army) not the sort of meat you get in a Reuben sandwich which is called salt beef in Britain.  When our mother did get a bit more experimental, in the early eighties, she would produce her notorious corned beef curry.  This was made by frying up the corned beef, chopped into small cubes, with onion, diced apple, sultanas, tinned tomatoes and curry powder.  You couldn't buy miniature palettes of Indian spices to mix yourself in those days.  Actually, Triple P used to really enjoy this rather unprepossessing sounding dish and perhaps we should have a go at it ourselves!


World War 1 period corned beef


Anyway, these reflections were all sparked by meeting a diplomat today who informed us that Fray Bentos was not just a  company name, as we had imagined, but was named after a town in Uruguay.  We had no idea, but it was the meat packing centre of South America and made a huge contribution to keeping British soldiers fed during both World Wars.  Indeed, two British tanks during World War 1 were named Fray Bentos by their crews, who saw the irony of meat in a can.


The tank Fray Bentos II,having been captured by the Germans at Cambrai, is paraded in Berlin during WW1


It was the Anglo-German firm, The Liebig Extract of Meat Company that built the first major factory in the town in 1863.  Cattle were being killed for their skins in the area and the meat was just wasted.  The Liebig company realised that they could use the surplus meat  to produce low-cost meat products.  They began with a meat extract paste and then introduced a cheaper version of the product in 1899 called Oxo.  Interestingly, in this Olympic year, Oxo sponsored the 1908 London games, becoming the Olympics' first corporate sponsor. By the nineteen forties the Fray Bentos factory employed 5,000 people.  It closed in 1979; never really recovering from a batch of infected corned beef that caused a typhoid outbreak in Aberdeen in the early sixties and suffering under EEC rules regarding meat imports when Britain joined the Common Market.  The factory is now a museum but recently a Brazilian firm started producing corned beef in the town again.  




The Fray Bentos company was recently acquired by Scottish family-owned soup supremos Baxters who have big plans for a brand that is struggling to interest the nation in its old fashioned pies.  Personally, we buy Red Lion Foods corned beef as all the profits of the company go to Help for Heroes and other armed forces charities.


An appropriately bovine monument at the Liebig factory in Fray Bentos, Uruguay


Triple P likes a corned beef sandwich with tomato, cucumber and piccalilli (an eighteenth century invention: originally Paco-Lilla, or Indian pickle, a British re-imagining of Indian relish).  Lady R, the wife of Triple P's friend HMS, makes fabulous piccalilli!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Titanic 2





So, Australian billionaire Clive Palmer is planning to build a full sized replica of Titanic ready for sailing in 2016.  Most of the comment on this relates to the fact that it is being built in China, with lots of negative comments as regards quality.  Well, frankly if the original had been built with better quality rivets who knows what would have happened. 




It would be fascinating to see a version of one of the great four funneled liners at sea and, personally, we applaud the project because it is so obviously bonkers.  For Triple P, however, we don't want to see a modern take on the ship but an exact replica (at least externally).  Any attempt to tamper with its external appearance would result in something akin to those appalling seventies and eighties recreations of classic cars from the thirties, such as the Excalibur and the Panther de Ville.

Palmer has said that below the waterline it would have a bulbous bow, stern and bow thrusters and a bigger rudder (something Titanic could have done with 100 years ago) all of which is sensible.  It will be interesting to see if the project goes ahead, especially as he has said he will sail it from England to New York.  Hopefully the vessel will start out from Southampton so Triple P will be able to watch it sail past Cowes.