Token man

I did also consider “Five women and me” as a title, but felt this sounded rather like a first-person, adult update of an E Nesbit classic (a woman who very wisely did not assume her husband’s name for her writing: E Bland on the cover is never going to help sales).  As both titles may suggest, yesterday I had a long lunch in town (by which I mean London) with some friends and provided the sole Y chromosome in a sea of Xs (well, 11 of them – is that enough for a sea?  Perhaps merely a small bowl of poorly mixed alphabetti spaghetti?).

Despite the apparent belief of most TV executives, this grouping of the distaff did not precipitate Armageddon or the end of days (no sign of a trumpet or even a single horseman, though there was one horsewoman).  Nor was my fragile masculinity crushed – though I did spend much of the afternoon wearing a rather fetching golden bangle on my right arm.  Then again, even at the best of times, I’m really a very long way from the vanguard in the struggle to find a role for the masculine in the 21st century – even the generals are nearer the front than I.

I had an excellent time with wide ranging, if slightly frivolous, conversation enjoyed by all – and lunch did continue for somewhat over six hours (which I believe is a new personal best).  The event was held at Brasserie Zédel (and later the adjacent Bar Américain) which lies in a substantial, art deco cavern ranged deep beneath the northern side of Piccadilly Circus.  I would recommend the venue as the food was good, the décor pleasing and the service both good and unobtrusive.  It also has rather fine facilities for the gentleman to relieve himself of surplus fluid – which, via the magic of smartphone photography and an absence of shame, we were able to establish were rather better than the equivalent facilities provided for the fairer sex (the soap dispensers were also rather fine when illuminated by flash!).  They definitely rate in the top 10 of urinals I have ever used (not abused I would like to make clear, my use of gents has always been consensual).IMG_0238


IMG_0239In the interests of full disclosure in the context of my recommendation, I should perhaps mention that I managed to consume more champagne yesterday than in the whole of the current decade put together – so my critical faculties may have been slightly dulled.  I am also considering a whole new photographic strand in this blog for particularly attractive or striking gents I have used – what do you think?

After four hours we were moved-on from our lunch table and gravitated to the bar for a post-prandial cocktail.  I was drawn to the French Aperatif – largely because it contained orgeat which I know of through one of the finest sketches from A Bit of Fry and Laurie (sadly no hyssop or cherry for each of my blue, blue eyes).  Subsequent enquiry to Bing (yes, the late Mr Crosby is my spirit guide – boom, boom! I sometimes wonder if this blog is just too good for you) indicate that this is a syrup made from almonds, sugar water and rose water.  The cocktail also contained the rather mysterious ingredient “Byrrh”.  This was not, as I first assumed, a gift for a baby Messiah delivered by a wise man with a cold (well, the Nativity was well before Tunes were invented) but a spirit made of red wine, mistelle (“almost” wine mixed with brandy) and quinine – so I should be good against malaria for a while.  Discussion of Byrrh did lead to brief mention of matters seasonal, and for reasons I no longer quite recall, we were able to establish that if the second coming were to be in Kettering, all the basics of the carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” would still be fine with the simple substitution of place names.  Not sure if this will be an important part of the decision-making process, but its nice to know should Northamptonshire be so blessed.

All-in-all a quite excellent day, finished off with a comic play about Scott’s fatal quest for the South Pole at the Southwark Playhouse (another London fringe theatre ticked) – with a surprising amount of Norwegian (which did make me quite misty-eyed for BBC4 Scandi-drama).  On my journey home I was entertained by an episode of QI XL stored on my laptop via the miracle of iPlayer (making the unmissable live up to its name, as long as it isn’t on the radio – grrr!).  I think they may have discovered the optimal panel of guests: Victoria Coren-Mitchell, Sue Perkins and Reverend Richard Coles – and once again, having more than one woman in the room lead to hilarity rather than disaster.  I really feel there must be a lesson (or nine) in here somewhere – if only I could see it.


Today’s title refers to members of the Hymenoptera, sub-order Apocrita – and not to the many other meanings of the word wasp (including any link to Marineville).

Yesterday afternoon, I once again found myself quaffing champagne – this time at a garden party in a rather exclusive area of Cambridge (I’m quite surprised I was allowed in!).  To accompany the champagne, there were very fine local strawberries (apparently sourced from a farm close to Milton sewage works – though I’m not sure if there is a link between the works and the quality of the Fragaria) and I think it was these that attracted the first wasp of the new year (well, my first wasp anyway).  Not as commonly reported as the first cuckoo or swallow perhaps but nonetheless, in my role as the Gilbert White de nos jours, I feel it is my duty to report the sighting.  As wasp is a rather generic term for an entire sub-order of stinging critters, I should make clear that it was the yellow-and-black striped common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) that I saw.

Seeing the wasp reminded me of the one personal act of (mild) physical bravery which I can recall from my many years on this earth.  (Normally, I’d go to quite considerable trouble to avoid having to even contemplate an act of physical bravery.)  The incident occurred a few years back on a packed, rush hour Victoria line train running southbound from Finsbury Park.  Along with the merry throng of commuters (OK, I’ll admit that phrase requires a degree of artistic license) my carriage also played host to a common wasp.  The other commuters reacted in much the way I imagine they might had a Bengal tiger or Piers Morgan been loosed in the carriage – desperate attempts to get of the way of the interloper accompanied by shrieking and useless flapping of the hands.  I was standing with a couple of friends at one end of the carriage (the north end for anyone planning a reconstruction) and remarked on the over-reaction of our fellow passengers in a somewhat mocking fashion.  Fate, or karma, was swift to respond: the wasp landed on the hand rail next to the point at which I was hanging-on.  She then proceeded to walk towards the back of my hand in a determined manner.  Given my earlier remarks, I was unable to squeal like a girl (or man in his mid-thirties) and/or whisk my hand to safety – I decided that a sting would be substantially less painful than the loss of face such actions would incur.  As a result, I allowed the wasp to wander across my hand whilst I stoically continued my conversation as though nothing was happening.  Gratifyingly, the wasp continued her journey without attacking my hand – and the other passengers who observed this feat of derring-do were suitably impressed by my sang-froid.

Despite the positive feedback from the audience, I decided against touring theatres with my wasp act.  I fear the days of the music hall and such “spesh” acts are long over, though I believe Simon Cowell does good business with the same basic idea on ITV on a Saturday night (I’m surprised old Chuffer Dandridge or some of his many friends haven’t given BGT a go!).

Worrying Lyrics

Perhaps it is unwise to listen too closely to song lyrics. I will leave opera alone, as if it weren’t for the (often) foreign languages used it would be like shooting fish in a barrel. Though, having said that, unless the fish were very large relative to the size of the barrel, I suspect that would be much more difficult than is often supposed. I guess only experiment will be able to prove my suspicions right or wrong – but sadly I lack a barrel or a gun, though I do have half a trout in the fridge.

But I was struck by the issue of lyrics after hearing Ricky Martin singing “Livin’ la vida loca” on the radio earlier today. Ignoring the mixed languages of the title, at some point his paramour (for the purposes of the song) eschews water to drink insisting instead on French champagne. This is at best tautology and at worst risks trade war with the European Union for supplying champagne of some other nationality in breach of the Protected Designation of Origin status.

However, the song I have always felt contains the most worrying lyrics is Neil Sedaka’s hit of yesteryear, “Calendar Girl”. The concept of this song (or so I believe) is that the singer works his way through the months of the year linking each one with either some positive attribute of his belle or something he would like to do with her.

Thus, in January the year starts off fine and in February he seeks to become her valentine. So far, so good.

The relationship then accelerates and by March he is planning to take her up the aisle – we presume in some nuptial sense, rather than merely the canned goods aisle of his local Tesco.

In April, we learn that the poor lass may not be much of a looker as he is reminded of a rabbit every time she smiles. However, I’m sure a good orthodontist could help out in this department.

In May and June, he takes the full two months to ask her parents for the chance to take her on a date – perhaps a tad late given his earlier marriage plans. However, we don’t have to wait long to discover potential reasons for his procrastination. Come July, she is reported as all aglow – a clear hint of a pregnancy. Further shocking developments arise in September when it is revealed that she is yet to turn sixteen. October brings a worrying reference to Romeo and Juliet – and I’m starting to fear a double suicide. Fortunately, the rest of the year seems to pass off without major incident – though our “hero” does reveal a rather possessive streak.

The final refrain hints that our hero may also be suffering from some form of cardiac arrhythmia. Even assuming the marriage takes place, I fear our heroine will find herself a widowed, single mother before she can vote.

A harrowing tale I think you’ll agree – and quite at odds with the rather jaunty tune employed by Mr Sedaka.