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Saturday, 2 June 2012

How many A4 Union Flags will I get for Sue Morris?

Sue Morris, in case you hadn't heard, is the numpty junior mandarin who tapped out a nasty little memo complaining about Whitehall staff hanging bunting in their offices; not only had they printed it themselves on colour copiers, but they'd stood on their desks to hang it up. 

Sue is clearly in need of a recuperative transfer to the Berlaymont where she will be less out of place. In the meanwhile, can anyone guess how many A4 colour laser copies of a Union Flag can one get for Sue's annual employment cost?

Friday, 1 June 2012

Obama - nearly as dumb as Cameron

Cameron is not the only world leader with no knowledge whatsoever of history. Cameron famously claimed that the UK was the 'junior partner' to the US when we both fought the Nazis together in 1940, completely ignorant of the fact that the US was to remain at peace with the Nazis for a further two years from the dawn of 1940, when we stood alone against Hitler. 

And now Obama has outraged Poland with a reference to 'the Polish death camps'. The gaffe came in the citation for a US Medal of Freedom award to Jan Karski. President Komorowski immediately wrote to Obama, and received a written and grovelling response yesterday in which Obama says he should have referred to the Nazi death camps in German occupied Poland. 

The story plastered the front page of the Gazeta here and has left many Poles dismayed that the US leader should have been so ignorant of something that remains of great importance to the Poles.


The market stalls in the Plac Nowy groaned under the weight of fresh produce from the smallholdings around Krakow; the first delicious tender yellow beans, a few strawberries, fresh salads, firm red tomatoes and great heaps of early asparagus. All grown locally, all just harvested - a foodie's paradise. Not for those who like their veg flown halfway round the world, held in a refrigerated warehouse for a week and trimmed to consistent sizes and proportion, all traces of soil and mis-shapes weeded out in a sort of veggie Eugenics, but paradise for the taste buds. With this sort of fresh ingredient, the confident little restaurants that have sprung up all around this Boho little Kazimierz market can hardly go wrong, I thought, but I reckoned without the Polish character. 

Polish restaurant food is generally both homogenous and tedious. Three types of Zupy; beetroot, sour rye and goulash. Five main courses; Pierogi dumplings, roast pork knuckle, Kotlet, Schnitzel, baked Cod. But the interior designers and gutters have moved into this scruffy and fashionable area, and fashionably-named chic little places now overspill the pavements, complete with lithe leggy waitresses in simple little black dresses cut so short in the thigh that bending at the waist would be indecent, so they drop vertically in little Polish curtsies as they serve. They offer the promise of a new Polish cuisine with great confidence, but alas with limited success.

The finest new asparagus spears are best enjoyed steamed with butter alone, eaten in the fingers from a plate tilted on a fork to form a pool of molten butter for dipping. If you must adulterate your asparagus, or if it's past its best, a little parma ham, or a little parmesan cheese is about as far as I'd go. What arrived on my plate as the chef's asparagus dish was .... astonishing. He'd made a thick cheese sauce to which he'd added pine nuts and dill, covering a bed of bitter endive, on which the mushy over-boiled spears were laid like the dead. He then hid them beneath wispy shrouds of Parma ham. Not satisfied, he then covered the whole with shavings of parmesan and quartered strawberries. It looked as if he's barely been able to resist wrapping the lot in pierogi-paste and deep frying it. It was every cliche of Western cuisine of the 80s and 90s combined with a Polish inability to conceive of any dish without dill. 

Elsewhere when I'd been in the mood for sour and tart I thought I couldn't go wrong with picked herring. All they had to do was take it out of it's vinegar preserve and put it on a plate with a piece of lemon. Oh no. It arrived drowned in a puddle of olive oil and sprinkled with chopped dill. I wanted to say "you're trying too hard!", wanted to explain that I know they're trying hard to be sophisticated but they need to trust their taste buds, that less is more, that they'd got it right with the elegant simplicity of the LBDs (though they could let the hems down 4" without loss) and just needed to transfer that approach to the restaurant plate. 

Enjoying a beer with a young musician I mentioned how much I liked the Krakow International Airport rail interchange (pictured below), one of the few at which you can watch the antics of a flock of hens in an adjoining field whilst waiting for the city-centre shuttle. I really do like it; it's a thing of joy that makes my heart smile every time I see it. It does the job perfectly, just five minutes walk down a dirt track from the airport, with a little two-coach formation that shuttles the single track with great efficiency. She was unimpressed - she thought I was making fun of them. With EU money, she said, they'd make it 'modern' - I think she meant lots of glass, steel and greatly enhanced inconvenience - and (worrying, this) the chickens and the peasants would be removed. I really couldn't convince her that it was perfect as it was, that simple was good. I thought better of asking her if she liked to cook. 

Monday, 28 May 2012

Things I haven't got time to do ...

Europe is the only news story. We're entering a momentous period in which everything's to play for - our nation, our sovereignty, our freedom. If I could I would give every waking minute of every waking day to the fight, and if it comes to require it I will do. There is never a shortage of topics for blog posts, but research takes time to do justice to those of you I ask to read it. The next few days are particularly hectic, but here's what I'd blog if I had the time;

1. UK net payments to Commonwealth nations vs. UK payments to the EU. £1bn vs £15bn? Likely returns from developing Commonwealth markets vs returns from EU markets?

2. To list out (with notes) all the EU 'competencies' that either explicitly or effectively gives the EU legislative power over our people - every policy / legislative area they've already given away. And what's left?

3. Euro legislation on personal electronic signatures and compulsory ID

4. LOTR simile; the UK as old King Rohan, under the spell of Wormtongue (who looks remarkably like Cameron) ...

Sunday, 27 May 2012

"Bashar needs to call Tony"

"It looks bad this morning, Nigel. Bashar's getting a bad press over the co-laterals, and apart from Putin he's lacking media-friendly support"

"We need to call Tony's people. It will cost Assad a few bob, but Blair's his only real hope now"

"Will he do it?"

"If the price is right. It cost whassisname in Kazakhstan about $13m to get Tony's team onside ..."

"Nazarbayev. And doesn't he boil people alive in butter? The cruellest despot north of the Equator? Liberals shot in the streets and dissidents tortured and mutilated in squalid prisons?"

"That's the fella. Charning chap, actually, and knows his claret; Tony and Alastair hosted him last week. Yes, Bashar needs to call Tony, get Tim Allen on board from Portland. Tony can get Adonis and Purnell to visit Damascus for some 'fact finding' to add a bit of parliamentary weight and Campbell and Peter M can do the media round"

"OK. Let's get Tony and Cherry's whack sorted then. Shall we say $20m for starters?"