Sunday, 28 October 2012

A Wessex Tale - in praise of Thomas Hardy

What is it with the Toms (Beef and Tomato and Tom Waits) over the last few posts, a theme perhaps? I’m not sure? But this post will give a fanfare to one of the greatest of authors, I own (to employ a term oft used in his works). Indeed, he evokes a lost Britain in a most humane way and invites the reader to question their own moral judgements and preconceptions to boot. Of course, I am writing of none other but the great Thomas Hardy now so frightfully unfashionable but I feel due a comeback! 

I am sure many have a passing acquaintance with Hardy’s life - especially if like me you did and English Literature A Level -  a born and bred Dorset man trained as an architect who spent most of his adult life as an author and poet recounting the trials and tribulations of a fictitious Wessex (Mainly Dorset, Devon, Somerset and Wiltshire) and its both tragic and eccentric characters. 

Many books have been written about Hardy, including Claire Tomalin’s very comprehensive biography which (whilst very accomplished) could be used as an effective draft excluder it is so thick! On this occasion, I want to concentrate on the fiction itself without exploring too much into the man behind it - you can find this out in the plethora of analysis on his works or Wikipedia if you want it paraphrased. My piece is more a personal praise of a few works which I feel are deserved of their place as classics in the English language. 

I remember disliking Hardy intensely when I first read him as an angry young 16 year-old and attempting to conquer the bleak and draining Tess of the D’Urbevilles. I also remember going back to school the next term and wrongly dismissing him with a string of unfair adjectives which youth is so prone to bring to mind. It was a good four years before I picked up another one of his books, Far from the madding crowd, where I should have started in the first place. Far more light-hearted than the works that followed it gave me a real flavour of a bucolic country and bygone people ever clinging onto the past whilst the future ever encroached more and more on their traditional way of life. 

I once used to sneer at Hardy’s detailed decriptions of the natural world, mistakenly calling it ‘laboured’ prose where really it was more ‘nostalgic’, wistful for a world that the author could see rapidly vanishing. That was the feeling at the beginning of The Woodlanders - to my mind one of his most underrated novels. Telling a story of dissapointment, class ambition and unrequited love set against the backdrop of a woodland community where aspiring middle classes lived hand-in-hand with itinerant labourers - bearing similarities to one of his most famous works Return of the Native. In both books whist he evokes the beauty of the nature, it is destructive, ominous and fickle; driving men and women to the depths of despair as much as it offers them security. 

Having finished reading Return of the Native recently, I was more captivated by the setting of Egdon Heath than the plight of the main characters, for the Heath was written as a character in itself, almost a God-like entity, ever present throughout the tale, unchanging, constant. The characters either praise it or they resent it, much like the woods in The Woodlanders

This is just one side of Hardy, with ensemble casts of characters and vivid natural scenes. His other side focuses on tragic figures slowly ground down by the - pardon me for employing a much overused term - ‘wheel of fate’! Novels like the aforementioned Tess and the groundbreaking Jude the Obscure concentrate on the futility of human existent that makes for very hard, depressing reading. As such this theme brings me to my favourite of the Wessex writer’s works, The Mayor of Casterbridge

I wish I could be impartial about this book, yet it is still one of the best pieces of fiction I have ever read and to me, is certainly one of the best writings on the male psyche I have ever come across. Vaulting ambition (to use another A level taught cliche - thanks Claudius), bitter disappointment and the natural course of fate combine to show the rise and fall of a man who cannot escape the shameful deeds of his past in spite of redemption. I am not ashamed to admit that I shed a few tears for the tragedy of Michael Henchard - even if, in my view,  the current Penguin cover notes give a wholly inaccurate depiction of his character. 

Henchard is certainly an unlovable character yet, I think that every man could see something of himself in the doomed character who carries with him a bizarre degree of dignity which I have only ever found in the works of Turgenev. The book gripped me from start to finish, a page-turner if you will. It was after reading this particular work that I realised that Hardy was a truly great novelist and thoroughly deserved of his place as one of the great writers in English literary history. 

I fear that I have only skittered over the surface in a rather blasé form, but I don’t want to spoil any of these fantastic works for you should you not have read them. Too often do I read reviews that cannot help but spoil the plot, this is is more a mere praise for a favourite author and one whose work never tires. Hopefully this should act as a recommendation to you to pick up some of his works should you have never come across him. Thomas Hardy I salute you! 

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Never recognise yourself... Heartattack & Vine (1980) - Tom Waits

From the opening of this album you are hit with the sleaziest of riffs, dug from the depths and denizens of a seedy LA Hell. Heartattack and Vine is often dismissed as a ‘transitional’ album, straddling two distinct phases of Tom Waits prolific career, but for me it is the 'Great Rasper' at his very best. Sombre but groovy licks, potent lyrics and vivid scenes of LA street life and nostalgia combine for one of the most enduring of listens in my music collection. Without a doubt I would put this in my top five it is that good! 

The title track - which opens the album - encourages you to dim the lights, pour yourself a large bourbon and indulge in a pack of Lucky Strikes. As I sat and wrote this review I was working to just a desk lamp, shot and a beer by my side (a cigar would also feature had I not been in throws of Stoptober). The atmosphere is set by the music, sparse and dirty with Waits unique delivery working its way into the finer recesses of your mind. Like the Pot Noodle of the previous post, this chestnut transports me back to my first year at University in Leeds, Bodington Halls. 

I listened to this album over and over as I prepared to embark on some ill-advised club night or another, sipping on my drink of choice back then, bourbon and dry ginger and smoking Royal Dutch cigarillos as the title track slipped into the lilting instrumental ‘In Shades’ a tune that evokes shifty characters brawling in West Coast bars - the guitar playing on this track is particularly awesome. 

Suddenly the album takes a different, macabre tone, as if you’ve stepped into a graveyard or an empty house in great disrepair. ‘Saving all my love for you’ is in no way related to the Whitney Houston song of the same name, the tone is so different, the 80s soulstress was full of hope and expectation, Waits is full of despair, regret and resignation but no less romantic. It is a song you could imagine a lamenting Clym Yeobright from Return of the Native singing. 

‘Downtown’ takes us back to the Chivas Regal, $4 rooms and hookers - Hammond Organ a-swirling - the gritty world of Waits’s LA before an oft copied original ‘Jersey Girl’ gets its first outing in its illustrious history. Atmosphere follows with ‘Til’ the money runs out’ giving an indication, if an ever so slight one, of where Waits was to go with the experimental Swordfishtrombones (1983). But this is mere frippery compared to the album’s zenith ‘On the nickel’ 

A fully orchestrated track, like something from a Rogers & Hammerstein musical, ‘On the nickel’ both showcases Waits extraordinary voice but also his gift as a musician. A wonderful story, like a great show tune offset with an emotional impact not found on the stage, I can only imagine what it must have been like to have been at the recording session for this song. The cut focuses on depression era Los Angeles and the strife of many destitute labourers and families, Waits taps into them, he gives the characters meaning but most importantly he paints a picture that everyone might appreciate. If you listen to one Waits song in your life then please make it this one. 

The rest of the album includes a raucous, bluesy track ‘Mr Siegal’ which certainly helped many a drink slip gently down the little red lane in the past and the final ballad ‘Ruby’s Arms’ which for me is the weakest track and one that I tend to disregard, not out of doubt for the musical ability but that I don’t care for it that much! 

Whatever your fancy, this is an album that you simply much invest in, 10/10 for me!

Back to the future or a cup full of dissapointment?

‘Well I’ve been a prisoner all my life...’  sang Phil Collins in his 1985 epic ‘Take me home’ and it seems that I have! For many years I have been blind to a cruel and erstwhile mistress that has chosen to raise it’s blunt and ugly head after many years dormant. 


Let me set the scene, it’s 2001 and I was freezing my socks off as a 13 year old recently started at a school in the heart of a cold and blustery valley. The wind whipped and shook the very rafters of the boarding house; little solace could be found in both the latin grammars and compulsory rugby. The kettle may have produced a cup of builders brew strong enough to melt girders but it was of little comfort against the chill February air that seemed to linger and embed itself in the 18th Century cornicing of the building. 

Prep, although it was but an hour-and-three-quarters long felt arduous as, chilled to the bone, we attempted to cram in the deeds of Publius Decius Mus and ponder on how Horatio kept the bridge in which the only respite was in a quick and furtive reach into the treasure trove of your tuck box. 

Weaving a grubby paw through this hoard of cola cubes, pork scratchings, twiglets and kit-kats the wearying hunter would finally alight on the mecca, that pep to give one hope and courage to last an evening of banter and beats...the pot noodle. 

I suppose it was all in the preparation and the anticipation. I like to think that perhaps, in some distant time, people thought that these gaudy and cheap looking containers held the future of human comestibles. The exciting one felt even in the noughties filling that receptacle with the hardest boiling water known to man (after all the flakes of limescale where hard to distinguish from the textured soya matter). 

I was always a chicken and mushroom man, I had no care for the curry or the beef & tomato. After opening the spot-welded foil lid in one swift motion I would take in the pile of desiccated stock cube, dehydrated sweetcorn and peas (which had probably not seen the fields from whence they came for many years) and of course the textured soya sitting atop a nest of anemic noodles. I can still hear the kettle click in the lonely brew room and the crackling of the sleepy noodles waking up after a long stay on the off licence shelf as the sandy Chicken-flavoured dust gave way to a lurid yellow soup flecked with green ‘herbs’. The savoury smell of MSG wafted up, hitting the nostril with the aromatic subtlety of a squadron of Red Arrow jets. 

The taste, well we all know it, ersatz to the full but, like the barbecue ribs from a cheap Chinese takeaway very more-ish. Cold and hungry at 13 I couldn't control myself as I hovered up the noodles and gulped down the liquid which - as the pasta supply was depleted - became disconcertingly viscous. 

It was soon finished and one was left with both an abiding sense of dissatisfaction and a certain degree of shame for having decimated with such relish a really sub-par product. One went to bed on those nights feeling ever so slightly sordid!


Imagine my surprise when I found myself purchasing one the other day! It had been a thoroughly enjoyable evening the previous night, in fact, some might say too enjoyable. I had got up for work on time, showered, dressed but in my rush neglected to prepare some lunch for the rigours of a day in the office. 

Working in a small village just outside of the Capital there is little choice on the shelves of the local shop (unless you are a fan of the disturbing array of vacuum-packed, processed pork that lingers interminably on the shelves). Then I saw it, like some shitty grail of mediocrity, the toxic green almost sang to me as I reached for it and before I knew it I was walking out of the shop with a Chicken and Mushroom Pot Noodle. 

‘Do a favour for the flavour’ the slogan on the complimentary packet of soy sauce teased me. ‘Oh go on then matron’, if I must! Adding it to the stewing mass of water and detritus I stirred for the last time before taking the flabby, shivering strands of pasta to my lips... on the first mouthful, and the second and the third the memories came flooding back in droves... It was bloody delicious. I am ashamed!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Recipe Corner: Tomato tartare with a green bean salad

One of my most faithful followers was somewhat despondent that it had been a jolly long time since I had published a recipe on this blog. Well fear not! For here is a veritable treat for the senses and an attractive one at that.
This is a recipe that I adapted from the great Thomas Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook. If you have (or have had) a chance to taste his version or have seen it in the same book, you will have been no doubt surprised by the sheer levels of complexity of the dish. For the home cook, I have come up with a pared down version which can be accomplished in any kitchen. 
This makes a light starter for a dinner party where a rich meat course promises to follow, or if you are a decadent, debauched individual like myself, a refreshing afternoon snack. If you do want to pad it out a bit more  - as it makes a worthy light lunch - then a few slices of toasted baguette rubbed with a clove of garlic and brushed with olive oil would complement nicely.
This recipe makes 2 portions  so double the quantities and so forth depending on the amount you want to make
For the Tomato tartare
2 medium sized tomatoes
Good slug olive oil
4 olives stuffed with anchovies, minced
1/2 banana shallot, finely chopped
2-3 basil leaves, chiffonade (shredded)
Salt and pepper
  1. Skin and seed tomatoes (by plunging in boiling water for 30 seconds and removing skins quickly and then plunging into iced water to prevent further cooking. Seeds can be removed with a teaspoon - make sure you remove them all!)
  2. chop into fine cubes 
  3. place tomatoes, oil, olives, garlic and basil in a bowl and mix together 
  4. season with salt and pepper
  5. line 2x 8cm (2.5cm deep) ramekins with cling film and press mixture in, making sure you pack in as much as possible without squashing the tomatoes.
  6.  cover and put in the fridge for 1/2 an hour to cool and take shape. 
For the Beans
Handful of fine green beans (topped and tailed) 
Slug of groundnut oil 
Heaped teaspoon dijon mustard
Dash of white wine vinegar
3-4 drops of Worcestershire sauce
Scant drop Tabasco (or to taste) 
Salt and pepper
  1. cut the beans into one inch pieces and boil in salted water for 5 minutes. Using your judgement, make sure there is a light bite to the beans as if they are too soft the texture will be ruined. Leave to cool.
  2. prepare the dressing by combining the oil, mustard, vinegar, tabasco, Worcestershire sauce and seasoning in a   lidded jar and shake up to emulsify. 
  3. incorporate the dressing with the beans.
To serve, take the ramekin out of the fridge. Allow to reach room temperature, and carefully overturn onto a plate, removing the ramekin and the cling film slowly (think of unrolling Mrs. Robinson’s stockings and then you get my drift!). Then take a small handful of beans and softly place them on top of the tartare. 
Finish with some white breadcrumbs toasted in a frying pan with a little oil or some thin slices of toasted baguette. 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Sketches from a Cigar Smoker’s Album #4: Stoptober special!

Aargh! what possessed me to embark on this course of action? a challenge to myself? a concern for my health? I don’t know, but undertaking this month of abstinence has opened my eyes to how addictive tobacco is. I only smoke 1-2 cigars a week but I am certainly missing them, my Saturday morning coffees or my Sunday evening pint is not quite the same without those sticks of Cuban-leaved goodness. 

What makes this all the more annoying is that I decided to purchase a number of cigars from Amsterdam when I visited a two weeks ago. They are currently sitting in my humidor or in their protective wrapping, taunting me and tempting me. However, I refuse to give in, call it obstinacy if you will, besides it is only for a month by which time it will be my birthday and I will be treating myself to some fine smokes. Surely I have enough willpower to carry me through? not that there haven’t been moments where I have almost relented to joys of a fine Scotch and the cascade of thick smoke (I started a week earlier in September to see if I could realistically last the whole of Stoptober). 

I have not officially joined the campaign (as I don’t think I need the motivational bumph)  but I do hope - if indeed you are a regular ciggie smoker - that you give it a go, think of it like Movember but less fun, without the moustache and the special deal at Byron Burger! I’m not one to be preachy but I think that this campaign has struck just the right tone and is well worth trying out more as a short term personal challenge rather than a long term solution - like a sponsored Scrabble marathon. However, who am I to talk? - I hear my tobacco chomping audience cry out - as I fear I don’t really smoke to a level where a month free would be much of a problem, despite my carpings above. You make up your own minds. 

Anyway if you feel game, give it a try and let me know how it goes! the site address is and, even if you don’t decide that it’s for you, it’s worth taking a look. Oh and this means that there won’t be another series of sketches until November! 

Friday, 5 October 2012

Smooth and sophisticated: Grey Goose's Taste by Appointment

On Monday night I was lucky enough to be invited to Grey Goose Vodka’s Taste by Appointment at Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen in order to participate in a journey through taste culminating in a bespoke cocktail created by the highly accomplished mixologist Joe McCanta, here is my take on the evening.

On arrival I was invited by the glamorous Grey Goose staff to take a seat in front of a tray containing a range of bottles, pipets and containers and a Q&A card. A flute of Grey Goose's signature cocktail, Grey Goose Le Fizz, was brought (containing Grey Goose standard, bottle green elderflower, lime juice and soda) and I was prompted to undertake the first experiment, designed to qualify whether each one of the participants was a ‘super taster’ (those who have a higher concentration of papillae) or merely a ‘taster’ - all for the love of sensory difference. Sadly it was to turn out that I was the latter, the dull palate that I have!

Whilst this first stage of the experiment was taking place all manner of delicious canapes were being presented by the excellent chefs andstaff at Bread Street Kitchen. These included such delicacies as grilled steak with garlic purée; fondant potatoes and sour cream; salt & pepper cuttlefish with tartare sauce; mini mushroom and parmesan pizza and a wonderfully rare mini-burger to die for. Each of these, we were later to find out, was designed to appeal to the different taste senses we experience: salt, sweet, bitter, sour and umami (savoury).

Following this very promising preamble, Joe McCanta (Brand Ambassador for Grey Goose) and Mario Neziri (who runs the bar at Bread Street Kitchen) took to the stage to guide the assembled guests through an exploration into our individual tastes. A further series of experiments took place, each designed to isolate what tastes we each preferred in order to influence ourbespoke cocktail each to be made during the evening. These tests  also sought to both inform us of the importance of the olfactory senses and if we could successfully isolate salt, sweet, bitter, sour and umami in a blind tasting. Through all this McCanta spoke with authority about the science of taste and why we appreciate certain flavours more than others in terms that even a science dunce like me could understand.

As a culmination of our hard work we were rewarded with a chance to make our own basic cocktails using a moving bar choc-full of Grey Goose vodka (standard, orange, lemon, pear) and different ingredients which emphasised the sensations we had explored over the evening. Mine was a saucy mix of Grey Goose Orange, stock syrup, white grapefruit juice and ice of which one of the plucky barman claimed appealed to my ‘obvious’ sweet tooth. Being the cheeky fellow that I am, I also managed to procure a good shot of the orange vodka neat over the rocks, a real treat on its own.

Whilst this wonderful trolley of drinks was making its way around the room people were being called up in pairs to receive their bespoke cocktail from Joe McCanta and leaving with glasses filled containing all manner of vividly coloured concoctions. Then my turn came up at the bar.Joe and I had already had a brief chat over the evening, and he had established that I was keen on the bitter flavours of Campari and similar drinks. I was initially offered the classic Negroni, but after the preceding events of the evening I felt it would be churlish to have something I had slurped so many times previously. Keeping bitter-sweet feelings in mind, I asked for something new, different but encapsulated all that made the Negroni a classic cocktail.

The enthusiastic mixologist plucked a few bottles from a myriad of ingredients, including: Aperol, Kamm & Sons Ginseng Spirit, Grey Goose Orange and another sherry-like bitters (the name of whicht escapes me now).This was then stirred with ice, poured over the rocks and finished with white grapefruit peel. It was a delicious drink, combining all the things I like about the Negroni whilst adding a new dimension and - as all great cocktails should be - it was wonderfully alcoholic!

Soon after this, and when the last person had been given their bespoke cocktail experience, it was time to call it a night with Joe thanking us all for coming and taking part but importantly thanking the fantastic staff at Grey Goose and the Bread Street Kitchen who had made the evening so special. Please let me take this opportunity to echo his praise myself.

All I am left to say is that this was a fantastic event, full of interesting information, innovative approaches to cocktail construction and a little bit of self-discovery. Grey Goose did a fantastic job and I hope they do more similar events in the future. 10/10 all round from the Bloody Good Chap. 

The next events are being held at Hakkasan on the 6 October and Dabbous on 13 October.  Tickets are £75 and available from

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Freedom Overspill Ep. #2: Carafe and Quiche

And now, the next exciting chapter in Freedom Overspill.

The detective squad room at Wandsworth police station was a hive of activity that morning, statements were being taken, reports were being typed and in a non-decript interview room Chief Inspector Rolly Theroux was giving Hall and Lomacks a dressing down.

‘I’ve had quite enough of this you two.’ bellowed the DCI, ‘Your not Crockett and Tubbs and you certainly can’t go around like 48hrs beating the living crap out of suspects, even if they are serial killers! It just won’t do!’
‘You never had any problem with rough justice before. I’ve seen the colour of your knuckles sir.’ Hall contradicted
‘It was a different place when I patrolled the streets Hall, I’m getting directives from central office daily.’ Theroux sighed, the sigh of a world weary copper,‘There has even been talk of trying to run you out of the force, there just isn’t a place for your kind of investigative skill.’ On these words Hall’s face went as red as a beetroot.
‘What do they know about this patch? Have they been down to the Wandworth One-Way? Have those pen-pushers had to go hat in hand to a young lad’s mother and tell her that her son was battered to death with a pool cue?’
‘If it was up to me Charlie I’d have thrown the book at that scum years ago, but I’m afraid it’s out of my hands. Shape up or leave the force, that’s what I’ve been told to warn you. Lomacks, I want the report on my desk by the end of the day, without fail.’
‘Yes Boss.’ both chorused in unison.
‘Right, that’s all. I don’t want to have to see you like this again.’ The door slammed behind Theroux as he exited.
‘Fucking creep.’ Lomacks sneered. 
‘He’s just doing his job, you haven’t been here long enough. Back in the late 70s he was the best copper on the force. He’s made more arrests than you’ve had hot dinners.’
‘If he is so good Guv, why is he sitting behind a desk with a shiny new Apple computer.’
‘Don’t ask me Lomacks, Aspiration, better house, car, life for his family? the factors are endless. Anyway you’re the one who went to University.’
‘Yer, and a fat lot of good it does me here!’
‘Alright lad, enough of that’ Hall was wearying of his partner’s cynicism and his stomach was rumbling ‘Let’s go and get some lunch, I’m starving.’


Northcote road in 1986 was starting to become something of a trendy place, gentrified if you will! The greasy spoons of old were fast being replaced with smart restaurants and wine bars. And it is on this frightfully de rigeur road that we find our heroes debating where best to put their feet up for an hour of two and indulge in a few frothy pints before the afternoon shift. 
‘Wine bars aren’t the problem Lomacks, it’s just that you don’t get a traditional, run-of-the-mill pub around these parts any more. What makes it worse is that Young’s is just round the corner!’
‘I was up at University in Leeds and I can tell you that it’s going the same way boss’
‘My dad grew up in Tadcaster and we used to go up there to visit my gran every Christmas time. Now the pubs there’ Hall looked dreamily into the distance, ‘oh well, I suppose we’ll have to go to the regular.’
Bakers wine bar was crowded at lunchtime with men in suits and spotty ties and Women with turtle necks and pearls. Needless to say that our two heroes looked the part, Hall in a sharp suit with Pierre Cardin tie (his mother had always said he should scrub up well) and Lomacks in the linen suit and pastel T-Shirt as made popular by Don Johnson. They were good detectives, no, they were great detectives and here they were always welcome. Money for Nothing was the anthem of that year of prosperity and was blaring over the assembled personage as they tucked into a frittata or plates of cold ham salad, washed down with Beaujolais, chilled Chablis or Perrier.
‘Table for two Carlos.’ The waiter came over obsequiously to take the order of these regulars.
 ‘The usual lager sirs?’
 ‘Yer Charlie, two Skols here.’
 ‘Still no bitter?’
 ‘Mr Hall, there just isn’t the demand for it here’ Carlos gave Hall an apologetic look and a shrug of his shoulders as Champagne corks popped gloriously in the background. 
‘Well then Skol it is, and Skol it will have to be! And send us over a couple of those quiches you do with a few leaves.’
‘Of course sir. It’s such a nice day would you both like to sit outside?’
‘It would be a pity to waste it and we’d be able to hear the radio from the car.’ Hall was not a man to begrudge his partner a bit of fresh air so acquiesced. Sitting at a wrought Iron table, half finished quiche and fresh pints in front of them, the pair had decided that this was the time to delve into the mysteries of  the British government.
‘Not that I mind… The Thatcher Government has done a lot for guys like me. Up with Lawson I say!’ Hall waved a fist of support in the air.
‘But you can’t discount the effect, or should I say affect that they have had on the North?’ The ‘Enforcer of SW18’ was incredulous, and a piece of quiche flew from his mouth at Lomacks’s sacrilegious words. 
‘And where would you have been? Scraping flying pickets off the pavement in Saltley no doubt. People are too ready to knock this administration once they have reaped the benefits.’
‘You have a point, but there are many who would disagree.’ Typical Leeds University economist, putting it into perspective! Hall decided there was no point in getting into a slanging match over public policy.
Fair enough, they’re entitled to their opinion. The fact is that I’ve worked hard and this is the first time I think I’ve been rewarded…I didn’t know what quiche was five years ago, but you live and learn I suppose.’
‘Well I still think this Government stinks’ Lomacks was adamant 
‘You’re still young, no responsibilities. You’ll learn soon enough.’
‘I suppose so Guv, I suppose so…’

A world away in SW19, up on Wimbledon common, two men are sitting shooting the breeze at one of the old fashioned pubs that lined the Commons. I think that this one was the Hand in Hand - which still stands to these days. The creaking paneled walls of this 18th Century build were lined with horse brasses, and other iron mongers implements. Like Hall and Lomacks these two gentlemen were talking politics.
‘I’m not sure about Heseltine, he just seems like a child throwing his toys out of the pram.’ The first man said, referring the the Westland Crisis which had dominated the news over the last few weeks. 
‘You say that,’ said his companion, ‘but we would do far better going towards Europe. Brittan’s a dead duck on this one, you cannot honestly say that it’s right to go to America?’ It was at this point the landlord - a portly, waistcoated man with a big moustache and red face - intervened. 
‘Now I’m not having any of this talk from my best customers, I just won’t. Too many of you are so hung up on politics now, why can’t you just come here, have a nice quiet pint and talk about the FA cup?’
‘Sorry John, It’s just that we would never have talked about this 10 years ago.’ At this the landlord’s look of concern turned to one of amusement and he chuckled. 
‘You were kids 10 years ago, all about Pink Floyd, Gong and John Martyn.’
‘John Martyn… There’s a name you don’t hear these days…’ reminisced the first man
‘Went ‘electric’, like Muddy Waters and Dylan.’ responded his companion, and the barman sighed, things never changed he thought and was just about to put in his penny’s worth when he was cut short by a massive explosion, which shook the pub to its rafters. All and sundry exited and were greeted with the sight of one the expensive manor houses on the Common awash with flames and collapsing in on itself
‘That’s Digby Niven’s house!’ Shouted the barman in surprise, ‘I hope everyone’s okay!’...

Will Digby Niven be okay? Will Hall and Lomacks come to some consensus? Will Michael Heseltine see Westland merge with a European partner? Find out in the next week’s gripping installment of Freedom Overspill.