Wednesday 18 March 2009

New Address

In February 2008 the Rambling Nappa decided that, after being so long away, he'd better re-invent himself. So he went rumbling:

Monday 7 April 2008

French Ramblings (2)

So the Olympic Torch has a rocky ride through London, the next day Paris provides a repeat screening. The UK has a touch of snow, the North of France gets exactly the same thing. The snow was short-lived however and within a few hours it had virtually disappeared. Good, however, that the weather didn’t stop Portsmouth reaching the FA Cup Final – even if West Bromwich Albion did play the better football. Good, too, that of Mrs Rambling Nappa’s three Grand National selections she found first and second place, even if her third horse (which was also my selection) came a bit of a cropper.

I had an Al Murray moment when watching the French TV equivalent of the Jonathan Ross Show on Saturday. They were comparing Carla Sarkozy’s very chic evening dress with the drapery and tiaras worn by our Royal Majesties and hooting with Gallic mirth, particularly at poor Camilla’s attire. “So what’s wrong if our Royals want to dress up in bedroom curtains with some rocks on their heads? They’re ours, they’re British and we’re proud of them! Bloody French….”

Mrs Rambling Nappa (who has joined me for a few days to try and introduce some order into my affairs) had a Mrs Bouquet moment when we visited a local supermarket today. “Look at that family … just look at them … gross, overweight, slow, rude, appallingly dressed, and the girl what are those things she’s wearing on her feet … what do these French people think they are?”. She then overheard their conversation and, yes, they were in fact our compatriots.

And now I must turn my attention to the Augusta Masters and the small matter of who is going to win it if the Tiger doesn’t. The cast list of players tends to change very little from year to year, so will Messrs Singh, Els and Mickelson be the only three other players to feature on the leaderboard? Or will (here comes Al Murray again) someone English, “who likes proper beer, someone we can be proud of …” come along. A Rose or a Poulter, A Donald or a Westwood maybe? But then again maybe no English players will make the cut and I’ll have to pin my hopes on Padraig.

Wednesday 2 April 2008

French Ramblings (1)

I’ve taken to buying the local daily paper (Courier Picard) to try and help widen my French vocabulary. The headlines for some days have been the aftermath of the French League Cup Final between PSG (Paris St Germain) and our boys RC Lens. The match was decided by a questionable penalty decision in favour of the Paris team, but more controversial than the penalty was the large “banderole” displayed by the PSG fans.

I looked up banderole in my French – English dictionary and was informed that in English “une banderole” is indeed a banderole. The Oxford Dictionary was more helpful – a banderole is a banner or streamer.

Now it takes quite a bit to insult an RC Lens supporter. This is the team of blood and gold (a description of their colours) and their fans come from all over Northern France (including the jardinier that I laid off last week). This is the text that caused such consternation:

Pédophiles, chômeurs, consanguins, bienvenu chez les Ch’tis

Wow! I don’t need a dictionary to start that one. Chômeurs are out-of-work layabouts, and les Ch’tis is a slang expression for inhabitants of Northern France, but the word that absolutely enraged people was Consanguins - what we would term as inbreds. The newspaper headlines have included such as Dégout, honte, scandale … Carrément répugnant, inadmissable. All this is wonderful fodder for the aged Englishman trying to improve his French-speaking skills.

Also in the paper this week is a rather pompous piece about Lewis Hamilton and his amende of 578 euros for getting caught by a radar trap on the A26 in December. He was cruising along at 193 km/h instead of the permitted 130 km/h. There is criticism that he didn’t lose his licence as well, and rather ominous rumblings about EEC legislation to ensure that all Europeans are treated equally when caught by radar traps. This will surely backfire on the French who reckon that they are immune from penalties when racing up the A20 from Dover towards London.

So, apart from leaning on my fork and reading the paper (there’s a Beatrix Potter character - a fox – that comes to mind) what else have I been up to in France. Well, lots of cleaning and painting – the house is now formally on the market. I received a gift of mangey looking carrots from a friendly neighbour (the hundred-year-old lady with one tooth who sells gas cannisters, but who won’t let me lift them because I’m too elderly). The carrots were “pour les bêtes”. I’ve had trouble with late payment of rates and non-payment of insurance premiums to sort out. A malcreant managed to drill a hole in my oil tank and syphon off a couple of hundred litres of outrageously expensive heating oil. And I’ve written a few words. A quiet start to my séjour in France.

Friday 21 March 2008

Long and Dusty Road - Starts Here

As of yesterday I've joined the ranks of the unemployed. I've shaken off the after effects of a rather generous leaving party (supper with whole company at a local pub - surprisingly good quality - shared with another leaver), said my farewells and read through the messages on the leaving card. Funny how several of the messages concerned gin and that among my leaving presents was a bottle of Gordons. Funny because I don't think I've ever supped a G & T with any of the employees. Pints of beer and glasses of wine, oh yes, but gin - never. It must be because of a famous office conversation which went something like this:

Monday: "J, why are you looking so glum?"
"I've decided to lay off drink for a month - give the liver a bit of a rest".

Tuesday: "J, why have you got that sticking plaster on your hand?"
"Cut myself chopping up a lemon for my G & T last night".

Anyway I dare say I'll miss the slightly monastic open plan office work ethic. The long silences disturbed only by a ringing phone, the arrival of a cup of coffee "oh, thanks", or a deliveryman. The continuous traffic of emails between employees all sitting in the same room; the lady LARPer's attempts at excellent customer relations on the phone with a foreign person who speaks no comprehensible English apart from a demand to know why the book he ordered from Amazon hasn't yet arrived; other employees bafflement that the Rambling Nappa's hearing is so bad that when some sort of conversation breaks out at the far end of the office he is totally oblivious to it, whilst everyone else is hanging on every word - whether involved in the conversation or not.

Anyway, time to move on. Time to take a rest from books on politics, computing and finance. Time to close down a chapter in my life and to start a new one.

With a lot of help from the long-suffering wife we've cleared out much of the retained debris left over from my physical bookselling days - dozens of files, electrical muddle (computers and miles of network cable, security gates, broken price guns and sticky labels, all these went to East Hampshire civic amenity refuse sites (trying to avoid the watchful eyes of the attendants looking to pounce on anyone disposing of trade waste). The keys of our storage garage have been handed back.

The long and dusty roadbeckons, and I'm off to France on Monday to seek inspitration and to accelerate the sale of the chateau.

I dare say that as a result of this blog I'll get a call from the amenity site people levying a fine, and another email from the daughter-in-law on the subject of copyright infringement (use of a photo taken in Dubai desert).

Saturday 15 March 2008

Duck W-rap

While the Rambling Nappa's broadband was off the air there was a lot of stuff on TV about factory farming of poultry. Jamie Oliver and Hugh F-Whittingstall seemed to be going on about free-range all the time.

In a moment of insanity last year, I got a bit cheesed off with a Waitrose duck wrap that I purchased (for a lot of money) one lunchtime. It didn't taste of much and I felt sorry for the bird - so I wrote a (nonsensical) rap. It's time it came out of the cupboard...

Duck W-rap is a two parter. Words in upper case are spoken by a duck (f), the rest by a drake (m) – tempo fastissimo. It is neither rap nor poetry, more like music hall opera, partly set to music with soft percussion and additional instrumentation from a decoy duck caller*.


Ugly maybe, Muscovy or Aylesbury,
Nothing in this world beats a really good duck*.
Wind-dried. Pan-fried. Roasted ad dilectum,
Just a little sore with an orange up my rectum*


For wherever you go, America or China
I figure on the menu as an apt reminder
That entrée, main course, bitten or chewed
I’m what is classed as a luxury food.


When you see me on the pond swimming in the water
Followed by my sons and my wayward daughter
The colours of my feathers, my big webbed feet
My quacking voice it’s all a big cheat


Now the male of the species, he’s no duck
He’s really a drake but the name’s just stuck
His role in this world like mine is to feed
A zillion hungry mouths – a global greed


In locked-door factories you like to call farms
Exalting in all of their free-range charms
They stuff me with corn with my sons and my daughter
Cooped up in cages ready for the slaughter


But it’s not just the food thing that gets up my nose
It’s the way that we figure in your toys and your clothes
You shoot us at the fun fair, float us in your bath
Yellow plastic plaything – make me laugh


Then there’s Daffy and Donald, Jemima and a Soup
The duck-arse hair thing, and a duckling troop
For your pillows its our feathers that you like to stuff
A bloody billed platypus, but enough’s, enough


Shelduck, Sheldrake, Shoveller, Mallard
Doused in vinaigrette and put into a salad
Hugh Grant’s “Duck Face”, wasn’t he a hero
While at cricket all I am is a big fat zero*


I’m warming to my theme, so you’d better listen well
And lower your heads* for a vision of hell
From the kitchens of Peking, Hong Kong and Shanghai
A new way of cooking comes and it’s not “stir fry”
Cut yourself cucumber, then spring onion slices
Roast me in an oven with some eastern spices
Warm up some pancakes, then shred me because
Next you’ll embalm me with rich plum sauce.
Goldeneye, Redhead, Blue Wing Teal
What in God’s name do you think we feel
As our meat is torn up for a pancake roll
A glass of white wine and we’re swallowed whole



It’s a supermarket thing, a sandwich filler
Duck in Hoisin Sauce in the lunch-snack chiller
And to finish it all – the ultimate to cap
They’re marketing us as a hoisin duck wrap


©Rambling Nappa 2007

Saturday 8 March 2008


There are people like me – who troll their way through life. And there are those who are good at everything (just about). Mrs Rambling Nappa used to work with a distinguished surgeon, who was also a qualified architect, who was widely travelled and spoke fifteen languages (most fluently). I seem to remember that he was also a lay preacher or something, virtually built his house, and on, and on.

I’m rambling on about this (enviously) because I recently had one of those “I wish I could write like that” moments when reading an article in The Spectator about Suffolk of all things. Try this:

“But then in this last year Suffolk and I started seeing more of each other. Tentatively at first. I spent some time in Newmarket painting portraits of horsemen under protestant blue skies…”

Or this:

“Meanwhile my dates with Suffolk were coalescing into something of, if not a ‘journey’, then at least a ‘character arc’: sleeping off a wedding in an Elveden graveyard; kissing a girl on a roof; bareback-riding with under-10s across potato field in perfect magenta bloom; the low September sun lens-flaring off a lake and across the stirring silhouette of my girlfriend; losing a few rounds of ‘Escape & Die’ to the sheep; making friends with smoker exiles outside A-road pubs in the bitter Christmas cold: and all against a year of party-blasted dawns imprinted straight into the amygdala, a misty North Sea radiance fading up over crumbling cliffs…”

Wow! I am supremely jealous of that kind of skill with words. And who wrote them? Someone called Thomas Leveritt. I googled him and (to quote) found out that he is half-American, half-British, and 32. He has won the Carroll Medal for Portraiture from the UK's Royal Society of Portrait Painters, and twice been runner-up at the National Portrait Gallery's BP Competition. He has a CV that looks like it ran over an improvised explosive device (his words), with pieces of soldiering, law, computer programming, import-export, film production, signmaking, and teaching scattered all over the place. No matter where you come from, he has a slightly different accent. He published a novel in February 2008 variously described as 'dazzling' (The Guardian), 'crazed and hilarious' (New Statesman), 'radiat[ing] a certain clued-up, slacker intelligence' (Metro).

Damn him! I guess I’ll have to buy his book.

Saturday 1 March 2008

LARPing Around

I was bit confused when one of my staff requested Friday off - so she could prepare for a LARPing weekend. Needless to say I had no idea what she was talking about; but did I care? I certainly did.

Discreet enquiries to other staff members revealed that the gentle lady in question liked to partake of Live Action Role Playing, meaning dressing up in fanciful costume (leather apparently) and beating the hell out of other participants using latex and foam weapons. A strange way to vent your frustrations, but then again...

Needless to say I googled LARPing and found loads of specialist clothing companies and armourers (as well as pinching the above photo off some-one's site). And it's not just ladies from Petersfield that like this sort of thing. LARPing is everywhere - Belgium, across America, and Germany. They've moved on from the old roundheads vs cavaliers re-creations of Civil War battles. Your modern LARPer will have a specially themed event (Conan the Barbarian meets Godzilla in the Temple of Arkan, sacrifices at 4.00pm, bar opens at 6.00pm, bring axes).

Somehow I feel quite pleased that I'm leaving my job in less than three weeks. I do work with my back to the lady LARPer and I just feel a little uneasy about her. I don't think I'll ask her if she enjoyed her weekend when I go back to work on Monday.