Thursday, November 20, 2003

As it has, so far, been a day of disillusionment and disappointment, I have chosen a FFC moment to reflect this. Enjoy. No.5.

And a candidate for second sexiest photo of all time is this one.

Here's one for the degenerates amongst you.

And this is just silly.

Whence the disillusionment? Well, although I understood the English education system to be in a bit of a tail-spin, I had always considered the Hungarian version to be superior in every respect. I was, today, disabused of this notion, at least with regard to the teaching of literary appreciation.

One of my students had produced an essay as part of a homework assignment and a jolly fine piece of work it was too. Pedant that I am however, I picked out one point with which I could not agree. He had included the line; "As Shakespeare said - Would not a rose by any other name..." Grammar, fine. Spelling, perfect. Punctuation a bit dodgy with the dash to introduce a quote, but we'll let that pass.

My problem was with the fact that Shakespeare never said anything of the sort. In all of his many and various works, the only things he actually said are to be found in the sonnets. Everything else, he put into the mouths of his characters and does not necessarily represent that which he himself might have had to say on any given subject. In the above example, it was the still pubescent Juliet who actually spoke the words in question and from her viewpoint at the time, I'm sure she felt that were Romeo in fact called Kevin or some such, It would have made no difference to her feelings for him.

In other words, putting words into the mouths of dramatis personae is a literary device. It provides an insight into their characters and also into their thought processes at the time. In no way does it necessarily reflect the views of the author. He didn't seem to get it and worse still, he was supported by most of the class.

Okay then, said I, consider this. Were Shakespeare around today, would he be of the opinion that "murdered civilians" could be called "collateral damage" without affecting at all our response to it? "Oh, yeah. But they didn't have stealth bombers in those days, did they?"

OK. Different tack. In one of his plays he has a French character refer to England as "perfidious Albion." Could he, as a patriotic Elizabethan have really considered this to be true? "Well, he must have done or he wouldn't have said it." I should have given up here but I inherited a stubborn streak from my father.

Right. He also had Polonius (I think) say, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be." Now, seeing as how Polonius had rather a tenuous grip on what we might call the nitty-gritty of everyday life and was therefore, probably the last person you would go to for advice, and as how Shakespeare availed himself of the moneylenders on numerous occasions, how can you possibly say that this represents his opinion on the matter? "Well, he didn't like borrowing money and thought it would be better not to." But...but...oh, sod it!

Maybe I should just be impressed by the fact that they know enough Shakespeare to be able to quote from it which, unfortunately, is more than the majority of English people seem capable of these days.

Mind you, they still use the same technique with the Bible though, don't they? (What is it with me and religion nowadays?) How many times have people prefixed what they obviously thought was going to be some pretty shit-hot advice with, "The Bible says..." Well, I've got news for you. The Bible doesn't say squat. It did not write itself and must therefore, be the recollections and opinions of those who did. "But the spirit of the Lord was with them and what they wrote is the word of God."

Hmmm. A few points here. One; why is his word so contradictory then? Is it an eye for an eye or is it turn the other cheek? Is it monogamy or may we, like Solomon, have several hundreds of wives? You would have thought that, were he so intent on guiding our lives in the right direction, he would have signposted the route a little more clearly. Two; the spirit of the Lord is with them could just as easily be interpreted as their having fasted for too long under the heat of the desert sun or being under the influence of psychotropic mushrooms. If people hear voices today, they are inevitably diagnosed as suffering from some mental abnormality and are hastily assisted into the long-sleeved shirt with no buttons down the front. That we should be so dismissive of our present day listeners to voices and remain so respectful of those in the past is puzzling to say the very least. And three; why are people always so selective in their choice of which parts of the word of God to follow? Surely, as a believer, if you believe that one part of the Bible is the word of God, you have to believe that all of it is. Now, my point here is that if I seriously believe that the 20% acrylic in my otherwise cotton socks is going to lead me into the fires of eternal damnation, then I would have no choice but to accept the other, admittedly more sensible, strictures as well. What I cannot find in any way logical is the apparent willingness of believers to accept the broad sweep of, say, the 10 Commandments and then to ignore all those other petty rules and laws which, to our modern sensibilities, seem a trifle ridiculous. In for a pound, in for a penny, say I.

Anyway, I hereby do solemnly swear that this blog shall henceforth and hereafter be declared a religion-free zone for the near and foreseeable. Honest.

And the disappointment? Oh, yeah! There are no slimline filter tips to be had for love nor money in all of Nagykanizsa at the present moment and rolling with the 8mm variety leads me to feel the resulting cigarette rather as I might a 12 bore between my lips. Pish and ptui!

As today is, in effect, my Friday (I only work 8 - 4 Tuesday through Thursday) and as I feel like sharing with you all, I shall outline the little programme I have been planning for myself all week.

Once all my familial duties are discharged and my daughter is knocking out the zees, I fully intend to seat myself in front of my monitor and do some serious surfing. This however, will be mere background noise, a soundtrack if you like, to the real business of the evening.

I shall begin, I think, with a cold Stella to reacquaint myself with the taste of alcohol after a long dry week and to prepare my palate for the delights to come. Then a slug of Ardnave, a specially selected for Tesco's Islay malt and one that will merely serve to heighten the pleasure I will have later when I come to sample the real thing. A bit of mouse manoeuvring and another Stella later, I shall pop the cork of a bottle of Bowmore, to my mind one of the smoothest and least aggressive of the Islay malts and treat myself to a thick finger or two. The blurb.


Age: 12 years
Strength: 43%
Colour: Warm amber
Nose: Lemon, pears, honey
Palate: Peat smoke, dark chocolate
Finish: Remarkably long and complex

Another Stella and I'll be into pre-orgasmic mode as I stretch out a hand for the Ardbeg. Several writers more knowledgeable than I about such matters have suggested that if such a thing as perfection on the palate exists, then this is it. To the blurb, then!


Age: 10 years
Strength: 46%
Colour: Straw, amber
Nose: Exceptional balance and depth. At full strength the aroma is a beguiling mix of toffee and chocolate sweetness, cinnamon spice and medicinal phenols. Fresh citrus and floral notes of white wine are evident as are melon, pear drops, general creaminess, fresh phenolic aroma of seaspray (iodine) and smoked fish. Hickory and coffee emerge later as the most volatile top notes fade.
Palate: An initial moderate and clean sweetness is rapidly followed by a mouthful of deep peat notes, with tobacco smoke and strong espresso coffee, which then gives way to treacle sweetness and liquorice. The mouth feel is firstly lightly spiced (astringent), then chewing, mouthwatering and finally dry.
Finish: Long and smoky. A smoky sweetness is left on the palate, with a crushed peat and sweet malted cereal character.

But for me it lacks can I put this? Analogy time, I'm afraid.

It's like being slapped about the face with a freshly caught trout. Refreshing but without the thrutch of a single blow with a prize salmon.

It's having a door held politely open for you instead of being propelled through it by a hefty kick up the rear.

It's having a pleasant evening's lovemaking with the wife as opposed to wild, abandoned, unprotected sex with a horny, low down and dirty nubile.

Masturbation rather than fornication.

I shall, nevertheless, linger over it. Such pleasure, foreplay as it may be, is best unhurried and will only serve to increase the ecstasy later.

So, a quick sluice of Stella and it'll be on to the main courses. After titillating all points north, south and peripheral, it will now be time to dip into the honeypot itself. Probably having to suppress a tremor or two in the trouser area, I shall now reach for the Laphroaig or, as I heard it referred to recently, the Leapfrog. Heretic! To the blurb is the cry!


Age: 10 years
Strength: 43%
Colour: Full, refractive, gold
Nose: Phenolic, seaweedy, very peaty with a hint of sweetness
Body: Medium and oily
Palate: Richly smoky, fully peated with a hint of sweetness, salty
Finish: Lingering and unique

Now this stuff really does take no prisoners. On a taste intensity scale of 1 - 5, I would have to give this a 6. I only have the 10 year old version and this is full of adolescent energy, arrogance and braggadocio, its rough edges as yet unsmoothed by age and its spirit aggressive, rampant and unrestrained. A perfect storm of a malt in fact, and yet just a first wham-bam, thankyou ma'am compared to to the encounter still to come.

I shall postpone the Stella here as I savour the lingering after-taste of the Laphroaig and ponder on the skill of the distillers and the mystery of the middle cut.

And then, onwards ever onwards. A few glugs of Belgium's best and it will be time to retrieve the key to the tantulus from its secret abode and with no little ceremony, pour out a good two fingers of cask strength Laphroaig and in no time at all I'll be taking deep breaths and reaching for the cigarettes.

This stuff is the business, the absolute dog's bollocks. At 57.3% alcohol and with a taste even more concentrated than the 10 year old, you may wish to take the precaution of nailing on your socks before sampling it. This should neither be your first experience of an Islay malt nor the first drink of an evening, but as a climax to a leisurely bender, it cannot be surpassed. Suffice it to say that, although I am reasonably free when it comes to offering around my other malts, this one is strictly for my own personal pleasure.

Hopefully on my next malt run to England, I will have enough of the folding to fill in the gaps in my present stocks by purchasing some Lagavulin, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Port Ellen and Bruichladdich. I would also love to extend the range of ages of the ones I now have. I once sampled a limited Edition 1977 Ardbeg and well what can I say? You had to be there!

Bottoms up!

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