Spain Rail Crash

The Guardian from which I am reblogging gives coverage of this horrific event below:

The Spanish government has decreed three days of official mourning after Wednesday’s train crash near Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, which left at least 78 people dead and 130 injured, 20 of them seriously.

Few of the 218 people on board escaped injury, although both drivers were unhurt. As the investigation is ongoing there has been no official statement on the cause of the accident, but one of the drivers reportedly told local government representatives that he was travelling at 190km/h on a curve with an 80km/h speed limit.

According to El País, he said over the radio while still trapped in his cab: “I was doing 190. I hope no one’s been killed because they’ll be on my conscience.”

The driver is in police custody and has been called to make a declaration before the judge investigating the tragedy. He has not been charged.

Julio Gómez-Pomar, president of Renfe, Spain‘s national train operator, said: “It won’t take long to determine the cause of the accident but it’s up to the judge to assess the case.”


Kent eatery

Guardian finds best eatery in kent, but I was there first! Here is the reblogged spiel and definitely worth a visit.

The self-evidently posh US publication Elite Traveler (ooh, get you) has just awarded the title of best eating-out city in the world to London. Yes, ahead of Paris or New York. Their selection is a bit silly and ludicrously high-end, but it’s a far cry from the days when we were derided for our dining even more than for our dentistry.

  1. East Coast Dining Room
  2. 101 Tankerton Road,
  3. Whitstable, Kent
  4. CT5 2AJ
  5. 01227 281180
  1. Open lunch Wed-Sun, noon-3pm (4pm Sun); dinner Thurs, Fri & Sat, 6.30-9.30pm. Meal with drinks, about £35 a head.
    Food 7/10
    Atmosphere 7/10
    Value for money 8/10

Note they say “London”, though, not the UK. Sorry, but I’m saying it again: with a bunch of notable exceptions, eating out on our sceptred isle is still something of a lottery, one where the winning numbers are 3663. Doesn’t mean anything to you? That’s because it’s a restaurant biz grubby little secret, a massive “foodservices” company that, with its cohort, Brakes, is likely to be responsible for the “BBQ pulled pork with jalapeño peppers”, “lamb rogan josh” or “sticky toffee pudding” that turn up on our plates in restaurants the length of the country and that you might have fondly imagined were made on the premises. Yes, their vans criss-cross the capital, too, but at least big city dwellers have the luxury of choice.

Look at their websites, spouting stuff such as “all the beautiful dishes that your customers will love, but unfortunately take hours to prepare and cook properly”. (That’s from the Pub Food Company, by the way.) The Three Mariners at Oare and the Anchor in Faversham, both run by Claire Houlihan with her partner, the Average White Band‘s Hamish Stuart, both did it properly, without recourse to this kind of cheating. This new baby in Tankerton is their first actual restaurant as opposed to pub – and another shining example of how to do things right.

I’m not going to pretend the East Coast Dining Room offers anything groundbreaking – you’ll not find molecular pyrotechnics or much that’s gaspworthy. Few are going to wax poetic about soup, but in chef Ryan Smith’s hands (he’s ex-the Sportsman in Seasalter, a top CV entry, and has followed Claire from the Anchor), this simple pleasure transforms into something luxurious: emerald spring peas with homemade smoky bacon and parmesan straws, maybe; or spiced butternut squash with shortcakes of roquefort.

This sense of getting the most out of fine ingredients pervades the menu. Fat quails crammed into casseroles with good red wine and aromatics, then pot-roasted; salt cod whipped into fried buñuelos (they call them “balls”; no fancy-schmancy stuff here) with a fiercely garlicky aïoli. There’s a sloppy-looking plate of burrata and aubergine puree, but the flavours are pure: blasts of rosemary and sweet cream.

There are roasts on Sunday, and pearly slabs of local fish. It’s not flawless by any means – rock-hard “pavlova” and dreary kedgeree – but the heart is there. Even the stupidly good-value set lunch doesn’t stint on the produce: a duck’s egg oozes its rich yolk over a chard-crowned rösti, and the blobs of sauce are garlic and truffle. All the breads, puddings and ice-creams (the raspberry vodka is sharp and lush) are made in-house. And the short wine list is a belter – a lovely, fragrant Trimbach pinot gris, for instance, with an ungreedy markup.

The East Coast Dining Room is a plain little place, a white-painted shopfront with fashionable, battleship-grey interior and quirky textiles on modernist chairs. But it doesn’t need to drag itself up in anything too try-hard: its audience is happy with the good cooking and genuine welcome. This is the kind of place where customers become regulars and then friends. It has that rare quality: integrity.

Tankerton may be a funny, off-piste little place, satellite to groovier Whitstable, but it’s also home to the redoutable Jo-Jo’s, a joint that will always have a place in my heart for charging a higher corkage for wine from Tesco. Tiny town, two restaurants worth travelling for, not a pre-portioned ham hock terrine in sight – take that, all you bastards who flog us mass-produced platefuls as if they were homemade.

• East Coast Dining Room, 101 Tankerton Road, Whitstable, Kent, 01227 281180. Open lunch Wed-Sun, noon-3pm (4pm Sun); dinner Thurs, Fri & Sat, 6.30-9.30pm. Meal with drinks, about £35 a head.

Food 7/10
Atmosphere 7/10
Value for money 8/10


enio morricone newsworthy

The Guardian regales us with this in that reblogged, Rarely have a few notes on a reverb-drenched guitar defined an entire film genre, but half a century on, the twangy riffs of Ennio Morricone’s soundtracks are for many the perfect expression of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns.

Which is why an Italian woman is suing for the €800,000 she says is due to her father, who she claims played those notes for Morricone but never received full credit.

Maria Rucher says her father, Pino Rucher, who died 17 years ago, played solos on the soundtracks of all three of Leone’s seminal westerns starring Clint Eastwood – A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – which were made by the Italian director between 1964 and 1966. She first approached three other Italian guitarists to challenge their claims to have worked on the soundtracks, but was rebuffed by all three.

Moreover, the trio of musicians – Enrico Ciacci, Alessandro Alessandroni and Bruno Battisti D’Amario – then began to argue among themselves over who played what, wrote the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

Rucher then took her claim to Morricone, but La Repubblica reported that the composer denied her father worked on the films. To solve the dispute among the other three guitarists, Morricone said he remembered Alessandroni being used on A Fistful of Dollars and Battisti D’Amario playing on the other two films.

Now Rucher has decided to take Morricone, 84, and the three guitarists to court, demanding €200,000 from each.

Pino Rucher became a successful guitarist in Italy in the 1960s after he performed with US jazz musicians playing for allied soldiers stationed in his hometown in Puglia in southern Italy after the second world war.

For Morricone, the spaghetti westerns – so-called because they were often filmed in Europe – were a turning point his career. Lacking the large orchestra used in westerns until then, he used whips, gunshots, whistles and electric guitars to accompany Eastwood’s Man with No Name.

So pleased was Leone with the music he would lengthen scenes to fit the score, and the soundtrack for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly sold more than three million copies.

The case is due in court in Rome on 23 May and Morricone, who is reportedly angry that the case has been brought, is expected to give evidence.

Amazing couscous and Chicken salad recipe

Moroccan Chicken and Couscous Salad

Ingredients: 2 carrots, thickly sliced 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced 2 scallions, rinsed and chopped 1 tbsp olive oil 1 onion, chopped 2 Chicken Breast Fillets, cut into strips (about 300g) 3tsp Ras El Hanout Spice Mix or Harrisa paste 400g can chopped tomatoes 200 ml hot chicken stock 410g can chickpeas 40g pack fresh coriander, chopped 1 red pepper diced 1 cucumber diced 200g couscous Salt and black pepper to taste Optional: Crusty bread or pita bread

How to prepare: 1. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion, carrots, and celery. 2. Cover the pan and steam the vegetables over a low heat for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. 3. Scoop the vegetables out from the pan and set them to one side. Cover to keep warm. Now add the chicken strips and cook for a few minutes in the same pan until browned on all sides. 4. Stir in the spice mix or Harrisa paste and scallions and cook, stirring, for another two minutes. 5. Add the vegetables back to the pan, then add the tomatoes and the stock. Bring back to a boil. 6. Add the chickpeas, season and bring to a simmer for 20 minutes, covered, until the chicken is cooked through and there is no pink meat. Turn off the heat and stir in the coriander, peppers and cucumber, and cover to keep warm. 7. The cucumber should always be added raw to the mixture, however, the pepper can be added raw or cooked to taste. For sautéed pepper, include the pepper with the onions, celery and carrots in step one. For best results, peel if skin is blackened on the pepper. 8. To prepare the couscous, heat 25 grams of butter or two tbs oil in a heavy based pan. Add the couscous and stir over a medium heat for approximately two minutes. Switch off the heat and add 250 ml boiling water, and stir. Cover the pan and let the water soak into the couscous for at least five minutes. Switch on the heat again and warm gently for another minute, using a fork to separate the grains. For extra moistness add a splash of olive oil and stir through. 9. Serve the chicken and vegetables on top of the couscous, with a side of crusty or pita bread if desired. 10. Crusty bread and pita bread can be warmed under a moderate grill.

One Day by David Nicholls

‘One Day’ by David Nicholls


‘One Day’ is a bittersweet account of the lives of two people: Emma and Dexter, who start off as friends and end up as husband and wife.


The story begins when both are graduating from college, and follows them throughout the next twenty years as they mature, struggle with life, love and their respective careers.


The two main characters are good friends, but Emma has hidden hopes that their relationship might develop into a romance. Unfortunately, Dexter has other plans: an aspiring career as a TV presenter and a fast mover on the social scene. Emma realises this and decides to move on with her life. Just as she begins dating another man called  Jimmy, Dexter realises what a great girl she is and decides to pursue her, but its too late.


For twenty long years the two characters weave in and out of each other’s lives, until the moment finally arrives when they are both ready to commit to each other. Emma and Dexter get married, and it would appear that after many trials and tribulations, there is a happy ending in store for the newlyweds. Unfortunately, one day when Emma is riding her bicycle on the road, she is run over by a lorry and dies on the roadside. This tragic turn of events comes as a shock to the reader at the end of the book and is the subject of debate in many literary forums.

Marguerite yourcenar and the Memoirs of Hadrian

The worldview Marguerite Yourcenar pays encomium to, lauded in Memoirs of Hadrian,  tempered with subdued pragmatism: is one in which, as Flaubert wrote to La Sylphide, ‘Just when the Gods had ceased to be and the Christ had not yet come, there was a unique moment in history, between Cicero and Marcus Aurelius, when man stood alone’.  Hadrian’s ’existenz’ is nothing if not temporal suffering extrapolated through the measured cadence of a concentrated study of human actions and their consequences, a teological affirmation of causality. 

One of the ‘Five Good Emperors’, (Machiavelli, 1503, who noted all five succeeded as ‘adopted’ sons and seemed to rule more wisely and judiciously than those of ‘royal blood’), Hadrian was a ‘humanist’ and philhellene, interested more in art, architecture, public governance and jurisprudence rather than war, despite his formidable military campaigning. Of his twenty years as emperor, he barely engaged in military battle, and spent scarcely five in Rome: the rest were travelling throughout the empire, mostly overseeing construction and consolidation projects, collecting art and writing poetry.

This is the era of consolidation where Yourcenar indomitably quests to search out the humanist-philosopher, the Emperor who refines and consolidates the qualia of Rome’s greatest cultural achievements to pinnacled Greco-Roman heights as a man cum deity. 

‘Rome….was needed for the full realisation of what was for Greece only an admirable idea. Plato had written the Republic and glorified the Just, but we were the ones who were striving to make the State a machine fit to serve man….The word philanthropy was Greek,but we are the ones who are working to change the wretched conditions of the slave’.

A beautiful acclamation of Rome significant as ‘doer’ whereas Greece was Rodin’s ‘thinker’: and if Hadrian did not serve in terms of philosophical originality and advancement, surely his contribution, of making concrete the ‘ideal’, was no less an achievement. For what is a strategist without his tactician?

Who doesn’t know of his eromenos Antinous, a youth who effectively becomes Hadrian’s consort . His (debated) suicide at nineteen at the river Nile sparks Hadrian into occult and grief stricken endeavours to deify the youth, thus breaching some unspoken protocol about keeping the personal ‘private’ when you are emperor. Yourcenar handles this episode magnificently. At a moment in between Gods, when Hadrian conceptualises he is divine himself, as any other man might be, the issues of personal responsibility become acute and forefrontal. If human qualia takes on divine proportion, and if that qualia is underpinned by reveration of youth specifically, then its understandable if at nineteen Atinous conceives his currency as spent: by sacrificing himself in full bloom of youth he thus ensures his perpetuality ad infinitum: and perhaps it was this notion which spurred Hadrian into ‘conceptually’ immortalising him.

Yourcenar’s other books are worthy of mention too. Her fascinating biography points to a writer adroit at interpreting history.


Reblogged from Business Insider:

NYU Professor Nouriel  Roubini is in Aix-en-Provence.

But the French countryside hasn’t cheered him up any.

In fact, in a new  video interview with Bloomberg’s Caroline Connan, Professor Roubini has  outdone himself, issuing a forecast so apocalyptic that even devout Roubini-ites  will be startled by its pessimism.

(It’s the smoothness, eloquence, and utterly matter-of-fact delivery that makes it so  alarming).

The fun starts at the 5-minute mark. Here are the highlights, which are delivered in perfect  bullet-point format by Roubini, one after another:

  • “By 2013, the ability of policy makers to  kick the can down the road is going to run out of steam”
  • “In the Euro-zone the slow-motion train-wreck could become a faster-motion  train wreck”
  • “The US looks close to stall-speed and a recession, given the latest  economic data”
  • “The landing of China is becoming harder rather than softer”
  • “The other emerging markets are all sharply slowing down in terms of  growth–the BRICs, China, Russia, India, Brazil, and also Mexico, Turkey. Partly  it’s because there’s a recession in the Eurozone and UK, partly it’s because  they’re not doing their reforms.”
  • “And finally there is the time bomb of a potential war between Israel and  the US and Iran. Negotiations have failed. The sanctions will fail. Obama  doesn’t want a war before the election, but after the election, regardless of  whether it is Obama elected or Romney, chances are the US is going to decide to  go and attack Iran and then you’ll have a doubling in global oil prices  overnight.”
  • “So, it’s the perfect storm! You could have a collapse of the Eurozone, a US  double-dip, hard-landing of China, hard-landing of emerging markets, and a war  in the Middle East. Next year could be a global perfect storm.”




Breathless by Jean Luc Godard

Jean Luc Godard apparently ‘exploded’ onto cinematographic centre stage with ‘Breathless’, labelled the fore-runner of French cinema new wave. 50 years on its hard to see what the fuss is all about.

 The film operates in two distinct temporal dimensions: the beginning and end segments are fast paced and furious, sandwiching in between the requisite French moody dwelling on life discourse shared through a fog of cigarette smoke, enigmatic glances and languid stretches on an unmade bed. Which is what the main protags Michel and Patricia seem to do for a fair chunk of the film.


The opening sequence sees Michel travel down Goddard’s favourite road in France (the exact same one he features prominently later in the Weekend), a tree lined asphalt cut through sun scorched flat plane. Michel attracts the notice of police for a minor traffic violation and decides the best course of action is step on the pedal and play chase. When a cop does eventually catch up with him, Michel pulls out a pistol and shoots him dead. All of this transpires within five or so minutes, and I’m left wondering: but why? Why? Who does this? Why shoot the cop for nothing and bring down the long arm of the law on yourself? Well, my dear, I can hear Godard saying, we’ve got to start this movie somehow or other, just go with the flow, cherish the ‘rebel without a cause’ style of Michel.


Next up, Michel meets up with American Patricia, whom he’s known for three weeks and seems to have fallen for. Patricia stumble-bumbles about in her Twiggy hairdo, bobby socks and long pleated skirt and her poor French accent which we are blessedly spared from overuse, as she tends to be monotonic, mostly saying things such as ‘I don’t know’, or ‘Its all the same thing’. A blander non character I’ve never seen. What Michel sees in her remains a mystery, both to him and frankly to me. Patricia does, however, have some sort of avante-guarde visage for a 1960 film: she seems to be a slut, through and through, which would have been novel for the time. I can’t figure out if making her an American slut wasn’t a political machination on Godard’s part: in order to spare the ‘purity’ of French girls? In any event, as Patricia reels off various conquests, I’m doing mental calculations; when did the Pill debut? Surely it wasn’t around in 1960? How does Patricia get away with it, then? Well, she doesn’t, it turns out. She’s pregnant. Not entirely sure who the father is, but most likely candidate is Michel. Oh, and puffing on ciggies non stop. Maybe they didn’t know back then?….


Now follows the bed scene. God, the French love their bed mis en scenes, remember ‘My Night at Maude’s’ here. An hour of rolling around on the bed, chain smoking and trying to be brazen about love, life and everything under the sun. Just as I felt my eyes beginning to glaze over, the gruesome twosome finally decided to get out of bed and hit the Champs Elyzee, which is always a treat to see through out the ages as it were. Michel finds out he is a wanted man by the police, so he decides to run for it: next port of call:Italy. Can Patricia please come with him? No, Patricia can not. She likes all the bad boy antics, but when it comes down to it, she’s going to marry some straight and narrow guy, live in a house with a white picket fence and have 2.2 children.


All fine and good, but why, oh why does she have to call the police and give Michel away? This seemed an unnecessary tactic. Michel refuses to run because, he says, he is tired. Again, incongruous and out of character for him. He is in his early twenties and has so far displayed a casual devil may care attitude to life. How did he get tired all of a sudden? Is Godard in a rush to wrap things up and so throws everything into a one pot Massala for a grande denouement? Yes, he does. Grande ending ensues within next five minutes with gun shots and Michel prostrate in the ‘foothills’ of theEiffelTower, making funny faces at his beloved. In a rather powerful finale gesture he closes his own eyes pre-mortem and expires on cue for brilliant theatrical effect.


Still, what the hell just happened here, apart from a Frenchified homage to Bonnie andClyde? Godard is so much better later on.