Thursday, September 10, 2009


It probably began with the quick glance to my right, which was rapidly followed by one of those, oh bollox moments. Don’t know about you but walking under ladders isn’t something I do. Whether I technically and actually… therefore physically… walked right under it is – immediately – open to debate…(but only) in my head.

Except, there it is, up-against scaffolding to my right – equals, I’ve (sort of, in a maddening head-fxxk manner) walked my walk… under it. Darn, that’s not good… ‘cos, I’m superstitious.

Reverse steps, cross street away from scaffolding and aforementioned ladder and take the long way around.

While superstitions are pretty bonkers in the main, I’d suggest most of us suffer (if that’s the right word) from them… so, consider these random selections; apparently, seeing an ambulance whizz by is terribly unlucky unless you either pinch your nose or hold your breath until… you spot a brown dog… Not good enough?

Ok, try these few then: If you say good-bye to a pal while standing on a bridge, you will never see one another again (scary monkeys); a knife received as a gift from a lover means that the relationship will shortly end (very scary monkeys – cue the Hitchcock directed Anthony Perkins shower scene); it’s bad luck to cut your fingernails on either a Friday or a Sunday damn, I’m pretty sure I clipped mine last Sunday morning); if you have mirrors in the house they should be covered during thunderstorms because – apparently – mirrors attract lightning… hmm, not sure I’ve ever believed that one.

The number thirteen, however, is a pretty good one… on streets in Florence, for instance, the Italians won’t use the obvious digit but employ… twelve and a half instead. Pretty cool, the Florentines.

On the other hand, combine the number and Friday and you’re in superstition heaven (or hell, dependant on your point of view). In days of long ago, Friday 13th was usually associated with the day set aside for public hangings – and, needless to say, there were (reputedly) thirteen steps leading to the scaffold up which the heavily manacled condemned trudged. Don’t worry, this won’t hurt a bit, son… clunk, swish, snap… gonner.

Anyhow… my favourites are: it's bad luck to put a hat on a bed (actually, that I never do – the trilby and similar others reside elsewhere of a night); it is bad luck to light three gaspers with the same match (I always use a lighter and only smoke one at a time – yeah, ok, I know… I’m a walking health-hazard); if one’s right ear itches, according to myth, someone is speaking well of you (ok, but my right ear rarely itches, the last time was probably in the 20th century) and should you plant Rosemary (the herb that is) by your doorstep, it’ll keep witches out. Ahh… that’s good… but what if the witch is already in residence?

Be all of that as it may, I arrive at my destination having circum-navigated said ladder and join a short queue before the reception desk that is protected from wrong-doers, terrorists and sundry others of criminal-bent by a large sheet of plate glass.

The line moves forward slowly and… just as I am about state my name and the reason for my being there to the elderly, uniformed, gentleman manning said reception desk… when…

Now, I don’t know about you, but this little Voltaire on its grassy knoll, believes that should one be at the forefront of the (any) queue then its somewhat impolite to feel onself barged completely out of the way and to one side by an entire family – from Granny down to screeching babe-in-arms – who, patently, believe that – due to their skin colour – it is actually their right to be seen first.

Maybe I’m just a bit old-fashioned – but, here’s what I believe in:

Until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned; that until there are no longer first-class and second class citizens of any nation; until the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes… everywhere is war… And until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race, there is war. And until that day, the dream of lasting peace, world citizenship, rule of international morality, will remain but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained… now everywhere is war.

Words that began with H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie I (from his 1963 speech to the United Nations) but which really came to global prominence via Bob Marley’s song War.

Makes you think… eh?

In any event, the lady clasping the squalling child to her stomach – itself the circumference of the New Delhi ring-road – led the charge past; husband (surgically attached to his BlackBerry) and three other children (each screeching into their own cell-phone) bumped and bored their way by in similar fashion while Granny rode shotgun.

The uniformed elderly gent shrugged an apology.

Ultimately, I’m shown to the lift… head upwards… find next reception desk… state business… fill in a few forms… ask for help on a couple of questions… complete forms… all is proceeding in the swimmiest of fashions until… in order to complete X and Y, they require photographs of self..

Ahh… I have come unprepared, I didn’t know this – though, if I’d thought about it a bit – given that pretty much everything nowadays needs to have mug-shots attached – I’d have done the deed at some accommodating chemist’s emporium along the way.

Clearly I’m not the first who hasn’t brought pictures so I’m directed in the general direction of where I can get this done… stride manfully up to the cabin… enter… close curtains… adjust glasses to read the instructions… read them twice so that I know what I’m doing… place loot in the slot which says insert money… press the green button… and…what the fxxk was… that..?

The photo-booth is bellowing at me.

It is shouting its instructions out… I cannot stop it, nor can I find the volume control that is set to eleven. Worse still, the process (which I’ve paid for) is ongoing… and this is a very talkative photo-booth… every few moments, fresh instructions are bawled at me at ear-piercing volume.

Humiliation trapped by the arms of technology… just a bit.

The sound of giggles and muffled guffaws can be plainly heard from outside the booth – the emporium into which I’ve entered is full… and clearly, the customers are relishing this unanticipated comedy act.

After what feels like an eternity, the photographs have been taken and the countdown in seconds from ten to nought (since the count-down is shouted out by the talking photo-booth) become the longest ten seconds I can remember.

Throughout, I’ve cowered behind the curtain and only emerge when I feel the photo-booth has (finally) shut up.

Trudge back to the counter and offer up the (red-faced and embarrassed) images; they need two not four – bollox, I pressed the wrong button. Enquire as to whether they know of another (perhaps quieter) photo-booth and am directed elsewhere.

Four hours later, I’m back to collect the documents and just as they’re dangled before me, the (unanticipated) price is proposed… shit, I could’ve flown most of the way to Jamaica for… that… amount.

Emerge into sunlight to be met by Camp Freddy… gay activists I have no problem with; straight, lesbian, sideways, gay, up & under, bi, lengthways, try-anything… whatever your sexual-calling… that’s all fine with me…

However, Camp Freddy and a lot of his equally mincing cohorts are brandishing clipboards, right under my nose and right outside where the shouting-photo-booth is… plus I’m hardly out the door and barely got a fag (sic) out of the packet before he, too, is yelling at me…

Down into the bowels of the earth to catch a train and… confronted by a bloke who’s playing Auld Lang Syne on a weird, two-stringed Chinese half-fiddle, with pre-recorded but louder than he is accompanying back-beats.

Oh no… this is drivel… time to consider other things…

The first six combatants for the SKY (cycling) team roster have been announced today; yet, sadly that’s been another own-goal by the field-marshall's of team SKY… its an International team so… why on earth just name the first of six British blokes who… when all is said and done… and, no matter their career history and how individually good they are… make an announcement which hardly sets the world alight?

We live on a global stage… equals… this is absolute crap.

Its public knowledge (rumour / conjecture with no public rebuttal) that a good deal of serious, international, stars have been signed so… why this tack / route?

Harsh words...?

Ok... check the web-sites for the daily nationals and those who’ll pick this up internationally… Guardian – tick, Torygraph – tick, Daily Stale – tick… BBC on-line sport - tick... and – sadly – that’s it. None of the other broadsheets (even) in the UK have picked this up.

On the one hand, SKY are finally (yet belatedly) entering the mainstream… (plus points)…on the other… they seem to be intent on shooting themselves in the foot by, initially… announcing – in the globally greater scheme of things – names that won't make editors sit up and take notice… (minus points).

In time to come, SKY will (I have no doubts) be a great team… they have fantastic resources… a superlative and proven director sportif in Scott Sunderland plus… great riders. So, once out on the road in 2010 and in competition, I’m convinced the results followed by the awareness will come.

Within the next twenty-four hours, news feeds say that another ten riders (most of whom have been rumoured without public rejection) will be announced… terrific… in the next however long, the remainder of the squad will be (apparently) announced. Again, terrific news…

However, unless there is a seriously big-hitter in there, an international name, then SKY… once again… will have self-imploded.

So much is expected… so much – so far – has yet to be delivered… And, without a shadow of a doubt, there are – currently and on the international stage – big question marks against the formation that carries so much hope for the ongoing globalisation and cleanliness of the sport.

This all… to this little Voltaire on its grassy knoll, looks like its being manipulated (not terribly well) by the senior-management above who, unhappily, believe in an attitude gained from recent past (we’re super successful – look at our Olympic results – so… fxxk you).


In any event, its also the day after the bizarre evening that was this years’ Mercury Prize. Sponsored… ‘cos that’s the name of the game… by BarclayCard.

And the winner is (was)… Speech Debelle…

20 thousand quid in her pocket and now lapping up the attention of GMTV, BBC and… eeek, C4 too.

And, provoking a fair old bit of debate in the process too.

The Mercury is… with no questions… the most prestigious of all the UK music prizes… after all, its for ‘album of the year’.

That’s nothing to do with album sales… the marketing campaign… the actual sales (download or otherwise)… the sleeve… the singles… the videos… Nope, just the music.

She’s won… yet… the question remains… was it really the ‘album of the year… the best music you’ll listen to that was released in GB and Ireland (the MMP's remit) in the last 12 months?

Do the judges – the twelve angry men and women festooned with canapés – believe that… ?

Was Speech Debelle’s record the best on offer..? Or was it an album that hit all the right notes with the judges and reflected all the current trends..?

Can’t imagine I’ll be listening to it in five years time… but hey… who am I to become exasperated at bickering-in-a-back-room – so-called – experts?

The enjoying of music is, after all, subjective and nothing other than an opinion.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Absolute Beginners

Its the time of the season for... the making of preserves.

This recipe began life by combining three factors:

Firstly, Régis (the stone-mason with hands the size of large hams who lived at the back of Merle HQ) had a fig tree that overhung the top of the garden which was over-laden with fruit and neither he nor Mrs Régis liked figs – equals, propel rickety step ladder and washing up bowls toward said tree, balance precariously and harvest all in reach before the wasps got ‘em;

Second – with buckets of figs happily harvested, search for a challenge-free recipe – and, given that I couldn’t find what looked like even a half-decent one, unearth an elderly edition of Mrs Beeton’s Household Management and peruse the pages marked ‘Preserve Making’;

Thirdly – in that the foodie-Madame from the mid-19th century hadn’t penned one specific to figs, marry one of dozens she had written-up pertaining to other fruits to a bog-standard jam-making recipe off the back of a packet of French preserving Sugar.

And then trust to luck because I’d absolutely no idea what I was doing.

So… what you need is:

(About) 5 lbs of fresh figs – preferably freshly picked but, if needs be, shop bought will suffice. Make certain they’re well washed in clean, cold water to ensure that both miniscule grubs and other nasties are disposed of (from fresh-picked) and the preserving shit that supermarkets cover them with (if shop-bought) is well away by the time you start cooking.
6 mugs (ordinary coffee-mug-size) of preserving sugar – one of the two key elements to this entire process; preserving sugar is a different density and consistency to other sugars.
1 mug of cold water.
½ a mug of fresh lemon juice.
1 large pan.
1 wooden stirring spoon
6 or 7 preserving jars – or use already used Bonne Maman jars in which marmalade and other preserves have been bought; these are an ideal size plus have nice, colourful lids. Ensure that whatever receptacle and lid that you use is not just clean but… fully sterilised.

And… this is what you do:

Quarter the figs – obviously, discarding any manky bits;
Plonk the quartered figs, all of the sugar but only half of the water into a big pot and gradually – and slowly – bring this to the boil – stirring gently the entire time. Stirring throughout the entire process is key element number two;
As the mixture – hey, you’re making jam – starts to bubble away (keep it to a medium simmer) and the sugar starts to dissolve it is absolutely critical to keep stirring;
Add the lemon juice and the rest of the water… and keep stirring as the mixture simmers gently;
After a bit… not very long, maybe ten minutes, the jam will have reached a rather nice consistency – take it off the heat and set to one side;
Once it has cooled down a bit, ladle enough mixture to pretty much fill one of your pots, seal the pot and then turn said pot upside down and leave it for twenty-four hours – preferably somewhere dark, like a cupboard;
Uncork a bottle of the well-chilled and pour yourself a glass – you’ve earned it;
24 hours later, turn the jars upright… about a week later (or less, depending on how hungry you are) the jam / compote is ready for eating.

Now… if you’re feeling of adventurous disposition, there are a couple of variants on this theme which work rather splendidly.

The first is chucking in the zest of one lemon alongside the lemon juice – it’ll give the end result a bit of a piquant flavour.

The second is to add half to three-quarters of a mug of either Cognac, Armagnac or… way better still… home made Walnut Liqueur. Addition of the latter is the absolute dogs-bollox and turns this Fig Compote into something really rather special.

Besides the obvious and conventional manner of serving Fig Compote (on toast for breakfast etc), it works brilliantly as one of two key accompaniments to Foie Gras… the other being Slow Cooked Red Onions.

Bon appétit.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Night Boat To Cairo

The transfer season is now wide open (no, not as part of the unfolding soccer season…). This is to do with my other love in life – bikes; the kind ridden by fellas with shaven legs because, upon us has come the season of the witch.

Plus, the start of September is also a time to consider what the ‘record label’s’ have decided we should be spending our hard-earned upon come the following autumnal months. And so, given that I’ve always held the view that bike-racing is rock ‘n roll on wheels – so much is the same, its just the stage that moves… lets have a quick peruse of what’s what.

OK, so… am I more excited about the makeup of the about-to-be-launched British mega-team sponsored by Rupert Murdoch’s SKY… or the imminent release of Mariah Carey’s Memoirs Of An Imperfect Angel?

Am I spending more time wondering about what the new Lil’ Wayne album will sound like or what SKY’s jersey will look like? Have I chuckled at the title of someone called 50 Cent’s new release (Before I Self Destruct) while wishing his music would or have I self-debated what bikes will be used in 2010 by Scott Sunderland’s (the senior director sportif) team?

Questions for sure… the answers are blindingly obvious.

And, with regard to Tommy Mottola’s ex, proof positive, if any were needed, that over 60 million in the US alone (and another 140 mill around the globe) can be wrong… very wrong indeed.

But, seeing the SKY boys astride - like so many lycra-clad Italian stallions - the beautiful lines of a Colnago (or even a Bianchi) would be just about as yummy a collaboration as it gets but… somehow, I can’t see that occurring… but hey, one never knows. And... just to clarify one little bit here... I don't... errr... how do I put this... bat for the other side... just to make that clear, you understand.

Anyway... September 1st was the due date for the unveiling of the riders that SKY’d hired – any formal announcement made earlier and the team would have been fined zillions of euros for breaching one of the many UCI codes of practice.

Talking of which (codes of practice) and as an aside, it does strike me as a bit peculiar that, in trying to eradicate the internal war of doping within cycle-sport that the UCI haven’t – for once in their existence – decided to be tough… by that I mean, properly tough. For sure, the dopers (for that read cheats) are being slowly weeded out but… is the received punishment adequate?

This Voltaire (on its grassy knoll) says its not.

You’ve been proved beyond a shadow of doubt that you have doped (cheated) equals… you get life – that’s it, you’re out of the sport for good. Make the deterrent tough enough and only the truly stupid will attempt to buck the system. And, for what its worth, I’d also advocate that across all sports. Period.

Because, only then will players play on a level playing field.

And, one good thing coming out of Team SKY hq over the past months has been this total zero-tolerance level as regards anyone in the entire team’s make-up who carries even a whiff of (cheating) suspicion with them.

Anyhow… currently… no announcement has been made.

In many respects no big deal as what (who) will be, will be… and, doubtless all will be unveiled in due course.

However… it does strike me that the grand-fromages at Team SKY are not that conversant with the way the media is working as we reach the final quarter of 2009 and are, for reasons best known to themselves, stuck back in the dark-ages of working the media.

For example – while they may well be biding their time to ensure (in their own minds) that their announcement is seen as really major news… the rumour mills are running ragged. And, with every passing day, rumour and conjecture will lead to a lessening of impact.

Other established squads (notably Garmin, BMC, Katusha, Saxo Bank as well as Lance Armstrong’s new formation, RadioShack) are cleverly drip-feeding the information of newly acquired riders and co-sponsors etc; thereby generating ongoing interest but, what SKY appear to be doing is withholding absolutely everything and waiting (for their own agenda) to unfurl when they believe it suits them best.

In times past, this might have worked to their advantage but, my suspicions are that – with companies seeing bigger and better news dissemination & comment-led articles led via the likes of Twitter and on-line as a general rule – the head-honchos at Team Sky aren’t playing this terribly cleverly.

For a start, the rumour-mill has – over the past month or so – produced a number of names that have been ‘leaked’ as probables.

Lots of will they / won’t they / perhaps they should etc etc…

The most obvious conjecture and (inevitable) ongoing media-debate has been over the Manx-missile, the lad Cavendish but – unless someone, somewhere has pulled off an almighty financial and sporting coup, it would seem more than logical that he’ll sprint out his current Columbia / HTC contract; after all his job is to win and he has an established team that delivers him specifically for that purpose.

SKY – at present – is untested and (in my view) he’d be barmy to make the move for 2010. The next again year, well, that’s a different tale indeed and will be as much down to his undoubtedly huge asking-price as anything since the publicity value that he’d return any potential team sponsor would be colossal.

The other major contending Briton is the fourth-placed-finisher from this year’s TdeF – the Weller look-a-like, Brad Wiggins – but, he too, is contracted (to Garmin) for 2010 and… as things stand, it looks improbable that he, too, would jump ship to SKY; not least as that transfer would (inevitably) mean a sizeable buy-out of his (currently final year) with Garmin who – logically – aren’t going to kiss goodbye to one of their prized assets without putting up a serious financial fight.

As to former TdeF yellow-jersey wearer David Millar – well, he’s a share-holder / part-owner in Garmin (again, so far as I know, until the end of 2010) and it – again – seems logical that he wouldn’t make the switch until at least then.

And, while one and three on the above list appear to have publicly ruled themselves out of contention; Wiggo who – as this is being written has just secured the British National Time Trial Champion’s jersey – remains a dark-horse.

Be that as it may, cycle-sport is – nowadays – more international than ever before and despite this being the first really major British team, SKY will – undoubtedly – contain significant names from a number of countries other than the UK; most probably Scandinavia, Australia, Germany as well as the other (obvious) British talent.

And… all of them (those of non-British nationality) will have their own relationships with their own, home media – this is one of the reasons why the rumour-mill has been churning, because, without a shadow of a doubt, its been fed by international riders (or their managers / ‘informed sources’) offering ‘off the record’ comments to their own local journos / media folk… after all, one of the tricks of working the media is keeping the people who write about you… sweet.

Plus, over the past month or so, there have been quoted statements, stating that the vast majority of the riders they’ve targeted are now contracted.

So… what is the delay and… what is the delay in making these announcements achieving?

Well… it looks like the major-domo’s at SKY are requiring that ALL of their ducks are lined up in a neat row before – officially – saying anything. That’s fair enough – after all, its their team and their cash that’s set it all up.

However, in this day and age, that is (again, in this voltaire’s view from its own grassy knoll) a bit of a strange tactic and one fraught with all manner of potential to back-fire.

How would I have done it..?

Firstly, I'd have eradicated the rumour mill by drip-feeding the riders announcements from the due (and given) date

And secondly, properly considered the overall picture appertaining to 2009 and not 1990.


Within the major announcement, there would be a number of smaller announcements that would all combine to make up the whole.

This isn’t just about the riders who’ll spearhead the team but will (necessarily) include the clothing manufacturer; the bus-supplier; the logo / jersey design; the bikes and components to be used (from wheels to tyres, from pedals to handle-bar tape and bottles and more), the off-road clothing and nutritional suppliers; the doctors, physios, masseurs and mechanics – and so on and so forth – because the formation of a cycling team will include literally dozens of people and sponsoring partners alike.

So… given that September 1st was the key date, I’d have dealt with (1) above by issuing ‘notices’ on a regular basis from that day forward… when the initial riders had been confirmed, their names would have been released; and as regards (2), once the bike supplier had been finalised, another press-release; once the key components for the bikes had been sorted out – another… so on and so forth.

This way, the drip feed effect would have garnered more and more publicity – after all, that’s the real name of the game – and each supplier would have had their own level of media exposure.

However – the way its going – it looks like the final announcement will, in reality, become so huge that – inevitably – only the cream from the top will be written about or commented on… meaning that the (deemed-by-the-media lesser ‘components’) won’t get much of a look-in – creating less media value for those – be they suppliers or riders themselves.

And, this is the bit that this Voltaire believes the field-marshalls at SKY have got wrong; this is the bit – however much you think you can control… you absolutely cannot.

As such, it is also highly probable that – given the nature of this ‘announcement’ – that the major-domo’s are all preparing their own wordings for inclusion in said ‘official press-releases’.

IF that’s the case (and I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be) then, there is another lesson to be learned here… as much as the major-domos will all want their ‘corporate words’ to appear in magazine X / on-line publication Y / newspaper Z, chances are that those worried about / much fiddled about with pithy corporate phrases will not be used at all. History shows that and that’s a fact. The media – as a whole – don’t much care for corporate this or that; what they’re looking for is key – one-to-one – words from the key players…

The end result… I’m anticipating more and more rumour running amok over the next week or so and would imagine (since I’m not part of the circle, let alone an inner one) that those at the sharp end right now – Scott Sunderland being one – are going quietly bonkers with their cell ‘phones ringing off the hook and e-mail in boxes full to bursting with… questions.

Questions that I’d imagine (since all I’ve done is apply a bit of logic fuelled by years and years of doing that PR job to the above arguments) he – and maybe one or two others – are probably forbidden from answering.

Ahh well, that’s life at the 2009 corporate coal-face no matter what game you're in.

So… what else do we have to look forward too?

Stephen Still has a new record coming out by all accounts; David Gray too… Muse and Vampire Weekend as well... There is to be a massive Miles Davis retrospective boxed-set issued and REM are due to release a live album too.

All far more intriguing than the poodles – Leona Lewis and Mary J Bilge – who’ll both be unleashing volumes of… errrr… warbling to beats… later this year. Gosh, I’m so, so very excited.

However, in between waiting on the SKY team news, I will be really waiting on Maps who – so I’ve read – will unleash a new album (Turning The Wind) in late October and Guy Clark’s Some Days The Songs Writes You that should (grammar not withstanding) also be out by November; well – at least there is some light on the musical horizon then.

The last Maps album came out what… three or was it four years ago… to this day, its a permanent fixture on the I-Touch wherever I travel and Guy Clark… thank heavens he is still making music; one of the truly great songwriters of all time and, from memory, his first album (Old No 1) came out roughly when The Cate Brothers released their first record on Asylum… I wonder if both still sound as good as they did back then… darn that’ll mean a trawl off to to try and find a copy of both (given that both vinyl languish far away at Merle HQ currently).

Ah well… no matter the delays and the rest, three things to really look forward to for when the days of summer start to properly shorten.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

From Langley Park To Memphis

As September opens up its account, those of us of a certain age mourn the passing of Simon Dee who passed from this life to the next on August 29th, falling to bone-cancer. Sad enough as that is, sadder still to relate that he died in more or less complete poverty and total obscurity – a far cry from his heady Sixties days as… the DJ; the first voice ever heard (under the bed-clothes) from Radio Caroline; stalwart of Radio Luxembourg and whose own, eponymous, TV show was as much a must-view as (say) Ready Steady Go or TOTP was back then.

If you ever wondered just who played the cameo role of the gay tailor in the original Italian Job film – kitting out Michael Caine with kipper ties after the latter’s release from jail… that’s Simon Dee. My autograph-book (as much cherished by a star-struck twelve-year-old as absolutely anything) contains his large, scrawled, signature from one heady afternoon spent in his company; watching intently as he recorded one of his night-time Radio Luxembourg shows – my Dad’s friend was Ken Evans, programme controller of the same and, without knowing how it worked in those days, a few strings had been pulled in order that I could sit in (quietly mind you) on the recording. I thought that was all fairly normal – I’d no idea (at the time) just how lucky I really was.

And so – as the days grow ever-shorter, the silly-season continues apace: factor in the latest intrigues as set forth by Colonel Gaddafi… can he really be serious – cue early-twenties John McEnroe Wimbledon-voice – with his proposal to the UN that Switzerland should be done away with meaning that, essentially, it’d be ‘folded’ into France, Germany and Italy.

From a brief study of the UN charter, no member country can threaten the existence or sovereignty of another. Nevertheless, Gaddafi is set to present his bizarre plan when Libya takes over the year-long presidency of the U.N. General Assembly on September 22nd or therabouts.

In amongst the wailing sirens and the inevitable overhead chatter of multiple helicopter gun-ships that’ll accompany the SWAT teams and NYPD blue-boys up and down the West Side Highway each morning and evening as the delegates are (securely) whisked to and fro to debate, one can but hope that something as entirely ludicrous will be thrown out at the first throw of the UN dice.

The silly-season also marks the ending of the holiday season. And for the first time in an inordinately long time I’ve been lucky enough to indulge in a few days of wave-jumping in the frothing surf of a far-away angry sea; washing sand from in-between my toes, kite-flying at the same time as trying to avoid the pull of a fierce rip-tide while bronzing-up on a beach reading one book after another.

To be honest, I’d completely forgotten just how truly wonderful it could be to while away sunshiney hours simply hanging about on a beach; that this activity – if it can be termed as such – was aided and abetted by people I really wanted to ‘hang-out-with’ helped… immeasurably.

The body has been refreshed by inactivity; the head freed from its lava-flow of mud(dled) detritus; the mind liberated like a prisoner no longer having to report to a parole-board of head-debris; the brain no longer clogged like a car-engine run dry of diesel; the spirit reinforced by concrete-clarity of mind.

Oooops, is that all becoming a bit too Oprah Winfrey; journeying a tad too far down the road of self-seeking humanistic counselling?

Probably… but hey… there’s certainly something to be said for the rejuvenating powers of salt-water.

Besides which, it was also the perfect antidote for a somewhat peculiar wedding attended; and – as much as I probably shouldn’t say this – about as far removed from what I believe celebrating nuptials should be… as could be. Strangely strange… oh yes… and anything but oddly normal.

It began innocuously enough with the time-honoured pre-hangover-riddance hotel-lobby rendezvous that transported groom plus six like-minded to indulge in the Royal & Ancient sport of… a good walk spoiled.

The front nine holes went as swimmingly as they should for a bevy of hung-over high-handicappers; however…the home-bound nine was played out accompanied by inbound texts at six-minute intervals to the groom from his bride-to-be explaining that his testicles would be neatly wrapped around his seven-iron should he arrive even thirty seconds late for the ‘wedding rehearsal’.

Ah yes… the not-too-dressed-up rehearsal… This aspect was overseen by the ‘wedding coordinator’ who, before long was referred to by the more irreverent amongst us as plain-old… wc; she brandished her clipboard full of notes from behind a crocodile smile under a leonine mane of bottle-blonde hair with... all-seeing, expensive aplomb.

Suitably primed from a generously proportioned bucket of Margarita, we all assume our places; we are then talked through the ‘service’ (this being an exterior affair); are shown – via her ingratiating school ma’am-manner – precisely how to comport ourselves from here to there in some form of mad(dening) entrance of the gladiators but, after a few minutes, all is done and we trot off back to the bar.

So… here’s the thing… what, precisely, does a wc… coordinate?

The next again day there wasn’t a great deal to do until dressing up time and so the beach was hit with a vengeance. That too went swimmingly until the kite I was flying crashed slap-bang into an elderly couple’s beach-picnic about a hundred yards from where I was wrestling with the sudden (and unanticipated) decrease in the off-shore-breeze. That’d be a somewhat unexpected forced landing from the picnic’ing couple’s perspective too, I’d imagine.

Anyhow, at the appointed and fully scrubbed up, we all gathered to wander around in a rather aimless fashion – this being the norm at every single wedding one attends. Then, wc hoves into view like a young dreadnought ploughing through the North Atlantic swell in an old WW2 movie with a phalanx of photographers in tow. Drat, these fellas hunt in packs and they begin their ‘work’ upfront of the ‘service’. Plus, the whole shebang is being video’d. Merde multiplied.

While the video-bods are relatively (pleasantly) discreet, the photographers are entirely ingratiating and, consequently, supremely irritating. Let the show begin.

Wc opens proceedings requesting that I please place this wilting-white-rosebud in position X on my lapel – nope, I’m sorry, I don’t do stuff like that… this refusal clearly means that self is accumulating minus-points on her clipboard with alacrity. Ok, stand like this then, shake hands like that, put your left leg forward... place your right hand over there... no, look this way, eyes in that direction... now – please adjust your cuffs, too much white shirt is showing... now say cheese. I utter fromage under my breath instead; bollox – I’m not a fxxxking contortionist... Ordeal over, its obviously time to return to the trough.

However, as everyone of similarly bent knocks back a swift one pre-nuptials, I realise that I’ve left the reading I’ve been asked to deliver in my bag and its a ten minute walk back and forth to room... and, mother hen with her stopwatch set to Apollo 18-style countdown, is saying we have but six minutes to kick-off.

Run to the room; hunt high and low in an A-Ha style while perspiration drips down my arms and onto my shirt-cuffs and, eventually find offending article hidden neatly under other articles; the cleaners have been in. Find hair-dryer in bathroom, plug in and blow-dry arms and shirt-cuffs before trudging back to position A. Brilliant, proceedings can now commence...Only they can't...

Vicar (substitute) doesn’t know that I’m doing a reading... My name doesn’t seem to be on his own clipboard; he evidently isn’t a rev-substitute who does unscheduled (nor does he seem to much care when informed)... His lackey is prodded, Lazarus-like, back into active service and instructed to produce a mic and stand as vicar-substitute marks a spot on his one page of 'notes' for self's inclusion in the proceedings and all, finally, is well.

We wander back (again) to position A and then proceed to march back across the lawn as instructed by the wc to position B (which she'd totally cocked-up and which the front rows had to interchange themselves) and every single lady present, even the ones with tattoos, rues the fact that high heels don't work terribly well on freshly watered grass. The bride, propelled across the greensward by her father, arrives to canned music and the hankies come out... her mother is seriously ill in hospital so a web-cam for her (the mum) to view the service / exchange of vows has been set up – unhappily and despite enough technology to pale Jodrell Bank into insignificance, its malfunctioning.

Nonetheless, the vicar-bloke talks the talk, vows are exchanged while a single white rose is waved about in the bright sunlight as loads more tears are shed and then its my turn to strut my stuff… but… not before the best man has tripped and fallen flat on his face over said mic and stand as the reverend-substitute, his Lazarus-like cohort, bride and groom and… photographers… and videographers all hover in the background.

Then follows the final wordy stuff from the vicar-come-quickly which, on his cue, is followed by huge yee-hah-ing applause. While everyone assembled is (naturally) delighted that bride and groom to have tied the knot and are, thereby, allowed the luxury of their first official – wedded - snog, I (genuinely) never could get that bit; it all seems a tad too manufactured to me.

The exit is as contrived as the entrance; we’re all video’d as more photographs are taken at strategic points (resulting in progress across the grass being funereal) but, eventually, we’ve all shuffled back across the lawn and, in light brigade style, the charge to the bar begins... but not before all the wedding flowers were rescued from being plonked into the dumper - weird as this may be, the guests had hardly moved away before the cleaners moved in.

Two hours later the cocktail hour ends and we're all ushered into the 'room'... that is, everyone bar the principals. Our table is so garishly bedecked that I’d take pity on anyone who’d quaffed a few magic-mushrooms as a pre-dinner bracer. Moments later, the master of this part of the ceremonies – equipped with his very own microphone and with the volume pumped to eleven and counting – starts extolling the assembled as to the next part of the proceedings. The grand entrance.

However, we’re not making sufficient enthusiastic noise for this particular mc. Oh dear.

To compensate, he then begins to whipp and whupp the assembled up into a complete yee-hah-ing frenzy and, only when satisfied – much like a stage-craft-bereft rapper extolling his audience, ‘hey Minneapolis… are you ready to p a a a a r t e e e e’ – do the happy couple trot into the room; their every step accompanied by blinding flashbulbs going off – the entire thing retained for posterity by… you’ve guessed… the videographers.

Eventually everyone settles and our table eagerly anticipates a couple of bottles of the well chilled arriving. Not so fast... first, there is the first dance. and, it seems to go on forever... and, the song is massacred by (hide your eyes) Celine Dion. It is utterly ghastly. Our entire table starts glancing around expectantly for waiters and waitresses bearing down on us with bottles. Once again, not so fast.

Because… next up is some kind of communal dance which – so the mic-brandishing mc informs us in a scarily loud voice – we shall be ‘sharing’ this with the happy couple. With a half decent bottle of the well-chilled on the near-horizon, I lead the charge to the dance-floor and we all we scurry around, treading on everyone's toes to another unidentifiable but equally abysmal song and scuttle back to our table as fast as possible.

The waitress arrives with one bottle.

Clearly this isn't half good enough, dancing gives one a bit of a thirst – and she is despatched post-haste straight back to the ice-bucket with a request that she brings a further three. In the meantime, food is served.

Within forty minutes, three from our table together with the best man are praying to the porcelain-lavatory-god under lock and key in the ladies and men’s cubicles.

Following this minor incursion into the good-natured proceedings came not just the ceremony of ‘throwing the garter’ (which, thankfully, I missed, having wandered outside to ingest a much-needed gasper) but, another treasure which the mc announced as... people touching. Now, bride and groom doing the old table hopping routine I get but... this, to my ears, was one announcement too far.

There were more speeches, mostly of the random variety and quite a bit more hip-shimmying... but the final furlong was, mercifully, in sight.

The only wedding speech I can remember was actually relayed to me second hand – this delight occurring many, many moons ago: friend X was to be second-time around married to a rather fetching blonde filly… everyone is gathered… the trough has been emptied and, on full stomachs, the speeches begin. The best man – who has flown in from Australia and landed but a day before – is suffering from jet lag and stumbles over his words like a man who has quaffed three too many Valium. Ultimately he gets to the end of his piece of paper and proposes the toast… to the happy couple… only… using the name of the groom and… his first wife.

Twenty-four hours later everyone has miraculously recovered but, my passport (always kinda handy to have about one’s person as a means of identification and so forth) is nowhere to be found… forty-eight hours further on and bride and groom are back from their honeymoon and at the bride’s mother’s bedside; she’s become dangerously ill and within a further moon and sun rotation, has (sadly) nipped off to be met by St. Peter at the pearly gates. Fast forward a further ninety hours and my ‘phone joins the passport on the missing list.

Annoying as this may have been, I stand by what I said about the rejuvenating power of salt-water.

The very same day, I come across this saying: Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass but to learn dancing in the rain.