For #Wimbledon Fortnight: A Tennis Conundrum

As Wimbledon fortnight gets underway, I thought I’d share this tennis conundrum. Something to puzzle over the next two weeks.

You can’t get home in time for the final on TV, so you turn on the radio in the car.

It’s the final: Murray against Djokovic. Just after you switch the radio on, you hear the commentator say “Murray has won the last 6 points on serve, but he’s still behind in the match.

That’s all you need to know.

What’s the score?


Whisky Review: Bowmore

Bowmore is one of the few whiskies I’m rarely without. There’s two reasons for this.

One is that it’s such a good ‘everyday’ whisky (not that I’d like to give the impression that I drink whisky everyday). If you just feel like one glass late in the evening, Bowmore is a great choice. It’s clean and fresh, with a deep aroma, so you spend as much time enjoying that as the flavour. But unlike my favourites like Bunnahabhain, Lagavlin or Highland Park, once I’ve poured my glass and the stopper is back in I tend not to go back for a crafty second.

The other reason is more selfish. I like to have a good whisky to give guests, but if they’re not whisky drinkers I don’t want to give them one of my favourites that they may not appreciate!

So that’s two very good reasons for always having a bottle of Bowmore in the house.

whisky review.bowmore


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The Red Queen

“Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.” – The Red Queen

Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through The Looking Glass has an insight. It’s one that’s been quoted often, even becoming part of evolutionary theory: that as your prey or your predator evolves to escape or capture you, so you must also evolve. Not to gain an advantage, but just to keep the status quo.

You have to keep running just to stand still.

And so it is with technology. We’re all familiar with smartphones getting better and better, and other manufacturers improving, leapfrogging, falling behind… But it happens under the bonnet, too.

Last week Twitter shot down it’s API v1. It’s true that v1.1 is better, more robust, more versatile, but it means I’ve spent my week going back over all my old twitter automations, rewriting and updating them. The end result will be no different. You as a client or a user will notice no changes. But it’s a slog, lots of work. Lots of running just to stand still.

Would it have been so awful to leave v1 running in the background?

A Weekend

I had a great weekend. It started with an evening out with my brother, Alex. He gave me some big news, which sadly meant that his wife couldn’t go to the Bruce Springsteen gig at Wembley with him the next day. Alex is a massive Springsteen fan, so – as a favour to him, you understand – I agreed to keep him company.

That’s how I found myself standing in the biblical rain on Saturday at 12 o’clock queueing to get armbands for the front of the stadium, swiftly followed by a few hours warming up and drying off in an indian restaurant we’d been avariciously eyeing from the queue.

A few hours and several drinks later we barrelled into the stadium to let The Boss entertain us. This isn’t a review, so I’m not going to go into the pros (and the sole ‘con’ – a problem with acoustics in the stadium). We found the sweet spot and it was incredible. This is a man who knows his craft. He loves the work, he feels the music. The lyrics are his life. If you’ve never seen him, go next time you have a chance.

Sunday was Father’s Day, so I spent it with my kids. They’d made me a cake, cards and generally made me feel like I might be doing okay with them.

But all that means I haven’t written a blog post for today. So you’ll have to make do with this weekend autobiography – an insight into me, and wait until tomorrow for something I’ve had to think about before writing.

Kids Today!

Saturday night. I confess I’d had a couple of drinks. But nothing like the number of drinks the group of teenagers who walked past had. They’d been out for a great night. Even so, they were being gentlemen and dropping the girls they’d been out with safely home. I met them just after they’d dropped the last one off.

Two of them were taking the mickey out of the third because of his broken nose. How had he broken it? A failure of Jeff Murdoch’s NAT: Nose Avoidance Tilting. Rule one when you’re about to kiss a girl, tilt your head a little. Otherwise she’s going to headbutt you in the face. I’d like to say he took it on the chin, but no.

So here, as promised and just for @RobertN1996, @PatrickLewin and @JayWilliamTee is Lesson 1:

But these guys were friendly, happy, had a good night, were having fun, but were still gentlemanly to the girls they’d been with, walking them home and being polite and respectful about them even after they were out of earshot.

Kids today? We’ve less to worry about than we think.

The Importance Of Legal Aid To Justice

You’re an upstanding citizen. You’ve never been in trouble with the Police. They’re on your side. They keep you safe, and they’re there when someone makes you the victim of a crime.

Why would you ever need Legal Aid? Why should you even pay attention to any changes? Justice, that’s why. Plain and simple.

Consider this: Legal Aid is for you when you’ve been wrongly accused.

You’ve done nothing wrong. Absolutely nothing. When out of the blue you get a phone call from the police, or a knock on the door. Someone has made a vexatious complaint against you, falsely accused you of a crime, knowing that you’re not guilty. Shocking though this sounds, and craven disgraceful behaviour though it is, there are any number of reasons someone might do this. Perhaps to save face with friends and family that they’ve been lying to to make themselves look good, or to you look bad, or perhaps they’re just an attention seeker. You know the accusation is rubbish, utterly without foundation. You can’t imagine why that someone would make this complaint. You know you can show it’s nonsense but you’ve never been in trouble with the police. This is an entirely alien experience. You’re in a police station, the Police have arrested you, you’ve had your possessions taken from you and bagged up for evidence, your belt, tie, scarf and laces have been taken, too. You’re feeling dehumanised, disorientated and you just want to get out and go home.

Spare a thought now for your arresting officer. He’s been sucked in by an accomplished liar, someone who’s turned on the tears and sounded plausible. He’s dreading the paperwork. Maybe he’s dumb enough to believe to complainant. maybe he fancies her a bit, maybe he’s a friend of a friend. Maybe he knows there’s nothing of substance in the complaint, and he just wants to get this dealt with as quickly as possible. What’s the quickest way he can do that? Get you to accept a Caution, that’s what. That’ll look good on police detection statistics, his personal record, and there’s less paperwork. It’s not a stretch to imagine that sometimes a less conscientious officer might put the frighteners on you to get you to take the Caution by suggesting it’s the alternative to being remanded in custody pending trial and perhaps going to court.

So what can you do? You can choose your solicitor, based on personal recommendations, reputation, quality of service, record of success… The best person for the job. And Legal Aid will pick up the bill.

You need a solicitor you can trust. In that situation, they are your only friend. I don’t just mean in terms of understanding the legal issues, but the processes. Through a very alien and troubling experience they keep you at your ease and enable you to address the allegations against you without panicking in the face of some considerable stress and pressure. By choosing your own solicitor you can spend time before you go to the police. Your solicitor has time to spend before, during and after your interview and, crucially, their interests are to do the best job they can for you.

The proposed changes mean that you won’t get to choose. You will be appointed a solicitor after your arrest. Your solicitor is chosen for you, and has won the contract to represent you on the basis of cost alone. Yes, they’ll have met a minimum standard of competence, but they’ll be paid by the numbers. The more people they represent, the more they’ll be paid.

Their interests no longer align with yours but with the Police: To get through as many cases as possible in as short a time as they can. This is not in the interests of justice. What’s the quickest way to get through a case: It’s that Caution again. Suddenly an innocent person, unfamiliar with the process and the consequences, is going to be under pressure from both the police and the advice of their solicitor to accept that Caution. They’ll only discover the reality of the consequences later when they realise they have to declare their criminal record to a potential employer, or when they’re applying for a visa, or when they’re accused of something else in the future and discover they’re not considered to be of “Good Character”.

Remember that even though it’s not allowed, people will be offered Cautions over the phone under threat of being arrested if they don’t, under these circumstances they’ll not be told all the consequences before they agree, and it sounds like it might be an attractive option. Quick, done dusted and in the past.

Criminals, people who often come into contact with the police, people who are often in trouble and are not in this situation for the first time… they know the system, they’re not intimidated, anxious, a fish out of water. They know their rights, they know the consequences. It’s the stock in trade of the petty criminal, and hardened criminal alike.

You’re innocent, you’ve never been in this entirely alien circumstance before. You will be intimidated, dehumanised, frightened. You will be worried about the outcome. Will you be able to show you’re innocent? Will the Police give up trying to get you to take a Caution and take the next easiest route: passing the papers to the Crown Prosecution Service for charging, regardless of how empty the accusation is? These questions will prey on your mind.

You need a solicitor who is on your side, who will act entirely in your interests, not be looking for the quickest solution, but the best solution.

That’s why you need to sign this petition to Save UK Justice.

Because it protects you. You, the person who hasn’t committed a crime, has never committed a crime and has no intention of ever doing so. But You, who’s about to have some venal, spiteful, attention-seeker make a spurious complaint against you. Because although the system exists to find the truth, it’s not your system and it doesn’t work the way you think. You need a guide you can trust, and one who isn’t going to take short cuts because it’s in their interests to do so.

Go, sign. Or one day you might be unlucky enough to regret it.

…unless of course you are a venal, spiteful, attention-seeker who makes spurious complaints. Thank god for those solicitors.

Whisky Review: Bunnahabhain

There’s no point me starting this review without first telling you that this is my favourite. Bar none.
I like it even more than my late father’s favourite, Lagavulin.

It’s a strange choice for a favourite, because, in truth, it’s a strange single malt. It comes (as do so many great malts) from the Isle of Islay, famous for the peaty warmth of their whiskies. Yet Bunnahabhain is the least peaty (as I find it). It still has the warming depth of flavour, the fullness in your mouth and the trail of heat into your chest as you swallow. It leaves an exquisite aftertaste, that compels you to take another draught from your glass.

These are the true tests of a perfect malt. Does it beg you to drink more? Does it punish you if you do?

Bunnahabhain does the first and steadfastly refuses to do the second. It’s easy to drink, and as you do it doesn’t relinquish that flavour, each mouthful being as good as the first.

It’s easy, too, to kill an entire bottle in an evening (preferably with a second person to help). It’s not hard to wake up fresh in the morning afterwards, with a clear head and a real eagerness to face the day.

Seriously, if you can find me an ‘entry level’ single malt whisky I like more than this, I’ll buy you a dozen bottles in gratitude.

whisky review.Bunnahabhain with box

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Sweetie Review: Refreshers

I was going to buy some Fruit Pastilles and review them. But just above them on the next shelf in Mr McNobby’s Corner Shop was a packet of refreshers in their shiny pastel rainbow wrapper. What is it about growing up that means for no reason at all you stop buying these amazing delicious treats? I don’t remember the last time I had some. Love Hearts, yes (though not the ghastly ‘One Direction’ special edition!), Refreshers, no.

There’s nothing to a refresher. It’s sugar, effervescence, a tiny drop of colour and an equally tiny drop of flavour. But the sugar and effervescence makes that flavour spread over your whole mouth as you suck or chew the thing.

I’ve been used to getting my sugar a teaspoon at a time in maybe five or six cups of tea a day, but having tried these again for the first time in a couple of decades, I might convert fully to coffee and get my sugar intake from these.

I know, you’re a grown up and you haven’t had these since you were in your mid-teens. Go today, buy some, and remember.

Always remember the good things.

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Whisky Review: Royal Lochnagar

I really want to like Royal Lochnagar.

It’s rich, it’s well made, it has a delicious aroma, it has that strength of flavour and spicy edge that makes non-whisky people pull that face (always a pleasure to watch!)

But… Whenever I buy a bottle, I have one or two glasses from it, and the rest ends up in winter warming Honey and Lemon drinks for when you have a cold. Proper comfort drink.

  1. Take one unwaxed lemon and cut it in half.
  2. Take the pointy side and cut the nipple end off so that the segments are just showing through.
  3. Throw what’s left of the pointy half in the bottom of a mug, and squeeze the juice from the bowl shaped half into the mug with it.
  4. Dollop on a generous spoonful of honey (Manuka is best, but whatever you have will do).
  5. Fill to the halfway point with whisky.
  6. Then top up with water that’s recently boiled, but has just gone off.
  7. Inhale the aroma.
  8. Drink.

Obviously you wouldn’t want to use a great single malt in one of these, and I don’t have bad whisky in the house. Royal Lochnagar hits the spot perfectly.

whisky review.lochnagar


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The Forgotten Song: The Next Time

Unless you’ve lived in a cave your whole life, there are some movies that you can’t help but have seen at least once:

  1. The Wizard Of Oz, where a girl arrives in a strange land, she kills the first person she meets, then teams up with a group of misfits to kill again.
  2. The Sound Of Music, where a failed nun reneges on her promises and seduces a local widower.
  3. And Summer Holiday, where a Rock And Roll star gets increasingly easy listening as he travels south.

Summer Holiday was on itv3 yesterday, and being a fading Rock and Roller myself, I naturally watched. There are famous songs in this movie: Summer Holiday (obviously), Bachelor Boy, and others. I don’t watch it often, and there’s a song in it that I always forget. It’s not just me, either: it’s never mentioned when other people talk about the movie. But it’s not all bad…

It’s called The Next Time. Enjoy.