Friday, October 10, 2014

I introduce you to a ‘Journalist’ - not quite what you think. And Ukip has 15 minutes of fame - every dog, as they say, has its day

The other day a colleague - no names, no pack drill, but he is the author of various travel guides to several eccentric cities around Britain all of which you can find on Amazon - arrived at work and announced he had the night before been served a cocktail called a Journalist. And it was very nice, he added. Intrigued by the name I looked it up and discovered it is basically an elaborated gin martini, but decided to try it myself anyway.

I looked it up on the net and came across several sites giving the constituents and proportions. They all vary, but here is a notional guide. As far as I am concerned it is a glorified gin martini: six parts gin to one part each of dry vermouth, sweet vermouth, triple sec or other orange-based liqueur, and one part lemon juice with a dash of bitters and all shaken up in a cocktail shaker with a generous helping of crushed ice.

My verdict (a verdict from a chap who drinks a cocktail about once every month of Sundays, if not quite as often and doesn’t know that much about cocktails): nothing special. It’s OK, but I wouldn’t wake up the neighbours to tell them all about it.

As I get older, I have been drinking less and less, and although there have in the past down here in North Cornwall been nights when I have gone to bed rather drunker than sober, they are, to be honest, few and far between and with increasing years getting fewer and further between. I simply don’t much like hangovers.

Ironically, however, were someone to come into our house and take a look behind the kitchen door where I keep some of my booze, they could not be blamed for thinking they have entered the house of a raving alky (and as I use that word the usual apologies go out to all those raving alkies who feel I am not respecting them and their situation). There is everything there and then some: Campari, cider, Pernod, ouzo, tonic, schnapps (which should be in the freezer, but isn’t) port, sherry, orange juice, vermouths, brandy, Cointreau, port, triple sec - the list goes one. And it grows longer by the week. The wine is kept next to the Rayburn.

For example, knowing that I wanted to try out a Journalist (and it does sound a pretty naff name for a cocktail, just a tad too self-conscious and pseudo-ironical), I
bought all the ingredients and equipment I thought we didn’t have in the house, a cocktail shaker being most important. Well, I could have saved myself the new bottle of dry vermouth, because I already have a sealed bottle. So now I have two. I had considered that a sealed jam jar might be equally as effective for use as a cocktail shaker, and, big enough, it most certainly would be, but I did manage to track down a bona fide cocktail shaker at Homebase for £13, so what the hell. It will do good service until my wife ‘tidies up and puts it away’ and I forget all about it as I have forgotten all about all manner of gadgets I have bought in a fit of enthusiasm, a fit which as a rule lasts no longer than one and a half weeks, two weeks max.

Speaking of ‘putting away’, I had occasion to look ‘under the stairs’ yesterday (we have storage space ‘under the stairs’ where my wife sticks most things, but as it is so crowded there, I rarely venture in to find something because it is such a potch ensuring it all gets crammed in so that the small door can be closed).

I was hunting down a small CD of software which I couldn’t find elsewhere and so decided must have been ‘put away under the stairs’ so ‘under the stairs’ was the obvious place to look. What I found, of course, was even more booze: another bottle of Campari (do like my Campari and tonic and Campari and ornage juice and don't care who knows it even if it is thought to be the drink of pubescent teenage girls), more sherry, more port and Cava.

No expensive champagne in this household, oh no, especially if you are going to adulterate it with brandy to make a Champagne Cocktail, details of which you can find here and several bottles of red and white wine, all of which were presents to my wife over the years. Oh, and don’t at all be put off by the idea of a Champagne Cocktail. At least a gang of four to six can enjoy themselves living a supposed high life knocking them back for less than £12.

All it needs is a bottle of the cheapest cooking brandy, a bottle of Cava and several sugar lumps. If you like you could add a dash of bitters, but I really can’t see the point. The drink is one of those which tastes out of all proportion to the quality and effort which has gone into making it. That is: quality so-so, effort negligible, but enjoyment top class. Plus if your friends are snobbish - and aren’t in on the secret - you score double the Brownie points.

Try it, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. Remember: you’re going to fuck up the ‘champagne’ by adding brandy and your going to fuck up the brandy by adding ‘champagne’, so for God’s sake don’t bother with anything even vaguely expensive unless you’re a chav trying to persuade yourself you’re not.

Anyhow, I mixed up my Journalist tonight, sat down with my wife and watched the latest edition of Emmerdale (which I haven’t seen in about 14 years - it’s still bollocks) and polished off what amounted to three tumblers of the cocktail. It was three because rather underwhelmed by the pretty tart, not to say sour, taste of the drink when I first tried it, I added more triple sec and more sweet vermouth. It helped a little. Overall: OK, but I wouldn’t stake my reputation on it becoming the next drink of the month.

. . .

Look at a map of the world and you’ll notice, not for the first time I’m sure, that Great Britain is rather smaller and physically less impressive than a fly on an elephant’s arse. OK, so over the years it has played a great part in world history but let’s not settle for past glories. It is not the most insignificant of nations and the innovation of its engineers, scientists and pop artists has made a tidy sum for many. But what goes on here is not of that much interest to folk elsewhere in the world, so if you want to slouch off, roll a joint, get a beer or take a dump, now’s the time to do it while I recount the latest successes of Ukip.

Who they? Exactly.

To hear the pundits you would think that that the past 24 hours have been akin to a British second coming. Well, up to a point, Lord Copper.

To fill in those who have decided not to slouch off, roll a joint, get a beer or take a dump: there has been an increasing antipathy to the EU here in Britain and just over 20 years ago an academic called Alan Sked formed a pressure group to try to counteract the then popular political enthusiasm for the EU because he didn’t think the Tory party (i.e. our Conservative Party) was being resolute enough in its opposition. He attracted quite some support, but rather worried about the nature of some of his supporters, he finally quite the leadership (or was ousted - I neither know nor care).

What bothered him was what he perceived as a somewhat racist undercurrent and the Ukip seemed to attract those for whom the overtly far-right British National Party was a tad infra-dig. They might agree with some if not all of the BNP’s policies, but they were buggered if they were going to identify with such an uncouth bunch. That was then.

Over the years Ukip struggled as a fringe group. It liked to see itself as ‘a political party’ but, really, was nothing of the kind. It was basically a focus and rallying call for pub and golf club bores of all kinds (and that description might well indicate how I feel about them). It all changed about five years ago with the financial collapse and a growing disillusionment with the three mainstream political parties, the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats, and Labour.

The Tories got it in the neck because - courtesy of our popular press which caricatured the EU out of existence - it was not seen as ‘anti-EU enough for many Tories. Labour got it in the neck because it was seen as the party which ‘had allowed all those bloody immigrants to come to Britain and live the life of Riley on the back of our benefit system’. And the Lib Dems got it in the neck because they had gone into coalition with the Tories ion 2010 and so were tarred with the same brush (those tarring being none to specific in the crimes they accused the government of).

Europe-wide there has been a kind of right-wing backlash, and here in Britain Ukip were the beneficiaries. A month or so ago a Tory MP left the Conservative Party and joined Ukip. Because he resigned his seat, a by-election was called. Yesterday he regained his seat and will now sit as Ukip’s first MP in the Commons.

In Manchester, in the constituency of Heywood and Middleton, another by-election was held yesterday after the sitting MP, Jim Dobbin, died. It has long been a Labour seat and at the 2010 election Dobbin retained it with a 6,000 vote majority.

Yesterday, Labour retained the seat - but Ukip were only around 600 votes short of taking it. The turnout was very low and I suspect that many Labour voters did not vote, thinking either that Labour would hold it comfortably, or were so pissed off with Labour under its leader Ed Miliband that they didn’t want to vote, but couldn’t bring themselves to vote for anyone else.

Then, of course, there will be those who have previously voted Labour, who decided that Ukip was no the party for them. And for me that is the most important fact about Ukip. The conventional wisdom is that Ukip will soak up Tory votes and harm the Tories at the general election next year. I suspect that there are as many Labour voters who feel Ukip ‘speaks for them’ as there are Tory voters and the Ukip will cause as much damage in many Labour-held seats.

The trouble is, of course, that when push comes to show, no one really knows what Ukip stands for. Ukip has benefited from a protest vote and ‘anyone but this bunch’ sentiment which benefits all outsiders. But to date it has brought forward not one single identifiable policy on anything. They proclaim ‘We will curb immigration’: yippee, but aren’t they aware that however cynical were Labour’s reasons for allowing in a great many immigrants, that immigration has helped the country. And just how will they ‘curb immigration’?

A week or two of long queues at our airports as incoming travellers are sorted out between those ‘we want’ and those ‘we don’t want’ will piss off a sufficient number of people so that the the curbs are ‘temporarily’ suspended and it will be business as usual. As for education, defence, transport, the economy, agriculture and the rest Ukip has come out with nothing but the universal platitudes we have heard year in, year out, from every other party.

As for ‘leaving Europe’ an overarching naivety shoots through everything the party says about the EU. I shall never break a lance for the EU as it stands and the quite awful bureaucratic dogs’ dinner is has become over these past 25 years. But a simplistic ‘right, that’s it, we’re off’ attitude is worse than useless. Yet that is what Ukip seems to stand for.

I suspect the coming general election next May will see another coalition, and hurrah for that. Ukip have made clear that they don’t want to work in coalition but would prefer an informal arrangement - if, of course, they manage to have MPs in the Commons, which is by no means a given - whereby they support a Tory government as and when they want. Yes, it will not be business as usual but I, for one, treat any notion of a coming dawn and a new kind of politics with a great deal of scepticism.

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