Month: December 2016

Fourteen-Nil

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The French Ladies Football Team 2013

It’s been really encouraging to get some good news at last, at the end of what’s been something of a merde of a year. Not for me, you understand; the fact that quite a number of celebrities have passed away has more to do with the fact that the cult of celebrity mushroomed in the 1960s and we’re simply more familiar with their names as they appear in the obituary columns.

We also saw a surprise breakthrough in the Middle East, a parting gift from a wildly popular outgoing POTUS who simply elected to do nothing in the UNSC. We knew all along that it was only a matter of time before all right-thinking people stood behind resolution 2334, which informed us that settlements in East Jerusalem, and the West Bank – they meant Judea and Samaria but it had to fit on a single sheet of A4, so had to use the short version – are a “major obstacle” to peace. So, it’s nice to be able to record that all conflicts have ended and peace has immediately spread to all corners of that previously volatile region. Salmon fishing in the Yemen is scheduled to begin again after all the landmines have been removed from dried-up river beds, for example.

The Mid East Beast quotes the UNSG: “I had begun to think that we might be disproportionately targeting the Israelis but clearly these results show it was the right approach,” Ban Ki-Moon was overheard saying in a Chinese restaurant yesterday. “Prime Minister Netanyahu even called me to apologise for saying so many nasty things about the UN in the past. Turns out, we’re not so useless after all!”

The fourteen-nil resolution has set off a domino effect in the Middle East with ISIS immediately disbanding, their leadership offering heartfelt and public apologies across all media outlets for having caused so much trouble and offering to replace the Qu’ran with free copies of Torah and the Gospel of John in its now all-inclusive co-educational schools. Hamas has offered free ‘tunnel tours’ for the IDF preparatory to complete dismantlement and the rubble used to rebuild Gazan homes, roads and other infrastructure damaged in Operation Protective Edge which Hamas have officially been quoted as acknowledging “we asked for”.  Bashar Al-Assad in a most statesmanlike address to the nation has agreed terms on a unity government with Syrian rebel groups, Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims are lunching together in Iraq and the Kurds have been offered unconditional statehood, effective immediately.  World media outlets report stabilisation in Libya, Afghanistan and Lebanon, and Iran’s unilateral decision to shut down its nuclear enrichment program and build a synagogue in downtown Tehran to accommodate an unexpected surge in conversions has been met with quiet approval from its mullahs.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas was, as usual, quick to encourage: “We always knew that (Israel and) the settlements were the root of all of the issues in the region” he remarked. “The passage of the resolution puts us on the path to absolute peace and stability”  he went on, rubbing his hands together. “And once we get rid of all the Jews, everything will fall into place!”

Fourteen-nil. This scoreline hasn’t been seen since France’s ladies’ soccer team  beat Bulgaria in 2013. Oh, yes – the All-Blacks tour to Israel next year has been cancelled. Can’t imagine why.

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Egg Nog and Pigs

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The best part is – the guy walking home down the middle of the road could be me.

Christmas comes but once a year. How very convenient and, what a relief. It being the tenth of December and everything, my thoughts began to drift to the annual frightfest or Saturnalia which we in the West have henceforth decided that Xmas, or the Winter Holiday should become. Not before? Well, actually, no. I was only reminded of it all because an American friend had sent me one of those rather jolly e-Christmas cards.

I’m glad I live in France. It tends to lay off the carols-and-mince-pies type of bonhomie that you can’t avoid in the UK from mid-October onwards, instead relying on vast expenditures of electrical energy to light up the Champs-Elysées and the fizzy animated displays in les grands magasins. When the bill comes in January they’ll realize that it could comfortably have paid for the overthrow of a small dictatorship. Caveat dictator, as they say in Damascus.

Young friends have moved into a new house and as part of the nesting ritual, have installed a Christmas tree, which in spite of my default position, a curmudgeonly ‘bah-humbug’ attitude to the introduction of foliage into habitable areas, did send a small, but nevertheless distinctly warm fuzzy down my overworked spinal column.

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who remembers this?

It also spoke to me about taking ownership over our celebrations and how, subconsciously or not, we seek emotional refuge, a familiar huddling in the repetitious but comforting application of ritual. For many, their Christmas is incomplete without an annual visit to a church, cold and awe-inspiring, incense and pomp being their infrequent and rather sterile dose of religion. For others, younger perhaps, waking in the foetal position with drool on their chin at five in the morning, clutching an empty champagne bottle and almost no memory of how they happen to have arrived on some stranger’s living room floor defines their festive season.

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She was honoured with her own cuvée this year.

I sometimes forget that Gipsy (or, as we should now call her, “mère BB”) is descended from generations of Mediterranean peasantry, for whom the supermarket is a modern but somewhat unnecessary luxury. In common with previous years, this weekend has hosted its own little slice of ritual. screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-20-08-21A pig, freshly slaughtered, is bought and over the weekend, friends join together to dismember the animal, render its fat and turn virtually all of it into edible produce, from blood sausage to filet mignon. As no more than a battlefield observer, I came across a boiled skull, complete with omnivorous dentition, lying abandoned. The trestles are piled high with vast quantities of meat which will be pulled from freezers in mid-July.  Sausages and pâtés are ground, herbed and spiced.

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-19-40-59The event has been happening for a number of years now, and has hardened into a winter tradition, like mistletoe or even eggnog, for which a separate place in the Inferno surely exists.  If one’s transatlantic feathers are ruffled, look away now because this witches’ brew would not be out of place in a Harry Potter novel. Apparently it’s also known as milk punch and is a rich, chilled, sweet beverage traditionally made with cream, sugar, whipped eggs for the froth with the addition of whisky, cognac, rum or bourbon. I can barely write down the ingredients without an overmastering urge to disgorge the contents of my stomach on to the floor. Some, however, seem to absolutely love the stuff – the Yuletide atmosphere being sadly two-dimensional without it. Their alimentary systems are clearly more robust than my own, it would seem.

And then, there are Children. No. I’m not dipping even a toe into the murkily competitive sport of comparative present-buying. This can be saved until Donald Trump becomes President and we’re all in a race to look better and spend more on hair products and dental care. Meanwhile, eggnog or not, my hope for you is that your personal Santa is svelte enough to negotiate your own chimney without getting stuck, and you all get what you deserve this Christmas. Those insufficiently nauseated might like to listen to Jimmy Grafton’s original.  The grandchildren could play it on an endless loop.