I always thought that afternoon tea is quintessentially an English middle class thing taken by ladies of a certain statute that live in the Home Counties and are in town for the day doing a little bit shopping. Why do I think like this, well this image was forged during my childhood watching classic movies like Random Harvest where someone like Ronald Colman would end a tiring day at parliament entertaining his wife in their tea rooms to an assortment of sandwiches scones and cakes. Whilst the frozen northerner is neither an MP nor middle class he is now finding that he is gradually being exposed more and more to the concept of afternoon tea by my wife the Contessa Di La Proctero. Why we have started taking afternoon tea I absolutely no idea but, deep down I suspect that my wife thinks this what people around a certain bracket should do (in my case we are taking people over 60). In my more formative years taking part in such a ritual would completely unheard of but, as the years ebb away things change and so must you. Introduced into Britain in 1840 by in all probability the then Duchess of Bedford, I could argue afternoon tea is more popular now than it has ever been mainly due the fact that is now embraced by people of all classes which is the way it should be, God know how many places are now serving it, you may see it as somewhat of an extravagance that can be taken only at places such as the Ritz, Claridges or the Dorchester or you may just like the simplicity of afternoon tea at Marks and Spencer, it does not matter as long as you like it, most menus follow a tried and tested formula which works really well although, there some establishments like The Running Fox in Felton, Northumberland that offer a more rustic approach that works equally as well. Is the Contessa Di La Proctero going to transform the frozen northerner from his cloth cap roots to something to more sophisticated, I wouldn’t think so, but that is not going to stop me enjoying afternoon tea.
Television wise you could argue that Hugh Laurie is at the top of his game, coming off the back of his success in the critically acclaimed The Night Manager his latest offering is Chance, a series created by Kem Nunn and Alexandra Cunningham, focusing on a San Francisco based neuropsychiatrist called Doctor Eldon Chance. Over the years Hugh Laurie has tended to excel playing upper class twits such as Lieutenant George in Blackadder or Bertie Wooster in Jeeves and Wooster and personally for me in this type of role he was and still is without peer. However in 2002 his career took him to America to try and crack the rather tough American TV market, firstly starring as the rather sarcastic and prickly physician Doctor Gregory House in the medical series “House” and then in the much darker noirish thriller, Chance. Despite the fact I am not totally convinced by his American accent, Laurie has pulled it off rather brilliantly in both shows. Will Chance reach the dizzy heights of “House” a show amassed a huge audience and won a raft of awards is yet to be seen, but if the first three episodes are anything to go by I am fairly confident that the show is in for a long run. In Chance, Laurie is ably supported by a good cast featuring amongst others Gretchen Mol, as the troubled but highly seductive Jaclyn, Paul Edelstein as Jaclyn’s violent husband Raymond Blackstone and Ethan Suplee as D. Having to deal with complex personalities is the least of Chance’s problems as well as having problems with his daughter, he’s in the middle of a messy divorce, notwithstanding to add to his ever growing problems he has now allowed himself to be drawn into a complex relationship with one of his patients the aforemetioned beautiful but highly vulnerable Jaclyn Blackstone. The show for me is completely unmissable and each episode is leaving me wanting more, would the frozen northerner fall for the highly desirable Jaclyn, your damn right he would, but being found by her brute of a husband is another matter, so the ball is your court Doctor Chance, what are going to do, perhaps you should ask Bertie Wooster.
The frozen northerner has not holidayed in any of the Balearic isles or Spain for that matter, for a considerable number of years, so it was going to be interesting experience going back, why was I returning, well, the answer is very simple, my youngest son and his bride to be were to be married in Cala D’or on the beautiful island of Mallorca. Situated on the south-east coast of the island Cala D’or is a very popular destination for thousands of Britons during the summer months and is about an hour’s drive from the islands capital Palma. So, the only question was the frozen northerner who, is not noted as being the most sociable, going to enjoy the experience, myself along with my wife the Contessa Di La Proctero and the rest my family stayed at Aparthotel Ferrera Blanca, this hotel was perfect for a family holiday/wedding and I have to say exceeded all of my expectations. Rather than have one long stretch of beach Cala D’or has a huge range of delightful alternatives with the coastline being dotted with lots of small sandy coves and bays. The wedding took place at the Cala D’or Yacht club which is located at the marina at Cala Llonga, having never been to a wedding abroad I was interested to see this occasion compared to the rather more formal weddings we have at home. Casual and laid back would probably best describe the event and a very pleasant day was had by all, I cannot thank the staff of the yacht club enough, as they went out of their way to ensure that my son and his bride had the perfect day. Before I went on this trip I was filled with apprehension, both about the wedding and the location chosen however, I have to say it was one the best weeks of my life and that is saying something, the wedding may have been the highlight of the holiday, but don’t underestimate Cala D’or and especially the yacht club because they are a great place to visit.
When the frozen northerner was serving his apprenticeship at the famed Swan Hunter
Shipyard, he was informed by a work colleague that one day there would no heavy industry
left and that anybody left living in the north east of would working in a national park because industry as we knew it then, would all but disappear. This rather cynical approach was quickly forgotten by the frozen northerner who firmly believed that he would by employed at the world’s greatest shipyard for the rest of his life. Brian Hull’s words of wisdom have not quite come true, but he was not far off the mark. The north-east that lived and breathed as an engineering stronghold is now it is all but gone, no Parsons, no Swan Hunter’s no Vickers no coal industry no nothing, only call centres and places like sports direct paying poor wages or even worse employing people on zero hours, it’s a national disgrace, no wonder young people in the north east are frustrated at the very limited opportunities they have to develop a career. Don’t get me wrong the heavy engineering industry and the pits were not an ideal place to
work but it did give you a bit of pride and self-esteem, but over the years various governments have done little to help and people’s dignity has slowly been eroded, so it
should have come as no surprise to me that Coty Inc has decided to close their factory in my small Seaton Delaval village. Why have Coty decided to close this plant I have no idea, has it come about because of Brexit, may be, Coty have decided to move lock stock and barrel to France, this is a hammer blow to my local community, companies like this disgust me they don’t care about local people, they only care about profit, it’s bad enough that this multi-national employ a large number of people on zero hours which is absolutely outrageous, but have now they have decided to make these poor souls life even more miserable by closing the plant. Will the tory government and their inept leader Theresa May do anything to help, not a chance, like most politicians she and her lily livered cabinet will talk of optimism and a brighter future but here’s the reality, there isn’t one, things will only get worse for the people of the north. The gulf between and north and south is now immeasurable. Money needs to be spent and spent big in the north but all we will hear is tighten your belts because more cut
backs are coming, things are now so bad in this part country we are not even prepared to put
money into the education and the national health service. Immigrants coming into this
country won’t head north because they don’t want to swap a third world existence for another one, this may sound a bit over the top but someone has got say enough is enough. The closure of the Coty plant but known locally to all and sundry as “Shulton‘s” has really touched a nerve with the frozen northerner, it is 44 years since I stood at the top of the bank viewing the Valhalla that was Swan Hunters dreaming of a better existence for the working class, how could I have been so stupid.
The psychological thriller The Replacement has just finished and despite its rather disappointing kop out ending it has been one of the standout TV shows of the year, right up
there with the likes of Apple Tree Yard and Taboo. It is great to see well-made British drama that has the ability to make you wait eagerly for the next episode and is a welcome relieve from the endless stream of American drama that can be found on Sky Atlantic, don’t get me wrong Sky Atlantic has shown some noteworthy shows, for example Boardwalk Empire, True Detective and Billions are drama shows of the highest order. So why am I more
impressed with the British offerings as opposed to their American counterparts, the answer is rather simple, American drama can last possibly six or more seasons whereas British drama is maybe just three shows, a good illustration of where the Americans are getting it wrong, is with the second season of Billions, episode one pretty much followed plot set out in season one but by the time you get to second episode we are wrapped up in a juvenile card game which is about as far removed from the plot as you can get. I do hope that Billions is not going to end up like Mad Men which, by the time they got to the last season was worn out and tired looking. Years ago if two shows were in direct competition you had to make a choice of which one you were going to watch, now with the advent of the magical Sky planner you can watch any programme whenever you want, but that is not the point I am trying to get across, what I am asking is what you would watch if you had to choose one.
Personally I would choose The Replacement, not because Billions is not a good show, it is
but how many seasons will they try and wringe it out. The Replacement has left me screaming for more and that how it should be, I felt the same about Apple Tree Yard and Taboo great shows that leave wanting more but you know there is no more. The only slip that the BBC has currently made is with Sherlock which has now went on for too long, they need
to stick to their 3 shows and gone formula which is proving very successful, how long can the BBC sustain these high end drama series I have no idea, but being a wrinkly I don’t want
Netflix or any programmes that require my brain to function too much, I just want damn good drama that is not going to go forever, the producers of such shows are highly talented but please don’t overrun them just to make money your audience deserves a better deal.
I have just returned from my fourth and final continental holiday of the year, as normal it took me to Italy, to the small town of Maori on the Amalfi coast (my third holiday of the year saw me return to Taormina in Sicily for a second time this year, which I reviewed in Blog Notes 49, so fairly pointless covering it again). Lying to the south of Naples, the Amalfi coast is one of the most beautiful pieces of coastal landscape that you will find anywhere in the world, it has some fairly fabulous places to stay, such as Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello, Minori and Maori as well the picturesque islands of Capri and Ischia. Nowadays I tend to stay in Maori mainly because it is little bit quieter and less expensive than the other resorts, which is great because the frozen northerner is always on a tight budget. Among the many charms on offer along this coastline are places with great history such as Pompeii and Vesuvius, there is also great scenery, which can viewed with awe from both the sea and the shore, there is great food and wine and if your wife likes a bit of retail therapy there is some great shopping for the ladies (especially on Capri), add to this a normally very pleasant climate and you have in my opinion, a place as close to heaven as it is going to get. In truth I am becoming more and captivated by Capri, this island for me now ranks alongside Sicily as one of my favourite destinations, although whether or not I can afford to stop there is another matter. Capri, once the home to the roman emperor Tiberius, is absolutely stunning with a breath-taking allure, that has in the past proved to be a very popular place for writers’ and artists to live and work, nowadays it is very popular with celebrities from all walks of life, with some like Sophia Loren owing villas on the isle. Among the many attractions on the island are the gardens of Augustus (which was the brainchild of the very wealthy German industrialist Friedrich Krupp, who spent a considerable amount of time on the island) the grounds are laid out in terraces with all sorts of decorative plants on display and look down to the sea and the Faraglioni (rock stacks).
But if sightseeing is not for you and you prefer the coffee culture to these botanical delights then you can always sit in the Piazza Umberto near to Capri’s famous clock tower, wiling away the days and nights in one the many bars and restaurants hoping to catch a glimpse of someone rich and famous. Then again you might want to sail around the island exploring the enchanting Blue Grotto and its dazzling blue waters or the Green Grotto with its glittering green water.
The list of places and things to do on Capri are too many for me to do them adequate justice in this blog and that is before I have talked about the rest of the beautiful area in southern Italy The Amalfi coast is an example of the stunning beauty that can be found in bucketful’s whenever I visit Italy, but it is no good just sitting there listening to me prattle on about its splendour you really have to visit this area for to really appreciate what I am talking about. Please go you won’t be disappointed.
Easter is normally the first holiday of the year for the frozen northerner, January, February and March are probably the months that I like the least so, Easter brings an opportunity for me to relax away from the drudgery of everyday life and that normally means a trip abroad to replenish the batteries. The frozen northerner is self-confessed Italophile which requires him to attempt a minimum of three pilgrimages a year to her shores. Italy has everything for me, great cities, wonderful architecture, breath-taking scenery, fantastic beaches, the list is pretty much endless, and since I first visited it about ten years ago, I have never went anywhere else on holiday. Fairly often you will see that most tourist guides will tell you blend in and act like a local, so when in Italy this should be a fairly simple task for the frozen northerner who is rather dark skinned and tans very easily, are you kidding me, despite tanning to an extremely dark shade of brown the frozen northerner has never once been mistakenly identified as an Italian and here is the reason why. Last week I had the good fortune to spend the week in Palermo, Sicily, for a little bit of sightseeing, the weather was good with the temperature ranging from around 70 to 75 so, that meant that the frozen northerner was going to wander the city in nothing more than a polo shirt (be very careful here) a pair of chinos (even more care required) and inevitably sunglasses (no mistakes here please) in attempt to look and stay cool at all times. The Sicilians tended to take a different approach to yours truly and were frequently observed wearing scarfs, full length raincoats (notably Burberry) quilted jackets (also Burberry) and all sorts of attire that I tend to regard as winter clothing. By the end of each day the game was very much up, me looking dishevelled with the heat, and the Sicilians still looking cool and stylish in spite of the humidity, admitting defeat the frozen northerner retired each afternoon to Spinnato’s Caffe to relax with an aperitif and gaze up the fast talking, gesticulating Sicilians, as they wandered up and down their crumbling streets. Palermo is certainly not as flashy as say Milan or Florence, but that’s not the point, Palermo like most places in the south is poor and is in need of restoration but that does mean you should not visit, it has some breath-taking building such as the fantastic Quattro Canti, the stunning Theatro Massimo and the splendid fountain in Piazza Pretoria. If sightseeing is not for you there is enough shops to keep any woman happy, or you could do what I tend to do and just sit in small café and people watch. The frozen northerner and his wife, the Contessa di Proctoro will, I suspect never tire of Italy, the Italian economy may be in a perilous state, which could see them ending up in the same situation as Greece, knowing the Italian mentality this is not something that they will take too lightly, but rest assured if they are going go down they are going to do with a style that you and I can only dream of.