Despite the fact Roger Federer won his 18TH grand slam title the frozen northerner found this year’s Wimbledon was a rather insipid affair, what with Sue Barker’s constant fawning and Andrew Castle’s slimy commentary the BBC really need to take a long hard look at their sports coverage, as it appears to be looking rather tired and dated. God, the amount of times I was told that Roger Federer is the greatest player of all time begged belief, Roger is great there is no doubt about it, but the greatest of all time, sorry, better than Laver, Borg, McEnroe, Sampras, Gonzales, Kramer, Budge and Tilden then the answer has to be firm no. All of Federer’s titles have been won in the open era of tennis which has only been around since 1968, thus severely restricted the careers of players of the calibre of Gonzales Kramer, Budge, hell, when Tilden turned pro in 1930 he had won 10 grand slam titles without appearing at Wimbledon every year, never mind Roland Garros or the Australian. Borg’s 11 Grand slam were all achieved in very short space of time before he left the sport at the tender age of 26, if he had played on who knows what he might have won, now I know what you are thinking which is that the frozen northerner just does not like Federer which is far from the truth, it is that I just think there have been better, I need to be convinced by Federer and I am not, oh and there’s another thing, Budge and Laver can argue about, Grand Slams, they are the only players to win all four Grand Slam titles in a calendar year with Laver doing it twice. Furthermore the likes of Laver and co nearly always competed in the doubles and mixed doubles at these major events making their task of consistently winning the singles titles just that little bit harder. What makes these kinds of assessments so difficult is that there is very little footage of the early great players and there aren’t too many people around who can remember Tilden or Budge, or even Ellsworth Vines, who the very shrewd Jack Kramer though was the greatest player ever to lift a racket. People like Kramer, Dan Maskell and Bud Collins spent the life constantly assessing players and their expertise greatly outweighs my rather limited knowledge. However, for me personally no one is ever going to get past Laver, who for me was pretty much incomparable, Borg would probably be my number two with the despised McEnroe at number three. The BBC commentary team can wax lyrically as long as they want about Roger who is truly great, it’s just that he is not the greatest.
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.
In blog notes 42 I argued that when it comes to polo shirts it is impossible for the frozen northerner to look beyond Lacoste or Fred Perry and in particular the Fred Perry that was made in collaboration with Nigel Cabourn. The alternative to these classics are wide and varied and has led me to Ralph Lauren’s flagship store on Bond Street to explore Ralph’s purple label polo shirt. The famed Mr Lauren has under his umbrella a range of labels such as the aforementioned Purple Label, Polo Ralph Lauren, Big & Tall as well Polo Tennis and Golf and a few more. Each line of clothing is supposed to share the vision of Ralph which probably reflected by the exasperating price range of his Purple Label which is regarded as a more luxurious line of clothing which, in all essence means more expensive. Purple Label products all have that famed Made in Italy tag which is guaranteed to send the price through the roof, so let’s see what we made of the purple label polo shirt. The first thing I noticed was that logo features an embroidered purple label pony which is different to that of their more iconic logo, furthermore it features mother of pearl buttons and is knit from two-ply long-staple cotton which the company argues aids colour retention. I cannot argue with quality of this shirt which is very good, but the price is exorbitant and that’s the rub, do you really want to pay that much for a polo shirt, who will wear it, well, it will probably be worn by people on the French and Italian Riviera and ivy leaguers heading for the Hamptons, but will it be worn in those summer hotspots of Whitley Bay and Tynemouth absolutely no chance in God’s creation, would I swap my Lacoste’s and Fred Perry’s for Ralph’s purple label pony, probably not, but that is not going to stop me lusting after one.
With shops in London, Paris and New York Crockett and Jones are long established English shoemakers that produce high quality Goodyear welted shoes for people who care about what they wear on their feet. Competing in the highly competitive footwear market they have managed to stay ahead of the game by producing elegant and tasteful shoes that appeal to a wide audience including yours truly. The frozen northerner has been an avid fan of this talented shoemaker for over a decade, then as now the shop I usually visit is situated opposite Wilton’s restaurant on Jermyn Street, since I first ventured into this store they have for some unfathomable reason added a second shop on the same street which I find hard to comprehend. Never mind, on that first visit twelve years ago I had no idea what I was going to buy, as I was stunned by quality and choice on offer, one thing was sure, I wasn’t going to leave this place empty handed, settling on a excellent pair of “Grasmere” derbies I have to say they have proven to be a sound investment. These shoes have been worn endlessly and are still as good as new, therefore it should it should come as no surprise that over the last dozen years I have acquired numerous pairs of Crockett and Jones shoes. So what is the object of affection that I crave on this latest shopping pilgrimage, loafers, if you are an avid reader of this blog you will know that I have more than a slight fascination with loafers and in particular Bass Weejuns. For me to buy a pairs of loafers other than the famed Weejuns, is to stray from a road that has served me well for many a long summer (I do own a rather beautiful pair of Florsheim suede loafers but that a distraction that needs to discussed at a future date). However, Crockett and Jones have stolen my heart with their fabulous “Cavendish” loafer; although they stock them in various colours and materials, you have got to buy their tasselled dark brown calf skinned gems, boy are these beauties going to see some action this summer both at home and abroad. I have always believed that loafers are an American thing, best made by companies such as Bass, Alden, Rancourt and the previously mentioned Florsheim, but these C&J Northampton made loafers are as good as gets. Over the past couple of years I have probably neglected this outstanding shoemaker which is mistake that has to be rectified, so the next time you are strolling along Jermyn Street pop into both Crockett and Jones shops because at the moment they have outstanding products.
In the early 1980’s the frozen northerner spent most of his summer holidays on the Costa Del Sol, the main objectives of these holidays were to obtain the perfect tan and drink copious amounts of San Miguel, both of which were normally achieved. When the frozen northerner returned home he had to have in his possession at least one brand new polo shirt, normally it would a classic Lacoste, but for our intrepid traveller there was another polo shirt that had to be purchased and that was the Ellesse polo shirt. These polo shirts may have been standard issue in the Metropolis but in the darkest north east of England they were nigh on impossible to find. During this period of time there were few pretenders around trying to steal the crown that had been worn effortlessly by Lacoste since the beginning of time; they mainly came from Italy and included the aforementioned Ellesse, as well as makes such as Fila and Tacchini (I tend to think the iconic Fred Perry was on the backburner at this time but please correct me if I am wrong). Walking down South Parade in Whitley Bay on any Saturday night you were indeed swimming with crocodiles, there were that many men wearing Lacoste so, wearing Ellesse made you a bit different which, I suppose was the aim of the game. Founded in Perugia in 1959 by Leonardo Servadio the brand name Ellesse derives from the initials of original owner L S, with its easy identifiable tennis ball logo Ellesse sportswear was worn with distinction mainly by famous tennis players such as Boris Becker, Mats Wilander and Chris Evert, they may have looked good but you weren’t go to buy the shirt because of these players you were going to buy it because of one man Guillermero Vilas. The big serving Argentinian left hander, looked more like a member of Menotti world cup squad than a tennis player, with his long flowing locks he would easily have fitted in perfectly into a forwardline that included Luque and Kempes but chose tennis instead. The “young bull of the pampas” always looked great in Ellesse especially at the French Open at Roland Garros, on the clay which was his preferred surface, you were never going to look as good as him but it didn’t stop you dreaming. Sadly, Ellesse was taken over by in 1994 by the Pentland group, an investment that was bad for all parties concerned, the company slipped into decline which saw Ellesse gradually lose its place in highly competitive polo shirt market which was rather tragic. Now with the release of its heritage line, Ellesse is trying to make a comeback, I doubt it will make it back to those glorious days of the early 80,s there is just too much competition around producing a better product (stand up Fred Perry) I would love them to do well, but without Vilas they are going to struggle get back to the top.
Everyone will have a favourite Sherlock Holmes film or TV series, they come in all shapes and sizes with Holmes be played by a host of revered actors ranging from the inimitable Basil Rathbone to the very stylish Rupert Everett, the Victorian/Edwardian era with its swirling clouds of fog may not be cup of tea, you may prefer the modern versions such as the ones featuring the excellent Benedict Cumbernauld. Your choice like mine is a very personal thing and only you know why you like that particular Holmes film. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes made in 1970, was written, produced and directed by the very great Billy Wilder, with a superb score by Miklos Rozsa, that perfectly captures the Victoria era, Wilder was given bumpy ride by the distributer the Mirisch Production Company, who edited the film mercilessly, nevertheless is the frozen northerner‘s favourite Sherlock Holmes film. Why I fell in love with this particular adaptation I have no idea, maybe its stems from one of the opening lines when Watson describes how Holmes has solved the perplexing murder of Admiral Abernathy by measuring how far the parsley had sank into the butter on a hot day, from then on I knew this was not going to be a typical Sherlock Holmes movie. Robert Stephens superb portrayal of the great man is akin to what I like to think Holmes would really have been like, Watson’s (Colin Blakeley’s best ever role) serialization of Holmes triumphs and conquests in The Strand magazine would have us believe that here indeed is the greatest mind in all England. However, as the film unravels Wilder reveals a darker side to our hero suggesting that if he is not indeed homosexual then he is most certainly bi-sexual, although it has said that no man or woman is ever going to come close to his real love, a seven per cent solution of cocaine. Wilder conveys the story in two parts, the first part involving the prima ballerina in the Imperial Russian ballet, the second part, an attack on the British Empire by German intelligence. These two plots slowly reveal flaws in the Holmes’s makeup, demonstrating that our hero is not quite the genius that Watson would seemingly have us believe. The supporting cast is ably led by Christopher Lee as his brother Mycroft and Geneveive Page as the mysterious Gabrielle Valladon, Irene Handl playing the part of the irascible Mrs Hudson, a performance of which is nothing short of brilliant. Part one would us believe that Holmes is averse to women, and the way that he disengages himself from the advances of Madame Petrova, hints a little bit about his sexual persuasion however, as the story unfolds Holmes is completely captivated by the seemingly widowed Gabrielle Valladon who is actually the top German spy Fraulein Elsa Von Hofmannsthal, a scenario that sees Holmes, utterly besotted by Teutonic temptress. Attempting to get the bottom of Monsieur Valladon’s death, they end up masquerading around the castles of Scotland as Mr and Mrs Ashdown with Watson as their dutiful valet, a plan that badly backfires on Holmes when he unwittingly leads them to the latest pride and joy of the Diogenes club, an underwater submersible, (a submarine to you and me) cleverly disguised as the Loch Ness monster. The plot continually twists and turns with Holmes completely unaware of the intentions of the Kaiser’s mole. Fortunately for Holmes his brother Mycroft has uncovered the real identity of Madame Valladon and the plot to steal the submersible, now that the integrity of the British Empire has been saved, Mycroft insists that Holmes must inform Fraulein Von Hofmannsthal that the game is up, the Fraulein bares her soul to Holmes stating that she knew all along that she could never outwit the brilliant Holmes, who plays along never revealing the fact that he has been completely outsmarted by the Prussian seductress. The scene at the end where Elsa Von Hofmannsthal bids Holmes Auf Wiedersehen using their umbrella to transmit a Morse code message is a stroke of genius. The film itself is often overlooked by Holmes fans maybe because there is a bit too much humour and perhaps because no one thought that Stephens and Blakely could pull it off so it well, but under the guidance of Wilder they have produced an often forgotten gem.