Champagne and Thrift: Samuel Smiles and Heidsieck Champagne

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A cartoon of Samuel Smiles by Edward Linley Sambourne, 1883, from “Punch”.
Smiles was a Scottish author and government reformer whose most famous work is “Self-Help” (1859), which promoted thrift and asserted that poverty was caused largely by irresponsible habits.

It is therefore a bit surprising that he is seen here enjoying a bottle of Heidsieck “Dry Monopole” Champagne, now called “Blue Top” and available at supermarkets everywhere. But Smiles’ exceptionally long life – he was born in the reign of George III in 1812 and died an Edwardian in 1904 – suggests that Champagne contributes towards good health and longevity.

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A message from my friend Vic Mills:

“Hi Stuart,

A busy Friday here in Berlin and the start of a long couple of days as we get the latest project newsletter down the wires.

A bumper edition too with all the news from Mumbai’s far pavilions together with our Afghan Kit Aid adventure. –

The latter proved a great success, although we did pay a high price in the form of Carpool Karaoke! with the accompanying journo from BBC World Service.

Still, the nightmares are beginning to fade.



And additionally:

“Thanks to BBC reporter/producer, Seth Bennett, we now have the respective links to the radio and TV coverage of our recent Afghan Kit Aid adventure.

BBC World Service Radio – STUMPED –

BBC World Service TV – SPORT TODAY –”

I listen to Stumped every week – highly recommended.




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Wine and Music: “Laurent-Perrier” by Francisco López

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I can only hope that Francisco López was well-rewarded for naming a song after a Champagne brand.

This Spanish composer of “experimental” music describes his work as, “Destroying boundaries between industrial sounds and wilderness sound environments, shifting with passion from the limits of perception to the most dreadful abyss of sonic power, proposing a blind, profound and transcendental listening, freed from the imperatives of knowledge and open to sensory and spiritual expansion.” Wow…  I wonder how its notated?

“Laurent-Perrier” could be interpreted as the sound of bubbles fizzing in a glass… Or maybe not.

Interesting stuff but not particularly enjoyable to listen to.

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Wine and Music: “Careless Love”

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The composer of this classic blues song is unknown: “Trad” is the best guess.

There have been many version of this tale of heartbreak and vengeance. I have chosen Bessie Smith’s magnificent recording.

The song is not really about wine in any great sense but it does use it as a simile for the narrator’s love-struck angst:

“Love, oh love, oh careless love,
You fly to my head like wine,
You’ve ruined the life of many a poor girl,
and you nearly wrecked this life of mine”  

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Wine and Music: Goran Bregović’s “Champagne For Gypsies”

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A nice title by Goran Bregović, a well-regarded Bosnian musician whose songs cover a wide variety of genres.

He composed the soundtrack for the sumptuous 1994 film La Reine Margot, starring Isabelle Adjani. I have not seen it for many (25?) years but I recall the film’s recreation of the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572… Ouch.

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A message from Vic Mills:

“A tad frenetic here as we put together our refugee Kit Aid appeal. It’s starting to take shape. Which is just as well as we’ve an overnight sailing to the Hook of Holland on 31 March.

All of this and more in next month’s newsletter. For the moment, however, a little heat and dust this Sunday afternoon courtesy of February’s action from Mumbai and beyond.



The February newsletter can be seen here.

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Alan Ross’s “Australia 55” and “Australia 63”

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During the long winter months I like to read classic cricket books to keep me going until the new season begins.

Recently I read Alan Ross’s Australia 63 and Australia 55, his reviews and travelogues of two memorable Ashes series.

Of the two books, for me 55 is better as it was his first trip to Australia, or certainly his first trip to Australia to report on an England tour. Ross vividly describes the Australian landscape, its cities and its people.

Ross was a wonderfully poetic writer and an enthusiastic Epicurean. In the introduction to 55 he writes, “incidentally, the wines of Australia, though they lack the bouquet of European wines, were a revelation.”

He uses wine as a simile to describe and contrast the batting of Colin Cowdrey and Jim Parks: “Cowdrey to him is as a burgundy to a sparkling wine, and on a tour of this kind body is preferable to fizz.”

He mentions drinking Lacroma Cristi at Naples during the voyage out, Hunter River claret at the Melbourne Club, and Chablis at Lennon Hotel in Brisbane.

In Australia 63, he describes “agreeable junketing at Yalumba, the Smith vineyards in the Barossa Valley” on the rest day during the fourth test at Adelaide.

Ross also notes how the Chinese used to purchase bêche-de-mer from the Great Barrier Reef to use in soups. But now – in 1956 – “the Chinese have inclined to spend their money on other things”. Plus ça change

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Wine and literature: Paul Farley’s “From a Weekend First”

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Nestled in the multi-award-winning poetry of Paul Farley is a gem called “From a Weekend First”, published in his 2002 collection “The Ice Age”.

The poem references red burgundy and pinot noir to – I think – comic effect, though the overall tone is lugubrious.

The dactyl of “burgundy” and the anapest of “pinot noir” lend themselves to poetry.

Many of us aspire to “pinot noir on expenses”… Oh the joys of academia!

From a Weekend First

One for the money. Arrangements in green and grey
from the window of an empty dining-car.
No takers for this Burgundy today
apart from me. I’ll raise a weighted stem
to my homeland scattering by, be grateful for
these easy-on-the-eye, Army & Navy
surplus camouflage colours that seem
to mask all trace of life and industry;

a draft for the hidden dead, our forefathers,
the landfills of the mind where they turned in
with the plush and orange peel of yesteryear,
used up and entertained and put to bed
at last; to this view where everything seems to turn
on the middle distance. Crematoria, multiplex
way stations in the form of big sheds
that house their promises of goods and sex;

to the promise of a university town,
its spires and playing fields. No border guards
will board at this station, no shakedown
relieve me of papers or contraband:
this is England. Nobody will pull the cord
on these thoughts, though the cutlery and glasses
set for dinner are tinkling at a bend,
a carriage full of ghosts taking their places.

Now drink to slow outskirts, the colour wheels
of fifty years collected in windows;
to worlds of interiors, to credit deals
with nothing to pay until next year, postcodes
where water hardens, then softens, where rows
of streetlights become the dominant motif
as day drains, and I see myself transposed
into the dark, lifting my glass. Belief

is one thing, though the dead have none of it.
What would they make of me? This pinot noir
on my expenses, time enough to write
this on a Virgin antimacassar—
the miles of feint, the months of Sunday school,
the gallons of free milk, all led to here:
an empty dining-car, a single fool
reflected endlessly on the night air.


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Wine and Music: Oz Clarke on Radio 3’s “The Choir”

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My long-standing colleague and friend Oz Clarke was on Radio 3’s “The Choir” recently:

“Sara Mohr-Pietsch introduces this week’s pick of the choral world. Wine expert, author and occasional professional chorister, Oz Clarke chats with Sara about some of his favourite choral music.”

It’s not widely known – except to family, friends, and colleagues – that Oz was a singer before he became a full-time wine writer and broadcaster.

In his interview with Sara Mohr-Pietsch Oz speaks very sincerely about his passion and talent for singing. He also talks about how communicating about wine and music is similar and presents some of the same challenges.

The programme can be heard online at the BBC website.

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A message from Vic Mills at Project Front Foot:

“I hope this isn’t too early in the morning for curry? But I’ve a little curried cricket for you in the shape of the PFF January Newsletter.

Another busy month in and around Mumbai as the season approaches its mid-point.

No less busy in the UK as our refugee kit appeal gathers momentum (see page 9). If you can help in any respect with this do please get in touch.



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