Archive for June, 2016

Inside The Cauldron

I share Paul’s disappointment at England not winning the game and with it the group. Paul seems relatively happy that he will be heading back to the south of France. It works out for me too, I will performing best man duties at a wedding, so am pleased to be playing Monday. Every cloud!


The day of the game and England can decide where they finish in this group and travel to for the knock out phase. Win and it’s a Saturday afternoon game in Paris. The best option for all concerned. Of course though this is England and we don’t do things the easy way. A chilled out morning getting ready, dinner in the apartment and a tootle on the bus into town to meet some of the other England boys. Enough time to grab a few beers before heading via a short tram ride to the stadium a few KM north of the city centre.

The centre of town was now buzzing pretty much taken over by the English spilling out into the streets all singing and in good spirits. I’m guessing most have been on it all day. The tram was rammed and was turned into a rocking singing carriage the…

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Concrete Culture


The day before the game. It’s Sunday and what to do. Figure out the transport system and thankfully that was simple enough. Saint-Étienne seems to be the most forward and planned city to host the Euros so far. They have really got into the spirit with bunting and signs everywhere. They have produced maps and guide books and have a transport app that you can download that allows you to buy tickets at a special euro2016 price on your phone. €3 a day for full travel on the bus and tram network. This city is a winner already.

We ventured out to the west of the city to Firminy home to Site Le Corbusier a famous architect who was given the space of an old mining town and allowed to produce his largest urban complex. And boy did he like concrete. It reminds me of our once beloved central Birmingham…

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Paul has made it to Saint-Étienne in preparation for Englands final group game. The name Saint-Étienne brings back memories of the 90’s: the good, the band Saint-Étienne, the bad, England’s penalties defeat to Argentina in the ’98 world cup. Let’s hope Monday’s final group game is more rewarding.


No blog yesterday as to be honest nothing much happened. After a full day of rain on our last day in Tourcoing this was my highlight.

This was followed by one final night at the drop out bar called Le Dof featuring all our favourite characters from the last three nights. Mo the bar lady, Sasha the owner, Ahmed the bouncer, Pepe the Portugese dwarf, Mickey the Pirate, Luigi the Milan fan, Lionel the Richie, Greg the crazy Frenchman and Ricky the Rentboy. Along with a smattering of English fans it was if nothing else a most entertaining evening.

Time to leave Tourcoing and head back South for our next journey. Up bright and early today for another travel day with three trains to catch to Lille, Lyon and eventually Saint-Etienne home to our final group game on Monday. And I can surprisingly report that for the first time this…

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Life through a Lens

Paul is surprisingly coherent after a night celebrating Englands victory over Wales:


It’s just past 3am and this is usual fodder for me. Shit. Can’t go to bed. Need to write the blog before I sleep. Yes it’s a late night. England won. And it’s been some night. Yes it’s a blog about football again.

It started off with a morning trip via the trains from Tourcoing to Lille and then onto Lens. It was raining outside and via the joys of another Stan Collymore Periscope video pissing it down in Lens. So raincoats on and no shorts and shades today we realised we were no longer in the south of France. For once all our planned trains ran according to times and we arrived in little ole Lens.

The train station modelled on a locomotive. Step back and you can see it. I’m sure many an England fan will have missed that. We got off the train to lots of the…

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I was asked earlier this week how to make Martini, given the three other Bond posts this week, it seemed like a good time to revisit the Vesper recipe.   Thanks to the movies James Bond is always associated with Vodka Martinis, in fact the Bond of Ian Fleming’s novels drank many different drinks.  In Casino Royale he did however drink a Vodka Martini that he eventually named “Vesper” after the character Vesper Lynd.

The Vesper recipe is:

  1. Three measures of Gordon’s Gin
  2. One of vodka
  3. Half a measure of Kina Lillet
  4. Shake over ice until it’s ice-cold and strain into a martini glass.
  5. Then add a large thin slice of lemon peel

Casino RoyaleAs described by Bond in the novel:    ‘A dry martini,’ he said. ‘One. In a deep champagne goblet.’
‘Oui, monsieur.’
Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon-peel. Got it?’
‘Certainly, monsieur.’ The barman seemed pleased with the idea.

He goes on to say:  This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I can think of a good name.’      



This is how it appears in the movie when Casino Royale was finally made into an official Bond film in 2006. 

A note on the ingredients:  

  • Although not bad Gordon’s is far from the best Gin I would recommend Bombay Sapphire.
  • Kina Lillet is not actually a vermouth (as pointed out by the barman on the plane in Quantum of Solace).  It is a wine based drink flavoured with quinine (also found in tonic water and a perfect accompaniment to vodka or gin).  It performs the same job in a martini as Vermouth (a fortified wine flavoured with herbs and spices).  Sadly it isn’t possible to make a genuine Vesper as Ian Fleming conceived it as the recipe for Kina Lillet was changed about twenty years ago making it less bitter.
  • Any good quality grain vodka will work.
  • Felix Leiter tells the barman to “keep the fruit” I would recommend replacing the lemon peel with a pimento stuffed green olive or three.
  • Finally, I have never tried it myself so don’t know if it is true but it has been suggested to me that to get the authentic taste as originally conceived Vesper add a dash of Angostura bitters to composite for the change in Kina Lillet formula.

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Up North

So I said I was reblogging two of pauls posts today. Make that three, Paul is posting them quicker than I can read them.


Another day of travel and battling with the French travel authorities beckoned and of course it did not go to plan. We leave Dijon today and head up north close to where England play their next game in Lens. This in itself is only a short distance away from the host city of Lilles. Lens is not supposed to have much in the way of tourism, accommodation or bars. Because of that most are staying in Lille. Wanting to be different I have chosen a town a few more train stops away called Tourcoing.

The train journey here of course went tits up because we are in France and it would appear to be someone’s mission to cancel every train that I have booked a reservation for. Still a very kind man in the ticket office has sorted us out for a train to Paris in a few hours and…

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I have been going to the cinema with Pau,l the author of this blog most weeks for the best part of 20 years. We hust have seen well over a thousand films together. Anyone who follows either of us on twitter will know that Paul learned this week that I have never seen Cyrano De Bergerac, a revelation surprised him. I guess thats one for for my blindspot list.


Another day of no football today and a full day left free to explore the city of Dijon. A lazy morning in the apartment before heading out into the town on foot. The number one thing to do is to apparently buy a guide from the tourist shop and follow the owl trail.

Dijon is a very compact city and all its main architectural sights can be visited on foot. To make this easier the city have created a trail covering all the main points of interest with markers on the pavement of owl arrows. The owl is a symbol of good luck here especially if you rub the stone owl carving with your left hand. You just follow the Owls around the city in a few hours and in all fairness that’s Dijon done. This of course wouldn’t be complete with out taking in the mustard shop.

All the…

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Bonjour Dijon

I have only just caught up with this post from a couple of days ago so am reblogging two post together. Enjoy.


When I sat at home, like many England fans I’m sure I sat there with a map of France in one hand and a map that included rail lines in the other. It’s a simple plan really. You look where England play their first three group games and plan your adventure around that. Following our stint in Marseille it was time for us along with the England team to move on. Our next game is 5 days from now after the Russia game. Plenty of time to plan the journey ahead. We had done this and looked at the distances.

The next game is to be played in Lens. The distance between Marseille and Lens is 978 KM. In order to break this up and with time on our side we have decided to stay for a few nights halfway. In Dijon. No reason other than its proximity between the…

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Following my last two posts about James Bond, I thought I would dip into the archives and re-post something from 6 years ago.  It is an idea I had at the time, it will never happen, but it doesn’t stop me talking about it.  Timothy Dalton is now in his 70’s, but thanks to the TV show Penny Dreadful has a higher profile than when I originally posted the article.  In a lot of ways I think he was the best Bond, but was let down by average films.  I suggested Quentin Tarantino as a director.  I still love his movies, but he is a very different director than he was back in 2010.  I think he is too self indulgent at this time in his career.  My new favourite director for this, or any Bond film is Denis Villeneuve (when he has finished with the Blade Runner sequel). 

* * * * *

I noticed the other day that former James Bond Timothy Dalton recently celebrated his 66th birthday. This got me thinking it has been some time since I posted anything about James Bond.  So here it is in honour of Timothy Dalton’s birthday an idea for a slightly different Bond movie. 

James Bond, now in his 60’s has retired and is living in Jamaica. For his last few years in the secret service before retiring he took a job training prospective double 0 agents.  Bond receives news from Moneypenny that one of his former students (now 006) was killed on a mission.  Because of the nature of the mission and his undercover status the body has not been recovered and a funeral will not take place. He receives a letter from the agent sent shortly before he was killed.  Bond launches his own investigation and is blocked at every turn by his own government making Bond even more determined get to the bottom of what happened.

For added impact the movie should be made in total secrecy without anyone knowing it is about an older Bond.  In the usual build-up an announcement should be made implying a big name star, but not an obvious choice (I am thinking Colin Farrell) will play Bond.  He will in fact be playing 006 who gets killed at the end of an all action pre-credit sequence.  Enter the real James Bond, Timothy Dalton.  The film would be very plot driven with fantastic dialogue and the odd action set piece, very much like a good detective story. Along the way there can also be a subplot about Bond writing his memoires to the chagrin of his former employers (more on this in a later post).  There is a great opportunity to Have fun with the dynamic of an older Bond without turning the whole thing into a joke. And who could direct such a movie, there is only one man: Quentin Tarantino.

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Following my post about who might be the next Bond, here are a few people who could have been Bond.  I have stuck to British and Irish actors who have been in contention or mentioned since Timothy Dalton hung up his dinner jacket and Walther PPK in the late 80’s.

Ralph Fiennes: There was a time, around 1993 to 1996 (Schindler’s List – Strange Days – The English Patient) when Fiennes came from almost nowhere to become one of the best actors around.  In the last few years he has also added comedy to his repertoire.  He could have been the perfect Bond.  He was under consideration in both 94 and 04.  Did his appearance as John Steed in the terrible The Avengers 1998 end his chances?  He eventually became M, a character with enough hints at his back story to warrant his own movie.Ralph Fiennes james bond

Colin Firth: I have never considered Fiennes’ English Patient co star a contender for Bond, however, I was wrong so wrong.  Anyone who has seen him as Harry Hart in Kingsman will wonder what he he would have been like as Bond.Colin Firth James Bond

Idris Elba: Still in contention and would made a great Bond but as I mentioned in my last post, I think he is too old to get to get the chance now.Idris Elba james bond

Clive Owen: Made his name in the TV show Chancer (1990-91).  He was allegedly on the short (or possibly long) list when Pierce Brosnan got the part in the mid 90’s.  His name came up again in 1998 when he donned a dinner jacket for the film Croupier.  The part as The Driver in a series of BMW commercials cemented him as a fan favourite.  Now 51, he is probably too old, his last chance came and went when Daniel Craig was cast a decade ago.Clive Owen James Bond

Hugh Grant: His name came up a few times but he was never a serious contender.  Had he not become a star playing light comedy he could have been a good dramatic actor, the failure of Extreme Measures (1996) put an end to roles like that.  The Man From Uncle is a close as he is ever likely to get to Bond.Hugh Grant james bond

Liam Neeson: Reported to have turned the role down in 1994 because he wasn’t interested in making action movies.  He must have had a change of heart when he was offered Taken.Liam Neeson James Bond



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