Christmas Decorations Of The Year (2)


If you’ve got some pot plants lying around at this time of the year, the temptation must be great to deck them with tinsel. Alas, this ruse did not throw the boys in blue from Gloucestershire when they raided a house suspected of being a small cannabis factory.

A couple had their collars felt and are up before the beak in February. Full marks for effort, though.

Gin o’Clock – Part Nineteen


The ginaissance has spawned a phenomenal number of new, independent distillers, all jostling for attention and your hard-earned cash. It is hard to even make modest inroads into what is available. And that is not counting those distillers who were ploughing a furrow before the latest gin craze took off, those you might call the Martin Peters of the gin world, some ten years ahead of their time.

One of the gins in the vanguard of the ginaissance is our featured gin, Bulldog London Dry Gin which is branded as an independent gin for the independent thinker. Personally I find that after a few gins the ability to think independently or at all rapidly diminishes but I think I understand what they mean. The brain child of a former J P Morgan banker, Anshuman Vohra, it is distilled on contract by our old friends, G & J Distillers of Warrington, and has been on the market since October 2006.

It has a very distinctive bottle, squat and dark grey, if not black in colour. The neck is wide and is studded in the manner of a dog collar. The labelling is white and strikes a rather defiant tone, “Bulldog guards the time-honoured tradition of distilling, meeting all opposition with brilliant character and a palatable disposition. Respect its spirit and it will remain forever loyal”. The marketeers seem to be linking the hooch to the mythical bulldog spirit of Churchill and World War Two. I can see the link with independence but we seem to be straying too close to Brexit for my liking. It is a gin, after all, not a philosophical or political manifesto.

The stopper is a screw cap, large and clunky, masking a conventionally sized neck to the bottle. To the nose the crystal clear spirit has a pronounced juniper smell with a hint of lime. Make no mistake, this is a classic London dry gin. To the taste it is smooth, well balanced and slightly spicy leaving a pleasant and satisfying warm aftertaste. At 40% ABV it is just right and smooth enough to be the base for a cocktail or to host a tonic.

So what is in it? There are twelve botanicals in all used in its quadruple distillation process. There are nine we have encountered before  – juniper (natch), lemon peel, almond, cassia, lavender, orris, liquorice, angelica and coriander. What gives it its unusual twist and a hint of the orient are the three other botanicals dragon eye, poppy and lotus leaves. For the uninitiated (me included) dragon eye is a literal translation of the Chinese pinyin or longan, an edible fruit akin to the lychee. It gets its name because when shelled the fruit resembles an eyeball. it is sweet, juicy and succulent and is often used in Chinese cuisine. Its taste differs from that of the lychee in that its sweetness has a much drier flavour.

My sense is that these exotic flavourings whilst blending perfectly to give a balanced gin don’t stand out. Still, it is a very welcome addition to my collection and is an ideal opener to an evening’s session.

The Feast of Mammon has come and gone and Santa Claus has brought me some new gins to add to my collection and to explore. I will report on them in due course. Cheers!

There Ain’t ‘Alf Some Clever Bastards – Part Sixty Three


Philo T Farnsworth (1906 – 1971)

Christmas has come and gone and many of us will have spent more time than we would care to admit slumped somnolently in front of a glowing rectangular box transmitting what passes for entertainment these days. Yes, the television. I had always assumed that John Logie Baird was the brains behind the gogglebox but recently I was alerted to the endeavours of Utah born scientist, Philo Farnsworth, the latest to be enrolled into our illustrious Hall of Fame.

Philo, who had already shown his mettle as a child by winning a national contest for inventing a tamper-proof lock, was an avid reader of science magazines.  He became interested in the concept of television and quickly deduced that the mechanical systems that were being suggested would be too slow to scan and assemble the many images required to put on a moving picture show. In a chemistry lesson at school he sketched out an idea for a vacuum tube that would revolutionise the TV, although no one realised it at the time. By the age of 16 he had worked out the basic outlines of a functioning electronic television.

In 1926 Philo raised some money to fund his work – $6,000 from private investors and $25,000 from Crocker First National Bank of San Francisco – and on 7th September 1927 made his first successful electronic television transmission, filing for a patent that year. Continuing to work on and perfect the equipment Farnsworth gave his first demonstration to the press in September 1928. But as you would come to expect with our inductees, trouble was just round the corner. His backers were keen to capitalise on their investment and entered into talks with RCA.

RCA sent their head of TV, Vladimir Zworykin, to review Farnsworth’s work. Zworykin was by no means an impartial assessor – after all, he was working on similar ideas for the American corporate – and concluded that whilst his receiver, the kinescope, was superior, Farnsworth’s video camera tube which dissected images and was essentially what he had sketched out in his science lesson a few years earlier was the bee’s knees. To buy him out RCA offered Farnsworth $100,000, an offer he rejected.

The 1930s saw Farnsworth embroiled in legal battles with RCA who claimed that his inventions were in violation of a patent filed earlier than his by Zworykin. The resources of RCA funded a series of actions, appeals and counter-appeals and it was not until 1939 that they agreed to pay Farnsworth $1m for his patents. The Second World War put a stop on TV production and by the time peace returned, Philo’s patents had expired in any case.

The decade of legal battles had taken its toll on Farnsworth’s health – he had a nervous breakdown in the late 1930s – but in 1947 his company Farnsworth Television produced its first TV set. The company, though, was unable to compete with the giants of the industry, particularly RCA, got into financial difficulties and was taken over by IT&T in 1949. Farnsworth was retained as vice president of research but the battle for primacy in the TV market was lost.

Worse was to follow. He moved back to Utah to continue research on technologies such as radar, infra-red telescopes and nuclear fusion but his company, Philo T Farnsworth Association went bankrupt in 1970. Philo then took to drink and died of pneumonia in Salt Lake City on 11th March 1971. It was only through the efforts of his wife, Pem, that Farnsworth’s part in the development of TV has been belatedly recognised, being inducted into the San Francisco Hall of Fame and the Television Academy of Fame.

Philo, for playing a major part in the development of TV and not profiting from it, you are a worthy inductee into our Hall of Fame.


If you enjoyed this, why not try Fifty Clever Bastards by Martin Fone which is now available on Amazon in Kindle format and paperback. For details follow the link

Christmas Decorations Of The Year


The seaside town of Blackpool is famous for its illuminations but one resident, Steve McGawley, got into a bit of bother with his external Christmas decorations. The lights, rather amateurishly strung up at the front and back of his property in Rodwell Walk, featured a bell and the word END and a penis followed by the word C**T.

Neighbours complained and the old bill attended the scene. After a Monty Pythonesque ten minute argument during which McGawley refused to take them down, he had his collar felt and was charged with a public order offence.


The lights have been taken down and replaced with strings which read Sorry and LOL. Personally, all external Christmas decorations are offensive but the effect has rather been lost here, methinks.


Christmas Crackers Of The Year (2)


More of the best cracker jokes of 2016 for your delectation:-

Why can’t the England football team play Yahtzee this Christmas? Because they got rid of Allardyce.

Why is Bob Dylan’s sleigh so quiet? Because it has Nobel.

Who might be cooking Christmas dinner at No 10 this year? Theresa May.

Why can’t Mary Berry eat turkey sandwiches? Paul Hollywood took all the bread.

Why doesn’t Sam Allardyce help load Santa#s sleigh. Because it took him 67 days to get the sack.

Why did the snowman pull out of Strictly? Because he got cold feet.

What does Nigel Farage do to the hall with boughs of holly? He Dexit.

What did Tim Peake get in his stocking this year? Galaxy and Milky Way.

Why did Ed Balls fail an audition to play one of Santa’s reindeer in a Christmas pantomime? Because he’s no Dancer.

What’s Donald Trump’s favourite type of ice cream? Wall’s.

Why’s Santa going around the world this Christmas Eve? He’s playing Pokemon Ho Ho Ho.

How do snowmen leave the EU? They trigger Icicle 50.

And finally, what is the best Christmas present in the world? A broken drum. You just can’t beat it.