Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Nimblest Baggage

Forget about so-called designer suitcases and trolley-cases. Such items are far too precious for the hold of aircraft, at any rate.

Unless, of course, your mode of transport is a private aircraft.

I've bought many kinds of baggage. These days, I prefer to travel light, check in online and hopefully avoid queues at airports.

Several months ago I bought the Cabin Max, a piece of luggage which takes maximum advantage of most airlines' regulations for hand luggage, and as it has no metal framework, weighs very little indeed.

It was abundant compartments, sturdy zips, and padded shoulder straps; thus keeping one's hands free.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Heinz Ditched

McDonald's has said it is to stop serving Heinz ketchup in its stores after 40 years.
The world's biggest fast-food chain said it would drop the ketchup after Bernardo Hees, the former head of rival Burger King, took over as Heinz's chief executive.
"We have decided to transition our business to other suppliers over time," McDonald's said.
In February, Heinz was purchased in a $28bn (£17.3bn) takeover.
McDonald's said that it would work with Heinz "to ensure a smooth and orderly transition of the McDonald's restaurant business", which has 34,000 restaurants around the world.
Mr Hees took over after Heinz was bought by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and Brazilian investment fund 3G Capital. Burger King is controlled by 3G Capital.
McDonald's uses the ketchup at many stores around the world, though only in Pittsburgh and Minneapolis inside the US.
"As a matter of policy, Heinz does not comment on relationships with customers," the ketchup-maker said.
Personally I prefer Wilkin's tomato ketchup. I find it richer, purer and thicker than Heinz ketchup. I've been using Wilkin's ketchup for many years.

La Oliva

I paid a visit to Fuerteventura's historic centre of government, La Oliva, this morning.

La Oliva is inland, beside the village of Villaverde.

In the town centre is the 18th century church,where there is a colourful pulpit.

The Colonels' House, La Casa de Los Coroneles, stands on the edge of the town.

Alas, Monday is the only day of the week when it is closed; so I was slightly disappointed to miss getting in.

The Colonels were the military governors of the island till about 1870.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Kactus Time

I took the bus, or 'Guagua' as they are commonly called here, from Corralejo to El Cotillo today. The driver on the five o'clock bus had the radio blaring out some Spanish soccer match.

I was oblivious to this assault on the old ear-drums.

Having enjoyed an agreeable day on La Concha beach, my first port of call at the apartment was the reinvigorating shower, where the day's sand and dust were rinsed off.

Thus, I'm at the Kactus cocktail tapas bar this evening, watching the World pass by and enjoying a refreshing Tanqueray gin and tonic-water.

I haven't worn socks for ages. No need to. The faithful feet are toughened up and ready for action.

The lovely Francesca has just brought me a complimentary plate of tapas.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Royal Christening

The Baptism of the Infant Son of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took place at 3.00 p.m.  on the 23rd October, 2013, in the Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace.

The Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, assisted by the Lord Bishop of London (Dean of Her Majesty's Chapels Royal) and the Reverend Prebendary William Scott (Sub-Dean of Her Majesty's Chapels Royal), baptised the Infant Prince who received the names George Alexander Louis.

The Godparents were: Mrs. Michael Tindall, Earl Grosvenor, the Hon. Mrs. Michael Samuel, Mrs. David Jardine-Paterson, Mr. Oliver Baker, Mr. William van Cutsem and Major James Lowther-Pinkerton.

Lord Grosvenor is heir to the Duke of Westminster (born at Omagh, County Tyrone, and raised at Ely Lodge, County Fermanagh).

Their Royal Highness' choice of Hugh Grosvenor is a shrewd and judicious one, given that he will inherit his father's vast estates and wealth in central London and elsewhere.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Map Pilot

The two-seater has a satellite navigation system, viz. the Map Pilot, manufactured by a company called Becker.

Now here's the rummy thing: I have only ever used it on a few occasions.

The first time was to get me from an area of Manchester to the city of Liverpool.

During late August, when I was in south Fermanaghshire (!), it proved itself helpful in getting me to a guesthouse near Newtownbutler.

I've never, so far, used it anywhere else in Northern Ireland.

Do any readers own a Map Pilot?

I SEE that Apple has launched the fifth version of its iPad, the iPad Air. I purchased a new iPad 4 in August.

I'd be keen to hear from readers in a similar posish; or who might be considering an upgrade of their iPad.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

La Taberna Revisited

I  revisited La Taberna this evening and opted for two starters, viz. the prawn cocktail and the spaghetti bolognese.

Juan greeted me like an old chum, as did the other staff. La Taberna is located at Calle Hernan Cortes in Corralejo.

Having provided self with a sizeable Beefeater gin and tonic, I perused the menu.

I've enjoyed La Taberna's prawn cocktail before, a true classic. Tonight was no exception: juicy large prawns, the traditional tangy seafood sauce, lettuce, and a few chunks of pineapple.

They always bring you a perfectly fresh bread roll with their magnificent alioli sauce.

My second course consisted of spaghetti bolognese, and I was not disappointed. This was more akin to a main course than a starter.

It had good flavour and the old nose-bag was in overdrive by this stage, though the gnashers had it easy.

The bill came to about €24, including the Beefeater gin.

I endeavoured to find Dovela, a restaurant recommended to me by a regular reader, Hernandez; though it seems to have finally closed down.

I looked for Dovela on Calle Iglesia and on the sea-front, in vain.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Kactus Roof Garden

I had a superb meal at my favourite tapas cocktail bar in Corralejo this evening: Fillet of beef in a strong Gorgonzola sauce accompanied by French fries.

I brought my Tanqueray and tonic upstairs to the brand new rooftop garden afterwards, where I chatted happily to Francesca, one of the staff.

The beef cost a mere €7.50; the fries, €2.50.

The Duke of Fife

I am relishing the prospect of beginning a brand new series on the greatest landowners in Scotland.

I propose to start with His Grace the Duke of Fife, who owned almost 136,000 acres of land in Aberdeenshire; apart from many thousands of acres in several other counties.

Her Majesty Queen Victoria was well down the list in Aberdeenshire, with about 25,000 acres.

I expect to commence in early November.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

La Scarpetta Restaurant

I dined at la Scarpetta Italian restaurant in Corralejo this evening. It was practically empty when I arrived at seven twenty.

Mario, mine host, greeted me and showed me to a little table at the back. He explained that the two tables at front of house were reserved.

I had determined to avoid alcohol today, so I ordered a fizzy orange.

The menu is varied and, as one would expect, comprised mostly pasta dishes. They have a standard menu and a special menu.

I ordered the beef ravioli and tiramisu for dessert.

Peculiarly enough, I was slightly underwhelmed, even disappointed. The food was fine and home-made.

The portions are not overly generous though, to my mind. My ravioli was perfectly acceptable, though the portion was more akin to a large starter. Parmesan cheese came finely grated in a little dish with a spoon.

The tiramisu was OK, though again a very small portion measuring about three inches square in my estimation.

Call me a gastronomic philistine, though I'd have preferred a hearty helping of Tesco's regular tiramisu instead.

Despite my criticism, this is undoubtedly a popular and well-established restaurant: Many of the tables were occupied by 'regulars' when I took my leave, having paid the €19 bill.

Old Windmill

Corralejo has several old windmills, including this one in the middle of the town.

It is now surrounded by shops and streets, though a hundred years ago it must have been on the outskirts of Corralejo.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Scottish Landowners

I am considering a new series about the greatest Scottish landowners during the Victorian era.

This would comprise about three dozen individuals and their families in the same number of traditional Scottish counties.

Would readers be interested in this? Do let me know.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Bombay Masala Restaurant

I enjoyed an Indian meal this evening at Bombay Masala restaurant, just off Music Square, in Corralejo.

They know me now. This is a very modest, unpretentious establishment. The owner is Rekha M Jaunkani, ably assisted by his family. I'm always cordially welcomed.

Tonight I had the chicken dupiaza with peschwari naan bread.

Service is prompt and attentive. 

There's something about the light, fluffy, fragrant pilau rice which is not easy to replicate at home.

The bread was cut into four pieces.

The meal was most enjoyable.

At the conclusion, I was offered a glass of house brandy.

The bill came to €21, including the tip.

Necker Island

Sir Richard Branson apprised the Daily telegraph recently that he had been a tax exile for seven years but denied the move had been influenced by money, rather a love affair with Necker, the Caribbean island he has owned for 34 years.
Britain’s best-known entrepreneur, head of the Virgin Group of companies,defended the decision to make his permanent home on the islandafter suggestions that he had declared himself a non-resident to gain considerable tax benefits.
Reports that he had sold his property interests, including his Oxfordshire estate and London home to sever links with Britain thrust Sir Richard into an unwelcome and unfamiliar limelight and prompted a blog from his island retreat.
In the blog, Sir Richard said: “I have not left Britain for tax reasons but for my love of the beautiful British Virgin Islands and in particular Necker Island which I bought when I was 29 years old, 34 years ago as an uninhabited island on the edges of the BVI. Over that time we have built our home there, a place where my family and I are able to truly relax.
“Seven years ago we decided to move permanently to Necker as we feel it gives me and my wife Joan the best chance to live another productive few decades. We can also look after our health (Joan is approaching 70 and I’m not far behind).
"I still work day and night now focusing on not for profit venturers but on Necker I can also look after my health.
“I spent 40 years working day and night in Great Britain building companies and creating competition and choice for consumers across a whole range of industries. The companies we created from scratch have created tens of thousands of jobs and paid hundred of millions in tax (and will continue to do so).
“Now in my 60s I’m proud of what we’ve achieved and contributed and now spend the vast majority of my time building not for profit ventures, raising awareness around important issues and earning money for charity. I have been very fortunate to accumulate so much wealth in my career, more than I need in my lifetime and would not live somewhere I don’t want to do for tax reasons.”
Sir Richard discussed the blog with senior Virgin associates, conscious that he could be damaged by the tax exile claims at a time when the issue has become politically sensitive. They estimate that his not for profit ventures and other fund raising activities raise more than £10m a year for good causes ranging from climate change to the global drugs problem.
One senior aide said: “He probably spends more time flying around the world than he does on Necker.”
Sir Richard who takes pride in dressing himself in the Union Jack to display his ‘Britishness’ has saved millions of pounds in tax from his earnings in Virgin Group by surrendering his residency status and accepting limitations on visits to the UK. He will continue to pay tax on any UK income.
He has been quoted as saying “I don’t think people should be leaving the UK because of our tax system” – though Virgin executives say he was misquoted. Ten years ago he wrote to newspaper saying “I live in England and choose to pay my not inconsiderable taxes here.”
Sir Richard, regarded as a role model for budding entrepreneurs, has surrendered executive control of the myriad of Virgin companies but remains chairman. He is estimated to be worth £3.4bn.
He made his entry into the world of business with a magazine called Student at the age of 16 but he found selling records in the crypt of a church and undercutting High Street prices more profitable.
The Virgin name has given birth to more than 400 companies from airlines to trains, from cable to broadband, from comics to animation that have embraced failure as well as success and controversy.
He has rebuilt his home on Necker after lightning started a fire that burned for three days. The actress Kate Winslet helped rescue Sir Richard’s mother.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


With my dear Eugenia at Bar Soul Cafe.

Bar Soul Cafe

I'm presently seated outside the Bar Soul Cafė awaiting a large Tanqueray gin and tonic-water.

Ipad Limitations

As readers can see from the article about the Royal Train, I've spent hours trying to compose and edit it from the newspaper which, incidentally, I credited.

Whilst the iPad is an amazing gadget and I find it almost indispensable, it's prowess at editing my blog is tricky, to say the least.

Basic articles are satisfactory, though anything more complex, which may include copying and pasting paragraphs and images, is not easy, in my experience.

It takes a an eternity in the attempt to delete or erase unwanted typescript and other junk from a composition, despite using HTML or computer language.

Nevertheless, the IPads strengths more than outweigh its deficiencies.

Ageing Royal Train

The Daily Telegraph has today published the following article, which alerts us to the predicament facing the Royal household.

It is absolutely essential that the Royal Train does not suffer a similar fate as HMY Britannia, which languishes as a tourist attraction in Scotland.

In recent days, the Queen’s treasurer has done much to recast himself in the role of Jenny Agutter in The Railway Children, waving down the royal train with a pair of red bloomers to stop it in its tracks.
For, according to Sir Alan Reid, the Keeper of the Privy Purse, the train that has been a permanent fixture of regal life since the reign of Queen Victoria may soon be forced to come to a halt. In an admission to a committee of MPs on Monday, he warned the current rolling stock only has five to 10 years of service left. The prospect of replacing it, he said, would be a major decision, adding that “the figures are quite staggering”.
The Queen attends to some paperwork while travelling on the royal train (PA)
Sir Alan’s comments to the Commons Public Accounts Committee – during a meeting in which he was accused of “shocking complacency” over the crumbling state of Britain’s palaces – were the first tacit admission that the royal train may be permanently retired, just like the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1997.
For the man who built the train in the 1970s, the news that its carriages are about to hit the buffers is balderdash.
Leo Coleman, 91, was the project manager of the team at Wolverton Works, Buckinghamshire, that constructed the current incarnation of the royal train between 1974 and 1976. “People talk about how long ago these carriages were built, but that is ridiculous,” he says. “They don’t know anything about it. But I do. People don’t realise the skills that we had back then.”
Indeed, the workmanship on the Mark III carriages, hundreds of which are still in operation on high‑speed trains in Britain, is regarded in some quarters as the best there has ever been. Those in public use that have recently been refurbished are estimated to have another 30 years left in them.
Prince Charles in 1953 and the Queen steps of the royal train at Euston station in 1970 (Rex)
Coleman, whose father, Charlie, was the electrician on the previous royal train during the reign of George V, was selected to oversee a team of 30 to 40 tradesmen working on the new carriages, including the saloons that are still used by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. He recalls the Queen playing an active role in the construction of her train, visiting the railway works – still the train’s home today – to inspect the carriages before it was presented to her to mark her Silver Jubilee tour of 1977. Coleman was then chosen to accompany the Queen on its inaugural journey overnight from London Euston to Glasgow – as well as several other trips across the country – in case anything went wrong.
“We had to be on board if there was anything the Queen wanted to talk to us about,” he remembers. “I was in the escort vehicle at the rear of the train with another project manager. Anywhere we went, all the different dignitaries were out on the platform, it was a real privilege to be part of [it].
“There were one or two occasions when I was summoned to the Queen,” he adds. “Nothing, luckily, went wrong, but on the second night she wanted something in her saloon changing.”
And little else has changed since then, it could be argued. Inside the carriages famed for their distinctive royal livery of claret with a red strip, the décor remains as austere as it was back in the Seventies. In fact, its 12-seater dining car, despite an array of monogrammed crystalware, would not look out of place in any budget hotel.
The Queen’s personal saloon and adjoining bathroom are modest and functional, with room only for a small desk and single bed, and pillows trimmed with lace are one of the few nods towards luxury. The Duke of Edinburgh’s saloon has a similar layout, plus a kitchen. Scottish landscapes by Roy Penny and Victorian prints of earlier rail journeys hang in both carriages, but the royal train is far from a palace on wheels.
Its appeal lies more in its exclusivity, perhaps. Aside from the Queen and the Duke, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are the only members of the Royal family permitted to use the train, with their sleeping cars swapped in as required.
Yet such simple fixtures and fittings are a far cry from the grand style of the first royal train journey. On June 13, 1842, the engine Phlegethon, pulling the royal saloon and six other carriages, transported Queen Victoria from Slough to Paddington – accompanied on the footplate by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, as the foremost engineer of his day.
“We arrived here yesterday morn having come here by the rail-road from Windsor in half an hour free from dust and crowd and heat,” she wrote in a letter to her uncle King Leopold of Belgium soon afterwards. “I am quite charmed by it.”
She was likely charmed further when, in 1869, the London and North Western Railway presented her with a luxurious pair of six-wheeled saloons. The main compartment was upholstered in quilted blue and gold silk, and the toilet decorated with the finest blue silk brocade.
Victoria’s successor, Edward VII, was presented with a new royal train to celebrate his accession in 1901. Decked out with gadgets, including electric cigarette lighters as well as Moroccan leather seating and drinks decanters, his saloon resembled a mobile gentleman’s club.
With the advent of the Great War, the royal train became a more utilitarian beast. George V used it to tour the country inspecting troops, factories and field hospitals – albeit in some luxury. During the Second World War, it was fitted with new armour-plated carriages and used as a vital means of transport. Records show that in May 1942, George VI and Queen Elizabeth travelled from Paddington to Penzance, Falmouth, Liskeard, Plymouth, Totnes, Kingswear, Exeter and back to Windsor over the course of three days.
The security role of the royal train is similarly important today, says Bob Gwynne, assistant curator of rail vehicles at the National Railway Museum in York.
“People underestimate the effectiveness, in security terms, of the royal train,” he says. “Can you imagine always trying to get a motorcade up the M1? Japan still has a royal train, the Danes, too. The Dutch have a royal carriage. Heads of state have had special trains for a long time. It’s a very foundation of any state, to get them around the country.”
The royal train can also be used for on-board meetings – the Prince of Wales used it as a mobile office on a week-long tour of Britain in 2010 – while its Royal Class 67 diesel locomotives, 67005 Queen’s Messenger and 67006 Royal Sovereign, are put to work across the network when not required.
But, in the modern age, the cost of the royal train has soared. As Sir Alan’s accounts show, it now takes up to £1 million per year to run, making it twice as expensive as air travel. Last year, a one-way trip between Windsor and York made by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh cost £20,221.
Phil Marsh, who has worked on the railways for the past 40 years – and last month published a book on Wolverton to coincide with the 175th anniversary of the world’s oldest railway works – says Sir Alan’s comments are only the latest threat. Indeed, in 1997, while working as marketing manager for Railtrack, Marsh says he was appointed to prepare a business case to privatise the royal train, but “skewed” the figures to put off would-be buyers, as nobody wanted to sell it off. “People within the railways want to keep it,” he says, “the passengers want to keep it as well.”
Today, in a world where steam no longer curls over train platforms and our railway network has been hacked back and over-stuffed with commuters, the royal train can still transport us to a better era of travel. The stations it chugs past are spotless and brimming with fresh flowers, while crowds of well‑wishers form wherever it stops.
And, crucially, those who know her best say there is life in the old girl yet. So put those bloomers away, Sir Alan – we have not yet reached the end of the line.



Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Corralejo Prospect

The prospect from a promonade bar in Corralejo, Fuerteventura, on a breezy, sunny, warm day.

I forgot to mention that I had a Tanqueray Ten and tonic-water last night in the Corner Rock bar.

It's dashed expensive stuff, at €10. How much is it at home in Blighty for a snifter?

I treated myself to a HD iTunes version of The Spy Who Loved Me for my iPad. I am well aware that it's a 'blast from the past', which ought to suit well, given that I've one foot in the past.

The 1960s and 1970s Bond movies seemed to be much more patriotic than the ones they churn out nowadays.

I still relish the scene where Commander James Bond CMG RN, Agent 007, as played by Sir Roger Moore KBE, opens a Union Jack parachute.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Corner Rock Burger

Dear readers, I am in a posish to apprise you that the old tan is regenerating most satisfactorily. I've been told that I'm as brown as a - sorry, his lordship has moderated the term lest the sensibilities of the PC brigade are affected unduly.

Tonight I have indulged in a good 200g cheeseburger with all the trimmings at the Corner Rock bar in Corralejo.

I defy anybody to find a more substantial pattie in the town.