Monthly Archives: June 2019

Waugh on Wine

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Last night we celebrated the launch of Waugh on Wine by Auberon Waugh at a ceremony taking place courtesy of Daunt Books158-164 Fulham Road, Chelsea SW10 9PR.
I made a short address to mark the occasion and here what I said:

I have always appreciated fine wines, but my real interest in acquiring a decent cellar and learning the ways of the masters of wine began in 1982, when I acquired a seventy-five-per-cent share in a legendary wine merchant’s, Howells of Bristol. I truly enjoyed my involvement in the wine business and learnt a great deal about the trade, and as a result of the acquisition I also became a wine collector myself.

Though I was to lose the greater part of my investment in Howells of Bristol and eventually sell the company back to two of its working directors, the firm continued to manage my wine portfolio. And it was my wine portfolio that so impressed Auberon Waugh.

I will never forget his reaction when I gave him a bottle of Cheval Blanc 1947 to celebrate his birthday. The joy on his face as he held the bottle in his hand, caressing it as if it were a beautiful woman, is still etched in my memory.

Bron was a true connoisseur, not only of wine but also of the art of fine living. His daughter, Sophia, remembered ‘the tastings he held for the Spectator Wine Club, which he ran for some years. My father had a very unsnobbish approach to wine and understood that the cost mattered a great deal. Part of the questioning about any bottle that took his fancy was whether it was worth its price. “Yes, but is it actually £5 good?” he would ask. Whether he was recommending a cheaper wine the younger generation could afford or something grand, he did not want anyone diddled. His lack of wine snobbery also meant that he discovered and promoted some surprising wines; the Lebanese Château Musar became famous in England thanks to him, and indeed when he died the producer sent my mother a magnum in a cedar box in thanks…’

Waugh on Wine was first published in 1986: the pieces printed were mostly straight reprints of the numerous articles he wrote for Tatler (his first assignment as a wine critic), Harper’s and Queen and the Spectator. This edition has not updated any of the information as listed then. Various addresses are no longer valid and a few of the companies mentioned are no longer in existence. A quick check on Google however will provide the correct details for the more intrepid reader. Our intention was simply to allow a new audience the chance to catch a glimpse of this remarkable bon viveur and literary stylist who wrote such wonderful prose.

Without further ado, Bron remains for me a figure who brightened my life in so many ways and gave me comfort by his sheer presence. At my age now I really miss him and wish he was still around to keep me company when his friendship was above all the most entertaining one could have.

I hope you will buy his book if only to read of a character whose humour and contrariness was uniquely without equal.

A tip you will thank me for

Quartet published Charles Ellingworth’s first novel Silent Night to great acclaim in 2011 and repeated the exercise in publishing his second recently, receiving a similar acclaim by many of his friends and by those who appreciate a talent of his calibre that will no doubt become more known worldwide and then gain the backing of the book trade, especially those who encourage budding authors by stocking their books to make them available to the public at large. It’s a shame that this practice in the book trade seems sometimes to ignore their prime objective of promoting the written word irrespective of those who have written it as a prime incentive rather than opt for those who don’t need it, having already scaled the ladder of fame that the establishment embraces.

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Money matters a great deal but promoting talent is by far the most satisfying and believe me Charles Ellingworth is the gateway to riches, unless you are hibernating in a foreign land.

Don’t miss the opportunity of scoring, for the pleasure you derive is immeasurable. Buy his book and you will see why.

 

Women have other magical things in their armoury

Do women age faster than men? Apparently, they do. However, to complicate this drawback, their brains we are told are quicker. For the comedian Joan Rivers, defeating the sign of facial ageing was a constant battle. Just as one operation had dealt with her crow’s feet or wrinkled forehead, she complained she would see “what’s going on under my chin” and realise she needed another.

“After all,” she said, “I don’t want to be the one the president has to pardon on Thanksgiving.”

Now a study has revealed the magnitude of the task nobly undertaken by her plastic surgeon after finding that women’s faces age at least twice as rapidly as men’s. The research which involved almost 600 measurements from the faces of 88 people aged 26 to 90 also showed that immediately after the menopause the gap widened. Scientists looked at everything from the upper lip, which thins with age, and bone structure, which softens as we get older, to the jawline, which, as Rivers complained, has a habit of succumbing to gravity. Although the sample size was relatively small, all the people were taken from the same part of Croatia, enabling the scientists to compare people with similar genetics and environment.

Sonja Windhager, of the University of Vienna, said that the march of time could be seen clearly in both sexes. “The visible part of the eyes got relatively smaller, due to bone reabsorption”, she said; “The tip of the nose dropped, they lost soft tissue elasticity, ear lobes got longer and jowls developed. This was the same for men and women.”

What was not the same was the rate at which this happened. The analysis excluded wrinkles because they are so strongly affected by lifestyle, but found that in everything else younger women’s faces on average aged twice as fast as men’s. This tallied with previous research showing women’s skin also aged faster.

One possible reason for this is that male hormones can be protective and help maintain firmer tone. The effect of hormones may also explain what happened to women in their early 50s, when they experienced a spike in ageing so sudden that it took the researchers by surprise. “We didn’t expect such a sharp turn in the trajectory in women” then said Dr Windhager, whose study is published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, “but it relates nicely to menopause, when there are drastic hormonal changes. This changes the collagen content of the skin, and bone absorption.”

This is also why women who have had no hormone replacement therapy also have a higher risk of osteoporosis, because their bones thin.

One potential use for the research is in improving computer reconstructions of facial ageing, for instance in police work. A question the study cannot answer is if the quantitative ageing rates identified in the study also correlate to genuine perceptions of ageing in observers – given that men and women also have different facial structures to start with. So, what can be done about the problem? One area of hope is that if men can see past the face, they may discover something rather more attractive.

Recent research has shown that while women’s beauty may fade sooner, their brains age less rapidly.

Dr Windhager, however, said she did not hold out much hope when it came to men’s shallowness. “Of course we should not judge a book by its cover, and not everything is about facial appearance, but we do know it influences a lot. Women should probably just make up for it with a friendly personality… and cosmetics,” she said.

Well how very true, I say. And I’ll stop at that if you permit me.

Is coffee the mother of alertness?

As the drinking of coffee is now a topical subject, I was intrigued to read that the US military is coming to the rescue of fatigued civilians with an algorithm that tells you exactly how much coffee to drink to maintain peak performance.

The caffeine optimisation tool has been designed to maximise alertness while avoiding excessive caffeine consumption.

Tests have suggested that the system, call 2B-Alert, easily outperforms the US army’s guidelines on caffeine use. It helped subjects to cut their caffeine intake by as much as two thirds without diminishing the alertness. The tool, available to use online, allows a user to specify their desirable peak alertness periods, then sleeping schedule, the minimum level of alertness they want to maintain and the maximum daily caffeine intake.

Jacques Reifman, a senior research scientist for the US army, said: “If you pull an all-nighter, need to be at peak alertness between say, 9am and 5pm, and desire to consume as little caffeine as possible – when and how much caffeine should you consume? This is the type of question 2B-Alert was designed to answer.”

For decades the US military has plied servicemen with amphetamines, steroids and painkillers in the name of improving performance. More recently it has turned to stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall in the hope of bolstering cognitive stamina and memory. But few substances have proved as useful in combating exhaustion and boredom as caffeine. The US army prizes its ability to improve risk-related judgement and impulsiveness during prolonged sleep deprivation. The ready meals provided to troops in battle have contained caffeine-fortified snacks such as beef jerky and apple sauce. The algorithm offers advice on when they should be consumed. For instance, an average person who gets six hours’ sleep, wakes at 7am and wants to be alert between 10.30am and 6.30pm is advised to consumed 200mg of caffeine – equal to about a large mug of filter coffee – at 10am and again at noon.

Tests suggest that the caffeine solutions proposed by the algorithm either required on average 40 percent less caffeine or enhanced alertness by 40 percent, compared with how US troops had used coffee. The research was published in the journal sleep. The High-Performance Computing Software Applications Institute of the US army has been working on the algorithm for several years. Its researcher had suggested that the algorithm could be embedded in a smartphone app that could be used by people who must deal with irregular hours. The institute has also created a “psycho-motor vigilant risk test” that measures the speed at which people respond to a visual stimulus and gauges how alert they are.

The researchers have suggested that this could be part of the app that also utilises sleep data from fitness tracking devices to general bespoke sleep and caffeine schedules.

This study is perhaps the most useful I’ve so far read which explains the very nature of the use of caffeine for alertness.

 

Gold has a clear message

I always reckoned that when the price of gold rises dramatically, it points to instability in world markets for the simple reason that political mayhem plays a negative role throughout. Last week Gold rose above $1400 an ounce, its best level for almost six years, as a weaker dollar, economic concerns and geopolitical tension sparked a flight to safety. Demand for gold has jumped since the Federal Reserve indicated last Wednesday that it was likely to cut interest rates for the first time in a decade soon.

Oil prices rose 1pc to just over $65 a barrel despite US President Donald Trump saying he aborted a military strike on Iran on Thursday. However, the tension as for the possibility of a future conflict with Iran remains a worrying aspect – on Wall Street, both the S&P 500 and DOW JONES INDUSTRIAL average made further gains. In London, the FTSE 100 ended almost 17 points, or 0.2pc, at 7,407 points.

Investors’ attention now turns to next weeks’ planned meeting between Mr Trump and Chinese Leader Xi Jinping in Japan with hopes of a deal to end a trade war between the US and China that has hit global growth. Unless this is resolved soon, the effect to both parties will be catastrophic.

Trump’s insistence of having the upper hand in his quest to subdue nations will eventually become counterproductive.

 

DON’T GET YOUR KNICKERS IN A TWIST…

We are now told that sleeping less, later in life, could be an early warning sign for Alzheimer’s, experts reveal. Yet earlier on this year we were warned that excess of sleep has the same effect on the brain and could also trigger heart attacks. The latest findings conclude that British citizens in their 50s, 60s and 70s may be at greater risk of dementia if they are getting less shuteye than they did in the previous decade.

In a study, they were found to have higher levels of a protein that clumps in the brain and is thought to cause the disease. However, much lower levels were found in those who managed more or the same amount of sleep as they got older. It is well known that a lack of sleep may lead to dementia, but the new findings suggest this process starts in middle age.

The results come from brain scans of 101 participants by researchers at University of California, Berkeley. They said prioritising a good night’s sleep, every night, was vital, along with maintaining regular sleep times, cutting out caffeine and alcohol near bedtime and minimising distractions.

Tau, a harmful protein linked to dementia was also found in higher levels in those who got less sleep in their sixties. The study published by the journal JNeurosci suggests that sleep monitoring could detect the early signs of dementia before any symptoms start.

I’m truly baffled and confused by studies that reflect the opposite from previous ones, to the extent that worrying about dementia will probably trigger it off.

To conclude, all I can say: The Lord be praised and leave the rest to destiny. You will no doubt be rejuvenated.

A BUNGLING NIGHT TO FORGET

On Tuesday night I watched the BBC’s programme where the remaining five candidates for the leadership of the Conservative Party and, eventually, the next prime minister, were questioned by the public. I found myself utterly disappointed with the way the whole evening was so badly organized and how it turned out to become a mish-mash, due mainly to the host, Emily Maitlis, who struggled to control the debate.

As for the contestants none, even Boris Johnson, failed to shine. He was caught on many of his policies during this fractious and inconclusive debate on live TV. His insistence that, come what may, we must leave the EU on October 31, or the public will look on ‘us with mystification’ is quite frankly, a load of tripe. No one there, and many watching, believed him since they know that his ambition to become prime minister will force him to change and compromise.

As for Jeremy Hunt, he was nervous to say the least, but his worst moment was invoking his children in an attempt to divert from a direct question about Trump’s recent tweets. As for Michael Gove, despite his articulation, there was a sense that he also cannot be trusted. He is much too pompous to get people to back him. His confidence that he is the best man to be prime minster struck me as overdoing it, to the point of irritation.

Sajid Javid’s worst moment was trying to explain how money would solve the problems caused by Brexit at the Irish border. Theresa May, who tried to solve this problem for over two years and was willing to spend money to achieve it, did not succeed, despite her perseverance. I doubt whether he would be able to miraculously succeed where many others have failed.
Last but not least, I developed a great regard for Rory Stewart (alas, now eliminated) who won the sympathy of many people for his honesty and appearing to back the underdog, even when the system would not have allowed him to succeed. In a different world he might have had a chance in his wish to overturn the common assumption that the Establishment is not driven to be more disposed to the plight of others when money is their prime factor.

All in all, the programme was a fiasco of huge proportion, but also rather boring in every possible aspect. Perhaps politicians of our present generation lack the greatness of those who made Britain a force to be reckoned with during the last century. I fervently hope this is only a phase which will not last. We deserve a lot better.