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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

to wax or not to wax oneself

It began with a knock on the door to the library.  The housekeeper stepped in and said she had done something terrible.

Did she throw one of my Drakes in the wash to remove a spot again?

One of the bikes knocked over in a frenzied attempt to clean the garage?

Was a child left at school while I was off somewhere?

much worse.....

"you know that old jacket with holes in it? .....well, I washed it, it looked terrible.  Now it looks worse, its peeling"

The green one?


silence on my end.

Like many, I have felt a strange attachment to my Barbour.  In this case, a Border model that is pushing 16 years.  But my closeness to the waxy goodness goes further still.

When I was a child my Grandfather would show up wearing his dented, faded, and patched Barbour.  It smelled like the vestiges of pipe tobacco, a walk through bracken, a visit to the pub, and faintly of paraffin and mints.  He would tell us to pick a pocket (as you know the front bellows pockets can hold all sorts- the game pocket on a Beaufort, probably a small child).  On some days the pockets would hold a white waxy bag of mint imperials or tubes of Smarties.  Others days would bring dracula teeth, stink bombs, itching powder, or hand buzzers.  Once the left pocket moved oddly and a guinea pig called Buttons appeared.

In a nod to Pavlov the smell of a Barbour came to represent all that was good in a boys world.   It would also be the catalyst for a lifetime of motion sickness caused by the aforementioned smells and a Lancia that always seemed to careen down the roads of Kent.  My Grandfather was a terribly fast driver and I believe that his diesel exhaust vented to the right rear seat.  To this day, a car load of Barbours, the heat on high, and  a diesel on a windy road do not a good mix make.

When my Barbour was shiny and young we found ourselves iced in one New Years in Five Bridges.  The only salvation was a slithering down the skating rink of a lane to the local.  After much laughter at the newness of my coat we drank ourselves silly and gorged ourselves by the fire.  The walk home found the new coat of wax stiffening and cracking with the cold.  It smelled of smoke from the poorly vented fireplace, Dunhills, and a spilled Famous Grouse.  The patina had begun.

Every year I promise myself that I will send it off in summers mad heat waiting and waiting for the men that know how to mend such things to do so.  I always delay and come the first good cold rain I find myself with a can of Barbour's thornproof dressing bubbling away on the range.

I am terrible at doing this and the results are always haphazard and uneven.  Unlike the pleasure in building up a good shine on a pair of brogues, I tend to fall flat about half way through.  Just too much damn surface area.  However, these are some fine directions if you can prevail.

Do I trade down for a newer model?  Barbour snobs would scoff but I do like some of the newer offerings.  Still, I feel that it would be the betrayal of an old and tired friend.  Besides, there is always next summer to send it off......

Thursday, September 23, 2010


What could be better than a sunny English day and a chance to relive some of the halcyon years of after the war?  Throw in some brilliant bits of machinery and some women and its a day.  Just inspiration everywhere from bonnet straps on Jags and Morgans to the pipes of a Maserati under power.  Would kill for some of the tweeds that the older set held on to.  The Goodwood Revival.




old friends
helmet & tie required

silver dream racer

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Floriditas contribution to society

The odd leaf is starting its annual spin to the ground but the heat is still a contender.  As we have been on a Papa kick lately the concoctions that either helped him hang on or slide off (depending on ones viewpoint) have made themselves available from lunchtime on. Of this I mean the daiquiri and not the day glo sickeningly sweet form that I'm sure is omnipresent at loathsome couples type resorts.



We are talking a man's drink here.  Served in Havanas Floridita to the man himself and riffed on in so many ways since.  Basic ingredients but incredibly refreshing- and no, you don't need a blender.

Errol Flynn & Ernest

Holding court with Spencer Tracy to the left

from the new Floridita

This is the official Imperial Black version                                          

Begin with 2 oz light rum and add to a shaker
Grab the freshest lime you can and squeeze an ounce out of it
(about half an average size lime)
Add this to the rum
follow with 2/3 oz simple sugar syrup (Papa was diabetic and left this bit out)
Then add 1/4 oz maraschino liqueur (If not into cherries omit and enjoy your lime)
Fill the balance of the shaker with chipped ice (towel + 5 cubes + hammer)
Shake like mad until a nice frost forms on the outside

Pour without straining into a chilled glass (Martini glasses good as are highball glasses)

Drink in a purposeful manner until finished.  Have another before you slow it down.

Makes you almost feel as if you are across the Florida straits listening to Fidel's brother on the radio and planning something.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

A North Woods Sky

We are sitting next to the large purple buddleia.  It's dusky smell making itself known when allowed by the stiffening breeze coming off Sturgeon Bay. Behind us I hear the drunken drone of bumble bees as they gorge themselves amidst a towering bed of foxgloves.  Further still is the clatter of crockery in the kitchen and the tinkle of patinaed and crumbling temple bells,  from both another continent and time.  Strange how the smallest of things from our travels stick with us while larger accumulations and people come and go.

In the green waters below the smallish limestone cliff, the children move through the water.   A summers sun has left them walnut hued.  Dark hair slicked and shining lends them the appearance of otters at play.  I squint across the water at the point where I think the sun will set and grab my Manhattan from the greenest of grass.

A visit to a northern latitude seemed essential.  In the death throes of August the heat had taken on a predatory menace.   Scorching the dew in the morning and suffocating the night sky.  Friends had withdrawn into bunker mode and the streets appeared deserted at mid day.  The South seemed a ghost town.  Once again our beautiful cuffs gave way to knit short sleeves

Up here, on a narrow peninsula that probes outward into a great lake there is a crispness to the landscape.  Birch trees shimmer in their silver way and a crackling fire pit is a worthy companion. The landscapes colours give a new inspiration of greys and purples, the deepest of blues, and cremes.  We have drinks each night and do nothing more demanding than wait for the sun to lower itself into the water.  By day I glass the same water with a pair of Swarovskis.  Looking for tall ships to appear from the horizon as if transposed from Botany Bay. Late afternoons are spent in a wooden boat looking for light houses and hidden coves.

Days of idleness and reading are interspersed with visits to local watering holes (mostly the fishing hole where we drink Leinies and wear out CCR on the jukebox).  A trip to Palmer Johnson finds us salivating over the shipyard and planning delivery of our Imperial Black Global Exploration yacht build.

As darkness settles and the wind picks up a lightweight cashmere is thrown on from our guys in Como.   We lay on our backs and catch the flares of the summers last meteors.  Watching as they move briefly and brilliantly against the slow tracking of  satellites.  There is little light pollution here and the sky is teaming with stars.   Stories of very different times and different travels are traded.  On this jut of land and against the dark twinkling of the sky we are a small group with a strange collection of accents and citizenships.  Nomads around a fire already feverishly dreaming the next place.