Monday 25 March 2019

Monday March 25th, 2019 - Negronis & Americanos | Counting Down the Days | Packing Bags | & Recent Wristwatches

I wore the Submariner earlier this month.

Hawkins took off his glasses and placed them next to his wristwatch. He rubbed his eyes briefly, then began to mix a fifth gin and tonic. As he slowly built the drink in the heavy crystal glass, he glanced over at Smiley. "The real problem with this vocation, George, is that it begins with a small lie, a slightly blurred version of oneself. And then, over time, the lies become greater and a larger version emerges."
He paused to cut a small lime. Holding the wedge over the glass, he gave it a gentle squeeze. Smiley watched as a few drops of juice bled into the glass. Hawkins was meticulous with his libations. A little too much so. 
Satisfied with the amount of citrus in the drink, he dropped the misshapen wedge into the glass and reached for the tonic. The bottle cap gave a half-hearted hiss as he twisted it open. He topped off the drink, raised it to his mouth and took a tentative sip.
Smiley lowered his glasses a little, closed his eyes and gave the bridge of his nose a slight pinch. Hawkins could be tiresome when lubricated. "Is there a point to this, Bill?", he asked with slight irritation.
My point is", continued Hawkins, "a larger version emerges, and the half truths, broken promises and blatant betrayals take their toll and slowly erode all thoughts of Queen and Country.
It becomes a game, and by the end of it, you can't recall where the truth ended and the lies began. By then, it's time to get out of the Circus. Of course, it's all too late by that stage, isn't it?"
Hawkins took a sip of the drink, looking at Smiley over the rim of the glass. 

Smiley looked back at him, his face giving nothing away.


Gave the Moonwatch a bit of a run. This watch poses a bit of a conundrum for Omega. As the brand continues to move further upmarket by releasing new models with improved and more advanced in-house movements, the Speedmaster Professional must remain unchanged, in order to hold onto its "Flight-qualified for all manned space missions" qualification. NASA still uses this watch in its current form, with a movement and technologies that have remained virtually unchanged since the early 1970s. 
In an era of scratch-resistant sapphire crystals and automatic calibres with silicon hairsprings, this watch is an anachronism. Certainly, it's proven itself over the decades and it has a legion of fans, but I'm sure Omega would love to make changes to this watch in some major ways, in order to bring it in line with the rest of its catalogue. 
However, those collectors who love this watch would like it to stay exactly as it is. 
I'm one of them. 
Despite its old-fashioned tech, it's got a coolness factor that's through the roof. And whereas its competitors from the 1960s were either phased out of production as years went by, or were modified and upgraded to the point where they now no longer resemble the models they were based on, the Speedmaster Professional looks very much today like it did in 1965 when this iteration was released. 
And it still does exactly what it's supposed to do.

I've always loved this photo of author Joan Didion, taken by Julian Wasser in 1970. It's so evocative of the era. Admittedly, I've never read any of her works, but had some idea of her place in literature through Vanity Fair magazine, where her husband John Gregory Dunne and brother-in-law Dominick Dunne featured regularly.

Friday, March 22nd

I've been nipping into some slightly more exotic drinks lately, to add a little variety to the standard gin & tonics that have been fueling me all Summer.
The Negroni is the drink-of-the-moment. I decided to find out what all the fuss was about. Sure, I've had them before and made my fair share of them back in my bar-tending days, but that was a long time ago.

I gathered the ingredients together and then busted out the old bakelite cocktail shaker that my wife got years ago from a thrift store. This was a drink that would require some shaking. And a lot of ice.

While I would love to say that I was working from memory, it's been so long since I mixed drinks that I had to consult my old cocktail recipe books.  

Although, the Negroni is a simple drink to prepare.

Once done, I took a tentative sip and wasn't sure if I liked it or not. Took another sip before taking it outside to sit on a bench in the shade.
It's a tad sweeter than I prefer a drink to be, but it wasn't bad. I could see why it was popular.

I then decided to sift through some of my old recipe books to get a couple of other classics, those drinks that I saw on menus of places where I worked back in the late '80s and early '90s. I didn't tend bar for too long, about a couple of years.
Back then, though, the cocktail was back in vogue, so I spent my time preparing exotic stuff like Fluffy Ducks, Banana Daiquiries, Flaming Lamborghinis (yes, you have to set it alight with a match) and Long Island Iced Teas.
Don't let that last one fool you. Despite its genteel-sounding name, it basically consists of equal measures of four white spirits, Vodka, Tequila, White Rum and Gin, with Triple Sec, lemon juice and, if you can fit it in the ice-filled highball glass with all that stuff, as much Coca-Cola as you can get in there.
I've had one in my lifetime. Back in '86. I can't remember what happened after I threw up later on.

Anyway, I looked through some books and decided to try an Americano, since this drink has some soda water in it.

The Americano cocktail packs less of a punch than a Negroni. This can be a good thing, making for a nice Summer drink. A couple of sips and this became a new favourite. The recipe on the flip-side basically doubles the amounts of the Campari and Vermouth. That recipe was out of The New International Bartender's Guide (Random House, 1984), so it pre-dates the resurgence in cocktail popularity by a few years.

Hell, I'm low on soda water. Better fix that.

Saturday, March 23rd

Finished up at work yesterday afternoon. Happy to report that I tied up as many loose ends as possible. It'll be interesting to see what awaits me upon my return. Although, no point thinking about work for the time being. I got bags to pack.

My wife and I will be jetting out on Tuesday for Ho Chi Minh City for five days of doing as little as possible. Sure, we'll soak up some of the sights, but we really plan on not straying too far from the hotel. It's been a very busy couple of years for us. We took that trip to Europe back in September 2016 and we figured we were due for a short break.

I might try posting some short despatches while I'm away, but I'm not sure. I may be too relaxed or having to much fun to do so.
If I do post, they will be very short, since I'll be using the iPod or iPad for them. Our man in Saigon, as it were. I'll be channeling a mix of 1950s William Holden, jaded ex-pat journalist, and Graham Greene minus the literary talent.

Holy Mackerel, I just did a Google search on 'How to Cross the Road in Ho Chi Minh City'. This is gonna be interesting.
Okay, I just got back from my phone service provider. I wanted to set up international roaming with my mobile phone while I'm away.
Once again, they were no help. I gotta change phone companies. But first, I think I'll have a drink.

Over and out, for now.

Sunday, March 24th
Spent the morning and early afternoon packing my bag for the trip. My wife and I are trying to avoid the usual mistake of packing more than we need. We'll be away for six days, not six months, after all.

I think that, rather than pack more clothing than I might actually use, I may pack a little less and make use of the hotel's laundry service. Might just have a couple of shirts and pants washed and pressed if I need to.
I guess I just haven't traveled enough to be seasoned at it.
I got some Australian Dollars converted over to Vietnamese Dong. Fifty bucks works out to seven hundred thousand Dong.
Mathematics was never my strong point, so my wife and I will work on a self-created exchange rate of one Australian Dollar equals 15,000 Dong.
A quick check of shows this;

As we've always done, we'll underestimate how far our dollar goes. Less of a shock on our return that way.
Okay, it's now 8:30pm Sunday night. That's all for now. I'll wrap this post up tomorrow.

Monday, March 25th

Okay, home stretch. Bags are packed, and everything else is in place. The bank knows that we'll be overseas, we've got various charging cords packed, our contact details are up to date, and our flight and hotel bookings are confirmed.

As far as watches are concerned, I'll be wearing the Oris Diver SixtyFive for the most part, since it's water-resistant and can handle some abuse, and I'll also take along something a little simpler and dressier, for the evenings - the Camy Club-Star on the steel Speidel Twis-O-Flex expanding bracelet.
Both watches feature the date, which is handy. Reason being, on our last trip - the one to Europe - I took photos on certain days and when we got back and began sorting them out, the time difference meant that the pics were out of sync with the days on which they were taken. According to the camera's date settings,  photos taken in Rome on Wednesday the 14th would be dated by the camera as having been  taken on Thursday the 15th because the camera was set to date and time in Melbourne, Australia back when I bought it and input the settings. Since we are ten hours ahead of Europe, this skewed the dates.
So, this time around, the first photo I take on each day of the trip will be of my wristwatch dial, showing the date. Vietnam is only four hours behind Australia, so it won't be a major issue, but I figure I might as well get into the habit.

And there we have it, gang. It's now six-thirty pm in my neck of the woods and dinner is in the oven. Chicken Kiev, in case you're wondering.We're at the tail-end of Summer here in Melbourne and it rained heavily overnight, followed by a sunny day with high winds. It's actually a little nippy outside right now. Good time to get away to somewhere warmer. Extend our Summer a little.

As mentioned, I may post up short posts during the trip. Although, since the aim of this holiday is to do as little as possible, I may not come anywhere near this blog. We'll see.
First of all, I gotta figure out how to get across a road in Ho Chi Minh City.

Thanks for reading, and take care, all!

Saturday 2 March 2019

Sunday, March 3rd, 2019 - Busy Times | The Heat's Still On | Thanks For the Charade, Mr Donen & Recent Wristwatches

I wore the Omega  Seamaster Planet Ocean. It's been some time since I last wore this watch. I may have mentioned this already at some point in recent months, but I'll say it again for the sake of posterity. I've reached a point in my watch collecting life where I have a clearer understanding of the kind of wristwatches that I tend to favour. It would seem that I have a real soft spot for dive watches. 
Strange, considering that I don't dive. It's probably due to seeing my first Bond movie at an impressionable age - I've stated that before - , but I think I've found over the years that a good dive watch tends to be both robust and legible, and also has enough water-resistance for anything from a half-hour at the sink to a day at the beach. 
While most brands began increasing the size of their watches over the last fifteen years or so, I'm glad to see a gradual shift back towards smaller sizes closer to what was produced in days gone by. This opens up the choices for a guy like me, who has a six-point-five inch wrist. 
At any rate, this recent realisation for me will help towards thinning down the collection a little. That's the plan, anyway.

I switched over to the Rolex Submariner 5513 earlier this week, in the last few days of February. This Graham Greene biography arrived in the mail. I've been wanting to read it since the early 1990s. Written by Norman Sherry, the Professor of Literature at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, this is the first volume of a staggering work on the life of Greene.
Sherry met with Greene on numerous occasions and, throughout the writing of these volumes, he followed in Greene's footsteps, traveling to the same places throughout the world that Greene went to, in an effort to better understand the man, and to speak with those who had met him.
This book will take some commitment. Given its length, it only covers the first 35 years of Greene's life.

My views probably began to change in 2016, when we lost Prince, David Bowie, and George Michael all way too soon. As far as I'm concerned, they still had much to give.

So basically, if somebody in the public eye has lived a long and fruitful life and they check out at the age of, say, 85 or 90, I don't tend to mourn them too deeply.
I raise a glass to them, thank them for their efforts, and wish comfort for those they leave behind.

I wanted to reply to comments made about my previous post, but time got away from me. So...

  1. Steve K17 February 2019 at 04:00       Wonder if J.D. was ever a hand model. You upuld have that in common Tee.

                                                     I suppose that's something, yes. 

  2. Joe V17 February 2019 at 06:47    Another great article. I like how you often start out so humble, but before you know it there's some great content to read, along with pictures. Well done, keep at it.

    I wonder if your hot summer in December is a harbinger of our coming summer in the southwest US ? Probably no connection, climate-wise. Last summer we didn't get too many days above 100f here in Albuquerque, but being a mile in elevation it does cool down at nights, making for some nice summer evenings on the patio. Stay well.

                                                     Thanks, JVC. Whenever I begin these posts, I have to wonder if anything of any great import has occurred that week. Of course, I'm no longer posting on a weekly basis, which would mean that there's more to write about, but it seems life is less interesting than it used to be, perhaps? 
    This Summer here in Melbourne seems to have been a late one. We had some scorchers early on, that's for sure, but we've had a consistent run of hot days over the past month or so. Ahh well, it'll be over in about a month or so, so I may ass well enjoy it wherever I can.

  3. Bill M17 February 2019 at 09:00       Dead birds as rewards (I guess). I had a Rottie that used to like to bring me her dead triumphs as a gift or reward.

    If you want some cold. we've been braving -15F and similar for the past week or two. If the pattern from Oz and here reverses for our summer we will be in for some unusually hot weather.

    It's nice you got your glasses exchanged. I had a dreadful pair of multi-focal lenses one time. Most of the time though I do like them more than regular bifocals.

    Hope you have a great week and enjoy driving the newly repaired car.

                                                        Yeah, Bill, I once read that cats bringing in dead animals is their idea of a gift. I also read that it's their way of showing us how to hunt. 'Cos they think we're dummies.

    Not sure I could handle -15F. Lowest it ever gets here in Winter is maybe 2 degrees Celsius, and that's in the early hours of the morning.

    I never got used to the multi-focal lenses. On a small rectangular lens, it felt like there was too much going on, with different focal points. And yes, I'm glad I was able to get them changed over without any fuss. 

    And yep, it was good to get the car back. 

    Thank-you all for your comments!

    I'm still wearing the Omega Planet Ocean. Given the weather we've had, it seemed easier to just leave this watch on, since it can handle perspiration, water, kitchen-sink and gardening duties (not that I've gone anywhere near the garden this weekend).

    Le Carre once stated in an interview that the inner workings of MI5 were very similar to the way in which the hierarchy of a large business corporation operates. The same back-stabbing and skullduggery occurs, as department heads attempt to work their way up in the intelligence organisation, with little regard for colleagues.
    This may be why I found his books a little too heavy-going when I was a teenager reading Fleming's Bond books.

    Anyway, it's now 12:22pm on Sunday afternoon. Time to get a move-on with the rest of the day. My wife and I just need to plow on through the next few weeks and then we'll be off overseas for a week.
    More about that as it draws closer.

    Thanks for reading and have a great week ahead, folks!