Saturday, June 10, 2006

The World Cup

For many, the World Cup is a travesty: a celebration of the vulgar and the violent by an unthinking mob. Football hooligans, wearing their English team tops, smash city centres and intimidate foreign citizens. People ridicule and demean their nation by attaching English flags to their cars and singing the National Anthem while drunk. Pubs are taken over by shouting louts drinking Fosters. Avoid the excesses of football, declare your independence from barbarity, and follow cricket.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Gentleman’s Relish

Eating a Mars bar in the street is something one should avoid. On-the-move eating is hardly good for the digestion and there is always the worry that the gutter press will take photographs. Moreover, Mars bars are a culinary disaster and contribute to obesity. If one is going to be fat, it should be thanks to eating the best things in life.

Instead of snacking on junk food, a gentleman looks to higher things. An important larder item thus is gentleman’s relish. This relish is made from spiced anchovies and was first produced in 1928, invented by John Osborn. It works best when spread very thinly on toast. It is available in supermarkets.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Listening to radio broadcasts of classical music

Appreciating classical music is helped hugely by using good equipment. Hi-fi separates do cost more than midi systems but produce much better sound. A pair of good quality bookshelf or floorstanding speakers will last a lifetime and is an excellent investment if you want good sound. It is worth bearing in mind that the bookshelf speakers are not, despite their name, ideally placed on bookshelves, though, as they ought to be a little away from the wall. Consider speakers from Bowers & Wilkins, Mission, and Mordaunt Short, but before you buy it worth looking up some reviews in hi-fi magazines. Buying good quality speaker cable and interconnects (the cables connecting separates to the amplifier) are essential. Again, hi-fi magazines will give you a good idea about what to choose.

Any hi-fi describing itself as a “lifestyle” product (a euphemism for plastic) should be avoided like the plague as the sound quality is likely to be low. Even the expensive “lifestyle” products from Bose are widely detested by audiophiles who object to the mediocre, inaccurate sound. You will not find any worthwhile equipment in Curry's. Instead, seek out a specialist hi-fi retailer like Sevenoaks Sound and Vision, Richer Sounds, or a Sony Centre.

If, however, you are after a portable radio, then you just cannot beat a Roberts Radio which are widely available on the high street and through Roberts has no fewer than three royal warrants and has been in business since 1932. Moreover, the quality of their products is excellent. I have been using one of their DAB digital radios and its sound is as superb for a portable radio.

The Collins English Dictionary

The importance of having a dictionary to hand cannot be underestimated. It is true that those who sit at home eating TV dinners and watching Big Brother may have little use for one, and when they do read, they merely pass over the words they do not understand, leaving their vocabulary stagnant.

The more discerning individual, if not out at dinner or a function, will be more likely listening to Radio 3 and reading a book than watching television. While using a web-based dictionary is fine when sitting in front of a computer at work, a printed dictionary is more convenient when sitting in an armchair or tucked into one’s bed.

There is little point in getting a very abridged, small dictionary because you will already know all the words it contains. Yet something with more than one or two volumes can be too cumbersome. I recommended the Collins English Dictionary. The eighth edition was published this year and is a single-volume hardback. For the first time contains colour inside (blue for the words being defined, black for the definitions). The typefaces used (Collins Fedra Sans and Fedra Serif) are the most attractive of any dictionary.

In terms of the substance, there is little difference between the Collins and The Oxford Dictionary of English, but the Collins dictionary is more aesthetically pleasing. Both The Penguin English Dictionary and The Chambers Dictionary are good dictionaries, but it is worth bearing in mind that the Penguin contains fewer words than the others mentioned here (though it is less expensive) and the definitions of the Chambers Dictionary are less clearly laid out than in the other dictionaries.

For dictionary reviews, visit Word Wide Words.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Shaving the proper way

What makes certain people go around as unshaven wrecks, only shaving every few days? Could it be that they have such diabolical shaving facilities at home that shaving is just a chore? The trend of using some artificial gooey mess from a spray can (which purports to be shaving “gel” or “foam”) perhaps sheds some light on the problem. Shaving with goo is a truly horrible experience. No wonder junior staff and teenagers will try and escape shaving if they at all can.

Instead, use a more natural shaving soap from a wooden shaving bowl. Not only will you save money over the long run (because a block of shaving soap seems to last for an eternity), but also the soap is better for your skin. Use a badger-hair shaving brush with water to lather the soap and then apply to the face. When finished, run the brush’s bristles under some water to get expunge the remaining soap, and then with the bristles facing downwards, shake out the water. This ensures the brush stays in good form.

Good suppliers for gentleman’s shaving products include Geo F. Trumpter, Taylors of Old Bond Street (which is actually on Jermyn Street these days), D R Harris & Co and Crabtree & Evelyn. What better present can there be for a seventeen year-old nephew than good shaving products?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Sending personal correspondence

Mail-merged letter and bulk e-mails can be overwhelming and make people less likely to reply to messages they receive. The handwritten letter is an excellent way to improve the chances that your correspondence will be considered thoughtfully. When people look at a pile of mail, it is the handwritten envelopes that are opened first (though bear in mind there is a difference between fountain pen on quality envelope and biro on a brown envelope).

People take note of handwritten letters: they feel more of an obligation to reply. A4 is not ideal for handwritten correspondence, though it is okay to handwrite business letters on A4 letterhead. For personal correspondence, use smaller paper (often sold in small pads). Basildon Bond is a good everyday choice, or if you want to go upmarket you could use paper from Smythson of Bond Street.