Just Nathan

A musical offering, in parts
September 04, 2005
Absolutely Fabien

We spent yesterday evening in the company of Fabien and Baz. A pleasant time with much wine and supper at Kymmoy. At least it took me away from my project write-up.

Alfred has booked tickets for us at the Cirque du Soleil at the Royal Albert Hall in January. We saw a DVD of one of their productions a few evenings ago. Amazingly athletic and accomplished acts that will, I hope, astound us even more in live performance.

Posted by nathan at 07:14 AM | Comments (1)


June 25, 2003
Point Blank

Lovely to see Luke this evening in Edinburgh.

The lovely Luke

I hadn't realised that so much time has passed since we last saw one another. Since his move from Belfast to Edinburgh, time has flown by. We stayed at a sub-Schraeger hotel called "The Point" and ate at a tapas bar near the Castle.

Posted by nathan at 11:31 PM | Comments (0)


June 19, 2003

Haircut. Short. With a little wax as Alfred likes it. but not pinky-minky, as straight Dom used to do it with his razor.

Posted by nathan at 10:45 PM | Comments (0)


May 25, 2003
The clan reunited

I love Bank Holidays.

That feeling of an extra day to enjoy oneself, seeing friends and family.

My parents came to visit, and we chatted merrily and watched Gosford Park on DVD.

Posted by nathan at 11:45 PM | Comments (1)


May 23, 2003
Friday night supper

We hosted a traditional Friday night Jewish supper this evening in Cambridge. I undertook it on the basis that, despite my non-belief, it would be of interest to our friends. We started cooking on Wednesday – the chicken soup in particular took ages to make, starting with a boiling fowl, carrots, turnip, celery and a bouquet garni. At least my kneidlach (little dumplings) were voted “fluffy” not “bullets”.

ready for kiddush

We lit the shabbos candles and made kiddush with Palwin No. 10 wine. Everybody washed their hands and then we had two challahs (bread) to start the meal. Chicken soup with kneidlach was followed by gefillte fish (boiled white fish cakes) and chopped liver (chicken liver with egg and onion). For the main course, we had a huge roasted chicken, with potatoes, parsnips, brussels sprouts and carrots. Finally, dessert was lockshen pudding (noodle pudding). We then sang shabbos songs and had bentsching (grace after meals) in Hebrew.

I think everybody enjoyed themselves – only two of the seven of us are Jewish. For me it was a self-indulgence. It’s such a satisfaction to cook for friends and see them enjoying themselves, groaning with the onslaught of the next course. The Sabbath ritual of candles, wine, bread and bonhomie is the most abiding memory of my sojourn with orthodox Judaism. A past remembered with the yellow hue of a flickering flame. Poppy seeds and crumbs on the table. Napkins discarded on the floor. Sweet wine, a full stomach, warmth around me, a book to read and dream-laden sleep cuddling Alfred.

Posted by nathan at 11:56 PM | Comments (0)


May 17, 2003
Summer is icumen in

Fabien called at about 11:00 to ask us to join him and a friend at Midsummer House. We’d never been there, as it has a strange reputation for excellent food, snobbery and rudeness. Our experience today was only of the good food (albeit at a high price). It was one of those marvellous lunches with nine courses (well, plenty of amuses-gueulles), lasting from half past twelve to nearly four o’clock. The food was imaginative and unusual in its combination of flavours (salmon with a coffee sauce for example).

The atmosphere in such a restaurant can be intimidating. The waiter told me off for ordering a chicken starter and poussin for the main course – although his alternative suggestion of a salad with two delicious pieces of fish was satisfying. The vanilla pannacotta with cinnamon jelly and granny smith sorbet was a delicious dessert, combining sweet milkiness, cinnamon and a sharp apple taste.

Posted by nathan at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)


May 04, 2003
Chargrilled in Chesterton

We took a taxi round to Chesterton this evening for Alistair’s barbecue. His friends are a pleasant crowd and the evening was a welcome break from my spiralling thoughts.

The lighting accelerator for the charcoal briquettes had the appearance of shaving foam, but failed to catch light. This led to a series of ever-more abject attempts to light the fire. Funny, given that the human race mastered this technique several thousand years ago. But they didn't have patios.

When a few sheets of cardboard finally managed the job, the accelerator simply melted into the base of the barbecue before burning spectacularly. It didn’t do any harm to the food, and we were all pleasantly tipsy by the end of the evening.

We played a game called “Cranium” which my team lost, because of my substandard impersonation of Kenneth Williams. Now that should shock you.

Alfred had too much wine and vodka. When he’s drunk, he becomes pleasant, sparkling, chatty and even garrulous. Not like the normal Alfred, reserved, gleaning rather than giving, daydreaming but sharp. He voiced his opinion on a painting, not once, but seven times, to my amusement. He fell asleep as soon as we were home, and muttered in Cantonese all night.

Posted by nathan at 11:14 PM | Comments (0)


April 25, 2003

We arose early and took a yellow cab through the chilly sunrise, across the Williamsburg Bridge and back to JFK airport. The Concorde flight was noisier (as we sat in the rear cabin) and we certainly felt more "processed" as the ameneties in the airport lounge were pretty poor. The flight was speedy and I felt a natural sense of anticlimax.

Mach 2

Is the earth flat?

We arrived in Oakwood in the early evening and spent a couple of hours with Mum and Dad before driving back to Cambridge.

Posted by nathan at 11:56 PM | Comments (0)


April 06, 2003
Pita blogs

My friend Pita has started her own blog. Have a look.

How could I ever justify the killing of one person by another? All of the "pro" arguments seem to be so impersonal, contrasted with the visceral shudder I experience when I hear of another man dead. Be they Iraqi, American, British or Australian, is this the civilised world? A world where the powers that be change the rules of citizenship to suppress dissent amongst their people. A world where men of peace are branded "friends of Saddam"? A civilised world where one unelected leader kicks the shit out of another?

I am disgusted by the sight of Blair and (pah pah pah) Bush deciding how the spoils should be divided whilst the cynical French manipulate the European and UN dimension to their own ends. A war of liberation?

I'm happy to be accused of being "nelly". I "duck the issues" and "leave other people to make the difficult choices". But duck as I may, maybe I'd rather live in a smaller, less power and oil-hungry country, where staying on the sidelines is an acceptable moral compromise.

At least I wouldn't have the blood of Iraqis on my hands.

Because even though I didn't vote for the vicar of St Albion, I pay his henchman's taxes. I don't protest. I listen to those disgusting manufacturers of consent.

Pita writes that she is spending little time watching news of the havoc wrought on our behalf. I'm entranced by it - I spend hours at night reading news, comment, speculation, blogs, references, analysis - all to no avail. I'll have no effect on the outcome. But at least I'll have added another scar on my soul. Another blow to any chance of retaining a rosy view of the world. Dog really does eat dog. We're just the bigger dogs.

"Up on a hillside..."

Posted by nathan at 07:31 AM | Comments (0)


April 04, 2003
Greene King

Another day trying to move forwards. The office move has been tremendously gratifying in some ways but it's been expensive and disruptive to my work. Our web site traffic has quintupled, I've had lots of calls and emails from well-wishers (thanks to my friends and family), job applications and even a couple of leads for new business. But I really love working for my customers, and I'm behind with my work for them - which makes me feel so pressurised, I could burst. I feel as though I'm letting them down.

But grumbling is unattractive, especially if, to the outside world, you're successful.

I spent the evening at the Alexandra pub, tasting a variety of Greene King ales with Alistair and Steve. Now I know why straight guys are fascinated by lesbian sex. It was what I thought - I really didn't need to know the deatil though.

Long after closing time, Alistair and I picked up a stodgegreaseburger from Bosphorus. Ugh. But a fitting respite from the week's travails.

Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


March 30, 2003
Taken for granted

Eric and Man stayed overnight and went for a walk with Alfred around the city centre. Cambridge can be very pretty in the Spring sunshine.

The garden of Clare College

Alfred and I waited around all afternoon for two people from London to arrive. They'd asked if they could call round, and confirmed, but didn't materialise. So long lost friends will stay lost for longer.

Posted by nathan at 09:51 PM | Comments (0)


March 29, 2003
Supper with friends

A very pleasant evening with a number of friends round for supper. I had spent all morning schlepping crates of files from the flat to the new office. I stopped after lunch and did my share of the cooking:

Fresh tomato and basil bread with parsley butter
Grilled vegetable and risoni salad - Gewurztraminer wine
Lamb shanks in a red onion marmalade, duchess potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli and carrots - Californian Cabernet Sauvignon
Chocolate chestnut torte - Austrian Eiswein
Apple and sultana compote with cinnamon ice cream
English cheeses and port

hors d'oeuvres

Not bad eh? A good joint effort (although Alfred did more than his share). Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves and left, groaning.

Posted by nathan at 11:35 PM | Comments (0)


February 17, 2003
Meeting JR

After nineteen years (or thereabouts) I met JR this morning for coffee. Neither of us had changed as much as the other imagined. I enjoyed the meeting so much - my admiration for him has remained undimmed. We spoke of his disillusionment with religious institutions and whether change may be enabled by questioning from within. He remains orthodox in his roots, but questioning and non-conformist. He seems to believe that his mission is to preach a non-fundamentalist, inclusive standpoint. I stand pointedly outside, a non-believer, lost to the cause. I had assumed that the key deciding factor was that of belief - I had thought it to be a binary switch, but he (correctly, I think) sees even the existence of God as more subtly nuanced. I still felt that he was trying to make a 'big tent' out of Judaism - he may be trying too hard to bridge an irreconcilable divide between a dying religion and its moral distillation. Who knows?

This evening, I asked my mother how JR could have remembered me so clearly amongst the thousands of pupils who passed through his care. She burst into laughter and wouldn't explain why.

Posted by nathan at 08:50 PM | Comments (0)


February 16, 2003
Blake's Heaven

I listened to Jane Siberry's album Love is Everything with Alistair yesterday. I'd heard the name, but never the music - very Kate Bush in style. It was autobiographical programme music with an introspective, mystical tone.

The booklet accompanying the CD set puzzled me. Pages of biographical detail and no lyrics (they're on the web site). And, buried in the text, a quote from Blake "Exuberance is Beauty".

William Blake: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-93). Proverbs of Hell

The head Sublime, the heart Pathos, the genitals Beauty
the hands & feet Proportion.
As the air to a bird or the sea to a fish, so is contempt
to the contemptible.
The crow wish'd every thing was black, the owl, that every thing was white.
Exuberance is Beauty.
If the lion was advised by the fox. he would be cunning.
Improvent makes strait roads, but the crooked roads
without Improvement, are roads of Genius.
Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires
Where man is not nature is barren.
Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believ'd
Enough! or Too much

I've never studied Blake, so found this very opaque. Checking on the Internet, I can only find random references by people who have chosen the quote simply because it links the words exuberance and beauty, not to derive benefit from the meaning of Blake's words.

Reading around this, Blake seems to value nature as worthless without humanity. He seems to be firmly on the classical side of the ‘great divide’. He looks for a uniting force between intelligence and art – the impulses within us are holy and good. Man's drive to intelligent expression and love are not the result of the Fall, but of a creative force (a God) acting to make nature purposeful through the intelligence of mankind. Man’s exuberant expression of wonder at the natural world is thus essentially and necessarily beautiful, as it must lead to the fusion of intellect and nature. Art is the gateway to paradise, and creation the divine will to form man within nature.

I think I'd better read some more about Blake. Tough luck, doing Science A-levels.

For an alternative approach to the exegesis of this text, look for these words of wisdom.

Posted by nathan at 04:10 PM | Comments (0)


January 20, 2003
An evening in Oxfordshire

I had supper with Jonathan and Fiona this evening. I enjoy my time with them very much - it's always fun to read stories to Emily who's now four years old and still very shy.

Much as I enjoy the company of my nephews, nieces and the children of my friends, I'm probably better off as an uncle than a father.

Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


January 03, 2003
Don't eat at Chez Gerard

Really snotty service this evening at Chez Gerard opera terrace in Covent Garden. That's the "service" industry in Britain. If Tom and Sam hadn't been with us, I would have asked to see the manager.

Our room at the Sanderson was excellent. A warm and freindly welcome, cool lift (go there) and outrageously expensive cocktails in the Purple Bar.

It was so good to meet up with Tom and Sam. They are great friends and it was a pleasure to spend the evening with them. Dunno about The Vortex at the Donmar Warehouse. Maybe the theme of the play doesn't fit the present era, maybe the casting choices were just too indulgent (well dumb). Still a pleasant evening.

Posted by nathan at 11:05 PM | Comments (0)


November 04, 2002
Oooh! Catty!

Well, some people take umbrage when challenged.

Posted by nathan at 08:27 PM | Comments (0)


November 01, 2002
How one can be so wrong about people?

I was mortified today in conversation with two people I felt I knew well. Their understanding of events and discussions was so different from mine. I won't go into detail (which shows how wary I am of this diary), but I was shocked.

What's worse is, had I been born with the same degree of paranoia as one of the two, I might misinterpret events in the same way.

Very strange and I'm not at all sure what to do next. Has the trust between us been irreparably damaged, or was it just his mood on the day. I'll probably let things settle for a while before making a decision.

Posted by nathan at 06:23 PM | Comments (0)


October 13, 2002

A varied day after far too early a start.

We went down to London in the rain, which topped up my reservoir of bile. I managed to sleep a bit on the train, so felt in better humour by the time we arrived. Coffee with Paul, who is off on a fantasy singing holiday next week.

I then spent over four hours with a group of people who are looking to set up a new business. Lots of discussion about the potential for their business, and it sounds really interesting - it's a pity that I don't know the market well enough to be really helpful, but I hope they manage to find the right people to complete their team.

I then trapesed over to Covent Garden and met up with Alfred and Erik (who I hadn't met before). We had supper at Guili Gulu, but I wasn't that hungry (I've not had much of an appetite for the last couple of days). Over to Sloane Square to see A Number by Caryl Churchill at the Royal Court Theatre. A short, dense play with Daniel Craig and Michael Gambon, who I last saw in Pinter's The Caretaker a year or so ago.

It took us hours to return to Cambridge, as the bastards had decided to replace the train with a bus service for a night-time tour of rural Hertfordshire. I wish I was living in London. I hate the railways with a passion - but doesn't everybody in this miserable country?

Alfred keeps reading my blog. I guess that's to be expected, but it's very unnerving. I'll just have to be more revealing in future.

Posted by nathan at 07:27 AM | Comments (0)


September 29, 2002
Tapas and friends

Several friends came round yesterday evening. Jonathan made some marvellous Carol Channings. I can't remember the proportions, but there was a magnum of Veuve Cliquot, raspberry Eau de Vie, Crème a la Fraise des Bois and gomme syrup in there.


Raspberries, darling!

Jonathan is such a super friend, not just for his habit of breezing in with a magnum of champagne, but for his ability to make me laugh - scratch beneath the surface and there's an intelligent, thinking person too.



The evening as a whole was pleasant - I felt lucky to have such good friends. Xavier gave me the new Woody Allen 'Complete Prose', which I'll look forward to reading when I've finished the current pile of books.

A good meal at the Bun Shop was rather soured by (a) their refusal to serve us more tapas after 22:00 and (b) after we gave them a very generous tip, they immediately chucked us out, saying they wanted to close. I called the manageress this morning and asked her to investigate.

At the other end of the scale were the two new friends ('T&C') who failed to turn up. I met them a few weeks ago - they seemed very pleasant and interesting, we've been to the cinema and had dinner with 'T' since, and I was looking forward to seeing them last evening. Of course Alfred and Jonathan can't believe how thin-skinned I am. It's been my aim to meet new people in Cambridge and London this year. I feel the rebuff more keenly when people decide that they have no interest in returning the friendship.

Anyway, all in all, a pleasant antidote to the sting of my impending birthday.

I see that John Major may find himself in court over the Scallywag affair.

Posted by nathan at 11:30 AM | Comments (0)