Girls, travel, rockets, transport, hotels, films, Martinis, wine, music, food and ranting!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Miss August: Aline Nakashima


Twenty-five year old Aline Naksahima is a Brazilian model who is half Japanese.

A top fashion model as well as a swimsuit model she has the interesting ability to look oriental is some shots and Brazilian in others.


Agent Triple P has never interacted with a Japanese girl, although at 5'9" tall she is hardly prototypical.

We did, however, have a very enjoyable interaction with a Brazilian model we met at Milan Fashion Week in the late eighties.


Our aristocratic Italian friend M had invited us to his brother's birthday party and it seemed to consist almost entirely of Italian and Brazilian models eating green salad and drinking huge amounts of champagne.


Given that most of these women weighed about seven and a half stone it wasn't long before they had completely lost all their inhibitions (there was a lot of dancing on tables we remember).



The Brazilian model I sat next to at the preliminary dinner was very slim and tall with very long black hair and ridiculously long legs.


Despite her not speaking English and Agent Triple P not speaking Portuguese we got on like a house on fire using a horrible mixture of mangled French and Italian.


Very Famous Franco-Italian Model in her most famous photograph


This was all much to M's annoyance, who was trying and failing to pick up a Very Famous Franco-Italian Model (she later would go out with a Very Famous Rock Star, 23 years her senior; A Very Famous Actor, 13 years her senior and a Very Famous Property Developer, 22 years her senior). Interestingly when we feature a model in these pages we try to find one or two pictures of her without her clothes. For American models this is nearly impossible, for most you can find one or two (like the one of Aline below) but when I searched TVMFIT she seemed to be naked in nearly all of her pictures


I think M was too young and not nearly famous enough! It's all about being realistic about one's targets, as we told him severeal days later in the Bar Campari in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (Leadenhall Market' s big brother).


Her name, sad to say, completely escapes me, but she was about 19 years old (ie about ten years younger than me at the time).




I do remember that I had a large suite at the Hotel Palace and she spent two days padding about it eating figs and drinking even more Champagne dressed, largely, in one of my New & Lingwood striped shirts and a gold ankle chain.


So we like Aline, she is a nicely exotic mixture with an unusual look.

Alessandro Striggio: Ecce beatam lucem

We are greatly enjoying Stiggio’s 40 part motet Ecce beatam lucem at present,even though this is not our usual taste in music.

Alessandro Striggio was born in Mantua but we first hear of him in Florence in the late 1550s and early 1560s. Although he wrote instrumental music all of his surviving music is choral. He acted as a diplomat for the Medici and in this capacity visited London in 1567. It seems likely that Ecce beatam lucem was performed during this visit and Thomas Tallis was later challenged to write something as good by the Duke of Norfolk, in response to the popularity of Striggio’s work. There is an argument that Tallis wrote his piece for one of the Octagonal halls in Nonsuch Palace, Henry FitzAlan’s country house (which he bought from Queen Mary). The hall had four first floor balconies so that Tallis may have divided his eight five-part choirs (Stiggio's work is for ten four-part choirs) so some were on the first floor and some on the ground with a choir on each side-the original surround sound.

The fact that Tallis met the Duke’s challenge is incontrovertible and nowadays the Striggio piece is little heard (except, coincidentally, in the Proms the other week). One of the rare cases where the cash-in work is superior to the original; it would have been a bit like The Monkees turning out to be a better pop group than The Beatles.
The site of Nonsuch Palace is only ten miles away and we remember having a walk in the grounds once. Strange to think that the first performance of one of our favourite works probably took place so close by..

Gavi, where is it?


Agent Triple P has been sent an admonitary e-mail by HMS as regards the location of Gavi. He rightly points out that it is in Piedmont not Liguria. We had always known that Gavi was grown on the slopes of the Appennino Ligure (without being any more geographically precise than that!). Gavi, however is just over the border from Liguria. We'll have to get HMS a bottle for his cellar for spotting the mistake! However he loses points for having said that Liguria is a long way from Piedmont. It isn't!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Gavi di Gavi La Scolca


We had lunch at the Italian restaurant in Leadenhall Market yesterday which is named, with great originality, Leadenhall Ristorante Italiano. It has gone through a number of incarnations since the days it was a gents toilet and is rather like eating in the City used to be in the 1980s.

We had Spaghetti Con Aragosta which consisted of half a fresh chopped lobster in a tomato and lobster sauce followed by chicken supreme filled with spinach and Mozzarella cheese, wrapped in Parma Ham roasted and served on a cream and white wine sauce with mixed mushrooms.

Service was very good and only slightly over enthusiastic as Italians can be. Our waitress was Polish, inevitably, with a rather inticing miniskirt which then had a slit up it as well for good measure which displayed a very toned thigh.
We ordered the Gavi di Gavi, La Scolca, which Barone A always insited on when we ate out in Rome. It was also a great favourite of Principessa M and Principessa I. The wine, in many ways, is Italy's Cloudy Bay. Grown by the Soldati family, the Cortese grapes used come from a small 62 acre site in Liguria. First appearing in 1966 La Scolca pioneered modern, what would now be called New World, techniques delivering a full bodied wine in an area more well known for pale straw coloured light wines. La Scolca keeps well for 10 years making it very unusual for an Italian white. The one we had was the 2004 black label. The real success of La Scolca has been clever marketing which sees it as one of only 2 out of 200 wines served on the Venice Simplon Orient Express and as the first wine at dinners given for opening nights at La Scala as well as a host of Italian State banquets. This goes some way to explain the £42 price tag!

Never mind, the first taste (I haven't had La Scolca since 1991!) brough back a lot of memories. "It tastes like Princess I" I observed to my dining companion. Not entirely true, as she tasted more like oysters..

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tour de France: 2


Not quite sure why Contador left it so late to attack Rasmussen today but maybe now that they have dropped Evans he will have another go after the rest day.


The podium girls have been rather disappointing lately and very much the best is the right hand one here of the Yellow Jersey girls.


Podium girls. of course, aren't even allowed to speak to the riders and they have been known to be summarily dismissed if caught doing so. So how come Geoge Hincapie ended up married to one? They must have been really discreet!

Bath Time

Rather belatedly we have had some time to reflect on our recent long weekend down with HMS and J in Aquae Sulis.

We were rather debilitated by our early morning escapades with B and consequently fell asleep for much of the ride down on the Thursday evening in L's turbo Volkswagen. Actually, the thing has a turbocharger and a supercharger which seems like overdoing it.

When we woke up we looked at the road atlas to see if we could see where we were and spotted a village on the map called Tiddleywink. Now this was unbelievable. Nowhere is called Tiddleywink and we decided it must be one of those ridiculous names mapmakers insert to prevent piracy. Unfortunately, we were wrong and the place really does exist!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/britain/article/0,2763,898505,00.html

Despite heavy traffic to begin with we would have made very good time if we hadn't sent L down the wrong road and ended up in Dyrham. The map showed the site of a battle in 577AD. We knew about Landsdown in 1643 but didn't know about anything else in the area. It turns out the battle is known as Deorham and was a defeat for the British by the Saxons. There are several interpretations of the site but the most convincing is by Burne who puts the battle right on the hill where you join the A46 from the M4. Bizarrely, the British Druids network had a peace ceremony there earlier in the month to heal the rift between the Celts and the Saxons. A little late, perhaps.

After a short (well 6 or 7 mile) unplanned side trip through dinky villages we regained the A46 and eventually found the right turn off. It was all most diverting.

Arriving in Bath we were treated to restorative Champagne and an excellent meal of corned beef hash as only chez HMS and J can do it. There was steady supply of interesting wine from the HMS cellars for our entire stay. In fact we are now hard put to decide which we covet the most; the location of his house in Bath, his Roman bowl, his wife or his splendid new cellar!

We went shopping with L but were rather restrained (probably as a result of having bought a new Sony high definition TV, a set of speakers and an expensive set of lingerie for B within about seven days). We only ended up with a book on Cannae, from a rather cute new bookshop, and something to hold tea leaves so we don't have to have tea bags any longer at work.


That evening after a delicious lunch J was allowed the evening off and HMS took us to The Olive Tree at the Queensbury Hotel. This was a quite splendid restaurant and we had the table this rather fetching blonde is attending to in the picture above. We think we shocked everyone by ordering tuna (or as the Americans insist on calling it tuna fish).

The evening was rounded off by a particularly stunning Calvodos in HMS' drawing room.

Next morning I acompanied J and L to the farmers market and we returned for a splendid lunch of charcuterie (or whatever the Spanish equivalent is).

That afternoon we were presented with the rare sight of HMS indulging in a walk. This is about as rare as seeing an operational Tiger tank. You know there is one in the world but you also know that every time they run it it takes them two years to repair it afterwards.


Technically it was really a photo safari by the canal, an area of Bath we were not familiar with, rather than a walk. L stated that it was quite the slowest walk she had ever been on (however it must be borne in mind that her normal walking companions typically come from the Parachute Regiment). HMS and J took numerous (for them) pictures no doubt hoping to add to the superb ones they showed us over the weekend. Sadly, the light was rather flat so we suspect not much worthwile resulted. It was possibly the positively paparazzi-like shutter storm unleashed by HMS that required him to retreat to a tea room and partake of some restorative lemon cake served by a rather splendid brunette with very toned arms. Heavy work, cake lifting.

Saturday's dinner was particularly fine, consisting of potted shrimps and fillet with foie gras. L was particularly taken by the latter. The girls retired early so we assisted HMS in trying to dent his cellar's stock as much as possible that night. Next day we needed an early start so did not get the opportunity for a proper thank you.

All in all, as ever, a trip to Aquae Sulis has restored us mightily and we are indeed most grateful to HMS and the lovely J for such a splendid few days.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A diverted lunch

Had a booking at The Ballroom in the City today. When we got there the place was closed and there was a legal notice on the door saying that they owed £48,000.

Given that it was one o'clock we were rather concerned about finding an alternative but we whizzed across to the Tapas Bar and the gorgeous manageress (looking very fine today in tight white trousers and very low cut top) managed to get us a table by the window, having turned away the two groups in front of us. All that patronage pays off at a crucial point. Had some very nice Galician white, Albarino, which has put us in a suitably relaxed mood for dinner with Agent DVD ce soir.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Stockings on the brink of extinction?



A rather depressing article, in that august journal London Lite, today says that sales of stockings have halved since 2003 and are now being outsold by tights at a ratio of forty to one.

"Experts" say that the fashion for footless tights is putting paid to them. Well, Agent Triple P has never heard such nonsense. Footless tights have been fashionable for approximately three months; since women with average legs realised that miniskirts were making a comeback (a comeback largely shattered by the dismal weather, sad to say) and opaque tights hid a multitude of indifferent legs. No, the decline is more likely to be down to the increased wearing of trousers. It's only this year that dresses and skirts have made a comeback following three or four years of hipster trousers.





Shorter skirts are obviously going to preclude stockings unless you are one of the more obvious ladies of the night or an American girl singer (or are a German supermodel posing for Helmut Newton, as above).






The whole point about stockings is that they haven't been everyday wear for women in Britain for years anyway; they are occasion wear for the evening or recreational purposes. The same cannot be said in Europe and in my limited experience of French Women (and my far greater experience of Italian women) I would say that they will be fighting a strong rearguard action in Europe for many years (unlike the French and Italian armies).



Agent Triple P remembers a discussion with JE from my previous employer's Paris office where she scandalised some of the more traditional women in the department by saying that she couldn't wear tights because her husband would not put up with it. Quite right. Stockings only girls are rarer in Britain, although HMS's librarian was one such.





Partly, this is a fashion cycle thing as in the late eighties stockings made a welcome return after decades in the wilderness.


There are all sorts of theories as to why men prefer women in stockings rather than tights (or indeed with bare legs); one peculiar article we read suggested that it was because it reminded men of their mothers (!). A rather odd assertion that depended entirely on the man being of such an age that all women of his mother's age, when he was younger, would have worn stockings because there was no alternative (tights were introduced in the sixties).
Agent Triple P's theories are rather less Freudian, however:

Firstly, stockings work like a frame which concentrates attention on both the legs and the female nether regions; i.e. both primary and secondary erogenous zones.. Tights, by contrast conceal and dilute the visual effect.


Part of the appeal is also that of contrast, both visual (which is why photographers like black stockings) and tactile. Slipping one's hand up a girl's leg and finding warm bare flesh after a length of silky nylon is much nicer than nylon all the way.

There is also the delicate question of access. If one is in a situation where one's hand has crept up a girl's skirts then exploring what is there is much easier if she is wearing stockings as tights act like an impenatrable barrier.

From a woman's point of view here is little point in wearing expensive, attractive knickers if you are going to put tights over them. There is always the vexed question, too, of what do you put on first, tights or knickers ? If your tights are too small or fall down some girls use their knickers to hold them up wheras the usual way is to put knickers on first (which helps avoid the dreaded VPL - visible panty line !).


Partial nudity is always more exciting than total nudity and if the only garments being worn are stockings then nothing is really being concealed anyway; i.e. you get the best of both worlds. This dressed/undressed theory may also explain why so few of the girls in magazines are ever depicted completely nude and why photgraphers often set off stockings with other accessories such as lace gloves (and, indeed, why lingerie manufacturers make lace gloves to match their stockings).




Stockings come in different grades of fineness measured in denier. (From denarius, the Roman coin, which was originally a unit of weight for a set length of silk). Normal tights or stockings are 20-30 denier (i.e. the length of silk would weigh the same as 20 denarii coins, for example). Fine ones are 10 and the very finest are 5. 5 denier stockings are for special occasions only and are so sheer that, ideally, they should be put on using gloves because rough skin or a finger nail can ladder them; they look sensational, however. Nowadays the use of lycra means that stockings can be described as ten denier appearance (i.e. they look very sheer) but are actually more robust. Another triumph of technology.

Silk stockings look and feel fabulous but as silk is not as elastic as nylon or lycra they tend to give characteristic wrinkles around the ankles. They are also very fragile and have to be hand washed but many girls love wearing them occasionally. They also make good presents; better than lingerie where you have to worry about sizes and styles. Other than by feel you can tell them because the toes are stitched in a particular way, unlike synthetics, and the reinforced tops have one band of quite thick material, rather than the more normal two bands. In the past Agent Triple P's friend KRA had a fine collection of these.

So, Agent Triple P is not worried by this doomsaying. The right sort of girl will continue to wear stockings for the right sort of occasion.




Oh and our favourites, for young ladies, are black hold-ups, particularly the lace-top ones as worn by S-A of cherished memory!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

A very long evening on the South Bank

Last week we attended the Anthony Gormley exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. Now modern art is usually not to Agent Triple P's taste; he prefers nineteenth century Baltic landscape and neo-classical salon painters. Nevertheless, the prospect of an evening with B from Frankfurt enticed him along and so did the opportunity to visit the Skylon restaurant.

The most famous exhibit was Blind Light a large fluorescent room full of mist which means that when you go inside you cannot see more than about 18 inches. Most disconcerting! Agent Triple P, as first one in during our special showing, thought it an ideal opportunity to molest B and check out the texture of her new dress. Unfortunately, B was not convinced by the installation's opacity and soon scooted off into the murk. The whole experience was rather like an afternoon in Vancouver in November.

The most effective exhibit was Event Horizon a series of body casts of the artist placed largely on rooftops around the South Bank and, indeed on the other side of the river. Agent Triple P would have found a more interesting body to cast he thinks; someone like Scarlet Johansson perhaps..

Most of the art was, as to be expected, rather pretentious but we liked the blocky people of Allotment II which were a series of concrete blocks modelled on the actual dimensions of 300 Swedish people from Malmo (I wonder if Swedish A from the Marriot hotel was one of them?). Great confusion was caused by our guide who referred constantly to Malmo being in Switzerland. All was explained when we disovered he was a Canadian.
Most of the time we were trying to get used to B's rather severe haircut. We preferred her longer hair but this one does give much better access to her neck.


Following the exhibition, we walked past the old Shell building, where a sinister Gormley lurked on the roof, to the newly renovated Festival Hall where we were, yet again, impressed by the subtle to the point of invisible re-modelling.

Our dinner destination was the new Skylon Restaurant a cavernous expanse that runs almost the full width of the Hall and has a fabulous view of the river when the blinds aren't down. We had a rare sunny evening and the heat generated from the late evening sun was enormous until they lowered electronically controlled blinds (which of course meant there was no view of the river anymore). Never mind, it meant that B removed her jacket although given the garish nature of her frock perhaps it would have been better if she had not. To be fair this rather wide-angled picture was taken with my phone's camera and rather foreshortens the poor girl.


The decor was dterminedly fifties and the restaurant was packed. Even though a large proportion had been taken by my hosts there was still huge dining area.

We had Cornish white crab meat, baby tomato and coriander salad and avocado mousse followed by tournedos (over-done as usual) with spinach Lyonnaise, baby carrots and Madeira sauce. Accompanying this we had, we have to say, the best Muscadet we have ever experienced. Now perhaps that is not saying much but it was a particularly good example and improved our mood somewhat given that B was being so resolutely undemonstrative. Fortunately, the service was terrible with not nearly enough staff to cover the tables and it got so late that B and Agent Triple P made their excuses and left at about 10.00 pm. We scooted along to the Marriot, where B was conveniently staying, and disappered up to her rather floral room overlooking the Houses of Parliament for a bottle of Pol Roger (which B had conveniently had put on ice earlier in the evening). Out of sight of her clients B relaxed considerably and we managed to dispose of the ghastly frock (and, indeed everything else).


Agent DVD is always after photographs, not realising that most women would rather put a bucket over their head than be photographed. We did, however manage to snatch (!) the following of B's best feature. Unfortunately my phone does not have a flash (hence the rather strange cast) but that is an advantage for covert shots like this!

Agent Triple P very quickly realised he was going to miss his last train and although it was very tempting to stay overnight (significant inducements were offered) he had to get back to pack for his visit to Bath the following day and had to take a rather expensive early morning taxi home. If we had planned better we would have just packed for an extra night but that would have been rather presumptuous.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Closely Observed Trains: O Winston Link

On the way home yesterday Agent Triple P standing at the station, the sky was dark and a train went past just as a flash of lightning illuminated it. We thought, "what an O Winston Link moment!"

Agent Triple P has no interest in trains (other than the fact that GNER does a very good breakfast on the way to Edinburgh) and, of course, railway buffs would talk about locomotives and rolling stock. That said, we spent a surprisingly enjoyable afternoon wandering around the California State Railroad Museum http://www.csrmf.org/ in Sacramento last year but that could be because we had just had a very good lunch with M having had a meeting with the Governor in the morning.


I suspect it is because American locomotives are much more visual than British ones in the same way that American cars were. So we have always enjoyed the work of O Winston Link since we saw an exhibition of his work at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol in the eighties.

In the fifties, having been a reasonably successful commercial photographer, he took it upon himself, at his own expense, to record the last steam engines running in America on the Norfolk and Western Railroad. These produced his many classic images, particularly those of engines at night illuminated with massive banks of flashguns.

This one, Hotshot Eastbound, taken in 1956 and probably his most famous image, needed 43 flashguns.

Sadly, later in his life, he married a much younger woman named Conchita Mendoza (warning bells there, surely?) who allegedly kept him virtually chained up in his basement producing prints of his now fashionable pictures so that she could sell them and pocket the money. Mendoza was imprisoned for six years and Link died in 2001 whilst working on plans for the O Winston Link Museum http://www.linkmuseum.org/

Eskimo Girl

Eskimo Girl was on the train again today. She is always asleep and always wearing her parka with the hood up. However, she always wears the most abbreviated tops under the parka so as to display her Agent DVD-worthy bust. There is something about the contrast between the winter top clothes and the lacy summer underthings which works in so many ways; although it's more a reflection of the sort of weather we are having, in reality. She is also very attractive in the sort of grumpy way I like. She gets off at Wimbledon and always wakes up just as the train is pulling in to the platform. Clever.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Tour de France

Agent Triple P is looking forward to following the Tour de France this year and not just because it started in London. He has been watching it for at least twenty years although last year's drug scandal nearly put him off for ever. This time they claim it's the cleanest for years (as I am sure is the countryside surrounding Chernobyl) but we will see. Sadly, it looks like Kazakh rider Alexander Vinokourov of Team Borat (sorry, Team Astana) is the favourite. What is it about a Russian (OK, Kazakh, same difference) possible winner that fills us full of indifference in a way that a French (some chance) or Spanish (not with the tighter drugs regime) doesn't. Is it that there is still a hint of the old Soviet automaton about them? Not real people, just machines? Two good Americans in the race, although if they do well the French press will crucify them, no doubt.

Talking of which the garlic-crunching press thought that Britain would be unable to run the initial stages and that no-one would turn out to watch. Au contraire, my little Froggy chums. Having watched the TdF in France we were amazed at the chaotic nature of the organisation (riders riding the wrong way down the last kiliometer to get back to their hotels into the path of oncoming riders who had still to finish) and the lack of souvenirs or things to do in the start/finish towns. It is amazing (or perhaps not) that only London has set up a "People's Village" (thanks Ken) so that visitors could visit stalls, exhibitions and stands. Not so in France. There they only have a VIP village which most people are excluded from. Vive la revolution (except in France, obviously)!


We were very impressed by the French TV company's aerial views of Kent during stage 1 yesterday. I am sure they were digitally enhancing the countryside. No doubt this will result in thousands of Froggies thinking that the Medway Towns would be an ideal holiday destination. Ho Ho!


Oh, and on the important question of the best looking podium girls, this goes to the most aggressive rider award girls.

With the best young rider girls coming a close second. They do change over the course of the Tour so we will have to monitor them closely.