Dynargh dhe'n Blogofrob

Monday 21st July 2003

"You have arrived at a propitious moment, coincident with your country's one indisputable contribution to Western civilisation - afternoon tea. May I press you to a cucumber sandwich?"

Thus speaks Hugo Drax to James Bond. And despite Goscinny and Uderzo's claims to the contary (which state the convention was introduced by an indomitable Gaul) this most eloquent of Bond villains has a point. Coffee is an indispensible beverage, but, to further strengthen the sterotype, I will always be in the mood for a cup of tea - not solely in the afternoon. A mug acted as a handy replacement for a cigarette when I first gave up a couple of years ago, and still functions to fill that void, that slightly disconcerting feeling which is often difficult to pin down - I'm on the sofa, in front of the telly, comfortable, the remote control nearby, tranquility almost graspable...but something is missing, something is barring the way to utter contentment - tea completes the picture and settles the mind.

I've often endured ridicule for my choice of tea - I like the smokiness of Lapsang Souchong or the strong distinctive flavour of Assam (made from leaves carefully selected "from the best tea estates situated around the humid banks of the Brahmaputra River in Assam, north east India" according to the box of tea bags sitting on my desk) both which appeared to offend the more delicate tea sensibilities of Earl Grey drinking ex-housemates. But I'm equally happy when the local Chinese tosses a couple of complimentary Green tea bags into the delivery. Which brings me to the point of these tedious ramblings - to pass on the story of a recent criminal trial in the States, which suggests that not only does tea have, even when undoctored, stronger effects than Drax's slightly patronising aside assumes, but also provides a watertight legal defence to certain illicit activites.

Various newspapers have reported the story of a Florida man who landed up in court after chasing his neighbour with a dagger. And quite right too. However, he escaped prosecution on the grounds that the "chasing with a dagger" activities (I'm not sure of the legal term for this act) and other instances of criminal behaviour were caused by the halucinogenic properties of Jasmine tea. Gilbert Walker was on ten cups of the stuff per day, and as a result had been having apocalyptic nightmares based on the Biblical struggles between good and evil.

Other, less theological, delusions included ceramic dogs shouting at him (although I think this might happen somewhere in Ezekiel) and the compulsion to throw a brass duck through his neighbour's window - which he did. If it wasn't enough for his neighbour to have metal water fowl interrupting her daily fix of Jenny Jones, she then had to endure the terror of Mr Walker bursting into her house, doped up to the eye balls on jasmine. He subsequently chased her into the street at knifepoint. The Roll on Friday website reports that "the police arrived to find him bug-eyed and shouting 'I'm crazy' - an accurate, if unneccessary, summary of the situation".

This story made me worry a bit - I'm sure my mum drinks more than 10 cups of tea a day - in fact, despite some strong competition over the years, I have still yet to meet anyone who drinks as much tea as she does. Her tea of choice is regular Yorkshire Tea, which is, I hope, only a Class B or C tea, unlike the positively skaggy Jasmine. But there is hope if I catch my mother busy on a crime spree suggested to her in a conversation with a particularly chatty ornament. I can rely on the precedent set in the Walker case, which could be pursuasive in an English court. A band of psychologists and forensic toxicologists assembled by the defence attorney helped the judge to come to the conclusion that Walker "had been suffering from a psychotic episode induced by drinking the ostensibly innocuous beverage". The charge was dropped and Walker is free to put the kettle on another day.

Would be misfits might like to note that this defence has variants, as mentioned by The Houston Chronicle when reporting this story:


"Prosecutors likened the tea theory to the "twinkie defense" used by former San Francisco Supervisor Dan White, who was charged with killing the city's mayor and another supervisor in 1978. He avoided a first-degree murder charge and was convicted of involuntary manslaughter after his lawyers convinced jurors that eating junk food had diminished White's mental capacity."

29 - posted at 06:24:28
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Wednesday 2nd July 2003

I don't know if my screaming sore throat and my freely running nose have anything to do with spending three days on a hillside in Somerset, but if so I welcome these symptoms as a cheap price to pay for a blinding festival. Glastonbury this year was the most laid back, easy and friendly festival I have been to yet. Glastonbury has always had the edge over the Reading festival (my other festival experience) for many reasons: Generally the atmosphere is different, indefinably special, the music is more varied and it's not full of gobby 14 year olds in long sleeve black t-shirts. But at Glastonbury in the past there was always a moment or two of mental discomfort, a slight threat, a whiff of the chemical loos. But for some reason this year that was absent. A lot of it may have been to do with our excellent pitch - on the hill above the Pyramid Stage, easy to access, spacious and close to the most desirable sanitary facilities in the festival - the flushing toilets (but not so close that you could tell when they had stopped working). Some of the papers have made a lot of the fact that tighter security, better organisation and the 'superfence' contributed to the safe and happy feeling this year - and this is undoubtedly true: the year that seemed the dodgiest to me was 2000, the year of the gatecrashers, when (some statistics claim) the population of the festival was almost doubled by free loaders. What is encouraging about the reports coming out of Glastonbury this year (as opposed to last) is that people have stopped going on about the erosion of the Glastonbury spirit and accepted that these things have to evolve, that ultimately feeling safe and being able to relax and have fun is at the heart of the whole experience.

The music was excellent - a comfortable front(ish) row spot during Lamb amongst a happy and fun crowd helped make for a stunning gig, and a similar position for the Manics did the same. The Manics played a short set with noticeable gaps for a fan, but it was still fantastic: the rain was falling at this point but it didn't matter, epecially since we were sopping wet with the water generously thrown over the crowd (I still hope to be forgiven for pouring water over Claire's head during La Tristesse Durera).

I could go on and on - I think between the seven of us we perhaps ate most of the different food on offer, saw scores of bands and reached more than a few varied states of mental inebriation. The person found passed out with sick all over his face mid-afternoon shall, at this point, remain nameless.

And now, back at work, dull dull dull, trying to convince people that this is a tan, not dirt semi-permanently ingrained into my face.

28 - posted at 05:10:10
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