Monday, 16 July 2012

In the Night Garden

Those of you who haven't had the pleasure of dealing with young children in recent years, might not know know what I mean when I say "In the night garden", or "Iggle Piggle", so if that's you, here's a little YouTube video to get yourself acquainted.  CLICK HERE!!

The stars of the show are Iggle Piggle, who you just met, Makka Pakka and UpsyDaisy.

These leading lights of childrens telly-vision, plus a supporting cast of other strange looking monsters, dance and sing and get about the place by way of a possessed train known as the Ninky Nonky, and a terrible flying machine called the Pinky Ponky, that's forever crashing into trees at incredibly slow speeds.

What's an Og Pog?  Why it's Makka Pakkas little three wheeler zimmerframe-a-majig of  course.

Iggle Piggle and his gang of crazies landed at the O2 recently and the wife, myself and our two year old, plus the Larkins, who have two kids, went to see the show.

After the show, we booked a meet and greet with the great Iggle Piggle himself, followed by his lover, Upsy Daisy.

The kids loved the show, but our little fella got a bit carried away when the Ninky Nonk made an appearance, and rushed the stage.

If not for my legendary lightning reflexes, it would have been curtains, literally, as I sprinted after the boy and grabbed him in the "Nink" of time.

Anyway, I could see all the other parents were mightily impressed by all this, as I strolled back with my screaming toddler tucked securely under my arm.  "He almost caught the Ninky Nonk" I laughed to a surprisingly luke warm reception.  Obviously not real fans these.

An hour later, the show was over, and it was time to meet the big blue man himself.

This is a great way of extracting more money from us poor parents, but the kids love it, so I suppose it's worth it really.  Probably not though.

The meeting with Iggle Piggle passed off peacefully enough, which is more than can be said for Upsy Daisy.

As we left Iggle Piggle, the boy tried to take him home with us.  He took Iggle Piggle by the hand and led him to the door, saying "Come, Come", and for a minute, it looked like the Big Blue fella was actually going with us, until I pointed out that we didn't have his favorite food at home.  Fluffy bunnies and cats I said.

We left Iggle Piggle and moved on.

In the next room was Upsy Daisy.  Upsy Daisy with her dread-locks and her pull string inflatable skirt, kneeling on the floor with her arms open, ready and waiting to embrace the loving kids for the obligatory photograph, payable on the way out.

Not this time sweet cheeks.  Not with these kids anyway.

The Larkin's boy got a grip of a dread and decided the only thing to do was pull, and over she went.  The situation got worse quicker than you could say Makka Pakka, with Upsy's assistant trying in vain to save her, the boys got stuck in.

Larkin's boy was water-boarding her, while ours had her around the neck.  All the rest of us could do was fall about laughing and take photos of the mayhem.  Sorry Upsy, but we paid a lot of money for this and we wanted our moneys worth.

After that good kicking, we left the O2, and drove back to ours for a few beers and some food.  The kids wrecked the place, but I managed to get a cigar in before the day was out.

As I enjoyed the cigar, I thought about the lives of Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy, and realized that while in those suits, nobody can hear you scream.

A terrified Upsy Daisy

Friday, 13 July 2012

Confessions of a Cigar Smoker

Bless me Father, for I have smoked.
It's been six weeks since my last blog,
and these are my cigars…

Yes, it's been a while, but obviously the weather is entirely to blame.

Record rainfall levels in June, and July looks like another record breaker, so you'll appreciate that  the opportunities to generate cigar blogging material have been few and far between.

That is not to say cigars have not been smoked.  Au contraire.  But I decided it was time for a post, and one that's full of cigars, because the next post will have almost nothing to do with them.

First up is a very special cigar, that was picked up a few months back in Madrid.  A Sancho Panzo Corona gigantes.

I love these cigars, and I've had a few of these beauties previously, and never been disappointed.

Although I mostly smoke robusto sized cigars, I much prefer the churchill size.  The problem is they take a long time to smoke, and in this weather, time and opportunity is a rare thing.

The cigar is pictured in all it's glory with some tomato plants that I transplanted earlier in the day.

I think I spent a good four hours pottering about the garden, and as the sun was shining, I decided I had time, and more importantly, deserved a nice long cigar as a reward.

The cigar smoked perfectly from the start, never harsh and burned consistently throughout. 

The picture opposite shows how even and handsome the cigar looks at the final third.

A dignified cigar, and one of the best churchills in my opinion, which lasted almost two hours.
I'd recommend this cigar for a sunny Saturday afternoon after a bit of gardening, when you need to cool down with a beer or four.

Next up is a "la flor de Isabela" corona which comes all the way from the Philippines.

One of the brothers-in-law, Ronan, bought me a box of five last year, and I must admit, at the time, I wasn't sure about these.

In fact, I'd never heard of Filipino cigars, but I now know them to be as old and distinguished as the best of them.

So it was pure ignorance on my part and the cigars proved to be as good, if not better, than a lot of non-Cuban cigars that I've smoked.

The band is a pretty yellow thing that was way too big for the cigar, and promptly fell off as soon as I picked it up.

I took the picture at an angle so it would stay on, and in the background, you can see England getting a lesson in football from Italy.

The second picture shows a lovely whitish ash and a smooth wrapper.

The cigar is pretty much as good as it looks, and although I wasn't expecting much, it was very enjoyable and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend these Cuban seed cigars.

This link gives a bit of history and tells a nice story of the how cigar making came to be in the Philippines.

Next up is a Grafton robusto.

I had this robusto sitting in the humidor for well over a year, and after reading a recent blog entry by Cigar Craig, who's son had one on a boat, during C.Gars Ltd hosted herf around Manhattan (jealous moi? Non), I decided to smoke it.

I must admit to having a mixed feelings of the Grafton.  I've had maybe half a dozen of these previously, and they nearly always got harsh during the second half, and ended up binned by the last third.

This one had been sitting in the humidor for a decent stretch so I was hoping it might be different, and I suppose it was to a certain extent.

The wrapper felt a little brittle and not exactly the best wrapper I've ever seen, but looks aren't everything.

The smoke was decent, and it should be, coming from the Decent Cigar Emporium, on Grafton street, so no prized for guessing where it gets its name from.

The problem, as you can no doubt see in the picture opposite, came when I tried to remove the band, which was glued onto the cigar.

If you look carefully, or not, you can see the word "adhesive", which I'd expect should have been stuck to the other end of the band, rather than the wrapper of the cigar.

It's the first time I've seen this and I'd have to say I thought it was a bit sloppy by whoever did the job.  But worst things happen at sea you know.

The Grafton is a budget cigar, but just because a cigar might not be moins cher, it doesn't mean it won't have problems of its own.

I had a Cohiba robusto recently that split about mid way through, but the Cohiba R is such an excellent cigar, I forgave it and smoked it down to the nub anyway.

I'm about midway through this blog entry, so if you want, now's a good time to take a break and make yourself a cup of tea, or have a cigar or something.

A night time cigar next, in the form of a Macanudo 1968 Robusto.

Kaz and Rolo kindly gifted me some of these for my 21st birthday last December, which means this one had been resting for a good six months.

I've enjoyed a few 1968's in the past, but some have been disappointments.  Irregular or a hot burn, harshness and tunnelling, you name it, these cigars suffered it.

That said, the six months appears to have settled this one down, and it turned out lovely.

It's a great looking cigar with a rich dark oily wrapper and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the garden late into the night with this one.

The last time we visited John and Gill in Luxembourg, the nice man at the La Casa Del Habano, Jean-Claude I believe, recommended a box of Ramon Allones Superiores.

These have to be the best cigars I've ever had, although I've no doubt said that about other cigars, but for me, these cigars are perfect.

Taking size, strength, flavour, length of time to smoke and everything else into account, these cigars have it all.

This was the last cigar from that box of ten, and I'm thinking I might not find another box before they're all gone.

They don't seem to be available in the UK, so if you're lucky enough to find a box, get a box.  They worked out at €8 each, and in my opinion, that's a bargain.

Almost there now.  Only a few more to go.

The first time I had a Partagas culebra was with John and Rolo in Luxembourg, and what a wonderful cigar it was too.

I've had them many times since and enjoyed every one of them.

The latest culebra came from a box picked up in Madrid, which was the last box in that particular shop.  Now out of production, and worth picking up when you come across them.

Don't be put off by the bendy weird look, or by the size.  These cigars are medium strength, burn brilliantly, produce lots of smoke and are just a fun cigar to smoke.

I think they look fantastic and here's a picture to prove it.

I'm going to finish up with a new cigar with an old friend.

We spent last weekend in Paris with John and Gill, and on Saturday evening, we got to enjoy a Partagas petit corona especiale.

I'd been told to look for a smaller cigar, one that would take less than thirty minutes, and as a result, I ordered some of these from C.Gars Ltd.

  A nice cigar this, but not as small as I thought, lasting roughly forty minutes, and seen here being enjoyed by myself and John in Paris.

Paris proved a little disappointing for cigars.  There's no problem finding a well stocked shop, although we missed the two cigar shops I wanted to visit on Saturday by about ten minutes.

Both shops shut at 7pm, but as the rain had been lashing down earlier, we found ourselves stranded in a restaurant with only a plentiful supply of wine to keep us going.

I found a shop the following day, and when I say Paris for cigars was disappointing, it wasn't the selection, or the quality that I had a problem with, it was the price.  Prices in France are fixed, so they're the same price everywhere.

Although cheaper than in England, they weren't as cheap as I hoped, and with a trip to Berlin coming up in August, I decided to save my money until then. 

That's it for now, and after that marathon of a blogging session, I think I deserve a beer and a cigar, but alas, it's raining again.