Adam Parry – Quiet please! And they’re off…
I have a little confession to make. This latest bout of gibberish is written from a slightly retrospective view. I am writing it on Friday afternoon. Not too late to have missed the sad passing of the legend that was the Duke of Edinburgh, but a few hours before the markets closed for the weekend.
And it is because of this weekend that I have jumped the gun. Quite simply, this is my favourite weekend of the year. Better than Christmas. Better even than my birthday.
The reason is threefold. The first comes later this evening with the final of Masterchef 2021. Now it might just be me, but I think the standard has been a little lower this year, although I think that font of house restaurant manager Tom has been the standout, which almost certainly means he won’t win. If only there had been this lack of talent back in 2008 when I entered the competition, only to be thwarted by an officious producer and a slightly less than perfect crab and gruyere tart.
Then there is The Masters at the August National in Georgia. Possibly my favourite golf tournament of the year, although the Open runs it very close. Who can forget the Golden Bear’s historic charge to win the Green Jacket at the age of 46 in 1986 or Sandy Lyle’s 7-iron from a bunker on the 18th fairway to 10ft a couple of years later. There was the Shark’s meltdown to hand Faldo his third jacket in 1996, followed a year later by Tiger Woods first major. Possibly my favourite was in 2017 when Sergio Garcia finally won a major, and even though we were in Hong Kong a couple of years ago, I stayed up late to watch the return of the Tiger. This year I cursed Lee Westwood by putting my not very hard earned on him, and lo and behold, despite him having one of his best years on the tour, he shot a six over par 78 yesterday to trail Justin Rose by 13 shots. Oh well!
But it is tomorrow that really gets me going. The crème de la crème. The Big Show if you will.
For at 5.15pm BST, the 2021 Grand National gets underway at Aintree near Liverpool. This is simply the finest 8 minutes of the year. My first recollection of the race was one of the classics in 1973, when Red Rum somehow managed to overhaul the Australian giant Crisp on the run-in after the latter had led by some distance all the way round. In the late 70’s, my sister was always allowed to back Rummy, so I had to contend myself with the wonder-horse The Pilgarlic, who finished in the top five four times in consecutive years. There was the Bob Champion and Aldanati fairy-tale in 1981, that was immortalized in the film Champions.
In 1983, my Dad won a fortune on Corbiere, a horse owned by his boss at Beefeater Gin. In 1998, Earth Summit won me the sweepstake at Paribas, which being big-swinging-dick bond traders meant that it was more than enough to by me a new Gray-Nicholls for the upcoming cricket season.
And then in 2010, a dream came true. Mrs P lifted tickets for the three of us to actually attend the great event. It was a glorious day, and we walked to course. There was Beechers. It looked like I could jump Foinavon, where there was the mother of all pile ups in 1967. The Chair was enormous. After betting on AP McCoy for the previous 15 races, I deemed that like John Francome and Peter Scudamore before him, he was never going to win. He duly romped home on Don’t Push It at 10-1. My choice, ridden by Paul Carberry, threw a moody and didn’t even start the race.
The truth was that my tip had never won from the first horse my Dad put a bet on for me in that 1967 race to Rule the World’s victory in 2016. And then, after 50 years, nirvana was reached when I backed One For Arthur in 2017. And I followed that up with Tiger Roll the following year. We were in HK for the Tiger’s repeat victory in 2019, while last year was cancelled for the pandemic.
I literally cannot wait. My tip, for those that want to avoid it, is Discorama, with Sub Lieutenant as an each way punt.
Which sort of brings me onto financial matters.
A few weeks ago I got a phone call from my father-in-law asking my advice. He had recently had a bond mature and wanted to know what to invest the proceeds in. I said I would take a look.
Now you probably know what I am going to say next. There was nothing.
Despite the recent horror stories about Greensill and Archegos, the Deliveroo shocker and AstraZeneca blood clot mumble, US stocks have been Captain Scarlett like. Indestructible. More record highs on the Dow, S&P above 4,000 for the first time. In Europe, the Dax has just broached 15,000 for the first time, the FTSE is closing in on 7,000 for the first time since the pandemic started. In Asia, the Nikkei continues to hover around 30,000.
In rates markets, one suspects that the inexorable steeping in sovereign markets seen this year is almost played out. Credit is too tight by far, although you might still get some purchase if you get any decent allocation on a hot new issue, but that is by no means fool-proof.
Brent crude is off the highs, but not yet far enough off those highs to pull the trigger.
So I need a bit of help. Has anybody got any ideas? I would be more than happy to buy anybody that has a glass of splosh in a beer garden in the City once things re-open again on Monday. Maybe even a bottle of Becks by the non-existent fountain outside the Jam Pot.
Just don’t dare to utter the word Bitcoin as a potential investment. It will cause me to pull what little hair I have out.
Back to Masterchef, and here is that crab and gruyere tart that should have lifted the trophy all those years ago.
To make the pastry, sift 225g of plain flour and ½ teaspoon of salt into a food processor, add 65g butter and 65g lard and whizz until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Tip into a bowl and add 1 ½ tbsp cold water. Bring together with a round bladed knife and form into a ball. On a surface dusted with flour, knead the pastry a couple of times until smooth and roll out thinly. Line 4 shallow loose-based tart tins with the pastry and chill in the fridge for half an hour.
Pre-heat the oven to 220c and then blind bake the cases for 15 minutes. Brush the inside with a little unbeaten egg white and return to the oven for a couple of minutes. Remove and lower the oven to 180c.
For the filling, mix 225g white crab meat, 50g brown crab meat, 85ml double cream, a pinch of cayenne and some seasoning. Spoon into the cases and sprinkle with plenty of grated Gruyere. Bake for 20 minutes until lightly golden. Serve with some pea shoots lightly dressed in rapeseed oil and lemon dressing.
Come on Gregg, you know you love it!!