The Weasel: Dry times at Weasel villas mean temptation beyond whisker's endurance when invited to sample some passable eau de vie

What a tremendous publicity coup for Ikea that the company's "Tullsta" chairs (pounds 149) and "Lack" tables (pounds 9) were given such a prominent position at the Conservative Party Conference. It was a particular treat to see Sir Edward Heath, looking as if he was wedged in a stalled dodgem, directing a laser-like glare at the back of Lady Thatcher's coiffure. In the first exchange between these panjandrums for 20 years, Lady T asked Sir Ted what he thought of the chairs. "Very comfortable," growled the Father of the House. Ikea has since been awash with orders.

"Tullsta have been selling like hot cakes," a spokeswoman at Ikea's PR agency told me. "The chairs have been walking out of the store." (A spectacle which, if true, sounds considerably more interesting than the Tory conference.) She fumed at the suggestion by The Mirror that Ikea was now linked in the public mind with the rapidly disintegrating Tory party. "Ikea produces democratic designs for everyone," she seethed. "They don't align themselves with any political party."

Nevertheless, the Swedish names of these products have uncanny political associations. Tullsta is the name of a Swedish village which translates as "a place where taxes are imposed". Lack is more simple. It just means "varnish".


HAVING SUCCESSFULLY stayed on the wagon since the start of August (a fortnight in hospital helped to steady my resolve), I was perhaps pushing my luck when I accepted an invitation to a press lunch with Jean-Marc Olivier, an impossibly charmant oenologist who is Master Blender for Courvoisier cognac. We met at a louche Curzon Street eatery called Les Sauveurs, where the culinary star Jean-Christophe Novelli wields the skillet.

At first I thought it might be possible merely to talk about cognac. "One of our biggest markets is in the Far East where a lot of people think it is an aphrodisiac," shrugged M Olivier. "Chinese people are very interested in sexual performance." Unfortunately, the economic downturn has had a detumescent effect on sales in the Far East.

I found my perch on the wagon becoming somewhat more precarious when six balloon glasses containing six progressively more stupendous cognacs were placed before me. I merely wet my lips with Courvoisier VS. "Nice fresh oak-like nose, like when you're sawing a piece of wood," noted the expert. "Very full-bodied, strong character and short aftertaste." It turned out that even this foot-soldier of the Courvoisier range will set you back pounds 17.99.

I admit that I took on board a larger toot of VSOP (pounds 25). "A touch of vanilla, green almonds, maybe even prunes. Very elegant and complex." Then followed a smallish slurp of a new blend called Millennium (pounds 30). "An exotic and fantastic aroma." By this stage, it seemed downright ungracious not to have a decent glug of Napoleon. "A matured smoky aroma, as when you open a box of cigars," mused M Olivier. "The taste is totally exploding in your mouth. Again, it's a little bit more expensive."(pounds 45.)

After expounding on XO Imperial (pounds 60) - "Chocolate, exotic and spicy. Smooth but with great complexity" - the expert waxed philosophical. "Sometimes I like to compare cognac with women. VS is like a young woman at the beginning of her development. Napoleon is very much a classic, elegant beauty. XO is more like Marilyn Monroe."

I was so taken aback by this open expression of analogies pretty much forbidden on this side of the Channel that I accidentally took a great gulp of our final sample, a mind-blowing potion called Initiale Extra (so astronomically pricey that you can't even buy it by the bottle). "The first approach is the fruitiness - like opening an oven when you're cooking fruit cake." M Olivier mimed opening an oven door. "It's a very complex blend of 48 brandies. The oldest comes from 1904. I can tell that it was very good weather that year." Out on Curzon Street, with the sun of 1904 still warming my belly, I started the long dreary walk back to the wagon.


ALWAYS PARTIAL to a fun night out, the Weasel family popped along to the Royal Festival Hall last Saturday for an evening of avant-garde music. First on the bill was a trio of earnest young men in black called LaBradford. The programme notes described their style as "dark ambience merged with a touch of brooding Krautrock, all wrapped in an atmosphere of maximum disturbance". Yummy. In fact, their opening number was a cross between Duane "Mr Twang" Eddy and Terry "Rainbow in Curved Air" Riley. Pleasant enough, if not exactly a foot-tapper.

Following this amuse-bouche, things got rather more Spartan. The lengthy finale included lots of feedback combined with a badly tuned radio. Eventually, LaBradford mooched off, leaving a machine that emitted electronic coughs and splutters. Into the pause someone familiar with the work of this ensemble yelled an ecstatic "Yes!" and the hall filled with applause.

Post-interval - we fans of the avant-garde like a vanilla ice at half- time - it was time for the highlight of the evening. An American combo called Bang on a Can was recreating Brian Eno's classic waxing "Music for Airports". His original version, on Mr Eno's own Ambient label, has pride of place in the Weasel household's eclectic record collection.

Though airports have not exactly been beating a path to Brian Eno's door, the repetitive plunking of his masterpiece would be ideal for countering the stressed, kerosene-rich atmosphere of Heathrow or JFK.

Reversing the pattern of most classical music, which involves lots of notes at great speed, "Music for Airports" involves very few notes at very slow speed. Bang on a Can premiered their version of this meisterwerk at Stansted Airport. Their rendition on the South Bank was faultless, though sadly lacking in passenger announcements. By way of compensation, the unpleasantly cramped seats of the Royal Festival Hall provided a close simulacrum of air travel.


HOW APPROPRIATE that John Pawson's masterwork Minimum, described as "a visual essay embodying the ideas of austerity, reduction and simplicity" is shortly to appear in the form of a "mini-edition" (Phaidon, pounds 12).

Even so, my preview copy came as something of a surprise. After a dozen or so stimulating photographs, including ones of the blank wall of a house, a bothy in the Outer Hebrides and Jodrell Bank (no jokes please), the remaining pages of the book, perhaps 200 in number, were completely blank.

Had this influential designer taken the chance further to refine his magnum opus, ruthlessly excising all surplus elements so that spiritual emptiness should prevail? "No," replied a spokeswoman for the publisher, perhaps a trifle curtly. "We sent you a dummy edition." Still, it could confuse a stupid person, don't you think?

Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea


In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops


Arts and Entertainment
Full circle: Wu-Tang’s Method Man Getty

Music review

Arts and Entertainment
When he was king: Muhammad Ali training in 'I Am Ali'
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game