Archive for the ‘books and entertainment’ Category

How to Host a Murder

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Our wine club usually assembles once a month in a member’s house and a four course dinner is served. Each course is prepared by different members, and consideration is given to pairing appropriate wines with each course. On this occasion we agreed to step out of our comfort zone and arrange a dinner with a theme provided by a game which my wife has owned for over twenty years but never played: How to Host a Murder.

It is June, 1940 aboard a train leaving Paris. The German troops are about to enter Paris. The roads south are a hopeless snarl; the trains are full and one cannot find space aboard them. Yet to remain in the city and see her brutalized by the Nazis will not be a pleasant experience.

An anonymous letter arrives, offering you passage aboard a government train heading for the relative safety of Southern France. During the trip, murder is discovered and the passengers must decide who amongst them has committed the crime. The following characters are brought together on the train and meet for dinner in the dining car:

  • Khover T. Ageante:  covert agent
  • Princess Idelle Chattre: idle chatter
  • Malcolm R. Conntint: malcontent
  • Mary K. Trairie: quite contrary
  • RAF Group Captain Weyland W. Awforce: way off course
  • Barbra Z. Enhussie: she’s a hussy
  • Duke Schwazhe B.U. Klare:  because you care
  • Belinda Screete: indiscreet

Aided and abetted by the Duchess of Embry.

A dining car has to have an appropriate menu and since we are departing Paris, the dinner unsurprisingly has a French theme:

  • Appetizers: stuffed mushrooms and scallops wrapped in bacon
  • Starter: French onion soup
  • Entrée: coq au vin with potato boulangerie, French beans and Vichy carrots
  • Dessert: chocolate mousse

There are 8 clue books for the assigned roles and the game is played in 4 rounds. The Clue Manual is required to be read in sections as one proceeds through the rounds. As the game progresses players ask questions and make statements – in character – to gather information.

Once everyone has arrived they read The Rules, and then everyone reads their own personal Dossier which will contain some new information about their role that they keep secret. Somebody is the murderer, but only they will know who they are. Then everyone introduces themselves IN CHARACTER and tells only what you want other people to know.

Before the start, everyone listens to the cassette tape (shows how old the game is) which came with the game which contains “The Report of the Investigation.” There is also a diagram of the train cars to refer to during the game.

Following consumption of the food courses and after every drop of wine is squeezed from the vine, the murderer is finally revealed in the final round. Unfortunately, the game cannot be played again with the same group as the murderer remains the same.

It turned out to be a very successful evening thanks to everyone embracing their roles and dressing in character. Apparently the local Goodwill and Salvation Army stores did a roaring trade with members searching for period costumes and accessories. The Duchess of Embry arrived in a splendid mink coat which hadn’t seen the light of day in over 10 years. Thank goodness nobody was a member of PETA!

One of the challenges of the evening was remaining in character while drinking copious amounts of wine over a five hour period. By the time the final round arrived the discovery of the murderer was secondary to an enjoyable evening where everyone grasped the opportunity to dress up for a change.

Good company, delicious food and exquisite wines were the order of the day and I would thoroughly recommend the occasion. However it only works if you have a group of eight prepared to play the characters. If anyone is interested in hosting a murder, forward me your address and I will try to send you the game if you are prepared to pay for postage and packing. Well there is a war on you know!


Surviving Wrestle Mania

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

 It was my son’s (Richard) idea to fly to Atlanta to attend Wrestle Mania XV11 and then it grew like Topsy. My son-in –law (Arthur), also living in England, jumped on the band wagon aided and abetted by my daughter and grand daughter, and my stepson (William) who lives near Atlanta completed the collection. Little did I know that my altercation at the Marta station on our way to the Georgia Dome with the homeless guy and police woman would be the highlight of my evening?

These three young guys are big wrestle mania fans and basically I was along for the ride. I grew up with wrestling in the sixties in Britain when ITV televised bouts at 4.00pm on a Saturday afternoon with the indomitable Kent Walton commenting in his transatlantic accent. Names that spring to mind from that era include Jackie Pallo, Mick McManus, Bert Royal, Billy Two Rivers, Shirley Crabtree (who was actually a man!) and the unforgettable Les Kellett. When I was a child I played with childish things, but when I became a man I put away childish things and discovered Smirnoff.

Richard described this event as being the Super Bowl of wrestling and as we had paid $100 a ticket, I was determined to try and joy the event for its own sake and abandon my preconceived perception of what I was about to witness. The mayhem was taking place between the 6.30-11.00pm at the Georgia Dome, and to make matters worse Richard encouraged us to leave home around 4.00pm and we were sitting in our seats at approximately 5.30pm. Vendors were out in force around the stadium so Richard and Arthur purchased T-shirts at the exorbitant price of $30 and programs for $20 a piece.

I didn’t realize that time could stand still until I was sitting in the Georgia Dome surrounded by demonized individuals mostly clad in wrestle mania T-shirts. Kudos, however, to Richard and Arthur: at least their shirts portrayed different slogans to the masses. Bring It On!

William told his mother that I couldn’t possibly enjoy the event as I was unaware of the sub plots and the history between the wrestlers. Get a life son! I appreciate a rumble in the jungle as much as anyone. Instead, I witnessed a tag match featuring 8 wrestlers that was reduced to one minute because The Rock (aka Dwayne Johnson) allowed his diatribe of an introduction to overrun for five minutes. Later in the proceedings we were subjected to two announcers supposedly settling a grudge match by cavorting in and out of the ring for 15 long minutes which resembled exchanging handbags at dawn. Even dyed in the wool fans were chanting: boring, boring. Where was Scottie when I needed him?

I must admit the introduction and entrance of the wrestlers to the arena were truly spectacular. Via a fanfare of blistering music, an array of flashing lights and a series of explosive fireworks each wrestler emerged like a Roman gladiator to thunderous noise from the capacity crowd; the bigger the name the bigger the fanfare.

For the benefit of any wrestling fans still reading my blog and to prove I was paying attention to some of the proceedings the main events included John Cena vs. The Miz for the WWE Championship, where John Cena looked to regain the WWE Championship from the Miz. Another match was the 2011 Royal Rumble winner Alberto Del Rio going against the champion Edge for the World Heavyweight Championship, The Undertaker vs. Triple H in a Singles Match was also featured where Triple H looked to break the 18-0 winning streak of the Undertaker at Wrestle Mania.

Apart from Randy Orton (Fliss’s favorite I believe) the under card was very forgettable. Maybe if Stacey Keibler had been persuaded to make a come back I would shown more interest. Anyway, I don’t believe Wrestle Mania endeared itself to America by having some second rate singer performing America the Beautiful instead of The Star Spangled Banner. Furthermore I had no objection to Wrestling Hall of Fame inductees being paraded before us, but why on earth was Drew Carey inducted into their Hall of Fame?

Turning to some of the action, the vinaigrette featuring Edge was mildly entertaining, but having made a “surprising” comeback and pulling off an “unexpected” victory, he proceeded to vandalize his opponent’s luxury car which was parked on the entrance ramp. There were hundreds of kids in the stadium witnessing the demolition ,and call me a prude if you like, but I don’t really believe that’s the kind of message you should be sending to impressionable children.

Placards and banners adorned the stadium from every angle which reminded me of a Democratic Party Convention anointing their Presidential candidate. The main event of the evening featuring Triple H against the Undertaker was reasonably choreographed despite the fact they spent more time out the ring. After allegedly beating each other to within an inch of the ER, but with no hint or trace of blood, The Undertaker was left prostrate on the canvas.

 Meanwhile Triple H slipped out the ring and disappeared under its canopy only to emerge brandishing a sledge hammer with the intent of beating The Undertaker to a pulp (fiction Sic.) A little blond kid sitting immediately behind me was in a frenzy and screamed: “Kill him, kill him!” William assured me that the sledge hammer was only a prop and Triple H wouldn’t actually use it to pulverize his opponent into oblivion. Gee son, he had me worried for a minute.

By now I was having dark thoughts and secretly hoped that The Undertaker would be exterminated leaving us all to catch the train home. Fate played a hand yet again and he managed to avoid the heavy weight of the hammer and ran out the victor, but was carried back to the dressing room on a stretcher. Well, he is fifty years old and obviously nodded off on the canvas; lucky blighter!

Putting my cynicism and negativity aside, I’m happy to say that I owe Wrestle Mania a huge debt. It was the catalyst that enabled us to have our three children all together for the first time in nearly 18 years. I was also given the unique opportunity of attending an event with my son, son-in-law and stepson for the first time and they all thoroughly enjoyed the evening. 71,617 people filed into the stadium, making it the highest attended entertainment event held at the Georgia Dome. They can’t all be wrong, can they?

Some advice to Wrestle Mania organizers: Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) who hosted the event is still the fans’ favorite gauging the reaction of the crowd. He hasn’t wrestled in seven years but it is patently clear that he needs to abandon the microphone and get back in the ring. The ham clearly outweighed the beef on the night and the Organizers should consider enrolling their wrestlers into the Actor’s Studio. Just a thought………