Thursday, 23 June 2011

Who's got those super duper god powers?

Idiocy is always so refreshing, don’t you find?

Yesterday at conference, I heard (and subsequently reported) that Mansour Osanloo, the leader of the Tehran bus workers’ union has been freed from prison after four years.

Great stuff. Although it’s worth noting that the ‘release’ is conditional. And temporary. A holiday from torture and the denial of basic medical care really.

So what on Earth had he done to have spent four years in the nick? Oh, that’s right: daring to be an official in a trade union.

But we also heard that two of his colleagues, Reza Shahabi and Ebrahim Maddadi, remain in custody. And Mr Shahabi’s lawyer has said that the prosecution is seeking to bring a fresh charge of ‘enmity against God’, which carries the death penalty.

This is confusing. If there’s a god who feels really insulted about something or other, can’t he (or she) be trusted to do the thunderbolt stuff himself? Surely the whole point of being ... well, a god, is that you have super duper hero powers? Stewie Griffin is scarier in Darth Vader mode.

Wouldn’t a god type have rather better technology than a bunch of medieval theocrats? A light sabre, perhaps, so their followers didn’t have to do things like stoning or hanging or beheading or any other of those messy things that get done when people fear that their god has been insulted.

But you live and learn. And it seems that, in some places at least, god is obviously such a doddery old sod that he (or she) needs a helping hand to mete out justice and retribution against those who, a bit like Oliver Twist, dare to ask for something more in life.

To find out more, visit International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Away from conference itself, there has been rather less such idiocy – and some good foodie moments.

On Tuesday evening, we discovered a nice restaurant called Beluga in the basement of an impressive old building, a stone’s throw from the Midland Hotel.

It was a small menu and eclectic – unfortunately, they didn’t have the Thai green curry on the night we were there, but the pasta with chicken, chorizo and red onion was seriously enjoyable.

Last night was the team dinner at Italian restaurant Don Giovanni. The evening was great fun, but the food didn’t quite match.

I had a starter of figs and mozzarella: a great flavour combination, although it would have been better if the figs had been riper. And did such a starter really need to be made up of four figs?

Looking at the menu, I’d deliberately opted for what I thought would be a light meal that I wouldn’t feel over faced by. So for my second course, I picked king scallops and courgette.

That turned out to be 12 – yes, a whopping dozen – scallops on three strips of grilled courgette.

Perhaps it was because they were really busy, but the scallops were overcooked for my taste: really quite dry.

But portion size again …

You don’t get this ‘supersize everything’ approach on that there Continental place, mutter, mutter.

Since I am currently sans iPhone, I haven’t been able to snap much food this week, but a big thank you to Marcus, one of our photographers at conference, who took these pics for me on his iPhone, with the aid of Hipstermatic, a neat new app – and it’s a free one too.

On Monday, The Other Half and I had tried the hotel’s Wyvern Restaurant.

We both opted for fresh bread and dips – a nice Balsamico and a very tasty tapenade – followed by fish and chips.

The chips were chunky and handcut. The fish was seriously good and the beer batter was utterly divine. The ‘mushy’ peas were actually very lightly puréed peas with a hint of mint and probably some crème fraïche.

Earlier that day, we’d lunched in the Octogon at the hotel. And I have to say that my salad – a ton of leaves, crumbly Lancashire cheese, walnuts and pear, with a light dressing of lemon and olive oil, really was gorgeous.

The proof of that was in that I actually ate all the leaves – something that I usually find bland, boring, tasteless, limp and pointless beyond padding out a dish.

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