Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Only in America ....

My good friend Clare sent me an email today entitled 'the people of Walmart.' Entrigued, I opened it to find what appeared to be a random collection of photographs......... and then I looked more closely. Bloody unbelievable! These were real photographs taken in Walmart stores and I have included a selection for your perusal.


Pic. No. 1 Way to go Gran'ma


Pic. No. 3. This was entitled 'how does she wipe her ass?'

I tried to think of a more tactful way of labelling the picture above, but couldn't, so I do apologise. So tell me, how on earth does she live life with those monstrosities dangling from her hands? At what point did she wake up thinking, 'you know what Bob [pronounced Baaaab], my life would be so much better if my fingernails were a foot long.' Absolutely. bloody. Unbelievable.

P.S. On a more practical note, how did she get into her purse to pay for her shopping?

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Call me Percy Thrower

[The order of my blogs has got a bit mixed up......! this one should be before 'my birthday' blog!]

After yesterday's disgraceful show in the pursuit of all things 'country', today I think I have vindicated myself somewhat. It started off with me making a list of all the wholesome things that I wanted to do and it went something like this:

My list of country things:
1. Cut the grass

2. Buy some green plant things for plantpots
3. Eat lunch outside


When I read my list with the benefit of hindsight, it appeared a bit 'Adrian Mole', but that inconsequential fact did not deter me one bit. No sirrreeee.

Pic. No. 1. Proper 'country' attire - Hunter wellies

I donned my wellies (Hunters of course dahlink!), and began the task of extricating my trusty orange steed (a Flymo 360 to be precise) from its ivy-smothered position in my outhouse. The story continues in this vein;

1. half an hour to figure out how to the turn the blasted thing on;
2. another half an hour to figure out how to get the grass out of the bloody basket thing inside; and
3. TWO hours actually cutting the bloody grass. Oh yes, you heard me right - two whole, muscle-wrenching, back-aching, blister-forming hours. *&!***$%! I swear that if I planted crops in my garden, Britain's GDP would increase.

Finally, the trauma was over and I sat down with a cup of tea and contemplated the end result with a sigh ...... of disappointment. It still resembled a patch of scrubland and the only thing missing was a small but mangy spewbald pony attached to a stake. I hate it when that happens.

But, all was not lost. Whilst I was mowing, I noticed that I had what appeared to be hundreds of nuts [yep, those things that squirrels bury and then starve to death because they can't remember where they buried them] strewn over my lawn. Upon closer examination, they appeared to be walnuts, and they seemed to have hailed from a rather large tree that I hadn't noticed before...... which is rather embarrassing because it looks like this:

Pic. No. 2. A bloody great nut tree that I hadn't noticed before

I looked at the nuts, circled the nuts and contemplated what I should do with them. It wasn't long before I remembered some advice that I was given as a child by my parents; 'if you are not sure what something is, eat it, and you will soon find out whether or not it is edible.' Wise words indeed... so I scuttled off to retrieve a set of pliers from my toolbox. I quickly cracked open nut 'A' (I didn't want to personalise it by giving it name), and ate it.

Oh yes, it was a walnut ..... but it tasted like a conglomeration of chewing an aspirin and licking the end of a battery (not that I would ever do such a thing). So what was a girl to do? - I bagged up all the nuts from my tree and took them to my lovely next door neighbour in what is proving to be a feudal bartering system - she gives me her chickens eggs, and she has my nuts. I think I have got the best end of the deal.


Pic. No.3. A bag of walnuts for my next door neighbour Renata

So, after all that trauma, I thought to myself.... 'ummmmm, now for my reward.... a spot of lunch in the garden.' It was at that precise point that I remembered that I hadn't been shopping this week after being distracted by the Kleeneze catalogue. DOH!

Pic. No. 3. Moi! having lunch in my garden

That meant that myself and chum (too shy to be pictured) ended up having an Asda value can of beans and sausages on one slice of toast and one crust (because I had reached the end of the loaf). I truly am the hostess with leastess, but as I pointed out to her....it's free. That always stops complaints.

Pic. No. 4. My winter plant thing

Finally, after lunch, I spent the afternoon planting all my winter flowers. Following a visit to the garden centre, I realised that my winter flowers only consist of Violas, Pansies and Cyclamon. The plant in the picture above is Cyclamon, but I call it 'red flower'.

Phew! It's like The Good Life here. What with damsons, nuts, apples and winter flowering plant things. Soon I will be living orrrrrfff the land. London eat your heart out.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Happy birthday to me!

"When I turned two I was really anxious, because I’d doubled my age in a year. I thought, if this keeps up, by the time I’m five I’ll be 64."

Well here I am at the grand old age of 39. I had completely forgotten that it was my birthday until I turned on my computer and my inbox was full of birthday wishes and my Skype was going crazy with greetings (mainly from Chinese factories who want to supply my business to be fair). I felt really popular for a minute or two until I realised that Skype and Facebook remind people that it is your big day. Ho hum.........

Thinking about it, today is a crap day for a birthday. Firstly having a birthday on the 28th means that everyone is skint because it is the end of the month. Then throw Monday into the equation. Who wants to go out celebrating on a Monday night? No one. So instead, I am going to commemorate this momentus day by teaching you some useful latin phrases that you can impress your friends and colleagues with;

I'll get you, you wascally wabbit!
Te capiam, cunicule sceleste!

I have a catapult. Unless you give me all of your money, I will fling an enormous rock at your head.
Catapultam habeo. Nisis pecuniam omnem mihi dabris, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.

If you need any more helpful latin phrases, please just ask........ and before I go and buy a pipe and warm my slippers by the fire, I want to leave you with this thought; birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that people who have the most, live the longest.

Diem natalem felicum mihi! (happy birthday to me!)

Sunday, 27 September 2009

My country pursuits aren't going well

OOOH ARRR! [that's the sound that farmers make, so I am told. Apparently it precedes them pulling out a double barrel shotgun, aiming for your head and shouting 'get orrrrfffff my land...'].

Why are you banging on about farmers? I hear you ask. Well, you will be pleased to know that this weekend I decided to abandon my usual rock and roll lifestyle in favour of country pursuits. Yep, I was spurred on by a weird yellow thing that I found outside - sunshine.

I was just contemplating what my first wholesome country pursuit should be, when my mobile started ringing. It was Claire of the village; general jogger and cow ceramisist [is that how you spell it?].

"Fancy going out for a quiet drink in the village this evening?" she asked.

"Ok," I answered without even pausing for breath, "I'll call for you at about 7.30pm"

DOH! I thought to myself after I hung up. That is not the start that I anticipated........ but blimey, it would be rude to cancel now.

Suffice to say that that the evening at the White Horse was really good fun, and I even got a few photographs for you to look at.


Pic. No. 1. Claire. She is a bad influence. Do not approach this person


Pic. No. 2. Is Neils' hand really big or is he really small?


Pic. No. 3. Claire and I looking enigmatic, like international mysterious spies

Ok, ok..... I admit it. My country pursuits have not gone well. In fact they have been non-existent and I may as well still be living in London. I am going to approach the whole scenario like a weight watcher who has just eaten a huge cream cake. Actually that isn't possible thinking about it - you have to be on the wagon before you can fall off it. New start tomorrow..... honest guv'ner!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Jamie Oliver - Jools's favourite stew recipe

Another delectable Jamie Oliver recipe..... tasty, easy to make and serves about 6 people if they don't totally stuff their faces. The recipe is at the bottom of this post if you fancy giving it a go.

Pic. No. 1. Click on the picture above to view the recipe

Little Izzy and I were spending the day together so I decided, 'what the heck! I am going to throw caution to the wind, and we are going to cook something in that room at the back of my house.' Being a bit of a fan of Jamie Oliver, I decided upon the naffly-named 'Jools' favourite beef stew recipe', mainly because Izzy could get involved in its creation. Oh yes..... you read right ....... I don't cook, I create, mainly because it makes me sound like a temperamental arty type and I kinda like feeling like that when I turn my hand to farty stuff like cooking.

The time to 'create' duly arrived, and I turned to Izzy.

"I am going in there and I may be some time," I postured gravely, gesticulating in the general direction of the kitchen. In return Izzy furnished me with a blank stare.

After ascertaining that there was nothing imminently dangerous in 'the room out back' I hollered for Izzy to join me. She wondered in, regarding me in a diminutive way....... that's the youth of today for you....... no respect for their elders.

After lugging the ingredients from the back of my car, we got stuck in and everything was going hunky dory until we reached the bit where the meat is tossed in seasoned flour. Being four, Izzy decided to claim that task as her own, and no amount of cajoling, pleading or bribery could persuade her that maybe I should do it. After surveying the scene once she had finished, I was lost for words [believe me, that is unheard of] and I had to resort to my engineering roots and write an equation instead;

4 year old + copious amounts of flour + boundless enthusiasm = total carnage.

Bloody hell. The. flour. was. everywhere. And in the middle of the white-out, I saw two big eyes and an enormous grin breaking out from what appeared to be a snowy mask. As a consquence of this, I recommend that you add 30 minutes to the preparation time to cater for extreme hoovering.

Aside from the flour incident, everything went swimmingly and Izzy and I sat down for dinner and served the stew with crusty bread and a glass of wine (me not Izzy).

Pic. No. 2. Calm after the flour storm

As part of the recipe, the stew is also served with an aromatic garnish, which really enhanced the flavour of the meat. Oh that reminds me..... avoid this dish if you are entertaining vegetarians because it has got most of a cow in it.

Pic. No. 3 The green stuff that goes on top of the stew

Anyway, the dish turned out to be absolutely yummy........ so go and cook it. It's great. Before I go, I have a question which has been bugging me - what is the difference between a stew and a casserole? Eh? Eh?

Instructions:

- olive oil
- a knob of butter
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- a handful of fresh sage leaves
- 800g/1¾lb stewing steak or beef skirt, cut into 5cm/2 inch pieces
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- flour, to dust
- 2 parsnips, peeled and quartered
- 4 carrots, peeled and halved
- ½ a butternut squash, halved, deseeded and roughly diced
- optional: a handful of Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and halved
- 500g/1lb 2oz small potatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato purée
- ½ a bottle of red wine
- 285ml/½ pint beef or vegetable stock
- zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
- a handful of rosemary, leaves picked
- 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 160ºC/300ºF/gas 2. Put a little oil and your knob of butter into an appropriately sized pot or casserole pan. Add your onion and all the sage leaves and fry for 3 or 4 minutes. Toss the meat in a little seasoned flour, then add it to the pan with all the vegetables, the tomato purée, wine and stock, and gently stir together. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper and just a little salt. Bring to the boil, place a lid on top, then cook in the preheated oven until the meat is tender. Sometimes this takes 3 hours, sometimes 4 – it depends on what cut of meat you’re using and how fresh it is. The only way to test is to mash up a piece of meat and if it falls apart easily it’s ready. Once it’s cooked, you can turn the oven down to about 110°C/225°F/gas ¼ and just hold it there until you’re ready to eat.

The best way to serve this is by ladling big spoonfuls into bowls, accompanied by a glass of French red wine and some really fresh, warmed bread. Mix the lemon zest, chopped rosemary and garlic together and sprinkle over the stew before eating. Just the smallest amount will make a world of difference – as soon as it hits the hot stew it will release an amazing fragrance.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Naughty George and more pointless inventions

Picture the scene; I am sitting at my desk which is placed under a window so that I can watch the world go by. The sun is streaming in, the birds are singing and Naughty George is not so much shattering the peace, more pulverising it.

He is the type of dog who, when you first meet him, think 'oh, he's a bit annoying.' Then, over the years this feeling changes to sheer antipathy. Even dog-lovers don't like him which is some indictment to his rather more irritating qualities. He was actually given to me when he was seven because his original owner couldn't stand him any longer. Hey ho! that's my dog.....

Pic. No. 1 My study where the blogging happens. My floor is made from brick.

Anyway, I digress. There I was sitting at my desk next to the window, when all of a sudden a face appeared at the open casement.

"Bloody hell!" I shouted, nearly jumping out of my seat.

"Kleeneze catalogue?" she asked sweetly, oblivious to my obvious distress at being caught by surprise.

"No thank you." I said authoritatively. Then a thought entered my mind....... 'isn't Kleeneze only second to betterware in terms of purveying pointless inventions?'

"Ummm, sorry, could I change my mind please?" I asked.

"Of course dear," Kleeneze lady (it's like a superhero name) replied, smiling kindly whilst passing my plastic-clad booty through the open window and giving me the perfect excuse to do a bit of work-avoidance.

So here we go - more futile tat to add to the list of 'pointless inventions' that continue to irritate me. First of all we have............. drum roll ............. the hairspray guard. Now the point of the hairspray guard is to stop hairspray going into your eyes.

The inventor in this instance has made one fundamentally incorrect assumption, which is that if you simply close your eyes as a method of preventing hairspray from going into them, you lose all concept of space and direction and could accidentally petrify any adjacent pets or plants.

As a result of this warped logic, it became imperative that a contraption be invented which allowed you to spray with your eyes open. Un-believ-able (hyphens add emphasis don't you think?). What is even more unbelievable is that by chance the inventor met someone else who not only thought it was a good idea, but who thought; 'hey that's a great invention, I am going to put it into production!' Staggering.

Pic. No. 2 Hairspray guard - the most pointless thing to grace christendom

My next pointless invention doesn't even require me to rant about it. It totally speaks for itself. Ladies and gentleman, let me introduce ........ the banana guard. Yep, this invention stops your banana getting bruised if you drop it. Handy if you are a bit hap-handed and carry bananas with you a lot.


Pic. No. 3. The banana guard

Now I know that you probably think that I am making this stuff up, so please go and enjoy the delights of the Kleeneze catalogue.............. and let me know if you think you can beat the pointlessness of my banana guard with a yet more futile invention.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

It makes you realise how lucky you are

I received this email from my good friend Andy today........

-----Original Message-----
From:
Sent: 23 September 2009 12:02
Subject: STORM DAMAGE

With all the news on TV lately about the extreme weather conditions affecting the East Coast of the US, the mud slides in the Middle East and South America, along with the dire predictions made by such films as 'The Day After Tomorrow', we shouldn't forget that England has its share of devastating weather too.

I've attached a photo illustrating the damage
caused to a friend's home from the storm that passed through Southern England last week. It really makes you cherish what you have, and reminds us not to take things for granted.

Click here to view photo


That was the funniest gag I have heard in ages.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The countryside, cachment areas and gimp masks

I set off back from Leeds to Oxford on Sunday afternoon, with Sarah standing at her front door waving and shouting; "I'm just making sure you've gone!" It was a beautiful moment.

Apart from getting lost on the way back (and yes I do have a Sat Nav, so don't ask me how I managed it), it was a smooth journey and here I am back in the lovely Oxfordshire rolling countryside. Actually, having just returned from a city, living in the countryside isn't all it is cracked up to be.

First of all, I moved here because I was sure my new house was in the local cachment area, but it's not. When I say cachment area, I mean the areas that Domino's Pizza will deliver to, not the school cachment area. So I have been deprived of my regular Hot and Spicy pizza for a good number of months now. There is the option of driving to Headington to pick one up, but that would simply ruin my carbon neutrality dahlink.

Secondly, there is weird 'stuff' in the country like Killer Cows 1, Killer Cows 2, Killer Cows 3, weird grape trees and supernatural doings. But nothing is as weird as what I experienced yesterday when walking Naughty George.

"Blimey Naughty George! what is going on with the nags?" I vociferated, gesticulating at aforementioned four-legged dogfood constituents.
Pic. No. 1. Dobbin in a gimp mask

Now I don't know much about gimp masks and similar equipment, but I do know that horses wearing them is just not cricket. But that's country folk and their furry friends for you. They remain an enigma wrapped in a mystery.

Mind you, maybe I should balance the argument a little, because there are pleasant things about the countryside too. Namely my lovely next door neighbour, Renate, and her flock of chickens. Thanks to the plenteous poultry next door, I am assured a steady supply of delicious free range eggs.

Pic. No. 2. Free eggs from next door

Apparently chickens only cost £14.00 and if you ever get bored of looking after them, you simply pop them in a pot and add a bit of seasoning. It sounds a bit macabre to me, especially as Renate has named all hers. It's just wrong eating something that was significant enough to warrant a name. Also, could I just mention that Renate has not actually eaten any of her chickens, the point I wanted to highlight is that she theoretically could.


Pic. No. 3. A random picture of my kitchen that has nothing to do with the blog. I found it on my camera

Anyway, enough of my countryside ramblings. You could be forgiven for mistaking me with 'one man and his dog' now I am going native.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A rant about bad service!

Pizza Express has always been one of those places that I rely on in order to avoid going into that room full of contraptions at the back of my house...... the kitchen.

When on Saturday night, Sarah suggested dinner out in Leeds, I thoroughly agreed when she mentioned Pizza Express.

"Good choice!" I enthused heartily.

"I hope so," Sarah replied, "but the service was a bit poor last time."

"Are you mad?" I challenged, "Pizza Express never have bad service!"

Pic. No. 1. Pizza Express in the banking quarter of Leeds

After a quick jaunt in the car, we arrived at the banking quarter where the restaurant was situated and stepped through the door to get a table.

Ummmmmm.......... 10 minutes later and still no one had come over to greet us or find us a table.

"Blimey, this is poor," I whispered to Sarah when somone eventually ambled over and took us to a table in the corner of the restaurant.

Another ten minutes passed and our drink order still hadn't been taken, so we had to hail the waiter.

"While you are here, we would also like to place our food order please," I said to him, anticipating that we needed to give them a lot of time to prepare the food otherwise we would probably still be ensconced at our table when the bin-men started collecting again [eh! see what I did there? that was a topical joke. I am like Eddy Izzard.]

Forty minutes elapsed and Sarah and I were now getting a bit peeved because the food still hadn't arrived. We were just about to complain when we saw the waiter approaching us with my pizza and Sarah's pasta........... which was cold, and was promptly carted off to be reheated which took another ten minutes.

Now I don't want to say it was all bad, so here goes - the food was nice. But the service was substandard and the staff were experts at studiously examining the beautifully tiled floor to avoid eye-contact with customers. We finally finished our meal and decided to depart. However, we couldn't find a member of staff to get the bill, so I ended up wandering through the restaurant looking for someone to help. When I eventually found someone, they brought the bill as promised....... but it was wrong. They had charged for a bottle of wine instead of a glass.

"Right, I would like to speak to the manager please," I hissed ascerbically to the unfriendly waiter.

The manager duly arrived and listened to my complaints. I could tell that he had been trained how to deal with customers because he had his head bent at just the right sideways angle to make it look like he was contemplating my rant with great seriousness even though his eyes were glazed. When I had finished, he asked, "so what would you like us to do about the obvious deficiencies in our service?"

"Well," I harangued, "ideally I would like you to say that you are going to send your entire staff through a rigorous customer care training course, but in all likelihood that is unlikely to happen, so I will make do with you halving the bill."

"No problem, I will do that for you," the manager conceded.

"Why does that always happen when it is your turn to pay?" Sarah asked forlornly, shaking her head.

After dinner, we had a quick walk round the Georgian square to the rear of the restaurant which is often used in period dramas, and then back to Sarah's house.

Pic. No. 2. the Georgian square in Leeds' banking Quarter

The next day, after a brief shopping spree in the local shopping centre, I set of back to Oxford and ended up getting lost in Derbyshire when I dived off the motorway in response to a light-up sign saying 'queue after next junction'. Finding a sneaky back way seemed quite cunning at the time, but when I ended up next to a field of sheep, I started doubting the astuteness of the decision.

Pic. No. 3 Phew from Derbyshire to the M1 the Anne way

Oh! that reminds me. I have a dilemma that I need help with. I downloaded an audio book onto my Ipod Touch, and got up to chapter 26. I pressed pause and then tried to get back to the place where I had left off. Unfortunately when you press the 'fast forward' button, it leaps forward in huge increments - from Chapter 26 to Chapter 38. That means that if you stop listening on Chapter 37 you have to listen to 11 Chapters to get back to the place where you left off. It is bloody ridiculous! Surely there must be a way round this? Please, please I need help.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Charity Do - The Meningitis Trust

This weekend I decided to venture out to a desolate, barren place ............. I hung on tightly to the steering wheel of my car as it got battered by the bitter wind, and I watched as an empty kebab wrapper was blown across the bleak vista.

"What soul-less, friendless place have you found yourself in?" I hear you cry. Leeds actually.

Being from Lancashire, you do understand that I cannot visit Leeds without a few derisory comments ......... it all stems from the War of the Roses you see. Which Lancashire won. Oh sorry, did I accidentally mention that? [wink!]

I know you are wondering why anyone in their right mind would want to go to Leeds, but it was all in a good cause. I had tickets to a charity ball in aid of The Meningitus Trust and was attending with my good, but northern friend, Sarah.

The event was held at a place called Elland Road, which I believe is something to do with Football. [note: by the way, I forgot to take decent pictures so please excuse the quality, I didn't have many to choose from].

Pic. No. 1. The venue at Elland Road

The bash kicked off with a buffet consisting of unintentional 'retro' food such as melon balls and pineapple and cheese on cocktail sticks. The only things missing were the rabbit jelly mould and that blue pop which makes children bounce off the walls.

Next came the charity auction and how we guffawed when we read through the list of booty. Some of the items were quite respectable - a special edition Gordon Ramsey cookbook signed by the man himself - but others prizes were a little less tantalising shall we say. They included a 'This Morning' beach towel set and a t-shirt signed by Noel Edmunds which raised £2.50. I had to reprimand Sarah because she got auction fever and accidentally spent £12 on two signed Jeffrey Archer books that she didn't want.

Pic. No. 2. Louise getting over-excited at the raffle

Next up came the raffle and I couldn't contain my excitement when I realised that one of the prizes was Victoria Wood's rain mac. Needless to say, I didn't win anything, but I didn't put it down to bad luck, but more to the fact that I hadn't bought any tickets.

Pic. No. 3 Moi back at Sarah's gaff

After a fun evening it was back to Sarah's house to chill out and admire our booty. I don't know how Sarah managed it, but she has dodged every single photograph.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

A journey to despair ..... well, Leeds actually

Sacre bleu! I have just had the gross misfortune to try and get from A to B using our trusty transport infrastructure; namely 'roads'. Like most of you I suspect, I duly paid £190 car tax for the pleasure of using aforementioned 'transport infracture' and quite frankly I feel plundered, especially after the journey I have just encountered.

It has just taken me 5 hours to drive from Oxford to Leeds. Yep, you read that right - FIVE blooming hours with only my Radio 4 podcasts to keep me company because my radio has broken. I could have flown to Africa in that time. I encountered every possible impediment ranging from (in order of magnitude of delay); congestion, motorway closure (M1), roadworks, tractors on the road, and little old lady attempting a three point turn on the A64. All this made me very late in meeting my friend Sarah with whom I was supposed to be going to a charity ball. Upon my arrival she exclaimed (in a broad Yorkshire accent); "I am only ever late for anything when you are visiting."

Pic. No. 1 Traffic Jam on M1

Anyway, back to the road tax; I have just done an quick internet search and found that there are approximately 32 million cars in the UK. If each of those cars pays £190 per year in road tax, then that means £6080000000 is generated in revenue for the government. If, like me, you looked at that number and realised that it was so big that you didn't even know what it meant, let me put it into layman's terms - £6.08 billion squidlies. The mind boggles at the volume of sherbert dib dabs that one could purchase with that amount of money.

Then it got me thinking - what on earth is the government doing with the money? Congestion is getting worse, not better, and it costs more than the national debt of a developing country to catch the train. So I have a plan. I am going to stand for Minister of Transport at the next general election. I am certain that if you gave me £6.09 billion, I could come up with a revolutionary way of alleviating transport delays.

Pic. No. 2 My new transportation policy

Actually, my journey to Leeds and subsequent diatribe regarding travelling in the UK, reminded me of a joke I heard on the radio.

'Two men were travelling on a train from Birmingham to London when they struck up conversation. As the train pulled into the station, the first man remarked with relief, "phew, that is the worst bit of my journey over with."

The second man asked, "why, where are you off to?"

"India," he replied.'

Friday, 18 September 2009

Dinner in the village

There I was, hanging around the village with Naughty George and generally looking quite shifty, when I bumped into Clare Paige who was out for a jog [I don't know why she does that because she owns a car].

Claire is an 'arty type', and specialises in making lifesize ceramic cows. She told me that I am not allowed to call them pottery but I'm not sure why. I did enquire whether there was much of a market for lifesize 'ceramic' cows and she assured me there was. But apparently they are quite difficult to deliver.

"Eh up," she shouted at me, not even attempting to hide the fact that she was taking the mickey out of my solid northern roots, "what you up to? taking your whippet out for a run before you go home and eat black pudding?" she laughed, quite clearly amused with herself.

"Actually, yes I am walking Naughty George," and then popping off back home to partake in my evening fare," I replied.

"Fancy coming for dinner tomorrow night?" she asked.

"Is it free?" I enquired.

"Yep." she answered.

"Ok! see you tomorrow at 7.30pm" I said, waving goodbye cheerily.

At the allotted time, I walked through the village to Claire and Niels' house (her husband, and yes that is his name because he is a bit foreign).

"What are we having?" I asked, plonking a bottle of wine on the table.

"Watercress soup and vegetable moussaka with salad," she replied.

"Where's the meat?" I enquired.

"You've forgotten that Claire's a veggy," Niels replied, "but rest assured, you will like the moussaka."

Blimey, he wasn't wrong. Clare is a demon cook and her moussaka was better than the football season ending. I even had seconds, and asked if I could take home a doggy bag, but she said no.

Pic. No. 1 Clare's moussaka and salad. I will try and get the recipe for you

I have to say that the evening was very pleasant, even though they are southerners, and a good laugh to boot.

Pic. No. 2 Niels and Clare

I have included this picture of dinner table. If you look closely, you can see that Clare has got Princess Leia buns on the side of her head. That's because she is arty that is.

Anyway, must dash, got a charity do in Leeds tonight and I need to hit the highway.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

You tube video sizes

c34ygabi9r

This will help all people who use the same template as me and find that You Tube videos are too big. Go into the 'Edit Html' tab when you are writing your post and change the video sizes to:

W420 x H255 pixels........

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Pointless inventions - Autumn edition

Right that's it. After just witnessing the most ridiculous power tool ever to grace the shelves of B&Q, I am going to start a thread called 'pointless inventions.'

First up, I would like to nominate 'the leaf blower'. Who on earth thought it would be a good idea to design a contraption that simply blows leaves from one location to another? Was the chap (must be a chap [wink!]) sitting on his garden bench one day when he suddenly had a rush of inspiration; "blimey, that leaf would look better if I blew it over there, but I don't have anything to do it with!"

The "obvious" [cough] gap in the market then prompted him to plunge his life savings into developing the futile contrivance, and in a masterstroke of genius, convinced people that they needed to buy it! It leaves me completely dumbfounded.


Now let's take the concept of the leaf blower and follow it through to its logical conclusion to demonstrate the point (or pointlessness). Why don't we have similar contraptions inside the house called 'dust blowers'? Exactly. Because we want to get rid of dust, rather than haphazardly blow it around the house. Show me the man who invented the leafblower and I will show him the error of his ways.

One other thing whilst I am here. I saw another pointless invention in the Bible of pointless inventions. Oh yes, I am sure you have all staggered to comprehend at some time or another, the pure uselessness of the items featured in the Betterware catalogue. The items in question were 'fridge castors'. I mean, who, in the name of all things sane, needs to wheel their fridge around the kitchen? Go and visit their website and then tell me that they don't have someone on the payroll whose job title is 'Inventor of plastic tat'.

P.S. you don't think Betterware could sue do you?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Let's look positive!

Having endured yet another miserable British summer, I awoke this morning trying to be optimistic but was greeted by gales, angry clouds and piles of battered leaves strewn on my lawn.

After spending the day battling against the elements; walking the dog, retrieving my washing from the hedges (where it had blown off the washing line) and fixing broken window catches, I had a thought.

Ummmmm.... why not embrace the nice things about horrible weather instead of fighting it?

So, I came up with "The plan":

1. Tune the radio to Classic FM
2. Light the open fire in my living room
3. Close all the curtains to make it cosy


Pic. No. 1 My living room

And do you know what? I have had a really lovely relaxed evening...... come on weather ...... bring it on!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Spot of sailing anyone?

You know the score - for the first time all year, you realise that the weather isn't just dismal and oppressive, but a slight chill has also appeared in the air denoting that winter is on its way (don't you just love British weather?).

It got me lamenting about my Mediterranean sailing trip a couple of months ago. Blue skies, crystal waters and gentle breezes........... aaaah, that's the life, I thought as I thumbed through my slightly fraying pictures.

'Right that's it,' I thought to myself, 'I am emigrating and shall buy myself a nice boat to live on.'

I decided to commence my emigration efforts immediately and began with a Google search; 'I want to move to the mediterranean and buy a really big boat that is bigger than everyone elses'

My search results took me to this puppy ............................. just look at it! It is bigger than the village that I live in!

Click here to view a bigger image

It is an aircraft carrier that the Navy are thinking of building and as much as I was tempted to buy one, I couldn't picture it moored up in a sleepy Meditarrean harbour. So I decided to search for something a little more practical and ended up with Roman Ambramovich's tub. At the exact moment I saw it, I decided 'that's the boat for me'.



I did a little research on the idea and started to come to the conclusion that it may be outside my price range [note to self; don't get bogged with the details], and then the phone range and it was my chum Steve.

"Hey, I am going to buy a yacht like Roman Ambramovich," I exclaimed.

"Good choice," Steve replied, "but do you want to know an interesting fact about the boat before you splash out?" he asked.

"Go on then" I replied.

"Ok," Steve said, "it takes a $1million to fill the tank up on that particular yacht."

No way. That surely can't be true? If that can be substantiated, that would interesting, but in the meantime I am going to continue with my 'Google dream-yacht search'.

Anyone else know of any interesting boats that I can aspire to?

Sunday, 13 September 2009

More supernatural goings-on

Blimey, it's like the Midsomer Murders living in Forest Hill in a 16th Century house [have a sneaky look 1, and sneaky look 2]. If it isn't one supernatural occurrence, it's another, and quite frankly, I have better things to do with my time than have a face-off with a ghost. On top of that, being an engineer I don't actually believe in them so it is quite time-consuming working out logical explanations for 'random doings'.

The previous inexplicable phantasmal incidents include:

Random flock of frogs

Dead bloke in my back garden

Aliens trying to beam me up

As if that wasn't enough, Johnny Ghost was obviously upset about my disbelieving and decided to up the ante with a proper 'mano a mano' spook-fest.

"What happened you poor thing?" I hear you cry.

Well...... sit back, make yourself comfortable and lend me your ears [heeeu..... hummm..... I clear my throat].

"It goes something like this," I begin in a sinister Cornish accent (all ghost stories should be told in a sinister Cornish accent, it's the rule).

"I was getting ready to go out and was choosing which clothes to wear. As girls often wont, I laid my clothes on the bed and positioned a necklace on top to see if it matched. I nodded and smiled inwardly to myself at my adeptness in selecting that particular necklace / top combo. After a quick shower, I returned to the room and was just about to get dressed when I noticed that the necklace had gone.

All that remained was the black top folded in exactly the same way as I had left it. Wuuuuooooaaaah! I exclaimed. That necklace was definitely there a minute ago! .... or was it? ..... yes it was, I remember getting it from the other bedroom........ so where is it then?

I searched everywhere and then decided to give up and find something else to wear. As I picked up the top to put it away, I realised that it felt quite heavy and one of the arms fell down as I lifted it.

Cor blimey guv'ner. This is really weird - the necklace had been stuffed into one of the arms of the top, and then the top had been refolded to look like it hadn't been moved.

Ok, it was pretty weird all round, but it got me thinking that ghosts aren't what they used to be. In the olden days, they used to do cool stuff like wander around your house clinking their chains and pelting your house with rocks. Because we live in a nanny-state society with an emphasis on dumbing down, even ghosts seem a bit lacklustre and unwilling to put the effort into properly scaring the unsuspecting punter. It is a sad reflection on modern values.

Friday, 11 September 2009

BBQs, rude carrots and puppies

Ring ring...... ring ring......... I was sitting at my desk when the telephone sprung to life.

I picked up the phone, "what do you want?" I asked.

"Alright bird [her words not mine, she's so uncouth!], what you up to?" said a familiar voice. It was Clare my good chum who lives in America.

"Just recovering from being in hospital actually. Where are you?" I asked.

"I have just flown in from the States and wondered if you fancy popping over to my parent's house tomorrow night for a barbeque?" she replied.

"Count me in, and don't spare the sausages," I enthused, and so the date was arranged.

At lunchtime the next day, I jumped into my car, put the postcode into the Sat-Nav, selected the comedy Michael Cane voice option, and commenced my peregrination to Worcester. To be exact it was actually a small village called Hallow, just on the outskirts of Worcester.

After a sendentary 1hr and 42 minutes, Michael Cane informed me in his cockney accent; "you 'ave arrived at your destination, and not a lot of people know that," just as I pulled into the driveway and past the large country duckpond in front of the beautiful converted barn where they live.

As my wheels crunched the gravel in their driveway, I opened my window and shouted, "thank God it's me!" as Clare came ambling out of the front door.

"Right, now you are here, let's barbeque for our lives," shouted Clare at her father (Gordon) and the pair immediately donned comedy aprons.


Pic. No. 1 Gordon Archer and Clare Jones

"That is just downright sad," I commented, slinking away to see who else had been invited. Sure enough, there in the back garden was a large table with Simon, Clare's brother, and his partner Penny. Now here is an interesting fact about Simon - he is a gold-medal winning Olympian. Oh yes, and to prove it, I have found an article about him. And yes, I did deliberately select an article where the picture makes him look decidedly unhinged. Simon Archer article - click here.


Pic. No. 2 From left; Clare, random child A, Clare's mother (Sue), random child B, Penny and Simon

As always, the food was lovely, and all cooked up by Clare's mum, Sue Archer below.

Pic. No. 3. Sue Archer

But hang on a minute, who is the dodgy looking guy in the background of the picture above, and more to the point what is he holding in his hand?

Pic. No. 4 Comedy carrot

It was with great mirth that Mr Archer proudly held up a carrot that he had just unearthed and looked uncannily rude.

I examined the carrot in detail, just to make sure that I wasn't seeing things; "Blimey, I wish I hadn't had the sausages now," I commented and went off to investigate Simon and Penny's new puppy.

Pic. No. 5 The puppy that isn't callled Dave

I thought that I would unashamedly include two fluffy puppy pictures in an attempt to entice people to the blog.

"What is he called?" I asked Penny

"Benji," Penny answered.

"Why don't you call him Dave, it has got more comedy value," I said, at which point Simon started laughing, and promptly decided that he preferred Dave to Benji which kind of put me in the bad books for giving him the idea in the first place.

Pic. No. 6 Mutt falls asleep on Penny

Finally at the end of a great barbeque, Clare snook up behind me and took this picture.

Pic. No. 7. Anne Dickens and Clare Jones

Is it me or do my eyes look too big for my face on that picture? It is like I have been photo-shopped.

Anyway, thank you very much Mr and Mrs Archer for inviting me, I had a great time.

I'm back, and this time I'm maaaaad

Well, it's been a long couple of weeks to say the least, but it looks like I can get on with things at long last, and here I am back in the land of blog. I won't bore you with the detail of what has been happening, but suffice to say, if I did tell you, it would be boring ..... Anyway, I thought that I would kick-start things with my favourite Friday night link - Oddbox, which features all the bizarre news stories of the week.



As you can imagine after having two weeks off, I have got a European Blog Mountain backlog, and I have been tentatively circling and prodding it to see if it will spew forth where I am supposed to start. It's a bit like going to a fancy restaurant and ordering a huge desert really.

Actually, I have just got off the phone to my good friend Clare who is on her way to Australia as we speak. She was in the UK last week and invited me to a rather tasty barbeque at her parent's house, so I might start there. Another good reason for starting there is a managed to get a great picture of a carrot with a rude shape. How about that for a taster ....... keep your eyes peeled (ooooh that was a poor gag).

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Sicknotes and alien carbon footprints

Gosh alright chaps....... after days of solitary confinement, today I emerged blinking and squinting in the sunlight ..... in fact I looked a bit like ET when his folks came to rescue him, and he waddled extremely efficiently up a seemlessly endless ramp (even though he had legs 5cm long), and into a super-lit UFO (bet those aliens in ET didn't win any awards for neutralising their carbon footprint - 'No eco-bulbs to see here!'). Actually, I shouldn't be making sweeping judgements about the carbon footprints of aliens, for all I know, they could be masters of sustainable energy.

Anyway, 'what the blazes are you on about you daft wombat?' I can hear you asking.

Well, back to the beginning, (last Sunday) I had a 'funny do' and before you could say 'get that meat wagon away from me', I was being unloaded into a ward at the John Radcliffe hospital. And there I stayed being prodded and poked and ummmmm and ahhhhh over. Look on the bright side though, I had some cool machinery to play with when the nurses weren't looking.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, hospital food IS as bad as its reputation. I nearly caused a mutiny one lunchtime by shouting "who's got the flavour?"

Just to let you know I am back in the land of the living, but the posts might be a bit sporadic for a while, so please bear with me.

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