Sunday, 31 January 2010

I'll make an engineer of you yet

"Right Izzy," I said standing in front of my four year old as she cut the hair off yet another doll, adding another victim to her Victoria Beckham short-haired doll army.

"What?" replied Izzy unconcernedly.

"Shall we start training you to be an engineer like me?" I asked, with a cunning plan up my sleeve.

"Ok." She answered with not an inkling of enthusiasm (kids today, tut).

So into the car we got and drove to Oxford centre, stopping outside the...... drumroll..... Discovery Zone at Science Oxford.

'What the blazes is that?" I hear you cry. Well, it was a cultural centre for science complete with .......get this.... an investigation area for children to explore science first-hand.Yeh, you got it..... me at a cultural centre. How weird is that?

Pic.No.1. The Discovery Zone
Fortunately, the layout of the building allowed me to bypass all the culture in the foyer and head straight to the Discovery Zone where all the fun stuff seemed to be based.

It was an Engineer's paradise. Loads of basic scientific principles had been transferred into fun and practical applications. Izzy looked underwhelmed though...... that is until we (actually it was mainly me) started playing and discovering the highlights of science...... ooh lurverly!

Pic.No.2.The basics of magnetics

"Look Izzy! This magnet uses the alignment of iron filings to represent magnetic field lines," I enthused.

"If I pull them around, they look like of fish," she responded, "and I am going to pretend they are all having a poo."

Ok, she didn't quite appear to have grasped magnetic fields, but that kind of thing is often learnt, sometimes subliminally, over time, and I'm prepared to wait.... but not without giving her another little lesson first.........

Pic.No.3. Electro-magnetic replusion of steel bands

Next up, and still in the area of magnetism, we had a machine that used electro-magnetic repulsion to shoot steel rings up a pole.

"What do you think Iz?" I asked her after explaining the general principles of electro-magnets and the way force fields could be created from an electric current.

"I like pushing the button because they jump like frogs, and when frogs talk it sounds like they are burping," she answered to my disappointment. I wasn't quite managing to draw out the engineer in her.

"Ok kiddo. Maybe it is just the magnetic thing that you don't like, let's move onto something different," I suggested, clutching at straws, and leading her to the 'balancing ball machine'.

Pic.No.4. A beach ball jumps around on a jet of air coming from the black pipe

Pic.No.5 Izzy tries to catch the ball whilst it bounces around on the jet of air

At last!....... Izzy was in fits of laughter, moving the pipe to make the ball jump around on the jet of air, and then forcing the ball through the two target hoops. I seized my chance; "Hey Izzy, do you know what is keeping that ball on the top of the air? It is called Bernoulli's principle."

Izzy looked at me blankly and I continued undeterred; "the reason that the ball doesn't fall down is because air moving fast in one direction (in this case up) pushes less (in any other direction) than air that isn’t moving. How cool is that?"

"I like it because the ball keeps bouncing off my nose," she giggled as the ball did indeed, bounce off her nose again.

Blimey, I was on the verge of giving up, but at just that moment I discovered an application that demonstrated perspective. Basically, there was a glass screen and you had to draw a reflection of yourself on it, to see if you were the same size as aforementioned reflection.

Izzy sat on the stool in front of the glass screen, and as I looked round, I suddenly noticed that the room was empty.

"Hey Iz, the teachers have gone, let's do something funny.......... " I whispered.

"Ok!," she giggled uncontrollably as I drew a moustache and glasses on the screen in front of her face.

Pic.No.6. Izzy not demonstrating perspective

"I want to do it to you," she pleaded, still giggling.

"Ok, quick. Before the teachers come back," I hissed at her.

Pic.No.7. Messing about with the glass screen
So, we ended up being the baddies in the classroom, and I also found out that not only are Izzy's engineering tendencies a bit iffy, but her photographic skills leave something to be desired if you look at the picture above. Never mind, she will probably improve in time, but if not, I am holding out hope that she will be a pro-snowboarder instead.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Guilty Secrets

Ok, ok..... I have a guilty secret. Earlier today, I posted on this blog that I was having a 'slow news week'.

This is true to a certain extent, but there is also another factor that is leading to me post less this week than other weeks.

Everyone get a plastic chair and form a shifty circle, staring intently at your shoes.

I'll be first..... "my name is Annie and I am a Celebrity Big Brother addict. My evenings are spent in front of the TV from 9pm onwards, watching z-list celebs (as well as Vinnie Jones, Stephanie Beacham and Ivana Trump) humiliate themselves."

Oh yeh, despite my suave, sophisticated exterior, I am a devotee of the last-ever series of Celebrity BB to be screened in the UK. It's a people-watching thing...... you get put an eclectic bunch of (mainly) egotistical celebs in a house for two weeks and then watch the fireworks.

And tonight was the grand finale with five contestants remaining, and the public voting for their favourite "celeb"  [uh hum.... cough] to win. The contestants were Vinnie Jones, Basshunter, Dane Bowers, Stephanie Beacham and Alex Reid. And after hearing Vinnie Jones complain that he was 'depressed' when he entered the house because all the celebrities were 'minor', it was with interest that I watched the results come in. 

Would you believe it?! The winner was the most 'minor' celeb there - Alex Reid. Absolutely brilliant! Famous only for going out with a famous glamour model for the last six months. Oh dear, that's two fingers up at you Vinnie (who, to be fair, was very amusing during his stay).

Oh how I laughed...... in sympathy for all the truly famous people in there of course.

Then it ended, and I realised that I now have a 9pm hole in my life....... Suggestions on a postcard please.

P.S. I thought you might like the biographies of the people I have been watching in Celebrity BB for the last 4 weeks:

Stephanie Beacham
Real Name: Stephanie Beacham

Age: 60
Best Known For: Tenko, Dynasty spin-off The Colbys, Bad Girls and a recent stint in Coronation Street. The list is almost endless.
Early Life: Beacham, from Barnet, in Hertfordshire, was born deaf in her right ear and with only 75% hearing in her left. The actress says she can hear perfectly well when people speak directly to her but struggles in social situations and sometimes gets nervous.
Beacham had hoped to become a ballerina but was rejected from the Royal Ballet School and instead decided to teach movement to deaf children.
She studied mime with Etienne Decroux in Paris but returned to the UK after she was sacked from her job as an au pair.
Beacham stumbled into acting and went on to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.
Career High: Landing the lead role in the 1985 ITV series Connie. Beacham had been seriously ill in hospital when she was given the scripts. In an interview with Hello magazine she said the role ''helped me to go on living''.
Love Life: Divorced from actor John McEnery. The couple have two daughters, Phoebe, 35, and Chloe, 32.
Don't Mention: The 1981 low-budget film Inseminoid. Beacham said she only took the science fiction flick, and other film roles around the same time, to support her young daughters after her marriage break-up.
Words Of Wisdom: On her role as Rose in Tenko: ''I didn't mind millions of viewers seeing me so unglamorous because I've got no real pride in my appearance. I couldn't care less if I'm wearing gorgeous dresses like Connie or Sable (in The Colbys), or rags like Rose. The only thing I really care about is that people believe in my character.''

Heidi Fleiss
Real Name: Heidi Fleiss

Age: 44
Best Known For: Being arrested in 1993, and later jailed, for running a Hollywood prostitution ring which was reported to have many famous clients. She has so far refused to name them.
Early Life: Fleiss is the daughter of a Los Angeles paediatrician.
Career High: Selling the rights to her life story to Paramount Pictures in 2004 for a reported £3.1 million.
Love Life: Fleiss is reportedly engaged to Dennis Hof, whose legal brothels in Nevada were featured in the Cathouse documentaries.
Don't Mention: Ex-boyfriend Tom Sizemore. The Saving Private Ryan actor was convicted in 2003 of assaulting Fleiss.
Words Of Wisdom: ''I don't think prostitution is a career... but maybe a little stepping stone?''

Lady Sovereign
Real name: Louise Harman

Age: 24
Best Known For: The singles Love Me Or Hate Me and Nine2Five (vs The Ordinary Boys)
Early Life: Raised on a council estate in Wembley, north-west London, she was influenced by her mother's Salt-n-Pepa albums and inspired by the success of Ms Dynamite.
Aged 14, she began writing raps and uploading them to a So Solid Crew fan forum.
Harman met DJ Frampster online and they started uploading sets online as the garage/grime duo Heavy Like Dat.
Career High: Meeting Jay-Z, then president of record label Def Jam, in 2005. He asked her to perform freestyle and she was immediately signed, although later left the label.
Love Life: Single but self-confessed bi-sexual
Don't Mention: The night she spent in a Brisbane police cell in September after spitting in the face of a nightclub bouncer. The rapper pleaded guilty to assault and to being drunk and disorderly.
Words Of Wisdom: On Big Brother: ''I always end up watching it and getting a little bit addicted.''

Katia Ivanova

Real Name: Ekaterina Ivanova

Age: 21
Best Known For: Being Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood's ex-girlfriend.
Early Life: Moved to London from Kyrgyzstan at the age of three with her parents Sergei and Irina.
Career High: Meeting Ronnie Wood while waitressing at a West End bar in 2008. Wood later left his wife Jo.
Love Life: Ivanova was dating model Dan Turner, 23, but the couple are reported to have broken up. She split from Wood, 62, last month following a series of rows. On December 22, Wood was cautioned for common assault after attacking her in a street in Claygate, Surrey, on December 2.
Don't Mention: Alcohol. Ivanova said the relationship broke down when Wood hit the bottle. His drunken criticism made her feel worthless and she self-harmed, she said in an interview with The Sun newspaper.
Words Of Wisdom: On the split with Wood: ''We would have ended up killing each other. It would have been like Sid and Nancy. I think the violence would definitely have escalated,'' Ivanova told The Sun.
''I can't believe one man turned me into the wreck I became. There is no way I am ever going back to Ronnie.''

Nicola T
Real Name: Nicola Tappenden

Age: 27
Best Known For: Glamour modelling, but also runs online clothing shop Delicious Couture which raises money for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity, The Eve Appeal and Help For Heroes.
Early Life: Tappenden grew up in Croydon, Surrey, and went to Shirley High School.
Career High: Winning The Sun's first Page 3 idol competition in 2002. She went on to play a red light district girl in the 2005 film Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.
Love Life: Tappenden is engaged to Crewe Alexandra midfielder Simon Walton, 22, and the couple have a one-year-old daughter, Poppy.
Don't Mention: Bobby Zamora. The couple dated for two years but split up after she said he had cheated on her. Tappenden appeared on ITV2's Wags Boutique while dating the West Ham and later Fulham striker.
Words Of Wisdom: To OK! magazine, about appearing on Wags Boutique: ''Then after, I was recognised by young girls and women, rather than just men who look at you for your boobies. It's been a nice change, having people look up to you because they want to wear what you're wearing or because they like your hair. It's much more rewarding.''

Dane Bowers
Real Name: Dane Bowers

Age: 30
Best Known For: Success with R&B boyband Another Level in the late 1990s.
Early Life: Bowers, from Croydon, Surrey, went to The Brit School for Performing Arts and Technology.
Career High: Another Level's single Freak Me going to number one in 1998.
Love Life: Separated from his wife and agent Chrissy Johnston. Bowers has a son Kai, 12, with ex-girlfriend Emma-Jane North. Glamour model Katie Price, aka Jordan, is another ex.
Don't Mention: Sophie Ellis-Bextor. The Spiller single Groovejet (If This Ain't Love), featuring the singer, beat The Truesteppers single Out Of Your Mind, featuring Bowers and Victoria Beckham, to number one in 2000.
Words Of Wisdom: ''I'd like to be remembered as one of the great singers Britain has,'' while taking part in a Celebrity version of Come Dine With Me last year.

Vinnie Jones
Real Name: Vincent Jones

Age: 44
Best Known For: Being the hard man of British football.
Early Life: Jones was born on a council estate in Watford. He worked on a building site before starting to play football professionally at the age of 19. His football career started off with a brief stint at Wealdstone. He then played for Wimbledon FC, Leeds United, Sheffield United, Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers, as well as captaining the Wales team. Jones then began to concentrate on his acting career and has since starred in films such as Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and Gone In 60 Seconds.
Career High: As part of the 'Crazy Gang' Wimbledon side, defeating Liverpool in the FA Cup in 1988.
Love Life: Married to Tanya. The couple have a son and a daughter.
Don't Mention: Gazza. Jones once famously grabbed Paul Gascoigne's testicles to distract him on the football pitch.
Words Of Wisdom: ''I happen to have my own values, If I'm given a choice between going to a film premiere or going and catching a trout in a river I'd rather go and catch the trout.''

Stephen Baldwin
Real Name: Stephen Baldwin

Age: 43
Best Known For: Being the youngest of the Baldwin brothers. The others are actors Alec, Daniel and William ''Billy'' Baldwin.
Early Life: Born and raised in Massapequa, New York. Had a few small acting parts before landing a role in the 1988 film The Beast, playing a Soviet soldier in Afghanistan.
Career High: Playing Michael McManus in the 1995 film The Usual Suspects.
Love Life: Married to Brazilian graphic designer Kennya Baldwin.
Don't Mention: The film Speed. Baldwin reportedly turned down the role of Jack Traven, which went to Keanu Reeves.
Words Of Wisdom: About becoming a born-again Christian after the September 11 attacks: ''I had experiences that go beyond most people's wildest dreams, and I can honestly look you in the eye and say the experience I am now having with Jesus Christ blows away everything I did before.''

Alex Reid
Real Name: Alex Reid

Age: 34
Best Known For: Going out with glamour model Katie Price, also known as Jordan.
Early Life: Aldershot-born Reid got into martial arts at the age of 14. Fighting under the name 'Reidenator', Reid has made a name for himself as a cage fighter and has also trained in Vale Tudo, a combat sport with few rules.
He played Jason Cunliffe in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks between 2001 and 2002, and has had walk-on roles in films such as Eyes Wide Shut and Sliding Doors.
It was his relationship with Price, which started soon after her split from husband Peter Andre last year, which really launched him into the public eye.
Career High: Appearing in Katie Price's ITV2 reality show What Katie Did Next.
Love Life: Dating Price.
Don't Mention: Cross-dressing. Photos of Reid dressed up in women's clothes were published in the papers last year.
Words Of Wisdom: On the reports of cross-dressing, Reid told the Daily Mirror: ''Look, it's a bit of fun. I don't want to go to a supermarket dressed as a woman and I don't want a sex-change. It's something I do once in a blue moon.''

DJ Basshunter
Real Name: Jonas Erik Altberg

Age: 25
Best Known For: His 2008 dance hit Now You're Gone.
Early Life: Altberg was born in Halmstad, Sweden. He started making music from his bedroom at his parents' house at the age of 18.
He landed a recording contract with Warner Music in 2006, when he released his first single Boten Anna. This song stormed the Swedish charts and became the first Swedish-language song to reach number one in numerous other countries. He re-recorded the song as Now You're Gone in 2007.
Now You're Gone: The Album went straight to number one in the UK.
Career High: Now You're Gone knocked Coldplay off the top of the UK charts and stayed at number one for five weeks.
Don't Mention: School. Basshunter has talked of his schooldays being unhappy and claimed he was bullied for having Tourette's syndrome.
Words Of Wisdom: On dealing with his Tourette's, he told BBC Radio 1: ''I've learned how to take control over it. You could spend a week with me, 24/7 and not know I have it.
''I've learned how to feel when it's coming and push it back... and that took years of training.''

Real Name: Mark Althavean Andrews

Age: 31
Best Known For: His racy single The Thong Song.
Early Life: Baltimore-born Sisqo is the youngest of three children. Formed RandB group Dru Hill with his school and college friends. He then pursued a solo career with the album Unleash The Dragon, which included the 2000 hit The Thong Song. The album went five times platinum.
He has also had roles in films including Get Over It with Kirsten Dunst and Snow Dogs with Cuba Gooding Jr.
Career High: Being nominated for three Grammy Awards in 2001.
Don't Mention: The Dru Hill line-up. The band has been subject to various line-up changes and break-ups over the years, including a notable reunion in 2008 which ended mid-interview when one band member announced live on air he was quitting.
Words Of Wisdom: ''Artists are afraid to say who their influences are because they fear they'll be put in the shadow of that artist. Not me. When I get an idea from somebody, I straightaway say, 'I took it from them'.''

Friday, 29 January 2010

Slow news week

So, looking after a hyperactive four-year-old all week, has resulted in it being a bit of a slow news week. I mean ..... [shock, horror, drum roll] ....... I haven't even eaten out for six days. I am worried that I am fast becoming a hermit, a recluse, and all that it entails - wearing clothes that don't fit properly, shuffling instead of walking, and sporting wild, unkempt hair.

In fact the only time I have gone out is to take Naughty George on his daily drag. So, as you can see, photo opportunities have been rare. However, I did manage to capture this video of the view from the top of the hill that gives my village, Forest Hill, its name.

Vid.No.1. The view from the top of Forest Hill

Pic.No.1. Fallen over trees on top of hill

Yep, sorry..... I have had to resort to pictures of fallen-over trees. In fact the only excitement I have had is when Naughty George ran away with a husky and it took me 15 minutes to recapture him.

When I referred to Naughty George's recent antics on Facebook, a friend replied: "I hate George, I thought he was dead. Perhaps it is time that he was put down?" You see, he isn't the most popular of mutts. Even dog-lovers don't like him.

Poor dog. He is forlornly eating mouldy cheese from the compost heap as we speak.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Updated: A trip to the cinema (with new Chris Evans pics)

I am not a big cinema-goer or film watcher, so it was with trepidation that I decided to take Izzy to the cinema last Sunday to keep her entertained.

To put it into perspective, I have only been to the cinema once in the last ten years, and that was when I got dragged to see 'Sherlock Holmes' whilst I was spending Christmas in Leeds. Not only did it cost nearly £10.00 to get in [WHAT?!], but a box of popcorn cost nearly £5.00 [WHAT?!]. Given that the film was only 128 minutes long, that equated to12p a minute.

On top of that, I just did not rate the film at all. I mean just when did Sherlock Holmes morph from a genteel, studious sleuth into an action hero / cage fighter? Purlease.........

Anyway, I digress. Back to Sunday - I drove to a new cinema that has been built in Witney. Apparently Izzy can only watch films with a U after them (oh yeh, I did my research), which narrowed the choice down to precisely two, a 3D film called 'Toy Story 2', and 'Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: the Squeakquel'.

I immediately eliminated the Chipmunks film because of the appalling play on words - the Squeakquel [oh dear] - and so Toy Story it was.

Pic.No.1. Izzy in the cinema donning her 3D glasses

After being completely fleeced by the box office (£9.30 for me, £6.70 for Izzy, and £1.80 for the 3D glasses), we took our place in the auditorium and waited for the film to start.

And then the realisation dawned that Toy Story was in fact, a cartoon...........

I am 39 years old. I stopped watching cartoons when I was seven....... it was going to be a long afternoon. Good job I had brought my iPhone with me, I could watch a different movie if things got too bad. As it happens, Toy Story had mildly amusing special effects if a somewhat dull storyline, but what was really funny was watching Izzy's reaction to the 3D characters. The first time Buzz Lightyear 'jumped out' of the screen, she leapt a mile and then reached out to try and touch him.... awwwwwww!

The joys of experiencing things for the first time eh?

Pic.No.2. "Take off those glasses Iz, you look like Chris Evans

Pic. No. 3 "Take off those glasses Chris, you look like Izzy"

The good news is that Izzy loved the film and wouldn't stop chattering about it, or take off her glasses...... for the rest of the day. I kept getting sympathy looks from the public who thought that she was visually impaired.

Anyway, job here is done...... one child entertained!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Saturday at the Millets Farm Centre - Rock and Roll!

So, here we are. Izzy's dad has gone off snowboarding in a foreign clime, and that leaves moi solely in charge of a four year old for the next 10 days.

Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't totally adore her, it's just that the maternal gene has not only passed me by, but flipped me the bird on the way past.

When Izzy was first born, it didn't even enter my head that I wasn't a 'natural' parent. However, the realisation kind of crept up on me as she got older, and friends kept 'commenting' on all the cool things I have taught her throughout her four years on this planet:

"Are you sure she is old enough to drive a forklift truck?"

"Maybe she should be stirring the bowl rather than chopping those onions with that knife?"

"I would probably have bought her a doll rather than that toy chainsaw."

"You really think she will make it down ok if you strap her to that [snow] board?"

Ahh..... it's all just a symptom of the nanny state. Anyway, ignore that, I had planned lots of fun activities for the weekend and our first sojourn on Saturday was the Millets Farm Centre outside of Oxford.

One of the key attractions of the Milletts Farm Centre is that they have a battery of animals that the children can walk up to, stroke, and feed. But therein lay the flaw in the plan......most of the species in the Milletts farm centre also reside in the farm at the back of my house and therefore hold no 'special' interest to a countryside kid.

 Pic.No.1 Some ducks.... they aren't even exotic ducks, they are bog standard ones

 Pic.No.2. A pig. Apparently eating mud. The countryside is gross

Pic.No.3. Crikey, where's the sheep's head?
And so one field after another, Izzy quickly dismissed the animals as 'boring' whilst I suddenly realised that seeing a sheep / cow / goat was not only mundane, but was starting to make me feel hungry. Admitting defeat, I  leant on the sheep's fence that was next to the kid's playpark (to contemplate my next step) and became aware of a mother behind me explaining centripetal force to a small child on a roundabout...."yes darling, the feeling that you get when you are being pushed sideways out of the roundabout ..... that is centrapetal force"

As if I didn't feel inadequate enough, at the exact same moment, Izzy suddenly developed an interest in the animals and shouted; "Look! that sheep is weeing!" and proceeded to drop to her knees pointing and laughing as the sheep partook in some rather vigorous urination.  

Centripetal mother turned and looked at me, shaking her head in a pitying / berating way.

"Excuse me!" I waved at her, whilst she regarded me with pursed, and disapproving lips.

"I think you will find that your child was experiencing centrafugal force, not centrapetal," I smiled, blowing kisses, and dragging Izzy out of the competitive kid-pit posing as a play area.

"So Izzy," I asked, "what would you like to do now?"

"Eat lunch in a restaurant," she replied assuredly. Way to go! A girl after my own heart and only four to boot.

Pic.No.4. Moi in the restaurant
We ordered a panini each, a cappucino for me and a fresh orange for madame Izzy. It was nice, but at nearly £14.00 ($22.69) it was bloody steep and a period of personal quantitative easing beforehand would have made the blow a little easier to take.

Pic.No.5. I could have purchased a small Scottish Island for the price of this panini and cappucino
Finally, after eating, I took Izzy to the park to play, after after watching her descend the same slide 63 times, each time shouting "look at me!" I decided I was getting a bit bored.

"Come on, it's time to go," I told Izzy.

"NOOOOO!" she replied so loudly that every parent in the park turned round as though I was physcially abusing her.

"Sssshhhhh," I motioned frantically, "if you are quiet, you can go on one more thing."

Pic.No.6. Izzy samples the wonders of a bouncy chipmunk
After thirty minutes of watching her ride a bouncy chipmunk, I was 'farm centred' out, and this time, I did manage to extricate from the joys of the Farm Centre and get her back home. 

The joys of looking after a four year old

Sorry the posts have been a bit patchy. I have been looking after a four-year-old for the last four days, so my life has revolved around; tidying away toys, making food which she "doesn't like", washing up, tidying away more toys, trying to get her paws off my iPhone, bathing, teeth-cleaning, reading, entertaining....... the lists goes on, and on. It's fun, but it doesn't leave me any time to do my own stuff.

Luckily she has gone back to school today, so I have a bit of time to catch up.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Naughty George's name is literal

"So," asked a friend today, after staring at my dog, Naughty George with a cocked head, "is his name ironic?" (a question that I get asked quite frequently).

Pic.No.1 Naughty George looking innocent. Don't be fooled

"Ummmmm...... no," I replied, "his name is literal. He actually is really naughty."

And you know what, every time I make that statement, I sense people looking me up and down and concluding NG is only naughty because I am unable to train him.

"Can I have a go with him?" requests friend, at which I point to my hound with a flourish and say, "go ahead".

Friend / Dog Whisperer looked at me suspiciously and shouted "sit" at Naughty George. And you know what, Naughty George sat straight away, albeit with a vacuous look on his face. My friend then shouted various other commands; "lie ...... stand ...... paw........sit ...........heel," all of which NG executed perfectly, making friend feel like they were in command of a police dog. 

"Hey your dog is really good," says friend, feeling a bit smug because he had tamed the beast, "why do you call him Naughty?"

"Because you are confusing good training with him being a good dog. It's all the other stuff that he does outside of that which makes him bad."

"Like what?" he asked.

"Loads of stuff," I replied, "in fact I will do a blog on the naughty stuff that he does for the remainder of today."

As it turned out, I didn't have to wait long. Alerted by a yelp of fright coming from outside, and then some frantic barking, I ran into the garden to find ...................

Pic.No.2. Naughty George had chased a cat up a tree

Yep, a cat had strayed into our garden, so Naughty George chased it up a tree and was woofing manically as the thing teetered on a branch 15 feet in the air.

A dead cat scenario was then avoided by dragging NG, thrashing and twisting, back into the house. [note to self: go and check tree to make sure cat isn't there still.

At that point, Izzy came home from school, excitedly clutching a gingerbread man she had made that day.

"Can I eat it?" she asked.

"After dinner," I replied, putting the gingerbread on the table...... you can see where this is going can't you?

After obediently eating all her dinner, Izzy asked for her gingerbread man, only to be faced with this.........

Pic.No.3. No more gingerbread man

NG had sneakily jumped up at the table and eaten the whole bloody thing. What a git. So I was left trying to console a small child who was sobbing uncontrollably about the fact that she hadn't got to try her great masterpiece.

Pic.No.4. Naughty George looks ashamed after his latest escapade

At least NG did have the common decency to look ashamed after murdering the gingerbread man that Izzy had so painstakingly made at school. Hmmmmmm...... now friend......... do you understand where his name came from?!

Pic.No.5. Naughty George's dog tag

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Recipe - Chicken Divan

As you probably know, I try not to go to that lonely, desolate place at the back of my house (the kitchen), unless there is an emergency - for example, I need to get a beer out of the fridge.

So you can imagine, the very fact that I decided to go there yesterday..... and cook something.......... I must have gotten a very tasty recipe. 

Indeed I have, and because I am always putting others before myself, and helping old ladies across the road, I decided to share it with you. I guarantee that you will love this recipe - no one I have ever cooked it for has said they don't like it. It makes me feel like Gordon Ramsay.

Chicken Divan (pronounced Dar'van)

Pic.No.1. Chicken Divan

2 large chicken brests (diced)
1 large broccoli floret
2 cans 295g (10oz) Campbells condensed chicken soup
250g (9oz) Mayonnaise
1 Dessert spoon curry powder
85g (3oz) Gruyere cheese grated
Breadcrumbs (equivalent to three thick slices of bread)
Juice of 1 lemon

Blanch the broccoli by put it in a pot of boiling water for 5 mintues and then remove. Meanwhile, cook the diced chicken with a dash of olive oil until browed off. Lay the broccoli florets over the base of a large casserole dish, and then spoon over the chicken.

To make the sauce, mix the mayonnaise, condensed soup, lemon and curry powder. Once done, ladle the saunce over the broccoli and chicken in the casserole dish. Sprinkle the grated Gruyere on top of that, and then finally, add the layer of breadcrumbs.

Pop in the oven at Gas Mark 4 (350F or 180C), for 40 minutes and then serve on a bed of rice (I like basmati, but you can choose whatever your prefer).

Serves 4 greedy people, or 6 skinny people.

Oh, I thought that whilst I was inhabiting that room 'out back', you might like a little photo tour. If you are anything like me, you'll love a good nosey around people houses.

Pic.No. 2 The eating area

Pic.No.3. The bit where I normally heat up pizzas and make cups of tea

Pic.No.4. The back door. That is my escape route if anyone suggests that I cook something

Pic.No.5. The entrance to that desolate wasteland at the back of my house

Anyway, that's me done - hope you enjoy the recipe! Let me know what you think.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Ahhh! The peaceful country life..........

Sometimes I reflect on the reasons I left London to live in Oxford...... open fields, no hustle and bustle ..... the peaceful life. Peaceful everywhere other than my house that is. This is the scene that greeted me in the kitchen this morning ...........

Vid.No.1. Naughty George

Yep, Izzy was playing a green trumpet thingy with Naughty George accompanying her. Just what you need on a relaxing Sunday morning.

Night out anyone?

So there I was yesterday afternoon, minding my own business trying to count the number of threads in one of my cotton sheets, when the telephone rang.

"What?" I answered, slightly annoyed that I had lost my place after having worked my way two thirds down the blasted thing.

"It's Sam," came the voice, "do you fancy meeting up for a drink tonight?" she asked.

"Too right I do. I need to commiserate the demise of my igloo," I answered, "See you at 8pm and I'll give Clare a ring to see if she wants to come too."

Clare was initially hesitant because her cat was ill.... something to do with its kidneys ...... but not being much of a cat person, I managed to persuade her that her cat wouldn't want her staying in brooding.

"Just think if you were ill," I said, "you wouldn't like it if you felt like you were holding people back."

"Yeh, s'pose so," she said with uncertainty.

"Cool, I'll see you in the White Horse later," I replied, my work done.

And so it was....... despite cat adversity, igloo adversity, and no adversity (Sam), we all overcame our woes, or lack of them, and met at the White Horse Inn, Forest Hill.

Pic.No.1. 'No woes' Sam

Pic.No.2. 'Poorly cat woes' Clare

Pic.No.3 'Igloo woes' Anne

It just goes to show that community spirit mixed with a dash of red wine, solves most woes.

P.S. I am trying to grow my hair longer which is why is looks a bit straggly at the ends. I am still not sure whether it is better shorter or longer, but watching it grow diverts my attention from my cotton thread count.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The short, but fulfilling life of my igloo

You will probably recall me mentioning not so long ago, that one of my life ambitions was building an igloo..... with a roof on it.

Given the fact that the UK has been turned into a snowy winter wonderland over the last two weeks, I saw my chance and seized it.

I used a bucket to make same-size bricks and carefully calcuated the angle that the bricks needed to be in order to support a roof (I know, the engineering geek in me not only surfaced, but consumed me like a snake eating a pig). Brick by brick, the igloo started to take shape, until the definining moment came - would I be able to construct the roof without it collapsing?

You betcha! Three hours after commencing the project, and well after sundown, I finally had an igloo...... with a roof! Woo Hoo!

Pic.No.1. Oi! Izzy! What are you doing in that igloo? That's my igloo

Pic.No.2. Triumph. Me in my igloo. My new spiritual home

I retired that evening, euphoric that I had finally achieved one of my life ambitions.

As it turned out, my euphoria was to come to an abrupt end. Imagine my dismay, when I awoke the next morning to find that it was raining. After nearly three weeks of sub-zero temperatures and fluffy snow, the very day after I build my igloo, the thaw starts. Bloody typical.

And so commenced the sad demise of my wondrous structure, captured on camera...........

Pic.No.3. The right hand side goes lopsided

Pic.No.4. The door collapses

Pic.No.5. The roof caves in

Pic.No.6. The walls collapse

Pic.No.7. A sad mound of snow where once a mighty edifice stood

As if having my heart cruelly wrenched from my chest weren't enough, the end of the winter wonderland was marked by the return of grey clouds and rain.

I think I must have been really bad in a previous life.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Fun, fun, fun! .... list the countries you have visited

Now then. Just before you ask...... yes, I did build my Igloo today. But I am not going to share it with you just yet (ooh, such a tease), because I found this fun application on the internet.

You click on the link, and then tick (or check, if you live in America) all the countries that you have visited.

When you have finished, it highlights all the countries you have visited on a global map, and gives you percentage 'of countries visited'...

Give it a go, and let me know your percentage by leaving me a comment...... try and beat my 13%!!

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