Thursday, 31 March 2011

I've just given away my cooker. It's very liberating. Bring on Domino's Pizza!

Dahlinks! I love you more than Domino's Pizza (actually I can't back that up).

As you know, I have been in the process of selling my house in London, and last Monday one of the viewers put in an offer of £430,000 ($688,500 USD). Considering that the sale price was £445,000, I was unsure whether to accept the offer or not.

So I put the question to my lovely readers; 'do I barter, or do I accept the offer?'

By the far the vast majority of you said 'barter', and so I made like an Arab and did exactly that. I rang the Estate Agent and told them that I would accept £435,000 ($699,000 USD).

Pic.No.1 My London house. It's only got two bedrooms and one bathroom, and is ridiculously expensive because it is in a desirable part of the city. To put it into perspective, one of my best friends, Sarah, is currently selling her three bedroom house in Leeds (up north) for £79,000 ($127,000 USD)

The estate agent (called House Network by the way), got back to me within 24 hours to say that the buyer had agreed to the figure of £435,00! Woo hoo! The increase of £5000 equated to 1,253 bottles of wine, or 385 'Hot and Spicy' Domino's pizzas. What a bloody result. The Japanese lady buying the house only stipulated one condition for increasing her offer; and that was that the cooker be included in the price.

Now, considering that cooking is for the devil's spawn, giving away my cooker wasn't too much of a big deal. No cooker = less cleaning. Bonus!

Pic.No.2 This is the cooker that I am giving to my buyer. It has got two ovens and a grill. But I only used them for storage. The bottom shelf was ideal for jumpers, and socks used to go on the top shelf

So, it's all happening. The buyer wants to complete the sale by 13th May, and I need to get my skates on.

I will do it, but at the moment I am SOOOOO ....... bloody tired. I have been driving between Oxford and London at least three times a week to get the house ready for sale and to conduct viewings. On top of that I am currently trying to get my new business off the ground, whilst simultaneously designing a website for a friend. And that's before I factor in looking after Izzy and walking Naughty George.

My email inbox is brimming, I have a ton of mail that needs sorting, and my house looks like a hovel (but I don't mind that too much because I am pretty slovenly. It's a good job that black rings in the bath don't kill people).

So my dahlinks, if I haven't visited your blog or returned your email, it is not because I am ignoring you. Luckily, I have a free weekend coming up because Izzy is with her dad, so I am going to be doing some serious catching up.

P.S. So how are your days going? Busy or boring?

P.P.S. I nearly forgot. After my blog yesterday about the daffodils at Shotover Park, one of my blog chums, Robert from Arkwrights of Orton, sent me a picture of the daffodils he had seen at his place of work. And his place of work is uber-cool because it is a steam-train station.

Pic.No.3. This is a picture of Robert's daffodils at the train station. Even better, you can see a steam train arriving at the platform

Hey Robert, don't you out-daffodil me or this could turn bad!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Me (the great unwashed) was invited to a stately home

In the olden days in rural England, communities used to be structured around the land-owning Lord of the Manor. The Lord would spend his silk-attired days gnawing through slabs of venison, boffing virgins and hunting, whilst the sackcloth-clad peasants from the village worked on his land and existed entirely on potatoes (blimey, they must have been a feisty lot, what with all those carbs and all).

Fast-forward 500 years to the present day, and physically things haven't changed that much in Forest Hill (the village where I live). There is still a Lord of the Manor, and the village still has most of it's peasants' houses (albeit they have now been converted to cater for modern day amenities - I know, I live in one of 'em).

'What the bloody hell has all that stuff got to do with anything?' I hear you cry.

Well, it's like this. The present-day Lord of the Manor lives in a house stately home called Shotover House which is about half a mile from my village. And every year at spring-time, instead of seeking out the villagers' virgin children like in the olden days, he opens his estate so that they can come and see his daffodils and celebrate the end of winter with a cup of tea.

Yep, the great unwashed are allowed unlimited access to the estate gardens for three hours (which was rather a nice idea on behalf of the current Lord of the Manor - top marks), and it just so happened that 'Shotover Daffodil Day' was last Sunday.

Given that the Shotover estate was supposed to be very picturesque, I decided to take Izzy and teach her how to use a camera, and she was heart-warmingly enthusiastic about the idea. Oh yeh, it was looking like we were going to be gadget-buddies. 

So this post is a photo-blog. And these are the photographs that we took.......... (with my new Canon Powershot S95...... man alive...... I am still LOVING that camera).

Oh, before I begin, I should mention that when we arrived at the Shotover Estate, they charged £2.50 for entry and I was a bit miffed. But then I found out that they were using the proceeds to fix the roof on the village church, so I wasn't miffed at all after that.

Here goes...... the Shotover House photoblog.............................................

Pic.No.1 That is Izzy standing in a clump of daffodils in the front garden of Shotover House. It looks like she doesn't have any legs and is hovering

Pic.No.2. Some daffodils and blue flowers in the garden. Because the event is called 'Shotover Daffodil Day' you will find that daffodils feature quite heavily in this post. Even though I have done some severe editing

Pic.No.3 This is a picture of Shotover House, where the Lord of the Manor lives. And yep, that is another clump of daffodils in the foreground

Pic.No.4 The Shotover gardens had three ancient (I reckon at least 600 years old) trees in their garden. That is Izzy stood next to them

Vid.No.1. This is Izzy running around in circles

Pic.No.5 This is a view of Shotover House (I don't fancy hoovering yours mate) behind the three ancient trees

Pic.No.6 Bloody hell, she's good-looking! Oh hang on, I just realised that it was me. Izzy wanted to take a picture of me next to ....... yep ................... daffodils

Pic.No.7 One part of the garden was particularly rammed full of wild daffodils. Izzy picked one for me and I had to pretend that it was totally unique and special

Pic.No.7a And then if the daffodils weren't enough, we happened upon a Camellia bush in flower

Pic.No.7b The Camellia bush wasn't just in flower, it was budding too - RESULT!

Pic.No.8 I found this stone statue and I shouted to Izzy "quick, take a comedy photograph of this dog biting my hand." So she did

Pic.No.9 And being a chip off the old block, Izzy quickly realised the value of a comedy shot and shouted, "I want a picture of my hand being bitten by the dog too." That's my gal

Pic.No.10 Even though the stone dog didn't move, or do anything, Izzy declared that she wanted to take him home because he was; "loads better fun than Naughty George." Eh? she probably means 'less nauseating' than Naughty George

Pic.No.11 This was some Spring blossom growing next to the lake at Shotover

Pic.No.12 I tried three different camera settings whilst photographing the foresty bit of Shotover. This is the first. 

Pic.No.13 This is the second

Pic.No.14 This is the third. Which do you reckon is the best one then?
Pic.No.15 After tying out the different camera settings in the forest at Shotover, we unexpectedly entered a clearing in which was a hill with a folly on top. The folly was built in 1730AD

Pic.No.16 Inside we found some original statues, so I made out like one. If he was real, I think we would get on really well, and maybe even become lovers

Pic.No.17 This is a picture of Shotover House's back garden. Imagine mowing that bastard!

Pic.No.18 Some more blossomy shit with the lake in the background
Pic.No.19 Finally our trip came to an end as the sun set over the back of Shotover House and its lake

So Izzy and I went back to our peasant's house and had baked potato for dinner. Blimey, maybe things haven't changed so much since the olden days.

P.S. Do you have any ancient places near you?

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

I dug up treasure yesterday (literally)

Ooh, I forgot to tell you. I'm like a bloody pirate I am (except that I don't wear an eye-patch or have a wooden leg or parrot).

You know that in recent weeks, I have spent quite a lot of time in London getting my house ready for sale?

Well, yesterday I was in the garden digging a very big hole in readiness for a very big bush (crikey, that sounds like a euphemism), when all of a sudden my spade encountered something hard (woof).

At first I thought that my spade had hit a brick or stone, but it soon became clear that it was something larger. I knelt down and started carefully clearing the mud from around the object (I was pretending to be like those archeologists off the TV), but that got a bit boring so I got my spade and just stabbed at it like a psycho until it broke free from its muddy resting place.

And then ........... I found that I had discovered treasure! Kind of.  Ooh Arr me hearties!

It was a glass bottle and after I had washed off the mud, it became pretty clear that it was really old.... i.e. older than me.

Now that is one of the joys of living in an old house (I say old, but my London house was built in the 1850s, so it isn't that old compared with my Oxford house which was built in the 1550s) .......... they keep on throwing up little bits of history like a baby with a penchant for projectile vomiting.

So do you want to look at my treasure? Here you go ........................

Pic.No.1 The bottle had the word 'Idris' cast on the side

Pic.No.2 There was still evidence of an old cork stopper inside the bottle. Not only that, but the glass blowing was pretty rough; look how lop-sided the base is. It's obvious that primitive technology was used

Pic.No.3 Another view of the logo on the side of the bottle

Pic.No.4 The base of the bottle had the numbers '1397' blown into the glass. And nope. I have no idea what they mean

So I took my treasure and hot-footed it back to Oxford so that I could do a bit of research on the internet.

I googled 'Idris Bottle' and was surprised by how few results came back. But from what I could glean, Idris was a Ginger Beer drink, and it was sold in bottles pre-1914 AD (apparently similar bottles were found in the Somme after World War 1).

In fact, even though I didn't have time to properly research it, it appeared that Idris Ginger Beer was still available today, although the packaging had morphed from glass bottles to garish tin cans.
Pic.No.5 Idris as it looks today (but I don't recall ever seeing it for sale anywhere)

WOW! There was nearly a hundred years between the bottle that I found and the tin can above. That is one long-living brand. And Steve tried to steal my find from me by asking, 'uhh can I take that old bottle that you found? It would be ideal for putting daffodils in'.

Obviously I said 'no' because it could potentially feature on the 'Antiques Roadshow' and be worth a fortune, and then I would never have to work again. 

So, are there any historians out there who can help me shed some light onto my find?

Monday, 28 March 2011

It looks like I may be finally leaving London........................

As you know, three weeks ago I made the decision to sell my London house and live permanently (well for the next couple of years at least) in a small village in the Oxfordshire countryside. Yep, I was turning my back on the bright lights and big city ..... because ...... well it's obvious isn't it? ............ fields and roadkill are so much more interesting. Actually, I had better not delve into that rationale too much or I might change my mind (again).

Now interestingly enough, I had decided not to go down the usual route of having a traditional Estate Agent sell my house, for the simple reason that their fee was 1.5% of the house value for chrissake, which totalled nearly £7000 or $11,200 USD. Indeed, to put the fee into a real-life context, £7000 would buy 1,556 bottles of wine. Truly shocking.

When the Agent told me the fee, my instant (outward) reaction was, "you are kidding me?", but inside my head I was shouting 'you are trying to mug me, you bastard'.

So I pointed out to him that; "It doesn't cost any more to market a house for £450,000 than it does for one that costs £200,000, so why are your charges based on a percentage?"

The Estate Agent said, quote; "Estate Agencies have always calculated their fees as a percentage of the value of the house."

Grrrrr, lemmings have always jumped off cliffs but that doesn't make them smart. Having been in business for years myself, there is one thing guaranteed to irritate me ........... and that's people who basically say, 'we do it that way, because that's the way it has always been done.'

Now in my experience, there is generally an upside to scenarios like these. And that upside is that there are plenty of entrepreneurs out there willing to exploit dinosaur companies who don't change with the times.

And, after a bit of research, I found one such company. It was a purely web-based Estate Agent called 'The House Network.' They charged a flat fee of £525 and it included virtually all the services provided by a traditional Estate Agent. Result!

My house was listed with them three weeks ago, and in the meantime, I busied myself getting the house into tip-top condition ready for sale. The garden in particular needed some attention after quite a harsh winter by UK standards.

When it comes to gardening, I bloody love it I do. But I am not particularly good at it - unless crispy plants ever come into fashion - then I will be the Galliano of gardens (except that I don't have a weird moustache and I'm not rascist).

So for a couple of days each week (as well as fitting in my day-job), I have been driving down to London to tidy up the garden ........ and here are some pictures of one of my little projects for you to look at ................................

Pic.No.1 This was the kitchen patio before any work was done. It was covered in moss, the render was falling off the wall and the plants in the flowerbed were all dead (I probably caused that because I am more toxic-fingered than green-fingered). An old Christmas tree had also been dumped in the middle

Pic.No.2 New render was applied by 'Fat Pat' the plasterer, and the flowerbed was cleared of debris

Pic.No.3 The new render was painted (by me), a new trellis was put up and I put in some plants before finally adding tree-bark as mulch

'So', I hear you cry, 'has your hard work paid off?'

Funny you should ask that. Over the last three weeks I have conducted four viewings, and although they all loved the house, they didn't seem like serious buyers.

I got that wrong then. Today, my Estate Agent 'The House Network', telephoned me to say that one of the viewers would like to buy the house and had offered £430,000 ($688,500 USD). Woo hoo! The offer was great but it was still less than the asking price of £445,000 ($712,000 USD) but I am thinking about 'making like an Arab' and do a bit of bartering.

So tell me dahlink........ should I barter or should I accept?

Sunday, 27 March 2011

It's like a horror movie round at my house.....

I felt like Jack Nicholson from 'The Shining' this weekend (except that I haven't got a beard... well not much of one anyway).

'What are you banging on about?' I hear you cry.

Well, it's like this; for some reason my daughter Izzy had taken a shine to a tricycle she found in the garage. Not only that, despite it being way too small for her, she had been manically riding it around in the garden just like the weird kid from 'The Shining'.  

Pic.No.1 See what I mean? Izzy on her tricycle

Pic.No.2 The weird kid from The Shining on his tricycle doing the same kind of thing

Crikey, all I needed was to find a dead bird in the bath and the scene would be complete. Not that I wanted to find a dead bird in the bath mind you. I bet that rotting flesh is a bugger to clean off, even with Mr Muscle Bathroom Spray.

Luckily, before Izzy freaked me out too much, I had arranged a Saturday afternoon outing for us both....... we were going to the Theatre.

The time came for us to leave, so I went into the garden to get Izzy off her tricycle.

"Come on Iz!" I hollered, "it's time for us to go."

"Don't want to," she shouted back, still pedalling tight circles.

"Good job that it isn't negotiable then," I yelled back.

"But why do I have to go to the theatre?" she asked.

"Because you are going to be bloody cultured when you grow up, and you have to start practising now." I shouted.

My answer (bizarrely) seemed to satisfy her, and for the first time in hours, she detached herself from her bike and followed me to the car, albeit 'speaking in tongues' under her breath. 

The play was being shown at the 'Oxford Playhouse' in the city, and it was called 'The Steadfast Tin Soldier'.

Pic.No.3 The Oxford Playhouse. Izzy took this picture

I was concerned that it was going to be a bit of gamble because it was an improvised and abstract version of the fairytale, rather than a normal show acted out by actors.

We entered the theatre, took our seats, and before long the lights went down and the show started. And even though it was weird, Izzy bloody loved it. And despite the fact it was aimed at kids, I must admit that the production of the story was flippin innovative and gripping.

But that didn't stop me from having a few beefs with the storyline itself.

Let me give you a brief outline: A tin soldier is given to a small boy as a present. Then when the small boy is asleep in bed, the soldier wakes up and falls in love with a paper ballerina in the nursery. The jack-in-a-box gets jealous because he also loves the ballerina, so he flings the tin soldier out the window.

The tin soldier is found in the street by some passing children who make a boat and float the tin soldier downstream. Eventually, the soldier's boat ends up in the sea, where it sinks. The soldier ends up on the seabed, where he is eaten by a fish.

Pic.No.4 A picture of the tin soldier's boat sinking in the sea (I nicked it off the internet, from a blog called The Clever Pup)

Now this is where the story got bloody daft. A fisherman caught the fish that had eaten the tin soldier, and then sold it at market....... to (get this) the original small boy's mother! So yep, the soldier inadvertently ended up back in the nursery with his ballerina.

That's just bloody ridiculous. What was the probability of that chain of events happening? I estimate it to be 4,274,338 to 1 (and that's based on the small boy living in a very small community that likes fishing a lot). 

Not only that, but after the joyous reunion of the tin soldier and paper ballerina, the small boy decided that he didn't like them any more and flung them into the fireplace where they both horrifically died. The End.

Jeez, I didn't expect that. 

I turned to look at Izzy and she was distraught; "they're both dead!" she exclaimed.

I must admit that I panicked a bit, but still managed to pull something out of the bag, "They have just gone up to heaven together," I whispered in her ear before giving her a calm and saintly look.

Izzy's demeanour immediately changed from distraught to inquisitive, "where's heaven?" she asked.

Awww shit. I quickly realised that if I didn't head it off at the impasse, it would end up being one of 'those' question and answer sessions ..................

You know the ones that I mean: You tell your kid that heaven is in the sky. Kid then asks if they can get there in an aeroplane? You say 'no', so your kid asks you, 'how do dead people get there'? You say that 'God takes their souls there'. So your kid asks 'how does God take their souls there'? And then they top it off by asking, 'what is a soul Mama'? AAAAAGH!

So head it off at the impasse I did..... "Izzy," I said, "do you want to go home and play on your tricycle?"

Her face lit up and she shouted, "YAY!"

Oh yeh, no flies on me (although you can see where they've been).

Pic.No.5 I tell you now that having a child that comes straight from 'The Shining', is far preferable to one that wants to know how Souls go to heaven

Thinking about it, children in this day and age are totally mollycoddled with a vast array of politically-correct stories, each of which always culminates in a happy ending.

It's not like the olden days when I was a kid, where fairytales could be quite horrific; like Red Riding Hood being eaten by a wolf. And Snow White being poisoned by a witch. And Rapunzel being imprisoned in a tower. 

So, let me know what you think? Should children be allowed to watch horrific fairytales, or should they be spared from unhappy endings? *wink*

P.S. UPDATE! Just in case you were wondering whether Izzy was mentally scarred by the Steadfast Tin Soldier, she wasn't. After the initial shock, she went on to say that it was her favourite part of the weekend and she wants to go back to the theatre. See, I was unwittingly a good mum. 

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Three things have been really bugging me

So my lovelies, I need your help. I have probably got too much time on my hands, but three things have really been bugging me today. Three things which are quite frankly, a riddle wrapped in an enigma.

I annoy myself, I do: It starts with me noticing something odd, and then I can't get it out my head until I know what the answer is .......... which is where you come in! I want you to be my own personal Sherlock Holmes (but I don't want you to dress up in a Deerstalker hat and tweeds, or start smoking pipes. That would be nearly as weird as those fetish guys who like dressing up as babies). So here goes ................

1. Dead birds. I live in the countryside and over the period of a year, I will see hundreds, maybe thousands, of birds in my garden and around the village. Yet I have never seen so much as a single dead bird (with the exception of roadkill). And I spend a LOT of time walking around the fields, forests and glens of rural Oxfordshire. What's that all about then?

[Note to reader: it's not that I actually want to see lots of dead birds (that would be a pre-cursor to me becoming a serial killer), I just want to know what happens to them].

2. Aircraft turning corners. Why oh why, do aircraft turn corners when they are flying? It's not like they need to navigate around buildings or other aircraft. Surely the most efficient way to reach a destination is a straight line? So why don't they just fly from A to B?

As luck would have it, I noticed an aircraft turning a corner over my house this evening, as you can see from the photograph below.

Pic.No. 1 An aircraft turning a corner whilst flying. In terms of mathematical efficiency, it seems more logical that an aircraft should fly in a straight line

I am suspecting that the answer lies in Vector Analysis, but that is just me wild guessing.

Oooh, I have just remembered that I have an old friend called Matt who is an 'Air Traffic Controller' so I emailed him the question. Although I am awaiting his response, please don't let it stop you speculating.......

3. Dry-cleaning raincoats. This one is fairly self-explanatory. Why do you have to dry-clean raincoats? (I have got raincoat with a label that says 'dry clean only'). What the bloody hell is that all about then?

So get your 'thinking cap' on and let me know you theories. Look at me - I am all high-maintenance and demanding!

P.S. But the upside is that I will help you if there is anything bugging you (yeh, I am like Mother Theresa, but with less wrinkles, and less dead).

Friday, 25 March 2011

I want to buy your blog - Rant Alert

Phew, another week over. Not only that, but spring is now well underway, and the sun was shining all day today. But don't worry, I went to great lengths to ensure that it didn't taint my cadaverous pallor (I am even thinking of investing in a balaclava).

Pic.No.1 Spring has arrived! And here is a gratuitous picture of some daffodils that my daughter Izzy picked, even though they have nothing to do with this post whatsoever

'So if your post isn't about daffodils, what is it about?' I hear you cry.

Good question, and let me elucidate. I was sat at my laptop today, beavering away and minding my own business, when suddenly an email plopped into my inbox.

It immediately grabbed my attention because the subject was 'I want to buy your blog'.

Being the mercenary entrepreneurial type that I am, the dollar signs immediately appeared in my eyes. I opened the email with trepidation ...................... and read the following missive:

Hi, I am interested in purchasing your blog.

I represent a firm that purchases entire blogs, that is, the URL as well as the content of the blog. We use these blogs to improve the search engine rankings of our clients.

Our firm requires that the blog has correct English and grammar. It must have original content (not duplicate content from other blogs or websites) as well as having no pornography or other distasteful content. In addition, the blog must be able to be found on Google.

If you are interested in selling your blog(s), please reply with your URL(s) as well as your asking price(s). An actual offer for your blog would happen after a detailed analysis of it showed that it met all of our criteria.

Below is the typical price that we are prepared to pay (in US dollars) based on the PageRank of your blog:

PageRank 1 - from $200. to $300.
PageRank 2 - from $250. to $400.
PageRank 3 - from $340. to $575.
PageRank 4 - from $475. to $700.
PageRank 5 - from $625. to $1,000.

You can contact me at

Thank you,


Evolved Management

After reading his email I was strangely irritated by it (and I am pretty hard to wind-up). Then I read it again and I became outraged. The cheeky fucking bloody bastard..... (look he made me swear). Basically he was saying that he was going to check that my blog met his terribly high standards of grammar and his Google ranking criteria, and if he acknowledged that it did, then I would be the lucky recipient of $200.

$200 for two and half years of original content.

That equated to 30 cents per post ($200 divided by 664 blog posts).

Cheeky bastard squared.

Not only that, he had TOTALLY failed to understand his market. Bloggers don't write blogs so that they can ultimately sell them for cash; they do it because they love connecting and making friends with top-banana people in the blogging community. I tell you now, if Paul had been standing in front of me, I would have bopped him on the nose.

Anyway, because I am business-like, I decided to reply to him ...................

Hello Paul,

You want to buy my blog? Yes, I am interested and I definitely think that my blog would help your clients improve their search engine rankings.

My URL is:, and I think I meet most (if not all) of your criteria, except for my 'dogging' post, but I could easily delete that to appeal to your clients. Because I am stickler for detail, you will find that even on the dogging post, my English and grammar is correct.

When you say my blog must be 'found on Google', what exactly do you mean? Which keywords are important? My blog ranks highly on the search terms 'Mental Dog', 'Spaghetti Bolognese' and 'Sick Tattooes'.

Please let me know when you would like to undertake a detailed analysis, so that we can conclude the sale.

Kind regards


But blimey; Paul didn't bother replying, which makes me think that maybe my blog isn't even worth $200. That's enough to dent a gal's ego. 

So my dear bloggers, if you fancy sending an email to 'Paul from Evolved Management' requesting to buy his business for $250 (but make sure you check he is running his business properly beforehand),  his email is: .

 Pic.No.2 Here is a picture of a bug in a daffodil

P.S. the picture of the bug in a daffodil is totally unrelated to this post. I just wanted an excuse to play with my Canon Powershot S95 because I am still in love with it.

P.P.S Am I right to be outraged by Paul? Or blimey, do I have anger-management issues? I am just off to practice breathing slowly (in between each sip of wine).

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Top recipe: Super-tasty Salmon and Dill Fishcakes

So as you know, last Saturday night I went for dinner with Steve (Izzy's Dad) and daughter Izzy. Steve cooked salmon fishcakes with noodles, and because it was so tasty I stuffed my face like someone with Prada Willi syndrome in a sweetshop.

Anyway, after me banging on about how good the fishcakes were (and normally I think that fish is the devil's spawn), I received a number of comments and emails asking for the recipe. And because I am kinder than Mother Theresa (but with better dress sense), I asked Steve to email me the recipe so that you too can enjoy the feast. Here goes....... 

Pic.No.1 Salmon and dill fishcakes served with spicy noodles


  • 800g (1.8 lbs) skinless salmon fillets
  • 2 bay leaves
  • small bunch dill, stalks and fronds separated
  • 500ml (1 pint) milk
  • 600g (1.3 lbs) Maris Piper potatoes, peeled and chopped into even sized chunks
  • zest 1 lemon 
  • 4 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 tbsp capers, rinsed and dried
  • Flour for dusting your hands
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 100g (half a cup) breadcrumbs (or use Jamie Oliver ready-made lemony breadcrumbs for extra 'tang'
  • 4 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil
  • Lemon wedges and watercress, to serve 
Pic.No.2  Look! A picture of the ingredients


1. Poaching the salmon: Put the salmon in a frying pan with the bay leaves and dill stalks. Pour over enough milk to cover the fish (you may not need all the milk), bring to the boil, then lower heat to a gentle simmer and leave to poach for 4 mins. Turn off the heat, then leave the fish to continue cooking in the poaching liquid for 5 mins. Lift the salmon out with a fish slice onto a plate. Flake into large pieces with a fork, then leave to cool.

Pic.No.2. Lifting the poached salmon from the pan to the plate

2. Making and drying out the mash: Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for about 10 mins, or until tender. Drain well, then leave to cool in a colander for 2 mins. Tip back into the pan and return to the hob on a low setting. Mash the potatoes, watching that the mash doesn't catch at the bottom of the pan, for 2-3 mins - it should be dry and fluffy. Stir in lemon zest, mayonnaise, mustard, capers and some seasoning.

3. Mixing and shaping fish cakes. Pat away any liquid from the fish, then carefully lift the pieces into the pan with the mash. With your hands, gently mix together until roughly combined; it should take just a few movements or the fish will break up. Dust hands and work surface with flour. Shape a handful of the mix into a patty-shaped cake, about 2.5cm (1 inch) thick. Repeat to make 8 cakes.

4. Breadcrumbing and browning. Dip the cakes into the egg, then press into the breadcrumbs all over. Heat half the oil in a frying pan until very hot. Fry 4 fish cakes for 5 mins each side until golden. Alternatively for a healthy option, you can cook them in the oven at 200 degrees (Gas Mark 6, 400F) until the breadcrumbs are golden brown (that is what Steve did). Remove; keep warm. Repeat with the rest, or freeze. Serve with lemon wedges and watercress.

 Pic.No.3 Fishcakes baked in the oven

Nutrition (if fried. Obviously calories and fat will be significantly reduced if oven-baked)

431 kcalories, protein 27g, carbohydrate 27g, fat 25 g, saturated fat 5g, fibre 2g, sugar 4g, salt 1.05 g

So let me know what you think if you decide to give it a go!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Home delivery pizzas are the way forward

Blimey, you would never guess what happened to me yesterday? Utopia garnished with chocolate peanuts; that's what.

To give you a bit of background, when I first moved to the Oxfordshire countryside from London, I quickly realised (to my absolute horror) that my new village was too remote for Dominos Pizza home delivery. I panicked and was all like, "shit! what the blazes am I going to eat?" and then I ran around the house flapping aimlessly for several hours before deciding that I needed to come up with a plan. And I did.

So, no more nightly home-delivery pizzas ..........  no worries I thought to myself, and I fashioned a cunning plan to buy ready-meals from the local (as in 8 miles away) supermarket. Yep, drastic measures were needed in order to avoid spending too much time in the desolate wasteland that I call my kitchen.

Pic.No.1 This is a ready-meal. I have eaten 763 of them (not all the same flavour, I did vary them a little bit to be fair) since I moved to Oxford

The ready-meal strategy worked well for a while - in that it had kept me sustained for the two-and-a-bit years that I had lived in Oxford, but last night I reached terminal boredom with the limited range, and decided to do a bit of rude Internet surfing to distract myself.

Nooooo, I don't mean 'Redtube' before you jump to conclusions - that is just filth (so I have been told). Being the sad git that I am, I decided to surf the Dominos Pizza website and lament 'pizza's past'. The quirky 'Dominos Pizza website' demands that you type in your postcode (ZIP code) before you can view the menu. So I did just that and then a screen appeared saying; 'Your postcode is eligible for home-delivery'.

WTF! It appeared as though Dominos pizza had increased their home-delivery catchment area in response to the recession! HUZZAR AND DOUBLE HUZZAR!

I immediately decided to order a pizza (for scientific reasons you understand) to test whether or not Forest Hill was truly in the catchment area. And as each stage of the order progressed, I started shaking like a shitting dog in anticipation.Then BAM! I received a screen saying that my order had been dispatched and would be delivered within 45 minutes.

Pic.No.2 Woo Hoo! Look at me... I am back online with a Dominos account!

Aaaah, if only everything had continued in such an easy fashion ......... Yes Dominos do deliver to Forest Hill, but it took FIVE phonecalls from the delivery man before he managed to find my house. It didn't help that he hardly spoke any English at all, even though he works in England (don't get me started on this - companies who position people who can't speak English in customer-facing positions deserve to lose... well custom). But as they say, beggars can't be choosers.

To give you an idea of our conversation it was:

Delivery Man: Ring.. Ring..... "Hewo, this is pitza man. I try to find your house and I am at bus station near Sandhills. Where your house?"

Me: "I live in Forest Hill not Sandhills."

Delivery Man: "Where Forest Hill? How I drive there?"

Me: "Do you have a Sat Nav?"

Delivery Man: "Yeh, got Sat Nav."

Me: "Ok, my postcode is OX33 1EH."

Then the phone rang again twenty minutes later and it was the same chap.

Delivery Man: "I no can find Forest Hill."

Me: "Where are you?"

Delivery Man: "I still at Bus Station in Sandhills."

Me: "You haven't bloody moved since I last spoke to you, why didn't you use your Sat Nav?"

Delivery Man: "Sat Nav no work."

Me: "Why didn't you say?"

Delivery Man: "You no ask."

Bloody Nora, what a drongo.

Needless to say, I almost got irate, and much schenanigans ensued resulting in my pizza turned up an hour late and was bloody cold. But hell, I was just happy as a pig-in-shit to savour a 'Hot and Spicy' pizza after such a hiatus! In fact, I am positively joyous!

P.S. Have you had any problems caused by language differences or has anything as joyous happened in your life recently?

Monday, 21 March 2011

Supermoons and Salmon Fishcakes

Last Saturday night was a significant date in the astrological calendar. Yep, it was the night of the 'supermoon'. To be honest, although it sounded good, I really didn't know what a supermoon was. A normal moon but with a cape?

So I did a bit of research and found out that we were going to encounter the nearest approach of the Moon to Earth for the past 18 years, bringing it some 30,000 miles closer than usual. Ok, that's fairly cool in itself. But what was really cool, was all the hocus-pocus myths, facts and theories associated with the supermoons. Below I present you with some of that hocus-pocus stuff that was being banded about.......

 Pic.No.1 I went to the fields at the back of my house and took this picture of the supermoon rising over Oxford. It's a bit rubbish really - the moon looks a all weedy

1.  The supermoon will cause chaos on earth

As the title suggests, the astrologer who coined the phrase 'supermoon' (Richard Nolle) predicted that it would coincide with chaos on earth. I was keen to found out why this would be the case and undertook some further research because I am a sad puppy like that, and I need to get out more.

His theory was that the gravitational pull of the moon (the same gravitational pull that causes high and low tides) is stronger when the moon is nearer the earth, strong enough in fact, to cause significant tectonic shifts as well as geothermal and seismic activity. And then the same Mr Astrologer chappy went on to claim that the supermoon was behind the New Zealand and Japan earthquakes. Coincidence? More than likely; especially as scientists claim there is no evidence to support the theory, which is a posh way of saying that Mr Astrologer is talking bollocks.

 Pic.No.2 The supermoon again. How come my supermoon looks smaller than everyone elses?

2. The supermoon turns you into a mentalist

Apparently, during full- and supermoons, there is a far higher rate of suicides and homicides. Not only that, but psychiatric facilities time and again report far higher levels of aggression amongst patients when there is a full- or supermoon. This theory is not a new one. Indeed, the words 'lunatic' and 'lunacy' are dervied from Luna, the Roman moon goddess.

Coincidence? It appears not, because I actually found some proper research* concluding that schizophrenic patients show a deterioration in mental well-being during a full moon.

So there you go my lovelies .......... if you have any particularly troublesome neighbours, go and bump them off on the night of a full moon, and then blame it on the white blob in the sky. Job done. Defence sorted. I'm helpful like that.

Pic.No.3 See what I mean about my supermoon being crap compared to everyone elses? This picture (which I nicked from a newspaper) was taken at Glastonbury which is about 50 miles away from Oxford. I feel like I am being discriminated against, moonwise that is

3. A supermoon is a sight to behold

No it isn't. In actual fact, a supermoon is only 0.3% bigger than a normal full-moon. And as such, experts claim that it's unlikely that a novice on the ground (that'll be me) would be able to discern the difference between a full-moon and a supermoon. Which probably explains why my supermoon pictures were not quite living up to my expectations shall we say.

* Barr, W. (2000). Lunacy revisited: The influence of the moon on mental health and quality of life. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Service, 38 28-35.

After all the "excitement" of the supermoon, I had to hotfoot it to Steve's (Izzy's dad) house in the village because we had arranged to have dinner together with Izzy. Yep, I know it is an unconventional set-up, but I liken it to Mia Farrow and Woody Allen, except that Steve isn't interested in adopting kids and then boffing them.

Pic.No.1 Steve had decided to cook salmon fishcakes. He poached the salmon in milk and then spooned it out so he could mix it in with the potato to make the fishcakes

Pic.No.2 The fishcakes were covered in 'Jamie Oliver' tangy lemon breadcrumbs and then baked in the oven

Pic.No.3 The candles were lit in readiness for the meal

Pic.No.4 Then the fishcakes were served with stir-fried noodles and greens 

Pic.No.5 Chocks Away! Everyone tuck in! This is a picture of Steve and Izzy stuffing their faces with tangy lemon fishcakes

I have to say, the meal was the dog's danglies. It was so tasty that it made up for the fact that my supermoon photos looked rubbish.

And if you would like the recipe, just drop me a line and I will send it to you.

P.S. Did you manage to get any pictures of the supermoon, or have you experienced any supermoon lunacy?

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