Monthly Archives: November 2013

Faddy foodies

I have mentioned the younger generation of my extended family previously.   Youngest (who doesn’t actually contain any of my genes although he’s picked up far to many of my mannerisms) likes junk food. As explained here.  Oldest (that’s this one) doesn’t like food.  That’s not quite true. I shall try to explain…

Kurt Cobain, (famously of popular music group Nirvana, less famously one of the many rock stars who have died aged 27, even less famously one of the characters sketched on my wall of dead stars who died aged 27 ) said “I won’t eat anything green”.

Oldest has taken this to heart.   He has embraced the concept wholeheartedly and I think that the only green thing he has eaten in the last 18 or so years was a special edition Heinz tomato sauce that was green coloured.    He didn’t like that very much either.

He is (and I’m not bragging in any way) a very talented musician.    He can pretty much make a guitar do anything that he wants it to do and has an uncanny knack of picking up an instrument and playing it.   I tried to fool him once by giving him a wide and varied selection of lesser used musical instruments for Christmas.   He’d mastered the Ocarina (it looks like a potato with holes in it) in about 15 minutes.   The Jews Harp quickly followed and he only gave up on the kazoo because he said it tickled his mouth too much.

Regardless, being overly influenced by deceased grunge rock stars can be taken too far.     Oldest only eats food that starts with “Ch”.

It can prove to be entertaining.   Chicken is an obvious winner.    Chicken and chips doubly so.   Chocolate comes in many forms, there is chocolate, chocolate ice cream, hot chocolate (technically this doesn’t start with “ch” but it is close enough) and of course, chocolate chip cookies.   We can also include chow mein and (rather curiously allowing for the bland taste of everything else), chorizo.

Youngest had a desire for Mexican junk food.    “Do you like Mexican food?” I said to the eldest.  “Chilli is okay” he said, “as long as it doesn’t have any of those purple beans in it.  Or tomatoes.  Or rice”.

This is where Google and a little bit of imagination comes in.    “Boys” said I.  We are having a Mexican feast and it will please you both because it could conceivably be purchased at a roadside cafe and full of MSG and it will also contain more “ch” foods than you can possibly imagine.

We had chicken, cheese and chilli chimichangas.

I am so pleased with myself that I must be hell to live with.


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Ghosts in the machine

I’ve a new car.    I’ve had it for exactly two months now.   I’d like to say that I can buy a new car because I studied hard at school and worked diligently at my lessons and then by careful application of my skills climbed the corporate ladder to success and glory.

Or, I got lucky in getting a job 25 years ago and as nobody knows what I do there’s no way they can get rid of me.   I’ll leave you to decide.

The chap in the VW dealership and I had a great 3 hour conversation about how much I wanted to pay for my car,  We had wildly different ideas about value for money.   I found that every time I put my coat on to leave the price of the car came down a little bit.  This particular car was a three coat negotiation before he finally agreed with me.

So I’ve been getting used to the new wheels.   My last (also VW) car was definitely a mid life crisis vehicle.   A little convertible thing that was frequently described as my “hairdresser car”.   This time I’m beyond mid life crisis and have regressed to boy racer with all of the bells and whistles.    The challenge is that the car thinks it is smarter than me.    I think it might be sentient.

I had cause to drive north today.   Not too far north but north enough to notice that it was chilly and north enough that the customer I was visiting was comfortable with being blunt (or “not beating around the bush” as he put it).

The car has a little TV in it that I like to think of as the command centre.   It’s touch screen (naturally) and has a bevvy of buttons surrounding it (many years ago when shopping for a car with my son we chose a car solely on the number of buttons on the dashboard) that make the screen do different things.

I selected “NAV” and told it where I wanted to go.   In the UK the easiest way to get around is by using post codes but my car, being Germanic only pretends to know about post codes.   It happily accepts them but then comments that it doesn’t know any of the streets around the post code.   I’m okay with this.   If the car can get me close then my bloke radar can get me the last few miles.

The route to this particular location is easy.  M4, M25, M1, A421, A1 and I’m there.  I only asked the car because, well, because I can.   The car had very different ideas about which way to go.  It had a plan to head in to the most congested part of West London because of “delays on the original route”.   I ignored it.   I’m smarter than my car (and I told it so when I hit the M25, it ignored me but then I’d have done the same if it was me).

The car likes to take care of me.   It has this function whereby if it thinks I am falling asleep it gets all panicky and beeps and trills in a slightly nervous voice.   I amuse myself on quiet days by pretending to nod off.   It’s like having R2D2 as a back seat passenger.   I do wonder after today whether I have perhaps stressed it out too much though.

I overtook a bus.   The bus was stopped (it was the H28, not going anywhere exciting, that’s probably why it was stopped) so I snuck along the outside of it .   The car had a fit!    Not only did it beep and trill and (probably) scream with anxiety because there was a car coming in the other direction it decided that I was going to stop and put the brakes on.   You have no idea how disconcerting it is to be toodling along at 6am in the morning to find that your car has decided to stop because it thinks you are going to crash.

We had words.   Mostly four letter ones whilst I flicked through the manual looking for the page that should obviously be titled “How to stop the car from being a cissy when you’re overtaking a bus and there’s a car  coming the other way and the gap is only big enough to fit an oil tanker through and not a VW Golf”.  I couldn’t find the page that referenced this but once I find the function it will be turned off.

The sat nav continued to know better than me.   I almost turned it off but I was fascinated by where it suggested I should go and it was better than listening to the cricket score.

The car also does that thing whereby when I stop, the engine stops and when I press the accelerator the engine starts again.   I can fool it by giving the gas pedal a gentle nudge and it then starts up only to huff in an indignant manner if we don’t move off (a screen pops up saying “ECO tip – do not run the engine when stationary”).   It likes to give me eco tips.    If you open the window whilst driving at more than 30 miles an hour it says “ECO tip – Open windows cause drag”.    I’m guessing that this doesn’t mean it is expecting me to dress up in a frock and high heels but you just never know.

I stopped in a motorway services for a bit of a break.   Walking towards the, ahem, facilities and my mobile started ringing (as it does from time to time).  I answered it (as one is expected to do) and although the caller could hear me clearly I couldn’t hear them.  As I strolled back to the car I could hear them very clearly coming from out of the car.   The car had decided that although I’d gone, I was still in bluetooth range so obviously wanted to talk over the car speakers.

The most disconcerting thing though, and this has me a little concerned, was after I decided to give in and sit in the car to take the call.    After about 5 minutes the car started by itself.   There I was, just about to tell the caller to press Ctrl-Alt-Delete and the engine kicked into life.   I think that the car may have decided that I was going to be late and was hurrying me up.

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You can help

Watching the pictures from the Philippines across the TV screen made me think.    It is so easy to gaze at the images and wonder at the appalling scenes but it is also fairly simple to change the channel and put them to the back of your mind.

I decided to put the typhoon and the subsequent disaster into a scenario that I could relate to.   What would happen if Typhoon Haiyan had not made landfall in some far off place but had happened closer to home.   What about if it had landed in the Thames estuary.

Paris would have been hit by the storm, as would Birmingham.   These are conservative estimates – The storm covered an area that actually reached from the north of Spain to the south of Sweden.    Think about that for a bit.   Go take a look on a map and see how big that actually is.

The surge generated by the storm was (by most estimations) around the height of two double decker buses.   You can probably imagine two double decker buses on top of one another, but can you contemplate a whole line of them?   Behind that line would have been another and another.   These lines don’t stop when they hit something either, they just carry on round and over and through.  As this surge came up into central London it would have destroyed the Millennium wheel and taken out most of the sights that visitors to the capital take for granted.    The winds that came with the storm were moving at the same speed as a formula 1 racing car, flat out in top gear at the end of a very long straight.   Think of the trees in the London Parks being picked up by that and slammed into The Shard or one of the other new buildings dotted around the place.

Wherever you are reading this, think about the place outside, the nearest town to you.   The buildings are gone, there are just piles of bricks where the library and the church was.   Many of the houses that are rubble may have people buried beneath them and the high street will be littered with bodies, I say bodies, there’s the shopkeeper who serves you every morning and the lollipop lady who helps the children cross the street.  You’re hoping that one of them isn’t your grand daughter, you haven’t seen or head from her since the storm hit.   There are no rats about, nor dogs or cats come to think of it.  They’ve all been washed away by the surge or blown out of sight by the wind.

There’s no supply of clean water at all.   Maybe bottled water in the ruins of shops but that isn’t going to last long.  There’s no electricity, the only ready source of fuel for cooking and heating is timber from the broken buildings but even if you can get a fire lit there’s nothing to cook.

The hospital (if it is still operational) also has no clean water.   Any medical supplies locally available will be used up rapidly so injuries are going to have to be triaged.   You’re going to survive so you need nothing, you might survive so you’ll get treated or you won’t survive so what’s the point of wasting medicines and time on you.

You can help out though.   Donating a few pounds to one of the many charities that are helping out will save lives.   I know that there are lots of causes that constantly call on us for support but I think this one is a big one.   If you can’t help financially then you can help out by offering your time.   If you can’t do anything else, you can share this post on Facebook.  If you are a blogger you can “press” this on WordPress or even just cut and paste the links below and any other part of the blog that you think may help.

Donations can be made through countless ways, here are some UK wide charities.

Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC)

Save the Children

Christian Aid

All of them offer an option to donate by text as well as more traditional methods.


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So many questions

The Daily Prompt says…

On the interview show Inside the Actors’ Studio, host James Lipton asks each of his guests the same ten questions. What are your responses?

  1. What is your favorite word?
  2. What is your least favorite word?
  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
  4. What turns you off?
  5. What is your favorite curse word?
  6. What sound or noise do you love?
  7. What sound or noise do you hate?
  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
  9. What profession would you not like to do?
  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Well, how can you resist that!

My favourite word without a doubt is “Unfortunately”.  It’s a word to get your tongue around.   You know that if you are going to start a sentence with it then somebody isn’t going to be smiling by the next time you draw breath.   It’s a great word in so many different languages.   French is malheureusement, German is unglücklicherweise.   That’s three languages where we’ve a five syllable word.   Better still, in Basque it is zoritxarrez.   I have no idea how that is pronounced but it would definitely be a high scorer in scrabble.

Choosing a least favourite word is far more challenging.   It would be easy to go with “no” or one of those other negative chappies and then ruminate on how I like to be positive.   Frankly though that would be twee.    I think I shall opt for something more onomatopoeic instead.   Screech.   It brings to mind fingers dragging down a blackboard and also an old girlfriend in a particularly cross mood.

Creatively being turned on?  I may have misunderstood the question!   I have no spirituality.  I am bereft of the qualities that would give me an ethereal view on life but I am rather fond the mundane.  The wasp in my first post gave me considerable pause for thought and a long and somewhat tetchy conversation with a pelican in Green Park on Sunday will no doubt inspire another page on here in the future.   I really am not fond of bigotry in any form.   Does that make me bigoted?   It would be good to say that intolerance will not be tolerated but however you phrase it you are left with a dilemma.

There’s only one swear word worth using most of the time (I’m sorry, readers from the USA, curse word just doesn’t do it for me, it makes me think of The Witches of Eastwick), Bollocks!    As in “that’s a load of bollocks”, alternatively, as a dressing down, to give a bollocking does imply a satisfactory telling off.

Rain makes a great sound.    Bizarrely it reminds me of holidays.   I remember being huddled in a caravan as a boy, playing cards with the family whilst listening to the constant drumming of rain on the roof.   Likewise I have a remarkably clear recollection of sitting in our ancient three wheel car occasionally looking out to sea.   Occasionally because the windscreen wipers were struggling to clear the screen of the deluge that always followed us to whatever part of the world (normally Wales) that we chose for our week of relaxation.

Shall I tell you the noise that I hate?   You’ll not have thought of this but you will agree with me once told.   It’s the sound of public toilets.   Waiting in a queue for the use of a cubicle and listening to the rasping, splashing and farting that is occurring where I am about to place my backside is just loathsome.    I have often thought that the only thing worse than a warm toilet seat is a warm, damp toilet seat.

Without a doubt I should be an actor.   My mum says that I fibbed from the time I could talk and so I’m obviously cut out for role-play of one sort or another.     I spent some time thinking about jobs I wouldn’t like to do.    There’s a place in the midlands (of the UK) called the Black Country museum.    It’s a living museum in that people act out roles that would have been common during the early part of the industrial revolution.   Nail making looks like really tedious work and terribly underpaid.   It seems that the smaller nails were made by women who lived in intolerable conditions.   There’s another job that would be pretty boring though.   Think about a box of matches.   There’s probably somebody somewhere who has to dip each match into a pool of pink stuff to get the head on the match.   I don’t fancy that.

Allowing for the fact that I’m not a great believer in Heaven and God and all that, I reckon the best thing that He could say to me would be along the lines of “Bloody hell Robby, you’re late, you were due here months ago”.


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Escalator Etiquette

Forgive me but I need to have a bit of a grumble.   I know it’s not a fair grumble and I should rightly be castigated for even thinking of it but it needs to be said, I feel quite strongly about this.   My complaint is about “other people”.

Other people as in people who are not me and don’t understand the specific rules that make my life run smoothly.

I had cause to visit a different city recently.   I’ve been living in London or thereabouts for close on a decade now and I like to think that I’ve trained the people of London to behave as they should.    In this other city (my home town of Birmingham) they should still remember the rules that I left them with but it seems that things have gone to pot since the end of the ’80’s.

Escalators, you know, those things that you stand on and then move you up (or down) from one floor to another.   Some people prefer to stand still and be transported purely mechanically and some take a more advanced approach and walk down (or up) the moving stairs whilst also being moved.   Speeds things up you see.

I have a foot in both camps.   Sometimes I stand and sometimes I walk – it rather depends on how much of a hurry I am to get to my destination.   A visit to the dentist may involve slow backwards steps whilst the promise of a cream cake will see me move like Mo Farrah.

It may be that London has a lot more escalators than Birmingham (there are 426 on the underground alone) but I don’t think that is any excuse.   If you are not going to be self-propelled on the escalator then you stand on the right, leaving a clear passage (no rucksacks etc) for those in need of speed to whiz past cleanly.   People of Birmingham take note.   You definitely do not…

  • Snog on the elevator (unless you are on different steps and even then, not in front of me).
  • Gossip with fellow shoppers (again, unless you are on different steps).
  • Stand on the left and shuffle to the right and then shuffle to the left to get a good view of the shops you are about to visit.

There are a couple of other points that do need to be raised, just so that you understand how to make getting around faster and easier for everybody (but mostly for me).

If you are fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to not be in gainful employment.    How about doing your shopping whilst everybody else is at work.   That way the shops will have full utilisation both during the week and on weekends.   Shop assistants will have somebody to assist on a Tuesday afternoon and I won’t have to wait in a long queue on a Friday evening to buy my bottle of gin.   I understand that you may miss out on some of those bargains that are available when goods are nearing their best before date, but it is a small price to pay for the good of humanity.

Finally, and this is the most immensely frustrating thing of all.   This offence should be punished by being placed in the stocks and pelted with rotting fruit. When it is time to queue in the supermarket to pay for your purchases, why, why, WHY, must you wait for the checkout person to say “That will be £14.53 please” before you open your handbag, root around amongst the forgotten debris of a thousand days out for your purse, open it, get the correct change out, close the purse, put it back into your bag, give the assistant your money, remember that you have a voucher, open your bag, root around through the miriad different (often out of date) vouchers for a dozen different shops, produce the voucher, close your bag, open your bag, remove your purse, put in the receipt, close the purse, put it back in your bag, close your bag and then start putting your shopping away.

Coincidentally, this rant chimes almost perfectly with today’s Daily Prompt of “Intense!”.    Others will have far more reasoned and far less selfish opinions than I.


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Cheese and garlic in windmills

You can always rely on Shakespeare for a good quote, especially when taken totally out of context.   The title of the post is Harry Hotspur in Henry IV (part 1) railing against Glendower and more complete (and accurate) would be “Worse than a smoky house: I had rather live with cheese and garlic in a windmill, far, Than feed on cates and have him talk to me In any summer-house in Christendom”.

However, The Daily Prompt suggests that the world is ending tomorrow and would like to know what my last dinner will be.   I think that cheese and garlic in a windmill would be a great way to bow out providing there’s a decent bottle or two of port to help it go down.

I asked the youngest resident of the house what would be his preference.  I promised that whatever he chose would be served as Sunday dinner.   He chose a pot noodle.    Those of you from other

Pitstone Windmill, a 17th Century post mill

Pitstone Windmill, a 17th Century post mill (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

parts may not be familiar with pot noodles.  All I can say is that they are the staple diet of male students and (allegedly) have the nutritional content of an ant.

Youngest resident (I’m not counting the cat, she is the youngest in human years but the oldest if we allow for “cat years”) is a bit of a character.   He requires daily medication for an ongoing condition and a side effect of the medication is that he is awake way into the night and has absolutely no appetite until around midnight.   Getting food into him in daylight hours is always a challenge so any positive request for food is to be encouraged.    We occasionally have “Robby Fried Chicken” which, unlike Colonel Sanders recipe goes nowhere near a deep fat frier and (though I say so myself) is rather delicious.   If I had a recipe blog I would give you the means to make it yourself (but I don’t, so you’ll just have to wonder).

Back to pot noodles – Chicken and mushroom pot noodles to be precise.  It can’t be that difficult to fool him into thinking he’s eating something rubbish when it is really a healthy dish.   I reckon I can rattle off something in a wok and serve it in a plastic bowl and he will never know the difference.   It does come to something though when you’re having to make good food seem like bad food in order to get it consumed.

We also had a chat about who should come to dinner (I didn’t promise that they would actually attend), he wants Louis Suarez, Jennifer Lawrence and Adolf Hitler.   I quite approve of Jennifer (now that I’ve found out who she is) but I’m not convinced about the others.    Suarez (a footballer playing for Liverpool for those that don’t know) is famous for biting somebody during a match so if he’s not fond of pot noodles he may start tucking into the other guests.   Hitler?   He’s (the youngest, not the former Chancellor of Germany) just come back from a visit to Berlin so it may be that he (the youngest) wants to question him (the fuhrer)  about some matters that he (youngest) felt could have been handled differently.

The final question (the aforementioned condition means that questions to the youngest need to be limited and sprung on him when he is in a relaxed mood) was to select a venue.   Where shall we go for our pot noodle bonanza with the Uruguayan (you have no idea how many goes I had at spelling that) foootballer, the man who kick started the most devastating war in history and the girl who is very handy with a bow and arrow?

On a trampoline, on a boat, when it is foggy.

I have no idea.   He has previously shown no inclination to naval bouncing in a mist, in fact he’s never shown any interest in any one of these before.   Sadly he had run out of patience and refused to elaborate on why we have such an obscure place to eat.   It does sound like fun though so the next time it is foggy and you are by the coast, keep your eye open for a ship with a trampoline on it.  There’s going to be a very interesting meal taking place.


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