Thursday, 29 October 2015

Harry Potter, Phoenix and The Middle Of The Doughnut (JK Rowling's unfinished novel)

The weekend was supposed to be a chilled affair, but with the imminent arrival of Gabi's first child it was anything but. There were Messenger updates, phone calls and text messages, with very little happening despite the hive of activity that appeared to be going on. First there was the induction, then minimal dilation. Next it was an epidural and further dilation, the Manchester Derby came and went with still no movement. Matt confirmed that everything was ok, so I tried to sleep. Every time my phone buzzed I reached across to see that all was still ok, EE would only charge £1.00 per minute for calls made in the US (though why they needed to tell me that in the early hours of Monday morning is beyond me), and finally, Phoenix Isabelle was born at 3.17am on Monday 26th October, weighing in at 8lbs 3 1/2 ozs. Good to see that, together with the measurements of a cricket pitch and the weight of cricket bats, births have remained imperial. Of course, everyone is thrilled with the arrival, and I was finally able to fall asleep, exhausted after the ordeal.

The arrival proved to be confusing for Zac who was not sure just what constituted an uncle. I tried to explain it, and also that if mum had another baby boy that baby would also be Phoenix's uncle even though Phoenix would be older than him. 'Do you have to be divorced to be an uncle?' he asked, and his confusion remains.

Of course, all of this was forgotten at the prospect of a trip to the new Harry Potter train at Universal. We headed for Denny's to start the day with an American breakfast, and parked outside was a Sheriff's car. Inside, two very American looking Sheriffs were tucking in, looking like they had just taken a break from the latest Simpson's episode. Honestly, I could not imagine them chasing anyone anywhere, and if they had to get in or out of their car in a hurry it would be a struggle, Anyway, I came up with the idea that we should go to Islands of Adventure, catch the Hogwarts Express to Universal Studios, and then spend the full day there. Later in the week we would do the opposite. I figured that the queue for the train first thing would be small, and I was right. Top tip if you are doing this - as later on the queues approached an hour each way. Universal have been very clever in devising this train (some might say cynical, exploitational, and many other words that indicate that they are a money grabbing conglomerate), as you need to buy a park to park pass, which is of course more expensive than just a single park day pass. So we rode the train and it was quite impressive, with windows that were actually screens depicting the true journey from Hogsmeade to Kings Cross, and various voices and shadows on the other side of the train walking up and down the corridors.

I haven't been to Universal Studios for years, and of course the latest attraction is Diagon Alley (or whatever its called) which features many Harry Potter shops and a big blue bus, as well as the latest Potter ride. As I get older I like the motion simulator rides less and less. They make me feel sick, and although the new ride did move along, it still had a lot of imagery that did the moving for you. I still have no clue what the bus is all about.

We went from the Harry Potter ride to Men In Black, which is effectively 'Duel' from Alton Towers but with a much more entertaining preamble, I guess designed to entertain the potentially much longer queues than Alton Towers generally gets. After that it would have been the Simpsons ride, but the 45 minute plus queue put us off. We opted instead for a walk through Hollywood, when Ole got accosted by a fish on roller skates (I kid you not), and Zac had a small tub of ice cream that seemed to expand to cover most of his clothes and all of his face within a few seconds. I know you didn't take that last part in, you are probably still thinking about a fish on roller skates, right? Anway, we went on the ET ride, one of two or three that remain from my earlier visit. It has to be said this is very dated, and will probably go the way of King Kong and Jaws very soon. Another that has definitely passed its Sell By date is Twister, Not so much a ride as a movie experience, with videos of Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt telling us how scary the filming was. The problem is, anyone under 30 has probably not seen the movie, and the special effects have been eclipsed by the likes of 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow.

Walking through the park it was apparent that many people have just given up. I guess they should be given some kind of praise for getting their sorry asses out of the house, but honestly, I have never seen so many people whose legs have no discernible joints, who are clearly not going to fit into the special seats that most of the rides have, and for whom the All Day Dining deal is the major reason for going to the theme park.

Yes, but what about the fish on roller skates? I hear you say. Ok - here's a pic.

We sat through Shrek 4D which led Zac to ask, 'What is 1D?' which most people struggled to answer beyond Harry Styles, and next up it was Revenge Of The Mummy. This was interesting as it was an older ride with little or no queue. Again, the original movie is from several years ago, but the ride itself was quite good. Zac, not known for his love of coasters, enjoyed it probably because it was indoors and in the dark, so he did not have the reminder of how big and scary it was. It was a bit like the old 'Black Hole', a sadly missed attraction from Alton Towers.

We decided to head back to Islands Of Adventure via the mythical train, and although it was a slightly different journey my non Harry Potter self was definitely underwhelmed. I am sure Harry Potter fans will love it, Ole certainly did, but not my cup of tea. Back in IOA (hey, I'm even getting into the jargon!) Ole's favourite ride had a queue of 20 minutes. It was another motion sickness ride and Zac refused to go on it, as did Sally. I reluctantly agreed to accompany Ole, keeping my eyes closed for the whole time which seemed to work. We came out to a very disgruntled Zac. Tucked away in a corner there is a kind of stage that is hardly ever used, and which makes for a great seating area. Zac had just about sat down when he got disturbed. 'I was just sitting there when this group came on, and all they did was moan. They were doing a demonstration, and when they ended I was just about to sit down again but they asked if anyone wanted pictures. It was ridiculous. Who would want a picture of that? Anyway, when they had finished pictures they were just about to go when they asked if anyone else wanted pictures, and some people did, so we still couldn't sit down. Then finally 
they disappeared, so we sat down, then we were told that there was a choir about to arrive. Can we go now?'

The choir even came with their own singing frogs!

Applebees is a popular destination for dinner. Billed as a neighbourhood bar and grill it is relaxed and the food is good, but Zac wanted to be sure. 'Is it a nice place? he asked. 'What do you mean by "nice"?' 'I mean do I need to have a bath before we go or can I have one after?

Recently, Facebook seems full of gruesome hunters sat alongside their prey, with taglines such as 'beauty and the beast' as the poster indicates their displeasure at the kill, and rightly so.Who could forget the furore that the recent killing of a Zimbabwean lion by an American dentist caused (ironically, their names escape me)?

Anway, here's the latest trophy hunter with her prey...

It seems that Florida is awash with bears. A headline in a local paper indicated that there was a cull in progress, and almost 100 had been killed. Ole was very knowledgeable on the subject, suggesting that if they were black bears you just make yourself big and it scares them You should never run, as they can run faster than you. And if its a brown bear you should just punch it. He paused for a second, and then admitted that it could be the other way round. Probably best to make yourself big whilst advancing on the unsuspecting creature, and then giving it a left hook before it realises that you are still trying to find the right page in your Bear Grylls Survival book.

Orlando holidays aren't for everyone, in fact they can be the worst nightmare for some people, but with a peaceful villa just far enough away from the mayhem that is Disney and Universal, it can actually be quite relaxing. And with a heated pool that can be lit up like a fairy grotto at night....ahhhh!

Busch Gardens is a favourite theme park but it does have its drawbacks. It is a bit of a drive from Orlando, and it seems to be a cross between a theme park and a zoo. Busch would have you believe that its all in the name of conservation, and to be fair they try to give many of the animals large areas to roam around in, but its hardly the Serengetti! There is the opportunity to feed and pet kangaroos, but these creatures are in a small enclosure, far removed from the outback. Many of them have sustained injuries, so it could be that they are in rehab, but that is perhaps giving Busch just a little too much credit. Lory Landing is a real photo opportunity as, armed with a cup of nectar, you enter an enclosure in which you are immediately swamped by colourful parakeet like birds. They are noisy, greedy and inquisitive, and they are not afraid to give you a sharp peck if you try to remove the nectar.

This bird was a bit of a problem, but the Lory didn't seem to mind!

After Sally and Ole went on a ride that made Oblivion seem like stepping off the kerb, we went on three water rides. And there was no 'you may get wet'. There was absolutely no doubt that you would get wet. Great fun whilst it was warm. We went on a few more coasters, and then, after seeing a very sad Orangutan and a Hippopotamus that swam back and forth in a wholly inadequate tank, the heavens opened. It got so wet that all of the rides were suspended, and we decided to head for home.

It had been a long day and we settled down for some tv. A medical experiment was in progress, trying to give some poor unsuspecting chap high blood pressure, which puzzled Zac, 'What happens if you die of high blood pressure? Do you just explode?'

Today was Universal Studios followed by IOA - the opposite of our previous Universal excursion, and the queues were considerably smaller. One exception was the Flight Of The Hippogriff, an inoffensive and quite small rollercoaster. I went on with Zac, and despite getting the front seats he still wasn't happy. The ride itself was ok, but he likes to get full value, and his complaint was, 'We waited 25 minutes for 30 seconds of that.' I fear he may have many similar disappointments in later life!

And finally, Zac's quick tongue got the better of him, as he feasted on a chocolate ring doughnut. Ole told him, 'You know that the middle of a doughnut is 100 fat free with zero calories?' to which Zac replied, 'Well why did they get rid of it then?' Doh!

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Confessions Of A Blogger

Ahhhh, bliss. I write this from poolside. Its mid 70s at 10am, expected to rise to mid 80s by the afternoon. Sally has gone shopping, Ole is doing homework (also by the pool), and Zac is in the hot tub. No - I'm not going to wake up in a minute - this is really happening. And if I glance to my left I can see Chelsea just about to kick off against West Ham on a screen that would not look out of place in an IMax cinema. Is it too early for a beer? Its never too early for a beer. Miller Lite anyone?

Now, of course it didn't just happen, and we went through a lot of pain to get to this position. Yesterday was a bit of a nightmare, particularly for Lady M. I put her through the ordeal of flying economy, and even on Virgin this is not great for one born in to privilege. The man next to her had BO and spilled a bottle of water over her, but then again I told her not to sit next to Zac! (only joking). Lets just say the chap had few social graces! The airport was horrific. We were kept on the plane for an additional half hour as the airport was supposedly full. When we did get off the queues were ridiculous. 90 minutes just to get to Homeland Security as the Yanks like to call their immigration booths. And when we got there the machine was playing up. They didn't bother with Zac's finger prints, and just did one hand of mine, which saved us a few seconds. Then we headed for the car rental. At Orlando Airport there are probably 15 different car rental desks all lined up alongside each other. Hertz and Avis had no queue, but in the distance we could see a long, snaking line of people. Nooooo, I thought, and fortunately this was Alamo, refuge of many a fly drive customer. We were further down at the Dollar and Thrifty desk, with just one person in front of us. Now, we paid around £400 all in for an SUV. In this case a very spacious Chevrolet with plenty of room for bags, children and all kinds of other stuff. It included cover for an additional driver (me), a full tank of fuel, every insurance under the sun, breakdown cover, etc. At the customer service point next to us a rather large Brit was trying to persuade himself and the agent that he and his four companions could fit into an economy sized car. An economy sized car in the US is something like a Fiat Punto, and this chap looked like he could fill a Punto on his own, never mind four pals and a load of suitcases. The agent summed it up nicely. 'Economy cars are like toys over in the US.' The man was adamant, and clearly wanted to save the £100 for a week of decidedly uncomfortable motoring. We continued on our way, and then got stuck in traffic. Not great after such a tortuous journey thus far, and Zac had just about reached the end of his tether. 'I'm writing to the President,' he announced. 'Obama needs to sort this out.' I will let you see the letter once he has written it.

I always enjoy going on holiday, but I was a little rueful this time with our first granddaughter due any minute. In fact at the moment Gabi went into hospital to be induced we were flying high above somewhere called Goose Bay which is presumably in Canada. I was hopeful that there would be a gleeful text message when we landed, but not so, in fact as I lie here nothing much has happened. Maybe for the next instalment...

Sometimes, you think the difference that you make to things is like pissing on the Great Fire Of London. You are probably aware that the UK has now started charging 5p for carrier bags. No such problem in the US. We have just returned from Walmart where every item is triple bagged by the checkout lady, and often there is just one item to a bag. Given the scale of the US compared to the UK I suspect a landfill the size of Wales wouldn't cover up the number of plastic bags they get through in a year.

Ole just asked why I write a blog, so I told him it encourages creativity and its good to practice writing. Suggested he might like to write one himself. 'Its just effort,' was his typically teenage reply.

What a sporting triumph Zac's birthday was. His team won 5-0, Ole's team, won 4-3, then Zac's cricket team also triumphed. Add to that a win for the Bengals and it couldn't have gone much better! One sport that could do with improvement is 'Pie Face' This game involves people taking turns to turn a wheel. At some point a turn of the wheel triggers the mechanism to make a plastic hand filled with cream rise up and splat the cream in the person's face. Great idea, I just feel that it needs a little more violence. As it is the victim gets a blob of cream on the end of their nose. Its just not enough.

Ive got a confession to make. Remember, back in the day, when anyone who wore fancy football boots was likely to get a good kicking on the pitch? And in those days 'fancy' generally meant white, which was the only alternative to black, In fact, even the three white Adidas stripes were considered decadent. Well, at the start of the 1970/71 season Alan Ball sported a natty pair of white boots, and a national newspaper, The Sun I think it was, launched a competition to win a pair. Well, I entered, and I won. Don't really remember getting a kicking for wearing them, but if I did it would explain a lot relating to my current knee problems. Anyway, the competition was to pick your best ever England football XI. As an 8 year old boy it was a pretty good achievement to win a competition like that, but I have to confess, some 45 years later, that it was actually my dad that picked the team. Phew, I'm glad I've got that one off my chest.

And speaking of knees, it looks like my osteotomy is going ahead. I saw my consultant on Monday and he showed me some amazing pictures from inside my knee. The good side looks like a billiard ball, the bad side looks like some ancient stonework that is crumbling away. I go back on 23rd November to discuss dates (for the osteotomy, not the fruit). Having been in the US for less than a day, and suffered at the airport and carrying heavy luggage, I can safely announce that the osteotomy can't come soon enough.

Winter is coming. I know this because of the little yellow warning light on my white car. I had no idea what this meant at first. It was two yellow lines with a yellow snowflake in between, and the only time I have seen yellow snowflakes is on the way home from the pub late at night (Mike Harding fans and men in particular will understand this one). Anyway, I looked it up in the manual and it said the temperature had dropped below five degrees so I should drive more carefully. I look forward to more creative warning lights as the winter months progress.

Over the last few years I have gambled with many a ropey B & B and hotels in Nottingham, but last week I stumbled across a great place called Roomzzz. For £59 you get a spacious apartment with cooking facilities and a grab and go breakfast of coffee, juice, fruit and pastries. Beats spending a tenner at Wetherspoons, and after tucking in to home made Mexican Chicken I spent a relaxed evening writing course notes and catching up with the world. I will certainly be trying Roomzzz again, or even the slightly more expensive Saco Apartments. Highly recommended.

One of the issues with being in the US is you can't have a bet. I once did this on my Paddy Power account, but they detected my location and suspended all activities as it is outside their territories. Now, the power of Facebook is often contentious, but I think that PP can probably detect through this medium that I am once more Stateside. So why do they keep offering me special deals via email and Facebook promotions, encouraging me to breach their rules again?! Isn't this some kind of entrapment?

Finally, it was our 21st Wedding Anniversary last Thursday (the day before we flew to the US). Holiday Eve is always a stressful time, and as I had already given Sally 4 pastel shaded Caribbean style rocking chairs a few weeks earlier there was not really any great fuss. However, I gave Ole a card and gift to give to his mum and dad, which seemed to cause him an inordinate amount of teenage pain as he realised he would have to do something and remember something. 'You guys have an anniversary every five minutes,' he complained. Actually Ole, anniversaries tend to be once a year. Looks like he will be getting a dictionary for Christmas.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Burgers And Bouncers

Zac has been busted several times this week, mostly related to school activities. First of all he announced that he was now getting off the bus at his friend's bus stop in Whaley Bridge, and then walking back to boost his fitness. Eyebrows were naturally raised, but the act was applauded, was discovered that his reward for the extra half mile walk was a giant bag of mini cheddars that he picked up at Cloud Wine.

Next it was the school bus after they returned from a football match in Tupton. The team were in high spirits, despite losing 6-0, and Zac threw a bandage at his pal. He then unfastened his seat belt, probably so that he could see what was going on behind him, but he was caught red handed, told off in no uncertain terms, and then made to tidy the bus after everyone else had got off. Inside school it didn't get any better, with giggles turning into uncontrolled laughter in the drama class. The teacher told him that she would ring his parents and tell them what he had done, but he didn't seem too concerned about it when he got home, and the phone hasn't rung.

It can be a confusing and challenging time for an 11 year old new into High School, and there were more giggles when he announced that he had been learning about dildos at school. I thought this was perhaps a bit experimental for year 7 pupils, and then he remembered that it wasn't dildos, it was condoms. Hmmm, lets hope that is the only time he ever makes that particular mistake.

Those of you who know him will realise that Zac's diet is a perennial concern. He has fruit and toast for breakfast and supper, with more fruit included in his lunch. The breakfast and supper fruit is often left, or just picked at, so there really is not much hope for his lunchtime portion, but after several weeks nothing seemed to be coming back from school uneaten. Then I emptied his school bag. Little parcels of apple in various stages of decay were emptied out, alongside slippery grapes that were long past their sell by date, and at least one item that was unidentifiable was an ex piece of food. The latest sanction is to insist that he finishes his fruit before he gets any toast, but I suspect that won't last very long.

My knee continues to improve, with plenty of cycling, but swimming is a step too far. My physio is very pleased with the progress, except for the joint effusion that doesn't seem to be reducing. I go back to the consultant on Monday to find out what he actually found three weeks ago, and hopefully to discuss the long term plan.

Grandfatherly update - Gabi has now been given the date of 23rd October for her induction, which means we will probably be mid Atlantic en route to Orlando when she is born.

Its getting very close to the festive season, and it will soon be time to organise our annual jaunt into the City. For quite some time we have had the Christmas markets as our focal point, but they have been getting worse every year. They are just a bit too much of an excuse to exploit the mood of the population, with overpriced food and drink served occasionally by a German Fraulein, but more often by a lass from Salford. Maybe we will take a tip from the Three Wise Men from the east and have a curry instead.

Zac's birthday is tomorrow, but of course his school friends don't really care when the actual day is, as long as there is a party. This year it was a trip to Jump Nation for Zac and six of his mates, and they had a great time pretending to be Tigger on a variety of trampolines. Back at home there was the watermelon challenge. This involves wrapping lots and lots of elastic bands around a watermelon until it bursts. It actually takes a long time and an awful lot of bands. I did the first 150, and the melon was showing the faintest signs of buckling, so I handed it over to the boys. Five minutes later it had indeed exploded, but only because they had thrown it in the air. When it hit the ground the pressure of the bands was brought to bear, and the red flesh was hurled into the air. Great fun, and something that could well be repeated with one of the supersize watermelons in Florida.

Seven boys is a bit of a logistical problem when they are all sleeping over, and we had to rustle up a number of mattresses so that they could all sleep in the lounge. I balanced one of these over the bannister, steadied it onto the stairs, then let it lean. Unfortunately, it leaned a bit too far, took a sharp right turn and knocked over a decanter of sherry and several antique sherry glasses. Sally was most upset, mainly at the loss of the glasses. Not because she had nothing else to put her sherry in, sherry glasses tend to be too small for that, but because they were her mother's. Anyway, it looks like we may be able to replace the glasses on eBay, and the sherry at Tesco. The decanter remained unscathed.

Packing for holidays is always a fun time, but we will have to watch out for Sapphire. I think he fancies coming with us.

Its been a busy time in the kitchen, but one recipe that I have not yet had time to try is Chocolate Lasagne. I will let you know when I get around to it - perhaps you would like to come round and try it?! I have been experimenting with cereal bars, and came up with a good combination of almond butter, honey, oats, hazelnuts, almonds, various seeds and cocoa. Whoever said that cereal bars were healthy is perhaps stretching it a bait, but they can address a hunger pang to get you through the day. Ole tried most of the varieties that I came up with, commenting that he actually liked the taste of these, but then he admitted that he doesn't really like nuts. He could have said this in the first place and saved me a lot of time and effort! And he doesn't seem to mind the nuts that are in the tub of Nutella that he regularly trashes.

Anyway, speaking of time and effort I have decided to give Heston Blumenthal's burger recipe a go. A mixture of chuck, short rib and brisket that is given a combination of two grinds. Sourcing the meat, and a few other things, confirmed that MacBurnhams butchers in Chapel is a much better option than the butcher in Whaley. The chuck is salted first whilst the other two meats are ground, Then all three are ground together. The grind has to be given special attention to ensure that the mince all flows in the same direction. I have to say they tasted delicious, the complexities of the grind really did make a difference, but it is a lengthy process! And because of the varieties of meat I have ended up making far too much. Fortunately Hell Dog was on hand to assist in the consumption. The process gives you a long patty that you can slice into burger sized patties as and when you require. It is molded in clingfilm, so I think it should freeze quite well, or maybe we'll just have burgers tomorrow too!

You may remember that some time ago I bought a white car. Well, white cars show up the dirt very well, and as I had not been near a car wash for a while I decided to wash it today. I used to do this regularly for my dad when I was a kid. A bucket of soapy water and a sponge - soon be done. But no. Apparently soapy water and sponges should not be used on cars. They damage the paintwork. Or so said Sally. I wonder if they have the same affect on glass? Must ask the window cleaner. Anyway, I continued, and after twenty minutes or so it looked cleaner with no discernible damage to the exterior. Sally continue to chastise. "You spend 20 grand on a car and then you ruin it." I thought that was a bit harsh, and I could have replied with, "You habitually spend over 45 grand on a car and have proceeded to reverse into a post, my mate's car and a wall, as well as hitting a stationery JCB coming in the opposite direction." But I didn't. I'm better than that!

Monday, 12 October 2015


Its a stressful time in a teenager's life, moving from High School to College, and with all of the added distractions it is no surprise that there have been some bumps along the way. So, we decided to have a word with Ole, but before we did Zac issued a grave warning. "Don't give him a mental illness - he might commit suicide. We've been doing about that in school."

There really was no answer to that, and Zac plonked himself down quite prepared to be judge, jury and executioner.

Sally questioned why Ole felt he had to raise his voice, Ole replied that she always raised her voice. Zac decreed, "He's got you there." And so it went on, until it came to allocating jobs around the house.

Mum, "Zac does the bins (smug look on Zac's face)."
Zac, "Yes Ole, I do the bins."
Mum, "Actually Zac, you only do the bin in the kitchen. You need to do ALL of the bins".
Zac, "Maybe I shouldn't be involved in this conversation"

Footnote: The bins are still overflowing.

Tomorrow is 13th October. Watch out lads, there are women out there threatening to let loose their tatas! I kid you not. We could all be tripping over them. Best stay at home!

I was in Bicester last week. Bloody awful journey. Pouring with rain, treacherous roads, not pleasant. However, by lunchtime it had cleared up and was actually quite pleasant. The office is a ten minute walk from Bicester town centre, over a level crossing. The level crossing has been closed to traffic for quite some time, but last week it was also closed to people. The caring council had laid on transport, so you had to walk to the level crossing, wait for a taxi, then take a five mile or so ride to the town. Now, the town is actually quite small, and when you get dropped off in Market Square you are really in the centre already. Unfortunately, on the way back, you have to take the ten minute walk to the level crossing to get the return taxi, another five mile or so journey. Surely the men working on the level crossing have to have a lunch break (there was certainly no sign of any activity when I was there), and surely the most popular time for people to go across the level crossing and into town is lunchtime. So surely it is not beyond the wit of man to figure out that for a certain amount of time, say between 12 and 1, the ten yards of the level crossing could be opened up to pedestrians to get lunch, go to the bank, or even just to get some exercise?

Sally went back to work this last week. I think she went in for just one day, maybe two, but what an effect it had. In just two days we (i.e. me and the boys) managed to allow a whole week of pots to accumulate, at least three week's washing, and about a month's worth of untidiness. If she ever went full time I think we would be cavemen within a week!

Gabi is getting ever closer to the birth of my first grandchild, and now it seems that it may be sooner than expected. The medics have recommended being induced a week early, which looks like coinciding with Sally, myself and the boys being on a Harry Potter train in Orlando. Expelliamus!

Where did all of my free time go? Ive got a ton of books to work on, a new musical about a rock & roll diner, and business opportunities that need due consideration. Something's got to give. Maybe I'll have to give up the day job.

Had to laugh when my sister posted on Facebook that she was listening to Cracklin Rosie whilst waiting for an X-Ray. "Can't beat a bit of Johnny Cash" was her comment. Would have loved to have seen the reaction as she put on her best deep voiced Arkansas drawl to sing the Neil Diamond classic!

Last Friday was one of my favourite days of the year. Hospitality at York Races, but it wasn't all plain sailing. I was, as ever, early, and I waited in the car as Sally put the finishing touches to yet another stunning outfit! She eventually came out of the door, got in the car, got out of the car, went back inside, came back out, got back in the car, and off we went. A mile or so later the doubts started. "Did you leave the key for Zac?" "No, I left the key in the door. You were last out so you must have left it." "Not sure I did. But I suppose I must have done." There were clear doubts in her mind, but then the certainty. "I definitely didn't leave any money out for Zac for his tea. You shouldn't have waited in the car. That doesn't work for me." So, you see, it was all my fault! Actually, the key was where it should be, and although I asked Ole to get some cash for Zac, our youngest was much more resourceful and procured his own funds, and more besides. A couple of hours later all was forgotten as copious amounts of champagne were downed, but the perils of waiting in the car are there for all to see.

Finally, a thought for you. When people die it is often their pets that get left behind, probably feeling as much pain as close friends and family. I think it must be the same for pan lids. Sally has burnt countless pans, but rarely the lid as well. No, those unfortunate ceramic or glass "hats" remain in a drawer like little orphaned children. Now, you may think that I am exaggerating, but as you can see below our particular drawer is overflowing with sad and lonely pieces.

Warning: Some readers may find the following scenes distressing.

The handle on this lid may look like an upturned smile, but this sad little urchin lost its bottom half when a cabbage went badly wrong.

This larger lid was on top of a pan of stew, carefully letting out steam through carefully placed holes. Sadly, the stew boiled dry, then continued to burn beyond repair. The lid was unscathed, other than the mental scars that remain.

Carrots can be considered one of the easiest things to cook, but on this occasion the blackened vegetables found their final resting place in the outside bin leaving the bewildered lid wondering just what happened.

So often we see that when an elderly person dies their life partner passes away a short time later. Maybe that was the case here as two pans were charred beyond repair in quick succession.

These three lost their respective pans in quick succession thanks to a mixture of pasta, peas and chilli. At least they still have each other.

Not even a lifetime guarantee could prevent these covers from being cruelly left alone in this world. Once again spaghetti was part of the problem, as well soup, but the final death came as part of the great alien rhubarb fire in the spring of 2015.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Burger Wars

I was pleasantly surprised yesterday as the phone is miraculously fixed. Didn't do anything. I am sure Sky would say the same - but someone did something because it now works.

On Monday I removed the huge bandage protecting my knee. It was a good result, with some swelling and bruising but no major damage, Just a couple of stitches on either side, and Sally will be removing those later today. Painkillers at the ready. That meant I could drive her automatic on Tuesday, and I diligently filled it up with fuel. The plan was to stay over in Nottingham on Tuesday and Wednesday night, but the Goose Fair was on so hotels were expensive and not always available. Sally offered to help, and found loads of cheap options, but when I asked her to find me one that she would stay in for less than £100 she drew a blank. Funny that. So, I drove home on Tuesday and went back on Wednesday morning, by which time the swelling had increased and it was getting a bit achy. I checked in to the Britannia on Wednesday night. Just don't, that's all I am saying. I did some research and decided to check out Annie's Burger Shack in the Lace Market area of Robin Hood's city. It is a proper burger restaurant, with about 20 variations on the menu, craft ales and lagers, and a whole host of interesting sides and sauces. It is not cheap, but then again its not MacDonalds. The burgers were amazing. Big thick patties, chunky bacon and just the right amount of cheese. Sweet potato fries cooked to perfection and a couple of proper pints. It was very busy - if you are in Nottingham I would recommend going online and booking a table.

I avoided the hotel for as long as I could, but when I did return I decided to iron my shirt for the following morning. No, Sally doesn't do that. There was no iron in the room so I rang reception and it arrived, along with an ironing board that looked like a pair of Nottingham's finest had been wrestling in oil on it. I covered it with a towel and got the job done. The bed seemed comfortable and the room was warm enough but it was a disturbed sleep, and I got up early for a shower. That's when I found out that the hot water tap in the sink did not work, the flush on the toilet needed special attention and the wall on the side of the shower had a number of suspicious looking hairs on it. They had kindly provided a shampoo and conditioner dispenser on the wall by the shower head. I decided that the gooey thick white liquid was a step too far. I checked out a short time later and, well, just don't!

Immobility this week gave me the opportunity to try a new recipe. Its not really a recipe - just melted chocolate formed into bowls. "What are they for?" Sally asked as she munched her way through the first one. An hour later it didn't really matter what the bowls were intended for. They had all gone (not all Sally, obviously - Ole and Zac helped). There are still a couple of chick pea chocolate cup cakes left (they are much better than they sound), but its Saturday so I think their days are numbered.

Thursday night was a welcome return home, with news that Zac had been involved in his first fight at Chapel School. No great drama, apparently he won. It was not of the epic 'Schmitt on the bus' fight that Ole retold with great enthusiasm and quite a bit of confusion, but it was Zac's fight and he was incredibly cool about it.

I am now getting fashion tips from my teenage son. 'You need to pull the bottom of your jeans up' 'Don't tuck your polo shirt in' etc. Hmm, as he struggled to walk due to the trend of putting his feet on his shoes rather than  actually in them I could have pointed out the error of his ways, but I guess that's not what dads are for.

Yesterday was my birthday. And a very nice day it was too. Sally smelt wonderful, I complimented her on it, and then again later in the day as the fragrance was still evident, in a nice way, you know, not overpowering in a Charlie way! Big mistake. It turns out to be Jo Malone. I suspect that is going to cost me a fortune. It was good to see Gabi, though she definitely won't last too much longer before giving birth, and then my little girl will finally have grown up. Ahhh. I wonder when that will happen to me? Never I suspect. Anyway, Zac decided to use the excuse of my birthday to not move much and deliberately miss his bus, so mum had to be out early to drop him off at school (that's no XBox for you my lad). Even when Zac came home and showed us his growing science report the ban remained in place, but he did get rumbled in one particular subject. The teacher spotted the flaw in his homework. "That's not your handwriting Zac, and I'm not giving your mum a merit." Sally was most disappointed.

Here's an interesting development. The wine racks at home have now been filled with pots. Its not that we don't have wine to fill them. There are bottles everywhere. I pointed out that when I want to find some pots I look in the pots cupboard, and when I want to find a bottle of wine I look in the wine rack. There are even wine bottle sized partitions in the wine racks, which is kind of a clue.

"They look nice," was the illogical reply, followed by "and those pots are not for you to use." So there you have it. Its not like we dont have enough wine racks. There is a huge one in the dining room. But I now might be tempted to look behind the pots to find out if there is a bottle of wine hidden away, and that could mean I risk putting the pot back facing the wrong way or some other heinous crime. Its a worry.

Yesterday I also went to my first post op physio appointment. I once again went to see Carolyn Edwards in Whaley Bridge (above the pet supplies shop). She is very good, and trust me, I've used a lot of physios. Anyway, she was very pleased with the condition of the knee. Reduced swelling, little or no pain and a comprehensive report that I couldn't understand. Then I told her I had been cycling which she was less impressed with. I only went from my house to Bridgemont and back, but even that was too far. She relented and said I should at least do some swimming and maybe a little cycling, then she detected the click under my kneecap. This was a concern not only because it was quite loud and uncomfortable, but also because it was unlikely to have been picked up by the surgeon. I return to see him in two weeks. It still promises to be a long road ahead, and I have just started a series of ice pack sessions that should at least help with the swelling.

So, last night we headed for South 7 in Marple Bridge. We have been there before for splendid burgers, nice beer and a good atmosphere. I have to say that the place has gone downhill. I may have been spoiled by Annie's two days earlier, but this was just not what I expected. The nachos (both the brisket and bbq bean) were great, but the burgers, sorry, no. Two cheapish patties rather than one big one gave them the look and feel of a Big Mac, and the fact that everything was smothered with sauce meant that flavours were masked anyway. Not what I expected, and although again it was not cheap, this time the food would not have been out of place under the Golden Arches. Won't be going again.

Lying at home immobilised gives me a great chance to catch up with stuff, one of which is Sapphire's video. Of course, he is much bigger now, so I suppose I will have to make another one!


Now that I am a week in to my recuperation I am allowed to drive my manual car again. I emptied Sally's riding gear from the back seat, adjusted the sitting position, and then looked with alarm at the lack of fuel that she had left me. Bloody typical. I am tempted to syphon out the diesel that I put into hers!