Archive for August, 2008


Friday, August 29th, 2008

What’s the connection between a chinese takeaway and horse racing?

One obvious connection is that the losers at one end up on the menu at the other; a less obvious one is that I’ve enjoyed both this week. But I’m looking for a linguistic connection.

As I was driving the other night, my diet buddy was reading me the menu from the chinese takeaway: It included phrases like
“…in a garlic and delicious oyster sauce”
“…cooked with lovely oyster sauce”
“Exquisite dish of king prawn…”
“Fried delicious shredded pork…”

Now obviously you’d assume that the people who wrote the menu would want you to think these dishes are special, delicious, lovely, exotic and so on. Yet they add these superlatives to make the menu even more exciting.

The world of horse racing is rather more honest: When you go to the races, you buy a race card, which is a little brochure that tells you which horses are in each race, what colours the jockeys are wearing, and some details of the horses’ backgrounds: There’s also a pithy summary of each horse’s chances. There’s the kind:
“Has every chance today”
“Should do well in this company”
“Worth an each-way bet”

But when they’re honest, they’re very honest…
“Best watched”
“Unlikely to shine”
“Ran green last time”

and our favourite
“Difficult to fancy”

Wouldn’t it be lovely if the menus were written that way?
“To be honest, the chef tries but he’s never got this right”
“…cooked in an insipid sweet and sour sauce…”
“One of our least popular items, and it’s not surprising really”

Well you can dream, can’t you…


Thursday, August 28th, 2008

I spotted this sign in the gents toilets at the pub where I had lunch the other day…

Then you look down…

One can only hope they wear rubber gloves. We seemed to have walked into a third age convention when we came here…the pub was full, and we were the only ones not of pensionable age. Still, the lunch was very nice :-)


Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

Well what else would you do with it?

Coming Clean and Getting Muddy

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

Having mentioned low-fat food in yesterday’s blog about sushi, I ought to admit what started m’colleague Leigh and I talking about low fat food. I’m acting as a diet buddy for a chum of mine (in fact, we’re on to competitive dieting – which ought to be easy as I’ve got about a stone more to lose). So there we are – I weighed myself last weekend and I weighed myself today – no change, but I do know it’s sometimes a slow start when you start trying to lose. We’ll see.

In other news, I got very muddy when I went caching today. I did
Sloden Pottery
with a couple of chums: The last hundred yards or so were a bit gloopy, but the main reason for the getting-muddy was the propensity of the younger chum to jump in puddles all the time :-) Still, it was a nice afternoon out and we walked three miles…that’s got to account for a few calories surely?


Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Regular readers will know that I’m always ready for a new food experience, so today, on the encouragement of m’colleague Leigh, I set out to try sushi.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, sushi isn’t raw fish, in the same way that curry isn’t vindaloo. It’s mainly rice-based, and CAN include raw fish, but can be lots of other things, including poultry or vegetarian (I mentioned that just for Fred!). And it’s about the lowest-fat food style there is.

So what did I think? The jury is stlll out. There are as many different items on a sushi menu as at a chinese restaurant, so to judge a whole food group on one visit doesn’t really work. I enjoyed what I ate, although I won’t be as heavy-handed with the soy sauce next time, and it was certainly filling. The price means it’ll only be a once-a-week treat anyway, but I’ll definitely go again, and try something different next time.

“Wasabi”, by the way, is Japanese horseradish sauce, and blows the back of your head off.

Just Desserts of a Rude Person

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

I suppose it’s time I blogged again. I’ve got a few things to catch up on.

On Monday I was working in a little northern town, and the last phase of my journey home was a train from Manchester Piccadilly to Southampton. As regular readers will know I’m quite a fan of train travel as long as it doesn’t involve St Pancras, and this one didn’t.

Our coach – coach C, if you’re interested – was joined at Birmingham New Street by a family which seemed to comprise Mum, Dad, elder daughter, younger daughter and a friend of elder daughter. They spoke a foreign language, very loudly, and acted in quite an intimidating way to the people around them until they got a group of seats close together. I ended up sharing a table with Dad, elder daughter and friend – Dad tried glaring at me until I agreed to move, but I’m made of sterner stuff than that and I had a reserved seat, so I just smiled back and went to sleep. It transpired that he thought I was sitting in his wife’s reserved seat, it’s a pity he didn’t say so because he could’ve saved himself a lot of trouble.

As the train rumbled into Coventry, the first sign of impending trouble appeared, with Dad being surprised that Coventry was on this train’s route: at the next stop, Leamington Spa, the family leapt to their feet, only to say “ah, Leamington” and sit back down again. As the train pulled away again, Dad turned to the person sitting across the aisle and asked
“What time does this train get to Leicester?”
“It doesn’t”

(Much agreement and sage head-nodding from nearby passengers, accompanied by amusement from those to whom he’d been particularly rude).
“Oh well, we can get off at Northampton – that’s near Leicester and we can get a local train from there”
“You can’t, it doesn’t go there either”
“It does – look, on the information board”
“That says Southampton, not Northampton”
“Are they close?”
“About 85 miles”

In the end they got off at Banbury and caught a train back to Birmingham to start again. The thing is, normally you’d be thinking “What a shame, poor family”. But because they’d all been so rude at the start of the trip, we all thought it was funny.

Poetry in Eating

Monday, August 18th, 2008

So – yesterday I had to travel from one birthday celebration in Sussex, to another in Nottyham. I’d planned to travel via London, and allowed myself a long stopover to have a fulfilling brunch and take care of another couple of errands at the same time. I’ve commented before about the rubbishness of the food provision at St Pancras, so I headed straight for my proud new discovery, the Duke of York at Kings Cross.

“Hello, I’d like the Giant Bellybuster Brunch with extra cholesterol and a Diet Coke please”
“Sorry, the kitchen’s closed today”

My dudgeon was higher than Amy Winehouse on a world tour as I stomped back out of the station. I was in a bit of trouble now – I’d only had a bowl of jelly for breakfast and I knew we’d be snacking in the evening so I needed a stomach filler. As if by magic, I spotted a sign:

Now open: The Betjeman pub/restaurant at St Pancras station

‘Tis kismet, I thought, the gods of travel catering were leading me to a new experience. I wandered in, shuddered at the prices on the menu, and ordered the cheapest main course at the bar.
“If you’d like to take a seat sir, it’s table service”

I suppose I should’ve been warned when, in an empty pub, it took ten minutes for someone to come and take my order. Having ordered, I settled down to do some work on a couple of cache puzzles I’d brought with me.

Half an hour later, I’d packed away the puzzles – and my book – and was about to walk out and go to Burger King when a waitress appeared.
“I’m very sorry sir, there’s been a mix-up in the kitchen and your meal’s been delayed: it’ll be with you soon”.
Then a more senior waitress appeared.
“I’m really sorry about the delay sir. Can I get you a drink on the house?”
“Well, the black coffee I ordered half an hour ago would be nice”

Then the coffee arrived, eventually followed by the food which was nothing short of adequate. I ate up – rather hurriedly since my long stopover had now vanished, even without doing errands – and went to pay. I offered two squid less than full price, suggesting that that was fair under the circumstances, and the senior waitress lady agreed.

The Betjeman – remember that name. I certainly will. Next time the Duke of York’s closed, it’s Burger King for me.

Shoppy Shop Shop

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

I’ve started my Christmas shopping already!

How cool is that? I always have the best of intentions, and I come home from New Wine determined to start my Christmas shopping straight away. Then the second week in December arrives, and I’m thinking “Oh yeah, I should’ve started shopping by now shouldn’t I?” But this year, I’ve at least started to get organised :-)

I’ve had one of Jenny’s Christmas pressies for ages – it was one of those things that you get when you see it, ‘cos you might never see one again. And the other day I was in a shop searching for something I knew Jenny wanted for her birthday, when I spotted something I knew my Mum would like for Chrimbo. So I bought it.

Two down, two hundred and ninety eight to go. But at least it’s a start :-)


Saturday, August 16th, 2008

At last, the reason for the food colouring stains, reported here on Wednesday, can be revealed: by the time this post goes live, anyone who might need to be surprised, will have been.

At the time this will appear, I’ll be at a party – specifically an olympics-themed party, and I’m part of the Senegal team (no idea why, it’s just where I was allocated). The team have been appointed to bring sweet stuff for the buffet table, so I made some of my world-famous coconut ice:

That’s the Senegal flag, in case you didn’t guess. :-) And the good thing is, my fingers are still in the team colours too!

Oh, and needless to say, happy birthday to my luvvly chum Jenny. The Senegal Olympic Team will come to your party next year…especially as it’ll be your…umm…38th :-)

Float my Boat

Friday, August 15th, 2008

According to a story on the front page of today’s Metro (and also here on the BBC news website), volunteer coastguards at Hope Cove in Devon are in trouble with the Elf ‘n Safety red-tape brigade for daring to use their coastguard boat to rescue a drowning child.

The two versions of the story are so different that it’s impossible to know what really happened, but the basics seem to be that the boat had been taken out of service as it was unsafe: it may or may not have been repaired (that’s one of the differences between the versions), and was awaiting a fresh safety inspection.

The crew spotted the child being swept out to sea, and radio’d for permission to launch the out-of-service boat. Either radio contact was lost and they made their own decision, or permission was denied and they disregarded it: either way the boat was launched, a rescue effected and now the crew are in trouble. Predictably, the phrase “health and safety gone mad” is being bandied around, and locals are “up in arms”.

But hold on a moment…one thing both stories agree on is that the boat had failed a safety inspection and not yet passed a re-inspection. And the first thing that anyone with any kind of first aid, medical or rescue training learns is “don’t become the next victim”: If the rescue boat had got into trouble, the “official” rescue boat, which was already on its way, would’ve had to be diverted to help them, further delaying aid to the original victim.

The disparities between the two versions of the story don’t help in judging what’s happened: but I can’t help thinking that if this was an ambulance crew who’d used a vehicle that’d failed its MOT, or a team had flown a rescue helicopter that’d failed its airworthiness check, everything would seem so much more clear-cut.

Any Road Up

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Well I think I’ve done pretty well to get to Thursday before having this particular moan…

The main road near me is closed, allegedly for road works, although evidence of any actual work being done is pretty scarce. Because the road is closed, busses are having to make a huuuge diversion, resulting in me having to walk – on my dodgy knee and in the rain – halfway to the railway station in the morning and halfway home in the evening (although it’s often quicker to walk in the evening anyway).

I’m not moaning about the fact that the road’s being resurfaced, that’s at least ten years overdue and most people accept that there’s going to be some inconvenience during roadworks. What I’m moaning about is how little work is being done: apparently they’re working 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM five days a week – no wonder it’s going to take seven weeks to resurface less than a mile of road! Perhaps the bone-idle layabouts should try working a full day and get the job done in four weeks, although then they wouldn’t have the time to tarmac a few driveways in the evening…

Meanwhile, another set of roadworks further down the same road – which has the road closed in one direction – seems to have been abandoned half-completed. Certainly nothing has been done since before I went on holiday, and that’s three weeks ago.


Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

My fingers have gone some very funny colours.

It’s OK, I haven’t gone mouldy or anything, and I’m not turning into Cosmo Lavish – it’s food colouring from a recent catering experiment. I can’t tell you much more than that, as there’s an outside chance that someone’s reading this who needs to be surprised by it – but photos have been taken and will pop up here in due course. Let’s just say it’s amazing what can be achieved with coconut ice :-) . And it’s amazing how much washing and scrubbing will fail to remove food colouring from fingers – not to mention the saucer I used to mix the blue and yellow (I didn’t have any green): I’ve washed that three times and it’s still manky.

In other news, my knee is still stiff and sore, although I can walk on it OK. Tomorrow’s rant will expand on that theme :-)

Knee’d EEEP!

Monday, August 11th, 2008

I went into Mungoze Barber Shop on the way to work this morning.

My hair is now fashionably short, but I have another problem: One of the Mizzez Mungoze had a small child in the shop with her – I’d guess three or four years old. As I was on my way out of the shop, said small child tried to follow me out: I turned to block his exit, slipped off the step and wrenched my knee. I’ve been limping all day :-(

In other news, Fred commented on yesterday’s offering “Good packing!”. It helps that I’m quite good at Tetris, too :-)


Sunday, August 10th, 2008

So I loaded up Grunty and drove home from New Wine.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but why is it that once upon a time I could do a fortnight’s holiday on what I could carry in a rucksack, including camping and cooking gear, yet now it needs all this lot, PLUS what I squeezed into the caravan?

Still, one way or t’other I’m home, I’ve unpacked and the washing machine is doing overtime. Back to work tomorrow :-(


Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

I bought a tumble drier today.

I know that’s not the sort of thing that most people do on holiday, but then most people don’t spend their two-week summer break working on a volunteer medical team, so we’re starting from a rather odd base line. We bought a washing machine for the medical centre last year, so this year we decided that a tumble drier would be a useful addition – so m’colleague Annie and I, after surfing t’internet, headed for Currys in Yeovil.

For reference, should anyone need the information in the future, an Indesit IS70C tumble drier is exactly the right size to go in the back of a Gruntmobile.

I also headed back to the cache I failed to find the other day, this time armed with the clue. I found the plot OK, and plenty of evidence that either people or animals had been digging there, but no cache. Ah well, there’ll be others :-) .


Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

Well, I’ve managed a couple of caching trips: On Wednesday afternoon I went just the other side of Shepton Mallet and found
Centurion’s Lunchbox- -The Second Course – eventually. It was a bit of a search but I found it in the end.

On Friday I walked along the West Somerset Railway – a steam line that wasn’t running – to
The Strawberry Line. I had a fail-to-find at the same time, but I’ve checked the clue for that so I’ll go back sometime.

Chinese takeaway tonight :-)