Friday, 17 December 2010

Santa takes a quick breather...

HO-HO-HO and all that sort of thing.  I should really get some practice in at that or your dear old Santa will be more like a damp squib than a live wire!!

Eh?  What am I doing here?  Why aren't I in Lapland up to the eyes in wish lists?  I thought you might ask that.  I said to Angie when she asked me to guest her blog "Angie," I said, "Have you any idea...?"
"Yes, yes, never mind all that," she said, plonking her laptop in my lap (where else).  Ha ha - a LAPtop in my LAPland "It could be a real coup getting you to guest write.   And I have SO much to be getting on with."

So here I am (I bet you think this is me in the picture).  To be honest I seem to be a bit in the way in Lapland at the moment.  The elves who help me have it all under control - and believe me there's more to do than yo would think.  I mean, somebody has to spruce (ha ha - this gets worse - SPRUCE) - er, spruce up the reindeer.  Rudolph of course has to have his nose sparkled up ready for the big trip on Christmas Eve.  All the others have to be just so so that they stand out from the electric looky likeys on houses . Not that anyone ever sees them of course.  That's part of the magic, part of their charm.   

A little tip though:  please don't leave bags of carrots or, worse still, sprouts, out for them.  It's not that we're ungrateful, it's just that...well you don't have to ride behind themNuff said!  Goodies for me is fine of course.  In fact I'll share a little secret with you now:  Mrs. Christmas doesn't cook any dinner on Christmas Eve so your tasty morsels are much appreciated.  Oh my, yes, I should say so.....

Oh, and kids,  a tip for you too:  don't even think about staying awake to see me.  You can't.  You might hear my sleighbells but you will never see me leaving your presents.  So get off to sleep.  That's the deal.

A question I often get asked is "At what age should you stop believing in Santa Claus?" .  The answer is NEVER.  Always believe because if you don't believe in Santa Claus there's not a lot TO believe in.  I know, I know, a lot of people say "Jesus is the reason for the Season" and He is, the little guy sleeping rough in the cowshed.  But He was given gifts - birthday gifts I suppose in His case - and, being the chap He was, there was need for the whole world to celebrate His birthday so they put the gift delivery out to tender.  It had to be somebody who could get round the whole world very very fast - so you got me because Richard Branson wasn't born yet.  There now, I bet you wondered why he called his airline Virgin Airways!  They had to let him fly the Kings instead.  Shepherds travel Ryanair or go on the bus.

The letters I get - by the way, I hope you've all got your letters posted off to me by now.  Cutting it fine if you haven't .    It's all very well asking for a Kindle but Muggins here has to go cap in hand to Amazon if I need 2 million extra next week.  Times have changed as well.  We don't get many requests for soft toys or dollies or Meccano sets these days.  It's computers or Wii's or Nintendos.  Books, of course, never go out of fashion, even for those not big enough to read.  I'm glad of that;   even if no-one ever reads to you, just the look and feel and smell of books can be enough to spark a lifetime's passion for the written word.

Gosh, is that the time.  Mrs C will have done lunch for the workshop by now so I'd better take some fish and chips in.  Oh yes, ha ha, very funny.  No there won't be a lucky fish shop able to claim Santa Claus as a customer;  nobody will know it's me - I'm in mufti so I look just the same as any other elf........ah ah AH - what did I tell you?  BELIEVE!

Love from Santa,

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


Keith has been dreaming up names to call me.

Because he has arthritis or rheumatiz or something in his shoulders and can't raise his arms to do his coat collar, he gets Heineken (me) to do it because I can "Reach the parts others cannot".

Paddy O'Dors is another one he has dreamed up because I yell it out every time he lets the dog out for a wee walk.  Don't get it?  Just say it!

I had to get the gas engineer to come out and fix the central heating today.  It conked out yesterday morning so there was 24 hours with no heating  and no hot water.  It happens every year that just when the weather is at its coldest it all goes off.  This year was even worse than last;  the temperature in the house dropped to 12°C.   I have never known it below 17° and I don't mind telling you I was a little afraid in case any pipes burst.  But they didn't, and the guy turned up, and all's well that ends well........

Bit difficult getting the Christmas shopping done.  I can't ride my chair up to town because of the ice - it slides all over the place.  I thought I would be clever and order stuff online EXCEPT we haven't had any post for more than a week because the Post Office won't let postmen deliver it in case they should break their bones.  And sue, maybe?  Keith went to post me a couple of snail mails yesterday and said the post box was stuffed full - no collections either!

Today he went to the Post Office to send something by Recorded Delivery and it cost him £5.50.  Full marks to the counter clerk who, when Keith said  "By gum, that's expensive", came straight back, right off the top of his head, with "Well not really.  You could have posted it to next door and it would still have cost £5.50."


Saturday, 4 December 2010

Shame innit?

I Just had to say a quick word.  All those poor people stuck in Spain by some 'wildcat strike making it impossible for them to get back home to dear old (snowy old) Blighty.  The word???


Saturday, 27 November 2010

How thick can you get?

Well, no wonder I couldn't find you a picture of  Keith's first wooden masterpiece..  It was actually in my phone. not the computer!  But do I know how to take them off the phone?  Do I heck!  So I needed to take some more - with the camera this time - but the battery had gone flat.  Have I a spare battery?  Have I heck!  So I charged up the battery and took these pictures:

Not bad for a first attempt eh?    Small but perfectly formed..

Friday, 26 November 2010



The Inland Revenue - sometimes known as 'the bloody taxman' - has decided Keith paid too much tax up to this April and he is going to send him a cheque for £460.

In fact in today's post came just that very cheque - YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY.

Now, Mr. Taxman - nice, KIND Mr. Taxman - I mean absolutely no offence here - but would it have kind of made more sense to have sent it along with that delightful letter he got from you earlier this very week setting out how you arrived at that figure?  Saved on the postage and such?    Just saying......


Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Not a bit like Blackpool

I actually started to write this last Wednesday after we came back from a quick trip to Chester, about 130 miles from here on the western side of England but almost on the North Wales border.

These two were the main attraction!

And THIS is the other thing that Chester is famous for - to say nothing of the CHOCOLATE shop where we even got tasters.  FREE ones.  SUBSTANTIAL ones!

And guess who THIS is??........

It's KEITH with Todd and young Mitzie, bosom buddies of  my lovely friend and bloggy pal, MARIE from A Year from Oak Cottage and The English Kitchen. .  Todd declined to have his tummy tickled, I don't know why.......

We were only there Monday and Tuesday, which was a silly arrangement to make because we really could have done with - well,a few more days might have helped!  On Monday Marie was hosting a Family Home Evening to which we were also invited, even though we are not Mormons.  We enjoyed it so much.   I can''t wait to go back.  Maybe we'll make it to the Horseshoe \Pass next time.

KEITH has taken up a new hobby - wood turning..  Here he is, busy at the lathe

It's not his own lathe of course but one he has the use of at the club he's joined. 

Here's what he was making:

.NO, NO,NOT THAT ONE!! That's the Great Grannie Tooth Fairy on Hallowe'eN (aka Mimuther)  I'll have to show you Keith's masterpiece when I fdindthe photo.

Ah well,that's me for now.  Back soon.



(my little mouse has gone somewhere too!)

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Lest We Forget.........

In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae, May 1915

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields."

I am so proud to be British - and not just because we've had a humdinger of a patriotic Remembrance weekend.  Or rather, Week.  Last night's Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall, for instance.  Where in the world could that have been but Great Britain?  Throughout the years it has been our opportunity to pay homage to our heroes, the men and women without whose sacrifice and courage we couldn't live the life we do, free from fear, free from persecution.

And yet there are STILL some who say we should draw a line under it all, stop all this pomp.  WHAT???

This week has been more meaningful than ever and, for me, one of the most poignant moments - the entry of some of the War Widows to the Albert Hall -  made the more so by the acknowledgment of the War Widowers, the children, friends, colleagues and brothers-at-arms.

As long as there are wars on this Earth WE MUST NOT FORGET.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

There are no words strong enough to describe how I feel about the news that a child was sent home from school for wearing  a poppy because it was not a part of the school uniform!  That's disgraceful and disgusting and whoever was responsible is beneath contempt.  I hope their son or daughter, brother or sister  never has need of respectful remembrance and that if they do, God forbid it, this person will have the courage to say "I'm sorry, I was wrong. "

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Oh what it is to be retired!

My kitchen window is at the front of the house so I can stand there and wash up (this is a dishwasher-free zone) and see the whole world go by.  

I can lean against the counter to eat my toast and drink my coffee while kids big and little go past on their way to school.  Sometimes they'll be all spruced up in smart school uniforms and not a single creative wearer in sight.  Then the second week in September comes and the new girls are already hitching up their skirts where skirts didn't ought to be hitched.  Or they may have decided to wear trousers like the boys - it's apparently their right to do this nowadays.  In this case you can bet their shoes will not be done up and the laces will trail pathetically on the ground just waiting to be tripped over.

There's one girl...poor kid, you have to feel a little bit sorry for her really...she sort of wears a school uniform except it's all wrong somehow.  The front of the shirt is tucked in the trousers while the back hangs sloppily out.  The shoelaces are undone - of course - but they are not in ordinary shoes.  I don't really know what you'd call them.  They're a kind of cross between HUGE loafers with a thick, thick sole, and Doc Martens.  If I'm to be honest, they do look ever so comfy but UGLY!  Where the majority of other kids go to school in all weathers with no coat, this girl wears, the year round. a thin, nylon kagoul affair.  It looks as if she poked her arms in it but forgot to shrug it up onto her shoulders so that the neckline bit hangs halfway down her back and the front bits sit resolutely under her arms.  She's tall  and rather ....not to put too fine a point on it.... fat and she ALWAYS has a face like thunder.  Always looks really aggressive;  I wouldn't like to be her teacher.  In my head she is an unpleasant character, a bully who other kids are scared of.  

But you know, she's always alone, never seen her with a mobile phone, always ties her long hair  back neatly.One of these days I'll manage to catch her eye and give her a wave to see if she waves back.  I wouldn't be surprised to find she's quite a nice lass really underneath the 'attitude'.

While I munch my toast and concoct lives and personalities for early morning passers by, THIS is what Keith concocts..........
A Satsuma man!  It's the entire peel of the satsuma he had for brekky with a felt-tip face drawn on.  He's that proud of it.  I mean, some people get Turin shroud-like entities, he gets a Satsuma man.

Such is retirement folks, such is retirement.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Keith - what day is it?

39 years today!  That's how long we've been married.  It's not really a Big day in the celebration stakes except to us.  I dunno!  Not five minutes ago it was 1971, the Swinging 60's was past and the future looked rosy.  Well, it always does on your wedding day doesn't it?  Where has the time gone?

Crikey, I regularly see 1970's stuff turning up on Antiques Roadshow .  They're not antiques, strictly speaking, but the 1970's turned out to be a bit of an iconic decade.  I used to have a lot of those things.  Why didn't someone tell me?  I might have been rich now!  In fact I would have been but those were the days we were busting to get past at the time!

The old bungalow which was our first home was a veritable shrine to the 70's.  We had an orange carpet in the living room and one of the long walls in there was purple.  The spare bedroom had a black carpet and purple walls - we must have got a job lot of purple paint or something!  Good thing really because we also had 'original features' fireplaces in each room and that one had a soot fall one day.  What a mess but at least it matched the decor!

Our kitchen - I loved it.  It had high gloss cupboard doors, formica in a kind of brown wood grain pattern, white counter tops (groan...)  and the most beautiful sunny golden yellow ceramic wall tiles.  There was a freezing cold, dark green Terrazzo floor - and I do mean freezing cold.  There was no central heating in the house and that floor...well it was great in summer, let's say!

Those colours that we had.  Purple, orange, yellow, brown - absolutely 70's. For a start we heated the kitchen by turning on the oven with the door open,  then Keith came home with an old  paraffin heater that he rescued from his dad's shed.  I recall the smell now!   Can't have been good for us.

The house itself was 60 years old when we bought it (for £2,800), which sounded very old then but now it's nothing is it?  We've already been married over half that long.  You couldn't imagine it though, not then.  You just could not think yourself even ten years down the line.  A couple of years ago it was for sale (same people we sold it to) for £185,000 - and that was after the housing boom was over.  Goodness me, we couldn't even have afforded to buy it back!  They made about £175K profit!!!

My abiding memories of the 70's in England have to be the Three Day Week, the winter of discontent, the miners' strike, the explosion of the chemical plant at Flixborough.  The coal miners brought the country to its knees, quite literally.  With no coal there could be no electric, with no electric there could be no, well, anything much really.  Everyone's central heating relied on an electric pump.  You might think we'd be one up there, having no heating.  Not so. We had a coal fire in the living room and, though a coal yard ran beyond the fence at the bottom of our garden, there was no coal.  One of the saddest sights, that, a coalyard with no coal.  What electric there was was rationed out and your power was cut off early in the evening if it was your area's turn.  Even if it wasn't your turn to either get wrapped up in your coats and blankets or have an early night, you couldn't watch TV beyond about 10pm because that was part of the energy saving measures - it all went off.  In theory the 70's ought to have produced a nation of very well-read citizens but what we actually got was a bit of a baby boom - well!  It's hard to read without a light and candles were scarce because everyone was buying them.  You had to be sparing with the candles because no-one knew how long this might go on for. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I have left over from the 70's - a box of white tallow candles!  They're not so white now but there they sit to this very day, under the kitchen sink, just waiting for a national emergency.  I hope they never get used.


Tuesday, 5 October 2010

My Perfect Day

Aren't there some people who are just so special, so iconic, that you know exactly where you were and what you were doing when their passing was announced?

President JFK, for example.  I was only a young girl when he was assassinated in 1963.  I didn't know him, never met him and never would have.  He wasn't even a politician from my country and yet I can remember so well the TV news programme being interrupted to bring us the news that "President Kennedy has been shot", not realising the can of worms that was about to be opened up.   I'll never forget a second of it.

Princess Diana - a princess of our own who died in a foreign country.  I was quite a bit older then and,being an early riser, I remember the newscaster on that Sunday morning saying her car had been in an accident in Paris and it was thought she had broken her arm.  Another can of worms was about to be opened, one that carries on even now.

Just last night it was announced that Sir Norman Wisdom had died   I never met him either but he was, in fact, a major contributor to My Perfect Day.  It was in the 1980's and I had taken a week's holiday from work, thinking I would do some spring cleaning.  This particular day - it was a Tuesday - it was pouring with rain when I got up and looked set for the day so I decided to bake bread instead.  By 9 o'clock we were full steam ahead bashing away at an enormous lump of dough.  TV was on for the News, followed by A FILM - you guessed, a Norman Wisdom film.  Picture the scene:  Keith at work, pouring rain, dog sleeping under the stairs, the smell of bread and an old Norman Wisdom film.  It truly was the most perfect day I ever had.

And now NormanWisdom is gone.  Please God, let there be no can of worms.

Saturday, 2 October 2010


Today I want to have a word with you about the English Breakfast and what it means to a self-respecting Englishwoman.

The term "English Breakfast" has a multitude of meanings, depending who and where you are.  I mean, if you were a 250-lb footballer camping in the wilds of England you would want something a bit different to a little old lady, wouldn't you?  Tea or coffee?  Toast or fried bread?  Or both?  And how do you like your eggs?

Hotels here generally serve absolutely everything you can think of:  bacon, fried eggs, sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans (oh yes!), fried potatoes, fried bread.  They also offer various breakfast cereals, fruit and fruit juices to start off with and, just in case you still feel peckish, a couple of slices of toast with a selection of jams, marmalades and honey.  AND copious quantities of tea or coffee to wash it down with.

If you ask for a "Full English, please"  you'll get the lot, and you will, by the time they bring the bacon and whatnot to you,have helped yourself to fruit juice and cereals and whatever else you can get your hands on.  With any luck you will have been asked "Coffee or tea, love?" and been accordingly served a big pot.

You can ask for specific items such as "Only bacon and eggs, please" but you should only expect to receive, say, 2 bits of bacon and 1 fried egg - i.e. whatver normally comes on the plate with everything else.  "It's portion control love,".  As to what they did with your "portion controlled" sausage, I shouldn't bother asking!

We once went in a superb B&B (bed and breakfast) in Whitby, North Yorkshire.  We were asked "What would you like for breakfast?" and handed a menu which listed what we could choose from INCLUDING smoked Salmon with scrambled eggs and fresh poached Whitby kippers. Eggs could be cooked any way at all without having to give 2 weeks notice!  That's my kind of place.  Go on then, I'm a snob I suppose.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

But I'm Still Here....

Yes, I am.  I may have been hawked off to the hospital for a few days but here I am again, still stuffing my face with "poorly grapes" while the "poorly chocolate" sits in the fridge waiting my attention when I'm on my own!

There was a lovely surprise waiting when I got home.

It was HUGE!

Such stuff as it had in it!  Cereal bowls, toast rack, tea pot, mugs,jug, boxes of breakfast cereal .................... and even the enormous wicker basket you see here!

And all of this was my prize in Marie's giveaway over  here 

Thanks Marie - I wouldn't like to have been the delivery woman but it was a delightful thing to come home to.

Just a quick aside:  has anybody else noticed Woman's capacity for reading absolutely anything when they're in hospital?  How, when someone goes home, the others swoop in like vultures on the pile of trashy magazines she left behind?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

You showed me yours; I'll show you mine!!

Marie threw down the gauntlet by giving us a guided tour of her fridge, well one of them.  BOO HOO I wanted to see the other one, the one that didn't make the kitchen!

My fridge is in the kitchen and is quite huge.  It's by Hotpoint and has a freezer to match - funny name for a fridge and freezer HOTpoint....

Anyway, the fridge is the one with all the postcards and whatnot on it.

We got big things like these because, like Marie, I hate trying to squash stuff into your average under-the-counter fridge.   Unfortunately my big fridge tends to be the repository for all the bits and pieces that are started on but not finished.  I always hope they get found before they grow hairs on!

You can even tell who put what in there:  if I did it's covered up, Keith never covers anything.

Here goes then!!

 The inside of my fridge or, as it is sometimes known, the dark side of the moon!  Towards the top of the door is some butter and you can just see a little flash of red.  That's an almost used tube of tomato puree.  For shame I found its twin lurking in the veg box, right at the bottom;  I wondered where that had gone.

Beneath that is where the cheese gets stuffed in.  There's a small bit of reddish cheddar, some blue stilton that;s been there ages but Keith swears is lovely.  Oh well, it's his tum!  An unopened pack of feta which is well in date (I checked).  Next to that compartment, above the eggs, is an unopened mozzarella and some processed cheese slices, which are not bad if you put them in a sandwich with some raw onion and leave it a few hours before eating (OK, we're odd).

Below the eggs we see a couple of cartons of tomato juice and an opened Orange and Peach juice, a smoked sausage and a 4-pint carton of semi-skimmed milk.   There are some salad dressings in the bottom tray, some orange juice and an unopened 4-pints (looks like we need to have rice pudding this week).

The top shelf of the fridge proper contains a jar of 4-cheese pasta sauce, capers, cornichons, gherkins, very hot chilli pepper, a jar of mushroom salad, half a jar of lazy ginger, the same of lazy chilli, jars containing little dabs of jam, orange marmalade, ginger marmalade and that's not all.............

Next down is a bottle rack with  2 bottles white wine and half a bottle of slimline tpnic water (gone flat).

On the next shelf you can find 2 cans Spam, 2 cans of tuna in sunflower oil, a can of skinless boneless salmon, some more lazy ginger, redcurrant jelly.

Next up would be 2 lenon mousse and 2 gooseberry, more orange marmalade - a full jar this time.  In that white dish is 2 leftover potatoes and there's another white dish with a bit of buttcream.  Both will be chucke out eventually.  There were 2 x 6 eggs but I took them out for baking tomorrow.

See the 2 packs of Phili on the next shelf?  There was another hidden away at the  beck of the shelf above.  Then there's yet more jam and pickles.

Do you know what?  I can't go on!  I am totally mortified that my fridge is in such a state.  It's not mucky, just in a state.  If I could only reach those 3 top shelves.........

OK, now my challenge to you is to tell us what's in your fridge that's out of date and wants chucking!  Go on, I dare you.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

It was all Deutsch to me!

I've just been reading Ma Rainey's blog, "What's New at my House"  in which she speaks of "Oktoberfest", which, in common with anything else that might be fun, we don't 'do' over here (unless you happen to be a German ex-pat of course).  WHOA - somebody altered the points and sent me hurtling off down Memory Lane again............

"Kohlfahrt" literally translated means "cabbage-tour". Doesn't exactly help you much, does it? So here are some more details: Kohlfahrt-countryKohlfahrten (this is the plural) are only known in north west Germany, roughly as indicated by the red circle in this map. If you live around Oldenburg it is almost impossible not to go on one at some stage. Already not far southwest of Bremen some people have never been on a Kohlfahrt, although probably everyone knows what it is.
Kohlfahrten usually take place during January and February, preferably on a sunny and cold day. But I've also been on a Kohlfahrt where it rained the wholly day. So be prepared if you are ever invited to one...
You can only go on a Kohlfahrt if you are invited to one or if you organise one yourself. Usually you go with a group, be it your company or department, be it the football team you're in or just the people you studied with at university. It's not like the Octoberfest in Munich, where anybody can just turn up, put on Lederhosen and a silly hat and start drinking lots of beer.

I never imagined that having a German Foreign Language Assistant in the house for a year in the very early 80's would lead to a firm friendship that's still going strong today, 27 years later.  Heike's home was (and still is) Oldenburg, a city quite near Bremen in northern Germany, only these days she lives with her husband and almost grown-up son.  She has always loved England and first came here when she was 13 so she speaks our language very well.  In fact, in England she taught German, in Germany she teaches English.  My German isn't all that wonderful but it would be non-existent if it were not for Heike.  Well, her mum actually!

Her mum. bless her heart, speaks barely a word of English but, with my 'barely a word' of German and a bottle of good German wine she managed to teach me all sorts:  how to tell the time, how to say please and thank you, the rituals of 'coffee and cake', how to eat a smoked eel.  She did this in the same way as she would have taught her kids but not in a childISH way, more childLIKE..  Maybe that's where we're going wrong:  our kids have technology thrown at them when they might learn some things better if we talk to them.

When Heike lived with us we used to spend hours chattering about anything and everything.  There was no such thing as an early night!  She's also a very good cook and even signed herself up for a 10-week basic cooking course on a Thursday evening.  I have her collection of recipes still.  But the REAL great memory is KALE!

Now, it has become very fashionable all of a sudden to eat this beautiful brilliant green veg but back then, here in England, (well Scunthorpe at least) it was not to be had.  You just simply could not buy the stuff anywhere.  The reason was that, though we grew it here, it was only for feeding to the sheep!  So, unless you went foraging about in sheep troughs you'd have to make do with cabbage!  Not Heike.   She had been telling us about the Kale parties ('kohlfahrten', yet another ritual steeped in tradition) they had at home every winter and decided that we must hold Britain's first ever kale party in our little house in Scunthorpe.

She went home for the Christmas holiday and came back in early January.  How on earth she got through Hull docks customs with a car stuffed with bags and bags of kale, and with vac-packed bratwurst, pinkel sausage and smoked pork under the front seat I don't know!  Then 2 kilos of Jacobs coffee and a dozen bottles of wine in blatant full view of anyone who glanced in!   As soon as it came in the house, out had to come the food processor.  The kale is normally chopped quite small with a knife after it's been washed and picked over but if you had seen that lot you might have been forgiven for having nightmares.  We chopped it in batches in the food processor, finally burning out the motor I might add.  Every bowl and basin I had was filled with this strange green stuff.  Not to mention the bits that didn't make it that far - the counters and floor were covered too.

The next day was the designated party day so we rang round the other foreign language assistants and, in fact ended up with not only the first Kale Party, but a multinational one at that!  Apart from 6 English there were 2 Germans, a Swiss, 2 French and a Spaniard.

Next morning, Heike got started bright and early.  Into a huge pot (she brought one of those from Germany too, fortunately) went all the kale, half a bottle of white wine, a few bay leaves and juniper berries, salt and black peppercorns the whole pinkel sausages and a big piece of smoked pork. Then it went on the hob over a low light, lid on and it simmered slowly, slowly, for about 6 hours.  The sausages didn't disintegrate because they are specially for this purpose.  You don't eat the skins, just scrape the meat out of them.  The bratwurst were thrown into the pot about an hour before the end of cooking.  A huge pan of potatoes went on to boil and when they were done we were ready for off.

We fished out the smoked pork and sausages and sliced up the pork - difficult as...well how tender would you expect it to be after so long?   The kale (or some of it anyway) was piled onto the centre of a huge oval platter, with boiled potatoes at each end;  the sliced up pork was arranged at one side and a selection of whole sausages at the other.  Over the whole thing was ladled some of the liquor from the kale pot and to the table it went, where it was devoured with gusto!

There was no dessert - after that lot you couldn't have managed it - but copious quantities of German beer (you'd be amazed what contraband one VW Golf can hold) and wine were consumed.  And we ate and talked and laughed and ate some more and drank a little bit and then we chose our 'Kohl koenig', our Kale King, the one deemed to have eaten the most kale.  Guess who?  Keith!  Don't tell me he hasn't lived!  Well, it WAS his house!   He has his silver plastic Kohlkoenig pig  'medal' to this day.

Leftovers went back into the pot to be reheated next day.......and the next.....and the taste got better and better.  Finally we were down to the last little bit.  It got whizzed up in the food processor, I made some bread and we had the most delicious soup ever.

  After that we decided that the other nationalities were not getting off scot-free so one or other of them took over my kitchen one day a month and we all shared the fruits of their labours.  And just GUESS who got to do the cleaning up?  

I was supposed to be excused from doing any English delicacies as I was providing facilities but I did have a Yorkshire Pudding eating contest  at which English were excluded.   Well, they could eat but not compete.  It seems that Yorkshire puds and gravy are beloved by all who taste them.  We had to abandon the contest as everyone was having 'just one more'    and we lost count!

Happy days!

Monday, 13 September 2010

Monday 13th Sept - Happenings

Have you ever noticed how things HAPPEN just at the very time you can't deal with them?  Take this morning - please take this morning!A short  The postman arrived with a parcel, quite a big one and I couldn't do anything about it.  1) Keith was in the shower so he couldn't answer the door 2) I was in my wheelchair so I couldn't leap to the door, unlock it (where was the key anyway?), jump down the two steps, unlock the back gate and, all without letting the dog go walkies on her own, take delivery of the parcel.  Clutching a towel and his bathrobe to preserve decency Keith managed to hop out the other door - just in time to see the Royal Mail van disappearing down the street,  Fortunately they left the package by the back gate.  Fortunately it wasn't raining.

A short while later, himself took his leave to go out and buy a newspaper.  Now about this same time I just HAD to go to the loo. Had to.  But I just had this feeling - you know how you do? - that somebody or other would turn up whle I was in the bathroom.  Sure enough................sis !  I must be telepathic you see?  I must have known she was coming..  The bathroom door handle waggled ominously and there came a little voice "It's only me"

We both had dentist check-ups this week.  Anybody living in England will know that places on the books of NHS dentist are like gold dust,  They're rare s hens teeth so it always seems slightly - well - not right that Keith is one of the lucky ones.  Bless him, he hasn't got any teeth.  Not home grown ones anyway.  He gets checked for signs of anything nasty in his mouth .   Eeeugh, imagine going through school wanting to gaze into other people's mouths.  I could never have contemplated certain jobs:

Funeral director
Medical Examiner

In fact, anything involving poking about in something horrid.  I did see myself as an actress or a concert pianist.  It doesn't seem to have occurred to me though that if I was aiming for the latter I really should know how to play the piano!

The bathroom has loomed large in our comings and goings this week.  The other day Keith called through the door "Ang, Ang, it's the medical centre on the phone.  Do we want flu jabs this year?"

"Oh yes, yes I do," I replied, "Could you make an appointment for me?"

"Do I want one................?"  Oh heck!


Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Tues 31 Aug 2010 - talking about Blackpool.........

I think I might have already printed this poem, maybe when I was with AOL.  I HOPE when I was with AOL!  As a child I used to have a book of these, which my dad gave me.  I wish I still had it.  An English actor, Stanley Holloway, famously recited them in a broad Northern English accentIf you're not English and wonder "Who the heck was Stanley Holloway?", he played Eliza Doolittle's father, the dustman, in the film of 'My Fair Lady'.  Let me tell you that was NOT a northern accent.   He was an Essex boy by birth.  Oh, I've just been told that Stanley Holloway did, in fact, become quite well-known in America.  Here's the poem:

There's a famous seaside town called Blackpool,
That's noted for fresh air and fun,
And Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom
Went there with young Albert, their son.

A grand little lad was young Albert
All dressed in his best; quite a swell
With a stick with an 'orse's 'ead 'andle
The finest that Woolworth's could sell.

They didn't think much to the Ocean
The waves, they were fiddlin' and small
There was no wrecks and nobody drownded
Fact, nothing to laugh at, at all.
So, seeking for further amusement
They paid and went into the zoo
Where they'd lions and tigers and camels
And old ale and sandwiches too.

There were one great big lion called Wallace
His nose were all covered with scars
He lay in a somnolent posture
With the side of his face on the bars.

Now Albert had heard about lions
How they was ferocious and wild
To see Wallace lying so peaceful
Well, it didn't seem right to the child.

So straight 'way the brave little feller
Not showing a morsel of fear
Took his stick with its 'orse's 'ead 'andle
And shoved it in Wallace's ear.
You could see the lion didn't like it
For giving a kind of a roll
He pulled Albert inside the cage with 'im
And swallowed the little lad 'ole

Then Pa, who had seen the occurrence
And didn't know what to do next
Said "Mother! Yon lions 'et Albert"
And Mother said "Eeee, I am vexed!"

Then Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom
Quite rightly, when all's said and done
Complained to the Animal Keeper
That the lion had eaten their son.

The keeper was quite nice about it
He said "What a nasty mishap
Are you sure it's your boy he's eaten?"
Pa said "Am I sure? There's his cap!"
The manager had to be sent for
He came and he said "What's to do?"
Pa said "Yon lion's 'et Albert
And 'im in his Sunday clothes, too."

Then Mother said, "Right's right, young feller
I think it's a shame and a sin
For a lion to go and eat Albert
And after we've paid to come in."

The manager wanted no trouble
He took out his purse right away
Saying "How much to settle the matter?"
And Pa said "What do you usually pay?"

But Mother had turned a bit awkward
When she thought where her Albert had gone
She said "No! someone's got to be summonsed"
So that was decided upon.
Then off they went to the Police Station
In front of the Magistrate chap
They told 'im what happened to Albert
And proved it by showing his cap.

The Magistrate gave his opinion
That no one was really to blame
And he said that he hoped the Ramsbottoms
Would have further sons to their name.

At that Mother got proper blazing
"And thank you, sir, kindly," said she
"What waste all our lives raising children
To feed ruddy lions? Not me!"

Thursday, 26 August 2010

23 / 24 August 2010 - what a waste of time

Here I am, back from Blackpoool.  What a waste of time, money and effort that was.  Yes, I have to admit - most of you will have guessed anyway - that I didn't really want to go in the first place, but even I never expected it to be quite that bad!

First of all the journey there which should have taken 2hrs and 15 mins according to my sat nav actually took almost 5 hrs 30.   That was apparently because some guy on a motorway we were not even on decided ending it all off  a motorway bridge on the M6 would be the sensible thing to do. I almost knew what he meant!  Those on our Motorway who wanted to go onto the adjoining M6 (there were many)  had to wait - and so, therefore, did we.      Good thing it was a cool day.

On arrival the hotel didn 't look bad - on the outside. Inside was a different story.  Oh, the reception area was OK.  Bit old fashioned but OK. The first sign of a problem was the tiny, tiny lift!  With a good deal of heaving and shoving Keith was able get me and my wheelchair and himself (flattened against the wall) into the titchy space. This was a place that professed to have wonderful facilities for the less able.  Our room, after Keith had done the lift thing again, proved not to live up to expectations.  Oh the wetroom had plenty of handrails, a higher loo, lower washbasin and drive-in shower.  It's a bit off-putting though to find stickers on the door and wall telling us that the floor was slippery when wet!  It was a wet room.  Hallo? You put a non-slip floor in a wet room.

The windows wouldn't open so no nice bracing sea air.  The seals had gone on the doubleglazed units so there was condensation between the panes.  The outside of the glass was so dirty you couldn't have seen through it even if there had been no condensation.

There was grime in the corners of the window and the cups on the hospitality tray were stained.  Because it looked grubby we thought the bathroom mat had not been changed and one of the towels had certainly been 'recycled'.  The wallpaper was grimy and old-fashioned and the paintwork yellowing white and all chipped.  I know wheelchairs can give the decor a bit of a battering but it could at least be clean.

I have emailed their Head Office who have replied that they have passed this on to the hotel (it's part of a chain) and I should expect to hear from them in 28 days.  I wouldn't recommend that hotel to my worst enemy (if I had one).

As you might imagine, that just about set the tone for the whole trip.  But there was one thing that was unspoilable: 

The Tower Circus.  That was brilliant.  The Tower itself is a place you can stay in all day and not get bored and admission to the tower gives you 'access all areas'.  You can go in whatever bit of the place you want - ballroom, aquarium, trip to the top, 3D cinema, restaurants and, in our case, a circus performance lasting about 2 hours - and not an animal in sight..  Acrobats, jugglers, clowns - breathtaking and spellbinding.  The kind of thing they sometimes, but all too rarely, put on the Royal Variety Show and everybody wishes we saw more like that.  No kidding, if they made any mistakes don't ask me when!

The Ballroom. Just perfect if you're a people watcher like me.  There are people who base their entire summer holidays around dancing in this ballroom.  In fact it is open for dancing all day on most days and - whoo - I could have stayed there all day though I could dance not one step.  Those who dance are asolutely dead serious about it.  Posh frock, sparkly shoes, arms SO, hands SO, and NOW!  Up struck the mighty wurlitzer organ, which pops up and down through the stage, though I never saw that as I was too busy 'watching'.  One old lady, I had seen her being pushed in a wheelchair into the circus but, in the ballroom, out she got, on with the dancing shoes and away!  Who'd have thought?  I have to say though, there are some superb dancers about.  Well, they looked ok to me anyway!

I didn't take that many photos because quite honestly Blackpool is one big building site at the moment.  I'm sure it will be very nice when it's done but I'm one of those people who are not very good at seeing what things might look like.  And anyway, I'm not going to Blackpool again.

I found my little mouse again - YIPPEE!!

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Wednesday 18 August 2010 - Fare thi well fer a bit then............

Just checking in to let you know I'm going away tomorrow (Thursday) until Sunday night.  Blackpool!  Perish the thought - and I can't find any weather forecast that says the temperature will be any higher than 18 degs (I don't know how you make a 'degrees' sign).

Back next week!

Aaaagh - something has gone wrong!  I can't seem to get my little mouse.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Sunday 15thAugust 2010 - It all dovetails............

...........yes it does, I might have known all this splashing out on new gadgets to replace the old would summon forth SOME unwanted side-effect!  My Oven has packed up.  Can you believe it?  The most expensive appliance in my kitchen has breathed its last.  Well, you have to have one so we went and ordered a lovely new one.  I'll swear the shop bloke had the ghost of a smirk on his face as he said it couldn't be delivered until 26th August "Sorry madam".  How joyful I was to return his smirk:  "That's absolutely fine.  You wouldn't believe the gadgets I've got to cover this."  So until then I can gleefully manage.  Poor Keith - he won't be able to make any cakes.  For today's lunch the slow cooker did the roast, Actifry did the roast veg, the hob (which still . works) did the veg - Keith did the washing up -SIMPLES, TCHK!

I spent a happy hour this afternoon plumbing in a wireless printer.   I must have done something right - IT WORKS!!!  It;s a rare day when me and technology gel.  I just tell the computer to print and the paper pops out of the printer in the bedroom!

Just in case it should pass unremarked, it's Princess Anne's - the Princess Royal's -  60th birthday today.  I almost felt that I grew up with her.  Oh, not as a Family member or even a friend, but as one who grew up in my era.  I've always admired her forthrightnss, her no-nonsense approach to adversity, her competitive spirit.  I admire the fact that she, despite being apparently well back in the queue for 'motherly instinct', turned into a proud , loyal and loving mum who has never been afraid to let her children try their wings.  Make their mistakes like she made hers but, unlike her own case, keepng them where they ought to be: within four walls.  I wish her a very Happy Birthday and congratulate her on her life to date.

I'd better stop now. I keep getting distracted by the telly!

Friday, 13 August 2010

Friday 13th August - unlucky for some......

........but not for my friend and fellow blogger Marie, at Oak Cottage .  It's her birthday today, her new puppy arrives today, she had good news today, AND she has a birthday cake.  But I bet she hasn't put 55 candles on it (heh heh)!

After my 'gadgets' post the other day, Andy commented that I hadn't mentioned the microwave as being an enabler.  Even as I replied to him that I hardly ever used it I got to thinking: warming up mugs of coffee, melting chocolate, thawing breadloaves. softening butter... and so on.  So I do use it.  Where I have to use a knife for anything I've found that having the best you can afford and keeping them razor-sharp is the best policy.

Amazon is becoming my best friend.  Yes, I know, sad isn't it? But a couple of times I've caught Keith attacking the ironing basket.  Now I don't mind him hoovering or making cakes  but not ironing.  Don't ask me why, it's a woman thing.  So today I've ordered this:

My friend Judith, also other-abled, swears by hers so let's have a go.

Meanwhile - it's pouring with rain and only 15 degrees AND it's afternoon!  I can't remember the summer weather, though I know we did have some.  My positive side says it will come back, experience says it won't!  We haven't really had much rain so the trees are thinking it's Autumn and are shedding their leaves early.  I do hope we won't be denied completely the beautiful sight of trees and hedgerows dressed in their autumn coats.

OK, that's it for now.  Nothing to see here sir.  Move along now........

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Wednesday 11 August - You still have lifelines left..........

If there's one thing guaranteed to make me fume it's when people assume, because I'm sitting in a wheelchair, that I must also be not very bright;  when they see my hearing aids, that I must have learning difficulties.  Sometimes the people who make these assumptions are so-called healthcare professionals.  You can tell who they are: they call everyone else "luv" but me "Darling" or "Sweetheart".   Would you believe it!

I'm what you might call fortunate in that a) I've been like this quite a while and b) live in England where, despite what you may have heard to the contrary, we have a fairly good National Health Service.   I mean,we ourselves villify the NHS but the alternative doesn't bear thinking about.  It's just that some of their staff could do with a training update.

I decided long since that I should try and make life easy for myself.  I asked myself what things were important to me and cooking came top.  On the negative side we don't have a dishwasher.  On the positive side I can wash up by hand.  I don't like it but I can!  These days I use all sorts of gadgets I wouldn't have bothered with in years gone by.

This food processor is something I wouldn't have looked twice at a few years ago.   With it I can chop, grate, slice, make fries as well as blend things together.  I can juice citrus fruits and grind coffee beans.   I can make quite decent pastry in it too but that does take a bit of practise.  I have excellent knives that take a lot less washing up........but it's difficult for me to use knives, so I have this food processor.

I also have a little whizzer, kind of a mini-chopper which I use for chopping a few squares of chocolate or a handful of nuts, even herbs.  Saves getting the big one out.  The stick blender, too, is useful for blending soups in the pan or rescuing lumpy sauces (sharp intake of breath "Surely not.....")

This is a Tefal Actifry.  Yes it is a bit big and an awkward shape (I think so anyway).  It was also expensive but - hey - in this game nothing comes cheap.  In this you can do a full kilo of chips (fries) using only 1 tablespoon (about 15ml I think) of whatever oil you like.  They come out beautifully crisp outside and fluffly inside.  In other words, it makes chips for fatties like me.  In fact you can put just about any veg you want in, mix them up.  It'll cook other things perfectly as well but.what am I,  an instruction book?

This does exactly what it says on the tin;  an electric carving knife.  You carve meat with it of course but, because it's fantastic for slicing bread too I can knock us a treat together with this...........

 My beloved Panasonic breadmaker, which I've had for years.  In fact it may well have been instrumental in selling our previous house 8 years ago.  You know.......the smell of fresh bread and coffee?  I don't use it every day;  we sometimes have shop bought bread.    I have never made just dough in it though because the 'beeps' alerting you that it's ready are so quiet I can't hear them even if I stand there and listen .   Same with the raisin option beeps.   The point is I couldn't use it at all without my electric knife.  I do have an electric slicing machine but as far as cleaning it is concerned it really is a step too far!  The big circular saw type blade will chop your hand off as soon as look at you.

 This electric can opener is fine but you do need to use 2 hands to it.  I think there may be something on the market now that is smaller and you only  need  one hand..  If so I'll get one - after all there's not much else you can do with  a can opener.

Last but not least, the Kenwood Chef food mixer, without which there would be never a cake to be found in this house!  Years ago, when we were first married, I was proud - and more than a little surprised - to find that I could turn out good cakes using just a mixing bowl, fork and tablespoon.  They were a real labour of love but they were the soundest basis  I know for learning how to do things and why you do them.  I've had this Chef more years than I can remember though and it's worth its weight in gold.....though I'm told it's old fashioned.  I don't care, it's lovely and worth every penny I paid for it.

So there you have it, just a few of the bits and pieces that seem to some like extravagances but are to me my lifelines.  There are loads of other things that keep the house clean and so on but I don't know of any gadget more reliable than Keith for putting the bins out!!

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Thurs 29th July 2010

Just a quick one.  May I just apologise to anyone who had expected to see an email from me during, say, the past 3 weeks or so.  It seems that not every email I have written actually ever leaves my outbox.  In fact I didn't even realise they ALL pay my outbox a quick visit before going on their merry way!  I (poor misguided soul that I am) thought they only went there if I didn't want them to go right away.  Well, I ALWAYS WANT THEM TO GO RIGHT AWAY"

It seems to be the trans-atlantic ones that are getting stuck.  Meanwhile, sorry if I appeared to be ignoring you.  I wasn't really.