Things About Stuff: Food, Sounds, Comics and Waffle

Braindrops from the Clouds of Earth-X  

The Fete

Posted on June 8, 2013 by     1 Comment

Braodwell Fete; as newcomers, we felt obliged to go – and not unhappy to, either. I had the impending cloud of lots of work to do that must be finished by Monday; but I’ve tried to promise myself (abd Beloved) one day off a week, so this seemed opportune.

The weather finally cleared about a half hour before start time, just the time that Cat went AWOL. She was chased by a small dog and then a massive, beautiful white German shepherd that saw her as a grey running shape, , more or less, home and was gathered up and brought in for affection. Only one puncture wound to my chest to show for the whole dramatic debacle. By Cat, of course.

Somehow, Beloved was persuaded to leave Cat to recover and 2pm saw us off and out.

Village fetes are the same anywhere and everywhere; it’s only the scale and enthusiasm that changes. Well, this one was pretty good! The goal on the green had a “professional” keeper for kids to try their penalties, there were creepy crawlies, (plastic) duck races, hot dogs at a respecatable £2.50 (75p of which was carbon on mine), tea and cake in the village hall, Pimms, plants, cakes (naturally, by Fete Law, all the best had gone just before opening, just as the weather improved; God nodding to the correctness of Little England doing it’s odd things correctly)…and a dog show.

It appears that everyone in the Cotswolds has a dog. And everywhere has a dog show. With the same dogs in each class, pretty much. Confusing to me, but seemed enjoyable to the kids.

There was also a scouse Punch and Judy with all the violence taken out, making the old, corny jokes somehow lifeless and almost reprehensible in their evil disdain for just how much kids would like the violence. I know there are whole treatise on Punch and Judy and I know there are worthwile comments. But the same argument spoiled Tom and Jerry, you fools. Still, at least I wasn’t scared of Mr Punch, which is a nice change. Unlike the tarantula (which may or may not have been scared of Mr Punch, but I meant the other option in the ambiguous phrase).

And finally, as a rarity, the pub was open all day. So a pint of cider for the first time. And a San Miguel for the Beloved. And then a couple more. We may nap. Oh, wait, she is…

 First Sight

The Broad View

Monitor Lizard

Big Dog!

Fireman's Hose (!)
Last Great Refuge


 Anyway, Cat seems fine. Which is the important thing. :0)


[Photographs by iPhone; blog done in a hurry; apologies for crapness]









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Home to Home

Posted on March 30, 2013 by     4 Comments

Many moons ago, back in September, 2012, the Beloved and I put our house in Wheatley on the market, deciding to zip away to more countrified climes with better garden space and a change of life; I was about to lose my job, so obviously doubling the stress by searching for somewhere to live at the same time as finding a job was the only rational choice.

Our gut feeling was to go with Wheatley Estates, as David is good and trustworthy but our hefty research has us disagreeing with him on price; we were right about that, getting a good price for the place. However, this was to do with the happenstance of purchasers, a lovely couple who appeared at the right time and were prepared to wait from 2 weeks after marketing the house until just a couple of weeks ago. I mention this to underline as warning that there was very little help from Chancellors. Chancellors are cack.

Of course, they listed the house on the website but it lacked any “full description” and had various details wrong that took three attempts to correct. Further down the line, we were finding out about all relevant details and hold-ups by calling either solicitor or the estate agent of the house we were buying, as he seemed to know a lot more, even about our  purchasers, bizzarely. When questioned on some of this, the Chancellors bloke got a bit shirty, only for the details he denied to be confirmed in e-mails hours later. We had to check with them that they were aware of completion date and had keys for our purchasers; our purchasers (whom, they had told us, were delaying on ending a rental contract) turned up on the morning we moved, since they had been told we had long-since moved out and were keen to move in, rent having been terminated two months before. Grrr.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

First thing was to find a house. Our initial are for looking was the Peak District. We checked Bradwell, Castleton, Hathersage, Bakewell, Youlgreave and various other places. Unfortunately, not only was it expensive, but everything we found failed a key criterion – especially the must-not-be-near-a-main-road one. Or there would be 6 bedrooms for up-and-coming families but nadgers all garden. Or, at a particular house in Grindleford, my knees were issuing feared warnings at the violent slope of the garden and hills about.

Lovely surroundings but, after some exhaustive searching, both virtual and real, it was time to look elsewhere.

Also, by this time, it looked like I was going to have more chance of getting a job in the Oxfordshire are than Peak District. So we turned to the Cotswolds, as a southern, middle-class, mini version of the Peaks. Stow-on-the-Wold, Moreton-in-Marsh, Long Hanborough, Kingham, Churhcill, Chadlington, Charlbury and more. And after yet more searches, visits, rationalising, compromising, cursing and hoping, we found the place. Maybe not the perfect place, but all the efforts to then, and any amount of Kirstie and Phil, had taught us that “perfect” is ephemera: grasping at mirages.

And so we made an offer and, long story short, it was finally accepted and the solicitor travails began.

Now I’m not a solicitor, and I’m happy for them that they all take two weeks off over the Christmas period, but I remain astonished how long it can take to do expensive searches. Especially when some of the detail was taking me 5 or 6 minutes to Google on local government websites. Still, where the LAW is involved, I guess they have to use special phrases for searches that inhibit clarity – “can the search engine, herafter known as ‘Google’, indicate the legal instance when the land effected change from agricultural to residential with regard to its status ” instead of “when was it built?”.

Meanwhile, I’d found a job actually in the Cotswolds, as a Supply Systems Analyst for Daylesford Organic (don’t ask; I’m not sure what it means, and I’m doing it – but it’s hard, fun, educational and a big change from butterflies!). And this meant I was living away from the Beloved for most of the week. Sloth of movement on house was starting to hurt and fatigue.

But other than time taken, which I assume is normal, Withy King were fine;  there were some complicated details about covenants that slowed things up. And the vendors, initially suggesting they were happy to move out and rent, were actually part of a small chain that was the main factor holding things up. And time passed and Easter approached  and I was tired of living in Chipping Norton and cycling 12 miles a day and the proposed exchange date looked unlikely.

Until it wasn’t.

Sudddenly, it was all hands to the pumps and engines on full. Exchange happened against all odds on the Monday. Finances were juggled, went missing for a few hours, then turned up with the solicitor. The Beloved was a rock, sorting all the details out whilst I was miles away at work – potential house movers got tested and chosen;  BT was forewarned; Sky were booked in; banks were told.

One week later, the good folk at House 2 Home Removals were battling through the bitter cold to box up our lives and transfer us to Cotswoldia. Beloved and I, slowly, having back-spasmed, followed them around rooms doing the cleaning as our purchasers waited to get inside, checking on Cat, as she was locked away to ease her nerves. And at 2pm, we were off.  Completion on purchase still hadn’t happened (sale had) but I had been assured it should in the next hour so, and that was an hour ago, so we handed over keys and said goodbye to Wheatley: you’ve been splendid and good to us, and I shall miss you! [I almost got a bit teary when saying goodbye to the butcher on the Saturday before, never mind the Railway]

Then stress. No completion. We are getting closer to Moreton-in-the-Marsh but no keys would be available without completion. On the upside, Cat was being very calm in the car with our last few, key belongings (laptop, PC and, most importantly, kettle, mugs, milk, teabags and biscuits). Two phones on my lap, ringing estate agents (Harrison and Hardie; the good one) and solicitor.

No go. Question: if the estate agent makes a payment at noon and it takes three hours to be received, what exactly is the value of the CHAPS payment charge? Especially when purchase and sale were meant to be simultaneous.

And then both phones went off about half a mile from the keys. It was done. Hurrah! Now just get unpacked and see if we still like the place we haven’t been to for three months…

By 7pm, we were unloaded. Miraculously, phone worked and router was connecting to broadband without doing anything other than plugging it in. Previous occupants had left us no bloody oil, so that was high on the agenda to get sorted. But, we had food I’d prepared earlier, Cat was acclimatising, TV had a good Freeview signal and there was wine open.

Probably about time, we thought, to tell people we’ve moved…(and sorry for keeping you all ill-informed; there really has been little time to pause and relax)


Settling in begins. Ooo, wood-burning stove! We’re going to need logs. And I’m going to have to remember how to make fire.


Still lots to do, if I turn round, of course…


But Cat is starting to feel more at home!

And finally, because it’s quite nearby:


Yes, I remember Adlestrop —
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop — only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

-Edward Thomas


The tragedy of the lovely evocation of times past and nostalgic longing is that this happened in June 1914. Thomas was dead 3 years later.

Which was an unnecessarily bleak note to end this on. So I’ll just add: the pub is nice and serves Carlsberg Export on draught!




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The Return of Twitter

Posted on January 16, 2013 by     Leave a comment

whaleAfter sporting a steampunk-esque “fail whale” on the front page for some time, following Twitters change of access specs that blocked my previous PHP function from  working, the tweets are back.

I should really have been filling out job applications this morning, but got carried away with fixing this issue having acccidentally come across a site that was clearly doing almst exactly what I wanted. A bit of searching after that led me to Oliver Brechét’s page, which contained the CSS, JQuery and brief explanation of how to apply the “widget”.

Although there is a WordPress version, these widget’s tend to knacker any preferred settings that I’ve already written in to the underlying PHP, so I added this by linking in the PHP itself, rather than using the WP widget.

I don’t quite follow 100% of the JQuery script (another item on my to do list!) but could garner enough of what was going on in it to rewrite it to fit my own, rather more sparse, needs. This also meant that a lot of the included CSS was unnecessary so could just be copied in to my main CSS sheet and adjusted for appearance (no header, no separator lines, no borders and no background). I imagine this is against Twitter’s new usage requirements and that I will thus soon be excommunicated…

Main change was to the fetchTweetsData function, edited down as follows, preceding lines to the first, italicised one unchanged:

obj.finalText = $([linkURLs(obj.writeTweet, obj.entities)]).linkUser().linkHash()[0];
obj.header = '';
obj.avatar = '<div class="tweet"><div class="avatar"><a '+rel()+' '+target()+' href="'+obj.userUrl+'"></a></div>';
obj.textTweet = '<div class="mt_text">'+obj.finalText;
obj.footer = '<div class="time">'+obj.tweetTime+'</div></div><div style="clear:both;"></div></div>';
return obj;

Consequently, the only CSS used was:

.tweets {
 font:13px/17px "Tahoma",Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif;
.tweets a {
.tweets a:hover {
 color: #f7d274;
.tweets .tweet {
 padding-bottom: 15px;
 text-align: left;
.tweets .tweet .time {
 padding-left: 10px;
.tweets .tweet .avatar {
 background-image: url(images/tweet.png);
 height: 15px;
 width: 21px;
 background-repeat: no-repeat;
 background-position: top;
.tweets .tweet .avatar a {
 height: 15px;
 width: 21px;
.mt_text {


Excellent work, Mr Brechét, and thanks!

[Original code that inspired this and has slightly different, or broader, functionality, is here]



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Scribblings 1

Posted on November 2, 2012 by     Leave a comment

The girl had very spindly legs that made her look as though she might fall at any moment. But her eyes had a strength and a ferocity that suggested she was going nowhere but upwards; they gleamed determination and ire, as if admitting a history of bullying abuse with a testament of triumph over adversity. I just dare you.

The boy seemed uncomfortable around her, his knotted, unkempt hair bobbing about as he lolled from side to side, shuffling his feet to keep to the shorter girl’s slow, steady pace, eyes to the floor even as hers bore fiercely forwards.

She wore a patterned dress, blue flowers on a cream background, with a sash across her narrow middle; a lilac ribbon tied her straw-coloured hair back, accentuating her gaunt face and sharp nose. The boy reflected less spring, dark blue jeans, a size too large and held up by a thick piece of hawser; the bottom of his t-shirt sat, gathered on the rope and the faded Chewbacca face above snarled through the creases.

The old gentleman sat on the dry stone wall, a sheepdog panting at his feet, a weathered cane in his right hand as the left hand tickled under the happy dog’s ear. He wore pin-striped trousers, a tight crease ironed down the front, a loose-fitting white shirt, it’s casual lack of collar a contrast to the austere trousers, and a heavy woollen coat kept the cool morning air at bay.

“Hello, Daniel, is this Lily?” he asked gently, smiling. His voice was deep and calming but the smile had an edge to it, wrinkling his long, tombstone face, except around the eyes, where no crow’s feet tread.

The boy scuffed his battered walking boots against the floor, not lifting his eyes and jabbing his hands into his pockets. The girl put her hands on her skinny hips and looked at the gentlemen, levelly. “I’m Lily,” she said, “Daniel didn’t want me to come, so he’s in a mood”.

She poked her tongue out at him silently but Daniel didn’t notice, never lifting his face.

The gentleman turned his gaze to Lily, his head moving slowly as if his eyes were fixed in position, his smile unchanged.

“Well,” he said, with an easy tone, tilting his head to one side, his hand leaving the sheepdog to cup his square chin as he leaned slightly forwards. He tapped the cane once on a smooth grey stone, dislodged from the wall.

“And why would that be?”





Posted on October 23, 2012 by     Leave a comment

Dragons. I don’t know why I’ve always been fascinated by them – some of it is just the word; shapes and sounds of words have an aesthetic value all their own, regardless of meaning.

That’s probably why I enjoyed BBC2’s the Adventure Game – it was quite a fun celebrity puzzle game but, also, the characters, planet and the currency were all anagrams or partial constructs of “dragon”. A good word and the “cleverness” of spotting anagrams – because everybody likes to feel a bit clever, right? I mean, that’s why we like quizzes. Only Connect is far more entertaining than University Challenge precisely because it is more vague, allowing for odd, intelligent and pattern-matching connections in the brain rather than degree level art history (or 12 year old science).

Anyway, dragons. The main problem, if such it is, I have is their representation in fantasy literature: they are almost always the villains or are just dumb monsters guarding treasure (the Hobbit, anyone?). From the first moment I saw a picture of one, and I have no idea when or what that would be, they were smart, wise and ostensibly the good guys. In my mind. They might be mischievous or guileful; tricky and sometimes untrustworthy but never actually villains. That just seemed wrong to me because they were clearly better than humans – humans always make the best villains in anything other than horror (where monsters are a must) because we understand that. People suck.

In the Lord of the Rings, orcs or trolls may be foot soldiers but the villains are really Saruman and Sauron – humans, effectively, if not technically. In Alien, the xenomorph is the monster but the real villain is the corporation – a very human concept. Dragons are just too sexy for that kind of treatment – which is probably why I like “How to Train Your Dragon” so much, even if the hero dragon of the piece looks too fish-faced (and even in this, the most impressively dragon-like dragon is a baddie).

When I was a kid, I read a book called Dragonworld, partially because of the outstanding illustrations. In this, if I remember correctly, whilst the hero was a hobbit, in essence (Amsel?) the trick was to make the “bad” dragons a separate species – firedrakes. Dragons themselves weren’t so bad – though they were fearsome. Again, if memory serves, the main difference with firedrakes and dragons was that firedrakes had two legs and dragons, also larger, had four as well as being smarter and less bellicose. Even so, the firedrakes were drawn so well I had a bit of an issue with them being villainous… Even Harry Potter disappoints – the films beautifully render the dragons, as seems so easy now (e.g. the somewhat unusual use in “Reign of Fire”), but they remain dumb animals on film and in print.

When I started playing Dungeons and Dragons, the same problem persisted: not only were dragons far too powerful for my D&D Basic, 2nd level character to take on, so I was unlikely to meat one without instant death by one of any number of breath weapons, but they were pretty much always just treasure hoarders and evil, to boot, even if the Monster Manual indicates a full range of alignments.

In the last campaign I ran, I perverted the very idea I loved. It ran something along the lines of there being key, “Prime” versions of various magical creatures and, specifically, three dragons. The players were going to find out a lot more about these, one of them having some blood relation, but whilst the online game lasted a long, long time, it never got to a point where they fully found out about them. The key element, their secret antagonist, was a dragon that had been bitten by the Prime werewolf and had become something altogether evil and transformed (I know, I know – but it’s D&D, OK!). This was The Mogradjinn, a word I liked so much that it became my online ID – primarily because “Andy” is usually taken (“dragon” probably is, too, but I’m not cool enough to try for that one, anyway), so it’s just easier to have something…odd.

Ursula le Guin’s Earthsea dragons are maybe the closest to my mind’s eye version, being smart and powerful, somewhat benevolent, if unconcerned with men. Thought they are still treasure hunters. But for any version like that, there are countless other mindless beasts.

And that, in the end, is the reason why I like dragons: they remain mysterious, like the concept of magic itself, and also just acompelling word; however they are presented by others as dumb or vain or evil – and I don’t pretend to have read everything dragonesque – there’s a version of them that remains mine. Unspoken, ill-defined, like a dream that waits, dragons are childhood, waiting in the wings. With wings.

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Harpy Biffday…

Posted on August 16, 2012 by     1 Comment

It’s always been my preferred choice of phrase…

Harpy Biffday



(Harpy from here ; BG from here)

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Chicken with Feta and Broad Beans and Footie

Posted on June 20, 2012 by     Leave a comment

I’m a bit iffy with broad beans, even when they’re from Riverford. A hell of a lot of work for a heap of detritus and very few beans. And it’s particularly true if they’re a little old and each bean needs the bitter skin removing. Those little green remains are delicious, for sure, but the effort involved for such small reward hardly makes them artichokes.

Fortunately, this week’s delivery was of pretty young beans, so I chose to use them immediately and balance what bitterness there was with other flavours. It worked better than expected and set the Beloved and I up in the nick of time for the England vs Ukraine game.

  • Half a cup of broad beans or so (once podded)
  • Knob of butter
  • Olive oil
  • Three slices of Proscuitto or Serrano ham
  • Two chicken breasts
  • Two large, ripe tomatoes
  • Parsley
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Feta cheese


Place a pan of water on to boil then add a glug of olive oil to a frying pan under a three-quarter heat, season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and begin to fry. Place the broad beans in the hot water.

Turn the chicken regularly until the flesh is browned then place a lid over the frying pan, removing temporarily to turn the chicken every minute (the lid speeds cooking by helping steam the chicken and keeps the flesh moist, whilst also meaning the flesh is not overly browned and tough).

After two or three minutes, the beans will be cooked. Drain and return to the pan, off the heat, immediately adding the lemon juice, butter and two half inch slices of feta cheese, diced. Tear up the ham and leave to one side; dice the tomatoes and roughly chop the parsley.

By now, the chicken will be nearly cooked – add the tomatoes to the pan and stir around the chicken, picking up the caramelised flavours with the tomato liquor.

Stir the beans whilst adding in the torn ham, bits at a time, then share between two warmed plates (don’t stir too roughly – the feta should be beginning to collapse and dissolve but should still remain in pieces). Place the chicken on the beans then add the parlsey to the remaining tomatoes, turning off the heat and quickly stirring. Share over the chicken. Season with black pepper if required.

Chicken with Feta and Broad Beans


Successful food and something I’ll certainly make again.

Successful football, too, although that was considerably more stressful. I couldn’t understand why Andy Carroll was not playing from the start – I don’t think he’s a great player but he looks really up for it and if we are going to play wingers, and an attacker like Rooney who makes unpredictable moves and passes, surely we want a strong header of the ball? Rooney’s miss seemed to underline the point. Welbeck was OK but I fear he fancies himself as better than he is, especially after his goal in the previous match, which I suspect will have him making unwanted backheels and other tomfoolery.

Milner was a revelation. Like Revelations is: apocalyptic. I appreciate he is on for his defensive capabilities but, really, if he can’t pass the ball, is there really any point? Ironically substituted after first good pass of the game.

Ukraine denied a definite goal (what does the guy on the line do? I could see that was in as it happened on TV; why couldn’t he, scant yards away?). England, however, denied one or possibly two penalties to my eyes – it appears that grabbing shirts wilfully and tugging players to the ground in the penalty area is not being penalised in the Euros (it’s not just the England game this has happened in).

Rotten yellow card for Cole; surely a warning was justified at that point in the game? He can blame his teammates for not giving him a target to throw the ball at. Hart looking a bit more secure in his catching. As with the first two games, plenty of effort, which is all I would ask, even if little real skill. We’ve already done better than anticipated and will probably beat Italy just so that Germany can dump us out because that always hurts more.

All in all, the result was probably just about fair – Ukraine played with more energy but England somehow had the more clear chances. A draw may have been merited, but still wouldn’t have been enough. Gutted for them, though, especially in light of France’s result.

And the French couldn’t win the group, so now we play on Sunday instead of Saturday. Bloody French.



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Al and Steve’s Wedding

Posted on June 14, 2012 by     Leave a comment

The day started in mild confusion due primarily to the fact that it was Sunday. I’ve never been to a wedding on a Sunday, so was immediately out of kilter – and it was only an hour’s travel away so the usual mad rush before lengthy journey wasn’t propelling the Beloved and I. And we could go dressed and ready, not in need of dressing. I sorted the kitchen after some brunch (egg and beans; breakfast of champions), showered, shaved and got ready. Then watched cricket for an hour.

We were still late – though not so late that we weren’t risking gaol and public shame by putting the bins out before their alloted time. Journey was easy, though, we failed to get lost, spotted the necessary car park and checked in to a pleasant room with a four-poster bed. I’ve never really understood the value of a four-poster bed; it’s just something else to walk in to or stub your toe in your sleep but, hey, no complaints.

We’d checked to see if Sybs had checked in, which he had, though wasn’t in his room and we’d hoped to offer him a lift to the church if we were in time. We shouldn’t have worried – Mr. Cool had arrived by Eurostar, had time for a swim and was casually ambling through reception, just in case we were around to offer a lift, the moment we gathered ourselves and headed back out for the car. Mission accomplished: intention and hope coalesced into successful schemery!

5 minutes later, I was in the car park embracing Paul with great glee; too long since I’d seen him last and happy to see him looking well and in great humour. He was collecting tissues – not because, as I quipped, he expected the wedding to be an emotional affair, but to fend against hay fever. That, in and of itself was a small miracle; it was warm and bright. Muggy even. And, more relevantly, it wasn’t raining, frankly against all odds.

St Peter and St Paul's Church

The Church of St Peter and St Paul is a rather splendid building – the sort of church that has me looking for a duck pond (not least, in case of witches, of course) and wanting to peer for interesting old names amongst the gravestones. Sybs, Beloved and I hung out a bit, Beloved saying hello to some gals sheBest Man checks his cuffs. All is calm. met on the hen night, soon to be joined by Paul and Roselle and smartly decked out kids. Sybs and I were tie-free but seemed to be in the minority. A count would have to be made…and then handsome Jacques turns up wearing a tie and we knew we’d lost. At least until later. Besides, Jacques is with lovely Suzi and energy bunny Jess, so all is well.

All is also at 2pm, so the bride is due and we have to get inside as the last stragglers.

Ensconced inside on the typically amazingly comfortable church pews, we are given the rules of the place and time to glance about. There are some amazing gargoyles of sorts, clambering down the ribs of the roof, faces towards the parishoners. A particularly fearsome one is right above my head but I’m more taken by the mysterious tiny door over the head of the vicar. I’m guessing it may be for accessing some vertically inaccessible items, except that there is a handle on the outside, where it’s too high to get through. Paul later suspects it’s for hurling little dwarven organists, so that they can clamber through to play some tunes, from back in the old days. Roselle’s unconvinced-face suggests otherwise.

And then the bride arrives and Mendelssohn plays her in.

There’s a good touch to the place with a selection of toys at the back of the church to keep children happy in the event of wedding fatigue. They’re not necessary: I find myself in the heathen contradiction of thanking God for a short service as we are sung out and the happy couple are married and blessed in just over an hour. Result! And we also got to do the classic church singing of finding your way towards the notes a verse at a time until you’re just about ready to go as it’s over. Always top fun :o)

Al and Steve: Mr and Mrs Clapham Jacques practices being Bond in front of "his" car. Jess waits for Frankie and Kieron to come and play The tree is "home". That's all I know. Suzi goes for a gun...

The rain had still held off and so the gathering outside of the church was a happy occasion without ruined hats and frocks. There is enough grass for the energies of youth to be unleashed as the adults snapped the first pictures of the happy couple and admired, or were distinctly jealous of, the smart Jaguar that was beribboned for escorting Mr and Mrs Clapham back to the the hotel, where wedding breakfast and the shenanigans of the-serious-bit-being-over could commence (also known as ‘partaking of beverages’).

An album cover in the making, methinks. Paul dances out of camera shot, mirrored by his son behind. Cameras hold no fear for kids! The ladies forcibly avert their gaze but Sybs is hypnotised by Jacques taking a whizz The chariot home!

The hotel in question was Pendley Manor, a grand old house, possibly in need of a lick of paint here and there, but grand nonetheless, with the classic trope of these sorts of houses: lots of peacocks! There seems to be some specific affiliation, or perhaps just enhancing of their presence, as there were various peacock statues inside the hotel, too.

Pendley Manor groundsWe arrived just before the bride and groom – which led me to believe they’d gone the scenic route to thrash the car a bit as they had left distinctly earlier than us! A red carpet awaited to lead them in to the reception area, once a helpful hotel Frenchman had snogged both bride and groom, so whilst that was going on, I took my chance for a smoke in the pleasant ground…

One odd thing about churches is that, for some bizarre reason, they always leave me dry-mouthed. Maybe it’s the singing or empathic nerves. Or fear of God, just in case he really is out there. Anyway, I was happy enough to see a bar where the wedding party was gathering, and happier still to see draught Peroni. Sometimes, bucks fizz doesn’t cut it.

With the weather still (still!!) good, photographs were to be taken outside;  the guests were cajoled and coralled by the pretty photographer into distinct groups. I was impressed with the organisation and this also Pealion or Dandecock?gave me a chance to dash off and snap a picture of the beast I had spotted earlier from the bedroom window, and who was now perched upon an outside table 20 yards away. I don’t know whether to call it a Dandecock or a Pealion, but it’s an impressive bird and, after moving away initially, aroused its plumage to impress (I may have been scaring it or it fancied me; no idea). I’m still not sure whether it’s just white, albino or leucistic but I’d guess the latter.

Doing the Pendley WalkIt was nick of time stuff, as we were up next, but I was sure to bore all and sundry with the viewfinder version of the puffed up prince. For some reason, the “college group” photograph required us to link arms and walk forwards, chatting. Actually quiet a nice idea; the borrowed pic is good and I imagine the professional one is even better!

The double stairs leading up to the bar proved the final place for a large group photograph and then it was time for the Wedding Breakfast; always an unusual title and young Jess was disappointed she wasn’t getting bacon and eggs. She did, however, get nachos with cheese and ketchup (plus a free bottle of ketchup!) which was quite an inspired choice. For kids, that is: I was happier with the smoked salmon and dots of caviar.

Nicely braised shank of beef for main, which was good, and a texturally odd orange creme brulee for pud’ – the coulis was the highlight there. White wine and red flowed copiously and our table of ten encompassed the full college team, plus their kids, which was good (or possibly was a way to keep us all together rather than causing trouble with more respectable folk – though I think all friends at weddings think this way). Actually, wine flowed copiously for some. Well, me. With great irony, I had had two bottles of water placed in front of my place name and Paul two bottles of wine. Well, that was soon fixed; thanks, mate! The Best Man

Speeches were great; short where they needed to be and funny where they should be. The Best Man, Steve’s son Sam*, managed the extremely tricky, technically-a-no-no, feat of a joke at the bride‘s expense and did it well (aided by the groom’s giving out of apples to his adult kids – a play on the “wicked stepmother” that I’m not sure everyone twigged; I thought it a very fine move and well played).  Sam also managed a pretty moving, non-mawkish appreciation of Steve. The serious bit. Snuck in well and deftly. Well done, that man!

And then, of course, the guests were unleashed.

The other peacock. Huh. Ordinary!I shouldn’t really go on about the weather but it was still holding out, which meant that the latter arrivals for partying could gather outside; since this included a number more children, that was quite the bonus. Except for the bills for dry cleaning out all the grass stains, of course. Peacocks made It's dancing, Jim, but not as we know it.themselves known, though the blonde one was absent, posing between the stairs or proving they could fly (or use ladders) by peering down on us from low rooftops. Really great to see Paula, Heather, Gordon, a prince among men, and Patrick – especially to find out it’s his young son that is the erstwhile king of the camera.

At this point, my own pictures dry up because there was conversation and laughing – lots of laughing – and drinking and, latterly, dancing to be had. Although I really look as though I’m calling out some opposing fans. Do I really look like that when I boogie? Shocking. DJ was something of a fibber when it came to promisingThe cutting of the cake of cheese songs, sticking instead to his unclassic classics, but at least he was coerced, by virtue of it being the bride’s choice, into playing “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)“. That might be the song that begat the pic of dancing… And the band were good, too.

There was also a cake. A cheesecake. Made of cheese. Much respect.

Nearly bed time...Being a Sunday, many of the partygoers made their way home to prepare for school runs and jobs whilst a few others ticked over to the last minute. Sybs, Al, Steve, Rhun and Alien were the last people standing, seated, with a late drink before bedtime. An earlyish rise – Sybs especially, who had breakfasted and gone before my cracking knees had flexed me out of the four-poster bed – and large breakfast set me up for a tough day at work.

But a top, top day amongst friends had set me up for the week. Thanks to all who partied and congratulations to Alison and Steve (not Dave, as the MC foolishly called him, with great anectdotal value, after getting them to drink a mixture of red and white wine as a metaphor of union. I know. Odd). Especially Al’, who didn’t stop smiling all day. Her grin muscles must have ached more than my knees by Monday.

 The ever so happy bride. And beer.

Here’s to ya, girl!

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*I’ve been a Best Man and he was despicably calm and collected!!

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Evil Ketchup and Mysterious Freedom

Posted on May 26, 2012 by     Leave a comment

The Beloved won’t eat fish, shelfish, anything out of the sea, iffy about things on the bone (because they look like they came from animals) and won’t touch offal of any sort.

I understand this; as the cook in the house, it’s limiting – but I get it.

And then she heads off on a hen party, for the glorious Al, and with the excellence of Suzi and Roselle. I feel that I should warn the town, but there doesn’t appear to be a central contact for such. It leaves me, however, with all the options of food that I could want. And other ways to fritter time away. Crossword and pint;  great – also with additional value of SkyGo giving me the cricket in one ear and visual when fun happens. Maybe Moon, finally? It’s Eurovision as well, for all of the soft lark that brings – though really, that’s only fun with other peeps and I appear to have run out of anyone who gives a toss. And the first England friendly since Roy Hodgson took over.

Well, options, then.

Perversely, the thing that has knackered most of my waking days for seven of them now, is what I should “treat” myself to… a hotter curry? Liver? Steak and kidney pudding?

There were so many options: I like the sense of spice beyond reason. But I also like food across the whole gamut – from crisp sandwiches, through a pub’s lasagne and all the way to Michelin starred marvellousness. In the end, I went with hot dogs. Princes’, not some clever variation. A hot dog isn’t a hot dog unless it’s an inherently processed, slightly rubbish thing.

But that allows for a  little leeway. Firstly, with hot dogs, one must have fried onions (which are a bit burnt, regardless of the opinion on that phrase). Cheese, mustard, ketchup and such are all optional but if you don’t have fried onions, you are de facto, a nitwit. Fact.

Spice was the thing for me. So, herewith, is a way to make ketchup EVIL (this is for one lovely tin of 8 hot dogs):

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 hot green chillies, or other sense of HOTness. You know best.
  •  1 clove garlic
  • fresh ginger, about a teaspoon, sliced and diced
  • 1 cap fish sauce
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • pinch salt
  • pinch black pepper
  • 3 level tablespoons of good ketchup; your choice.


Chop garlic and chillies and ginger; pan fry lightly in the oil, just until you sneeze, then add fish sauce, salt (be careful on this – fish sauce is salt, essentially) and pepper. Turn heat off and add lemon juice. Mix together in heat of the pan, give a minute and then tip into the ketchup. Leave for 2 hours minimum for all the heat and madness to spread and mungle.

Use in the usual way you might any sort of ketchup.

I went with larger bread because it was better bread – should have been finger rolls really. But it just meant it was two dogs per bun. No major loss!


Until this point in this post, it was all predictive, because I was “cooking” as blogging. I’ve now tried and eaten. One word and some accurate grammar: yum!!! Also, ran out of ketchup.






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Football Things

Posted on May 14, 2012 by     Leave a comment

So that was the Premiership, then. Blimey.

As  a Liverpool fan, I can’t find any love for Manchester United and turned off SkyGo at 90 minutes, saddened that, yet again, they would sneak the Premiership. 5 minutes later, logged on again to check final scores, only to be confronted with a sea of leaping blue shirts. It took a moment: blue shirts.

Astonishing ending to the season after a variety of crazy results and unexpected to-and-fro-ing. It’s the sort of finalé that you would want in a perfect world, but only in retrospect; this is not the sort of finalé that anybody would surely choose to shred their nerves through.

A pity that Joey Barton yet again showed his true colours, though lucky for him that it didn’t end with QPR being relegated (though that would have been preferable to Bolton). But a small blip on an enthralling day.

And so the title is bought, many will say; sad but true, I feel. Money has poisoned the game. But that’s a lengthy waffle for another day.

Though it’s arguable, perhaps, that Manchester United bought it too. It’s just that it was much cheaper back then…




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