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Showing posts from 2006

essence of christmas

Fortnum's window. Wonderland indeed.

sugar rush

Surprised to find myself in the Crystallised Fruit Centre of the Universe at the weekend. Every fruit imaginable had been drenched in and dusted with sugar and joyfully wrapped for Christmas. One shop had a river of fruit running through it. It all looked so lovely but, let's face it, crystallised fruit never lives up to the promise. The texture is always a bit weird and the sweetness too sweet. Gimme a packet of Fruit Pastilles any day.

heston blumenthal's black forest gateau

...takes two or three days to prepare. It involves using a dyson, several plastic bags, a cocktail shaker, paint rollers and trays, an aerosol spray, lots of banging things on counters and sweat. This homage to Seventies kitsch cooking takes so much effort to make that you would actually lose weight just making it. However, I think Heston is missing a trick here. All the layers in his gateau have a perfectly acceptable, ready made, authentically 1970s equivalent which means you could knock together a Blumenthaley-stylee-gateau in about ten minutes and save a load of money. So here is my alternative recipe: For the biscuit base - use two or four Jaffa Cakes (this saves you having to make the apricot compote) Place a bar of milk chocolate Aero on the top of the base Add a layer of chocolate Instant Whip Add some cherries (glace or tinned) Add a good thick slice of chocolate Swiss Roll which has been soaked in kirsch Add another Aero (optional) Add another layer of Instant Whip Add some

foreign goods

Brian's been blogging about funny foreign stuff so here's my contribution! The coffee is from Spain and is just the thing for a post-prandial pick-me-up, while the can of "refreshing water' was purchased in Japan. My all-time fave was a bar of chocolate I bought in France called Crap! ah - le plaisir de crapsiller. I ate it and it was indeed a plaisir. I should have kept the wrapper. There also used to be some French Lemonade called Shittt but they've stopped making that now which is a pity.

colds are so much more expensive

...than they used to be. In Days of Yore a cold was an excuse to snuggle down on the sofa with the cats, a pot of tea and High Society. Today, feeling coldy and unwanted at the various social things I had lined up I have spent the afternoon in the study with my credit card, Amazon, iTunes and Britart. I will not end this month (or the next) in credit.... The telly beckons now but I'm not sure I can face Planet Earth as apparently the Polar Bear dies. I still haven't quite recovered from the grieving elephants on BBC Two last week and am certainly too low on tissues to risk too much more Natural Cruelty. At least I still have the one millionth episode of The Archers on Tuesday to look forward to.

oh yes, i can predict the future

so far all my Archers predictions have been right. David has made a fool of himself. Ruth has fallen into the arms of Sam I Am. Kirsty has yet to find out the Awful Truth (heralding a long overdue cat fight in The Bull in which Jolene might have to intervene). No sex has taken place. I should have put on a spread bet at Ladbrokes. Meanwhile I am listening to the band with the fabbest name in the world, Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly and wishing I'd thought of it. With a name like that it wouldn't matter if all their songs were rubbish, but actually they're not bad and they've really cheered me up on this wet and rainy Sunday. They remind me a little of Pale Fountains - whatever happened to them?

the world would be a better place

...if everybody (and particularly those in public life) wore shoes like these.

these i have grown

I've been harvesting this year's chilli crop and there's a mini-Festival of Chillies going on in the kitchen. The purple ones which look like baby aubergines are really evil . If they were bagged in a supermarket they would need at least five chillies to symbolise how hot they are and as far as I know the scale only goes up to three. I haven't actually tried them myself but I tested them on a friend last night... he's still alive I think and his cold has gone, but I doubt he will be able to actually taste anything until 2007.

i can predict the future

Sophie's back! So David is going to make a fool of himself and "aw naw" Ruth is going to fall into the muscular and welcoming arms of Sam. There'll be a cat fight at the Bull with Kirsty and somebody will leave Ambridge forever. There will not, obviously, be any actual sex.

wearing the wrong glasses in sainsburys

in a rush this evening and bought lots of slightly wrong things - beef and heart cat food (instead of chicken and rabbit) and smooth instead of crunchy peanut butter. Bother. On the other hand, I did catch a glimpse of the Queen Mother's sprightly ghost in the ice cream department. Meanwhile, try as I might, I just can't seem to care about Nectar points. Am I alone in this?

santa tecla

The castles were held on the first Sunday of the week of Santa Tecla celebrations. I don't really know who Santa Tecla was. Edward told me once that she came out of the sea and killed a giant spider, losing her arm in the process. I think he made that story up. The official guide to the festival is delightful but not very helpful. The description of the castles is as follows: "From the last third of century XVIII Santa Tecla has welcomed the best local gangs and they have reached constructions up to nine levels or floors of people like in the mythical celebration of 1881 when it was reached the four of nine without support and the three of nine without support which were performanced respectively by the gangs. At the end of the performance it will be served a vermouth and aperitive with the typical musicians which go always with the humans towers and cheer them " So there you have it. I have to go back next year, if only to get a new offical guide and to see if I can fi

castles in spain:4

That little boy is very very very high up. The pipers are playing, the crowd is cheering and I am standing there with tears streaming down my face trying to take pictures! Strange and very moving... but you gotta ask yerself... why?

castles in spain:3

It's at this point that you notice the Very Small Children wearing their very Big Hats. It's also at this point that I always start to cry.

castles in spain:2

Whoa, steady there gentlemen...

castles in spain:1

In Spain, last Sunday, I went to watch them making human castles. It all starts with a show of hands...

a lemon tree my dear watson

Seven lemons. There are seven lemons on this little tree which in previous years has struggled to produce even one. Obviously this is all the fault of climate change and shouldn't really be happening in South London but I see it as compensation for that future rise in water levels. At least when my house is under ten feet of Thames flooding I will be able to look back at the happy summer when I grew lemons, oranges and olives in my back yard. Not sure what one really does with seven lemons.. a very small bottle of lemonchello perhaps?


Here he is. The Mighty , The Incomparable , Jeronimo - defending the patch where he faithfully weaves his web every day. As I've said here before, I am rather scared of spiders and certainly can't tolerate them in the house but out in the garden they have their uses and this guy (at least, I think it's a guy, I haven't been that close) has obeyed my orders and stayed firmly in the same space for a couple of months now. He's a big chap - that pot in the background is a 12 incher - and sometimes the mainstay of his web is up to six feet long. It's stood up to some fair winds this week and today he had a bit of a set-to with a cat but I think he will still be there tomorrow. They say it's going to be sunny tomorrow too, so Jeronimo and I will be out there trying to get that last bit of tanning in.


I've been to a house, a very nice house in the country. Crunchy gravel drive, labradors, lavender, swimming pool, the sound of laughing children in the garden, tractors humming in the distance and all that sort of thing. Pretty well perfect... but still I couldn't wait to return to the rainy old Smoke and my cramped little garden because, deep down, I know that the country is full of psychopaths and wifeswappers. One of the Spiders I Have Trained, Jeronimo, has built an enormous web. I shall try to take a photo when it stops raining.

i'm no van gogh

...but I've painted my chair! Inspired by my favourite van Gogh painting (to which I cannot find a link which seems odd) I too have painted my favourite chair. The chair was from a boot sale. The paint from B&Q (specially mixed blue eggshell made up by their extremely helpful staff to my demanding requests). The cushion was made by Sally. Beautiful. Of course Vincent would probably not have featured the dustbin in the background but I was so busy admiring my chair I forgot to look at the whole picture. And no, I can't be bothered to take another photo. This was a spur of the moment thing.

prehistoric plants

Gunnera. In Cornwall on a dull morning. There are several children, a little old lady and some large dogs playing in here but you can't tell.

it's flying ant week!

Last year it was last week (if you know what I mean) and the worst day was the 13th of July. Yesterday the street and my car were covered in them. By the weekend they will have all gone - but where exactly do they go? I should search the web to look for the answer to this but I am going to have lunch instead.


I'd rather spend time with my friends than viewing their blogs but, since some of them are so far away, this medium (Is the Blogosphere a New Medium? Discuss) is a genuinely new way of keeping in touch... or at least keeping in touch with the public er... parts of their personalities. Alice and Cory have always been out there and they even make money out of theirs. Jamie's blog has been around for some time and while he doesn't make money out of the blog (as far as I know) he has written a book about blogging which is the next best thing. I would buy it, but I am secretly hoping for a free copy. Brian, David and Irascible Ian are all more recent arrivals at the Blogging Ball but just look at all the stuff they have published. All these thoughts, stories, pictures - if we had dinner every week for a year we'd still never cover all this. But today, on a wet and humid afternoon, I have had some time to look around and it's been so much better than passing the ti

thinking of lemon chellos

what sort of trios would be available for three lemon chello-players? They should have been around for The Lemon Trees to play with which would have been fun. While Guy Chambers went on to do so many bigger and better things I still think The Lemon Trees were his finest moment...

three lemon chellos

I broke my own lemon chello drinking record on Friday night. Normally I can't even face even one shot of the now-obligatory-free-drink-that-comes-with-the-bill at our lovely local Italian restaurant but this Friday was a what-the-hell sort of Friday so I knocked back the first shot and it tasted rather fine. So then when they brought another one I knocked that back and then I drank Ian's as well. My worry is that of course the lemon chello makers of Italy, who have been given their produce away so freely over the last few years, will now see a market and more of the sticky stuff will pour into Britain creating a lemon chello lake.... and I will then be obliged to drink more of it and subsequently feel like I did yesterday morning.... and I felt pretty bleedin' terrible yesterday morning. Thankfully the hangover didn't last and I recovered fully while watching the rather lovely Superman Returns. Am now wondering if, as we now all call Spiderman "Spidey" whethe

plants in disguise

Look! Cacti - cunningly disguised as pebbles! I wonder why they decided to do this? Protection against being eaten by camels I guess... but I hope there was a General Cacti Meeting where they voted against disguising themselves as Italian waiters or Bottles of Beer or Small Lizards and decided collectively that their lives would be most fulfilled if they were disguised as pebbles.

a grand day out

Skived off work for a day this week to go to the Hampton Court Flower Show . We spent eight hours in the hot hot sun and still didn't see all of it. So many National Collections - fuchsia, cacti, pelargoniums, delphiniums, chili peppers, orchids, ferns - wilting in front of our eyes in the Floral Marquee, but the most memorable National Collection of the day was the National Collection of Summer Hats. So many battered old panamas, faded baseball caps, threadbare canvas puddings which long ago lost their shape, half-eaten straw hats jollied up with scarves and silk flowers. Forget Ascot, Hampton Court on a hot day is where the real treasures are. And all day I was humming The Cure's Caterpillar Girl.


Like everyone else I know, i have had to take out a small mortgage to pay for new specs. I collected these yesterday. They are indeed beautiful and at last I can see (was the kitchen table really that dirty?) but the price was Completely Fabulous! A Jamaican woman standing next to me at the till was informed that her new specs were racking up to just over the £400 mark. "Four Hundred Pound" she exclaimed. "four Hundred Pound! Dem glasses should be free". Too true. Not sure whether I will ever actually wear mine since they are worth more than my entire wardrobe and jewellery altogether.

what was it about the sultan's elephant...

...that made it so magical, so memorable? It's a few weeks now since the Sultan's Elephant came to town but I was talking to a colleague today and he wistfully mentioned that he had missed it and I suddenly came on like Sally Field at an Oscar ceremony about how marvellous it was and how he must go and see it etc etc. Why? Is it simply because, just for a moment, it feels like a fairy-tale come true? A giant, intelligent elephant wandering through the streets of London? Or is it because I suspect, deep down, that Elephants will become extinct and giant mechanical versions will be all that we are left with in the not-too-distant-future? All I know is that i'm not bothered about the Sultan but I worry about the Elephant. So that's something else to add to the Enduring List of Worries. Next time I hope they bring a Dragon. The spider training is proceeding well though - the small hairy ones in the greenhouse are all quite happy with their new regime and there is a ne

the longest day

Yesterday was the longest day. In so many many ways. I was woken (before the Today programme had even started!) by a police helicopter hovering about two feet above my head for hours. Then, when I went downstairs to make some tea I was greeted by several mounds of cat sick which would have put Mount Snowdon to shame. Then to work and a day of tetchiness and one very long meeting in an airless and windowless room. Then a traffic jam all the way home which included being cut up twice by hoppa buses. Then there was no appealing food in the house, so I ordered an Indian takeaway. Then, finally I sat down in front of Big Brother with my dinner and the phone went and as I reached for it I caught my arm on something and dropped the phone in my chicken dopiaza. So from now on all my phone calls will be made through the medium of a medium hot curry. Then I went to bed and realised that days will start getting shorter from now on even though it feels that summer has not really started. And all

when it's too hot to sleep

.... my head just fills up with Worries. Firstly there's the Enduring List of Worries - always ready to pile in when i'm awake in the dark. These include climate change, work, world peace, tax returns, guilt, work, sick friends, scale insect, general self-loathing, the brown cat's cough, the hosepipe ban, foxes, general household worries and er... work. Just as I get on top of these a whole load of New Worries arrive, some of which have remained with me through the day including whales , weather warnings and what on earth will I watch when West Wing ends this summer. I am not, however, Worried about the World Cup. There are plenty of other people doing that for me... and anyway I drew England in the office sweepstake (although I weally wanted Bwazil).

it's too hot to sleep

It's too hot to sleep. I was lying in bed, watching newsnight and waiting for the thunderstorm (we've had a severe weather warning - how exciting!) and thinking that it's too hot to sleep. So I'm now up and downloading "From Gardens Where We Feel Secure" by Virginia Astley which is utterly perfect.

spider training

Another reason why I haven't blogged for a week is that this is the peak spider training season. i don't like spiders. If they are indoors they scare me and I have to leave the room (I haven't been in the back bedroom since the May Bank Holiday) until I am sure they have gone. Outside spiders have a point and that is to keep the flies down BUT they have to do so in places where they won't get in my hair. Being spiders, they don't always anticipate where my hair is going to be when they are spinning their webs in the dead of night so from late May to mid-June I have to train them. It's actually quite easy - if you walk into their web and destroy it on a daily basis they soon get the message and move to a safer place. Sometimes I train them more carefully using a pencil to break the web and attach the broken web to better placed plants. Last year I trained a rather large and hairy fellow called Henry to stay in the south-west corner of my back yard and we got on f

bloggity blog blog blog

I have had a complaint that I don't update this blog often enough so, for those thousands of readers around the globe who have been searching this site daily for signs of life all I can say is... This is a random thing and will remain so until the weather deteriorates and I get used to my varifocals. I hate the word blog. It's right up there with moist, spatchcock, "comfort break" and "ah... bless".


Spanish pastries are edible little clouds of loveliness. They are made from butter, icing sugar and air and because they are so light they can float away - so it's best to buy them and eat them straight away. Sadly they have no nutritional value but nor do they have any calories. They go very well with coffee which means you can eat them in the morning for breakfast... or at teatime... or indeed after any meal... or between meals if you are a little peckish. Today we are obviously listening to Rodrigo y Gabriela because the sunshine outside puts me in Spanish mood and, let's face it, a flamenco version of Stairway to Heaven is a must for this summer.

spanish hours

Spanish hours are longer than British hours. My rough guess is that the average Spanish hour lasts 90-100 minutes while the British ones stay firmly at 60 minutes or less. This means that when I am on holiday I can fit a lot more into my day than when I am at home and still get a good ten hours sleep at night - marvellous. Take Tuesday morning for example. On Tuesday I woke up in the countryside, drove to the nearest city (Tarragona, where Pontius Pilate went after washing his hands of things on the other side of the Mediterranean), took a few snaps of the cathedral, visited a friend's new apartment, went to the market to buy fresh fish and fruit and had a short walk along the rambla. On the way home we stopped in a village to buy fresh pastries, which we then enjoyed with a cup of coffee on the terrace. Then I had a swim, a long bask in the sunshine, I helped make a paella and then sat down for lunch at about 2pm. This morning, back in Blighty, I got up, had a cup of coffee, clea

day 4 in the big blogger house

i really want to watch it... i know if i start watching it then the next thirteen weeks of my life will be a write off.... perhaps if i stay up here in the study until after 10pm then i will be able to overcome the urge and find more improving ways of spending my time... but i could just go downstairs now... and switch on channel 4....

the day of Rockoning

We did watch it and a bunch of ugly trolls from Finland, called Lordi, won with a fabulous affirmation of everything a Eurovision Song Contest Winner should be - meaningless English lyrics set to a completely forgettable tune. Even though I heard it twice last night I can't remember how it goes... Today we are listening to Bruce Springsteen ("Oh Mary Don't You Weep No More"). I wonder if anyone ever calls him Brucie?

it's still raining outside

it's raining outside Originally uploaded by polkadotsoph . so we are inside listening to the Pet Shop Boys and wondering whether to watch the Eurovision Song Contest tonight. "Mesdames et Monsieurs - Royaume Uni nul points". That's how it should be. Also discovered that there's another blogger called polkadots and moonbeams - serves me right for setting this up in the middle of the night after a long day and half a bottle of merlot. Hey ho, It's done now... and it is a great song.

no comment

It's way past my bedtime, I've spent most of the day on motorways to and from Birmingham and I have a miilion things to do tomorrow but I might as well start my blog tonight. Brian thinks it's a good idea. Fred thinks blogs are for sad and wretched individuals who have nothing better to do with their sad and wretched lives. So I am starting my blog. I'm listening to Counting Crows and it's raining.