Tuesday, May 31, 2011


It all started with an obsession. You know, those little challenges that keep thwarting you and that keep niggling away until you get control.
Yesterday's challenge was to find an Italian newspaper for my aged Uncle Dino. He speaks no English and just likes to immerse himself with a newspaper when all around him becomes incomprehensible. Living with Jan, I know how he feels (you're a dead man - Ed).
Anyway I was racking my brains as to where to look. We'd tried the obvious, like W H Smiths and we'd even visited Manchester airport last Sunday (what a dump that was), then I had a brainwave. What about the airport in Leeds or better still there was bound to be Italians working at Salvo's restaurant, fairly near to the airport, and they would know.
Nada at the airport (the young Asian girl looked at me as if I was stupid), so it was off to Salvo's where we could get the information and some decent nosh as well. The place was packed.
First the food. I've been visiting this place on and off since they first opened in 1976. It had a good reputation from day one and appears to have maintained it ever since.
We shared a fritto misto to start with which was excellent and then we both had a pizza, which we both really enjoyed. The best pizza base I've had since eating pizza in Italy.
All washed down with a bottle of Falanghina. Recommended.
Now for the information. I asked Bartek our server (that was the first clue) if I could speak to an Italian.
'There is only one Italian working here,' he said, 'because the boss is on holiday. He makes the coffee and I'll get him.'
After a quick chat I got a little further with my quest for a newspaper.
So there you have it, if you want an Italian newspaper in England, forget it and if you would like an Italian waiter in an Italian restaurant. Forget that as well. Things have changed since we've been away.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The lord is my shepherd

Just back from shepherding Italian relatives between Yorkshire and Cheshire which involved lots of driving, arranging and staying in hotels and staying sober to smooth their path.
The Italians had a good time, the family wedding was excellent and everything went really smoothly.
Throughout it all my mother whinges and complains because nothing is ever right or good enough for her. Never once does she say thank you or seem pleased with all the effort and planning that went into it. She takes everything and gives nothing, it's a side of her character that I've never liked and even after all this time I still hate it.
So, never again (at least until the next time). Rant over.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


We were driving along the M62 this morning and passed a sign saying 'Bradford Tourist Attractions.'
'Isn't that an oxymoron?' I said to Jan.
The only tourist attraction that I'm aware of in Bradford is Mumtaz and, whilst Bradford isn't that far away, I see that they have opened one in Leeds, so I hope to visit soon. Probably next week. Yum yum, really good curry.

Anyway, we're in the market for new garden furniture (see, we are optimists) so, after not finding what we wanted on-line, we popped into Homebase in Harrogate. We found what we wanted and tried to buy it.
'Sorry you can't order it, it's out of stock,' we were told.
'OK, I'll buy the display model,' I said.
'Sorry, we can't sell that yet.' they said.
'Excuse me, I'm trying to buy something from you costing several hundred pounds. You have something on display that can neither be ordered or purchased. I must be missing something but what's the point of keeping it on display?'
Then, to piss me off even further, I got the Gallic shrug.
'We'll call you next week,' they said.
Something tells me they won't last long.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Rich Tomato Sauce

You thought that I'd forget, didn't you? The following makes quite a large pot of sauce.

This is as authentic as it gets. Ingredients are approximate and to taste. Cook your chosen pasta per the instructions on the packet. Enjoy.

Rich Tomato Sauce

I onion
1-2 carrots
1 stick celery
Good handful of Pancetta (smoked lardons)
Olive oil (enough to cover bottom of saucepan)
2-3 cloves garlic
Piece of cheap: Beef, Lamb, Pork
(Use better cuts if you want to eat the meat after the pasta)
Quarter bottle of red wine
Half tin of tomato puree
3 tins chopped tomatoes or passata

Chop onion, celery, carrot & pancetta in food processor until in small pieces. Heat olive oil and gently fry the mix until softened. Add crushed garlic and fry for another couple of minutes. Add meats and brown. Add red wine and bring to boil.

Add tins of tomatoes and tomato puree and bring to boil. Turn down heat to low and simmer for 1-2 hours until pool of oil floats on top. Taste and add salt and pepper.

Take out meat – it can be eaten with salad after the pasta. Serve the tomato sauce with any pasta but orechiette is good.

Tip: after you have drained the pasta mix two ladles of the sauce with the pasta, to ensure the pasta is coated with sauce before serving. With the coated pasta in a bowl, finish with a generous spoon of sauce on top of the pasta before serving. Add parmesan to taste.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Two Greedy Italians

When Pia and Dino arrived the other day I put in an order for one of my favourite recipes and last night I got to eat it.
Italians don't travel light. Pia had brought with her fresh made pasta and a bunch of other goodies for my mum.
I'd requested an enriched tomato sauce (ragu, made with beef, pork and lamb cooked slowly in a tomato sauce) to eat with orecchiette (ear shaped pasta) and very, very good it was too. (Note: Prior to combing the tomato sauce with the pasta you remove the meat and eat it as a separate course after the pasta.)

Jan and I have been watching the series Two Greedy Italians and last night they were in Puglia which is where my mum and Pia come from, and where Pia and Dino live at the moment.
An area I have visited many times over the last fifty years, where my grandparents lived and where I developed my love of Italian food. About half way through the programme they visited Orsaro di Puglia, a sleepy mountain village in the hills above the Foggia plain, which is Dino's home town. They couldn't believe it.
Having met Jan fairly late in life, she has very fond memories of her first visits to family life in Italy, family meals in Orsara and including one wonderful evening when we listen to a band play Cavalleria Rusticana in the open air, in the square in front of the church and delighted in watching all the old folks follow along to the music.
Needless to say they were delighted and fascinated that a travel/food programme was airing in England about people and places that they know intimately. It was delightful to hear them recognise individuals and even Jan and I had eaten at one of the restaurants that was featured.
A fabulous trip down memory lane. And, because I don't have any of last night's recipes to hand (I'll post it tomorrow), here's one that I know you will enjoy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Super Injunctions

Either Ryan Giggs is going to sue his lawyers for the shit advice they gave him or his lawyers are saying to him 'I told you so'.
I wonder which? We need to know.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hallelujah brothers

Thank goodness for that. At first I thought that maybe I'd missed something and that he was barking up the wrong tree (or just barking - Ed).

Pia and Dino

I've always considered myself lucky and today was no exception. I always carry a bag of sweets in the car, it's  something to do with keeping my blood sugar up, I seem to remember.
Anyway, at the moment it's a bag of fruit pastilles, which I started the other day, and I noticed that today for some reason all the black and red ones (my favourites) had sunk to the bottom. A sort of reward for munching my way through the shitty lemon and pear flavoured ones the other day.
This meant that my boring journey over to Liverpool airport this morning was filled with joy (it was a big bag).
However, this was counterbalance by my manly attempts to keep the car on the road as it was buffeted by gale force winds as I negotiated the M62 and the leafy suburbs of Wigan, Warrington and St Helens.
I couldn't but force a wry smile at the huge signs at the side of the road proclaiming that 'strong winds were forecast'. A statement of the bleeding obvious if there ever was one.
The reason for the trip? My mother's sister Pia and her husband Dino were arriving from Naples for a wedding this weekend. As I get fed up with a two hour car journey they put me to shame by saying that they'd had a good journey. Not bad for a couple well into their eighties.
When I got them to my mum's house, Jan set about cooking that good old Italian standby paella. And very nice it was too.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Memory lane (again)

Our next door neighbours from France visited yesterday. Actually they live in Lancashire about 2 hours away (France is their holiday home) and don't seem to realise that we moved to get away from them.
Still, it was nice to see them.
During a quick trip to the Theakston brewery in Masham in the morning, I re-acquainted myself with a pint of Old Peculiar. When I were a lad (I'm surprised your memories that good.- Ed) the beer of choice was Newcastle Brown and if you were in a hurry to get pissed you drank Old Peculiar. Three pints of that stuff guaranteed you were comatose in a couple of hours.
After Theakston, we headed off for a slap up meal at the Bruce Arms in West tanfield. The booze must have had something to do with it because we booked en masse  for New Years Eve. That's a first for Jan and I because we usually decide what we're going to do at about 7.00 pm on 31st and get pissed off when we can't get in.
After lunch we hit the tourist trail again and drove into Ripon and paid our first visit to the cathedral, and very nice it is too.
The tiny church built, in 660 AD, which is still intact below the knave, was a special find and the lower inscription, above, made me stop and think.
What were you doing at age 24? The chap above was killed in action commanding a submarine. Makes you think about some of the feckless youth of today.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


Has anyone else noticed the huge distance between the bottom of his nose and the top of his lip?

Super Injunctions

I get so pissed off with some of the sanctimonious reporting about injunctions, and in particular that it's a 'law for the rich'. Of course it bloody well is. It's only 'celebrities' (and News of the World readers) that have a vested interest. Newspapers have no interest whatsoever in splashing me or anyone like me over the front page.
If I shag a woman with large breasts over a period of seven months, the only person who would have something to say is Jan (oh and me, cos I'd say 'thank you lord!'). Nobody else is interested.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


After a short period of acclimatisation it occurs to me that quite a bit seems to have changed since we were last living in England nine years ago.
Because we lived in the south, Windsor to be precise, and we now live in North Yorkshire, I'm not sure how my comparison stacks up but here goes anyway.
We have noticed that there appears to be many more entrepreneurs selling good quality local produce.
Last night was a meal in point. The rib-eye steak from Booths our local supermarket was excellent. It was so tender, having been hung for 28 days and was sourced from a local Yorkshire farm. It was marginally cheaper than an equivalent in France but the quality was so much higher.
Meat for me in France was generally tough and unless you bought pork, poor value.
For pudding I was tucking into a locally made Yorvale ice cream from nearby York and was able to compare it to the Brymor farm just up the road from us. We may just be lucky but things appear to be moving forward here with an emphasis on quality and price.
I used to believe that French food shopping was better value and of a higher quality. I'm not so sure about that now. After a few trips to Spain where quality is high and prices are low compared to France, I'd say it's definitely not true.
Given the huge farm subsidies enjoyed in France and Spain (the first and second largest recipients of CAP subsidies respectively) I'd say that the average French shopper is getting ripped off and the inward looking,  inefficient French farmer continues to thrive.
From my less than educated observation I'd say that the exception to this rule was certain wine producers in Languedoc (don't get me started on Bordeaux and Burgundy) who seemed to have recognised and responded to the demand for a higher quality product and were changing their methods and production.
Still, the weather in France is better.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Chocolate Whisky Gateau

After years of begging Jan to make me a Chocolate Whisky Gateau I've finally decided to make it myself. It's a cake made by my first ex-wife that I really liked and now as I'm getting older and nearer the end I want to taste it one last time.
First the ingredients. I checked what we had and we didn't even have a bloody cake tin, so it was off to Booths this morning to get all the necessary.
I'm determined to spend my last few hours on earth with chocolate around my mouth. Here's the recipe:

If it's difficult to read just email me.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I have read extensively about this topic and I’m slowly coming round to the opinion that it's a huge conspiracy. My theory goes like this.

Under direct orders from President Sarkozy, (seen waving goodbye to DSK above), knowing that Elvis had a penchant for this sort of thing, had him tracked down and coerced into joining the French secret service.

What I believe is that Elvis, riding his favourite bull, crept into the back entrance of the Sofitel and, without being noticed, secretly climbed the stairs to the fourth floor.

On entering DSK’s room and after exchanging autographs he forced DSK to have consensual sex with the housekeeper.

Police, who have thrown a crack team of cleaners into the investigation, are looking for any traces of bullshit in the room which will either confirm or deny DSK’s defence.

When the bullshit is eventually found it will confirm the opinion of all those living in cloud cuckoo land who believe that this was a political setup.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Memory lane

What with moving home, losing weight and a family wedding coming up it was time to reassess my wardrobe.
My suits and jackets to be precise.
I never wear a suit, I can't even remember the last time I wore one, probably sometime in 2007 and the time before that 1999. Anyway with a wedding in May in Cheshire, one in Middlesex and then one in France later this year I had to reassess the situation, so out they came.
At least it gave Jan a good laugh. She laughed her head of at my flares, shoulder pads and kipper ties.
I thought they looked rather smart, but it still hurt.

Thinking ahead to a birthday party in London later this year Jan, the expert on cheap travel, started to search for tickets. She found tickets Harrogate to London return, for both of us, for £28.20. Yes, you read that right £28.20 all inclusive. If you have to go south and stay the night and are flexible on dates and time then the train is really the only sensible option. At that price why would you drive?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The best

Jan has been so good recently, getting gold stars for each of the last two weeks and no corrective interviews, that I decided to reward her with a shopping trip. A shopping trip with an extra little treat thrown in.
On the way down the A1 there was a service station that boasted a Costa and an M&S.
As it was getting near lunchtime I pulled in, the place was absolutely heaving, and, as well as buying her a hot chocolate (I'm all heart), I allowed her to choose something for her lunch from M&S. Me, I had The Ultimate New York Deli, Pastrami on Rye. God it was good.
But wait, the fun didn't stop there. It was then on to Ikea just south of Leeds on the M62. Some people dream of a holiday in the Seychelles but for me it's seeing the smile on Jan's face as we get to Ikea. I really know how to spoil a girl!
However, what I'll never understand is how everything I suggest that we buy is either not needed or a waste of money but we still come away with a trolley load of stuff.
Oh well, at least she has a smile on her face, lucky girl.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The angel of the north

I am so patient.
Today was my second day of hanging around in shops waiting for women to make up their minds. I just don't understand the indecision.
In one shop Jan looked at a pair of shoes, went back and picked them up again and was obviously trying to find the size.
After standing there watching for a while, I said, 'Just ask an assistant to bring you the size you need.'
Her reply, to which I'm still scratching my head was, ' I might not want to try them on.'
'Why do you need the right size then?' was my far too simplistic reply.
Anyway, we have a family wedding coming up at the end of May and I got involved in booking tickets for aged relatives coming from Italy. What a palaver. What with phone calls between Cheshire, Italy and on-line booking with EasyJet, including a change of return date after the initial booking had been confirmed, the whole process took from 11.00 am until 14.30.
If John Paul can do it quickly then I should be a breeze.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Not so fast on the draw

Craig beat me to it.
I'd been thinking for a while of posting a photo of some of the flowers in the garden. Whilst we realised that the garden was well maintained and cared for when we bought the house, this spring has been a really pleasant surprise as the plants have leafed and blossomed.
It's a very tiny garden compared to the monster we had in France which is quite a relief. Just to cut back the weeds, at the old house, making some form of green area (I used to call it a lawn) took at least a morning. In 30 degree heat that's no joke but at least it was very satisfying when it was done.
Here in Ripon it takes about 30 minutes to cut the front and back lawn. It's almost not worth firing up the petrol mower.

Short take off and landing redefined

Ever think that it was possible to land and take off in the space of 10 feet?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Get rid of that sticky mess

For ages I've been trying to remove a particularly nasty residual glue, from the windscreens of the cars, left behind after taking out old insurance company holders.
If you have the same or similar problems then here's the answer. We were shopping in Lakeland the other day, Jan's favourite store, alongside Marks and Spencer, John Lewis and about 20 others, and she pointed out a product that she uses for similar jobs.
Sticky Stuff Remover Gel really works. It shifted glue that had hardened in the sun and had resisted all attempts to scrape it off. Good stuff.

Friday, May 6, 2011

It's a joke

There was some talk about voting machines the other day with regards an AV voting system and I think they're long overdue.
To say that the mechanism in the UK is archaic is a gross understatement. It's 10 am on Friday as I write and the polls closed here a full twelve hours ago. We're talking about the count for a poxy local election, probably with a very low turnout and with the count for the AV vote not even due to start until 4 pm.
As I write there is still no result announced for our local election. Compare this to France where they hold a national election and many more millions of votes are cast. The polls shut at 6 pm and they pretty much know the national result by 8 pm. Considering that it's a manual count that's fantastic.
One thing that really surprised me when voting yesterday was that I was expected to cast my vote using a pencil to mark the spot. Now call me cynical but the last time I looked it was fairly easy to rub out a pencil mark.
Even in less well advanced nations they make it more difficult than that.
Added to that, nobody asked me for ID. So as long as you know someone else's name and your pretty sure that they're not going to vote then you could turn up and vote in their place. What a shambles.
When I'm in charge mes braves you won't even have to turn out to vote cos you'll do exactly as I gently suggest.

A waste of time

So Jan and I voted in person for the first time in many years and each did the exact opposite of the other.
I won't mention how the Trot Janski voted because that might embarrass her but we effectively cancelled each other out.
So, all in all, a complete waste of time and at the next elections I'll tie her shoelaces together, put my feet up, stay at home and save myself the bother.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


It's been a long time since we've had it this way. Before you get too excited I'm talking about milk deliveries, so calm down.
For years we've bought milk from the supermarket, as and when, but Paul our friendly neighbourhood milkie knocked on the door the other day and now we get it delivered. I rather like that. A trip down memory lane but with a good purpose.
And now that I'm thinking about it I can even remember a time when the 'pop' lorry used to call and delivered a large bottle of dandelion and burdock or whatever. Can you imagine that happening today?
What does happen is that every afternoon around 4.30 the ice cream van stops just near the house and dispenses his gloop to a very welcome old and young audience. OK, I know it's not real ice cream but on the odd occasion we've both partaken of a cone and enjoyed it.
Nostalgia lives on!

By the way, Ed says 'hi' to Matilda.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fancy a giggle?

Take a look at this.

Getting old

Since I've been back, I've noticed a bit of trend of me being treated as an old git. And I don't think I like it or at least I haven't been able to take advantage of it yet.
OK, so I might be old and I might be a git but purleese not both at the same time.
I was sitting in the waiting room at the cottage hospital in Ripon today waiting for an appointment with the ophthalmologist. As I sat there waiting my turn I looked at the other waiters (waitees?) and noticed that they were all old. Like really old.
Christ am I getting lumped into the same category? I'm a youth, at least mentally and I don't think I look like some of the old biddies sitting there. Maybe I do. (You do - Ed)
I gotta take a close look at how I dress and throw away my walking sticks (just kidding) and even consider buying a bottle of Grecian 2000.
Mind you, as I've always said, 'would you ever trust a man who dies his hair?' Not me bro'.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Good news

Looking back over the experience, I've learnt a couple of things about moving cars from France to England.
First thing is don't cancel your French insurance. You might need it to prove that you have insurance to the police if you get stopped. Whatever you do don't have an accident, your French insurer probably won't pay out.
Don't underestimate the time it will take to get your headlamps changed, get a certificate of conformity (if the car is French) and an MOT. You need all these before you can register the car. Then, look for insurance because the insurance company will probably only give you a couple of weeks before you have to register the car and provide them with a UK registration number.
In the end I used Adrian Flux (insurance broker) who not only gave me a good quote and cover over the phone but also gave me full NCB and were happy to provide insurance using the VIN number, provided that I registered the car quickly.
Following Craig's advice I went to our nearest DVLA office and was able to iron out a few small items which would have been much more difficult by post. Result.
And, hot off the presses, Fiat France, the new Chrysler, the new Jeep, returned my cheque for the certificate of conformity because evidently they only charge if you are importing a car and not if it's being exported. Double result.

Monday, May 2, 2011

What again?

Grief another bloody holiday today. Feels like I'm back in France.


Until recently I hadn't used Facebook much. It wasn't any use to me, but circumstances have changed a little and I now use it a bit more. I suppose that's progress.
But, I still don't get Twitter. I was sitting there the other day and thought that I should stop mentally knocking it and join. So I did.
I started to 'follow' certain people to get a feel for it but found myself getting incredibly bored. The posts I read were really too short to make sense, too random and full of references to other posts and links. Lots of posts were nothing more than adverts.
The whole experience smacked of laziness. Thinking about some of the posts and folks I read, it occurred to me that they weren't written by the individual but by the individual's publicity machine.
I visited a couple of times and haven't been back yet but I'll try some more because social phenomena like this need to be understood. Even if it isn't understood by those who twit tweet.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Something new

When I woke this morning there was a knock at the door.
Standing there was a nice young man who said that he was a Jehovah's Witness.
I said, "come in and sit down. Now what do you want to talk about."
He looked a little perplexed and finally blurted out, "I'm sorry, I don't know, I've never got this far before."