Monday, February 27, 2012

A good day

What a good day. Jan had bought me tickets, for my birthday, to see Reginald D Hunter and his nearest performance was in Middlesbrough.


A bit of a hike but no big deal.
This was also going to be a trip down memory lane for Jan because as a very young child she had spent holidays in the leafy suburbs of Middlesbrough (and for those that have never been there, that's a joke!) and the nearby coast.
In order to make the most of the trip we headed over the North Yorkshire Moors to Whitby. Whitby, apart from being a beautiful little seaside town, has, for me, the unique distinction of being the only place I have ever found Tiger Nuts, a regular schoolboy snack when I was young, but I digress.
It was going to be a perfect, sunny ride in the countryside. Excellent. As we were going to be in Whitby around lunch time, we headed for The Magpie CafĂ© down by the harbour. Fresh fish doesn't get fresher! Fish and chips for Sunday lunch hasn't been part of our normal behaviour but as this restaurant has a very good reputation we had to give it a go (I think we'd eaten there before but whether it was a dream or we'd actually done it I couldn't remember). Anyway this was a good opportunity to measure it up against our own favourite fish and chip shop in Wetherby. Jan, who thinks that she is a tad posher than me, wouldn't just buy and eat the fish and chips from the takeaway so we had to sit and eat in the resto. After the mandatory queue (about twenty minutes) we got seated. We both agreed  the fish and chips were good but The Wetherby Whaler, which is only a short ride from Ripon, had the edge and also had the added bonus of shaving a couple of hours off the journey.
As we ambled back from the resto to where we'd parked the car we passed a small boat offering quick trips out to sea. Me, I'm not a good sailor but Jan quickly agreed to my offer so matelots we became for the next 30 minutes.
After our seafaring adventure (I know how to show a girl a good time), we headed (by car) up the coast through Saltburn and Redcar and after a quick trip into down town Middlesbrough we sat and read the Sunday's at the side of the town hall. Grand Touring just doesn't get better than this.
When I decided that I wanted a cup of tea I said to Jan, 'where the hell are we going to get a cup of tea at 5.30 pm on a Sunday in the middle of Middlesbrough?'
I scoffed at her when she suggested Starbucks. The Middlesbrough that I knew of old wouldn't have a Starbucks (I have subsequently checked and it does, which only goes to show how out of touch I've become).
Having put on our stab vests and helmets, we set off on foot to find a cup of tea and there it was, The Central Bar just minutes from where we were parked. Jan, who is a bit posh (have I mentioned that before?), wasn't sure. I thought the bouncers looked friendly enough and as I wasn't in the mood to risk life and limb walking through the middle of Middlesbrough any more, in we went. What a good idea.
I asked the very attractive bar maid if they sold tea or coffee. She looked at me as if I'd just landed from Mars. We don't get asked for that very often she said in her near unintelligible lilt but sit yourselves down over there and I'll go make it for you pet. Northern hospitality at its best.
As I slowly acclimatised to the overpowering, pulsating beat of the music I realised that the end of the League Cup Final was playing on all the tv screens around the bar. It was the gods offering me a little reward for being such a good bloke. The fact that the match went to extra time was even better and filled the time beautifully until it became time to set off to see the show.
Reg Hunter was interesting and funny after you had acclimatised to his deep south Georgia drawl but a show not for anyone of a squeamish disposition.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An alternative view

I'm surprised that no one has mentioned the state of the Parthenon.
No wonder Greece is in such a mess, they can't even maintain their public buildings.
As you can see from the recent picture above the roof needs fixing and all the rubble cleared from the surrounding area. I hope they use some of the 130 billion euros they've just been given to get it fixed up. It's a disgrace.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Water, water everywhere

Reading this yesterday made me question why the good folks of the north should have to put up with so much rain in order to ship it down south.
If you want a lot of water move to Lancashire or if you want even more then move to Scotland!

Monday, February 20, 2012


I'll try and say this sensitively.
I have a big problem listening to all the hype over Whitney Houston's death and burial.
She had a good voice, she sang some good songs but why is there so much media bullshit over what was a very flawed person. The headline should have read "Drug Addict with Good Voice, Dies."
She squandered a huge talent and the millions that people paid to listen to her. I'm not biased, I paid to see her in concert many years ago at Wembley Arena.
I suspect that there are lots of drug addicts with good voices and I suspect that there are lots of non drug users with brilliant voices. Why aren't they celebrated?
I realise that this is a massive over simplification but you get my point.

Friday, February 17, 2012

It's where?

About once a week we call in on my mother and either make or take her for lunch. Today we went to Fodders just outside Harrogate. It's a shop (delicatessen) and restaurant that specialises in Yorkshire food and very good it is too. Though I struggle to understand where Arborio rice, Maille mustard, Manchego cheese and a host of other foreign stuff fits into a Yorkshire theme.
Anyway, there's always a queue to get into the restaurant and the group in front had been waiting for a long time. Several other groups had been seated before them. It was half term so there were lots of families and this one was particularly big.
As we were being seated (before them), I said to one of the fathers, "I bet it wasn't your idea to try and get a table for eleven at half term?"
He smiled, rolled his eyes and agreed.
The food and service are always good and Jan wanted a glass of wine with her meal and I noticed that they had Yorkshire wine by the glass (I kid you not) and patriotically decided to try it. Big mistake! They make lots of good things in God's own country but wine isn't one of them.
We weren't surprised when mum preferred what we were eating over her own choice. She always does. I had a huge, manly steak sandwich and mum looked envious despite the fact that I knew she wouldn't be able to chew it properly.
I always know when she's not completely happy because she said that the next time we'd eat elsewhere.
She suggested the Tiger Inn near Knaresborough, not one we'd been to before.
"Where is it mum?" I said.
"I can't remember," she said, "it's either on the Ripon Road or the York Road and then you turn left."
"That narrows it down to about 100 square miles," I said unhelpfully "but we'll check it out and go there next time."
Such a helpful, loving son!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Listen you..............

Dealing with Greece is like dealing with a recalcitrant teenager.
This is the story so far. Eurozone chiefs (mum and dad) say to Greek political parties (child), in order to get your 130 Billion (pocket money) you have to agree to do this that and the other.
Given that there will be new elections next year, we want all political parties to sign here (give me your solemn word) so that there will be no deviation at a later date. If you fail to honour this agreement then no further bailout (pocket money) will be advanced. Amongst the conditions that we have agreed is that you will start to collect tax from your citizens and industry (get a paper round) and stop telling lies (or you will get sent to your room). If your behaviour improves in the future you can expect to receive your next tranche of bailout money (pocket money). The decision is yours, go away and think about it.
The country has a choice between economic ruin and (shock horror) collecting taxes. It needs to join the real world and needs to stop lying to the world and its mother.
I know what I would do.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Day Before You Came

It was Craig who put me onto this and I play it from time to time cos it makes me feel good. Jan usually sings it to me each morning as a kind of tribute.
Love the video and reminds you about how attractive Agnetha was but not sure about the pyjama cord around the head. Play it loud.

Raymond Blanc

Always interested in foody stuff we started to watch the new Raymond Blanc series last week.
He's back in his home region France Comte visiting his mum, admiring her cooking skills and heaping praise on his grandmother who was even more talented, and cooking a special meal for locals at a resto nearby. So far so good.
He did however wax lyrical about local produce like potatoes (they're potatoes for heavens sake), vegetables and in particular Morteau sausage. I really like Morteau sausage, Jan makes a fabulous dish combing the sausage and spicy lentils but, for crying out loud, it's a bloody sausage.
Raymond sang its praises, fondled it in some erotic fashion, and looked like he would marry one given half a chance.
It's been a long time since I've tasted it, but the wine from the region Vin Jaune is, in my opinion, bloody awful. It tastes like a kind of sherry. Avoid at all costs.
The only ingredient that I can honestly say that I really like from the same area is Comte cheese. A good one is really good. So there you have it, one of the best and most expensive chefs in England, popping home to his native region and waxing lyrical about sherry and sausage.
I felt as underwhelmed as the 30 or so people looked that he cooked his special meal for.
Since then we've watched the second programme and that was more of the same. More waxing lyrical about produce in Burgundy and yet again cooking an uninteresting meal.
I wonder what he'll do in Languedoc, assuming he ever gets there. 5/10

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Get a life

Every year I rabbit on about the 'film award ceremonies' and the arse lickin' media who hype it all up. This article by Dominic Lawson summed it up nicely for me.

I suspect that nothing will change in the short term but it's good to have a rant about it all once a year.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The place to be

Ripon Photos
This photo of Ripon is courtesy of TripAdvisor

I'd love to say that we planned it, for us things don't really work out that way, but here's further proof that Ripon is the place to be.
I must add a rider in that I usually hate the 50 best lists of anything but this one has a ring of truth.
Take a look at this. In a list of of the 50 Best Cheap Eats in the UK, according to the Independent, there are two mentioned in Ripon. We've eaten at one of them and will now try the other and I could add one or two more. It's probably because, amongst the landed gentry in this area (don't forget that Downton Abbey was set here), there are lots of skint foodies floating around but there you go.
Guess which category we fit into?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Wad'ya say?

There has been a lot of discussion recently about Fabio Capello and his performance as England manager.
Despite the fact that he has the best win rate of any England manager including Alf Ramsey, he was criticize for his poor command of the English language.
In the run up to the game between Man U and Liverpool on Saturday, Sky interviewed both Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish, the respective team managers, and whilst watching this it occurred to me that being able to speak coherent English is definitely not a prerequisite for being a successful football manager.
The managers were both asked a series of questions which I had no problem understanding. So far so good. Both managers replied in what I can only describe as unintelligible drivel.
It wasn't an English that I could understand. I'm not sure if coming from Glasgow is a good grounding for a successful command of the English language (in fact I'm certain that it isn't) but fair to say that anyone who criticizes Capello should also be criticizing the aforementioned club managers.
Frankly it was awful and makes you wonder why anybody would want to interview them.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A culinary tip

Just when you thought you knew everything.
I find myself constantly improving Jan's cooking techniques but do I get any thanks?

Thanks to Will for this.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A night out

That's the last time that I allow Jan to book theatre tickets.
We went to see Chris Addison the other night at the Harrogate Theatre.
'We have to get there early because we have to pick up the tickets,' I was reliably informed. We arrived to pick up the tickets only to find that they didn't have them. After a check through all the options we were asked if they had been booked with 'See' tickets.
'Sounds good,' said the sage of Ripon, so the box office kindly checked with the company and printed out our tickets. So far so goodish.
Anyway we eventually found our seats but only after a long walk. Just to say that I've never climbed so high in a theatre before.
The 'Balcony' is not good, it is bad. It's so high you get a perfect view of any performer's bald spot.
Each seat comes with an individual oxygen supply and a box of tissues for the inevitable nose bleed. The seat are not numbered, as a tribute, they are named after all the people who have climbed Everest.
And then to add insult to injury Chris Addison came onto the stage and pointed up at us and said, "you poor sods have paid the same price as all these people down here in the comfortable seats."
So bloody funny.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lazy Cow Syndrome

This is doing the rounds and forgive me if you've seen it but I think it's very funny.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Scotch broth

When we were in France I turned into a real scruff. Shorts, t-shirts and unshaven was the order of the day. I revelled in it.
I haven't quite figured out why but things are a little different here. Smarter is 'in'.
Anyway, we were in Booths today and I was at the butcher's counter. Jan makes a fabulous lamb soup (Scotch broth) and I asked the butcher for some cheap lamb cuts to make it. Maybe I was looking poor and dishevelled or maybe it was Jan but he, Vic, took pity on us and gave us a load of lamb. Free, gratis and for nothing.
Then, when we felt guilty and tried to buy some stuff, he went out of his way to make sure that what we bought was at a discount.
There are probably those amongst you who think it smart to dress up and look down on us poor, scruffy unfortunates but let me tell you that scruffy has its advantages. If you're feeling hungry, like lamb and are prepared to risk a touch of salmonella, go see Vic (my new best friend) in Booths Ripon. He's your main man (and my new best friend).

Monday, February 6, 2012

That's a bit strong

Moving from Hampshire to Hertfordshire the other day and in particular from the M25 up the A41 to Hemel Hempstead we were amazed at the amount of rubbish by the side of the road. The rubbish extended for miles. The amount of rubbish was unbelievable. It was horrendous. Why with so many unemployed are the roads so bad? It can't be beyond the wit of man to marry the two issues.
Anyway, the next day we travelled home up the M1. Having done this journey for many years and because it always used to be my half way stop when travelling North we decided to stop at Leicester Forest East services.
I wondered how it had changed over the years. It didn't have a Marks and Spencer but it did have a Waitrose however we didn't need sandwiches because we had already decided to stop for fish and chips in Wetherby but a pee and a coffee were on the agenda.
The coffee was good but as I entered the toilets I was serenaded by Phil Collins welcoming me to 'another day in paradise'.
Better than it used to be Phil but not really paradise!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Seeking Salvation

I'm a big believer in charity work and try to do as much as I can, but it all came to a head last Christmas when I got sacked from the Salvation Army soup kitchen.
All I said was, 'hurry up you lot, some of us have got homes to go to!'

Friday, February 3, 2012

Twit or twat

I don't mind swearing. Others do, but not me.
For me it provides another form of expression, something a bit edgy, something that allows a release. It's just a word or words, nobody gets physically injured and you either take offence or you don't.
Anyway, we were in the car the other day and the driver in front did something dangerous.
"What a twit," said Jan.
"Whoa," said I, "he's not a twit, he's a twat."
Jan looked at me with disbelief, so I had to explain the difference.
"A twit is someone who is harmless and does silly things that basically don't offend anybody. A twat is altogether a more unpleasant character."
I love language and we English have so many words, many more than any other language, to express ourselves.
The thing I dislike more than swearing is inventing stupid words. Take the word poo. It has come into common usage as a more genteel way of saying excrement or faeces or crap or shit (but then you knew that). We've already got lots of words for it so why invent another? And, to me, it isn't more genteel or acceptable because it means exactly the same thing. It's a word that you usually associate with talking to a young child.
That's another thing I dislike, talking to young children as if they're imbeciles. Someone we know when talking to their young children says 'juicy' instead of 'juice'. Hmmmm.
These kids are now quite capable of understanding the world as it should be spoke. Geddit?