Month: April 2010

Food 2.

A lot of people used to worry about my diet, and ask me if I could cook. Since things have quetened down, and I have the house (and kitchen) to myself, I’ve been cooking some things recently.

A 3 egg omlet

Ive always enjoyed making Omelets. This one has 3 eggs. I had a bit of an accident, with the first one, but the 2nd one  came out fine as you can see. Problem is, I bought a big box of eggs, made loads of Omelets, and subsequently, I am now bored with them, and waiting for my interest to return. Success rating 1 – 5, 4

My "proper" Sunday lunch.

I’ve put this one up previously, but I’m so proud of it, that its back again.

It took me 2 hours to cook it. I found that the key was work out a time-line. The basic idea, is that food needed to be on the table at 4pm. Therefore 4pm is zero hour. So roast was -120m, potatoes at -35m, Yorkshire’s -5m. Sounds elaborate, but it actually worked. Success rating 1 – 5, 5 (definitely).

Chille, an old favourite.

I’ve always loved making Chilli. I ate this, with a bag of Nachos. It was worth waiting for. You can see the open can of Carling in the background, an essential cooking accessory.  Success rating 1 – 5, 3 its been a while since I made it, and I have a hill to climb, to get back to my previous standard.


Pasta (like Rissotto) has always been a bit of an enigma to me. I mean I eat both of them in resteraunts, so why do I never seem to eat them in my own house ?. Well, time to get cooking and find out.

It was tasty, filling, and took just a few minutes to prepare. I think I will eat this (I have loads of Pasta in the house) when I’m on my own, and in a hurry. Success rating 1-5, 4 its so easy to make, apart from burning, its almost impossible to ruin it.

One of the few Chinese meals, I have ever prepared.

I have 2 Ken Hom books, but I have never really gotten into Chinese cookery. As a start out, I bough some chicken, chopped it with a cleaver for true Chinese authenticity, before adding a Chinese cooking sauce and veg combination. Its an early attempt, so I didn’t want to take any chances. As it was, it was really nice. Success rating 1 – 5, 0 well, I didn’t actually cook anything did I, I just re-heated a packet, in a wok.

My best yet, a Chicken Tikka Masala.

My best meal yet. I made the Tikka Massala, from a recipe of Madhur Jafrey’s 50 great curry’s of india. Some years ago, while shopping with my brother, I purchased the authentic bowls, trays, and even the heating thing (dont know its propper name) with candles. I havent ever used it, in more than 10 years, and it was its first outing.

I found that its simple to get small garlic nan, that way they can be heated in a toaster, while I was doing all the other stuff. Laid out for 2 people, to give me some practice, for the next time I’m entertaining, you will notice only 1 plate, and 1 glass of Red Wine. I ate it all myself. Success rating 1-5, are you joking ?

Hopefully, some of you will be around here soon, to try out some of this ?

Happy St Georges Day.

The G & D, Chester.

Any statement involving the words George and Dragon in the same sentence, elicits one of two responses in me.

1. Distress, when it refers to that truly terrible Chester “pub” the George and Dragon. Dire !.

George and the Dragon

2. Immense pride, and the celebration of British history.

I remember when we were at school, we were allowed to wear our Scout uniforms and badges on St Georges day.

All sorts of political agitators, have mad a big deal about Britishness, how its being eroded and all the rest (I always smile when I hear that quote, a patriot is someone who loves his country and a nationalist is someone who hates everyone else’s 🙂

A former colleague of mine (an American living in the UK) once said, the problem with you guys is the flag. In America, we have flags in Schools, Churches and at home. You guys are rightly proud of yours, but its only seen flying in public, when a significant football match is about to be played 🙂

For my 2 penny worth, being British, is to be resourceful, be basically fair and have a sense of responsibility.

If your British, wherever you are in the world, lets simply celebrate today with a pint of bitter (I’ll end up leaving most of mine, I only like Lager, but you get the idea !).

Happy Birthday Frank.

Frank and I in Italy, doing the Tour De Mont Blanc

As some of you know, my oldest friend Frank (we have known each other for 35 years) moved to Thailand a couple of years ago (you can read a bit more about it here.)

Well, its Franks birthday. Although I can’t be there, I just wanted to take a moment to wish him a sincere Happy Birthday.

Pearl & Dean Cinema Advertising. Sold today, for £1.

On a similar note, I read today that the Cinema advertising group Pearl & Dean has been sold for £1.

If I had to pick the exact moment, when I chose a life of adventure, it would probably be many years ago, when Frank and I were both 13. It was the summer holidays, we had just left Hague Street Primary School, and we would be going to different Secondary Schools, at the end of the holidays.

We had a great summer, camping, going walking, building dens, and all the stuff that teenagers used to do, before Play-stations were invented. It was back in the day, when a schoolboy could carry a Swiss Army Knife, and not get into any trouble (although if he was ingenious enough, he could build/make or improvise practically anything with this simple tool).

I also remember it being a time when Frank’s Dad, let us borrow tools out of his toolbox, to build our Den. I remember specifically, that he didn’t supervise us or anything, he knew that we would be careful and his only concern was that we put them back in the box, in the same condition they were in when we borrowed them (which we obviously did).

Well, one afternoon, we decided to go and watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was Frank’s idea, I hadn’t heard much about the film. I had just been paid from my paper round, so I paid for us both (Frank frequently did the same, we never worried about who’s money was who’s).

The 3 things I remember about that day are:

A, It was the first time, I had ever eaten a cheese burger.

B, While watching ROTLA, I knew I wanted to travel and see amazing things.

C, That just before the film, on that special day, the appalling Baba-Baba-Ba-Ba-Baba-Bap-Bap-Bar was played with the P&D advert !.


A pretty quiet weekend overall.

Saturday is best forgotten about, but on Sunday, I was invited to a BBQ at the home of my friends Tony and Lorraine.

Their house was built to their own specifications, so you won’t be surprised to see that the Kitchen looks like something a celebrity Chef would cook in.

Tony's home made Burgers.

What might surprise you, is that Tony, actually makes his own Burgers.

Tony with the Barbeque

Just to show that Tony isn’t the “grabber” that everyone thinks he is, he once again cooked dinner, and provided all the wine, for free.

I really appreciate them inviting me over. I had a great time.

The very helpfull Butcher on Northgate Street, C S Austin

On the subject of Meat, and helpful people, a butchers shop I’ve used for some time, is C S Austin on Northgate Street, in Chester.

As well as a fine selection of quality meats, and superb Steak Pies, they also do exotic meats. Opportunities to visit Australia are limited, since I’m unemployed at the moment, but I can buy Roo steaks and get a (literal) taste of adventure.

One other thing, is that the excellent butcher their, agreed to sharpen my 2 kitchen knives (my global knife, originally cost £70) and refused to accept any payment (even though it must have taken ages to get an edge back onto them).

Birthday Plan/Friends

Pictures from my 40th Birthday.

Before I talk about my Birthday and friends, I want to express my sadness at the passing of the Polish President. When I visited Poland, the people I met there were charming and helpful (as are my Polish friends here in the UK), and I just want to say how sorry I am for their loss.

On a more positive note, plans are well underway for my birthday bash here in Chester. It’s on Saturday the 8th of May, and a full Itinerary is available here.

Jon Ski-ing with his children during the Easter Break.

One of the people I am most looking forward to seeing on my birthday is Jon Mallett. Lucky Jon, managed to get a away Ski-ing during the Easter Break. Above is a picture of him and his children.

Well done Jon. Planning is ever important in the pursuit of adventure, but the single most important thing, is to get out there and do it.

Frank and Na getting married.

Civil (well, it looked a bit un-civil to me) violence in Bangkok, is in the News once again. As many of you know, one of my oldest friends Frank, and his lovely wife Na live in Bangkok. Frank got in touch yesterday, to tell me that they are both okay and everything is fine.

Dan in Chester.

A walking civil war, all on his own, Danny Quinn, popped back to Chester over the weekend (some of you will remember that Dan left Chester to move to Nantwich (and having visited Nantwich, and seen just how dull and pretentious it is, I can imagine how easy it must be to become a celebrity around there :))

Dan asked me to point out his sunglasses in this Shot. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you think there worth 160 quid !.

One other thing Dan mentioned was an explanation of the phrase the whole 9 yards. It actually comes from American Bombers in the 2nd world war. A full belt of ammunition for an anti aircraft gun, would be 27 feet. If a Luftwaffe plane aggressively attacked the Bomber (how else would it attack, with whit and humour ?) , they would fire the whole belt at it, hence to give something the whole 9 yards.

Don’t forget my birthday. Most of you have been invited already by Call, Text or Email, but just in case, the full itinerary is here.


My "propper" Sunday Lunch (the Gravy hadnt arrived at that point).

Inspired by Matt Bridges Sunday Lunch I decided to have a go myself.

I’ve previously cooked Ainsley Herriots 30 min Sunday Lunch (featured in in 17 Things I like ) but I decided to have a go at a propper roast.

It took me 2 hours (well, it took the Cooker 2 hours 🙂 and this is the finished product, just before the Gravy came out.

Eating at Chez Jules for the first time in 2 years.

I recently had lunch at Chez Jules (I used to go there frequently, but it occurred to me, that I hadn’t been, in nearly 2 years).  The food was just as good as last time, I’ll definitely be going back (shame this picture, taken with my IPhone, doesn’t do the 2 hour lunch justice).

The Chester Food and Drink Show 2010.

I decided to bob over to the Chester Food and Drink Show.

I had been a few years ago, but it was much bigger this time, newly sited at the Chester Race Course. One thing that did please me, was I remembered my Chester Residents Card, so I got in for only £4 (and extremely nicely off them, they let Amelia in for £4 as well).

I was a little disappointed, as I thought most of the suppliers would be from the Cheshire area. Right at the back, was a farm section and it was really small.

I decided to treat myself to an Ostrich Burger. Amelia caught up with some old friends (they used to ride horses together or something) so I decided to seek out an old friend as well. I found Frodsham Ales (locally based a few miles from Chester) and bought a pint of their “Iron Man” Ale.

The Food and Drink Show at Chester Race Course.

This years the theme was Food and Drink and Lifestyle. I didn’t think much of the lifestyle section.

Another idea, was that you could pay £20 and get 4 days full access to the event. It also meant that you could camp at the event for free.

That might not sound like a particularly good idea, but think about it for a minute. That would effectively give you 3 nights accommodation in Chester. That’s probably the cheapest way to visit and stay in Chester that I know off !.

Sports bar. Who's the sinister figure lurking outside ?

Meanwhile, Amelia and the Hoorays had moved on and found a nice pub.

Years ago, I worked in Corporate IT. One of the things that attracted me to working in such a pressure cooker environment, was international travel.

After nearly 8 years, while working for Corning, I was scheduled to visit their head office in Hickory.

Put simply, Hickory is a town in the US, that makes a lot of wooden furniture, hence it being called Hickory. Its also one of the most boring places in the world (where do you think the name “Hick” town comes from ?).

Well, the new bar that’s opened-up on the water front, is called Hickory’s. All I could think about was a depressing week in America with work.

Also around 8 years ago, my brother took me to a new sports bar in Manchester. They had booths, with personal table’s that you could book, and you could be served food and drink while you watched Football or whatever with all the atmosphere of a “bar” game, but none of the interruptions.

Always a bit slow to catch up, Chester now has one in Hickory’s. They also do traditional smoked BBQ (whatever that is). It may turn out to be popular with visiting Americans.


Jonathan Creek, Easter Special.

I watched the Easter special of Jonathan Creeke (a crime drama I’ve followed for several years). Story is, that because money was tight, Alan Davies (who has played Creeke superbly for more than a decade) had to take a pay cut, and a scene at the end was filmed at night, as there wasn’t enough money to pay for the set to be done properly.

Whatever, but I pay my TV License, the same as everyone. Why is money saved on good programs like this, and wasted on Strictly/Next big theatre star, whatever.

Anyway, on a positive note, terrestrial TV seems to be making a comeback. Dr Who and Ashes to Ashes are easily the 2 best programs on TV at the moment.

On the American TV front:

Fringe. Previously excellent, recent episode Peter, was probably the best one they’ve made, the episode after that, fairly mediocre. Its a great series, somebody needs to pay attention.

Stargate Universe. Came back on TV after several months away, with a bang. Its superb, I hope they keep this up.

House. Okay its good, but it seems to do the same things its done for 6 years, and the mind-games stuff, is now just tedious. I far prefer the patient of the week, and an amazing solution, but that hardly ever seems to happen any more.

Flash Forward. I watched Jonathan Ross on film 2000. He said that there were 3 things that were essential to a film/drama. I forget the other 2, but he said its important that the characters are in some way believable, and that we care about and empathise with them.

Otherwise, when the plot, puts them into danger, we just don’t care (and in fact sometimes we want them to get shot/blown up etc). His criticism at the time, was levelled at a film called Mission to Mars, but exactly the same could be said about Flash Forward. I’ve just stopped watching it, I’d rather watch Coronation street (and that’s saying something).

Politics :)

I was sent these 2 spoof political adds, that I just wanted to share. There isn’t much that’s funny about politics, but these made me laugh.

David Cameron "promotional" poster for the Frog & Nightingale

If you click on this picture of David Cameron, you’ll see that its not actually an advert for the Conservative Party at all, but an invitation to the Frog and Nightingale.

Gordon Brown - say it like it is ?

Is Gordon Brown a bully ?. I don’t know, but it got a Guffaw out of me.

If you have any similar pictures, send them to me, I’d love to see them.

Learning new things

Me at Antique Pine furnature's superb facility in Mickel Trafford.

Times are getting tough. I’ve got a month or 2, and then my present arrangement with the Building Society comes to an end. The problem is, there seems to be no real movement in the IT Market in the North. Obviously, if your looking for a really good engineer, who will work for Peanuts, give me a shout.

Recently though, I have been looking at alternatives (The London contracting market is booming). Another alternative, is moving out of the IT field altogether (at present, a minimum wage job, could save my house.) I’ve been over to the Frog, where they have been showing me how to work the bar in case a job like that comes along. The problem is, there are loads of unemployed people with years of bar work experience, so I’m not hopeful.

I decided to look at other jobs and opportunities. Strictly speaking, I’m a technologist, but at heart I’m an engineer and I love building and making things. To the rescue, my friend Glenn, runs a Pine Furniture import business. Glenn is no stranger to coming to the rescue, you may remember he recently provided Football “technical support” to a local pub (you can read about it here).

The basic idea is that I would spend 2 days with them, and I would learn a bit about restoring furniture and help out with some of the beautiful pine cupboards and things that they have there (and like a proper apprentice, I would earn my keep by helping to unload wagons, emptying bins etc).

I was introduced to a lad called Matty, who I would be working with. He showed me how to polish the waxed door of a Wardrobe. Later, I spent some time sanding down a large dresser. It took me ages.

The Wardrobe on our left, in the picture above, is something that Matty restored (with a bit of help from me). It really was a beautiful piece of furniture. Its hard to see from the picture, but up close it was stunning.

I also met one of the co-founders of Antique Pine Imports, Rob. I was a little concerned at first, as Rob seemed to frown quite a lot. Had he taken a dislike to me ?. The reality, is these guys are master craftsmen. He was watching everything, checking every detail.

On reflection, if I’m in a server room, I act much the same, I’ve just never noticed it about myself.

I was fascinated to see Rob working on a Wardrobe. It had been sold, delivered, but for some reason couldn’t fit into the customers home. Rob completely re-engineered it, so it could be separated into 2 pieces and put back together.

While working I got to listen to Radio 1. Ive never really liked Radio anyway, but Ive decided that Radio 1 isnt for me.

Okay, so after my experiences, am I going to move into Cabinet Making ?.

Unfortunately, No.

It was very physically demanding compared to the sort of stuff I normally do (some of you will laugh and criticise, but I’m just being honest).

Its also a very specialist job. It must take years and even decades to become expert at the profession and although nobody said it, I think you must need a real love and understanding of wood to succeed.

Although its roots are in traditional craftsmanship, API makes extensive use of technology and modern methods in its working practices. As Glenn put it, its 2010 and were a progressive company.

I had a really good time, and I met some ace people. I’d like to Thank Matty, Rob and Glenn for sharing their time and knowledge with me, it was much appreciated and a lot of fun. The next time I’m in the Commercial and I see an old piece of furniture, I’ll look at it in a completely new light.

Home Alone

Jude's lovely cat Kai.

Well, my lodgers have moved out, and I’m back to living on my own.

Its quite nice to sit on my own, and watch rubbish on the TV. Its strange though. I sort of miss the cats and its really strange at night. Absolutely nothing is moving, and there is no sound. Its strange getting used to it again.

I also, keep locking the bathroom door, when there is obviously nobody else in the house !.

I’ve moved out of the loft, back into my own bedroom. I am sleeping a lot better, my setup in the loft was really handy, but at night, it was like sleeping in your living room !.

All that remains is to wish Jude and Nathan best wishes in their new home (and they will hopefully invite me to their house-warming part).