Saturday, May 24, 2008

Will you still need me ... when I'm 84?

It was one of Mrs C’s counselling supervisors who asked her if one of her
clients was past her “sell-by date”…. a term which I thought was non-PC
for a supervisor to use, at the time. However, since then I started to
think about the elderly people I see wandering around the streets of

Yes .. no … no … hmmm, very attractive 40 year old :) … yes … yes.

So what do I find off-putting / makes me think, “Oh no”.. and what do I
think about myself? And what do you think?

Someone who wear a patterned cardigan, like the old guy in the
Werther’s Original sweets advert … I wear an old fleece jacket at times,
which looks … well, I’ll leave you to finish off that sentence.

Someone using a zimmer frame or a shopping trolley.. I have one of these

Someone who shuffles along as if they could trip over any minute.
(Not me, yet)

Someone who dresses in a very dowdy manner with totally the wrong
sense of colour.

(Mrs C thinks I dress very badly … she and one of my nieces conspired
to get me a make-over on the Susannah and Trinny TV show … S took
some video film footage of me while I was leaning against the kitchen
sink, washing up one day … I was wearing my faded and baggy red
jumper, old trousers and black washing-up gloves (you know the ones
you use for clearing drains?) … and sent it off to the programme

Fortunately, they wrote back to S, saying I wasn’t suitable. Perhaps,
they thought I was a hopeless case , or perhaps they thought: “Hey,
what a cool dude ... leave him as he is”??)

Someone whose hair is badly dyed or cut (mine is greying, and Mrs C
cuts it very well)

Someone with nicotine-stained skin & teeth, .... and faggy breath
(oh, yuck, yuck).

Someone who takes out all their teeth at night (my false ones are still

Someone with the obvious signs of stroke-damage or confusion. (well I’m
not quite ga-ga yet, even though one of my granddaughters says I am).

But thinking about this, it will happen to us all one day … ageing …
... unless we drop off our perch with a heart attack.

We’ll have to adjust our thinking … move the goal-posts a little, don’t you
think, when all our teeth have to come out, or when we become frail?

Will you still need me .... will you still love me … when I’m ga-ga, doubly
incontinent, and fit for the scrap-heap?

Mrs C and I will be in Poland & Prague next week, so I'll blog again soon.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

pressure cooking

Pressure cooking ... you either love it or hate it, don't you?

I use our pressure cooker about once a week, for making soups
or for very quickly cooking lentils. The rest of the week, I
use the same base plus additional trays as a steamer to do all
our veg in.

I do find using the pressure cooker somewhat scary, at the
moment when it "fires up" at full steam. I remember well the old
steam trains, when on walking by, there'd be a sudden blast of
steam which would make me jump out of my skin. I'm sure the
engine drivers let the steam off on purpose, for a good laugh
("Let's scare him shitless!").

Anyway, modern pressure cookers are very safe, when used
correctly. Ours is a 6 litre Prestige one, which I bought about
7 years ago after I retired (yes, that is a huge amount of time).

In general, pressure cooking halves the amount of cooking time
and therefore saves a lot of fuel. For making any veg soup, we
often don't bother frying the onion, as it pressure-cooks well.
For additional flavouring ... garlic, herbes de Provence, a bay
leaf (or two), and/or one or two organic veg stock cubes. The
latter can be very salty, so I check the end result before
seasoning with salt & black pepper. For thickening we often add
a sprinkle of red lentils (one of Mrs C's tips to me). You have
to take care not to overfill your pressure-cooker (see the
instruction book for your cooker for the guide-lines).

Timing: full pressure for 5 mins on a very low gas flame. Switch
off the gas and leave for up to 5 mins before de-pressurising
and taking off the lid. Diced/sliced potato will be cooked in
this time. And then we lightly blitz it with our Braun blender
(the hand-held whisk-like thingy) ... though we don't liquidise
any bay leaves of course.

Red lentils: lightly cover with boiling water (add a bay leaf or
two, if required in the recipe). I use 2oz or 60g of lentils per
person, though sometimes reduce this figure to 45g. Bring up to
pressure in the cooker for 1 minute only. Switch off the gas,
and leave for another minute before rapidly de-pressurising and
taking the lid off. You have to experiment with the amount of
water and the timing, but you end up with a brilliantly cooked
and fairly dryish mixture, which you can then use for making any
lentil dish you like. So that's an amazing 2 minutes' cooking time,
and you don't end up with a mess all over your cooker top, to
clean up afterwards.

Another time, I'll give you a recipe for one of our favourites:
fennel and red lentil au gratin, which is out of Rose Elliot's
"The Bean Book". I find it time-consuming to make, but I make
enough to last us a couple of days.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A cautionary tale

We made a bad mistake a few months ago, when we signed up to some
online advertising for Mrs C's counselling business. We were cold-
called by a tele-sales person, who basically mis-sold some
advertising to us. Not realising this at the time, we signed up
to a year's contract for the advertising, which would have meant
paying out over £400. The salesman had invited us to try out the
service on a temporary basis, which turned out not to be the case.

The service may be good value if you haven't yet set up a website
for your business, as you could put a lot of info in the advert
about the business. It also helps boost your Google rating. However,
I've obtained a tremendous boost for two websites I've set up, by
using And there are other sites, which will
do the same for free.

We also agreed unwisely to making direct debit payments from one
of our credit cards ... something we'll never do again, as you
can't easily stop payments from a credit card (though it is

We faced a lot of hassle trying to get out of this contract, after
we realised that we were being overcharged for the service, but now
we've almost reached a satisfactory conclusion ... the advertising
has stopped and we're negotiating a refund of the bulk of our
payments to date.

My almost son-in-law in London, who is a top salesman, told us never
to believe anything a sales-person tells you on the first meeting ..
and to take your time in assessing what's on offer. To which I would
add, think twice about handing over your credit card details to a
sales-person, on the first point of contact.

Next up ... a photo of the food I served up to Mrs C this evening.

Skimping on the veg, don't you think?

Oh, no, no, no, no, no, yes ... er no.

We just love eating the stuff ... there are 2 veggie sausages under
that mound of mainly organic veg ... we like the Cauldron brand of
sausies, which I think taste very like the real thing.

We love eating red cabbage, cooked in Delia Smith's way (with apple,
onion and spices, plus a sweet and sour "sauce"). Here is her recipe.
You will see that she recommends slow cooking it in an oven at 150
deg C for over 2 hours.

I agree with Robert Ehrlich who wrote about the benefits of pressure
cooking in the Green Kitchen column in The Times. Why cook the
red cabage in an oven for 2 hours when you can do the same in a
pressure cooker in 10 to 20 minutes?

I used my pressure cooker yesterday to cook 450g of shredded red
cabbage (plus all the other ingredients, halved in quantity). I
added 200ml of water to the mix, which was too much with hindsight,
as I had to reduce the liquid down afterwards separately in a pan.
Next time I'll try about 75ml additional water.

Cooking time for the red cabbage mix ... 10 mins at full pressure,
switch off the gas, and allow the pressure cooker to cool for another
10mins before taking the lid off. Brilliant result. Mrs C advises
leaving the braised cabbage overnight in the fridge, and eating it
the following day, as the flavours improve with keeping.

Mrs C and I managed to eat half of the braised red cabbage this
evening. We've frozen the other half to eat up later in the week.

We've got a fabulous yellow rose bush growing over our back fence.
courtesy of our neighbours. It's in full bloom at present, so I
couldn't resist taking yet another photo of it to show you ...

I've found out that this is the Canary Bird shrub rose.

Monday, May 19, 2008

"Eeee, when I were a lad...."

Mrs C and I spent the weekend in South London at our daughter's
house, helping out with the gardening, doing a bit of baby-
sitting and "chilling out". When we stay there, we often drink
more alcohol in the evenings, as our hosts keep on offering more
and more of the stuff to drink ... but when good quality wine is
on offer, and there's no car driving to be done, drinking more
booze is very tempting, especially after the first drink or two.

Why does self control disappear after a drink or two, I wonder? :)

During the day on Saturday (while not under the influence, I
hasten to add), I went to the local Esso garage to put more
diesel into the car. I was horrified at the price ... it's shot
up to about £1.30 a litre ... when only a few months ago I was
paying well under a pound. Oil is liquid gold.

I read an interesting post in Keith's blog for 11 May, in which
he priced up the ingredients for a Yorkshire omelette made
for a family of four.

£4.76 at today's prices, compared with 90 pence back in 1991.

I sometimes think about how the price of stuff goes up and up
all the time, but then I ask myself if this matched by rises
in income levels. Comparing present day with the 1960s or
1970s, do you feel better off now, worse off or the same?

I remember the late 1950s, when a large loaf of bread cost ten
old pence (about 4p in new money), but now a good quality
loaf of bread costs over £1. (see this link)

My pocket money in the late 50s was sixpence a week, rising to
a shilling (12 old pence or 5p) in about 1959. I thought this
was quite a lot of money at the time ... as I could get into a
cinema matinee for 6d/7d (until there was an outbreak of polio
one summer, following which film shows for kids were stopped),
and a shilling would but 12 delicious penny chews. I tended
to save my pocket money rather than spend it, though I did buy
several "Noddy" books at 3s 6d each. One of my daughters now
possesses my set of Noddy books.

With hindsight, I should have spent my pocket-money
straightaway, as my younger sister did, and had a bit of fun.

Good grief ... I've just Googled one of the Noddy Books, which
is on eBay. My daughter's Noddy book collection is now worth
a few hundred pounds!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Humphrey Lyttelton & Liath Hollins

Some of you will have heard about the recent death of one of the
UK’s best known jazzmen - Humphrey Lyttelton. He was 86.

He was also well known as the presenter of the long-running BBC
Radio programme: “I’m sorry I haven’t a clue", which was I thought
was very funny, though the humour was often at schoolboy level.

If you’ve never heard of this programme, the idea is to give a
bunch of comedians some silly things to do. It's an antidote to
all those dull literary / general knowledge quiz programmes.

I remember listening to the programmes during my lunch breaks
when I was a junior hospital doctor (when I had a less busy job
at a peripheral hospital), way back in the 197Os. I never really
understood what one of their games was all about: “Mornington
Crescent”, until I read this article on the programme a few
minutes ago. I mention all this as Humph himself was a brilliant
comedian ... he had a very dry sense of humour.

In a recent obit column in The Times, I read this joke he made
on a radio programme about 20 years ago. It was his birthday,
and the presenter, Terence Brady, asked him if he had any special
messages for someone. He said yes … for his son. Would he please
come and remove his clutter from his father’s garage?

About a fifth of our loft is taken up with the clutter of two of
our daughters. The rest of the clutter is mine. :)


While on the subject of talented musicians, here is a photo of
one of my younger relatives, Liath Hollins.

She plays the tradtional harp at weddings and other special occasions,
and teaches how to play it also. She has grade 8 piano too, which she

Her other part-time activities include teaching stage-fighting at
three drama schools in the Midlands and in Herts too ... so she's an
expert at throwing a fake punch, clouting someone with a staff and
fighting with a broadsword ~ brilliant stuff to watch. She's also
very much into studying the old Celtic way of life (British & Welsh)
and can speak a bit of Welsh. How's that for you, boy-oh.

Liath (pronounced the same as Lear) has got her own music website.

Here's a link to her My Space site where you can hear her playing.

Have a listen to her singing "Fairy Host", which is a whole music
track from her CD. I can imagine sitting at a medieval banquet,
feasting on meats and mead, while listening to her.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Photos taken at Cromer

Here are some of the pics what I took at Cromer last week.
(click on one to see a larger view)

I liked the last but one photo of an elderly woman sitting by herself on the
sea front. In some ways I wished I'd taken a closer view of her, but I don't
like to disturb people's privacy. I wonder what she was thinking? Perhaps
thinking about past times when she shared the view with someone else?
I felt as though I was looking at an Edward Hopper painting, as I was taking
this photo. It was very quiet, apart from the sound of the sea.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Our holiday in Cromer

Mrs C and I had a great time in Cromer, last week. It's a village or small
town on the Norfolk coast, famous for its fresh crab. We had really fab sunny
weather there, temps in the low 20s most of the time, with a refreshingly cool
sea breeze. It's hotter inland. You will see from the above photo that we were
joined by members of our family, including Little A, who were with us for the
first half of the week. So most of our first days there were spent looking
after Little A.

We watched a fair amount of CBeebies TV with Little A ... her favourites being Big
Cook, Little Cook, Sportacus and Balamory, and we're amazed by her singing the
first three notes & syllables of the Balamory word in perfect pitch. (She'll be
2 in October). By the way, she calls me Gra-ga, and sometimes Ga-ga.

Summer is in full swing here, as you'll see by the photo below, with all the
big forest trees coming out into full leaf. The Horse-Chestnuts have been fully
out for a few weeks already, and are now in bloom. One sign that Summer is well
and truly here, is when I stop wearing my longjohns ... well, it's too hot to
wear them ... for about 3 months of the year.

This is St Andrew's Church in Holt, near Cromer ... the church bells were being
rung while we were there, as part of a week's celebration to mark the 300th
anniversary of the Great Fire there ... when most of the village was
destroyed by fire ... a common occurence in those days, as most houses were
timber-framed and had thatched roofs
. A number of people were dressed in
medieval costumes serving up cream teas, or selling home-made jams & cakes.
I thought the grounds of the church looked very pretty ... a lovely place for
a wedding.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Our prayers are being answered ...

I'm pleased to see that one of our local churches is keeping up
with the times. It now looks as though the Great Almighty is
becoming more accessible, instead of moving around in mysterious
ways (dispatching plagues of frogs and locusts our way & setting
fire to things). I hope God has a sense of humour, or I'll be
roasting in Hell one day.

I think the Pope should publish his personal email address and
mobile phone number, so we can all be on closer terms with God.
But then who needs these modern electronic aids, if indeed God is
all around us and can hear our every word (and read our minds too).

It may be that one day, churches will become obselete. We will be
given the option of flicking over to the God Channel on Sky or
cable TV, and say our prayers or all join in with the karaoke,
in front of the TV screen.

Just imagine singing along to "Oh God our help in ages past.."
in the style of an American rapper with a really funky but erratic
beat ... plus cool moves, of course.

As for weddings and christenings, these could be done at drive-
thru centres, where you sign bits of paper and get to choose from
selection of wedding rings, or get sprinkled with some holy
Mc-water... the baby and everyone else. (Visa and Mastercard welcome,
but no cheques, please).

And as for confessionals ... simply send off a text... "Oh Holy
Father -- forgive me for I have sinned... for I have covetted my
neighbour's wife's ass."

Back comes the text reply: "Pls send photo, so I can see the
size of the problem
how depraved U R."

I'm blogging off to the seaside at Cromer this weekend ... will
be back the following Saturday. Talk to you soon, folks.