Friday, November 21, 2008

Two funny stories this week

Little A’s speech development is coming on quickly … we looked
after her one day this week, while her mum did some shopping
in town.

Mrs C offered her a large piece of shortbread (which is one of
A’s favourites).

“No, Grandma,” she said brushing Mrs C’s arm aside. “There’s
some buttons up there.” She pointed out a small packet of milk
chocolate buttons, high up on one of the kitchen shelves. A’s
second birthday was in October.

I was in town shopping myself yesterday, queuing up with loads
of other people in M & S (which had a 20% off day, to boost
pre-Christmas sales). An affluent middle-aged couple were
standing in front of me, when the bloke went off to find a
£200 suit for himself, leaving his wife holding some underwear
for him. He handed her his posh black Barclaycard, muttering in
a rather droll & critical tone in his voice: “You know the pin
number for this, don’t you? Well, you’ve had a lot of practice.”

He came back holding a black pin-striped suit, which looked
very sharp. “They didn’t have my size, so the jacket is a bit
tight on me… (he had a big paunch) … I must lose some weight.”

“Never mind,” said his wife, “you can come back next week, and
ask if they can get the larger size for you.” Clever woman,
I thought … 20 per cent off his suit today.

Today, we going off to Kent for the next week or so, on holiday
with our family. A freezing cold wind from the North is
forecast this weekend, with snow down the northern East coast.
We'll be taking lots of jumpers, etc, and our swimming things ...
for a dip in an indoor pool.

Talk to you soon.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Mona Lott

Yes, it’s grumpy old me again.

Today’s moans are about the house insurance industry and dog turds.

Over the past few days, I’ve phoned a few insurance companies to
see if I could get a better quote for some home contents insurance
for an elderly relative of mine. She’d been sent a renewal letter
for this, which asked her to pay out about £160 for £40,000 worth
of cover.

When she phoned up the company to see if they’d be willing to offer
her a lower figure (she’d got 9 years’ NCD on this policy), they
reduced the premium to about £140. What they omitted to tell her
(and what she didn’t know about) was that she could pay a greatly
reduced sum if she were to agree to a £100 excess on any claim.

Well, surely she should know that, you might be thinking, but
she wasn’t aware of this option.

When I phoned around for quotes, I got figures of abt £90 from
Norwich Union Direct and abt £70 from Churchill … these included
a bit extra for NCD protection… and Churchill’s was for very
basic cover. It was a £50,000 new for old policy.

These figures of £40k and £50k appear to be the industry’s
standard figures, which seem to me to be gross over-insurance
for the likes of any old pensioner living in a 1-2 bedroomed flat
with tatty furniture. Perhaps someone like this wouldn’t bother
with contents insurance anyway, but it does look like insurance
companies are ripping old folk off … certainly anyone who is
going a bit dotty (though not my relative I wish to add).

I noted that the original insurance company gave out an 0845
telephone number in its letter (which costs more than a standard
phone number to use in the UK), whereas by using the saynoto0870
website I found out that it had a freephone number I could use
(and use it, I did). The swines.

The upside of this yarn were some very warm thanks from the woman

On my return to Justin Towers, I set about sweeping up some
leaves that were strewn around our forecourt area and pavement …
whereupon I stepped on some well-camouflaged doggy-doo. You can
feel that you’ve trodden on something unpleasant, can’t you?
It's softer underfoot, slightly slippery and yet at the same
time rather sticky. So I spent the next 15 minutes or so
removing the muck from the craggy sole of my shoe ~ I’ll spare
you the graphic detail, as some of you might be eating while
reading this.

As they say: “One good turd deserves another.”

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A day for pottering ...

Sunday ... a day of rest and for going to church traditionally, but
we don't do the latter.

A day for pottering around the house, and catching up on yesterday's
newspaper and watching a few videos. We get the Saturday Times,
mainly for the jumbo crossword ~ we do the Times2 clues (the easier
ones rather than the cryptic, though we sometimes struggle to finish
this version), and for the TV listings. Mrs C's mum brings over half her
Guardian for us to read too. We're "Guardian readers" at heart, but
we're too busy doing other things to be reading a daily newspaper.

Mid morning, Mrs C asked me for a stronger and larger one ~ she has
high expectations and is difficult to please at times ~ so I made us
both a large mug of coffee, and then sat down together to have a go
at the crossword.

We made a pasta salad for lunch, after which we went a brisk walk to
Wilkos in Sherwood, to buy some bird seed. Mrs C had spotted several
blue-tits dotting about in our neighbour's huge rose bush, and thought
it was time we put out some food for them (and for the pesky pigeons
and squirrels too). The weather was cold, cloudy and windy, though it
brightened up a little mid afternoon. We were both boiling hot by the
time we got back (it's amazing how a brisk walk can warm you up).

Instead of going out to the cinema, we watched something I'd videoed
last night: "The Governess" (1998) featuring Minnie Driver and Tom
Wilkinson in the lead roles, plus Harriet Walter and a young Jonathan
Rhys Meyers (who recently played the role of Henry VIII in the TV
drama series). I would give the film 8 out of 10 for it's glorious
sets and for creating the feel of the time, but I agree with Mrs C that
the characterisation was somewhat lacking (and the part played by the
teenage son didn't seem believable). For Minnie Driver fans, it's a

Mrs C made us a mushroom omelette and a mountain of veg for tea, which
we had with a glass of Porugese white wine (Quinta de Azevedo from the
the Wine Society) ~ delicious.

Following which we settled down to watching yet more TV ... Antiques
Roadshow, Rich Kid-Poor Kid, Lead Balloon and Ponderland, with glimpses
of Stephen Fry in America, Wife Swap USA and I'm a Celebrity (which we
looked at briefly to see who's there in the jungle, but which we won't
bother with). Set the video going for Looking for Dad and a documentary
on Vera Brittain. She was well known for her pacifist views after her
experiences in WW1 ~ the BBC scheduled a documentary on her for last
Sunday, but it was taken off for some unknown reason (well, unknown to
us, but perhaps the programme would have upset some viewers that day).

Ending this day with a bit of blogging, and reading Scary Duck's and
Keith's blogs.

Friday, November 14, 2008

“And don’t forget to wash behind your ears!"

We’ve all heard that one, haven’t we? Our mums shouting at
us, in order to look presentable for school, or for some
boring relative coming to visit.

I’ve been wondering what on earth was that all about ~ whether
washing behind our ears was supposed to be of some health
benefit – an “old wives’ tale” – or perhaps mums were
terrified of having their kids being inspected by the nit
nurse, and being publicly shamed for sending them to school
unwashed? In the days when corporal punishment was commonplace
at schools, this also included having your ear yanked upwards
by a sadistic schoolmaster. So perhaps this was yet another
reason for going to school with a pair of clean and
sweet-smelling ears?

Fortunately I was never caned at the schools I went to ~ for
I was a goody-two-shoes, and was sometimes the teacher’s “pet”.
I was well known for swottiness, and even at med school I was
called a swot by someone who didn’t know me all that well.

I think I must have a highly swotty image ~ a high degree of
nerdiness as depicted in the Beano ~ The Bash Street School
comic strip
~ one of my favourites.

But to expand on my theme of dotty ideas that parents come out
with … I was taught a completely wrong way of brushing my
teeth by my mum and dad (well, it was my mum mainly) … brushing
them horizontally instead of vertically … well you have to do
a bit of both, don’t you? Anyway, you can imagine all that
gunk left between my teeth day after day, year after year,
and the terrible amount of dental decay that set in. I was
fond of eating sweet things as a kid, though not so much now,
except for ginger biscuits.

Numerous visits to see the dentist, masses of fillings, two
rotten teeth removed, and now most of my teeth are crowned.

It wasn’t until I was about 20 when a dentist queried my
brushing technique, when she was digging out the muck between
my teeth on one visit (you think one of my previous dentists
would have commented, but no, they didn’t). Since I took on
board that bit of advice, my teeth have been in better shape
… far less decay.

Another odd thing my mum taught me was to tie my shoe-laces
in a different way to most other people … don’t ask me to
explain how I do this, but my way does work just as well.
(If I get a video camera one day, I’ll have to you-tube it
for you, for a laugh).

And then there was the story about where babies come from …

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Today, I got up quite late for me, at 7.45am (I usually
get up around 6.30am after about 6 hours' sleep). The
sun got up rather late too ... very hazy to start with, but
later on we had brilliant cool sunshine with a little cloud.
Ideal to get out a walk.

And get out for a walk, I did. First of all, a 45 minute walk
to my NHS dentist ... the inner edge of one of my gold crowns
had sheared off when I was eating something crunchy the other
day, leaving a sharp rough edge and what felt like a large
hole at the side (a tiny hole in reality, but they feel huge,
don't they?). Anyway, Mandi said the tooth was basically OK,
she smoothed off the rough edges, gave my teeth their annual
check plus a scale and polish, and all for £16.20. A private
dentist would have charged £50 plus.

So another walk back, following which I made some fresh coffee,
and spent an hour or so, polishing up my next IT presentation,
"All about (digital) photos" ~ downloading them from your
camera and organising them (and your folders), plus looking
at Vista's Windows Photo Gallery (which I think is brilliant).

Mrs C made some gorgeous soup (onion, squash and sweet potato),
which we had for lunch with some home-made bread. Afterwards,
we both went for a brisk walk around the Arboretum ~ Mrs C left
me there while I took some photos, to do a little food shopping.

I carried on taking some photos of the beautiful beech trees
in the area ... the beech trees are just starting to lose their
leaves (in contrast to most other trees like the horse-chestnuts,
which are bald already).

Swept up some leaves at the front of the house, made us a pot of
tea, and started doing the veg for tea (a mountain of kale, in
addition to the carrots, sprouts and potato) which I cooked and
served up later with some vegetarian sausage and home-made
tomato sauce. We follow an Abel and Cole recipe for the kale ..
fry up a little onion and garlic in a wok with some sunflower
oil, add a mountain of finely chopped kale plus some added water,
stir-fry and steam the kale for abt 15 mins. Serve with a sprinkle
of lemon juice. Very nice.

Am now blogging while videoing the film: "Howard's End". Will watch
part 3 of the cop show: "The Commander", where the newborn son of
the detective sergeant is abducted (which is just part of the
ongoing saga). I'll record part 2 of "Picture Book" on BBC4, and
later: "Medium" (Mrs C likes this, I don't) and we'll watch tonight's
episode of "Little Dorrit" on "catch-up" tomorrow.

I'll spend a few minutes getting one of two photos onto this blog,
before doing the washing up.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Bad news about Santa

Yes, I'm sorry to tell you that Santa might not get
his presents to your family on time this Xmas.

It's yet more doom and gloom ...

In case you're wondering what gone wrong ...

(Nope ~ the reindeer are in fine fettle, I'm pleased
to say).

It's just that chimneys have been declared unsafe for
Santa to come down.

The ban has been imposed by Elf and Safety.

(This is a recycled Xmas cracker joke ~ sorry!)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"Top of the morning to you!"

What brilliant news ~ Barack Obama has made it to the White House!

What a breath of fresh air for everyone in the US and internationally.

Thank God that war-mongering Bush and his cronies will be vanquished
(for a while anyway). Hopefully Obama’s new administration will pour
money into improving the lot of the less well-off in the US, with
improvements in health care and education, instead of frittering
money away on armaments and useless wars abroad.

The village folk in Ballygurteen in Ireland will no doubt be raising
their glasses and having a knees-up tonight, in honour of their
favourite son, Obama.

A likely ancestor of Obama’s, Fulmoth Donovan, who lived in the
village back in the 1800s, set sail for the US, and spawned a dynasty
which led to the birth of Barack.

Just imagine the boost to the tourist industry in Ireland,
especially when Barack comes over to visit his ancestral home.
Bunting everywhere, villagers waving US flags, and perhaps a brass
band playing to welcome him home. Perhaps a new brand of Guinness
will be made for the Presidential Visit ~ (names for the new brand,

The local priest might be quoted as saying: “To be sure, Fulmoth
was a good Catholic lad. He was sorely missed by his family here
- his mother was in tears when he left home for a better life in

People will flock from all over the place (especially the
Irish Americans) to visit all the famous sites in Ballygurteen,
where Fulmoth hung out, and to kiss the Blarney Stone (to be on
permanent loan from Blarney Castle).

What do you think the brass band will be playing on the Presidential

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A couple of recipe ideas

... (click on any photo to see a larger version)

Are you're like us? Do you save recipes you see in the
weekend colour supplements, together with the photos that
make the recipes look more tempting?

I think we all need photos of the end-product to tempt us to
have a go, otherwise we wouldn't bother. Having said that,
Mrs C and I tend to stockpile these magazine cuttings without
trying out the recipes.

"Oh, that looks very interesting ~ must try this recipe out
sometime." ~ sometime, never.

Well, Mrs C was in a "spring-cleaning" phase last week, and
set to, pruning out all the unwanted recipes in our untidy
folder. When I say "unwanted recipes", I mean those we most
likely wouldn't have a go at. I feel comfortable with
delegating a job like this to Mrs C., partly as I think her
judgement in culinary matters is superior to mine, but also
I think that I'd never get round to doing the job myself.
Also, if I were to toss a recipe into the recycle bin,
without consultating with Mrs C., she might end up searching
for it fruitlessly at a later date.

Fruitlessly is a good pun, don't you think?

Anyway, I'm getting round to telling you that Mrs C tried out
a couple of recipes over the weekend, one from a newpaper
cutting she found, and one from Martin Dwyer's blogsite.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's chestnut chocolate fridge cake,
pictured above, is absolutely delicious ~ bitter dark chocolate
with a hint of sweetness from the other ingredients plus a
wham of brandy flavour at the back of the throat. I think
some of this would make a marvellous Xmas present to give to
someone ~ and it's a zero-calorie treat (as if!).


I've found the recipe online ...

Sainsbury sell the cooked chestnuts under the Merchant Gourmet
label, if you can't be arsed to roast and peel the chestnuts

We make our own bread with the help of a Panasonic breadmaker,
using strong wholemeal flour, with some strong white flour in
addition to get a better rise and a softer texture. I do the
baking mainly ~ well, there's nothing to it really. I just pop
the ingredients into the pan before bedtime, set the timer to
finish the baking at around 7am, and then we get up the next
morning to the fabulous smell of freshly baked bread.

Mmmmm ... mmmm.

When the bread is cool, we slice it up and freeze the bread we're
not using that day.

I was browsing through Martin Dwyer's blogsite when I spotted this
gorgeous photo of baked bread and his recipe on how to make it ...

Mrs C had a go at making this while I was out of the house,
attending a meeting in Newark the other day.

It's got an interesting flavour and texture ~ it tastes like a
cross between eating wholemeal bread and muesli, and it's very
filling. Mrs C made it in our new Remoska cooker, which is another
story to tell you about sometime.

The recipe for this bread includes a generous measure of pumpkin
seeds, which I recall is recommended along with other seeds for
relieving menopausal hot flushes. They must contain naturally
occurring oestrogens (plant/phyto-oestrogens). I'll let you know
if I start to develop man-boobs while eating this stuff.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Here's a photo of Little A

... in the company of our teddies... and looking a lot better than she
did last week.

I'd like it strong, please ...

Yes, a mug of strong tea ~ that's how I like it ~ full bodied, flavoursome,
unsweetened and lots of it. Oh, and a modest amount of semi-skimmed milk...
I don't like whole milk in tea, though I like it with coffee.

I don't know if you get Twinings tea in other parts of the world ~ if you
do, I'd recommend a blend of 2 parts of their English Breakfast Tea and
1 part Darjeeling. To be scientific/anal about it, I put 6-8 grams of this
blend in a warm tea-pot, add boiling water, stir well and leave to infuse
for about 5 minutes.

The result is a decent mug of tea, the shade of brown boot polish. I
definitely don't like tea the colour of dishwater (or gnat's piss, as my
dad used to call it) ~ though obviously some people do.

My late aunt Irene used to drink Earl Grey tea, as does the Queen.
Whenever I went round to see her, she'd make a pot of tea for two, putting
a heaped dessertspoon of tea in the pot ~ horribly strong, but she used to
like it. After many years of drinking this stuff, I developed an aversion
to it ~ I can smell it a mile off (or should I say, a few kilometers, now?)

One pleasure of coming back from a holiday abroad is being able to get a
proper cup of tea... don't you think? I occasionally watch relocation
programmes on the TV, showing you fab places to live in Europe ~ but
what's the point of moving if you can't get a good cup of tea? :)

I was once offered a cup of tea by a Middle Eastern family, who made it by
boiling up a tea bag in evaporated milk. It was horribly sweet and was
scalding hot ~ I burnt my tongue on it. I was in the middle of a round of
home visits as a family doctor, and had sit and make polite conversation
for 5 minutes or so, while the tea cooled down. I couldn't discretely get
rid of the tea, as they sat with me, chatting away. I only accepted cold
drinks after that.