Come along for the ride!!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Umm .... medium rare please".

It is claimed that the game of backgammon was being played as long ago as 5000 years (or at least, a version of it).

I remember the first time I saw the game being played as a young man/lad/twerp in 1987, when I was strolling through the Old Town of Rhodes, watching the ancient looking Greek men sipping their ouzo, laughing with and cursing each other in equal measures.

It looked difficult. It looked intriguing. It looked wonderful.

I didn't learn to play the game myself however, until several years later (around 1991), when we introduced backgammon competitions at a bar I worked in in SE London (not quite the same, I grant you).

We sat at tables outside in the sunshine, we sipped drinks, we laughed with each other much as those old men on Rhodes had done years before.

Thinking back though, we probably cursed more than they did, although it was just as good natured.

I think.

Anyway, over the years I haven't really played all that much but that hasn't stopped me buying the occasional backgammon board when necessary.

There's the wooden set I bought in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon back in 2001, intricately designed and hand made; it cost quite a bit more than I would generally pay for a backgammon board.

Come to think of it, it cost more than I would pay for most things right now, but that was then.

There's the similarly wooden set I got at the main market in Damascus, Syria (same year) in which, after the pre-requisite haggling (twelve for that, you must be mad), I got for $45, the American dollar being accepted in much of the region.

And so it is that thankfully, Joseph showed an interest in the game and managed to not only pick up the basic rules very quickly but also show an incredible aptitude for the tricks and moves which get you winning.

For me it's a win-win situation. Not only do I get to play my favourite board game all over again but I get to play with my son - it's quality time!

Actually, I say it's a win-win situation but the annoying thing is that actually, Joseph has managed to pick the game up in several months to the same level that has taken me over 18 years.

Tonight, our game started beautifully for me and I had managed to build up the mother of all blocks (non-players glaze over now) and he was resigned to sitting and watching me roll the dice and remove my counters, roll and remove, roll and remove. In the nicest possible way, I introduced the idea that he probably wouldn't be able to win this game and to prepare himself for a sound thrashing (of sorts).

He looked dejected but continued to throw his dice until .........

He hit me!

Not literally but to cut a long story short, he was back in the game and lo and behold, he turned the tables on me, but NOT before I had laid a very silly bet.

I bet him that if he managed to win, I would eat the pair of socks I was wearing at the time.

"You promise??", he asked, disbelievingly.

"Yep", I replied, full of ill-founded confidence. "I promise".

Well, he threw double after double and literally came back to lose by just three counters.


I wasn't laughing like those old Greek geezers by that point, let me tell you.

Just cursing.

Under my breath, natch!

Erm ..... you want fries with those?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

"Smudge, Smudge, Smudge, Smudge, Smudge ...."

One of my favourite characters in my weekly read The Beano, was a scruffy lad called Smudge. As the name might suggest, he was a bit unkempt, a bit scruffy and always with muddy cheeks but I liked him.

I can't honestly remember why but as a big fan of the famous comic, he was one of my faves.

For reasons that have also slipped my mind (although certainly not for obvious reasons), one of my nick-names for Joseph is Smudge. I occasionally sing a daft little ditty which includes the ever-so-slightly made up word, "Smudge-tastic".

It basically means how terrific I think he is.

Today he passed me this note which he wrote while sitting next to me at the table (but forbade me to look at what he was doing). As always, a slight spelling mistake makes it all the more endearing, especially as dropping a couple of letters turned "Smudge" to "smug".

To top it all, he ended it with "dad-tastic", which is, erm ..... fantastic!!

(click to enlarge)

Friday, May 29, 2009

"Britain ... Britain ... Britain ....."

Following their trip to the seaside with the school last week (to Littlehampton), Joseph has been repeatedly asking fo rus to go there together. Seeing as I'd never been before, today seemed like as good a time as any to make the drive there. M had taken the day off and so off we went, blue skies, sun shining and the prospect of arriving there in time for lunch.

In my book, if you go to the seaside, you have to have fish and chips; it's almost a requirement of the law. I mentioned to our waitress that it was a shame there was no 'rock' on the menu, just cod, plaice and huss. She looked at me strangely and replied that huss is rock and would I like to order that?

Heh heh, huss, yeah, ha ha, I'll take the huss please, tee hee .... I knew really!

The fish was lovely, fried in a very light batter which I always prefer over the huge, hard batter that you sometimes get to disguise the teensy piece of fish hiding within. Anyway, if the batter is too greasy then I end up feeling bloated.

And you'd be forgiven for thinking that everybody else in Littlehampton that day had gone for the deep fried everything. Like, everything!

The fish, the sausages, the chips ..... even themselves! There were lots and lots of people who looked ...... well, they looked .......

I'm thinking, cross between lobster and a chain smoking Marjorie Dawes.

"Now, crisps are high in fat, but they're also low in protein and low in fibre!

See? It's not all bad!"

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The adventures of an ordinary man at war with the everyday world.

I have often been associated with a certain comedy television character who portrays everything that is grumpy in life. His name is Victor Meldrew. Personally, I have never been able to draw any comparisons between Vict ......

What's that dear?

Stop lying through my back teeth?

Yes dear.

I suppose on the odd occasion, there have been times when I have complained or moaned about the world in general, perhaps unnecessarily. The thing is, Victor often complained about things that warranted a complaint; this is perhaps why he was such a successful character, grumbling his way through ten years of television.

Although people could relate to his plight, there was something very negative about him and, by association, there is something I find less than pleasing, shall we say, in being compared to him.

Ok, it's funny ........

..... for a while.

The more I think about it however, there is a screen character which I found I sympathised with more than Mr Meldrew.

His name was Bob Foster, a regular American Joe played by Michael Douglas in a film called Falling Down. I could give lots of examples from the film but just to give you an idea, Bob goes into a fast food restaurant at 11:33am and asks for a breakfast. He is told that breakfast stops being served at 11:30 sharp. An argument ensues about the triviality of "policy" and why couldn't he just get served some breakfast? Several rounds of live ammunition into the ceiling makes the manager change his mind about the breakfast cut-off point.

Possibly my favourite scene in the film is when Bob encounters heavy traffic thanks to roadworks (come on, how many of us can relate to that?). He strikes up a conversation with one of the workers who is sat down doing nothing and the bottom line is that the worker admits that the road has been dug up for nothing; there's nothing wrong with the road, just that the state (the equivalent of our local councils), has to justify and spend it's annual funding or it will receive less the following year.

Mr Foster takes matters into his own hands and blows the entire road up with a bazooka; very spectacular!

So what, right?

I too am frustrated and annoyed by the "rules" of society. Don't get me wrong, I know that society needs rules or else you have a Mad Max situation but it's the pettiness, the sneakiness, the unfairness of rules made by those in positions of power and authority and the way in which they exert that power over hardworking, honest people.

It's the way that councils blur the lines (literally) for parking in a permit only bay and a general use bay. An
£80 fine for having a wheel slightly outside the designated zone?

A £50 fine to the parents of a toddler in a buggy, throwing an apple skin onto the street without their parents noticing or stopping to pick it up?

It's the small print that purposely tries to catch you out that's annoying. It's politicians that say "do as I say, not as I do", taking their expenses out of our taxes. It's crooked police officers. It's blundering hospital staff. It's the "mistakes have been made, lessons have been learnt". It's the "not in my job description" crew who get under my skin. Getting cut off after waiting in the 'phone line for 20 minutes. Being spoken to rudely by staff when I am spending money in their shops, in their restaurants, in their offices.

(Crumbs, where am I going with this??)

I am called Victor Meldrew because I refuse to let something go, however trivial.

What has annoyed me this time you ask?

Yesterday we went to the cinema for Bargain Tuesday. It's not as much of a bargain as Saturday morning (at £1 per person!!) but a fiver each is still better than normal.

We get there, we queue, it comes to our turn and an unsmiling individual called Cameron types in 2 children and 1 adult and miserably tells me the price.

"That'll be £20 and 20p".

(No please, no smile by the way)

This, of course, is not the £15 I was expecting.

"What happened to Bargain Tuesday?" I ask. "It says £5 per person behind you?"

"Yeah, it is Bargain Tuesday but this is a 3-D film and you have to buy the glasses".

I mean, are they for real? Must it be the case that everyone has to try to screw every last penny out of the average consumer?

"So tell me, if I had brought along the 3-D glasses from the last film we saw here, I could've bought the tickets for £5?"

"No. The additional cost is factored into your ticket. It's £20.20p".

Karl Marx was right. Capitalism sucks!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"Tally ho, my fine, saucy young trollop ...."


Yes, as mentioned, the Parker-Bowles were here at the weekend and it has been known for us to consume a bottle or two (or sometimes even three) of the finest wines that the world has to offer.

Ok, perhaps not the finest but perfectly gluggable examples nevertheless.

This past weekend was no exception and there's the faintest hint of a chance that I may have got the port and brandy offerings just right!

Nice food, drink, gossip, drink, bit more gossip, finishing with cheese and another drink and there you have it; another successful evening chalked up between the four of us, proving once again that distance is no match for friendship.

In fact, the evening was almost as much a cause for celebration as was the belated birthday gift I received from them which was none other than HFW's Family cookbook which I have been hankering after for quite some time now. I have scanned the cover for your viewing pleasure (below).

Thanks A~M and Rich'. Although you could probably already tell, I bloody love it!!!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

"This is London calling .... "

Lord and Lady P are up (or is that down?) from their country pile in Wilton and expressed a desire to live like common people (just as Jarvis Cocker sang about all those years ago).

With that in mind, we took them to a boot sale. The sun was shining, everywhere lay bargains to be had and I myself found a rather lovely BBC World Service booklet from 1942.

I admit that purchasing something like this does have a certain nerdy quality but who cares, I like it!

*blows raspberry*

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"TV's, deep freeze and David Bowie LP's ....."

It is an irony that the general public (or Joe Plumbers if you are reading this "Stateside"), often find themselves rooting for the bad guy on TV, or even the very bad guy. I'm not talking about the underdog as I always cheer on the underdog. I'm talking about the con merchants, the tricksters, thieves and scamsters.

In the late 70's and early 80's there was Arthur Daley; a lazy, gin-guzzling conman with pound signs in his eyes who;

a) would sell his own Grandmother for a few quid

b) treated his minder/right-hand man Terry McCann as a general dogsbody and

c) resolutely refused to settle his bar tab with local landlord Dave Harris (brilliantly played by grumpy looking Glynn Edwards).

While Terry (Dennis Waterman) was trying his hardest to help Arthur's customers, Arthur himself was double crossing everyone, happily dropping Terry into difficult situations, enabling a quick getaway for himself.
As unlikeable as Arthur should have been, you would always find yourselves praying for him to avoid getting a biff on the nose from some disgruntled customer who had been 'had over'.

Terry was also extremely likeable even though he had just finished serving three years in prison for GBH and armed robbery. Society dictates, at least in real life, that we should not like these types.

But we often do.

The series Minder was very popular, running on ITV from 1979 for 10 years with it's original cast and it seemed the series could no wrong, although the pair did release a novelty song in 1983 called What Are We Gonna Get 'Er Indoors? which seemed to push their luck somewhat!

(No such problems for me though - I bought a copy!!)

The BBC must've been sat there thinking to themselves, 'hang on a minute, this formula of cockney wide-boy steals public hearts looks like a real winner', and within barely two years of Minder starting, another sneaky, thieving character hit the television screen in the shape of Del' Boy, a Peckham born chancer who, like George Cole's character Arthur, did whatever it took to avoid settling his bar tab with the landlord of his local boozer.

I'm sure you don't need me to tell you what a hit the extended Trotter family turned out to be and the British public (myself included), grew to not only like the characters but also relate to them; everybody knew a Del' Boy, doing what he had to do to survive. If he bent the rules along the way, wouldn't anybody? Isn't everyone just trying to make a living, trying to make a pound or two?

Another individual much closer to my heart also looks like being 'a good little earner'. He is always wondering how to earn the next handful of change, how much he can get by doing some chores around the house and don't get me started on what he has planned should he win the lottery!! You won't find him on television though; he isn't the product of some clever writer's imagination.

He is my son.

The other evening he came into the kitchen while I was preparing dinner and asked for a piece of notepaper and a pen. The image at the top of this post is the outcome of this request.

To be fair to him, he was wearing a smile of Cheshire Cat proportions as he slapped the note down on the counter, aware of what my reaction might be.

Still, having seen a Lamborghini drive past us the other week and annoucing that he would one day own a car just like it, I am pleased for him that he looks pretty serious about making plenty of cash. I will do my best to teach him that there is more to life than money but, if I get the blend just right, he will study hard and decide relatively early on what he would like to do for work.

Good for you Joseph.

Oh, by the way, the image below was my response.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Ex-squeeze me? How old???

If organising our children's birthday parties were left to me, they would be the same old thing, year in, year out. Thankfully however, "she who is know to you only as M" has parties listed under her remit and again, thankfully, she is one, very clever lass.

In a world that seems to think it's ok to stick your child in a sweaty, sticky and generally grubby play pit so you can chat to your grown up friends, M managed to book a slot at a smashing venue located barely 3 miles from home.

There are times in life that necessitate thrifty-ness and other times that require you to "spend a few quid extra", and your child's 4th birthday party most definitely belongs in the latter category. The place was clean, the staff were friendly, the food/coffee/cakes were delicious and children and parents alike seemed more than happy.

Well done M.

Ooh yeah, and many happy returns to our lovely Missy.

Happy birthday Annabel. We love you very much!!

Obligatory shot of Missy's party outfit. Please note Big Brother's clenched, protective hand on her shoulder!!

(His face said otherwise but we know he also loves his sister muchos!!!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Scary wary!

Can it be possible?

Has the 9th of May really rolled around again?

Well, yes it has actually and tomorrow morning, our beautiful and loving little 3 year old girl will turn .... well .... 4, obviously!

I felt it only fair to share this (cropped) photo of a snail she found in our garden last weekend, carefully carrying it around for at least, ooh, several minutes before getting bored with it.


Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Right back atcha!

Oh boy, I could spend all night writing this post, but for the sake of sanity (yours and mine), I will keep it brief. (Actually, you could also add the fact that I have thus far managed to refrain from using swear words on these pages and there is just the teensiest possibilty that I may want to utter one or half a dozen expletives, so I'll keep it short).

Someone said to me tonight that teenagers and teenagers alone, use blogs to express their thoughts, feelings and ideas, comparing the practice to using Facebook and Bebo.

Oh really, well I thought I would do a little detective work on behalf of bloggers everywhere, et voilà! I have come up with a few, rather staggering figures for your perusal.

The number of blogs indexed by Technorati since 2002 now stands at 133,000,000! An estimate for how many of these blogs are written by people over 30 years of age (depending on whose word you take), is somewhere between 10% and 55%.

In case your maths ain't up to much, that's anwhere between 13.3 and 73 million.

Personally, I don't use either of the other sites quoted by my ill-informed friend but hey, who cares?

See here for some other surprisingly interesting internet facts. You might learn a thing or three!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Oink oink .... atchooh!

Oh whatever, so what if this is the fourth short-ish post in a row?? What's it to yer? Read back a few months, I'm not always this lazy!!!

Last week in school assembly, the children were made aware of the flu deriving from our piggy friends in South America.

Driving along in the car today, Annabel sneezed over her cuddly toy, said 'excuse me' to which M and I replied, 'bless you'.

Not Joseph however.

I saw him sit bolt upright, stared straight at me in the mirror with a worried look on his face and almost shouted, "oh no, Ducky's gonna get swine flu!!!"

If it weren't for poor Ducky facing imminent death, it would've been very, very funny.

Ok then, it was bloody hilarious!

Poor Ducky.