Come along for the ride!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

"We got a hot one for ya!"

Dare we believe that this will be the year our summer will last through until September?

(click to enlarge)

Dare we?

Dag-nab it!

Ho hum, another year, another chance to imitate Bill Oddie, not by choice I hasten to add!

Last year I found myself precariously balancing our ladder at the top of the tree at the bottom of the garden, whilst simultaneously clutching a baby wood pigeon who had been stupid/brave enough to attempt to 'fly the nest' before actually being ready to do so.

Yes yes, I know, "don't touch it, don't do this or that, leave it alone, it's mother will return" blah blah blah! If we didn't have such spiteful foxes where we live I would do exactly that.

But we do.

So I can't.

If you read here, you will see why I feel such a sense of duty towards our feathered friends. It's so tedious though! Every year, guaranteed, one of the little beggars will have gone for glory in a vain attempt at impressing it's obviously difficult to please parents.

Anyways, the little chap pictured below was this years contender for annoying little tit (note the hopelessly misplaced sense of superiority on his part), was this little fellow. I have to hand it to him mind, at no point did he look remotely bothered that two squealing children and a taller, uglier, human bean were all bearing down on him.

We put down a bottle cap of water, some bird seed from our feeder and some bread crusts. No sooner had we retreated, then one of the parents appeared, had a drink, nicked some seed and then flew off, ignorant to the chirruping of the chick.

They did return, albeit briefly, but to feed their offspring with something that was obviously tastier than our earlier offerings and we watched in delight as he ate happily.

As light faded, we locked our doors and left him to his fate.

We were rewarded in the morning with the sight of Master Blue Tit hopping around the garden, while we sat eating our breakfast and I have to admit to being very relieved to see him.

We saw nothing of him the next day and assumed that his strength was up and his featheres had grown enough to enable him to 'take to the wing'.

Everything was going to be just fine.

Until this evening, when Joseph stooped down to pick up the shuttlecock for our badminton game and came face to face with the ever so dead remnants of Mr Birdie, feet up the air and a relaxed look on his little vis. He looked peaceful enough, almost perfect in fact. If it weren't for the fact that creepy crawlies had had a nibble on his back, no-one would've been any the wiser.

And so, one brief burial ceremony later, this year's contender for 'Bravery in the face of Impossibility' was laid to rest in our garden.

Here's to next year!!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"He's out of our lives ..."

Moon landing.

JFK assassination.

Death of Princess Diana.


Everyone remembers where they were or what they were doing when the above events took place.

And now the death of Michael Jackson?

I, like everyone else, find a certain grim fascination in the demise of someone truly in the public eye and they don't come much more public than Michael Jackson. I'm still not quite sure how a (suspected) child abuser managed to retain his fan base the way he did, anymore than I know how I continued to think he was brilliant, all things considered.

When I think of Michael Jackson, I think of my little brother desperately wanting a red and black leather jacket just like the one Mr Jackson wore in Thriller. It was hanging on a stall in the dubiously named Black Man's Market in Lewisham, South East London circa 1981. Back then, £100 was a whole heap of cash, but his (genuine) tears rolling his cheeks saw to him getting the jacket. To be fair, he never took the damn thing off for about 2 years so it was well worth it, not to mention him roping me in to learning the zombie Thriller dance. (I never could do it quite as good as him!!)

To the fans out there?

You have my sincere pity.

To the critics?

Dig out your vinyl LP's. They'll be worth a few bob now, I reckon!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"A ditty of summer's gone; in the afternoon"

There are many things that make the hairs on my arms or the back of my neck stand up; in a good way I hasten to add (I've moved on from my previous post about horror books).

Watching my children performing in their school plays, for example, or listening to them read a difficult word for the first time.

A sad film can catch me off guard.

For some reason, seeing incredibly distant aeroplanes flying way, way up high, the one's with no inention of landing on UK soil and most certainly haven't taken off from UK soil either. You know the one's where you can barely see the plane itself but the vapour trail gives it away? (4 trails, it's a Jumbo, 2 trails, who knows or cares what it is, it ain't stopping!!)

I can feel choked when one of the school kids with whom I work sudddenly seems to turn a corner and grasps whatever it is that I've spent the past half hour trying to get him or her to grasp, it's written in their face that they've got it!!

They are all poignant moments.

They are brief but powerful.

Most frequently however, it is music that sends shivers down my spine. No particular genre; could be a classical piece, could be a melody in a pop song or it can be a repetitive, thumping dance tune that makes me stop what I'm doing and reach for the volume control.

It's been nearly 9 months that I wrote about buying a piano (
read here). Our busy lives got in the way but I am back on track, thanks in part to a piece of music I heard yesterday and I literally have not been able to get the tune out of my head.

It helps that the music was used against an amateur animator's (here he goes again with the alliteration) short film, which itself was incredibly moving, but for me, it's the fact that it is the beautiful sound of a perfectly played piano that has wedged it so clearly in my head, possibly permanently.

The composers name is Yann Tiersen (isn't the internet wonderful?), and if you are familiar with the beautiful film Amélie, you may recognise the music from that.

The music is entitled "Comptine d'un autre été: l'après midi" and in the animation, an old man shares his life story with his grandson.

If you watch the whole thing without getting a lump in your throat, well .... you're made of stone.

HERE to watch and make sure you watch it Full Screen.

I will post Joseph's reaction to the film when you have had time to let the music sink in.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Feliz dia de los padres

Some people celebrate today because it is the Summer solstice. Others because it is usually the Sunday upon which falls the British Grand Prix. There are those who are afforded a bit of a lie in due to the fact that it is Father's Day.

Personally, I'm glad because of a little bit of all three.

A thoughtfully written note from my son.

The day is always gonna be a good one when you have a free range bacon and ditto eggs, fried tomato with HP sauce sandwich on crusty bread to kick it off with.

Interestingly coloured ladybird/bug as caught and studied by daughter.

Helicopters coming in to land at heliport, several hundred metres from our choice of riverside restaurant.

Handmade card by children and a novelty mug which plays a (slightly irritiating) tune, everytime I pick it up.

Hmmm .....

I was more than comfortable in one of my new shirts courtesy of the ever thoughtful M and I'm fairly sure my own Dad appreciated his wine and chocolate.

Happy Father's Day to all!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Langoliers and Needful Things

I am pretty delighted that my children seem to love books as much as I did and indeed, do. At bedtime, M and I take it in turns to swap our reading time between Joseph and Annabel and when we've finished, the two of them 'read' to themselves for 10 minutes or so, until they want to sleep.

Of course, Annabel is only looking at the pictures but she is doing very well, recognising lots of individual and even pairs of letters.

I appreciate that you can't dictate what your children read but I am going to do my best to steer them away from horror stories. Not entirely perhaps, but I will try to make sure it isn't all they read as I did while growing up; Stephen King, James Herbert and an absolutely terrifying novel called The Watcher by Charles Maclean, which frightened the living daylights out of me!!

I mean, there's so much more out there!!

Way to go kids; you're doing brilliantly!

Friday, June 19, 2009

"Hakuna Matata"

I remember the second time we went to Lebanon; it was 2003 and Joseph was just about to celebrate his first birthday. He had reacted badly to something and his eyes were incredibly red and sore, not to mention running a 40 degree temperature (hey, the digital ear thermometer never lies).

Where better to be with a high fever than baking hot Lebanon as Summer held on on for all she was worth?

Anyways, I had been at my new job at Maida Vale studios for around 6 months and was enjoying my new surroundings very much. However, a cousin of M's (who we stayed with in Beirut), announced that the BBC had recently acquired premises just outside the Lebanese capital.

My mind immediately went into overdrive with visions of trading in the rat race that I knew for a rat race that I didn't know in a different country and culture! I stupidly started babbling my plans out loud and M and her cousin gave a sympathetic nod.

Or so I thought.

Heh heh .... yeah yeah, laugh away.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Those Wally's At Talk Talk

Or TWATT's for short.

"Ooh, yes, sorry Mr Dad On A Bike, we appreciate you're lost without your broadband connection but rest assured, we're doing all we can do rectify the problem. Let me just double check, you're in Edmonton aren't you?"


"Right, oh no, that's right, London, of course, well, thanks for your patience. If you're not back up and running this time tomorrow, call us back and let us know".

"Yes. I'll do that".

No broadband = no posting so apologies all.

Anyways, I haven't got a picture of me ranting down the telephone. Nor have I got a computer-ish picture of my keyboard or similar so, not wanting to form an entire post around a complaint (why not, wouldn't be the first time???), I shall leave you with a piccy of some rather fabulous 'tiramisu truffles' which I knocked up for a couple of work colleagues who were celebrating birthdays around the same time recently.

I say knocked up, the damn things took me three evenings of 4 hours each approx' but, according to the recipients, they were delicious and very gratefully received.

(Who am I kidding, like I didn't help myself to several when finished!!)

Having said that, being as annoyingly sensitive to caffeine as I am nowadays, I was wandering around with a slightly silly grin for days afterwards.

If you're remotely interested in the recipe for these beautiful choc's with a kick like a mule, you have but to ask.

You'll be needing a bit of spare time though!

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Ho ho, how droll.

Barely a week ago, if you'd asked me if I'd "made that bread myself?", I'd have sniggered into whatever it was that I happened to be drinking at the time and scoffed back atcha, "no, of course not, how could you think such a thing?" *titter*

But now?

No sooner does someone say, "hey, the sun's out, let's have a barbecue this afternoon", do I dash indoors to grab my scales and strong bread flour and knock up a quick loaf for the eating of!

Hmmm, a glass of rosé or a nice cold beer?

Decisions, decisions .......

Friday, June 12, 2009

Big Up my main man Michael Morpurgo, aaaiiIIEEEE!

You see what I did there?

The ever so un-subtle alliteration in my post title?

Dammit Blackadder, if I didn't see just about one of the most moving pieces of theatre this afternoon. As with all good theatre, the stage sets were simple, the story addictive, the characters convincing.

Plus, if you'd told me that I would be entranced by a production that had life size models of horses being carried around by three different people, their legs visible out of the bottom of the horse à la pantomine season, BUT that I would find it convincing ............

Well, I'd have thought you mad.

However, it must be said that I had to keep reminding myself that the horses weren't real, that their whinnying and startled snorts were coming from the actors controlling them. Those inside the frames as well as the actor controlling the head, neck and ears must have spent a great deal of time with real horses.

It's astonishing.

Go and see it and tell me if I'm wrong.

(I'm not wrong!)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Café con leche

Not being a connoisseur in the coffee department, I'm not entirely sure if I am talking nonsense here but shouldn't a coffee be hot?

I don't mean warm either, I mean ..... hot?

It was tasty and all, just a bit lukewarm.

Maybe I should ask Mr Bellaphon.

He'll have the answer!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Another day, another recipe

I think the children enjoyed today not only because they were doing something different but because they were doing something messy at my request!!

I am normally moaning on at them to be careful, not to spill this, not to drop that, so today's dough making session was very welcome.

The children were pretty much exculsively responsible for sifting the flour, adding the yeast and kneading the dough beautifully, which allowed us all to have not only several tasty ham, mushroom and mozzarella pizza's for lunch ....

but also a stunning small loaf of bread which we ate with butter and blackcurrant jam.

Our kitchen has never smelt so good!!

Thursday, June 04, 2009

A fish called Wanda

I like to think that I'm a fairly adventurous cook; except when it comes to fish! I never cook the stuff.

Oh sure, I cook pre-packaged salmon or peppered mackerel from the supermarket but it's not the same as a fresh piece of fish from the fish shop, is it?

And so, thanks to advice from my newest and bestest chum Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall (ok, his cook book), I decided to confront my fears about choking on fish bones and I went to "bond" with my local fishmongers.

And what a nice chap he was too.

Scared of cooking fish? (Umm, yes, actually). Worried about fish bones for children? (Err ... no, me now you come to mention it). No idea what to do with it once you get it home? (You got it in one Big guy).

Red bream, he said confidently, perfect for families as it's only got one big bone to lift out (not strictly true), couple of slits in the side, rub a bit of lemon and butter in, wrap it in foil and give it 20 minutes in the oven at 200 degrees.

So that's exactly what I did.

And it was easy.

' course, I wasn't scared really ..........

(Unwrapping the fish at home. I left my largest chef's knife in shot to give you an idea of the size of the fish)

Preparing the foil, greased with butter, fresh thyme, bay leaf, red onion, salt pepper and butter (in fish cavity)

The finished article.

Easy peasy and tasty!!