Miscellany and detritus, from the writer of Is This Mutton?com

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Friday, April 30, 2010

119/365: Sore Misgivings about Sex and The City II

I have always loved Sex & The City. I have the boxed DVD set of the TV series and the film. When  the first film opened, I scuttled off to Leicester Square to see its inaugural showing. There were lots of corsages on some very highly excited women, and a huge cheer went up when it turned out dear Dame Vivienne supplied the wedding dress.

But I have Sore Misgivings, to quote Mrs Fussey from Carry On Camping, about the latest film, due out on May 28th.

From what we have seen, the odd photo here and there, the fab four end up somewhere that's either Morocco or Abu Dhabi. Somewhere hot with camels. Kim Cattrall on a camel?? And I'm thinking: all too improbable. 

I could understand how, in the first film, they dropped everything to be with Carrie on her wrecked honeymoon. But for four busy women, how easy would it be to do that again?

Plus, I hear Aidan is back. I always thought he was totally unsuitable for Carrie and long gone, married with a baby etc. Yet we hear that he's back. Does this mean her marriage to Big has run into problems? Or is Aidan's reappearance just a red herring? There was a story that Big falls for Penelope Cruz. Well, after all the fuss about the wedding in the first film, and our notion that at last Carrie and Big were together For Good, this would be a crushing blow.

I'm afraid it's all sounding a bit silly. When you look at the first TV series, it was really quite edgy and ahead of its time. Now it's increasingly becoming like Golden Girls. And there's no reason why we won't still be watching it in 30 years' time, with Carrie and co talking about zimmer frames and rest homes. There would be nothing wrong with that provided it still remained edgy and current. Challenging.

By the way I had to laugh at the photo published today by the ridiculous Daily Mail. They chose the most unflattering picture of Sarah Jessica Parker they could find so that they could slate her as "too thin!" A female celebrity is only ever too thin or too"curvy". This is nonsense. In any batch of photos of any women, there will always be one or two where you look odd or have your eyes shut. So why do they always choose the worst one? Why do we let them get away with it?


Thursday, April 29, 2010

118/365: Tall buildings

I've spent quite a bit of time in London this week. It's only 26 minutes away by train but "going in town" feels like an event.

I happened to be in the Chancery Lane area to collect some contact lenses so I took a picture of the former BT International building where I spent two happy years a long time ago.

When I first pitched up at BT, having moved from Devon and a fun radio job, I didn't think I could bear it. I was in a huge room filled with people but strangely silent, the hum of conversation muted along with the air conditioning.

I wondered at lunchtime, that first day, if I could chain myself to the Mirror Group Newspapers building, which was opposite, until they gave me a job  (MGN having been my first employer.)

But I quickly adapted to live at BT and look back on it with very fond memories.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The joy of running

We're back home after J's endeavours in the London Marathon today. His time was a very commendable 3'43 which puts him in the top 15% of finishers. It wasn't a personal best but the weather was a little too warm.

As before, I had a great vantage point at an elite runners' drinks station in Shadwell, manned by J's club The Orion Harriers. Some of the drinks (right) and one of them being grabbed by its owner (below.)

I was able to see J twice from this vantage point: first at 14 miles on the opposite side of the road, and then at 20 miles. He looked very fresh both times.

I didn't see the caterpillar of people including Princess Beatrice, or any of the celebrity runners (Lorraine Kelly, Natalie Imbruglia.)

Below is J's brother-in-law Don plus a couple of his Orion colleagues. More photos here.http://www.flickr.com/photos/14963062@N04/4553755143/


113/365: Marathon preparations

Today is the day. J is running the London Marathon for about the fifth or sixth time. He still gets a bit nervous and yesterday was spent sorting out his kit, pinning his vest to his t-shirt (left)and eating pasta. He left at 7 to board a bus with his fellow Orion Harriers runners, and I will set off a little later for a great vantage point in Shadwell where you see the runners twice.

I will also be looking out for colleague Julie Penman, who's running her first marathon.

The camera is primed and ready! More later.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

112/365: Bluebell wood

Going to the bluebell wood, about 20 minutes' walk away, is always a highlight of this time of year. It's always such a surprise to come across it, walking through the leafy glade and then suddenly seeing all the bluebells before you. They've only just come out and will probably be at their best in a few days.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

110/365: Back to the 70's

First: did anyone see a marvellous programme on BBC2 last week called "Electric Dreams?" Those saps didn't seem to promote it very well, but it was a real nugget. A family went back to the 70s, 80s and 90s in three programmes looking at how technology has developed.

I love shows like that, particularly when (ahem) I was there, which I wasn't for the Victorian House and the 1930's House. Contrary to what some of you might think.

In the 70s the family were subjected to a power cut - I remember those - and there was a big fanfare about getting a colour TV, which cost the equivalent of £3000 today. That was why most people rented them. That and the fact they broke down so frequently. I sniggered also at the arrival of the huge chest freezer, just like the one we had in the garage. Mum and Dad would go off to Windwhistle Farm and come back with half a cow (literally) to fill up the freezer. There was very little in the way of convenience foods then except for fishfingers and arctic rolls.
Meanwhile, still in the 70s, I've been reading two books which take me back to the wonderful days of Ziggy Stardust. I was an avid reader of NME and remember very well the writing of Nick Kent - in particular his huge sprawling article on Iggy and the Stooges, long before they were well known. I was a bit disappointed by his autobiography, Apathy for the Devil. The writing is lumpy and flowery in places; there are no pictures, even though his friend was Pennie Smith the photographer, and there are too many mentions of BOFs like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. I think the drugs may have addled his brain. I was hoping for more anecdotes and more about the Main Man (D Bowie.)

Also disappointing was Weird and Gilly's account of the life of Mick Ronson, the virtuoso guitarist in David Bowie's Ziggy -days backing group The Spiders from Mars. Now Weird and Gilly are a couple of die hard fans rather than writers or journalists, and this shows unfortunately. They seem to lack the probing instinct and many big questions go unanswered. I got the impression they didn't want to upset Ronson's family because two of the more interesting  happenings are brushed aside.

The fact that he left his wife and went off with a woman in Sweden, having a son with her, is dismissed in one paragraph. And there is a lot of mention of Ronson drinking a lot, but no-one seems to confront the issue. Was he an alcoholic? Then there was the time he joined Mott the Hoople, while still under contract to MainMan. He lorded it over the band, being chauffeured in a different car and not even speakng to "the lads" who quite justifiably got a bit upset. Weird & Gilly don't seem to question his behaviour or motives.

The desired take-out from the book, as fa as Weird & Gilly are concerned,  is that Ronson was a nice bloke whom everyone liked, and he was FAR MORE than just the virtuoso guitarist in the Spiders from Mars whose solo career bombed.  Interestingly Nick Kent refers to Earl Slick as the greatest guitarist that Bowie had.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

109/365: Magazine treat

Our upcoming nuptials have reinstated an old treat for me: perusing the bridal magazines. Although I won't be wearing a white gown this time, or having  bridesmaids, I've still been buying all of the magazines which hasn't gone unnoticed by J. In my defence I tell him he's lucky I'm not obsessed by shoes, like some women. Plus I have given up on all the craft magazines except one. With our date approaching, I only have one more round of bridal magazines to go. Sigh. In a perfect world, I would have had a job on one of these magazines. I did try, years ago, when I'd qualified as a journalist and spent 8 years in print and radio. Sadly Sandra Boler at Brides Magazine didn't think I had suitable experience, although I tried to explain in the letter that my passion for the subject coupled with sound journalistic experience would be an ideal combination. But it was not to be. On balance, I may have got tired of the Juliet caps, guipure lace and stephanotis (3 things that were madly popualr the first time I got married!) by now.
Were you ever rebuffed from a perfect job?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

108/365: The mystery plant

My regular visits to Swindon are punctuated by various milestones and landmarks on the trip. The pedgree herd of cows on the magnificent escarpment just after the "borough of Swindon" sign on the M4. The valerian that will flower soon, on the shingly embankment just as you approach the turn-off to Swindon. And in Marlborough Road, as I approach the office, the annual appearance of this white plant cascading over walls. I still haven't figured out exactly what it is. It looks very much like arabis, which according to the J Parker catalogue, appears in April and May. I may order some, although I don't have any suitable cascading walls.

Monday, April 19, 2010

107/365: View from a cube

We have been decorated! The walls of my cubicle at work are now cream and aubergine with a grey skirting board and a sandy coloured carpet. I am assuming a man chose the colours :-)

Still, it's much appreciated - and very timely, just before the visit of women from other tech companies who converge on our building on Thursday for a networking afternoon. At least I don't have to fret about them seeing shabby carpets.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

106/365: Shoe shine

Here'a sight that would have warmed the heart of my late dad Stamps: J cleaning his shoes in the afternoon sunshine.

Stamps was a stickler for a shiny shoe. And it's been instilled in all of us, so I am always looking at people's shoes. My mum said the first thing she looked at during the general election debate was the state of the leaders' footwear.


106/365: Mellow yellow

The back garden looks good at this time of year - there's a lot of yellow and the tulips are all coming out. As the spring progresses, I try to restore colour with plenty of containers but having a two week holiday early in June means I have to be careful about those which need too much water, so we never have as many as I would like. I find that when we get back from holiday, most of the best plants have gone from the garden centres.

I am hoping to try growing some dahlias this year. I particularly like the "Bishop" varieties with the dark leaves and dark red blooms.

I'll also be growing some fuchsias. When I was young I hated them, thinking they were overblown and kitsch. Now I love them for those qualities.

The "front garden" is just a flower bed and border. The flower bed has 12 roses, three varieties, and the border shrubs and bulbs. The roses look really healthy at this time of the year - all the same size and growing vigorously. I'll be a bit more judicious with the Rose Plus this year. Last year I gave them too much in May and while we had a magnificent display of flowers in May/June, they were exhausted until August.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

104/365: Delicious daffodil water

They say never work with children or animals and as far as the cat is concerned I can see why. If you give Molly her own water to drink she doesn't drink it. But as soon as there's a vase of daffodils, her head's in. Unfortunately I wasn't quick enough with the camera, so I only have the "after", when, thirst quenched, she refused to reprise the episode.

This is for Anonymous who loves a picture of a "rancid old cat".

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

103/365: Tonight's dinner

I called in at Simply M&S on the way home. The great thing about a stir fry is that not only is it nutritious but you get a lot for the calories!


Friday, April 09, 2010

98/365: Quackers

Yesterday was a lovely day, sunny and mild, with more of the same today and the promise of a good weekend. What bliss. The tulips are all coming out in a riot of colours and the blackbirds are building a nest again in the back garden.

It would appear that the snail which attached itself to my car about a week ago has disappeared: probably dropped off dead owing to lack of sustenance, or was traumatised after numerous trips to Swindon and Winnersh. I know I am. (Three hours to get home last night.)

I was hoping to get a picture of the snail but its disappearance put an end to that. Instead here are the ducks in the pond at work. It's a weird grainy quality, somewhat painterly. I'm studying the camera to see what's happened with the settings. (Any suggestions? "Motherhood" DVD on offer as a prize!.)


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

96/365: Danger! Do not watch this film

I have seen a few dire films in my time. Stinkers which readily come to mind include Fool's Gold, with Matthew McConnaughey (anything with him is usually a stinker); Christine, a horror film about a car with a mind of its own and Withnail & I, which is a real divider. Some people love it, others can't get through more 30 minutes.

A new one to add to the list is Motherhood, starring Uma Thurman.

I'm spitting feathers that I actually bought it because we had no new films to watch at the weekend and there was nothing appealing on the Sky movie channels. But I was attracted to the words "hilarious comedy" plus the charms of the leading lady.

In a nutshell, Uma used to be a celebrated writer but then she became a mother and now her life is nothing but drudgery: screaming at strangers in shops, losing use of her car because her street is turned into a film set, not clearing up her dog's poop and not having enough time to write her blog. Somewhat incomprehensibly she does manage to find time to go clothes shopping, but by the end of the day, having had enough she just leaps in her car and drives off.

Imagine a film largely based on screaming and shouting with a few gratuitous cases of innuendo, and that's what you've got. It was like an endurance test to get to the end: J gave up but I gritted my teeth and stuck it out, and predictably there is a happy ending.

Which films would be on your "danger" list?


Sunday, April 04, 2010

93/365: Delia's roast chicken with grapes, Riesling and tarragon

I'm not a very adventurous cook, mainly because J is a traditional meat and two veg man. In the past when I have made boeuf bourguignon or coq au vin, he has sniffed at it suspiciously and groaned "not stew".

But he seemed very impressed by the Waitrose ad where Delia Smith makes roast chicken with grapes, Riesling and tarragon. Find the recipe here. Yesterday I told him I'd bought all the ingredients, and somewhat touchingly he said "Did you go to Waitrose then?" I don't think they have a monopoly on chickens, Riesling or tarragon.

So today the dish was served. I have to say, Delia is right about roasting a chicken quickly, although the smoke was tedious and the mess in the oven is a sight to behold.

But the grapes didn't seem to add anything, although the sauce was creamy and rich enough.

I had to admit that really my ordinary old roast chicken is just as good.

The Waitrose ads are a master stroke though. Last year Waitrose, thanks to its Essentials range, became the fastest growing grocer in the UK which is good going in these recessionary times. I think they could have saved money by losing Heston Blumenthal. To me, he epitomises Emperor's New Clothes. I've been to the Fat Duck twice and had the tasting menu, and the first time it's all "mmm, smokey bacon ice-cream, interesting!" but the second time you start to yearn for some top quality produce cooked simply. But, somewhere along the line, the pretentious few have lauded Heston and El Bulli for their use of canned nitrogen and E numbers. Give me Delia over foul mouthed Ramsay and dull Heston any day.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

92/365: Out of bed, the wrong side

It's been one of Those Days. You know, when you feel irrationally irritable and grumpy. It started when I woke later than normal, which started to put me under the pressure of a self-induced timeline: have I got time to go to the gym, Marks & Spencer's and Sainsbury's and back in time for the wretched test drive J has organised for 4pm? Plus I had some urgent mafia business to attend to after finding that while I was sleeping, someone had attacked me in Mafia Wars and I'd lost.

As I drove to M&S, I rang my mum and ended up getting GBH of the ear,  so I was on a low simmer when I went up to the Exchanges & Refunds. I recently bought J a trendy looking shirt but he instantly rejected it and somehow I lost the receipt, which is unusual for me. Anway, their new policy in M&S is to treat you like a criminal if you've lost your receipt and ask for a credit note. The woman glared and said I would only now get £12 (the shirt was £29 three weeks ago) and asked for my name and post code, writing them on some list as if it would be used for future evidence.

This took the shine off my M&S session and I left having purchased only an Oakham chicken.

I then went to Sainsbury's, cursing the way they have redesigned the now smaller car park at Low Hall, so that it really has become every man for himself. Why do people have to have these ridiculous people carriers and Range Rovers in London suburbs?

Inside, every pushchair and every trolley seemed to be hurtling themselves towards me.

There were no raspberries left.

As I drove home, irrationally furious, I was cursing J for his test drive, although actually it's for the car that I want. He wants another car which I'm convinced I wouldn't want to be seen dead in (no, not a hearse.)

He had made his own lunch, hooray for that, but as usual had not emptied the dishwasher. This I did, loudly and silently, if that isn't mixing my metaphors.

Now I remembered what my mum used to wail when I was a kid, "I haven't sat down for the day", and we would accuse her of being a martyr because she didn't ask for any help ("I shouldn't have to!") and would persist in doing unnecessary things like washing the skirting boards.

After putting away the shopping, tight-lipped, and sat down to have my lunch, J looked over and gave me a smile  (having not previously engaged in conversation as he could See The Signs). "Now you can have a nice sit down," he said. "But don't forget we're going out for that test drive".

As recompense for the test drive, I'll see if I can encourage him into Waitrose which is on the way, after all, to get some raspberries and the creme fraiche I forgot to get.

Friday, April 02, 2010

91/365: Watercress and pear soup

When I get time, I like to make my own soup. Last week I caught the last few minutes of a programme on BBC2 called "Grow Your Own Drugs" (silly title) and was attracted by the recipe for restorative watercress and pear soup, which you can find here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/tv/features/growyourowndrugs/s2_episode2.shtml
Anyway, I made a few slight changes: I didn't have any spring onions so used a red onion, and I didn't like the idea of adding raw pears and watercress to the finished soup so I cooked them gently for just a few minutes.

And the result? Delicious. A nice gingery tang and the potato makes for a rich silky soup soup. Definitely one to make again, and low calorie having totted up the cals on  Nutracheck.
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