Tuesday, 24 November 2015


Well what a day Friday was.


We went to Dublin for the weekend with the main feature being the Van Morrison concert on Friday night.
Wanting to do this in a leisurely way the Old Girl took Friday off work and so we booked a midday flight from Manchester - it's only an hour flight to Dublin so we intended having an afternoon exploring before the evening show. The Old Girl booked the tickets months ago as a birthday treat for me. The concert was a sell-out and in a big venue that fortunately had good acoustics and seating.

To make sure that we got to the airport in plenty of time we booked the 8AM train from York to Manchester which would arrive at about 9.20 - plenty of time before the flight.
We rose early and were at the station before 8 to discover that the train had been cancelled. Bummer.
We waited for the next train which was scheduled  35 minutes later. We waited. And waited...... it was delayed. Points failure or something.


The announcements kept coming about further delays. They were the only thing coming as the train certainly wasn't. We eventually climbed aboard a packed train (doubled up lot of passengers) which just got more and more delayed on the way. The result was that when we finally got to Manchester airport our flight had gone.
We had to book a later flight (and hand over another couple of hundred quid). This later flight was 5.40 instead of the noon flight we'd planned.
We headed off into Manchester city to kill some time and had an amazingly crappy lunch at an Italian restaurant. Yuck!

At least the flight was on time but arriving in Dublin and clearing Customs took us to nearly 7PM.
We hailed a taxi and urged the driver to get us to the city fast. He was Italian and every time I said "Pronto!" he said "Hello?"

We went via our hotel to drop off bags and made our way through slow Friday night traffic to the concert venue arriving at 3 minutes to 8. We found our seats and the band came on about 5 minutes later. No unprofessional pissing about and delays with old campaigners like Morrison.

The set was perfect - 90 minutes plus (about 20 numbers) of new and old songs. Morrison's voice is still great. This is his 70th birthday tour. His guitar, harmonica and saxophone playing superb. His autocratic conducting of the (very good) band worked and the resultant sound was a jazz rock fusion that matched the material.

There were no taxis to be found outside with thousands of concert-goers heading home but we hailed down one of those bicycle/rickshaws to take us to our hotel. It was only the second time we'd been in one of these, the other time being in Penang. It was bloody freezing!

The Old Girl had got a good deal at a classy little hotel near Trinity University so we were ideally placed for exploring on Saturday and Sunday - James Joyce, WB Yeats exhibition, Trinity College plus a bus tour around the city. We were lucky with the weather even though it was damned cold.

The flight home was quicker than the flight out - tail wind - but, par for the course the train was delayed, and delayed (points failure!). By the time one arrived there was basically passengers for three trains worth trying to get on. We were lucky (or bullish) and got on to claim seats but others had to stand, sit in the aisle or wave goodbye from the platform. We got home about 9M. All in all it was a good weekend.

Friday, 20 November 2015


See here:


 Well not exactly shitting in a hat - more like shitting in an envelope and sending it away.

In  UK the NHS has a free bowel screening programme where stool samples can be smeared on a printed card, sealed in a secure postage paid envelope and sent away to a lab for testing.

Not for the squeamish as they are at pains to explain but well worth while.
The Old Girl and I have done this. She received her clearance a few weeks ago and I got mine today.

A good friend of ours has cancer that has taken over her body. It began with undiagnosed bowel cancer and has spread catastrophically. In New Zealand there is some advertising about the dangers of bowel cancer but as yet there is no national screening programme like they have here.

The poor old NHS gets a bit of a bad rap in UK but I think that the moaners need to go to another country like the bloody USA to realise how lucky they are with having a free service.
We certainly have benefited from this (The Old Girl has UK citizenship and anyway there is a reciprocal arrangement with New Zealand) and the bowel cancer clearance is another one of those health worries taken away.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015


I went to London for a few days and returned yesterday on the train.
After an hour or so I could smell a burning smell kind of like when a hair dryer has been on too long.
I looked around but no-one else seemed to have noticed anything.

I remembered a Sopranos episode where Carmine Lupertazzi, one of the new York mafia bosses smelled burning hair just before he had a stroke and died.

The smell persisted though and I didn't have a stroke and die but something did happen. The train stopped suddenly.
It had been trying to tell me something.

A feeder pipe to the braking system had apparently come loose and had triggered the automatic braking system. We were stopped about 50 kms south of York for about 45 minutes while the problem was fixed.

After about 10 minutes a Scots guy on the other side of the aisle asked me:

"Hey pal, what station are we at?"

(He'd had a couple of drinks on the way). I answered him:

" We're not at a station, we're out in the country somewhere. We're stuck here for the night".

"Nay bother" he said and put his earphones back in.

In real life, in 1947 when Sparky was recorded, a kid telling everyone that trains talked to him would have been put in a nut house. They'd think that Sparky was the one with a loose wheel.

Thursday, 12 November 2015


I'm going to give you the recipe for the best pizza I've ever had.

Pizza, as you may not know, has its origins in Italy and was named after the pizzafocco which is a kind of flat cap worn during the Renaissance between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Initially a form of peasant food because field workers kept their lunch under their hats and during the working hours the foccacia sandwiches they had, in the heat, molded itself to the shape of their hats, pizza soon was seen in restaurants and on dining tables everywhere.

I like making my own pizzas and have a few good variants.
Sometimes I make my own pizza base from scratch because the supermarket offerings are pretty dismal but here in the UK I've found a perfect 'ready to top' pizza base.

The brand is Crosta & Mollica and is made in Italy. I buy it in Waitrose.

It has a nice rim which is crusty on the outside and soft in the centre providing a 'well' for the toppings on a nice thin base.
The texture is more like a croissant than a chewy, bready form and it acts as a vehicle for the toppings rather than being too dominant. Delicious.

The variant that I've developed is a vegetarian one.

On the base, which is already lightly coated with a tomato sauce, I spread a little more tomato concentrate mixed with some sweet chilli sauce and some Lee Kum Lee chilli garlic sauce.

If you don't have this in your pantry as a staple then you'd better get some. We use it in spaghetti sauces, taco mixtures, stews, casseroles, curries - basically anything except desserts but probably only because we haven't tried that yet.

Trim and slice a capsicum (any colour) and gently saute in a pan with fresh garlic in a little oil (only ever use olive oil).
You should have already boiled a small to medium size potato. In UK Piper Maris is best but in New Zealand I'll use Agria. When this is cool or cold, slice it thinly and layer on the pizza base.

Next slice some artichoke hearts. I use bottled ones from the supermarket. I find that they keep well in the fridge if you use them up over a couple of weeks. Layer the slices over the potato.

Spread the sauteed capsicum and garlic across the potato and artichoke layers.

I now use some delicious Piquante Peppers. I buy these in a jar. The brand is Peppadew which I've found in UK and NZ. These have a sweet and spicy taste combined. Not too hot but with a nice 'bite'. Chop them in pieces and mingle with the capsicum.

Olives are next. Only ever use Kalamata olives (Greek or Italian). Don't use those nasty Spanish ones that are chewy and have no flavour. I buy the pitted ones because I don't have an olive pitter, Cut the olives in half or quarters and liberally distribute over the ingredients so far.

I've already put some sweet chiili sauce and some chilli garlic sauce into the base mixture but I like my food with a bite of a 'kick' so, when the Old Girl is away like she is at the moment I add a little bit of hot chilli sauce.
I have some in a bottle I bought from an Asian food store which is surprisingly hot. The brand is Uni Eagle Sriracha.

With this little number you only need a few dribbles across the top (drops even) to do the deed.

I finish with a sprinkle of grated mozzarella cheese - not too much as you want to taste the vegetables and not the cheese. The base can have a few sprinkles as well.

I sometimes use some fresh herbs (basil, rosemary etc) but this is when I haven't used the chilli.

10 minutes in a 220 degree oven and this is ready. I had mine last night with a reasonable NZ Pinot Noir.

(photo off the web. Mine looked much nicer)

Saturday, 7 November 2015


This next chap was/is weird and would qualify for other categories as well - none complimentary.

At one of the yearly conferences (the Yanks would call it a convention) in USA with the liquor company I worked for we had Bruce Jenner as the guest 'motivational' speaker. This spot as usual was on the morning of the break day in the week long conference with recreational and 'team building' activities in the afternoon.

This conference was at Monarch Beach at Dana Point south of L.A.

Jenner's 'motivational' speech was extremely uninspiring and the FIGJAM merely talked about himself. It was, all agreed, an exercise in self promotion.
After lunch we went to the beach. As the sumptuous resort hotel was actually by the beach this was only a couple of minutes stroll. In keeping with the over-the-top conference management though we of course went via a fleet of golf carts ranging from 2 people ones through to 8 people ones.

The beach trip was for 'team building' games which as anyone who has had to endure this sort of crap is basically self defeating and causes more enmity than camaraderie.

Some marketing or event management idiot thought that in keeping with the Jenner theme (Olympian decathlete) the team building games should incorporate throwing, jumping, running activities (team?) so we all  proceeded to mangle each other as best we could fueled of course by copious lashings of wine, beer and spirits - all company brands of course,

To get from event to event we jumped on the nearest golf cart and usually it was the drunkest one driving.
At one point I went to jump on a buggy only to be told

"Sorry buddy, this one's taken"

It was driven by this joker.


It was an eight-seater and other than him there were two gorillas who were his bodyguards.

The 'buddy' thing got to me and I still proceeded to board the cart. There were 5 spare seats after all.
The gorillas loomed towards me menacingly. The were dressed in dark suits, white shirts and dark ties.
This was California in summer! They were obviously 'packing'. What I don't know - the bulges in their jackets might have been sun-screen lotion but I stepped down, made a 'loser' sign to the 'winner' and got on another cart.

Talking to some of the American conference attendees they said that FIGJAM believed he was so important he needed 'personal security' around him.


In more recent years I've seen him on TV with his family the FWGJAU Kardashians.

This lot obviously deserve each other but, apparently, have split with old Bruce who now goes by the name of Caitlin.

Weird. And getting weirder although I wouldn't mind betting the whole thing is a publicity stunt dreamed up by the 'Reality World' marketers.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015


Robert aka Second fiddle wasn't impressed with my Weirdest People I've met # 1 post complaining that it is old news from last century and that plenty of people have wanted to kill him in this century. I can well understand that.

Moving on, another weird person I once met was when The Old Girl and I were in France.
We were in Bordeaux and guests of the owners of Chateau Palmer which is one of the great chateaux in Margaux region.

Chateau Palmer

The owners, Peter and Diane Sichel didn't live in Chateau Palmer, it being used as a showplace and for formal entertaining. They lived in their family home at Chateau d'Angludet not far away.
We enjoyed some Champagne and canapes there while the kids had an early meal before bed and then proceeded to Chateau Palmer.

The main dining room at the front of the chateau had been set up for dinner with 6 place settings - the Sichels, The Old Girl and me and two Brits who arrived soon after us.

The dinner was simply amazing consisting of that European elegance, quality and understatement with four courses providing everything we would want without being over the top flamboyant. We were served at table by a trio of staff who were long-term Chateau Palmer employees very experienced in catering.

The wines, Chateau Palmer, were stunning from the very rare and superb quality 1961 for which Palmer as a 'second growth' outshone all 'first growth' wines that year through to successively younger vintages.

Anyway, on to our British table fellows.

He was Chairman or ex CEO of a major British brewery - a very important man.
He was brash, outspoken and noisy and was a bit of a caricature - one that I've seen many times on UK television kind of like a cross between Jerry's Boss 'Sir' in The Good Life and Sir Ralph Richardson in Blandings Castle.

Reginald Marsh - 'Sir' in The Good Life
Sir Ralph Richardson

His wife was also a bit of a caricature. She was tiny - thin and mouse-like and reminded me of 'She Who Must Be Obeyed"'s friend Dodo Macintosh from Rumpole of The Bailey.

Ann Way from Rumpole of The Bailey
She was quite mad and would interject into conversations with the most hilarious and disconcerting statements like this:

Peter Sichel: "The 1970 Palmer scored almost perfect points but when we try it next to the older 1961 it makes the '61 look like it's just come out of the ......
Mad British Woman: " Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha  my gladioli haven't done at all well this year ha ha ha ha ha"
Weird British Chap: " Harumph"
Peter Sichel: "  ........ ummm as I was saying the '61 which scored 20 out of 20 tastes just like ..."
 Mad British Woman: " Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha the tea at Harrods this year isn't a patch on last year ha ha ha ha ha ha "
Peter Sichel:  " ............................. more wine anyone?"
Well if we thought that Mrs Weird Person was mad, her husband seemed keen to outscore her.

At one point during the dinner table conversation, between updates on country gardens and department store shortcomings, the 'chairman' regaled us with stories from their driving adventure from London to Bordeaux.
It was hilarious not so much in the content which was of a dreary ferry journey, mad drivers, no decent tea to be had in the cafes etc. but in the manner in which it was recounted.

Weird British Chap: " So after we cleared the bally ring roads of Paris we decided to bash on down South"
Me: (being devil's advocate) " Sorry, what did you do after Paris?"
Weird British Chap: " Bashed on down South what? That's how we got here to old Borders what? Thought we'd look up Peter for a spot of nosh what? Said he was having dinner what? Sort of invited ourselves along what? Bloody good vino what? Just the...."
Mad British Woman: " Reginald snores you know ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ..."
 Weird British Chap: " Harumph"
It was a very memorable evening and we felt as if we'd been somehow transported into one of those '60's/'70's British shows with over the top performances. The eye-opening thing was that these types of people actually exist,

The dinner party went on for several hours followed by a private tour of the cellars before being chauffeur driven back to our hotel in Bordeaux.

Weird but magic.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015


It's time for another series I think.
I haven't done one for a while and was thinking of it when I sent a link to Lucky # 10 to the The Old Girl when she told me that she was going on a helicopter ride this week. I feigned boredom reminding her that I used to commute by helicopter (well 2 or 3 times a week) when I worked for that wine company and said "Ho hum, just like a taxi to me".
Mean eh?
In reality I'm a bit jealous because I like flying in helicopters.

 I decided on a series on THE WEIRDEST PEOPLE I'VE EVER MET.

Now I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "How could anybody be weirder than this guy?

And you do make a point so in the series I'm going to have to include Richard (of RBB).

First up though this strange meeting comes to mind.

I was in Sydney in about 1996 with some work colleagues and we were meeting with a couple of wine companies that we represented.
At lunch-time one day we were moving quickly through throngs of people in a large shopping mall.
My two colleagues were just ahead of me, weaving in and out of the crowds of commuters and consumers coming towards us.

At one point a crazed-looking guy like this one:

came directly up to me and, wetly said:
I almost had time to  reply:
but he'd continued on his straight path bumping and scattering people as he went.
I didn't even have a chance to kick him in the arse.

When I caught up with my colleagues and told them they seemed unconcerned and said something along the lines of:

"Well, it's nice to make new friends".


Sunday, 1 November 2015


I happily ride my bicycle around York and marvel at how safe it is to ride in this city.
In previous posts I've remarked at the absence of irascible old schoolteachers who are hell-bent on running you over.

Well, that changed yesterday when I encountered one of these.

To be honest I'm not sure that this cunt  arseehole fellow road- user was a school teacher.
Perhaps if he was he would be driving on of these:

As it was he was driving one of these:

Now an irascible old schoolteacher I know hates drivers of large, resource - abusing and unnecessary 4WD city vehicles like this one but he also hates cyclists.
He has written many posts on his blog about the encounters that he's had and has fantasised about running them over (the cyclists) and wanting to eradicate the 4WD wankers.

I just hope that in this instance, if and when he reads this post he favours me as the lesser of two evils.

I was peddling my way out to the gym and, going through a slight intersection a big black Range Rover barreled its way across in front of me, having come from a side road when I was travelling straight ahead. It was a T-intersection and he came from the right. I was on a straight road so assumed that I was in the right.
This cunt  arseehole fellow road- user merely ignored me and cut dangerously in front of me.

I gave him the international signal for

 "excuse me but I think that you've made a mistake here, maybe we could talk about this"

His response was to slam on his anchors and, to avoid running into the back of him I had to take a dangerous evasive manouvre around the right hand side of his behemoth big fucking useless truck car taking me on to the wrong side of the road.

Fortunately there was no traffic coming towards us and so I rode alongside this cunt giving him the evil eye.

He had a little hissy fit telling me that the double white lines (obscured by road works) that I'd rode through said he had the right of way. I asked him if this right of fucking way (yes readers I did say this but I was under duress at the time) gave him the right to run me over. I didn't get his response as he had to brake to avoid the car stopped at the traffic lights in front of him.
I rode , still on the wrong side of the road past his  behemoth big fucking useless truck car and the car in front of him and when the lights changed proceeded on my way.
This arrogant, 4WD driving cunt, when passing me further along, deliberately swerved close to me to 'make his point'
What a cunt!

Anyway, how was your day?


I like John Oliver. His retakes of the news are insightful and very funny. Have a look via the link below at his latest review of Facebook...