Friday, November 26, 2004

Turkey day in St Albans

Last night I left work with JP to visit their home in St Albans where his lovely wife Andrea had prepared us a traditional Thanksgiving meal. She is American so I was looking forward to the authentic item. And it was. Enough turkey to feed a coach party, cranberry sauce, gravy, potatoes gratin, broccoli, sweet potatoes with a delicious sugar and pecan goo on top and sprouts boiled to mush. Andrea is a good cook but she's still working on the veg. And to follow, Mom's Apple Pie.

The entertaining thing was the Table Turkeys - apples impaled with cocktail stick kebabs of mini-marshmallows and assorted jelly sweets to create the artistic likeness of turkeys. Godson Julian was on good form and little Charlotte was not far behind. Julian proudly informed me "I made this one!" pointing to a slightly wonky turkey. Bless! I think Mummy had a hand in the others.

The journey home I had not been looking forward to (I need to catch up on my sleep) but the other guest, Di, gave a lift to the station and all the connections went well: St Albans platform to Wandsworth Town flat in 59 minutes - amazing.

Thank you John and Andrea for an excellent evening.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

A small blog meet in London town

So there were just the four of us that turned up at the Bell, Book and Candle last night. Me, Tom, Andrew and Helene (the last being blocked by the company firewall, I wonder why?).

To quote a reviewer on the Beer in The Evening site: "Unique kitsch gothic pub in the heart of the city. Makes a drastic change from drinking in bars which look rather like ikea. " Rather like the all-bar-one next door, couldn't have put it better myself.

It was slightly strange meeting strangers, I was unsure of the etiquette for such events, what does one talk about? I presume one's blog and the others blogs are OK but how deeply does one probe for motives or reveal of one's own.

It contrasted with my previous web meetings off the Marc Bolan mailing list where we had conversed for so long we already knew each other well but just had not happened to be at the same locus in the time-space continuum.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Watching the detectives

As we entered LK Bennett (shoe shop) in Glasgow a woman dressed in black, posted by the door, greeted us with a "Hello". She likewise did a "Goodbye" to customers as they left.

Now maybe that was her job, to stand there all day saying hello and goodbye but I assume she had a secondary role as store detective. If some someone did a runner then, I guess, she would chase after them.

However given the nature of the merchandise the miscreants are not likely to do a four minute mile in kitten heels. Bit of a cushy job then.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

One girl short of a quartet

The course in Glasgow went well, even I felt so, and normally I am (too) hard on myself. So with that out the way it was back to the hotel where Mary had already arrived from Dublin and was relaxing in the bath. It was a couple of glasses of room service champagne to relax with until it was time to get dressed and go down to the bar to await the arrival of two more of "The Girls".

The four "Girls" were all at Uni together and two of them still live in the Glasgow area. So we took the opportunity to meet up with Christine and Geraldine along with G's other half Alisdair and go out for a meal at Smiths in Merchant City.

Alisdair was looking very dapper in his hat, like a scaled down version of Van "the Man" Morrison. We ate, we drank, we chatted and the evening sped by. It was after midnight by the time Christine's taxi arrived at the restaurant, then a stroll back to the hotel for a last glass of champagne - because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

It was a pleasure just to sit and linger and chat to my wife. It was gone 2am by the time we staggered up to bed. Fortunately we had nowhere to rush in the morning so it was a leisurely start to the day - pass me the aspirin.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Congratulations to Natalie Bizgirl

A regular read on my blogroll is bizgirl - international librarian of mystery - who, last week, won the Netguide best personal blog award.

Well done "Natalie". More on the story at The NZ Herald.

Four beds in four nights

It has been a hectic four days of rushing about. Starting from Sunday it was: Malahide, Ireland; Wandsworth, London; Ibsley, Hampshire; Glasgow, Scotland. Though not worth getting the tour T-shirt printed.

It is a challenge making sure I have remembered to transfer all the right clothes, toiletries, work stuff and assorted artefacts back and forth like a domestic Tower of Hanoi or more like the puzzle about the farmer who has to cross the river with a fox, a chicken and some corn. It stretches my vestigial organising abilities to the limit.

Now I get two more nights in the same place before it is off to Mary's Mum's and then back to sunny Wandsworth. So now time for a gentle stroll back to the Millenium hotel, Glasgow, a drink, a meal and a relax.

Monday, November 15, 2004

In Dublin's fair city

Well actually Malahide where Mary rents a flat in the marina village.

Flew off to Dublin straight from work Friday. A quiet evening in on Friday then on Saturday it was off to see Ireland versus South Africa at Lansdowne Road. An excellent match even for someone like me who has only the most rudimentary grasp of the rules. We invested in a "Ref Radio" which was money well spent; overhearing the ref's rulings and instructions helped us to better grasp what was going on out on the pitch.

Sunday it was a walk along the coast to the Martello tower and back. Then preparation for a small dinner party with Orla and Megan. We did a proper Cajun gumbo followed by New Orleans bread pudding. Then an early night ready for the dawn raid on DUB and back to LHR.

Friday, November 12, 2004

It only takes one glass of wine to get me drunk

It's usually the eighth.

The reason behind the Thursday content and no usual Wednesday blog was that I went home to Hampshire to pick up some stuff for this weekend's trip to Dublin after a busy day at work.

It was so cold with the heating turned down that I decided to go for the first mulled wine of the year. I do this the easy way: a spice sachet and a spoonful of sugar in a Pyrex bowl, chuck in the wine and zap for 2 minutes in the microwave. It was so delicious I had to have another with my meal. By which time there was only a third of a bottle left so I thought, "What the heck!" and finished off the bottle.

Then there was that last little glass of dessert wine in the fridge left over from the weekend to have with my dessert. So when the alarm went off at 5:15 Thursday morning I was not really ready for my day. Still it was my own foolish fault.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

This must be Thursday

I never could get the hang of Thursdays *

Two drunks outside White City stadium:
First drunk - Isn't that Wembley?
Second drunk - No, its Thursday
First drunk - So am I, lets get a drink.

* Douglas Adams

Monday, November 08, 2004

Gecko, gecko

Gecko sits and watches all from perches short and tall *

As well as snakes at the Hovel-In-The-Hills™ there are lots of Geckos:

Unlike the Leopard Snake which I now know to be harmless, these cute little chaps are much more appealing. I am indebted to Paulo at "Amphibians and Reptiles of Europe" ( for confirming that they are in fact Turkish Geckos (Hemidactylus turcicus).

*Gecko by The Creatures

Friday, November 05, 2004

Bill Posters Will Be Band

One of the joys of working in London is the recapture of a social life Monday to Thursday instead of room service meals and CNN on the TV.

Tuesday I popped down to Farnham on the train to spend the evening with Mum and Dad who seemed on excellent form. Mum's Aorto-Bi-Femoral Bypass and Dad's double hernia (I spared you that one) seem to be things of the past and they have bounced back well.

Mum produced a pack of letters I wrote to them when I was in college in 71/74 as part of clearing out their lives. A quick glance show them to be less Oscar Wilde and more Nigel Molesworth.

Last night it was the train again to Putney to visit brother Ian for an Thai meal and an evening of entertainment from Bill Posters Will Be Band at The Bull's Head. They were as droll as when I saw them back in February.

The funniest part was when Richard White did a "Incompetent Ventriloquist" skit. It is the first time I have seen a dummy give his handler a Glasgow Kiss.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

I've got a bike, you can ride it if you like

At the weekend I brought my "proper" bike up to London and on Monday knocked 10 minutes off the commute to work (down to 31 minutes for the 6.5 miles). That bike saddle and my bum have done more than 10,000 miles (16,000 km) together; it fits like, erm, hand in glove. But it is hard to say whether the saddle has moulded to me or the other way round.

This morning I was behind a woman who struggled to take off from the lights when they changed. The reason for this was that she had her mountain bike in top gear. That is true of most men as well, that was not a gender specific comment.

Firstly, I do not remember seeing any mountains on my route along the Thames. These bikes are the pedal-powered equivalent of SUV's.

Secondly, why pay good money for all those gears and not use them? You wouldn't drive your car everywhere in fourth gear, would you, so why do it with a bike?

* Bike by Pink Floyd

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Fine and rare wine dinner

So in the end we decided to stick with the original Saturday night plan. As well as mourning the loss of Oscar we also wanted to remember all the joy he had brought us, to celebrate his past and our future.

We take it in turns to organise surprise weekends away for our wedding anniversary. This year it had been my turn but Mary had spotted a Berry Bros and Rudd fine and rare wine dinner that happened to fall on the actual anniversary which also happened to be a Saturday. Held at their ancient premises in St James Street the menu was as follows:

1983 Champagne Le Mesnil (en magnum)

Welcome from Simon Berry, Deupty Chairman

1998 Criots-Batard-Montrachet, Grand Cru, Domaine Roger Belland

Skewer of swordfish, monkfish and tuna with a creamy mushroom sauce

1978 Chateau Palmer / 1971 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild (en magnum)

Fillet of venison with wild mushroom sauce on garlic mash, selection of fresh seasonal vegetables

1996 Chateau Climens

Hot rhubarb souffle with homemade vanilla ice-cream

1958 Quinta do Noval Nacional

Selection of cheese and biscuits, Berrys' selected coffee and dinner mints

An extravagance but what heck.

Monday, November 01, 2004

The saddest news about Oscar

This is really Friday's post but in truth one I would not have expected to write for several years. Sitting in the lounge at Zurich airport on Thursday evening I got a call from Mike who feeds our cats while we are away. He had arrived to find Oscar collapsed and ran him straight round to the vets. Ten minute later the vet returned my call to break the news that Oscar had a blocked urinary tract. The back pressure messes up the kidneys and the whole body electrolytes, he was very unwell. They gave him an anaesthetic in order to catheterise him but too late. A couple of minutes later and he was dead; no easy way to say it. I shall miss him dreadfully.

All night I was in shock. It was not until I broke the news to Mary early Friday morning that I broke down. He was my favorite of all the cats we have had. By a long way. He was the world's friendliest cat with a large fan club. Everyone who met him fell in love with him; who could not? We always said if he went missing we would have a huge list of suspects.

We changed our plans and went home Friday night. We had been planning a full weekend in London to celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary. Instead we had a quiet evening at home, then went to collect Oscar on Saturday morning using the same wooden Louis Latour box that we had used for his chum Oliver. We buried him at the top of the garden next to Oliver wrapped in an Egyptian cotton shawl that Mary bought on our honeymoon, along with a catnip Christmas sock that had been well slobbered on. I may not believe in an afterlife but it seemed the right thing to do.

Why was he such a lovable cat? Well all cats are characters but Oscar was a prince amongst cats and I loved him to bits. He brought both of us so much joy. When I was with him I would laugh a dozen times a day. His traits included:
• He loved crisps. He would tap you on the arm with a paw if you were eating some, but only full-fat crisps.
• Ditto chocolate.
• When you took your shoes off he would go and lie on them, usually with a paw down one.
• Boxes would be jumped into within seconds (but that he shared with most cats).
• Walking down the garden he would overtake you, stop and fall over to have his tummy tickled. If you kept walking he would do it all over again.
• He changed the way I dry myself getting out of the shower. I used to start at the top and work down but Oscar would wrap himself round my still wet legs and I would end up with damp fur round the ankles. Now I do my shins and calves first.
• He loved to be cradled like a babe in arms. This is not just me picking him up that way, the nurses at the vet's discovered this independently when he was last in overnight.

And that is how I last held him when I said farewell. It still hardly seems real.