Sunday, April 30, 2006

Four beds in four nights (2)

Like the last "Four beds in four nights" it is a busy few days. Friday was work at home at Avon cottage and doing decorating on the Saturday. Then back up to London for a meal out Saturday night. This evening it is off to Oxford for May morning celebrations at 6 o'clock tomorrow morning and tomorrow afternoon off to Zurich for three days business trip.

Yesterday Asher finished off the gardening work Nikki began two weeks ago (see "Bodges, we don't need no stinking bodges"

Shed (now green), flower bed (now planted up)

Old rose beds (now turfed over) by Asher (pushing wheelbarrow)

Friday, April 28, 2006

Cherish Plate Spotting

Cycling over Chelsea Bridge yesterday I spotted a van with the registration mark "NO 5". As I drew level I saw it was a Chanel company van. Unless it was fully laden the plate was probably worth more than the van.

This morning driving along the M27 I spotted "KOI 7777" which belonged to a supplier of tropical fish to the trade.

Checking out the DVLA Sale of Marks site I discover that "7 MSM" sold for GBP 10,600 in September 2003 and "M4 RKS" sold for GBP 11,800 in April 1999. All of which make GBP 499 for "MM52 MSM" seem like good value (see "Vanity thy name is MSM52").

Mind you a little more rummaging revealed that "1 A" sold for GBP 160,000 in December 1989 so that be worth a few bob now. But who, I want to know, has that kind of money to spend on a car number plate?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Mary and Mark enter Sponsored Bike Ride

Mary and I are doing the Thames Bridges Bike ride in aid of The Stroke Association: 14 bridges and 32 miles on Sunday 14-May-06. M & M Enterprises (that is us two for those who didn't know) will match the donations from sponsors (up to a maximum of £500 each).

Sponser Mark at

Sponsor Mary at

Donating through this site is simple, fast and totally secure. It is also the most efficient way to sponsor us: Stroke Association will receive your money faster and, if you are a UK taxpayer, an extra 28% in tax will be added to your gift at no cost to you.

So please sponsor us now!

Many thanks for your support.

For more on the Ride see

====== Update [28-April-06] =======
For anyone who is in the area we will be having a reviving beer at the Bell inn on Bell Road, East Molesey after the event - probably around 13:00. Hope to see you there.

Trulli Interior

As requested, a couple of shots of the interior. These are the two cones to the left of the courtyard in the previous post.

trulli dining room / kitchen
Trulli dining room / kitchen

trulli living room
Trulli living room

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Trulli Update for April 06

When we last visited in March [Update on Hovel in the Hills] Daniele said the second house would be ready by Easter. So we immediately rescheduled our holiday to June and planned a weekend instead. How prophetic we were.

The doors are on but inside is still the same shell. On the other hand the groundworks are looking good: we have a perimeter wall round the whole property, a drive and several sets of steps to transition between levels. The new cistern is dug and roofed and due to be lined and filled with water this week. Also the pizza oven restoration is well under way.

We have our first paying guests next week, a nominal sum only in return for being guinea pigs in a building site. As a result the weekend was spent sweeping out the rooms, wiping a fine layer of grey-green mould off all the furniture and sorting the contents of the storage boxes. Plus a trip to the local hyper-market for garden furniture and self-assembly wardrobes. Not the most relaxing weekend and we are not best pleased with Daniele's idea of "cleaned".

pizza oven before restoration
Pizza oven before restoration
Looking worse than it started!
pizza oven after restoration
Pizza oven after restoration
Well almost done.
front of trulli april 2006
Front of trulli april 2006
Drive cleared of rubble. Doors on the Lamia.
back of trulli april 2006
Back of trulli april 2006
Drive, steps up to the terrace and general back view.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Male Grooming Products

Friday's trip to Italy followed the usual routine: get "air-side" asap, have a late lunch of champagne and smoked salmon, then I guard the bags at the coffee shop whilst Mary does a tour of the emporia.

This time she returned with a Clinique Skin Care Starter Kit for men, four handy little travel-sized tubes in a zip-up bag. This to prevent me from acquiring the complexion of a wrinkled old saddle-bag like my father though I attribute that more to his life-long smoking habit than any dereliction of his skin-care regimen.

The contents: face scrub, liquid face wash, hydrating lotion and the curiously named "scruffing lotion". As if we boys weren't scruffy enough someone has gone to the trouble of developing a potion that will make us even scruffier! As Americans say "Go figure".

Monday, April 24, 2006

Bike Rage

I am suffering Blog-lag: this should have been Friday's post but work and an early finish to leave for Italy got in the way.

Twice on Thursday I had to shout at motorists, once on the way in and once on the way home. Both for the exact same manoeuvre: stopped at lights, lights change to green and off they go, *as* they turn the corner they put their indicator on. As a cyclist on their inside this makes for an exciting moment or two.

What is the point of that! They are supposed to signal BEFORE the manoeuvre not AFTER. That is why they are called INDICATORS to INDICATE their intention BEFORE they do it so other road users can ANTICIPATE their actions and plan accordingly. Indicating to let people know what you've just done is completely bl**dy pointless. What is wrong with these plonkers?

My breathlessness while cycling limits my ability to indulge in a burst of Shavian wit so I confine myself to simple statement of fact. "You're supposed so to signal before you turn not after" I scream at them through the windscreen and cycle off in a cloud of righteous indignation.

* FLAME ON/OFF are rant delimiters are recommended in RFC 1855 Netiquette Guidelines

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Chinese Fire Drill

Yesterday John and I took a stroll down to Gerrard Street in London's China Town to meet Andrea and their two children for lunch. As John and I approached Cambridge Circus I remarked that it was at that very set of red traffic lights I had seen two lads jump out, run round and round the car, then jump back in (at random) when the lights turned green.

"That", said John, "is what Americans call a 'Chinese Fire Drill'. You should ask Andrea". So, over the set lunch I did. Andrea revealed that not only was it a well known American custom but that she herself had indulged. Unfortunately she did not check first and, as she got round the back of the car, spotted the patrol car immediately behind: oops! Fined for improper pedestrian use of the highway - well I guess she was on foot at the time.

For more see:
The Mavens' Word of the Day
Chinese fire drill - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Don't worry Andrea, your secret is safe with me <grin>

Monday, April 17, 2006

Bodges, we don't need no stinking bodges

"Relaxing" and "Weekend" are two words not often found cheek by jowl in Mary's vocabulary and the Easter weekend was no exception. We took Thursday off work so we could get down to the cottage early avoiding the Easter weekend traffic jams.

Thursday afternoon was spent staining twenty floorboards in the garage and Friday was spent hauling them upstairs and nailing them in place in the loft. Doing which meant removing the rickety collection of planks, shelves, doors and bits of old furniture that had previously passed for temporary flooring. I didn't manage to fit all 20 in the day because I would insist on doing it neatly: there is a level of rough and ready craftsmanship below which I will not sink. I cannot bring myself to do a bodge job.

Saturday we had Nikki down for round two of the garden refurbishment started last year helped by Mary and local lad Asher. He and I sorted out the base of the summerhouse with some planks recycled from the loft and then proceeded to paint it green with the help of Nikki's kids Ben and Rowanna.

In the evening Bob&Lynne joined us for what was meant to be the first barbecue of the year but the rain put a damper on that so we dined indoors. We baked the meats and, instead of grilled vegetables, did some cous-cous at which Bob and I simultaneously said "Ah, the first cous-cous of spring".

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson

I have written previously of the challenges in naming our bike shed (see "Jabba the Shed". Now the problem has been solved, the inspiration has been found.

We decided we needed a second shed in which to store our garden furniture that we won at auction. So off we went to Homebase this week to order a second bike shed. Of their range it seemed the best size and shape to accommodate our wooden folding chairs.

So now we will have two identical sheds and then I remembered the old Monty Python sketch about Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson.

So I will be calling one shed "Arthur" and the other shed "Jackson". Excellent! <grin>

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Last Weekend

Completing the symmetry of The Lost Weekend here is last weekend:

Friday, 07 April 2006: Wine glasses

We had Siobhan&Paul round for a DP which was an excuse to crack open a bottle or two (or four) of our finest wines:
• Grosset Watervale Reisling 2002
• Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 1999
(roast asparagus, rocket, parmesan and balsamic vinegar)
• Cos d'Estournel 1990
(rack of lamb with herb crust)
• Cape Promise Private Reserve Noble Late Harvest Muscat / Chenin Blanc 2004
(mango lassi fool)
Of course that meant our finest glasses, the Riedel Vinum range. We couldn't really justify the hand blown Sommelier range. Different glasses for each wine, of course, which meant a pile of washing up on Saturday morning. These glasses do *not* go in the dishwasher, they get carefully washed and rinsed one at a time.

Saturday, 08 April 2006: Winchester dining

Saturday it was off to Winchester for supper at Barry&Sue's with Bob&Lynne. We went down by train and had a most enjoyable meal. At nine o'clock it was off to friends of Barry&Sue for more drinks at which point we wimped out, peeled off and caught the 21:18 back to London.

Sunday, 09 April 2006: A day of rest, again

Well mostly. A bit of DIY and micro gardening then the evening to relax.

Diary duty done again!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Harbinger of Spring

No, not Erigenia bulbosa but many others. One of the joys of a new garden is that you never know what is lurking under the soil and the first twelve months bring a series of surprises.

The first was last month when a whole host of snowdrops appeared in the lawn.

Next up the daffodils but they put on a pretty pathetic show, two in one corner and a lone daff in the other. Mary felt so sorry for them that last weekend she planted a few more to keep them company.

Then the tree in the front garden turned into a magnificent Tulip Magnolia with big pink flowers.

But yesterday Mary saw definitive proof that winter is over: a bloke on a scooter with a clipboard doing "The Knowledge". The Cabbie-in-training does not like the cold, wet weather so spring really is here.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Lost Weekend

Saturday night Lynne asked how come I hadn't blogged the previous weekend so here are the entries I would have written had not last week at work been so busy:

Friday, 31 March 2006: Movin' Out

Went to see "Movin' Out" at the Appollo Victoria with Mary's friend Andrea. The reviews I have read since reinforced my impression. If you had gone expecting a Billy Joel musical (with dancing) you might have been disappointed. If you went expecting a Twyla Tharpe ballet (with music) you would be in for an enjoyable evening.

The key to the production is, in my view, the song "We didn't start the fire" each stanza of which reflects a different decade (50's through 80's). That chronological backbone is the core around which Twyla weaves her characters' story though it reads better as a story of America than the characters' lives.

Saturday, 01 April 2006: Plummers Bistro

Saturday it was back down to the cottage for a bit more loft clearance followed by an evening with Bob&Lynne. We went to test out the new bistro in Ringwood High Street - Plummers (formerly Daisy Darling's Tea Rooms). Consensus view was not bad at all. The proprietor was working Front Of House and had a bit of a chat to us. Given the quality of the food and his attitude they deserve to do well (and might make The Old Cottage Restaurant look to its laurels).

Sunday, 02 April 2006: A day of rest

Well mostly. Back to London for a bit of DIY and micro gardening then the evening to relax.

Diary duty done!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The common cormorant (or shag)

Lays eggs inside a paper bag,
You follow the idea, no doubt?
It is to keep the lightning out.

But what these unobservant birds
Have never thought of, is that herds
Of wandering bears might come with buns
And steal the bags to hold the crumbs

Christopher Isherwood [wikipedia on Cormorants]

The last couple of days a whole flock of cormorants (at least I am reasonably sure that is what they are) have taken up residence on a set of pilings between Wandsworth and Battersea bridges. Makes a change from the common gull.

And they set off memories of this poem.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hole in the Head

Blackadder to Percy: "You are as much use to me as a hole in the head, an affliction with which you must be familiar, never having had a brain" *

Now is it just me? I can never get the earphones that come with mobile phones, walkmans and mp3 players to stay in my ears, they just fall out. How do other people manage?

My ears don't seem at all unusual or malformed but they are not perfectly circular like the earpieces. Perhaps all the people who work for these companies have perfectly circular ear-holes.

Do other people have more curly ear-flappy bits that hold them in? Or perhaps they have all done a bit of home surgery with a Black and Decker and a 12mm drill bit? The only ones that work for me are the in-ear type with rubber grommets on the end.

* Blackadder Insults. Another favorite from the same page: "We live in an age where illness and deformity are commonplace and yet, Ploppy, you are without a doubt the most repulsive individual I have ever met. I would shake your hand but I fear it would come off."

That page I found via See Here archive for 01-Nov-2005. See Here appears to have too much time on his hand.