Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bank Holiday Barbeque

Although Monday was a public holiday in the UK we actually held our barbeque on the Sunday. Mary was an absolute heroine, she did 99% of the preparation catering for an expected 32 guests. I hobbled about and did a little work that could be done sitting down like podding and skinning broad beans and skewering chicken yakatori.

It had been raining on and off all weekend but fortunately the rain held off during the afternoon and early evening. About 20 people turned up and the whole event went very well. The bread-maker and ice cream-maker had been working hard as well producing three different flavoured breads and four different ice creams all of which proved very popular.

A colleague and his wife did not turn up and I was sure that they had assumed the BBQ was on Monday. Sure enough they turned up 24 hours late and so we had a very pleasant impromptu dinner party with all the left-overs from Sunday.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Can you feel anything when I do this?

Well the operation seemed to go very smoothly. I was curiously not as apprehensive as I was expecting. In the anaesthetic room when they wired me up my pulse was only 51 and "shot up" to 60 when they inserted the canula into the crook of my elbow. The anaesthetist said "I'll just inject a little to start with" and that's the last I remem...

...when I woke I was rambling inchoherently like a complete and utter drunkard. I was having great tribble spooking and was definitely slurping my worms. G*d know what I was wittering on about but I think women's nostrils came into it somewhere!

Three hours of dozing was followed by several cups of tea and biscuits and a very late lunch at 5:00pm. Then at 8:30 I got a black cab home. They may be an iconic symbol of London Town but they have the suspension of an armoured troop carrier. I spent the entire journey home gripping the hand rail to minimise the jouncing about.

The post operative guidance is basically, "If it hurts stop doing it". I have some paracetamol and a pair of full length ambi-embolism stockings to wear for a week but I don't think white is really my colour.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Nipples to Knees

Apparently fashions change in medical procedures. Many years ago I had a summer job as a hospital porter. A-a-h the memories <pause, sigh, shake head to clear>. Anyway, a couple of times I had to assist one of the regulars prep a male patient. The slogan was "Nipples to Knees!" Dry shaving the aforementioned area with a disposable razor. I played no active part and presume my role was effectively that of chaperone.

It didn't look the most soothing of shaves so I had fully intended to do my own prep this evening, thank you very much, in a nice warm bath but according to the admissions clerk the modern way is clippers immediately pre-op. A quick Google shows this to be the case [1] [2] so I shall leave that to the experts.

Instead I shall concentrate on having a good, slow release, meal tonight as it is nil-by-mouth from midnight so that means no breakfast and who know when I shall be ready for my lunch.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Blood, Sweat and Tea

Real Life Adventures in an Inner-city Ambulance (Paperback) by my mate Tom Reynolds. Well, not really a mate but I did once buy him a beer in the Bell, Book and Candle.

The book, Blood, Sweat and Tea, is based on his blog Random Acts of Reality which is top of my blog reading. He has been doing all sorts of media interviews (mostly radio); here is one interview with Tom on the telly.

His blog is a gripping read about a real life job doing something of value. Not sure the same can be said of my desk-bound job. Read his blog and be reminded what a debt we to people like him in the ambulance service and get a fascinating insight into the (street) life of east London.

Well done Tom, congratulations on getting all the way to book form.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Rotting rodents

The Rat Catcher Vermin Control Officer did warn me that it might get a bit smelly - poisoning rats [There's a Rat in Mi Kitchen (2)]. How right he was! The breakfast room stinks something awful. Of course it might be the drains but my money is on a decomposing rat under the floorboards. Let's hope nature takes its course with alacrity as we have a houseful of guests at the weekend and I don't fancy having to prise up a floorboard to remove the putrid corpse, Yech!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Inguinal Hernia

Apparently hernia repairs are the single most common male operation in the UK with over 100,000 performed each year according to the BBC. On Friday I am about to become number 100,001.

Last Tuesday the GP confirmed my diagnosis (not difficult), last Friday I met the consultant surgeon and this Friday I go under the knife. The surgeon, John Scurr, seems to know his stuff and has a good firm handshake - just what you need to hold the scalpel steady.

I resisted telling him the old joke:
 "Doctor, will I be able to play the piano afterwards?"
 "Yes, I don't see why not."
 "That's funny, I couldn't before!"

We are having a barbeque on Sunday and Mary has made me promise that I won't go playing the invalid or offering to show people my scar. Spoilsport!

Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell

starring Tom Conti at the Garrick Theatre.

We went to the Saturday matinee with our friend Andrea. We met up at the Cork&Bottle - again - for a spot of lunch before going to the play. And the play was hilarious, I haven't laughed so much for ages. I was expecting amusing and entertaining but not Laugh Out Loud funny. Excellent, I highly recommend it. Go see it while you still can. They are only booking till 02 Sepetmber 2006.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sig Humour

I am surprised more people do not configure their email programs to include a .sig which gets appended to every posting, especially as it allows for a sig quote: "A maxim, quote, proverb, joke, or slogan embedded in one's sig block and intended to convey something of one's philosophical stance, pet peeves, or sense of humor."

For years mine was:
"There must be some kind of way out of here" said the joker to the thief
Now it is:
"You cannot change the past but you can shape the future"

Mary's used to be:
"Life is too short to drink bad wine"
Now it is:
"Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination." Oscar Wilde

Lurking on I have been amused by the following .sigs:

"I see a web site and I want to paint it #000000"
"I am a man of many parts, unfortunately some of them are out of stock"
"Keep your friends close by and your enemies in a hole in the ground lined with pointy sticks"
"I can take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once."
"I want to die like my grandfather, peacefully in his sleep, not like his passengers, screaming in terror"

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Trullo Azzuro goes public

We decided the property formerly known as Hovel-in-the-Hills™ is finished enough to be fit for renting. So we have signed up with and gone public. Now would-be holiday makers can read all about it, check availability and prices and request bookings. Roll up, roll up!

Beautifully restored trullo in delightful, secluded valley
[follow this link for full details]

A beautiful trullo, lovingly restored by the owners to a very high standard, employing traditional methods and materials to retain the character of this magical property.

It has 4 large cones constituting a living room with two sofas, 1 double bedroom, 1 twin bedded room, a kitchen / dining room and a smaller cone containing the bathroom.

The property is surrounded by a garden with olive and fig trees, and an enclosed south-facing courtyard paved with traditional old stones (chianchi). The courtyard has sun loungers for relaxing; a barbeque, garden table and chairs for al fresco dining and an external pizza oven for would-be chefs.

It is situated on the west facing slope of a delightfully quiet valley with wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. An ideal place for relaxing away from it all, whilst being ideally located for exploring the sights of Puglia.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Traffic Light Meals

Last Tuesday I caught the train straight from work down to Farnborough for a Nepalese meal. I met up with Bob Carlsen, my old boss from CSC, in the Gurkha Palace together with four other ex-colleagues. The company was fine as was the food. Well, flavour wise it was fine but visually it was very monchrome, very beige: rice, naan and an assortment of curries all in shades of brown. Colour is important in food presentation.

Years ago, when I was single, I would veg out on a Sunday morning watching the OU. One time there was this Fine Arts lecturer explaining how Constable would always use a small dot of red somewhere in his pictures; in "Flatford Mill" it is on the headband of the horse. Even a small dash of contrasting colour can bring vivacity to a visual image. If you ever get your portrait drawn by a street artist notice how they often apply a dot of white in each eye to give the face more life.

Making the connection, like you do, I realised this is the purpose of the garnish on a plate. I had never been able to see the point of embellishing, say, a starter of toast and pate with two scraps of lettuce and a quarter tomato; not much in the way of nourishment there but of course it is meant as a feast for the eyes.

More specifically an easy way to give your meals visual appeal is to adopt a traffic light scheme: red, amber, green. Not always literally, the place of red might be taken by brown grilled meat and the amber might be a white slice of mozarella; adapt the basic schema to the meal in mind.

For example my meal last week at the Cork&Bottle was grilled giant prawns (red) on a bed of salad (green) and it needed the slice of lemon to give the dish the amber lift. Likewises Kylie's sausage (red) and chips (amber) needed the tomato to give it the red boost.

Two out of three just and something is missing. That is why red (bell) peppers and tomatoes are so useful; carrots also can play red or amber depending on the rest of the plate. Of course some meals are there already like "insalata tricolore" - tomato, mozzarella and basil or the panzanella Mary made at the weekend.

[Panzanella recipe from BBC Good Food]

Thursday, August 10, 2006

My Rig May Be Old

But That Don't Mean She's Slow *

Two weekends ago when we were down at the cottage I brought my old Claude Butler back up to London. I bought it 28 years ago and it was second hand then. And yet again I chopped a chunk off my commute time. The 6.8 miles (10.9km) normally takes 38 minutes but twice this last fortnight I have done it in 29 minutes.

I think the Specialised Crossroads Comp may be going out to Italy as a holiday bike.

* Six Days on the Road by Taj Mahal

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Hectic Social Life

One advantage of working in the UK full time is that I now have a social life Monday through Thursday. The disadvantage is that I now have a social life Monday through Thursday; it is a good life if you don't weaken!

Brasil Brasileiro at Sadlers Wells: on Thursday with Pete&Amanda. A meal beforehand followed by a performance of energetic and athletic music and dance. A classic case of "equal ogling opportunities" with six-packs for the benefit of the girls and skimpy, clinging outfits for the benefit of the boys.

Girl posse at Avon Cottage: on Friday we had four of Mary's ex-colleagues, from when she used to work at the bank, down at the cottage: Christine, Caroline, Andrea and Elaine. Dinner at the pub next door was followed by nattering till 2am.

BBQ at Bob&Lynn's: this event is an annual feature of our social calendar. Much eating and drinking but I left early because of concerns for the cat thus saving me from any unseemly exhibitions of wittering.

Cat feeding at midnight: Kate&Ian very kindly gave me a lift home to London, leaving the girls down at the cottage. Fed Cleo some fresh tuna and fell into bed.

Web site design at home: Being on my own on Sunday gave me a chance to update the website we have set up for marketing the Hovel in the Hills™. Obviously we cannot call it that so we have a working title of "Trulli Azzuro" after the blues skies and matching doors. See Booking from 2007.

Vets at dawn: Monday and Cleo was the first patient as the vets opened. Emma reassured me that the weight loss, reduced appetite and increased drinking are typical of hyper thyroid-ism which we know Cleo has. Last year we switched from Neo-mercazole to Felimazole and we may still need to adjust the dosage.

Fran&Kylie at Cork&Bottle: A couple of weeks ago we bumped into another ex-college of Mary's who we had not seen for about six years so we arranged to meet again and catch up. Fran is a dancer see Google for more. Another Monday evening of eating and drinking.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Pretty Woman

Tuesday evening the conversation ranged far and wide, as always at a McLellan family gathering. Somehow we got to the topic that Ian had first pointed out for me the parallels between E.T. (the movie) and the crucifixion and the resurrection (The Bible). ET died and darkness came over the land. He came back to life and was taken up into heaven. It is left as an exercise for the viewer to re-view the film wearing "New Testament Glasses".

Wednesday evening I was home alone while Mary was out "team-building" with colleagues from work. So I had a quiet evening in with the cat on my lap and watched the recently acquired, 15th anniversary edition of Pretty Woman, the movie for which Mary famously coined the phrase "Equal Ogling Opportunity".

Now, despite IMDB reckoning it is based on La Traviata (as that is the opera they go to) my money is on Cinderella. For goodness sake they even have one character exclaim "Cinde-f**kin'-rella, that's who!". Look at the evidence:

• Richard is the prince
• the two Rodeo Drive shop assistants are the wicked step-sisters
• the bell-hop is Buttons
• the lotus / limo / lear jet is the coach (take your pick)
• the Hotel Manager is the Fairy Godmother (brilliantly under-played by Hector Elizondo)
• she gets to go to the ball (Opera)
• she gets the handsome Prince and they live happily ever after

There is even a nod to Rapunzel in the very last scene. I rest my case Mi'Lud!

Next week I shall explain the parallels between David Lynch's "Dune" and Rennaisance Italy.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Exhibition Planning

One thing I like about London is being close to things. Yesterday I was able to cycle home, as most days. Then off to my brother's, again, only 17 minutes on the train from Wandsworth Town to St Margarets, half an hour door to door.

Mum and Dad had driven up for the evening so we could do some planning for his exhibition at Wolfson College, Oxford in October [Michael McLellan limited edition prints].

Nephew Mike works in the Media; how vague and grand that sounds, just don't inquire too deeply. Brother Ian is in Publishing; he *is* Arcturus Publishing, have a look at their catalogue [pdf]. So Mike is doing all the graphic design work for the catalogue, poster and postcard, Ian will organise the printing. The whole family is mucking for the general logistics of wrapping and hanging.

I was trying to convince Dad to 'up' the price of the originals as I think he is selling himself short but he was adamant. At least he did agree to adding a little bit (5%-ish) to stop the prices being too rounded and "bland". To my mind 315 is somehow more convincing than 300, for example.

Instead we will drop the price of the prints as one needs to maintain a reasonable differential between originals and prints. Not that I care much about losing margin, it is not about making a profit it is about getting Dad's art better known / more available.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

There's a rat in mi kitchen (2)

Unlike the last rat which expired tidily in the dustbin [There's a rat in mi kitchen (1)] this rat is very much alive and living under my floor boards. I spotted him last week scuttling in through a broken airbrick giving access to the sub-floor void at the front of the house. This would explain the damp, musty smell we had noticed in the cellar.

Fortunately Wandsworth provide a free pest control service for rats in private dwellings. The Rat Catcher Vermin Control Officer was of the opinion that there was a whole family of them judging by the patter of tiny footprints in the dust. So he laid a bait box down and stuffed a heap of bait sticks through the airbrick using his bare hands.

He did mention that he tended to bleed profusely if cut but what can he expect if he handles anti-coagulants without gloves - silly man!