Friday, March 31, 2006

Talk To The Hand

Mary does not like having her picture taken. If you looked at our holiday snaps you might be forgiven for thinking I travelled alone. Personally I am more of the Japanese Tourist school of photography. I like grinning pictures of me in front of famous monuments.

A couple of weeks ago we were in the local wine bar discussing the crap poor quality of the mobile phone built in camera. Mary remarked that these new phones allow you to associate a picture with a contact in your phone book. Quick as a flash I whipped out my phone to take a picture of SWMBO but Mary's anti-paparazzi circuits were faster.

So for the last two weeks whenever I get a call from Mary this is the image that pops up on my phone's screen:

Mary holding hand up to camera
Talk To The Hand

Street Life (Marathon Runners)

This week my cycle route to work has been littered with joggers, hundreds of them; they weren't there last week. You just *know* they have not been on a six-month, progressive training regimen. They all woke up last Sunday morning and went "Oh f**k it's the Marathon in four weeks! I better do some training."

Thursday, March 30, 2006

KGS Class of 71 Reunion Update

A change of date for the 2006 KGS Class of 71 Reunion. It will now be on Sunday 24-September-2006, probably somewhere at the University of Warwick from about 10:30 to 11:00. This has been occasioned by Richard Skelcey who will be in England again this September and so Dilys has arranged the gathering around a date he is available. Further updates when the venue is sorted out.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Family dining

Mary too had a tough week of "team building" so we segued easily, without breaking step, into a weekend of eating and drinking. Friday night was a repeat visit to the Food Room as we had promised ourselves after our last visit [Eye Contact Avoidance].

Saturday night was a return match for the "siblings-and-partners" meal we had at Jane&Pete's. A most successful evening helped by a fine menu and the best of wines:

• Caramelised Asparagus on a bed of rocket [US: Rucola] and parmesan [US: parmigiano] drizzled with balsamic vinegar
• Oven-baked halibut with fresh vegetables
• Fresh coconut and pineapple with margarita sorbet and toasted coconut ice cream
• Cheese board with two kinds of freshly baked bread

I wish I had time to type up the full recipes like Rosa who blogs a whole heap of recipes. Suffice it to say everything was home made, of course. The ice cream recipe started with a real, hairy coconut and a hammer...

Sunday was Mother's Day in the UK so we went down to my Mum&Dad's in Farnham. We took lunch (fish terrine and bits) with us so Mum did not have to cook. Unfortunately we had not listened to the radio nor switched on the TV for 48 hours and were blissfully unaware that the clocks had changed.

I got a call from Mum wondering what time we were planning to get there. We jumped in the car and headed off. Unfortunately, so it seemed, had half of South London: the Wandsworth Gyratory was not gyrating. It hardly whirls like a Dervish at the best of times but Sunday lunchtime on Mother's day it ground to a halt. The tailback was all the way up East Hill almost as far as the Huguenot church. We arrived somewhat late but then had a fine time chatting of this and that and an opportunity to hug Mum and tell her I loved her.

I have said it before and will say it again. If you can, if it's not too late, spend time with your family and tell them you love them.

Monday, March 27, 2006

A tail of two shirts

Purple seems to be the "in" colour at work. At last week's team progress meeting I was the only one not attired in some shade of purple or lilac. So Friday I went lunchtime shopping for a new shirt but ended up on the horns of a dilemma, torn between meanness and snobbery.

I could not bear to pay as much GBP 45 for a work shirt from Haines & Bonner whatever the quality(and anyway they were double cuff). Nor could I bear to pay as little as GBP 9.50 for an easy-iron shirt from M&S; at that price what thin quality could they possibly be?

So I went back to the office shirtless and the hunt continues.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Team Building Ancient and Modern

Like all couples Mary and I have evolved a private language. For example when we say "I'm out team building this evening" that is coded shorthand for "I am going out drinking and eating with a crowd from work, I may be some time. Eat without me and don't feel you have to wait up." This week I have been "team building" at different ends of the chronological spectrum.

Tuesday was meeting up with old friends from my time at BIS Applied Systems circa 1981 to 1986. We went to Jamie's Bar, Mansion House, the usual suspects were there: Dave Horth, Glen Saunders, Pete Sherwood (my Best Man) and Cosmo Wisniewski. We drank, we ate, we reminisced. A success for New Year's Resolution #4

Wednesday night was a team from my current client project. We went to Porters on my suggestion. It was ages since I went there but the recent reviews are still good. Whilst there it dawned on me that the last time I went there was, in fact, Saturday 23 October 1993: my stag night! Blimey, that was a while back.

My stag night, like Mary's hen night, was a meal with a crowd of around a dozen like-gendered friends. I can't be doing with all this "get completely bladdered and end up stark-b*ll*ck naked, handcuffed to the inter-city express to Edinburgh" rubbish. A relaxed evening with good company is more my style.

Mary's hen do was just down the road so, when they had finished, the girls all came and joined us in Porters for a last drink and then a gentle wobble home. A grand night out.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Helen Galashan placed 7th in the Beam

See "Women's Beam Results" Another fine result for the twins, Helen this time. The beam is the scariest event to watch, only four inches wide and hard to land on in both senses. The aerial shots make it clear what a narrow margin for error there is. Their events are over now so I guess they will being enjoying Melbourne and the Australian hospitality.

The newspaper did refer to them as identical twins. An easy mistake to make as they look very similar but they are in fact fraternal twins not monozygotic.

Street Life (Buskers)

Our buskers are getting more multi-cultural. Monday night I was serenaded past the IMAX by a didgeridoo and through the underpass by Scottish bagpipes. What next I wonder?

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A fine fish supper at Brady's

Considering we have lived round the corner from this award winning chippie* for nearly four years I am ashamed to say we have never dined there. Having the mother-in-law down from North of the Border was an excuse to push the boat out (TFIC) and treat her to a fish supper.

We went there last night; May had the Cod and chips, Mary and I had Gilt Bream. The fish were superb: fresh, delicious and simply grilled. No messing about with it, just letting the fish talk for itself. It was just like being at a seaside restaurant in Italy; ah, happy memories.

The chips were my favourite kind, not big fat chips but lots of small crisp and crunchy bits. Maybe they taste good because they hold more fat that way <grin>.

They are licensed with eight white wines and two red to chose from, we went for the Pinot Grigio at 13.75, a bit dry for my palette but pleasant enough. We will definitely be going back again.

* Brady's, 513 Old York Road, London, SW18 1TF. Tel: +44 (20) 8877 9599.

Carol Galashan placed 10th in Individual All Around

See the "Women's All-Around Final Results". And Helen is in the finals for the beam on Tuesday. I am most impressed as I never even represented my Infants School in the Egg and Spoon race let alone competed at the level of Planet Earth (Commonwealth Section).

Full results for "Carol Galashan".
Full results for "Helen Galashan".

First Minister Jack McConnell, in Melbourne with Helen and Carol Galashan

In my earlier post I mentioned an item in the Daily Record. It was Scotland's First Minister meeting the twins. The story was also used in a press release on the Scottish government website promoting Scotland's bid for the 20014 Games

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Street Life (Workman's Wit)

They are digging a hole in the pavement in Catherine Street, across the road from the Theatre Royal. It is surrounded by plastic barricades to which some crack-bottomed Oscar Wilde has attached a piece of paper bearing the legend:


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Jigsaws like buses

Nothing for ages then two come all at once. Yesterday the second of my recent eBay wins arrived in the post:
lid of jigsaw of thatched cottage, hampshire completed jigsaw of thatched cottage, hampshire

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that I have bid for and won two copies of the same jigsaw. This is because they are both of our home for the last twelve years Avon Cottage. To have a jigsaw of your own home, how cool is that! The second one I gave to May as a present. Not only as a souvenir and memento but she also does jigsaws.

Mind you Fran next door at "Thatched Eaves" is the subject of a 1000 piece jigsaw entitled "Cottage, Ibsley" that comes up on eBay about once a month. She must have a four foot high stack of them in her living room.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Galashan twins at the Commonwealth Games

Mary's twin nieces Helen Galashan and Carol Galashan are in the Scottish gymnastics Squad at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia. There was a good picture of them in yesterday's Daily Record unfortunately the website only has the words. There are pictures of them at

Check the BBC Commonwealth Games site for the latest news. Friday's events are the ones we will be watching

Monday, March 13, 2006

John Patient's 50th Birthday

Busy weekend which started on Friday with Dad's 81st birthday. When he hit seventy he said he was no longer interested in celebrating future birthdays, except maybe the big numbers (multiples of 5 and 10). No presents or cards. So we took him at his word and then he was disappointed when we didn't send a card on his 71st. Now we always send a card and sometimes, if we meet around that time, a little present.

Friday afternoon it was leave work early and off to Heathrow to pickup May, Mary's mum, who is down with us for ten days.

Saturday was off to St Albans by train to celebrate John's birthday in the Greek restaurant Anastasia (I would definitely recommend for a group night out). As expected we beat John there because he and a number of the guests had gone to the pub for a beer first.

A sociable crowd many of whom were strangers to me but, given they are all old friends of John's, were the sort of people happy to chat to whoever they sat next to. The "Question du Jour" was "How did you meet John?" which threw an interesting patchwork light on the jigsaw of his life.

Unfortunately we had to dash to catch the 22:30 train back home as we had May staying. Old friends Kate and Ian did the same for baby-sitting reasons which pleasantly extended our evening by an hour as we chatted all the way to Clapham junction where our paths diverged.

A most enjoyable evening. I must find out today how the next couple of hours went as the plan was more drink, a disco (the restaurant has a small dance floor) and toasting John's birthday at midnight as Sunday was the actual day.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Street Life (Pedestrian Chicken)

There is an ebb and flow in the tide of commuters over Waterloo bridge. Such is the fluid dynamics of crowds that a pattern emerges with north-south one side of the pavement and south-north the other.

Every now and again you get some contrarian who clings limpit-like to the parapet side forcing oncomers to swerve. Whether they do it through ignorance or malice I do not know. Whether they are oblivious to others or indifferent I neither know nor care.

This behaviour offends the over-compliant adapted child in me. So with malicious delight I out-limpit them, striding straight at them till they crack and are pried away from the bridge's edge. But then as my friend John said, I become the very thing I dislike. Oh, well!

I do not do this to tourists; I want them to enjoy their visit to this fine city.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Street Life (Salty Dog)

Any commuter in a big city will see the same homeless vagrants on a regular basis. My 20 minute walk from Waterloo to Drury Lane has at least three:

The guy who walks south over Waterloo bridge at the same time every day. He carries a briefcase but does not look like an office worker. He also carries a golfing umbrella, a rucksack and an unkempt beard. Yet there he is every day at the same time trudging the same route. Where is he going, what does he do, is he really a tramp?

Then there is the Big Issue seller at the south-west corner of the bridge. Also with a beard but more neatly trimmed. Always in the same spot. Seems very polite and reserved kind of chap. Occasionally chatting to his regulars. Always there come rain or shine.

Then a relative newcomer, with guitar, busking in the underpass sitting cross-legged under the third stanza of Eurydice (see "Orpheus on the Underground"). Last week he was playing something excellent (can't remember what) that prompted me to drop some loose change into his cap. Yesterday I could have sworn he was playing Salty Dog by Mississippi John Hurt. A fine song but an odd choice for a busker.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Update on the Hovel-in-the-Hills

"We went out for a nice Italian meal on Friday."
"Oh, where?"

These flying visits have settled into something of a routine. Leave work Friday midday and catch the train up to Stansted. Have a late lunch at the air-side seafood bar, smoked salmon and a glass of champagne, then fly Ryanair to Bari. Pick up the hire car and drive to Locorotondo, pick up the keys to the apartment and head straight to restaurant Centro Storico for a late supper and tucked up in bed by midnight.

Saturday we meet with Daniele the architect, survey the "progress", discuss a few items and then leave. This time literally a flying visit, we did a one way car hire back to Brindisi airport and back Saturday night. So we were actually in Italy for just 25 hours.

group of trulli and lamia
A view of our holiday home from the boundary

group of trulli
Bedroom trulli from the outside

interior of lamia
Lamia floor and walls almost complete

excavator digging
The driveway being levelled for the patio

Progress has been made on the lamia house, the floors have risen about nine inches since our last visit. This is due to the layered underfloor ventilation then heating then tiles. The walls are ready for the final plaster and whitewash. The roof-top terrace is also tiled and just the finishing touches to go. In two weeks the doors and windows are due, then final works can begin on the interior.

The driveway is being levelled for the patio and the new water cistern. The old one (behind the digger) is temporarily filled in as a safety measure and the new one will be in the same location but deeper and flush with the surface.

Danile reckons the building will be habitable by Easter, but there will still be groundworks, boundary walls, driveways, etc.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Orpheus on the Underground

This week, for various logistical reasons, I bought a weekly travelcard and have been commuting by public transport. As I crammed myself into the "self-herd" cattle truck that is the 08:12 Clapham Junction to Waterloo it reinforced why I prefer to cycle in.

I walk from Waterloo to Drury Lane which takes me down into the underpass by the IMAX where there is a poem on the wall passed by thousand of commuters every day. A fine poem it is too and a pleasure to read.

This week I finally Googled the poetess' name "Sue Hubbard" to discover the poem is titled Eurydice. Just knowing the name of the poem and the classical allusion implied therein added a whole new layer of meaning and appreciation for this work of art. A real "a-a-h!" moment.


I am not afraid as I descend,
step by step, leaving behind the salt wind
blowing up the corrugated river,

the damp city streets, their sodium glare
of rush-hour headlights pitted with pearls of rain;
for my eyes still reflect the half remembered moon.

Already your face recedes beneath the station clock,
a damp smudge among the shadows
mirrored in the train's wet glass,

will you forget me? Steel tracks lead you out
past cranes and crematoria,
boat yards and bike sheds, ruby shards

of roman glass and wolf-bone mummified in mud,
the rows of curtained windows like eyelids
heavy with sleep, to the city's green edge.

Now I stop my ears with wax, hold fast
the memory of the song you once whispered in my ear.
Its echoes tangle like briars in my thick hair.

You turned to look.
Second fly past like birds.
My hands grow cold. I am ice and cloud.

This path unravels.
Deep in hidden rooms filled with dust
and sour night-breath the lost city is sleeping.

Above the hurt sky is weeping,
soaked nightingales have ceased to sing.
Dusk has come early. I am drowning in blue.

I dream of a green garden
where the sun feathers my face
like your once eager kiss.

Soon, soon I will climb
from this blackened earth
into the diffident light.

Author: Sue Hubbard

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Walking in the Wild West End

Brother-in-law Pete's work brings him into his company's central London offices much more than it used to. Inspired by our move into the big city property market four years ago, for similar reasons, Jane&Pete have also decided to go for a pied-a-terre in London.

Not for them however the ex-local authority flat in multi-cultural, inner-city Wandsworth. No, they have gone right to the heart of the vibrant West End, in Soho, just a short stroll from Ronnie Scott's.

Sister Jane asked me to join her for an evening in the area of the proposed purchase to see how safe she would feel at night, check out the noise levels and general street scene. We met in Kettner's for a pre-prandial glass of champagne and then off to Soho Spice for a Time's "Eat out for a Tenner" deal where Mary joined us.

To get to the restaurant we passed the Admiral Duncan painted a vivid pink (bit of a clue in the colour scheme) and a shop selling mens' lingerie of a kind not found in M&S. Given that, according to the manager in the bar below the flat, the street is something of a gay icon Jane should feel safe as a woman in the area. It is an exciting area and I look forward to some sibling nights on the town and evenings of jazz at Ronnie Scott's.