Thursday, December 04, 2008

A weekend in Valencia

Some while back my Dad saw an item about the opera house in Valencia design by Santiago Calatrava. The end result was that we three siblings and Dad (and BIL Pete) went to Valencia for the weekend to visit the aforementioned building in the City of Arts and Sciences.

valencia - opera house
Valencia - opera house

The building, and the whole complex, was quite stunning. A building to rival the most dramatic in the world. It surpassed expectations; indeed the whole complex was quite extraordinary.

valencia - dolphinarium
Valencia - Dolphinarium

The whole of Saturday was basically spent at the complex. Admiring the buildings, a film at the IMAX and a dolphin show.

valencia - irish pub
Valencia - Irish pub

In between times we walked, talked, ate and drank. Saturday night we had a superb meal at Sagardi (brilliant restaurant, shame about the website).

valencia - Sagardi restaurant
Valencia - Sagardi restaurant

More pictures on Flickr:

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Valpolicella and Amarone Wine Tasting Dinner

Another enjoyable evening at Enoteca Turi in Putney. Guiseppi and Pam put on another of their regional wine dinners, this time from the Veneto.

My scrappy notes reveal that, for the Risotto course, I preferred the Ripasso to the Classico - no surprise there. However with the food my allegiances switched to the Classico. The Tedeschi amarone was so port like it was too powerful for the duck and would have made a better cheese accompaniment.

The prosecco was nicely Brut and the better for it than many other proseccos. I was surprised that they served a light red with the scallops - I think a white would have gone better; also it made the tasting a little heavy on the reds and a white there would have balanced it more.

As always Guiseppi gave a short talk on the region, its food and wines and a good time was had by all.

Venetian canapes
Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Doe Col Vetoraz

Cappesante alia veneziana con pasta, radicchio e fagioli
Seared scallop on fresh pasta, with bean sauce, radicchio and crispy pancetta
Bardolino DOC2006 Giovanna Tantini

Risotto al Valpolicella e salsiccia
Risotto with Valpolicella wine and luganega sausage
Valpolicella Ripasso Seccal DOC 2005 Nicolis
Valpolicella CIassico Superiore DOC 2001 Marion

Petto d'anatra con peverada e verza, gamba ripiena con peara e sedanorapa
Duck breast with peverada and Savoy cabbage, and stuffed leg with pear and celeriac
Amarone della Valpolicella DOC 2001 Allegrini
Amarone della Valpolicella "Monte Olmi" DOC2004 Tedeschi

Torta di cioccolato
Venetian chocolate cake
Recioto della Valpolicella Le Torade 2004 Ca' La Bionda


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Olive Harvest in Puglia

Not just any old olives but our own olives off our own trees. A quick Sunday afternoon harvest using equipment kindly lent to us by our neighbour Mino Maggi. In a couple of hours we managed to harvest about 35 kilo which should give us around 3 litres of extra virgin olive oil.

olive harvest 2008 - 1
The olives looking ripe

olive harvest 2008 - 2
Spreading the net

olive harvest 2008 - 3
Net, crate and rake

olive harvest 2008 - 4
Raking the olives off the branch

olive harvest 2008 - 5
The final haul
We dropped the crates round at Mino's and he will add them in to his crop for pressing. We'll collect our little contribution's output next visit.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Helene Darroze at The Connaught

Friday we went for one of those meals of which the Alitalia in-flight magazine rightly said to the effect of "you go for the experience and you do not look at the price". So it was with Pete and Amanda when we went to sample the delights of Helene Darroze at The Connaught.

The lady herself has twice been awarded two Michelin stars although I am not sure of this restaurant's current rating. Suffice it to say it was indeed an experience. The food was excellent but what struck us was that you could not move for flunkies. As soon as you wandered into the foyer someone would glide up to direct to you the loo even before you had a chance to look puzzled.

We went for the taster menu at GBP 95 per head but the wines bumped the total bill up to an obscene amount of money. The Condrieu was *absolutely* stunning; I wish I could afford to drink like that every day!

Ruinart Brut NV
Condrieu, Mathilde & Yves Gangloff '06
Faugères "Le Sonje de l'Abbé", Abbaye Sylva Plana. 2004
Banyuls but which? My notes grow hazy


in a black jelly, Gillardeau oyster tartare, veloute of haricots mais from Beam poured over the top

LE FOIE GRAS DE CANARD DES LANDES.. cooked "au torchon" with mild spices, Sollies fig chutney

cooked with chorizo and confit tomatoes, black and creamy "2006 vintage" Camaroli Acquarello rice, Reggiano parmesan foam

roasted with cepes and parmesan crust, pumpkin mousseline, Piedmont hazelnut infused chicken stock

spit roasted and flambeed "au capucin", grilled duck foie gras, Brussels sprouts, "retnette" apples and "chasselas de Moissac" grapes simmered in a jus of yellow wine from Arbois

LA FIGUE DE SOLLlES.. compote with a 10 years old Maury caramel, Greek yoghurt sorbet, crispy fruit and nut bread

LE CHOCOLAT SA MARA DE REPUBLlQUE DOMINICAINE.. cream and sorbet, crystallised orange tulle with citrus fruit sorbet, "poached prune, Armagnac sauce

Friday 14th November 2008 Dinner

Monday, November 17, 2008

Company Christmas Party '08

The taxman allows a company to spend up to GBP 150 per annum on work do's for the staff. Since Mary and I are the workforce we decided that the office Christmas party would be a "Right Bank Stars Dinner" organised by The Wine Society Dining Club. A fine evening with some fine wines:

The Wine Society Dining Club

Wednesday 12th November 2008 at 7.00pm

Guest Speaker Mr David Peppercorn

In the Chair Patrick Karney

The Painters' and Stainers' Hall, 9 Little Trinity Lane, London EC4V 2AD


Smoked Chicken & Woodland Mushroom Terrine
Red Onion & Mustard Seed Relish
Kalamati Olive Biscottini & Fresh Chervil Pluches

Selection of Warm Organic Rolls

Loin of Lamb with Pinenut Rosemary & Parmesan Crust
Fondant Potatoes
Primo Cabbage & Chatenay Carrots Cumberland Sauce

Selection of Cheeses

Individual Spiced Apple Charlottes
Florentine Biscuit with Butterscotch Ice Cream

Tea and Coffee
Selection of Indian Teas and Herbal Infusions
Richly Roasted Arabica Coffee
Chocloate Mints and Truffles


Boizel Champagne

Chablis Les Clos 1996 Drouhin

Chateau Canon 1985

La Fleur-Petrus 1995

Cheval Blanc 1993

Warre 1983

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Fifteenth Wedding Anniversary

Last weekend we went away to celebrate our fifteenth wedding anniversary (the actual day was Thu 30-Oct-08).

The first ten years we decided rather than buy each other presents we took it in turns to arrange mystery weekends away. For our tenth we went back to Egypt, our honeymoon destination. Since then we have made it a final trip to Italy to close down Trullo Azzurro.

Since fifteen years is more of a milestone Mary decided to reintroduce the mystery element. I was told to pack a bag, my passport and present myself at T2. It was only then that I knew our destination - standing at the Air Maroc check-in desk stating "Casablanca".

We *had* to have lunch in Rick's Cafe. The film may have been shot on a sound stage in Hollywood and this cafe was only opened recently but I don't care. I think is pretty cool to be able to say "I've dined in Rick's cafe in Casablanca". It is actually an old residence that has been tastefully renovated and converted into a restaurant.

casablanca: rick's cafe outside
Rick's Cafe outside

casablanca: rick's cafe inside
Rick's Cafe inside

Friday was mostly spent wandering around the city especially the souk and shopping areas.

casablanca: market pomegranates
Market pomegranates

casablanca: market olives
Market olives

Saturday was mostly spent wandering around the streets admiring the art deco architecture of which there is plenty, a legacy of the country's time as a French protectorate which brought with it European influences.

casablanca: art deco volubis hotel
Art deco Volubis Hotel

casablanca: art deco guynemer hotel
Art deco Guynemer Hotel

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Weekend of Culture

Last weekend was a weekend of culture.

Friday night we went to See "Love's Labours Lost" at The Rose Theatre in Kingston. An excellent production directed by Peter Hall. The costumes and set were particularly a visual delight. What the papers said:

"An absolute feast for the ear...Peter Bowles's Don Armado is a delight...a Shakespeare production of the highest calibre." The Guardian

"A production full of the ripe pleasures of a classic comedy" The London Paper

"William Chubb is both hilariously pompous and unexpectedly touching as the pedantic schoolmaster Holofernes, and Greg Haiste's Costard is a genuinely funny clown...this comedy may be demanding but it pays rich rewards." Telegraph

"An elegantly staged piece, and as with most Hall productions, beautifully spoken." What's On Stage

"Shakespeare as Shakespeare intended it." The Guardian

Saturday we went to a Festival New Orleans at The O2, mainly to see John Mooney. We saw his set and then went to eat at Los Iguanas. We sat outside and were able to watch Buckwheat Zydeco followed by Dr John from the comfort of our table. Excellent :-)

john mooney at the o2

We are really looking forward to next year's jazz fest. We are going over to New Orleans for The French Quarter Festival and the first weekend of the Jazz and Heritage Fesitval.

john mooney at the o2

Laissez les bon temps roulez!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Long time no blog

This is going to be to have to be a bit of a Portmanteau blog as it has been *shock, horror* over two weeks since I last put finger to keyboard...

Changing jobs: After four years and many contract extensions (I must have been doing something right) I finally left the client for whom I have been working since August '04. Odd feeling as it is the longest I have ever worked on any project, ever. Fortunately (in this current climate) I have picked up a new contract with one of the recipients of my former client's offerings - a veritable case of poacher turned gamekeeper.

My double crown fell off: A quick trip to Raj to have it temp-bonded back on revealed that the bone of the jaw underneath had healed so well that it had pushed up against the crown from below and eased it off the implants. So he got the technician to grind some porcelain off the underside of the bridge and popped it back on. It shows the wisdom of Raj using temporary cement - a deliberately designed point of failure to prevent stresses building up where they shouldn't.

Weekend in Scotland: Visiting the MIL as per usual. An opportunity to see Mary's sister and family as well as spend time with her Mum. This weekend Mary decided to kitchen cupboards needed a good clear out. Yellowing plastic containers out of the Ark and tins with a 'best before' date in the last century.

A week at home between contracts: Though not idle - I wish. General tidying and foutering and a visit to my Mum and Dad on Wednesday. Oh yes, and I painted the breakfast room and kitchen in my spare time.

Friday, October 10, 2008

London to Paris - Update

The final results are in. We have collected the last few dribbles of sponsorship money and just trickled over our target of GBP 1300 *each* set by The Stroke Association. I made 1,345 and Mary raised 1,445; a grand total of 2,790 pounds. Thank you to all our generous sponsors - family, friends and colleagues.

London to Paris team
London to Paris - The Team

Bhavesh sent us certificates and the team photo taken right at York House, the start of the ride. The total is standing at 57,000 so if everybody sends in their last remaining contributions it looks like we will hit the 60k mark. Yippee - well done us!

London to Paris certificate
London to Paris - My Certificate

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

We're not worthy, we're not worthy

I have known Catherine Bott since we were 5. We went to the same primary school. Now she is so famous she rates top slot in The Times birthday item above Brian de Palma and an ex-Governor of the Bank of England:

September 10, 2008
Birthdays: Catherine Bott

The soprano Catherine Bott says she is busy improving her organisational skills in what she describes as a portfolio career in singing and broadcasting. She presents The Early Music Show on Radio 3 and is preparing a duet recital programme, "almost a cabaret", with James Bowman. She is spending her birthday in Andalucia with her partner Stephen "enjoying a long lunch at our favourite local restaurant". Catherine Bott is 56 today. RGT

Other birthdays

Paul Cole, racehorse trainer, 67; Brian De Palma, film director, 68; Sir Bernard Feilden, architectural conservationist, 89; Lord George, Governor, Bank of England, 1993-2003, 70; Roger Uttley, international rugby player, 59.

She is even in Wikipedia:

Next time we meet I am going to have to have a Wayne's World moment.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Another dinner party in Italy

This time indoors.

We have had a number of DP's in Italy but they have been outdoor BBQ's of a more casual nature. Because of the weather this trip just gone, we planned an interior repast. We had our friends Andrea and Geraldine & Alasdair staying with us; Chris & John had their friends John & Linda staying with them.

Our table could really only take eight so a quick trip to Conforama yielded a half round glass topped table of just the right dimensions to squeeze Mary and I on the end. It worked so well we went back and bought a second one for the other end ready for our next big social event.

dinner party 2
Clockwise: Alasdair, Geraldine, Andrea, Chris, John, Linda, John

You can tell how well a dinner is going by the noise level. Out in the kitchen the decibels from the Italian-style multiple simultaneous conversations was deafening :-) We went on till one in the morning and quite a few bottles of wine were drunk including a couple of magnums of the block-buster Primitivo from Colavecchia.

dinner party 1
Left to Right: John, Mary, Linda, me, Alasdair, Geraldine, Chris

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Birthday Weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon

For my birthday we went to Stratford-upon-Avon to see an excellent production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Courtyard theatre.

On the Saturday we hired bikes and went out for a 40 mile cycle in glorious sunshine with stops for lunch at The Howard Arms (with a couple of pints of Hook Norton) and afternoon tea in a converted railway carriage.

I was amused by the pub's menu which warned "Fish may contain bones. Puddings contain calories".

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Madonna - Sweet and Sticky Tour

After the various cock-ups administrative errors of the Kylie concert (late boat, missed pre-drinks, tickets for different dates!) the corporate entertainment company arranged a compensation event: Madonna at Wembley.

Madonna Wembley Ticket
Now between you and me I wasn't exactly suffering Post traumatic stress disorder so I thought this was a gesture above and beyond the call of duty - but who am I to cavil.

The Chinese meal beforehand at Alisan was fine. Madge came on about 45m late at 9:00 and bashed out a fair number of greatest hits. Great to tick another cultural icon off the list but I have to say I think the visuals at Kylie's concerts, to supplement the dot on the stage, added greatly to the enjoyment of the spectacle.

Some of my colleagues had cameras so I will post a selection of photos later if I can.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

London to Paris - We Made It!

Worst: Puncture in the English rain

The first day and a half was horrible - wet and strong headwinds. Then it cleared up Friday afternoon and we were cycling through little country lanes in the sunshine thinking "this is why we love cycling". It stayed like that to the end. It was great fun and we had no serious after effects from the cycling although on day three I did have to resort to two pairs of lycra shorts - neither the saddle nor my bum had much padding!

Best: Rolling French roads in the sunshine
Day 1: London / Portsmouth72.6m6:16h11.6av
Day 2: Caen / Bernay60.3m4:38h13.0av
Day 3: Bernay / Paris 102.4m7:29h13.6av
Total: London / Paris235.3m18.23h12.8av
Team 1: the fastest

Mark and Mary at L'Arc de Triomphe


In total 40 people did the ride and the collective effort is expected to raise about £60K for The Stroke Association. Every extra donation helps.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Charity Dinner in aid of The Stroke Association

New local restaurant Perché has kindly agreed to host a special charity dinner for us on Thursday 18th September 2008. It is a win-win-win situation - people get a chance to try lots of their lovely food at a special price, we raise some money for the Stroke Association and Giovanni from Perché gets free advertising. Tonight we posted around 450 flyers into the houses all around the area - avoiding those with the "no junk mail" notices. Those poor people will miss out!

flyer for Charity Dinner in aid of The Stroke Association

Charity Dinner in aid of The Stroke Association.

Thursday 18 September 2008 at 8 pm.

Local Wandsworth couple Mark and Mary are cycling London to Paris in aid of The Stroke Association. Support their efforts and enjoy a chance to try some of Perché's fantastic dishes with a specially designed tasting menu.

Antipasti, trio of pasta, choice of lamb or sea bass (please specify when booking), dessert, coffee. £35 per person* including a £5 donation to The Stoke Association.
* does not include drinks or service.

Perché Restaurante Italiano, 3 Dolphin House, Smugglers Way, Wandsworth, SW18 1DE. Reservations required Tel: 020 8704 0888.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

London to Paris - Training 10

Last weekend was the last cycling according to the training plan. A short ride on Saturday and another on Sunday. The latter was in Richmond Park and as we entered the park the heavens opened, thunder, lightning and flash floods. After one circuit we were completely sodden so we said "s*d this for a game of soldiers" and went home.

My lightweight rain jacket was about as much use as a chocolate teapot which prompted me to go out and buy a top-of-the-range GoreTex jacket yesterday. Looking at the forecast for tomorrow we added waterproof overshoes to the shopping list :-(

Tonight was a pasta supper with tw other entrants, Lynn, and Dave who are staying with us tonight. Now it is off to bed.

Well that's it for the training - tomorrow it's the real thing.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

London to Paris - Training 09

Pump it up when you don't really need it.
Pump it up until you can feel it. *

We have been following the suggested training plan from The Stroke Association religiously thanks to Mary. Last Sunday morning before our BBQ we were out of the house at 07:40 to do 2 hours round Richmond Park before breakfast. Then the rides and gym during the week.

This weekend (Monday was a public holiday in the UK) we did 2, 3 and 5 hours - 30, 40 and 70 miles respectively. Cyling round the New Forest with fellow entrant Lynn it was a far more scenic ride that the environs of London. We were averaging 13-14 mph which we were pleased with, all the training has paid off. Honourable mention should go to Lynn who came with us on the latter two rides despite a raging sore throat which meant broken sleep and hardly any food.

A month back I treated us to a proper stirrup pump only to discover that my hand pumping had only inflated the tyres to about 3 bar (45 psi). At the recommended 6 bar (90 psi) for the hybrid it was like having cast iron tyres. You feel every bump and pot hole. On the road bike the pressure was 8 bar (120 psi)! Going over the cattle grid it was definitely as case of "Gentlemen please be upstanding" though Lynn said she quite enjoyed the rumble strips :-O

* Pump It Up - Elvis Costello

Saturday, August 16, 2008

London to Paris - Training 08

It's training Jim but not as we know it.

A small group of us met up for a drink in the Crusting Pipe in Covent Garden on Tuesday evening. John A Hartley, Bhav, Chris (mrtee), Chris (bluedee79), myself and Mary.

John and Bhav in the Crusting Pipe wine bar Chris (mrtee) and Chris (bluedee79) in the Crusting Pipe wine bar

We drank wine and talked of cycling stuff and a pleasant time was had by all.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

London to Paris - Training 07

The training continues unabated according to the plan(-ish).

Saturday we drove down to Bob and Lynn's for a barbeque. On the way we stopped for an hour and a half loop up and down the Test Valley in the <expletive deleted> rain. A delightful circuit we will do again but hopefully in more clement conditions.

Sunday we met up with fellow L2P'er AlisonP at Brockenhurst and preceeded to do 3 ½ hours round the forest - ably navigated by Lynn.

AlisonP, Mary, Lynn and Mark in the New Forest 1/2
Lunch at The Compasses, Winsor - AlisonP, Mary, Lynn and Mark

We did 48 to 50 miles but four cyclo-computers could not agree on the exact mileage. Alison would have done it faster but she very graciously waited for us three to catch up at appropriate junctions.

AlisonP, Lynn and Mary in the New Forest 2/2
Consulting the map at Buckler's Hard (no tittering at the back there!)

Cycling round the Forest roads made a very pleasant change from London streets.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Kylie at the the O2

As previously mentioned ("Kylie Minogue in a Red Latex Dress") I was due to see Kylie *twice* at the O2.

The first time was a team outing where we met at a bar beforehand, had a boat ride to the O2, a rushed meal, the concert, more drinks and another ride back to Westminster pier. I may have had a glass or two of champagne (hic!)

The second time was a more subdued affair. A relaxed meal with Mary at Las Iguanas, the concert and tube and train home. I saw more that time because my eyes were better at focusing :-)

What can I say. A true professional. La la la!

kylie at the O2 1/3

kylie at the O2 2/3

kylie at the O2 3/3

Loads more photos at:

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

London to Paris - Training 06

The plan was good - a ride on Sunday with the CTC South West London District Association Cheam & Morden Section. A seventy (70) mile ride at a leisurely average of 11 mph with breaks for elevenses, lunch and afternoon tea. Not so much about upping the speed but improving our endurance.

Cheam & Morden CTC
CTC Cheam & Morden Section

Unfortunately Mary's body refused to cooperate. For reasons we have not fully fathomed she was simply unable to keep up the pace following a brisk take off. After a few miles we told the others to go on without us and we devised our own circular 40 mile tour of various parts of Surrey (Epsom, Effingham, Ockham, Stoke D'Abernon, Cobham and back to Cheam).

One theory is that the new lower gear, higher cadence technique recommended by her trainer was too much without more practice. Another is simply that Mary was not eating enough to provide the energy she needed. She has been following the Weightwatchers' regimen since November and lost an impressive 19.5 lb (8.8 kg).

Weightwatchers allow points for exercise to add to your daily allowance. The website says a maximum of 4 exercise points per day can be traded for food which has limited the compenstion for all the cycling. Now we learn that any amount can be traded. Since that ride alone counted as 11 points, never mind all the earlier training runs, that means she could have been eating more all through the week. So despite eating a substantial breakfast full of slow release carbs to give her the energy for the ride she was running with a shortage of fuel.

Conversely today I had a very light lunch and on this evening's ride of 20 miles I was really struggling to keep up with Speedy Gonzales - Mary was doing 17-18 mph when I was struggling to do 15-16 mph.

A bigger breakfast tomorrow for me!!

Update: 08-Aug-08
Yesterday we cycled to work and back then switched from hybrids to roadbikes and on to Richmond Park for a couple of cicuits. Thanks to a big pasta lunch and a cereal bar before I set off from work I was able to keep up with SWMBO. Bit of a relief that :-)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The Dark Knight - a Haiku

Psycho Joker. Zap!
Conflicted hero. Kerpow!!
Greek tragedy. Oh.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

A show packed with interest

Dad had several paintings in Yvonne Arnaud Art 2008. This is the write up in the local paper:

A show packed with interest

A new look Yvonne Arnaud Art 2008 is getting the Guildford Summer Festival off to a flying start.

Many of the artists and sculptors are exhibiting for the first time this year in the 200-strong show that continues until July 24. The show, sponsored by Baker Tilly, features some leading British talents and includes photography.

The most striking exhibit, a mighty mirror-polished stainless steel sculpture by prestigious Surrey sculptor William Pye, takes centre stage in the foyer of the Yvonne Arnaud.

An arching tubular construction that appears to flow up and over it was inspired by the Narcissus myth. The bright reflections and fluid movement conjure a sense of magical watery depths.

All the other exhibits are on show in The Mill Studio, where a smaller harp-like silver sculpture by Pye is also on display.

Nearly all this year's exhibitors are newcomers to the annual exhibition, although they are, on the whole, established artists.

One of the few 'regulars' is Judith Gardner, whose delicately executed atmospheric landscapes are among the most memorable exhibits.

Using sensitive flecks, dashes and washes of the brush and employing a sensuous appreciation of colour, she invests each composition with a slightly dream-like sense of heightened perception. A central radiance lifts her homely view of a garden chair in a thicket of vegetation to a higher level.

Altogether more surreal but imbued with a similarly gentle and dream-like atmosphere, are a series of mixed media paintings by David Brayne.

One of the most eye-catching is The Dressing Gown, in which a leaning figure adrift in a boat casts a sparkling fishing net.

Shades of Surrealism also give additional pictorial momentum to a group of oil paintings by Michael McLellan which inhabit a theatrical landscape dotted with dramatic cut outs.

Also noteworthy in a show packed with interest. is Paul Newland. His eagle-eyed and crisply painted watercolour and Gouache view across the roof-tops of London is beautifully executed.

The exhibition is open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 7.30 pm.

Beatrice Phillpotts
Surrey Advertiser 11 July 2008

See also

Friday, August 01, 2008

London to Paris - Training 05

The training regimen is struggling to kick in fully. Last Sunday we were due to do a 3 hour ride with a group starting from Redhill. The plan was then to pop over to my sister in Reigate for afternoon tea. We put the bikes on the roof rack and drove down. Only one other person turned up and she was not the tour leader so after half an hour we gave up and devised our own 2 hour ride ending up at my sister's for lunch. Mum and Dad were there so that was bonus.

Tuesday night I was at the Kylie concert so Mary did a long route home via Hammersmith. Wednesday night Mary was in Birmingham so I did a circuit round Richmond Park. Even so we are not getting in the distance rides we need.

Last Thursday I also suffered a mishap on the way home. Little girl on edge of cycle path turned wheel of scooter, Mary braked, me too close behind, emergency stop!! Over the handle bars and chinned the pavement. Off to our GP surgery, as we were nearly home, who sent me to A&E at St Georges where they glued the cut together - better than stitches apparently - and sent me home. So a wasted evening and we didn't get to eat till about 10:30 by which time Pizza Express was the only restaurant in Old York Road who's kitchen staff hadn't packed up for the evening.

A week later all was healing nicely apart from my right hand where the swelling hadn't gone down as much as the other lumps and it was painful to open things (jars and doors). So I spent 3 hours this lunchtime first at a walk-in center then Barts getting an x-ray confirmation that nothing was actually broken.

xray of my right hand

You can see the wider space between the index and middle finger bones in the main body of the hand. That is where the tender muscles and stuff are. So pop some Ibuprofen and let nature take its course.

It has to be said that there may have been over 6 hours of sitting about in waiting rooms but I paid not a penny for any of it. The NHS is a great thing and deserves all the support it can get and some more beside.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Mamma Mia - a Haiku

Streep cheeps, Brosnan croaks
Moussaka meets classic pop
Toes tap, feel good fun.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Crystal Skull - a Haiku

Mr Stuffy over at Blog from the Barn has written a number of Haiku Movie Reviews. He has challenged me to do the same. Last week my sister and I went to to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Here is my review:

The Crystal Skull - a Haiku
Bad guys chase good guys
Alien MacGuffin skull
Enjoyable tosh

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Kylie Minogue - In Red Latex Dress (new version)

It so happens that I am due to see Kylie at the O2 arena twice in the next couple of weeks. The second is a surprise Mary arranged for me (such a thoughtful spouse) and the first is a team outing from work for getting the "Gung Ho Team of the Year" award. They were trying for Wimbledon but that was over budget. Give my knowledge of tennis can be written on the back of postage stamp I reckon I got the long straw :-)

This reminded me that many years ago I had an excellent lodger called Neil and he was enamoured of young Kylie. Shortly after he left South Wimbledon, en route to Canada via Romford, I sat myself down to watch TOTP one Thursday evening. Who should be the guest presenter but young Kylie wearing a skin tight (is there any other sort?) red latex dress.

Quick as a flash I popped a blank VHS tape into the machine and hit the emergency record button. After the show I put the tape into a Jiffy bag and posted it off to Neil never to be seen again.

That was back in 1995. With these imminent concerts in mind I thought, what the heck let's see what YouTube has to offer. Blow me down if some thoughtful soul hasn't taken a recording of that ancient show and spliced together all the Kylie bits:

Since we are on YouTube here another Kylie clip that the boys might like:

The back story on: Kylie Minogue for Agent Provocateur

Monday, July 21, 2008

London to Paris - Training 04

It is all getting a bite serious this training lark:

Thursday, July 17, 2008: Went over to Raynes Park and picked up my new bike from Bright Cycles. I decided to go for the same as Mary, a Specialized Roubaix Comp. Spent two hours there first trying out the frame size up to make sure I was happy with the 54 cm frame.

Then it was a case of fitting all the bits and bobs - pedals, lights, lock, cyclo-computer, new helmet, gloves, shoes and socks. All the add-ins added another 30 percent on top of the cost of the bike. But hey it is my new "company vehicle" under the "Cycle to Work Scheme" so the company pays (out of pre-tax profit, we reclaim the VAT and it is a tax-free benefit).

Friday, July 18, 2008: Cycled to work and then home via Hammersmith and Barnes(!) in a figure of eight circumnavigating the London Wetland Centre. An hour and a half fast pace ride.

Saturday, July 19, 2008: Cycled to Richmond Park. As soon as we were off public highways and into the park we swapped Mary's pedals for clip-ins so she could get used to them with less danger of being run over by a truck. A circuit of the park and home. An hour and a half hilly ride.

Sunday, July 20, 2008: Cycled to Farnham for lunch with my parents. We took a more direct route than last time - 40 miles - but it still took us a lot longer than we had hoped. Those hills are the problem. Mary had the clip-ins and had three topples over. The bruises are starting to emerge nicely. A *mumble* hour long ride.

Monday, July 21, 2008: An hour down the gym with Mary's personal trainer to get a set of exercises to improve my core stability. I fear the six-pack is some way off :-(

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Primitivo from Colavecchia

We are greatly indebted to our friends and neighbours Chris and John for all their help in getting to know the area in a way we cannot, not living there full time (yet). They have helped us sign up with the local council to pay our garbage tax for refuse collection and provided much useful local knowledge.

neighbours Chris and John
Chris and John

Key amongst this vital info is the existence of the Colavecchia cantina (just past Putignano and follow signs for Gioia del Colle). They make typical local wines and keep their overheads low by not bothering with bottling the stuff. Take along your own demi-john or 10 litre container(s) and get it filled direct from the tank!

tasting the prinitivo wine
Tasting direct from the "petrol pump"

Not only is it very quaffable wine - well made, gobs of fruit and a belter of a wine at 14 % - it cost a staggering EUR 1.10 a litre!! That is GBP 0.65 (USD 0.33) per bottle. So we bought 5 litres and bottled it ourselves when we got back to Trullo Azzurro.

buying the prinitivo wine in 10 litre containers

Sunday, July 13, 2008

London to Paris - Training 03

So we have been "off air" for two weeks in Puglia. Does that mean the training has let up? Exsqueeze me!

We have a couple of cheap and cheerful bikes in Italy bought from Conforama at Fasano - the superstore formerly known as Emmezeta. Top of their range which equates approximately to the bottom of any one else's, but they do the job.

We had packed our cycling shorts, we bought ourselves a couple of cycling helmets from the local bike shop and did a number of short runs to the local towns of Locorotondo and Cisternino.

Mark and Mary stand by their bikes in Puglia
Mark and Mary stand by their bikes in Puglia

Then the training plan suggested a 2 hour run on the flat. Looking around the Murgia hills of Puglia "flat" didn't really look like an option.

So we removed the quick release front wheels, stuffed the bikes into the back of the Fiat Punto and drove down to the coast. We parked up and did a two hour round trip from Savelletri to Monopli and back followed by a seafood pasta lunch at Rosa's with half a litre of white wine, a siesta and a sunbathe.

Somehow training in England won't be quite the same.

Monday, June 23, 2008

London to Paris - Training 02

Sunday morning it was another training ride for the L2P. We cycled over to Richmond Park to meet up with Chris (mrtee) for two and a half circuits of the park and home again.

Only 30 miles but hard work what with the hills and the b******d of a head wind. Still Mary likes to see the positive side "think of it as a thigh strengthening opportunity"!

Training in Richmond Park 02
Chris, Mary and Mark Training in Richmond Park

The park is Cycle City, you could not move for lads in Lycra whizzing round the Park. Personally I dislike Lycra, artificial fibres feels clammy and unpleasant to the skin. The last time I wore nylon shirts was as a geeky schoolboy, never since. Give me natural fibres any day.

Training in Richmond Park 01
Tame Deer in Richmond Park

There is so much human activity that the deer are pretty unfazed by it all, no run-away deer here.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hannington Hall

Another hectic weekend - is there any other sort? Straight from work to visit old friends Lorna and Carmichael.

Immediately after I finished college in '75 I stayed with L&C as their lodger whilst finding a job and as that happened to end up being with the local county council I stayed with them for the best part of three years.

Subsequently L&C moved to Switzerland then Canada and then inherited Hannington Hall from Lorna's Aunt Mary:

Hannington Hall

They are over in the UK for a six month sabbatical so we were able to meet up. We dined with them Friday evening and then on Saturday, between walks round the estate, met up with Carmichael's parents and other old acquaintances from Oxford.

Lunch in Hannington Hall

Saturday it was off to Brasserie Blanc in Winchester to meet slightly more recent friends for more eating and drinking. A late train back to Wandsworth Town and so to bed ready for our training session on Sunday morning...