Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Charlotte's Birthday

We had our friends John and Andrea visit for the weekend with their daughter Charlotte (aka Lottie) and my godson Julian. Our livers and stomachs have just about recovered.

Friday evening while John, Mary and I did gym, gym and yoga respectively Andrea fed the children so when we returned we could have a grown-ups' meal. We went Moroccan out of Arabesque by Claudia Roden. I did bastilla for starter and Mary did roast duck with apricot sauce for main. Then we cleaned the freezer out of ice cream for dessert.

Some quantity of wine was drunk and so, possibly, were we. Not that badly but we did not go to bed till 01:30 and so did not leap out of bed early the next day.

Saturday John spent a day of quality time with the children as he is working away from home at the moment. This enabled Andrea to spent some civilized, adult time with us.

Lunch was at the excellent Cinnamon Club on a top table special deal. Then off to the Peacock theatre to see Havana Rakatan. The girls agreed that the males dancers were "fit"; I claim I too have a six-pack it is just hidden under a protective layer :-( By the time we got home it was time to turn round straight away and go out for the evening meal.

As luck would have it China Boulevard were celebrating the Chinese New Year so we got entertainment with our food which the kids greatly enjoyed - couldn't have planned it better.

Sunday was Lottie's birthday so it was off to The Rainforst Cafe in central London. A subterranean themed restaurant and merchandising opportunity with animatronic animals in the foliage. Geared up for children during the day and, I suspect, adult group outings in the evenings if the number of cocktails on the menu was anything to go by. Been there once. Not sure if I would rush back again.

After our guests had left, Sunday evening was quiet recovery with a DVD and Friday leftovers. We have Harry Potter 1-5 but somehow had missed watching HP3. Now we are up to date and some of 4 and 5 make more sense now.

Monday, February 22, 2010

New Cats: Peaches and Blue

After Cleo passed (two years ago yesterday) we left it a while before considering getting another cat. Originally we decided we would not because of our plans to downshift and spend more time abroad. However that date has shifted to the right so we re-thought our plans.

We wanted to adopt a pair because they would be company for each other while we are out at work and we have a preference for Persians having had three of them. They are very home loving cats not given to wandering - important in an urban setting with a busy main road.

We went first to Battersea Dogs and Cats Home but they had few cats available for rehoming let alone pairs. They are in the middle of building a new cattery and a recent cat flu outbreak meant they had diverted incoming strays to their outstations.

We also checked out the Cats Protection League who had a pair of six month old kittens available for rehoming. We rushed down the next day to view them and while we were there had a look round and Mary fell in love with an older pair in the next pen.

Peaches and Blue at the Cat Protection League
Peaches and Blue at the Cat Protection League

All the rescue homes have trouble finding new owners for older cats but we were happy to take on a more mature pair they are 14 (Peaches) and 12 (Blue). In some ways they do remind us of a pastel version of Oscar and Oliver. But we still had to have the home visit...

Peaches at home
Peaches at home

I must say we were slightly apprehensive based on our friends' experience and I was not allowed to say anything until we had passed the test. One concern is the busy main road but we have high fences and older cats are less likely to go mountaineering over the wall.

Anyhow we passed the visit and if we were being assessed it was done very discreetly - more like a cosy chat on the perils of cat ownership but we are old hands. Having had the OK on the Friday evening we went down Sunday lunchtime to collect the 'monsters'.

Blue at home
Blue at home

They are still settling in but so far it seems to be going smoothly. The first 24 hours they hid in the darkest corners but now - a week later - they are out and about although still easily spooked. I am grooming Blue daily as she had a number of knots that the CPL had to have shaved off and I want to prevent reforming.

Time will, I am sure, see them settle in and become our new companion animals :-)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Wines of Zind Humbrecht at Planet of the Grapes

The Wines of Zind Humbrecht - Thursday 11th February 2010

On arrival - A selection of Dampierre Champagne;
Brut Grand Cuvee @ £30, Cuvee des Ambassadeurs 1er cru @ £36.50,
Cuvee des Ambassadeurs 1er cru Rose @ £41.50

1. "Zind" 2007 @ £19.00
2. Riesling "Heimbourg" 2007 @ £30.00
3. Riesling "Clos Windsbuhl" 2003 @ £37.50
4. Riesling "Herrenweg de Turckheim" 1988 (from magnum) N/A
5. Muscat "Herrenweg de Turckheim" 2007 @ £25.00
6. Pinot Gris "Calcaire" 2007 @ £22.00
7. Pinot Gris "Clos St.Urbain, Rangen de Thann" Grand Cru 2001 @ £68.50
8. Gewurztraminer "Clos Windsbuhl" 2007 @ £45.00
9. Gewurztraminer Vendage Tardive "Clos Windsbuhl" 2005 @ £37.50 per 375ml.

Another enjoyable wine tasting at Planet of the Grapes - indeed is there any other sort of wine tasting? I have been remiss on not blogging some previous tastings at POTG so let this be the start of a new leaf.

I am a great fan of ZH especially his Gewurtztramimer Herrenweg which I first met back in 1987-88. Later I worked in Basel, Switzerland, just over the border from Alsace and had a couple of very enjoyable visits with usual suspects John & Andrea.

In summary the stars of the evening were the Riesling "Clos Windsbuhl" and the Pinot Gris "Calcaire":

No 1 the Zind is made from Auxerrois, not one of the four noble grapes of Alsace (Gewurtztramimer, Reisling, Muscat, Pinot Gris), and so is only entitled to a Vin de Table appellation. Pleasant enough but not worth the money.

The three reislings were an interesting comparison.
No 2 was lovely - full of melon and tropical fruits on the nose and sweet with a restrained hint of petrol on the palette.
No 3 however was what 2 may mature into it - according to my notes "yummy" - and well worth the extra money for more flavour and bottle age.
No 4 had the classic petrol nose but IMHO had faded.

No 5 was enjoyable but annoyed me just because I could not put a name to the smell. Mary had "mushroom" and I had "gooseberry & Midori".

Nos 6 and 7 made an interesting contrast with the Calcaire being the one I preferred of the pair and at one third the price! According to the presenters there was 37gm of residual sugar but you never would have guessed it.

No 8 had a whopping 74gm of residual sugar and, fortunately like the others, had the complexity to prevent it from being syrup.

No 9 was a proper dessert wine with a real caramel / butterscotch finish. Gorgeous.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Culture vultures - three plays in three weeks

Last year we went to a lot of music gigs but, as far as I can recall, to the theatre only four times** - and some of those I did not even blog - tut! This year we have already nearly equalled that over the previous three weekends:
  • The Caretaker by Pinter at Trafalgar Studios (Sat 23-Jan-10). Jonathan Pryce was brilliant - like Ian McKellen in Waiting for Godot - he vanished inside the character so the character is all you saw. It made me marvel at the actors' art. Although I am not sure what is was about.
  • The Little Dog Laughed by Douglas Carter Beane at the Garrick (Sat 30-Jan-10). Not so this play which was explicitly about "why are there no openly gay leading men in Hollywood?". A question asked both movingly and entertainingly.
  • The Habit of Art by Alan Bennett at The Lyttleton (Mon 09-Feb-10). Another play that I was not sure what it was about - the Grauniad describes it as "a multi-levelled work that deals with sex, death, creativity, biography and much else besides". Full of Alan Bennett's laconic humour and dry wit. Disconcertingly the man next to me seemed to find it thigh-slappingly, guffaw-out-loud hilarious.
The joys of living in one of the great cities of the world :-)

Hamlet by William Shakespeare at the Novello Theatre (Thu 08-Jan-09)
October by Fiona Looney at the Olympia Theatre (Sat 14-Feb-09)
Where There's a Will by Georges Feydeau at The Rose Theatre (Sat 07-Feb-09)
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett at the Theatre Royal Haymarket (??)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck at The O2

London, UK. Saturday 13-February-2010. [Published 04-Feb-2023]

I can’t believe that I didn’t blog seeing the legendary Eric Clapton at the O2. Prompted by the recent passing of Jeff Beck I went to check when it was that I saw him and Eric in concert only to discover that I had not done a post at the time. So this is a very belated retro-post.

I’m sure I didn’t imagine it so I went and checked back in Facebook memories. First I found Jeff Beck supporting Van Morrison in 2016 [Van Morrison and Jeff Beck at The O2].

screen shot of facebook post

Going further back, I found a reference which implied that Mary had been twice: once with me and once with her friend Andrea but she has no idea why she did such a thing. I was at home on the second occasion with our two rescue cats, Peaches and Blue, that we had picked up that very day from the re-homing centre.

screen shot of facebook post

Further googling revealed that Eric and Jeff had in fact done two concerts on consecutive nights the 13th and 14th. So I went and checked back through my picture archive, hey presto! there was a photo from the 13th. I didn’t imagine it, I was there.

Full song list from revealed that Jeff went first, then Eric, then a joint set. Despite his reputation I was less familiar with Jeff Beck's music but the rest was much more familiar. A great evening with some classic songs and legendary guitar playing. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Helen Galashan get a gold medal

Mary's nieces switched from gymnastics to synchronised diving a couple of years ago and continue to do well in their new discipline.

Helen and Carol Galashan
Helen and Carol Galashan - Helen is the one on the... erm...

Galashan takes individual 10m title in Sheffield
Posted: Saturday 6th February 2010 | 21:05

EUROPEAN bronze medallist Helen Galashan took gold in the individual 10m on the second day of diving at the British Gas National Cup in Sheffield.

Her final dive secured 59.2 points to give her a total of 337.9 to top the podium ahead of Sarah Barrow in second and Brooke Graddon who finished third.

The 25-year-old, who specialises in the 10m synchro with her twin sister, went into the final ranked in fourth place and with little medal expectation.

"I am so shocked right now," said Galashan. "I came into this competition with no expectations or aims and it is so good to have won that gold. That is my best ever score and my Inward was a great way to start the competition. I have never scored nines on that dive before. I do prefer the synchro because it is with my sister so anything I do with my individual is a bonus for me."

Helen and Carol Galashan

Full story:

Thanks and apologies to the sites I borrowed the photos from.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Visiting May - February 2010

The usual monthly visit to the MIL in Scotland. Fly up Friday evening, get picked up from Glasgow airport by the BIL, borrow the SIL's car and drive down to May's. Then spend the weekend doing chauffeur duty and assorted DIY tasks.

This time it was replace a broken loo seat, install three sliding baskets on runners in the kitchen cabinets and glaze part of the shower cubicle with a sheet of Perspex (clear acrylic sheet).

May and Duncan

Sunday we went out to celebrate the birthday of an old family friend, Duncan. We went to Maccullum's of Troon right down by the harbour side and had an excellent meal with efficient and friendly staff. Googling the restaurant reveals lots of 5-star reviews and deservedly so; one to re-visit.

Then back late Sunday with a multi-part meal of snacks and wine, in the airport, on the plane and on the train. And so to bed.