Thursday, 30 June 2011

Supporting the cause

Over the course of last year, we got through 4 litre tins of olive oil - extra virgin obviously - and, due to the fact that the tins were more than slightly aesthetically pleasing, I drilled several drainage holes in the bottom of the tins, two hanging holes in the back, and handed them over to M, who duly layered them with polystyrene, compost, earth, plants and more earth.

She then handed them back to me to hang on the more miserable sections of fence outside our kitchen window.

Of course, this year our work has been rewarded with pretty flowers both hanging and growing upwards from our pretty tins and has enhanced our view whilst standing at the sink, no end.

I will post a picture of them asap.

Yes, I know that olive oil is a fat and needs to be treated with respect - I respect it, I really do, I'm an extremely slender chap, honest injuns - but one must remember my wife is Lebanese. Picture a small round bowl of houmous, spread expertly around the edges of aforementioned bowl, some whole chickpeas in the middle, swimming in quality, extra virgin olive oil, begging to be dipped into with some warm khobbez (Lebanese flat bread), or even regular pitta.


I like to think that the olive oil in our household is one of those products that needs to be a quality product, not just TomDickHarry oil, but good oil, tasty oil, a healthier oil.

Having said all that, even I appreciate that the oil pictured below is stronging it a bit on the affordability stakes. I picked up a bottle at a Fairtrade stall and enquired as to its' cost.

"The oil? Let me see .... hang on a minute ..." (the stall holder scans price list at this point and I, reading between the lines, thinks, hang on, looking up the price? Crumbs, she must not sell very much of it then!)

I was right.

"£8 and 60 pence, the oil".


Let me just have another quick look at the bottle to check the volume.

Yep, as I thought, it's just 500ml, so I make that seventeen pounds twenty a LITRE!!!!

Bloody hell!

M looked at me, already taking out her purse.

"You can't believe in a
cause and not be prepared to pay the price", she said, without a hint of malice, smiling as she paid the stall holder.

Ne'er a truer word spoken.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

L'artiste strikes again - part 1

Some of our neighbours were moving out last year (I'm pretty sure we didn't have anything to do with the fact that they were leaving a house they'd been in for 30 years and still loved the area - pretty sure), and the matriarch of the household was a teacher. She came over to give us a box of books that she thought our children might like; story books, history books, study books etc - most thoughtful.

Well, one book cover led to this chat, and another book led to that chat and before you could say JK Rowling, we were having a full blown "door-step" conversation. You know the ones I mean - you talk for about 15 minutes solid before realising that it might be more comfortable for all concerned if you actually invited your door-step guest in for a drink while you talk.

This offer is invariably met with a refusal and "no, no, I must get on, got loads to do," etc etc.

Although, thinking about it, we could have summat to do with them leaving and she plain couldn't stand being in our company on a more friendly basis?

Hmmm .....

Anyway, the talk turned from books, to schools, to school work, and how quickly one accumulates their offsprings exercise books and, most of all, the artwork your child has done while at school but brought home, either as a "gift", or just in order to clear out teachers' classroom.

Of course, I'm on both sides of the fence with this one - I understand the need for space in an inner city school, but also shudder at the thought of more A3 and A4 sheets of paper coming home with art of varying success sploshed across it.

I'm joking, natch - those early 'paintings' done for us by our children are so ridiculously precious, the Pollock copies - you know the type - and it is very, very difficult to store them and even harder to sort the wheat from the chaff, as it were.

You end up keeping it all.

However, thanks to the splinternet, I have decided that enough is enough - this was supposed to be a paperless society, so I am doing my bit, I am taking a stand, and you, oh faithful reader, wil benefit directly from my stand taking.

I know I offer up the occasional piece of brilliant artwork, mostly from Annabel it has to be said, such is her natural ability (I know, I'm crowing, I know, don't care neeva ...) but I have decided to make a big effort and get more of her work online so that;

a) you can enjoy it and

b) the pile of paper at the end of the dining table remains at a relatively constant height (of 4 feet).

I know, of course, that it might not be all that interesting for you, having what I think is great artwork hoisted upon you, but I tell myself that you could always just scroll past the bits you don't like until you get to something you do like.

But isn't that the way with all webpages?

Some of it might be scribble, some of it you might appreicate, might even like, but remember, all of it will have been done with passion, be it Annabel or Joseph (I'll credit them where necessary). It's Annabel's attention to detail that always 'gets' me. It's the fact that you can suddenly realise she hasn't said much for 45 minutes, sat at the table while you've been preparing veg', browning mince or 'sampling' the wine you'll be adding to your dish!

Hope you enjoy it, all of it.

And like I said, if you don't appreciate it, just scroll past it.

(Just don't let me know you don't like it!!!!)

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

"Oggy oggy oggy ......"

It would seem, that after 18 months of getting to know one another over a weekly piano lesson, my teacher has deemed me "safe" to go to the Royal Opera House under his name.

What's probably happened is that he thinks M is a safe bet and I will hopefully behave myself to some extent and, after much promising to get tickets for the opera, I finally broke my opera "cherry".

Have you been?

It's amazing, just as incredible as I'd always hoped. It was one of those wonderful spin-offs from something else you do in your life - in my case, pinao lessons - and something I'd been wanting to do for just as long but either;

a) couldn't afford to do it at the time or

b) was just too busy to organise doing it.

Anyway, I told M we had two tickets and to dig out her glad rags but, horror of horrors, she thought her Mum might appreciate it more than her and would I ask her to go with me??

Um .... ok then, heh heh .... I'll ask your Mum to go the opera with me, lol, I'm so happy!

I shouldn't mock though, because my monster-in-law is an opera aficionado, and was absolutely delighted at the news to visit one of her favourite places. She kindly loaned me a book which outlined the opera, what it was about, who sang which part and so on, and the "date" was set.

Having worked near to Covent Garden for years, I'd watched the ROH being built over many years and always thought it an amazing structure, but this time I was seeing it from the inside, for the first time. It was as elegant as I'd hoped, as opulent as I'd always thought it would be, and here I was, browsing around at the memorabilia in glass cabinets which once belonged to people I'd never heard of from a time long ago.

Fidelio was, my teacher (and the book) reliably informed me, that this was Beethoven's only opera and was "a perfect introduction".

I couldn't agree more - I really, truly enjoyed my evening and I'm pretty sure my monster-in-law did too. It was made all the sweeter by the fact that we were sitting in one hundred and sixty pound seats (each) for the vastly reduced sum of £15 (each).

Coupled with several M&S sandwiches bought earlier in the evening, it's what I call a bargain of an evening!

Well, I had to lower the tone slightly, didn't I??

Sunday, 19 June 2011

"More fly agaric, Vicar?"

Another occasion, another greeting card, this time por moi.

Of course, I knew the time would eventually come when the cards I received from 'mes enfants' ceased being the hand-made variety and came via Woolworths (RIP) or Clinton's.

To be fair, I did get a card from Annabel which had been made in class; it was draped in paper ribbons and had a Super Dad sticker on the front but scanning it would've squished the ribbons and I wasn't prepared to squish anything made my my daughter!

(NO, not even for you!)

She did put her name to my shop bought card however, the front of which made me chuckle, and to keep in line with previous years (and hopefully years to come), the card accompanied tea and toast in bed, plus a cuddle from them both.

It's great, because in the time it takes me to sit up (from feigning sleep in the horizontal), to finishing my tea and opening my present, I go from being the "best Dad in the world" to upsetting one or the other and am "selfish" or "horrible".

What I'm planning on doing next year, is buying myself the biggest china mug I can lay my hands on so that my tea drinking lasts just that little bit longer, thus eeking out my "best Dad in world" status.

I'll let you know how things go.

If you have children, Happy father's Day to you. If you don't, I hope you enjoyed your lie in!

Friday, 17 June 2011

It's a gift called Love

Now then, now then, goodness gracious me, as it 'appens, now then you sa-a-a-ay ......

I'm sat looking at what I have just typed - me, myself, personally, less than 30 seconds ago - but I still have no idea why I wrote the words uttered by Jimmy Saville OBE.

Oop, hang on, it's coming back to me .......

Nope, s'gone.

Let's move on.

Annabel's class performed their assembly this morning, and what a beautiful assembly it was too. Each class gives two assemblies per full term and each one has to project some kind of message, preferably of the 'loving' kind, be nice to each other, your neighbour etc.

She has been dutifully learning her lines for about a fortnight, and it was very lovely seeing her sat on a bench dressed as a frog.

The story was that an old badger had a dream, a dream that he was running through a beautiful shaded wood, strange that he was running as he hadn't been able to run for quite some time, and in his dream, he began to fall. He wasn't scared or hurt when he was falling; in fact, he felt very free.

The next morning, Fox announced to the other animals that Badger had "passed away in his sleep" (did they even know what that meant??). The various animals then discussed how Badger had helped them in a variety of ways.

Annabel's line was this; "I'm very good at skating, but I wouldn't have been as good as I am without Badger helping me. He took the time to hold my hand and show me how to skate without the fear of falling over. Watch me everyone".

The other animals then clapped as Annabel "skated" around them.

Other animals said that Badger helped them learn to use scissors to cut out stars that were joined at one corner. Others again, said he'd helped them learn a tricky number or letter.

You see?

Badger's gift to Annabel's Frog and all her friends in the forest was not a present wrapped in expensive paper, accompanied by a card. It was an invisible gift, the gift of Love. It was patience, it was thoughtfullness, it was giving his time, it was understanding.

Even after he was gone forever, the animals in the wood got together to speak of Badger's kindness, to speak of how good he had made them all feel, to remember his invisible gift.

So many times I forget to just listen to what my children are telling me. It can be something as simple as a picture in a book, "look Dad, look at this funny birdie in the tree!"

I seem to forget that whatever it is that I'm doing, it pales in comparison, to just look down and acknowledge their simple requests.

I wish I had the same attention to detail that Annabel has.

Then I'd be in the clear!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

Yes, and with this is mind, I thought I'd better get my bottom into gear and sort our house out. I like to think we keep our house clean on a fairly regular basis, but you know what it's like when you're expecting people around.

Lots and lots of people, that is.

You want the place super clean, you want it dust free, you want it sweet smelling, you want it ... well, you get the idea!

Sunday will be Joseph's first Holy Communion (as a general rule, I try to keep politics and religion off these pages, but as these pages are essentially a reference point for Joseph and Annabel when either, a) they're looking back when they're older, or b) I'm incapacitated, I feel the need to note down important goings on), and so I want the place to be looking sharp!

Well, I have to tell you that I thought I would clean the whole house in 1 day. what actually happened, was that I cleaned the kitchen and dining room in 8 hours (weep), and the front room and the hallway in .... wait for it ..... another 9 hours!!!

If I ever see another bottle of Pledge, I may hit you with it!!!

It'll be worth it though.

I'll let you know how things go (but I've already seen my son in his suit and he looks ..... well, I'm biased, of course, but he looks so handsome, so grown up ....... I think I'll put a hankie in my suit pocket now, just in case I forget on the day.

Y'know, when I was little, I thought that God lived in the rays of sunshine, like the pic below.

Circa 2003, Beirut, Lebanon.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

"We're in the money ..."

I like to think that I normally pop up on these pages just to discuss random bits and pieces. Yes, to inform you of this or that, yes, sometimes to brag about my children's exploits or achievements.

I like to think, however, that I don't usually (if ever) brag about my own goings on - please get in touch and correct me if I'm wrong!

But today, brag I must, for I am more than a little excited.

About a month ago, I received an email through my Flickr account. It read thus;


I work for a company called *****, supplying medical equipment to hospitals. The *************** in Kent is a customer of ours and we have recently begun an advertising campaign about our customers. I have seen a photo of yours (referenced above) which I think would be a really effective logo for this customer.

Is there anyway we would be able to use it for this purposes?

Many thanks


Well, many emails went back and forth over the next few weeks until, very recently, we finally agreed the finer details.

So, if I can just put bragging about not bragging aside for just one minute, I have been approached by an advertising company, asking to use one of MY photographs, in a marketing campaign for a certain sector of the NHS in the coming months!!

Yes, they paid me (not much, I admit), of course I said yes, and it feels great!

Perhaps you're wondering what amazing picture it is, what kind of picture gets chosen for advertising campaigns, the light, the angle, the close up, the subject etc.

Well, erm, this is it.

Yep, that's it.

No action shot, no clever lighting (apart from that amazing light reflecting off the clouds, that is), just a simple picture I took several years ago, on a trip to a farm in the Garden of England, several years ago.

So there.

If you haven't got your photographs, mundane or otherwise, uploaded to this marvellous entity we call the internet, then get 'em up there.

You never know where they might lead.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

MORE strawberries Dad????

I admit it, I usually don't plan all that much when it comes to the half term breaks. To be fair, we're usually all off together, as a family of four, so on the rare occasions when it's just three of us, I see it as a chance to let the kids sleep, doss about for a day or two, spend some time getting some of the (mountainous), pile of dirty washing down slightly (not to mention the ironing!!), and try to get in on the "dossing about" act myself as much as possible.

Well, not this half term, no sir-ee Bob, this half term is gonna be different!!

I actually used that most clever of resources, the inter-web thingy-m-jig, to look up stuff to do, although it has to be said, I do take full credit for coming up with the initial idea - I mostly used the 'web to get the postcodes for where I wanted to go!


It was all very carefully planned.

Day 1 was a rest day.

Day 2 was a ... erm ... rest day.

Day 3, ha-haaah, this was the first of our two excursions. First of all, we went to Garson's farm in Esher, Surrey. We've been picking fruit from this farm for the last 5 years and I've been making jam with that fruit for the last 4 years, including this one.

Dammit if strawberries aren't annoyingly tricky to get to 'set' into jam.

I know, I'm sure as a prolific maker of jam, you're sat bristling at your keyboard wondering whether or not to let me know what a half-wit I am, but save your strength, no need to tell me what I already know - it's just that I have trouble with jam.

It's either a bit too runny to be jam - so I've called it coulis (saddo) - or too thick, so I've labelled it "thick set". This was unnecessary though, as everyone I've "gifted" a jar to, informed me they needed a Kango concrete breaker to get into it!!

The sad thing is, if you can get into it, it's bloody tasty, honest guv'nor!!!

Anyway, this year, my son and daughter couldn't have been less interested in picking fruit, so while they held running races along the end of the fruit rows, I laboured away in the scorching sun (it really was damn hot).

2 kilo's of strawb's later and we were on our way out of there. Almost opposite the side turning to the farm, is the National Trust's Claremont Landscape garden.

We've been National Trust members for a while now, and I can only recommend that you too join - a family membership fee will work out cheaper than 3 visits to their numerous properties around our beautiful country, in some cases, only 2 properties.

That aside, the kids found their mojo's, and enjoyed more running around wooded areas, rolling down steep, grassy hills, and eating our picnic at the top of one of these hills, taking in a beautiful, picturesque view.

They were very, very tired at the end of this day out.

As was I.

Day 4 consisted of a trip to Esher again, but this time to their leisure centre swimming pool. I don't take the children swimming as often as I should, but boy-oh-boy, when I do take them , you know they're enjoying themselves!

Needless to say, when they went to bed, they slept ver-r-r-r-ry well.


Oh yeah, and when I figure out how to get the pictures from my 'phone transferred to my PC, I'll show you a lovely picture of our day out.

Until then ....... nothing!!!