A series of anecdotes with or without any connection to the running of a restaurant.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A great walk...

After her Cyber Walk GG tagged me to do describe a walk of my own. So here goes.

While there are many marked walks around us, I prefer to walk around in cities. I have had some amazing walks in London, Paris, Algiers, Rome, Murcia...
But one of the cities where I love to walk most is Edinburgh.

Edinburgh was the first city I saw when I came to study in Britain. It was love at first sight. I return there several times a year.

The walk starts at Waverley Station. Sometimes I drive up but I often go there by train leaving my car at Durham station.

During the Festival in August, Edinburgh's population grows by ONE MILLION! So, as I come out of the Station, I feel I have landed in Europe. French mingles with Spanish, Italian and German, while the American accent pops up every few yards. I turn left. In front of my eyes lies the most popular thoroughfare in Scotland, Princes Street.
I walk for one hundred yards, past the Waverley Centre with its cafes, fashion and curiosity shops. At the lights I turn left. In the distance, Edinburgh Castle stands proudly on its massive rock, overlooking the city as far as the Firth of Forth.
Below ground trains roar past on their way to Glasgow and the North as I head for Cockburn Street. I will always remember my Scottish-Italian friend Rafaelle who laughed when I told him, in 1976 that I had bought a pair of jeans from "Cock" Burn Street. I had only been learning English for a few months.
Nowadays the steep and winding Cockburn Street is peppered with trendy shops, cafés and bars. My favourite is ... a trendy wine bar that serve trendy food from behind a very busy bar. Ecco Vino.

This street comes to an end where the High Street begins. It is also called The Royal Mile, because there is one approximately one mile between the Castle and Holyrood Palace.
During the Festival, the Royal Mile is turned into a huge outdoor stage with acts showing snippets of the performances they would be giving throughout the city.
Flashes go off every second. Camcorders come in every shape and size. The tiniest ones in Japanese hands.
As I walk up the street, I am handed postcards and posters advertising bands, plays, comedy, etc... Most of them will end up in rubbish bins or forgotten in cafés.
The terrace of the Bean and Grape Café beckons. I do not need to order anything.
A few minutes after I have sat down, a beautiful espresso is placed on my table by my cousin, the owner!
We sit and watch the world go by. Edinburgh Photos
Who would like to go for walk and where?

1-Kingston Girl in North Yorkshire
2-Wandering Woman in Ireland

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Small Cherry Tale...

Yesterday afternoon, I was having my usual afternoon meal at 4.30 before returning to work .
Karen had made a delicious dish of Lasagne. Evie was sat across the kitchen table from me tucking into hers while Alex was playing with his toys.

Contrary to Karen's strict regulations I had my laptop on the kitchen table. My excuse was the presence of the decorator in the other rooms.
Once I finished my Lasagna, while nibbling on a crispy salad, I logged on. (I love my wireless connection!)
I checked my blogger friends new posts and came across Labrat's Small Cherry Tale
I decided to read it to our Evie.
I shouted for Alex but he darted past us, through the utility to the toilet shouting: "I need the loo, I need the loo!" The 6-year old devil usually leaves it the last minute!
So I began reading.
Evie was spellbound.
Every now and then the storytelling was interrupted by Alex's singing and straining on the toilet. I got up, closed the door and continued.

When I came to the end of this beautiful story, Evie said: "Is there another one, is there another one?"
I said that was the only story of the day.

Later on, I commented on Labrat's blog about Evie's afternoon experience.
"Just read the story to our Evie. She loved it so much she asked: "Is there any more?"And the illustration is so beautiful! "
Our dear friend Ldahl replied:
"Cream, :) :) :) Made my day!!! Hugs to Evie!! email me your street addie and I'll send her one of the sketches I made for the cherry elf. Thank you for my happy day:)"

I am sure that when Evie opens her presents on Christmas Day she will remember the Cherry Tree Tale and cherish the gift!

Once again, Ldahl thank you very much for your amazing gift!
The Spirit of Christmas has already arrived!

Below is Evie's Card gallery:

Monday, November 28, 2005


Along with my dream of becoming a clown, came the one about becoming a cartoonist.
When I was at Algiers Uni, I ran a Monthly magazine whose total staff count was ONE! Moi, from start to finish...
I designed the cover, wrote all the articles and jokes, compiled a crossword, typed, printed, stapled and distributed it!

It lasted two months! My computer studies got in the way!

Nowadays, I doodle...Even during my Monday watercolour class, I prefer doodling.

In July I discovered Vit's Blog and her use of Corel Painter, I thought my cartoons would get better. Wrong!
I bought the program and a cheap tablet and after a few attempts, I got sick of drawing. Especially when the tablet died on me!

This morning, I hinted to Karen:
"For Christmas, I would really love a Wacom A4 Tablet!"
"Well, I said I didn't want anything usual this Christmas...!"
"Since when do you get any usual presents?"
"You see, most of the unusual presents I get for Christmas are still boxed at the bottom of the wardrobe!"
"You did insist on stuff other than socks, gloves, chocolates or alcohol. It is not my fault if your staff got you a toilet roll holder-radio last year and a shower radio the year before!"

"Alright, alright...Anyway, this year, I'd like the tablet and that's all I want."

"I think I need a dozen tablets listening to you... headache tablets!" and she stormed upstairs to bin last Christmas' presents.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Navel what?

I came to Britain to study Naval Architecture.
When I mention this to people, they either laugh out loud or just look at me quizzically while trying to decide whether I have just told them some kind of obscure joke.

"Navel what?"
"But Algeria is all desert!"
"Ah, camels, ships of the desert?"

I smugly climb on my little folding stool, and with a lot of gesturing, pointing, sketching, etc... I begin to explain that, although Algeria is indeed made up mostly of fine Saharan sand, its sandy coastline stretches 998 km from Tunisia on the East to Morocco on the West.

From the 17th to the 19th century, its Ottoman-backed Barbary Coast pirates led by the ruthless Barbarossa and other bucaneers roamed the Mediterranean, plundering passing shipping no matter where it came from or where it was heading.

So, as I climb down and fold my stool after a short two-hour History-Geography lecture, the stunned listeners are ready to call me Captain or Admiral!

After two years I gave up on my serious attempts to get to the bottom of this slowly-dying profession. Naval Architecture now belongs, along with everything else to Asian computer whizzkids.

I left to spend a year oiling ship generators around the Med and Africa, discovering lands, beyond the tourist trail and modest means. Places like Liberia, Kenya, Madagascar, etc...

Rather than stretching this post to boring lengths, I will look for my old, wrinkled diary to include bits from that year on the ocean waves in future blog entries.

Watch this space.

The above picture is that of a play ship taken on snowy Friday morning from one of the restaurants' windows. I once climbed to the crow's nest...No kidding, it was great!
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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Papa's Midnight Watch...

Last night GG asked about my Papa. I said that I would be calling him this morning and I did.
After the usual waffle about the weather, he gave us both one of the best laughs in ages.

Ever since he retired as an ambulance driver, after my dear mother passed away, he began devoting his spare time to the mosque.
My father is the kind of person every human being should be. Worship inside your heart, be honest, love everyone and do not judge. He has never, ever forced me to follow Islam. I have had my own opinion about religions ever since I can remember but this is not the time to expand on the subject. Maybe another time, another post.

At around the tender age of 75, he began being trusted to open up the mosque in the morning for the early prayer. Then, he slowly edged his way up to top of the minaret until he was given the chance to call the faithful to prayer a few mornings a week.
Last year, while on holiday in my hometown, I suddenly woke up to Papa shouting in my ear: "Prayer is better than sleep!" I realised he was half a mile away at the top of the minaret, blaring through a crackling Tannoy. I went back to sleep while he cleared his 85 year-old throat for another verse.

When I called this morning he recounted, in between bouts of laughter that, two weeks ago, he got up as he usually did, got washed and changed before heading for the mosque.
He checked his watch, tuned his vocal cords and began chanting.
A flashing blue light appeared and the local policeman hurried up the minaret to tell Papa that he was two hours too early calling the faithful to their first prayer of the day!
Papa checked his watch, lowered his head and went home back to bed, vowing never to open up again.

We laughed so much that the international operator insisted she would not charge me for the call if I translated the joke.

GG, thank you for reminding me to ring Papa. He made my day!

Friday, November 25, 2005


When we look at poor third world people struggling to feed themselves, we may be forgiven if we happen to think that their misery is due to their lack of ambition.

The truth is that the most ambitious individuals in the world hail from those forgotten corners. For them, simply trying to earn a penny to afford feeding their own is an ambitious task. And as a result, no matter the hardships, their dignity and strength of character may often prevail to propel them to great achievement.

In those poor countries where kleptocracy rules, anyone who wants to get up the ladder of success often ends up mingling with shady characters whose only qualification would be a relative in high places.

Those few who have an overwhelming desire to make it up the ladder of success on the strength of their true convictions are soon swept aside like annoying flies.

Oftentimes ambitious people in those countries end up becoming heroes of the people.
They may not be free to fulfil their dreams of advancement but in their struggles to do so, they usually bring many crooked practices out in the open.

Can you think of any ambitious people or unsung heroes you happen to admire?

Cartoon borrowed from Hagar the Horrible.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Anyone for Golf?

Last Monday afternoon.

I had always thought that golf is an old man's (or woman's) pastime until our 11 year-neighbour headed across the road with his father for a round. He doesn't have very far to go and his mother can keep an eye from a first floor window. She shout for them when dinner is ready.

I played once on this course with one of the chefs. He whopped me. I decided never to play with him or anybody else again.

But, I am getting to like the sport! Yes, it is a sport, (I am convinced now, it is not just a pastime! Well, that's what golfers say.)

I don't play at home but whenever I go to Spain, I play with my 68 year-old next door neighbour and his usual golf partner from across the road. He's given me videos and books. They're gathering dust somewhere. How can one learn golf without being out there, treading the greens?

Mike and Larry play every Thursday.

10am. The clubs go into the boot. I hire mine from the club. Clubs from the club. (Weird language, English!) But I've decided that once I start spending more time there (Yes, please!) I will definitely invest in a set.

The course is only a nine-holer. So we always have a couple of rounds which takes us till 1pm when we sit down for lunch and a couple of ice cold pints of lager.

After lunch the wrist is much looser due to the liquid refreshment. Unfortunately that's when we begin losing balls over the fence and in the frog ponds. Another couple of rounds by which time, I am really desperately flagging for my siesta.

4pm. I have learnt how to hit one out of ten straight shots. I haven't yet made par. Nearly killed a birdie, mind you!
We head back and promise each other to have another game the following Thursday before I head back home.

Whenever I am there I promise myself to join our local golf club but, once back home, work takes over and golf is put on the back burner, literally.

How is your swing, then?

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

No post tonight...

Tonight, I am not posting anything. I have a trapped nerve in my shoulder.

Yesterday I went to the chiropractor's.
Maria has been chiropractising for the last 10 years and she is good. While she is wringing my neck, lifting my left foot over my head, bouncing me up and down on the massage table, we talk about all sorts. Her receptionist who is late. The forthcoming tapas bar. Her Greek classes.
And then I scream a little.
"This is gonna hurt! Trust me, I am a policeman's wife!
And then I laugh a little.

I sit in front of the computer but I cannot really relax. The pain travels from the back of my neck to my fingertips and back. Like toothache!

Why don't I go home?

A French chef friend of mine rings me.
"Phil and I are at the pub. Fancy lunch?"
"Fifteen minutes! Order me whatever you are having. No wine. Just a juice!"
The pub in a little village neaby is quiet when I arrive. Mind it doesn't get any livelier. I am subdued.

Phil and my Froggie friend have already started on the Argentinian wine. Norton Malbec.
The dinner comes. Fish and chips. I joke that I don't like fish.

Half way through the meal they convince me that the red wine will do my shoulder a great lot of good. I pour myself half a glassful.

We talk about food, wine, past druken gatherings and finish off with an espresso.

My trapped nerve is still trapped and so am I.

I cannot be bothered to do anything. I just go home and sit watching the telly. Boring! I read a bit. The book is too heavy (in weight).
I try to draw. Nothing materialises.

So I decide not to post tonight. That's it! You were warned.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Sage...

A weird glass building appeared a year ago in the Newcastle-Gateshead skyline.
It is called the The Sage after the Sage Accountancy Software who sponsors it.
I have been there to a Graduation and to a Jose Feliciano concert.

As it was being built, I was one of the sceptics..."What the hell is this?"
But now that it is up and running, I feel it has become a great landmark over the river Tyne.

.... Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 21, 2005

Another one from the Sunday ride,,,

Click on the photo to enlarge.
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Lazy Sunday Afternoon...

I asked Karen what she wanted to do. Stay in and cook and go out Sunday night or Go out for lunch and then stay in later.
PS :"I'm not cooking if we stay in!"
"We go out!" was the answer.

We get to the main road.
"North or South!"
The conversation is nil because we are listening to BBC Radio 4's The Food Programme.
Instead of South, I head West towards Teesdale and within half an hour we arrive to Barnard Castle, a bustling old market town. It is by now 1.30 and we are both a bit peckish. I drive right through the town and head for the A66 leading to the Lake District. But instead of following it, I veer South towards a little village called Reeth, a few miles from Richmond (North Yorkshire).
We drove this tiny, winding road a few months ago. It had been very misty and the scenary was non-existent. But I remember this pub-hotel situated just outside Reeth in a beautiful valley.
We had had a meal there the last time we passed and knew that it would be very busy.
The car park is pretty full when we arrive. I ask the barmaid if she had a free table for lunch.
She says that all we can have is a baguette as we have not booked. (?)
A regular interjected:"They are lovely!"
I am just about to walk out and drive on to find my "Roast Beef Dinner" when Karen says :"We're here, might as well stop!" Fantastic logic!
We order a drink. I go back to the car for the Mail on Sunday. We sit and read and attempt the giant crossword as we eagerly await our Chicken BLT!
It arrives with chips and salad. (French fries) It is ok.
I order a sticky toffee pudding. Karen passes on the dessert. She only wants half of mine. Two Lattés and off we go on our way back home.
A couple of miles later I stop and take the above photo. Can you see me standing next to the car? Yes, my shadow... Just to prove that I took it.

When we get back home, Karen says: "You know, the BLT I have on Thursday with my friends after Weightwatchers is better than the one we had today!"
Now she tells me! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ten Minute Feast...

A while ago I said to DCver that if I am cooking for myself I never take more than 10 minutes to prepare something quite good. If I am cooking for others, then I do take my time.

Our first quick meal will be:
Sirloin steak in a creamy sauce with onions, mushrooms, sweet peppers and red wine.
Served with:
Green beans in garlic and white wine.
Potato slices with cumin and coriander.
Carrots with lemon, honey and thyme.
Baby Gem salad with a simple vinaigrette to serve with cheese.

Print and use in case of emergency.
You will need:
One sirloin steak per person. (If you don’t like red meat substitute with boneless chicken breast)
One onion, 10 button mushrooms, 200 g carrots, 200g fine green beans topped and tailed, 200g baby potatoes, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 lemon, 1 small tin of sweet red peppers, 1 baby gem.
Honey, Salt, Pepper, Fresh thyme, Fresh Coriander, Fresh Parsley, Cumin, Double Cream, Glass of Red Wine, Glass of White Wine, Olive Oil, Butter.

One thick frying pan. 3 saucepans, Oven Tray, Garlic Press, Salad Bowl, Tureen.
The exercise is to cook and serve the meal in
ten minutes.

All the stuff listed above needs to be out on the bench before you start cooking. Forget the washing up till later.

Turn the oven on 15 minutes before you start cooking.
Fill the kettle and switch it on.
When it comes to the boil, cooking starts!

So ready, steady, GO!

Turn on all four cooker rings. (if using electric ones turn on well before you start cooking)

Place all pans on the rings. Fill saucepans with boiling water. Add salt.
Cut baby potatoes into 5 slices. (Potatoes take the longest to cook so if you prefer use corn on the cob instead. Season and wrap in cling film. Microwave for 3 minutes.)

Peel carrots and cut into roundels.
Pour 2 tbsp olive oil into the hot frying pan.
Drop potatoes in one pan and carrots in the other. Put lids on pans.
Place steaks into frying pan. Leave alone on medium heat.
Wash lettuce. Dry and place into salad bowl. Squeeze half lemon onto salad. Add 2tbsp olive oil. Salt and pepper.
Place beans into third pan and cover.
Turn steaks over.
Peel onion. Halve and slice thinly from top to bottom.
Slice mushrooms.
Move steaks to the side of the frying pan and place the onions in empty side.
Slice sweet peppers.
Stir onions and add mushrooms.
Set the table. Uncork the wine. Light the candles.
Place steaks in oven tray and on bottom shelf.
Add sweet peppers to frying pan.
Turn up the heat and stir-fry.
Peel garlic and place garlic in press.
Chop coriander (place into a shallow glass and use scissors to chop)
Chop parsley the same way.
Add glass of red wine to frying pan.
Drain beans, add a knob of butter and press garlic onto beans. Place back onto cooker on a low heat.
Drain carrots; add a knob of butter, a tbsp of honey, a pinch of fresh thyme and a squeeze of lemon. Place back onto cooker on a low heat.
Put plates and turreen in oven.
Add half a glass of white wine to beans.
Drain potatoes; add 2 tbsp olive oil, pinch of cumin and pepper. Add coriander.
Add four tbsp of cream to the sauce and check for seasoning.
Take plates out of oven.
Place steaks on plates.
Pour juices into the sauce, mix and spoon onto meat.
Dish out vegetables.

Serve the salad with cheese.


Friday, November 18, 2005

Clowns are born....

After we moved from the farm to the town, we lived in a flat near the Railway Station.
Why we left the farm was never really explained to me except that we did not have running water or electricity.

When the circus came to town it always pitched its marquee on the square next to our block.
In the week it played to full houses my friends and I always befriended the circus hands by offering them fresh water and home made bread. In return, they let us into the circus as often as they possibly could when the ringmaster had his back turned.

I loved every aspect of the circus. The sawdust, the music played by the orchestra perched above the entrance, the trapeze artists and the wild animals.
But what I adored most of all were the clowns. I could not take my eyes off them. I laughed at their slightest twitch. Their perfectly rehearsed trips and falls made roll with laughter. Water out of button holes, smacks and wallops, flattened hats, oversized shoes, baggy trousers…

All this led to my total fascination with these amazing laughter machines and to the dream of becoming a circus clown. I believe it was a simple desire to make people laugh.

At boarding school, I made many friends laugh even if on occasions I ended up getting detention for doing so at the wrong time.

Nowadays, I just try to make my customers laugh. It is an act. I often say the same lines over and over again in one busy evening and as long as I gauge it right, they do laugh. They are my (captive) audience, nailed to their chairs just waiting to be fed and watered.
And I am their clown for the evening!

But if the truth be told, it is not really about being funny, it is just about making people laugh!

What really makes you laugh?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

My friend from Guyana says....

8pm. I was freezing my toes off in the office. Both restaurants were ticking over nicely so I decided to go home to snuggle up in front of the telly.

The car outside temperature gauge said 3 degrees. It felt more like zero! I turned on the magic seat heater and drove to Asda to buy… a book! Yes, it is the only place that is open 24 hours a day and it stocks bestsellers!
The slow death of the independent booksellers!

As I walked through the vegetable department the persimmons jumped at me. A lady was feeling them gently. She looked like she knew what she was doing.

"How do you choose them?” I asked. “A friend of mine from Guyana said they're beautiful but I know nothing about them. How do you choose them?"
“They have to be firm! These are from Israel!” she answered with a slight foreign accent.
“And where are you from?”
“I am from Israel, that's how I know!”
For a second, it crossed my mind that Persimmons could go a long way in promoting peace in the Middle East!

“Nice to meet you.” I said, “So what do you do with these persimmons, then?”
“You wash them first and then you just eat them! They are beautifully sweet!”

I bagged four fruit, thanked the woman and proceeded to buy a book.

As soon as I got into the car, I got one of the fruit out of the bag, rubbed it against my jacket front the way they do in films and then in total darkness, I bit into the sweetest fruit I have ever tasted! Heaven!

When I got home, as I placed the persimmons in the fruit basket I spotted that they all had a sticker on.

I realised that in my haste to taste the nectar in the dark, I had eaten the label. Tasted ok!

Thank you, my friend in Guyana, GG! This has been a revelation!

I borrowed the photo from Wegmans.com


Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tapas Bar

As announced a few posts ago the tapas bar project is in the hands of the solicitors.
I have been researching the project for the last 3 years. So the menu I have decided on is made up of the most popular dishes served in typical tapas bars from around the world with a few additions from countries other than Spain.
The name, however is definitely Spanish: Casa del Mar!

I have been to many tapas bars in our area within a 30-mile radius, testing dishes and taking note of decor and music.
I have eaten many kinds of olives, from the boring pitted, tastless ones to the larges greens flavoured with garlic and cardamom seeds. Chorizo in cider, in red wine. Baked aubergines, aubergines with sesame oil and seeds, meatballs in tomato sauce, fried breaded squid, grilled squid with sweet chilli sauce, squid in tomato sauce, Pil-pil prawns, prawns in garlic and wine...
White walls, red walls, yellow walls... Hanging hams... Soft leather couches, bean bags, hard wooden chairs...
Gypsy Kings, Julio Iglesias (!), Bob Dylan, Jose Feliciano...
Too much to take in! Too much to sift through!
I need a gallon of Sangria... and a packetful of headache tablets.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

A picture is worth a thousand words...

This is the first picture I created on Painter in July just with the mouse. Then I got a tablet.
A cheap tablet that's just died on me.
While I await the arrival of my new Wacom tablet, I have to get back to drawing using the mouse, unless it too dies from over-experimentation!

This "Paysage" is an idyllic dream panorama.
It reminds me of our childhood farm in spring.

We did not have a twinkling stream at the bottom of the field.
But there was a well from which we drew our drinking water using a metal pulley, a rope and a tin bucket.
Next to the well was a grassed area as flat as a bowling green. My sisters, my brother and I used it as our play/picnic area.
Sundays in spring were spent playing with hula hoops, board games, skipping ropes or just doing our home work in the afternoon sunshine.

An almond tree and two fig trees stood between the green and my mother's vegetable patch. She once planted seeds that came out of a paper bag with a picture of a shiny bunch of red vegetables. She had called them radishes.

I watched them grow till the day she let me dig them out, wash them and bite into my first radish.
Nowadays their peppery taste on my tongue conjures up laughter, screams, water fights and my late mother's smile.

When I started this post I honestly never thought I would be plunging back into my idyllic childhood...
I am pleased I did!

Is there an image you can think of that brings happy memories flooding back?


Monday, November 14, 2005

Live Music

I Love Live Music...
This is a picture I took at San Miguel de Salinas (Spain) village fete in September.

Live music, however professional always tickles my G-spot!

I am the kind of guy who's forever stopping to watch buskers in the underground.

My father broke my guitar because I failed my Baccalaureat.
All say: "Ahhhh...."
He had blamed the failure on my staying up late with my friends, playing (very) badly a cheap guitar handed down to me by my brother.

Summer evenings in my quiet hometown were spent on a lonely bench by the sleepy train station.
One of my two childhood friends brought a flask a mint tea and the other a bagful of roast peanuts. I brought my guitar.
We sat and I played the one song I knew, over and over again. They drank tea, ate peanuts, shuffled impatiently on the seat and begged me to learn another song.

The day they heard that my father had smashed the wretched instrument of their nightly tortures, it crossed their mind to send him a letter of thanks.

A couple of years ago, I bought a second-hand guitar. A woman had advertised it in the local paper. She had bought it for her husband to try and entice him away from the telly. I think she had failed miserably, the guitar had remained in its pouch till the day I bought it.

A friend gave me a few lessons but I found there was more to life than to sit on my own, strumming the same chord repeatedly.
Sadly it now occupies a dark corner of the understair cupboard just behind the vaccum cleaner.

I also got a pair of bongos as a present three Christmases ago. They did get a lot of play time on the day but now, they spend their days freezing their skins in the conservatory.

I have come to the conclusion that it is a lot more satisfying that I listen to someone else play properly.

Nowadays, I have the odd fleeting dream of belonging in a band. But thank your stars, the dream remains odd and fleeting!

Go on, let's have your thoughts about music, live music, instruments or just musical dreams...


Saturday, November 12, 2005

A genuine fairy story...

My brother arrived tonight from Paris with his partner.

Over dinner they told us how they met two and a half years ago.

Pipo, my brother explains that he had gone shopping at Carrefour. When he got to the checkout, he realised that he'd forgotten his wallet.
Embarassed, he confessed to the young woman behind him in the queue and moved away from the checkout,

He left his trolley in one of the aisles and headed for the doors.

Yvonne, the young woman was startled by an inner voice telling her to help him. She confided in her teenage daughter who had come out shopping with her.
"You and your strange voices, Mum!"
"I really mean it. It told me to help him."
"What are you waiting for, then?" her daughter urged her, "Go after him before he vanishes!"

Yvonne caught up with Pipo just as he was stepping into the car park.

"Excuse me, Monsieur, if you want, I don't mind paying for your shopping. Just send me a cheque in the post!"
Pipo was truly astounded by the stranger's show of trust. He mumbled some kind of thanks and followed Yvonne back into the supermarket. He collected his trolley.
She paid for his shopping and commented that, by a strange coincidence, it only cost one cent more than hers.

As she wrote her address, Pipo asked for her phone number. "I owe you dinner for your trouble!"
Yvonne was so taken aback that she made a mistake writing the last two digits of her telephone number.

Pipo explained that he was about to go and visit his daughter in Haute-Savoie for three weeks but that he would send her the check before he left. He thanked her once again and headed right for his car as she went left for hers.

As promised he wrote the cheque and sent it the following day with a note thanking her for her generosity and trust.

Once at his daughter's in Haute-Savoie, Pipo could not stop thinking about Yvonne. He dialled the number she had given him but a stranger's voice answered that he had the wrong number. He tried a few more times without success.

Pipo decided to send her a postcard in which he explained that he had tried in vain to ring her.

The day he got back from his holiday, Pipo found Yvonne's reply on the doormat with the correct telephone number. He rang and invited her out for a meal two days later. She accepted.

The meal was not great but neither of them took much notice of the food. They talked throughout the meal discovering so much about each other.
Pipo invited Yvonne back to his place for a coffee.

As they sat next to each other on the couch, he thought about kissing her but feared rejection.

Yvonne's feelings were quite mixed by that time. She kept saying to herself that he was not really her type but the same inner voice she had heard in the supermarket insisted that she should look for his inner beauty.

Finally, she decided to lean across and kiss him.

They are still in love two and half years later as they go on telling everyone the fairy story of their magical encounter.

Friday, November 11, 2005

What kind of kisser...


You have a mysterious kiss. Your partner never
knows what you're going to come up with next;
this creates great excitement and arousal never
knowing what to expect. And it's sure to end
in a kiss as great as your mystery.

What kind of kiss are you? Pinched from Isis.

Go on, try this test, you know you've always wanted to find out!

I can't stand the rain...

I am not keen on winter rain.

It is like a sharp knife that cuts through conversation.

It makes us walk faster. We do not have time to stand and chat.
"Hello!" seems the only word hastily spoken.

No, I do not like winter rain.
It soaks into our heart and dampens our spirits.

I come from sun-drenched climes and winter rain is like an antidote to my Mediterranean spirit.

Give me warm rain anyday!


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Caption Competition 2

Can you think of a caption for this picture of:

Elephants in the wild?

Why elephants, this week? Elephants are deep, have a looooong memory and are quite heavy!

The winner will be picked by popular vote.

The Prize:

A genuine fake ivory tower!


Every step I take...

When I was a student back in Algeria, I once hung my old boots on the wall of my campus room.
Most of my friends wondered whether I had lost my mind. Even I did not really know why I had done it.

My boots stood with me when I queued in the late summer sun to enrol at the computing department. My mother had said I was old enough to start walking on my own.
They smiled when they heard me say my name with a deep voice.

I polished them before entering the St George’s Hotel and tasting my first beer, my first Steak Tartare and asking for it to be cooked. They saw the waiter raise his eyebrows and heard the chefs laugh from the kitchen.

The first time I made love they sat quietly by the bedside. They blushed when words stumbled out of my mouth and then smiled when I made her laugh.

They were there when I crossed the sea to walk on the wrong side of the road.
When Adam cried for the first time, they danced my pride and joy.

They always rebuke me when I happen to step on somebody’s toes.
They stick firmly to the ground when I have to stand up for myself.
But they turn around and walk away in the face of unashamed ignorance.
They trip me up if I get too big for them but then pick me up when I have fallen.

My boots have travelled with me from the day I was born and will be there when I am driven to my final resting place.

You can strut, stride, swagger or even run, your boots will remember ever single step of the way!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Sushi Days....

Sunday, went to a Japanese restaurant in Newcastle and had a Teppanyaki lunch.

You are handed an apron. Feels like kindergarten where the teacher readies you for a painting session!
The chef cooks in front of you, throws eggs about and catches them in his paper hat. He also invites the customers to partake in this circus. I always refuse! I am not ending up with egg on my face.
I keep thinking: “Stop clowning around, you idiot and just get on the cooking! I need feeding!”

The salmon slices were arranged so neatly on the griddle, I was sure the fish they came from was watching from salmon heaven and thinking: “I didn’t know I was so thin! No wonder I died young!”

The prawns danced the quick step on the griddle, lay in garlic butter and soya for a couple of minutes before being adeptly placed on my square plate.
The juggler’s eggs joined the rice and mingled to produce a delicious egg-fried-rice!
Lunch was accompanied with Jasmine tea.

Monday, after the watercolour class I felt peckish and guess where I ended up! Yes another Japanese restaurant but this time for a Sushi lunch!
I love Sushi. Not for the trend value but just for the freshness of the ingredients. Pickled ginger, wasabi, soya sauce…Mmmmm!

I think I’m turning Japanese, I’m turning Japanese, I really think so! (Remember the song?)

I often go through phases like this one… Do you?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Don't worry about a thing...

Just imagine how a young fan felt about going to see BobMarley live...

I have never been to any of his concerts but every time I watch him on the telly, I feel I am there!

"No woman, no cry." in Paris...
I discovered Bob and Raggae in 1976 and fell in love!

And he died too early!

What's your favourite Raggae song?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Free Advertising...

I object to carrying advertising on my clothes unless the garment has been given to me graciously by the advertiser.

These days, kids young and not so young prance around wearing stuff which carries the manufacturer’s logo to show off that they can afford designer gear.

Because as we all know, these designer clothes and shoes are twice as expensive as those without logos!
I keep telling our Adam that they are virtually exactly the same when I show him a pair of trainers bought at a Spanish market for a tenner!
He ignores me and carries on being a billboard to some rich designer who owns a penthouse in NY, a villa in Miami and a yacht in St. Tropez…

Am I being a teeny weeny jealous!
Fcuk You! The French Connection (UK) are making a bomb out of a twisted swear word! Lucky Fcukers… And so are Nike, Adidas, CK, and the bloody rest!

I have come to the decision that from now on, I will demand a discount if I have to advertise designer products.

T-shirt £10
Jeans tag £5
Underpants tag £1
Shoes £3
Sports bag £10

Am I being unfair?

Friday, November 04, 2005

The day of the Locusts...

At the end of the summer, North Africa unfortunately tends to suffer from two unavoidable scourges of nature.

One is the flash floods that occur in late August afternoons. The sky goes depressingly black. Then thunder and lightning follow soon after and finally a torrential rain which lasts no more than ten to fifteen minutes causing incredible torrents of dirty waters laden with anything that had not stowed away or been nailed down from oranges and watermelons to broken chairs and tree trunks, sometimes even cars and people.

For young children this usually turns out to be a providential playground. They will usually give chase to anything that happens to hurtle past them from fruit to broken toys. When the waters have subsided, the sky reverts to a crystal clear blue and the sun soon dries the remainder of the rain leaving trails of sand and earth.

Damage due to this customary occurrence is generally minimal unlike the other unfortunate blight that is the plague of locusts.

Individually, crickets are quite shy and often provide a lot of fun for the budding biologist. If you manage to place one in your open hand and then let go of it, the insect will spring into the air pleasantly tickling your palm.

But this harmless creature turns into a devastatingly voracious machine when in company of several thousand relatives.

I was around seven years when I first witnessed this event on our farm.

A black cloud appeared on the horizon and began moving towards our crop of wheat.
An eerie noise accompanied its progress and when it reached the outer fields, the cloud scattered hungry locusts along the width of the ripe crop.

Many hopped from one plant to the next stripping it bare while others crawled along the dry ground gathering the fallen grains.
The horde of hungry insects progressed steadily across the fields like a slow moving shadow in the afternoon sun.

For us kids, this was an ideal time for an exciting competition.

We chased and grabbed the crickets before stuffing them into empty tins we had saved for the occasion. Anyone with a cotton shirt was very lucky as the crickets tended to stick to the fibres and were just plucked and stowed in their metal prison.

Within less than an hour the fields were stripped bare and the locusts soon made their way to another fruitful harvest.
While the adults moaned and groaned about the loss of their crop, we sat under the almond tree counting our own crop.

Once counted and the winner declared, the prisoners were released to rejoin the swarm high up in the sky in search of a tasty snack.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Freshest Pasta dish ever!

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Spaghetti al Vongole...Now, there is a dish I like!
I washed up at a pizzeria in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and I really liked it making this dish for my lunch! Al dente Spaghetti, Clams, Tomato sauce…

But guess what! I bet none of you has ever had Spaghetti al Vongole cooked from scratch on the beach!

When I was 6 or 7 we spent all our summers at my aunties or uncles because we lived about 60 km from the Med.
A dozen kids sleeping in the same room was not unusual. In fact it was great especially when Gran lay in the middle telling fables.
Most days, she took us kids to the beach in the morning till late afternoon.
A few chips and a slice of bread was our lunch. Food was not in our dictionary when we were young. This amazing feast was washed down with a swig of cheap cola. Heaven!

But every Sunday the adults joined the party!
The larder was transferred to the car boot and off we went.
On our arrival at the beach, we, kids virtually dived into the sea from the moving cars, while the adults set up camp in a remote corner and surrounded it with windbreaks not that it was ever windy in August. Tattered parasols turned the camp into a tented Saharan village. All we needed was a few camels and goats and we would have made a caravan!

A grand competition then took place. Buckets at the ready each one of us began collecting clams from the shallows.
The women, in the kitchen part of the “camp” lit a charcoal fire in a terracotta burner and got on with the sauce.

This is the recipe:
Heat 3 tbsp. of olive oil
Fry a finely diced onion until soft.
Add 2 finely diced cloves of garlic and fry until soft.
Add one tin of chopped and mashed tomatoes and 1tbsp. of tomato puree.
Add a glassful of water. Nowadays I add a glassful of white wine…Shhhhh!
Bring to the boil and then simmer for about half an hour.
In the meantime boil the spaghetti until al dente. Drain and cool under running water.
The clams need to be washed a few times to get rid of the sand.
When ready to serve, heat the sauce up and add the clams.
Once they are open, add some chopped basil and parsley.
You can either re-heat the spaghetti up in boiling water or just add it to the sauce.
Serve hot with parmesan! Mmmmmmmm!

On the beach, once the Spaghetti al Vongole was ready, we were summoned to form a circle to wolf down this wonderful dish with thick slices of French bread to mop up the remaining sauce and our lips.

A cool drink and a slice of ice cold watermelon finished this wonderful meal. These were cold because, on our arrival at the beach, they were buried deep in the wet sand.

I would give up a gourmet meal at La Tour d’Argent to experience that once more!

Now, can anyone tell me if this isn't as near to heaven as life could really be...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I like to be beside the sea...


When I was little summer holidays meant spending a month at my uncle's.

A tiny Algerian seaside village called Collo.

We kids got up at 8am, three hours after the adults brought fresh Mediterranean sardines, still wriggling back from the quayside.

Our uncle, who owned a garage on the ground floor inflated our tractor inner tube-cum-giant floating ring and we rolled it the 500 yards or so to the beach!
"La baie des jeunes filles!" The Young Ladies Bay!

The whole morning was spent climbing on the "ring" and then diving off it, showing off in front of the "jeunes filles", picking sea urchins or hopelessly chasing tiny fish along the beach!

Midday was sardine time! A charcoal grill and a queue of hungry mouths, empty plates at the ready ... A squeeze of lemon, handful of spring onions and a half a French baguette!

Siesta was not for us kids! Siesta time meant a quiet beach and yet more games...

Our five o'clock milky coffee, chocolate bar and more bread filled us up for the quayside walk and more "jeunes filles" ogling!

Dinner was followed by a visit to the open air cinema and a huge cornet of lemon sorbet or a massive slice of watermelon...

Bed by midnight, asleep within minutes... in the knowledge that tomorrow would be the same as today!

Nowadays, a good book, a bottle of wine, an easy crossword and the memories of a well spent youth!

What was or still is your favourite holiday, holiday destination or holiday activity?

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Chill Daddy Caption Award for Originality...

Caption this photo and you will win the Chill Daddy Caption Award for Originality.

After winning (YES!) Chill Daddy's first caption competition, I came up with the idea of posting one of my unused pictures once a week and asking all my witty blogger friends to come up with an original caption to go with it.

Why chickens? I had to start somewhere but I didn't have the picture of an egg...

Update: The Winning Caption:
"Not a lot of options on the buffet today." Chill Daddy's wife!
Congratulations! Our generous blogging friends will send you cheques for the minimum value of One Thousands Buttons.

This photo was taken on a mobile (Cellphone for our overseas friends) in an Algiers market.
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