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

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Chinese Wisdom...

Most Friday or Saturday nights after work, I meet Tony, my Chinese friend at his restaurant.

We usually have a couple of beers and some delicious food while trying to put the world to right in less than sixty minutes.
We talk about politics, religion, the growth of China, food, travel, Spanish shoe factories, etc...
We have yet to broach a taboo subject.

Last night, he shouted for his girlfriend to come and join us.
I asked if he had used Chinese terms of endearment.
He replied that he had just called her by her surname followed by her first name. "In China we do not tend to show our feelings overtly."
But then, blaming American-style consumerism, he confessed that today's Chinese youth were catching up with the West when it comes to celebrating Valentine's Day.
"This kind of extravagant behaviour was unheard of, just five to ten years ago!"

He startled me with: "And bloody Mother's Day, too!"
For a second I thought he was about to unleash some vitriolic attack on his poor mother, whom I have never met.

But he calmly came up with a deep Confucius-like pearl of wisdom:
"If you love your mother, then every day is Mother's Day!"

I can't wait for next week's topic...


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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Floods of tears...

June 2007. Floods, floods, floods!

Who's been crying over Tony Blair?

Tony's out... Let's celebrate with a Gin and Tonic... Gordon's gin... Yes, he's bloody in!!

Nothing changes...

Do I sound bitter? I sent off my VAT return today...

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Blogfriend to Friend in Four Short Hours...

Andrea, you were right!!!

Saturday night I met Cherrypie!!!

She and a friend came up North to race a SAAB at a nearby circuit on Sunday. Cherrypie had often threatened promised to visit our Mediterranean restaurant if she ever found herself in the area. So I booked her a table.

I made sure she and her friend were well taken care of, as I was helping out at the pizzeria half a mile away. It was heaving but I managed to sneak out for ten minutes at around 8pm to meet Cherrypie in the flesh. I had a fair idea what she looked like from her blog photos. As soon as I saw her it felt as if I had known her for ages. I suggested we could meet up later for a drink, then I went back to work.

At 9.30 I found them relaxing over a glass of wine in the restaurant bar. We soon made our way to the tapas bar past the bustling marina pubs, cafés and restaurants.

Over cocktails and glasses of rosé we chatted about blogging, real life, jobs, family, food, wines and holidays.

Cherrypie is exactly how I imagined her to be. Really interesting, tremendously bubbly and totally cool.
The evening started with meeting a Blogfriend. When it ended I found I had made a great friend.

As we parted after midnight, I wished them luck on the circuit which, I am told turned out to be very wet, and promised to keep in touch.

They walked back to their hotel. I found myself sharing a few more glasses of wine and some crispy duck with my Chinese restaurant-owner friend, Tony.

Cherrypie left me a kind comment in our visitors' book. (Click to enlarge.)

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

The ripple effect...

Last night I nearly forgot that only a few days ago, it was so cold we had to turn the heating on at the restaurants. I nearly forgot the arctic temperatures, because last night we finally got a glimpse of our elusive summer.

As I got to the lock gates, a small fishing craft was coming back into the marina. It left a beautiful ripple in its wake. I can never resist a ripple so I got the camera out and snapped, snapped!

Our diners are "subjected" to this great spectacle on a regular basis.
I often joke on with some of them by asking where they have "parked" their yacht... Funnily enough a few of our customers come from all over the North East to spend a few hours on their boats.

During the summer, many foreign yachtspeople visit our restaurants. Moi, the unfulfilled Sinbad, having only sailed on merchant ships during my student days, I always end up quizzing them about their intrepid voyages.

Last year, a Greek couple stopped by on their way up to Scotland. I used what little Greek I remembered from my sailing days, and the man, a retired sea captain, what Spanish he remembered from his South American runs, and we ended up having a delightful conversation.

Today, I am quite excited! A Blogfriend is visiting one of our restaurants!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007


There must be a Viennese bakery in every big city in the world. This one is in Murcia.
I took the photo below as a tribute to Merisi's delightful photos of Vienna.

Over the last 7 days I have interviewed many 16-year old school leavers to replace our members of staff who are heading to university.
We usually offer these young people part-time work for the two years they attend college.
Every June, I spend a few days meeting future doctors, solicitors, teachers, etc...
A few years ago, one in every four interviewees wanted to study criminal psychology. I have a feeling that Cracker's popularity had something to do with it.

Television has a lot to answer for.
When Gordon Ramsay began swearing on air, some of us worried that it would put kids off becoming chefs, but on the contrary, the "F-word" attracted many to a catering career.
Whenever I ask these budding chefs where they see themselves in the future, the ambitious ones always reply that they would like to have their own restaurant.

This takes me back to my student days when I washed up at a local pizzeria and daydreamed of opening a coffee shop and calling it Café Crème...


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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Une petite slice of heaven...

The French countryside is peppered with tiny villages perched on top of hills around a church and a square.

The "terrain de boules" where men, young and old spend their summer afternoons playing la pétanque.

Life stands still. The odd old dear crosses the road to the bakers or the post office. A few passing tourists stop at the local café where the regulars do the usual thing of reading the paper from one end to the other.

The butcher doubles up as a "traiteur" providing an array of ready meals, gourmet restaurants would die to include on their menus.

I had to include a close up of this photo I posted a few days back because it really epitomises French life.

And then, once lunch is over, la Sieste empties the streets...

Who really wants to live in the fast lane?

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

A short escapade...

Carcassonne is a fortified French town, in the Aude département in the former province of Languedoc. It is separated into the fortified Cité de Carcassonne and the more expansive lower city, the ville basse. It has been added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997. And for a good reason: La Cité is a truly awesome sight from wherever you stand.

Nowadays, it is full of good restaurants (My favourites are Le Saint Jean and Le Pont de la Tour), bars, hotels and souvenirs shops.

Carcassonne is surrounded by beautiful countryside, most of which is vineyards producing great wine such as Minervois and Blanquette de Limoux.

Le Canal du Midi meanders its way through Carcassonne, Narbonne...

The indoor market (Narbonne)

It's only Goodbye, Carca... A la prochaine!

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Back to the grind...

(Click to enlarge)

For me this photo typifies French life: relaxed, flowery, querky, full of surprises...

I did a double take as I looked down this Limoux street yesterday morning.

I am sifting through the many photos I took over the last few days, to give you a taste of the South of France.

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

I'm walking on sunshine...

(Please click on photos to enlarge them.)

I took the following photos in the beautiful city of Murcia...
It is an up and coming city...

Well, Ikea opened up there (;o) so this means it is on a par with Madrid, Barcelona and ...Newcastle!

The Cathedral.

Thank you for your patience... I took so many photos in Spain that I felt compelled to share them with you. The last post was mainly words to give you a break.
PRINT IT and read it on the loo. I won't be offended.

I shall be absent for the next few days. It is due to a compulsory return pilgrimage to Carcassonne...

No, it is not what you think. It is not another holiday... Merely research into good food and wine. Some of us have to do it...


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