January 4, 2011

Sad about Pete Postlethwaite. Always good to see a haggard British actor stealing a scene from a bunch of plastic Hollywood faces.

We saw him once, me and Steven, in a Shropshire country pub. It was a Sunday lunchtime and he was propping up the bar looking like a permanent fixture. Which he probably was.

We’d just been for a walk in the hills and had worked up a bit of an appetite, so we ordered that hearty British dish braised faggots in gravy.

We made ourselves comfortable at a table by the window. Eventually a woman appeared bearing a couple of plates.

“TWO FAGGOTS,” she bellowed and looked around the room with a questioning air.

There was a slight pause before we gingerly raised our hands.



August 14, 2010

Friday night is ready-meal night. (Unless we’re feeling really rock and roll, of course, in which case it’s take-away night.) So last night, I picked up a rather splendid looking moussaka from the M&S Gastropub (TM) range. (Love that name – it promises the feeling of going out and rubbing shoulders with real people without all the inconvenience of actually doing it. After all, the idea of other people is often so much more pleasant than the reality.)

I followed the simple instructions. “Pre-heat oven.” There was a panel with the correct temperatures underneath, so I duly turned the dial to to 200C, and forgot all about it for a while as me and Steven caught up on the day’s events.

The little orange light on the oven clicked off, and I dutifully read the next instalment. “Remove sleeve and film.” Twas but the work of a moment. I turned to the last item on the list.

“Place on a pre-heated baking tray.” AAAARRRRRGGGHHHHH!!! Now you tell me. The stone-cold baking tray sat in front of me accusingly.

Dear Gastropublicans – instructions in chronological order, please.

Amiable uncle or aunt

July 22, 2010

Stephen Fry in a video ramble on ‘What I wish I’d known when I was 18’:

“I suppose the thing I’d most like to have known or be reassured about is that in the world what counts more than talent, what counts more than energy or concentration or commitment or anything else is kindness. And the more in the world you encounter kindness and cheerfulness, which is its kind of amiable uncle or aunt, just the better the world always is. And all the big words – virtue, justice, truth – are dwarfed by the greatness of kindness.”

(via the always worthwhile Frank Chimero)

try an’ hide

April 21, 2008

When I was around 12, I found a stash of records belonging to my aunt that had somehow ended up in our attic. My aunt was bit younger and cooler than my Dad. As well as a couple of Beatles albums (my folks only listened to classical) there was a working copy of ‘An Evening (wasted) With Tom Lehrer’.

Tom Lehrer soon became my idol. By day, he was a Harvard maths professor. (I liked maths.) By night he turned into a comic singer. (I liked comic songs – at that time my burning ambition was to write for an outfit called The Barron Knights.) I put the record on our ‘music centre’ and listened to it over and over again, eventually becoming immune to the scratch that made it jump at the same place in ‘She’s My Girl’ every time.

There was a cheery song about nuclear war, called ‘We Will All Go Together When We Go’, an inspiring ode to ‘Bright College Days’ (including the inimitable lyric “Soon we’ll be out amid the cold world’s strife / Soon we’ll be sliding down the razor blade of life”) and the awe-inspiring (at that age, anyway) ‘Masochism Tango’.

But my favourite was always ‘Poisoning Pigeons in the Park’. Anyone who can rhyme “cyanide” with “try an’ hide” is alright in my book.

The reason I bring all this up is that the Googleblog has just informed me that Mr Lehrer recently turned 80. I somehow doubt that in all that time he ever achieved the ambition stated on the record sleeve: “If, after hearing my songs, just one human being is inspired to say something nasty to a friend, or perhaps strike a loved one, it will all have been worth the while.” But, Tom Lehrer, we salute you nonetheless.

Scrammy eggs

March 8, 2008

Last Saturday morning, I awoke in pain. The head throbbed, but worse were the waves of nausea that coursed regularly through the system. It had been my 40th birthday drinks the night before and my aged body wasn’t used to the dose of beer that would have caused it no problem in its younger days.

Luckily, Steven was on hand to make a heroic dash to the shops for some eggs and  Taste the Difference bacon. While I grilled the bacon, he set about making some “scrammy eggs”.

I love the Australian custom of taking the first syllable of a word and sticking a ‘y’, ‘ie’ or ‘o’ on the end. It goes well with the whole informality of Australia that’s so refreshing to us repressed Brits. Some of my particular favourites include “cozzie” (swimming costume), “smoko” (cigarette break), “servo” (petrol station), “pokies” (gambling machines) and “the Salvos” (Salvation Army charity shops).

“Scrammy eggs” was one I hadn’t heard before. And Steven’s scrammy eggs was something I hadn’t tasted before. It was creamy and peppery and delicious. As the nutrients went to the aid of my suffering body, I felt good. I’d had a lovely night with lovely friends, and here I was having a lovely breakfast with the lovely man I’d be breakfasting with for years to come.

I was forty and hungover and happy.


June 21, 2007

We’d hired a car and were driving down to Kent when Steven (who’s Australian) spotted a sign for a ‘Gyratory’ and burst into laughter. “You people have some funny words,” he commented.

Well, I’d never really thought about it before, it always seemed like a slightly imposing word for a slightly imposing junction, but when you stop and have a closer squint it is a little silly. I guess it’s so called because the road sort of gyrates its way around in a circle.

We drove down to the Weald (now there’s a good old Anglo-Saxon word) of Kent and walked around a magical wood dotted with whimsical sculptures.

Later, we drove on to Bedgebury Pinetum (the day was fast turning into a tour of odd words) to hear Travis spin their web of perfectly formed pop.

I even got a little gyratory myself.