Port De Soller Mallorca

Port De Soller Mallorca
Sunset

Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011, a round up of the year

2011 is almost over with 2012 approaching, for us here in the UK in 62 minutes.  One way or another it has been an eventful year for Ishbel and I and we finish this year as we have for the last couple of years, babysitting the twins Charlie and Holly.

Our son Brian, with his partner Nick, as you know is in the pub trade and has the lease on two premises, The Sun Inn on Bethnal Green Road in London and The Dew Drop Inn in Buckinghamshire, so he is hard at work on the busiest night of his year.

Marie our eldest and her husband Peter are also in that trade but work for a national company, with Peter being a senior manager and Marie now part time, but again Christmas and New year are their busiest times, along with Valentines and Mother's days.

Jennifer our youngest and her partner Steve, presented us with grandchild No 5 this year, Lacey Mae and who is now 10 months old, a sister to Mollie 8 and Shannon 5, poor Steve, he would dearly love a son.  they of course were over for Christmas and we had a thoroughly enjoyable time with all of them, particularly the children.

Health wise this year, has had it's ups and downs, but altogether nothing to serious.  Asthma attacks seemed to be getting more frequent but nothing that worried me. Arthritis, gave up on the meds and just take Anadin Extra, other pain meds are available of course, and Ishbel continues to attend Great Ormond Street for her three monthly injection into her voice box.  Her epilepsy  is completely under control and we have had no episodes, so all in all a good year.  The only blight has of course been my weight and fitness.  I did, for the whole year manage to get out and walk hail rain or shine and did get my weight down to under 20 stone. I had planned to get to just under 19 stone for Christmas but fell at the last hurdle, so the challenge is there for the New Year.

We had a bit of a financial hiccup this year which left us worrying for a bit and while we are still not as secure as I would like us to be, we are just managing, but then, we are like millions of other across the planet in that respect, so we also hope that the New Year will be better for us as well as for anyone else who is going through a difficult time.

I re-discovered Twitter this year, after signing up for it a couple of years ago and not doing much with it.  That has been a great source of friendship to both Ishbel and I with many new and interesting friends made and interacted with. some of whom have been great sources of conversation and amusement, You are all to many to mention here and for that I beg your forgiveness but to you all, a special thanks for the conversations  and for keeping me grounded;  If you are an author and I have read your books you have given me, in the main, a great sense of pride in communicating with me and for producing the wonderful books that I have had the time to enjoy.  To the bloggers, the vast array of topics that you have presented me with has given me interest in things and subjects that I knew little of before and for that I thank you too.

So as we are 18 minutes away from 2012 I look forward to renewing old friendships, making new ones and continuing our conversations.

I hope that the New Year brings to everyone a renewed sense of hope in whatever it is you are doing.  That your health and that of your family and friends remains good and that we all prosper in the our lives both financially and through the love and friendship of our family and friends..................


Aye Yours
and a Happy New Year 

Tom and  Ishbel 





Friday, 30 December 2011

Book review - The Fall of Billy Hitchings


The Fall of Billy Hitchings, is the debut novel by American Author Kirkus MacGowan. A stay at home dad looking after a couple of kids, I connected with Kirkus through Twitter and clearly knew that he was on the verge of publishing but I did not investigate or ask what the book was about.  But when it was published in late November I thought I would give it a go.

It starts with an explosive episode with John, clearly not the character of the title, in a vehicle with a couple of civilian bodyguard colleagues transporting their client, Khalid, to the airport when they are suddenly attacked.  Good, the kind of book I like.  But then it got a bit confusing. 

John, although hurt, manages to retrieve the client from the overturned vehicle as it is sprayed by bullets and is shot, while Khalid suffers a broken leg in the crash.  The two of them manage to get into an old abandoned mill building and John phones the mysterious Rachel who is at home, we assume, watching a movie with Katy.  John tells her that he is in a, “bit of a pinch” which results in Rachel leaving Katy to watch the movie on her own while she disappears to another room and fires up her computer and on being giving the location of where John is immediately informs him that he is in an abandoned mill and she proceeds to pull up the floor plans to direct him on the safest route to safety!

I could live with all that, let’s face it, when reading a book or watching a movie the reader/viewer has to suspend some belief, so I was there and believing what was happening and thinking this was going to be a fast paced thriller..................

Chapter one ends and chapter two begins entitled ‘Billy’.

We have no idea who John was and how he got Khalid out of the situation, although we did briefly find out that Rachel was multi tasking and while giving directions she had also called the local law enforcement and then we got ‘Billy’.  ‘Billy’ we discover is 19, works in Borks Burger Palace, lives with his gran and has an asshole for a manager along with an assortment of deadbeats as colleagues, oh, and a friend who does not work in the Burger Palace, but who smells of fish!

During the course of the introduction to our ‘hero’ we discover that his parents died a few years ago and that while he should have moved out of his gran’s, who had taken him in, a long time ago, he felt guilty every time he thought about it as she had broken a hip and he worried if he were not there, what would happen if she did so again? He is also an insomniac with bad dreams and is attending a shrink....

I was nearly booking myself into one by the end of chapter two, especially as when we move on we are introduced into what is seemingly more random characters, characters who are given a bit of a back story, but back stories that did not seem to fit anywhere, it all seemed rather disjointed and not going anywhere......

We suddenly turn up in  bar with ‘John’ from the beginning of the book, who clearly has survived his ordeal/mission and we therefore assume so too did the client Khalid, where ‘John’ is getting hammered and about to commit the ultimate sin of having a one night stand while his fiancé is away...  confused yes, well so was I.

The book continues like that for the next couple short chapters and it is quite confusing as you cannot really see where it is going....

BUT right out of left field MacGowan makes the book explode, literally and in your face, no spoilers here, but clearly he has been watching some horror movies and I suspect he is a big fan of Carrie and The Exorcist, and he has taken inspiration from that genre for his book.

From here on in things begin to become clearer and the characters that seemed to be haphazardly appearing:  suddenly their back stories began to make more sense, than they had in the previous chapters. 

What we ended up with was a book that began with a forgettable stroll around the park, jumped over the railing onto the running track and into a gentle jog and then burst into a sprint as the story progressed.

It was a tale of an ancient Cherokee Indian legend that had been protected and hidden for over 500 years, which had been discovered but not understood.  It was a tale of a 19 year old youth who was full of anger and despair at losing his parents and who drew power from the legend that he did not understand or control. And as the book built to a climax it ended in the most unexpected way ..........

It is difficult not to give spoilers, but buy the book, take the stroll and be patient.  Stick with it to the jog and you will become as intrigued as I became and then when you start the sprint in the last quarter of the book, you will be turning pages to find out what happens next and I guarantee you will be as surprised as I was by the ending. It will not be what you expect, but you will, I think, like me, say to yourself,   “Yes, that was a good ending”

This was Mr MacGowan’s first book and he clearly took a lot of time over it. He needs to be less disjointed in character and story development at the beginning to keep the reader interested but on this first outing I suppose it is to be expected and as the book progressed, so too did his writing style making it a good and worthwhile read.   Some people may not get past the first three chapters as it does seem a bit disjointed but as the book progresses, so too does his clarity and cohesion of bringing it all together, so from my early thoughts of maybe giving it 2 or 3 stars I have no hesitation in giving it a final 5 out of 5 stars. 

Good Reading 

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Mr Fat December 2011 update

Well folks what can I tell you about in this episodic thriller of humongous proportions, of course the humongous proportions is attached to me and my body mass and not the content of the blog....

Shannon aged 5 on the left and her 'big' sister Mollie aged 8
 in Marks and Spencers 
Anyway, December has been a bad month for me, not I hasten to add in terms of happiness and bliss associated with this month of festivities and  celebration, whether you are of a Christian leaning or are more Secular in your outlook, it is a time to have good thoughts and feelings. No, I have had a fantastic month and Christmas with Ishbel and the Grand kids.  We saw the twins a couple of days before Christmas and then spoke with them via the video link on Christmas and Boxing days and then we had the three girls arrive on Christmas Eve when I with the two oldest immediately headed out with them to do their last minute shopping for Mum and Dad. It went well in that the girls bought presents for Mum and Dad's sole use whereas the 5 year old twins a few days earlier bought gifts that, well just let's say that the 'whole family' will use and not just Mum and Dad.  Granddad just facilitates the outing and tries not to interfere in the purchasing, unless of course as it was last year, when Mollie saw a necklace that she thought Mummy would like, but as I had only allowed her to withdraw £25.00 from her account and the necklace was £270.00, I did stop that purchase!  And as we move towards Hogmanay the girls have left to go home to Woking and we await the arrival of the twins tomorrow(Friday) and they stay until the New Year.......  So a great month in that respect.

What has not been so good has been the continuance of the exercise and the weight management regimes...  No, Mr Fat has been bad and let it all slip much to his detriment and it has, as I sit and type this, been a foolish mistake.

The weather here in the UK has been pretty good throughout the year. I have no idea if this is down to the climate change that every one goes on about, but it has been neither too hot nor too cold, nor too wet or too windy throughout the year, but whether it is down to my mild arthritis or not I found it a bit cold at the beginning of December and the first couple of weeks it seemed, or at least appeared to be, raining every time I was due for my walk and so I stopped going out, thinking that I would make up for it later.  But, I never did and as I sit here after having been for my annual asthma inspection this morning I am feeling the worse for not maintaining my regime.

I did say in November that my target was to get down to just under 19 stone (266lbs) for Christmas, well, as they say, 'fat chance' of that happening.  I got down to 19 stone 3 lbs but without the continued walking have gone back up to 19 stone 9 lbs and without the exercise my blood pressure, which apparently was fine in October is now too high as of this morning, again.

So, although it is still a few days to the New Year I have decided, although this is going to be difficult to accomplish, to stop being an idiot, how does one stop being an idiot (rhetorical) when one has been one for most of his life?  It's a bit like the fags, been smoking since I was 11 and now 55.  I know it is slowly killing me or at least hastening my demise and I have tried the gum, the lozenges, the patches, the inhalers and even hypnotherapy all to no avail.  Apparently there is a pill on prescription that helps and have asked my doctor twice, who keeps giving me a hard time on the very infrequent occasions I actually see her, but she will not give it to me unless I have a couple of sessions with the surgeries 'stop smoking councillors'  one of whom (don't know if the other one does or not) SMOKES LIKE A BLAST FURNACE CHIMNEY!  If you don't practice what you preach why would you expect others do do as you say, or is that me just being idiotic again?

So, I am going to start going for my walks again and am looking to join a gym and guess what my New Years resolution is going to be again for the nth time, yes, to STOP SMOKING, again!

So the moral of this tale, if like me you are overweight and unfit, there are no free holiday periods, you have to keep going.

Of course being a a member of that burgeoning club called Twitter, I should know this as I follow a number of people some of whom, while not really my equal in terms of not being fit and unhealthy, are far more intelligent than I when it comes to staying in shape for the sake of both body and mental well being, and clearly as well as following them on Twitter I should be following their lead in terms of maintaining my fitness as they clearly have not taken time of for the festivities. so well done to:

Julia R Barrett aka @JuliaRBarrett
Penny Watson aka @PennyRomance
Michael R Hicks aka @MR_Hicks_Fans
Jan Hicks aka @JanHicks
Stephen Ames Berry aka  @writerredux
Toby Field aka @FatCycleRider
Marie Kennedy aka @_MarieKennedy

and to all the others who unlike me have not stopped their fitness regimes.  I shall try and match your standards in my future endeavours

Happy New Year to Everyone  


early update, I so knew this was going to get me into trouble:


  • Michael R. Hicks Okay, Mr. Fat, sounds like it's time for a New Year's challenge. Not resolution - challenge. How about 30 minutes of exercise every day, publicly proclaimed; missed days are open to scorn and humiliation! Let's set an achievable milestone of 30 days, starting 2 January. And you have to report if you smoke so I can humiliate you into giving it up (your pride will be a good motivator)! What say you? ;-)
    55 minutes ago · 

  • Tom Stronach Well, I've started I've brought the local gym link up on the web and who new it was only a five minute walk from the front door, well She who knows everything did, been there since we moved in 20 yrs ago she says. AND OK challenge accepted
    50 minutes ago · 

  • Michael R. Hicks I think Ishbel Stronach and Jan Hildenbrand Hicksshould set the stakes! :^D
    2 minutes ago · 

  • Tom Stronach Oh, so the underhandedness sneaks in early - Not fair, I'll never win

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Sliced Chicken with Courgette Mushroom and Leaks

This is a favourite of Ishbel and me and the kids and grand kids and takes about 30 mins.  So anyone who says it takes to long to cook a proper meal or who say they cannot cook, needs to give this a try, simplicity with taste.  It contains 4 of your '5 a day' vegetables and with no effort.


This recipe is for two but as you will see can easily be added to for a larger group feeding.


What you need:
Mashed potatoes:


Take about 4 or 5 large potatoes peel and cut into quarters.  Rinse through a couple of times to get rid of excess starch.


Place on hob, cook, drain and mash, takes about 30 mins.  






Vegetables:
As soon as the potatoes are on the hob prepare your Veg:


1 Leak thinly sliced 
6 decent sized mushrooms thinly sliced 
1 large Courgette (Zucchini) sliced into circles and then quartered
cup full of chopped parsley 


Add all of the above to a pan with a large knob of unsalted butter 






and sweat down, you can if you want add a glass of white wine (while sweating off the veg add a large glass of white wine to a pan and reduce to burn off the alcohol on a high heat.  Once the alcohol has been burnt off, add remaining wine to vegetables - this is entirely optional).


Add Salt and ground black pepper to taste


Once sweated down add 1/2 pint of good chicken stock 


Chicken:
Take two decent size boneless chick breasts and slice thinly across.


Add chicken to vegetables stir and put  lid on pan on a low heat cook until the potatoes are cooked and mashed.























Serve up the mash add the chicken and vegetables garnish with a couple of sprigs of parsley and enjoy!








Cooks Tip:  If you have a resting plate for your spoon use it, it avoids burning said item on the hob!!











Monday, 26 December 2011

Christmas Morning

Mollie and Shannon finding that Santa did arrive as expected on Christmas Morning, hope you all had as much fun as we did?



Friday, 23 December 2011

A Christmas Health and Safety Message Courtesy of Paul Kilbourn


Please read the following information carefully and follow all instructions given.
All employees planning to dash through the snow in a one horse open sleigh, going over the fields and laughing all the way are advised that a Risk Assessment will be required addressing the safety of an open sleigh for members of the public.  This assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly where there are multiple passengers. Please note that permission must also be obtained in writing from landowners before their fields may be entered.

To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we would request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.  Benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available for collection by any shepherds planning or required to watch their flocks at night.



While provision has also been made for remote monitoring of flocks by CCTV cameras from a centrally heated shepherd observation hut, all users of this facility are reminded that an emergency response plan must be submitted to account for known risks to the flocks. The angel of the lord is additionally reminded that, prior to shining his/her glory all around, s/he must confirm that all shepherds are wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment to account for the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and the overwhelming effects of Glory.
Following last year’s well publicised case, everyone is advised that Equal Opportunities legislation prohibits any comment with regard to the redness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer.
Further to this, exclusion of Mr R Reindeer from reindeer games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence.
While it is acknowledged that gift bearing is a common practice in various parts of the world, particularly the Orient, everyone is reminded that the bearing of gifts is subject to Hospitality Guidelines and all gifts must be registered. This applies regardless of the individual, even royal personages. It is particularly noted that direct gifts of currency or gold are specifically precluded, while caution is advised regarding other common gifts such as aromatic resins that may evoke allergic reactions.

Finally, in the recent case of the infant found tucked up in a manger without any crib for a bed, Social Services have been advised and will be arriving shortly.















Tuesday, 20 December 2011

A Christmas Conversation in the making

Well it's only a few more sleeps until Santa arrives with his usual array of gifts for the whole family. 
Our Garden 2010 




The five year old twins are on there way down from Northampton with Mum, Marie our eldest daughter, with whom we have spent the last couple of Christmas days with.  This year they are coming down today and going home later and we will then see them again after Christmas when we have them for a few days over  Hogmanay, but as is usual on Christmas day, we will have 'long conversations' on the phone with those we are not spending the day with.


If this year is anything like previous years, when we do get the grand children on the phone, the 'long conversation' will take the form of both them coming onto the phone and we will ask, " And what did Santa bring you today." The response will usually be along these lines (take a deep breath and, begin.............

"IGOTLEGOANDBOOKSANDCLOTHESANDSWEETSANDMORECLOTHESANDMORETOYSANDSLIPPERSANDJEANSANDAFOOTBALLSTRIPANDAFOOTBALLANDBEN10ANDPRINCESSESANDCHOCOLATEANDAPLAYKITCHENANDDRAWINGBOOKSANDCOLOURINGPENCILSANDPAINTSANDSOCKSANDDRESSESANDTSHIRTSANDPYJAMASANDMORETOYSANDMORESWEETSANDJIGSAWSANDANDAND"

Holly and Charlie and Mum and
Dad 
and all in one long breath and the happiness and excitement in their voices as they try and remember what they got and from whom, just makes you realise that there is nothing like Christmas through the excitement of your children and your grandchildren to make you forget any problems that you may have, for a short time anyway.


Shannon and Mollie
Brian and Marie 1982 "Thanks Sis"
So, if you have children and grandchildren, make the most of the day.  Forget, for the day, that you have the mortgage or the rent to pay. Forget, for the day, 




Jennifer and Me 1986




that letter on the side demanding the utility bill or the phone bill.  Forget for the day, that your year might not have been as good as you had 
hoped and whether you 
are religious or not enjoy the Spirit of the day. 




 A day for family, for friends and for good thoughts.  And even if you couldn't afford to give as much as you may have wanted to, I think you will find that whatever you gave and to whoever you gave it to, 








they will appreciate and love it, whatever it was.....
Ishbel looking happy 1986 


As for us, Ishbel and I, we have the other three grandchildren, Mollie, 8, Shannon 5 and Lacey May not yet 1, and of course the biggest kid of all their Mum and our youngest Jennifer and her partner Steve.


Brian and his partner Nick will be spending the day at the Dew Drop Inn, no doubt serving up some festive cheer for those out for  a walk on the day.....  so whatever you are doing, to our friends and families and to the many new friends we have made this year through Twitter (and if you are an author and I am waiting for your next book, you too, may have today off, but get back to work tomorrow).......


Merry Christmas 


  


Saturday, 17 December 2011

A Christmas Tale

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house. Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care .......

The children were excited but sleeping, waiting for Santa to come.....

The house was warm, outside it was cold.  No snow on the ground but covered in frost.  

All around the tree, in the corner of the room,  a sparse barren area awaiting delivery of the gifts yet to come ...

Mums and dads and grandparents too, all smiled with excitement of the laughter to come.... 

Suddenly, the smiles turned to shrieks of panic as a loud crash was heard from above and the whole house was shaken to the core, the lights flickered and crackled like the Christmas decorations that hung by the door.

The parents and grandparents rush to the stairs as cries of panic come down through the floor, from the bedrooms above....

On reaching the bedrooms and squinting through dust; fearing the worst as they searched for the children, their ears were assailed by a deep throaty roar.....

Through the settling dust from the plaster and beams came the sound of Santa saying, "Ho, Ho, Ho,  Bloody Hell Rudolph, I told you and Donner and Blitzen, and Prancer not to eat any more of those frigging carrots. I told you that you were getting to heavy for these roof tops, now look what you've gone and done!"

The end 

 

  







Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Have I lost my Sense of Humour or are others just mean spirited -Good Mom Bad Mom and some TiT called Jimmy Kimmell


Jenny,  I found you a couple of months ago and I have come to look forward to your blogs with your warped sense of humour, like, I suppose a mild drug fix.  You're clearly a bright, intelligent woman, with, as far as I can tell, a full time job, and a couple of blogs.  Within the next few months you will no doubt add the title of 'Best Selling Author' to the many accolades that have been heaped upon you already.

You are clearly in a loving relationship and seem to have a wonderful husband and daughter.  In amongst all that zany buffoonery, you also appear to have a heart of gold with the good things that you also do for people, and all of this at the same time while suffering on and off from depression.  And during these bouts I hope you have found time to read my comments to you, that I send in the small hope that they help to cheer you up.

As usual I clicked on the link posted on your tweet on 13th December from good mom/ bad mom expecting another funny and slightly irreverent post.

What I did not expect to find was the level of sheer unadulterated  meanness from so many parents towards their children.  parents and an audience who thought it would be fun to allow their children to open a Christmas gift early and then for the child to find a half eaten sandwich or a small boy to find some 'my little ponies' or whatever else warped present the parents knew was inappropriate and would be hurtful to the child!

And then, to witness these spiteful acts as filmed by parents and sent to Mr Kimmell on his TV show was downright awful.  I do have  sense of humour and like most people I have been known to laugh at the misfortune of others.  But the laughter is normally at the ludicrousness of the situation and its outcome rather than at the person. Mr Kimmell and his audience were laughing, as presumably you were too, at children who no doubt have been brought up and conditioned, no I don't think conditioned is to strong a word, to believe in the goodness of Christmas.  They have been conditioned to believe and expect to find, even when things may have been difficult in their families, for whatever reason during the past 12 months, that what they are going to get under the tree from Santa and their parents is beautiful gifts, whether that be the latest toy or gadget, fad, or game, doll or bike or whatever; they are conditioned by us to expect nice things to appear out of their shiny wrapping paper.

These are children for goodness sake not teenagers or adults who we might all play a prank on and then expect them to get the joke.  Children, particularly those of a young age, whose moronic parents chose to 'play along' with this weird request,  clearly did not get the joke, and I know that you and others will qualify this by saying, "yes but their parents explained it to them afterwards, it was all a joke, they got it", yes well I am sure they probably did.  But it does not make it any less a stupid and appalling thing to do to a child in the first place.

I am grateful that I am unable to view Mr Kimmell on this side of the Atlantic as he says in his opening statement that he asked people to do something similar at Halloween, well all I can say is, "I'm glad I missed that one"

I end just with this.  I truly truly enjoy following you and I am so honoured that you follow me, although with so many followers I suspect that you do not have the time or the inclination to read every comment that comes in on your timeline , so I will jut be another anonymous follower.  That's fine and understandable.  I will continue to follow you and share your journey, your life, your troubles and be as supportive as I can from afar as you struggle with whatever demons that occasionally attack you.  All I would ask is that you do not support this type of thing that could inflict demons on a child at this wonderful time of year, or any other time for that matter!

I did try and post this on the comments section but clearly I have run on to much for it to be accepted!

I also thought long and hard about putting your link on this oner but in the interests of fairness and to allow people to see why I have apparently have lost my sense of humour, I reluctantly did.


http://blog.chron.com/goodmombadmom/2011/12/mean-and-also-hysterical/

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Chilli, Garlic and Ginger Seafood Medley with Pasta

Seafood, we all love this in the family Ishbel and I, the kids and the grand kids, whether it is fish shrimp or crustacean, can't get enough of them at times.  Paella, curried, with sauce, without sauce, Fish Pie with mashed tatties and some melted cheese on top , with salsa and salad, with pasta, with new potatoes, serve it any which way and it will be devoured.

So, today is my wee easy recipe for seafood medley or 'fruit de mere' with chilli, garlic and ginger and tossed in pasta.

You need a good quantity of fresh seafood, need to sort that out depending on how many you are serving, but this recipe is for two, when the grand kids arrive the quantities go up from two to six around the table but when it is Mollie, you always need to add a wee bit more for miss piggy particularly the squid and scallops!

I like to prepare my pasta early and then when cooked plunge it into a pan of ice cold water, and then all you need to do is reheat it when the seafood is ready. So with that out of the way I can concentrate on preparing my herbs, etc.


1 red chilli
1 good sized piece of ginger
2 good sized garlic cloves
1 Lemon un-waxed
Tomatoes
Courgette (Zuccini) and Olives are optional
1 large glass of good white wine
Big bunch fresh parsley
Salt and Black Pepper
500 grams of assorted seafood from the fish counter (if you can't get fresh I do use frozen but thoroughly thawed out before using it)



Slice and de-seed the chilli, but if you like a bit of heat keep some of the seeds
Peel and grate the ginger
Slice the tomatoes in half
Grate the lemon peel
peel and crush the garlic
Chop the parsley finely

                                                                             
If using the olives, slice in half
Lop of the ends of the courgette and discard slice into circles then 1/4 the circles into decent sized chunks

Sweat the olives courgettes and tomatoes down in a little unsalted butter, these take the longest to cook. Medium heat for about 5 to 7 minutes but don't over cook don't want to the courgettes to turn mushy, still like them firm but cooked.





Add the glass of wine to a second hot pan  and add the seafood.

Stir in the ginger, chilli and garlic and the grated lemon  reduce the heat.   Squeeze in juice from half the lemon.  Remember seafood only takes a few minutes to cook.  It needs to be cooked through but not turning to rubber.  Add most of the chopped parsley, you could also have used fresh coriander instead for this, but keep some back for sprinkling over the finished dish

Oh, just before you add the seafood you should have drained the already cooked pasta and have another pan of boiling water on the go.

The seafood should just be about ready as the shrimp change colour to the nice deep pink that you all know.  Take it of the heat it will continue to cook

Drain the pasta and add to the seafood.  Take your pan with the courgettes, olives and tomatoes, and add this to the pasta and seafood.  toss the whole lot, using utensils in the pan and not literally and serve  with crusty bread.

Enjoy






Total Prep and cook time Time: 20 - 25 mins

Pasta first Cook: about 12 mins

Pasta reheat: in boiling water 1 - 2 minutes, no longer. You can of course just cook the pasta as you are prepping every thing as long as you time it right to drain and get  it into the pan with the seafood before  it turns to rubber and remember the hot pasta added to the seafood will add to it continuing to cook, that's why it is important as well not to over cook the seafood in the pan.

herb prep time: 10 minutes

Seafood cook time: depends on quantity and size of pan, so always use a large pan so that the seafood is not piled on top of itself so that the heat gets to every morsel evenly and at the same time.  My rule of thumb is as the shrimp just begin to turn pink - heat off  and let if finish in the hot liquor and when the hot pasta is added.

Glass of white wine added to pan




Chopped chilli


Ginger to be grated 


Crushed Garlic and grated ginger 



Lemon rind and courgettes 



Friday, 9 December 2011

The Journal of Avery Moore by Michael R Hicks


If you have read my blogs and reviews and you know me on Twitter you will know that Michael R Hicks falls into the category of, “My Favourite Authors.”

The Journal of Avery Moore was a bit of a departure for him from his usual writings and for me as a reader, in that it was a horror story,.....

I often think, as I suppose many readers do, of meeting my favourite authors, well, I think I am going off the idea of actually meeting Mr Hicks, anyone that can wake up in the middle of the night with such a twisted story embedded in his mind might not make for a best friend, there has to be a hint of madness lurking behind those eyes.

The Journal Of Avery Moore is a short story charting the kidnapping, imprisonment and torture of a nice man, who happens to be a lawyer, yes I know ,but there are nice lawyers out there I know two...

Avery Moore chronicles the depravity of his time in captivity, without knowing why he is here or indeed how long he has been there. And, when that is finally revealed, that is the final act that almost tips him into the insanity that he has been slowly slipping into, crucified on a medical bench during his captivity.

This is a short, well written book with thirteen short chapters but they are so intense in places that you do find yourself breathing heavily especially when Avery wakes up and discovers his predicament and how he has been ‘stitched up”. As they say, “Oh My God” who would have thought of writing something like that, Well Hicks clearly did and it works, scary but riveting.  I really did not think I was going to enjoy it, and I don’t even know if that is the correct description to use after reading this one.

I think he was right to do it as a short story and bring it to a conclusion which was fairly explosive and understandable under the circumstances.  I started reading it during lunch yesterday and completed in the evening.


5 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Untitled


ONE

 I was sitting on the window ledge of the lounge, Hugh Laurie was singing the Blues and I was having a fag, letting the smoke drift out the open window. It was a fine summer evening the sun was still giving a warmth that was cosy rather than oppressive.  Summer had been a disappointment for some as it had not been hot enough for them.  Me, on the other hand, I didn’t like it to warm. Cosy, that’s how I liked it and cool at night so that I could sleep without waking up in a pool of my own sweat.

It would be my own sweat as no one was sharing my bed these nights, not that I missed it really, the life of a single guy was growing on me again since I was left on my own 6 months ago. And if she was still here I certainly wouldn’t be sitting in-doors having my fag, no, I would have been out on my ear as soon as the pack came out of my pocket, hail, rain or shine, “ If you want to smoke, do it outside, not in here”, she would say.

We had been together now for two years, or rather we would have been together for two years if she had still been here with me, but fate had intervened and taken her away from me as suddenly as it had thrown us together.

I took another drag on my fag, inhaling slowly.  She hated smoking and she hated smelling it on me, but she was full of contradictions as I would catch her looking at me when we were out, with that quirky smile on her face, “ What you looking at,” I’d say.  “You, I like the way you do that.”  “What?” I asked.  “The way you hold the cigarette and inhale so deeply, it’s like a caress, it’s the way you hold me at night, when we are together, as if you don’t want to let go. You’re like that when you smoke, you know it’s no good for you, but you are passionate about it!”  I thought about that for a few moments when she said it, finally asking, “Do you think that you’re no good for me, is that what you’re saying?”

“Maybe I’m not.” She replied looking away with a slight frown.  Still not looking back at me she continued, “You still don’t really know me. Who I am, what I am.”  “I told you before, when you’re ready you’ll be able to tell me, I’m in no hurry, as long as you aren’t an axe murderer or anything like that” She looked away again, troubled.

I liked to look at her, especially at night when she was asleep.  From the moment I saw her in that alley, being attacked, dirty and dishevelled, I knew, underneath the grime, she was going to be stunning and she was.  A titian, but unlike a normal redhead her skin was not too fair more a Mediterranean duskiness. And her eyes, although yet to determine the exact colouring had a fire in them that almost burned her attackers with the intensity of the glare.

18th July 2009,  it was a Saturday.  I had just left the Golden Nugget casino on Shaftesbury Avenue, it was 3 AM.  Not an upmarket place, but good enough for me.  I wasn’t really a gambler, never been in a bookies before, but I did like a flutter with a couple of hundred on a Friday night. Blackjack and roulette were my games and there was a bistro restaurant, nothing fancy.  Also it was handy for me. I had inherited a flat in the city nearby.

She looked to be about just under 6 foot, tall for a woman, and not the usual obese women we come to expect as we move about our cities and towns in the UK.  No, this woman was athletic, not muscular athletic but graceful athletic, even pinned against the wall, you could tell this and she was bleeding from the mouth as one of the attackers hit her again while screaming at her, the attackers face inches from her own and showering her in spittle.

“Now, Ciara, stop fucking about, Fatima doesn’t like it when people fuck her especially if she hasn’t dropped her knickers first, and you have royally fucked her, haven’t you. Now where the fuck is it, or do you want some more of this?”  She was about the same size as Ciara, English, but built like a prop forward from the local rugby team. Ciara was a like a rag doll against her.  Her mate, a guy, not speaking and just standing off to one side, was again as tall and as wide and held one of these shiny metal baseball bats, slapping it into the open palm of his right hand; he was a lefty then, nice to know.  

Ciara spat blood in her face; “Fuck you Silverblade, I haven’t got it and even if I did, you can still fuck off” and she tried to struggle against what looked like a vice like grip at her throat.  At that, Silverblade turned to the guy and as she spoke his name, “Ned...” her voice trailed off for a moment as she looked round Ned and spotted me. “We’ve got some unexpected company” she said, smiling, nodding her head in my direction. It was a kind of joyous smile, the kind of smile that you would expect to see on a child or someone you had just given a nice gift to.  But in that moment I supposed it was also the kind of smile that a psychopath might have as he or she inflicted pain or as in this case, was the harbinger of the pain that Ned was about to inflict on me!

Silverblade did not move, nor did she release her left handed grip on Ciara’s throat.  She just pointed to me with her right hand and said, “Ned, if the gentleman wont fuck off on his own accord, maybe you would assist him in finding his way back to the street, but don’t be too rough on him. he looks cute!”  Ned smiled, it wasn’t a nice smile.  I guessed, like me, he was a smoker, but unlike me he didn’t look after his teeth, yellow and one was missing.  He appeared to be almost salivating at the prospect of hitting me with the bat. 

I just put my hands up, palms face out to show that I was unarmed.  Also that I was wearing a suit and tie and therefore no threat to them, I said, “Sorry, I didn’t meant to interrupt, but if it’s money you’re after I could let you have mine, if you let the lady go..”  I was actually hoping, that that would work as I was not in the mood, I hadn’t lost any money in the casino, I left on evens tonight, but, I had a bit of thumping headache, so, the last thing I wanted was a rumble in a dark London alleyway, but, on the other hand there was a lady in distress, even if one of the attackers was also ‘a lady’.

The one named Silverblade let out a giggle, yes, it was a giggle, not expected, and when you hear someone giggling it’s normally a nice sound, but her giggle was accompanied by, “Oh, fuck it Ned just whack him and take his wallet, ponce fucking offered so it would be churlish of us to refuse and anyway, we may as well have ourselves a bonus and we’ll just take this bitch back to Fatima’s place for some playtime.”

At that, I moved. I took two steps to my right, Ned’s left, holding the bat in his left hand this left him wrong footed and he tried to swing the bat towards me, it was awkward for him, not for me. As I stepped up I put my weight on my right leg. Lifted my left and smashed it down into his left kneecap.  He screamed and started to go down, dropping the bat, I caught it and for good measure whacked him over the back of the head sending him sprawling into the alleyway behind me.  I continued to move forward, I didn’t look behind me as I knew that I had hit Ned with enough force to give him a severe concussion and that he wouldn’t be any more trouble.

Silverblade still hadn’t moved from her position holding Ciara  by the throat and with just a hint of curiosity I also noticed that she didn’t seem bothered about how I had managed to take out Ned or that I was now moving towards her with the metal bat in my hands.


“Be ca...” the words were cut off by a strangled moan from Ciara’s mouth as Silverblade tightened her grip with little effort, but I got her meaning. Silverblade was still smiling when she said, “So you’re not just a cutesy in a suit then.” She said as a long bladed knife with what looked like a heavy silver handle appeared in her hand.  She was fast. And in one fluid move the knife came up and the handle connected with Ciara’s temple at the same time as Silverblade let go of Ciara’s throat with her left hand, she slumped, unconscious to the ground.  “Let it go” I said, “Your knife is no match for this bat, why don’t you just take your mate and leave.” I suggested hopefully. “If it’s money you’re after I have a couple of hundred in my wallet, you can have it if you just leave, now.”

Other than turning to face me head on, she had made no move to move away from the limp body of Ciara lying behind her.  “I don’t need your money, and as for her” she said, but without taking her eyes of me, “She gets her money from us.” “So what is it you want from her apart from a need to show that you are more of man then her and can beat up on someone else?”  As the conversation went on I knew she was measuring me up as I was her, trying to see if there was a weakness we could each exploit.  But she was good, she had her prey at her feet and wasn’t about to let me get to her without a fight.  “She took something that didn’t belong to her “ she said, “and we want it back”

“Look, I don’t want to fight you, but from what I saw and the little I heard, it seems to me that if I were in her shoes and you were beating down on me I would have given up whatever it is you thought I had stolen, if I had it” I thought that sounded reasonable but it soon became evident that this Silverblade wasn’t a reasonable person. “Fuck you,, we know she took it and you should do yourself a favour and turn around, before I lose my patience with you, which aint going to be long” she ended. “Sorry, can’t do ...” but before I could finish she moved, same trick as me with Ned earlier, she moved to my right, but I was ready for her and as quick as she was with her knife I was just as quick. The bat handle seamlessly transferred to my left hand and came up to deflect the knife that was just about to sink into my right bicep, missed me by millimetres, but I also had to back pedal as a second blade appeared in her left hand, and was coming in towards my chest. 

So, leave a comment and let me know what you think, should I try and develop this story or throw it in the bin?

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Three Weeks to Say Goodbye - C.J. Box


This was a departure for me in terms of CJ Box.  I haven’t posted any reviews of his books to date although I have read 3 novels by him in his Joe Picket series.  Those books I loved and I really do need to remedy the review situation on them.

But, Three Weeks to Say Goodbye!  I knew it wasn’t a Joe Picket novel when I downloaded it to my Kindle but Box’s writing in the previous offerings were most certainly 5 * but I had initial misgivings about this one in the opening pages. 

“God, I hate to be the one to tell you .”  “Tell me what?” A Beat. “The biological father wants Angelina Back.”  I made her repeat it in case I hadn’t heard her correctly. She did.  
Jack and Melissa have adopted a baby girl only to find that the adoption agency have not crossed all the T's or dotted the I's and after settling into the routine with the baby and loving her for nine months, the `father' receives a phone call from Julia Perala, the placements officer who handled their adoption, stating that the natural father had not signed away his rights to his daughter and that he now, through his father a Federal Judge, wanted his daughter back!

The father and grandfather turn up at the house to discuss the situation and it is clear that the baby’s father is less than interested, but the grandfather, the Federal Judge, gives them three weeks to give up the baby or he will turn up with the Sherriff!

The book now started to look interesting, imagine how would you feel in those circumstances.  You and your wife had been trying to make a family, suffered miscarriages and then ‘successfully’ and at great financial and emotional  cost, managed to adopt a child who you had loved and nurtured for nine months.... not a pretty thought.

Not my cup of tea, or so I thought. However I continued to read for a few more pages and Mr Box, like a couple of other authors I read at the moment, just sucks you in.  It is an easy writing style, well constructed and flowing.  Whether he had any knowledge of the subject of adoption or whether he just researched it I’m not sure. But he was writing an emotional book about parents losing a child to a teenage father who didn’t want it and to complicate matters the teenager had a disturbing personality and a Federal judge as a father.  And so a fight back began, but it was a fight back that was limited by circumstances, time, social standing and money, who wins, well, you’re just going to have to read it for yourself.

All I will say is; that this was not a Joe Picket book, and it is good to see that Mr Box has more than one story to tell and that augurs well for any reader who likes a well written story, laid out in a compelling and easy flowing way that just encourages you to turn each page!  And as the story develops, you discover that it is even darker and more horrible than you could have imagined, what could be more horrible than having a child, nurtured and loved by you for the first nine months of its life, taken from you..........

This isn’t a terribly long book, but it doesn’t need to be, at only 359 pages it starts of slowly and builds to an amazing climax.  26 chapters and in chapter 23 YOU too are ready to kill...

5 out of 5 stars

Friday, 2 December 2011

Jeremy Clarkson, Should be he Sacked?

Jeremy Clarkson, the BBC Top Gear co-host and professional agitator has done it again, he made a comment about taking Union strikers outside and shooting them in front of their families on prime time TV on Wednesday night.

Now I did not see the show go out live, but have of course seen it since as it has been replayed time and time again.  One Union official stated in the aftermath that they were consulting their lawyers to determine what suitable and appropriate legal action could be taken!

Another GMB Union chap was on TV this morning, denouncing that move, but likened Clarkson to a racist thug who was being allowed to get away with it, they were not his exact words, but that was my understanding of his comments and then commented that as a number of GMB Union members had died over the years, that Clarkson, if his apology was sincere, should show how sincere he was by putting his hand in his pocket and provide financial support for the families of those dead workers!

Seriously people, what is going on here.  Clarkson is a Buffoon and he is a Buffoon who earns his money from being a Buffoon with thousands of people following his every word.

Personally I can't stand him or Top Gear any more.  I have never been , as a guy, much into cars in the way that some are but I always enjoyed watching Top Gear.  It was a show that was dying on its feet a number of years ago and then some bright spark had the idea of relaunching it with The Buffoon and his two puppets, and it was a smart move because their anarchic style of delivery and presenting was totally different and injected some much needed revs into the show.

And it worked, the show is, I believe, the top earner for the BBC and now has been franchised out to major channels across the world. But I fell out of love with it a couple of years ago simply because I thought the three of them should have been arrested on numerous occasions for the stupid stunts they pull on the highways and bye-ways of some of our small British towns where they go out and disrupt people by driving a combine harvester or other mammoth monster into streets that clearly cannot cope with them, and they are still getting away with it because of their 'cheeky charm'.  Well I would like to be in one of those places to firmly put my boot on their asses when doing one of those stunts, if they inconvenienced me...

And through all of this, Clarkson makes his comments, whether on the show, or through his tabloid columns or in his annual book offering for Christmas, like and as regular as Santa Claus, (and his book and DVDs are constant best sellers) about all aspects of motoring and life in general and every comment is 'geared' to cause the maximum amount of  controversy, upsetting the small minded and the petty.

I don't get upset by his comments per say, because he is a Buffoon, and I have not been upset by his latest comment either other than the fact that he still makes them.  But the actual comment, upsetting, not so much.

If you actually watched the whole clip and I would point you to it here on the BBC's iPlayer, but I notice that that episode is not available and has seemingly been removed.  You will see that it was said in his usual booming Buffoonery way as part of a series of comments on the whole strike issue and I believe that offence was taken because a) It was Clarkson and b) it gives the Union the ability to keep going on about their case, which is about as dead in the water as I believe is where Clarkson should be, but that is only my opinion and other than his stupid antics where he and his co-hosts disrupt people in the street by their stunts, as long as you remember he is nothing more than a 50+ Buffoon and listen to him, if you must, in that way, why should you be offended by anything he says.

If we are to follow this to the conclusion that the 21000, so far complainers, want, which is head on a stick in front of TV House (or whatever it is called these days), then we may as well say that comedy shows on TV Radio, in underused theatres around the country, and town halls and, pubs, should immediately stop booking comedians for any performance as most of them have darkly comic sides to them, as we as a species do.  How many of those, have seen or heard of some tragedy and not then heard a ribald joke about it, and have never laughed or at least smiled at it, very few I suspect.  Some are comparing it to the Sachsgate when Russel Brand  and Jonathan Ross phoned and left comments on Andrew Sachs phone concerning his granddaughter.  This is completely different altogether, and does not compare.  Then it was two other Buffoons, but look heavens above another two guys who we pay millions to through our license fees, and 'we' all enjoy and laugh with them for years as they act out the part that 'we' want them to, because they are good at it or they are indeed funny, but then 'we' turn on them because some think they have overstepped the line that was never drawn in the sand for them, because 'we' never put a line there in the first place!

It's a big like the tabloid press in that respect, in that you get what you pay for' and while viewing figures for TV or listening figures for Radio, continue to outstrip all of their competition, then maybe the Unions should be asking for the name and addresses of all those people who turn up to watch the shows that they are in, can be taken to task as well, because it is those people who go to the recordings of the shows, who tune in on a Sunday night or buy the books and videos, who are guilty of allowing the Buffoons, to continue to do what they do.

And when the Unions and their Army of outraged members track down the viewers and find that a large proportion of them might be union members, what then.  Or here is another idea, why doesn't the union responsible for the men and women who man the cameras, who hold the sound mikes, who push the buttons in the control rooms, boycott the shows that these Buffoons are involved in, no, ridiculous to contemplate, well yes it is, but then so is complaining about what was nothing more than Mr Clarkson's usual Buffoonery and 'Black Humour'.

Oh, and yes he should be sacked, not for his comment, but the next time he does one of his stupid stunts that disrupts any street in the Kingdom and so too should the producers of the show that allow him to do it.