Yes, You Please Me

DSC_0690Back in February, on its 50th anniversary, the BBC recorded the Beatles’ Please, Please, Me in 12 hours with various artists and, of course, in the old Abbey Road Studios. The one hour TV summary comes up in repeats every once in a while, so if you have a chance to watch it, I recommend it. (article, iplayer)

Not every track is to my liking, but some are immensely well done.

Mick Hucknall of Simply Red performs Anna brilliantly, I Am Kloot gives us beautiful Chains, Ian Broudie does a fine job with Do You Want To Know A Secret. Others are doing well too, but these stand out for me. Plus, of course, the finale: Beverly Knight gives it all for Twist And Shout, very nearly blowing the roof off.

So, why do I mention this? Well, it’s because finally took the time to watch the TV recording again, and then finally took the time to explore the Manchester-based trio I Am Kloot. I am always surprised when I discover contemporary musicians which I like, but those boys certainly are to be liked. A. Lot. Check it out!

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A Fine Buck

DSC_1665It’s rare to see so much snow in London, so we enjoyed watching some Great Tits on our cat and squirrel safe bird feeder, and made it out to Richmond Park. Very large number of families with children were enjoying themselves with plastic and makeshift sledges, and a good time was had by all.

Funny how the slopes, particularly a very busy slope near the Kingston Gate, looked as if the scene could have stood model for a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

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Charlotte’s

DSC_0859A lovely meal was being had at Charlotte’s Place in Ealing yesterday night to mark a special occasion: our 30th!

30 years of food-related memories (and others), so here’s the latest memory added:

For starters, we enjoyed a pork and fennel sausage with Sauce Gribiche (him) and Foie Gras, ham hock and artichoke terrine with a fruit chutney (her).

For the main, we enjoyed hake with octopus and Salsa Verde (her) and cod with fennel and Sauce Vierge (him), followed by a cherry Panna Cotta (her) and a cheese board (him). All enjoyed with nice bread (good), plenty of free water (excellent) and a passable Pinot Grigio.

The very subtle difference between Sauce Gribiche and a fine remoulade was lost on me, but it was as nice as any mayonnaise-based sauce ever will be. The Salsa Verde proofed popular thanks to an unexpected punch of mint. The Cornish Cod was cooked well enough to make me envious, but the dish lacked a small highlight; maybe a little more of the tiny, tiny, tiny portion of Walnut pesto would have done the trick (which was really lovely actually). The wilted Gem Lettuce underneath was a little overcooked but still acceptable. The cherry flavour in the Panna Cotta was lost against the accompanying blackberry compote, but all in all, Charlotte’s continues to be the best restaurant in Ealing that we know of. Not cheap but not expensive either, and the whole balance between price, ambience, food and service is very good indeed.

It’s well worth a visit more than once in thirty years.

 

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It’s All Over Now Baby Blue

20120811_083615I think many Britons will agree with me when I say that I am very sorry to see the 2012 Summer Olympics already over. The luxury to forget about Syria and the economy and all else for a fortnight, with the added benefit of a good cheer and success stories, the good spirit fuelled by many Olympic volunteers, the… Oh, it was just wonderful. The nation is suffering from post-Olympic stress syndrome. Others called it the Olympia Withdrawal Trauma, but it’s all the same: too bad it is over.

My only criticism is that the BBC focused almost exclusively  on events with British interest (plus Usain Bolt). Even the late night summary TV broadcast didn’t spend time on a brief summary of all else that happened on the day, even though a lot else had happened every single day. Hardly a mention of the handball qualifiers or the men’s modern pentathlon, and many other sports. Basically, they didn’t care unless there was a strong British Interest.

Not quite the best display of the good Olympic spirit by the BBC, who on all other accounts stunned with the comprehensive cover via a variety of media. There’s another chance with the Paralympics, but I think the broadcasting rights for that are with Channel 4, where we’ll be watching the finale right after the commercial break.

We only saw one event in person, the Men’s Modern Pentathlon: 36 brave athletes fencing, 200m freestyle swimming, show jumping on a foreign horse, 3x1000m running and shooting in a single-day competition over 11 hours, and it was great to be part of it. I never thought I could say to myself I’ve been there (even though the BBC didn’t mention it in the summary and Mo Farah won the 5000m gold at the time of the Pentathlon finish).

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Tea Minus Fourteen

DSC_0662It’s just under fourteen hours to the opening of the 2012 London Olympics at the time of this writing.

I didn’t care much about the torch relay until it came through our little Broadway, passing along the stores offering used washing machines, second hand furniture and cars. There had been a lot more people out that I expected; the street was actually lined with people several rows deep. The fine weather and the convenient 18:00 hour also helped of course, but the whole thing sparked some sense of hope with me.

Hope that the Olympic Spirit is finally out of the bottle and Londoners are ignited with a positive momentum.

At 8:12 today, bells will be rung all across the country for the three minute All The Bells piece conceived by Martin Creed, including Big Ben, the famous 13.5 tonne bell.

The show begins at 21:00 tonight. I find it all pretty exciting. T minus 14, 13, …

 

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Olympic Spirit

DSC_0409There’s a lot of Olympic spirit around in London these days. Trouble is, it is not the good Olympic spirit: Traffic will be a nightmare, the Olympic lane regulations are unclear, public transport will be at the brink of collapse. The weather is likely to frustrate, the security is in shambles, the general cost of the whole affair is high. Tickets are hard to come by and too expensive. The logo and mascot are an embarrassment. The games are too commercial, the beach volleyball ladies may not be playing in bikini due to low temperatures, and this, and that, and more.

The list of advance complains is almost endless. Not all without reason, but it can’t be helped now, can it? We’ve got them, like it or not, and any arrangements which might have been done better or different are what they are. I’d love to see the good British spirit arising from the pit of doom before the games.

We’ve been watching reports about runner Usain Bolt, cyclist Victoria Pendleton and highlights of many of the past modern Olympic games. To me, these are stimulating programmes. I don’t usually follow sports at all, but I certainly look forward to see how Usain and Victoria perform, and will enjoy watching many of the Olympic disciplines which don’t normally get a great deal of press coverage.

I, for one, look forward to the games. I hope so do you.

 

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Games Security

2010-12-27 019The Home Secretary Theresa May assures us that the Olympic games’ security will not be compromised by bringing in approximately 17,000 army staff to help out – why, I wonder, would the security be compromised, if you’d bring in the government’s very own experts in keeping people and country safe? This is by far the best use of the army this country has seen in a long time!

I can only hope that G4S, the company awarded the contract for Olympic security and paid £300 million for the pleasure, will compensate the taxpayer for services agreed but not provided. They have now said that they couldn’t train enough staff in time. Up to three weeks before the opening, they thought they could. Honestly. If they think they can hire someone as late as three weeks before the games, vetted and trained to the standards required in time, G4S might be the biggest security risk on site.

 

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Bye Bye, and Hello

DSC_0436It’s Good Bye to The Independent, which we had delivered every morning for the last few years.

A letter informs me of the discontinuation of their home delivery service by March 31st, suggesting that I should switch to the digital edition or to subscription vouchers. I don’t walk the dog first thing in the morning, so vouchers for self-collection at the newsagent make no sense (and besides, could I not use one of those tokens with a picture of Her Majesty on it? People say they also work as newspaper vouchers.), and I don’t want to spend every single minute of my day, including breaks away from my screens, in front of a screen. No, thank you.

Starting April 2nd, we shall become Guardian readers. Hello!

We are looking forward to the change, especially since The Independent became increasingly tabloid, and we look forward to eliminating the weekly annoyance of Mark Hix.

 

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Saigon, Saigon

DSC_0940I promised a friend and member of the Sunday Night Curry Club to tell about our trying out of Saigon, Saigon, a Vietnamese Restaurant in Hammersmith’s King Street, so here goes:

We loved it.

We arrived at 7pm on a Saturday evening to a pre-booked table for four, and it quickly turned out that pre-booking seems essential: the place was packed, and the downside was that we had a slot from 7 to 9pm.

Staff was friendly and efficient though, and overall noise levels were pleasantly low, inspite of the many diners in the room.

For starters, we enjoyed fresh salad rolls with sliced shrimp & pork in soft rice paper, char-grilled quails marinated with honey, minced garlic & five spices and a sliced beef steak salad (medium-rare) with mixed herbs in fresh lime juice. All three dishes were so nice that none of us could pick a favourite.

For the mains, we had stir-fried spicy beef with morning glory, stir-fried chicken in a fruity tamarind sauce, shredded pork with lemon grass and black mushrooms, served in a clay pot, and seafood “on fire,” all accompanied by fried rice, sparkling water and a Sauvignon Blanc.

Maybe one of quieter nights will allow for more time. While we didn’t feel rushed through the meal and our 2 hour slot, in the end we were declined a coffee and asked to vacate the table for the 9pm batch. I think this is just acceptable given the overall quality to price ratio; they’d probably have to raise prices across a magical threshold in order to run the place at a single seating per table. Maybe 2 1/2 hour slots would be clever compromise move though.

The food was great. Prices are very reasonable for the area; we paid approximately £30 per person, which included a bottle of wine shared between four. The only downside is the two hour table slot business.  We’ll be back for sure, but maybe not on a Saturday night.

 

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New World Sports

DSC_0144The Prime Minister hopes that the 2012 London Olympics will encourage more people to take on sports.

New world sports, I’m guessing:

Power Tweeting

Cross-terrain Texting

Speed Channel Hopping

Synchronised Facebooking

What’s your favourite new world sport?

 

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Guerrilla Weeding

polluxI was curious how much longer it would take, but the wait is over: I got challenged and put to the question on my way home from the gym. “What are you doing there?” the man wants to know.

When I explained that I was picking Dandelions in this gentleman’s alleyway, "a weed to you and me but heaven for my Guinea pigs," he did what every decent man should do: His suspicious face melted away, replaced by a smile and an inviting gesture.

We had a brief conversation about the eating habits of Guinea Pigs, concluded with the repeated invitation to harvest dandelions in his alley way.

I like life’s little moments. There’s so much latent aggression in the streets of suburban London, and many people in the street look at me suspiciously when I bid them a good morning. Nice to know normality also remains part of suburban life.

 

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Something Fishy Tonight!

Hanwell Fish MongerThis blog gets hit by local searches, so allow me to recommend a new local business: the Hanwell Fishmonger, 111 Uxbridge Road, Hanwell.

They also have a website, http://www.hanwellfishmonger.co.uk/. Didn’t work for me when I tried, but maybe its a work in progress.

Just go in there. They offer the full spectrum of while and oil fish, cuttlefish and crustaceans. Their strength is in fresh whole fish, not so much in the omnipresent cod and haddock fillets. We had King Fish streaks and Sea Bream from them so far; very reasonably priced and delicious on both occasions. The boys behind the counter also know how to handle fish; I asked them gut and clean the Sea Breams for me, and they did a nice and neat job at it.

Supporting your local businesses rather than the big supermarket chains is vital for the upkeep (or restoration) of our town centres. A town and its community can’t thrive on used washing machine and used Rolls Royce traders alone, so I encourage everyone to support the local shops. Hanwell is not very glamorous, but offers a number of appealing local businesses: butchers, baker, grocers, florists, fish mongers, newsagents, hair dressers, a pharmacy, several cafes, an ice cream parlour, a great number of pubs and some restaurants, and many more.

One pound in every £7 spent in Britain is already spent at Tesco.

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