Archive for October, 2007


Tonight I carved a pumpkin – I think the result is truly frightning.  This week I will make Delia’s pumpkin pie with his flesh.



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Yesterday I sat on a bench in Reading town centre, waiting for a friend. It was cold, she was running late and I had no reading material, so I resigned myself to a boring wait with the limited selection on my iPod (what has modern technology done to me??)

However, there was unexpected entertainment in store in the form of watching the people handing out leaflets to passers-by. Normally I avoid these people and will usually decline any materials offered, which seemed to be the general response. However, some people’s reactions truly amazed me. The number of individuals who totally blanked the poor people was incredible. And these guys had made an effort – painted faces, hats, balloons, sweeties etc.

Now, I have been unfortunate enough to have been forced to turn to the desperate income made from this job (in the very same place, in fact) and I thought that perhaps I was being overly sensitive when I was shunned, but it turns out that people are just rude. I was also surprised (and a little annoyed) by the amount of people who roboticaly held out their hand, took a flyer, then (without even looking at the thing) dropped it in the nearest bin (or worse still, just dropped it). I felt like screaming at them; “just don’t take it if you don’t want it!”

I have to wonder what the response rate for these things is and whether they do actually generate more interest than posters / PR etc. (even if it is just on local radio stations and papers). I’d be interested if anyone actually knows – I think that in the 20 minutes I sat watching I only saw one person express genuine interest in the event. The others, at best, just faked mild curiosity (mainly due to the sweets, which were occasionally dished out if the person dared slow down).

I’m also dubious of the blanket approach, I imagine that less than 5% of the audience yesterday would actually consider going to see Crazy For You at the Hexagon next Saturday – there must be more effective, less soul-destroying ways to promote this. And, if carefully planned, these ways would use less effort but reap much greater rewards, they’d probably also save money and be much less damaging to the environment.

On the other hand, the endearing actions of the Sainsburys Singers and the fascinating response of the general public has prompted me to write this, so maybe it does all work. So, if you do feel compelled to check them out, have a look at their website.

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This is a fantastic invention to rival any current Internet passtime AND it doesn’t promote cyber friendship in anyway. Great.

So, the idea is that you trade on the celebrity stock exchange, much like NASDAQ in the US, but more fun (there is also a Sportdaq, but this holds less appeal for me). The share prices are based on column inches and dividends are even paid out at the end of each week. I made nearly £200 on Lewis Hamilton over the weekend!

I urge you to have a go – it is bizarrely addictive!

PS. I must stress that it isn’t real money and you are given a £10,000 lump sum to fritter away

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The story of Santiago

I have just spent the last 15 minutes of my life crouched on a boulder, in a gnome-like fashion, watching my pond. What is the reason for this, I hear you ask! Santiago, I reply. Santiago is a goldfish, but a goldfish with a difference. I would like to compare him with the shepherd from The Alchemist, who came from humble beginnings, but a chance encounter with fate turned his life around.

This encounter came one cold, September evening in the small market town of Wallingford. It was the first night of the fair and the smell of candy floss and the sounds of mid-nineties pop filled the crisp night air. Anticipation was under every cobble-stone. After a (few) pints of Australia’s finest lager tops, a group of colleagues ventured towards the fairground, pulled in by its mystical magnetism, and the dirty thrill of £1 rides. They swirled on waltzers, they crashed on dodgems, they slid on the helter skelter (so wrong, yet so right). Then, handicapped by the obligatory ‘sausage’ hot-dog, a trip around the stalls ensued.

It was here that Santiago was dwelling, fresh from the ‘warehouse’ (I kid ye not) and swimming in a slightly clouded plastic bowl with a group (pod..?) of equally despondent fish. His fate was sealed. Or so he thought. One member of the afore-mentioned group, eager to show off his manly skills, rose to the challenge of throwing four darts onto four very large playing cards. Needless to say, he succeeded. Victory was his, he whooped, he smiled, he beat his chest in territorial triumph, then reality struck. His prize, a beautiful goldfish, was staring up at him through the confines of a plastic bag. Something must be done to ensure this fish has a good life, thought the man.Crisis talks followed. While the group discussed and debated, Santiago looked back at his former home and wondered if the tales of toilet cisterns and bully-boy children were true. And, as he endured a jolting journey out away from the bright lights and dizzying colours, he simply hoped it would be quick. However, less than half an hour later the group pulled up outside one of their homes and gently placed Santiago in to the large, wild expanse of a calm and peaceful pond. It was here that Santiago was last seen, swimming off among the reeds with brand new spring in his swim.

This was two weeks ago and there has been no sighting since. Did we do the right thing? I believe so, if Santiago died on that night, he died a free fish, with a new-found joi de vivre which he did not even know was possible.On reflection, I do believe the shepherd from The Alchemist was actually named Santiago, which only goes to show that he was a truly special fish. Any updates will be posted. 

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Wine blog – the beginning

I have decided to write about the odd wine or two that I find tasty, horrible or just worth talking about. I am not a snob.

My first tale begins at the Tesco wine festival, regular haunt of many a bargain-hunting part-time wine appreciator (for I cannot claim to be anything other than an appreciator – connoisseur will come with time, I’m sure). The aisles were half-stocked and the evening was pushing on, so snap decisions had to be made. We chose two.

The first (chosen by my sister for the very lovely silver-heart label, and for the fact that it rather intriguingly asked to be served chilled) was Casa Dolce’s Syrah Dolcetto, a watery-looking, yet quite bright red wine from South Eastern Australia. We sniffed with some trepidation- what would the chilled red wine be like? “It smells like my socks” was the less-than flattering conclusion from my brother-in-law (- to be. Potentially). OK, we weren’t off to a good start. Admittedly, it did lack a certain excitement in the scent department but we managed to ascertain that strawberries were also prominent ‘on the nose’. So now for the moment of truth, we sipped, we swirled, we swallowed. Unexpected is the only word I can use to describe all of our reactions – it was sweet, yet really quite tannic with a slight fizz and berry taste. Two out of the three of us thought it was brilliant, but this has since been knocked down to two out of five, after my parents tried it. It was certainly a drinkable wine, probably best suited to aperitifs, as it does not have the structure or complexity to remain tasty with food, but is somehow not sweet enough to be enjoyed as a desert wine. I think it’s a great alternative to white wine, which can be too acidic for some moods, and to rose, which is generally too cloying if this sweet. All in all I’d recommend you try this wine if you fancy something a bit different – it would be a great talking point to start a late-summer BBQ or even a winter get-together, but is probably best appreciated for its novelty factor and I imagine it won’t compare entirely favourably to other sweet, light bodied reds, which are served chilled (such as one I have had from Slovenia recently, but don’t remember the name of).

Casa Dolce Syrah Dolcetto. Around £6 (£4.50 in the sale) from Tesco

The second, and I’ll try to make this quick, was also chosen for the label (and the fact it was quite heavily reduced!). mad bay Shiraz, this time from Western Australia, is an entirely different wine altogether. Interesting if you think that it is made from the same primary grape as Casa Dolce‘s earlier offering (syrah / shiraz). This wine was very dark – we did the ‘finger test’ to see if our digits were visible through the liquid, which confirmed our conclusions. Conversely to the last wine, the aromas from this were strong and varied – smoke, tobacco, coffee, juicy fruit (not the chewing gum) and spice – lots of it. To taste, it was almost too overpowering, the smokey spice fills your head and throat and the tannins coat your teeth. It is probably best enjoyed with food, although the stuffed yellow peppers we ate were probably not the ideal companion (but they were very tasty – thank you Lynne!) None of us being too keen to continue, we left for the pub and decided to try again the next day. I think the wine improved on being open for a day – the smell was much less smokey and had developed pleasant medicinal undertones, with a warming – rather than fiery – base. It was much the same story with the taste – all the layers were still there but seemed to have mellowed out and had a delicious, subtle vanilla aftertaste. However, I don’t really think this wine is good value for money. We paid around £6, which makes it a reasonable buy, but at the original price of around £9 it may leave a bitter taste in your mouth (which, I forgot to add, it did).

mad bay Shiraz, 2005. Around £9 (£6 in the sale) from Tesco

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