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Archive for March, 2008

The road to hell

After a grueling 11 hours’ sleep (officially 12, by the time I woke up and looked at my digital clock) I decided that the least I could do was go for a run.  This was a mistake. 

My progress is clearly backing-tracking. Last week I was able to run the best part of three miles without too much pain, but today I tried the same run and nearly died after one and a half.  My chest was heaving, my heart a’ pounding and, wost of all, it felt as though someone had been repeatedly punching and kicking my (lead) calves and shins.  Is this the price I have to pay to stay fit?? 

Not even the knowledge of British Sumertime could cheer me up – butterflies all around, planes in the air and, as if on cue, hot weather.  OK, I know that running at midday may seem a little foolish but, given March’s track record for temperature, I assumed I was safe (I didn’t even wear a T-shirt, only my thermal top and fleece!)  Needless to say I was boiling.

Speaking of track records, I am scheduled to do a 5k run at Dorney Lake in Windsor in exactly two weeks and this thought was making me a little nervous.  Just as I was at the point of despair – asking the forces that be to help me on the last 200 meters of my journey – a jovial, well-to-do gentleman in brown cords pulled up alongside me on his bicycle and began to chat to me.  This was the perfect excuse to walk so we began a little conversation, during which he told me all about his running career, his torn knee ligaments (this kind of talk is beginning to worry me) and how I ought to ‘keep it up’.  It’s going to be tough… 

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Meet The Spartans

Probably better if you’ve actually seen 300.  Mildly amusing but not worth the best part of a tenner.  I reckon it was more fun to make than it was to watch.

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Keith Lemon’s Very Brilliant World Tour

Ho, ho, ho, this is rather a funny programme by Leigh Francis (Bo Selcta), which has just started on ITV2.  Similarly to his other series’, it certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste and, like Bo Selcta, I like some parts a lot more than others (controversially, I was never a fan of the bear.)  

However, I think this is brilliant.  It follows Keith Lemon (business man of the year 1993) on his shark-shaped flight plan around the world and is full of some very well observed  moments (particularly the way he speaks – you have to watch to know what I mean), as well as ridiculously far-fetched scenarios…last week he recalled dumping Holly Valance: 

Keith (BBQ-ing prawns): “Me and you, we’re finished”
Teary-eyed Holly: “What do you mean?  Are you saying we’re over?”
Keith: “Yes, over and finished are the same word!  Are you thick as well as fat?! Jesus”  

Anyway, enough said, I think it’s well worth a watch and you can catch up on the last two episodes on ITV Catch Up

PS. It’s on ITV2 at 10pm on Tuesdays 

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Yesterday I went to London to visit a friend and, while I could probably write a whole entry about the fun places he took me (Noodle Time in Greenwich is worth a blog alone), what I would really like to tell you about is my train journey.  It began with a hangover.   

For all my sins I admit that I drank way too much cheap white wine and danced the night away to a covers band in Reading Yates‘ (please, I beg you, do not judge me.)  So, when morning poked me awake to leave for the bright lights of the fair capital, I forgot reading material.  ‘Never mind’ I thought,  ‘I’ll read the Metro, always a good way to pass some idle time’.  But no, the Gods of tasteful Saturday nights out were set to punish me.  It was Sunday and selfish journalists do not write issues on The Holy Day.  Oh well, I would have to make do with my iPod.   

However, I was soon to be entertained by a group of business-people on a day off in the big smoke.  It never fails to amaze me how much people give away about their companies just through chatting on the train – there was a time when I was heading in to London for a big IT event (ironically it was for IT security) and the train was heaving with techno-boffins.  Therefore, one man obviously thought it would be a great idea to show off his ever-so-important responsibilities (or so he thought) by talking very loudly down the phone about the new network the company was employing and when it was to be installed etc. etc.  Fool. 

Anyway, I digress (me?!)  So, this group comprised of the manager of Latin America, his lady friend and an Australian manager (who later answered his phone to “Gudday, Bruce speaking”.  Classic.)  These guys were talking about colleagues – “How’s Maria’s Spanish going?”, “Not well”. Snigger, tut etc., sales info and an array of other tid-bits.  Had I paused my iPod before, I would have been able to figure out the name of their company (I just missed that part of the conversation but made sure they still thought I was plugged in, in order to ensure they wouldn’t censor their gossip.)  

And it’s not just business information that fellow passengers like to share – I’ve heard all sorts of private exchanges over my time.  There was a very posh girl sitting next to me on the journey home, angrily trying to persuade someone to continue with their A Levels (I can only assume it was her little brother) and also a big, burly Rugby player (studying in Dartmouth, I gleaned) who called ‘Mummy’ to ask her to send him his French work, which he’d left on the dining room table (“I’ll refund you the pound for postage”.  Oh, please, who are we kidding?  We’ve all played that card in our lifetimes.)  

Anyway, just bear it in mind next time you’re on a train and you open your laptop to study a sales spreadsheet / revise your notes on sensitive questions for this afternoon’s press conference, or call your sister to moan about your colleague – you never know who is paying attention.

Incidentally, I have actually even been asked out on a train, so it’s not all bad at all…but those stories are for another time… 

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Sushi one0eight, Reading

Thank God – it appears that Reading is finally moving away from chain-store hell and branching into food outlets other than dodgy Italians and ‘tapas’ bars!

When I returned home to find that there was actually a sushi bar in Reading, I nearly choked on my Nando’s.  What?  Are the people of Reading ready for such adventurous dining??  This, I’m afraid, still waits to be seen.  My friend and I, however, were terribly excited, so went for a Friday night pre-cinema nibble (by the way, we saw Juno and it was fantastic) and I will be returning.

In fairness, it’s not the best sushi in the land – it certainly can’t compare to the slick, tasty bars that have sprung up all over London, but it is definitely a step in the right direction and, at only £2 for any plate, you really can’t go far wrong (and sushi is surprisingly filling.)

The fun comes from the pick and mix conveyor belt system (like the ever popular ‘Yo Sushi’), which brings an interactive element to the dining experience.  And because all the dishes are the same price, you don’t have the “I know I shouldn’t care, but how much do the pink / blue / yellow plates cost?” syndrome.  The wine was also pretty OK (I had the Pinot Grigio, usually a safe bet I find) and they do a selection of beers and soft drinks (they also have drinks ‘specials’ which are included in the £2 price band, but needless to say I didn’t try those wines…!)

Other good points were the friendly staff, a menu from which you can order any dish that doesn’t happen to be on the conveyor belt at the time, and  a seemingly good loyalty card scheme, which gives you stamps for each dish bought, then rewards you with a free one when you’ve accrued ten stamps (and this is easily done, especially if you share in one sitting.) 

If I were to be critical, the lighting was far from atmospheric and the techno music was blearing at a slightly uncomfortable level for my fragile 24-year-old ears.  However, it is a sushi bar, not a romantic French bristro, so I’ll let them off.

All in all I would recommend a visit here – it struck us as quite a cool place to come on a first date (particulrly because you could tell a lot from your potential partner by thier reaction to your suggestion: “Oh, sushi?  Ain’t that some kinda raw fish or summit?”.  Hang up.)   They also do slightly discounted take-aways.

Top notch, “so-good-I’d-even-try-blow-fish-here” it isn’t, but it signals a revolutionary step in the right direction for the traditionally bland Reading culture. 

Sushi One0Eight

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The Jackal and the Arctic Hare

This is a little story I have written, inspired by my travels, the people I’ve met, books I’ve read and the silly actions of others, which I have experienced in my short lifetime.

Up until the day the Jackal met the Arctic Hare you could have said that he was happy.  He wondered the landscape, found food and had Jackal-type responsibilities. This was the life he had chosen for himself and he had all the things a Jackal could really want but he wasn’t truly content.

Similarly, the Arctic Hare was also happy.  Happier, perhaps, than the Jackal because she knew that there were dreams she was meant to follow and she allowed herself to think about what these might be. The trouble was, that although she saw adventure and excitement in these fantasies, the details were always blurred, like the terrain in a snowstorm.

But over time the two grew closer and began to share their dreams with one another.  People laughed at their unlikely friendship but despite their obvious differences, the two had much in common.  The Hare told the Jackal of her passions and her beliefs and, over time the Jackal began to feel a light grow inside him, which he had long thought to be extinguished.  He felt alive. In return the Jackal taught the Hare a great many things and she noticed that her dreams started to take shape and she felt excitement and an unfamiliar sense of contentment just from having the Jackal in her life.

Then one day the Jackal began to worry.  He had neglected his Jackal-type responsibilities and he knew that people would laugh if they knew of his real feelings for the Hare.  He knew that many people not want to see a Jackal and a Hare together.  He spoke to his friend, the Black Pheasant, who counseled him and told him to live his life and go against his fears.  However, one day the Jackal was so filled with apprehension that he left without a word. 

The Hare was left alone.  Her dreams were broken and her life was altered.  She tried to find the Jackal to change his mind, but he was too afraid to hear what she had to say, and so the grinding wheel of time was against her heart’s desire. 

The Jackal spent his days tending to his responsibilities and, over time he began to believe that he was happy.  Then one night he dreamed of the Hare and, when he awoke, he realised that the light was no longer burning.  He left the next morning in search of her but found nothing.  Their old friends told him that she had left a long time ago to follow of her dream and, although he never lived to know this, she had been searching for him too until she gave up and took a different path.  The old Black Pheasant tried to console him but there was nothing he could say that would ease the sadness the Jackal felt at losing the company of the Hare, and the thing which caused him the most pain was that there was no one to blame apart from the Jackal himself.

 

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The Forefather Malbec Shiraz

Oh my God – this wine has compelled me to re-unite my affair with wine blogging for all the right reasons as it is probably one of the most delicious red wines I’ve tasted in the last year!  Admittedly, though, I do love Malbec so I am biased.Here’s why: Not only does it have the right, visually enticing qualities of a full bodied red wine (deep purple/red, thick and vibrant) but just the smell of it transports you to an open fireplace, where you can imagine a cosy winter scene.  Aromas (!) of chocolate and red berries automatically comfort you and the hint of tobacco-y goodness just adds to its temptation.  Finally, and this is the best bit, it tastes like pure, smooth, chocolate and fruit heaven.  My sister once made a drunken damson chocolate pudding (syrupy, tart fruit, dowsed in rum, which makes the chocolate cakey base go all delicious and gooey*) and that is exactly what this wine would be, if it could be summed up in a food sense.  It has an exceptionally smooth, long finish which is the perfect mixture of sweet and spicy with a medium tangy tannin undertone.  Buy this wine!

*I tried to get this recipe online but failed.  However, it is from the best cookbook I own – ‘Unwrapped: Green and Black’s Chocolate Recipes’ – you could do a lot worse than invest in this  

UPDATE:  half an hour and two glasses later, I have decided that this is my Josh Hartnett of red wines; the ideal prototype

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