Monday, July 28, 2008

A Dying Breed

The other evening, walking through the sedate streets of London's upmarket Belgravia, I thought my eyes were deceiving me.  It was warm and sultry but I felt fresh and summery in my turquoise Pucca and Garu short-sleeved T, paired with navy linen pants.  In contrast, advancing towards me, I spotted a man swinging his brolly, formally suited and wearing a bowler hat.  I was tempted to rub my eyes and to look around for the accompanying film crew but this was no mirage or contrived set-up...  

The slender man, of advanced middle-age, appeared to take in his stride the glances he was attracting and nonchalantly went on his way; a throwback to Steed in The original Avengers, although here - quirkily - more reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin.  It was a rare sighting of what used to be commonplace, a typical London icon, probably as far back as the 1960s - on the streets of the capital's City Square Mile.  A strange one for the noughties, on a humid late July evening in Pont Street.

The original Bowler Hat was created in 1850 by hatters to the gentry, James Lock.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Squid Ahoy!

Thought it was time for another in my occasional series of recipes - this one works perfectly for a super-speedy, protein-rich, Mediterranean flavour-infused treat...

How do you choose what you're going to eat today?  If you're like me, then perhaps you take your inspiration from the market or supermarket, as you shop.  Perhaps you sometimes also need to give yourself a bit of a nudge to veer out of your 'comfort' zone.  So it was for me, a couple of nights ago, as I tried to decide what to make for dinner, while I shopped. At the fish counter, in my friendly local Waitrose, I noticed the squid was on offer and I realised that the last time I had prepared it, myself, was when I was living in Paris, shortly after I graduated.  Dis donc!  

After a reassuring chat with the girls behind the counter, I purchased my two squid tubes (pre-cleaned) and wandered home pondering my concoction of squid in red wine and tomato sauce, as I walked. En route, I thought back to when I was in Paris -  very young, adventurous and a touch naïve - and how I had prepared them totally from scratch, cleaning and all.  The result, as I recall, was a delicious success.

(Per main course portion)
2 cleaned squid tubes, (approx 7oz/200g)
olive oil or stir fry oil blend
1 small fresh, or dried, red chili, chopped
1 dash/glug of full-bodied red wine
1 small can (1/2 a regular can) chopped plum tomatoes or 1/2 sachet Ella's Organic The Italian One sauce (your favourite healthy tomato sauce would work just as well)
1 tablespoon soya milk

Rinse the squid under cold water, pat dry with kitchen paper; cut - length-wise - into 1" (5 cm) strips.  Pre-heat your pan.  Pour-in approx 10ml olive or stir-fry oil.  Place the squid slices in the pan, spreading around, (not on top of each other), so that they cook evenly.  After 30 seconds, add the chili, wine, tomatoes (or sauce) and soy milk.  Cook for a further 2-3 minutes, until sauce thickens and squid is tender.  Remove from heat, pour onto a plate or bowl and sprinkle with chopped fresh flat leaf parsley.  Enjoy as it is or to top your favourite pasta or rice.  Buon appetito!

NB  Whatever you do, don't over-cook the squid or it will be rubbery and chewy rather than tender and delicious!

It was too late to add the photo after I'd tasted my 'experiment' - I'll rectify that next time I make it...

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Birthday Boy and Universal Hero...

Happy, happy 90th Birthday to one of the greatest heroes of our time: Nelson Mandela. What a magnificent example to mankind he is. If there were more of his ilk, in our world, it would truly be a better place to live.

For almost as long as I can remember, he has held a special place in my affections and been a great hero and inspiration of mine.  Who can fail to admire his extraordinary strength, determination and incredible forgiveness towards those who held him prisoner and the people who perpetrated such inhumane deeds in his homeland.  The benevolence of the man remains apparent today in his beautiful countenance.  

I was pleased that he recently spoke out - at last! - about evil M in Zimbabwe (I won't even credit the monster by mentioning his name in full) but I don't yet feel reassured - sadly - that it will be enough to radically change the horrendous situation that has gone from bad to beyond mentionable there.  I hope Mandela's universal words, actions and dignity will continue to inspire people positively for generations to come.

Pic credit:

Monday, July 14, 2008

fox news...

Yes, indeed, t'was a cheeky fox who decided my decking was the perfect setting for his middle-of-the-night snack. Apparently he thinks the bamboo 'bush' at the back of my garden is the perfect place to rest/reside.  It doesn't make me a very happy bunny - but what can I do?  Any ideas for how I can encourage him to move-on will be greatly appreciated!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The one about the egg in the night...

There I was last night, sound asleep, until a noisy group of near neighbours - a couple of roads away - awoke me from my sweet slumbers.  I got out of bed and glanced out of the bedroom window, into my garden, where I spotted an odd looking sprinkling of what appeared to be leaves or petals on the decking.  So I wandered downstairs and went out for a closer look...

On the decking I found the 'sprinkling' to be a semi-smashed boiled egg.  My house is mid-terrace and there's only one set of neighbours around at the moment, not their style to throw an egg into the garden... I'm mystified!  It wasn't there when I went out into the garden earlier that evening... Any ideas to help me solve the mystery?  Could it have been a fox who was startled and then left his snack there?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Wimbledon - Wow!

Yesterday's marathon men's singles final will remain in the memory for a long time to come. Definitely the highlight of this year's tournament (not always the case) it was almost heart-stopping by moments; in parts almost unbearable to watch (especially the 4th set)...

What magnificent play, spirit, endurance and true champions.  Much as I admire Federer, I have to confess I was rooting for feisty, powerhouse Nadal - he had the edge yesterday (such determination and grippingly watchable talent) and is a deserved winner!  Wow! I can feel a tingle just thinking about it.  What great sportsmen they both are - in every sense.  A shining example of the power of a supportive and dedicated family, too.

Wimbledon - I'll miss you!  Go Rafa!

Saturday, July 5, 2008



London's University College was all a-quiver tonight as a wobbly display of famous buildings was showcased out of jelly (jello).  I wish I'd been there to see St Paul's recreated in a moving orange hue, along with other architectural highlights made in trembling party-treat form. Sadly I heard about it too late to shake-on down...

It was a special event, part of The London Festival of Architecture, where the precarious exhibits were accompanied by the strains of a gelatinous symphony, composed by scientists. See what you (we) missed out on in this fab photo - by Greta Ilieva - of St Paul's in all her vibrant, jiggling glory! 

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Honeycomb, berries and yogurt...

Are you a fan of the F-word?  I'm not talking swearing here, (although there's plenty of that on the programme) rather Gordon Ramsay's Channel4 series. It's a good 'watch' but not always easy for the faint-hearted or vegetarians - I confess, I sometimes have to turn-away from the intensely graphic nose-to-tail 'road-kill' moments...

In case you didn't catch it tonight, or if you're not a UK viewer, I must share the starring dessert from the show (courtesy of Gordon and Channel 4) with you.  Picture this: Greek yogurt with Berry Coulis, Honeycomb and fragrant Lavender- mmm! It looked amazing, relatively easy-to-prepare; an intriguing combination of textures and flavours - mouthwateringly delicious for a summer's day treat.  Take a look at the website for more on the series, if you've missed-out.

Happy Days...

There I was this afternoon, minding my own business (sort-of), wandering through Kingston- upon-Thames, doing some chores and enjoying the gorgeous July weather... Who should I spot at the local WH Smith's (a large-ish branch of popular UK newsagent and bookstore chain) but the Fonz himself! 

I was intrigued (although I knew he was in London from several news stories floating-about, today and yesterday) so I followed the crowd  - not my usual style - and discovered Henry Winkler aka Fonzie looking well and happy, signing his Hank Zipzer collection of children's books.  They're based upon his experience with dyslexia - at school - the poor way he was treated and how he overcame the lowly forecasts for his future.  His books look appealing, eye-catching and well-written, entertaining for his new young audience and reassuring for their parents.  

There was quite a queue to see elegant, grey-haired Fonzie, as he sat with an iced coffee, to cool and revive him - surrounded by his books, photographers and store staff.  He appeared to be enjoying the whole thing as much as those keenly waiting to see him.  He was adorable with all the children, totally natural with no  airs-and-graces; equally as charming with their adult companions - who were more likely to be his fans from when his TV career was at its height.  It was heart-warming - Happy Days, indeed!