The Befouled Weakly News

Greg's Occasional News & Views

1 August 2010

Apologies to those of you in the UK and/or the Far East for the late arrival of this week’s edition of the Befouled News. Of course, we are now in beautiful, downtown Huletts Landing (well, in the suburbs at any rate) and we’ve had the occasional distractions as you might imagine.

We flew on Wednesday to New York City and spent a few days there enjoying the sights and sounds. New York City is always grand fun but my goodness, it was hot, hot, hot – absolutely sweltering the first couple of days. The journey from JFK into the city to Ann and Ely’s apartment was one of those experiences you might not like to repeat too often. Dragging two overly-heavy suitcases via the Air Train to the Long Island Railroad in sauna conditions was fun. Then, we had the highly enjoyable task of making our way through the hordes of citizenry and tourists via the subway and shuttle from Penn Station across to Grand Central and then the final subway journey up to 86th Street. By the time we reached the apartment we were both wringing wet and exhausted but glad to be there.

Thursday afternoon we went out to Citi Field for a Mets game – highly enjoyable for me; slightly more tolerable than watching paint dry for Pen. Still, the Mets beat the Cardinals and everyone went home happy (apart, of course, from the considerable number of Cardinal fans). Lovely dinner afterwards at a terrific Mexican restaurant on 2nd Avenue which Jordy and Ching introduced us to the last time we were in the City – Taco Taco. (Speaking of Jordan and Ching, we had written that we were coming for a few days at the end of July; they very quickly [and sensibly] decided that they would rather be in France so we weren’t able to meet up with them this time round). Having enjoyed the sweltering conditions in the City, I’m not now so convinced that they were trying to avoid us – just the heat.

Friday, it actually started to cool off a bit; it went from absolutely, positively sweltering to merely oppressively hot and humid. We did some tourist stuff which we’ve never done before – we joined the heaving masses of humanity queuing to make their way to the top of the Empire State Building which, in spite of the heat and wait was stunning.


 


Saturday morning early we set off from the apartment to make our way to Newark Airport where we were due to meet our friends Sue and Stuart for the drive up to the Lake. Sue has a son who lives in New Jersey where they had spent a few days prior to meeting up with us. Amazingly, we both presented ourselves at the appropriate place at the appropriate time and in next to no time we were on the road joining the countless other holiday makers travelling north to the Catskills and/or Adirondacks on changeover day. A couple of stops enroute and a considerable delay while we shopped for the five thousand at Hannaford’s in Glens Falls and we pulled up to the Ritz about 4.00. Our other friends, Dave and Sue Walton with their lovely girls Ellen and Zoe arrived about 8.30 having flown into Boston earlier in the afternoon. Sandy had laid on a sauna and things were just about as nice as it could possibly be.

For those of you who will be joining us next week, I am pleased to report that the Lake is still every bit as beautiful as you will remember it, the Ritz is looking great, the weather will hopefully be warm/hot and sunny (it’s gorgeous at the moment and the water is heavenly) and the campsite Sandy has prepared for Stragapalooza is coming along nicely. The Port-a-Potties arrive on site during the coming week and we’ll help him get all the tents lined up for the arrival of the first campers on Saturday. Be sure to bring your ticket and, if you are so inclined, your Get Out of Work free card.

Love to you all,

Greg

 

25 July 2010

Good morning to you all. Just think – this time next week Ms Playchute and I will be at the Ritz. Doesn’t time fly when you are enjoying yourself!

Ever since our Molly was a puppy she has been extremely fond of her food. (Aren’t we all!) So much so that whenever one even thought about having a piece of toast for breakfast she would be at your feet gazing longingly into your eyes trying to persuade you with a doleful expression that what she really, really, really, needs was just a small sample of whatever it is that you’re having. The merest rustle of paper or indeed the very act of opening the bread bin would summon her in a heartbeat. You hadn’t even removed the bread from the bread bin and you would turn around and find her sitting expectantly. Even more amazing, you could see (and hear) her snoring in the living room, tiptoe silently through to the kitchen and noiselessly remove the lid of the bread bin and hey presto! There she was.

Now, however, as she has reached an advanced age, she is no longer there in an instant. Nowadays, she arrives just as the toast pops.

Originally I put this down to loss of hearing but when I think about it, I realise that this is not the case. As I say, generally she gets there before the toast has popped so I reckon that she has indeed heard the bread bin being opened, heard the rustle of the wrapper as one extracts a slice of bread, heard the bread being slid into the toaster and the lever being depressed. Only then does she bother to rouse herself from wherever she has been slumbering to arrive just at the moment the toast is about to be removed from the toaster. Pretty damn clever – why waste all that time sitting and looking as if one is about to starve to death when one can achieve the same result by arriving a few minutes later?

We’ve had a fair few swallow invasions this week which is most unusual. Generally, we might get one or two who mistakenly find their way indoors. Usually, it’s the young ones and often it’s when they are just learning to fly. They flutter about and, when aiming for the garage (i.e., the Landing Bay), they take a slight wrong turn and end up flying through the open front door and into the entrance hall/gallery. This week, however, we’ve had three or four incursions and these are certainly not just out of the nest fledglings.

Those of you who have had the misfortune of visiting Penelope’s Playchute Palace will know that the entrance to our fine establishment opens into a two-storey gallery with an open landing at the top of the stairs. Naturally, when the swallows do come in they fly up to the ceiling and then flutter about in a confused daze looking for a way out. There is a skylight but that is generally closed and the only other way out is through a window in one of the bedrooms which are, of course, also generally closed. I accept that these infiltrations could be completely eliminated if one could be persuaded to keep the front door closed. Unfortunately, I live with someone who insists on keeping the door open during the summer so that the fresh air can “flow through the house”. No amount of discussion has managed to persuade her that the front door should be shut during swallow season and so we just have to put up with the consequences.

The main consequence, of course, is that whenever a swallow does find its way into the house, whilst fluttering about trying to find a way out, it craps all over the walls, the floor and even on the pictures hanging on the wall along the landing. If it finds its way into one of the bedrooms the crapping continues all over the carpet, bed linen and curtains. You’d think someone would get the message, wouldn’t you?

And, speaking of consequences, I ran across the following in the Daily Telegraph whilst waiting to have my hair cut on Friday.

Shitterton and a sign of the times
Villagers living in Dorset hamlet of Shitterton refuse to be beaten by thieves with lavatory humour.

The proud villagers of Shitterton in Dorset have clubbed together to erect a new stone sign at the entrance to their hamlet after the council signs were stolen by collectors.

By Stephen Adams

THE residents of Shitterton have grown used to being the butt of jokes. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t proud of their pretty hamlet in the Dorset countryside.

So it was a source of great dismay that the signpost announcing its name was repeatedly stolen by souvenir hunters with a fondness for lavatory humour.

So bad was the problem that, three years ago, the fed-up district council stopped replacing the sign, meaning that drivers passing through the hamlet could be unaware that they were ever in Shitterton at all.

Now, in a move that could exemplify David Cameron’s Big Society, a group of public-spirited Shittertonians has decided to take matters into their own hands. They each chipped in £20 to purchase a lump of Purbeck Stone weighing more than a ton and had it engraved with the hamlet’s “interesting” name to act as a proud, and permanent, sign.

Ian Ventham, 62, chairman of the parish council, who lives at Shitterton Farmhouse with his wife Diana, 61, said: “We have lived here for the last 20 years and during that time the sign has been nicked at least three times. We think it was kids who would like to have it stuck on the wall in a den somewhere because it’s quite an interesting sign.

“I don’t think it was malicious, they just did it for fun, but it was exasperating for us. We would get a nice new shiny sign from the council and five minutes later, it was gone.”

Not only was the lack of a sign annoying, he said, but “it could make life confusing for delivery drivers”. “It was my wife’s idea to carve it out of stone,” he said. “We thought, ‘Let’s put in a ton and a half of stone and see them try and take that away in the back of a Ford Fiesta’.”

Mr Ventham, a retired RNLI director, wrote to neighbours asking them to donate £20 towards the cost of the immovable sign. Of 50 households, well over half contributed. After being told of the plan, Purbeck district council agreed to give £70 towards the cost.

Mr Ventham said he felt the project was a good example of community empowerment as proposed by the Prime Minister in his Big Society.

“I am not sure if he is expressly thinking about Shitterton signposts, but I think he is talking about people getting off their backsides and doing things, rather than expecting them to be done for you,” he added. Not all are happy that the name is now set in stone, however. A few in the hamlet, on the outskirts of Bere Regis, prefer the more genteel Sitterton.

Mr Ventham said: “In Victorian times prudes decided to call it Sitterton, so even today in Shitterton we have Sitterton Close and Sitterton House. The rest of us prefer the rather more earthy Shitterton.”

The article also had these references to other “unusual” place names in the UK.

Who are you calling Ugley? Silly place names
The British Isles is dotted with a myriad of places seemingly named to amuse its inhabitants.

Three Cocks, Powys, Wales – Named after the 15th century coaching inn, still in business, which in turn took its name from the coat of arms of a local Welsh prince, Einon Sais.

Penistone, South Yorks – The market town is named after the Pennines, and should be pronounced accordingly. It’s just a shame an ‘n’ got lost somewhere.

Scratchy Bottom, Dorset – Dorset again. A dry, chalky clifftop valley just west of Durdle Door, the name is thought to refer to a rough hollow.

Thong, Kent – This hamlet near Gravesend was not at all funny until the invention of the G-string.

Grope Lane, Shrewsbury – Named after what used to be the Shropshire town’s red-light district.

Ugley – A hamlet in Essex. Recorded in the Domesday Book as Ugghelea, it probably means “woodland clearing belonging to a man named Ugga”.

And finally, finally, finally – I couldn’t believe this story from the BBC web site. Selfridges in London is launching its Christmas season on 2 August, earlier than ever before (but, only by a week).

Check out the latest at Stragapalooza 2010 including a Rattlesnake Advisory from our resident Health & Safety Consultant, Dr “Hanover” Bob Stragnell.

Love to you all,

Greg

 

18 July 2010

Good morning to you all.

After a couple of weeks of absolutely splendid weather, this past week has been decidedly unsettled – blustery winds with thunderous buckets of rain interspersed with bright, clear but very blowy moments. Quite a contrast.

Certainly the vegetables enjoyed the brilliant sunshine and were particularly grateful when we remembered to water them from time to time. In particular, the black currants have outdone themselves this year which is somewhat unfortunate (for me, anyway); black currants are perhaps my least favourite soft fruit and, for some reason, we have about six bushes each of which is laden with enough black currants to supply the whole of the Far East with plenty left over for several dozen black currant crumbles. Ms Playchute enlisted the assistance of her sister Judi and our house guests last weekend to make a start on the harvest; most of the produce has now been transformed into black currant jam which, allegedly, many of our friends and acquaintances enjoy immensely. Good luck to them, I say!

As you will all know, we live in the country and there are a considerable number of horse-riding people in the vicinity. Just down the road at Aston-le-Walls there is a farm which is regularly used as a venue for equestrian competitions and, when these are in session the roads round about are crowded with horse transport vehicles. What struck me was that all of these vehicles have the word “Horses” emblazoned across the front, presumably to reveal to oncoming traffic that they are, in fact, carrying horses. I was wondering why vehicles which transport other animals, or indeed any sort of produce, don’t do the same. You never see a lorry/truck carrying lambs or pigs to market advertising their cargo across the front nor can I remember ever seeing a lorry with “Backed Beans” across the front. To be fair, sometimes there will be some form of advertising copy along the side of a lorry which will reveal what it is carrying – a large image of a Heinz Baked Bean tin is a pretty clear hint, I guess. But never across the front and I was wondering why this is so? Is it particularly useful to me to know that the lorry coming down the road in the opposite direction is carrying some horses? Would it make any difference if it didn’t have that information? Perhaps Amanda can enlighten me. Is this a universal phenomenon or is it strictly a British or European one? Is there some form of European legislation which requires vehicles transporting horses to advertise that fact? What about ponies? Or very, very large dogs?

A couple of articles caught my eye this week. The first relates to that age old question: Which came first: the chicken or the egg? Well, it now seems that scientists have solved that mystery and you can read the details here.

The second concerns an annual event of which I was unaware and, considering that it takes place not all that far from Miles’ beach house, I am surprised that I have never been invited to participate. I am, of course, talking about the annual “Amtrak Mooning” which takes place on the second Saturday in July each year. Looks like good clean fun.

Finally, a “new” section of the web site contains some information about the upcoming Stragapalooza Festival. There is an Arrivals and Departures board so that you can work out when not to be in camp as well as a provisional Menu board with the menu submissions we’ve had so far. Please let me know of any errors or omissions. Only a couple of weeks to go!

Love to you all,

Greg

11 July 2010

Those of you with a better memory than I have will recollect that I wrote about some lower back pain I experienced whilst we were in Switzerland which prevented our hiring some bikes and cycling around the area. In fact, this pain had materialised a few days before we departed and I had visited our local quack for a quick assessment – this was somewhat different than the lower back pain I’d enjoyed on a few occasions previously but, after watching me struggle to bend over, he recommended a local osteopath, Clare Nicholls, who he said was excellent.

On our return from Switzerland I made an appointment and went along to see her. The first “surprise” was to discover that this was the Clare Nicholls who used to work as one of Penny’s couriers. When she had been working for Interlink and collecting deliveries from SeamStress’s front door we knew that she was studying to become an osteopath; indeed she left the courier company to go to university full time so that she could complete her training and start up in business. Since that time (about four or five years ago) she has started a very successful osteopath practice and produced her first child so she’s been busy.

She had me strip to my underpants (you will all be relieved to know that I had anticipated that this might happen so fortunately, I was wearing clean underwear) and then asked me to bend over and touch my toes as the doctor had done. I think they do this so that they can snigger behind their hands as they watch you struggle to bend over, let alone reach anywhere near one’s toes. After a handful of questions and a bit of prodding and poking here and there, she explained that my sciatic nerve was under stress or inflamed and this was causing the sharp pain in my right butt cheek. Her prescription was to pull me about and stretch me into impossible positions from which it was almost impossible to extricate myself and to give me a handful of stretching exercises which I could complete in the comfort and security of my own homes with, if I wanted, another consenting adult. The great thing about all this is that not only am I still a “pain in the neck” but I have also now been promoted to a “pain in the butt” as well. As Pen says, it fits perfectly.

I have to say, she is good and the manipulation she subjects me to as well as the daily exercises have improved matters considerably. In addition to my visits to Clare, Ms Playchute insisted that I attend a session of Yoga at the Gym.

So, off we went on Wednesday morning to give it a go. The instructor of this particular session was Debbie who is a perfectly pleasant young woman who is perhaps not the least bit as one might expect a yoga instructor to be. She is covered from head to toe with tattoos and sports bulging muscles that clearly have been chiselled from granite. Still, she was very patient with me as a beginner and I have to say it was very good – lots of good stretching exercises which undoubtedly will do my butt no end of good. Once I got past the “mumbo-jumbo” of communing with my soul and being at one with the universe, I discovered that I am, in fact, a natural at yoga and, in particular, at one of the very important exercises which one does several times during a session. I am really, really, very good at lying on my back with my eyes closed, thinking good things and relaxing. If they had been awarding them, I would have garnered a gold star or several.

As you know, le Tour started last weekend and I’ve been watching the highlights avidly every night. I even persuaded Ms Playchute to join me one evening this week and, although she was not particularly well-pleased, we both agreed that the achievements of these guys are simply unbelievable. Never mind that it’s more than 3000 km over three weeks of cycling; never mind the frequent spills and crashes resulting in acres of road rash all over their hands, arms, legs, backsides and, in a couple of instances so far, all over their face. (I think it’s four broken collar bones so far).

The stage we were watching resulted in a sprint finish after the days’ breakaway had been hauled in with about 10 km to go. As they approached the finish of the stage, not surprisingly, the riders got faster and faster as the sprinters and their teams lined them up for a dash to the line. The commentator then commented on how fast they were going (40 to 50 mph at the end of a sprint stage) and mentioned that this was after riding for nearly five hours over more than 200 km at an average speed of about 25 mph. Me? I average about 10 mph over a distance of about 20 to 30 miles and while I can certainly reach a top speed of 40 mph, that’s only when pedalling furiously down a very steep hill with a significant following wind. Give me a break!

Those of you on the Stragapalooza mailing list should have received a posting yesterday requesting information about your dietary needs and preferences and, for those responsible for cooking, some provisional menu details. Please complete the online forms and if, for any reason, the links in the PDF give you any problems, let me know. Only four weeks to go so get your skates on!

Love to you all,

Greg

4 July 2010

Good morning on what we hope is a wonderfully wonderful Fourth of July (for those of you who celebrate such events) and a delightfully delightful July 4th for those of you who don’t.

It’s been a pretty decent week; tolerably good weather apart from a bit of overcast skies and a smattering of drizzle on Thursday. Taken with the fantastic weather we had last week, this fortnight has provided some outstandingly fine weather overall. This morning is glorious again – bright, bright clear blue sky with a moderate breeze. Indeed, I was talking with a teacher at one of the schools I was working in the other day and we realised that there had not been a single rain delay at Wimbledon so far this year. Normally, the arrival of Wimbledon fortnight is the cue for torrential rain and blustery gales (along with the national pastime of watching Britain’s latest hope for a title fall at the first, second or third hurdle). In contrast, this year the weather has been glorious and Andy Murray got all the way to the semi-finals before dashing the hopes of the nation. (Poor Andy Murray – he did say he was hoping to win this year partly to counter the depression and despair felt across the country at England’s ignominious departure from the World Cup. Maybe next year.)

A couple of more photos of Penelope’s garden (just to break up the monotony): Napoleon, a lovely pink rose with amazing “frilly” leaves around the buds and a most wonderful scent, Rosa Rugosa, Lavender Hidcote and Million Bells along with a courgette flower and, just to make up the numbers, French Beans. Prizes for those who can identify each one (as I can now, much to Ms Playchute’s consternation after hours and hours of studying). Continue reading

27 June 2010

Tuesday’s weather was probably about as fine as it is possible to be in the UK. It was pleasantly warm (probably in the low to mid 70s) with a light, gentle breeze. The sky was clear and deep blue with just some high level streaky clouds and the sunshine was golden and plentiful. We celebrated with a barbeque of the “World’s Greatest Hamburgers”, sweet corn, potato salad as well as a mixed green salad fresh from Penelope’s garden all washed down with a very pleasant Bordeaux (a smooth and delicate taste of strawberries and plums) and finished off with a selection of those amazing ice creams – liquorice, fennel, strawberry, coconut and sour cream on this occasion. Just about as nice as it is possible to be.

It would have been nice if the weather through the rest of the week had steadily improved. Fine as this week has been, it’s not the case that it has improved through the week – rather, it has deteriorated slightly but it’s still been grand. It’s been warm and sunny but not that bright, clear sunshine that we had on Tuesday. Still, it’s been good enough for a bike ride or two, the occasional barbeque washed down with a bottle of (generally) French red wine (a bottle of Chilean merlot did sneak in there but I won’t tell if you don’t) and ample opportunities to recline in the hammock and/or wander around the estate admiring the flowers.

Speaking of Ms Playchute’s garden, a couple of photos might raise the tone somewhat. In general, it’s looking in splendid form even if the borders do look to be somewhat on the “wild” side this year. The salad and vegetable garden is thriving and we have just a wee bit more than we can manage ourselves, you’ll be surprised to learn. Continue reading

20 June 2010 – Greg & Penny’s Swiss Holiday

 


Panorama from Diavelezzo


Greg & Penny had a marvellous week in Surlej, just a couple of miles south of St Moritz in the Engadin in Switzerland. Beautiful scenery, amazing mountains, fantastic light and views (and pretty decent weather).

Here are some links to a short to moderate description of each day’s activities and a gallery of the least bad photos.

Day One – 2 June 2010: Luton Airport to Surlej

Day Two – 3 June 2010: Drive up through the Bernina Pass

Day Three – 4 June 2010: By rail up through the Bernina Pass to Alp Grum; up the gondola to the top of Diavolezza

Day Four – 5 June 2010: Drive up through the Albulapass, watching marmots, back up through the Julier Pass to Surlej

Day Five – 6 June 2010: Drive to Scuol and S-charl in the National Park

Day Six – 7 June 2010: Hike up the Val Roseg

Days Seven and Eight – 8 & 9 June 2010: The Segantini Museum in St Moritz and the journey home

Gallery of the least bad photos. (This will open in a new browser window. Close the browser to come back here).

Enjoy!


At the top of Diavolezza

13 June 2010

Welcome back.

We had an absolutely fantastic time in Switzerland. The weather was just about perfect apart from the first and last days – warm to the point of almost being hot, clear almost cloudless skies of a deep, deep blue and, of course, the utterly unbelievably beautiful landscape. A few photos today and much more to come when I have a bit more time to wade through and discard the eight million lousy photos and share the three or four half decent ones. Don’t you just love digital photography?


An Alpine View
The Bernina Pass
Celerina
Alpine Cow
Diavolezza
Alpine Flowers
Julierpass
Kite Surfing
Lake Poschiavo
The Alps
Silvaplana
Val de Roseg

An Alpine View

The Bernina Pass

Celerina

Alpine Cow

Diavolezza

Alpine Flowers

Julierpass

Kite Surfing

Lake Poschiavo

The Alps

Silvaplana

Val de Roseg


We were straight back into it on our return. Friday was one of those days which is best remembered from the perspective of several weeks or months. As well as getting prepared for a fantastic dinner party on Saturday evening (more of which in a bit), there were chores to catch up with after a week away (children and small dogs were disappearing in the lawn so it needed cutting) and then we were presented with two minor “catastrophes”, both of which required more or less immediate attention.

The first involved our faithful tumble dryer which has performed legendary service for more than twenty years! It finally expired. We had been aware that it was on its way out – it tumbled perfectly adequately but its heating element has clearly been getting increasingly tired so that finally it quit altogether. So, on to the internet to discover that our local Comet appliance supplier had a good one in stock. They have a good service where, if it is in stock locally, you can reserve it on the internet and go and collect it. Hey, that was easy.

Then, as we were about to depart for Banbury with our respective shopping lists in hand, the tenants from the annexe came around to announce that the mattress of the bed we provide for them had begun prodding them with springs. OK, we’ll pick one up on our expedition into town.

Of course, this now means two trips to town; one to collect a mattress and one to collect the tumble dryer. Off to the mattress emporium first, find one on special offer (isn’t everything in these sorts of places on some kind of special offer nine times out of ten?), stuff it into the back of the car and off we head back to Byfield. Mission accomplished.

Then, it’s back to town to collect the tumble dryer. While not quite expecting us at the shop, they did find the appropriate information in the computer, had the tumble dryer we wanted in stock, helped us load it into the back of the car and off we head back to Byfield. Mission accomplished.

Or not.

As it happens, we unpack the appliance, move the old one out of the way, spend ten minutes vacuuming the twelve years’ worth of accumulated mouse droppings and laundry fluff from the immediate vicinity, plug the new one in, move it into place and – the door latch is broken. We get on the phone to the shop, convey our disappointment and, fortunately, they still have one in the shop – the display model on which they are prepared to offer a modest discount. So, pack the old, new tumble dryer back into the back of the car, drive back into town, unload the old, new tumble dryer and load the new, new tumble dryer which, you will be delighted to know works exceedingly well. What are the odds that this one will last more than twenty years?

And so, a brief description of yesterday evening’s dinner party which was notable, not only for the usual exceptional quality of Ms Playchute’s catering, but also due to the outstanding wine and fantastic dessert.

I’ve written once or twice in the past about our friend Dave Stansfield who used to live and teach at the International School in Paris. He and his wife Val have now retired and moved back to the UK (I know, I don’t understand it either) and Dave has, from time to time, laid on a dinner party with some wine tasting which has always been great fun. How could it not? Good food, good wine, moderately good company?

Last time we decided this would be fun to do so we asked Dave, on his next trip back to France, to select us a range of wines which with which we could offer a similar evening’s entertainment for a selection of friends. And so, that’s what we did. The dining room table was extended as far as is physically possible in our dining room, all the chairs in the household were put to use and there were thirteen for dinner. Dave had prepared some notes and we “blindly” compared each pair of wines. Each of us has two wine-tasting glasses and each pair of bottles, suitably “dressed” so that one cannot deduce which is which, are passed around the table. Everyone has a small amount and tries to guess, from Dave’s notes, which is which. I have to confess, I got the first two white wines back to front but managed to identify all the others. Good fun.

Menu

Caramelised Balsamic & Red Onion Tart with Goat Cheese & Fresh Salad Leaves
(Stuffed Portobello Mushroom alternative)

Château Ferran 2006 – Pessac-Léognan
Château Marjosse 2007 – Entre-Deux-Mers


Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Basil Pesto wrapped in Parma Ham with Parmesan Wafers
Rösti Potatoes
Butternut Squash & Creamed Spinach Gratin

Château Charmant 2006 – Margaux
Château Haut-Goujon 2000 – Lalande de Pomerol
François Arnaud 2007 – Gigondas Rouge
La Montée Rouge 2006 – Beaune 1er Cru


Cheese Board


Assorted Ice Creams with Oatmeal Cookies

Château Vari 2001 – Monbazillac
Château Piquey 2006 – Sauternes


Coffee & Tea

A word about the assorted ice creams: to continue the “tasting” theme, I had spent several days before our trip to Switzerland, preparing a variety of different ice creams; some “normal” varieties and some more unusual ones, the intention being that our guests, having tasted and compared wine all evening, would now have an opportunity to attempt to identify the various flavours of ice cream. So, for dessert we presented small bowls with nine scoops of home made ice cream, some of which were fairly “normal” flavours while others were just a bit more unusual. Strawberry, Coconut and Rhubarb Swirl were probably the three most “normal” ones and then we also had Peanut Butter, Basil, Sage (with Lavender Honey), Liquorice, Sour Cream, and Fennel. Again, great fun.

Love to you all,

Greg


My wife asked me to buy ORGANIC vegetables from the market. I went and looked around and couldn’t find any.

So I grabbed an old, tired looking employee and said, “These vegetables are for my wife. Have they been sprayed with any poisonous chemicals?”

“The produce guy looked at me and said, “No. You’ll have to do that yourself.”


An elderly couple were celebrating their sixtieth anniversary. The couple had married as childhood sweethearts and had moved back to their old neighborhood after they retired.

Holding hands they walked back to their old school. It was not locked, so they entered, and found the old desk they’d shared, where Bob had carved “I love you, Libby.”

On their way back home, a bag of money fell out of an armored car, practically landing on their feet. Libby quickly picked it up, but not sure what to do with it, they took it home. There, she counted the money — fifty-thousand dollars.

Bob said, “We’ve got to give it back.”

Libby said, “Finders keepers.” She put the money back in the bag and hid it in their attic.

The next day, two FBI men were canvassing the neighborhood looking for the money, and knocked on the door. “Pardon me, but did either of you find a bag that fell out of an armored car yesterday?”

Libby said, “No.”

Bob said, “She’s lying. She hid it up in the attic.”

Libby said, “Don’t believe him, he’s getting senile.”

The agents turn to Bob and began to question him.

One says: “Tell us the story from the beginning.”

Bob said, ‘Well, when Libby and I were walking home from school yesterday…. ‘

The first FBI guy turns to his partner and says, “We’re outta here.”


After being arrested after a wild blondes-only party in town, Carol and Amy were sentenced to community service: helping to build a house for Habitat for Humanity.

Carol, who was nailing down house siding, would reach into her nail pouch, pull out a nail and either toss it over her shoulder or nail it in.

Amy, figuring this was worth looking into, comes over to ask, “Why are you throwing those nails away?”

Carol explained, “When I pull a nail out of my pouch, about half of them have the head on the wrong end and I throw them away.”

“You moron!” Amy yelled. “Those nails aren’t defective! They’re for the other side of the house!”

30 May 2010

Summer was great! The weather forecasters were correct on this occasion – summer lasted from last Thursday until Tuesday of this week. Now, we are back to cold, windy weather with just the spot of occasional rain for variety. It was terrific while it lasted.

Fortunately, last Sunday was outstanding and I was able to get on the bike for a delightful cycle around the neighbouring countryside, as a few photos taken enroute will attest. (Click for a larger version).




I had an intriguing conversation with a motorist who stopped beside me at the side of the road. I had stopped to take a photograph of the view from the top of a hill when this car slowed down and then stopped. I naturally assumed they were about to ask for directions but, as I leant in the passenger side window to enquire in what way I could be of assistance, the woman driving chastised me with some feeling – it seems, in her view, I had stopped in a very dangerous position on the road.




I have to confess, I was somewhat perplexed by her comment so I slowly looked down the road in the direction from which she had come. There was a clear view up the road for something approaching 300 metres so I asked her what exactly she meant. She maintained that my stopping on the road made it difficult for motorists to overtake me safely.




To be fair, the road in the direction we were both heading did curve around to the right after about 100 metres and it was difficult for a motorist to see whether it was safe to overtake me without slowing down. And there was the nub of her “problem.” Although she didn’t admit it, she was clearly annoyed because she had to slow down to overtake this f***ing cyclist and, as I was stopped by the side of the road, decided she would vent her frustration. Of course, she would have had to slow down to overtake me anyway and the fact that I was stopped by the side of the road was neither here nor there. Still, I smiled politely, thanked her for her concern and suggested that if she felt it was dangerous overtaking cyclists, perhaps she should slow down a bit.




Fortunately, I was at the side of the road and did not get sprayed with stones and pebbles as she sped away.




I was at home on Wednesday and Pen was upstairs in the SeamStress workshop labouring away, ably assisted by her mother and sister Judi who had arrived from Toronto the previous morning. At about half past one I wandered up to offer to prepare them each a simple tuna and cheese quesadilla. Penny declined existing, as she is at the moment, on fresh air and shredded cardboard. Interestingly, Beryl and Judi also declined with a somewhat quizzical look on their faces. So, off I went and prepared a very tasty snack. As I was just finishing my repast, they came into the kitchen, enquiring what I was eating. “A tuna fish, cheese and salsa quesadilla,” I replied. The disappointment which crossed their faces was palpable – it seems they had both, independently, assumed I had been offering them a “case of beer” for lunch.

Ms Playchute had a delightedly delightful birthday (I think). She certainly received an abundance of birthday cards and assorted greetings so many, many thanks to all of you who participated. Fortunately, I had remembered and had carried out my birthday shopping on Tuesday afternoon.

One of the items I wanted to purchase was a new, 26cm frying pan so off I went to Banbury’s finest kitchen shop. As I shuffled through the various frying pans on display an assistant appeared and enquired whether she could be of assistance. So, I explained that it was my wife’s birthday and I wanted to purchase a good frying pan.

A look of despair bordering on disgust crossed her face, as if she had just discovered a most unpleasant aroma under her nose. “Are you sure your wife wants a frying pan as a birthday present?” she asked patiently.

I know full well that one should never purchase kitchen utensils or appliances for one’s loved one’s birthday, anniversary or Christmas. I suppose the only thing worse would be to buy her an electric power tool or tickets to a sporting event. So, I sought to reassure the assistant that (a) we needed a frying pan, our previous small frying pan having long ago lost all its non-stickiness, and (b) now that I am somewhat less employed than previously, I am doing more cooking and therefore the frying pan would also be of use to me. Those two “excuses” did not come close to persuading her so I did have to reveal that I also had already purchased several other presents of a more personal and intimate nature and that the frying pan was merely an afterthought bordering on a necessity. Eventually, after much thoughtful consideration, she did allow me to purchase the frying pan and very nice it is too!

We’re off to Surlej in Switzerland for a week from Wednesday so you will be delighted to know that there will definitely be no Befouled Weakly News to constipate your mail boxes next Sunday. Hopefully, the volcano will stay dormant so that we can get there and back and the weather will co-operate while we are there.

Finally, I enjoyed Time’s list of the 50 worst inventions. How could spray on hair thickener not catch on and where is it now that I need it? Have a look here.

Love to you all,

Greg


A farmer got pulled over by a state trooper for speeding, and the trooper started to lecture the farmer about his speed and, in general, began to throw his weight around to try to make the farmer uncomfortable.

Finally, the trooper got around to writing out the ticket, and as he was doing that he kept swatting at some flies that were buzzing around his head.

The farmer said, “Having some problems with circle flies there, are ya?”

The trooper stopped writing the ticket and said—”Well yeah, if that’s what they are—I never heard of circle flies.”

So the farmer says, “Well, circle flies are common on farms. See, they’re called circle flies because they’re almost always found circling around the back end of a horse.”

The trooper says, “Oh,” and goes back to writing the ticket. Then after a minute he stops and says, “Hey… wait a minute, are you trying to call me a horse’s ass?”

The farmer says, “Oh no, Officer. I have too much respect for law enforcement and police officers to even think about calling you a horse’s ass.”

The trooper says, “Well, that’s a good thing,” and goes back to writing the ticket.

After a long pause, the farmer says, “Hard to fool them flies though.”


A little old Irishman gets pulled over by a policeman, who says,

“Sir? Do you realize your wife fell out of the car about a mile back?”

The old fella replied, “Oh, thank Christ. I thought I’d gone deaf!”


A middle-aged guy had just been dumped by his wife. So, he decides to go out and buy a shiny, new red BMW Z-3 convertible. He’s driving along at 80 mph, when he sees a flashing light on a police car in the rear view mirror.

“What the hell, he can’t keep up with a BMW,” he thinks to himself. So he floors it.

A few minutes later, he’s overcome with guilt. “Hey! What am I doing,” he thinks? And he slows down and pulls over.

The cop asks him for his license, and walks around the car while he examines both. When the cop gets back to the driver’s door, he says, “It’s Friday the thirteenth. My shift is just about over. I’m tired and I want to go home. If you can give me a good excuse, I’ll let you go.”

The guy thinks for a split second and says…

“My wife just ran away with a policeman. I thought you were trying to give her back.”

23 May 2010

Good morning on what looks like it could be one of the final couple of days of summer. And what a blindingly terrific couple of days it has been – sunny, warm (well, into the high 60s or low 70s at any rate) with a lovely clear and crisp bright blue sky decidedly free of volcanic ash (at least as far as we can tell). Apparently, summer is expected to last until Tuesday.

We had our first barbeque of the season on Friday evening. I won’t describe the dreadful state the barbeque was in following my obvious failure to clean it properly after its final outing last autumn – Sandy’s salmon with pesto to judge by the remnants of the fish skin. If I did describe it, Pen would be sickened and I would undoubtedly come down with food poisoning but so far, so good. Heck, I figure that the intense heat will kill off most things, won’t it? And anyway, I did scrape most of the mould and fungus off before firing up the grill.

Having thought about it, perhaps I should have taken greater care to extract the mouldy contents of the grill and submit the remains for medical examination. I might well have accidentally discovered how to create life synthetically and could have been in line for a Nobel prize.

For those interested, I made a recipe from one of the 1,260,000 pages Google returned when I asked for the “best hamburger recipes ever” (and, some of these pages had ten or twelve recipes so there has to be something in the order of about 5 million “best hamburger recipes ever.”) Since I didn’t check, I’m not sure how many might be duplicates but, if you’re looking for a tasty hamburger recipe there are certainly plenty to choose from. The one I made was for bacon double cheese stuffed burgers which were, I have to say, outstanding. A simple recipe, really – make your burgers a bit on the thin and wide size, place some chopped onions and grated cheddar cheese in the middle and place another burger on top, sealing the edges. I added a bit of Cajun spice to the mix and the finished product was rich and juicy with a bit of kick. A fine Bordeaux, a tossed green salad and a potato salad rounded it all off and we finished with a bit of coconut ice cream I’d made earlier in the day. Pretty good!

I also got out for a couple of bike rides during the fine weather and was able to shed, for the first time this season, the long sleeves and lycra leggings which are a necessity during the cooler temperatures. Rest assured, though – I still look pretty damn fine in the short sleeves and cycling shorts.

I did enjoy the following from the Time magazine web site:

On May 7, many Britons woke up to a hung Parliament for the first time ever. Not since 1974 had the U.K. faced such a scenario, which came about because no single party won 326 seats, the magic number needed to hold a majority in the House of Commons.

So, tell me – was it just “many” of us who woke up to a hung Parliament or does it apply to everyone? And, is this the first hung Parliament ever or the first one since 1974? Don’t these institutions employ proof-readers any more?

A couple of photos of some blooms in Penelope’s back garden – they staged their coming out performance on the second day of summer, i.e., yesterday.


Purple Flower Tulips

Looking forward to Pen’s sister Judi’s arrival on Tuesday for a few weeks. She is always a very welcome house guest. (Not what we say about some, I can assure you!)

Much love to you all,

Greg


Lawyer jokes – don’t you love ‘em.

A tourist wanders into a back-alley antique shop in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Picking through the objects on display he discovers a detailed, life-sized bronze sculpture of a rat. The sculpture is so interesting and unique that he picks it up and asks the shop owner what it costs.

“Twelve dollars for the rat, sir,” says the shop owner, “and a thousand dollars more for the story behind it.”

“You can keep the story, old man,” he replies, “but I’ll take the rat.”

The transaction complete, the tourist leaves the store with the bronze rat under his arm. As he crosses the street in front of the store, two live rats emerge from a sewer drain and fall into step behind him. Nervously looking over his shoulder, he begins to walk faster, but every time he passes another sewer drain, more rats come out and follow him.

By the time he’s walked two blocks, at least a hundred rats are at his heels, and people begin to point and shout. He walks even faster, and soon breaks into a trot as multitudes of rats swarm from sewers, basements, vacant lots, and abandoned cars. Rats by the thousands are at his heels, and as he sees the waterfront at the bottom of the hill, he panics and starts to run full tilt.

No matter how fast he runs, the rats keep up, squealing hideously, now not just thousands but millions, so that by the time he comes rushing up to the water’s edge a trail of rats twelve city blocks long is behind him. Making a mighty leap, he jumps up onto a light post, grasping it with one arm while he hurls the bronze rat into San Francisco Bay with the other, as far as he can heave it.

Pulling his legs up and clinging to the light post, he watches in amazement as the seething tide of rats surges over the breakwater into the sea, where they drown.

Shaken and mumbling, he makes his way back to the antique shop.

“Ah, so you’ve come back for the rest of the story,” says the owner.

“No, I have a much better idea,” says the tourist. “I was wondering if you have a bronze lawyer.”


As a trucker stops for a red light, a blonde catches up. She jumps out of her car, runs up to his truck, and knocks on the door.

The trucker lowers the window, and she says, “Hi, my name is Heather and you are losing some of your load.”

The trucker ignores her and proceeds down the street. When the truck stops for another red light, the girl catches up again. She jumps out of her car, runs up and knocks on the window.

Again, the trucker lowers the window. As if they’ve never spoken, the blonde says brightly, “Hi my name is Heather, and you are losing some of your load!”

Shaking his head, the trucker ignores her again and continues down the street.

At the third red light, the same thing happens again. All out of breath, the blonde gets out of her car, runs up, knocks on the truck window.

The trucker lowers the window. Again she says, “Hi, my name is Heather, and you are losing some of your load!”

When the light turns green the trucker revs up and races to the next light. When he stops this time, he hurriedly gets out of the truck, and runs back to the blonde. He knocks on her window, and as she lowers it, he says…

“Hi, my name is Kevin, it’s winter in Minnesota and I’m driving the SALT TRUCK!”


Working people frequently ask retired people what they do to make their days interesting. Well, for example, the other day I went downtown and went into a shop. I was only in there for about five minutes and when I came out, there was a cop writing out a parking ticket. I went up to him and said, “Come on, man, how about giving a retired person a break?”

He ignored me and continued writing the ticket. I called him a “Nazi.”

He glared at me and started writing another ticket for having worn tires. So I called him a “doughnut eating Gestapo.”

He finished the second ticket and put it on the windshield with the first.

Then he started writing a third ticket. This went on for about 20 minutes. The more I abused him, the more tickets he wrote.

Personally, I didn’t care. I came downtown on the bus!

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