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Without any shadow of a doubt, I am not a gardener. I do try to take a healthy interest though, and I've picked up a little bit of stuff over the years and I know when to nod sagely when green stuff is discussed. Oh, and I know a bit about composting. But as far as knowing what plants, apart from rhododendrons, benefit from being in ericaceous soil and how to take a softwood cutting, I'm a non-starter. I leave that department to my beloved, who really does know her alliums. But then again, she wouldn't have a clue how to bowl an off-break, so there's a trend towards equilibrium there.
We do though, share an appreciation of the visual side of gardening; one day, our little patch WILL look nice instead of being a collection of pots gradually moving around the garden as a new bit gets done. Until the day we can sit back and just admire our handiwork, we'll have to make do with admiring someone else's. A few weeks ago in late April, we happened upon a little local gem, hidden away alongside the A51 in north Shropshire. We'd driven past the sign for the Dorothy Clive Gardens many times before but never been in. Then a friend went and told us we must go. We certainly didn't regret it.
The garden grew out of one man's desire to give his ailing wife a change of scenery. Colonel Harry Clive, local dignitary and businessman, started to clear the disused quarry above his house in 1940. Around half a mile of paths were eventually hacked out through the brambles between the stands of oaks, birch and scots pine now colonising the redundant sandstone workings. With the help of knowledgeable friends, the quarry was gradually planted up. Its sheltered and shady aspect was ideal for rhododendrons and azaleas, many of which survive to this day. Sadly, in April 1942 Dorothy Clive died although she did l eave a legacy in that she planted some of the early small plants now forming the quarry groundcover.
That was the genesis of what is now a magnificent year-round spectacle. In 1958, development of the area below the quarry garden was begun. This would become the hillside garden. Over the years, further additional tracts of land have been acquired alongside the two main gardens and other features developed. The gardens now cover several acres.
The day we chose to visit was bright, sunny and pleasantly warm; just right for visiting a garden. Payment is at the entrance to the very elegant and tidy car park; adults £3.80 with all the usual, although unpublished, concessions applicable. Children though, are included in these concessionary prices; which does beg the question whether they are actually particularly welcome. I would hope so as the sound of children enjoying their surroundings is one of life's delights. I must admit though, I can't remember seeing many there.
Sharon, my other half, has some mobility problems. She walks, albeit slowly and doesn't handle hills too well and as the gardens are quite sloping, we worried about finding a decent car park space. These worries proved to be unfounded as the car park extends almost to the middle section of the gardens and I was able to drive there and deposit her at a good start point. Indeed the top section is a disabled car park for blue badge holders. There are two sets of disabled toilets, too; one at the lower car park and one at the tea rooms in the middle of the gardens.
You can purchase a guide book at the car park; in fact I would advise you to buy it there and quickly turn it over as, by reading the map on the reverse, this will be the only time that you will be able to take advantage of the recommended walk which starts from the lower car park. Although this walk is entirely uphill so ma ybe it doesn't matter much! The guidebook is not totally comprehensive although it takes you along the main walks and points out a few of the main features as well as giving a good history. I would urge you to buy one though as the website only gives a taster. I think they were in the region of £1.50 - £2. Apologies for not being more accurate on that score
There are three walks; an uphill walk, downhill one and the quarry walk. It goes without saying that the uphill one is not suitable for wheelchairs (unless going about it in reverse as we did!). The downhill one will require judicious use of brakes in places and certain areas, such as the scree area would be out of bounds. There are plenty of viewpoints though for the chair-bound to appreciate the scenery. As we were proxy bound to start in the middle, we headed off toward the quarry gardens, studiously disobeying the recommended 'red' route in the guidebook!
What an apt time to visit this area. Walking along the path that runs around the rim of the old worked-out quarry, one gazes down onto a quite stunning vista of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and numerous other assorted shrubs. I am no expert on plant names so please excuse their absence here, there are far too many to remember but most are actually signed in the garden anyway, a welcome feature. Paths drop down into and emerge from, this wonderful melee and provide for the stroller an ever-changing cocktail of colour and form. The trees were not yet in full leaf so the canopy still let in plenty of light. The quarry is deep enough though that when viewing from the highest part of the path, one can look down upon the canopy provided by some of the smaller trees. The centrepiece of the quarry garden (centrepiece is not quite the right word as it's actually top left) is the waterfall. There is no natural watercourse so one has been created using re-circulated water. I t was built in 1990 and in the ensuing 14 years, the high humidity along its 20' staged drop has provided an ideal habitat for many plants. These include (and here I'm going to have to resort to the book, so please excuse me) Bowles' golden sedge and Corydalis flexuosa 'China Blue'. We did spot some rather nice looking hostas, which pleased Sharon greatly. (Nice to see that even theirs can get eaten, too!)
Atop the waterfall is a newish feature; a life-size bronze stag by Ben Panting (also responsible for a 10' - and in his case, very much larger than life - statue of Denis Law at the Stretford End of Old Trafford). Although striking and well executed I'm not convinced by it as I think it's out of place here. The most wonderful feature of the quarry garden I thought, was its capacity to absorb all sound except birdsong. Although there were people all about, they were seldom heard and often hidden amongst the shrubs; the natural bowl with the surrounding windbreaks means even wind noise is kept to a minimum. It is surprisingly tranquil for a tourist attraction.
From the quarry we entered the secret garden (again, from the wrong way) and found a bog garden, full of tadpoles and surrounded by rushes and irises. The pool was not an intended feature, appearing unexpectedly during the earth moving operations to create the secret garden area. It has since been very well incorporated into the landscaping. Here one will also find many exotic plantings including a gingko biloba, a name probably more familiar from its association with beauty products. From there we passed through a tunnel partially roofed with what, at first glance, appeared to be wisteria but what may actually have been something called +Laburnocytisus adamii, a graft hybrid of common laburnum and purple broom; rare and unusual. We emerged from the tunnel onto a me adow area. There is a gazebo here from which, on a good day, one can see Snowdonia, some 70 miles away.
At the northernmost tip of the gardens and the end of the meadow walk, some 150 yards from the gazebo and the highest part of the garden, is the belvedere, constructed in 1999. Roughly meaning 'beautiful view', it is not to be confused with the town in Kent where I lived for 18 years; the beautiful view from the highest point of which being,er... Fords of Dagenham. Visitors can sit in the shelter here and gaze out over the rolling Shropshire downland before heading off down the gentle slope, past the coppice woodland (on our visit carpeted with sweet-scented bluebells) towards the tearoom for a welcome break. On a warm spring or summer's day the tearoom will be doing a thriving trade and there may be a bit of a wait to be served. There are a few inside tables but most are set out on the adjacent lawn and shaded by parasols. Bag one and send someone else in for the victuals. As I didn't buy our refreshments, I can't say much on the prices but there were some very unfavourable comments made about the price of the homemade cake at £1.60 a slice. As these slices were of varying sizes, the moans were maybe justified.
Leaving the tearoom behind, we headed off down the slope towards the pool at the bottom. This area is mainly herbaceous borders, shrubs and trees so was not quite up to speed as far as colour is concerned. It promises much though and judging by the pictures in the guide book, will look stunning come late spring, summer and even through to autumn. The slope also affords some quite stunning panoramas across the local countryside as well as the gardens. I don't think I've ever been in a public garden with so many varied aspects; there really does seem to be something different around each corner.
At the very bottom of the garden is the large ornamental
pool. Again, as this was still early in the season, the marginals had only just started to develop. High summer should see dragon flies flitting in and out of the New Zealand flax and pampas grasses lining the pool. Even the gigantic gunnera was still only rhubarb size when we went . The lower gardens certainly do warrant further visits throughout the year in order to be appreciated. Turning and heading once more upward through the alpine scree garden, the dominance of the greens is broken by flashes of luminescent blue lithodora diffusa or 'Heavenly Blue' and the red of the New Zealand burr. As I said earlier, I am not a gardener and plant names are not my forte! A combination of the guidebook and google image searches however, has put names to many of the plants I remember, even though almost all specimens are tagged.
We spent a good two and a half hours strolling about the place and will do so again very soon. It's a wonderful oasis of calm; for instance it's difficult to believe that the pool is only a few yards above a busy main road. It was apparent that many people have taken advantage of the membership scheme as quite a few were seen just lazing on the many benches sited around the place, reading newspapers and enjoying a sandwich. As I mentioned earlier, its main quality, apart from cramming so many different garden 'rooms' into a relatively small area, is its ability to absorb many people comfortably; judicious use of hedging and subtle changes of directions of the many paths help to create this characteristic. The designated routes are cleverly designed so that even the wheelchair bound can appreciate the many beautiful aspects of this lovely place.
Take a look at the simple website at www.dorothyclivegarden.co.uk and the pictures below to see why we will be making visiting this place a regular event.
The gardens are alongside the A51 at Willoughbridge, just south of Woore. Leave the M6 at J15 onto the A53. They can be contacted on 01630 647237 or via the website. Alternatively, write to The Dorothy Clive Garden, Willoughbridge, Market Drayton, Shropshire TF9 4EU.
Oh, yes! And I finally realised a long forgotten childhood ambition - I got to touch a monkey puzzle tree! Little things?
Please note - Although the garden's address is Shropshire, the website insists it's in North Staffs. I'm none the wiser! What's a line on a map?
Ever since she was little, the teenage element of this household has wanted to see a real castle. With dungeons. We have plenty of castles in this neck of the woods (Cheshire/Welsh Marches) but they tend to be ruins or not remotely castle-y enough for the romantic historical notions of a 15 year old to be fulfilled i.e just a big house without dungeons. Sorry, that should have read "brutal" not "romantic". Warwick Castle fits the bill though. Very nicely, too. From its earliest earthwork birth in 914 as a hilltop fort defending the small Anglo-Saxon settlement of Warwick from Danish invaders, it has been part of the fabric of English history. Actually, it's been involved to such an extent that there really is little point in going into too much historical detail other than that necessary to reinforce the point that this isn't just any old pile of stones, it's the real deal as far as proper castles go. The invading William the Bastard ordered the first castle to be constructed in 1068 to consolidate his power in the Midlands. The present castle maintains much of the original Norman outline but improvements and additions were carried out by many of the mediaeval Earls of Warwick, whose seat it has been on and off from 1088 until its sale in 1978. Various Warwick dynasties have been crucial to the politics of England and the Castle has seen much action. It housed prisoners from the Hundred Years' War and was besieged by royalists during the civil war. Richard Neville, the "Kingmaker" during the Wars of the Roses was perhaps the most influential earl and he even maintains a presence of a kind today.The castle is one of the very few completely intact mediaeval examples left around so is an extremely important architectural relic as well as being a tourist attracti
on. Sadly, our day wasn't quite the all out adventure we'd hoped for. We weren't able to get away as early as planned and the weather was decidedy fickle. Approaching on the M40, there was an unearthly black sky hovering over where we guessed Warwick ought to be. Maybe we'd be lucky. I don't think so... We were also destined to struggle with a recalcitrant camera - the battery cover having broken the day before and it wasn't responding to the first aid we'd administered. Rain + dodgy camera = bad start. This review isn't as comprehensive therefore as I'd want it to be but I hope to still include some general observations as there are a few to be made. The castle is very easy to find by road being just two well signposted miles from junction 15 of the M40. Beware though, the M6/M42 junction is also the southern end of the M6 toll. It's a confusing junction so keep your eyes on the signs, especially if coming from the north-west. It's also only a mile from Warwick station, served direct from London Marylebone or Birmingham Snow Hill. But we drove, so I'll concern myself with that aspect. The main car park is fairly large, divided into tree-shrouded bays so in high summer with the trees in full leaf, this will be a boon. It is though, a narrow car park, hence very long. Sharon, my partner, has mobility problems; she needs frequent rest stops while walking but she doesn't qualify for a blue badge. We were directed as near to the castle as possible but there are no signs until you are actually well on the path to indicate how far away you are from it. Had I known we were in for an uphill walk of about 300 yards, I would have driven her closer to the castle, into the disabled car park, dropped her and driven back. You pay £3 for the privilege of parking there an
d that's the start of the castle's love affair with your wallet. There are three more castle car parks as well as several public ones nearby but if approaching from the motorway, as we were, the main one is the only one you will be aware of. Two are seasonal and slightly further away in the grounds. Prices for the other car parks vary. There is also a pedestrian entrance. We set off from the car, unable to see the castle through the trees and hedges but able to hear the squawks of the patrolling peacocks (what would heritage site owners do without them, eh?) After the uphill all the way hike, we reached the main entrance area which is in the stable block. Here there are toilets, the ubiquitous gift shop and a licensed restaurant. There appeared to be a wedding party using the restaurant while we were there; I would imagine it's possible to use the place for functions. There were no queues but beware if the weather's bad and it's high season as queueing will be outside. Ticket prices are steep. There are confusing tiers regarding standard, peak and off-peak times (peak is whenever they can maximise revenue - bank holidays and school holidays basically). If you're reading this, you'll be online so go to the newly revamped website (it changed while I was writing this - just as I was getting used to the old layout!) at www.warwick-castle.co.uk for an explanation. We paid £12.95 for each adult and £7.95 for a child (under 16) ticket. This was the standard, middle tier rate. Bear in mind that this is a fortress and not built with tourists or disabled people in mind - it was built to keep tourists out, after all! If you are confined to a wheelchair you will miss out on a lot. No climbing the walls or towers to marvel at the views, or descending into the undercroft to see the main exhibition or having a meal; in fact bar two attractions, the Mill
and the Death or Glory exhibition, all "indoor" or within the walls exhibits are denied you. The gardens and grounds are OK for you but make sure it's a nice day, eh? In this case though, they've been charitable and because of the reduced access, wheelchair users are allowed in free with their carer paying a reduced group admission rate. There is a section on the website regarding special needs. The reason for the high prices is quite simply that Warwick Castle is not run by the National Trust or English Heritage for the benefit of the nation, as the rather nice green signs around the place hint; it's actually owned by the Tussauds Group for the benefit of its shareholders. Apart from the waxworks and the castle, they own Chessington World of Adventures, Thorpe Park and that rip-off of all rip-offs, Alton Towers, all places granny will have to pay full price for even if she's no intention of riding on anything. One nice touch though; as we approached the turnstiles, the steward started wrtitng something on a whiteboard. As we watched we realised he was writing my registration number down! Someone, I don't know who but presumably a steward as we were not overtaken by anyone as we walked to the entrance, had reported that I'd left my lights on. In the event, this was worth the £3 car park fee, despite the fact that I had to run half a mile there and back again before we could even enter! Luckily there was gift shop by the turnstiles so the others kept themselves busy. It's about a 200 metre walk from the turnstiles to the barbican and gatehouse, slightly uphill. Sharon could have done with a wheelchair but these had to be pre-booked. A couple of points around the place where chairs could have been borrowed by the likes of Sharon who doesn't want to be confined to one
but for whom they're a bit of welcome respite from walking, would be a nice touch. Along the path are a number of side shows, housed in mediaeval style tents featuring period fairground throwing games and such like. There was also an archer (the "Warwick Bowman") and a target set up although we never saw a demonstration. The programme you are handed with your ticket on entry indicated we'd just missed the last one. A couple of birds of prey, including a stately looking eagle owl, hinted that maybe there was a show forthcoming but sadly we didn't see one advertised. You also pass the audio booth where you can hire an audio guide for £2.50 (Also available in the Armoury gift shop). I'm afraid that if I go into detail about all the exhibits within the castle walls this review would be far too long and uninteresting. I'll touch on a couple though, as these were particularly well realised. There are two main tableau type permanent exhibitions. Both utilise Tussauds renowned expertise in model making and are fascinating insights into life at the castle 400 years apart. The first is entitled "Kingmaker" and is a snapshot of one of the final days of the turncoat Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick or "Warwick the Kingmaker" as he is more often remembered (surely you all remember your Wars of the Roses history, don't you?). He met his end at the Battle of Barnet in 1471 and this exhibit depicts various scenes from the household as the master prepares to leave for battle. There are seamstresses, wheelwrights, fletchers, armourers and the Earl himself all modeled in lifelike detail. The Earl's destrier or warhorse, is seen armoured and even blinks as you watch. An overriding smell of stallion is also present adding to the atmosphere! What is attractive about this tableau is that
you can walk among the models and become part of the scene. The smells, noises and dim light are very effective at setting the scene and the only criticism I could level at it would be that the people portrayed are a little too clean for mediaeval England! The other main exhibition is housed in the most modern part of the castle, the private apartments, and is entitled the "Royal Weekend Party". It recreates a genuine weekend in 1898 when the then Earl and Countess entertained the Prince of Wales and several other high ranking aristocrats, a young Winston Churchill among them.Using much of the furniture around at the time and contemporary photographs, the bedrooms and boudoirs of the guests have been lavishly recreated. The models are stunning and there is a real air of having just stumbled into someone's day. One almost feels obliged to utter the odd very English "sorry" every now and then. This tableau leads into the very impressive state rooms and the Great Hall. One other attraction of note I feel obliged to mention is a live action one in the Ghost Tower. It's a recreation of the murder of Sir Fulke Greville in 1628 and it's not for the faint hearted or very young children. Or teenagers, evidently. It also costs an extra £2 per head either payable in advance when you buy your entrance tickets or at a small tent at the base of the Mound near the Ghost Tower. There is some climbing involved and it's almost totally dark inside so again, not one for the unsteady. Much much better than a ghost train and exceedingly well done, it's startling rather than scary. You are warned about this before you enter, though. Three of us paid, one big wuss bottled out at the entrance and the second, smaller wuss, just inside as the show started. Me? Hard as nails and
although I felt a bit of a lemon at being the only person in there, I survived. It's a good laugh but I can't for the life of me remember any of the story as I was too concerned with what was happening around me! Unfortunately, once you've paid, that's it. Loose your nerve beforehand and you don't get a refund. Another £4 lost. I did the obligatory climb of the highest point, Guys Tower; took some photos in the rain of the stunning surrounds and walked around the curtain walls through the barbican and gatehouse. Had the weather been better then we could have made more of the outside. The views are fantastic from the towers but with only limited time and becoming increasingly damp into the bargain, we rushed around rather too much. I really would have liked to have spent another two or three hours there and taken in some of the grounds viewed from on high. The walk around the walls is so arranged that you all go one way. Each tower has an up and down staircase so there is no jostling in a confined space. A nicely thought out touch - full marks for that! What surprised me was that I could speak quite clearly to Sharon who was over a hundred feet down and sheltering from the rain well away from the base of the tower, without particularly raising my voice. In fact when she heard me call, she thought I was back down again. Strange. We'd taken a packed lunch but couldn't find anywhere to eat it undercover and ended up eating it back in the car before we left. I don't think eating around the castle itself is encouraged at all; there were no places to sit down, although it has to be said that as it was raining, we weren't really looking. Although it was still early season, there were a few coach parties of school kids in but there was next to no litter (The kids were French though). There was a licensed din
ing room/cafeteria in the undercroft but the prices were too steep for us at around £6 per head for a meal or £2.50 for a snack, plus drinks. There are plenty of snack facilities dotted around the whole site so you're never far from food (or a profit opportunity). Another word of warning - there are toilets in the undercroft but these are not suitable for wheelchair users. The nearest wheelchair toilet is in the Mill but I think that may involve a lengthy tour around the river side of the castle to reach it. Otherwise it's back to the stables or out into the grounds to the Conservatory. All too soon our brief visit was over and we headed back to the car. We'd managed about two and a half hours actually within the castle walls before it closed at 6 pm (7 in summer); this definitely wasn't enough and as I said above, we missed loads. Bear in mind also that there are 60 acres of grounds, an island and outside attractions such as the conservatory and formal gardens to see so if you are going to visit, do make a day of it. There are regular outdoor events throughout the summer, including jousting every weekend throughout August. Save up for food or take a packed lunch and eat in the grounds, I seem to remember a picnic area somewhere. If you are going to spend all day there then the entry fee may seem better value. Although you can buy a season ticket, I would like to see a twighlight ticket introduced for those who've travelled a distance and arrived late - say two-thirds price after 3pm. You're not going to be able to see all of the place so why pay all of the charge? The exhibits are fantastic and the setting beautiful; there is a real air of heritage and history about but it is tainted with the commercialism of its owners. I don't need Warwick Castle Chocolate Chip Cookies at £3 a tin although the fairly lavish guidebook at £3.5
0 is a pretty good buy. I'm not sure whether Tussauds can justly lay claim to it being "Britain's Greatest Mediaeval Experience" but they've had a good go. I just wish it was cheaper. I'd like to revisit, but at those prices, it's going to be a while before I do. And did Little Legs get to see the dungeons? You bet! It was the first stop after we entered the castle. I think she was impressed with the torture implements although her mother felt a bit queasy at the sound of the rack being turned. I was rather taken with the "oubliette", a little dark hole where those malcontents more out of favour than the rest were deposited. And forgotten. Five suggestions for potential inhabitants, anyone? Warwick Castle 0870 442 2000 www.warwick-castle.co.uk
We have more than a special relationship with guts in our house. Out of four, three sets of intestines are healthy, the other one exists, thanks to the affects of too many years smoking, in a drastically reduced form. In an effort to get us to keep hold of what we have and she now lacks, my sweet darling partner has suggested we all take steps to improve the general health of our bowels. To this end she has recommended, nay almost insisted, that we drink...stuff. Either pretty, white, sweet tasting er...stuff made by the French and flavoured with tasty berries and fruits of the field or little bottles of brown, sweet 'n' sour tasting milk product stuff, produced in a lab in Japan and flavoured with...the smell of living things. I'm painting a pretty dour picture of life in the Operator household, aren't I. Sharon doesn't line us all up and administer live yoghurt colonic irrigation in a matronly-like manner although, it has to be said that a little bit of hospital discipline wouldn't go amiss around here. It isn't that bad here at all really and nor is the stuff. My stuff of choice is the brown. You've all heard of Yakult, I'm sure. You've all seen the "Hello, hello hello" or the "sad bloke at dinner party pulls bird after displaying impressive gastro-intestinal related useless knowledge" (yep, slip her the old colonic zooflora line and you'll be staying for breakfast; works every time lads, eh?) adverts and probably not taken much notice of them. As is often the case though, the dafter the ad, the more intriguing the product; after all, the company must have faith in the integrity of the product for it to be able to withstand some gentle lampooning. So, what exactly is this product? It's a fermented milk drink. Yoghurt? Mmm...could be but not definitely. In fact, the word "Yakult" is meant to be inspired by the Esperanto word for yoghurt. Rather quirkily
, the Esperanto word for yoghurt is "jogurt" or "jogurto" so, remembering that the company likes to poke some gentle fun at itself and also that it's Japanese in origin and you may velly well get their train of thought. It was developed some 70 years ago by a Japanese doctor, Dr Minoru Shirota, who had a fascination with the gut. He believed that healthy intestines led to a long and healthy life and, although it's tempting to view him as a rather more inscrutable version of Dr John Harvey Kellog of cornflakes and "Road to Wellville" fame, his approach appeared more scientifically based. In 1930, after working for many years with the theory that maintaining the balance of the gut bacteria (which could be upset by illness and even by the recently discovered antibiotic medicines) would be beneficial, he isolated a strain of bacteria that was resistant to strong stomach acids and could pass through to the intestine unscathed. This bacteria he named Lactobacillus casei Shirota. In 1935, after developing a milk based drink for delivering the bacteria, he started to market it from his surgery. In 1955 the drink went national in Japan, finally arriving in this country in 1996. There is now a big factory in Holland making it for our bit of Europe. In 1962 the company instigated a national delivery network consisting of "Yakult Ladies". There are now 52 000 of them delivering the stuff to homes and workplaces all over Japan. 52 000? Apparently so. A similar scheme is being fostered over here but, instead of employing just ladies, which would, of course be counter to the equal opportunity laws, the company is seeking the assistance of the traditional British milkman; sorry, milk delivery operative. Since everyone nowadays seems to want to waste money and petrol in transporting huge, usually unrecyclable plastic kegs of milk back from the supermarket every Saturday, our friendly milko doesn't have a lot l
eft to do so, big up to the chaps from Yakult for starting this initiative. I've been buying mine from Steve, our milkman, for about 6 months now and I don't begrudge him the extra penny he charges for the service. I think that's pretty reasonable as the price comparison is made with Morrison's which is already the cheapest supermarket in town. So, what's Yakult like then? Contrary to all the jokey banter above, I actually find it rather nice. It is a touch sweet but also a lttle malty tasting which gives it a somewhat savoury edge. Not sure that sounds too good on second thoughts but it is a pretty unique taste, as you may well have guessed. How about fruity but with no relation to any known fruit? It's the colour and consistency of milky coffee therefore quite unlike any yoghurt I've seen so quite unappetising to look at but, as it comes in a tiny 65 ml bottle, just peel back the foil lid and neck it in one if you don't fancy dwelling on its appearance. You don't notice the colour if it don't touch the sides but as I said before, I do like it so I could quite easily drink a bottle twice the size. There is a "lite" version which those with not quite such a sweet tooth may find more to their taste. At 50 calories per serving, it's not going to turn you lardy either. How does it feel now that I've got billions of so-called "friendly" bacteria swimming about in my gut? Can't say that there are any real major differences. I don't leap out of bed at 5.30 am after 20 minutes sleep but I do find that that little bottle first thing does feel rather refreshing; I'd feel very guilty about lining my gut with fried eggs, lard and black pudding after having swilled down a bottle. I do feel a little fitter but that may have something to do with giving up evil nasty killer fags. Those of a more genteel nature may wish to turn away now: I'm a bit more ahem, regular, than I us
ed to be and the consistency of my "doings", as my lovely old grandma used to call them, has definitely changed. I really don't need to go into great detail here but the Germans amongst you should now feel satisfied (the Germans have a national pre-occupation with examining their ordure, even to the point of having a little ledge in their lavvies for just such a purpose. Hint: when staying in a German household with one of these lavatories, be aware that the flush usually comes direct from the mains riser so it's at mains pressure. When flushing away your Richards*, close the lid. Work it out. Sorry, that really was rather more detail than was intended). On balance, and balance is what the whole deal with Yakult is about after all, I do get the feeling it's doing me some good. Difficult to actually describe what kind of good it's doing but I know that when I've gone a few days without some, there is a palpable feeling of well-being upon resumption. Not very scientific I know but, then I'm not a scientist, I'm a consumer. Ask your milkperson if they can supply. If your selfishness and greed has meant that you're no longer on a milkround then you'll just have to remember to put it on your shopping list. It comes in handy seven packs so there is no respite, even when you're planning the Sunday morning special cholesterol overdose. At around £2.50 for a week's supply, it's not a bad deal. For one person that is; if the whole family decides they want it then Yakult may well be shooting themselves in the foot if they don't hurry up and offer a family pack at reduced price. I've not seen them on sale individually either, only in the seven packs so, if after the first couple you find you don't like it, it is rather a waste. So what about my other half's drive to be the family with the healthiest innards in South Cheshire? Um, seems I'm the only one with the guts (oh
dear) to continue with the experiment. One had a brief flirtation with the pretentious (but marginally cheaper) French stuff and another resists all attempts. I'd be interested to see what effect it has on Sharon though. As she only has about two feet of intestine left, we're not even sure she has an indigenous population of friendly bacteria to start with. Could be intriguing. Visit www.yakult.co.uk for loads more info. *Richard the Thirds: Figure it out.
Back in the early 90s, I once turned up early for a wedding reception being held at a swanky hotel in Hertfordshire and spent half an hour talking to someone I thought was an overtly tanned but otherwise very proper and polite maitre d', while we waited outside for the other guests and the happy couple to arrive. A couple of hours later, a friend beckoned me over and asked if I realised who the guy was. I looked closer but although he seemed vaguely familiar, the name wasn't there. "It's Martin Chivers" my friend said: And indeed it was the ex-Saints, Spurs and England No 9. Ok, so anyone under 35 probably won't have a clue, but in scoring ability and attitude, he was the Michael Owen of the late 60s and early 70s. He'd done what many footballers used to do when their careers ended and gone into the hospitality business. Twas ever thus: If you had a short but intense career it didn't really provide you with much in the way of a future. Ex-footballers bought pubs, invariably with a view to drinking them dry and retired policemen started security firms and employed demobbed soldiers. Ah yes, soldiers. For the best part of 200 years the British Army has employed regiments of Gurkhas. Their reputation as formidable fighting men is legendary, as is their loyalty to the British crown even though they're not its subjects. What do we do with these wonderfully enigmatic people once their fighting days are over? How do we reward their unflinching loyalty and the bravery they've shown in the defence of someone else's realm? We ship 'em back to Nepal on one sixth of a regular soldier's pension and let them get on with it. Hurrah for the MOD!! Ashok Shreshtha didn't go back though. He stayed here and has decided to reward his previous employers (that's you and me, fellow taxpayer) by opening restaurants. He's rapidly approaching double figures and if they're all as decent as this on
e then long may he continue. His mantra is value for money and customer satisfaction and where the Oriental Buffet in Folkestone, which I've visited twice in the last year, is concerned, this is certainly the case on both counts. As I live in Cheshire I'm not usually in the habit of driving 250 odd miles to visit a restaurant either but my parents only live a few miles away and it's become one of their favourites too and I always jump at the chance to go. No mean feat considering my folks are in late middle age now and although not too fussy about what they eat, where my dad's concerned at least, the value for money aspect would figure paramount! He makes sure he gets it, too. As is evident in the restaurant name, the food is served in a buffet style from modern hot tables. Such is the care taken over presentation and customer satisfaction, the trays of food are not left to dry out as in the average motorway service station, they are repeatedly refreshed; not just topped up either, they're removed and replaced. They have to be as there is precious little wastage such is the turnover. Even if you do get a dry bit, just put your plate down and go get another bit. Chances are your plate won't be there when you return to your table either as it would have been fetched away back to the kitchen by the ever eager waiting staff. The menu is extensive, featuring about 60 different meals from the far east. All your curry shop and Chinese favourites are there as well as Malay, Singaporean and Thai staples. There are the usual starters such as wan ton soup (sic; it wants your babies at any price), sesame prawn toast and little spring rolls. There are even fish fingers and chips for the children although this is the only concession made to their fragile little tummies. I don't understand the children's menu philosophy. Why do chain restaurants make parents' lives difficult by offering a children's menu? Why not
just smaller portions of the adult stuff? We should be educating our children about taste and sensation rather than just giving in and accepting these almost bowdlerised versions of food served up so's not to offend. When I was a kid I couldn't wait to eat what the grown-ups were eating so why have things changed? I'm digressing; there are far too many items to list here but my personal favourites are the crispy prawn with breadcrumb and the crispy duck (yes, with the pancakes, cucumber and sauce). As for the main course, there are just too many. They are, by and large just as you would find them on the average takeaway menu but in my opinion, not quite as hot but then again, I haven't tried them all. I've had a damned good go, though. Careful of the chilly (sic) sauce; it will take your head off. Unassuming to look at but lethally hot. The plum (or "plump") sauce is gorgeous. The only let down is the desserts. It's just ice creams and gateaux, and then not much of a choice. No oriental desserts at all which is a shame. I think they work on the premise that you've stuffed yourself stupid on the other courses, why waste money and energy on providing authentic desserts when most of it will be binned. Drinks are the usual suspects and a couple of bottles of Gurkha Beer does the job admirably. Value is very much the watchword here and it's noticeable everywhere. That's not to confuse value with cheap though. The restaurant is situated in an Edwardian conservatory at the junction between Rendezvous and High Streets. That's in the high part of the town centre so you can work up an appetite when walking up from the harbour area. Car parking is limited as most of the area is largely pedestrianised although there are a few spaces right in front of the restaurant. These are patrolled too, which provides some decent spectator sport on a Sunday afternoon! There are several carparks within walking dista
nce though and Shepway district council's website detailing all the local ones is at: http://www.shepway.gov.uk (The specific URL for the car parks is way too long and makes this page ridiculously wide; follow the link in the site to car parks and zoom in on the town centre area. The restaurant is at the west end of the Old High Street on that map). The decor is light and airy as you'd expect in a place with so much glass in it although there isn't much in the way of actual decoration which is a shame as a little bit of the oriental theme, especially the Gurkha one, could be carried on on the walls. There are two levels, a lower one with the servery and bar and a smaller one overlooking it; 150 seats in all. There are two price tiers: Monday to Saturday the lunch (12-5pm) menu is £5.90 per person and the dinner one (5-10.30) is only three quid more. Children under 10 pay considerably less. Sundays it's £7.50 all day. Not bad, considering as this really is for as much as you can eat. There are takeaway prices too: which vary from between £2 and £4 less than the main prices. But what makes this restaurant among my favourites? It's not particularly special as regards the menu and presentation is up to how you ladle the stuff onto your (bottomless) plate. No, it's just the whole package; the sum of each individual part. The atmosphere is good, it's always crowded but there's absolutely no pressure on you to hurry your food. There isn't even any subtle hurrying-on by hovering around watching your table, they let you eat at your own pace because they know that you'll be back if you've had a good time. You can book a table but you'll be advised to just turn up and take a chance unless you're a large party. Considering restaurants make their money on how many covers they can serve per day, this attitude is very refreshing indeed. The service is wonderful. The waiters all appear to b
e ex-Gurkhas (there is a Gurkha regiment based at nearby Shorncliffe) and as the joke goes, you don't know you've been attacked by the Gurkhas until you nod your head. The same goes for their waiting skills; leave an empty plate for longer than a couple of minutes and it will miraculously disappear. I love this attitude, you concentrate on eating and your company knowing that you don't have to worry about anything else. How they manage it at the prices they charge is amazing: My parents and I had Sunday dinner there a few weeks back and with drinks and tip the bill only just crept over £30. The best advertising is word of mouth and happy customers. Judging by the fact that the restaurant is very nearly always full, it seems that Mr Shreshtha's attitude to his customers is paying handsome dividends. There is a jolly little website at http://www.orientalbuffet.co.uk which covers the Margate branch as well. A branch has also recently opened up in Aldershot. Get there and get stuffed! Footnote: As is the law, the menu displays the rider that some food may contain ingredients from GM soya beans or maize. Well, I'm not going to get into that argument but we're all genetic modifications to some extent and I certainly didn't have a say in that, either. As it is, I still have my gonads and my hair's the same colour as it was last week. Go for it.
To see if I was still up to it, I thought I'd try Malu's challenge. Can't see why I shouldn't, it's been a while, after all... ~~~~~00~~~~~ q: When did you join dooyoo? a: I joined back in April 2001. Still a junior compared to some. Opinionating toyboy. q: How did you discover dooyoo? a: I subscribed to a newsletter, freebiersclub.co.uk, which featured it one week saying that you could get paid a shedload of wedge for saying what you felt. I do believe they'd been advertising on hoardings as well, as I seem to remember a vivid green and black poster by the North End Road railway bridge in Erith, Kent but memory may well be tricking me on that one. The newsletter is still going too and in a pretty healthy state. ~~~+~~~+~~~~ q: Why did you join? a: Simple! I liked writing and I'd always been told I had an opinion on everything so the thought of getting a little something back for expressing those opinions without having to stick to deadlines appealed to me. The place seemed friendly enough too. I didn't realise quite how friendly it would become though. ~~~+~~~+~~~~ q: What was your very first opinion on? a: I prefer not to think of it It was on my 5 favourite beers and is v.poor. Can't remember why I chose that category, I think probably because I thought I could write knowingly on the subject. I don't think it was as bad as some first ones though. ~~~+~~~+~~~~ q: Did you find it easy to get the hang of dooyoo? a: In the olden days dooyoo was a breeze, it was so easy to use. Searches were easy to do, the latest opinions appeared down the side without you having to click on an unmarked link to find them (I click on the dooyoo logo to get to the home page - isn't that what everyone does?) and emails/ product suggestions were answered and added without hassle. Then the world went crazy and ev
eryone was up in arms because the new version was brought out. That was in May 2001. There was a backdoor way in provided by some clever cove somewhere which I occasionally used when there were problems with the latest update but those problems were nothing compared to those of today. Why oh why did they have to alter it again? Why ask for advice and then ignore it? Why beta test a live site and throw up all your mistakes for the world to see? That's what it felt like was happening and dooyoo suffered because of it. ~~~+~~~+~~~~ q: Did you read other opinions before you posted your first one? a: I did read quite a few, yes although I don't remember which. I read quite a few as a non-member before I plucked up the courage to join. I wish more new members would read around a bit before they post anything. Don't confine it to the opinions either, read the comments and get a feel for the community - it doesn't take long to realise that there is a certain protocol to be observed and that there's no need to get suicidal when you see your first "useful". ~~~+~~~+~~~~ q: Do you write no/some/many comments? a:I used to try and write a comment to every rating. I still do try to when I read new writers. The lack of a guestbook feature on dooyoo makes some of the comments look by turns daft and intriguing. Don't put my lack of a comment down to being rude though, there are myriad reasons why I may not have left one, not least because there is very little I could have said. I do try and make my comments comprehensible though, at least to the writer if not the other readers; confusing ones are just that - confusing. They say nothing about you and I don't know what they're meant to say about me either. The biggest con of all is the comment which indicates that the reader has not even read the opinion. I write to be read otherwise what's the point? ~~~+~~~+
~~~~ q: When you click on the list of Newest Reviews, do you read your friends' opinions no matter what they're on/according to subject no matter who has written on it/preferably the opinions of new writers? a: No! Everyone is equal. Some of my friends' opinions will go unread for weeks but again that's only because I'm being lazy. I usually only get enough time on the pc to check my email, let alone read and rate. There are a few people on dooyoo (and ciao) who seem to be able to multi-task their lives beyond comprehension. Either that or they've discovered something Einstein couldn't predict. ~~~+~~~+~~~~ q: Do you write your opinions in one sitting? a: No. I have tried it a couple of times but I find it exhausting. I usually write it as a draft email and then come back to it whenever. I'm not the world's quickest typist either so a long one would take me ages. ~~~+~~~+~~~~ q: Do you use a spell check? a: No, never. We haven't got Word, only Office at the moment, and I don't even know where it is on that. See, I'm a dunce when it comes to this because we don't even have Office, it's Works we have. I didn't even know that I could spell check on the mail programs either as I'm not exactly clued up about most of the software we use. As I'm a slow writer, I will read and re-read what I've written over and over again and, as I paid attention in skewel, I can spell pretty well even if I find as I get older that words look "wrong" more often. I don't trust spell checkers either; the dictionary's the best spellchecker as it's got definitions and you don't get them if you trust the boy Gates. Some of you ought to try it, or, sum off ewe wrought too trite. Bullocks, isn't it, eh? But a spellchecker would tell you there's nothing wrong with that phrase. It's definITEly, by the wa
y. Think FINITE as there's no such word as finate. Keith will now tell me there is. Ratfink. ~~~+~~~+~~ ~~ q: Do you think you can improve your chances to get a crown if you suck up to a guide? a: No way! I don't trust the list of guides to be correct anyway so what would be the point?.I'd feel terribly foolish as well. Oddly enough, I trust the powers that be deciding these things to act sensibly. If I've received nominations then I'm certain they'll be acknowledged and as long as the opinion falls within the defined criteria then how can I argue? Crowns are nice to get obviously, but I'm not going to lose any sleep if I don't get one. ~~~+~~~+~~~~ q: Are you a member of a forum or a chat room? a: I was a member of Opcom but I only ever visited once or twice, said hello once and then ran away. Maybe I just visited on the wrong day but everyone told me how wonderful it was and I couldn't see it. I was one of the half a dozen founder members of Tooyoo though. Several of us were chatting one night and decided that we were having such a laugh that we ought to form our own little independent offshoot, call it schism even, as we were breaking away from the established faith of dooyoo worship in opcom. That night, "Ilovejackdaniels" Dave hijacked an unused chatroom floating in cyberspace and tooyoo was born. I don't visit much there anymore either, sad to say' as there are just not enough hours in the day. I do visit Chatterweb quite often though and owe a huge debt of gratitude to its members who helped both myself and Sharon through a gruesome few months earlier this year. Such is the way of the internet; people you wouldn't know from Adam in the street become firm and reliable friends online. I moved to Crewe just over a year ago leaving friends and family way down south, hardly ever to be seen again; my net buddies though, were still there on the oth
er end of this connection. It was as if they came with me. ~~~+~~~+~~~~ q: Does it get to you when members prais e or condemn you? a: Getting praise is always nice and the odd piece of well intentioned criticism does help to keep your head in check. Insults are just stupid. I can't understand the small-minded attitudes of people who believe that hiding behind the cloak of anonymity the internet provides gives them carte-blanche to hand out unnecessary brickbats. Are their lives so worthless that they find they have resort to insults to get their kicks? Maybe they have personal hygiene problems or something ~~~+~~~+~~~~ q: What did you do in your spare time before you joined dooyoo? a: I played golf, went fishing, spoke to my children and called my mum and dad occasionally. SInce joining dooyoo I've not played golf, been fishing only a few times but not in the last two years and hardly ever see my children or parents anymore. But I also met the woman who changed my life there and I made the biggest decision of my life in committing to her because of dooyoo. So every cloud etc... ~~~+~~~+~~~~ q: What do you wish for the future? a: That dooyoo is able to find and commit the necessary resources to making itself viable and not only the German site, either. It does have something to offer and although it's not an ebay or Friendsreunited, it can still be a success. If my advice is worth anything, dump the idiots at the top with all the degrees and get someone with talent in. No-one ever made it with a degree in business studies or an MBA because the ability to chance it just can't be taught. ~~~+~~~+~~~~ P.S. Please don't take this challenge to ciao without asking MALU, she'd rather decide herself what to do with a text she's written, when to take it there or if at all. Thank you.
Picture the scene: We’re sat together, looking across the lush garden at the deep azure sky striated peach and salmon by the dying embers of a summer sun. I turn towards her and suggest we partake of some refreshment; something fitting, summery and fruity to remind us of the summer we almost never had. “We can share that bottle you bought yesterday. And then we can write an opinion each on it” “Me? Share? No way. Listen here. You’re now an established and richly rewarded beer writer and you got that through sharing just one bottle. No, you want to write an opinion on it, you’ve got to drink a whole bottle.” The Operator doesn’t share his beer. Especially when he sees lemonade poured in it. Foolish words. So I hared off down to Morrisons where they had this rather peculiarly named concoction on special offer at the enticing price of £1.49 per 568ml bottle. Get that, traditionalists? That’s 568ml. Look at your bottle of milk and you’ll see exactly the same numbers written on it. Yes yes! A whole pint of beer in a bottle. £1.49 eh? When was the last time you saw that price for a pint in a pub outside of happy hour? Even then you probably only get a dull old watery John Smiths or Stones, and that probably out of a tin. Me? Annoyed? Never. Anyway, they only had one left, so I took it. Must be popular, I thought or else the good people of Crewe are a bit precious with their money. At least we now had one each so, look out for another opinion on this one day and you be the judges. Good news then, because it’s the former reason. That’s popularity by the way; thought I might have lost you there. Charles Wells’ Banana Bread Beer is a nice beer. Not sickly sweet I want to be your bestest friend nice but nice in a different, “hey come and have chat over here” kind of way. I must admit, I was a little intrigued by the name. I’d al
ways associated Charles Wells with the venerable old “Bombardier”, an unassuming but reliable staple of many a pub, especially around these parts for some reason, even though it’s brewed 150 miles away in Bedford. I’d never thought of them as being in the least bit exotic. So it was with just a little trepidation that I opened the bottle the other night. First the bottle. It’s standard dark brown with a chocolate brown and gold label with minimal information on. The bottle though, is quite distinctive. It has an embossed design depicting stylised bunches of bananas. At least that’s what I think it is. Lever the top off and straight away you’re greeted by the unmistakable waft of Britain’s favourite fruit. That’s bananas, obviously. Didn’t you know? It’s not glacé cherries or passion fruit. Or durian even, which would be quite revolting as it’s supposedly the most off-putting smell of anything meant to be edible. No, this is definitely very enticing in a most bananary way. No hint of them in the colour though, which is splendidly beery golden-brown and depending on how you pour it, is topped off with a slight foamy head. Now, please, settle down. I’m not going to do anything about bananas with foamy heads. Or shandy jokes, either. This is meant to be serious. So we’ve held it up to the light to judge the colour, sniffed it for bouquet and on both counts it’s passed muster. Now for the important bit; it tastes a bit like beer with um…(adopts squeaky and apologetic tone here)…bananas in. There’s also a bit of caramel there, or burnt sugar if you care. You can’t really tell if the beer is a quality one because the overwhelming taste is fruity but there is certainly an ale lurking there somewhere as you get the maltiness. It’s also quite sweet which may prove to be a bit off-putting to some. I find very malty beers to be inherentl
y swe et anyway and the banana seems to layer on the sweetness with a trowel. It is though, quite crisp on the palate, which is quite refreshing. I left it for a while to go and do something else and came back several minutes later. Surprisingly, it tasted better and the finish was a touch more dry so you didn’t get that overwhelmingly tropical flavour lingering. The ale had also come through a bit more and as such was more in harmony with the fruit flavours so I’d recommend that you let it stand for a few minutes before diving in. Unless like me, you couldn’t resist it. Not sure it would go particularly well with food though. Maybe as an aperitif or an after dinner quaff but not alongside a meal. Want some more? The bananas used are fairtrade ones so you can feel justifiably sanctimonious if any of your trendy friends accuse you of ripping off third world fruit producers for the sake of something different. A visit to the Charles Wells website (www.charleswells.co.uk) reveals a bit of a clanger. It states that it’s 4.5% abv but the bottle says 5.5%. Can’t help you there so I’ll probably have to do some kind of controlled testing over a few days with some other 5.5% product and see which one makes me fall over first. Interestingly enough, the site also says that Charles Wells brew Jamaican Red Stripe, beloved of cricket fans all over South London; that tandoori house staple, Cobra and the cunning Kirin all under license. Regarding the latter, it’s one of only three breweries outside Japan allowed to brew the fabled rice beer and should be testament to the high regard in which the company is held by its peers. So then. I think that’s about all I can say about it. Here come the summing up clichés; it’s nice and friendly, refreshingly different, juicy fruity and very welcome here chez Shazzy and Operator. Go buy if you fancy a change. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A uthor's note: As this was written some time ago in anticipation of the category appearing and as I've only just found it (Dooyoo's painfully slow around these parts), the financial information may well be a few p out. Sorry. I really am sorry. Very.
Grow a tree from seed until it’s established. Well loved even. Leave it to get a bit windswept but let it keep its character as an ageing but well loved and respected member of the forest. Invite people to congregate beneath its welcoming branches to commune, exchange ideas and opinions. Even let some of them fall in love in its shadow. Take a chainsaw to it and render it into billions of tiny pieces, each one unrecognisable as being part of the magnificent original. Spread the dust into a tray, put it in a corner of the kitchen and let it effortlessly deal with all the ordure your animals can manage to excrete. Be amazed as it absorbs all the nasty excreta without complaint while turning into a soggy mess. Disposal? Throw the whole disgusting, stinking mess into the bin or on the bonfire. Simple subject, enough said.
Where does one start? You’ve had 18 or so years of childhood and it would be a rare person indeed who didn’t have anything of significance to recall that didn’t have any resonance or provoked a smile on recollection. I didn’t have an exceptional childhood. I grew up in the Kent countryside and spent holidays by the sea and played with the other kids just like any other healthy child. My Mum and Dad stayed together; there were no great family rifts or anything like that to mark childhood in any significant way. Mum and dad weren’t the kind of parents who really mucked in and made things fun though and I was always a bit jealous of those of my friends whose parents seemed to be a bit more “fun”. But that’s not to take anything away from them, we made our own amusement and that was sometimes a bit scary. We got away with a few things which on hindsight were to say the least, downright stupid. For instance, there was the period when my pal Brendan and I used to chuck mud at passing cars. Which was fun until the understandably indignant owner of a new white Vauxhall Cresta, now decorated with a fetching clay tinted windscreen came to a screeching halt and along with his two sons, chased us through the woods for ten minutes. How he managed to restrain himself from walloping us I still don’t know; times were different back then and it would have been quite justifiable. Incidents like that were though, few and far between. Maybe there were some more but they’ve been lost deep in the dustbin memory stuck in my head. They’ll come back sooner or later but for the purposes of this piece, I’ll just stick to the funny or poignant. I think my earliest memory was being picked up from Grandma’s living room floor when I was probably less than a year old. There was something on the carpet underneath me. Yep, I’d pooped on the Wilton. Hold back on the schadenfreud
e though, we were all babies once and we all did that. Then there was my first love. Apart from having a huge crush on Sandie Shaw when I was about 6 that is (Shazzy has long dark hair and walks around barefooted y’know. Mmm. Maybe that’s the reason…). Aaah, Lynne! Smitten I was. She was a couple of years older than I was but, it didn’t matter, we could make a go of it. Trouble is, when you’re about 7, dates are a bit difficult to arrange. I can remember once being so excited that we were going to spend all afternoon at her house but then finding out that the girl of my dreams was confined to bed with something outrageously contagious and possibly disfiguring if caught, that I couldn’t kick-start the romance as I’d planned. Instead, I spent all afternoon sitting at the end of the bed reading stories and making pipe cleaner horses when I’d been hoping for something infinitely more enjoyable. Then there’s that first big right of passage thing, that first snatch of nicotine enhanced pleasure. Or conversely, the head spinning nausea that accompanies your first whole fag. Taken after playing football with the bigger boys (ha! All of a year older than us) on the field at the end of the road during school holidays. I was eleven but not really a total smoking virgin as, like all other kids whose parents or grandparents smoke, I’d always begged a puff from the elders from time to time. No, this was the real thing, a whole Kensitas. Bleachhh!!! I didn’t take to it at all and gave up after about three of them. Gave up for six years. Well, seven, if you count the year I had off it until March this year. Sorry if you’ve read my op on giving up, I haven’t. The lad who gave me that first coffin nail later went on to achieve a certain degree of international notoriety though. He was the boatswain’s mate who was sleeping when he should have been shutting the bow doors on the Herald of Free
Enterprise. Don’t worry, the funny stuff’s on its way. Once again 11 years old, this time at cub camp. First time I’d been away at camp for reason’s I’ll come to later, and I was thrilled. Also, I was a “sixer”, which meant I was in charge of a troop. This meant I had to sleep by the tent flap and guard my boys. The tents were ex-military; all heavy canvass and the flap was thus quite a bit of work in the middle of the night when a young child, bladdered up on orange and in dire need of a pee, needed to exit promptly. So it was, after a strenuous night’s singing “Ging Gang Goolie” and eating doughsticks around the camp fire that we all retired to our sleeping bags to dream of the following day’s exertions. About 3am I was roused from my reverie by some frenzied flap action. Eh? Feet were wet and it wasn’t raining. As the camp latrine was some distance away from the sleeping area, temporary facilities had been installed just outside the tent. Temporary meant bucket. The combination of bucket, heavy tent flap and bleary-eyed nine-year-old wasn’t a good one and neither was the sensation I was now feeling over my feet. The huge irony of this was that as I mentioned earlier, this was my first camp. I’d been unable to go before as I had suffered from nocturnal enuresis (er…I wet the bed until I was 10 or so) but was now cured. I wasn’t wetting the bed anymore; some other sod was doing it for me. Schooldays are the wealthiest source of memories for me though. Plenty of characters, not least my primary school headmaster, Mr. Crossley, a strangely compelling mixture of severity and downright lunacy. I got the ruler several times from him for being cheeky or disobeying orders but to see him performing, for that is the only word I could ever use to describe it, “Jabberwocky” in morning assembly was a sight to behold. The flailing arms and legs were so m
uch at odds with someone who bore more than a marked resemblance to Norman Tebbit. He would also seize upon any idiotic juvenile mistake one made and convert it into your nickname. Hence Derek Rowland was known as “Snoozy” because he once fell asleep in class and Robin Scrace as “Scarce” because he once, and only once, spelt his name wrong. Pity he didn’t see Martin Hill then. Goodness only knows what he would have called him. Martin was not possessed of the full deck at the best of times. Give him the simplest of instructions and he’d manage to foul them up big time. And he wore Lennons to boot (National Health specs to the youngsters). We’d been swimming in the school pool, which was behind the canteen and across the playground in front of our classroom. The instructions were to go and get dried and changed in class and then go and hang your stuff up to dry on the line between the canteen and the store-room. This proved too much for Martin to deal with. We were already getting changed and looking out the window and watching spellbound as Martin’s neural network struggled gamely with the order of play. On the line went the towel, off came the trunks and across the playground, all 50 yards of it, came Martin. Wearing specs. Mighty fine stuff and 33 years later, I can still see it. Secondary school and things changed. We were bigger and so were the characters. The biggest of all was Mr Montgomery, our history teacher. I could write a book about him but he’s still alive I do believe and he’d probably sue. What the heck, it’s all on Friendsreunited anyway. Monty was a sadist. Well, he came across as one. In one of our first lessons with him as callow 11 year olds, he picked on Nick Freestone who had had the temerity to underachieve and stay back a year. We watched in horror as for no particular reason, he made Nick hold his hand over a burning lighter. But there were lighter moments
; in amongst the bluster and shouting there were moments of pure humour. His classroom, F7, was known as the “Temple of Piety and Learning” and if you ever said, “I think…” straight back came the interjection, “You’re not here to think, boy. You’re here to work, learn, know, obey and remember.” He had a pathological hatred of three things. Manchester United, long hair and the village of Hamstreet, just on the edge of Romney Marsh. In fact, he was so poorly disposed to my yes, my, home village that we even had to write in our exercise books that both Julius Caesar and William the Conqueror advanced northwards from the south coast, avoiding it. Not only did I come from Hamstreet, I also had long hair and wore a Man Utd badge. A fact which was commented on openly but for some obscure reason, he never really went to town on. As you may guess, he was fond of corporal punishment. He was also a rabid Stoke City fan (rabid’s not too unkind a word for him). Punishment was usually a wallop on the rear with a sport’s shoe, but not any old shoe. As one approached the front of the room to receive your just desserts, out would come a running spike. Complete with spikes. This would be laid on the front desk, spikes turned upward. “Bend over”, he’d bark and then turn to the class and smile; well, leer would be a more accurate term for it. At which point he’d substitute the spike for a gym shoe with the legend “Stoke” written in reverse in white chalk on the sole. One wallop was usually enough, everyone in school would know what had happened and the pointy fingers would be all the extra punishment you’d need. Priceless. That’s it. I’m back boys and girls and you can get off the floor now, Sue. I’ve written something.
This is long. I've tried but I can't really shorten it so you'll just have to come along for the ride. These things don't really lend themselves to being glossed over anyway. It'll arouse emotions, I know. Feelings of sympathy in some, probably anger in others. Maybe you've been there, maybe you're experiencing the same thing. Whatever, it's my story and I can't change it. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ My car blew up. Not blew to bits but still pretty spectacularly, though. Huge clouds of white smoke and a sudden loss of power. At 5.15 am in the morning, too. The garage said it was fatal. Oh well. That's that then, I needed a new car. It was one of those serendipitous moments. Little did I suspect that my car dying on the A206 at 5.15 on a cold March morning in 2000 would lead to to my life changing irrevocably. These incidents have a habit of setting a train of events in motion that can sweep you along; you're still in control but you're able to let your emotions run free and take you towards your dreams. And so it was... I was broke. I couldn't afford a new car. Enter my friend and neighbour, a salesman for a reputable financial services company. He told me I could remortgage, save some dosh and afford a new motor into the bargain. Great! We hurried it through and the upshot was that I now had a redundant PEP from a previous remortgage. Yippee - more spare money and now I could afford that sparkly new iMac I'd seen beckoning me towards it in the Bluewater branch of John Lewis. We'd not had a proper computer before except for some scraggy old 286 given by a relative. The internet? Not a mystery but something I'd wanted to get into and now was my chance. It got connected and and off I went exploring. I'm not into that chatroom thing; it doesn't appeal to me at all. Some people get off on the anonymity, I prefer to know who I'm talking to
so I went off looking for other things. Research, discovering new ideas, finding humour everywhere and meeting the odd (some very odd) person here and there. Then one day in April, the following year, while on a free offers site, I spotted a link to a site where they'd pay you to write about things. This one. Sounded like fun to me so I poked my head around the door and explored. It was great! Here were people having a laugh, writing - some very well - and also getting a bit of pocket money into the bargain. I hung about, wrote something which seemed to go down pretty well and acquired some new friends. It was good. I was having fun and I was being taken away from the droll shifts and away from the day to day drudgery of an increasingly boring marriage. I won't go into detail but things weren't as they should be and that's a long story. Muddling along for over twenty years was getting the better of me and we'd lost the plot as to what a relationship should be all about. We certainly weren't friends, we never had been. We'd just had our first holiday together for ages as a family without the interference of in-laws and what was meant to be a revitalising experience turned into a bit of a damp squib. Every difference of opinion turned into a spat, usually followed by me getting a "well leave then". Each time you hear that you wonder "what if I did?". I'd just turned 40, too. That magic age when you realise you're over the biblical halfway point by a good few years and that life holds nothing more than a slow inevitable trudge towards retirement, struggling with the Flymo and opening insurance offers from Saga. I'd decided it wasn't what I wanted at all, if that was what being married was about. I'd tried to leave before a couple of times at various points but always got sucked back in for one more go. Better the devil you know, eh? Then, in mid July just as I was at my lowest, s
omething happened. I read an opinion on bullying and it touched a nerve. I looked at the photo on the member's profile page and saw a beautiful, cheerful woman with an amazingly alluring smile. I'd read her stuff before and it had always seemed interesting and I'd even posted the odd comment but this time I'd seen the picture - it hadn't been there before. I can't really describe how I felt, she was gorgeous and shouldn't have had to exprience the kind of things she'd written about. Quite appalling really, no-one should, regardless of whether they're gorgeous or not but that picture stuck in my head. Then she wrote an opinion on something contentious and someone had a pop at her in the comment section. I emailed her and asked whether she'd like a bit of a laugh at his expense and to my amazement, she mailed me back almost by return and said that she was up for it. We did have a laugh. Blimey, she was fun, too! More to the point, she was fun and intelligent with it, which is such an attractive and alluring combination. Despite that, I never thought about striking up anything more than a friendship. Most of my closest friends have been women. I love women; they're so much more interesting than blokes and even though I never had a relationship with any of my friends, there was always that flirty aspect to the friendships that was good fun and never dangerous. Anyway, as much as I was finding it disagreeable, I was still married. Very soon, we were exchanging e-mails and planting private jokes on each other's comments boxes. I began to tear home from work and sit down in front of the computer, crossing my fingers hoping that the Outlook Express boing would herald another message from this wonderfully enigmatic woman. She moved house and was offline for a while and I missed her! I was like a big kid when she came back online after a week or so and we carried on as before, just laughing with each other and talk
ing about ourselves. I sent her a picture of me and was surprised by her comment - she thought I was good looking! OK, I'm not a minger but I still didn't expect that! I was going on holiday for three weeks soon and I wanted desperately for her to be there when I got back. I was terrified that I'd lose her to some other faceless surfer, I was having fun and I wanted it to continue. We were in no way concerned about trust either. So strange, I could have been anyone; she too. She'd even given me her phone number as a sign of that trust and I felt so honoured that she'd done it. I trusted her too but as for giving my number - well, I knew she wouldn't have rung it deliberately but I had a wife and children there who might have got completely the wrong impression if by chance or mistake, a strange woman phoned asking for me. We were after all still only friends and although my marriage was going off the boil, I didn't need the added bother of being accused of having a cyber-affair. She understood this so I gave her my work number and if she was in any doubt as to whether I was real, she could ring and ask them if I existed. Doubly safe from the trust point of view as I don't work in an office so I don't answer the phone. She never rang, she told me she didn't need to. On holiday, I couldn't get her out of my head. I thought about her constantly, wondering what she was doing, how she was, what she thought about me. The holiday was a disaster from a relationship point of view. My wife and I hardly spoke, we effectively had separate holidays - we had a huge house and my in-laws were also with us and, although I like them it was very difficult and becoming increasingly strained. There was no physicality left in the marriage by now and I spent most of my time mooning about with the kids or fishing on the beach in the evening. I couldn't wait to get home. We got back in the early evening of a scorching lat
e August day. When everything had been unpacked and meals eaten I sat down at the computer with the excuse that I wanted to read my mail. The first thing I did was to send a mail to her announcing my return. Back came a reply "Oh, I was hoping that was you..." Fantastic, she was there! We carried on where we left off, just exchanging mails and having a laugh. Her birthday came soon after and I sent her an e-card. The music with the card was from "Peer Gynt", rather apt as she'd visited Grieg's museum in Bergen while living there. Things were moving very quickly now. The mails were becoming ever more intimate, leaving us going to bed feeling breathless with excitement. Very very early on the morning of September 4th last year, after a particularly "emotional" exchange and in very simple but direct fashion, I signed off by telling her that "I think I..." Back came the reply, "Love you". When I logged on later in the day I saw she'd posted an op about Troldhaugen, Grieg's home and museum, which opened with the lines "It was my birthday recently. I had an e-card. It played Peer Gynt. It was sent by a very special friend, a person who has inspired me in so many ways, and made me smile so many times." I was actually moved to tears and it was obvious things were taking a more serious turn. We set aside the following Wednesday morning before I set off for work for an "e-date". We were still writing emails to each other, not sure as to whether we wanted to talk yet. Anyway, we were having fun using email; we got off on the tension of waiting for that next one to come in, never knowing what it might contain. We spent four hours that morning really getting to know each other. The mails were also getting...umm...a little racier than "Hi, how are you?" I left for work feeling on top of the world. Roll forward to September 11th. Memorable to most for anoth
er reason, for me - something else. I got a desperate sounding mail, she was sad. No details here, spare a lady's blushes but she needed cheering up urgently so I said go offline and I'd call. This was it, I was finally going to speak to her. I was going to put a voice to the face in the picture. I had a couple of other pictures but they were fuzzy and not too clear, I still had that original profile picture in my mind as to what she looked like and she'd assured me that it was a good likeness but I was hungry for more detail; I needed the voice. I dialled the number with trembling fingers and a heartbeat of surely dangerous intensity. The wait seemed interminable but it was probably only a couple of rings before she picked up. Crash!!! She dropped the phone! Moment not destroyed but it was a wonderful ice-breaker. Our first words destroyed by the sound of phone hitting floor! Not to worry, we laughed about it. Lots. We talked as if we'd known each other for years; we did in a way because we'd exchanged thousands of mails and there wasn't a lot we didn't know about each other already. But that voice! Sexy sounds corny but sexy it was. I can't remember much of what we talked about, I was away somewhere on that voice, head spinning, completely caught up in the moment and falling ever more in love. As I sat at work later in the day, watching the events in New York unfold on our rest room tv, my thoughts were elsewhere. Mixed emotions racing through my head at odds with what was happening on tv. We had to meet now; this had to go one step further. She dug out an old mobile and we started texting each other to kill the time before we could chat in the evening. A few days passed and we finally sorted out a date when we could meet. It would be in London, even though she lived 200 miles away, she'd be visiting anyway and it had to be somewhere suitable, not romantic as such but somewhere memorable, in the middle of the bri
dge in St James' Park on the 11th October at 11 am, for instance. Bridges are good, they bring people together and we thought it would be a suitably idyllic place for our first "tryst". We still had three weeks to kill though. Those three weeks were full of contact. We couldn't stay apart, either on email or by SMS. All we could think about was meeting each other. I was even calling her before I left for home after work even though I'd be chatting to her on the net before long. My mobile bill was horrendous. 14 pages of text messages, £134 in one month alone. The 11th eventually arrived and I set off for London. I was held up on the tube and was running late. Not to worry, she texted me to say she'd only just left. It's a woman thing, obviously. I sat there on the bench watching the bridge, expecting to see her appear through the Queen Anne's Gate entrance so I could get to the bridge before her. No sign. Text - "I'm lost" Aaargghh! Call, "Where are you?", "St. James' Park tube", "Follow the signs for the Home Office", "Where's that?", "Aaaarggh". No time to think about what she looked like now, I was actively looking for someone getting my running commentary on the phone. There she is! Aaaargh! No! Surely not? Thanks, there is a god, she's turned the wrong way. Then she appeared, I saw her putting her phone away so it must be her and we moved towards the centre of the bridge, me smiling manically and she staring straight ahead and laughing. I couldn't believe how tall she was! As tall as me and I'm 5'11". We briefly said hi, looked momentarily at each other and kissed. I can't actually remember which part of her head I kissed, we were gloriously clumsy but it tasted good. Then we just hugged for about 5 minutes, telling each other that we'd finally made it and that we couldn't believe this was happening before we we
nt and sat down. My first impressions? She wasn't quite how I'd imagined her. I still only had those couple of dissenting photos, neither of them looked like each other and neither looked like her at first glance but then, neither of them did her justice. She was gorgeous. Her eyes were a shimmering grey-green and they tore into me like nothing I'd ever experienced before. We sat there for two hours or so. She had texts coming in asking what I was like and we had a bit of fun texting back. We talked and held each other, much to the amusement of all the tourists walking past. What were they thinking? Were we a couple having an illicit lunchtime liaison? Were we man and wife just enjoying each other? What was I thinking? I was totally absorbed in her, I could now see, hear, smell, touch and taste this person who had held me almost spellbound for the last three months. We went for a drink and then on to the Courtauld Galleries as we thought we'd better do something else to remember the day by. We went for a simple meal and sat there just watching each other eat. I ordered an ice cream, she didn't want a whole one but the waiter pre-empted my asking by bringing two spoons. I don't know what the other diners thought as we fed each other and made faces but who cared? We were having fun, we were determined not to forget this day. We left the restaurant and walked on to Trafalgar Square where we leant against the railings surrounding Nelson's Column and, well...it's suffice to say that the memory of her eyes gazing up at me will stay with me as long as I live. I was experiencing emotions I'd never thought I'd ever feel again, if indeed I ever had felt them before. Here was a woman I knew so well, to the point of almost total intimacy but only through talking on a computer and the phone, acting as if I was a lover she hadn't seen for ages. I felt absolutely no guilt, it seemed so natural and so complet
ely right that we were acting in this way. We eventually went our separate ways and I got home feeling emotionally exhausted but elated. By this time I'd told my wife that I was definitely moving out and she moved out of the bedroom into my son's room. I was unable to find a flat though and agreed to stay until Christmas for the childrens' sake. She was aware something was happening to me, the computer was in the corner of the living room and I was acting suspiciously every time she walked past. Morevover, some of our mails had found their way into her account. With hindsight, I should have admitted there and then that our friendship was rather more than serious but, not having anywhere yet to stay, I deflected the questioning. Things between us carried on much as they had been. We were now desperate to see each other again and the opportunity arose in mid-November. We'd had a bit of a tiff which affected me badly. It affected both of us badly, to the point where we were going to call it off. Upset, I told my wife that I needed some space, threw a blanket and some clothes into the car on the pretext that I was going to sleep in it and drove off up the M1. She didn't know I was coming until I texted her from beyond halfway. No way was I going back but still I'd decided on the journey that I was probably going to end it. She met me at a petrol station in Crewe and as she walked towards me, I fell in love again. We embraced and kissed and I followed her back to her house. Oh dear reader, you just don't need to know what happened that evening. Use your imagination if you must, because I'm sure as hell not telling you. I stayed three nights; love was re-affirmed, as strong as ever. Now? I finally moved out in mid-February. We've both made that journey up and down the motorway so many times now. At the beginning of August I'll go up one final time and the car will stay outside her house. My marriage
is now over, I'm not returning here anymore except to see my children. Purely by chance, I found a woman who answered every need I had. Through our on-line "affair", we discovered each other in ways neither of us thought possible. We found our connections, the things we wanted to do together, the things we had in common and those we didn't. What we found above all else, through all those thousands of emails, MSN chats and texts is an unbelievably deep longing for each other which surmounted the distance between us. That distance finally gave way to love. Maybe the choice of the bridge as our first meeting place was prescient in some way but that distance has now been bridged and we're heading off into a new life together. Falling in love on the internet is easy. Conducting an internet affair isn't easy, though. We certainly found it hard at times but paradoxically, it brought us closer together. The distance was an obstacle we were determined to beat. I can't say yes or no whether I'd recommend conducting a relationship like this, it just worked out well for us. I can't even tell you what to do if it's an illicit one. The rules make themselves up as you go along as everyone's circumstances are different. Certainly I would have handled it a bit better from my marriage point of view - I hated the lies and have now, rather belatedly, admitted everything. It doesn't assuage any guilt, I had none, my marriage in my eyes already being beyond redemption but it cleans the slate and allows you to think about the future more clearly. Only one thing left now. Who is this wonderful person who's let me discover a life I'd always hankered after? This gorgeous woman who dominates every waking moment of my life? Some of you know, don't you? Quite a lot don't, though. Sharon, Shazzy, CherryBlossom, you've got me babe. Wild Thing, I think I love you...
Toothpaste? Uh? You're going to review toothpaste? Got to be a twist here somewhere. Has it got beer in then? Or Vimto even? Neither. It's a plain and simple review of a new toothpaste, so cut the snide and listen. Or read. Shock news: The-Operator, 41, has all his own teeth. Except for the four that were removed for "cosmetic purposes" when I was 13 that is. Yes, I wore a brace for three years or so on the premise that my peggy-weggies would look magnificent once the springs had forced them back into their correct positions. I can still remember the consultant pointing to the name on my sportsbag in his surgery as he was fitting the contraption saying that "one day you'll look good enough to play for them". The guy was clearly mental; no footballer worth his salt back in 1974 had his own teeth and neither did I want to play for Adidas. He did bear an uncanny resemblance to Laurence Olivier, though. Anyway, I endured the pain, the chewing gum that stuck to the plate, the crap that got underneath it and the ridiculous taunts from my peers. No wonder I was hopeless with girls; one smile at the navy-clad 15 year old temptress sitting opposite on the 508 and it was head down and back into the maths homework as the dazzle from the array of shiny steelwork enveloping my eating gear caused temporary blindness (and no small amount of fear) in the eyes of my heart's desire. Even now, I smile broadly only when occasion deems it fit, my inability to laugh out loud oft mistaken for a seriously warped sense of humour or none at all. When all around are falling on the floor in fits, I'm reduced to a mumbled giggle between tight lips. Such is the legacy of a proud but misguided mother. You might have thought that this would engender some form of fear of dentists in me. Actually, I've no problem with them. I've always been a twice a day man. Brushing that is, so the teeth have stayed in relati
vely good nick. What I don't do as often as I ought to, is physically go to the dentist. It's laziness. When after 8 or so years I did bother to go I was told that I needed one tiny filling but my teeth were still in tip-top shape. Then about 7 years ago they started to hurt. And bleed. I asked my dentist why and in a word I was told that I had receeding gums. I brushed too hard and too much. "Bit, no worriss. Eee hef examin on dis t'morrow, eee can tray s'ming." To this day I have no idea what his name was or where he came from. My dentist employed the cheapest labour he could possibly source, usually those just out of university. Never an English university though. Either that or they looked like Benny Hill's Fred Scuttle character and wore clothes many sizes too small for them and grinned scarily at children. I ended up leaving the surgery having had my teeth effectively repointed around the edge of the gums. This concrete would I was assured, act to prevent further deterioration of the base of the tooth. Most of it's since fallen out, the cement, not my teeth but I suppose it did work to a degree. I was careful now with my brushing, I even bought an electric toothbrush but still the pain from the sensitive teeth and the bleeding gums endured. I tried sensitive toothpastes and total care products but to no avail. Every rinse would be tinged with crimson and the pain persisted. Then, one day, a few weeks ago in a delightful South Cheshire town only 12 minutes away by bus from Nantwich, I experienced a chance encounter with something that would change my life irrevocably. There, in amongst the myriad of other dental hygiene products which had served me so poorly in recent years was a blue and gold box bearing the legend "Macleans 40+. Specially formulated for maturing teeth and gums". Wow, I looked at my friend and pointed with delight. "I'm 41. I can use this!" In the basket it went. (Hah! She
paid!) That evening I tried it for the first time. The box said that it had a new "age defying formula" (not "new age defying" It won't frazzle your crystals or reduce your "Sounds of Nature" CD to mush should they accidentally come into contact). It will also fight the bacteria that can lead to gum problems and "gently yet effectively clean areas exposed by gum recession". I expected huge blasts of light to emanate from the tube when I unscrewed the cap and removed that irritating bit of foil but no, it looked like any other toothpaste. It tasted fresh and clean and foamed well, even under the fading battery power of my toothbrush. It did seem to have a slightly lighter consistency than other toothpastes, an airier texture but this wasn't unpleasant. It left my mouth feeling very clean and unlike some speciality toothpastes, there was no sickly aftertaste. It felt like I'd sucked a whole tube of Polos and not a tube of axle grease. There were no complaints from the opposition camp either. Breath must have been ok then. Definitely a winner there. I've used it religiously twice a day for about four weeks now and the results are wonderful. I soon realised that my teeth hadn't hurt for ages and that I was no longer literally spitting blood everytime I brushed. If they can combine this formula with a whitener then they really are onto a winner as it's not the most effective cleaner I've encountered. Mind you, I've been a bit naughty and recently started smoking again (OK, I'm bad I know but it was two days short of a year I gave up) so maybe I'm being a bit previous expecting it to work wonders. New batteries in the vibrobrush might help, too. I've not seen it on sale down here in the south-east, maybe I just wasn't looking; and it wasn't listed as a product on the Macleans website. Which leads me to suspect that it's being market-tested in
the North-West prior to a national launch. I emailed Macleans and had a very friendly response from their PR people but it's still a bit vague as to where it's available nationally apart from Waitrose/John Lewis and selected larger outlets of Boots, Sainsbury's, Morrisons and the Co-op. Apparently from June it will be also be available in Tesco, Superdrug and Safeway's - again, only the larger stores. No indication as to whether it's still a regional release. Anyway, mid-lifers, keep 'em peeled - I dare say you'll clock it somewhere in a store near you. The rrp is £2.49 for a 75 ml tube. Now the boring bit. I wish I had one of those little scanner pens: Aqua/Water Glycerin Hydrated Silica Sorbitol PEG-6 Sodium Laurel Sulphate (They say sulfate. No way!) Titanium Dioxide Aroma/Flavour Xanthan Gum Sodium Fluoride Triclosan Sodium Saccharin Carrageenan (Isn't that carcinogenic in unfeasibly large amounts?) Contains: Sodium fluoride 0.306% w/w (1350 ppm fluoride), Triclosan. Made in the UK (Whoopee!) I'm usually very sceptical about maker's claims for products such as this but what can I say? It seems to do what it claims. My mouth is pain and blood free for the first time in years. It won't stop the receeding gums, they never grow back, although something is definitely happening to the roots as they're just not painful anymore. Something the hugely expensive specialist stuff couldn't manage. Just thought - maybe I can now find out whether I really do like ice cream...
Beer is one of life's essentials. Well it is to me anyway; along with shepherd's pie, tea and spring and summertime in the countryside. Have you noticed how wondrous the blossom has been this year? My part of Kent has been positively enriched by some beautiful cherries amongst others of late which looks like it could be marvellous summer. Think long summer evenings sitting outside enjoying good company and just watching the sun slide below the horizon, the scents of the twighlight wafting around you, those final golden rays given extra magificence reflected in the moist sparkle of your lover's eyes...Sorry, I went a bit there, this is a beer op, I do apologise. English summer days and evenings. If only you could bottle it and literally drink in that essence; those suggestions of a country garden; of fruit and flowers and peace. Got news for you, eager readers. They have bottled it, down in Dorset at The Badger Brewery in Blandford St. Mary and it's gorgeous. They call it "Badger Golden Champion Ale". Summer in vitro. Bliss in a bottle. It is. Open a bottle of this and you'll immediately be assailed by a wonderful bouquet of elderflower. I recognised it even before I read the label because I used to have one of these things overlooking my garden when I had one and, although the blackfly and the purple bird lime were a nuisance later in the year, the flowers gave off a lovely scent in the early summer. Michael Jackson, the renowned beer writer not the curious man-child popster, once commented, " Even a single sip set me thinking of fresh, sunny spring days and a glass of beer with lunch in the garden." And even I have to agree with the hugely irritating Jilly Goolden when she said of it on Food and Drink that "It's like sitting by an open window and in streams the garden.." I don't know what they put in it, there are no clues on the official Badger Brewery websit
e (www.badgerbrewery.com) as to even the hops used and I do like to supply technical information if I can because some people care about it, so apologies there, hop fans. What else of it? It comes, in my case, in a chunky brown bottle emblazoned by an eye-catching but rather unattractive, shiny red and gold label with the word "Champion" printed large across the middle. This appellation courtesy of the fact that it won the 1998 Tesco Beer Challenge which must be a very important thing to win in the beer world as it's judged by beer industry peers no less. Open it and pour it out and it even looks like summer as it's a lovely sunny amber colour. You know the smell already so what about the taste? Oh, you'll hate me. Summery.There you go. Well, I'm sorry it's all I can think of. Not at all heavy, it's initially fruity and sweet which then gives way to a slight tannic bitterness. Leave it long enough and the sweetness returns. There is an aftertaste but it is by no means unpleasant, a bit like that left by a sweet cider. But it's that summery feel I can't get over. It'll even go well with a salad, even one of my mum's salads. At 5% ABV it's a medium strong ale but beware, even 5% will creep up and deal you a nasty belt with the back of its hand if you let this beer's subtle delights tempt you into "just" another one. It's widely available in supermarkets and good offies anywhere and at around £1.50 if you're lucky like I was, for 500ml it's pretty good value for a premium beer. Serve it chilled, no more than 12 deg C for maximum effect. Now, those eyes...
You've read my receipts before haven't you? Some of them have even been crowned, y'know! You know that I'm a bloke who likes to cook occasionally, when time and shifts permit and also when the inclination propels me. It's not a hobby, eating's a necessity and sometimes a damned inconvenient one too. I don't know anything about cooking apart from what I've gleaned from watching others do it so when I do make something a bit on the special side, it's usually made up on the spot with whatever's left over in the fridge; like tonight's one. Which isn't something daft like squid or fishfinger sandwiches, it's serious OK? I've got two very very favourite dishes. Spaghetti bolognese (which doesn't actually exist in Bologna - I asked a friend from there once who knew these things and he denied it, saying we invented it) and Shepherd's Pie. Or Cottage Pie. Shepherd's Pie is made with lamb, geddit? Cottage Pie with umm...beef. I've got a little friend who would eat either for breakfast, lunch and dinner given half the chance but those are the boring and bland shop bought ones. The ones I cook up are a tad different so here goes with my own version of a classic English farmhouse dish. Which I doubt my little friend will like but we can only wait and see. Or force feed her of course. OK. Here's what you need: 1 lb of good minced beef. That's 454 grammes to the continentals and that's the last you'll see of suspect measurements. Several good sized spuds I onion about the size of a cricket ball 2 cloves of garlic A handful of mushrooms A squeeze of tomato puree A slug of milk and a large knob of butter or cheaper dairy equivalent Salt and pepper and ahem, a beef stock cube. I know I ought to make my own but, well... And basically anything left in the fridge which is about to go off such as a gree
n pepper which has seen better days, a chilli pepper and some Busha Browne's Spicy Tomato Love Apple Sauce. Ssshhh! A secret ingredient. Nothing exotic or controlled, just something to turn it into a better than run of the mill dish This lot should cost you no more than 4 quid depending on the quality of the mince. But there's enough here for four good sized servings or two giant-sized ones so it's pretty good vfm. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Now, go on, turn that lot into something palatable, clever dick. First, slice up the onion and crush the garlic cloves. Not with a press, use the blade of a knife, it's so much more satisfying. Then chuck those into a hot saucepan with a little sunflower oil and sweat them off for a few minutes until the onion goes a bit soft. Not too much mind, you want the onion to cook in the meat, not in the pan and you don't want it to disappear to nothing in the end result. Brown the mince up in a large frying pan, making sure you've got all the lumps out of it. Add the onions and garlic and stir in. With the exception of the mushrooms and the stock cube, add all the other ingredients such as the peppers (not too much green pepper, about half of one will do), the chilli (again, only a small one, this isn't to be too spicy), some salt and ground black pepper, the tomato sauces in modest quantities (especially if you managed to get hold of the Busha Browne's - from Sainsbury's) and then the secret ingredient. Ah! You see, when I first made this I thought I'd gone over the top with the spicy stuff so I looked around for something to temper it without taking away too much of the taste. My eyes saw the fruit bowl and a very sorry looking apple. In it went, cored and sliced up. Don't put the mushrooms in yet. I said, not yet, OK? Peel and boil up the potatoes. You're going to make mash so you can save yourself a lot of bother by slicing them up nic
e and small so they mash up easier. I use a fork to mash so you can get all the tiny lumps out. I can't stand lumpy mash but if you're really lazy you can start it with a masher. Mashing can be quite strenuous so think of all the calories you're burning up, lardies. Don't forget the milk and butter, will you? You can even add a little bit of spring onion or some chives. Even a sprinkling of cheese to the mash if you wish; it's up to you. By the time the potatoes are boiled and mashed, the rest will be ready for the next stage, providing of course you've not turned the hotplate off. If you have, you're a fool and shouldn't be allowed near sharp objetcs. Get a large, fairly high sided dish or casserole dish. I've got a ten inch square ceramic one with two inch sides which is ideal for this. Put the mincy stuff in the bottom and then add the sliced mushrooms and the beef stock. You don't want the mushrooms going all soggy and losing their taste so that's why I put them in towards the end. My preference again but it's my ball, ok. Mix everything up and add a little water if it's too dry. Ladle on the mash, making sure you make a nice seal around the edges of the dish and make pretty patterns in the top. Carve your initials or those of your lover in it, go on - be romantic. Slide it all onto the middle shelf of a pre-heated oven (400 deg but I don't know what that is in gas, sorry) and leave it for about oooh, 3/4 hour until the mash gets all lovely and crusty. That's the bestest thing about Cottage Pie isn't it, a nice crispy top crunching under your fork. Serve with love (or a beer) and enjoy.
"Never forget that if you don't hit a newspaper reader between the eyes with your first sentence, there is no need of writing a second one." - Arthur Brisbane So goes the daily quote on the home page of my new most favourite website. Notice I couldn't come up with a blinder so I borrowed someone else's. I like words. Serendipity is meant to be the nation's most loved and favourite word. It's turned up on dooyoo a few times and you probably know what it means. Happy accident, more or less. There I was the other day listening to the wireless at work and on comes the lexicographer, Jonathon Green. He's good, he's funny and his speciality is slang. He does an occasional slot on BBC London 94.9 so if you live outside the capital, tough. If you ever get a chance though, listen to him. He happened to mention logophilia.com and I just happened to be listening and I had something to assuage my boredom with when I got home. Happy accident. There you go, serendipitous. Slang is the life-blood of any language. It's organic, it grows with the generations and often dies with them. Buy a time-machine and drop yourself into one of the notorious rookeries of old London such as Seven Dials and I doubt whether you'd understand a word. Few slang words survive from that era (don't ask, but I know Jonathon Green's written books on the subject - check Amazon, there are loads listed) because well, no-one was around to document it and it's down to the skills of lexicographers to research the subject. No such problems now. We've gone all electronic and there's loads of the stuff around. With the bonus that every time someone coins a new word or one just appears through street slang, it's immediately documented somewhere. logophilia.com (how wonderful to start a sentence lower-casely) is in the business of bringing all this stuff together. Here, take this one for instance. I note
that dooyoo has suspended some of its WAP functions. Is this because of "WAPlash" ? - definition: "WAPlash (WAP.lash) noun. The backlash against accessing the Internet using a WAP-enabled cell phone or other wireless device". You'll find this and loads more like it in the "Word Spy" section, subtitled "Lexpionage" or "the sleuthing of new words and of old words used in new ways". Here's a few more including first off, today's new one (a new one appears every day): "perma-youth (PUR.muh-yooth; th as in thin) n. An appearance of youthfulness maintained over time by using cosmetic surgery; a person who maintains such an appearance. - adj. Relating to such an appearance. Also: permayouth." or, "sedentary death syndrome (SED.un.tair.ee deth SIN.drum, -drohm) n. Death caused by extreme inactivity and poor nutrition. Also: SeDS." Sounds like one for many of us on here. Of course, the one from my title? "Dorito syndrome noun. Feelings of dissatisfaction and mental bloatedness after spending an inordinate amount of time performing a task without tangible benefit." Each word or phrase has a citation culled from a book or newspaper. There are a surprising amount of British English citations too, considering that this is a US site. I spotted several from the Independent and The Times. If you're into Scrabble there's a section for cheating. Or rather not as it's a search engine based on official Scrabble word lists as used in tournaments. Type what you think is a word and it will approve it if it's valid. Alongside this is the "de-scrabbler" Got X Q U and an F left? Type in your letters and some random ones, such as maybe a K and a C from consecutive squares on the board and it'll come up with an answer with the reference work from whence it was culled. And yes, blimey that word does appear in all three major
reference works. So go ahead kids and shock your mum with the rider that "But it IS a proper word. It says so here!" There are quotations about words in the "Words About Words" section, too. A couple are listed here but there are hundreds to choose from. A good source without having to ferret through hundreds of google pages. By far and away the most popular part of the site is the "Word Prospector" or "Word Mine". This is in the games bit (Word Play) which also includes a random sentence generator and a couple of crosswords. Basically it's a word search based on finding 4,5 and 6 letter words from a 10 letter main word. There are two - a daily one (murderous) and a weekly one (not so difficult). However, it does tend to get dominated by the smug buggers who have word jumbly software and instantly all appear with the same tally at the top of the pile. It is fun though if you can grab an online friend and race them up the list. Annoying if the friend claims to have spoken a foreign language for 20 years and still beats you. Logophilia is produced by the author Paul McFedries, writer of many software tutors and web designer manuals so he may be familiar to many out there. Finally, some people on this site may well like heed these words from taken David Copperfield (the book, not the illusionist) and sourced from the "Words About Words" section of logophilia; "We talk about the tyranny of words, but we like to tyrannise over them too; we are fond of having a large superfluous establishment of words to wait upon us on great occasions; we think it looks important, and sounds well." Keep it simple, but use them well.
Quiet at the back, I'm going to do a consumer review. That means no crowns if it doesn't really cover the subject. OK? By all means if you feel that I've dealt with it in a witty, amusing AND informative manner, then go ahead, I'll have your £1.50 but there is a disturbing tendency of late for Dooyoo to award crowns just because the author is popular and turns a good phrase. Might be Jackbumpoo about the subject in it, even. A bad sign because we're all getting better and the money won't last! Got that off my chest so eyes down and read on... Anybody who's been reading me recently will know I've suffered some mobile hell courtesy of the good folk at BT/Genie and latterly Virgin. About the only positive aspect of the whole sorry affair was the fact that I got a new 'phone out of it and what's more it was free! Come on, I'm as mercenary as the next person, I'll have it if you're giving it away. As long as it's good that is. I'm all for maximum return for little effort in most things, mobiles being no exception. Although I will draw the line at being given a Nokia. Please, I have a soul. I write this on a Mac and I read the Independent. I even drive an English car. Sad aren't I? The CMD-J70 is among the latest offerings from the masters of all things small and shiny at Sony Corp. Or rather Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications AB. And it's a fine and dandy little lump of plastic and silicon too. Now, most 'phones do roughly the same things now so rather than minutely examine every single function, I'm going to concentrate on where the Sony design scores and misses and on those functions which I, as a fairly basic 'phone user find either innovative or useful. First impressions when I took it out of its tiny little box for its inaugural fondle was that I was going to break it. I mean my last phone was a Philips C12 and while no housebrick, wasn't exactly a para
digm in minature technology either. The Sony could hide totally behind the C12, it's vitals being 133 x 44 x 21 mm and it weighs in at 92g (about 3.5 oz for those who can't cope with a system of measurement that's been around for longer than they have). Actually it has a nice solid compact feel to it; it's not small enough to lose easily and it has a presence in your breast pocket due to its weight. It's silver and grey in colour but if you want to change that, get your nail varnish out and paint on it. This is a functional gadget and not a pose. For those with average sized hands such as myself it fits snugly across your palm. There is no virtue in something being the smallest - they're only easier to lose - I'd rather the design was rendered so as to facilitate ease of use and here I think the Sony scores well. The 'phone is split equally in two - the top half being the earpiece/speaker and display plus the handsfree socket on the top right hand side (covered by a rubber flap) and the bottom the keypad and microphone. There are only 15 keys including the the call and receive buttons and they are evenly spaced out to enable even those with Cumberland sausage fingers to key effectively. This is made possible by the navigator key being on the side of the 'phone in the form of a jog/shuttle dial. This has been used by Sony before and I was initially a bit sceptical but it works and it works well. It just takes a bit of getting used to like every new thing. Count yourself very lucky if you can get something new and instantly feel as though you've had it for years. You can use this dial to do just about anything on the 'phone; it's the select and confirm key as well as the navigator and is nicely positioned to be just on the right index finger tip. The keys themselves are a sensible size, are nicely proud of the surface of the 'phone and click satisfyingly when pressed. I do have one small gripe with them
though. They are lit by virtue of the characters being cutaways and this sometimes makes them difficult to see under certain conditions as the backlight is a vivid green when enabled. Tip - in daylight, disable the backlight and save talktime. The display is a 4 grey scale hi-resolution graphic one of 92x92 pixels in 4 levels of contrast. This can work 6 lines of text which is handy WAP mode when browsing. Which I've only done once so don't expect a lot of guff on that as this op's about the 'phone, not Microsoft Mobile Explorer. Mobile internet services are accessed via the centre key on the keypad but be warned, power is eaten up at an alarming rate if you do access the WAP features because of the constant send required. Apparently also you can download different wallpaper but I've yet to find out how. It's not readily apparent from the website at www.sony-europe.com/J70 but I suspect you may need to have PC access. The display also includes a handy little graphic when you are accessing lists. A tiny marker scrolls down a column in the right hand frame indicating how much more of the list is to view. Can be useful if you can remember roughly where in the list you wish to go I'm not one for sounds and pictures; I'm not into wasting time and money downloading smutty pics and the theme from Star Wars. Anyway, you can only trade pictures with other J70 users and although there are a few graphics installed they are a bit daft and won't get any use from this quarter. There are more than enough sounds or tunes for normal everyday use and they come in nice mellow polyphonic tones and not that horrid Nokia startled screech-owl tone. You can assign different ringers for groups of numbers although you can't assign one tone to a single number. Well you can if you put a single number into a group such as "girlfriend" with its own tone such as "trance". It doesn't matter how many numbers are in a gro
up you see. What you can do rather well is record your own ringer sounds via the microphone. A colleague of mine recorded the two-tones from one of our company vehicles onto his 'phone and it was a startlingly good reproduction. Demonstrating this to a friend wasn't quite so successful as all I could think to record was Jimmy Nail singing "Crocodile Shoes" off the radio. Not exactly a true test of its capabilities. As for the vibrating ringer - don't expect any big thrills from a cunningly located J70. The vibrate alert does rather take some getting used to being as it resembles a Jew's Harp going off in your pocket or wherever. That's all you'll get though. Don't expect the accompanying bluegrass band - it's a tiny wimper of an alert and you'll probably miss it unless you've got it pressed up against your bare flesh. Quite frankly it's next to useless and I've missed several calls because of it. My old C12 in comparison used to make me physically jump sometimes with the ferocity of its vibrations. Sound quality is excellent. Quite the best I've ever encountered. The microphone is very sensitive and the earpiece is very clear. Volume control is via the dial. The speaker which is oddly enough located in the back and accessed by the centre key during a call, does not however have enough grunt to overcome loud background noise although it's adequate and may be audible in a quiet car if you turn the phone over onto its face. Got a lot of friends? 500 numbers can be stored on the 'phone memory and goodness knows how many more on your sim card. I'm on genie (shortly to be O2) and my sim card has enough space for 150 numbers. Jog the dial once from the home page and you're into the 'phone book. Hit S and you're into the esses. Scroll down with the dial press it in and you're connected. It's easy peasy. Or to dial the last number hit the call button twice.
Even easier. There is a handy little graphic which pops up whenever you store a name or number which tells you how much memory there is left. This can also be accessed from the "Settings" option from the main menu. T9 predictive text input is standard and will provide hours me duo. Sorry, of fun. The dictionary is huge and already includes common names and uncommon surnames as standard. It doesn't include alternatives for words such as "dual" (try it) either, so If you want to add to the dictionary, just come out of T9 via the star key, type in the word manually, re-enter T9 and the dictionary is automatically updated. No menu - up yours Nokia again! The text memory is equally as impressive. 20 in and 20 out. The inbox you'll have to manually edit but the outbox seems to edit itself. Deleting messages is almost failsafe as you get asked several times before you junk stuff whether you really do want to delete it. The yes option always involves an extra jog of the dial too so it's difficult to do by accident. You are able to send and receive emails as well as text although, again I've not set this up. You can access your own main email account as it were webmail if necessary or if on genie for instance, your account there. POP3 and SMTP are both supported and you will need the same parameters supplied by your ISP as you do when you configure your home or office email accounts. I'm not sure how this affects the phone's memory because as I said, I've not tried it, although it says mails of up to 2kb can be sent and received, including the header. Which is pretty large. You can only access unread emails from your own account and remember to log your PC out of your email account or you'll be unable to get anything. You can still read mails on your PC if they've been opened via the 'phone. You cannot though delete from the 'phone which would seem sensible enough although it means you have t
o go and access all that spam again at home before you dump it. I 've also used the alarm quite a few times but unlike I believe some Nokias, you have to leave the phone on. You also have to remember to set the sounds to on and not leave the vibrate function active - a gentle humming will arouse only the most sensitive sleeper. Alarm does not override any other setting, it just uses your default ringer if activated. Switching on the ringer is simple - an extended press of the answer key will enable you to toggle between silent, vibrate, single ring or continuous ring. For the anal, there are 4 games, Bananas - fruit wielding aggressive monkeys; Mindblaster - a code breaking game; PicPuz - one of those (to some) infuriatingly difficult sliding puzzles and Sand Art - a moving nozzle drops different colour sand into piles. I've tried that one and bored the pants off people. Last but not least, battery time. You've got up to 200 hours standby and up to 6 hours talk time depending on your network. These are pretty impressive figures and outperform many of the popular 'phones on the market and was one of the reasons I opted for this model. A full charge takes only a couple of hours. I've not covered everything here; I'd be here for hours. There's a 64 page manual for goodness' sakes and anyhow most functions are now pretty standard. I do have one minor worry though. Although the 'phone appears solid enough, I am slightly concerned about the strength of the casing around the jog dial. You depress the dial to select and you can hear a definite creak now and again when you do. Will it snap or part? I don't know. I've a few scratches on the silver casing from where I dropped it once and it survived that ok so I'm assuming it's pretty strong. All in all, I'm well pleased with it. It's a nice looking gizmo with some handy functions. It's certainly got some admiring
looks from colleagues and friends and appears to perform well, even in the depths of Sainsbury's. It's most definitely not a toy and to me this matters a lot. I really don't like being one of the herd so big up for Sony for creating a worthwhile small object of desire. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Specification: 4-greyscale high resolution graphical display Alarm Built-in modem Calculator with currency converter Data Communication via RS232/USB cable E-mail Games with sound Graphic world time clock Harmony ringer tones with polyphonic sound High quality speech codec EFR (+ FR/HR codec support) Integrated handsfree speakerphone Jog Dial Li-Ion battery technology Organiser Patch antenna Phone book with 500 entries Recordable ringer tones Screen Size: 96 x 92 pixels SMS with sound and pictures Standby Time: 200h (dependent on network and usage) T9? Text Input (T9? Text Input is a registered trademark of Tegic Communications, Inc.) Talk Time: 3h 20m - 6h (dependent on network and usage) Volume: 82cc WAP 1.1 browser Vibrating alarm Network: GSM 900 GSM 1800 Available colours: Silver Sizes: 133x44.4x21.5mm
I know it's under "starters" but until "The Powers That Be" decide that one can submit two things under the same heading without wiping the other one, this will have to do. I already have one under fish, you see and it's crowned, too so I don't want to lose it. I'll ask "The Powers That Be" to get it sorted. But if you're really hungry, you could have it as starters I suppose. Who's stopping you? ~~~~~~~~~~~~ooOoo~~~~~~~~~~~~ "I'm making pizza and Carol's having a fishfinger sandwich" uttered my bestest ever friend down the telephone in answer to my query over her supper repast plans. "I'm having a fishfinger sandwich too" I replied, "but it won't be like Carol's". Ah. Sort of got myself into that one, didn't I. Although there was no danger of Carol ever finding out that my creation wasn't just several of the good Cap'n's finest slapped between two slices of Hovis and a goodly smear of HP over the top, I felt morally obliged to actually create The Finest Fishfinger Sandwich Known To Mankind. So I did. I feel the secret receipt, jealously guarded for at least half an hour now, is ready to be shared with you. Many hours of testing, tasting and refining have gone into creating this assault on the tastebuds but feel free to alter, substitute and change anything at all which doesn't suit your preference. Why not go out and get a Chinese even and save me the bother of telling you how to make The Finest Fishfinger Sandwich Known To Mankind? But to appreciate it in all its magnificent piscene glory, it ought to remain unedited. Actually, to be honest, I kind of made it up strolling along the aisles in Sainsbury's towards the fresh bread counter which is at the far end of the store. Had the bread been at the entrance (which it never is because they want you to follow the lovely fresh bread smell like som
e demented Hannah Barbera creation sniffing those supposedly invisible doughy wisps right to their source which is quite naturally, past everything else in the store) the resultant creation would have been much much simpler. Again I lie, I'm spinning this out to make it interesting. I got everything I needed for this in the veg section next to the door. It was the other fourteen quid I unnecessarily spent getting to the bread that I'm annoyed about. As ever with my things, amounts are based on one man eating ALONE. Instead of at some cheap hotel in Leicester or wherever. So multiply if you have children or partners or both. You will require: 5 fishfingers. Don't skimp. Get the best, this is gourmet food after all. None of that minced white fish rubbish which is probably pouting or ratfish or something else outside the cod quota. Get cod. Lovely flaky cod. With lovely crispy breadcrumbs coating it. Too posh for fishfingers? Leave now. One tiny little hot chilli. I used a Thai one. I was going to get Zimbabwean but that Robert Mugabe eh? He's Norman Tebbit in disguise isn't he. Boycott! I dunno, food and socio-political comment all in one. Bet you can't do that eh, Jamie? A spring onion. A clove of garlic. Black pepper (preferably Wynand which is the finest, this is gourmet remember but any old stuff will do. At a push). A very large table spoonful of mayonnaise. Fresh of course. Straight out of the jar. A squirt of something citrus. I used the juice of half a lemon which is a cop out I know but I had one to hand. A demi-baguette of French origin. Not Hovis, it has to be crusty white bread in finger form. A bottle of Fuller's London Pride This is how you now combine these delicate and sought after ingredients to create The Finest Fishfinger Sandwich Known To Mankind. Before you start, turn off your mobile. Numerous text messa
ges can drastically alter preparation time. This should take no longer than 15 minutes to create rather than the 30 it took me. Put the frying pan on and place the five fishfingers on a medium heat as per instructions on the packet. Not difficult. Now, slice up the garlic, the spring onion (all of it except the roots) and the chilli into very small pieces. Very very small. Be aware that your eyes will hurt if you poke your fingers into them after handling chillis and you may not wish to continue with the recipe. This is a public service announcement. Take the fishfingers off the heat and place them in a bowl. They will be partly cooked. Mash them up and add the the other things you've just cut up and the pepper and mix them in. Get the pan really hot again and then throw the lot in to finish cooking. Meanwhile, rinse out the bowl and prime it with the dollop of mayonnaise. Just before you remove the fishfingers, add the lemon juice, stir again and then into the mayo with it all. Mix! Slice your baguette in half and coat each liberally with butter. Or Golden Churn if you're a tight wad. Spread the fishfinger mixture onto the lower half of the baguette and replace the top half. Failure to follow this procedure will result in a great deal of mess due to the effects of gravity. That's it. Finished. You have successfully created The Finest Fishfinger Sandwich Known To Mankind. If you're lucky, the breadcrumbs will still be crispy too. I served mine up with thinly sliced and lightly oven roasted potatoes (or oven chips to give them their correct name) but you may care to have it unaccompanied. Switch your mobile back on again and drink the beer.