Category Archives: Food

Happy Eostre, Theresa May.


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Dear Theresa,

I am astonished as to why you would be “outraged” by Cadbury’s and the National Trust dropping the word “Easter” from its annual egg hunt.

As a vicar’s daughter, I would have thought, you of all people, would know that ‘Easter’ was appropriated by Christians from the Anglo-Saxon pagan festival of ‘Eostre’, sometimes known as ‘Ostara’.

Eostre is the German Goddess of fertility and is worshipped and celebrated at the time of the Spring Equinox to symbolise rebirth (of mother nature).Though, it is easy to see why Christians would steal this festival to mark the ressurection of Jesus Christ. (As they did with the Winter Solstice and Jesus’ birth.)

Of course, every God and Goddess needs a pet. Odin had a pair of ravens called Huginn and Muninn. Eostre was no different. She had a wittle, cutesy-wutesy bunny wabbit.

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But what about all the chocloate eggs I hear you bleat? What have they got to do with Jesus?

Absolutely nothing. Again, they are Eostre’s symbol of fertility and rebirth.

So, Theresa, next time you get the hump about a chocolate company ditching an irrelevant ‘Christian’ term from its promotion, I suggest you concentrate on more important things like selling Weapons of Mass Destruction to brutal dictatorships.

650

 

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Things for which I am grateful #365/365.


Some folks might think this is a bit of a cheat. I started with my kids and I’m going to finish with them. In my defence, I have two of the little rascals so I’m counting it as one post apiece.

There is nothing more precious to me on this Earth than my two daughters. Anyone who has children will know that something changes inside of you – chemically, biologically – and nothing else seems to matter.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to every parent, and true, the pesky varmints do get on your nerves a lot of the time. And yes, they bicker constantly. And they manage to talk in a stream of consciousness James Joyce would be proud of. But, when all’s said and done, they don’t outweigh all the adorable moments. I simply couldn’t live without them.

It’s been an epic year of blogging. Thank you for sticking by me and I wish you all a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year!

Right, I’m going for a lie down.

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Here are my 365 things that I am grateful for:

1 My daughters

2 Water

3 Poetry

4 Baths

5-7 Notebooks, pens, pencils

8,9 Butterflies and moths

10, 11 Softball and baseball

12 Fresh coffee

13 Sound / masts

14 Indoor toilets

15 Stepping Hill Hospital

16 Birds of Paradise

17 Roget’s thesaurus

18 Mother Earth

19 Clingfilm dispenser

20, 21 Yorkshire pudding and onion gravy

22 Jorge Luis Borges

23 Classic cars

24 Curry

25 Tim Berners Lee

26 Charles Bukowski

27 Yorkshire

28 Shiraz

29 Food

30 Katell Keineg

31 Tao Te Ching

32 A roof over my head

33 Peat fires

34 Street art

35 Friends (as in – mates, not the T.V. show)

36 Wilfred Owen

37 The Penguin Café Orchestra

38 The fry-up

39 Wolves

40 W.B. Yeats

41, 42 Cherry blossom trees and haiku poetry

43 Bread

44 Boules

45 Maps

46 Refuse collectors

47 Candy Chang

48 Sparrows

49 The tomato

50 Studio Ghibli

51 Oliver Jeffers

52 Johannes Gutenberg

53 Tom Waites

54 The cello

55 Mothers’ day

56 The Phoenicians

57, 58 Bacon and brown sauce

59 Tulips

60 Fish and chips

61 Giselle

62 Airfix

63 Firefighters

64 Rain

65 Libraries

66 Raymond Carver

67 Toulouse-Lautrec

68 The Goldfinch

69 Wings of Desire

70 Silence

71 Elizabeth Barrett Browning

72-99 Ireland

100 Talking Heads

101 Sylvia Plath

102 Yorkshire Sculpture Park

103 My mum

104 Modigliani

105 Kurt Vonnegut

106-128 Electricity

129 The pop man

130-147 Comedians/comedy

148 Commando magazine

149 Pastry

150-156 Social media

157 David Bowie

158 Football

159 D-Day

160-194 France

195-230 Novels

231 Graphic Design

232 Viva! Roxy Music

233 – 274 Art

275 Betty Blue

276 Writing

277 Joy Division

278 – 287 Scotland

288 – 324 Italy

325 – 352 Photography

353 Leeds Utd

354 Love

355 Universe

356 Advertising

357 Pan’s Labyrinth

358 – 363 Democracy

364 Miscellaneous

365 My daughters II

If anyone wants to read any of the previous posts simply type the title into the search box on the right. (It’s underneath the ‘topic’ cloud.)

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Things for which I am grateful #364 – Miscellaneous.


When I first started doing Things for which I am grateful, one for each day of 2014, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it. Now, on the penultimate post, I have far too many. So rather than pick just one I’m going to give you a miscellaneous list of all the ones that didn’t make it – but could have quite easily. (Lucky you.)

The point I’m trying to make is that we are very lucky in the ‘west’. And, even though I gripe on about our Tory overlords, I feel very fortunate to live in England.

The sun. (The big orange ball of fire, not the newspaper.)

England. (So much history, beautiful scenery and towns.)

History. (I love history.)

Wind turbines. (I think they’re cool.)

Thai food.

Chinese food.

The industrial revolution.

The sea. (I love the sea. And would love to live by it once again.)

Manchester.

Leeds.

The Romans.

The Greeks.

South Africa.

Elvis Presley.

Schools.

Public transport.

Sri Lanka.

Australia.

Bali.

Hinduism.

Buddhism.

Taoism.

New Zealand.

Optometry. (I wouldn’t be able to see without my glasses.)

My ex-wife for having our children.

Evolution.

Monkeys. (I do love a monkey.)

My neighbours.

Garlic.

Penny sweet tray.

The Peak District.

Typography.

Architecture.

Sci-fi.

The dictionary.

Drawing.

Farmers.

Butchers.

Fishermen.

America.

Uilleann pipes.

Sub-atomic particles. (Where would we be without these little jaspers? Nowhere, that’s where.)

Martin Luther King Jr.

The BBC. (Kiddy-fiddlers aside, they’ve done some great stuff.)

The Guardian.

Snow.

Erik Satie.

The emergency services. (Police, fire, paramedics.)

So, as you can see, plenty for me to be grateful for. But the point is, not what I am grateful for – what do you have to be thankful for in your life?

Wonder what’s in store for the last one?

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Bella Italia! – Things for which I am grateful #288 – 324


Bella Italia288!

Trevi Fountain, Rome.

Trevi Fountain, Rome.

I once sold books in Italy.

It was, what people commonly refer to, as a ‘character building’ experience.

Which is another way of saying – it was a crock of shit.

The job, that is, not Italy.

I love Italy.

If you haven’t been to Rome289, you must try to if you possibly can. (Not as easy for some readers as it is for others.) Not only is it one of the most stunning cities on the planet, (and I’ve been to at least three), it is also the birthplace of that famous empire spanning five centuries.

The Forum, Rome.

The Forum, Rome.

Wherever you turn you are confronted by an ancient monument or building, some dating back a couple of millennia, such as the Pantheon290, the Colosseum291 the Palatine292 and the Trevi Fountain293.

The Pantheon, Rome.

The Pantheon, Rome.

Obviously, there’s The Vatican294 too, which is well worth a visit, even if you’re not a cat lick. I’m not at all religious and my eyes didn’t start burning at the sight of St. Paul’s295.

The view of St. Paul's through a keyhole which I've peeped through!

The view of St. Paul’s through a keyhole which I’ve peeped through!

I’ve never ventured further south than the Amalfi296 coast, (south of Naples297). There are spectacular cliff-top towns such as Sorrento298, Positano299 and Amalfi itself. Nearby is the wondrous relic of Pompeii300 which takes you back in time to when Mount Vesuvius301 erupted and preserved many buildings, artefacts and people! Then there’s the gorgeous island of Capri302 just a short boat ride away.

Pompeii.

Pompeii.

Walked up those steps. Amalfi.

Walked up those steps. Amalfi.

Positano, Amalfi coast.

Positano, Amalfi coast.

The island of Capri.

The island of Capri.

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North of Rome, you have Florence303, Pisa304 and the Apennines305, (which our Pennine range is named after). On the west coast there are the marble producing towns of Carrera306 and Massa307 where the river runs white from the quarries in the mountains. And the sophisticated tourist spot of Viareggio308 on the coast.

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And who could forget Venice309 in the north east? Seat of the once-mighty Borgias. A stupendous sinking city amidst an intricate maze of canals. In summer, the weather is to die for. Seriously, it is. I once got sunstroke in Lido de Jesolo310, so pack plenty of factor 50 if you’re a pale-blue-skinned Anglo Saxon, like me.

Venice carnival.

Venice carnival.

Venice.

Venice.

Then there’s the food. Obviously, pizza and pasta are top of mind. But spare a though for the taste bud tingling chicken cacciatore311 or bistecca pizzaiola312. You can’t beat a bowl of Penne Picante313 or a simple pepperoni and anchovy pizza314 in a traditional trattorria315. All washed down with your favourite tipple – in my case, (case being the optimum word), of Barolo316.

Does it have tomatoes in it? I'll have it. Pollo alla cacciatore.

Does it have tomatoes in it? I’ll have it. Pollo alla cacciatore.

Food of the gods.

Food of the gods.

Spaghetti vongole.

Spaghetti vongole.

Let us not forget the pioneering artists: Leonardo da Vinci317, Michelangelo318, Raphael319, Giotto320, Botticelli321, Titian322, Donatello323, Caravaggio324 and my old favourite – Modigliani. You can hardly turn a corner without bumping into a masterpiece.

Anatomical studies by Leonardo da Vinci.

Anatomical studies by Leonardo da Vinci.

Michelangelo's 'David'. (Detail.)

Michelangelo’s ‘David’. (Detail.)

Nice. Caravaggio.

Nice. Caravaggio.

If you like art, you’ll love Italy. If you like ancient architecture, you’ll love Italy. If you like history, you’ll love Italy. Most of all, if you like pizza, you’ll love Italy.

And yes, I can speak Italian. But only if you want to talk about books. (Specifically, encyclopaedias.)

Of course, there are many Italian delights that I have yet to discover. Maybe after I’ve sold my first million copies. Speaking of which, check out this piccolo classico…

LOVE-IS-BLOOD-COVER copy

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-is-Blood-ebook/dp/B00FSTI5K0/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1381575505&sr=1-1&keywords=Love+is+Blood

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J’aime la France – #160-194


J’aime la France160.

Paris

Lovers’ locks, Paris.

I love France, so much so, that I sometimes wonder if I have a little bit of Plantagenet blood coursing through my veins. Then again, I hate cheese, so perhaps not.

And, following on from my last post, I probably wouldn’t like it half as much had the Allies not been successful in liberating it in 1944/45.

There are so many places in France I have yet to discover, but some of the ones I have, I shall share with you:

Paris

Paris

Paris161, of course, the epitome of the romantic city. Musée d’Orsay162 is one of the greatest art galleries in the world, boasting a smorgasbord of impressionist works. The Latin Quarter163 with its bohemian cafés and restaurants, the artists’ square in Montmartre164, Lautrec’s Pigalle165. I even had the best cassoulet166 of my life in Paris. (Not to mention the biggest hangover.)

Cassoulet

Cassoulet

Further north from Paris is the Somme167 – Albert168, Amiens169 and Arras170. Now, the River Somme winds its way sleepily through Amiens amidst the riverside cafes and restaurants. A far cry from the death and destruction 100 years ago. If you want to become a pacifist take a trip to any of the numerous First World War memorials that are dotted around the countryside. If you weren’t one beforehand you certainly will be after you witness hundreds of thousands of white marble slabs.

River Somme, Amiens,

River Somme, Amiens

Whilst Brittany171 may have a similar climate to the south coast of England, its beaches and medieval towns eclipse what we have here. Even towns that were bombed to smithereens during the Second World War have been painstakingly rebuilt to their former glory. From the walled city of Fougere172 in the east to the Dinan173 and Dinard174 in the north. Morlaix175 in the west, Concerneau176 and Pont-Aven177 in the south. Mont Saint Michel178, (which is actually in Normandy), is one of the modern wonders of the world.

Pont-Aven, Brittany

Pont-Aven, Brittany

Morlaix, Brittany

Morlaix, Brittany

Fougere, Brittany

Fougere, Brittany

Tregastel, Brittany

Tregastel, Brittany

Can't remember if this is Dinan or Dinard in Brittany

Can’t remember if this is Dinan or Dinard in Brittany

Mont Saint Michel, Normandy

Mont Saint Michel, Normandy

My favourite spot is the Cote d’Azur179. Nice with its wide boulevards and maze of streets in the old town180, (there’s a cracking Picasso gallery in) Antibes181, Cannes for a bit of bling182, Villefranche-sur-mer183, Monte Carlo184, Juan les Pins185, and not as expensive as you might think. Further inland up in the mountains is the perfume capital, Grasse186 and the artists’ haven of Saint Paul de Vence187.

Antibes

Antibes

Nice

Nice

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Bouillabaisse

Saint Paul de Vence

Saint Paul de Vence

Grasse

Grasse

Another treasure is the island of Corsica188. Bonifacio189 with its brightly coloured buildings clinging precariously to the cliffs. Cargése190 in the north west. And the pirate haven of Sarténe191 up in the hills.

 

Bonifacio, Corsica

Bonifacio, Corsica

Cargése, Corsica

Cargése, Corsica

All in all, a veritable paradise. Particularly if you like meat and fish. Can’t say it would be a utopia for veggies, mind. Cassoulet, bouillabaisse192, moules provencal193 – ahh, heaven. Obviously, washed down with copious amounts of rosé or red wine.

Moules Provencal

Moules Provencal

Maybe one day, when my second novel makes a million or two, I can buy a little gites194 by a lake, or overlooking the sea.

There are so many places in France that I have yet to see, so if you have a favourite, please feel free to share your recommendations in the comment box below.

Addendum.

The one thing I HATE about France is dog poo. They seem to have an extraordinary amount of it. Obviously, they love their dogs. But, disappointingly, they don’t appear to be too keen enforcing public hygiene laws.

I recall strolling across a Tregastel beach in Brittany cautiously stepping over and around dog stools looking over my shoulder to warn my kids then, squelch. Open-toed sandals. I still feel nauseous to this day.

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#149/365 – Pastry


And I’m not talking about the sweet kind, by gum.

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You can take the man out of Yorkshire, but you can’t take…

I reckon you know the rest.

Where would we be without pies and pasties, eh? Well, I’ll tell you – here’s where:

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Whether your fancy is a pork pie or a Cornish pastie, steak & ale pie or lamb samosa, you can’t beat a bit of pastry. Crusty or crumbly, flaky or filo; this manna from heaven would grace the great banqueting halls of Zeus himself, atop Mount Olympus.

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The Everly Pregnant Brothers sum it up the best in ‘No Oven, No Pie‘, on top of the Fat Cat pub in Sheffield. (U2 have nothing on this lot.)

Thanks to Paul Kirby for alerting me to their musical talent.

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#60/365 Fish & Chips.


Aye, ‘appen as mebby.

You can’t beat good old fish and chips.

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Well, actually you can. Depending on where you buy them.

I live in sunny Stockport in the County of Cheshire on the western side of the Pennines. (The Pennines are a ridge of hills and moorland than runs pretty much from the Scottish border down the spine of England and ends in the northern tip of the Midlands. So called by the Romans, after their Apennine mountain range that runs down the centre of Italy.)

But, originally, I am from Leeds on the eastern side of the aforementioned ridge of moors. And I reckon that fish and chips east of the border are infinitely better than the ones west.

Whilst leaning against the uncomfortably hot stainless steel counter of one chippy in Pudsey, (Leeds), the proprietor informed me of his secret:

“That’s coz we fry ar fish in’t beef fat,” he grumbled. “Ovver t’border, they use vegtabel oil. Bloody useless. An’, it ‘as to be ‘addock, not cod. Nah then, see thi’, di yer fancy sum scraps on tha chips?”

To be honest, I wouldn’t have tartar sauce anywhere near my fish ‘n’ chips. (That’s just someone trying to make it look posher than it is.) Nor any fruit. Ketchup all the way. And those mushies look a bit dry for my liking. Nowt wrong with a portion of beans if you don’t fancy the peas.

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