Archive for the ‘Biographical’ Category

The Watcher Smiled

Posted: May 17, 2014 in Biographical
Tags: , , ,

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It has been so long since my last post to this blog that I had to stop and ask myself whether or not anyone would even notice this new stirring of activity.

However, being noticed is contrary to my approach to life. So being able to randomly pour out this collection of thoughts unobserved would be as fitting as any other moment I have casually sat back and watched the whirring world pass by.

Why the unexpected post? Well – I find myself back in London, visiting family ahead of a day out tomorrow at Brands Hatch, and as usual – I find myself sitting and quite literally watching the world go by.

This time however, I can’t help but feel contented and serene as I perch on the dockside, just a stones throw away from London’s Excel exhibition centre – as I take in the breeze, the rare but welcome rays of sunshine bathing the marina and the sounds of a city alive with perpetual motion.

All around there is a sense of activity, energy and life. Whether it is the city jets on final approach to London City airport, the Emirates cable cars transporting passengers from the Docks to Greenwich and the O2 Arena or the now stationary and merely architecturally contributory remnants of the cranes that once were part of the everyday life of a city fed by the commercially vital London Docklands – life continues on it’s passage through the corridors of time.

Life goes on, time passes by and as I approach four decades of watching – I can’t help but sit back and smile.

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We’re just socially interacting, innit
Not hating nor pontificating

Insinuating perhaps even implicating
Occasionally berating

But always articulating
Without aggravating or humiliating

Just relating

Relating

Participating

Oft times facilitating

Hopefully cultivating an educating and exhilarating
Illuminating and invigorating

Opportunity to debate

To generate thoughts and create a state of mind
Never blind to the fact that we

Each one of a kind
endure this

Grind

Time after time

Walking that
Line

So cruelly defined by fate

So why wait?

Come
Before it’s too late

Let’s
Start a debate.

I Am Busy…

Posted: May 4, 2012 in Biographical
Tags:

(Blows the cobwebs away).

I am truly sorry to say that I have been remiss in my blogging responsibilities.

I am therefore, under strict instruction from Teelaine, taking the time to let you all know that I am still here and am still reading (not that I should have needed that nudge).

I started a new role in February and I have to be honest, it has taken up a little bit more mental capacity than I had anticipated.

I will try harder from this point onward to make a conscious effort to make time in my week to put some thoughts down.

However, just because I haven’t said anything doesn’t mean I am not still listening, observing, musing, considering.

Who would have thought a tiny change in life could have such an enormous impact on my social interaction?

Does it get any better than this?

I have two amazing god-children. One has aspirations of becoming a social worker and the other, the youngest, has known since the age of five that she will one day be a chef.

The eldest has already been introduced to you in Yellow Car and Could You Be A Social Worker. The youngest I am about to introduce to you through the medium of food.

I usually look upon food as mere fuel; physical sustenance. However, every so often someone reminds me of the emotional element involved in food.  The fact that food can evoke memories in the same way a photograph or a piece of music can touch you deep down within your soul.

It may be a favourite meal that you always associate with your mum’s cooking or the tantalising flavours and scents that take you back to a location or time in your life.

Just as you might bind flour and water to make that loaf of bread – you can bind food, locations and people together as the ingredients that go towards making up the memories that define your life.

Today I spent some quality time with the aspiring nine-year old chef, to make a dish that is a firm favourite of mine, her fathers and one I hope to one day see make it onto the menu of her restaurant – the restaurant she already has a name for; in which she already has plans for her mum to serve as her Sous Chef and the restaurant she fully expects her dad to support when it comes to providing that initial bank-roll.

This dish is quite simple, takes little time to prepare, is simply delicious and – for me, binds together elements that come from the countries that went towards contributing to my very existence on this planet I call home.

The Jamaican Element – Ackee & Salt-Fish:

Ingredients.

Half an average sized onion (you can use a red onion for a little more colour, but that is not necessary at all).

1 tin of Ackee.

1 tin of chopped tomatoes (or get a can of plum tomatoes and chop them in the tin with a sharp knife – it’s a few pennies cheaper this way).

1 or 2 packets of salt-fish (try to get the packets of skinned and boned fish, any kind – as it saves time and the need to skin and de-bone).

1 small chilli (or half a teaspoon of Encona Hot Pepper sauce, same effect – half the hassle).

1 or 2 rashers of bacon (try to get one that isn’t going to add to the salt content of the meal – the fish takes care of all need for salt).

Exotic tastes from simple ingredients

1/2 a pound of flour (plain).

2 teaspoons of baking powder.

2 tablespoons of lard (yeah right, as if I use lard – go get the low-fat margarine from the shelf in the fridge, or 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil).

2 teaspoons of sugar.

Some black pepper (as much or little as you like).

1 teaspoon of salt (I’ll explain the contradiction shortly).

Preparation

Place the fish in a boil of water and soak overnight (reduces the salt content in the fish and makes the dish more palatable).

Preparation over

Go do whatever you do in the evenings or go to bed and get some rest (all that preparation was hard work).

Method

Get one nine-year old chef to do the following (now pay attention, don’t let the nine-year old leave you behind – this is fast and simple).

Dice the onion and place to one side.

Slice the bacon into one centimetre wide ribbons (cut across the width of the rasher, not along its length).

Throw off the salt water you were soaking the fish in and rinse.  Then flake the flesh of the fish into 1 inch chunks, chucking out any bones.

Open the tin of Ackee.

Open the tin of tomatoes (now would be a good time to chop them in the tin if you bought plum tomatoes).

Take the top off the hot pepper sauce (or chop the chilli if you were brave enough to go this route).

Heat a shallow pan with a small amount of oil (I refuse to say drizzle, as the nine-year old would say “what?”).

Once up to heat, throw in the onions and fry until softened; throw in the bacon and cook until a paler shade of pink; add the black pepper (half a teaspoon is enough); throw in the fish chunks; throw in the Ackee; throw in the tinned tomatoes (rinse the can with half a can of water – throw this mixture into the pan as well) and then add half a teaspoon of hot pepper sauce (or the chilli if you were daft enough to go that route).

Turn down the heat on the burner (I know you don’t need telling how high it should have been in the first place – but, here goes; high enough to fry an egg or fry a rasher of bacon [hint, hint]) gently fold the ingredients as though you were folding egg whites and allow the lot to simmer for 20 minutes.

Just chuck it all into a pan... none of that fancy stuff needed.

Top tip

Ackee is very delicate, imagine it being as delicate as scrambled eggs.  If you fold the mixture to heavily it will break down and lose all shape and form.

Guess what?

20 minutes later the Ackee & Salt-fish (the Jamaican element) is done!

The Bajan (Barbadian) element – Bakes:

Throw the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt (this is why we needed the salt) and lard (margarine) into a mixing bowl – notice how we don’t stand on ceremony and say in which order?  This is West-Indian cooking; you’re lucky I gave you measurements – as everything is usually measured in a bit of this and a bit of that.

The part where you might need to pay attention to detail...

Work the ingredients together in much the same way you would when making scones (the English Element).  Add enough water to the crumble-type mix to turn it into a firm dough.

Turn the mix into a firm dough (what else did you think the nine-year old was going to do next?  Keep up!).

Heat some vegetable oil in a deep but shallow pan (use a wok, honestly – a wok makes life so much easier and means much less oil).

Whilst the oil heats up, pull off handfuls of the dough, about the size of a golf ball, and roll in your hand to make nice small-ish balls of dough (try to get rid of air pockets, but don’t try too hard – the nine-year old doesn’t like manual labour).

Place the balls into the hot oil and shallow fry until golden brown on the bottom.  Turn over in the pan and fry another side (which side doesn’t matter; they’re round).

Remember, this is just to give a little colour...

Don’t attempt to cook them through in the pan, they will burn and become bitter (I have no idea how my mum managed to cook them in the pan – something I’ll never learn I guess).  Instead – remove them from the pan, place on a baking tray (it’s helpful to have one of those tray racks in them; the kind you have for the grill) and bake in an oven for 20 minutes (start at 200 degrees C and then turn it down half-way through).

Simple really...

At the end of that – transfer the Ackee & Salt-Fish into a serving bowl (or leave in the pan if you’re like us) and place the Bakes (not dumplings) onto a serving platter – only transfer if you are aiming to impress someone; just eat them if you’re serving up for dinner or lunch.

45 minutes after you started, you have managed to create a simple yet lovely dish of Ackee & Salt-Fish, served with an accompaniment of Bakes.

Mmmm....

Challenge

See if you can manage to walk out of the kitchen without tasting the dish or, for those who really like a challenge – see if you can consume more than two of the Bakes with your serving of Ackee & Salt-Fish (it is harder than you might initially imagine).

Note

The nine-year old and I really enjoyed our meal; as did everyone else in the house, except for the older god-daughter, whose opting for baked beans instead was quite questionable.

So – Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver can take their fine-dining suggestions and apply them to some other meal – this simple meal will be remaining wholesomely home-made.

Anyone that knows me will attest to the fact that music plays an instrumental part in my life.  Music has always seemed to be in the background for many of those defining moments; painful moments and moments of utter joy and elation.

However, it wasn’t just the chart topping album or the single that got air-time on the radio.  No – some of the most memorable songs, tunes and melodies that I recall from my childhood, were those that heralded yet another opportunity for quality time in front of the television with my family.

I am sure that many of these were also firm favourites with you, but I thought I would just share the ones that are still indelibly printed on my memory.

How many take you back?  How many can you name after hearing nothing but the first opening bar?

Timeless…  This one makes me think of Friday nights – autumn nights:

Another favourite that I would look forward to each and every week:

This one always put a lump in my throat:

This one needs no introduction:

The original will always be the best:

Every little boys dream:

Saturday afternoons lying on the living room floor:

Midweek, midday (I must have been off school ill or something):

“When they met… It was murder”:

Who didn’t want a Grand Torino?

Midweek madness and laughs:

Legendary laughs that still split my sides to this day:

Darlene and Jackie were always my favourites (and there was only one Becky in my eyes):

What an intro!

Another horns section letting rip for midday drama:

And my absolute favourite… So beautiful, so simple, so pure:

No collection would be complete without:

I would love to here about the theme tunes that make up the backdrop of your childhood.  Which do you believe should have made my list?

Just when I thought the age of innocence was dead, no – correction; fossilised, I was introduced to the amazingly simple game of yellow car.

That same, sometimes moody, other times hilariously entertaining 16 year-old that I spoke of in ‘Could You Be a Social Worker?’ shouted out “YELLOW CAR!” and then thumped me in the arm.

Now, I am sure you can imagine my surprise and confusion, as I had no idea why she had a) screamed out ‘Yellow Car’ nor b) unprovoked, hit me in the arm.

Well – let me explain, because Yellow Car turns out to be one of those games children play; the kind of game you thought was long since a far and forgotten memory of the school playground. It also proved to be a refreshing reminder that the console generation still knows how to have fun without the need of a microchip, battery or your hard-earned cash.

The rules are very simple:

  • Spot a yellow car first (yellow, not gold, not lime nor any other colour close to but not actually yellow).
  • Shout out “Yellow Car, no take backs” (to lay claim to the prize before your competitor spots the same car).
  • Then gently tap (tag) them on the arm. I say gently as you don’t want to go around punching people, that would be wrong – especially children.
  • The ‘No take backs’ is one of those innocent rules, that could only exist in a child’s mind, that means you can’t just hit them back.

That’s it, nothing more complex than that. You just go about your day, or journey, just waiting to see that yellow car (first); seeing who can gain the highest score.

You don’t even have to tell your unsuspecting opponent about the game, the rules or the fact you’ve started to play (unsuspecting victim).

Now, I should point out that you probably shouldn’t play yellow car with someone who is driving, as that would be dangerous; you want their eyes on the road, not roving the back streets looking out for yellow cars. You also wouldn’t want to tag them on the arm when they should be keeping the car pointed in the right direction on the road.

There is something else you should be wary of; children do not like to lose and children will assume the game never stops. I say this as someone who now walks around like Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau – waiting for my very own Cato to jump out at me from nowhere; her presence announced only by the paralysing words “YELLOW CAR!”

Oh, and if you were thinking of playing this in New York, you might want to pick another colour; Yellow Taxi Cabs might make the game more an exercise of endurance than one of anticipation and ‘fastest person on the draw’.