Urban Forager

August 14, 2009

I like to get out of the office at lunchtime and if its fine weather I’ll often go for a walk by the river. I’m quite fortunate to work very close to some easy to walk sections of the Five Weirs Walk. In an hour, I can do a nice round trip along the river from Brightside Weir, following the water around the back of the Meadowhall centre, then switch to the canal towpath following the Tinsley flight of locks back to the office. This week the weather has been excellent so I made the round trip on both Tuesday and Wednesday, rolling up your shirt sleeves and feeling the sun on your skin is a tonic after a busy morning in the office. The urge to exercise has also been strong this week, I’m sure in a big way influenced by the brother-in-laws recent health problem.

I’ve, of course, noticed the various plants and trees along the route and was quite disappointed to see that all the figs have been stripped from a couple of trees. I suppose the Meadowhall gardeners have done this to avoid the mess of dropped fruit on the property, it seems a shame though. What they can’t control are the Blackberry bushes along the river and towpaths, there are loads of them and they’re coming into season for picking. On Wednesday I saw a man picking the fruit and thought I would like some of that too!

Urban Forager

Here’s a picture of me (my hand actually) on Thursday after I’d spent half an hour gathering fruit. I got a few funny looks from a couple of passers-by but heck what do I care! A nice thing happened too, a couple out for a walk with their 2 young grand-daughters stopped to chat, I mean how often does that happen nowadays? We talked about the fruit, the weather and I gave them directions to get onto the next section of the walk as some of the signs aren’t great.

So there you go, free fruit and a nice warm feeling inside, not a bad way to spend a lunch break, why don’t you get out of the office and see what you can find?

Back to the future

March 1, 2009

It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m still fuming about something that happened more than 36 hours ago. Allow me to vent, if you will. On Friday night we had a “farewell” celebration, it’s complicated because around a third of the office are being made redundant. The remaining two thirds are being TUPE’d to another employer but doing the same job. I’m one of the “lucky” ones being TUPE’d.

The evening was great, we had a 70’s/80’s theme and everyone made the effort to dress up. Paul and myself were in matching outfits as we were meant to be members of a moderately successful 80’s boyband “Summer of Sunshine”. Will I post a picture here? Our silver jeans deserve a mention I suppose, ok here you go.

80sBoyband 003

We had the whole back-story going, how we’d shortened our name to Sunshine when the other 2 members split in ’86. How we’d been most recently going down a storm playing the clubs in Benidorm. How we’re hoping to appear on the next series of “Re-born in the USA” but can’t say too much about that. It was a lot of fun, during random songs I’d be like “OMG I love this one, do you remember, we covered this one on our third album!”

So anywho, back to this story. We had the “150 people allowed” room in the Pub to ourselves and you needed a ticket to get in. However, towards the end of the night a few colleagues turned up with friends in tow and they were allowed entry. One of said colleagues, a black guy of African descent, had brought along a blonde haired, blue eyed type that struck up conversation with me. Although a little worse for the numerous sex-on-the-beach cocktails, (what else would an ageing boyband member drink?), I started to feel uneasy about the conversation.

He is talking and seems a nice enough guy, I agree with him on several points about music and other random nonsense. Perhaps sensing my approval on these minor points he presses on to more important issues, immigrants, blacks and other things I cant even repeat here. First off, I’m asking myself if I’m hearing him right, next I’m convinced that I’m in a scene from This is England! I’ feel like I’m in the middle of a B N P training video 😦

Now, bearing in mind I’m stood with this guy on one side and on the other side of me is Paul and 2 very good friends and colleagues who happen to be Indian nationals, I’m getting annoyed. Really very annoyed. Not wanting any trouble I made some vague noises and go to chat to someone else that “I just have to talk to!”

Shortly afterwards I pay a visit to the toilets and find the the same white guy pacing up and down talking animatedly into his mobile phone, “get down here it’s gonna kick off” and other scarey words. He’s accompanied by a couple of mates, including the colleague I mentioned, strange that a black guy is hanging with them but who knows whats going on there.

I left the gents as quick as I could and went straight to my Indian mates, drunkenly trying to explain that we should leave now. One of said friends decided to nip to the loo to check it out and when he re-appeared, also agreed that we should leave now. Outside, we grabbed a passing black cab and dropped them off on the way to our house, so all ended well.

It annoys me that this happened. Perhaps, all the more because we were enjoying a 70s/80s night, a time when Race was a major issue. The harsh reality is that in 2009 it is still a major issue for some people.

I probably should have some sort of profound point to make here at the end but really I’m just ranting about an unfair situation.

I’m left with these questions.

My priority was to safeguard my friends, without causing confrontation, was that wrong?

I worry that I should have done more, confronted them about their attitudes but what would that have achieved and what would have happened?

Cheddar Cheese and Courgette Muffins

September 13, 2008

If, like me, you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, I think you’ll enjoy these savoury beauties 🙂

Cheddar Cheese and Courgette Muffins

I doubled up the recipe and made 24 in normal sized bun cases, I thought that was rather a lot, but they soon dissapeared at work yesterday.

They were, I declared, a triumph!

The recipe.

Courgette and cheddar cheese muffins

Makes 6 large or 12 small
Time 40 mins

150g (5oz) self-raising flour
75g (3oz) rolled oats
1 ½ tsp English mustard powder
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate soda
200g (7oz) courgette, grated
150g (5oz) strong cheddar cheese, grated
75 ml (3fl oz) milk
1 egg
5 tbsp vegetable oil
6 olives

Heat oven to gas mark 4 -180degC – 350degF

Mix together dry ingredients, add the courgette and cheese but reserve a little for the topping.

Whisk the milk, egg and vegetable oil, add to bowl and mix together.

Spoon into 6 large silicone or paper muffin cases, top with an olive and some courgette and cheese.

Place in the oven and cook for 30 mins, serve.

Pop-up toy

August 31, 2008

The simplest things are still the most amusing, this had me captivated for at least 5 minutes!

What do you call these things??

Our survey says…. you’re a winner!

August 22, 2008

I vaguely remember filling in a survey about local transport. If I recall anything, it’s that I was not very complimentary about local services.

Well, look what I got in the post yesterday, what a lucky boy, I am 🙂

I have to add that I hardly ever go to M&S, so I will probably give these away to one of my team as an incentive, whoever get the most sales/best stats, that sort of thing. So lucky for them too 🙂

Black pudding

July 10, 2008

NaBloPoMo July 08 Day10

I suppose you could say that black pudding something of a “Marmite” food. It divides opinion, people either love it or hate it. There is no middle ground, it’s a food that you either totally embrace or are totally grossed out by.

This is not surprising when you consider that its main ingredient is pigs blood. Oh yes, and pig fat, dont forget the lovely lumps of pig fat!

Here is a nice bit of black pudding I purchased at the Morrisons Deli counter on Sunday.

NaBloPoMo July 08 Day10

I nibbled on it as soon as I got home. Later I had some on a ham sandwich, a put-me-on snack, as we were having having a late dinner.

I forgot that the remainder was in the fridge until Paul reminded me on Tuesday evening. I nibbled on a small piece while I waited for my dinner and stowed the last inch in fridge. I had a plan!

On Wednesday, I took the last piece with me to work. One of my team is an Indian guy named Luke, he is a lovely person always happy and he loves his food! He often brings me titbits and morsels of food that he and his housemates have made. Its always delicious, if a little hot, this is authentic indian fare after all.

I also try to get him to try things that he hasnt had before, you should have seen his face when he tried that UK delicacy that is the crabstick 😉

Suffice to say that Luke wasnt impressed by black pudding, he was very good and tried it before wrinkling his nose and he didnt run screaming to the toilets or anything. Oh well, I just had to finish it myself:-)

Luke did tell me about a Goats blood sausage that he knows from home and how he wasnt keen on that either. Looking this up on Wikipedia, I’ve learned that the blood sausage is actually pretty common around the world.

So, do you love or hate black pudding?

If you’ve never tried it, I urge you to, what have you got to lose?


Working lunch

July 9, 2008

NaBloPoMo July 08 Day9

Today, I thought I’d share with you my working lunch arrangements.

Until a few months ago we couldnt eat hot food on our “shop floor.” Now this rule hase been relaxed and the place often stinks of McDonalds burgers and fries. Not the most pleasant smell but some people seem to like it.

In true “cant beat ’em join ’em” style I’ve also taken to having my own hot food. This is usually soup in a flask, though sometimes I’ll take a leftover portion of a pie or other dinner and bung it in the microwave.

NaBloPoMo July 08 Day9

In the photo above, lunch is a tin of Heinz Lentil soup, to which I’ve added a flaked fillet of flaked Mackerel.

Paul takes a bowl to put his soup into, I prefer to use a cup and drink it rather than spoon it in. Apart from it staying hotter longer and being quicker to consume, there is also less chance of working the rest of the day with splashes on the front of my shirt!

Canned crab flakes, the verdict

July 5, 2008

NaBloPoMo July 08 Day5

For lunch yesterday I had a pasta and bean salad with crab flakes. I prepared it in the morning and as you can see I ate it for lunch at work.

NaBloPoMo July 08 Day5

It was very simple, I boiled up a handful of both wholewheat and tricolor fusili, roughly chopped a couple of inches of cucumber, half a yellow pepper and half a red onion.

Its a bit of a cheat recipe really, I opened a can of mixed bean salad, kidney bean, black-eye bean, borlotti beans, navy-pea bean, chick pea, green bean, sweetcorn and diced red pepper. In fact this can is all you really need the extra are just a nice to have.

Next was a can of crab meat flakes, drained and spread over the top.

When I was ready to eat, I added a squirt of mayonnaise and pepper and gave it a good mix.

Simple and delicious 🙂

As for canned crab flakes, the verdict? not as good as proper creab meat chunks, I’ll give it only 60% good 😦

A present from Cyprus

April 24, 2008

I woke up yesterday morning feeling a little stiff. My ankle felt like I’d slept on it funny and was quite difficult to get out of bed. I walked it off around the pool, thinking it would be ok once I got it moving again. By the time we were at the Airport it was feeling a little stiffer and again I shrugged it off, no way I’m going to be refused travel by asking to see a Doctor!

Landing in Manchester, I was in agony, the damn thing had seized up completely and it was a real struggle getting home, I just tried to sleep as much as possible in the taxi. I took some painkillers once we got home and then went straight to bed.

Paul badgered me about seeing someone this morning, the swelling was getting worse and I then remembered the bite on my ankle. He was sure this had something to do with the swelling, I had to agree at this stage, (I’m not good about being poorly) so eventually he won me over and we went to the Hospital walk in centre.

Turns out it’s quite common, the Nurse I saw had worked in Cyprus, and she was quick to diagnose a Spider bite. A prescription for antibiotics and antihistamines was quickly filled and I was in and out in 20 minutes. I was actually pretty impressed by the NHS service.

Here is a lovely illustration of the swelling 🙂 I can’t put any weight on it at all now and am reduced to hopping around the house in a very undignified manner.


As I write, I think its actually swollen by half again over the last few hours. If it starts going funny colours or anything I’ll be sure to get more photos!

Of course, this all means that I’ll be taking a few days off work, my first sick time since September 2002.

Daytime telly is already driving me to despair, thankfully I have a few items in the Sky+ planner to catch up on. Oh, and the Internet, thank god for the Internet, anyone for Scrabulous??

All wrapped up.

April 10, 2008

I saw a trailer on TV tonight, a Cutting Edge show called Cotton Wool Kids, something about killing kids with kindness or something.

It got me thinking about how things how things have changed over the years. A colleague recently told me a tale of her daughter having a bit of a strop after a bit of wet water was spilt on her jeans. When I was a kid, somewhere around the 80’s, if it rained in the morning I still had to walk to school. I’d then most likely have wet trousers and blazer and just have to put up with it until I dried out.

A day or two afterwards, I was talking to another colleague and in the course, we landed on the topic of his childhood. He arrived from Africa into the UK aged 4, and over several years his family came back together, each taking their own journey to freedom and (some) normality. The most disturbing thing is that he remembers saying to his mum, “If its a war going on, why are people sleeping in the road?”

I’m sure you can guess why he thought they were sleeping.

In conclusion, watching stupid programmes made by idiots about how difficult things are in the UK, just makes me angry.