Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Food and the official BlackLOG opinion on Twitter

Not much to do with this weeks blog, although it was
used to cook our dinner so there is a sort of food link.
I just like how it came out

Sorry for late running of this week's BlackLOG, this is due to camping weekend on the tracks, which I intend to cover next week unless something slightly more exciting comes along....

Following last week's near death experience at the hands of the Soup Nazi (before you accuse me of over-exaggerating, it is not unheard for people to drown in soup or even choke to death on this obnoxious substance), food seems to be the theme at the moment. What with Pringles in the news - all that crisp or not crisp excitement - one of my favourite bloggers, Cynical Scribble, covers the old chestnut Jaffa Cake - Cake or biscuit debate and Blueskye2day, another interesting blogger, is looking for dieting tips. With all this talk of carbohydrates, fats, proteins and water my thoughts start drifting towards, in true BlackLOG style, oddities with food. I recently witnessed a scene straight out of a sitcom. We took some friends to one of our favourite pubs for dinner The Axe & Compass Braughing which is famous for its sausages. Since this was Craig's first time he ordered a large "Braughing sausages and mash". Nothing unusual about that except he tucked in with real vigour. It was only when we came to order dessert did it enter the world of sitcom TV:

Waiter - "Would anyone like to see the dessert menu?"

Everyone - general agreement that it would be rude not to.

Mrs B as usual decided what she wanted, declined for herself and ordered it for me with two spoons

Then Craig, who had been quiet up to this point, chirped in "That was so good I wouldn't mind eating it all over again"

Waiter - ignoring this went through the orders "So that's Mrs B's desert for Mr B...etc,etc"

Then turning to Craig "...And what would you like for dessert Sir?"

Craig - "I'll have the sausage and mash"

Waiter - "Sir?"

Craig - Large!

Waiter - You really want the Large sausage and mash for dessert?"

Craig - "Oh yes!!"

For the record, Craig went through his sausage and mash dessert with almost as much gusto as his sausage and mash main course. Remind me not to be a guest when Craig appears on "Come Dine with me".....

You maybe asking where I get the Sitcom bit? You readers can be so impatient. I don't know if any of you have been watching the new Reginald Perrin series (with Martin Clunes). Not wanting to get into the debate about it being any good - although since I'm practically there I'll just slip it in - I generally quite like it..... I can just about remember the original (Leonard Rossiter) and with all the critics going on and on about how much better it was I thought I would watch the DVD of the original series (yes, another one of those "must have" purchases that I got ages ago which had never made it to the DVD player). The first episode contains a scene where RP is desperate to change his life and tries to do everything differently. Instead of going down the pub for lunch with his colleagues he goes to an Italian restaurant and has Ravioli as a starter, followed by Ravioli for main and the same again for his dessert. Try and hold back the chuckles when, as a punch line to the show, his wife gives him.... you've guessed it, Ravioli for dinner. Now I must admit as stand alone comedy this is hardly side-splittingly funny, but watching it just a few days after "Sausage-gate" it took on a whole new comedy life for me........stunned silence, followed by a tumbleweed nonchalantly slinking pass pretending to be anywhere else Please yourself, I guess you probably had to be there.

The BlackLOG view on Twittering
I appreciate that many people don't see the point in blogging. I'm guessing that if you are still reading this, you do not fall into that category. Reading about what people, who you may never have met, have done (as long as it is interesting) makes a lot more sense to me then reading what a stranger is doing or plans to do. Stalkers' paradise if you ask me, which you probably didn't. While looking through the internet I came across the following:

which in my opinion sums up twitter and twitters, no apology if that offends. Don't worry, this is not the equivalent of a vote of confidence from the board. I won't be twittering anytime soon, so you will have to be content with reading what dull things have already happened to me. If you want to find out the future try Mystic Meg ....
"Twitter, Twitter, I'm in a moat follow me, follow me......"

"Twitter, Twitter, I'm in a garden, Follow me, Follow me"

"Twitter,Twitter, I'm in a field.....For gods sake stop stalking me and get your own life"

Second chance Blogging
I was listening to the Beatles "Love" album the other day, which reminded me that I did a BlackLOG review which never got published on the web. Reading through it I stand by what I wrote:

"I had been waiting with splendid anticipation for the release of the “new” Beatles album “Love”, mixed together by George Martin and his son for the latest Cirque Du Soleil stage show in Las Vegas. While they set themselves the task of only using notes and sounds actually made by the Beatles during their recording years together (although George ‘I don’t like your tie’ Martin did arrange some additional strings for “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” I think his history with the Beatles will excuse this). The result is so subtly understated that it is very difficult to tell what has been achieved. Occasionally a heavier drum beat or additional orchestration climbs above the parapet, gently waving at you before slipping out of site. I have to admit that I was looking for something more radical. Putting the experience in terms of a car crash this is like scraping your alloy wheels against a kerb, very annoying and ultimately not going to change your life.

While reading an article about the Love album I discovered that a bootleg rap* album called the “Grey Album”, which crossed Beatles music with rap lyrics, had been released and was promptly banned within seconds of going on sale. A bit of poking around on the Internet and I managed to find it and down load a copy before the Apple Core police could stop me. Well this was a totally different kettle of fish. In car crash terms this was like a little VW beetle car (possibly with the number plate 28 IF) which had been smashed into by a huge American Pimp mobile. So little was left of the VW that it was almost impossible to tell what it had been in the first place. No matter how horrible it got (and at times we are talking Vanilla Ice type horrible), it was strangely compelling at the same time, in a rubbernecking, loose tooth wobbling, scab picking kind of way.

* I’m not entirely sure how bootleg a bootleg album is, if you can download the album cover through Itunes. But then Apple Mac and Apple Core have never been the best of mates, let’s just say it would take an awful lot of cider to get these two into bed together.

As Mrs B never tires of telling me you should never mess with a good thing**. However I still would have liked the Beatles music to have had a quick re-spray, perhaps some leather seats and new stereo system with Ipod link, but not the bland and too scared experiment of the Love album or the total annihilation of the music found in the Grey one. I guess I’ll have to face it, there is just no pleasing some people, especially when it comes to me.

** Word of warning - if Mrs B asks for a Chicken and salad cream sandwich do not attempt to improve on the basic recipe. You will not be thanked and may face tears and threats of High Court action.

Andy practicing his Cirque Du Soleil routine. Sadly as he is not Chines & 4' tall and balanced on the shoulders of another performer he has no hope of succeeding with his audition.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Childhood to Grumpy old man - featuring the Soup Nazi

Return to childhood
I was a little shocked the other day while visiting friends - I was offered soup which I politely declined and instead asked if I could have a glass of water. Apparently not. I then became locked in a battle of wills over the soup; the drink being one of my hostess's bargaining chips ..... .Have the soup and you can have the water. My hostess was determined that I would not leave without soup. I was equally adamant that I was not eating the soup. I didn't check the doors but strongly suspect they may have been locked. Eventually I weakened slightly and asked what type of soup it was "Vegetable" came the somewhat triumphant reply. Well that sorted it. I explained that I was not a great lover of soup (my opinion being why take perfectly good food and water it down) and I detest vegetables. Bringing the two together was not going to miraculously produce a food that I would suddenly love.

A bowl of vegetable soup, with recently added chicken bits, ominously appeared in front of me. I ate the chicken, being careful to drain off any vestiges of the soup. I had not been in a battle like this since I was six - which just happens to be the time I gave up on vegetables. I won that particular battle by stuffing the vegetables in my pockets. Fortunately for the sake of my clothes, my hostess had dogs and left me for just long enough to put them to good use. My Hostess, seeing the soup now gone, finally let me go. Believe me I could not get out of there quick enough, relieved to escape the clutches of the Evil Soup Nazi.

Growing up - well almost
My return to childhood soup ordeal was in stark contrast to the rest of the week as I took another step towards being a fully fledged grownup. I have tried my hardest to avoid it but it has become increasingly more difficult as various milestones have galloped past over the years :
- Losing my father at 17 ;
- Purchasing my first house with a friend at 21 ;
- Purchasing a house with Miss C ;
- Getting our first cats (we are now on no's 3 McG & 4 Mischief) ;
- Trading Miss C for Mrs B ;
- Purchased our first brand new car ;
- My 40th Birthday ;
- Having my mother committed ; and
- Paying off our mortgage.

I can somehow justify all these stages, in my infantile mind at least, as not being quite enough to take me all the way towards being a fully fledged grown up (OK my 40th Birthday was a particularly hard sell, even to me, but I managed it - Now bring on the snow and where are those Eskimos? I can feel another sale coming on). Somehow, making our Wills seems to have changed all of that. Discussing what is to happen after your death has a very sobering effect. I suspect even Peter Pan would have been evicted from Neverland if he had gone down the Will route.

To grumpy old man
Wow, I appeared to have managed to overshoot the adulthood stage and moved directly into Grumpy Old Man territory. I find myself chuntering at the radio each morning as details of the latest ludicrous claim scandal from the House of commons comes to light. I've long been of the opinion that power corrupts and the vast majority of our MP's are self -serving and ego -driven. Looks like my beliefs have been justified. Sadly I suspect these criminals, for that's what they are, will get away with it. If I ever find myself in front of a judge I shall simply state " I'm sorry your honour I did not realise that it is illegal to steal/shoplift/embezzle* (* delete as appropriate )", I'll then apologise and offer to pay back these 'living expenses'. I'm sure the judge will be very understanding and let me off with a warning.

My favourite expense claim stories so far have been :

- Two toilet seats for John Prescott - the world's most unsuccessful bulimic. There are no prizes for guessing why the toilet seats are having to be replaced, I'm just amazed it's not more frequently....

- The married MP's who both claimed housing allowance on separate homes, thus living for free. - It does raise the question should MP's be allowed to inter -marry and, if they are, should they be sterilized to prevent an infestation of little MP's? Surely we should be looking at culling these money -grasping parasites, not increasing the number....

- The claim for two TV's and two video's for a studio flat.....

It can only be a matter of time before we see details of the following claims :-

- To cover the cost of paying back false expenses from previous years.

- For a third toilet seat for 'Two Jags' - or should that now be John 'Two loo's' Prescott?

- For psychiatric treatment, brought on by the pressure of having to hide all the false claims.

- For a second face I suspect there might be close to 646 claims for this.

- For a personality - I would certainly endorse this as long as the claim came from our beloved PM. He could certainly do with one.

- To replace the Gold stock that was sold off so cheaply.

Does anyone want to join my campaign to allow politicians to be given 5 years to do whatever they want in the role, as long as they spend the rest of their lives in prison, to pay for it?

Lets face it the house of commons is just like Animal Farm- once the pigs MP's get to the top of the tree, it's sod the rest of us as they head straight for the feeding trough. The one thing that can be said about these 'pillars of society' is at least they are consistent, happy to trample us on their way up and then crush us as they feather their nests with public funds on the way down.......

Excuse me while I slip into poverty and bouts of senility. Catch up next time if I can afford to keep my internet connection going and remember to post the next BlackLOG.
MP's claim London Eye trips as essential travel
expenses. I feel this is legitimate as after all they are
taking us for a ride

Latest shock as the speaker of the house of commons puts
in his expense claim for double glazing

McG demonstrating what MP's should look like
once they finish ripping us off. i.e behind bars

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

If it looks like a turd! A non critics view of a top West End play

Mrs B was recently given tickets to a "top" West End show. We thought it was out of kindness but now I'm convinced Mrs B must have really upset someone along the way. The play in question was "Waiting for Godot" which is a play about absolutely nothing. Yes it had some of today's finest actors, Sir Ian Mackellan (a.k.a. Gandalf), Patrick Stewart (A.K.A Jean-Luc Picard )and Simon Callow (A.K.A The funeral in Four Weddings ) but watching great actors doing nothing is not the best use of any one's time. I'm sure the very same critics, who gave the play such outstanding reviews, would not dare suggest that two hours of your time, spent watching paint dry, would be a worthwhile experience. Yet I would argue that the subtle changes in colour that the paint goes through during the drying process is more rewarding and possibly more educational than watching this play.

If you ever have the misfortune to find yourself watching "Waiting for Godot" I would recommend that you leave at the interval. Mrs B and I did not and will possibly regret it to the end of our days. You see the play is not actually one play but two. The second being a replay of the first with any possible degree of interest removed (admittedly an impressive feat as I failed to spot anything remotely entertaining in the first part. The closest was Sir Ian eating a carrot and yes, this "highlight" was removed from the second part). At the end Mrs B and I sat stunned, not just at the futility of the play but at the standing ovation that this drivel received. Call us philistines but in my opinion if it looks like a turd, smells like a turd and tastes allegedly 'Aside 1' like a turd, then it is a turd, even if every art critic and other member of the audience says that it is art. Talk about the Emperor's new clothes.
My Yogress, Lorna, her son Guy and their three
dogs in the canine production "waiting for Godog"

Finally Godog turns up....which is more than can
be said for Godot. P.S. for those of you who have spent
ages looking for the third dog, in first picture, what do
you think they were waiting for.....

It is hard to think that this was the same Theatre at which Mrs B and I saw the triumph that was "A few good men". The recent demise of the BlackLOGhistorical gives me the perfect excuse to sneakily revive one of my old un-web-published blogs.....Think of it as getting two blogs for the price of one.

.......After the disaster that was the 'Man behind the Iron Mask', I'm back on the road to redemption, and I'm confident that I would have made it all the way to salvation if Rob Lowe had not drenched me in spittle (Mrs B got very jealous of my Rob gob experience). I had managed to secure front row tickets 'Aside 2' for "A Few Good Men" which is the best play that I have seen. (Not counting Mrs B playing a goat 'Aside 3', or when she got praised for her excellent Welsh accent whilst performing as a Liverpool bus conductress. Her heart went out of acting at this point , which was the Tadworth Local Amateur Dramatic & Local Luvvies Society's and, I truly believe, the world's, loss.) Rob Lowe in the Tom Cruise part was excellent, but could have played the roll a little dryer for my taste. Even Karen Macdonald (Steve's ex Mrs from Coronation Street) produced a fine performance, equal to Demi Moore herself without having to resort to hanging around with people half her age (although if Keira Knightley wishes to hang around with people twice her age, there will be no complaints from me. I am, after all, still attempting to find, and possibly fight, my mid life crisis), while the male prison guard out of Bad Girls did a very creditable Jack Nicholson impression. (My friend Sophie went to see A Few Good Men at about the same time and came out with a classic line. Just as they were going into the theater her companion asked her if he could have his ticket. Doing her best Jack Nicholson impression Sophie exploded - "Tickets, tickets, you can't handle the tickets!" . Well I liked it and thought it was quick thinking for a 6foot Blonde......) All in all it was an excellent evening all round, despite being mugged in broad daylight by an NCP car park. I thought I was renting a space, not purchasing the whole damned place.

I had also hoped to bring you a report from the Ice Bar in London 'Aside 4', but I was not up to two muggings in one day. £12 to get in with a maximum stay of 45 mins 'Aside 6' So we went to the Apple store instead. What an experience that was, hundreds of homeless twenty year old somethings wondering aimlessly round the place with their lap tops and ipods, fantastic. Now here's an idea, stop wasting all your money on electrical goods and alcohol and start saving for a deposit for a home.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Bank Holiday DIY and the downside of being mistaken for the paparazzi

Bank Holiday weekend brought an interesting mixture of activites to the Black household. D.I.Y - Eeeeekkkk, Mrs B had plans, which is never good for me. I attempted to counter with the Bishops Stortford Musical Festival. To be honest at £17 for two days worth of entertainment I did not have high hopes......

For once the D.I.Y. went alarmingly well, which was fortunate as Mrs B had spent a small fortune on kitchen cupboards for the garage. Yes you did read that correctly, the garage. It's my sister's fault - she started the trend. Normally the Black Household's D.I.Y. ventures are a catalogue of horrors involving, blood loss, damage to existing parts of the house and copious amounts of swearing at failed attempts to interpret the instructions. I can reveal the secret to these high end units was having absolutely no instructions. It allows a clarity of thought which enables the human mind to take a number of objects and assemble them in a sensible manner. That same clarity of thought is just not possible after you have suffered the angst caused by attempting to interpret instructions that appear to have been written in Chinese, then converted into Russian by a retired seeing-eye dog before being translated into English by a four year old with severe dyslexia using an old fashioned type writer while wearing boxing gloves I.e a bit like the BlackLOG before Mrs B edits it…..

A excellent example of this is the following instructions on how to hammer a nail:

Step 1: Introduce the nail in one of the holes lightly inferior to the nail, which will deeply firmly supported in vertical position.

Step 2: Leaf the sharp pointed extremity of the nail stand out a little from the base of instrument to receive nail.

Step 3: Give some beats of hammer in the head of nail in order to obtain one principle of suitable placing.

Step 4: Finish the nail after having the retreated the guide nails by simple pressure in the two provided arms for them.

Three wall hanging cabinets and a two free standing units proudly adorn our garage and are perfectly level (as long as our spirit level is not faulty)as a Bonus:-

- We can get still get EllGee (our Car) into the garage

- The garage is much tidier and our coat cupboard which has spent the last 10 years masquerading as a cleaning cupboard, is now full of coats,

- The cleaning products have settled into there new home. There was a little bit of in fighting between the furniture polish and the bleach, as they vied for front row seats but that has settled down once Mr Muscle stepped in and grabbed the prime position.

- The coat stand that took up so much space in the hallway and wound Mrs B up something chronic (especially on the odd occasion when it would collapse on her) has been taken to the dump.

The only sore point was the Ironing Board which was one of the main reasons that the cabinets were purchased in the first place. It does not actually fit into the cabinet because the cabinet contains a fixed shelf that is about 3 inches to low. I had thoughts of sawing off the legs of the Ironing board or hacking a section out off the shelf but fortunately had enough clarity of mind left to attach a hook to the back of the utility room door and have hung the ironing board there. Perhaps I should have done that before Mrs B had so substantially added to the country's national debt levels.....
You can click on the photo's to get larger images
Just look at that quality handy work,
3 days and still standing...

With the D.I.Y success under our belt I started to feel a little apprehensive about the Bishops Stortford Music Festival that I had roped us into. What sort of entertainment were we going to get for £17 for two days? Especially one that was within walking distance of our house. (OK, we didn't actually walk on either day but could have if we had wanted to. Come on we are living in the 21 Century, walking is so last century). When we first entered the the 'Arena' my first impression was Oh no, 'School fete'...I trudged into the Rock tent my expectations at rock bottom, only to be pleasantly surprised with the 'The Mono effect'most enjoyable 'The Pins' & 'Jon Gomm' followed and were also very entertaining. Saturday Night was rounded of in impressive style with 'Official Secrets Act' - who are reminiscent of the Killers. I would have been happy to pay £17 to see any one of them. We had missed a lot of groups but I figured the earlier ones would not be so good.

Unfortunately on Sunday we arrived a little late and missed 'LONDON blaCkMaRkEt' but at least we were in time for the excellent 'Sub Pop Sunday'. Then came the only bum notes 'Mozzy Green' they seemed very popular but just did not do it for me (I may have been influeneced by Mrs B pretending to upchuck in the corner, but I have to agree they were a bit screechie). In an attempt to finish me off a local comedian John Mann appeared on stage. I just don't get him. He writes a supposedly 'Funny' column for the local newspaper 'Mann about town'. Believe me the title is as funny as it gets. His line calling the town 'Stortfordly' never fails to bring a tear to my eye. Sadly this is due to embarrassment for him rather than any joy. I read his column whenever I feel I am getting excessively happy, as it never fails to brings my mood crashing down. Now don't get me wrong I have great admiration for comedians, it must take real guts to stand up in front of an audience and try and make them laugh. While it can't be denied that Mr Mann has a gut, the "s" is decidedly missing along with the any talent or any signs of fixed ability.
'Mono Effect', you can tell Bishops Stortford is not used to Rock music, only one loan fan risk getting up close the rest huddled together at the back of the tent.

The final band were 'Officer Kicks' not bad but in my opinion certainly not the best band of the weekend. They did generate the most Mosh pit action, but as an aspiring rock outfit it must be quite disheartening when your Mosh pit is made up of a bunch of 10 and 11 year olds who simply run into each other before burting into fits of giggles. Not exactly Rock and Roll at its finest (Their web site decribed them as playing 'The Rock Stage, Stortford Festival'. You can almost hear the debate. "Should we call it the legendary Rock Stage.....'). If next years festival is on the same level and you happen to be in the Bishops Stortford area then you could do a lot worse than drop in. A word of warning however. If you come across anyone describing the town as Stortfordly you have my permission to lump him one. He's not clever and he's not funny and if enough people hit him he might just stay down long enough to put an end to his dismal standup career.......

Can you take our photo
One thing I did discover, having an SLR camera with a huge telephoto lens (200mm with a 1.7 converter for good measure) not only gets you closer to the action but if you snap away with confidence, will actually fool a number of members of the general public into thinking that you are there in some professional capacity. I was asked on five occasions if I would take photo's of people. Always happy to oblige I snapped away. It was only when the third person asked me where it would be published I started to see where it was all coming from. They seemed genuinely disappointed when I said they might make my Blog.

Note to oneself - Next time I will just say it is to be published in the ',BlackLOG", as long as I say it with an air of superiority they will think it is some high end publication and if they don't think to ask where they can get hold of it I should get away with it....

Being mistaken for the paparazzi is great fun, even if it is only as a pap from the local newspaper. My final confrontation with the General Public left me realising that I desperately need a get out strategy for awkward conversations with slightly inebriated over-ambitious mothers.

slightly inebriated over-ambitious mother :- "Is that your camera?"

Me :- "No, I stole it!"

s i o a m :- "Did you?" staggering slightly and looking a little bemused.

Me :- "No, just kidding."

s i o a m :- "My daughter wants to be a photographer!"

Me :- "That's nice."

s i o a m :- "How do you go about being a photographer?"

Me :- "Well you get a camera and you take loads of photo's!"

s i o a m :- "We got her a camera."

Me :- "That's a good start."

s i o a m :- "Do you think she will be any good?"

Me :- "You realise that I'm not a professional photographer?"

s i o a m :- "She would really like to get an apprenticeship."

Me :- "This is only a hobby!"

s i o a m :- "How would she get an apprenticeship?"

Me :- "I don't really know, 'THIS IS ONLY A HOBBY'."

s i o a m :- "Her cousins a photographer."

Me :- "Do you think he could help?"

s i o a m :- "Well it's not actually the photographs she like taking, it's more the manipulating the photographs afterwards."

Me :- "So it's probably some sort of arts course she probably wants"

s i o a m :- "I suppose.....I wanted to be a photographer you know...."

Me :- "Aaaaarrrrgggghhhhhhh"

The conversation moved on to Dyslexia. I don't know how, I had long since given up listening or even pretending to be part of this increasingly one-sided conversation. I was trying to back slowly away and hoping that she would not ask for a recap of what she had been saying. Some 20 minutes later Mrs B came over and rescued me. I might have been whimpering I'm not sure as my entire hearing system was starting to shut down...So if anyone knows of a way of getting out of this type of one-sided conversation without resorting to violence, running away (so undignified) or handing over the camera please let me know. After all Mrs B might not be there to save me next time. That's it for another BlackLOG I leave you with some photo's of this years Bishops Stortford Music Festival.

Frankie and friends, they were so disappointed when they
found out that their picture was not going to be syndicated around
Herts & Essex. Well I have news for them, since the BlackLOG is a Global phenomenon (read in over 50 different countries, sometimes
more than once....) they haven’t done bad for exposure.

The Pins, I had feared that they were a Harlow band
but am happy to report that they are in fact from
Sawbridgeworth so it's OK to like them after all.....

Jon Gomm setting up, While Mrs B enjoyed
his performance she felt he looked a little
unkempt and could do with a good wash

No Idea who this is but she did have the bottle to ask
for her photo to be taken..... Sorry could not resist

Yet more people who demanded their photograph to be taken.

Jamie Gordon - Lead singer of
Officer Kicks, surveys his army of midget
fans and wonders where it all went wrong
I don't think the hat helped

Ash & Mrs B chilling on Saturday. It was a bit different on
Sunday where it was less a case of chilling and more trying
to stop freezing to death

Richard Judge of Sub Pop Sunday looks like he
is suffering for his art.....

The Secret Service Act - Tom Charge Burke,
Lead singer & Lawrence James Diamond - Bass
guitarist doing their Beatles' harmonies bit