Monday, 14 December 2009

Review of the Year

I don't know if the BBC still go in for a Review of the Year, beyond the Sports Review, but I thought it would be cool to re-inivigorate my blog with a Ste review of 2009.

Despite waking up for much of the year to doom and gloom on FiveLive, 2009 hasn’t been too bad a year. And with the recent purchase of a "Pure" DAB alarm clock

with digital stations, waking up in the dark to “Passion for the” means the days now start with decent music, instead of Wake Up to Money!

Gig of the year

Although I didn’t see a huge number, there are several contenders. The legendary Terry Reid, back in his – and my adopted – hometown, playing the Montagu Club, of all places. What a performer. Ian Anderson’s show at Peterborough was ok, but no more. Elbow at Wembley, magnificent. Coldplay at Old Trafford, an awesome show, but given that I don’t want to give one performer all the accolades, I am nominating my gig of the year as John Bramwell, of I Am Kloot at Junction 2 in Cambridge. Not just because Damo and I met him on the way in and bought him a beer, but with no more than 80 in the tiny auditorium, it was more than an intimate performance. Here’s Johnny…and me, before I started growing my flowing locks again!

Album of the year

Typical that I manage to pick an album of the year which came out in 1976. However, despite tuning in to some awesome new bands, and Mumford and Sons and The Fancy Toys would have to be right up there, it was the ‘discovery’ of Terry Reid which was the jaw-dropper of the year. If you have never heard of him, then shame on your house. Get him googled now, get onto You Tube, and discover this brilliant performer and read his history. And buy his truly wonderful 1976 album, Seed of Memory.

Close second comes a man who, sadly, was dead at just 26 years of age. So affected by the music of Nick Drake was I that when the opportunity presented itself, I took a detour into Tanworth in Arden and sat for a few minutes in contemplative silence at his graveside. Many have done the same before me; more will in the future. Five Leaves Left was a close second in my choice of album.

Play of the year

This is a bit of a one horse race….as Ailsa and I have seen just the one show this year, called Sign of the Times, and starring Stephen Tomkinson, which we went to see on the spur of the moment, at Cambridge Arts Theatre. We have tickets for The 39 Steps, in London, over Christmas, so if that is excellent, it’ll go into the running for next year.

Film of the year

There’s a danger with lists like these that you choose what is freshest in the memory, and in this category I might be deemed to fall foul of that very thing. However, the impact of The Age of Stupid should not be underestimated, and if you care about this wonderful planet of ours, then get it watched and join up to 10:10….cos we are rapidly stripping the planet earth of its natural resources and our great-grandchildren won’t have a chance to post things like this on the web cos there won’t be a planet earth left.

Football team of the year

No contest!!

Here are the current Cambridge and District under 16b league LEADERS.

Go Spartans.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Steven Birrell - what a star!

Apart from the man himself, anyone reading this who doesn't know him could be wondering who Steven Birrell is. And why would anyone write in a blog about someone they haven't seen for over two years?

Thing is, thanks to e-mail, Facebook, and yes, even blogs, you can keep 'in touch' so easily these days. Steven worked for Scottish FDF whilst I was at FDF in London, and we shared many things, often at a distance, usually relating to football. I felt very humbled when I was one of few people who Steven shared the news of his father's illness with cancer, and though I know at the time it was a small thing for me, I was honoured to be included as absent guest when Steven and his friends held a fund raising dinner for Maggie's, a hospice up in Scotland. My role in that dinner was to obtain a signed Manchester United shirt...using nothing more than the cheekiness of an e-mail, a bit of ready wit, and the offer of a postage stamp. Man U didn't even ask for their money back. I wonder where that shirt is now?

Steven has been in touch via Facebook again're a good 'un, lad. Kepp smiling.

Since I last blogged, we have had a great weekend in Centerparcs in Thetford, where, on the Sunday evening, it snowed. Two weeks later, later it feels like it only just stopped. Not in good enough time though to prevent yet another Brampton Spartans match falling foul. Chatteris away, on this occasions. I was looking forward to going there, being our first match on that part of the Fens since I discovered the song by Half Man Half Biscuit, about the place (see much earlier in the blog pages). Never mind, no doubt we'll no play on a mid week evening in May! What's Chatteris if we're not there?

Doesn't music shape your life if you let it. Certain tunes remind of certain things, though right now, I have iTunes playing The Best of Focus in the background which I bought for five tracks I like and the one that is playing is an previously little heard (by me) instrumental called Focus II. I have to thank Steve Stride for sending me the recent Bruce Springsteen album, and as far as freebies go, you can't beat the one I got with The Independent whilst at Centerparcs. A number of Sigur Ros of which you will have heard before if you manage to sit through plugs for BBc documentaries.

Ah, now, Hot Chip's Over and Over just come on. This reminds me of driving to Stansted last August on the way to Guernsey. "Like a monkey with a minature cymbal" ....nice line.

The tiles are going back today. We took advantage of a Topps Tiles deal where you buy tiles to see if they look right, and we need some for the ensuite floor. We like the size (they are big ones); we like the texture (bobbly surface....less slippy) But the colour just doesn't work I am afraid.

Viva La mind's back in California. Did I tell you that we bought tickets for their show at Lancashire Old Trafford Cricket Ground next August? I have now.

Yeah, well that's it for now. I need to help with the chores....not the most exciting of Sundays but that's down to snow, no thaw and Chatteris.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

A week goes by

A week ago, my boss announced he was leaving the company. We don't know what is happening into the future as yet, but I guess we will in due course. So it has been a strange week in many ways.

Thursday was interesting. Ailsa had had a bad day at work so we talked it through and demolished a bottle of white wine in the process, and then we spent an hour on my Facebook page, during which time we used the chat facility, and found out that Damo doesn't have any I Am Kloot albums. Damo (Damian Feasby, for it is he) is related to the Priest family - they of Brampton Spartans fame - and he and I have been swapping music, sharing concerts, and generally talking about football, despite the fact that Damo is West Ham United fan! He's also a Spartans under 15 fan as well, so we'll let him off.

At the time of writing, he has probably Googled all he can about I Am Kloot, but I am going to burn him a set of CDs. I hope the band don't mind; I paid full whack for mine. We saw them last year in concert at Delamere Forewst supporting Elbow, and it ws one of the best gigs I have ever been to. My 'poor' cover of Not A Reasonable Man is NOT in the shops now ....but you can hear it on YouTube.

I had to scrape frost off the car today, before I came here to count stocks (I'm at work) but I ended up catching up a lot of things, so I am fair set for Monday. Mike is back and we might get to hear more about his imminent departure to pastures new. Or is that pasta new, because he'll be working from Italy.

All of this makes admitting to having watched the Celebrity Big Brother final a bit crass, but at least Coolio didn't win. I was hoping Terry Christian would, but he finished second to Ulrika Johnnson.

I'm gonna drive home now, and I think I'll have a listen to the second I Am Kloot album. Ailsa's going for coffee later with Gilly and Jane, when they will decide who is cooking what next weekend. We're off to Center Parcs

Thursday, 15 January 2009

24th September 2007

My name is Ste Greenall.

Born in St Helens, September 24th 1957.

And I like to think I can come up with good ideas from time to time, and plan and organise them. So….what could I do to mark 24th September 2007? Well, it all started off with one of those daft ideas, whereby you want to celebrate your birthday in just a bit of a different way, and then the daft idea suddenly starts to seem like it might work.

Typically, though, I started to plan it even before I knew anyone might fancy it. The idea was that, because I had started to try learning the guitar three years ago, a bunch of us could get instruments together, and record some songs, and burn them on to CDs. i.e. make our OWN album!

So…what would we need?



Recording equipment

Ideas of what songs to play

Oh, and the small matter of WHERE to do it. Given that I had an idea that some of those I would be inviting might not want to play or sing, it would have to be somewhere that the non-participants could also relax and have a nice weekend. Location would be determined by where the guests all live, and to try to ensure everyone could get there fairly easily.

So given that my tentative (and as yet uninvited) list would have people from London, North Wales, Shropshire, Sheffield, Merseyside, and me and my wife and son, Ailsa and Ben in Cambridgeshire, it seemed like Derbyshire would be a good idea. The three of us had stayed in a really nice cottage in Northumberland in August 2006 – and I had found that cottage on a website which offered links to similar properties. So …..after a bit of internet searching, I found what looked like an ideal location, and fired off the following e-mail to the owners of a barn and annexe that could cope with an invasion of 16 people. The barn was called Holestone, and the owners were Steve and Vicki Clemerson. Here’s what I wrote, in September 2006:

Hi folks
Next year, to celebrate my 50th, I am thinking about renting somewhere ‘out of the way’ so a group of family and friends can get together……and record an album! A few of us play instruments for fun, and we thought it would be a grand idea to get together to have a fun time, and make some music. And record it ;-)

I’d be looking to book both properties for a three day stint, starting Friday 21st September, for three nights. Can you advise on availability and price, at this stage?
Many thanks
Ste Greenall

The following e-mail came back to me:
Dear Steve

That sounds wonderful!

The weekend of 21st September 2007 is available in our large cottage (The Barn), sleeping 12, or both The Barn & The Stables, sleeping 16 people in total. The Barn has ample room to dine and seat 16 people. The cost for 3 nights in The Barn on its own is £899, or £1073 if both cottages are taken. Prices include all linen, towels, electricity, central heating & logs.

We look forward to hearing from you and do hope that you decide to have your 50th birthday musical album making weekend here! And if you do, we hope its nice weather, so you can have the windows open, so we can listen!!

If you'd like us to send our brochure, booking form etc, please email your address.

Please note that future emails should be sent to, Vicki & Steve Clemerson

By now, after having looked at the website for the barn, I was totally convinced we were going to do it, and having sounded everyone out, and decided that having been made redundant just three days AFTER first contacting Vicki, to hell with it….my employer and their redundancy money could cough up, and I would pay for the barn.

Several weeks went by, we got Christmas out of the way, and, with no job (at the time) I sent out my formal invites, by e-mail:

Greetings, people

Well, it’s about time I finally got around to sending out official invites to my planned birthday get together in the Peak District. So this is it. Don’t print the e-mail – stay eco-friendly, and save it on your pc. The idea had evolved from “getting together” somewhere out of the way, into taking instruments and recording what we do, if not for worldwide release, then to give out as CDs to anyone who might be interested. It’ll be a nice way to remind ourselves of what will hopefully be a great time, in a relaxed atmosphere. Plus of course, a table tennis / darts / pool tournament.

We’ll be staying at Holestone Moor Barns (check out this link ) near Ashover in Derbyshire’s Peak District. I’m sure some will fancy a walk, climb, or maybe just chill out at the barns; the facilities look great. The nearest town of any size is Matlock, which is four miles away. The owners, Vicki and Steve, seem really nice people, and Vicki has even agreed to guest on our CD! They have a pool table, table tennis, darts etc….

Down the road, in Ashover, is the Old Poets Corner pub, which in 2006 won the CAMRA Pub of the Year for Cider and Perry, but they also have a fantastic range of beer. What more, they regularly put on live entertainment, and the landlord plays guitar as well. I have cheekily asked if we can play whilst we are there, which ups the anti a bit, but Ian (McCully who for his sins teaches me, and occasionally these days, Ben) and I played a few tunes last weekend, mainly Bob Dylan, Tull etc, and we reckon we could do some acoustic stuff and some rock stuff. Of course, we pretty much know each other, though for some, it will be a first meet up and others the first time of seeing in a while, but hey ho….let’s party. I haven’t heard from the pub yet, so let’s see what happens on that score. The Old Poets Corner has a website which you can find at

Me, Ailsa and Ben / Fiona (Ailsa’s sister, for them what don’t know) husband Andrew and Michael / Louise and Elliot / Stu and Clare / Tom and Amy / Ian Kay and Mike Jones / Ian McCully and Alison Cochrane – Ian’s good lady…we’ll all know one another better, it’ll be like Big Brother, but without the racism!

The barns are booked from Friday 21st to Monday 24th September, which is the actual day of my 50th, and I hope you’ll all be able to get a bit of time out

To you, dear folks, nowt, zilch, zero…as far as the accommodation goes….Melanie’s paying ;-)

However, we will need to agree what to take by way of food; it’ll be like going to Centre Parcs, for those of you who have been there. So by the time we whack out the food bill, it shouldn’t amount to a fortune between us all. We may even be able to buy food on the farm…I’ll check that one out.

Well we’re gonna have to start agreeing what to play, and maybe try to get together somehow for some jamming, but I have a fair idea of what we all like, we just need to agree a set list.

Songs which have already been bandied about are:-
Teenage Kicks500 MilesLetter from America
Wond’ring’ AloudSubterranean Homesick BluesBlowin’ in the WindRuby Tuesday

Bring it on home. Led Zep
Roadhouse blues, Doors
Hard to Handle, Otis or Commitments
Midnight rambler
Gimme shelter
Li'l Red Rooster
Baby please don't go (down to New Orleans), Paul Butterfield as opposed to Van the man's version.
Any Yardbirds....

But that is by no means a set list, just a few suggestions; if you have some of your own, share ‘em out. The last block came from Mike Jones, who presumably can belt them out on his harmonica.

Ian Mc Cully will be able – because he’s a genius – suggest a few easy ones for us to learn.

We bring our own instruments, but if anyone amongst us knows what we need, amplification and speakers-wise, it is Ian Mc who has been there many times and owns the t-shirt. If we have to hire a PA, maybe we should check out prices soon.

At this stage, I don’t know what else we need to think about, but let’s get cracking on preparation and look forward to a grand weekend away.

I’m really looking forward to it - I hope you are….or will be ;-)

Please share any ideas you have amongst us all……


Thus began the countdown ….
By the time September 2007 came, Ian Kay had had to drop out, but Tom had invited Sophie, is girlfriend.
Ailsa, Ben and I set off from home, aiming to arrive first, but when we got there, after a delay in the M1, Ian and Alison had beaten us to it. Soon after, Louise and Elliot were there so we had a good look round and started to divvy up the bedrooms. The accommodation was not as we expected it from the website – it was better. Every little attention to detail had been addressed, and within five minutes, I just knew we would have a great time.
Once everyone had arrived, we set up the gear in the lounge of the barn, ordered a mega Indian takeaway, and retired early for a swift start.
To be honest, we ended up choosing some songs we hadn’t even suggested beforehand, but in the main, we were happy enough to have had a really great time.
One song I was determined to try to do was Blowing in the Wind, because we had invited Vikki, and her friend Lynne to join us:

Hi Ste

It all sounds wonderful. As well as being in the choir, Lynne and I are in a small group of 5 'girls', and one of our songs is Blowin' in the wind. We sang in 4 different venues at Wirksworth Festival a couple of weekends ago.

None of us will come on Friday (you want some time to yourselves!).

I'm actually not sure if Lynne can make Saturday lunchtime as she works in a pub. But I'll let you know. If she can't, it's no problem ... she's coming in the evening anyway so we'll sing and drum ourselves.

As it was Vikki and Lynne were the best singers on the CD, although the bloke who played guitar for them wasn’t bad either ;-)
When it was all over, I sent everyone a final e-mail:
Hiya folks

Thanks YET again for sharing a great weekend with me.

Our master musician/sound engineer/producer, the maestro Mr McCully, has presented me with the master CD. Could those of you who took pictures get them on a disc to me, and I will hopefully persuade Steve Stride (ex Aston Villa, now semi-retired home creator of CDs) to make up a good sleeve….c’mon, we have to do this properly!

Oh and by the way….it’s not bad at all……some brilliant memories of a good laugh down at the barn.

Speak soon


It took a bit longer then I’d hoped to get the CD sleeves done, but it was well worth the wait.
The final track listing was as follows:
Track 1 The Holestone Stomp featuring Ian McCully on bass guitar, Stu Greenall on drums, Mike “Howlin” Jones on harmonica….this leads into Boulevard of Broken Dreams featuring Ian McCully on lead guitar, Stu Greenall on drums, Mike “Howlin” Jones on harmonica, Tom Greenall on bass, Ste Greenall on vocals

Track 2 Wond’ring Aloud – Ste Greenall on acoustic guitar and vocals

Track 3 Not a Reasonable Man - Ste Greenall on acoustic guitar and vocals, Mike “Howlin” Jones on devastating harmonica solo

Track 4 Stoned In The Hole - Ian McCully on lead guitar, Stu Greenall on drums, Mike “Howlin” Jones on harmonica, Tom Greenall on bass, Ste Greenall on “lyrics and fearsome squawking”

Track 5 Crazy - Ian McCully on acoustic guitar, Ben Greenall on drums, Mike “Howlin” Jones on slightly audible tambourine, Tom Greenall on bass, and Ste Greenall on totally inaudible bongos. Introducing “Gnarled and Beserkly” – the awesome trio that is Louise, Stu and Amy Greenall!

Track 6 Blowin’ In The Wind - Ste Greenall on acoustic guitar, Vicky Clemerson and Lynne Atkin on hauntingly lovely & and ‘in tune’ vocals, Lynne Atkin on djemba

Then we went to the pub…….but when we came back…………

Track 7 Daydream Believer - Ian McCully on acoustic guitar, Stu Greenall on drums, Mike Jones on tambourine, EVERYBODY on vocals

Track 8 Honky Tonk Women- Ian McCully on acoustic guitar, Stu Greenall on drums, Mike Jones on tambourine, Ste Greenall on “Erm” influenced vocals, Mike Jones on assistant vocals!

Track 9 Someday The Sun Won’t Shine For You - Ste Greenall on acoustic guitar and vocals, Mike “Howlin” Jones on harmonica, Stu Greenall on drums, Tom Greenall on bass, Louise Greenall on background laughing!

Track 10 To Be Sad Is A Mad Way To Be - Ste Greenall on acoustic guitar and vocals, Stu Greenall on drums …….which ALMOST became Subterranean Home sick Blues

Track 11 STILL Crazy after all these beers- Ian McCully on acoustic guitar, special guest Mike Yapp on drums, Ste Greenall on totally inaudible bongos. Once more…. “Gnarled and Beserkly” – with more prominent presence from Amy, of the trio of Louise, Stu and Amy Greenall

Track 12 Space Oddity - Ian McCully on acoustic guitar, Ste, Louise and Stu Greenall on vocals, Mike Jones on tambourine, Stu Greenall on drums, Mike Jones on completely inaudible ‘countdown’, Stu Greenall on handclaps

Track 13 Waterloo Sunset - Ian McCully on acoustic guitar and backing vocals, Ste and Louise Greenall plus Mike Jones on lead vocals, - Ian McCully on acoustic guitar, Louise Greenall on “sha – la – las”

Track 14 Sunny Afternoon - Ian McCully on acoustic guitar, Stu Greenall on drums, Mike Jones on tambourine, Ste and Louise Greenall on lead vocals, Tom Greenall

Track 15 I Will Survive - Ian McCully on acoustic guitar, Ste and Amy Greenall on the Gloria Gaynor bits, Mike Jones on tambourine, Stu Greenall on drums

Track 16 All You Need Is Love - Ian McCully on acoustic guitar, Ste Greenall on vocals, all kinds of people on backing vocals, Stu Greenall on drums

Track 17 Handbags and Gladrags - Ian McCully on glorious acoustic guitar, Stu Greenall on drums, Ste Greenall on vocals and “yeah”, Mike “Howlin”Jones on harmonica

Track 18 Maggie May- Ian McCully on equally glorious acoustic guitar, Stu Greenall on drums, Ste Greenall on vocals, Mike “Howlin”Jones on harmonica, background chatter and glass clinking….the guests!

A daft little idea…….a fantastic weekend. I was so glad that in September 2006,
spent lunch time in Covent Garden, wond'ring aloud.

Oh, and I named the group THE HOLESTONE BAND

Wond'ring aloud -- how we feel today. Last night sipped the sunset -- my hands in her hair. We are our own saviours as we start both our hearts beating life into each other. Wond'ring aloud -- will the years treat us well. As she floats in the kitchen, I taste the smell of toast as the butter runs. Then she comes, spilling crumbs on the bed and I shake my head. And it's only the giving that makes you what you are.

(Wond’ring Aloud – Jethro Tull)

Ste Greenall (aged 50!!)
Hartford, Huntingdon

I did something amazing today

.....well, yesterday, actually, but since I stole the title of the daily blog from the Blood Service, I thought it best to say when it was.

6.47 p.m. Wednesday 14th January, to be exact.

I can't remember the exact date I first gave blood, but it was when I worked at Metal Box, so it would have been around 1981. Anyway, in those days, with big employers (and we had about 1,200 on the site) the National Blood Service, or whatever they were called then, used to come out to factories, and set up somewhere like the canteen. That's where I gave my first donation - the Metal Box staff canteen. And I did so every time they came, until I left Metal Box in 1984, and lapsed :-(

They caught up with me eventually, and I now donate fairly regularly. It always bugs me that more people don't donate, although at Huntingdon Commemoration Hall last evening, they were very booked up and over-ran. Ailsa didn't have an appointment but she came along. She DIDN'T lapse after leaving Metal Box, and has now given 30-odd times. Last night was my 22nd and after 3 more I will get a little badge.

You know, more people would donate if the criteria for RECEIVING it was you had to have at least given a few times. I know some people, for a number of reasons, can't. But it is pleasing to see that the upper age limit for donating has been lifted. No wonder there were pictures in the latest newsletter of people receiving awards for 75 donations. Now if Tony Hancock, in his famous 60's show "Hancock's Half Hour, was right, then each time you donate, you give "nearly an armful" so 75 donations has to be several body's worth.

Last night was the first time in ages I have seen someone "not well" afterwards, and he had to lie down with his feet raised. As he was on the next bed to me, I had to hope he wouldn't chuck up. I said earlier, we donated in the Commemoration Hall in the High Street, which is used for all manner of things, concerts (small time) shows, the annual panto, bring and buy sales, 'liquidation' sales. In fact, I bought my last Reebok trainers there. But in addition to this place, I have donated in an old church building near Holborn, the Main Freemasons' Lodge in Covent Garden - a building you might be familiar with if you watch "Spooks" as they use the big door and lamps outside as if the M15 headquarters! I have donated in the Dolphin Hotel in St. Ives, a mobile unit on the industrial estate in Godmanchester, and a few times in Godmanchester Baptist Church, which was formerly a little factory. It was somewhat disconcerting to be laid down, a needle in my arm, with images of religion, and Jesus beckoning from a locally made tapestry which said "I Am the Resurrection and the Life".

And afterwards, as always, a cup of tea and a pack of ginger nuts or custard creams.

Try it, if you never gave before. Trust me, the worst bit is ripping the plaster off your hairy arm the day afterwards.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Tunes and Sweets and Fags

I have been digging out a few old CDs lately, to complement the newer ones like Coldplay and The Script, and have been enjoying the likes of Earth Wind and Fire and Alanis Morrisette, whose Jagged Little Pill album is that of a rather angry young lady. But isn't it funny how it only takes hearing a track from the past to trigger a prompted memory response.

Take last evening for example. Ailsa and I went to the gym, and amongst several songs which "sounded good when you haven't heard them in a while" was .......ermmmm...Lambada! It reminded me of the fortnight we spent in Cyprus in 1989, when the weather was excellent, and we came back to scrape ice from the car windscreen at Luton Airport. Scraping ice from car windscreens is something that is a bit of a habit at the moment.

Yesterday, I took the company banking into Biggleswade and discovered a lovely little traditional sweet shop, racked out with humbugs, rhubarb & custard, pear drops, licquorice stick and jars and jars of the stuff which used to rot our teeth before we were 8. I treated the girls in the office to some chocolate mice and the rest of the staff had Milky Ways, Sherbet Dabs and Milky Bars.

Later, after Kev Croot asked me to get him a pack of Old Holborn, I thought "this is the first time I have stood in a queue to buy ciggies since I used to pick up 20 Embassy tipped for mey dad in the days when kids could buy cigs on an errand. I was not surprised by the extent of the warnings on packs, but amazed to see the survival of such brands as Senior Service, Park Drive and Woodbines.

Sadly, the little sweet shop doesn't sell sweet cigarette - I guess it is not PC in these non-enlightened times.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Heart Attack and Vine

Well, we have been back from the USA for over a week now, and I am just about back in synch. It seems that my body-clock has been affected more this time than on four previous trips to America. Tuesday last week I went to bed very early and woke bolt upright at 5.30 am. so I got up and got to work on time for a change. The drive to our new place, at Biggleswade, isn't much fun in the dark, home and back, so roll on lighter nights and mornings.

We had a quiet weekend because Ben's football match was called off as early as Saturday morning. On Saturday afternoon, Ailsa and I went into Huntingdon, with a coffee on the agenda. But we got a shock when we found that Debs had closed her shop, De-Lites. Just an A4 notice on the door to thank all her customers. A victim of the competition from Costa and Starbucks no doubt. We didn't flick a coin...we don't like Starbucks, so we went to Costa.

Whilst in San Diego, we were treated to a new dish - Ceviche - defined on Wikipedia as a form of citrus-marinated seafood appetizer, popular in mainly Latin American countries like Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, and Bolivia. Both finfish and shellfish are used; finfish is typically raw while shellfish is typically cooked. It's popular in the Benham household as well, so armed with a googled recipe, Ailsa set about having a go at making it. The result was brilliant, and there is some over for tonight. Only downside ??? It's not cheap to make, when fresh sea bass and avacado are included as well as shrimp.

On Sunday, and with his putter hand itching to give his new "Taylor Made" putter a proper try, I agreed with Ben that nine holes of golf would be a good idea. Good choice...we played the Manor Course at Pidley and despite three penalty strokes, I still equalled my best of 49. The first hole, played over a small lake, has often seen me put one straight into the water. Imagine my pleasure to see a poorly hit tee shot fly low and 'skim' across the surface, Barnes Wallis style....only to find as we walked to the green that the lake was frozen, and the ball had flown off the ice! Actually, it shows I am not the only one who can't hit a decent tee shot on this hole; there were four balls actually on the ice, which will no doubt sink when it melts. Highlight of my golf day was a five on the long par 5 6th. Best I had ever had before was a fortunate 7. So I was very pleased.

In the evening we watched the latest "LoveFilm" mailing - No Country For Good Men - which we watched through to the end, but not overly impressed with. You'd like it if you like blood and gore, though.

Today came the news of the death of the retired, but formerly very popular BBC sport presenter David Vine, making me wonder if Tom Waits had foreseen David's demise years ago, when he wrote and recorded the song "Heart Attack and Vine". I wondered if it would make a good newspaper headline.......but it already has ;-)

Saturday, 10 January 2009

A week on

Getting up for work on Monday was a pain, but with a set of accounts to get done by Wednesday noon, it was important to get back into the swing. On the other hand Ailsa had booked Monday off, so her and Ben had a nice lie in. Ailsa got up at 9:20 whilst Ben eventually surfaced at 2pm! I assisted Ben all this week with the papers but he will be on his own next week. He collected another £12.50 in tips that had been handed into the shop. Friday morning was the warmest so far this week at 0 degrees and it has been as cold as -6 degrees therefore requiring the removal of ice each morning from the car, with the journey home tonight very foggy.

Actually, the presence of ice was one of the reasons we were delayed at Heathrow last Sunday whilst they cleared ice off the wings of a plane!

We're still going through tissues like it is going out of fashion, and this time of year is a right pain. No Christmas to look forward to, BUT...we are off to Center Parcs in three weeks.

I am still playing "holiday music" including the burned John Mayer CDs and The Script which Cath Corp let me borrow, for burning.

There's no game to watch tomorrow. The referee has called it off, albeit early, but the pitches are rock solid.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Late round up from the USA

I have just grabbed a moment for a quick update on Friday.

We had a "family meal" at the Red Robin in Anaheim, where we mainly at burgers and drank beer before going to the Honda Centre for the ice hockey. Peter had got hold of "gold tickets" from a business colleague, so we had premier parking, excellent seats and what a game. The visitors were Philadelphia Flyers - 2nd in the league table, and Anaheim Ducks are down near the bottom. Flyers took the lead after about 30 seconds of the first period. Ducks equalised with moments left, but not before two lengthy two-man fist fights and lots of clattering into the perspex. Ducks went in front in the second period, but it ended at 4-4 and with no goals in the final period, they played 5 minutes extra time. Still no more goals so it went to a shoot-out - the hockey equivalent of football's penalty shoot out. Of course, we English don't do thos etwo well, so despite the fact we could claim to have been a part of the biggest attendance at a Ducks game at the Honda Centre....errrr Center...over 17,500, the Ducks failed in their shoot out, so Flyers got the points. Reading the advertising on the way out, sadly, we may not be tempted back to this Arena in April to watch Britney Spears.

I am going to become a Ducks fan, because any team with a player whose name sounds like a male appendage - Chris Pronger - as well as TWO named Neidermayer (fans of National Lampoon's Animal House will understand) needs all the support it can get.

We just looked on BBCi as well, to check out the FA Cup scores, and noting that whilst it it cool here today - 56 degrees - back home, loads ofgames have been postponed due to frozen pitches, including Histon, just down the road from us.

So we'll be boarding BA 279 with a few layers.

9 years since we came out won't be nine before we come back.

Friday, 2 January 2009

A New Year yesterday ....

We had a great New Year's Eve round at Scott and Marcie's playing games, eating, drinking, chatting, drinking, and....drinking.

One thing I found strange is that American TV brings in the New Year at Times Square at 12.00 Eastern Time......then 3.00 am, their time, is midnight LA they show the revellers still celebrating in New York.

We had a lie in next day, an excellent beef dinner for New Year, then slumped round the TV watching a DVD..."3.10 to Yuma" with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe. Very good. We rounded the evening off as many other evenings with games of dice and cards.

It's hockey time later at Anaheim, and then sadly on a plane back tomorrow, so this will be the last blog update from this side of the Atlantic.