Tuesday, February 03, 2009

You've trampled on them, Heston Blumenthal!

My dreams that is. It's been a bitter and difficult January. What with Lurch's wandering, virus-seeking fingers and the constant stream of bad news and predictions for the UK housing market and general economy. But, ever the optimist, I started the year brimming with hope. There was one particular glimmer that was warming itself daily in the first week of the New Year. I had set my heart on winning the Walker's 'Do Us A Flavour' competition (that's the same as Frito Lays for the non-UK readers). £10,000 (at least!) would be mine, if not winning the whole competition! The boys and I had spent the autumn concocting recipes, thinking of evocative names and unusual flavours - we were drawing inspiration from the most unlikely sources, buzzing with ideas and energy.

Danny Boy rushed home after looking at traffic lights in the rain and devised 'The Big Green Steam' - coriander, green chilli, wasabi and lemongrass. I had 'Battered and Bruised' - beetroot and beer, rejected on poor language taste terms but persevered. The Terminator came up trumps with 'Gingeroo!' - ginger and rhubarb. Then I reached (in my own mind at least, obviously) new levels of invention with two recipes I felt were sure fire winners: the evocative 'Root Tangle in Thyme' - strips of root vegetables roasted in thyme and a last burst entrant 'Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon' - roasted sweet potato with pumpkin, hot paprika, and - here's the genius touch! strips of cracked black pepper. Phew...

We waited for judgement day, hope beginning to fade. I stopped looking at brand new cream Fiat 500's and accepted that somebody else was obviously more creative than the members of the Blogthatmama family. I gingerly opened the website and to my absolute shock and horror saw 'Fish and Chips', 'Onion Bhaji', 'Chilli and Chocolate (have you ever tasted that? I have, Yuck!), 'Builder's Breakfast' (bit more imaginative), Duck in Hoisin Sauce (yawn!) and (a nod in the direction of creativity) Cajun Squirrel. WHAT!!!

That is why I'm blaming Heston. He may have been outvoted but I'm now beginning to suspect that the competition was just an excuse to see which flavours would be the most popular i.e. 500,000 votes for fish and chips = a winner. Why bother pretending you have to satisfy all senses and create flavour collisions and interesting names? Why, Heston, Why?

Still, we enjoyed ourselves and it's good for the kids to be imaginative. I've resolved that we'll find another competition and win it between us this year. Oh yes we will. That will show you, Heston!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Infamy, infamy they've all got it in for me!

I think this is the closest I've ever come to wearing a straightjacket. The pincer movement attack carried out by PC World and Lurch nearly did for me, it really really did. I've been out of blogosphere action for some time now, unable to read, laugh or cry over my favourite blogs, except for a few snatched moments in other people's offices.

It started off with a welcome request from one company to do as much work as I possibly could, from home. 'Yes, yes!' I cried, as any freelance marketer worried about not selling their house and the drying up of work during the credit crunch would. This should cover Danny Boy's birthday and a bit more, I hoped. I arrived home from taking the Terminator to Scouts to find Lurch on my work laptop. 'I've downloaded the latest Microsoft anti-virus for you' he explained. 'What? Why did you do that? I've got anti-virus protection'. Yes the well-meaning fool (and I've called him much, much worse than that lately) had taken it upon himself to download a trojan virus that paralysed my computer totally.

I took it to PC World and waited in the queue. The man in front of me dumped his printer on the desk and said 'You can have this heap of junk, it doesn't work I want my money back. 'What's wrong with it?' squeaked the poor stumpy, pale, greasy-haired creature that was halfway between man and boy. 'It doesn't work! I just told you!' barked the man. He got his money back, during which time a certain camaraderie had built up in the queue. I gave them my lap top and told them I was self-employed and really needed the lap top replacement in my business cover agreement. The whey-faced youth nodded 'yes, you're entitled to it, but I'm afraid that doesn't mean you can have one. We haven't got a spare. Sorry'. 'Sorry, sorry! is that all you've got to say' I yelled.

Suffice to say I have been on the phone to various call centres going through a pointless sequence of number choices and have ended up boiling over with rage. Lurch bore the brunt of it and I must confess my final eruption covered everything; from moving to this house in the country with no supporting infrastructure and how anybody can manage to live rurally unless they work on the land is completely beyond me to presenting him with a bill for the damage.

It hasn't been pretty and it's cost a fortune in child care and computer bills but I'm back on-line and working. Nobody, but nobody is allowed to touch this computer again...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Happy 2009

So, I moved on feeling fully rested from my seaside sojourn but it all went downhill from there. I went to stay with my old friend Shaztastic in Esher. We met at University and cannily went into property development together at the last peak in 1988 - a shared two-bedroomed flat in Tooting. We remained in negative equity for the next 9 years until we sold it for a large loss. Move over Dragons! We had a great evening out in wine bars and a Sherpa restaurant in Esher and stayed up drinking champagne until 2.30am, just like old times. The following morning we walked to collect the car and had a lazy latte in a coffee bar. Old friends really are gold.

Next stop was Lurch's school friend, his wife and two children in Berkshire on New Year's Eve. I arrived at about 2.30pm and met up with Lurch and the boys, fresh from their Belgian holiday. Lovely to see them. Lurch's friend and his wife are good fun but they drink very heavily, and smoke like chimneys. She is very big in the city and very small in the body. They don't eat much but were already on gigantic glasses of wine by the time I arrived. I knew I had to pace myself otherwise I wouldn't last.

I'm absolutely convinced I was sober at 11.50pm because I can distinctly remember being on vocals to 'Living on a Prayer' on Guitar Hero accompanied by the children on guitar and drums, refusing to let anyone else have a go in the limelight. I can also remember looking at Lurch's friend and thinking he was just like a purple Papa Lazaru with his flushed face, black lips ringed with purple stains and tiny black eyes as he bent to kiss me for Happy New Year! Happy New Year to you too! Cheers! Yes, another one, why not? It's New Year...

Dear me, the next morning was shocking. I could hardly move but Lurch informed me that I had 45 minutes before we were due at a diplomat's drinks party to celebrate his recent return to the UK from Asia Pacific. What! I may not have been big in the city but I was certainly enormous in my size 12 velvet Jigsaw trousers. I could scarcely do them up and I felt seriously ill. Although a former tabber the smoking had dramatically affected my eyes, I looked like an ageing rabbit dying of mixamotosis and had to admit that I am no longer the party animal I once was, I needed food to revive me. The party was hard going, lovely people but still strangers and a lot of small talk. I noticed a few canapes on the Aga so I tucked in before I passed out, they were a bit hard but at least it was sustenance. The hostess was looking at me strangely so I smiled but she moved over and said 'I'll just pop these in the oven to cook, excuse me' - I'd been eating raw spring rolls. We had a very quiet day and then returned home.

Since then I've been very busy with work so I know this is a little late in the day, month or year but I'd just like to wish you all a very happy 2009. Cheers! (I'm toasting with hot water and lemon, by the way...)