Sunday, 29 January 2012

Stoned in Barcelona

Prepare yourselves for another travel series - for dear readers I am in Barca.

So just to tide you over until I have time to do some proper writing - here are a couple of tit bits!

Over the last couple of days, I have officially had custody of the finest view in Barcelona. Could a roof terrace be any finer?

And the getting stoned part?

No, I've not been doing drugs. Neither have I encountered an angry mob.

Today I developed an unhealthy addiction to photographing stone!

I'm afraid Gaudi has got to me. I've gone all arty - look at the textures!

Despite Barcelona and I not getting off to the best of starts, after one mammoth day of sightseeing, I think my Facebook status update just about says it all:

"Saw a sunset today that made me do a little dance - and a view that made all the bald months worthwhile. Barcelona - I love you :-)"

So strap yourselves in because there's lots Barca magic to look forward to!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Guilty pleasures

The fire place in my bedroom.

What are your guilty pleasures?

This weekend we bought a beautiful new clock from a shabby chic (or posh w*nk) shop in Ludlow. 

This photo combines the first two of my guilty pleasures - interior stuff that I don't really need but looks great - and photography. 

I suspect I'm not alone in these guilty pleasures, which unfortunately won't make for a particularly interesting blog. I think I'll need to dig a bit deeper.

How about this?

 The bubble wrap that the clock came in - or more to the point - popping it! That's a good one.

I think I got a little bit more into that than polite behaviour allows. Did it look a bit weird? And yes, I know I need a manicure!
 So what else? What other guilty pleasures do I have?

Picture source

Ahh - pickled beetroot.

It's a super food! That I can only eat when Tris is on holiday. You see, one woman's guilty pleasure is another man's nemesis. Beetroot is to Tris what kryptonite is to Superman and garlic to vampires.

He has a similar aversion to radishes and cucumber which apparently are the spawn of Beelzebub.

It makes for very boring salads.

For my next guilty pleasure, what could be finer than cranking up the old VCR and settling down with Pride and Prejudice - box set - from the 1995 TV mini series, starring Jennifer Ehle and the lovely Colin Firth. 

That's not a question - it's a statement!

The drama. The bosoms. The breeches. The sexual tension as their eyes meet across a piano forte. 

Could Mr Collins be any more slimy?

And then there's the wet shirt scene. Frankly it's almost too much to endure!

For many years, my friend Claire and I would set a day aside - probably about once ever three years. We'd sit and watch the whole thing from end to end. All six hours of it and then cheer at the end as Miss Elizabeth Bennett tells Mr Darcy that her feelings towards him are very changed indeed.

So taken was I with the portrayal of Mr Darcy that I even named my  guinea pig 'Colin' after the lovely Colin Firth!

Colin (the guinea pig). 2000-2005.

The last time we managed a Pemberley marathon was in 2007 before Claire had children. Sadly she doesn't seem to be able to justify six hours of bonnets any more and it's just not as much fun 'taking a turn around the garden' without her - booooo!

What other guilty pleasures can I think of?

Sex and the City - obviously.
Fig rolls.
Dancing to Bon Jovi on full volume in my kitchen.
A small bottle of ginger beer while I'm doing the weekly shop.
Filling my trolley in the garden centre with unsuitable plants with beautiful blue flowers.

Oh - and writing. 

Now that's a guilty pleasure in it's own right.

So what's yours?

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Escape to the Country - how to conquer the ironing pile

Picture Source
Now my life may look rather rock 'n' roll to an outsider. And don't get me wrong, it's pretty bloody good. But even I have to do the ironing sometimes! Admittedly it only gets done once it becomes a topple hazard to toddlers - but ironed it gets.

Luckily I am married to a man who thinks that ironing is illegal, so he and the ironing board have yet to be introduced - and he doesn't expect me to do it either. He belongs to the school that believes hanging a shirt up fresh from the machine will break the back of any creases.

So, yesterday while peering over the top of an ironing pile which by rights should have had a trig point on the top, I decided to take on the challenge. How to make doing the ironing sound interesting.

It didn't start very well!

However, I battled on and flicked through the TV channels to see what was on the box. Without some form of entertainment, I was likely to crumble. Manchester airport is only 15 minutes down the road so I fight a constant battle not to jump in a taxi and take off on a standby. But with BMI now flying from Manchester to Beirut - my travel addiction just got a whole lot more dangerous.

I shouldn't have worried - flicking through the channels I came across an old favourite - 'Escape to the Country'. House programmes - how I have missed you.

When I was poorly, I spent many, many hours flaked out on the sofa watching house programmes. From 'Location, Location, Location' with Kirsty (apparently my looky likey - well one of them, but I'll save that for a different blog) and Phil, 'Wanted Down Under', 'Homes Under the Hammer' and 'Property Ladder', I became a bit obsessed. It was only when I realised that I'd watched the same edition of 'Grand Designs' four times, that I decided it had to stop.

But I couldn't quite bear to give up 'Escape to the Country'.

It's like pulling on an old comfortable cardigan. The format is always the same - a couple who feel that moving to somewhere with a farmhouse kitchen / diner (preferably with an aga and island), with five bedrooms (all en suite), space for an office, business potential for a holistic healing centre, out buildings, double garage, a large but low maintenance garden with enough room for a veggie patch and a few chickens, with period character but all mod cons ....... oh yes, and a stream, will somehow make their lives complete.

And all for a budget of no more than £700,000.

Who are these people?

Why do they need so much space? Do they really dislike each other so much that they need a house where the likelihood of them ever being in the same room at the same time is minimal? I often wonder whether all the original features, inglenook fireplaces and family bathrooms on the edge of a village with a shop and a pub so that they can feel part of a community, really do make them that happy? I hope so.

Yesterday it was Huey and Lewis (or that's what it sounded like) in Powys, Wales, who were looking for a place with enough room for 'craft', bee keeping and wax extraction!

Thankfully they found somewhere that was perfect - and more. And while they imagined themselves sitting in the conservatory on a sunning morning on the French wicker furniture with a cup of coffee and the morning paper - the lovely Jules wished them well for their new life in the country.

I wish them well too - especially when they get snowed in and can't get down the drive in their Peugeot 207 convertible, the oil central heating breaks and the fox eats all their chickens.

Of course I say this with love (he, he, he) - honestly - would this face lie to you?

All too soon it was over - as was my ironing pile - as if by magic.

See you again Mr Iron - in another three months!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Mike cooks weird sh*t - Pigs ears

My friend Mike.

By day a high flier with a brain the size of a planet (probably Uranus), rubbing shoulders with the likes of Bill Gates, Bill Clinton ...... and other important people who aren't called Bill.

By night - he cooks weird sh*t.

For quite some time now he's been delighting us on Facebook with his culinary oddities. Generally things that make you go ewwwwe . In fact it often is a ewe - just not a part that any of us would consider eating - unless we were on 'I'm a Celebrity' in a Bush Tucker Challenge.

I think its time that my friend Mike had a wider audience, so when this little beauty popped up this week it was time to start a new series.

Pigs Ears!

(Comments are from my friend Mike).

"Can you guess what it is?"

"Ears not to scale ....... and mine aren't as hairy."
"Pig's ears volume 1: poached in an aromatic broth for a couple of hours to soften them up and then cooked quickly on a spanking hot griddle. Right tasty with some mustard on the side."
"Pig's ear #2: stewed in rice wine and soy sauce with sugar, star anise and cinnamon."
And brace yourselves readers, for there is a photo! I'm not sure, but I think that might be ketchup!
 Well Mike - my friend, you've made a right pigs ear out of that one. Or is it the left.......?
Next week Mike boils his own feet and serves them with yak's froth!


Monday, 23 January 2012

The ultimate disco play list

You've been asking for this for a while, so here it finally is - the play list for our wedding disco. 

Picture by Jon Roach

It's also the subject of this weeks Brides Up North article (click here to relive some very special moments).

Our DJ - John @ The Nightshift Disco actually e-mailed afterwards to tell me how much he'd enjoyed it. As did our guests who apparently carried on after we'd left until 2am (despite the fact that they were all supposed to be done, out and finished by midnight).

Feel free to plunder!

First dance        The Feeling – I love it when you call (2007)

Early 70’s

The Guess Who – American Woman (1970)
Kinks – Apeman (1970)
T-Rex – Get it on (1971)
Stevie Wonder – Superstition (1972)
Steve Miller Band – The Joker (1973)
Mudd – Tiger feet (1974)
Suzi Quatro –Devil Gate Drive (1974)
Alvin Stardust – My coo ca choo (1974)
Abba – Waterloo (1974)
Late 70’s

David Bowie – Fame (1975)
Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody (1975)
Wild Cherry – Play that funky music (1976)
Abba – Dancing Queen (1976)
Bryan Ferry – Lets stick together (1976)
Elvis Presley – Way Down (1977)
Stranglers – No more hero’s (1977)
Bee Gees – Night Fever (1978)
Boom Town Rats – Rat trap (1978)
Undertones – Teenage kicks (1978)
Boney M – Rasputin (1978)
Abba – Gimme gimme gimme (1979)
Donna Summer – Hot stuff (1979)
Ian and The Blockheads – Hit me with your rhythm stick (1979)
Blondie – Heart of Glass (1979)
Gary Numan – Cars (1979)
Buggles – Video killed the radio star (1979)
Jam – Eaton Rifles (1979)
Early 80’s

Chas n Dave – Rabbit (1980)
Blondie – Call me (1980)
Duran Duran – Planet Earth (1980)
Jam – Going Underground (1980)
Olivia Newton John – Xanadu (1980)
Kelly Marie – It feels like I’m in love (1980)
Stray Cats – Runaway boy (1981)
Adam & The Ants – Stand and deliver (1981)
Joan Jet and the Blackhearts – I love rock and roll (1981)
Dollar – Mirror Mirror (1981)
Depeche Mode – Just can’t get enough (1981)
J Geils Band – Centerfold (1981)
Men at Work – Down under (1981)
Billy Idol – White Wedding (1982)
Duran Duran – Rio (1982)
Duran Duran – Hungry like the wolf (1982)
Bucks Fizz – My camera never lies (1982)
Madness – House of Fun (1982)
Adam Ant – Goody Two Shoes (1982)
Irene Cara – Fame (1982)
Bardo – One step further (1982)
Steve Miller Band – Abracadabra (1982)
Cyndi Lauper – Girls just want to have fun (1983)
Toni Basil – Mickey (1983)
Irene Cara – What a feeling (1983)
The Cure – Love cats (1983)
Rolling Stones – Undercover of the night (1983)
Frankie Goes to Hollywood – Relax (1984)
Duran Duran – The Reflex (1984)
Thompson Twins – Doctor Doctor (1984)
Bruce Springsteen – Cover me (1984)
Simple Minds – Waterfront (1984)
Bryan Adams – Summer of 69 (1984)
Late 80’s

Dead of Alive – You spin me round (1985)
Madonna – Into the groove (1985)
Simple Minds – Don’t you (forget about me) (1985)
The Cult – She sells sanctuary (1995)
Duran Duran – Notorious (1986)
The Communards – Don’t leave me this way (1986)
Bon Jovi – Livin on a prayer (1986)
Europe – Final countdown (1986)
Eurthmics – Missionary man (1986)
Peter Gabriel – Sledgehammer (1986)
Cameo – Word up (1986)
Aerosmith & Run DMC – Walk this way (1986)
Eric Carmen (Dirty Dancing) – Hungry eyes (1987)
Mel & Kim – Respectable (1987)
Starship – Nothings gonna stop us (1987)
Belinda Carlisle – Heaven is a place on earth (1987)
INXS – Need you tonight (1987)
Aerosmith – Dude looks like a lady (1987)
Beastie Boys – Fight for your right (1987)
Westworld - Sonic boom boy (1987)
Kylie – I should be so lucky (1988)
INXS – New Sensation (1988)
Yazz and the Plastic Population – The only way is up (1988)
New Order – Blue Monday (1988)
Guns & Roses – Paradise City (1989)
Black Box – Ride on time (1989)
Double Trouble & The Rebel MC – Street tuff (1989)
Del Amitrie – Kiss this thing goodbye (1989)
Transmission Vamp – Baby I don’t care (1989)
B52’s – Love Shack (1989)
Quireboys – 7 O’clock (1989)
Early 90’s

Betty Boo – Doin the doo (1990)
Soup Dragons – I’m free (1990)
Deee-Lite – Groove is in the heart (1990)
Happy Mondays – Step on (1990)
Stone Roses – I am the resurrection (1990)
Roxette – Joyride (1990)
EMF – Unbelievable (1990)
Right Said Fred – Don’t talk just kiss (1991)
Nirvana – Smells like teen spirit (1991)
James – Sit down (1991)
Blur – There’s no other way (1991)
Envogue – Free your mind (1991)
Spin Doctors – Two princes (1991)
House of Pain – Jump around (1992)
Stereo Mc’s – Step it up (1992)
Primal Scream – Rocks (1994)
The Grid – Swamp thing (1994)
Blur – Parklife (1994)
Blur – Girls & Boys (1994)
Oasis – Cigarettes & Alcohol (1994)
Late 90’s

Fun Lovin Criminals – The fun loving criminal (1995)
Take That – Never forget (1995)
Oasis – Champagne Supernova (1995)
Oasis – She’s electric (1995)
Underworld – Born slippy (1996)
Republica – Ready to go (1996)
Garbage – Stupid girl (1996)
Blur – Song 2 (1997)
Cornershop – Brimful of asha (1997)
Madonna – Ray of light (1998)
Mel C – Going down (1999)
Chemical Brothers – Hey Boy Hey Girl (1999)
Blondie – Maria (1999)
Early 00’s

Ricky Martin – She bangs (2000)
U2 – Elevation (2001)
Scissor Sisters – Filthy / Gorgeous (2004)
Franz Ferdinand – Take me out (2004)
Late 00’s

Kaiser Chiefs – I predict a riot (2005)
Scissor Sisters – I don’t feel like dancing (2006)
The Automatic – Monster (2006)
Arctic Monkeys – Bet you look good on the dance floor (2006)
Ting Tings – That’s not my name (2008)
Owl City – Fireflies (2010)

Slow Songs

Nik Kershaw – Wouldn’t it be good (1984)
Bryan Adams – Run to you (1984)
Faith Hill – This kiss (1998)

Last song, Moon River (instrumental) Henry Mancini

Happy Monday - Knockin shop

Picture source
This weekend we went to Shropshire - a place of mystery, usually only seen on 'Escape to the Country'!

Ludlow - very nice. Well worth a visit, if not only for excellent beer, great cheese and a splendid castle.

However, in order to demonstrate just how juvenile I am, I was especially taken with the Shropshire villages of Pant (A483), Ball (just off the A483) and of course Knockin. And yes - there is a Knockin Shop!

Picture source


Sunday, 22 January 2012

Marrakech - my secret views

This is the last in my Marrakech series. Much as I'd like to string the warm blue skies and heavy spice laden air out for longer, it's time to move on.

Sunset at Jardin Menara.

These are some of my favourite pictures. The guidebook warns you that the locals do not take kindly to being photographed willy nilly - not without being given a few dirhams. So I snapped through doorways and out of windows and in doing so, captured my own secret Marrakech.

I also snapped flags and road signs and anything which I felt captured the flavour of this bewitching city. I hope you enjoy ..........

PS. You might also like to check out Marrakech - first impressions, Marrakech - survival tips and Marrakech - amazing cuisine.

Jardan Majorelle.

Jardin Majorelle.

Easy Spa?? Holy cow!

Palais de la Bahia.

Palais El Badii.

Palais El Badii.

Storks on the Palais' walls.

Ourika Valley.

Child's swing.

Ourika Valley - yes I walked across the bridge!

Chrob Ou Chouf Fountain.

Medersa Ben Youssef.

Jardin Menara.

Jardin Menara.

Marrakech - thank you and good night!