As a family we’re not great beach lovers and two or three days of sitting by a pool would probably lead to famliocide. So we tend to do short breaks in great cities. We book a nice hotel, eat at nice restaurants and do the sights. The boys get to see lots of beautiful buildings and historical places while we all generally unwind for a few days.
I love photography, but I wouldn’t say I’m any good. I have a decent camera which tends to do all the work I just have to point it in the right direction. Whilst in Paris my eldest and I invented Snaparazzi which basically means taking photos guerilla style, no focus and no letting anyone know you’re taking a picture. You tend to get lots of feet, backs of buses and shots of pavements or sky. But it also makes you see more, you look away from the obvious and snap more of what’s actually going on. And every so often you get a great picture.
This photo was taken in Berlin at one of the busiest tourists spots there is, the Brandenburg Gate. It was full of tourists shooting their digital snapshot before moving on to the Reichstag, the Wall or the Jewish memorial.
I doubt many of them even noticed this young artist with her human easel sat right in the middle of the road taking her snapshot in her own more sedate way. I took lots of pictures of the Gate but I don’t think any of them will remind me more of Berlin than she will.
My drinking partner and I have slowly over the last year morphed into the people I believe others perceive us to be. Two grumpy old gits sat in the same pub every Friday night moaning at the world, the state of the country, the uselessness of politicians and the crap that’s on the telly.
Until recently we often left our cosy seats and ventured out, usually to see if people were as cantankerous as us or to listen to some live music. But we’d stopped doing it, it was too far, too cold, too wet…we’d become slothful and inert, stuck to the routine and a bit boring.
So last week we made a pledge, we’d get off our arses, venture forth and tilt our lances at life. And boy am I glad that we did.
The band are called The Sudden Death of Stars, they’re from France (no prejudgement please) and they have a sitar player!!!
They are like the bastard child of 1969 Pink Floyd and the Monkees, complete with a couple of 60’s shirts and haircuts. But they can play. Now we’ve seen a few bands play this pub and quite often they’ll be that little different to the norm. Sometimes there’s a violin player or a flautist or a guy in a onesie covered in felt hands manically dancing but for me a sitar is a first. Straight away you get that trippy sixties vibe but you also get a weird dude, because you have to be a little strange to decide your going to play one of those. The guy could certainly play but he also had that little something I’d expect from a sitar player. He sat on the floor with no shoes or socks and when he wasn’t required to play he zoned out, he was miles away, probably in a Paris loft near the Sacre Coeur smoking a Gitanes.
They were good, the crowd had a good evening, the band seemed to enjoy themselves and when it was over the sitar player put on his shoes and socks and left.
Great fun. I think we’ll be doing it again soon……if its not raining.
Oh and did I mention I think the bass player was Alan from the Hangover movies. And apologies for the photo’s they’re off my mobile.
At the start of 1953 the eyes of the world were focussed on the pending coronation of Queen Elizabeth in London. However in Nepal the focus was on the tapioca harvest and the rise of rice as the upcoming choice for milk based puddings. Tapioca was in steady decline and even the great British public schools which for years had underpinned the tapioca industry with an insatiable demand for the grain for its school dinners were now looking at rice, the new kid on the block.
Nepal had placed tariffs on the import of pudding rice during the summer of 1952 but it was unable to stop the flood into the country and so in January 1953 Nepal introduced a countrywide ban.
Meanwhile the British were planning a new assault on the summit of Everest after an expedition the year before had come within 778 feet of the top. Edmund Hilary had been selected as a key member of the team but was on the point of withdrawing from the expedition when he heard of the rice pudding ban. Growing up in New Zealand he had been introduced to the creamy concoction at an early age and before the ban had approached Ambrosia, a major pudding purveyor, as a potential sponsor of the expedition. With funding on the verge of being withdrawn and a potential grain war developing with the Syrian sago producers who had thrown their hat in with the Nepalese, the climbers came up with a plan to secure funding and ensure their favourite pudding fuelled their assault.
Labels from rice pudding tins were steamed off and tapioca pudding labels applied. The labels were then ironed flat and padded up to look like notebooks so they could be re-applied to the tins on achieving the summit.
Five rice puddings were disguised in this cunning way and then mixed in with a complete carton of tapioca. The whole plan now hinged on none of the Nepalese guards opening one of these cans. Hilary just had one problem now which was causing him some sleepless nights, he didn’t want to mislead his climbing partner and proud Nepalese friend Tenzing. He decided to come clean and tell him and hope he didn’t report them to the authorities. The tin can ruse worked perfectly and the prized cargo crossed the border and arrived safely at base camp in early May 1953. Hilary though was wracked with guilt and the night before they left to begin their attempt took Tenzing aside and confessed that the whole expedition was funded by rice pudding money and was taking an elicit 5 can cargo to the top. In his autobiography Hilary shared the moment.
” At first he said nothing and I began to sense it was all over, but then a huge grin spread over his face and he began laughing. “Edmund my friend I hate the stuff its like eating frogspawn, whatever that is.” I clapped him on the shoulder and he told me to get my kit we were off to the top.”
On the night before the final push, Hilary and Tenzing removed the tapioca labels and carefully taking apart their notebooks extracted the precious 5 rice pudding labels. In acknowledgement to the semolina farmers of Colombia who had donated generously to the expedition they reapplied the correct labels with a semolina based glue and prepared for their date with destiny.
On the 29th May 1953 Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay stood on the top of the world took a few pictures, embraced and then sat down to eat Ambrosia Creamed Rice cold straight from the tin. It was not only the greatest mountaineering expedition but the introduction to the world of a new delicacy without which most of the British student population would have succumbed to malnutrition.
Nepal could fight it no longer and the tapioca industry quickly collapsed. Rice pudding swept the world and master chefs took it to new heights with the introduction of decadent additions such as strawberry jam and nutmeg. School dinners were transformed and within 3 years of the Everest assault British schoolchildren had grown on average by three inches.
Most days at lunchtime I go out of the office for a walk in the local area. We’re quite rural in this part of West Yorkshire so there are a few places to walk, to stretch your legs and blow away the cobwebs. I usually have my camera and I usually end up with a few snaps.
Last week I went out as usual, found a new path I hadn’t been down and set off for a nosey. Down at the end of the road were a couple of houses and what looked at first glance to be some dog kennels. Having two dogs we need to put in kennels when we go away, I thought these would be handy, much nearer to home than our usual ones so time to investigate.
Imagine my surprise when I peered into the first one only to have an American Bald Eagle staring back at me! The second one had a large owl, the third and fourth had Harris Hawks and the final one a vulture and guess where my camera was……certainly not around my neck and my phone was back in the office.
Returning to work you can imagine the replies I got when trying to tell people what I’d seen and some of the looks I got!
So at the weekend I grabbed my camera and returned determined to show the doubters and to restore my credibility which had somewhat diminished. When I got back to the aviaries I was disappointed to find the eagle wasn’t to be seen and I was beginning to doubt myself when I glanced up behind the sheds to see her sat in the field on a large perch. Camera grabbed I went back round, into the field and as near as I dare, i.e not very near at all, and here she is.
So now with my sanity checked and on hearing voices by the sheds I returned to see if someone would let me know what was going on. I met Keith who is the birds owner and spent the next hour being thoroughly educated about his birds of prey and he took me to meet the eagle Demona and what a beautiful bird she is. I’m hoping next time I wander that way Ruby the vulture will be out and she can show me her eight foot wingspan!
So next time you’re out and about venture down that road less travelled and you never know what you might find.
As last Friday was International Talk like a Pirate Day the worlds third funniest joke got told many a time. It’s a classic Dad joke and it got me thinking about the whole Dad joke concept. A bit like Dad dancing it just happens when you have kids and the best bit is the more kids you have the more Dad jokes you seem to know. One day you don’t know any and as soon as that little bundle of joy arrives your head is full of the greatest cheesiest jokes known (only) to man. Mum’s don’t have mum jokes, they’re too busy being mum’s and ensuring that bundle of joy survives to hear all Dad’s belters. And the only person who laughs at Dad jokes is the teller, chuckling away while their offspring roll their eyes and go back to Minecraft. But that doesn’t stop us and just encourages us to tell them over and over again.
So what is the third funniest joke in History?
Q Why are Pirates called Pirates?
A They just aaarrrrrrrrrrrrrr!
As a family we recently went to London to see the poppies at the Tower of London and the book benches scattered around the city. We had a great day, visited most of the tourist attractions and walked miles on one of Steves’ whimsical tours. A good time was had by all which was topped off by an hour with my youngest on the train back making up Pirate jokes. It was Dad joke heaven, my son and most of the train carriage groaned in unison as I found my zenith of pirate infused comedy genius.
I leave you with a couple of the highlights and one day I promise to reveal the second funniest joke in the world. The funniest is too dangerous I’m afraid.