Time for an embrace…..

My daughter has many words of wisdom, but one of my favourites of hers is ’embrace the seasons’. We all too quickly lament the ending of summer, or the onset of winter but as sure as night follows day, the seasons will arrive and we need to accept what they bring. I think with her tuition I have been taught to love each season for what it brings and enjoy a new calendar page always.For those of us in the Northern hemisphere, we are in autumn now (I appreciate I have some southern hemisphere readers who for them, ‘autumn was just so last year darling…’ ) I also have some North America ‘cousins’ reading this who of course use the term fall, rather than autumn. Anyway, having got those disclaimers out of the way it is autumn in the UK and to be honest it has been wet. Not just a little wet but depressingly downpouringly wet for a lot of it so far. In fact yesterday we had several days of rain in just one hour alone. So I have to say I really have struggled to embrace autumn…I couldn’t manage a hug, just a little soggy peck on the cheek kind of kiss, that you give your dreaded and scary great auntie Flo when you are a child …and you are instructed to kiss great Auntie Flo as she arrives on a bi annual visit. If you as children, didn’t have relatives like this making an occasional state visit to your home, then all I can say is you have been incredibly lucky.Today, however autumn was here in full glory….blue skies, falling leaves and nature showing all the tell tale signs of…”its time for me to rest a little, and move in to the next phase of what I do so now here are some wonderfully coloured leaves and here is some food I have prepared to keep the birds fed over winter”.In a village I lived in some years ago, they had a church social club called the Autumn club – it was for senior citizens and had the usual array of activites for mind, body and soul. I was always struck by the positivity of that name of club for those moving into the autumn of their life .Thankfully, I have got some time time to go before I join that group, but meantime I plan to keep embracing seasons as they come along…. for sure they have their challenges and whether it the cold of winter or heat of summer …these can be issue for those in poor physical health (..or indeed financial health) but in general each season gives us opportunity to enjoy nature and the traditions that abound within our calendar.Enjoying this blog…I hope so? Its only ever intended as a quick read for you and an outlet for me to share my random thoughts.Please click like …if you like it, and comment it you want to say anything good or bad…I can take it! If you think others would enjoy this, please do share on your social media platforms. Thanks for reading……..

Lost in London

London, like many cities mostly presents its underground railway maps in a topological format.

And when I say underground I mean the metro, but it is rarely called that in the uk. The normal colloquilism for London underground being ‘the tube’ . Topological maps show the stations and lines in an ordered and geometric way, which gives great clarity but totally distorts distance and indeed direction.

Native Londoners when outside their immediate geographic comfort zones of suburban home or city street will have a hazy and simplified comprehension of the geography of their city fuelled by these maps.

Tourists are even worse off with few if any reference points to assist in computing real distance and direction rather than just ‘living the tube map’.

I read recently that despite Covent Garden and Leicester Square stations being only 400 metres or so apart,

and a mere 40 second tube journey, some 800 people per week buy tickets for this journey between the two of them…blissfully unaware that a 4 minute stroll along the street will take them from one station to another in much more comfort and lots to see along the way…..

These are London’s two tube stations that are closest to each other but these are not unique with others equally near their neighbours.

Meantime back at the world of what to call the underground……

The metropolitan tube line in London was the world’s first such railway and the name, ‘ metro’ has been used worlwide for city underground trains. Except in London where the name tube has just stuck and is what everybody refers to it by.

In Paris, the abbreviation as well as the full name Metropolitan is in widespread use .

but in numerous other cities in Europe and beyond, the underground trains are called metros. Ok in New York it’s the subway,

and funnily enough in Glasgow, that same name too,

although colloquilly referred to there by some as the ‘Clockwork Orange ‘.

Why, well the trains are bright orange and it’s just one continuous circle. A unique experience with it’s own smell that cannot be quite defined! The continuous circle is now used in its logo branding for the stations too.

If you ever get the chance to visit Glasgow, give it a whirl.15 stations and a lot of people watching!

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You may be recycling more than you think…

My early memories of recycling as a child in the UK in the not very environmentally focussed 1970’s were confined to old newspapers collected by the scouts to raise their funds,

returnable lemonade bottles returned by myself to raise my funds

and my parents ever growing compost heap to raise the local methane levels.

Fast forward over the next few decades and then there thankfully was more awareness and opportunities culminating in the increasingly normalised approach we have today.

Yes, in most residential districts (but it does surprisingly vary in scope even from municipality to municipality in the UK), you will find an array of recepticles outside houses on ‘recycling collection day’ for glass, paper, cardboard, tins, some plastics and garden waste.

That’s all good stuff and how it should be…but what really encourages me now are the other activities. We are turning old and unused industrial units into homes, old railway lines into bridleways, footpaths and cycle tracks and this is not just in the countryside ….you don’t get more city centre than the Hi Line in New York where an old railway line has created a fantastic inner city walkway, garden and general leisure space.

Its not just about ‘practical re-use of items’ or a breaking down to raw materials when things are too old to fulfil their original purpose. Sometimes the new life can be as an art form. Even old London tube trains can become an artistic canvas!

Not to be outdone, with ideas for new uses for old things, easyJet the low cost airline have an old bus literally attached to the front of their HQ building to create more meeting space.

And on the subject of airlines…how about this as a ‘feature’ for your hotel entrance…

But the best and simplest of all are the charity shops that fill our high streets….old clothes, old books, old music are all recycled to new owners with some money made for a needy cause along the way and delighted new owners buying at low prices. And it really is a win, win. Often these shops are staffed by volunteers and they will be from a wide sphere…retirees wanting to give back to the community, others who find it an opportunity to engage in a lower stress environment than the conventional workplace would allow and actually a whole raft of other reasons.

So remember when you give to or buy from a charity shop, the benefits are spread widely.

Giving, buying, sharing…it’s all about showing some love for the world and treating it with dignity.

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Sweet Dreams ?

One of my subscribers (actually not sure if I like that word, as it reminds me of 1970’s telephone books or exchanges),

so lets just go for readers although technically there is a difference as a reader may just come across this blog (lucky them!) or indeed be directed there by a search engine whereas a subscriber has asked to be notified of each new posting….. anyway, one of my readers told me that last week, by chance this blog was the last thing he read before going to sleep. If I was self deprecating enough I would assume that the blog post had actually sent him to sleep, but anyway it appears the timing of reading was intentional as opposed to a homeopathic cure for insomnia. It seems that the effect of this was, he then had a dream featuring the content of the blog post. Fortunately the post was all about roast beef and Yorkshire pudding Sunday lunches at my parental home and it seems my reader had a very pleasant trip down memory lane and a nice lunch with his now sadly departed grandmother…and all was good…and he didn’t have to wash up!

It does however make me give a word of caution though to anyone planning late night reading of my blog that this may happen. The somewhat varied nature of my posts means that you could find yourself featuring in dreams about cows invading picnics, strange characters on your train journey or unusual taxi trips to name but just a few. You have been warned.

A friend recently recounted to me about a worrying recurring dream where she finds herself in a variety of locations – office, supermarket, post office and most specifically a well known DIY store found in every retail park in the UK wearing…well not much, in fact, just what she was born in. I am sure this means something if I looked it up in a dreams analysis handbook. Maybe it suggests that this is someone not wanting to share secrets or how they feel etc.

Alternatively it might just be suggesting she is exceptionally forgetful..or just a bit of an exhibitionist. To be fair, I dont think these latter two at least are correct.

Thankfully, its not a dream that features in my repertoire – mine is always about arriving late for every possible event and in the most embarrassing big entrance kind of way too. Strange really as I am a pretty good timekeeper and its very rare I am late.

Ignore the name of this blog of course…that’s a metaphorical lateness rather than turning up for a party when the host has got the hoover out!

Look forward to your comments……šŸ˜

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Sliding Doors…..

My favourite movie of all time is ‘Sliding Doors’ …now I know that is quite a rash statement to make…but I have thought about this a lot and that is my final answer!

So to answer the obvious question of why? Well first of all, if you haven’t seen it, its one of these parallel time movies where one set of things really happens and one doesn’t and actually what this is there to demonstrate is how one simple event in your life can totally transform it.

In the case of this story, set in London, its all about a girl (Gwneth Paltrow) who was cheated on by her partner and only found out about it as she just caught a tube train (hence the name, Sliding Doors) with seconds to spare.

In the parallel instance she just misses the train and doesn’t find out about his infidelity and life takes on a completely different path.

I think this is a wonderful demonstration how for many of us our lives will take on a completely tangential trajectory from one (or in reality numerous) sliding door moments of our own …I realise this is probably stating the obvious but I think in some ways its a real ‘wake up and smell the coffee moment’ that we all think we are so clever controlling and planning our destinies but actually they are outside our grasp. Ask anybody how they met their partner, got their ideal job, etc. and it will often be from a sliding door moment. Depending on your spiritual beliefs or none, you may see this as coming from an external source – whether a believer in those influences or just fate, the results are still the same.

If you haven’t seen the movie, you should (on Netflicks I think now) as its a surprisingly feel good film and very funny in parts..even to the point where John Hannah (the new love interest), is traveling on the tube and ‘breaking all convention for London’ and talking to people!

Look forward to your comments and anybody willing to share their ‘sliding door moments’ …I’ve got a couple of them of my own (but for the avoidance of doubt, not like the one in this film!) and they will appear in a future blog post

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That takes the biscuit….

I work for a German company and spend a lot of time conversing with German colleagues whose English is one thousand times better than my German!

In fact they are so fluent I sometimes forget it is not their native tongue…until I use some idiom that gets me puzzled looks.

I used the phrase ‘that takes the biscuit’ in a recent conversation and with dawning realisation I saw that this was causing some confusion. The etymological origins of this actually took me longer to explain than the whole original conversation so in this instance, using an idiom was not a good shortcut.

For those not in the know, its meaning is from 1800’s Naval times basically saying ‘well that takes the prize’ , and not necessarily for something good andĀ  in reality probably something bad like running out of food and even using the last ships biscuit,Ā  very much a last resort food item!

Anyway, I digress a little but still on biscuits………..

In the same way that choosing a coffee has become a university degree course,Ā  and using the right name for a bread roll in different parts of the UK requires a phrase book (see my previous blogĀ  ‘Please come to visit us’ on the joys of buying coffee andĀ  Ā choosing bread rolls in the uk…click on theĀ  highlighted words to link..), the art of biscuit selection requires at least some higher level training to be completed before a simple purchase can be made. It is a complex subject….

As a child, based on my limited biscuit expertise (i.e. what darkened the door of our house and biscuit tin) I would have sworn in a court of law that only 4 types of biscuit ever actually existed in the world: namely rich tea, chocolate digestive,Ā  regular (boring!) digestive and custard creams.

But now when asked to ‘pick up a packet of biscuits’ when at the supermarket can leave me totally overwhelmed. The range seems endless now….Balzen biscuits from Germany, Hobnobs, Jammy Dodgers , Penguins (no Penguins are harmed in the making of those biscuits…to reassure those of you from non Penguin biscuit countries)Ā  and Chocolate Chip cookies. And don’t even go down the route of Wagon Wheels or Oreo biscuits (why are they a very strange colour and indeedĀ  remind me of dog biscuits? ) or numerous others untasted and unknown in the array that will welcome meĀ  in the supermarket.

And then of course there are Kit Kats……..

As a child I think they were seen more of being in the confectionery world but have now absconded to the biscuit aisle joining their new younger cousins Breakaways and Rocky Road. And thenĀ  I find some UK regional items have sneaked in.

Tunnocks Caramel wafers: as plentiful in Waitrose in Harrogate as in Aldi in Glasgow now. I think I have also seen them for saleĀ  in the Middle East!

There are whole hierarchies of biscuits and their usage to be understood …everyday biscuits, luxury biscuits, speciality biscuits, biscuits only served with coffee, hand made, home made, Christmas biscuits and a whole lot of crossover products that are somewhere in the middle! Give a man inadequate instructions on the social standing of the occasion and it is guaranteed the purchase will be wrong one….

I realise for my non UK readers this is very UK centric but I suspect in your countries too the dilemma is the same!

And in the USA of course then there are biscuits that are in a whole new world of living on dinner plate…with gravy! My first ever visit to Georgia, USA has that experience etched on my mind.

But one final thought going back to second languages…the word biscuit is not an English word at all ….but derived from two French words ‘bis-cuit’..simply meaning twice cooked.

Vive la France!

Look forward to your comments.Ā  Biscuit choice is of course a very subjective matter!

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A few of my favourite things…?

A subjective question and of course answered in song by Maria in the classic movie, The Sound of Music.

There was no Google back then to answer this question (assuming she had been asked such a question, or had just decided to tell people her favourite things anyway!)

If there had been such electronic guidance, the answers might have been more noble or momentous… like the wheel, the internal combustion engine, the internet, penicillin rather than Brown paper parcels tied up with string etc.

Meanwhile back in the more materialistic non Von Trapp family world………….

for me white chocolate magnums have to be right up there at the top of the list, beating anything with marzipan by a mere whisker and pushing smart phone taxi apps which have been a game changer for me, just into 3rd place.

Yes, I know a big focus on food here but the said ice creams are totally a perfect blend of two loves in my life…vanilla ice cream and white chocolate (with all due respect to my human and doggie loves) and marzipan has always played a big part in my life (ditto with due respect to my wife, children, friends and dogs).

And what even took me down this alley of thoughts? On the subject of dogs, it seems that they too can now enter this world of ice cream admiration!

So why taxi apps such as Uber or Lyft…?

I travel a lot internationally in my job and have had my fair few moments of challenging taxi journeys (especially one lost taxi in Athens…yes it really was, click to read the story!) so anything to ease that is good!

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I Wish I Loved Gingerbread…

The list of foods I wish I loved or even just liked, but don’t, is relatively small.

People rave about Macaroni Cheese, but I don’t feel a gap in my life for not liking it.

Likewise asparagus is not on my list either

or indeed any kind of shell fish. I work on my principle of if it swims in the sea , it’s a yes, if it walks about…or doesn’t move then it’s a no!

But I do have a problem with gingerbread…I really don’t like ginger flavoured anything…but gingerbread looks and smells so nice. I feel do should like it…..

Last week in the beautiful English Lake District I even queued up to buy the stuff as gifts for family and friends and our own household…but all I can do is look at it.

Thankfully the Lake District has a lot of really good ‘take aways’ in terms of majestic scenery and tranquillity so there was plenty for me to enjoy. Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter knew what they were talking about.

Always so good to visit but next time I will be in the scones and cream queue.

It’s our other national food…

Growing up as a teenager in Scotland and influenced by both TV, cinema and bill board advertising I strongly remember adverts for Irn Bru stating ‘it’s your other national drink’…that first drink in question being Scotch Whisky.

The two drinks actually have a similar (ish) colour but not much else in common other than being produced in Scotland. One of the other advertising straplines for Irn Bru was ‘made from girders’.

They actually went on from that to have some clever and sometimes risque advertising…a quick Google search will enlighten and amuse you.

For those of you from outside the UK as a whole (as Irn Bru can be purchased in England and Wales and many other places worldwide where there is Scottish ex pat demand for it), it’s a very sugary soft drink that does have some iron content (albeit a tiny percentage) hence it’s name.

It was a bit of a dentist’s nightmare although sugar free versions now exist and the original has now had sugar content reduced to comply with UK sugar tax regulations.

However the title of this blog is about food not drink but there is a similar conumdrum. I was asked last week by an overseas colleague…what is the traditional British food eaten most often? The natural reaction to this question is Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding.

Yorkshire pudding for those not in the know is not a dessert but a savoury dish served alongside beef.

Indeed for so long was this the stereotypical meal was that French people sometimes refer to English as ‘Le rosbifs’. But things have moved on…the traditional Sunday lunch of a roast has changed.

As a child I remember this almost religious event of sunday roast. Mother and Father cooking, Father carving..that had a rotating timetable..one week beef, then lamb, then pork, then chicken…and start again.

Interrupted really only by events such as Christmas when we had Turkey. Easter Sunday was always lamb…even if not a scheduled lamb Sunday! Things have changed…the cost of meat joints, the whole concept of family Sunday lunch and a host of other factors now mean these meals in many families are exceptional events, rather than normal certainly when at home. So what is traditional or commonplace food now…ignoring junk or fast food (that is probably top of league table for volume) in terms of popularity for a shared meal both at home and in restaurants one has to say curry..and probably even more specifically chicken tikka masala.

The widespread availability of ‘Indian’ food as take away from restaurants, ready meals in supermarkets and of course being actualy cooked from scratch at home combined with the huge number of ‘Indian’ restaurants means this is definitely our No. 1 food. I put ‘Indian’ in parenthesis as actually many of these restaurants and take aways are actually Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Nepalese or Sri Lanken. But the phrase shall we eat Indian food has stuck…rather than using the term Indian sub content style food!

Will Roast beef decline into oblivion…no, but certainly our choice of food get a ever wider and reflects the multi cultural world we live in. Ironically restaurants serving ‘roast dinner ‘ are probably now more prevalent on Spain’s Costa del Sol to feed the holidaying and ex pat Brits than on the average UK High Street!

Romantic Paris?

There used to be a TV advert on CNN International many years ago advertising Long Distance phone calling .

It showed a picture of a young American businessman with a beautiful nightime Parisian scene in the background calling his wife with the caption…here I am in the world’s most romantic city ………… and I am stuck here with a cost accountant from Cleveland , as the camera pans round to a suited and accountant type figure sharing his dinner table complete with spreadsheet and calculator.

And of course no disrespect to accountants or people from Cleveland, Ohio but I know how he feels.

I have had the good fortune to visit Paris many times for work and pleasure but each visit I always see just as a taster and I want more.

Earlier this week, work took me on a very quick Paris trip and this time like the CNN man I was accompanied by a colleague.

The difference was this colleague had lived and worked there and in fact after our work day was over, he was on a mission to revisit a shop he had frequented when a resident. To quote another famous advert (HSBC) you really can’t beat local knowledge. The mission for cheesecake took us to the most amazing shop in the 4th Arrondissement. These kind of places are gems and long may they last and survive against globalisation.

A further meander around this area was rewarding with typical Parisienne variety of sights – quirky graffiti,

some unusual street furniture

and even “pride friendly ” pedestrian crossings.

So today was Paris..but actually most cities have the streets just beyond “the top ten must see locations” and these are the places that in my view are the ones to find on visits 2, 3, 4 to a city that you think you now know!

It’s over to you…..