Sunday, 31 August 2014

Top of Today's Cringe List

David Cunliffe looking more and more as though he's auditioning for the part of Jesus in the 2014 version of Superstar........

The ongoing assertions of Judas Collins as she valiantly determines to assure us that there is absolutely no truth in the rumour that she is about to audition for a part in the production herself.....

ALWAYS at the top of my list is the abysmal performance that passes as `Singing the National Anthem' from the All Blacks - so truly terrible that these days we are invariably only allowed a rear view of them - though even at this angle they still cannot disguise their acute embarrassment.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Great to see Pam Corkery again!

Wasn't it terrific to see Pam Corkery demonstrating in her own inimitable way `How to Deal with the Media'.  Loved every second of it!   

Saturday, 23 August 2014

A few thoughts on Q & A

I  like Q&A - that is when I get out of bed early enough on Sunday mornings to see it.  Susan Wood is always the consummate professional. This morning I found David Farrer impressive too - I'd never seen him before.   But the star of the event had to be Winston.   Not only does he look oh so lovely in his suits, he has a knack of saying what so many of us are secretly thinking.....thoughts that hover just above the sub-conscious - those we dare not allow to escape.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Booking accommodation via laptop

Booking suitable accommodation with only a laptop for guidance can be tricky.  And have you noticed just how long it can take?  I sat down with coffee and determined attitude just after nine a.m. and can't believe that just under three hours has passed.   And what have I achieved in that time? Precisely nothing!
Last time I look at Premier Inns in and around the Kent countryside I could swear they were not more than fifty pounds a night.   Unless Google is being capricious (just because it's me) they appear to have more than doubled in less than a year.   DH says it's more like four years but then what would he know?  He maintains a dignified distance when this kind of research is carried out which makes me want to kick him.   I feel more and more like Kirsty in Coronation Street and he begins to look like poor battered Tyrone.
But I digress.   Let's try Trip Advisor.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Fury from Afar!

Spent most of yesterday interacting with my Thunderbird Address Book in an attempt to create significant `subgroups' for ease of communication whilst DH (Dearest Husband) and I are away in the UK...if we ever get organised enough to leave.    The instructions via trusty Google were not particularly helpful and it seemed impossible to make the BCC option actually wake up and start operating.   Several tests that would have been happier snug and dormant in the darkest recesses of the laptop went flying off into the ether.  Seventy unrelated recipients from a range of my new and efficient subgroups received them.  
`Oh Bugga!' I thought and then again hopefully everyone would be far too busy to notice, or maybe not care, or maybe just hit the delete button.
Hours later, when I was boring a disinterested neighbour with the tale of technological ineptitude and adding that it didn't matter because nobody seemed to notice,  there came a far too furious email from from one whose privacy had been well and truly violated.  My unsuspecting laptop positively bristled with her lightning bolts of anger.   She had always assumed I knew what I was doing with computers.   Had I not been using one for long enough?   She was surprised at me.  I was never to put her name in an email in full view of fifty other people again.   She was not at all impressed.
No - she wasn't my old Geography teacher from the fourth form.  Just a girl I vaguely knew when I was twelve years old and haven't seen since.
Funny how differently people perceive things and how vast the range of their resulting actions can be. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Lunch at The Parnell

You have to try this place because it really is excellent - especially if you're like me and decide that lunch out means you don't have to cook dinner.   The Parnell is easy to find, right on Parnell Road, beside Oh Calcutta and opposite the wine shop.  Easy parking - last Wednesday lunchtime Olga found parking directly outside and so it's definitely on her list of favourites too.   
They used to run Black Sugar in Mission Bay and we were quite delighted to rediscover them a week or two ago quite by chance.   They are currently doing a lunch `special' which includes a glass of wine and if you don't like imbibing at lunchtime you can opt for fruit juice.   The choice of dishes is impressive - Pork Belly, Lamb Shanks, Chicken Skewers with Risotto, Fish and all beautifully cooked and presented.   Try it!

What's to hate?

I cannot understand why so many of us seem to despise John Key so much.   I've never met him (though I'm reliably informed that he does live quite close by) but he comes across as a thoroughly nice chap. He's got a lovely smile and he wears his suits very well (though not quite as well as Winston).  
He's had a lot to contend with when you consider the combined consequences of Pike River and the Christchurch Earthquakes.    How many of his rivals would have done as well as he has with so much to worry about at three in the morning I wonder?     All in all he hasn't done a bad job at steering the country through some difficult days and he scrubs up very well when dallying in New York and London.   He creates a very good impression in my opinion.
But more important than any of the above - to me at least - is the fact that most of the time he refrains from hurling insults and sneering at others.  And to top it all, most of the time he appears to front up and tell the truth. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Not all bad....

Well the people at The Grill of yesterday's post are not one hundred per cent bad.   I fired off an email to them later in the day and this morning I found a very prompt response from Anna and had she been in the restaurant at the time we were there, I would have had no reason to be complaining so bitterly.   Anna and I have already spoken on the phone and we are to get a refund regarding the uneaten braised beef cheek.  I feel better about them already and although to my mind the beef cheek was inedible, and although it is still lying heavily in the stomach of He Who Would Eat Most Things, I have to concede that there are a great many people who would thoroughly enjoy such a dish. 

Monday, 18 August 2014

Auckland Restaurant Month....

Our hobby seems to be dining out.   Well it has been so for some time to be honest.  Today we decided to try one of the Auckland Restaurant Month `deals' via the good offices of Heart of the City.
The Grill by Sean Connolly at Skycity Grand Hotel, 90 Federal Street was offering two courses for forty dollars available for lunch or dinner.   We would partake for lunch we decided and set off through Auckland streets where a blustery wind seemed to be coming directly from the Antarctic.
A lovely room it has to be said, rather empty so luckily we were offered a temptingly intimate half circular booth.  Perfect.  
I knew almost immediately we should have read the offered menu more carefully - no choice.  If you wanted the deal then you had to have the grilled tongue with horseradish sauce followed by braised beef cheek with parsley mash.   Take it or leave it.    I didn't think I would like it terribly much but rather unwisely I took it anyway.  
We were served by a very pleasant young woman who did not look down her nose (some of them do of course) when we insisted upon tap water rather than the more upmarket variety, and furthermore poured our wine with a degree of panache.   Shortly, a huge piece of grilled tongue arrived before me - not what I would have called an entree portion and when cut into proved to be pulsating with beef fat.  The horseradish sauce was very nice though.    I delivered half of it to my companion and waited with some trepidation for the beef cheek to be issued forth.   Three lavish pieces of meat on a large plate - adorned with a dramatic looking sauce and resting on a pale green mash.    I put a very small piece into my mouth and concluded I had been right to be suspicious because it was rather like biting into a fat filled beef flavoured marshmallow.   I apologised to the pleasant young woman as she almost immediately took it away. She urged me to choose something else from the menu and so I ordered a starter of raw fish - not because I was hungry because by then I felt as though I was back at St. Joseph's School battling with Sister Camilla about my uneaten school dinner.    I suppose I ordered it so that it would be easy for them when the time came to pay the bill, to simply substitute it for the mountainous portion of beef cheek.    It did not occur to me that we would be charged for the meal that had been so rapidly returned to the kitchen.
Imagine our surprise when in fact we were charged for everything, exactly as ordered, not a single hint of an offer to take the price of the offending main course from the bill.
And because it was now two thirty and we were the only people left in the restaurant, and because of our astonishment we simply paid up.   I cannot help thinking, however, that it was a slip on the part of the restaurant - not good PR.   Or am I simply just old fashioned?

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Rear View Obscured

More often than not it's not easy to examine the bits and pieces of your own past and sort the wheat from the chaff in order to see what and which event might bear writing about.  
`There's a book in that,' announced my Thursday Friend when we met in the city for our monthly coffee catch-up which due to a series of unrelated events had turned into lunch.  
We had been bewailing the fact that it was invariably difficult to launch into the next writing project and Thursday Friend had said that finishing a book usually left her depressed.
`Like having a baby,' I agreed because in fact a new book and a new baby are remarkably similar.
So we determinedly discussed what our next project/s might possibly be.
Then we talked about the intricacies of print on demand sites and the technical problems with book covers there encountered.
And then somehow or other we spoke of things past and I found myself telling her the gory details of a neighbour problem from years ago which featured escaping goats, poisoned cats and accusations of stress induced by apples that needed to be fingerprinted, not to mention evil children who kept their neighbours under surveillance at all times.
That's when my Thursday Friend ventured to suggest that the story, fantastic and hard to believe though it clearly was, might harbour the nucleus of a new novel!
Nonsense I thought.  But then I thought again - and of course began to wonder.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Recalcitrant 93 year old

Yesterday we had lunch (yes, eating again!) with a 93 year old and his glamorous lady friend.  His hobbies include cooking and listening to music, Mahler in particular.   We tried to persuade him to write about his colourful life but he declined to do so.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Lunching in style

Well, as I have said more than once recently, life gets more decadent by the day.   And today's dose of decadence was courtesy of Ostro in The Seafarers' building on Quay Street where on a sudden whim we decided to have lunch.  
All this after morning tea with Good Friend Jackie at La Cigale too.....where we had to try the chocolate croissants - well you can't not try them;  it wouldn't be right.
`Let's have lunch in the city,' I suggested to Gordie the Husband and quick as a flash he agreed, breathlessly suggesting Ostro and should it be full when we arrived then he had a second choice up his sleeve.  At any rate, he assured me, we were not going to go hungry.
Ostro was doing a special lunch for Auckland Foodies' Month - two courses for $40 or three for $50.   We chose the former and over the next ninety minutes partook of a Crudo of Kingfish followed by Butternut Ravioli washed down with several glasses of wine.  All was delicious.  
We had a table by the window overlooking one of the wharfs where several huge container ships with names like `Courageous of Rio' busily emptied their cargo of used cars and tractors into the blustery Auckland winter day.    It was strangely comforting to watch the hive of industry as we emptied our plates.
This is becoming more and more like a Food Blog.  Life could get a lot worse.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Reminiscing on my first mobile phone

Oh how I long for my very first mobile phone.   I think it was 1995 and the phone was definitely heavy, and rather clumpy.  It bumped against my hip reassuring me that it was still there - in fact it was really weighty in my jacket pocket.   But I loved it because it was so simple to use!      Its text function might have been time consuming with all those rapid pulses required to action some letters but it functioned reliably all the same!     It might not have allowed me to develop my film director inner self in fact it didn't even take photos or tell me the time in outer Mongolia, it could not convert farenheit to celcius or wake me at the same time each morning but I could make good telephone calls using it.
I had owned my latest mobile phone for almost a month before I learned how to make run of the mill calls and it was a month later that I finally got on top of its texting ability.   I really dislike it and I say that hesitantly because I do not want to incur its wrath.   Oh you can mock if you like but better to be safe than sorry.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Not quite over it seems....

Well those birthday celebrations are not one hundred per cent over.  I am reliably told that he is due to make an appearance at The Parnell in just a couple of hours where yet another lunch will be consumed, this time in the company of friend John and friend Olga.   Fingers crossed I'm invited as well!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Birthdays can be fun

Well to be totally accurate my own are never that much fun but my husband's on the other hand are enviably fun filled;   they go on for days.     For him the fun and festivity started more than a week beforehand when an excitingly torpedo-shaped parcel arrived via courier from France.   We tore it open to find a large tin of Duck Confit inside, a kind thought from Dearest Daughter who was holidaying in a duck specialising village with boyfriend and parents of same.  
The birthday celebration got even more exciting when I offered to turn the contents of the can into a Cassoulet as a pre-birthday dinner to share with Number 2 Son who was briefly visiting from China.  Both males agreed that would go down very nicely and rushed off together into the inner reaches of Parnell to purchase suitable wine for the occasion.    Many hours later we three were in total accord - a Cassoulet without duck is like an English breakfast without bacon.  They had only had the duckless version in the past.
`What a simply divine birthday', said Husband as he slipped into bed that night and adjusted his Cepak machine.   But there was more to come.
Yesterday saw us both furtively lingering at the door of Harbourside, our favourite downtown restaurant because - yes, you've guessed, he needed a birthday lunch.     Two hours later, nicely filled with roasted John Dory he said it had been a splendid lunch!
What a birthday!    But wait there's more.......
Just when we thought the surprises and treats really must stop, contemplating the breakfast dishes on this chilly Auckland winter morning, the trusty red and yellow courier van once more appeared in the street.   Dearest Daughter now back in London, had organised for the latest Bill Bryson book to be delivered and very soon he will know more about 1927 than you could ever imagine.  
`It's slightly over the top,'  I told him in my best school mistressy voice.    But so immersed was he in the first chapter that I do not believe he heard me! 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Worth a visit

Well at long last I managed to persuade the man in my life to try the game restaurant CAZADOR, situated somewhat strangely on a corner in the outer reaches of Dominion Road.  We were accompanied by No.2 son, here on a brief visit from Taiwan.
`We won't need to book,'  I said airily, `After all, it's sure to be empty on a Tuesday evening.'
Good thing he ignored me because when we arrived just after seven the place was two thirds full, and became even fuller over the next thirty minutes.
The atmosphere was a little starkly cold and univiting, lots of dead animals and birds stared down at us whilst we ate but we didn't mind that too much.    The food was surprisingly good, I might almost say excellent.  Between us we tried a splendid terrine, slow baked goat shanks, hare and quail followed by apple and calvados trifle and persimmon pannacotta.      Definitely worth a second visit!

Monday, 4 August 2014

Why is epublishing such hard work?

Well it is hard work isn't it?   It is seductively effortless initially - I mean after you've got over the hurdle of following the directions and basically coping with the necessary technology.   And I have to agree that seeing a nice new book cover looking glossy and tempting is very satisfying.    Hey ho, you think to yourself - gone are the bad old days of waiting for a high and mighty agent to get in touch or a publisher to deign to respond. Now it is all so easy-peasy.    But once you've got over the self satisfaction of knowing your latest epic is up there for the world to see.....well it's up to YOU to make sure the world does not overlook it.   And that, of course, is not quite as effortless.
So now, rather than staring at the screen in the midst of a nasty dose of writer's block, you sit drumming  heels, fingers and elbows wondering just who else you can breathlessly bombard by email drawing their attention to a work of enormous literary worth.    I mean, just how many friends can you afford to lose? 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Catching up with old friends....

I have just spent the last forty minutes chatting about the good old days with my old friend Doug Stanley, currently living in Australia.   A mighty river has passed under the bridge since the nineteen sixties when he and I both became involved in pirate radio - he as a broadcaster, me as the `associate' of the station's technical director.   It all ended in disaster which was probably inevitable.    Revisiting those times via the writing of Eight Ten to Charing Cross has certainly revived a great many memories.