Same old, same old.

There are going to be a few days rolled into one here, as appears to be turning into a habit on my little site as, barring a day out in Belfast, mot much of note happened before I returned “home” to London on 10th August and which begged the question was I leaving “home” or going “home”. The facts of the matter are that I lived in Northern Ireland for the first 28 years of my life and have now lived in London (when I am not on my seemingly endless travels) in London for 30 now. As always, any comments would be most welcome on the subject of what you define as home?

I was helping to look after my Dad a little although his care programme, between some wonderful carers who attend him at home, and my brother and sister-in-law who live about 500 yards round the corner ensure that there is nothing to worry about on that score. I was just doing some little tasks and trying to help out where I could. In truth, I think he enjoyed the company, and I know for a fact that he was well pleased on one day when my S-i-L had arranged not to cook for him (she is a brilliant cook) and I knocked him up an Ulster Fry, the dish which has featured so much in this series of blogs and which he declared to be very tasty so that was good enough for me.

I had fallen into a bit of a routine which, on the evidence or previous visits home, had the potential to bore me to tears and yet it didn’t. I was quite happy pottering about the house during the day, taking the odd day trip to Portadown or once to Belfast for reasons which shall be explained later, going to the local pub in the evening for a few drinks with friends and jamming occasionally. I was eating regularly (as the images show and which is not necessarily the case at other times) and reading a lot of good books (my Dad has no internet access). Leaving aside my Father’s health for a moment, it appeared to be doing mine a power of good.

I do realise that this is all a bit heavy reading for the occasional visitor to the site who does not know me, and let’s be honest, I have a meagre bunch of followers here who I thank for their support but, as I said in one of my opening pieces here, this is my last shot at blogging. I am not going to risk another commercial site being pulled from under me and so this is, at times, going to be pretty brutally honest. At some point this site, such as it is and may eventually become, will eventually float about the ether and provide my epitaph to some degree. At least hopefully you’ll be able to read it online as a diary of mine would be totally illegible due to my utterly appalling handwriting!

Yes, this started off as a travel orientated site and it remains so although not exclusively. For the first time I have complete editorial control albeit I still cannot free myself of the mindset of travel sites but I am getting there. I have all sorts of odd ideas like daily limericks and who knows what else.

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Proper cheese on toast, Tandragee style.

So back to Northern Ireland on what had turned out, yet again in my case (a very small case as it happens) on what was intended to be a five or six day trip and I was two months down the road. If you have read some of my other exploits and if you read any of the many that are still to come then you will know that this is the way I am and, frankly, it suits me. My idea of travel Hell would be an organised trip as in breakfast at 0730 sharp, on the coach at 0800 sharp, famous museum at 0900 sharp, you get the idea.

I might as well start with one of my usual subjects i.e. the fry-up or ( often not so) healthy alternatives to it. The image above shows a little variant which is probably marginally less unhealthy than the Ulster Fry which has featured so prominently here. Let’s be honest, everyone loves cheese on toast but I love making it with soda bread. The effort pictured above features the said bread, Branston pickle, and a decent Red Leicester cheese I had picked up on offer at the little local supermarket. A quick crack of freshly ground pepper completes the dish. Again, I will digress here so I warn you in advance.

I am all in favour of a bargain in my food shopping and hunt out special offers in the same way I will go to a fresh produce market late in the day as they are virtually giving the stuff away. Also, I will mostly buy “own brands” from supermarkets for many things as they are every bit as good and often produced in the same factories as name brands but there are a few things I will not compromise on. Pickle of that type has to be Branston, English mustard has to be Colman’s and Worcestershire sauce has to be Lea & Perrins. Just about anything else is negotiable but these are not. Certainly there are a thousand other pickles and chutnies available and some of them very good, but this type has to be Branston.

I will certainly buy other styles of mustard (you can read in my European jaunt of 2017 on this site of how I went to Dijon in France purely to buy mustard for a foodie mate) but there is only one English mustard although the multinational Unilever, apart from their failed bit to Eurify to a single base in Rotterdam recently in September 2018 are moving from Norwich, it’s original home to two sites in Burton (Staffordshire, UK) and Germany. No surprise there and I wonder how that will play out when, or if, given the spineless nature of our alleged leaders, we eventually actually escape the mendacious clutches of the Federal States of E.
As for The Worcestershire sauce (which my Canadian friends call “W” sauce as they cannot get their tongues round the pronunciation, which admittedly is odd. I doubt I could cook without it (not that I can really cook anyway) to the extent that when I go to visit my friend in Sri Lanka I take a bottle of it with me as it costs a fortune when imported there for the expats. As a further digression off a digression, if such a thing be possible, why are there two pronunciations of the word pronunciation? Answers on a postcard please, as they say!

How can I write so much about a couple of pieces of cheese on toast? Very easily actually and I have just edited the above paragraph fairly seriously before I took off into a further digression about the origins of these fine British firms. Then again, I do have to keep reminding myself that this is MY site and I can do what I like.
I know opinion is very much divided about my writing style, if it can be called that, but on other commercial sites I have written for before more people seemed to like it than disliked it. In truth, I can only write in one style although I am trying to rein myself in a little bit. Being naturally inquisitive (for which read nosy if you like) I simply have to research everything I mention even tangentially in a blog entry and then include it in whatever I am writing. I reckon I’d have made a Hell of an intelligence officer in some field or another.

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What, no fry again?

Right, back to the narrative. That was brekkie on the 2nd of August, and the 3rd was equally subdued with a toasted sandwich and some tomato soup for the morning meal. What was I thinking?

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That’s better.

Thankfully, normal service appears to have resumed on the 4th as you can see above. A friend of mine who is a real foodie speaks of “food porn” which I used to scoff at a little but I reckon this is full on XXX rated. I am actually salivating now just looking at this image even if I did cook it myself. I swear this is turning into an Ulster Fry site!

I’ve rambled enough here so I’ll break off for another entry where I finally get back to Belfast so stay tuned and spread the word.

Three for the price of one.

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A Northern Ireland delicacy.

After a shortish entry for the 18th it will be more of the same for the 19th as it was a day spent doing very much of the same, starting here with the obligatory breakfast image and readers who follow these pages will notice something odd. No fry-up? What’s all this then? Well, sometimes I just fancy a change and this is another favourite of mine which is toasted soda bread, Branston pickle and Coleraine cheddar cheese which is delicious and quite filling.  Coleraine must be doing something right as they reported a growth in sales of 3.7% for the first quarter of 2018.  I might buy shares.

I say Branston pickle as opposed to sweet pickle which is what other manufacturers call a similar product as that is the brand I always use. I love a bargain and will quite happily use supermarket own brand products which are often as good as the name brands and far cheaper. There are, however, some items that demand certain brands e.g. Worcestershire sauce must be Lea & Perrins and Colmans is the only English mustard I will use.

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Simple fare but my Dad loves it.

I’ll just jump ahead a moment now as we are talking about food. Due to my Father’s dietary requirements and taste for simple food, coupled with a fairly small local supermarket means that I am never going to go mad in the kitchen, much as I love cooking. Ordinarily my sister-in-law prepares an evening meal for my Dad but when I am home I sometimes do it. Haute cuisine it is most certainly not nor is it intended to be but Father wolfed down the offering pictured above and pronounced himself satisfied. Although I rarely eat at that hour of the day I had a plate of it myself, smothered in butter and HP Sauce and it hasn’t killed either of us yet so it must have been OK.

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Just a word about the potatoes here. Like Guinness and rain, potatoes are synonymous with the island of Ireland and I still maintain that we grow the best in the world. I say this without prejudice and I have eaten some lovely Cypriot spuds in Cyprus which would be our nearest rivals in the field (pun absolutely intended) but I still think ours are better. I do have a question however. As you can hopefully see from the attached image they are Navan potatoes grown in County Down. I know a Navan Fort which is a few miles South of Armagh City and I know a town called Navan in Co. Meath in the Irish Republic but I don’t know one in Co. Down. Just another of those odd Northern Irish things I suppose and presumably it is just the name of the variety.

As for the football it began with Colombia 1 – Japan 2 but the game was ruined as a spectacle with Colombia having a player sent off after just three minutes. In a slightly better game Senegal beat Poland 2 – 1 which was somewhat unexpected and caused some wonderful celebrations amongst the colourful African supporters.

In the evening game the hosts Russia faced Egypt and run out pretty comfortable 3 – 1 winners. Little was expected of the home nation before the tournament but they have started with two wins out of two, scoring eight goals in the process with ony one conceded, and they are looking a decent side. I think they might surprise people a bit more than they already have.

Weather – still awful!

Because these entries are  all so short I shall go straight onto the 20th and 21st here which explains the title.

Wednesday 20th of June and I may as well start with the weather which was still garbage although there was talk of it picking up by the weekend. I’ve heard that one before!

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As for breakfast, well, what exactly is going on here? Two days in a row and never an Ulster Fry in sight. I must be slipping. I reverted to my Canadian favourite of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup although I am going to have to be careful as the “sirop d’erable” is running low. I shall need to resupply soon.

My brother was heading off with some of his biker mates for a few days round Fermanagh and Donegal on their Honda CBXs. My brothers machine is 40 years old now and it is absolutely pristine. I’ll have to get out for a run with him before I leave as it is way too long since I was on a large bike, even riding pillion. My sister-in-law was away to Bulgaria for a “girls week away” and my nephew had taken himself to Donegal with friends for a week which left his lizard to be cared for so guess who got the job.

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I went down to be introduced to the lovely looking chap whose image you see above. He is a bearded lizard which is a species that I believe originates in Australia and feeding him could not be simpler as it only needs to be done every couple of days and consists of putting some pre-prepared rocket and spinach salad on the lid of a Tupperware container and putting it down in front of him. Best of all it only needs to be done every two or three days as they do not eat too much. I asked about water and was informed that they don’t need much, if any at all, as they get all the moisture they need from the food but he always has a small container of it just in case he gets extra thirsty.

People who remember me from Virtual Tourist and TravBuddy days will know that I am fond of quoting a saying from my late grandmother that “it is a poor day that you don’t learn something”. For a woman who left school at age 14 some years before the first World War she really was very wise. What I learnt today was that this particular lizard is purely carnivorous as a juvenile but becomes almost completely vegetarian in adulthood hence the rocket salad. I say almost as my brother showed me a container of live maggots and a pair of long tweezers which he told me I could use to feed the beast if I was OK with it although it was not essential. OK with it? Just try to stop me. If I can manage it with only one pair of hands I shall take a video of the event and post it here. The best thing of all is that the little chap only needs feeding about every two or three days which certainly makes it much less onerous than dog-sitting.

Time for a quick football (soccer) World Cup update. Portugal beat Morocco by yet another Ronaldo goal in a pretty poor game. After the way they played against Spain I really expected more from them. Uruguay 1 – Saudi 0 and Spain 1 – Iran 0 were both predictable results although Spain, like Portugal, were nothing like at their best which can be very good indeed.

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Approaching the longest day of the year it was still pretty light at about 2230 in the evening even on what had been a fairly overcast day. It is amazing how much difference a few hundred miles North makes between where I normally am in London and back in Northern Ireland.

Pretty boring I know but I am not really in a position to go anywhere at present. I promise I will do something interesting to report here when I get the chance and as this entry is also pretty short I shall carry straight on.

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Thursday 21st of June was a day of doing very little and the weather so bad that I did not leave the house all day, it really was dismal. That is the first part of my three point writing plan and so on swiftly to the second which is breakfast. Readers who were wondering if I had become ill as I had not had a fried breakfast for two days will see from the image that they need not have worried and as a little bonus I shall include another image of the complete set of equipment I need to make these delicious bellybusting meals. It certainly saves on the washing up!

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This is all it takes

I call these fry-ups breakfast although that may be stretching a point as this one was not consumed until nearly 1430. I cannot eat for a few hours after I wake up and just refer to my first meal of the day in the proper sense of the word as it is when I “break the fast” of my sleep. To be honest, I will eat them at any time of the day or night and frequently do.

I’ll finish off with the final element of my entries, the football (soccer) World Cup.  Given the awful weather I watched all three games in full

Denmark 1 – Australia 1. Eriksen, who plays for Spurs in London opened the scoring with a brilliant goal. Later on Austrlia had a penalty for handball after a VAR review. The acronym stands for Video Assitant Referee and has completely divided opinion amongst those who follow “the beautiful game”. I’ll go into it fully at future date but, however the pen was awarded. it was scored convincingly under pressure by The Aussie skipper. Towards the end of the match Australia had several good chances and might well have won.

France 1 – Peru 0 was not a great game with France just doing enough to ease past Peru by the slimmest of margins and they are out now.

Arg 0 – Cro 3. A scrappy first half with one good chance each missed by each side which was disappointing as this should have been a really good game contested by two decent sides. Second half Croatia were much better and Argentina were poor, very poor. Their superstar, Lionel Messi was completely MIA (missing in action) as was most of the South American side. The first goal was a complete rick by the Argentinian keeper Caballero which was punished by a great shot by Radic.
If Messi is the Argentinian talisman then Luka Modric performs that function for Croatia and he did not disappoint with an absolute peach of a second goal. A game where “vigorous” tackling had been much in evidence then got completely ratty and there could easily have been red cards. The third by Rakitic on full time merely rubbed salt in the wound and leaves Argentina, amongst the pre-tournament favourites, in serious danger of not getting out of the group.

After the football I was flicking through the channels on the TV and happened upon pure gold. I am a huge fan of Monty Python and the various solo projects of the members, one of which was the wonderful Ripping Yarns written by and starring Michael Palin and Terry Jones. I think Palin may be my favourite Python not just for his humour but for the way he re-invented himself as one of the worlds leading travel presenters. I have adored everything he has done in that field because of my own love of travel. OK, I know it helps to have the weight of the BBC and a massive budget behind you but he has certainly been around a bit and I do love his presenting style. I would love to see his old passports!

As for the Ripping Yarns this evening I had a real treat as there were three episodes back to back, – Tomkinson’s Schooldays, The Testing of Eric Olthwaite and Escape from Stalag Luft 112B. I have seen them all before but it is some time since I did and it was great fun to revisit them. If you have not seen them I do suggest you search them out.

All of this and a bit more writing up this journal offline took me to bedtime where again I slept like a log.

Stay tuned and spread the word.