“All men are equal before fish.”

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Hey!

Hot off the press, or straight out of the frying pan, whichever way you want to look at it; dripping in unhealthy butter, fried to perfection with some crispy bits around the edge, this little beauty was pure heaven. Not very surprising as that’s where he probably is right now. Oh, so tasty and what a colourful chap too!

Shaam Silver Bream

Shaam Silver Bream

Mmmm! Fish I have mainly eaten…

As soon as the editing suite is available, a rare treat – driving home in one almighty dust storm. Coming to a PC near you soon…

“Don’t assume that every fin you see belongs to a dolphin!”

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Marhaba!

For a birthday treat and by way of recompense for some hard work thus far; it was decided that we should all head for a plush hotel and enjoy a weekend of generally laying about and doing very little, sitting around a pool being waited on hand and foot. Now, our usual haunt has slipped down our table of all-time favourites recently, as reported on Trip Advisor, so a new leisure industry recipient was needed. No less than we deserve, of course, we headed for the The Al Bustan Palace (a Ritz-Carlton hotel) only a half hour drive away down the coast.

Built some 30 years ago to host a GCC conference, the hotel is very much a resort and a fine, luxury one at that. Some stunning pools, secluded gardens and a private, golden sand beach, this is just what we needed but more importantly, just what we deserved.

come on in, the water's cool!

come on in, the water’s cool!

The hotel is lavish although, for the sake of at least one complaint, the bed was a little too soft for our liking. Perfection doesn’t come easy in our book. Nevertheless, it was all that it should have been and probably a little bit more at that. The food was pretty darn good too. The lamb chops were simply to die for! (me only on that account).

A step inside

A step inside the reception lounge

In light of recent events, that being our Japanese fighting fish expiring whilst we were in the UK. We took to the open seas in order to observe fish in their natural habitat, as opposed to my chopping board or the plastic aquarium (check next blog for the former!).

YES! We know that dolphins are not fish, they’re mammals of course, so we booked to see them in their natural surroundings. As much as I wanted a fishing rod in one hand and a cool beer in the other, it was not going to be that sort of trip so off we set with Captain Ahab in search of things that live in the salty sea. The charge for this morning trip was most reasonable and a lot less than any of the U.K. attractions for which we have recently been ripped off. It wasn’t too long before a welcoming party of inquisitive dolphin types, bottle-nose probably, came up close to investigate and entertain. As they frolicked and played, we oohed! and ahhhed! and took some photos. What else is there to do on a dolphin watching trip? We perched ourselves up on the pointy end of the boat and presented our foreheads and noses to the morning sun in order to receive our second degree burns.

A couple of the, usually elusive, creatures.

A couple of cheeky mammals.

We steamed ahead and circled for a while and the dolphins remained curious enough to get up nice and close for our viewing pleasure, plus the odd snapshot.

Flipper! Is that you?

Flipper! Is that you?

Curiosity didn’t last long though and they soon took off to playgrounds new. Captain Barnacles, not wanting to disappoint these particular tourists, took off after them and soon we were in hot pursuit of the now elusive creatures. No matter how hard they tried to outrun us though, Captain Pugwash’s twin 350 Yamahas were no match for them – not until they dived below the surface and we could no longer see them that is. I think they were toying with us but hey ho, it’s their prerogative – what with them being the more intelligent of the creatures among us.

It was about right anyway as too much of a good thing becomes less special otherwise. To fill the remaining thirty minutes of our morning tour, Captain Kidd decided to cool down our faces with a blast of cooling sea air so he released the remaining horses from the twin monsters attached to the rear of the boat and we took off at high speed with legs still straddled either side of the bowsprit.

With the wind in our hair – eruptions came later as the knots needed brushing out – we took in the sights of the coastline and if you have little to do with your cold, wet and miserable autumnal evenings, you can do no better than to spend ten minutes of your valuable time watching this actual sea journey on youtube. Why, here’s the link for you right now:

http://youtu.be/szmWTaVZ_Wg

a view

a view

All in all, it was immense fun and with a whole day lazing around a fabulous infinity pool still to look forward to (with a little man bringing chilled fruit on a stick to your poolside sun- lounger), well, it’s just what the doctor ordered.

From amongst the thousands of fan emails to this much lauded and highly acclaimed blog, it seems that another family photograph is deeply desired by you all so, here it is, another for the family album.

It just gets better and better and better! As we approach the start of Year 4 out here, we reflect and wonder as to where the time has gone? And in case you are wondering as to any deviation from our main purpose – rest assured, we remain, ON HOLIDAY FOREVER!

On another note, here are Japanese George the fighting fish’s replacements. Long may they swim.

New kids on the wet-block

New kids on the wet-block

That’s pretty much it then. Don’t forget, coming right up after this commercial message from our sponsors, more in the enlightening series; ‘FISH I HAVE MAINLY EATEN.’

It’s worth waiting for, so stay tuned…

Get in!

“I know the human being and fish can co-exist peacefully.”

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Continuing with the much lauded, highly acclaimed and compulsive series:

“Fish I Have Mainly Eaten.”

Once again we delve deep, deep into the oceans and even deeper into our pockets. The price of fish is going up at an alarming rate. This little beauty is called the ‘Samman Hamour.’

Samman Hamour

Samman Hamour

This specimen is about 18 inches in length and is a popular fish locally, or so I am told. I personally sliced (filleted) the little fella and fully intend to dust him in some lightly seasoned flour and fry him in lashings of unhealthy butter. And I’m quite sure, were he able to vocalise a preference; it’s what he would want me to do. And how does he taste?

Well…

This literary masterpiece has sat in the draft section of the blog for some time now and the fillets of fish have sat in the freezer for even longer. I believe the texture of the fish, when cooked, is somewhat moist and a tad slimy but it is only my belief. The flesh is firm when raw however, I’m sure we sampled this type of fish once before in a restaurant a few years ago.

For now, there are no plans to retrieve said fillets from their frozen embrace in the freezer. Come the time they are up and dressed in a flour coat, I’ll let you know all about it.

Why is this page being concluded then? It’s time for another new and exciting feature called,

‘Dead fish we come upon whilst walking along the beach during the afternoons.’

A classic in the making, I can assure you. And, just to whet your appetite, here is a spoiler:

Ray no more

Ray no more

Until very, very soon, TTFN

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”

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On the sad occasion that we embarked upon our journey to dear old England, it was decided that the opportunity should not pass us by and we should do something touristy to cheer ourselves up.

What could be more touristy than the greatest of Capital Cities: LONDON.

Actually, if you’ve lived and worked in the city for most of your life, going there for a day out might seem a little mundane. But, if you are entertaining younger ones, then it’ll be everything that you make it. Why, we had a couple of young ones in tow so the expectation was fun, fun, fun. First stop, The Tower of London and the Crown Jewels.

You cannot get more touristy than The Tower but the herding of tourists around a circuit to view the history of the place takes something away from the experience. Remember, here in Oman there is no herding, or ropes, or barriers of beefy men to keep you out or any safety ropes keeping you in. In fact, it’s do as you darn well like here. So, to be restricted in our tourist type viewing pleasures, it all felt a little stifled and uncomfortable. Ah well! The kids knew no better and enjoyed all that was placed before and presented to them. The Crown Jewels were a wonder to behold and even more of a wonder when you consider how much wealth was in that one room, held by one household, but how much poverty lay beyond it. Something didn’t seem quite right, especially as we are not the ones holding all that lovely, shiny, sparkly stuff. If nothing else, we added it to our list of things done and enjoyed that day. We took Christopher Robin and Alice (not their real names, of course) to Buckingham Palace to stand outside and, well, look at it. We spotted guards guarding and crowds crowding. We took a photo having moved swiftly across Green Park and then up to Trafalgar Square We took another obligatory photo of a small child in front of one of the lions that guard Nelson’s Column. As my father did to me, and his father before him and possibly his father before him, so on and so forth; we shoved our small child onto the plinth and snapped the shot that shows another generation doing the thing tourists do in London’s Trafalgar Square. A pleasant dinner in Leicester Square then it was back home with the train taking all the strain. As days go, it was none too shabby and in case you have yet to enjoy such a day in London, well you can now enjoy ours.

London Town

London Town

London Life

London Life

No one we know either!

We had, in quite a different place, the most appalling lunch at the most expensive price. Personally, my drink was rather nice and the objects D’art dangling about the flower vase was quite attractive but apart from that, we don’t expect to be giving our patronage to this particular establishment any time soon.

My Bevvy

My drink and some charms on a vase

We visited a cafe in a village and had a wonderful lunch. We had a large ‘family’ gathering lunch and even fish and chips. We took the opportunity to visit a Roald Dahl museum which was, it must be said but only a personal opinion, a complete waste of money and jolly expensive too. If you want to know why then have a look on Trip Advisor which explains so much more of the displeasure we encountered there. Suffice to say, lots of pictures which are stuck to a wall and a mock up of a shed with a few models dotted about, do not an interesting place make. Have a look at this museum model and you tell me if you just had a good time?

Interesting?

Clever? Yes, but interesting?

Granted, a nice model but having looked at it for a moment or two, you simply move along. It’s a scene from a story, apparently. For the little ‘uns, there’s not too much to enthral, entertain, amuse or astound. For adults, even less. Ah! But what about the grave? Yes, you can have a pleasant hike up a hill to the local church and see the last resting place of the author himself. Sure as we can be that he was probably a nice enough bloke, we took to taking arty pictures of the church instead.

If it's Black and White, it must be art, right?

If it’s Black and White it must be art, right?

We went to a park, had a picnic (in a different place), threw stale bread at ducks and other water fowl, ambled about, window shopped and did all things touristy before returning to the luxury of desert living and heat that has managed to top 51 degrees C so far this year.

All in all, we did what we could to enjoy ourselves on what was, sadly, a somewhat sombre occasion.

And some things, as mentioned, never seem to change…

2015

2015

circa 1959

circa 1959

“Every life deserves a certain amount of dignity, no matter how poor or damaged the shell that carries it.”

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I remember a time when things were not as good as they are today. I remember those times with a fondness that unjustifiably gives it a worthy place in my happy memories. Why do I mention this?

A smell, a song, a word or maybe just a thought that takes me back to a time when the future was golden and very promising. Being poor was not so bad. Mainly because we did not know we were so. Sure, kids up the street had stuff that we didn’t but by the same token, I recall having things that other kids did not. It was definitely a hierarchy of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ and we all knew our place. There were many things that one could do to either drag yourself out of the poverty rut or appear to the world around you that you were wealthier than you actually were. One way was to own and race a greyhound.

My father did just that; raced a grey hound at a ‘flapper track,’ which was a sprint over one hundred yards or so in pursuit of a stuff rabbit being whizzed along tied to the end of a rope which was towed by a big wheel spinning jolly fast. Now greyhound racing doesn’t come cheap, as you can imagine. In order to keep, train and race said greyhound something, somewhere had to give. The easy option for any parent is to skimp on the food given to the kids because the little blighters don’t know any better and here is how it was presented to us for the duration of the greyhound’s keep (before it was kicked out for losing too many races). Feeding a racing greyhound wasn’t as simple as throwing down a tin of Pedigree chum. Oh no! Specially prepared food had to be conjured up from fresh ingredients, only the very best as it was an investment – an investment in your greyhound with hopes for a return as winner’s cash (not to mention the gambling) that went with it.

Recipe of the day, for the dog mind you, was Corned Beef, Potatoes and Cabbage. I cannot say for sure why this combination was fit for a racing greyhound but I was never in a position to question it. Carbs, protein, iron, who knows? Now the dog got first pickings and, quite frankly, what the dog couldn’t eat was given to us kids as leftovers. Absolutely true I tell you and in memory of those days, I conjured up that most familiar meal just now. It looks jolly appetising to me, but maybe from the comfort of your cucumber sandwich, middle class perspective,  it doesn’t to you…

Pre- mashed serving

Pre- mashed serving

In keeping with my food, beverage and cookery aspect of the blog, I present the culinary delight (chef has certainly excelled himself this evening) that is ‘Greyhound Food.’

Now the trick is, because you don’t eat it like that, silly-billy, to mash it all up and fashion it into something that looks like a cake – “Go on kids, get it down ya, yum, yum!” I can her the old fella now, like it was yesterday. ” Eat up or the dog will have seconds!” Once it took on the appearance of a cake, slightly, just slightly, it would trick us kids into believing that it was something delicious to eat. I mean, the dog scoffed it up like no one’s business so it must be yummy, right? Eating it in that state would be downright ridiculous, of course, so mash, mash, mash…

Good enough to eat, right?

Good enough to eat, right? The dog thought so!

So it was, today I took a trip down memory lane, remembering my siblings, a certain poverty, magical times that now seem full of woe and all the other ‘fond memories.’ of an era probably best forgotten.  And the ‘greyhound food?’ Well, it was blooming delicious and boy can I run fast now!

Go on the six dog!

Go on the six dog!

As for the greyhound… It never won a race. No, I tell a lie because one Saturday lunchtime it jumped up on the kitchen table and ate my beef-burger (cheap, processed rubbish, wafer thin, barely containing any beef – or even meat for that matter). Father was livid; why it would never run fast now, having scoffed that crap food (Oh, but it was okay to feed it to us kids though!). Well, down at the flapper track old Streaky came flying in to beat all contenders but because of the burger theft, it was the one and only time dear father didn’t have a bet. Doh!! He later told me he had Streaky to a new, caring owner. I fully believe he smashed it’s head in with a spade, but I can’t prove anything.

And to prove a point, here he is (or was it a she, I can’t remember). Circa sometime in the swinging sixties when everything was groovy and anoraks were hip.

Streaky - or not as the case was.

Streaky – or not as the case was.

Ramadan has just about come to and end here. The fasting will shortly give way to Eid and the ritual slaughter of a vast number of animals will begin. Traditionally, this is done at home, the slitting of the animal’s throat that is. The government has kindly provided 571 disposal sites for carcasses, which suggest that it is a very, very popular thing to do. Not as popular as Corned Beef, Potatoes and Cabbage, I bet? And not half as tasty either…

Eid Mubarak!

1955 – DMS – 2015

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“My sister will die over and over again for the rest of my life. Grief is forever. It doesn’t go away; it becomes a part of you, step for step, breath for breath. I will never stop grieving because I will never stop loving her. That’s just how it is. Grief and love are conjoined, you don’t get one without the other. All I can do is love her, and love the world, emulate her by living with daring and spirit and joy.”

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”

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Marhaba!

There are a number of exciting food items to try every day, if you are the adventurous type. Some of these delicious items you have already seen here, unfamiliar fish along with fruit and vegetables that get you wondering which part, exactly, should be eaten or thrown away. With the summer-time heat blazing away and the inside walls of the villa radiating heat like a tandoori oven, energy levels sap and there is not much to do other than to meddle with eatables that are often strange.

Custard Apple

Custard Apple

This little beauty is a ‘Custard Apple’ however, it neither resembles custard nor does it look anything like an apple. It does have the taste of both when you eat the soft, white fleshy part and spit out the black pip but it is a subtle taste and it could easily be mistaken for wallpaper paste. It is said to have healing properties for certain diseases, it’s expensive and fun to try in a messy sort of finger-food way.

One of the great additions to our range of electrical items is a juicer. When we find we are not quite sure what to do with our fruit and veg, we blitz it all and drink the juice. It is a messy business to prepare, involves a fair bit of cleaning up afterwards and produces a frothy liquid that can be difficult to swallow but we are told it is good for us and who are we to buck the trend. Oranges are always readily available so they are a regular item in the smashing, slicing, dicing , blitzing game that is our juicer.

sweet

sweet

A word of warning! Juicers are fine for immediate consumption. The juice will NOT keep. It immediately begins to separate into froth at the top and clearer juice at the bottom and even though it is chilled and kept in a glass container, the taste will quickly mar and a certain bitterness will set in. It is pointless keeping it in plastic containers as the deterioration is even quicker. Had we known this, we would have gone for the more expensive ‘PRESS’ system, shunning the centrifugal job we have now. Pressed fruit and veg will keep a day or so in the fridge so you can enjoy that healthy drink in the mornings without the work to prepare it. Unfortunately, we can’t be bothered with it all that fuss in the morning so it is a weekend fiasco for us.

Having spent a lifetime thinking that dates only came in a long, thin wooden box with ‘EAT ME’ labelled on the front, I for one was surprised to learn that dates are not only a Christmas delicacy but an all year staple food item in these parts. The varieties are plentiful with many unpronounceable names. They are stuffed with nuts or fruit, covered in chocolate or sprinkled with herbs and spices. You can even pick them from the tree and eat them fresh, which is very often done and encouraged as a way to feed the poor. There are specific roadside trees planted exactly for the purpose of subsidising the needy in terms of food. Why give them money when you can plant their food for them. Brilliant! One of the best varieties are called Khallus (sic) and covered in cardamom – they are a real treat. For so many years these things were despised but now they are revered but too often the cause of a runny bottom due to over indulgence. There’s always a drawback!

Mmmmm!

Mmmmm!

They may not look too appetising but by goodness they are sweet (with a hint of cardamom in this instance).

That’s it for today, because it’s eight-thirty in the morning and already 42 degrees C. outside and too hot to venture further than the front door – from the land of the pomegranate where they grow on tress in the mountains and can be bought for less than loose change; the secret to getting the lush red seeds out without having to eat the bitter pith is finally revealed. No need for a pin and patience. With this method you can shovel the juicy nutlets into your mouth by the spoonful – or stick them in your juicer for some interesting sound effects!

easy when you know how!

Slice into quarters and separate the peel and inner pith from the juicy red seeds in a bowl  UNDER WATER. Keep it under the water’s surface whilst working and this prevents any squirting, splashing, staining red juice on your best pinny. The seeds sink and the pith floats. AMAZING! Skim off the pith then rinse the seeds whilst gently rubbing between the hands to separate any stubborn pith and ENJOY! I recommend the juicer again as the seeds can be a bit chewy and, after all, it is only the juice that we are interested in; right? Don’t suffer the expense of the commercial ‘Pommejuice’. Make your own with no added chemicals. As you can see, there are some cheeky Lychees here just waiting to be peeled. Oh, the anticipation!

Live lobsters are readily available so having mastered the art of crab cooking (see previous posts) I thought it was time to despatch one of these sea crustaceans and advance my knowledge of seafood preparation and cooking. Rude not to in this land of plenty. There is a plethora of squid and cuttle fish here too but I really do have to draw the line somewhere, at least for the moment.

Hoping to keep it all down…

Ramadam approaches fast!