“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!

“I will prepare and some day my chance will come.”

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It is so good to be back but, then again, we haven’t really been anywhere. The odd day out, the local hotel/resort, new and old shopping malls, all the usual, mundane matters of life, bog-standard everyday activities I suppose. Oh! And work of course. Every so often, sometimes, just once in a lifetime, an opportunity comes along and it is so darn tempting that you already know that if you don’t jump at the chance then regret may follow you all your days. On the other hand, there may be even more regret in taking the opportunity. With this conundrum in mind, full consideration is now being given to a most fascinating, new career opportunity. Oh yes, it is absolutely real and genuine and just there for the taking. The pay is immaterial but the kudos, being the centre of attention down the pub, the stories you could tell your mates and the photos you could show the grand-kiddies. Well, what say you..?

Muscat-Daily-Press

 

 

 

 

May 21, 2015

Muscat 40 °C

Saudi advertises for swordsmen as execution rate soars

 

 

 

 

 

Riyadh –

Saudi Arabia advertised vacancies for eight executioners Tuesday after beheading nearly as many people since the start of the year as it did in the whole of 2014.

The civil service ministry said that no qualifications were necessary and that applicants would be exempted from the usual entrance exams.

It said that as well as beheadings, the successful candidates would be expected to carry out amputations ordered by the courts.

Amputation of one or both hands is a routine penalty for theft. Drug trafficking, rape, murder, apostasy and armed robbery are all punishable by death.

Most executions are carried out by beheading, but a few are carried out by firing squad, stoning or crucifixion.

All are carried out in public and video footage sometimes appears on the Internet despite a ban on filming.

In January, gruesome footage was posted of a Myanmarese woman protesting her innocence before being beheaded by a swordsman on a public street in Mecca.

Ignoring her screams, the white-robed executioner forces her to lie down on the ground, near a pedestrian crossing, then severs her head with a curved sword. The official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said that Layla bint Abdul Mutaleb Bassim had been sentenced to death for killing her husband’s six year old daughter.

The vacancies were advertised on the ministry’s website in the ‘religious jobs’ section.

Last year, Saudi Arabia executed 87 people, according to an AFP tally, ranking it third in the world for use of the death penalty.

Already this year, it has put 85 people to death in what human rights group Amnesty International has described as a ‘macabre spike’.

On Tuesday, a convicted serial rapist of young girls was beheaded in Riyadh, SPA reported.

The Interior Ministry says the death penalty is an important deterrent. But on a visit to Riyadh this month, French President Francois Hollande said capital punishment ‘should be banned’.

AFP

 

Now, where’s that CV and covering letter?

 

Delicious Ambiguity –

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“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.”

Gilda Radnor

So we embarked upon a rag-tag of opportunities and spontaneity, filling our free time (of which there doesn’t seem to be much these days) doing things so as to please and satisfy our adventurous spirits. Nothing too taxing or foolhardy, as we might have done in days gone by, merely doing stuff so as not to be sat indoors all the time. The sun is shining and the heat is on the up, up, up so let’s get out there and enjoy it all while it lasts.

It started with a trip to the Royal Opera House to see an unusual version of Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Nutcracker’ where the story had been changed from a Christmas to a birthday. Maybe it was done so as not to offend the predominate religion out here or maybe a clever adaptation to inject some enthusiasm into what can only be considered a well-worn, tried and tested storyline. It appeared to work but left some of us confused as we waited and waited for the appearance of a Christmas tree. It was well into the second half when the penny dropped. Never mind, ballet is ballet and the dancing bit is always a nonsense as far as I’m concerned. Of course, to aspiring ballerinas, such words could be devastating.

As ballets go and I’m certainly no expert, is was okay.

Well aware of how cold and miserable it is in other parts of the world, southern England for example, we try to be thankful for the warming rays that we feel practically every day, throughout the day and also throughout the night as it goes. No aching bones, no chilblains and certainly no frozen toes or faces, the sun never fails to lift our spirits and ward off any depressing thoughts of the economy, a general election or an unequal work/life balance. evening blissIn the cool of the evening, we often take a short journey to the end of the road and walk along the public beach. There are posher beaches close by, where ex-pats hang out with their Pimms, but we prefer the homeliness of the local sands and the local people that go there to relax, wash and race their cars. Yep, it’s probably one of the few places left in the world where there are no restrictions as to where you can drive your car or ride your quad-bike. Golden sands are regularly churned and the peacefulness of the lapping surf broken by revving engines and the spinning of wheels. In some ways it’s a good thing as there are no Big Brother, Nanny State do-gooders telling you what to do and where to do it but on the other hand, it does kind of ruin it for those that are not involved in the mechanical monster thing. Personally, we have to remember who was here first and who it all belongs to; we don’t complain – only to eachother perhaps. We live and let live. Wouldn’t you?

cars, camels and kidsIt’s a case of keep your eyes open, don’t trip over the ruts and enjoy it all as best you can.

beachcomers beware!

Beachcomers beware!

We continue to experiment with any number of new ideas and many of those new things involve food. Continuing with the much lauded and highly acclaimed series ‘Fish I Have Mostly Eaten’ we add to the list to prove our sense of adventure and, well, just for the hell of it really. We still find it odd that not so long ago, in a town somewhere on the south coast of England, we would pay an awful lot of money to view exotic fish swimming around in a tank. Here, we eat them for next to nothing.Parrot Fish

This tasty morsel was fried and believe me it was mouth-wateringly delicious. The large scales were bit of a bugger to deal with but the flesh was nothing less than pure heaven. This pretty Parrot-Fish, exactly the same as you would pay good money to gawp at in a commercial aquarium, was our lunch. Cheap as chips (but we didn’t have chips as it happens) he slipped down a treat and it could only have been improved upon by a drop or two of a chilled, Premier Cru Chablis. Ah well! We live in hope.

At this time, we are sat in the garden planning where to head for next. The glorious return of His Majesty, after a spell in Germany receiving treatment for an illness, has caused an outpouring of emotional loyalty and  we are all expecting a public holiday to be announced. One day, maybe two or even more. Whatever comes our way, we plan to make the most of it because there is still so much more to be seen. So much more to be done.

Why goodness! I haven’t really got time to finish…

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”

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And this, I can assure you, will be your very best friend for ever and ever and ever

See what’s be written about it:

“A stunning read…”

“Five stars, seven if I could…”

“Couldn’t put it down, wouldn’t put it down…”

“Should be read by every person on this planet…”

“Pure genius…”

"A must read..."

“A must read…”

Of course, I said all those things but then that’s just because you haven’t had the time to say them yourselves yet.

Go to Wattpad.com and search for the title Slugs, Snails and Casino Tales.

Read it and I’ll post the second chapter if there’s enough interest (the second chapter is well weird!). Tweet it, instagram it, facebook thingy it, get all your friends and enemies to read the darn thing so I can make a few quid. Blimey! I’d do it for you if you were the literary genius – but you’re not and I am so tell everyone and get them to read and rate it. You wouldn’t want me to send the boys round, now would you?

“What a read. A refreshing insight into the mind of a lunatic…”

Well, you never know…

TTFN

“If history repeats itself, I am so getting a dinosaur!”

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Marhaba!

It certainly has been a long time since we last met. One would expect that we have been busy, busy, busy and to all intents and purposes we have. Unfortunately, we have not been busy with exciting adventures – just life really. We wanted to experience both festival locations this year so we trundled along to Nassem park to see a herd of dinosaurs. Not real dinosaurs, of course, but as real-looking as they can be without having a heartbeat. Animatronics are quite good these days and there were no joins to be seen on their flesh-like foam bodies. Life-sized replicas of all the popular, and very extinct, creatures with names far too long to type were there. Very realistic roars and gurgles came with each specimen although someone did question how we would know what they really sounded like. We could all be so very, very wrong! Nevertheless, speakers blasted out supposed mating calls, roars, whistles and groans then we all pretended that they were alive and ran for our lives.

Don't panic, it's not real.

Don’t panic, it’s not real.

The head swished back and forth, it bobbed up and down, the jaw chattered and little arms scratched at the air, but enough about the wife – Guffaw! We then had the very clever idea to video the animatronics and make a hilarious movie where the models seemingly come alive and chase us around the park. It’s all on the video camera waiting to be uploaded. Waiting, just waiting…

There was a fun fair that too looked like it was from another age. An age before health and safety that is; rattling machinery and metal, clattering and swinging with unnatural forces which we were sure would herald catastrophe. We quickly and quietly moved along. A pleasant evening as things go and we can proudly say we were a part of the Muscat Festival 2015.

Hooray!

Still, not everyone was happy about it…

Oh Dear!

Oh Dear!

Still, you’ve gotta laugh – I did!

Short and sweet – but then so are we…

 

 

I have never seen a critic mention this…

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Hey!

The changing of the seasons; hot and sunny, warm and sunny, cool and sunny bring about those primal changes in us. Exciting summer adventures to be had, overseas trips to enjoy, winter breaks to plan for – so much to do, so little time to do  it.

The kick-start to this year’s warm spring, to be hastily followed by a scorching summer, comes by way of the annual Muscat Festival – which is not unlike a county show really. This is our third visit and although one might expect it to be a bit same(ish), which of course it is, there are still enough new things to keep us interested and delighted at the local bash. Unusually, this year we made a number of purchases from the ‘Around the World’ exhibitions of arts, crafts and all things fancy. We came away with a kite on a stick which, though it might sound a tad dull, is in fact an extremely good toy and it cost us no more than the loose change you might find at the bottom of a pocket where fluff is made. After this initial purchase from ‘China’, we went crazy with a rather gaudy necklace from “Tanzania’ and a make-up/pencil case from “Uzbekistan’; the latter being beautifully embroidered and the former very much a matter of taste. The child, we decided, should be tattooed – as a mark of ownership and just in case we needed to identify her should she ever get lost. Job done!

Branded!

Branded!

 

We enjoyed a cup of sweetcorn kernels with lemon and salt, which is a hugely popular fast-food snack in these parts, followed by a large swirl of candy-floss on a stick (cotton-candy as we now call it) which caused the uncontrollable urge, for those susceptible to a sugar rush, to run amok for fifteen minutes before collapsing into a sorry pile and moaning about everything and nothing. Such is a kid’s life. Cleverly, we arrived just before opening time at around 4pm and left as the crowds were pouring in, thus avoiding the five hour traffic queue that was reported when the world and his dog decided to head home at the same time. If only all life was like that.

Domesticity, shudder at the mere mention of it, still takes precedence and it seems an age since we embarked on any meaningful, mad-cap adventures where we risk life, limb or even a child. As much as the intention is there, there is always something more pressing that prevents us from getting out and about. Have we lost our adventure mojo? One would think so but were you to witness our feverish activity whilst planning this year’s summer hols (and a winter extravaganza too), you would indeed be praising our spirit. This may well be our last chance to pass off myth as reality before someone gets too old and wise to know better. How long will it be before the axe of stark realisation falls to inflict the gaping wound of awareness and those seasonal presents that are left under the tree are surely courtesy of Mum and Dad and not the rotund chap, all beardy and dressed in red with a ho, bloody ho, ho, ho!? We have it in mind to head north, way north, to see the certain gentleman before it’s too late.

Hanging about the house does have certain advantages; you manage to get around to all those niggly little jobs that always seem to be put off until later – like buying a live crab and cooking it, for example.

Not so happy crab

Not so happy crab

 

Having researched the issue on the internet (well it all looked so easy at the time), things never quite turned out as planned. That’s the problem with your celebrity chefs’ cooking shows and Christmas books – everything always turns out so bloody perfect! Well not mine, matey! People need to know this sort of stuff. People need to know that they are not perfect and that it’s okay to cock it up in the kitchen (move along now, no euphemism here). Maybe a new TV series is needed – ‘REAL COOKING’ – fly on the wall stuff with the good, the bad and the downright dangerous. Masterchef has had its day, it’s too nice, too normal; we need something new that we can all relate to, something REAL LIFE. This immediately brings to mind a past attempt at reality TV. A pilot episode of ‘Nude Men Fishing’ was filmed but never quite made it to the editing suite. Could have been a hit, me thinks. This was to be followed by a second series of ‘Nude Men Sailing’ but that one didn’t even get passed the pub door. Only one other old man could testify to this being absolutely true – name and address supplied. Anyway, I digress. If you would like to spend 29 minutes of your valuable lives watching a silly old codger try to kill, cook and eat a mud crab then this is definitely for you.

http://youtu.be/CE9NZp_ytyY

If not, then here is a synopsis of events; buy crab, realise it’s alive, put  in freezer to ‘sleep’, stab in the eyeball to make sure it’s dead (genuine error as it should have been the mouth but which hole is which?), back in the freezer as he’s obviously still alive’ (the stabbing sparked him into action, I can tell you!), tie him up, put it into boiling water but pot is too small, procure industrial size pot from canteen, boil him, cool him in ice, break off his claws and legs, eat the contents of his head and the meat from claws, make a small sandwich with remainder, retire for a nap. A certain spider-crab caught off the Isle of Wight and immediately cooked onboard the good ship Tom B’ aside, this was the finest, tastiest crab ever consumed. It will certainly be repeated but for now, there is a lobster giving it large at the fishmongers. It really was absolutely brilliant! Astonishing! Bit like a good book I know.

 

As the first chapter of a much anticipated novel nears completion, the job now at hand is to find a literary agent who is willing (or stupid enough) to take it on to punt around for a publication deal. Rave reviews accompany the opening chapter; ‘The new Harry Potter for the next generation’, ‘an exciting and devilish good read’, ‘a breath of fresh air in a stale world of clap-trap fiction’ “I couldn’t put it down, I still can’t, I carry it around with me everywhere’, and ‘an exciting new writer of sheer brilliance with a blinding talent for writing best-sellers that simply rakes in the dosh’. Admittedly all self-acclaimed but that should make those publishers sit up and take a bit of notice, eh? Maybe an anonymous benefactor will raise some funding on a ‘fund me’ website and get this literary masterpiece into print. Maybe not? Suffice to say, it’s a ‘rollicking good read’, based on many a true story gained from twenty-five miserable years in the casino industry; ‘a revelation with laugh out loud anecdotes’ (author’s acclaim again). Get in touch publishers and agents but only if you want to strike it rich with ‘a genius of the pen’ (I really must stop it now). For your delectation, a short extract from ‘Slugs, Snails and Casino Tales’.

Chapter 1 – Business as Usual

 

“Get his money!”

 

Sheer Brilliance!

How do you top that?

Until the next time,

Run fast and stay low,

Yalla Hiyak!