Monthly Archives: July 2015

“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.”