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Story location: Home / Blog / films /

This sort of film shouldn't be allowed. It's just too easy to make a film which makes Americans look like a bunch of intolerant bigots or racists. It's just not sporting at all.

This is the film to watch if you want to see a Jew lay an egg, an ice-cream van with a bear inside, Sacha Baron Cohen risk his life by parodying the American National Anthem at a rodeo. Don't watch if you're easily offended. Do watch if you want to see a hilarious 'documentary' about modern American society.

Good Food Show

Story location: Home / Blog / birmingham /

Anthony Worral Thompson We only bought our tickets a week ago - we decided to go because we found out that some of Emma's friends from home (Judy and Helen) were going, and we were going to meet them there. We had tickets for the 10:30 Anthony Worral Thompson theatre show so we turned up in plenty of time to wander through the hall and start sampling the food and drink on offer.

We took our seats in the theatre, only to find Helen and Judy sitting behind us, just a few seats away. The cookery demonstration wasn't as destructive as last year, with no kitchen equipment falling apart. Gordon Ramsay did get mentioned a few times. AWT referred to how he doesn't dislike Ramsay and considers him a good chef, but since it isn't reciprocated he referred to him as a bit of a prat.

There were other celebrity chefs doing public demonstrations in the halls. We saw Paul Rankin and James Martin at various times but didn't hang around to watch. There were too many free samples to go after.

It wasn't all free food though. We did buy some things - a few bottles of cider, some 'nairns' oat cakes, some 'seabrooks' crisps, an assortment of Hersheys chocolate/Reeses peanut butter sweets, and some cooking oil. It was a lot to carry around with us by the time we were ready to leave.

Moving House part 2

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

The house-hunting stage is over. We've found a house, made an offer, had it accepted, and sorted out the mortgage. Everything is now in the hands of the solicitors.

We received our copy of the survey last week and were apalled by the numerous mistakes and general poor quality of the report. Here is a sample:

The main roof is pitched, timber framed and clad with tiled roof covering. There is no evidence of significant distortion or timber noted

Does that mean no evidence of timer? Or distortion to the timber?

Rainwater fittings are formed in a mixture of PVC.

End of sentence. Mixture of PVC and... what?

It is assumed that there in adequate structural

End of sentence. Should that be is adequate or is inadequate or what? Even then, adequate structural... what?

The waste pipes to the rear are of PVC section and were also defective. These appear to be in good serviceable condition.

The previous sentence made no mention of anything else being defective, so the also doesn't make sense. And how can something be defective and in good condition at the same time?

There were also numerous grammatical errors, using it's instead of its and changes in tense such as using required instead of requires. The whole report read like it was amateurishly botched together by someone using cut and paste to take sentences from another report.

e.surv Ltd of Kettering, you should be ashamed of yourselves sending us such a shoddy piece of work.

Itchy and Scratchy

Story location: Home / Blog / work /

I had my hair cut on the way to work this morning, with the intention of having a shower when I got to the office. There was a sign on the shower door saying it was out of order so I walked down 2 flights of stairs to the next shower. No 'out of order' sign so I got in and turned the taps. No water. Turned the taps fully one way then the other. Got a brief squirt of water for a second then nothing. I couldn't be bothered walking down 2 more floors to try another one. Looks like I'll be stuck wearing a hairy shirt for the rest of the day.

Sandy's Birthday

Story location: Home / Blog /

We got back to Coventry this afternoon, after our trip up north for Sandy's 60th birthday. It was a good party, with a buffet, cheesecake, and dancing. We took Emma's stereo to provide the music and Sandy provided the CDs with a fairly eclectic selection of music, ranging from Neil Diamond to the Scissor Sisters.

The cake was impressive, based on their back garden:

The Cake
Close-up of the cake.

The Cake
Candles being blown out.

Slow Train Coming

Story location: Home / Blog / birmingham /

This morning's journey to work took about three times as long as it normally does. The journey was ok until the approach to Birmingham International where the train sat motionless for a few minutes before pulling into the station.

After a short wait an announcement was made telling us we had to leave the train and board a different one on another platform. Everyone dutifully trudged over to that platform and started to cram themselves onto the train but it soon filled up and left, with half the people still on the platform. The 'paddle waver' (who seems to be there to indicate to the driver whether anything's trapped in the door) had made a swift departure and had gone into hiding so there was no-one to ask what was happening.
Departure board
I went up to the concourse to wait, but that proved to be almost as cold and draughty as the platform. There was an announcement that all trains to New Street had been cancelled. A few minutes later we were told to go to another platform and board the train there. We were warned that due to a trackside failure the train would proceed slowly to New Street. Then about a minute later we were told that the train was out of service and to return to the concourse for further news. The train driver did admit that the delays were caused by an overhead power line failure though.

Eventually we managed to get onto a train which was bound for Liverpool. This stopped at most of the local stations on the way to New Street but at least it was moving. The whole sorry comedy of errors meant that I got to work about an hour late.

German Market

Story location: Home / Blog / birmingham /

The German Market is back in Birmingham for the run-up to Christmas, in it's usual place at the Victoria Square/New Street area. Last year I bought some really tasty candied macadamia nuts from one of the stalls so I decided to get some more.

I popped down during my lunch break. The first 'nut stall' I got to, there was nobody manning it but there was a 'Help Wanted' sign. They must have gone to lunch. The second stall was up and running. The bags of macadamias were 50p cheaper at this one but I decided to get the larger bag of assorted nuts instead.

An Unexpected Guest

Story location: Home / Blog /

I got home tonight and went upstairs to get changed. I was surprised to see a cat's head poking out from under the duvet. It was that cat from down the road. It was raining when Emma got home and the cat was waiting outside our house. She followed Emma in when the door was opened, raced upstairs and hid in the bedroom.

Council Tax

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

It's fun dealing with Coventry City Council. I received a Council Tax bill from them last month for my old address (which was shared with 2 other people). The council, displaying their usual flair for efficiency, didn't get around to sending us the bill for the property until 5 months after we had moved out. It took them a further year to track me down and demand payment.

Unfortunately as I seem to be the only one still living in Coventry they are demanding that I either provide the names and addresses of the other two, or pay the full amount and then try to claim the money back from the others. They offered no other help and basically said that I was responsible for sorting it out.

Thankfully I still had Nathan's mobile number so I phoned him and he got in touch with Rachel. Rachel paid her share on-line although (carelessly or otherwise) managed to round it down by nearly £2. Nathan claims the cheque for his share is 'in the post'. The council have offered a slight extension while I wait for the post office to complete their tardy business and perform the herculean task of moving a letter the 5 miles from Bedworth to Coventry. Hopefully that'll be the end of the matter.

Oven temperature conversion

Story location: Home / bits-n-bobs /
Gas Mark ° C ° F
¼ 110 225
½ 130 250
1 140 275
2 150 300
3 170 325
4 180 350
5 190 375
6 200 400
7 220 425
8 230 450
9 240 475

Home made Pizza

Story location: Home / food_and_drink / pizza /

Saturday night has become our traditional 'home made pizza' night. Emma makes the base and I make the tomato sauce and then we sort out the toppings.

Pizza Base

  • 8oz bread flour (white or wholemeal flour)
  • 1 tsp bakers yeast
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tps dried herbs
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 tsp vegetable oil
  • ¼ pint warm water

Mix the yeast with a little water and wait until it starts to 'bubble'. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the salt and herbs. Add the yeast, water and oil and mix to form a dough. Knead for around 10 minutes before returning it to the bowl. Leave for about an hour until it has started to rise.

Divide the mixture in two, roll out and cover with the chosen toppings. One alternative is to make a 'stuffed crust' by putting a ring of spreading cheese around the pizza, about 1 inch in from the edge. Fold the edge inwards to cover the cheese.

Tomato Sauce

  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp mixed herbs
  • pinch of chilli flakes
  • pinch of salt

Put everything in a food processor or liquidizer and puree. Pour into a pan and simmer gently for about 1 hour until the mixture has cocentrated down to a thick paste. You may need to stir occasionally to make sure it cooks down evenly and doesn't stick or burn. Leave to cool slightly before spreading on the the base.


The range of suitable toppings is almost infinite but we tend to stick to either chicken/turkey based, seafood based or vegetable based. We sometimes do combinations such as a paella style topping, with saffron and paprika in the tomato sauce and a mixure of chicken and seafood on top.

Most of our pizza toppings include capers and anchovies along with the obligatory cheese. For the cheese we either use proper mozarella, sometimes grated cheddar or even feta. The seafood pizzas often include tinned tuna, baby clams, crabmeat and sometimes king prawns. Vegetable toppings include sliced onion and peppers or sometimes to cheat, a scattering of a frozen 'roast veg' mixture which includes peppers, courgettes and aubergines.

When everything is on the base, bake in a pre-heated oven (gas mark 6) for about 15 minutes.

Armistice Day

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

We were walking from Broadgate to the High Street when we heard the bell sounding at 11am. Most people stopped what they were doing and stood silently observing the Armistice. People stood and watched the Godiva clock leap into action, with Lady Godiva riding past on her horse and Peeping Tom leering at her from above.

In the distance we could hear the Cathedral bells and then a bugle call. Shortly afterwards everyone started moving again, almost simultaneously. It was a very odd and sobering experience.

Yorkshire vs Lancashire

Story location: Home / bits-n-bobs /

Not quite the War of the Roses but a not-too-serious comparison between Yorkshire and Lancashire . In the interest of fairness I am taking the pre-1970's county boundaries, so I'll include Liverpool and Manchester as 'Old' Lancashire . As little research as possible has been conducted, only simple fact-checking to make sure I haven't mis-remembered anything important.

Yorkshire Lancashire Result
Countryside James Herriot Country Dark Satanic Mills Yorkshire
Food Yorkshire Pudding
Pontefract Cake
Wensleydale Cheese
Black Pudding
Eccles Cake
Lancashire Cheese
Beer Theakstons
Sam Smiths
J W Lees
Joseph Holt
Ye Olde stuff York (except Jorvik which is a rip-off) Err... some old buildings scattered around Yorkshire
Fun Scarborough Blackpool Lancashire
Big Cities Leeds
Films American Werewolf in London
The Full Monty
28 days later
The Parole Officer
Yorkshire (but it was close)
TV Comedy Open All Hours
Last of the Summer Wine
Royal Family
Phoenix Nights

It's a dead heat so far so I'll get Google to decide the winner.

Google search for Yorkshire Lancashire Result
"... is Great" 358 7 Yorkshire
"... is Crap" 2 0 Lancashire
"... is better than ..." 13 3 Yorkshire

It was close but it looks like Yorkshire wins on penalties.


Story location: Home / Blog / work /

Someone is trying a little too hard to sound clever. Everyone in work received an email warning about removing the newspapers from the canteen:

These newspapers are provided by Management to utilise within the canteen area and so this property should kept within the vicinity.

We are going out to a restaurant tonight (Wing Wah), otherwise I would probably go home and utilize our television within the lounge area.

Firework Display

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

We live near the Butts Park Arena, not far from the middle of Coventry. Every year they hold a big firework display. We get a good view from the front of the house so we watched the display for a few minutes. There is a row of houses blocking part of the view but we saw enough to appreciate that it was a spectacular display.

Theo...the fastest hamster in the North West

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

We drove up to Lymm in Cheshire to a hamster show. We took Theo, Gel, Alysia and Psyche with us, to enter into the 'pets' category. Psyche's original owners were there as stewards, and were happy to see him again.

Theo did well in the judging. He was the only one of our hamsters to do anything, coming 2nd out of about 8 animals. None of our others came anywhere.

We entered Theo and Alysia into the hamster races. Each heat consisted of 2 hamsters racing through sets of tubes with the winner being the first to emerge at the other end. Theo was in the first race and ran to the halfway point before turning around and running back to the start again. The hamster he was 'racing' against never left the first length of tube so Theo was through to the next round.

Alysia won her first race - it seems a bit unfair pitting a speedy roborovski hamster against a slower syrian but Alysia kept running backwards and forwards whereas the syrian plodded on towards the finish. It was almost like the hare and the tortoise but speed won in the end.

Unfortunately this meant that Theo and Alysia were against each other in the second round. Alysia repeated her trick of running half way then coming back again while Theo waddled to the end almost without stopping. He continued in this fashion through the remainder of the races, eventually winning the final and being awarded a '1st Place' rosette.

Firework Party

Story location: Home / Blog /

We are off to a hamster show on sunday so we decided to have our Firework Party a couple of days early, on friday instead. Last year we left the firework buying til last minute and I think we had to go to about 4 supermarkets before we found one which still had some in stock.

We had invited some of Emma's friends from Uni and when we opened the door to let one in, a cat ran in. It was the one from down the road which is often lurking outside in the mornings and tries to slow me down on the way to work. There were other people in the area letting off fireworks and she obviously didn't want to be outside with all the noise.

not our cat

She ran upstairs and hid under the bed but soon came downstairs and would wander back and forth between the front room and the kitchen. Later arrivals thought she was our cat. She looked hungry so we gave her some of the cat biscuits we get for the hamsters.

fireworks in the back garden We had bought two boxes of fireworks so we let off one box first before retreating back into the house for a drink of hot spiced cider. This was inspired by the hot cider sold at various festivals, and is made along similar lines to a mulled wine, with coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger simmered to give extra flavour. Later on after more guests arrived we let off the second box.

First time around, the catherine wheels didn't stay attached to the fence and one fell onto the path, setting fire to some dried leaves. Second time, we hammered them into the fence with a bit more force. They didn't spin round very well and we ended up with melted lump of plastic on the end of the nail.

At the end of the night, the cat wouldn't leave and she ended up sleeping at the end of our bed. We were woken up in the early hours of the morning by her walking about on the bed trying to attract our attention. I got up and followed her downstairs - she was telling us that she wanted to go outside. At least we know she is well housetrained. We haven't found any 'presents' left behind any of the furniture. At least not yet.

Pumpkin Recipes

Story location: Home / food_and_drink /

This is the perfect time of the year to be cooking with pumpkins - most of the unsold ones left over from Halloween should be available cheap in the shops.

  • Pumpkin Mash
    Very simple to make - 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced. A quarter of a small pumpkin, peel, remove the seeds and dice the flesh. Boil the potato and pumpkin in salted water until soft, then mash together.
  • Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
    Scoop the seeds out of the pumpkin, wash and dry them. Toss them in oil with salt, paprika and a little chilli. Spread onto a tray and bake in the oven (gas mark 6 for around half an hour). Leave to cool then eat.
  • Roasted Pumpkin
    Diced pumpkin can be added to roast vegetables to add variety of texture and flavour.
  • Soup
    Add pumpkin to a vegetable soup.

Like a Welsh 'Men in Black', isn't it.

Story location: Home / Blog / tv /

Torchwood is the Doctor Who spin-off starring Captain Jack, who we first met in the Dr Who episode set in WW2 where Billie Piper was dangling from a Barrage Balloon.

The idea behind the series is similar to the Men in Black films, tracking down aliens and alien artifacts, but without much of the silliness of the films. Although it's not a comedy it also doesn't take itself too seriously.

It seems a strange decision to have the programme set in Cardiff but then again it makes a nice change from having everything set in London (it was explained in the first episode that they had been several 'Torchwood' groups around the country). More 'grown up' than Dr Who (read: has sex in it) which accounts for it being on later.