Thursday, 30 September 2010
I think a lot of us are bemused by the slavish adherence of the UK to the international agreements that every other signatory routinely ignores.
We happily sacrifice a wildly disproportionate portion of the Met’s annual budget to track down and repatriate some well settled and productive poor sod just because in his country of origin, the police have suddenly realised that ten years ago he was given a suspended sentence for not paying off a two hundred Zloty bank loan quick enough and therefore should not have travelled. The EU has even dished out an official warning to UK that we are not to deny illegal immigrants access to state benefits most of whom arrive via France, a country busy rounding up all its Gipsies and sending them back to Romania as an encouragement to the rest of them of every nationality who escape the cursory dragnet to hurry up and sneak through the Channel Tunnel to UK and certain security. The United States have made it abundantly clear that the Extradition Treaty is purely one way. We are, by the admission of our own leaders, the junior partner in world affairs.
You have to hand it to the French. Like cheeky children, they are constantly caught out. They are about to try their ex president for corruption but having shoulders like greased Champagne bottles, will shrug it all off with ease leaving the rest of the world charmed by their inherent style and above all, bare faced sang froid.
Unlike the English, and it was an Englishman who coined the phrase, they realise that rules, in this case those of the EU and pretty much the rest of the world, are for the guidance of wise men and the adherence of fools. The French have decided that they are nobody’s fool. They will happily sign any accord but if, in the end, it turns out not to be to the benefit of La Belle France, they’ll ignore it and refuse to be intimidated.
Bentley are recalling cars due to concerns in the US that the iconic Flying B's on their bonnets may fail to retract automatically in the event of a collision, potentially causing injury to pedestrians. Let's ignore for a moment that if hit by a Bentley the Flying B atop the radiator would only be the first of the last, much heavier and ultimately lethally destructive automotive components to pass through one's intimate orbit, and consider instead that in the face of the litigious environment the 'no win, no fee' lawyers created, Citroën, no doubt reassured by Gallic shrugs half obscured in the smoky environment of their legal department, have had the courage to produce a 160 mph, 300 BHP, £1.5 million ankle slicer.
Powered by an all but silent electric motor on each wheel, you wouldn't even hear it arriving faster than the speed of sound as you were still halfway across the road to the pub and unexpectedly footloose, chipped through a very crisp 21st Century grill. The remaining parts of your suddenly denuded torso might, as they bounce off the windscreen before being propelled into oblivion, catch a glimpse of a supremely stylish and well appointed interior enclosing a svelte Frenchman who couldn't really give a damn because unlike in UK, he enjoys affordable insurance.
Good old Citroën. I love French cars, especially now that they are pushing the design envelope again and I have to confess a sneaking admiration for the French in general.
In UK, if you trip over an electric flex at work, you sue for compensation and HSE will spend millions of taxpayer's money trying to prove the architect put the socket in the wrong place, bankrupting him in the process and putting a hundred or so people out of work.
In France they’ll give you a Gauloise cigarette to suck on to ease the immediate pain before sacking you for being evidently too visually impaired to perform the function for which you once drew your salary.
The odds, or volts it would appear, are charged heavily in favour of the French.
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Airport Camp Accommodation
Monday, 27 September 2010
Of Rats and Humans
So termites are cockroaches after all?
Both give me a headache. If it isn't termites constructing red muddy tunnels up my lounge walls made with the mastigated paste of my ever depleted wooden floors it is cockroaches running across my desk and scurrying hither and thither in every drawer. I'll warrant I use a case of Shelltox every week holding the bastards at bay.
And then there are the African Field Mice which, I recently learnt, carry a much more lethal cargo than Lymphocytic Choriomeningitis Virus (I haven't a clue what that is but it sounds awful) but also Arenaviruses which cause haemorrhagic fever. I know what that is and it is definitely awful but although messy for relatives who have to clean up afterwards, is mercifully quick for the victims.
The house isn't exactly infested with these little bleeders but it isn't uncommon for me to see one or two flit across the lounge floor while I am watching TV late at night and yesterday, when I dug into the rarely accessed drawer containing what silver cutlery I have left, I was dismayed to discover a nest they had made of the felt pockets containing my best eating irons.
A woman not too far from here fell sick with flu like symptoms and deteriorated so rapidly that an air ambulance from South Africa was ordered (clearly she had more money than our average neighbour). Sadly she died but tragically so did the attending ambulance paramedic and the nurse who accompanied her. All down to mice which are apparently being smuggled into UK as 'pocket pets'.
While scouring what is left of the countryside around my house for interesting beasties and seeds to send to the Natural History Museum in London, Dominic discovered four emaciated and dehydrated feral kittens and brought them home.
Marcia caught us feeding them with syringes full of milk and went mad.
Cats, apparently, kill every under five year old here because of the lethal allergies they provoke. These deaths clearly having nothing at all to do with flea and virus ridden mice, polluted water, cockroaches, flies bloated on rotting rubbish and effluent, termites, mosquitoes and every other evil beastie that infest every household and liberally dispense often lethal ailments with every multi footfall, defecation or bite.
I made the very serious mistake of presenting to Marcia my contention that Englishmen, ardent lovers of dogs and cats, a race of human beings not only allowing the animals they domesticated and trained into their close orbit but the intimacy of their beds as well, succeeded in demolishing the rest of the world, enslaving and exploiting notably Marcia's ailing ancestors, as conclusive evidence of the efficacy of something as simple as a decent mouse catcher in the house. As a result, it is me that is now occupying the vacant cattery while Marcia reclines luxuriously, and in splendid solitude, under a German manufactured eiderdown.
I love Marcia dearly but every now and then I am reminded that she is Angolan and I am English so we are occasionally about four thousand miles and a century or so apart. Rather than argue with her, and since I am kipping in the yard (at best the sofa), I will feed our chickens and geese and resist the temptation to talk to her about Avian Flu.
Buffer Hole Resort, Belize 1984
A high class resort then.
As soldiers, we weren't too bothered about the ban on litter and guns, it was the ban on coolboxes of booze and indecent behaviour that put us off... They are the BIG No's evidently so you may have to click and enlarge the photo.
78 Force Ordnance Company Belize 1984
I am front row, fifth from the right, smirking because Captain Allan Inions to my right has just suggested, not so sotto voce, that the man behind the camera on this very hot day might like to effing well get on with it.
Somewhere in that lineup must be Cpl Callahan. When we all played cricket, I would be put into bat first. Callahan would bowl me out, every time, with a full toss and then I would score for the rest of the match.
Thursday, 16 September 2010
Perceptions of Angola
Anywhere else in the world, typically, we would be offered a selection of beauties just gagging to meet us (we have all seen these adverts: Angola Babe aged 21, apparently living next door, who is invariably Caucasian and if she walked the streets of Angola dressed the way she appears in her photo would have no need to resort to an internet dating site to attract mates but rather hire bodyguards to beat them off), and other adverts rather conveniently informing us that free romantic weekends away for two in some Michelin starred hotel are only a few mouse clicks away, or those from anonymous institutions suggesting that handing over our life’s savings would guarantee instant financial security.
So what does the Big Brother lucky dip offer us in Angola?
Ads by Google
Learn about our superior protection
Get an armored car in Angola today.
I have never had any problems spending my own money so can't see the point in paying someone else to help me. I have a girlfriend and she seems to manage on that score without charging me extra. So I definitely prefer the free romantic weekend and am happy to take my chances getting there.
Sadly, I think it is teenagers on their way to London schools who need Armormax's services more than I do. Or perhaps that is just my perception of UK.
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Floridita Provisional Menu
The menu relies heavily on locally available produce, both out of necessity and a desire of mine to become a local food hero. If you come all this way, do you really want a burger and chips or would you prefer the fresh produce you know was hauled out of the sea by artisan fisherman, was dispatched at dawn by the discharge from an ancient Baikal or dug out of the ground and rinsed clean the day you eat it?
I will flip you a burger if you insist but shan't be particularly impressed.
Prawns and Mabanga (local clams), poached in a fresh coriander, garlic and gindungo (local hot pepper) spiced coconut cream sauce (mild), on a bed of fresh watercress with sliced sweet fruit of the season. Apart from the fruit garnish, a warm dish.
Prawns on a bed of sliced avocado, shredded salad leaves, baby tomatoes with a rich cocktail dressing. A cold dish.
Spring rolls with sweet & sour and spicy dips
Liver paté, toast, butter
Sliced Presunto (cured smoked ham) served with sliced honey melon
Lagosta (Steamed or grilled Lobster)
Carangueijo de Namibe (Steamed Namibe Crab; small, sweet and full of flavour)
Spicy Fish with sliced spring onion, lemon grass, tomato and cayenne.
Cream of Butternut.
Sopa de Feijao (bean soup, very popular here)
Chicken Curry, steamed rice, sliced Mango or Pineapple, Minted Yoghurt on the side.
Chicken Satay, steamed rice, mixed salad
Fried Chicken drumsticks and thighs served with chips and mixed salad.
Charcoal grilled Steak with herb butter, black bean sauce, fried egg, steamed rice, chips, mixed salad (they call it Bife a Portuguesa here).
Chilli con Carne with steamed rice and mixed salad.
Lasagne with a mixed salad.
Guinea Fowl in a rich red wine sauce, with späetzle, red cabbage and cucumber dill salad.
Forest Buffalo filet medallions served with a cream mushroom sauce, spaetzle and red cabbage.
Tagliatelli Carbonara, fresh green salad
Poached fish of the day with butter, steamed potatoes, green beans/steamed asparagus with sauce hollandaise
Fish of the day poached in fresh coriander flavoured Coconut milk sauce, steamed rice, mixed salad.
Garouper Grelhado (grilled Grouper filets), lemon butter sauce, chips or boiled potatoes, mixed green salad.
Fried fish filet, steamed baby potatoes, watercress salad with natural yoghurt sauce.
Choco Grelhada (grilled squid), steamed potatoes, green salad, onion and parsley flavoured olive oil and vinegar dressing.
Bacalhao com natas (salted, dried cod that has been soaked for 24 hours before being shredded and braised in cream and other select ingredients, a huge favourite in Angola and I love it too).
Chicken and mushroom pie, green beans, mashed potatoes and a rich gravy.
Flambeéd Fruits of the season with vanilla ice cream and cream
Fruit salad made with fresh fruits of the season, with or without vanilla ice cream
Pudim flan (Crème Caramel)
Ananas (pineapple) fried in brown sugar and butter with a dash of dark rum, coconut cream sauce and ice cream.
Crepes suzette, flavoured with mountain honey and lemon
Barbas de Camelo (a dessert made of layered, powdered Marie biscuits, a custard type sauce made with eggs and condensed milk and cream. The literal translation is Camel Spit. Tastes delicious though).
Bananas fritas with hot cinnamon flavoured buttered mountain honey.
I realise that I should have posted this on my other blog, 'Cooking in the Front Line' but having ignored it for so long, no-one is reading it anymore. What I will do now is cook everything on this menu and, apart from the boring chicken or steak and chips dishes, photograph the meals under preparation and post the menus over at the other blog.
Feedback, no pun intended, gratefully received.
It would appear that an 'All Day Breakfast' is in demand. I shall have to call it the 'Fisherman's Breakfast' to remain in keeping with the theme of Floridita but it will consist of any, or all of the following:
Bacon, Eggs fried or scrambled, baked beans, South African Boerwors (best sausages in the world), black pudding, fried tomatoes, fried mushrooms, devilled kidneys, onion gravy, roasted sliced normal and sweet potatoes, honey roasted carrots and parsnips, sweet and spicy chutney, English mustard, fresh bread, fried bread, ordinary toast, mountain honey (Americans pour honey on their bacon not just their toast, a taste I too have acquired, witness my expanding girth), various other jams, natural home made yoghurt, coffee, tea, fruit juice, a selection of cereals, fresh milk and anything else you want that I might have in my fridges or behind the bar. Like a beer to wash that lot down.
My father, and he should know because that's what he died of, used to call such a feast a heart attack on a plate. But you ask the golfing crew that pile round my house most weekends for a post Golfista 'snack', what they think of the brunch I knock up.
Tuesday, 7 September 2010
Angolan Common or Garden Beasties...
I was the first, not by much I admit, to get his latest one correct and because, as he then realised, it was pretty damn easy (it being a common garden spider, Araneus diadematus), the miserable sod awarded me and the other fine blogger who got it right, Murphyfish (who quite correctly described the roughy toughy Suburban Bushwacker as 'A big girl's blouse) a measly two stars each. Tight bastard.
Still, it got me thinking about the beasties we encounter in my garden every now and then so I trawled through the photo album to find any my son may have photographed and having given it a full five minutes of effort, have come up with three.
This spider made its home amongst the rebar of the new pool. They are very common and have a good six inch span. Only two Hippo points for this one.
A couple of points for this one too. We all know it is a viper, but which kind?
The dog savaged it so I finished it off with a rock.
I can't sympathise with all you yoghurt knitting tree huggers out there. It was in my yard which, in common with the neighbourhood, is usually full of kids. I would sooner stamp on a thousand poisonous snakes than see one child suffer a limb amputation or death because of one of these beasties. It is reported that sharks are an endangered species now. Only endangered? I shall have to go out and gaff a few more. Sharks do have their uses, though. Like crocodile skulls, their jaws make impressive ornaments. And in case the fluffy bunny lovers reading this don't hate me enough already, yes, I used to shoot foxes on my ex Father-in-law's farm... with a model 586 Smith & Wesson .357 Magnum pistol or my 30-06 Remington 700BDL rifle. Overkill I know, but after all, we can't have the poor little verminous swine suffering now, can we?
And now, a full five stars for identifying this one, an insect with dragon's wings. When threatened, it made a noise like a badly maintained chainsaw flinging out these black apppendages. Unlike the woosie SBW, I have given you an idea of scale. Assuming, that is, you all appreciate the average size of a human head...
I have no idea what this is so we will need some references to support any identification...
I have just been contacted by the world’s leading authority on Phasmids (clue) regarding the last of the beasties in the above post.
He has informed me that the beastie in question is a good match for one recorded in 1889 described from a single female collected from Golungo Alto in 1856. Apart from brief details of that record, nothing has been published since and the archive containing these records in Lisbon was destroyed by fire.
It is a pity that the only photograph the world now has of one of these incredibly rare and undocumented specimens has my ugly face as a backdrop.
Dominic will be thrilled to learn he has discovered something so rare and every penny I spent on bringing in his microscope and other paraphernalia to encourage his naturalist instincts was well worth it.
I shall now task us with the self imposed duty of acquiring more specimens and get them back to the good Professor of Beasties back in UK. Not that easy, I suspect as I have been here sixteen years and this is the only one I have seen. Still, instead of walking aimlessly around the countryside together in the pursuit of fresh air, now at least Dominic and I will have a motive for our perambulations.
Given its astonishing rarity, I think I need to award at least ten gold stars and a genuine Angolan carving of the ‘Pensador’, sent to the address of choice to anyone who can positively ID this one.
The professor was kind enough to be discreet and not spoil our fun but he has earned his five gold stars which he may cash in for a free stay at Floridita and an entomological field trip of Quissama National park. That place is crawling with beasties and I am terribly keen to find out how many are undocumented.
In UK, a recent lengthy experiment established that preventing children from raising their hands in class and rewarding good performance with days out at a funfair encouraged children to learn twice as fast. Imagine the concentration on the task in hand of a young lad aware that he might have a hitherto unknown beastie named after him?
Hopefully in the future he may be able to retort to an enquiry from a University entrance board as to his poorish A level results by saying, 'Granted, but at least I did spend weeks in the bush, discovered and together with the Professor, described and categorised 'Beastialis Dominicus Australis'.
Friday, 3 September 2010
Kitchens. Best place for kids...
Keeping my extended family busy does require a little ingenuity so right now they are all making chicken and mushroom pies.
Dead easy. I just throw out a couple of cutting boards, give the kids some very sharp knives and various piles of things to chop. Onions, garlic, sweet peppers, mushrooms and a pre boiled chicken from which they must strip the flesh. Each ingredient, minus severed finger tips, must go into individual bowls prior to assembling the dish and everything else must be washed, wiped, cleaned or bound with bandages as necessary.
Fry the ingredients off, add a tablespoonful of flour and then the stock from the boiling of the chicken before spooning the mixture into ramekins. Then the fun really starts. Roll out the pastry, cut the lids and naturally, I want every dish to have a design personal to the family member to whom it is destined, only then into the oven. Keeps 'em busy for hours!
Anyway, from left to right in the photo: Dominic (11), Christina (13) and Ju (10) Not in the photo are Alex (2), Mauro (7) and of course Marcia (29). I (51) am behind the camera lens.
Mauro was a bit of a hard case to crack when he arrived. He would only eat a tiny portion of boiled rice. The kid was so skinny he had to run around in the shower to get wet and, as a precautionary measure, I would put the plug in the bath in case I lost him down the drain. A year after his arrival at Fort Gowans he is now making his own pies and has just scoffed a whole one.
Ju was the little girl who lost her Mum and arrived a very traumatised little kid scared out of her wits. Now I think she is Marcia's Second-in-Command, bossy little minx!
Christina is calm and sensible beyond her years and I am not sure how I would cope without her. The neighbours think I have a capacity to mete out real violence if provoked, an impression I do little to dilute now that an unhealthy interest in her has been aroused in the local lads.
Alexander loves the girls who in turn dote on him, and fights constantly with Mauro so I guess it is situation normal.
Dominic is sitting next to me as I write having swiped Marcia's pie, his second, which he is chucking down his neck as fast as he can choke it down. He felt guilty about nicking her dinner but since she wasn't that hungry and, as I pointed out, we have plenty of puff pastry left so can make her another tomorrow, he is going for it. Nice to see the boy eat so well. If you can interest children in preparing and cooking food, they will invariably devour the fruit of their own labour without the dissent normally associated with half a dozen highly individual and picky eaters.
One of the last of Dominic's baby teeth, a molar, has just fallen out. He decided it should be sterilised so dropped it into my whisky glass. He loves his little tricks. He is fond of doctoring my cigarettes with match heads tightly wrapped in tin foil so that they explode when I smoke them.
Having complained that the hole in his gum once housing the tooth now soaking in my whisky was hurting like hell, I suggested he rubbed neat salt into it.
Vengeance is sweet.
Wednesday, 1 September 2010
Deep Fried Beer - Only in Texas!
Get a gutful of this
Texan inventor Mark Zable has, after three year's work, apparently come up with a recipe for deep frying beer while maintaining its alcoholic content.
First we couldn't Drink and Drive, now we can't Eat and Drive.
Picture the Metropolitan Police canteen:
Detective Chief Superintendant: 'I smell beer. Is anyone drinking on duty?'
Coppers: 'No Sir, we're just having a spot of breakfast...'
I mustn't be mean to the Met, they are the best Police Force money can buy.