Sunday, May 31, 2015

Tasso ham

Tasso ham is a specialty of south Louisiana cuisine. In this case "ham" is a misnomer since tasso is not made from the hind leg of a pig, but rather the pig's shoulder. This cut is typically fatty, and because the muscle is constantly used by the animal, has a great deal of flavor. The butt, which will weigh 7 to 8 pounds, is sliced across the grain into pieces about 3 in (7.5 cm) thick. These are dredged in a salt cure, which usually includes nitrites and sugar. The meat is left to cure briefly, only three or four hours, then rinsed, rubbed with a spice mixture containing cayenne pepper and garlic, and hot-smoked until cooked through. Though tasso may be eaten on its own, it is more often used as part of a flavor base for stews or braised vegetables. It is used in dishes ranging from pasta to crab cakes to soup and gravy. Appropriate to its roots, tasso is most often found in recipes of southern or Creole origin, such as jambalaya.
Continuing yesterday's Louisiana theme, it has struck me that the pork shoulder that comes out of my smoker is actually closer to Tasso ham than it is to the pulled pork I was attempting (Icons passim).

A speciality of Cajun cuisine, Tasso is typically used to season dishes like soups, gumbo, grits, rice and gravies, but any recipe that needs a rich peppery kick and depth of flavour can benefit so will help me get through my next batch.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Grub Club

An email from Time Out has introduced me to Grub Club. Very interesting.

Party by a bayou! Celebrate USA-style with all-you-can-eat crayfish, genuine Nascraw racing, and some of the UK's best musicians.

No one knows crayfish, or even crawfish, like we do at Crayfish Bob. Our team have been trapping and cooking crayfish since 2002. Our Louisiana style Crawfish boils are legendary. We do it right, with top quality ingredients.

We don't think a crawfish boil would be right without some excellent authentic live music. Accordionist Geraint Watkins is a stalwart of Crayfish Bob's Crawdaddies. The guy is a legend. Geraint, is supported by fiddle player Bob Loveday, and other guest professionals are generally on hand to join them.

Oh! Then there's the crawfish racing. Be an owner in the UK’s only official Nascraw Crayfish Racing Event.

It really is beside a bayou. The Doodle Bar's "beach" could not be more perfect for a crawfish boil. It's a secret in the middle of London. A surprisingly peaceful, natural spot, alongside mud, watercress, and barges. Ideal for a crawfish boil party!

Let's not forget why we do all this! To remove as many of these tasty invasive species crayfish as possible from UK waterways. The more we serve, the better the environment.


13th June - 29th August. Coming to a Saturday near you soon, John?

Friday, May 29, 2015

Stacey Kent

The first weekend that the tube runs 24/7 (September 12), Stacey Kent is playing Ronnie Scott''s. It sounds just up my street. I can go to the second house - doors at 22:30 - and then be back home in two shakes of a lamb's tail once it finished in the wee small hours.

On second thoughts the rugby season is on then so I won't be able to do it if the Bomber has an away fixture and I need to drive.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

I am plugging this

Three years on from the Mu plug, Apple's Jony Ive has thrown his hat into the ring.
Featuring a new folding-pins, ultra-compact design, this power adapter offers fast, efficient charging at home or on the go. It works with any Apple Watch, iPhone or iPod model.
It is my birthday next month; hint, hint.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Welsh rugby's 50 hardest men

25. John Hickey (Cardiff)

Responsible for some real fireworks on Guy Fawkes night in 1966 when he left his mark on great Wallaby scrum-half Ken Catchpole in Cardiff’s famous victory over Australia. An aggressive blind-side flanker who never took a backward step. Became a landlord.

Also, as reminisced about in a phone call last night, my mum's cousin. John's mother was my gran's sister. Died last month I am sorry to say.

One from the other side of the family to Dan Fish to tell the Bomber about.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Playing Rosalind, Timbuktu reviewed, Literary Festivals

As the Hay Festival gets under way, Front Row takes a look at how literary festivals have multiplied in recent years. Are they all economically sustainable? Kirsty asks Peter Florence, director of the Hay Festival; Fiona Razvi of the Wimbledon Bookfest, and bestselling Chocolat author Joanne Harris.
On Radio 4 last night (15 minutes in on then a meeting with me at eleven o'clock this morning. Fiona is living the dream.

Monday, May 25, 2015


The Bomber is off to New York for half term with his mum in an hour or so. I checked and his mobile will work there for no extra charge. That is a good deal.

Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants sounds like just the book for building anticipation on the the journey.
Surprisingly funny and compulsively readable, Rats is an unlikely account of a year spent in a garbage-strewn alley in lower Manhattan. Robert Sullivan - intrepid journalist, curious writer, fearful urban dweller - sets off to contemplate New York City and its lesser-known byways by observing the lowly rat. He discovers a world almost nobody knows. Sullivan spends the year with a notebook and night-vision goggles, hunting for fabled ratkings, trapping a rat of his own, and trying (and failing) to conquer his own fear of rats. He meets the exterminators, garbage men, and civic activists who play their part in the centuries-old war between human city-dweller and wild city rat. He travels to a bizarre Midwestern conference on rats that brings together the leading experts on rat history, behaviour and control (did you know that one pair of rats has the potential for 15,000 descendants in a year? that rats' teeth are harder than steel?) And he reveals the many ways rats' lives mirror those of humans. Sullivan's unusual and absorbing book earns a place alongside the classics of travel writing.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

the mother of success

The Bomber didn't even make it to the final of the javelin in the Surrey County AA Championship yesterday.

I was astounded, as was his coach. He didn't seem that bothered, though maybe he was acting; maybe the universe is reminding me it is his life not mine.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

I didn't see that one coming.

Austin sits watching the TIME-LIFE The Last Thirty Years video on TV. Vanessa enters.
AUSTIN Hello, luv.
VANESSA Thirty years of political and social upheaval. The fall of the Berlin wall, a female Prime Minister of England, the abolishment of Apartheid, a fascinating tapestry of human strum und drang.
AUSTIN Yeah, I can't believe Liberace was gay. Women loved him, man. I didn't see that one coming.
Having been schooled by largely Irish Christian Brothers, my reaction to Irish gay marriage referendum: 'No' campaigners concede defeat is Austin-Powers-Man-Out-Of-Time astonishment. It only seems the other day that Clause 28 was a hot button issue over here.

Like Bill Gates said:
We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.

Friday, May 22, 2015

I understand you and J.J. go way back, almost thirty years. Tell me about how you first met him.

It was funny. I was working with Steven, and I got a phone call one day. And this man was living in a house up on Lookout Mountain [in Arizona]. He'd been down in his basement, and he found this box covered in dust. And he said to me, “These are all home movies, and I think they belong to Steven Spielberg.” Now, my first cynical thought, unfortunately, was, you know, this is just somebody trying to get money. And so I’m going to not act overly excited about this. I just said, “Well, you know, great. If you don’t mind, we’re on the Universal lot. Maybe you could just swing by and drop the box off, and we’ll take a look and see if in fact they belong to Steven.” So I hang up the phone. The first thing I say to Steven is, “Did you ever live on Lookout Mountain?” He goes, “Yes, I did.” Now I'm thinking, Okay, this guy’s not making this up. So I said, “Well, somebody thinks they found your home movies.” He goes, “Oh, my God, you’re kidding!” And he had just assumed all these early Super 8 films he had made when he was 15, 16 years old were long gone. He’d lost them; he didn’t know where they were.
So this man arrives. Here’s the box. He couldn’t have been sweeter, couldn’t have been nicer. Drops off this box. Sure enough, Steven’s beside himself because here are all his old movies that he made. So ironically, I had picked up the L.A. Times that morning and read about these two kids who had won this film award, and their movies were being shown at the Nuart Theatre [in Los Angeles]. And I said to Steven, “You know what would be really great? Why don’t you hire these two kids who just won this film award, who would probably give anything to meet you, and they could clean up your movies and transfer them to tape so that we never run the risk of these movies disappearing again?” And those two kids were J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves, who just did Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
And they came in. They were 15, 16 years old. And they ended up doing exactly that, cleaning up the Super 8 movies, and we’ve all stayed great friends ever since. All our kids went to the same elementary school. We followed J.J.’s career, so when he committed to Star Wars, it was this kind of fantastic coincidence of fate, I guess—preordained destiny or something.
Now that is a great story from Kathleen Kennedy.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hello, I must be going

It is not like me to wait so long before my daily post, but we had a server compromised today and fixing it took me so long I had to dash straight to athletics training with the Bomber.

That's done, he's fed and watered and retired for the night. I will fill the dishwasher, empty the washing machine and do the same myself. It's a glamorous life.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


A sestina (Old Occitan: cledisat [klediˈzat]; also known as sestine, sextine, sextain) is a fixed verse form consisting of six stanzas of six lines each, normally followed by a three-line envoi. The words that end each line of the first stanza are used as line endings in each of the following stanzas, rotated in a set pattern.
The invention of the form is usually attributed to 12th-century troubadour Arnaut Daniel; after spreading to continental Europe, it first appeared in English in 1579, though sestinas were rarely written in Britain until the end of the 19th century. It remains a popular poetic form, and many continue to be written by contemporary poets.

This is what I am thinking about if I seem distracted, God help us.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Royal Day Out

I am going to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace tomorrow afternoon, which is why I can't help Mum and Dad with their trip to see Uncle Michael in Chelmsford. Perhaps I should try and squeeze this movie in as well.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Relatively speaking

Wales beat Brazil 29-0 just after ten yesterday morning with Dan Fish scoring the first Welsh try. That was a great thing for the Bomber and the Brazilian Halex to have seen together.

The very next game was the Fiji/ South Africa clash that Fiji won 19 - 7 to secure the whole series.

The revelation for me though was the US team. They blew everyone away and won the tournament.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Off to the sevens with Ben and Halex.

Wales play Brazil just after ten.

Didn't see that one coming.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Thrill is Gone

'King of the Blues' legend BB King dead at age 89. RIP.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

the glass spider
Dear Tessa,

Thank you very much indeed for your letter of 28th February and the welcome news of the listing of the Red House cold store at Smithfield Market.
Needless to say, I was extremely glad to read of your appreciation of the value of this group of buildings. As you know, I attach the greatest importance to preserving, restoring and re-using such precious heritage townscapes and I can only pray that the Deputy Prime Minister will take your advice and give the most careful consideration to development plans. I shall follow what ensues with the greatest possible interest, particularly in view of what happened at Bishopsgate Goods Yard…
Your affectionately,
There has been a ten year legal battle about whether we should be able to see this. Anticlimax was made for days like these.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


The draw has been made for this weekend's sevens tournament in Twickenham. Wales are in Pool B with New Zealand, Australia, and Japan.

Our tickets are for the Finals on Sunday. The Welsh group games on Saturday are New Zealand at ten to eleven, Australia at 13:34 and Japan at twenty to five.

The fixtures link is

I will probably get a Sky Sports one day pass to watch the pool games on the TV. Coverage on Sky Sports 5 is from 8:30 until 1pm and then from three until quarter past seven. There is tennis on in the two hour break.I wonder what that means for the Australia game?

Alex is coming with us, so I am delighted to see that Brazil are iplaying. I wonder if it will be easiest if he stays at mine with Ben on Saturday night? The matches start at 9 on Sunday and we will need to get the bus to Wimbledon and then train to get there. Going round to his house in the morning to pick him would probably add about half an hour to the journey; unwelcome on an early start.

Here is Dan Fish's try for the Blues against the Ospreys as a taster -

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


Monday, May 11, 2015


I don't really pay a lot of attention to SoundCloud. Perhaps I should.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

overcoming hurdles

After the Bomber's unexpected hurdles win and qualification for the Surrey schools championship, I thought a team huddle was called for so I emailed the Harriers to see if there were hurdlers he could work with for the next month or so.

Steve replied, "we have a specialist hurdles coach Debbie who trains at Crystal Palace on Tuesdays at Thursdays at 6.30 pm."

Feet have been fallen on; I can see from the Power of 10 website that last year one of her athletes recorded the UK's best time of the season, and third best ever, for U15 boys' 80m hurdles which is what Ben has to do in June. I contacted Debbie who says she coaches sprinting on Tuesdays and hurdles on Thursdays and that he is very welcome, so I am going to take him along to Crystal Palace Thursday. (A positive by-product of this is that it gives me an excuse to call my Mum, a champion 80 yard hurdler herself all those years ago, regularly; apparently to keep her up to speed but really because I know she isn't having the easiest of times at the moment.)

Usually Ben trains javelin (the event that the Harriers think is his strongest) on Thursdays. Luckily Nick, his coach in that, has just started Tuesdays in Tooting as well so we can swap days and he is happy to accommodate him.

In summary he has two weeks of javelin Tuesdays and hurdling Thursdays before competing in javelin at the Surrey AA championship on 23 May, then a week in New York with his mum, then two more weeks training before hurdling at the Surrey Schools event.

I envy us from Spinal Tap is the only quote that comes close.

Saturday, May 09, 2015

wherefore art thou?

Romeo and Juliet at the Globe was good stuff on Wednesday and Steffan Donnelly was especially fine as Mercutio. I have been pleased to find out since that he is Welsh. Remember you heard it here first when he goes onto great things.

I have also found some photos (by the director and on Facebook) of the 2009 production that I enjoyed so much at the Mills. The balcony scene with Juliet at the door of our offices is on the left.

Prodnose: Actually in in Romeo and Juliet, the meaning of “Wherefore art thou Romeo?” (Act 2, scene 2, line 33) is not “Where are you, Romeo?” but “Why are you Romeo?” (i.e. “Why did you have to be a Montague?”).

Myself: Wherefore can't thou keep thy gob shut?

I am off to Radio Stanshall tonight at the Bloomsbury, which reminds me of the spooky resonance of Viv Stanshall with Mark Marlowe's various band line ups. I have seen Stanshall's biographer playing drums with Mark's trio, and the son of  the Bonzo's  Vernon Dudley Bohay-Nowell playing trumpet when the trio has been augmented with a horn section

Aunt Florrie's credenda "all musicians are nice people" perhaps?

Friday, May 08, 2015

jeunesse dorée

You may think there is other news today, but for me the above-the-fold headline is that the Bomber won the 80m hurdles (with, in his words "no spikes and no technique") at Merton School Sport Partnership Athletics Championships which means that he will be representing the borough and competing in that event at the Surrey Schools Track and Field Championships next month.

As for the election, I am with six-year-old Lucy Howarth, whose reading session with David Cameron produced a photo which gives me hope, at least for the future. What a girl! Between her and the Bomber there may be a golden generation on the way up. On VE day we remember the Greatest Generation. The sooner the world passes on from the losers between the greatest and the golden the better as far as I am concerned.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Siobhain McDonagh

I voted for Siobhain McDonagh in the general election on my way into work today.

Six years ago she wrote:
I talk to many people each week but you are all too polite to ask me any details about my expenses.
That is why I want to make it clear I do not claim anything at all for my mortgage, property maintenance, furniture or food. I pay all these myself.
Under the rules, I could claim for a second home, but I won’t, and I never have – my only home is the same one in Colliers Wood where I have lived since before I was elected in 1997. The only personal expense I re-claim is for transport.
To put that in context, I remember an occasion when Mum and Dad came up to London from Cardiff on one of those trips where a Welsh charabang drops you off in the West End on Saturday, you go and see a show, get put up in a hotel, and are taken back the next day.

I arranged to meet them for lunch in Covent Garden on Sunday and - as it was a nice day - decided to cycle in from Colliers Wood. En route I came over Westminster Bridge and past the Houses of Parliament (1). That is right I biked it from the constituency to her place of work. On that day I concluded that a system that would allow her to claim for a second home was corrupt but that she was honest and that I would vote for her as long as she stood, party politics notwithstanding.

1. You would have crossed via Waterloo Bridge as you are more intelligent, a shrewder navigator, and - let's face it - better looking than me.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Thank you and good night

BM Facebook Page
Week of 27 April–3 May
Weekly Total Reach - 66,377,457
People Engaged - 11,042,456

Heaven knows I don't mind bein' involved with large numbers Apollo Creed: Rocky III.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Filling my dance card

I see that Dan Fish is in the Wales 7s squad for final two rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Glasgow and London. The London event is at Twickenham on 16-17 May. I must ask the Bomber if he fancies going along.

We've already got tickets at Battersea Park Saturday 27 June. Formula E is a new FIA single-seater championship and the world's first fully-electric racing series.

Difficult as it may be to believe though he won't be joining me on June 21st when a fabulous and fierce line up will throw the party of the summer in London’s iconic Hyde Park with music legends Kylie Minogue, Grace Jones and Chic feat Nile Rodgers; for myself I gave up on credibility and cool many moons ago.

Monday, May 04, 2015

High Brow

I think it's brilliant! What an idea! And I was there! He took the idea! He saw it ripe on the tree, he plucked it, and he put it in his pocket. It's, it's, dare I say... genius? Ah, no, no! But maybe, ooh! ah! maybe it is! Maybe I'm in the presence of greatness, maybe I just don't know it. But I saw it...

Sunday, May 03, 2015

both alike in dignity

Out of the blue, I am off to Romeo and Juliet at the Globe on Wednesday.

At least up until then, the Action to the Word Theatre Company's promenade performance throughout Merton Abbey Mills in 2009 is the best production I have ever seen. (I see that they are still going though - to my embarrassment - they have rather fallen off my radar.)

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Radio Stanshall

Bloomsbury Theatre
Saturday, 9 May 2015
(booking fee £2.50 per transaction)
Performance times: 
Sat, 9th May at 7:30pm

I have got to try and get to this. Hat tip: Pete.

Friday, May 01, 2015

deeper and deeper

From Peter Finch's 'blog
Right now I’m at the planning stages for two cycle tours which might take this no longer there hut in. They’ll run deeper and deeper into Cardiff’s east. Roath, Capital of Wales, land of hills and waterways, lost mansions and holy wells. Something like that. The tour will be managed by Pol’s Cardiff Cycle Tours – check for more information. It’ll take place on Saturday 13th June, 2015 and then repeat on Saturday the 20th. If you don’t have a bike then you can hire one from Pol.
This new tour, I’ve decided, will take in lost holy wells, lost mansions, the site of the now partially destroyed Roman Quarry, the place where Cardiff’s Corporation star observatory once stood, Cardiff’s equivalent to the Magdalena Laundries, the remains of a thousand year old mill and the place where the geese once roamed. We’ll visit the island on which Jimi Hendrix once woke unable to tell the world just how he got there. There’ll be sight of the graves of some of Cardiff’s most famous. We’ll also take in the ghosts of the Butes and the hill fort that no one knows about. I’ll enliven things with a few poems. To the point and not. But then you’d expect me to do that.
What I’ve not yet worked out is how able cycle tour attendees will be when it comes to actually getting up Penylan Hill. That’s a long slope. Welshman’s Hill as it was once known. We could walk up but that might be regarded by the fit as cheating. We could cycle the whole way but then I’d be too breathless to speak when we got to the top. Maybe some sort of half and half operation, a long and loping side street zig zag with a bit of bike pushing at the end would do it. I’m doing a few trials shortly. Watch this space to find out how they went.
I have got to sign up for that on June 13. John thinks the well was in Mum and Dad's back garden.

See and

Maybe I could combine it with the Cardiff Street Food Circus, though I was planning on taking Ben to that and I can't see him relishing a literary bike ride.

Speaking of food, the Hang Fire girls (who will be at the circus) have won the 2015 BBC Best Street Food or Takeaway award.