A raid on the charity chops is in the offing

Work on the guttering has finally been completed and yet another job can be crossed of the list of many items to be completed before I call the estate agents in to value the place. Thanks go to Al The Beast and Bean Counters youngest for their sterling and unstinting efforts to finish the job off in spite of bad weather and extremely windy conditions for being at the top of a ladder with nothing to hang onto. The garden was looking great until the bad weather that plagued TB and BC’s youngest stopped me from doing any more to it and now lethargy has crept in. As soon as the first rays of sunshine hit the grass I will be out there with the lawnmower and continuing my battle with weeds and dandelions.

I am still attempting to find a motorcycle for my sojourn and with the way oil prices are heading it could become my major means of getting from A to B. The price of oil shows no sign of coming down nor does the hated tax that goes along with it. Gordon Brown says he is listening to what people say and he feels their pain but he is not actually doing anything about it apart from pushing up the price of road tax for older vehicles. This seems to have caused a split between the green lobby who want even higher taxes and to stop people from going anywhere unless they can walk or cycle and the rest of the UK who are suffering the highest household bills for decades. It is no use saying in real terms prices are actually lower than what they used to be years ago, it’s what is in your pocket that counts and most of mine is going on petrol, household bills and food.

With this in mind Roger Moor, me and TB started looking at efficient ways of burning charcoal and wood. We looked at Rocket stoves, Winiarski Stoves, Justa ovens and rocket bread ovens. In order to cut down on the annual and seasonal consumption of charcoal briquettes for outdoor cooking we are going to make a bread oven from oil drums and bits of steel pipe and we are also looking at gasification of wood to cook on while outdoors. This is going to be the project for this summer although Ted Magnum has said he wants to crucify a pig (a dead one don’t panic) over hot coals and he wants me to produce a kebab of a whole lamb and several chickens on the same spit. Details and photos will eventually appear in the Barbie section weather and the good ole British Summer pending. (Note to the Tiler and the Printer, it’s the end of May, its pissing down and its only 15 centigrade so don’t be crying into your Four X and moaning about having to put the car heater on cos it’s Autumn down under and only 25C)

Another event due to take place at sometime this year was the garden party I am planning, again weather pending. This was to have been a recreation of a 1920’s tea party with cucumber sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and strawberry conserve, Earl Gray tea in china cups and lashings of Ginger beer with Pimms No1 to follow. Dedicated carnivores will be directed to the grill. In keeping with the theme of the event I set about looking for a pair of white linen Oxford bags and a Panama hat. Sadly it seems no one is making Oxford bags any more and Panama hats range from the extortionate to cheap copies which are far from the genuine article. I may even have to get some "baggies" made. I wonder if Flemings on Walton road Liverpool is still in business? They used to make tailor made and customised jeans. You had a choice of gold or white stitching and you could specify leg width, they would knock them up in 48 hours. Made from sail cloth they were the toughest jeans you could buy. I wish I had not thrown mine out but I guess they would not have fitted my ever expanding girth anymore. A raid on the charity chops is in the offing.

A rather serious matter

Sunday 18th May, the sun was shining and I invited a few friends around for dinner in the garden. The usual suspects were in attendance, Bean Counter, her two sons, Roger Moor and his son and my good friends the Taxman, his wife and their youngest. Also making a surprise visit was Ted Magnum back from South America. As we dined and the beer flowed Ted told us a little about his travels. How petrol in Venezuela was only 3p (yes 3p that is not a typographical error) a litre and how in Ushia Bourbon was so cheap they used it to start Barbecues instead of fire lighting fluid.

After dinner I started the almost compulsory firebox and we sat round and chatted and caught up on gossip and events by the light of the flickering flames. During the evening we tried counting how many tadpoles are in my pond, (it seemed like a good idea at the time and yes they are back again and in numbers) but gave up due to the fact they will not stay still for long enough. As the guest’s left and BC retired, I sat in the garden and thought heavily about the friends who were not there. The Tiler is deeply missed and I have not spoken to him in ages. I have not had time to email the Printer and I thought about many other friends whose company I once took for granted and it was an almost given that I would see them at least once a week.

Ted’s tales reminded me of just how much I want to leave here and also left me feeling a little apprehensive. It’s a big world out there and I am no more than a miniscule speck on its surface. I know I am going to miss all my friends and my nearest and dearest. I know I will be leaving behind everything that I have become used to over the years including a home and a job and I have no idea what awaits me on the day the money from the sale of the house enters my bank account. All of this is a long way off yet but I can’t help thinking about it.

I have never made a will. The very thought of doing so was to accept my mortality and yet on Sunday night I thought about what would happen if something untoward should happen to me while I am away. Who would have to clear up the logistical mess caused by my inability to accept the inevitable? Some one would have to see to what was left of my estate and sort out my stuff. Who do I make executor, would they even want to do it should I name them? Who would I leave what stuff I had collected over the years to, who would want it? Taking off on a jolly seems like a great idea, a whole lot of fun but its actually a rather serious matter.

Steak tastes better cooked over hot coals

It has been some time since I was able to even contemplate taking the covers off my grilling gear and sparking up the Barbie. However, with a break in the clouds and the suns rays falling onto the grounds of Chateau Ghastanbury for the fist time in what seems like Eons, I headed outdoors with fire lighters in one hand and utensils in the other. For ecological reasons I have not used a charcoal barbeque for years but in a moment of weakness I purchased a new Webber Kettle drum in the January sales along with a new “Billy Oh”, four-burner stainless steel grill.

The Billy Oh is a fantastic piece of kit, all shiny stainless steel, with wipe clean surfaces, easy to light and best of all the easiest Barbie I have ever had to clean. By the way it cooks brilliantly as well. Half of the cooking surface is hot plate with the other half comprising of a grill. Temperature control is fantastic and the storage cupboard underneath the burners is great for stowing away all the bits and pieces that clutter up any work surface.

The Webber is also a fantastic piece of kit with controls for air intake and up draught heat regulators. The cooking surface is huge and easy to clean and the ashtray is simplicity itself to empty. After the usual 30 minutes or so wait for the charcoals to come to life and turn the nice shade of grey required for cooking, slabs of steak weighing in at average of 24 ounces or approximately 700 grams were placed onto the grill. By contrast the Billy Oh was ready for use in less than 5 minutes.

The steaks had been marinated the night before in a concoction of Stubbs beef marinade and Bourbon and were as tender and flavoursome as I could make them.  Throwing them onto the Webber produced a satisfying sizzle and they were cooked in less than 10 minutes each for the well done ones and under 7 minutes for the very rare ones.  As they were cooking so fast I kept them warm on the Billy Oh because it was easier to regulate the temperature. Charcoal grills require damping down and for this purpose I use an old spray bottle filled with beer. As the beer evaporates really quickly the temperature of the charcoal is rapidly brought up again.

Within around 30 minutes I had become used to cooking on charcoal again and remembered how much charcoal they take and also how hot they become. My hands were blistered within the first 20 minutes of cooking over the coals and after smothering them in hand cream I donned gardening gloves to protect them as best I could for the remainder of the day. I hope this heralds the start of the English summer and I will be able to make the most of the two excellent items I have bought.  It was fun breaking the two barbies in and by the way, Steak tastes better cooked over hot coals.

Kids who would have them?

It happens to all parents. One day their little darlings are their pride and joy and the next with no warning at all they turn into teenagers. All angst and hormones and kicking against a system that works perfectly well for you. What’s this I hear you ask, Higherdew’s most diehard bachelor with no heirs talking about kids? Well to be honest I did have step kids once but that is a very long story and a chapter in my life I would rather forget. However I do have a baby.

Yes Genghis is starting to stay out all night and not come home in the mornings. He is becoming fussy about what he eats and is now turning his nose up at Whiskas foil packs and even fresh clotted cream. He turns up at all hours of the day and wants to sleep and then he is off out again. To be fair he is not asking for new trainers every week nor is he asking for a Play Station 3 and Grand Theft Auto 4, but his behaviour is causing me a lot of concern. I mean he could end up in the hands of some Cruella De Vile type of person whose sole ambition is turn him into a pair of mittens because of his distinct markings. He could be catnapped as opposed to kidnapped by mindless thugs who want to toss him into a pen full of rabid pit bulls for sport or he could be another casualty in the hit and run accidents that occur all too frequently.

There is another explanation… It is entirely possible that he has discovered the opposite sex. May be he is out sowing his wild oats at an alarming rate. (This would explain him being tired all the time) We have not even discussed this type of thing and it is only because of his embarrassing squeak as opposed to the sub base roar that I am waiting for him to develop, that I have not taken him to the vets for THE OP. I was waiting for his voice to break before I took him to have his balls chopped. I mean how embarrassing would it be for him to sit at the end of the garden talking to all the other cats in the neighbourhood and say in a rather squeaky almost effeminate voice, yes I am a virgin and my balls have been chopped and I am called Genghis after a mighty warrior.

I have tried my best to be a good parent and fed him on raw steak and fresh cream with the odd kipper thrown in for special occasions. I have ignored his destructive ways and forgiven him for ripping my net curtains to shreds. I have applauded his attempts to gain my trust, confidence and admiration by bringing live mice into the house and letting them go. I have attempted to broaden his horizens by giving him toys and treats to develop his hunting skills and improve his social skills. Sadly he has turned into Kevin from kevin and Perry and become a James Dean figure. A rebel without a clue that is ruled by his dick. Like many other parents I am asking where did I go wrong?

Sadly it is almost that time when I have to make an appointment for the vets to have him DONE. I had hoped this time would never arrive but it has and I know I am going to feel a sense of betrayal to my gender by taking him. After all if some one was taking me for the same reasons I would not be best pleased. As he is a rather handsome cat I guess there will be one or two feline hearts broken by my decision, but we can’t have lots of little ginger strays running around can we? If only those damn females would take precautions. I mean really, Kids who would have them?

Only in the Uk eh!

So much has taken place over the last few weeks and much of it completely irrelevant but it has stopped me from making an entry for some time. The rain stopped long enough for me to get some work done in the garden and one could almost believe it is summer time. I have even had to resort to watering some of the plants. In the last two weeks there has been a typhoon in Burma with a disastrous death toll, an earthquake in southern China with equally horrific casualties and local elections with a massive move away from our government. Indeed in could be said that the writing is on the wall for our beloved elected leadership. I can not in my lifetime remember when a political party has had such a vote of no confidence. The labour government has been trounced into third place firmly behind the Liberal Democrats.

Much of this can simply be placed at the feet of the government for being so out of touch and completely insensitive to the plight of the common man. When prices are spiralling out of control you don’t put the taxes up on the same items to make them even more expensive, well any one with any sense would not. However our beloved leaders seem to think that is a fine old wheeze to increase fuel duty and rake off even more VAT when the price of oil is hitting record highs of 120 dollars a barrel. The only people benefiting from these price increases is the treasury who are rubbing their hands with glee at the extra cash pouring into government coffers. Would it not make sense to put a finite figure onto fuel and commodities that stayed the same regardless of the final price? That way at least the public could see that it was not the government profiting from global price increases.

This makes perfect sense to me but Gordon Brown who has the charm and charisma of a dose of syphilis does not. His abolition of the 10p tax rate has left many of our poorest people worse off. This made all the worse because only those in work are affected. If you are on benefits it makes no difference to you at all. If you are in a low paid job you may as well pack it in and join the growing queues collecting benefits. What is even more alarming is his bungled attempt at undoing the damage it has caused and the time scale to rectify it with his announcement of the increase in personal allowances that do not kick in til next September. How much extra revenue will that bring in to the tax mans coffers? I look forward to the day when he is voted out of office and is out of work, struggling and is strangled by the very policies he has put into place. It saddens me but I now long for the days when Maggie Thatcher was at the helm. There were no U turns with Maggie and at least you knew where you stood with her. The fact that you were fucked is by the by, but you knew your place!

I cannot think of any where else in the democratic world where a so called socialist government would take money off the poor to give to the rich. Only in the UK eh!