Archive for July, 2008

Tedstock 2?

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

It seem ages since I posted a BBQ log that it looks like I have given up altogether. I can tell you now that it is far from the truth. It is just that the weather has been so crap. A true e barbecue is not bringing out some burgers and frozen sausages when the weather is nice. It takes weeks and some time months of planning.

Last year consisted of Ted Magnum and I planning a spit roast at around February. This year we decide to do an Aprilla Pronounced (Aprija) So we decide that a grill had to be made and that it would have to be either suspended over hot coals or fixed in place and immoveable.

Today the materials were sourced and with a bit of angle grinding and welding a frame was made. Total cost £7 so far. We already have the spit roast from last year and cannot decide whether to place some chickens upon the spit or to use it to raise and lower the grill. I suspect that it will be made up botch of the two. I really like the Heath Robinson affairs and the rustic look that they entail. TM on the other hand hates all of that and likes to look as professional as possible.

We have decided that for Tedstock this year that we are not spit roasting anything large. We will be cooking Argentinean style and it will be a sit down meal.

The menu consists of leg of lamb, Pork shoulder, several racks of Pork ribs and some as yet unknown cuts of beef.  I am hoping there will not be a sausage or burger in sight. Is it going to happen? Who knows, the Good Old British weather will play such a big part of this latest venture, so much so that we may not know until later on in the morning of the event if it is going to take place or not. Be assured that pictures of the new equipment and the event or non event will be placed in the gallery.

Getting Away

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

I have read so many books about travel and they have all held my interest. However the big question for so many people is how do you go about it? Most of the books I have read from Ted Simon and his travels to Sailing around the world on the Lost Soul 2 and walking around the world by various hitch hikers have all had one thing in common, sponsorship by some one or other.

Only the other day I read about a family who sold everything they had, paid off all of their debts and bought a bus and are currently travelling around the world. This sounded great until I looked at their website and saw the sponsorship given by so many firms that it seems as though they are travelling free. I know this is not the case but it does seem to so many people I have spoken to that unless you can get some one else to pay for your travel than it can’t be done.

So I have decided that after reading so many books including those by the ultimate team, The Mondo men, I am going to include every penny I spend on preparing the bike and organising the trip that I can. I am also going to rack it day by day so that others will realise what the true cost are. In years to come they can work out the inflation rates and do the maths and decide if it is for them or even doable.

So here goes and everything is in pounds and Great British Sterling. I understand that inflation rates fluctuate and so does the cost of buying foreign currency but I hope that it gives a true cost of travelling abroad without sponsorship and any income what so ever. This may spur people on or deter them completely.

I hope to include lodgings, petrol and sustenance and spare parts in this on going blog.

The cost of my trip so far with out leaving the country is thus:

Cost of bike £3010, Getting the bike home £30. Helmet £100, insurance £200. Security in the cost of chains and locks £150. Riding boots free but would have cost around £100.

Also I have noted that I am getting around 42 miles to the gallon at a cost of over £5 pounds to the gallon.

Total cost so far on bike, if you had to buy it all yourself and not rely on hand outs and freebies is £3590.

In the future I will also include the cost of bike luggage, sleeping and camping gear and the amount spent on petrol and camping while I am away.

Wish me luck

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

It has long been known that I want to leave the country and go travelling, eventually hoping to find somewhere that I would like to settle down along the way. Going away for a two-week break in the hope of finding something is so damn difficult that I gave that up some years ago and I have discovered that while you may be able to glean some information from the Internet it is often a long way from the truth. No the only way to set about finding somewhere is get out there and take a long hard look for your self. This means giving up your job and a whole lot of other things that I have come to take for granted.

I realise that it will not be easy and it will be a complete lifestyle change soI have decided to add this section to my blog, in order that I can catalogue details and events in the search for my very own version of paradise.

I have bought a new motorbike, well new to me at least, and after not having ridden one for what seems like a lifetime, I am getting used to being back in the saddle again. The bike seems heavy but I suspect will get used to it. I have become acutely aware of the amount of stuff that I will have to take with me and the list seems endless. Tent, sleeping bag, roll mat, cooker, clothes, spares for the bike, panniers, tank bag, security etc etc.

Keeping the weight down and well balanced on what is already a machine with high centre of gravity will not be easy and I have to teach myself to ride on gravel and off track, as it is something I have not done a lot of before. If I am to achieve my dream of having a beer in Alice Springs with the Tiler one day there is a lot of work to be done and fair amount of money to be spent. Photos of the kit and the bike as it is transformed from a bog standard road bike to a world conquering adventure bike will be posted in the gallery section along with various bits and pieces of kit I will need and have acquired.

Wish me luck.

A silver lining, I just don’t know where

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

The economic downturn continues, with fresh news of redundancies and closures. It appears no business is immune. MY friend who works on a butty van has reported that the sites she delivers to are closing and the takings are going down daily. She says it is not hard to see that her own job will be in jeopardy quite soon along with those of her colleagues.  Our government has decided not to go ahead with the dreaded 2p tax on fuel duty and thinks we should be grateful for this apparent small mercy.  House prices are falling through the floor and most have dropped by 18-20% in 12 months. The banks have stopped all mortgages under 75% so even if a house that was worth 100,000 pound last year is now only worth 82,k the buyers would still have to find 22,500 pounds before a mortgage lender will look at them.

Enough of this doom and gloom; surely there must be some good news somewhere? Well the weather, another subject close to my heart, is set to be the wettest summer on record since records began here in the UK. I thought last year was bad enough; indeed I only managed three of four barbecues last year. This year I have had one, which is why there have not been any posts in my Barbie section. The grass on my lawn is around 18” high because the weather has been so bad. It has not rained continuously, it seems to wait until I get to work or am engaged in some activity that stops me from mowing the grass for the sun to come out and then as soon as I am able to get in to the garden with some gusto, the heavens open. The proof of the amount of rain and the lack of sunshine has meant I have a green house full of green tomatoes that I have no idea what to do with. No honestly I hate green tomato chutney.

I did take Rhonda out last weekend and Bean Counter managed to clamber on board and we set off burning rubber on the highways and byways of the borough. The bike is going to take some getting used to. My last machine actually felt like a part of me and together we became one unit. This TA does not fill me with so much confidence. It may be that because I have been out of biking for so long that I am just very wary, however going around corners the wheels feel like 20 pence pieces. I suspect this is due to the knobbly tyres. The riding position is very high and great for visibility but any speed over 60MPH makes your head feel as though it is about to be blown off. Another aspect of the high riding position is that the centre of gravity is also quite high. In my book this is not a good thing on a bike. Its also a lot heavier than anything I have been used to before although this could just be because I am now well into middle age and not as fit as I used to be. I do know if I drop the damn thing it will be a hell of a job to get it off the ground. I have decided to add another section to my blog about travel and I will write in detail about the bike and the ongoing attempt to make it and myself ready and fit to go long distances.

I suspect that amongst all the doom and gloom about weather and the continuing slide of property prices and the announcements of job losses, there will be a silver lining I just don’t know where.

New ornaments in the pond

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Wow, the entry “technic cleansing” certainly got a response. I have had hate mail from dedicated PS3 owners and congratulations from X Box owners saying told you so! Well Commander Riker and me have come up with a project for the summer. CR reckons it is entirely possible to resurrect the PS3. I have pulled what is left of it out of the pond and placed it into the grid where it is currently oozing green slime. When it has drained we are going to take it to bits, clean up the insides with contact cleaner and install a new hard drive. I am going to create a wooden case to house the bits and we are going to call it a PS3 Xtreme. I have my doubts about this but CR reckons it will work.

Technical difficulties still abound and my ISP has now gone off. Calls to those very nice and helpful technical staff at some call centre on the Indian sub continent have been as much use as an ash tray on a motorbike. My access to the net and posts will therefore be sporadic and limited at best until Catsili get their finger out. You may ask why not change providers? Well most providers want to lock you into a 12 month contract and I hope to be away from here in 9 months, yes it is that close. In the meantime their may new ornaments in the pond.

The first and last barbie of the year?

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

The menu

July 5th 2008, that was the date The Beast and myself had agreed upon to hold a Barbie for his daughter’s celebration of leaving school and burning her old school books. Months of planning were finally going to come to fruition, a menu was created and lots of items were taken out of many freezers. We were going to make our own beef burgers as opposed to buying them, use the best farm sausages we could find, smoke a full brisket weighting 18.5 pounds and  smoke a pork shoulder at the same time.

The mince, all 25 pounds of it was defrosted and on the Thursday night prior to the event, Roger Moor, Bean Counter and me all turned up at The Beasts house. Along with TB’s long-suffering wife the five of us swung into action peeling onions, chopping Chiles into very fine pieces and assembling herb and spice combinations. Five types of burger were created that evening and they included:

Chile burgers, which was 3 pounds of minced beef, 12 ounces of chopped onions, 2 Oxo Cubes, three teaspoons of dried Chile flakes, three teaspoons of dried hot Chile powder and 5 chopped fresh Chiles two twists each of salt and pepper from a grinder for each pound of mince and bound together with 2 eggs.

Curry burgers, and for this we used three pounds of mince using the same quantities of salt, pepper, eggs, 2 Oxo cubes, onions and using 12 teaspoons of mild curry powder.

Tomato burgers, which consisted of three pounds of mince, basil, thyme, garlic, rosemary, lots of tomato sauce and anything else that TB could think of to throw in. We did not use any eggs to bind these with.

Bourbon and cheese burgers. Three pounds of mince, 12 ounces of onion, 2 Oxo cubes, salt and pepper to taste, several good slugs of bourbon and I really don’t remember how much grated cheese we put in the mix. (It has to be said that this was an off the cuff decision and owes more to the inspiration of a beer or two than anything planned and carefully thought out. I am pretty sure that we put other stuff in as well and we used most of this mixture on the night of production as the finished burger tasted wonderful.)

For the plain beef burgers we used ten pounds of mince, 40 ounces of chopped onion, 4 Oxo cubes, 2 twists of salt and pepper for each pound of meat, 4 eggs to bind and half a pot of Phileas Fogg Steakhouse seasoning.

To ensure consistency of size, weight and shape all the burgers were produced using a hand held burger press.

Cooking

The Brisket, which was a huge cut of meat, was marinated in Stubbs beef marinade for 36 hours and placed straight into the smoker. The Pork was marinated in Cider for 24 hours and then given a dry rub of Kansas City sweet and sticky spiced rub. The smoker, comprising of the Rumo I had purchased the year before, was fired up at around 6am on the morning of the Barbie and initially started with a mixture of charcoal, twigs and firelighters. When the firelighters had burned off and all smell of paraffin had vanished, chopped and dried silver birch logs along with chestnut and some oak logs were placed on the still flaming charcoal to ignite. At approximately 7pm when the heat had built up to around 100 centigrade the brisket was loaded into the smoking section with the shoulder of pork at the coolest end of the chamber as it was the smaller of the two cuts. Logs were added for the next 7 hours and the dampers on the air intake and the smoke stack were adjusted to keep the heat constant.

Keeping the heat constant is a job that requires some skill and the air intake had to be opened when things cooled down and closed when it was becoming too hot. The flow of air to burning wood is what actually produces heat or smoke and the damper on the chimney stack ensures that the hot smoke stays in the chamber. If the airflow damper is closed and it is still too hot in the smoking chamber, then opening the smoke damper allows the hot smoke to rush out taking the excess heat along with it. The meat was turned both horizontally and vertically every hour or so to ensure the smoke would cover equally every section of the meat. The brisket was basted with Stubbs marinade as opposed to mopping sauce at approximately 2 hours before it came out of the smoker.

The burgers and sausages were cooked on the Billy Oh gas griddle. I have said previously that this grill is the best I have ever used. It has large easy to use control knobs and a large hot plate. The burgers were cooked on the hot plate allowing them to be pressed down with a scraper. Cooking them on the griddle and pressing them down would have pushed them through the gaps between the bars. Because the burgers were home made and thicker than the shop bought ones they took a little while longer to cook but they had a lot less fat in them and tasted much better than any mass produced burgers I have purchased before.

We had catered for around 70 people and at least 80 were invited. The date had been set a couple of weeks before hand and as the meat had to come out of the freezer there was no option of changing this date. With this in mind a block of 12 or so people decided the day beforehand that they could not make it and the weather forecast was for thunderstorms. TB worked like a demon preparing the ground and between TB myself and Roger Moor we erected a Heath Robinson affair of a marquee comprising of two sheets of tarpaulin and some string. All of this in the pouring rain, and, whilst being interrupted to be told TB’s van was on fire. It was not the most auspicious start to the biggest Barbie of the year so far.

The Event

On the day itself only about 30 people turned up due to the appalling weather conditions. Most people had left by 11pm, however TB and me made up for the lack of people by trying to entertain everyone single handed, admittedly I got on some peoples nerves in the process but that is a minor issue! At one stage in the evening we ceremoniously burnt the college work of TB’s eldest daughter on a fire of logs and real coal. It was around about this time that some one suggested we go fire walking by stepping bare foot across the hot coals. With several large gins under my belt this sounded like a really good idea and I stripped off my socks and shoes. It was then I noticed that the others were not so much as fire walking but fire running and even fire sprinting. I was determined to do this properly or not at all and so I strolled casually across the glowing embers only screaming at how much my feet hurt when I had got to the other side. Photos of the event can found by clicking this link

Due to the vagaries of the British weather, those nice weathermen have informed us that this years summer will be a washout and the wettest since records began. I had though last year was bad enough and it was the wettest since records began, this may well be the first and last Barbie of the year.

Technic Cleansing

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008

It has not been a good week technologically speaking. Some time ago my Cambridge Audio amp gave up the ghost and decided to cut out at irregular but frequent intervals. My Play Station has been nothing but trouble since I bought the damn thing and I have regretted wasting money on such a useless piece of junk from almost the day it arrived in my house. The up-scaling DVD player I purchased has been showing signs of overheating and consequent picture and sound loss. The large format Digital TV has also found to be wanting when it sometimes decides to show random colours and vertical stripy lines instead of the crisp clear picture it was purchased to provide.

A few days ago and my current pride and joy, Rhonda The Honda, was knocked over buy a group of people watching my friend The Beast trying to extinguish flames coming out the back of his van. That is another story for a future entry. I went to see TB to get my bike back from his house last evening and pushed the ignition button on RTH and waited as precisely nothing happened. It turns out that after righting the bike some tyre kickers and lever pullers had switched on the heated grip switch and my battery had run dry. The bike is new to me at least and trying to figure out how to find the battery and how to get it out of the housing was a major feat in itself. However it was accomplished after much teeth grinding and hair pulling. I took it home to charge up.

Feeling less than pleased that RTH was sat miles away and I was unable to take her out for a spin, I decided to relax by watching the last two episodes of Doctor Who that Roger Moor had kindly placed onto a DV disk for me. About 30 minutes into a gripping episode the up scaling DVD decided it had overheated and would now only show a few frames of picture and the occasional sound bite when it felt like it. Feeling non-plussed about this I turned on the play station and decided to watch the rest of the disk from that. It has to be said the picture was superb but there was no sound. I swapped cables, reset the Sony, consulted the manuals and rang friends for help but all to no avail. The Play Station had decided that it was only fit for deaf people and as I still have hearing left it was going to show me exactly who was boss. Several hours later and I had just about enough of this piece of shit laughing at me. As I said earlier I have regretted buying this item and I was determined if it was not going to work for me then it would not work for any one.

It has to be said that the Play Station does not bounce well nor is it waterproof. I expect the frogs in my pond are extremely happy with their new pond ornament. It was in its own little way my episode of “Gourmet Night” from “Fawlty Towers” in which Basil Fawlty decides to give his car a “Damn good thrashing” I have consequently banned all Sony products from my house and I have resolved never to purchase one of their products ever again. It’s a one-man crusade and it won’t make any difference to the Japanese giant but it makes me feel good and I know I wont have to suffer one of their over bloated and so complicated pieces of hardware ever again.

There are advantages of getting rid of stuff that does not work, it is extremely good for the soul and it is one less item I have to worry about when I go away. I wont have to store it or transport it anywhere. Unless the up-scaling DVD and the TV decide to buck their ideas up a similar fate awaits them. It is called Technic Cleansing.

Nelson Mandela

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

After the excitement of getting the bike, it seemed the week would not get any better but it did. Bean Counter and me headed off to London for a two night concert in Hyde Park.  We left on the Friday to ensure being there nice and early for the Saturday show. It starts sure enough with an innocuous train ride from Lime Street Station to Euston on one of the all singing and dancing Virgin Pendolino Trains. They are whisper quiet, very clean and super fast with lots of electronic gizmos and flashing seat numbers. Even the doors are electronic push button, and that includes the toilet doors. I make mention of this because when we were not far from Euston, BC and me decided to haul our luggage from the racks and stand in the corridor near the exit doors. I decided it would be a good idea to use the toilet before I got off and duly pressed one of the buttons on the door. Not much happened so I pressed it again.

The door slowly opened to reveal a woman in some obvious distress and frantically trying to cover her modesty. She started shouting for me to close the door but I could not. I grabbed hold of it and tried to pull it back but it was stuck in the open mode. I was desperately trying to apologise for this intrusion when other people started to look to see what the commotion was about. Feeling like some sort of pervert all I could was turn my back and attempt to cover the doorway so no one else could see in and wait for the electronic door to close again. Fortunately everyone could see the funny side after a few minutes but when she came out I felt too embarrassed to go in and use it myself. You would think the new toilets would have had some system that said engaged or in use but they do not. My advice to any one attempting to use this contraption is to knock on the door and ask if any one is inside.

After a hot sticky ride on the tube we arrived at our destination flustered and glad to be out of the airless London underground at rush hour. After changing the pair of us went outside to take a stroll around Park Lane and Mayfair. As we neared the Dorchester hotel we could see a lot of armed police and heavily built security types with dark glasses and on the steps was Nelson Mandela. I shouted and cheered and waved along with a couple of hundred others who had got wind he was there. The great man waved back to everyone and I was so busy cheering and clapping I didn’t take a photograph. But I have the knowledge that I got closer to the man than any one in the audience of the event held for his 90th birthday party in Hyde Park that evening.

For those of you unfamiliar with concert etiquette, you are not allowed to take in food or alcohol. Your bags are searched on the way in and you are victim to the scandalously high prices charged by the vendors inside. It is difficult to get around this but BC and me are now consummate concert attendees and as usual we had our plans. We purchased two bottles of water emptied the water out and filled them with 1 part gin and 2 parts tonic water. These look fairly innocent and many a hard pressed security guard has given nothing more than precursory glance at the label on the bottle and waved us through. Our plans this day not come to fruition. I had bought the wrong bottles of water, they were still water bottles. So what I hear you ask? Well the difference is this; the screw tops on flat drinks are only one thread deep as no pressure builds up in the bottle to burst the top. I discovered this while sitting with my feet in the Dianna memorial fountain and opening one of my bottles. The top flew off with such a loud bang that every one in earshot turned and looked at me as if I was terrorist letting off a bomb. Again I apologised profusely to all that were following my every move and took several hefty swigs of my “water” to show no harm was intended or done and was pissed within ten minutes. There was nothing for it but to keep up the charade until the bottle was empty. Half a litre of gin disposed of in almost 15 minutes. The second bottle was dispatched just as fast and we staggered to the arena entrance barely able to stand.

After entering the arena it was time to hit the Pimms tent and 20 quid later one jug of watery Pimms appeared on our table. Fortunately I had with me my concealed hip flask and was able to top it up to a reasonable strength within minutes. The prices charged at the event were astronomical and a portion of stickleback and chips was ten quid (it should have been fish and chips but the “fish” was that small it could only have been a stickleback). A 500ml bottle of 4% Gaymers cider was four pound. I know these people have to make a living and the cost of these events are enormous but when you have no choice but to eat and drink from the vendors who all set their prices at the same level there is no competition at all. Clapton was brilliant but we left the event some 80 pounds lighter than when we went in. I also need to make mention of the fact that it is now called Hard Rock calling instead of London calling due to the event being sponsored by the Hard Rock chain. This has had the effect of stopping many of the smaller independent stalls from being allowed into the event. There were no clothes stalls or “Head” stalls and much of the very essence of a concert has now been lost to hard nosed commercialism and it is very much the worse for it.

I did not make the same mistake on Sunday and after a cream tea on the terrace of the hotel I purchased sparkling water with much stronger bottles. We did not open them until we were in the arena and they lasted almost until the encore by the Police. We still hit the Pimms tent and we did have a great time but whether we would do it again is very much in question. The sheer cost is astronomical. Tickets for the two days came to around 200 pounds plus the hotel and the transport there and back. All in all the weekend probably cost around 1000 pounds including spending money but we did get to see Nelson Mandela.