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Archive for March, 2009

A Rook Story


There I am quietly in the kitchen making a cup of coffee and just looking through the Sunday Times Style magazine and I hear this noise. Funny I think (I do think sometimes you know) I’m the only one in the house. Anyway being the brave sort of man I am, I take my coffee through to the study, I don’t know that noise is getting louder, nearer even!

Must be the window cleaner, I can hear some sort of clattering, but he only came a couple of weeks ago, he must be hard up!

No one out the front, what is that noise? It’s appears to be coming from the living room. Not a bloody Rook again, at least this time he is actually sitting on the coals rather than stuck up the cowling!

Get the cloakroom towel, remove the fire guard and extricate the little bugger, you’d think that would be easy wouldn’t you? Wrong, as soon as I throw the towel over him he decides that’s too scary and tries to bury himself under the coals. After a mammoth struggle (well I have to make it exciting don’t I?) I mange to grab him, flapping wings, twitchy feet and open beak ready to peck my hands off just as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

I gave him a good talking to as I marched him to the front door before releasing him back into the wild. When will they ever learn, dumb birds!

Put the coals back on the fire, hopefully in the right place and will have to put the light blue, with big black spots, towel into the wash!

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A Weekend With Friends


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Last weekend we were able to spend the weekend with some friends in Northern Ireland, not the sort of place that we ever thought of going to for a break. It all came about because Steph’s chorus, Signature, and Enigma, the quartet, had entered the Coleraine music festival. Unfortunately it was cancelled due to a lack of participants, maybe due in part to the current financial crisis!

Some of us decided that we would go anyway, just for a weekend away. Ann, one of the ladies in the chorus, did a wonderful job of organising the whole trip, even getting our very own coach and driver for the whole weekend. Thanks for a great job Ann.

Shortly after we arrived at the local Premier Inn on Friday afternoon we obviously had to meet in the adjacent bar for a pint of Guinness, no really you do have to start a trip to the ‘Emerald Isle’ with a Guinness. We then all strolled over the bridge, well maybe it was a little bit more than a stroll, to The Lodge which had been recommended to us by our driver Kenny. The Lodge is an older style hotel on the opposite side of the river to where we were staying but the 20 minute walk was well worth it. The meal was nice, the staff where very friendly and the wine wasn’t too bad either! Then there was the entertainment, a man with his organ, so much singing and dancing. It was a bit like going back in time watching mostly the locals having a fabulous time on the dance floor. I even noticed that the table next to us, which consisted of 4 ladies, just had a jug of water all evening, you wouldn’t get away with that where we live!

Most of us braved the cold and staggered back across the bridge to our hotel though there were some who bottled out and took a taxi, shame on you!

Saturday was a bright and early start, well 9 o’clock, I must admit I’m glad that I decided on the continental breakfast as the English was just HUGE. At around 10.30 we set off on the coach for a grand tour of the coast, first stop was the beach at Portstewart.

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We then drove on round the coast road to Dunluce Castle, about 3 miles to the east of Portrush. Dunluce dramatically clings to the top of a cliff overlooking the Atlantic.The castle is said to date back to the 14th centuary and is thought to be one of the most romantic and picturesque in the whole of Ireland.

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Back on the coach and we were off to the Bushmills Distillery.

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Unfortunately Ann had been unable to get us on one of the organised tours as our group of 10 was a little too small for them! Fortunately Kenny, our wonderful coach driver, was able to get us into the shop and introduced us all to the very mellow taste of Bushmills whiskey. We all sat and had a coffee in the cafe, well maybe we did also have the odd taste of the local brew! They say that this is the world’s oldest ‘licenced’ distillery but that the distilling goes back much further. We managed to reluctantly stagger back to the coach for the short drive onto our next stop at the Giant’s Causeway.

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After watching the short video on how the causeway was formed geologically, or how the giant built it (definitely my preference, I mean what do these scientists know!), most of us walked down to the causeway those who took the shuttle bus down will have to remain nameless for legal reasons! The causeway is a wonderful spectacle though for some strange reason I thought it would actually be larger than it actually was. I think we all caught the shuttle bus back, due only to time constraints you understand, not laziness in any way at all.

While we had been sightseeing Kenny had been up to The Nook, a 19th century school now converted to a restaurant, to see if he could get us all a table for lunch and has he happened to know someone it wasn’t a problem. The Nook is a really lovely place for a meal, full of old world charm, good food and friendly service.

After lunch it was back onto the coach to continue our journey to the Carrick-A-Rede rope bridge near Ballintoy. Here there is no choice. if you want to cross, or just view others crossing, the bridge you need to walk down the coastal path from the car park to the bridge.

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The bridge itself was originally created by the salmon fishermen to cross the 18m chasm giving access to the fishery, it’s about 24m down to the sea below. In the end I think all but a couple of us managed to get to the other side. Once across there were some spectacular views of the Fulmar gulls gently gliding off the cliffs, didn’t see anyone with a hang glider trying it though.

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It took everyone a while to get back to the coach, I think Kenny was a little upset as he really would have liked to have been home in time to see the start of the 6 nations final between Wales & Ireland, sorry Kenny but at least you did see most of it and what a nail biting finish it was too!

On Sunday morning, sadly, we had to check out and start our journey back to the airport. We did manage to have a fairly scenic drive back with a couple of stops for photos. We had lunch at a Comfort Inn a little way outside of Belfast, which considering it was Mothering Sunday, was very pleasant. After lunch we made one final stop en-route to the airport and that was in Belfast itself. Just a quick pull over to take some photos of some of the ‘Loyalist’ wall paintings that are found on the sides of some of the houses.

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Having spent this weekend in Northern Ireland it has certainly made me change my mind about the place. It is a very friendly place that reminds me very much of times past, quieter and more relaxed than we are here in the south east of England, the coastal scenery really does need to be seen to be appreciated.

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Tribute To Tina


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Yesterday was mums funeral, a small affair just with the family and a few of her friends. Jacki Thomas the chaplain from Thames Hospicecare, where mum passed away on February 26th, officiated. The following tribute was written and read by Steph for which I am eternally grateful, thank you darling.

Tina Ramsay as we all knew her, was born Clementine Palmyre Marerens on 1st March 1925 in Brussels. She had one brother, Francois, and although times were hard she had a loving and protective upbringing. The Second World War of course, changed life completely for all those in occupied countries, and, Tina knew not to ask her father and brother too many questions when the Resistance were at work! Her brother was eventually arrested and spent several desperate years in Dachau before being released at the end of the War. One good thing to come at the end of the War was the influx of ‘Tommies’ – one of whom was John Thomas Ramsay, known to everyone as Jack. They met at a dance, married, and Louis was born in 1951. They lived and worked in Belgium and Luxemburg, but made the move back to England in 1958.

Tina worked hard at learning English and was proud of the fact that she was always able to get jobs and was never out of work. She was also an excellent seamstress, making clothes for herself, and even suits for Jack. Later on in their life together, they were able to enjoy several wonderful cruise holidays, and Tina made her own formal dresses to wear on the ships. When Louis and Steph were married in 1974, Tina even made Steph’s lovely wedding dress.

Tina & Jack’s grandchildren, Kate and Tom, arrived in 1980 and 1981 respectively, but, sadly, Jack passed away just a couple of weeks after Tom was born. Tina however, was always involved in the lives of her grandchildren and was very proud of everything they achieved – even in later years, getting over her fear of horses so that she could watch Kate at horse shows!

So, how to sum up Tina – well, she didn’t have an easy life, but she was always fiercely independent and was not afraid to speak her mind. She loved dancing and she loved animals – all except spiders that is! She faced her diagnosis of lung cancer with fortitude, and amazed everyone with her cheerfulness even as the disease progressed. Even during her final weeks she showed her spirit by insisting on discussing the arrangements for her funeral and booking Jackie to conduct the ceremony! This indomitable spirit lives on in her son and her grandchildren, and will undoubtedly continue on through the generations to come.

Although she was small in stature, her memory will always be big in our hearts. We will all miss her so much

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Moved Blog!


For a while now I have been thinking of splitting my original blog as the posts that I’ve been making really don’t fit the blog. It should be concentrating on my photography but instead I appear to be posting nothing but recipes, no wonder I’m so fat! Today I eventually bit the bullet.

Voila – ChezLouis is officially launched! So much so that the champagne is still flowing down the iMAC and there is broken glass all over my desk. Better get that cleaned up before Steph gets back.

I just hope with all these blogs that I will find enough time, and subject matter, to actually use them!

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This is a simple butternut squash which I came up with today. It takes less than an hour to make, depending on how quick you are at peeling the vegetables! Sorry but there are no photos today, didn’t have the time.

Ingredients:

1 Butternut Squash
1 Onion
Cayenne Pepper to taste
Ground Cinnamon to taste
Nutmeg
Salt & Black Pepper
Mixed Herbs to taste
Olive Oil
Water
White Wine (optional)
Creme Fraiche (optional)

  1. Peel and chop the onion, place in a saucepan with a little olive oil. Heat until the onion goes soft and translucent.
  2. Peel the squash and remove the seeds. Chop in to smallish pieces, this is one time when size doesn’t matter, and add to the saucepan.
  3. Just let the squash absorb some of the oil that is still in the saucepan and then add some boiling water. The amount will depend on the size of the saucepan and the size of the squash. You don’t need to completely cover the squash, but you will need to ensure that the liquid does not completely evaporate otherwise the soup will burn!
  4. Add some cayenne pepper to give a bit of a kick (it doesn’t take a lot!), salt, pepper, ground nutmeg and some ground cinnamon (this helps to control the kick!). Add some mixed herbs if you like to enhance the flavour.
  5. Simmer until the squash is cooked. Don’t be afraid to add a bit more liquid during the cooking if it needs it. You could always add a bit of white wine instead of water (or as well as). I tend to use a wooden spoon to stir the soup as it is cooking and when I can start to squash the squash it is ready.
  6. Now you need to liquidise the soup. There are several ways you can do this, a blender, hand mixer, hand blender or even the wooden spoon. I tend to use the small electric hand blender as I can just blend the soup in the saucepan.
  7. Stir in a dollop of creme fraiche if you want the soup to be a bit creamier.

You may have noticed that I don’t add any extra stock, just the water that is used to cook the vegetables, there really is no need. When adding the liquid, don’t over do it or you will end up with a very thin soup. It is better to add the liquid a little at a time, I normally ensure that to start with the vegetables are at least a third to a half covered.

I normally serve this with freshly baked rolls.

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