Archive for the ‘animals’ Category


staged events, part the second

December 4, 2008

So, still buoyant from our happy time at the Gielgud theatre, we went a couple of weeks later to the Mad Max inspired Millenium Dome, now much more branding-consciously called the O2 Arena, essentially a yurt on steroids filled with American-themed steak-and-cocktail eateries, drinkeries and clubbings. With a stage of some sort attached. We were there to see Monkey: Journey to the West, a production of the ancient Chinese story of the Buddhist priest Tripitaka (or more properly,  Xuanzang) and the Monkey King, Sūn Wùkōng (or Qítiān Dàshèng, “Great Sage, Equal of Heaven”) and their journey to India to collect the famous three baskets of sacred scrolls (the actual tripitaka, which gave the priest his honorary name.)

The story has been a staple of Asian legend for hundreds of years, and was brought to my attention by the Japanese TV series made of it between 1978 and 1980. I didn’t get around to looking up the printed translation until about 4 years ago. A very fun read, so I was very pleased to hear of the new stage production here.

Especially pleased because of the creative team behind it: Chen Shi-zheng, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, very stylish gents all, in their fields. So off we went to the cultural Arena, or more precisely, to a second sub-tent ’round the back of the main über Petri dish. I have to say I was impressed. I think it was the first theatre performance I’ve seen where I thought I could sit through it all again straight away (over 2 hours plus intermission!)

There were subtitles to read (it was all performed in Mandarin, the cast being mostly, if not entirely Chinese), though not many, but with so much going on on stage that I was torn between keeping my eyes riveted to the antics and acrobatics and flicking them offstage to the projected text on either side.

The first half focussed on the birth and life of Monkey, and the eventual formation of Tripitaka’s expeditionary troupe, much the way the translation I read did. If you’re more familiar with the TV show this will come as a bit of a revelation, as it glossed over that bit in the intro, then got down to what happens after the intermission of the stage production, the battles with the monsters (which makes it perfect TV fodder – the Chinese original had 81 Monsters of the Week already written in!) Eventually the troupe makes it, despite all adversity, to the temple which is their destination, to pick up the scrolls and be blessed by Buddha. Yay!

Apparently they do travel back to China, sacred scrolls in hand, where Tripitaka spends the rest of his life translating, reciting, and teaching them, but that wasn’t covered in this production. Phew.

Excellent staging and all ’round production values, I thought, though I’m far from an expert. Two thumbs up.

That’s two wins from two performances! Just before xmas, we have cheap tickets to Spamalot. We’ll see if we can get the hat-trick. Wish us luck…


The Flavour of Mystery

August 28, 2008

It is a mysterious taste, as it turns out, because only about 700 people in all of Great Britain have actually tasted anything like it. Good, fresh food, that is (maybe a tiny exaggeration).

The mystery began, as you may remember, when we booked a meal at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage HQ. The secret handshake survived the emailing, and as per instructions we walked with a map carefully memorised (but not eaten, lest it spoil the feast to come), and proceeded on foot down the darkening unsignposted country lane to the designated rendezvous point.

From there, with a group of fellow secret-handshakees, we were conveyed to the final destination by (relatively) unmarked stealth-tractor.

Out of the tractor and into the welcoming yurt (!) (arrayed with chilled Somerset apple brandy apéritifs and marvellous crab canapés) we hors d’oeuvred around the small cheery wood-burning stove warming the cool Devon evening. Then, suitably refreshed, we were welcomed to River Cottage proper. Once on the premises, we discovered, it was pretty much open slather. ‘Don’t disturb the Head Gardener, that’s his place over there, and don’t go into the room that’s been booked for the private function’ were our only real proscriptions. ‘Wander around the kitchen garden, visit the pigs, the geese (and they were delightfully friendly!), the ducks, the generator room, the kitchen, annoy the chefs, that’s what they’re here for!’ The place was ours. ‘Even look at the menu, if you want, before the meal starts!’ The veil of mystery had been whipped away to reveal…

We ate and drank (look here for some of the delicious beverages we imbibed) and yapped copiously in a converted barn, on two long trestles, about 15 to a side, couples across the table from one another, so every couple had four strangers to talk to. Once seated, there was a complimentary glass of English sparkling wine, and the head chef (Noni, Australian, gorgeous) made an appearance to commend the food to us, and tell us the names of the animals (and vegetables) that had given their lives that we might be sated. The bubbly, accompanied by a wild sea-bass ceviche (a bit bland for our taste) was, surprisingly, very good, and the names of the beasts, ‘pig’ and ‘lamb’, weren’t too off-puttingly personal.

— from James Rose(?)

So to the food, should you be interested – I liked the pig’s liver pâté. It had a rustic granularity, and lightness, lent to it by breadcrumbs, but Linda thought it should have been smoother [it’s pâté! pâté! (ed)] The fish soup was a winner. Hearty and fabulously full of stocky richness, well matched to the chorizo chunks swimming lustily back and forth across the bowl. The lamb was pretty damn good, but could have been, in an ideal world, a little bit more succulent (the poor little thing was sacrificed for us and was cooking for about 24 hours and still managed to be a teensy bit dry). The cheeses were a fine mix of assorted goat and cow varieties, with plenty of flavour, but all hard cheeses basically, some more variety in texture would have improved the plate hugely. Also, who knows how many hedgerows had to die to make that jelly? And so to the strawberry fool, what can you say? Fruity, sweet and creamy – quintessential dessert! [Linda didn’t like it at all].

So yes the food was good – not the greatest we’ve had, but close to the best we’ve had in Britain; and the fine, fine staff made the evening top stuff (if ever you read this lovely people you were wonderful – human and informed and all the right things) but the secret to the whole affair was the throwing together of a bunch of strangers, adding lovely tucker and lots of yummy beverages et viola! A top time was had by nearly all. Linda even got to sing along to Big Yellow Taxi with a lovely Cornish lass. What more can you ask for from an evening?

River Cottage rocks!

And we must tell you about the Chicken Out campaign soon.


The Searchers

May 26, 2008

No, this isn’t a blog about John Ford, John Wayne, or even Vera Miles.

This is a blog to appease the appetites of all those people who come to this blog looking for various flavours of pigeon.

In the last while we’ve had people search for “what do pigeons eat”, “fat pigeons”, “bad things about pigeons”, “good things about pigeons”, “how many pigeons are there in the world?”, “knitted pigeon”, “Starsky cardigan”, “mannikin bird”, “roast pigeon bangkok”, “all kind of pigeons”, “exotic pigeons”, “fat fluffy animals”, “woohoo pigeons”, and, mysteriously, “scoopy pigeon”.

Most of these I can understand, many are highly respectable searches, and some we probably even have useful information about in this blog. But “scoopy pigeon”? Is somebody getting tips and assembling recipes for a roadkill feast? Responsibly taking their pet pigeon for a walk in the park, plastic bag in hand? I don’t get it at all.

fat pigeon

Pigeon searchers, this one’s for you.



February 11, 2008

This from my National Trust magazine:

“Bumblebee workshop. Join Dr Nick Owens for the workshop which covers the identification and classification of bumblebees. Not suitable for dogs.”



February 8, 2008


Ok I know they’re imported, ok I know they’ve all but eradicated the native red squirrels on this island, and I so know what havoc they can wreak on a garden, but grey squirrels are so cute! So cute! These rather blurry A-Current-Affair-style photos were taken through the window so excuse the picture quality (and taken by a very amateur photographer – ptooey Jacques!). The friendliest neighbourhood squirrel buried a peanut in one of our herb planters for winter safe keeping. I am now resisting the temptation to bore you with multiple letters and exclamation marks. Cuuuuuuuuuttttttte!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oops.

Oh yes and if your life has been incomplete without the mystery sound Jamesy finally figured out how to put it on an internet.


Ian Niall – we’re 5 years too late…

October 11, 2007

St George Goat Camembert cut

Tell you what, you can really tell when somebody cuts this little number. Even before it’s fully ripe, as illustrated – the completely and unambiguously goaty St George goat camembert.

We managed to pick up up Ian Niall’s “Around My House” (first edition, 1973!) and it makes us cry and laugh often. He is the Peter Cundall prototype (except that he works his infectiously enthusiastic magic with the animal rather than the vegetable.)


A pedestrian observation

October 7, 2007

Londoners are a weird mob (some might say it goes without saying, but we’ll leave them to their opinions), but I mean specifically on the footpath. I’m not the only one to notice it, it seems to be a standard tactic here: as you walk towards a fellow (or lady) pedestrian, even on an otherwise uninhabited pavement, they will swing towards you, into a possible collision path. As a newcomer to London you might (not unreasonably) think them drunk, and step lightly aside as necessary to avoid collision. Fair enough, problem solved, you might think.

At this juncture, some of you have no doubt already leapt mentally ahead (the story can’t be that simple, can it?) to the next possibility, and I fear you’re on the right track. At that time of day, whatever time that might be, that class of person (that’s a big deal here) can’t be drunk. Yet. So they’re doing it deliberately.

I’ve tested this. Show weakness, and they’ll walk straight ahead on their new course as if that was their birthright. They were born in Leicester or Worcester or Cirencester or Auckland or some such, after all (London’s not that great a probability, in my experience). But! If you refuse to give ground at the onset of swerve, their path will subtly alter, as though it was all simply a mistake, and there may be a gentle brushing of sleeves. That’s your bold customers. If you have a more tentative swerver you’ll miss them altogether. If, on the other hand, you take the initiative before them, and give a subtle (but readable) sidestep in their direction, they will, depending on the timidity or otherwise of their demeanour, either suddenly give way, all but leaping into the gutter to give you the room you obviously feel you need to function adequately on the footway, or hold their course, leaving what was usually actually more than enough room in the first place for all concerned.

In the immortal words of Arthur Atkinson, “‘ow queer!”

Luckily the vehicular traffic operates less idiosyncratically.