Quick and incoherent thoughts on my return…

Most important: go to Texas, because virtually everything you think about Texas and Texans is wrong, and since coming back I’ve decided it’s actually Europeans who are dreadful people – snotty, self-important, dismissive, ignorant, petty, humourless nations with a proud history of persecution and a propensity to dictatorship. (Post-holiday blues, moi?)

Texans are great. Humour as dry as a bone, enormously hospitable and all consumed with an honest curiosity about why on earth anyone would come visit them.

I am going to be saying “Awesome!” a lot for the next couple weeks.

My mates are also great people. Ten days hanging around with such focused, straightforward, do-y people did me the power. Thanks, guys.

Swimming is awesome. I need to do more.

Tubing is not just awesome, it’s totally awesome, but doing it on the Guadalupe River at 40 Celsius is going to be rather nicer than doing it on the Thames in October, so that’s one to save for a future trip.

Aside: the ice-cream place where M bought me a bakewell tart ice-cream in Richmond today is also awesome, but is not Diet.

The Ford Escape is the worst, sorriest, most appalling excuse for a simulation of something which might under the right circumstances qualify as a vehicle that I want to write to its design team and invite them to explain themselves very briskly indeed. Whether it was drifting round corners if taken at above 2 mph, creaking as though it were ship-built, or just being completely and utterly gutless, it never once gave me a moment’s pleasure. Driving it for a week ought to be reserved for people who hurt kittens for pleasure.

I have now eaten in a revolving restaurant. (In the linked page, I am the diner on the right, enjoying a typically low-key soft drink.) And we got there by going along the River Walk — a successful urban regeneration project for once….

Perfect final activity: watching beer be bottled, sterilised, labelled and packed in the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, “the cleanest little town in Texas”.

Texans are proud of things; it seems to come naturally to them. On the odd occasion they do have to go looking a little harder for the prize, though. I was constantly expecting women to mention in passing that their son, Skeeter, was the tallest pre-pubertal Caucasian teen born south of San Antonio on a Thursday since 1972.

Should more spring to mind, there will be updates.

If you were a theme park….

Sunday morning discovered me slumped in front of the goggle box after a splendid bash, looking for something I could use to keep my eyes occupied for ten minutes. I found a curious factoid-laden thing about Dolly Parton, which as you would expect mentioned Dollywood. In my hypnagogic state, my mind wandered off after the idea. What would it be like, I wondered, if I had a theme park? What would be in it? Continue reading

Delia’s Toasties

I can’t quite believe I have allowed things to progress this far without sharing with you the joy of Delia’s Toasties, mentioning it only in passing in an earlier post. Let me therefore correct that error…

For those of you who enjoyed “Tuna and Pasta Bake, Oh My!”, here’s the original from which I shamelessly lifted the idea. And, it turns out, some of the phrasing — though I hadn’t even seen it for about three years when I wrote. Weird, eh? Must be the urbane genius of the original. Note also my mangling of the original title — apologies.

This recipe is copyright Tom Witney.

Lesson 1: Scrambled Toast.

For this simple, yet time consuming, snack you will need:

one sandwich toaster (I find that geriatric ones work best for this
4 slices of bread
some of that marvellous low fat olive spread
fillings of your choice

The first thing to do is to make sure that you clean the sandwich toaster
thoroughly using plenty of detergent. We don’t want any nasty grease do

The next step is to decide on which fillings you want to use. My
favourites are mozzerella, sun dried tomatoes, olives, parmesan, fresh
basil leaves, lime and coriander. (If you’re common don’t
worry. I’ve heard that mild cheddar and HP sauce work wonderfully.)

Now we’re ready to start cooking. Take your 4 slices of bread, I always
make sure I use fresh granary – it gives a lovely nutty flavour, and
spread thinly with some low fat olive spread. (Again, the common people
reading need not fret. Sunblest and lard work just as well I’ve been

When the sandwich toaster is good and hot, put in the bread spread side
down and assemble the fillings. Close the toaster and leave until the
cheese has melted and the bread is thoroughly welded into the toaster.

Taking care to burn yourself several times, laboriously scrape the bread
and fillings from the toaster and arrange on a plate using a sharp knife.
If you do it properly this can take up to half an hour!

When you’ve scraped all you can, you should find yourself with a plate of
slightly cheesy breadcrumbs and a knackered sandwich toaster. Delicious!
Leave the toaster to soak overnight, then attempt to chip the rest of the
cheese from the cooking surface. Spend a good hour or two over this.
Then throw the damned thing away!

Unfortunately this meal only serves one, but it makes a marvellous starter
at dinner parties (Common people: you can stop reading this now and go
back to The Sun crossword). Make your guests the toast in the usual way in
individual sandwich toasters. Serve hot and still in the toaster. Your
guests can experience the frustration and anger themselves as they try and
scrape the remains of their dinner from the awkward corners!

Enjoy! And remember. The time consuming nature of this dish makes it
ideal for times when you’re really busy. Like exam term perhaps.

Next week: Delia shows us how to burn eggs!

More Theatre, dahling

How could I miss it? Shazz as Bottom was absolutely splendid. And keeps my theatre tally up, which is all to the good.

Now I just need a new car, a spare couple of hundred thousand quid for gifts, a place in the country and a couple of labradors and I’ll be practically Chelsea material. Well. Hmm. Maybe not.

Funny ha-ha…

It was put to me this week that I should, as it were, expose myself publicly as part of a strategy to generate wealth through humour. Whilst I accept I do, from time to time, prompt fits of incontinent laughter on the part of those around me, I couldn’t help but compare it to the other part of my wealth-generation strategy: working.

There has been an opportunity in my workplace of late to apply for a change in role: the sort of change which, yes, does have a pound symbol attached, but a modest one, the point of the exercise having as much to do with getting to face the kind of challenges you really fancy waking up at 3am worrying about, rather than ones you would hate to wake up at 3am worrying about, but wake up at 3am worrying about anyway. (With sentence construction skills like these, no one need fear my application progressing too far.)

It’s been interesting to observe the various approaches of those colleagues who have applied, and, out of deference to their privacy, I shall say nothing about any of them, save that the person who thinks they’re most cynical and defeatist about it is in fact hopelessly outclassed in negativity by another applicant. I… looked at the forms, shall we say, and thought about how I would fill in a couple of the blank boxes presented.

Two hours and six words later, I had failed to find in myself a single redeeming quality. Even my old PE teacher did better than this, and I was a real challenge (he wrote: “Mike is hopeless at this subject and knows it, but I enjoy his dry sense of humour”). Had I spent any longer on the matter, it’s safe to say I would have had to resign immediately, on grounds of sheer honesty.

So if, in a totally ahumorous, ruthlessly fact-based sort of a way, I cannot think of one good thing to say about myself, what hope could there possibly be for me as a humorist, when invention, wit, agility of imagination and mastery of the over-extended nonsense metaphor are all marvellous but essentially adjuncts to sound underlying structure of the prosaic old ahumorous sort? Wilde, of course, maintained that he reserved his true genius for his conversation, which has ever since provided hope to generations of bad writers who, when drunk, think they’re funny (self, of course, excluded: when drunk I am hysterical).

So which will garner more pounds sterling: funny “ha ha” or funny “I take my job extremely seriously, and regard it as my life’s work to improve human lives through intelligent application of technology, right up until the Singularity, for which I will be right at the front of the upload queue”? And is that even a particularly important question to ask (if you work for a mortgage broker, please note that the sentence in which this parenthesis is embedded is humorous and should not be understood as implying financial irresponsibility on the part of its author, who would like to borrow six times his salary to live in a Zone 6 shoebox, pretty please with icing on) in these days of personal fulfilment plans and tailored dieting?

Well, who knows, who can say, and I expect as with so many things in life we’ll find out sooner than we could have worked it out. Good night and good luck.

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Oh me oh my. I don’t know what happened, but if I did I’m sure it would all be lovely memories of you charming people helping me have a fantastic time. Next year we’ll do a big one, yes?

Only problem: no camera. Has anyone any photographic evidence of the event?

NYE Survival Kit

You will need:

  • One shoulder of lamb
  • One large casserole dish
  • 2 bottles champagne
  • 9 bottles wine (2 white, 7 red)
  • 2 parents
  • 3 friends
  • Gin
  • One lime

Place the lamb in a tasty tagine.
Make a gin sorbet, a mackerel pate (process together mackerel fillets — watch the bones — Philly Light, Quark and freshly ground black pepper), fresh bread, an egg florentine in a ramekin per head, serve in slightly different order, follow with one delicious carrot cake, cream, cheese, cream, grapes and cream, then coffee (or don’t, if you forget).

Allow to settle and drink the wine. The result should be an admirable New Year.