Archive for August, 2010

See Emilie Play

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

 I used to enjoy international air travel, but that was in the days when flight attendants treated passengers like valued customers and not cheap air freight that incoveniently required to be transported from A to B with the minimum of fuss. However air travel is a means to an end, and we certainly didn’t begrudge flying 4091 miles followed by an exhausting 300 mile drive in a rental car to see my beautiful new granddaughter, Emilie Kate.

 However it’s the inevitable side shows along route which can take their toll on your energy levels. Why couldn’t some bright spark invent a sleeping pill to last the duration of the flight which enabled one to wake up refreshed? Once again I was a victim of the ever widening, hip flared surly flight attendants, some of whom have the charm of an overweight rottweiler on heat. Sorry dog lovers. Inevitably they conveniently forget that they are basically glorified waitresses while the beleaguered passengers are long suffering customers and we are doing them a favor by electing to fly with their airline.

I don’t care about the food and wine or the stock of movies available; just knock me out until I arrive at my destination. One more thing; can somebody explain to me why airlines continue to board aircraft via business class? Entering the aircraft, passengers eyes light up when they peruse the business class section displaying luxurious seats, and acres of leg room until reality strikes them in the butt.

Flight Attendant: Okay peasants, pick your jaws up from the floor, roll up your tongues and keep moving through to coach, economy, steerage, and punters’ class whatever.  We will be serving bowls of gruel 30 minutes after take-off  to those who don’t mention aching joints.

Airport security remains a pet peeve of mine. I appreciate that following 9/11 a stricter stance had to be taken to improve passenger safety, but give us a break on making ridiculous attempts to avoid racial profiling. My wife and I rarely check a bag and our carry on luggage is automatically subjected to X-Ray machines. Nevertheless, as we were about to board the plane my wife was apprehended by a security officer and subjected to a full body pat down while the contents of her luggage were unceremoniously sifted through by some laser device. Meanwhile a human being (difficult to tell the gender) in full yashmak passed contemptuously by my wife onto the waiting plane. When we finally arrived at our destination and successfully negotiated customs and passport control, we continued onto our next challenge: car rental!

Car Rental Agent: Good morning, how can I rip you off this morning, sorry how may I help you?

My wife: We reserved a car with your company a few days ago.

CRA: You did reserve the car for 8.30am but it’s only 8.25am so that makes you early in my book. I will overlook it this time and I will check the car’s status on my computer. Oh dear, your car is in the process of being cleaned following habitation by a bitch with a couple of dogs leaving hair all over the place. We’re not sure if the hair came from the bitch or the dogs. I’m afraid it will be a couple of hours before the car is ready for human occupation.

MW: Do you have another car available? You are not exactly inundated with customers at the moment.

CRA: The day has only just begun Madam; customers will be flying (pardon the pun) through the door as we speak. Just looking on the old DOS screen and I can upgrade you to a sewing machine with automatic transmission for just an extra 29 pounds. Even with the extra charge, it’s a steal honestly. It’s as cheap as chips and believe me you’re having a bargain.

MW: I appreciate the upgrade but it’s your company’s fault that the reserved car is not available and we shouldn’t have to pay a surcharge for your incompetence.

CRA: I understand where you’re coming from, (but I’m not listening; it does not compute); I understand completely, but believe me you are having a great deal with us. Dick Turpin couldn’t have done any better.

MW: I’m sorry but I don’t understand why we have to pay an upgrade when the onus is on you to provide us with a car at the reserved time.

 CRA: Right, fine, fine….. Don’t pay the extra. I will have to face disciplinary action from my superiors on Monday morning for allowing you to have this car at a pauper’s rate. The difference will come out of my pay packet but you don’t care about me do you?

MW: Here is my credit card which has driver insurance coverage. My husband will be the primary driver.

CRA: Really! I’m afraid you have to pay extra for an additional driver when you rent a car with this company.

MW: That’s ridiculous. Okay, we will use my husband’s credit card to pay for the car rental.

CRA: Aah! Aah! Your husband’s card doesn’t have driver’s insurance coverage and I’m afraid he will have to pay extra for motor insurance. It appears to me that I have you by the proverbial short and curlies whichever way you wish to do this.  I do detect an American twang, so what do Americans normally say in these situations? Thank you for your business and have a nice day.

We finally arrived at my daughter’s; shaken but not stirred by our experience on our journey. I had seen my granddaughter on Skype several times but the video didn’t do her justice. She is so precious and cute, and her mum is none too shabby either, that all the negative vibes accumulated along the way instantly vanished. What do they say, no pain no gain?




Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

 Apart from John Wayne, my dad, and possibly Winston Churchill, my heroes are those who excelled in sports. It’s not surprising since playing and watching sport has played a major role in my life much to the chagrin of my late mum and various school teachers. I could absorb sporting statistics without blinking an eye while attempting to memorize a chemical formula or an extract from a Shakespeare play was way beyond me.

There are sporting heroes and then there are sporting icons. Icons are those who for some illogical reason are referred to by one handle; it could be their first name, last name or even a nickname. Examples include Ali, Pele, Maradona, Tiger, Puskas, De Stefano, or Ivor. Larry Wayne Jones Junior falls into the icon category. Universally known as Chipper, he has been a fixture in the Atlanta Braves line up since 1995.

 He is 38 years old and for most of the season was struggling to recapture the form of a man previously revered as a Mets killer and the only hitter in the Braves line up that the New York Yankees feared. During the past month, Chipper was proving to critics, including myself, that there was life in the old dog until he tore his ACL making a defensive play at 3rd base. The Astros’ Hunter Pence ripped a ball down the 3rd base line. Chipper back handed the ball, twisted in the air while leaping towards the floodlights, and hurled a strike toward 1st base; nailing the batter by two feet.

Between the grab, the plant, the leap and the throw, Chipper damaged parts of the same ACL that he did in 1994 when he was a 21 year old rookie. He had an MRI performed a couple of days later which confirmed that he would miss the rest of the season  which possibly could signal the end of his career. Unlike Brett Favre, Chipper underwent surgery at the earliest opportunity which offered him the best possible chance of making spring training and a shot at making the starting line up come next April. I could be cynical and mention that he has a $28 million contract sitting on the table if he successfully makes it through rehab. But understandably, he wants to leave the Braves under his own terms and not because of an unfortunate injury.

I have lived in Atlanta since 1996 and I have followed his career closely. I hate the damn Yankees but they were absolutely spot on when they targeted Chipper has the danger man in the Braves line up. Quite frankly he was the only professional hitter on the team capable of hitting the ball to all sides of the field compared to the hackers who have plied their trade down the years at Turner Field.

 In the late nineties, the Braves v Mets rivalry was at its most intense and the difference between the two teams was Chipper. As a bizarre mark of respect, fans of opposing teams boo the star player on the other team and Chipper was no exception. When Chipper came up to bat, the Mets fans decided to chant his real name “Larry, Larry” continuously under the ridiculous notion it would upset him. Chipper’s reply was to blast the ball over their heads and contemptuously round the bases for yet another home run at Shey Stadium. Chipper loved playing at the stadium so much that he named one of his sons Shey.

Baseball is obsessed with stats and Chipper’s career stats are worth noting: batting average: .306, HRs: 436, RBIs: 1491, hits: 2487. Now the arguments will rage on whether he deserves to be a future hall of famer, and as a switch hitter, his achievements will be compared to Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray; two hall of fame switch hitters. Mantle hit 536 HRs, 1509 RBIs, and batted for a .298 average. Murray hit 504 HRs, 1917 RBIs and finished with a batting average of .287. Some skeptics will claim that Chipper needed to accumulate over 500 homers to be considered for the hall of fame but that would be too simplistic.

He made his big league debut in September 1993, but ironically missed the entire 1994 season with a torn knee ligament. He came back in 1995 and hit 86 RBIs in his rookie season. He also hit 3HRs in the 1995 post season as the Braves won the World Series.

Chipper is the only switch hitter in Major League Baseball history to have a .300+ career batting average and 400 or more home runs. He is third on the all-time list for home runs by a switch hitter. He accumulated 8 consecutive 100+ RBI seasons (1996-2003) and 14 consecutive 20+ HR seasons (1996-2003.) He was named the National League MVP in 1999 when he hit .319 with 45 HRs and 119 RBIs and stole 25 bases. When many fans thought his career was on the wane, he won the NL 2008 batting title (& MLB) with a season average .364.

He has virtually carried the Braves offense on his back for almost 15 years and understandably he is the Braves’ all-time leader (since the move back to Atlanta in 1966) in hits, home runs and RBIs. Chipper has regularly proved to be a team player; none more so when he volunteered to play left field to accommodate Vinny Castilla at 3rd Base. By his own admission he played a moderate left field in 2002 and 2003 until moving back to 3rd base in 2004. Some of the prima donnas dotted around the league would not have countenanced such a move fearing damage to their fragile egos and stats.

I have also had some harsh words to say about Chipper’s niggling injuries over the last few seasons, but only because his exclusion from the team considerably reduced their chances of winning. In his prime, and you needed a man to hit a baseball to save your life, I would choose Chipper without fear of hesitation. I bid him a fond farewell if the defensive play on the road at Houston is the last time we see him on the diamond. But I have a feeling that Chipper’s name will be penciled into the line up on opening day next season. In terms of our chances of making the playoffs, let’s win one for the Chipper.

Am I Being too Naive?

Monday, August 9th, 2010


Definition of naïve (adjective 🙂 unaffectedly, or sometimes foolishly, simple; childlike; artless, not suspicious; credulous; ingenuous……

I don’t consider myself naïve when it comes to life’s tapestry. I have traveled around the block a few times and picked up a few knocks and a  touch of cynicism along the way. Nevertheless, I am beginning to realize that I maybe a naïve blogger. I created my blog as an outlet to help prevent my brain cells from turning into mush. Basically it’s a hobby where I can write about issues free from editorial restrictions and don’t need to pay too much attention to political correctness; perhaps entertain and amuse some relatives and friends along the way.

I never envisaged that it would attract so many visitors and comments from the internet. Consequently I am naïve to assume that one can write about a harmless range of topics without attracting the attention of spam artists and persons posting comments which invariably link back to some cheesy commercial site.

On further investigation, I was alarmed to discover that approximately 90% of the spam comments emanate from automated spam bots despite their “human appearance.” Wrestling with my deflated ego, I am feverishly coming to terms with the sobering fact that I possibly have a limited audience of three; my son, my brother and my good friend Fernando and even they can be fickle! Did Hugh McIlvaney, Lewis Grizzard and James Thurber encounter similar problems in their literary careers?

Am I being ingenuous to expect good customer service from my local grocery store? I popped in there on Saturday to buy a couple of items only to be given a ring side seat to the store manager and one of his departmental managers engaging in a loud and fierce argument over the display and pricing of merchandize; totally oblivious of non-plussed customers attempting to make their way to the meat counter. In the same store, I recently witnessed a cashier with all the charm of a demented orangutan berating a special needs teenage boy, hired as a bagger, for inadvertently dropping a couple of cans of tomatoes to the floor.

Am I also credulous to assume that road etiquette still exists. Am I being artless to expect that fellow motorists will stop  at a red light, indicate when they change lanes on an interstate/motorway, never cut me up at 70mph, refrain from applying make up and texting while driving a killer machine at speed? I was driving from Georgia to Alabama the other day, and when I crossed the state line the speed limit immediately dropped from 70mph to 55mph. A large electronic sign reminds you that the speed limit is strictly enforced. As a previous victim of the Alabama State Patrol, I duly complied only to be passed by approximately a dozen cars whizzing passed at a rate of knots.

To end on a positive note, it would appear that the most popular post on the blog with humans and bots alike is “Motor Cycle Diaries Too.” A sequel has been suggested by some of the comments and I have good news. If we can attract sufficient sponsors to offset expenses, time and make a little profit along the way, my friend Tom will embark on another motor cycle trip across the great divide. I will be setting up a Pay Pal account shortly for you motor cycle enthusiasts to contribute to this worthwhile cause. Just remember, I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday; maybe it was the day before.

Recipes to Savor

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Today I am paying homage to my blog (a touch of narcissism but nobody’s perfect!) by posting some appropriately named recipes to share with the rest of the world. I hope you enjoy them. Bon appetit:

 Welsh Rarebit

 Welsh rarebit is a good snack or a savory after a meal. Any hard cheese may be used, but medium cheddar has sufficient sharpness for most people. Beer gives a good strong taste, whereas sherry makes it richer and sweeter according to the style used.


  • 4oz/110g of grated cheddar cheese
  • 4 tablespoons (British size) of beer or sherry
  • ½ tsp/2.5 mil of mustard
  • Good twist of black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 4 rounds of hot buttered toast


  • Melt a little butter in a pan and add the grated cheese, the beer/sherry and mustard. Heat gently until  a smooth sauce is formed
  • Whisk the egg and stir into the mixture. Stir well away from the heat not allowing the mixture to boil.
  • Season with some freshly ground pepper and pour over the hot buttered toast and either serve  immediately or pop under a hot grill for a few seconds to brown evenly.

 NB: for a real Welsh flavor try spreading a little laver bread onto each round of toast.

Uncle Sam’s Welsh Cakes


  • 1 LB self raising flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 oz Crisco
  • 4 oz margarine
  • 6 oz sugar
  • 2 oz currants (I use 4 oz)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 3 British tablespoons milk (mixed in with beaten egg)
  • Crisco to grease pan


  1. Mix flour & salt in a bowl
  2. Rub in crisco and margarine
  3. Add sugar & currants
  4. Mix to a consistency of pastry dough with beaten egg & milk (a spoon at a time)
  5. Roll onto a floured board to approx ¼ inches thick and cut with a 2 ½ inch cutter
  6. Heat greased cast iron skillet on top of stove over medium heat (#4 on our stove) and test by cooking 1 cake until light golden brown.  Grease pan very lightly between batches.
  7. Cool and store in tin.


Serves 4

Active time: 20 minutes. Start to finish:11/4 hr


  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated peeled ginger
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 (8-oz) pieces center-cut salmon fillet with skin


  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with foil. Whisk together soy sauce, hoisin sauce, oil, lemon juice, garlic, scallion, ginger and pepper in a shallow bowl. Add salmon turning to coat, and marinate, covered, at cool room temperature 30 minutes.
  •  Remove salmon from marinade, letting excess drip off, and discard marinade. Bake salmon, skin salmon, skin sides down, on baking sheet until just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Lift salmon from skin with a spatula and transfer to a plate.
  •  Alternatively bake salmon in marinade without discarding marinade. It’s your choice. (I prefer to bake the salmon in the marinade and it is delicious, with the extra juice, over rice with a side veg)