Go Sober- Day Seven

October 7, 2013

Day Seven! That’s nearly a week! That’s almost a quarter! 25% there; ‘there’ being staying sober, throughout October, for Macmillan Cancer Support. And so far me and my wife, as Team Mr and Mrs Hickson, have raised £196 for the charity. Thank you to everyone who has donated.

It’s been a difficult weekend too. My mum visited from Manchester for her birthday. We visited Trev and his family. There was food, birthday cake, Prosecco! But we managed it. We had champagne glasses filled with fizzy water!

It was also Broadstairs Food Festival this weekend. We strolled around the stalls, with their home-brewed ales, foot-pressed ciders, and wind-dried wines. There was even a owl display. look!


a owl

But, the best discovery by far was a drink that we can drink during Go Sober that, just about, at a pinch, if we seriously try and delude ourselves, can fool us into thinking that we are still drinking alcohol.

That drink is: Rochester ‘Dickensian recipe’ Non Alcoholic Ginger Wine. A drink with “the kick of two very angry mules!”

It’s good! It even looks the part (ignore the whisky hiding at the back).


Pic courtesy of Rochester Ginger Wines

Now isn’t the time to wonder what a “Dickensian Recipe” is. In fact, that time is never. Just try the drink. As far as non-alcoholic ginger drinks go it’s the best. I’ve never been kicked by a mule, or two, angry, or not: but this drink has that kick! My worry is, having bought one bottle, it will be gone by dawn. I’m also worrying about overdosing on ginger; tea, wine (fake), biscuits. but that’s the price we are paying.

Please help us. We have set ourselves an unreachable target of £1664. It’s early days though. If you can sponsor us one bottle of Rochester’s (£4), I am sure we will do it. You can sponsor me, or my wife, or both of us here, here, or here. Thank you for helping. Here’s a owl for you.

Go Sober- Day Four

October 4, 2013

Day Four, and it’s Friday. And my mum is visiting. And it’s her birthday! This is where staying sober makes for a long weekend.

I haven’t got much time to write loads today. We have to go out. To a Temperance Hall. Well, actually Panas Gurkha, but I am going to think of it as a temperance hall; as a place free of Cobra, or Kingfisher, or… well! Alcohol!

The best way to avoid alcohol is to fool yourself into thinking it is bad for you. It’s working bit by bit (it’s not) and we are being helped by friends like Jim (@jim_coe) with his link to a song to put you off whiskey for life. It’s by Amos Milburn and it’s called Bad Bad Whiskey. That’s bad whiskey that’s bad.

Please help me and my wife stay off bad bad whiskey throughout October for Macmillan Cancer Support. You can sponsor me, or my wife, or both of us here, here, or here. You don’t have to give much; £3 can get us an imaginary shot of Wild Turkey (good not bad). Thank you.

Mike’s Place

June 29, 2011

Crete. Sissi.

My first holiday holiday (a holiday holiday being a holiday where all you do is be) in yonks. A holiday without the sightseeing, without the doing things: friends lent us some snorkelling gear – flippers, snorkel, goggles – we craftily left them at home. When I go in the sea I float on my back and look at the sky, none of that downwards stuff.

Just being. Sitting by a pool or the sea, looking into the sun so your eyes hurt. Then trying to read a book; something distant, removed, with short chapters. I took Imperial Bedrooms by Bret Easton Ellis. And The Information by Martin Amis (I started this in 1995, it’s about time I finished it).

Drinking is good too. That’s part of the deal. Cocktails even. As the sun goes down. In (it’s true!) a bar called Hemingway’s.

And food.

Ah! Food (not as in ‘Aaaah! Food’).

Food in Greece isn’t what I expected. I don’t know why but I expect food in foreign parts to be exciting, different, maybe blue. Certainly involving things I’ve never had before. Like Kakamaska and Toremosalinas. Or perhaps a Bigou plant. Or a Bigou fish. Or some Chevkasalakas. It doesn’t matter what it’s called, just make it exotic. I quite fancied some Fekhamadoras, but even they weren’t to be found.

Meat was available though. If you like Meat go to Crete. Lots of meat.

One of the restaurant’s recommended to us (for its authentic Greek cuisine) was Mike’s Place. It didn’t look too promising:

It turned out Mike’s Place was just up the road. This was simply where Mike sat to tell you what his daily speciality was.

Mike’s selling point was that he offered an ‘ecological menu’. This meant that all the meals came from Mike’s farm, just up the road.

I’m guessing here, but I think Mike lets a few animals (goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, octopi) run around his garden (free range) and every morning, when he awakes, he thinks to himself  “what should I kill today?”

He makes his decision, kills, then sits on his chair, by his sign. And as you pass he says: “Ecological menu. Today – goat – from my farm!”

We didn’t go on the goat day. We went on a lamb day. The vegetables came on a side plate. They had to, there was no room on the meat plate. Here’s my plate after I’d finished my meat.

I’ve made this pic  smaller. I’m not sure why. I think I may feel bad. Earlier in the day this was a little lamb, gamboling.

Here’s Mike’s farm (maybe). All I know is, the next day, as we walked past, there was one less goat.

possibly Mike's farm

And to think I used to be a vegetarian. I blame Mike. And Bret Easton Ellis.

Goody Goody Yum Yum

February 13, 2011

It’s the BAFTA’s tonight. Are you going? I’m not. Instead, I’m sitting here thinking about goody bags. They go crazy for them at the BAFTA’s don’t they? They love them, the Jeffs, Colins, Natalies and Coens. Christopher Nolan only made Inception so he could get a gold cover for his phone. And some booze.

They love booze, those film folk. But if there’s one thing they hate, it’s paying for it. It’s a known fact that BAFTA luvvie  Russell Crowe once pinned the TV director Malcolm Gerrie to a wall just because Gerrie had the nerve to tell Crowe his Tia Maria was £4.50. Or something like that. I don’t know. Don’t quote me. Don’t hold me to it. Don’t pin the messenger to the wall.

Here’s what gets them all so whoop-di-dooed.

Let’s see. There’s a phone, some booze, some shampoo. You get the idea.

It’s a goody bag. But it’s not the goodiest bag.

Last night I was at a Valentine’s Ball. It was the Caravan Valentine’s Ball. Held at the Marriott Hotel in High Gosforth Park, Newcastle (winner, in 2008, of the North East England Large Hotel of the Year Award!)

Ok, I’ll slow down. I’ve become aware that I’m maybe piling on the information. Taking too much for granted. You think I’m some kind of Caravaner. I do wish I was, but I’m not. This Caravan is the name for the National Grocers’ Benevolent Fund; the charity for the grocery industry. It’s a fundraiser and everyone there does there best to raise money for grocers who’ve fallen on hard times.

You can laugh. But I’d rather you didn’t. I’ve fallen on hard times myself now and then (mainly now), and Caravan has come to my rescue too. And yes, I know I’m no grocer (if it helps, my grandpa and grandma were). Caravan help me in other ways. Caravan give each guest a goody bag that, frankly, makes the BAFTA goody bag look like a la-di-da ponce-fest. Yes Portman, you deserve all the best for your skinny-ballet horror lesbo romp. You deserve a gold phone. But be honest, wouldn’t you rather get your bony fingers on this?

Look closer. Let’s spill the bag and see what’s inside.

There were also crumpets and tea cakes. Actors, that’s a Goody Bag!

Starbucks muffin

November 22, 2010

Well what would you do?

It’s meant to be a treat. A few years back I might not have thought twice about a coffee and a muffin in Starbucks. But when I’m spending just over a fiver that I could use on a one way coach ticket to Sheffield, well, I have to be careful with my treats these days.

It shouldn’t matter should it?

It all goes down the same way.

But what would Marco say to a wonky Yorkshire Pudding? Would Nigella give you a lop-sided bun?

But this is just Starbucks. The one opposite Charing Cross Station. Why should they care about quality control when they can pass the (star)buck on to the customer.

I eye my muffin as I wait for my coffee. I know it shouldn’t matter, but that doesn’t look right, I say to the coffee man.

Would you like me to change it?

See? Pass the buck. So, I have to decide. If I say yes, they will throw it away. The guilt sets in. I don’t even say no. I don’t say yes. I just smile like a fool, take my coffee and my lop-sided Lemon and Poppyseed Muffin (my favourite! My treat!) and sit down and glower at it. I hate it.

After a while I change. I eat it. It’s ok. As good as any of the others. Maybe it was more of a treat. Maybe it was a special muffin, just for me. Maybe it had a few more poppyseeds, or a drip more icing.

But really. Starbucks. Life should be easier.

Yesterday I went to meet my sister and family in London. They live in California, so when they get the chance to come to London they like to do a bit of sight-seeing. For the kids, you know. I met them outside St. Paul’s, planning to cross the wobbly bridge and head into Tate Modern.

Just before we crossed the bridge my niece and nephew pleaded with their Dad for an ice cream. I took them up to the van (it was a complicated order- two 99’s, one with the flake on the side). We ordered. And that’s when the police pounced. Two of them. Community Police Officers.

They stopped us buying the ice cream and told the van to move away. Who knows what the rules are? No parking? No licence to sell lollies? I don’t know.

This couldn’t stand! I asked the Community Police Officers (are they even real police?) why they wouldn’t let my sweet little niece and nephew have their ice creams. They asked if we had paid. I said no, but we had ordered. That wasn’t good enough. Like Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi they simply shouted “No ice cream for you… two!” Ok, not quite, but they wouldn’t relent.

As we walked away, my niece and nephew in tears (ok,ok, not in tears, just a little disappointed), I shouted back at them “Thank you Community Police Officers”. This is true. I wanted them to arrest me. I wanted to become the Ice Cream One. But they just ignored me.

We spotted another ice cream van 50 yards away. we ran to it before the Ice Cream Nazis got there.

Nordens Folkekokken

June 23, 2010

I didn’t take this picture. I didn’t eat this meal. But I did have a meal just as beautifully presented as this at Nordens Folkekokken in Aalborg, Denmark.

Sadly nothing to do with Denis Norden, Nordens Folkekokken is owned and run by Corden Bleu head chef Johan Bulow; a deadringer for Whose Line is it Anyway? regular Ryan Stiles. And Johan was a most welcoming and informative host. He’d very kindly invited us along as his guests as part of us winning a weekend away in Aalborg from the lovely people at visitaalborg.com. (Oh, and I should point out, everyone is going to be lovely, kind etc. We’d won a prize! Get with the programme! I’m hardly going to slag them off, am I.)

Oh, another incidental, but surely I can’t use brackets again. Here it is: In Danish pubs you can get slags for just a few krone. We saw one man order six and he was brought some wormy sausages in a cup.

Ok, that last bit was a little rude. But, he hadn’t bought them in Nordens Folkekokken so it’s ok.

I asked Johan what Folkekokken means, though stupidly forgot to ask him about Nordens. Folkkokken is the people’s kitchen. It’s good food at reasonable prices. Johan said it was food for all, “from the banker and the lawyer to the mistress and the pickpocket.” At which point I said “I’m glad you’ve got us two covered.” He didn’t laugh. but I laughed inside and Zoe maybe did too, to please me.

Johan decided to open the Folkekokken after the crisis. I didn’t ask him what crisis. That seemed rude to me. I worried about whether it involved his favourite pet maybe, but Zoe seemed to think he was talking in broader terms and that he might have been referring to the global financial crisis. I guess now we’ll never know.

But I’m glad he opened the restaurant and I’m glad he is offering “food based on the classical Nordic kitchen and cooked in new ways with local herbs, berries and flavours – based on the best ingredients.” You can find out more on this here.

We let Johan advice us on the courses as the menu was in Danish. I’m no food critic (Zoe is and I hope she will leave some notes on what we had) but it was all lovely and local. And each course was accompanied by a complementary wine selected by Johan (complimentary too in a way, since the wine is included in the menu). Of course I had to go and spoil things by sticking with beer. I know that must seem awful but I am in a country that brews probably the best lager in the world. I’m shameless and that’s that.

If you go to Aalborg (and you should) then do call in. The prices range from 350DK (just under £40) for three courses (with wine) to about 550DK for the full five courses, and if you are there midweek it’s 50DK cheaper. Now that may seem dear but drink is included and the food was sensational. If you’re a lawyer take the mistress.


May 24, 2010

In the Godstone Farm tea room they have labelled their stirrers, “stirrers”. Those little plastic things that I use as oars when I put my non-existent Action Man in his non-existent canoe. Look! Action Man complete with tea stirrer.

I wonder why they chose to labe the stirrers but none of the other items of plastic cutlery or single serving condiments? Do farm visitors regularly pick them up and stare at them as if they were from the future? (the stirrers, not the people. People from the future would know a stirrer when they saw one I’m sure). Perhaps the staff are sick of people going up and asking “do you have something for er… stirring the tea?” What’s wrong with teaspoons? When did they go out of fashion? Did some folk see the stirrers as some kind of new-fangled cake cutter? Were they trying to eat their cakes with a stirrer, a crumb at a time?

I can’t think about this anymore. I have to go to choir. Bye.

The title’s misleading. There’s no beer in this post. Years back me and Trev came up with a programme idea called Beer and Clothing in… . It was to be a Hunter S. Thompson-esque road trip thing with the two of us drinking beer, dressing up and messing about. You don’t need to know any more details. There aren’t any.

Yes? So? Ok, it’s just a play on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Ok, it’s only one step up, or down, from Monkey Tennis. But what do you expect from the guys who brought you this?

A long-winded introduction to my day out in Lewisham. It’s easy to spend a day in Lewisham. We’ve just finished a first draft of our film, we have a meeting next Thursday to discuss it, get notes… so, for now, I’m just a waster, passing time. If anyone has a job for me, let me know. In the meantime I wander Lewisham.

I started off at the Post Office depot. I had to pick up Coma by Alex Garland, the picked book for next week’s Book Club. It should have been popped through the letter box, but I had to sign for it and the postman called at some ungodly hour. 6am. Or 9am. Or 10.24am. Something crazy when decent people are asleep.

Back to the depot it went. Or not. It hadn’t turned up by the time I got there so I had to wait til 12.45. I used the time to think about Douglas Copeland, Alex Copeland, Douglas Garland and Michael Crichton; the variety of names I had gone through before I found the right book.

Having got the book I headed to the shops to spend, spend, spend. I bought a laptop stand, a load of A4 paper, five pens, candles, shampoo, conditioner, all sorts of stuff. By this point I’d spent £9. I had to draw the line somewhere and so I resisted my desire to buy the £6 Mohammad Ali T-shirt in Primark. Nor did I buy a bundle of the £2 T-shirts. But, if you like your T-shirts go to Primark. I’m fussy about necks and the necks on the Primark ones are lovely; nice and thin, with none of that visible stitching thing going on.

Then, a read of the papers and a coffee. I used to go to Ponti’s, inside the Lewisham Shopping Centre, but they’ve introduced some new system of looking at menu’s, remembering your table number, going up and ordering; all too much for me and, I guess, for others since the place was unusually empty. Off to their neighbour, Muffin break. Old school. Go up, tell them what you want, get it.

It’s now the next day and I never got around to finishing this rambling post.

I’ll come back to Lewisham. There are good things going on that I’ve never noticed before.

In the Lewisham Shopping centre I did something I’d never done before. I went for a wee. And, in passing, I saw the Lewisham mural- a celebration of 200o years of Lewisham history. For once I had gone out without my camera. But I’ll be back. Bringing you details of Lewisham. Telling you how Max Wall, Boris Karloff and Spike Milligan fit into the picture.

For now, here’s the trailer to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And for now, for me, more rambling, wandering, passing time. Bad Lieutenant (the new one) calls.