SJB Gilmour Writes

…and rants and ruminates…

Month: January, 2015

Five Stars To James And The Giant Peach

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I read this ages ago when I was a kid. Back then, I didn’t really appreciate the poetry, rhythm, and meter of Dahl’s writing. Now I’m a dad reading re-reading this tale decades later, only this time, I’m doing so aloud to my four year-old daughter at bed-time.

She’s loving it. Reading it out loud is a breeze, and putting Dahl’s inflections of his characters’ into their conversations is a hoot.

Get this book and read it. If you have kids, read it to them, but you don’t need youngsters to enjoy Dahl’s writing. There’s a reason his work has endured and is considered classic by so many. Brilliant!

Sam

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Sam

 

So Far, So Good…

You know those New Year’s Resolutions I made?  Well, I’ve kinda made some progress towards actually, you know, keeping them.

Yesterday, Superwife and I, joined occasionally by The Wonderkids, did a lot of garden work.  We filled our green waste bin.  We mulched, weeded and planted.  And, we harvested.  Nothing like freshly picked basil tossed in at the last minute to a big pot of spaghetti and black mussels with tomato and garlic.  Mmm.  Yummy.

Before we did all that, I also popped into our local bakery, (which has been running since the 1800’s,) and bought some live yeast. Today, I used that yeast to kickstart a sourdough starter.  Let me say right from the off, I had NO idea what I was doing.  Sure, I knew to mix flour and water with a bit of olive oil and salt.  I knew to mix, knead, and let rise.  That was about it.  Every recipe I looked up either online or in actual paper books all seemed to contradict each other, so I decided to wing it.

I wound up with two loaves that looked like this:

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Then I baked ’em.

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The bread actually tasted pretty good, even though it looked more like damper than actual bread.  Both of The Wonderkids tried some.  Superwife had a few slices – she even went back for seconds.  The flavour was nice and sourdough-ish, but the texture could have been better.  I reckon I need to tweak the recipe and lengthen the proving times.  Now, I see this as a long-term, teach myself sort of thing.  I know there are all manner of recipes out there.  I know there are pre-mixed packets of flour to which you just add water.

Another thing I know is that I’m a pretty hopeless student.  If someone tries to actually teach me how to bake bread, I’ll probably want to give up.  But, I can also be a stubborn bugger.  Left to my own devices, I can, on occasion, keep trying till I get something right.  It tends to make me a bit of a pain in the arse at times for those poor sods around me who have to out up with my crazy little missions, but sometimes…  just sometimes, I manage to come up with something worthwhile.

I’ll let you all know how I go.

Sam

 

 

 

 

This One’s For You, Cuz!

The other day, I babbled on about my own recent travel experiences.  As a bit of a travel addict, when I’m not blathering away about my own experiences, I love to hear about those others have had.  One such other is one of my dear cousins who is currently residing in Berlin, but finding work to be thin on the ground, so she’s thinking of heading over to the UK, probably Liverpool.

I’d love to go to Liverpool, just even for the chance to call myself a Liverpudlian. Oh the jokes I could tell!  When two Livers battle with paddles in a puddle it’s called a Liverpuddle Paddle Battle…  Better stop there before the people from Dr Seuss sue me, but you get the idea.

I did tell my cousin I was a bit jealous.  After all, she’s single, has no kids or any other ties to keep her in one place, and has all the time in the world for more global adventuring.  I, on the other hand, get to travel mostly for work, I am tied to my home by my family business, the family itself, and of course, my *shudder* mortgage.

So, my message to you, dear cousin, and of course anyone else who has the chance to get out an see the world: Go!  Do it.  Do it now.

Sam

You’d Think I’d Have Learned By Now…

So I’ve been travelling in Europe for the day-job for the past couple of weeks, which has had me staying in a number of quite different hotels.  Now before this little rant goes any further, I must point out it’s all been my own fault; I booked the hotels myself – well all but one which was provided for me by a supplier, and very nice it was too.

I stayed in one joint in Frankfurt which was supposed to be four stars, but I think their math was out.  It was okay.  Warm, almost quiet, and the room had all I needed, except for real soap.  I hate that squeezy bottle stuff.  It always leaves my skin feeling slimy.  Never mind, as I brought my own.  The breakfast was good, and the service was polite.

The next place in Italy wasn’t so polite, but the food was excellent, and the room, though old and not much more than a cupboard really…  In fact, it might have been a cupboard.  I did wonder why there was a mop and bucket in the bathroom.  Still, it was okay and even had wifi, though I had to sit in foyer to get it.

Then I came back to Germany.  Oh boy.  Hotel Diplomat on Ostendstrasse, is a two-star dive, and that’s putting it mildly.  Both the night and day desk receptionists were both quite mad.  Think a German version of Fawlty Towers and you’ll just about have it.  I got yelled at and gestured at quite a few times.  But that’s cool.  I can get that at the day-job from customers occasionally, so no biggie.

The kicker was the bathroom.IMG_3277 IMG_3279 IMG_3280

Let’s just say bathing was an adventure.  I particularly liked the broken soap dish.  I managed to squat in the tiny tub – no shower curtain, you’ll note – without slicing myself open.  For me, that’s quite the accomplishment.  I can injure myself just looking at something sharp.  In fact there’s an unwritten rule in House Gilmour:  Never give Sam a tool, except a kitchen knife.  I’m not bad in the kitchen if I don’t say so myself, but I digress…

I won’t dwell on the state of the bathroom, or the noise from the hall, both from other guests and the cleaning staff who were quite vocal.  What really got to me was the smell(s).  It took me a while to realise what I was smelling at first, then it dawned on me.  Smoke.  Now in Germany, most places are smoke-free.  That means if you walk anywhere, you’re constantly walking though clouds of smoke from the smokers standing outside.  It doesn’t take long before you smell of it yourself which means you stop noticing the smell.

Apparently this smoke-free rule went for Hotel Diplomat’s rooms as well.  Just not its halls.  Every so often, the air vent which blew air in from the hall, pumped in the stale blue hue of whatever the folk in the halls were smoking.  So, everything in my room stank anyway.

Then there was a mystery odour.  Its identity wasn’t a mystery.  I can recognise toast cooking at a hundred paces.  What did baffle me was  its source.  Every morning I’d wake up to that delightful smell, and follow my nose down the stairs to the breakfast room.  That’s when I encountered the great conundrum.  The smell dwindled, and there was no bread or toaster in which to put it.  There were just a few bread rolls and some sliced deli meats and cheeses. I asked for the location of the toaster and all I got was a look of wary bewilderment one sometimes gives crazy people one sees wandering about waving their arms and talking in word-spaghetti.

I really should have read more of the reviews of Hotel Diplomat.  I know it seems I’m doing an awful lot of complaining here.  I mean if it was so awful, why did I stay?  Well here’s the odd thing.  In a strange way, I sort of enjoyed it.  No, I’m not masochistic.  It was so bad it was almost funny.  At times it was actually hard to keep from laughing at the staff who spent more time yelling at each other than doing any kind of work.

Superwife and I used to go to an Indian restaurant, the name of which escapes me.  Not that it matters, we just called it “Interesting Indian”, and left it at that, for the same reason.  The lady who ran that greasy spoon was all smiles in the dining hall, then she’d barge into her semi-open kitchen and have very loud, very lively, and at times a little scary, conversations with her kitchen staff. By “conversations” I mean really angry remonstrations.  If she was my boss, I’d be a quivering mass within an hour, and that’s coming from an ex-military guy who sells shoes for a living.  Sadly, Interesting Indian closed down a few years back, and we’re yet to find another quite so “interesting.”

My father impressed upon me at a very early age that travel was a form of education.  He’s right folks.  Get out and see how the world works.  If you see how things are done well, you can improve your own service by emulating them.  If you see people making big blunders, you can insure yourselves by not repeating them.

Sam

So Here’s The Thing…

Renovations.  That single word can spread terror.  Seriously, it’s enough to make grown men and women curl up corners and rock back and forth with their eyes shut.  Wanna make it worse?  Try kitchen renovations.  You can see where this is going, right?

It all started waaay back in September when House Gilmour relocated 650 metres northwest.  The new abode has lots of space, a great driveway, and best of all, it’s relatively new.  We didn’t need to do a thing to it.  It is, after all, only about seven years old.

Then we tried getting used to the kitchen.  The little oven didn’t work properly.  The sink was a mish-mash of two types of sink and a bad tap that didn’t fit properly so it was jammed in at an odd angle.  Worst of all, there wasn’t enough cupboard space.  It had to go.

We got the plans, booked the work, and bought the appliances.  We bought new ovens, a new range-hood, more cupboards, and one bigass mother of a bench-top.  So far, so good.  Then things started to go wrong.

First of all, one of our brand new ovens that arrived turned out to be gas instead of electric, which nobody noticed until after it had been installed.  Instead of calling the supplier straight away, Superwife and I shrugged and decided we’d give this alien technology a go.  After all, how hard could it be?

Then, as chance would have it, Superwife met the guy who sold us the oven at (insert enormous retail chain here), while she was there shopping for something else.  The kind salesman promised he’d swap it over for the right model, even though we’d used it.  Sure enough, about two weeks later, two guys came along to swap over our oven and cook-top.

That’s when they discovered the next big problem.  Now, what I know about fitting ovens and stoves you could fit in an upside-down teaspoon, but these guys were the full bottle.  They discovered that instead of the old oven being fastened to the wall by a bracket, it was held in place by simply drilling a hole through the cabinetry beside the oven, and through the oven itself, so a bolt could hold the oven in place.  Apparently this is a big no-no.  Very dangerous.  Why, we could have blown the oven up, or burned the house down.

Still, the guys did as they were instructed, and installed the new oven, properly fitted with a bracket this time, and took the old one back to (same large retailer).  Then, at around 5.oopm on Friday afternoon, the irate phone call came through from the salesman.  The old oven was ruined.  Its warranty was voided.

So now the big round-robin has begun, and where it will stop, nobody knows…  I’ll keep you all posted.

Sam