Thursday, May 29, 2008


The sun shone for five minutes last week so husband declared it to be the barbecue season, inviting family and friends over for blackened burgers and charcoal chicken. His nibs takes charge of turning the meat, a task that instantly turns men into culinary experts. Declaring cooking to be an easy game that women manage to make look difficult, to which I reply that in medieval times the meat turner was a lowly position frequently filled by dwarves, eunuchs or both, so no change there then.

He will site the barbecue at the bottom of the garden and I will be left to fetch and carry from the kitchen food that I have spent several hours preparing; like a good captain he will not leave the bridge even when the ship/barbecue is sinking without trace.

This week it was a barbecue to take his mind off England’s non qualification for the impending European football championship and the Champions league final just past between Satan’s Chelsea and the Dark Lords Manchester United; love idols Liverpool having been eliminated by Beelzebub’s boys in the semis. Husband had come over all Midge Ure for much of the week Ultravox’s Vienna on repeat on his ipod belting out the line, “This means nothing to me, OOOOOOHHH Vienna” with particular gusto.

His mood finally lifted, thoughts turned to spoiling food with charcoal, he rang a few family and friends and invited them over for a barbecue. Just thirty plus people, entertaining and feeding guests is easy when you have got a barbecue, all you have to do is turn meat for an hour. The food will prepare itself, the magic house fairies will clean and tidy the house while the invisible garden nymphs will cut the grass, do the weeding and clean the barbecue up after his last attempt at mass poisoning al fresco.

The day dawned and for once we were blessed with reasonable weather, sporadic sunshine with a steady wind that would ensure we drew our neighbours ire with our wayward smoke.
Adorned in comedy apron, my husband, tongs at the ready, assumed his position by the barbecue and awaited service. As I began to shuttle various types of meat down the garden for execution, our guests began to arrive. First a family who mirror our own with children of the same sex and same age, a sport mad father and a sport weary mother. An elderly couple from up the road. My brother, his wife and two children ????????? Chelsea fans through and through whom my husband pored scorn on whenever their backs were turned (if there was a dodgy sausage going it would be pushed in their direction), Bloody Brandi, The people from the shop, and a quiet young couple who have just moved to the village.

The garden, brim full with guests quickly divided into two camps, ladies chatting idly on the patio, the men migrating to the barbecue to discuss the merits of various types of charcoal and barbecue design. One exception to the male female divide, botox Brandi. She had presented my husband with a Tampa Bay Rowdies baseball cap, which he had coupled with a twenty-year-old New York Mets Basketball shirt he had kept at the bottom of his drawer. My sister in law commenting that she didn’t know that Eminem was doing the cooking, my teenage nephew replying that it was only Uncle Knobhead and how long before they could go home.

Delivering the last plate of meat to its grizzly fate I picked up on a tense atmosphere around the crematorium; A beer fuelled discussion between husband and my brother about the reasons for England’s non qualification to the European championship had developed; there was some dispute about the best position to play Wayne Rooney, and the overall merits of Frank Lampard. To emphasize his point, husband had laid out the sausages in a four four two formation on the barbecue, Wayne Rooney was represented by a chicken drumstick and was required to play in “the hole” The sausage representing Frank Lampard had been fed to the dog. My brother, Chelsea through and through, and keen to defend Lampard’s honour and avenge his canine demise, had responded with an offer to position the Wayne Rooney drumstick in another hole altogether and made the faux pas of trying to move meat on another man’s barbie. Fearing a threat to his masculine meat filled domain, my husband had responded with raised tongs, managing to tweak my brother’s nose as he bore down on the grill of doom and the drumstick called Rooney. My brother cried out in pain, the nephews joining the fray with some street talk about Uncle Knobhead dissing Frank,and his bros hoes moes toes, or something like that before being dragged away by their mortified mother. Brandi leapt to my husband’s defence like a WCW wrestler, throwing plastic chairs from her path before standing between the two barbecue gladiators like Xena Warrior princess hands on hips. Proclamations about land of the free and various constitutions followed, before my husband’s culinary skills came to the rescue taking the wind out of the sails of the main protagonists. The best Generals talk of armies marching and fighting on their on its stomachs, and men having the stomach for battle; when the stomach don’t like it they don’t fight. As the initial effects of ingesting undercooked food began to take effect the fight drained from all involved. My brother the first to respond, forgetting his tweaked proboscis and Lampard’s name being taken in vain to make a dash for the loo. All present in the queue outside the bathroom in common agreement that they would never eat food served from my husband’s barbecue again, despite his explanation that John Terry Rio Ferdinand and Ashley Cole may have been a little underdone but there had been nothing wrong with any of the meat from the midfield, front line or substitutes.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Born in the USA

So, Brandi came round for “kawfee”, and deep deep joy, she likes football or soccer as she insists on calling it. Apparently she played to quite a high level in the States; goodness knows how, what with all the surgery she has had something must have been in danger of dropping off or slipping substantially when she gunned around the pitch. Husband was enraptured with Brandi’s tales of soccer in the good old Yoo Ess of Aye, couldn’t take his eye off her incredibly well supported chest. I am still not sure about the right nipple, it seems to be in a different position from when I last saw her at the cricket match, maybe once you pass a certain number of pump ups and lifts and the original nipple has become hopelessly disorientated you are awarded with a packet of stick on nipples as substitutes for the original, that is now, like a tiring footballer, hopelessly out of position. Apparently at the age of sixteen Brandi had been a junior cheerleader for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, an American soccer team who snapped up fading footballers from around the globe to come and play in their “world league” that consisted of American teams only. Brandi had first hand experience of Rodney Marsh, and produced a dubious looking photograph of her at sixteen sitting on the knee of the slightly sozzled former England striker. She had also met Pele at a party but had lost the picture, along with a box of matches signed by George Best. Brandi went on to give a demonstration of her teenage Cheerleader routine in the front garden before she left; my husband complimenting her on her suppleness, my mouth gaping at the sight of a forty something pneumatic Yankee cheerleader high kicking her way around our garden in a t-shirt two sizes to small, and tight gold shorts. Throughout the strenuous routine her chest moved not one inch, the closing number of bending over looking through her legs, gilded butt high and proud while shaking two t- towels that were doubling for pom poms drawing audible gasps from the folk leaving the church.
Now if I had performed in such a manner in front of our Christian neighbours my husband would have been in a fine bate, the family name would be scarred and embarrassment and scorn would surely pour down on this household, not to mention the fact that my chest would have been swinging left, right and up and over my shoulders. My son would have dodged inside, and I would be up before the beak to explain my bizarre behaviour.
Brandi’s performance drew applause, an affectionate squeeze from husband and an invitation to pop in any time. Brandi departing down the road with her adolescent chant,

“Hi there y’all we’d like to say howdee
We’re the soccer team called the Tampa Bay Rowdies
You want some action give us a call
We’re demon bitches when given a ball
Run down the right run down the left
One of our dudes will sure find the net
Come on y’ all sing it louder
Two four six eight come on the Rowdies.
Yeah! (Shake pom poms vigorously above head while pushing fake tits out)

“She is such fun”

Said my husband, retrieving the t-towels from the pampas grass and going inside. Quietly seething at this west coast harlot, I came up with a few other surgically enhanced irritants and moulded them into a football team.
First choice goalkeeper Dolly Parton, she would certainly fill the top half of the net but may be vulnerable to shots along the ground. A pair of unusual looking full backs who happen to be siblings, it’s a toss up between the Neville brothers from the North, or two from Michael, La Toya and Janet Jackson. In the centre of defence I would pair a couple of spice girls, LA based soccer mom Victoria Beckham and flame haired Geri Haliwell. The midfield engine room would be filled with the surgically and chemically improved MrTerminator and Rocky, messrs Schwarzinegger and Stallone flanked by Joan Collins and Linda Evans who must have had something done by now. Long John Silver himself – John Wayne Bobbit would provide added inches in attack, alongside John Merrick, who despite a successful career in the circus must be cursing his luck at being born one hundred years too early for the current surgical improvement fad. Sven Goran Errikson would manage (the man is too vain not to have had something tweaked) with Cherie Blair as assistant (when surgery goes bad); Mr DIY - Vincent Van Gogh would provide all round cover from the bench. A phalanx of medicos required to keep the team in one piece, and clear up the puddles of weeping botox and collagen alongside an army of psychotherapists to provide succour when their performance or appearance is not one hundred percent perfect.There that’s got that off my chest, which may not be the pair of perfect grapefruits that someone has stuck on the front of Brandi, but is all my own and am perfectly happy with.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


At this time of the year, our family is blessed with the pursuit of dual sports as the death throes of the football season overlap with the genesis of the cricket season. While I don’t get Football and all who sail in her, I do find cricket mildly enthralling. It is played by nicer people who behave nicely, at a nicer pace with nice white summer outfits, which would hang far better if made from Linen. It is one sport where my husband and son can take the field together, leaving me with the day; as long as I look like I am paying attention from some part of the boundary, they will be happy. Questions at the end of the game about a particular passage of play can be awkward, but talked around.

Each year we have a day at the Test match and a few days at our local county ground. Unlike the dreaded football, the players are incredibly accessible, it is possible to watch them warming up for the game from only a few yards away. I can confirm that Andrew Flintoff is a greek god, Shane Warne slightly sleazy, and that Dimitri Mascarenas has the twinkliest of eyes. I have fluttered my eyelids at Mark Ramprakash from only a few feet away, who asked me if I was suffering from hay fever, and brushed against Kevin Pietersen as he moved from the Nursery ground to the pavilion at Lords. Of course all of this close contact with sporting superstars leaves my husband and son starry eyed. My husband particularly conspicuous amongst a group of twelve year olds asking for their mini bats to be autographed. One year at Lords, my husband managed to have a particular impact on the days play. As usual my husband and son had devoured the statistics in the match programme, we had moved to the area where the players move from the nursery ground nets back to the pavilion. England were mid innings overnight and looking to set the opposition a target for later in the day. One particular England batsman was 92 not out overnight and was making his way back to the pavilion after a short time in the nets to prepare to continue his innings at the start of the days play. My husband and son were in position, and as the batsman in question passed by my husband burst out

“Oy ******, no way are you 5ft 10in tall, like it says in the programme, I’m 5ft 9in and you’re shorter than me.”

****** turned on his heel and scuttled off to the dressing room. Emerging half an hour later to bat, in what can only be described as a pair of cricketing Cuban heels, needless to say he was run out in the first over as he struggled to make the crease in his newly improvised footwear; England collapsing and losing the game the next morning.

At the moment my husband and son play for something like the third or fourth team of our local village club. I will happily watch the game all afternoon, sitting in the sun happy with my own company or chatting lazily to wives, girlfriends or people dropping in. I can read a book or a paper. Check out the young buck who has just been asked to field in front of me, and who’s well muscled profile I must look past to dutifully watch my husband’s attempts at the game. There is nowhere to plug an iron or a vacuum cleaner in, and no meals to be cooked, cricket being a civilised game where food is provided at tea.
This week I was sat on a bench among half a dozen of the regular watchers loosely strung out around the boundary, when Brandi an American divorcee, who has just moved into the village, passed the ground, saw me sitting alone and came over to say hello. In her view, as an abandoned woman, (albeit an incredibly well rewarded one) lone girls should stick together and seeing me there on my own she could feel my need for company. My attempts to explain that I was more than happy on my own, fell on very deaf ears; something that I found rather surprising, Brandi being a devotee of the cosmetic surgeons knife had undergone extensive work on many parts of her body, had recently spent a five figure sum on new ears and they didn’t seem to work at all well. She also has a very stretched forehead, Cherie Blair smile, and a nipple showing through her blouse that seemed to be a long way away from where it should be. All of these thoughts I kept to myself as Brandi returned from a brief visit to the pavilion. A cry from the middle as a wicket fell distracting her from resuming her verbal onslaught. As the dismissed batsman came back to the pavilion, Brandi exclaimed loudly,

“ Gee Honey, that guy over there in the shed was talking about a problem with no balls, look at the unit on that guy with the bat, he is packing some meat! what a swell set of balls!”

The elderly major sat on the neighbouring bench, coughed and spluttered, the self conscious batsman scuttling into the pavilion as the girlfriend of the dismissed batsman, who also happened to work in the village butchers, shouted across the field

“Oy Joelene, keep your eyes off. Any meat he packs at the weekend is for me, and me only”

Brandi sat back down, and after I explained that the batsmen wore a form of codpiece while batting, she continued to talk at me for the remainder of the game; mostly about medical issues with the occasional shout of encouragement at inappropriate moments. My peace shattered I was in a fairly foul temper by the close of play, my mood not enhanced by my buoyant husband whose team had won, exclaiming,

“That new girl Brandi is a great laugh isn’t she? I saw you two chatting. She seemed to enjoy the match; she’s popping by tomorrow for coffee so I can explain the game in greater detail.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Food glorious food

For years and years, women were bombarded with various diets that promised to slim hips, lift breasts, tighten buttocks, flatten tummies, improve skin, lift your mood and make you’re husband see you in a new light. Low fat and high fat diets, low carbs, low GI, the murderous Dr Atkins, and the vegan way, although with the current concern about the amount of methane produced by man and animals, this must surely soon be discounted.

For years these dietary fads were the domain of the Females of the house. The Males nutritionally unaware, blind to the rigors of calorie counting. Men and boys ate what they wanted when they wanted while we quietly sucked on a Ryveta, insisting that it really was lovely and no they didn’t want any of their chips.

Over the past two decades, professional football teams have started to take their nutrition seriously. This first came to my husband’s attention on FA Cup final day. On this terribly tedious annual event, the build up to the game would begin at ten o’clock in the morning; two camera crews were detailed to follow each team throughout their preparations for the big match. On this occasion, Love idols Liverpool were in the final, my suitably nervous and twitchy husband leaping from his chair, at the sight of the Liverpool team sitting down to lunch, to berate the TV,

“Graeme Souness, eating poncy pasta? …….You need meat man, meat!, we’ve had it, what chance have we got, somebody get him a bloody steak and chips!”

His team went on to win, my husband at first attributing the victory to a fan slipping Souness a cheeky burger, but slowly accepting that there may be something in this nutrition lark. A moment of awakening for my particular hunter gatherer, but
over time more and more men have migrated towards the stove, and I can only attribute this to the increasing number of foreign footballers in the English leagues, particularly French, Italian and Spanish.

Now if some young French thruster took over my kitchen I would listen intently at what he had to say about cooking. If the kitchen interloper were Italian I would also be suitably agog although I would keep half an eye on what he was doing with his hands. If the new chef were Spanish, oil would be drizzled and garlic crushed passionately in the heady ambience that would prevail.

Unfortunately my kitchen intruders are my husband and son. Five minutes of Jamie Oliver and a print off of one of Rafa Benitez’s dietary sheets and they are culinary kings. Any food I prepare is now open to analysis and criticism, with comment on carbohydrate, sugars, fats and the type of protein they have been given, all of which are completely wrong! Just over a year ago, my husband’s newfound interest in nutrition peaked with a week of culinary experimentation. Looking on a web site that showed the nutritional analysis of various types of fish food -yes fish food! He took over the kitchen with a proclamation that we would now be getting our protein from sustainable sources. Sand eels were not a sustainable source of protein and as a result we would now be extracting our protein from feathers, as many fish feed producers were now attempting to do. This involved emptying the contents of a pillow into several saucepans boiling them up for several hours, before using the residue as a base for the most disgusting broth I have ever tasted. I stuck it for two days before reaching breaking point, informing him that I had never cooked him sand eels in all our married life, and coupled with his high-fibre bran and cardboard breakfast regime, the children were beginning to look increasingly egg bound; food should be enjoyed not endured!
Undeterred he continued with his governance of the kitchen zone, dictating the menu for the following few days; Gordon Ramsay had played football and crossed over into the kitchen, so it was definitely going to be an option for him.

The range of food became ever more bizarre, Pre match day, we were treated to what he proclaimed as his “signature dish” –Lasagne. On first inspection it looked reasonably edible, but on tasting proved to have been made with the mincemeat more suited to mince pies than the minced meat used in the classic Italian dish. Unable to find truffle oil in Thorntons or Hotel Chocolate, he instead used melted champagne truffles in at least two pasta dishes, one of which had daffodil bulbs on as substitute for onions. We had an exotic duck dish, where the bird was slowly braised for a day in orange squash, followed by a ten minute discourse on the secrets of making the perfect Apple crumble, the dish itself, a triumph, if the mixed spice or cinnamon stated in the recipe, had not been substituted for Garam Masala. We ate the pudding, my husband insisting, “a spice is a spice, is a spice”, while my daughter and I muttered quietly about fruit fools and counted our blessing that he had not used his “Old Spice aftershave”

Since that week, the process of feeding the family has generally fallen back within my remit. Of course there is much comment about what is served up, it is never completely right, something will be out of balance, or I could have cooked something differently. However, the plates do come back empty, and we are all still alive, something that I would consider a major achievement if my husband were ever to take over in the kitchen again.