Saturday, 31 May 2008

Serving Suggestion

I was feeling hungry this morning, so I made myself some breakfast:

I couldn't help noticing something strange on the label of the mustard:

Not the fact that they give you 397 grams of mustard and are too stingy to just round it up to 400, not the fact that they have a picture of a hotdog laced with French's, but rather the small print next to this picture which says "Serving Suggestion". They put this on food labels so that you don't think that you're getting all the items pictured.

I know they're an American company, but are they seriously worried about getting sued because a customer squeezed all of the mustard out of the bottle thinking that a hotdog was going to emerge, complete with a bread roll?

Years ago I remember watching a TV programme where they got people to send "Serving Suggestions". So I had a look around my kitchen and found the following examples.

Note the half-eaten bread next to the bowl, and the sprig of green stuff in the soup.

These sprigs appear everywhere. Do people always keep a spare mushroom handy to chuck on the table when they're serving tinned mushroom soup? Well, they would if they paid more attention to the suggestions.

The picture is completely wrong, anyway. I never serve mushroom soup like this. I only have it to make Green Bean Casserole. Maybe I should send Campbell's a photo. I bet their sales would rocket.

Yet more sprigs. The only reason they need the small print is because the products don't come with them. Sack the legal team and spend the money on giving us a sprig...

I find this last one baffling:

This is from some microwavable vegetable rice. People who buy this type of product don't have fresh garden peas, corn and peppers in their house. Believe me, I know.

I was surprised that there were no "Serving Suggestions" on Sainsbury's Humous. So I've produced the following, which I'm hoping they'll pay me good money for. I didn't have a sprig handy, but that can always be added later. What do you think?

Don't give up the day job? I thought so. Well, that's a very helpful suggestion, thankyou.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Ιστορίες του χορκού

Today, RIKSAT stopped transmitting their infamous blue screen. Hooray! So I got to see the news live, but also got to watch some of the other programmes that I tune into now and then.

Now, the news is okay. I can understand almost all of it these days. Aimilia and her colleagues speak very good Greek. People being interviewed generally do, though not always.

Other programmes aren't always so easy to follow, particularly dramas and comedies. One of the shows I watch a couple of times a week is "Istories tou horkou", or "Tales of the Village". This is a situation comedy. In Cypriot (rather than standard) Greek.

Maritsa (centre) with Mr and Mrs Mouxtari (? I think)

Once or twice I've been able to follow what's going on, just about, but most of the time I'm fairly clueless. As its name suggests, it's set in a village. There is a coffee shop, run by Petsouna, priests riding mopeds, and a girl who keeps talking to Russians on the phone. Tonight they appeared to be trying to console Petsouna's father, since she had mentioned something about her mother, who died 10 years before, which upset him. So they dressed up one of the policemen in drag and tried to set him up with Petsouna's dad, who insisted on checking his (her?) teeth. Then his wig fell off...

All very strange. I don't understand why Mr Mouxtari was bandaging up the girl that works in his shop (the one with Russian friends) to make his wife and Maritsa think she'd been in hospital... There are lots of cries of "Kyrie Eleeson" and "Mana mou" - the Catholics in the audience will recognise the first of these, if I've spelt it right.

What's great is that it was hearing Cypriots talk as a child that made me want to learn Greek. I never thought I'd be able to learn any Cypriot, since it's not used in formal situations (such as on the news, or in books), and Cypriot words aren't found in dictionaries. But I'm starting to think that I might have a fighting chance, if I watch enough telly.

Who said TV was bad for you? It's educational...

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Wordy Wednesday

Yes, it's that time of the week again...

High Ambitions

I loved this story about a Frenchman with a dream. His dream was to go about 25 miles up in a helium balloon and then jump out. The idea was to do the highest balloon flight, the fastest and longest freefall (falling through the air at 1.7 times the speed of sound), etc. He's been preparing for this over several years. When the day finally came, he was in his pressurised suit in his pressurised capsule whilst they inflated the balloon. Unfortunately the balloon went up into the sky, but left him on the ground feeling - deflated?

The balloon cost $200,000, and with it flying off, he'll presumably be unable to return it and get his money back. Looking on the bright side, it could have been a lot worse if he'd actually taken off. He might have got hurt. It's a very expensive way to make a fool of yourself, though.

I have never ever understood why anyone wants to fly using a balloon. There's a very good reason why no-one's ever managed what he was attempting...

Blue Emilia

It's happening again. Instead of my favourite newsreader, I'm getting a blue screen. It happened last night and tonight. Last night there were tantalising stretches of a picture, and then back to blue. This evening as far as I can see there's not even that. There will be the on demand video available later, but it's not the same, and I won't get to see any of the other programmes I watch...


The weather has been terrible. It's still raining. Someone should tell the great Weatherman in the Sky that the Bank Holiday's over...

Tuesday, 27 May 2008


The lights went out.

"Not again!", complained Sal. "Just when I was about to win!"

"Well, I wouldn't want to lose my unbeaten status.", joked Jon. "Did you hear a thump just then? As if something hit the ground."

"Oh, I'm not sure. Now that you mention it, I think I did."

"I'd better go outside and have a look. Someone might be hurt."

"Do you have to? It's an awful night, and I can't imagine there's anyone out."


Jon got ready and went outside. He immediately knew something was wrong, when he saw a strange glow in the distance. He headed towards it.


The Army's Commander squinted at the chart, finding it difficult to see by the dim emergency lights. "It's finally come - ", he announced, "the day when the Venusians have decided to invade. Let's go and give them a welcome they won't forget!"


Jon had nearly reached the light source. Whatever it was that had landed in that crater, it wasn't anything natural like an asteroid. It looked metallic! He came to the edge of the crater and peered in. It consisted of a large multi-sided box with several metal legs. It could only be a visitor from outer space!

Just then he heard a sound behind him. He swung round and came face to face with a party of soldiers. "You'd better go home Jon, this is no place for a scientist.", warned the Commander, leading Jon out of his soldiers' line of fire.

"But this is precisely the place for me!", argued Jon, "We have an alien visitor. You're going to need me to analyse..."

"There'll be nothing to analyse when we're finished.", said the Commander. "We're going to blow this thing back to Venus!"

"Don't be so hasty!", Jon pleaded, "The Venusians might be friendly. Can't we at least examine the, erm, thing before you destroy it? I mean, I can't see any weapons."

The Commander looked closely. "Hmm. Digging tools, cameras... you know, you might be right. It also looks robotic. Okay, I'll keep lookouts posted. In the meantime no-one is to go near it. Not even in the interests of science. And if it even looks threatening, we'll neutralise it. Agreed?"


The lookouts were instructed to keep behind the cameras at all times, so that they wouldn't be detected. Over the next few days and months, the robot dug some holes in the ground, but otherwise seemed harmless. The soldiers even started to enjoy their regular game of hide-and-seek with the robot, which never saw them.

The area was kept sealed off for years by the military (who of course denied all the rumours about aliens), until eventually the robot stopped moving. Then Jon was allowed to take a look at it.


One day, Jon returned home in a state of great excitement. "Sal!", he shouted, "Listen to what I've discovered!"

Sal looked somewhat less enthusiastic - she was sure that whatever it was would be beyond her limited scientific understanding.

"We were wrong!", said Jon, "The alien robot didn't come from Venus. I checked it's rockets and fuel tanks against the relative positions of the planets at the time of its journey, and..."

"Then where is it from?", interrupted Sal.

"The Blue Planet. Earth. Who'd have thought there'd be life there as well?"

NASA's Phoenix probe landed successfully on Mars on Sunday, and the first pictures were received yesterday. The probe's aim is to look for signs of life on the Red Planet.

Sunday, 25 May 2008


Tracy asked for a guide to exotic islands. Well, here's one.


Phuket is the largest island in Thailand. It is a popular holiday resort. It was badly hit by the 2004 tsunami, but apparently 4 years on all traces of this disaster have gone.

Reasons you might want to visit Phuket

The Prestige: Phuket is one of those places that everyone knows is exotic. All your neighbours will be impressed and jealous. It's also suitably expensive.

The Beaches: There certainly are some unspoilt stretches of sand, if you like that sort of thing.
The Exotic Architecture: There aren't many places where the lighthouses look like this ancient (circa 1996) example:

The Nightlife: Phuket boasts an impressive array of services to cover all requirements: restaurants, bars, viagara, massage parlours (including erotic ones), and prostitutes catering for every taste and orientation.

The Scenery: It is impressive.

Reasons you might not want to visit Phuket

The Prestige: What? Spend all that money to go to "Fuckit"? Your blog friends will have a field day.

The Beaches: Who wants to lie on a beach getting skin cancer? Especially an empty one - fewer bikini-clad beauties to eye-up. And they don't even let them go topless...

The Exotic Architecture:

The Nightlife: Do you really want to have to deal with pushy viagara salesmen everywhere you go? People have died taking that stuff without proper medical advice. And apparently the prostitution thing is seriously complicated, and I'm told you can't tell the difference between the transvestites and the women. At least, not until it's too late...

The Scenery: Okay, I really can't think of anything bad or silly to say about it. It does look amazing.

Anyway, don't take my word for it. We're now all eagerly awaiting a proper travel report from Tracy.

Great British Tradition: Update

All those people who went on holiday might be looking out at this (the view from my lounge today):

Not that I'm going to say "Told you so"

Friday, 23 May 2008

A Great British Tradition

Continuing the "anti-holiday guide" theme, we're going to look at the British Bank Holiday Weekend.

Monday is the Spring Bank Holiday in this country. Most people have the day off, which makes a long weekend. Faced with a whole three days off work, lots of people decide to go away for a short "break".

Many of them start early to avoid the rush - the traffic on the motorways seemed busy this morning, with quite a few caravans. This will get worse throughout the day, until tomorrow the UK road network will resemble a large car park.

After spending the first of their three days stuck in traffic, the would-be-vacationers will arrive at their destination, and if they're lucky their kids won't have killed each other, or have covered the back seat of the car with vomit/urine/etc. No-one is likely to be very happy or enthusiastic at this point in their relaxing weekend away.

They will then spend the second day sitting in their caravan/chalet/hotel room looking out of the window. At the pouring rain. It always rains on a Bank Holiday Weekend. This is because they don't have any in the summer when there might be a chance of good weather.

Day Three, is of course spent sitting in another traffic jam trying to get home.

Many people have been holidaying like this for years, and have decided to do something different instead - short foreign breaks are now becoming more popular. Basically they spend the bit of time in between car journeys at the airport. Or rather two airports. You go to one, wait several hours because your flight has been delayed, fly to the other one, and just have enough time to grab a bagel and some duty free in the Departure Lounge before the flight home.

I really am at a loss to know why anyone goes anywhere at all on a Bank Holiday. Are people really stupid? Is it some kind of herd instinct? Anyway, that's what I won't be doing this weekend.

Instead, I'm hoping to spend some quality time writing the much-awaited Exotic Island post.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

Dan asked me to provide a bluffer's guide to Texas (i.e. written by a bluffer).



Texas is the second-largest state in the US, covering an area approximately the size of France. Unlike France, the natives are reasonably friendly, and they speak English. Like France they have plenty of great places to eat:

And of course, we're talking about the home of Tex Mex. D A N, . . . T E X A S . I S . C A L L I N G !


One great reason to retire to Texas is the climate. The state is number one for greenhouse emissions and tornados, and there are some breathtaking views:
GREAT PEOPLE .......C O M E . O N , D A N. . . Y O U ' L L . L O V E . I T . H E R E!
You'll really love some of the local characters. Rumour has it that one woman keeps dried reptiles and deceased pets in her freezer. And of course, family values are very important to Texans:
Yes, you too can live like an oil tycoon
L I S T E N . T O . Y O U R . W I F E , - D A N
Yes, Dan, the main reason why you should definitely retire here is that you will save a fortune in hair products. Just get yourself one of those ten gallon hats.


Yes, I know it's unfair to mention the snow, since it depends which area you live in, and it will generally be a lot hotter than Chicago, and that it's unfair to mention the greenhouse gasses when Texas refines oil for the whole of the US. Any subliminal messages are entirely coincidental. This blog is not sponsored by the Texas Tourism Board. Or anyone else. Are you still reading this?

Friday, 16 May 2008


So, it's that time of year again, when we've had our allotted 3 or 4 days of sunshine, and people are thinking of where to go on their summer holiday. I won't be going anywhere. This is far better, since instead of having to choose one place to go, I can choose lots of places not to go.

So here is a guide to somewhere I'm not going, and have never been.


Egypt is a large North African country, with a population of over 80 million, and a rich history.

Reasons to go to Egypt:
  • Sand - People who go on holiday so they can lie in the sand and get sunburnt should seriously consider Egypt. Why go somewhere like Majorca that's got a couple of crowded beaches, when you can have whole deserts to yourself?
  • Pyramids - One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
  • Ancient History - The ancient culture of the Pharoahs and stuff is fascinating.
  • Cairo - One of the cultural centres of the Middle East.

Reasons not to go to Egypt:

  • Sand - The country is pretty much a huge desert. No doubt you'll get sand on your shoes, on your clothes and in your sandwiches.
  • Pyramids - They've got some in Las Vegas. Or you can look at pictures on the internet, or in a book. The insides really do look a bit claustrophobic.
  • Ancient History - Fortunately they carted off the contents of several pyramids to London years ago, so that people didn't have to traipse all the way to North Africa to see them.
  • Cairo - Here's a picture of the smog.
So, I'll stay at home and watch The Mummy instead. I'm grateful to all of the people who did go, and who took all these wonderful photos and put them on Wiki. Thankyou.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Wordy Wednesday


I almost forgot that it was "Wordy Wednesday", and it was Jean Knee's fault, since she posted a Wednesday post with, erm, words. Oh, and a picture of horse feed.

In the News

There was a slightly entertaining, slightly scary, item on the news this evening. Someone parked his car, as usual, next to a block of flats which is next to his house. Unfortunately a second floor balcony collapsed shortly afterwards. This fell on to the first floor balcony beneath, which in turn fell on to his car.

"It was like a film", said one bemused onlooker. Everyone was smiling, of course, because luckily no-one got hurt. They said that the steel that was holding the balconies up had failed because they were old buildings, built about 30 or 40 years ago. It makes you wonder whether the rest of the structure is safe...

Mediterranean Lifestyle

It's been as warm here as in Cyprus, the last few days. We've had sun and no rain, and unlike Cyprus we're not getting any Saharan sand in the atmosphere. Apparently it's back to our usual wet weather at the weekend - I suppose that's summer over then...

Signature of the Week

I loved the following signature which I saw on an ubuntu forum:
They say that if you play a Windows Install CD backwards, you hear satanic messages.

That's nothing; play it forwards and it installs Windows.

That's All, Folks!

That's it from Balmy Britain. Oh, all right then, one more healthy eating horse food idea especially for Jean Knee:

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Distant Thoughts...

I don't know if it caught your attention, but Bee claimed over the weekend that her mother was 4,000,000 miles away. Which got me thinking. Where was Bee's mother over the weekend? I'm sure Bee wouldn't be exaggerating, or anything, and that we can take her figure as accurate.

Well, the Earth is 24,000 miles in circumference. This means that you're never more than 12,000 miles away from anyone as the crow flies. Do crows fly 12,000 miles?

In terms of actual distance you're never more than 8,000 miles away, but you might have to tunnel through the centre of the Earth. Which a crow certainly couldn't do (it's hot down there).

In fact, since Bee's mum isn't a crow, she might have to travel further than 12,000 miles to get to Bee. She might travel on roads like these:
And I'm sure that you've been given a lift by someone who insists on taking a detour to avoid the rush-hour traffic. Those detours always seem to be about 4 million miles long. There's a reason why everyone else is queuing for the rush hour - it's quicker.

I know what you're thinking. I shouldn't take things so literally. Bee's finger probably just got stuck on the "0" key. I spent quite a lot of time finding out how far planets were away (Mars varies from between 35 million and 150 million miles), wondering how much a 4,000,000 mile taxi journey would cost (how much would you tip the driver?), and so on.

But it was a fun way to spend part of my weekend - much more fun that actually having to travel all those miles...

Sunday, 11 May 2008

The Jet Set

Helena brought a DVD with her this weekend. It was of a school assembly, and she wanted me to watch it.

I'm not a very involved parent when it comes to school things. I suppose I'm the same as my parents who went along to parents' evenings reluctantly. I let Helena's mum do that - she's no more enthusiastic, though.

Anyway, watching a video of a bunch of nine year olds singing out of tune or, worse, playing recorders out of tune, isn't my idea of a good fun, whether Helena is involved or not. But this DVD is different.

Firstly, there is no recorder music. Secondly, it's a recording so you can always turn down the volume. Thirdly, for once I was watching it as a proud parent.

In between some inspirational song and dance routines, they were performing a play. The play was about an evil man and his gang terrorising a village. Of course, the villagers have the courage to stand up to him and good triumphs.

The play was written and directed not by William Shakespeare, or Alan Ayckbourn, but by Helena. She had had the idea, and had spent part of an evening here writing it, and printing off copies. As she watched the video she pointed out some of the cast's mistakes, and explained some of the changes that her teacher had made.

So of course, like all parents, I started to have visions of the future. Helena the great writer director, dividing her time between Broadway and Hollywood. Wouldn't it be great? Living the jet-set life - parties with all the top people, everyone rushing around to do your bidding, money no object. Yes, life as the father of a famous director would be fantastic.

Helena's trophy cabinet in the future? [Source]

I know what you're thinking, I shouldn't get too excited. It would be a mistake to assume that her artistic triumph is necessarily going to lead to such a career. After all, she might be the next James Galway (I'm sure he had problems with his top C sharps too, when he started learning the flute), or the next Picasso (he couldn't even draw faces properly).

She's good with word processors, so she'll probably end up in an office staring at a computer screen all day. Won't that be nice? Following in her father's footsteps... As long as she's happy, I don't really care.

But the jet set life might be fun. Excuse me while I tell her to stop playing that computer game and get on with writing that film script...

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Screen Test

So I get off the boat from Austria, to audition for this "Terminator" part, and they say to me, "Sorry, Arnie, but we need someone to play a scary robot that kills people with an Uzi 9mm. You know, is not comedy role. Maybe, if you change that hair, maybe we think about it..."

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Wordy Wednesday

The Pub With No Beer

I went to the pub last night. I haven't been for a few weeks, and the previous manager has left. Whilst they get someone permanent they've got a series of relief managers. The current one isn't a great hit with the regulars. The pub has been running out of beer - he says it's the brewery's fault, but they've never had this problem before.

Last night one of the regulars complained that his beer was off. The manager said there was nothing wrong with it, and if he didn't like it "there's the door". Not surprisingly the place was practically empty, even though it was a gloriously hot and sunny day. My Guinness was okay, and I got a chance to catch up with a friend, then I had a chicken curry from the Chinese, so I had a reasonable evening.


I finished "Elephants Remember", by Agatha Christie. I didn't guess the solution, but was partly right - identical twins wearing wigs was a bit of a giveaway... So now I'm getting down to the 500-page book about Cypriot political parties by Soula Zavou. It's easy enough to read (not many words I don't know), and will hopefully give me background to the political stuff I see in the news every night. Dan - When I'm finished, you can put it in your work "library".

Mayor Boris

This should gave you a flavour of London's new mayor - the guy is truly unique - even if Arnie doesn't think much of him. I really hope he goes on to be US president (Boris, that is).

One of a kind...

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Religious Day

According to the 2001 Census, 390,000 people in this country describe their religion as "Jedi". For this minority today has a very big significance. For me it's an excuse to post a picture of a bird in a bikini


Or, as they say, "May the fourth be with you"...

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Movers and Shakers

You'll now doubt have heard the news. They've done it again this year. The folks at Time have published their list of the World's 100 Most Influential People. As usual I checked, but they had unaccountably left me out.

But I'm not bitter. At least I wasn't until I saw some of the people they had included. Dan will be a little disappointed that Mariah Carey is only the 8th most influential Artist/Performer. However, maybe you can explain just what great World Issues she is influencing, Dan?

I'm sure that many of the planet's billions haven't heard of most of these people. I certainly hadn't. There's a large bias towards Americans, understandable, of course, which probably explains why I'm not there.

They've also left out Boris Johnson. Boris has just been elected Mayor of London. I never agreed with them setting up an elected Mayor, since taxpayers like me are contributing to the cost of election, yet we don't live in London, or get a vote. But Boris' victory makes it worthwhile.

So I shouldn't feel too bad about being left out. It's not just me. And there's always next year...

Friday, 2 May 2008

Computer Bugs

On the news tonight Emilia was talking dirty. Dirty keyboards, that is. Apparently a study has found that in some offices the keyboards have more germs on them than the toilets.

I'm not sure why anyone should be so surprised about this - after all, most companies don't employ people to spray disinfectant and bleach all over their computer keyboards. And we aren't provided with sinks for washing our hands after using them.
The other interesting fact in the link above is that women have four times the number of germs on their keyboards as men. Where are they getting all these germs? If you know, please feel free NOT to tell us.

I'm a little disappointed that I've not managed to grow anything from mine. After all, being in a flat it would be useful to cultivate herbs, or cress. Though it might make typing a little difficult. They'd certainly be well fed, though, as I'm sure loads of food gets dropped between the keys.

You do have to be careful what you give your equipment to eat and drink, though.

A year or two ago I poured coffee on my keyboard at work. Not just a little bit, a whole cup of latte. For the first few minutes it worked okay, then I started getting strange letters coming up. I had to get a replacement. Which suggests that you should avoid caffeine.

Chocolate and sandwiches seem to be okay, however.

Looking at my rather grubby keyboard, I think maybe I'll give it a rinse. In the toilet...