Saturday, October 29, 2005

My Latest Book...

Begod and begorrah, it looks as if my book might finally be coming out!

I haven't actually mentioned this project on the blog yet for fear of superstitious repercussions...I don't normally indulge in magic thinking (not any more anyway) but in this case I didn't want to take any risks!

It seems like years (mainly because it has been years) since I had the idea of doing a book for Germans about the typical mistakes they make when they are learning English. I was at the Frankfurt Book Exhibition a few years ago trying to tout the early version to publishers and got a favourable reaction but no takers.

Now it would appear that we finally have a product...pressed and printed, ready to be sold to millions of frustrated English students...just in time for the Xmas present season...hallelujah!

I will be posting a bit more regularly on the trials, tribulations and successes of the book from now on .

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Joys of Teaching English: Phase One

I have an intensive English course this week; this means the participants - all business people - are there from 8.30 until 15.00 from Monday to Friday.
The level is elementary and yesterday we were doing the verb "to be". There was an exercise where they had to correct statements which are wrong and we came to the sentence:

"A Rolls-Royce is cheap".

To which the students are supposed to say,

"No, a Rolls-Royce isn't cheap. A Rolls-Royce is expensive", thereby practising the negative form of "to be" and adjectives.

Gripping stuff...yawn.

But there are some students who can unwittingly make the most unpromising material funny.

"A Rolls-Royce is cheap..." I read.

"No", said one of the students, "a Rolls-Royce is not a jeep; it is a limousine."


Monday, October 24, 2005

Greeced Lightning

The beans didn't go as soft as I like them to but the taste was fabulous...I just love this meal - especially when you drop little cubes of feta into the sauce and they just start to melt a bit....yummmEEE!!

The galaktobouriko was brilliant too - just one little thing went wrong; as Tanja-Maria was brushing the melted butter onto the layers of filo pastry the bristles started coming out of the brush leaving her holding just the handle when she had finished and making us have to eat the galaktobouriko as if it was a fish which hadn't been boned properly!

It still transported me to Greece though in my thoughts and as I was driving the kids around later to pick up things like bicycles and bass guitars and stuff, I remembered a story about the first year I spent in Greece.

My cousin Margaret has four sons. They are now all strapping lads in their 30s but at the time I was in Greece the oldest would have been around 10 or 11. I heard that they were totally impressed that I was in Greece and they were telling all their schoolfriends.

"Our cousin Phil is in Greece!"


"Phil, our cousin, is in Greece!"

"Really, that's ace!"

None of us could work out why all the kids found this so amazing until one day they came back from the cinema all disappointed and crestfallen.

"We didn't see Phil anywhere...", they complained.

They had been to see Grease - and that was the Greece they had thought I was in!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Bean Up For Hours...

...I had to get up early to get the bean soup on (see below). Now the smell of the beans, onions and parsley simmering - perhaps swimming would be a better word - in the olive oil is pervading the flat...that makes me think of Greece - as just about everything else does at the moment!

I have just posted chapter 7 of PAME! which is the beginning of the story of my love affair with that Hellenic country and quite a few of the people who have read it have urged me to continue and tell the tale of that year, 30 years ago, when I fell in love with Greece and first realised that it was possible to live somewhere else than in England.

I actually planned ages ago to write a story based on living in Greece but focusing on recipes for my favourite dishes and there was also an idea to do a story which would sort of subconsciously teach the readers a little Greek while they were reading it.

I got as far as the first few pages of the first idea and the title for the second idea!

BUT...maybe I should go ahead and write all these ideas and then put the pieces together in a "Greek compendium"; doing a kind of Homeric starting-in-the-middle thing...hmm...

Time to go a stir the beans, I think.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Bean Soup Again...

Just as a foretaste for my trip to Greece (not yet planned by the way) I am doing my Super Bean Soup again for us and the kids (recipe: here). The beans are now soaking in water in the kitchen.

Tanja-Maria has just made a galaktobouriko, a fantastic Greek desert, for tomorrow too - just tried a's brilliant!!

What with my birthday present last week and the writing of PAME! I seem to spend most of my time thinking about Greece; a pastime which is actually much preferable to the normal kinds of stuff I find myself pondering on!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Fifty, Schmifty

Now maybe everyone will start talking normally to me again. For at least three weeks before last weekend there had been all sorts of muffled conversations going on and telephone calls which had to be mysteriously broken off whenever I entered the room. This was due to the planning of a surprise party for my 50th. Of course it wasn't a total surprise party...I mean I didn't think that I would be celebrating my birthday on my own with a cold cup of tea and a limp cheese sandwich but the surprise was where, who, what etc...

The whole family was in the know but sworn to secrecy which meant that I got a lot of indulgent knowing smiles, there was a lot of eye movement going on between family members whenever I was talking and any time I asked a question about the weekend I would get the answer, "oh, I have really no idea!!"

On the Saturday I was kept out of the way all day and occupied with a series of unimportant tasks which were obviously totally transparent ploys.

Finally the kids lead me into town on the U-Bahn, Munich's underground system and we ended up in a music club where I sometimes play to find a couple of barrels of my favourite Munich beer, a sumptuous buffet, a load of instruments set up on stage and a warm bunch of family and friends to greet me. It is weird but for someone who has been fronting bands for years, I don't relish being the centre of attraction, however they made it as painless as they could and we set about food and drink and chat and playing music with a will.

At midnight there was the inevitable discordant "Happy Birthday" chorus and then present opening.

This was surprise number two.

Knowing of my love of Greece and also well aware of the fact that I haven't been able to get there for years due to more or less "commuting" between Munich and Liverpool to look after my mother, Tanja-Maria and the kids had asked people not to bother with presents but to contribute to a collection to pay for me to have a Greek holiday!

Wow! I was so amazed that I hardly reacted..."stunned" I think is the word.

Then came surprise number three.

All four of my children went up on stage with microphones, two guitars and a bass. William (10) announced that this would be "one of the highlights of the evening" - he was right.

They started playing a song from my CD (excerpt here ) which I had written about them (original lyrics here). When they started singing I realised that they had changed the lyrics and were singing about me...oooh, ouch, goosepimples and tears followed shortly after. My younger daughter Biddy was keeping a beady eye on my eyes to see if they were getting moist. I don't think she was disappointed!
Here are their lyrics (there are a couple of "in" jokes which I will not even begin to try and explain but the rest is clear enough):
Song for Daddy
Verse 1:
We asked you why the sky is blue
We asked you what is two plus two
Your answers they were mostly true
And our World is New.
If you asked us what's your favourite word
Then we would have to say "superb"
And our World is New.
On Sundays we have breakfast
And then lie back down
And for Jim it’s a pleasant break 
From living with drei Frauen.
Verse 2:
You used to like to play with sticks
Now your blog waits for our clicks
And our World is New.
You taught us how to see the stars,
And made us feel like the sky is ours,
And our World is New.
Spoken bridge:
All the years we wondered 
But the answer was never clear,
And now we’ve finally resigned 
To resolve the mystery of grey hairs we find
And our World is New.
Verse 3:
You always tried to keep the peace
Although you’d rather have been in Greece.
And our World is New. 
We asked you why the sky is blue
We asked you what is two plus two
But we wouldn’t be here if not for you
And our World is New.
Oh god, our World is New.
Our World is New…

I am not sure what the words would be to describe the emotions I felt on hearing that...pride was
definitely mixed in there somewhere though.

Thanks to all involved in the whole experience.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

PAME! Chapter 6

Chapter 6 is now posted!


Get Over It...

...well, get through it anyway. As some of you have correctly surmised it was my 50th birthday on Saturday (as pointed out in the comments section, my birthday was actually on Sunday, whoops!). And I am pleased to say that I and most of my remaining brain cells survived.

I will be back with more fine details later!!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

PAME! Chapter 5...

The next bit of the tale about my journey to Greece; to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the trip...


Friday, October 14, 2005

Proof of my Decline...

I have been walking around like this all morning...hmm... I think I have another pair like that!

Final Friday of my Forties

Blue Gal took me to task for whining about my imminent 50th birthday (here and here). She said, "get over it honey!!" These are wise words and, yes; I should look on the positive side...better to have reached fifty than not to have reached it...mind you I haven't reached it yet so I am being extra careful about crossing the road etc today.

Trouble is I can't help thinking that something is going to change in some odd way. Come to think of it I haven't had this feeling since the day before my 10th birthday when I made a point of studying my face in the bathroom mirror so that I could compare it with my face the next day and see if there had been any changes.

Maybe it is to do with the fact that when my dad turned 50 he spent a lot of time in hospital being very ill...operations and all that...and it was a critical point in his life which transformed him into an "old" man physically at least. And my mother always used to say in a prophet of doom voice, "50 is the dangerous time for a man...if they manage to get through it they can be ok."

The terrible thing is I remember things which happened 30 and 40 years ago - I was there!! My younger daughter Biddy (don't ask) once wanted me to tell her what it was like when the dinosaurs were still alive. I see people I watched as a kid on TV and they look OLD!!! Some of them have bleedin' well died!

Hmmm...two days left and the countdown has started.

Now if I were a cricketer I would be looking forward to reaching my first half-century. Blue Gal is right! I should do it with a four smashed to the mid-on boundary or a six hammered over the bowler's head.

So, where's my linament?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Sorry Belgium...

Oh bugger, someone from Belgium has been looking at PAME! (If you don't know why that's bad then you have to go and read the story so far....HERE!)

Belgium is actually lovely...erm...and I really Artois.

(I mentioned not liking Belgium once, but I think I got away with it!)

PAME! Chapter 4..

The continuing tale of my journey to Greece to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the trip...


Wednesday, October 12, 2005


I never particularly liked maths at school but there was a point which I still clearly remember when I began positively to hate it.

It was a dark, rainy Tuesday afternoon in room 7 in the east wing of the school; a dismal, barely illuminated classroom. I was sweating over a maths problem set out in a dusty, yellowed old maths text book which seriously expected me to use a quadratic equation to work out how quickly a blob of ink from my fountain pen – actually going from the age of the book it may have said quill pen – would spread over my blotting paper…

Now, it may be that they do use quadratic equations to work out the blottiness of blotting paper and that the infinitesimally small fraction of the population which ends up working in the development department of a blotting paper factory would find this essential, but on that far off dingy day I could only think, “who the fucking hell cares?

This attitude stood me in good stead up to the o-levels where I somehow scraped a 5, which in England is a respectable pass for a no-hoper.

And just when you think you will never have to do anything like that again…your kids get to senior school.

William, my youngest, admitted to having a problem with his maths last night...late last night…too late to do anything about it last night. So we decided we would have to get up early this morning and go through it after breakfast. I had a look in his school book…it was set theory which for me at school came just after algebra on my list of detestables. They were looking at the set of natural numbers and how that is an element of the set of natural numbers plus zero and how the set of natural numbers plus zero is therefore NOT an element of the set of natural numbers…

Well, there you go…

And so it came to pass that I was lying in bed this morning trying to think of some way to make it all a little more…worldly.

And I had this great idea: McDonalds!! There is a set of McDonalds products – M. One element of this set could be, for example, hamburgers – H – of which there would be elements such as cheeseburger cH – and, say, baconburger bH.
Then there is a set of milk shakes S – and this could have elements like strawberry milkshake sS – and banana milkshake bS. So while sH is an element of M it is not an element of S and bS is an element of S but not of H.

Cracked it!

So I explained it this way to William: M is the set of McDonalds’ products and H is blah blah and S blah blah etc etc.

A mathematical McDonaldical tour de force.

And at the end what did William say?


“Mmm, what?”

“But I don’t like McDonalds!”

PAME! Chapter 2

Chapters 2&3 of my bloglication serialisation of PAME! - the continuing story of my trip to Greece by coach 30 years ago this month - are now ready and waiting.

Chapter 4 - coming soon...

Here's the link... PAME!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

As For The Weekend... Off and Away I mentioned two possibilites for the weekend. One was the plan to go to Lake Constance and the other...well...ok, it was the other...nearly.

We actually got as far as the little Greek restaurant round the corner. With writing this last week about my trip to Greece 30 years ago - PAME! - and thinking about the first year I spent there I keep getting these cravings for Greek food (perhaps relating the story is more of a birth than I thought) so we went to slake that thirst for tzatziki and retsina and then wandered around another corner to the local pub - with another craving; this time for a couple of beers and a Rémy and then completed the square by falling around another corner and back home to bed. That was the signal for a very lazy weekend.

This was also my last weekend before I turn 50 - OH NO!!!!!

There are all kinds of strange phone calls going on right now and muffled conversations and discreet discussions which stop abruptly the moment I enter the room. There is obviously something afoot.

But 50! Oh my goodness...50! No, sorry, don't like 50...

Monday, October 10, 2005


HA!! I have got my first bloglication or publiblog up and running.
The first chapter of "PAME!", the story of an epic journey to Greece undertaken by Deborah and myself 30 years ago this week is now available HERE!!

Nip over and have a look - and if you like it, leave a comment (if you don't like it...hmm, ok you can still leave a comment).

The subsequent chapters will be appearing soon...

Friday, October 07, 2005

Off and Away...

I will be away this weekend (I HOPE!!). We are going to take advantage of the kiddles going off with clubs for the weekend to go away too!

Planned destination: Lake Constance

Probable destination: nearest pub and then bed all weekend...

See you on Monday...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

"Why Do Women Live Longer Than Men..."

...was the title of a text I did in an English course with a class of business people this morning. It seems to be a generalisation with a lot of truth in it. I remember my dad pointing this out in his own inimitable way.

"You won't get me going to any of those bloody pensioners' dance afternoons...they are full of auld women dancing with each other because their husbands have already snuffed it! I'd be the only bloke and I'd end up having to dance the whole bloody afternoon"

In the group we talked - in stilted but acceptable English - about the possible reasons; stress or lack of it, drinking, diet, etc.. and thinking about diet it suddenly occurred to me that it would probably be possible tell the sex of a person by what they have in their shopping bag after going round the supermarket. I put it to the group and apart from one guy who after telling us what he normally bought said, "so, I musst be a voman!" - we agreed that it might well be so.

There is a distinct difference if I have been shopping or if the T-M has been. Her bag tends to have a somewhat higher proportion of vitamin C, less alcohol and more natural branny, grainy sorts of things than mine. If I have been it tends to be all fish and meat in batter, pizza, beer and wine and surprisingly often a big bag of potato crisps which I always swear I didn't put in the bag.

I put all that down to the vestiges of the hunter/gatherer dichotomy.

I also normally get moaned at for not getting enough (ok...not getting any) fruit or veg...and this I put down to the fact that fruit&veg always comes at the start when you first go in the shop and I want to get on my way a bit before I stop.

But as for who lives longer and so on, my dad also always used to say, "life depends on the liver"...well, I think my liver's ok for a while.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Fireball XML5

I have put an XML link to my blog down on the right somewhere. I am told this is very good and generally dead wonderful but I don't yet know why...however you are welcome to click on it and it will no doubt do something.
It was dead easy to install too...Feedburner is the website (or was it Beedfurner or Furnbeeder) and they just guide you through the process and you just do it...and there you go.

I even put their animated button on my website for a laugh...they guided me through that too...and that's the bugger of it all. When I did my website: back in the days when I thought FrontPage was a badly spelt and punctuated expression for page one of a newspaper - the page where the footy isn't, I had to do a lot of the html stuff myself and I got quite good at it. In the meantime I just change a few things here and there and now I am buggered if I can remember how to do anything with that spidery language. It's all easy and convenient one click stuff but the only way to learn is to spend hours just trying to get one picture to load on a page...or persuading a link to link - ho's an easy life.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

O'fest - Final Day

I think I have almost got over my flu/virus or whatever it was. It was certainly a vicious attack on my immune system.
Anyway, tomorrow there is just time to drag myself out of my sick bed and visit the Oktoberfest for my 2nd and last time this year.
Tomorrow is the last day. Normally it would have finished today but as the 3rd October is a public holiday in Germany - The Day of German Reunification - we get one more day to go and get the beers down our necks.
There is also going to be an eclipse of the sun tomorrow - the only problem is that tomorrow's weather forecast says that grey pendulous rainclouds will hang over the city so I doubt we will be observing anything more interesting than the bottoms of our beer glasses.
That'll do at a push, though.