Chinese Food


For my birthday I received ‘Gok Cooks Chinese’ which is a Chinese cook book by Gok Wan. If you don’t know who Gok Wan is he does a lot of TV programmes in the UK about making women look good naked and re-vamping their wardrobes in a camp sort of way so I was a bit surprised to see him bringing out a cook book. My all round opinion of Gok took a bit of a boos recently when he displayed his very human side in a reality TV show called Hotel. I’d leafed through his book and read the introduction where he declared his dad ran his own Chinese restaurant so again, my preconception that he was using nothing more than his Chinese heritage as a means to sell a ghost-written cook book was completely unfounded. In fact I quite like Gok and last night I cooked up his Spicy Sichuan Chicken which was a real winner. The sauce was fairly basic made up of Chinese cooking wine, cornflour, light and dark soy sauce, spring onions, chillies, peanuts and sesame oil including some for marinating but the addition of Sichuan peppercorns leant it a heat and taste that really took it to the next level. Gok spells it Sichuan bit the jar says Szechuan so I don’t know which is right only Gok admits he never learned to speak Chinese.

Served with rice with the help of chopsticks and a decent bottle of Chablis overall this was in the bracket of pretty tasty!


Gok Wan

Filthy Lucre

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.

It’s an oft repeated quote by Mr Micawber from the oft read book David Copperfield which I finally got round to completing last year. I find it very apt because no matter how hard I try I repeatedly find myself in resultant misery due to month on month over expenditure. I sat down with my Moleskine (an extravagant purchase?) last night and listed all my regular monthly outgoings.

Here’s the list:

YMCA Junior Football Club Subscription – £16.00
TV License – £12.12
Home Insurance – £37.74
Son’s School Bus Pass – £44.50
Mortgage – £109.08
Sky TV/Phone/Broadband – £111.02
Loan – £179.38
Bank Charges – £6.00
Life Policy – £35.40
Water – £37.07
Electricity – £40.00
Gas – £82.00
Spotify Premium – £9.99
Mobile Phone Subscription – £34.00
Contents Insurance – £15.76
Gas Service Charge – £20.11
Car Lease – £151.99
Council Tax – £136.00

Total = £1078.16

This total represents 65% of my monthly income although in May I make my final mortgage payment so that’s a reduction in outgoings of £109.08. My wife pays for all the food that comes into the house for our family of 4 (as well as my gym subscription). I’ve looked at this list and wondered where I can make savings. Perhaps looking for new insurance providers, cancelling my landline phone or even reducing my Sky package – but I would miss the football (why do I have to pay for so much crap from Sky before I get what I really want – the football or soccer for the benefit of my American readers?)
The rest goes on an allowance for my son, petrol amd mostly other miscellaneous spends which I don’t really plan for but tend to be made on impulse. The loan is going to last for approximately another 5 years after I finally decided to consolidate my credit card debts which I’d had for years but never managed to get on top of until recently.

The question is, how can I improve the quality of my life and the quality of my family life by adjusting my spending and outgoing? I’m not looking for specific answers, in fact I’m probably doing and writing this as a means of self-help to, like my debsts, consolidate my thoughts and find the solutions myself. I like travelling, near, far and wide, eating great food (which we largely do at home) and drinking great wine. I can see the Moleskine becoming a receptical for a flurry of ideas after this as the answer lises in lists, planning and not being lazy. The first list is what lies above, the second one will be the plan for the next adventure!

Basically, if you can hold a pen you can draw

Basically, if you can hold a pen you can draw

The title of this post is the response I received recently to a comment I made about some great art I saw in a blog and expressed my envy at being a hopeles artist and having no skill with a pen, pencil or brush.

You see, in my family all the artistic DNA went to my brother who was clearly a skilled artist from an early age winning countless drawing and art competitions as well as having his work published in the local press. I literally couldn’t draw for toffee and my earliest recollections of any attempts by myself at art were weekly drawing lessons at Infants School where we were asked to draw a picture to show the class. I recall that the teacher was less than impressed with my weekly offering of a circle crayoned in yellow with strands emanating from it which I presented as a picture of the sun. I eventually improved my output and extended my portfolio by drawing a square with a triangle on top with 4 smaller squares in the corners and an oblong in the middle on the ground. Have you guessed what it is yet? Yes…a house.

Art became something of a dread lesson for me and I used to quake with fear whenever it was announced we had to produce a collage. A bloody collage; that pointless objective when the teacher would produce a large sack of surplus material obviously left over from the sewing class and us 7 year old pupils would be asked to create a picture using pieces of material cut from the swatches using blunt scissors and stuck on (sugar)paper with a white liquid glue called Marvin. Suffice to say I was hopeless at it and after one particular attempt at around Christmas time was hauled off to the headmaster’s office to show him the dereliction of my artistic talent. Thankfully the headmaster was away so for want of someone else to humiliate me in front of the teacher decided the school secretary was the best she could come up with so together they discussed how crap my collage was. Naturally the tears were flowing by now to such an extent that I remember quite clearly a big green bogey flew from my nostril and landed quite prominently on the corner of the secretary’s desk. At that point the secretary was quite anxious for us to leave and as it was home time I grabbed my satchel as quick as I could and dashed home with no desire ever to draw, paint, stick or glue ever again.

In spite of my complete inability to produce anything worthy of being described as art, that is not to say I do not appreciate and enjoy art, it’s just that I can’t do it myself, or thought I couldn’t. Since being an active blogger I’ve looked with admiration at reams of drawings, paintings and pictures of varying degrees of detail on this site and been persistently impressed. When I was told that I also could draw…because I can indeed hold a pencil, I decided yesterday during a quiet moment at work to give it a go. So in between seeing customers I scanned my surroundings to find something suitable to draw. Well; here’s the drawing (biro on paper) of a plant and pot as it looked in front of me and to be honest I don’t think – for a first attempt – it’s all that bad. In fact, I’ve shown it to a few people in work who have been quite wowed in a fun sort of way. I was so chuffed that I’ve even cut the paper out and stuck it in my Moleskine notebook for posterity.

Now, what can I choose for my next subject?


OK, is this too much to drink on a Sunday with a work day tomorrow? This is how it went. Big football match on television. Tottenham Hotspur Vs Manchester City. Spurs win 3-1; drink two 330ml bottles of San Miguel and one 660ml bottle of Peroni. C comes homevandvthe sun comes out so mix 2 cocktails – Harvey Wallbangers – a large measure of Swedish Absolut vodka, ice, fresh orange juice with a topping of Galliano. It’s still sunny outside so I make myself a second Harvey Wallbanger while C is still enjoying her first. Then for the record I make a single shot of Galliano which I enjoy in the sun. Then I have a cup of tea

C is making paella so we re-open the bottle of white South African wine we used last night in the lamb dish. There’s about 550ml left which we share. Then we enjoy the paella and open a bottle of Orvietto.

Work tomorrow but why compromise on the things we enjoy because we may feel less hungover at work on a Monday morning?


Chinese Food


Nonya Chicken And Lime Curry

Another fib, it’s actually from the Singapore and Malaysia chapter of my Essential Asian Cookbook. Very tasty this but could have used a couple more chillies (the recipe said 6, we only had 2).

Firstly I made a paste out of garlic, chilli, an onion, lemongrass, galangal and turmeric; fried it, chucked in some skinless chicken and then coconut milk to simmer with a couple of halved limes, lime leaves an coriander. Served on a bed of rice.

On becoming 50

On 15th April 1963 I emerged into the world by the hand of nurse Murray in the Parish of Keyworth in the house where my parents still live today on Laurel Avenue, Nottinghamshire. Dr Annesley pronounced me a boy and the boy is now me fifty years on. Well, at the time of writing, 50 years and 2 days…I’ve been busy! I don’t really feel like I’ve got to this age and done anything particularly profound, I haven’t achieved anything of worth either academically or career-wise and if I’m being honest with myself I’ve made a succession of wrong choices at some of the most pivotal times of my life prompted by laziness, indecision, fear, procrastination and ignorance. I am not by any means dissatisfied with where I am now because with my son, wife and family I am quite content and do what I can for them. However, as a teenager I had no specific vision of where I wanted to be when I grew up other than be a drummer in a rock band living out of the back of a van if it came to it but I allowed myself to be persuaded this was a non-starter and that I should strive to obtain a minimum of 5 ‘o’ levels at school and get a job. I did get 5 ‘o’ levels, failed my ‘A’ levels (I couldn’t be arsed) and ended up in office jobs dreaming of getting better educated, buying a Premier drum kit, travelling the world, moving to London etc etc without taking the slightest steps to achieve these dreams. And to this date I still do this sort of work and detest it. So much for dreams.

Of course I know in many ways my life is very good. I have a wonderful son and a loving wife – my second wife; my first wife and mother of my son died of cancer 9 years ago – and 3 super step-kids. I have a house which is paid for, a car I love and we do great stuff together like go on holidays, eat great food and love one another. But I just reached 50. I feel in fact as if I’ve reached a mid-way point. Not that I expect to live to be 100 because I would expect to be running out of faculties even if I did live that long but I rather feel that I’ve reached the end of the incline and now begin the descent into decline. Not immediate decline but a slow gradual decline which will ultimately culminate in death and whatever that brings. But for some reason I feel more optimistic now than I did 10, 20 or even 30 years ago because this is me now, this is who I am, I know and understand me now after all this time and although the opportunities are more limited to me than they were when I obtained my 5 ‘o’ levels more than 30 years ago I feel that I am sufficiently placed and confident to realise what dreams I now have or will have and achieve them. I am finally in control.

I have the Internet which is more of a guide, a source of education and inspiration than any teacher who ever taught me at school. And also, I have to be honest here, more than my parents who in spite of their loving well-meaning intentions directed me in ways that I was ill equipped to succeed in or prosper. If I had perused my own dreams of being a drummer I may well have failed but I would have failed on my terms but I allowed myself to fail on somebody else’s. Sometimes I can surprise me such as when I paid for myself to obtain an FA Coaching badge, pushed myself forward to coach a junior football team which I have noe been doing with great pleasure and (dare I say it?) success for the past 6 years. I have a blog, a Moleskine notebook a Wunderlist account and a wife who shares and inspires ambition in me to travel. When C (my wife) reaches the same aged milestone as me in December 2020, we plan to take a 12 month career break in 2021 and travel the world. I am yet hoping I do not suffer the heart attack my dad did at the age of 56 or the stroke he suffered 2 years later or the angina he developed 2 years after that or require the triple heart by-pass operation he had 2 years after that – although at 83 and in rude health he is a great advert for the National Health Service! Luckily my job is not stressful, I have not had a cigarette since my first wife’s funeral, I eat pretty well, go to the gym but do probably drink too much along with C at weekends. But travel is a wonderful goal to achieve and following our recent trip to Berlin we have so much to look forward to enjoying together because travel can be a walk down the road hand in hand or a far off journey to somewhere yet to be discovered. And my wonderful son who I can watch grow older, encourage him and nurture him to follow and peruse his dreams.

Life’s good and getting better. Here’s to the next 50 years!



American Food


From Lindsey Bareham’s Just One Pot: Louisiana Red Beans And Rice.

I wasn’t sure how this would come out but the smokey addition of Polish kabanos sausages really did lift it to another level. Basically it’s onion, garlic, celery and chilli fried up with thyme and parsley chucked in, some red kidney beans, cooked rice, stock and the smoked sausages.

Really good simple one-pot dish enjoyed with this Italian wine which also had a smokey edge to it.


Coach Bill


Me before our Under 13 match against Layton Juniors in the Blackpool District Youth Football League. We won the match 4-0, by the way!

I’m a coach for Lytham St Annes YMCA FC; football has been a lifelong passion although I was never much of a player. I love watching it and coaching the kids which I’ve been doing now for about 5 years after I paid for myself to obtain the FA Level 1 Coaching Badge.