30 September 2012


Aleppo Souk was once the finest example of a medieval Arab Souk in the whole Middle East. What is happening there is a tragedy and a disaster. My heart weeps for the people living there. 

11 July 2012

New Oven and Hob.

Blueberry muffins

I recently bought a new oven and hob and am still learning to use it. Today I backed some Blueberry Muffins and I can't decide whether I should dust them with icing sugar! What do you think?

5 June 2012

The Queen's Diamond Jubilee

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got to admit to being an out and out Royalist. It might have something to do with the fact that on commissioning I swore my allegiance to the Queen, her heirs and successors and not some spurious government or President, that was elected for a four year term and whose policies and politics I have nothing to do with. She also personally signed my Commission!

On the 25th Jubilee I was on parade in an Armoured Personnel Carrier in Sennelager as a Captain with the rest of the Army of the Rhine. As the Queen stepped on to the dais I popped a cork of Champagne through the cupola of my vehicle and shared it with my crew. I missed the 50th Jubilee as I was at sea doing my best to complete my circumnavigation. I was determined, therefore, to do my bit for the Diamond Jubilee!

I dare say Hanna’s neighbours thought us mad to have decorated the house and garden with flags for the Queen across the water. We planned it all when the sun was shining and needless to say being a good Staff Officer we had Plan B should it rain.
On the board I wrote what the Queen had in 1953 and what we were to cook that day.

A suitably decorated classroom.

The weekend started with me running a Diamond Jubilee Cooking Course in an Adult Education Centre on the Saturday, from 1000hrs till 1400hrs. The attached photos say it all. The cooking course was a smashing success and I was fortunate to have some very nice people as my cooking students who all spoke good English. If anything we would have wanted more time to just sit and chat after our meal.
The menu of the day was:

Tomato Soup with Parmesan Croutons, garnished with Crème Fraîche and chives.
Salmon Filets with Green Asparagus and Hollandaise
Coronation Chicken
Spiced Pilau Rice
Roasted Vegetables with Cous-Cous Salad and Harissa style dressing
Eaton Mess

The Garden Tea Party on the Sunday was a cold affair, but thankfully not a complete washout. The guests all rose to the occasion, we drank a toast to the health of Her Majesty and christened a new bear!
No one failed to find the venue for the party!

Doing my best to keep it British we served:

Best English Tea (from M&S)
Cucumber sandwiches
Tuna sandwiches
Egg and cress sandwiches
Ham and Cheddar sandwiches
The cake, needless to say was many Victoria sponges, or my version of one, all the above made by yours truly.
Anna even wore a Union Flag in her hair!

The tea was a welcome way to get warm!

Pimms was ready to serve to the guests when they arrived.

This bear, which I made was christened Dennis on the day!

The Union Flag proudly flew over the garden.

Even leaky tents did not stop us having fun.

Germans find standing at parties a bit odd and so were a bit self concious!

Members of the Phileas Fogg Club

Huddled together for warmth

The cold did not stop people having interesting conversations, which had to be in English if I was in ear shot. But I did notice who didn't play the game!! ;-)

This cake is scrummy!

Nothing could dampen their spirit's!

Thankfully Moni, the daughter who lives next door, allowed us to use her veranda!
Strangely the white bread sandwiches, particularly egg and cress and cucumber were best liked and the first to go, followed by the brown bread Tuna and lastly the cheddar and ham. I have now found a suitable new tent to buy to replace the older leaky ones, for future events and intend to have an annual garden party to coincide, perhaps with the Queen's Birthday. Next year though I think it should be a barbecue, then we can all stand round the fire and keep warm should it be cold and damp again.

21 April 2012

Salt and Vinegar Crisps

I fancied some salt and vinegar crisps with which to watch the football on TV, so I made some. The crisps I seasoned with vanilla salt (home made), coarsely ground and the vinegar I foamed up. However as you can perhaps see from the photo, the vinegar air (as it's called) quickly looses its foam consistency which is a shame.  What did I do wrong? I used one leaf of gelatine to 100ml of water and 150ml of balsamic vinegar.  My gourmet whip is a litre version and so I charged it with three gas cartridges, since the first attempt with two was an even worse failure. Obviously one has to shake the whip vigorously, and really great foam comes out, it just doesn't stay that way long. Perhaps I had not left it in the fridge long enough for the gelatine to set properly? Or perhaps two sheets of gelatine would be better?

 Well the football starts on the TV in 10 mins so I can wait that long. The crisps will not last much beyond the ten minutes, though, as they are a complete success and melt in your mouth.

7 April 2012


My "Maus" you may remember came from some good neighbours of mine. Well this is their front door and last night I got my "revenge" by decorating their plant with plastic Easter Eggs and by putting a lucky "Lady-Bird" on their door. 
It was quite amusing really, especially as last night I dropped one of the eggs in the dark and it rattle down the stairs!! I thought it was so loud it would wake up the whole block! Luckily it didn't and I got a big hug from my neighbour for my pains this morning.

It just leaves me to wish you all a very Happy Easter.

29 March 2012

Another Maus!!

I arrived home this lunchtime, from having been in Kempen this morning where I run an English conversation class, to find another "maus"! And no I haven't spelt it wrong, I have deliberately spelt it the German way, though it is pronounced the same, to differentiate between the real type and the one I found decorating my front door jam!

I laughed quite a lot when I saw it. It is a sure sign that I have some really good neighbours and I will now have to think of something to do to them in return.
In case you were wondering, my real mice problem seems to have resolved itself. My landlord sent some builders to remove the marble window ledge under which the mice had a run and to fill in the two holes they had created in the outside walls. Since then I have flooded the window box and have not seen any mice again, nor did I drown any, least ways I do not think so.

These mice are the good kind and I shall leave him where he is. I think though he needs a name, all suggestions but not "Jerry" would be welcome.

22 March 2012

19 March 2012

Life is................

Life is apple pie and cream on my loggia!

12 March 2012

New Teddy!

Yesterday a new Teddy was born! I made him myself! :-) My English conversation class gave the kit to make him to me last term. Suggested Names on a postcard...........

7 March 2012

More Mice

When I came home from watching the "Iron Lady" with my two English conversation groups I found I had caught two more mice. That makes 10 in all! My grandson and I, Christopher Thomas aged 3, took these to the same place in the woods where I let the other one free. They did not seem to want to leave the safety of the trap. The family all agreed that they looked really sweet and that perhaps I should keep them in a cage as house pets! I thought not.
What still I cannot get to grips with is that they all live in my window box, although they have dug a hole through the wall, so they can get into my flat, which they only occasionally do. All my captures have been in the window box! 
I am thinking now of flooding the window box once the holes have been filled in.

2 March 2012

More Mice than Men

My mice problem has not been solved yet! I discovered that the mice have a nest more or less directly under the alabaster vase  which I have made into a lamp, and above the radiator inside the window ledge. The entrance is from the window box in the left corner as seen. Inside there is a small gap between the marble facing and the brickwork through which the mice could come, but the droppings do. Additionally the mice have an underground nest in the window box! I placed all my traps therefore outside in the window box. Three in all, two death traps and one live trap.

In this picture you can see that I caught two mice the other day, one in the death trap and one in the live trap. The bait I used was mainly Nutella. The dead mouse's tail is nicely visible in the left of the picture.

This lucky little chap I took to show Christopher Thomas my 3 year old grandson and then we both took it and set it free in the woods near where we saw some rabbits, so he would not be alone!

This evening I have caught another mouse in one of my death traps, and there are clearly more out there. When I trapped the first two I got my landlord to come and see and so he is now arranging for all the holes to be filled in.

The big question still remains, how and why did the mice climb up to the fourth floor window box? Once the holes in the masonry are plugged will I have to dig up the window box to get rid of the rest of them?

I'd be grateful for all advice received.

Since writing this this morning I have discovered a dead mouse on my balcony!! Surely this can't go on?

Number six! How many more are out there? It was caught this evening 3 March in my window box on the 4th floor???? 

Today 6 March. Number 7! I think I need a cat.

Just discovered number 8 was caught by the trap I set up right outside the hole they have dug in my window box. I seem to be doing quite well without a cat now.

16 January 2012


Thy sea, O God, so great,
My boat so small,
It cannot be that any happy fate,
Will me befall,
Save as Thy goodness opens paths for me,
Through the consuming vastness of the sea.

Have you been following the disaster that befell the COSTA CONCORDIA? As a seaman who has circumnavigated in his own boat, I have, with great interest. The circumstances of this disaster raises many questions and the authorities have reacted quickly in arresting the Master of the vessel and the Cruise Company have rightly already made the Master responsible for the sinking. You should watch this, if you have not seen it already. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aw4pVWYeplU

As sea going commercial vessels get larger and as more and more technical advances make it easier to operate these huge ships with only one man on the bridge, I ask whether or not we should allow it all. We forget too easily that sailing a vessel in all conditions is about competent and responsible seamanship.

The International Regulations for the Prevention of Accidents at Sea says in:
Part B, Rule 5, Look Out: “Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision.”
A modern Bridge, more like a video game than a ship at sea.

My problem with today’s commercial vessels is that all too often they forget the “proper look-out by sight” bit. They rely too heavily on all the electronic navigation aids, such as AIS, Radar, GPS and Chart Plotters, instead of going out and taking a look. The whole control aspect of modern bridges is more like a virtual computer game than real seamanship. The officer of the watch seldom, if at all, goes out on the bridge and takes a bearing to the nearest headland or light house to check his course. His arrogance is total, as he knows where he is, the chart plotter and GPS tell him. Well they do until it is too late. 
Me off the coast of Australia

I once made the same mistake. I relied upon my GPS, visibility was good and I knew where I was. I also knew that there was a rock in the vicinity over which the depth was only 50cms, my vessel drew 1.8m. I was making 6 knots under sail, visibility was good, the sun shone, yet I struck the rock and came to an immediate dead stop in the water!! I was lucky as only my pride was damaged and not my vessel or any of my passengers.
My chart table

Before GPS and all the other electronic gismo’s we now have, we navigated with a certain amount of scepticism. It was more important when navigating in the vicinity of land, to always know with any degree of certainty where you were not, rather than knowing where you were. This helped keep one off the rocks, charted or otherwise.

Another aspect of this case are the stories that are coming out about the crew and their handling of the emergency situation. What most people do not realise is that 90% of the crew of a cruise liner are hotel staff and not seamen. They have as much understanding of emergencies at sea as the passengers do. Yes they may be schooled now and then in the procedures for abandoning ship, but they are not sailors and seldom if ever can handle the life boats. The real sailors on board must get a firm grip of the situation early on to suppress the panic that the majority of passengers and hotel staff crew will have. Another factor is of course the many different spoken languages that there will be amongst the crew and passengers. All this will just add to the confusion in the emergency situation. In the circumstances I feel we can be grateful that not more lives were lost.