Sunset in Kefalonia

 

Who Needs Busy?


  There are some things in life you simply cannot beat. Del Boy falling through the bar in Only Fools And Horses, or that little pot of mint raita you get to go with your poppadoms in an Indian restaurant. For others it’s a babies first steps, or a winning goal at the home of your local rivals, ( I can vouch for that one ). Another thing you can add to that is a “Snap a Sunset” competition. This particular one from Olympic Holidays gives me the opportunity to tell you a teeny weeny bit about Kefalonia, and it’s incredible dusky skyline. 

Snap-a-sunset

( in the rules I have to include a link to the competition, so there you go,  but come on, have you read this?… I’m already packing my trunks ).. Joke!
 It’s been a while since I’ve been I grant you. I remember Kefalonia well, mainly because at the time, it wasn’t necessarily the tourist haven it is now. 4 of us went on this particular holiday. The year before we had ventured to Kos, and having had such a good time we decided to do it all again, but this time on a different island. A few things spring to mind when I think about Keffers, ( it’s okay, I’m down with the kids ). The steep, hilly, roads. The even steeper driveway down to the beach, and more importantly the struggle getting back up. 

I should also mention the friendliness of the local people. I add this in owing to the fact that quite often, the deckchairs attendant would give the 4 of us a lift back up to the main roads. I can only guess that he had seen us suffer enough on the first day. Our gangly white bodies toiling up the 75% gradient in searing heat. A Moxoto, ( that’s a mountain goat to you and I ), would have struggled to climb this bad boy. Yes of course I’m exaggerating, but it’s for the benefit of the story!… It was ridiculously steep though. 

There was a magnificent bar on stilts sat on the beach, where you could sit watching the world go by, well the odd boat anyway. Our legs would be dangling over the ocean and we’d have not a care in the world. They would cook up a beautiful Meze as the sun went down…

Ahh, the sunset. The one thing you can count on in Kefalonia to wholeheartedly take your breath away. As the sun fades into the darkness it truly is a sight to behold. The Calamari ( with a squeeze of lemon ), suddenly tastes that little bit better. The drinks flow that little quicker, and Kefalonia, hidden under a scorching day sun ultimately comes to life in the evening. It’s heartbeat gets stronger with each passing moment the sun relinquishes its grip.

The definition of rush hour and nightlife on this particular Greek isle is not like London thankfully. 15 cars and a donkey is more likely, but with colours and a sunset like that, who needs busy?

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Sofitel – Gatwick Airport

  Firstly, let me share with you a tale of two star – crossed lovers. They met while in search of inner peace on a Himalayan trail. After the female offered a helping hand to a wounded male Trekker who had badly injured his ankle. Both sat gazing out across the landscape and with almost no words said realised they had found “The One”. 

Of course, you and I both know ( yep, I’m being assumptious on the basis of using the word both, but hey let’s live a little ), that unless you are Kate Winslet in Titanic, it very rarely happens that Prince Charming, or in Kate’s case Leonardo Di Cappucino is waiting to hoist you up onto the masthead of a ship while Celine Dion sings in the background. I guess in some ways it also proves important that by the same margin, any relationship you embark upon tends to last more than the 2 hours and 30 minutes Winny and the Caps did. Ideally your other half doesn’t die in the cold of the Atlantic while you watch from a broken bit of 4 by 2  either.

It’s more than fair to say that GB and I did not meet in any sort of Winny and Cap way. We did meet over a crowded kitchen sink at a friends 18th birthday party. Romantic I hear you say!…. Not really, I thought she looked like a waitress who had come straight from a 12hr shift, and GB was similarly observant in that I was morbidly obese. It turned out, neither was true. GB just had a bad dress sense and I was wearing a coat 5 times to big for me! In theory I guess that means I too had a bad dress sense. Our first thing in common.

After a disinterested glancing “Alright” we both went about our business and spoke no other words on that cold winters eve. Two weeks later however, after a few phone calls and some rather frank verbal exchanges we met up for a date. I had relieved myself of the coat in question, coincidentally shedding about 5 stone at the same time, and GB arrived looking amazing wearing an at the time, very trendy, double denim look.  Bear in mind, back then, there was no “Plenty O Fish” , “Grindr” , “Blendr”, or any other kitchen utensil based dating website. It was all done old school sty-lee. 

What’s the point of all this you ask? Well fast forward 25 years and here we are. Still together and I think it’s fair to say relatively happy. We have a cat Madge, a little house on the Essex Riviera and more than that, we still know how to make each other laugh, smile, and when we argue, how to wind each other right up!… We don’t argue often though, as ninety per cent of the time I can’t get a word in edgeways.

To celebrate our milestone, some would argue millstone, GB booked us a short stay in Tenerife. 5 nights, all inclusive. Happy days. We wouldn’t celebrate normally as such, but we both decided 25 years was worth at least acknowledging. To cut out the aggravation of rushing on the day,  (early flight), it was a joint decision to crash at the airport the night before. By crash, I mean invest in a room, and not to drive up to Gatwick at high speed looking for potential whiplash victims. 

This way we could get the car parking included  with the room, therefore killing two thoras for the price of a popular Mexican forename. ( two Thora Hirds, that’s birds – popular Mexican forename, that’s Juan). 2 for the price of 1.  Maybe I should have just typed that first off!
Arriving was fine. Nice chap at the doorway downstairs took the bags and I nipped off to park the car. Car park attached to hotel and hotel has a walkway into the North Terminal, so easy in, easy out. GB had a quick smoke and then we took the escalator up to the reception. It’s a big area, but a bit blocky. Not the greatest description I grant you, but then it was quite non – descript. Very beige. A little disappointing.  A very helpful young lady on the desk (Zainab), got us checked in, straight forward and simple enough.

 We fluffy Bob – tailed up to the room only to find we’d been given a twin.  Maybe after 25 years it was par for the course. I mean I can take a hint!.. A brief conversation ensued with reservations and we found ourselves back in the foyer. Room swapped, panic over. Our new room was located and with a swipe of a key card we were in. The room itself lacked personality but was nice enough. The bed was huge (thumbs up), and the bathroom was pleasantly roomy. I’m not sure I could have swung a cat in there but

A. Madge wasn’t with us to test the theory

B. Even if she was I don’t think she’d have appreciated being thrown around like a car on a waltzer at the fair. 

C. I would never do that. First rule of staying in a hotel, always take someone else’s cat.

The shower was nice and powerful and the toiletries tasteful. The room in essence was a little like the lobby. Luxurious enough but just a bit bland. 

There are 3 restaurants to choose from. A bistro, the food was nice but it has to be said expensive. A Chinese eatery, which looked very tasty but again wasn’t cheap, and a cafe’ serving anything from pizza to curry. It looked OK in fairness. There is however a 4th option. Less than 30 seconds walk away is Lenny Henry’s choice of kipping station. A Premier Inn. Serving half decent food and drink at half the price, it’s a no – brainer. We had Mushrooms(GB) and tomato soup(moi) to start, the Tommy soup was lovely. 

Mains were Gammon steak for me and some form of Rugby World Cup inspired burger for the good lady. Sadly she did have to send it back as it was overdone (burnt), meaning I’d finished by the time GB got her dinner. Not ideal, but hey ho. The food was adequate, GBs burger looked much better second time around, was tasty and price wise there was no comparison with our hotel. We were not the only couple to think this was the case judging by the exodus from our hotel and into the PI.

We made our way back to the room and both fell asleep. The beds are tremendous. I woke up at around 8pm and made my way down to the first floor cocktail bar. A lovely area. £7.95 for a Gin & Tonic though isn’t the cheapest. It did go down rather well though, and while watching the ROI v Bosnia qualifier I managed to sink another 3 or 4. What?? They didn’t sell beer up there. A bit later GB showed up and we had closers in the lobby bar. Table service was a nice touch, before hitting the hay. 

Check out was extremely easy, and on our return we were in the car within a minute or two of getting the cases. It worked exceptionally well. Overall it’s certainly not on a par with the Sofitel in Heathrow. I will say though that all the staff I spoke to were very polite and helpful. I love the colour brown but it’s just too brown. I’m no interior designer but if someone has been paid lots of money for that, then I’m still in with a chance of making it. I guess the burning question is would I stay there again, and I would, providing the Premier Inn wasn’t fully booked. 

The Bunch Of Grapes ( London Bridge ) + Other Reasons To Be Beer – Full!

Bunch Of Grapes ( nr The Shard ) + Other Reasons 2 Be Beer-full!
What’s in a pub? What draws us to it? Why do so many of us find solace in a pint glass and a friendly face? For some it’s the atmosphere. For others it’s a safe haven of what they know. I’m sure there is the odd fellow out there who frequents a particular bar because the barmaids are prettier in his local as opposed to the one 200yds down the road. Sometimes it can be the particular brand of beer or the food served up. For example, I have one particular friend who refuses to go into a pub if they don’t have his beer of choice on tap. He’s a fan of Stella Artories ( as Micky Flanagan would call it ) and many a ale house has been excluded from a day out in the country if the “wife beater” isn’t available. Not that he beats his wife of course. He hasn’t even got a wife. Then again maybe it’s because he drinks Stella he hasn’t got married. Well there’s a vicious circle!
It could be any number of things, The obvious one being alcohol of course. Take my local pub, The Traitors Gate. It’s going through a bit of a transitional phase at the moment. For a start, a paint job, it’s the brightest pub on the Riviera, and it isn’t due to the intelligence of a quiz team. fresh new beers on tap albeit at fresh new prices, and a reputation for good live music. The Traitors also brew their own beer. Deverells Darkside is my pick of the bunch, plus they have one pump solely for Mighty Oak and various guest beers which are well chosen. Colchester – Brazilian is a personal standout I remember or maybe it’s more that someone reminded me the following day but anyway, let’s move on. . I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad Mighty Oak real ale either and there is a few to choose from. A tip top brewery.
 It’s a simple fact that as a publican you just cannot afford to stand still. The biggest problem is breaking from its traditional shackles and developing itself into this new venue for the hottest new local talent, while remaining true to its real ale roots and regular customers. I drink there as often as life affords me, because barring the very rare occasion its trouble – free, ( I’m under the safe – haven banner ), and I know enough people in there if it becomes troublesome. 
For reasons that are self explanatory, another of my favourite watering holes is The Woodbine Pub in Highbury. As an Arsenal fan, it’s an ideal meeting point to congregate with friends, talk rubbish and have a couple of beers. They do have a massive selection of beverages to choose from as well. If you like your real ales it’s a winner. The fact that it’s clean and tidy helps. Far enough to be away from MOST of the madding crowd, however only a 10 minute walk from the ground. A win double to rank alongside Torvill and Dean I say. If you are ever at a loose end and want to read about The Arsenal, check out the blog StubbysTours on WordPress. He introduced me to the next pub funnily enough before an Arsenal home match. 
The public house in question is The Harp in Chandos Place, ( Covent Garden ). Not only do they have a vast array of beers on draught but they have terrific guest brews from all over the place. The best thing about The Harp though is the Sausages. It’s their gimmick if that’s the correct word. They specialise in a tremendous sausage roll. A variation of flavours makes The Harp the place to go when in and around the west end for a pint and a porky roll. It’s also a real drinkers pub. No music or jukebox.. Just beer and conversation.
For reasons of trying to keep this blog short others that are worth a mention are:

The Bargemans Rest – Newport ( Isle of Wight ) nice setting, nice beer, it’s our recovery pub when at the IOW festival. It also does plates of food the size of a house!.. It serves fuggle – Dee – dum which is an island brew.
The King Lud – Ryde ( also on IOW ). I’m not exaggerating when I say this pub has the most bizarre and eclectic customers. The live entertainment can be anything from the weird and wacky to seriously good rock music. They do serve a fair pint of Guinness as well. If you think you’ve seen everything, spend a night in The King Lud.
The Hoop – Stock, Essex. I’ve only ever been here twice. Incredible beer garden. Lovely food, attentive bar staff. Nice drop of Doombar as well. 
The Grapes – Limehouse. It’s on the river. It’s very old fashioned. Very welcoming and if you are lucky enough to get out on the balcony, you can sit whiling away your day while the Thames crashes into the wall literally below your feet. In fact on a bad day you might end up with wet feet. A terrific pub. Little fact for you. The leaseholder is actor Ian McKellen.
That leaves me with my favourite 3 pubs, ( I’m not including my local ).
As they would say on X Factor in no particular order.
The Black Lion – Plaistow. Now I’m slightly biased in naming this pub because I know the lovely lady who runs it and her equally fantastic daughter ( just don’t let her mention the board game “Frustration” ), who also works there. However it’s difficult to deny that in general most of my friends who have visited this establishment get exactly the same treatment. A smiling face and all encompassing welcome. They serve a decent pint and if you are very lucky you might even get a seat. We tend to visit on match days though when going to West Ham so it’s fairly busy. Friendly banter before and after the game is most definitely the order of the day at TBL.

The Gun, Docklands. – I’m not really sure how we ended up going to The Gun the first time, but I’m happier than a cat playing with a solitaire set made of marbles that I did. The food is lovely. There is plenty of room, regardless of whether you want to sit in the sun overlooking the River Thames, sit by the roaring fire which is cracking in winter, or do what we do… Wait till it’s freezing outside, get a wine ( ideally mulled ) and sit outside anyway. They also have a few nights in December with people singing Christmas carols which after a bit of grub is a songtacular way to spend a Saturday evening. 
In an ideal world I would live in one of those houses as tons throw from The Gun. This would be my pub to stroll to on a Sunday. Have a read of the free broad sheets offered, ( Ok, the Mirror or The Times if it’s for the magazines ), a Bloody Mary for GB and a pint for moi, then to finish off, a blinding Sunday roast. The Gun delivers on all 3 fronts and is just a proper feel good cosy pub. The Gun also has the odd cinema evening showing a movie in their function garden/terrace. They also do a bit of foodie fun like the “Slider – Decider”. We were present this year when a lot of top chefs went up against each other for the ultimate slider. It was a very good evening with lots of decent food on offer, plus your music and cocktails, beers etc.. A feelgood pub of the highest order.
Finally we have The Bunch Of Grapes, ( it must be that I have a thing about a pub with grapes in the title ). The rub – a – dub – dub in question is a stones throw from The Shard, next to London Bridge Tube. Takes me less than an hour to get there from the Thurrock Riviera. It’s also opposite Borough Market so there is plenty in the area to do before quaffing a few sherbets. TBOG has a small area out the front for smokers and a nice open multi – levelled seating area out the back for when the sun decides to make an appearance. It’s not huge but there is plenty of tables if you get lucky with the weather. 
One thing this ale house does have in abundance is atmosphere. Yes it is in a tourist trap, so you do get the odd shouty American telling tales of NYC being the best city in the world but ignoring that, the whole mindset of the pub is positive with a capital P. In fact it’s that upbeat it should have two P’s. The background music, played at a high enough level to hear and low enough to hear yourself speak is a good choice of anything from Oasis to James Brown. TBOG smothers itself in the feelgood factor like a doughnut surrounds itself in sugar. 
The decor is cosy enough and they sell Meantime beers which gets a thumbs up from this blogger. The choice on offer if you don’t happen to like MT however is substantial enough for you to not have to worry. The staff that serve you ( or at least have served me ) have always been friendly and helpful and will strike up a chat when they aren’t too busy. One thing I do like is that it never takes an hour to get a drink like in some watering holes. There are normally plenty of staff behind the ramp. 
The other thing about TBOG is the food. Recently I had one of their burgers. I guess I was expecting a bog standard pub burger but I have to say it went far beyond that. It was a big thick piece of meat, with bacon, cooked to perfection inside a lovely brioche type bun. Absolutely doodley! ( that’s not a proper word is it ).

The onion rings, purchased separately were the size of a Krispy Kreme doughnut. Proper old school onion rings. Along with fries the whole thing went down like a building full of dynamite. Quick and easy. It’s so easy to criticise the majority of places for their outlook on food being easy money but I think you get what you pay for at TBOG. The menu does have a nice variety to it as well, so get yourselves down there. It’s not the cheapest pub in the world, but consider where you are and you certainly aren’t being had over price wise.
Right that’s it. Reasons to be beer-full, 1,2,3.
See you fish ‘n’ tater.

The Bunch Of Grapes ( London Bridge ) + Other Reasons To Be Beer – Full!

Bunch Of Grapes ( nr The Shard ) + Other Reasons 2 Be Beer-full!
What’s in a pub? What draws us to it? Why do so many of us find solace in a pint glass and a friendly face? For some it’s the atmosphere. For others it’s a safe haven of what they know. I’m sure there is the odd fellow out there who frequents a particular bar because the barmaids are prettier in his local as opposed to the one 200yds down the road. Sometimes it can be the particular brand of beer or the food served up. For example, I have one particular friend who refuses to go into a pub if they don’t have his beer of choice on tap. He’s a fan of Stella Artories ( as Micky Flanagan would call it ) and many a ale house has been excluded from a day out in the country if the “wife beater” isn’t available. Not that he beats his wife of course. He hasn’t even got a wife. Then again maybe it’s because he drinks Stella he hasn’t got married. Well there’s a vicious circle!
It could be any number of things, The obvious one being alcohol of course. Take my local pub, The Traitors Gate. It’s going through a bit of a transitional phase at the moment. For a start, a paint job, it’s the brightest pub on the Riviera, and it isn’t due to the intelligence of a quiz team. fresh new beers on tap albeit at fresh new prices, and a reputation for good live music. The Traitors also brew their own beer. Deverells Darkside is my pick of the bunch, plus they have one pump solely for Mighty Oak and various guest beers which are well chosen. Colchester – Brazilian is a personal standout I remember or maybe it’s more that someone reminded me the following day but anyway, let’s move on. . I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad Mighty Oak real ale either and there is a few to choose from. A tip top brewery.
 It’s a simple fact that as a publican you just cannot afford to stand still. The biggest problem is breaking from its traditional shackles and developing itself into this new venue for the hottest new local talent, while remaining true to its real ale roots and regular customers. I drink there as often as life affords me, because barring the very rare occasion its trouble – free, ( I’m under the safe – haven banner ), and I know enough people in there if it becomes troublesome. 
For reasons that are self explanatory, another of my favourite watering holes is The Woodbine Pub in Highbury. As an Arsenal fan, it’s an ideal meeting point to congregate with friends, talk rubbish and have a couple of beers. They do have a massive selection of beverages to choose from as well. If you like your real ales it’s a winner. The fact that it’s clean and tidy helps. Far enough to be away from MOST of the madding crowd, however only a 10 minute walk from the ground. A win double to rank alongside Torvill and Dean I say. If you are ever at a loose end and want to read about The Arsenal, check out the blog StubbysTours on WordPress. He introduced me to the next pub funnily enough before an Arsenal home match. 
The public house in question is The Harp in Chandos Place, ( Covent Garden ). Not only do they have a vast array of beers on draught but they have terrific guest brews from all over the place. The best thing about The Harp though is the Sausages. It’s their gimmick if that’s the correct word. They specialise in a tremendous sausage roll. A variation of flavours makes The Harp the place to go when in and around the west end for a pint and a porky roll. It’s also a real drinkers pub. No music or jukebox.. Just beer and conversation.
For reasons of trying to keep this blog short others that are worth a mention are:

The Bargemans Rest – Newport ( Isle of Wight ) nice setting, nice beer, it’s our recovery pub when at the IOW festival. It also does plates of food the size of a house!.. It serves fuggle – Dee – dum which is an island brew.
The King Lud – Ryde ( also on IOW ). I’m not exaggerating when I say this pub has the most bizarre and eclectic customers. The live entertainment can be anything from the weird and wacky to seriously good rock music. They do serve a fair pint of Guinness as well. If you think you’ve seen everything, spend a night in The King Lud.
The Hoop – Stock, Essex. I’ve only ever been here twice. Incredible beer garden. Lovely food, attentive bar staff. Nice drop of Doombar as well. 
The Grapes – Limehouse. It’s on the river. It’s very old fashioned. Very welcoming and if you are lucky enough to get out on the balcony, you can sit whiling away your day while the Thames crashes into the wall literally below your feet. In fact on a bad day you might end up with wet feet. A terrific pub. Little fact for you. The leaseholder is actor Ian McKellen.
That leaves me with my favourite 3 pubs, ( I’m not including my local ).
As they would say on X Factor in no particular order.
The Black Lion – Plaistow. Now I’m slightly biased in naming this pub because I know the lovely lady who runs it and her equally fantastic daughter ( just don’t let her mention the board game “Frustration” ), who also works there. However it’s difficult to deny that in general most of my friends who have visited this establishment get exactly the same treatment. A smiling face and all encompassing welcome. They serve a decent pint and if you are very lucky you might even get a seat. We tend to visit on match days though when going to West Ham so it’s fairly busy. Friendly banter before and after the game is most definitely the order of the day at TBL.

The Gun, Docklands. – I’m not really sure how we ended up going to The Gun the first time, but I’m happier than a cat playing with a solitaire set made of marbles that I did. The food is lovely. There is plenty of room, regardless of whether you want to sit in the sun overlooking the River Thames, sit by the roaring fire which is cracking in winter, or do what we do… Wait till it’s freezing outside, get a wine ( ideally mulled ) and sit outside anyway. They also have a few nights in December with people singing Christmas carols which after a bit of grub is a songtacular way to spend a Saturday evening. 
In an ideal world I would live in one of those houses as tons throw from The Gun. This would be my pub to stroll to on a Sunday. Have a read of the free broad sheets offered, ( Ok, the Mirror or The Times if it’s for the magazines ), a Bloody Mary for GB and a pint for moi, then to finish off, a blinding Sunday roast. The Gun delivers on all 3 fronts and is just a proper feel good cosy pub. The Gun also has the odd cinema evening showing a movie in their function garden/terrace. They also do a bit of foodie fun like the “Slider – Decider”. We were present this year when a lot of top chefs went up against each other for the ultimate slider. It was a very good evening with lots of decent food on offer, plus your music and cocktails, beers etc.. A feelgood pub of the highest order.
Finally we have The Bunch Of Grapes, ( it must be that I have a thing about a pub with grapes in the title ). The rub – a – dub – dub in question is a stones throw from The Shard, next to London Bridge Tube. Takes me less than an hour to get there from the Thurrock Riviera. It’s also opposite Borough Market so there is plenty in the area to do before quaffing a few sherbets. TBOG has a small area out the front for smokers and a nice open multi – levelled seating area out the back for when the sun decides to make an appearance. It’s not huge but there is plenty of tables if you get lucky with the weather. 
One thing this ale house does have in abundance is atmosphere. Yes it is in a tourist trap, so you do get the odd shouty American telling tales of NYC being the best city in the world but ignoring that, the whole mindset of the pub is positive with a capital P. In fact it’s that upbeat it should have two P’s. The background music, played at a high enough level to hear and low enough to hear yourself speak is a good choice of anything from Oasis to James Brown. TBOG smothers itself in the feelgood factor like a doughnut surrounds itself in sugar. 
The decor is cosy enough and they sell Meantime beers which gets a thumbs up from this blogger. The choice on offer if you don’t happen to like MT however is substantial enough for you to not have to worry. The staff that serve you ( or at least have served me ) have always been friendly and helpful and will strike up a chat when they aren’t too busy. One thing I do like is that it never takes an hour to get a drink like in some watering holes. There are normally plenty of staff behind the ramp. 
The other thing about TBOG is the food. Recently I had one of their burgers. I guess I was expecting a bog standard pub burger but I have to say it went far beyond that. It was a big thick piece of meat, with bacon, cooked to perfection inside a lovely brioche type bun. Absolutely doodley! ( that’s not a proper word is it ).

The onion rings, purchased separately were the size of a Krispy Kreme doughnut. Proper old school onion rings. Along with fries the whole thing went down like a building full of dynamite. Quick and easy. It’s so easy to criticise the majority of places for their outlook on food being easy money but I think you get what you pay for at TBOG. The menu does have a nice variety to it as well, so get yourselves down there. It’s not the cheapest pub in the world, but consider where you are and you certainly aren’t being had over price wise.
Right that’s it. Reasons to be beer-full, 1,2,3.
See you fish ‘n’ tater.

Arsenal V Bayern Munich ( Alternative TV Review )

Arsenal v Bayern Munich ( The TV Alternative review )
I was going to call this Arsenal V Bayern ( balancing out the scales after BTSport’s embarrassingly biased commentary ). Then I thought of “Arsenal V The worlds best 11 players according to BTSport “. In the end I came up with what’s at the top. I do feel though that I need to redress the balance after yesterday. 
Let’s start though with the initial cost of the match ticket. The cheapest ticket was £64. This isn’t palatable for the majority everyday Arsenal fan. It certainly isn’t affordable for me. Munich fans made their feelings known by protesting outside for 5 minutes, and fair play to them. What isn’t added to the equation is the cost of the ticket to an Arsenal season ticket holder. Lower tier, where most of my friends sit, a ticket for last nights game cost approximately £41. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. That price is included in the season ticket, so is it really that expensive?… Well BTSport obviously thought so as they mentioned it on a number of occasions, while providing us with costs for going to see the “worlds best 11 players”. 
Next we have the fans. Last night was a good night. The Arsenal fans in stages were magnificent, especially during the 2nd half. In general we Arsenal fans are not known for our loudness at home, however Tuesday proved when needed the noise can cascade around the ground. The Arsenal away support is also as good as any away support I’ve encountered. There is one thing that I noticed though. How is it that Arsenal fans have been turned away from Ashburton Grove ( remember that ), for carrying inflatable objects and yet on TV, a Bayern fan who was also standing up ( naughty naughty ) was clearly holding a metal megaphone!… So let’s get this straight, blow – up banana confiscated, metal megaphone, as seen in a hostage situation in many a TV programme is absolutely fine!. Well I know what I’ll be taking to Everton at home on Saturday. 
Now the fun bit, the players. Here are facts admittedly courtesy of The BTSport commentary team about the “worlds best 11 players”:
They had become the first team in Bundesliga history to win their first 9 games. ( Judging by the strength of the German league I would suggest that Burnham Ramblers would have a chance ).
They had won 12 games on the bounce, scoring 25 goals in 7 games. No arguments there except they aren’t the first team ever to do that. With regards to the goals scored, at the end of the Arsenal championship winning campaign in 1991 we had scored 26 goals in 8 games. Bayern have scored 25, and they now have not won 12 on the bounce. 
Bayern had not failed to score in 23 previous CL appearances. Scratched!
Listening to BTSport, Owen Hargreaves in particular made me cringe at times. I think Owen is still unsure of where is heritage lies, at times using the word us when talking of Bayern, and then Arsenal. He does however categorically love Douglas Costa. At 22m quid I’d like to make a valid point. Surely for that amount of money of the 6 deadball situations he took control of at least 1 of those should have beaten the first player in the box. His crossing was diabolical.
 I will agree he looked quite a player in a 1-on-1 situation but take him out wide and he can’t cross the ball. A very good player but not a patch on Thiago judging by the commentators dribbling after One little back drag and spin he done. Sadly Stoke City’s Arnautovic had beaten him to it the night before against Swansea, but Arnautovic doesn’t play for Bayern so it doesn’t count as skill. Personally I do think Thiago is a fantastic footballer, but don’t go overboard BTSport!
Xabi Alonso. If you believe the comments made by Owen and his fellow commentator in the gantry he was born in a stable. Three wise men arrived after his birth delivering gold, frankincense and myrrh for the holy one. His feet did not touch the pitch as he levitated across the pitch. Well, I hate to disagree but was he any better than Santi, Mesut or Alexis? I’d love to know the number of chances he created during the game, because of all the 73% possession Bayern had, Alonso was the one with the ball at his feet the most. Listening to the team commentating I thought at one point Bayern were 5-0 up. Alonso had set up 3 for Lewandowski with Mueller scoring the other two laid on by the Spanish OAP. 
I have no argument about Lewandowski or Mueller in fairness. They are both excellent footballers who on their day can score against anyone. 22 goals in 16 games is remarkable form, and BTSport were full of praise for Lewandowski. Of the 2 though I’d still take Mueller first, but that’s just me. I thought our defence played exceptionally well and contained the Bayern forwards barring one or two tricky moments. Yes Bayern had a lot of the ball and yes they had lots of shots ( 6 on target, 2 less than Arsenal ) but several of them were regulation saves for a keeper with the stature of Cech. There is no doubt with Cech in goal we look a far safer, stronger unit. 

 

Then we have Lahm and Vidal. Lahm is a truly classy player. He can play anywhere across the back and in midfield. I can understand the praise he receives. 2 or 3 years ago he would have gone into any team I picked as a current best 11. I’m not so sure now. As for Vidal, the £28m pound Chilean is an embarrassment. The only hardman that loves leaving his foot in but cannot keep his balance when anyone so much as tries to tackle him. He was constantly in the face of the ref trying to get players booked with his acting. I noticed it in the CL final last year when he played in a similar fashion. We definitely got the better Chilean of the two. 
Finally there is Neuer. Described regularly as playing a Beckenbauer sweeping role he looked more like Jack Bauer at times , once kicking the ball out for a corner to the opposition and then obviously his error for the goal. I will say though that the save he made to keep Theo’s header out was world class. The fact that he nearly repeated it in the 93rd minute, the ball having already crossed the line is testament to how good he is. I do think though that his arrogance shines through making it funnier when he makes mistakes. BTSport would have you believe this man is the best goalkeeper in the world and there is no – one near him, in fact others should wash his feet, and maybe they would if they could get past that arrogant attitude. 
I’m not belittling Bayern Munich. They are a fantastic team. I just think there was a complete lack of balance in the commentary. I thought Santi was excellent. Theo scared the life out of their defence and both Sanchez and Ozil both contributed well. The Coq was at what is now becoming a consistent and regular level of control in the centre, and when we broke away we looked like we could score. We have now scored 8 and conceded 0 in our last 3 games. Didn’t hear BTSport mention that!
The Sac and Kos are starting to play together well again and either side of them while Hector is still learning he looks a great full back and “So Nacho” after a rough start to his Arse career looks solid enough. I like Olly G. I know he has his critics, and sometimes they are justified but when he plays well he is one of the top forwards around. Is he in Lewandowski/Muller class? Probably not, but at this moment in time he scored and they didn’t so who cares. In goal we have Petr. I’m happy enough with that!
Shortly we go to the Allianz Arena. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it. Then again I wasn’t looking forward to Tuesday’s game, so maybe I need to be more positive!.. I do hope the cheat that is also known as Arjen Robben isn’t playing though. Such a talented footballer, but a serial diver. 
* please note when talking about Thomas Muller I spelt his name wrong most of the time. Sorry, but I can’t be arsed to go back and change it. 

Balance addressed, thank you.

Kings Head Inn, Hursley, Hampshire

The Kings Head, Hursley, Hampshire.
Never done this before, but just to make it different I thought I’d try and poem my way through a review. Don’t expect Keats though. Plus my constructive critic, DS, thought my last blog was “lacking in wit” ( that’s rhyming slang for how he more blatantly expressed his feelings towards it ), and he may have had a point as it wasn’t the best.
( clears throat ).
In July it was GB’s special day,

She was er.. 21 again, I’d better say.

We went somewhere pleasant,

Just as a nice present,

To Hursley, ( I couldn’t afford Bray ).

It was only one night, just a treat.

A teeny weeny village, in Hampshire near Fleet, ( closer to Winchester but this ain’t easy you know ).

We stayed at the Kings Head

Just a meal and a bed,

Cheap as chips, lovely food, Bon appetit…..
We travelled down in a car, GB at the wheel,

Our SatNav though, tried taking us via Deal. ( I know every slip road off of the M3 now ).

The sun shining bright,

The Inn glistening white,

The interior had a cosy ‘n’ comfortable feel…..

Our table was booked at half three,

A roast dinner, can’t beat it, pot pourri.

Quick drink in the sun, ( outside, not in another pub )

The garden is fun,

Then time for our dinner, hope no broccoli!…..
Broccoli came out on the plate,

You can’t win them all I must state,

The rest of the dinner,

One hundred per cent winner,

The roasties, top drawer, really great……
Our room was cool, done in grey and sage,

Not a hint of boring old beige, ( praise the Lord )

A fair old sized shower

With bundles of power,

We weren’t in there together, at our age??……
It had a nice little sofa to sit,

With views of the church opposite,

It has to be said,

On Sunday, Hursley’s dead,

But the pubs own Skittles alley was a hit! ( I didn’t play due to an injury but it looked the dogs danglies )… Other games available also but SKITTLES, that’s quality!…..
A beer in The Dolphin and a relaxing stroll, ( I had to take it slow, The Dolphin is 100yds away )

We returned to our lovely Hampshire bolt hole,

Sunday eve at The Kings Head,

They do a cracking flatbread,

Might be wrong but cooked on charcoal? ( ask the owners, Penny was very helpful )…..
The courtyard reminded me of the med,

Stunning patio heaters, vintage red.

With a glass of white wine,

Lovely area to dine,

Pretty soon it was closers ( last drink ), and then bed…..

Next morning , a full English, in the price,

Have to say, it’s high five, very nice,

All the food was exquisite,

The Inn’s well worth a visit,

Would I go back?.. You don’t have to ask twice!…( Take me now! )

………..
Small print. Ok same size print but small extra details…. And not in poetry form.

All the staff were very friendly and helpful.

We booked a “Spoil Yourself Sunday” deal. It was by a country mile the cheapest place I found. On a serious note the food was very good. We stayed in the Baxendale room. We loved the clean, airy, bright room. No window in the Baxendale bathroom, but it’s not the end of the world.

Winchester is very close and has, providing you are able, some lovely areas to wander around.
Hope you liked my efforts. If you didn’t, well, at least I’m experimenting various avenues!… Think Keats might be safe for now. Following this, The Ivy, described through the medium of breakdance!…
Next up, The Foodies Festival!

10 Dining ( the restaurant, there wasn’t 10 of us )

10 Dining Street.
Like most people I love Indian food. The fact I enjoy it so much is all down to one man, and one dish. I am not going to try and pretend I am the font of all knowledge when it comes to individual dishes or spices. I’m not sure I could tell you the difference between Caraway seeds and Cardamom seeds. At one stage I thought a particular famous chef had an ingredient named after her. It turns out the Nigella seed is nothing to do with the voluptuous cook in question, but it is an onion seed mainly used in breads, and more extensively in the east of India to season fish plates. Allegedly that chef in question is more partial to herbs than spices anyway. Too much? … Sorry, couldn’t resist.
I was 14 or 15 when I sampled Asian cuisine properly for the 1st time. It was in a small town in Essex called Upminster. My brother took me. He had been raving about it for years. The Taj Mahal was the name of the restaurant. When this illuminated red concoction confronted me it frightened me to death. I might be wrong but I believe my brother was going through a Madras/Vindaloo stage at the time. 
It not only looked disgusting but Christ on a bike was it hot!… After eating two forkfuls and drinking enough water to put out the raging fire that was my mouth I declared that Asian food was most definitely not for this kiddie. For the next four or five years I avoided visiting curry houses. It just didn’t tingle my tastebuds, more to the point it didn’t just tingle them it tore a strip off of them.
Moving on then and my next trip for a ruby. It was while out visiting what myself and GB assumed to be an unwell relative. “Uncle Dave” as he was affectionately known, although he had no family ties had just had a triple heart by – pass. Our first spin up to Whitechapel hospital, one day after this operation had seen him with tubes everywhere. Returning less than a week later however, Uncle D was up dressed and more importantly being killed by boredom. Delighted to see us he suggested we go for a walk. Of course what I, or we, didn’t expect was Uncle Dave using us as a ruse to firstly get his hands on a snout ( that’s a cigarette for you guys/gals not from these parts ), and secondly his insistence that we go for a Ruby in the Curry Mile of Brick Lane. Needless to say my first experience of these spicy foods was enough to make me go for the extremely narrow – minded omelette and chips, while GB and UD dived in to the pillar box red Masala and Vindaloo courtesy of the nearby Tandoori. Oh yeah, living the dream!… What’s that you say? Blocked arteries, triple by – pass, a Chicken Vindaloo. It’s recommended all the way down from the top by the NHS. It’s not, I made that bit up of course but I wasn’t going to try and talk UD out of his Ruby, he was bigger than me!
The term Ruby Murray meaning curry, is a rhyming slang term which is thought to relate to a popular Irish singer. Ruby Murray, born in Belfast had top 10 records in the UK charts in the early to mid 1950’s and was seen on the bill at the Brick Lane Music Hall on more than one occasion. The Brick Lane area of East London was ( and still is ) well known for its high population of Bangladeshi immigrants. An influx that started in the later stages of the 20th century. Over time it became the Curry capital of the UK. This array of narrow streets with vibrant bars, shops, restaurants and incredibly lively Sunday market is also known as Banglatown. There you go, a short but sweet bit of education about the nation, well a tiny part of the East End of Londinium anyway. Next week Stoke Newington!
Then it happened. At the tender age of 21. I was rabbiting to a crafty cockney, a happy hammer, and it wasn’t Eric Bristow. Over a game of snooker one evening a few of us were chicken chatting, ( Chicken Chat?? Worth a high 5 surely )… And the subject of our after frame food options came up. I rejected the Indian choice on the basis that it looked horrific, and tasted worse. 
My good friend, and pleasingly still one of my besties, Bazza looked at me as though I had just dismissed a hot threesome with Kylie Minogue and Charlize Theron. For the record it should be stated officially that this opportunity has never presented itself, well, they haven’t got my number!

Back to Bazza, and his questioning me on my take on spicy foods. 

” How can you not like Indian? ”

I went on to tell him about my assemblage of all previous encounters. Bazza tutted as he moved on to 32, (4 reds, 4 blacks – show off), and wouldn’t drop it until I agreed that I would accompany him to this little gem of a place he knew. 
The Spice Of India, a small restaurant in Cranham, Essex. This was the start of my tutorial on Indian spices. The place that I realised not every dish has to be liking eating Lava. Bazza introduced me to a ‘Chicken Methi’. 

I can’t even begin to tell you what’s in it other than Chicken ( that’s a bit obvious I grant you ), and Fenugreek. What I can say however is that if you find most choices too hot this is most definitely the way to go. It’s an absolute cracker of a dish for a novice/beginner to get started with.
All of this admittedly via a long winded and sometimes painful slowly written path found me at 10 Dining restaurant some 21 years on. What can I tell you about 10 Dining?. Well the first thing is where it is. I never thought I’d hear myself say this but it’s true, it’s very possible that the best Indian restaurant on the Thurrock Riviera right now is in Tilbury. Right in the heart of Civic Square in the town centre. It wouldn’t be the first choice of positioning for me personally but each one of us are different right. 

Tilbury is famous for very few things. The things it is famous for aren’t all necessarily good either. It does have a very busy cargo port, and a cruise terminal, home to some of the Marco Polo vessels. In the middle of an expansion it is one of the few things to offer local people hope of employment in the near future. Police seized £70m pounds ( street value ) worth of cocaine outside of the port just two days ago. So you give people work in one hand and take it away in the other…. Oh and before it closed Tilbury was ( again allegedly ) home to the “Roughest Pub In The UK”, an establishment called The Ship. I’m not painting a pretty picture I grant you, but the truth is Tilbury has been left behind and is now trying to catch up. It is the home of Tilbury Fort though. Queen Elizabeth 1st rallied the troops here with a rousing speech, ready to repell the Spanish during the Armada. It’s a history lesson! … I would also say much like most towns in the UK it has it’s nice parts and it’s less attractive areas.
Where was I ?… Well, five of us went there for a birthday celebration. It was my sister – in – laws big day and so, with 10 Dining being within walking distance it made the decision easy enough. I didn’t mind walking, it was still light after all!…. We arrived at what first sight seemed like an everyday sandwich shop, admittedly with added cooking Tandoor’s. It wasn’t overly busy and we were sat down straight away. Drinks came over quickly and the owner dressed in a very relaxed shorts and shirt attire made us feel very welcome. 
Starters arrived and I have to say I was delighted. We had traditional vegetable & Lamb Samosas and I’m a bit of a Samosa connoisseur even if I do say so myself. They were light, incredibly flavourous ( I know it’s not a word but don’t stop me I’m on a roll ), and better still, not at all oily. I have in the past witnessed some horrific attempts at what is supposed to be a small and delicate starter, but these bad boys hit the spot. 4 of them as well as opposed to the 2 I would normally get elsewhere. Another dish tried was Methi Na Gota ( Fenugreek Fried Fritters ). If it was Christmas these lovelies would be in a cracker. Top drawer cooking. Bit of an insult really but i asked if the Samosas were bought in. Thankfully it was a straightforward no. 
Other dishes sampled, Tandoori Broccoli, unusual but very nice and a tremendous Onion Bhajia. I should add the 5th member of our group was an infant so was otherwise engaged playing with his cars/Marvel characters/iPad and therefore too busy to try the Coriander Prawns.
In between the starters and main course our foursome discussed the owner, or more so his likeness to the guy that ran the dental practice next door. The youngster was tearing up and down as innocent children do, somehow avoiding all things hot and dangerous by an inch or so either way. My SIL finally plucked up the nerve to ask the owner – cum – waiter if he was actually feeding you in the evening and then removing your teeth the following day. It turns out she was spot on. Okay he wasn’t the teeth removing commander, but he was the operations manager. 10 out of 10 for observation to the birthday girl.
We explained exactly why we were there and in generous fashion our host offered up a drink to our slightly tipsy reveller. Joking, although she does love a tipple so maybe not, Maisie said …”Ah just leave the bottle “…..smiling, the perfect unfazed response from our food provider was simply to hand over what remained of the half full bottle. The birthday girl looked as though she had been handed the alcoholic equivalent to a box of ferrero Rochers. We didn’t abuse the offer however, generous though it was.
In turn while awaiting our food, our generous patron introduced himself properly and went on to explain why a combination of boredom and his passion for cooking, had brought him to this moment. Taught by his mother, ( mums are the best aren’t they ), he had in many ways fulfilled a family dream. Maybe not in the perfect location but we all have to start somewhere right!… and as he spoke you could actually feel that drive to succeed. Certainly if the first dishes were anything to go by the cooking classes had been worth it.
With our little chap seated and focused on his chicken and rice I got deep down and dirty into my Chicken Methi. Fare play! This was seriously good food. As Del Boy might have said, Bonnay De Douche!.. The chicken wasn’t dry at all and the dish itself again wasn’t swimming in oil, like you do find now and again. GB, forever the expansive palate chose the Smoked Chicken Curry. Again no sign of the chook swimming in murky oils. Awesome. A hint of smokiness, and a wet sauce but not so much that the star attraction is lost in flavour. A pretty damn fine SCC then.
 My BIL ( brother – in – law ), and might I add a top banana went for the Chilli Chicken, with its own heat warning. I won’t say he was disappointed at the lack heat, and as a dish there were no complaints but he was fictionally shocked at my lack of being able to type fractionally!.. Let’s start that sentence again. He was fractionally, not fictionally, surprised that the meal wasn’t burning a hole in his tongue. It was hot though. Trust me I had a try and it didn’t seem at all mild. Then again my definition of mild and his are worlds apart. I define mild as a walk in a park on a lukewarm day. His competitive edge sees benign as twenty laps round Silverstone on a racing bike with no safety gear while eating a Strawberry Split. Don’t know what a SS is? Google nostalgic ice lollies. It was vanilla ice cream coated in a strawberry flavoured ice shell. Top bombing! And Mini Milks, you had to love a mini milk. 
Back to the present day, and birthday girl was tucking into her Chicken Tikka. The Chicken was neither dry nor hot which for a girl who normally has a Korma was a blessing. It was spiced well and had great flavour to it. I had to sample it for safety purposes. She even had a little bash on my Methi. It’s the beginners winner I’m telling you! The side dishes were all adequate and complemented the food well. Big high five for the Jeera Potatoes ( tossed in Cumin Seeds ), and GB gave a plaster covered thumbs up to her Chana Masala. By the finish we were all humbly full to the hilt.
I’m not going to tell you Lot porkies by saying we had desserts. We didn’t. My experience of Indian desserts is that they are basically a screwball under another guise or called Pengu and look like a child’s toy. It may have been different here but the truth is we didn’t get to try them. We were more than happy with our intake. Even the nipper was quiet. This may have been due to him being told off for somehow managing to kick the toilet door open while I was in there but luckily no – one other than the owner, three chefs, and a table full of customers saw my embarrassment. Could have been worse, could have been his mum!
Bill paid, or at least I wish he had. The meal with drinks was very reasonable. I would say if you live on the Riviera this is possibly the best place to sample some Indian delights. If you don’t live on the riviera then take some time out and make the journey. The food was that good.
 That’s my take on 10 Dining!
Next up, Spoil Yourself Sunday in Hampshire, or was it Dorset ? … I’m off to google Hursley. Catch you all later hopefully. 
Two other things before I go.

1. I made some cracking meatballs the other day. Why am I sharing this? Mainly because I’m a dreadful cook and so I was pleasantly surprised at the end result. Thank you Jamie Oliver for the recipe.

2. A cowboy walks into town wearing a paper hat, paper trousers, paper shirt and paper boots. He was arrested and slung in jail. But why?… Answer on the next blog!
😊