Saturday, 31 May 2008

Saturday, The Day After

Had a good lunch club at Sorriso with Plum, Boss St. Bloke and a Belgian girl whose name I can't remember. This is a new little Italian place near Elephant and Castle. They gave us a large free surprise plate of toast with tomato and ham. The melanzane parmigiano was not much good, but the pizzas looked fine, so I shall stick to those or a pasta next time. The house red, very drinkable, was £7.99 per bottle so we managed to demolish a couple of bottles. They made the mistake of serving margarine, not butter, with the bread, which was fairly vile.

We all enjoyed ourselves though, and Plum and I are meeting at the Royal Oak for next week, and possibly the Lye Torng the week after. I am hoping to persuade them to try the Latino at the Elephant & Castle at some future date.

My friends have been amused by my telly appearances, which were less vile than I had anticipated - though playing the 'sugar plum fairy' as I heavily staggered about on the last day was rather uncalled for - but I can see how they couldn't resist it.

Had some emails from Julian about catfeeding while I am away with the pensioners. It seems Julian cannot now cope with this so I have a rather serious problem. I think my upstairs neighbour may be able to manage this in June, and I think I shall have to try and find someone else to go with them on the rest of the holidays. If this can be done I suppose I will have more time to deal with administrative matters in the office. I might also be able to take some days of annual leave off in London, or doing day trips here and there. Romy did say she might know of someone who might possibly be able to go with them. Otherwise I shall have to ring some nursing, or care agencies to see what they can do.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Last Day, Lesley B

Last dinner today. Harold served up too much food, and the huge plate of seared tuna followed by the giant tiramisu was somewhat excessive after the potato dish and the risotto.

I am rather old fashioned, and the only things I like served rare are beef, and to some degree, lamb. I do like everything else, including duck, and especially any fish to be completely cooked, so the tuna, which had only been briefly introduced to the frying pan, was fairly inedible, and was red rather than pink all through except for about 2mm which was cooked on the outside, so I tried to eat some of the ends rather than leaving it all.

I don't think I was misrepresented all that much, but little was made of Lesley's faux pas in leaving the place full of dirty dishes and not appearing, particularly as they had to film the winner in the same room later. Half an hour before, she still had not put in an appearance. She apparently thought I was annoyed about her not getting up. The fact is I thought she had let herself down on national television, albeit daytime TV.

On the ITV site it quotes me as saying I was glad Lesley was an early riser, like me! This was a comment I had in fact made about Lesley Turner, the 'dinner lady'. Get it right, ITV.

At least it is all over now and I can stop worrying about my portrayal on the programme.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Stephen's Showroom

Stephen's party. I saw rather more of myself than I liked in several ways. Apart from the huge bulk, the camera kept dwelling on my face while I was eating, and I had a deeply unflattering outfit on. And not enough lipstick. Oh well, just as well they didn't show me finding out that Stephen had forgotten the angostura in the champagne cocktail, and the decidedly dodgy conversation I had with Stephen about Fetish aka Malvolio being a 'bear cat' as he is rather podgy. But they did show me finding Stephen out over his rubbish 'antique' cake/cheese glass dish and cover.

I thought Lesley was rather stupid to give Stephen nine points after he had kept her up for most of the night when she was cooking on the last day. As she would find out.

Otherwise the evening was well shown, with all the small quibbles, i.e. no Angostura, no napkins, someone saying the pudding was too sweet, etc. left out in the edit. Also a lot of the best bits - Stephen entertaining us all with his books and quotes. Still, it all has to be about the food, as we were sometimes reminded when we started to chat about other things.

The Morning After

Really odd. A complete stranger came up to me and said: 'it was your baptism by fire yesterday - congratulations, you did brilliantly and I am coming around to your place for dinner tonight' !

Some of my neighbours have watched the programme and think it is good.

However, we shall see what happens on today's show.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

My Dinner Day

It was my turn to put my head on the block yesterday. Actually I didn't think it was too bad apart from the filming of me talking in a west indian accent when I was describing being a child in Trinidad, which could have been misinterpreted somewhat. There was also a manipulated bit where my guest was apparently left sitting around alone while Romy and I chatted in the kitchen.

I did not look too awful, and the house looked good, and Romy at least was portrayed as the perfect host, which she was, and a complete support to me in my hour of need, as I could hardly walk at all having injured my knee badly before the programme. The day had started at 7am and went on without any break until the crew left at around 2am, then I was up at 5.30 to give Leslie and I time to get up before the camera crew arrived at 7am the following morning.

I now only have two more days to worry about. Today, Stephen the winner hosts. I certainly remember being totally exhausted after my day. That meant I had to be helped to walk by the sound engineer at the beginning of Stephen's evening! Fortunately I spent most of the time sitting down. I wonder how much they will put into the programme. I hope they show some of his preparation as they did for everyone else.

Worser and Worser

I watched the second show on a computer. I looked appalling as usual, but the show was quite interesting and the food very good, as I remembered it. It was certainly chopped down a lot which can only be a good thing with these programmes. I looked at the website later and of course they had to concentrate on Karen having a go at Stephen for smoking in the extra scenes. I hate to think what they will put on the extra scene shots for my day, later today.

Unfortunately my neighbour has found out that my day is today. Romy has scarpered off to Spain very wisely so won't have to suffer the ignominy. I seem to remember slaving all day with my injured knee and being completely exhausted at the end of the day. Getting up at 5.30 the following morning so that I could appear human when the cameras came in at 7am to film the breakfast did not help, either.

I shall be happy when the week is over.

Monday, 26 May 2008

House Guest First Programme

Arrived at Hemel Hempstead for lunch. Lesley had invited her entire family - unfortunately Stephen, predictably, had not appeared, and Lesley B had cancelled on the day. A wonderful buffet was provided and Karen, her husband and I happily enjoyed this. Lesley is really a very good cook indeed and there was an excellent quiche. I normally don't like quiche, but this one was made with a thin crispy crust containing parmesan, and filled with Stilton with walnuts soaked in something and fried in oil on top. Must get the recipe.

Then we settled down to the unenviable task of watching the programme. Lesley and her co-host came over as people who worked well together and were very competent cooks and hosts. I did feel that the programme rather lovingly dwelt on bodily functions and there was rather too much information altogether in this department, from snoring to going to the loo during the night. Everyone looked fine except me. Dorothy said it was the first time I had seen what everyone else saw, and I have to say it was a bit of a nasty shock. Apart from the lack of height, numerous chins, thinning hair and lumps and bumps on my face, somehow though one knows these things to be true, nothing is as bad as seeing it in real life on a screen. Fortunately I did not say much on this first programme, which was just as well as my voice sounded very deep and plummy - Dorothy says I must have been doing a Mrs Bucket - but the worst moments for me where when the camera lovingly lingered on me while eating. Not a good look for a 17st old woman. Unfortunately I think I may have had much more to say later in the week, which is even more to dread.

Anyway, we all had a good time, and maybe it is good to see oneself as others do. This could either lead to a great loss of weight or the adoption of the burqha.

Sunday, 25 May 2008


This is a slightly out of focus snap of my breakfast tray. I really must buy a tripod.When I made yesterday's bread I only had plain white flour, but added a cup of porridge oats and the bread is particularly nice today, toasted for breakfast with some Hartley's best raspberry jam which smells like fresh raspberries. I have taken to making a small pot of lapsang using my willow pattern Victorian china with the tiny cups and saucers, laid on my sixties melamine tray which I found in Eastbourne last year. The tea stays hot in the pot and somehow it is more satisfactory drinking several small cups of tea rather than a huge mug.

Internet Back and Snap of Baglady on ITV Website

A little overexcited. Internet back. It seems that Orange changed the DNS number so did not recognise my router. Dorothy has now sorted this out.

Just found myself described as a 'selfless charity worker' or some such, plus a not too vile snap on the ITV website. Eeek!

Food Forgetfulness and French Fashion

I forgot the potatoes and bacon for the chowder which was a bit much, but cooked the different fish in the milk with an onion, garlic, scrap of cinnamon, some dill and a few bayleaves. Tastes OK and may add some frozen peas. Bought some frozen soya beans a while ago for use in a Nigella dish and now can't remember which dish. Strangely, shops seem to have stopped stocking sage. Must see if I can grow some. Made some more bread today.

Saw a funny thing yesterday: two teenage girls obviously trying out a 'French' look - one had a red beret at a jaunty angle, and wore a mariniere navy and white striped top with a navy miniskirt. The other wore a red mini pinafore dress with a white polo necked top and navy long beaded necklace with a navy and white shoulder bag. Perhaps it is a fashion which has returned. Again.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

More Shame, Soups and Garden

Oh God, my national shame is even closer.

Made quite an interesting onion soup by roasting a few in their skins, frying a few sliced thinly and caramelised with sugar, and boiling a couple whole studded with a few cloves, then adding chicken stock. Seasoned, it tastes quite good but I am considering purchasing some sage and making sage and onion soup. In any event I may serve it gratinee with some cheese toasty things on top. While I was thinking about it I found a book by Lindsay Bareham all about soups so may investigate further. I shall also definitely make some chowder using a bit of salmon I found in the freezer and adding different fish to it. I shall have to make some more bread today, and purchase some potatoes for the chowder which I shall probably make later today. Definitely getting a soup thing.

Will ring Nibby in Oz tomorrow to see how she has settled down back at home again after her extensive travels. My garden is looking quite decent after her attack on it.

A bit worried about Dorothy and Julian, but they are probably too busy and stressed to answer my emails and messages.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Imminent Telly Shame and Exposure to Ridicule

I have been persuaded to watch the first episode of telly trauma on Monday at Lesley's house where I will be lunching with Lesley and friends. Karen and her husband are picking me up at the station at Finchley Road, so I have run out of excuses not to go. Romy, lucky thing, is too busy to come. I don't know whether Stephen or Lesley B will put in an appearance. I would rather have watched the whole thing through my fingers with my hands over my face at home, which is how I will watch Wednesday, Thursday and Friday's episodes.

Romy rang to say we have been mentioned in Radio Times etc. It seems my flat is 'eccentric' and that Malvolio was unfaithful to me and spent the night with the house guest, Lesley, according to the publicity. To my almost certain knowledge he was with me, though of course he could have crept out during the night if she had left the door open, the old roue.

No word from Dorothy and Julian, though the mortgage has not been paid as I am now considerably overdrawn so will have to try and find some money fast. Not helped by the purchase this morning of a pair of shoes and a bag from the telly.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Notes From Nowhere

It'smeagain. Had a party for the punters locally. Apart from some rather sweet but incompetent waitresses the event went very well indeed, soft drinks, followed by a substantial tea with sandwiches, scones and cakes later. Legacy provided the old favourites music and there was much singing and dancing, with one lady gamely exposing a pink garter with flashing light on frequent occasions. A great success.

I was wondering why I had not had previous tomato problems. I can only think that when I have put this into food that there has been less per meal, and that I was just unlucky with the amount of allergen in that particular carton, but will just partake of fresh tomatoes in my next Bloody Mary.

Lots of thank-you cards from punters on my return to the office - nice to feel appreciated by someone!

Dorothy had a particularly vile week at the office - the project seems to be a bit of a poisoned chalice, but Dorothy is gamely pushing ahead, hoping for the best. It may well be that my internet problem is due to the lack of a password, since neither I nor Dorothy know what it is this things are a bit difficult. Keep trying various possibilities but no luck so far.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Nibby Gone, Good Telly and Bad Tomatoes

Nibby appeared at lunch time on Friday feeling rather better, and we had a very quiet day and evening at home before she had to leave early on Saturday morning.

Then the aerial man arrived and put up a very tall aerial on the roof resulting in perfect TV picture which has been a joy ever since. Unfortunately the ads for House Guest have been appearing, but fortunately we are not shown on these. It all starts on Monday.

Poor Dorothy has had a vile week at work following the flesh-eating scare, and is hoping things are at least temporarily resolved or we shall all be seeking alternative ways of making money. At least Nibby is, since she can hardly raise her right arm above a certain height. I have suggested a management role but she tells me she is too scatty. A family trait I fear.

Last night I consumed a very large Bloody Mary and started eating a kipper with bread and butter and tea for supper. I started feeling very strange indeed - rather like the onset of asthma, with a burning sensation at the top of my chest and upper back and breathlessness. I decided I might be about to have a heart attack, but was not sure, and feeling generally ill besides,took an aspirin and went to bed, abandoning the food, a rare event for me. Slept a bit fitfully, but things were OK in the morning. I tried to think of anything unusual I had eaten, and there was just the large Bloody Mary. I suspected tomatoes, as I very rarely eat them in quantity and the juice was made from puree. Sure as eggs is eggs, there is a tomato allergy which growers and makers of tomato products get: tight chest, burning and asthma-like symptoms and malaise. Identical to mine. A bit unfortunate as I have just purchased large quantities of stuff to make these drinks, which I will now have to abandon. Not too sure about the horseradish in it either. Maybe the combination did not help.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Clean House and Cats Stretchant

Annie the cleaner back today. She has done a great job improving the stables and I feel more comfortable in the place. All I have to do is avoid cooking. Last night I ate masses of cheese but chose the wrong wine. What I had taken to be a bottle of Italian red turned out to be almost rose in colour, rather sweet and a bit fizzy. Rather nice, but on its own, not with cheese. I shall endeavour to finish it tonight.

I have been thinking further about the silhouettes I was working on of Miss Bettawear and partner. I decided I might put their heads on to some rather jolly figures on a lawn with flowers and a tree, maybe sitting in chairs facing each other at a table, all in silhouette, which will mean finding the image and silhouetting it, then shrinking their heads to fit, which could be hard work but fun. I may be forced to do a bit of drawing, but that's life. For some reason this reminds me of Romy's idea for her house gate in Spain: Cast iron topped by a central lozenge or shield with initials R and B, or N in the middle, and on either side a stretching cat in profile like a lion couchant. Cats stretchant. Probably because it would also be a silhouette.

Am dreading our programme beginning soon. But am looking forward to the TV aerial man arriving on Saturday to fix the aerial. Nibby may or may not arrive tomorrow. At least the house is clean for her.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Dorothy Very Ill but Successful French Trip

Sunrise over the hotel car park.
The evening before we set off for France Dorothy had become quite ill, with a high temperature and feeling appalling. I rang from France and Dorothy was in bed slightly better. Rang on my return and Dorothy had developed a nasty rash on one leg, googled this and discovered that it could be cellulitis,and possibly lead to necrotising fasciitis and hopped along to a doctor PDQ. The quack thought it might be an insect bite, but treated for cellulitis just in case. Dorothy feeling better and intending to go to work today while taking the antibiotics.

France was huge fun, lunch at Le Thome de Gamond as before and equally excellent, the weather stunning. The Hotel Mercure just outside Lille was very good and most comfortable, everyone happy with the accommodation. There was a good buffet dinner and a huge buffet breakfast in the morning. We visited Lille very briefly, but unfortunately were not able to park near the supermarket, then saw some war graves before heading off for Ypres, where we got off at the cathedral to have lunch at Old Tom restaurant which was OK but not brilliant and again, a bit of a trek with a wheelchair. We then dashed off to a country house where the Belgian royal family had hidden during the war, which now sold drink, and cigarettes etc.before managing to miss two shuttles, due to a long customs inspection. Romy started a conga through the passport control office, causing the normally dour officials to crack up with laughter. Missing the shuttles turned out to be advantageous in the end, as we had a very quick ride back into London, arriving back at about 8.30. I rang Romy today and she had a card slipped through the door signed by most of our charges, thanking us for a lovely holiday. Makes it all seem worth while.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Nasty Cold for Nibby

Poor Nibby went back to Surrey to spend the weekend with Bear. Unfortunately she has developed an awful cold and won't be able to help on the French trip. But we have someone on the waiting list who can take up her seat, fortunately. What a pity - to come all that way, and then become ill. It could have been worse as we had been thinking of hiring a car and going to Devon, and Nibby would have had to drive while feeling ill.

Bear came back with her to collect her things as she will probably now leave from his place. I hope she is able to get to Cheltenham and cope with the dinner party being given for her there.

It is so hot, I have only been able to spend short periods in the garden, which looks quite smart now. I just need a few tall flowery pots to insert among the bushy bits to make it look quite professional. When I have done that I shall take a few snaps.

Tried to find a red or pink jacket or cardigan just in case it is a bit chilly in France. I shall wear some red trousers and my reversible top, wearing turquoise trousers and the other side of the top for the return journey. For the evening I shall throw in my reversible dress, so will be travelling light.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

No Water For Julian and Dorothy

Oh dear, just seen a text from Julian from yesterday asking about washing at my house as they had no water. I must have been at Waterloo with Nibby when they rang and I didn't find my mobile until this morning. I have texted back and left a message. I hope they have some water now!

I gave Nibby some bits and pieces and she brought a wonderful bracelet in silver and stones designed by my niece, very talented and in lovely green and peach shades with discs and flowers in silver. Dorothy had found some baby things in Barcelona including a cute little bib and a Burberry sunhat.

It is boiling hot again today. We are taking the punters over to France for Monday and coming back on Tuesday, and hopefully, Nibby is going to help us with the wheelchairs etc. We shall start disgustingly early on Monday and get back on Tuesday evening. I hope the weather will be equally fair in France.

Nibby and I

Nibby and I had a quiet day followed by a delicious dinner kindly provided by Dorothy and Julian at Applebees. This was absolutely fabulous and we really enjoyed ourselves. Nibby went off to Surrey yesterday from Waterloo and is due back tomorrow. She will be leaving on Thursday by coach for Oxford, as a friend is giving a dinner party for her in the evening. She will then have to leave on Saturday. It hardly seems any time here but it was good to see her again.

The weather has been so good that we have had breakfast and dinner in the garden when we have been at home. Nibby has done a great job improving the garden. I really must try and keep it up.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Lovely Weather but Still No Internet

Busy couple of days. Nibby was brought over to me, and we spent Tuesday wandering down the river from South Bank in the sun, stopping off for a pub lunch, and, failing to find a boat for a ride, ended up having tea and cakes at Shipps Tearooms, Nibby, above.

To my shame, despite eight years of fine art training, I had never been to the Wallace Collection, but a friend of Nibby's arranged to meet us there. It is an extraordinary place, crammed with well known paintings, decoration and furniture and glass, ceramics, silver etc, much of it from France and Italy. There is a lovely cafe there in a large atrium full of plants, and we had a delightful lunch before resuming our tour of the place. Highly recommended.

Still no home internet. Orange are blaming Billion and Billion are blaming Apple. Dorothy tells me it cannot be apple as I am able to pick up the internet elsewhere and places the blame squarely on Orange. Now I am considering a deal from AOL which charges £30 odd for a connection fee, then £4.99 a month for 3 months with a free modem, then £14.99 a month with no contract. We shall see, though people have always told me that AOL is crap.

We had a light lunch in the garden after a Pimms today and Dorothy and Julian are taking us out to dinner at Applebee's in Borough Market tonight.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Maybe TV Aerial and Arrival of Nibby

Another dispute with Orange last night. Finally decided I have to look elsewhere for internet and currently seeking cheapest viable option. Meanwhile ensconced in Thai Bar, ordering a prawn red curry with a diet coke.

Found a man who can put up a TV aerial for me in a couple of weeks. My neighbour is having a lot of work done in his flat so better to wait until this is finished.

Bought a reversible dress which arrived and was surprisingly OK, so much so that I purchased another. At under £30 a pop, and two dresses in one, will all help with packing when travelling. Especially since I already have a very useful reversible top.

Finally Bear contacted me about meeting Nibby. I think we have sorted out that she will be with him for the weekend and possibly the bank hol Monday, then with me during the week. We shall ask her when she arrives and maybe firm things up a bit.

Nibby has arrived! met her at Heathrow (above, with Bear and Ollie) and we had a coffee before she went off with Bear and Ollie and is coming back to me some time today, bank holiday Monday.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Nasty Orange and Nice Bluebell Railway

Absolutely fed up with Orange. I am beginning to suspect that they have deliberately cut off my free internet supply. I have spent expensive hours calling them and they promise to ring back, but never do. I am seriously thinking of changing my phone to get rid of them altogether since they are so useless.

Had a fab day with the punters at the Bluebell Railway, expertly organised by Romy. Our Chairman joined us at the last minute and after a fairly lengthy coach drive, but with lovely country views, we arrived. We had three refurbished 1920's pullman coaches (detail above), very like the Orient Express, and pottered by steam through bluebell woods, pretty fields with pheasants, rabbits etc. and carpeted on the banks by primroses. A lovely sunny day, too. We were served tea: sandwiches, and scones with clotted cream and jam, followed by small strawberry and cream tartlets and fruit cake. The 'stations' had old forties and fifties posters and tin signs, milk churns and leather suitcases and trunks piled up for 'luggage in advance'. There was even a coffin trolley, which we pretended not to notice given our advanced years. A lovely day.