Monday 22 September 2014

The Wisdom Of Crows

Say Cheese

How long could I live if I were cast out into the wild? What use would be all my knowledge of the algorithms of Amazon or the price of peas in Walmart. I could live off my stored adipose reserves for longer than most, but quite soon I would fall from my perch.

I can never see the rooks in the garden without musing on these thoughts. These creatures live through wind, rain, ice and drought year after year. Estimates suggest that some can live for thirty years. I have a favourite whom I call HB, on account of his hooked beak. There is no easy way of sexing rooks. I assume he is male because he reminds very much of the Duke of Edinburgh. I first saw him seven years ago on the lawn.
Regal Rook

He was already a full adult so he must have been about four years old at least. HB is the most engaging creature I have ever encountered. He finds ways of eating almost anything. He takes any dry food to the drinking pot and soaks it for a while. He digs holes to hide spare food. When all the younger rooks flap off in a fright HB stands still, hands behind his back in Prince Philip mode and watches the situation.My guess is that he is completely politically incorrect. He then finishes all the food. We often look at each other. How I would love to communicate with this animal or indeed any member of the royal family. Recently I've been writing some children's stories and of course, the great wisdom of the world calls to us from the high trees of the crows.
Prince Philip

The rook is a social bird with youngsters not breeding for several years. Instead they stay at home and help with younger family members. In short they are the most wonderfully intelligent and adapted creature. Few could fail to admire them. I'd like to think we humans are at least equally aware of our problems and solutions. Sadly, a lot of the evidence is to the contrary.

I think that there are few problems on the Earth that we could not solve. That is a fairly staggering idea isn't it. Focusing the beam of human mind power and resources onto structured priorities is rather ambitious. But does anyone think we could not do that? I bet the rooks think we're bright enough. I bet Prince Charles would agree.

Recently I came across a London based group of charismatic,highly engaged and intelligent young people. They have created a website with a simple ambition. There are problems. There are solutions. All you have to do with join them up. You create the software to navigate through the issues and link up the resources. Everyone can join in with a spade, microscope or whatever they can bring. They have created a prototype tool which you can see demonstrated here:

Rather than me droning on about their merits, check out these guys. They have also developed some smooth video producers. All is not lost guys – there's a new generation out there trying to save us decadent old soaks from our follies. Whatever the result I know a rook who'll be working out what to do whichever way it all shakes down

Emma Thinx: Joined up writing needed feathers. Think wild.

Saturday 20 September 2014

Luck : Be A Knight To A Lady

Best tea bags in the world but hopeless for fortune telling
My mother used to read the tea leaves for friends, neighbours and a few paying clients. The family income dived when tea bags came in. Such is the cruel shrug of progress. I am only mildly superstitious except for anything to do with shoes on tables, harming of spiders,greeting of magpies, ladders, saying the word rabbits on the first of the month, spilling of salt, breaking mirrors, umbrellas indoors, changing a garment if inside out, my supernatural connection with rooks and general odd persons carrying scythes. I think I'm in the normal range.  
blessed by a winged messenger

Of course, there are always the omens. My whole family needed a healthy daily dose of soothsaying omens. My mother and her sister would often see shapes in clouds or interpret the cluck of a chicken or growl of a dog as a guiding word. Richer people had psychoanalysts and stockbrokers to advise them.  My aunt was once struck by a huge squirt of pigeon poo as she walked into the Bingo Hall. She won the regional jackpot that night and bought a colour television. She loved it so much she hardly left the house again. Needless to say, the winged excremental messenger never chose her again. 
The hand of the Universe strokes me

Imagine my feelings today as these memories flood back. As I walked to the shops a sight greeted me from the pavement. It was a supernatural and inexplicable omen. There on the pavement was a dice, face up showing a score of six. Come on guys - tell me that is not an omen! How did the bloody thing get there? 

I picked up the dice and of course it will always be with me. I needed to cross the road and for once there was no traffic. As I scampered across the tarmac a great dollop of bird shit splattered on my tracksuit bottoms.Tell me that the Universe has not twisted itself into position to show me these omens. I just know that in the next little while something astounding is going to happen. Perhaps I'll sell a book or someone who isn't a spammer will read this blog. If this be not an omen, never was there fate nor no bird ever shat. (Apologies to the bard's sonnet 116).

Emma Thinx: Before you chance your arm - arm your chances.

Monday 15 September 2014

Emma's Spare Tyre Tummy Award Gets Spicy

Here's one I took earlier while it was still under construction
My dear old Oscar remembers when you could drive your Morris Minor up to the stones at Stonehenge, get out your picnic and lean back against against a priceless megalith. Not even a wandering Chinese neo-pagan clutching a crystal key ring, druid mouse mat or coffee table book of mystic spells broke the calm. These days armies of security guards and scientists would have you hauled away to the visitor centre and make you pay £13.90p to see it from a distance. Ah, such is the advance of Heritage. Sadly, the pressure of modern day tourism would crush the whole place to sand. Beats me why they allow all this valuable stuff to stay outdoors.

Fame at last
Over the week-end I headed for that area of Wiltshire on our tandem. We made it as far as the town of Amesbury which is the home town of the stone circle. We decided to spend our ancient monument money on a trip to the local tandoori restaurant. We were in for a feast of truly pagan lip smacking scrumptiousness. 

While Oscar refitted a mudguard I popped in to make a booking. On arrival my name was on the table on a cute label. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. I felt like the  poor girl mistaken for the Honorable Lady Mountshaft in some kind of romance novel.

Romantic lamb balti
Since I had forgotten my specs and couldn't read the menu, I asked the proprietor to make a recommendation. Mr Burhan Uddin, was most helpful and charming. He suggested the lamb shank balti. Oscar had the shaslik chicken tandoori. We shared naan bread and pilau rice, all aided by a very acceptable Australian Merlot house wine. The food was superb.

A feast awaits you
The service was friendly and efficient. The menu is almost a fantasy feast with items such as venison sagwalla, duck tikka massala and lobster pepper fry. Believe me, this is premier league cuisine but without the prices. The restaurant itself is unpretentious but with a comfortable ambiance. I have great pleasure in awarding the full five stars of the Emma spare tyre tummy award to Tandoori Nights of Amesbury, Wiltshire,UK.

If you're coming this way to see the mysterious Stonehenge, get yourself to the town and treat yourself to a  fantastic curry experience. Oscar's theory is that the fourth megalith lines up the yuletide midnight moonbeam with the front entrance. Archaeologists and mystics are working on it. 

Emma Thinx:  When did the prehistoric period begin?

Thursday 11 September 2014

Emma's Spare Tyre Tummy Award goes to Port D'Envaux

There's nothing flash but there's a flood of flavour
Astonishing things still happen in this world. By the number of views on my spare tyre tummy restaurant awards blogs, I am now a serious rival to Michelin. Well - like me they are round,bouncy, have deep flexible grooves and take a lot of wear.

There is a newly opened restaurant in the village of Port d'Envaux, Charente-Maritime. It is called L'Auberge de la Charente and that is exactly what it is. It is the inn by the river. Somehow rivers draw us to them don't they. The flow of time has always swept the salt of sea up to the purifying skies and on to the fall of rain as we spend our mortal lives in the mysteries of saline lust and pure conscience. But what a menu eh?

A chew with a view. 
If I seem a bit poetic that is because I'm recalling the food. Between us we had skate wings and filet de boeuf. There was a starter of salad and a dessert of chocolate sponge. It was less that £20. 

Everything was beautifully cooked and tasted of itself. Yes, of itself because it was top quality produce. The Auberge de la Charente only opened in July and was running a small menu. Believe me - small is beautiful.  Port d'Envaux is not a tourist trap. Most folk in the restaurant and on the nearby river beach are French. Well, except for the eccentric English romantic novelist riding about on a tandem with a poet. 

If I pose with my healthy bike the calories don't count

I am thrilled to give my five star spare tyre award to L'Auberge de la Charente, Rue des Pecheurs, Port D'envaux, 17350, France. The premises allows fine views of the river and has a lovely local ambience. If you're a francophile looking for France, then this is a corner of France looking for you. If you're coming next year start thinking yourself  to walk slow, shrug big, taste long, drink deep and sleep late. Let the river flow on and do the work of time for you. It has far more experience.

Emma Thinx: The wider the menu the more the regret. 

Saturday 6 September 2014

Emma's Spare Tyre Restaurant Award Goes To Blackpool

You raise me up
Oh there's a hint a winta around my follicles. Back in the UK as the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness pisses me right off. While I wait for wealth and fame, the northern winter isn't waiting for me. It's here and drawing me in. The shawl of evening darkness folds around me. If you're a true fish-chip-mushy-pea gobbling Brit there's only one thing to do. Yes - head for Blackpool.  
Gaw Blimey Guv  - Is that the Chattanooga choo choo?

Most of my readers are not in the UK. Very often I am in the warm air, vines and swallows of France. It is just possible that some citizens of the world know little about Blackpool. It is a strange blend of features but if you can imagine Liberace's fast food joint set in the middle of Buffalo Bill's carousel you kinda get the idea. Add to that a massive sandy beach, a tower dans le style d'Eiffel and some wonderful trams and you have our British jewel of the Northern Night. On 29th August, top Brit' comedian Peter Kay threw the switch to turn on the illuminations. Winter be gone! The illuminations are on. 

Let there be light

It's all completely over the top, brash and ridiculous. I fitted in at once even though no one understood my London/French accent. 

Out of the blue came paradise on a plate
Of course there was only one possible type of dinner. We headed into C'Fresh fish and chips restaurant which is in Lytham Road, just off the Promenade strip. I dined on battered haddock, chips and mushy peas. We drew astonished stares by sharing a bottle of Blossom Hill Merlot but I was a glamorous Romantic novelist out on the town with my hunk.  Pints of beer and mugs of tea seemed more popular. The wine was moderately priced by restaurant standards. The fish was fine white and fresh. The batter and the chips were cooked to order. A charming young lady took our order and politely answered my stupid questions about sales ratios between cod and haddock. So, for excellence in the realm of British traditional cuisine my first UK spare tire tummy award goes to C'Fresh of Blackpool. 

As seen from the Irish Sea
We stayed at the Ramsay hotel on Queen's Promenade. The prices were modest indeed. The room was comfortable and lavishly stocked with tea, coffee, hot chocolate and bottled drinking water. Soaps, shampoos and gels were plentiful. All of these products were top quality branded stuff - no cash and carry junk. We had breakfast of a good choice of cereals and fruit juice as a starter. The full English breakfast was lavish and well cooked. There was also toast. All the spreads and the butter were top quality products. I do not hesitate to give an Emma's spare tire tummy award for English seaside excellence to the Ramsay hotel. The proprietor was a lovely chap called Uttar Tamata who was most welcoming. 
Does my fin look big in this?

While there is light let there be flight
And finally, back to Blackpool.Half of the 360 degree vista is the sea. It's a real bucket and spade beach complete with gulls. All the jingle jangle of cash and the flashing of lights mean nothing to the long term course of Nature. On the sands a child will form a memory of a parent helping to dig a magic castle and will carry it to death as the lights switch off. Such is our season and such is the joy of the resort town. Immortality is not the repetition of mortalities but it will do while there is still power in the switch and a contempt for the darkness. Blackpool, your brash slash of trash panache,your hour defying tower of power, - je t'aime. 

Emma Thinx: Lighten your soul. Bleach your dark roots.