Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dear Tottenham Hotspur PR

I just recieved this email from a Totenham Hotspur PR

Tottenham Hotspur cordially invites you to the unveiling of the world’s first fully-interactive digital experience for children to be created and developed by a football club. 
Please register your interest in interview time with Club Ambassador Ledley King when replying.
Date: Wednesday xth August
Time: 9am – 10.30am
Location: Hangar Seven, 230 City road, EC1V 2QY (Old Street overground and tube)
I hope you can join us for this event Jason.
Best wishes,

This is my response 

Dear Tottenham Hotspur PR bod,

I thank you for your email inviting me to the unveiling of your digital experience for children.  Unfortunately I feel that I am not a member of your target audience, me being an Arsenal fan and all.  There was a hint of my allegiance to Arsenal in the email address you sent your kind invitation to –  I could understand your mistake if my email was, or, or even, but I am indeed a Gooner and one called Jamie (not Jason).

With regard to the actual content of your email, asking my child to participate in ‘Tottenham’s fully-interactive digital experience’ would be akin to asking her to eat a piece of dog poop that has been laying in the sun in the gutter for so long it’s turned white – you don’t want my child to eat poop do you? 

Why on earth would I encourage a child to interact with a team that last won the top flight league before the rocket that took Neil Armstrong to the moon had even made it off the drawing board?  In fact I know more people that believe in the moon landing than the conspiracy theory that is a winning Tottenham team.  Of course I’ve seen the pictures of Danny Blanchflower holding the trophy and yes, I presume they weren’t photoshopped as that’s almost impossible to do in sepia tone.

As to meeting Ledley King, I do worry that he would drop my child, unused as he is to picking something up.  I also worry he may injure himself in the process and therefore be forced to sit with Darren Anderton for all eternity.

So to surmise, Thank you for your kind but misguided offer, if I am ever feeling suicidal and worthless I shall pop by and visit (much akin to visiting Asda when I’m feeling ugly).

Happy St Totteringham’s Day


Sunday, June 16, 2013

I remember

Riding home from school on your crossbars

You teaching me to ride the bike you made for me

Sacks of ice cream stolen by your best mate

How your moustache tickled

How you looked without that moustache for just one month of my entire life

Your stories, my god, so many funny stories

Feeling small when I looked up and feeling tall when you looked proud

Introducing you to your 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th grandchild

Being able to tell you anything (well, except for that one thing, that one time, in band camp)

You letting me make my mistakes and boy, there were a lot of them

(Although I wish you had stopped me from making a couple of the worse ones)

The smell of your cigars (until I guilt tripped you into giving up)

Tea and biscuits every morning in your bed, all five of us

Hunting for horseradish over Matchstick Island and you cutting your foot

Singing ‘Let’s do it tonight because the moon is smiling bright’ after a drunken meal in Barking

On more than one occasion

My driving scaring the bejesus out of you and me liking that fact

Lemonade and a pack of crisps in the Captain Cook

Or the Barge Aground

You letting me win, making me lose and settling for a draw

Introducing you to Jack and Coke and then necking the whole bottle

Hiding in your shed and watching the thunderstorms

Your hideous green garden jumper

Your somewhat eclectic taste in music and hoping I’ve stolen the best and left the worst behind

All those long walks along longer beaches and tall cliff tops

Having to be quiet all morning when you were on nights until finally, at 11am, being able to go wake you up

Watching you finally learn to drive and then unveiling that first car, a yellow Ford Cortina

Long trips down to Devon and sensing your delight driving down those sweeping hills

(Something I’ve inherited, although I may go a bit faster)

A Cadburys flake every Friday night

Swimming in Belhus Park pool every Saturday and making you throw us as high as you could over and over

Saturday night being yours and Mums night, even if you did only have a bottle of R Whites and a packet of peanuts

And boy did we hear that line ad infinitum

Teaching me the Dutch Oven trick, brought tears to my eyes in more ways than one

Sitting in the corner of the Tiger waiting for you to finish work, whilst the regulars made a fuss of me

Watching you work at your bench in the loft, that place had everything a young boy ever needed to get in trouble

Just watching you anything to be honest - paint, saw, wallpaper and collecting tips along the way

Mum being ill and you attempting to boil an egg, Gordon Ramsey you ain’t

Well maybe the swearing part

You teaching us about scrumping and then vaguely getting the hump when we stole the neighbours cherries

 Finally getting to work with you proper when we had the pub, some of my best working mornings ever

Love, family and feeling safe

Happy Fathers Day Pops

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A real bowel movement

April is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and Beating Bowel Cancer are asking us all to get involved in a bowel movement.  I know what you’re thinking, easy right, I mean jeez, I can even fake a bowel movement when the kids are bugging me enough and I want to hide from them for a while.  Unfortunately that’s not the kind of movement they’re talking about, they want us to get involved in the fight to beat Bowel Cancer.  One in four lives are touched by bowel cancer somehow and unfortunately my family’s lives have been hit more than that. 

Seven years ago, after a long and courageous fight, my brother in law Stephen died from Bowel Cancer.  He was 46 at the time of his death and left behind a Wife and three young children.  Not satisfied with that, it then decided to have a pop at my other Brother in law, John.  Luckily cancer lost that battle, in no short measure to the Doctors and the endless Tottenham songs that John insists on singing at the drop of the hat (even cancer can only put up with so much drivel about ‘If you know your history’).

So with all that in mind the Mrs has decided to run the Marathon again in aid of Beating Bowel Cancer.  A tough task you may think, after all it’s been 10 years since she run her last marathon, she’d had two kids and an uncountable amount of vino since then, but do you know what’s tougher?

Being married to a marathon runner.


I don’t know how Paula Radcliffe’s old man puts up with it to be honest, I have to suffer it every decade and that’s bad enough, but every year?  Sod that for a game of soldiers.  Don’t understand, well let me explain.  The Marathon will take over their life and when something takes over their life, it takes over yours, make no mistake about that.  

First of all it’s the applying for the ballot to get into the marathon in the first place, the constant ‘Has the post arrived yet?’ phone calls whilst she awaits the verdict of the long-legged lottery.  And then the day when the big package arrives, the big package that means a consolation prize of a Virgin running top and a letter saying you haven’t got in and you knowing you then have to break that news to her whilst she’s at work.  Then the postman wait again, hoping that Beating Bowel Cancer are going to give you one of their ‘Golden Tickets’ so you can run for them.  Then a brief burst of happiness when they say yes, that’s it, they’re in.  Then it starts…the training.

Oh, did I miss a step?  Of course, that’s right, I forgot the buying of the equipment and by equipment I mean the running shoes and not just any running shoes, these have to be the Marks and Spencers of running shoes (just not bought at M&S because that would be just plain silly).  But apparently buying running shoes isn’t as simple as one would think.  We bought a brand new car in January and when you throw in all the options, the finance, the extras, the incompetent staff, the colour choices and all the razzmatazz that goes into buying a new school-run machine, we were still in the showroom less time than we were in the running shoe shop.  I kid you not.

Then there’s the training, the pre-training, the stretching, the after-stretching, the pre-food, the after-food, the meal planner, the new meal planner, the this is the final meal planner, the oh no it wasn’t meal planner, the corn-flakes at the right time, the injuries at the wrong time.

Oh my god the injuries.

Anyone that knows Trish will acknowledge that the things we fondly call ‘Trissues’ seem to happen to her a lot.  Who do you know that gets cramp in the jaw with every other yawn?  Who moisturises before they put their contact lenses in, then spends the rest of the day half blind?  Who walks into a closed door after triumphantly throwing a drunk out of the pub?  Who else could rip off a toenail bending over to pick up some rubbish (I know, I was shocked by that one as well, she never picks up rubbish)?

Well the training for this marathon has constantly topped that lot.  It breaks my heart but it’s been one inauspicious injury after another throughout this whole regime (I call it a regime as ‘Training Trish’ reminds me a bit of Idi Amin).  Her ankle has gone, her knee, her ankle again, flu, knee again, stomach bug and finally the old favourite…the ankle.

And as painful it’s been for her, it’s even more painful to listen to.  Trish will be the first to admit that she’s not the best patient and I’d also admit that I’m not the best nurse.  I genuinely would take her pain away if I could, not out of any sense of chivalry you understand, it’s just easier that way as Trish is an excellent nurse and I’m a fairly good patient.  Just give me the remote, leave me alone and you won’t hear a moan out of me.  Trish, however, can talk about an injury until her mouth heals over.

And then there’s the constant marathon talk, the tides going in and out are inconsistent in comparison with the talk that is all things marathon.  Seriously, give me a snickers every now and again as there is not a subject she cannot turn into a marathon.  A train ride gets her nervous because as she points out (every time), she can see Tower Hill on the map and she’ll be running past it on marathon day.  At the weekend we were strolling through Kew Gardens admiring the world’s tallest glasshouse plane, a Chilean wine palm, when out of the blue she announced that if this was marathon day she would still be running.  If we see a runner then she says it should be her, if she’s just been running and we then see a runner then it should be her tomorrow.  The marathon is never far away and it’s getting closer.

It’s less than three weeks away now, the training is tapering off and I’m trying to keep her away from anything that may injure her - like rubbish, or cobwebs, or a discarded tea-towel, or who knows what?  Our house is a veritable minefield of potential Trissues.

All kidding aside, it is close now and I’m getting nervous for her.  She has put so much pressure on her shoulders (and calves) just so she can say to Cancer ‘Fuck you.  You took my brother, tried to take another one and I’m not standing for it’.  You will not believe how tough it is to juggle training, injuries, a job, two young kids who guilt trip her every time she has to go training instead of reading a bedtime story and a wise-arse Husband that takes pictures of you when you’re stuck in an ice cold bath.

So that’s what she’s doing, all you have to do is sponsor her.  It doesn’t have to be much, everything helps but every pound note she gets will hopefully get us one step closer to maybe saving somebody you know.  Maybe they will pick up one of the 400,000 symptom awareness leaflets that Beating Bowel Cancer distributes.  Maybe they won’t become one of the 40,000 people that are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year, I truly hope so.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

An OXO Mothers Day

Recently those good people at OXO contacted me to ask if I wanted any help making Mothers Day a fun and special day by sending me one of their ‘Mother’s Day Magic’ Meal kits.  I was looking for a bit of inspiration anyway, the kids had been nagging me about wanting to cook a meal for her anyway, so I accepted.

Later that week the package turned up, games and stuff to keep the kids occupied, some memorabilia  to keep all my knick-knacks and recipes tidy, a food voucher, and more OXO cubes than you can poke a stirring spoon at.  Oh, and some scoring cards, apparently our cooking was to be judged, no pressure then.

So the day of Mothers Day Eve (as my lot refer to that Saturday) arrived and with a vague plan of action and a list of ingredients written on the back of takeaway menu, off we went to the shops.  Ingredients were chosen, flowers were picked and booze was stockpiled.  We were ready.

The morning came around, gifts were given, homemade cards were cooed and ahhed over and full English was cooked and consumed as I explained to the Mrs the plan of action.  After I had done my own dutiful son duties and after we had been to the restaurant for the already booked (although not by me to my shame) Mothers Day lunch, we would drop her to her own Mum so she could have a few drinks with her and we could make our meal par excellence.

For starters we had plumped for homemade tomato and basil soup which was always going to be a messy affair with a six and eight year old helping out.  Much to Kaedes disgust I wouldn’t let them do any of the chopping but I did make them chief throwers-in and stirrers.  After sautéing the onions, carrots, garlic and celery we added our toms, salt and pepper, basil, two of our OXO vegetable stock cubes and 1.5 litres of boiling water.  We then let that bubble away to be dealt with later on.

For the main course we were having venison in red wine pie with roast potatoes and tender stem broccoli.  A bit of a gamble on my part as I had no idea how the kids would react to eating Bambi, but fortune favours the brave and all that.  After chopping up all the ingredients, including two beef OXO cubes and the best part of a bottle of wine, the kids took it in turns to throw everything into the HomeCooker (thank you Jamie Oliver) and all seemed to be going swimmingly until disaster struck.

In her haste to put the carrots in before her brother, Kaede had knocked over a bottle of olive oil and before you know it we had our very own Deepwater Horizon situation.  Five tea-towels and a large glass of wine later and the oil spill had been dealt with.  Whilst the pie mixture was bubbling away the Mrs returned and luckily for us, was none the worse for wear.  I decided it was about time she spent some quality time with her offspring and gave them the finger puppets to make, leaving me in relative peace to sort out the rest of the dinner.

I part boiled the roast potatoes and before I put them in the roasting tin I gave them a liberal sprinkling of some crushed up chicken OXO cubes, just to give them an extra special tang.  I then blitzed the soup and much to the kids disappointment, I remembered to keep the lid on every time, they were hoping for a tomato volcano eruption.

The kids seated the guest of honour attended to her every needs (topped her glass up) and starters were served.  The soup was a hit and we were rewarded with a score of 9 but you’ll have to take my word for that as I was so busy rushing around I forgot to take any pics of our triumphant scores.

Next up was the mains and I started to do the pie, pots, veg juggle – all whilst slurping away at a moderately large glass of wine, multitasking at its best.  I personally thought the pie looked the business, initials added at behest of Nate, but the truth would be in the tasting.

Another huge success (even if I may say so myself), the kids devoured theirs like food was being outlawed tomorrow, but I fear that next time they watch Bambi they will be on the side of the hunter.  The potatoes were some of the best I had ever served and I will definitely be repeated the stock cube trick in the future.  We scored another 9, with an addendum that it would have been a 10 but there was no ‘0’ supplied with the scoring cards, ironically something I was grateful for when I first opened the pack.

Empty plates were returned to the kitchen and whilst the kids entertained Mum with some magic tricks, me and my trusty Gaggia started making dessert…home-made Minstrel ice cream.  Obviously I didn’t home make the Minstrels, I just battered the hell out of them and added them to the ice cream mid-way.  I was tempted to somehow add a stock cube but I feel it’s a cardinal sin to muck with ice cream too much - I love Heston but if he serves me up beef ice cream I’m not going to be happy.

Although it was never in doubt, I can report that the ice cream was a hit and received the more than obligatory score of 9. 

I decided to leave the clearing away and washing up for the next day as quite frankly, I was feeling so full and had put on so much weight during the day that my face had gone from looking sarcastic to jolly.  The triumphant chefs stood up and received a one woman round of applause and we finished the night off with a game of Frustration.

Many thanks to OXO for all the free goodies and Charlotte at Ketchum for putting it all together for me.

Friday, February 1, 2013

A match made in heaven

I recently received an invite from Neil McGuigan, chief winemaker at McGuigan Wines, and John Torode, MasterChef host and chef, to launch their new recipe collection.  They had collaborated to produce the perfect food and wine matching service and wondered if I would like to come along to watch John cook and Neil whet my appetite.  I thought long and hard about it but to be honest, they had me at ‘hello’.

So off I trotted to a swankier part of London than I normally frequent, all ready for a taste bud explosion, or at least some free grog and nosh.  Upon arrival a rather large, and rather delicious, glass of Sparkling Pinot Chardonnay was thrust into my hand and the tone was set from there.  When the host himself popped over for a quick chat whilst refilling my glass, I had to admire him for not only his winemaking skills but his ‘fill the glass to the top’ approach to pouring.

As all the Entrees were being passed out there was no end of people making sure you had a choice of wine perfect for the dish.  With the Thai Pork Lettuce Cups a Black Label Shiraz, with the hummus with spiced mince lamb I was offered the Classic Cabernet Sauvignon and for the Arancini I ended up drinking a Black Label Sparkling Shiraz.  This was the first time I’d drunk a sparkling red and I became an instant fan, it mucks with your head at first but believe me, you get used to it very quickly and it will certainly be added to my wine cellar; and by wine cellar I mean fridge.

Dragging himself away from waiter duties, Neil McGuigan gave us a quick speech outlining their objectives for the collaboration and what it was all about.  I knew the traditional rules about when to drink wine; red wine for red meat, white wine for white meat and fish, and bubbles for whenever the kids go to bed, but I was keen to hear Neil’s position on this.

To paraphrase, with more and more people now drinking wine and willing to stray away from the traditional rules, they decided it was fine time to make our lives easier and created food and wine matching service.  On the back of every bottle of McGuigans wine there is a QR code, scan that with your smartphone and you’ll be taken to a website ( ) where you can answer some questions about your food and drink preferences.  Once you’ve done that you’ll be emailed a free PDF full of recipes specially designed by John Torode and with each recipe Neil has suggested a perfect match plus 2 other suggestions that would also fit.  

We were then treated to a quick masterclass by John who demonstrated one of the recipes, a beef fillet wrapped in mustard dough, which tasted gorgeous with the Reserve Shiraz that had miraculously appeared in my hand.  Things started getting a bit messy from thereon in, I tasted a lovely Classic Semillon Blanc, two rosé wines, one sparkling and one classic.  The Sparkling Shiraz was revisited a few times as was the Sparkling Pinot Chardonnay, I’m a sucker for those bubbles.  
Eventually a little voice inside my head started reminding me that I had two parent-teacher meetings in the morning and that maybe it was time to call it a night.  With great reluctance I bade them all farewell and summoning as much grace as I could, carefully walked down the fairly long staircase miraculously without mishap.

I woke up the next morning knowing I had had a good night and mercifully I was hangover free.  There were a few blank spots from the night, one of which was who on earth were the people with me in this picture?

When mum asked me how the night went and I shamed-faced admitted that I got slightly drunk she replied, and I swear this is the truth, “I hope you didn’t embarrass yourself, we drink McGuigan wines all the time.”

Later that day I tried the matching service out myself and found it very user-friendly and easy to navigate.  My PDF was duly emailed to me and I have to be honest, there are a load of really good, but relatively simple recipes in there including Vietnamese Beef Salad, Spanish Fish Stew and Green Curry BBQ Chicken.  There are also some really good wine suggestions to go with them, some of them are what you would expect, but a lot will give you a cheeky surprise. 

Many thanks to Neil McGuigan and John Torode for feeding and watering me, thanks to Sabah from Lightbrigade for the invite and a special thanks to all the McGuigan girls for keeping my glass well and truly topped up all night.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Jamie Oliver HomeCooker

A couple of months back I was invited to Jamie Oliver’s ‘Fifteen’ restaurant for the launch of the HomeCooker, a new kitchen appliance co-created by Jamie and Philips.  The HomeCooker is a multi-functional device designed to make your life easier when cooking homemade meals. It can stir, steam, sauté, melt, simmer, stew, boil, and even fry whilst cooking unattended - giving you some quality time back.  That was the blurb anyway, so I was intrigued to see it in action.

The HomeCooker comes with a book of 25 recipes created by Jamie Oliver and the two they demonstrated were Classic pan-cooked breakfast and the homemade toasted granola.  Watching them cook bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes and a fried egg all together in the one machine was unreal and tasted gorgeous.  I’m not the world’s biggest granola fan but I do appreciate that it must be a pain to homemake, especially when you’re trying to toast the nuts, seeds and oats in honey, but the HomeCooker made short work of it.  They were also demonstrating the cutting tower that is part of the range, it has 5 cutting tools that can slice, shred or julienne straight into the cooker and it was making short work of everything they were putting in it.  I came away impressed with what I had seen and began scheming a way of making the Mrs buy me one.
A month or so later I got a call asking if I would like to try out the HomeCooker myself and I gladly accepted, especially as I hadn’t yet convinced the Mrs to treat me.  I had already figured out how it would fit into my life to make things easier and now I got to put that to the test.  I love to cook stews, goulashes and the like, most often standing out in the kitchen alternating my time between stirring the pot and slurping the wine and hopefully this would free up some time for something else.  I didn’t have the chopping tower to test, but to be honest  I’m quite proud of my knife skills and I’ve got it down to only once a month where I cut myself deeply enough to require a superglue repair, so I wasn’t that worried.
The first recipe I picked from the book was the slow cooked Hungarian beef goulash, with a cooking time of 230 minutes.  The instructions were easy to follow and with the timer and temperature control sorted with a quick touch of a button we were on our way.  I found it hard to resist the temptation to stir, distrustfully watching the stirring arm slowly whir around.  I genuinely spent so much time watching the process, keeping an eye on various ingredients to check if it was all being stirred randomly, that the Mrs started to mock me “You get given a machine that does all the work for you and you just stand there staring at it. Div”.  I tartly responded that the recipe called for sour cream and we only had normal so could she just stare at that for a while?  I soon had the kitchen to myself again.

The machine was cooking the food at a much higher temperature than I would normally have used myself, with everything at a constant high bubble, but due to the constant stirring nothing was burning or getting stuck to the bottom of the pan.  This resulted in a lot of the ingredients melting away into the goulash and creating a beautiful thick sauce.  I can only again apologise for my photos (I think I need Philips to invent me a cooking camera), that do not do the food justice.  The goulash was gorgeous, wolfed down by all and has become a firm favourite.

I decided to try it out with a few of my own recipes and vowed to not stand and stare at it, instead spending the time saved doing something more constructive like playing the Xbox, watching the TV or when things got desperate, playing with the kids.  The timer gives off a fairly loud beep once it’s counted down and auto shuts-off so nothing gets burnt.  First up was Spicy Meat Gumbo, a recipe that normally requires you to stand over the pot as you turn onions, celery and peppers into the roux that forms the base of the dish.  The HomeCooker handled itself well, I kept myself away from the kitchen and the resulting dish was beautiful (if not badly pictured and presented).

Next up was Ox cheek stew, I love cooking with this meat, especially when cooked for 3 hours or so, making it the perfect recipe for the device.  Again the HomeCooker didn’t let me down, the onions melted away and created a really rich and thick sauce.  I was in cooking heaven.

My next choice was something that cooks quickly but demands a lot of stirring, Chorizo and tomato pasta.  A fairly simple meal that just requires you to fry up the chorizo and onion, then add the dry pasta and tomatoes.  Unfortunately this is a meal that always leaves a sticky mess at the bottom of my pot as it requires almost constant stirring at a fairly high heat and well, I’m easily distracted.  The HomeCooker handled this with ease and due the simple temperature controls I could easily switch from 250 to fry the chorizo to 175 to get things boiling, to 130 to finish things off.  Job done, sorted.
Since the initial experimenting phase I’ve now integrated the HomeCooker into my normal cooking routine and it gets used at least twice a week, sometimes more.  It also comes with a pasta insert and steaming trays and I’m looking forward to using them to make my life even easier.  I have to be fair, I do enjoy cooking and I don’t really consider myself to be a lazy cook and my initial worry was that this device would turn me into one.  My fears were unfounded as on those days where traditionally I would find myself without enough time to prepare a proper dinner resulting in me just reaching into the freezer for a ready meal, were replaced with me throwing the ingredients for bolognaise or chilli into the HomeCooker and letting it do it’s stuff and that can only be a good thing.
For the technically minded amongst you, the 3 litre stainless steel bowl is dishwasher friendly and more than large enough for family size cooking, the temperature range is from 40-250 degrees and the 99 minute timer can run up or down.  More information about the product, including recipes can be found at  The Philips HomeCooker is the first product in the Philips Jamie Oliver kitchen range and is exclusively available at John Lewis.  Thanks to Philips and Samantha from Ketchum Pleon for the event invitation and the use of the HomeCooker.  And as usual I am going to have to move home before they send the courier round to pick it back up again, I’ll leave it with a neighbour, honest.