Cheap food

I had a three course meal last night – oxtail soup for starter, Irish stew for main course and sherry trifle for dessert. It cost me £9.45. Not in the hotel restaurant, mind you, where I reckon dinner would have been at least three times that. Instead I walked into Ely city centre, passed the cathedral (with the top of the tower illuminated) and on to a pleasant local pub, passing the boy racers in their stupid cars.
What is it about Ely and boy racers? There seemed to be dozens of them, driving up and down the main roads, in circles around the city centre, often on their own. I mean, showing off is one thing, but who exactly were they showing off to? And why are there so many Ford Capris here? I don’t think I’ve seen so many Capris in one town since Dagenham in 1976.

Not the East Midlands

Sorry, not blogging from the East Midlands as promised, but instead from East Anglia. I’m currently sitting in the Nyton Hotel in Ely, which is notable for being very pink. I’m not sure if it is actually pink in this room, or if it is just the lighting. Either way, I’m not finding it terribly restful, so I’m going to head out and walk to the city centre and find a restaurant shortly, as the in-house facility seems a little stuffy and deserted.
Meetings today near Banbury and Diss, and about 300 miles covered. I’m fairly pooped but it has been very productive. Foolishly, I left my camera at home, so I couldn’t take pictures of the bizarre aerials I saw in Oxfordshire, though I may have been arrested if I had done so, as they were distinctly military in nature.
More miles to cover tomorrow, with meetings near Wisbech and Stafford – probably covering a similar mileage. I’m looking forward to a restful weekend in Tunbridge Wells.

latest from Penn

I’m so unbelievably proud of my friend….

Hi guys,

i hope that this email finds you all well in sunny brit!

I have just come in from another day at work in the home and today i am very smiley!!

There are many reasons for this firstly as my day started with some lovely emails and was then followed by an hour reading on the roof in the sun with a CLEAR view of the himalayas in the background. I then went off to the kids home and commenced work on my masterpiece which i have to say after soem hard work, lots of white paint, markerpens and finally soem colour is falling into place! I did this accompanied by my usual band of on watchers who finally got bored of me and left me alone with young Umesh.

Umesh is a 13 year old boy who speaks very good english and is the head boy at the home. He sat there and we chatted away whilst i painted, he asked lots of questions about england and things like how many people loved me and who they were so if you are receiving this email your ears where more than likely at some point burning!! He then sang a nepalese song to me which (and i will admit this only once) moved me to tears and i then taught him to sing Help by the beatles and some jamiroquai, in no way as beautiful or melodic as his redentition but it pleased him no end. So we had a lovely afternoon and laughed alot. I then went out and started the new activities time table which i have implemented and have in some way ended up in charge of the home between 4 – 6pm, when Mr Oli the manager puts his feet up and runs over every now and again to tell me how great i am (cupboard love me thinks!!)

I am also talking to the spanish ambassador who is working on behalf of the Spanish NGO (national grant office) about getting some more sponsorship into my home as Balminder Siphal (where i work) is the poorest in Nepal. He has been quite impressed with what i have introduced in the home both in terms of the timetable and the painting and has asked me to write a budgetary report on what i think it needs there so you never know. I am quite positive about it as he has got some people in and gave the kids meningitis vacancies (this is a really good thing for the kids, two have died this year already from it) and today there was a really nice chap (also from the spanish embassy) in who brought all of the Kindergarten kids new coats as by 5pm it is really cold here!!! SO what a good day. Adn it just goes to prove a little cheek and a bit of pleaing will get you soemwhere! So to reward myself i am off to tom and Jerries for Pizza and Red wine!

so as you can probably guess i am alot more settled here and thoroughly enjoying myself. The kids are fantastic and whilst it is hard not to have low moments at the home i am generally quite positive about some of the changes which have been made – including (try not to wet yourself laughing Caz) teaching them how to bleach the toilets!!! So now the smell of urine is no where near as bad!!

I also took some time out for me this weekend and went white water rafting on one of the fastest rivers in the world! I wont say too much justthat i certainly won’t forget it in a hurry and i am glad to be back safe and sound. Though i have to say after two days in the mountains (20kmm from the tibet border) in the most breathatking scenery I have ever seen in my life with the cleanest air, it was awful to have to come back to the noise and smog of Thamel – which i am quite certain as driven me insane – ok then further insane !! But the mountains were fantastic and i cannot wait to show you all the pics which i toko you will be so jealous. You will how ever not ency me the bus trip up there which took three hours crossed several maoui checkpoints and at some point there was no road just dirt track with no leeway on either side. I have not prayed so much in years and i will always be in some small way accoutnable to that bus driver who got me there in one piece – though how he did i will never fully comprehend!!!

Well thats the news this end. I hope that you are all well and i will look forward to seeing you all some time before(ish) christmas as i am missing you all loads

Love to you all

Penelope the Mad!!!! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Blogging from Nepal

Plep in Nepal – making me feel mildly inadequate in that my Nepal-related content is being provided in a somewhat second hand manner. I can’t even promise blogging from Denmark next week, as I’m under strict (and quite reasonable) instructions to leave my laptop at home – not that I’d planned to take it with me anyway. However, we may have blogging from the East Midlands tomorrow.

A nonny mouse

I’ve amended the comments gizmo so that you can now leave comments without giving an email address, which should be a relief to those concerned about spam.
Of course, I’d still very much like you to leave your name and site address, and perhaps an email address too.

Strange fruit

This evening, as dessert to follow on from my grilled mackerel, olive pave and salad, I’ve had my first ever kiwano. It seems the kiwano is a fruit that’s been hijacked by the New Zealanders, much like the kiwi fruit. Actinidia chinensis, the plant that gives us kiwi fruit is, as the name suggests, a native of China, not New Zealand, and was originally known as Chinese Gooseberry. I guess the name was changed as gooseberries are not a popular fruit these days, more’s the pity.

The kiwano is actually a native of central and southern Africa, where it is called the Horned Cucumber or Horned Melon. It is the fruit of Cucumis metuliferus, which indicates that it is more closely related to cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) than melons (watermelon is a member of the more distantly related genus Citrullus).

If you cut it lengthways, the centre of it looks just like an odd-shaped cucumber cut along its length. It’s quite watery and juicy, but when you stick your spoon into it you see the difference. One of the names for this fruit is Jelly Melon, but I reckon Tapioca Melon or Frogspawn Melon might be more appropriate. Each seed is in a small cell of green jellyish flesh, and spooning it into your mouth is a decidedly sensual experience.

But this is much more of a textural food than a tasty food – the flavour is very subtle, milder and more tart than a cucumber, perhaps with a hint of melon or even lime as well. I don’t think you’d want to eat this with anything else as the flavour would be completely smothered by most other foods. It might be fun to add the pulp to a fruit salad though, purely for the texture.

More fruit reviews coming soon!

Mo speaks…

Mo says a few words on intelligence and the problem of being spoon-fed.

Recently, I’ve seen a few television programmes (I don’t have a TV at home, so generally watch it only rarely – that’s a conscious choice on my part). Last night I saw the BBC historical drama Charles II – The Power and the Passion. I found it really quite dissatisfying because it neither spoon-fed nor informed, but rather sensationalised and confused. The relationships of the principal characters were not well explained, and rather too much emphasis was put on the sex instead of the consequences of the relationships and blackmail that were associated with the sex.

Maybe this sort of approach gets more people interested in history. I’m not sure. But I think that there are some things that are better explained in documentary form. And before you suddenly start thinking that that is a terribly dry and dusty way to present something, on Saturday I listened to a radio documentary entitled "When the World Was Young", part of Radio 4’s season of programmes to mark the 40th anniversary of the assassination of JFK. This was fascinating and interesting, and brought the history "to life" (for want of a much better phrase) far better than a docudrama might do. Clearly it had the advantage of being able to include recordings of JFK and interviews with people who were there and knew him, but I know of similar programmes in the past when actors have been used to read the words of the people of the day, and it has been set in a framework that aids understanding. Not spoon-feeding, mind you – but a presentation of the evidence that allows the listener or viewer to draw many of his/her own conclusions and opinions.

Generally though, Charles II just reminded me of why I prefer books, radio and the web to television.

Sir Clive

An old storeroom at the nursery is being cleared out. There isn’t much of value in there, mainly musty and moldy old bits of paper that are of no value or importance any more.
In amongst the papers has been found an original product brochure for the Sinclair Spectrum in excellent condition. In it, it espouses the product benefits of the Spectrum:

  • full size moving keyboard!
  • massive RAM – 16K or 48K!
  • full colour – 8 colours each for foreground, background and border!
  • Teletext compatible!
  • complete with mains adaptor!
This major advance in computer technology maintains Britain’s world-beating position in the field of personal computers!

Anyone want to give me a reasonable offer for it?