Wednesday, September 29

Domestic Goddess

This post is a paen of praise for my wife Angela.

On Saturday I was with the Marylebone Birdwatching Society here...

There were 31 of us enjoying some beautiful weather and some beautiful birds, including Kingfishers and Peregrine Falcon.

The sun was dappling off the River Hamble near to Southampton Water...

I didn't get home until nearly 8p.m. By then Angela had got TWO machine-fulls of washing done and line dried, baked these...

Delicious shortbread biscuits, produced this....

Sponge Tray-bake, to be finished off with Raspberrry Jam and Desiccated Coconut.

And last but not least...

Beef Chilli!

I must go birding more often....


Tuesday, September 7

Going The Whole Hog

Angela and I were in the Welsh Marches this weekend. Specifically we were in Chirk.

We were in North Wales for a wedding with a difference. Our dear Nephew Stuart was marrying Ellen. The venue was a large field in Ellen's home village. A number of Yurts had been built especially for the occasion. Mobile loos had been hired, car parking arranged, and lighting had been laid on. Dozens of wedding guests would be camping in the field.

Bands had been hired, fire jugglers were on hand and workshops were taking place in drumming and willow weaving. This was no ordinary wedding - this was "Wedfest".

The trees were decorated...

Mountains of vegetarian food had been prepared; even better, as Stuart is a confirmed carnivore, there was a Hog Roast. A Hog Roast is a simple affair. You just get a couple of gullible friends to dig you a pit four feet long, four feet wide and two feet deep. Then you fill it with wood, allow the wood to burn to embers, then suspend an entire pig on a spit above it. Cover with corrugated iron to keep in the heat. Top up charcoal as it burns down. A fully grown pig will take about ten hours to cook... Oh, you will need to find someone to turn the spit continuously to guarantee even cooking and crackling which is simply cosmic.

The Hog roast shortly after cooking.

To make sure there would be enough food a couple of sheep had been keeping the pig company, stuffed with garlands of Rosemary and whole cloves of garlic. Awesome!

Dotted around the field were various sculptures by members of Ellen's family, such as this reclining bather...

The day went brilliantly, the couple were obviously madly in love, and facing the future together...

The wedding cake had been made by Jane, a family friend who now produces sculptures rather than cakes for a living.

The cake deserves a close-up of it's own - the happy couple...

The cider flagon is not just for decoration; Stuart had pressed three barrels of cider the previous Autumn in readiness for the day.

A few hours later this was all that was left of the hog roast and the two roast lambs..

The happy couple were spending their first night as man and wife in the Nuptial Yurt, set discretely apart at the far end of the field. The view was stunning as the sun fell behind it...

We wish Ellen and Stuart all the best for the future. We had a wonderful time, and we know they did too.

I will end this post with just a tiny peek into the nuptial yurt.

So Romantic...

.P.S. If you want to see all the photos I took at Wedfest, just click here to go to my Flickr account.


Tuesday, August 31

This one is for you Amalee!

Too many moons ago I set a competition. The prize (!) was a blog post of the winner's choice. Amalee won, and asked for photos of my fridge.....

I know.

I haven't a clue why either.

However, as Amalee is my most loyal follower I have felt twinges of guilt over the ensuing months (two and a half years actually)as my food chilling equipment has remained un-photographed.

The wait is now over.

The reduced photos are below. Click on the links marked [Expand this photo] below to be taken to my Flickr pages, where annotated boxes will explain the contents of my fridge....

The fridge door (outside view)

[Expand this photo]

The main compartment

[Expand this photo]

The door (inside view)

[Expand this photo]

Have Fun!!


Thursday, August 19

Just Do It

Sometimes after an extended break the best thing to do is just get on with doing Something.

So here goes.......

It has been quite a while since I introduced Tigger and Fluffy to you all. They have grown in size and character. Over the last few months they have shared their interest in Nature with us.

They have brought us many frogs and toads (all bar one alive and well); they have brought a robin, sundry blackbirds, and on one occasion a fully grown and very-much-alive wood pigeon through the catflap!

Fluffy is a bit of an entomologist. When we hear him meowing after coming through the flap at night he usually has a moth or two to display, dropped at our feet
proudly. Lime Tree hawk moths are his current favourite.

Here is Fluffy in our garden, taken at the end of April...

Tigger is pictured below, taken a couple of months ago...

Sometimes they will even sit still long enough to get both of them in the same picture. Sometimes when they are awake too!


Tuesday, April 27

Flower Power - Greek Style

We are back from Samos. I never did get to send any more posts from Greece - the internet connection was decidedly patchy!

We landed at Heathrow two days before the Icelandic volcano stopped all air traffic. Can't win 'em all!

Flowers were all around us on our walks. The countryside of England must have looked like this not so long ago, before agriculture became monoculture and "weeds" were banned...

On one walk we were kindly invited to look round a greenhouse where orchids were being grown for sale.

This is Angela checking out the fragrance...

They weren't the only orchids on the island though. This is a monkey orchid. I haven't identified the insect yet.

Saturday, April 3

Some Recent photos

The previous post was somewhat concerned with death.

Now at Easter the focus is on resurrection.

Very few places on Earth take Easter as seriously as in Greece, and Angela and I are luck enough to be in Samos, a beautiful verdant island in the North-Eastern Aegean.

We are on a walking holiday.

I'll be posting a few photos over the next week....

Here are some to start with...

The poppies are already in bloom in the hedges and fields...

And the churches are all looking their best. This is the newly renovated church in Paleocastro, above Vathy in Samos..

This was the view from our walk today. Absolutely stunning.

Happy Easter to All...


Sunday, January 31

A blog about death.

I know the header of this blog says it is about “Life, I guess”. But it is only death that really gives life meaning. To define something as dead we really mean “not Living.”

We all know that death is all around us. Some of us live in much closer proximity to it. Think of almost anywhere in Africa… Some of us live close to start with then suddenly get closer; Haiti anyone? Bangladesh every other year?

Watching my kittens growing into young cats I admire their poise, their balance; the speed with which those razor sharp claws fly to catch a ball thrown - all practice for bringing about sudden (hopefully) death to small creatures…

I have seen death amongst humans. I used to work as a Warden in sheltered housing for “older people” [“elderly” is apparently a value judgement too far]. Death is rarely dignified. People just stop—in mid-step, mid-poo or whilst reaching into that corner of the cupboard where the last cob-web stays unreachable.

The saddest corpse I ever saw lay on his back in the middle of London’s City Road. Safe in motorbike leathers and helmet, invincible until Newton took his life, “every action has an equal but opposite reaction”, motorbike stopped, rider carrying on at 120 miles per hour until the tarmac deformed under the impact of his helmeted head. He lay, a policeman cradling his head and neck, waiting hopelessly for the ambulance to come; knowing death had arrived. The bike still, steaming, 80 yards away…

Why am I pondering so much on the end of life? It may be because (God Willing) I will be 50 myself in December.

I think not. I have learned that death is, essentially, random. A clot here, a dodgy cell-division there. Who knows?

But the randomness of life-threatening situations is not unbeatable. Age will take all of us lucky enough to make it; but some accidents, both physical and medical will be survivable, with the right, timely response.

In 2001, on the 21st January, my wife went upstairs for a shower. She came back down shortly after, complaining of a headache. I could see that she was not just in pain, but agony. I rang 999 and within 90 minutes she was having a CAT scan at the Whittington Hospital. She was diagnosed with a sub-arachnoid haemorrhage. For three long days she was stabilized and kept alive by the medical team. She was transferred to the National Hospital in Russell Square in an ambulance that never went faster than walking pace.

Thankfully she was operated on. She made a full recovery. Most people who have those bleeds die or have permanent loss of brain function.

My point? Death is random, but sometimes we can work against the odds. Sometimes lives can be saved….

The Whittington Hospital is in danger of having its Accident and Emergency unit closed down. Angela might well have died without the timely intervention she received.

To join your name onto the on-line petition to save the Whittington A&E, go to

Keep up with the news at


Wednesday, January 6

MMX - So soon?

Anyone holding their breath for Phantom posts in 2009 would be in dire need of medical assistance by now. I apologise. Three posts in one year is not poor, it is disgraceful. Mea culpa.

Things are a little different here at Phantom Towers. Angela's mum died in December 2008 after a long illness. My mum died in November just gone, so Christmas was a little bit strange this year. The Guardian published a nice piece in their Other Lives slot, click here to see it.

Just over a year ago, our dear visiting cats Tigger and Bernard moved house. They are residing with their "owner" in a large house in Ealing with a huge garden for them to explore. By all accounts they are loving the place and are very well.

Tigger and Bernard's departures left a pair of huge cat-shaped holes in our lives. We waited a few months before getting cats of our own. Their were three young foxes in our back gardens all of last spring and summer and we didn't want any confrontations.

At the end of August last year we saw an advert online, and two days later we had two adorable kittens in residence.

The Phantom is proud to introduce Tigger

And his brother Fluffy

The photo's above were taken on their first day with us. Their first photo shoot was a bit tiring, as Fluffy demonstrated...

Another first during last year was the first two walks I led for the Hampstead Ramblers. You can find blog entries here and here. I have been busy keeping the HR blog going, and at present I have a slight backlog of posts to be written; more distractions!

I have also joined the Marylebone Birdwatching Society, a group of Hampstead-centred birders, many of whom are also Ramblers. So far I have avoided being co-opted onto any committees, and I am absolutely not going to set up another blog!

I have had the opportunity to write this post thanks to the snow in London closing my college two hours early. I hope my reader Amalee is enjoying the snow too. I still owe you a blog post! Hello to Welsh Dog too.

More Soon!!