My kingdom for a kebab!

Have you ever eaten a kebab sober? I have, it was a sobering experience. I used to live by the kebab when i was at college, I used to say hi to the guys who worked there whenever I saw them in the street. When I left I got my picture taken behind the counter with the giant knife and had a go at cutting the leg. Ah, the good old days. Actually, they weren't that great, neither the kebabs, nor the days.

I hate McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, not just because of what they represent, but because their food is just absolute shit. But, hypocritically, I really have no problems in eating meat that closely resembles flesh off a first degree burns victim. Stick a bit of chili sauce on it, and Bob's your monkey's Uncle. I have yet to regress to the state of eating kebabs sober, and I can confidently say that I think those days are definitely locked in cupboard at the bottom of the Atlantic. My main problem is that I'm now back on the mainland; it's just all to easy to go to the kebab after you've had a few pints and you got a case of kebab cravings. I've not done too badly so far, in fact I think I've only had three kebabs since I've been here, and over two months that's not a bad average. I've even curbed my desire to go for the cheap, donner in a bap option; a meal for the truly inebriated.

I never ate too many at Uni...actually I have to confess that I had one or two in the first year...ok, and the second year too. But I moved on to burgers pretty quickly, and by the time the third year came round, our kebaby was doing pizzas, which were actually bloody good. I accidentally weaned myself off the donner at this point because I almost always went to the kebaby with my good mate Dave, who, being vegetarian, was never really up for some reconstituted lamb. So we used to share a mushroom pizza, and at the same price as a donner kebab, it was well worth the money.

Of all the various kebab establishments that i have frequented there's one place in particular that serves up truly poetic kebabs - Radjdhani's in Southampton. It's a mythical place that I've never seen with sober eyes, but every kebab I have ever had from there has been sublime. Apparently they make the claim to be the best kebab house in Southampton, and I would fully agree with this statement. Their toxic orange sauce is just unreal, I've no idea what it is, but I don't really care; just don't get it on your clothes as it'll never come off.

So I now find myself on the cusp of kebab life again, but somehow I don't think I'll be reverting to those days of old. The kebab will remain a purely drunken liaison, and I'm sure I'll be waking up in the morning, regretting it as I pick the final remnants from my teeth. Lovely.

The image at the top was taken from a great website advertising a kebaby in Surrey. Please have a look, it's hilarious. They have 35 years experience in cooking kebabs, they have a pretty decent menu, at reasonable prices; make sure you check out the pictures of the establishment, in particular the shady character on the second page not looking happy that he's just had his picture taken. Click the link below, it's their motto!



A dog goes...

Last Easter I finally got my lazy self around to hijacking a section of my Dad's allotment. She's a decent size, so he could spare a little bit of ground for my fledgling gardening requirements. I had helped Dad a fair bit on and off in the past, so I had some clue about growing your own veg, but I never realised just how much care and attention it actually takes to do it successfully.

I actually really enjoyed the process of preparing the plot, planting everything, and in some cases growing stuff at home before transplanting it to the garden. I grew plenty of radish, some lettuce, carrots, peppers, cucumber, chillis, and various herbs; not all were successful however! It was an insanely dry summer, and most of our lettuce died due to the heat and dehydration. Yet despite this intial set back, I now feel even more passiontely about growing my own food. I am in the process of acquiring an allotment of my own, and hopefully next summer this will prove more successful after the learning of this year.

But there are now so many other opportunities that this hobby has opened for me. I've recently found out about WWOOFing - World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms - which is a great organisation that allows people to visit organic farms all over the world, and gives free accommodation and food in return for some farm work. It seems to me to be a great way to explore a country, find out about places that are well removed from the tourist trail and learn more about sustainable living.

I'm very taken with going to Canada to do some WWOOFing, some friends are moving out there, and they know plenty of people and they have work themselves that needs doing. From what they tell me Canada sounds like an incredibly beautiful place, lots of trees, which is great! For now though, this is just another idea placed along with all the others I seem to be collecting at the moment. For now I'm still happy growing my radish.


Silly Mid-On

The scenes of jubilation and celebration that captured the hearts of the nation seem a distant memory now for anyone following England's defense of the Ashes in Australia. It was never going to be easy, and a series of injuries, mental and physical, have made the team selection that much tougher for Duncan Fletcher. Yet there has to be some optimism, but traditionally this is something English supporters throw away the instant things start to go wrong. This fickle nature is somewhat endemic of England, and therefore it eventually finds it way into the minds of those people playing the game; whether it be Cricket, Football or Rugby. Fortunately though, I believe that England's cricketers can overcome this sentiment, that they have the mental fortitude to overcome this first stumbling block. After all, it's easy to forget that we lost the first test at Lords in 2005, yet we showed the strength and ability to overturn this result and eventually win in style.

The series garnered its name in 1882, after England - the dominant force in cricket - lost in a shock defeat to Australia at the Oval. The Sporting Times subsequently ran an obituary in their paper announcing:

Touring almost constantly at the time, the English team went out to Australia only a short while after their loss at the Oval. This became well known as the Quest to Regain the Ashes. It was a tight contest, but England prevailed winning the third test in Sydney to finish the series 2-1. The Ashes themselves are reputed to have been created by a Lady Clarke from Melbourne, after the England team took part in a social match at their palatial home in Sunbury, before the series had even begun. It was here that Lady Clarke arranged for a cricketing item to be burnt and placed in a small ceramic urn. It is still unknown what that item is, but the opinion is that it was either a bail, or a the cover of a cricket ball. This was then presented to the England captain Ivo Bligh, though he later received a velvet bag to contain the urn after England had won the third test match.

The act of playing for the Ashes actually died out over the years, and it wasn't until around twenty five years later that the legend was revived and the contest between the two sides has been known as the Ashes ever since. The Ashes have been dominated by Australia since the seventies, with England only winning a handful of series. 2005 saw possibly the most spectacular test match series ever, each match running on a knife edge with the results going down to the wire in each case. The final match proved to be something of an anticlimax in the end as England played the game to achieve a draw and win the series 2-1.

That series gave England their first series win over Australia since 1987, and along with it the belief that they had the strength to finally compete with Australia at the highest level of test cricket. Despite the injuries that have forced some of that team to drop out of this Ashes tour, there are still some of those players left who showed the kind of attitude that the Australians themselves pride themselves upon. The aggressive bowling of Harmison, the power of Flintoff, and the confidence of Pieterson. These are three players who, no matter what, are going to be vital in the outcome of this winter's Ashes. They have already proved at home that they have the ability to be the best in the world and now is the time - with their backs against the wall - to step forward and lead England onward and defend the Ashes with everything they have.


The trees, the trees!

The seasonal cycle slowly slumbers on, as autumn begins to recede and the varicose fingers of winter grasp the country; slowly choking until spring skips back over the hill. For now, in Cornwall, autumn is holding on for dear life, the results are a great swathe of burnt trees spread all over the surrounding countryside.

Last sunday looking across the river towards the Roseland I couldn't help but be struck by just how beautiful everything looked. Whilst waiting for the ferry I found myself lost, staring at the Technicolour trees that covered the hillside. The wind was funnelling up the river and pushing the trees back and forth, giving the impression that the hillside was breathing. The hypnotic, psychadelic dance of the leaves left me entranced; speachless at nature's beauty.

Crossing the Fal proved another eye opener, as looking downstream it was evident that trees were even overhanging the lip of the bank, branches stretching out like veins towards the water. For as far as I could see there was no other penetration through the woodland canope. It made me feel like the Fellowship travelling along the Anduin in those small Elven boats. For a second I forgot this world; technology, global warming, terrorism, 4x4's, fast food, capitalism, selfishness and greed. It was a sense of feeling more for the natural elements of this life than the materials we surround ourselves with everyday.

If only everyone could stop once in a while and find that same sense of wonderment. I felt like nothing and everything. I felt privilged to be alive.