Sunday, October 17, 2010

Alexander Selkirk and Manimal.

I was sitting on a bench at Plumstead station on Tuesday afternoon, quietly minding my own business, passing the time reading the latest edition of Practical Classics car magazine whilst waiting for the train back to Erith after my daily Dad visit. After a few minutes, a familiar figure shambled into view. It was one of the local drug addicts / winos that regularly patrol the Plumstead High Street area. I buried my nose in the magazine and pretended to ignore him. He staggered in front of me and begun slurring one of his usual cock and bull stories about losing his wallet – he obviously did not recall the previous times he had tried this – his brain would appear to be so fried that he has no memory of previous encounters with me. I cut him short and told him to get lost; at this point he started to get rather aggressive. He was quite indignant that I would not give him any money or cigarettes – the point that I am a life long non smoker was obviously lost on him. At this point I decided that enough was enough; I packed the magazine into my laptop bag and abruptly stood up to better challenge the feckless scrote. Suffice to say, this had the requisite effect. I am six feet three inches tall in bare feet, though at the time my feet were encased in my trademark beige steel toecapped boots, and I was sporting my favourite houndstooth tweed jacket. The beggar was about five foot dead, and probably weighed about eight stone wet. He took a couple of steps backwards as I once again told him to go forth and multiply. He then scuttled off, over the footbridge to the London bound platform where he then continued his semi incoherent tirade of abuse aimed at me, safely on the other side of the tracks, much to the amusement of the other waiting passengers.

I have passed by the Mambochinos restaurant and coffee shop in Erith Riverside Centre on several occasions over the last few weeks. The place seems to be doing rather well. Friend Sandra has tried the place and reports that she found the venue and service to be extremely good indeed. They are serving proper home cooked food – roast dinners, English breakfasts, jacket spuds and a variety of sandwiches on top of their range of coffees and teas. It would seem that this is proving to be very popular with the residents of Erith. I really hope that things go well for the business – it is precisely what the town needs.

The BBC are currently reporting that actor Simon MacCorkindale has sadly died after a battle with cancer. He had a varied and interesting career in TV and theatre, and to me, most notably starrred in one of the most comically atrocious U.S television shows of the 1980's. Do check out Manimal if you get a chance. MacCorkindale was given the unenviable task of portraying a man who could transform himself at will into any form of creature (though for technical and budgetary reasons his transformations seemed to be limited to a black panther or a hawk).

The photo above shows Parkspring Court, home of the new Erith Library in Erith Riverside shopping centre; it is not a patch on the old library, featured in last weeks' blog (see - I do plan these things out).  Click on the photo for a larger version.

I see that Top Gear presenter, real ale fan and all - round top chap James May is now the official spokes person for Fullers Beers. He's just filmed a couple of TV adverts for London Pride - Fullers' mainstay real ale, and a jolly nice pint it is too. It is just a pity that there are no Fullers pubs in the vicinity of Pewty Acres. Their nearest establishment to Erith is The Pilot on Greenwich Peninsular, just around the corner from the O2 Arena. I plan on visiting the place very soon.

Microsoft seem to be running worried; they have recently issued a series of pronouncements, slagging off the Open Office project - the fact that MS already have something like 95% of the installed office application market seems to have slipped past them. I would have thought that the bosses at Microsoft would have been more concerned with the web based office applications that have recently taken off in a big way, most notably the excellent web based Google Documents, which offers a powerful and credible alternative to the "big iron" locally installed MS Office at a fraction of the cost.

Here is one of my occasional recipe suggestions, once again I am highlighting a favourite from Africa, specifically Ghana, though most African countries will claim this to be their own. Here is the recipe for the famous dish, Jollof Rice.

500 g (1 lb) lean beef or chicken
Salt and ground white pepper, to taste
Vegetable oil for frying
1L (1-3/4 pt) stock or water with 3 crushed stock cubes
3 large onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2-3 chillies (hot peppers), finely chopped
4 large tomatoes, blanched, peeled and blended or mashed
45 g (3 tablespoons) tomato paste
250 g (8 oz) each of assorted chopped vegetables, e.g. carrots, green beans, mushrooms and capsicums (sweet or bell peppers)
500 g (1 lb) long-grain rice. Lettuce, parsley or fresh coriander, and hard-boiled eggs to garnish.
Cut meat or chicken into 5 cm (2 in) cubes or small pieces and season with salt and pepper. Cover and allow to stand for 1-2 hours.
Heat oil in fry-pan and fry the meat or chicken pieces until brown. Remove meat from oil and add to the stock in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Cook on a low heat until meat begins to soften, then remove from heat.
Drain excess oil from fry pan leaving enough oil to fry onions, garlic and chillies (hot peppers) until golden. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, half the combined vegetables and 250 mL (8 fl oz) of stock from the meat mixture. Stir well, adjust seasoning and simmer on low heat for 5-7 minutes. Add this vegetable sauce to the meat mixture in the saucepan and simmer gently. Finally, stir in the uncooked, long-grain rice. Adjust the seasoning again, cover and simmer slowly on low heat for about 15 minutes.
Arrange the remaining vegetables on top of the rice and continue to simmer until the rice absorbs all the stock, softens and cooks, and the meat is tender. It may be necessary to sprinkle additional water mix to help the rice cook. If so use small amounts at a time of approximately 250 mL (8 fl oz) water.
Serve hot, garnished with a salad of chopped lettuce, celery and red onion, parsley or fresh coriander, and hard-boiled eggs.

The News Shopper have covered the story that October the 14th next year marks the 300th anniversary of ship wreck survivor Alexander Selkirks' return the to the UK from the small island off Chile he lived on for three years; for some unknown reason he landed back in Britain at Erith - personally I would have thought he would have been better on his isolated island. Selkirk is the origin of the fictional story of Robinson Crusoe, and it is hoped that there will be a series of local commemorations and celebrations will take place. You can read more about the story by clicking here.

Rumours abound that Apple are about to launch a 11.6" screen sized netbook style computer based on the technology deployed on their extremely successful iPad tablet computer. This would appeal to me greatly; my Asus EeePC 901 Linux netbook is getting a bit long in the tooth, and something new and shiny is most definitely on the cards before too much longer. You can read more about the story by clicking here.

On a further technological foray, as many of you know, I am a licenced radio amateur with an Advanced class radio certificate - my call sign is M1CXN (Mike One Charlie X-Ray November). I actually have very little radio equipment compared with many of my compatriots; I have a basic H.F receiver (to the lay person, a short wave radio) and a medium powered VHF / UHF transceiver, which has been in use for a number of years. One thing I have never owned until now is any form of H.F transceiver. I am currently rather strongly drawn to the Icom IC-7600 (click on the photo above for a much larger view of the rig), although it is rather a lot of money to spend on a radio. If I do, it should last me for many years. one thing is certain; I will need to build a new antenna system in my back garden as my current, rather venerable H.F long wire antenna would not be up to transmitting more than a few Watts of RF power.

I suppose that I could not avoid it really - here is a taster from the pilot episode of Manimal.

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