Breakfast Included

I can’t function without breakfast. So, when I travel it’s vital to find When and Where Breakfast Is Served. Especially if it’s on the rooftop terrace, twenty floors up in the lift.

When I was a student, travel breakfasts were a tad basic for my taste. In Italy, usually the home of deliciousness, it consisted of one rock hard roll which shattered into shards, one portion of jam (albicocca, per favore) and coffee. In Greece every breakfast was accompanied by what we named Glob Juice…extra thick Rise and Shine.

Things looked up when I went on a city break to Vienna with my mother. Until she decided we wouldn’t have to buy lunch if she took extra rolls, cheese, cold meats, cake and fruit from the buffet. I was squirming with embarrassment as she assembled a full packed lunch, wrapped it in paper napkins and secreted it in her huge white handbag (it’s 1988) to a piped soundtrack of Strauss waltzes.

Ah. The Breakfast Buffet. Sometimes it stretches to the vanishing point of the horizon. So many cheeses. Froot Loops. Six types of rye bread. The conveyor belt toaster that takes ten minutes to turn the bread beige. Hot Milk. Cold Milk. Sour Milk. Gherkins. Gherkins?

You pile your plates and bowls high. This could keep you full until the evening. Well, you, perhaps. Not me.

In a Stockholm hotel, I watched an elderly couple (Latvian? Lithuanian?) as they were overwhelmed by the choice. I had eaten all of my 3 or 4 course breakfast, plus juice and two cups of coffee in the time it took them to browse and select from the buffet. This was a feast they had not encountered. So much choice, so much food…so much waste.

In Sri Lanka the signature dish is the hopper, a pancake often served with a fried egg cooked in it. In Northern India it’s omelette or porridge, omelette or porridge. A British Raj hangover.

Sometimes you discover that you won’t be drinking coffee for the duration of the trip, because they only serve weak instant. Alternatively, you realise you’ll be on caffeine overdrive as you can’t get a drinkable cup of tea.

And then there’s Japan. Another tea kettle of sashimi altogether. Starting with the sushi breakfast at Tsukiji Fish Market on arrival, to a table just off the floor in a ryokan, sitting on a tatami mat and looking at a still life of tofu, miso soup, seaweed, pickles, ginger and a savoury baked egg custard in an eggcup with a fungus surprise in the bottom. It can drive those of delicate constitution into the Starbucks just around the corner.

International variations in English can also lead you astray. In South Africa I ordered Oats, which on the pictorial menu looked like granola. “Oats” equals Porridge. At another breakfast there I ordered Flapjacks with maple syrup and bacon. Be adventurous, I thought. Flapjacks turned out to be Scotch Pancakes. It was good. But I had a heated debate with my South African friend about Flapjacks. We hammered Google Images.

Me: “That’s a Flapjack”.

He: “No.That’s a Brownie”.

Me: “This is a Scotch Pancake.”

He: “No. That’s a Flapjack.”

Next month I’m going to South East Asia. I’m sure there’ll be surprises and even shocks at breakfast time. But one thing is certain, as sure as scrambled eggs is eggs. I will not go anywhere until I’ve broken my fast.


Did It Myself

Being The Second Instalment in My Year of New Experiences, Anno Domini 2015.

I’ve done plenty of D.I.Y. in my time. Mainly painting and I’m a dab hand with Polyfilla. But I have neglected my house and although I moved here in 2000, many things have been put up with because I’m reluctant to pay someone to do them. At the same time I have enough sense to know which tasks are beyond me and have avoided a D.I.Y. S.O.S. scenario. With becoming accustomed to your environment, a fair smattering of denial, and long, dark winters, you can stop seeing how shabby and grotty things are.

But as I am having a Grown Up Gap Year, I had no excuse but to tackle many jobs and chores that I’ve been turning the other cheek to. And in the process, spot all sorts of things that I hadn’t even noticed could be improved with a lick or twelve of white paint. I know that this winter the house will feel so much lighter and brighter.

I’ve used quick dry cement, wet rot drier, wood filler, carpet tape and sealant in a gun for the first time. To this point I have made no visits to A&E.

Reluctantly I built a flatpack double bedframe. (The divan I ordered wouldn’t fit up the closed in staircase in my terraced house. Even though it was in two sections. And however much I insisted to the delivery guys that it would if they forced it.) So, back to the shop to exchange it and buy what turned out to be the only bed with a headboard that would fit up said staircase. Mercifully, mattresses are flexible, or I’d be sleeping on horizontal slats.

This was the biggest flatpack challenge I’d ever tackled, and whereas a bookcase can be a bit wonky, a bed has to feel secure. Adrenaline pumping, I checked all the kit was present and correct. According to the leaflet, completion time for assembly was 45 minutes. Ha! It took 25 minutes to count all the slats, screws, widgets, gizmos and mullarkey. Then, cup of tea time.

With much stretching, crawling, screwing (a lot of screwing), a little bit of unscrewing, turning things around and rescrewing, some bashing, some occasional swearing and as much brute strength as I could muster, after two and a half hours I had actually built my bed.

Then I had to manoeuvre the mattress into place. The mattress which weighs about as much as a 10 year old child. An obese 10 year old. Who is 4’6″ x 6′.

But I did it. And three months later it is still holding together.

Here are a few more lessons learned in my season of DIY:

  1. Never believe any can of paint that says one coat is enough. Doesn’t matter if it’s Own Brand or Dulux, it’s not true.
  2. Resign yourself to the fact that a tin of paint will always contain not quite enough for the task in hand, requiring a teatime trip to Wilko for another tin, when you only need about a mug full to complete the job. If this doesn’t happen you’ll end up with a mug full in the first tin and no job small enough to use it all up. This can then sit in the cupboard/shed/garage for the next ten years, by which time it will have set hard, grown a fur coat or look like olive oil floating on hummus.
  3. And on the subject of hummus, the consistency you are aiming for when you mix dry powder cement is…smooth grey peanut butter. On the way to achieving this you will probably mix cement with the texture of mustard, mayonnaise and mascarpone. Delicious but too runny. You may also get thick porridge. Save that for wallpapering.

I’ll confess I’ve been procrastinating about reglazing the broken mini panel of glass in my front door. Perhaps Glazing might be my next First?

The Cat and The Cow and The Dog On The Carpet

In recent months I’ve found myself doing all sorts of new things. Sometimes by choice, sometimes through necessity. I’ve discovered new talents. I’ve discovered things I don’t want to be part of…LinkedIn and Streetlife, get thee behind me.

One of the things that I fell in love with instantly was Twitter. It brings me great joy. And through one of my best Twitter friends, I have been inspired to try blogging.

So…my Blog theme for starters is going to be “Things That I Am Trying For The First Time and The Lessons That I Am Learning As I Go Along”. Catchy title. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Pish tush, I say. (48, by the way. Stopping you trying to guess.)

Have you heard “I’ve Never Seen Star Wars”? I suppose this is my personal version of that show. Obviously, I have seen Star Wars. Saw it at The Gaumont when it first came out.

This afternoon I’ve been doing Yoga for Beginners with Youtube. I love that I’m able to save myself the hassle of signing up for a term’s worth of Monday evenings in a school sports hall, then discovering I don’t like Mondays/the teacher/ the venue/ the other students. Eschewing yoga pants in favour of my trekkie trousers (not Trekkie, trekkie…my walking trousers), and avoiding carpet burns on my forehead, I’ve been Cat and Cowing and Downward Facing Dogging (stop that) with Adriene.

I joined in with the first 20 minute video…and wanted more. I continued onto a 40 minute second session. Would that be stretching it? There were times when I had to unfold myself from my position to check on my laptop that I was doing what Adriene told me to do. Which can be tricky when your forehead is on the carpet.

There was  also the problem of keeping my glasses on so I could see the screen. Next time I might go for it with naked eyeballs.

My muscle memory remembered some of the stretches from when I used to go to aerobics, and others were familiar from some physio a few years ago. So this is where they get these things from? Plagiarists.

Some of the moves were loooovvvely. Others, maybe less appealing.  I was feeling the pressure on my right foot’s big toe. You know the one. Every couple of years it gets a black toenail and has to regrow. Hallelujah for metallic nail varnish.

At one point I was distracted by an oval mark like a fairy ring on the ceiling as I stretched up towards it. I’ll have to work out why that’s there another time.

But Adriene seemed to think I’d be struggling with various postures that I was frankly enjoying. I know I’m surprisingly bendy and flexy. A bit double jointed, but not freak show quality.

And I love that I ended up in The Corpse position. Blissful. Over an hour’s free online lesson and I really enjoyed it. An hour or so later I could feel a few rarely used muscles in the upper back, but otherwise I felt fit as flea.

Marks out of ten? Eight. I will be back posing on my carpet for another go. I doubt I’ll invest in a mat or yoga pants just yet, but time will tell.

And tomorrow? I have a small packet of Quick Dry Ready Mix Concrete and some repairs that I need to do before the Indian Summer is over.