Friday, 27 December 2013


With Tobes thankfully home before he starts a new life in Vermont to become a doctor, the three of us have had a magical quiet time which revolves around food, hanging out, playing sports, going to plays, and sleeping.

Every year I have a pop at cooking the perfect roast beef, and invariably fail. Too rare...too well done. Tough when it should be tender....too this...too that. Last year was a close but no cookie. This year I decided to go off-piste and try a method I saw on the internet....the CLOSED OVEN METHOD.

Well glory be! It worked, and don't take my word for it. Two satisfied members of the clean plate club told me that this time it was smack on the money.

So it is worth sharing this incredibly simple method. All it requires is a small amount of math, the ability to follow directions, and the kind of patience which comes with FAITH.

1. Order Rib Roast on the bone (we had a two bone for 3 people, but we will be eating this for a while).
2. Remember the weight. Write it down. If it is in Kilos, then multiply it by 2.2 to get the pound equivalent. In our case it was 1.8 kilos, which works out to 4 pounds.
3. This is the math bit. Multiply the weight in pounds by five. 4lbs x 5 = 20 minutes. Simples. Retain this number in your brain.
4. About 2 hours before you cook the roast, get it out of the fridge and let it sit around to get to room temperature.
5. Whack the oven up to the top temperature (260 degrees C, 500F). DO NOT USE THE FAN.
6. Cut some banana shallots lengthways. Don't bother peeling them. No need.
7. Blanch some baby carrots in boiling water for about 2-3 minutes and then drain.
8. Put the former in a roasting tray, cut side down for the shallots. Glug over a bit of extra virgin olive oil.
9. Put the roast boneside down on the onions/carrots.
10. Score the fat a bit, and rub the roast all over with lashings of Coleman's English Mustard powder. Season with generous pinches of Maldon's Sea Salt and Ground Pepper.
11. Squeeze the juice of a lime over the roast.
12. Stick the roast beef in the oven. Remember the number you calculated (in our case 20)? THAT IS THE NUMBER OF MINUTES you cook at the top whack temperature.
13. After said period of time YOU TURN OFF THE OVEN. COMPLETELY. And you do not open it again for 2hrs and 30minutes.
14. I REPEAT, YOU DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN. Not even to peek. This is where the faith comes in.

If you are cooking Yorkshire puddings, do this in another oven. You have to allow 25 minutes for this (see below). If you only have one oven, after 2hrs and 30minutes take out the roast and cover with foil while you do the puddings. If you have a meat thermometer, stick it in....Should read about 130 for medium rare. Don't sweat it if you don't eat immediately. That is what au jus was invented for, to heat up the meat.

In the meantime, while you get everything else ready (beef drippings in a pan with a glug of red wine, a stock cube (I used chicken) and a few of the now softened shallots and boil at full whack on the gas to reduce by a third before straining. I had brussels sprouts which I blanched and then stir fried in a wok with olive oil, ponzu, chili flakes and finished with a knob of butter.  I also had roast potatoes which I had parboiled for about 8-10 minutes (Marist Pipers), shook to fluff up, then placed in a small roasting tin in goose fat (bought in a jar) in the top oven at 190C and turned occasionally for 1hr. Obviously you have to work your way back on the potatoes for timing. 

I did the potatoes and yorkshire pudding in the top oven. 


We had a couple of guests at my book club JFDI and one was from Yorkshire. I mentioned I had never done Yorkshire Puds before and he simplified the whole process so that I didn't even have to write it down. 1:1:1, he said. 

1. Start with the eggs. 2 for 3 people. Put them in a measuring cup. Note where they come up to. 
2. Then measure out equal amounts of PLAIN flour and milk. 
3. Mix the three together. You may want to sieve the batter to remove any lumps. Let it rest and whisk it up to get it airy. 
4. 25 minutes before serving, whack up the oven to 220C and put a muffin tin with either a small amount of vegetable oil or goose fat (I used goose fat) in until the oil starts to smoke. Then ladle the batter into the muffin holes about 2/3 the way up. (You can put the roasting spuds on the bottom of the oven for the last 20 minutes)
5. Pop the YPs back into the oven and watch as they start to rise for about 20-25 minutes until they turn a nice shade of brown. As with the beef, DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN.

Heat the plates in the top oven, and then plate up.

The beef was crispy on the outside, and medium rare and tender. The fat near the surface was succulent and infused with the mustard/salt/pepper. The YPs went down a treat. High fives all round. 

A bottle of Merlot, BOB'S YOUR UNCLE!  Even if his name is not Bob.

Here is a picture from a website which (By Gum) LOOKS EXACTLY as the one I did. Credit where credit is due: Ann Serrane's Genius Rib Roast, which she wrote in 1966! Hats off to Anne, whoever you are! Where the hell have you been hiding for the past 47 years?

Saturday, 23 November 2013



Friendship is a house built on words, thoughts, and deeds
Held together by bonds of mutual trust
Without the latter, it is nothing but an empty shell
Which will let in the icy winds of winter
And crumble to dust in the heat of summer

I believed you
And I believed in you
But now I hear a wind blowing through the cracks

Saturday, 14 September 2013



There was a surgeon at Johns Hopkins named Ben Carson, now retired. A brain surgeon. A black guy.  I remember that he was the first guy to separate two Siamese twins joined at the head, and to then hook up the wires and make them both work.

What can one say about such a person except to say to yourself that you are very puny indeed in comparison.

But this is what he said. I think I read it in the Johns Hopkins magazine many years ago. I am paraphrasing, liberally.

THINK BIG, he said, and then he explained what he meant.

T is for Talent. Talent is something within us, but it is not on the surface. You first have to find it, and then develop it, and this will be a long process, indeed a lifetime process.

H is for Honesty. Be honest with people and yourself, and you will find that in the long run, it will be repaid a thousand fold.

I is for Insight. This you gain from talking to, and listening to people. Anyone. A rich man is no richer than a poor man, and everyone is a thread in the tapestry of life.

N is for Nice. Each day you should perform a random act of kindness, not for personal gain, but for the gain of others. It may be something as insignificant as holding a door open, or smiling at someone. Smile. It becomes you and soon you become it. A nice person can make a difference.

K is for Knowledge. The more you know, the more ignorant you realise you are. There are 35mln seconds in each year, much of them spent asleep. Don't waste them. Acquire knowledge. Leave no lost time. To be bored is to admit you have no inner resources.

B is for books. Reading is the active acquisition of knowledge, and requires nothing more than concentration, quiet, and the ability to reflect and dream.

I is for imagination, for it is this uniquely human trait which allows us to soar above the rest of the animal kingdom.

And G.....G is for God, because now matter how great, how smart, how rich, or how powerful we think we are, we pale into insignificance next to the power of the Universe.

But if we think big, we can tap into some of this power, and our short time on the planet will be all the better for it, as will the lives of those with whom we come into contact.

Sunday, 23 June 2013


Sometimes nature is its own paintbrush. All you have to do is imagine.



Thes were all taken at the top of a mountain on the island of Brac, a place called Vidova Gora which means View from the Hill (I believe).

Tuesday, 18 June 2013


It all started with the colour yellow. We were in Croatia on the island of Brac, escaping from the instrument of torture otherwise known as the British summer. When after a first day of brilliant sunshine we had to endure an atypical Croatian imitation of an on-again off-again cloudy faux Brit summer's day (they seem to follow us around no matter where we go), we decided to rent a car and explore the island. If there were clouds to endure, at least we would endure them on the road, not huddled hopefully on a pebble beach. As it happened, after we had already committed to this course of action, the sun came out. We repaired to the port in Supetar, where we were staying, to rent the car, a banged up Fiat Punto cabriolet. Ever vigilant, my wife noted that there were scratches visible which in more normal circumstances we should point out before departing, lest we be penalised later for them. I was more concerned about the radio having been ripped out, but to err on the side of caution I mentioned these scratches to the attendant. "Just don't make any more big ones and there won't be a problem." I think he was more worried about whether the clunker would run. He also reduced the price originally agreed. 290 koruna. About £38. What the hell.

Our first objective was Vidova Gora, the highest point on all the Adriatic islands. Christina, my wife, who speaks Polish, pointed out that this meant View From The Hill. Slavonic languages are all brethren. We duly climbed up the mountain/hill in brilliant sunshine. After looking at the vista, which was spectacular, we headed down towards Bol on the south side of the island. We passed the turnoff for a town called Praznica. There are not a lot of towns on Brac, so I figured it was worth a shot. In any case, when you are riding in a convertible and you have time, sun, and an eye-piercing blue sky on your side, everything seems possible and perhaps interesting.

In Praznica we were the only car in a deserted square, with a church and a small restaurant where three men sat having coffee, one of them in a yellow boiler suit with a white do-rag/turban and a splendid beard. Always on the lookout for a theme, I hopped out of the car, and setting the camera to pick out only the colour yellow, I wandered over and began snapping, hoping to draw little attention to myself. As if this were possible in a deserted town.  I snapped off a few photos of the flower boxes, and then thought I could pretend to take a pic of the flowers and include the man in the yellow suit.

This is what is known in the trade as a stupid move.

The reaction was immediate.

As I turned to peel away, there was a chorus in unison, led by Mr. Yellow.

"Ay Yay YayYay Yay!"

I pivoted, slightly embarassed. (Only slightly, I might add. I am always doing wadhead moves like this)

"Are you from Interpol?" interrogated the bearded boiler suit man in a heavily accented and smoky voice. 

"My picture won't appear on the web...?" he added, with the pause acting as a question mark. 

"Uh....No," I responded. This was going to require some explanation, especially since I had asked no one's permission to take their picture 

"I was just building a know yellow." I walked over and showed him the flower/suit photo above.

"Very good," he boomed. "G9. I have that camera," he added parenthetically. He offered me a taste of the pastries they were eating, which I gratefully accepted. "Where you from?"


"You know Croatia?"

"First time."

"You here on the 30th June?"

"Uh....we leave on Saturday."

"Too bad. I am giving a party here in this town for everybody.We will serve 2000 different types of food, the food we won't be able to eat come July when we join the EU. You like the EU?"

"Uh, well, it doesn't seem to be good for all, " I offered up diplomatically.

"It is a disaster for Croatia." He leapt up. "I am a sculptor. Come. Come with me and I will show you my workshop."

Mr. Yellow did not speak. He resonated. And a No response did not seem a possibility. 

"Uh...OK" I mumbled.   

I crossed back over the square as Mr. Yellow leapt onto his Vespa. I climbed in the Punto. My wife, who had been observing the proceedings from afar, was shaking her head. An explanation was due and payable. 

I offered up. "He's a sculptor and will take us to his workshop." 

She held her head in her hands. "I know what to tell Herb (my mate)....Oh look, Eric has found a new friend."

"We'll follow him." 

She shrugged her shoulders. After 33 years together, resistance is futile.

Mr. Yellow zoomed off, winding his way to the edge of the village. He didn't look back, being what I would call a Lead-follow-or-get-out-of-the way kind of a guy, it seemed. He cut off down a drive guarded by two rough slabs of marble acting as gateposts. There was little or no clearance, and mindful of the scratch situation, I gingerly inched the jalopy past with no ill effect.

The yard was filled with various works in progress, and a patina of marble dust covered everything. In his shed a worker was cutting some marble. Mr. Yellow began to explain some of his pieces. All of them in one way or another were about the EU. They were subtle digs at the disruption that will no doubt ensue from dancing to the Brussels drummer, something which has cascaded across all the countries (especially the Southern tier) of the EU. Has no one been reading the papers amongst the politicians in Croatia? The honeypot which was once the EU is no longer. 

A picture of a tuna was a reminder that they cannot be eaten due to regulations regarding mercury, with the ubiquitous computer mouse and mobile phone representing the intrusion of modern life on old ways of doing things which have served Croatians quite nicely.

A sculpture entitled Bocca di Verita, with the E replaced by the Euro,was equally subtle. The European flag had its stars replaced by circles, with a square at the bottom. Mister Yellow pointed to the square.

"Croatia is a square peg. Square peg cannot go in round hole. We will never fit." He spit the words out.
The mouth of Truth was a gaping maw, with a briefcase full of the Euros that will supposedly come Croatia's way.  He put his hands down the throat.

"They think we will find money there. Pah! We will only find a big dick, and they will fuck us." 

Or some such. 

It was hard to keep up which his high speed invective, but it was very clear that he was 

a) passionate
b) committed
c) implacable, and 
d) talented.

Eminently quotable, though the high volume has made accuracy from memory nigh impossible.


On one statue, he had carved the word Gospadar. I asked him what it meant. He said Master. I asked him how to say Mister Yellow in Croatian. He said: "Gospodim Zuta." He was both,

And that was it. The tour was over. It had only lasted 5 minutes or so. An intense five minutes. He gave me his name and address.

His name is Ivica Jaksic, and he is from Bol. He is already on the internet (see the pic below), and the statue I saw later that day in Bol, which I have called Mermen below, was done by him (I believe, but I am deducing that from his picture). 
MERMEN- Bol Brac Croatia
Here's hoping that joining the EU will not bring forth the disaster he predicts, and instead perhaps will allow him to bring Mister Yellow to a wider audience. Here is also hoping we meet again, where I can offer him something other than a study in yellow. A toast perhaps.

If you read this Ivica, Mister Yellow now has a friend in the UK, which may or may not be still a member of the EU as time goes on. But while it is, welcome to the EU, and when you come to London we can sample some of the other 2000 foods which we can still eat without having Brussel bureaucrats tell us what to do.

Saturday, 25 May 2013


I was just messing around looking at the statistics of this know, how many people have viewed it, how many posts I have done....and the trend is not my friend, really. More than 7300 people have viewed it, which in the greater scheme of thing is nothing. To wit: Gangnam style had over a billion and a half hits. But 7300 is the size of a small town (bigger than the town I came from, actually). Maybe it is the title...a bit obscure I realise, but set up really as an advice place for my son (thus the old man sobriquet). Maybe it is of no interest. No matter, hopefully at some point someone read something I wrote, or looked at a video, or saw a picture, and nodded their head and said: yeah.

That would make it all worthwhile, and if that is the case, then thanks for taking the time.

I also looked at the number of posts by year, since this has been up for about five years. They drop by about 25% per year. There are some worth revisiting, some even I look at now and nod my head. So that in and of itself makes the whole venture worthwhile.

We live life in a digital world where nothing is but what is not. Everything is temporal, and like stones being tossed into a pond we will leave a few ripples and then disappear.

Apparently the ether which is the internet will not disappear, so somewhere on a server or set of servers this digital record will survive, and someone in the future might, and I say might, just wonder who the hell Your Old Man was and what the hell he had to say.


May 2013

Wednesday, 15 May 2013


A rare burst of sunshine and the awesome splendour of Christopher Wren's dream: St. Paul's Cathedral.

St Pauls London
May 2013

Saturday, 4 May 2013


This is what is clearly wrong with modern life. Check this unbelievable nonsense from the parking mavens at Hounslow. The District Line is suspended to Richmond at Turnham Green. My wife comes to pick me up. Thinking she can't stop at the zig zag line, she rolls forward to the single yellow line over which a taxi rank dotted line has been painted. I get in and zoom away. The whole operation, as captured and corroborated on CCTV, takes 13 seconds. For this we receive a £55 "parking" fine, generated automatically by the We Will Soak You Because We Feel Like It department. I have of course appealed. This amusing vignette sums up what has gone horribly wrong in London.... Public Transport which fails on a consistent basis (signalling problems between Richmond and Turnham Green 4 days out of the last week). It seems that such a technological challenge can't be overcome despite billions of investment. Not so the ever present CCTVs and algorithms which capture every waking moment, and in some cases (this one in particular) "enforce" indiscriminately. 13 seconds? Parking? Come on......

Friday, 3 May 2013


Remember the poem by Shelley: My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings  Look on my works, Ye Mighty and despair.....

When you get to the top of the mountain....look for another mountain.

Climbing is life. The trophies mean nothing but the climb. Your joy is in direct proportion to the effort put in, and you and you alone can ever know how hard the struggle was.

Someone said that all politics end in defeat. As does life. Victories are just moments, and like Shelley's statue in the desert, they will soon be covered by the dust of the ages. The only thing that will live on is the memory, and memory is love. Nothing else.

Remember that, and have it etched in your mind as this was carved in stone in the Alhambra.

E. V. D.

Every Victory is a Defeat.

Alhambra Granada
Mar 2013

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear --
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.' 

Saturday, 20 April 2013


On a day like today, I think of the words of Martin Luther KIng, half-ironically:

Spring at last, spring at last
Thank God Almighty it is spring at last......




Thursday, 18 April 2013


Returning from a golf day where I did a pretty good impersonation of a donkey (or at least I played like one), the evening sun suddenly produced a rainbow in the middle of the countryside. I pulled off the road, and snapped the highlight (by far) of the day.


Saturday, 13 April 2013

CONSCIOUS by James Pettigrew

My nephew did this film for Film School at Boston College. Well worth watching. Stuck with me even after the third time watching.


Sunday, 31 March 2013



Stepping out from the White Lodge
The two of them are like candles, one tall and white, one short and bright
She has a spark in her eyes as she looks up at him
And he puts his hand in the small of her back
And from this subtle movement anyone could know that they were both
Friends and lovers
I shake my head and remember
That moments are just moments
And some become memories
Frozen in time forever, but most disappear
As the seasons pass.
I am not envious, but I am conscious that these two will have their own distant memories
Soon enough.


I am alone among strangers on a train, and I see a young man crying
It is him
And he is alone
Clutching a piece of paper
It is a program
I see the words IN MEMORIAM and today's date
And her name: Emma
It is spring, but the weather is cold
And he is dressed for winter
A vermillion scarf around his neck
I meet his eyes, brimming with silent tears
He looks but doesn't see
And I feel my chest tighten
And shudder a windless breath
And lose myself in my own memories
Of that day long ago.
But now he and I are together,
Strangers alone with ourselves
On the same train.


I walk by the lodge down the hill
On a Sunday evening
Just as we used to do
The lights burn in the autumn haze
But I am alone
And the only dancers
Are the raindrops on the pavement
And the only music
Is the wind rustling through the trees.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Sunday, 10 March 2013

A TIME TO REAP-Royal Court

A good play is one which manages to eke out truths from both the actors and the audience. Good acting is when that action is done naturally and believably, almost imperceptively until there is no seam between the two, and you feel at the end as though you have shared something. The intimacy of a small theatre can either have great impact or be a terrifying and uncomfortable exposure of incompetence. In A Time to Reap upstairs at the Royal Court, it is the former. With an outstanding and lively performance by Sinead Matthews, the young Polish playwright Anna Wakulik examines the controversial topics of abortion, family, and the Church. Cleverly written and inventively staged, the play takes you through the lives of the main characters in a few moments, before settling down into the main story. Marysia (Sinead), a 17 year old who voluntarily has an abortion after a consensual dalliance with a priest at the summer camp, falls in love with with the gynecologist (Owen Teale) who does the procedure, which is of course against the laws of both Church and State. Over the course of the play, she gets pregnant again, this time with the son of her lover (Max Bennett) who is a hedonistic faux student living dishonestly off of his father's largesse in London. The whole edifice is built upon a foundation of lies, lack of commitment, hypocrisy, and a Church-imposed morality that though few follow, dominates both each individual's and the country's life. This play is about the Poland in all of us. The performance so drained the actors that they didn't come back for the second curtain call, though from the comment by the American behind me ("this is the longest I have heard a British audience clap"), it was not for our lack of trying. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


Granada Spain
Mar 2013

An early morning walk up to the Alhambra. A surreal morning. A piece of grafitti on grafitti.
The result? One of my favourite pictures ever.

Saturday, 2 February 2013


Beards. They predominate. Oh yeah, and bombs. And bureaucracy, And balls, or the lack of them. These are the overriding themes of Zero Dark Thirty, a film about getting your man. In this case, Bin Laden. Before seeing this film, enticed by the hype surrounding it, I couldn't quite remember what the hell it was called, just like I have a hard time remembering the military call signs when spelling out my name to telemarketers (you know, Apple instead of Alpha and all that).  Then I was told it means twelve thirty at know 00:30 on the dark side. A bit like this film, really. But back to the beards. It seems if you want to play in the torture/Islamic world/Navy Seal space, you gotta have one. The film begins with a bearded CIA agent trying out a whole bag of Torquemada torture tricks on a defiant scraggly bearded terrorist who reveals nothing except the days of the week whilst being stuffed into a carton half his size or being led around like a dog or drinking water through a towel stuffed in his mouth. All very unpleasant, and interminable. Like the search for Bin Laden, which goes on for a very long time (as the titles keep telling us) and would still be going on if it weren't for an equally determined and defiant CIA woman with balls-a-plenty. Well, not really, though she does refer to herself as "the motherfucker who found him" when after ten years and billions she did just that. But I am getting ahead of myself. That is nearer the end of this 2hr 37 minute (but who's counting?)chest-beating exercise which apparently is true. The bureaucracy comes off very badly, with an irate CIA apparatchik eventually beating the table around which a lot of forlorn and frustrated agent/bureaucrats sit and berating them for the fact that after almost ten years they are no closer to their quarry, though they do have a lot of neat gadgets. At least he doesn't have a beard, though he has a very bad toupee.  As does James Gandolfino, who plays Leon Panetta, the head of the CIA, as a cross between Tony Soprano and Buddy Hackett. But I am missing the point, obviously. Which is that the world is run by women. Little skinny determined ones who live on Diet Coke and taffy and don't give up, ever.... That would be Jessica Chastain, who is supposedly going to win an Oscar for this. She and another secretary/researcher who finds a long lost file, use the age old method of gutsy determination and pasting people's photos on the wall (though in this case the key guy's brother's photo, which makes finding him problematic), eventually connecting the dots and finding Bin Laden. She is cocksure (not really) but you get my drift, that she is right. And Badaboom, of course she is. She finds the guy, a courier with a huge collection of mobile phones and a wife and kids who leads her to her quarry, and in the critical CIA meeting when the other ball-less wonders are talking in mealy mouthed probabilities, she puts her metaphorical gonads right on the table. Which she feels comfortable in doing, having been bombed twice already in the film and worn an even more ill-fitting toupee (called a wig if you are a woman, apparently). 119 days later, the film then hurtles to its denouement, which involves her inspiring the afore-mentioned Navy Seals and interrupting their game of horseshoes to have them sneak off in Stealth helicopters and attack the commune where UBL (I always thought his name was Osama with an O, but we all know how I am with call signs) is hiding out. This being Hollywood, they crash a helicopter, blow up a bunch of shit, pop a few terrorists, and FINALLY bag the numbah one Bad Guy. Or at least we think they did, because the only thing we have to prove this is a glimpse of something sticking out of a body bag. What's that, you might ask? A beard. Obviously. Then Jessia/Maya ends up getting a free solo ride on a C130 for her trouble, where she cries. And that is pretty much it. I wasn't bored ever. But an Oscar? Nah. I'll give the film a B. Plus. For Beard, of course.