Thursday 13 May 2010

Don't mention the war

We are on tenterhooks because tonight our home will be invaded by the Germans. When I say Germans, I mean German. The boy is doing German to GCSE, so we have the privilege of a German exchange student. I'm not sure it's an entirely fair exchange as he comes to us for 10 days, and the boy only gets to go there for a week. Still if they don't get on (and a few exchanges on Facebook have yet to establish any common ground) that may not be a bad thing. The visitor will occupy the spare room, and that's where I keep all my clothes, so I've had to decamp and shove a room's worth of clothes into two small drawers. I think we were slightly conned - it appeared when the boy chose German as a subject that the exchange was a compulsory part of the deal...but it transpires that in fact there are only 11 doing the exchange - leaving some 20 who ducked out. So I think I slightly had the wool pulled over my eyes.

Actually I think we're quite lucky - the boy's best friend is getting a girl. She's two years older than him, and in her communications is asking about the local nightclubs, etc whilst he is asking her which XBox games does she like...

Generally the exchange students will be spending time in school...poor them...but will also be treated to trips to see the sights of London. Actually there seems to be so much building work going on that they may be getting to see the sites of London. I'm not sure such things have been arranged in Germany as the school there is pretty much in the middle of nowhere in particular. As our finale, we're all trooping off to see Florence and The Machine....which might be brilliant or it might be a disaster depending on his musical tastes...imagine if he only likes jazz....

Of one thing I'm certain, the boy will benefit enormously. Not only will he be able to talk for an extended period with a native speaker, but when he goes there in July he will be totally immersed - and if I know the boy well, then that is something which will totally appeal. He already has much affection for the country - we went there on holiday last year and loved it. If you want to you can read about that little adventure here I'm already a complete fan of the country having spent many happy childhood holidays there and some amazing times as a student...I hope the boy will feel the same.

Naturally we're going to be serving traditional British food - lasagne, pizza, coq au vin, etc, etc. So I hope he enjoys the change in diet...after all they only eat sausages, don't they. We thought we shouldn't watch re-runs of Dad's Army, but Fawlty Towers would be OK. And we're not going to make jokes about who is going to get their towel down to the bathroom first. That would be tasteless.

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Slipping up on banana skins

"All credit to the original photographer who retains the copyright"

I'm having trouble with bananas again. It seems bananas have always given me problems, but these days they're a real challenge. The thing is, I like to eat a banana for my lunch...pretty much every day given the chance. But for some reason, the days of buying yellow bananas seems to be over. All our local shops sell are green ones. It wouldn't be so bad if they were supposed to be green, but it's just that they're unripe and inedible. Ah I hear you cry, why not buy in advance and let them turn yellow on your desk. A good point well made, but these bananas turn from green to black swifter than you can imagine. And anyway, I'm not so good at planning ahead. So my daily lunchtime routine involves treking round every sandwich shop (don't bother with Sainsbury's because there they are always very, very green) until I find something that might just be edible. What has happened? Have the banana boats got quicker so they arrive very quickly after they've been cut off the banana tree? I just don't know, but it is a right pain.

I had heard that there will be no more bananas in 50 years because a disease is killing them off, but it turns out this is just another one of those urban myths that do the rounds and trip up the gullible like me.

There's also been a trade war waged by Europe and America because of bananas..something to do with us favouring the products from our old colonies.

Stepfather in Cyprus told us tales of when he used to work unloading bananas...presumably from the bateaux de bananes...and just occasionally you'd find poisonous snakes and poisonous spiders woken up from their slumbers by the sudden cold. I think he ran a mile, but I can't really remember so well.

Bananas have always been a problem for me. My earliest banana memory was whilst at a two day interview for a place at St Edmunds College Oxford. I'd done ok, but not brilliantly at the entrance exam....I'd been distracted by the discovery of in particular, and my interest in her hadn't helped my exam technique. Anyway, over lunch one of my fellow applicants, a rather enticing girl, said, "What is it about can't eat them without it seeming rude." I blushed, but didn't decline her offer of seeing round her room. I may have been distracted again as I ended up going to Exeter University.

On the other hand, I get on quite well when I read Bateau de Banane...may be I should stick to blogs and eat apples instead

Monday 10 May 2010

On reflection

Only in Chigwell...would you find a £120,000 sports car finished in chrome (yes it reflects just like your bath taps should)...with an advertising slogan for a local business down the sides. Chigwell is the most ridiculous place in the whole world, of that I am convinced!

On the other hand, I love East feels entirely real. And I'm lucky enough that when I wake up and feel energetic (admittedly not as often this year as last) I can cycle a full 30km to work - along the canals that wind their way through to the heart of London - I pop out just by the Rotherhithe tunnel. I have mentioned this before - although the distance has gone up somewhat this year (for reasons to be explained in the fullness of time). Along the canals, I see the old Matchbox toy factory - recently reduced to a pile of rubble, the Olympic site - going up so quickly, that you might think it'll be finished this year. And a big pink modern building with the sign H Forman on the side. I kept meaning to google it, but didn't. Fortunately, Griff Rhys Jones last year did a series on TV about our riverways and happened to head down this canal. It turns out that this is London's last salmon smokery and had been relocated after a fight with the Olympic organisers. I was pleased to know this, and yet more pleased when I cycled past and saw a banner declaring there is now a restaurant. We went there on Friday night, and it rocked - to get to it you drive through one of the eastend's old industrial estates - much in decline. The location is on Fish Island...I'm not sure it's an island, and strongly suspect the fish upped and left sometime ago...even though they're returning now. Naturally we had smoked salmon to start and the whole meal was absolutely delicious. As was the truffle mash, and the bubble and squeek I had with my lamb. The best restaurant I've been to for ages. But on Friday night, the place was practically empty - what a shame - no doubt it will begin to fill as 2012 nears, but I'm sure it should have more people now. You sit looking out over the canal directly over the Olympic stadium which is amazing - I hope that soon they will illuminate it and it will become a beacon. There's also an art gallery if you feel the need. They also do Saturday and Sunday I strongly suggest that if you get the opportunity, and can find your way, then give it a try. Formans. Here's a picture of the smoking clean as a whistle.