Shameless begging..

parrotsRich and I have a couple of charity escapades coming up in the next few weeks which of course we’d welcome your support for.

First up we are donning our trusty parrot costumes again to raise money for the Parrot Zoo.  Whilst wearing these we’ll endure an overnight stay in one of the country’s reportedly most haunted buildings.  Yes, come 9th August we’ll go to Nottingham’s ‘Galleries of Justice’ (formerly a prison, courtroom and site of execution) and spend 7 hours or so hunting for ghosts.

You can sponsor us by visiting our JustGiving Page, or by texting GHOS73 and an amount (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10) to 70070.  All the cash we raise goes straight to the zoo and helps the thousands of birds they take into their care who’ve been victims of either abandonment or circumstance and now are lucky enough to enjoy a happy and healthy life amongst their feathered brethren.

Fast-forward to September and we’ll both be joined by four like-minded loons in a mission to abseil down the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.  Dressed as punks.  Obviously some time after the festival itself has disbursed!  This is an event to raise money for SOS Africa, a fantastic organisation geared up to provide education to impoverished children in southern Africa.

You can sponsor the group for this even too by JustGiving too, or alternatively you can text PUNK76 and an amount (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10) to 70070.

If you’re in a position to support either – or even both – of these events then we’d be eternally grateful as would both the charities to help them carry on their fantastic work.  Thanks all!

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Wake up and find the stars, you don’t know how lucky you are..

I’ve not written owt on here for ages, and I’m not really sure why I feel compelled to now aside from some insomnia-easing listening to 3 Daft Monkeys gave me the headline which seems to have triggered a lunchtime stream of consciousness heading in no particular direction.

Home-based upheavals aside it’s been a reasonably busy time – work’s got plenty on, and as the football season came to a climactic end at Wembley last weekend we’ve got the World Cup to look forward to.  Prior to the play-off final I actually confessed to the numerous Derby supporting friends and colleagues that I have that I did have a part of me that actually wanted the Rams to succeed.  What? I hear you say. It does feel dirty – but putting the obvious parochial disdain aside the way that they have gone about their season has been a good model to aspire to aside from the final game of course.  Young players, attractive football, not spending a fortune – contrast that with QPR who have operated beyond their means for time immemorial – part of the very problem that blights football.  I won’t deny though that come the day and come the end, Zamora finishing off a beautiful lay-off from Richard Keogh after Jake ‘Bucko’ Buxton was turned inside out was actually pretty damn funny and I think the ferocity of my enjoyment perhaps betrays my true feelings.

Plus it’s nice to have the chance to play ‘em again next year rather than either looking enviously upwards as they hone in on the reaching-12-points party.

photophotoBefore that I went to a wedding at a zoo – how awesome is that?  Jen, who I work with, married Ade – it was a lovely ceremony in the manor house in the grounds of Chester Zoo, so I got to enjoy the usual celebrations that go with a wedding with the added bonus of getting to see a load of animals too!  I have been probably rightly criticised by fellow colleagues upon returning to work that I maybe took too many pictures of animals and not enough of the wedding, but I know some more of my team were being suitably snap-happy with proper cameras so I think between us we have it covered.  Aside from the obviously awesome wedding shenanigans the two highlights outside of that of note were one of tour guides pointing out her colleague was ‘attempting to force their way in from behind’ (fnar) and a clumsy male Jaguar going from lurking mysteriously in a tree to ending up on the floor under the branch that just snapped. On top of his very unimpressed looking female Jaguar companion.

The photo to the right probably doesn’t do it justice, much as the photo on the left taken zoomed in certainly doesn’t do justice to the happy couple and their awesome wedding cake made by Jen’s aunty.  It was delicious.

Then on to next weekend through a series of fortunate events I find myself with a ticket to go and see Carl Froch hopefully smash George Groves into the next millennium at Wembley Stadium, which will hopefully still be damp from Derby County tears.  I’m not big into boxing, but ‘the Cobra’ is not only from Nottingham, he’s from my bit of Nottingham so it’s good to support him.  After the controversial stoppage of their previous fight (which is a shame really, as Froch was clearly about to take him out).  So fingers crossed for a favourable outcome there.

On a penultimate note, check out this awesome video that aired on Notts TV the other day.  Alas I’ve yet to check out the channel as I don’t have Freeview at the moment, plus being just north of Loughborough I might not be able to access it as we’re likely to point at the wrong transmitter.  Anyway, a tribute to Torvill and Dean from the good people of Nottingham.  Dancing on Ice certainly isn’t something that generally floats my boat, but their performance of Bolero was pretty special even for this immovable object, and the tribute from regular folk from Nottingham is charming:

Finally the news we had hoped wouldn’t happen was the result in the search for Elaine, she was found and sadly was no longer with us.  Her funeral was beautiful and moving, her family and friends brave and courageous – and Andy in particular deserves your support for an epic challenge that he’s undertaking to raise money for the charity ‘Missing People’ who helped him through the process of undertaking the search while it was still live.  To do that he’s cycling from Edinburgh to London – if you would like to support him, then do it by clicking here and sponsoring him: http://www.justgiving.com/findelaine

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Hey bro, take it slow..

Chance clickings on a friend’s Facebook feed found this rendering of Dolly Parton singing Jolene, but played at 33 rather than 45rpm.  It’s ace.

My favourite one along these lines though was finding out what happens to The Osmonds ‘Crazy Horses’ when it’s slowed down – it turns into some kind of grungy metal anthem!  The themed dancers are, um, interesting too.

Reminds me of a ye olde blog post I did about hyper-slowing down a Justin Bieber song which turned it into some kind of mesmerisingly beautiful ambient soundscape.  Alas the sound files I linked to back in 2010 don’t seem to be online any more :(

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I thought at first there’d been a mistake..

.. when a caller dropped me off a cake.

cake

These happen to be a words from a song I’m pretty fond of (see video link below), but also what actually happened to me on Sunday.

My Ma had arranged to pop around for some technical support related stuff which, whilst it turned out to be pretty genuine, was a front for a sneaky arrangement she’d been making.  Because she’d been clandestinely arranging for me to in so that a visitor could drop off a surprise for me.

Margaret, who runs a company called Maggie’s Marvellous Cakes has pledged to make one cake every week for somebody, and opened up nominations via Facebook which is where Ma continued the recent theme people seem to have taken up with a zeal which is making me feel awkward about the whole bone marrow donation thing.  Indeed, it was even mentioned during our company’s last balcony briefing (although mercifully the senior dude in question clearly didn’t have his notes so didn’t know my name!).

Anyway, residual awkwardness aside Ma popped off to ‘pick up her hat’ from the car and came back with Margaret who was bearing a big cake box.  I was ensconced on the settee with a laptop on my knee sorting out Ma’s iTunes and was a little bit confused even as she explained why she was there.  As she was on the way to walk her dogs there was no time for tea and a lengthy chat so the long term impression I’ll have formed will have been as a slightly shell-shocked mute.

However, the New York style cheesecake festooned with strawberries and blueberries was a visual and literal feast enjoyed by all of us.  So if you’re in the market for some rather splendid cake then you should certainly give Maggie’s page on Facebook a look, or maybe nominations are still open if you know somebody deserving of a surprise tasty treat?

Unlike in the song below by Miles and Erica, I didn’t take a slice and wrap up the rest – although I did share with Ma, Dad, Cat, Rich and Em – and we still have enough left for small slice each tonight.

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Bone marrow donation video diary #3

Post-surgery update – it was a success on all levels, the necessary amount of bone marrow has gone winging its’ way to the recipient, and whilst a bit tired and bruised I feel pretty good!

Learning that my recipient is a young boy feels really fitting, as I joined the scheme as part of Joel’s campaign – and it’s especially heartening as a child has a better chance of recovery too.

Not that I ever thought I would, but I genuinely have no regrets at all and feel very pleased to have been able to help somebody like this.

In that vein, please consider registering if you are eligible at Anthony Nolan or, if over 30, Delete Blood Cancer

I discovered today that we have a little over 500k registered in the UK. Germany have more than 4 million, and a high proportion of UK sufferers of blood cancer owe thanks to that given the genetic similarities between us and the Germans leading to more matches.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could follow their lead and achieve that kind of number of would-be donors?

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Bone marrow donation video diary #2

Just a short update this time, fear not! I’ve arrived safe and sound at the London Clinic and am currently sipping orange juice watching Deal or No Deal!

Tomorrow morning is the operation, then the deed is done!

As before, if you’re 30 or under please consider joining the register at Anthony Nolan. If you’re aged 31-55 then you can register at Delete Blood Cancer.

Thanks! And see you on the other side!

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Bone marrow donation video diary #1

Probably for the first and last time I elected to do a video blog in the run-up to my operation tomorrow to donate stem cells to somebody suffering from Leukaemia or Lymphoma.  Somehow the more human touch of talking felt nicer than trying to write stuff down, which I’ve done before anyway.

It was a one-take job so excuse the fumbling for words and errant cockatiel, but hopefully it gets the point across I wanted to.

Should you feel inspired, please visit Anthony Nolan online and get yourself registered.  Thanks!

If you fall outside of their fairly stringent age range (which I now do!) then you can also register for bone marrow donation at Delete Blood Cancer online and get yourself registered if you are 55 or under.

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’tis the season to be jolly..

elaine.. or at least it is for many of us.

Less so for one of my good friends Andy.  His Mum went missing on 9th December and hasn’t been seen since despite a very well publicised campaign for information.  Elaine Harrison was last seen in the Castle Marina area of Nottingham at around 15:30 on 9th December.  She was wearing a grey fleecy jacket with white fur trim, dark trousers and white trainers.  She’s 59 years old and has collar length grey hair, and wears silver-framed glasses.

It would be the best Christmas present ever for the Harrisons to have Elaine back amongst them to really celebrate Christmas.  Andy has already had to get through his birthday without her, and she’s also missed her nephew in his nativity play.

So please take a moment to look at the photo of Elaine and keep an eye out for her, if you have any information as to her whereabouts then please get in touch with the police via the non-emergency number 101.  Facebook users give this page a like to keep up to date with the latest information, such as there is at the moment.

Also of course have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

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Moulettes at Glee Club, Nottingham

Whilst thousands of people vacuously departed the Nottingham Arena having endured a JLS concert tonight Cat and I were smiling on the way back to the car having been treated to not just the headline act we’d planned to see, but two new support acts.  For the price of one JLS ticket we both had something to eat in a nearby restaurant, a few drinks and entry to tonight’s gig to see the Moulettes.  Pretty bargainous really.

I find it both sad and kinda nice that it’s this way – a few dozen folk nestled in the intimate enclave that is the Glee Club in Nottingham to appreciate what I would wager, not being a connoisseur of the JLS back catalogue, a spectacularly more significant array of talent than the multitude of arena drones, but really it deserves to be the other way around.

Georgie Rose kicked off proceedings

Georgie Rose kicked off proceedings

First on stage was Georgie Rose from our very own Nottinghamshire, Mansfield to be precise.  She immediately and confidently took to the stage with a virtuoso display of picking on a guitar accompanied by a fantastic voice.  Her ability to pick through the strings on the guitar simultaneously mesmerises me – and gives a rich sound that sounds almost like there’s a bass guitar in the mix somewhere too.

Definitely one to check out if you see her on any local billings.

Next up was Liz Green who has accompanied the Moulettes throughout their recent touring.  Initially performing with a guitar she interchanged between that and a keyboard, and played both deftly – her songs were fun and charming and energetic with some fun banter with the crowd in between to boot.  Oh, and how could I forget the mouse trumpet solo?  Another charming performance that left me feeling like I’d already had value for money out of my ticket before the headline act was even on stage.

Liz Green here behind her keyboard

Liz Green here behind her keyboard

One of the things I really like about heading out to a gig where you know the main act is the potential to pick up on some new ones – indeed, that’s how I discovered the Moulettes initially from their supporting the Levellers on their acoustic tour a couple of years ago.  Sometimes it can be hit and miss, tonight it felt like we hit the jackpot twice before the main act even came on which is always a lovely happenstance!

The Moulettes took to the stage, a slightly adjusted line up to that which I’d seen before.  Hannah Miller provides the lead vocals whilst playing either cello or guitar, Ollie Austin plays guitar, drums, glockenspiel whilst also providing backing vocals/sound effects (often three or more at the same time!), Jim Mortimore plays double bass and backing vocals whilst Anisa Arslanagic overlays her violin and also backing vocals.  They were joined for a number of songs by a harp and clarinet player who also sang backing vocals too – I’m afraid I couldn’t find her name though :(

Time for the main event - the Moulettes take to the stage..

Time for the main event – the Moulettes take to the stage..

The melodic and sometimes hypnotic strings combined with melodic and harmonised vocals underpinned by punchy and ever-changing rhythms gives them a sound that I find difficult to describe given my lack of musical understanding.  It’s awesome though, and it’s brought alive on stage by the expressive and infectiously enthusiastic reactions from the band.

Not only are these wonderfully accomplished musicians impressing with their abilities – it’s clear they’re really enjoying themselves, as they lock eyes momentarily with each other to keep time as a beat switches from a waltz to something much faster – or an abrupt silence – you catch fleeting smiles, eye sparkles and a joy to just be playing.  Each of them is mesmerising to watch if you take a few minutes to observe them during a song.

Hannah betrays nearly every feeling that runs through the songs with her facial expressions, and even the soaring temperature in the venue causing her to forget a few words didn’t throw her off stride for too long as a helpful audience member in the front row helped her get back on track.

Ollie really destroys the notion that blokes can’t multitask, switching from guitar to full on drumming in seconds, he’ll then bring back the guitar but carry on the percussion with feet and hands in between strums all whilst never missing the moments when his vocals are needed too, all delivered with a brilliantly casual and relaxed demeanour that betrays how much expertise and concentration is being demonstrated out there.

Jim gives the bassy oomph at the perfect moment when slow ballads kick in to a darker atmospheric mood or more of a stomping tune and too is on hand to lend his vocals to the harmony mix that is impressive in its own right before you consider the complex layers of instrumental accompaniment underpinning it.

Anisa’s violin gives that high end melodic accompaniment to its larger relatives in the string section – anyone who knows me will note the violin is often present in my favourite music, it gives real soul and emotion somehow to a piece of music when used well – and it is here, Anisa too adds to the overall vocal harmonising too.

Whilst nestled in the corner of the stage for only some of the set the harp, clarinet and backing vocals of the lady whose name I don’t know (sorry!) added that extra layer to the whirling dervish that Moulettes songs become.

The set was a mixture of the familiar and songs from the new album that is due out next spring.  Whilst I do like Moulettes recordings very much, they never seem to quite capture the vibrancy of their live performances (something not uncommon with many artists I like, I might add!), however, I’d recommend checking some out nonetheless.

So for a mere £8 a piece we were treated to a veritable smorgasbord of excellent music – I’ll be certainly exploring more of Georgia and Liz’s respective music and look forward to the forthcoming Moulettes album.  I quite enjoyed the Glee Club as a venue too – the seats got a bit uncomfortable after a while and sitting down at a gig is a bit, well, weird – but worked well for this more relaxed and melodic gig to those I typically find myself at.

It will be interesting to see if they opt for a seated arrangement for when we go to see The Beards play there in February!

I tell you what else is good about The Glee Club too, because they unusually insist you arrive between 7:30 and 8:00, it gets everyone in the venue and settled in plenty of time before the entertainment starts – and there was no background chatter or interruptions I could detect during the performances (something I’m normally very sensitive to and irked by) – either it was down to that or a particularly polite and attentive crowd.

Either way, it made for a splendidly enjoyable evening!

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Slow cooker Irn Bru pulled pork recipe..

I’ve long been a fan of pulled pork (both because it’s delicious, and because it can lead to innuendo overload of course).  I never really thought about making it, but when Cat unearthed the dormant slow cooker to make some healthy food it occurred to me that this would be a perfect vessel to experiment with this easy to make culinary deliciousness.

Upon researching online I found a few intriguing recipes involving using Coca Cola or Dr Pepper to slow cook the pork joint in, which piqued my interest sufficiently to decide to go for an Irn Bru variant, partly to be a bit different, but partly because in my Forest circle of friends we have a probably-inane-to-the-outside in-joke around anything Scottish and Oscar – so it’s officially Oscar Austin Memorial Pulled Pork.

So having marinated the meat overnight in a spice and Worcestershire Sauce mixture I set everything in motion this morning and having got back from football I can happily announce that when coupled with some Newman’s Own Sticky Barbecue Sauce in a flatbread burrito style, it’s bloody delicious!  Definitely something I’ll be making again, and probably including some other fillings like coleslaw and/or rice or similar.  Although an all-meat wrap is a win in anyone’s language!

Should you wish to replicate this piece of culinary wizardry then you will need:

Ingredients

Ingredients

One shoulder of pork
Seasoning (I used Salt, Pepper, Paprika and Chilli)
Worcestershire Sauce
Barbecue Sauce
Flatbreads
Irn Bru (I used a litre of it!)

To prepare I rubbed the meat with the dry seasoning mixture then added Worcestershire Sauce and left the meat in a ziplock bag in the fridge overnight.  I suppose if you were in a hurry you could get cracking after a few hours, but given this is a slow cooker mission then prior planning is key anyway!

photo 2

Once you’re ready to get cracking transfer the meat to the slow cooker and pour in the Irn Bru so that it’s covering the meat.  Put the lid on, what it on low and leave it for 10-11 hours (my work-followed-by-football day meant it was 11 hours – if I’d been in I’d have struggled I think to leave it that long!).

Remove the meat from the cooker and it should be pretty easy to remove the fat from it – once you’ve got yourself a nice lean lump of cooked pork in some kind of bowl you can set to it with two forks and pull it apart into a lovely pile of shredded goodness.  Originally I had planned to add some of the sauce back to it, but elected not to – so I disposed of the sauce.

Because I was too excited/poor planned/lazy to have prepared some coleslaw or any other accompaniments I whacked the pulled pork straight into some warmed flatbreads, applied a healthy slug of barbecue sauce and wrapped it up burrito style and tucked in.  It was a delicious moment!

photo 3

Tender fally-aparty pork with a gentle spicy kick along with a hint of Irn Bru goodness and some lovely caramelisedy bits from the edges where the joint had basically so broiled in the lovely sticky Scottish elixir.

Enjoy!

Since it was inspired by, and is now named after Oscar Austin, here’s a picture of him, too.

photo

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