Sunday, 24 June 2007

3 things that happened this weekend

  1. I drank Akvavit from Finland (and so much else besides).

  2. I spent my first night in a tent on the drop zone.

  3. I discovered that my capacity for smooching was far higher than I'd imagined.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Free hardcore

I was sent this picture by two lovely people. Doesn't it just beg the question: what goes on behind closed doors in Gloucestershire villages?

It's not a fecking wind "mill"

It's a wind turbine.

There is no mill. None. There is a turbine. Hence the name.

Are we all clear now? Good.

SotD: Thursday 21st June

A shirt for the solstice.

Today I opted for a five-stripe purple-on-white shirt

Vital statistics:
Price: 4/5 (but bought in the sale :-)
Colour: 3/5
Fabric: 5/5
Fit: 3.5/5
Total: 15.5/20

Special features: Top-quality fabric, side gussets, removable collar stiffeners.

Review-Gi-Oh! summary:
For: Great fabric, good pattern, great to wear.
Against: Absolutely nothing. Great shirt.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

"Which side do you dress?"

I was asked this question today - to my continual amusement - whilst I was being measured for a suit.

This question itself probably isn't that strange, but I thought it worth mentioning, as this is the first time I can remember being asked it. And given that the person asking it was on her knees in front of me, with a tape measure in hand.

All of which is probably less interesting to you than the answer I gave her.

I will confess that I immediately thought of the line from Fry and Laurie:

"The side nearest the window, usually."

But instead I plumped for the less amusing, but more honest:

"To the left."

So there's something you didn't know about me before today.

The whole experience (of being measured for a suit, not of being asked the question! You're being silly.) was something I'd been looking forward to for some time, as I'm unaccountably excited about getting my first made-to-my-measurements suit. The word for which, by the way, is "bespoke" - meaning that the suit is made to ones own measurements. Apparently "made to measure" - counterintuitively - means something quite different (altering an already-made suit to ones own measurements).

Come to think of it, it'll be my second bespoke suit, as my skydiving jump suit was built especially for me.

Oh, and it'll be a lounge suit. I love the sound of that phrase - evocative of lounging around clubs looking effortlessly, sexily cool. That means it'll be a two-piece suit in what I hope will be a slightly more relaxed cut than the really formal sharp-edged business suits you might see every day (how am I supposed to know what you see every day?).

For the record, I went for a dark blue cloth, with a lighter check. The lining will be "bright and bold", and in fact will be a surprise to me, as apparently the tailor reserves the right to pick the one he likes the most. Despite the fact that he's not the one that'll be doing the lounging.

It's to be a two-button jacket (although I would naturally never be gauche enough to fasten the lower button) with a fitted cut, notched lapels and a double vent.

I've also done "The Necessary" and asked for working buttons on the jacket cuffs (in case I ever need to interrupt my lounging to roll them up and get my hands dirty), and declined to have belt loops on the trousers ('cos they're made for me, so I shan't need a belt).

Now I just have to wait for the tailor to do his work (7 to 10 weeks!) and we'll find out exactly how bad my taste and/or body shape really are.

SotD: Tuesday 19th June

What does one wear to get measured for a suit?

I opted for a multi-striped, single cuff, fitted shirt. A very bold statement, this one, more of an evening shirt than a work shirt perhaps. Nevertheless, a great fit; the sleeves in particular are a perfect length. And no placket on this one, again, a pleasant change.

Vital statistics:
Price: 2/5
Colour: 4.5/5
Fabric: 3/5
Fit: 4/5
Total: 13.5/20

Special features: Two buttons on the cuff.

Review-Gi-Oh! summary:
For: Funky colour. I don't think the score above reflects how much I like this shirt.
Against: Could be considered a bit leery. But why not?

Monday, 18 June 2007

SotD: Monday 18th June

Vital statistics:
Price: 3/5 (but bought in the sale :-)
Colour: 5/5
Fabric: 3.5/5
Fit: 4/5
Total: 15.5/20 (the highest we've seen so far! Amazing!)

Special features: Matching cuff-links, embroidered side gussets, removable collar stiffeners.

Review-Gi-Oh! summary:
For: Very, very funky colour.
Against: Colour a bit shocking for some occasions.

Friday, 15 June 2007

SotD: Friday 16th June

Today's shirt is purple, with white and gold stripes. It's a very bold shirt, perfectly suited to a Friday, probably less dressy than some of the others we've seen so far. It has squared-off double cuffs, as I'm sure you've come to expect.

This is one of those shirts that come supplied with cuff-links, which I'm never sure about for at least two reasons:
  1. I kind of resent the implication that the makers think the buyer (i.e. me) either doesn't have any cuff-links, or that the ones they do have aren't good enough for their shirt. Or that they think they know better what "works" with the shirt's "concept". Humph.
  2. I have a suspicion that it's a bit naff. That said, a number of people (from both XX and XY varieties) have commented on it in the past, so perhaps it's one of those accessorising details I keep hearing about.
And finally, no placket at all on this shirt, which is a relief after the last few days. Honestly, I was getting placket fatigue.

Vital statistics:
Price: 3/5 (but bought in the sale :-)
Colour: 5/5
Fabric: 3.5/5
Fit: 4/5
Total: 15.5/20 (the highest we've seen so far! Amazing!)
Special features: Matching cuff-links, embroidered side gussets, removable collar stiffeners.

Review-Gi-Oh! summary:
For: Very, very funky colour.
Against: Colour a bit shocking for some occasions.

Word of the day: Slum

slum [sluhm]
– verb

To add up the number of pounds you lost this week.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Chilli with circus performer?

That's going to be one well-filled jacket potato.
You get a lot for your money these days.

Vintage Laphroaig Whisky

It's here!

Laphroaig Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky, vintage December 1989, aged 17 years.

"Specially selected and bottled for Friends of Laphroaig from the finest casks of their age, on the occasion of the 2007 Feis Ile and opening of the new Friends Lounge."

And to make matters worse

...those shirts I ordered weeks ago arrived today.

And they're lovely.

SotD: Thursday 14th June

Today's shirt is a sort of maroon-burgundy, far nicer than it sounds, with a cutaway collar and squared-off double cuffs. True to form, it has the terribly common formal placket. Dunno about you, Reader, but I'm getting a bit tired of that particular detail.

I wasn't expecting to enjoy wearing this shirt - in fact I'd already lifted it out of the wardrobe to be recyclified - but I surprised myself 'cos it's pretty nice, actually. Despite that, it doesn't score very highly, as we peruse the vital statistics.

Vital statistics:
Price: 2/5
Colour: 2/5
Fabric: 3/5
Fit: 3/5
Total: 10/20
Special features: Formal placket, side gussets, removable collar stiffeners. Nothing new here.

Review-Gi-Oh! summary:
For: Funky colour. Goes well with black jeans.
Against: Too damn large on the body, like all the rest.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

SotD: Wednesday 13th June

Today's shirt is plain white, made from two-fold 140s Italian Sea Island quality cotton, with real Mother-of-pearl buttons. It's got the by-now-standard square double cuff, and its fully fitted with an honest-to-goodness formal placket. Oh yes.

This is a shirt of contrasts. It's the most expensive shirt we've seen so far in Review-Gi-Oh, and the fabric is the reason for that - it's just so darned lovely. Actually, it's not darned at all, is it? I should have written "damned" there. Anyhoo, it's a very luxurious cotton, almost silky to the touch, and feels lovely to wear (and feel, if there are any ladies out there who disbelieve me, and want to find out for themselves!).

It's also the plainest shirt we've seen so far - simple plain white, with no other check, stripe, pattern or ornamentation. Despite that, and the slightly large fit - a feature of some of my older shirts - it's a fine article.

Vital statistics:

Price: 5/5
Colour: 1/5
Fabric: 5/5
Fit: 3/5
Total: 14/20

Special features: Mother of pearl buttons, formal placket, side gussets, removable collar stiffeners. Is there nothing this shirt can't do?!

Review-Gi-Oh! summary:
For: This shirt is just lovely to wear. I love the fit and feel.
Against: Nothing really, slightly large on the body. It's a keeper!

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

SotD: Tuesday 12th June

Today's shirt is a Mason Poplin pink shirt with a blue check by Charles Tyrwhitt.

The French cuffs are squared, rather than rounded, and it has a classic collar and a formal placket. Crikey.

It's a teensy bit large on the body, but the sleeves are just the right length.

Vital statistics:
Price: 3/5
Colour: 3/5
Fabric: 3.5/5
Fit: 3/5
Total: 12.5/20
Special features: Formal placket, side gussets, removable collar stiffeners.

Review-Gi-Oh! summary:
For: I love this shirt. Like the colour, like the fit and feel.
Against: Nothing really, slightly large on the body. It's a keeper!

Why do we "herd" sheep

...when they come in a "flock"?

By "we", I mean "people". I don't herd sheep, and I'm guessing you don't either, or you wouldn't be sitting there reading this nonsense.

But I saw a man doing it today. Or at least, I saw a man and two dogs chasing after some sheep in a field, and I assumed he was herding them. The sheep, not the dogs.

Oh stop it, you're confusing me now.

Monday, 11 June 2007

SotD: Monday 11th June

A short-sleeved casual shirt today, because it's such a nice day.
It's made by Howies, who are a good company.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Word of the day: Swum

swum [swuhm]
– verb

To add up the number of lengths you've just done.

The Great Shirt Review-Gi-Oh: Friday 8th June

A day off today, as I'm away from home helping celebrate my niece's 5th birthday.

Happy Birthday Alba!

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Turkey egg vs Chicken egg

Here you can see the contenders, the turkey egg on the left, with its gaudy speckled pattern and pale shell. It's significantly larger than the chicken egg, and has a more tapered top. More egg-shaped, you might say. Fancy that.

The chicken egg, on the right, is from a Columbian Blacktail, and is classified as large. You can just see the good old Lion mark on the bottom.

I ate the eggs side by side, if you can imagine that. Meaning that I cooked one after the other, then put them on the same plate (never allowing them to touch!). I ate them using the same fork, and for reasons of fairness, made sure to use the same mouth, tongue and tastebuds for each.

As for cooking method, both eggs were lightly scrambled using a four-tined steel fork, seasoned with both salt and pepper, and then cooked in unsalted butter (quite possibly more butter than was strictly necessary). I used my dedicated omlette pan, but I don't think it minded. No additional milk or butter was used in the scrambling process in order to preserve the distinct flavour of the different eggs.

The turkey egg had a larger yolk, as would be expected, and the cooked scramble was noticeably yellower than that from the hen egg. There were no nasty gloopy bits in the finished scramble, as there can be with goose eggs, and the texture was quite similar to the chicken egg.

I can report that the turkey egg was significantly tastier. There wasn't a particularly strong turkey flavour, but the flavour was definitely pleasant. Was it worth the price (£1.40 for a single egg, comparable with the price of half a dozen organic chicken eggs)? I think for novelty value it was. But I wouldn't want to spend that every day.

So there you have it: Turkey vs Chicken - Turkey wins!

The Great Shirt Review-Gi-Oh: Thursday 7th June

Today's shirt is pale pink with a 4cm white check, and cutaway collar, by Next. The French cuffs are rounded, rather than sqaure. Although it's cotton, it's always been a bit scratchy, and is not amongst my preferred shirts. It probably won't survive the Great Shirt Review-Gi-Oh!

Vital statistics:
Price: 2/5
Colour: 3/5
Fabric: 2/5
Fit: 3/5
Special features: Pocket on left breast
Review-Gi-Oh! summary:
For: I don't really feel like I've had my moneysworth out of this shirt.
Against: Tricky to iron, a bit large. Shapeless collar without a tie.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

The Great Shirt Review-Gi-Oh: Wednesday 6th June

Today's shirt is a cotton five-colour stripe on white, with a single cuff (with two buttons) from Burtons.

It's the newest shirt in my wardrobe, slim-fit, with darts on the rear, and side gussets (those little triangle bits at the bottom of the side seams). It's received two positive comments already today.

Vital statistics:
Price: 2/5
Colour: 4/5 (the highest we've seen so far)
Fabric: 3/5
Fit: 4/5 (sleeves too long)
Total: 13/20
Special features: Crazy stripes, side gussets

Review-Gi-Oh! summary:
For: Great shirt, stunning colours, brand new.
Against: Sleeves too long.
This one could be the first keeper!

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

I bought a turkey egg!

Yes, I finally did it, and I'm very pleased with myself. It was as simple as walking into the shop and paying. Blimey!

The egg is quite large compared to a chicken egg, and visually exciting: white with brownish speckles. It's also a really pleasing eggy shape, with a nicely pointed narrow end (or "top", as I like to call it). There's a nice weight to it, too; it feels good in the hand, quite "lobbable".

Now I need to devise a method of preparation and consumption that will do justice to the sweet, exciting little thing. Until then, I'm going to sit it on my kitchen window where I can look at it.

The Great Shirt Review-Gi-Oh: Tueday 5th June

The first day of the Great Shirt Review-Gi-Oh!

Today's shirt is a 100% cotton shirt from Next. It's white, with a blue check, about 2cm square. The double (or French) cuffs are rounded and the collar is cutaway, also known as a Windsor collar.
The body's a little large - it's not a fitted shirt, and I'm not a big chap - but the sleeves are about the perfect length.

This is one of my older shirts, bought when I first started my dalliance with cotton double-cuffs. I think I probably paid about £20.
Vital statistics:
Price: 1/5
Colour: 3/5
Fabric: 1/5
Fit: 2/5
Total: 7/20
Special features: Pocket on left breast

Review-Gi-Oh! summary:
For: Great shirt, one of my favourites, sentimental value.
Against: It's pretty thin, pretty tired, a bit large. Shapeless collar without a tie.

Announcing the Great Shirt Review-Gi-Oh!

My nephew likes to play a trading card game called Yu-Gi-Oh! (I think the exclaimation mark is part of the trademark), the rules of which are impenentrable to me, and seem to change in order to favour him winning whenever he plays against me.

This very game provides the inspiration for solving my shirt problem: the Great Shirt Review-Gi-Oh!

Instead of coolly and rationally picking the shirts I wear least, or that fit poorly, I've come up with a scheme both cunning and laborious. I'll wear every shirt for a day - that's one shirt a day for the next two weeks - and do a little comparison between them. I'll evaluate them for fit and fabric, for colour and style. It'll be like a play-off, Top Trumps for my wardrobe. The ones that don't make the cut get donated to a charity shop of my choosing.

I won't pre-judge the outcome, just let it happen and see where it leads.

It's time for the Great Shirt Review-Gi-Oh. Let battle commence!

Look what I found!

Whilst I was out for a stroll this morning, I chanced upon this little chap, lying by the side of the road.

The former occupant had already vacated it so I'm not sure what it previously contained. I'm fairly sure it was some sort of bird, though.

Is it me, or am I going through an egg phase?

Posted by Picasa

Monday, 4 June 2007

It's time to admit that I may have a problem

Confession time.

I, Jaffle McSnaffle, have too many shirts. Way too many. An embarrassingly large number.

As I was ironing this evening, I realised that I'd run out of coathangers, and my wardrobe was full, and there were still a bunch of shirts unironed.

So I counted them. And then I counted them again. And then - just to be sure - I counted them a third time. It didn't get any less. There were sixteen shirts every time.

Sixteen. Man, and that's not including one evening shirt, one casual shirt, three short-sleeved shirts, or the two I ordered a couple of weeks ago. *ahem*

Let me explain. For those that don't know, I am self-employed and run my own business. This means I can pretty much wear what I want to work - and it's usually jeans and a T-shirt. Exactly why I need sixteen shirts when I don't *have* to wear them is beyond me. I mean, sure I'll wear them when I go out, but I'd have to be out every night for two weeks before I'd need to think about washing them again.

So, having come to the realisation that I have a problem, it's time to own up to it.

But what to do? After I'd counted the shirts for the third time, and still arrived at the same number, I nearly recycled two randomly-selected shirts straight away in sheer panic.

That will never do. Such random behaviour can only lead to madness. Instead, I've decided to sleep on it, and see if I can come up with a better plan.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

My First Team Sprint Triathlon

Well the day of the Blenheim Triathlon was bright, sunny and clear, and we knew we were on for a good day. Our race we scheduled to start at 11am, and at the appointed time, our team's swimmer entered the lake water for the 750 metre swim. The temperature was allegedly "pleasant" at about 18 degrees, and our man completed the course in a storming 20 minutes. He then scrambled ashore, dashed 400 metres uphill to the handover point (called Transition), and handed over his timing chip to the powerfully attractive cyclist - me!

I took my cue and jogged the bike out of Transition, to begin the three laps around Blenheim Palace grounds that would see me doing 20km in about 40 minutes. By this point it was approaching noon, and the heat was really starting to build. I passed a chap in a full polar bear suit twice, and both times, everyone was shouting encouragement to him. As everyone knows, polar bears prefer the cold, and aren't brilliant in twenty-something degree heat.

After three laps, it was back into the Transition area, where I handed over to our runner, who had the unenviable job of a 5km run in the midday heat! He did a great job, of course, and within another 20 minutes we were joining him at the finish line, our first Team Triathlon complete!

In all, we completed the whole course in 1 hour, 29 minutes, 25 seconds. We were 40th out of 121 teams! (Our other team were just ten minutes behind us, and have sportingly agreed to buy the drinks).

We had a great time, in a fantastic setting. It was hard work, definitely, but very good fun. And the atmosphere is brilliant.

At the final count, we should have raised over £1000 for our two charities - with your support! So thanks again for your sponsorship, and if you fancy giving a triathlon a go, we're already planning next year's event, so get in touch :)

For those of you who don't know much about the mechanics of a triathlon, read on...

The organisation required for a triathlon is massive and impressive. The heart of it is "Transition", the key area, where competitors leave their bike and other bits and pieces. Between each of the three events (swim, bike, run), competitors come back to Transition to drop off their wetsuit, pick up the bike, and ultimately drop off the bike before the run. Transition is a large and well-organised area, and really busy. At Blenheim, there were 12-15 "racks", about 150 metres long, where every competitor had to find a spot to rack their bikes, and other equipment.

The Blenheim Triathlon is apparently the second largest in the country, with over 3,000 people racing. This requires some major organisation, and the event was scheduled in "waves", with staggered start times. So there were fresh competitors starting the event every twenty minutes from 10h00 until 14h15. That meant that there were people running in and out of Transition the whole time, some with bikes, some with wetsuits, and some with neither. There were also people leaving after their "wave", or arriving in preparation for one later in the day, so you can imagine that it was a bustling area. Despite that, it just about ran like clockwork. Of course, Transition is the point where you can gain or lose time, and people are desperate to get in, and get out, so every now and again there was a bit of shouting!

The first event is always the swim: at Blenheim, 750 metres in the lake! If you think about it, that's not just 30 lengths of a decent-sized swimming pool, it's a mad scramble amongst lots of other people, where you could be a long way from the safety of the banks if you are in trouble. Oh, and it's a lake, so none of that temperature-controlled water you might find in the swimming pools! Everyone was in wetsuits for the swim and some people didn't much like the water temperature.

After the swim, it's a short jog back to Transition to drop off the wetsuit, and collect the bike for the second stage. Race marshals were on hand, ensuring that everyone had their helmets secured before they could leave Transition - "for safety reasons" (rather than just plain spite). The bike ride took about 40 minutes, and was three laps around the course. Due to the speed of the leading or following riders, it was possible to catch up competitors from the previous wave, or be caught by those in the following one! Fortunately for morale, it was difficult to tell which was which!

After the bike ride, it's back into Transition, to drop off the bike, and set off for the run (leaving the bike helmet behind, usually!). The other important thing to do is to change the race number from the back of body to the front - apparently required by The Rules, and once again the race marshals were on hand to penalise those competitors who didn't comply. Amusingly, triathletes have realised that the tried-and-tested method of using safety pins to attach race numbers didn't really help this from-back-to-front transfer, and some bright spark invented the "race belt". It's an elasticated strap that holds the race number, and can be simply turned about the body. Clever stuff, and yours for just a few pounds. Yes, really!

Last, but not least, is the run and the dash for glory at the finishing line. Presumably by this point most people are quite knackered, having used three completely different muscle groups. Either way, it's a trot to the finish and the promise of a nice cup of tea and a sit down.

And that, pretty much, is a triathlon as we experienced it. It was tremendously satisfying, and great fun. So much so that some of our team members are now thinking about doing the whole event (swim, bike, run) next year.

There are some pictures available online:

But none of us :)

Friday, 1 June 2007

Word of the day: Cockgoblin

cock - gob - lin [kok-gob-lin]
- noun

  1. a worthless or idiotic person: Brunty was being a total cockgoblin.

Word of the day: Inkling

ink - ling [ingk - ling]
- noun

  1. A baby pen. Properly a juvenile fountain pen, but now commonly used to refer to young ballpoints. When the pen has reached adult size, it is no longer referred to as an inkling.
  2. An immature squid.

My Personal Food Manifesto

I have foresworn supermarket sandwiches. Indeed, I've foresworn all sandwiches pre-packaged, not made on the premises. After years of being repeatedly disappointed with them, the penny has finally dropped, and I'm giving them up.

I don't know if it's the fact that they're refridgerated, which makes the bread limp and tasteless. Or the fact that they've sat in plastic for hours or even days before they reach my mouth. But they're so awfully bland that I've decided to stop buying them.

I want sandwiches I can taste, made fresh that morning, on the premises.

Pretty obvious, right?

I am only buying meet from butchers, not from supermarkets. This is because I want to know where my meat has come from, and no one in a supermarket knows that anywhere near as well as a butcher. The excellent Jessie's of Cirencester not only tells the breed of the meat on sale, it also advertises where it has come from too. And if you ask them how long it has been hung, they'll tell you, as well as when it gets delivered, and they'll cut it for you, etc etc. Very very satisfying.

I'm also strenuously trying to give up any chicken that isn't free range, and any bread that isn't made with stoneground flour. The second choice is in response to the book "Shopped" by Joanna Blythman, which identifies exactly what They are allowed to put in bread, under the aegis of "flour treatment agents". Bread doesn't need much more than flour, water, salt and yeast.

It's not much, but it's a start.