Sunday, 20 July 2014

Eating my way around Edinburgh

Oh dear, I seem to have did it again!  My blog record has been really poor recently.  Except this time, I do have a reason and it wasn't just from sheer idleness! Nope, last weekend I spent a rather enjoyable time (read as amazing - Ed) with Michael and Cara who were back from South Africa for a couple of weeks. This resulted in probably the best long weekend that I've had since I came back, with the additional and unusual side effect of me seeing more of Edinburgh and was also filled with good food and plenty of drink. I should say that technically, this began on Wednesday night as I met them for dinner (at Tiger Lily) but as I had to go to work the next day, it doesn't quite count.

The weekend began with me on a train (I seem to spend lots of my life in transit, it appears) heading to Glasgow with a boxful of Thistly Cider, before promptly getting lost on my way to Derek's flat. I would like to argue that I got lost because of the combination of Apple Maps and getting off at a new station...I'm not a complete idiot (cough cough – Ed). After I was rescued by Michael, Derek and Martin, I was eventually escorted back to Derek's flat for an evening of procrastination; Chinese food; Dungeon and Dragons; Cards Against Humanity; and the aforementioned box of cider. There genuinely is nothing better than a group of old friends getting together for an evening to just hang-out and have some fun. Yeh, it's great going out and doing things but I love just being together and hanging out like old times.

Waking up the next morning (Sorry for the snoring Cara) and after a fry-up breakfast to fuel the day, Cara, Michael, Martin and I (down one man at this point) headed into the city centre for some coffee and a wander, where we ended up into the new kitchen shop (sorry, I can't remember the name right now) where I got to try the greatest knife I have ever used. It was glorious. I mean, I own a couple of great knifes and I've used various good knives in the past but this was something else. This went through carrot like butter and shredded tomatoes with a touch. Shame that it cost £185 but even so: I had one hell of an internal struggle not to buy it. Hell, I'm having a struggle right now not to jump on a train to Glasgow and go and buy it.

Moving on swiftly from this glorious, glorious knife, the rest of Friday was a nice and relaxed day after heading to Edinburgh (down two men at this point) with a couple of drinks in the pub with Michael before some haggis, neeps and tatties with Cara, Michael and her parents before a fairly early night as most were recovering from the previous night.

Then came Saturday which was again filled with good food and drink, as well as several short tours of various Edinburgh places as well. We started off in Morning Side which is filled with lots of quirky shops and second hand book shops (aka charity shops – Ed) where we wandered around the various bookshelves as we waited for our lunch booking to be ready.

And what a lunch it was! It was glorious! We had a reservation at a pub called 'The Canny Man' which is the very definition of eccentric. First of all, if they don't like you, you will be asked to leave. You can't pay by credit card, only cash and cheque. And the decorations. Dear god, the decorations. Every inch of the wall is covered with something and when they ran out of wall space, they hung stuff from the roof. Clocks are hung beside swords. Golf clubs hang next to bicycles. I think I saw a canoe somewhere. I wish I could show you pictures but you're not allow to take photographs, so all I will say is, if you're ever in Edinburgh, go visit the pub. It is worth it.

And that's before you get to the food and drink. The beer selection is good (as is the rest of the drinks, I imagine – Ed) but the food is where the pub really shines. Predominantly, it serves Smorgasbord for food but the selection is overwhelming. Now before I tell you how many options you have, remember that this is a pub, not a restaurant (though it would overwhelm most restaurants as well - Ed). Ignoring other menu items, and just counting Smorgasbord options, you can choose from 88 different options. 88! That's an insane amount! Do you realise how difficult that makes deciding what to have for someone indecisive?!? And the best bit? They are delicious! The meat is deliciously cured and they cure a lot of their own meat as well, and make their own ham. As I've said before, visit this pub, even just once. It's a great experience and an even better meal.

Next up, we headed into the city centre to get some shopping done and then to the Scottish Portrait Gallery for the James Byrne exhibit, for some interesting and unusual pieces. I'll be honest and say that I wasn't too keen on them but I generally prefer contemporary and traditional artwork. However, there were various good pieces that looked great, particularly the Billy Connolly and Tilda Swinton pieces, so check it out if you like art. Plus, there is an elaborately decorated guitar that was owned by Gerry Rafferty as well. It's free and doesn't take too long to go around, plus there are some death and life masks of famous people (including the infamous Burke and Hare) so I would recommend checking it out one afternoon if you're free.

Following the gallery was a mixture of shopping, tea and cake (seriously, we got a slice of the biggest chocolate cake I have ever seen, it was intimidating) and a whirlwind tour of different places to eat and drink in Edinburgh before heading back to the house, including the mosque kitchen for a good curry and where the half-price hut should be (bring on the Fringe!).

My gluttonous day of eating hadn't quite finished yet though, as we headed out to a Korean restaurant called 'Ong Gie', where you can barbeque your own meat for dinner. Starting off with some kimchi pancakes (delicious, by the way), we then went for the barbeque menu. Basically, the idea behind this is that they turn on the barbeque then basically give you a plate gloriously heaped with marinated meat to cook. It was quite spectacular, especially when two of you ordered the same thing and they just place down you a mountain of meat between the two of you. In addition, they also gave you a side of rice, and some toppings (garlic, chilli and spring onion) and some delicious red bean paste to have with your meal, although this was a little limited compared to the meat.

Word of advice though: the pork belly was good and well flavoured but I think I would just stick to the regular pork, as the fat just wasn't as good barbequed and just came out a little hard and chewy. All in all though, this made for a delicious way to spend an evening, and was a good fuel before we ended the night with a house party (I got to see a somewhat large and sleepy lizard!) followed by a few drinks at their house and some animated discussion.

Alas Sunday came too quickly, which other than the following Wednesday where I met Michael for a burger and a couple of drinks at The Blue Goose (Edinburgh seems to have a thing for animals and pubs. So far there is the: Tickled Trout; Blue Goose; Red Squirrel; and the Dogs Bollocks – Animal Watch Ed), was the last time I would see both of them. This was spent as Sunday mornings should be with plenty of coffee, some bacon rolls and some jazz playing in the background.  Delightful.

However good the weekend was, it wasn't the star of the show so thank you Michael and Cara for a) coming back and seeing us all again and b) letting us have such an amazing weekend!

Pick of the Week

Pure Gym – Grr, sweat, pant, push! Time to get fit and sweat off that spring weight (It's a thing – Ed) and what better place than Pure Gym? Now then, I won't sugar coat it: this isn't a fancy gym. You don't get fancy saunas or indoor football pitches or anything like that. What you do get is an affordable (£18.99 for me but it does vary) gym with locations all over the country with all the equipment you will need to get fit. In addition, you get a whole load of classes available to you included in the price as well and for any other classes, you just have to pay £1. Great value and simple. Check it out if you're looking for a good gym.

Song of the Week

This week is the turn of 'Weerd Science', who is actually the drummer for Coheed and Cambria as well. Relatively unknown, this guy has a pretty interesting style and a dark past, including a pretty serious drug addiction. This is 'The Man with No Audience'.  Sorry it's just a link today but I couldn't find it on the search bar.

Click here for song

Well that's it for me!  I'll see you all net week!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Running up the hill or walking up at a more acceptable pace.

Good morning everyone (or afternoon or evening to any readers elsewhere in space or time, I don't discriminate). It's that time of the week where I come at you with some inane chatter about something I did this week! YAY!! And this week is sponsored by the letter A (totally not a hint about things to come – Ed) as I spilled an entire pot of dirt over my laptop this weekend and now the A key doesn't work properly...along with several other keys. I've been challenged when writing posts but not really physically before. Oh well, I do enjoy a challenge.

So what am I going to chat about this week? Not much actually, as I have some pictures for you! It's just like when the teachers rolled the tv into the classroom, isn't it? You get to put your head on the desk and go to sleep for a few minutes!  A couple of weekends ago, I went home to see my parents (and Ollie, of course. Please see obligatory picture below. He is available for work – Ollie's Agent) and went a little bit of a stroll with Derek and Colin up Cairns Table, a hill near where I live.

Having lived in cities for so long, I often forget how nice the area I grew up in is and this served as a great reminder for me. Having planned this for a while, Colin, Derek and I packed up our gear...ok they brought shoes and water and I brought enough equipment for a 10 day trek through the Andes, and we set off up the hill! And it was beautiful...the hills of Scotland really are stunning when you get near them or on them....just rolling hills as far as you can see, with tranquility all around. Following what is supposedly called a path (though is little more than slightly stepped down grass) we climbed up the hill to the cairn which then gave a beautiful view of the surrounding area despite it being slightly overcast. Finally, we headed back down the hill through what can only be described as 'sodden marshland' and only got slightly lost...result! Below are the pictures from the walk, so enjoy the scenery or nap on your desks.  Your choice.

Having earned it, the rest of the afternoon was then spent sitting in the garden with a couple of lagers which then resulted in me getting a little bit burnt. forget that the Scottish sun can still burn, so use sun cream!

So, in honour of this walk and to help us remember how great the places we live actually are, I officially (unofficially – Law ed) declare today (29th June) as 'Love where you are day'! The queen gets two birthdays, so why can't I declare a day like this? Exactly! So, on the 29th of June, go out and explore where you live or where you grew up and just remember the good things about it!  Though you do need to wit for an entire year now, so maybe just do it anyway.

Pick of the Week

Avenue Q – Have you ever been sitting on the couch, just sitting thinking that you wish Sesame Street was a little bit more offensive and racy? No? Er me neither...but if you ever have, then Avenue Q is for you! Even if you haven't, Avenue Q is still for you (if you like good comedy). A mix of humans, puppets and singing, this show covers everything: humour, love, emotions and puppet sex? If you get the chance, check it's hugely funny: it had me in stitches from the start. I mean, how can a show with a set of characters called 'The Bad Idea Bears' be bad?

Music of the Week

This week is the turn of A Perfect Circle - Let's Have a War.  It's a little bit more alternative but it's a great track!

Well, that's it from me for this week!  Tune in next week for, well who knows?  See you then!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

What can you buy for 40p?

*Warning: This post is firmly tongue in cheek but 40p? How can I not be outraged*

Now then, I've always aimed for this blog to be a happy place on the internet, sharing my adventures and thoughts and hopefully bringing a smile to, at least, one person's face. I believe there is enough anger and vitriol online without me adding to it (though plenty of positive as well – Ed). However, today is a day my blog turns down the dark path, if just for a while. The hero becomes the villain (the definition of delusional – reality check ed). Light becomes dark.  Night becomes day etc etc.  And what caused this shift? The newly opened toilets in Glasgow Central have raised their prices by 10p, to 40p. It's an outrage!

Does 10p mean much to you? It didn't really mean much to me I thought to be honest but I might have been wrong, as I discovered after visiting Glasgow Central's toilets (though when living in Nepal, it meant more but different situation, so meh). However, the fact that they feel the need to charge me more to 'answer nature's call' is horrific. The fact that they charge me in the first place is bad enough but 30p was fair.  It was acceptable; I could live with it. But 40p? That's outrageous. It's robbery.  Think of all the things I could do with 40p!  Like what can you buy for 40p these days? I had a think about this and decided to do some research so that you don't have to!  Let's have a look:
  • A 10 pence mix up (Oh inflation, you)
  • 1kg of Tesco value rice
  • Multiple own-brand noodles (for all the young students)
  • About 1/3rd a litre of petrol
  • A couple of bananas
  • A school meal
  • A curly wurly (Used to go nuts for these as a child)
  • Any number of things from a charity shop
  • My silence
  • One hug from Ollie (send fees to me please)
  • 0.0000002% of sending a man to the moon 
So not much but that isn't the point! We need to make a stand here and now before it's too late! Let's hold it in until we get home or get on the train! Sneak into a restaurants toilet but do not pay the 40p! Find a dark alley (Ok, don't)!  If you do, who knows what will happen next! Over-priced train tic...expensive bottles of wa...marked-up food you can get che...oooooooooooooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Pick of the Week

The Hairy Bikers' Asian Adventure - OK, the title could be a little misleading but this is actually a cookbook (and a TV show - Media ed) and a great one at that.  If you've known me for more than 5 minutes, you will probably know that I love Asia and particularly, Asian food.  I also love the Hairy Bikers as chefs as well.  A match made in cooking heaven.  This is a great book with recipes from Japan (both rural and urban), Thailand., South Korea and China so you get a great mix plus they suggest ingredients that you can actually find without difficulty as well!  If you like Asian food and enjoy cooking, get this or even if you're not, why not try it?

Music of the Week

Today and in honour of my recent purchase, my music of the week is the London Philharmonic Orchestra playing the main theme of Final Fantasy.  Enjoy!

Well, that's it from me for this week!  Fight the man and pee at home!  See you next week.