Saturday, October 29, 2005

We're Back!

The girls and I got back from London yesterday evening. We are all pretty exhausted, and well we might be, considering the amount we have done. Many thanks to those who wished us well, we had a great time.

We traveled down on Tuesday, leaving Wigan in torrential rain, and arriving in a London bathed in lovely autumn sunshine. Got the bus to Stoke Newington where my sister lives, and where we were staying. Gerry, the person Carole shares the house with, was at home to greet us and was preparing a meal for use, - chicken curry with saffron rice. However, have arrived mid-afternoon, we just dumped the bags, and went up to Clissold Park at the top of the road. This is a fabulous city centre park, well maintained and a wonderful place for children.

After tea, we watched TV, and waited for Carole to get back home. Carole works in the film business and so she has to take the work when it is offered. Originally, she was going to be off this week, but a 3-day shoot for an advert came up which she really couldn't refuse. However, she wasn't working on Friday, and as the train back to Wigan wasn't until 4:45, the girls were able to spend the best part of the day with her.

Wednesday, we did the Eye, which was brilliant, after which we went on a river cruise up to Tower Bridge and back. We then walked to Trafalgar Square and then on up into the West End, eventually ending up on Oxford Street. Fortunately, there is a bus direct to Carole's from there as Jayne was pretty tired by then. The following day, we had a lazy morning, during which, Carole's son, Ryan, came round. Ryan plays bass in a Jazz/Funk band called Alta & The Funkadome. They've just release an album, which, even though I say so myself, is pretty good and Ryan is a superb bass player. Well worth a listen. He also teaches music, and patiently sat and listened to Jayne practice her flute. After lunch, we went off to the Science and Natural History Museums which were, surprisingly, a great success, - especially the Science Museum. They could very easily have spent a further hour in each without complaint.

After the museums, we headed back to Covent Garden to have a meal and prepare to go to Carole's treat, - the stage production of The Lion King. This was the icing on the cake. An absolutely fabulous show and well worth seeing. Jayne was entranced, and Bethen got well into it, - sing along and cheering and booing. It's fair to say, they enjoyed themselves.

All in all, it was a great trip and pictures will be posted onto Flickr once I've got them developed. I'm now looking for a quiet weekend before back to work next week.

Finally, Dave is out of hospital and doing really well. No plans to see him this weekend, but we'll have a good chat on the phone. Will see him next week when we go across to see Dad and celebrate his 86th birthday.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Dave Latest

Saw Dave again yesterday, and he was looking really good. It now turns out that he hasn't had a heart attack, which is probably why he wasn't responding to treatment when he first came in. He suffering from an, as yet, unknown virus that attacked the nervous system and knocked him all to pieces, but he is now on the way to recovery. He's just about gained control of his hands, though he is still unable to walk. His feet are very tender and can't, at the moment, support his weight, but it's only going to be a matter of time.

I did have a go at him for causing so much distress and disruption to my routine, and could he be a bit more sensitive to others next time, but I'll still send him a Christmas card this year!

It was good to see him and talk to him and discuss plans for the future, - something I was a little wary of last week in even thinking of doing. One plan we have briefly discussed is next summer doing Wainwright's Coast to Coast walk. We haven't done anything like that together for a long time, and this fright has told me that we shouldn't put it off.

Next week, me and the girls are off to London to see the sights and stay with my sister. I'm really looking forward to it, and the girls are very excited. Unfortunately, Christine is working and can't come with us, but I think she'll enjoy the piece and quiet. Probably won't blog much now before next weekend, but as Arnie says; - I'll be back!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Dave Update

Just spoken to a friend who told me that Dave is a lot better. The doctors now think that the attacks were caused by a virus that he picked up on one of his jaunts abroad. Teach him to go trekking over the Himalaya without me.

Anyway, he's now conscious and lucid to the point that he told my friend that if I try to tell him any jokes on Saturday, he's going to pretend to be asleep. I ask you, what type of friend is that!

This is great news, and I can't wait to see him.

Katrina Survival

Priorities, originally uploaded by OfficeGeek.

Just come across this picture posted on Flickr of a couple of survivers to Hurricane Katrina. These are my kind of people!

Do click the picture to see the survival list these people had!

I'm on holiday!

Last day at work for just over a week. I'm on holiday tomorrow, all next week and the following monday. Blogging could be a little erratic.

My plans? Tomorrow is going to be a lazy day, - probably watching daytime TV or sleeping or both. Saturday, grab the kids and shoot across to the Wirral to see Dave (Christine is working this weekend) and then next tuesday, me and the girls are off down to London (again, Chrisitine is working, butI guess she's looking forward to the piece and quiet!) to stay with my sister and "do" London.

The girls, particularly Jayne, is really looking forward to this trip, and have been for sometime. I must admit, I'm looking forward to it too, - it should be good fun.

The following weekend is Dad's birthday, and my elder brother Iain will be up. Not sure whether thats a good thing or not, but generally we can survive a couple of days in the same building without doing serious harm to each other!

Dave is still with us. I've not had much of an update, so I'm working on the basis that no news is good news. It's now been a week and I'm really looking forward to seeing him this weekend. He'd better not do anything silly while I'm in London or he'll be in trouble!

To all my friends in blogland, thanks for the support, look after yourselves and I will be looking in from time to time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

You Passed the US Citizenship Test

Congratulations - you got 8 out of 10 correct!
Question: Do I want to?
My thanks to Cherokee Sage Woman for leading me to this site.

Bush and Blair's recovery starts here

Saddam Hussein's pre-decided 'trial' began to day. Any chance that he will be found innocent or not receive the death penalty are just about zero. The coalition, and the US in particular will have ensured that arrangements will be in place to have him killed. This is a show trial in every sense of the word, and it is being choreographed from the White House. I've no doubt that he should be facing charges and trial, but not while there is a powerful occupying force, able and willing to exert its will. There is no way that Bush can suffer that man to live (even though that would be the Christian and morally superior thing to do), his popularity standings require that Hussein must die, and die very soon. As usual, he will be supported by his tame poodle, Tony Blair.

It just seems to me that any opportunity to stir thing up a bit more is the hub of Bush and Blair's Foreign Policy. Do they not see that by leading by example will convert more hearts than promoting vengeance. Saddam Hussein sickens me, I've got no doubt about that, but the antics of mine and America's Government depress and concern me even more. They clearly want to climb down into the same gutter the terrorists presently occupy. Well, not in my name!

One other thing I saw was that Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary, has said that the British will stay until Iraq has a stable democracy. He also said, in another speech, that Iraq could take 10 years to get a stable democracy. Well, there's a joined up policy! I suppose that'll be when Iraq's oil will start to run out, in which case democracy in Iraq will be irrelevent!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Sacked for being too friendly!

Just come across a lovely story about a police dog called Buster who has been sacked from South Yorkshire police after being too friendly and laidback towards criminal suspects. The German shepherd fell asleep on a manhunt, let drunken yobs stroke him, and cocked his leg during the arrest of a burglar found by his handler after Buster had failed to spot his hiding place.

I hope the police force went through proper channels, and exhausted the disciplinary procedures before taking such drastic action, otherwise they could be faced with an unfair dismissal charge.

The force did described Buster as lovely and loyal, but not cut out for police work. His new owners, Norton and Jane Arnould, of Sheffield, said his training had made him the perfect pet. He never barks. Mind you, he does sound like my sort of dog.

Dave update: at the time of writing, Dave continues to make progress and has now been moved from Intensive Care to an ordinary high support ward. He's yet to come round, and his blood pressure is all over the place, but hope springs eternal, and that he is still on the path to recovery.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

"Not out of the Blue Grass Yet"

Many thanks to those who left comments of support for both me and Dave. They are very much appreciated, and mean a lot.

Yesterday, after work, I went across to the Wirral to see Dave. I met up with another old friend, Hilary, and we both went to the hospital together. When we arrived, Angela, Dave's wife, was in the hospital cafe. She told us that we probably would not be able to see Dave as the doctors wanted to take him off the ventilator and had therefore removed all sedation. This meant that Dave was extremely restless and they needed him to calm down naturally and that visits could stop this.

This gave me an opportunity to give some support to Angela, and attempt to re-assure her that things will be OK. She told us of the night when she was woken by strange noises, and was immediately aware that something was seriously wrong. She called the ambulence which arrived within 4 minutes, and the paramedics got him onto oxygen in a short space of time. A 10 minute run to the hospital and he was into the emergancy department. Apparantly, the staff struggled for over an hour to stabilise him enough to attempt to get him to Intensive Care, but at all times, a nurse kept Angela and Heather informed of progress. At one point, they asked Angela to go into the room as they felt they were losing Dave, and 7 times, when they attempted to move him to Intensive Care, he arrested. That night, he was given hours to live.

However, he got through, - heavily sedated and on a ventilator, but he got through! Dave is a pretty fit guy. He does long-distance treks over the Himylaya and Andies for charity, and he is a stubborn bugger (a bit like me!). I believe it is that fitness and stubborness that has got him through this far.

Saturday night, I got to see him for about 10 minutes, but the doctors didn't want him to be disturbed, and so I kept quiet. I couldn't even touch him. However, he was breathing on his own, his body was maintaining his blood-pressure and he was being given oxygen and steam to help with the breathing.

Today, I was able spend a lot more time with him. I held his hand and spoke to him. Told him a couple of jokes, - we both have a pretty bizzare sense of humour! and told him that everything was going to be OK. At times, he tried to open his eyes, and occasionally would role a bit in the bed and growl, but on a couple of occasions, he did squeeze my hand. He may be 'out' of it, - but not totally. The doctors reckon it could be another 3 to 4 days before he comes round, but each day that goes by, the chances of recovery improve. At present, things are looking positive, and everyone around him is keeping a positive attitude. Angela is getting incredible support which will enable her to help Dave properly.

For me, it is very distressing to see my mate lying so helpless, and knowing that all I have to offer is me, somehow doesn't seem enough. I will be going across again next weekend, and hopefully I can spend a bit more time with him and tell him all the things he needs to know; not least, how much I love the guy and what he means to me.

He may not be out of the woods, but he seems to have found a path that may lead him out; or as my youngest daughter, Jayne, said; "He's not out of the blue grass, but he's looking for the path". Couldn't put it any better myself.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

David Tolcher

Yesterday a friend phoned to say that David had suffered a major heart-attack and is in Arrowe Park Hospital in intensive care. Apparantly, the prognosis is 50-50.

David is a husband to Angela, a father to Becky and Heather, a life-long Tranmere Rovers fan, an amateur thespian, a legal-adviser to a teacher's union, my Best Man at my wedding and my best friend of 35 years.

I'm feeling crushed, all the more so as I can't get to see him until Sunday. While trying to maintain a normal persona at work, I am scared, angry and totally frustrated with my feeling of helplessness. My thoughts are with everyone, and I pray they will be OK.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Autumn Term Starts

After a short 3 month break with an all expenses paid holiday (sorry, conference) in a lively English seaside resort, our glorious Members of Parliament return to the fray. Labour MP's with a new raft of policies to rubber stamp, Conservative MP's to select their next losing leader and the Liberal Democrat MP's attempting to get reason and logic heard above the noise.

Today was Prime Minister's Questions. An opportunity for MP's to question Tony Blair on any issue of the day. Michael Howard, the out-going leader of the Conservatives spent most of his time asking Tony Blair about when he will be standing down. Clearly this was more important to our right wing Torys than Labour's draconian anti-terrorist proposals, or Iraq and the increasing influence of Iran in the insurgency, or the earthquake in Pakistan, or the blocking of a UN envoy from speaking about Dafur by John Bolton the 'acting' US Ambassador to the UN. No, when was Tony Blair going to stand down was his major concern.

The Conservatives are supposed to be the main loyal opposition. The problem is that they have no idea how to oppose, only carp and whinge and Tony Blair can play that sort of thing all day with a straight bat.

It took an intelligent question from Charles Kennedy, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, to get the Prime Minister back to a real issue, - anti-terrorist legislation. He asked about the 90 day detention proposal, and in particular what the Attorney General had to say about it. Tony Blair repeated that the Police had put forward a 'compelling' case for it, but was now prepared to '...have a debate about the strength of these proposals'. This strikes me as a softening of resolve from just yesterday. Mr Kennedy said that other offences in the new bill, such as "acts preparatory to terrorism", meant the 90-day detention limit was not needed.

I think that we are about to sleep walk into a major shake up of our hard won civil liberties, and out MP's need to wake up and question everything presently being proposed. Liberal Democrats were right about the war in Iraq, they have a viable solution to withdrawal from Iraq and they have been talking quite a lot of sense about the terrorist threat. It is about time we started to listen. The Liberal Democrats are the only major party in Parliament who are offering intelligent opposition to this increasingly authoritarian and dictatorial Government.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Police State is born.

Slowly, but determinedly, our protector of liberties, the Prime Minister Tony Blair, is moving us ever nearer a police state. Today, Tony Blair has warned it would be "irresponsible" to ignore police calls to let them hold terrorist suspects for up to 90 days without charge. At his monthly news conference, he denied criticism from civil liberties groups that he was "authoritarian". But the Tories criticised Mr Blair's "aggressive" approach and the Lib Dems also still oppose the detention plans. Currently, suspects can be held for up to 14 days without charge.

Personally, I feel it would be "irresponsible" to hold people for up to 90 days. We went through all this back on the '70's with 'Internment' in Northern Ireland. It didn't work then, and it won't work now. All that will happen is that we will create even more martyrs for the terrorists to exploit.

Mr Blair said the police had provided good evidence for extending the time limit - such as the complex nature of terror cases, which involved gathering large amounts of evidence. He continued: "If they are right, then how can I responsibly refuse to something that will actually protect - as I say - the most basic civil liberty which is the right to life?"

He also decided to get a 'first strike' on the new Chief Justice in England and Wales, Lord Phillips, warned politicians not to interfere with the judiciary or browbeat judges. Mr Blair said he was not "browbeating" judges but he was in the "decision making seat." "All I'm saying to the judiciary is be aware there's a proper role for the judiciary and a proper role for Parliament," he said.

All sounds a bit threatening to me, along the lines of "...Ok, your independent, but you do what I say!"

The Conservatives, of course, who are the natural party of control, couldn't or wouldn't argue with the sentiment, but attempted to exploit the apparant differences between Home Secretary Clarke and Blair. David Davis suggested the government was not speaking be with "one voice". "The prime minister's aggressive stance seems rather at odds with the constructive approach of the opposition parties to achieve both the security and the liberty of the British public," he said. Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy said Mr Blair had still failed to make the case for extending the detention time limit. "It would be far better to charge suspected terrorists with a lesser offence and hold them on remand while investigations are ongoing," said Mr Kennedy. For once, I'm not sure whether Charles Kennedy's responce is the right one, however, the one thing it does bring into play is Habeas Corpus, which ensures that civil rights are protected.

The draft Terrorism Bill will also outlaw indirect support or glorification of terrorism. Mr Clarke said there had been a "fantastic transformation" in the world towards democracy in recent decades, including the former Soviet Union, South Africa and Latin America. He said: "My argument is that we are moving to, and have moved to, a different political era." Labour MP Dave Winnick asked whether anyone who supported Nelson Mandela's African National Congress would have been prosecuted had the proposals been in force during the apartheid era. Mr Clarke would only reply "...that people would not have been guilty merely by not condemning the ANC."

There's a prize for anyone who can translate Mr Clarke's last sentence into something like coherent English.

I just can't help feeling that we are doing the terrorist's bidding with all this destruction of civil liberties. I personally would prefer to live with an increased threat to my life, than live in a cage. Blair is learning his lessons well from Master Bush!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Shoot first, ask questions later.

I've just read that a new law enacted by yet another of the Bush clan (are they breeding like rabbits over there?) that allows a defense in law for people in Florida to shoot first if they feel threatened. A ready made defense for any hoodlum: "I'm sorry Judge, but I thought the old lady was going to attack me with her walking stick, so I shot her!" I understand that this is probably going to be rolled out across the country.

I'm sure that there will be some restrictions, but it is the psychological aspect of this that worries me. I just feel that this is going to make the problems of guns and the suffering they cause, even worse. People will feel safer carrying the weapons, and quicker to resort to their use. Instead of relaxing laws on guns, they should be tightening up and trying to take guns out of the equation. What is this love affair the Americans have with guns? Anyway, has more information on this major social advance.

Friday, October 07, 2005

God's Choices for Action

The BBC is about to release a series of programs looking into the background and talks over the Middle-East peace process, and some quite startling revelations have come to light. The primary one; and most disturbing, is that God told Bush to invade Iraq!

The comments were attributed to Mr Bush by the Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath in the upcoming TV series Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs. Mr Shaath said that in a 2003 meeting with Mr Bush, the US president said he was "driven with a mission from God".

"President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan. And I did, and then God would tell me, George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq... And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East. And by God I'm gonna do it.'" Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who attended the meeting in June 2003 too, also appears on the documentary series to recount how Mr Bush told him: "I have a moral and religious obligation. So I will get you a Palestinian state."

What concerns me about this, are the actions that God has not told Bush to take. For example, God didn't tell Bush to do anything for 2 days after Katrina hit; God has not told him to take positive action in Dafur, or Niger or Malawi where people are suffering and starving to death. God has not told him to look after His planet; God has not instructed him to take action against the Aids Pan-demic in Africa. God just wants him to take actions that maximise death and suffering! Not the sort of God that I envisaged or appears to have been described in the Bible.

Jesus hated war, he hated executions, he hated injustice and charged us all to do better, if you get slapped on one side of the face, offer the other, but don't retaliate. What was he talking about; - clearly he was off message with his Dad! Bush has the direct line to God, and all the time I thought it was the Pope.

On the face of it, this would be funny, except I find it difficult to laugh. It frightens me to a large extent that we have someone in one of the most powerful positions in the world, talking in the way he does about God, religion and policy. What is it with Republican Presidents that they eventually turn wacko; Reagan getting policy direction from his wife's astrologer; Bush Senior getting direction from goodness knows where, and now Bush. I'm afraid that if someone in this country said they were getting messages from God, they would probably be referred to the Psychiatric services for assessment.

Of course, the White House have denied he ever said it, - but when was that last time you believed anything that came out of the White House.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Small Light Flickers On

Amnesty International and Reprieve have asked the UK Government to intervene in the hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay. Presently, at least six UK residents are among 250 detainees at the base who are refusing food. The human rights groups state that some detainees are being restrained and force-fed. They want ministers to seek a US pledge to allow independent observers access to the detainees, who are being held without trial or being charged. The call came as US senators voted overwhelmingly to outlaw cruel or degrading treatment of detainees held in US custody abroad. Unfortunately, it is my belief that our Government will sit on its hands and do nothing to upset the Administration.

However, it is the vote in the Senate by 90 votes to 9 to outlaw cruel or degrading treatment of detainees held in US custody abroad that is the small light. Of course, President Bush opposes it, and says he will veto it when it come to him for ratification. Presumably cruel or degrading treatment of detainees is a Christian value that he needs to uphold, but with so much support for this amendment to the Pentagon Funding Bill, he is going to find it hard to defeat these servants of the Devil who are trying to thwart God's plan to humiliate the vulnerable!

apparently the amendment was proposed by Republican Senator John McCain, so maybe that Bush's excesses are too much even for regular Republicans. Or possibly, and here my knowledge of American politicians deserts me, Republicans are now positioning themselves for the next Presidential race in a couple of years time and are trying to put some clear water between themselves and the Bush Administration; but for me, the time has come for the greatest nation in the World to end and put this shameful episode behind them. This behaviour reflects on us all.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

It's the little things

Former TV presenter and ex-Arsenal goalkeeper Bob Wilson's daughter, Anna Carey, suffered a rare form of cancer and died about 6 years ago. During the last few years of her life, she would treat herself to days out; going shopping in a stretch limo, a Robbie Williams concert, football matches and day trips to France. She found that for days before and after, the adrenalin and 'feel-good factor' of her red letter days, helped alleviate her pain. Moreover, it had a positive effect on her family and those around her.

Bob Wilson was so impressed with the effect these special days had on Anna's morale, that when she died, he and his wife Megs set up a charity to provide them for others. Over the last six years they have provided 1,000 special days for seriously ill young adults aged between 16-40, mainly in the Hertfordshire region. These range from horse whispering and sky diving, to pampering and sports events, one woman even wanted to learn how to drive an articulated lorry. Now the Willow Foundation, named after Anna's nickname, is to go national. Each trip is especially tailored to recipient's needs and dreams and funded completely through the charity.

Bob said that they had been fortunate enough to be able to help Anna live out some of her dreams - and that it was important to try and do the same for others. Cancer specialist Professor Robert Souhami, a member of the Willow Foundation's independent Advisory Board, helped care for Anna said, "Most people need times when they can simply enjoy themselves and do something that they have always wanted to do but somehow have not managed. For someone who is seriously unwell the sheer effort of organisation, and the cost, is often enough to make longed-for occasions unrealisable."

This is another story that doesn't make the headlines, but, for me, is so important that it is heard. Bob Wilson has quietly and patiently built up this charity that can provide so much for relatively so little that it has to be admired. Every year, he runs the London Marathon to help raise funds for the charity. He and his wife, Megs, are truly to be commended, - and he wasn't a bad goal-keeper, either.

Truely, it is the little things that can make a huge difference.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Iraq's Constitution

Clearly the interim government in Iraq is learning from its American masters. Because of the possible rejection of the draft constitution by the Sunni Arabs, the Iraq Government have changed the rules. This despite strong criticism from the UN. This report from the BBC.

If you don't like the result, then change the rules so you get the result you do like!

Monday, October 03, 2005

Beauty at the Beach

Conservative chairman Francis Maude has opened the party's annual conference in Blackpool with a stark warning they have "no God-given right to survive". Well, thank goodness for that!

Britain's second Tory party after New Labour have started their annual conference at the seaside resort of Blackpool - home of candy-floss, chips, donkeys, chips, kiss-me-quick hats, chips, trams, chips and the Pleasure Beach, and the possible site for Britain's first mega-casino, if the mob get the bribes right.

The Conservative conference has always been the most staged-managed of affairs - there will be no dissent and no 80 year-olds thrown out of this Conference (most of the membership is over 60 years old!). However, the 'debates' are less likely to be heard this year than most other years as we are having a beauty pageant - sorry, I mean a leadership campaign and hustings. The details of all the candidates can be found here - 7 Conservatives looking to lead their party to failure at the next election, and a rum lot they are too.

The problem for the Conservatives is their identification with the Neo-Con agenda in America. Anti-abortion, Anti-Gay Marriage, Lower Taxes and Flat Taxes which have always proved to benefit the better off, 'Family Values' and just about any other anti-liberal issue they can get hold of. My personal feeling is that, hopefully, they have had their day and that people won't be conned into buying their destructive, negative and divisive agenda again. It was Margaret Thatcher who said that "there was no such thing as society". Just individuals, living isolated lives, easy pickings for the big corporations and concerns. It's taken a good 10 years to repair the Thatcher legacy, and we've still away to go, and I'm not sure we're going to get much further with our present Tory Prime Minister and Bestest Friend to Dubya; Tony Blair.

I suppose the good thing is that the leading runner is very Right-Wing, and after the experiences with that beacon of democracy at the moment - America, it's doubtful if the party would be elected if he was leading it. Ken Clarke, on the other hand, could just do it. In some areas of policy, he is actually to the 'Left' of Tony Blair. But the thrust of all debate now must be to stop the Tory Party from ever taking power again, and a true left of centre party like the Liberal Party needs to be encouraged.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Sunday Lunch

Not posted for a couple of days - too busy! However, we have just had one of the best Sunday lunches for quite some time.

A good meal, they say, is all in the preparation, and this one we prepared for! Firstly, I decided it would be a roast beef dinner, so that requires the following ingredients: roast potatoes, a good joint of beef, fresh vegetables, Yorkshire Puddings (more on them later) and a gravy made exclusively from the meat juices. Being Sunday, a pudding is required and on this occasion it is Sticky Toffee Pudding including a dash of Whiskey.

So Saturday, off to the market. First off, the veg. In the end, I got sprouts, carrots and broccoli all of which were fresh that day and local - hadn't traveled more than 20 miles and had probably been out of the ground less than 12 hours. Next the meat. A superb piece of Brisket off our favourite butcher on the market. All his meat is superb quality, and has been kept/hung for the correct amount of time. You have to be able to take a bit of Wigan cheek, but that's a small price to pay for quality - and anyway, I give as good as I get! Another stall and we get a tub of beef dripping - for the roast potatoes. Christine got the ingredients for the pudding and the recipe off the internet.

Well, around comes Sunday and time to cook. I'm doing the main course, while Christine, who has already been working since 6:30 this morning, does the pudding and makes my Yorkshire batter from her secret recipe. The joint goes into the tray with about a quarter inch of water and then into the hot combi oven. Now, I just leave the meat to itself while I prepare the veg. Potatoes are peeled, washed to get the excess starch off - very important, and then put into a pan and brought to the boil, simmering for about 10 minutes. In the meantime, the dripping is getting hot in the normal oven - and I mean hot! - 200 degrees Celsius, along with the oil for the Yorkshires. When the potatoes have boiled, drain off the water, put the lid back on and shake them - this fluffs up the surfaces and makes all the difference when roasting. They are then placed into the very hot roasting dish, giving off that beef aroma that only good beef dripping has, and then straight back into the oven.

At this point the Yorkshires also go in the same oven, and it is here that controversy strikes. Yorkshires are traditionally cooked in a large open roasting dish, but I used a muffin tin that makes individual puddings. These are often called Rutlands after England's smallest county (Yorkshire is the largest!), but I do prefer them that way. Anyway, they go in at the same time as the potatoes and the veg steamer is set to 30 minutes. By this time the meat has cooked and is resting. The juices are poured off and made into gravy - no stock cubes, just a bit of cornflour to thicken it up.

Meanwhile Christine is making the pudding. We are both in our small kitchen and we are not arguing - amazing. Anyway, things are coming together beautifully. The smells are mouth-watering. I carve the meat (well cut it into manageable chunks) and it looks and tastes superb. Tender and juicy - perfect. The veg steamer goes ping, and they are perfect - not over-done but cooked and firm. The sprouts have a flavour you just don't get from the supermarket - mainly because they haven't traveled over 250 miles to get to the shop! Out come the roast potatoes ("roasties" are the local vernacular). A light golden surface, crisp and full of the beef aroma from the dripping, light and fluffy inside. Finally the Yorkshires; light, fluffy with a crisp surface that allows the gravy to sit in them without them becoming soggy. Everything goes to the table. The girls have orange juice, while Christine and I share a bottle of beer specially brewed to go with a meal - light, tangy and clean tasting that cleans the palate without overpowering the taste buds.

Well, the meal is great. Everything tastes superb, - even though I say so myself, and plates are emptied. It was definitely one of those meal that came together just right. As I write this, I've not yet had my pudding as we are all too full, but we will have it later as supper. I'll let Christine describe the pudding on her site as this was the first time she has made a pudding like this. As it stands in the kitchen at the moment, gently steaming with the custard simmering on the stove, it looks and smells divine! Can't wait. To round the meal off, I'm going to have a bottle of WychCraft beer. This is a very full-flavoured beer with quite a unique, almost lemony taste.

The only thing that spoils it, is the thought of work tomorrow! Ah well.