Category Archives: Interest

Rocking Dog Recreates Cuban Moors And Christians

Rocking Dog's Moors & Christians With Lamb Kofte's, Rocking Dog

Rocking Dog’s Moors & Christians With Lamb Kofte’s

Rocking Dog was keen to recreate Cuban Moors and Christians- how lovely it is to get cooking again! I must admit I felt incredibly guilty about the choice, quality and quantity of food on offer to me at the supermarket following our Cuban trip. A Communist country, the Cuban people are still in receipt of rationed food. The system was initially introduced by Minister of Economy, Che Guevara in 1962. Rather like Great Britain in WW2 the main householder has a ration book listing additional family members and their ages together with any dietary/special requirements (i.e… vegetarian or particular health problem). One shop (a Bodega) is allocated for a householder to pick up their rationed goods with each ration book (Libreta) lasting one year. With the average Cuban earning around $20 dollars a month the ration book allows the right to purchase basic foodstuffs for nominal prices. Prior to the Soviet Union stopping financial aid to Cuba in the 1990’s there were many more items which could be bought using the Libreta. Giving you a rough idea of the items currently on the list.. (one persons allocation per month) 5 Eggs, 1/2 lb chicken, 5lb rice, 10oz red beans, 1lb white sugar, 1lb brown sugar, I bread roll (daily), cup of cooking oil. Children until the age of seven together with the elderly are allocated 1 litre of milk a day.

These allocated rationed goods last the average individual about 10 days. To cope with the shortfall the householder needs then to buy food at significantly higher prices than the prescriptive rationed goods. There is a rife black market, especially for milk which is notoriously difficult to purchase.

Staying predominantly in Casas Particulares (a room in a private family home) the families looked after us very well. To buy food to give us for breakfast and on occasions an evening meal, hosts used their family rations together with food bought using income from hosting travellers. I presume tips would also be helpful in keeping things ticking over. Fruit, bread and omelettes commonly featured for breakfast. Evening meals eaten both in the Casa P’s and restaurants almost inevitably included rice (imported generally from China and Vietnam). The rice often included beans, Moors and Christians.

The Moors refers to the black beans whilst the Christians applies to the rice. For seven centuries the Moors and Christians fought each other in Spain and this staple of Cuban cuisine brings the harmony of these two simple ingredients together. There are various versions, some recipes where the beans and rice are bought together towards the end of the cooking and others where the beans and rice are cooked together resulting in a darker looking dish. I served my Moors and Christians with some easily prepared Yotam Ottelenghi lamb Koftes with a tahini sauce. Delicious!

Two Cuban meals really stand out for Andyman and I. On our second last day we went in search of Cafe de los Artistas which was recommended by The Guardian. It was tucked away in a shaded leafy little street in Havana and we ate a delicious bowl of tender octopus together with some roasted vegetables. The other memorable meal was one at San Cristobal, a Paladar (a private home run restaurant) in a rather rundown neighbourhood of Havana. We had been told that the Obama’s had been there a few days earlier for lunch. The surroundings were amazing with Art Nouveau wall tiles, antique clocks, eccentric pictures and posters, chandeliers, wooden toucans etc.. even the bathrooms were worthy of being photographed! We shared battered lobster with aioli, and then went on to have steak with pepper sauce and country style potateoes. Lola’s Cup followed, vanilla ice cream with creme caramel. I wonder who Lola was! The staff were truly lovely and it was a magical way to end our trip to Cuba.

The Bodega, Rocking Dog

The Bodega

Bodega Price List, Rocking Dog

Bodega Price List

Crocodillo's, Rocking Dog

Crocodillo’s

Cuban Snack, Rocking Dog

Cuban Snack

Stairway To Eat, Rocking Dog

Stairway To Eat

Delicious Dish, Rocking Dog

Delicious Dish

Obama's Haunt, Rocking Dog

Obama’s Haunt

San C' Dining, Rocking Dog

San C’ Dining

Lobster To Share, Rocking Dog

Lobster To Share

Rocking Dog’s Amazing Cuban Odyssey!

Backstreet Che, Rocking Dog

Backstreet Che

Yes, Rocking Dog has buzzed on back having been on an amazing Cuban Odyssey! I am somewhat jet lagged, but relieved to be back from the heat and 86% humidity levels. I just wanted to post a few photo’s to give a flavour of this amazing country. I’d love to do a few posts to give more detail of this complicated country, but in short hand I was expelled from a Salsa lesson, had a gecko adhered to my face in a busy restaurant, Andyman fell in love with ALL the classic American cars and we shared a B&B with some live crocodiles! Oh, and did I mention that we went to the historical Rolling Stones concert. Those boys despite being able to draw their pensions rocked the audience almost non stop for 2 & 1/2 hours in the Havanian night heat…amazing! I have to report that a large number of Cubans had no idea who the Rolling Stones were.

The food i’m afraid will not require numerous blog posts. In fact there was a great deal of Imodium passing hands between the group we travelled with. It’s funny but unlike an American group who were coming to blows on their bus about US politics (I wonder why!) we were very reserved about politics, sex and religion. On the other hand our ablutions were completely another matter! Love to all the fellow Explore travellers who came from all walks of life and ranged through from twenty somethings, to adventurous baby boomers. It was a real pleasure to rub along together ( and very literally, in the Russian truck!) and to share a Mojito with you.

Thank you so much to Explore for a wonderful trip and thank you to Wendy Dowe at Dorchester Travel who valiantly wriggled us out of a posh hotel and all inclusive resort (phew!). Experiencing and seeing the real Cuba with Explore was a true privilege. Thank you also to the Tropicana Penthouse for accommodating us either side of the trek, the sunrises and sunsets on the roof terrace overlooking the sea and Havana were breathtaking.

A bed without a shiny satin cover and lace pillowcases looks seriously appealing, as does a night without cockerels cawing at 1 am onwards!

I hope you’ll allow me to share a few more photo’s over the next couple of days.

Grazias for tuning back in.

Love a cooler (heat-wise) and seriously inspired Rocking Dog x

Cruising Che, Rocking Dog

Cruising Che

Sunrise Over Havana, Rocking Dog

Sunrise Over Havana

Breakfast In A Basket, Rocking Dog

Breakfast In A Basket

One Man's Madness, Rocking Dog

One Man’s Madness

Daily Dose Band, Rocking Dog

Daily Dose Band

Farming Cuban Style, Rocking Dog

Farming Cuban Style

Obama Woz 'Ere!, Rocking Dog

Obama Woz ‘Ere!

Deity, Rocking Dog

Deity

Can You Salsa?!, Rocking Dog

Can You Salsa?!

B&B Crocodile!, Rocking Dog

B&B Crocodile!

The Butchers, Rocking Dog

The Butchers

Banana Bloom, Rocking Dog

Banana Bloom

A Wee Heartwarming Scottish Tale For The Wee Bairns!

Bronze Bobby, Rocking Dog

Bronze Bobby

It’s a long time since I did a post for the little small things, so here is a wee heartwarming Scottish tale for the wee bairns.

Hello little small things, very soon I want you to sit very comfortably whilst you listen to this tale. If you are very clever you will be reading this yourself. However, I must first warn you that this is definitely not a story for those of you who like fluffy white rabbits, twinkly princesses or cuddly purring pussy-cats!

So are you sitting extraordinarily comfortably? So we’ll begin… please remember to click the links as the story goes on.

Once upon a time, because of course that’s how all good stories begin, there was a man called John Gray. He lived a VERY long time ago, not quite at a time when dinosaurs roamed the planet, but still a very long time ago. John lived in Scotland, as you are very clever you will know that Scotland is famous for the Loch Ness Monster, noisy bagpipes, kilts and haggis. John worked as a gardener and was very poor, so he together with his wife Jess and son John decided to seek their fortune in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is a very big city with a castle and a craggy hill called Arthur’s Seat. The cobbled streets in John’s time would have been noisy with people selling things, street performers, pedlars, horses and carts, beggars and children playing.

Poor John could not find a job, he was worried that his little family would end up in the workhouse. The workhouse was a really horrid place to be, with horrible food, itchy uniforms and no time to play. In time he was pleased to get a job working as a night watchman, helping the Edinburgh City Police. His job involved walking the streets of the city, making sure that there were no burglars about, and that everyone was safely tucked up in their beds. He would walk the dark streets in snow, fog and rain.

John was accompanied in his lonely job by his little dog Bobby. They loved each other very much and the people of the city used to love to see John and his faithful dog walking the cobbled streets together. John became very ill and there was nothing that could be done to help him, so sadly he died. Bobby followed Johns coffin into the kirkyard (churchyard) at Greyfriars and refused to leave his masters grave.

How long do you think that Bobby stayed by the grave? Have a guess. The little dog stayed there for fourteen years! He only left the kirkyard to go and have food. Each day the castle would fire a large gun at 1 o’clock and when he heard the gun Bobby would scamper off for lunch. After eating he would return to the kirkyard and that’s where he’d stay until the castle’s gun went off again the following day.

At first the graveyard caretaker would try to shoo Bobby away, but in time he realised just how devoted the little dog was to his owner. The caretaker kindly put some sacking between two gravestones to give Bobby shelter from the rain, snow and sun. I wonder if Bobby ever got frightened because the kirkyard is very creepy with lots of carved skulls, tombstones and angels. I certainly wouldn’t like to spend a night there!

In time The Lord Provost, similar to a Lord Mayor, was so touched by Bobby’s devotion that he presented him with a collar (If you are ever in Edinburgh you can see Bobby’s collar in the Museum of Edinburgh). Bobby became a little bit of a celebrity, with people coming especially to see him. I wonder if my great grandfather was one of those people who visited Bobby, because he lived and worked very close by.

Bobby got to be a very old dog, but eventually died in 1872 at the age of sixteen which is VERY old in doggy years! He was buried in a grave very close to his master, just inside the gates of the Greyfriars kirkyard, and I expect everyone was very very sad.

A year after Bobby died a very rich English lady who had heard the story of Bobby asked the council if they would allow her to pay for a water fountain in memory of the little dog. If you go to Candlemaker Row you can see Bobby’s fountain. Bobby is cast from a metal called bronze. Can you see in the photo how gold his nose is from people stroking it? If you are thirsty I don’t think you should drink from the fountain, the water looks very dirty.

In 1981 which isn’t ALL that long ago, a red granite headstone was placed on Bobby’s grave. People come from all over the world to see his grave and sometimes they leave sticks (because dogs simply LOVE running after sticks!), toys and flowers.

Maybe one day you’ll be able to go and stroke Bobby’s nose and see Edinburgh for yourself.

Bobby, Rocking Dog

Bobby

Welcome To Edinburgh, Rocking Dog

Welcome To Edinburgh

Bobby In Print, Rocking Dog

Bobby In Print

Edinburgh Ancestors, Rocking Dog

Edinburgh Ancestors

Creepy Graveyard, Rocking Dog

Creepy Graveyard

Bobby's Grave, Rocking Dog

Bobby’s Grave

Gatecrashing A Lads Trip To Auld Reekie!

Edinburgh Airport Giant Thistle, Rocking Dog

Edinburgh Airport Giant Thistle

I took the early morning flight yesterday to Auld Reekie with Andyman and the boy, what a gatecrasher I am! Auld Reekie is of course an affectionate name for the beautiful city of Edinburgh. Thankfully, with the Clean Air Act the city no longer really deserves the Auld Reekie title. It literally means “Old Smokey” and harks back to a time when the population of Edinburgh were tightly crammed into a dense area lining the Royal Mile. Fires for heating and cooking would create a choking smog. The Reekie could also pertain to the habit of buckets of human excrement/dirty water being thrown out of windows and doors. The foul effluent would run down the street and into N’or Loch (North Lake). On a warm day the pungent fumes would rise up and add to the smokey smog. This open sewer would in addition sometimes be used for the practice of witch dunking. In the 16th & 17th century suspected witches would be tried by dunking them in water. If innocent they would sink and if guilty, float!

Anyway enough of this unpleasantness! I had a wonderful time in Edinburgh and the weather was by all accounts much more affable than Tuesday in Bristol. The boys travelled north for a final fitting of kilt jackets and waistcoats for the wedding. Very smart. Scottish dress allows so much choice that it ends up feeling like a very bloated Chinese restaurant menu! Tartans, sock colour, tie colour, sporran type, etc… etc… So many brain boggling decisions to make.

After an hour or two of talking tartan and ties I decided to go off piste and let the boys try and figure things out. I headed for my favourite haunt “Ragamuffin”. Lovely clothes, wools, and accessories. The colours and textures are almost edible. I came out with a bag containing a dress which could be a wedding contender. I better get on and make my coat… time is rattling away.

I then headed to Victoria Street, where my Great Grandfather, Robert Cresser had a brush shop. Now very much a boys toys emporium, it still has some of the original fittings which graced the shop when it was established in 1873. My dad used to go and watch the brushes being made upstairs in the shop. I feel so nostalgic about my Scottish heritage and this beautiful historic street.

From No 40, Victoria Street I headed off to reacquaint myself with Greyfriars Bobby, but that’s a story for another day! I had a great stroll around the Greyfriars Kirkyard close by. Truly amazing tombs and inscriptions. I certainly wouldn’t like to be there when darkness falls, i’m sure it would be incredibly eerie.

I did a little browsing in Princes Street and parallel roads before meeting the boys. The sparkly new and efficient tram took us to the airport. It was time to say goodbye to this glorious city, sometimes known as the Athens of the North.

If you haven’t ever been to Edinburgh here in a nutshell is some of it’s great credentials. It has the trams to take you directly from the airport to the centre of town in 1/2 an hour (£8 return). If travelling by train, Waverley station is located literally on Princes Street. It is a city of amazing buildings, statues, galleries, eateries and shops. There is also the famous castle and of course in August the city hosts its amazing Tattoo and Festival. And….contrary to common belief it doesn’t always rain in Scotland!

I enjoyed gatecrashing, but so wish the gatecrashing had lasted longer.

Favourite Haunt!, Rocking Dog

Favourite Haunt!

Linens & Silks, Rocking Dog

Linens & Silks

Embellished Wall, Rocking Dog

Embellished Wall

The Fair City, Rocking Dog

The Fair City

Gt Grandfather's Footsteps, Rocking Dog

Gt Grandfather’s Footsteps

Gt Grandfather Cresser, Rocking Dog

Gt Grandfather Cresser

Curiosity Cabinet, Rocking Dog

Curiosity Cabinet

Then......, Rocking Dog

Then…….

& Now, Rocking Dog

& Now

Time To Cook The Haggis- It’s Burns’ Night!

Wee Tam' Waiting For His Haggis Supper!, Rocking Dog

Wee Tam’ Waiting For His Haggis Supper!

There is no hope for me and a minimalist lifestyle! Another Toby jug has appeared on the mantlepiece. So old Toby and Mrs Mack (the present from Fleetwood) have been joined by Wee Tam. Poor old Toby with his gout and ale supping ailments cannot compete with the handsome Tam! A fine figure of a kilted man, resplendent in his gilded sporran, tartan sash and Tam’o Shanter, he is ready to nimbly sword dance with the blushing Mrs Mack!

Enough of this nonsense, indeed it is Burns’ Night when folk across the world celebrate the Scottish poet Robert Burns. A good excuse then to cook some haggis, neeps (swede) and tatties and wash it all down with a wee dram of whisky. Even better to be eating and drinking to the sound of Andyman and his pipes.

The decision needs to be made as to whether Wee Tam will be filled with whisky or Gravy. Let me see now what makes less mess when he’s doing his nocturnal Highland Reels with Mrs Mack!

Happy Burn’s Night to one and all.

PS. If you haven’t ever tried Haggis before it really is delicious. If you find the thought of the meat version a little stomach churning try the vegetarian haggis which is also very tasty and doesn’t involve any offal!

Rivalry For Mrs Macks Attention!!, Rocking Dog

Rivalry For Mrs Macks Attention!

The Day The Sea Froze!

Lobster Anyone?, Rocking Dog

Lobster Anyone?

Well, the day the sea froze isn’t being completely truthful. I was at Weston Super Mare yesterday morning, and walking along the beach the surf had indeed frozen. The seaweed too had an uncharacteristic white sparkly shimmer. Me thinks Real Live Rocking Dog had a lovely time on the beach. It’s difficult to fathom his emotions, but i’m sure he loves a bit of sea air and the sand between his toes!

As per normal the sea was well and truly out, it could be glimpsed at on the distant horizon, so there was no paddling to be had! Weston has a huge tidal range, it can rise and fall by as much as 14.5 m (48 ft). This statistic is second only in the world to the Bay of Fundy, Eastern Canada.

In the summer the town buzzes with day trippers and holiday makers. Large stretches of sand become congested with sandcastle makers, sunbathers, picnickers, deck chair users and donkeys. This is a traditional English holiday resort, but last summer W.S.M was funky-fied by the arrival of Banksy’s Dismaland. Normality has now sadly returned to the town and no doubt the traders and hoteliers would love another Banksy pop up!

A fan I am not of Weston Super Mare in the summer, but off season I love a bracing walk along the sand to blow away the cobwebs! Yesterday’s walk took me along the beach to the blandish rejuvenated Grand Pier to another older pier, Birnbeck Pier. In a very sorry delapidated state, there are plans afoot to bring the listed pier back to its former days of glory. As a child I remember going there with my parents to a very peculiar all year round market affair. Naff carpet, carpet tiles and rolls of cellophane inexplicably come to mind. More vivid are the memories of the gaps between the decking to get to the pier buildings. Even in the 1970’s the structure was in a perilous state. I was absolutely petrified walking along the seemingly endless planked walkway. I really hope work begins soon for this West Country treasure, for I love piers. They hark back to an age of Victorian cast iron, the Great Exhibition, bathing machines, the realisation of the benefits of taking in the sea air, promenading ladies, straw boaters and children in sailor suit attire. One pier of which I am particularly fond is the little pagoda’d jewel at Clevedon. Its claim to fame is of having been used as a backdrop for the series Broadchurch and in a One Direction pop video.

I found a sunny little cove to enjoy a coffee and bask in the frosty sunshine. It became obvious that this was a meeting place for the Weston ex-pat community! There were conversations about nursing homes, coughs, colds, ablutions and local authority care. Thoroughly depressing, and it was time to move on!

It was lovely to have a bracing blow about, and I hope there’ll be another opportunity or two before dogs are relegated from the beach and the bucket wielding day-trippers return.

Frozen Surf, Rocking Dog

Frozen Surf

Happy RLRD, Yes Really!, Rocking Dog

Happy RLRD, Yes Really!

Waiting For The Boat To Come In, Rocking Dog

Waiting For The Boat To Come In

Forlorn Pier, Rocking Dog

Forlorn Pier

Revitalised Pier, Rocking Dog

Revitalised Pier

Heavy Metal, Rocking Dog

Heavy Metal

The Final Taboo – Talking About Death

Talking Death - The Final Taboo, Rocking Dog

Talking Death – The Final Taboo

It all started with a simple enough comment from Andyman who said he’d arranged his first Funeral Plan for one of his clients. An investment blokey, he deals with all sorts of products and advisory stuff (I must at this point say that there are other investment managers out there, and investments can go up as well as down)! Will writing, retirement planning, pension stuff etc.., I am certainly not here to sell his wares, I find it blooming difficult enough to sell my own stuff!

Hello…hope you’re still there….and not put off by that first paragraph. I am hopeful that at least my darling children will be in for the long haul of this blog piece…. because, actually I do think it’s important.

That Funeral Plan got me rather curiously talking about death and what a plan like this buys you. Talking simply, because a business brain I do not have, Andyman told me that they anchor the cost of cars and coffins (and other such sundries) at a today’s price for a funeral that will happen hopefully in the long and dusty future. The purchasers of such a plan have the knowledge that their next of kin will be able to use it to secure a reasonable coffin and car(s) without dipping their hand into their own pocket. Bland peace of mind for one and all!

Over a quick coffee, and before heading off into the horrible Friday night Bristol traffic, Andyman and I had a very snatched conversation about funerals and what WE wanted. We had a spontaneous brainstorm (or rather more P.C. these days, mind mapping) of what we did and did not want. With 35 years of knowing each other we quickly realised just how little we knew of each others thoughts on death and funerals. I just wonder how many of you reading this can identify with this, it’s simply a conversation for another day.

I have been to a rash of funerals in the last few years, one of the joys of getting older I suppose. It always strikes me how similar in format they generally are. Maybe their sheer genericness is because the majority of us knows not what is available. For many of us, we are bereaved with little or no warning, funeral planning is done in a stressful tearful blur. If we were buying a washing machine or a car, a mixer or a lawn mower we would research and very probably shop around. How strange it is that we settle for the most local or as recommended by Auntie Margaret undertakers. We are therefore syphoned through a process from collecting a death certificate, dealing with a hospital morgue or funeral home and onwards and downwards. We as mourners and funeral planners are not confident in thinking outside of the box (excuse the pun). That Friday night conversation had certainly got me thinking about being sympathetic to any one that turns up for my final send off.

Let’s be honest no funeral is ever particularly joyous, but there are generally ok bits, bad bits, sad bits, cheesy bits and “when’s this going to end” bits.

Regarding bad bits, for me I have a particular problem with the hearse and limo’s for the nearest and dearest. This definitely stems from my Mum’s funeral back in November 1985. At the age of 24, and fourteen weeks pregnant, it was my first ever funeral. I had absolutely no idea what went on at funerals. I had seen Winston’s (as in Churchill) on telly when I was three and a half and LOVED it! I was however under no illusion that there would be a gun carriage with Union Flag draped coffin for my lovely mum.

As a child, If a neighbour died, on the day of the funeral curtains would be respectfully closed by the villagers. Together with my siblings we found this rather morbidly baffling, and would get reprimanded if we attempted to take a curious peek. Funerals were also the domain of men, I don’t have any memories in the early days of my Mum getting ready to go to a funeral. However, I distinctly remember my Dad having a dark tweed overcoat, a sinister Homburg and a black funeral tie. All these wardrobe staples held a certain morbid mystique, and young though we were, we instinctively identified with this funeral garb! Back to the cars..I remember getting into the limo’. In front, a ridiculously shiny hearse and then I had a growing awareness of a top- hatted figure carrying a silver topped cane reverently walking in front of the cars. This was something out of a harrowing Dickensian novel and not the big shoulder padded power dressing 80’s, it was truly ghastly. A good analogy would be that of being on a rollercoaster ride which I wanted to get off ….NOW! Following the service my sister and I walked home in the November greyness. In short, a Funeral Plan just doesn’t cut the mustard, I want NO black funeral cars!

Other bad bits…the artificial flowers in our local crematorium. At the latest funeral when I half dozed off because of a rather drab eulogy, I contemplated the pedestal flowers and flowers attached to the wall on either side of THE curtains. In my head I questioned whether they would be changed to reflect the changing seasons and then concluded probably not. This was December and these were a nasty orangey brown. After coming to this conclusion, I then wondered whether dusting the flowers appeared on the cleaning rota. Finally, I further contemplated whether there was an artificial flower catalogue for crematoria. THE curtains too I contemplated, they are crowd pleasers, plain, green, sad, and unobtrusive, auspiciously indoctrinating you to think of the person boxed in veneered plywood. I would like to suggest an alternative fabric for these monster curtains.. click this link.

While we are on the subject of aesthetics I have only seen one lovely coffin, a beautiful wicker number which was truly gorgeous. I’m not a fan of the veneered wood, but with wicker and cardboard apparently being decidedly more expensive, I can see why the veneered variety are the coffin of choice.

Hymns sung, eulogy read, poor hypothermic foil blanketed funeral attender carted off in ambulance (yes I really have witnessed this), sad green indoctrinating curtains closed for the final time, it’s time for us cold mourners to depart. No flowers at the families request, but now it’s time to put in a donation for a chosen charity. This spells the time for funeral goers to embarrassedly scratch around for the odd coppers in their pocket or purse. I find it quite amusing that some are so seemingly mean. In years gone by when flowers were the norm mourners would have accepted that a floral wreath spelling “Bob”, a dubious cross or funeral spray would cost them £3O. However, to put in a meaningful donation is altogether a different matter. Somehow it is ok to spend money on flowers that will wilt, be totally unloved, except for a cursory glance outside the crematoria (and I hate this bit where you are expected to ooh and ahh at the flowers and attached syrupy cards… “RIP you have gone to a better place Bob”) etc…before the final indignity of funereal floristry being tossed onto the compost heap. And then on the other hand money given so sparingly for local hospitals, hospices, Cancer Research, Red Cross, and hedgehog charities etc.., it all feels a little mean. One day these miserly donors may require one of these services or charities ( there again, perhaps not the hedgehog charity..) Less cynically isn’t enough that someone has taken a day off work and travelled for hours on choked road-worked motorways all to see those sad green curtains pulled shut. How lovely that no one feels impelled to purchase a showy floral tribute regardless of whether they are son, mother, lover, carer, bingo buddy or the like.

The after funeral hooly is a topic all on it’s own, I can only say why oh why is it so irreverent to serve anything but triangular cut sandwiches with non-descript beige fillings? As I always say it’s a sad enough day without serving up sad food. Why would it be so wrong to have a gourmet burger van, huge knickerbocker glories, charcuterie boards, Pieminister Pies, eye poppingly beautiful cakes etc… Added into the mix some lovely bubbly, good wines and lovely non alcoholic drinks (no J20’s in sight). Milky tea, instant coffee or glass of warm wine served in a cloudy supermarket hire glass seem to be the drinks of choice to complement the cling filmed triangular sandwiches. There are exceptions, and I am not going to tar every funeral with the same brush, but they are very few and far between. How we as a family loathe the comment “lovely spread!” (it sums up beige food, mean pork pies, cling film and anaemic chicken drumsticks).

To balance the bad there have been some good bits to report on funerals i’ve attended. The hearse-less funeral where my neighbours coffin was transported in a specially adapted motorcycle side-car, good music choices (Parisian cafe music, Tom Jones, Bruce Springsteen spring to mind), a model of Concorde on a coffin in place of flowers, and garden flowers thoughtfully picked by my sister for our lovely Dad’s funeral. I love the stories of the ashes of friends relatives being blasted up into space by fireworks, and of ashes taken out to sea in a handmade sea-faring craft (made by the ashes before he was ashes).

Regrets I have about my parents funerals include not feeling able to wax lyrical about them at their funerals. More guiltily I didn’t feel able to deal with their ashes. The vicar gladly sprinkled them in the church yard of our home village. Andyman has taught me a lot. He flew with his Dad’s canister of ashes (he had to have special clearance from Easy Jet to ensure this wasn’t a wily way of drug smuggling) to Scotland. He then took a trip up the Cairngorms where his Dad used to walk, and together with his Mum and brother sprinkled and bagpiped his dad into the snowy mountain air.

I was able to write poems for my father in law and my step mum which I read out, and again I feel guilty that I didn’t do this for my own parents. In all probability it was because I was rather caught up in the syphoning process of choosing hymns, orders of service, baking etc… I’m sure they would forgive me for not creating a Shakespeare style sonnet for them. In fact my dad knowing of my fear of THE black cars said “Pet, just bundle me into the back of an estate car, I couldn’t care less”. In fact we did have THE black cars when he died, because of course he had a funeral plan! He always harboured a desire for his body to go to medical science, however with a step mum on the scene we had to diplomatically steer our way through the process unfortunately much more conventionally. The medical students in any case would have said “drank too much, smoked too much and bloody hell have you ever seen such big hands- they’re like spades!”

My Dad,. Doug, Rocking Dog

My Dad,. Doug

So kiddies, yes you Sorrel, Alex, Livi and plus ones, all of whom we hope will go on living well after our demise, Dad and I are talking about the Final Taboo. You’ll be in no doubt as to what we want and we will try and make it a good send off for all those who choose to attend. I with absolutely conviction would like anything that can be harvested for organ donation to be given willingly (unfortunately even now I don’t think my kidneys are much good, sorry). If it’s true that David Bowie has just quietly gone Ashes to Ashes without anyone in attendance he’s pinched my idea! A blooming good restaurant with gorgeous food and drink, perhaps a few words from someone would be nice, and some good music (remember i’d like a Christmas carol in amongst some upbeat stuff). As there’s not going to be a tombstone perhaps an epitaph can appear on a scrummy calorific cake “She liked nothing in straight lines” is a long standing phrase of which I am particularly fond. I personally have no real preference where I get scattered, buried, or pelleted (perhaps we’ll be sending burial pellets into space by the time I slip off this mortal coil), do something you are happy with and a meaningful place for you all. Donations to a good
cause, again i’ll leave this to you all.

Back to the Funeral Plan I wonder if I can start a new type of plan. The Pig Funeral Plan or
a Souk-Kitchen Funeral Plan perhaps? No Limo’s, hearses, top hats or plywood coffins but great food at a fixed price for a distant celebratory alternative funeral.

I am so sorry if I have made anyone feel uncomfortable or indeed offended. Isn’t it funny how it feels so irreverent to say “you look nice” to someone attending a funeral or to say to a family “that was a good funeral”. I think there needs to be a massive sea change to get away from the no crust triangular sandwich, dried flowers, hearse and syphoned way of doing things. Am I really the only one that wants to “go off piste”?

Well done for staying the course of this blog, I promise you some frivolous topics in the days to follow. At 4am on Sunday morning I just thought “put what you’re thinking out there”. So out in that mysterious place called cyberspace those kiddies can hopefully retrieve their batty old mothers wishes when the time inevitably comes!

Have a great start to the week ahead. Love Rocking Dog x

PS Bob is purely fictional and is used for illustrative purposes only.

Ian’s Cairngorm copy

Village Churchyard, Rocking Dog

Village Churchyard

The Pig Funeral Plan?, Rocking Dog

The Pig Funeral Plan?

Sprinkle Us Somewhere Meaningful, Rocking Dog

Sprinkle Us Somewhere Meaningful

A Quote To Ponder Upon

A Quote To Ponder Upon, Rocking Dog

A Quote To Ponder Upon

With the terrible events of the last few days in Paris and Beirut, a simple and poignant quote.

Marble bench by Jenny Holzer 2003. Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice.

Arrivederci Italy- Missing You Too Much Already!

Tribute To Canaletto, Rocking Dog

Tribute To Canaletto

Indeed Arriverderci Italy- Missing You Too Much Already! The sunny alfresco meals, the cooling Aperol Spritz’s, ancient terracotta buildings bathed in winter sunshine and the tremendous olive harvest are alas a luxuriant memory. In the space of two short weeks England has emerged damp, leaf fallen and on the gigantic treadmill that is Christmas

Italy as ever was truly wonderful and the weather blissful- how I love November holidays! A few days spent in eye shot of San Gimignano was followed by days harvesting olives at our friends house near Castiglione del Lago. Finally we ended up in Venice, with our lovely girls flying in to enjoy our stylish yet bijoux Airbnb. Their trip started with getting a Harrod’s Christmas pudding (a gift for our Venetian host) swabbed for narcotics at the airport!

The Umbrian olive harvest was amazing this year. The garden last year yielded no olives whatsoever, in fact there was very little oil to be had anywhere in Italy. A very small enthusiastic group of us picked for four days in a seriously blue skied grove. We harvested 550kg of olives of various hues which were taken to be lovingly processed into the most wonderful organic single estate olive oil. It is truly sublime on lightly toasted bread, smeared with a garlic clove, a drizzle of THE oil and a pinch of sea salt.

Olive picking was interspersed with alfresco meals, trips to Medieval hill top towns (both Andyman and I will have the topic as our Mastermind subject!), markets and generally soaking up Italian life. We bade arrivederci to our gorgeous Umbrian hosts and travelled onto Venice in our hired Fiat Cinquencento.

Andyman and I had our first ever holiday in Italy, travelling in an ancient Volkswagen Fastback which had lain idle in his parents garden for years. We drove through Germany, over the Alps and wended our way down the Italian Riviera. We camped in a two man tent, feasted on frozen Calamari and drank copious amounts of Lambrusco! Homeward bound we headed for Venice. The drive leading to the city was very flat and industrialised and I must admit I didn’t have huge expectations. We camped up and then took a water taxi out onto the Grand Canal at dusk. I remember being totally in awe of the twinkling lights, bridges, gondola’s and water lapped eating places- truly magical.

I have a photograph of me dressed in a white pirate inspired pantaloon suit (we are talking the age of the New Romantics) sat at the gondola station with the gondoliers clad in their iconic striped tops and straw boaters. We certainly didn’t have the money to take a trip out in a gondola, so a photograph was the best we could muster! After a couple of days we eventually headed back into Germany where I was based. We had to drive VERY slowly to make the petrol last as we had not a single pfennig to our name! Eventually back at the base we found a kind soul to buy us a drink in the NAAFI. Sweet memories of the summer of 1981!

Venice 2015 equally lovely and so special to spend sunny moments with our girls.

Room With A View, Rocking Dog

Room With A View

Blue Skies In Umbria, Rocking Dog

Blue Skies In Umbria

Olives To Pick, Rocking Dog

Olives To Pick

What A Workhorse!, Rocking Dog

What A Workhorse!

 Good To Be Back- Venice, Rocking Dog

Good To Be Back- Venice

Laundry, Venetian Style!, Rocking Dog

Laundry, Venetian Style!

My Girl & Fritto Misto, Rocking Dog

My Girl & Fritto Misto

Other Girl, Alfresco Nap!, Rocking Dog

Other Girl, Alfresco Nap!

Venetian Mist, Rocking Dog

Venetian Mist

Sunny Jurassic Coastal Weekend

Sunset at Seatown , Rocking Dog

Sunset at Seatown

We managed to run to the sun this weekend and had a lovely time camping in our Pod. Staying at Golden Cap we were able to enjoy a beautiful sunset on the beach. Poor Real Live Rocking Dog was not amused by my kicking skills. His ball quickly drifted out to sea and there followed one of those agonising Tom Hanks Wilson moments!

Saturday saw the rather nutty hat festival in Bridport. Some great headwear was being sported by young and old, human and canine. I liked the trilby modelled out of Golden Virginia tobacco pouches, chic 1940’s creations and the ski mountain-scape! Coffee was enjoyed in Beach & Barnicott before a trawl along the many street stalls. I picked up a lovely 1950’s handwritten recipe book for £3, sadly not too many recipes and difficult to decipher handwriting.. but nevertheless a bargain.

Ruby In The Dust was another port of call. Lovely owner, lovely things. Lots of items I coveted, but I was going to be travelling back to our moveable home by bus!

We ate that night at The Anchor, yummy food, but eating al fresco was chilly. We managed to squeeze into the bar for a warming hot chocolate before heading out onto the twilight beach. RLRDog was ever hopeful of re-finding his ball.

Finally we finished the weekend with a trip to The Hive Beach Cafe in Burton Bradstock. The weather was positively tropical, with azure blue sky, balmy warmth and with many braving a late summer swim. Eggs Benedict, coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice set us up for the sad drive back.

The Jurassic Coast really is such a beautiful part of the world and so Real Live Rocking Dog friendly!

I hope you have had a lovely weekend, with a good week beckoning.

Awful Wilson Moment!, Rocking Dog

Awful Wilson Moment!

Nutty Headwear, Rocking Dog

Nutty Headwear

Off Piste Hat, Rocking Dog

Off Piste Hat

Vintage Trawl, Rocking Dog

Vintage Trawl

At Ruby's, Rocking Dog

At Ruby’s

Ditto!, Rocking Dog

Ditto!

The Hive, Rocking Dog

The Hive

Lobster Pot...., Rocking Dog

Lobster Pot….

...To Plate!, Rocking Dog

…To Plate!