Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Novelli idea

SO at last I have a replacement Bas. The poor old Corsa is still sitting outside getting rustier and rustier as the insurance company dally over how much my heartache and inconvenience is worth. Meanwhile, Mrs Rippers was just getting a teensy bit fed up with being sans car because of my regular journeys up to the smoke in her little Micra Millie.
To be fair Millie has been a stalwart through all this, taking the regular 400-mile round trips in her stride, and she has learnt a few tricks into the bargain, like how to reach the devastating speed of 85 on the motorway (I don't think my good lady wife was as impressed as I was when I told her of her Micra's new achievement). Mind you, it was just a tad frustrating to go from 0-85 in 90 minutes.
Passing a car showroom the other day I spotted a little blue Renault Clio sitting outside the dealership with a price tag of £1,695. I was sold the moment I spotted it and when the salesman agreed to a cash price of £1,500 and threw in a free MOT I must say I was pretty delighted with my purchase. The car may have done 86,000 miles but, unlike Bas, it has power steering and electric windows, a stereo which doesn't sound like its playing the latest death metal album when the volume sneaks over half way (even if the disc in question is puppy love by Donny Osmond - NOT that you would ever hear that in a car of mine) and locks with the press of a button on the key ring. That is something I'll have to remember having on numerous occasions unlocked the doors, then bent down, put the key in the lock, and locked them again. Doh!
The car does have a few little foibles inevitably. I am still trying to master the stereo and on occasion it seems to refuse to play, but I guess it is getting a bit temperamental in its old age. Think I might call it Ramsey after the TV chef of the same name.

Talking of TV chefs, I am now booked onto a one-day cookery course in a picturesque farmhouse in a place called Tea Green in Hertfordshire. The venue is owned by one Jean Christophe Novelli and the course was a 50th birthday present from my good lady wife, one of those experience days presents you can now buy.
I must admit when I first saw the envelope I envisaged having my world turned upside down and my bank accounts frozen, running for my life, nearly drowning in a submerged car and ending up jumping from the roof of a tall building. Then I remembered that was the plot of a Michael Douglas film, The Game, and that surely Mrs R wasn't going to put me through that kind of hell.
In fact, it is a novel idea (see what I did there) where you present a loved one with the chance to experience something they have never done before. In my case I am spending a day learning how to prepare and cook fish dishes together with their accompanying stocks and sauces. It sounds like it could be a fun day out and no doubt any recipes I learn will make their way onto here at some stage.

Ridsdale update. I am now sick to death of this rat, and he is reducing my poor pregnant wife to tears (mind you, that isn't too hard, these days, as previous entries on this blog will show).
I did notice that Rentokil managed to leave a comment on here after one of my first entries about Ridsdale. Well, they have been three times now and my kitchen has so much bait lying around I am as likely to catch a Great White shark as a small black rat. We also have sheets covered in contact dust, and bait stations below the shower and beside one of the pipes upstairs.
The trouble is our rat isn't taking the bait.
Now, I don't know if he is some kind of Mastermind, but he certainly isn't falling for any of these tricks, though there is plenty of evidence he is still around. Not droppings, I grant you, but little wet smudges in the kitchen and pieces of masonry that suddenly appear in the middle of the kitchen floor when we have been out and come back. No scurrying that I've noticed but we didn't always here him before.
Unfortunately, our last visit from the Rentokil man will be next Wednesday when he will take the bait away with him and wave goodbye. He admits that he, and his colleagues, are baffled about the problem. They have been discussing Ridsdale and cannot work out what to do.
Which, I must say, having spent over £200 on their services, I am not really happy with. Rentokil, if you are listening: when you pay someone to do a job and yet the problem is still there when it is all over, shouldn't you be returning the money or at least be returning until the problem is finally sorted? What is it the lawyers say, no win, no fee?
I am sorry but I was told you were the absolute experts, and though you left a good plug on this blog about "a professional job" being done, I am struggling to see that's the case.
It seems you can't look in lofts, or climb onto roofs to find holes, or take up floorboards. You can put down bait. Well, I can put down bait. I can pay out on one of those rat zappers, or put down glue traps, or any manner of things. But the money I would have spent on that, I preferred to use getting out "the experts".
I'm sure you do a wonderful job in factories etc sorting out their infestations, but we are talking about one bloody clever rat here... If you haven't got a clue then give me back my dosh.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Crying tonight!

TO say being pregnant can be an emotional rollercoaster in which your hormones are all over the place is an understatement to say the least. Crying, shouting, swearing, locking yourself in a room and refusing to come out - it all goes on. But anyway, that's enough about me.
This morning my lovely wife Mrs Rippers was sat on the bed looking a little bit miserable and shellshocked. It was about 15 minutes before she was due to leave for work and I wondered if she was feeling a bout of morning sickness, thankfully something which seems to be getting less and less these days.
As I looked at her I noticed the bottom lip quivering and the glasses starting to steam up, so I gave her a little hug. "Oh no, is that tears again?" I asked.
She nodded and was soon in full flow. "What on earth is the matter?" I prompted.
Eventually, when she was finally able to collect her thoughts she revealed: "I can't do the buttons up on my cardigan. I am too big."
Aah, poor dab. My heart was bleeding.
"Um, honey, you are now 21 weeks pregnant and are growing by the day," I pointed out. "It's not as if you have eaten your way through a Cadbury's Selection Box."

Update on Ridsdale... no news is good news I guess. Rentokil have been around and put some contact dust down on a newspaper. Apparently if he treads through it, then grooms himself, he won't feel too well. Hopefully that will be an end to his nocturnal activities because we are running out of kitchen mat.
I'm not convinced he has gone yet, though... we are talking about super rat. No amount of poison, traps and the like seem to have interrupted his jolly japes so far...
No scurrying though and no mat action for three days. There's a chance, a chance...

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

The pregnancy Olympics

TODAY I accompanied Mrs Rippers to a physio session for mums to be and I must admit it was a bit of an eye opener.
There were about 20 mums there in all and we sat around in a big circle and listened to the physio recommending all sorts of weird and wonderful things to take the pressure off the ligaments as the bump starts to grow.
Mrs R is showing quite proudly now, and the one thing this little session did was appease her anxieties and make her realise that some people are in a lot more discomfort than she is. She still has her bad days of feeling a bit nauseous and very tired, but she certainly hasn't been succumbing to any of the aches and pains that some of the other mums have been experiencing.
Still, it was interesting to learn all the information about posture and ways to sit, sleep and generally change your approach to cope with the growing sprog inside her.
While at the class, two of the mums felt a bit feint and had to go and lie down. Mrs R, though, trooper that she is, battled through and took in all the information available.
I have to admit, too, that the whole thing was a bit of an eye opener for me, particularly the section about Pelvic Floor Exercises.
Now, whenever I had heard that phrase before I had an image of a big mat being put out and the expectant mum having to do handstands, headstands and back flips across the mat from one corner to the other, with varying degrees of difficulty, in the manner of a rather weighty version of Olga Korbut. In short, I thought they were floor exercises done, rather like in the Olympics, to improve the strength of the pelvis. How wrong I could be.
For the pelvic floor isn't actually a mat placed on the floor, but the section of the body linking all a woman's personal bits, and the exercises are actually a case of relaxing and contracting muscles to make life a bit easier when it comes to the final push when baby is finally catapulted out into the world. I feel much wiser after the event, but as none of this takes place outside the body, I am wondering exactly how I can mark my missus for degree of difficulty, merit and artistic impression when I can't see what is going on.
Still, for conscientiousness alone, and following rigid disciplines to make sure the birth goes swimmingly (including packing up those two old pals of alcohol and nicotine), I think she deserves a perfect 10. Then again, I am probably a wee bit like the old iron curtain judges... biased to the extreme.

The council have been back with more poison and more advice... but Ridsdale seems to be going from strength to strength. The amount of excavating our rat has done - and I now consider him a bit of a pet, to be truthful - I fully expect he will have built a new conservatory for our property within a couple of months.
The man from the council thinks he is trying to get out, burrowing away in the manner of Michael Scofield and Lincoln Burrows (perhaps Burrows being the more appropriate) in that wonderful series Prison Break. I have my doubts because I have now unblocked the hole I originally blocked up in order to give him an escape route but, as yet, he hasn't taken the option. In fact, the council ratman thinks that is the reason Ridsdale has managed to chew a sizeable chunk out of the coconut matting by the back door - because he can sense the draught and is atttempting to dig his way out from there.
But it also serves another purpose. Apparently our indestructable rodent is quite partial to a bit of coconut matting for his supper.
The council man has now put some giant rat trap by the back door. It looks like one of those archaic torture devices found in the London dungeon. I am actually willing Ridsdale to find another way out, because I don't really want to find him decapitated in the kitchen on rising in the morning. Might put Mrs R off her porridge, too - and she LOVES her porridge.
Still, with his knack of defeating all previous efforts to get rid of Ridsdale I doubt he is going to fall for a big metal contraption parked on our back mat. More likely, I'll have a few drinks, tread on it by mistake, and find myself missing a little toe.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Roast Lamb (Italian style)

POLITICAL correctness gone mad. It's a phrase that is bandied about with regularity these days but I felt the full force of it when the rat catcher turned up to sort out our little rodent problem.
We tried the council first and a man turned up, put poison down then buggered off - all in 15 minutes. But our rat, which I have named Ridsdale after Cardiff City's under-fire chairman who tried to take us to court over a story which was later proved almost entirely true, seemed to take it all in his stride.
Mrs R saw the little bugger run across the kitchen floor just a few hours after the council man had been, and on Saturday it seemed he was single-handedly trying to demolish our house.
Sitting in the dining room, we once again heard the tell-tale signs of scurrying upstairs, followed by what sounded like Ridsdale turning our floorboards into his own, personal bowling alley. The scurrying was followed by a rolling, thundering noise which had me running outside with my torch to see if all the bricks outside the house were still intact. Thankfully they were.
The good wife wasn't too happy, though, so next day I was on the phone to Rentokil pleading with them to come and sort our problem. They, after all, are the experts.
I must admit it cost a pretty penny - more than £200 - to enlist their services but we imagined them arriving like ghostbusters, with all the latest technology to end Ridsdale's hi-jinks once and for all.
"He's upstairs under the floorboards and we can hear him from the dining room," I told our operative Steve. "It might be worth taking the floorboards up."
"Can't do that," said Steve, "If something goes wrong you might sue us for damages."
Instead he put more bait down in the kitchen.
"He didn't touch the last lot - are you sure this will work?" I asked.
"Yeh, he won't be able to resist it."
"Can't you put down some more traps?"
"Well, we have to be careful. All these pests are protected these days by laws. We must kill them humanely. We could put some sticky traps down but they would have to be collected within six hours of the vermin being caught so that it doesn't suffer."
Doesn't suffer? It's a smelly, disgusting, germ-carrying rat that has been making our life a misery for three weeks and eaten its way through my pasta supply.
No matter. Pests have rights too, apparently. More so, it seems, than homeowners.
How about climbing up into the loft to have a look around?
"We're not allowed to do that - health and safety issues."
Gordon Bennett - Rentokil? More like Rent-a-pal for our little monster, I reckon.
Anyway, we will leave the poison down and see what happens. Either that will work or the house will fall down. That should get rid of Ridsdale.

Mrs R was lying on the bean bag when she felt a flutter in her belly. I thought it was probably a response to the baked potato with cheese, chicken and broccoli she had consumed so enthusiastically a bit earlier.
But no. I was invited to put my hand on the offending spot and, lo and behold, there was a couple of little movements. I reckon the baby is already practicing to become the striker Bristol Rovers desperately need after another lousy performance at home to Wycombe on Saturday and a very disappointing day of non-activity as the transfer window closed. The youngster can't arrive soon enough, I tell you, though given my height I will be very suspicious if it turns out to be a six-foot replica of the sadly missed Ricky Lambert.

Still waiting for the insurance company to cough up on poor old Basil and as I write someone is supposed to be coming around to assess the damage. Same goes for the break-in at my London house. All the estimates have been sent off but I am still waiting for the go-ahead to get the broken window fixed. Lummy days.

On Sunday I used my birthday present from the Fat Kid to produce a rather tasty Sunday lunch. The book is called The Food of Italy and has a number of interesting recipes to try out.
I opted for the Roast Lamb and it was terrific.
What you need:
2 sprigs of Rosemary
3 garlic cloves
2 1/2 ounces of pancetta
A leg of lamb (well, we opted for half a leg of Welsh lamb from Tescos)
1 large onion, sliced into four thick pieces
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 1/2 cups of dry white wine

What I did:
Preheat the oven to 230 degrees (gas mark 8)
Strip the leaves from the rosemary, chop the garlic and pancetta then put in a food mixer and mix to a thick paste.
Make incisions in the lamb with a sharp knife, then smear the paste over and poor over the olive oil.
Put the onion slices in a roasting tin then rest the lamb on top of it and put it in the oven for 15 mins.
Then reduce the temp to 180 (Gas mark 4) and pour in a cup of the wine. Roast for about an hour for medium rare, or a bit longer if you prefer. Baste a couple of times with the wine while cooking and, if necessary, add some water if it looks like it might dry out.
Transfer the lamb to a carving platter when done and rest for 10 mins before slicing.
Put the tin on top of the hob, add the rest of the wine, and cook for 3 to 4 mins.
At this point I varied from the recipe, added a good sprinkling of flour to thicken the wine gravy to a paste, then added half a pint of chicken stock gradually until I had a really nice thick sauce.
Add salt and pepper then carve the lamb and serve on a plate, running the gravy over the top. Mmmm!