KFC and halal food

So it’s been announced that KFC are trialing an all-halal menu. If successful (!) the menu will be rolled out nationally.

I’ve got just one observation on this.

How can slaughtering animals by cutting their throats and allowing them to bleed to death be compatible with animal welfare legislation?

I don’t ask this question as a vegetarian, I ask as someone who has a firm interest in stamping out animal cruelty.

Oh. Is it lunchtime already?

That would account for the feeling of ravenous hunger then.

So.

Sainsbury’s then.

The Sainsbury that is dangerously close to my primary lair in Westminster is my normal lunch-time buying place.

I realise this is going to categorise me as having a lack of imagination (bring it on!) but I don’t think that my daily lunch of Vegetarian Big Breakfast sandwich, 0.5Kg of fruit, bottle of fruit juice and *cough* small bar of Cadbury’s Caramel, accompanied by a Medio Latté from Costa is too exceptional,  do you?

So why is it that today, when I’m in another building (in gloriously quaint Southwark) that the local Sainsbury doesn’t carry said Vegetarian Big Breakfast sandwich?

Yes I can have my 0.5Kg of fruit and my bottle of fruit juice and my *cough* small bar of Cadbury’s Caramel. I can even have a Medio Latté from the Costa that is co-located in this building!

But no, there is no (and there will continue to be no) Vegetarian Big Breakfast sandwich.

No free-range egg, vegetarian sausage, lettuce, mayonnaise and tomato relish filling, delightfully sheltering between two slices of…

Well, you get the picture I’m sure.

I looked at the only real alternative, a Cheese Ploughman’s sandwich (and briefly wondered why a ploughman would be made of cheese. I mean, that wouldn’t be very practical would it? How would he do the ploughing if he was made of cheese? Eh?) but my heart just wasn’t in it.

Sigh.

Enthusiasm waned.

And the devil caught me in my moment of weakness and whispered his seductive but twisted words in to my ear.

And I succumbed.

So lunch today will be a bottle of fruit juice, a Medio Latté from the Costa and…

A pot noodle.

I feel ashamed.

But to make up for my shame, I am forgoing the small bar of Cadbury’s Caramel.

It felt like the right thing to do.

Naked!

I am having a day off. This is so excellent I can barely describe the, erm, excellence.

Let me explain:

I woke up at 07.40, had a shower, shave, brushed teeth, tottered downstairs, made a cup of tea and then… went back to bed!

About two hours later I got up again, had another shower again (fnar!), tottered downstairs (again) and enjoyed another cup of tea and many rounds of toast.

It’s not even 10.30, how excellent is this?

I’ll be recording podcast episode #53 this afternoon, going out for a coffee, meeting a colleague of Soph’s and then going up to the yard to play with young Vin.

I love days off!

Breathe…

So there are three bits of information to record.

Firstly, we are back in Chez Jones. We have travelled 210 miles in the last two days, but now the outside world is hidden from view, the curtains are closed, the lounge lights are dimmed and we are curled up on the couch, relaxing with a nice cup of tea after having just polished off a milkshake picked up on the way home from a certain fast food outlet. Ahem.

Secondly, we had a lovely time in Bath. And Wells.

In the former place the hotel was very nice, our room was absolutely gorgeous and the breakfast this morning was very yummy. Soph did us proud with that choice of a place to stay.

Also in Bath the restaurant we ate at last night – Aqua in Walcott Street – was another truly excellent choice from the Soph. The food on my dishes was fantastic (so were the contents of my glasses. Hic!).

The people at the next table were both hilarious and contemptible, and an outstanding example of why humanity needs to buck its ideas up or just become extinct.

After a lovely meal we walked through the freezing night air down to the taxi rank outside Bath Abbey and saw, on the brief walk, typical examples of the kind of late-Friday-night lifeforms that I used to see so often when I worked in that city.

Not many minutes later we were tucked up in a football pitch-sized bed that was extremely comfortable.

Today we spent some time in Bath (and saw a brilliant street entertainer – photos may follow!) before nipping down to Wells for lunch, walking, talking, browsing the bookstalls in the market and just chilling out.

As soon as I put the laptop down we are in for an episode of 24. Or two. 🙂

The third detail to record is that as today is the 31st I have reached the end of my self-imposed challenge to post once a day for January and give each post a one-word title.

Thank heavens for that! It was very easy but as the end of the month loomed closer it seemed to put me under more pressure.

Anyway… 24 beckons.

After the drought

… the flood!

I’ve mentioned before how hit and miss the whole ‘reviewing bands/artists/albums’ gig is?

And I’ve also briefly covered the wide range of genres that this work covers?

And perhaps made sideways comment about the enormous depth of, umm, quality?

In the last 48 hours two albums and an EP have landed on my plate. One album is very avante garde prog rock, the other comfortable folk/pop. The EP is hardcore indie.

All three are absolutely brilliant. I’d be very comfortable with these in my iPod library.

I must try to remain objective though. 🙂

In other news…

I cooked tea this evening; pasta, roast tomato/pesto sauce and added sliced vegetarian sausages (with various extra bits and bobs added during the cooking process for extra flavour and bite).

And elsewhere…

I’m rubbing my hands with glee over news of the 2009 band tour. But I can’t announce a thing until the details have come through. No, it’s not the headline band – though I am working very hard on that!

Ah, I hear the sound of Soph’s car so I’ve got to dash about the house like a loon cleaning up the many empty bottles of Frijj and empty wrappers of chocolate bars!

B.

Being accompanied

We had a very late lunch/early tea at The Mermaid in Burford today. Our table was near the roaring log fire and the food was not bad at all (wild mushroom risotto with garlic bread followed by apple pie and custard).

We also had accompaniment from the gentleman on the next table.

The Mermaid plays unassuming background music, they must have had a bunch of disks in a CD-changer; it was pleasant, all out of the ‘modern but classic’ genre of pop music.

And the guy on the next table hummed, sung and whistled his way through the entire repertoire in the CD library.

It was really funny. It could have been awful but thankfully he managed to remain in key.

Still funny though; I nearly wet myself laughing when Angels came on and in the best karaoke style he chipped right in. 🙂

B.

Frankie & Benny; stick a fork in it, it’s done

Sunday afternoon we drove to the outskirts of Oxford for a bite to eat and then see the latest Bond film, Quantum of Solace.

The retail park that contains Oxford’s Vue Cinema also hosts an outlet of Frankie and Benny, the American-style Italianesque diner.

I wish I had good things to report about our visit to the latter. Sadly words almost fail and that isn’t good at all.

We walked in and stood by the cash register and waited to be seen.

And waited.

And waited.

Actually we were seen by several members of staff almost immediately we walked in.

Seen and ignored.

At least five times.

So we waited some more.

After waiting far too long (had there been an alternative dining outlet in the retail park I would have insisted that we should have walked out, but hunger kept me there) a guy – who we presumed to be the manager – walked up and said ‘Two seconds guys’.

He lied.

We waited some more.

And waited.

We were eventually shown to a table that hadn’t been laid or prepared correctly.

Unfortunately the floor underneath the table hadn’t been cleared either, but we didn’t notice that until I’d trodden on a very stale, greasy portion of chips (French Fries if one is from the far side of the pond).

We took our menus from the person who showed us to our seats and waited.

And waited.

Far.

Too.

Long.

Again.

When the waiter returned to ask if we wanted to order drinks we also gave him our well-deliberated food orders.

To be scrupulously honest to these folks our food arrived quickly and it was good.

We ate and enjoyed.

Except for the part where the manager guy walked past the table, stopped, leaned over and removed a menu from the holder on our table.

Without so much as a please or a thank-you. Rude bastard.

Anyway, we finished our main courses.

And then waited.

And whilst waiting we deliberated over desserts which we eventually chose.

And then waited.

And then ordered.

And waited.

W.a.i.t.e.d.

When our two dessert-bearing dishes were put in front of us the waiter told Soph that she had no whipped cream because they’d run out. Nice of them to let her know and give her the opportunity of ordering something else.

My cheesecake had no cream of any variety, despite a statement to the contrary on the menu.

We ate our almost-but-not-quite-completely-presented deserts while I mentally grumbled about the shabby way Frankie and Benny had treated us. And as I did I began to look at the way the food chain presents itself – from an image point of view.

Sunday afternoon’s clientele was almost exclusively young families with very young children (apart from us, natch). I wondered how these 21st Century customers viewed the peculiar ‘early 1900s’ decor. I also wondered what relevance it had to them.

Did these customers, for example, come to Frankie and Benny’s because of the (you have to admit) quirky decor, or did they come simply because Frankie and Benny’s is there.

Black and white photographs of old jazz singers means what, precisely, in a family restaurant?

Or perhaps Frankie and Benny isn’t a family restaurant?

And there’s the rub.

Frankie and Benny might have intended their chain of food outlets to be a family restaurant within the context of 1940s/50s America, but in the hard light of 21st Century England the image is uncomfortably anachronistic.

And speaking of being uncomfortable…

When the staff  trot out the birthday cake for whoever it is, and the lights dim a little, they play a song over the PA. To a very familiar tune the lyrics are:

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday [whatever your name is, we just want your money]
Happy Birthday to you.

(OK, I made the bit in the square brackets up, but those words sum up the Frankie and Benny experience for me)

And then they play Cliff Richard’s second-placed Eurovision entry ‘Congratulations’. The lyrics of this song are:

Congratulations
And celebrations
When I tell everyone that you’re in love with me
Congratulations and jubilations
I want the world to know I’m happy as can be.

Who could believe that I could be happy and contented
I used to think that happiness hadn’t been invented
But that was in the bad old days before I met you
When I let you
Walk into my heart

Congratulations…

I was afraid that maybe you thought you were above me
That I was only fooling myself to think you loved me
But then tonight you said you couldn’t live without me
That round about me
You wanted to stay

Congratulations…

Congratulations
And jubilations
I want the world to know I’m happy as can be
I want the world to know
I’m happy as can be.

Given that the majority of the birthday people there on Sunday were children, I couldn’t help feeling distinctly uncomfortable at this lyric.

But perhaps that’s just me being aware of what the message in the song actually is about – a couple declaring their (distinctly non family!) love for each other, rather than labouring under the enormous misconception that the words are just back-slappingly laudatory.

Although the food was good the service was absolutely dire and the manager led by example as exemplified by his rudeness. Added to these aspects, the overall ambience was little better than sitting in a crèche, whilst the exceptionally poor standard of front-of-house cleanliness made me seriously question how clean the food preparation and cooking areas were!

So Frankie and Benny’s – whose registered UK office is in Marshalsea Road, Borough, London, SE1 1EP, there are a couple of messages here.

Your chain in Grenoble Road Oxford needs some serious hands-on management. You need to rethink the appropriateness of playing ‘Congratulations’ for every birthday presentation (and indeed, examine the meaning behind the lyrics and rethink how appropriate it is full stop!) and you really should think about doing something with your image, the one you have now is lacklustre, tired and 15-20 years out of date.

Stick a fork in it. You’re done.

B.

That’s the (Christmas) spirit!

I am supposed to be out this Wednesday evening.

It’s a big work do. There will be about 750 of us ‘staff’ at a black tie ‘end of year and awards dinner’ in a hotel conference centre in west London.

I don’t know what time dinner will be served, but we’ve been told the bar will be open from 18.30 to 23.30.

So if I stick with it I need to sort myself out with a monkey suit for Wednesday evening. And if I stay until… erm… 23.00 I might get home by 02.00. And then get up at 05.00 to go to work the next day.

Hmmmm…

None of this is very attractive.

But it might be a shrewd diplomatic move to go, to see and be seen.

As you might guess from the numbers, it’s just a staff night out; wives, husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends aren’t invited because that would double the already seriously large number.

The meal, I should imagine, would be served on a production line model with staff running around like worker ants under the burden of many plates.

I’m secretly dreading it.

But feel that I should go.

I just know that they’ll cock up my vegetarian meal order – with 750 folk on the roll I’ll be in the minority and will get pushed to the back of the queue. So instead of cold shoulder I’ll probably be dining on a cold non-meat dish.

Ho hum.

I am also supposed to be out next Wednesday evening for the yard Christmas meal. Much prettier, much younger company and no talk about work but much chat about equine-related things.

Gosh, it’s so hard to compare the qualities of the two evenings!

B.

It comes in such cute containers*

Yesterday we staggered out of bed in the early afternoon, showered, dressed and made our way to Abingdon for a walkabout, a look around and some lunch. Or second breakfast if one is of hobbit extraction.

While we were in the restaurant doing some serious people-watching I noticed a woman feeding her young baby.

‘She’s breast-feeding!’ I said to Sophie.

‘Eeew, that can’t be right, can it?’

‘Well I guess it’s OK. She’s being discrete, you can’t see anything.’

‘Are you disappointed?’

‘No, just curious.’

‘Why?’ she asked.

‘I was wondering if I could have a go.’ I said, indicating Sophie’s ample bosom.

‘We’d get thrown out.’ she giggled.

‘Why?’

‘Because you’re a grown man.’

I’m still smarting from that insult.

Yes. I’m prepared to concede that on the outside I might appear to some people as a grown man. But on the inside?

Bah!

Anyway, changing the topic for a moment.

Today is Sophie’s first day at her new job.

I hope she plays nicely with the other children and has an excellent day.

B.

* The title comes from the punchline of the joke:

A first year medical student was asked to sum up the benefits of breast milk over bottled (formula) milk. He considered things for a few moments before replying: “Breast milk needs no prior preparation or sterilisation. And it comes in such cute containers.”

The manflu rages on

My cold near terminal case of bubonic plague flu continues its attempt to strike me down as I soldier on gamely at the office.

You know how things can only be described as very serious when I have no appetite?

Guess what.

I have NO appetite.

None.

It is, I fear, very serious.

Which is a shame as this evening it’s the yard farewell dinner at the Chinese restaurant.

Boo hoo!

B.