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Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Blackberries for free

Sorry to disappoint but I'm not giving away mobile phones today. I'm referring to the kind gift of 'fresh to bursting' blackberries given to me recently by my friend Rebecca. Money is tight at the moment so I took half of the big bowl of blackberries and made them, with some cooking apples, into a pie. I already had the pastry mix in the cupboard.


Friday, 24 August 2012

Au Revoir Cafe Rouge Nottingham.

I had a bit of a suprise last week in ambling down a main, if narrow, shopping street in Nottingham. I was on the way home from work and not paying a great deal of attention when I realised that I was walking alongside the Nottingham branch of the French styled cafe/bistro, Cafe Rouge. Except that the building was no longer the cafe I knew. In fact the tall windows were all whited out and the stylish writing on the windows was no more. It certainly was a moment of confusion. What was happening? A revamp? Closure? I carried on to the bus station and telephoned my best mate Janette to let her know the news. We were quite shocked and saddened.

image by Christopher Frost

My friend Janette and I have often eaten in the cafe and generally enjoyed the ambiance, relaxed atmosphere and the food. Prior to our visits I have been with a large group when I worked at Capital One, with family and friends and on my own a few times. Also when the branch first opened around the early 1990s my ex and I had migrated from the continental style cafe 'Metz' on the edge of Broadmarsh centre (steak baguettes being a favourite) to Cafe Rouge and often had to queue on a Saturday so popular was the new French style venue. We would have gone there a fair few times over the years so much did we enjoy it.

Cafe Rouge describe their branches style as:
“With a combination of delicious food, great wines and a real ambience, Café Rouge has embodied the style and je ne sais quoi of French dining since it opened way back in 1989. Now with over 90 sites across the country it's just the place to mull over the morning papers with a cafe au lait and a croissant, pop in for a spot of lunch, share a post-work drink or relax over an evening meal. The menu covers a range of French classics from croques and baguettes, ideal for a quick and easy snack, to more substantial fare such as steak frites and boeuf bourguignon. Likewise, the wines are predominately French; many made by lesser known producers, and provide the perfect accompaniment to the food on offer. No hassle, no rush, no skinny- decaff-double-shot-to-go, just a vibrant atmosphere that moves with your moods throughout the day.”
the bar at Cafe Rouge Nottingham
So In Memorium of this branch I give you a few photographs that I hope show the pleasant venue that apparently will be developed into a large branch of Hugo Boss. Thankyou Cafe Rouge for some very pleasant moments and some good food and a fair few times pretending I was in France for an hour or so. We'll miss you on Bridlesmith Gate.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A lamb tagine and scallops with Puy lentils

As part of a cost cutting exercise I bought a half price shoulder of lamb from work on Saturday and made a lamb tagine that will last four or more days if I don't get carried away and pig it all in two or three goes. Nice food cheers me up and I am in need of a good cheering up as the Tax Office have decided to lower the threshhold for Working Tax Credits to 13k thus stripping my income supplement of £120 a month. Plus they want £660 back by April next year. I'm not very happy with this as I just about get by financially with the credits. Without them I will struggle on the wages I earn. I forsee some serious thinking in the weeks ahead.

Anyway, here are some cheery pictures of my cooking. The next blog posts may well be about 'how to survive on spuds alone' or 'the pea and all its many uses'.

I also cooked some scallops as a starter and added some peppery Puy lentils and a small salad of basil and radishes

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

A long weekend in Karlsruhe.

I have put off writing this because there is almost too much to write about in my mind’s view. One side of the story could be a record of a very pleasant four days spent on holiday in Karlsruhe, a beautiful if currently upside down city in Germany. Another, and certainly more important view would be the changes it has brought about in my life, zum Beispiel, thoughts of a new life, and thoughts of doing a lot more with my language skills.

So, I decided to go to Germany again to see my friends there and to enjoy a performance of the Jakobus theatre’s production of a farce called Boeing Boeing. Previous readers of this blog will recognise that I went with the Lace Market Theatre as part of a theatre exchange in May this year. I flew this time from Stanstead airport, on a Boeing, as it happens.

I stayed with a family I have known since my first ever exchange in 2002 and have remained in touch with them ever since. Andrea and Peter Voos were my hosts and made my stay very relaxed, convivial and interesting. We ate some nice food together al fresco; maultaschen, Black Forest cured ham, home grown tomatoes, radishes and a variety of breads. We chatted in English and German about various things; we discussed the Olympics, life and theatre, people in Nottingham and had a few beers on the porch on the balmy evenings. Our conversations made me think about my levels of fitness and gave me food for thought about looking after myself better.

I hadn’t slept well on the previous night (far too excited) and so I had a brief afternoon kip before I went into town on the tram to meet up firstly with my friend Thorsten at three pm in front of the Chateau and then to the Jakobus theatre to see my friends there for a pre-show meal and drink at Café Bleu opposite the theatre. I had already met Carsten who had kindly picked me up from the airport earlier in the day. I was looking forward to meeting my other friends, Marcus, Lisa, Lena and Hannah and especially looking forward to the show itself. Previous to this I spent some quality time with Thorsten and we had a few beers and gradually I recognised others from the Die Käuze theatre as they gathered to do a sound check for the evening showcase of the Operetta ‘ Schwarzwald Mädel’  to promote the show happening later in the year. As well as Larissa Kaufmann and her mum I surprised a few other German friends like Volker and Henrik simply by being in Karlsruhe so soon after the official visit in May. They all seemed pleased to see me.

Around six o’clock I made my way down the Kaiser Alleé via the various  ‘baustelle’ – road works – to the Jakobus theatre. I was delighted to see my old friends at a table outside Café Bleu and I stayed awhile chatting theatre with their director Andreas Rüdenauer and everyone else. I felt very welcomed by their group and amused them with my German language and comical Badisch expressions learnt on my previous visit while I ate my Currywurst and frites and drank another ice cold Pils. 
Marcus and me

Later on I went into the theatre and watched their warm up and took a few photos. Gerd and Herrlich Lehrmann came by to say ‘hello’ and I chatted in the interval with other people I’ve got to know, like Lea Voos, Anna Brünner and Jutta and Peter.  They all seemed very impressed that I had made the trip to Karlsruhe to see this show and I felt very included in their society. The possibly of me performing a one man show called “Der Kontrabass’ was talked about too but I had considered this previously and realised the impractical nature of working with a double bass on stage in England and Germany as well as the transportation of such a thing.

The youthful and energetic production of Boeing Boeing was superb. I had read the script in English before the trip so I had a rough idea what was being said and happening and the performances were top notch. It was the first time I had seen my good friend Marcus Künstler in a big role and he was very funny as the male foil. Every actor, male and female, worked very hard to make the show work, including some songs (not in the original) like ‘Come Fly With Me’ and ‘Fly Me To the Moon’, all sung in English. A farce is all about timing and quick reactions and they did very well despite the sweaty heat of the theatre itself plus the balmy warmth of the weather outside. They fully deserved the rapturous applause they received at the end. The theatre is hoping to bring the production to the Lace Market Theatre in 2014 as part of the theatre exchange we run between the two cities. Ich hoffe das das möglich ist und ich freue mich sehr darauf.

After the show I helped them clear away the props (this was the last night) and joined them all for some food (Spätzle) and drinks and chat at a long table at Café Bleu. Again I felt very included and was treated like an honoured guest. I remarked that this experience of having some nice company, food and drinks sat outside might be quite different in Nottingham on a Friday night. The whole atmosphere was pleasant and no stupid gangs of drunken people around, making a pleasant evening uncomfortable, like back home.  Ali Voβ and Marcus kindly gave me lift back to the Voos house. I think that I may have struggled to find it otherwise, especially after a few drinks and in the dark. I managed to lose my way the following day in the daylight. I’d have no chance in the dark.
Interior wall at Cafe Bleu

The following day (Sunday) I went to the Cornelli’s (my hosts last time) for a very nice afternoon at their house with their daughter Meike, son Marius and mum and dad Martina and Michael. I took along a Nottingham newspaper showing the Queen and some of the royal family in Nottingham during the Jubilee celebrations as this German family like the British Royal Family and they were thrilled to see this. The Cornellis had gone out of their way to put together some lovely rolls and cakes for me to enjoy courtesy of Richard Nussbaumer the baker and konditorei in Waldstadt and we all had a super time talking in English and German over some wine and beer and swatting wasps that had taken a liking to the luscious cakes. Seven wasps met their end that afternoon.

On Monday  I returned to the Cornelli’s with the intention of posting a few brochures into their letterbox and going on my way. As it happened I bumped into their daughter and went back to their house along with her granny and on Meike’s insistence, entered the house unannounced. Mrs Cornelli shrieked and exclaimed her surprise at seeing me once again. We all laughed, I had a quick glass of water and went on my way into Karlsruhe centre via the tram.

I had arranged to meet up with Thorsten again at the Oxford Pub opposite the University where he works and we spent an hour over a simple lunch together mainly talking about the success of the showcase on Saturday evening.

I used the tram system a lot whilst I was there and enjoyed gliding around the city to various places and as the Monday evening sun went down I took a fair few photos in this special light and then made my way back to my temporary home for my last night in Karlsruhe. During the day I had a chance to do a little shopping and visit some old haunts. I began to realise that special places from previous visits aren’t always the same when it is a different time of day and there is a lack of friends to enjoy the place with. I also started to think that if I ever chose to live abroad/in Germany/ friends would be the most important part of that existence as well as having work. Otherwise I think that I would be very lonely. Having a good command of the language would be hugely beneficial too.

On Monday evening I spent my time with my hosts Peter and Andrea and we watched the Olympics (mainly the women’s pole vaulting) and had some food outdoors. Andrea also showed me a collection of photos that her brother Micheal had taken of the 40th celebrations at the Jakobus Theatre.

Early Tuesday morning Andrea was kind enough to take me back to Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden airport and having left their house at 7.30am I was actually back home by 2.50pm. This was mainly due to enquiring if I could use my rail tickets earlier than planned. I could and I took the Birmingham train from Stanstead via Cambridge and changed at Leicester for the direct train to Nottingham. Andrea had suggested I take a filled roll and a croissant with me to eat en route as well as a couple of bananas which I did and didn’t really feel hungry when I got home. A cup of tea went down very well though.

Since my trip I have been sharing my photos with German and English friends on Facebook and have recently framed the poster I asked for of Boeing Boeing. I have begun my own journey of improving my German language skills and we’ll see where it takes me.