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Monday, 26 December 2016

Christmas Day dinner chez moi. Roast rib of beef and a brussel sprout free dinner.

After a very busy week at Tesco preparing whole salmon and a few mirror carp (Friday 23rd was especially busy) I had an early night on Christmas Eve after watching a Westworld on DVD. Starring Yul Bryner as the dangerous robot cowboy, the film was like the curate's egg - only good in parts. The computers in the Delos holiday resort operations room looked very dated with their spinning tapes and meaningless patterns on the computer screens. It is hard to think back as to why I liked the film and probably went to see it two or three times at the cinema in its original release. Anyhow, early to bed I trotted for a well deserved kip.

On Christmas Day morning I caught up with some clothes and bedclothes washing and ironing and put the oven on to cook my roast beef rib for Christmas dinner. The single bone rib was placed in a casserole with some cold water and some spices including cinnamon bark, cloves, star anise and a couple of bay leaves. I cooked it for two hours at gas mark 5 giving it a basting half way through the cook. I kept my dinner simple with some roast potatoes and a jar of baby carrots and petits pois. The gravy was made with a beef stock cube added to the cooking juices from the joint. A bottle of Prosecco saw me toasting a nice relaxed Christmas Day with Harris and Soufie - the cats from next door. Not a single brussel sprout entered my kitchen.

After dinner I listened to the Together album by Michael Ball and Alfie Boe and I watched the delightful Katherine Jenkins in a Christmas concert. After some French Fitou red wine from the Languedoc region I nodded off like one does on Christmas Day. In the evening I enjoyed another DVD of comedy by Bill Bailey. Part way through I realised I had seen it before but watched him until the end anyway.

During the day I rang my step mum to offer my seasonal best wishes and was also busy on my Samsung tablet wishing my friends a Merry Christmas. My lovely neighbour Jo popped round with some cat food and a few nice presents for me. This year I am cat sitting for a few days to help her out whilst she spends some time with her family in the Wirral. And now on a quiet Boxing Day morning I would like to wish a very 'Merry Christmas' to all my super readers. Phil Lowe

By the way: as well as working I reviewed at least eight Christmas shows in the East Midlands prior to the run up to the Christmas shopping frenzy at Tesco. Most of them are still running so if you are undecided what to go and see do check out my reviews at East Midlands Theatre.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

The attraction of a German Christmas Market in Nottingham 2016.

Suddenly the key is word is 'German' at most Christmas Markets and with Nottingham's (better than usual) Christmas Market and attractions this year we seem to have a plethora of stalls that associate themselves with something Germanic. In my mind that is no bad thing as most purchasable things from modern Germany have the stamp of quality running through them. This year the Nottingham Christmas Market on the Old Market Square is full of quality stalls mainly selling food and sweet treats alongside a couple of old fashioned traditional rides like the Helter Skelter and the Merry Go Round. Of course it wouldn't be Christmas in some people's eyes without the large skating rink: icy onlooker to many an accomplished skater and a few prat falls.

Last Saturday I visited the Old Market Square and a few other festive places in the city to photograph the festivities and check out the food. The Curry Wurst and French style German chips (you work that one out) were ausgezeichnet - excellent! The mulled wine was very good value too from the stall near to the Helter Skelter.

Here is a short video slide show I have put together to give you a flavour of my trip into Nottingham City centre and the Christmas Fair.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Those cats eat me out of house and home!

First of all I will say that I was never ever influenced by the 1960s film title That Darned Cat! starring the very manly Rock Hudson and possibly a hot to trot vampish female like the lusty sex goddess Doris Day. I haven't looked this up but it is amusing to think of these stars of yesteryear in this way. Anyway, to what am I referring to in terms of being influenced? Opinions about cats of course!

I have always been a cat lover since the family cat, a Russian Blue called Misty absently trotted into our Lowe family lives mid 1970s and perpetually stuck his pretty in pink tongue out at the world in his later years.  Then there was Peron and Timmy, Titus and Scritchy, Itchy and Titchy and the still hanging on Henry the Eternal Kitten who now lives with my former wife and is stone deaf. The cat, not the former wife.

Regular readers of this blog will no doubt be aware of Mr Harris and Madame Soufie (my add on titles incidentally). They are daily visitors in search of extra fuss, cuddles, stroking and shockingly - food! They are not even my cats. They belong to my very nice neighbour and her house cat flap is the cat parachute to the communal path onto which they land and yowl outside my door. Or simply make pathetic cat noises.


I didn't glue them in place honest!

"I am so starving Daddy Phil!!!!"

They are so used to coming round that my kitchen floor has official status on the Moggy Ordnance Survey Maps charter. A permanent groove has been worn across the floor to their secondary bowls which house crunchy biscuits and a water bowl. Any spare money (laughs ironically) gets spent on pussy treats: slithers of  lean bits of fresh lamb chops; chicken breast; lean pork chops and once in awhile delicate slithers of trimmed sardines. Silver darlings for the little darlings. Harris did puke up some bits of stomach warm sprats the other day but only because he wolfed them down far too quick.

The back of the top of the settee has a special place in the cats' hearts as it is right next to the warm radiator and puurfect for depositing incredible amounts of cat hairs for 'Daddy Phil' to collect via a liberal dabbing of masking tape. Those Darned Lovely Cats! Bless 'em.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Return visit to the first place I ever cooked a meal: on a pile of rocks in Derbyshire!

Nostalgia is like learning to reverse a car: it is all about looking back. On Monday last I went back to my teenage years favourite haunt. No, not a derelict Yoof Centre in the middle of Chaddesden (a big housing estate near Derby) but rather a beautiful Scout camp site in the Derbyshire Hills. In fact Drum Hill Scout Camp site near Little Eaton.

I am currently writing a book about my days in the Wolf Cubs and the Boy Scouts. The book will be a funny and poignant account of me being a wimpy kid and wimpy teenager who never visited a Wimpy Bar but regularly lost his woggle. This is not a euphemism. I wouldn't have known what a euphemism was if it crept naughtily into my Scouting shorts, raised the flag and tickled my fancy. I was a shy boy with an odd interest in learning to tie knots. That too is not any kind of oblique euphemism about latent interests in bondage. Whatever that is. Enough said. The book will be called Where's My Woggle? I expect you all to buy a copy! Scout's Honour and all that. It will be as much about growing up in the 1960s as about Scouting. Promises to be a hoot!

So, after my digression I headed off to Drum Hill walking all the way along Moor Road to the back of the campsite. My intention was to photograph an old gate that sported a hand carved Scout sign. I thought it would make a good image for the cover of the book. I walked and walked and walked and walked. I reached the gate post but no old gate was to be seen. Undaunted I clambered up through the woods in my old hiking boots (one can take nostalgia too far as I was to find out via my later aching feet). Feeling my teenage memories flooding back I was on a high as I finally reached the middle of the campsite and began taking photos and a bit of video. Below is a two minute video of my visual journey at Drum Hill.

The imaginary scent of wood smoke was instantly in my head and the very altar fire on which I cooked my very first proper meal (beef stew and dumplings) was still there right in front of me. I was cooking for my Scout Camp Cook badge. Cast aside any thoughts of a camper than camp Kenneth Williams type flapping vapidly over the flames. This was manly stuff and I was very proud of my outdoor endeavours. The other boys dumplings (stop it!) were all stuck to their hands. I somehow knew to roll mine in flour. Suddenly I had found something I was good at that was practical and useful!

So back to Monday. I spent some time at the campsite wandering from beech wooded enclave to mid field water facility and the trig point which holds a focal memory for camping excursions to the site but no practical application in my own experience. I did however remember dock leaves and how we Scouts rubbed them on our nettle stung legs to ease the throbbing pain after getting stung.

Via Morley Lane I chatted to some young cows and revelled in the good weather. If I had a penny for the amount of times in my young life that I must have hiked up and down Morley Lane I would have at least... I was never too hot at maths.

On the way back home through Little Eaton I popped into Barry Fitch's butchers shop to say "hello" and grab a hot Cornish pasty.

The next day I was going through an old photo album and found a picture of the old gate. Here it is in all its nostalgic glory. "Campfires burning, Campfires burning, draw nearer, draw nearer..."

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Liver Lover? Liver and onions and mashed spuds

Before I start I must alert you to one of most popular blog posts on my 60plus Sit Down Comedy Blog. It seems that everyone and his pensioner's dog want to check out what you can expect when you get to pensionable age. Here it is. How to be a pensioner.

Right now, to save money by going for one of the Winter Warmer type dishes: Liver and onions. A hearty casserole of this has lasted me three meals already and may well extend to four. It is simple.

Dust sliced lambs' liver in flour, fry. Cook down some onions in the frying pan. Make some mashed potatoes and glam it up with steamed cabbage. Add liver and onions to three tins of chopped tomatoes in a casserole and place in hot oven for forty-five minutes. Serve piping hot.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Emma McKeating a star amongst fishmongers.

I have never met Emma McKeating in person but Emma is one of the most passionate fishmongers I have ever come across. She works at one of the Tesco Extra stores in Stoke Upon Trent. We often chat on facebook and we have a common passion outside of food for Musical Theatre. It is my hope that we get to see Michael Ball and Alfie Boe in their Together show at Nottingham Theatre Royal this coming weekend. I am hoping to review and Emma will be my guest.

Emma does an extra-ordinary job as a Tesco fishmonger and is always there for her customers; always super keen to demonstrate her love of her job and the fish products. Emma travels the country in order to further her knowledge and she wins awards for her fishmonger talents. I am proud to have her as my friend. This is Emma and this is her blog. Please read it and share it.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

The distinct smell of properly smoked bacon and faulty tools.

Although I would never wish to go back to a traditional butcher's environment due to the heavy lifting and hard physical work I have enjoyed looking at some images in an online album of mine.

This picture of two sides of smoked bacon brought forth the most memorable memory that was almost olfactory. For some reason I always enjoyed boning out the sides of smoked bacon for the aroma and also the skill in pulling out the long rib bones (which can be achieved with string!).

When I worked at Rydes in The Cornmarket (Derby City Centre) we had a large amount of staff on the shop floor and in the cutting room above the shop. A couple of times a week a retired chap called Ken used to come in to help us slice the huge amount of bacon the busy shop used to sell. The young male staff used to enjoy playing tricks on him. A good example would be the time one of the lads climbed into the chest freezer where Ken would be expecting to find sides of streaky bacon firming up and thereby to be of a stiffness to cut on the bacon slicer. A few minutes after Ken arrived he would put his white coat on and open up the lid on the chest freezer. Imagine his total surprise when he opened the lid expecting to find several slabs of streaky bacon only jump out of his skin when the lad leapt out like a frosty zombie!

Bacon slicer

We also had another tool which was worse than useless. This was the tenderising machine in which the idea was to tenderise portions of beef steak. It was a bit like a toaster to look at. The steak got dropped into the slot at the top and then the spinning blades would score the surface of the meat. Well, that was the idea. The reality was that the two intertwined sets of blades weren't very sharp and there was no method of sharpening them. Therefore, they would just chew up the meat and cleaning the gunked up blades was a real pain.

Interior blades.

Another very faulty piece of equipment was the bag sealer or tape dispenser. Here the ideal scenario was that the colourful tape would seal the plastic bag that the meat was enclosed in. Most of the time it just snapped which was a huge issue when the shop was rammed with queuing customers. Fun times.

Monday, 24 October 2016

A sudden passion for steamed cabbage

I appear to  have developed a passion for steamed cabbage of late. In the latter part of last week I made a big chicken casserole with lots of nice fresh veg and garlic and added some shredded steamed cabbage and today I made a pork chop dinner (from the local butcher) with mashed potatoes and mashed carrots plus steamed spring cabbage and a few capers. I'm even considering making my own sauerkraut!

Monday, 17 October 2016

Waste Not Want Not.

I do hate waste and as the pennies are tight at the moment I have been utilising what food I have in creatively. One night I made four different types of curry when I found some sauces on offer for a pound a jar. Along with some chicken breasts, some peppers and a few mushrooms I happened to have in I spent the evening cooking and once the food had cooled I created four different batches of one person curry for the freezer. The whole lot probably only cost me about £7 for four meals and I can leave the tub to defrost during the day to then warm up at night.

Just yesterday I made some patatas bravas by using up the remaining  home made tomato based sauce that I had made for a pork stew. There were a few bits of cooked pork left in the stew so I ditched those. Then I added some paprika and once my roast potatoes had cooked I drained away the cooking oil and spread the spicy tomato based sauce over the potatoes and returned them to the oven for half an hour to warm through. The patatas bravas were great just eaten on their own.

Tip: If you shop at a Tesco that has a meat counter then check out the pork shoulder at only £3.75 a kilo. It is ridiculously cheap and this is the regular price not a limited offer.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Rick Stein's Long Weekends hardback book and Kindle version now on sale.

Having already become over-excited by Rick Stein's new (partly shown) television series Rick Stein's Long Weekends I was keen to see what other destinations Rick is going to later in the year when the series resumes. The new book to accompany the series has just been released and has already become number best seller on the Amazon Mediterranean Foods listing. Having seen the book I can certainly see why. With over a hundred recipes and some utterly gorgeous food and destination pictures I would say that it is one of Rick Stein's best books to date.

The recipes are all inspired by Rick's Long Weekend trips to Bordeaux, Berlin, Reykjavik, Vienna, Bologna, Copenhagen, Cadiz, Lisbon, Palermo and Thessalonika.

Rick describes them thus: These are recipes to cater for all your weekend meals. For a quick Friday night supper Icelandic breaded lamb chops will do the trick and Huevos a la Flamenca makes a tasty Saturday lunch. Viennese Tafelspitz is perfect for Sunday lunch and of course no weekend would be complete without Portuguese custard tart or Berliner Doughnuts for an afternoon treat.

Accompanied by beautiful photography of the food and locations and, complimented by Rick Stein's personal memories and travel tips for each city. Rick will inspire you to re-create the magic of a long weekend in your own home with his luscious recipes.

This book is so lovely I almost feel inspired to lick the pages of superb recipes and stunningly rich pictures.

Both hardback and Kindle versions can be ordered through the links on this blog post.

Phil xx

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Fish set up on Friday.

These photos were taken when the display was mostly done (a few tickets missing) and it wasn't being ravaged by eager customers.

The process is filling the display space with fresh ice and packing it down so it doesn't melt and the smoked region is covered in finoplas (like cling film) to prevent cross contamination. The trays for raw and cooked have to be kept separate buried to their rims in ice and various rules have to be followed in the displaying of the raw fish and prevention of ice burn on the salmon, tuna and swordfish. The whole fish have to have a light covering of ice and the live mussels and oysters are ice cooled from within the pots. All the fish and shellfish products are date checked daily to assure ultimate freshness and quality. Each product arrives with a caught date and a sell by date on the box or plastic tub. We make a strict daily record of  the dates and fish in a product book. It is a good reference point not only for the fishmongers but sometimes to assure customers who are always asking if the fish is fresh. There are many other checks and health and safety rules to follow throughout the working day.

As the serving day comes to a close we make sure all the reductions are done and that the fish counter is stripped of the days ice and scrubbed down and the remaining fish stored away in the fish fridge.

Phil Lowe

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Latest news from a busy writer

Apologies for the small lapse in foodie offerings on this blog in the last week or so. I have been very busy doing overtime at work and trying to keep up with my theatre promotions and reviews on East Midlands It is a lot of unpaid hard work but definitely worth it.

Also for those of you who like the funny side of things that I write I have been re-vamping my comedy blog (new magazine style template and lots of new amusing content). I've been creating and developing more and more comedy ideas and getting very inspired by that. Do have a look and a laugh and feel free to comment. I have also created a Twitter page for the comedy blog so for those on Twitter please check me out at @60pluscomedy and follow me if you are so inclined.

I will be back with more food related blog posts very soon. I have lots of ideas but not always the time to implement them! Off to work now!

Phil Lowe

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Great saving on the Hairy Bikers Chicken and Egg book! Available from 8th September!


'Full to the brim with new ideas, family favourites and modern classics, this is the ultimate collection of fantastic chicken and egg recipes ...Si King and Dave Myers love chicken. They also love eggs. In this, their biggest and best cookbook yet, the Hairy Bikers celebrate these most humble yet versatile of ingredients. What comes first? It's up to you. There are chicken soups and salads, eggy specials, an ultimate roasts section, smoky grills and hearty pies, everyday pasta and rice suppers, sensational spiced dishes and lots of ideas for making a little chicken go a long way. And to finish, there are irresistible puddings and cakes to peck at! Travelling the world (UK, France, Morocco, Israel and USA) to discover the very best chicken and egg recipes, Si and Dave have done it again. Chicken and Egg is a magnificent celebration of good food.'

I have had an excited look at the book today and would like to share how top quality the book is and the contents. Si and Dave say it is a  'sensational savoury celebration of our favourite bird with show-stopping puds, desserts and cakes made with the humble egg.' They are not wrong.

Contents (364 pages of lovely grub)

Soup and salads
Savoury Eggs
Roasts and Bakes
Pies and Puddings
Casseroles and Braises
Fried, Grilled and Barbequed
Chicken with Carbs
Spicy Chicken
Minced and Chopped Chicken
Sweet Eggs
Basics of Eggs and Chicken

Available NOW from 8th September 2016.                                                              

Here it is! Available to order at a great price of £14.30 (RRP £22.00) my fave cookery personalities Dave and Si aka the Hairy Bikers latest book Chicken and Egg! For those that enjoyed the first cracking episode of the latest 'Biker's' culinary adventure last night - 8pm BBC2 Tuesday 6th August there are loads of chicken and egg based world-wide recipes to enjoy experimenting with including a totally delicious looking chicken liver salad! Finger licking good!

I can't wait until next week's programme when the guys are in my beloved France! Cock a doodle ooh la la!

Cluck on the Amazon 'shop now' link or the book image below above to get your discounted copy.

Phil Lowe

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The French eat burgers? Mais d'accord!! But of course! Just like us.

Written to help celebrate National Burger Day 25th August 2016.

The French obsession with Le Burger. By Phil Lowe.

On August 1st 2016 the American burger franchise Five Guys opened its flagship French burger restaurant at 42 Court St. Emilion (Bercy Village) in the 12th Arrondisement of Paris. By 2017 they are planning to open their second Parisian branch at the Gare du Nord. Compared to its competition Five Guys are high end offering menus from fifteen to twenty euros. Oh la la! Customers can even make their burgers bespoke. According to their promotions Five Guys offers simplicity with pretty décor, and the burger meat is fresh top quality product and definitely not from frozen. USA President Barack Obama once claimed that Five Guys make the best burgers in the USA. Could we soon be hearing they are the best in France?

Hang on une second. Surely the nation that prizes quality food doesn't scoff the same amount of burgers as in the USA or UK do they? Well, apparently they are rather partial to le burger these days. In fact in 2015 the French wolfed down around 1.19 billion burgers and burgers have become a feature of even the most renowned eateries. To think that once upon a culinary time the humble hamburger would have been considered malbouffe which means rubbish food.

Of this blog subject – the love of burgers in France - I read a recent article in The Telegraph online today which said 'For the guardians of French gastronomy, the prospect of being served something as unsophisticated as a slab of mincemeat with a bap and slice of cheese would long have been considered sacrilegious.' These days however, the report claims that the tables have turned. The Telegraph continues (sic) 'In a culinary revolution, three quarters of French restaurants now sell hamburgers and 80% of these say it has become their top-selling dish, according to a new study...' Further on the Telegraph report also claims that the average time spent on eating a lunchtime meal in France has dropped from an hour and 20 minutes in 1975 to less than half an hour today.

Burger fact: The French website for Burger King states that in 2014 they created a special burger for a Gay Pride day. The name? Le Proud Whopper!

Before looking into all this for a blogpost on National Burger Day (25th August) I had never heard of Five Guys nor the fast food chain Quick. Quick was originally a Belgian chain of hamburger fast food restaurants and founded in 1971 by entrepreneur Baron François Vaxelaire. They have over 400 restaurants all over Europe. They are similar in theme to Burger King and looking at their online ( French language menus for burgers there appears to be a lot of English styling to the names of the dishes. Here are some examples Méga Giant, Long Fish burger, Cheeseburger, Suprême Chicken Barbecue Bacon, Giant, Quick 'n Toast, Burger sauce à la vache qui rit, Giant Max, Long Bacon, Suprême ClassiQ. Yes that is the spelling on the website – ClassiQ. Académie Française alert!!!! They missed out a u and a e!

The buns (pictured above) for the Quick Dark Vador burgers are dyed not burnt to a blackened crisp and the Star Wars promo launch was apparently very popular. Saying that, it would feel very odd to me to eating bread this colour. A bit like contemplating eating blue food.

So, we have our Quick hamburger therefore what can we have as accompagnements then? Aaah, food with silly names like Funny Carotte & Kiri, Funny Tomate. If we want to go all adulte then we can order La Petite Salade or Frites Plus ou moins salés: à vous de décider" (you put your own salt on if you decide to) or Frites Rustiques. Should you feel very hungry indeed and want a full salad with your burger meal then they offer three salads La Gourmande, La Savoureuse or something totally irresistible such as the aptly named, L'irresistible.

Over to another burger business in France – Big Fernand – who call themselves a French burger bistro. On their menus they also say “Being French we want you to be able to enjoy your meat however you want it, be it blue, rare, medium-rare, medium or well done. And we'll even try not to judge you if you opt for well done. They go on to warn that the Food Standards Agency warn that 'undercooked' meat may increase the risk of food-borne illness in some.

I had a lick of their menu look at their menu. The burger meals did sound a lot more appetising than the Quick menu. Just a personal choice. And so at Big Fernand the selection of burgers are:

Le Big Fernand (dry aged beef) with Tomme de Savoie cheese, sun dried tomatoes, flat parsley and a home made cocktail sauce.

Le Bartholomé (dry aged beef) with Raclette cheese, smoked streaky bacon, caramelised onions, chives, barbecue sauce.

Le Philibert (seasoned chicken burger) Tomme de Savoie cheese, grilled peppers, tarragon, home made mayo.

Le Victor (veal) Fourme d'Ambert blue cheese, caramelised onions, coriander, home made mayo.

L'Alphonse (lamb) Tomme de Savoie cheese, grilled aubergine, coriander, home made mayo.

Le Lucien (veggie) Portabello mushroom, Tomme de Savoie cheese, sun dried tomatoes, caramelised onions, chives and home made mayo.

The sides are fries or a salad of lamb's lettuce, sun dried tomatoes and chives. On top of all this you can also compose your own burger from all their ingredients!

Finally, if you happen to understand French you can follow two hip French guys called Dirty et Richie and their videos on Youtube. They appear to be going to lots of French hamburger joints in Paris and filming themselves eating burgers and commenting on the experience. They call the videos La recherche du meilleur hamburger de Paris. Each place they visit is named and hash tagged with a number comme ça #13.

Whatever you happen to be doing on National Burger Day (25th August) enjoy Les Burgers! Even if they are English. Lol.

Phil Lowe

Twitter: @PhilLowe7


Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Making Parmesan and Olive Biscuits from a recipe in Simplissime and practically burning them.

I think I may have just slightly over cooked them but I gave biscuit making a go yesterday. Most of the ingredients I had in the house anyway -excepting the butter. Using 20 de-stoned black olives (chopped), 100g of soft butter, 150g of grated parmesan and 100g of plain flour I mixed them all up in a glass bowl, rolled the mix into little sausage shapes and left them to set in the fridge for an hour. I found the whole mixing thing worked best if I melted the butter.

And, oh yes, I had to buy a roll of baking paper too. After they had cooled and set I squished the shapes into something resembling a rustic biscuit. Then I popped them into the pre-heated oven for 15 minutes as directed by Simplissime. The oven was set on 180 degrees (gas mark six) as also recommended. After fifteen minutes I had a look and they didn't look that done so I added another ten minutes until they were a crispy brown. This was my downfall I think and, although they were nice, (and I did rather pig out on them) they did repeat on me a lot that evening. Next time I will try the recipe for the correct cooking time.

Meanwhile Mr Harris the cat showed me his three clothes peg balancing act. I was very impressed and told him so. He smiled and knocked them over in a de-constructivist cat magician manner.

If you want to order a copy of the fabulous Simplissime book do use the Amazon link at the top of the page. The tag line about it being 'The Easiest French Cookbook In The World' by
François Mallet is spot on. I love it. The shop retail price is £20 but you can find some cheaper options through my Amazon link. That's where I got mine from. I cooked another creamy potato based dish from the book the other day. Do check it out ICI.

Phil Lowe

See too my comedy blog and if you like it do follow and share my content. Ta.