Thursday, May 21, 2009

Looking after the Elderly!

My part time job this week was making sandwiches and fruit salads in a care home. It was fun. Not quite chef work just a kitchen hand but beggars can't be choosers. Had a laugh, made a mountain of sandwiches and they ate them all up and wanted more. The home was sweet and all that happened was food was served, tidied up, so that once all was clean they could be fed again. It was an ongoing cycle. The chef was nice man who showed me his own personal shortbread concoction (made with icing sugar instead of castor sugar which gave it a smoother texture). So quick and easy.
Hoping to write restaurant reviews soon - which will mean two things. A free meal and work that I actually will love doing. Reviewing the restuarant and eating their delicious food and perhaps finding out how they make stuff - stuff that I can then play around with and recreate.
Weather is truly apalling at the moment raining non stop and blowing a gale. Its cold at my chef course unless I stand in front of the cooker with all the hobs alight like a very unconventional hearth fire. But the kitchen should be were the heart of the home is so why not.
So looking after the elderly - apart from the weekend work making fruit salads and basic sandwiches the elderly appears to be me. I ache more and more these days - is it because I have passed the big 40 - my back aches (but then it always did), I have a recurring ankle pain which I thought may have been gout but appears to be dodgy (slow healing) tendons around the achillies. Hurt my wrists doing a bird like pose in yoga (overstretched my abilities a tad too far I say). Hovering on my wrists with my arse in the air and feet raised up and head nearly crashing into the floor. Serve myself right - I still weigh a ton and was trying to balance all that on my poor 40 year old wrists. No doubt if asked to do the pose again I will dive into it with gusto. Fool.

Anyway - I shall look after this frail aching body - by feeding it chocolate.
Speak again soon.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Twisted Fate 2!

Now where was I? Yes "Life Intervened".
So I am in New Zealand in Christchurch and what a lovely city. Surrounded by middle earth snow covered mountains and looking like a Cambridge wanna be with its punters on the river Avon (couldn't they come up with a different name). But is beautiful in every sense of the word. I have started my Chef course at the New Zealand School of Food and Wine which you can read about on my other blog Squeezing Grapes where I will attempt to write a daily note of my experiences and hopefully as the cooking develops maybe some recipes and photos as well. THis blog will be for other activities however. I got a chance to write an article about farmers markets in Christchurch for a local magazine called Metropol. I will add a link to the mag once its published and hopefully I will write upcoming articles and advertorials for them, fingers crossed. I have also been approached by a hospitality company to perhaps write restaurant reviews for them so fingers and toes crossed for that. I worked in a factory for a week and a half loading chocolate chips and chocolate buttons into hopper bins for packaging. That was fun and it didn't harm me concerning eating of the product as the cloying smell of chocolate all around you stops you from actually wanting to eat any of it. I also had the privelidge of doing almonds, coconut and potato flakes. That was a pain and the potato dust that circled me like that dirty Peanuts character would have had many a druggie follow me in the hope of some class A drug as the powder that formed all over the place and on the edges of your nostrils looked suspiciously like cocaine. It was mundane work and the crew I worked with took a while to become involuntarily quiet and we all looked so funny in our hair nets and white overalls. But its over now unless I decide to do some additional late night work for Tip Top a bread and icecream factory - depends on whether I want to work minimum wage again for long stretches of boredom together with exhausting repetitive hard work. Well I will have to think about that. I do however want to work in a restaurant or bar somewhere for a while maybe for a couple of nights a week just to give me some extra cash but also the experience in the hospitality industry. Have met a guy on my course who works as a chef for the supa yachts. Now that would be a job and a far cry from minimum wage also.

But speaking fo bars I recently attended an evening in Poplar street where a friend of Lisa's was performing on an open mic evening. Now having never been to an evening like this before I was keen to check it out. We had a nice meal in the bar opposite - the place is full of trendy bars. Then into The Vespa Bar (with actual vespa on wall and parphenalia about vespas all about). The evening was fabulous with the main musician in charge of the evening a cool dude with a love for playing. People would come up - ask if he could accompany them to a particular tune and even if he didn't know it he would give it a go and the result was astonishing. Two other friends - one on base, looking blind or cool not sure as he wore sunglasses all evening. The other on bongos. they would come up on stage either before or part way through someones song and just join in. It was a wild jam session that seemed so natural and all the parts came together for anyone who wanted to get up there.

Previous week we attended a recital for belly dancers. I know sounds bizarre already and it was. The amatuer nature of some of the perfomances let down the overall evening but it was interesting and fun nevertheless. Cool venu called the Loons in an even cooler town called Lyttelton. Juggling seemed an odd combination to the belly dancing but the cabaret nature of the event worked overall. Shame not many people attended. Maybe the overall feel would have been more enjoyable with a bigger crowd.

Then a big crowd for Steve Coogan. Having seen Tim Minchin in Sydney recently we had masterpiece already covered. So Steve had a tall order to cover. He didn't bother. The majority of his performance seemed phoned in and pre-recorded from the 80's. It was overly crude without being funny (not saying you can't be crude and funny - Tim acheived it in spades). But what was Steve doing. Old characters and old humour. Bernard Manning - did not think Steve's humour was of that ilk but then again some comedians tour just for the money and have no new material. Currently he has dropped totally in my estimations.

Hopefully will go and see Danny Bhoy next week. Looks far more promising anyway. Will update you accordingly.

Want to catch Star Trek in the next day or so will let you know how it goes.

Thanks dear reader whoever you maybe.

Yogi Bear never had it so hard!

I have officially become a yogi. Or Yogi Bear as I am want to cutely name myself in front of Yoga teachers much to their amusement (hopefully). I have taken up yoga as a form of both excercise and as a way of strengthening my back which has always slouched and caused me pain from a young age due mainly to an ailment called laziness. And guess what I love it. I have never been someone who likes to excercise for excercise sake. I get bored with running on a mill like a hampster or spinning on a bike in from of a Tellie or an over enthusiastic instructor. I tried Karate once and loved it but always came home black and blue as my sparring partners where always Keith Carradine and Jean Calude Van Damn. I assumed yoga would be a load of relaxing stretches and poses held for the effect of strengthening a particular muscle. Boy was I wrong. There is so much to yoga that I will not be able to mention it all in one sitting on a blog and I will write about my experiences in more detail as I learn more. Needless to say its invigorating and exhausting in equal measure. Once you learn some basic moves and basic poses (the names of which may make you giggle at first) "up dog", "down dog", "the cobra", "the pigeon", "the camel" the list goes on and most of them are named after an animal or celestial sign of some kind or another. Then there are the poses which are obviously from some ancient fighting version of yoga. Like "Thai Chi" which incorporates karate fighting motions with a slowed down fluid motion akin to a dance, yoga moves the body into poses that would be agressive in nature if they weren't so darn fulfilling and calming when acheived. Warrior pose I and II for example which is meant to strengthen and stretch the muscles in your legs and open your chest and help your balance. Mostly Yoga is about breathing and listening to your body. You would be surprised to hear what mine says to me. Mostly in a litany much like Gordon Ramsay in Hells Kitchen. But I am feeling better from only a few visits so far and can see the improvement in my flexibilty and core strength. I am sleeping better - well at least Lisa has not complained about snoring for a while. So I will continue to go and hopefully improve from my yogi bear status into a bendy twisty version of my once former self. Having seen some videos of yoga masters strutting their stuff I think I will need to work at this for quite some time. Ohmm shanti shanti - Namaste.

The Watchmen must be watched!

Watchmen (2009)
(Directed by Zack Snyder)
With the upcoming Wolverine Origins you could be forgiven for thinking Hollywood still haven’t gotten over their superhero fixation. At least you could say they have grown up a little and are giving us no-holds-barred gritty versions with MA ratings, nudity and shocking violence not for the squeamish. This does not necessarily make for better films but it shows that they have realised that Superheroes do not need to be camp parodies of their comic book images, nor saviours of our crumbling moral codes. No, in this film the so called superheroes seek revenge, are sociopaths, are impotent or omnipotent, have ambiguous ideologies and make us question our entire fabric of society. Watchmen is currently receiving mixed reviews mainly due to its difficult to pigeon hole nature. Its less a superhero film and more a critique of human nature. A re-writing of history in order to let us take a better look at ourselves. The re-writing of history involves a 1980’s America after they have “won” the Vietnam war and Nixon is still in power, with the Cold War with Russia verging on the brink of nuclear holocaust. Cut to image of Castro and the Russian president grinning as hundreds of nuclear weapons are driven through the streets of Cuba. Scenes with President Nixon with his war cabinet reminded me of Orson Well’s classic Dr Strangelove.
The faults and failures of the characters that inhibit Watchmen depict the faults and failures in everyone around us including ourselves. This is a political allegory for human societies’ inevitable decline into total annihilation of our species. We had Wall-E last year remind us in pixilated beauty that if we keep going the way we are going we are going to destroy our planet and require a little robot to save the universe. Thereby enabling us, the Human Race, to avoid the responsibility of world salvation by anything human. In this film salvation comes from so called superheroes lying to the world in order to make the human race believe that they need peace and love to save themselves from an omnipresent god-like figure with judgement day on his mind. The lie in itself perpetrated after “killing millions in order to save billions”. Are these superheroes even on our side? As 9/11 brought the American nation together in mourning and the collective fight against a common enemy, Alan Moore, the writer of the graphic novel of which this film is based, is perhaps hinting that such cultural disasters are necessary in order to wake people up from the dream like nature of life leading to our certain destruction.
Having not read the book I will not postulate on the unfilmability of its content or the multiple layered convoluted plot with politics at its heart. The film is convoluted and twists from past to present at exhilarating and dizzying pace. The depth given to each of the characters could fill individual movies on said heroes/anti heroes. Snyder has created a visual treat that does not waste a single frame. Yes, it’s a long film, but at nearly three hours every moment captures both a nations decline and its possible salvation in every breath, every line spoken, every song on the captivating soundtrack and every image in its gritty clarity and artistic visionary depiction of life.
Monsters Vs Aliens suggests the world needs to look to things which it would normally ridicule or abhor to save us from what we fear and The Incredibles showed us that our political correctness, beurocratical posturing and litigious nature is what is actually destroying the fabric of our lives – and they are kiddie films. With Watchmen we finally have an adult film which dares to criticise our way of life and put a shotgun squarely up the nose of political correctness and is not frightened to pull the trigger. Dr Manhattan has the ability to turn baddies into smoke and sand and instead he eviscerates them like a blender from inside out showering the damsel’s in distress with blood and globules or flesh and bone fragments. He expects thanks for his saviour like behaviour and instead he is feared and treated with admonishment and shame. This is a being who becomes so god-like that he even begins to act and think like God in the sense he allows atrocities to occur without interfering and appears to lack any real emotion for the human race. “Why should I save a race that I care so little about” he states when earth is on the brink of nuclear disaster that only he himself can stop. Perhaps the light at the end of the nihilist tunnel depicted throughout this film is the fact that after destruction and the death of millions of innocent people, a cathartic resurgence of life with a healthy dose of love is washed over the ravaged human race with hope for a renewed moral compass. Helped by the few remaining superheroes who get a kick out of helping people trapped in a burning building. Any links to Mr Incredible and his desire to be loved through helping and the apparent impending superheros in love ending will no doubt leave Alan Moore angrier then ever that Hollywood are still not able to translate his graphic novels, but I think Snyder has created a classic nevertheless.

Yesterday I saw a DVD for an extra story not dealt with in the movie but produced by the same people and created as a manga style cartoon with the actors from the movie doing the voice overs. Delving into that world again looked damn appealing. If I get it out I will let you all know how it was.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Twisted Fate!

Who would have thought that a middle aged (not quite they say thats 50 to 60 now) merchant banker from London would end up in Christchurch and study to be a chef. In between I have worked as a property investor and developer in Turkey - to no great sucess unfortunately but it was fun while it lasted. I then did a bit of travelling through Australia and Thailand and met my lovely darling Lisa (which has brought me to New Zealand). I helped my dad's boss in scaffolding logistics for several weeks waking at sparrow fart and working my arse off all day long through Sydney's summer. I arrived in Christchurch with no real plan. I was delaying my trip to New York as I wanted to study to be a chef there but as the exchange rate has messed me up and now I have a love in my life - Life Changes. Or should I say my favourite line "Life Intervened".