Week 17: Fun, finance and freebies

An odd week this week, reflective of my lightly confused state of mind at the moment. I really don’t know where to start, so before I do, here’s a picture of Buddha for you to enjoy.

the big buddha

Now, let’s start with the fun. I went to see Avenue Q on Tuesday night. Got a couple of tickets for the bargain price of £45 from the Tkts Booth in Leicester Square. Good seats too: Stalls, row H, just off centre.

Now this is only my second musical, after going to see Legally Blonde for my birthday, but it didn’t disappoint. The part human/part puppet cast worked well – even though the actors were just walking around with the puppets on their hands, not trying to hide or anything, so you spent as much time looking at them as at the puppets – and the songs were good – though I couldn’t sing you one if I tried, unlike when I left legally Blonde – so over all it was well worth going to see, but there was one or two sticking points for me.

Personally I would have liked to have seen them work the puppets a little bit more. Often they’d be singing their heads off, doing all sorts of expressive head movements themselves, but just opening and closing the mouthes of the puppets, not really putting much life into the performance at all. What’s the point of having puppets if you’re not going to use them to their full potential? That said, the guy with the beard who played Trekkie Monster and one of the Bad Idea Bears really put his back into it, and gave us some of the funniest bits of the whole show, so hats off to him for that.

Also, and this is just weird, there was a Chinese character in the show (a person, not a puppet) played by some woman who very obviously wasn’t Chinese. Every time she was on stage I kept thinking “Couldn’t they find a Chinese woman to play that part? Are there no singing Chinese actors in London these days?” And who knows, maybe there aren’t; but I doubt it. In fact I bet you a fiver I could find one inside of a week.

day 3 - this is your life

I have an announcement to make. I am now officially old! Why? Because I’ve joined the pension scheme at work. Now I know what some of you are thinking, big whup, but for me it’s symbolic of something; a fundamental alteration of intent. By signing up I’ve finally admitted that maybe I’m not going to make it big in Hollywood, or invent something amazing, or just plain old win the Lotto (which I’ve bought tickets for twice this week). I’ve chosen to “not put my eggs in one basket” as the adviser said, but to hedge my bets, in my opinion, on the side of ‘failure’.

I know, I know, I’m being overly dramatic, but there is a real point here. I want to stop worrying about the future, not give in to those fears and start planning for it. After all, tomorrow never comes, there is only the now, so what am I planning for?

And I’ll tell you what else, I don’t like how that money, once it’s paid in, is gone for good. I won’t see any return on it until I retire. I can’t get it back at any point, it’s in there for life. This seems wrong to me. It’s my money, it’s not spent, if I want it back I should get it back, shouldn’t I? I’m telling you man, pensions, like insurance, is just one big racket. But hopefully I’ll have the last laugh. They say when I retire they’ll work out from what I’ve put in how much I’ll get each year for the rest of my life, based on how long they think I’ll live. What they don’t realise is, if i keep on with the Tai Chi, I’m going to live a hell of a lot longer than they think.

comrade kiki

Still, I shouldn’t complain financially speak this week. I’ve enjoyed a shed load of freebies recently. I’ve had free massages from the lovely Sarah (Hi Sarah! *wave*) which were very relaxing, got a free physio check up (detailed previously) which helped me figure out what’s wrong with my legs/back, and I even got a free hair cut the other day (which included a wash, dry, and go in the vibrating chair) so over all I’m a bit ahead of the game… which is nice. However, we must remember: TANSTAAFL – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Life has a way of balancing out, whether we like it or not. I just hope these were returns on previous ‘investments’, and not something I’ll have to pay for later. 🙂

TTFN

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Ok, a quick summation:

New Things Done: Had a go in a floatation tank. Went to see a musical.

Recipes Done: Spaghetti Bolognese and Hash Browns

Script Writing Done: 4 pages.

Yes, that’s right, I did it; I finally wrote some pages!!!!! In fact it’s even more impressive than that. I sketched out a map of the story (if I explained the story this would make sense to you), I re-wrote the first 16 pages, and I wrote a rough outline of the remaining script, all in about 5 hours. Seriously, that was one session, and in fact I’m a little embarrassed that it was so damn easy to do. Honestly, seat of the pants in the seat of the chair is what it’s all about. How much could I have got done in life if I just made myself do it! Well I’ve learnt my lesson. I’m going to do something every week now, even if it’s only a few pages or some re-writes. I’ve no reason not to.

Legally Blonde : the musical; plus Spaghetti Bolognese and Hash browns (not on the same plate)

I’m playing serious catch-up with my blogging this week. Been doing night shifts since Sunday – all you do is get up, go to work, go home, go to bed –  so I just haven’t been in the mood to do anything. This is a mistake as once you lose the momentum it can be quite hard to catch up. Also, whatever joy you had at whatever you’d done is somewhat diminished by time. For example, I had a brilliant time going to see Legally Blonde last week, but what I have to say about it now is different than what I would have said then, being, as it is, tempered by time. Still…

I’d never been to a musical before, and though I had an idea what to expect, singing, dancing and the like, I was amazed by just how much was going on at any one time. If you haven’t seen the movie it’s the story of Elle Woods, a blonde Californian college student, who get dumped by the love of her life because she wasn’t “serious” enough for his ambitions, who then follows him across the country to Harvard Law school to win him back by proving she is the one for him. That’s about it in a nut shell, but there’s so much more to it. Ultimately it’s a whole ‘you-can’t-judge-a-book-by-it’s-cover’ story, with shades of ‘you-can-do-anything-you-set-your-mind-to’ and a little bit of ‘you-never-know-where-life-will-take-you’.

But never mind all that, the show, and the movie, are just fun! I heartily recommend you see one or the other. I’ve just bought the DVD to re-live the show watching experience, and I may buy the soundtrack if they do an English cast version (the one on sale is the Broadway production), but that’s partly down to the fact that I’ve got a bit of a thing for Sheridan Smith, who plays the lead. She was Janet in Two Pints Of Lager… and I’ve fancied her ever since then pretty much, so going to see this show was a real treat for me.

One weird thing was realising that, as far as I could tell, I was the only bloke my age there who wasn’t a bit of an uphill gardener. The audience was almost entirely blonde, female, gay, foreign or old (or some interesting derivation thereof) and then me. Not that any of that was a problem, it just struck me as odd. I suppose that’s what you get for doing random new things every week.

Anyway, I loved it. The singing, the dancing, the catchy tunes – “Is he gay… or European?” – the comedy UPS Guy, the prison skipping routine – hats off to them, no one tripped –  it was fabulous, and I fully intend to go to more stage shows like that from now on; assuming I can find people to go with me that is (see the Dave Gorman blog report for why that is). Just one of the many ways in which a girlfriend would be handy I suppose.

Right, now to the cooking:

Spaghetti Bolognese

spaghetti bolognese

My version of the old classic. The measures are a little sketchy I’m afraid, as I winged it a bit, but start with this and then add some more tomatoey stuff as need be and I’m sure it’ll work out fine.

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

splash of olive oil

1/3 red chili, chopped (optional)

1 tsp Italian mixed herbs, or ½ tsp basil, ½ tsp oregano

175g soya mince

1 tin chopped tomatoes

3 tsp tomato puree

1 tsp sugar

¼ cup hot water

In a medium pan fry the garlic and onion on a medium heat in olive oil for 4-5 minutes until the onion softens.

Add the chili and herbs, mix and fry for 30 seconds, then add the soya mice. Mix again, then add the tinned tomatoes, tomato puree and sugar.

Add water if required, stir thoroughly, then simmer on medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Serve on bed of pasta.

Y’see, nice and simple, and damn tasty too. The one in the picture was a second mix of the remaining half of the recipe a few days later. I added another tin of tomatoes and more garlic, herbs and puree, as I’d over done it with the mince first time round (225g). But I’ve reduced the amount to use for the recipe, and added some puree, so it should work out fine. If not let me know and I’ll revisit it (I’ve had enough bolognese for now so didn’t fancy testing it a second time in two weeks).

Hash Browns

hash browns

This is also a bit of a work in progress, but not in the same way. It tasted fine when I had it, it’s just the method of preparation that I might work on. I reckon grated onion and potato might work better than chopped, but you tell me.

2 potatoes, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 mushrooms, chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp dill

salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium high heat. Toss in the onion and mushrooms and fry until soft. Add the spices and potato, mix thoroughly, then fry on a medium heat until potatoes are cooked. Serve immediately.

The reason I’m thinking grated potatoes will work better is that it’ll take less time to cook. Also, you might be able to brown them a bit better to get that nice golden hue. Plus, and this is taking it to eleven, you might even be able to find a way to make those nice neat little patties like you get when you eat an English breakfast in a cafe. If you try that maybe eliminate the mushrooms and try mixing the ingredients in a bowl first before frying, that might work.

Ok kids, ciao for now. Well I say that, but I’ve got 2 more entries to write, so really I’ll be right back. TTFN.