October 18, 2016 by Michael Madden

Death By Battenburg

The cricket season finally ended, accompanied by some dodgy decisions, some unseasonally warm weather, and a bit of a damp squib of an end of season do. Next up is the Players Meeting, called for by the league. Let’s hope there is an improved attendance. The junior season ended in defeat in the Compstall cup final. It was an achievement to get to the final, and a disappointing defeat, particularly after bowling out the mighty Hawk Green for a low score, but some dodgy decisions and irrational batting saw our boys collapse. On the morning of that game Sally said she would get a picnic for the afternoon. I gave her £20, and was somewhat underwhelmed when all that she could produce for the hard earned score was a packet of Sports Mix.

The league suggestions on how to improve matters are noble in their intent, but they really do not go far enough. In 2015 the forfeit of a game was a one off aberration, never to be repeated. In 2016 it was a regular event. Often with more than one team forfeiting on a given week. So what changed? I could guess but I really have no idea. What I do know is that if the trend continues next season we will not have a league. Drastic changes, even if those changes are experimental in nature, are urgently required.

Watch this space.

There comes an age in your child’s life when you realise that they are growing up. With Ole it was when he started nicking my razor arguing, that as he didn’t shave that often it was a waste of time having one of his own. With Zac it was a much more significant event. At 12 years old he announced that he had downloaded Tinder onto his mobile phone. At his advanced age he has started to notice what he wears, and in Malta we bought what quickly became his favourite jumper. He barely had it off, and then one day it was lost. We searched high and low, we asked friends, we contacted Whitehall, but to no avail. And then it showed up. It had been stuffed into his tracksuit bottoms’ drawer. The incident was quickly forgotten, after a stern reminder that he should look after things and put them away properly, and this time it was all of a week before it went missing again. Learning from our earlier mistake, this time we found it quite quickly, stuffed into his underwear drawer.

Of course, the end of the cricket season overlaps with the start of the football season, and Zac and his team mates looked splendid in their new kit.

They got off to a good start too with two wins out of two, a feat matched by Ole’s team. Zac’s team then lost 4 on the bounce, but their heads are held high and they look forward to an easier run of games. Ole’s team also lost their third game, but returned to winning ways helped by a goal from the boy himself. A bullet header from a corner. It always makes me quite proud when he scores. I managed a good few when I was a player, split 50-50 between the opposition’s and my own net!
My exercise is restricted to cycling these days, and I beat my record to Marple, getting there in 37 minutes at an average speed of 12.5mph. Not lightning quick but this is down a muddy towpath with geese, dog walkers and pensioners in the way. I’ve also started to control work on an exercise bike, keeping my heart rate low to allegedly boost endurance. So, I managed 10 miles in 38 minutes and 51 seconds keeping my heart rate at around 130. What does it all mean? I’ve no idea!
Zac’s improved diet has stalled a bit. After eating fish and with his fruit intake we thought we were winning, then I found three untouched apples in his room, and they are just the ones on show! I wonder what I will find when I pull the bed out.
Some good and bad news on the horseracing front. We had another splendid day at the Knavesmire courtesy of Integrity IT, and I even won a few quid amongst many losses. We returned to the wonderful Middlethorpe Hall to expensive sandwiches and a magnificent four poster!
On the negative side Elements Legacy has been gelded. It is now recovering and will probably run again in about a month. Apparently ‘gelding’ helps to concentrate the mind. Now, I can imagine how the threat of being gelded might achieve this, but once the operation has been carried out, well, what’s the point?!
It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago, and I spent the day at Wembley watching the NFL, but more of that later. One of my more bizarre presents was a pack of wax disks. I ran out, you see. They are very useful when separating raw burgers, well at least the small ones are. Not sure what Sally is expecting me to cook, but if the new ones are in proportion she will be looking forward to 2lb hamburgers!

And so to the NFL. It was Jacksonville, the home team, against Indianapolis, and as usual there were more shirts from just about every other NFL team than these two. The uniform remains the same; oversized trainers, jeans, a hoodie, and an NFL shirt worn proudly over the hoodie. After a train and a very slow taxi ride, I met some friends and we had a few beers before going into the stadium. The show was spectacular. Every player was introduced with a firework display, and the drama was laid on thick by an expert announcer. The Star Spangled Banner rang out, and then I realised that they had done something special and unique in actually creating a ‘home’ atmosphere for the Jacksonville Jaguars. There are rumours that they will eventually get their own franchise in London – which will be interesting. Will they live here? Or will they, like their opponents, just travel here for each game? Anyway, when you watch the game on tv it can seem like ten minutes of sport spread over three hours interspersed with adverts. Live, it is very different. Every break in play is an excuse to roll out the bizarre Jaguar drummers, or the scantily clad cheerleaders. There was always something happening, and although this was quite a dull game no one seemed to mind.

Each player was greeted with his own firework display
The cheerleaders helped to fill the gaps
I broke a tooth. It didn’t really hurt except when I drank hot coffee, but it was one of those odd situations where my tongue was drawn towards it, constantly feeling the rough edges. It would eventually and inevitably cut me, and as I was about to head off for Little Rock two days later, so I sought emergency treatment. My dentist, well I say ‘my dentist’ but actually I’ve not seen him since 2012, has an emergency contact which is a surgery in Poynton. A very nice chap and his equally expensive assistant fixed me up, and it feels as good as new despite his assurances that it was temporary. So after parting company with a significant sum I could happily chew on the finest steaks in Arkansas, with the fearsome thought of having to visit ‘my dentist’ when I return!
Nice to see old friend Alex Tweddle on a fleeting visit from Oz. Particularly liked the videos of Angus the ‘leggie’, his young son who would probably already walk into Whaley seconds!
Sometimes I hate getting into bed. The reason is I have to discard cushions that sometimes run into double figures. Every time I go away another one or two will appear. I sometimes hate sitting n the lounge. This room contains a different cushion problem – do I sit on the cushions, in front of them, or do I just throw them on the floor. The shared problem is that there are just so many. I bet I could round up 100, without even trying. Imagine my delight when Sally came back from the McMillan coffee morning having won a prize in the raffle. You’ve guessed it – a cushion. I suggested that she could give it to someone else, but no. Apparently this is a ‘nice’ one.
Finally managed to get Ole to start taking the possibility of university seriously, enrolling him in a number of open days. Whilst his friends have been to Hull, Newcastle, Chester, Sheffield, etc, Ole’s adventures have taken him as far as Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan!
I’ve never actually put the wrong fuel in my car, but I would imagine it is a very distressing and embarrassing experience. A week ago I saw someone who had obviously made this mistake in Sainsbury’s car park. The reason I know? The RAC van had ‘Fuel Recovery Services’ emblazoned across its bright orange side, with an explanation of their fuel removal procedure shown underneath. Nice subtle and sensitive approach!
Back in the kitchen I made a chocolate pound cake. I had no idea that a pound cake is so called because it uses a pound of flour, sugar, eggs and butter. That’s a serious cake, and I decided to ease off on the quantities. However, I made up for it with a gooey chocolate icing!
I have two jobs at the moment (well, one and a half), which involves a lot of travelling. This week saw a trip to Little Rock in Arkansas, which is a lot further than Nottingham but the travelling time can be about the same on a bad day. Anyway, the journey was a lot easier than my last excursion stateside, and I arrived at Bill and Hillary Clinton Airport to more stories of Donald Trump’s bad behaviour. We get a lot of it over here, but over there it is a national obsession. Roll on November 8th and it will all be over, assuming he doesn’t win. Anyway Little Rock is a lot smaller than most of the other US cities that I have been fortunate enough to visit. It doesn’t have the sights of New York or Washington, the theme parks of Orlando, or the atmosphere of New Orleans or Las Vegas. It is just Little Rock.

The folks are very friendly, everyone says hi, and everyone calls their mum momma. Which often sounds strange. I guess though that any time you see a sign for Texakarna you think of Them Ole Cotton Fields Back Home, and Little Rock and Texakarna are connected by a single road. They do serve very good steaks, as you would expect, with interesting sides. It being the south I had collard greens, which were very tasty braised in vinegar. I will be trying this one at home. I was a bit disappointed with the key lime pie – I reckon mine’s better.

And whilst we are in the kitchen Sally has been experimenting! She was cooking beef in red wine and had two bottles on the go. Of course, one was for drinking and one was for cooking. There didn’t seem to be much going into the cooking pot!

I made Ch Stew, which is chicken, chick pea and chorizo. It was very tasty and will definitely be repeated. I will let you guess where the name comes from. I also made Moroccan Lamb, and although there is not much that Ole doesn’t like when I cook it, the apricots were a bit overpowering. Next time I will include more lamb and less apricots.

And so to the star of the show. As it was my birthday Sally threatened, sorry, ‘offered‘ to bake a cake. What sort would I like? Well, as Morrison’s have evidently stopped making Festival Gateux I jokingly suggested Battenburg. Undaunted, and uninhibited by a perceived lack of capability, Battenburg is what she made. Well, thats what she said it was. What do you think?

I thought, how difficult can it be? Leaving aside the pink sponge colour failure, the rest wasn’t too impressive, so I had a go myself, and I was rather pleased with the result. In fact, a prominent member of the Oswestry WI said that it was better than anything produced by the WI! That might be taking it a bit far, but its an excuse to show you the result…

I showed Ole mum’s picture, and he grimaced. I showed him mine and he rather excitedly said ‘You made Battenburg?’ The interesting thing about that is that he quite simply did not recognise the earlier picture as being the distinctive Battenburg, and who could blame him?

Anyway, undeterred by her culinary crash landing, Sally tried her hand at cupcakes for Zac’s birthday. The result?

She tried again with similar results, and then said ‘I’ve finished with baking – what do you want for tea?’ I had to admit that I wasn’t hungry!

Finally, my sister has been having a whale of a time in South Africa. Unfortunately Jake managed to damage tendons in a fall on a slippery floor in their villa. Of course the floor was probably slippery with either gin, tonic, ice or lemon, but that’s by the by. In an apparently unrelated incident Fiona texted Sally to state ‘£1600 light ATM hopefully the insurance will pay out’. Sally was mortified and spread the word that Fiona had been mugged at the cash machine and £1600 had been stolen at gunpoint. Ok, she didn’t say gunpoint, but if she retold the story over and over it would have most certainly been embellished. Anyway, I immediately asked how she got £1600 out at the cashpoint. My limit is £300. Then I saw the text. I suggested that she was not actually at the cash machine, instead she was at the hospital. Jake’s operation, or possibly the insurance excess, was £1600. ATM? Well even I know that that is text speak for At The Moment! Still, never let the truth get in the way of a good story!