51:32:35 l0:03:22

TGI Paul

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Eurovision Countdown Begins! (and another brush with showbiz!)

Some of you who have been reading for a while may remember that I am a bit of a fan of the annual naff-fest that is The Eurovision Song Contest.

The contest is now in its 52nd year, growing larger every time new countries get added to tha European Union. I must admit I have no clue where some of the new countries even are! As a result of this growth, the contest now has a qualifying round which some countries have to go through.

The Finnish band Lordi won the contest last year with the song "Hard Rock Hallelujah" with a record 292 points. "Hard Rock Hallelujah" was the first ever hard rock song to win the contest (Eurovision is normally associated with cheesier pop music). This was also Finland's first victory in Eurovision after 40 years of participation, and I hated it!

In the UK, we start the competition with a qualifying show to find our entry. It used to be called "Song For Europe" but was renamed a few years ago as
"Making Your Mind Up", a flashback to the days of Bucks Fizz, (the UK winning song in 1981) and when the rest of Europe still liked us enough to vote for us!

(There's a link there especially for you Vic!)

This political voting that always takes over the judging is one of the things that I actually enjoy about it! Booing at the ridiculously obvious favouritism makes me chuckle!

"Nil pwah to ze stoopid English!! Haha!"

I had a bit of an odd introduction to one of the tracks last Saturday night. I was at work, and at about 10pm 4 unfeasibly good looking guys came in, all obviously friends of Dorothy (2QT2BSTR8 as the t-shirt used to say). They really were quite stunning, and fit! They looked like dancers.

At the end of the evening they were the only customers I had left in the restaurant, and were all up practicing a dance routine (I got that right!).

They were having a little bit of trouble with this routine, they couldn't remember the tempo of the music. One of them then asked me if I wouldn't mind putting on their cd so they could run through a quick rehearsal.

I asked what they were rehearsing for. "We're on at
GAY in about an hour!"

"Really? Who are you dancing for?" I asked

"One of the Eurovision entries, the girl that used to be in Atomic Kitten" replied the stunningly pretty, blue eyed bit of totty who was now taking his sweat top off while he spoke to me, and the intro to the song began.

"Oh right! Brilliant!" I said as I tried to remain cool and keep my eyes ahead, "Liz McClarnon isn't it? So are you gonna be doing "Making Your Mind Up?""

"I don't know what the songs called to be honest" he said, completely misunderstanding the question. Bless!

"No, I meant the competition actually not the song. It's what the preliminary round's called"

"Oh right! Yeah we are!" He laughed, flashing a beautiful smile.

So there they were, with Liz McClarnons' song blasting out over my speakers, two of them dancing through the routine, while the other guys, one of whom turned out to be the choreographer, watched and laughed about the thongs the guys were going to have to wear on stage.

I was very tempted to suggest they tried a quick dress rehearsal, but refrained! I was at work after all!

Anyway, I organised a taxi for them to get to their gig, and wished them luck. As they left, the choreographer thanked me for all my help, the second time this week I had a good shoulder patting!

They appeared in the red tops the next day

"Making Your Mind Up" is on BBC this Friday, 17th March.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Terrifying Brush With Celebrity!

At last! It feels like spring is starting to raise it's pretty head, flowers are creeping through (even here in Hackney!), and the (possibly imagined) seasonal affectiveness disorder is disappearing like the fog from San Fran Bay.

Monday saw me in a particularly proactive mood at work. On top of my usual Monday morning duties, I got jobs done that have been hanging around for some weeks and still managed to look ahead and start some jobs that I had been planning to sort out later in the month.

Tuesday I had a lovely day off, lazing at home and getting over a Monday night out at

Wednesday, however, was the BIG day of the week!

We have a new staff initiative thats been introduced at work and all managers had to roll it out to their respective teams. Now, I'm perfectly comfortable training groups so I had offered the other Managers in my area to send their staff along too if they weren't comfortable doing the training themselves.

As it turned out, a few managers took me up on the offer, and I ended up having to do two sessions to fit everyone in. My Ops Manager sat in on one of the presentations as she hasn't seen me do any training yet. I had about 20 people there and I was all organised with the presentation on PowerPoint, as well as handouts and a flipchart for any additional notes.

Luckily, it went like a dream! The delegates all had fun, really understood the point of the initiative and were both receptive and free with their input. My boss was very impressed and said that she thought I had done an outstanding job!

At 3 o'clock, after the 2nd session of the day, we then had to change the function room from a corporate meeting room to a little girls 5th birthday room for a party that had been booked.

But this was no ordinary little girls 5th birthday party!!

The booking had been made under the name of
Jools Oliver. Well, how many Jools Olivers can there be in Hampstead with a 5 year old daughter? So I was kind of prepared for that one, although the irony of one the countries most famous chefs, pioneer of the school dinner makeover and healthy food activist having his daughters birthday party at my place wasn't lost on me.

But I then realised it was actually a HUGE compliment!

Jools had booked a pizza making party for the eldest of their girls, Poppy. The kids always love doing this and it usually provides wonderful photo opportunities for the proud Mums & Dads, who can sit back with a bottle of Pinot Grigio and let me & my staff get on with things!

So I was all set; 20 paper hats, 20 aprons and 20 pizza bases already stretched and 'sauced'. A selection of toppings all laid out in bowls ready for me to tell the kids all about the ingredients (where in the world they come from, what they taste like, how much to use on your pizza etc...)

What I wasn't prepared for was
Jamie Oliver himself actually attending! Internal panic set in and the fixed glazed smile appeared. How do you behave? He seems like a pretty down to earth guy, so anything too creepy is going to be naff naff naff! 'Act natural!' I kept saying to myself. But you kind of can't help being a little starstruck, especially if you're a fan (which I am! I'm still kicking myself for not taking my copy of "Jamie's Italy" in with me to get signed!)

I have often put myself in quite scary situations before, but standing in front of Jamie & Jools Oliver, teaching their daughters how to make pizza, was HORRIFYING!!

I don't know how, possibly the 15 or so double lattes and 40 Marlboro Lights I'd had that day, but it worked! Everyone seemed happy, the girls and their class mates enjoyed themselves thoroughly, and Mum & Dad were contented.

Jamie came up to me just after the kids had eaten and shook my hand.

"I'm really sorry mate but I've gotta shoot off," he said, "Well done on a great party!"

"Thanks! I must admit I was a bit worried doing the whole thing in front of you!" I joked.

"No worries mate, it gave me a day off! Top job mate! Good bloke!"

How nice was that eh?

At the end of the party, I gave Jools and her Mum a hand gathering up all the gifts and carrying them out to their driver who was waiting across the road and there were actually paparazzi outside my restaurant!

"Stop! Stop! No more photo's! Flash flash flash!!"

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Healthy Country Chicken Casserole

I have discovered my true vocation in life; I am a true domestic god(dess)!

Since acquiring the most wanted Christmas present of Le Crueset (albeit by returning of his vile shirt), I have been cooking up a storm in my little kitchen!

I also found a lovely new dinner service and matching wine glass set in the January sales for an absolute bargain of £22 for the lot!! So, all the equipment is here now and I thought it was best to get on and use it!

I have devised the BEST chicken casserole I've ever tasted (though I do say so myself!), all totally fresh, with leeks, celery and carrots. really hearty and healthy, and perfect comfort food for this time of year.

Here's a quick run down...

> Brown off all the ingredients in your choice of butter or oil. I like to use a mixture of the two as the butter adds flavour and the oil stops it burning.

> Add flour. This thickens up the vegetable & chicken juices with the butter and forms your stock. No packet stuff here!! Fill with hot water.

> Add fresh chopped sage & season to taste. Transfer now to a casserole dish.

> Add a basil leaf and put in the oven, low temp for a good hour.

I love this with a baked potato, and fresh asapragus. You can just taste the goodness! Eat your heart out Nigella!!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Eclipse

Last night there was a lunar eclipse. In the photo's it looks great, but looking down over London it didn't look that impressive, rather just like a bloody big cloud across the moon.

Which then reminded me of that Rah Band tune "Clouds Across The Moon", do you remember that?

I then spent the rest of the night, and now probably today with that going round and round in my head!
"Hello? Hello Operator? I... I seem to have lost my connection!"

Apparently, an eclipse of the moon heralds new beginnings. Quite apt for me at present.

I can only hope!