Archive for the 'holiday' Category goes into hibernation

Hello. Just a wee note to let you know that, like the Blue Peter tortoises, is going into a bit of a dormant state while I concentrate on the Big Food Map project I’m doing for Channel 4.

The odd thing might appear on my Flickr stream, but for the next seven months it’s out with the carbonite on as I’ll be posting a lot less than I all ready am.

I’ll take a moment to reflect here on my small contribution to the internet. I started on the 11th January 2004, have I contributed anything worthwhile? Here’s what the WordPress stats machine had to say about my all time top posts.

4oD on a mac 4,907
Athena Classics: Tennis Girl 3,737
4oD on a Mac Part II 2,427
The History of the Channel 4 logo and id 1,336
Michelle wins the Apprentice.. what’s he 763

So it seems 4oD on a Mac and the history of the Channel 4 logo were popular, along with photographs of girls, one scratching her arse, the other spent a few weeks working for Sugar.

What’s more the top five search terms that people used to find my blog are as follows:

michelle ryan 10,948
drunk girl 4,073
4od mac 3,011
michelle dewberry 2,664
spit roast 2,416

Sigh. At times like this your with Leo McGarry’s view of the personal computer..’A more efficient delivery system for gossip and pornography? Where’s my jet pack, my colonies on the Moon?

Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed blogging on eyedropper, I hope I’ve at least made some of you not looking for Muchelle Ryan images or how to run 4oD on a Mac laugh along the way.

I’ll be back in seven months.

All the best


UPDATE: If you want to get hold of me you can eee male, all 1 word, big food map at channel 4 dot com.

Surfing, on a whim and a wave.

Friday night 8pm in the Kings Arms, Roupell Street SW1. Toya and Dan yesterday took delivery of a circa 1980 Renault Trafic ‘Miami’ Autosleeper campervan they’ve christened Gary Claude Van Gary, and are planning to go surfing tomorrow. “You guys should come!” mrs e looks at me, I cancel a few other social arrangements, and suddenly I’m planning a trip to North Devon to go surfing….Dude.

Being a child of the various great metropolises of this fair Nation, most of which are land locked by about 70 miles, I never got to do surfing as a younger lad, water sports consisted of school trips to Lake Windermere for a spot of kayaking. If you were from the city you did skateboarding, if you were from the countryside, especially the South West then you did Surfing, and if you still called your parents Mummy and Daddy into your teens you were probably posh and went skiing or snowboarding.

Friday night 11.59pm Pissed packing while trying to eat fish and chips. 7am start. After a nightmare 6 hours on the M4 and M5 we arrive at Staunton Sands, [live webcam] big long beach, plenty of room and for £50 hire two wetsuits and boards from Surfed Out for two half days (Where bizzarly the owner has the same name as me!)

The forecast was ‘messy’ so after a 30 second lesson from James, another friend who came along, we were in. The first 20 mins you’re just practicing staying balanced while lying on the board. After a while I managed to ride a couple in successfully, I only managed to pop up onto my knees once though. I had a great time, and would certainly do it again, perhaps with an instructor, but as a taste for the waves, this got me hooked. When you first ride on one, moving only by the power of the sea you get that ‘I’m doing it!’ feeling that you got when your Dad taught you to ride a bike.

We were staying the night at Lobb Fields Campsite – I wouldn’t recommend it, but then I wouldn’t recommend camping full stop. The reception at Lobb Fields has every square inch covered in prohibitive signs. ‘Disposable BBQ’s are not allowed unless on a stand’ ‘Dogs must be kept on leads’ ‘all visitors MUST report to reception’ ‘No children’s ballgames near the toilet block’ ‘All pitches to be vacated at 10:30am’ it’s all about as welcoming as the face of the woman behind the desk, who must have been the inspiration for Roz in Monsters Inc. We weren’t allowed to pitch our tents near the van as ‘it’s against the law!’ So me and mrs e plus James paid a total of £36 for the privilege of pitching two tents on a 9’ by 9’ patch of mud, pitch 67 a.k.a the Quagmire suite, she actually sold it on the fact it was handy for the communal toilets and showers – oh joy!.

A quick shower, a change of clothes and a stiffener in Gary van Claude Gary – which was cosy and snug, and we headed into Braunton for pie and mash at the George and a night cap and a game of arrows at the White Lion,before returning to the ‘Gate Locked at 10pm sharp!’ and ‘no noise after 11pm’ campsite.

God I hate camping, I hate everything about it. ‘It’s only for one night’ I kept telling myself. The weather didn’t help, it was a windy nights, and when it wasn’t windy, it was raining. It was like sleeping in a tumble dryer, only not warm and fluffy. In the end I got out and slept for a few hours in the car. I awoke to see the place in the slate grey light of dawn. Hell, I’m in hell. I wouldn’t mind sleeping in a tent if when I unzipped the door I was looking at the foothills of the Himalayas, the alien vista of Tierra del Fuego, or the majestic Rocky Mountains. What I don’t want to see it a patch of muddy ground leading to the loos on my left and a big white grockle box on my right. Slowly the campsite wakes up, what I thought for a second was a cockerel crowing turned out to be a child crying. Women in the dressing gowns trudged through the mud to the communal showers clutching a basin full of last nights washing up to do. Misery, misery was etched on to everyone’s face, this is a British refugee camp I thought. To think some people work 50 weeks a year, 350 days to come to this… I’d have a 16 gauge buried under my nose if I had to do two weeks here. Can you tell I really don’t like camping?

So, a bit stiff from a bad nights sleep I pull on a damp cold wetsuit and we head back out to the beach, it’s really windy on the Sunday and we both get battered even more, it’s still great fun and I manage to ride one or two in, as well as improve my paddling. After about an hour we call it a day, and get a hot tasty pasty and a coffee from the two bright young things manning the café hut. All the locals we meet looks fresh faced, fit and healthy, no one has that pallid stale look of a Londoner, must be the sea air? I was surprised to see that all sorts of people were surfing, mum’s and dad’s, old guys, girls (wet suits make women look hot!), there was no of the ‘you’re not cool enough’ vibe or mocking of newbies, everyone was really chilled and nice.

So, in short, I’ll be back… in a B&B or cottage…. real soon.


spanish beans – 1

Originally uploaded by

We were in Bilbao a couple of weeks ago, and while there I picked up a conpango, which is a pack containing a morcilla (spanish black pudding) a chorizo and some pancetta.

I didn’t know quite how to use it, hence being perplexed by the woman trying to sell me some dried white beans too. Anyway, upon getting home and a bit of googling, I found a good recipe and the above photo is the result… and oh my god what a result! I cooked them for about 12 hours, on the lowest heat my hob could manage, and this is after 24 hours soaking, so this is a real weekend thing.

They were absolutely amazing.. I kept saying to myself ‘..this is just beans, how can it taste so good!?’ Some other internet sites recommend pricking the chorizo and morcilla so they don’t burst. Here’s a shot after about 3 hours
spanish beans - 2

I think the traditional way to serve them is with the meats separate to the beans, and as a starter. What’s probably not traditional is to eat three platefuls in a row then belly flop onto the couch moaning…

One to make again, only this time when there’s a lot of mouths to feed, but they really were fantastic..Bit gassy the next day mind.


My only pre-knowledge of Budapest came from a half remembered history lesson about the events of ’56 and a reference in the film Gross Point Blank, Dan Ackroyd’s character says, “ah, Budapest, city of Cathedrals”. Well it does have a great deal of ecclesiastical establishments to commend it, but it also has a great deal of dirt and graffiti too. The guidebook said something along the lines of ‘see Budapest before it becomes just another capital city of a western European social democracy. My overall advice would be, give it a few more years… and go in the spring.

What follows is a long personal post that’s as much for me as thee…

It’s not all bad though. The Art ‘Otel, where we stayed, excellent. Nice comfortable bed, proper duvets, modern design all centred around the art of Donald Sultan (?). It’s on the Buda side of the river, near the Chain Bridge, a crossing we got to know very well. Handy for Buda and the Castle, but over the river from Pest, a bit like having a hotel in waterloo rather than the west end. Still, from room 415 you do get a great view of the (grey/green not blue) Danube every morning.

Food-wise we found the place a bit hit and miss. Cyrano, Mezma, and a couple of the newish bar/cafe/clubby/restaurants we’re good. Cyrano in particular came top for decor, staff humour (serving us (free) shot glasses of beer when we asked for a small ones, and keeping up the gag for the right amount of time before bringing the real things) I had roast salmon with a celeriac risotto and Holland [sic] sauce. The Salmon was topped with roasted pine nuts and raisins, which gave a chewy sweetness to an otherwise softer comforting dish.

Other highlights include the food at Mezma, a 70s style retro restaurant lounge bar. Hungarians bean soup and a good salad with roasted veggies, just nicely put together, and they had a cocktail called a BBC

Miss-wise had to be St Peters Abbey, a Belgian place near the hotel that we went to on the first night. Scored great on beers, but zero on food. Hungary being a landlocked country the Mussels was always going to be a risk. Small, over cooked and nothing like the plump almost milky ones I’ve experienced in Brussels. But worse was the snail starter… now I love snails, they’re great with loads of garlic, butter and some bread. Perhaps it’s a Walloon tradition, but snails don’t go so great in a sauce with mushrooms… why? Well they’re both grey and a bit slimy, and the later ends up making the former taste tough by virtue of association. Worse was the hideous presentation though, nipples of raw carrot and strips of red onion forming some sort of semicolon? Alternate lemon and red pepper slices held firm by some cold mashed swede epoxy? Yuk. We voted with our wallets and didn’t leave a tip.

Budapest is famous for it’s spas and springs. Many of them are single sex, so you’ve got to pick carefully. Széchenyi Baths in the central park is a large popular one. The experience is a little bit scary, unless you went to boarding school, in which case you’re probably used to large old women ordering you around. You buy the ticket, go to the ‘cabin’ which is a small walk in locker and get changed. The woman then chalks a number on the door indicating how many people are using it, (two in our case), she then gives you a metal tag, and writes the tag number on a blackboard inside the cabin. This is the security number and you must remember it, in case youloose the tag. The cabin also has it’s own number so beware. With that we were off out to the pools. While the air temp was 5°C , the waters were 37°C. I’ve not been in a pool that hot since I first learnt to swim. I subsequently came out dying for a pee and salt and vinegar crisps.

We were there on a Saturday, and the cliental was quite mixed, Tourists, families, old Budapestians playing chess like you see in the guide books, British Stag groups trying to cure hangovers, that sort of thing. Also If you’re only in the pools for an hour or so, (by which time you’re a prune anyway) you get a refund on leaving. Towels can be hired (or take the one’s from your hotel) as can swimming costumes (think ‘I forgot my kit PE lessons’, urgh)

Other general observations.
1. They love a big door, each apartment block has a huge door leading in to it, they often have beautiful ornate handles and are covered graffiti.
2. They sure love an auto-flushing urinal, the place might be a dump, but every slasher I went in was as no hander. The classier places have auto taps too.
3. Squint you’re eyes and you can just imagine how miserable it would have been back in the communist days. Like most of Eastern Europe there’s some amazing art nouveau buildings and some hideous concrete ones.
4. You know that mobile you upgraded in 2002? Someone in Hungary is using it. Nokia 3210, the other one with the round dial interface, that pre Sony Ericsson with the stubby aerial, all being put to good use. Telecoms is a massive industry, Pannon had huge adverts everywhere, hotly followed by T-Mobile Hu and Vodaphone.
5. Hungary is set to join the Euro in 2010, and the main pedestrianised shopping streets could already be anywhere in Euroland, Esprit, Mexx, H&M, Zara, Footlocker, and the largest M&S outside England I was informed by the guide book.

On the subject of Guide books, don’t bother is my other advice. The most informative and up to date one I could find on the Charing Cross Road, (lonely Planet: Budapest published 2003) was good for history and background as well as maps, but we found that quite a few things had closed or moved. Particularly off the Castle Hill, which was a bit of a let down on a wet Friday morning. There’s plenty of maps, pamphlets and free-zines in most bars and hotels as well as at the airport, and if you really care about the history, do your research online before you go. Still, it is nice to have a doodled in book as a memento.

The airport: Get the mini bus to and from your hotel, it’s cheap and fairly quick, though it is just a Ford Transit with some seats in. You could also go for the Budapest Card, it’s valid for 48 or 72 hours, and gets you discounted (sometimes free) entry to lots of museums and money of food too. It also give you free unlimited transport on buses and trams. In the end we perhaps didn’t use it as much as we could have, but if you’re a full on culture vulture then it’s good value. It also fairly stress free, unless like me you write the wrong date starting on the card and then fret that no one will accept it as you’ve overwritten the 15th with the 17th in a really laboured scratchy way. Still, in the end everyone excepted it.

Other things we did: Churches, St Matthias on Castle hill and the Basilica, both amazing, The Card gets you in free to St Matthias, and we got a free 15 min talk off a guide. The Terror House, a bit full on, But then it does show two of the darkest periods in Hungary’s history. Worth going, but as a lot of the suvivour’s audio/visual testament isn’t subtitled it’s sort of hard to empathise, purely through lack of understanding. I suspect that this in particular is more for Hungarians that the rest of us. The scary thing is the normality of the street outside compared to what you’re told went on inside, As if HMP Belmarsh we’re on KIngsway.

House of Hungarian Photography (free with the card too) is a great little gallery. Interesting for it’s architecture as much as it’s contents. As it’s in renovated rooms in one of the old buildings, you get to have a good nose around. It’s a great space. You can imagine what this wold have been like as some rich merchants home. Work wise there’s some great shots of Hungarian life, but also a small section on three photographers competing for a scholarship, of which I liked Erdei Krisztina’s work the best.

In all, not a bad place for a weekend. Big Budapest photoset on Flickr.

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
February 2020
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