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Welcome to Poland

Story location: Home / Blog / birmingham /

I was walking home last night when I saw a poster advertising the NatWest bank. What struck me as odd was that it was in Polish. Unfortunately it was one of those 'rolling poster' types and it changed while I was walking past and I've not seen it since.

Our local Tesco also seems to be getting taken over by the Polish. They've got a shelf full of polish food and we had a leaflet pushed through the door advertising this (written in polish of course). We've tried some of their pomegranate drink and it was ok but didn't actually contain much pomegranate juice. I was tempted to try some of the chicken pate but it was a bit fatty. Ah well, back to the M&S Potted Chicken then.

Moving House part 3

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

Everything's sorted and after a couple of months, we've finally bought the house. The contracts were exchanged last week and we collected the keys on friday. We've got a few weeks before we need to move out of our current place so that gives us chance to get the new house in order before we move in properly.

We started by decorating the front bedroom. Nearly all of the house has wood-chip wallpaper on the walls and ceilings so we spent most of yesterday scraping that off the walls. We washed the plaster down with sugar soap and left them to dry overnight.

Todays job was to paint the walls. We started by painting a while emulsion on the plaster this morning. This afternoon that had dried enough to put the 'proper' paint on. We've decided on light blue at the top and dark blue at the bottom. We managed to get 2 coats of light blue on today.

We've also ordered some carpets for two of the bedrooms. We'll need to measure the other rooms in the house and as soon as we've settled on the colour schemes we can start shopping for carpets for those too.


Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

The last few days have been getting colder in the mornings. We had some snow overnight - not much but enough to still be hanging around when I got up.

It's been getting colder in the house too. The lack of central heating is starting to become a problem. The only heater we're using is a small electric one in the front room (the Hamster room), and we've been having to slowly turn it up a bit each night to stop the room temperature from dropping too much.

RSPCA Hamster

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

Just over a week ago someone left a shoe box full of hamsters in Primark, which were taken to the RSPCA centre. Emma was wanting to take a few of them but we really don't have room and it'll be more cages to deal with when we move house soon.

The local free paper had a story about the Coventry branch of the RSPCA being short of cash and Emma wanted to help out by taking a small hamster off their hands. They had one called Biggles, who was described as tiny Chinese Hamster. He turned out to be a female roborovski, so although Biggles would be a good name for a boy hamster, we think we'll need to find a new name for her.

Roborovski hamster from the RSPCA

Windy Trains

Story location: Home / Blog / birmingham /

It has been very windy today. Whenever it's windy, a strange sound can be heard from the back of our house. It's a low moaning note, sounding like a lower version of when you blow over a bottle top. We hope it is just air blowing past a pipe and not some sort of wind monster outside.

On my way to work this morning, the pavements were blocked by wheelie bins lying on their sides, victims of the wind overnight. The trains were running but were reduced to 50mph for safety. At least they were running. Things weren't so good tonight.

I had heard that the Virgin Trains to London had been cancelled but I got to New Street at my usual time in the hope that I wouldn't have to wait long for a train. I couldn't check the 'Live Departures' website because it was down. The screens at New Street were all displaying a notice apologising for the disruption caused by the weather.

The station was surprisingly quiet. There weren't many trains at the platforms and surprisingly few people standing around. I overheard someone saying that the main entrance to the station had been closed. With no train times being displayed, everyone was milling around on the bridge waiting for an announcement over the tannoy.

Thankfully a train to Coventry was announced. I managed to get a seat. The train was surprisingly empty given that it was one of the few actually leaving. The exercise in crowd control at the main entrance seemed to be a bit over zealous meaning a lot of people couldn't get to the platforms.


Story location: Home / Blog / work /

I couldn't find my wallet this morning - I realised I must have left it in my desk in work. I didn't want it there all weekend so I thought it would be best for me to nip back in to retrieve it. It was a 3 hour 'nip'. There were no trains running from Coventry station (thanks to engineering works) so I had to get onto a rail replacement bus. This decided to stop at every station between Coventry and Birmingham International and took ages. The only consolation was seeing a goat standing on a picnic table, somewhere halfway between Canley and Tile Hill.

MYO Restaurant

Story location: Home / Blog / coventry /

The much anticipated bar and restaurant complex in the Old Fire Station finally opened last month. One of the restaurants there is MYO which provides all-you-can-eat Indian, Chinese and Thai food.

They offer a fairly lacklustre salad bar but the Indian food really shines. There is a wide range of starters and curries. All the ones I tasted were very good with a nice balance of spice and heat. The Chinese food on offer includes a stir fry section where you choose from a range of meats and vegetables and have them cooked while you wait.

The dessert selection included the now ubiquitous chocolate fountain. There were mini bits of swiss roll and a really tasty treacle sponge available for dunking.

The only problem we encountered was when we asked for the bill. They initially tried to bill us for 8 people despite the fact that only 7 turned up. They were fairly quick at bringing us a corrected bill though. We were then horrified to find that they had added a 10% Service Charge. For a Self-Service restaurant! Drinks were brought to the table but we served ourselves food. One of our party paid by credit card and they forced him to pay the full amount including the compulsory enforced tip. We paid the rest of the bill in full and left them some change for the tip but it fell slightly short of the 10% they demanded. It soured the whole dining experience and I'm unlikely to ever go back there again.

RIP. Bumble

Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

Bumble the Roborovski Hamster died yesterday. We found him in the evening, curled up in his bedroom. It looked like he died peacefully in his sleep. We buried him this morning in the corner of the garden alongside Uri, Ira and Zac.

Wii Wii Wii all the way home

Story location: Home / Blog /

We went back into town this afternoon to collect the Wii. We ordered it before Christmas and was told we should get it by mid january.

The Wii Sports game which comes with it is good exercise and very tiring. After a few games of bowling, baseball, tennis and boxing, my arms were aching. We also downloaded the trial version of the Opera web browser and had a brief look at that. It was an odd experience looking at the Internet on a tv but it worked well.

There are other 'channels' on the Wii such as News or Weather. The News channel wasn't working but the Weather one was and it was impressive, allowing you to zoom in and out and pan around a map to see what the forecast was in different parts of the world.

Wok Smoked Salmon

Story location: Home / food_and_drink /

I've seen 'home smoking' being demonstrated on tv a couple of times, using either a wok or a roasting pan. We've got an old wok in need of replacing so I thought I'd give it a go using some salmon.

You'll need a wok with a lid and a rack which fits in the wok to stand the salmon on. Start by lining the bottom of the wok with foil, using enough to stick about an inch or so above the lip of the wok because it needs folding over the lid to reduce the amount of smoke which escapes.

Mix together a couple of tablespoons each of rice, sugar, tea leaves. Pour into the foil. Place a rack above this mixture - I didn't have a suitable rack so I used a thick foil 'pie dish' (the sort which is supposed to be disposable) which I cut holes in.

Place the wok over a medium heat. When the mixture starts smoking, put the lid on and fold the foil over the lid. Turn the heat down to low. After about 15 minutes, check the salmon and give it a few more minutes if needed.

It may be a good idea to open the kitchen window and close the door before doing any of this - the smell of smoke managed to fill the house. The salmon came out looking more like 'smoke damaged' than smoked but it tasted good. The technique would work with other fish but it was a lot of hard work.


Story location: Home / Blog / Hamsters /

These frames were from a video taken last year, showing Bumble trying to climb onto the outside of his wheel. He did it regularly and each time he fell off. He's not the brightest of hamsters.

Bumble falling off his wheel

Here's a photo of him asleep outside his 'nest' under the wooden bridge:

Bumble sleeping

Hot Water

Story location: Home / Blog / work /

At long last and after months of waiting, we finally have a new water heater in the kitchen in work. The new one is one of the wall mounted boilers and it seems to work a bit better than the old table-top one. Hopefully this will reduce the amount of time wasted as people stand around waiting for hot water.

Feeling Drained

Story location: Home / Blog / work /

The mobile blood van was outside the office today so I popped down this morning to give them a pint or so. I didn't realise it had been over 2 years since I last gave any. I must have been out of practice which would explain why it took such a long time.

I first started giving blood when I was working in North Wales. When I went to Aberystwyth I decided to continue doing it. It was made easier by the blood donor service turning up on campus every few months. The first time at Aber was a bit confusing because they couldn't get my details from my blood donors card. It turned out to be an English issued card which was not compatible with the Welsh system. Although I'd only ever given blood in Wales, the vans in North Wales were run by the Liverpool service.

Penny Wise...

Story location: Home / Blog /

We decided to go to Sainsburys for tonight's shopping trip because their tins of beans are cheaper than Tesco. This definitely turned out to be a case of 'Penny wise, pound foolish' because we ended up spending around £20, much of it on unnecessary stuff. We did save some money on things we needed (multibuy saving on tins of pulses, half price breakfast cereal, reduced price bread) but we managed to spend much more on frivolous things (Thorntons chocolate slab, santa shaped chocolate lollies and other heavily discounted Christmas stuff).

We also noticed Easter Eggs and Christmas chocolates on the same shelf. They might have only been 'creme eggs' but it's still a bit too early!