Monthly Archives: May 2012

“You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream”

So went the lyrics to the hit of 1925, sung by Waring’s Pennsylvanians, the Six Jumping Jacks and even later by the likes of Chris Barber’s Jazz Band. In those days ice cream came in vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and other fruit based flavours. You might perhaps have found coffee flavour or caramel. But not Kentucky Fried Chicken, even though it was America.

How things change

Today you’ll find ice cream in every flavour under the sun. Doc Burnsteins Ice Cream Lab in Arroyo, California offers such tempting delights as Merlot raspberry truffle (made with real wine), rainbow sorbet and egg nogg, besides birthday cake and motor oil. Not mixed together – though even that wouldn’t’ surprise me. These are two separate flavours; the latter made from dark chocolate, Kaluha and fudge.

Hardly weird at all

We’ve become so used to strange and unusual foods that some have become almost normal. The flavours run the whole gamut from breakfast to dinner, or as they say in the States, from soup to nuts. Cornflake ice cream is quite delicious and does actually taste of cornflakes.  Heston’s bacon and egg ice cream is positively old hat – nowadays you get bacon with everything including chocolate so having it pop up in an ice cream is no big deal. Sausage and mash, Brussels sprouts, spinach, salad – no I’m not making this up.

Familiar – but still pretty weird

In this category I class the flavours that seem to be having an identity crisis.  Some of them are a bit of a cheat to tell the truth. Because they’re meant to be savoury accompaniments – like the garlic ice cream that’s served with steak. I’m not sure that the same excuse can be made for fish and, chips, pizza, haggis and Yorkshire pud flavours to say nothing of cheeseburger (with fries.) Ye Gods! Nor for Coronation chicken, octopus, smoked salmon, sardines with brandy and spaghetti with cheese. All are ices available in a variety of restaurants and emporiums – not just in far flung places without the law but in our own dear London town.

Not so much weird as really icky

Now we come to those that are not so much having an identity crisis as heading straight for the asylum. Fancy some breast milk ice cream? Selling as Baby Gaga, this offering, from London’s The Icecreamists, uses fresh donations from the public – oh yum! Of course you could always help things along a bit, in a roundabout sort of way, by sampling some Sex Pistol ice cream. Also known as ‘Viagra’ ice cream it’s electric green, contains stimulants such as ginkgo, arginine and guarana and comes with a shot of Absinthe. And you’re only allowed one a day. It figures.

Not yucky enough? A nice dish of spleen and artichoke, perhaps? Or whatabout Japanese Basashi, which replaces the more normal cookie or chocolate chunks with lumps of horsemeat. Enough to make you break out into a cold sweat? Not to worry – you can get that too. Well, it’s more the effect than the flavour since Jalapeno or ‘Cold Sweat’, from North Carolina, is made from some of the hottest peppers known to man.  You’ll be required  to sign a waiver because, and I quote “what is painful going in, might be painful upon exit.” Ouch! Puts those song lyrics in a completely different light, doesn’t it!


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A year ago ….

I find it almost impossible to believe that just over a year ago, on 19th May to be precise, I had never been to El Refugio, the rescue centre in Spain. It’s called El Refugio for a reason - it truly represents salvation for thousands of abandoned and abused dogs.  They come in all shapes and sizes – some are old, some are hardly born, many are damaged physically. From the moment they come into the Refugio or into foster care, every single dog is treated with kindness and care – a visit to the vet, a nice bath, good food, kind words and above all a cuddle. And, soon, very soon we hope, the golden basket – a loving family of their very own and no more sadness and pain.

I’d left England the day before, May 18th, on a very early flight. I settled into my apartment, slept and prepared to go up the next day.That night, around 2a.m., I was woken by the most violent thunderstorm I have ever experienced. The sky was a pulsating electric blue, the rain lashed the windows, the wind howled. It went on for several hours. Next morning the sky was blue, the sun shone, the air was fresh. I phoned for a taxi to take me to El Refugio. I got there at 10. At this point I still had no idea of the enormity of what had happened. I soon found out. As I walked up towards the portakabins I could see it. The place was a sea of mud, the dogs were covered in mud, parts of the hill had slid down in several places. People were busy digging, hosing, sluicing. Marjolijn, a Dutch volunteer, introduced herself, showed me where to find a sluicer and we just got stuck in.  A generator was brought in.

May 2011


Everyone worked non-stop. All that day, and the next day and the next. People came from everywhere. The phone never stopped ringing from 7.30 am and into the night. The local radio station appealed for help. Another dog charity brought a van load of food. I hadn’t known it at the time, but over the next days I discovered that the deluge had destroyed all the food stores, all the medicine, all the towels and the blankets and much else beside. The weaker dogs were in danger and some died. From pneumonia, from hypothermia. It was the saddest of times. A time that no one associated with A.C.E. will ever forget.

May 2012


May 19th 2012 – the pictures tell their own story. Bigger, better, stronger.  Nevertheless, the demands are great and growing daily. Spain is in a dreadful state, the dogs are under even greater threat.  El Refugio is constantly under pressure.  But it’s still going, thanks to the immense efforts, love and devotion of the founder of A.C.E. Fabienne and team Spain, of team Holland and of Team Belgium – of every single volunteer, worker, student, supporter, donor, foster parent – everyone and anyone who makes this brilliant organisation what it is today. And the work goes on.

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Oh! Death where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling?

I finally got to the Hayward Gallery to see David Shrigley’s first major show in London.  It was every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be. I’d love to cover everything here – but that would be impossible. There was so much to see and so much to think about. Many of the exhibits appear simple, childlike and quirky. And they are indeed simple, childlike and quirky, as well as being deep, a little disturbing and thought provoking. And witty and funny too.

You can’t escape death here, or life either. There’s a gravestone, for instance. It doesn’t say R.I.P.  It has no angel nor urn. No inscription states  ‘Beloved husband of ….’ or some such traditional phrase. Instead we get a shopping list, carved into the marble, picked out in gold leaf. In the midst of life we are in death. Indeed we are.  A little puppy holds up a placard stating ‘I’m dead’. There’s a dead rat, almost hidden under the skirting. A squirrel sits with its own head in its paws.

I don’t want to give the impression that this exhibition is gloomy. Far from it. It’s crazy, weird – in the nicest possible way – and fun. Death, however, has a habit of cropping up throughout, overtly or covertly.  Just as it does in the real world. The black and white cartoon of an aeroplane coming in to land has a text that reads ‘I find it hard to concentrate while performing important tasks.’ Yikes!  A bus driver states baldly ‘I can’t believe that they would let me drive a bus.’ Oops! It sets your mind spiralling off to dark and dangerous places.

This witty and wonderful artist made me think, smile and laugh out loud.  The big bad wolf in hospital, on a drip. A biscuit nailed above the lift with an unnecessarily large nail.  A bone serving as the hand of a clock.  A door, labelled ‘a door.’ A tiny little wee stick figure out on the enormous terrace.  A lost pigeon. A spy hole in the wall concealing a pinky-purple, satiny creature coiled around itself, like an intestinal worm or an elongated carrot. With a face.

If I wrote about everything I’d be here all night. As it was I took about two hours to go round, moving back and forwards, finding things I’d missed the first time. I was there so long I didn’t leave enough time for more than a sprint through the Deller exhibition, which was a pity. Even so, I’m glad I spent so much time at the Shrigley – it was well worth it. Thank you David Shrigley.

The pictures and photos reproduced here come either from the exhibition publicity or from a site, which I believe belongs to David Shrigley. I apologise if I have inadvertently infringed anybody’s copyright. Please let me know if this is the case.


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“Into each life some rain must fall.”

From the quotation above, one might surmise that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow had a philosophical attitude towards rain. It’s an attitude he shares with my cat, Eric, along with his surname. I should perhaps say ‘shared’ since both Henry and Eric Longfellow are no longer with us.

Eric never actually told me that he liked rain but he didn’t seem to dislike it either. Judging by his propensity to go outside in a downpour, sit in the biggest puddle he could find, then stroll back in, jump on my desk and park his bum. Right on top of the papers I was working on. Making them all nice and smeary. And illegible.

As to Henry Wadsworth. He said ‘some rain’, didn’t he? All very well for him. He wasn’t enduring the wettest April since records began. Oh no. Nor a deluge in a time of drought –  ‘Step away from the hosepipe, Ma’am or there’ll be trouble. “ Of course, now I’ve decided to write about this wretched rain, it’s stopped. Sod’s Law.

The forecasters say there’s more to come, lots more. But we know all about them and their promises, don’t we. I’m not getting at that nice Mr. Fish, I hasten to add. Poor man, he got so much stick, and quite wrongly. When he said ‘no hurricanes’ he was answering a question from a woman in the USA. But then, no one ever listens in this blame culture of ours. ‘Oooooh!’ he said there would be no hurricanes.’ ‘Ooooh, it’s all his fault!’ No it isn’t.

Be that as it may, it’s been raining. And whether it stops or whether it continues for forty days (when Is St Swithin’s Day?) I’ve looked up some quotations that fit the bill, in more ways than one. Robert Frost, for instance, could have been talking about our current economic woes.

So here are some rain related quotes – in celebration, commiseration and in the hope that one day soon the sun will shine again. The first two perfectly reflect the situation we are in today. The penultimate one is a lyric from a song that I’ll take to my desert island and finally an extract from one of my favourite poems of all time

Robert Frost –  A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain.”

Dwight Morrow – “Any party, which takes credit for the rain, must not be surprised if its opponents blame it for the drought.”

Douglas William Jerrold - He was so benevolent, so merciful a man that, in his mistaken passion, he would have held an umbrella over a duck in a shower of rain.”

Katherine Mansfield – “I love the rain. I want the feeling of it on my face. “

Bill Nighy – “I wanted to be a journalist, I thought it was glamorous and that I’d meet beautiful women in the rain.”

Dave Barry – “It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent.”

Pablo Neruda - “I grew up in this town, my poetry was born between the hill and the river, it took its voice from the rain, and like the timber, it steeped itself in the forests.”

David Copperfield – “I’m just waiting for people to start asking me to make the rain disappear.”

Jack Dee – “The rain forest has Sting. Now Siberia has Jack Dee. Someone had to draw the short straw. In this case it was the rain forest.”

Johnny Nash – “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way.”

e.e.cummings -

(i do not know what it is about you that closes

and opens; only something in me understands

the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)

nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands



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