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It was meant to be a restful week; a last week’s holiday on the payroll before retirement starts in earnest. It has been a busy week, a funny week, a full scale full-time stretch of a week. There’s been some activity on the blog and for those of you who have tuned in for the next episode of cyclist explores Hibernia, I ought to explain that Saturday has become food day. The whole thing is evolving and is developing in ways I enjoy. At heart though, it is a daily letter to my children, letting them know what is happening at home.

I’m enjoying writing up a travelogue of my journey around Ireland and am looking forward to having the time to re-draft it to see if there is anything there worth taking further. I’m looking froward to continuing a study of the changing tastes in children’s literature. I’m looking forward to writing about the British education system from a detached but informed position. I’m looking forward to developing a play script about one of my fellow northerners and a short story about the meeting of two unusual literary figures; one a little read poet and the other a multi-million selling author of sex books. But first, I’m looking froward to having a good rest.

I’ve always liked half term holidays. A week is a proper length of time. I had no real objection to  two weeks at Christmas and Easter and  six weeks in the summer, but the half hols were the best.

I’ve tried to keep up a decent diet during my teaching time but the winter  and the long hours have taken their toll. I haven’t spent anything like as long in the kitchen as I want to.I need salad. I’ve eaten endless apples, oranges, pears, grapefruit, bananas and other fruit but I haven’t had an avocado in months. I’m also down on fresh tomatoes. This salad cuts through winter like a day’s sunshine. The above ingredients get chopped roughly into the salad below.


And get served using leaves of cos lettuce (romaine to the cultured) as both cutlery and crockery. No oil, but plenty of ground black pepper. There is plenty of other provender on the table but this does for me, and does me no end of good. An afternoon lying on a sunny beach wouldn’t have pleased me more.


But it is still winter, and I believe in following the seasons and eating seasonal food. We decide that we are unlikely to have better cause to open up the Christmas cake that never got marzipan or icing. It’s been sitting in a tin, all wrapped up and left on the shelf. I experimented with this one and put in far more fresh orange juice than I have seen in any recipe. It is moist and delicious. It makes for a fine end to a tea for two special and then becomes my snack of choice whenever hunger nibbles at me during the week. Forgetting it was a very happy accident.

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For the first few days we try to have a different breakfast each day. Toast and marmalade is my current favourite breakfast. We’ve tried all sorts of croissants over the years. I got to eating them by the packet and my weight ballooned. These days we generally have them when there is at least one of the children around to help us out. Today I can no longer resist the clever little tin from jus-rol. I’ve never had these before. T remembers them fondly from childhood. It is worth it for the way the tim pops open and the dough releases itself. The end products are fine and I’d go as far as to say nice with plenty of plum jam. The kitchen smells nice. I’ve had better croissants but I think I’ll keep a tin in the cupboard for emergencies when nothing other than a French breakfast will do.

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The days get filled with films. This time of year all the hot tips for Oscars and Baftas are in the multiplexes. It’s been a good year. We hit gold with Dallas Buyers Club on Saturday. For years Matthew McConaughey has been a perfect reason to give a film a miss. And then came Mud last year which I rate as about my favourite film of 2013 and now this. He is also the best thing in Wolf of Wall Street. In fact, if you haven’t yet seen Wolf of Wall Street I recommend you call it quits once Mr McConaughey leaves the screen.

On Sunday we get the pleasing and heart-warming Monuments Men. It has given George Clooney the opportunity to do the media rounds and appear on radio 4 saying Britain ought to give the Elgin Marbles back to Greece (something I have long been in favour of). It also gave the radio 4 presenters the opportunity to be patronising about an actor having a view and to be downright condescending about the way he pronounced Elgin. We enjoy the film.

On Monday we have to go to the Showroom (arts cinema) to see the Charles Dickens biopic The Invisible Woman. This means a trip into the middle of Sheffield and the search for somewhere for a cheap and cheerful meal. A new chain has opened promising to take buffet dining to a new level. the waitress is helpful and very determined to do her job right (in the way that suggests aggressive management watching everyone). I thoroughly enjoy four courses. First some passable seafood risotto which I cannot resist garnishing with salad and pickles.


The place is big and clean and efficient with an enormous choice of decent food. It fills up. At £7.99 for as much as you want, I’m not surprised. You can find yourself with some pretty unsavoury neighbours in these places, but today we have little parties of work colleagues, families from a wider range of cultural backgrounds than there is food on offer, couples who stare at each other while eating (not us), couples who talk to each other whilst eating (us), students and teachers.


I enjoy some sushi, then a tasty rogan josh with rice that looked more exciting than it tasted.


We didn’t match each other dish for dish but we hit the pudding section simultaneously and both agreed that this was the best part of the meal. T managed a selection of little cakes and fruit. I enjoyed a good slice of chocolate cake with a side order of panna cotta. For both quality and quantity there were no grumbles.


I can’t tell you too much about the film as I slept through half of it.


Tuesday began with soft boiled eggs and slices of bread with real butter and cups of Yorkshire Gold tea. It was only eight in the morning and the day had peaked. There has been altogether too much interesting food this week to fit into one day. The cycle ride from New Ross  to Wexford is going to have to wait until Monday. My first proper day as a retired teacher.