Monday, April 24, 2017

The great spectacle of ...The Footballing Parents.

Despite being a Brit, I don't do football... 
I think it was something to do with an overbearing games teacher at school, not being very interested in sports and the huge Arsenal vs. Spurs family rivalry, that put me right off...

As a kid I tried to like it, I played a bit at school, I used to go to training for Downside, the local kids team where I grew up. I went to some matches with my Dad and Uncles at Spurs and even a couple of England matches where I met Diego Maradona  (that's me with him in the pic below.)

I just was never very good at football and was always picked last along with my mate Derek for the team, I only made the Downside team once when someone else didn't show up. My lack of playing was mainly due to the fact I could never kick the damn ball in the direction it should go. I resigned myself to not being a footballist at about age 13 and settled for watching the World Cup when it was interesting or there was nothing else on TV. I don't even follow a team, I just don't do football.

Me (left) with Diego Maradona in 1986
Now I'm a parent, football has made a surprise come back in my life through BIG, he loves the beautiful game. I'm not sure where he got it from, my wife isn't a footballist, nor any of our Swiss family. Grandad, uncles and cousins in England are all footballists so, I guess he must have picked it up in the UK family genes somewhere along the lines...

Anyway, the thought of having a "football kid" was always a bit of a fear for me, I was worried about the idea of not being able to tell my kids what to do as I didn't know the rules and had a fear of standing on a wet and windy touchline on a Sunday morning, after a few hours sleep from a concert the night before...I just couldn't see myself doing it.

The other summer, after BIG showed his absolute enthusiasm for the Football thing, I shelved my fears,  got him a goal set and put it in the garden. The idea being that BIG could happily while away time, practicing penalty shooting, free kicks and other things footbally. Unfortunately he needed someone to practice with and as Small hates football and seems to have 2 left feet (much like myself at that age) and Mrs S just doesn't, it was down to me...

Oh the pressure, I knew I would be a let down... I mean, I couldn't kick a ball in a straight line at a target when I was under 20. Now, in my 40's I was going to be an utter embarrassment to my boy. 
On a whim, I got myself some trusty "old skool" Adidas Samba and spent some time in the garden when they (and everyone else in the neighbourhood) were at school / work...and tried to learn to kick a ball...after while and the loss of numerous balls in the stream that runs through our garden,  it started to come together. I could actually get the ball in the goal from anywhere in the garden, this was a revelation for me and made the kick about with BIG, much more fun for both of us!
 Now we fast forward a bit and BIG has joined the local football team. He has relatively expensive (for the size of it) football clothing and indoor and outdoor boots. He goes to the training ground once a week on a Wednesday, they practice outdoor in the spring, summer and autumn and indoor in the winter. I drop him off and say hi to the other parents and then come home...I ask him how he got on when he comes home and ask him if he managed to score any goals and what kind of football things did they learn today. That's the very limit of my footballing knowledge, aside from when we play in the garden,  I kick footballs at him and he kicks footballs at's all going OK...

Then BIG enrolles me in the Dads vs. Kids match in the training hall in February, without my knowledge I might add, My wife broke the news gently...

"You'll have to go training with BIG next week..Take your footie boots and wear some light clothes"

"Eh! Why...?"

"Because the Dads are playing the kids"

"Oh f**k, really?"

"yes, he's very excited and will be very proud that his Papa is there with him"

"Ohhhh, bugger......"

That was that, I had no excuses and the huge smile on the face of my son ensured I nervously entered the sports hall with my Adidas Samba shod feet, the very next week...

Me aged 8                                          BIG aged 8

I hadn't played a game of football for at least 30 years and now there I was,  lined up with 10 other Dads in various stages of (un) fitness about to kick off a 90 minute match against our offspring.
It was exhausting and quite a lot of fun...thankfully the dads were only allowed 5 players against the kids 11 so, we were subbed on and off the pitch as we played, I think this action from the trainer probably saved a few heart attacks!!

It came down to penalties at the end and I took to the pitch in front of my son, his team mates and all the other Dads, to take the first penalty shot...
I was utterly terrified, playing drums in front of thousands of people is a breeze compared to taking a penalty in a school sports hall in front of your son and his mates I tell you! 
I dug deep, composed myself and tried to think of all the garden practice I had done....then with a hasty "don't fucking miss" muttered under my breath, I struck the ball and it flew with a nice little curl, up into the top left corner of the net....


So that's what it's all about, I get it now....
We got beaten 6-5 and we looked like we had run a marathon, but it was actually great fun!
I could round up the story there but, that little match led me to look forward to taking BIG to his club tournaments when I am not away with the band...

It's this particular activity that brings me to the point of this blog instalment....

The Footballing Parents.

This is a phenomena of which I was unaware, it took me by complete surprise and a certain amount of fear, watching them at work is quite a spectator sport and I can't figure out if I go to matches to watch BIG and his team or to watch The Footballing Parents...

The Footballing Parents are not your ordinary supportive parents, taking a healthy interest in the hobbies of their offspring, not the parents who will take the kids to training after work or run a club unpaid, for fun. The ones i'm talking about are the parents who seem to want to live an unfulfilled ambition through their kids and take it deadly serious!!

The Footballing Parents (FBP as I shall call them) clearly invest a great deal of time and energy in developing their miniature Pele, Ardilies, Beckham or Messe. FBP would also appear to spend a huge amount of money on tiny, expensive boots and replica kit and training kit and bags and whatever the hell else a small footballist may require. FBP will ensure they are first at the match ground and will dutifully break out a miniature expensive match ball and help their miniature footballing creation to warm up, by shouting instructions as the small one runs around, kicks balls, jumps up and down and dashes from white line to white line. 

FBP will speak in hushed tones to the trainer when the team is prepared for the match and then as the kick off approaches FBP will bellow instructions and encouragement to the miniature footballist from the side lines. As the match is in progress FBP will shout and swear and jump up and down and scream and shout at other miniature footballists, referees, other parents and anyone else who it appears is not playing or spectating to professional footballing standards.

FBP is terrifying to watch yet, strangely addictive...There seem to be many, many footballing terms which are bellowed at the top of FBP's voice as play progresses.  If their miniature footballist should attempt to score and miss, you'd be forgiven for thinking that FBP had been personally kicked in the ankle. God forbid the miniature footballist is tackled or fouled..this sends FBP into an almost "Elmer Fudd" style rage and can sometimes see FBP walk onto the pitch and berate the officials and other parents! 

It's truly amazing and I have always seen at least one or two examples at most matches BUT this last weekend was off the scale in terms of FBP involvement...

BIG and his team were playing a county tournament with 6 teams from the local area, all playing 20 minute 5-a-side matches. 5 of the teams I had seen before at other matches and knew some of the parents and FBP by sight but, this time there was a new team, one I hadn't seen before...

The junior side from the local Premier league squad arrived in a sponsored team bus, resplendent in miniature versions of the very expensive pro kit, emblazoned with sponsor logos and tiny expensive gold NIKE boots..They looked great, like a tiny footballing army, and as you'd expect, every tiny footballing soldier had an independent squad of FBP in support... It was simultaneously truly comical, threatening and amazing to watch.. The Premier FBP were howling and jumping and berating all who stood in their way...This particular brand of FBP were making more noise than any of the other teams and parents in attendance..I have never seen anything like it!

As BIG and I shared a half time orange juice there was a "Premier FBP" next to us dishing out a major finger pointing bollocking to a tiny footballist for missing a penalty, the little man stood there in his tiny perfect kit and gold boots with tears in his eyes as his (I presume) father, told him he was disappointed and surprised by his sons poor performance..unable to hear any more I just said "Mate, take it easy, it's just a game" 

"Shut up asshole" was his reply...

BIG turns to me and says "It doesn't look like much fun in that team, Pa"

I'm glad that, through my son,  I found the fun in football again but, at the same time, I'm saddened that for some kids the Beautiful Game is not a game of fun anymore, because of their parents they are having their passion and fun turned into an obsession...

Yes I get it, football is big business, but for 6,7 and 8 year old kids it should all be about getting out, having fun and learning to win and loose. Or at the very least, it should be about letting them make up their own mind about football....NO?

Have I missed the point?


Monday, April 3, 2017

I don't want to be a pushy parent, but.........

Mrs S and are are very lucky to have two little hooligans that simply love going to school. We have no trouble getting them out of the house every morning at 08:00 for them to walk, by themselves I might add, the 1 kilometre or so to the village school..

When the boys reached school age (age 6, much later here than in the UK) we were able to choose the kind of system they would follow for the first few years. We had the option of the normal "years 1 / 2 / 3" system or a new style "Basis-stufe" where the last kindergarten year, plus first 3 school years are rolled into one class.

We chose the Basis-stufe style for both boys, as the building was brand new, open plan and beautifully equipped, in addition the small class size of 20 was shared by 2 teaching staff, thats one teacher for 10 kids!! And there was the added benefit of the younger kids being inspired to learn by the older kids and in turn the older kids helping to "mentor" the little ones. We thought it provided a really wonderful, inclusive and inspiring learning environment for our boys to start their schooling. We were pleased to hear that the children would be encouraged to work toward their strengths and be helped and inspired by their classmates to tackle their weaknesses, assisted by the teaching staff.

Both boys attend the Basis-Stufe in separate classes, both classes have 20 kids and 2 teachers. Small is absolutely loving his time at school and his teachers are really fantastic and supportive, he doesn't enjoy the traditional school work as such, but is allowed to really exercise his creative mind with building things from old cardboard, painting, drawing and working as part of a team. He is extremely creative and very skilled with his hands. He has struggled wth learning his numbers and letters a bit but, with our support at home and that of his tutors, he is making steady progress and his confidence is growing all the time...most heartening!

BIG however, is struggling a bit....and it's troubling us.

Even before he started school, BIG had a huge interest in numbers, letters and books. So much so that I took it upon myself to teach him to read and count before he had finished kindergarten. I bought a stack of books from the UK on the early years math syllabus and revisited the classic Peter & Jane, Ladybird KEYWORDS reading series that I enjoyed so much as a youngster. BIG absolutely loved this stuff and would happily sit with me for several afternoons a week and learn to write and read, and to add and subtract. All in English of course, as I didn't want to do the wrong thing in German..not that my knowledge of my adopted language and the mother tongue of Mrs S and the boys is my greatest strength,  I just wanted to do my bit to encourage a young mind, hungry for knowledge.

His first year in Basis-Stufe seemed to go OK but we did notice his frustration that he wasn't getting to do what he would consider "proper school work" There was lots of playing and making stuff and learning to be part of a team but, he really wanted to be learning to do the things he had done with me at home, in school...

We were able to counter his frustrations by continuing the work we'd been doing at home, and by his second year at Basis-stufe, he started to do all the things he wanted to be doing...
Fuelled by his thirst for knowledge and doing a good job, he would happily bring home his books and fly through his homework. He knew his alphabet in German and English, learnt to pronounce all of his letters in German (Very different to English) He enjoyed reading his books from school which were at a much lower level than the level he had attained on the KEYWORDS books, but most importantly he seemed very inspired. Maths was the same, he could happily count to 100 in German and English,  and he had happily mastered addition and subtraction upto 50 in German and English, by himself...

Supporting his obvious enthusiasm and thirst for this, Mrs S and I would spend time with him in the evenings working through his homework books, helping him where required and diligently filling in all of the work he had achieved in the "report" section. Then we started noticing a problem...his tutor hadn't acknowledged ANY of the work he had done...he was sent home with notes asking us NOT to do anymore work on these books with him as he was overtaking the class and they should all be learning together, his regular homework consisted of worksheets that he could complete in minutes and slowly but surely, he started to loose enthusiasm for his much loved numbers...

His teacher even told him off in front of the class for doing too much work and he became scared to sit with us at home and do things because he thought he'd get in trouble with his teacher!

The same thing started to happen in his reading.... with the head start he had from the KEYWORDS series and his ability to work out words and sentences in German or English he was devouring the weekly class reader in a single evening...The school library wouldn't let him take out extra books beyond his class level and so we had to make up the short fall ourselves with books at home.

Not really the supportive educational experience that we had been promised for him...

After speaking with his tutors and trying to air our frustrations, it became clear that they thought WE, his parents, were to blame and that we were pushing him too hard and just wanted him to be a star student!

That really could not be further from the truth, I was no star at school, in fact I hated it...I went on to do a teaching degree and lectured in music on the University and College system, but that was in my early 30s, my schooling and academic achievement was by no means a highlight. Mrs S was the studious one, having studied languages, medicine and finally attaining her Masters but again, is no academic, she just worked hard. We are not pushy parents at all, the luxury of us both being self employed and spending lots of time with our boys has really allowed us to help them indulge in the things they love to do. We were both so pleased that they enjoyed school we wanted to help and encourage them to learn whilst they had the opportunity to do so. It hurt being labelled as a pushy parent!

As it was, we left the meeting feeling like we had done something wrong with BIG, we were given no extra support or ideas to help him with his maths schooling at home, just simply told, he needs to follow the program with the class. So in an act of defiance, I photocopied the entire book and we work on that and anything else I can find "on topic" from the internet.

He has been put on a reading program "Antolin" where each time he reads a book he can go online to answer questions about the book and earn points. This has inspired him even more and in 3 months he has amassed over 380 points (the same level as kids 3 years above him) he is reading books in German and English at home and earning his points...He can't get enough of it BUT, once again, the teacher is convinced we are doing the work for him...

The weekly school reader (which he'll do in an evening) is taken off him the next day and he then has to wait 5 days before doing the online test at school without re-reading the book...

It's like the teacher is trying to catch him, or us, out!


So, I don't want to be a pushy parent, but.........

I simply wish that a tutor who has only TEN,  7-8 year old students to look after, would simply show a bit of support and enthusiasm for a hungry young mind!

Is there no such thing as differentiation in the Swiss school system?
Is it really that hard to set some slightly more advanced work based on the same topic?
Is it really OK to ask a child to not do too much work, when they really want to?

Am I being a pushy parent?

I simply don't know...

I, just as we all do, only want the best for my kids and if they are inspired, I want to help them realise their potential...isn't that the true art of teaching?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Bring forth the Easter Bunnies!

As I was away this weekend I decided to do something a bit "arty" with the hooligans after school today..

It seems that after almost 5months of winter weather, spring may finally be making some headway, and with spring comes Easter. In Switzerland the shops start to fill up with chocolate Easter bunnies, they don't do the egg thing here, just solid choccy bunnies...fantastic!

So inspired by a window display of choice bunnies in out local confectioner shop, I armed my self with some coloured paper, plain paper, pritt stick, sticky tabs and kiddy scissors and set about  drawing some shapes on plain paper.

Then scanned the designs on the onto a variety of coloured paper and drew some circles on another...Once armed with a bunch of shapes on paper the hooligans set about cutting out with no real idea of what they'd be making...After some very intensive cutting out work, they had a pile of cut out blobs, funny banana shapes, white almost circles and very confused faces!

So, I put the first one together so they could see what they'd been working towards...

What a great reaction :) "Oh cool Pa, easter rabbits!!!"

Go on then lads, get sticking...

Once they'd spent time sticking their various rabbit designs together, I gave them some double sided sticky tabs and they set about putting them onto the window in little groups...

Such a simple idea and so much joy :D

Now bring on the chocolate ones please!

Monday, March 6, 2017

To Ski or not to Ski?

And so it's back to business after our half-term break, a little ski trip that didn't go entirely to plan....

This year we visited the very small, but very beautiful Bernese ski resort of Axalp. Located about a 1hour drive from us at the end of the Brienzersee, up a winding mountain road sits a small village at an altitude of 1540m above sea level. Axalp has a few great restaurants, a hotel, a ski hire shop, village store and lots of holiday villas, chalets and apartments. Unlike some of the larger resorts in the area, Axalp is never overcrowded, a sprinkling of different nationalities give it a nice feel with visitors from UK/Germany/Netherlands and Swiss and it's location allows you to make the most of some really beautiful views across the Bernese Alps and down to the lakes from the various ski runs, snow-shoe trails and sledging paths sprinkled over the mountainside.

First Evening View
We rented a small chalet which was situated right on the mountainside over looking the lake, beautifully appointed with everything a small family could need.

Chalet Interior

Best bathroom view ever?

We hired our skis, boots and poles from the very friendly and extremely reasonably priced shop and booked the hooligans into the Axalp branch of the Swiss Ski School, who's tutors are really first class and speak multiple languages including English. So impressed was I, that I booked a couple of 1-2-1 lessons as i'm not the worlds greatest skier. Infact Mrs S and the boys make me look like an imbecile when I take to the slopes, so a bit of extra "pro-coaching" was just the ticket!

Getting Better!


Now, in the week before we left for Axalp, BIG and small had been struck down with the dreaded coughing virus that has spread like wild fire in the village school, after a couple of days off they seemed to be doing well and both really looking forward to getting on their skis again..The night before we left BIG started sneezing and spluttering but aside from a runny nose we decided all was well, after all we have spent a lot of money on a wide variety of thermal underwear, ski clothes, boots, gloves, hats etc. You name it we've got see, in Switzerland there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes!

So, after loading the car with all of our gear and the all important sledges, we set off for Axalp, arriving mid-morning after a lovely drive up the twisting mountain roads through the snow line and up into a winter wonderland! After unpacking we decided upon a spot of sledging before lunch and duly headed up to the nursery slopes to career at high speed on some beautifully prepared snow, BIG was travelling at such a rate of knots that he was literally flying off some of the little jumps, lots of fun!!

BIG Taking Flight!
After a quick lunch back at the chalet, we kitted up and headed for the ski-school, the hooligans went off with their tutor Marilyn and I met my tutor Marcel who, after making sure I had my basic ski handling together, took me off up to the top of the mountain (2000m) on the chair lift and we started working on my (non existent) carving skills, allowing me to turn with my skis parallel using the edges for grip, rather than my usual slightly apprehensive "SnowPlough" safety first style!

As a musician I'm always so paranoid about falling and breaking something but, with Marcels patient and humorous approach I was able to take my basic ability to the next level and feel so much more confident as we headed down on the beautiful runs!

As we got down to the lower slopes I was very proud to see both BIG and small skiing really well in their group, after our lessons had ended we managed to get a few runs down the lower slopes together, mainly with the boys beating me to the bottom of the run with ease, they are utterly fearless!

Small on the Bugellift

Back to the chalet for 4:30 and a rat on the terrace in beautiful sunshine before a fondue with the family, that's the traditional swiss bowl of melted cheese on a table top burner, you eat it by dipping chunks of fresh bread on the end of long forks. delicious and very filling! Both boys were exhausted and after getting them ready for bed BIG started to develop a bit of a fever and a nasty hacking cough...

Sunshine on the terrace
After a sleepless night where we split the boys up, BIG in with me coughing all night and small with Mrs S so at least they got some sleep.. breakfast time rolled around with a huge load of fresh overnight snow and lots of coffee, BIGs fever had subsided and he was absolutely determined to go back to ski school and carry on his holiday, what a little trooper...despite my reservations over his coughing, which was not great at all, he got himself ready and both boys looned around in the snow outside whilst Mrs S and I got ready. The cold air seemed to actually help BIG and his coughing was much better by the time we headed up to the piste.

Morning View after the snow 

Looning Around
Another full on afternoon of skiing between some particularly heavy snow showers was enjoyed by all until the wind picked up and the storm clouds closed in...Mrs S took the hooligans back to the chalet after ski-school and I got some time to practice my carving on the mountains before the weather put paid to anymore fun, time to head home I tool a wrong turn and ended up way out of the village with no chance to get back up the mountain on a lift, so with a blizzard smashing in around me I took off my skis and walked 20mins back, arriving home looking like a very knackered snow man, I was greeted by a very sickly BIG and a rather worried Mrs S.

BIG had pushed himself so hard that he literally had no energy left and had a raging temperature and that nasty cough had returned worse than ever. We got him into bed and lit a fire as the storm outside raged on for the rest of the night..BIG was once again unable to sleep for his constant coughing and so without a doctor in the village we took the extremely hard decision to head home the next morning and call in at our kinderartz (Children's Doctor) on the way.

When the north wind doth blow!
In the morning BIG was so exhausted we left him in bed as I ventured into the village to inform the ski school and return out skis..much to my surprise everyone was extremely sympathetic, I was refunded all of the remaining rental money and ski school payments and even given money back for the days we would miss on our family ski pass. That certainly doesn't happen everywhere and I must really express my thanks to the Axalp ski team for their generosity and understanding!

Last Morning
BIG was so exhausted that we had to carry him to the car and he slept the journey home and also in the waiting room of the doctors...the doctor told us he just had a particularly nasty bronchitis and that we had absolutely made the right decision to bring him home, armed with inhalers and other meds we arrived back home to unload all of our gear and get BIG straight to bed.

That evening we were called by the rental chalet owners who wanted to check on BIG and also offer us to finish our remaining 3 nights whenever we liked, either sometime in the remaining season or sometime next year, whenever was good for us!

BIG has gone on to make a full recovery and was back at school this morning, we didn't get the chance to fully enjoy our trip to Axalp this time, But we are very relieved we took the decision we did. It could have been much worse if we'd have stayed longer. Despite missing out we are happy in the knowledge that thanks to the generosity and understanding of the lovely people in Axalp we can visit again and hopefully finish off what was shaping up to be a great holiday!

And what about small, how did he feel? He doesn't care..."Skiing is stupid Pa, there is no Star Wars lego in Axalp"

All's well that ends well :D

All Good!


Monday, February 20, 2017

The Great Potty Training Adventure!

I have read a lot of blogs on the  brilliant topic of getting the small ones out of nappies, and after sharing some ideas we used for both our boys with friends recently, we were delighted to hear our tips worked just as well for them. So why not share them with the readers of my Blog?

Now, I don't profess to being any kind of potty training guru in the slightest but, a few years ago (how time flies) it was time to tackle the subject head on...The huge expense of having both boys in pampers (25 CHF a pack out here) was becoming ridiculous, we seemed to spend as much on nappies as gas for the car and furthermore changing nappies was, of course, not my favourite way to spend a significant chunk of my day..

We had tried some time before during a previous hot summer with the trusty potty but, BIG absolutely hated the thing, he'd rather go on the floor than sit on the bloody pot!

Then, one day,  Nana sent over a great book from England "Pirate Pete's Potty" All about a little kid getting used to doing wees and poos on his potty and not in his nappy. (I believe there is a girls version too.) The book has a charming little story with some lovely illustrations and a little button that rewards a good result on the pot with an enthusiastic cheer! The book worked well with BIG as he loves stories and it at least made him want to have a go at the task in hand, if only just so he could get a cheer by pressing the little button. Unfortunately BIG still hated the pot and despite a few weeks of almost getting there, BIG would rather go in the nappy...  He knew exactly what he was supposed to be doing and even insisted on pressing the little cheer button each time he did something in the nappy.....Thanks to Pirate Pete we were almost there but, ultimately I had to go back to the drawing board...

Later that year I was away with the band in France for a few days, staying with the bassist and his young family one night we were sharing stories on toilet training (maximum Rock n Roll)  His wife said "Oh you must try the little toilet steps, the girls hated the potty so, we found these and they started using the toilet immediately" Off we all went upstairs to the bathroom there sat a little set of robust and colourful plastic steps that sat on the existing toilet seat, brilliantly allowing little ones to safely climb up and use the toilet, there were even a couple of handles for them to cling on to....bloody brilliant!!!

I ordered said Toilet Step from eBay and we eagerly awaited their arrival, in between times I came up with the idea of an award chart...Our boys are very competitive and love a little challenge...

The idea is the child get awarded a sticker for each wee or poo they do on the toilet / potty and after several successful attempts they get a small prize... for BIG and later on Small,  this was a ChupaChups lolly....when the ultimate goal of being nappy free was reached, the Grand Prize was a much prized Star Wars Lego set. I set a target of one month to be free of the Pampers forever....

And so the steps arrived, the Pampers were ditched and replaced with "Pull up's" and the chart was duly put into action, BIG was super keen to impress and despite a couple of small accidents, he was going great guns in the first week, there were a few times he just was so engrossed in whatever he was doing he couldn't make the bathroom in time, the Pull Up's were a bit of a godsend there...

BIG absolutely loved the steps and felt like a proper big boy by using the toilet, he also loved sticking the stickers on his chart and was able to see his own progress..the surprising side effect was that small, who at this stage was still a little too small to potty train, also wanted to sit on the toilet steps, and did so often whilst still wearing his nappy, it got him into the habit early simply by watching his older brother...

Anyway, after 17 days of stickers and prizes, BIG was out of nappies for good and 6 months later we did the same with small. The plastic steps allowing them to use the grown up toilet, coupled with the excitement of a sticker chart and the prize incentive, certainly provided our two hooligans with the required amount of enthusiasm to make a sometimes painful and thankless task, relatively simple.

Finally we were nappy free, my early morning super sensitive nose was extremely thankful, I seemed to have much more time on my hands and we had saved a significant chunk of cash to boot!

So to all parents out there doing the whole potty training thing, stick with it...there is a light at the end of the tunnel, honest.  Your nose and your bank balance will thank you in the end, just find a suitable form of inspiration for your little ones and you'll be nappy free in no time!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Cooking Up A Storm for Valentines Day


I’m no Jamie Oliver but have always enjoyed getting stuck in and creating stuff in the kitchen. My dishes, whilst not always pretty to look at, usually taste pretty good….so I’m told.

As it was Valentines Day yesterday and I was at home on kids duty, I thought i’d whip something up for Mrs S to enjoy when she came home from a hard day at work. And so, after dropping the boys at school in the car (not my ususal practice) I hit the supermarket and purchased:

Beef Fillett
3x Shallotts
Fresh Rosemary
2 x Chillis
Parma Ham
Puff Pastry
New Potatoes

This is the basic shopping list for my Beef Welly, loosely based on a beef wellington but minus the mushroom and chestnut bit which neither of us really like..substituted with something that has a bit more kick!

So let’s get stuck in…

Heat oven to 200 and season & splash beef with some olive oil, then roast in a tray for 15 mins untill medium-rare, when it’s done stick it in the fridge to cool for 20 mins. 
Cover with foil so the meat sucks back up the juices.

Whilst it’s cooling down, prepare your chilli / garlic / shalllots….this is usualy the mushrooms and chestnut bit but this is a little spicier alternative that I came up with.

Peel and prep 3 shallots, 2 chills (if you want it spicy), a couple of chunks of Garlic depending on your taste and some fresh rosemary and blitz the lot in a processor 
until well chopped like bread crumbs.

Lay out 2 large bits of cling film and spread out your parma ham slices to suit so they overlap a bit.


Cover the ham in a thin layer of your chilli & shallott mix then place the cooled beef in the centre. 


Use the remaining shallots mix to cover the meat and using the cling film, draw the ham around the fillett and roll into a sausage shape. 

Twist the ends of the cling film to hold it in place..stick it in the fridge whilst you prep the pastry.

You can make your own pastry but with limited time before the hooligans came home, I opted for some pre-prepared Puff pastry…

Cut a nice slab of pastry for the base and stick it on a baking sheet, brush the edges with an egg wash and take the beef from the fridge, pop it in the middle of the pastry after carefully unwrapping it.


Lay another slab of pastry over the meat coating the edges of the pastry in an egg wash and gently fold it all up into a parcel, being careful to not pierce the pastry.

Coat the whole thing in a bit of egg wash and slap it in the oven 

Cook at 200c for 25 to 30 mins depending on your wish for medium or well done.

I served mine in thick slices with some gravy, oven roasted new potatoes 
and bacon wrapped asparagus.

Lovely job, very tasty and a very happy wife!

Brilliant Butties

The Butty is a wonderful thing, a very English thing...

According to Wikipedia, Butty may refer to:

Sandwich, a food made with two pieces of bread encompassing a filling.
Northern England colloquialism. A buttered (normally white sliced bread or bun) sandwich. Most commonly used for bacon sandwiches (bacon butties) or chip sandwiches (chip butties).

Why am I writing about it?

Well as an Englishman abroad, my family and workmates are often staggered at the breadth of fillings with which one may choose  to construct a Butty. It is the ultimate, all purpose snack food.

It seems that outside of ol' Blighty the Butty really has limited appeal, the people of my adopted homeland mainly seem to look at me and shake their head when they witness the construction of a butty. Personally I can't see what all the fuss is about...

Just last night my good lady wife looked on in despair as I painstakingly built a fantastic Spag Bol Butty for my tea. And it seems no-one in Switzerland gets the chip butty at all, especially when it's accompanied by a large chunk of cheddar cheese (Really not the done thing over here but, I can't give up my Cheddar!!)

I do however have a cunning plan ... I recently, covertly introduced the crisp butty to tea time...Filling up a soft "Wegli" roll with Walkers crisps was an instant hit with BIG and Small. 

I have started a quiet Butty revolution and need only sit back and watch it grow, as long as Mrs S doesn't find out, i'll be fine!