What does one get a family member who has everything? More to the point, what does one get a family member when one has no money, no time and has a terrible habit of writing in the ‘one’ tense? That’s right, she makes a truly amazing video featuring Phil Collins (obviously).
It seemed such a good idea to make a video for lil bub Bennett’s birthday, but then in truth I think I may have really just wanted to pay tribute to Phil Collins and feed my middle age condition (the one where people are born liking The Archers and consider staying up to watch the BBC News at 10 to be a ‘crazy’ one. Yeah, that one.) Anyway, I thought the video would be a nice thing to do for her.
20 hours later…
Brain dead, caffeine overdosed and fed up of seeing my sister’s face more than my own, I finally created a masterpiece. “She better love this” I thought, before dashing into Lush the next day to buy a back up present. Safe thing too, when I first presented her with the gift she seemed less than amused at the offering.
“Right. Ok, well that’s a very nice memory stick Ali, thank you.”
“No you donut, it’s what’s on the stick.”
“Did you seriously think I’d give you a cheap USB stick for your birthday?”
“Just play the video.”
Luckily, she loved it. And now, for your viewing pleasure, I have added that same video here. Enjoy! (Well as much as you can given you know nothing of my family and it’s in-jokes…if nothing else watch it for Phil.)
Written in response to the WordPress prompt Dancing
How do I sum up this book? Alcohol, that’s how. Lots and lots of alcohol.
Amusingly you open the cover and see not a Drink Aware message, but instead a warning against consuming raw eggs (a foodstuff that features in some of the recipes.) Sandwiched between the hard covers of this recipe book are some very attractive looking images and nice little introductions to each drink (where their name comes from, the type of ingredients in the drink etc.). You’ve got the classics, your Mojitos, Bloody Marys Martinis, but you’re also got the different, for example Kinky Witch, Rusty Nail and Bobby Burns. In many ways there is something for everyone here* (unless you’re teetotal or under eighteen, in which case no, there isn’t).
All this however doesn’t detract from the simple truth that, as with all cocktails, you need about 100 different spirits and mixers tucked away in the cupboard to make them. The Classic Cocktail Bible is a classic by name and a classic of its genre; it is a book which sits on one’s shelf for many months/years until one day you think “oh, I really fancy a Cosmopolitan right now, I’m sure I can make that”. You open this book to mild disappointment when realise you can’t so instead you reach for a can of cider and consume that instead.
The Classic Cocktail Bible is a must have for the coffee table of the young professional or the kitchen cupboard for the impulsive buyer but be warned, it takes more than vodka and coke to make a good cocktail.
“…Right, so how are you going to get the Jammy Dodgers out of the country?”
“Well you’ll have made friends with a gigolo in the airport flying out.”
“When would you do that?”
“At check in. You get talking to her and strike up a friendship at that point. Then you find a way to damage her case at the airport on the other side, you apologise and offer to replace the damaged case. She accepts and then you supply her with a case with the goods stitched in on the inside.”
“You got a Roman chariot style attack planned? You’re going to attach spikes to the wheels of your case? And when are you going to get the Jammy Dodgers sewn in?”
“Alice, you know Jammy Dodgers is a euphemism for something else? We’re not talking about smuggling biscuits into Britain.”
“Is Lanzarote even the best place for smuggling drugs? I’d have gone for Latin America.”
“No, other than Alice’s smuggling of apricots I don’t think this island has much going for it. You’d do this in Mexico or the like.”
“What if the woman you befriend has a bright pink case? She’s not going to accept your scrotty old substitute.”
“Come to think about it, how are you planning on making friends in check-in? ‘Hello, nice case. You could stuff a lot of Jammy Dodgers in there’? No offense Dad, but I would hardly rush to exchange numbers if you randomly approached me with that opener.”
“I have a better idea. Why don’t you just pay her to bring the drugs in whilst you’re abroad and then murder her in the car park?”
“Well yes, but in doing so you’ve committed a worse crime than the one you were trying to cover up.”
“Remind me again how we ended up on this topic?”
“Pull over here! I need to post something!”
“You’re not posting your local election ballot are you?”
It was 3:30am, the car was filled with baggage and the village post box was one letter fuller. I hopped back into the Volvo and we sped on towards the airport.
The Bennett holiday had begun.
This Easter the destination of choice was the Canary Island of Lanzarote. Spanish by nationality but located just off the coast of the African continent, the Canary Islands are uniquely blessed to have pleasantly hot temperatures early in the year while maintaining a laid-back Mediterranean culture. The warm climate was far from an automatic pleaser for everyone. As we stood waiting for our bags at Arrecife airport, a fellow passenger could be heard complaining down the phone over the amount of cloud cover outside. Trust a British tourist to moan about the weather thirty minutes after landing.
This wasn’t the first bemusing thing to happen on the holiday. That award would go to the poor directional signage that resulted in the entire plane accidently bypassing Spanish boarder control. As we walked down the ramp parallel to the booths, the border guards watched the heard of pale faced Brits with a mixture of confusion and disinterest.
“I wonder if they’ll be so lax once we’re out of the EU.” I muttered to India.
Bags collected, the reps verbally directed us to the buses. We hopped onto our coach and listened to the mumblings of a secondary rep (“what’s she saying?” “I don’t know, I think something about Pablo Paella’s Casa or the welcome meetings. To be honest I’m barely listening.”) The young lady leapt off, the coach doors closed and we departed.
This time around we were headed to the resort of Costa Teguise on the South-Western side of the island. Because we’re middle class this was to be the fourth time at the resort, although this time around the holiday planner (alias Mumma Bennett) had booked the hotel Teguise Grand Playa which was considerably closer to the pretty town of Teguise compared to the one we’d been to four years ago. After the terrible sun burns of 2013 when we badly misinterpreted the strength of the UV rays, we learnt several valuable lessons. A) always pack sun cream b) remember the pastiness of one’s skin and c) town is never a “fifteen-minute walk away”.
Anyway, to get back on topic, the Costa Teguise Playa is a lovely hotel, situated right on the beach (it is quite literally a stone’s throw away). This location suited me very nicely. During the day the beach was a hubbub of activity in the form of sunbathers, scuba divers and swimmers, but at dawn the little piece of man-made coast was completely empty of all human-shaped life. Granted it took me about five days to get into the practice of early starts, but for those few mornings where I ventured down to the beach at 7am the views were wonderful. I could listen to the sea, yoga a little and relax.
Within the walls of the hotel I learnt a couple of new things. Firstly, this man has a very high voice:
And secondly I discovered that Leo Sayer is still as relevant a figure today as he’s ever been. At least four times Papa Bennett got mistaken for the 70s pop star/icon/legend. For anyone not in the know, here’s Sayer’s music/photo next to Papa Bennett’s…
Don’t get me wrong, at first it was utterly hilarious seeing drunk British tourists rush up to Papa Bennett and ask him to sing You make Me Feel Like Dancing, or say “my wife absolutely loves you!” But in time it got bit much. When you’re put on edge because someone stumbling towards you way want an autograph, or ask what it’s like being Leo Sayer’s daughter on tour you start to wish Leo Sayer had been a one-hit wonder.
As well a large consumption of sparkling Cava wine which was served from breakfast to midnight free of charge (this post’s title being a choice quote by yours truly), our merry quartet also partook on an island tour whilst visiting Lanzarote. We’d already done the volcano tours some years ago, so this time around we went on a voyage of discovery to learn about the famous contemporary artist César Manrique who lived on the island. The tour stopped off at a number of the sculptures, paintings and buildings Manrique designed. Here is a summary of that tour in the form of a collage:
We saw some really beautiful things and all took away something different from the trip. Mumma Bennett was overwhelmed by art:
I meanwhile struggled to comprehend why anyone would have a semi-transparent (external) bathroom wall.
India on the other hand had her perceptions on nature and art transformed by a Cactus Garden, from this…
(Coming soon to MHAM, a post dedicated to the Jardin de Cactus. The transformation will be explained!)
And as for Papa Bennett, well he felt compelled to do this:
(And we still don’t know why.)
Other than that we all took pleasure in having a very laid back holiday. In the daytime we’d explore the local area and sit on the beach/by the pool and at night we’d drink cocktails and sip on spirits and chat away the hours. Some would probably look at this as mundane and very predictable but in fact it was anything but. Only after a few rounds of seemingly harmless drinks would the most random conversations come up. The opening of this post is one such example, another was a theoretical debate over how one would go about committing suicide with a Christmas Tree. Admittedly these were not conversations which one walks into at 10am on a Monday, nor are they discussions which anyone walking past, English or not, would be able to jump straight into. They are odd, random and sometimes a bit wrong but they are so the conversational glue of the Bennett family unit.
The local shops near to the hotel were filled with the standard tourist tat and other random items including mug clocks and washing machine covers.
I also think it says a lot about us as a family when we gather as one to admire this:
As we got to the end of the holiday I felt it was time to leave Lanzarote and return to normal life in the UK. I had obtained my fill of sun, sea and endless sangria and was ready for a cup of tea and a bowl of Weetabix. I’d also a) taken a good couple of kilos of apricots and tea from the hotel to bring back home and b) broken our tour operator’s information board.
To stay any longer would be putting me, my family and Brexit negotiations in danger.
Overall, it was a great holiday in a fabulous location (as per usual, thanks to Mumma Bennett). And it shall always be remembered as the Lanzarote holiday where three of us worshipped the sun and art while Leo Sayer worshipped the sparkling wine.
No matter what the circumstance, in Britain you can guarantee we will rally round one of the below:
A proper brew or a sophisticated coffee (dependant if you’re from the ‘North’ or the ‘South’ – but lets save that conversation for another day)
It therefore came as no surprise that for our department’s ‘Team Building Day’ they got in the most knowledgeable and experienced event planner to decide where the group should rest and water after a morning of ‘team building’. That person was unfortunately too busy trying to walk in a straight line, so they roped me in.
I will be the first to admit that I’m no connoisseur of the grain-based beverage. In fact it took me several years to accept that Sainsburys Basics Wine (which comes in a plastic bottle) is not a classy drink.
I will also acknowledge that try as much as I may to keep my composure, this is the face I pull when taking a sip of someone’s “really nice” larger:
There’s just no hiding it.
However, whilst I don’t know my Carlsberg from my Peroni – they’re the same thing right? – I do know how to track things down using the internet. (Note how I said ‘things’ there, give me five minutes and I bet I can find that picture of you.) This in mind I somehow managed to produce a selection of public houses my colleagues and I could frequent this Friday.
One of the extensive requirements for this pub was parking. Because posh people back in the day were so inconsiderate, the historic property we are visiting in the morning is located on a vast estate, no where near any alcohol selling venues. (I know right, how very rude of them.) This in mind, I found myself using Google Maps’ Street View function to establish the local scenery. In the space of half an hour I was reminded a) how interesting and exciting it is to fly through streets (I felt like I was on the magic carpet ride at Disney all over again) but b) how incredibly tedious it is when the man decides he wants to go to a residential street and yet c) how intrusive it can actually be. During my theoretical travels I was actually able to go inside one of the pubs. I won’t name the pub or chain in question, for name sake I’ll say it’s called ‘Blue Queene’. Going into the Blue Queene was interesting, a sort of “come to this pub and all going well you could be using these very toilets, minus Jeff.” In my department there is often a lot of discussion of the ‘visitor experience’ and I think nothing best sums up the experience of the Blue Queene’s clientele better than this interior photo:
I think it’s a bizarre on every level. I mean if you’re out walking your dog and a Google van whizzes by it’s over in a second, but can you imagine sitting down and someone walks in to photo the ‘contents’? In a dark, 1984, sort of twist, the satirical comedy The Revolution Will Be Televised predicted this years ago:
Me being me, I thought up all manner of theoretical conversations the couple could be having in this otherwise empty pub.
“Sandra, we really need to talk about our divorce.”
“Try to act normal, as if there aren’t weird men watching us”
“So, we’ve been here half an hour and your still have your coat on…any reason for that?”
“Hey, can you take another shot but this time with my arm over the chair, so it looks like I’m really engaged in conversation?”
“To be honest I don’t care how I look, as long as you get my Star Wars bag in the shot. I want people to see this photo and think ‘wow, he’s living the dream'”
“Can you make sure we’re centre of the photo? I would hate to be overshadowed by some kind of cheap gambling machine.”
After thinking up all these imaginary conversations which in truth are 100 times more interesting than the pub itself I decided that, owing to lack of parking and location, the Blue Queene was probably not the best pub to go to. (FYI Nailsea on a grey day is not somewhere to book a package holiday.)
Luckily I was able to source a suitable alterative. The inner monologue went like this:
“Ok, interesting. It’s a fifteen minute drive from the historic property, located on the outskirts of Bristol, near the Marina. Plenty of parking, looks modern in the images, very stylish. Sure, it’s a Wetherspoons but it offers good value for money which, on our budget, is a definite box ticker. Yeah, looks good, I’ll recommend it to the department manager now.”
Email winged off, I started focusing on actual work (you know, the stuff I’m paid to do). About an hour later I think to myself “I wonder if you can go inside this place as well?” I had a spare five minutes so I got up the old Street View on Google Maps and searched the postcode.
So this is where, under my recommendation, eighteen of us are going:
Take note, at 13:30 on Friday 7th October the department is going to either be sat in a stylish bistro, praising my choice in restaurants, or they’re going to be standing on scrub land discussing how best to kill me.