Monday, 26 November 2012

La Patagonia - A Taste of the Argentine

As my wife Diane and I left our Camden flat on a wet Wednesday night for our visit La Patagonia I did feel a little trepidations. Argentinian cuisine is best known for being carnivorous in nature, and as we are both vegetarians I wasn't sure if our meal would be to our taste. I was also worried as nothing spoils a veggie's meal than eating through the fog of the smell of cooking meat. I didn't know yet but all of my worries would soon be proved very unfounded.
We had booked our table for seven pm, but even this early on the aforementioned wet Wednesday the place was packed. The staff met us with a friendly smile and were totally fine with my placing my wheelchair next to my seat at our table. Even in the 21st century I still find that some restaurants are unhappy when I turn up on wheels, so this set the tone for the rest of the evening in a good way. We placed our order, after being impressed at the choice for us non-meat eaters. As we waited for our order to arrive, we were brought a plate of bread and some pickled Aubergine that was lovely. We were joined by one of the owners Noah, and we chatted about how well things were going with his plans to bring a rustic Argentinian menu to the streets of Camden. The restaurant is a warm and friendly place furnished in a designer rustic style. It's filled with all manner of memorabilia from the country, collected by the owners over the years, and the whole experience is most enjoyable. But let's get down to the food shall we?
As soon as a flash our meal arrived, and Noah left us to watch the football on TV (another Argentinian passion). We had both ordered the same thing, Calabaza con Humita which is a Butternut Squash filled with a corn and b├ęchamel sauce filling served with a nice side salad. Even though I have been a veggie for over 20 years, I have never tried butternut squash and neither had my wife. On our first mouthful we stopped and stared at each other.... yummy! It was gorgeous. The squash itself was done to perfection, soft, sweet and tender and in combination with the corn filling it was a treat. I may have wolfed mine down a little too quickly, but that is usual when I am enjoying my food.
Next up was desert. Normally I would have stopped at my main meal, but I had heard that the desert menu at La Patagonia had to be tried to be believed. Boy had I heard right! Yet again my wife and I had matching orders, the La Patagonia Tiramisu. I freely admit to having a rather developed sweet tooth, and as the huge half pint (0.35L actually - I'm showing my age using Imperial) Kilner style glass jars filled with chocolately yumminess were presented my heart skipped a beat. 
Even though there was easily enough in each serving for us to have shared, I was so glad we had ordered one each... I would hated sharing this desert lovers paradise. The latte we ordered to accompany this gooey, chocolately, caramelly heaven was equally as tasty and as I put down my spoon and slurped my last mouthful of coffee I felt wonderful. Full, happy and a little drunk on sugar. The bill arrived and we were both very impressed that such a great meal could be so reasonably priced.
Both of my wife and I laughed as we wondered home through the streets of Camden at what a great night we'd had. It had also occurred to me that if you do eat meat I would imagine that your meal would be as amazing as ours, if not more so. I can't recommend La Patagonia highly enough, and I do know that it has been added to our list of favourite restaurants. I know we're going to become regulars and I think you should too. Whether it's for a romantic night out, a night out with friends or for a party La Patagonia won't let you down. Una gran noche fuera!

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Too busy to blog!!!! or why I hate Children In Need so much I found time to blog!

It seems that at the minute I am too busy to blog. In fact I'm too busy to think some days. It's one of the joys of being a freelancer, that when a work offer comes in you have to say Yes. With no way of knowing when the next job might appear, you have this terror that this offer might be the last for a while. Even if the work is rolling in, you can't be sure that it will stay that way. So that's why my blog has been sitting dormant recently.

Annoyingly there have been a load of things I wanted to blog about. Almost every day something came up that got the blood boiling and the fingers hovering over the keyboard. But work got in the way, so the time past. The thing that I really wanted to blog about this week was Children in Need. As someone who appeared on something very similar at the start of my career, with a two day non-stop live appearance as presenter on the Thames Telethon back in 1992, and who had that career severely damaged by the bad reaction of people who felt that charity was wrong, you would have thought I would be in favour of this yearly charity fest. But you would be wrong. You see, on many levels the whole thing is equally wrong.

Let's think about the portrayal of disability first. Anyone who reads my blogs and articles will know that portrayal is very important to me. I feel that the media should try so much harder to ensure that it changes the way it covers disability, yet with this kind of charity event negative portrayal is essential to keep the money coming in.

Poor little crippled kids... they need your help. Their lives are so awful that without your money they will only be sad and their future is bleak. Give generously. Your money will make their tragic lives a little better. Poor little things, it so sad that they are the way they are. Aren't you lucky?

Of course charity always has to pull on your heart strings, but the reason why I did the Telethon way back when is that I thought it would subconsciously say that disabled people can give charity as well as receive it. But after I did it, I was accosted in a lft by the wonderful Vicky Waddington who explained why the charity model of disability - which paints us as victims in need of help - has no positive effects for us disabled types. After talking to her I understood that charity is just plain wrong, especially this kind of jumbo media event. Sure it could be vehicle for real change, with money being raised to pay for the changes we really need in society. Better access, better understanding and more equality. But those are not the kind of things that pull of those heart strings and purse strings. The point of a telethon event is raising money, so that is the sole point of the program. The aim is to raise more money than the last event. That's how you measure the success of it.

Now I could write on this subject for pages, but as I said I'm too damn busy. So I hope that all of you that did watch Children in Need/Stand Up To Cancer/Red Nose Day felt a little uncomfortable during the hours of "fun". Just imagine if it was people like you who were targeted as being deserving of charity and pity. Not a great feeling.

Let's take the item on the One Show that Ade Adepitan presented on dancing for disabled kids. It claimed that giving money to a special dance class for disabled children is a good thing. But if you think about it, wouldn't it be better if the kids that went to this special class could just go to a mainstream dance class with other non-disabled kids and learn to dance? A totally mixed class where everyone was equal. I have just interviewed the fantastic disabled dancer Laura Jones for a Disability Now article, who was the first disabled person to study dance at college. She helped choreograph the Paralympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and is a superb dancer. Surely that is the way to go? Not only is it inclusive but it will mean that more disabled people will become professional dancers. But even if they don't, and they just do dance for the love of dance, they will have an experience of being equal to the other members of the class. Not special, different... and in some way less.

To me it's the same for all of the various good causes. To raise money they need to focus on the difference, yet the only way to make the world better is to make everyone see that we are all the same. Whether we're disabled, poor, old, young, or whatever, we are all human. So we all deserve the same chances and until charity aims to do that, it will divide us all. I mean even the title of Children In Need spells out difference.

Anyway, that's enough for now. All I ask is that you think about it.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Like Piglets in Piglet Clover

It's my wedding anniversary on November 5th. Seven of the best years of my life. I had fancied Diane from the first time I met her, six years before we finally got together, but the time wasn't right. We became friends and I got to know her, and knew I was falling in love with her as the time passed. So when the big day came, I was so sure... super sure.


Not only is she an amazing, beautiful and talented person (and damn sexy) but she is my perfect fit. We are very, very similar with all the same tastes, likes and loves. The same music, art, films, books, pass times and taste in fashion, as well as similar dreams for our lives. We share the same sense of humour and she makes me laugh every day. To say I am one lucky man is the biggest understatement every made.


On top of all the wonderful things about her, with a list too long to put here, she nursed me through one of the worst times of my life. When I broke my back for the second time after a car crash it took three years for my doctors to notice that it was broken. Let's face it, the best way of knowing some one has broken their back is that they loose the ability to walk but as I was a wheelie already it was harder to spot. It was only when the pain had got so bad it was effecting my health that they scanned my back and discovered how knackered it was. All through the hell of the pain, through the fear of the surgery and the recovery period, where I was put on bed rest for six months, Diane was there for me totally. Not only did she nurse me, but she made it fun. I like (some might say have) to be independent, so she let do just enough to keep me happy while making sure I had everything I needed. She was a star, and I can never thank her enough.





 All through out our wedding day I was fighting to hold back tears. Tears of joy. She looked stunning. A highlight for me is as she was about to enter the room she let out one of her loud laughs, and my heart skipped a beat. Her laugh always does that to me, but this time it felt like it lasted for ages. But the whole day was fantastic. A wonderful ceremony, great reception and unforgettable wedding night (I will say no more). Our families all got on, and everyone still talks about our wedding day.





So, as our anniversary draws near, I am writing this to say thank you Diane. You are my everything, and I am so very happy. I am so looking forward to spending my life with you, working together to create the future you deserve. You amaze me every day. Your personality, your sense of fun, your huge brain (She's currently studying for a Physics degree! PHYSICS!!!!)... oh you're just great.

I was raised to believe that there is some one out there for everyone, and I now know that this is true. Luckily I found mine, and we are just like Piglet's in Piglet Clover! Yippee!