The Great Scotch Egg Robbery

I was amused by a story in Britain’s Daily Mail last week of how an entire police force in southern England
became the butt of jokes after appealing for witnesses to the theft of a packet of Scotch eggs worth 1.65 British pounds. (Php122).

Scotch egg halved and served with mashed potato, gravy and vegetables

Scotch egg halved and served with mashed potato, gravy and vegetables

A woman was caught on CCTV walking into a shop and picking up these traditional British snacks before eating them and leaving without paying.

The police apparently spent a month investigating the crime before launching an online appeal in a bid to identify the woman.

Scene of the 'great Scotch egg robbery' in southern England

Scene of the ‘great Scotch egg robbery’ in southern England

However, the petty nature of the offence led dozens of web users to mock the force for its over-zealous policing.
Police has now deleted the appeal, after a witness came forward claiming to know who the thief was.

Amusement aside, I was reminded at just how delicious Scotch eggs are – that’s probably why the woman couldn’t resists them.

A Scotch egg consists of a hard boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in breadcrumbs and fried. There are also mini versions using quail eggs.

Fortnum and Mason, the famous London department store which supplies members of the Royal family, is said to have invented the Scotch egg in 1738.

They are usually a picnic food and home-made, though they can also be served as a main course with gravy and vegetables.

Although it’s a traditional British snack, similar dishes exist around the world including here in the  Philippines. Kwek-kwek are eggs with orange breading sold as street food dipped in vinegar, sweet and sour sauce or gravy.

Kwek Kwek on sale

Kwek Kwek on sale

In the Netherlands and Belgium, Scotch eggs may also be called vogelnestje (‘little bird’s nest’) because they contain an egg.

Brazil also has a dish that is very similar, if not a version, of the Scotch Egg called ‘Bolovo’. It also features an egg in the center but the dough does not contain any meat.

When I’m making pica-pica, this is my Scotch egg recipe.

Scotch eggs - tasty pica-pica a food

Scotch eggs – tasty pica-pica a food

500gr       sausage meat
5              hard boiled eggs, with shells removed
1              large raw egg
Dry breadcrumbs
Pinch of salt, ground pepper, nutmeg
Small quantity of flour
1 tablespoon water

Dust the hard boiled eggs in a little flour. Mix the nutmeg, salt and pepper with the sausage meat and divide into five equal portions. Place on a floured surface. Wrap/mould the sausage meat around the egg, making sure there are no gaps. Beat the egg and water together and coat the meat-covered egg with this and then breadcrumbs (you may have to press the crumbs onto the meat).

Deep fry in hot oil (360F/185C) taking care as you put the eggs into the oil. Cook for about 5/6 minutes. If you don’t have a deep fat fryer, they can be cooked in oil in a frying pan, turning frequently to ensure the meat is fully cooked. Drain and serve hot or allow to cool and keep in a refrigerator for a cold snack later.

English Pork Sausage Meat

1kg          lean pork
500gr       pork belly (fat)
400gr       fresh breadcrumbs
2t             sage
1t             thyme

The Scotch Egg Challenge takes place in England each year

The Scotch Egg Challenge takes place in England each year

Remove any bones or rind from the pork, and pass through a mincer. Mix in the bread and season generously. Pass through the mincer again. Fry a little of the mixture to test for seasoning adding more herbs and pepper if necessary.



British Embassy Consular Clinic

Consular officials from the British Embassy in Manila will be conducting a town hall-type clinic at the Del Rio Hotel in Iloilo on Thursday, May 30. All British nationals from Iloilo, Bacolod and Guimaras are invited to attend.

British Embassy Warden for Negros Occidental, Robert Harland, said the clinic will give Britons the opportunity talk to embassy representatives one-on-one. And a great opportunity for British nationals to learn more about how the embassy can help them.

The Bacolod delegation at Thursday's British Embassy Consular clinic at the Hotel Del Rio in Iloilo (l-r) Embassy warden Hazel Stuart, Virgie Griffiths, Nelly Duckett, Elizabeth Woodhouse, Embassy warden Robert Harland, Ditas Montilla Henson, British Embassy pro-consul Victoria Buenaventura and British Embassy consular officer Jhoanna Hines  .

The Bacolod delegation at Thursday’s British Embassy Consular clinic at the Hotel Del Rio in Iloilo (l-r) Embassy warden Hazel Stuart, Virgie Griffiths, Nelly Duckett, Elizabeth Woodhouse, Embassy warden Robert Harland, Ditas Montilla Henson, British Embassy pro-consul Victoria Buenaventura and British Embassy consular officer Jhoanna Hines .

British nationals living in Negros wishing to attend should contact Robert Harland on 09163437048.


Ringing in the changes

The iconic British red telephone box

The iconic British red telephone box

A row of iconic British red telephone boxes in London

A row of iconic British red telephone boxes in London

There are many aspects of traditional life in Britain that are changing – and in some cases, changing fast.

The latest casualty is the iconic British red telephone box. Loved by tourists who are only too happy to pose inside one, these famous red boxes are vanishing at an alarming rate – all victims to the mobile phone revolution.

Fortunately, they are not being scrapped, but instead are being refurbished and sold to an admiring public. Prices start at 1,950 British pounds (Php122,000) each, rather more than the original price in the 1920s of 35 British pounds (Php2,200).

Called a ‘K2’, the distinctive red phone box was designed by distinguished British architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, who was invited in 1924 to enter a competition to design a public telephone kiosk.

This old red telephone box has been made into a cocktail cabinet

This old red telephone box has been made into a cocktail cabinet

The shape of his design was inspired by the central domed structure of the tomb of the 19th century architect John Soane, his wife and son. Designed by Soane in 1815, the tomb is regarded as one of his most romantic designs.

By rooting his classical design on Britain’s architectural heritage, Scott transformed the telephone kiosk from what was then seen as an intimidating symbol of modernity into something that seemed reassuringly familiar.

When the wooden models of the competing designs were exhibited in London, Scott’s was chosen as the winner.

The kiosk was an instant hit and they were soon a familiar sight on the streets of Britain and in some of its outposts including Malta, Bermuda and Gibraltar. The color red was chosen to make them easy to spot.

Alas, these days the number is definitely up for these famous red telephone boxes –  most are rarely used thanks to the ubiquitous mobile phone.

But they are being put to good use. These distinctive boxes can be spotted in many parts of the world, especially in the US.

Some have been installed on American university campuses such as the University of Oklahoma where they continue to serve their originally intended function.

Briton John Long converted his old telephone box into a CR

Briton John Long converted his old telephone box into a CR

There’s one outside the British Embassy in Washington DC. And two red telephone boxes are on display at the World Showcase area at Disney’s Epcot in Orlando, Florida.

They can also be found across Malta, Gozo, parts of the Caribbean such as Antigua, Barbados, as well as in Cyprus, showing that the British colonial influence is still present. Some of the kiosks are now being used as internet booths.

Back home in Britain enthusiasts are putting them to all kinds of novel use such as libraries and even cocktail cabinets and sofas.

And for those Brits wanting a touch of nostalgia to grace their homes in far-off places like the Philippines, one British company is making lightweight replica kiosks as flat-packs and they are shipping them around the world.

As for the originals, it’s almost the end of an era, but it’s good to know these beautiful red kiosks are not lost forever. One only hopes that the powers that be in Britain keep a few on the streets, especially in London, not only to satisfy the curiosity of tourists, but also to keep alive for many more years to come these classic symbols of the British way of life.

Embarrassed? You Bet

How embarrassing

How embarrassing

Can you recall embarrassing moments of your life?

One of my most cringe-making occasions was in London in 1968 when I told my then girlfriend I was going away for the weekend, so we couldn’t meet up. But instead I was planning to date another girl.

I booked a table at Spot 3, my favorite London restaurant. I arrived with my new date and we settled down to a convivial evening. Ten minutes later, the other girlfriend arrived with a relative for dinner and was seated at the next table – only inches away.

I must have gone the color of a ripe red apple as girlfriend number one looked daggers at me the entire evening. That was a memorable evening, but for all the wrong reasons.

I was reminded of this incident after reading of a new study in the UK among 2,000 people which revealed that many Britons embarrass themselves up to seven times a week.

Sending a personal message to the wrong person can be embarrassing

Sending a personal message to the wrong person can be embarrassing

Common moments of acute embarrassment include walking around all day with your flies undone; gossiping about someone and then realizing they are right behind you and sending a personal email to the wrong person.

But such moments pale into insignificance when compared to some seriously embarrassing instances such as the New Yorker who was having a romantic evening on the eve of his 18th birthday with his girlfriend as his parents had gone to watch a movie.

As they lay in bed, they heard the telephone ring downstairs. For a laugh he suggested he give his girlfriend a piggyback ride to the phone. They were both naked.

As he romped down the stairs with girlfriend on his back, the lights suddenly came on and there was his entire family holding a giant birthday cake and all yelling “Surprise”. Needless to say, that the was last surprise birthday that family gave.

Or the woman sitting upstairs on a red London bus. Thinking the man in front of her was an old friend, she rolled up her newspaper and gently hit him on the back of his head. Alas, it was not her friend, but a rather puzzled gentleman wondering why he’d been attacked.

A really cringeworthy moment came when a couple drove to a local supermarket, only to have the car break down in the car park. The man told his wife to carry on with the shopping while he fixed the car. The wife returned later to see a small group of people near the car.

On closer inspection, she saw a pair of hairy legs protruding from under the car. Unfortunately, although the man was in shorts, his lack of underpants turned his private parts into glaringly public ones.

Unable to stand the embarrassment, she dutifully stepped forward, quickly put her hand up his shorts and tucked everything back into place. On getting up, she looked across the hood to find herself staring at her husband who was standing idly by watching.

The car mechanic, however, had to have three stitches in his forehead.

Interestingly, it seems the older I get, the less embarrassed I am. The other day my shorts fell down while strolling though a shopping mall. I stopped, pulled them back up and went on my way.

Embarrassed? Funnily enough, not at all.

Reviled English King’s Skeleton Found

We’ve just started to plan our 2013 holiday. Once again its back home to dear old England.

After we’ve seen family and friends, we’ll pick up a hire car from Hertz and, with the aid of one of their magical ‘Never Lost’ satellite navigation systems, we’ll be heading to the English Midlands to visit the city of Leicester.

Richar 111

Richar 111

Ordinarily Leicester would not be on our schedule, but this year is different. It was recently confirmed that a skeleton discovered under a city parking lot are the remains of the controversial King Richard 111, the last Plantagenet King of England, who was savagely killed in battle more than 500 years ago.

The discovery has caused great interest and excitement in England.

Born in 1452, Richard 111 was still a child when his elder brother Edward IV became king. He helped his brother in battle and led the war against Scotland in 1480.

After Edward’s untimely death in April 1483, Richard’s future was put in doubt as Edward’s sons were still alive. He is alleged to have murdered the sons and in a series of palace coups he secured power. He was crowned on July 6, 1483.

Months later the southern counties raised a rebellion in the name of Henry Tudor – later to become Henry V11. Richard reigned for another two years in a climate of an ever-growing crisis. Richard and his royal army left Leicester in August 1485 and met Henry’s troops on at Bosworth Field where he was killed on August 22.

Richard 111 and his resting place for 500 years

Richard 111 and his resting place for 500 years

Following his defeat and death, the victorious Tudors began rewriting history to destroy Richard’s reputation.

The skull of Richard 111

The skull of Richard 111

Using old maps, archaeologists traced the location of the medieval Church of the Grey Friars where Richard was said to have been buried. That site is now a city parking lot.

When the skeleton was found archaeologists were sure it was Richard especially as the skeleton’s spine was severely twisted. All contemporary accounts spoke of the king being deformed.

After DNA testing involving a living descendant in Canada, it was confirmed that the remains were indeed those of the notorious king.

Archaeologists were sure it was Richard especially as the skeleton's spine was twisted

Archaeologists were sure it was Richard especially as the skeleton’s spine was twisted

Investigators revealed the skeleton bore the marks which show Richard met a violent death. They found evidence of ten wounds inflicted shortly before his death plus evidence of  �umiliation�injuries to his corpse, including several head wounds with part of the skull sliced away. There was also a cut to the rib cage and a pelvic wound likely caused by a sword through the right buttock.

The current plan is for interment of his remains in Leicester Cathedral. But Richard III enthusiasts are calling for the remains to be buried in York. Some are even campaigning for London’s Westminster Abbey or Windsor Castle, where other monarchs are interred.

Magic Wands – Still Seen in Manila

He might be a conman, but the man’s jaw-dropping chutzpah takes a lot of beating.

Jim McCormick

Jim McCormick

James McCormick, 56, is on trial for fraud at Britain’s Old Bailey Court in London for selling useless ‘magic wand’ bomb detection devices for up to $40,000 (Php1.6m) each.

McCormick allegedly raked in some $75 million (Php3 billion) by selling these dubious devices to security forces in war zones around the world.

His company, ATSC, claimed they could detect not only explosives but drugs, ivory, diamonds and cash.

Brochures featuring men in military uniforms promised detection of substances in planes, underwater, underground and through walls. The company claimed the devices were able to bypass ‘all known forms of concealment’ and be able to detect at distances.

But the prosecution at the Old Bailey said the devices didn’t work and McCormick knew full well they didn’t work.

McCormick hit on the idea for his bomb detector after buying a $20 novelty machine in the US for finding golf balls.

Golf ball finder or bomb detector?

Golf ball finder or bomb detector?

They were advertised as a ‘great novelty item’ which used the customer’s body to ‘energize its actions’. McCormick bought 300 of these devices from the US and based his detector on them. In fact, his first model was so similar, it appeared to be the novelty golf ball finder, but simply re-badged and sold as ADE (advanced detection equipment) . A more sophisticated model was developed later.

The devices consist of a plastic handle and a retractable antenna ‘like a wand’. The handle is connected via a wire to a pouch. In the pouch is a card that is said to encode information about the substance to be detected. McCormick claimed the device was powered by static electricity emanating from the user.

One expert said the wand was nothing  more than a dowsing rod – a supernatural practice believed to reveal the location of water and minerals that has been around for hundreds of years.

McCormick, who pleaded not guilty to fraud, is reported as saying, “We have been dealing with doubters for ten years. One of the problems we have is the machines do look a little primitive.”

A 'magic wand' bomb detector

A ‘magic wand’ bomb detector

In one test, a guard and a driver from a US newspaper drove through nine police checkpoints where guards were using the device. None of them detected the two AK-47 rifles and ammunition inside the vehicle.

On a recent trip to Manila I spotted one of these devices in the hands of a security officer at the entrance to an office bock in Makati. I asked if I could try it out. The ‘wand’ changed direction depending on the angle I was holding the device.

At one stage, it pointed directly at an elderly street sweeper; hardly a serious contender for blowing up the capital.

I concluded the doubters were probably correct.

The trial continues.

Will Queen Elizabeth Step Down?

The recent news that Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands is to abdicate in April at the age of 75 in favor of her eldest son, Prince Willem-Alexander, must have given Britain’s Prince Charles much food for thought.

The British have long wondered if Queen Elizabeth might one day step down in favor of Prince Charles. And since Charles’s son, the highly popular Prince William came of age, it’s often been suggested that she should step down for her grandson and not bother with Charles.

Prince Charles kisses his mother's hand at the Diamond Jubilee concert last June

Prince Charles kisses his mother’s hand at the Diamond Jubilee concert last June

As much as some royal fans would like this to come about, it simply won’t happen.

The Queen has made it very clear she is determined to continue to serve as head of state.  Royal observers point to her sense of duty, religious conviction and commitment to her coronation vows.

Like her predecessors, she has always regarded that being queen is a job for life. King George III reigned from 1760 until his death in 1820 at the age of 81. For the last ten years of his reign he was insane, blind and infirm, but he remained King until his death.

And despite many ailments, Queen Victoria was still firmly ensconced on the throne when she died in 1901 also at the age of 81.

Queen Elizabeth is much loved by most of her subjects. According to a recent survey, support for the Queen among adults in Britain is at an all-time high.

Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth

Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth

In the case of Queen Beatrice, many of her fellow-countrymen will be glad to see the back of her. She was not popular, especially after she married Claus van Amsberg, a German aristocrat who’d been involved in the Hitler Youth movement. And she refused to cut back her annual state allowance of 830,000 Euros (Php46M) as other European royals had done.

Queen Beatrice’s son, Prince Willem-Alexander and his South American wife Princess Maxima are the most popular figures in the Dutch royal family.

On the other hand, poor old Prince Charles is seen as eccentric and quirky. And his wife Camilla is not universally popular. Many Brits simply do not want him as their king or Camilla as the Queen Consort.

Even British Prime Minister David Cameron is rumored to prefer William over Charles. He is said to have raised the issue with the Queen, who did not take too kindly to the suggestion. “I believe William has the makings of an extraordinary king – when his time comes.” she is reported to have said.

The British press poked fun at these concerns, with the Daily Mail’s headline “Queen abdicates in favour of her middle-aged son!….(no sorry, Charles, not THAT queen . . . the one in Holland).”

After 61 years, no one in British history has been heir apparent as long as the greying 64 year-old Charles, who is set to become a grandfather when his daughter-in-law, the former Kate Middleton, gives birth this summer.

Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother lived to the ripe old age of 101. Queen Elizabeth is now 86 and seems to be in robust good health. Charles may never be king and if he is it might a kind of retirement job.

Charles has expressed his frustrations in the past. Constitutional expert, Professor Robert Hazell, said: “Most people of Charles’s age are starting to contemplate retirement yet he has not actually started the job he has spent his life preparing for.”

In praise of the Sausage McMuffin

As a chef, I really shouldn’t be singing the praises of a fast food, but the Sausage McMuffin with Egg is such a tasty bite I feel compelled to single it out as one of the better offerings you’ll find in any fast food joint.

I did ask McDonald’s PR people for some information about this product, but they declined to comment. Can’t think why.

Sausage McMuffin with Egg

Sausage McMuffin with Egg

I was first introduced to this delicious nibble in Hong Kong. Very sensibly, McDo in the former British Crown Colony offers it throughout the day whereas here in the Philippines (and in most countries around the world) it is only served at breakfast time.

Now, I have to ask ‘is that wise?’

McDo is undergoing something of a shake-up after posting its first monthly sales drop in nine years earlier this month, amid a loss of customers to rival chains such as Burger King. McDonald’s global same-store sales fell 2.2 per cent in October.

But, as Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper put it “Don’t expect McDonald’s to rest on its burgers.”

The paper goes on to say that the disappointing sales have led the fast food giant to begin testing new menu items, including three new varieties of its prized Quarter Pounders. It’s also getting ready to launch a new McMuffin made with egg whites.

My contention is that if the Sausage McMuffin with Egg – and other McDo breakfast sandwiches – were offered throughout the day, they’d have many more customers. Believe it or not McDo, there are some customers who simply don’t want a burger and fries.

There’d be me for a start. I rarely get the chance to enjoy one as I have a hearty breakfast at home and I’m not hungry by the time they stop serving them at 10:30am.

I have put this to McDo several times, but their lack of a response would indicate they don’t agree.

For the uninitiated here’s what you get when you a buy a Sausage McMuffin with Egg. It consists of a muffin with a savory sausage (I guess it’s pork) plus a slice of cheese and a fried egg with a hard yolk. It weighs in at around 164 grams. In all some 450 calories. In Bacolod it’s a modest Php75.

Interestingly, McDo calls it an English muffin. I’m English and I’ve never seen an English muffin in England.

I’m not alone in my admiration for this tasty morsel. One American food blogger, Dave, author of Dave’s Cupboard, says the McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches like the Sausage McMuffin with Egg are brilliant – and delicious.

So come on McDo, what about serving these scrumptious breakfast items all day? Who knows, it might even make a difference to your bottom line.

Southampton – city of ships

It’s a truism that one tends to take one’s home town for granted. I trained as a tour guide here in Negros and often find that, as a foreigner, I know more about Bacolod City than many who were born here.

Alas, I tend not to know as much I would like to about my home town of Southampton in England.

Southampton's historic 'Bargate' constructed more than a thousand years ago

Southampton’s historic ‘Bargate’ constructed more than a thousand years ago

But I intend to rectify this. My family and I leave for England this week and we have two glorious – if chilly – weeks to explore Southampton in search of a bit of history.

Best of all, we’ll have the freedom of a car – that is very important. As usual, we’ll be taking a Hertz car from London’s Heathrow Airport. A Hertz self-drive holiday will give us the freedom to come and go as we like so we can control our own schedules.

And with the unreliability of public transport in the UK these days – not to mention the expense – having one’s own car is really the only way to go when touring.

And to make the trip even better, we’ll have the Hertz NeverLost GPS Navigation System. Just enter the address and the machine will tell you how to get to your destination. Great. No more maps or having to ask people for directions.

The famous Tudor House dating back to the 15th century – a popular tourist site in Southampton

My home town of Southampton on the south coast of England was founded by the Romans 70 years after the death of Christ. It was a small settlement which the Romans called Clausentum. We Brits  waved goodbye to the Romans in 407AD.

As the years rolled on, this small town grew and because of its excellent natural harbor it started to become an important port.

Unfortunately, it suffered severely when Vikings from Scandinavia raided and sacked the town several times in the 9th and 10th centuries. After that the town went into decline, but it was soon flourishing  after the Norman conquest of 1066 when many Frenchmen made it their home. The town had its first mayor in 1217.

Southampton had its ups and downs over the centuries, but it became a major port and later a key manufacturing center.

Interestingly, the Mayflower, the ship that took the Pilgrims from England to America in 1620, originally set sail from Southampton. As fate would have it, bad weather forced her to stop at Plymouth.

The Mayflower leaving Southampton in 1620

The Mayflower leaving Southampton in 1620

By the early 19th century Southampton was booming. From the 1880s North Atlantic trade increased and in 1907 White Star transatlantic liners moved to Southampton. New docks for ships were built in the years 1890-1911.  A year later, RMS Titanic left Southampton on her fateful voyage.

Two years later World War 1 started and by the time hostilities ceased in 1918, some eight million men passed through Southampton on their way to the front.

A replica of the famous Mayflower

A replica of the famous Mayflower

In the 1930’s passenger traffic continued to flourish. The town remained the foremost passenger port in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s. It became known as the ‘Gateway to the World’ for passenger liners. In 1962 over half a million passengers passed through the port as did some five per cent of all the cargoes imported into Britain.

During World War 11 Southampton suffered badly from large-scale air raids during World War II. As a large port on the south coast, it was an important strategic target for the German Luftwaffe. There were fifty seven attacks in all including a direct hit on the factory making the famous Spitfire fighter plane.

Southampton became a city in 1964. Today, it remains a major port, but the passenger ships have all but gone to be replaced by many great cruise ships.

And tourism is becoming an increasingly significant industry in Southampton. The city has much to offer including the longest surviving run of medieval walls in England and many historic buildings.  Of special interest is the Maritime Museum which features a permanent Titanic exhibition.