Sunday, January 23, 2011

If It's Good Enough For Haggis....

We are just back from another preparatory hike for our excursion to Kilimanjaro at the end of February. It was fine practice indeed. While we lacked the altitude, we had wind and snow in spades. Out of the wind, it was -16, and with the chill factor, -26! Brrrr. Even still, about 5 minutes in, most of us found ourselves peeling off layers as we were too warm!

Happily I did not have the slightest trace of a hangover despite having attended a Robbie Burns dinner, complete with scotch tasting, the night before. Fauntleroy suggested our first out of home Burns supper and settled on The Old Mill. The setting was fitting, replete with real wood fires burning in hearths scattered about the ‘mill’.

Before heading out, we met for a drink at our ‘hosts’. As we were a party of six, we wondered what four strangers would round out our table. Fauntleroy joked it would be a gang of old Presbyterians that would be mortified at dining with assorted homosexuals. I said we could all just play it straight and say that CJ was a woman of low moral standards instead and we were all dating her.

Upon arrival, we received a scotch ‘passport’ and were told if we sampled all six on hand, we could enter a draw for a free bottle. “You had me at scotch” I said to the wee lass at the door.

As we admired our surroundings, massive stone fireplace, gorgeous parquet flooring and fabric walls, a fiddler made her way by playing a tune titled ‘Stop Ye’re Tickling Jock’. Rather! Can’t you get a special shampoo for that these days? We moved to our first sample giggling.

Something in one of the first two did not agree with me and even in the dimly lit room (which I appreciate all the more as I get older) everyone commented on my red glow. I must have had a mild allergic reaction as my face and ears were quite flushed. Best cure for that is something medicinal thought I, so we moved on to the next station. By the end of the evening, my normal colour had returned but I am a little leery of overly peaty scotches now. Too bad.

From there, it was pretty much down hill. Address to the ladies, and response to the gents aside, Fauntleroy was not impressed. Given his vast experience and heritage, I too expected better things. The final straw for both he and CJ was the non-existent dancing.

You drank, you ate (while people sang so loud you couldn’t talk to one another) listened to some speeches and then got the hell out. The 48th Highlanders were fantastic (if a little loud in a relatively confined space ~ those bags are best heard across a loch I think) and brought in the haggis.

A lot of people turn up, not turnip that comes with it, their noses at haggis. Really, it tastes like oatmeal with some sausage meat in it. But even oatmeal can be bad, and so this was. Wallpaper paste is the only descriptive that comes to mind.

I did, however, get a wonderful idea as the haggis was marched in perched atop a serving platter balanced on two poles. Not actual people from Poland you understand, but the wooden variety.

Rather than go with the two porters that come included as part of our Kilimanjaro package, could I not upgrade to 6 or 8 and have them carry me in one of those portable thrones?

Actually, maybe 9 would be better. The extra one could be like a spare tire and until called into service, could fan me with a large palm.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bye Bye Birdy

It wasn’t quite the picture I had painted in my mind, but it was still a good two days with the boys. For those of you who have seen the glory that is Gosford Park, you may recall the hunting party scene, where ducks, geese and pheasants a-plenty dot the sky and everyone more than reaches their bag limit.

Equally impressive, but completely unrelated to my tale, is the luncheon, avec bloody Mary’s, served by a house full of staff, that followed. Ahhhh, perhaps one day.

Newly minted migratory bird license in hand, my brother, cousin and various hangers-on headed out to a family farm to “fill the sky with lead”. Aside from skeet, it was my first time in a long time trying to “bring something out of the sky”. In the end, we managed two ducks, but feasted on goose and moose none the less.

It was also the first time in a long time for a weekend with “the guys” ~ and I mean straight ones. What a fascinating breed indeed. Some stereotypes stood as they always have in my mind ~ when there are no females around, the language goes in the toilet. Who knew the f-bomb could be a verb, noun and an adjective? And sometimes all three at once! I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I am no prude but gentlemen please, there is a lady present.

Other stereotypes fell by the way side. I anticipated a battery of belching and flatulence, especially once the beer (Canadian, in cans – so butch) started to flow. But no, it never materialized. The ‘C’ word was added to the repertoire, but the release of bodily gases was kept in check.

For lunch, I had unfairly feared a bag of chips and maybe a ding-dong or two. Not wanting to be ‘that guy’ I left my Martha Stewart pie basket, picnic basket and accessories at home. A thermos of tea and one of soup along with a Panini would have to do. Oh, and my new flask with a little scotch in it for a mid-morning pick me up. Don’t judge, it was cold and we were in a corn field at 7:00 AM!

As lunch approached, my eyes happily popped out of my head when my cousin dropped the tailgate of his truck to reveal a propane bbq, cooler, wine and real plates and cutlery! I know right? He had wine! Soon the was grill fired up and there were moose cutlets cooking while beef broth and beans heated on the side burner. We even had my cousin's homemade smoke goose as an appetizer. The only thing missing was a bloody Mary.

As we ate, numerous Canadian Geese and various types of ducks flew by the drive shed we were using for cover. As I continued to feast on their kinfolk, I was inspired to new heights of hunting frenzy. After lunch, Grizzly Adams placed us strategically along the riverbank and then headed downstream to flush some ducks our way.

Not sure if it was boredom, or a ‘what the heck’ shot, but my brother took a crack at a duck and spooked the ones we had seen. None-the-less, by the time my cousin made his round, he flushed two ducks right towards us. His son dropped one a la Gosford Park while the other, slightly injured, sought refuge under a rocky over hang on the other side of the river. We were not to be outdone.

One man was placed up river, one down, and one straight across. I know I know, one duck, four dudes, lame. But, it is a hunters responsibility to dispatch as quickly and humanely as possible, any injured game.

As the only one with rubber boots, I was elected to walk as far out as I could and throw rocks to flush Daffy from hiding. Me? Throw? Clearly these boys had forgotten my demonstrated throwing skills from our annual family picnics. Going back to the above mentioned stereotypes, I can no better throw a ball, base, foot or other, than I can catch one.

Conjuring up images of Scarlet O’Hara though, I said to myself, “You can throw straight, as long as you don’t have to throw too far.” I took another step forward.

Dipping my hand in the icy water, I retrieved two stones and rather than aim for the duck, I went for the large, ice covered branch above his hiding place. Amazingly I hit exactly where I wanted and ice and debris let lose. But a little ice was better than the three guns pointed at him I guess, so he stayed put.

I wanted duck a l’orange though, and my second stone did the trick. I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say, Daffy and Daisy are once again together.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Know what?

Just wanted to share a couple of quick “you know what” observations with ya’ll. First, you know what hurts?

Riding your bike to work in the winter, and while your hands and feet usually get chilled, this one day, they stay nice and toasty but your junk gets REAL cold. Then, after your shower, and you’re toweling off your thigh, you smack yourself in the bag. That hurts.

Second ‘know what?', also bag related. Know what I don’t get? Coach ~ the brand. To me, coach conjures up images of those people at the ‘back of the plane’ flying coach. Everyone else gets to board first and then “our passengers flying coach” are allowed to board. Or people on the bus, taking the ‘coach’, as it were. So why do people pay hundreds of dollars for bags, purses and gloves that really say, “hey, look at me! I’m steerage quality”. I just don’t get it. Is it just me?