Friday, December 29, 2006


I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and lots of nice things to eat. I didn't really eat much this Christmas but I still had that constant bloated feeling nevertheless. It must be all the lack of air from staying indoors for so long watching endless repeats of The Two Ronnies. Why does Christmas day feel like the longest day ever? What do we do that's so different to normal?

I often spend Sundays at my parent's house and we sit around, have dinner, watch TV etc and it feels like a normal day. The board games rarely come out. Why do they always make an appearance on Christmas day in houses throughout the land? Why is it that at Christmas people feel naked without a drink perpetually clamped to their hand? And stuff themselves silly with nuts and various nibbles despite the fact they feel close to vomiting? Who knows. But that's Christmas.

I had four Christmases this year and enjoyed them all. The first was Sunday evening at M's aunties house as his Grandma was off to Ireland for Christmas. We exchanged presents and had a delicious starter of prosciutto, mozzarella and rocket followed by Delia's Boeuf Bourguignon, cheese and biscuits, coffee and grappa. Thursday evening M & I had our own Christmas at home and opened our pressies over Cava followed by homemade Beef Wellington. On Christmas Eve at my parents' we had various antipasti followed by roast beef and roasted winter vegetables. On Christmas day itself we had a bottle of Prosecco followed by a traditional Christmas dinner which I just love. Prawn cocktail, turkey and all the trimmings; potatoes roasted in goose fat, leeks in cheese sauce, carrots and swede, parsnips in honey, pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon) and the star of the show, sausagemeat stuffing.

We couldn't manage any Christmas pudding until 10 O'clock (which I don't even really like, but always have anyway). We didn't even have room for any panettone so we had it for breakfast instead. Then finally Boxing Day at M's parents for a delicious turkey and ham pie with all the trimmings. Even Casper enjoys Christmas as he always gets a treat of a prawn in exchange for a photo with the Christmas hat.

The exchanging of presents is my favourite part of Christmas. Seeing people's faces as the paper is ripped off to reveal something you spent hours agonising over and traipsing the streets for is worth every minute. And receiving lovely pressies too of course. I got some lovely pressies this year. Here are some of the best ones:

From my parents, a handbag and a cute little Alessi wine stopper for those unfinished bottles of wine (which, er, is a rare occurrence in our house but it looks cute anyway).

From M, some great DVDs including Tsotsi, Coffy and the fantastic comedy series Look around You. Cds, Gwen Stefani and The second album from The Magic Numbers which I'm not sure about at the moment – certainly not as good as the first but might need a few more listens.

I hope next year's Christmas will be as good as this one but next year I must remember to do a new background for my Mum's nativity. At the moment she's still using the same one I made when I was 8! Enjoy the rest of the holidays everyone and have a great New Year!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The perfect spaghetti bolognese?

We've seen him attempt to produce the perfect bangers and mash, the perfect pizza and the perfect roast chicken. Tonight's episode of Heston Blumenthal's In Search of Perfection was the one I'd been looking forward to the most - the perfect spaghetti bolognese. I sneered at the thought and even said to my Mum 'I bet it's not as good as mine'. Yeah ok, so I'm a bit arrogant. But my ragu is damn good if I may say so myself. It's based on Delia Smith's but with a few extra additions like carrots, celery and milk.

Famous for his snail porridge and bacon and egg ice cream, Heston's restaurant The Fat Duck in Bray was voted best restaurant in the world in 2005 and the previous year it was awarded its third Michelin star. Not bad.

He's been described as a 'culinary alchemist' for his innovative style of cooking. His scientific approach to food involves researching molecular compounds of dishes in order to understand flavour. The lengths he goes to with his dishes seem totally ridiculous. Everything he cooks seem to involve slow cooking, plunging in water, cooking again, measuring the temperature with an expensive themometre and cooking again. But I wouldn't mind trying some of his dishes. He puts a lot of effort into it and he always uses the best ingredients.

Tonight's episode however had me in shock. It must have had every Italian in the country recoilling in horror. Here's a brief description of what he did.

Fry onion, carrots, celery, brown oxtail. Deglaze pan with white wine, add together and cook for six hours.

Meanwhile make a tomato compote. Fry onions and garlic, then add skinned and deseeded tomatoes. Put coriander seeds, cloves and star anise in a muslin and add to compote. Next add Worcester sauce, tobasco, ketchup, sherry vinegar, thyme, bay leaf and Thai fish sauce. Cook for 1 hour.
Fry the compote in olive oil, drain, add to ragu and cook for another 2 hours. Just before serving, add tarragon, parsley and celery leaves. Season to taste, add more sherry vinegar and butter.

At this point he wraps the cooked spaghetti around a meat fork, snips of the excess bits and puts it on a plate with the sauce on top - it looked more like a kebab of spaghetti that the simple dish it's supposed to be!

This recipe should be about simplicity - a simple process using simple ingredients. I can understand the use of star anise to a certain point as it's supposed to enhance the flavour of the meat. But fish sauce? Coriander seeds?

I find him irritating, but there's something likeable about this guy. I'd love to eat his mashed potato which he cooks first in the skin. I'd jump at the chance to try his roasted chicken, cooked for 4 hours to perfection. He has 3 Michelin stars and there has to be a reason.

But I'm sceptical about this bolognese recipe. I like the idea of cooking it for a long time, and I'm not against adding a few unorthodox ingredients like a bit of Worcester sauce for example. But I don't like the idea of adding Asian and Thai ingredients to a classic Italian dish.

I love his passion for food and the lengths he goes to in order to find perfection. He even went to Italy to find the restaurant that made the best bolognese in Bologna.

I hope he keeps on doing what he's doing, but I really would ask him to do one thing - lay off the Italian food.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

In Praise of....

....the Kotlet

Or Cotoletta alla milanese as we like to call it in Italy and from where it's thought to have originated. Milan to be precise and I think it's about time Milan got some credit.

The Austrians call it Weiener Schnitzel, the Poles Kotlet Schabowy. Even the Japanese like it too and call it Tonkatsu. It's popular in Sweden, Australia and Korea. They have a version called Milanesas in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and other Latin American countries such as Mexico and Brazil. It seems everyone has a version!

It's basically more or less the thing everywhere. Meat coated in eggs and breadcrumbs and then fried - the only thing that changes is the meat. Some use beef, veal, chicken or pork and the original cotoletta alla Milanese has to be veal with the bone in. In Austria there are fast food chains that serve mostly schnitzels. Now that's my kind of fast food.

Mike will often ask me what I fancy for dinner and I'll usually say the same thing. Its great comfort food in the winter served with sweet potato mash and great in the summer with a salad. On our trip to Poland last year we had it at least three times. It's unavoidable really as it's one of Poland's national dishes which you'll find on almost every menu. My family in Italy often have it on a Sunday with pattatine fritte (homemade fries) in summer and in winter.

We had it last night with sweet potato mash and ratatouille. It's so easy to make. You just need to bash out the meat until it's nice and flat, dip in a beaten egg, then breadcrumbs and fry.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Understatement of the Year

Rose West: 'I was never a good parent'

The Sun has reported today that serial killer Rose West has broken off all contact with her three remaining children in a letter she wrote from jail in the summer.

West (53) had kept in touch with her surviving children Mae, Anne-Marie and Stephen despite the fact that she was jailed in 1995 for killing 10 young women with husband Fred. Their victims included her own daughter Heather (16) and stepdaughter Charmaine (8) who were buried in the cellar of their home.

It is thought that West decided to cut all ties when daughter Mae began asking questions about the murders.

In the letter she
apologised and said 'I cannot be something different now. Too much has happened and too much damage has been done'. She ended the letter by saying 'I truly do not have the skills to be a parent and although I am sad and ashamed of this it is something that has to be accepted.'

I think it's safe to say that parenting skills are definitely
not her strongest point.

I wonder if Kathy Burke's character in Gimme Gimme Gimme was based on Rose West?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Greek tragedy comes to an end

Oh spare me the tears.

Remember my post from exactly two months ago with these very words?

Looking back, the whole episode was actually quite funny and I can console myself with the fact that in a few months time, the "Greek Restaurant" sign will probably be replaced with a "To Let".

Well would you believe it! It's up for sale.

Tenure: Leasehold, 15 years remaining
This property is offered as a lease

Terms Of lease

premium £45000

Rent: £9600 Per Annum

Who says dreams don't come true?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Red Road (2006)

Cert 18

On a tough Glaswegian housing estate where grim tower blocks dominate the skyline, Jackie (Kate Dickie), a CCTV operator, spends her day watching multi-screen footage of people going about their business from her multitude of cameras. All seems pretty normal until she spots a man from her past who we eventually learn was involved in the death of her husband and child. Jackie soon becomes obssessed with Clyde, played by Tony Curran, and begins to follow him with revenge in mind.

Red Road, the Cannes jury prize-winning thriller also won five awards at the Scottish Baftas, including best actress for Kate Dickie, best actor for Tony Curran, best Screenplay and best film. Andrea Arnold picked up awards for best director and best screenplay.

Red Road was Arnold's feature-length debut, having previously won an Oscar for her short film Wasp in 2003. She caused controversy when she forewent the traditional thank you speech, declaring the win as "the dog's bollocks".

Likened to Michael Haneke's style of atmoshpere and tension, Red Road builds gently. It feeds us information gradually which makes the film seem slow at times, but this only adds to the intensity. The wordless scenes where Jackie spies on Clyde make the atmosphere uncomfortable but at the same time compelling as Jackie's camera pans in on her pray. The extremely raw and graphic sex scene between Jackie and Clyde is not only disturbing for the seedy surrounding of Clyde's bedroom, but for the fact that Jackie actually seems to enjoy it.

The ending is slightly unsatisfying, but Red Road is still an intelligent thriller with gritty and realistic acting from the two lead performances - a fine debut.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday, October 27, 2006

Should they stay or should they go?

Oh how I love the month of March. Beautiful spring flowers begin to appear, signaling the beginning of Spring with summer just round the corner.

It is also the month I was born. Nothing wrong with that, of course because I get lots of lovely presents. It is bad however, because I've been cursed with having the star sign of Pisces - the most indecisive of all the astrological signs. This trait has been an affliction for as long as I can remember. Don't even bother asking me to make a decision about anything, because I just can't. Now I'm not one to usually believe in this mumbo jumbo, but 'indecisive and complacent' is what they call our kind and indecisive and complacent is what I am.

Which brings me to my point. I had a pair of green Converse All Star when I was 14 and I loved them. I bought a black pair last week, took them home, tried them on and decided I didn't like them. So back to the shop they went. The whole of the next week was spent staring lovingly at peoples' canvas clad feet whilst asking myself why they looked better on everyone else. And why they made me look like a clown? I spent an hour trying on various shades of khaki yesterday and then decided against them. Today I decided it had gone too far and I bought the above pair. I love them. I love the colour. I' m sitting here as I type with one shoe on, exhausted after having tried them on with almost every item in my wardrobe. Something is telling me no, yet I know if I took them back, I would want them again.

Is it because everybody else seems to have them? I don't know. I need your help dear bloggers. Do you like them? Are they cool? But ultimately I want to know, should they stay or should they go? I have until tomorrow afternoon to decide so the decision is in your hands.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Tales from Lisbon # 3 -The Beach & things that live in the sea

Oceanário de Lisboa

If you like sea life, a visit to Europe's largest Oceanarium is an absolute must. It's inhabited by 16,000 animals and plants and based around four smaller aquaria, displaying the fauna and flora of the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and Antarctic. We spent hours with our noses pressed against the glass, entranced by menacing sharks, enormous tunas, cute penguins and cuddly Otters. The central tank is visible throughout the Oceanarium and holds an incredible 4 million litres of water.

The Beach

We went to the beach three times in the week that we stayed and we were spoilt for choice. There are some great beaches in Lisbon, only a 30-40 minute train ride from the Cais do Sodré station in the centre. On our first trip to the beach, we visited Cacsais, a popular tourist resort and former fishing port, it has several small beaches in and around town and lots of lovely shops and restaurants.

For our last two visits,we opted for Estoril. As soon as you step off the train, you walk through a tunnel and you're on the beach. I prefered the fact that there were virtually no shops, only a handful of restaurants and bars along the beach giving it more of a sense of isolation.
Estoril is famous for its casino, the inspiration for the casino gambling scene and title for the Ian Fleming's novel 'Casino Royale'.

I couldn't resist taking a photo of the man behind us wearing white socks.

He should have been wearing these

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Perfect Sunday

Sunday is the most miserable day of the week for most. A constant reminder that Monday is fast approaching - back to work and no more lie-ins. The only way to get over it is to prolong the weekend with some lovely food, lots of drink and a good film.

Yesterday I made bruschetta with tomatoes and garlic, roast beef, roast potatoes and a rocket salad with red onions and pine nuts.

Bruschetta con pomodoro

For the bruschetta topping, I chopped some fresh tomatoes out of my Mum's garden, garlic, olive oil, basil, salt and pepper. It'll probably be the last time I'll be using fresh tomatoes until next summer even though they'll be selling them all year round in the supermarkets.

Roast Potatoes with rosemary

I always boil the potatoes first and then shake them around in the pan before I roast them so they break up and get nice and fluffy on the outside (great little tip from Jamie Oliver). Put them in a roasting tin with olive oil, plenty of salt, a sprig of rosemary and some some whole garlic gloves. Roast for an hour and a half to two hours until crispy.

Green salad with rocket, red onion and toasted pinenuts

Cut a large red onion into six and fry in plenty of olive oil until soft. Mix with the salad, toasted pinenuts and balsamic vinegar.

Is there really anything better than a roast and a nice bottle of red on a Sunday afternoon?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Tales from Lisbon # 2 -About Town

Lisbon has hundreds of museums from military to puppets, tiles to electricity but we didn't set foot in a single one. Apart from the fact that the weather was too nice to be stuck indoors in a stuffy old building, Lisbon is the kind of city you can just walk around with no particular destination in mind. We explored the whole city on foot, only occasionally jumping on a tram when too exhausted to tackle the steep hills. And Lisbon is very hilly. On our first night, the funicular to the Barrio Alto was out of order so we foolishly walked all the way to the top - it was so steep that with each step I took I thought I was going to slide back down again.

Our hotel was in a perfect position between the two main squares Restauradores and Rossio. The road which we had to walk down to get everywhere was full of touristy restaurants - you know, the ones with pictures of food and the menu in 10 different languages? Brushing aside the menus which were constantly shoved in our faces by over zealous waiters was like swatting flies. We spent many a happy hour looking for a good restaurant, preferably full of locals. We'd trawl the streets diving into the odd bar for a capirinhia and continue our mission. Unfortunately for being so fastidious, there is a price to pay. The food would probably always be good but the menu indecipherable. I thought I'd easily get by knowing Italian and a bit of Spanish but I was wrong. Some of the words sound nothing like the foreign languages I was more accustomed to using. For example, ementa is menu, frango is chicken, jantar, dinner, mexilhao, mussel, lula, squid, fiambre, ham, bife, steak but not necessarily beef. Huh? We would spend the first 10 minutes passing the trusty Time Out guide (open on the menu page) under the table to each other.

The chances of a romantic tete - a - tete in these places were slim as the tables were always pushed so far together you could be forgiven for mistaking your neighbour's plate for your own. It was in the restaurants that I noticed how similar the Portuguese are to the Italians. Hunched over their food they would chatter noisily and gesticulate animatedly whilst tackling their food. We had to almost shout across the table to be heard.

One thing I always try to do in a foreign country is speak as little English as possible. We found the first couple of days slighly intimidating, but by day three I was speaking confidently in a hybrid of Italian, Spanish and Portuguese - people seemed to understand me and that's the main thing.

The number 28 creeps up the hill... Sé Catedral

Torre de Belem

Rossio Square

Largo do Carmo

Castelo São Jorge from Restauradores

Elevador de Bica

Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Greek Tragedy

The sight of a new restaurant popping up always brings a certain amount of excitement to our house. Finsbury Park is already a culinary melting pot with cuisine from various parts of the globe; Caribbean, Indian, Turkish, Chinese, Columbian, Thai, good ol' fish and chips and even an Ethiopian which we're yet to try. As yesterday was pay day, I thought I'd treat us to a takeaway from the new Greek place down the road. We spent ages poring over the menu, in stitches over the ridiculous typos and descriptions. Some of the menu gaffes were as follows:

Green Olives Special crack, tsakkistes
Lamb Kleftiko Slow cooked beef in the oven
Dolmades Vine leaves staffed with mince pork
Tavas Traditional Cyprus dish consisted of meat cubes, chopped potatoes, onionomatoes, and onions

We thought we'd phone ahead and order but after finding the number constantly engaged for more than fifteen minutes (I joked that one of the chefs would be on the phone to one of their relatives in Greece), I decided to walk down there myself. The first thing I noticed as I walked into the restaurant was that it was empty, bar one table which I realised was occupied by the staff. When I mentioned the phone being engaged, guilty looks were exchanged - turns out I was right after all. I ordered Lamb Kleftiko with roast potatoes for Mike and Lamb Souvla for me which they didn't have, so I had to settle for Lamb Cutlets instead. They told me it would take half an hour which made me wonder who long it would take if the restaurant was busy.

I went back half an hour later to find the restarant still empty of customers, while all five staff attended to our food. I got home and left Mike to open the boxes of food while I washed my hands. I heard a loud gasp coming from the kitchen so I shouted "what's it like?" Silence. I shouted the same question again to which Mike replied "Oh my God". I hurried to the kitchen where two polystyrene boxes lay open containing something which was supposed to be food. Mine was three scraggy bits of lamb with a few soggy chips and Mike's was two scraggy bits of lamb with four boiled potatoes. I'd paid £14.50 for this!? I immediately put my coat back on and trudged back to the restaurant a third time while Mike went to get pizza. I refused to let him come with me, my track record of receiving refunds about 100% so I was feeling confident.

What happened next was a bit of a blur. To put it mildly, my request for a refund did not go down well. When I told them that the potatoes were not roasted but boiled, it went down even less well. Arguments ensued, insults exchanged. "Are you a chef?" one of them asked me. "Are you Greek?". I certainly am neither, but could give their overpriced tat a run for it's money. At one point, the 'chef' threatened to call the police and screamed "I been a chef for twelve years" as she hysterically punched random numbers into the phone. I phoned Mike to tell him what was going on and when I'd finished speaking to him one of them asked me "Who sent you?". I didn't know what to say to this ridiculous question. I told them I wasn't surprised that their restaurant was empty on a Friday night and that this was no way to treat a customer. I left with a bruised ego and an empty wallet. Mike spotted the steam coming out of my ears down the end of road before he saw me. I threatened to take the 'roast potato' to Trading Standards.

Do those potatoes look roasted to you?

The next day is a different story - I've learnt my lesson. I should have recognised that the poor attention to detail on the menu would extend itself to the food. If a restaurant can't be bothered to make an effort with the minor details then they just can't be bothered. I've realised that their hysterical reaction was because they knew they were a sinking ship. Looking back, the whole episode was actually quite funny and I can console myself with the fact that in a few months time, the "Greek Restaurant" sign will probably be replaced with a "To Let".

Romios Magirion - 21 Crouch Hill, London N4 4AP
Rating: 0/10

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

What's Cookin'?

Head on over to the Beggar's Banquet to find out.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Tales from Lisbon # 1 - Back in the Saddle

Welcome to part one of three in my short series of holiday tales.
After my fishbone nightmare, I couldn't even look at a fish the same way for about a month - I felt betrayed. I'd always considered myself a foodie; experimental and daring in my quest for the ultimate food hit. So to be put off by a mere fishbone stuck in the throat was more than I could take. If only I could have said I'd had a near death experience after eating Fogu, the notorious Japanese Blowfish. Instead, I forlornly had to explain to friends and colleagues that it had resulted from eating boring old fish and chips in a mediocre pub. So I wasn't going to let it beat me.
As soon as we arrived in Lisbon, we dropped off our bags at the hotel and began the first of many searches to find a good restaurant. We had decided to try a recommended local neighbourhood restaurant and I was really looking forward to my first foray with fish again. The menu was in Portuguese so we struggled to work out what everything was and eventually beaten by hunger, decided to take our chances and order the famous baccalaut. My plate arrived with a piece of salt cod swimming in a sauce adorned with rings of onions and slices of egg. I smiled politely at the waitress. I wasn't going to be put off. After all, looks aren't everything are they? I cut off a piece and put it in my mouth. "What's it like?" Mike asked me. "A bit salty" I replied. A bit salty!! I felt as though I'd just swallowed a bucket of seawater. I didn't want to put a dampner on our first day so I played it down. Afterwards we both admitted it was pretty grim.
So my first experience with fish in Portugal wasn't the best, although it did get better. Over the next seven days we tried prawns, lobster, cockles, mussels, sardines. Boar, rabbit, prawns, pork, spit roasted chicken and chips, chips, chips, chips and chips. On some evenings we had rice on the plate with chips. That made a nice change.
The Sardines were delicious but a bit of an ordeal.
We ordered them overlooking the sea in the lovely coastal town of Estorill. They arrived whole and we had to chop the heads off and remove the bones and guts of twelve of them. At this point I was feeling very nervous......It took lots of chewing and lots of beer to wash it down but we got there in the end.



Our favourite area of Lisbon was the Barrio Alto. Packed full of restaurants and cool bars, it's far the best area to go out in the evening. We went there in the daytime and only had a few scrawny cats for company. But in the evening it was completely unrecognisable. It looked as though the residents had their doors wide open, until we looked inside and saw yet another funky little bar. We sipped Caipirinhas and wandered through the packed streets listening to soulful Portuguese Fado music drift through the windows.

Caipirinha, the traditional Brazilian drink prepared with cachaça our favourite cocktail. We never paid more than €5 and we even found a bar that did it for €2, so we drank as much as we could knowing how much it costs back home. If you can get hold of a bottle of cachaça, it's worth making at home.

1 lime quartered
1 tablespoon of sugar
A liberal slug of cachaça
1 Cup of ice cubes

Place the lime and sugar in the bottom of a glass.
Using a rolling pin , crush and mash the limes until all the juice has been extracted.
If you have an ice-crushing machine, consider yourself lucky. Otherwise, put the ice cubes in a plastic bag and bash with a hammer until crushed. Pour the cachaça over the ice. Stir well.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Diagnosis: Fishbone

Thanks to all the people who have been asking where I was. I haven't been on holiday, just taking a short break from blogging to concentrate on writing short stories as blogging has been dominating my life of late. Monday was such an eventful day however, I just couldn't resist writing about it.

We both had the day off, so decided to spend a day at the seaside in Whistable, Kent. We started the day with a lovely walk along the beach followed by a visit to Wheelers Oyster Bar where we sampled 1/2 dozen Whistable oysters followed by 1/2 dozen Scottish oysters. By the time we left, the rain had started to come down heavily, so we retreated into the nearest pub and read the papers over a pint. Feeling hungry again, we found a pub which did fish and chips. Our food arrived and I discarded a couple of bones towards the end. I sighed with satisfaction and contemplated my final mouthful of fish when I felt a bone stuck in the back of my throat. I leapt off my stool almost knocking a man over who was standing at the games machine behind me. I spent the next 15 minutes heaving and retching in the toilets trying to get the damn thing out of my throat, but it wasn't budging. We decided to find the nearest Boots and ask their advice. Mike eventually went to the counter on his own as I refused to go with him - I felt mortally embarrassed about saying that I had a fishbone stuck in my throat. The idea seemed comical and tantamount to saying "I slipped on a banana skin". I told him I'd wait nearby and he said "what do you want me to tell them, that my girlfriend is standing by the Rimmel?". It was a fair point and I started to laugh and then almost immediately ran outside and demanded that he go in by himself. I was hysterical and started crying.

They pointed us in the direction of the health clinic which was ten minutes away. We must have looked ridiculous walking down the street, me red-eyed, gulping water, Mike slapping my back. We arrived at the clinic and they saw me straight away. The nurse looked in my throat, said she couldn't see it, told me to eat some bread and sent me away. I was relieved to know I was out of danger. I slept most of the way home, exhausted from coughing. When we arrived home, I looked in the mirror and noticed the offending bone sticking out to the right of my tonsil. Panic struck and we decided to go the hospital to have it removed. I only had to wait half an hour and didn't even open the book I had sitting on my lap. The entertainment came in the form of a certain 'celebrity' with a busted nose who was waiting to be seen and it wasn't the first time his nose had got him into trouble. I was seen by a doctor who attempted to remove the bone with long tweezers. Just as he was about to grab it, I gagged and the bone was lost. I waited for him while he went to get a second opinion - I was thinking about getting home in time to watch my favourite Australian comedy, Kath and Kim. It wasn't to be. They told me I had to go to the ear, nose and throat hospital and this is where the real horror began.

We walked through the doors of the hospital and went to reception. The first thing I noticed was a 1960s style digital date/ clock on the wall. The furniture was hideously dated. We went up in a creaky lift, through dark corridors to Ward B where we were greeted by a very strange doctor. He had a maniacal look about him and when he spoke, he sounded like he had inhaled helium. As he examined my notes, I looked out of the corner of my eye to see an elderly person's 'tube' being emptied into a plastic cup. I tried to ignore the groans and ruffles of knees rubbing against starched sheets but I couldn't and it was making me feel more and more uncomfortable.

The doctor who was accompanied by a nurse escorted me in the staff lift to the next floor and Mike was told sternly to take the stairs. As I rode up in the creaky lift, I had images of the doors opening onto a deserted corridor and being escorted to an abandoned operating theatre and subjected to hours of horrific medical experiments. I was told to sit in a dentist type chair whilst I watched the doctor strap a ridiculously large circle shaped mirror to his head. His eye peered at me through a hole in the middle - he looked like a demented Cyclops. I opened my mouth and stuck my tongue out whilst he prodded it with an L-shaped metal instrument. I flinched from the pain but the doctor ignored it and continued to prod. The fishbone was nowhere to be seen. Puzzled as to the whereabouts of the bone, the doctor told me he would like to inspect more closely with a camera which would involve sticking a tube up my nose which - in his words - 'isn't very nice'. I felt sick and broke out in a cold sweat. I protested and told them that I'd really rather not. The doctor said that it would be a shame not too, seeing as I'd gone all that way. I couldn't help feeling that he wanted to do it for the sake of it. I was thinking that it couldn't have been that important if the nurse in the clinic had sent me home earlier on. He warned me that if the bone got stuck in my throat, it could cause an abscess. I was starting to consider it more seriously now, so I asked him what the camera felt like, to which he replied in the most ridiculous feminine voice, 'I don't know, I've never had it done'. That decided it for me if nothing else had. I'm sure a caveman would have had more people skills. I offered a compromise by saying that if I felt the slightest pain I would go back and have it done the next day. We left at 11.00 in the evening, the fishbone mystery unsolved and my nostrils still intact. Thankfully my throat has felt fine since.

This couldn't have happened at a worse time. I have exactly one month to go before visiting Lisbon, one of the seafood capitals of Europe. At the moment, the thought of sardines and baccalau makes me shiver and I don't think I ever want to see cod again. I did have food poisoning once from eating salmon and that didn't put me off for life, so hopefully I'll be over it soon. There is however, a valuable lesson to be learned out of all of this - if you get a fishbone stuck in your throat, don't bother going to hospital.