bookmark_borderConsidering the future

I wish I still had the photo as the object itself is hard to describe. A metal fork-like hand on one end and at the other, attached via a thick fabric webbing strap, a bar that didn’t fit or integrate with the fork-like hand in anyway whatsoever. It was an odd thing, no clear use for it could be imagined but it was obviously manufactured en masse so definitely, at some point in its past, had a purpose.

The last I saw it was in a cupboard at my parents old house, a hazy memory of an odd object that was easily discarded when they moved largely because none of us had any idea what it was, having been found in the garage when my parents had moved in some 40 odd years before. Was it farming gear? It had that level of industrial look and feel about it, yet it was clean and untarnished. Perhaps an emergency tool of some sort, although for what I have no idea, given it was incapable of gripping anything, let alone itself. Most odd indeed.

I have no such objects in my possession, not yet at least, but as I’m going through another bout of clearing out, going through cupboards and drawers and find myself questioning why I have three unused notebooks, four rolls of partially used sellotape, two rarely used scarves, six (!) bottles of unopened moisturiser of differing brands, and don’t even get me started on all those out of date spices and baking ingredients at the back of THAT cupboard in the kitchen.

It all has to go, and with it I’m finding other items than can be passed on, recycled or, via a recently discovered Facebook group, bartered; a bluetooth Apple keyboard and trackpad, a litre bottle of Southern Comfort, an iron and ironing board, a camera tripod, a pair of walking shoes that I bought online that never ever fitted.

It is as cathartic now as it was a couple of years ago when I last went through this process. Going through your belongings also lets you rediscover things that are very much out of sight and completely out of mind; those exercise bands that will be good for your physio routine, that old spare hard drive you’d meant to trash last year but never got around to, or the unread books that are lurking behind a cupboard door instead of on the unread/shame shelf on the bookcase.

And no, I’m not holding these items and hoping to detect joy, there is no Kondo-ing here. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a reasonable approach if you have never done a decluttering and already know you have too much stuff (and let’s be honest, most of us already know), but did that last time I moved so anything else is a newer purchase and easily identifiable as needed versus wanted versus ‘brings me joy’.

The items that I want to keep, the decorations and art work, the memory box items, are already stored. But now it’s about less, about fewer, about removing as much clutter as possible so there is less to move. That box of cables, untouched in a year has gone, that drawer of random iPhone accessories, pens, instruction manuals, and a random tennis ball, gone. I am no longer holding on to items ‘just in case’. The advantage of having done a big declutter a couple of years ago evident by the things that I took with me when I moved, still lying untouched are easy to identify and discard. I do not need those items. They are history.

Clothes remain the last bastion where I seem unable to slim things down too far – an interesting juxtaposition between my never decreasing waistline – and whilst I did take some time last week to do another clear out of my clothes, managing to fill one black bag, I’ll take one more pass through my shirts and that’ll be that (for now).

And then, with my possessions paired down, into boxes they will go awaiting the day when they are lifted and shifted, two men and a van style, from my current abode to their van and on to a new home, a new beginning, and a chance to start fresh once more.

I’ve made myself this promise twice now, yet remain determined that this time moving to a new home will also institute a change in my approach to possessions, a change towards considered purchases, a change of thought from a ‘quick Amazon order’ to a delayed purchasing habit, not just for my own desire for less clutter, but because as I get older I know I need to be better to the world around me too.

So rather than succumb to the onslaught of influencers and online bargains, I will aim to delay the instant gratification of purchasing. I will make lists and act on them later, once I’m sure I actually NEED each item, rather than giving in to my whimsy. I’ve tried this before and it works, revisit the desire to order a new lamp and a few days later it doesn’t seem quite as appealing, I have lamps, I like them, I do not need more (this is a terrible example as moving to a larger place suggests we may well need to purchase another lamp or two but I digress).

How much does that new magazine rack cost to make? How much to ship? What is it made from? How is it packaged? Does it come from a sustainable source? Is mass produced by a machine?

These are the questions I hope I will ask. I’ve slowly been phasing out the flat packed in favour of the hand-made (and antique), choosing to spend more for sustainable quality, and this in itself becomes an incentive to pause and consider each purchase. Yet I know I will not succeed, not fully, I know I will falter, but I will try. After all, there is a future to think of, and between us, I hope we hold each other as accountable as we can be.

I was packing over the weekend and came across a series of books, professional books bought for a previous role that I wasn’t able to fulfil due to being made redundant. I added them to the charity shop pile with a smile, a different life back then, 4 short years ago, and I realised that I have moved on too. I am not the same man I was back then, I have worked hard and slowly managed to declutter many things, leaving myself happier and more content than ever before. I have fewer possessions, and far more room in my heart for what the future holds.

And all of it has been considered and deliberate, and all those choices add up to where I am today, and where I will be in my future as I settle in to a new home.

bookmark_borderPublic House by Nico

I’m a massive fan of his concept restaurant Six by Nico, not to mention his first ‘main’ restaurant 111, so I was keen to head along to 333 Great Western Road to see what his take on a Gastropub would be like, aptly named Public House.

On entering it definitely looks and feels like a pub, although given all the tables are set up for dining it is a bit of a misnomer perhaps? Regardless, it has a nice cosy and relaxed vibe which I really liked.

The dinner options are all small plate, with a (smaller) vegetarian menu available, and you are advised to pick three options with maybe some chips on the side. They have a breakfast menu and a Sunday Roast dinner too which we will be back to try sometime.

From the small plate menu I opted for Crispy Pigs Head with Piccalilli and Watercress Pureee, the Cod with Crushed Parsnip, Smoked Bacon and Brown Sauce, and the Ox Cheek Pie with Bone Marrow. My partner plumped for the Chestnut Gnocchi with Sprout Tops and Sage, a Salt Baked Celeriac with Crowdie and a Truffle Jus, and Beer Battered Cauliflower with a Tartare Sauce and Mushy Peas. We added Triple Cooked Chips and Aioli to share.

The dishes are brought out when they are ready and on the whole they were all pretty good. The stand out for me was the Ox Cheek Pie (even though it’s not actually a pie) which had succulent beef in a rich gravy, and a wonderfully salty pastry topper. The Cod was well cooked although nothing remarkable, and the Crispy Pigs head was essentially a ham and potato croquette, well presented and tasty but the name promised more than the plate offered.

Similarly the vegetarian plates were all well considered and cooked, and the few bites I did manage to try were very tasty. There were certainly very few complaints from the other side of the table!

Alas the triple cooked chips let us down which for something so simple was a bit surprising. In my head, triple cooked chips are crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside. Instead we were offered slightly greasy and wet chips which suggest the wrong potato was used? I love a good waxy potato but boiled and with butter, not fried as chips.

We finished with desserts, treacle tart with apple ice cream for me, chocolate torte with praline ice cream for my partner. Both were delicious and, thankfully, not ‘small plate’ sized!

On reflection then a good meal of well cooked food (those chips aside), in a nice relaxed atmosphere, with friendly and efficient staff, what’s not to like? The only other minor niggle is not one specific to this restaurant but getting a bill for two for £85, £30 of which is for a bottle of wine, leaves a little bit of a sour note; why is wine so expensive in restaurants? There are cheaper bottles on the wine list, but even the cheapest was £21 which is about the same price as a meal for one.

That aside, I’d happily eat there again, and I know I have some friends keen to try it out too. I may not necessarily rush back but it’s good to have another eatery in Glasgow which, I hope, will become a dependable favourite.

bookmark_borderHappy 3rd Birthday

Well look at you, three years old already! You really are growing up far too fast, before long you’ll be a sulky teenager!

What a joy it’s been, spending time with you at this age. For the most part you are all smiles and giggles and mischief with the occasional tantrum thrown in, they don’t call it the terrible twos for nothing, but that’s all part of you discovering your personality, and what an inquisitive, cheeky little thing you are already and, according to the reports from your nursery, you are a smart cookie too.

We started the year with all that snow, which not only took me back to my own childhood, but seeing how you marvelled at the way the world changed was wonderful, I hope that sense of joy of such a simple trick of nature remains, and I’ll do my best to nurture that as you grow.

Visiting you on those glorious hot summer months last year was an utter joy. Your shouts of “Unki Gee” filled my heart with more joy than I have words to express, and your continuing curiosity was a pleasure to feed; a tiny moment that sticks in my mind, rather than just telling you the BBQ was too hot, you let me help you explore it so you understood. You crouched down next to me, and carefully copied me, your tiny hand outstretched to feel the heat and how ‘burny’ it was and, from then on, you were aware and careful whenever you were near it. It made me realise just how much new information you are absorbing every moment of every day, how much you still have to learn. You are amazing.

Your vocabulary has come on leaps and bounds and with it your personality is starting to show (although I do still need to teach you just how much the word ‘jobby’ annoys your Grandma…). I can see both of your parents influences coming through as well and as you start to understand your place in the world, as small as your world currently is, it’s been wonderful to see you grow into such a curious and funny little person. And OH MY GOODNESS when you are cheeky, and far far too cute and adorable. Now, I like to pretend that you haven’t figured out that Unki Gee will pretty much do whatever you want to make you happy, but I think you’ve got me sussed already, those beautiful big eyes and that gorgeous smile will forever be my undoing (and when you read this as a teenager, please know that this likely still holds true, so please go easy on me!).

Christmas was fun this year, no not because of the Naughty Elf shenanigans, but seeing the joy in your face in the glow of Christmas lights and the excitement of all those new toys on Christmas Day made me fall a little bit more in love with you than before. Also, top prize for best ‘quizzical face of the year’ was when your Daddy suggested the Naughty Elf had trailed loo roll down the stairs… you turned to look at him with that little furrowed brow and exclaimed “Daddy, do it?!”, no flies on you!

You’ve also shown how caring and kind you are already, watching you help Grandma when she can’t lift something, taking care to lift things you might spill with two hands, offering Grandpa a teddy when he was going to snooze… no-one prompted you to do those things, it’s just part of who you are. I hope that continues as we need more love in this world, but don’t worry, there is plenty of time ahead of you to figure that stuff out.

One thing is for sure, no matter how hard it is, how many temper tantrums you throw, it’s clear that Mummy and Daddy love you very much, as evidenced by the care and nurture they give you, and that’s before we get to the grandparents that dote on you and spoil you rotten. As for me? Well I’ll always be your Unki Gee and no matter what happens I’ll be there for you if you need me.

2019 will be a big year for the family; a new Aunt to get to know, and so many more new experiences to absorb, ohhh and let’s not forget your Mummy and Daddy getting all dressed up and saying “I do” to each other. What a year it’s going to be and I know, through it all, that my beautiful niece will continue to make me smile and laugh.

As always, love and hugs and high fives,

Uncle G

bookmark_borderHello 2019

I’m not a fan of New Year resolutions. I’m more of a mind to do things as and when I want to do them, knowing that if I try and force a new habit, or a change to my life, based on an arbitrary date it’s more than likely to fail. This is based on previous experiments over many years, hey, I’m a slow learner.

Yes, it’s 2019, the Christmas tree is down and things are already progressing, funny how that happens. And, as time waits for no man, I’ve already been cracking on with 2019 stuff (what a revelation, I know).

  • I’ve some alerts set up on Rightmove and Zoopla to keep track of new properties that match our criteria.
  • I’ve been back at the gym and feel much better for it.
  • I’ve found some good ITB stretches which seem to be helping already.
  • I’ll be buying new hiking boots this weekend so I can break them in as I start to up the mileage in my legs.
  • I’ve finally upgraded my MacBook Air (2012) to a MacBook Air (2019).

There are also tentative plans to get away for a few days soon, a holiday in New York later in the year, my sisters wedding and as always plenty of gigs and events coming up to keep me busy.

It may still be very early but so far, 2019 has been pretty darn good!!

bookmark_borderSix by Nico: Childhood 2.0

What better way to greet the New Year than in the company of your closest friends, over a fine meal of delicious wares? Well how about if the meal was made to evoke childhood memories as well? Back to Six by Nico for our first visit of 2019 and they were revisiting a previous menu idea as well, welcome to Childhood.

  • CRISPY LASAGNE – Beef Ragu, Aged Parmesan, Crispy Lasagne
  • BEEF BURGER – Carpaccio, Ewes Cheese, Lettuce & Mustard Emulsion
  • FISH FINGER – Salmon Fish Finger, Pickled Cucumber, Horseradish & Watercress
  • POT NOODLE – Chicken Noodle, Toasted Corn, Chestnut Mushroom, Chicken Broth
  • DUCK, DUCK, GOOSE… – Roasted Breast, Leg Cannelloni, Spiced Butternut Squash, Crispy Queen Kale
  • CEREAL MILK – Cereal Milk Espuma, Crunchy Peanut Clusters, Honey Gelee, Roasted Apple

Out on a Friday night, and we indulged in the Apertif before the Snacks, and wow was I glad we did. Listed as Rhubarb & Custard G&T, it was a delicous Rhubarb gin topped with a white creamy foam espuma which made the entire glass taste like Creamola Foam! What a way to get the memories flowing.

Along with the apertif, the snacks appeared and instantly took me back to a rainy caravan in Morecambe at the Easter holidays. All due to the Fish Supper Croquette, which was a light little parcel of potato and fish with a salt and vinegar flavoured crumb, served with bread & butter, and THE best mushy peas I’ve ever had (no mint, heavy on the vinegar). With my tastebuds woken, and my synapses firing, I was glad when the first course arrived.

And then I picked up the tiny spoon, dipped in and from the first mouthful quickly realised that the Crispy Lasagne was one of those dishes that makes me wish you could just stop and ordered a bigger portion on its own (maybe an idea for the new Public House venture to adopt?). Rich and velvety parmesan sauce, with shards of crisped lasagne, sat on top of a perfectly seasoned, red wine ragu and beef that melted in the mouth. Silence descended on our table.

Next up was a deconstructed Beef Burger, a creamy beef carpaccio, smooth grated ewes cheese, chargrilled lettuce, dotted with tangy pickles, and a tangy emulsion… hang on, this is a Big Mac! Very clever and subtle, and definite level up on your standard childhood burger.

Another staple of my childhood, the humble fish finger was delivered in the form of a perfectly cooked fillet of salmon, topped with puffed rice, with pickled fennel and dense avocado puree. Not quite childhood evoking but then you can’t really beat a fish finger sandwich, can you? Regardless, despite my loathing of fennel (I almost swapped this dish out for the veggie option) the quality of the food on the plate, and that perfect salmon fillet, meant I was happy to clear my plate.

Who doesn’t love a Pot Noodle, right? Well if they were all like this one, I’d be eating them a lot more regularly. Tender chicken ribbons, chunky chestnut mushroom, and charred corn, all sitting in a wonderfully rich dark salty broth. Yet again, another dish I would easily have eaten more of, with the broth the star.

I don’t recall playing Duck, Duck, Goose, but I know of it which was more than a couple of my companions. The duck I’ve had at Six by Nico has been surprisingly hit or miss, but not this time. Some perfectly pink sous vide duck breast, served with a dark jus, a light and delicate parsley root puree, and alongside a duck leg cannelloni which was crammed full of tender meat and delicious flavour. If anything, this dish just made it harder to choose a favourite from this menu, cooked perfectly, each flavoured complimented the next, heaven!

And then it was time for dessert. I’ll admit, when I read Cereal Milk Espuma I was a little skeptical but I should’ve known better. A thick golden espuma/pannacotta that tasted exactly like the milk does at the end of a bowl of crunchy nut cornflakes, topped with sticky peanut clusters, a honey gelee, and a dollop of lightly roasted apple puree and chunks. OH MY DAYS. Now, I know I couldn’t (shouldn’t?) eat this type of thing for breakfast every day but if there was a way I’d definitely do it! Absolutely deliciously delightful.

What a cracker of a meal! Each item had a little something extra to sparkle the memory, and if some of these don’t make the ‘best of 2019 menu’ then we are in for one hell of a year of excellent food at Six by Nico. I think the Crispy Lasagne and Cereal Milk have to be strong contenders…

As I’ve said before, food of this quality, served by knowledgeable, efficient and friendly staff, at £28 for six courses – plus £5 for an apertif and £5 for snacks (between two) – and I think Six by Nico must be the best value for money in Glasgow. If you haven’t yet been, and are swithering because the menu is ‘set’, know that you can swap every dish for a veggie alternative, and they can omit items if you ask. Hey, it’s a new year, give it a shot!!