Wednesday 12 August 2020

Blowing hot and cold? No mostly hot and humid.

When we first moved to London central heating was not the norm. Our flat had electric radiators, which were hugely expensive to run.  We tried a paraffin heater which was cheap and effective, problem was our badly built 1960s apartment had very poor ventilation and it created condensation (and mould in the cupboards!)  I had no idea that it generated as much moisture as it burned paraffin.  We muddled along and envied our friends who were able to install storage radiators (drew electricity off-peak and generated warmth when required).

Back to Johannesburg in the 1970s where sun-filter curtains, tiled floors, air-bricks and many windows allowing cross draughts kept us cool.  Additionally in Johannesburg rain was almost guaranteed to fall every evening in a short thundery shower which cooled the air.  

Back to London and central heating making for toasty winter days and nights but when it gets hot it gets hot and humid and at the moment it isn’t cooling down much at night either.  Sales of domestic air-conditioning are soaring and I confess that I spent some of our cancelled holiday money on an installation in the bedroom; there is a limit to how long you can spend in the bedroom.   

I have never tried to fry an egg on the bonnet of a car but the temperature seems to be heading that way.  The lawns are yellow but I know from Johannesburg winters where the lawns died every year, one or two showers and they soon come back. 

This is the perfect hot weather dish and a family favourite.  I used to make the croutons but now they come in a packet! No cooking required and good use of tins.



Serves 8


2 large tins tomatoes                                2 cloves garlic

2 onions, sliced                                           1 tin/jar pimientos

2 green pepper, sliced                              1 cup soft white breadcrumbs

1 cucumber                                                  6 – 10 Tab olive oil

6 Tab wine vinegar                                     250 ml chicken stock

2 Tab tomato paste                                   salt, pepper, Tabasco and parsley

Additional raw tomatoes, peppers, red onion, cucumber – all chopped



This is a very approximate recipe and you need to adapt it to your own taste.  


Combine tomatoes, onion, pepper, pimiento, cucumber, bread/crumbs.  Season with salt, Tabasco and pepper and marinate in olive oil and vinegar for at least an hour.  Blend with stock and parsley.  Serve chilled with bowls of tomato, green pepper, red onion, cucumber and croutons. 


You can add a clove or two of garlic, mashed or garlic salt, I am not keen on raw garlic so I don’t.


Wednesday 5 August 2020

Don’t knock social media until you have tried it….


I have resorted to social media (either Facebook or Twitter in my case) when complaints have failed. It infuriates me how difficult some companies make it to return goods or get refunds (airlines? holiday companies? the list goes on.) Unfortunately for them I have time on my hands right now.  


The most recent incident happened last month.  I ordered some goods online from a chain of health food stores. I have ordered before and it has been fine. The order took a week to arrive (also fine) and was delivered by a courier agency.  We have got to know the driver very well over the last few months!!


I opened the box to find that some of the contents – almond flour, various nuts had been partially eaten and, by the teeth marks, clearly by rats.  Fortunately the courier was still here delivering to a neighbour and he showed me where the box had been resealed on the corner, presumably where it had been eaten into. He took the parcel back.


I contacted the online store (not easy to find email addresses etc) and heard back the following day to say that the box had not been returned.  I left it a couple of days and then emailed again. The saga began – I was repeatedly asked for the same information and after several days was told that it had been referred to head office.  Days passed and no response.


After two weeks I found their facebook page and posted on it. Within hours I had a response – asking for further information.  Sent it and then they asked for my email address via private message which I supplied.  I was then asked for the same information that I had sent several times.  At this point I lost my cool and posted the following:


“I am really fed up with supplying the same information over and over again and repeating the same answers. Read my Facebook entry and then ask your customer service department for all my emails. This has been going on for two weeks. I would have thought that something which was a serious public health hazard would have been made a priority.”


The money was returned to me within hours. 


However much anyone may justifiably criticise Amazon (and I wish they would pay their fair share of taxes or should I say that the government would legislate to ensure these companies do) their returns policy is exemplary as is Groupon’s.  John Lewis, which used to be excellent is no longer. 


Big shout out to my local butcher Graham's who has handled the crisis brilliantly, taking orders for delivery: adding picking up the order from outside the shop from a numbered cool box and now serving customers at the door as well.  Also the first shop in London to sell South African specialties including their own boerewors as well as biltong and many imported goodies.