I've almost always been disappointed with bought flapjacks, or flapjacks made by other people – because I have a very particular vision in my mind of how the perfect flapjack should be, which is apparently different to everyone else's. To me, perfection is golden, sweet, initially slightly brittle yet yielding to become jaw-achingly chewy. The overriding flavour should be oats and golden syrup. Putting flour in a flapjack is anathema of course – this is a chewy, oaty treat, not a soft cake!

So I set out to create the perfect flapjack by starting with a basic recipe and modifying till I found nirvana in a baking tin. My first effort was just a straightforward attempt to act as a benchmark, using the following straightforward approach, modified from several I found across the internet:

  • 125g Whole rolled jumbo oats
  • 125g Oatmeal (because all whole oats is apparently a bit much)
  • 150g butter
  • 75g Golden syrup (the single most important ingredient – Tate & Lyle of course)
  • 75g caster sugar (I used golden caster sugar)

Melt the butter, syrup and sugar together in a pan, add everything else, stir together than put into a 20*20cm tin lined with baking parchment. Put in oven at 175c for 20mins or so, but if you're oven's anything like mine you really need to keep an eye on it!

Here are the before and after going in the oven shots:

Looked pretty good and tasted OK, with decent chewy texture, but not the flavour I was after – just not enough golden syrupyness coming through.
So I tried again, this time using much more syrup and much less butter (they were a bit greasy first time). I also threw in a handful of sultanas to add moist chewiness and flavour. After only 15 minutes it was 'done' and came out looking like this:
It took some serious effort to cut it into those few pieces, but I gave up after that. Those black blobs are the sultanas, embedded within the concrete that was the 'improved' flapjack. Honestly you could have made houses with this stuff. I think I know what the butter's for now! The experiment will continue…

Just 48 hours ago I had a bilateral inguinal hernia repair, by way of open surgery (rather than laparoscopic 'keyhole' surgery). Which is to say I was sliced open twice, either side of my lower abdomen, just above the groin. Plastic meshes were inserted to patch up the problem and stop it happening again. This is very routine surgery, but it was still rather traumatic and the recovery has not been a breeze. Still, I made it home within 24 hours and am getting slowly better now, though I'm still very inflexible and pained. I don't know what I'd have done without my wife to help me!

I expect to be off work for another week, and maybe getting back to playing football within a couple of months. We'll see.

If anyone has any specific questions about the routine, I'd be happy to answer them as I found it really useful to have lots of first-hand information before I went into it.

Spotted on the streets of Lisbon, Portugal.


No, the other Budweiser! The Czech one that makes good beers!

This dark variant of the much acclaimed Budvar apparently won Best Beer in the World or somesuch at a worldwide competion in 2007. I can just about believe it too, as it's a great example of decent lager, that puts the usual piss-water to shame. It's not even especially strong (sub 5%) but manages to push a great deal of flavour through to you, whilst not overdoing it. I've even seen it served on draught in pubs, often in a fancy heavy tankard. I thoroughly recommend it.


This amusing dandelion was growing out of the stone wall of the inside of the ruined Corfe Castle in Dorset. A fantastic place with a great steam train ride to Swanage from an old school station. It was a very grey and miserable day, but great fun.


Now here's a beer and a half! A winter warmer of a brew, with burnt, roast flavours, but not too bitter. Almost like a good toffee as you roll it around your mouth. It's a long time since I'd last had this, and I was pleasantly surprised at how drinkable it is – not too over the top in the strong, dark flavours, but just right for a wet and windy autumn evening. I think I shall have to buy more!


The weather's been so foul recently that I thought a bit of cheery spring was called for.


Another picture from the delightful gardens of Sanssouci near Potsdam in Germany. This is the bubbling spurt of a small fountain, up close.

Britain loses, which is why I'd rather take the stairs.


In this country all lifts are programmed to sap the living souls of their occupants. You get into the lift and then wait an eternity, jabbing at the buttons in the forlorn hope that they might be connected to something. Eventually it realises it's a lift rather than a walk-in wardrobe and shuts the doors. Your captor now waits a while, pondering the endless infinity of space. Some time later, maybe a week, maybe a month, the slow voyage begins. I hope you brought a packed lunch, we're going three floors here! Just us your pension matures you arrive a few tens of feet higher than you started when you were a sprightly young thing. But let us rest a while, there's no hurry! Why open the doors immediately when there are so many fun things to do in the lift? The grim reaper circles as the sands of time run out and finally the lift lets you go back out into the world. Then it sits there with its mouth open, like the 'special' kid at school, if only you could remember that far back.

The Rest of the World

Press button in lobby – the doors open a fraction of a second before you thought you touched the button. Step inside and the doors close, patting you on the bottom as you enter. In the time it takes you to turn around, you've arrived at your destination floor, simply by thinking about where you want it to take you. The doors open whilst the lift is still moving and your foot hits the carpet outside at the exact same moment that the lift stops. Your face creases into a grimace as you think back to Blighty and wonder why Messrs Otis and Schindler send us the factory seconds.

But seriously, why are lifts in the UK so utterly terrible?

I'm a big fan of Tim Moore's books, and the "do some wacky stuff then write about it in an amusing way" genre as a whole. That said, his previous effort Nul Points, about the history and characters of the Eurovision Song Contest left me cold – in fact I never even finished it. So I was a little nervous about this very latest tome, which has a similar historical bent, rather than a completely asinine caper at its core  (like pilgramiging through Spain with a donkey – quite an ass-inine caper). I needn't have worried.

The world of living history (historical re-enactment is perhaps a more meaningful term to most) turns out to be a rich seam ripe for comedy mining. Certainly more so than going to visit a Norwegian who once sang on tele. Fighting as part of a Roman garrison against the Gauls, living the life of a Tudor chamberlain and a succession of other historical roles present a cavalcade of hilarity, mostly sourced from the usually very committed people involved and his own struggles to fit in and be authentic. There are some truly laugh out loud moments and the book is fairly un-put-downable.

Will you learn a great deal about history by reading this book? Probably not, but you'll learn a lot about historical re-enactment. I was really surprised by some of it, especially the authenticity of the violence! Tim was too, clearly.

Final verdict: A cracking example of the genre and highly recommended. I hope the next one is as good.

Here are my favourite other books of his: