Life, photos but not the universe

Proofread carefully to see if you any words out

Yes, good thinking Anon.  (WordPress quote for last night.)  As a rule, I’m more likely as a rule to have left some excess words in, as a rule.  Oops!  I’m getting that nonsense repetition effect.    Why is it pronounced rool, when obviously it should be pronounced rewly.    Or maybe rully.  Or perhaps hhrrrroollle.  (Sorry, been to the pub.  Getting carried away talking to a half Belgium friend and an English chef who was brought up in Holland, from whence came my Grandparents.  I got quite involved in a discussion of Dutch salted herrings, hoping that a chef brought up in Holland would know how to salt them*.  Oh well, he was disappointed too because I don’t actually speak any Dutch.

I get the that cut’n’paste effect a lot.  You know – it reads better if the sentence is cut in half and the order of the bits reversed.  So you leave odd words or letters in the wrong place and then try and move them and then somebody wants dinner so you forget to tidy it up.

Yesterday I rang Youngest to ask about a birthday present for youngest Youngest and she (Youngest) was busy doing eldest Youngest’s homework (not for her but in advance so she could help if required) and asked me to suggest a sentence in which ‘furthermore’ connected two parts of a sentence.  I went blank.  We tried out various sentences which didn’t quite seem to do the trick and then asked Barney who came up with an excellent example except that it was about ray flaws and O flaws on stamps – very esoteric and not really the sort of thing a twelve year old girl would use or even understand.  (I seem to have got over the rool illusion but I’m completely overturned by Youngest.  Yungest?  Jungest?**.  Obviously I  am still thinking in tongues.  See above.)

I think I’ll let grammar, spelling and proof-reading sink back into my subconscious where they belong.



So last week we had quite a lot of snow.  For Berkshire anyway.  Gradually the snow got wetter then froze a bit then melted and ran away and then on Saturday night suddenly there were two big flashes of lightning and two loud rumbles of thunder and then torrential stormy rain.   In the morning all was sunny and lightly breezy until about four o’clock and then there was a brief and impressive squall of wind and another torrent.   The top of the oak tree bent a bit.   By the time we went to the pub, there was a blue sky, a chill wind and a huge blue-black cloud simmering along the horizon.  When I came out of the pub, the moon was shining in a clear sky and by the time I was half way home the torrential rain was back.

It’s not Spring already is it?


Probably not.  A cross, cold sparrowhawk in the snow last week.

We’ve got a week on the boat coming up next month and had invited the Youngests to come with us but they can’t.  It may be a bit late now to get anyone else to come and I’m torn between girding my loins for a week of locking and the much-hated steering or frantically searching my address book for some fit and energetic and congenial people to come with us.  Who knows, by the middle of next month we might have snow and ice again which would make it even more picturesque than it is usually.  And cold outside of course, but I might dig my heels in about that.

Meanwhile, since it’s not actually raining now I think I shall go and look for floods.  All that snow must have gone somewhere.

*You can buy them ready salted and packed in oil but that’s so not how they are fresh and just out of the salt barrel and eaten with onions in a square in Amsterdam.

**Ok, that’s my youngest daughter and her younger step son and her older step daughter.  They have to be called Youngest and Eldest Youngest though because there is also her own daughter, Middle Youngest.  I may have to think of new aliases for my family.

January 28, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 13 Comments

Ramble. Rant.

I would really like to know how many badgers we have in the UK.   I haven’t seen a live badger for more than a year (in an area where we used to see one or two a month during the summer) and I find it hard to believe that there are too many.  Also I’m not at all convinced that culling them will stop the remaining few from carrying TB to cattle.  Also I am wondering why badgers are considered the main (or sole?) carriers – they’re basically large weasels (mustellidae) so don’t other weaselly creatures carry it too?  (Not to mention cattle with antibiotic resistance).  And if not, why not??

(I’ve been listening to the radio – I was about to start going on about food again but I got sidetracked).

Here are two reports about badger culling, googled at random, from the RSPCA and The Farmers’ Weekly.   (I like going to extremes)

I know that legislation against destruction of wildlife is generally ignored by those who believe they have an interest in such destruction so I knew that some sort of covert culling would have gone ahead even if it had been banned.  And in fact, the apparent change in our local badger population suggests to me that it has been going on here.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not sentimental about animals, though I rather like them, and I understand that people are anxious to avoid their cattle catching TB (though that’s nothing new and maybe it’s always been a bit optimistic to think we could simply eradicate its appearance just because we wanted to).  It’s just that I don’t believe we can successfully adjust the balance of some things by killing other things off, without careful forethought, carefully divorced from self interested (and inadequately informed) bias.  And (cynically perhaps) I don’t believe that’s been happening.  And I am, not at all sentimentally, attached to our habitat.  It’s where our grandchildren will have to live after we’ve gone and while I may not immediately be able to see why badgers could be valuable to our habitat, experience suggests that we may find that out later – too much later.

Sorry!  I have too much time on my hands and too much husband at home leaving the radio on.  Blame the snow.  I won’t go on to rant about whoever it is that’s organising vigilante groups to banish gay people from um, really? Asian areas in ? where??? London?  Birmingham?  Oh bother, I wasn’t listening until most of the important information had gone.  I’ll have to look it up.  But honestly!  What’s wrong with those people?  Oh and I’m certainly not going to rant about whether parents should or shouldn’t have access to their children’s interactions on-line.  Well maybe I will but not just now.  (For the record, I think parents should absolutely have access to their children’s face-book and texts and all the rest at least until they’re 5016.  And I totally agree with the person who said parents should learn how to use the internet so they can keep tabs.  Ignorance is no excuse.  And I’m speaking from bitter experience here.)

Goodness!  I’ll have to turn off the radio before I get completely overheated!  It’s in the kitchen.


For those of you who don’t love marmite, I’m so sure that anchovy paste will do just as well that I’m going to try it.  And I will defend to – um – the end of the week, your right to not like marmite.   But really – how can you not?  :)*

I inherited a taste for a thing called Maggi Seasoning from my parents and passed it on to my girls (but, oddly, not the Boy).  If you like it, it’s a wonderful thing that will make all ‘brown’ foods taste a lighter tastier ‘brown’ – sort of warm and a umami-ish.  Apparently if you don’t like it it’s not very nice.  Like Marmite then.

Speaking of umami**, I’ve tried two versions and I wasn’t impressed.  I haven’t tried Hester Blueberry’s version yet because it’s ridiculously expensive.  Also, I believe I have an idea that will do just as well.   I don’t suppose all of you will have encountered Dutch Appelstroop.  It’s a kind of sticky, thick, dark syrupy spread made of apples which have been cooked till they’re so concentrated it looks like not-quite-black treacle. It tastes of the rich, sticky bits in between burnt and only just cooked apple pie and it’s slightly sweet and slightly tart and completely gorgeous!  Well, I bet you could do something very similar with a fairly rich and gloopy stew/gravy.  If you cook a veg and meat stew long and slow enough, wouldn’t you get the same kind of dense, rich concentrated stuff at the bottom of your pan that you get when you’ve fried some meat?  That treacly stuff that you deglaze.  More than merely concentrated.  Anyway, I suspect that this would be something you could add (in teaspoonfuls)  to stews and gravies and soups and it might give them some um-ami-ph.  Sort of like home-made oxo.

Not getting any pithier am I.  Oh well.




A sunny morning before the snow.   I think this was the morning I got half way to my chosen place and realised, when I stopped to catch a stunning very early view, that I’d forgotten the camera.  But it was ok, the light went on being nice long enough for me to rush home and start again and I wasn’t the only who was caught out.

*I ought to add that I never add marmite or maggi before cooking (except in cheese and marmite rolls obviously).  I wouldn’t  inflict either of them on the unconverted.  Unlike a certain D list TV chef who was hoping for a Michelin star.  When the inspector asked what a huge jar of marmite was doing in his kitchen, he said some of the staff liked it in their sandwiches.  Cordon Brun!

**’They say it’s the fifth taste – after salt, sweet, sour and bitter.  Apparently that stuff that used to give businessmen palpitations in Singapore – Oh yes, Monosodium Glutamate – is an umami flavour.

January 27, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Frozen and rolled up with marmite

It’s a frozen waste here.  Last night there was moonlight shining on the snowy fields.   The roads have been fairly clear till now but this morning the drive is icy and I haven’t seen any cars go past.  And it’s rubbish collecting day!  I suspect we won’t see them – we didn’t get any post from Friday till yesterday and then we got a big bundle.  I suppose they didn’t do the wilder bits of their rounds, though our road isn’t particularly wild.  A lot of the traffic from Reading comes through as they can avoid the choke points of Thatcham and Newbury on the A4 and they’ve beaten the snow off the road with their big 4×4 tyres and their huge exhausts.

Barney’s truck is a four wheel drive which is entirely appropriate for driving in and out of muddy fields and up rutted tracks to thatched cottages in obscure villages on the Downs.  So you’d think he’d be out and about on the snowy roads but in fact the truck is very light which is good on mud but not at all good on ice and snow.   We took my car down for an MOT yesterday (it passed! Yay!) and the mechanic jokingly said “Oh he’ll be alright with his great big 4×4” as Barney skidded gently into place next to my car.

Well I shall have to go out – it’s GB minding day tomorrow and we’ll need some food for Barney to cook.  He hasn’t been to work since it started snowing – more joking from the mechanic but there really isn’t a lot you can do to a snow-covered, frozen roof.  Thatch is the best insulator.  The snow and ice stay up there for days after all the tiled roofs are melting.  Anyway since he can’t go to work he wants to do lots of cooking instead.  No complaints from me!

The other day when I went out on foot, I kept hearing heavy machinery somewhere along the road, just out of sight and saw coloured lights flashing through the bare trees and thought hopefully, gritting?  Salting even?  Wow!  How impressive.


But no.  It was the hedge trimmer.  Well certainly we don’t want the hedges overgrowing the roads as well as the ice and snow and no post or rubbish vans.


Moving right along, I don’t mind a sensible amount of leftover but I get fed up with 3/8ths of a portion or 2/5ths of a pie – they’re never going to be the right amount)  So some time ago I invented the following .*

How to make a nice snack which uses up leftover pastry and will get eaten almost immediately thus leaving no leftovers (except most of the pie as we’ll be too full to manage our carefully calculated portions)

Pre-heat the oven to about 190 ish – 200 ish, approximately.  (Not 220 like it says on the packet though because I have a note on my board which says 220 is too hot for puff pastry.  Who am I to argue with me?)

Make a very small chicken pie using a new packet of ready rolled puff pastry (my pastry is rubbish) and all the left over roast chicken except enough for His sandwiches.  Oh and the left over gravy.  (And some mushrooms quickly fried with a couple of rather old bits of smoked bacon)  Put it in a cool place for a while – start blogging before you forget what you’ve decided to do next.

Roll out the remaining pastry quite thin (probably – I haven’t put them in the oven yet and I’m not sure how thin I needed to make them) in a rectangle which will allow it to be rolled up along it’s long edge about four or five times.

Spread a very thin layer of marmite all over it.  (Yes that’s a joke. )  Ok, dab bits of marmite here and there and then try and spread them a bit without ripping the pastry to bits.

Have another glass of wine.  Oh and feed the cat!  She may have had lots of bits of chicken skin half an hour ago but that was just an appetiser.

Sprinkle the left over grated cheddar (or other leftover cheese) all over it.  There won’t be enough so grate a bit more straight on top of the pastry.  Oh, just lightly covered all over.

Roll the pastry along the long edge, five or six times.  Well, until it’s all rolled up.

Slice the roll of pastry into little rounds about 3/4 of an inch thick.

Put them, cut sides down, on a baking tray which has been lightly floured (or greased – I can’t remember which it should be but no doubt I’ll find out when they’re done).

Use the left over milk from brushing the top of the pie to brush the tops of the pastry rolls.  (Actually that’s really difficult.  I don’t think I can ever have done it before.  Don’t bother).

Put them in the oven for 10 minutes or so.  (I’m not sure about that but they’re done when they’re golden brown and puffed up and crispy-ish.  Getting on for 13 minutes now**).

Obviously they’e best when just out of the oven (cooling on a wire tray) and much too hot to eat but I think they just about stay edible till the next day.

Oh enough food.  More snow.

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*I’m fairly sure I did invent it – however it’s such an obvious use of the main ingredients that I can’t believe several thousand other people haven’t invented it too?  You?

**Um.  maybe 12 minutes at 200C?  I did 13 minutes at 190C and I think it was a little bit slow.  They’re nice even at the experimental stage but obviously what you want is little puffy golden rounds oozing with cheese and delicately blackened with hot marmite.  

January 24, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Finkler Question

I don’t generally do politics, morals or other ‘big’ questions because I’m fairly ignorant or it’s my own business or I don’t want to upset people – Oh, or I don’t want people to think bad things about me even if I think they’re wrong.   But a few weeks ago we read the above book for our book group.  Generally, we didn’t like it much – I think I found it slightly funnier than the others did.  I think, basically, it was about being Jewish.  And the book stirred up a bafflement which I’ve had, oh, since I was a small Catholic child.

I’ve always had some confusion about anti-semetism – for instance, if it’s just racism, why does it have a special name?   Apparently, in the Papal States (pre-unification of Italy – 1870?) there were two kinds of anti-semetism – ‘bad’, which was to discriminate against them simply for their jewish descent, and ‘good’, which was to object to their supposed conspiracies to control banks, newspapers etc and to care too much about money.  And it was in these Papal states that Jews were first confined to ghettoes.

Apart from the fact that there have been so many enormously talented Jews in the arts and business, what is so special about them, why, wherever they have lived, have people turned against them and in such an annihilating way?  Yes I know they have an exclusive lifestyle and set of religious rules.  Some exclusion of the rest of us ‘gentiles’* though not to the extent of refusing inter-marriage.  So which culture hasn’t?  It doesn’t help me, personally, to understand the whole ‘question’ that the two Jews I know fairly well are a musician (child prodigy on the piano) and an extremely successful civil servant (though not a head of department).  A bit typecast, both of them.

Well, the book itself was pretty low on plot and probably I missed some of its essentials because the main character was a bit of a waste of space.  A beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed gentile man with a passion for Jews and Jewishness. He was the most boringly self absorbed and overblown creature.  All the other characters were much more interesting and believable – except that they seemed to quite like him.  So about half-way in, I was moved to look up Jews because the book was addressing some of my perplexity about the special discrimination against their race – who have always seemed to me to be pretty likable and worthy – but in a way that seemed typically perplexing and also exasperatingly portentious while somehow not very illuminating.

Perhaps the extra problem Jews have had is that they have traditionally been minorities in more places than other minority groups and so practically every big country in the world has had a go at persecuting them? (Oh yes, we in the UK have done it too.  (C16, I think when we killed as many as we could and wouldn’t let them have any important jobs)

Curiously enough, the next book that I read was Ian Banks’ ‘Transition’, which posits a series of worlds in which the big urban threat comes from Christian Terrorists.  (No mention of Jews though).

And the last book I read was Nadine Gordimer’s ‘The Pickup’ which dealt very powerfully with oppression, illegal immigrancy and a sense of place together with a lack of it.  Was there a time when it was only Jews who were constantly forced to pack up and move to yet another country or have there always been groups of refugees travelling the world in hopes of finding a welcoming place to land.  Perhaps the problem for Jews was that they were too good at it.

As to my own views on immigration and persecution, when I was a very small child and overheard a conversation about tramps and other homeless people, I asked my Mum and Dad, why don’t we invite a tramp to live with us – isn’t that what Jesus would have wanted us to do – we’ve got lots of room after all.  The silence which stopped them both in their tracks was more telling than whatever rationalisation they offered as a reason for not inviting tramps into our home and I have never heard anything to counteract my immediate, complete understanding that the truth was that we ought to go out and invite the first tramp we could find to come and live with us.  Even Dad, a non-believer, didn’t dare to say anything against this truth.  (He was a believer in truth).  Safe enough though aren’t I, from my own knowledge – I’m never actually going to go out and look for homeless people to come and live with us.  And it’s a guilt I seem to be able to live with.  More fool me.  Oh oops!  I don’t mean to imply that Jews are tramps – just people to whom other people will not give a home. (I knew I shouldn’t have started this – too many minefields)

Well there you go.  I am no wiser than I was and will have to look further for enlightenment.  This is one of the reasons why I love reading – it makes me think!  And one of the reasons I love making pictures is that it lets me off the hook for a little while.

Oh look!  A chicken.

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Several chickens.  I think they thought I might give them breakfast.

And I’m now reading  Kind of Cruel by Sophie Hannah.  A brilliantly tight, baffling,  crime novel with some strong and completely not-like-me characters.  Time out.

*What a lovely word.  Indeed what a lot of lovely words they have.  Do you know, I’ve never heard people speaking Hebrew (Yiddish?) together**.  Oh, perhaps that’s because it’s mainly spoken as a liturgical language

**After looking at wikipedia, I  looked idly at a couple of  Hebrew language sites and was slightly taken aback when one of them produced a pop-up which said “one of our interpreters is waiting to answer your questions.  Please type in the box below”.  I felt that “why are you persecuted so much” was possibly more than could be answered in a chat box!

January 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

‘Sno water

The house looks like battlefield and the trail of destruction and disorder leads to the door of the music room wherein lies a tiny, sleeping person, freshly bathed and storied and “a little bit cold”  so swathed in several layers of blanket.  (I’ll have to go up later and removes some or she’ll be a stewed GB by the morning).  We are privileged, for the first time, to have fed and bedded her by ourselves and she was wonderfully helpful and accommodating.  She really is a nice little person.  Admittedly there was an excessive amount of discussion about her pizza toast (toast with tomato puree and toasted cheese – I recommend it, I had to pretend to share it and it’s very nice)  and we had to take turns discussing it with her but most of it got eaten.  And I’m afraid I didn’t know all the songs she likes to sing in the bath and I couldn’t get our TV to produce CBeebies at all (but that’s fine as it confirms my insistence that I can’t make TVs work).  There was a slightly unfortunate incident which involved Barney’s chair, not mine so I don’t mind about that – I had offered the potty several times but we got quite involved about the food discussions and there was forgetfulness (potty training is very recent and not completed yet).  So Mr and Mrs Middle have gone out to see Les Miserables at Newbury’s ridiculously capacious multiplex cinema and we are bathing in the warm, emotional glow emitted by the sleeping and apparently contented GB (well it is our first time and she might have suddenly decided that she wanted My Mummy or My Daddy).   It’s all exceedingly good.  And exhausting.  And now I’d better read my crib sheet and find out what I’ve forgotten (not the nappy – last week I forgot that when I put her down for her nap and the results were as might have been predicted – it’s a very recent thing this nappyless-ness when awake).  Oh and then I’d better clear up.  It’s quite amazing how much disorder a very small person can create in a couple of hours – I’d quite forgotten.

Actually I’d better go and have a listen.  Who knows, she might suddenly have realised that My Mummy and My Daddy (I so love that) are really not here and want to be comforted or something.  No.  All quiet on the upstairs front.

Oh and the water is off again (this has enhanced the battlefield effect and extended it into areas where the small person usually doesn’t go much).  I used to be quite blase about this happening every six months or so but recently it seems to be more frequent, March, June and December last year and twice already this year.  What sort of pump was it they put in a few months ago I wonder.  Not a good one obviously.  Up until now, it hasn’t taken long to get it working again but you can’t help wondering how quick and easy it will be to fix it in this weather!  the man in charge of keeping it in order, fortunately (for us) depends on it for his own water so not only does he know at once when it breaks down, he also has a vested interest in getting it going again.  But it is becoming a bit of a pain.  On the other hand, I hesitate to ring the poor man at this time of night in the snow and ask what’s happening.  Well we’ll see.


Yay!  The water’s back.  We’ve flushed the toilets and got the dishwasher going (of course the water stopped just after we’d eaten last night but before we’d washed up) and now I’m going to have a celebratory cup of coffee.  And the snow is still falling and the sun is, well, not exactly shining, more sort of glowing.  This morning I suddenly thought, of course, there’s loads of water just outside, in big heaps.  We could always use that to flush the toilets.  Barney pointed out that you’d need a lot of buckets of snow to get one of water.  Anyway, I’m quite glad that my plan, which involved two buckets, a shovel and a hairdryer, became unnecessary.

What’s really annoying is that though the roads are reasonably clear, all the places where I might park to stop and take photos, are thickly covered and almost certainly conceal pits and furrows of deep mud and car bottom breaking potholes – not to mention ice on which to get stuck.

But I can’t resist.  I’ve gone out and all the parking places looked highly suspicious (ice, mud, the steep banks on the edge of the River Pang, little snowy roads leading up steep hills to places where there will be no turning round – bother!) so I settled on Yattendon Church and parked in the middle of the village.  I found a footpath which I hadn’t explored before so that was good.  And then I returned to the car and found that it didn’t at all want to back out of its space.  Some poking around the wheels with my walking stick and the offer of help from a passing couple fixed that and I didn’t even need a push.

So here be snow.





(I did consider following Rog’s example but there’s too much traffic around here!  And the iphone was buried under three layers of wool and waterproof – very useful if I’d really got stuck.)

Oops!  I’d better go to bed – car wants an MOT tomorrow and they might need it early.  Soft white blankets come to mind.  Sleep well.

January 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Taking flight

Right.  For better or worse, it’s done.

I have booked a holiday, entirely on the internet.  We had booked one last year but Barney broke his achilles tendon the day after it was done and anyway, on that occasion, I chickened out and used some kind of holiday apartment company to whom I was able to speak- you know, with words on a phone to a real live person.  So this time, in fear and trepidation, I looked up flights and hotels and triplist and kayak and reviews and ratings and all sorts.  Very little of it made any sense to me so eventually, we both peered at a screen and pointed at prices,dates, times and baggage allowances, squawked in outrage at some of these as their precise meanings bloomed in our unaccustomed minds and generally behaved like our parents did when first confronted with a real live computer (and the rising prices of rice in China).   It was almost as scary as in the days back when, talking to someone with an impenetrable accent and not being absolutely sure that we really had booked a room in some far away foreign country (France?) or a quarantine for our dog.

After a bit we shook off the Monty Python mode and did it.  Well, I did it.  Next, I suppose we’ll try and find out something about the flights and the hotel (it was recommended by a friend but it looks a bit multi-storey and concrete to me) to see if the descriptions we’ve read so far are like estate agents brochures – full of euphemisms only understood by the cogniscenti.   When we heard about the new Boeing 787*s being grounded I was relieved to recall that our flights are all on Croatia Airlines – almost certainly no new, experimental aircraft there.  Probably no new ones of any kind.  Well as long as they have two wings and a pilot.  I’m certainly not intending to look up any airline safety comparison charts or airport records – I don’t want to know!  Better the devil you know (even if you don’t**) than the devil nobody knows.

We have flown a bit, over the years.  And by that, I mean a little bit.

The first time I experienced anxiety about flying was when we travelled with eighteen month old Eldest from Cologne to London.  On the flight out, Eldest and I had special seatbelts on a big, plush jet and it all seemed like a big drawing room in the sky.  On the way back, we were in a small, rusty jet with casual staff and grubby carpets.  No child seat belt of any kind.  Just me!  I suddenly became aware of the enormous danger to which I had submitted my baby and I’ve never taken a child on an aeroplane since.

Yes I know they’re safer than cars.  Sort of.  Statistically speaking.  But I don’t think statistically when I’m concerned about being unnaturally high above the ground clutching my one and only child and (having worked at the Transport and Road Research lab not long before) being only too aware that a mother’s arms are totally useless as a seatbelt.  Barney has an irrational fear of flying though to be honest I can’t see what’s irrational about it.  Technically speaking the thing ought to work, of course, but really it doesn’t make any kind of sense when you think about falling out of trees.  Anyway, I have the ability to go all fatalistic and blank on most occasions of danger (like driving on the A34 twice a week) and though it’s a pain being unable to control any of the variables that make the difference to the danger of being in a plane, I can sort of mostly ignore it and occasionally hold my breath a bit.  Barney doesn’t have this ability even though he has a much better head for heights than I have.  Weird isn’t it.  He’s sad that we will be in Dubrovnik before the cable car to the mountains is available and I am deeply relieved  (I have a completely rational fear of cable cars – they look flimsy and badly maintained and they are too high!)   Oddly enough, neither of us was at all scared of flying over the Valley of the Kings in a hot air balloon when we went to Egypt.  Although we were a trifle concerned when we nearly landed in Tanzania on a hot air balloon flight in Kenya.  You could tell that the pilot was feeling twitchy and we didn’t begrudge him first go at the champagne when we landed safely inside the border.

Back at home, it’s snowing!  Real snow, blanketing things heavily and still falling briskly.  I never really believe it’s going to do this until the morning when I wake up to that pale light and as a result, I’m now re-planning the weekend and some of next week – it’s forecast to go on for quite a while and already cars and vans are making heavy weather of the sloping lane outside our gate.  Somehow, I don’t think Mr Middle will have gone to Lincoln this morning and  I doubt if the Middles will be coming over for the weekend.  Also, if it does keep coming I can”t imagine that I’ll be prepared to trundle up the A34 next week with all those lorries and speed freaks hurtling up my backside.

On the other hand, it rarely lasts more than a few days around here so maybe by next week we’ll all be out there wondering what it was all about.

After all, on Tuesday it was like this


Now.  Where’s my camera’s raincoat and my waterproof legs?


A bit different today (Friday that was)

*I keep mistyping Boing.  Remind me to tell you about Boing some time

**Much better if you don’t.

January 19, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Of mountains and molehills

Two days of sun, even a bit of mist here and there.  I astounded Barney by getting up before him twice last week and going off with the camera (mind you, he’s always astounded to see me up early so I’ve taken to warning him the night before because I find the exclamations of amazement and disbelief slightly exasperating first thing in the morning).  I’ve also taken to planning a route the night before.  Some of my previous early morning excursions have ended up on the wrong side of a hill or view with the sun and the mist and all the picturesque stuff happening somewhere I can’t reach before it’s all evaporated.  You don’t have much time in the morning between the weird, bluish gloom before sunrise and the hard bright light when the sun is well up.

So on Monday, I went to Lockeridge which is a very pretty village in the middle of Oxfordshire.  From the top of the Ridgeway, Oxfordshire looks like series of a flat bottomed saucers with the Chilterns rising far away to the East and the Cotswolds to the North and  West.  (Actually I don’t think you can see quite as far as the Northern end of the Cotswolds as there’s a bit of  hill across the middle of the saucers).  And, from a hasty googling of hills in England I learn that there are very few high hills in the South, well actually none according to those who classify hills and mountains in the British Isles.

Speaking of classification, there are lists called Munros (And Munro Tops!), Murdos, Corbetts, Donalds, Grahams, Marilyns, Wainrights, Hewitts, Nuttalls, Deweys*, Clements, Yeaman’s, HuMP**s, THuMP**s and many other lists.  These are attempts to classify Hills and Mountains by height, either above sea level or in relation to the area around them.  After reading about some of these lists I conclude that (some) walkers are as OCD as the nerdiest of geeks but not brilliant at website maintenance since many of the web pages that sounded interesting refused to appear.  Neither do they seem to have good communication  since all the lists have slightly different criteria but that’s not altogether surprising as it seems to be all about walkers ‘bagging’ climbs.   Hill Bagging is a relatively simple site describing the different classifications and giving you the opportunity to make your own list of  hills and mountains you’ve bagged and to compare your results in the league tables.  I note that there are also Birketts – a selection of Lake district mountains.    (I was momentarily tempted to log my own climb of Catbells – suitable for Grannies according to Wainwright; speaking as a granny I found it barely managable – anyway, I couldn’t work out how to use the website in five minutes so I didn’t bother).  What makes it all so wonderfully and cosily British is that most of the rest of the world is barely aware that there are mountains of any description in the UK.   And all I wanted was a reminder of the name of the Chilterns!

Anyway, to go back to Lockeridge.  From the Ridgeway, you’d never guess that there several tiny, steep-sided valleys and hills*** down there and Lockeridge is in a little valley with a nice stone church and a private trout fishery decorating the valley where it opens out.  So it was a good find, though by the time I got there it wasn’t quite so early.  That was ok though because the sun was still hiding behind low cloud so I got a sort of second sunrise.




Re-reading my own account of the climb up Catbells, I suddenly wish I could acquire some sort of bionic ankle, knee and breath aids and go back and do it all again.  Cumbria is the most fabulously beautiful and bewitching place.  Actually, even without the aids, I’d be prepared to have a go – when we walked up a much smaller mountain hill, magnificently overlooking Windermere, there were a couple of ladies who looked, well, a lot older than us, assisting another who looked to be at least a hundred (but they turned out to be sixty and eighty) strolling around the peak in a very relaxed way.

Oh well.  Enough nostalgia.  But I have to say that Lockeridge looks a bit tame just now.  Tomorrow, the Downs.  (Um, the Berkshire ones –  very pretty.  No, that’s not fair .  They have their moments – it’s just that I had a sudden urge to go and find a mountain).  Time for dinner, definitely.

We’re having snake and pigmy pie and I fished out, of the freezer, all the leftover bits and pieces of S&K gravy and filling which were carefully put away at various times during the last couple of years.  Then I bought a bit more S&K since what we froze away was mostly gravy so it’ll be ever such a virtuous S&K pie.  And thinking about mountains has made me hungry so that’s good.

Eat well!

*Deweys?  I wonder if it’s the library man?  Oh, probably not – he doesn’t sound like a walker or a lover of British hills and mountains.

**Hundred Metre Prominences and let me guess, Two Hundred Metre Prominences.  No, THuMPs are one walker’s collection of lists of hills higher than one hundred feet.  O  –  K .

***The lowliest of THuMPs.  Or Marilyns.  

January 15, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Don’t believe everything you hear

Word Press is very helpful about letting you know when someone you might not approve is commenting – various highlighted icons and a balloon above the post with all the recent comments in it.  So I looked at one and was a bit surprised to see that ChristianBookBarn. com have ‘recommended’ my “article”  –  the previous post.   I looked at the post again and there really isn’t anything in it that would attract the attention of a seriously Christian site.  Is there?

Anyway, overhearing on the radio that tonight, Jessops (photography) has gone into administration and closed down its 187 high street shops, I began one of those chain reaction news searches.  So I learned Jessops really has gone and  that a 10 foot python hitched a ride on an aeroplane wing from Australia to Papua New Guinea but presumably regretted its attempt since it was DOA though, ironically  it held on till the landing.  This seems rather sad and you have to wonder what it was doing on the plane in the first place.

Then I learned that Oxytocin, a drug I vaguely remember having something to do with accelerating a sluggish childbirth is now being hailed as the new (but better) viagra, not only rejuvenating sexual performance for men but increasing affection, trust and cuddliness.  Sounds useful in view of the suspicious and alienated state of much of the world.

Then I found that that same world throws away half of the food that it produces – in London that amounts to 540 tonnes of food a month (I think; the article wasn’t completely explicit).  This is somewhere between tragic and outrageous but not really surprising.

And, it seems that driving to the music of Cold Play causes safer driving than, for example, hip hop as its rhythms mimic the heartbeat which, apparently is calming, not only to babies but also to drivers.  I must add that one study suggested that driving to classical music improves overall driving safety but is also associated with more erratic driving.  (?) I’m sure that sometimes I’m not an erratic driver.  Well it’s true that I drive a bit faster to a Vivaldi Allegro than to a Beethoven romance.  Indeed, when you compare, for instance Ravel’s Bolero* with Stravinski’s Rites of Spring, it would be at the very least puzzling, if there wasn’t a completely different effect.

Oh and it might snow next weekend.  (that’s now)  Well at this point, dinner was ready and I looked out at the mild, damp night and thought even if it was the Independant from whom I got all this ‘news’, I’ll need some convincing about the snow.**


Next post, in the interests of verbal (literal?  literary???) restraint, I will try and tell you anything I understood from the New Scientist which I bought last week***. (There was an article about coffee).

*I once played the viola part in a Quartet arrangement of it and I can assure you it’s deeply soothing.  Soporific even.  Stravinsky**, on the other hand was almost guaranteed to start a row among the children in the back of the car.

**Slightly amusing that spellcheck offerd Nijinsky as an alternative to Stravinsky.

***Ok ok, today it snowed for ten minutes. Any minute I expect to hear that the whole of Northumberland**** (is there still such a place?) is buried under six feet of snow.

***Sorry, I mean that I won’t tell you it now as that would make a  slightly longer post.  (Very slightly)

****I don’t think there is.  Going to look up British Counties.  Oh no!  (Or maybe Oh yes! ) There is such a place.  And so there should be.

January 12, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Ooh! Happy Anniversary?

???? Ah.  Wordpress tells me I’ve been blogging for five years (don’t tell them I was on Blogger for 3 years before that). Well, how time flies (always makes me think of bananas, that, which is fine.  I like thinking of Zig.)

Anyway, in order to work out how long I’ve been blogging I looked at my old blog and noticed that in those days I sometimes used quite good words.  Some were even quite long.  And that’s why I write such long posts now, I can never think of the word any more and have to use whole sentences instead.  I don’t know where all those words have gone that I used to have handy in my head but I miss them.  Sometimes I write ****** or ??????? where the word will go if and when I remember it and then later just fill in the sentence that really doesn’t replace it properly.   Cumbersome it is and exasperating.

Right.  I think maybe that was the thing I suddenly thought I’d say, in the small hours.  I mean I thought it in the small hours though by the time you get this it will probably be them too.

So anyway, now I haven’t got anything else to say.  Except that we took the decorations down and Mr Youngest’s Christmas present finally arrived.  And the replacement socks for Oldest Youngest Grandchild.  Outresting or what.  And the sun hasn’t come back after New Year’s Day and doesn’t look like doing so for a while so no new photos – here are some old ones I discovered when I looked through stuff I’d taken with the little camera.

Mrs and Little Middle having fun, Eldest wondering if he can still make tremendously loud music and Ziggi’s tiny cat, stalking a big pigeon, which she’s really not going to catch.

P1030621 P1030629-CS5 P1030634-CS5

Maybe I’m going a little bit stir crazy.  Never mind, back on GB duty tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it and the first book group of the year – we seem to have acquired two new members over the holidays so tomorrow we will have the huge number of six people attending.  The book was The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of a Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson.  (Interestingly long-winded title when the author’s name is so simple – and barely needs the christian name).  It was light and funny and absurd and no doubt contained a semi-serious message – something along the lines of  ‘nothing is as difficult as it looks if you pay attention and cut out the bullshit.  (Especially if you happen to be an explosives expert with a talent for languages)’.  I enjoyed it quite a lot.  Perhaps there are people for whom life is like that.  I don’t know any but it was a very relaxing read.  Actually I think the message was really ‘acquire a really useful skill when you are quite young and then go wherever it might be wanted’.   Or possibly ‘don’t worry, just blow something up’.  There was a good deal of  fortuitous meeting and grouping of people who shouldn’t have been able to get on but did.  One or two superfluous characters were disposed of summarily and accidentally but I couldn’t help being relieved that the hundred year old man wouldn’t have to deal with them any more.  There were some very funny moments and I’m sure it will be a very entertaining film.  Life’s really not like that but I couldn’t help feeling just a little beguiled even when people got blown up  (they were clearly baddies after all).  I think the funniest image, the one that stuck in my mind anyway, was of two old men pulling a trolley (railway type of trolley thing  – a sort of bogey) along the tracks with a corpse sitting up on it, leaning against a suitcase full of money.  Naturally, they pulled it past all kinds of witnesses who afterwards assumed that the corpse was only sleeping – something like that.

Oh yes!  I’ve had my two days of GB minding and it was very, very nice.  There are times when she gets a bit pissed off that I won’t produce ‘My Mummy’ (who, after all is only in the next room, working) and times when she is apparently inconsolable about something I won’t let her have or do but after a bit of hugging and rocking and patting she suddenly lifts up a pink and tear-stained face, and with a huge wet smile,puts her blanket on my head or thrusts a toy into my arms and then we have a story.

Oops!  I said I’d do a stamp page.  I am so kind.  See you later.



January 10, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

La Tartiflette

Several years ago, we went en famille, to stay in a chalet belonging to my worldly wise and successful Brother in Law, in St Gervaise, within view of Mont Blanc.  He loves skiing .  We just loved going to France and the Mountains and the snow.

While we were there, we attended a cultural event, involving a kind of Haute Savoie morris dancing, a visiting display of ballet from a school in Bulgaria and (included in the price) La Tartiflette, the traditional dish of the Haute Savoie.  While we were waiting for the main event, sipping from glasses of very nice local wine, we watched through the window as the chef and his lovely assistant (dressed in local traditional costume) circled a gigantic saute pan outside throwing in gargantuan quantities of potatoes, cheese, lardons, garlic and Reblochon – the local cheese which is like a half Camembert in size, shape and texture.  They stirred this mixture with spoons a yard long and every so often they poured in a bottle or five of the local wine.  And when I say gigantic, I mean about the size of our sitting room.  It was as big as a small swimming pool.  And the gargantuan bit – they were trotting round and round this thing , scooping up whole cheeses from a side table and throwing them in, for at least ten minutes.  It ended up as a kind of cheesy bacon and potato dish and very nice it was too.

During the week that we were there, we also went to the local restaurant and had their Haute version of tartiflette, which came on a sizzling dish and had a lot of cream in it.  And then on our last day, we found a lovely cheese shop where we bought some reblochon which had the recipe for tratiflette on the wrapping – in French, naturally.

See –


Over the years we have attempted to make the recipe at home, guessing at the bits we couldn’t understand and remembering what we’d seen (reblochon is available in supermarkets these days and camembert or brie make perfectly acceptable alternatives) and it’s only tonight that it occurred to me to use google translate and find out what it really says.

La Tartiflette
Proportion; 200-300g per person. Take: 1kg potatoes, boiled, fried or boiled, cut into small pieces. 1 Reblochon, 20cl creme fraiche, salt, pepper, garlic and bacon.
SEVERAL times alternating a layer of potatoes, a layer of Reblochon cheese slices, sprinkled with garlic, salt, pepper every time.
Put a hot oven (7-8) 25 to 30 minutes.   Pour the creme fraiche with  10 minutes at the end of cooking. Serve hot, accompanied possibly sausage smoke countries.

Anyway, we had it last night, using up leftover brie and bacon and it was very nice  though I haven’t been able to find the sausage smoke countries to accompany.  And tonight we’ll have chicken and leek pie.

The tale of a long, stormy life


and the last of the sun from the beginning of the year.



January 5, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 10 Comments