Sunday, April 27, 2008

Burning the toast

Thinking about burning things (see my last post) takes me straight
back to childhood and my teens, when my father went through the
ritual of burning his toast most mornings, followed by the usual
scraping sounds, as he etched off the burnt bits with his bread

This was often accompanied by a few choice swear words, just as the
smoke started pouring out of the top of the grill / toaster.

It’s not as if he wasn’t intelligent. He was one of these kids who
was good at everything at school, went on to university (with the
help of a state scholarship, as did my mum), and then into teaching,
university lecturing, and eventually he got a chair in education.
He was very widely read and accumulated a vast number of books.

But coming back to the burnt toast, he often went round to see his
best friend, who went to the same school & who were at the same
university together. One evening at one of their rooms, my dad
burnt some of the toast they were sharing.

K. (his friend) picked up a burnt piece of toast, to put some butter
& jam on it.
T. (my dad) said, “Oh don’t eat that piece, I’ll have it.”
K.: “Oh, it’s alright, I’ll eat it.”
T.: "No, no. Give it to me.”

Whereupon K. said, “Well, you can go and burn another piece of toast

Mrs C reminded me about this story yesterday ... it was one of her
family's favourites.

K. was her dad.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How would you like your vegetables, Madam?

Al dente?

I had one of those senior moments yesterday ... one of Mrs C's
friends said they were called CRAFT moments (when you can't
remember a f.....g thing). I'd put some lightly oiled potatoes &
other veg (& whole garlic & fresh rosemary) in a hot oven to
roast for about an hour, for last night’s meal.

I was sitting nearby, trying unsuccessfully to upload a photo
onto this Blogger site, when I noticed a strong burning smell and
a slight cloud of smoke coming from the top of the oven. This was
about 20 minutes after I'd put the veg in.

It was then I realised that I had turned the grill on, instead of
the oven (same knob but different settings on it for the grill &
oven). So the veg had a good char-grilling. After I'd managed to
disperse the smoke and smell, I put the veg back in the oven again
to cook properly at a lower temperature.

As you see the results were very well cooked (reminiscent of one
of Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares), and not visually appealing.
I was trimming off some of the burnt bits, when Mrs C arrived home.
"Ooo.. I like the burnt bits", she said much to my surprise ...
"Don't cut any more off, please!". Well, you'd think that after 30
plus years of marriage to Mrs C, I might have gleaned that bit of
information before.

Anyway, the food was delicious, (accompanied by mountains of green
veg and a mound of cottage cheese). I might be in line for a Michelin
star, methinks, if I carry on turning out food like this (and pigs
might fly too).

Same again tonight, without the charred effect, as we've got still
got loads of cottage cheese to eat up. Yum.

It's St. George's Day today ... you know George, patron saint of
Asda/Wallmart, as he's now best known for. This morning, I came
in at the tail end of a radio news item about Gordon Brown and
his colleagues thinking about instilling more patriotism into us
Britons and immigrants in particular, prompted by thoughts of
St George and his exploits. (Please correct me if I've got that
news story wrong, as I can't be arsed to check it out).

St George and the Dragon ... a medieval legend as you'll know.
Is this the George we're supposed to be celebrating? How come
today's not a public holiday, if it's so important in Britain's
image here and abroad? Having read a bit about St George's Day,
it was celebrated with great feasting in the Middle Ages, just
like the partying we all have at Christmas.

I reckon a better English figure to celebrate would be King Alfred.

From reading Wikipedia yet again, I see that he does have a
day in the calendar all to himself, a feast day on 26 October
(I didn't know that before). All I remembered was that he was
an Anglo-Saxon warrior king and a brilliant law maker.
I imagine he'd be "turning in his grave" if he knew about
present day imports of Danish bacon and Lurpak butter.

Oh yes, he's also well remembered for burning some cakes,
allegedly -- I gather he had greater things on his mind at
the time, and that later, he apologised to the woman who'd
put them on the fire to cook.

Perhaps burning food is a "man" thing?
(A ploy to get away with not cooking anything?)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Nerds Anonymous in Newark?

We said goodbye to our daughter Ludar and Mini last weekend, after
looking after them for 3 weeks. L. has made a brilliant recovery from
her gallbladder op (she had keyhole surgery, and only required pain-
killers for 2-3 days post-op ... amazingly).

We're sad to see them go, but having them here certainly "cramped my
style" ... I was spending a lot of time entertaining Mini, and doing
a lot of the extra shopping, cooking, washing up, etc..

Our house does feel very quiet and empty without them ... but on the
plus side, I can revert to my usual habits ... tinkering around on this
computer and getting out a bit more (without feeling guilty about
leaving L on her own).

I spent most of today in the Newark area (which is not far from Lincoln)
on a U3A study day .... mainly about choosing, setting up and using
audio-visual equipment, plus ideas about raising money to pay for the
kit (such as applying to the National Lottery, which donates money to
good causes). It was great to meet up with a lot of like-minded folk,
who were not as socially inept as I thought they might be ... they
were all were very friendly and chatty.

Tomorrow, I'm planning to spend 2-3 hours in the local libraries,
gathering material for my talk next week on Family History. I won't bore
you with any more detail about that. And then a trip to either Sainsbury's
or Tesco's to buy some more veg for us. Iam's cat food (chicken flavour)
has been heavily discounted at Sainsbury's, so I might go and stockpile
some more.... the stuff has got a long shelf life.

Tonight Mrs C and I put together a very nice omelette with chopped onion,
green pepper, mushrooms and garlic, served up with the usual mountain of
veg. Tomorrow's fare will be even simpler -- baked potatoes (with a light
coating of sunflower oil, salt & pepper) with low fat cottage cheese,
plus the usual mountain of veg. I'm starting to feel hungry already.
I often think that simple meals are sometimes the best ... in terms of
flavour and satisfaction ... you needn't fart around in the kitchen all
day making elaborate sauces and the like. Do you agree?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Troughing it

I had a few foody treats today … for anyone trying to lose weight, or
trying to lower their cholesterol levels, please stop reading this now.

To celebrate one of our family members’ birthdays today, we started off
with a cooked breakfast … a poached egg on 1-2 Birds Eye waffles, plus
some lean organic bacon - - not that I usually eat meat, but if anyone
is cooking some bacon, I will eat it.

The delicious smell of frying / grilling bacon takes me straight back
in time to my mum cooking it when we went away on holiday to the
Yorkshire moorlands … she would do a fry-up of fresh farm eggs,
mushrooms, bacon and fried bread over a paraffin stove / heater, that
we took with us on holiday … a bit like a camp-side breakfast, but
these breakfasts were indoors in very primitive accommodation.

Later on today, we had a light snack of oatcakes with a generous
topping of smoked trout, mashed up with fromage frais and a little
lemon juice. Amazingly tasty.

This snack was to keep us going up to a mid-afternoon visit to
Nottingham’s Pizza Express on King Street. We hadn’t been there for
years, and I was surprised how spacious and well lit it was inside,
and how well staffed it was. Our party included Mrs C and myself,
two of our daughters and our two granddaughters … most of our time
and conversation was centred on these two little tots.

Anyway, to return to the food, I had my favourite Pizza Express
pizza which is the Fiorentina … this was the best one I’ve had
the pleasure of eating … a gorgeous garlicky tomato sauce on a
brilliantly baked thin pizza base, generous amounts of spinach
on top, and a beautifully cooked egg in the centre of it.


I had a similar pizza just over a week ago in Wimbledon, which
was dismal in comparison: an undercooked base, minimal spinach
and a hard rubbery egg on the top … not so nice, but I managed to
eat it all, nevertheless.

Today, we shared a bottle of a medium priced Sicilian Shiraz
wine, which was excellent too. The best bottle of red wine I’ve
tasted in a restaurant at the price. I’ve often felt we’ve been
overcharged in the past at many restaurants, for a bottle of
inferior red wine, which could have been used as a
paint-stripper instead.

When we got back home at about 5pm, Mrs C put the finishing
touches to a fabulous chocolate cake … Gordon Ramsay’s Gooey
chocolate cake
. She used less cream + crème fraiche filling than
GR recommends, and less dark chocolate on the top. But the
overall texture and taste was out of this world … far less
sweet and less sickly than a lot of chocolate cake recipes
I think. The grated lime rind gave it a slightly offbeat
flavour too.

After watching an episode of the brilliant crime drama, Waking
The Dead,
this evening, I have to admit that I felt hungry
yet again, and scoffed two slices of home-made brown bread,
spread with Pure marge and Frank Cooper’s fine cut marmalade.

I’m looking around now, thinking about what next I could
nibble. I’ve missed out on our usual huge quantities of veg
today, which would have filled me up.

And the strange thing is … I find it hard to put on any extra
weight. :)


I've just edited my blog roll, removing some inactive sites. If
anyone would like to be re-instated, please would they email me?
My email address is at the bottom of this page, in the footnotes.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A big thank you to you, my readers

Well, I see from my hit counter that I've just passed 5000 hits,
which is great news ... and which gives me some incentive to
carry on blogging. We've had family staying with us last week
and for yet another week, which means I'm twice as busy with
shopping, cooking and clearing up, as well as helping out with
with looking after one of our grandchildren, Little Mini ...
I'm starting out on a new career as a children's entertainer.
It's great fun really, but tiring at times.

This coming week, apart from all the above, I'll be gathering
material together for another one of my U3A talks all about
getting started with your family history. I gave one of these
talks about a year ago, but the computer group I'm with have
requested the same again.

Our local council library service has just allowed free access
to and to Find My Past as well ... two excellent
websites which some of you may be familiar with. The library
version of Ancestry is not the full version I've been told...
however I will be able to access the England & Wales 1901 Census,
which is expensive to access otherwise.

For example, my maternal grandfather was one of eleven children,
and I only know the names of three other siblings in his family.
I have yet to look them all up in the 1901 Census and earlier
censuses, and then possibly come forward in time to contact
present-day relatives.

So I think an interesting approach to the whole subject would be
to show people what they can access locally ... the Nottm. library
service, the county records office (Notts Archives), our Probate
Office (for copies of wills), The Latter Day Saints Church, and
the Notts Family History Society...

...and, in particular, what they can access online in the comfort
of their own homes. The internet is really amazing, don't you think?

Friday, April 11, 2008

the death of a laptop

Mrs C's laptop went into hospital recently, for tests and possible
repair. There it stayed for the best part of 6 weeks, waiting for
a transplant (a motherboard), but no suitable donor was found.

So a few days ago it was sent back to Doctor Gary, who suggested
we try elsewhere.

He phoned up a supplier and obtained a quote for a new motherboard
from the manufacturer ... £290, which with Gary's labour costs
and existing postal costs would have brought the bill up to about
£400. So we've decided to call it a day for this laptop ... Gary
will strip it down for spare parts ... good news that some of it
of it will be recycled, but bad news in that we've spent about
£700 on it (including repairs) over the 2-3 years we've had it.

My son-in-law had a similar problem with his laptop -- the
motherboard went caput, after 2-3 years' use.

As Gary told me: "You have to look at laptops as being disposable
items". In a way, I suppose cars, fridges, TV sets and washing
machines are disposable items, except that we hope to get at least
10 years' use out of them.

Postscript (14 April 08): I've just read an article from the IT
section of The Guardian, which might be of interest to you.

It was written by Kurt Jacobsen, and was all about the growth
of microscopic tin whiskers in new types of lead-free solder
used on circuit boards, leading to short-circuiting and computer

I wonder if the growth of tin whiskers was the cause of the early
demise of these two motherboards?

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Doggy-doos (& let the punishment fit the crime)

I felt inspired to write something about this, after reading an
excellent post on the subject by Scary Duck, a week ago.

Dog mess ... what can be done about it?

Several times a year I manage to put my foot in it, especially
when it's cunningly disguised by a generous covering of golden
brown autumn leaves. And, while you can scrape most of it off,
on a grassy verge or the edge of a pavement, the worst part is
having to gouge the muck out of the grooves in the sole of your
shoe... and then give the shoe a good scrub in warm soapy water.
While all this is going on, you're wobbling around on just one
leg with your other foot up in the air (trying not to get it wet).

And then there's the scenario, of sitting down to a meal without
realising there's dog poo on one of your shoes, until that
unmistakable shitty smell of dog poo wafts up your nose. Yuck!

(I apologise if you're eating while reading this at the moment).

The conscientious dog owner will pick up fresh dog turds on the
twice daily walk with his / her dog ... the thought of picking
up a cluster of warm dog turds with your hand inside a thin
polythene bag, revolts me. And even if you take a pooper-scooper
with you to shovel it up, what do you do with the pooper-scooper
afterwards? Put it inside a tatty old bag, for re-use later in
the day?

And what can we do with the irresponsible dog owner, who doesn't
clear up the doggy-doos afterwards ... or who allows the dog to
roam around the neighbourhood so it can crap anywhere it likes?

From time to time (usually around local election time), this becomes
a hot political issue ... often appearing in the election leaflets.

"The latest on our Nottingham City streets ... dog poo ... an
increasing menace!!"
"Man slips on a pile of dog excrement, and breaks his leg".
"Rid our streets of dog mess" ... "Vote for our Candidate"!

My parents had a dog during my teeenage years ... a black and white
mongrel called Nibs. My mum very quickly "house-trained" it, by
giving it a very good telling off, while forcibly rubbing its nose
in its own wee or poo. Having said that she often let Nibs run around
the nearby local council parkland, and let it wee and poo where it
liked ... we weren't so poo-aware in those days, I think (I'm talking
about the late 50s to early 60s).

So I'm coming round to suggesting a short sharp punishment for
offending dog owners ... rounding them up and taking them for
a good session of rubbing their noses in it, followed by a cold
face wash by having a bucket of cold water thrown over them.
Bars of soap and stiff brushes would be available for use ...
the old fashioned soap & brushes that were used for scrubbing
concrete floors and doors steps with, (you may know what I'm
referring to).

A short sharp shock should sort the buggers out.

As for possible infesation with Toxocara worms from the dog shit ...
I would say: "Tough titty".

(Oh dear ... I'm beginning to sound like an ultra right-wing member
of a certain political party ... next I'll be saying, "Bring back
hanging / birching / flogging / burning at the stake / off with the
goolies" :)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Photo of Indie Girl

Photo taken at home in London, yesterday.

She's the spitting image of her mum (when she was little).

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

We're in South London this week

Mrs C and I are in London this week helping out one of our
daughters, who’s just had keyhole surgery for gallstones.
She had the op last Friday, and is making a brilliant
recovery ... she managed a slow walk to the local shopping
centre, yesterday and today. Amazing.

She’s very young to have had this condition, though I've
had a few young patients with gallstones in my former
working life as a GP.

Having gallstones is usually associated with the four Fs ...
Female, in your Forties, Fat and Fertile. I’ve helped
produce Four daughters, but Fortunately I haven't got any
Forking gallstones, I'm pleased to say.

Anyway, we here for the week, so my blogging opportunies are
somewhat limited. We’re back in Nottingham at the weekend.
We're taking our daughter and Little Mini back with us, so
we can look after them a bit longer.

Talk to you soon.