Thursday, May 27, 2010

Another short break coming up

We're off to sunny Strasbourg at the weekend for a short break. We're
hitching a ride with the Leicester Symphony Orchestra, who are giving
two concerts out there (and also touring the area). It will also give
us a chance to meet up with one of my sisters who's living out there
(and to see her new apartment in the city centre).

When we get back, our entire family (our 4 daughters plus children) will
be visiting/staying with us, so it will be hellish we'll be extremely busy
chatting with them and feeding them all. So my next blog post will be
around 6 June, my dear readers.

A bientot.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Opera Italia

For those of you who can get BBC IPlayer, I invite you all to have a look
at this ....

Mrs C and I watched the first part of this BBC programme on IPlayer catch-up
last night. I think it's the best programme on opera I've ever seen ...
exciting, funny, gorgeous locations, and of course, fab music.

I think it's a definite must-see.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Nottingham Green Festival

Here are a few photos from our visit to Nottingham’s Green Festival
last Sunday. It was a gloriously hot sunny day … a bit too hot for me,
but then there was a gentle refreshing breeze ... it was lovely to
stand in the shade of the trees.

It was held at the Nottingham Arboretum, which is where Mrs C and I
go two or three times a week, for the scenery and for some exercise
… and for a bit of “us” time, as it gets us both away from the computer
and the TV.






I've put some more photos on my Flickr site (see link on the right hand side).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

BBC IPlayer and the like

Aren’t these services really amazing … allowing you to browse through a
week or so’s archives of TV and radio programmes, and watch them when
you like?

During the week, we caught up on TV series like “Lewis” and “Luther”,
and even managed to watch the latest episode of “Damages” on our Sony
laptop, with BBC IPlayer. Yesterday we listened to the radio comedy
“Count Arthur Strong”, which is one of our favourites, together with
“The News Quiz”.

So we’re using our video machine less and less … just using it to record
one or two programmes we can’t get on catch-up, such as “Flashforward”,
and the occasional late-night film. For example, last night I recorded
Michael Moore’s documentary: “Capitalism, a Love Story”, which was billed
to finish at 1.00am. As it happened I was up until then this morning,
doing stuff on my PC upstairs, but I would have slept through most of the
film, if I’d sat in front of the telly.

When we were on holiday in Sheringham in Norfolk, we stayed in a very roomy
terraced house, just a short walk from the sea. However the furnishings
were really dated, as if we we'd stepped back in time to the early 70s.
There was no radio, and the TVs (two of them) were really ancient … only
receiving 4 channels (no Channel 5). There was no DVD or video machine.

Some of the neighbouring houses had Sky satellite dishes, showing that
some people were watching digital TV, but I was quite shocked to realise
how used I was to having the luxury of digital TV and radio choice.

Oh, you poor thing, I can hear you say. :)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

bread & pizza recipes - a rough guide

I thought I'd give you our bread and pizza dough recipes again, for
any new readers to see ....

Our standard bread loaf recipe

1lb 2oz (about 500g) strong bread flour
… usually a mix of good quality strong wholemeal flour and strong
white flour (4oz / 120g)… the white flour added for better
texture & rise.

1 tsp / 5ml fast-acting dried yeast (half a sachet)
1 tsp / 5ml salt
1 tbsp / 15ml granulated sugar

360ml water
One generous glug of sunflower / olive oil

This is our Panasonic bread machine recipe, which produces a loaf in one
4 hour cycle. It's ages since we used the greased bread tins and the oven
to cook bread in, though we do use our Remoska for baking bread rolls from
time to time. The resulting bread, when sliced up, freezes well … so you
can easily defrost a few slices at a time.

For bread rolls, we’d use less water, say around 300ml, and divide the
dough into 8 (to make 8 bread rolls). Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 deg C
for 17–22 mins, until looking golden brown on top. The rolls freeze well,
and when defrosted in the microwave, are remarkably fresh.

For pizza dough, we use …

The above flour mix, same weight
1 sachet fast-acting dried yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

about 230ml water
2-3 generous glugs of sunflower / olive oil

We use the pizza dough setting on our breadmaker (45 mins mixing and rise),
& leave the dough to rise a little longer inside.

We use a bit less that half of the dough, to make one thin-crust pizza, and
make bread rolls out of the rest. We use only 1 tsp of sugar, so the bread
doesn’t rise as much, to make a thin crust.

Pizza toppings

Sliced mushroom, red / green pepper (not chilli), thinly sliced small onion
& one or two cloves of garlic, sometimes some slices of courgette, sweet
corn (we pre-cook a small amount of frozen sweet corn), grated mozzarella
cheese (which keeps in the freezer well), dry black olives with stones inside
them, and a small tin of anchovy fillets. We spread some tomato puree (out
of a tube) on the pizza base.

One problem with putting a lot of stuff on top of the pizza is that you
can end up with a very soggy, undercooked bread base. So we tend to
pre-cook (partially cook) most of the veg, except the sweet corn and
olives, in the microwave, & then drain off the resulting water, before
spreading the hot veg on top of the pizza.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 deg C for 17-22 mins, until everything
looks well done. Enjoy!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Back to usual cooking

Mrs C came back from her conference yesterday afternoon, so we're back to
our usual high veg diet. Yesterday I made a mountain of houmous, using Rose
Elliot's recipe in The Bean Book. I vary the recipe slightly from time to
time, just adding ingredients to taste, so the end result does vary a little.

I ate a fair amount before the evening meal on thin slices of brown bread
rolls (home-made, of course), and then a lot more with a large quantity of
roasted vegetables (potato wedges, sweet potato, carrot, red pepper and
onion chunks), and yet more veg: steamed cauli, brocolli and spinach.

Prior to all this, I had eaten half a tin of Heinz baked beans on toast at
lunchtime, so you can imagine that I was quite windy after eating all this. :)

Today, we had Linda McCartney veggie sausages, together with steamed thin
slices of potato and lots of steamed green veg and carrot. And at lunchtime,
we had leek & potato soup, with brown bread.

As regards the potato, I slice this up very thinly, and layer it up in the
steamer, with a little salt & pepper plus very thinly sliced garlic under
the top layer (I use one fat clove of garlic, for extra flavour).
So this is bit like Dauphinoise potatoes without all the cream / butter /
milk, and having to clean up the oven afterwards. I cook it in the steamer
for 18-20 minutes ... brilliant.

The rest of the houmous is now in little containers inside our freezer.
We slice up our bread loaves, and freeze the slices in the freezer too ...
a tip given to us by Mrs C's mum. When defrosted, the bread is amazingly

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I’m home alone this weekend, as Mrs C is attending a counselling
conference with view to getting her CPD (continuing professional
development) … ie Brownie points, and to listen to one of the
main speakers, Maxine Aston, who is a leading authority on
Asperger’s Syndrome. This is a hot topic in the counselling world
and also in women’s magazines … how to cope with living with
someone with Asperger’s.

We know of three people with Asperger’s (including a father and
daughter), and Mrs C has come across a few people with it in the
course of her counselling work. Someone with this condition
interprets everything in a very literal and logical manner, but
can’t make out hidden meanings in what’s being said. He/she can’t
relate to another person on an emotional level very well. However
he/she can learn what to do as regards appropriate talk and
behaviour, when shown what to do.

So if his partner says at bedtime: “Oh I’ve got a bad headache!”,
Mr A would probably get some aspirin or paracetamol, without
realising this is a coded message saying: “I don’t fancy having
sex tonight, darling”. Another example (this is a real-life one),
was when a teacher asked the children to sit down for a story.
Miss A sat down on the classroom floor where she was, whereas the
other children went over the teacher and sat down next to her.

There is lots more info about Asperger’s on the National Autistic
Society website. As regards diagnosing it, this does require a
lengthy expert assessment … professionals go through a long
checklist of possible features of this condition, and if you’ve
got at least 15 characteristics then you’re likely to have it.

When I read or hear conversations about Asperger’s, I sometimes
think I’ve got a few features of this condition, but then I think
this is just typical blokish behaviour. As a child I was painfully
shy and lacking in self confidence, and still am to some extent,
especially when in a large group of complete strangers.

However, I’ve learnt some of the social graces about how to get
chatting with people (well I had to, with working as a GP most
of my working life), and with attending personal development
courses (in transactional analysis and the like), and reading
books on the subject. I can recommend books written by the
therapist Dorothy Rowe (eg The Successful Self). Over the years,
I’ve learnt a lot about body language, and can usually spot when
someone is depressed at a glance (for example). I could go on
about flirting techniques, which I’m not very good at ...
… just as well!

By the way, I'm not used to cooking for myself, on the rare
occasion that Mrs C is away. I can't be bothered even to cook a
jacket potato and veg, which are dead easy to do ... I tend to
snack on "something"-on-toast, or on bread, or perhaps on pasta.
I tend not to watch the telly in the evenings either ... I'd
rather be doing something on the computer, or catching up on
the weekend newspaper, or reading a photography magazine.

Yesterday afternoon, I met up with one of my friends for coffee
in Costas, for a change. He's very busy with marking final year
University dissertations, one of which takes him an hour to read
through and mark. It's been an annual chore for him, but then it's
what he's paid to do. He's retiring from work this summer, which
will be a mixed blessing for him. On the plus side, he'll have
more time to travel (which he loves doing), but on the other
hand he says he'll miss the social contact with other members of
staff and the students ... that's the main thing I missed when
I retired too.

Now I'm starting to ramble on ... I've just found a brilliant post
entitled "Life is beautiful" written by Jeffrey Zeldman, (many
thanks to Cliff for finding this). Life is wonderful.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Election results plus more photos

Well, isn’t the latest election news really exciting?

We now have a Lib-Con pact, which I reckon will last less than 6 months…

… enough time for both parties to impose savage cuts in Govt spending,
and to reveal their true character.

… and enough time for Labour to re-group behind a new, more charismatic
leader, and to storm back in at the next election, with hopefully a
more green agenda.

… and pigs will fly. :)


Here are a few of the pics I’ve just uploaded onto my Flickr site.

Rhododendron flowers in Sheringham Park


… and bluebells also


A couple of guys at Sheringham Station (the Poppy Line to Holt)


Some fishing boats at Sheringham …

and some pics of our fab grandchildren ...

Little D


and her sister, Mini …


their cousin, Little A


(who will be 4 in October)

and her brother, Little J


All of them, great fun to be with. How marvellous is it to be able to
spend some time with them.

And here’s someone we met while on holiday, Bobby-Jo, who was very
welcoming. I can’t recommend her hairdresser to you, though.


Saturday, May 08, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Mrs C and I got back a day early from our holiday on the Norfolk coast ...
arriving back at about 10pm last night. We didn't fancy the heavy rain,
forecast for today, with cold wind blowing inland from the North Sea.

We did have some lovely sunny days around the middle of the week, spent
on the sea shore (& nearby children’s playground), at the Priory Gardens
and Maze, and at the fabulous Sheringham Park … where all the rhododendrons
& bluebells are just coming out in flower. I’ll be posting some pics of
these onto my Flickr site, in the coming week.

Our daughter L and our two lovely grandchildren (Mini and D) were with us
during our stay, so that made our holiday more enjoyable for us (despite
the early morning wakings, etc.).

We all had an initial set-back though, with our holiday company letting us
down as regards our booking. They reckoned we’d moved our holiday 10 days
forward … so, to cut a long story short, we ended up renting a property in Sheringham (not Cromer) for the week, with another company (English Country Cottages). A very stressful first day for all of us.

It’s great to be back home. Home sweet home.