Last night’s dinner

Last night’s dinner was salmon parcels made with blanched fennel and carrot and accompanied by vegan supergrain quinoa.

And it was a bit disappointing.

It feels like all of Abel & Cole’s fennel recipes are there to mask the actual taste of fennel.  Or maybe cooking it at all destroys the aniseedy flavour that I really like (It comes raw in Lambarelli’s “Italian Salad” boxes)  Even blanching the chopped fennel for a few minutes was enough to take away most of the flavour, so whilst the salmon could really have taken on the flavour, it was a little disappointing.

And the quinoa.  I have previously thought of this as “kwin-oh-uh”, but the box informs me that it should be pronounced “keen-wah”.  It was a bit boring, so I will have to look at more interesting ways of cooking it in future – this bulghar pilaf recipe would probably work just as well with quinoa as bulghar wheat.


Fruitful bank holiday weekend

Well, what with all the rain and everything, I’ve barely ventured out this weekend. I’ve had a lovely relaxing time playing with my computer, watching The Sopranos for the first time, and, this afternoon, adding the Wii numbers of 30 or so acquaintances from a gay social networking site to my own Wii in the hope of increasing the numbers of Miis in my Parade.

Saturday evening was also spent with friends and their six-month old baby, which was lovely.

So, not a whole lot done, as far as I’m concerned. P however was determined to achieve something with his time off, and kept indoors by the weather turned his thoughts to DIY. Emboldened by friends of ours who have recently removed a stone fireplace, and colleagues of his who lent him a big hammer and chisel combo, he set to work on our own stone fireplace.

This is what was there when we moved in:


It was rather more cluttered by the time P removed it! The woodburner is electric, but the flue is real.

This was halfway through. It was a surprisingly quiet process – I was upstairs and didn’t hear much more than tapping.


Here’s a closeup of the rather delightful wallpaper revealed in the process:


And here’s what it looked like when he was done.


The sofa didn’t quite fit, but is probably going to stay there, because the room feels an awful lot bigger now! The ugly flue pipe is mostly gone. There is a remaining cosmetic job to do to remove the box at the top and repaper the bottom half. The previous owners actually left a couple of spare rolls of wallpaper that match, so that shouldn’t be too difficult.

Handwritten letters

Last week, we organised a debrief session for all of our council candidates at the local elections.  In order to make the invite seem a little more personal, I wrote a letter by hand, duplicated it, then topped and tailed each individual one.  Unless you were looking carefully, it would have looked like I had written the whole letter in one go.  P, who came in halfway through the topping and tailing stage, said something along the lines of “that must have taken you hours!”

To complete the effect, I also hand-wrote the envelopes.  Here’s the problem, though.  Clearly, by the time I got as far as writing more than 40 envelopes, as well as Dear XXX on more than 40 letters, my hand was tired, and not writing very clearly.

About half the letters turned up in time.  About half didn’t.  They were all posted simultaneously at the sorting office in Nottingham, entirely to Nottingham addresses.

On closer examination, looking at the printed things on the back that the automatic sorting machine leaves on envelopes, it appeared that about half of the envelopes had been via Newcastle.  Apparently the machines can’t tell the difference in my handwriting between NG8 and NE8.  And apparently the machines don’t look at the line above the postcode where NOTTINGHAM was written very plainly, and not looking in the least like NEWCASTLE.  Grrr.

Wii weather forecast

The Wii 5-day weather forecast does not auger well for our camping trip to Norfolk next week:


The only day it’s not tipping it down, it’s below freezing at night!

Some of our friends are going in a caravan, and they say they’re going regardless. Others who are tent camping like us may well be a bit more nesh. We will have to make a decision on Wednesday when we’re supposed to head off.

Aunty’s forecast is a little better.


Still, at least it’s all good (hopefully!) for the various things I planted in the allotment last week!

Pear Crumble

We’ve had a glut of pears that came in veg boxes over the last few weeks, just sitting on the side looking faintly unappetising. Then more pears came last week, and I finally got around to investigating Abel & Cole’s system for editing what comes in your box and excluded things we really didn’t want.

So, this evening, when it came to preparing a pud to take with us to a party evening, I looked at the pears and tried to decide what to do. This pear and almond tart looked fantastic, but I feared not being able to present it quite that well. Plus it seemed awfully fiddly, and basically seems to need you to start two days ahead of time.

In the end, I plumped for this pear crumble, and it was delicious! I think the lemon juice on the pears made a real difference in deepening the flavour. If I’d known it was that good, we wouldn’t have had a pear surplus in the first place!

A credible candidate for London

After all the trouble surrounding the Lib Dem candidate to stand against Red Ken for the London Mayoralty, finally a credible candidate emerges.

Lord Bonkers has announced his intention to allow his name to go forward, and is preparing for the contest in traditional manner, by having himself measured for a Pearly Suit and taking down his edition of Teach Yourself Cockney from his library shelf.

There’s even a Facebook group.

Surely now, with all this new-found notoriety, even Wikipedia will have to reconsider their decision to delete the page dedicated to this most experienced of peers.

Galloping Gravewards

(The title was how my friend R announced his birthday celebrations. I’m using it for general musings on ageing.)

I read once, or someone told me, or I vaguely heard it on Radio 4 whilst sleeping, that in your subjective experience of your own life, time passes more quickly as you get older. Think about it. How long did six weeks used to feel when it was a school summer holiday? Now six weeks is just the time it takes to show a whole series on the BBC or something.

What with your childhood taking ages, apparently the subjective halfway point in your life is 25. It will feel like all the time from 25-death lasts as long as the years from birth to 25.

But the thing that’s really been striking me recently is how things that used to take forever are just happening so fast. It sometimes feels like my toenails need clipping every other day. I use a bar of soap in the blink of an eye.

The other thing that has had me contemplating relative ages recently was a conversation with Ed, who was back up training locally recently. A long time ago, I told him I’d been to Berlin whilst living in Germany as part of my degree, and in return he asked whether I’d been before or after the wall came down. I had to point out I had been 11 in 1989 and had been more pre-occupied with starting secondary school than the death of communism. Ed’s not much more than a decade older than me, but has a completely different frame of reference, and my answer made him feel old.

Five years later, and my German A Level teacher was showing us the text book he taught from. He’d crossed out the page about the Berlin wall on the day it came down, but by 1996 he’d realised that he would still have to teach about it not as a fact of daily German life, but as something crucially important in Germany’s history.

This comes back to Ed because just recently he was telling me about a colleague of his who teaches an undergraduate module about communism and the fall of communism, and used to ask his class what they were doing in 1989. He’s had to stop that now because this year’s crop of 18 year-old undergraduates were born in 1989. Their frame of reference for communism is that it’s something that was largely over before they were even born. That makes me feel old!

What made me feel older still was going to talk to a group of 16-year-olds at a local school about politics, the local council and so on. And they couldn’t remember a prime minister before Tony Blair. They had no recollection of a Conservative government at all. It doesn’t seem like very long ago at all that I was in secondary school myself and just finding out that prime minsters didn’t have to be female.

Time passes. We all grow older. Younger people keep turning up. 30 seems like a big milestone that’s a long way off. But in the general scheme of things, it’s not that many soap-bars or toenail clippings away.


“Hip, Hip, Delay” is how Eddie Mair introduced the news story about the delay in the home information pack on PM this afternoon when I was stuck in traffic.

I was home by the time the next groan-out-loud pun floated over the airwaves when Peter Hitchens referred to the Conservatives under Cameron as “Blue Labour”

I should definitely listen to PM more often.

A day spent leafleting.  I’ve been feeling tired all day.  It must have been the golf and gardening over the two previous days


For the second day running I have been more than usually active doing something that blisters my hands.

Yesterday, the spud-planting left me aching and my hand sore, and my arm covered in scratches and grazes that I can’t remember doing.

Today, I went with friends to a golf driving range near the River Trent to see whether I am as awful at golf as I am at every other sport I have ever tried.  There does seem to me to be some appeal at wandering around a field hitting tiny balls – at least compared to standing around in a room running on the spot.

I got on reasonably well.  I hit most of the couple of hundred balls I hired – some of them got hit reasonably far, others barely made it off the astroturf.  But like all sporting activities I have no idea what I was doing differently.

Not sure at all whether I will have many more goes, let alone invest in the equipment.  But I can keep trying it out for another few weeks.