shewhomust: (mamoulian)
At the dentist's this morning (just a checkup, thanks, and all is well) I noticed for the first time a picture behind the reception desk. It's a slightly generic painting of a stone bridge over a river, with the title in bold capitals: Victoria Bridge. It looks like a pub sign, and come to think of it - yes, says the dentist, we just brought it inside when we converted the pub (which I remember well from when we used to live up that way).

Things change, but the past is not effaced.
shewhomust: (Default)
On 14th August 1967, the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act came into force, closing down the UK's pirate radio stations. I remember listening to the last broadcast of John Peel's Perfumed Garden. The show had always run on the basis that no-one bought advertising during its late night slot, and no-one listened, including management, so Peel could ignore the station's top 40, and play what he liked. As the station's last day began, he just extended the show until morning - 5.30 am, according to Wikipedia (and here's a track listing).. I won't say I heard it all, but I slept and woke and slept again and as it came to an end I was still there. I remember Peel saying that 'they are closing the gates of the Perfumed Garden, but we are on the inside' - and I got up and went for a walk, because that was what I wanted to do. And realised when I got home that I had gone out without a key, and had to sit in the porch until someone else woke up to let me in.

Later that afternoon I turned the radio on again to hear Radio London sign off (with the station signature tune, which was known as Big Lil.

It was 50 years ago, I was in my teens, and Wikipedia says that the Perfumed Garden had only been running since May '67.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
But first, a sidelight on the subject from the Guardian news section: a recent report on the changes in British holidays over the last 20 years - with thanks to [personal profile] durham_rambler for remembering the magic word which allowed me to track down the article online: the information comes from the ONS (and here's the ONS report itself, which clarifies what is meant by words like 'average'). I read the headline, "Britons shunning two-week holidays in favour of short breaks" and thought it confirmed my suspicion, that these days it's all about the weekend break - but no, although these are now more popular than they were in the 1990s, the real growth is in the ten-day holiday. Which makes our Easter trip to Europe bang on trend - as was our choice of Germany as a destination! Another surprise is that Spain is by far the most popular destination (that may mean, overseas destination - I'm not sure), and has about doubled in popularity in the period we're looking at: I'd have guessed that package sunshine holidays had shifted from Spain to Florida, with the help of Disney resorts, but no - or perhaps that had already happened when the baseline was drawn. Yesterday's travel supplement notes that Barcelona is suffering from tourism overload, and blames AirBnB, cruise ships and the Olympics. So that's all interesting.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, an article about hill forts begins "As a nation, we’re not very good at appreciating our prehistory. We can just about take in Stonehenge, but prefer our history to start with the Romans – more manageable and all written down." Speak for yourself, sir! The article is linked to a new online atlas of hill forts, which is rather fine. If you search the Guardian for 'hill forts', the top result is this rather more sceptical article (but its main reservations seem to be about the terminology.

We could go to West Jutland and see the Vikings.

I probably won't take an island holiday in Croatia, not even for the pleasure of tasting a wine called grk - I'd be more tempted if it didn't rely on cycling (and scooters) to get around.

But we are plotting a few days in France in October, since we have an engagement in London: time to make some decisions about that...
shewhomust: (Default)
The 'out' component of the evening was another wine tasting at Majestic, the third we have been to, and we have yet to encounter any of our fellow tasters twice. This time Mike took us through a 'pinot noir masterclass' which was nothing like as formal as that siggests - I wouldn't have minded a list of what we were tasting and the opportunity to scribble on it. What I learned was pretty much what I already knew, that with pinot noir you get what you pay for, but that things don't really get interesting until I'm way out of my comfort zone. Actually, the first and the cheapest wine we tasted (which may have been Chilean) was thin and fruity, high in acidity (reminded me of the wines we bought in Coiffy, on the edge of Fance's wine-growing regions) and I liked it, though it wasn't generally popular. I've had more approachable pinots at the price. Chapel Down produce pinot noir in England, but they have to blend it with something called rondo to get a saleable wine which isn't very like pinot noir at all - and it's quite expensive. But the two outstanding bottles were both over £20, a Saintsbury from the Napa Valley and a Cloudy Bay (NZ). To be fair, no doubt there's Burgundy as good as either as these - but not within the budget.

We returned home on the bus for the 'in' part of the evening: a quick supper and a bottle of Gran Volante Spanish red, which Majestic are promoting quite heavily, but which I found memorable mainly for the fact that the winemaker's name is printed on the cork - I don't think I've ever seen that before! And there was time for an episode of I Know Who You Are, a Spanish thriller which we are - not exactly binge-watching, but the closest we come to it. Successful lawyer emerges from the forest, claiming to have amnesia; in his crashed car is the phone belonging to his niece Ana, now missing, and traces of her blood. Does he really have amnesia, and did he kill his niece? He looks pretty guilty, but it's more interesting if he isn't - or at least, that's my take as of 5 episodes. Time for another one...
shewhomust: (ayesha)
Seen on a holiday coach: Wilfreda Beehive (they're a coach holiday company, apparently, so that makes sense).
shewhomust: (bibendum)
As we drove away from Lindisfarne at midsummer, we called in at the farm shop in Belford. In past years this has been a favourite stop, and a good place to buy supplies, but this time there wasn't much that appealed. Blame it on the circumstances: we didn't need food to cook on the island, and I suspect we caught the shop before they were really awake. So I bought a bag of bread flour with added seeds - I'm sceptical about bread-flour-with-added-whatever, as I am about cheese-with-added-whatever, but this seemed worth a try.

The first batch I baked with it, I used it neat. Which is to say, not quite neat, as my process uses white flour for the sourdough starter, and three times the same quantity of various flours for the loaf itself. So, 1:3 white flour: seeded flour, and it made a soft, sticky dough which rose spectacularly. I'd been thinking of making rolls for dinner anyway, and was quite glad I had, because it felt too fragile to bake in a tin (and there was a slick, almost putty-like feel to the dough which was not entirely agreeable). The rolls were fine, and very light, if not as full of flavour as my usual bread (I had also been cautious with the salt, which was a mistake).

So I added buckwheat flour to the next batch. Counting the starter, that's 1:1:2 white flour: buckwheat: seeded flour. This, too, rose like mad, both in the bowl and in the oven, and it tasted more interesting, but still not as good as my usual loaf - though I did enjoy the more open texture, especially toasted (who am I kidding? I ate it all toasted).

You'll think me pretty slow on the uptake, but around this point it occurred to me that maybe these features were not some magical property of this particular brand of flour, but a result of using a higher than usual proportion of white flour. So the next loaf was, still counting the starter, 2:1:1 white flour: spelt flour: wholemeal, and it, too rose better than my usual loaf (in which the starter provides the only white flour). I added walnuts and used the last of the walnut oil, and it was fine, but still not as good as the more wholemeal mix. Which doesn't prove anything, but does support the hypothesis.

The loaf I made yesterday, and sliced into this morning, was 1:1:1:1 white flour (starter): seeded flour: buckwheat: wholemeal, and I was surprised how good it is. The more open texture toasts well, and the combination of buckwheat and wholemeal emphasises the nutty flavour. If the seeds in the flour contribute anything, it's subliminal, which isn't to say that they don't contribute. But when this bag runs out, I'll try these proportions with white flour before I try to hunt down another bag of the seeded.

Of course, if I continue to reduce the proportion of seeded flour each time, the bag will never run out.


Aug. 10th, 2017 06:32 pm
shewhomust: (bibendum)
Saturday's lunch party didn't break up until late in the afternoon, by which time [personal profile] durham_rambler and I were ready for some quiet time with the newspaper and the internet. But by late evening, we revived enough to feel that a breath of air, a little walk, some light refreshment would round the day off nicely. Saturday night on the main drag is pretty lively, and we walked straight past the tapas restaurant which had been our first option: there's nothing wrong with live flamenco music - indeed, there's much right with it, if that's what you're looking for, but on this occasion it wasn't. We didn't have to go far, though, to find ourselves in a much quieter street, and the Golden Cross looked very inviting:

The Golden Cross

Did it live up to its promise? )

On Sunday morning we headed off to Wem, to continue the party at the home of our hostess. By this time most of the stragglers had departed, and the only other house guest, apart from ourselves, was a schoolfriend who had, in the intervening years, returned to her native Newfoundland, and who was staying on to join the unbirthday girl and another schoolfriend for a short break in Trier (this is apparently our fault - I hope they are enjoying it!). I can't call Sunday a quiet day, because we talked non-stop - but the pleasures were those of conversation, and we tore through the crossword at record speed.

We set off for home on Monday morning. The plan was for a minimum of delay and diversion, as we had to be in Durham for a meeting in the early evening, but we needed to fit in a lunch stop and a little essential shopping, and initially we thought we might take the M6 all the way, and break somewhere pleasant, Kirkby Stephen, perhaps? But it was not to be. Signs on the motorway warned of long delays ahead, so we turned onto the M62, and stopped at 'the Boroughbridge services' (otherwise known as Morrisons supermarket). Oh, well...

So the fun part of the weekend was shorter in practice than it had been in anticipation, but no less sweet.
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
From Saturday's Guardian:
Back in St Ives I picked up a summer job in catering and started spending more time on the beach and in the water. One evening I went out paddleboarding and as I paddled back into the harbour, I witnessed the most gorgeous sunset; the whole harbour was glowing. That’s when I realised this was where I was meant to be. I imagined how magical it would be if a mermaid swam into St Ives on an evening like this, and what a stir it would cause. Then I thought maybe I could be that mermaid.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
We had a splendid and exhausting day yesterday about Wightwick Manor, about which I will probably have more to say when I have sorted out my thoughts (and my photos). Now we are in Shrewsbury: we arrived yesterday evening at the Lion, where we are staying, and mentioned as we checked in that we are here for a party to be held in this hotel: "Oh, you're here for S.'s party! Isn't she lovely? Have you known her long?"

We don't have time for more than the briefest look at the town. Last night we walked up the hill to the Square, and dined at 'Côte - a pseudo-French bistro, one of a chain but nicely done, if loud. This morning, between the showers, we took a brief walk along the town walls, and visited the Cathedral (it's a Catholic cathedral, and by Pugin, but although the commission originally went to AWN Pugin, he died before he could carry it out, and the design is in fact by his son Edward, aged 18). I'd have thought it a worthwhile visit anyway, but I was completely bowled over by the work of a woman artist completely unknown to me:

Noah's Ark

The Cathedral has several windows by Margaret Rope, and they are wonderful.

Time to return to the hotel, put on our party finery, and party. Inevitably, we had less time to talk to the unbirthday girl than we would have liked, but she was very good at introducing us to people, and making sure we had someone to talk to. We thought we were doing pretty well telling people that [personal profile] durham_rambler had been at University with S. in the late '60s, but we were seated at lunch with even longer-time friends, including a schoolfriend and the French penfriend of her teenage years (and her equally French husband). There was a quiz, memorable mostly (to me, at any rate) for the cultural dexterity with which our Frenchman identified a picture as the star from the movie about Welsh miners playing in a band, which I was able to name as Brassed Off (despite it not, in fact, being set in Wales...), which enabled another member of team to name Pete Postlethwaite. Leaving me to explain the title Brassed Off to the French couple who knew it as Les Virtuoses.

There was music, provided by someone's expertise with Spotify, which was interesting: I've been thinking I ought to try it out, but, um, this tiny sample was irresistible. Eventually we gave up on it, and just continued chatting, untilwe all collapsed. And tomorrow we will go and visit S. at home, which I hope will be our real chance to catch up with her. But now, maybe a breath of air...
shewhomust: (bibendum)
We are in Willington. No, not that Willington - the Willington seven miles from Durham, where Stile restaurant used to be, this Willington is in Derbyshire, on the Trent and Mersey Canal:

Evening on the canal

We are on our way to Shrewsbury for a birthday celebration. When we were first invited, we had great plans to make a holiday of the trip, and explore this part of England. but as the date came closer, we realised that it was hemmed in by other commitments. We have managed to shoehorn in a day (tomorrow) to visit a National Trust property we saw ages ago on television, and have wanted to see ever since.

[personal profile] durham_rambler had a date this afternoon to be shown round the County Hospital development, and I should have gone too, but chose (and it was my choice) to put the time into clearing away lunch and packing the suitcase, so that we could set off as soon as he got home. A longish drive puts us here on the outskirts of Derby, dining at the Dragon on mussels (eating mussels by the canal, as we did at Easter|) and a burger, after a short stroll along the canal in the evening light.
shewhomust: (ayesha)
A couple of years ago, the BBC decided that what we needed, to get us through the first day of the working week. was an hour of quizzing to look forward to. So they programmed University Challenge, followed (not necessarily on the dame channel) by Only Connect. And it was good. Not necessarily to everyone's taste, of course, but then, what is? It pleased enough people that the BBC started to make a feature of it, and to promote 'Quizzy Monday'.

It was too good to last, of course. The BBC decided that no, Friday night is Quiz Night! (What? Why?) They are now trailing Only Connect as a double act with Mastermind. Even if I watched Mastermind (which I don't - it has John Humphrys in it), quizzes would not be my Friday night entertainment of choice: give me music, or comedy, or not watching television at all...

The new season of University Challenge began a couple of Mondays ago, and last Friday Only Connect started as well. But we have the technology, so we time-shifted it to its proper slot, immediately after University Challenge. It's a small victory, but we settle for what we can get.

And followed it with a half hour programme about how Orkney has become 'the cruise capital of the UK' shown earlier this evening, which barely acknowledged that there might be a downside to this, and didn't mention the impact on archaeological sites at all. Very odd.

Us watching three television programmes in one evening is also very odd.
shewhomust: (ayesha)
[personal profile] durham_rambler discovered from the local paper that timbers from the 'Willington Waggonway' were on show for one day only at the Stephenson Railway Museum, and we took time out yesterday to go and see them. This was part of the same 'Festival of Archaeology' as the presentation we went to last week, about the Lanchester Diploma, though I suspect both events would have happened sooner or later anyway.

We'd never heard of the Stephenson Railway Museum, either - it turns out to be a small but good collection, right next to the Silverlink shopping center. They'd set up a container outside the building, containing a young woman (who turns out to be Dominique Bell, Project Coordinator) and several lengths of untreated timber:

Waggonway timbers

These are mainly the wooden rails of the 'Willington Waggonway', a late 18th century waggonway, built to carry horse-drawn coal carts - which makes it a rare survival of one of the world's first railways. THe timber at the left of the bottom shelf is irregularly shaped because it's just the branch of a tree, used as a sleeper to support the rails.

Ship's timber

This rail has been recycled from the timbers of a ship (if I've got this right, the peg sticking out of it on the left is part of the railway, whereas the peg going across it further right is part of the construction of the ship).

Here's Dominique's blog post about her 'waggonway adventure' - going to York to collect the treated timbers for display. Obviously, they are trying to raise money to treat all the surviving timbers.

Some of the treated timbers were on display inside the museum, and I'm afraid I didn't find them anything like as exciting as the untreated ones outside; but I suppose if we want them to survive, it has to be done. There were plenty of other things to admire in the museum, too, shiny engines and suchlike, and we enjoyed our morning there.

In fact, we were sufficiently in holiday mood that we decided to lunch at the Citron Vert, a new 'French bistro' in High Pittington (formerly the Duke of Wellington) which we had seen reviewed in the Durham Times.

They weren't busy when we arrived, despite which they didn't have a table set, gave us the table hard by the counter and kept us waiting for the menu. That wasn't auspicious, but it picked up from then on. The table rubbing elbows with the staff meant we could chat to la patronne (the staff aren't French, but the enterprise certainly is!) as she opened the champagne and made kir royale for the party in the window, who were celebrating someone's birthday (they were displaying a balloon that said so). We both chose salade niçoise from the short menu (the black olives were the sort you buy ready stoned, which don't taste of much, but the eggs were cooked just right, and the anchovies were excellent, and plentiful), and a glass of Touraine sauvignon. I'd wondered how the Durham Times review had managed to square its ratings for quality and value with the prices they were quoting, but the answer may lie in the prices they weren't quoting: the wine, especially by the glass, was not cheap, and the sauvignon was pleasant but not special. However, when la patronne asked how we were doing, and we said what it a pity it was that they didn't offer rosé by the glass to accompany the salad, she said oh, but they did, it just hadn't made its way onto the menu, and poured me a complimentary half glass of Anciens Temps rosé, which was exactly what I would have chosen - pale, dry, with a faint caramel edge. I see from their online menu that their dinner menu includes a café gourmand, which I would probably have preferred to the chocolate brownie (nice enough, not as squidgy as I like it and the ice cream frozen too hard) I did have.

So if I had to give actual marks (which happily I don't) they would include quite a lot of on the one hand, on the other hand. But I think they are aiming for the right targets, even if they don't always hit them.

Also, our bill was handwritten on a picture postcard, and our card was one of the set issued by Penguin, showing the covers of their books: we got the Puffin edition of Heidi. I'm not that easily seduced, am I?
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
Each year S. spends a week in Durham at a Classics Summer School, and each year she invites us to gatecrash the evening session at which James McKay, one of the tutors and also, in his own words, a 'poet and reciter', reads poetry. This is fairly loosely connected to the themes of the summer school - one year, I recall, he simply read Sohrab and Rustum in its entirety. On Tuesday the menu was more mixed: some of his own stuff, some Byron (not for the first time) and a generous helping of 'my latest crush', James Elroy Flecker (hooray).

He began with The Old Ships (it is the obvious gateway drug) and ended with To a Poet a Thousand Years Hence ("I'm not going to do The Golden Road to Samarkand - you can look it up!") and plenty more in between. His reading was a little over-emphatic for my taste - readings almost always are, I'd rather you let the words do the work - but it was a pleasure to sit back and listen. Here's a sample:

(On Soundcloud, if that embed is not working.)

Of his own poems, I particularly enjoyed the one in which he used dactylic hexameter (not from the forthcoming collection, apparently, but the one after): I hadn't even known that was a thing in English, but yes, apparently so, and McKay recommended A. H. Clough's Amours de Voyage (article links to the Gutenberg text). But, wait! There's more, because that article also refers to Clough's The Bothie of Tober-Na-Vuolich, a phrase I know as part of my father's vocabulary - though I never knew where it came from, and couldn't have spelled it.

The evening ended with a chunk of Byron's Beppo. Which was fun, but a bit of an anticlimax.
shewhomust: (Default)
Yesterday afternoon, on my fortnightly binge of "gardening" - which means, hacking back brambles and uprooting rampant buttercups and other weeds, ready for the garden waste collection the following morning, I found and ate a ripe blackberry. Just the one, in a sheltered, sunny position (under the kitchen window), but even so, this is very early, isn't it? I think of blackberries as an autumn fruit, and July 25th as the beginning of the summer holiday season (because it was Grandma's birthday, and often coincided with the start of the school holidays).

It's going to be a good year for blackberries: the brambles in the garden are heavy with fruit, and although I am cutting back yards and yards of new growth, that's not where the fruit is.
shewhomust: (bibendum)
And, speaking of holidays...

I enjoyed writing that post about what we did on my birthday, and making pretty patterns out of words and ideas. But if it weren't for sorting through my photos, seeing those patterns would have stopped me seeing things that didn't fit the pattern, our walk around Bouillon the previous evening, and the fact that we started our exploration of Trier that same day, still my birthday. I could have told you that I lunched on excellent chips, sitting on the steps of the fountain in the marketplace, enjoying the sunshine - but it took my photos to remind me that we also visited the cathedral. What can I say? My memory has its priorities.

It's a perfectly good cathedral. Living in Durham, I'm a bit spoilt for cathedrals, and after Trier we visited Aachen, about whose cathedral there will be much more, in due course. Also, in Trier the Cathedral has to compete with the Basilica. But it's a good cathedral. Here's how it looked from our bathroom window:

Cathedral view

More pictures under the cut )
shewhomust: (Default)
We had a lot of catching up to do with J: she has been house-hunting, she has been on holiday. So we invited her to dinner last night, and to stay the night, so that she could tell us all about it. As a result, [personal profile] durham_rambler has spent the morning searching the internet for information about the property with which she has fallen in love, and I have been looking for information about Trieste, which sounds like a good place to visit.

With that in mind, an interesting piece in the WSJ and Trieste Tourist Office. Best coffee in Italy, allegedly.

J didn't come empty handed. She brought me a blue shirt, passed on to her by F., and not quite right (there was a reason, but I've forgotten it): it is a shade of blue which always makes me think of GirlBear, so it may not have reached its destination yet - we shall see. Also the last remains of a putizza, a characteristic cake from Trieste and Slovenia which combines innocuous looking panettone with nodules of concentrated essence of Christmas cake, to which chocolate has been added. And half a panettone, which we didn't touch last night, and divided up this morning. I shall make bread-and-butter pudding tonight (without the butter).
shewhomust: (mamoulian)
Towards the end of a cold February day in 2016, Mark - also known as 'Whitney' - Houston's metal detector gave "a perfect tone" (whatever that may be) indicating the presence of an interesting quantity of metal at an interesting depth. He dug it out carefully, although his first thought when he saw it was "what a stupid place to discard an old motorcycle battery!" - a little stack of plates of metal. But he took it home, and started - very carefully - to clean it up, setting the washed plates on the windowsill to dry. It happened that the light caught the wet surface in such a way that he could see writing on them, and what's more, he could see enough to recognise that the writing was Latin.

The pictures on the Portable Antiquities Scheme database give an idea of what it looked like at the time, and the bit that really impresses me is that armed with this, the internet and a network of other metal detectorists, he was able to identify what he had found, to the point that when he contacted the PAS, he was able to say "I think I've found a Roman diploma."

The Lanchester diploma )
shewhomust: (Default)
We visited the local allotments for their Open Gardens afternoon; you pay an entrance fee (which goes to charity) and then you wander round the allotments and chat to people (and occasionally they invite you to sample their raspberries, which is no hardship). Lots of sweet peas this year - not a spectacular flower, but such a pretty scent. Lots of sweetcorn, too. I had thought there were two reasons why you can't grow sweetcorn here: we're too far north, and anyway, there are badgers on those allotments, and they are very fond of sweetcorn. As if this weren't enough entertainment, there was a theme. Last year there were scarecrows, but this year there was Art, and visitors were asked to vote for their favourite piece. I liked a bold, almost abstract painting of some pears on a royal blue background, displayed alongside some actual (bought from M&S, because of course it isn't the season) pears, on a royal blue towel, but I think this has to be the winner:

Vincent's chair

There was fruit and veg and quite a bit of jam on sale at the entrance (this may have been [personal profile] durham_rambler's favourite bit), so were came home with gooseberries and tayberries and jostaberries (a cross between a gooseberry and a blackcurrant and - this is important! - not prickly).
shewhomust: (ayesha)
In the Guardian (where else?), taste testing home made posh crisps. I can't decide which is my favourite quotation from the article:
  1. Their size and fragility mean they’re not as filling as a real crisp, but they could work well as a crisp amuse-bouche before proper crisps are served.

  2. Because the idea of healthy crisps appeals to everyone.

  3. In terms of taste it’s right up there with the radish.

What do you think?

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