Monday, November 23, 2009

Crescent moon and bright star

On the evening of our wedding day we had a lovely unexpected surprise - a bright star visible next to the crescent moon and again, today, when I have other good news the same has happened. It looks beautiful and we are lucky enough to have some clear sky to see it. Today I found out I had got a distinction overall for my MA! I am very pleased and now intend to do a PhD looking into the history of the care of older people with dementia.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


This blog has really turned into a food blog. I'm quite happy about that, but may have to find a more professional outlet for my other stuff so the big wigs don't have to demean themselves by going to a website that is called what this one is. I need to find a cheap way of people being able to access my MA dissertation and publishing it (with a password) on the web seems like a good start. Over the next couple of weeks I will have to try and do this and get the contributors to check it.

We went to Salvos last night and suffice to say we weren't disappointed, 4/5. Mine was slightly overseasoned, but it is nice they've had recognition from Gordon Ramsey.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

All Hallows' Eve dinner party

Last night my incredible husband cooked another feast for five guests including us. The only thing we didn't prepare ourselves were the sundried tomatoes. It was marvellous, the menu was:

Amuse bouche - crostinis prepared by moi (mackerel pate, sundried tomatoes and artichoke)


Pumpkin ravioli with witches' sage butter

Main course

Pot roasted pheasant flavoured with orange on a bed of brussel sprouts and bacon served with chesnut duchess potatoes


Pear and blackberry crumble with hazelnut icecream

There were things that went really well. Lovely guests as always. Conversation was a bit worky-work orientated but c'est la vie. The halloween theme worked wonderfully with hubby preparing a family of hollowed out pumpkins for the occasion. The wine was delectable, we have rediscovered Mersault, beautiful. The halloween theme spread to the menu with the pumpkin ravioli which worked very well, a very interesting set of tastes, the sweetness of the pumpkin set off well against the savoury sage butter. The main course was a great recipe from one of our fave recipe books - Off Duty - by chefs; apparently what they cook when they're 'off duty'. The pheasant was good with a delicious jus. We could have got a potato bag to squeeze the duchesses out of, but had to make do with an icing sugar one. The Hazelnut Icecream was declared the star of the evening with husband announcing that this was the best thing he had ever made, and I had to concur. We finished with Betty's coffee and some Yorkshire cheeses from Booths'. A great evening.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Maggie's autumnal pear tort

This is a great recipe if you have a pear tree or happen to have a load of cheap pears. Firstly make the shortcrust pastry : 200g of flour, 100g of lard or butter and 1 beaten egg. You put the flour in the food processor, whizzing the fat into the flour. Gradually add the beaten egg and make sure it isn't too wet! Make it into a dough ball and wrap in cling film and put in the fridge to chill for half an hour. Meanwhile peel 12 pears, and quarter, taking out the seeds. Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan and gently fry the pears for five minutes. Add brown sugar, a little bit of lemon juice and cinnamon. Put in a seven or eight inch sandwich tin (a tin for sponge cakes with plenty of butter (about 2 ounces each tin). Cut the pastry in half, roll out into a circle the size of the tin. Put the pears in the tin with the pastry on top at about 190 degrees C. Will be ready after 15-20 minutes (keep an eye on it).

Mackerel salad

I have discovered a brilliant new salad inspired by Connie and also the Three Crowns in Stoke Newington. It is mackerel, warmed up in the oven for about seven minutes. Served on a bed of salad leaves: ideally watercress, coriander and spinach leaves amongst them. Sprinkled with walnuts, grated apple and beetroot to the side. Garnished with lemon wedges which you then squeeze on the mackerel. Perfect. For more wintry days you can add some carbs, like I did today - a jacket potato with cottage cheese.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sous Le Nez in Leeds: Our New Favourite Restaurant

On my desk there is a globe which I gaze at often to get a sense of perspective if something isn't going right. I also have a photograph of the earth in space which does the same. This restaurant and other good ones in the world give me the same feeling. You are soaking up time on the earth, because when it is this good you want it to last. This amazing restaurant brings happy memories of our lovely Honeymoon, back in time, in the Loire Valley. So we had a lengthy debate invovling Wikipedia about what to have as an aperitif. Husband doesn't like them as much as me, in the end we both had champagne. Apologies to all our friends and relatives with substance abuse issues - there's quite a number - but at this restaurant you can fully understand why this occurs. In a sentence: The wine is divine. We celebrated the completion of my MA in this place and thank God we did. It was so good I could hardly remember it, so we just had to go back three weeks later, where I ordered exactly the same starter (absolutely unheard of) and gave it a second run for reviewing purposes. It was the most delicious scallops dish I have ever had, perfectly cooked with the a gorgeous two sauce combination of mushrooms and leeks. I followed this up with monk fish and tomatoes, again a classic. Husband had crab followed by halibut. The real reason for coming to this restaurant though - let's be honest the service is refreshingly French - is for the liquid accompaniment. Jean Denis the sommelier must be the best in the country, or one of the best. Have I said the wine was divine? The aroma was crushed thyme with lemon and apple. The taste was so interesting, slivers of silvery liquid gold. JD decanted it for us and we made every last drop last. For dessert I had roasted figs with mascapponne ; husband had cheese and biscuits. Heaven. On Earth.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Food for the brain...

A friend recommended a website which helps people manage their mental health through nutrition. Good advice. It's the whole nature - nurture argument, that whatever we are blessed with from our parents, we can build on through looking after ourselves well. I've had a lot of nurturing food just recently and I intend to write all the recipes up on this blog soon: Dad's lentil hot pot, Mum's spag bol, Mary's chicken soup, Doreen's cottage pie, Maggie's butter bean and sausage goulash, Maggie's pear tort, Cookie's three mustard pork strogganoff. My own chicken and stilton strog. Yum. The running is going well too, I've been out six out of seven days last week!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

MA handed in

Life is about good and bad, life and death, sickness and health. We have had a bit of bad news, but also some good news. For those reading this who know me well, do give me a ring on my mobile if you want to find out the bad news. For everyone else, this blog is supposed to be an uplifting account of what I've been up to. Firstly I have handed in the MA. That is definitely good news. We have celebrated with some wonderful meals out in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland: Le Souz de Nez in Leeds (9/10), Bentley's Oyster Bar in Dublin (9/10), The Winding Stair in Dublin (9/10) and Eden in Dublin (9.2/10). We have bought a new car - four wheel drive for hubby's snow driving this winter. Before anyone collapses with shock - it's a green estate audi (again). We can drive to see all our friends and family now, so expect a call soon if you know us. I have been running - four times on the trot this week, a record for me. Very chuffed with that.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Writing tips

Freewrite - you will feel better

index cards


write targets for the calendar

write achievements of the day, month, year, MA - stick it up

write in different coloured pens

use fancy highlighters

do some filing


skim reading

read your own material

**how to write books**

Elbow how to write book

reading lists, bibliography

a decent word, a decent sentence, a decent paragraph

write lists, tidy space, tidy files, tidy room

incense, aromatherapy

an exciting and original new line

things from every angle in a wide context

Antedating the Oxford English Dictionary's entry for senile dementia - a copy of the email I sent

Thank you so much for your incredible help when we spoke on thetelephone earlier. Since we first spoke I have subscribed to the OxfordEnglish Dictionary, which is a marvellous support.As I mentioned to you, I think I have found an earlier reference to the pathological definition of senile dementia to the one in the OED.

The OED states "1851 R DunglisonDict Med Sci (ed 8) Senile Dementia, Insanity of the Aged,"

The reference I have found is James Cowles Prichard Treatise on Insanity(London: Sherwood, Gilbert and Piper 1835)

"Senile dementia or the decay of the mental faculties is not the lot ofold persons universally, though it is a condition to which old age maybe said to have tendency, and to which in the last stage of bodily decaysome approximations are generally to be perceived". p92

If you could acknowledge receipt I would be most grateful.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sustainable Summer, Fish

I have twisted my chair so I can glimpse the garden from where I am sitting. To be honest I should have written this garden update a couple of weeks ago. When things were in full bloom. Its glory has gone off the boil. But worth recording for future years. Late June and early July was my garden at its peak. The roses were all out, the bind weed looked deliberate, I harvested plenty of perpetual spinach (a definite recommendation, grown in a pot). The honeysuckle with its beautiful yellow was complimented so well by the lavender on either side. The foxglove and the thistle at the end of the garden looked ok. And there is a delightful yellow shrub, which gets orange berries which then turn brown for winter, with such seasonal interest that it may be my favourite plant of the garden. Even the wisteria flowered, briefly.

There were (dare I say the word? ) the inevitable failures. My sixth acer started to die off. The slugs and birds appear to have eaten even the remnants of courgettes. The potatoes were not worth the hassle: I planted three kitchen bins full of soil (costing about ten pounds) and managed to get twenty pence worth of potatoes. The onions I planted too late and look like old shoe laces. The tomatoes: ditto. However, it is still early days I think.

I went to see an old friend who I hadn't seen for eighteen years at the weekend and it was like no time had passed. Of course things had occured, bad and good, for both of us, but it was so lovely hearing her tinkling laughter and reminding her of what a caring genius she was and still is.

We have been on a low fat diet. A meal last night, from a 1970s Weight-watchers cookery book which I picked up from Oxfam a few years ago, turned out to be a winner. Sustainable cod, bunged in an oven dish with some fried onion and garlic, two peppers, half a pint of skimmed milk, parsley, tomatoes and mushrooms , cooked for 25 minutes sounded dreadfully dull and too easy on paper, but tasted good. It's going on the blog I thought.

Saturday, July 04, 2009


Today's blog is still five minutes. Soup recipes. Fry an onion for five minutes, add garlic after three. Then depending on what type of soup you want follow these recipes:
1) leek and celery potatoes (add with stock)
2) carrot, coriander, cumin and cardomon seeds (1lb of carrots) with juice of one orange and some zest with green marigold stock)
3) parsnip.

I still have four minutes quick amazing. We have bought a pressure cooker and you literally just add whatever of those three combinations you want for fifteen minutes and a pint and a half of water. Freeze the leftovers. I'm sure there was something else in the parsnip, but can't remember. It's on here somewhere. Anyway we are eating low fat after our high fat Norfolk glamping extravanga. Husband is away, I am busy doing the MA and trying not to buy a Roomba. Labour saving device. And with Lakeland it's a lifetime guarantee. Listened to Alan Carr on Radio 2. Definitely that demographic now. 35-44. Great. Loving it. Still can't twitter or tweet, got some messages that were six months old.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Deer Glade Park

Dear reader, gladly parking

I have brought the timer with me. It is analogue; it never runs out of batteries. I have finished reading Wuthering Heights. I thoroughly enjoyed it. We are here and I have brought myself to tears, laughing twice. The first was the memory of how I laughed when husband discovered the "Ebay" box. This is a box, in a cupboard, of things we could sell on the famous internet auction site. I had put in it an old camping knife, with plaster and paint, old and dried, on it. It must be worth, on the open market, in good conditions, I would say ten pence. Ten new pence.

A similar thing happened today. Husband complained that there wasn't enough room in the camping fridge (powered by the sun - through a solar panel that husband loves more than most of our relations). The fridge was full of a box of wine. I suggested that we decant the wine into little wine bottles I had brought. And then fill the fridge with the carrots I had brought. Husband made me laugh. He said, " Yep, just what I fancy, a freezing cold carrot". We laughed. And the sun shone.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Wedding anniversary

Shortly before we married, in fact, probably a few days after we met, husband and I realised that we shared few similar(cheap) pastimes. More recently we discovered, quite by accident, that we both moderately enjoy costume dramas. In fact, it may be the only TV and cinema that we both can watch at all. Perhaps because of my studying I have come round to things like Pride and Prejudice. I used to think it was middle-class clap-trap. Now I realise I am middle-class. And the car got clamped. Anyway, a few people got us this sort of thing on DVD for Christmas and we've just got round to watching them all, as he's had a bit of time off work. We really loved the BBC adaptation of Bleak House. Jane Eyre. North and South. Little Dorrit. The Duchess. Husband loves watching them, one after another, like some deranged drug addict craving the next fix. I prefer a middle-class feminine break with one's fan or smelling the latest thing from one's garden.

Glog - nothing flowering at this time of year. Note to self - must get stuff that flowers in May. Esp. Clematis Montana. Planted onions day before yesterday. Courgettes prob not suitable for Leeds - too cold. Two got eaten by magpies or woodpidgeons anyway. Bought a couple of replacements from Hollinsclough flower festival. Weeding bindweed, especially at front and got quote from Which Local for tree surgeon for sycamore - 450 bazookas.

We have spent our free time visiting friends and family. Or in my case running. In husband's case spending twenty quid every 2 minutes on replacement blades for his remote control helicopter, which they keep on telling him at Maplins is the best one in the world. Not really surprising as whatever it is, he's definitely keeping them in business.

Had a lovely anniversary time with our favourite Tory friends in the South. Agreed with them on a couple of things - my memory deserts me on specifically what we agreed on, but it was pleasant nonetheless. I am going to aim for consensus everywhere, particularly on this blog, so I am employing self-censorship. Watch this space.

Had a wonderful drive a week ago in the sunshine. Huddersfield to Leek via Hollinsclough has to be up there for the best 2 hour drive in the country.

Thoroughly enjoying Elizabeth Gaskell's biography of Charlotte Bronte. She really is the most under-rated writer of the nineteenth century. Mum told me I had to find the evidence for this and back it up. I agreed, especially since waiving my anonymity on this blog recently. Anyway haven't bothered to do this, but it is my uninformed opinion. She is brilliant. Some little snippets - she mentions football as a late eighteenth century activity, with commoners kicking stone balls round the moors. First mention I've ever come across. 'Make it out' - was a phrase they used for 'make it up' , ie creativity. Interesting slight change of language. Anyway off to attempt to persuade husband to let me get a Roomba for the tenth time (robot hoover).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chapel Allerton, Gipton Wood, Howarth and Mirfield

Had a very busy day today. Listening to a radio four programme about location has made me think: people; time; place. Was out leafleting with Hope not Hate in Gipton Wood. Turns out the main organiser lives on my road so he was roping me in for more stuff to do. Then zoomed over to Howarth where Mum has rented an apartment for a week with a friend. After terrible traffic issues would you believe, we found a pub still open at 1.30 (Grim up North) and got ourselves a pub lunch. Then after a series of complicated travelling arrangements got into the centre of Howarth to torrential rain, when there was a 1940s weekend going on. Highly anachronistic.

We went into the old parsonage where the Brontes' lives are celebrated. I actually found it quite inspirational. It doesn't feel that long ago suddenly where you see the very sofa that Emily Bronte died on. It still looks brand new. I was born one hundred and thirty seven years later. To the very day. And you're walking around, creaking the floor boards as they must have done, casting your eye over the slated roof of the scullery as you're walking down the stairs, pausing to catch the time on the grandfather clock. Tick-tock, time passing by.

I hadn't realised but our alleged distant relative - Miss Margaret Wooler from Mirfield (our family were the mill owning Woolers from Mirfield - surely related?) gave Charlotte Bronte away at her wedding. Her father of course, officiated. Charlotte Bronte briefly experienced success as Jane Eyre was an instant hit, so it did feel good to see her treasured possessions: her beautiful wedding dress, bonnet and white leather gloves. And the tiny delicate handwriting as she writes to her book reviewers complaining of their ignorance. Charlotte Bronte's husband died in 1906, so her generation is only our great-great grandparents'.

A few degrees of separation in people, time and place.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Tattontastic self-help book

My friend Jemima has been writing a book, that I think is going to be published soon. It's one of my dreams too. Before I met my husband I was the queen of self-help, via bibliotheraphy mainly. But also the Expert Patient Programme, which was a course that I loved. I think I would have about eleven chapters for my self-help book:

1) Prioritise - what's important for you right now?

2) What makes you tick?

3) Making incremental changes, tips for good relationships

4) Know yourself - monitor your health

5) Get all the support you need to change your life in the way you want it to go

6) Managing stress

7) Dealing with bad news

8) Symptom management

9) Financial management & complaining well

10) Careers advice

11) Dying well

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Fleece, Addingham, Yorkshire

Yesterday was a glorious spring day and husband, very unusually, had a day off. Even more unusually, we decided to beat the credit crunch and go on a walk. It was meticulously planned by husband - with the purchase of a Yorkshire dales walking book, an ordnance survey map and a special pen that you can use to write on the map. He spent a good half hour plotting the route from the book on to the map. We set off and it was a marvellous walk - taking in: not only beautiful scenery, but industrial archeology, special buildings (like the seventeenth century friends meeting house), wonderful disused railway bridges, woodland with just flowering bluebells & columbines and the river Wharfe. The walk took us about three hours.

So our expectations of the pub where we had parked and set off from were pretty low. What a welcome mistake though! The Fleece is an old, eighteenth century coaching inn with benches and hanging baskets at the front. Inside, wooden panelled walls with low ceilings, a bar and a larger room for dining. We knew we had to eat there though as soon as we saw the Michelin Guide signs and whatnot in the window before we'd bought our pints. I had half a Timothy Taylor landlord (nectar) and he had a pint of Copper Dragon (even better). I really loved the pub atmosphere: great artwork, the sheep theme (of course) and lovely mid twentieth century oil portraits of middle aged middle class men - who looked like they might have founded the Ramblers Association. I even loved the chair I sat on - a carver with two tapestry panels. Husband was less impressed with a white radiator against a wooden wall. 'Why couldn't they do what Mum does and get a posh cover?', he moaned. The service: yes, was fast, but we had at least three different people serve us. To start, he had a cassoulet. Haricot beans, chicken wings and choritzo. I had chicken liver pate with a tomato, apricot and ginger chutney. Both were utterly scrumptious. You certainly don't forget you're in Yorkshire though. Huge portions - had to leave some of mine. Since he read Kitchen Confidential husband loves to 'dissect' a menu. 'It's Wednesday today, right,' he whispered 'well, they would have done a lot of roast chicken on Sunday, so plenty of left over chicken wings and chicken livers'. We didn't care. In fact we were pleased that they were not wasting any meat - when it' was so well cooked that would be criminal.
For mains hubby had pork belly, wrapped round black pudding with red cabbage. Lush. I had halibut, queen scallops with white wine sauce topped with spinach and chopped tomatoes. Delectable. Perfectly cooked halibut - so moist. And the black pudding, I think, was the best I have ever tasted. (I'm not normally a fan).
For puddings, he had cheese and biscuits. There were two crumbly local cheeses (we think - the waiting staff couldn't identify them). A most gorgeous rocquefort (we think). And served with fruit cake. Perfect. I had vanilla ice cream. The portion was too big for me and not much vanilla. Coffees were fine.

Dinner for two - sixty five quid!

The Fleece: the place where you don't get fleeced. Great food in lovely surroundings.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Glog, Inheritance Tax and writing an essay

To everyone who got annoyed with my suggestion that inheritance tax should be 100% for everyone: sorry not got enough time to argue with you all. Anyway. The two courgette seeds I transplanted are looking sorry for themselves. On the sunniest day of the year so far I have been stuck in writing an essay. How does oral history enrich the history of dementia?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Kate Garraway

I was intrigued to find out precisely what offensive remarks had been put in an email from Damien McBride to Derek Draper. I looked on the internet. I wish I hadn't. Not because they were so offensive towards the Tories, but because of what I considered to be highly offensive remarks from members of the public on websites I will never, ever, ever go to ever again. Tory websites with hundreds of comments from trolls with totally right-wing, misogynist and sexist comments, not to mention offensive photographs, about Derek Draper and Kate Garraway - his partner and mother to his child/ren.

So I meditated and visualised happy things - and looked at them. Like my photos. Then I updated my blog with other stuff which cheered me up a bit. The trolls can stick this left wing blog in their pipe and smoke it. I am happy, left-wing, pretty well with lovely cats, friends and relatives. I am grateful to all the wonderful people in the world who have made my life a pleasure to live. Of course friends and relatives. But Germaine Greer, Gill George. Women from my trade union work - Jennie, Ros and Sharon. Diane Abbott. Plenty of men too of course. Heston Blumenthal. Sir George Martin, Francis Wheen, Ian Hislop, Ken Livingstone and Barack Obama. HOPE not hate. The world survived a fascist attack once before and I think we can beat it again, hopefully through more peaceful means. Through education, empathy, understanding, more education, love and forgiveness of your most detested enemy.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Today's glog

The garden log for today. I planted the early new potatoes in the three bins Phil bought for recycling which were made redundant by my system of depositing empty bottles in the bottle bank after every run. I didn't make any holes in them but made the drainage space quite big. Then I planted the courgette seeds on the windowsill in the pots which haven't germinated (tomatoes, poppies and some herbs haven't). I tidied up the side of the house a bit and watered the acer, mexican orange blossom and front shrubs with fertilized water. Leeds is at least three weeks colder than London - we still have the heating on. So I won't plant the non-early potatoes for another couple of weeks. Or few days. I also spliced a few dandelions and started thinking why there isn't a dandelion wine recipe on Gardener's World at this time of year - in fact anywhere. They need a wild food programme on telly. Perhaps there is one and I just haven't seen it.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Dear Joan Bakewell...

I want to write a letter to Joan Bakewell. She's been on the radio a lot in her role as ambassador for older people. Privatised care companies have finally been given the slating they deserve. But she didn't mention that home care workers do not get paid travel time. This needs to be emphasised. The other issue which is going off the boil is the public enquiry over the chaos Hewitt created as Health Secretary from 2005-07. It is no coincidence that the 400 deaths in Staffordshire not to mention preventable deaths in all the other out-in-the-sticks places like Dewsbury and Shrewsbury happened after the 15% cuts she pushed through. And nobody seems to be trying to get now-Lord Crisp (was Sir) to talk about that period. He was Chief Exec of the NHS when her and Tony Blair's reign of terror occured. Apparently Crisp signed a silence clause when he resigned in exchange for becoming His Lordship.
But I haven't written the letter. Will consult with my political guru Gill George.

Been an incredibly hectic week . New job going very well - worked Tues, Wednesday Thursday. MA going OK. Went to Chapel Allerton running club on Wednesday. Somebody said I was much faster than I was. Not sure how true that is as hadn't been for six weeks, but it felt good. Did 10k in an hour again. Still amazing to have knocked half an hour off time. Had a successful dinner party on Sat night, half hour run with A on Sunday morning and then a Leeds art gallery visit (very inspirational 'Mind the Income Gap' exhibtion) & family dinner party on Monday night, followed by 'Brian Clough night'. We watched The Damned United followed by a documentary on the man. Wednesday night (after running) had a medical leaving do. Planted some perpetual spinach which has already come up. Plenty of green shoots in my world.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dreams from my mother?

I recommend Barack Obama's Dreams from my father. It is the best political autobiography I will ever read, never mind have ever read. Anyway my mother has just won the Alan Hurst award for outstanding achievement in the Staffordshire Moorlands. Joe and I are very proud of her. It feels like a bit of a turning point actually. Mum was a bit worried about the video they did as part of the process. In our family we tend to be less articulate orally than on paper. None of us are that great at getting job interviews for example. I think it might be because we're too honest. Anyway Mum managed to stick a bit of a political point in at the end of the video apparently. She said something about recognition for some of the most discriminated groups - people with mental health problems. For the past fifteen years or so Mum has been working, voluntarily, back in the Staffordshire Moorlands helping people with mental health problems, the housebound and the rurally impovershed. She's set up Lord knows how many charities, raised goodness knows how much over these years. Finally it's been acknowledged and rewarded. "History Live" is a charity she set up with others in our village which helps record and chart history - they have gone back thousands of years making sure all the Tumulii are in the right places amongst other things. "History Live" was a charity that was set up in memory of our dear friend and neighbour, Helen Rowland, who was Ann's Mum, my village childhood friend in Hollinsclough. Helen died, very prematurely, when we were thirteen. Almost all of us will get some sort of mental health problem - it's bound up with physical health a lot of the time. Helen, Mum and I have all been affected. Mum also set up "Borderland Voices" which has helped people with mental health problems - through creative writing, art, reminiscence and gardening. Unlike Barack Obama, I don't have to have dreams from my mother. She is here, doing all this stuff and it's a reality. Thanks Mum.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Drowning and suffocating in grammar

As many of my regular readership will know, (that's a nod to you, mum) I am completing an MA in contemporary British history. The feedback I've received from my tutors has been most instructive: I have to improve on my grammar. It's a long, slow process. I have spent the entire afternoon devouring the latest books on the topic from Chapel Allerton library; to be honest I am not sure it has helped. I will cut a long story short: I am ok on sentences I think (they recommend short ones); I'm fast learning when to use a semi-colon (I plan to use it more, as a long comma); if I use a sentence, such as mum saying this morning, "I will look at your transcript later, darling" it is in the same paragraph. Longer, quoted paragraphs are indented - without speechmarks. The UK system uses double speechmarks, like so, "blah". In the UK you put the punctuation inside the speechmarks, "Anna said her mother, 'Congratulations!'" There is no need to then put another fullstop in after that. I've tended to overuse capital letters for nouns and under-hyphenate. But I am in very good company. The greatest writers all used to do this. Shakespeare's grammar was appalling. And various other greats. They (the grammar-experts) don't like sentences beginning with "and" and "but". Shame. But I disagree. Lynne Truss has undoubtedly cheered me up. I almost went onto facebook and started commenting on people's grammar where they've cocked up. Tomatoes does not have an apostrophe. But then I realised: I have a life. OK, it's a life transcribing interviews and reading the Guardian where they no longer italicise the names of books and journals. Yet, I do have a life. A pretty good one.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Planting seeds indoors

As a career break present, my work colleagues bought me twenty five pounds worth of book tokens. I have spent four months deciding which books to purchase. Obviously dementia/history/theory or some brilliant combination of the three would have been good, but quite frankly if it all goes horribly wrong I don't want to be stuck with expensive books which will be impossible to palm off onto friends, relatives or the gullible E-bay public, not to mention the freecyclers. I finalised my collection for the twenty five quid yesterday. A vegetable and herb expert from Dr Hessayon. A FREE vegetable notebook from Dr Hessayon. A BBC Gardeners World 101 tips for vegetable gardening in a small patch. An aromatherapy book and a reflexology book. These books I will probably refer to for the rest of my life. I may well use a dementia history theory book as fuel if it gets too cold in the coming years as I experience old age psychiatry meltdown. Today I was furiously referring to the books. I mistakenly bought some runner bean seeds a month prematurely. I have given some courgette seeds I bought to someone as a present. Anyway one of the great tips in the GW book was to use old toilet rolls as plant pots for pea or bean seeds. I have planted six white sweet pea seeds in those. I have also planted six Leaf Beet (aka Spinach) in yoghurt pots. Other garden and plant news: The no-wind in Leeds situation only lasted one day. It was cold and blustery today; I think the Yew I saved (by planting it) is still alive; I have brought a dying lemon plant back to life, with fertilizer; remarkably the Red plant-which-everyone-gives as-a-gift at Christmas is also still alive. Again fertilizer was the trick. It was too cold to do any gardening outdoors today. I finished transcribing another interview. Very pleased with myself for that. The poppies and tomatoes which I planted indoors about a month ago still don't appear to have germinated. The nasturtiums, sweet peas and purple basil are rampant. Worried about the carrots. They are alive, but my new books advise me that they are too close together. I will have to 'thin some out'. IE kill some. It feels so cruel and wasteful. I keep on promising myself to religiously learn the plant names. Indoor and out.

Friday, March 20, 2009


I have decided that one of the most useful things my blog can be is a garden log. A glog. Today was a beautiful sunny day in Leeds - with no wind whatsoever which is tres, tres, tres unusual. I planted the shrubs that my neighbours gave me (in exchange for slabs). I planted a conifer that Joe the bro gave me a few Christmases ago at the front. I repotted the acer (not very well and hastily). I moved the flowering pots of bulbs closer to the house and turned them around so I could see them - minature daffodils, some small blue bulbous plants and a primose which is in a pot which Mr P gave me with his mosaics on. I also potted some of the plants that Mum gave me which were surplus to requirements in the Hollinsclough jungle. I vowed again to start learning the names of all my plants. This is a long job. I moved my 'fruits of the forest' to in-front of the living room window. In May it flowers. I spent about five hours stabbing, knifing and generally being very unpleasant to dandelions. They germinate in between the concrete at the front. Eastertime they flower so I've made sure this year they hopefully won't. I also planted the two trees which I have already forgotten the names of which I bought for eighty pence in Leek on Saturday. One was a rose which isn't a rose and the other is a Rowan of some sort. I also planted some fairy-like plants whose name escape me for a second. They're in the flower fairies book. They're small with flowers like little dragon-heads. Anyway they are also in the front bed ready for their summer flowering. I raked up virtually the last of the leaves. I now have about twenty bags of leaf and dead-dandelion mulch-mould in black bags underneath the sycamore. A good day's work. Justified because Phil was fixing the new internet provider up. Sorted.

Friday, March 13, 2009


I am thoroughly enjoying transcribing (typing up) the half dozen or so oral history interviews I've completed so far in my history of dementia. The work is a great distraction from watching or listening to any news. I have banned myself from listening to the Today programme or watching the Daily Politics. With the MA, all I have to do is take the raw material and write an easy to read, accessible, well structured, planned and argued document or two. But even if I fail this latter task at least the raw material exists so that Mr Nibberty Nob-McNobabet who comes along in the year 2076, when this recession may well be over and his levels of calm (having understood recent economic insanity) are much lower, can quote from the stuff I've gathered to refute and challenge whatever I write in the next few months. I am actually trying to get the interviews in the British Library Sound Archive, although a bit of quantative easing from the Bank of Catland seems more likely. In fact introducing cat biscuits as the new currency might help with the feline obesity epidemic in our household.

A few of the other irons in the fire are coming home to roost as it were, although until the horse is well within the enclosure, with the stable door firmly closed, I won't be counting those chickens just yet.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Sebbie's Mum's pre and post- Mothering Sunday recipes: The necessity of nurturing

Had a lovely weekend cruising around offloading myself on to various friends and relatives. It made me realise the importance of nurturing people and the relationships you have with them. I am going to try and carry on putting recipes on my blog. Connie's Inauguration Salmon and Election Parsnip Soup were great successes - filed in chronological order according to a memorable date means that I can find them easily - and have been doing so. One of the other great cooks in my life gave me these recipes. Hopefully she will get a more upmarket meal a week on Sunday for the day in question!

chicken and tarragon pie
15 mins "doing", then about 45 mins in the oven
2 chicken breasts
an onion (diced)
a clove or two of garlic (chopped)
2 handfuls of mushrooms (sliced)
a pot of crème fraiche (low fat is fine)
a chicken stock cube
a good healthy shake of dried tarragon (maybe a tablespoon?)
frozen pastry (I prefer puff, but shortcurst would probably do)
chop chicken into chunks and fry in a little oil over medium heat. When nearly cooked through (about 5 mins), add onions. Once onions have softened (about 2 mins) add garlic and mushrooms and turn to low heat (add more oil if pan looks very dry or anything is sticking). After about 5 more minutes sprinkle over stock cube and fry for 30 seconds then add the crème fraiche. Cook, stirring, over low heat for a couple of minutes and then add tarragon. Cook for about another 5 mins to make sure flavours all mix. taste and add salt and pepper if you want (once you are happy with the recipe you can experiment by adding a class of white wine).
Pour into a ceramic dish (like you do a lasagne in). Roll out the pastry and lay it over the top. You can brush it with egg or milk if you want.
Put in oven at about 180 for about 40 mins, or until the pastry has browned (and risen if puff).
I tend to serve with green beans or peas or broccoli, and sometimes boiled pots though they're not really necessary with the pastry.


2 eggs
2 heaped tablespoons plain flour
cooking oil
about half a pint of milk
mixed herbs (herbes de provence or other mixed green herbs)
an onion
red wine vinegar
a glass red wine
a couple of spoons of brown sugar
a healthy splash of balsamic vinegar
about 5 minutes "doing time", half an hour "resting" then up to around 40 minutes cooking
Put the flour into a big plastic bowl. Break in the eggs and mix in with a whisk. It should make a big thick guey clump (if it is too runny, add a little bit more flour). Gradually add milk little by little, mixing furiously as you do. The mixture should gradually become more liquid (if you get lumps, just stop adding milk for a moment and beat harder). Keep adding milk until it's about the consistency of double cream. Add a tiny drop of cooking oil and some salt and pepper and mixed herbs. Set aside for about half an hour
When you set the batter aside, make the onion marmalade. Thinly slice the onions and put in a pan with a knob of butter and some olive oil, over a low heat. The onions will slowly sweat down (but shouldn't really colour - if they start to sizzle or go brown the heat is too high). After about five minutes, they should have reduced in size and gone all floppy. Pour in about a glass each of red wine vinegar and red wine, and a quick slosh of balsamic.
At this stage, put the sausages into a casserole pan or clean baking tray in the oven at about 180-200 to brown.
Let the marmalade slowly simmer away, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.
Once they're browned (maybe 10-15 minutes), pour in the batter mix and stick straight back in the oven. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
When the marmalade has been going for about 20 minutes, add a couple of desert spoons of brown sugar, stir through and leave to carry on slowing bubbling away. If it starts to look dry, add another splash of either wine or vinegar and taste to see if you need more sugar.
When the timer goes off, have a quick peak at the toad in the hole to see if it's done. When cooked, it should be risen and brown. Try to just look really quickly and not leave the door open too long as if it's not quite done it can collapse if it's in a draft.
I often just serve the toad in the hole with a big dollop of the marmalade on the top, we will have 3 sausages each (Richie will sometimes have 4!). If you want to be healthier it would be nice with pretty much any boiled veg. Sweetcorn is very quick - you could just pop a can of sweetcorn in a glass bowl, pour over boiling water, cover with clingfilm or a glass plate and microwave for 2 minutes. You can do much the same with frozen peas.

Sunday, March 08, 2009


I've been thinking a lot about nostalgia recently. Studying dementia and its various non-drug treatments one starts to meditate on the issue. People respond to happy memories and associations, the more they involve all our senses - like touch, taste and smell the more likely (if it's a happy memory) they will respond. But we've been taught on our course to be very wary of nostalgia. Harping back to the good old days. It can make you forget the hardships people had to endure.

On the other hand, if a old farmer now seriously ill can get some comfort from playing with some hay, if an older woman gets a lot from her strawberry jam breakfast, what on earth can possibly be wrong with that?

I want to set up a museum of nostalgia - so the pleasant smells, tastes, colours of memories that people associate with the happy memories of their childhood can be experienced again. Sentimentality isn't a bad thing, as long as we're not sentimentalising about fascists. In fact in my filing system it's a category.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Lunching at the British Library

I'm starting to wonder if the economic news can actually get any worse. Short of

Study Skills

knowing yourself. Treating symptoms, minor ailments, adjusting action plans. sickness.

Pain management. Nausea.

aromatherapy, acupressure
meditation, running. make bread (lick the spoon of manuka honey)
cups of tea - sugar. Lunch with salad and no potato.

Tidy up.

Acupressure: wrist, forehead, stomach and knee

Aromatherapy: frankinscence, clary sage, rosemary

Exercise - running, yoga. Shoulder stands

Commas - do not use. Hyphens; over used. apostrophies - learn the correct way. Speech marks. Got to learn the UK way. Full stops. Yes please. More sir.

Sentences. short.

Give yourself an achievable task each day.

A list of words. Words, sentences, paragraphs.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Harvey Nicks - too good for chimps

The past few days I've been my normal pretty depressed self. People used to ask me what my politics were and I used to say 'Champagne anarcho-socialist'. These days it's just prosecco. It's not a happy time for most. I've even managed to feel sorry for the poor blighters at the Sun, hearing that News International are laying off 60 journalists. In fact, I almost bought the paper, after picking it up whilst I was having my obligatory city-centre-shopping-tea-break at Pret. I came across this article. Some woman kept a chimp as a pet which then bit her friend's eyes out. She loved the chimp. It was quite a tragic story. But the quote kept me laughing for hours. "Until you’ve eaten with a chimp and bathed with a chimp, you don’t know a chimp.” The Sun and its journalists are obviously trying to cheer everyone up with their stories. This time it worked. Or is it the blitz spirit? Under normal circumstances I would hate News International and their journalists, but hearing that they're all going on the dole brings out a sympathy laugh for their 'human' (or in this case chimp) interest stories that our journalist 'professors' used to harp on about.

Whilst I was pondering capitalism's imminent demise I decided to give what will probably be the last bastions of this economic creed a run for their money. A soup-run for *my* money in fact. Yes, I went to Harvey Nick's for my lunch. There's something so unsettling about carrying massive bags with a tray around Pret, nice as the tea and wonderful salad is. You feel like the underclass. Shuffling along, banging into people, wondering if you've just poked someone's eye out with your latest Poundland bargain. The seats are just too close together and you need ten arms. There's no excuse NOT to go to proper lunch in Leeds on a Saturday. So I left the Sun behind, after the using the (frankly rather pathetic) facilities at Pret. Don't get me wrong. I love Pret. It's the only chain I do love. But, it's only two minutes from a Leeds icon.

I toddled off to Harvey Nicks. I paid the huge £7.26 for my lunch at Harvey Nicks (including service). But what do you get for your money? Well, for the extra £2 than you would probably pay at a similar cafe, you get a long list of extras. *Proper* pepper in a mill. Salt in a mill. Single expresso - which comes with an optional glass of tap water. You get what used to be called 'silver service'. With my roast tomoato soup with croutons and creme fraiche I was given a choice of three breads. The manager is a very friendly and knowledgeable man, dressed immaculately in a pin-stripe suit with this incredible posture that makes me think he does yoga. And this is the crucial difference. Not only are there no chimps, nor even newspapers hanging around with stories of chimps. There is impeccable, personal and personnable service. They glide over to you, and glide you to your seat. Every wish is their command. The staff are attentive, experienced, knowledgeable and the service is seamless. And then there's the views. You might think, what's the centre of Leeds to look at? Well, the Harvey Nick's cafe is in the Victoria quarter where all the very expensive shops were done up recently. So the architecture is very smart if you like that sort of thing. What I love are the coloured glass windows on the roof. All different colours in modern designs, just beautiful for non-economic, peaceful and optimistic contemplation. And so, I leave my lunchtime date with myself, not only feeling sated, but not feeling too impoverished or ripped off. Comrades, when we do take over the world can we keep quality food establishments like Harvey Nichols?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mum's Gammon

1) Buy a Gammon cut of pork
2) Soak overnight if poss, if not for a good few hours
2.5) Roast potatoes in goose fat
3) Boil Gammon for 45 mins
4) Drain and then get a knife, score the fat and insert cloves and rub in brown sugar
5) Roast at Gas Mark 7
6) put the parsnips in after 20 minutes
7) Serve with warmed up pineapple

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hi-fi Club, Leeds Monday February 16th - Five Star Review

I'll cut to the chase. This review is totally biassed. My brother is Joe Tatton, someone whose modesty precludes him from blowing his own trumpet (he used to play the cornet in Hollinsclough Siliver Band). Needless to say I think he's one of the most talented musicians I will ever meet. I've known him since he was born and for purely unselfish reasons would sorely like to see his music career take off, big time. He does just about manage to make a living from being a full-time musician, but I have got nice images of relaxation in an in-door pool somewhere in Scarborough paid for from the proceeds of some Number One or whatever you call commercially successful music these days. It is frustrating when you see people who are less talented, less experienced and not as nice rake in the cash. Anyway, Joe's latest jaunt is off with his girlfriend into popular soul paradise. They've got a new album and a new band Rodina so-named after the Russian word for mother-land, already with their eye on the Eastern market. They are doing very well indeed in Turkey. They are doing pretty well here.

Firstly the band. I love Aoife, almost as much as Joe. Twenty-something mega-babe fronting the band, singing in a sweet, hypnotic and entrancing style that celebrates her celtic roots. Jonny is on rthym guitar and he plays in an acoustic styly and Danny on a beat-box. Joe the bro is on keyboard and sorts out the bass with some magnificent piano solos. Aoife does her own styling and I think she's a trendsetter for us cutesey individualists. Colourful, playful and mesmerising.

What I really like is that the foursome stand in a row on stage, all equal, all enjoying themselves. Seasoned performers, musicians and artists of the highest calibre. There is a jovial camaraderie amongst the band, everyone self-deprecating and joking around and I think this relaxed openmindedness stands out amongst other bands. It's uplifting to experience.

Rodina opened the night at about 8.30, first act on, which they were pleased with because everyone goes home later on. At one point I was in charge of the CDs and gave one to someone who said he was manager of Nightmares on Wax. He was a nice guy. I was also in charge of the flyers and started handing them out. What I found was most effective was getting into a dialogue with people about the band. I would say 'They're a mixture of Jools Holland, Corrine Bailey Rae and the Buena Vista Social Club'. People would get curious and start reading the flyer.

Finally Rodina's music. They always start with 'Always had a Dream'. With an extremely catchy line 'You don't believe, you don't believe'. Singing it all day after the gig. My favourite is 'You Cry I Cry'. It's perhaps one of the their darkest songs. I love the change of tempo. Brilliant all round.

The second band I didn't like I'm afraid. It can only be described as 'posh folk'. That's the music and the people attending. They were called 'Feldspar' and me and Dave the Rave had a little competition just before they came on about what sort of genre they were. He said Pink Floyd. I based my guess on the clothes they were wearing (beige slacks, v neck jumpers and ironed cotton shirts). I was right. Posh Folk. They had their mothers with them, which I don't object to under normal circumstances. But whilst MY family were playing these posh folk were making an absolute racket 'Oh darrrling..' as they all turned up, throwing their arms round each other, right in front of the stage. And yet when they started they told the crowd to Shush. Just not the done thing sweeties.

Now the third band I adored. Sal Paradise. These guys are going places. They haven't given me any money, I'm not at all related to them and I don't know their first names, but by God I think they're good. I had a good feeling about them because they were tapping their feet to Rodina , so I knew they had taste. I would have preferred it if one of them was a girl, but you can't have everything in one band. These guys were like the grandsons of Men at Work, UB40 and the Beach Boys, and the sons of Supergrass. It was reggae-rock. They were a tight outfit, but I don't know whether this was because I had my eye on the drummer all the time. I must admit you get to a certain age and suddenly drummers seem young, muscular and attractive. Is too much oestrogen a good thing I was wondering as I was watching the young women huddling round at the front trying to get a glimpse of more muscle and leg. But the eye candy didn't put me off too much and I thought their songs were great, tuneful, powerful numbers, perfect for the summer.

The fourth band- Meryl Jane. Well by this point husband had arrived. He liked them. He likes Razorlight. I just didn't find the tunes that catchy.

And the fifth band - The tales, the tales. I didn't give this lot justice and plan to return to their April gig. What was quite funny was that at the start of the night I said to one of them when giving them a Rodina flyer 'What sort of music are you?' And he said 'Amazing'. Having listened to them on myspace for awhile I think they need to concentrate on playing at the same speed.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Our ten day holiday started with brother-in-law's B day. I spent a lot of the time at the restaurant trying to convert his mate into more of a lefty. We went to Belgo's in Covent Garden. Pretty poor service. OK food.
They loved their Christmas/B day presents. We had a good laugh.

My MA is chugging along. I might have decided it is too difficult. There is no agreement anywhere on anything. Least of all me with anyone else.

Then of course we went to Rome! A holiday I've been looking forward to for a long time - one of my favourite cities as for someone with a historical bent there is *so* much to see and do. It was a surprise for mum-in-law. We met up with cousin-in-law at the airport which was fun.
We got a lift with a maniac Italian taxi driver. After my hit and run experience I was terrified . I left my black gloves behind.

Arrived and C span hubbie round, it was lovely. That was the last surprise.

There were ten of us altogether - C and T (2 sisters) and their children and wives/husbands. Pizza place for the bday night itself. marvellous, incredible ravioli for me. The following night P & C (brother and sister in law) had discovered Rome's only vegetarian-ish restaurant - half the party were veggies. Amazing food again. Wonderful pasta - home baked by Nonna in the background who kept on waving at us. Tiramisu - had to have it daily of course. Artichoke ravioli followed by Sea bass. Immaculately cooked so delicate, simple and subtle. Yet so tasty. Don't know how they do it. And we kept on saying this about every cup of coffee too. So much so that for hubbie's valentine this year he got an Italian on-stove coffee maker. We had a cheaper one in London for a few years but it broke a couple of years ago!

On Day two we went to the Collosseum. I lobbied for a human guide and got it. I like the human guides as you can ask them questions. It's called a didactic tour in Italy. I asked 2 questions - was the excavation of it related to the rise in nationalism (at the start of the c19)?. She said no, it was the rise of neoclassicalism. The rise of nationalism came quite a lot later. My 2nd question was about tickets. She had proudly told us that they sold tickets with numbers on them correspondending to seats. I said what were the tickets made of? They didn't know. Sources don't say. Bone, animal skin, bark? Our party started discussing my second question.

My 3rd question - I didn't ask because husband was taking the pizza - was why the financial crisis of the Western front of the Roman empire happen? Fresh in my mind because Gordon Brown has been saying there's no lessons from history on the latest financial crisis.

Everywhere you look in Rome there is some historic building or other, and some story behind it. The building they call the typewriter or wedding cake, built by King Victor at the height of nationalism a couple of years before the first world war. We went in it to see the Picasso exhibition. It appeared to be quite a cheerful time for Picasso - 1917-37. He got a bit grumpy when the Spanish Civil War started. Anyway a lovely exhibition and really inspirational to see his works of true genius. We also went to La Chappella Sistina and the Vatican. *Amazing*. The room of maps was just breathtaking. Every last little detail you wanted to soak up. You could easily spend a couple of centuries in there. And Santa Maria Maggoria. The Church of Mary Major. 5th Century. One of the best conserved churches in the world. The gold leaf, altar and mosaic frescoes just took your breath away.

Roma was perfecta. A brilliant little break. We went back to Shropshire and had more fun, running, great food and arrived back to the economic and literal fog. Happy in the gloom.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


So much to report, so many stories to tell and so little time. I'm about to be given another beautiful soup and salad lunch. Anyway the stories that you must remind me to tell you later: Cook-la and the naming of names. Failing to prosecute John Humphries for inciting racial hatred. Risk averse risk management. Snow. Car breakdown. The trip to Rome. The two questions I asked and the one question I didn't. Food reviews. Trying to contact a couple of Lords. For different reasons. Financial meltdown. The answer to humanity's problems - free energy to all. Curry, lasagne, ravioli, pizza and sea bass. Trawler men. Agatha Christie. What books I'm going to get with my twenty five quid book token. More running. And tonight's dessert menu. White chocolat and pistacio parfait with passion fruit and lycee jelly.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

AA Gill's review is Bravo Sierra

Today we went to Foxtrot Oscar. It's Gordon Ramsay's new restaurant. It was absolutely marvellous. It cost £112.48 including all wine and service. Very reasonable for high quality London food. And it's in the heart of Chelsea. We had a bit of a to-do about it as well.

To cut a long story short I had a traumatic time last Thursday. I was in a taxi which did a hit and run on a pedestrian and sped off at eighty miles an hour. Fortunately he let me out after a few minutes and I whimpered to the police station. The hit and runner was on a mobile phone. Anyway the medium and long term effects of this have made me: 1) slightly more cautious yet also more confident in my driving (I have never held a telephone conversation whilst driving) 2) carry on living exactly and precisely as I was before as there is jack diddly squat that I could have done to create a different outcome. As part of 2) I have carried on my (possibly) too high expectations in terms of restaurant food.

Basically husband wanted to go to Foxtrot Oscar. When I read Mr Gill's review I wanted to go to the Square. The only Ramsay establishment husband has eaten at is The Sandgate in Folkestone where we went for our honeymoon. We loved it. Perfect for a trip to France as it is pretty reasonable yet v close to coast. I had eaten at the Narrow and it was a bit rubbish. So I had surreptitiously booked the Square. When husband got out of shower I saw the look on his face. He started talking about money and I quietly unbooked the square.

Firstly the service. Impeccable, friendly, informal and funny. They never wrote anything down, not a word. Yet nothing was forgotten. We thought we might have the restaurant to ourselves having got in at 6.30 to an empty place. Indeed the host made us feel like the only people in the world. We had his undivided attention.

The bread was amazing. sourdough in little triangle shapes. We also knew from Ramsay's cookery books that his sea food is possibly his greatest strength. He saves money on expensive ingredients from hours of back breaking, yet highly trained labour - we love his fish stock and fish sauce.

Yes, my prawn cocktail was inexplicably in a bowl but husband had a terrine with prune chutney which was v nice. And the mains were also great. Pub prices, fine dining quality. Wine was good value and gorgoeous. We had Pinot Noir - complex, tasty and light. And for dessert I had bread and butter pudding - the lightest and best I have ever tasted.
Wonderful muscat to finish and the husband had some good cheese.

What I love most about my most expensive hobby (eating out) is the stories you always get from the best places. It turned out that we were joined in the restaurant by the man who played William Dorrit from the Dickens TV serial with his mother/ wife/daughter/two female friends. We very much enjoyed the eavesdropping about how this actor learnt to play the ukelele on the Royle Family. Then the owner told us that his brother had sacked AA Gill's wife's brother. He said Ramsay had also chucked out Gill and Joan Collins from Royal hospital road. So the bad review from AA Gill was predictable.

But the thing about Ramsay is he seems to listen to his critics. Gill's criticisms - meat pie and french onion soup - had been taken off the menu. The food was so tasty and well executed - living up to Ramsay's dedication to simplicities.

AA Gill needs to return to foxtrot oscar.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Anger management

One of the things I may have inherited or at least learnt from my mother is the ability to get angry from listening to the radio. It's five years since the Hutton report came out and we're in the worst recession since 1945 - with the UK being most badly affected worldwide. These things are in my view NOT a coincidence as we have had the most right wing governments ever since 1979. One of the things you learn about managing anger is to try and channel this passion into more positive arenas. Furrow your energy into areas where you actually have the power to change something in a positive way. This is where I detract from the revolutionary socialists. I'm into non-violence. In a big way. I don't believe violence is the answer.

So today, practising as I preach I have spent a good hour at least meditating. Half hour about 10am. Then another half hour about three. I've forgiven myself for getting so angry (it's totally understandable). I've forgiven my ex-boyfriend, a suspected paedophile I know and Idi Amin. I browsed through my meditation books and one of the other things they suggested was gardening.

It was great catching that last hour of sunlight at 3.30, and when you look at the BBC MET office forecast instantaeously it's not that inaccurate. They said zero miles per hour wind. Perfect for humping leaves for 2010's leafmould (or will it be 2011? - Watch this space). I've had lots of plants as presents so these are now all lined up neatly for the next nice sunny day to plant in the front garden. And in ten minutes I am hopefully hooking up with Chapel Allerton running club. Even if I don't meet with them I will be running there and back - getting ten minutes of run in!

And I've just finished listening to Melvyn Bragg's In our time - History of history. Mummy and Daddy's girl. Whilst playing with the beads my stepmother gave me. I'm a good stepdaughter too. You can certainly learn how to become calm and it's much more pleasant.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Too cold to do anything - except watch Murder She Wrote

I am waiting for the boiler repair person to arrive. The oven is on gas mark 6 - with the door open. And the gas fire is on full blast. I was supposed to be transcribing a bit of Sube Banerjee's interview. In fact I might go and get it in a minute. Now in fact. The self-imposed guilt of watching clap trap on telly is forcing me into action.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Connie's inauguration salmon

Chop two small onions, some coriander (that I keep in the freezer after chopping it), some ginger, garlic, lemon juice, All-Seasons all purpose seasoning and some olive oil. Marinade the two salmon steaks for about 24 hours. Then put in all this in oven at Gas Mark 6 for about 10 minutes.

Serve with potatoes and veg. Or salad.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tears of Joy

There's so much irony that on the same day as probably the best ever President of the USA got sworn in, that the banks, where we all put our money went into freefall. They collapsed. So this morning I was panicking about fighting my neighbours for food (nearly), yet by the afternoon Obama had persuaded me to take a homeless person in (almost). It's the same mixed emotions as when he got elected. Absolute and utter joy. Appreciating every last detail and every last memory of the day - that is every last memory of the inauguration - not the financial news. Michelle's pale lime green dress with beautiful slightly darker green gloves. The sunshine. Not just through my windows, but glinting off the windows of Capitol House. The only thing comparable was my own wedding day. Knowing that for years afterwards I will want to remember the things that happened today. The funny bits. Obama fluffing his lines over Lincoln's Bible. Realising that the song Aretha Franklin was singing was the same as God Save the Queen - with different lyrics. Obama smiling as he went into Church.

His speech I was waiting for. I don't think I was disappointed. I've put the think in there because he mentioned patriotism as a virtue. I don't agree. The speech was also perhaps slightly too sombre and warlike. He might have been better capturing some of the joy in what he represents. He did mention the fight against fascism before communism, and the historical scenes he painted were great. The commentators went on and on about the cold. I saw the clouds of breath. It was minus ten in Washington . He mentioned the frostiness and reminded us how previous generations worked so hard for us - we, the new generation. I felt sobre. I started shivering. Then I put on Connie's salmon steaks. And thought about some Muscadet.

But the happiness did not dissipate. I felt proud to be almost-American. Sharing the American culture a bit at least. Watching people in HD and remembering the USA of my childhood. It's all superlatives. Superman, Wonderwoman, Supergirl. Moonlighting (not a superlative, but a an excellent TV programme which I can't get on DVD). Because I've read his wonderful books I feel like I know them all. It feels real. Real life, real people. Real tears of joy.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A guide to running for beginners

The great thing about running is that all you need to start is a pair of trainers. I actually got some pretty good stuff though - we have a shop dedicated to running in Leeds. I got some flourescent cotton gloves - ideal as thin so you don't get too hot, yet takes the edge off when it's freezing cold. I also got a lightweight waterproof-ish jacket, also great for these rainy winter runs.

When I very first started I just used to run for literally five minutes at a time. Because I knew that unless I gave myself some very easily achievable things to do I would pack it in. Gradually I stepped it up and nowadays I can run -well, I say run, it's more like a snail jogging. In fact most people walk faster than I run- for half an hour at a time. For the past couple of times I've been out I haven't walked at all. We also back on to some playing fields. Marvellous as you're straight out there with some beautiful views of Leeds as we're right on top of the hill. I would say the key things are for running in winter -0.5) get some trainers 1) remember it only gets light at about 8.30, find a route you enjoy. 2) Always look at the weather forecast. Actually forget this. I relied on BBC met office yesterday - totally inaccurate for Leeds. Look out of the window before you go out. Regardless dress up warm at this time of year. You can always tie your jacket round your waist aka 1970s style. 3) Sort out your playlist. This is vital. Having looked at a website for inspiration, it turns out most runners are also rockers. Personally this is not to my taste. Being a big rock fan at home, I don't want to get turned off my favourite music and get bored of it. It's pop for me every time. Having said that, my feminist and advancement of human rights side to my personality dictates that I cannot listen to Emimem - Lose Yourself. I just can't. I don't care if everyone on the planet says it's the only good thing to run to.

I'm still definitely a beginner, having now been running for 3 months. I did my first 'race' and did it half an hour slower than virtually everyone else. But, something had to replace all the cycling I did in London. I used to love cycling (still do but I just don't get chance to do it) for how you're so close to nature. Running is even better in this respect. You are there, with the urban landscape and the immigrant seagulls, running and every day is slightly different. Slightly damper, slightly warmer, or frosty. A different view, diverse birds. The tall grasses like swords dissecting the crisp air and sunlight glinting off them. Or the wind cooling you down as you run against it and towards it. And every time the endorphins get you. You're hooked. And the best news is the only side effects are positive ones.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

A day thinking about feminism

I'd mentioned in my PhD proposal - still waiting to hear what some people think of the draft to send it in - that I was influenced by feminist theory and would be examining why carers are so obscured in the histories of dementia. I indulged myself again and watched the last half hour of Murder, She Wrote starring Angela Lansbury. Just as I was thinking what a wonderful example it was of women achieving and showing their intellectual ability (she has a bust of Shakespeare in the house) it turned out it was the vain younger woman who committed the murder. I should have known of course. Then there was the news of the French justice minister (Jack Straw's counterpart they helpfully explained) arriving at work 4 days after giving birth at the age of 44, simultaneously announcing that she would not be disclosing who the father of her child was. The story was accompanied by footage of her strutting laughing across some 18th century cobblestones clutching a legal brief whilst wearing five inch stilettos. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I definitely felt like crying a bit later when hearing the news of some starving Gazan children huddled in their mothers' corpses and a woman from the Red Cross denouncing Israel. Israel have a woman as their army spokesperson. There was a hand bag in the background as she was speaking.
And then I looked at my lovely friend Jemima's website. Loads of good journalism and tips for the entrepreneur. Plus Lila's first day at nursery.