Saturday, 6 December 2008

not a good week

I'm ill. I'm not very good at being ill. I complain alot. I am currently matching Humphrey for pathetic looks and sighs. I seem to have the flu. Fever, aches, pains, sniffles (if you can call what feels like niagra falls attempting to exit my face by any means necessary "sniffles") and a deep and nasty cough that leaves me unsure of whether to clutch my head or my lungs. I wish I could clutch my lungs. I would haul them out, read them the riot act, give them a good cleaning out and pop those puppies back in with strict instructions to do better next time. luckily i do not get sick like this often, but god, does it ever suck.

We are supposed to be on the last weekend of super cleaning in prep for the parental arrivaltude next week but that is suddenly not looking so important.

and yes, the week preceding the arrival of the phlegm was also terrible. more on that later. i've run out of steam and must sleep now.......

Friday, 28 November 2008

My Optimism Runneth Over


yup - it's been one of THOSE weeks. A few of them, actually. And now, that particular section of chaos is reprieved for two days and I feel delightfully, air-ily happy.

I managed to get home at, what these days, passes for an early hour, and I had the delight of sharing my train carriage with a group of cheery men who, one by one, disappeared with bags and reappeared dressed in outrageous costumes. One returned in full father christmas regalia, another in what could possibly be described as Studio 54 meets Blaxpoitation pimp meets a rather shocking amount of pink leopardskin. It was something. I love on-train entertainment! I have no idea where they were going but I bet they're going to have a fun weekend.

In two weeks tomorrow my lovely parents arrive from their winter wonderland of winnipeg to spend xmas with us - I am getting excited, and also am starting to panic slightly. In a good way. Events like this completely shatter my laid-back, cool veneer and expose me for the control freak that lurks beneath. This evening, I actually said the following sentence - " but that bathmat would match the towels nicely" ! I know! I am channeling my mother. Already. By the time she leaves I'll probably be painting my nails and talking about the merits of cableknit. I'll keep you posted on my transformation.

But for now, I am slurping a cheap-but-surprisingly-robust Rioja and reveling in the gloriousness that is a friday evening. Loads of reading for my next class? Well, that's later! Massive cleaning to do before parental units appear? Lots of time! Essay to research? No problem! There's still Sunday!

whoo hoo!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Dance your PhD!

What am I up to?

The usual -

kicking back with a glass of decent red, listening to the dawg snore and watching the winners of the 2008 Dance Your PhD contest.

What? You haven't seen it? Go watch! Now! You'll thank me! ('specially you, Geo!)

Friday, 21 November 2008

61% Male!!!!!

I think I've cracked it.

Go on - try for yourselves.


"Gender Stereotyping - Not Just for Work!"


It is now 56% likely that my blog is written by a man. Down from 60% after that last post. I wonder what the key words are and how many of them you have to use to pass as female.

alternatively I wonder if I can pump it up by using political/economic language - lets try, yes?

elections (erections?!), voting, analysis, pundits, talk radio, culture, white house, recession, credit crunch, economics, libor rate, hoi polloi, The Financial Times, exchange rates, economy, MP, banking, CEO, CFO, cut-backs, voting, views, bull market bear market , stock market, dividend derivative, securitisation


Actual conversation at work today:
Boss: You were right, (then somewhat sarcastically) you're always right. Thats because you're a woman
Grapecat: Yes, I am always right. But not because I'm a woman, but because I'm SMART.
I should add, boss is trying to wind me up and laughed very hard at my reply.
According to some website that apparently analyses your writing to see if what you write is written by a male or a female (phrasing it like that does rather point to the ludicrousness of the whole thing, no?) it is 60% likely that the author of this blog is male. This is news to me. Though perhaps it explains my inherent smartness (see above). good grief.

yes of course I put my blog address in even though I knew it was a) stupid and b) arbitrary (like most gender difference crap). Inquiring minds want to know, even when they are reasonably sure it will just piss them off. Completely sure, because if it has told me that I write like a woman, I would have thought, well what does THAT mean? Maybe I don't write enough about shoes. Actually, I'm going to try that. Lets see if my womanly score improves after this:

shoes makeup shoes makeup lipstick boys boys boys dating crying chick flicks dresses skirts bras shoes shoes shoes eyeliner shoes shoes makeup makeup

Friday, 7 November 2008

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

it's just like that sometimes



Monday, 3 November 2008

shall i manage your expectations for you sir?

I've been busy. I know that's unoriginal, but then, so is everything else at the moment so tough. Crap poetry and stolen jokes do not a decent update make. I would promise to do better, but I would not want to raise expectations. Expectation is really one of those words you just run into at work, isn't it? In my personal experience, when anyone in management mentions "managing expectations" one should make oneself scarce, or bring protection.

However, I am now
a) alone and
b) on holiday
so perhaps the situation will improve. Once you add in
c) I'm supposed to be using this time to read, study, decide and research my essay topic for my class and generally catch up on life the universe and everything that has been happening since I've been spending what seems like 22 hours each and every day either in Manchester on the project or in a class at Birkbeck - a transition that is most definitely not yet seamless - then you can bet that I'll be displacing activity on a massive scale, hence, more blog posts. Isn't the human mind wonderful?

Yes, N has gone up to visit his uncle in Cheltenham and will be enjoying long British walks in the Cotswalds, cozy pubs, and the unadulterated joy of listening to Uncle L who sounds just like Wallace in Wallace and Grommet. But in a good way. I am holding the fort. Thankfully, Humph, our OCD rescue greyhound, has given up the bi-minutely routine - pace, stare, jump on sofa to look out window, sigh, look reproachfully at me, settle, repeat - for the time being and is now employing sad eyes (tm) from his bed in the corner interspersed with manic paw licking. There can be no mistaking the glaring reality of being considered second rate. Obviously dogs really are man's best friend.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

tee hee

read today in the paper

"And there are naughty jokes, such as the one about the woman who flies into Boston eager to enjoy a plate of the fish for which that city is famous. 'Where can I get scrod?' she asks the driver as she gets into the cab. 'Gee,' he replies, 'I've never heard it put in the pluperfect subjective before.'"

Friday, 10 October 2008

The Definite Article

It's because you want to know
It's because you need to know
It's because you can
It's because you question
It's because you are not a sheep
even though sometimes you want to be
but not really

It's because it's more interesting
It's because the music is better
and dancing is more fun
when you just don't care
and you make funky faces
without even realising

It's because it's there
and the soft option is not an option
that you are interested in

It's because light is fascinating
and clouds

It's because of the solace in trees

It's because the ideas
the language
the people
are all alive - and so are you

And it might be a coincidence
Or it might not be

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Three Week Stupid Period


It's a three week stupid period. That explains a lot about life at the moment.

We used to share a house with a guy who was into his astrology, at least on a birth chart, planetary level, not horoscopes that you would read in papers. Although he would read those for fun sometimes, scoffing as he went: "Ha - Sagittarius lucky today? With that moon aspect? You're having a laugh!" Anyways, he called Mercury retrograde three-week stupid periods, and it stuck. We lived with him for several years, and it seemed pretty consistent. Mercury retrograde more often than not seemed to mean communication snarl ups, computers crashing, schedules missing, etc. It's supposed to be a great time for finishing projects (what? You're supposed to finish projects?), but also a good time to back up your hard drive.

Starting your Masters degree in a three week stupid period is probably not ideal, but - what can you do? Perhaps, it could be viewed as a continuation, and therefore not a start. I may phone and check that my enrollment papers were received though.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

What I WOULD have said

My friend Geo wrote this amazing post which I loved, and I was all fired up and headed straight to the comments section. I was sizzling. I was typing away. I was drawing unique parallels. I "saved my comment". It may be saved somewhere, but not anywhere near Geo's blog, that's for sure.

So I started again (after some wailing and gnashing of teeth). The second time I was brilliant. Even better than before. My asides were charming, my prose witty. I tabbed over to see Geo's orig post, noticed there was another comment, thought "oh maybe my comment saved after all", clicked it, and was taken to comments, BUT MINE WAS GONE!!!! The new window replaced my superlative musings! The window simply regenerated with no thought to what may have been in the works! So, top tip, DON'T DO THIS.

Well, in all good conscious, I couldn't start again. I mean, really, to lose one husband might be careless, but to lose two looks suspicious. Or something.

It has rather been that sort of day.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Ooooh Books!

From the wonderful Miss Prism - books you are supposed to like but (gasp) don't. I can't agree entirely with Miss Prism's list, (I love Catch 22, and I quite liked The Bone People as well - implausibility is not really an issue with me), but I'll have a stab at it.

1. Jane Eyre
I read this in my I-may-not-have-a-classical-education-but-god-damn-it-I-can-be- erudite-too phase. What is with that ending? Crazy-woman-in-burning-attic a metaphor for what? Really?? Clearly the classical education part must add some missing touch that is unavailable to us mere mortals.

2. Wuthering Heights.
Yup - I'm right with Miss Prism on this one. Are we actually supposed to like these people?

3. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
WWI with muzak treatment

4. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
Maybe if I'd read this one first, it would have been different. But I read Satantic Verses first, then The Moor's Last Sigh, and The Ground Beneath her Feet. By the time I got to this one I just felt, in the words of Elton John, like I'd seen that movie too. I have started this book twice, but never managed past the half-way mark.

5.The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Go on, hit me on the head over and over again with those clumsy similes, go on - you know I love it - wait - actually I don't. Don't patronise me.

I'm sure there's more. Oh yes.

Friday, 19 September 2008

A most remarkable turn of events

more animals

I was a late arrival to the world of higher education - I started my undergraduate degree at 29. I loved it. I have been plotting my return ever since, but being perennially skint has made this a complex undertaking. I have this attachment to, you know - eating and stuff. And housing -yup - I'm big on paying the rent.

Birkbeck College is one of the schools of University College London, and they offer part-time post graduate courses that are taught in evenings and on weekends. I applied last year, and was accepted for the LLM in Law and Political Justice, but all hell broke loose this time last year (death, pestilence, disease etc), funding fell through, and I deferred entry.

This year, being still skint (*sigh*), I applied for their scholarship programme, but was rejected. I wasn't really surprised - I was neck deep and sinking in a project from hell at work and barely managed to get a coherent application in. I figured, well, obviously the timing's not right. You can't push these things too hard - and it would be hard - juggling 60 hour work weeks with a part-time Masters is insane, right?

Yesterday I got an email from Birkbeck. They have additional funds, my scholarship application was shortlisted in the last round, and I've been awarded a full fees bursary for my degree.


I start in two weeks.


Processing this has been made more difficult by the fact that I was celebrating last night (ahem) and I was dreadfully, horrifically hung over this morning. I had to chair two meetings and attend two more and I am not sure how I even got through today. I am so so glad to be home and no longer trying to look enthused about how our new accounting procedures are going to affect the coding on my project lines.

I'm ecstatic.

I am not sure how I am going to get through the next 6 weeks or so.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Omnivores R Us

I can't resist - it's a list! A list of food! Pick me! ME! Me - oh miss - ask me!!! (yes, I was that kid in school - sorry). Here's the story, courtesy Very Good Taste

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (ha ha just a bit!)
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21 Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (sourdough bowl?)
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini (what is dirty gin? I have certainly had a few martinis in my time)
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips (unfortunately)
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

I scored 62 - the fact that I have lived both in North America and Europe certainly helped.

The only thing I would refuse to eat is the Big Mac meal. Ewwwwwww. Why is that even there?

So - c'mon - how 'bout you?

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Those who dance

"Those who dance are considered insane by those who can't hear the music."

- George Carlin

Once, years ago, N and I were stuck in a small airport with hours to kill before our flight. However, the airport had a bookshop and a bar, both still open. To our glee, we found and bought a George Carlin book, Braindroppings, retired to the bar, and read bits to each other - laughing so hard other people actually asked us what we were reading.

So I loved seeing this*

* note: contains "bad" language :)

Sunday, 7 September 2008


"The more people connect, date, befriend, network and socialize online, the more likely they are to eventually meet up in meatspace."

- from an interesting report on the links between online/offline worlds, unfortunately geared in its entirety to corporate marketing, but still intriguing for all that.

But meatspace? Have you heard this before? Admittedly when I first read it, I laughed, in my head. But upon further reflection, I'm not so sure. Is this supposed to be self-depreciating? Meatspace? Is this supposed to be some sort of pun?

It's just too ugly to be redeemable, though I like the concept behind it (which I am taking to be a tag on the inherent physicalness of real life, possibly with the added interest of the linguistic transition of different words for animals and meat, which I have recently read exists in almost every language - mirroring online vs offline spaces - but I may be giving these self-appointed trend-setters too much credit on that last one)

Nope - too ugly for me. What do you think?

**8/9/8 - well apparently I am out of the loop. According to Wikipedia (no - not source, obviously, but useful):

Some early uses of the term include a post to the Usenet newsgroup austin.public-net on Feb. 21, 1993[2] and an article in the Seattle Times about John Perry Barlow on October 30, 1995 [3]. The term entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 2000 [4].


Saturday, 6 September 2008


H: Are you going to wear that jumper? It's a little snug.
J: I thought I looked like Simon Templar.
H: Simon Templar wears roll-neck jumpers.
J: Well, I can't see my neck from here

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Friday Night at the Hop Festival

This band is Sur Les Docks, and they played at Faversham Hop Festival last weekend. This clip is not from last weekend, I hasten to add. We saw them first on Friday night in a small traditional pub by the creek, and I am telling you people - I danced like a monkey all evening long. The pub was packed, the music was loud and the vibe was fantastic. The band played and danced with us, among us, and there were old dancers and young dancers, good dancers and bad dancers and everyone was laughing and dancing together. When they stopped we all poured outside into what was actually a beautiful summer evening (I know! in England!!) and grabbed another pint of Festival Ale. Then the music would start up again and we would re-assemble, grinning and dancing the night away.

The Hop Festival is Faversham's big blow-out weekend - lots of bands, hops everywhere, Morris dancers a-plenty, and the whole town walks around with tankards of ale from 10 in the morning till late at night and it's all cool. I love it especially because it was Hop Festival Saturday when we came to see the oast for the first time, five years ago, and I fell head-over-heels in love with it. The landlord said it was ours, and we headed into town to see what Faversham was like. That was a bit of a surprise.

This year I was really looking forward to it, because I booked the Friday before and the whole week after as annual leave, and also because one of N's dog walking buddies who also walks/is walked by a greyhound, got us places on the CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) Shepard Neame Brewery Tour on the Friday night - for CAMRA members only and heavily subscribed.

The brewery tour was something else too. Most people (ie everyone but us) had already been on it, several times, so they skipped most of the generic info and just launched into what turned out to be the main point of the tour, free beer. Lots of free beer. Straight from the cask. I really can't quite believe they let 30+ members of CAMRA loose in a brewery with free beer at every stop. It was like some kind of beautiful dream (except if it really was a dream it would have been Goachers, or Nelsons, not Shepard Neame!) But hey, with free ale like that, no complaints here. Our CAMRA memberships have paid for themselves in an evening.

Needless to say, we were already happily squiffy as we walked down the lane to the Anchor to meet our friends and check out the music.

It was the start to a fantastic weekend. Great music, friends down from London, hot sun on both Saturday and Sunday - first time since the one or two days in July (ah England - your summers doth fail to impress) - bbq's - and probably close to my body weight in ale. Good ale.

And people ask us why we moved here. Yeesh!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

And another thing

Mama Mia is not a good movie. It's probably not even a good musical. Abba lyrics were never meant to stand up to plot synthesis or dialogical consistency. Freud would have had a heyday with this movie - not to mention Dworkin.


(N refused to see it. About 5 mintes in I was so grateful that he wasn't there and at
least the I-told-you-so's were internal. I figured (before-hand) - maybe it was like Babe. A movie, which on the face of it, was going to be over-emotional, family-values crap, but which was very funny and charming and lovely. It wasn't. I realise this is all subjective.)

However, I have had an almost constant song list of Abba on my internal radio station ever since. It makes everything seem vaguely frivolous.

I'm feeling a bit hippie

so, twice in one evening, I've heard heard the word hippie being used as an adjective rather than a noun.

when did this happen?

Monday, 25 August 2008


I shouldn't, really
I'm sitting outside, in front of a slowly-dying fire, with the last glass of well-it's-a-school-night-oh-what-the-hell wine.

What the internet is for
I have 19 minutes of battery time left because I've used the rest looking up silly pictures of greyhounds. As you do.

Temporary freedom
Bank holiday weekend here in the UK, so only back to the grind tomorrow.

It's already getting dark - it always throws my timing out this time of year - this is 10pm dark, but it's actually 20:18. sigh.

On the up side, the bats will be out soon. I've always been a bat person. I think they are so beautiful - the way they fly, and twist and turn on a dime. Or a ten pence piece even :)

Yummmmm. Cheese.
Our friends H & J came over as we decided we needed to bbq, summer or no summer. The food was a pulling together of whatever was in the fridge, but it was good. On the menu:
- pita grilled with garlic oil
- halumi, grilled and dressed with lemon and the good olive oil
- tabbouleh
- sausages, English
- sausages, Spanish (chorizo)
- marinated chicken breasts, grilled and shredded for wraps with homemade mayo and salsa (tomatoes, corriander/cilantro, parsley, chillies, lime, red onion)
- stilton and crackers/biscuits
- lashings of red wine

A new leaf
I am going to be so good at work this week - I really am. I'm going to clear all those project left-overs from my completed (a-HEM) projects and clear my slate for all the new stuff that's piling up in the pipeline. That's not just a bad metaphor, it's really the way it works - being the person who does the stuff rather than the person who pontificates about it I am often the last to be officially informed. Even though I'm responsible for delivering multi-million pound projects on time and on budget. Thank god we have a well-oiled gossip infrastructure.

We picked 10 pounds of blackberries today and laid down two more gallons of wine. It is a spectacular year for blackberries this year - the wine gods are smiling upon us.

Vroooom 2
oooh - a bat! *grin*

And so to bed
now I need to go drink at least 2 pints of water, have a bath and go to bed.


Friday, 15 August 2008

Kentish Pic

This was taken in July, as we biked back from our monthly meat gathering expedition at Luddenham Farm. It's a perfect bike ride - just enough hills to make you feel like you worked for your pint at the end. We went back last week and all the grain was yellow. I bet if we went this weekend it would be gone.

Luddenham Farm is why we still eat meat without huge guilt paroxysms - although not organic, they raise their animals traditionally and feed with what they grow on their farm. You can walk around and see the animals - and yes, they do look happy. Happy pigs are a pleasure to behold. They sell their own meat on the farm, butchered to your specifications, should you have any. The lack of middle man and packaging means that ethical, well-hung meat is affordable, if you're careful about what cuts you are buying. Although they sell the best sirloin I have ever had. Ever. Cut from (I kid you not) the biggest hunk of meat I have ever seen - hung to perfection and enough to make our chef-y friend James salivate and immediately increase both his previously requested steak thickness and amount.

Buying and eating ethically is difficult at the best of times, and in the tug-of-war between locality, organics, gm/not gm, and animal welfare, I often find it hard to make decisions. It's easy not to bother - to go to Tesco's and buy whatever - after all, as a human, I am uniquely adapted to shove down guilt and do it anyways. Luddenham Farms makes decision making enjoyable, and we are supporting our local community to boot.

Not to mention the lovely bike ride!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Rumtopf update

We added 1 lb dark cherries and another 1/2 lb sugar today - our first check on how it's doing. It smells AMAZING. It tastes AMAZING (shhh - it was only a a tiny taste - for science - honest). The strawberries have turned white. One forum post I read said that within days, the rumtopf was no longer rum. I see what they mean. It is already delicious.

One slight concern is that the fruit floats, thus making it difficult to keep covered by a finger-width of rum. Some sites recommend putting a saucer in to hold down the fruit, but our rumtopf narrows at the top so this is not particularly helpful. We do it anyways, if only to be able to legitimately lick our fingers, but I hope this is not going to be a problem. The eminent CJJ Berry writes, "If you want to make a particularly good job place a plate over the fruit so the fruit is submerged if the shape of the pot allows it." This does make it sound optional.

In other news, I have stripped the dried lavender flowers off of the first batch that I've dried this summer - the whole downstairs smells like lavender - we are all especially calm this evening!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

do cats get lonely?

It is silly season*, and to celebrate we are looking after our friend's cats for 3 1/2 weeks while they gallivant about Austria on bicycles. It's not hard, granted - especially since N does everything as I am "working" (or hungover, or sleepy, well - you get my drift). But I was getting concerned that said felines might be missing the companionship of humans. Pining, if you like.

I used to be a cat person, but we got a dog 18 months ago and he has slowly been re-aligning my allegiance. This has been aided by the fact that we have a pebble/gravel walkway to our house that is often festooned with cat shit. Three cats live in the flat upstairs. These two facts could be unconnected...

So, to dispel any pining that may or may not have been taking place, we decamped this afternoon to our friends' lovely sunny garden where we forced (forced!) ourselves to sit in the sun and read the papers, drinking several of our home-brewed (from kit) ales. What good friends we are!

The cats completely ignored us.

*for non-uk readers, this refers to the period in August where the establishment hikes off to France/Tuscany/Suffolk and in their absence the whole country supposedly goes to pot. Signified by a plethora of news stories of barking dolphins and what not.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Behold the RUMTOPF!

Whoohoo! Major score in the charity shop this afternoon - a real honest-to-goodness, straight from euro-kitsch heaven itself - RUMTOPF!. I realise the element of surprise is somewhat defused by the post title, but hey.

I will explain, although you may not find that this solves any qualms you may be currently experiencing about whether I have finally slid into full-scale tweed-and bowler-hat mad-dog Englishness - no, my pretties, that will be reserved for when I join the WI or start brewing my own ale - oh wait - I already do that. Anyways, a RUMTOPF, being of course German, (I know, you know - but - emphasis, eh?) would be far from your general bowler-hatted English person's eccentricities.

CJJ Berry, in his unparalleled tome, "First Steps in Winemaking", gives a recipe for RUMTOPF, which he describes as "...a truly gorgeous idea which, once you have tried it you will never fail to repeat each year." Basically, you layer soft fruits, as they come into season, with sugar and rum, leave it for months (or, you know, as long as you can) and traditionally eat at Christmas. Online opinion seems divided over whether the fruit or the rum is the best part - I will reserve judgment but if I were betting I'd go for the rum.

Then I found out you have special jars for this stuff - and I am a sucker for any cooked-fermented-baked-canned-brewed item that requires a unique vessel. If I were to let fly this obsession, cooking in my kitchen would quickly become impossible due to the mountains of bundt pans, pudding molds, rosette fryers, etc. Luckily, I am prevented from such extravaganza by a budget more suited to a Carmelite nun.

So the rumtopf went on that special, overcrowded brainshelf labeled "if I see one in a charity shop one day" - and today, we did. WHOO HOO!!

BTW, the tacky/cool green-stemmed glass beside the rumtopf was, along with 5 siblings, also a charity shop catch. The two women at the till told us they were hock glasses. "You know, Hock Glasses". We nodded, "oh, hock glasses" we said. N looked especially impressed by this information. Once outside, I asked, "what's hock?" to which N replied that he had absolutely no idea. I looked it up when we got home - German wine. Huh? Anyways the glasses are too small for wine but perfect for the liqueurs we are busy blending and just made for RUMTOPF!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Wine Racking

Freshly racked wine - cherry, rhubarb, ginger, gooseberry.

It's a cloudy, rainy-ish Sunday, and a perfect day for racking off the wine we've been making. We have two gallons ready for their second rack (gooseberry and cherry) and two gallons ready for their third (ginger and rhubarb). I suppose we could bottle the last two at this point,but I figure, when in doubt, rack again. We can be patient.

The ginger wine tastes fantastic already - a warm glowing taste that will be perfect after a walk in the winter, or mulled with brandy and spices. It could still clear a bit. The rhubarb wine is an amazing pale pink, and very sweet. It also packs a hell of a punch. It has cleared well, but another few months won't hurt it.

The cherry wine, though still extremely young (i.e - still in nappies!) already tastes good enough for us to make instant plans to buy enough cherries for a double gallon batch before they're out of season.

The wine making thing started as a bit of fun - a neighbour had glass demijohns sitting around and we thought, well why not? It is easy, and fun, and in terms of bang for buck, it would be hard to beat.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Tell me what I want - what I really really want

Babies, according to a previously-respected project manager I work with.

I know, who would've thought it would be so easy, so typical, so - uncreative? All that existential angst so quickly resolved...

This exchange took place last week, at a work do - and to provide context, I should, I suppose, add that it was hot, we were all guzzling white wine like water (it was sooo cold - yummmm), and said lecture took place after the sambuca and tequila shots had been cleared away.

Personally, I feel context makes no difference. We are us, when we are drunk, perhaps even more so. We are responsible for what we say and do. I resent that all my skill, talent, and bloody hard work has been reduced down to some stupid cliche. Again.

I probably should have just laughed at him. Or ignored him. But I really had respected this guy - so I tried to explain. I know, I know, but I am incurably over-optimistic (and I was not-quite-sober myself).

You don't need me to tell you my explanation fell on sodden ears.

I'm bummed out, but also angry. Bummed out, because I really want to think things are getting better, that the increase in women in the workforce is changing old perceptions, and that intelligence and hard work might actually mean something (I KNOW already - please - leave me my illusions!) and angry because - HOW DARE HE?

I cannot imagine being so personal with a colleague - I mean, it so happens that I am just-not-that-into the whole reproductive thing, for many reasons, but what if I wanted *babies* but was sterile? Or desperatly looking for someone to provide sperm? I mean, he doesn't know, does he? (oh dear - you don't suppose that was where that lecture was heading, do you? urg)

And the whole background assumption that I could not possibly be fulfilled without breeding. Not by my career (mind - this was at a work event where we were attending as fellow *ahem* equal professionals), my partner, my life as a female. Which is the crux of it - men my age do not get these lectures (I've been doing straw polls and mostly they laugh because the idea is so ludicrous).

And that I would need SOME MAN to tell me this. Which also begs the assumption that I must be very very stupid not to have figured it out myself. Misguided, I bet he would say. But hey, you know what women are like!

See? I'm still really pissed off about this one. It's simmering. I still have to work with this guy.

"Is it always like this?" *

asked a nice American woman above the din on the tube this afternoon as we were detoured, herded, assembled and packed into airless - well, tubes, of course - once it became apparent that the circle line had somehow vanished.

ahh London in the summer, so sublime (beer gardens, cricket, Pimms) yet so wretched (everything else). Even the dog doesn't want to do anything today. He's just moping around before he flops listlessly onto the floor, quietly groaning and looking reproachfully at us.

I'm reading Dispatches by Michael Herr - his book of his experiences in Vietnam in the war. Amazing writing. I keep having to go back and read bits again - he makes every word count. Somehow the humidity and stink of London provides fitting atmosphere, and makes me think about what must be going on in Iraq and Afghanistan.

* yes, pretty much

Monday, 28 July 2008

Those Prickly Canadians

We are listening to Disc Drive on CBC this evening, as we do, via the nostalgia-is-just-a-bandwidth-away beauty of live streaming. The hourly news comes on. We do our involuntary start at how strong Canadian accents really are without 12 years of London to smooth the edges, and continue our activities (me: catching up on the day - aka mindlessly surfing; N: communing with our dog Humphrey via ear scritches and happy sighs). We are sort-of listening, until we hear a shockingly enthusiastic Canadian male (I keep forgetting how peppy your average Canuck is) detailing the new security measures around a previously-vandalised statue of Terry Fox.

Razer wire, perhaps? CCTV? Armed Response? Motion sensor lights? Guard dogs?


Prickly plants.

ahhh bless.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Dispatches from Holiday 1

The weather gods (I would love to think they were goddesses, but lets face it, its unlikely, hum? I mean honestly, tornadoes?) have smiled upon me in my first few days of holiday, possibly only to remind me how lovely sunshine is before they pelt me with a fortnight of rain, but whatever. I'll take it. It was a balmy 28 Celsius, and we hopped on the bikes and rode up to the sea, stopping in a lovely pub with a huge tree in the garden providing much needed shade, and a cherry orchard where we bought sweet cherries for wine making. The woman at the orchard, when hearing our explanation for buying so many cherries (8 pounds???!) invited us back in a few weeks to pick wine cherries which would be ripe then. I think she means sour cherries, which would make great wine. She also mentioned they made a mean cherry brandy, the very thought of which gets me salivating.

The tide was out, and we squelched through the mud flats out to the water, which was nice in itself. There is something about mud in toes that is strangely comforting. Then back to the pub by the beach where we left our bikes to drink a fortifying pint before setting off back home. Us, not the bikes.

Once home, we fed our very enthusiastic dog (I thought you were NEVER coming back! Ever again! Woe is me for I am STARVING!!!) then lit the bbq for a protracted late afternoon/evening of snacking on bruschetta and halumi, joined by our neighbour, the lovely K.

I wasn't kidding about the rain - it really is forecast, but I'm sanguine. I enjoy puddle hopping almost as much as mud squelching.

As far as thinking, so far I haven't progressed much past "oh my god, shouldn't I be at work?" which is a bit depressing. I seem to have been assimilated. However, tomorrow is a long and languid lunch at our favourite restaurant to celebrate N's b-day, so that should knock some cobwebs out!

Friday, 27 June 2008

hurrah for summer vacation

I'm officially on "annual leave" now for the next two weeks and two days. Hurrah.

I'm not planning on going anywhere in particular, certainly not anywhere away, as funds and dog-care do not allow, but I am not feeling bad about this one bit - quite the opposite. We live in such a beautiful part of the Kentish countryside, and I feel like I only see it from the train window on the way into London. It will be perfect to spend two weeks here, cycling, walking the dog, hanging out, reading the papers in assorted beer gardens, getting some summer fruit wine going, starting the Rumpot (more on that one later!) - my list is long. I want to try making soap, do a bit of painting again, and fix the dining room table and that leaky tap that is driving me nuts in the bathroom. It really is the little stuff, you know?

I feel a bit odd at being away from work for so long. I've been deeply involved in my projects (one major one that has recently ended) - I can't quite believe they can still live without me! The projects, that is - not the people. I know the people will be just fine. I've put messages on my work phone and my mobile, and switched it off. I've put on my out of office and left my laptop at work. I've even left my blackberry at work. I'm not sure how I became the sort of person who would ever even write a sentence like that last one.

The most important thing I want to do is think, and that needs space and time.

I'll keep you posted.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Yup. What he said.

Socketh unto others
As you would have them socketh to you

- Sly and the Family Stone, "Fun"

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Perhaps an intrinsic part of growing a thicker skin

is never getting that involved in the first place.

An ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure and all that.

just a thought.

I tell myself, when I am blindsided by yet another storm-in-a-tea-cup at work, and I am tying myself up into knots of anxiety, that I must develop a thicker skin. Perhaps stepping back is just as important. Before the storm, of course.

I am blessedly unencumbered by work crises at the moment, but that's usually a reliable sign that one will hit imminently. I think I will take precautions and care less now.

Any tips?

Saturday, 14 June 2008

When you know beyond a shadow of a doubt our drug policy is insane...

Creation of drug-free jails too expensive, say consultants
Alan Travis, home affairs editor
The Guardian,
Saturday June 14 2008

The creation of drug-free prisons in England and Wales is too expensive and not a practical option with more than half the record 83,000 jail population misusing drugs, according to a consultants' report commissioned by justice and health ministers.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

you say it's your birthday

well almost, anyways. Tomorrow.

I know it's not cool - hell, I know I'm not cool, but I still get frissions of inner delight about birthdays. My spell checker is telling me that should be fissions of inner delight, but I disagree. Sounds too insubstantial without the 'r'.

OK I had to check. I actually mean frisson. I think it would be better with that extra 'i' but the dictionaries of the world have passed their judgment. Frisson. Sounds like salad. Or an Ikea kitchen cabinet. or an art movement.

I think I have pretty much proved the uncool point, anyways. Coincidently, if you type 'frisson' into wikipedia, you get an article about 'cold chill'.

Did I have a point?

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Seven Songs

"List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to."

1. Avila by The Wailin' Jennys
I love the Wailin' Jennys - they're a three woman folk band from Winnipeg and they sing beautiful songs in harmonies that make me ache, in a good way. Also, when everything gets on my nerves, their music always feels right. Avila is fun to sing along to. I was singing it to my dog this afternoon. He was not that impressed.

2. Call it Democracy by Bruce Cockburn
containing the immortal lines
"See the paid-off local bottom feeders
passing themselves off as leaders
kiss the ladies shake hands with the fellows
open for business like a cheap bordello"

3. American Wedding by Gogol Bordello
"Have you ever been to American wedding?
Where is all the vodka
Where is marinated herring???"

4. Loose Lips by Kimya Dawson
"We're not gonna stop until somebody calls the cops
and even then
we'll start again
and just pretend that nothing ever happened"

5. Bach's Goldberg variations
and no I can't pick just one, thank you.

6. Time to say goodbye (by ?)
I just picked up the sheet music for this - it's sappy neo-operatic schmultz for people who can't handle real music and I love it because it reminds me of a long weekend in Maastricht where it played in every bar and restaurant we went into.

7. We built this city on rock and roll by Starship
I have no idea either. If someone has suggestions for getting rid of this I am all ears. I find myself singing this in the shower in the mornings often. Perhaps I need a new alarm clock.

Being new to blogging, I don't think I can tag 7 people - but I can tag Geo :)

Saturday, 31 May 2008

Elderflowers - aka summer begins

Lately, my few days off have coincided with rainy/cloudy weather. Not a big deal, generally, but this is elderflower season. Sun is essential when picking elderflowers - there is some scientific reason i believe having something to do with nector of something, but from experience - the smell's just all wrong without sunshine.And it's all about the smell.

But today we had the hoped-for congruence of sun and (free) Saturday, and we set off to forage as soon as stomachs and hangovers would allow. Our haul was impressive, and there were still many unopened flower heads on the trees so I foresee at least one more run before the season ends. Of course, greed does not pay - every flower head picked is one less berry-head - and while elderflower champagne is sublime, elderberry cordial is a basic necessity of life.

The stems and bark of the elder tree are poisonous, and once you get home with your stash of flowerheads, you need to pull off all of the tiny flowers - easier than the berries, but still the worst part of the job. After that it's so simple it's laughable.

We have a batch each of elderflower wine, elderflower champagne, and elderflower cordial going now - and the kitchen smells amazing. The wine and the cordial are new ones for me, but the champagne we made last year - and talk about bang for buck! We even had offers to buy our remaining stocks after one party. Here's a basic recipe:

Elderflower Champagne

(obviously not really champagne - not even alcoholic - though the elderflowers have some natural yeast so perhaps just slightly)

9 liters water
1 kg sugar
10-15 elderflower heads (stems removed - good luck with that!)
3 lemons, sliced, seeds removed
4 tbsp white wine vinegar

boil water, add sugar and stir until dissolved.
cool - add flowers, lemons, vinegar

leave 2-3 days, stirring daily.

strain through muslin/sieve/whatever and bottle. Reuse plastic bottles that originally contained fizzy stuff - lemonade, soda, etc. It's always good practice to sterilize the bottles first.

leave bottles in warmish place for 10 days - then they can be moved somewhere cooler. recipes vary in length of time before drinking - earliest I've seen is 2 weeks - most tend towards 2-3 months.

keep an eye on the pressure in the bottles - if it looks like it's gonna blow - loosen the lid slightly to let some air out. This is why you don't want to be using glass bottles for this stuff! When you open the bottles to drink - it's fizzy. And really really tasty :)

Monday, 26 May 2008

stupid human tricks

From the BBC Website:

Cannabis blunder at Tokyo airport

An unwitting passenger arriving at Japan's Narita airport has received 142g of cannabis after a customs test went awry, officials say.

A customs officer hid a package of the banned substance in a side pocket of a randomly chosen suitcase in order to test airport security.

Sniffer dogs failed to detect the cannabis and the officer could not remember which bag he had put it in.

Anyone finding the package has been asked to contact customs officials.

"This case was extremely regrettable. I would like to deeply apologise," said Narita International Airport's customs head Manpei Tanaka.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

hmph. spoke too soon

******* ******-******* electricians!

Weekend Working

It's Saturday, and I'm at work. To be honest, I don't mind so much. Saturday working for me could more accurately described as "watching other people work". This weekend we're changing furniture configurations in one of our offices, which means taking the desking apart, moving floorboxes, putting the desks back together. Basically I just let them get on with it, unless something goes wrong. We've already had the "What? We have to do that bit too?" palaver so that should be out of the way now.

When things do go wrong on these jobs, they tend to be spectacularly wrong - such as not having the correct bits for the new configurations, or realising the plan you've been working to wasn't scaled properly and all of your floorboxes are wrong and your furniture won't fit unless your office has miraculously turned into the tardis. Or people just not showing up. Or the guys getting into a punch-up for whatever reason.

Being the only woman in these situations can be funny as well - some of the guys really don't know how to deal with a female project manager. Last week one construction guy tried to tell me that a door that was patently hung the wrong way (the hook was on the outside for gods sake!) was in fact correct and he really got the hump when I wouldn't accept it. This morning 2 of the furniture lads blushed and apologised when they saw me - I have no idea what they were saying but I would assume it wasn't complimentary to women generally.

The guys who work for me also apologise for swearing, which I find bizarre. It's a bit of an English thing, I guess, that men shouldn't swear in front of women, and I wonder if it's a bit of a class thing as well - most of these guys are working class and technically as a manager I suppose I'm not, though being Canadian I tend to fall somewhat outside the class continuum. Never mind that with a decade of being on construction sites I can swear like the proverbial sailor - but then that's seldom the point of this behavior.

After a full day of "supervising" I'll be heading out to thrill, scoff, and generally be amazed at how low we humans will go at this years Eurovision Song Contest. Chances are I will probably drink quite a lot of wine as well - the situation demands it really!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Saturday, 10 May 2008

how do you turn a platypus into a soul singer?

...cook it in a microwave until it's Bill Withers

(shamelessly stolen from the news quiz)

I appear to have a work ethic...


Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Ray of sarcastic sunshine

I was on the train into work this morning when I looked down and realised that instead of my planned black wool suit w/ black t-shirt that I thought I was wearing, I was, in fact, wearing the black trousers and t-shirt, with a navy blue texture-stripe-y sort of jacket. Wrong colour, wrong texture, just very wrong. Note to self - open eyes in morning BEFORE exiting. So I had to buy a new shirt at the station.

And the meeting for which I was dressing to impress (or at least not actively repel) went on for three and a half hours, making me late all day. Didn't get home till almost 9, and it's raining. Again.

But then the universe tipped my way when I read the Doonesbury cartoon of the day (I will find and attach :)- they've been repeats for the last while which has caused me to grumble but today's was a repeat of one I wished I had saved - I love it. And there it was!! YAY!

And my new shirt is quite swish, too.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Goodbye Humphrey Lyttelton - you will be missed

I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue is one of my favourite British things. It's silly, very funny, surprisingly clever and delightfully dirty in a sort of 40s seaside town way. Humphrey Lyttelton chaired the show and made it. He died yesterday.

He was 86, so I suppose, as one commenter on the BBC site wrote, he had a good innings, but still. I'm going to miss him. He taught me how to love this country, in a way. Or certainly some worthwhile things to love about it.

Good luck, Humph - say 'hi' to the lovely Samantha for me!

(I just read that Louis Armstrong referred to Humph as "that English cat who swings his ass off" ! :) )

(AND he turned down a knighthood. You don't get cooler than Humph)

(and yes, I did name my dog after him - and Humphrey Bogart too. I hope that's not insulting. It certainly isn't meant to be)

Thursday, 24 April 2008

"We may hate ourselves for the buildings that we love...

but you can't do anything about it. They choose us - we do not choose them."
-Jonathan Meades
from Abroad Again in Britain: Salisbury Cathedral

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Rape Crisis Centre Funding Petition

There's a petition going on the oh-gosh-isn't-internet-technology-like-sooooo-cool online Downing Street E-petitions site to provide proper funding for rape crisis centres in the UK. Please sign it.

I'm a volunteer with my local rape crisis centre - twice a month I do a shift on the phone line. We can only open 5 evenings a week, and it's not always easy to have enough volunteers on the rota to cover everything. Our group has to spend a lot of time fighting for funding, and there's a lot of uncertainty over where it will come from and how long it could last. This makes it difficult to plan ahead and diverts alot of energy away from the whole point of being there - to offer support to women and girls who have been raped and/or sexually abused.

If you've ever thought about volunteering - I can highly recommend it! Not only do I feel good about being part of a support network in an area where there is very little support, but I have met many amazing women both in my fellow volunteers and on the helpline itself. Being part of the solution, no matter how small, is still better than ranting and hand wringing.

But I can't wait till we're not needed anymore.

Friday, 11 April 2008

6 words

Geo has laid the challenge to describe yourself in 6 words, image optional. yup - complete lunacy. addictive lunacy.
first thought
"it's time to play the music" (for the muppet show tonight)
second thought
"pragmatic, yet optimistic despite all evidence"

well whatever

PDQ Bach has just come on the radio - i must divert my attention.....

Saturday, 16 February 2008

like the idea yet lack the - the- ?

I just can't seem to get into this. I keep thinking about the chicken/pig difference between commitment and involvement. The chicken is involved in breakfast, whereas the pig is committed.

I,alas, seem to be a chicken in this regard.


Friday, 1 February 2008

Blog Mark II

I am a fickle beast. I had a blog, I wrote a few times - but - it just didn't - it didn't gel. No spark. Wasn't me, whoever that is.

And am I going to copy over posts? ha ha ha ha right.

we're going to be orwelian - NEW START.