Flying Scotsmen

We expected much larger crowds to come out and see the newly refurbished Flying Scotsman coming through Hanwell at 9:00 this Saturday morning, but we enjoyed our 15 seconds of being part of the event (or was it just 10?) as we watched it cross the viaduct here in Hanwell.

I never thought we’d be a trainspotter, but there you have it.

Heaven on a plate

Just stumbled across this delicious reminder of past suppers: salt and pepper squid with spring onions, capers, chilli oil, balsamic vinegar and a poached egg.

Add fresh bread and a crisp white wine and…  it’s heaven on a plate. Plan to be dining heavenly very soon…


Full Circle

IMG_20151122_134406We have come full circle from April 7th to November 22nd. The bananas have now moved into their winter shelter, following a touch of frost last night.

Friday’s Delight And Wonder

cb-lYou can tell it must be Friday from the fact that a pudding just came out of the oven, mid afternoon. We’ll have Creme Brulee tonight, and like almost every week, I can’t help but wonder how many different puddings can be made from sugar, milk and egg, with nothing but the slightest variations in recipe or method.

Creme Brulee: use only egg yolks, use milk and cream half and half, bake in a water bath at 190 C

Pudim Flan: like Creme Brulee but use whole eggs, use just milk, bake in water bath at 145 C

Custard: like Creme Brulee, but stir hot milk into cold eggs and whisk, don’t boil after the mix

Creme Patisiere: like Custard, but be easy on the cream and add a little flour, add more heat when mixing

German Pudding: like Pudim Flan but add corn starch and cook like Creme Patisiere

I am sure there are more desserts, each and every one delicious in its own right, different by slightly different cooking methods, mixing temperature and processes, cream to milk and egg white to yolk ratios. Fascinating, isn’t it?


A Deeply Personal Thing

20150321_154339It’s a deeply personal thing, and it is the best web site in the world. “What’s that?” I hear you ask: It is your own personal web site, like this very Blog is to me.

The best web site in the world? – Why, yes, it is. For you it’s your site, for me it’s mine. It’s simply because every single little thing on it has a very strong connection to you, and it gets better the longer you pull through and update every once in a while, just like I struggle to do for many years now.

Just consider this.

I post an article about the highlighter fountain pen which I received as a present. Great, I remember that, because it only happened now. But WordPress (the technology I use) adds links to related articles from my own site at the bottom.

Do you remember my earlier pamphlet on the delight of fountain pens, as compared to ballpoint pens or keyboards, back in 2009? I did not.

Do you recall how the ink jet printer broke down unexpectedly in 2008? I did not.

Did you know that an article about fountain pens and highlighter ink, published in 2015, somehow relates to a 2006 tale of World War II, the BBC and the dynamite fishing? I did not, either.

That’s why it is great to blog, or to support any site close to your heart. Seeing that the site now goes back to 2005, and further if you include the mostly lost earlier experiments in various formats, I really wouldn’t want to be without it. I still won’t let you in on my really deeply personal things, and you are entirely welcome to not care at all for my thoughts and ramblings, but I, I care a lot. For the reasons detailed above.


Acid Attack!

acidJust when I was content to lean back, release a sigh of relief and agree with myself that I do now really have all the essentials gadgets I could possibly need want, the ever so inspired good wife finds a new one!

A Pelikan M205 DUO, how’s that?

You’ll probably never heard of it either. It is a fountain pen and a marker pen all in one (hence called duo). It takes normal fountain pen ink and it takes highlighter ink (hence called duo), just not at once. I suppose they should have called it Pelican M205 DUO SQUARED therefore. Or maybe a fountain pen and fountain pen highlighter ink. But that’d be too profane I’m sure.

Some of my dial-in web conference meetings will become a great deal more interesting. Or acidly.

Not An Old Couple Yet

bof-l I am guessing we aren’t an old couple yet, but that particular milestone is only one year away now. We celebrate 33 years together today, 9 in sin and 24 in blasphemy.

As a child, I never quite understood why I should congratulate my parents on their wedding anniversary. It felt like something intimate and private to them, embarrassing to me.

Now I understand that it is quite an accomplishment for many, even though it comes fairly easy to us. We aren’t an old couple just yet, but we are a happy one.

I Do

soupI do becomes increasingly popular, but not in the good old traditional sense of wedding promises. It is often heard in cookery shows in the form of I’ll do you a baked cod, or I do a blackberry cheesecake. All Bar One informs us with a blackboard on the pavement that they thought it best if we do lunch.

How sad.

The English language is much richer, rich of terms for fine-tuned means of expression. I’ll prepare a baked code, and I’ll create a cheesecake. Invent, make, cook, bake, fry. Attempt, construct, present. Delight in, impress with, make.

We don’t do lunch either. We have lunch, take lunch, eat lunch. We enjoy, sit down for, retire to, relax for, replenish with, delight in.

We do a lot of things, but we don’t do do.


IMG_20150919_194715-pWe hadn’t been to Charlotte’s Place, Ealing, in a while, and given that we had a good cause for celebration, we went and enjoyed a lovely evening.

We started with a glass of Prosecco and ordered our starters.

The good wife received a starter of Smoked Sea Trout, which was very nice yet served in a laughably tiny portion, sprinkled across a plate with Frisee salad tops – a bad joke of a presentation.

I enjoyed Terrine of Duck, which hadn’t set and made me wonder how on earth they managed to cut and plate it. It tasted very nice but lacked texture; the dish was a mush with the very soft terrine, a bland liver mousse and an equally unexciting apricot and gin mousse.

For the main, we enjoyed fillet of pork (she) and quail (he), and all was very well with that, accompanied by a very nice bottle of Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley in France.

We bot chose the same pudding, Blackberry and port jelly with compressed greengages and juniper ice cream. I scream! The jelly wasn’t set and contained whole fruit, so was a compote, not jelly. We found it nice, and thought it worked better as a compote as it would have in form of a jelly, but it’s still mislabeled. The compressed greengages didn’t give much and their compressed nature completely eluded us, but we found the juniper ice cream intriguing and delicious with the blackberry compote.

A cup of stale and fairly disgusting coffee, made a long time ago and slowly reduced on the hot plate, and a rather nice Grappa concluded our meal. Even though we thought there was much room of improvement, it still made for a lovely meal, over average for the area as we know it but under average for our previous experiences at Charlotte’s.

The evening was certainly rescued by their brilliant service. Absolutely spot-on. Attentive but not invasive, courteous but not grovelling, just right. Ten out of ten for the service, no doubt.


Labor Day

A red banner outside the Mac Cafe, MoscowIt’s Labor Day in the US of A today. Dated safely away from May 1st, the traditional Labour Day in the rest of the world, surely to avoid any accidental ideas of communist influences.

Given the general apparent communist paranoia in the US, you’d think it would more fitting for the US to celebrate Commerce Day, Imperialism Day or Freedom Monday (Freedom, My Arse). In the end, you wouldn’t notice a difference. Some will organize firework displays, many will have a barbecue or a picnic, and most of those who actually have the day off work end up drinking too much.

All in praise of the workers’ unions, hurrah!

Strelitzia Reginae

After years of waiting, caring, sometimes neglecting but always hoping, we are overjoyed to announce the first flower of our indoors strelitzia reginae.

It truly is the most amazing flower.

A Day In The Smithy

20150612171707I was Blacksmith for a day last Friday, thanks for a generous and spot-on present from the good wife, and thanks to excellent one-on-one tuition by Jo “The Iron” Fry in the beautiful setting of Standalone Farm in Letchworth Garden City.

Jo knows exactly the right balance between explaining and letting students try out. He’s been an excellent teacher for the day, never letting me alone or feeling lost, never letting me feel supervised or put under stress. The perfect way to experience bright orange hot iron, a forge, hammer, anvil and a good old ping ping ping.

Banging a piece of hot iron into shape is a very satisfying thing, but I suppose my highlight of the day was the cutting of hot steel with hammer and chisel. All in all very satisfying.

The creations made during my first ever eight hours of being a blacksmith are of course of questionable beauty and limited usefulness, but heck! I had fun and would happily repeat the experience. Who knows. Maybe one day, I might even have space for my own little forge.