Friday 31 July 2015

Tea - a constant in life

For me anyway, and I suspect for thousands (millions?) of other English bods.

This morning, I was beyond dismayed to discover there was NO tea left. I knew this point had been approaching but was unaware of quite how soon . . .
You can buy tea in France; it mainly comes in yellow boxes, marked, not surprisingly 'Yellow Label' and you can order it cafés where it is generally served thus: tea bag placed next to a cup of almost hot water, with, if you have asked for milk, a small jug of boiling milk. Occasionally you may have the luck to be presented with the bag IN a teapot containing very hot water, in which case you're heading vaguely in the right direction of 'a nice cup of tea.'
A Nice Cup Of Tea.
Oh, those words . . . how many times have I heard them spoken in so many different situations.
A stressful day - kettle on, 'let's have a N. C. O. T'. Just about any police drama where someone is being conveyed bad news - 'would you like a cup of tea, dear?' Visiting friends, visiting strangers, someone's come to fix your sink, - would you like a . . .  standing on a windswept, damp train platform, trapped in an endless meeting or weeping into a sandwich at a funeral wake; if tea is available everything somehow seems bearable.
Tea is an addiction; one that started for me at around the age of twelve. I can recall the sound of the kettle being put on the ancient green enamel stove we had in the flat; the weedy whistle and the occasional swearing if my mother had forgotten and had come back to a white hot, boiled dry vessel.
Tea has accompanied me through life in its various forms, from builder's creosote in London Cafés through to occasional indulgences in Fortnum and Mason's and other hallowed tea emporiums.
The apex cup must have been in a National Trust Tearoom in Corfe Castle, Dorset: white cup, accompanying scones, clotted cream, strawberry jam, log fire and slanting rain outside.
So, back to our dog and onion-smelling kitchen; no tea, other than Lapsang - I like this but it doesn't fill the N.C.O.T desire. I might have to go and buy a box of yellow label . . .

                            Our tea canister (sadly empty) and Butlin's caddy spoon, circa 1948

                             A link to a great site all about a nice cup of tea and a sit down

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Songs of life No 6

So, on my own personal desert island I would have to have something to remind me of Mark's piano playing. The first time I saw him perform a piano concert he was playing Ravel's Jeux d'eau, but somehow I always think of him playing Scriabin.

I don't actually have film of him playing this piece but thought he would appreciate this calm and measured rendition.
I love the way Horowitz plays as if doing a bit of filing; no throwing himself about and grimaces of ecstasy - or maybe he was getting on a bit for all that. And that smile at the end . . .
This would also serve as a reminder of the Everest amount of listening and concert going-to I would do on my return to a mainland if I was rescued . . . which in fact I must do anyway, such are the musical wonderments out there that I know so little of - blogger resists putting on Django Django AGAIN, and heads towards the classic section . . . Mm, bit of Sibelius to clear up to?

Saturday 25 July 2015

That's our boy

After a few years of 'fallowness' regarding music, Ezra has started up drumming again, this time with two mates; the band being 'The Few'. I saw them rehearsing about a month ago in a friends grungy garage/recording space, and it was the raw start of something. Last night at their inaugural gig I was amazed by what they have achieved in the time; a tight set, no nervous rushing, that I could detect, and a great stage presence for musical debutants.
Maybe I'll dust off the banjo in his room and get out a few Indi band tracks featuring the instrument (deemed to be too 'Bluegrass') in the hope he might remember how good he had become at playing it . . .

Thursday 23 July 2015

Dog soup and heatwaves

Having spent two hours with a 'dog-whisperer' yesterday to try and get our big dog to view Mark (husband) as a non broom/axe/spade-wielding maniac, I was surprised to learn (in the Guardian) this morning of the huge amounts of dog consumed in North Korea. I think I knew people eat dog (and I probably would if there was nothing much else available) but having seen what even our fairly well behaved dogs will snack on, I'd have to be fairly desperate.

Boiled dog (Guardian) 

Dog soup is apparently eaten more in the hottest summer months - forget salad and gazpacho, hound is the thing in order to revitalise the body and deal with the extreme heat especially the three meltingly humid days called 'Sambok'; the definition of which is impressive for a modestly-lettered word. Sam = three, and Bok: To lie face down because the summer days are so hot even a frog cannot endure it, lying flat with its stomach stuck to the humid earth.
We are experiencing our own impressive heatwave at the moment: well-over thirty for . . . I don't know, seems like forever, a month? but so far I haven't felt the desire to eat much soup (apart from a rather good tomato and apricot concoction a friend put in our fridge yesterday) let alone dog. So potent are the vitamins, etc, contained in the soup, that, apparently, 'even spilling the broth of dog meat soup on your foot during Sambok is good for your health'.
I think the hothouse residents need a few heatwave (Canicule in French) quotes.
Mm . . . Bok: To slump on the terrace, one's rain-forest armpits a never ceasing river of sweat; the thought of creating food more complicated than an egg sandwich an utter impossibility and walking to the postbox more challenging than crossing The Grand Canyon, with or without a thermos of dog soup. 

                                                  Non boiled dog - just quite hot

Sunday 19 July 2015

Moments in time

If I'd spent five more minutes looking for my sunglasses before leaving the house, or had gone back to check the door was locked, I would have missed this moment.
We (me, son and dogs) had driven up into the nearby mountains/very large hills to escape, for a while, the incredible heat suffocating our town - not complaining! I love the summer, and it is a REAL one this year, but dog walking has become a pathetic amble down the road, well after the sun has disappeared for the day.
So, into the hills we went and walked along ferny lanes that smelt of boxwood and moss rather than the boiled marjoram and tired lavender of our parched garden and lane. On arriving back to the car I decided on a 'me' voyage back, that is to say, let's just continue along this road and see what happens, with no map and no GBH/RSJ/GPL or whatever it is.
After some way the road was barricaded by an open gate and a car. Just as I was contemplating a small track off to the right which would have ended up in some rubbly field, a man appeared and asked if we could wait five minutes as a 'troupe' of 'Brebis' (sheep) were about to be led into another pasture area.
I nodded, got out with camera while the dogs howled in the car, and watched a memorable scene of the young woman herder rattling a plastic bucket, striding ahead of the emerging pack, her cry of "Yeep, yeep" filling the dusty air while the man clapped his hands in manner of a slightly underdressed flamenco dancer.
I don't know why or how the brain makes and stores memories but I'm sure the smells, sounds and sight of that moment will be stored.

Friday 17 July 2015

Further, further, further, further proof

That the world is a mad and dangerous place.

A friend just alerted us to this new gadget as sold on Amazon (who perhaps should know better - err, maybe not).

Rhik Samadder and the emerging egg substance

The Eggmaster.
A pink plastic device looking worryingly like something from a seedy adult online store (never looked at one I must hasten to add) with grippy black rubber sides and a flashing light . . . hmm.
According to Rhik Samadder's review in the Guardian you have to spray a non stick agent into the container first - sounds most appetising - crack two eggs into the already hot tunnel, wait awhile until a smelly tubular sponge appears, waving about like Alien from John Hurt's chest.
What's wrong with two eggs-cup-fork-pan = fried egg, or egg on toast, scrambled egg, poached egg, egg on camping gas stove, boiled egg, hard-boiled egg . . . time consuming? messy? no more than trying to figure out how to clean the new piece of landfill you might have eagerly unwrapped from Uncle Amazon.

What is art?

Remove this, (after asking nicely) attach it to a vast, white wall in The Tate Modern, et voila - ART.  I especially like the small cat hole cut into one of the rusted panels.
I think I've blogged about them before but The Boyle family did just this, in, I think, the 70s except rather than removing whole walls, paths, etc, they would recreate (and perhaps some of them still do) down to the last spider and dust mote, a small section of the planet's surface, after pinpointing it on a map and going there to presumably take a lot of photos.
Actually I just looked up as to how the process was devised - large world map, blindfolded participants and darts . . .

Here's a link to The Boyle family's work.

Saturday 11 July 2015

Great music of our times

Following on from 2 posts ago about autotune etc . . .
Who needs it? The energy and skill in these voices! Not to mention brilliant lyrics, drumming, bass, well everything really. Excellent video too.

Friday 10 July 2015

Sorry . . . you live where?

This morning we idly noticed our ancient cat wandering in and out of the kitchen on his one mission: to pathetically ask for food, lick it a bit and walk away, only to return three minutes later and find the runty dog has snaffled it.
    "He needs a new brain," said Mark, "think he must have some sort of cat dementia."
    I smirked, remembering seeing something in the A to Z of the British Isles years ago.
    "Perhaps a trip to Catbrain, then . . . must be where they make them."

Yes there really is a place called Catbrain, even though google spell check keeps replacing it with Cambrian, whatever that is . . . Actually this is what it is (and I did A. level geography, and I got an E.)

The Cambrian (/ˈkæmbriən/ or /ˈkeɪmbriən/) is the first geological period of the Paleozoic Era, lasting from 541.0 ± 1.0 to 485.4 ± 1.9 million years ago

Also is a hotel in the Swiss Alps.

So where is Catbrain, why is it there and is it known for the fabrication of replacement cat parts. Seemingly not.
It is, in fact, a small village near Bristol on a road noted for many car dealerships (imagine your dealer's number plate  badge - Catbrain rather than Northampton or Hackney) and has a new housing estate . . . whoopee! there must be something else there? A gothic church? A blue name plaque on a house celebrating a famous author/painter/vet? A pub called the Cat's Head?

A few other favourites:

Birdlip: Just such a wonderfully absurd name image wise. (Cotswolds)

Spital-in-the-street: (Lincolnshire) Spital being an old word for hospital.

Upholland (best said with a Liverpool accent)

And one that my son found the other day - 'Nothing', in Arizona.

Ashby-de-la-Zouch, (Leicestershire) - elegantly rolls off the tongue

Tuesday 7 July 2015

before autotune

I was going to have rant after watching THE Rhianna vid, but (yawn) I can't be bothered . . . when did popular music become so un-music, so sterile, humourless and narky about . . . what? nothing much. So, her accountant had a problem with his Casio calculator and lost her a few million - which she then went on to get back with serious knobs and bells on, no doubt - so what?
I had a quick trawl to try and find some R and B/rap with something to say, and typed in Rap/future - i.e future of mankind. I found a great video of someone singing about gardening - Home Grown, but sadly not shareable to blog, then came across a very angry person, weighed down with gold, called Future. Not sure what he was angry about but his song entitled Honest (autotuned to death) seemed to be about having as many languid-looking females as possible, wearing more than two watches, gold, white grand pianos, coke, planting out seed potatoes (no) cars, pools . . . yawn.

Anyway here's a favourite film clip with real music.

Thursday 2 July 2015

Building No 51

What a waste: one of many ex S.N.C.F (French national rail (and long may it stay in one piece) signal boxes - this one situated in a small French town where trains no longer stop but hurtle through on their way from Narbonne to Carcassonne.
I think it could make an excellent, if rather intimate, tea shop. Imagine sitting on a chilly day sipping Earl Grey with the exciting rumble of the next TJV rattling the cups and saucers - small wood burner in the corner, sepia photos of steam trains . . .