Monday 27 February 2017

10 a day

What bollocks all this five, now, ten-a-day governmental veg and fruit eating-policy is.
Ten what exactly? peas? teaspoons of tomato paste? What is a portion anyway and why make it all sound like a hideous ordeal rather than a colourful and tasty experiment.
Putting a sum up like that . . . it's bound to be disproved or changed (as it has been) within a matter of a couple of years, and of course, food-manufacturers can use the slogan to their great advantage - suck on a baggie of apple compote - that's one, fruit juice with bits in it, two . . . etc, I think it was even mentioned, seriously, that pizza is now considered a possible contender, in America.
We need good old 'home economy' back in schools, or 'food technology' as I think I heard it termed more recently - that in itself a turn off if ever there was one; let's make food as clinical and scientifically removed from reality as possible.
I don't know what is taught now and I hope after Mr Oliver's heartfelt attempts with school dinners things might have improved; if not, there is serious work to be done, as important as maths and languages, possibly even more.
Due to fast foods, perceived and real lack of time, and too much watching celeb chefs and not actually doing cooking we may have really lost the basic knack of simple, inexpensive and healthy cooking. I read an article the other day that said 'young people' are starting to buy ingredients and cook stuff in order to post the results on Instagram, rather than paying attention to what they are making nutrition and bank account-wise.
The other thing I find perplexing is the 'fruit and veg' phrase; I know hangs better - fruit 'n veg rather than veg 'n fruit, but that's what needs to be pushed - veg 'n some fruit. Fruit is great but it's also loaded with sugar, leaving the opportunity for: 'Great, I'll eat two apples, an orange, a banana and six peas and I'll have my quota.

                                  A VERY organic cabbage from friend Maggie's amazing garden

So . . . education and admiration about, and, of, the humble cabbage, other brassicas, onions, carrots, et al. Cabbages, after onions are, to me, top ingredient: cheap (mostly) full of iron and fibre, and if an organic one with its colony of slugs can be purchased, so much the better - just seeing those happy folks (before I flick them off into the chicken enclosure) makes me feel reassured that the cabbage has had a healthy up-bringing.
Organic or not, washed thoroughly and boiled, steamed, fried, baked, stir-fried or whatever its a great staple and bulker-outer for a plethora of dishes.

                                                     My daily stir-fry, and the ultimate 'fast food'

Recently, possibly through laziness, or, I suspect, wanting to remain as healthy as possible, I just seem, when I'm on my own, to exist on stir-fries - whatever veg I have, chopped, put in a pan, oil, dash of soy sauce, spot of sherry, lemon, salt, pepper, chilli; maybe a little meat if there is any - ten minutes later, lunch and one pan to wash up.


                  Very small (about the size of a mug-base) bit of 'happy' steak from local org place. 

As for meat . . . that's a whole other subject, but in a shortish sentence: I like it, but only indulge once or twice a week - just a small portion of something that's had a life on open grasslands. Organic or free-range is expensive but if we can embrace lentils (interesting) other pulses, tofu, etc, we won't need (or want) as much. We don't need loads of protein, do need some carbs, but veg must be the way forward and out of the current obesity problem our societies are suffering from.

Monday 20 February 2017

Trying to make sense

I was listening to a Ted Talk on The Brain the other day. The speaker was describing how long it takes for our minds to put together visual information - which I promptly forgot, sadly, but it was a matter of milliseconds.
For example, this morning while driving along I was convinced I had seen a hare sitting at the side of the road but as I drove nearer it was revealed to be a less-exciting, slightly knocked stripy bollard. I suppose it's an ancient fear and flight 'brain application' - an old discarded inner tube could be a viper, that cluster of cracks on a wall, a humungous spider . . .

Creepy Dickensian character?


                                 Angry hippo with one eye shut?

Laughing but with, possibly, evil intent, hippo/dinosaur/one of these giant water mammals I've forgotten the name of that live in the Floridian waters.

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Ever-changing human emotions

Funny, isn't it.
You can wake up feeling perhaps mildly optimistic, or very optimistic, or miserable, or full of anger, then throughout the course of a day depending on conversations, emails, the weather, a new scratch on the car, a dog poo in the wrong place; someone giving you an unexpected present, a packet of tea discovered at the back of a cupboard when you thought you had run out, an incredible cloud, a good lunch, new socks, etc, etc and everything changes for better or worse, until the next boring/fun/extraordinary/necessary/ life-changing or one step closer to death, thing that happens to alter your mood during this particular twenty-four hours.
Or maybe some people don't experience this - are always, or mostly always on a course of, 'yep, okay-ness' or everything being constantly a uniform grey, or extreme positiveness always. . . how exhausting.
Real depression is crippling, and I'm lucky to only experience perhaps a day a month where I feel 'Well, shit . . ." and also lucky in the knowledge that tomorrow I'll feel 'normal', whatever my normal-ness is - mostly optimistic in a muddling along sort of a way.
So, today was a patchwork of emotions with a dip in the early afternoon heading towards 'Well, shit . . . but saved by the kind and genuinely helpful words of a good friend.
The mouldy mood had stemmed from feeling that I might be wasting my time trying to get published (something that is moving forward, glacially). I was preparing for full sky-dive into Well, shit . . ." when an email arrived from the friend who had finished the book in question (and has helped me a great deal with editing over a couple of years). Constructive praise ending in 'congratulations' and from someone I know would always tell me if something needed fixing, blew the dismal mood away. I sauntered into the garden with shears and attacked bushes that had needed serious trimming for weeks, gazed up at clouds and generally felt that the world, at least within my own personal compound, was and is a good place.

Monday 6 February 2017

January London wanderings

 . . . As ever, based vaguely on a 'map' of one of my book character's movements, workplaces and habitation.
On venturing out in the early morning, I considered the fact that I really should spend part of my sacred day going to see some art. London is stuffed with it and magnificent museums, theatres - all aspects of culture, but somehow I felt over-compelled to continue my mission of stalking Hamish's (present main character) London life-map.


              Perfect day for a tad of psychogeography . . .

After porridge and tea in the excellent Bloomsbury café situated beneath my favourite home-from-home, the St Athan's hotel, I walked swiftly( at first) in the direction of East Finchley before getting distracted by a thousand or so details of my favourite city that I had never before observed. The Keystone Crescent (previously Caledonian Crescent - better name, methinks) for example.


How had I walked about WC1 so many times and overlooked this architectural wonderment: smallest radius of any Crescent in Europe, and unique in having a matching inner and outer circle.
First on my desired locations for Hamish's life was a small, black window-framed book shop and turning into Leigh Street I found it - perfect in every way, from to its teetering piles of books to shadowy small courtyard; perfect, except it's already been used (I discovered later after checking) in a   BBC (dark) comedy series. Damn. But I suppose there's no rule to say I can't mentally move into the shop too . . .

Continued walking to King's Cross and turned into a road that used to house a decrepit building/photographic studio where I often worked as a stylist back in the early 90s, running up and down the metal staircase with props and parking tickets. It had long gone, replaced by a boring dull-bricked hotel called sleep-u-like or some such thing; even worse, the beautiful little Italian deli at the end of the road was sadly empty, possibly waiting a wrecking-ball (sob). The downside of these nostalgic wanderings - missing buildings of my earlier London years, now gaps in the jaws of the city or morphed into uniform sleek edifices of marble and glass.

Continuing up the Caledonian Road, I caught a bus as my feet were complaining and arrived at Archway where I caught another bus to East Finchley, sitting at the top/front enjoying the pigeons'-eye view of scraggy shops, mustard-bricked terraces and hurrying commuters.
A florist shop figures highly in Hamish's life - a series of floral apologies and love messages, and I'd found the ideal establishment: 'Josephine's', established well before the decade the book is set in.

I skulked about a bit and spoke to one of the florists but unfortunately the manager wasn't there; not that I needed to speak to them but I just like to find out a bit of history surrounding my potential locations.
Onto Muswell Hill via Fortis Green road where I chose a house on Western Road that would fit the style I had imagined for my character's flat.



A couple of unchanged shop interiors 

Muswell Hill . . . place of my childhood up until thirteen or so; everything is still so familiar, and many places unchanged - the old pet shop, Martyn's, the marvellous old coffee/tea/dry goods shop with its coffee roasting machine still in the window, and the parade of shops on Duke's Avenue where I wish to place 'Lily's' taxidermy establishment. Old chemist chosen, I checked out a few charity shops, caught the 134 back to Russell Square and meandered into the sub-real district of Bond Street with its shop displays of obscenely-expensive shoes and handbags fabricated to carry life's essentials of a single lipstick and a gold American Express card.

 smaller than a hedgehog 

Mm, comfy

A . . . beige shoe with special powers?

After walking around snarling quietly at such excess, I went into Liberty's, mainly to look at their staircases' carved animal newel posts and the changing rooms on the women' clothing floors.
Hamish experiences a very spontaneous 'act' with his new lady-friend in one of these cubicles which I had imagined as large, spacious and full of William Morris wallpaper; in fact they were smallish, mirror-clad and possibly installed in the late 70s?
A beautiful man with skin like the most perfect cup of coffee (drink, not cup) and an exotic silver necklace informed me that he didn't know the date of the changing rooms and I would have to ask the store designers. There didn't seem to be any about so I had another gawp at shoes that cost 800 pounds plus, and went back outside in search of TEA in an old Italian, formica café, the likes of which of course sadly don't exist now, bulldozed into the past by Starbucks, Neros, et al.

I liked this very much but preferred the idea of paying the electricity bill

The weather had now decided to revert to standard January precipitation so I got on a bus and enjoyed looking out at the blurry traffic lights, headlights, window display lights, bus lights, etc, until I got to Russell square and ran back to the hotel with saturated feet and perused the internet for theatres/cinemas within slopping distance.
Three hours or so later I emerged from Tottenham Court Road Odeon wondering why I had spend 14 quid on seeing LaLa Land - sugar-sweet, silly, zilch story, and the dancing . . . well, maybe better to watch a re-run of Mr Kelly splashing about in the studio rain.

Man in bus shelter who had perhaps just heard on his smartphone who had made it to the Whitehouse

Bus window condensation-art

Friday 3 February 2017

community matters

After catching the end of a feature on Radio 4 this morning I Googled 'Window Wanderland' and found a million images relating to a winter event that takes place in the streets of Bristol.
A great idea of Lucy Reeves Khan, the premise is to make your own front windows a nighttime gallery, display or mini-theatre piece - whatever you like for one evening. As a fan of wandering about suburban city streets and looking into (usually with slight voyeuristic-guilt) evening-lit windows I applaud such an unusual and creative idea.
As Britain detaches itself from the mother mainland I feel more ideas like this will be needed -  British eccentricity, irony and humour, used in small community and larger communities; something to unite town inhabitants and reduce suspicion of 'strangers'; something to be celebrated and possibly to be exported. I'd love to see the night windows of my small French town undergoing the same treatment, but I just can't quite imagine it actually happening . . .

Bristol post


                                                               Harrogate News