Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Not quite Saturday’ Category

Tomato_jeWhenever I am in Spain, I always take advantage of the local produce.  There’s no point going there and stewing cabbage or boiling turnips (not that you see much of those on the Costa del Sol), when the soft Mediterranean, often very local, (fruit) vegetables are in great abundance.

The aubergines, courgettes, peppers and tomatoes all have a fabulous depth of flavour – even the knobbly, small cucumbers actually have taste, unlike the long, smooth, hot-house grown phalluses available here. Therefore, invariably, the first dish made is ratatouille.

s-l640One problem with my ratatouille in Spain is that I have less access to chopped tinned tomatoes or passata. Over there they have more tomato frito, which, although a similar consistency to passata, is quite sweet and can overpower the finished flavour.

I decided therefore, to make my own tomato sauce and to use that for all of the dishes that require such a thing.

28492528636_d730e0ea97_zThe Spanish grow some fabulously tasty tomatoes. 

Even when served under-ripe, with a little salt, oil, parsley and crushed garlic, they make a meal; accompanied by some local ‘Spanish’ bread.

For the tomato sauce, I simply chopped up a kilo of tomatoes and brought them to the boil along with a small, chopped onion, 4 peeled cloves garlic and about a tablespoon each of olive oil and tomato puree. Then, I let that lot simmer for a couple of hours, topping up with tiny bits of water now and again. I then seasoned it, blitzed it all with a hand blender and used as required (sauce for pasta, added flavour for paella, to loosen up ratatouille, slackened off as soup etc.).

I sometimes add (fresh) basil or oregano towards the end of cooking, for added flavour.

I made the same last week, with Aldi tomatoes and had to add a jar of Lloyd Grossman sauce to give it any flavour at all.

Read Full Post »

The busy summer continues …

img_0329For the first few weeks since returning from Spain at the very end of June, life was a bit hectic. The first event of no small note was the birth of Betony (and Josh)’s baby – Chester Jax. He was born on July 3rd (and weighed just 5lbs – such a tiny thing). Chester is my step-Grandson (??), although I guess I will be Grandad to him or abuelo, if Josh speaks Spanish to/with him.

During July and early August, I had several nice long (and hot) walks. Tony and I went up above Rotcher as far as The Rose and Crown and then along Bradshaw Lane and Laund Road before descending back into Slaithwaite via Moor Side Lane and Meal Hill.  John R, Mark S and I followed much the same route but extended it along Crimea Lane, Slaithwaite Gate and the Golcar Lily Ginnel Trail as far as the canal – then back to Slaithwaite.

David T and I walked along the cycle track to Bradley and back along the canal – a route John R and I often follow on Tuesdays when we meet.  This is part of the Calder Valley Greenway, which meanders through pleasant countryside all the way through to Dewsbury, although we rarely walk beyond Mirfield (where a tasty lunch can be had at Café Nosh).

img_0342

Alone, I’ve walked to Huddersfield several times and to Marsden several more. I even walked to Marsden and back on the canal with Carol one day; it’s a nicer experience when there’s someone to talk with.

Now though, the weather has turned a little cooler and I’m not as inclined to bother (although I really should).  So, I’m looking forward to my return to Spain in September, where and when my ambulatory activities can recommence.

We’ve also had a variety of people come and visit us to see our new home and/or to wish Sharon a happy birthday.  It’s been lovely to see Chris and Paul, Karen, Karen and Darren, Carol, David and Gail, Emma, Ann, and Tony and Gill.

I’m writing this en-route to London, where I will undertake some training with City and Guilds. Down there, I will meet Alison (with whom I have visited India several times), Karen, and Sue.  This time it will be a new work venture – something to occupy my semi-retired time?

Read Full Post »

What has happened to table knives? 

When did they begin to lose their function?

blades

Function

The purpose of a knife is to cut, slice and chop – surely?  Yet, I’m not sure that table knives are designed to do that anymore.

Several times recently, especially in restaurants, I have been frustrated by having to use the knife provided, to ‘tear’ at the meat (etc.) on my plate, instead of actually cutting it.  I occasionally have had to retrieve a more robust vegetable, such as new potato, from wherever it has landed on the table after trying to cut it with my knife.

2knivesI’d be better off using a spoon!  

And, don’t even try to cut the nicely cooked almost al dente broccoli stem! Even Yorkshire Puddings fight back.

Design

Modern tableware is blunt.

It no longer serves its purpose and it’s probably down to some caring soul somewhere, thinking that we might cut ourselves. I do have sharp knives and the ones I use at the table, whilst not AS sharp, can at least cut whatever is placed in front of them.  However, not everyone has such knives anymore.

Some folks also (however), have ‘handed’ knives.

These are designed to make cutting easier for right-handed people.  Because there is a chamfer on one side of the blade, it allows the knife to have a sharper edge, but not one (apparently) that will allow the right-handed person to cut themselves.  However, unless this type of knife is specially designed for left-handed folks – they become impossible to use when in the hands of such southpaws.

See also Fish Knives why?.

Messerbank_2_fcm

Read Full Post »

How on earth we can ever expect a smooth withdrawal from the EU?  I have no idea.

We only have to look at the complications found at local council level to see that the task is quite impossible.

Where we live, we have to pay our local council for a permit to park on the road outside our house. This ‘tax’ was introduced a couple of years ago. During that time, we have not moved house and have not changed our car (readers may need to remember these two facts).

permit-holders

Our own street allows non-permit holders to park for up to 1 hour

If we had done either, the parking permit we had paid for would become invalid. So far so good?

About be same time that the council implemented the new parking charge we bought the house (under dwelling) beneath us.

So, to clarify: we live at #XX and the flat/apartment below us is #XXa.  Still with me?

Whenever you own a property, you have to pay council tax – that’s not a problem, that’s a fact of life.  So, until the home below us was occupied by tenants, Sharon registered herself for council tax there and, being thoughtful for the prospective tenants, she applied for a non-specific resident visitor-parking pass.  Unlike our own, these are free as the pass is for visitors to the house and not for any specific car.

Before being issued with any car-specific pass, the applicant is cross-referenced to council tax records and has to provide proof of car registration/insurance/mot etc. at the required address. We obviously did this for our #XX application but had no need to do so for the #XXa application as (at that time), no car was involved at that address.

Still with me?

Once the new tenants moved in, bought and registered their own car, our own interest in #XXa ceased. The tenants have changed the car since their first permit and have therefore paid the £15 charge twice.

Last week, we came home to find a parking ticket on our own car’s windscreen!

parking ticket

Bearing in mind the fact that we haven’t changed any of our details we (obviously?) appealed against this fine, online.

The appeal was turned down – so you can imagine the ensuing phone call to the council!!

It turns out that when Sharon applied for the initial visitor pass for #XXa, some numpty at the council changed OUR #XX car permit registration to #XXa. This is something that should not have happened as they had not been provided with (because they didn’t ask for) proof of car registration/insurance/mot at the new address. Had they asked then, we would not have had the problem now.

So, for two years our pass has been (in their eyes) invalid and so we have been parked illegally. Outside our own house.

Needless to say, this has now been sorted out after some discussion and a new permit is being prepared.

But Brexit?  Really? FFS!!!

Read Full Post »

I appear to be becoming a curmudgeon.

It is not a position I’ve ever aimed at or asked for, simply one that I am growing into now that I am not working full time. You might think that it takes hard graft to develop the skills a curmudgeon requires, but most have just appeared naturally as I grow steadily older and pass through the various qualification phases.

When I first realised that I had achieved my current status, as grouch, I’d hoped I would not follow the natural progression; after all who ‘wants’ to be a curmudgeon! I’d already been ‘Mr. Grumpy’ for quite a while, so I thought that perhaps being a grouch might last a lot longer.

Not so. Not as far as I can see.

Screen Shot 2018-04-01 at 12.08.51

The reason I’m afraid that curmudgeonliness is around the corner is that I’m happy to regale anyone who asks, with what’s wrong with the world; whether they are interested or not.

BREXIT.
Who knew an entire nation could be so stupid as to commit national hari-kari in this way!

Previous posts:

Of course, as one of the <48% that voted to stay with Europe, I am now branded as a ‘remoaner’. So, for now, I’m a curmudgeon-remoaner and so to finish my Brexit curmoan (Ooo, a new word), I need to say that (in my opinion) leaving the EU with less than a 4% majority will always be folly (after all, if a General Election showed such a small majority it would be sure to be re-held before five years maximum).

giphy

NHS
I have many views on the state of the NHS and not just because I am at the threshold of an age where I will need to use it more and more.  When it began back in 1948:

The central principles [were] clear: the health service [would] be available to all and financed entirely from taxation, which means that people pay into it according to their means.1

I have paid taxes and National Insurance throughout my working life and continue to do so.  Yet, the services that were once available to me, whilst still there, are dangerously hard pressed, hard to access and often costly.

My own town’s A & E department, like many others, is due to move over to the next town’s A & E in due course, leaving thousands of potential patients with longer journey and wait times to be seen by doctors/nursing staff.  This is not because the local A & E has a bad record or is underused – but simply because the Government (in my curmudgeonly opinion) will not fund two hospitals less than eight miles apart, when one is part of a PFI scheme (not ours!).

Nevermind the population affected!

And while I’m at it …

VAPING

Why?

POLICING

Does anyone remember when the police were interested and responded to phone calls reporting anti-social behaviour?

ROADS

When was the last time you managed to drive to work (or anywhere) without having to avoid massive potholes in the road?

FOOD and DRINK

Why is the quality of pub restaurant food and general service so bad in this country? ….. And, don’t mention the coffee!

So, to anyone who cares, I’m sorry – to everyone else Bah Humbug!

1 – https://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/thenhs/nhshistory/Pages/NHShistory1948.aspx

Credit where credit is due for the Euro pic – it’s not mine but I don’t know whose it is. So thank you anyway.

Read Full Post »

They say that if you keep your brain active and alert, it will slow down or prevent the onset of dementia.  

As a retiree, I find the eventual possibility and onset of dementia worrying.  I therefore keep as active as I can, I read copiously, I undertake puzzles and games on my iPad and I complete jig-saw puzzles.

All of this (hopefully) helps to prevent my memory from deteriorating too quickly.

It is also suggested that learning a new language can help to slow down the process of age related memory loss – or brain ageing.

einsteinshow2.php

Well, bully for me – because I am desperately trying to learn Spanish.

However, I’ve never been good with language classes.

At secondary school, French was a subject only accessible to the top class (class ‘A’).  It took me a few years to reach that level and once I started to move up through ‘B’ and finally to the ‘A’ class, it was not accessible to me because I’d missed those early years. Later, at catering college, French Language was offered on Friday afternoons but it was not interesting and made no sense to my sixteen-year-old self.  Yet, the ‘kitchen’ French I learned in normal catering classes WAS interesting and I devoured that. I have always been able to decipher menus during the (roughly) thirty consecutive years I have visited France.

As a young adult, I attended evening classes, to learn German. I enjoyed those as they were aimed at grown-ups and Jill, the teacher, was fabulous.  I passed my Institute of Linguists ‘preliminary’ exam – no worries. The second year didn’t take off however and my interest lapsed.

I picked up French again when I began teaching, but by now it just seemed very hard and my progress was very slow.  I tried lunchtime courses, evening courses and – just a few years ago I attended an inclusive course in Sancerre.  I can get by in French. I can get by in German. But I cannot converse in either language.  Anything other than travel requisites (food, drink, fuel, rooms, tables, directions) and I begin to flounder.

I do not want that to happen with my Spanish. 

se habla español

I want to communicate socially and conversationally. 

To be fair, I am probably already at the stage it took me thirty years to reach in French, but it seems to be SO DIFFICULT.

And yet, I’m still avoiding formal classes.

Formal classes haven’t worked for me so far, so I’m undertaking some self-directed learning for now.  I’m using Duolingo as my base and have just recently completed ninety consecutive days of learning.  Each ‘day’ has a minimum of 10 minutes – I set that up at the beginning. I often do far more than that, but on busy days the minimum is 10 minutes.  I’ve found that online learning works ok for me, but that it does still lead to some confusion.  I therefore back up my learning on other sites and dictionaries. Google Translate is a Godsend.

750px-Flag_map_of_Spain.svgBecause Duolingo is available on the computer, as well as on my iPhone and iPad, it is constantly available.  If I stop for a coffee, instead of simply reading Facebook posts, I can complete a five-minute lesson on Duolingo, or its sister App Tinycards.  As time passes I find myself going over lessons more and more because the new words are taking much longer for me to process.

And that’s the thing:  How much more vocabulary do I need (do we need, as Sharon is also trying to learn Spanish) before I start to think in Spanish?  Some words and phrases come immediately to mind, without thinking what I need to say and, to be more fluent/competent, this needs to happen more often.

I have recently been given some children’s crime/adventure books, in Spanish, which I am beginning to wade through just now.  I know about 20% of the words on the page and understand about 40% of what is going on – but I have to stop and translate whole sentences to get the full gist.  I’m enjoying doing that – so perhaps all is not as bad as I think.

After all I studied for and achieved a Masters Degree – how hard can this be?

Resources

Read Full Post »

For a few years now, I have had an inclination to grow a Movember moustache but could never quite be bothered.

This year however, that changed and on October 31st, I set out to grow a grand moustache on behalf this worthwhile charity.

But I’ve shaved it off now.  It’s all gone. I have a clean top lip and it’s only 13th November.

IMG_9248Why have I done that?

Well, despite all the hype, Facebook posts and the convenience of a Just Giving page, I have only managed to drum up my own starting contribution.  What’s more, I am told (by people I regard as friends – and family) that it (the moustache) makes me look:

  • ‘old’ (well, I am getting on that way), or …
  • ‘angry’ (I’m not!) or …
  • ‘a twat’ (a matter of opinion?), and …
  • I was offered money to shave it off.

I took the money and feel clean again.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »