Food standards

Following on from ‘Thought for the day’ on 3rd Jan, we’ve had cause to have another look at the cupboards. Things have moved on in diet – I can now have the milk-based ancient hot chocolate that I couldn’t digest before. What’s more, as the Dutch stroopwafel was best before 3rd Jan we had no choice but to eat them. We found that the point of a guiness mug isn’t that it can contain a whole guinness, but that when full of hot chocolate the stroopwafel will balance inside the rim, meaning the whole thing is warmed through before it’s eaten. There’s a photo somewhere but the computer isn’t having it.

Sat in the cupboard we found something that highlighted an issue with British food. The persimmons that had been bought two days earlier were off. They’d rotted. Contrast that with how the household first tasted persimmons… by buying them in identical packaging in a German supermarket, transporting them across Europe back into the UK, then eating them days later. How can something travelling that much further, uncushioned, be fresher? It’s normal now that every punnet or bag of fruit we buy starts fresh but has one that goes mouldy within a day or two. I wonder if it’s in there to ensure swift replacement.

It’s a thought that crossed my mind when noting during shopping that my fresh fruit and veg was coming from Spain, Peru and South Africa. Now, miles travelled are not the only consideration – something that grows better with less interference further away that requires virtually no preservation will be less draining on resources than something that requires hothousing miles closer. But where was the British produce? I discussed this with a German colleague who agreed that come Brexit there’s a lot of people going to have a shock when all they can find on the shelves is seasonal potatoes.

But the weirdest food label we saw this week was on venison meatballs, which presumably had seen venison at least once as they came with a warning that when eating the product, “Despite all care, some bullet metal may remain.”

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Just back (well…) from an action-packed New Year, travelling around the country, seeing friends we’d not seen for the year, for years and for one, at all, as we’d not been able to visit since he was born in 2015. He has been given Church Mice books by Graham Oakley, which every small child needs.

January 3rd was the ninth anniversary of when the household first met. Given how it met it’s a poignant time, with a reminder of how difficult but also how fortunate the time between has been, and the need of a balance between doing everything now while it’s possible but not overdoing it and bringing it all crashing down. This year we spent the day exploring Cirencester amphitheatre. A definite improvement on how we spent the day nine years ago.

In contrast here’s a doctor who went completely, unexpectedly blind 6 months after qualifying, now finding just how frightening and lonely the world really is:

We’re exploring all the English Heritage sites. So far we’ve seen all the sites in Cornwall, Hampshire (except when extremely shut) and Berkshire (there’s only one…) and now we’re looking at filling in the counties in between.

Meeting up with people over New Year was a question of fine sheduling – we visited three sets of people per day. But when attempting to meet one we got a reminder of an ambition that everyone takes for granted, but few can realise. One person was elsewhere “arranging additional care” for their Mum who is “98 and still living in her own home” in a lovely part of the world, where she has always lived. That’s a living arrangement to aspire to!

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Time and cooking

According to the Meaning of Liff, ‘Farnham’ is the feeling at 4pm when you’ve not got enough done today and ‘Gonnabarn’ is to waste an afternoon watching an old film on TV. I repute that. After having read the book repeatedly, visited the address and owned the DVD for years I have finally seen ’84 Charing Cross Road’. It’s lovely and worth the time.

Contrasting with ’10 Rillington Place’ which we’ve just seen, there are some oddities. Reading up on it afterwards they’d done a good job with the ‘mis en scene’, the subconscious background details. But it appears that no one has done any decorating until Mr Brown moves in in 1954. The yellowing wallpaper that’s hanging by a thread in 1938 is still hanging there in 1952. Not the best way to conceal things, given what was behind it. In Charing Cross Road they’re sprucing up the flat periodically with new paper and paint.

We had a reminder from a member of the household of relative ages – not only was Rillington Place new to him, but he’d not seen the Have I Got New For You episode with the tub of lard, something in mind as they replaced a panellist with a handbag yesterday. I didn’t realise the episode was 23 years old – I remember watching it fresh in 1993.

Culinary exploits continue with another lasagne pie (ran out of white sauce again). The novelty now is the collection of boxes of chicken curry. We defrosted the last meat, a single block of 5kg of chicken breast, cooked the lot, curried it in varying flavours bought on offer, then refroze it. Now we’re working our way through it.

Finished reading ‘The King’s Revenge’. Funny how selective history can be. Started to read ‘The years of Rice and Salt’, a parallel history that asks what would have happen if the Black Death had obliterated Europe instead of ‘only’ killing 1/3. Finished reading The Science of the Discworld and happily spent time learning about Langton’s Ant. Mentioned it to someone and they told me about Conway’s Game of Life.

Putting together Christmas cards, which is tricky as the household is never in the same place at once so sorting out a list or signing them is difficult. So there will be delays, but that’s ok – the post office says it’s going to be on strike anyway so no one will notice.

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We’re venturing anew into the kitchen. I can now cook Yorkshire puddings from scratch and they always rise – this is possibly because I’m cheating and using self-raising flour. It’s still a novelty to me to live somewhere with an oven that has both a heat seal and a thermostat – most of my receipes have been adjusted over the years to allow just a vague warming through.

Yesterday there was a household discussion as to what a milkshake is. The idea that it could be milk and stuff all blended together was apparently a new one as someone felt that bubbles and thickness were a main ingredient. I vetoed stopping at a fastfood place for one and now the kitchen is covered in dribbles of milky banana. It’s fine, it’ll wipe off.

‘Jaunt’ is updated – the photo is there if anyone wants to see a subtle landscape feature between Dover and Germany.

Reading Science of the Discwork, book 1. When I tried before, more than ten years ago, I just couldn’t get into it. It’s good revisiting books with a little more life experience so that they can be appreciated more. It’s also lovely having a whole new vein of Pratchetts to discover, now that I know there won’t be any more.

Found the Giles archive online. Sadly as it’s random there’s no overall display of all his best known tableau cartoons, ones where there’s subtle things happening in the background, but you can’t have everything. He was particularly known for perspective, such as viewing from the giddying tops of buildings, timing, where the viewer can see what’s about to happen when the people in it can’t, and ‘Grandma’, who in one cartoon is playing cards with Father Christmas and has already won the sack of toys and half his clothes off him.

And in other news, if I see part of the household setting off on a speculative fishing trip, there will be trouble!



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Given today’s world events, I overcame a need to revisit the ‘Motorcycle Diaries’, a film that makes you suddenly sit up and go, “Yes! I want to go and do things!” and “They did what with that tent…?” and instead inflicted the Mark Steel lecture of Che Guevara on to the household. I feel that Guevara’s comment about the key shows that he missed his calling as a comic writer, but then he’d already got an oddly set up calling anyway because of the asthma.

I’m with his Dad on, “And what are you going to do now with your medical career?!” I’m sure his Dad would be suitably impressed at the medical finding that Cuba , despite all the sanctions et al, came up with a vaccine to meningitis B before anyone else in the world.

A bit disturbing that the household hadn’t heard of Che Guevara.

Even more disturbing was that ‘Auntie’ (the BBC, as called by British people) didn’t feel a need to mention Castro’s death on the news. Lots about what Trump thinks of Castro, but not much on why he suddenly felt a need to comment. Took a lot of reading and sifting to work that one out.

Lovely comment by Mark Steel that after Castro routinely did 4 hr monologues, he’d get to 90 and then say, “enough about me, what about you?” He’s just died aged 90.

The Mark Steel lectures were a series of half hour comedy lectures explaining the importance of various people. I only got into them because Radio 4 extra are so bad at cutting the edges times between programmes – a problem when trying to avoid the ends of whodunnits. Here’s Guevara’s:

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And on the jaunt we arrived a tad early, so between Dover and Germany we decided on a little detour and sight seeing.


It’s great having national monuments to yourself at 5am on a Sunday morning. I was last there 15 years ago in circumstances that weren’t as happy – it’s lovely forming new memories with people who actually want to be there with you.

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The household has just (ish) returned from a wonderful jaunt abroad, with wider minds and deep sighing – it is only when able to compare it’s possible to see what is wanting… or to put it another way, if I worked as a petrol station attendant, I don’t think I could explain and constructively discuss my views on brexit with a random stranger in my third language at 2am. I like that there are places where this is perfectly normal.

While away I recommended some thing to watch, or read, which some poeple already have but I thought I’d put them here as I keep on emailing the links.

Here’s the first:

Monty Don’s Mastercrafts, in particular the episode on weaving. This episode not only shows different people learning a new craft, but also has a polarised example of today’s society. ‘Snowflake generation’ was reported to have entered the Collins Dictionary as a term used to describe millenials who value 450 likes over 2 friends who’ll be there for them and how are probably portrayed by the I-made-it-so-of-course-it’s-special person shown here. The other two show graphically the difference a tweak in approach caused by unforeseen life events can make, a reminder to everyone to reflect on all practice.

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