16 December 2019

Nosh!

Roasted potatoes from Nosh!

Red potatoes (Mozart) peeled with cheese slice - a tip I inherited from my late mother.
Bring potatoes to the boil. Only five minutes. Do not over-boil. They should still be firm.
As soon as the potatoes are put on the stove, get your roasting tin ready. I like to mix up oils. Put in some rapeseeed oil, a glug of olive oil and a knob of lard. You will need enough hot oil to baste the potatoes properly. Put the roasting tin in the top of your hot oven.
Above, our pork joint is roasting under foil with the potato roasting tin heating up on the top shelf. Soon the foil will be removed from the joint giving it about forty minutes of open roasting to brown.
At this point I somehow lost one of the key photos. I had drained off the par-boiled potatoes and tossed them in rosemary, salt and pepper and sieved cornflour. Then with lid firmly on the saucepan, I shook the potatoes vigorously for thirty seconds to make sure they were all coated. Then hot roasting pan out of the oven. Potatoes coated in oil - using the perforated spoon.
 Back in the top of the hot oven for half an hour. Bring out and turn them over.
Back in the oven for a further fifteen minutes and then turn again. Back in  for a further ten minutes or so.
And here are the finished roasted potatoes on our Sunday dinner plates along with roasted pork, roasted carrots, brussel sprouts and small homemade Yorkshire puddings that I had saved in the freezer. There was only homemade gravy and apple sauce to add - but they were waiting on the dining table.
Mmmm! Crispy all over, browned without being burnt and soft inside.

15 December 2019

Werewolf

On Thursday I was on duty at the local polling station for sixteen and a half hours. During that time more than five hundred electors came through the door. From first time voters and students to doddery pensioners with walking sticks.

A portable polling booth had been set up in the middle of the church hall. It was divided into four secret quadrants.

In the middle of the afternoon a furtive man stepped haltingly into the room. He looked this way and that and had a slightly wild expression on his face. We gave him his voting slip and then he went to the farthest quadrant to cast his vote. We could see his legs  but not the rest of his body. There was no one else in the polling station at that time.

And then we heard him making a series of animal-like grunts as no doubt he read the list of candidates. It took him a couple of minutes to complete the process and when he finally emerged I fully expected him to have taken on the appearance of a werewolf with  fur all over his face and bloodshot eyes.  My colleague had thought the same and we chuckled about it when the gentleman departed: in cinemas now - "The Polling Booth Werewolf".

There are other tales I could tell about the day but what I mostly want to say is that my colleague and I agreed that 99% of the people we met were pleasant and well-mannered. They smiled, they said "hello", they looked you in the eye. As a small sample of England's current  population they suggested that civility and decency remain the norms in this country. To me these people represented the silent majority  who don't get airtime or headlines but go about their law-abiding lives with dignity, pursuing achievable dreams, seeking happiness and contentment. It was nice to meet them - even the werewolf!

14 December 2019

Help!

You may recall that I recently won the "picture of the week" competition over at the geograph photo-mapping site. As is customary, my reward is to pick the next winning photograph. I have narrowed my choice down to the following four images taken in different locations on this island between November 30th and December 6th.

Please tell me which picture you like best or put them in your rank order.

(Picture A)

(Picture B)

(Picture C)

(Picture D)

13 December 2019

Despair

Tonight I am feeling as low as I felt that night in 1979 when Thatcher grabbed the keys to 10 Downing Street. This time the British electorate have apparently given their support to Johnson and his baying Tory mob. I am looking at television and the writing is already on the wall. The Conservative Party is about to enjoy a solid majority in The Houses of Parliament. They will be gloating and guffawing as only Tories can gloat and guffaw.

How on earth could British voters have allowed themselves to be fooled like this? I shake my head in despair. Five years of Johnson ahead and  no chance whatsoever of  returning to the European fold. That ship has already left the wharf.

I spent Thursday working at one of our local polling stations,  arriving there at 6.15 in the  morning and departing at 10.30pm. I had been hoping that the day would bring a hung parliament with a chance of  achieving a second European Union referendum. But that dream is over.

The Tories are in and as I say I  feel terribly low tonight. There are food banks in our country. There are rough sleepers on our streets. There is continuing division. The NHS is in crisis. We are breaking away from The European Union. Thousands of children are living in poverty. And yet, and yet...British voters fell for Johnson's lies, false promises and buffoonery.  

He kept saying over and over again "Get Brexit Done!" and an army of fools listened. Hope is lost now. We are entering an unhappier world  with  kindness in retreat. BoJo The Clown is pulling the strings now. Save our Souls.

11 December 2019

Citizenship

Mostly, I like to walk in the countryside. But just occasionally it is nice to go urban walking. As in the countryside you never know what you might encounter in a city.  Over the years, as revealed in the dusty cobwebbed annals of this ancient blog, I have shown visitors lots of images of England's steel city - Sheffield.
There's a general election on Thursday. I heartily concur with this message.
On Sunday, I went plodding in the heart of this ever-changing city with so much safety gear I might have crippled myself. Wilhelm the St Bernard kept barking at the traffic as rough brandy swilled around in the little barrel under his chin.

I walked beside The River Don - up to Blonk Street Bridge - I wanted to photograph the confluence of The Don and The Sheaf. As it happens, I was facing bright sunlight so my confluence pictures did not work out too well but you can see how the Sheaf emerges from a culvert close to the bridge. I could hear the sound of water rushing over a weir within the culvert which is half a mile long.
Sheffield became a steel city largely because of its little rivers. Firstly they powered small cottage industries and forges. Scythes were sharpened and iron was smelted, then steel and later stainless steel. In fact, this is where stainless steel was invented and first produced. Sheffield cutlery could be found in every corner of the largest empire the world has ever known - The British Empire. Through the nineteenth century, Sheffield's steel industry became enormous and the Lower Don Valley led the world in a range of such dirty, brutal and ingenious metal-related businesses.

More pictures. The next (Reedesque) one is specially for Mrs J.Barlow in Florence S.C..
Paradise Street corner looking to the old central fire station:-
On Bank Street with a reflection:-
I noticed carved figures on the facade of a building in Fitzalan Square - celebrating some of the city's traditional metal working skills:-
And that was that. Clint carried me home to prepare our Sunday roast dinner as Shirley visited the Christmas market at Sharrow Vale with an old friend. Though I say it myself, my roasted potatoes have finally reached a state of culinary excellence - crispy, bronzed and rosemary flavoured. Much depends on the potato variety you select. Eat your heart out Jamie Oliver!

10 December 2019

Farewell

Around two hundred people gathered at the local crematorium to say farewell to the young man who took his own life on November 21st. It was a non-religious gathering led by a humanist celebrant.

There were images of the young man projected on to a screen. Images from a comfortable life in the suburbs surrounded by his family and friends. There he was smiling at us. And there were images from his short marriage to a young woman who was his girlfriend from the age of thirteen. Separation had occurred months before his final tragic act. Personally, I would not blame her at all. The self-destructive urges and blue thoughts were happening long before their break up.

His father and five known others carried the coffin into the building. His tearful older sister and younger brother read out suitable goodbye verses and there were two songs that the young man had requested in his final notes - "One More Light" by Linkin Park and "Chocolate" by The 1975 - along with another song - "Lifted" by The Lighthouse Family.

The sun shone brightly on the sharp December morning. A pair of rooks strutted on the cemetery lawn. Afterwards mourners made their way to a pub in Nether Edge where there was a buffet and drinks and conversation. 

The young man is already entering history. Months will pass and then years and some time in the far distance there will be days when his mother, father, brother, sister and estranged wife do not fall asleep at night or wake in the morning thinking about him and the space that he has left behind.

He was born under the sign of Taurus in Sydney, Australia in 1988.

9 December 2019

WD-40

WD40 is one of the most magical products known to mankind. You can fix just about anything with WD40. Squeaky hinges? Try WD40. Nut and bolt seized up? No problem! Just squirt some WD40. Dandruff? Hair loss? Lawn mower problems?  Tar on your car's body work? Tap washer stuck? No matter what your issue is - WD40 can solve it.

Is there a home in the western world that does not possess a spraycan of WD40? Another splendid thing about WD40 is that the cans are everlasting. I have had my current can of WD40 since 1982. As I say - WD40 possesses magical qualities.

I was wondering. What is WD40 and who invented it?

Norman B. Larsen - the possible inventor
of WD40. I could find no images of Iver
Norman Lawson
It seems that it was invented in the early nineteen fifties in connection with the production and maintenance of Atlas rockets in San Diego, California. The letters "W.D." stand for "water displacement" and the number "40" suggests that the magical spray which went into commercial production was in fact  the 40th formula tested..

The inventor of  WD40 may have been Iver Norman Lawson but it  could have been Norman B. Larsen. There is a continuing dispute about who was responsible. The product was never properly patented.

Similarly, there is continuing disagreement about what WD40 actually contains. What are its ingredients? The American explanation is rather different from the European Union's analysis but both agree that a petroleum derivative makes up the bulk of the recipe.

Some critics of WD40 have suggested that because of its water displacement properties, WD40 is not a suitable alternative to oil. Sure - it will make moving parts operate more smoothly for a while but in the long run it will have a deleterious effect. However, I expect that all of these critics will have cans of WD40 at home. As most of us know from experience - WD40 is magic!

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