Monday, October 31, 2005


Remember remember the fifth of November
Gunpowder, treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder, treason
Should ever be forgot...

It's that time of the year again. This Saturday it is the 5th November with all that involves: guys, bonfires, fireworks, parties.... I have happy memories of all the celebrations and trappings of Guy Fawkes Day during my childhood. It is a traditional time that I hope will continue for centuries to come. But people have, over the last few years, failed to remember that one of the key things is the date: the 5th November. The parties now seem to go on for as long as the fireworks are available to buy - I think retailers are licensed to sell them from the second week of October to a few weeks after Guy Fawkes Day. Fine. I hope that I am not a killjoy wanting to spoil peoples' fun. It is a pity though that they don't think of the effect their parties can have.

Nimrod's sister, Pickle, is usually a very strong-minded cat. She knows what she wants to do and the rest of us have to bow to her wishes. If she wants to sit on the settee we'd better move over and give her room to lay down (like her brother she is not a lap cat). Nothing usually frightens her, she is usually in control of her own life, and ours as well. However, the word is "usually", the one exception being this time of the year. From the first bang of a firework she hides under a cupboard under the stairs, the furthest distance from a window of anywhere in the house. She has been there for at least two weeks, just emerging for meals and then returning to the same slot. On past performance I suspect that she will be there until the last firework is set off. Then she will go back to ruling the house, us and her brother until this time next year.

People tend to forget, when arranging an outdoor party with fireworks, that the bangs and wizzes can frighten pets in the neighbourhood. We get lots of warnings to keep pets in on the actual day. But we can't keep them in for weeks on end.

So, in some ways this is a good time, enjoying all the traditional items but at the same time it is a difficult time of the year for those owning or owned by cats and dogs.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec Exhibition

Last Monday the Husband and I went up to Tate Britain to visit the Degas, Sickert and Toulouse-Lautrec exhibition. It was well worth the visit, despite late trains and disturbed and overcrowded tube trains. There were several large rooms full of pictures, plus a couple of sculptures not only by the three artists that the exhibition was named after but several other artists as well.

I was pleasantly surprised by the works by Degas, especially his ballerinas. The pictures "spoke" to me in a way that reproductions of his pictures never do, it was well worth going to the exhibition for that alone (plus a sculpture by him of a young ballerina, a wonderful work).

The Husband wanted to see the works by Sickert but I have to admit that they were not really my thing. I could appreciate his works set in various music halls of the period but I had difficulty appreciating his pastels, especially the nudes. However, that may well have been because they were displayed alongside a couple of pictures of nudes by Pierre Bonnard and I got the distinct feeling that at the time he painted them Bonnard really cared for his model - something that to me came out of his pictures. In contrast I got the distinct impression that there was no connection between Sickert and his models other than the act of drawing. Perhaps I am wrong - my opinion, anyway.

I have to mention Degas' painting L'Absinthe which was given a special position, with only two other paintings in the same room. In the 1890's, when it was first really exhibited in London the painting caused a scandal as it was interpreted as glorifying people in thrall to the dreaded drink Absinth. In fact I enjoyed looking at the work and felt that it displayed people totally dislocated from their surroundings and community. It was a wonderful work.

It took the better part of two and a half hours to get around the exhibition and was well worth every minute.

Friday, October 28, 2005

No Comment

Bird flu is scary - I had flu recently and was miserable. I'll
be staying away from chickens.

by Coleen McLoughlin, girlfriend to Wayne Roony

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers

Just back from a concert at the towns theatre for an exhilarating performance of the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers, a high energy rhythm, percussion and dance troup. Just five performers with drums, a flut and what I assume is a Japanese equivalent of a didgeridoo. The way they played drums in particular was highly choreographed in a way which took nothing away from the impact of the music. The drums were so exhilarating and you could feel the beat in every part of your body- I don't think the marrow in my bones has calmed down yet. It was different but striking, if you pardon the pun. Well worth going to see and hear this. I really, really enjoyed it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Happy Christmas - but Not Yet!

Walking into town on Saturday to pick up a bit of food shopping I wandered into Marks & Spencer's Food Hall to find that they had rearranged everything. So that they could display all their Christmas food stock. On the 15th October. Then, walking past the Argos Superstore I saw that there was a large Snowman Christmas decoration in the window for sale. Tescos are beginning to display their Christmas stock already as, I noticed yesterday, is Woolworths and WH Smith. There are also a lot of really interesting looking recipe books just published over the last few weeks. Why? Just in time for Chrismas.

Please, everybody. Not yet! It's still only mid-October.

Every year it is the same. It is possible to start Christmas shopping virtually from when the schools start their Autumn term and the result is that by the time Chrismas arrives everyone is heartily sick of the whole idea of Christmas. When I was a girl (ye gods, I've started to say that!) the run-up for Christmas used to start after Guy Fawkes night and that was too early but over the last few years it has started much earlier. I know the retail pundits are complaining that the retail trade has subsided recently and shops are just not not selling as much as they used to but that is no excuse to try to start Chrismas shopping earlier. In fact when It gets near Christmas I just don't go shopping in town at all. I buy virtually all my Chrismas presents, and most of the food we shall want, over the internet. Why get stressed searching the High Streets through all the crowds to look for what you want when you can buy the same thing for (probably) much less money and have it delivered to your door without any stress.

There is another thing about Christmas that always disturbs me and that is the way the season is depicted as a time when everyone HAS to have a really happy time surrounded by your family. The architype of both parents and a couple of children having a wonderful time with smily faces and enjoying being together is promoted and puffed up not only by the retail trade but also by the media as being the only way to be at Christmas. But life is just not like that. For a start there has been a significant change in the family demographic with over 50% of all marriages ending in divorce nowadays so that the architypal family is becoming more and more rare. Those torn asunder by divorce are made to feel especially isolated over the "festive season", separated from their loved ones. Then there is the fact that a very significant proportion of the population live alone and are just not part of a family. So they too feel isolated from the way people are "supposed" to be at Christmas. People face a season when they are made to feel that they have to be happy and surrounded by loved ones. No wonder the arrival of Christmas is dreaded by so many. Most are just made to feel alone and out of things. A season of joy? I don't think so.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Puy Lentil Soup with Bacon

6 oz Puy or green-brown lentils, rinsed
4 oz smoked streaky bacon or pancetta, derinded and finely chopped
1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, trimmed and finely sliced
8 az (225g) tin Italian tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic, crushed
3 pints (1.75 lires) vegetable stock
8 oz cabbage, finely shredded
2 tbsps chopped fresh parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the bacon or pancetta until the fat starts to run. Then stir in the chopped carrots, onions and celery. With the heat fairly high mix together and cook until they are softened and slightly browned around the edges, stirring now and then.
  2. Stir in the rinsed lentils and the tomatoes, then the crushed garlic. Stir everything together then pour in the stock.
  3. As soon as the mixture comes to the boil, put the lid on and simmer, as gently as possible, for about 30 minutes. Then add the cabbage and cook for 5 minutes or until the cabbage has wilted. Season to taste. Just before serving stir in the chopped parsley.

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Some months ago I watched a tv programme about archaeology, a favourite subject of mine, and they were talking about some australopithecine remains they had found along the banks of a river (can't remember where, I'm afraid). What stuck in my mind about this was that for once the archaeologists were absolutely certain how the individual had died - of toothache. They knew this because they could see in the jaw bone clear evidence that he had had an abscess on one of his teeth. As a result they thought that blood poisoning from this had caused him to fall into the river and then to die. This has rather been on my mind over the last week, since I developed a nasty abscess on a wisdom tooth. As a result I have just finished a weeks course of Amoxicillin and the strongest painkillers I was able to buy over the counter from the Chemists. Despite these the pain is still bad and I am still doing a wonderful impression of a squirrel carrying nuts just in the one cheek. Anyway, I am off to the dentist tomorrow to have the offending tooth removed - not a session I am looking forward to. I've had three other extractions and didn't like them - but at least I am hoping that I will end up with no more pain or infection (and can sleep again) .

Still the Stepdaughter has sent me something that really made me laugh. Look at this, starting with the description of the product on eBay and then going onto the Questions and Answers. Well worth it. Very funny.

What irritates me is the way that music "experts" automatically reject any piece of music that proves popular with the public. Phillip Glass's Violin Concerto was on Classic FM radio yesterday evening as I drove home fromthe Soft Furnishings Workshop. It is really a wonderful piece of modern music. Yet experts discount it because it is listenable and enjoyed by many. I know I am going to continue to believe in my own opinions on music, not on the opinions who think they know best. (We have it on CD and I am listening to it as I write. Excellent.)

I have recently been trying out a new soup recipe that the Husband and I have both decided is a success. It is Puy Lentil and Bacon Soup, from Delia Smith's book of Soups. A really good and very distinctive taste to the Soup and well worth doing again. I did have one problem though - trying to find the Puy lentils, the only ingredient I didn't have at home. I could find green lentils at the supermarket but not Puy ones. Eventually I found them at the health food stall at the local market where I was told that one cannot ask for Puy lentils by name as the name has been banned by the EU, as are all items named after specific places. Instead I have to ask for Dark Green Speckled Lentils. I will, however, have to make sure that I don't get given the ordinary green lentils in future as these are somewhat bigger and just don't have as much flavour. I will post the recipe for the soup here soon as it is well worth making.

Autumn is clearly here. We've had a fair amount of rain the last few days and a few leaves are beginning to turn brown, although most are still, thank goodness, green. But I notice that a few leaves on the Alemanchier Lamarkii are beginning to turn red. I just wish it would stay dry enough to mow the lawn which is getting a bit overgrown.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

100 reasons why it's great to be a guy

1. Phone conversations are over in 30 seconds flat.
2. Movie nudity is virtually always female.
3. You know stuff about tanks.
4. A 5-day vacation requires only one suitcase.
5. Monday Night Football
6. You dont have to monitor your friends sex lives.
7. Your bathroom lines are 80% shorter.
8. You can open all your own jars.
9. Old friends don't give you crap if you've lost or gained weight.
10.Dry cleaners and haircutters don't rob you blind.
11. When clicking through the channels, you don't have to stall on every shot of someone crying.
12. Your ass is never a factor in a job interview.
13. All your orgasms are real.
14. A beer gut does not make you invisible to the opposite sex.
15. Guys in hockey masks don't attack you.
16. You dont have to lug a bag of useful stuff around everywhere you go.
17. You understand why 'Stripes' is funny.
18. You can go to the bathroom without a support group.
19. Your last name stays put.
20. You can leave a hotel bed unmade.
21. When your work is criticized, you don't have to panic that everyone secretly hates you.
22. You can kill your own food.
23. The garage is all yours.
24. You get extra credit for the slightest act of thoughtfulness.
25. You see the humour in 'Terms of Endearment'.
26. Nobody secretly wonders if you swallow.
27. You never have to clean the toilet.
28. You can be showered and ready in 10 minutes.
29. Sex means never worrying about your reputation.
30. Wedding plans take care of themselves.
31. If someone forgets to invite you to something, he or she can still be your friend.
32. Your underwear is $10 for a three pack.
33. The National College Cheerleading Championship.
34. None of your co-workers have the power to make you cry.
35. You don't have to shave below the neck.
36. You dont have to curl up to a hairy ass every night.
37. If you are 34 and single nobody notices.
38. You can write your name in the snow.
39. You can get into a non-trivial pissing contest.
40. Everything on your face stays its original colour.
41. Chocolate is just another snack.
42. You can be president.
43. You can quietly enjoy a car ride from the passenger seat.
44.Flowers fix everything.
45. You never have to worry about other peoples feelings.
46. You get to think about sex 90% of your waking hours.
47. You can wear a white shirt to a water park.
48. Three pairs of shoes are more than enough.
49. You can eat a banana in a hardware store.
50. You can say anything and not worry about what people think.
51. Foreplay is optional.
52. Michael Bolton doesn't live in your universe.
53. Nobody stops telling a good dirty joke when you walk into the room.
54. You can whip your shirt off on a hot day.
55. You don't have to clean your apartment if the meter reader is coming.
56. You never feel compelled to stop a pal from getting laid.
57. Car mechanics tell the truth.
58. You dont give a rats ass if someone notices your new haircut.
59. You can watch a game in silence with your buddy for hours without even thinking 'he must be mad at me'.
60. The world is your urinal.
61. You never misconstrue innocuous statements to mean your lover is about to leave you.
62. You get to jump up and slap stuff.
63. Hot wax never comes near your pubic area.
64. One mood, all the time.
65. You can admire Clint Eastwood without starving yourself to look like him.
66. You never have to drive to another gas station because this one is just too skeevy.
67. You know at least 20 ways to open a beer bottle.
68. You can sit with your knees apart no matter what you are wearing.
69. Same work, more pay.
70. Gray hair and wrinkles add character.
71. You don't have to leave the room to make an emergency crotch adjustment.
72. Wedding dress $2000, Tux rental $100.
73. You don't care if someone is talking behind your back.
74. With 400 million sperm per shot you could double the earths population in 75 tries, at least in theory.
75. You don't mooch off others desserts.
76. If you retain water, it's in a canteen.
77. The remote is yours and yours alone.
78. People never glance at your chest when you are talking to them.
79. ESPNs sports centre.
80. You can drop by to see a friend without bringing a little gift.
81. Bachelor parties whomp ass over bridal showers.
82. You have a normal and healthy relationship with your mother.
83.You can buy condoms without the shopkeeper imagining you naked.
84. Youneedn't pretend your 'freshening up' to go to the bathroom.
85. If you don't call your buddy when you say you will, he won't tell your friends you've changed.
86. Someday you will be a dirty old man.
87. You can rationalize any behaviour with the handy phrase 'Fuck it'.
88. If another guy shows up at the party in the same outfit, you might become lifelong buddies.
89. Princess Di's death was almost just another obituary.
90. The occasional well-rendered belch is practically expected.
91. You never have to miss a sexual opportunity because you are not in the mood.
92. You think the idea of punting a small dog is funny.
93. If something mechanical doesn't work, you can bash it with a hammer and throw it across the room.
94. New shoes don't cut, blister, or mangle your feet.
95. Porn movies are designed with you in mind.
96. You don't have to remember everyones birthdays and anniversaries.
97. Not liking a person doesn't preclude having great sex with them.
98. Your pals can be trusted never to trap you with 'So notice anything different?'
99. Baywatch.
100. There is always a game on somewhere.

My stepdaughter sent me this. Goodness knows where she found it as it is clearly American. And I don't understand No. 49 at all.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


After due consideration I’ve come to the conclusion I am in love. With a fictional character. Who wouldn’t be, when the fictional person in question is Sam Vimes.

He’s a fascinating character is Sam Vimes. By the start of Terry Pratchett’s latest book Thud! He has evolved from a man coming from a poverty stricken background and a complete alcoholic to being one of the most powerful men in the City, now Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch and also the Duke of Ankh, married to one of the richest women in Ankh-Morpork and “as rich as Creosote”. He has the heart and mind of a true policeman, constantly trying to keep the city in some sort of order, not easy as it is run as irrationally as anywhere you could possibly think of. Members of the City Watch comprise virtually every species living in Ankh-Morpork, including humans, trolls, dwarves, vampires, a werewolf, a golem, a gnome, gargoyles, an Igor and even Nobby Nobbs (who carries a paper confirming he is a human being). Sam Vimes is determined to keep the city under control and to protect it whenever necessary. He is full of anger against the universe and prepared to do anything to keep the peace and will arrest anyone, whatever the odds against him. This includes thieves, political criminals, the Patrician (Ruler) of the City, both sides when Ankh-Morpork was at war with one of its neighbours as well as a Dragon. He also has a true understanding of the humanity in all people, whatever their species.

This is the background to the start of Thud!. In addition to all the other demands on the City Watch the anniversary of the Battle of Koom Valley is approaching and both sets of participants of the Battle, the dwarves and the trolls, have every intention of celebrating the fact. But there has also been a murder of a dwarf to clear up. And, with all these distractions Sam Vimes knows that every evening at 6.00 pm he has to be home to read “Where’s My Cow?” to his 14 month old little boy. So, he has questions to resolve. Why was the dwarf killed and by whom? Why are there deep-down dwarves in the City? Will he get home to read to Young Sam every night? And just who did win the Battle of Koom Valley?

Terry Pratchett combines a true understanding of humanity with a real sense of humour, His books, all of them, are incredibly funny and a joy to read. And I have read them over and over again as they are the type of books that you pick up something new every time you reread one. They are also kind books: he turns his spotlight of understanding on all characters, good, bad, or just brimming with humanity and the reader consider each character with compassion and understanding. The description of Lady Sybil Ramkin’s bedroom as seen by Sam Vimes in "Guards, Guards" after his first real fracas with a Dragon, where what Sybil is really like can be seen by the room in which she sleeps, is to my mind one of the most moving passages of the human condition I have read. Terry Pratchett’s books can be read on many levels – I have seen a posting that equates the deep-down dwarves in Thud! with the Asian-Muslim community in the UK. I am not entirely certain of that but I can understand why it was reached as others also see Pratchett’s works as allegories of life from: the story of Macbeth (“Wyrd Sisters”, one of his books about witches), the Internet (“Going Postal”, also a wonderful reference to the Royal Mail), War (“Jingo”, “Night Watch”) and the legend(s) of Father Christmas (“Hogfather” with Susan, another of my favourite characters, the grand-daughter of Death).

Terry Pratchett’s books are wonderful. I do recommend everyone reads them.