Sunday, 30 May 2010

As If !

Sonata :
I was going to blog about the Fresian Street Festival , held in town this weekend . About the fish on stilts , the Dragon boats , the man who'll chew your sihouette out of a slice of toast while you wait , the trampolining jugglers , the guitars , the escaping balloons and wailing toddlers , the two young ladies who sang operatic airs in a caravan .

And then I got distracted and drew this instead . Today , the last day , is the highlight of the three day jamboree , complete with Festival Princess Day in the Prinsentuin . A sea of rosy-pink , sequinned , tulle-frothed glory for the under-tens . And it's poured all day .

And Husband , when I mentioned this , showed , for a man who's watched three daughters grow up , a complete lack of understanding of the pre-teen female psyche .

"They'll just have to wear their macs . "

Saturday, 22 May 2010

There's Nothing like A Diet To Concentrate The Mind

Sonata :
on food , mostly .

After a bad reaction to statins in January , it became imperative to find another way to lower my cholesterol ... to get the specialist off my back , if nothing else .
A few cookbooks later , I was rewarded yesterday by his surprised , "Hardly anyone does it with diet alone ... but you have ". I've never eaten so much Ratatouille in my life and I'd kill for a Ploughman's . But , like all diets , to work it'll have to become a way of life . So I'm subliminating all this yearning for dairy foods and bacon butties in a purely scholarly interest in stuffing your face , 18th century style .

This book's fascinating . Not to cook from ; it all sounds very beige and brown , contains alarming amounts of cream , eggs and boiled fresh water fish and the quantities alone would kill one . There's a Maigre Sauce , for instance , for a boiled salmon jowl made from fish broth , a roux , cream and the yolks of 4-5 eggs .

But it is full of little bits that make me smile . There's a recipe for Turbot a l'Italienne that says that the fish must be simmered very gently "for about an hour , that it may be done rather by fumigation than hasty boiling "

When making soup soup from Nantiles , a sort of French grain ( like Barley , perhaps ) "You must be so extravagant as to have a roasted partridge ..." , probably to zip it up a bit .

Or to warm a cream sauce "Just shew it to the fire".

I'm not proposing to make any of this . It was definitely cooking for the well-to-do with scuttling kitchen staff . Never mind about cholesterol levels , there's the strong possibility of gout . There's an awful lot of offal in there .

But I must at least try using his wider range of herbs and greenery . Purslane and sorrel , pimpernel and savory , burnet and parsley roots . And if I ever have occasion to fry a batch of minnows , remember to add primrose flowers and tansie .

At the very least I can aim for "Genteel and good dishes ... that never fail of being well eaten "
In moderation .

Monday, 17 May 2010

the wood for the trees


Continuing on the tree theme, but in a different location. I live in a bungalow in North London with an unusually large garden for the area. We have 4 large trees, one of which is near a boundary wall. On Saturday we received a letter from our neighbour's insurers, and - sadly - one of our trees has got to be felled down completely. Apparently, it is the cause of subsidence. A Robinia, covered in Ivy and host to much wildlife - see how large the tree is?:

On a more cheerful, and also woody theme, we had bookshelves fitted in the hallway this week. After years of hosting books on the floor, they now line our walls:

Fancy a close up? That way you get to see which books we have been reading....

What have you been reading lately? I have just finished reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Which I did enjoy, mainly because we had visited Savannah. And the other book on the go in the household is: The Moonflower Vine, which is being loved.

Loving the support - re: the tree. In fact, this neighbour has done things by the book, and the report is not simply from the insurers but also from tree specialists contracted in by insurers. And they will pay. At one point last year, when the problem was pointed out by another neighbour (who expected us to pay for the tree to be cut down ourselves, out of the goodness of our hearts and with no report), we refused - though we did pay to have her trimmed a little. Sadly, the tree has been living on borrowed time. But we will press for tree contractors that we respect, and the correct time for the work to be done for fledglings and other nesting creatures.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Chainsaw Massacre

Sonata :

I hope the Mayor saw this

We had 8 of these beauties
in the little open space at the end of our street . There's a big climbing frame in the middle that the neighbourhood children love and , when it's hot in the summer , everyone hauls chairs outside to drink tea and chat .

Now we have 8 of these

and we're all stunned . They were top-heavy apparently .....? But aren't all trees ?
The children spontaneously pinned protest notes on all the stumps . After heavy rain melted them , one young lad came back and carefully removed all the drawing pins and took them home .

Tomorrow is the annual Flower Market in town , wholeheartedly promoted by the Town Hall .
Irony ?

Sunday, 9 May 2010

The Non-Which Guide To Digital Camera Buying

Or "Two Numpties In A Chain Store , one of whom is me ".

There I am on the first morning in Amsterdam when I
realised that my beloved Canon has died . It is totally kapotski , deceased , gone to a Better Place .
So , unable to function any more without a camera in my hand ..... have I been here ? .... , I rushed into Dixon's and bought the cheapest model by a maker I recognised . A slim little Olympus that seemed to be just what I needed .
I retreated to a cafe

to read the instruction manual and familiarise myself with my new toy . Only to realise that , of course , that I'd forgotten to buy a memory card . Back to shop . Same saleswoman sold me a microSD card ( you might be ahead of me here ) and I returned to cafe and more coffee . I have to have an Xd card . This time go to a photo shop where nice person sells me the right card and puts it in for me .

Anyway I then had a lovely time wandering about for the next couple of days , doing nothing in particular . It really is the perfect place to mooch and admire everything . The Jordaan with its little cafes , and "real " Amsterdammers , friendly , chatty and full of life . The Amsterdam Historic Museum . And more shops than you could shake a stick at . I particularly liked the one called "Your Real Indian Hair " , with pots of Hair Mayonnaise conditioner and fluorescent wigs if it didn't work .
I met an old friend who seemed to have found a new position in a boutique near the Sarphati Park .

Saw some wildlife at the daily market in Albert Cuypstraat . The rooftops are full of cranes and they swoop to pick over the leftovers at the end of the day .

And Youngest Daughter and I ate in Bazar , a Turkish restaurant in "the Cuyp" . A starter of grilled sardines to share , salmon marinaded in lime , saffron and garlic for her and Tabouleh with chicken brochettes for me . Delicious .

On the way back to her flat we stopped at the Resistance War Monument and joined in the Remembrance ceremony . On May 4th Holland remembers its war victims at 8.00 in the evening and Amsterdam falls silent for two minutes . Even the trams stop . As we left , I noticed that we'd been standing in front of a Tibetan monk , who may well have been remembering the monks who died there recently .

Outside the Anne Frank House there was one white rose before the door .

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Elephants on parade # 1


There is an exciting new outdoor exhibition in London called Elephants on Parade, where over 250 elephant casts are painted and placed around the capital. So, we set off first of all to the City of London armed with a camera and the list... all in all we managed to locate 23 elephants. Only a few more to go.... ejem!

The first one we came across is called Izzy, after Isambard Kingdom Brunnell. All over quite a witty bit of painting (her rear view becomes a tunnel)

and, not only that, but there is a mouse to be found too:

There are so many different styles out there, look at these eyes:

And one elephant even has a city inside it:

Right, now to upload my found pachyderms onto Flickr... along with all the other elephant hunters and gatherers.... I wonder how many I will manage to see over the next few weeks?

Sunday, 2 May 2010

An Average Sort Of Week , Give Or Take ....

Sonata :

an enforced computer-free week hasn't led to wild creativity and a rediscovery of Great Literature or even a quick dabble in Macrame For Beginners . I haven't even caught up on way overdue letter-writing , written my half-year report or filed the last couple of months' pile of Don't Throw Away envelopes , unless you count knowing roughly which piece of furniture they're resting in .

But I've watched a football match on television and demonstrated a knowledge of the offside rule which surprised even me . I've shared a space with rainbow crystals and Baby Boomers . I've twice survived an Art Project with visiting artist with a surprising amount of finger paint , ice cubes , food colouring , feathers , sand paper , glitter and bongos with a dozen three-year olds . And I've watched Julie/Julia with very good friends , good wine and impeccably low-fat delicious nibbles .

With the rest of Holland , I've celebrated the Queen's birthday in customary style . The country becomes a giant open air Flea Market and I joined the rest of the population strolling around in the hope of finding undiscovered treasure .... or at least an orphaned button or two .

No luck but I did find some great books
and some vintage fabric

including a little piece of this lovely fairy-tale material

with a tiny Cinderella and a Prince with attitude .

I bought this which we enjoyed greatly

easy listening , circa 1750 .

Which brings me neatly to my apology to any of you who may have been expecting Naked Willie's "Bring Me Sunshine " to be startlingly risque or humorous . No , what made me laugh so much was the fact that , whatever else I'd expected from this ponytailed , pot-smoking Country and Western icon , it wasn't a Morecambe and Wise impersonation .

But , don't worry . I got my comeuppance .

I took Willie and two other c.d.s back to the library and fed them into the maw of the machine that registers returns , whereupon it told me that I'd returned 2 items .... NO! . So I went to the Help desk , with which I'm not unfamiliar by now . Nice lady said "I'll check ", then returned to tell me I'd returned only two from my total of borrowed items . "I can't find Naked Willie ", she bellowed to the growing queue behind me , "Are you sure you returned it ? " . I felt like doing my Frankie Howerd impersonation , "Titter ye not ", but didn't , you'll be glad to know . Finally exacted her promise to let me know by post . So I can expect a salvo of postcards about NAKED WILLIES from the local library , then . Should raise my profile locally .

And now I'm off to Amsterdam for a couple of days . If I remember to take my camera , I'll take a photo or two , I expect .....