Thursday, 31 January 2008

Food, Really, Ish

Achieved a bun today. I saw another demonstration where a girl did two pincurls either side at the front, but using rollers which were hidden inside the hair, and added height, then the back rolled up into the Victory roll. Very effective in a rockabilly kind of way.

Several queries about the ground rents today. I am composing a letter to the bank, who have been attempting to pay at least a dozen standing orders several months after I wrote to cancel them. Fortunately the accounts are closed so the money bounces back. A fairly quiet day at work with not many calls. I hope Romy is having a good time in Spain.

Grocery shopping from Ocado is arriving tomorrow morning so I shall stay in for this. I had not realised it is Shrove Tuesday next week, so will purchase a lemon or two. Not sure whether Julian is going to turn up and do blinis, so I shall probably make some batter in the morning and put it in the fridge. Also, it is Chinese New Year, I think on Thursday, but a lot will be going on in Soho the following weekend. Time Out arrived today with a booklet containing all the events.

I have been thinking about menus and googling one or two things today. It all reminds me for some reason about the time when I had a green dinner party and dyed everything green.Also when we were at college and made some crazy and only just edible art dishes. I made a singularly revolting tower block from cheese, someone made gingerbread mens front bums, there was a rice mountain, and various colourful carved vegetables.

Perhaps for this telly thingy I should make a huge pile of mashed potato with sausages stuck in the top with jelly and ice cream for pud? In 'The Broons' comic from the Scottish Sunday Post I seem to remember this dish appearing on the family supper table, along with another image from my memory of Desperate Dan in the Beano comic eating Cow Pie - huge bones sticking out of an enormous pie. Other retro ideas: prawns with grapefruit, Black Forest gateau, Steak Diane (flambee at the table - could be horrendous if it went wrong) ditto lobster Thermidor etc. etc.

I do rather warm to the idea of bangers and mash, especially with fried onions and frozen peas. No starter, but a hunky pudding like jam roly poly and custard. I am inordinately fond of a decent trifle, made with no jelly, using Marsala instead of sherry, and lashings of home made custard,cream, fruit optional but good jam or fruit puree essential, and studded with old fashioned glace cherries or ratafias and toasted almonds. Some rumtopf fruit could be good in here.

The more modern food I eat, the more I yearn for really old fashioned dishes. I remember when pheasants were so high it was quite difficult to eat them, but roasted to perfection with game chips and all the right vegetables they were absolutely delicious. Nothing was better than my own freshly picked mushrooms with gammon after an early morning expedition with my grandmother in North Devon, or a lobster just brought up from the pots by a fisherman neighbour at our holiday home in the Isle of Wight. I think this is what has driven the latest obsession with pickling and preserving.

I can't believe I am drivelling on writing all this bollocks - I know - it is late at night and earlier I was watching Jamie At Home, cooking some nice stuff. He even included some frozen peas, bless the lad.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Kitchen Troubles and Retro Hairdo

Oh dear, I have just lost a complete draft of this blog. Don't know how it happened. Anyway to cut a long story short, Dorothy and Julian are not keen to be my sous chefs, and Madeleine is unable to do it. I shall therefore ask Romy on her return next Wednesday.

Today, I am going to attempt to put my hair in a bun. I purchased a couple of bun rings, also known as doughnuts. They used to be darkish and rather solid but these days they are pale and made of some kind of mesh, so you need to cover them well with hair. My hair is definitely thinning so may have to backcomb it - we shall see. It is all part of my old lady look and will go rather well with my large size I suspect, like a cottage loaf. I have bought lots of hair grips too. If this works I may have a bit of fun doing a high bun, a low bun and maybe, since one of my bun rings has poppers to unfasten into a long sausage affair, a Victory roll, where the back part of the hair is rolled upwards and secured, while the front is parted and both sides rolled around the fingers and secured in what amounts to a giant pincurl - a real wartime look. There are demos on U-tube of the last bit with the pincurls.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Last Lunch before Spain and Telecooking

Romy bought me and her husband a delicious lunch at Applebee's in Borough Market. We had a very good Spanish white wine, and Romy had the lovely scallops with bacon we had before, I had fabulous prawns with garlic, which we both followed with an excellent salmon fish cake, while Romy's husband tucked into a wonderful dish of fish and chips - the fish, unbattered, being a medley of pieces of cod, halibut, turbot, salmon, and a couple of other fish, one being tuna and a huge curly prawn. Fabulous. We finished with a coffee and they dashed off to catch their plane to Spain.

Later, the telly people rang again. They definitely want a couple or two friends, very keen on mother and son combo, to cook the food. I emailed Dorothy and Julian, no reply yet, but if they are unkeen, shall ask Romy or Madeleine to help me out. It basically would involve taking a day off and giving me a hand in the kitchen to produce a three course meal. Not sure whether they have to sit and eat it! Then I would get to eat at the guests houses for three or four consecutive nights. Anyway I need to find a cooking partner quite soon, so any of my blogreader friends are welcome to register an interest! You know where I live.

Words, Copywriting and Amaryllis

Googling the meaning of 'pithy pars' - used in old fashioned books - it seems to mean anything written in a succinct way, conveying lots of meaning in few words 'pars' being Latin for words. Basically, the opposite of the way I write. Tant pis, as my ex would say.

Made me think about Jess and copywriting. His work is very much aimed at the very young, and I wondered who chased the grey pound in copywriting terms. I have this image of old ladies and gents sitting in their conservatories among the plants, hand writing advertising copy for oldie items. Perhaps it is where older copywriters end up, unless they become account executives, as they used to be called in the marketing business.

My amaryllis (above) has shot up to about 20" with a large bud on top. I now notice another small bud emerging from some leaves at the bottom, so I may have a bargain here. I had no idea how long they took to flower, as it will obviously be some weeks from now and I bought it in early November, whenever it was I went to Bluewater. I have also forgotten what colour it is going to be, and am hoping for a cream flower.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Oldie Clothes

Buying those two dresses made me think about the sort of clothes I would wear these days.

I think I have got to the stage where, though I am still interested in fashion to some extent in a spectator kind of way, for my own clothes I am more interested in comfort, but also not really worried about looking eccentric, hence the Edna Everage specs. There are limits though. Last year I bought two of the same dresses, but in bright red and bright green. When I tried them on, it was apparent that, for one thing they were very much too big, and for another, when I put them on I looked like a huge, slowly moving blob of bright colour. The dresses have not been worn outside the house. I am hoping that this time, the right size and darker colours will look better and merit a public airing. Bright colours look all right on me only if they are used in small accessories, or if the material is patterned.

The comfort factor extends to shoes, which I wear slightly larger and if possible, wider, with either a kitten heel (which is OK with very pointy toes because it is so low and your toes are not forced down so hard ) or flattish, sensible heels.

I really must throw some stuff away, and writing this has reminded me that I have a pair of otherwise very nice brown boots, but with heels that are too high and uncomfortable. I shall definitely chuck them out.

Somehow I can sympathise with the wearing of beige when you get to a certain age though. Because you become invisible to some extent with age, in my case from the age of about 55, you then complete the process yourself by wearing very unnoticeable clothes. I suspect I shall never do this.

I still have a bit of fun with clothes, and despite all my talk about comfort and sensible clothes, will probably always keep buying, and sometimes even wearing, totally daft 'unsuitable' things. When Madeleine visited a few weeks ago, she almost jumped back from the doorstep at the sight of me, before collecting herself and saying how well my purplish magenta lipstick went with my Edna specs.

Oh Dear, Spending Again!

Oh dear, I have fallen by the wayside again.

A catalogue just arrived from Kanopy - huge dresses - for the uninitiated. Skimming through it rapidly before intending to chuck it out I came across a dress I had ordered last year in a size too large. This year, it is in much better colours. Overcome by temptation as usual, I bought two - one in a darkish blue described as 'delphinium' and the other in a reddish purple called 'mulberry'. These are quite old-fashioned looking dresses with square necks, three quarter sleeves and quite full gathered skirts as above. Their great advantage to me is that they have two huge pockets - very handy. Also, being dresses, something to just chuck on - no zips or buttons, and not having to coordinate with other things apart from shoes. I shall not be grinning insanely and wearing a very odd necklace like the model on the left, and the dress will not look so tight as I am buying it to hang a little looser.

This year, therefore, I shall mainly be wearing blue and purple.

More Drink Than Food - and Vet Visit

Well it's all happening chez bag lady : had a cryptic message from Julian and Dorothy saying they weren't coming here after all because 'something had come up', then a text from an old college friend looking around the war museum suggesting we meet here. I went to the local pensioner party and was introduced to the mayor by one of our trustees who was helping to run the party, stayed for an hour or so and came back in time for my friend to arrive. We just sat about chatting, drinking prosecco and eating marcona almonds until about nine. My friend's son is on a world adventure before settling down and getting married. He is a copywriter and doing very well, and has recently won a prestigious gold award for his work, something called the DMA for best copy and also for brand driving, whatever that is. He recently took my friend to Les Trois Garcons for a birthday meal which she thoroughly enjoyed. This is the place we went to years ago with another friend and they had enjoyed the meal but been horrified by the prices.

Today I managed to convey Malvolio to the vet, despite having been refused by the first cab driver: 'I won't take a cat' he whinged. The second driver was much more human, and said he'd had a ferret, a long haired rabbit, a hamster and no end of cats and dogs in his cab recently. I bought two trays of diabetic cat food and some more insulin. I was not forced to have blood tests for him, which was fortunate, as the bill came to £119, which added to £15 for cabs in both directions, seemed quite expensive enough. However he should have a test within the next few months, apparently. His insulin has been reduced. Apparently the last blood test showed he was just borderline diabetic, so he might be able to do without the insulin eventually and just have the special diet.

I have just found out that the sender of yet another cryptic message was my son, using an unfamiliar telephone.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

TJ, Nibby and Lunch

Had a long chat with my brother in NZ. Seems that my nephew has won a fantastic award, only one of 15 in the whole of NZ by Pricewaterhousecooper to budding captains of industry. Something to do with raising 6k for the European trip he did last year and also being the force behind 80k raised for a blind charity by his school, Wellington College, who raised the most out of all schools in NZ. I also had a word with my niece, Charlotte, who has another year at school. Edward is studying law and accountancy at the Uni of Otago, apparently known as an excellent law school.

Then had a chat with my sister Nibby in Kangaroo Valley. It seems that the baby, Freddie, is doing well. Nibby has just sold a cartoon, so is quite pleased. Cartoons and pen and ink drawings seem to me the way to go, as you can charge a decent amount but spend far less on materials, even using the best paper and framing. She also has another commission, so hopefully can build on all this. Had a snacky lunch at Lye Torng: Thai dim sum and vegetables in light batter with a lovely sauce. Both are starters but make a satisfactory meal.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Almost Housebound

Managed a short trip out of the house to the Lye Torng where I enjoyed some more venison with a glass of wine, after which a friend turned up there to join me in a drink. We had a long discussion about clothes: she seems to buy very expensive make-up, jewellery, shoes, and bags but has taken to going to very cheap shops for tops and trousers. She acquired some great bargains today, including a very chic little mariniere top in navy and white with fine stripes and a tiny red line along the neckline and bottom, a gorgeous navy georgette blouse with tiny stripes and a very chic little white cotton blouse. All very well cut and well made. She was looking very smart in a black mohair beret, with a black short dress and leggings and long black boots, with a red cashmere scarf at the neck. Very French. Somehow. Some people seem to be naturally good at shopping.

Dorothy's mobile has been pinched. Dorothy will be incommunicado until Monday when a new phone arrives. Apparently the theft was a professional job in a pub. Julian and Dorothy may possibly come over tomorrow to drink some wine and eat some jamon etc, so I had better stock up with some bits and pieces tomorrow morning. I have to attend a pensioners party in the afternoon, but shall not stay long.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Hidden Treasure

Actually, looking through the 'rubbish' there are some quite decent books bought as presents or on an impulse, such as Vogue covers, bought for Julian who has more than a slight interest in typography, a book about traditional British food from all over UK, another about British customs and festivals, and a very nice illustrated Folio diary for this year. Funnily enough while looking around I also found a largeish pug dog money box, also intended for Julian and Dorothy. I had better see if they want these before dumping them.

Also one of the skirts I bought from La Redoute is too big, so I may get rid of this if I can find anyone fat enough to give it to.

Comatose, Under Attack and Buried In Rubbish

Found an interesting foodie blogger called Chez Pim when I was looking for a prunes in Armagnac recipe. Lots of foodie stuff in here. I think you can find her at Also reading Diamond Geezer, one of Romy's favourites. A few more of these and no one will buy anything on paper. Maybe that's why Janet Street-Porter was whingeing about bloggers in the press a few days ago.

I should be spring cleaning the stables here at Gaywood Towers in case of a telly invasion, but for some reason (maybe the soup) I am feeling rather comatose and incapable of anything beyond throwing clothes in the washing machine and surfing. Cannot even be bothered to empty the dishwasher. Malvolio is the same, and has been lying on my bed all day. I must force myself out for some substandard coffee at the Lye Torng just to get out of the house for a bit. Borough market will have to wait. Somehow I have stayed in all day today.

It's Saturday morning about 7.15 and Malvolio has been attacking me for some time, so I am finally up and he has been injected and fed. It is a bit difficult to move this morning, I am not convinced the mussels are not making me worse rather than better . However I shall persevere for a week or two as it is supposed to be a slow process anyway.

Looking around the flat reminds me of my stepfather's flat, when he was very elderly, and sent off for anything which came through the letterbox. Apart from all the unwanted subscriptions to magazines, incredible quantities of junk mail arrived. I would make him sit down and go through huge piles of these and throw away all the rubbish, which I would collect in large black bags and take away in the car to the local rubbish dump. I need this service, not only for paper rubbish but for masses of old clothes and stuff. I have cupboards and drawers full of things I can't yet bear to part with, and more clothes arriving all the time. I am beginning to see how people fill their flats and houses so they can hardly fit in themselves, and given my size, this could happen any minute unless I take some firm action. We shall see. I suppose this is why I am Bag Lady.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Soup, Old Friend and More Cooking

The soup worked out well. It will last for a day or two and I shall add some chorizo tomorrow. May pop up to Borough Market.

An old friend rang for a chat. Forgot to take the phone number but then realised I can email him at Imperial College.

To my amazement, the telly people rang again about another cookery programme involving cooking dinner one night for several guests, then spending the next four nights dining at their place and comparing notes and presumably scoring, similar to a current food programme. We shall see. Rang Madeleine who loves that programme. She said everyone slags everyone else off. Quel surprise. Sounds excellent.

Romy emailed today to say they had a good meal at Smollensky's, followed by a theatre visit, followed in turn by tapas and wine, which sounds most satisfactory.

Vice, Rent, Shopping and Evil Malvolio

Watched the next episode of 'City of Vice' the other night - all about finding out who murdered a priest. Turned out that one of the Bow Street Runners had an alter ego as 'Jamaican Mary' and was having an affair with the murderer, who in fact had only killed to protect his friend. Interesting look at the costumes worn by the various fops of the time, and fake marriages between the men in molly houses, who would simulate intercourse after the ceremony,then 'giving birth' to a 'baby' doll. A very well made programme. I did not know before that Henry Fielding who wrote 'Tom Jones' and his brother John started the Bow Street runners.

Managed to sort out 90 ground rent demands, hand written, and at least 20 envelopes also handwritten as the template does not fit the size of labels, despite attempts at modifying this by several people. Fortunately the other 60 addresses have been adapted which made things a bit easier. We are in the process of selling the freeholds, so with any luck I will not need to repeat this boring task. It takes a long time to do because some people pay ground rent in advance, some are in various stages of arrears, and many live elsewhere, so you have to link the properties with the owners who sometimes own several flats and may live abroad. Romy's husband has a birthday today and they are planning all sorts of things to celebrate so I hope all goes well.

A package arrived from La Redoute today, containing a couple of quite decent skirts and a dress. Now I know their stuff is OK may order more. The quality is certainly better than most of the English mail order stuff.

Must feed the evil Malvolio, who is clawing me on the thigh in an attempt to get my attention. It has worked, vile cat.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

All About My Food

On the way to an appointment, Romy and I stopped for lunch at Arancia. The place was deserted, but open. They offer a fantastic two or three course set lunch and we had one of these and also one lunch a la carte. We had starters of fabulous mushroom soup and fresh salmon salad, followed by pasta with lovely garlicky tomato sauce, and free range chicken grilled with vegetables, and puds of cinnamon rice and chocolate semifreddo with cream and raspberry coulis. Their wine is fantastic value with plenty of choice for around £12, all carefully chosen. We had coffees before dashing off. Arancia is absolutely in the middle of nowhere, but on the 1 bus route. It is one of Dorothy and Julian's favourite places. Dorian didn't like it much as the place is rather basic with paper table covers and so on. It reminds me of the sort of arty places I used to go to in the sixties in Paris, and the food is like something you might find in Italy.

Later back in the office Julian rang to offer to feed Malvolio, but I was on my way back and said not to bother. I made a large pan of soup last night, with onions, carrots, a parsnip, a turnip, some chicken and chicken stock, some smoked paprika and garlic, other seasonings, a couple of potatoes and some garlic sausage. Oh, and some tomato. I shall consume this with liberal amounts of cheese on top over the next day or two which will avoid the need for cooking. Otherwise in the kitchen I shall shake my preserved fruit pots, and if overcome by hunger, try and consume pickled onions and beetroot rather than reaching for the chocs. Hmmm.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Pickling and Preserving

Continuing with the preserving theme, I shall seriously think about making pickled onions, pickled eggs and mixed pickle with carrot, cauliflower and cucumber which seem to be very easy to make and there are quite a few recipes which have a less salty brine, in fact the Waitrose piccalilli recipe does without brining at all. I may experiment to see if I can forego the salty bit. I need to get some large jars for these. Apparently fish and chip shops sometimes part with their pickled egg jars for a small sum so I may have a go at this. I wonder if Bookers have them. I would rather have a plastic screw top cover if possible. Today I shall put the cherries in the rumptopf.

I put the cherries in and there is room for a bit more before the final sealing and wait. Had a rather good venison dish at Lye Torng before venturing to the shopping centre. I have been assured that when buying Piccalilli, Haywards is the only brand to purchase. The lack of pickling spices and cauliflower at Tesco's at the Elephant has proved a temporary deterrent to my home pickling efforts. However I managed to buy some Haywards mixed pickle, and some whole baby pickled beetroot. I also went upstairs to the Lithuanian shop and found huge containers of pickled things: gherkins, garlic, tomato and so on all mixed up. When I have the strength to carry one of these as they are rather large, will definitely have a go. They had whole apples preserved somehow which looked interesting, and about nine different kinds of mushroom in jars, some tiny wild looking ones, but think they might have been in oil. Very interesting.

I shall now have a little rest and recover from my shopping effort.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Five a Day

Quite incidentally, I found a visually interesting blogspot which is while I was checking my sources. This is an American writer or illustrator, but he puts absolutely lots of super old mag covers and illustrations on the blog.

I have now put pears, grapes, peaches and nectarines in the rumtopf. Tomorrow I shall add cherries, and this may possibly nearly fill the container. I shall shake it around a little today and also shake the prunes in armagnac. Must get the Sunday papers soon.

Read the papers and had lunch at Lye Torng. Was going to go to Roast for a Sunday roast, but lost the will to move far. Now back at home feeling a certain postprandial weariness. Malvolio lying about asleep making slight wheezy noises.

For the first time ever I have managed to consume my five fruit and vegetables a day: though how peas pottage, pickled onions, canned artichoke hearts, canned mandarins in juice and a fruit juice are going to make me any healthier is rather hard to imagine.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Filboid Studge

The Manuka honey came and is extremely messy to apply but I shall persist to see if it has any effect. I had forgotten I had also bought some green lipped mussel capsules which I hoped would help with my mobility. As I was trying to get one of these out of the packet it burst, and a vile-smelling powder came out. I managed to get rid of the mess and swore to be more careful when removing the capsules. They must be good for you, I decided, as they smelt so awful.

Somehow this reminded me of a story by P.G. Wodehouse - actually I am mistaken, it was Saki, where someone had invented an unpleasant breakfast cereal with the appropriate name of 'Filboid Studge', which was so revolting that everyone decided it must be beneficial. It grew in popularity until the whole nation took to it and the guy made his fortune.

Perhaps it is the childhood memory of being administered daily doses of malt, occasional spoonfuls of syrup of figs, and rather awful cough mixtures and so on, and being told: 'go on, take it, it will do you good' which fixes these ideas in your mind. Anyway, we shall see. Judging by the smell, I am extremely hopeful and expect to be skipping around like a five year old very soon. Unless it is all untrue and we British really are all masochists.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Successful Party and Horrid Toe

Back from the party. All went very well, and with some help from Addison Lee, everyone except two managed to get there. Shane sang heartily away, prompting a congo line to form during his rendition of 'Amarillo', and several singing and dancing duos and trios during other songs. The raffle went down well, with Romy manning the table, putting items into bags and virtually handing the bags over to winners, thus speeding up the whole process. The prizes were excellent and we had a few raffle contributions as well. Addison Lee have certainly taken the anxiety out of picking people up and delivering them home.

Have just examined my poor toe. The end is badly painful and swollen and just beneath the toenail the toe is a dark purply grey. It seems to be getting worse if anything. I have to move about very gingerly and avoid letting it touch anything. I am hobbling about and will have an early night.

Party Prizes, Sore Toe and Mrs Ugly

Today is the punters party. Apart from one broken raffle prize, all seems well otherwise.

However, I was just collecting all the carrier bags to put into an IKEA bag, when a huge metal wood clamp fell out of the cupboard onto my big toe. I was hopping around in agony for a while and the language was definitely unparliamentary. It means that I have to wear large, comfortable shoes rather than the French pointy things I was intending to wear. Never mind, I look like a fat dowager wearing black, with my Edna Everage diamante specs and lots of pearls and dangling pendants, all a bit over the top, but hey, it's a party. The frumpy shoes, inherited from my mother, are probably the one touch of sanity. Looking at the above snap, admittedly played around with, which does not show my jewels much, I have decided I need a fringe, as my forehead is always enormous in snaps making me look a bit bald in front. If I could use Photoshop I might be able to see what a fringe would look like. Mind you, the bald frontage bit was fashionable in Elizabethan times.

Trying to remember all the final touches: camera, company cheque book, before Romy arrives and we cab it over to the venue. I have now put two IKEA bags in the hall ready to go. We have a new performer who we have used at a smaller party, called Shane Hampsheir, who is only 19. We looked up his website and he appears to be booked every day and evening for the foreseeable future. Fantastic voice, but since he is only 19, I fear he may be working too hard. Tonight he is appearing in a panto after doing our party.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Contact with Relations

It was good to hear from Dorothy who rang last night for a chat. It seems that they have now tried La Cave both for lunch and dinner and had a marvellous dinner there recently. Great to find a good place within walking distance from your house. They have both been very busy, and Dorothy's job seems to be secure at least for the immediate future. I shall have to email Julian our holiday dates for this year.

I also had a long chat with Nibby. The new baby is apparently very large and very well and named after my grandfather Freddy. They are planning to come back to live in England in September leaving Nibby behind in Australia. She is quite happy with this as she does have a large network of friends out there and is very happy with her little house. She has recently sold another painting, fortunately, and a painting she donated to a charity is going to be presented to someone who offered some premises for the charity's bash, so there may be some press interest which may lead to a few commissions.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Weary and Greedy old Woman

Oh dear. Julian has sent me an article from the Guardian saying how evil the people who run Facebook are. And apparently you can't get off it as they keep copies of everything. Good thing I don't use it much.

Finally we decided to run the raffle in the old way, and so I shall fold up 80 slips in advance, keeping extras in case more punters turn up. Sent application forms off today to the new applicants. As I have to work on Friday, will take tomorrow off. I need to be in the office on Thursday in case of any cancellations to the party.

Reinvested an extra £100k for a month for the office rather nervously but there should be plenty in the bank for day-to-day expenses. Last month I invested an extra £200k which netted us quite a lot of extra dosh so £300k should be even better for the firms' income.

This led me to consider how I could lay my hands on a million or so to do the same myself. I decided that at my age and stage, time was not on my side , so it would be highly unlikely short of robbing a bank. I shall probably have to content myself with living in genteel poverty. Mind you, a flat down the road has gone on the market for £400,000, and I think mine is better, so if I could live in a shoebox on the M1 and sell mine I would be nearly half way there. Ah, dreams of wealth without work.....

Boring Day

I am now thinking about getting another rumtopf and preserving fruit through the year next year. Maybe even starting earlier. I am watching one on Ebay at the moment.

For some reason I have felt absolutely exhausted and have slept all day in between putting washing in the machine. I must wash the kitchen floor.

Tomorrow I must remember to bring the raffle tickets home and put them on the prizes. Romy had the bright idea of putting them underneath the prizes so they cannot be seen so I shall do this.

Have just found a tall ceramic flower vase which I may scrub out and use as a temporary rumtopf since the real ones are rather ugly. I shall just put a saucer on the top I think. Apparently you can use other alcohol as well, so may mix rum with Armagnac since I have plenty of both left over from my Christmas fruit soaking and prunes in Armagnac effort. I also have a lot of pears which I shall never get down to eating.

After doing the pears, I watched all the soaps and 'City of Vice' about the Bow Street Runners and murdered prostitutes in London. I had not realised that Henry Fielding and his brother started the Bow Street Runners. I seem to have bruised my left kidney a bit by lying on that side to watch TV and it is quite painful. Maybe I will put a little TV upstairs when I have the energy to buy an LCD one so that I can sit up properly to watch it.

More Food and UMF Manuka Honey

The prunes are in the Armagnac and need to be left for four weeks before starting them, so roll on February 14th - which is Valentine's day.

The second pheasant is simmering away in the rich wine stock. I ate half the first one last night and the other half is in a tiny french marmite in the fridge. I shall probably be dining on pheasant for the foreseeable future.

I was wondering if pheasant would be good with various sausages etc with sauerkraut in a casserole. I don't see why not, though a bit unusual. Or indeed in a paella. We shall see. I am feeling a bit experimental. It certainly was a success cooked in wine.

I have just been reading about UMF manuka honey and its healing powers. I have immediately ordered some because it is supposed to be good for psoriasis. Apparently they make dressings from it in New Zealand, not that these are available over here yet, but the high UMF factor honey is apparently very good under normal dressings for various disorders. I shall probably just rub some in for an hour or two before bathing, so see if there is any effect. If not, I can use it in cooking. We shall see.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Foodfest: Faisan au Vin and Prunes in Armagnac

I spent ages watching DVDs, in between filling and emptying the washing machine and dishwasher. I watched a badly made Spanish film, unfortunately the subtitles did not work and the sound was not good, called something like 'How to be a woman and not die in the attempt' with Carmen Maura. Then I saw 'Bad Education' again after attempting to watch a freebie by Jean Luc Godard about the Rolling Stones, which was rather boring.

Today I shall attempt to cook a pheasant in red wine, which may or may not be a good idea. I shall also purchase some brandy and soak some prunes in tea overnight before preserving them in the brandy. I found a good Australian recipe for this on the internet. It occurred to be that these would make a great pud with ice cream, or cream, and will keep for ages. I will need to find a suitable jar to keep them in. Might find something in the shopping centre.

It is also Russian New Year in Trafalgar Square from 12 to 7pm. Doubt if I will have the energy to get up there. We shall see.

Well, I didn't make it to Trafalgar Square but will have a Sense and Sensibility and Lark Rise to Candleford telefest today. The pheasant was so good that having plenty of the wine mixture left, I am defrosting another pheasant to cook in it tomorrow. I am currently reducing the sugar and water mix for the prunes which have been soaked in Earl Grey, and shall add the syrup and plenty of decent Armagnac tomorrow in the hope of having puds for months to come.

Friday, 11 January 2008

More Funereal Matters

Forgot to mention the horses and glass funeral carriage used. It is an old one owned by Albins, who are the funeral directors of choice in these parts, and very professional they are too. We took a circuitous route through South London to the crematorium because of the horses.

Impressive though it was, I think I would rather have an ordinary hearse and absolutely no flowers. Well, perhaps one big white bunch of lilies on the coffin! I quite fancy a cardboard coffin though.

Honor Oak is a very busy crematorium, with one funeral party just leaving as we arrived. In fact as we left, another funeral party came in, with three New Orleans jazz musicians in front playing 'just a closer walk with thee'. The musicians looked a bit tatty: hairy old guys with woolly hats, reminding me a bit of my ex husband, but certainly played well. It was quite cheering actually. I wouldn't mind that myself, with slightly smarter musicians.

I read that George Melly had lots of jazz music at his funeral, and had a cardboard coffin decorated by members of the family, who placed things in the hearse which were personal to George, such as fishing lines and so on. Seems like a good idea.

Funeral and Cancelled Clacton

My watch stopped two hours before the funeral so almost missed it. However I just realised by looking at the kitchen clock and quickly dashed out with my flowers. Fortunately I was in time. There were a large number of people at the funeral, which was a Humanist service at Honor Oak, and went well. We all came back to the Lye Torng, and there were still masses of people there when I had to leave at about 5.30 to feed the cat.

I was very tired, and when I looked up the train timetable discovered they are working on the track so I would have had to take a coach from Colchester to Clacton and vice versa on the way back. I decided not to go as I was already tired and it would all have been a bit of a rush, which is a shame since it may be my last chance to see Miss Bettaware and the Clacton Footlights, as Miss Bettaware may soon be moving.

Coffee Tables and Unexpected Visit

The coffee tables - small but perfectly formed.

My ex husband turned up unexpectedly last night bearing a DVD about children in Iraq for me to play since he didn't have the right equipment. Of course it was an American one which would not work here, so declined it with thanks. I think he was angling for an invitation but absolutely could not bear to let the poor thing in. Either he smells much worse than before, or I have become much more squeamish. Probably both. Oh dear, I do feel rather guilty.

Still pouring with rain. I was hoping it might stop before the funeral, but it doesn't look too hopeful.

Funeral Flowers and Coffee Tables

Yesterday Romy cleverly found some money off vouchers for the Slug and Lettuce, so we ended up having two J2Os, a spicy chicken dish and some bangers and mash, all for £10 - so we will be back again I suspect with more vouchers. The bangers are Gloucester Old Spot and v. delicious. I also noticed they were doing some wines for a tenner a bottle.

I also collected the funeral flowers (above) from Chez Michele in Borough Market which are really lovely - mainly white with beautiful greenery and a few red berries. An enormous bunch which I had to cab home. Depressing to think that is all I can give to remember someone's life.

Today, the day of the funeral, it is pouring with rain outside. I shall go and collect my black coat this morning. Fortunately John Lewis, who were delivering my coffee tables, arrived really early. It is a nest of acrylic ones which really look nice in that you hardly notice them - ideal in my tiny room. Now people can put their glasses down easily. At least something cheerful has happened in what I suspect will otherwise be a very depressing day.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Raffle Problems

Set off to buy some raffle prizes in the afternoon. We trailed around for ages and found plenty of suitable bits and pieces. Unfortunately my hip was giving me a lot of trouble so we had to take a couple of breaks so that I could sit down and rest for a bit. We took the prizes back to my place until the party.

We are still trying to think of another way of doing the raffle so that the best prizes don't go first, and so that people don't hang around deciding what to choose. Romy suggested putting numbers on the prizes, with a different colour for men, and giving out different colour tickets for men. I was thinking about this, as it would not then depend on a draw but would be like a tombola or lucky dip and might lead to a mad rush to pick a ticket. If we ticketed the prizes, then covered all the prizes with a sheet during the day, gave the tickets out as normal with a different colour for men, then later on uncovered the table and called out the numbers written on the items, this could be quite good, though it would give people less choice. It would involve throwing away all the extra counterfoil tickets so we would be giving out tickets 'blind'. Additionally, we would have to ticket any items donated at the party. Must remember to take sellotape. We must also get some extra bags for carrying the prizes home. Romy is going to look out some cheap gift bags and I shall collect some carrier bags and bring them.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Bag Lady is Working Again

First day back at work for a bit. Romy was back from foreign parts where she had celebrated New Year and her birthday, and had a very good time after the Imodium (now Norovirus) break with the punters.

We managed to get quite a bit of work done and left the office very late, but managed a very decent lunch in the new Applebee's fish restaurant. We both had the same thing: a brussels sprout pureed soup with skate, and scallops with bacon and mash. The scallops were absolutely wonderful - they had cut scallops in half, inserted pieces of well cooked bacon, and laid on the tiniest smear of mash, just enough to make them stay in place on the plate. We had a decent wine and they brought water with ice and lemon. We finished off with coffee and will definitely be going there again.

Today we will sort out a few stray party invitations and set forth to purchase some raffle prizes.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Panto and Waterloo Brasserie

The pantomime was OK - a bit of a curate's egg - good in parts. Sandi Toksvig was excellent and Pauline Collins made a fabulous fairy godmother, but as Dorothy said, it was all a bit laboured, and a bit coy about all the gay stuff. Quite funny though, and the Old Vic is a lovely theatre. Madeleine tells me that the bar is a good place to meet if you work in the area, and the food is OK too.

We tried the Waterloo Brasserie with Dorothy and Julian afterwards. Poor old Dorothy was very tired. I had quite a nice fish soup and Julian had an excellent onion soup. Dorothy had a brie tatin. Dorothy's chicken with spaghetti was apparently no good, with the spaghetti being in fact some kind of overcooked soft noodles, so it was sent back and exchanged for the lamb dish that Julian had had. I had a vast crab, which was superb, except that it was served in too small a container and on lots of ice which rapidly melted leaving it in a pool of crabby water.

I was not there when they were clearing the plates and apparently the waitress spilt crab water on my coat and bag. Dorothy spoke to the manager who agreed to pay the drycleaning bill for my coat and deducted the service charge. I shall probably go there again, and eat the crab, but will take the precaution of removing all the ice from the plate in the first place and making the waitress take it away.

Curtain Problem

Today is pantomime day. I finally found the connecting thing for my camera right in the back of a cupboard where I always put it - having searched the whole house. I found other bits and pieces which had been missing anyway so the search was not a complete waste of time.

The guards curtains had been considered not right for my room by general consensus. It so happened that the white ones I had made too short for the living room fitted perfectly. I managed to pull the guards ones down, but could not quite reach the clips well enough to fit the white ones properly, so I will need someone in the house when I try again to ring the ambulance if the stepladder collapses - I will have to climb up a step further which I am chickening out of doing while alone in the house. However I did manage to fix them to cover the window pro tem which is how I know they fit, and will look fine when put up properly. I really do need a new white painted rod with big rings which would look much better than the current arrangement. Thing is, because the radiator cover sticks out into the room a bit - for the curtains to hang well at night I would need to fix a couple of white painted wooden discs or squares to the wall before fitting any new rod holders to this, as these will make the curtains hang straight by standing further out from the wall. It could be a bit of a 'man' job I suspect, as I have given up using masonry drills, and the height is obviously a problem. However I would first need to purchase the discs or squares and paint them, then the new wooden rod and rings. Which is why it may take some considerable time. And may never happen. We shall see. I must also get the outside bedroom wall replastered, or at least reskimmed, before the room can be painted.

I shall now slope off to purchase an Observer, and hopefully, find a cup of coffee in the shopping centre.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Arrival of Earrings - Finally!

I tried to snap the finally arrived earings - see above left, but the snap does not really show them at all well. The pink and green tourmaline pendant on the right looks a bit better. This was also from Freya.

Obtained the tracking number. Though posted on Monday it seems the packet was only collected yesterday and will supposedly be delivered tomorrow. Since I have never received a special delivery on Saturday I shall wait until Monday before contacting Freya again. Seems there really was a weather problem in Scotland which is where it is coming from. Still can't find the camera connector despite looking everywhere. I wonder if I can get hold of another one. Must go to a camera shop and find out.

I watched La Communidad again, even better the second time, as it is a very fast moving film.

It is now Saturday, my shopping has finally arrived, and I am waiting to see if the earrings arrive today.

They have arrived! I am so pleased with them and can't wait to wear them outside. Very long and glammy with lovely purple moss amethyst and vibrant green chrome diopside. I'm so excited!

Crept to the Crypt and No Earrings - Again!

Went and saw the crypt. It is a fairly decent sized space with full disabled access. The new Vicar suggested that we run a pilot event, maybe a tea party down there and invite pensioners and Trustees to have a look at the space, probably sometime after Easter. We could get some outside catering for the event.

I took some snaps, but have realised that I have somehow mislaid or totally lost the connector which goes from the camera to my computer so cannot download them. I have spent ages searching for this, all to no avail so far.

Earrings still not arrived. Contacted Freya, the seller and she says they should be here by 1pm according to the tracking. So I have to contact her again when they don't come by one. I suspect the post person just didn't see the package, or it was in the wrong place, as the other post was delivered an hour ago. It is now 1.20 and nothing has arrived, and I just hope it has not been lost as it cannot be replaced, being handmade and one of a kind. Really annoying.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

On The Mend

I must have knackered myself as I only had the strength to stagger to the Lye Torng to get lunch rather than buying proper food. I had a rather good beef Massaman which I hope will not cause adverse reactions.

Tomorrow I have to get up early and examine a church crypt which might do for a possible venue/club for our oldies in the future. Must remember to take my camera. I hope I will be feeling up to it and that it is not too cold. May get a cab.

It is really cold, not encouraging me to go outside at all. I do have some shopping arriving on Saturday morning. A bit nervous about eating despite the meal today, so I seem to have ordered nothing but canned food and drink and packet soups, apart from a few eggs and some bread. The flat is still awash with oranges, tangerines, and a now elderly looking pineapple, apart from mince pies, cakes and biscuits of various types. May have a bowl of Cream O' Wheat made up with milk for dinner. It is a bit like semolina pudding . We used to have it in Trinidad for breakfast with a little cinnamon and a sprinkling of sultanas while cooking. The main thing is that it is very bland and therefore suitable for the delicate stomach.

Sick of Christmas Mess - Out with Old etc.

Absolutely exhausted. My expected earrings did not arrive, probably due to New Year delays, so shall wait in again tomorrow.

Fed up with all signs of Christmas, such as cards falling down all over the place and a wilted tree, I decided to dismantle this well in advance of Twelfth Night (Sunday) in the hope of getting some good luck this year. It has been a nightmare as I could not reach the boxes for the decorations, so have put them with all the cards and lights into some bags, for later transfer. The tree was the worst - I cut back the branches with secateurs until I could get the tree into the garden. I had not quite realised how heavily the bucket containing it was weighted with stones and weights. Anyway it is now blighting my garden and the living room is definitely looking a bit less messy.

Watched The ages of Lucia, all about various forms of sex and definitely one of the most unpleasant films I have seen. La Communidad with English subtitles arrived today and I look forward to seeing it again. Watched a bizarre documentary last night on telly about women who buy ultra realistic baby dolls, take them out in real prams, etc etc. Some have lost children, and some have never had children. Harmless, I suppose, but really strange to me anyway.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008


Was creeping about in the spare room and mewing a bit. Finally he settled curled up in the wardrobe. He has now come out, eaten a tiny bit more and is lying in his usual space on the spare bed. I take this to be a good sign. I shall have to watch him a bit.

My symptoms are worsening a bit. I managed to get to the Lye Torng and drink some mineral water. Not sure it was a good idea. Have run out of butter and soon running out of milk, but there is still quite a bit of bread. Not that I can eat anything. If I had some butter I might try an egg tomorrow. Even the Marmite is getting low. It makes a good drink when there is nothing else. Talked it over with Dorian who gets similar symptoms because of his medication. He says he only takes Imodium if he absolutely has to, ie if going out somewhere, and lets nature take its course.

I think I may be recovering a bit. I was able to drink some Marmite and have a bit of dry toast.
Malvolio ate his evening meal also without disaster. I had completely lost track of the days and thought it was Thursday today, when it has in fact been Wednesday. Comes of lying around watching movies all day for two days. I may have a bit of cake and some tea later.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Films and Hyper Cat

The Tit and the Moon by Bigas Luna is set in Catalunya and is about a nine year old boy with a new brother who is jealous of his mother breastfeeding the brother. He becomes obsessed with obtaining milk from the tit of a French dancer who performs with her 'petomane' companion at a local cava bar. The whole thing is quite surreal, but quite entertaining.

I spent the whole day in bed, only getting up to make drinks, and finally, to eat a couple of pieces of toast. I shall get up today. Despite feeling that I have been kicked in the stomach by a horse.
just watched Goldenballs. Not such a good film. Lots of sex and the hero is a completely dim clod. This seems to be a pattern of these films.

Poor old Malvolio. He has been wandering around in a daze and ended up lying under the spare bed. I have fed him a bit of dry food and am hoping for a rapid recovery. An hour later he is still wandering. He did a poo just outside his tray - thank goodness the floor is granite. Definitely still disorientated. Tried a bit more food and will just have to wait and see. I don't want to give him any more as he will then become hypo, and I think he is hyper now. Maybe the jab went directly into a vein this morning. He is still crying, which is worrying. Usually if I just leave him, the food does its work and he eventually settles back to normal. We shall see.

New Year's Day

I shall have a bath this morning and go back to bed with a cup of tea. Madeleine rang last night before my pains really got going. She has also been ill since Christmas. She had to work in an empty office until 3.30 on Christmas Eve, and had to go in to work yesterday, when, of course, nothing happened all day. Ridiculous. She sounded perfectly awful. I do hope we are all better by Sunday when we are due to go to the pantomime. She is talking of having a Chinese lunch with Dorothy and Julian first, and will ring on Friday. I am not convinced that eating first will be an option for them as we will be lucky to get them to the theatre on time for the performance. If we all go, maybe eating afterwards would be a better idea. If I ever eat again.

It is now 12.30, and I ran a bath earlier but fell asleep. I am now re-running this. Maybe a bath will revive me a bit. I have just had a mug of water with a teaspoon of Marmite stirred in. At least I will be keeping up my B vitamins and I have enough fat to keep me alive for weeks.

I bought an amaryllis some time in November. I had virtually given up on it, but a green shoot has finally appeared, and is now nearly an inch high. I think it was supposed to flower in time for Christmas!

Dorothy rang. Missed new Year's Eve parties which had promised to be great, but in the end Julian went off to one of the smaller gatherings. Dorothy still not a hundred per cent but quite a bit better and is going to work tomorrow.

Watched 'The Tit and the Moon' which was utterly bizarre.