What is it about the end of the year and the start January which suggests soup? It’s not just me; my neighbour Jolita has also got the soup bug. At a guess, it goes back to childhood and Mother making meals from festive leftovers. To be fair, I don’t remember any soup, but I do remember a nut bread she made based on a recipe in a copy of Family Circle someone had passed to us. Is Family Circle still going? We weren’t a magazine taking family, though the Radio Times was taken weekly, and I was a big fan of the Dandy before I reached double figures, then it was Jackie and Fab208 as often as I could get them, with very occasional forages into Rave before I graduated to Honey. Nowadays it’s the Guardian and magazines from various organisations I belong to or charities I support. Favour, the magazine for supporters Hearing dogs of the Deaf doesn’t feature many soup recipes. But then neither did the Dandy.
That said, for me soup generally begins with what I have in the fridge rather than a recipe. And this week I had some celeriac that needed using, lots of tomatoes, and some nice white bread that was past its best. So Monday’s soup was a version of ribollita which worked surprisingly well. Motivated, I moved onto tomato soup, with a pound of tomatoes and some other veg I already had. I found a recipe which became the base for my soup, but to my surprise it didn’t include garlic. Surely some mistake? Easily rectified though, and thus emboldened I added half a tsp of ginger purée instead of the tomato purée I did not have. I love chilli, so after a slight hesitation I added a few flakes. Continue reading
Thinking about it, MasterB has had a fairly sociable autumn, and in the middle of December I recall remarking to Michèle that his social life eclipsed mine. He spent November living with Birgit, and both Reinhild and Celia visited. In the middle of December, Bridget, who stayed here in 2016 while I was in Australia, called round for a calendar. I knew she was coming and we had agreed to meet downstairs. I left the door to my flat open. While we chatted we heard miaow miaow miaow from upstairs, and then came himself, barrelling down, tail hoisted like a flag, to greet Bridget. I have absolutely no doubt that he heard her voice and was determined that if she wasn’t coming up to see him, he was coming down to see her. She returned a few nights later with Janet, his other auntie while I was in Oz. We had drinks, nibbles and chips. MasterB had a lovely time.
Now I am the first to admit that MasterB is not the sharpest knife in the drawer; invitations to join MENSA have been notably absent, and though willing, he struggles with games demanding much (any) intellectual ability. However, he does know he he likes and loves, and he remembers those people with whom he has bonded very well. I’d love to see his reaction if the student couple who rescued him turned up. So with B&J he was sooo happy. He rolled on the carpet, he sat in the middle of the floor, he remembered the games that Bridget played with him and played them all over again. Animals, non-human animals that is, don’t lie: MasterB loves B&J. Official. Continue reading
I’m home. Phew. Right now I am feeling very tired and all I want to do is go to bed, but I intend to stay up for a few hours more. Also, I need to finish unpacking my bag.
New Zealand is amazing. Stunning. Beautiful. Pick your own adjective. I need to start saving for a second trip to the South Island. I’m glad I didn’t go there this time because it would have been so intense, and like going through a list, ticking off places seen. That’s not my preferred type of tourism. You can’t see everything. And sometimes the more you try to see the less you appreciate, understand or remember.
MasterB was not quite sure how to react when I arrived home. He was pleased to see me, but he and Birgit have established a different routine over the last five weeks, now he has to readapt to my routine. Right now he’s curled up beside me. He couldn’t be closer. He has also seen Celia who I bumped into on the Walworth Road when I was heading for the mobile phone shop to get a new U.K. sim to replace the one I lost.
In films, when things are going badly wrong, you see the characters consumed by events; they are intense, focussed, driven.
In reality, in between throwing your hands up in horror, you spend much of your time doing the usual things as though the world might not come to a premature end. You get up, eat breakfast, chat with friends, watch Gogglebox and Graham Norton.
The world right now is in a bigger mess than I have ever known. Maybe the Cold War days were just as apocryphal, only I was too young to understand the threat hanging over us. Krushchev banging his shoe on a table was something I learned about in history lessons. The holocaust has continued to have repercussions, but its power to appall and shock seemed to be nudging us into greater awareness that, as Jo Cox said, we have more in common that we have that divides us. Out of that terrible evil it seemed we might finally understand the importance of interfaith dialogue, human rights legislation and anti-racist education.
Then along came Brexit, and the realisation that there were an astounding number of people about who wanted to blame someone, something, anyone, anything for the things that weren’t working. Not unfortunately the actual people who were to blame, politicians who have dealt a toxic cocktail of short termism, and fake successes, financial deals which are supposed to help the country but where the cash ends up in the bank accounts of a privileged few. Meanwhile papers like the Mail and the Sun ramp up the fear factor about ‘benefits cheats’, ‘health tourists’, illegal immigrants’. Continue reading
This morning, before the rain started, I was walking along thinking how nice it would be to see Michèle. I looked across the road, and lo, there she was. She saw me too and we waved at each other before she crossed to my side, and we walked and talked for a few minutes, going into Marks and Spencer where I completely forgot what I wanted to buy, before arranging to meet up on Tuesday evening.
While I was away Cousin, as is her wont, began to probe me about places where I might move. She knows I hanker after a larger home with a private garden for MasterB and myself. How about Cambridge were Older Nephew lives? That’s almost as expensive as London I answered, and logged on to RightMove to prove my point. And found three properties which would do me, one very well, within my price range.
But do I want to live in Cambridge? I have no idea. The thought of starting again, making friends and contacts with whom I am comfortably at ease is daunting. How long would it be before I would see a Michèle on the other side of the road? I’m not someone who minds her own company; indeed I relish and value my time alone, but choosing to be alone is quite different to not knowing anyone well, not having friends who are companionable, people who share the same values and interests. Continue reading
It’s been a lovely weekend of blue skies and warm sunshine in London. Just a soft breeze and the temperature somewhere in the mid 20s C. Pretty perfect. The neighbours stayed quiet last night, no loud voices or braying laughter drifting through open windows until all hours, something that happens all too often for my liking in warm weather. So MasterB and headed off to bed bedtimes. I read for a while, finished a crossword and fell asleep.
Around two in the morning I woke as someone shouted “Put your hands up”. I thought at first I’d Been dreaming then realised there were quite a few voices. MasterB was growling, and when I opened the shutters to look out of the window, for once he didn’t leap up onto the sill to look too. Whatever it was, he didn’t want to get any closer.
It turned out to be lots of police officers and one man not in uniform. He was the one with his hands in the air while his pockets were searched and he was patted down. I heard an officer tell him he was under arrest and to put out his hands as he was to be cuffed. Continue reading
As some of you know, MasterB has not been very happy in our garden for some time. The problem, or rather problems, being the local cats who have designs on his territory.
However, last week in the few unseasonably warm days we enjoyed, he sat outside with me while I got on with some work and he was obviously relaxed, obviously content. It was like having my cat back again. I hope we have more days like these in the summer when it comes.
Showing his stripey jumper
I’d been thinking pitter patter when I wrote last night’s post, but today that became pitta patty. I was working away from home this morning, but back in time for a late lunch. I stopped off at Oli’s and bought some pitta bread, the wholemeal type. While my patties cooked, I prepared salad and warmed the bread, slitting one to slide one patty inside plus a lot of greenery and some hummus. It looked good, but how dud it taste?
A quick post before bedtime while MasterB enjoys some Outside Time for the first time in days. He’s having a good sniff around, and seems quite confident, so I was able to come back indoors without the sense that I was abandoning him. The thaw has come. It was all amazingly quick. Yesterday morning the trees were staring to drip, but the pavement outside chez Isobel and Cat was still snow covered and icy. By the afternoon it was clear. A few bits of snow cling on in corners, but our snow people have almost gone, their hats lying on the grass. Yesterday was still very cold, but today, in comparison with last week, was almost balmy, 7℃ according to my thermometer. It was possible to walk down the street bare-headed and bare-handed without the imminent threats of hypothermia and frostbite.
I’ve been baking biscuits which is both good and bad. Good, because I enjoy it and it’s helping me work my way round my new oven. Bad because I eat them all very quickly. I have also been continuing to make fritters. Or rather patties. I thought I’d check what the definition of fritters was, and it says something cooked in a batter. I tried rissoles, but I think that said something encased in pastry. At last patties, which my concise OED (second prize in a crossword competition 1998) defines as a small flat cake of minced meat etc. I’m not entirely happy with this description; they have no meat and not very flat, but for the moment the name will have to do. Obviously this interferes with my plans for a volume of recipes Cooking for the Fritterati as the highway to wealth (still no luck with the lottery tickets. I hope the opera buffs are grateful for my continued subsidy). I have not so far thought of any punning title that includes patties, let alone the literati.
On the plus side, I still think they are delicious. I am mildly addicted. The current batch where the main ingredient is Carlin peas taste wonderful. I really must try to recall what I put in them.
I’m starting to explore the possibilities of aquafaba. It has become quickly apparent I am not on the same page as the most prominent vegan writers. I rarely use tinned beans, and chickpeas are just one pulse of several in my cupboards. Stubborn searching revealed aquafaba can come from various pulses, and you can make it at home. Then it becomes a bit vague. How much aquafaba equals one egg? How exactly do you include it? Where can you use it? I have no plans or desire to make meringue or macaroons any time soon. So I think the current aquafaba I have in the fridge is likely to be thrown out, but just keeping it has been interesting to see how it has thickened. I was put off an aquafaba page which said no references to animal products would be tolerated. I understand people have strong feelings, but it hardly wins hearts and minds when non-vegans are tentatively exploring possibilities. It could just request that people respect it is a vegan page. I agree with much of what vegans say, but when they claim the high moral ground and start lecturing, I find it irritating, and my inner teenager, never far from the surface, wants to stick my tongue out at them and walk away.
There was story I read as a child that has stayed with me. It was about the sun and the rain having a competition to get a man to remove his coat. The rain went first and tore at the man’s coat, summoning the wind’s help. The man was buffeted and pushed around. He drew his coat tightly round him. The rain conceded defeat. It was the turn of the sun. It directed its warmth at the man, drying his hair, allowing him to stand up without fear of the wind knocking him over. His coat steamed and began to dry. He unbuttoned it, and as the sun continued to gently warm him, removed the coat and carried it over his arm.
It’s my belief more people will be won over to veganism or flexitarianism through gentle persuasion rather than sledgehammer tactics.
Most photos of MasterB that I post here show him lying down, sunbathing, sleeping, or looking out of the window, maybe sitting in the garden. The most active images show him taking a leisurely stroll. So it would be perfectly understandable if some of you thought of him as a fairly static cat, a sedentary cat. Understandable but wrong.
This may look like a flat to you and me, but to MasterB it’s a racing circuit, a feline version of Brands Hatch combined with elements of Aintree.
He races about it, leaps from one piece of furniture to another, weaves between chair legs, refuels with some biscuits in pit stops.
I’ve been trying to work at home, but no work can be achieved until we have had interactive play. The current favourite toys are the play cube, now somewhat battered, and the equally battered fishing rod feather toy.
So here are a couple of shaky hand videos to see the boy in action.