Rain and Light, a Wet Weekend in January

The weekend has been a rain sandwich. Friday was glorious; bright blue skies and sunshine flooding the flat. It was warm on the street, though not exactly bikini weather, until the sun went down and the temperatures tumbled. Tomorrow is forecast to be a rerun. But the rain gods have held sway for most of Saturday and Sunday.

I was working yesterday, inside, so in the dry, but someone had definitely decided to economise on the heating. I was glad of my long sleeved thermal vest under my presentable work clothes. By the time I finished working the rain was having a pause. Good news as I was meeting Celia in a pub prior to taking in our second evening of Lumière London. We had explored installations in Mayfair and the West End on Thursday after attending a lecture at the Royal College of Physicians about William Harvey. Yes we really are that cultured, I haven’t even mentioned last weekend’s poetry evening.

On Thursday I took some photos, they probably aren’t great, I haven’t looked at them yet. But I didn’t photograph our favourite installation, seesaws in South Molton Street. They were soooo relaxing. I don’t know about Celia but I had to stop myself from entering a zen like trance. I could have seesawed for hours. We ceded our places to a young couple and walked about until the lights were turned off, impressed by some installations, underwhelmed by others. Maybe we are picky. Continue reading

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Veganuary, An Undisciplined Cook, and Delicious Fritters

Half way through January, aka Veganuary, and it’s going well. I still don’t know how to pronounce veganuary, but that’s a minor issue. A advert on television last night pronounced vaginal in a way that was wholly new to me and because of that caught my attention. Clever marketing or something else? For me vagina and vaginal are pronounced with a strong i so vaginal whereas the ad was more vadge-in-al. Bizarre.

Pronunciation aside, vaginal has little if anything to do with Veganuary. My twitter followers who are legion (not) will know I have been tweeting both pictures of some of my meals and my failures with split pea rissoles. While the flavour had me wanting more, the falling apartness was something of a failing. More frittata than rissole. that thought was a bit of a breakthrough. That and advice from Sabina via twitter. I know Sabina from our MyT days, which in blogosphere terms means we go back generations. She thought the mix was not fine enough. I intended to have a break and come back to the fray in a week or so. But a lone beetroot in the fridge got me thinking. So tonight I tried again, with a radical change in the recipe. Continue reading

Coventry: City of Larkin, Godiva and Forty-five Types of Potato

Just in case you got the impression from my last post that everyone in Coventry is on a higher celestial plane than the rest of us, this one may correct that idea.

One of Coventry’s most famous sons is the poet Philip Larkin. Hull, which has just ended its year as UK City of Culture claims Larkin too as he worked there for many years and by all accounts loved the place. But Coventry is not going to let Hull steal all the glory. Indeed no. The poet is honoured with a building named after him.

Larkin pub

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Inspirational Coventry

I’ll write more about today and post more pictures I’m sure.

I went back to Coventry, my third visit in ten months. It was a dull day. My first two visits were in bright sunshine. But Coventry on a dull day still shines more brightly than many other venues. My visit confirmed what I learned last year; Coventry is a vibrant city, a friendly city, a city with heart, an inspiring city.

The day after the cathedral was bombed to bits in November 1940, when 500 people lost their lives and over 1,000 were seriously injured, and many more rendered homeless, the dean made a speech among the ruins calling for forgiveness. When the city was rebuilt it became a centre of peace and reconciliation, reaching out to erstwhile enemies, building bridges. Today it continues that work, and is proud of how it welcomes refugees, working to create a culture that crosses boundaries, nurtures respect and understanding and embraces humanity.

That’s all I’m going to say tonight. But I shall upload some pictures of the cathedral. Maybe they’ll speak more clearly.

Baptistry

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Maybe I’m a Millionaire

On the way home from a good day out in the Smoke with Celia I bought a copy of the day’s Guardian and a lottery ticket. We’d walked, talked, eaten, been to the British Museum; Celia to the Scythians exhibition, me to look at the Assyrian galleries in greater detail.

The day was colder than I’d thought when I left home. I was glad of the hat I bought in Leigh on Wednesday. Lunch was in a small Korean café in Museum Street called Bimimbab. Delicious. I’ll happily go there again.

Doing the lottery routinely is a relevantly new thing for me. In the past I have bought the occasional ticket; at one place of work I was part of a consortium that never won anything; but buying a ticket every week is a recent development. It has a lot to do with Brexit and my fears for the future. The chances of winning the lottery are extraordinarily remote, but a touch less remote than if I had no ticket. Continue reading

Stonking Good Television, Stonking Good Drama

There have been some stonking good drama series on television in the last few months. While I was in Northern Ireland Cousin introduced me to Love, Lives and Records. Over Christmas I caught up on the episodes I’d missed. It was just great and has helped me accept the fact that The Detectorists has come to a definite end after three wonderful series. Then last night Derry Girls began. Heaven.

On the face of it the three drama series have nothing in common. Love, Lives and Records is set in a registrars’ office in Leeds; The Detectorists is about two blokes who are keen members of an amateur metal detecting group; Derry Girls is about a group of teenagers growing up in Derry City in the 90s. But like all good dramas they take a group of people in particular situations and explore universal truths. They are gentle yet challenging; the characters become people you care about very quickly. They are flawed, silly, wise, troubled, funny. Continue reading

Veganuary

I’ve signed up to Veganuary. If you’ve never heard of it, or even if you have, it’s a cousin of Dry January, Octsober, and so on. Something where you pledge yourself to do something dietary for a month. In this case, keep to a vegan diet. My diet is largely vegan, so I’m not anticipating big problems with that, but I am a bit taken aback by some of the vegan zealotry out there.

Today I got an email with a list of ingredients to avoid with a warning that veganuary will have you reading labels in supermarkets and shops. So much so normal. I’ve been vegetarian since I was twelve, Mother and Aunt had coeliac disease, and Mother’s Menière’s disease meant we scanned everything. When all three of us went to Sainsbury’s together we would look like keen readers in a library. So I looked at the list and didn’t expect to be surprised. I was wrong. Honey. The differences between vegetarianism and veganism are subtle and political.

Veganism is political. Read the definition of veganism from the Vegan Society website here. I go along with quite a lot of it, but my full conversion to veganism is a long way off, so long it may never happen. When January is over I shall be happy to eat eggs from hens kept as pets whose lives are not curtailed when they slow or cease laying. I number a couple or three beekeepers among my acquaintances, and their love for their bees and their concern for those bees’ wellbeing and welfare is notable.

My big problem is not with eating honey or eggs, but the farming industry; the way we as a society have enslaved animals, have seen them simply as a commodity and treat them as disposable and dispensable. It makes me ashamed and disgusted. If you have a hen and that hen lays eggs, to eat some of those eggs does not seem to me to damage the hen. To see the hen as an egg-laying machine, with no rights of reproduction, and a death sentence the moment laying slows down damages both the hen and me. The damage to the hen is obvious. The damage to me is because it brutalises me, it assumes I am compliant in the exploitation of the bird. So I have sympathies with veganism, but my hope would be to reform farming, so that those calves are not slaughtered so we can drink the milk that would have nourished them. That the cows are not constantly in calf so that they lactate. We don’t need to have milk all the time. If I kept a cow who had a calf, maybe she could spare some milk, and from that milk I might have butter or cheese. But it wouldn’t be a staple, it would be a treat. and industrial farming is not limited to animals. Vegetables and fruit are sprayed with pesticides so strong they damage the health of those workers who grow the crops; people who pick said fruit and vegetables are exploited, living in caravans in disgusting conditions, paid peanuts. I’m struggling to articulate what I think, but an analogy would be seasonal fruits and vegetables. We don’t expect to have runner beans in January in the UK. We can get them, they are flown in from other parts of the world. Personally, I don’t buy them. My father loved runner beans. We called him Bean Man. Every year he grew two rows, one to eat and one to freeze so he could eat his beans all winter. Continue reading

Day Trip to Essex

My first day trip of 2018. It was supposed to be last week, so it would have been 2017, but reconvened as the weather was awful. The day was blowy. Very blowy, but it confirmed my first impressions, made over a decade ago, that Leigh-on-Sea is a very attractive place.

First off, it’s a train from Fenchurch Street Station, so all players of the GB Monopoly board will get a quiet thrill of recognition at that one. The landscape gets wilder and more romantic as you leave London. There are ruins of what look like hall houses, or something too small to be castles and too rugged to be monasteries. Then there’s the coast. Waves sparkling in a silver sea. Admittedly the tone was to my mind lowered by two young women whose conversation indicated that clothes (as opposed to fashion) were their main interest in life. They discussed the various outfits they had worn to various parties over Christmas and New Year. As we neared Leigh-on-Sea where I alighted (to use a verb which is now almost archaic but somehow still current in public transport speak) they were almost orgasmic at the fantasy of Primark offering everything for sale for £3 per item. This was something one of them had dreamed about. I alighted to the words “Just think, I could change my wardrobe every day!”

I was wearing a NorthFace jacket bought in 1999, boots of uncertain vintage, and a roll neck jumper that is at least twenty years old. I think I looked fairly presentable until the wind whipped my hair into something channeling Ken Dodd, but there you are.

Leigh-on-Sea. Essex. Such mixed messages. Essex has a number of parliamentary constituencies, all of them represented by Conservative MPs. Essex voted overwhelmingly for Brexit. Leigh-on-Sea’s MP is David Amess, sound on fox hunting and invading Iraq, much less sound on human rights and Harvey Weinstein. For those of you this side of the pond that will almost certainly have triggered an audible hiss, or you may be staggering backwards clutching at your heart. But remember, Woodford – lovely Woodford – once the seat of Winston Churchill, has returned IDS to Westminster several times. Some things are beyond reason. Pantomime villains must have to work very hard in these places.

I read somewhere, long ago, that Helen Mirren grew up in Leigh. I think politically she’s moved on. And yet. Leigh exerts a pull. It’s a real place. For all the cutesy, quaint and self-conscious prettiness of Old Leigh, it has an authenticity that many other places lack. It is still working, still honest. If only it didn’t have Amess. If only it hadn’t voted Brexit.

Let me try to show you. As you walk from the station this is what you see. A real place, working. No Disneyesque ersatz fishing village.

En route from the station


If like me you are a sucker for sea and boats it gets better. Or worse. It depends on your perspective.

Red

Working


There are pubs. Lots of them. But for some reason I want to call them hostelries. It’s that sort of place.

Ye Olde Smack

Quaint

Lunch venue

Crooked Billet hostelry

It’s one of the most dog friendly places left in the UK.

Good behaviour

Dog friendly beach

Happy

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A Year in the Months, and a Happy 2018

I’m ending the year feeling much better than I anticipated this morning. The cold which I started on Christmas Eve was gazumped midweek by a much more aggressive version which has left me in no doubt that I am not stoic invalid material. As a headache gripped my brow in a rusty vice and left me feeling sick each time I bent down I yearned for my health to be restored so I could enjoy my cat, my home, my life.

Friday was a particularly low day. I went out to work telling myself I’d be fine. My nose ran almost constantly and grew redder and sorer by the minute. I began to feel self-conscious and embarrassed at the number of times I had to blow my nose and find yet another bin to dump a wodge of used hankies. Yuk. I went to bed early, then up betimes yesterday for another day at work. Less nose blowing, but still gripped by the vicelike headache and prone to sudden outbreaks of sustained coughing. However by the afternoon I was convinced I was on the mend. Home via the shop to stock up on more boxes of paper hankies where I realised at least half the local population is in the same boat as I am. I nabbed two of the last three boxes of my favourite brand.

I made myself stay up until half past seven and then climbed gratefully between the sheets where I slept for twelve hours with some interruptions for coughing, nose blowing and glasses of water. I thought I’d be fully rested and on the road to health this morning, but instead I should have gladly turned over and slept some more. MasterB desperately needed time and attention from me and was keen to play. Off I went to work feeling as though my body belonged to someone else somewhere else and my feet were not truly making contact with the ground.

Then magically, mid afternoon, something shifted. I’m still coughing, still blowing my nose rather frequently, but it’s almost eight o’clock and I don’t think I’ll be in bed for at least an hour. I’ve eaten a meal with pleasure rather than out of a sense that I need the sustenance, and I have a glass of wine at hand, my first for nearly a week. Admittedly I’ve not drunk any of it yet, but just looking at it makes me feel more festive. I’ve even lit the candles and decided the Christmas decs can stay up for another day or two. Continue reading