Cooking for the Fritterati?

I’ve got so many ex-hummus pots in the fridge harbouring fritters, left-overs, fritters, baked beans, fritters, cold potatoes, fritters again that finding the one that has hummus in it is like Edgar Allen Poe’s Purloined Letter.

The builders were supposed to be coming tomorrow to do the tiling in my kitchen. Back in 2016 I had a new kitchen fitted and the guy who did a great job on the floor tiles was not around to do the ones on the walls. The result was amateur, so they’re going to be redone. One day. I think I have had four dates so far for this work. To be fair, I dodged out of one of them, the builder had the ‘flu for another, but it is beginning to feel like the cleaning of the Augean stables, a job that’s never finished. But until it is I can’t contact Tony the painter to begin the other less well known Herculean task of repainting the flat. Continue reading

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Make Mine a Lemsip

The rain is lashing down. It’s ferocious, like an angry percussion section. The wind part of the weather orchestra is sending eerie whistles through slightly open windows and helping the rain create little scudding crescendos. I’m supposed to be on a train to spend the day with a friend on the Essex coast to walk and talk along the seashore, share some seasonal food and wine. Instead I’m in bed.

It’s not just the weather that has made me decide to stay in my pyjamas for the time being. On Christmas Eve I went out for a walk and realised I wasn’t feeling my usual happy self. Normally walking does a magical thing of connecting body and spirit for me. I love the way my limbs find their rhythm, breathing follows the same tune, eyes and ears absorb familiar and new sights. So when I found I was having to push myself along I examined my constituent parts and found a cold lurking. Continue reading

More or Less Christmas

A few days before I left London for Northern Ireland Celia and I were walking down the road spotting the windows where the early adopters of Christmas 2017 decorations had been at work.

Early adopters for London that is. My first walk with WestieBoy revealed that all of Cousin’s neighbours had already dressed their homes for the festive season. Any idea I might have had that this was a country thing was put to flight when we had a three generations meal just outside Belfast. The bus between the Europa station and Saintfield went past house after house bedecked with fairy lights. My cousin Alex and his daughter Nadine were negotiating about how many trees they needed to get. Last year they had four.

I was invited to a wreath making session on Saturday morning, I declined but there were several other occasions where I found myself completely at sea amid earnest discussions about garlands, table runners and goodness knows what esoteric necessities of which I was completely ignorant.

I realised I have never been in Ireland in early December before, though I have spent Christmas there. I was culturally challenged.

I expect Auntie Anne (my mother) made a lot of Christmas, remarked Cousin. Not really, no, I answered. Mother was an ardent declutterer decades before the term entered popular usage. She tolerated Christmas decorations when we were small, but by my teens insisted that cards from friends and family were the only ornaments that mattered. I don’t remember the last time we had a tree. Cousin was surprised. She questioned me further which made me reflect on how Mother had so wholly abandoned this tradition from her native land. Not that there would have been much jollity in her home when she was growing up, but she must have seen what other families did.

I like a bit of tinsel, I am big on fairy lights at any time of year, I have gold and silver stars and little padded Christmas trees that I scatter on surfaces. Mother would not have approved. But I don’t have a tree, and the mass rush to buy and consume at Christmas leaves me cold. So I was very pleased to read this article in today’s Guardian.

There was a programme on the television earlier this week that I could not watch. It was about the most expensive presents imaginable. People with untold wealth commissioning others to find gifts costing millions of pounds. I found the concept obscene. The idea seemed to be to make the rest of us jealous of the mega rich. It made me feel their lives were very poor if this was their definition of pleasure and success. Ostentatious wealth is somehow very unattractive. That isn’t stopping me from buying a lottery ticket for tonight’s draw but my ambitions are fairly modest;enough to buy a two bedroom property with private garden in the same locality I live in now.

I’m set to enjoy my pared down Christmas. There’ll be parties and socialising, but no diamonds either on display or coveted. You can keep your designer labels and overpriced witnots. The gifts I’m giving are not expensive, but I have thought about the recipients. Prosecco will be drunk, nibbles eaten, carols sung, and far from feeling deprived, I anticipate thoroughly enjoying the jolly season.

Have a good one.

Six Weeks Until Christmas

Six week until Christmas; unbelievable.  I have written a list of cards I need to send. I’m going to Northern Ireland for a week at the start of December, so I think it’d be a good idea to get at least some cards written before I go. The price of stamps is a major incentive to cull the list, but it still seems very long. I have put the letter e by a number of names, meaning I shall send e-cards. Another group come under the delivered-by-hand option, but since the Post office  has been privatised I am less and less keen to boost the bank accounts of share holders.

But at times like these it’s also important to keep in touch, to remember our shared humanity, our overseas friendships, to write a line or two to people who we like but seldom see. The most dystopian forecaster probably wouldn’t have come up with the past twenty-four months. Refugees continue to arrive traumatised and exhausted in leaky boats meant for far fewer people on far shorter journeys. Reports of attempted genocide, with footage for proof flood our screens when we watch the news. Allegations of sexual abuse, of men  using superior power to manipulate and control women in the film industry fill acres of newspapers. Continue reading

Christmas Eve 2016

Christmas Eve, the candles are lit, fairy lights twinkle, the choir of Westminster Abbey sings carols quietly in the background, the Christmas cards from friends and family deck the sideboard, tops of paintings, and book table, MasterB is paying misdirected carnal attentions towards his newest toy, a yellow feather boa that Octavia brought him from Melbourne.

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Little Innocent

I know there’s a term for this, people who are turned on by inanimate objects such as lamp posts or handbags, which though odd and somewhat disturbing, is probably no less odd than people who develop phobias about inanimate objects such as lamp posts or handbags. How common a condition these lusts are in cats I don’t know, and why this toy should have sparked such desires in MasterB I have no idea.

I’m spending the evening at home, just me and MasterB. This morning was work, last night nibbles and drinks here with some neighbours. I should have asked more people, but the flat is small and there’s limited seating. Reinhild came before joining her husband at the theatre; my lovely neighbour Lawrence who broke the news to me that he is moving in a month; Charlie (Mr Celia); B&J: Celia a bit later.

Charlie’s arrival was the signal for MasterB to go into hiding. He’s accepted Lawrence, but is deeply suspicious of Charlie. J was bereft. I have a feeling my invitation was only accepted as she wanted to see Himself again. It is a humbling experience to be less socially successful than one’s cat. She tried coaxing him out with biscuits, no luck. Eventually I opened the drawer in which he had secreted himself under the bed and he hopped out. Little Star, he not only conquered his fear of Charlie, he actually rubbed his face against Charlie’s feet, and spent the rest of the evening with us.

December has passed in a blur, hence the lack of blog posts and comments. I finally downloaded my holiday pictures, and looking at them has brought details of my trip flooding back. I probably say “when I was in Australia..” annoyingly often, and I know I should like to return there. Equally I should like to return to Singapore.

Here and in the US, as well as other countries in the west, we are increasingly seeing the politics of division on the rise; there is much talk about our differences, less about our similarities. More in Common became a rallying cry in the wake of the murder of MP Jo Cox by a right wing extremist. In Singapore I saw diverse communities living together in harmony. As a white westerner I was just another ethnic minority, accepted and welcomed. When I looked online at reasons why the crime levels in Singapore are so low, I found articles citing the heavy penalties for anti social behaviour: ten year prison sentences for graffiti for example. The slip of paper handed me by immigration when I entered the country warned of the death penalty for drug smuggling. But it didn’t feel to me as though Singaporeans were only behaving because they feared the consequences of stepping out of line, and I reckon there must be more carrot than stick that makes this society work. People seemed to have a real pride in Singapore, they wanted me, a vistor, to feel welcome. When the rain poured down I was offered the shelter of an umbrella to cross the street; people smiled at me and I smiled back.

One of the things that caught my eye was the Art Connector, a series of seats celebrating fifty years of independence, and all quoting lines from the National Pledge which says, in the four official languages of Singapore; English Chinese, Malay and Tamil:

We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity
and progress for our nation.

The Art Connector

The Art Connector

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Heathrow to Home

There is something about doing a journey in reverse that makes it feel as if you rewinding a holiday. Would I reach home to find November was just starting? In the event, no, but the reality of here, made there, which had been here the previous day, curiously unreal.

The plane had Christmas decorations, and Heathrow was full of festive decs too, if somewhat low on the festive cheer. After a bit of a battle to get into a lift to the bus station, I pulled on my gloves and zipped up my jacket against the cold of a London that had embraced winter in my absence.

The journey home was uneventful; bus, train, taxi. I lumbered up the stairs to my flat where no one was surprised to see me. The cat/flat sitters had been exchanging texts with me since I landed so were obviously expecting me, but MasterB seemed remarkably unphased by my reentry into his life. He was engrossed in a biscuit game with B, who could have an alternative career training cats.He gave me a nod, rubbed against me and resumed his game. It was a while before I got the nose rub, but it came. I know people who say their cats ignore them when they come home. That has never been my experience. Continue reading

The Penultimate Leg part 1

I was going to call this the last leg, but that will be Heathrow to Home, and even this penultimate leg divides in separate parts however you look at it.

I was early to bed and earlyish to rise. With only five Singaporean dollars to my name this morning, the hotel blow out buffet was never an option. But I had a very good vegetarian selection at a nearby Indian café last night for a princely almost five dollars, and had the sense to ask if they did breakfasts. The answer being in the affirmative, once washed and my bags rearranged for the nth time, I set off.

It was obviously a breakfast venue popular with locals too.

You may not find Dynamic Dining in any of the eating guides to Singapore, but I recommend it for good food and friendly service. There was a slight hiccough with my coffee which was served already sweetened, but my food was great from the word go. It turns out one of the cooks used to work for P&O as a chef. The before and after pictures of my meal tell their own story.

 

This chap arrived by motorbike just as I was paying.

Then back to the hotel and a quick trip to the eighth floor for some last views of Singapore.

 

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Above the clouds

High above the clouds above the Indian Ocean, the landmass of Australia behind me, three hours away from Singapore, it is sinking in that I resume my normal life in less than forty-eight hours. How much less I’m not sure as time zones confuse my mind as well as my body.

I had the obligatory mass panic at the start of my journey, thinking it had left my ‘phone in Loris and Ibb’s flat. I even called Ibb on a borrowed ‘phone. Fortunately it was in my bag, so the only problem was feeling foolish. Well it’s not the first time.

Sydney airport was busy and hot. Signs to toilets misled as some were being renovated. The free wifi was initially elusive. By the time I got myself organised my flight was being called and my seat was in the first group. As in my outward journey, my vegetarian meal was served in advance of everyone else’s. Passengers near me craned to see what I had, gave me curious looks. I ate and continued watching my first film: Florence Foster Jenkins. I saw Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant on Graham Norton some months back when the film first came out. It was more touching than I expected and a tear rolled down my cheek at the end.

Straight on to film number two: Marseille. I lived in Marseille for a year a long time ago, and the opening scenes of the city with Notre Dame de la Garde high up on the hill brought a wave of nostalgia that surprised me, but it was the sound if the Marseillais accent that really stirred my emotions. Time to go back for a visit. It was a fairly slight film, the sort of thing that would be made for television in the UK, with holes in the plot line you could drive a lorry through, but I loved every minute.

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The Third Day of Christmas

Back to work this morning and I was amazed at how many people were about. Some neighbours are coming round shortly for drinks and nibbles, so the party season has not entirely given way to shopping in this locale. Let it last. The build up is long enough. The shops were heaving on Christmas Eve when I popped round to the largest of our local supermarkets to recycle some old batteries. I can only think the compulsion to head up to the West End and the Sales is born of habit rather than need.

I’ve had a rest from shops and the internet. It’s been really nice. I was offered a place at the dinner table on Christmas Day by some well meaning neighbours. I smilingly refused. I’d have been countimg the minutes. We’ve been in and out of each other’s houses, and I am uncomfortably aware that the cheese I am serving tonight falls a long way short of the cheddar I was given on Christmas Day morning when we sat in front of a log fire sipping bubbly. It’s a different set of neighbours tonight, so I am hoping they are less fastidious. The Prosecco should please at least.

The jigsaw is coming along. MasterB seems a bit confused by it, but he’s only walked across it, not lain down in the middle, so my tactic of fussing him hugely every time he comes near it seems to be staving off any Love Rival behaviour.

Jigsaw

Jigsaw

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