Monthly Archives: January 2021

Cotton Wool for Brains

The street is still frozen and Julia went to work by bus today. That was an unsatisfactory start to the day as I don’t like her using public transport at the moment. On the other hand, I don’t want to be out on the roads if they are still icy. I’m getting old. She was the one who suggested it so I don’t feel too bad. She said there was only one other passenger on the bus yesterday as everyone seemed to have decided to work from home.

Things are going well on the poetry side of things with two acceptances in the last four days. My current numbers are 21 submissions – eleven acceptances, ten rejections. This is in danger of making me smug and complacent. And we all know what comes just after a surge of acceptances, so I’m trying to stay balanced and prepare for the inevitable flood of rejections that are bound to come soon.

My planned submissions for the next couple of weeks include four places which have been turning me down for years so I suspect the figures will be more balanced in a month or so.

Apart from that, the morning is rather flat and I can’t concentrate.  I’m here, I’m well rested and my eyes are open, but as soon as I start to type I slow down, and down… It’s like having a head stuffed with cotton wool. The view from the window, was all snow and blue sky yesterday, with highlights of red and green and a certain degree of sparkle. It is now back  is back to a generic Midlands winter scene – grey sky and muted colours in various shades of sludge and grime. As I sit here it’s hard to believe that Sherwood Forest is only a few miles away over the horizon and that Spring is only just over a month away.

That feels better. Sometimes I just need a simple description of my day to set things right. It’s a case of blogging as therapy. A lot of writing is therapy when you look at it. In fact one of the things editors warn against in both prose and poetry, is sending in pieces which are really just the author writing out their problems.

I’d better go and explore the therapeutic nature of shredding and washing up now, because the day soon goes and I don’t want Julia to think I’ve been sitting down staring into space all morning. I have been, but I’m hoping to conceal the fact. I might even move some dust about. That always looks like a frenzy of housework has happened.

Snowdrops at Ruddington

The pictures are from previous years, just to give an idea of conditions. The ice in the street is worse than the picture and the snowdrops are actually pushing through snow.

Chorizo and Bean Stew

Variations on a Theme

When life gives you chorizo that’s perilously close to its use-by date, make sausage casserole.

That’s my new mantra.

I made three meals this afternoon, which will save me time in the long run. The first, mad after finding I had  ¾ of a chorizo at the back of the fridge, was to make a variation on last week’s sausage casserole.

This time I managed to find mild chilli powder to use instead of the Cajun  Seasoning. I also used black-eyed beans and chorizo. There was a red pepper in the fridge next to the chorizo so that went in too.

We also have vegetable hotpot and Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry in the fridge so all is looking good on the catering front. A lot of it is looking like plates of red stew, but you can’t have everything. If you cook by pouring cans of chopped tomatoes into things, you are going to end up with red food.

The curry is actually reddish with black bits in it, on account of me simmering too vigorously and ignoring the pot as I watched Father Brown this afternoon. A few burnt bits will add texture.

I think I’ve found a winning combination. Cheap, simple, and not bad to eat. It probably won’t pass inspection by the quality and health police, but it will do for me. I have a blog to write and time is too precious to waste on cooking.

The bread in the picture is Corn Bread from TESCO. I was going to use it for Welsh Rarebit for lunch on Sunday, but  the arrangements went adrift.

Chorizo and Bean Stew

Chorizo and Bean Stew

Snow and a Slow Start to the Day

Julia went to work by bus this morning. I felt so guilty that I got up at 6.30 to make sure her breakfast was ready when she got down. It was only tea, cereal and toast, so hardly the most onerous of breakfast.

We are back on the Weetabix so it needs some time to soak. I don’t like Weetabix because it’s often crunchy due to lack of time in the mornings. However, Julia doesn’t like Bran Flakes, my weapon of choice in the war for fibre and regularity, so we alternate – each one of us gritting our teeth and eating cereal we don’t like to accommodate the other. I suppose that’s what marriage is all about at times. When we retire I think I will make porridge every morning. We both like that.  We could, I suppose, have two boxes open but I regard this as vain and wasteful. I was brought up to be modest and frugal.

She left me with a lecture about doing housework while she’s out. Housework? And ruin a perfectly good writing day?

I’ve had a go at the washing up and I have plans afoot for cooking tea – I think I’ll try a vegetarian version of last week’s casserole for tonight and make chickpea and sweet potato curry for tomorrow, In a minute I will do some shredding. I can do that without moving from my chair.

I’ve just realised that you are probably wondering why Julia had to travel by bus. WE had snow at the weekend, and in England that means we grind to a halt. We had snow on Saturday but it fell early enough for the daytime temperatures to melt it. We had snow yesterday, but it started inn the afternoon and froze overnight. That means that the street we live on is, based on previous experience (32 winters) is a touch slippery and the slope down to the main road holds all sorts of possibilities. I’m getting more cautious on the roads as I grow older, and as my car insurance premiums increase. If it doesn’t melt today, it’s likely that we will have a surface like a skating rink for the next week. I will review the situation tomorrow.

At the moment the sun is out, next door’s conifer has turned green and the roof of the house below us on the hill is starting to show black slates through the snow. I’m hopeful.

It’s not bad weather, it’s bad preparation. When you only have a couple of snowy days a year it’s hardly worth the effort and expense of preparing for snow.

Just before starting work I had a call on the landline – this is usually the sign of a scammer. It turned out to be  a really pleasant Indian gentleman in a call centre. Apparently, all this working from home is playing havoc with broad band availability and our router has been sending out messages. Could I switch my computer on so that he could check the situation?

Yes, I said, as soon as he gave me his identity code. Identity code? Yes, the one supplied by the service provider so I knew callers weren’t trying to scam me.. Ah, he said, he wasn’t actually from the service provider, he was acting on their behalf. Well, I said, it’s unfortunate that they hadn’t given him the code. If he rang them for it, I’d be happy to talk to him further as soon as he got back to me with it.

I actually feel better than I do after I have swearing at a scammer. It’s so much nicer to be polite, waste their time and then disappoint them.

Snowy Detail

Snow pictures are from last year.

Another New Recipe

I have a number of subjects in mind for the post. As I sit here typing I have a sausage casserole on the go. I can hear it bubbling gently. It’s rich, smooth and looks delicious. If it was human, it would be me. That’s how good it is. Julia has just looked over my shoulder, muttered “Tell them it’s simple too.”  and gone off laughing at her own joke.

The original recipe is from the Hairy Bikers. Onions, garlic paste, beans, sausages (ready browned), tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, a stock cube, Worcester sauce, Cajun seasoning. The recipe called for chilli and herbs but I had Cajun seasoning. Can’t see that one small alteration will change the fine dining experience much. And yes, she’s right, it’s not complicated. This is particulalrly trie as I just prodded the stock cube into the mix, added a splash of water and simmered for about ten minutes in total – quicker than the original recipe. Actually, now that I look at the recipe, I see I may have left a few other bits out. It was still, very good, despite this.

I imagine it would be good without the sausages too, and as tins of chopped tomatoes and tins of beans are good store cupboard items this will make an excellent quick and easy meal for unexpected visitors. Or the times when you get the shopping list wrong, as I did this week. And  I thought I’d done so well…

We will be eating it with the last of the cheese and tomato bread Julia made during the week.

We toasted the cheese and tomato bread with the lunchtime avocado and poached eggs. I make it under protest because Julia likes it. And I refuse to have an egg with it – it’s neither use nor ornament. Avocado without prawns and Marie Rose sauce (aka mayonnaise and ketchup) is a complete waste of time. I also hate poaching eggs, there’s always some new disaster associated with them. This week they seem to have welded themselves to the pan and ladle. (I thought I’d try containing them in the ladle again as it nearly worked last time.) It seems like a good idea but it hasn’t worked out either time I’ve tried it. However, at least it wasn’t as bad as the time before when I swirled the water etc.. That ended up looking like an explosion in an ectoplasm factory.

No photos of the avocado as it’s too sad to record. Have I really become the sort of man who eats avocado on toast? The photo of the sausage casserole could do with more sausage showing, as it just looks like bread and beans. I thought there was plenty of sausage to see, but in the camera they seem to have merged with the beans.

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Drifting Thoughts

Work went well yesterday and by 2.00 I had the parcels packed and in the post. I walked back into the shop thinking that my next move should be to ring Julia and tell her that I would be able to pick her up. This is always a problem on Friday as she finishes a bit earlier than normal and it can be a bit difficult.

As I got back to the computer I realised that we had a new order. It was for one gum card (Alma Cogan from the A&BC Who-Z-At Star Series, 1961). That’s easy enough – compliments slip, into a holdr (we have some left over from a stamp collection we bought) , into a board backed envelope, first class stamp and address.

While I was doing that another order came in – banknote. Same again. Easy to find and simple to pack.

Then another came in. He wanted fifty different items. I haven’t a clue where half of them are…

So Julia didn’t get a lift home last night and I worked late. However, as I’m currently being paid for my full  week for working one day, I can’t really complain if I have to work a bit longer.

It’s amazing how quickly I adjust. When I started full time work at the age of 16 we used to do five nine hour days, then I moved to doing six eight hour days. We had two weeks holiday in those days. Am I sounding old and crusty?

Now I do  six hour days and have four weeks holiday. I work Saturdays but have Sundays and Wednesdays off (the latter being my choice so I get a day off when Julia does). It’s not hard. In fact I’d like to do longer days, as it hardly seems worth it to go in for six hours.  The strange thing is that I still feel tired by the end of the week. It’s not just an age thing, because I know someone a lot younger than me who has similar hours and he complains about how onerous his working life is.

I think we’ve just got softer as a nation. At the risk of sounding like one of the Four Yorkshiremen, there are people who are just ten years younger than me who think they are badly done to as they work 35 hours and week and have  a month off, plus Bank Holidays. For the sake of my American readers, who are probably reading this with an expression of disbelief, here is how the rest of the world does it. Even Kazakhstan and South Sudan have better holiday provision than you do.

Work, gum cards, holidays, snowflakes – amazing where a blog can take you.

21-21-21-21 and Bacon and Potato Hotpot

Nine o’clock last night was, Julia tells me, the 21st hour of the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st Century.  Unfortunately she didn’t tell me until later so I was unable to savour the moment. I will have to wait until 10pm on 22nd January 2122 for the next similar event. I suspect that despite advances in medical science I’m not going to be around for that.

I had another go at bacon casserole this week. The last attempt, the Panhaggerty, wasn’t quite right so I looked for a new recipe and gave it a try. I didn’t make a note of the recipe and can’t find it again. However, don’t despair – there are hundreds of them if you want one, or try this.

Cut potatoes into slices, I used about five potatoes of about medium size. Par boil. I did them for five minutes, I may give them 7 next time, though five worked.

You probably should cut onions into rings as it will look better. I had some ready chopped onion and three small leeks so I used them.

Bacon bits.

Black pepper, stock cube, grated cheese.

Fry the bacon  and then soften the onions/leeks.

Put in a layer of potato, the onions/leeks and another layer of potato, then bacon, then potato. I used freshly ground black pepper on each layer of potato (it’s easier to see how much you put on if you add it that way. The dishes I used are about an inch and  a half deep so that’s enough layers.

Make the stock and pour it in until it nearly covers the potatoes. Cover with foil, cook for an hour at 200 C/400 F for an hour. When I prodded the potato at the hour mark it was still a bit hard, so I may give it an extra couple of minutes boiling next time.

Uncover, put the cheese on top and put it in the oven. I gave it thirty minutes and turned the oven up. The recipe suggested 15 minutes for browning but I was watching a half hour programme on TV. At least it cooked the potato properly. It also formed a nice golden crust and reduced the gravy nicely.

It was a bit salty for our low salt tastes, probably due to the bacon.

Next time I’m going to make a vegetarian version with carrots and parsnips, and possibly without cheese.

I haven’t made hotpot for twenty years, and am not sure why. Looks like we will be having more of it from now on.

Potato and Bacon Casserole

 

 

Yet Another Day, Yet Another Post

Little and Large!

I have now managed to do a few things on yesterday’s list.

I have rung the Pharmacy – got straight through this time – and given them my PORN number. If you wonder what that is (and it probably isn’t what you’re thinking) you can read it in yesterday’s post.

I have also reset my OU password and had a quick look at where I am. Having done the courses What is Poetry? and War Memorials and Commemoration, I am 31% of the way through Approaching Poetry. I haven’t done anything since 16th December, when the great password purge locked me out and ignored me over Christmas, so I’m going to have to redo the 31% to get back up to speed. I may well go through the others too, just to brush up.

As a third thing, which I should have done, but didn’t list, I have sorted out my first published haiku. I needed it for something else and also needed to check submission dates for Wales Haiku Journal. Having done all that, I thought, I may as well give it an airing alongside a couple of almost relevant photos.

I have been working towards deadlines of 25th and 31st January, thinking I had plenty of time. I don’t. It’s 21st today and I am badly prepared for 25th. I have the material, but it needs a final polish. I’m actually better prepared for the 31st, having two of the three submissions to go. Only the third needs work, the main problem being that I haven’t decided which is going to be the third piece.

With that in mind, I had better go and do some work on that instead of messing around with haiku and photos.

 

Another day, Another List

Determined to make up for my slow start to the week I wrote a list of jobs for Wednesday. The good news is that I completed the shopping list and think I managed to put everything on it (so many weeks I suddenly remember I’ve missed something off as it becomes too late to add anything). I also wrote the blog post for the day and typed a few haiku that were lying dormant in my notebooks. I need a few for the end of the month so this seems like a timely activity.

We also watched Father Brown this afternoon and ate the fresh bread that Julia had baked. It’s a  tomato and cheese bread from a kit and, nicely crusty as a result of her use of the “Crusty” setting. It’s so long since I’ve used the bread maker that I had forgotten there was a setting for crustiness. If only I’d thought to put those two activities on the list.

The rest of the list did not go so well. It rarely does.

I conspicuously failed to shred the box of old documents by the side of the shredder, forgot to ring the Pharmacy with my PORN number, didn’t do any of my online course (I have lost the habit since they messed me about with the password change) and forgot to do anything about the casserole until too late (it needs two hours in the oven).

Sorry, what was that? You want to know why the Pharmacy wants a PORN number off me. It’s a Personal Order Reference Number. I really don’t know what you were thinking…

Nor, to be fair, do I know what the inventor of the PORN acronym was thinking of. I thought of making it one of my tags, but didn’t want to disappoint anyone, or attract the sort of readers who would be disappointed by this.

That’s a fair summary of my day. Nothing bad happened. On the plus side, though I didn’t pull up any (metaphorical) trees, we watched Father Brown and ate warm home made bread with cheese and pickles. I have had many days that have been worse than this. Judging from the weather forecast, I had a better day than a lot of people who are having snow and floods.

 

 

A Tuesday Retrospective

I seem to be having a week of looking back on the previous day. I’m not sure how this happened but I may as well go with it, and try to catch up.

My alarm went off at 6.30, which was cutting it a bit fine to get to the hospital for a blood test before work, but I didn’t really feel like getting up. In the end I turned over and went back to sleep anyway, finally shaking myself free of the covers at just before 7.00 It was still dark so there were no interestingly lit morning shots.

Down to the hospital, in to the waiting room, and there was nobody else there. Even so, I still had to wait five minutes for someone to conclude their conversation and deal with me. Five minutes isn’t a long time to wait, but when you want to get done and take your wife to work, it’s long enough.

The sample was easy, and taken using a syringe rather that all the modern paraphernalia. It didn’t bleed after she removed the needle, which is always a worry, a it suggests the clotting is too good.

I was home for 8am, as the murky grey night slid into a murky grey morning. Typical – the morning I think of photography, there is nothing to photograph. Julia was ready and we set off for work. There seems to be more traffic about again – some days you wouldn’t guess there is a lockdown in progress. It seems from a news article that numbers in schools are up on last time, which suggests that more people are going to work, and probably more are being accepted as keyworkers.

Julia has just been given a letter from work to confirm her keyworker status. She was a key worker working from home in the first lockdown and a keyworker at work for the second. They gave her a badge for that. She’s now a keyworker at work, and she has just been given a letter to prove it. It’s printed on a black and white printer, has handwritten amendments and, quite frankly, looks like  a bad attempt at a forgery.

This is typical of the way the project is managed. Several of the staff who ran for the hills last week, have returned. A cynic might suggest that it’s better than spending time at home with the kids, or that it’s an attempt to make sure they don’t miss out on their vaccination.

Next, I went to the pharmacy to wait in the rain, collect inaccurate prescriptions and try to make sense of the chaos. The electronic ordering system I am compelled to use by the NHS is a lot less accurate than the old one where you used to and pick up a piece of paper. I think I may have mentions (just once or twice) that although change is easy, improvement is hard. I may even have mentioned that “new and improved” systems are often not improved, and sadly are often not even as good as the one they replace. Part of the sorting process was ringing to give the pharmacy a reference number. I must have tried 20 times and the phone was either busy or unanswered.

Not long after I returned home, I missed a call from the doctor and had to ring back. It took twenty minutes, but I persisted as I thought they might be helping to sort out the double cock-up they have made with my prescriptions.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

No such luck. They were ringing to tell me my blood tests were done (they can be very quick when they want to be). I failed. The blood is clotting too well and I have to raise my dose of warfarin and go back for a blood test next week.

That takes me up to 11.30 and gives you a flavour of the day. That is, I think, a good place to finish. It is now just after mis-day and Julia is engaged in her second long work call of the day, despite it being her day off. I’m going to start making noise now, as a sign that we have better things to do.