Author Archives: quercuscommunity

The Crowded Bookshelf of Life

No, not a blog about books. A friend of mine once provided me with an analogy of life being like a crowded bookshelf, where you put a new book on the shelf and one drops off the end.

In this case, I added the two post a day project and the Postcode Safari posts dropped off the end. They always seem to drop off. I think it’s because they take a lot of concentration compared to a post where you just start at one end, describe your day, or your concerns, and come to the end.

Even the scone chronicles suffer from this – I sometimes forget to take the photo, and there’s no point writing about a selection of crumbs. In that case I’m also a creature of habit, and you can’t keep writing about the same few places time after time. Nor can you keep making the same complaints. We go to several places that don’t serve particularly good food but they are convenient and the staff are friendly. Do you really want to read me droning on about it yet again?

Talking of which, we have joined the National Trust again and will doubtless be going to the worst cafe in the world again. This time we will be writing to the National Trust if things aren’t up to scratch,which will be something new to write about. Complaining is considerably easier, but seems to be less effective, since the rise of email contact forms.

That is why I have developed a new form of complaining. Instead of just ignoring things or complaining at the time, I leave it for a while and compose a stinging email telling people how much business they have lost as a result of me not dealing with them. It’s still like the old way in one respect – I never actually get round to sending it.

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Green Howards War Memorial

More photos from the “lost” Whitby photos – the new War Memorial (well, 2013). It’s like a lot of other towns in that it had a War Memorial Hospital, which was then lost to reorganisation. Casualties in recent wars highlighted the lack of a focal point for commemorations and resulted in this memorial being built – it’s local sandstone with a central column of a rather striking stone from Norway – Masi Quartizite. It’s appropriate, as the Green Howards (the local regiment) lost 156 men in the Norway Campaign – an often forgotten part of the Second World War.

 

How Did I Do?

I’m writing another post, though it’s hours later than I planned.

I washed up, cooked my tea and cooked the ratatouille for tomorrow. And possibly the day after.

I watched tea and relaxed after Julia returned from her busy social life eating pizza, read the end of a Hamish MacBeth novel and moved a few things round (that’s a Stage I declutter).

The wrestling with my conscience went well, and by the time Julia returned I was ready to serve up my healthy tea.

The veggie burgers, with spicy mushrooms and ratatouille, were very acceptable, They kept their shape and the rice seemed to work. Whether the rice is worth the bother is a different matter. It’s one of the few things I ever worry about in relation to food poisoning.

That leaves a number of things not done, including most of the blog reading, the new lists, the washing up…

I did procrastinate rather well though, even if I say so myself, and am torn between pride at procrastinating so well, and shame at my idleness.

The photographs? Ah, well…

By the time I had served the food it wasn’t looking particularly photogenic and I was quite hungry.

Tomorrow’s list includes just three items.

Take Julia to the doctor (for a review, nothing serious)

Blog (as it’s after midnight I’m already in “tomorrow”, so that’s in progress).

Eat cake with father. It’s his 91st birthday party. We are men of simple pleasures.

Oh, and do the washing up which I avoided tonight.

That makes four items. I’ll maker it five by adding the requirement to rough out the talk for the Numismatic Society. That’s enough for a day off.

Photos tonight come from an old camera card I found stored with some flash drives I’m using for the presentation. I’ve used some but it’s easier to reload them than try to pull them from the depths of my WP photo library.

The sunset is from the farm and the others are from Whitby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Declutter

 

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Read

 

 

 

A Short Trip through a Shallow Mind

So much to do, so little time.

I’ve just looked at my life, recoiled in horror, and tried to write a “to do” list.

Wash up

Cook tea

Clear my “desk” (which is a dining room table)

Watch TV and relax

Write a blog post

Write a poem

Dream up a way of making money

Start putting stuff on eBay

Cook the ratatouille for tomorrow

Wash up after cooking

Browse eBay

Do the photographs for my talk at the Numismatic Society (six weeks away!) Eeek!

Declutter

Organise my collection

Organise my underwear. Some of it is older than the kids. There is a definitely diaphonous quality to some of them, caused by the material wearing so thin a good sneeze might make them disintegrate. But I’m a married man, so I don’t need to impress anyone with the quality of my undergarments.

Read

Write another “to do” list – this one is getting too long

Read up on growing food from scraps as recommended by Higgledy Piggledy Mom

Visit Derrick and Tootlepedalto check on new developments in how to age disgracefully. A quick scan indicates that Derrick looks set to drown in pursuit of photography and TP has been watching a helicopter move a portable toilet. Jackie, the saint who is married to Derrick, has been photographing his antics, presumably for an entry in the Darwin Awards.

Write a list of all the other blogs I need to catch up with.

Lavinia

Clare

Charlie

Laurie

Lots of others.

Procrastinate. It’s not an entry you expect to see on a “to do” list but if I don’t procrastinate I’m going to have to start the washing up and make ratatouille.

Wrestle with conscience – Julia is out. If I ring for a Chinese takeaway she won’t know. I can wash away the evidence, mask the smell and…then I’ll tell her. I always do. I just don’t seem to be able to keep a secret. It means I lead a blameless life and never have anything on my conscience very long. I  would make a dreadful criminal.

Ah well, washing up it is then…

The featured image is completely random.

Haggis

At the risk of upsetting any passing Scots, we had a haggis with meat tonight and I’m not sure it won me over. It’s a long time since I last had haggis and comparing it with the vegetable version we had last week there is no clear winner.

They were both spicy and tasty and in terms of texture the meaty one was a bit spongy. As it is 33% sheep’s lung (with added beef fat, liver and heart) I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise.

To continue the downward trend, the veggie burgers are currently in the oven, and they are not holding together quite as well as last week’s attempt. They seemed a bit wetter when I mixed them, which I put down to the quality of the mashed veg.

That is the eternal quandary. Do I treat it like a chemical experiment and measure all the ingredients, or do I just lob it all in and enjoy the mystery?

I think we all know the answer to that.

Alea iacta est, as Caesar said – the die is cast – and it is too late for me to become a Michelin starred chef. I’m a rough cook and I’m fated to remain a rough cook.

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Close up of the vegetables

Sorry about the small size of the photo in the text – I only have a choice of two sizes and the next one up is so large it could cause alarm in people who aren’t expecting life size carrot slices.

I really should try to do something about the quality of my photography.

The veggie burgers are out of the oven now, and hanging together. I’ll have to see what they taste like tomorrow. A quick test of some bits that fell off indicates that they will be OK. After Julia’s complaints last week I’ve been less forthright with the spicing and they are tasty without being to fierce.

I this my life? I wanted to be a captain of industry and leader of men, when I wasn’t being a famous writer or doing good works or fishing for Nile Perch.

Instead, I’m wittering on about haggis and the big excitement of the day was when I was trying to park outside the shop this morning. I stopped to allow a young woman to walk past and she tried to get into the back of the car, mistaking me for her regular taxi. Like me, he has a silver VW, and was parked outside one of the other shops, waiting for her.

Tomorrow I am planning on polishing the counter tops.

Be still, my beating heart…

 

Hands, Haibun and Haggis

I had a shock this morning. As I waved to Julia after dropping her at work I realised I had my father’s hands on the ends of my arms. I have the same ageing skin, the same slightly bent fingers and the same way of holding my hand when I wave. I even have some brown spots, though mine are freckles rather than age-related.

It was a bit of a shock.

I once wrote a poem, my first published poem as an adult, about looking in my shaving mirror to see my father looking back. It wasn’t quite accurate (or “authentic”,  if you prefer), because I don’t, as you may have guessed from the beard, shave. And in those unguarded mirror moments I actually look a lot like my maternal grandfather who has handed down his distinctive head shape to me.

Eventually, I will probably write a poem about this. It will be much more complicated than the anecdote I have just related and will include angst and a word I can’t quite remember. I’ll remember it when I stop thinking about it. It’s like ambivalence. It might be ambiguous. Something along those lines anyway. Editors, it seems, like that sort of stuff, and I don’t have enough of it.

That reminds me, I have a haibun in Contemporary Haibun Online January Issue. I feel that it may be the last for some time, as one of the main magazines is closing and the chief editor, who has accepted several of my haibun, and offered editorial advice, is being replaced by a man who I do not get on with quite as well.

Time to work on my craft, and begin battering editors with my brilliance.

There were eighteen parcels to pack this morning including several with multiple content. We also bought in a pair of Great War medals and some sovereigns.

We turned down the tin of worthless coins and the stamp collection. It was plain that the owner of the coins thought they were worth a lot more than we did so we persuaded him to keep them as their interest outweighed their commercial value. The stamps, we were truthful about – the market for modern First Day Covers has been dreadful for years and we don’t buy them unless they are autographed or have a coin on them. Or they belonged to Freddie Mercury’s father.

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Falklands Crown 2014 mounted on postal cover and autographed by Sir Tom Courtenay

For tea, we will be having haggis. This time it is made with meat. I’m looking forwards to it, and to making veggie burgers with the leftover veg,

As a welcome coincidence, it begins with “H” and allows me to indulge my passion for alliterative titles.

A Few Notes

For those of you who wanted to know more about the wooden figures at Carsington Water here is a link. It’s unlikely I will see more, as I’m no longer able to walk eight miles to see them all, so you will have to make do with these pictures.

Theer are more details here, and here. They all have  a slightly different take on the sculptures, and different photographs.

Seeing that they cost £20,000, I am once again struck by regret that I didn’t know quite how much money was available for Arts Grants in the days I was active and self-employed. This isn’t a snide comment about art, in case you think my Phillistine side is showing, I’m equally envious of people who set up perfectly legal charities to allow them to run nice cars and indulge in foreign travel.

The Water Vole is an older carving, set up before the others. I think there were several others in the past, but they have now rotted, as they tend to do.

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Wooden Water Vole at Carsington

This is, if my counting is correct, my ninth day of attempting to write two posts a day. So far the average of two posts a day is holding up, even if it hasn’t been an exact two a day. This post plus one other will see me through the day and will leave me with just 40% of the challenge to complete. Or less, I think I actually said a fortnight, though I’ve been calculating based on fifteen.

After that I really should get back to writing haibun. I’ve drifted away from them recently and need to get back to writing. There’s a fine line between recharging your batteries and losing impetus. That has happened to me many times in the past, a new project slows to a stop as an even newer project comes to the front. I don’t consciously stop doing things I just move on to something else.

It’s like this challenge – two posts a day for two weeks. It was meant to get my numbers up after the week locked out of WP, get me back into practise and use up the backlog of material I was accumulating, like the Gairsoppa story.

I’m getting the numbers back, I’m feeling the flow return, but I have written about new stuff like shopping lists and wooden carvings and still have a lot of the backlog left.

I should do less and finish more.

The Shopping List

Shopping List

Shopping List

I used to read a blog about found shopping lists. It was surprisingly fascinating. I have tried to find it to post a link but can’t find it.

I decided to uise mine as an example for this post.

I used to use a list to remind me t5o buy things, then I started using it as a way of keeping spending down. Now, poor and lacking brain power. I use it for both, but have had to start using extra means to keep me on the straight and narrow. Read on and you will see what I mean.

Top left is “Pills” with an asterisk. That’s to remind me to take in my Warfarin prescription. I’m not overly worried about the health aspects of missing the pills, but I am concerned that I have a blood test in a month and if I want to keep up the relaxed regime of testing every three months I have to make sure I take the pills and get the right results.

Next down, in the blue ink that marks the later additions, are two appalling sets of hieroglyphics that indicate I need chickpeas and chopped tomatoes. Chickpeas because I used them in last week’s veggie burgers and tomatoes because I need them for ratatouille. I’m likely to need a second can for the chickpea curry that is on my mental list to cook in the next couple of weeks.

Cobs – two lots. One lot for tomorrows lunch, one lot for Tuesday’s lunch. We don’t make sandwiches on Wednesdays because it is our day off. It would probably be cheaper and healthier to use sliced bread, but I like cobs. New readers who want to know what I’m talking about can press here.

Butter was a duplication for “Marge” lower down the lst. We use the terms interchangeably at times. Cheese – ready sliced Red Leicester for making cobs. The time saved and the cost saved by portion control make it worth paying the extra for the slicing.

Pies became pasties as I found Ginsters Cornish pasties were on special. I just bought two, because the list and the menu now prevent over-buying.

Now is the time to confess about the menu. It’s the bit in the top right. I have to use it to stop me buying random eye-catching stuff we struggle to use.

It says:

Y Pudd Roast

Haggis

Veg Burg

(Rat) x 2

Bkd Pot

Thurs?

 

Simple, eh? It stops a lot of bad buys, because I would often buy enough ingredients to make five meals in four days and some would end up wasted by the end of the week.

For those of you who don’t speak Quercus it means Yorkshire puddings and roast veg, haggis, veggie burgers, indicates that we will be having ratatouille with the burgers and reminds me to make a double helping, which we will have with baked potatoes. It’s already slightly wrong because I’d forgotten Julia was out on Tuesday night and forgotten that we are cutting down on sausages, so a pack now makes two meals. It used to be one meal for four of us and seemed to remain as one meal as we dropped to three and then two.

Thursday is a mystery as I’ve run out of inspiration. Julia is probably doing a Green Thai Curry.

Root veg means I am free to throw a selection of root veg in, onions means get packets of ready cut onions as it saves time and I’m lazy. And my knife skills leave something to be desired. I have far fewer cut fingers now I don’t chop onions and it’s easier on my back if I do less bending. I bought Brussels as well because we need greens.

Marge (see above), milk, cream cheese (for fish pate). I did select herbs and chillies but put them back later as there was a change in the fish purchase and because I have chillies in a jar.

Smoked Salmon is crossed out because there were no packets of scraps, just expensive slices. I like Julia but I don’t like her enough to make her expensive smoked salmon pate.

Eggs – easy. I buy eggs from caged birds as, whatever you may think Free Range is mainly a marketing gimmick and the birds aren’t really better off. Now that we have new welfare cage legislation caged birds are more comfortable than they used to be.

Seasoning was a lazy way of indicating I needed more garlic in a jar and some chilli powder. I forgot the pickled onions, marked them to remind myself and forgot them again.

Med Veg is Mediterranean vegetables – courgettes, peppers and aubergine. Or zucchini, bell peppers and eggplant for my American readers. Not Medium Vegetables.

Yorkshire Pudding (bought in a packet because it’s easier), beans (tinned).

Card is a card by my Dad – he’s due to be 91 at the end of next week. Tesco have a dreadful selection so I may get another one. Yes, it’s in pen because I forgot about when I made the original list. I’m a bad son.

Finally L & Lime indicates a lemon for the fish pate and a lime for Julia’s planned guacamole.

Spr Onion in the middle means I realised we needed some spring onions (or scallions) for the fish pate. I realy should grow some at home, and some chives, which do much the same thing.

One thing missed and one extra – bacon – sneaked in.

One day I will write about a more organised list. This one was written in a hurry – when I have more time I actually write them in order.