Author Archives: quercuscommunity


It was quite a good day in the shop. Arrived early, got a parking space…

A good day can have such a simple foundation. Saw some regulars, wished them compliments of the season, bought a few bits, sold a few bits, had a mince pie, went home.

I picked Julia up and we went for a cup of tea and a toasted teacake, followed by shopping. While we were there we witnessed an unpleasant scene and an example of appalling parenting.

The parent in the example of appalling parenting was playing some sort of film on a telephone and holding a child in front of it with one hand while she ate a baked potato with the other. Whatever happened to talking to your kids?

The unpleasant scene was, to summarise, a middle aged daughter abusing her elderly mother, and dragging things up from years in the past. Not many daughters, she said, would put up with it. I won’t dwell on it because, unlike many of the conversations I listen to, there was no comedy involved. It was a tragic insight into the way your life could go.

It put a damper on things, and six hours later, it’s still depressing me.

I’ll leave you with a poem by Philip Larkin on child-rearing. It contains bad language.

Sorry about the downbeat nature of the post, I’m hoping to get back to normal tomorrow.

Blogger or Diarist?

This is, I suppose, the sort of day that differentiates a blogger from a diarist. A diarist would examine the ins and outs of the election results, give a few opinions and generally squirrel away a bit of archival material for future generations. A blogger would merely write about potatoes and similar trivia.

A diarist might try to pass opinions on what has happened, but they might turn bitter and after half an hour of bitterness he might get fed up with it all and turn back into a blogger.

That way I can suggest that the political life of this country may well be improved if we cut Scotland loose, literally, and floated it off to Europe. Then we could give Ulster to the Republic of Ireland, dig a moat along the Welsh border and settle down to running our own country properly.

While we are all breaking up I might also declare my house and garden to be independent, add a sentry box to the front garden, put one of those stripey poles across the entrance to the drive, call it Checkpoint Charles.

It will be a small country but every bit as useful and relevant to world politics as Wales or Scotland or any of the other ambitious but useless tiny countries that clutter the UN up.

I will, I think, be in a stronger position than many of these countries as I’m going to offer Amazon the use of my shed for “accounting purposes” and operate an “offshore” financial institution from the coalshed. The garage is already spoken for – it’s going to be the official mint of Quercusonia and we’ll be knocking out coins, banknotes and stamps for collectors, just like Tristan da Cunha  I might even start my own internet domain, as there are plenty of q’s left – the only current one being Qatar. Quercuscommunity.qs sounds quite good.


The coins are from Cabinda. I bet most of you are thinking “Where?” I think there’s a bright future ahead for us smaller countries.

We will, of course, be happy to take part in UN Peacekeeping missions, preferably for two weeks at a time and in Cyprus, or another holiday destination, though we don’t really have the manpower for full-scale military operations. More to the point – we don’t have a gun.

I’m not sure whether to be a Republic, a Monarchy or a Soviet, or merely continue with our current system of benign despotism, where Julia orders me around most of the time but also brings me cakes when she comes home from work. It has worked for 30 years, which is more than some countries manage, and as you can see from the header picture, she is among the better looking world leaders. We had Belgian Buns tonight. If you look at the link you will see they are mentioned along with something Swiss, and Danish pastries. If cakes can be international and get on with each other, why can’t humans?


Hasselback Potatoes – the Final Photograph

This, at last, is the final photograph. The potatoes don’t look too bad, though I’ve never really mastered the art of making food look good in photos. The stir fried sprouts and broccoli look, to be honest, burnt, but they were actually very tasty. The other, orange, bits were roast carrots and sweet potatoes. The pink bits are gammon.

That’s all for now. I’m just in and need a cup of tea and a warm fireside.


DD 7, HP 16 and HP 18

DD7 is, you may recall, the Dundee postcode area. That was the second time I’d discussed Dundee. That’s embarrassing, just like getting old and repeating the same stories over and over. I note that not all the facts are consistent between the two posts. Not only repetitive, but inaccurate. This is not good enough.

DD7 is actually the town of Carnoustie, which is most famous for its golf course. I didn’t know much about it until I checked Wikipedia. It’s a fascinating place and the Wiki page is much more informative than usual. It has it all – the linen industry, famous people, several explanations of the name and two VC winners – Charles Jarvis and George Samson. They have streets named after them in Carnoustie.

HP 16 and HP 18 are both in the Hemel Hempstead postcode area, which is 24 miles North-West of London. It’s an interesting town, as I recall, with a gyratory roundabout system and a rugby pitch built on an old council tip. It’s also the home of Hemel Stags – a very successful southern rugby league club. I went to a Sealed Knot battle there once and ended up in the medical tent having four stitches in my eyebrow after taking a musket butt to the face. It was a touch awkward because the bloke next to me turned and said: “You were the bloke who broke my leg last year.”

We parted as friends.

Happy Days…

HP 16 is Great Missenden, the one time home of author Roald Dahl. I’ve never been there, though it gets a good write-up. They have a Roald Dahl Museum. I may have to visit one day.

HP 18 includes the village of Brill. It has a windmill, some Civil War history (which includes John Hampden), and a VC winner.

Time to go now – election results to watch.



More of the Postcode Safari

I’m going to visit SG 14, CF 15, BS 10, TS 12, DD 7, HP 16 and HP 18. It may take two attempts.

SG 14 is the Stevenage area, in North Hertfordshire, just north of London. It includes part of the town of Hertford, just 19 miles north of London. One of the more famous people to be born there is Captain W. E. Johns. He wasn’t actually a Captain, but it sounds more solid and reliable than most other ranks. Senior enough to show he was capable, but junior enough not to be held responsible for anything bad in the conduct of the war.

You may not recognise the name, as it generally means nothing to women or to people under 50, or, I presume, Americans, but he was the author of around 100 books, including the Biggles books. As you can see, if you read the link, he’s an interesting man.

I’ve read about 50 of the books, which probably isn’t a good thing as he’s generally held to be a touch racist.

CF 15 is Cardiff, and contains the village of Taff’s Well. It is unique in having the only thermal spring in Wales. It was a popular resort in the late 19th century and the spring is about 21 degrees Centigrade. There’s more to it than that, but you’ll have to read the link.

BS 10 is Bristol area, and takes in part of Bristol, including Westbury-on-Trym. It’s quite historic, tracing its origin back to King Offain the 8th Century, and being used as quarters by Prince Rupert during the Civil War. It was the home of Robert Southey, a Lakeland poet who was Poet Laureate for 30 years. He is the first person recorded using the word zombie in English.

Next up – TS 12 – which is Teeside. It’s quite a nice place, despite including Middlesbrough. Technically it’s actually Cleveland, though the letters TS tend to suggest otherwise. Cleveland was a county from 1974 – 1996. Cleveland Police, like Humberside Police still exist, even though the counties don’

TS 12 is Saltburn-by-the-Sea, which has a very nice pier and a funicular railway. We’ve been to the pier, though I don’t think I’ve written it up. I did, however, write a clerihew which mentions Saltburn. It has thus gained poetic immortality.

The header picture is a squirrel in a bin at Clitheroe Castle. The other is Sandsend, which is close to Saltburn. It’s the best I can do.

Beach at Sandsend

The Hasselback Potatoes

There is no photo, as I left my camera at work and can’t be bothered to go back and get it.

The picture I have used is merely a repeat of one from yesterday. My report is this – they look good and they are easy enough to do. People who have never had them before will be amazed. But they don’t taste much better than ordinary baked potatoes they way I did them (rapeseed oil and garlic seasoning).

I will try olive oil next, butter after that and even goose fat if I need to. They make a good talking point if you are having people round.

The stir-fried Brussels and broccoli were better. boil the Brussels and broccoli fro 5 minutes the stir fry them with soy sauce, honey, some rings of red chilli, ginger and garlic. It was very nice, and I suspect it was healthy too. I’m thinking of ways to serve Brussels over Christmas, and this is going to be one of the ways.

No photo of those either.

You’ll have to be content with a repeated photo for now. I’m going to have tea and toast in front of the TV now because Julia is away in Leeds for the day and I have several hours of quiz viewing to do, uninterrupted by conversation or the rattle of wrapping paper.

Will be back with another post later.

Some Cookery Confessions

So, you ask, how was the vegetable soup last night? You probably aren’t asking that, but I’m going to tell you anyway and it seems better if I pretend someone is interested.

Well, the vegetable soup, consisting of some festering ready-chopped carrot and swede, some greying carrots, a wrinkly parsnip, quite a lot of onion and some green bits from leeks, was excellent in parts. It was nutritious, tasty, sustaining, wholesome and almost additive free.

The additives came from a garlic and thyme flavour pot I threw in.

The parts that weren’t good came from the seasoning. It was, to say the least, a schoolboy error. It needs a bit of spice to give it a lift, I always feel, and I decided to test out the new jar of smoked paprika. I’ve only just started using it again, I never think of it as particularly hot and… you can already see where this is going can’t you?

A lesson I learned long ago is to test out each new jar of spice unless it’s one you’ve used before.

This one was quite a bit hotter than the previous one and despite attempts to cool it down with honey and extra dilution, it remained a little hotter than is usual for vegetable soup.

Despite this, the basic recipe was good and it used a lot of slightly manky veg.

Tonight we are having gammon, Hasselback potatoes and vegetables that are still to be decided. I’ve been meaning to do Hasselback potatoes for a while, and once I actually read the recipe I was amazed at how easy they are. They always look much more complicated when you see them served on TV.

This could be a case of “famous last words” because they are still in the oven.

Meanwhile, bubbling away on the hob we have a vegetable curry on the go for tomorrow. It’s onions, sweet potato, chickpeas, some chilli from a jar, garlic from a jar, curry powder and five ladles of spicy vegetable soup from yesterday, because it would be silly to waste it and if you have soup (or spicy vegetable sauce as it is now) you may as well put it in a curry.

You can probably tell from the nature of my ingredients that I’m not one of the world’s most industrious cooks, and that I have trouble with stock control and portion sizes, but I keep on trying. Cooking and writing are both similar in that you have to keep trying, and once in a while, possibly by accident, something good happens.

The photos tonight are chickpea and sweet potato curry and half-finished Hasselback potatoes. If I wait until it’s time to serve I’ll eat them before I remember to take the photos.


Chickpea and Swee4t Potato Curry, and steam