Tag Archives: bread

The Blotted Copybook

Oh dear.

I watched TV, I ate the curry that Julia had made. I watched The Great British Sewing Bee. Then, having listed the jobs I needed to do, I fell asleep. When I awoke it was too late to finish the shopping and when it arrives there will be no bread. More annoyingly, because I have failed to make it to the minimum order level, I will have to pay a £4 surcharge.

The moral is clear – order earlier. The secondary moral is that it doesn’t matter. We can buy bread seperately and £4 isn’t enough to worry about, It’s annoying but it won’t break me.

It wasn’t the only blot on my copybook, I failed to post a second time, as I intended. Then, having dragged myself from my sleep at 1 am I proceeded to make sandwiches and after that,  foolishly, sat down for a few minutes at the computer. Over an hour passed. I am closer to completing some submissions (everything seems to be dragging at the moment) but I am also late to bed, which will mean more sleep-based problems tomorrow.

Dream sequence of a clock, hands turning quickly…

Fourteen hours later. I am in trouble for passing the boss a phone call which I could have handled.

Stephen Hawking 50p

“I’ve already had a dozen like it,” I said, “and if I hadn’t passed it over to you I’d have ben rude to him.”

“I was rude to him.”

“Yes,” I said, “but I’m paid to be polite and I have reached breaking point.”

I then had another dozen, but that one pass saved my manners and the day passed off without incident. It was close though. I don’t know why people think a coin from the 1980s is of any value, or why a 50p that you can pull out of your change would be worth £6,000.  If you could pull a £6,000 coin out of your change, do they think I’d be sitting in the windowless middle room of a shop answering their calls.

I don’t mind the enquiries, it’s sensible for people to ring up after seeing yet another outrageously inaccurate story in the press. It’s the ones that clearly don’t believe me that get on my nerves. I once offered a woman a selection of coins for £2.50 each. She didn’t buy them. But she did want me to buy hers for £3,000, and left the shop chuntering about me knowing nothing.

Again, did she think I’d be standing there serving her if I could buy five coins for £12.50 and turn them into £15,000.  If I could make that sort of money every day I’d stay at home and employ a butler to go down to the shop and insult customers.

1973 50p

Some Feelgood Photos

Stilton and Date Scones

Yes, I admit that I could have included kittens, puppies and seals, or even smiling babies and teddy bears, but none of them really make me as happy as pictures of home baking. I really should start doing more of it, but my hands make it difficult. Maybe a mixer is in order. I could also have included pictures of Julia but that would just be sentimental., and, let’s face it, most people would rather see scones.

The cicones in the picture above are Date and Stilton Cheese scones – my own recipe. They are better than they sound, in case you don’t like Stilton, because the Stilton flavour doesn’t really come out in them. If you do like Stilton they are slightly disappointing, for the same reason.

Grantham Gingerbreads

Tricky biscuits because they are supposed to open up and be hollow in the middle. I’ve never quite got that right, though they taste OK and look alright on the outside. Only made them twice because, to be honest, they are more trouble than they are worth.

Peppermint Creams

I like peppermint creams but I may as well just inject myself with glucose syrup as they are basically just sugar with a bit of extra effort thrown in. The most important thing about making them was that they pick up any bit of loose colour in the cooking area. They even managed to take up blue from the chequered table covering.

Gingerbread Men

Probably should be called gingerbread people in these days of political concern. Or Gender Fluid Gingers, as there is no actual indication of gender. This would probably annoy  people with ginger hair…

OK, they are biscuits with ginger in them. Since when did biscuits get so political?

Wheatsheaf Loaf (with mouse)

Mouse on Wheatsheaf Loaf

These are useless because you can’t actually eat them, but they were always nice to make.  Not only was it good to feel artistic for once, bu it was nice to be part of an ancient tradition.

Bread, Courses and Quarantine

Though I’ve had a few days which were mostly pointless, I have managed to get a bit done. I now have seven submissions waiting for decisions by editors. They are all properly prepared and sent out in the form requested, so it’s just the quality that remains to be tested.

Meanwhile I finally got on with the poetry course that stalled when they messed up the passwords just before Christmas. It doesn’t take long to put an end to a habit and it took them a couple of weeks to fix it, which was more than enough.

Last week I completed it, then started another poetry course. Unfortunately that was delayed because I noticed they had short course about Mexican Revolutionary Murals. I like Mexican Revolutionary Murals. I just finished that and will be returning to poetry once more. To be honest, they aren’t great courses, and the wiki article is much more detailed, but It’s a start. I probably wouldn’t have even looked at the article if I hadn’t spotted the course.

Today, I can. I believe, consider myself to be out of quarantine. I celebrated by going shopping and buying fresh bread. It makes things a lot easier if you can buy fresh bread between deliveries sandwich baguettes, rye sourdough, chocolate brownies

It’s an interesting word, because, like so many things, it indicates how much the modern world is a watered down version of previous centuries. Quarantine used to be a period of 40 days (it’s there if you look) but it’s been 14 through the pandemic and it’s now reduced to 10, as people are all complaining. From today the ten day hotel quarantine has started. I tried to read the details, but it’s confusing and as it doesn’t apply to me I decided not to bother. I have a head full of poetry and Mexican murals – there’s no room for anything else.

I have a simple solution to the problems of quarantine. I would simply ban international passenger flights and have done with it. We can do without them for a month or two. Next time there’s a pandemic I’d also immediately ban all flights. People who want to come home, and bring their viruses with them, can wait a couple of weeks then fly home to quarantine. I’d stick them in disused military camps, and when you run out of space I’d stick them in disused hangers or in tents.

It’s a brutal approach, I admit, but what would you prefer – some holidaymaker gets two extra weeks in a tent on Salisbury Plain or one of your elderly relatives dies?

Today’s random photos are seals – taken in the days we were allowed to visit.

Grey Seal at Donna Nook, Lincolnshire

Grey Seal at Donna Nook, Lincolnshire

Grey Seal at Donna Nook, Lincolnshire 

Some Photos from the Archives

I had a look through a few old photos on an SD card last night. I’m having to use one of the cameras as a card reader now the reader on the computer is bust. None of my plug in card readers work because they never seem to last long. It’s very frustrating.

The first ones are a few photos from the days when I used to cook wheatsheaf loaves at harvest time. The farmer’s mother used to like to take one to church for the harvest festival and we used to display them at the local show. They aren’t particularly artistic, and nothing like as good as one produced by a professional, but it does show what you can do with dough and patience.

I’ve shown these before, so sorry about the repetition, but it’s a nice reminder of the days when we could get flour.

This is a pair I made using leftover pizza dough. They were about eight inches high and we handed them round to visiting school parties until they fell apart. I’m told that if you dry them properly whilst baking you can make a loaf that will last for years. I never found that, mine always seemed to crack and fall apart. It may have been the way I constructed them as they seemed to fracture along fault lines as if there was an internal problem. One did last a couple of years but these small ones, like the larger ones, lasted a couple of months before the faults developed. It’s long enough – as harvest ends and autumn begins everyone wants to move on to apple juice and jam.

These are a couple of mice from different loaves. You make an egg shaped piece of dough, poke two eyes in the sharp end, make two scissor snips for ears and then stick it on the stalks before applying a tail. It’s actually what you are judged on.

Nobody remarks on the 30 stalks you laboriously roll out, or the 100 ears of wheat (and the hundreds of snips you make to give them texture) – they just want to point at the mouse.

It’s like peering at the Mona Lisa for ten minutes before saying ‘Nice frame.’

Wheatsheaf Loaf (with mouse)

Wheatsheaf Loaf (with mouse)

I can’t remember the exact instructions, but you make a dough with less yeast than usual and divide it into three. One third becomes the base, which is a keyhole shaped piece of flat dough you use as a base – it’s important to get that in the right proportion if the finished loaf is to look right – it took me several goes to get this right. One third becomes the ears and one third becomes stalks and extras.

Do the stalks and position them, do the ears. A piece of dough about the size of the top finger joint will be OK – give it a few snips for texture and that’s a good enough impression of an ear of wheat – nobody ever criticised. Make a decent width of plait to act as the binding – it also serves to cover the raggedy join between stalks and ears.

Then finish off with a mouse. The previous tedious hour of shaping and snipping means nothing if the mouse isn’t right.

Glaze it, remembering not to clog the detail, bake it, try to dry it out as much as possible then cool it and stand back to receive compliments from people who don’t really understand how simple it is.

Remember that although the traditional ones were often two or three feet long that is because they were made by commercial bakers with big ovens – in a domestic oven you can do one about eighteen inches high.

If you feel inspired to try one, here are some better instructions.

Tomorrow I have some pictures of scones.

Panic-Buyer!

Yes, I finally cracked. After checking our food supplies yesterday, and seeing we were deficient in fresh vegetables, we decided to go out and look for the things we needed.

Did we actually need to do it? Probably not. Is it panic-buying? I don’t know.

However, we haven’t exactly been out stripping shelves in the last few weeks and, as Julia exercises indoors, we have been taking isolation seriously. I, of course, take my exercise by walking from TV to kettle, and back. I think we can allow ourselves a shopping trip.

We drove past ALDI on the way to the vegetable shop and noted that they had a security man on the door but no queue. We parked there and, while Julia went round the corner, clutching a list of vegetables, I went into ALDI. I felt like a child at Christmas.

There was just so much stuff in display, including bread, milk, long-life milk and eggs. What a difference two weeks makes. A fortnight ago it wouldn’t have meant anything. It would merely have been what you expected. Today, I could feel tears at the back of my eyes. Briefly. I’m not normally an emotional man, but the sight of all that sliced bread had a powerful effect on me.

If that happens after a couple of weeks, I wonder what I’d have done after six years of wartime rationing. I’d probably have made a proposal of marriage to a sliced wholemeal loaf.

I did the shopping for a whole week, seeing as it was there. I also bought a few extra bits, including an extra bag of potatoes, two litres of long-life milk, and a bag of pasta as a bit extra. I can rationalise it as protecting us from other people and their panic buying, though it’s also, to be honest, panic buying in its own right.

I’m not sure whether to feel happy or guilty. This feeling was reinforced when a flurry of snow hit us in the car park.

Meanwhile, on the TV news I saw this report.

I’ll give you a quote from it: ‘To all the people in this great city of ours in Derby, if you have gone out and panic bought like a lot of you have and stacked up your houses with unnecessary items you don’t normally buy or you have bought in more food than you need, then you need to take a good look at yourself.’

I can, with my hand on my heart, tell you that haven’t thrown a single scrap of food away in the last three weeks.

In a week or two I will be making Woolton Pie. If I can get flour it will have a crust. If not, it will have to have a mashed potato top.

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Clivia – a family heirloom

The end photograph is our clivia. I’ve always called it a Natal Lily, but it might not be, as it looks like a different cultivar. We have had it for about 30 years, since my mother passed it on to Julia. Two days ago we managed to knock it over, so it’s looking a bit worse for wear.

In the 30 years we have passed several on, having grown them from root division. It needs to be under cover, which is a shame, because it’s a lovely plant, and would look good in the garden. You can grow agapanthusred hot pokers and mesambryanthemums outside in the UK – it’s a shame we can’t grow clivia. The garden next door used to have a fine show of agapanthus, but the last owner buried them under their new drive.

Parenting, Porridge and Pessimism

We had a lie in until just after eight and got ready without having to rush to a deadline, then, in case the luxury of the moment should spoil us, we had porridge. Without sugar.

If porridge had a family tree it wouldn’t be far from wallpaper paste on the chart, probably a second cousin, but it’s good for me. It’s full of dietary fibre, it’s economical and it helps build stoicism.

I will spare you the next few lines, but let’s say that they weren’t cheerful and the spirit of optimism has taken a holiday too. All I have left to look forward to is five and a half years of work before I retire and embark on life with some very poor pension arrangements. Stoicism is going to come in very useful.

I know I’m getting old as I’m entering the penultimate stage of parenthood. I’ve pushed them around in a pram, worried about their health, maturity, education and careers. I’m now worrying that I won’t be able to leave them anything when I die. That only leaves the final stage, where they have to worry about my health and push me around in a wheelchair. I only hope my brain lives long enough for me to appreciate the irony.

Julia has gone to town to renew her bus card. I have sorted out my car insurance details, moved stuff round to give access to the electricians, and taken waste paper out. With all the pizza menus, seed catalogues and generally useless waste I reckon I’ve just dumped a good couple of pounds of waste paper in the recycling bin.

According to the 2011 census figures there are 126,131 households in Nottingham so that’s over 252,262 pounds of waste, and that’s accumulated in just a couple of months so the annual figure will be 1,513,572 lbs of waste paper. That’s 686 metric tonnes of paper that need never have been produced.

I just looked Nottingham City Council up to see if they had figures that I could compare and they don’t. They do, however, tell me that they give out 160,000 single-use recycling bags last year. They are for people in flats. They are taking steps to end this, but it seems that it’s taken a long time to get round to it.

Apart from seeing the seals, as mentioned yesterday, I don’t have many plans for the next week. I’d better think of something fast, as worrying about death, children and recycling isn’t what I had in mind when I booked a week off.

I may give some thought to feeding ducks. What people don’t realise when they talk about “feeding ducks” is that there are people out there who will quite happily tip out a pack of white bread and then, after five minutes of laughter, will walk off leaving bread floating on the water and cluttering up the shore. The result – apart from a nutritionally dodgy meal for ducks – rats and festering bread.

A Few Favourite Photographs

 

Now that I look back on my flower photos I wish I’d taken more. They are very comforting in the middle of winter.

I also wish I’d sorted them better as I’ve had to go through 1,300 images to find these.  They are cheering me up already, particularly the blossom. I’m looking forward to blossom time, which seems a very haiku time of year.

I’ve always like grasshoppers as subjects – something that hides in the grass and is prone to jumping when disturbed is a challenge, and a good shot is always a pleasure.

Finally, the Bread Group’s end of year curry. I miss the bread group, the smell of fresh bread and, of course, the curry.

I’m now feeling cheered, pleasantly nostalgic and inspired to write haiku, so it was worth sorting through a few photos.

Sunday Morning Catch Up

I haven’t been particularly fluent in the last week and I’ve missed a few things out.

The anti-coagulant blood test came and went. They managed to get the blood first time and the next appointment is in two weeks time so things are back on track. I’m hoping to extend the interval so I only need monthly tests. I know someone who has quarterly tests, which would be even better.

We went to the farm on Friday, as I mentioned and found that Evie the sheep dog had died at the weekend. The general view is that she had eaten poison, though I’m not sure where she would have found any as all the rat poison round the place is put out properly in bait boxes. It’s not the best run farm but they do get that right.

She was bred to herd sheep, and as I mentioned when she first arrived she immediately tried to herd the Quercus group, but she was never properly trained and I’m not sure if she had a fulfilled life or not. She didn’t seem overly happy at times, which is a shame.

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The new puppy

The men in sheds were saying how good my bread was on Friday. This isn’t linked to any proper measure of quality, they just used to like getting free bread when I was practising and made too much. I said I didn’t bake these days as the kneading plays havoc with my arthritis. Next thing I knew I was being offered healing.

I’m not much of one for faith healing and that sort of thing, and was prepared to feel no benefit, but can’t say that was the case. There may have been some improvement for a couple of days, but it might just be wishful thinking. The jury is out, but I’m certainly not going to dismiss it. The improvement may show more about my imagination than about my arthritis, but even an imaginary improvement is worth having.

Then on Saturday I met a paranormal investigator. You’ll have to come back later for details, as I need to get down to the launderette now. Suffice to say that if I had doubts about healing…

 

Eleven Photos and the Benefits of Blogging

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Teasels in flower

The main picture shows some teasel in flower. They have gone over a bit but you can still see some of the bluish flowers. I thought I’d include the picture after showing the mature ones earlier on this week.

 

The fungus is growing out of one of the raised beds in the Mencap garden and the mooring ring is from the quay at Burleigh pottery in Stoke.  I spotted the blue butterfly on a visit to Men in Sheds in the summer and the bear was in a field near Scarborough advertising a music event. The dragonfly was pictured on our trip to Rutland Water, but I don’t seem to have identified it on the photo and can’t find the reference. I think it’s a Common Darter if I  remember correctly – I only see common things.

 

The bird with the bandit mask is another Nuthatch and the Swan was cruising down the river at the back of the National Arboretum last year. The mouse is from a harvest loaf we cooked on the farm and the remaining two photos are also from the farm – a Mint Moth (there were dozens about in the herb garden) and a poppy with chamomile.

They all bring back memories, and without blogging I wouldn’t have restarted with the photography – another thing I like about blogging!

The Bread Group – A Retrospective

The Bread Group was originally set up in 2012 when we did a school holiday project with parents and children. One of the parents asked about us doing similar things in the future and Julia decided to set a group up so local people could get together and learn to bake together.

Gail arrived shortly after and under her leadership the group went from strength to strength, proving to be popular both for social, baking and health reasons. The group was the driving force behind our successful run of Open Farm Sunday events, and also helped make our one and only Winterfest a great success. That proved to be a problem.

The first winter event, organised by the farmer’s sister and with me as a disappointing  Santa, attracted 11 children and made a loss. The next one, with Julia on crafts and Gail on catering, and with a less grumpy Santa, attracted hundreds of people and made about £600. Things looked set for an annual event, with craft fair and profit, but by the time we were ready to plan for the next one the writing was already on the wall.

Cynics might say many things at this point, but this is meant to be a celebration of bread and friendship, and that’s how I’m going to leave it, with a selection of pictures and memories of bread, Christmas curries and the group’s visit to India.

Thanks are due to Gail and all members of the group for cheering the place up on a regular basis and for all their hard work in helping run the centre events over the years.

Sadly, although the kitchen extension is now complete, they have not been invited back and it looks like the group has now passed into history.

The days of wine and roses, they are not long…