Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Spring is sprung....

And with it, time for a long-overdue spruce up. Oh, what heavy weather looking for the replacement for the tired old beigey-peach coloured bedroom carpet. There was an obvious type and make, of more or less the same style and quality, but somehow nothing in the range seemed quite the right colour. Surprising how, despite repeated checks of just about everything else in the shop, the answer turns out to be the one you first think of: and in the event, once actually in place, it turned out to be just about right after all.
The floor scraped clean and re-screeded
The new carpet in place

Outside, the spring flowers are well and truly in bloom:

Blackthorn on the Mudchute City Farm
Back garden cherry blossom
Ceanothus - earlier than ever

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Just a reminder

Not one of my photos, but quick work, whoever it was....

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Leftovers jam

Most years, gooseberries have such a short season in the supermarkets that they need to be snapped up, even if they aren't always used up: which means there are usually some lurking in the freezer waiting to be turned into jam - when I get around to it. And last week, the round tuit arrived.

It occurred to me this might be a useful occasion to make use of some items from the back of the cupboard, relics of past Christmas goody gifts. The last couple of chunks of some preserved ginger seemed a good match for gooseberries, even after sitting in their syrup for a couple of years; and then there was a jar of black figs with some brandy in the syrup. Figs have never been much of a favourite on their own, or even in a fruit salad (the only other idea I'd had for them), but chopped up they might add something to the gooseberries, even if it's only some extra pectin to set the jam.

The result may look a bit murky, but tastes good (still not keen on figs, though).

It's taken a few days' wait after eating some to be sure it's a modest success because, as I was putting the fig jar into the recycling, I noticed the date on it was...... some time in 2008.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Kalettes

No, not some long-forgotten variety act*, but (at the risk of bringing brassicaphobes out in spots) the offspring of an arranged marriage between kale and Brussels sprouts.

There was a brief glimpse of them in the BBC's Countryfile programme a few weeks ago, which sounded intriguing through the soporific haze of a Sunday evening's viewing. It seems they have actually been out on the market for quite a while, but it wasn't till this weekend that they turned up in my "selected retailer".

They're claimed to be a "fresh fusion of sweet and nutty". Well.. they're a pleasant enough variation, with neither of the potential disadvantages of either parent (but then, so are they, if they're cooked properly).

*They are, however. showbiz enough to have had their name changed from the more .prosaic "Flower sprouts", which would suggest a more down-to-earth sort of show.

Saturday, 31 December 2016

It's party time...

.. in fabulous Hackney - it must be fabulous because the Council says so, and here's their idea of why:
Click to enlarge
All good advice in theory, but the people who need to be told won't take any notice of notices, and those who don't need to be told might think twice about whether this is, after all, quite their sort of place.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Tip-top tap

If you're feeling a little over-full after the festivities,  and that your get up and go has got up and gone, here's some encouragement:

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas lights

This year, the main displays in central London seem to have moved away from the heavily commercial and promotional styles of recent years. Regent Street is all angels:

even if the crowd outside Hamleys looks like as mad a scrum as ever. The small streets around are getting in on the act as well, and Oxford St has gone to town on a starry theme as a charitable promotion:
Carnaby Street is reviving its 1960s reputation:
Not to be outdone, Covent Garden has seized on a mistletoe theme:
Seven Dials was severely modernistic for several years, but is now back with a more traditional sort of look:
but down on the Strand, they've gone for something more abstract, perhaps echoing the traditional austerity of the Norwegian donors of the Trafalgar Square tree:
 In the shops, some have gone for similar restraint, and John Lewis doesn't go much beyond imagining woodland animals' burrows full of everyday products:
 but Selfridges has Santa on an expensive winter sports holiday, which seems to include a hot tub full of champagne:

And up in Soho, your friendly neighbourhood sex shop is keeping up with the season:

Friday, 23 December 2016

More inches

How quickly the relief of taking a decision - any decision - in the fog of options gives way to a realisation that bringing in a larger TV screen demands a bit more thought.

No surprise, perhaps, that it needs to be further away - especially when there are close-ups of talking heads that appear more than lifesize. The few inches further away of this arrangement aren't enough yet: it will need the courage to trust wall mounts on these walls.

It's interesting to see how much has changed in just a few years. The underlying concept of the latest smart TVs is that they are a sort of super-tablet; live TV may still have "channels", but streaming over the internet requires "apps", and the interface to get to them is kept simple (to the point of simplistic, with brightly-coloured and minimally-labelled buttons, which on a screen this size appear huge). What with that and the idiot-proof quick set-up, you don't need an eight-year-old to explain how to use it - you become one.

An additional surprise is that this particular manufacturer (Panasonic) has managed to secure access to apps for news in French and German from their primary broadcasters, and one for documentaries in several languages from Arte, the Franco-German culture channel. That's quite enough to explore without taking on the ones that require additional subscriptions.

Friday, 9 December 2016

Inches

This is not some overrated piece of modern art, simply an attempt to mock up different sizes of TV screen to see how they might fit in. The existing one (temporarily parked on the floor) has taken to grumbling and wheezing on being asked to start up. It's served me well for eight years, and plugging in a replacement digital recorder/tuner that can take high-definition channels and internet services has given it a new lease of life - when it at last settles down after a few minutes. Realistically, though, it may give up altogether sometime soon.

Looking for the next advance in technologies reveals that simply to replace what I have now and to add some on-demand internet services means upgrading from the old 26" to a 32" screen; but for the full high-def, scroll-back/catch-up set-up, there's nothing less than a 40" (and even then it may not have the connectors for all the old technologies I'd want to plug in). Do I really want a window on the world (especially with the world as it is) to dominate my living room to that extent? Would it help to mount it on the wall (if I trusted the wall to hold it), or would there be room room if the clutter around it were tidied up and rearranged? Talk about a First World problem.

Somewhere in the back of my mind there's the sound of Miss Jean Brodie on the opening of a more literal window - "Six inches is perfectly adequate. More is vulgar."

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Sunset

Seen at our local DLR station. It remains to be seen whether any shepherds will be delighted. Definitely time for scurrying home to pull the curtains and butter toast.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

I seem to have missed World Toilet Day (which is probably just as well, as the temptation to ribaldry is too great for what is after all a serious subject), but today is a day for a different celebration, as the feast of St Cecilia, the patron saint of music.

She'd have to have the patience of a saint to cope with the output of an electronic keyboard that has just taken up residence in my flat - were it not for the fact that it comes with headphones (one has to think of the neighbours). Years ago I was "put to the piano", and lost touch with it, but now it's time to see if whether there's any satisfaction to be got from trying to take it up again.

So far, the ability to recognise what all that notation means has come back surprisingly quickly: and there's the additional toy factor of being able to switch the output sound to organ, harpsichord or vibraphone at the touch of a button, which adds a certain novelty. However, knowing what keys to touch when, and how, doesn't guarantee that the fingers will actually get there and on time - and yes, I do realise what will be needed to produce all the right notes and all in the right order:


Apologies for the advert at the beginning...

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Saturday, 29 October 2016

If you say so....

Tube stations have developed quite a reputation, and a certain competitive spirit, because of the various uplifting or humorous thoughts written on their temporary announcement boards.

But at Tottenham Court Road, this vague but ominous statement has been sitting by one of the exits for several weeks.

Whatever it is we're enjoined not to do, nobody seemed deterred.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Season's greetings

One gets inured to seeing Christmas packages of chocolates and biscuits before the end of October (and after all, there's no close season on either of those) - but, really.......... Christmas-themed loo paper?

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Everyone's a critic

You spend who knows how much time, ingenuity, sweat, tears and money developing some technological marvel - and then there's always someone to point out you've missed a bit:

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

First world problem

Staring in frustration at the library's book-recording computer (always a bit temperamental) as it insists it can't recognise the barcode on my card.

Until I realise it's my Waitrose loyalty card (well, they do look very similar from the back).

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

A learning experience....

Always double-check the packaging.

Having been organised enough to anticipate the impending emptiness of my last packet of coffee, I took the latest purchase out of the freezer, only to find it was a packet of beans rather than ground for filtering.

What's more, I have no coffee grinder. A food processor (slices, grates and liquidises, but that's about it); a stick blender (no, I don't think coffee soup would work); but no coffee grinder as such.

And then I remembered a Christmas gift from years ago. Out from under an accumulation of old, half-used spice packets (I dare not reveal how old) came the pestle and mortar. Five minutes' or so of vigorous pestling (or mortaring) produced something close to a brewable powder.

The results were palatable enough; and a tiny bit of exercise to boot. I call that a small victory, Or a score-draw at least.

Friday, 30 September 2016

If anyone still clings to outdated assumptions about classical music and the announcers on BBC Radio 3, then a quick trip to their temporary pop-up studio at the Festival Hall will soon put them to rights. The permanent studios may be better appointed, but in their little box, apart from a striking high-tech clock display, the electronics are confined to anonymous black boxes, and the desk is like anyone else's: breakfast cereals, coffee cups and in this case a screensaver of a very fluffy cat.

As ever, the Hall had plenty of other things going on, in particular a chance to try the virtual orchestra: a virtual reality headset puts you in the front row of the Philharmonia Orchestra's violins, right under the conductor - unless you choose to look around the 360° 3-D display. Not, perhaps, quite high-definition enough to be totally immersive, but still impressive. Perhaps one day we could experience whole concerts like this (but they'll have to make wearing the headsets a less sweaty experience).

Just to complete the cultural delights of the day, the new occupant of Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth has just been unveiled - a gigantic, elongated thumbs up. I'm not sure if it's to be taken superficially as intended to make everyone feel good about life, art and the universe (for the artist it is - you can buy a replica from a tent on Trafalgar Square for a mere £25 a pop) - or a satirical comment on superficial optimists. Pick your angle right and you might think the elongated thumb looks suspiciously like a middle finger.


Sunday, 4 September 2016

Metereological autumn begins with a busy weekend of events. On Saturday morning, the Great River Race, with its usual complement of picturesque flags, colourful boats and funny costumes (though some contestants were earnestly doing their stretching exercises when I went past the launching point).

Later on, the weather was doing its best to make up for the pyro-friendly conditions it set up for the Great Fire of London 350 years ago this weekend. The anniversary is being marked by a major festival events. One of these was a "domino topple" of breeze blocks, symbolising the speed and extent of the fire's spread. Starting, not quite in Pudding Lane like the fire, but from the Monument nearby, down Fish Street Hill to Lower Thames street, then up again towards Bank, Cornhill and Cheapside (setting off  second and third streams towards St Paul's and Cripplegate en route), snaking its way along the streets, through back alleys, squares and markets, and even through buildings.

Since the topple was moving too fast for the following spectators, I went another way up towards Bishopsgate to catch it at a later point. It had been set up to emerge from the back alleys through the Cross Keys pub and across and then up the street from there, but even quite a small crowd filled up the available viewing space. Traffic was of course blocked off in both directions and some drivers were making their impatience evident, much to the amusement of the man on the Stop-Go sign: "I'm paid more the longer I stay here!". A further diversion found a less crowded spot in Leadenhall Market, and eventually the stream appeared and disappeared up towards London Wall.

Next up will be the burning on the Thames of a wooden replica of mediaeval London, but I rather suspect the crowds and weather will make it the kind of even best seen on a screen - and it's being livestreamed online, thank goodness.