Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Thursday 22 March 2012

Spring is sprung...

..and if you're wondering where dem boidies is, there are plenty round our way.

We now have at least two pairs of great crested grebes in and around Canary Wharf, and judging by the way the pair I saw this afternoon were throwing shapes at each other, there will no doubt be more before long. Strange to think they were thought to be so rare in my childhood, the combination of Victorian fashion for fancy feathers (and even whole dead birds) in ladies' hats, advancing industrialisation and draining of marshes having reduced their numbers to the brink of extinction in this country. Now they live in the suburbs like everyone else.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

And the prize goes to....

..well, that's up to you if you wish to vote for the year's oddest book title.

Cooking with Poo simply turns out to be an unfortunate side-effect of a name in another language, which doesn't seem to me to be quite the point; while A Century of Sand Dredging in the Bristol Channel: Volume 2: The Welsh Coast, A Taxonomy of Office Chairs, Estonian Sock Patterns All Around the World and The Mushroom in Christian Art seem unsurprisingly logical and may serve some useful purpose to someone, however specialised they might seem for the general reader.

So we're left with Mr Andoh's Pennine Diary: Memoirs of a Japanese Chicken Sexer in 1935 Hebden Bridge, or The Great Singapore Penis Panic, both of which suggest an interesting tale or two.

Monday 19 March 2012


"All the best things about holidays", cooed the breathy voice on the telly, "begin with S: sun, sea, sand............. and Skegness". How can one resist?

Friday 16 March 2012

I like pickled onions, I like piccalilli

Or so the old song* goes.

I have no idea why the fancy took me to try making some piccalilli, but it's one way to brighten up a return to cold grey weather. Last time (a long, long time ago) the results were a bit too salty, so a recipe without pre-brining sounded like a good idea (as well as not cluttering up the fridge). The only trouble is, it'll be a few weeks before it'll be clear whether this will be a year's supply or a mess in the dustbin.

Well, almost the only trouble: doesn't turmeric stain? And thank goodness I didn't take a photo of the sauce when the flour and spice paste clumped up.....


Wednesday 14 March 2012

Some people never learn

On almost every visit to Amsterdam, I take a look at the Flower Market. Much of what it sells is irrelevant to the space-challenged flat-dweller, however impressive and/or beautiful, or just too exotic or weird to be practical. But quite often, the prospect of growing a large and multi-flowered hippeastrum (amaryllis) just can't be resisted: and this time was no exception. Every time I've done this in the past, I've picked out a bulb from the box labelled with what they call the picotee type (a fine red border to otherwise pure white petals) - but, whether it's careless labelling, careless packing or people picking things up and putting them back in the wrong box, probably only on two occasions did the flowers I was expecting appear.

And it's turned out the same this time: but the results are still pretty impressive, don't you think (even if my window-cleaning isn't)?

Monday 12 March 2012

High life

Not often one gets the chance to hobnob, however vicariously, with the likes of Churchill, Callas and Garbo, but since the yacht that once belonged to Aristotle Onassis is currently at Canary Wharf and open to visitors - well, why not?

One good reason might be the admission charge (almost as much as for the Tower of London and rather more than for the royal yacht Britannia), and another, the fact that it isn't that spectacular in itself, nor is the story it tells that unfamiliar. But I donned the compulsory plastic overshoes and wandered through its main state-rooms.

For a yacht, it's big (converted at huge expense from a wartime convoy escort ship), but the interior is not screaming ostentatious bling. True, there are a couple of soppy Renoirs and some paintings by Lavery, the fussy light fittings on the walls are of Baccarat crystal, there is quite a bit of marble, some onyx and lapis lazuli fittings; and some might consider having three grand pianos on board rather, so to speak, pushing the boat out. But the overall effect is of an upmarket and very, very discreet hotel - which, more or less, is what it now is (I'm guessing much of the moveable furniture and soft furnishings have been hotel-designed accordingly).

Nor do the various photos and mementoes of the people involved in Onassis's life suggest there was much enjoyment to hand, since they focus on the fairly disastrous love-lives that were all over the gossip columns of their day (and on Churchill whiling away his long retirement and decline).

We had as much excitement on the rather ramshackle converted lifeboat that served my parents as a cabin cruiser on the Thames for a year or two. The sight and sound of celebrities clashing egos on whale-foreskin-covered bar-stools would have been as nothing compared to the tale of the Day Dad Dropped The Elsan.

Sunday 11 March 2012


Much as seemed a neat idea to borrow Ken's way of minimising the passage of time, being sixteen once was quite enough, without repeating it another three times on top. Instead, I merely note that the once unthinkable turns out to be very comfortable, thank you very much, though staying out till quarter to three isn't an option any more, and I'm not entirely sure about the horoscope I noticed on Friko's blog a while ago:
The man born under Pisces shall be a great goer, a fornicator, a mocker and covetous; he will say one thing and do another. He shall trust in his sapience, he shall have good fortune; he will be a defender of widows and orphans. He shall be fearful on water; he shall soon pass all adversities and live seventy-two years after nature.
[Kalendar of Shepheardes, 1604]

Well, that's me told.