Thursday, May 31, 2012

We’ve just had 2 weeks of glorious weather. I think the technical term is ‘the English summer.’ After the cool start to May it was finally good to get some real sunny weather. It’s has all gone away now ready for the jubilee holidays next Monday and Tuesday. Back to rolling grey cloud and some rain and sitting indoors watching the world instead of being outside inside it. I’ve particularly enjoyed sitting in the yard watching the birds coming and going. There are 2 nests that I know of. A little wren has a nest in the brick shed and a mistle thrush is nesting in the climbing hydrangea. The mistle thrush seems to have no fear of anything and exits the plant at head level before sharply ascending over the wall. It is driving the dog to distraction. Main garden is looking good at the minute with walls of green and all the plants racing to grow. The warm weather really gave everything a lift. Even my asparagus bed has come good although it may be some years till I can sit and eat a bowl of it. It’s almost June so that means only 5 months to go before my job goes. I am starting to consider my (admittedly) limited options.

Option 1 – get another job although easier said than done and November is not a good time of the year anyway for employment.

Option 2 – Do nothing for a time

Option 3 – Get a part time job and study for a degree with the Open University.

Option 4 – Win the lottery

I’m thinking option 4 is the best but option 3 looks ok too. Soon it will all I shall be thinking about and I am not good at this kind of stuff at the best of times. Still should get the letter this week stating the exact severance payment so and I shall be able to make some informed choices then.

Mike’s off to London to see the Queen Saturday and on Sunday him and arch royalist Colin are guests of the BBC during the river pageant when she sails down the Thames on a barge. They are hoping to get on the TV so hope the weather holds up. Truth to tell I don’t think jubilee fever is that great and we are not expecting too many street parties and celebrations around here. It was a different story back in 1977 for the silver jubilee as I recall, but so much has happened since then I guess.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

23 years today; has it been so long?
Since my world so lessened in song
Despite the time quickly passing away
I still miss you mum every single day

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Walking Robbie at 6am the other day (can you spot the pheseant)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

How things looked 100 years ago

$500,000 plus all the hidden stuff to talk rubbish – I could do that and I’m available from October 2012. Might need to get a blonde wig and become a bit more masculine though. May you always live in interesting times indeed?

The International Monetary Fund managing director, Christine Lagarde insists it is payback time for Greece and makes it clear that the IMF has no intention of softening the terms of the country's austerity package. Lagarde, predicting that the debt crisis has yet to run its course, adds: "Do you know what? As far as Athens is concerned, I think they should also help themselves collectively." Asked how, she replies: "By all paying their tax." Asked if she is essentially saying to the Greeks and others in Europe that they have had a nice time and it is now payback time, she responds: "That's right."

Perhaps she could donate say $300,000 to Africa or Greece then. It would still leave her paid over $183,000 too much.  See link to IMF below - An allowance in the aggregate amount of $83,760 per annum – for what? -  Fake tan and a terrible sense in clothing obviously.

 '3. (a) your salary as Managing Director of the Fund shall be $467,940 per annum. As explained in Section 14(b) of the By-Laws, this salary shall be net of income taxes.

'(b) You will receive an allowance in the aggregate amount of $83,760 per annum, similarly net of any income taxes, payable in equal monthly installments, without any certification or justification by you, to enable you to maintain, in the interests of the Fund, a scale of living appropriate to your position as Managing Director and to the Fund’s need for representation. In addition, you will be reimbursed for reasonable expenses actually incurred for entertainment directly related to the business of the Fund.'

Friday, May 25, 2012

When all the salt is taken from the sea and returned to the earth through a thousand billion tears. Will we have learnt to sway the yearning to take all we can and hold it close till our fingers wither their grasp and are forced to let go? The finger of fate points solidly at our hearts and yet we would not heed it while we ascend the insurmountable face of mortality. It is a peak ever without end and by ignoring it we disregard the fact that we can help each other; because it boots nothing to keep it safe and hidden, when so many are in need.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Summer is finally coming now. It edges cautiously through the new leaves and filters across fields of rapeseed to become a representation of the sun brought to earth; huge swathes of gold that engender warmth and health. Now at last the rain stills away to present a warm green canvas to be detailed with the subtle colours of late spring. For me now a waking dream takes me barefoot through the soft grass and bluebells. They wreathe around my ankles and scent the air with the heady breath of May. I think that I should sit awhile and simple be aware of all that I am and all that I shall be. Though I am not conceivably content; I am for a time at peace. Nothing shall disturb my reverie save perhaps a thought of you and just one wish shapes the deliberation. That you are well and that you always find the strength to take what little is given with a good heart and to always now that I shall be here thinking of matter the hour and that if those thoughts could fly then you’d be sat beside me now on this fragrant greensward in late May with the concerto of birdsong as accompaniment to the wonder of the world we would remain in so much longer.
Modesty in all things

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Owl at Preston (taken with Nick's samsung Galaxy Note)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Well the weather continues to be grim although we have been offered a little respite from the rain this weekend. Temperatures though are struggling to get above 11-12 degrees (Celsius) whether it is dry or sunny. Still nice to enjoy the garden even if it is cool. The flowers are colourful at the minute and the one plus of the cooler weather is the absence of biting midges. Flowers currently out are Tulip, Wisteria, bolted cabbage, Pieris and Bluebell. One of the neighbours saw a magazine article on grouping lots of different flowers in small jars and vases and took some of each for here arrangement. Cabbage flowers are individually quite attractive and en-masse when in a field of rape breathtaking. I think my favourite would be rows and rows of lavender in a field in France – that must be an amazing sight. Who knows next year when I have the time I might even go and have a look. See her arrangement below – looks good and I love these 2 dolls. I can remember when women were like this and generally the better for it.

So tell me now why did I build the summerhouse? I bought a lamp for it the other week. I had thought to maybe take a week off last week but cancelled it due to the poor weather. So now shall wait till the Queen’s Jubilee week and take that off instead. I’m trying to be prudent with my works holiday allocation this year and achieve maximum benefit from them. Why do we do that? Especially when all the signs point to the impending implosion of the financial world and really the natural inclination is to enjoy it while you can.

Ran out of jam at the weekend so made some blueberry frangipane jam – not really sure about it but should be good for Bakewell tart bases and sponges. The ground almonds give it a coarse texture. I added them to get a set as I don’t think blueberries on their own have an awful lot of pectin in. I’m not even sure one can add ground almonds to jam but I did and it worked. Jam is so easy to make that it never seems worth buying it anymore. Here’s the recipe if anyone is interested

600g blueberries
600g sugar
100g ground almonds

Wash blueberries and add to pan with sugar and heat till a rolling boil is achieved. You can’t walk away from jam or it will burn. Boil mixture to setting point, (you need a jam thermometer for this) and then add ground almonds. Pot into clean, oven heated jars and seal; and that’s it.

The queen is in Accrington today so expect more pictures from the visit. Let’s see how close they get this time.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Baguette or Loaves with a ‘poolish ferment’ Re: Richard Bertinet method
The Poolish ferment

5g fresh yeast
350g water
300g strong white flour
50g dark rye flour

Stir the yeast into the water in a bowl and add flours and stir well. You are not trying to make a dough by the way as the mix is too wet and it doesn’t need to be smooth and lump free but it does need to be mixed well. Cover and leave at room temperature for 6 hrs or place in refrigerator overnight. (The ferment will keep for a couple of days without any real harm so long as the yeast was fresh.) The fridge method is supposed to be the best one.

To make the bread

1.3kg strong white flour
700g water
20g fresh yeast
30g salt

Mix the yeast in the lukewarm water and with the flour and add both to the poolish. Bring the mix together and knead well for 10 min then sprinkle the salt on the dough and knead till smooth and elastic. (The hand kneading method or a mixer is your choice but you will need a heavy duty mixer for this amount of dough.)

Rest and prove till almost doubled in volume then turn out and gently work into 2 large or 4 small loaves or 10 baguettes and prove again till almost doubled in size. Slash tops and bake for 25 mins at 235C (fan) 250C (non fan oven) or 460F (fan) 480F (non fan oven) approx 25-40 mins depending on size.

Mist the oven before putting in the bread develops the crust but may damage the oven if the water hits the element so for me; not worth it.
Try to maintain the dough smooth side to the top when proving and shaping

Thursday, May 10, 2012

There's a certain amount of faith required when following the recipes in Richard Bertinet's new book Crust. The French baker, who runs a bakery and cookery school in Bath, is a firm believer in using a high percentage of water in his bread recipes, which he argues makes for light and airy loaves. Once you get the hang of the technique “You’ll believe!"

Crust, which is subtitled Bread to get your teeth into, is aimed at the general public. Crust's recipes, covering 158 pages, are more advanced than those outlined in his first book (Dough, published in 2005)

The first chapter runs through the basics, covering tools and Bertinet's techniques for working and shaping the dough, before a large chapter dedicated to 'slow' breads. This includes excellent detail on how to produce sourdough loaves, with information on making and refreshing the ferment, as well as recipes for breads made with a liquid 'poolish' ferment and the French autolyse method, which involves letting the dough 'self mix'.

I believe – made some great bread the other day using the ‘poolish’method.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Left a surprise for a neighbour - hope she doesn't drink the bottle

Look to me coming when the world is once again how I remember it to be. No more can I advance and stay whole in the climate we have now. It reeks of treachery and black deeds. Long have I watched deep into the night with nothing but the wind and stars to guide me. I look to the heavens and see the constellations above wheeling in endless schemes of possibility and yet none of this do I see here among us. The universe has removed its gaze as we have become further from the celestial truths that she was so eager to show us. It saddens my aged heart to know what is to come and be capable of naught to avert it.

It is ever so that we perforce lose that which, so dreaded; arrives to our time despite all the ultimately futile efforts of appeasement to prevent it. We cannot defeat the cycles of decadence and rebirth, but we can divert its black aims of subjugation and dominance over all living things. What we have lost we must relearn and what is took from us we must regain. If it takes a thousand years we will have peace.

So I shall withdraw to my land for a time within the boundaries of my thoughts. Where the dawns rise swift and golden over long green hills and the ice blue lake reflects the coming of another beautiful day. I shall sit on a rolling greensward and watch the birds arise and sing honeyed melodies to rival angels. Scents of thyme and bread baking in wood fired ovens shall wend the breeze and languish on the warm air No harm shall enter my world and hurt any part of it ever again, for the spite that mars now all we do and build shall be cast down forever soon.  

Monday, May 07, 2012

In secret they warp history and divinity
Seek to destroy all who gainsay them
Make wars and worthless claims on...
How to live beyond science and humility
Enslave embittered populaces in hope
Revel in a divine right to be outside time
Eagerly repeat all the same old cachets
Accepting the world is all we have is heresy
Overtly Increase suspicion and mistrust
To grow divisions where there is harmony
Destroy all those who seek a different path
It is done, the world spins backwards again

Saturday, May 05, 2012

6.00am - just been out. It's a cold, crisp, sunny morning but we had an unexpected hard frost last night so looking like a few plants will suffer. That's gotta black off the growing potatoes and the Gunnera. Another frost tonight down to -3 (expected) but cold for May.

Time steps by into more time bought on the memories of the past. Each memory is worth the world; for what is life but a living dream? Each of us moves through time within our own dreams and each one of them is unique. Every person creates their own universe and places at the centre of it; themselves. Stepping back I see how precious this gift is and yet how I wish my temporal kingdom could merge into yours. That I might show you all the things I have seen and felt. Every hope and dream, fear and doubt that makes me who I am. That I might see yours and understand what has shaped me for your dreams have surely enriched me beyond measure.
I entered a Hallmark card competition the other week

Friday, May 04, 2012

Philip Hammond, the UK Defence Secretary, said that banks were not solely responsible for the financial crisis as “they had to lend to someone”. The minister, who played a key role in drawing up David Cameron’s economic strategy in opposition, also claimed that people who took out loans were “consenting adults” who, in some cases, were now be seeking to blame others for their actions.

Mr Hammond made the comments after Sir Mervyn King, the Governor of the Bank of England, admitted that he should have “shouted from the rooftops” about the dangers facing the financial system. Sir Mervyn also criticised the delay by Gordon Brown’s government in bailing out the banks; remarks that prompted calls for an official inquiry into the role of regulators, the Bank and ministers in the financial collapse.

So the general public is responsible. It was our fault after all. Nothing to do with the Thatcher government inspired selling of most of the national assets, the rampant property speculation that was fuelled with the giving away of local and central government real estate and the massive deregulation of the banks. What he doesn't admit is that the government is responsible for forcing house prices so high that people had no option but to join in or remain at the mercy of speculative landlords. What is the government doing now to get off the property speculation band wagon? – erm, nothing, just more lies and passing the blame around. Why because Hammond is still backing his rich mates hoarding all the cash and we need to remember that this guy is charged with the defence of the realm. After the disastrous election results for this government yesterday look to a cabinet reshufle soon - hopefully right out of the political door the lot of them.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Wherever you tread grow flowers
Whatever you do is a sign of hope
Whatever I find I dedicate to you
Whatever happens from now is fate
One of the world's most iconic masterpieces, The Scream by Edvard Munch, has sold for $119.9m (£73.9m), becoming the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction.

The version sold last night was the only one remaining in private hands and is considered perhaps the most sought-after of the four because it contains a poem about the work – written in the artist’s own hand – on the frame.

It reads: “I was walking along the road with two Friends / the Sun was setting – The Sky turned a bloody red / And I felt a whiff of Melancholy – I stood / Still, deathly tired – over the blue-black / Fjord and City hung Blood and Tongues of Fire / My Friends walked on – I remained behind / – shivering with Anxiety – I felt the great Scream in Nature – EM.”

Well I just feel amazed. How many people would this feed or save- anyway can't stop now i'm off to find some crayons and paper.