Saturday, 29 June 2013

among the trees again

With kitchen prose and gutter rhymes.
Songs from the wood make you feel much better

The house smells of cat wee.

Finally, after weeks waiting for the moment to come, the beautiful umbrellas of elderflowers are out everywhere. I noticed them on Monday whilst walking to work. I went up to a wooded (man-made) area near to us called The Grove this morning to pick some. I wandered around with a large plastic bag and a holster with a gardeners knife and a pair of secateurs in. Obviously I got a few strange looks but I'm used to that.

I use Hugh Dick-Furry Whittington's recipe as it's easy to follow. Most people who know me are aware of a certain clumsiness that no doubt would nowadays be diagnosed as dyspraxia to the hilarity of many students over the years as I've managed to walk into desks, trip over bags and such-like. So obviously the whole morning wasn't without its little mishaps. So to the recipe ingredients were added: scissors, Savlon antiseptic cream, plasters. I managed to grate quite a hefty lump out of my thumb whilst grating the lemons for their zest but managed to avoid getting any blood into the final mixture. Unlike the time we once had guests and I managed to chop a huge chunk out of my thumb whilst carving the lamb. . . but that's another story for another time. But then that's nothing compared to the time I thought I'd hold a log whilst chopping it with an axe . . .

Anyway, the mixture is now sitting in a big plastic bucket in our back room giving off the fragrance of the finest cat wee. If you've never made it, elderflower champagne is easy and well worth it. Good to have a bottle on Christmas Day.

So whilst that's bubbling away - or soon will be - I'm waiting for the dough I've just kneaded to rise so I can bake it. With the various salads, tomatoes and herbs growing in the garden, it looks as though Summer has finally arrived. Festival time - Glastonbury is on this weekend and it isn't even raining. The BBC have managed to avoid all mention of the Oysterband who played there on Friday so I won't be able to see any of their set but they are playing Ipswich in December. Mrs Dave and I are off to the Maverick Americana festival next weekend and Cambridge at the start of the Summer holidays. Looking forward to Martin Simpson's set - hopefully he'll be able to stay on stage for the full set this time.

It's been a long week so it's a fairly restful weekend. We went to the Y13 Prom on Thursday which was a very pleasant affair as usual. Despite sinking a bottle of Malbec I felt fine the next day. Unlike a few people I could mention. All-in-all, with the sun shining and the feeling that Summer has started, I'm beginning to relax a bit after a fairly hectic year.

Evidently it's St Paul's Day today and some rain needs to fall in orchards to christen the apples. There's not much rain around here today. I'm sure the apples will be fine, though.

Ah well, time to bake that bread . . .

Saturday, 15 June 2013

after rain

Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse.  Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.
A people sometimes will step back from war;
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen:  may it happen for you.

Ah . . . back in the room again. I've decided that I should reconfigure myself as the Sisyphus of the Dishwasher. What is it about bloody dishwashers?  Every time I come down to the kitchen to make a cup of tea I have to empty the damned thing. Am I forever condemned to the meaningless task of emptying it and endlessly refilling it? Anyway, on to more important matters . . .

I can't start to explain how ridiculous the last few weeks have been. Honestly, I can't.

We seem to have finally got the house in order after the fire but it wasn't until this week that that happened. I spent most of the half term break fighting the demands of wandering through a building site and marking exams. The anomie created by the builders/decorators/Bogey men won out. Little really got done. However, one student cheered me up completely by writing an essay about a film called I, Robert which evidently was about a time when the world got tired of all the Roberts and wanted to get rid of them all. Can't wait for my friend Robert to come back off of holiday . . . 

Last weekend we spent the whole weekend painting all of the bits of woodwork that the Insurance decorators weren't going to paint. Which was most of it. Let's face it, I live in a three storey Edwardian town house, so that's a lot of stair spindles, dado rails and skirting boards. I lifted the carpet ready for Wednesday's visit by the carpet fitters. Tuesday night, I lifted* the underlay which meant I spent all of Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning trying to extricate my slippers from the grippers (poetic, eh?). The three o'clock visit to the bathroom involved some swearing. However, the biggest surprise of all was . . .  Ofsted decided to inspect us on Wednesday and Thursday. Okay, so now I'm behind in exam marking, the carpet people are coming tomorrow and now Satan's representatives on Earth are paying a visit? What else could go wrong?

Well. After my first lesson on Wednesday morning on the other site (our school - sorry, Academy - is on two sites) I went out to the car in a hurry assuming that I'd probably be observed next lesson. The car wouldn't open. When I put the key into the door all Hell broke lose. Whilst, in truth only the lights were flashing on and off (with the extraordinarily loud beeping), it seemed as though the roof and doors were opening as in some surreal dream of the worst clown's car in the worst circus your wildest nightmares could conjure. Real Ray Bradbury stuff.  Whilst I stood there in absolute disbelief watching the seconds tick by like Rod Taylor in the 1960 version of The Time Machine watching ladies fashions changing every few seconds, a friend came to my rescue. Evidently, these modern keys don't even have batteries - you need to alternate the keys if you have more than one as the car charges it (or some such rubbish).

I wasn't observed. Not at all. Over both days - which is enough to decide whether after all the years of training and actually doing the job - Ofsted deemed it unnecessary to see me. Well, I've no time for Ofsted and, quite clearly, they've no time for me. However, as I drove home that evening hoping that the carpet fitters had been and that it all looked okay.

The pile of carpet offcuts and underlay lying on the front garden suggested that they'd been. Opening the front door suggested that they'd also decided that they didn't have to clear up after themselves either. A quick trip to the Tip and an hour with the Dyson soon sorted it all out. Most of the hour was spent trying to work out how to work the damned thing. The last time I'd "hoovered" the stairs was, literally using a Hoover. What's going on with all that Space Age Dyson stuff? They look like drawings from a D&K cutaway book.

Anyway, Ofsted have gone leaving only the smell behind them. Life goes on - we survived. I won't go into any boring detail except to say that we can get on with life now. No Damoclean Sword hanging over us for the last few weeks of the academic year (not forgetting that this has been hanging over us ALL YEAR).  We can get on with our marking (I'm exceptionally late this year with it but the Exam Board have kindly given me an extension). 

In the meantime, I've reacquainted myself with Clive Gregson & Christine Collister's ouevre, watched most of The Eagles' documentary and am looking forward to seeing John Etheridge and a pickup band on Sunday night 200 yards from my house. So, life's not all bad. The weather isn't great but after the rain this afternoon, the garden seemed fresh. However, whilst out foraging, I've not been able to find any elderflowers yet. I want to make some Elderflower Champagne. For once, we've got loads of stoppered bottles but no bloody elderflowers.

Oh well, I'd better go and empty the dishwasher, it seems to have finished its cycle . . .
And the sky never leaves me
I couldn't find the words to say
First we take it easy
Then we take it day by day 
After rain, after rain
We can walk in green fields once again
And all my life I'll read the sky 

* I mean, of course, tore up and pulled all tacks, nails and staples.
PS Blogger is playing up again. The amount of time I've spent trying to stop it putting white bands around every line is ridiculous. And as for re-ordering the labels . . .well!

Saturday, 1 June 2013

let's drink from the well at the world's end

. . . beer joint lights come on
And then the crowd starts rollin' in
Pretty soon you got stars on the water 

Moving on from my previous post but not very far, let's think about beer just for a change.

I'm currently reading The Search for the Perfect Pub by Paul Moody and Robin Turner. I started reading it the day after my last post in a brand new drinking establishment. As many of us know Micro Breweries are the in(n) thing at the moment and seem to be springing up everywhere. I first noticed this phenomenon in the States a few years ago. Scorpion beer in Moab was excellent but arriving in Los Angeles and staying in a hotel with its own micro brewery was brilliant! Anyway, back to the point. The most recent one around here is in Ipswich, called  Briarbank which although it used to be a maltings, had also been a branch of Lloyds bank. It seems to be a vanity project for a local wealthy entrepreneur but a brewery it is.

The premise of The Search for the Perfect Pubs  to take the ideas put forward for the perfect pub by George Orwell in his essay in the London Evening Standard published on, get this, 9th February 1946. That's right exactly ten years to the day before I was born. It's an interesting read and is throwing up all sorts of ideas for songs, blogs, private thoughts and memories. As I haven't been reading the book it for too long, I guess I'll come back to it at a later time. However, it seemed apposite that I should have picked it up and start reading it that particular day.

The brewery building itself doesn't look that interesting but as you get a little close whatever's going on inside seems to look more intriguing. The large chrome kettles downstairs gleam beautifully on a sunny day but look a bit like something out of a science fiction story. The bar itself has only been open for three weeks but the brewery has been going longer. There is a (pretty awful) pub behind it owned by the same people and I have been informed that they sell some of the beer brewed in that very establishment. I have no intention of ever setting foot in that particular establishment again so can't verify that.  Around the back of the building is a private car park and a chalk board informs you as to what they're brewing and if you're of a mind please ring and go upstairs. It all seems a bit clandestine but I followed the polite, gruff-voiced gentleman upstairs.

Several people I've mentioned the experience to have likened the "club membership" idea to the drinking club in Minder. It crossed my mind too. Although the barman was quite short, he came across as a dead ringer for Dave the barman of the Winchester Club. It would seem that they are after a rather select membership as they don't have a lot of room up there. But when I entered the bar upstairs I was immediately impressed and felt at home. It's all new wood and chrome with an interesting selection of own ales. I guess it's a modern Brewery Tap. Two old guys and the barman and me. Later a couple of old guys came in for a nose around and they were talked into trying a stout or two. The bar food currently appears to be either crisps or peanuts. I was more than happy trying out the bitter which I can't actually remember what it was called ("Old Something or Other"). Very light tasting and quite pleasant - typically a fairly bitter taste but not floral at all*. I think it's about 4.7% abv so not really a session ale but a good one definitely. I guess it's not going to be a regular haunt due to distance. Also, they obviously don't want large groups of drinkers, which means regular jaunts to Ipswich with workmates will not be welcome (they get a bit raucous), so  it seems to be a place to gather thoughts, read and generally chill out. No problem there, I'll be in there occasionally on trips to Ipswich. Miles better than a Wetherspoons.

Ah, Wetherspoons. A company that have been trying to get a foothold in our little seaside town for years. It would seem that they may finally have managed to wedge that foot in the doorway. Due to some Pasta War about to start in the high street one very nice restaurant may end up as a J D Wetherspoons. Somewhere to keep the riff-raff in.  As I mentioned recently, the pub a few hundred yards from our house has finally been refurbished after about two years. It's now an expensive bar and boutique hotel - whatever that means - but it is just around the corner overlooking the sea and they sell three types of real beer. Not complaining. . . It'll keep me out of bloody Wetherspoons. Ironically they're selling the nice high street restaurant probably to J D. Anyway, the mention of that company came about because, laughingly, they have a fair few of their pubs named The Moon Under Water. That's right after Orwell's perfect pub. Evidently they are far from that!

We'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, I've finally succumbed to Spotify after both Messrs Chisholm and Cox have been telling me to try it out. After a bit of a false start by trying it on my phone - I thought it'd be better than using iTunes until I realised it was going to cost a tenner a month - I'm happily sitting here listening to it whilst writing as it's free on computers. I don't have to get up out of my seat to change a track or a cd. Brilliant! Okay, the adverts for bad breath and Alzheimers I can live with as I tend to zone them out. But I've been listening to Rosanne Cash's Black Cadillac and Rodney Crowell stuff whilst writing and they seem to have tons of great stuff. Even things I can't find on iTunes or Amazon. Suits me.So thanks, guys, it took me awhile but I'm converted. Shame you can't burn stuff but this week's WebUser may hold a key for that in their article "Record Anything From The Web" . . .

I'll let you know. In the meantime, cheers!

*There seems to be a move towards floral tasting golden beers nowadays. Presumably this is in the vague hope that lager drinkers will have one taste and turn away from the error of their ways. As in Wychwood's T Shirt that says, "What's the matter Lagerboy afraid you might taste something?"