Monday, 30 January 2006

BlogiChef Week
Ode to the Mediterranean Using Chinese Techniques

You can stir fry anything. I like this because its fresh and while you may think some of the ingredients may be a little odd it does work, honest.

Time taken 35 minutes (as long as the rice takes to cook basically)
This makes enough for one medium and one big appetite

Brown basmati rice
Extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves (or to taste) crushed
Root ginger (to taste – I like lots) chopped finely
1 medium red onion chopped (I like mine finely but you may prefer otherwise)
1 fennel chopped (as with the onion)
1 large yellow pepper (sliced into long thin strips)
Handful of pine nuts (also to taste – again I like lots)
1 packet of feta cheese
Fresh coriander
Juice of 1 lime or lemon
Splash of white balsamic vinegar (or other pale vinegar, not malt, cidar or white wine)
Spoonful of honey

Boil a pan of water big enough for your serving of rice. I like brown basmati because it has good flavour and doesn’t go too soft. Throw the rice into the pan of boiling water. It takes 25 minutes to cook.

Prepare the vegetables.

When the rice has 10 minutes left to cook, heat some olive oil in a wok. Cook the garlic, root ginger, red onion and fennel until the onion is soft. Add the pine nuts and brown them a little. Then add the yellow pepper. When the pepper is cooked (I like mine to be still firm but you might like it cooked more), add the lime or lemon juice and a generous splash of white balsamic vinegar (this is the basis of the sauce so make sure there is enough). Let it cook for a minute or two to steam off the harshness of the vinegar. Add a spoonful of honey (or more – to taste) – slightly sweetening the sauce. Open the packet of feta, grind black pepper onto the block, crumble it onto the top of the stir fry. Turn off the heat (too much heat will melt the cheese). Toss it in the wok and put it into a serving dish. Tear fresh coriander over the top as garnish (but be generous). Drain and dish up the rice. Eat with chopsticks (if you can).

If you have cheap, easy and quick recipes - hop over to Blue Witch to join in.

Friday, 27 January 2006

Harriet and the Staff Lunch Suspicion (to steal a title phraseology from Greavsie)

Conference. Invitees 100. RSVPs 56. Catering for 60 (Krishna proportions). Actual attendees 39. Conference went well. Lots of lunch left over. Thoughts of being kind, boxed up food for a back-at-the-office staff lunch today.

Staff meandered in, eyed food greedily, asked, "so, who made it then?" Hare Krishnas. Staff eye me with suspicion. Eye the food with suspicion. Then dish some up for selves after they find no trace of bald blokes in salmon pink robes. Honestly, the catering policy was all vegetarian, and didn't intend to trigger mass conversions to krishna. And the food has moved on from when we used to go there in the 80s for a square of pizza on a piece of cardboard.

Tuesday, 24 January 2006

My What Long Words You are Using

In my work we are striving to communicate in language that everyone will understand - y'know clear, simple, concise. We're fond of the Plain English campaign and attempt to rid our communications of jargon and acronyms. Our aim is that even our ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) learners will understand what we're on about (not always possible of course but pictures help sometimes).

In my MA they are striving to communicate in language that academics will swoon at - y'know clever, complicated and verbose. They're fond of long, obscure words, that only appear in the biggest dictionaries. They claim its to aid higher understanding. I consider my self fluent in English but its hard reading, let alone understanding. Pictures are unheard of, and probably would be of little help.

Best long word so far:

Monday, 23 January 2006

Going Home and Everything's Weird

I'm on the bus. The bus is crowded. It stops on City Road and two drunks get on, loaded with falling-apart plastic bags, they're smoking. The bus driver asks the woman to put out her cigarette. She ignores him and heads for the stairs. Her boyfriend bundles after her. Bus driver gets out of his cabin and tells them to get off the bus. They start ranting and raving about discrimination. Bus driver man-handles them off the bus and closes the doors. In his rage the drunk kicks the door as we drive away.

Off the bus at Angel there's a man lying flat out cold on the pavement by the cashpoints of Lloyds bank. He's in the shape of someone who has fallen from a building (in films). A crowd is standing around looking at him. A man is trying to wake him up. Its hard to fathom what is going on. His clothes are dirty, possibly sleeping, possibly passed out.

Sunday, 22 January 2006

The Stressed Librarians

I forgot to write about this the other week. I used to work in a libraries. Well not exactly libraries. They were in colleges and had changed their names to learning centres. The main difference, it appeared to me, between a library and a learning centre was that the users forgot their approapriate library-behaviour because they were in a learning centre. That and the availability of computers (although all libraries have computers these days).

I wouldn't exactly say these jobs were stressful. Well perhaps there were times of stress, mostly they were repetative. Certainly weren't hard.

My first post, at the then Kingsway College, was given to me by a woman I used to do cat-sitting for. She needed someone, I was unemployed. I was lord of the library for 6 hours at a time, on my own. Only a problem when I needed the toilet. My boss would come and go - mostly she'd be at meetings at a different site, rushing back feeling guilty, bringing gifts of fancy sandwiches and chocolate cake. We didn't have many books, reference only, and we didn't have many computers either. We did have a fantastic electronic stapler - love those. It was extremely loud - people would quake as they nudged their papers into its jaws, and jump out of their skin when it snapped a staple through them. But it could staple 80 leaves easy. There was a lady who used to come to college with her cat in one of those shopping baskets on wheels that people used in the 70s before the shopping-trolley-bag was introduced. The most unfriendly cat you've ever met.

Then I went to work for Lewisham College. Weird mix of hormones in that place - girls would come to college looking like they were about to hit the nightclubs and the boys would jostle for their attention, overloaded with testosterone. If they weren't trying to chat you up, they'd be calling you a bitch because you asked them to be quiet. We only had to do an hour of shelving a week but it was a thankless task. After tidying up the section I was responsible for I felt like banning students from using it - it only took 5 minutes and the whole place was like we'd never been there. Still at least I didn't have to do book covering and labelling. The best thing was looking out (from the 3rd floor) over the rooftops of Deptford and occassionally seeing a ship passing slowly between them - surreal seeming but we were relatively close to the Thames. As hugely glad as I was to stop working there, I find that no other work place has been such a laugh since. Stressed? We didn't know we had it so good!

Thursday, 19 January 2006


The Thames was high, strangely pale - reflecting back a cloudy night sky - and running vigorously, flanked on either side by lit up buildings. Lit up from below they reminded me of the grotesques of Toulouse Lautrec or the ballet dancing beauties of Degas paintings, lit unsympathetically from below with strangely green light. The London Eye, going round at a much greater speed than it feels while you ride it, was lit with red and yellow bulbs. One pod encased with a hording depicting a performing band - it took several glances to see that it wasn't real. Young people spilled off the last ride of the evening from some project called London Schools celebrating success and that superhead was there.

It felt like Paris in winter wandering along the paving stones flanked by bare trees swathed in twinkly lights with a chill wind blowing. Couples meandering. Joggers and cyclists. A train trundled overhead. And a thought popped up. But this is London. The sky is sort of organe. The trees are decked in blue lights. For a moment I basked in the love affair I have with my city.

Later we wandered through the After the Wave: the tusami remembered photographs. Devastating but beautiful, strangely. Rubble, but sort of directional. Recognisable bits. Large concrete pieces the painted insides lying upwards strewn across the beach front. Wood planks scattered like matchsticks. A boat on top, a digger buried underneath, 4 kilometres inland. A huge expanse of beach, a few palm trees in the distance, a patchwork of concrete floors stretching out across it. Horrifying. But also some hopeful signs of rebuilding.
People Who Talk About Poo

As I went for my regular on-the-way-out-the-buidling trip to our rather ropey lavs it suddenly occured to me that I hadn't had a conversation about poo since I got back from my sisters. Perhaps its people with children that have an obsession with poo - frequency, consistency and related body functions such as flatulance (mostly about their children though, it has to be said).

But then I remembered my friend Georgia who always had a propensity to discuss her motions. She and her friend Ollie once had a mine-are-bigger-than-yours battle over the size of their logs. I hate to say why Georgia won. They weren't good together - Ollie's girlfriend almost chucked him after Georgia and him had been mooning out the back of her vw beetle - ah, the old days, heh?

Tuesday, 17 January 2006


I had one of those excruciating moments this morning. Meeting at the train station entrance a man who I thought was letting me go first instead started up a conversation with me, "Hello! Do you live round here?" To which I first must have looked exceedingly blank and then replied, "yes on the ladder". I wracked my brains. This man was a total stranger, his girlfriend/wife was looking at me blankly. We walked down to the platform together, I was going to carry on talking (gradually it often dawns on you who they are after you get chatting), but first I went to check the train times and they darted up the platform. Like total out-of-context blockage. No idea. Just can't place him...

Sitting on the train it slowly crept into my mind that perhaps he was in my MA class. Not a lightbulb bolt. Just a sneaking suspician. And he will think I'm both rude and forgetful. Nightmare. Its playing on my mind. A lot. Sigh.

Saturday, 14 January 2006

Online Dating

I've never used the internet for this and was a little put off by a programme that I saw of an aussie girl who met all her sexual partners over the net. However yesterday both Bails and HS independently said they were contemplating joining one after reading that article in the evening standard.

I'm seriously considering starting a blind date game to find dates for my singleton friends. Wonder if anyone would want to play?

At first glance it looked like the geezer with the grey jacket was chucking up down the back ot he pub seats, hand against the window holding himself up. On second look he was studying the Racing Post. When he stands back up he'll get dizzy from his head being lower than his heart for so long.

Two men who work for a railway company talk about their model railway sets. One had just been to Hamburg and visited one of his favourite haunts there - a huge model railway that takes over the whole floor of a warehouse. The other has a set from his childhood which has hardly been touched. Hamburg-visitor only has a model of one of the trains they run. I hadn't ever thought that railway enthusiasts also liked to work on the railways.

Tuesday, 10 January 2006

The Funeral Director's Convention

Popping into a pub for an after work beverage we thought we had walked into a funeral director's convention - not working we thought (too much jollity for that) but definitely stern looking (all black trousers and ties and white shirts). The barman reliably informed us however, that they were free masons. And very conventional they were too.

Monday, 9 January 2006

January Malaise

I think Christmas should be cancelled.
  1. Its always a disappointment.
  2. Despite the disappointment its overindulgences always lead to this sort of January blues (no money, no treats, nothing to look forward to, cold dark weather).
  3. Even though it cuts the winter in half it makes the second half seem really long
See - I've gone a week without posting without even realising it!

I think I was going to post about my most horrible train journey back to London. Imagine a train, arriving at its 3rd stop (Dundee) on its way to London, already packed, with no seat bookings (broken ticket bookings machine), carrying all the passengers from a cancelled Virgin train as well as its own passengers. I snuck into first class to get a weekend first upgrade. By the time we arrived in Edinburgh the train was so full that hardly any of the passengers getting on there could find a seat. Having started checking the tickets the inspectors were so harranged by irate passengers that they went back to their hiding places and never returned. Passengers stood (or sat in the aisles, corridors and entrance ways) from Edinburgh to Peterborough at which point seats started to free up.

Then I developed a cold (again) when I got home and went back to hermitsville. On a brighter note January always brings back TV favourites like ER and the Desperate Housefraus. So far this year I've spent most time outside work sitting in bed watching TV and knitting (!! - a passtime we took up in Scotland, we are making scarfs to felt and I'm winning hands down - partly because I'm the only one hibernating).

Sunday, 1 January 2006

Cinderella's Hogmonay

Cinderella (nee Amy) doesn't often get to go out on New Years Eve, following the birth of two children and the fact her husband works shifts which require him to work unsocialable hours. But this year, New Years celebrations were promised to include a trip to a local pub where the mother of one of her pupils was singing with her band. So on the return of husband at the stroke of 10.30pm Cinderella and her not-so-ugly sisters (one real, one honorary) jumped into the Fiat Punto and hit the bridge on the way to Cupar. Despite rolling over an already dead fox in the road and it being pitch dark they made it to the Imperial in 30 minutes only to be stopped at the door by a bouncer brought in from Dundee (stricter if he doesn't know the regulars - no bribery problems) who wouldn't let anyone pass without a ticket. Cinderella made a mental note that the janni (janitor at school told Cinderella about the gig, being as it was his local) owed her big time since she had expressly asked him if tickets would be necessary and he had said no.

Standing forlornly on the side of the road in Cupar, the three put heads together and came up with an alternative plan - to watch the fireworks in Dundee City Centre (and possibly bump into Cinderella's friend Asha who had been talking about attending). Jumping back in the Fiat Punto bombing back along the dark roads and across the bridge, throwing the car into the nearest parking place, the three set off towards the funfair and the town square. On getting nearer Cinderella was confused as to why nobody was congregating yet - since there was little over 20 minutes to go before the countdown. The only people in the town square were 5 policemen, who upon being asked said there were no fireworks.

Now Cinderella was feeling a little bit desperate as the time ticked gradually closer. But by luck the doors of the Social were open and the bouncer allowed the three to pass through. Inside, the bar was 5 minutes from closing for the countdown but Cinderella and her sisters managed to buy a drink just in time. As the first sips passed their lips the countdown began. 6..5..4..3..2..1.... and it was 2006.

Cinderella, always hard to tear from a party, danced until 1.00 with her sisters, ignoring the drunken revellry, going on around her. Strange mating rituals were taking place - men in casual clothes danced drunkenly whilst girls in pencil skirts and 6 inch heels looked on with distain written on their 50s-esque red pouts.

Then after just enough, the three walked home leaving the trusty Fiat to be collected in the morning.

Happy New Year!