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Archive Entries for September 2013

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Monday September 30, 2013

Books in September

  • Clutch of Constables by Ngaio Marsh [read by James Saxon]BOM-ClutchOfConstables.jpg
    I have temporarily abandonned Montalbano as in-car entertainment - and gone back to the delightfully dated Inspector Alleyn.
    This is a locked room mystery with Troy taking the active role on a boating excursion in what we would now call "Constable Country", where she is apparently co-incidentally - at many levels - sharing the craft with an internationally famous criminal ("The Jampot" - need I say more).
    Alleyn takes the role of narrator, using the story as a classroom teaching example to new recruits as part of their training.

  • Even Money by Dick and Felix Francis [read by Tony Britton]BOM-EvenMoney.jpg
    A lot of Felix in this book I suspect - but written before Dick passed away. I enjoyed it a lot - it's about a trackside bookie and I found the background pretty interesting.
    It led me to see if Felix was continuing to write - and he is. I read only the synopsis of reviews of his first novel and they mentioned his lack of first-hand racing experience - which is a blow really. Dick ventured into other fields but I always felt his racing plots were the best - in fact some of the non-racing themed books were distinctly ropy. So I hope Felix progresses with his writing without being too bogged down with negative comparisons to his Father, though from what I can see he has a very loyal fan base.

  • A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon BOM-ASpotOfBother.jpg
    This is a very funny book which had me clutching my sides laughing out loud - but pretty black humour really. The title is a pun - with the spot being both literal, (and I can empathise strongly with the emotional concern that a trivial medical condition is actually life threatening!) as well as idiomatic. It does not shy away from serious issues, though, while highlighting all the surprising and unconventional human characteristics that lead to the all-round "bother" in the title.

Posted on September 30, 2013 at 8:17 AM. Category: Books of the Month.

Tuesday September 24, 2013

Lowry and the Painting of Modern Life


To celebrate Rob's birthday I took the day off and we went to the Lowry exhibition at Tate Britain. There is some good restoration going on there at the moment which led to our choosing to have a quick snack at the nearby Morpeth Arms before starting our tour.

The exhibition illustrates his painting "ordinary people" and a lot of industrial scenes from the period. They also chose to exhibit a few works by other painters to illustrate influences and comparisons of the same era. The one thing I noticed was that his earlier work seemed to show much more detailed depictions of the people in the busy crowded scenes, which morphed into the classic stick men as time went on - and yet weirdly the liveliness of the scenes seemed increased with the diminishing detail of the people. In addition as well as the bustling scenes I associate with Lowry, there were many pictures devoid of people, showing desolate and abandoned landscapes, a little reminiscent of WWI scenes of devastation. Take a virtual tour here.

My favourite was a less industrial beach scene, of which I purchased a reproduction as part of a calendar for 2014.


In the evening we had the birthday meal (conventional steaks) at the Arch Duke - here's Rob smugly showing off his pudding. (Also note my pudding in the foreground!).


Rob is now officially of retirement age so I mocked up this possibly pretentious little artwork of my own, representing pipe and slippers. However it is meant to be ironic - at a number of levels of course - not the least of which is that this really is a tiny 3 inch (working) pipe captured in a box frame.


On our way over Vauxhall Bridge in the morning we noticed a passing "Duck" tour and waited to snap them as they entered the water on the other side of the river. It reminded me of the tour I did in Seattle.
We were lucky to see this as a couple of days after they had an accident during a tour (no real injuries sustained thank goodness) and had to suspend the service for a time.

Posted on September 24, 2013 at 8:18 AM. Category: Days Out.

Saturday September 21, 2013

More More buttons


Much the same as the last class - except this time I got to make buttons too!


Posted on September 21, 2013 at 8:16 AM. Category: Crafts.

Tuesday September 17, 2013

ROH "Live"


Some time ago now, we took up the offer of tickets to see the NT Live (encore) screening of Frankenstein at King's College in the anatomy theatre - preceded by a talk on Gothic Horror and science in the 19th century. With interval drinks and an intimate audience, it was a thoroughly civilized evening.

Hence today we went to see another such screening from the Royal Opera House - which I did not realise beforehand, was actually a live feed from Covent Garden. And it was really great.
I'm not totally ignorant of opera, but the natural pleb in me is revealed by the following: I was pleased that there were only 3 acts of about 40 minutes each - most digestible; I loved the fact that they were able to show us little extras and pre-recorded interviews with the singers (you can see them here) before the start of each act; I much appreciated the versatility of the screening in that they could supply sub titles.
Not to forget to mention - the set was terrific - seeing it in the theatre must have been fantastic.

So - a great evening all round - and maybe there will be an "encore" screenings of these opera house productions as well..

Posted on September 17, 2013 at 11:21 PM. Category: Art and Culture.

Sunday September 15, 2013

Culprits Caught on Camera!


Throughout this summer we have had visitations from the local wildlife - not the first time - however unusually this year we seem to have had them making free with the plants in the garden ie helpfully trimming all the tops off the fuchsias in the beds close to the house. I know that some of my neighbours a few miles away have a terrible problem, but the area of the heath where we are is bordered on 3 sides by main roads so they rarely find their way to us.
While Alison and her sister and family visited one afternoon in August, the children spotted the deer family nearby and they seemed to be quite tame. And finally here they are again today, right on our doorstep.


Lovely though they are - I do hope they find their way back to the open heath soon.....

Posted on September 15, 2013 at 6:22 PM. Category: The Garden.

Saturday September 14, 2013

Reasons to grow cucumber: 1, 2, 3


This is an unusual recipe which we tried as we have a lot of home-grown cucumbers - and it involves fish, which is very easy for me to find in our very local fishmonger. The dish was unexpectedly delicious - I do not mean I expected it to be horrid (!), but it was quite exceptional. I expected the cucumber to cook like squash and be soft, but it remains crunchy - which may be why you do not often see it cooked.

Recipe by Nigel Slater featured in the Observer and the photo is by Jonathan Lovekin for the Observer.

Cucumber pie (with salmon and prawns)

Serves 2


  • 1½ oz firm white bread
  • Fresh dill
  • grated zest of unwaxed lemon
  • a small cucumber
  • 5 oz salmon
  • 4 oz shelled prawns
  • 3½ oz cod
  • A few capers*
  • 1 oz butter
  • 2½ fl oz double cream

* I left these out of my version as I had none easily available and we are not so keen on them anyway.


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C, or Gas Mark 4.
  2. Crumb the bread in a food processor together with a handful of dill and the grated zest of a lemon.
  3. Lightly peel the cucumber, remove the seeds, and then chop into chunks.
  4. Remove the skin from the salmon and cod (or get the fishmonger to remove them with their much sharper knives!), cut both into large chunks and place the pieces of fish into a shallow baking dish along with the shelled prawns.
  5. Tuck the cucumber pieces in between the fish.
  6. Sprinkle in the capers if you are using them (see * above).
  7. Season with salt and black pepper then add the butter chopped in pieces.
  8. Pour over the double cream and then scatter over the dill crumb topping.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes.
  10. Eat.

Posted on September 14, 2013 at 9:11 PM. Category: Kitchen and food.

Thursday September 12, 2013

A Curious Incident


Easily as good as everyone said it was despite being several cast changes down the line. They told the story, much as the book, from Christopher's point of view, and he was just as appealing in the flesh as he was on the page. It did occur to me later though that there were some unavoidable emotional differences that a stage play had to deal with. In the book, everything from Christopher's viewpoint is very much detached - as if you are seeing things through an emotional barrier. Even though you "know" what's going on in a way that Christopher does not, you are protected from the emotions to some degree. Seeing the other people in Christopher's world in the flesh, however, means you have to deal with them as characters in their own right, and it I think it must have been hard to make them very sympathetic; at the same time you see how very difficult it must have been for them to deal with Christopher because you can see him through their eyes too. Even the "incident" of the dog is at the very least unpleasant - and you have to come to terms with its truly graphic reality in the opening scene.

There were many fun moments, including an amusing idea where certain seats were designated "prime number seats". Not entirely sure how they counted the seats - certainly not using the seat number in any way - anyhow, I was in one of these and I duly played the game, added up the letters of my name using the code as described and found it was indeed a prime number (199) so got my prize.


Posted on September 12, 2013 at 11:59 PM. Category: Art and Culture.



We left it rather later than planned to catch the Pompeii exhibition at the BM and only just made it before the end date. The whole experience was great, focusing on day to day life and small objects and possessions which tell us about the real human side of the people that lived there. I have visited Pompeii and found it really amazing - but what amazes you at the site is the sheer scale of the town, buildings and streets, all still there and in tact. However, it's easy to overlook all the wonderful but smaller archaeological finds. While bringing some of the larger and impressive objects to exhibit (entire frescoes of a garden room for example), the focus is really on the objects of every day living (such as petrified/carbonised loaves of bread), and a whole active picture of working life, tavernas, gambling, and generally having fun.

I found the description of the demographic of the community quite interesting - there were a higher proportion of middle class citizens such as freed slaves, and you get an impression of a tolerant cosmopolitan and less formal society than say Rome itself (whether a correct assumption or not). I see it as Brighton compared with London, or San Francisco compared with New York. Perhaps because of the more down to earth nature of the inhabitants, (trying desperately not to reveal myself as a pretentious class-ridden snob here!), it has to be said that a lot of the every day objects do seem to be rather ... bawdy. Trinkets, artworks, and souvenirs, on a par I feel with the Manneken Pis, so much beloved of the English-folk abroad, and little working models of which adorned the drawing rooms of my aunts and uncles when I was a child.
We, restrained, nicely-brought-up British folk, at the exhibition kept finding ourselves smiling in amused embarrassment as we found ourselves closely examining household items of lamps, statues, or cake stands that turned out to be intimate portraits of priapi ("Good Heavens" "Well I never...")**.

** I note that the Daily Mail summarises this as "how depraved they were" whereas the Independent states they were "very unembarrassed about sex".

Here's a somewhat safer little portrait of a woman with a spindle - alongside which they had actual remains of spindles - not, thankfully, in any unconventional novelty forms.


They had also brought across some of the fossilised remains of the people of Pompeii, which were displayed in soft lighting with a suitably reverent air. Having made the people come to life as so very human, this seemed doubly poignant. They included the highly memorable Muleteer in his sad little pose found (near a mule) by one of the gates to the City. Goodness knows who or what his profession really was but he is the one you always remember from your trip to Pompeii.
I am never sure whether we regard these stone ghosts with true sympathy or whether it appeals to the Victorian Gothic Horror side to our characters - but whichever it is, these figures are fascinating. There have always been some few hundred (I think) such figures preserved, where the voids left in the ash were filled with plaster, however a recent technique using resin has created a woman with the most fantastic detailing down to the very folds of her clothing. This technique is very expensive which perhaps limits its full potential, but is obviously the future of this form of preservation and research.

Posted on September 12, 2013 at 11:58 PM. Category: Art and Culture.