Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Daily Fail

This appeared in the Daily Mail in 1969 (credit to The Media Blog on Twitter).

Some things don't seem to change.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Anarchy in the UK

I was listening to the radio, I think it was the Museum of Curiosities or something equally middle class and from the  Radio 4 stable. 

I recall hating the radio that my parents chose and yet I have fallen into half of their listening, the Radio 4 half. I console myself with the thought that at least I don't listen to Radio 3. 

As I listened to the programme I thought I heard the name of a history professor: Anna Key. I thought that was the perfect name for a history professor in the UK. If my surname was Key and I needed a name for a daughter then Anna would be that name. No middle name required.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Scientific madness

Looking around schools to choose the perfect school for one's child leads one to conjure tricky questions for the poor teachers having to be salespeople for the day/evening.

I don't think it's a stretch to ask teachers to sell.  I think that's effectively their job; they need to sell children an education and more than a passing interest in the subject they are being taught. 

But on open days I've taken to asking questions about science, and what I've learned is frankly shocking. Excuse me while I launch into "In my day...", but, when I was a lass if you had an aptitude for science then you chose which of the science subjects that appealed and those were the exams you took. 

I was a geek and choose Physics, Chemistry and Biology.  If I had been interested in just Biology then I could take just Biology. If I was more of a humanities or languages specialist then I could choose to study General Science which was one subject studied at a low level but providing a taste of Science. 

By the time children are choosing their subjects they will have tasted the sciences as separate subjects and they will know what they like and what they're good at. Most schools today offer compulsory Double Science. This is rather like the old-fashioned General Science subject but to a higher level and is counted as two GCSEs. Some schools may make an option for a less involved exam that is slightly less involved, just core Science, and counts as one exam. If a child shows an aptitude for science then most schools will force then into choosing Triple Science comprising Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Whist this is studied as one exam choice it actually provides three grades in the individual sciences. The bizarre thing is though that it seems that the sub-subjects are joined and cannot be split. 

Triple Science is the subjects bundled together. At many schools it seems impossible to choose just Physics or just Biology and Chemistry. This seems to me to be madness. 

I have a daughter who loves Physics, likes Chemistry but hates Biology. Most schools would force her to take Triple Science but she would want to study Physics and Chemistry.

Why are we forcing our more able students to be generalists? Why are we forcing children to take subjects they don't want to study? If someone has an aptitude for Geography and History we don't force them to study Religious Studies. It's madness.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Free e-magazines

It's taken me a while to figure this out, which is why I'm sharing with you.

If you are a member of Essex libraries (and probably other library services) you can get free access to tons of magazines.

The first thing to do is go to the library website.  For Essex it's here:

Click on the magazines link, browse and log in - this is the bit where you need a library account.  If your forgotten your password it's usually set as your six digit birthdate.

You then need a Zinio account which you create by clicking the Create Account button.

To read your magazines you'll need the Zinio app or you can read in the browser.  Getting the app is easy on iPad and Android tablet but takes a bit more effort on a Kindle.  You can view in browser on a laptop or desktop but a tablet is more magaziney.

On the Kindle you need to visit this url:

Click to download and then you'll need to install it.  To find the file you've downloaded you need to open a browser.  On the left at the top of the screen there will be three horizontal bars.  If you click on this you'll have the option to view downloads.  Choose the zinio download and click it and choose install.  Once installed you'll see it in the choices from your apps menu.

Once you have the app installed you can log in and access hundreds of magazines.

It's brilliant and it's free. 

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Sloe gin

Made a bit of sloe gin today. Here's how.

You'll need sloes. This is what they look like. Rather like blueberries but on trees. They do not taste like blueberries!

Wash, dry and use or wash, dry and freeze to use later. Before using the sloes they need defrosting. It's important the skin of the sloes is broken. Freezing and defrosting can help this but you can also use a needle to puncture the skin.

My defrosting sloes:

You'll need gin, any gin is fine.

You'll need sterilized jars or bottles. I used gin bottles and Kilner type jars. I discovered that putting Kilner jars in the oven can cause them to crack so I recommended the dishwasher sterilisation method. Top shelf without any detergent should sterilise jars and seals. 

I use jars or bottles with a 1.5 liter capacity. In these jars put:

1 litre of gin
450g sloes
350g sugar

Put the lid on and turn it a few times.

Put in a dark place and turn every day for the first week. For each following week just turn once a week.

After eight weeks strain the gin through a muslin into sterilized bottles. Screw top or flip top bottles are fine.

Then leave it. The longer you leave it the better.

I'm at the jar in dark cupboard stage.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Cracking school day

Hannah had something called an enrichment day today at school.  This, for the uninitiated, seems to be a jolly good excuse for larking around doing something other than a regular school day.
Today was all about cryptography and required Pringles tubes.  Pringles tubes we can do.  Cryptography content was provided by the educational outreach chap from Bletchley Park, Tom, and an "old girl" in more than one sense.  Mary used to go to Hannah's school but was also one of the amazing Bletchley Park team during the war.
My school days were never this exciting.  Hannah says that not all of her school friends were as enthusiastic as she was but Hannah had a great time.
Hannah started by cracking codes but she also made an Enigma machine using paper and a Pringles tube, and she got to use a real Enigma machine.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the day though was listening to Mary talking about her recruitment from Oxford and the way she signed up to take part without having a clue what she was agreeing to.  She even signed the Official Secrets Act before the nature of the work was disclosed to her.
I'd have liked school to be like this every day.  It certainly beats cross country running across  footpaths of Devon clay and History lessons with the bearded teacher with rancid body odour.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Privacy policy

I have a Flickr account.  I use it as a backup in case the Mac, external drive and NAS drive fail, basically in case the house burns down.  I've uploaded historical family photos and more recent holiday photos - over 7,000 images.
I've previously set the privacy settings on these photos to be public.  There's nothing I've uploaded that I'm not happy with anyone seeing.
Dave has recently started scanning photos from our pre-digital albums and I've been storing these on Flickr too.
There was some pictures of us at the beach from 20 years ago so I just checked with Dave that he was happy with the public privacy setting.  He wasn't.  In fact he wasn't happy with any photos I'd uploaded being publicly available.
I checked this statement.  Even landscapes and pictures of buildings?  Yes, even those.
These are our photos, they aren't mine or his.  So I've felt that I've had to change the access to these photos; all of them.
I'm not happy.  I think it's an overreaction. But I can't think of a way around it that keeps us both happy.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014


Sometimes everything works and I appear beautifully organised.

Today at 4:00pm Sainsbury called asking if they could deliver earlier than the booked 7-8pm slot.

My answer was that that was fine but I wouldn't be getting in until 5:15pm.  Just as my caller was explaining that was OK, I stopped him to explain I'd be going out again at 5:45pm.  He said he'd be outside at 5:15pm.

I got home at 5:00pm.  Jacket potatoes were perfectly cooked having been put in the oven in the morning with the oven timer set to turn the oven off at 5:00pm.  I heated up a filling, served it up on plates just as Hannah and Ethan walked in through the door at about 5:08pm.

The Sainsbury delivery driver rang the doorbell at 5:10pm.  He said he was impressed at my organisation.  He'd seen the children arrive two minutes earlier and now he could see them eating their dinner.

I put the shopping away, said goodbye to the delivery driver, got changed and walked Ethan to football practice which starts at 6:00pm.

I then walked home, cooked dinner, ate with Dave who arrived just before I served up.

I then left the house again to collect Ethan from football and brought him home so that he could shower and do his homework, due in tomorrow.

Next Wednesday though is a different story.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Unlikely bedfellows

I like the Channel 4 series Obsessive Compulsive Cleaners.  It teams people who tend towards Obsessive Compulsive Disorder behaviours with hoarders and people who either don't know how to, or can't be bothered to, clean their home.

These people are polar opposites and the premise for the show is that these two different people can enjoy a brief symbiotic relationship; the obsessive learns that letting go a little isn't disastrous and the hoarder learns that it is possible to de-clutter and clean house.

The pairings aren't always successful but often they are with both participants gaining from the experience.

It made me wonder whether there are other unusual bedfellows that might benefit from exposure to an opposite.  The only one I could conjure was the mixture of an agoraphobic and claustrophobic.  I wonder if there are others.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Genius plan

Vic and I came up with a plan today. 

To be fair it was Vic's idea but I ran with it and semi-claimed it. If there was any money in it I'd already have taken a solo trip to the patent office. 

The idea is a Lego lending library. 

The pleasure of Lego, for some, is the build. The more complicated the better. The problem with this is that complicated Lego sets aren't cheap and they take up space. 

A lending library with perhaps a borrowing fee overcomes the need to purchase and store but still provides the borrower with the build pleasure. 

Being the sort of person who likes to strike while the iron is hot I got onto the interweb and found a nice chap called Steve doing "chat" on the Essex library website. No, not that sort of chat. 

Steve was a bit rubbish. He told me some libraries already do this and shared a link to prove it. The link he shared was about American libraries. I wasted no time pointing out this faux pas. 

Anyway, Steve reckoned I needed to discuss my "genius" idea with Sarah. (I coined the "genius" tag.) So Sarah, Head of Children's Services, has my idea in her inbox awaiting deliberation.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Wine aficionado

Stuart recommended an app to help when choosing wine.  I tested it over the weekend and am a fan. 

The app is Vivano. It allows you to scan a wine bottle label and if it has details of the wine in its database then it'll tell you more than the label will. 

You'll find out what should expect to pay for a bottle, whether it's deemed to be a good wine for that vineyard, region, country our indeed globally. You can add your own notes so that you remember where you bought the wine and you can see reviews by other people. 

On Friday I scanned loads of bottles and came away with one white and one red bottle that were rated well at all levels. We've had the opportunity to try both bottles and, whilst I'm no expert, they were both excellent. So I recommend trying the app.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

For your little darlings

Hannah's school recommends a website and I'm sure other schools recommend it too. I'd never heard of it before but it sounded interesting.

If your little darling has vocabulary that needs memorising or spellings that need learning then you can pre-load the website with the information and it will create tests. Hannah's teachers use it to create tests for the class and Hannah uses it to create her own learning tools.

If only this had been available when I was at school I wouldn't have flunked German.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Posh bread and butter pudding

This month saw my first ever bread and butter pudding. I chose Nigella's posh version. 

  • A loaf of brioche (400g) 
  • 3 eggs 
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar 
  • 1 cup milk (I used skimmed) 
  • 1 cup cream (I've used double and whipping but I'm sure single is fine too) 
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • Large handful of raisins (or sultanas) 
  • Marsala wine (or sherry or port or whisky or brandy) 

  • Preheat oven to 180ÂșC fan oven. 
  • Soak raisins in your chosen booze. 
  • Slice and butter the brioche (you don't need to use butter, olive or sunflower spread is fine)
  • Grease a large baking dish using butter or margarine or spread suitable for baking 
  • Pop the buttered brioche into the baking dish starting at one end overlapping the pieces so that the tops of the slices stand a little proud. 
  • In a bowl mix eggs, cream, milk, sugar and vanilla. 
  • Scatter the raisins over the brioche slices and any excess booze can be tipped over the top too. 
  • Pour the egg and cream mixture over your brioche. 
  • Bake for 30 mins. 

Best served with custard.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014


I'm the first to admit I'm not perfect but why don't you tell me? 

I made another savoury cake this evening using the recipe I blogged about a while ago. As I was reading the method for the recipe I noticed a typo. Instead of the word whisked a spellchecker had assumed I meant whacked. 

I didn't mean whacked. Whacking an egg mixture makes no sense at all. I've been in and edited it but I know some of you read it and just glossed over the error. Please don't. 

I type my blog either on a Mac using Mars Edit software, on a Kindle using a notes app which then allows me to send the post by email to the blog as a draft, or using the Blogger app on my iPhone. Sometimes I'll use Blogger natively in a browser but rarely. 

Often I'm blogging when tired and I don't do any proof reading or checking. Sometimes my eye will catch a mistake but it'll be by luck, not judgement. I don't like typos though. I would much rather present something that doesn't contain mistakes. 

I live with the formatting inconsistency because I don't know how to fix that over the many platforms I use. I only live with the typos because I don't know about them, which is where I'd like your help. 

If you spot a mistake then please leave a comment, or text me, or email me, or phone me, or tap me on the shoulder and talk to me. 

Thank you.