Friday, 24 January 2014

Shooting the locals

Someone was shot today near Shenfield station as they emerged from their car.  They were shot in the leg so the person with the gun either didn't mean to kill them or is a really lousy shot.

I found out about this soon after it happened because it resulted in a temporary station closure at Shenfield.    I started out being interested in the associated disruption to my daughter's journey to school and then started to be curious about the shooting.  You see it's not a regular occurrence in this neck of the woods.

Later in the day I saw the incident reported by the Gazette and posted on Facebook.  The first and only comment, when I saw it, was from someone who said "No one gets shot for no reason though usually, do they?"

She's absolutely right.  It's usually because someone who isn't very nice is holding a gun and pulls the trigger.  

But seriously, did she really mean to imply that the victim must have been "asking for it/deserved it"? Really?  Without knowing who has been shot or what are the circumstances if you are a victim of a shooting then there must be a reason?

I don't know who was shot.  I don't know why they were shot, and I'm not going to guess or assume anything.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Easy peasy choccy biccy wocs

Biccy wocs

This is a Nigella recipe.  I didn't read it properly first time and got them wrong.  This is a baking crime because it has to be one of the easiest biscuit recipes on this planet.  It also has hardly any ingredients.

Nigella thinks they are a "chic accompaniment to a tub of good vanilla ice cream."  My needs are simpler and I think they are the perfect, in significant quantities, with a cuppa.

You will need a couple of baking sheets and either grease these or cover with baking parchment (I did the latter).  Makes 35 if you like small biccy wocs like Nige.  Makes 24-30 if your walnuts are a bit bigger (this makes sense later).


  • 250g (yes that's a whole slab) of unsalted butter at a squidgy-ish room temperature
  • 125g sugar (Nige uses caster but I use cheaper unrefined granulated - not sure it makes a jot of difference)
  • 300g self-raising flour
  • 30g cocoa


  • If your oven takes a long time to heat up, turn it on to 170˚C or 150˚C for a fan oven.  If you have a super speedy oven then wait until after your mixture becomes a dough.
  • Chop your butter up and then whack it in a mixer with sugar until it is pale soft and creamy.  This means mixer at full speed, scraping the sides occasionally and waiting until it's properly pale and light and creamy.  It is possible to this by hand and if you do you may well eliminate bingo wings.
  • Sieve the flour and cocoa onto your creamy yumminess and then mix at a slow speed.
  • Have faith.
  • It will become a dough before your very eyes.
  • Don't overdo this bit.  As soon as it has become recognisably a dough you can stop mixing.
  • Grab a walnut-sized bit of dough and roll in your palms to make a walnut-sized ball and place on your baking sheet.  Repeat until all the dough has been used
  • Space the dough balls out a little bit on the baking sheet because they spread whilst cooking (not a lot, but you don't want them all joining up in the oven.)
  • Take a fork and squish your balls leaving tine shaped indentations.  This is the bit I didn't do first time and it turns out to be important!

Biccy wocs prep

  • Pop in the oven for five mins and then turn oven down to 150˚C or 140˚C for fan oven.  
  • Leave in for a further 15 mins.
  • Use a palette knife to carefully move the biscuits onto a cooling rack.
  • Store in airtight container.
  • These are freezable but will keep in a tin for quite a few days (if they last that long).

Easy peasy.


Saturday, 18 January 2014

There's always a way

About a year ago we booked holiday accommodation for this summer in Tuscany.  Terribly middle class of me and I am somewhat ashamed given that both Tony Blair and David Cameron have also holidayed there - not the sort of company I'd be keen to keep.  They didn't stay where we'll be staying.  Our place is much nicer (I wish).

Whilst the accommodation was sorted we didn't know how we were going to get there and last January the flight schedules for 2014 were a tad non-existent.  So in the midst of a dank, wet January this year my thoughts turned to sunnier times and how exactly we were going to get there.

I looked at flights and they were all rubbish.  Aside from being expensive (the Blair/Cameron effect no doubt) they were at very silly times of the day.  I knew we'd also have to book a hire car and I hate hire cars.  Hire cars smell.

I thought about driving.  Google says it would take 15 hours and 50 minutes.  Google always underestimates the time to cross the channel, even if we go through the Chunnel so I'd add an hour at least.  And then there's the time difference, that's another hour of perceived, although not elapsed, time.  And then there's the lack of consideration for traffic jams and the M25, add another couple of hours.  So that's 20 hours.  We'd need to sleep somewhere and I once made the mistake of booking a Formula 1 hotel on a long trip through France - never again!  It was vile.  The next time we needed a stopover I booked a proper hotel which was better but more expensive.  But I don't like hotels as a rule.

So to arrive on a Saturday we'd need to leave at the crack of sparrows' on a Friday and we'd be knackered by the time we arrived. The kids would have fought so much in the back of the car they wouldn't be able to bear the sight of one another and Dave and I wouldn't want to see either of them because we'd have been sick of the fighting too.  Dave and I would probably be grumpy because there would have been times when we wouldn't trust the satnav and would have resorted to maps.  That's never good.  Oh and food on long journeys like that is cruddy service station fodder - bleargh.

I was beginning to regret the holiday booking and then I looked at trains.  

I found AutoSlaap Trein in the Netherlands.  I have always wanted to travel by MotoRail and this was it!  From s'Hertogenbosch on the Dutch/Belgium border down to Livorno in Italy.  Livorno is just a couple of hours drive from our destination.  The trains have private sleeper cabins and all food and refreshments are provided.  If you want to you can book a posh meal in the restaurant car as you travel through the Rhine valley or you can eat the standard fare in your cabin.  And the best bit is that the car travels with you on its own special bit of the train.

That worked but how would we get to s'Hertogenbosch?  Well, s'Hertogenbosch is just over an hour from the Hook of Holland which just happens to be a destination for ferries that travel from Harwich.  Ferries have lovely cabins for weary people to rest their heads.  Harwich is a stone's throw from home and avoids the nasty M25.  Well it sounded very much like a plan, especially when I put the times together and everything slotted in place perfectly.

So one evening we'll drive to Harwich and hop onto a ferry.  We'll sleep while we travel to the Hook of Holland and after we've woken up and disembarked we'll have oodles of time to get to s'Hertogenbosch.  We might even do some sightseeing.  After lunch we'll park our car on a train and find our own little cabin and, after dinner, we'll sleep our way through Switzerland and into Italy.  Just before lunch we'll drive our car off the train and head to our final destination.

The kids are excited because they love the idea of the massive ferry and the Harry Potteresque train compartment, and I can't wait because I've always wanted to take my car on a train.

The cost is about the same as flights and a hire car.  I'm excited.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Stay at home Mum

I have nothing against the stay at home mum.  I'd quite like to be one.  I am part way there as I'm a part time working mum and consequently a part time stay at home mum.

Unlike many others I never wonder what a stay at home mum does all day because I know it is perfectly possible to fill the school days with enough activity to leave one exhausted by the time the afternoon school run comes around.  But… I overheard an interaction between a stay at home mum and her sole charge the other day that made me chuckle.

The names of those involved have been changed and the following emotional outburst took place immediately after the afternoon school run as the mum was collecting her son.

"I'm sorry George but we're going to have to do the horses"

Mum was wearing horsey gear (boots and jodhpurs).

"Today has been just mad, really hectic!"

She looked stressed and rushed.

"I've spent all day trying to post that package!"

All day to post a package? 

"First I went to the a Post Office who said it was too big for them.  And then the second Post Office I went to said the address was wrong and didn't match the postcode."

And this took all day?

"So Mummy tried all day to post that package and I still haven't managed to.  Anyway, that's why we've got to do the horses, because I didn't have time.  Sorry dear."

And then a grumbling George was bundled into the back of the Range Rover and I thought "Well there's always tomorrow."