Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Slow sloe gin

This is the easiest way to make sloe gin in my limited experience.

Pick sloes. These look a bit like blueberries but they grow on blackthorn trees often amongst bramble in hedgerows. Google images so that you know what you're looking for. The important thing is to recognise the blackthorn leaf (narrow and about two inches long) as well as the berry. They appear in August/September and stay on the trees until October. If you don't plan to freeze them then you should wait until after the first frost.

The sloe is part of the plum family and is like a smaller, more bitter version of the damson. They taste vile.

In order to use one litre of gin, you will need 425g of sloes. If you use fresh sloes then they will need washing and checking for creepy crawlies. You'll then need to spike each berry with a pin to pierce the skin. I wash, check for bugs and then freeze the berries which dispenses with the need to prick the skin. You can probably use them frozen, but I defrost before using. I open freeze and then, once frozen, scoop into bags for most efficient use of freezer space.

You will need two receptacles: one for the "brewing" process and one for the bottling. Used gin bottles are fine for both of these but Kilner jars are also fine for the brewing process. My preference is the "alcoholics special" 1 1/2 litre gin bottles for the brewing process (Sainsbury sell gin in 1 1/2 litre bottles and I'm sure they're freely available everywhere) and Kilner or Kilner-style bottles (IKEA do a range as do Wilkinsons) for the bottling procedure.

All vessels must be sterilised (allegedly). I do this by cleaning them and rinsing thoroughly in hot water before bunging glass/ceramic bits in the oven at a temperature of about 80-90 degrees Celsius for about 20 mins. Wait until hand warm before handling. All rubber seals/metal lids get boiled in water for about ten minutes. If you're using "fresh" gin bottles then I reckon you can skip the sterilisation. I'm still unconvinced it's absolutely necessary as alcohol kills bacteria (doesn't it?) but I'm too scared to risk it.

If using a litre of gin then pop 225g caster sugar into a 1.5l bottle or Kilner jar that you have sterilised. Follow this with 425g of sloes. If using a bottle then you just pop them in one by one. Finish off with the gin.

Lid on and shake it all about. Store in dark room (I don't know why it needs to be a dark room but I use kitchen cupboards or the cupboard under the stairs.)

For the first week you need to invert/shake daily to try and dissolve the sugar. After the sugar is dissolved you need do this once a week for a month. After this you should have a beautifully ruby red syrupy goo that just needs to mature. The longer you leave it the better. Generally if you make it in early October it should be drinkable for Christmas.

Prior to drinking you need to bottle it. You'll need muslin (the type used for preserving not the type you use on babies), a funnel and a bottle.

It's at this point you'll appreciate my advice regarding the use of the alcoholics special 1 1/2 litre gin bottles.

Arrange funnel into the top of the sterilised bottle. Arrange muslin such the all liquid going into the funnel has to pass through the muslin. I do this by stretching the muslin over the top of the funnel and holding in place with a hi-tech elastic band. I then make the muslin a bit "baggy" so that stray sloes don't bounce off the muslin.

Pour from brewing container into muslin adorned funnel. Be careful not to over-pour. The advantage of brewing in a bottle is that pouring process is quite un-messy. Take it from me that pouring from a Kilner jar will break your heart as the ruby red elixir will spill onto your work surface without any opportunity for retrieval.

It will keep for a really long time, not that I'd know...

It tastes like cough syrup remembered through rose-tinted tastebuds (not sure that works linguistically), is good to keep and lovely to give.

I would recommend that when sloes are on the trees you go mad, pick loads and make as much as you can.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Happy Half Term Cake

This recipe is an amalgamation of two recipes and I haven’t followed the recipes exactly so I’m posting this for the next time I want to make it.


I should explain that I’m not always one to bake a Happy Half Term Cake, and this particular cake followed a fractious car journey in which I annoyed Ethan by mentioning the lost scrum cap and the fact he has to buy a replacement, and then Ethan annoyed Hannah by telling her she was rubbish at doing homework.  I told them there was no cake for anyone in a bad mood and by the end of the journey we were all smiles.


  • 165g butter, plus extra for greasing - I used Stork baking marg which often produces better results than butter
  • 165g soft light brown or light brown muscovado sugar
  • 325g self-raising flour
  • 1 rounded tsp baking powder
  • 1 rounded tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 2 large ripe bananas - I think the recipe can take an extra half a banana
For buttercream
  • 125g soft butter (i.e. not straight from the fridge)
  • 350g icing sugar
  • 150g Carnation Caramel
For Caramel drizzle
  • Most of the rest of the Caramel tin.  If you’re a pig like me half of the rest will end up in your mouth and never make it to the cake.
You will also need three cake tins, mine were 8 inch.  The original cake recipe only used one deep tin but I cannot cut cake to make layers; things just get messy when I try.  If you only have one deep cake tin and do have the skill to do this then by all means knock yourself out - just increase the baking time to about 45 mins.
  • Pre-heat oven to 170C fan.
  • Grease and line the bottom of three round 21cm/8 inch loose-bottomed cake tins.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together until smooth and a pale, creamy colour.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon.
  • One at a time, beat each egg into the butter mixture along with a tbsp of the dry mixture
  • Beat in the milk and fold in the rest of the dry ingredients until well combined (you can just use the mixer but don’t go mad - you just need to mix until it’s all combined).
  • In the bowl that contained the flour, mash the bananas until smooth and lump-free
  • Then fold into the rest of the mixture until well combined or just mix in using a mixer.
  • Spoon into the tins and smooth over the surface.
  • Bake for 20-25 mins, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. The edges of the cake should also be coming away from the sides of the tins.
  • Leave to cool for 5 mins, then remove from tin and continue cooling on a wire rack.
  • Beat butter, icing sugar and caramel.  Start this slowly to avoid icing sugar clouds.
  • When it’s light and buttercreamy then it’s ready to use.
  • I found it’s best to stack the cakes with the top bit facing uppermost as the buttercream can lift cake crumbs as it’s being spread.  This only really matters for the top deck so stack in a way that suits you.
  • I use slightly less than a third of the icing sandwiching the cakes and just over a third for the top layer.
  • Beat the remaining caramel to loosen it and try and drizzle it on the top of the buttercream.  I got in a mess doing this and ended up blobbing lines of caramel on the top.  To make it look like this was deliberate I used a skewer and dragged the icing in a spiral.  Go mad, do whatever comes naturally.  For me that was trying to rescue something that hadn’t quite gone to plan. 
Eat with tea or coffee, or a bottle of wine.  Remember, this is Happy Half Term Cake.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Still running

Having moved onto the 10K app you might think I’m now ready for a marathon.

Not quite.  I’m keeping my jogging to roughly 30 mins which means that I don’t complete the whole programme each session.  So if it wants me to do three 15 minute sessions I’ll stop after the first two.  Today it required three 17 minute sessions and I did the first two.  

I found today difficult so took a couple of “get my breath back” breaks which I did whilst pausing the programme.

I’m getting out at least twice a week and, when I can, three times.

I’m not being as tough on myself when I’m out.  I don’t blindly carry on if I’m finding it really difficult; I’ll take a break.

I hope I can carry on when it gets colder and wetter.  I don’t want to be a fair weather jogger.

My aim is to try and get a little bit faster.  Extra distance would be a bonus but a bit faster than walking pace would be good.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Labouring under a misapprehension

I'm a bit pissed off.

Labour are deciding who is OK to vote in the Labour leadership election.

Apparently not voting for Labour in the recent election means you don't qualify. I think this is garbage.

If you weren't a fan of the way Ed Miliband was running the Labour party at the last election then you're one of the reasons there's a leadership election.  Apparently,  if you expressed your opinion by placing your vote elsewhere,  you don't get a day in who should replace Mr M.  How does that work?

Surely anyone who has a Socialist heart and/or mind should be eligible to have a say in the leadership election.

I know Corbyn is doing well amongst Labour supporters but surely these people didn't vote Labour because the Labour that went into the last election was not Corbyn's Labour.

I'm not sure what the answer is but using the people that voted for Ed as the base for electing a new leader seems to be a flawed policy.

Monday, 17 August 2015

I've graduated

My C25k app tells me I've graduated.

Yesterday's run was for 30 minutes with five minutes for warm up and five minutes to cool down.

The next stage is apparently to run 5k in 30 minutes which I can do whenever I want.

The disconnect is distance.  I can plod in a plodding jog for 30 minutes and yesterday,  including the warm up and cool down my GPS running app tells me I converted a distance of 4k. I guess I just keep going until the time and distance coincide and 5k is done in 30 minutes but I feel somewhat conned. There must be a way of the app helping me to get there. 

The app was called C25k and the plan was 5k. Well I've done everything that was asked of me and I'm not there.  Is it me that failed or the app?

Thursday, 13 August 2015

You'll paella vlot more in the UK

On holiday in Spain it would be rude to avoid paella, the national dish.
A trip to a rather mad local supermarket (in Turre) opened up the possibility of buying a paella pan.
If one plans to cook paella at home does one need a paella pan?
I'm pretty sure the answer is no but that doesn't stop me wanting one.
Dave is adamant that we don't need one as is Ethan. Hannah is in the "let's get a paella pan" camp.
I think I might have to buy one because a 6 portion pan costs less than four Euros even though I don't need one.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

How often?

Every year the Perseids Meteor shower comes around and every year I can't be bothered to look.
But how often do I have access to a roof terrace with loungers already in situ?
I could climb out of the bathroom window and lie on the conservatory ceiling but that neither convenient not comfortable.
Dave took a look and concluded the sky wasn't clear enough.  He was right about the most air rising above nearby mountains but the view straight up seemed good enough.
I had a lie down.  I spotted satellites,  moths,  aircraft and stars.  Just as I was about to give up I saw my first strong,  obvious,  in your face shooting star.
I've been here a while now and seen quite a few.  The people on a nearby rooftop seem to have stopped their oohing and aching so I think it might be time to call it a night but I think meteor showers might be addictive?
Tomorrow night?

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Running away

Yes I have been trying to learn to run.  I don't mean physically how one places one foot in front of the other,  but more how one sustains activity beyond 15 seconds.

That's all very well at home but surely when on holiday such activity ceases.

I confess this is the first time in my life I have packed any kind of exercise clobber into my holiday luggage. This is not through any enjoyment of the activity,  more a fear that any progress will be lost and, when I return home, I'll be back to week one of my C25k programme.

It's hot on holiday though,  very hot. The only option to avoid most of the heat is to run before breakfast,  which for me means about 7:30.

This morning was a warm 27°. This means a lot of sweat and very slow progress for fear of keeling over.

Running away from home can also mean a less than scenic route. The most convenient track is the edge of a dusty local road.  The only thing to remind me of my usual Essex countryside surroundings is the rabbit family I pass.  Today's rabbit count is five.

And today's run was a hour and sweaty 28 minutes,  week eight,  run two.

Monday, 10 August 2015


I might be in holiday in the middle of a desert but it does not give you the right to ignore me.

I don't have 4G here.  I have it in a nearby town, but not here.  The 3G here is also non-existent and I am just about able to get 2G, but only just.

That's all OK because I can get WiFi.  But the WiFi is shared with lots of other people and I imagine we aren't sharing a great signal because we're in the middle of a desert.

What's my point?

Test your websites for loading speed.  Strangle your connection and then see what the other half experience.

I can't tell you how many links I've clicked on and abandoned because after 10 minutes I've exhausted my boredom threshold.

Think about your ad placements.  You may have paid for me to see nothing depending on your contract. I may have clicked to open the page containing your ad but I haven't seen it.

There's no point in paying for Social advertising if my interest results in a spinning circle of frustration.

Don't send me emails telling me about your great new products if I can't view them on your website.

I could move 200yds to a point where the WiFi signal is stronger but I can't be bothered. Your content isn't that interesting, and if you want my engagement then you'll need to try harder.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Beach body

You know those people who have effortless beach bodies?  Well I'm not one of them.

I'll struggle when removing my outer layer of clothing and my swimming costume will get dislodged during the process which will risk indecent exposure.

I will get sand everywhere.

I will get sun cream in my eyes which will be red and sore for the rest of the week.

I will be wearing a swimming costume that reveals white bits that are the shadows of a former outing in a different costume.

If I go into the water I will slip unceremoniously on rocks or seaweed and land on my arse.

I will do the dance of someone avoiding a wasp.

My hair will not acquire a sun-kissed, salty, tousled appearance but will look more like a clumped mess clinging to my scalp for dear life.

When leaving the beach I will struggle to carry the ridiculous accoutrements that I have decided are essential beach gear.

I'll pop a t-shirt and shorts over a damp body and swimwear producing a look that indicates incontinence and hyperlactation.

I'm just not a cool beach person.  Never have been,  never will be.

What's better?

Sat around the pool I can hear men talking about football scores,  transfers and other football related things of which I know nothing. 

At the beach there is a sea of people and some are English,  some Spanish.  A lot of the very tanned women are topless.

Ethan's told me he's not really a fan of the topless scene and I'm not either. Women look unfinished without something to cover them up, up top.

The language I can hear above everything is Spanish.  I can't understand it.

Is it better to be near a conversation one can understand but finds boring,  or to listen to something that's completely beyond comprehension?

Or should I just be minding my own business?

Friday, 7 August 2015

Hot or cold

I'm offered breakfast.
"Hot or cold?" I'm asked.
"What's the difference? " I reply.
"One's hot and one's cold."
I knew that.  What made her think I couldn't figure out that one of the differences was temperature?
One, it transpires is a full English breakfast and one has fruit and yoghurt. I could have assumed a multitude of variations which is why I asked the question.
I chose cold.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Week 6 completed

On Sunday morning or was a relief that Week Six Day One seemed to be a step down.  I needed to run for five minutes,  walk,  run for eight minutes,  walk and run for five minutes.

I didn't really understand this because it didn't seem to be continuing the progression but I was grateful nonetheless.

Week Six Day Two had two ten minute runs with a walk between. I took a wrong turn and ended up on an uneven bramble-festooned path and could run properly (not that any of my running is proper). Anyway because I didn't feel I'd given it my best shot I did this session twice with a day in between.

Week Six Day Three had me running for 22 minutes.  This is the longest I have ever run in my life.  It's slow.  I'm not sure how slow because the app I use to calculate average speed includes my warm up walk and cool down walk.  If I were to guess I'd say between eight and nine minutes per kilometre, perhaps closer to eight.

But,  against all of my predictions, it is getting easier.  My legs ache but I'm not gasping for breath as I was when I started.

I think the thing that works for me at this stage is that I'm not trying to be an athlete.  I really am just trying to get to the end.  If the app tells me to run for 22 minutes then that is what I will try to do.  I will plod with one foot in front of the other, hobbling my way to achievement.

My body's ability to cope has surprised me.  My improvement has surprised me. I honestly thought I would fail and I had expected to quit by now.

I don't enjoy the exercise but I do enjoy being surprised by my body and I get a kick from the achievement.

I use the time to think about to do lists,  pay attention to the music of I'm running alone, or catch up with whoever is running with me.  I enjoy the countryside and it feels good to bed outside.  I think about what I'm going to tell you in this blog.

What I don't like is dogs. If I see a dog I'll change direction to get away from it.  I don't like dogs smearing their snot or saliva on my legs and I don't appreciate a dog bashing against my legs and almost knocking me over. 

Some owners seem to think that because I'm in the vicinity of their animal I am up for any kind of canine interaction.  I'm not.  I will actively try and avoid it.

The other thing I'm aware of is my smugness.  I am sharing my progress because whilst it's lame to others it's impressive to me.  I also recognise the accusation of smugness.  Having been a non-runner seeing other people posting the progress from their fitness apps I have viewed others as I am now being viewed.

I won't post from a fitness app because my distance and speed achievements are laughable. I think the smugness accusation is valid and comes from the fact that I've been "good".

I think the accusation would also be leveled at someone sharing weight loss achievements.

I'll take the label though and continue.  I want to know how far I can go and I want to know if I can get faster.

Friday, 24 July 2015

I have never run so far

Week five started with jogging for five minutes, walking for three, jogging for five, walking for three and jogging for five.

I had expected all the week five sessions to be the same which is why session two came as a shock: jog for eight minutes, walk for five, jog for eight.

I survived, just, and then session three really knocked me for six: jog for 20 minutes.  Wait, what, jog for twenty minutes?

The thing that shocked me more than the leap from five to eight to 20 minutes within the space of days, was the fact that my legs, lungs and heart didn’t let me down.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Week Four done, just

Week four has been challenging.  It has two three minute runs and two five minute runs.  It’s the five minute ones that I struggle with.

My boy is the best coach ever and when he sees me flagging he’s full of enthusiastic and motivational words.  When we pass the halfway point he proffers a high five and whenever he can find an achievement in anything he does.  When I’m struggling with the distance to go he tells me not to worry about that but to think about how far I’ve come.

I’ve told him he should offer his personal training services for financial reward because he has a natural talent for it.  I’m not sure how well I’d do with out my pocket motivator by my side.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Fun, easy, chocolatey, party celebration cake

I found this recipe and it’s an easy customisable party or celebration cake.


This has become the staple birthday cake for our children, excepting the number cakes made by their Grandma.

The first thing to do is to pop the kettle on.  Cake making should always be accompanied with either a tea or a coffee.

When the kettle’s boiled, make your beverage of choice and also blend 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder with 3 tablespoons of water.

While you’re drinking your tea or coffee the cocoa and water can be cooling down.

This is an eight inch cake and can comfortably be cut into 12 generous pieces.


  • 175g baking margarine
I find margarine choices confusing but this is good for baking cakes:
  • 175g sugar, caster or granulated
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa, blended with 2-3 tablespoons of hot water and cooled (see above)


  • 110g unsalted butter
  • 5-6 tablespoons milk
  • 400g icing sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • Smarties, Matchmakers, chocolate buttons or Maltesers (or anything else that takes your fancy)


  • Make a tea or coffee as described above and mix the cocoa and hot water at the same time.
  • Preheat the oven to 150 °C (fan oven).
  • Grease and line two round 20cm / 8 inch cake tins.
  • Place all the cake ingredients in a mixing bowl and beat until well mixed (2-3 minutes).
  • Split the mixture between your prepared tins.
  • Bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes.
  • Turn out and cool on a wire tray.

For the icing:

  • Place all icing ingredients together in a bowl and beat together until smooth.
  • Sandwich cakes together with some of the icing and spread remaining icing over the cake including the sides
  • Slathering icing is best done carefully with a palette knife
  • Stick your chosen confectionery onto the icing.  Things that work well are Matchmakers vertically around the edge with Maltesers or Smarties on the top.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Reasons To Be Cheerful Part 3

There’s nothing in Ian Dury’s lyrics that is an exact fit here but “A bit of grin and bear it, a bit of come and share it” is the closest.
Some Saturdays I have helped marshal at the Brentwood Parkrun.  If you can, I’d recommend you do too.  Reasons to do it:
  • It gets you out of bed
  • It gets you out into the countryside
  • It gets you a little bit of exercise
  • You meet some lovely (kind, generous and fit) people
  • You spend thirty minutes cheering people on, and making others cheer up reflects back into your own mood.
  • For a small investment of time and energy you are contributing to other people’s wellbeing and your own.
  • It’s a great way to start a Saturday
If you want to get involved then find out more here:
If you just like a bit of Ian Dury, here you are:

Week three and thoughts turn to drink

I did the week three routine four times and today did my first week four routine.

Week three was a bit of a shock to the system and on hot days was very tough.

The upside is that I have found many more sloe berry picking opportunities with many bushes already laden with fruit.

Ethan and Hannah are both excellent exercise companions but different; Ethan is considerate and motivational and Hannah’s conversation helps me lose track of time which is good when I’m willing the clock to tick faster.

Three minutes is a bloody long time when you’re hot, sweaty and gasping for breath with aching legs.  Five minutes is even longer.

I coped with the first week four session today because Ethan was with me and it wasn’t overly hot.  Let’s see how the rest of the week pans out.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Chocolate raspberry pavlova

Oh the irony of trying to get to grips with running and blogging about it and interspersing it with blogs of calorie-filled delights like a chocolate raspberry pavlova.

This is delicious.  And easy.  All of which makes it a winner in my book.  Maybe I should write a book.

This is a Nigella recipe.  I don’t think I’ve gone wrong with a Nigella.  I find her a little frustrating though because I like oodles of detail in a recipe and I think this is an area where she can be deficient.

Serves 8-10


For meringue

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar (I used the latter)
  • 50g dark choc finely chopped (I just used dark choice chips)

For the topping 

  • 500ml double or whipping cream (I used whipping)
  • 500g fresh raspberries
  • 3 tbsp dark chocolate in curls or coarsely grated - I used a crumbled mini Cadbury Twirl but you could also use 
  • a crumbled Flake


  • Before you pop the meringue in the oven the oven needs to be at fan 160C.
  • Beat egg whites until satiny peaks form.  I took this to mean solidly silky peaks.
  • Add the sugar a spoon at a time whilst beating and stop when peaks are stiff and shiny.
  • Add chopped chocolate, vinegar and sieved cocoa.  Fold until combined.
  • Pop a piece of baking parchment onto a baking tray and draw around a plate or similar to add a 9” circle to the baking parchment.
  • Turn the baking parchment drawn circle facing down and elegantly plonk the meringue mixture onto your circle.  Gently try and create a 9” circle using your drawn guide and try and make the top flat ish.
  • Bung in oven and reduce oven temperature to 140C.  Leave for about an hour and a quarter.  When cooked the edge should be crispy but the centre should feel a tad squidgy.  Turn the oven off at this point, slightly open the oven door but leave your gorgeous meringue in the oven until it is completely cooled.
  • Once your meringue is made you can store it in an airtight container for a week before using or you can freeze for longer.  If you do freeze it you can use it straight from the freezer (and this is what I did).
  • When you are ready to load up your pav then whip cream until thick but soft.  Nigella insists you put your meringue on the serving plate with the bottom uppermost.  I think this is daft, but you do whatever makes you happy.  Plop the cream atop your meringue and then scatter raspberries with gay abandon.  Crush/crumble/chop your chocolate and sprinkle over the top.
  • Consume with passion.

This is what my meringue looked like before its adornments.  I made it a bit bigger than the nine inches which was a mistake because it grew in the oven - worth bearing in mind.


Friday, 3 July 2015

Week two and I'm still alive

The continuation of my running regime.
I wasn’t sure I was ready for week two so my first foray into week two was a repeat of the week one routine.
So on Sunday I did what I’d done in the previous week.  And then on Monday I looked and saw that week two didn’t look that bad, so I gave it a go.  I survived.
On Tuesday I did a week two session too.  Wednesday and Thursday were a bit tricky so Friday saw my final week two attempt and because I started week two with a repeat of the week one session I ended up doing four sessions in a week.
I have discovered that Hannah can walk faster than I can run….Whatever.
Music whilst exercising is good although going from this:

to this:

is weird.

And I can look tall and skinny if I view my shadow when the sun is low:


Friday, 26 June 2015

Just a phase I'm going through

Last weekend I decided it was pathetic that I couldn’t run five kilometres.

I don’t want to compete and I don’t want to be a good runner, but I don’t want to be pathetic.

I have tried running before, and not in a half-hearted way either.  It didn’t work and I became disillusioned, fed up, and full of pathos.

This time I’m older, so it’ll be harder, but I’ll have technology on my side.  I don’t have any bionic limbs or fabulous compression clothing to improve circulation but I do have an app.  It’s an app that is similar to many that have taken lazy lumps from “Couch to 5K”.

I’m less than a week in, so how was it?

Well my first outing was with my children and I enjoyed their company but my running looked like the running of someone twice my age.  There was post run aching too, but the whole thing was manageable.

My second outing was an inning.  I ran and walked around the house unwilling to be seen in public.  This was tolerable and the running was less lame.

My third outing followed the same route as the first and my running was more effective because I needed to add a loop to be able to schedule the interspersed walking and running perfectly timing my return to base at the end of the 30 minutes.  It was a warm morning and I was horribly hot and sweaty when I got back home.  It was all doable though.

My concern is that week two doubles the length go the running bits.  I think that sounds like a bit too much for me and I might repeat week one.  I’m not training for any particular event so I might as well work at a comfortable pace rather than risk trying too much too soon and failing.

Do I feel better?  Not physically better but I do feel virtuous.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015


There are times when my life is choreographed to the minutes; things happen one after the other making the best use of my time.

This morning I’d taken some ingredients out of the freezer ready to cook a quick meal this evening.

The minute I got in from work I started cooking and made a chicken pie and bunged it in the oven.  My hints about making mummy a cup of tea fell on deaf ears.

I checked where Hannah was and realised I could just collect her from the station while the pie was in the oven.  I set the timer on the oven so that it would turn off preventing the pie from burning.  After collecting Hannah and her friend, dropping her friend off and getting home I served up and we ate.  No cup of tea was forthcoming here either.

I needed Dave to get home because I wanted his car to go to Astrid’s house.  I was collecting a wardrobe and needed the estate.  Dave knew this but wasn’t home at the time I would normally expect.  I popped the kettle on because nobody else was going to make me a cup of tea.  I also put a bread mix in the bread maker. 

And then Dave turned up and he was home at a time which meant I would be late getting to Astrid.  

He drank my untouched tea while I got in the car with Ethan to collect the wardrobe.  Dave lamely offered help and I resisted the urge to say “Maybe try to be a bit more considerate of other people’s commitments.”  I wasn’t late by much but I don’t like letting people down and I try to keep promises.

My time is precious. I don’t appreciate being messed around.  

Friday, 19 June 2015


I'm typing this as a form of therapy. Nobody's recommended I do this, I'm just trying out in the hopes that it works.

I am at home today and have just been overwhelmed with sadness and I don't know why.

It reminds me of the feelings I had when I had post natal depression and that scares me. I don't want to go anywhere near that place again.

I've tried to analyse why I'm feeling this way because it's actually quite unusual for me. I am, despite appearances to the contrary, an optimist.

I've been baking this morning which usually makes me happy, but not today.

I'm just so very sad today. I want to call mum for a chat but I can't, she's not here.

So for all of you who hate those people who smile for no reason, rest assured they can have their bad days.

I don't know what's up. But this isn't me.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Just a thought

I’ve watched the last couple of episodes of Born Naughty on Channel 4.  The premise is parents whose children are exhibiting unwanted behaviours.  The programme brings together experts to analyse the children and parents to determine whether the child is undiagnosed with perhaps autism or a psychological disorder, or whether the parents just need a bit of help to do the job of parenting a little better.

There have been lots of programmes covering the task of parenting and often the general response of the great viewing public is to criticise the parents.

My conclusion is somewhat different.  I think all of these shows demonstrate that parents need help and support.

There is very little guidance for parents.  You have the child and that’s it.  A few visits to a doctor with a smattering of early trips to see a health visitor and it stops.

The focus, as the child grows up, seems to be the child.  I recognise the child is important but the parent needs to know how to support their child.  Parenting is all too often inherited.  If your parents didn’t have to deal with anything out of the ordinary then you’ll never have seen how to deal with a psychological diagnosis or the news that your child is on the autistic spectrum.  If you’ve never seen it then who’s going to show you what to do and how to deal with it?

I wonder whether the offer of no strings support for parents who’d just like to know how to get their child to eat more vegetables or stop getting into fights at school or whatever, would make everyone happier and probably stop some issues from building and becoming bigger, more expensive issues to manage.

Just a thought.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Smoked Haddock Chowder Recipe

I made this today and it’s delicious which is why I’m sharing the recipe.


  • 25g butter
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 400g potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 725ml fish stock (I used vegetable stock)
  • 200g natural uncooked smoked haddock, skinned and flaked
  • 75ml single cream
  • cayenne pepper - I used about half a teaspoon

Garnish if required:

  • 1 egg, hard boiled and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsps finely chopped fresh parsley


  • Melt the butter in a saucepan, add three-quarters of the onion and 225g of the potato, then cook gently for 5 minutes, without browning
  • Add the stock, cover, bring to the boil and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender
  • Blend until smooth and return to the pan
  • Add the remaining vegetables, cover, then simmer gently for 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender
  • Remove from the heat, add the fish, stir in the cream and add cayenne to taste.
  • Reheat gently for 5 minutes, then serve with garnish, if required.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Yellow Split Pea and Bacon Soup

I’ve been working my way through a soup recipe book.  It has a recipe for every day of the year.  I’m not cooking every recipe but February 4th is “the best yet” according to my progeny.  And February 4th happens to be Yellow Split Pea and Bacon.  It doesn’t sound very inspiring, except the bacon bit.  Everyone loves bacon.

It’s such a simple recipe, and very tasty, so I thought it was worth sharing.


  • 170g yellow split peas
  • 1 potato, diced
  • half an onion, diced
  • pinch of white pepper
  • 375ml vegetable stock
  • 40g celeriac
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • pinch turmeric
  • 500g cooked, smoked bacon, diced


  • In a large saucepan place 100g of the yellow split peas and all of the other ingredients except the bacon.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes
  • Remove the bay leaf and blend until smooth
  • Add the remaining yellow split peas and bacon and cook gently for another 20 minutes, or until the peas have softened.
  • Enjoy.

Can be frozen and defrosted/reheated

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Feminism should die

I recently read and shared a Spectator article about the isolation of Sweden’s “feminist foreign minister”.  She’d been outspoken about the subjugation of women in Saudi Arabia.

It’s been sitting uncomfortably with me.

The political isolation is wrong, but the way she was described also seemed wrong even though the article was supportive.

She was described as a feminist because she wants women to have fair treatment in Saudi Arabia; isn’t that what every fair-minded individual would want?  

Does that mean that the norm is that everyone is a feminist? 

I’ve decided that feminism is a redundant term.  It’s definition is the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equality of the sexes.  What reasonable person wouldn’t advocate women’s right to equality?  Those who wouldn’t want this are the misogynists.

If feminist beliefs are the norm then perhaps the term is no longer needed.  So instead of the general population, feminists and misogynists, we should just have everyone and misogynists.  And ideally we wouldn’t have the misogynists.

Does this make sense?  Can we get rid of the term feminism?

Thursday, 26 March 2015

I'd like a joint bank account, just for me

When I parcels that need collecting from the sorting office I can’t use my driving licence as ID.  Parcels are delivered to Ann Cardus and my driving licence has the name Carolyn Ann Cardus.

To overcome this rather embarrassing situation I changed the name on my Halifax current account.  I’d opened the account with my first name and middle name and nobody had asked me what I wanted as an account holder’s name.  When I asked at the counter if it would be possible for my statements and debit card to show Ann Cardus they said I could have any name I wanted on there, but I thought Ann Cardus made sense, because that’s my name.  I’ve been using my Halifax bank statements as ID to collect parcels ever since and the branch’s records still have information about my first name.

My banking with the Halifax didn’t change at all.  I continued to pay cheques in made payable to A or Ann Cardus and to Carolyn A Cardus or C A Cardus, until this week.

I had two cheques returned to my home address because the payee didn’t match the account holder’s name exactly.  This is after about two years without any problem at all.

I called the number on the attached letter and was put through to the call centre who eventually tried to put me through to the branch.  There was no answer so they said they would ask the branch to call me, which they did.  The man I spoke to told me that there was a rule that said the names had to match exactly and they would not budge on the matter.  He couldn’t explain why all previous cheques made payable to C A Cardus had been processed without question.

I phoned the Financial Conduct Authority who advised there is no such FCA rule.

I called the bank back and explained that the FCA doesn’t have a rule.  I asked if there was a Halifax rule.  I explained that if there was something in the terms and conditions of my account then I would not be making a complaint, but if there wasn’t, I would.  After an hour long phone call, just as the call centre operator was reviewing the complaint with their supervisor, the house phone battery gave way.

I dialled in again, went through another hour long call of pain, and logged a complaint.  The operative on this call told me it was in the terms and conditions, although she couldn’t find it immediately.  I adjusted my stance and said that I had not had this issue for two years and clearly something had changed.  I had not been informed of the change in terms and conditions which is a requirement of financial institutions.  I also requested that they phone me back to tell me where this is in the terms and conditions and also that they mail me the relevant section.  I also requested they revise this rule which is not an FCA requirement and which is a significant inconvenience for customers like me, and probably for people who still use their maiden name as well as their married name.

I was offered reimbursement for the telephone costs (three hours) and £60 for the inconvenience.

I haven’t heard back regarding the terms and conditions, and having had a quick look at the ones available on the website, I don’t think it’s in the terms and conditions.

If they can’t tell me where this “rule” is, I will be complaining to the Banking Ombudsman.

But I think I have a short term fix: request a joint account for just me.  The bank is treating me as two people: A Cardus and C A Cardus, so I might see how they react to my joint account request.  I did ask, when I spoke to the branch, whether I could change the account holder name to "Ms A Cardus or Mrs C A Cardus” but was told this wasn’t possible.

This might sound petty but all I want to be able to do is pay cheques into my account. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Write to your MP

Writing to your MP couldn't be easier.

This website: makes it really simple with a step by step process.

I've just written to my MP, Eric Pickles, with this letter and you can too - feel free to copy and paste:

Dear Mr PIckles
Mr. Ed Timpson claimed in a letter to parents, dated 1st September, 2014, that no child should lose their statement in the transfer to EHCP.
So no child or young person should lose their statement and not have it replaced with an EHC plan simply because the system is changing. 
Equally, I expect that young people who are currently receiving support as a result of a LDA and remain in further education or training during the transition period, who request and need an EHC plan, will be issued with one. 
If a council decides to cease a statement and not replace it with an EHC plan or not issue an EHC plan to a young person who receives support as a result of an LDA then dispute resolution arrangements must be in place locally for parents and young people, including mediation and the right to appeal a decision to the SEND Tribunal.
Needless to say, the process is lengthy, which will affect our children’s education, as their needs will not be met during this process. Going to SEND Tribunal places a financial burden upon parents, and some may not have the means to fight to support their child, whose educational development will suffer. 
The distress caused by battling the system also has an emotional cost as many parents of children with SENDs affects their mental health and well-being. The impact of losing provision set out in the statement will not only be felt by the child but also their family and the school with potentially devastating consequences.
Please, would you provide me with the legislation, which protects the current provision in Part 3 of a statement when transferring to Section F of an EHCP until appropriately, qualified, professional advice recommends that this is no longer necessary. 
We have struggled to find such legal security in the Children and Families Act (2014) and feel that this is against the interests of justice or the intention of the legislation.
I sincerely hope that the intention of the new legislation was not to discriminate or remove the rights of children in this way and look forward to your response.
Yours sincerely,
Ann Cardus

Friday, 27 February 2015

I get it

This conversation happened this morning:

Dave: “I’m trying my new migraine medicine."

Me: “Does that mean you have a migraine?"

Dave: “Yep. Head really hurts."

Me: “So you won’t be going into work then…"

Dave: “I have to."

Me: “You don’t have to."

Dave: “I do."

Now your instinctive reaction here might be to think “What?!”  I know, a killer hurting head and he’s still going to go to work.

The thing is that I understand this response.  Dave had people travelling to the office for meetings and he didn’t want to let them down.  I’d have had the same reaction.  I might have tried to think of someone who could take my place but, if that had failed, I’d haul my sorry hurting head into work.

If you travelled to a meeting to find your host was off sick, how would you feel?


Sunday, 8 February 2015


You may be aware that I live next to a building site.

You may not know that the police have knocked on the door in the past to ask about thefts from the site.  We hadn't seen anything but we have been keeping our eyes open in case there's a repeat performance.

Today was Sunday and the planning permission that has been granted prohibits work on the site on a Sunday and yet, as I was putting the rubbish out in the back garden I heard noises from the site.

I knew that both entrances to the site were locked.  I also knew that the Portakabin that the builders use for frequent tea-making wasn't open.

I hopped onto a bench and looked over what remains of our garden wall and the temporary barrier the builders have constructed.  I couldn't see anything, but I could definitely hear something.

What should to do?

I guessed that nobody was being murdered because I couldn't hear screaming.  I figured the noises were being caused by one of three things:

1.  Thieving scum
2.  Young people mucking around on a building site.  Dangerous.
3.  Builders.  Shouldn't be there but harmless.

I thought the third option was unlikely because whoever was there wasn't behaving like the Monday-Saturday builders: gates locked, Portakabin closed, no loud swearing.  The balance of probabilities indicated I needed to call the police.

I dialled 101 and, after waiting an age once I'd been put through to the control room, I explained things just as I have here.

About three minutes later two police cars turned up and there was a knock at the door.  A mountain of a police officer wanted to jump over our wall until he found it was a wobbly and unstable wall.  I helped him and a couple of his colleagues find the easy access for those with a slim frame.

As the occupants of the first two cars were tentatively making their way onto the site, two more cars turned up.  I think it might have been a slow crime day in Brentwood.

About ten minutes later I got the lowdown.  Three Romanian builders were a bit surprised to discovered by Brentwood's best blue line.

The police officers said I should call again if I see or hear anything suspicious. They said I did the right thing.

So next time there's activity on the site when there shouldn't be, I'll be calling 101.

Panasonic Breadmakers

I think I've blogged in praise of the Panasonic breadmaker in the past.  It's a brilliant piece of kit and we use ours almost daily.  In this case it's Panasonic we should thank for our daily bread.

But, our first Panasonic broke after about 18 months.  I think it was a mechanical failure.  So, because we are so dependent on our breadmaker I hot-footed it to Currys and bought another.  This time I paid for a "Care plan" which would last three years and provide a replacement should we experience another failure.

Today, exactly to the day, two years after I bought that second breadmaker it failed.  We tried three loaves and all were rubbish.  I couldn't remember the details of the Curry's Care plan so I phoned.  The nice customer sewrvice representative at the other end gave me a reference number and told me it expired on the 8th of January 2016.

We took the broken breadmaker which had cost £119.99 into the store and came away with the latest model which was on sale for £134.99.

I never buy product insurance but because we'd experienced one failure I thought I'd take the risk and this time it paid off.  As it's worked once for me I asked if I could do the same for this new breadmaker.  So I have paid another £30 to be covered for the next three years and, yes, I feel that Panasonic should probably design something that's a bit more robust, but I'm guessing that in two years time I'll be getting another upgrade because the current model will fail.

The unexpected bonus was that I will be getting a refund on the remaining year of unused Care Plan on the broken product.  I didn't expect that.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Amazing apple pie

Cooked an awesome apple pie today.  It was stacked with fruit and the pastry was fantastic.  The recipe made no sense.  It seemed completely illogical because the pastry didn’t need cold ingredients, but it worked so, hey ho, here’s an amazing apple pie recipe.  Taken from Angela Whatsit on

You’ll need a 20-22cm round and 4cm deep pie tin/dish, oh, and an oven, and ingredients.



  • 1kg ish Bramley apples
  • 140g golden caster sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 225g butter, room temperature
  • 50g golden caster sugar, plus extra
  • 2 eggs
  • 350g plain flour
  • For the pastry, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until just mixed.
  • Break in a whole egg and a yolk (keep the white for glazing later).
  • Beat together for just under 1 min – it will look a bit like scrambled egg.
  • Now work in the flour with a wooden spoon, a third at a time, until it’s beginning to clump up, then finish gathering it together with your hands.
  • Gently work the dough into a ball, wrap in cling film or plastic bag, and chill for a minimum of 45 mins.
  • While the pastry is chilling, prepare the apples.
  • Put a layer of paper towels on a large baking sheet.
  • Quarter, core, peel and slice the apples about 5mm thick.  Because I hate apples that turn brown I put the cut apple in water with a dash of lemon juice.  Before the next step the apples need to be drained.
  • Lay sliced apples evenly on the paper towel covered baking sheet.
  • Put paper towels on top and set aside.
  • Now mix the 140g/5oz sugar, the cinnamon and flour for the filling in a bowl that is large enough to take the apples
  • After the pastry has chilled, heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5.
  • Lightly beat the egg white with a fork.
  • Grease your pie tin/dish with butter.
  • Cut off a third of the pastry and keep it wrapped while you roll out the rest, and use this to line a pie tin – 20-22cm round and 4cm deep – leaving a slight overhang.
  • Roll the remaining third to a circle about 28cm in diameter.
  • Pat the apples dry with kitchen paper, and tip them into the bowl with the cinnamon-sugar mix. Having dry apples in the pie prevent a soggy bottom.
  • Give a quick mix with your hands and immediately pile high into the pastry-lined tin/dish.
  • Brush a little water around the pastry rim and lay the pastry lid over the apples pressing the edges together to seal.
  • Trim the edge with a sharp knife and make 5 little slashes on top of the lid for the steam to escape. (Can be frozen at this stage.)
  • Brush it all with the egg white and sprinkle with caster sugar.
  • Bake for 40-45 mins, until golden, then remove and let it sit for 5-10 mins before serving with vanilla ice cream, cream or custard.
  • 1kg Bramley apples
  • 140g golden caster sugar
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp flour

Sunday, 18 January 2015

If I were a successful theatre director

We went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory last night.
It was good.
Wonka was played to perfection.  The set was amazing. Some of the costumes were very clever and I would rather like a Wonka jacket.
But there was something missing.
The children and I agreed that all audience members should have a chocolate bar and inside one, per performance, there should be a golden ticket. That golden ticket should win the holder a prize. It could be a show T-shirt our a trip backstage or the book signed by the cast our something.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Being nice

At school today Hannah saw the result of generosity of spirit.
Someone had used post-it notes on locker doors and in a few other places around the school.
The messages on the post-it notes were all positive. "Smile" "Have a great day." "Your hair looks great." "I like your bag."
I think everyone who saw one of these notes would have had at least five minutes of feeling good.
What a lovely, kind thing to do.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

The war effort

I have war stock.

What’s war stock?

War stock is when the Government sell bonds to finance a war effort.

Cool, which war?

Well I didn’t know until yesterday, but the First World War.

How come you have war stock for the First World War?

It’s called inheritance.  I could have cashed it in but it is a small amount and I liked the reminder that my family had supported the war effort when the country needed it.  I had thought it was Second World War stock but this appears to have made it through two generations.

Great.  And…?

Well the Government don’t want this piece of history to exist anymore. 


They want to pay back the debt.


Well debt is cheaper at the moment so they can pay this back and get cheaper debt.  I think this is a bit of a shame.

Ok, where can I go to find out more?


Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Cheeseboard and Onion Tart

You know those times when you’re being posh and sophisticated, serving a well chosen selection of cheeses on a proper cheeseboard with the correct cheese knives?


Me neither, but there might be times when you have cheese in the fridge that could be used in a tart.  Most cheeses could probably be used in this recipe but I’d recommend cheese that packs a punch.  I’ve made it with mature cheddar, brie and stilton as a combination and also a smoked cheese, stilton, brie and cheddar as a combo.

I don’t own a cheeseboard and I have just one knife that is allegedly for cheese.

You’ll need a tart tin.  This recipe is notionally for a 23cm tin but both times i’ve made it I’ve kept the pastry quantity the same and just upped the filling amount.


  • 250g plain flour
  • 125g cold cubed unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I forgot this)
  • 2 onions (I love onion so used more), sliced into rings or half rings
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 284ml double cream
  • 250g cheese, any cheese but the tastier the better
  1. Put some ice cubes in some water.  Pastry making requires coldness.  I have only learned this through watching endless baking shows.  I avoided pastry for years because it scared me and crappy mince pie making scarred me.
  2. Put the flour, butter and salt in a food processor and pulse until your mixture looks like fine crumbs.
  3. Carefully add about 60ml of the cold water.  Add it slowly whilst pulsing until the mixture starts to come together as a dough.
  4. Shape it into a fat, smooth disc and pop in a plastic bag in the fridge for at least 20 mins.
  5. This can be done a few days in advance.  You can also freeze dough as well.
  6. While your pastry is in the fridge, butter your tart tin.
  7. Also while your pastry is in the fridge soften the onion slices in oil on the hob, medium heat, until the onions are translucent and turning golden - this should take at least ten minutes.
  8. Heat oven to 180C (fan oven).
  9. Roll out pastry on a floured surface until it’s big enough to line your tart tin.  My recipe says line the tin with baking parchment but I didn’t bother.
  10. Line your tin with the pastry.  Use your knuckles to gently push the pastry into place.
  11. You need to choose what to do with the pastry hanging over the edge.  Pastry shrinks which is why many people advise leaving the excess pastry just hanging. Personally I find it easier to remove the pastry at this stage.  Trying to remove the cooked pastry is a faff but you might want to experiment.  Or you might have your own preference.
  12. Prick the pastry with a fork - this stops the pastry puffing up.
  13. Line the pastry with baking paper - cake liners work well here - and fill with baking beans or whatever you would normally use (beans or rice - obviously not baked beans, baking beans).
  14. Bake on a baking sheet for 15 mins.
  15. Remove from oven and carefully remove baking parchment and baking beans.
  16. Put back in the oven for about 10 minutes, or longer until the case is a pale golden colour.
  17. Turn the oven down to 160C (fan)
  18. While the case is cooking beat eggs and cream adding salt and pepper as required.  For bigger tart tins add an egg and use about 440ml cream.
  19. Crumble, chop or pull cheese into smallish (penny-sized) bits and scatter in case.
  20. Scatter softened onion.
  21. Pour in egg/cream mix.  The baking shows recommend doing this with tart on an oven shelf. I’ve tried this and get myself in a muddle because as the oven shelf is pulled out of the oven partially it is no longer properly horizontal.  I take an oven shelf out of the oven and with the baking tray and tart tin on the oven shelf I pour the mix in.  I find it easier to manoeuvre an oven shelf and keep it level than I do just a tart tin on a baking tray.
  22. Bake for 40 minutes.
  23. Can be eaten warm or cold.
  24. Keeps for a few days in the fridge.




Monday, 5 January 2015


So I’m going to fly in the face of public opinion and suggest Ched Evans should be hired by a football club, or at least the football clubs considering hiring him shouldn’t be swayed by vocal public opinion.

I know he protests his innocence, but for the purposes of this argument, let’s assume he’s guilty.

I understand he’s been found guilty of rape and he served half of a five year sentence.

Let me also clear up any misunderstanding about my views on rape.  I think it’s a vile crime and my view on Ched Evan’s employability does not mean I condone the crime.

I consider that Mr Evans has paid the price for his crime and his slate has, as far as society should be concerned, been wiped clean.

You and I may consider the sentence served to be inadequate for the crime, but it is our justice system that decided the original sentence and the decision to release after time served.  We might not like it but those are the rules.

Generally there is a view that people who have served time at Her Majesty’s pleasure should be rehabilitated into society.  Having employment is an ideal part of this jigsaw.

Personally I would much rather see this ex-con employed doing something where he has some skill rather than living on the money that can probably be made from selling exclusive stories to different tabloid rags or checkout gossip mags.

I understand that footballers are role models (in theory).  Boxers are too.  Anyone remember Mike Tyson’s rape conviction?  

I don’t think Ched Evans is seeking the easy route.  The prosecution was very public.  Everyone knows what he did.  He’s choosing to be in the public eye and under the scrutiny of the media, something he could avoid if he disappeared into obscurity.  I think that he could be a role model if he behaved appropriately now.  A reformed character can be inspirational.

I also wonder what society would think if the crime was GBH, or theft, or tax evasion, or fraud, or manslaughter, or possession, or…you get the idea.  The time served could have been the same for tax evasion (or possession of a class B drug).  Would the view be that tax evasion is OK?  I’m not sure it provides a great role model.  We wouldn’t want children thinking it was OK to avoid paying tax.

But if someone who happened to be a good footballer, evaded tax, served their time and then behaved responsibly and within the law then I think there’s no reason why they shouldn’t play football again.  

Did you know Wesley Snipes did three years jail time for tax offences and yet nobody seems to have objected to him appearing in Expendables 3 following his release?

It’s not as though Evans is commanding a price that matches his football skill.  From what I understand his fee is much cheaper than it would be for someone else who wasn’t an ex-con.

There is an opportunity for a mutually beneficial relationship here.  Oldham Athletic need a change of fortune and so does Ched Evans.  

I understand the commercial decision being made by sponsors.  The public reaction to Oldham’s tentative steps towards signing Ched Evans is something you wouldn’t want associated with your brand.

Oldham need to balance potential sponsorship loss with the potential of improved team performance, but I think the guy has been given his punishment and shouldn’t be further penalised.

I don’t envy the people making the decision though.

Friday, 2 January 2015

It's all about me

We booked a train journey from Shenfield to Sheringham.

It takes slightly longer than driving because two changes are involved but it does allow us to sit at a table and read books and play games and it should be less tiring.

There's only one stretch of the journey that affords us the luxury of reserved seating but it's the longest stretch between Chelmsford and Norwich.

We were travelling on a quiet day.  As we parked in Shenfield train station car park at 8:00 we were one of four cars in what is normally a nearly full car park.

At Chelmsford we hopped onto the carriage with our reserved seats and 90% off the seats weren't reserved making it easy to spot our reserved seats. The carriage was barely occupied so we headed to the seats with reserved tickets.

At our reserved table was a woman who had clearly made herself at home.

Hannah and Ethan sat down opposite her and when she finished her phone call she shuffled a couple of belongings and said "I could move."

We moved and sat at a different table because there was plenty of space and it wasn't a problem.

But what kind of person sees an empty carriage with barely any reservations and actively chooses to sit in reserved seats?

Is it arrogance,  stupidity or just an absence of awareness?

It's just something that wouldn't occur to me and I don't understand it.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

A fine mess

I watch baking/cooking shows.  Sometimes I might make something I’ve seen.  This happened most recently with Tom Kerridge’s spiced orange cake and yes, I will put this recipe online because it worked well, and was gluten free.

The thing that annoys me about these programmes is that my experience is generally nothing like the one portrayed on screen.  The finished result never looks as professional and the my process of cooking whatever it is always lacks the finesse and skill of the chef on the TV.

But my main bugbear is mess.  Nobody ever seems to tidy up mess.

Paul Hollywood is always shaking flour and icing sugar all over work surfaces but I don’t think i’ve ever seen that mess cleaned up.  When I clean up flour I end up with wallpaper paste because that’s what happens when I mix water and flour.

My floor also gets covered in flour and sugar and that is not fun to tidy up.  Do the professionals have a particular tidy up technique that I could learn?

Then there’s dough whether it’s bread or pastry that gets stuck to the work surface.  If that’s not cleaned up quickly it sticks hard and needs chipping off.

Egg whites spilled by My Hollywood’s one-handed egg cracking technique also have glue-like properties.  This is why royal icing sets rock hard - it’s because of the egg whites.  He never cleans this up.

I would like a programme where the presenter prepares ingredients, makes everything, tidies up and does the washing up.  I want to see how messy their kitchen is because I can’t believe I’m the only one to create such a disaster zone every time I venture towards the hob or oven.