Archive for August, 2012

“PAPRIKA LAMB!”

Yesterday I was at work. My colleague and I were just hanging around looking for things to do as it was a bit quiet. We had a little look in the fridge of homemade food and saw a stew of some sort. We didn’t know for definite what it was, as the paprika lamb and the pork goulash often look quite similar. There was only one thing for it – the taste test (I sometimes have to do this on the cake, purely in the interests of the customer, you understand..). It tasted like pork. So we put a label on it and got on with other stuff.

Then the world arrived and wanted a sandwich. And they wanted things heated up and they wanted coffees and they wanted to buy this and that. So we woke ourselves up a little and got into ‘military mode.’ I was heating, wrapping, toasting and washing dishes in the kitchen. My colleague was making coffee, taking payments, taking orders and bagging things up in front of the shop. Due to this intensity of action, there was less time for niceties.

I would tear out of kitchen at 100 miles an hour, yelling “CALIFORNIAN CLUB SANDWICH!”  and thrust it at the first person who looked up. “THANKS! HAVE A GOOD DAY!” I would yell, with equal ferocity, before disappearing back into the kitchen to deal with the next order. I’m not sure whether they felt I really meant that last statement…

Anyway, there were pans on hobs all over the place, heating soups and stews and whatever else found its way to me. At one point, I noticed something on a hob which had finished heating. I whipped out the rice, which was also finished and got it ready for take-out. I picked it up and raced out into the shop. I had forgotten how hot it was. My fingers started noticing the heat. Ignore it, I thought. Get the food out now, nurse the cuts and burns later.

I rushed into the shop at some speed, given the finger-burning situation and shouted, “PAPRIKA LAMB!”

…. There was no reaction. What was wrong with these people? My fingers are burning here, OW OW! Pay attention. It must be someone’s.

“PAPRIKA LAMB!” shouted the crazy kitchen lady, again.

Again, no reaction. Some people were talking in the corner and I presumed it must be one of them. Why aren’t they listening out for their food? I thought, impatiently.

“DID ANYONE ORDER A PAPRIKA LAMB WITH RICE TO TAKE AWAY?!” I yelled, raising my voice to get their attention. They all looked briefly at me, shook their heads, then went back to their conversation.

My patience was running low by this point. I needed to get back into the kitchen, I was busy and important, couldn’t these people tell?! Someone needs to take this paprika lamb from me. I tried again.

“PAPRIKA LAMB!”

Nothing. I turned to my colleague, who was making a coffee, and asked her, “Do you know who’s paprika lamb this is?”

(Has anyone else spotted the mistake yet?)

She said (wait for it…..), she said, “O, is that the pork goulash?”

Yes. Yes, it is. Because we don’t have paprika lamb, do we….

A pause. I figure out how to deal with the situation.

“Is anyone waiting for pork goulash?” I said, voice lowered significantly.

The man in front of me stepped forward, thanked me and took his pork goulash…..

Crazy kitchen lady returned to her kitchen cave at the back of the shop and quietly got on with the next order…..

A book review or two

In my quest to Finish All The Books I’m In The Middle Of Reading, I have found a few gems that I thought I’d tell you about.

First up is Good Vibrations: Crossing Europe on a Bike Called Reggie by Andrew Sykes. This is the story of a man who, after resolving to spend his summer doing next to nothing, gets a little bored and dreams of adventure. He decides to travel from his home in Reading to the southern tip of Italy, following a route known as the Via Francigena. He covers France, Luxembourg, Switzerland and Italy.

For five weeks, he heads determinedly toward southern Italy and the book details the hours spend on the bike each day and the distance covered. Once you have seen a few of these, you start to understand the massive task that he is carrying out. His writing is extremely readable. I’d often intend to read a few pages while on the bus or before work and find myself transported to a campsite where Andrew and Reggie searched for somewhere away from the noisy midnight fishers or party people. Suddenly I was late for work or had almost missed my stop.

Andrew makes sure we are privy to everything his trip threw at him. Rarely are we left with a quick summing up of an entire day in a few sentences. I really love the diary style of this book. It puts you right there in the scene with him and Reggie and connects you to his journey in a way that, upon finishing it with him, you experience a sense of achievement.

Various things stick out in my memory on finishing the book. The scene where Andrew and Reggie cross the lake near Buochs in Switzerland and we are given a detailed explanation of how one “lashes” a bike to boat had me laughing out loud. When Andrew stops for lunch near the end of his journey, in Valrano Scala, and finds something called a “chip pizza” I was utterly mystified. The entire Italy section was very exciting reading for me anyway, given that I have had a preoccupation with Italian cuisine for quite some time and I am also going to Rome in a few weeks. So I read with anticipation and soaked up every bit of it. Then the scene with the chip pizza occurred. And it made me doubt everything. It make me doubt my trip, the Italians, and the future of food in general. What was this madness?! I have since been assured that chip pizzas are very tasty…. I remain sceptical.

Another thing which struck me about this trip is people’s willingness to offer a helping hand. Andrew finds a welcoming face every so often on his trip and these people always show such kindness, it makes you feel good about people in general (the chip pizza inventor excepted).

It is a lovely lovely book. A little while ago I read a book about a man who cycles to India, called You’ve Gone To Far This Time, Sir and love love loved it. Therefore, when I saw this book, about another cycling journey, I came to it with high expectations, having had such a great read last time. I was thankfully not disappointed. It is well written and fascinating. In light of epic journeys being taken, I have start making more solid plans for a walking adventure. Given that I can be quite lazy though, I think Andrew and Reggie will put me to shame as I’ll probably just walk to the shops for some chocolate and back….

(I read this book on the Kindle app on my phone.)

I thought I’d do another quick book review as I recently finished listening to The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivy on Audible.com and it was very good. It was read beautifully, the story was beautiful and it’s one of those books I keep telling people to listen to if I hear they have the Audible.com app.

An older couple decide to move to Alaska and buy some farming land, against the advice of their families. They are childless and it has always been an unspoken heartache between them. Their first few months are hard but one day, with wild abandon, they play outside in the snow and build a snowman. Well, more precisely a snow-girl. They put a scarf on it and carve a face. When they wake up, the scarf is gone and for a long time afterwards, they catch glimpses of a little girl running in the woods outside their home.

The development of this story is handled with such skill that your thoughts on first hearing about the ‘girl’ they see are a world away from your thoughts when the story concludes. It’s a story that creeps up on you. First you’re just listening every so often, thinking that the book is quite good. Then suddenly, you can’t wait to take your break at work, in order to listen to a few more minutes of it.

Finishing this book was something that took a few days of recovery. My initial thoughts about the final scene changed over time and I still feel uncertain about exactly what happened.

It is a book of uncertainties and therein lies the beauty of it. It is intriguing and enticing. It draws you in steadily until every twist and turn occupies your thoughts long after you have stopped listening/reading.

It is also read very well. When I downloaded and listened to a few other books, I realised how lucky I had been with the reader of The Snow Child. If you are already with Audible.com, listen to this book.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair? – No!

It’s Wednesday so it’s over to the guest blogger again for a visit to Scarborough…

I suppose the title gives it away. Yep, I visited Scarborough. I didn’t go to the fair and I didn’t see one. I didn’t see any parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme and no-one lives there who’s a true love of mine!

Let’s start with the accommodation: a Youth Hostel (means any age allowed, in fact). Here’s the approach road (lane?) and the hostel at the far end.
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Arriving somewhat hungrily around 5pm, I decided to go for the full monty and booked an evening meal and a breakfast for the morning to go along with my plush bunk bed. Both were well cooked and I enjoyed someone else cooking for me. There were two of us for evening meal; the rest self-catered or went to the nearby pub. My co-eater, it turned out, was a cyclist down from Tyneside to do some trips out on the Moors. This 70 year old had cycled over 35 miles up hill and down dale that day!

So if I didn’t go to the fair, had I found it, and I didn’t get any spices, why was I there?

It’s a story that goes back over 200 years. I’m doing some family history research and have traced a set of great-great-great grandparents to an address in Scarborough. Now just so you get the idea on these relatives think of this: biologically, we each have 2 parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great grandparents, 16 great-great grandparents & 32 great-great-great grandparents. So I’ve found 2 of those 32! I had an address from the Census of 1841 and I wanted to see if anything remained of the area or even the street. Also I wondered if there might be any other local info about the time when they lived there.

My research day started with a walk from the Youth Hostel up the hill to the bus stop. I arrived in plenty of time and checked with the local who was already there that I was on the correct side of the road for where I wanted to go. The bus route was a circular one so I wanted to make sure I was not going to go the long way round. Then surprise, surprise we just started talking and ended up talking the whole time we were waiting for the bus to arrive. Seems like a friendly place I thought.

Once I’d arrived in the town centre, my first stop was the library for the academic research. I gave the lady in the library the name I was looking for and told her that I’d rung about 18 months ago to make some inquiries. She said she remembered the call! When I sounded surprised she said the name I’d asked about was very unusual for the town and that’s why she remembered it. I had a good 3 hours digging about in the old records and then set off for some sight-seeing looking for some of the places which would have been familiar to my distant relatives.

First stop was street where the folks from long ago lived. It was still there although the original housing has gone. However some features are still there and it was interesting to see that the steps leading to the upper part of town and to the church where they got married are still there. They must have walked them many times. It somehow felt as if I had some connection although I’d never been there before and no-one in the family knew of this link to Scarborough all those years ago.
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This picture is Edwardian so is about 60 years later than when my ancestors were there but it gives a feel for the place. This upper part of the street is called Church Stairs St. for obvious reasons. The original flight of steps dates back to the 14th cent but they were replaced later with stone and there are 199 of them. Why didn’t they make one more? Just off the bottom of the picture the street crosses a junction and on the other side becomes St Mary’s St which is the street where my far off ancestors lived for a while. Here’s a present day view of the lower part of the street.
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Using the birth records of their children, I know they moved out of this street to London some time between 1841-1846. It seems they moved there to find work and settled on the western side of Isle of Dogs. The street they lived in there is described as “a narrow way with a lay-by to enable two carts to pass each other; it was little more than an access to the iron works on either side.” That has to be narrow if they had to make a lay-by for carts to pass each other. And it has to be for very poor families. I looked on an old map of the area and it looked like living on an industrial estate between two factories. Anyway I stood in St Mary’s St for a few minutes just thinking about the conditions they left and what they thought they were going to and what I know they might have found in such an industrial area. I saw this plaque on the wall of a far newer property in the street where they had lived. I wondered if their parents had possibly heard the man himself preach.
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John Wesley had preached at a chapel on the site 14 times between 1759-1790. It means he must have visited the town a number of times as he travelled extensively about the country on horseback. Sometimes he preached in the fields outside of towns because some churches would not let him into their pulpits and sometimes because there were just too many people to fit inside one building.

I went up to St Mary’s Church at the top of the steps, in the old pic, and made my way to the grave yard where I sat down on a bench seat to take in the view across the bay. I ate my sandwiches and looked at the grave I’d sat next to.
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And here’s the transcription as the original gravestone was badly decayed
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As you can see by the correction on the plain slate version, the original stone mason actually carved the wrong age for Anne. She was born 17.1.1820 & died 28.5.1849 so was definitely 29 years old not 28 as on the original stone. Interesting. Anne wrote the two novels Agnes Grey (which I’ve not read) & The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (which I have, and it’s good).

The Brontës endured tragedy after tragedy. Look below at the ages at death of their mother Maria and all six children:

Maria, mother of 6 Brontë children, aged 38 (Sep 1821)
Maria, aged 11 (6th June 1825)
Elizabeth, aged 10 (15th June 1825)
Branwell, aged 31 (Sep 1848)
Emily, aged 30 (Dec 1848)
Anne, aged 29 (May 1849)
Charlotte, aged almost 39 (Mar 1855)

So in the space of 8 short months Charlotte, having already lost her mother in 1821 & 2 sisters in the space of 10 days in 1825, lost two more of her sisters and brother in the period 1848-9; she survived them by just 6 years. Charlotte’s husband, Arthur Bell Nicholls, lived to 3rd Dec 1906 surviving Charlotte by 51 years!
In this next pic, look at where the church decided to put the refreshments notice. Yep, that’s right, next to the most visited grave of the most famous person in the graveyard! I couldn’t help feeling it looked out of place and perhaps shouldn’t have been there.
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I did, though, go and look inside the church, where my ancestors married, and then ended up buying a cup of tea and scone and chatting to the two ladies serving. I wondered if some kind of subliminal message had reached me from that notice in the graveyard! It was here that I got my old photo postcard. As I walked back down the hill I came to this scene and fully expected the sea gulls to fly away as I approached. They didn’t. It meant I got close enough for this photo. As I went into the shop just to the left of the blue car, I was surprised to hear a voice say, “I hope you’re not disturbing my friends.”

Friends? Yes apparently the lady who owns the shop has been feeding one of these birds since he was a baby! He comes every day, sometimes with a friend, to get some food from her. She calls them her “boys”. I’m not that good on determining the gender of gulls so I didn’t know if they were “boys” or “girls”. I’ll bet she shop lady is not popular with the car owners. Remember the post about bird droppings; the birds are standing on a silver car and silver formed only 3% of car colours which get hit. They appear to have ignored the blue one and yet blue comes second in the table of colours most hit. Perhaps my photo disproves the theory although when I looked at the roofs they hadn’t done any droppings so I wasn’t sure what to conclude.
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As I walked back towards the town centre I saw this little alleyway with its name carved into the stone arch. I’ve not seen that done before. Didn’t seem like a route to be taken during the hours of darkness even today. Despite its name implying some delusion of grandeur (palace) I did wonder just what kind of life existed in alleyways like this 200 years ago.
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A little bit further back into the town centre, at the top of the cliffs overlooking the beach was this.
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To the right of the pic is the steeply-angled railway down to the beach and here is one of the carriages. It’s called a cliff railway or funicular railway.
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Here’s the entrance just to the right of the picture above. Thanks to Wikipedia for this one as mine didn’t come out.
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And so it was time to hit the road. I had to return to the Youth Hostel to pick up my gear and drive home. It had been a good day. I liked Scarborough. I will go back.

A revolution in my swimming world

Now this may seem quite silly to most. It’s a tiny thing that does not deserve its own post. The majority will wonder why I have not been doing it all along. But I haven’t. And now I am. And it’s a revolution of epic proportions.

I swam with my face UNDER the water yesterday!

Usually I don’t need to, if I’m doing back stroke for example. But when I do breast stroke, I just stay above water. The whole water-rushing-up-nose thing didn’t really appeal. This is also the sole reason I do not do front crawl.

I was quite happy in my little back stroke and breast stroke world. I knew I still had four years to train for the next Olympics so there was no real rush.

Then yesterday, someone told me to just go under and stop being a baby. Just breathe out through your nose and mouth and no water can get in, they told me. I was sceptical. I dipped under a few times, panicked, and breathed water hard into my throat. A ha! It was proved! My fear of water-up-nose was justified as I had water up my nose.

Breathe out, not in, silly.

So I tried again breathing out and it was fine. I did it a few more times. Then I did breast stroke with my head under. Amazing! You can see everything under the pool through your goggles and it’s really wierd. Cool. But wierd. The noise of splashing and voices cuts off and suddenly you’re in a silent world of legs and blue.

Then I approached a stroke I never do. Never ever. Because I see so many other people doing it extremely inelegantly and wish they’d stop. And I also see so many people doing it brilliantly and know I’ll never look like them.

It was time…. For front crawl….

My front crawl currently looks a little like a drowning cat so I only do it for short bursts, until I can no longer stand doing something so unOlympicy and then I stop. But it’s a revolution! I’m breaking new ground here. It’s very exciting.

P.S. I fully understand if some of you leave this post in disgust. What kind of swimmer goes swimming almost every day for over two months before putting their face under? In my defence, I will say that I was just taking it slowly, ok?

You really must stop with all the awards…! (Not really, I love them)

My award for Very Inspiring Blogger comes from cimplicityrockss and was awarded to me last month. As I got another award on the same day, I thought I’d space them out, to prevent an award onslaught (look, I didn’t ask to be this cool, it just came naturally, so don’t blame me).

 

Cimplicityrockss writes a fantastic blog which does what it says on the tin, it’s simple lessons learned and shared. There’s always something lovely to read there. Thanks so much for the award!

 

Next, I have to share seven facts about myself. Ok, here goes… Ermm….

 

1. I used to have a crush on Arnold Schwarzenegger. I know. I know. Please don’t tease me. I was young.

2. Despite being from Liverpool, my entire interaction with football has been a crush on Ryan Giggs when I was about 8 years old.

3. The other night, instead of eating dinner, I had a chocolate and orange cake. Don’t judge me. I was trapped in the house because of the torrential rain. I wanted to get out and get real food but I couldn’t! It wasn’t my fault! Well, I did manage get out for a minute in between downpours. To get the chocolate cake.

4. I have quite an obsessive nature. I just discovered a singer called Jessie Ware and have been listening to two of her songs on repeat for the past week. Still not bored.

5. One my worst habits is, when I have figured out that I don’t really like someone, or am not interested in being friends with them, I just tune out. I’m not rude, I just don’t take an interest. It can lead to awkward social situations where I find myself chatting to someone who’s name I don’t know, even though I’ve met them loads, and who I can’t remember anything about. Conversation is limited when they’re talking to you about something they think you understand but you don’t.

6. I often wish I was a centaur.

7. I am a girl who likes rules. For example, every Christmas I read the entire Chronicles of Narnia. Every time I go on holiday I read Little Women. When I get sick I read Winnie The Pooh. This is also why I like filing and paperwork.

 

Now I nominate seven blogs I find inspiring. So here they are, in no particular order…

1. uvfitnesssuzie – She’s new to the blogging scene and already she’s fabulous. Common sense advice (from someone who’s done it themselves) on getting fitter and losing weight, without the point-counting nonsense you find some places.

2. My Far Away Places – Great little snapshots from travels around the world. Today’s post on Albania was interesting due to its unfamiliarity. Recenet travel posts about this area of the world have all been great too.

3. As Time Goes… Buy – There’s always something pretty to look at in this blog. As a not-very-fashion-conscious girl myself, I stumbled upon this blog, not expecting to be that interested in its content but actually it’s good fun. I loved the recent metallic-clothing posts and even debated whether to hunt down a shiny bag for myself.

4. From A Tuscan Villa – What’s not to love? This Tuscan villa is in Bagni di Lucca and the blog features little snapshots of life from around the town. In another world, it would be MY Tuscan villa and my blog!

5. Not So Skinny Genes – Anything and everything, and all of it interesting, well-written and extremely readable. My favourite recent post was about lessons being learned in a new (male-dominated) workplace.

6. Photography Journal Blog – Fantastic photos of all different things and commentary on what it is, how the photo was taken, etc. There is also a great attitude to improving and asking advice on pictures. I like dipping into this blog every few days to see what’s been posted lately.

7. Grumpy Comments – I’m pretty sure I’ve nominated this blog before but I’m going to nominate it again, for plenty of reasons (centred around general fabulousness and a painfully acute awareness of self) but mainly because of the hilarious post this morning about being stroked on the wrist and finger-squeezed by a stranger whilst at work!

Fun with eggs

I can just imagine the search terms people will enter today and end up here. Things like, ‘how to bake a cake with eggs’ or ‘how many eggs should I use in a quiche’ or something. And do you know what they’ll get? They’ll get a silly story about my first year of living in halls at university.

There were five of us girls, all sitting around, day in, day out, being all free and away from home. Actually, we started as a six-peice but one of us, we’ll call her Smelly, opted for a life of not washing or being present. We’d find old unwashed pots and pans hidden in her wardrobe when we entered to find all our stuff she had borrowed and never returned. It was like entering a dungeon.

Anyway, I procrastinate, as usual. So we were a five-peice. We spent a lot of time dancematting. I think I have skated over this issue briefly. Now is the time to explain what was really going on. I would play dance mat every day. Every single day. For hours. Hours and hours and hours. I would shower two, sometimes three, times a day following yet another sweat-filled session jumping around in front of the tv. I often had a bit of a limp when I walked. I had blisters on my big toes and my calves were so tight, I couldn’t walk down stairs properly. I had to turn sideways and step gingerly down, both feet on one stair, before being able to move to the next one. As I lived on the first floor and my walk to work took an hour, this became quite a problem.

Another thing we did to pass the time was to play The Egg Game. I don’t know who came up with it. I think it was the product of one of those discussions about wierd facts that surely can’t be true. Do eggs really cook in the microwave, was the discussion at hand.

We took eggs from the fridge, as clearly, the theory must be tested. We each had one. We each drew a face on our egg. We each placed our egg on the glass plate inside the microwave. We closed the door. We set the time going. And we watched. And we sang. And we sang louder in excitement until the singing was screams. We watched. And we screamed.

And nothing happened.

We stopped screaming. We watched. We got bored.

BANG!!

The door of the microwave was thrown open violently and cooked egg nonsense hurled itself out at us all. We SCREAMED and ran as though under attack. Then we laughed nervously, pretending we hadn’t been scared.

Were you scared? No, I wasn’t! Haha! Were you? Was I? No, of course not. No. I wasn’t. Not me…. Definitely not me…. Noooo… Nope.

We approached the eggy microwave and peered in. Only one had gone. Another was squealing threateningly and another had leaked a little and the leakage had cooked white.

There was only one thing for it. We removed the suicide bomber, closed the door and continued the experiment, gripping each other, nervously. One after another, each went. Some barely making a noise. Some throwing their entire contents against the walls of the microwave.

A brief clean up and breather got our heart rates back to normal and now we knew. The next time we were bored, we had a game to play. The Egg Game.

One time, we found a egg which has become legendary in the history of our friendship. The Long Egg. As the name suggests, it was an egg which was longer than your average. I forget exactly how the egg went, but I’m sure that, during it’s time on the battlefields of The Egg Game, it fought valiantly and with great courage. It left a little of itself forever ingrained into the nooks and crannies on the ceiling of it’s fighting arena, the bits you can’t get to with the cleaning wipes, you know.

We salute you, Long Egg. You have a special place in our hearts. Love from the inhabitants of Flat D.

(P.S. We also tried testing another rumour, that if you put a carrot in the microwave for ages then take it out and snap it in half, flames shoot out! This one, sadly, did not work.)

Listening to children talk

Yaya: “Are you five?”
Friend: “No. I’m just four.”
Yaya: “I’M FOUR!”
Friend: “I’ll be five soon.”
Yaya: “O… I won’t be five soon. I’m a little bit littler than you.”
Friend: “Yeh, I’m the biggest.”
Yaya: “BUT! But when I’m five, I’ll be REALLY big!”
Friend: “You can come to my party. It will be at my house. You can come.”
Yaya: “I had a party when I was four. It was at my house. We had cake in the garden.”
Friend: “Look at my picture. It’s of you. Laura, I did a picture of Yaya.”
Me: “Oo, very nice.”
Yaya: “Mine’s green. Cause you know what? Green’s my favourite colour.”
Friend: “And that’s the hair.”
Silence while they colour in.
Friend: “Ok! Let’s play babies! I’m the Mummy and you’re the Daddy.”
Yaya: “Yeh. The mummies are in charge, aren’t they?”
*sounds of me snickering in the corner*
Friend: “Come on. Let’s take our baby out for a walk.”
Yaya: “Let’s play hide and seek! I’ll count. Four. Six. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve!”
*a little look behind the door reveals Friend*
Yaya: “I’m going to colour in now. I need the green pen. Look! Look at my picture.”
Friend: “I’ve got a book about princesses. I’ll get it.”
Yaya: “I’m wearing a Buzz Lightyear t-shirt.”

…And so on and so forth….