Wish Park in Hove. It's a fairly boring rectangle of grass lined by trees but it is much loved by families and dog walkers as well as the 5 grassroots football teams (that I know of, probably more) that call it home and the cricket club based there. Thing is it doesn't exist. Ask any local where Wish Park is and they can tell you. Look for it online and you'll find references to it but not the place itself. Oddly the official for the place is Aldrington Recreation Ground though the cafe there is called Wish Park Cafe and the playground is called Wish Park Playground.

Thankfully someone has added Wish Park to the official signs to help folks out. The elephant on that as there is a folklore tale that back in Victorian times one of the elephants of a visiting circus died and was buried there. There's not evidence to prove this happened at all but it is a fun tale and seems unlikely to be shaken any time soon.

During last summer, when the park was incredibly busy with familiess trying to enjoy some outdoors within lockdown regulations, a very nice mural was painted at one end on an ugly electricity sub-station. Guess what it says on it? Wish not Aldrington. Wish Park the place that doesn't exist.

Wish Park Mural

You can tell lockdown has been going on for so long when I look in the calendar I share with my wife and see that for 25 March the only entry is a reminder that Biscoff ice cream is being launched that day. So starved of other things that is the highlight of the week. Anyhow come 6pm we've finished work and my wife asks me to pop to the frozen food shop Iceland and get some Biscoff ice cream. What I find there is staggering: there was only 1 pack left! Obviously a few other people had it in their diaries too.

Back home the family eagerly gather round to do a taste test. Though at this point I must confess I don't really like Biscoff. Well the actual little biscuits with a coffee are OK but I'm rather not fussed either way by it. The kids love the stuff though and we have Biscoff spread they have on toast. All this means my taste test report is quite underwhelming: it was OK. I love a Vienetta ice cream and it was based on that as far as I could tell so it had that going for it. However my family really liked it. Worth trying it for yourself I'd say. If your local Iceland hasn't sold out already that is.

I am currently reading Pies and Prejudice; In search of the North by Stuart Maconie

Blurb: A Northerner in exile, Stuart Maconie goes on a journey in search of the North, attempting to discover where the cliches end and the truth begins. He travels from Wigan Pier to Blackpool Tower and Newcastle's Bigg Market to the Lake District to find his own Northern Soul, encountering along the way an exotic cast of chippy Scousers, pie-eating woollybacks, topless Geordies, mad-for-it Mancs, Yorkshire nationalists and brothers in southern exile.

Progress: page 76 of 354

Notes: Amusing; like a Northern Bill Bryson on a trip around the UK. As it's 13 years old quite a few of the pop culture references seem a bit dated already but doesn't detract from the humour :)


Whilst out for a stroll in my local area this blue plaque caught my eye:

“Margaret Powell 1907 – 1984 Author and Broadcaster lived here.”

It is equidistant to the council dump and the allotments. Anyway my curiosity was piqued as I'd never heard of Margaret Powell and the blue isn't from an official body such as the council or English Heritage.

A quick search shows she wrote a popular book about her early career in domestic service called Below Stairs. That book was the inspiration for the old TV series “Upstairs, Downstairs” and also for “Beryl's Lot”. She wrote some more books and was later a popular guest on tv talkshows. All this would have been a bit before my time which would explain I'd never heard of her. So I found out who she was but still none the wiser as to how the blue plaque came to be.

While the weather was crap and cold and the days short and dark I spent lockdown baking it seems. This is just a tiny fraction of what I've made.

I make a couple of loaves a week now so it is fairly commonplace now. This is a sesame topped loaf.

Kings cake

Way back in January (which feels like ages ago) I made a Roscon de Reyes for Epiphany, that's the 6th of Jan for you heathens. As I've mentioned before feast day food fascinates me and having regular holidays in Spain taught me about Epiphany and this cake.

Chocolate orange traybake. I had a load of candied orange peel leftover from making the Roscon de Reyes so used it in this traybake. Rubbish photo because as as it was made my family pounced and devoured it. Had a packet of choc chips open (left over from some cookies) so chucked that in too.

These are something I've been a bit obsessed about for years. Hong Kong style buns which I first had in (what for it) Hong Kong. To keep the cost of the fancy hotel we stayed in down we didn't pay for breakfast and instead went out early and bought these fresh. They are pretty hard to buy fresh in UK (unless you happen to live close to a Chinatown) so made some myself. They were lovely but my daughter is veggie and my son hates hotdogs so my wife & I were tasked with scoffing these. They are made with a very smooth and slightly sweet sort of bread dough and were quite a faff so I probably won't bother to make them again for quite a while.

Anyway it's sod's law that I pay for for the year then don't have the impetus to post anything for ages. It's only my inherent miserliness making me post as it is whispering away in my brain saying about how I've paid but not used it.

Well Christmas has been and gone. Obviously with Covid restrictions it was a quiet one. Lots of folks saying Christmas would be very strange this time round given the restrictions but we'd assumed the worst and that we'd be under full lockdown for Christmas so hadn't made any plans to see family. Usually we're quite busy at this time of year visiting the various branches of our families for festivities but none of that this year. Christmas day itself was fine mainly thanks to the kids being excited for the presents and we sat down to a delicious meal. Boxing Day we went for a walk in the country and had a lovely lunch with cheese and cold cuts. It's now these days until New Year's that is the really odd ones. Off work until Jan 2021 but can't really go anywhere or do anything and Storm Bella making it so we don't want to go out at all anyway. It's like a week of crap Sundays.

Got some great gifts this year and lots of lovely books:

Just need to finish my current library book, The Sound, The Fury, and then I can crack on with them.

We did manage to take a family trip to the beach (it's a 10 minute walk from our house) on the morning after Storm Bella. We found loads of seaglass which my daughter has been obsessed with since lockdown started. This is just from that one trip:

And we've got loads more at home. I got a bit too obsessed with looking for it but the light yesterday was perfect for finding it as it was making it all sparkle wonderfully.

Lastly this is nothing to do with any of the above but a forum I check has new advertising but the code seems broken:

Some of those have my really intrigued: what's with the bottle to the ear? Graham Norton and Bitcoin? That said I'm still not intrigued enough to click-though!

Happy New Year all.

Thanks to the power of Twitter I've learnt a couple of interesting things.

First off was this thread talking about audio processing issues. As mentioned before I've got bad hearing and just thought when it took me a few moments to realise what someone has said it was part of that. However there are dozens and dozens of replies of people going “hang on, is this a thing? I thought it was just me”. Which is what I did too but turns out I'm one of them too. I have

Next up was this twitter post including a picture of how a woodpecker stores acorns for the winter – which is posted below. Looking at the picture set off a really strange tingle/goosebumps sensation on the back of my neck and head which I'm familiar with from looking at other similar images with irregular patterns of bumps (especially holes with bumps in, that's the worst!) Even writing this post and finding the picture to include has head my neck and head tingling like mad for several minutes now.

From reading through the thread I learnt I have tryophobia which I had no idea about. I didn't even know such a thing existed but posting on Mastodon and got a reply from Basil saying his friend can't even deal with crumpets due to the holes in them. (For the record I love crumpets and can eat them with no tingling!).

Last thing I learnt was due to my son learning God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen on trumpet for his school orchestra. I decided to look up the lyrics and ended up on the Wikipedia page for the song. Where I learnt it isn't about Merry Gentlemen and instead wishing some gentlemen get to 'rest you merry'. Rest you merry was a phrase meaning stay happy. Which makes a bit more sense.

My Name Is Why by Lemn Sissay

What a good book. Think I read it in 36 hours as I couldn't put it down. Suppose it does help that it isn't a huge book.

Whilst some part of my brain would know or could guess most of how kids in care were treated to see it written down in official reports which are then juxtaposed with Lemn talking about the same incidents is really powerful. Ended up feeling really sorry for him and also happy he came through it all.

Back at the start of summer I'd booked tickets to go to an Andy Warhol exhibition at the Tate Modern in London in October. It was something to look forward to with the vague hope that covid worries would be receding by the time it came round. And come round it did but with no less covid worries unfortunately. This meant I had to weigh up if I would still go or not, seeing as it is an hour's train journey for me to get up there, and all the associated worries about covid. As I've mentioned before as a household we've been very covid cautious throughout all of this and this would be the first time on a train since March I think. In the end I decided to go but just make sure to take a couple of masks and hand gel etc.

The journey up was surreal enough as I got the first off-peak train which is usually rammed with daytrippers off to the Big Smoke so normally I'd have trouble finding a seat. However I think there were about 6 people in my carriage in total. This is prior to the current lockdown too! Was very easy to space out and keep a distance. I got to London and had 45 minutes to spare so went to Blackfriars and walked about the City a bit before heading over the wibbly-wobbly bridge to the Tate Modern. Was good to be back up in that area as I used to work very close to the Tate modern but that was about 16 years ago.

Queen Victoria Street deserted

The first thing that struck me was just how quiet it was. Normally at 11 on a Monday the City of London would be all hustle and bustle and lots of people coming and going. It was more like 8am on a Sunday morning. Pretty much any office buildings I could see inside were empty aside from bored looking security guards at reception desks.

The Tate Modern was still open but entry all had to be pre-booked in specific time slots. The exhibition itself was superb. So many original Warhol pieces there and a lot of insight into his life which I had no idea about. As it was paid entry there weren't loads of people in there and it didn't feel crowded at all.

Really I was just aware of the Pop Art stuff and the famous quote “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”. Had no idea he had been shot by Valerie Solanas (of SCUM manifesto fame) and had nearly died, for example. Also there was quite a bit of information about his artistic techniques and his films which I also knew nothing about.

I'd also booked to go into the general exhibition areas of the Tate but had a break for lunch which I ate sat out by the River Thames. Normally that would be heaving but I'd hazard a guess that Hove seafront (where I live) would have been busier than the Southbank at that moment.

The other exhibitions I'll talk about in my next blog post but all in all a good but surreal trip to London.

Whilst scrolling through Twitter yesterday I saw a few tweets informing the world that the TV show The Young Ones was first broadcast 38 years ago yesterday. When I was younger I LOVED The Young Ones. On 9 November 1982 I was been 10 years old so probably a bit too young to be watching it really as it was broadcast after the 9pm watershed and my mum certainly didn't let me watch it but I had a really crappy 70's 12' B&W TV in my bedroom. That TV felt like the height of luxury at the time. It looked a bit like this:

But very much doubt it was a Panasonic and more likely was a cheaper make like Alba or Sanyo.

By 9pm I was supposed to be asleep but I'd switch it on and watch it with the mono earpiece plugged into the TV to keep the noise down so my mum wouldn't know. If I watched it when it was first broadcast or if I watched the first repeats in 1983 I don't remember but I do distinctly remember talking about it at school (I'd be year 6/last year of juniors) and no one else had seen it which made me feel a bit different/special.

Looking back I'd say that The Young Ones had a big impression on my sense of humour but also my dad (my folks had divorced by then) and my older brother both loved Round the Horne and The Goon Show so we had some LPs of those that I listened to occasionally which certainly would have contributed to forming what I found amusing.

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