Had a pottering about sort of day and went and got some Christmas presents at local independent shops. Saw this curious stickers whilst out:

What the? Quite tempted to get in touch just to see if it is genuine (though obviously I'll chicken out and won't do it).

Then went and got our Christmas tree off a pair of blokes flogging tress out the back of a van in a layby. Any tree, any size for just £20. Not sure it is legal but happy to get a bargain and let them deal with that!

A few years ago my wife and I went to a great talk at the British Library about how in Soviet Russia they made bootleg records from discarded x-rays. It was fascinating and entertaining. Ever since I've been on their mailing list for future events. While lots of them don't appeal, or while Covid lockdowns were in force were cancelled, their current Food Season had several that caught my eye. We did the first of them last night: In the Kitchen with Bill Buford and Jonathan Meades.

It's odd as as I don't associate either of them with food at all. Bill Buford I know of as the author of “Among the Thugs” which is his account of spending years among English football hooligans in the 80s. He's incredibly honest about how and why he was attracted to it and in his writing captures perfectly the feeling of when a crowd turn into a mob (I've never been a football hooligan but have been in crowds that have turned to mobs). Then Jonathan Meades was brilliant in his 90s TV shows Abroad in Britain, Further Abroad, Even Further Abroad. I'd have been 17 or 18 when Abroad in Britain came out and I loved it. Then his later shows such as Magnetic North were also good. If you've not seen of them there are loads linked to watch online from the MeadesShrine site. Well worth viewing.

The talk itself was interesting and entertaining but still a bit surprised I didn't know of the food writing of either of the guests!

This morning I had my first covid vaccination jab. It all went smoothly and well and I even got a sticker!

Sadly no lollipop even though I was a good boy and very brave. Then walked home to find the postie had delivered me this:

Just a wee bit late! So 12 weeks and I go back for my 2nd vaccination.

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.