Tuesday, 29 September 2009

A great fuss about not very much

Whenever I switch on a television, my view of the screen is largely obscured by a notice about an imminent change of wavelengths which will make it necessary to retune my sets.

Why must we be told in advance and in such an irritating way? When the change occurs the need to retune will be apparent. Until then I should like to be left in peace.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Compton Verney

Last week I accompanied three friends on a visit to Compton Verney , which is a country mansion quite recently rescued from decay to be converted into an art gallery.

I found the contents much more interesting than those of the conventional art gallery, because there was less that was beautiful but dull, and more that was strange and so capable of stimulating thought.

Quite a lot of space was devoted to ‘folk art’, including shop and inn signs, and strange wind powered Victorian toys. There were also paintings showing disproportioned animals, with the parts most interesting to the farming community inflated to preposterous proportions. Especially delightful was a painting of a street scene in which the pub was called ‘The King’s harms’.

However the principal attraction of Compton Verney is the tea room, where we were served full afternoon tea on three tiered stands, with six sandwiches, a scone and three cakes each. They provide little plastic containers so people can take home any cakes they can’t manage on the spot.

The following picture shows what they provided. The stand in the foreground was for two people; only a third of the sandwiches are visible, but one can see most of the cakes. Click on this picture for a larger one.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Bankers' Vocabulary

My bank has just sent me a leaflet entitled:

"Changes to your agreement with us".

Yet it can hardly be an agreement, until and unless I agree.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Colonel Gaddafi

Watching television pictures of him ranting at the UN I noticed how uniformly black his hair is. Does he dye it, or is it a wig ?

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Cutting the cost of Education

The Minister of Education, or whatever his title is these days, has claimed that expenditure on education can be reduced by 2bn pounds per year without producing any reduction in standards or provision.

If that is true the reduction should have been made years ago.

Mr.Balls, as he likes to be called, seems to be relying on a reduction in the number of heads which, although attractive, seems unlikely to save very much.

I think greater savings could be made by more use of the Internet accompanied by a reduction in classroom teaching, especially for the older pupils.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Lavender Ice Cream

On Tuesday I dined out with a friend to celebrate my 71st birthday.

We went to The Case, a restaurant I’d never visited before. It is on the part of Hotel Street where Clarke’s and Satchel’s book shop used to be, and occupies the second and third floors above a varied collection of (unconnected) ground floor shops, including an old fashioned sweet shop that sells Leicester Rock and boiled sweets kept in large glass jars.

The case specializes in champagne; as well as the restaurant there is a small ground floor champagne bar connected to the restaurant by an intriguing winding corridor. We therefore had a bottle of one of the house champagnes.

A crab souffle (I apologise for my failure to find the acute accent) made an interesting first course, and lamb both pink and very tender testified to considerable skill in the kitchen, but the highlight of the meal was the pudding course.

One option was a sample plate for two. We’d noticed that one of the puddings included lavender ice cream, and requested that that should be included in our platter.

There were portions of nine puddings. I judge that most were about a third of a helping, though a couple may have been full helpings, so we had the equivalent of about four helpings between the two of us, but it was the novelty of the lavender ice cream that most excited us.

We were a little disappointed that it wasn’t blue - though that would have required a blue die; lavender oil is nearly colourless. However it tasted strongly of lavender.

I’ve now tasted two dishes flavoured with lavender - I sometimes cook lavender chicken. I must think of more ways to cook with lavender. Suggestions would be welcome.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

More fussing about children

Tiresome regulations are often defended as needed to protect children.

That claim is particularly weak when urged in support of the current proposals to check people having any regular contact with anyone else's children.

Abused children usually suffer at the hands of members of their own families or other people who live with them, yet the proposed checks will not apply to family members.

People will need to be vetted before being allowed to take groups of children to football matches, but will not need to pass any test before taking the much more radical step of becoming parents.

This is not a plan to protect children, but to provide more power and work for social workers.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

The Welsh Highland Railway

A few days ago a friend and I spent a few days in Wales exploring steam railways, and eating delicious meals at the Trefeddian Hotel. At breakfast time, in addition to the usual fare, one could help oneself from a huge bowl of strawberries, and a five course dinner was included in the room charge.

The Welsh Highland Railway runs from Caernafon to just short of Porthmadoc, which it is scheduled to reach by next Easter.

I've put some photographs on my website.

Incidentally, I recently redesigned that site; the material is much the same as before but it hangs together differently and should be easier to maintain.