Posted on January 29, 2012 in Life, the Universe and Everything by Jay20 Comments »

This week, for Sunday Selections, I’m taking you all the way back to London, 2009, when we travelled down to The Smoke for an Eddie Izzard show.

I’m not going to show you photos of Eddie Izzard, because, well, for one thing I won’t disturb a performance by taking photos, and for another we were too far away from the stage. But we did walk along the embankment a little way before we took the river taxi to the O2 centre and I got some nice pictures of the London Eye.

This is the base of the wheel, showing the area where people queue. I like to take pictures of things like this when they are closed, so as not to get people in the shot. I think it lets you concentrate on the form of the structure. And, of course, I don’t end up wanting to kill people for wandering across in front of my camera, or jostling me, or treading on my feet etc.

Going back towards the Belvedere Road, I got a longer shot, which – since it was November – includes some of the lights they’d strung up for Christmas. I like the way you can see a slice of the wheel all lit up at the top left hand corner, too.

And lastly, this rather lovely, velvety black night-sky shot, with twinkly lights from the trees and structure of the wheel only really visible because it was picked out with bright white lights.

I really do have to give credit where credit’s due and say I have my little pocket-sized Panasonic Lumix to thank for this. The automatic setting with flash disabled and the camera set firmly on a bollard did the trick for this one. The only important thing to remember is to focus on a dark area, not the lights, or you won’t get a black sky.

Or is that the other way round? Um … yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s the other way round.

Now. Do trot over to Frog Ponds Rock and take a look at the other contributions for Sunday Selections. You’ll be amazed at the creativity!

Oh, and yes, thanks! Eddie Izzard was great! We both really enjoyed the show, and we’d love to do it again. Ah well, one day, perhaps we will.

Posted on January 28, 2012 in Hounds, The Home Front by Jay16 Comments »

I took this picture of Ranger this week, and I thought that with the addition of a little text it would be perfect for the Saturday Pet Blog Hop.

In this house there are many dog beds to choose from, and I think he has failed to get his whole self on to each and every one of them at some point or other. This dog is a master Bed Failer.

Of course, what he likes best of all is to fail to get onto two beds at once. But Sid, being a tolerant sort of chap, just … makes room.

Of course, there are times when Ranger’s double bed fail is so spectacular that there is no room for Sid on either of them. When that happens, Sid is a whole lot less than impressed.

Sadly, I don’t have a picture of that. I’m usually laughing too much.

Posted on January 24, 2012 in Oddities by Jay15 Comments »

Yep. I went out to the garden and came back with these.

In January. I mean, this is England, for heaven’s sake – which last time I checked was in the northern hemisphere!

This is one crazy winter.

Posted on January 21, 2012 in Conversations, Food and Drink by Jay18 Comments »

My husband and I have made a decision*. We are no longer going to buy Chorleywood bread if we can help it.

Why? And what is Chorleywood bread anyway? Well, that’s a picture of it up there, and apparently, 80% of our bread is made by the Chorleywood method these days. If you go and read this, you’ll probably get the answers to your questions, and if not, you can ask in the comments section. Pay attention to the recipe for Scottish Morning Rolls and in particular to the complete absence of additives and the length of the fermentation process. This is how bread used to be, and still should be, made.

Perhaps I should also add that some people think that the decline of traditional breadmaking plus the upsurge of Chorleywood bread is behind the increase in various health problems including yeast intolerance.

So, to get back to my story, when I needed to pop into our local supermarket today to pick up a few things, I went to the bakery section and started to look for traditionally baked loaves.

I found English bloomers and crusty farmhouse loaves. I found Italian, Polish and German loaves. I found ‘Mediterranean’ breads, sunflower breads, poppy-seeded breads, multi-grain, malted, and granary breads. I found a loaf of French ‘pain de campagne’ which looked and felt marginally better than all the other sponge-like loaves, but it was as light as air and I didn’t think a French countryman would have recognised it.

I picked it up, somewhat disconsolately .. and then I saw a baker lurking behind the shelves so I accosted him.

Me: ‘Excuse me … ?’

Baker: ‘Yes, can I help you?’

Me: ‘Thank you, yes. Do you have any traditionally baked, long fermentation loaves?’

Baker: ‘Huh?’

Me: ‘Do you have any traditionally baked bread, with a long fermentation?’

Baker: ‘Fermentation … I don’t recognise that word. What do you mean?’

Me: ‘You know, you have to leave the dough to rise, to let the yeast work?’

‘Baker’: ‘Oh, ah, yes. Mm. No. But we’re going to start doing that next week!’

Me: ‘Oh good. Something to look forward to, then!’

‘Baker’: ‘Yes – it’ll be good. We’re going to let the dough rise for two hours, then .. ‘

Me: ‘Two hours?? Oh, I was thinking longer. I’ve been buying loaves with an eight, or even twelve hour fermentation.’

‘Baker’: ‘Oh yeah, they used to do that, didn’t they? Leave it in a box with straw in it overnight, then knock it back the next morning.’**

Me (deciding I was onto a loser with this one): ‘Um. Yeah. OK, thanks!’

I wish I could have shown him this –

Now, many of you simply may not care about the sea-change in our bread production methods. Indeed, some of you may actively prefer the Chorleywood variety with all of its dubious additives, but really, what have we come to when every single one of the 500 types of bread in a supermarket are made this way and there is simply no alternative?

The saddest thing is that we discovered a little village baker, not too far from our house, located in a little roadside terraced house with a traditional shop front and a rack of wooden shelves for the bread and a display of home-made cakes under the counter. I thought I’d try some of their sourdough bread, but I wish I hadn’t. It was clearly made using the Chorleywood Bread Process. Listen, guys and gals; sourdough bread should not be as light and fluffy as a 70s hairdo. It should be fairly solid and dry! I can only assume that it contained a small amount of sourdough starter, just for the taste, but a traditional sourdough loaf it was not.

Now, I know that in countries where food is more a way of life than a method of getting the necessary fuel into one’s body they are very scornful of English bread compared to their own. What do you think?

Do you like bread that is light, airy, and ultrasoft? Or do you like to get your teeth into a slice of the real deal; bread which is satisfying to eat, if a little more like hard work to chew?


* Yes, normally I would say ‘OH and I’, but I thought this made me sound more like the Queen.

** Probably. Back in the Dark Ages. Perhaps it is still done this way somewhere, but I can’t help thinking he may be just a tad muddled on this one.