30 May 2005

More food in Londres

Originally uploaded by framboise.

We ate very well and cheaply in London, thanks to some insider's knowledge from my brother, who is often loath to part with money for anything. On previous trips to London, I'd eaten at quite a few Japanese restaurants, with Cafe Japan at Golders Green being my favourite so far. A similar homely Japanese restaurant, Asakusa, round the corner from Mornington Crescent (yes, the same Mornington Crescent of I'm sorry I haven't a clue fame) is my brother's. You have to book a table in advance as the place is small and very busy, even on a school night. But that goes without saying in London anyway. The menu is extensive yet competitively priced. My brother never fails to order the Asakusa special salad, which comprises sashimi, shredded seaweed and other crunchy veg tossed in a peanut/seasame seed sauce. Another favourite of his is the sake kawa maki (grilled salmon skin in a sushi roll), a most excellent use of salmon skin. Deluxe (as P would say)!

Nigiri Sushi Too quick for me.. Sake kawa maki
Nigiri sushi Tempura udon Sake kawa maki

By a stroke of luck, we were in London during Chelsea Flower Show Week, and had the presence of mind to order some evening tickets a couple of weeks in advance (photos and comments to follow in a future post). Staying out till the 8pm close of show precluded cooking dinner yet again (oh, the chore of having to eat out!). More East Asian food was on the menu that night, at the Korean restaurant, Ran, close to Carnaby Street (nearest Tube stn Oxford Circus). Even though we booked, we still had to wait for 30 min. It was worth the wait though. A veritable feast of spicy food. We tried our best not to over-order, so we could enjoy the food without feeling sick on the train ride home. We were given good advice by our waitress, and enjoyed a couple of starters with pickles on the side, followed by self-grilled bulgogi (marinated) beef, a spicy soya-based chige (miso soup), and the best-named fried rice I've ever had: bibimbap. I've never had proper Korean food before (I don't think Korean barbeque chains count), and was pleasantly surprised to find that it isn't too spicy if you order the toned down dishes. We watched with fascination as a Korean couple next to us worked their way through 6 different bowls of kimchi, and had little rounds of tender beef grilled on the gas stoves built into the tables. It's a great wee place for interactive eating (like a do-it-yourself teppanyaki). I'll be looking out for more Korean restaurants in the future, if this experience was anything to judge their food by.

Kimchi pancakes Rice sticks Bulgogi beef Miso chige
Kimchi pancakes Rice sticks Bulgogi beef Miso chige

Technorati tags: , , .

Dim Sum near the US embassy

Back from a few days in sunny London, just missing out on the super-hot (30 degC!) Friday and coming home to a wet and windy Edinburgh. The purpose of our trip was for an interview for a non-immigrant visa at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square (which went well apart from my future employers' failure to pay the SEVIS fee).

Trio National Gallery, London Bollard and me

After confirming that the embassy was where it said it was (you never know with these security-conscious people), we had what must be the poshest dim sum I've ever eaten at Princess Garden on North Audley Street (a recommendation from my brother). The menu is quite expensive compared to even Royal China, but the dim sum was priced pretty much the same as most other dim sum joints in the UK (~£3 per item).

The decor was definitely not typical of Chinese restaurants, with an airy atrium to lounge while waiting for a table, and large glass windows in the eating area with crisp white linen and clean-line furniture. It's more what you'd expect from a Conran eatery. The main menu looked enticing, but was a little on the pricey side. But we were in the mood for dim sum, so that's what we had. Apart from two Chinese tai-tais (ladies-who-lunch), we were the only non-suits in the place, and the only ones to have dim sum. Because the lighting was so good, and the dim sum looked particularly pretty, I had to take some photos. The only thing I missed out was the "wu gok" (deep fried mashed yam with pork filling). Six dim sum items plus tea came to £20, with dessert thrown in for free because it was 3pm, and the dim sum kitchen was shutting down for the day. Short descriptions of the dim sum dishes can be accessed by following the photo links to Flickr.

Siew Mai Har Gow Cheong Fun
Char Siew Bao Fong zhao Custard pastry

Technorati tags: , , .

28 May 2005

I can hear you...

Gas masks are fragile

Time to find you...

Spoilers ahead.

I enjoyed this episode. Perhaps it's because I watched the midnight repeat on BBC Three, or it was particularly scary, but I was close to jumping behind the sofa a few times. The writing for The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances was just brilliant. Firstly, the WWII setting ups the ante by providing a known deadline for the Doctor to get to the bottom of the mystery. Secondly, Steve Moffat incorporates current fears about nanotechnology ("grey goo") , and uses some pseudo-genetics that plays again on public perception(/fear) of genetic modification to give the episode realism. (The nanogenes are improbable creations on many levels. Fused gas masks, somatic change? That's science fiction, mate. Oh, wait...) There'll be a thirdly along in a few hours when I've had my kip. ("Go to your room!")

Last week's episode left quite a few unanswered questions, among which was Jack Harkness's provenance. It certainly sounds like he's 1. human, 2. from the 51st century, 3. an expelled/renegade Time Agent (still no clue what the Time Agency's function is), and 4. got the hots for Rose. As the Doctor explains, humans have travelled far and wide by then, and achieved a pretty wild reputation as profligate swingers. That suggests that Time Agents are not specific to our Earth's history/future. (I'm getting confused with tenses... Should that be "will not be", "are not" or "were not"?)

Obligatory Bad Wolf reference for the episode: Schlechter wolf, as seen on the German bomb about to fall on the Chulac battleship ambulance. A photo of the bomb is also currently up on the Who is Doctor Who? site. I still have no idea where this is heading. There seem to be plenty of hypotheses going around that the Doctor or the TARDIS could be the Grandmother-eater, or it could be one of the baddies from previous incarnations of the series. My pet hypothesis is that it's subliminal viral advertising from the future (see Bad Wolf TV from The Long Game).

All in all, a great story by Steve Moffat, and realised into atmospheric TV by James Hawes and his crew. However, I have one big bone to pick with Moffat. On tonight's Doctor Who Confidential, he claimed that girls wouldn't watch Doctor Who if there was too much technobabble or science-speak. That assumption is plain wrong in the case of this girl, and she isn't too pleased about such generalisation with a faint whiff of sexism. There are many girls/women who have a keen interest in technology, and (proper) writers of science fiction don't "dumb-down" for the sake of the supposedly less-interested female population. (The same complaint goes for all the makers of gadgets. There is no need to colour it pink or have gender-specific marketing. It's insulting.) That said, I am glad there is less scientific exposition in this series of Doctor Who, only because the writers get it so laughably wrong!

07 Jun '05 update: BBC's Doctor Who site has been modified for episode 12 Bad Wolf, and it looks like I was partly right. The Bad Wolf references are very likely viral or subliminal advertising for Badwolf TV.

Technorati tags: , .

25 May 2005


Liverpool scarf
The best team in Europe, 2005!
Originally uploaded by framboise.

I cannae believe it! Liverpool have done it! Despite all my earlier pessimism, I'm on cloud nine. Even the prospect of a dull afternoon being interrogated at US embassy tomorrow was forgotten for the duration of the game.

Du-du-du-dudek! Du-du-du-du-du-dek... (repeat ad nauseum)
(There's a silly wee tune for this; I made it up years ago.)

Even through the euphoria, I still think Everton worked hard for their fourth place, and deserve to compete in the Champions League next season. How UEFA are going to allocate Liverpool a place remains to be seen. Will some lesser known European team be deprived of their hard-earned place?

08 Jun '05 update: Courtesy of the Fiver, I've just realised why this site has been getting hits from Google for Variations on a Theme of Dudek. Apparently, there's some silly song going around by a-group-I-shall-not-name-for-fear-of-getting-more-such-hits. If you've come in search of the song, I'm terribly sorry. My Dudek song was composed more than three years ago, in recognition of his goalkeeping prowess (post-Westerveld and pre-Kirkland). As a salve for the disappointment, how about I send you here instead? (While there, you must check out the Chaplin-esque video. Fun for all.)

I might as well confess that I also have one for Edwin van der Saar, back in the days when Holland had a decent voetbal team. Hopefully, no other bandwagon-jumping pop group will release a stilly song about him.

22 May 2005

Concepts of conception

Quick plug here for Gunnella's online questionnaire about pregnancy myths. A bit of background: Gunnella is nearing the end of her M.A. in folklore studies, and is writing about the beliefs and customs of pregnancy across cultures. Men are also encouraged to fill-out her survey, as it's more about what you perceive as common knowledge, rather than personal experience of mothers.

Not having had any kids myself, I was quite surprised how much information has filtered through my non-maternal ears via colleagues, friends and relatives. I was also amazed how often I was annotating my answers as information gleaned from sources like Cosmo (even though I read only 3 or 4 girly magazines a year). Just how much of all that pregnancy advice floating out there in the mass media is accurate? And on a trivial note, I'd like to reserve "Coll Tiree" as a potential baby name, and maybe "Rum Eigg" too. (All because Santos and Anthony were discussing Donovan Leitch, who has a daughter named Ione Skye.)

21 May 2005

What is the deal with the drums?

Some snarky comments about Eurovision...

What is it with the bloody drums?!? Every song has superfluous drums. Is there a theme this year?

And every contestant has sung at least one off note so far. Don't these people practice before the night?

P (in response to Germany's entry): "I'd rather listen to Vogon poetry."

Best mis-heard Wogan line all night: "There's a woman in front of me who must have all the flags of the world in her drawers somewhere." He probably said drawer (singular), but it works so much better as the plural.


Are you my mummy?

Whoa! What a freaky episode; there were some genuinely scary scenes in The Empty Child. Some random thoughts follow... The morphing scene gets our vote for the scariest effects scene so far, almost Alien-esque in it's execution. The POV of the child is even more unnerving than last week's Reaper's POV. Another "Doctor who?" line this week. Not sure if there have been many before, although I'm pretty sure Jackie said "Doctor who?" in Father's Day. The police call box gets it's own starring scene (has it never rung before?). Another recurring location: the Albion Hospital in this episode looks a lot like the hospital in Aliens of London (Ah... It's because it is: Cardiff's Royal Infirmary). Again, too engrossing to look out for references to "Bad Wolf". Will watch the tape after Eurovision is over... (when it's really dark...)

Favourite line: "I'm not sure if it's Marxism in action or a West End musical."

Have to stop now. Going to check I've shut all the doors.

Update: Nope. Still didn't see or hear the Bad Wolf reference. We'll just have to watch it again. Oh, what a hardship. ;) I'm very pleased they used Glenn Miller's music; it's very appropriate, and I love his version of Moonlight Serenade. Captain Jack is intriguing (and not just from a cute guy perspective). What is he? He's clearly from the distant future and has technology to rival the Doctor's. How do Time Agents fit in to the Doctor Who universe? Are they self-appointed agents to ensure continuity, or are they mercenaries out to harvest the past? Are they specific to Earth's history, or do they wander through time the way the Doctor can? And why isn't Dr. Constantine surprised by the Doctor's ability to diagnose internal injuries using a techno-wand? What is the Doctor going to find in Room 802? Too many questions... Will they be answered in the 45 minutes next Saturday?

22 May '05 update: Having watched The Empty Child for the third time, I think I've finally spotted the Bad Wolf reference... Or not... It occurs close to the end of the episode, when Captain Jack Harkness confronts the Doctor and Rose. A casual sartorial comment about Rose's Union Jack t-shirt initially threw me, making me laugh the previous two times. This time round, I heard what he said to the Doctor: "U Boat Captain?". My knowledge of WWII in Europe is patchy at best, but I think the U-boat strategy was called wolf pack in reference to the way several U-boats would "hunt" together. It's tenuous, I know, and I'm probably way off track, but I'm not watching it again... (Also, at some point, I should edit this post to make it vaguely readable. But it's late.)

23 May '05 update: Looks like I got the Bad Wolf reference wrong. Over at Behind the Sofa Again, the comment leavers reckon it's Nancy's reference to the Doctor's big ears (along the lines of "My, what big ears you have").

Technorati tag: , .

G&B's joins the Dark Side

Green and Black's
Green and Black's
Originally uploaded by framboise.

Thanks to Mischief to Data for the heads-up on the shocking news that Green & Black's has been bought by Cadbury Schweppes. G&B's chief executive (William Kendel) claims that they have scrutinised Cadbury Schwepps, and are convinced of Cadbury's "commitment to [their] values". He makes the point that smaller businesses can effect a change in the industry by both competing with big companies as well as by working with them. So, G&B's will no longer be going it alone, and will be taking advantage of Cadbury's massive market share to shift their choccies. I get the impression from his statement that many customers have already written to express their dissatisfaction, and think the following excerpt from his response has a touch of over-protestation:

"We emphatically do not believe that access to organic food and ethical trade should be the preserve of a small elite. We do not have time for prejudice at Green & Black’s and this includes a prejudice that all big companies and the people who work for them are bad. We have checked out Cadbury Schweppes pretty thoroughly and we think they score highly on issues relating to a responsibility for the communities in which they are operating. In fact they have taught us a thing or two in this area over the last few years."

It implies that those of us who choose not to buy from certain multinational corporations are prejudiced individuals, so stop being so silly and wishy-washy. I agree with him that organic food and ethical trade should be accessible to all, but also think that trying to effect change from within is a tactic that hardly ever works. Cadbury's can give them a free reign for now, but G&B's may eventually just get sucked(/suckered) along with company policy.

According to my 2003 copy of The Good Shopping Guide, Cadbury's has bottom ranking on issues such as environmental reporting, working with/in oppressive regimes, non-publication of a suppliers' code of conduct and irresponsible advertising. Plus points include decent workers' rights, and sourcing cocoa from Ghana, which has strict anti-child trafficking policies. For further online reading, Ethical Consumer's website has a buyers' guide to chocolate in PDF form. To be fair to Cadbury's, they fare better than quite a few other chocolate producers.

My other bugbear with Cadbury's is the near-ruination of my tastebuds as a child; their Dairy Milk bar can hardly be considered chocolate with only 20% cocoa solids. But I've since learnt that there are chocolate makers out there who care about taste and where their ingredients come from. For regular snacking, Traidcraft has a growing range of chocolate bars (with the praline being our favourite), and Divine Chocolate has milk and orange chocolate (but does not, as yet, use Fairtrade sugar). If you're looking for a special treat, you should check out Hotel Chocolat. These guys take chocolate very seriously, and have seasonal changes of their range. We're still riding on the good impression from giving Hotel Chocolat boxes away as Christmas and birthday pressies. We're probably going to continue buying G&B's chocolate bars, but will have to watch out from now that standards do not slip.

I've had to re-write/link the last two paragraphs because Bloody Blogger cut off the end my post. Getting quite fed up; this happens at least once a week!

It's been a while since two big teams played the Cup Final

Some inane conversation pre-FA cup final:

P: "What's the Prince of Kent doing there? What's his function in life?"
D: "Well, isn't she some royal dignitary who opens schools and stuff?"
P: "No, it's the Prince, her husband."
D: "Who's he?"
P: "Excatly. He turns up to Wimbledon and stuff."
D: "Are the proper royals snubbing the footie now? I mean, they send Princess what's-her-name to the rugby, don't they?"
P: "Probably afraid of Man Utd fans kicking off or something. The Dundee Utd game has been delayed by 10 minutes."
D: "Typical."

Incidentally, Hill and Barton report in Nature that: Red enhances human performance in contests1. So, my prediction for today's Cup Final results: Arsenal to win, just. Possibly even in extra time. The report also bodes well for Liverpool vs AC Milan, but the colour red only gives an advantage if both opponents are of equal skill level...

1745h edit: I was right about the result, but a little off on the circumstances.

1 Hill, R.A. and Barton, R.A. 2005. Psychology: Red enhances human performance in contests. Nature 435: 293. (PMID)

20 May 2005

Coconut, lime and mango jelly (IMBB 15)

We've been invited for Thai curry at K&M's, and I hate turning up for dinner without at least bringing something, however small. It must stem from the pot-luck culture of my extended family. Picture the scene: one grandmother, 2 biological aunts, 3 biological uncles, their 5 respective partners, their sum total of 11 kids, plus my own parents and brother, all needing to be fed. There's absolutely no way on earth that any one person can cook for that many at a time, even at a barbie. So we devised a system of pot luck from way back. It never mattered who was hosting the family event of the moment, everyone brought something. And you didn't necessarily have to cook it yourself; it was perfectly acceptable to turn up with delicacies from a well-known hawker stall or speciality food shop (e.g. bak chang or bao from Katong, where most of my maternal relatives live). That has instilled in me an absolute law that I must never turn up empty-handed at anyone's house for dinner (we make an exception for P's parents, 'cos we're usually too busy weeding the veggie patch until sun-down to do much cooking).

So, back on the subject, K's cooking us some of her speciality Thai curry tonight, and I prepared some orient-inspired jelly to finish off our dinner. Well, actually, it was inspired by Delia's coconut lime jelly recipe, but don't tell anyone that a South-East Asian had to resort to Delia Online for a dessert recipe! By a stroke of luck, IMBB 15, hosted by elise of Simply Recipes, is all about jelly: IMBB-15 Has my blog jelled? - May 22. It's about time I joined in on IMBB, having salivated over the last few.

The recipe calls for Rowntree lime jelly, something I've never been a fan of. Plus, my aunt sent me bucket-loads of a Japanese jelly-powder that has been all the rage at home, along with three ever-so-sweet flower moulds that are also doing the rounds. It's not gelatine, nor is it agar-agar. It's Konnyaku, extracted from a yam-like tuber, and alleged to have health benefits. I'm very sceptical about the claims, but have to admit it makes a fine, firm jelly. Also, I don't have any agar-agar in the kitchen (although I often toy with the idea of using laboratory-grade agarose).

Ingredients (click on the first photo below for annotations):

  • 10g Konnyaku powder
  • 110g sugar
  • 750ml water
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 2 limes, for their juice and zest
  • 2 tins of mango slices, drained and the syrup reserved


  1. Mix the Konnyaku powder with the sugar. Measure out 550ml of liquid in a large pot (I used the reserved syrup from one tin of mangoes and water) and whisk in the sugar/Konnyaku mix in batches.
  2. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 5 minutes. Whisk in the coconut milk, and allow to come up to the boil again.
  3. Take the pot off the heat, and whisk in the the juice and zest of 1 lime.
  4. If making lots of little jellies, place a slice or two of mango in each well. If making a massive jelly, lay out the slices in a pretty pattern... Or do whatever you please... I'm no good at the aesthetics.
  5. Ladle enough jelly mix into each mould so it's a third full, then repeat until the mould is filled.
  6. Chill overnight (or 3 hours at a push).
  7. Puree the remaining slices of mango with a tbsp or two of the reserved syrup, and the juice and zest of one lime.
  8. To serve, ease the little jellies out by dipping the base of the mould in some warm water, then up-ending onto a tray/plate. Spoon on some mango puree or do something artistic if so inclined.

Since I'm posting this before we've had it for dinner, I'll be back with photos and reviews of the jellies tomorrow, after we've slept off our hangover.

Ingredients for coconut and mango jelly Mango leaf Prep stage for coconut and mango jelly to be continued
Ingredients Jelly mould Halfway there ...

Update: Dinner was called off as our hosts were unwell. I will upload photos of the jellies soon, when we get round to eating them... It won't be the same without the Thai curry before...

22 May '05 update: Elise of Simply Recipes has posted the round-up of IMBB 15's entries. All the entries look delectable! It'll be a great resource in the hot summer months for dessert ideas. Thanks Elise!

Technorati tags: , , .

Lettuce fleece you

My thanks to Ros Taylor of The Wrap Roundup for this funny wee piece in the Spectator (registration required): The great lettuce conspiracy. It's made my day... We've stopped buying as much bagged salad as we used to in our supermarket-shopping days. But every now and again, we succumb when we're tired and hungry, and just cannot be bothered. Then we wonder why we bothered to buy such an insipid collection of limp leaves that brown in a day anyway. Every year, round about now, we plant all sorts of seeds, onion sets and seed tatties in the veggie patch on the farm. And rocket is always one of my favourites, simply because it just grows, without any input from us. I tried growing rocket in a pot indoors last year (in my south-facing, sunny bay window), and it worked fine too (and would be sustainable if you have your own supply of compost). This year, however, everything vegetable-wise has gone to pot, as I seem to spend every weekend sorting through ten years of accumulated junk, and fighting to get into the local Shelter shop to deposit the better pieces of our collection of detritus. So, no home-grown salad or potatoes for us this summer. Normal service will resume when our move is finally completed. And if anyone reading knows if there are such things as allotment plots in LA, please let me know... I don't think I can afford to rent a house with a garden in La-la land on my meagre salary.

It won't wash

In today's Guardian, Leo Hickman objects to the conclusions drawn by the Environmental Agency comparing the environmental impacts of disposable and washable nappies. An excerpt from his article that picks the gobstopper-sized holes in the report:

Why are its findings based on an assumption that washable aficionados use 47 nappies, whereas we had easily got by on 20? Why did the Environment Agency survey 2,000 parents using disposable nappies compared with just 117 using washables, meaning that (taking into account the weighting towards those using older-style nappies which use more cloth), many of the assumptions are based on the habits of just 32 people? Why does the report include the energy used to iron nappies? Who on earth irons their nappies? Why was it assumed that people environmentally conscious enough to be using washable nappies would automatically want to tumble dry them?

What's more, for some reason the findings used the typical energy consumption of washing machines available in 1997, rather than modern, much more energy- efficient models. And much greater emphasis is given to people who wash their nappies at 90C, instead of the 60C recommended by the washable nappy manufacturers. It all seems bizarrely weighted against the use washables.

I can't help feeling that the report has tried too hard to be fair to disposable nappies, and has subsequently painted washable nappies in a bad light. Highlighting how much energy goes into the production of a terry-nappy is a good thing, but that was pretty much brushed aside in the conclusion that "this element of the life cycle is not the main source of environmental impact for the reusable systems". Instead, the parents and laundry services are the villains of the piece, and are told to "focus on reducing energy consumed in washing and drying". Methinks they should re-write the report after reading Leo Hickman's rejection of the report's assumption that people use dryers and irons. Someone with more time and interest in the subject would do well to download the PDF and re-analyse the data. Should we ever have kids, we will bear in mind their suggestions on how to wash a nappy, but I think they've quite irresponsibly given the manufacturers of disposable nappies another excuse to carry on regardless.

19 May 2005

Open salmon pie

Open salmon pie
Originally uploaded by framboise.

Had a craving for pie on Tuesday, preferably a savoury one. We're not very big on pies. The best pies are ones made by someone else and served hot on a plate without the effort of rolling out a pastry that might not work. So in true convenience-culture fashion, we bought pre-made shortcrust pastry. After our last experience, I swore off the stuff. It doesn't roll or taste right. Nevertheless, a pie craving at six in the evening doesn't leave much room for letting pastry rest, so pre-made it was again. Nevermore... I must get some made myself and stick it in the freezer. Also, as we were quite hungry when the pie craving struck, we bought a tin of salmon, some Gruyere and a quarter pint of sour cream. Recipe botched from Prue Leith's bible, and is meant to be topped with pastry to give a flat pie (but because I didn't read it before we bought the ingredients, I didn't have enough pastry to top it).


  • shortcrust pastry
  • some smoked or tinned salmon (miles apart, I know... but we like supermarket smoked salmon even less than tinned fish)
  • 40g butter, melted
  • ~30g parmesan, grated
  • ~50g Gruyere, grated
  • ~50g bread, grated
  • 1/4 pint sour cream
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 small lemon or half of a large one
  • 1 beaten egg, for glazing


  1. Roll out the shortcrust pastry into a rectangle just bigger than a swiss roll tin.
  2. Grease the bottom and sides, and carefully place the pastry on the tin. Trim off excess pastry, and make many pricks on bottom of pastry.
  3. Bake for 10-15 min in a 200degC oven.
  4. While pastry is baking, mix the two cheeses with the breadcrumbs and melted butter.
  5. When pastry has turned to a light-gold brown, remove from the oven and allow to cool a little.
  6. Spread half of the cheese and breadcrumb mix over the base, followed by a layer of salmon.
  7. Mix the sour cream with the minced garlic, and spread over the salmon.
  8. Squeeze on the lemon juice, and top with the reserved cheese/breadcrumb mix.
  9. If there is pastry left over, make a lattice top. If you've read the first paragraph of the post and realised you actually need a whole piece of pastry on top, well done! Your pie will be miles better than ours! Whichever route you choose, brush the pastry with some beaten egg and bake for about 10-15 min or until golden brown. (You may notice from the photo that I abhor throwing out the other half of the beaten egg, and so poured it onto the salmon pie.)
  10. Serve warm with some green leaves to pretend you're eating healthily.

This cheese and fish combination would probably work better with some vegetables the next time. We had a really good salmon flan at the Gallery of Modern Art a few weekends ago, and it had some fennel in it. I suspect a few slices of tomato, or even whole cherry tomatoes, wouldn't go amiss. We'll certainly try this again, at least until we get fed up of botched pie jobs.

Technorati tags: , .

17 May 2005

Fit the twenty-first

Two suns
Gimp-ed and uploaded by framboise.

In which Arthur Dent joins the mile high club, Ford Prefect gets a well-deserved kip, Rob McKenna has his 15 minutes of fame, and our heroes meet Wonko the Sane outside the Asylum to ping a bowl that does not possess a bathroom manufacturer's stamp.

For a proper synopsis and the repeat, check out Radio 4's HHGTTG Quandary phase pages. So far, the radio play is panning out better than the book, paring the story down to the essential humourous dialogue and mental images that made the first two series so popular.

And in episode three of the classic TV series, the Heart of Gold orbits the legendary planet of Magrathea, I get annoyed about Zaphod's accent again, laugh at the showerhead-like ship, and wonder when I will stop writing the way the narrator speaks.

Do ask: Can you afford a Magrathean planet?

Don't ask: Is there any tea on this spaceship?

Edit: A shocking report that the good old cuppa is on the decline in the UK. (If you have £995 to spare, the Mintel report is here.) I blame the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation's Nutrimatic drinks machine. Share and enjoy!

Technorati tags: , , .

Over-hyped markets

In today's Guardian Comment, George Monbiot discusses the impact that Tesco's massive growth has on our lives.

[Rant on] The point he raises about farmers having to jump when Mr Supermarket Man tells them to was the key determinant in our switching to local shops that stock local produce. We still make a weekly trip to Shitways for recycled loo roll and other modern conveniences we have yet to wean ourselves from. And whenever we make a trip to M&S, Sainsbury's or Tesco, it never fails to amaze us how uniform the produce look, blemish-free and standard sized. Supermarkets have perfected the art of stacking veggies on shelves and extending shelf lives of fruit, all on demand. But at whose expense? Certainly not the consumer's (unless you're after exotics like mangoes or fancy potatoes). Milk prices paid to farmers are ridiculously low compared to what we pay at the checkout, yet supermarkets view milk as a loss leader. A quick search on the Office of Fair Trading's website pulls up a 2004 OFT review of supermarkets' code of practice, which highlights suppliers' dissatisfaction with supermarkets, but no specific cases against the supermarkets. Farmers fear being dropped from supplier lists, and don't have anyone to speak for them (I'm not referring to the wealthy estates who are quite able to take care of themselves). An excerpt from the review:

The CC said [snip] that 'almost all the complainants were extremely reluctant to be named, or indeed to name the multiple or multiples that were the subject of their complaints.' There appeared to the CC to be a climate of apprehension among many suppliers in their relationship with supermarkets.

From section 3.1 of the 2004 OFT review of the operation of the supermarkets code of practice.

Tightening up the code of practice is all very well, but if you can't get farmers to speak up or even realise demands made on them are unfair, you can't make a case against the supermarkets. Plus, they can get lawyered up. On top of that, if the supermarkets are pushed too hard, they'll just pull out of using British suppliers altogether, move on to Africa with more disastrous consequences. You just can't win.

As for farming magazines, they really are just written advertisements for the latest multivitamin protein-rich feed, shiny new tractors, or some other multinational corporation's product. The same companies you see handing out freebies everywhere at the agricultural shows (if you're giving things away, are you making too much money off the farmers?). And don't get me started on bloody Belgian Blues or double-bummed sheep. Belgian Blue cows cannot deliver their calves naturally; they require caesareans1. [Rant off]

And now supermarkets turn their attention to newspapers and magazines? Ha! Good luck with that! At least journalists can articulate their discontent, and don't need to be in print medium to do so.

For more on the invasion of the shopping trolley, have a look at Corporate Watch's article: What's wrong with supermarkets?.

Also in today's news, the BBC reported the impending death of small farms: small farms may vanish. While trying not to be too sentimental about the loss of smallholdings, I can't see how developers can be prevented from further encroaching on green belts if fields aren't being farmed.

1The article compares cows to heifers as mothers, not the effects of caesareans on cows and calves.

Technorati tag: .

16 May 2005

Drop the debt

From a letter to the Guardian (emphasis mine):

Abolish the debt burden
Today is World Debt Day. As on every day, poor countries will pay $100m to the rich world in debt payments. And preventable poverty will kill 30,000 children. This injustice must be stopped. Seven years ago today, 70,000 people formed a human chain around the G8 summit in Birmingham to demand the cancellation of debt. Now, seven weeks before the G8 returns to the UK - when thousands will gather in Edinburgh to call on the G8 to Make Poverty History - we are still demanding an end to the debt crisis.

Read the rest here.

And a particularly heartstring-tugging statistic from Oxfam's report on EU debt aid: "Every week, poverty kills more people than the Asian tsunami." That's over 300,000. A week.

We are not Parcelforce

This weblog doesn't get many hits, being new and not terribly topical. But I got myself a sitemeter anyway, just because I could. So far, most of my 2 or 3 am posts are followed by those who click on Blogger's "Next blog" button. Recently, quite a few referrals have been through Technorati searches for Doctor Who (and variations thereof) and h2g2. It makes me quite sorry that I don't have anything insightful to say about either. Those referrals I can understand; it's a byproduct of the way Technorati displays recent posts first. But the oddest referrals I've had are Google searches for Parcelforce, often paired with Edinburgh West or more recently, Medway. So, if you were looking for the address/link to Parcelforce's West Edinburgh depot, here it is:

Edinburgh branch:
Bankhead Crossway North
Sighthill Industrial Estate
Edinburgh EH11 4XX
Link to EH11 4XX on multimap

I don't know it's opening hours, but I have been there to collect parcels on many a Saturday, when they're open from 8-ish to 12.30pm. Expect to queue around Christmas, Easter and other holidays. Hope that helps.

15 May 2005

Celery and cashew soup

Celery and cashew soup
Originally uploaded by framboise.

No prizes for guessing where this recipe comes from. It's been a soup-tastic week. We had celeriac soup on Thursday out of a thermos flask on Yellowcraigs beach. And last night, P cooked us some onion soup, recipe courtesy of Nigel Slater on the OFM calender. It's not that the weather is cold or anything, we just fancied soup this week. As one-pot cooking, it can't be beat. Plus, we get more onions in our veg box than we can use in a week. It builds up until we decide to do something about it. I didn't take any photos of the celeriac or onion soup, but here's today's celery and cashew nut soup recipe (from the NCGSC's Book of Soups), modified for two big eaters. The end result is a smooth, creamy concoction, that doesn't sit in the stomach heavily. It's also great for the lactose intolerant, as are chinese dessert soups that use ground cashew/almond/peanut/seasame for their creamy texture.


  • a small knob of butter (10-15g)
  • 1 head of celery, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 100g unsalted cashew nuts (raw nuts can be obtained from either a health food store or an asian supermarket)
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • And a handful (50g) of cashew nuts for garnishing


  1. Gently cook (without colouring) the celery and garlic in the butter for 10 minutes in a covered pot.
  2. Grind 100g of cashew nuts until fine. Add to the pot along with the veg stock. Cover, bring to the boil, then simmer for about 20-30 min (until the celery is soft).
  3. While the soup is cooking, fry the cashew nuts until brown (no oil needed, just high heat) and set aside.
  4. Allow the soup to cool a little before liquidising. If you don't want bits of celery fibre to stick between your teeth, pass the soup through a sieve. We're too lazy.
  5. Reheat the soup, and serve garnished with the toasted cashew nuts.

We're cat-sitting again this weekend. The poor dear was in considerable pain the last time she visited. Towards the end of her one week visit, we realised she had blood in her urine, a sign that her bladder stones were back. Her parents took her straight to the vet on their return, and poor Muran had an operation to remove an embedded bladder stone. She seems to be recovering well, and is due to have her stitches out tomorrow. So as a small treat, we thought she would enjoy some soup too, garnished with some cat treats. She's had a lick so far, then gone away to sulk again. Not sure what that says about our cooking...

Scruffy man and elegant cat Muran tries her soup Cat version of celery and cashew soup
Scruffy and Elegant Our new taste tester Cat's celery and cashew soup

Update: Muran finished the soup, leaving the cat treats behind. Again, not sure what that says about our cooking.

Technorati tags: , .

Nice piece of graffito

Graffiti on Rocheid Path I
Graffiti on Rocheid Path I
Originally uploaded by framboise.

Another nice day, wasted by following the final day of the Premiership on BBCi. and we didn't even get the results we wanted. What a bummer. The day was at least salvaged by an evening walk and the discovery of some rather good graffiti along the Water of Leith. There's a small path that runs beside the Water, on Rocheid Path, on the other side of the Water from the Stockbridge colonies. At the Inverleith Park end of the path is a substation, where we came across some (possibly Noel Gallagher?) graffiti. (We're in some disagreement over who is meant to be represented. I thought it could have been of one of the Gorillaz, but am too clueless about contemporary musicians to be sure. It could have been a self-portrait by the artist or some generic hairy male...)

Cruel Charlton

Too shocked to talk about it. Four times. And despite the efforts of waste-of-space-Freedman and Andy Johnson... Who'd have thought WBA would win their final game? Sympathies to Norwich too; what a way to go. And as for Dundee Utd, P ain't happy. Relegation looms after countless seasons of near-misses. It's total silence in the flat this afternoon.

Bloody Charlton.

Update: Still can't believe WBA stayed up. Bottom since Christmas. Good on them, I suppose. But I can't believe they stayed up.

As for Southampton, I feel for you. The seeds of failure were pretty much sown by Rupert Lowe and the board's meddling and public grousing about Paul Sturrock. That may be an unfair thing to say, as Sturrock maintains that he left under mutual agreement. Let that be a lesson to Glazert; don't touch what you don't know nothing about. :p

2240h edit: Wonder if anyone will turn this day of hurt into a film: Relegation Day. It'd be a reet good comic tragedy...

2245h edit: Just saw the WBA goal on MOTD. Speculation: Portsmouth rolled over like a slutty cat wanting her belly scratched (sorry Muran) purely to hurt Redknapp. And Jonathan (Bad) Fortune should have been sent off (not an objective comment... a bit partisan here...). And was David James' change of shirt the first time a goalie has played up front (not as a keeper, but one of the ten)?

Do you want to live in a fine city?

From today's Observer: US-style uniforms for yobs in new disorder crackdown.

The new minister for anti-social behaviour is quoted as wanting a "quick connection to community punishment" to be seen by the public as justice being done. The prospect of offenders wearing distinctive uniforms while doing community service sounds familiar. It's a form of humiliation used previously by more authoritarian regimes, like old communist China. It also sounds a lot like the "Corrective Work Order" system for punishing Singaporean litterbugs. It's debatable whether such a scheme has worked in keeping Singapore's already obedient population from further offenses.

Am I the only one fed up with hearing politicians moralising, preaching and yapping about "family values"? If I remember correctly, the last government that tried to take us "back to basics" was itself brought down by too many scandals.

14 May 2005

On Father's Day

The Doctor opens the door to the Tardis to reveal... A police box!

Good build up in this episode. From the moment we see the Dcotor and Rose watching the previous Doctor and Rose, we start to feel uneasy, and suspect Rose's emotional involvement will cause nothing but trouble. And as the car loops repeatedly, we start to see a possible but unhappy solution to the invasion by the Reapers (which, incidentally, look just a little bit like an unholy cross between fell beasts and gargoyles). I've got a couple of small nit-picks regarding the Reapers' appetites. Why is Mickey the only one to survive the massacre in the playground? (Just screams plot device...) And according to the Doctor, the older a person/object, the stronger it is. So why does the Reaper poised to attack the pregnant Sarah Clark veer off at the last minute to devour the vicar instead? Have I misunderstood the Doctor's meaning and are older people tastier?

We tried to watch for the obligatory Bad Wolf reference, but got too caught up in the story. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to tape it, and we were able to watch it again more objectively. Shortly after Rose and the Doctor arrive in 1987, the camera pans across a wall with some SWP posters (No Third Term for Thatcher). Bad wolf appears as graffiti on one of the two "Energize (smiley face) 20.11.87" posters. We'll probably feel a bit stupid if it doesn't turn out to be anything significant. But then again, it's like spotting the references to THX-1138 in George Lucas's works, or counting the number times someone says "I've a bad feeling about this". It's just something for the fan-boys/girls to get excited about.

15 May '05 edit: Scott's Place is keeping a running update on the Bad Wolf references. Also, the BBC's Doctor Who main page has changed, but I saved a screen capture from the week after The Long Game with the Bad Wolf reference.

Technorati tags: , .

'Dan-tart' on HIGNFY

On last night's episode of Have I Got News For You (HIGNFY), a reference to the closure of "Fat Pang's" favourite bakery, also covered by Chubby Hubby's blog. And here's a photo of Patten tucking into one.

(egg custard tart) used to be my favourite dim sum when I was a kid. I used to look forward to spending school holidays with my aunt, who often took us out for dim sum in a shopping mall (Thomson Shopping Centre, for those familiar with the area). There was something very satisfying about being allowed to eat the sweet with the savoury, and I continue to view mixing sweet & savoury as a real treat, like bacon rashers with maple syrup and pancakes for breakfast (hint for you, P).

13 May 2005


Singabloodypore discusses my mother tongue: Singlish Under Attack Again, and makes the observation that "Sometimes I think certain leaders have some sort of inferiority complex or are they ashamed of their own people?". To quote from a quote from the post:

Singapore's prime minister launched the country's latest behaviour modification campaign on Friday, urging teachers to use hip-hop and rap music to teach proper English and warning that continued use of the mutated local form of the language could make Singaporeans unintelligible.

More from cnews: Singapore turns to rap and hip-hop

It's kinda amusing. I think the whole point of hip-hop and rap is the development and use of street language by people who reject the English spoken by their parents' generation. It is probably impossible to rap within grammatic rules. Another case of the out-of-touch trying to "get down with it". (As you can tell, I'm out of touch too...)

Besides, I think Singlish is a perfectly acceptable local dialect, rich in it's use of phrases from several ethnic groups. It is a perfect example of a multicultural language, and should be encouraged! I continue to use it when speaking to fellow South-East Asians (m'sians have a similar local form of English), but am also capable of murdering the Queen's English without any prompting. And to refute the govt's claim that Singaporeans are unintelligible to foreign ears, my partner has absolutely no problems understanding Singlish when eavesdropping on my phone calls home.

For a taste of Singlish, check out the Coxford Singlish Dictionary. And I look forward to the day when Google adds Singlish to their list of interface languages. After all, Klingon and Bork-bork speakers are catered for. It's about time a language spoken by over four million worldwide is recognised.

Technorati tags: .

12 May 2005

Red sky at night, shepherd's delight

Red sky at night
Originally uploaded by framboise.

Sometimes the gods have no taste at all. They allow sunrises and sunsets in ridiculous pink and blue hues that any professional artist would dismiss as the work of some enthusiastic amateur who'd never looked at a real sunset.

--Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time (Doubleday p.180)

Pterry puts it beautifully when describing the pretty tasteless colours that make up the most beautiful on sunrises and sunsets. While they look stunning in real life, you wouldn't really want to hang it on your living room wall, would you?

We've had pretty good weather all week in Edinburgh. It's that old phenomenon where we get all of our good warm(-ish) weather in May, culminating in the usually hot and sunny holiday weekend. Then June, July and August merge as a wet and muggy season. The longer daylight hours also herald the sudden influx of tourists who think summer is a good time to visit. Little do they know... May is the best month, followed very closely by September and the early part of October. They're also the best months for visiting the city, 'cos the Festival visitors have left by then...

Photo taken at Yellowcraig Beach, between Gullane and North Berwick. Highly recommend all three beaches, along with Dunbar's massive beach. All good for summer evening walks and flying kites, but still too cold to dip (unless you're a masochist or die-hard surfer with an extra-thick wetsuit). Came across the strangest driftwood this evening.

11 May 2005

Order! Order!

Switched on BBC Parliament to watch the new Parliament being sworn in, and the election of the Speaker of the House of Commons. According to parliament.uk, the Speaker does not campaign on party issues when seeking re-election at the GE, a point that Alex Salmond drew attention to when referring to Michael Martin's overwhelming majority in Glasgow North (ex-Springburn). I wonder why a constituency would re-elect their MP if he/she is Speaker, as it seems that the Speaker does not vote on motions (no data on theyworkforyou.com), and has to resign from his party when elected as Speaker.

It seems a lonely job, as the Speaker has to "keep apart from old party colleagues or any one group or interest and does not, for instance, frequent the Commons dining rooms or bars". It's not a job without dangers either, as Geoff Hoon pointed out. According to the factsheet, nine Speakers have died a violent death in office since 1399 (1 murdered, 1 killed in battle, and 7 beheaded). There's an in-depth wiki entry, chock full of interesting trivia, like the following:

Taken from the Wikipedia entry for Speaker of the British House of Commons
In General Elections, it is customary for the Speaker to stand without party affiliation. Since parties began being listed on ballot papers, the Speaker's affiliation is shown as "Speaker seeking re-election." In the past few decades, the Conservatives have not stood against Speakers seeking re-election, regardless of their previous political affiliation. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have stood against ex-Conservative Speakers, but not against ex-Labour ones. Most recently, in 2001 and 2005, the only major party to oppose the ex-Labour Speaker Michael Martin was the Scottish National Party.

My cookbooks

My cookbooks
Originally uploaded by framboise.

I was reading a post about potato soup on delicious days, and getting pretty hungry just reading the recipe, when I came across a meme going around about cookbooks. Being new to this blogging business (previous websites have always just been online CVs), I thought I should at least participate in one meme in my blogging life. Plus, it would keep me occupied and stop me from drooling any further on the keyboard.

The meme was initiated by spiceblog, and I may be breaking blogging protocol here by not having been invited to join in (if so, leave a comment and I'll go quietly... aww... these food bloggers are so nice...).

  1. Rationale behind what we're seeing?
    This nook in my very small kitchen is super handy, apart from the fact that I'm short and can't reach the middle and top shelves. So all the most-used cookbooks are conveniently stored on the bottom shelf. Top of the dog-ears are two paperbacks by Nigel Slater: Real Fast Food and Real Fast Pudding. Plus the two New Covent Garden Soup Co.'s books, from which I've posted quite a few recipes on this blog. Most of the "trendy" books on the middle shelf were gifts from friends and relatives; only 2-3 recipes tried from each as it's a real faff to get ingredients together for them. Prue Leith's bible is only on the less-used middle shelf 'cos she won't fit on the bottom. The oldest of the collection dates from 1976: Mrs Lee's Cookbook, first owned by my Mom.
  2. Most recommended?
    Without a doubt, Nigel Slater's Real Fast Food, followed very closely by Real Fast Pudding. The recipes are sensible. The ingredients are often in our store cupboard or fridge, and if not, alternative ideas are often provided. The pudding book is arranged by season, which suits us to a T as we get our fruit in a box scheme. And most importantly, most of the dishes can be prepared within 30 min with minimum fuss (risotto is an exception, as we all know).
  3. Cookbook that made you what you were?
    Delia's Winter Collection. First book I bought while at Uni, and I've tried almost half the recipes now. Her precision chimes with my need to cook like I'm still in the lab. (Although Nigel Slater makes me a freer cook.)
  4. Porniest cookbook?
    While the obvious choice would normally be Nigella Bites, the one that gives me the shakes is Green & Black's Chocolate Recipes. I often succumb, and make something from it.
  5. Sophie's Choice cookbook?
    Mrs Lee's Cookbook. You can't escape your heritage.
  6. If you were a cookbook, which cookbook would you be?
    That's a toughie. It pretty much boils down to whether I am 'exciting and exotic', 'interesting and innovative', 'prim and precise', or 'tasteful and trendy'. Since I'm some, yet none, of the above, I might as well confess to being Nigel Slater's Appetite. Food pr0n is all well and good, but all we really want is to know that the lamb will be roasted just long enough to be safe to eat yet still be pink.
  7. If your cookbook we're extrememly valuable, so valuable you might hide it with other valuables, where would that place be?
    In plain sight.

Hey, this meme stuff is quite fun. It's helped me to gather my thoughts of which books mean the most to me. And instead of fretting that I have to leave most of them in storage, I can go away knowing that I will rediscover them on my return. (Having by then exhausted the ones I'm taking with me...) Thank you, anthony!

Bottom shelf Middle shelf Top shelf
Bottom Middle Top

Technorati tag: .

10 May 2005

Fit the twentieh

Originally uploaded by framboise.

In which Arthur finds a crystal bowl, meets a conscious Fenchurch, chats her up, is harrassed by a lady flogging raffle tickets, wins said raffle, promptly loses Fenchurch's telephone number, and gets colossally bored.

I love the theme tune. It reminds me of happy weekends, listening to the tapes in the car. I loved my HHGTTG tapes. They were my first tapes, and were covered in shiny metallic paper in different cool colours (the purple one really stood out, don't know why). I lent them to a friend back home, and forgot to ask for them back. Have since bought a new set, but will be investing in the complete collection on CD at some point. Maybe when the Quintessential Phase has been released (which I'll miss, although I could listen to it online). I also can't help seeing that photo of the walrus when I think of the Quandary phase, which is based on the fourth book in the trilogy, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. That's another of my books I've not seen in over ten years. I didn't enjoy SLATFATF the first time I read it. I had just finished reading the trilogy, and picked up my dad's copy of SLATFATF. I think some of the humour was a bit beyond me at that age, and tried again a few years later. Lots of laughter ensued, but I haven't revisited it since. I'm looking forward to rediscovering it as a radio play.

Link to Fit the Twentieh, Quandary Phase repeats. (On Radio 4's site until the 17th of May.) Fleshed-out episode synopses.

Dig that hoopy frood. Tuesdays are like having a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, or a cuppa tea if you're so inclined. The Quandary phase on Radio 4 at 6.30pm, and if you stay up late (or have a VCR), the TV series on BBC 2 at 11.20pm. Even as a kid I thought Zaphod's second head was a bit pathetic, even if it was state of the art. DNA: such a visionary that technology struggled to keep up with him (and still does). And while Movie-Marvin may look swish, Marvin will always be a clapped-out clunky robot stereotype to me.

Do say: "Well, Zaphod's just zis guy, you know..."

Don't say: "Wait a minute, what's this switch? ... No, I was only fooling. We are going to die after all."

Technorati tags: , , .

May the Farm be with you

Store Wars poster

Store Wars.

Another Star Wars parody.

This time, one with a message.

Keep the Organic Rebellion alive...

The choice of character names is hilarious (Obi-wan Cannoli!), and the voices are pretty much spot on. Love the stormtroopers, "more chemical than vegetable", "reach out with your peelings". And wait till you see their version of R2-D2. I nearly fell off my chair laughing.

It may yet be better than the prequels. (Reserving judgement until I've seen the final installment.)

First saw it on the Treehugger site.

Technorati tags: , .

09 May 2005


Singapore threatens to sue internet dissenter . More links in the Guardian's newsblog.

Some links with background:

A £180 soup triggers memories

An article in the Torygraph today reminded me of a nickname I was given at school following a track & field try-out. All the kids were shown the proper way to perform the approach, take-off and flight. I paid due attention to the Phys Ed teacher (ie none). My approach was fine, and so was take-off. It was the flight aspect that eluded me. Instead of flopping over the bar in the usual fashion, I pulled my legs into a cross-legged sitting position to clear the pole, and ended up on the mat, sat like a Buddha. It was henceforth known as doing a Buddha Jumps over the Wall.

Have to shift butt in a month

After a short wait, I'm one step closer to moving. Due to time restrictions on the visa's validity, I will have to be in LA by the end of June. Things are hotting up now...

08 May 2005

Political map of the UK

One thing this election has shown me is the validity of the SNP's argument for independence. The map is very blue down England-way, with the exception of the South West (Cornwall) and a few Uni towns (e.g. Southampton) being quite orange. So, if PR is brought in to the benefit of the Tories, as Jarndyce suggests, Scotland should offer to cut off the South West and float it up to the North East of Scotland (it'll just fit inside the Moray Firth... checked it on the atlas). Only problem with that, is the Cornish may object to the cold, wet, windy, non-surfing weather up that way...

Also, speaking of political maps, that was the ONLY phrase that stopped me from completing my Times 'Team Churchill' bingo card. And that was the only card of the 4 that came anywhere close to completion. Admittedly, Team Thatcher and Disraeli retired around 2am, and Team Churchill and Attlee was reading and amusing herself in other ways until 5am, and so may have missed a few words. Some phrases I was pretty sure didn't crop up on BBC's Dimbleby/Paxman coverage: "Blair babes", "leadership race", "are you thinking what i'm thinking", "the removal vans", "hard-working families", "dog whistle", "the real story". Quite a few of those were used intensively during the campaigns, but weren't used by the pundits on polling day. I noted a few key phrases that they should have put on: "real alternative", "and on that note", "down on the floor", "presidential", "liability", "wobble", "historic third term". That final one I'm sick of already.

09 May '05 edit: There's another coloured map; much better with shading. I yap about it here.

Chiles and Strachan as the new Llewelyn-Bowens?

Hilarious! I just witnessed Adrian Chiles and Gordon Strachan complaining about their new slippery sofa. Were they on MOTD or Changing Rooms? What is the world coming to? Football pundits crossing over to interior decoration...

No haar without

Spent a pleasant afternoon sunning ourselves and reading the Sunday papers in the Botanics. Reading about the Cabinet reshuffle and ever-present Blair/Brown divide was depressing. It's almost as if there was no election, and it's business as usual. Scrapping behind the scenes. Blair as bullish as ever, and misinterpreting the message voters were sending (deliberately, I think). The thing that worried me most was in an article by Margaret Hodge (If Labour doesn't listen to its heartland voters, it will lose them). She highlights the antipathy that white Barking residents feel to migrants, whether they were economic or asylum-seeking immigrants. Their main objection seemed to be against migrants' different cultures. It's not the Tories that are being let in through the back door, it's the BNP, who received 17% of the votes in Barking. Why do they fear a multicultural society? How valid is their fear that migrants will take their jobs or claim their share of welfare benefits or get priority for council housing? Wouldn't publication of a breakdown of who gets what by local councils show them just how unjustified these fears are?

To cheer myself up, I photographed some flowers, most of which come from foreign climes. Do the British know that most of the plants they love so much come from elsewhere? Does it stop them from buying these foreigners in B&Q and Homebase? Or from letting such interlopers into their homes? No, because they're beautiful. If only the British loved other people as much as they love their gardens.

Pulsatilla montana 3 Pulsatilla montana 2 Pulsatilla montana 1 Pulsatilla montana 4
Berberis Two heads Corydalis Lewisia cotyledon
Bumbling along Rhododendron buds Pink geranium Sweet nectar