Thursday, November 30, 2006

Far from the Madding Crowd

A few months ago we got a parcel in the post for someone we'd never heard of but with our address on. In the end we opened it and it was huge batch of Daily Mail classic dvds. Someone had obviously carefully collected the free vouchers and sent them off. I felt bad but Robert said they'd just phone up and get them sent again. Anyway, I just watched Far from The Madding Crowd and it's now my favourite film of all time. It's especially more better than the astonishingly awful new version of The Wicker Man that Robert made me watch the other night. This has all you could want from a film, Julie Christie, Terence Stamp, beautiful scenery, a dashing villain, death, heartbreak and a happy ending. It also stars Alan Bates, who was from Derby you know.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Records That Make Me Feel Good: 6 & 7

Palito Ortega: Digan Lo Que Digan (RCA Victor, 1967)

I'd never heard of Palito Ortega until, well, the day before yesterday. But on Tuesday afternoon Silvana saw this and couldn't resist buying it for me. What do you think did it for her? Was it the desert boots? The casually discarded 12-string? The fact he's called Palito? Was it because Oxfam - the one on Marylebone Lane is fantastic - only wanted 49p?

For me, it's all those things. But it's also the cheery gold sticker from the shop it was first bought in, Discos Regalos in Torremelinos and the fact that one Sheila Macleod was so pleased with her purchase she wrote her name and the date - March 1968 - on the back. I wasn't even born in March 1968, but I bet Torremolinos in the spring was beautiful.

As for the record, it's cheery Argentine pop all the way. Some people on the internet think he's bad and some think he's, y'know, good. To be honest, I'm not that fussed. I've never heard of him, how bad can he be? (If he is really bad, do let me know and I'll promise to think harder next time).

Anyway, in 1967 he made a nice pop record - what more do you need to know?

Sharon Forrester: Love Inside - Del Intalex Mix (FFRR, 1994)

Now, Sharon Forrester has barely crossed my consciousness once since I put this FFRR 12" in a big box with a load of other 12"s some years ago. I seem to remember her doing a reggae version of a Beatles tune, but that's about it.

However, this is very nice, not that there's actually a lot of SF on this pointlessly wonderful remix. Pointless because no one is going to ever buy a Sharon Forrester record because Del Intalex once remixed something she did. But it's also wonderful because it represents a time when major labels honestly thought that properly clattering drum and bass (or, if you prefer, liquid funk) was somehow going to save their arses.

It didn't. Then the internet arrived and everyone started looking very, very scared.

Anyway, it's a period piece, innit. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Mayonnaise to see you!

To see you, mayonnaise!
I found this picture on the internet yesterday. I can't be exactly sure, but I think I recognise this woman. She's changed her hair a bit and isn't usually to be found tackling such a huge sandwich, but she definitely looks like someone I know.

I think this rather wonderful cover of an old Donovan record by him from Galaxie 500 and Luna and his new muse, her from, um, Belltower, sums up how I feel about this whole affair quite neatly. Their album's out next year, btw.

Dean & Britta: Colours (Zoe Records, 2007)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Medicine Show

Now, who'd like some of these tremendous pills on offer here? Apparently, Mornidine were sort of a Super-Valium - unfortunately, Governemental killjoys decided as far back as 1969 that, perhaps, they were a little too poky in the old wobbling up the head stakes and removed them from sale.

What rot. Anyway, here are some more alluring adverts from when medicine wasn't all watered down rubbish made from flowers and bunnies tears and really had a proper kick to it.

And here's the perfect soundtrack for the over-stressed housewife:

The Mike Sammes Singers First Lady (Trunk, 2006)

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Warm Treacle Tart

Nothing cheers us up more on a miserable, wet weekend than a classic hot pud. So I made this treacle tart and served it up after lunch with Ambrosia custard. Magic.

Serves 12

225g plain flour
150g cold butter, diced
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon golden caster sugar
2 tablespoons cold water
for the filling
800g golden syrup
150g fresh white breadcrumbs
finely grated rind of 2 lemons
50g porridge oats
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the flour and butter in a food processor and pulse until it forms fine crumbs. Add the egg yolk, sugar and water and pulse again to form a firm dough.

Roll out the dough and use to line a deep, loose-bottomed 24 cm fluted tart tin. Prick the base and chill for 30 minutes.

To make the filling, warm the golden syrup in a pan until runny but not too hot. Stir in the breadcrumbs, lemon rind, oats and beaten eggs. Pour into the lined tin and bake for 30 – 40 minutes until golden and just set, don’t worry if it’s a little soft. Allow to cool for a few minutes then carefully remove from the tin, slice and serve with custard.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Pudicure

The Spa at Brown's Hotel is starting a new seasonal treatment next week - a Christmas pudding flavoured pedicure. Treacle, milk, sugar, cinnamon massaged into your feet! And you get a cocktail thrown in! Who wouldn't want that? £85 though :(

Friday, November 24, 2006

Records That Make Me Feel Good: 4 and 5

Two wonderful tracks this afternoon and both of them from new albums rather than some dusty piece of crap I bought for a dollar in some out of town nightmare in Des Moines or Derby (though there's lots more of those coming, BTW).

Alan Randall: Work Song (Licorice Soul, 2006).

I can't tell you anymore about the incredible - and sadly dead - Randall than you can read here, but this track is a brilliant piece of early 70s funk as orchestrated by a man more famous for having a massive gap between his teeth and being good at George Formby impressions.

Much, much more of this on the Working Man's Soul album, 12 tracks of the sort of social club funk that, I know only too well, just doesn't exist anymore.

Trans Am 4,738 Regrets (Thrill Jockey, 2007)

I saw Trans Am support to Tortoise at the Astoria in about 1994 (or something) and they were bloody great. To be honest, I'd not thought about them much since, but then their new album arrived in the post today and - who'd have thunk it - it's really good! This track in particular - instrumental, of course - has that New Order-ish sort of melancholic bite that staring out the windows into the middle distance was invented for.

More details about the very marvellous Trans Am here.

Ms Martini

I was at the Doctor's this morning and the woman who got called in before me was Nadia Martini. Can you possibly think of a better name than that? Silvana Martini. Mrs Martini. Mrs Bellini? Mrs Campari? Brilliant. Maybe I do need a lie down after all.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Chicken and mushroom congee

Congee is rice porridge, it doesn't sound great, looks even worse than it sounds but tastes delicious. It is proper comfort food and just what you need on a cold dark night. I called in at Wing Tai this evening and picked up a bag of glutinous rice, a can of straw mushrooms and some choi sum.

This is how to make it:

Tip a mug of rice into a pan with six mugs of water and some salt. Add a piece of chicken, preferably on the bone and some chopped fresh ginger and a little garlic. Bring to a simmer then cook very gently for an hour to make a soft, thick mixture. Lift out the chicken, shred off the meat and add it back to the pan. In a small dish, stir together a blend of soy sauce, chilli oil (use a good one with shrimp paste in it), a few sesame seeds and a splash of vinegar. Drain and halve the straw mushrooms and add to the congee, warm through for a minute then stir in a handful of thinly sliced spring onions. Ladle into bowls and drizzle over the soy mixture. Serve steamed choi sum on the side.

Roast pork ho fun in soup

Lunch in Cafe Noodle

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

New Look

Fabio escaped the other morning. It was early on a Saturday and Robert and I were in the garden pruning the vines while he was watching Cbeebies and eating toast. When I went to check on him, the front door was wide open and he was gone. He was stood on the corner with a neighbour I'd never met before, looking like a disgrace. He was in his socks with his dressing gown gaping open like Rigsby off Rising Damp and with jam and toast-crumbs coating his face.

So I got Scott round to fit new child-proof locks and paint the door while he was at it. It's meant to be plum but it's more of a pink really and the numbers I bought were a bit large so Scott made a special plaque for the wall which I'm not really sure about. I spent a fortune on 'door furniture' but at least the super-sized letter box means the postie can now get all of Robert's hundreds of daily cds through the door in under 50 minutes. And Fabio won't get taken away by The Social.

Late lunch

White toast, softly scrambled eggs, grated Gruyere, nipper finally napping. Phew!

Records That Make Me Feel Good: 3

Martin Denny: My Little Grass Shack In Kealakekua, Hawaii (Liberty, 1959)
I bought this in San Francisco where I spent two days knocking around on my own in the early December sunshine (yes, it was rather nice) after spending a couple of days with The Killers (including 18 hours on their bus as it mooched down from Seattle, which wasn't so nice).

Anyway, it's cold outside, so it must be time to fire up a tiny slice of Pacific loveliness.

Dog Biscuits - A Step by Step Guide

We didn’t have a gingerbread man cutter so we made do with dogs.

Rub the butter into the flour and spices.

Roll out the dough.

Cut out the shapes then bake.

Decorate. Don't eat all the dogs' spots first.

Gingerbread Dalmations
Makes a lot
300g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground cinnamon
100g diced butter, diced
125g light muscovado
4 tbsp golden syrup

1 egg, beaten

icing sugar and tiny choc buttons

Preheat the oven to 180 - 190C depending on how hot your oven is.

Sift the flour, bicarb and spices into a bowl. Rub in the butter then stir in the sugar, syrup and egg. Knead to make a smooth dough.

Roll out onto a floured surface until about 3 - 5 mm thick then stamp out shapes. Bake on non-stick sheets for 6 - 8 minutes until golden brown. Leave on the baking sheets to cool slightly, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Decorate with icing and chocolate.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A flickr of interest

Hark at the loser who's just discovered flickr.

Little Rolf Harris

Who could enjoy the Are You Being Served screenshot below and not ponder the enigma that is Rusty Goffe?
It's not immediately apparent from the picture, but Rusty is a person of restricted stature (or whatever). A moment's research in an otherwise frantically busy day (koff) yields showbiz gold...

Rusty's appearance in poor quality ape clobber in Are You Being Terrible was far from being his career highlight. In 1977 he was in Star Wars as an, er, Gonk Droid, having five years earlier accepted a role in Disciple Of Death:
"A henchman of Satan poses as a priest in order to get closer to young virgins he needs for human sacrifice."

He also appeared in two episodes of The Goodies, one of them as Little Rolf Harris, and three of The League Of Gentlemen. In 1999 he presented Live TV's, um, Britain's Bounciest Weather, on, ah, a trampoline. Rusty was 58 on 30th October. Gawd bless him.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Records That Make Me Feel Good: 2

Tobias Froberg: Somewhere In The City (Live) (Poptones, 2006)
Tobias Froberg is from Sweden. He writes really beautiful songs and some other people play sort of bass and drums along with his voice and his guitar and it all sounds a bit tremendous. People have mentioned Simon & Garfunkel and Kings Of Convenience (I went to Bergen to interview them once for a now defunt "style" magazine. Hilarity ensued, of which more later) and both have their place. This is a special live version of his album's title track. It turned up in my post this morning and I really like it a lot. In fact, I'd go so far to say it made me feel good.

Matthew Jay Drawing Circles (Parlophone, 2003)
This is from a rare Matthew Jay remix 12", much of which is rather dreadful house versions, but this Fug mix is a really good way to remember him. I interviewed Matthew a couple times - saw him live a few times too - and he was a funny, modest sort of chap who was a little too ahead of the singer-songwriter revival curve to be done much good by it.

In September 2003, just as things were beginning to really pick up for him, Matthew fell to his death from a seventh floor window, a shocking, horrible way to go. I still remember his press officer, Chris, phoning to tell me what had happened. We'd only recently saw a great Matthew show at some strange bar on the Strand I can't recall the name of.

Anyway, and rather more happily, Matthew's indestructible talent has meant his memory is being kept alive all over the internet. I hope this finds its way to someone new.

Moving Picture

If there was any chance I could look this good riding a bike I'd never be out of those stupid lycra shorts :(

I can't wait for Corrie tonight

Gourmet Burger Kitchen

A new burger restaurant opened on our high street a couple of weeks ago. It's part of a chain so most locals were against it opening a bit like when Caffe Nero set up shop in the summer. Like Caffe Nero it is now packed. Well it was pretty lively when me and Simon popped in for our lunch today. We liked it. The burgers were juicy and very nicely cooked and at £6.50 each, cost about the same as the deep-fried sausages, Smash and Bisto gravy we had for lunch at the Lake Cafe in Whipsnade yesterday. I had a classic cheese burger and Simon the chilli version. We also had chips and the best bit was a side order of garlic mayonnaise. I thought £1.25 was a bit much but when it arrived, it was big pot - too much for two of us and was so fantastically garlicky we had to stop off at Hope and Greenwood, East Dulwich's brilliant 1950s-style sweet shop, on the way back for a quarter of apple and custards. Yum!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Zoo For The Price Of One

So, finally we made it to Whipsnade Zoo today. The sun shone relentlessy in a clear blue sky and we all wore winter coats for the first time in living memory.

It was J's idea. And it was a great one. She had heard about the baby giraffes and presumed, correctly, that G would put aside his dislike of zoos to see animals roaming (relatively) free in a beautiful bit of countryside. F and L and little A completed the group. A & Scrap walked around holding hands (when he wasn't thrashing around on his bike). It was that kind of day.

A sunny winter Sunday at the 'snade is just about the most perfect day out imaginable. And The Wife and I are members of London Zoo, so we can come as many bloody times as we like. Ha!

Anyway, Silvana liked the red pandas, Simon liked the bears, Scrap liked the Bobos and I liked the giraffes.

As you can see.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Dragon Castle

Robert, Simon, Scrap and I went for lunch in Dragon Castle on the Walworth Road today. It's so our favourite that we have to limit how many times we go as it's got a bit embarrassing showing up as often as we do. Scrap chants 'I eat rice' all the way there. We love the whole experience - there's a huge gold studded castle-door entrance flanked by stone lions and there's a big pond in the foyer with coins in the bottom and koi carp and a few whisps of dry ice and beautiful women greet you in red and gold dresses. I can't understand what it's doing on the Walworth Road but though it's huge, it's always packed so we're not alone in loving it. Best dim sum in London, no question. In fact once when we were there a few months ago, just after it opened, Giles Coren from the Times was on the table next to ours very undiscreetly doing a review. Turned out he thought it was fantastic too:
  • Times review Dragon Castle
  • Thank you very much

    Chocolate cup cake from Patisserie Valerie

    James Bond: An Apology

    I would like to apologise for my earlier remarks about the usefulness or otherwise of Casino Royale. Silvana and I went last night with J, C, A & C and it was bloody great.

    Daniel Craig is the first Bond for a generation that you don't want to fall down a well and die and the film itself sidesteps all the rubbishy Bond-isms that have so scarred the last few outings (the eyebrow campery, the stupid cars, the ice palaces, the supernatural twattery) and kept it locked on a great story, well told.

    I was knackered. It didn't start til 9:30 (basically my bedtime these days). The cinema was *packed*, but I walked out smiling at 11:40 having not *once* looked at my watch or wished it would hurry up. This is rare. I also remember feeling that the film tapped a stupid sort of pride in JB being very English and, somehow, very believable as a person.

    See it. It is good.

    Friday, November 17, 2006

    Dean Gaffney is a Hero

    This is one of the cruellest things I've ever seen in my life.

    Anchor and Hope

    I met Angela in the Anchor and Hope on The Cut for a quick lunch today. I sat in the bar (just across from the actor Rhys Ifans - he's very handsome close-up you know) and read the brilliant book that Sally and James bought me for my birthday Tuesdays with Morrie while I waited. It's one of those books that makes you feel happy about life - it's making me like my husband and wish for another baby. Anyway, we both chose crab on toast and shared a fresh, beautifully dressed leaf salad and new potatoes. Fantastic!

    Thursday, November 16, 2006

    Records That Make Me Feel Good: 1

    Jacob Miller: I'm Just A Dread (Gibbs, 1977)
    This record makes me feel good.

    The end.

    Good things...

    What's wrong with new records? Nothing, that's what. Here are some that, right now, I'm playing a lot.

    Alela Diane Songs Whistled Through White Teeth
    Mariee Sioux Wild Eyes / Buried In Teeth
    (that's them above, Alela's on the left)
    Klaxons Album
    Bloc Party Kreuzberg
    The View Hats Off To The Buskers
    The Doors The Doors (this is odd, like most people, I've not listened to The Doors since I was 13)
    Katherine Williams Leave To Remain
    The Decemberists The Crane Wife

    and this:

    (please excuse the terrible picture) It's the new Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds new album, only they've called themselves Grinderman. And it's uh-mazingly good.

    And this is from about one week. It makes you glad to be alive.

    Wednesday, November 15, 2006

    Selfridges new season kicked off in the food hall yesterday with Giorgio Locatelli launching his new book, Made in Italy: Food and Stories. I've not got my hands on a copy yet so I can't comment but no doubt it'll be a best seller.

    Anyway, the store's theme is Food Glamorous Food and features tastings and special events. Tonight it’s A Delicious Italian Affair and you can sample truffle and funghi dishes and drink brilliant Italian wines. Fifty quid a head.

    Tuesday, November 14, 2006

    Humiliation on a Grand Scale

    Nearly a million people have watched this via the miracle of You Tube. I think it's one of the funniest, saddest things imaginable. Make sure you watch to the very end. The soft, caring voice of the policeman is a joy in itself.

    Basement Crates: Discovery 11

    DJ Shadow: Lost And Found (Mo' Wax, 1994)

    When I first heard DJ Shadow I had the feeling that, finally, here was the music I'd been waiting all my life for someone to actually make. A bit like hip-hop, a bit like jazz and a bit like funk, but not like any of them as it was all cut through with the same sort of obsessive melancholy I loved in Red House Painters or, y'know, Miles Davis. Shadow gave off this sense of being someone best able to express themselves through the manipulation of minute slices of sound that others had discarded years before.

    Shadow seemed to me to be an entirely new type of person, musician even, if you can bear it. He was aware that here is so much recorded media, so many LPs lying in mouldering heaps across the world that it's not an entirely stupid idea to think, well, I'll make my music out of them then.

    And for a while it was really, unbelievably good and the people who still, 16 years later, commission "edgy" advert music owe him, big time.

    Of course, his new album ditched all the obsessiveness and just made with the "hyphy". We don't really get hyphy in Britain. But Shadow's a dad now, he hasn't got time for all this nonsense, none of us have. Whatever - thanks for all the cool stuff. Hope the kids are well.


    Jah Wobble's Invaders Of The Heart: Visions Of You [Andy Weatherall's Secret Love Child Of Hank And Johnny mix] (East West, 1991)

    Of course, Shadow's shtick didn't come from nowhere. He fed Eno and Byrne through Hank Shocklee and PiL and threw his own stuff on top. From what is clearly turning into my favourite year ever, this is a classic Andy Weatherall mix of ex-PiL man Jah Wobble's Chart Smasheroo from 1991. I think that's Sinead O'Connor on this - I used to love her so much - but I sort of can't be arsed to google it. Anyway, I remember this taking the top of my head off when I was, ahem, thizz at a Leftfield party once a long, long time ago.

    Alright, I can be bothered and hurray, it is...

    Monday, November 13, 2006

    Bungle In The Jungle

    The annual horror of IACGMOOH has begun. As if seeing David Gest without his sunglasses (and winding snakes around his neck) wasn't bad enough, now I have discovered that The Worst Woman In Britain, tragedy-magnet Kerry Katona, is lolling about flogging cheap frozen snacks in the breaks.

    Oh great :(

    On the upside, Myleen Klass is a very handsome woman, so it's not all lost.

    Anyway, here's something to the take your mind off the grimness...

    The Trees: Polly On The Shore (CBS, 1970)

    Fruits of the Forage

    Jenny gave me a bag of walnuts and hazelnuts the other day that she’d gathered herself in the Malvern Hills. I can’t tell you how lovely they are. Moist and sweet with not a trace of the bitterness you often get from the skins. Robert said they were the best nuts he’d ever had. It made us both want to go into the woods and forage but actually I think the season is pretty well over now. I can't believe I didn't think of it earlier, epsecially as we've been filling our pockets with conkers for weeks. Next autumn, we’ll be quicker off the mark. Can't wait to make hazlenut ice cream. With chocolate sauce.

    It's chicken and rice again

    It's Monday and I haven't been to the supermarket and I'm not in the mood to go. I've been scouring the house for something to make for tea tonight. I wish I had some left over roast chicken to start with, but I haven't. I've pulled a pack of two nice organic chicken breasts out of the freezer and into a bowl of cold water to hurry up the thawing and then I'm going to poach them. I've boiled half a bag of long grain rice, about 200g. All I need to do now is put it all together.

    Chicken fried rice
    Heat a splash of vegetable oil in a large wok and scramble two eggs, tip out onto a plate. Add another splash of oil to the pan and stir fry some chopped fresh shallot or onion, garlic, ginger and chilli. Add some cold cooked rice, frozen peas and shredded chicken and stir fry until piping hot. Stir through a handful of thinly sliced spring onions, the egg and some soy sauce. Very good for freezing.

    Adam & Grieve

    Dr Adam Forsythe died in Emmerdale tonight. It's a shame as Richard Shelton, who plays him, lives round the corner from Landcroft House and is a good friend of my brother Anthony. I did always enjoy watching him drinking pints in the Woolpack or behaving menacingly towards Lorraine Chase. When he's not murdering people on telly, he's a jazz singer and is taking part in a Celebrity Swing Night in aid of Motor Neurone Disease Assocaiation on Thursday. Click for more info: MND

    A Roaring Sussex, I Mean Success

    So we went to Petworth at the weekend and it was really relaxing. This is the view from my parents' kitchen. You could enjoy that for a while, no? We took The Scrap out on his bike on Saturday afternoon and he had a great time paddling away until he did the indecent thing and fell off the narrow path and tumbled head first into a muddy ravine full of stinging nettles. Literally, ouch.

    At one point he flipped over in a gruesome somersault, but I chucked myself down and pulled him out. Perhaps I'm making this all sound a bit more dramatic than it was, but it did all seem a bit unecessary. Anyway, being the strong-minded little fellow he is, after a couple of minutes crying on nanna's shoulder and a bit of "Poor Scrap!" encouragement, he got right back on the bike and thrashed it up the hill, a smear of mud across his new winter coat and a tiny paw covered in stinging nettle spots were the only evidence it ever happened.

    *Wipes proud tear from wrinkly dad-eyes*

    And can I just say I've never really liked mince pies before - the most over-rated food item imaginable - but these ones my mum made were bloody delicious. The secret? They're cut with cranberry sauce...

    Fiendishly clever, that woman.

    Lurgashall Whinery

    We called in at Lugashall Winery as we continued on our way to Petworth. It was a bit disappointing really - we didn’t get the tasting session or the tour of the vineyard I was hoping for. Having said that, they don't actually have vineyards as they specialise in fruit wines and mead. Hmmm. So, in the end, It was just a shop with a grumpy old woman who sold us a bottle of equally sour Lurgashall Elderberry wine.

    In fact it was so odd, neither Rob nor I could do more than half a glass. Usually, a slightly rough wine gets better with each glug, but this just got worse. Still, his mum’s wonderful lamb casserole and Live And Let Die on ITV4 more than made up for it. I’ve always liked Roger Moore the best.