Thinking Aloud and Chewing Things Over
I have a great fancy for kippers. PC Eagles and Sergeant Lumley* are tucking into them while pursuing their quarry across London. I like books with food in them and Dorothy L Sayers can put on a decent spread when she puts her mind to it. I’m incredibly auto suggestive. Once I’ve got the idea of kippers in my mind, it sticks. There is only one way out of dilemma number one of the weekend.
There is a problem though. A good kipper is one of the finest eating experiences that it is possible to have. Good kippers are hard to come by and anything that isn’t a good kipper tends to fall a long way short of the ideal. In my experience the place to go is Fortunes in Whitby. I can almost guarantee that even a dedicated hater of kippers would like these. They are cured in the most traditional of ways and are superb.
If I want kippers this weekend, I have to make do with the local Tesco, and that is a thing I am loathe to do. But the craving is strong. She looks across from her important conversation with the women behind the delicatessen. “Do ye want serving?”
“Can I have a couple of kippers please?”
There are kippers laid out on the display. They look fine. She goes to her fridge and seems to be shielding her selection with her back. When I get them home they are very much the kippers you wouldn’t put on display. Is there anything pleasant about that shop? I should have insisted on the ones I wanted, but to do so would have been to have pointed out her shortcomings as a purveyor of food. I suppose that is what I am doing here.
I grill them and serve them with brown bread and butter. They are alright. I hadn’t had a weeklong craving that was really looking for an “alright” experience. Note to self. Use Tesco if you have to. But, only if you really have to. The difference between what I got and what I would have got if I’d driven through the night to Whitby would have been worth the drive. And I’ve never been scowled at by the staff at Fortunes.
My week has been a funny one. Reading, writing, feeding (obviously) and long, long walks with Jolly as I try to come to grips with something that has grown from a quandary to a dilemma in the space of a few days. The declared aim of the blog is to produce a post every day for a year. The purpose of this is to demonstrate (to myself) the discipline to tie myself to the desk and work, and (hopefully) to improve as a writer by the simple process of practice. It would be both vainglorious and inaccurate (two things I would like to think I am largely without) to say that I have achieved my aims. I haven’t. If the target is 365 posts and I’ve only done 250 then, clearly, I have fallen some way short. I’d like to think I have improved but am still so far from where I’d like to be that this ambition can also be marked unfulfilled.
Here-in lies the rub. I may or may not be improving but I am certainly becoming more aware of where I need to improve. I need to draft. My journey around Scotland, Ireland and Wales is just beginning the process of redrafting (and very little of the original has survived from the first few chapters). The blog is very much what can be churned out in the couple of hours of each day that I have dedicated to it. My dilemma is whether or not I am still happy to have un-drafted work published. I know that fellow bloggers are aware that most of what we post is not polished to the nth degree and the feed back I have had has been very supportive.
I’ve seriously considered moving on to producing a single, polished piece each week. There are plusses and minuses. Doing the blog the way I am doing it has given me a complete commentary of a bicycle journey I made a couple of years ago and the start of an account of one I made nearly thirty years ago. Without doing it this way, the chances are high, that I would never have written these. I want (and those close to me want as well) for me to finish my 1987 tour diary. I’ve sub-titled this piece thinking aloud, but in reality most of the thinking has been done on dog walks taken either as a two or a three. I’ve concluded that I do need to move my writing into the back shed and withdraw from blogging for a while to allow me to draft, re-draft and better draft. (The word ‘quite’ is a painful one to bear). But first I’m going to complete the task I began. I’m going to return to Scotland tomorrow and if I finish that before the end of August then I’ve been researching the history and urban geography of 26 towns in the East Midlands to be my Alphabet of towns that sometimes get over-looked. The ‘last post’ will sound on August 31st. (Forgive the indulgence of blogging about a blog. The dilemma has weighed heavy on me for a number of days now.)
When facing a dilemma I find it a very good idea to eat cake. There are good strawberries to be had at the moment and on Sunday night we decide that making a sponge cake to go with them is too easy a task not to do. It’s an exercise in speed so the sponge is made using the all in one method. 6oz self raising flour, 6 oz caster sugar, 6 oz soft margarine and 3 eggs are beaten together with a generous dribble of Taylor and Colledge organic vanilla bean paste. (Who says we don’t do product placement?) Sometimes it needs a drop of milk to take it to the consistency that feels right (experience is the best judge of this) and sometimes it doesn’t. Into two greased and lined sandwich tins and into the oven at 160c for twenty minutes (until the sponge bounces back to a gentle prod).
Once it has cooled it gets almost half a jar of homemade strawberry jam and a generous layer of whipped cream and some quartered strawberries. More cream on the top and some of the better looking fruit (is there an ugly strawberry?) and tea is served. I have two slices and sneak a third at bedtime.
The cream came in very useful in knocking some peppers, chilli, onion, cherry tomatoes, garlic and the last of the smoked salmon into a spaghetti dish to rank with the best. There is a lot of thick cream in this sauce and it tasted wonderful.
Pasta always has the advantage of an easy to re-heat lunch for the following day. I come from a big family. I always make too much. You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough. I think William Blake said that. Nothing succeeds like Excess. Oscar Wilde said that!
I’m supposed to be doing “No Meat in May”. I’ve been very good on resolutions recently. But, I’ve been in a funny mood all week. The sort of mood that would make a drinker seek out a cold one or a glass of red. I don’t have that option. At times like this I have ‘buffer zone’ foods. Things I don’t always allow myself but which can feel like a great big treat when I’m a bit down. I’m in Buxton for the May Day Fair on bank holiday Monday. It’s a chance to see my long lost cousin for the second time in a month (the second time in a lifetime as well. I didn’t know I had this cousin until this year and I’m delighted to have found such a nice cousin). She is busy on her WI stall for much of the day so I get myself a rather good breakfast from a local café.
On Wednesday I realise that the breakfast wasn’t a lapse but a falling off the horse. I make myself a steak sandwich and thoroughly enjoy it. I add mustard and nothing else to what you see above.
And when Charlie comes round for tea on Thursday we have a yearning for slices of cold ham. (By we I mean Charlie and I. T has kept to the No Meat in May diet).
The highpoint of the week is seeing good rhubarb in Aldi for very little money and making a rhubarb crumble for the three of us. There is an important question as to which is the best crumble. Apple, gooseberry, rhubarb, lots of others. The answer is simple. It is which ever one you are eating at the time. The crumble is one of the things that makes certain that even difficult weeks are enjoyable.
*Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L Sayers