Saturday, May 17, 2014

West Bay, East Cliff, Dorset

DSC05816 (1300x968)The Jurassic Coast is a world heritage site, recognized for its sheer coastal cliffs, filled with fossils from the Mesozoic Era, holding of animals and plants through 185 million years of Earth's history.  It’s considered a premier resource for geology, palaeontology and geomorphology for teaching, training and research.

DSC05886 (1300x1069)Today, though, unseasonably warm and summery temperatures brought out the sun-seekers.

Its been a windy, wet winter and a cold spring in England, but forecasters say that the entire weekend will hit a high for 2014.  I was ready for a day out, and actually headed for the Spring Tide Festival in Bridport.  However, a cross-country jog and a wrong turn dropped into West Bay, new ground for exploring the walks and beaches, harbours and restaurants.

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East Cliff towers over the Southwest Coastal Path and the orange-gravel beach just outside of town.  It’s really a magnificent layered face, rugged and primal in the afternoon light.  The seafront is filled with families wading and sunning (few swimming, although the water feels fairly mild).

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The village is dominated by the boat harbor, a mix of working fishing boats and pleasure craft, and by endless rows of  fish ‘n chip stands.  The quality is excellent, though: very thin batter and not too oily. 

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The nibbling, people-watching, and sea wind make the whole experience gezelligheid.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A shocking production

DSC05904 (1300x963)In the 1964, Joe Orton debuted the play Entertaining Mr Sloane, a mix of social satire, moral lapses, and sexual ambiguity.  The play, more character study than narrative, centers around a pathological murderer rooming with a trio of scheming family landlords.  At the time, the open references to sex, pregnancy, and homosexuality bordered on scandalous (the London Evening News called it "a real shocker");  It was five years before the BBB dared adapt it for television.

DSC05902 (958x1300) Sloane

Joe OrtonNo less controversial was Joe Orton himself.  Mr Sloane was his first play, followed by Loot and What the Butler Saw.  He gained a reputation as a master of outrageous black comedies, of dark and facical cynicism.  Three years into his recognition as a successful playwright, however, he was murdered by his gay lover, Kenneth Halliwell; bludgeoned to death, his head 'cratered like a burnt candle'.


Poole’s Lighthouse Theater hosted a revival of Entertaining Mr Sloane this week, staged by the London Classic Theater company.  I had some hesitation about the themes, but looked forward to a good evening of challenging theater. 

Unfortunately, the production didn’t do justice to the book.

The four characters just didn’t relate to one another on stage.  Lines were delivered without connection, just stimulus / response.  Staging felt mechanical.  The second act felt endless.

The enigmatic Mr. Sloane was short, blonde, unimpressive; scarcely convincing as a murderer.  Kath overacted;  Ed rocked on his heels. 

Even the sex scene at the end of the first act felt perfunctory, unconvincing that the two would couple.

My overall impression was that the whole production, once intended to shock, has outlived its time.

Maybe its inevitable, but the play seems more like an artifact than a commentary.  But even as a glimpse of historical prejudice, it feels baffling.  The dialog wanders around situations without moving forward, the motivations are unclear.  Only the troika of blackmail threats towards the end takes on credible life.

DSC05899 (1300x962)The production was worth seeing, thinking about, and discussing over wine afterwards.  It leads to lots of interesting questions about the 60’s, about Joe Orton’s life, and about the nature of black comedy. 

But, as a shocking evening? It scarcely raised a hair.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Poole Harbour in spring

DSC05757 (1300x453)I had a breakfast meeting with a colleague overlooking Poole Harbour this morning – really an incomparable day, 20 degrees and sunshine.

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‘makes it hard to work at anything but thinking of going sailing again.

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’And the sunset was no less wonderful.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Scallops, Jelly, and Pickling

DSC05751 (1300x945)Coffee and morning light,  7am, create contemplative time at 5 Woodside.  The house is quiet (new tenants moved in across the hall yesterday), the garden is sharply outlined in low sunshine and cool air.  I’ve made a cup of strong coffee and am gathering notes for the day.  A pitch upcoming on Isle of Man, business plans to collect from the printer, clinical trials getting underway in Southampton, Cambridge, Groeningen, Hungary…

I deserve a reward when this is done.  Dinner…

I selected a recipe from BBC Food: “Scallops with pickled vegetables, mango jelly, lime and chive sauce.   Prep time: Over two hours”.

Real MasterChef stuff.  Cool: I’m in.

DSC05743 (975x1300)To be fair, I didn’t start until work was done.  Midday, I made a quick run to the printers and post office, then stopped at Waitrose for scallops, white- and rice- wine vinegar, and a parsnip.  Otherwise, it was well past six before I settled in for some serious kitchen work.

DSC05741 (1300x1018) (1300x1018)The Mango Jelly was kind of fun, peeling the mango, finding the outlines of the seed at the center, carving around it: all new.  I didn’t have a puree machine, nor xanthan gum, so I improvised by reducing the fruit with a bit of white wine, then added a sheet of gelatin and refrigerated.  The result wasn’t quite jelly, but it was solid and tasted intensely mango.

DSC05742 (1300x953)The sauce seemed kind of pointless; scallions, wine, reduce, water, reduce, a ton of butter, reduce, strain: yielding flavored butter.  Nonetheless, it had a good depth.

DSC05744 (1300x908)When I think of pickling, I think of Korean Kimchi, burying cabbage in a pot of vinegar and spices in the back yard and letting it ferment for months.  I’ve seen the TV cooks whip up pickled sides in a hour though, so I  gave it a run.  DSC05745 (1300x974)'Warm the vinegar and sugar, add vegetables, let it sit for two hours.  Honestly, the flavor is (similar to) pickle, but not the texture.  Warming it, then cooling, improved things a bit, but it still tasted like faux-conserver dans le vinaigre to me,  tart taste painted over veg. 

DSC05746 (1300x974)The scallops turned out dead easy: trim off the (orange) roe, dredge in oil, herbs, and spices, then sear for a minute a side.  They seemed a bit underdone to me, but had a nice soft texture.

DSC05748 (1300x1074)The recipe advises to arrange the elements in a sunburst, dress with coriander and chive, and serve.  The result looked more like bomb-burst than sun-burst, but it tasted great (at 10 pm…)

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Afternoon light, Dorset

DSC05724 (1300x974) Its been a quiet weekend in Dorset: with the Big Four jobs done, it was time for relaxing into a lazy spring weekend.  The weather cooperated, alternating sunshine and showers each hour.  

So,’ tasks flexed to fit leisure.

I re-rooted and re-potted some plants after consulting with the local garden centre.  Most are doing well after last weeks surgery, but two needed more encouragement.

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The grocer had duck eggs on sale, so joined in making a very good kedgeree.  I’m thinking of using milder smoked salmon to replace the smoked haddock next time.

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The Dutch won second in the Eurovision Song Contest (so I’m told)…with a country-western song?  I was catching up with The Amazing Race, instead.

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The afternoon light was lovely, so ‘wrapped up the weekend exploring along Mudeford Quay, with crab baguettes at the entrance to Christchurch Harbour, and through the foliage and moors in the New Forest near Lyndhurst

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Everywhere, the wind was whipping the waves and trees, singing through the rigging in the sailboats and sighing through the birch leaves.

Both a light weekend and lovely light for sightseeing – I needed both ahead of plunging back in to worklife on Monday.