Saturday, July 12, 2014

Saturday from the garden to the park

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Saturday dawned early and lazy in Dorset, rising late and starting slow.  ‘water the home garden, a latte and croissant at Bennett’s, a thumb through the Times: it feels like a weekend even before the heat of the day arrives.

DSC06791 (1300x1178)There was little on in Dorset this weekend, only festival  memories attached to the chili blooming on my windowsill, art in the catalogues stacked on the desk.  But, over coffee, music drifted up the hill from Ashley Cross park: Groove on the Green

Well and why not?

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‘actually a low—key local event, perfect for a summer’s afternoon.  Local craft beer (Solar Power), local baked goods (Dark Matters brownies), and local bands passed an afternoon in the sunshine.

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Conversation centered around the vivid tattoos on display,  if it is possible to disagree with ourselves, and whether superior attitudes combined with latent insecurity leads to dissembling.

‘beats working on the weekend.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Dinner from the dovecote

DSC07430 (961x1300)I found a real butcher, alongside a real fishmonger, in Parkstone village last week.  Do you carry squab, I asked on impulse. “Not in the warmer weather, but I can always order it.”  ‘way cool; it was time for a MasterChef Moment.

I’ve been experimenting with Moroccan spices lately, hotter Ras el hanout and spicy Baharat.  It works well with salmon and with meats,  warming and exotic. 

Armed with Chef Ramal Al-Faqih’s Classic Lebanese Cuisine and Claudia Roden’s New Book of Middle Eastern Food,DSC07389 (1300x955) we’ve started an exploration of saffron-scented rice (Roz bel Zafaran), orange flower water  lamb (Kasksou Tfaya), haddock and egg Kedgree, and Chicken Sofrito.  The results have been quite good.

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So, why not squab, fresh from someone’s dovecote?

The best collection of pigeon / dove recipes came from Hank Shaw, a specialist in cooking game birds.  Grilling was evidently the bet approach, so I prepped for an Egyptian–style recipe, laying in spices and oil.  Saturday the birds arrived at the butcher (Next time pheasant or quail?)  and I was off.

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Mixing, oiling, rubbing went well; my hands were burnt orange, but the little birds had a good aroma before going into the ‘fridge.

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I opted for a stovetop grilling method, a bit smoky and slow compared to outdoor grilling, and I had to turn the birds three times to get the bottom and breasts.  It turned out to take about twice as long as the recipe predicted to get the interior done, 7 minutes a side and 10 to the bottom.

DSC07429 (1300x975)With a salad and rice, it was a nice little meal.  The squab is coarser than chicken, but flavorful, with a bit of an iron tang and a a rich body.  There isn’t a lot of meat on them and it’s almost impossible to eat without picking it up, but overall not as difficult or as long to make as you might think.  ‘a nice alternative to guinea fowl or (for next time) quail.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

(not) east to the Netherlands

Passengers-are-evacuatedMy plan was to head to the Netherlands after the Tour de France, a sprint drive arriving by midnightIt’s been a very long time since I was last east of the Channel, and my work was stacking up: design reviews, legal and accounting meetings, tax filings.  Maastricht has suffered a bunch of storms recently, and I’d also been told that there was significant water damage to one wall of the apartment.  Lovely.

I was driving off onto the exit to the Channel Tunnel when BBC cut in to say that there were seven hour delays in crossing to Calais from Folkstone.

Too late: I was already embedded into a long line of cars and trucks with no exit back onto the motorway.  Drivers passed rumors up and down the line: a train collision, a fire in the tunnel (actually, it was a power failure).  A truck driver had a disagreement with the passenger car line inching past him and edged over to block the lane; the police arrived to untangle the dispute. 

My new-found ‘it can wait’ attitude would have suggested immediately turning back towards Poole to try another day.  But I wasn’t going anywhere, quickly.

An hour passed: I did a little reading:

  • Lakewood AppleseedOn the home front was an article passed to me by a friend about a familiar artwork. 

I was born in Lakewood, Ohio: the High School was adorned with a huge terracotta sculpture of Johnny Appleseed over the entrance to the Auditorium.   Appleseed (John Chapman) was a legendary nurseryman who, around 1800, walked the Midwestern US, and especially future Ohio, planting orchards. As homage to the settlers, the image “Early Settler” was created as civic art, although the school board thought it was ‘too eccentric’ to grace a public building. 

In any case, it’s in need of restoration, and the community is seeking funds.

  • New-FeminismThird Wave Feminism is a version of women’s rights that came into practice during the past 20 years.  Its been a tricky movement for me to understand: First Wave in the 19th and early 20th century dealt with basic human equality and voting rights while the Second Wave in the 60s and 70s addressed social and economic equality.  The Third Wave was described as ‘post-colonial and post-modern’, not very helpful.

I found a really good article by Clare Snyder that made much more sense.  She described how the new movement is both more individual (greater individual expression) and more universal (greater inclusiveness), less overtly political and judgmental, while still building on ideas of empowerment and opportunity.

It’s interesting to reflect on: I can see clear roots of my attitudes about gender equality and balanced partnership in the Second Wave, yet observe how my daughter’s attitudes stand clearly in the Third.  The 80’s contradictions about how to think about men, capitalism, or women outside of the first world are ones that I similarly struggled to fit into my thinking over the years, and the intellectual resolutions are intriguing. 

I don’t pretend to have more than a novice insight into the topic, but it was a very generative article with lots to think about.

  • I-love-workOn a lighter note, Lucy Kellaway debated whether we should feel ‘passionate’ about our work, vs. perhaps just liking it or finding it fulfilling.  I found two thought-worthy aspects of the essay.

One involved the perceptions of expressing emotions at work.  In general, emotional displays are perceived negatively by co-workers, reflections of personal issues or lack of self-control that is inappropriate for the office.  However, if emotions were described as a result of passion for one’s work, then they were seen much more positively.  ‘

Good to remember the next time I get elated or frustrated (or weep over a failed PowerPoint, as Lucy relates).

The other involved the difference between ‘Harmonious’ and ‘Obsessive’ passions, as described by Robert Vallerand. Harmonious Passions are a "significant but not overwhelming part of our identity”, things we love but can ultimately leave.  Obsessive Passions are those in which our level of performance during the activity drives self-esteem and identity.

Harmonious = beneficial: Obsessive = toxic.  ‘Worth remembering the next time I get too wrapped up in work and need a bit of perspective on my broader life.

An hour and a half passed, the lines inched forward, and I finally reached the ticket booth.  I’ll come back another day, I told the agent, feeling Wise, Balanced, and Harmonious.  He smiled and handed me a coupon and re-booking instructions and directed me out a side exit. 

Truck spill M11It could have been worse.  The M11 had been closed for two days by a chemical spill the day before.  As it was, I was back in Poole just after sunset.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Tour de France, Leg 3

Cambridge Tour

There were predictions of 100,000 people flooding into the center of Cambridge for the start of the worlds biggest bicycle race.  I’d oscillated between walking into town to find a spot along the road, or driving out to the countryside to watch from a village. 

But, in the end, I opted for the in-town choice rather than the uncertain journey.

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The race was at noon; scattered clumps of people were already walking past the college at 8:30.  I passed on breakfast, gathered my things, and started walking.  But by the time I hit the Fens, it was clear that few fools were out DSC07299 (1300x959)this early to compete for the best seats.  

The roads were blocked:   Workmen were still putting up barricades along the route, cones in neat rows, very polite police outnumbering spectators. 

But the city, at 9 am, was empty.

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I wandered over to Parkers Piece, where the race was going to start.  The TakeOff Area was ready, the giant screen TV glowing with test patterns, the restaurants starting to cook.  The Official Race Gear stand was open, with prices ranging from Gulp to Wow!.  The VIP sponsor areas were ready; there were lots of people taking pictures through the security wires.

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By 9:30, the first line of people had filled in along the start of the course.  I walked the route into town, faux-French signs everywhere.  It was time to claim a spot: I cut through the Market and around Great St. Mary’s Church.  And there, I parked: prime viewing, 9:30, with a coffee and a (large) bacon buddy.

It was a clear, cool morning, shadows creeping back across King’s Parade as the workers finished the racecourse. Vans selling official Race umbrellas and caps turned their loudspeakers to full volume, and the people purchased in £5 and £10 increments.

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At 10:30, people started to fill in the gaps as the roads filled with the Sponsor’s Parade: cars decorated with corporate characters throwing gifts to the crowd.  I saved my applause for Carrefour and Nijntje-bunnies.

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By 11, the crowd was swelling and having fun.  Every police motorcycle was greeted by a sea of outstretched hands and high-fives.  A gendarmarie zipped past in a tiny police car, followed by an over-the-hill troupe of cyclists in race-yellow.  Two NHS Ambulance bikes staged an impromptu race in front of Kings college.  A student climbed the wall at Senate House and took a selfie atop it: two more joined him.

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A sleek car from a French magazine screeched to a halt and a newsman dressed as Sherlock Holms jumped out.  He scuttled back and forth, taking pictures of the wildly cheering crowd that was photographing him.

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I wanted a cowbell.

The cue that the race had started would come as the the cheers filled Sidney Street behind me.  But the actual give-away was when the helicopters dropped low and TV crews pulled up on motorcycles.

The lead car rounded the turn from Trinity Street, the crowd roared, and the racers arrived.

Start of the Tour de France

It was worth every minute of the three hour wait.

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More photos on my Flickr page.