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>Day 205: Fr-fr-fr-Frustration!

6 October, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack:  Leftfield – Leftism

As Marc Almond once stuttered, albeit in very different circumstances, I would imagine.

It’s frustrating enough being out of work and waiting for the phone to ring, or the emails to arrive, when things are quiet – but it’s doubly frustrating when you are actually waiting for something tangible – in this case, some feedback and updates from an interview that took place over a week ago.  It’s triply frustrating when the lack of that feedback is holding up another opportunity you are chasing!

So I spent the morning trying to get some arses into gear – and getting nowhere, quite frankly.  At least I’ve done all that I can do to push things on.

Taking a step backwards for a minute, I know – from being on the other side of the table – just how long these processes can take, and where they sit on the priority list when things are manic – but knowing that doesn’t actually ease the frustration that much!

In better news, I took a couple of calls from one of my more reliable consultants, about another contract opportunity in Liverpool that might give me 3-6 months’ work.  Just waiting to get some more details on that one – perhaps this is the one that will eventually come good?

Still, pointless fretting about it – you have to manage your impatience and continue to show a brave face.

So – how to fill the time?  Well, if in doubt – bake!  Two loaves today – a slightly off-the wall Spelt loaf for me, made interesting by the addition of milk powder, lemon juice and zest and poppy seeds, and a more mainstream rustic French loaf for Mrs W’s sandwiches.

Oh, and I finished cleaning off the old bathroom tiles at last – after days and days of hacking away with a chisel at the old cement, my dad gently broke it to me that the cement would be water soluble – and so would wash off easily.  And it did.  How foolish do I feel now?

Unfortunately no excuses left for not retiling the bathroom now…

Having sorted out the Glastonbury ticket sales, the fun now starts trying to guess who the headliners are going to be for this ‘special’ 40th anniversary festival.  Current speculation has the Stones, David Bowie and Coldplay as favourites, closely followed by Bob Dylan and the Foo Fighters.  My money is on Radiohead – but as Son No 2 pointed out, my money is on Radiohead every year.  Got to be right eventually though…

I suspect Coldplay will be there though – in which case I shall be elsewhere.

Filled the rest of this loooong day by managing my football team a touch further.  As my young team of promising starlets have aged, matured and gelled, and buoyed by their success last season in the Europa League, they are now a fixture in the upper reaches of the Premier League despite a hideous lack of sensible funding from the Board.  Currently top of the league (in Christmas 2013) although an upcoming away match against a frankly unbeatable Man City might soon drop us from those heady heights.

The Boy went to see Little Man Tate in Sheffield  the other night – one of their final gigs before sadly splitting up.  His review is here, and you will note he is pretty disparaging about the support band, Artery.  A shame they were poor – back in the day – when I was his age, actually – they were one of the leading bands on the Sheffield alternative circuit, along with Cabaret Voltaire, early Human League, Clock DVA etc.  Looks like they’ve recently re-formed and are doing the rounds again – although I would suggest a gig supporting LMT is not the right sort of slot for them.  Now if only the Cabs would re-form and get out there…

This is what Artery were like back in  the day – somewhere in Sheffield, 1978.  I might even be in the crowd, somewhere…




In contrast, today’s soundtrack features electronic noiseniks Leftfield, who are actually not all that leftfield, when you listen to them.

Leftism is their first album, and doesn’t include Phat Planet, used in the excellent soundtrack to the Guinness advert with the surfers and the horses, but is still a pretty good collection of beats and techno, with a nice dubby companion disc attached for good measure.  Oh, and a good selection of guest vocalists, including John Lydon, who brings something a bit special to ‘Open Up’…

>Day 200: Double Century?

1 October, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Led Zeppelin – In Through The Out Door

Two hundred days – and still counting! Where does all the time go? What have I actually done in those two hundred days?

Well you all know what I’ve done – I’ve spent most of my time writing about it here!

Today’s anniversary passed quite quietly I have to say – a bit of baking, a bit of chiselling, a bit of blogging and that’s just about your lot, I’m afraid.

But the baking – oh my. Looking for something tasty to go with my soup, I chanced across a recipe for some ‘tear and share’ bread rolls. Bread rolls with a ‘twist’ – quite literally.

Start off by preparing some white bread dough in your breadmaker of choice. Don’t do it yourself – far too much like hard work. When your dough is done, roll it out into a rectangle, about twice as long as it is wide. Spread a thin coating of mustard over the dough, then sprinkle grated cheese and chopped ham over the surface of the dough.

Roll up the dough from the short end, in a Swiss Roll stylee. Slice into chunks about an inch and a half thick, then turn onto their edges on a baking tray. More grated cheese on top, then leave to rise for half an hour, then bake for about fifteen minutes. When they come out they look like this –>

…and they are to die for!

Now you might think this cooking malarkey is something a red-blooded male like myself should refrain from dabbling in in case people, you know, talk. But let me tell you chaps – it makes you a real hit with the laydeez! Mrs W took some of yesterday’s soup to work with her today and gave a taste to one of the young ladies she works with. “What do you think?” she said. “I think I want to marry your husband” was the reply.

She’s taken some of the bread rolls in today for another taste test. She ought to be careful – she’s playing with fire here!

The boy’s still got it – if only in the kitchen!

Anyway, I did do some proper man work today, getting on with the cleaning-up of the old bathroom tiles. Just about there now – leaving me no excuse for not actually getting on with re-tiling the thing! Oh, and I did, finally, manage to gouge myself with the chisel. It was just a matter of time. Luckily, it was just a flesh wound.

Led Zep on the soundtrack today, and of all the albums/bootlegs iTunes could have thrown up, it gave us the runt of the litter. Actually, I don’t think ITTOD is as bad as it’s often painted to be – In The Evening and All My Love are as good a much of Zep’s work and, while the album is nowhere near the standard of Physical Graffiti or 1-4, I wouldn’t say Presence of Houses of the Holy are that much better.

And anyway, average Zeppelin is still 90% better than most stuff out there.

Here’s ‘In The Evening’, from Knebworth in 1979.

>Day 197: Under the Lights

28 September, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Joy Division – Closer

A quiet day today, following last night’s excitement – just a bit of shopping, baking and car racing.

It was the Singapore Grand Prix today, played out at night, under the lights around the city streets. Very spectacular, the lighting and scenery making the event look more like a video game than a ‘real’ race.

It was at the corresponding event last year that the Renault team took matters into their own hands by instructing Nelson Piquet Jr to deliberately crash, thereby handing victory to his teammate, Fernando Alonso. Piquet, no doubt ‘piqued’ (you see what I did there?) by his recent dismissal from the Renault team, grassed up his ex-team, causing Flavio Briatore to be banned from racing forthwith and another senior team member to be banned for five years. Renault itself received a suspended sentence but, more damagingly, saw its major sponsors distancing themselves financially from the team which may ultimately cause them to leave Formula One next season.

And a good thing too, I say. It is inconceivable to me that you can ‘engineer’ a crash in a Formula One race – especially on a street circuit – that you can guarantee will not endanger the lives of drivers, stewards and the general public in some way. Luckily, no-one was injured in Singapore last year – but that was by no means a foregone conclusion.

And so to this year’s race. Hamilton on Pole, the Red Bulls not far behind, the Brawns nowhere. And yet again events transpired to keep the Brawns – and Jenson Button in particular – way out in front of the Championship. Having established a big lead in the first half of the season, it seems that even if they were to wilfully try and chuck away the title, it’s still Brawn’s almost by default, as the other teams continually fail to capitalise. Vettel gained a couple of points on Button and Barrichello, but it’s all too little, too late.

Breadmaker in overdrive today – a sandwich loaf (with added wheatgerm) for Mrs W, than a series of pizza bases for tonight’s tea – a pizza each, with a shared garlic bread.

I’ve got the pizza down to a fine art now. Dough mixed, rolled and rising on pizza trays, toppings sliced and set out in little bowls to be added according to personal taste. We seem to have settled on passata and mozzarella, with a selection of spiced meats, red onion, garlic, mushroom, sweetcorn – and chillies for me. Oh, and the garlic bread improves with each baking, too. Butter and crushed garlic combined and malted in the microwave and spread on the pizza base, then topped with copious herbage and more mozzarella. Delicious!

Oh, and Pedro has developed a taste for pizza crusts. Crispy, probably good for his teeth, and I can’t see how it would hurt his tender bowels either. Keeps him quiet while we’re eating, anyway.

So to today’s soundtrack. Joy Division – for the first time, I believe. I came to Joy Division quite late – really following Ian Curtis’s death – and to my eternal shame and regret, I missed seeing them when they supported Buzzcocks back in 1980. A couple more pints in the pub was more appealing than the support act. We’ll see them next time, we said. Well, next time, Ian Curtis was dead, and Joy Division had become New Order.

I got a bit obsessive about Joy Division in the early eighties – as did many people I suppose. I’m sure a lot of this was due to Curtis’s suicide and the myths that sprung up (and were manufactured) around that – and the re-interpretation of his lyrics in the context of his suicide.

However even now, nearly thirty years after the event, I’m still mildly obsessed with Joy Division, snapping up films, documentaries, books and reissued CDs as they become available. Why so? Well, it’s a classic rock and roll story, isn’t it? But ultimately, the music demands it. Brooding, layered and produced with feeling and depth by the (also doomed) Martin Hannett, the music moves me now as much as it did then.

Closer was their second – and final – album, and it still retains an air of mystery about it. Even the title. Is it ‘Closer’ – as in ‘nearer’…or is it ‘Closer’ – as in the opposite of ‘Opener’? I don’t know – and I don’t really care that much. I like the ambiguity.

And I love the music. I love the early use of synthesisers, the power of the bass lines, the weariness to Curtis’s voice.

Most of the video evidence out there comes from Joy Division’s earlier work – there don’t seem to be many films of them performing ‘Closer’ material. But to appreciate Joy Division, you need to see Ian Curtis perform. Lost in the music, carried away in his strange, air-drumming, butterfly-winged dancing, you can see what lies behind the myth.

This is Transmission – with added John Cooper Clarke at the beginning and end – in the Arndale, if I’m not mistaken!

>Day 175: Hope You Like My New Direction!

6 September, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Scritti Politti – Songs to Remember

So – you like the new look? 175 days in, and I got bored. Plain blue is just soooo yesterday, darlings, and spots are where it’s at in the brave new blogosphere. Unfortunately now I’ve started to tinker, the layout will probably change on at least a weekly basis, until I get fed up and revert to the original look.

But for now at least, you’ve got spots.

Up early today to man the kitchen, churning out rashers of bacon and the odd sausage for our overnight visitors, before they headed back off to Birmingham for the inevitable post-holiday decline. That’s the only thing about holidays – you have to come home.

Oh, in all the excitement, I forgot to tell you all about my latest baking experiment…I made brioche the other day – very yummy it was (and still is) too! Baked like a normal loaf, but with four times the butter, and eggs and milk making up the liquid content rather than water, it is as sweet and rich as it sounds. As much cake as bread, it’s not a loaf you’d eat with ham and cheese and I can’t imagine it toasted, but simply spread with a thin smear of butter it was delicious! A special occasion loaf, I think.

International weekend for the football, so no club matches in the big divisions. I had to get my fix by watching the England friendly. Slovenia the opponents, presumably to prepare the team for the ‘real’ game on Wednesday against Croatia. And a strange game it was too, some bizarre refereeing and some even more bizarre defending.

If Robert Green is the answer, then the question can only be ‘Can we find a keeper even more eccentric than David James?’ What possessed him, in the first few minutes of the match, to catch a ball two yards outside his penalty area? And what were the officials doing, that they missed it?

They spotted the England penalty though. It now appear penalties are given to the attacking side if you fall over whilst trying to break a defender’s ankle. A boon to our attackers, but a bit of a pisser for the poor defender!

So 1-0 at half time due to a spawny penalty. Lead doubled after the break by Jermaine Defoe, scoring quite a cute goal after coming off the bench. He’s now scored hatfuls in the last few internationals,all after coming on as a second half substitute. Cue inevitable calls from the ‘experts’ for him to start up front in the next game. Now I may be missing something here, but the common thread in all his recent England goals is that he scored them all after coming off the bench in the second half. Now this tells me that he is probably most effective as an impact player, coming on fresh when defences are beginning to flag, rather than as a starting forward.

But what do I know, eh?

Oh, and Slovenia sneaked a soft goal right at the end due to some awful England defending. From two defenders, one who cost £17m, the other £24m. Best defender in the country? He wasn’t even the best defender at Everton. Not that I’m bitter. Oh no.

I watched the footy whist cooking tonight’s lasagne. Or rather, whilst cooking two lasagnes. One of the perils of this blog is that it actually gets read on occasion. On this occasion by Son No 2, who spotted yesterday my intention to cook lasagne tonight. So I get a text from him – “if you’re making lasagne can you make one without mushrooms and bring it over with you tomorrow?” Cheeky sod. I’m already printing off a load of copies of his cv to take over for him, and he’s also asked me to bake him a loaf of bread as well!

Got me on the soft.

Nice to be typing this with a bit of Scritti Politti in the background. Originally a bunch of squat-dwelling Situationists with cod-philosophical posturing to the fore, they evolved into one of the most melodic and enjoyable bands to come out of the late 70’s. ‘Songs to Remember’ is their first album, and contains their breakthrough single, The “Sweetest Girl”. (The quotation marks, often ignored when quoting the song title, were deliberate – supposedly to make the title ‘ironic’.) Not your typical soppy love song, the lyrics include the lines:

“Politics is pride too
Vagaries of science
She left because she understood
The value of defiance”

No, I don’t really know what it means either – but it’s not your usual moon/June stuff, is it? Best not to overanalyse – just listen:

>Day 161: Chapati Party!

23 August, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Various Artists – The Best Disco Album in the World…Ever!

Some more minor culinary triumphs today, again involving the breadmaker – the invention of which must be the best thing since, er, sliced bread, and which clearly represents the pinnacle of human achievement. Apart from the iPhone, of course.

Highlight was probably luncheon, BLTs made with grilled back bacon, iceberg lettuce and vine tomatoes on freshly baked bread spread with mayonnaise – bread so fresh it couldn’t be cut with an ordinary bread knife, only an electric knife was capable of dealing with the loaf’s combination of crustiness and squishiness.

BLTs were eaten whilst watching qualifying for the European Grand Prix. It should be an interesting race tomorrow, Hamilton on pole in a McLaren that now appears to be competitive again. The Brawns and Red Bulls are there or thereabouts, with Button a rather lacklustre fifth on the grid, behind Vettel. The resurgence of McLaren is probably the best thing that could happen for Brawn, if it stops Red Bull from dominating the second half of the season. McLaren are too far off the pace to catch Brawn themselves, but they could do enough to stop Red Bull gaining the points they need to overhaul Button. It should be a very interesting second half of the season!

My second minor culinary triumph came at teatime. Not so much with the main meal itself, a Sainsbury’s curry just flung into the oven (hugely tasty though said curry is), rather with the accompaniment – the chapatis. I realised that I’d forgotten to buy any chapatis so, if our feast was not to be chapati-free, we either had to haul ourselves down to the supermarket to buy some or – genius! Make our own!

So that’s what I decided to do. The breadmaker could take care of the messy mixing stuff, and I would do the rolling and cooking. I eventually found a recipe on t’internet since my own cookbooks were silent on the subject – no easy task since most recipes were either American (measuring quantities in ‘cups’ – no use to me) or were vague about quantities. No use for me – it was only the quantities I was interested in, there’s hardly a massive list of ingredients for a chapati (flour, water, salt, if you’re interested).

So everything got chucked into the breadmaker and I decided to go with the pizza dough programme. No rising to worry about, just mix it all up and give me a lump of dough to play with. While all that was going on, I got chatting to my old colleague Noordad on this new-fangled Windows Messenger thing I’d decided to switch on today – he kindly offered advice if I needed it, but thought I’d best make my own mistakes first. I may be wrong but I think it’s Ramadan at the moment, so it was probably a bit cruel to be talking food with the lad while it was still daylight!

Anyway. The dough came out a bit too sticky, but with a bit more flour I got it into a manageable state. Breaking off golf ball-sized lumps, I rolled out a batch of very thin circles and dry-fried them in the frying pan. And they were pretty good, actually. I thought they’d puff up more than they did, but what came out of the pan was recognisably chapati-ish and did a grand job of mopping up the curry sauces. Typically, Mrs W preferred the ones I’d cooked for slightly too long and had gone a touch crispy in places, but I think I got the balance right with most of them. No pictures, I’m afraid.

Mrs W has regained the will to live, with the return of X-Factor. I remain unmoved. For the first few weeks we are in the ‘care in the community’ phase of the competition, which I am always slightly uncomfortable with. It’s the modern day equivalent of going to see the inmates at Bedlam, in my view. At least child abuse is less of a concern here, unlike Britain’s Got Talent, as there are some age guidelines in place to prevent really young competitors being traumatised by the stress of the competition and the bullying of their parents.

Ahem. Rant over.

Bit of disco on the soundtrack today. I’ve got quite a few of these “The Best……Album…Ever!” compilations and the hit to miss ratio is actually pretty good. And there’s nowt wrong with a bit of disco, whatever I might have thought back in the day when I was busy fighting the Punk Wars.

The highlight of this album for me is the wonderful Candi Staton’s “Young Hearts Run Free”, which I secretly liked when it was originally released, although I’d never have admitted that to anyone.

I saw Ms Staton at Glastonbury last year and she was ace. Me standing at the front grinning like a loon and singing along like a good ‘un. I had a horrible feeling I was captured on film doing this, but luckily the BBC chose to spare the nation the sight of me, unwashed and hirsute, giving it large on the big screen.

I can’t find any original clips of Candi doing ‘Young Hearts’, but here’s her re-recording of the track back in 1999. Still a very fine version sung by a very classy, sassy lady.

>Day 140: Boiled bread?

3 August, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Al Green – Anthology

My baking moved into the realm of the adventurous today as I took on the challenge of cooking that perfect accompaniment to cream cheese – the bagel!

What could be so difficult? You’ve got a breadmaker and an oven – roll your dough into doughnut shapes and Bob’s your uncle, surely? Well no, it’s not that simple. Firstly I had to leave the safety zone of the recipe book supplied with the breadmaker and go ‘off-piste’ with the recipe. Secondly, however, one of the critical elements of bagel cooking is that the raw bagels have to be ‘boiled’ before they are baked in the oven.

How can this possibly work?

So making the dough was as straightforward as ever – unusually there is no fat (in the form of butter or oil) in the bagel recipe – just yeast, flour, salt, sugar and water, but the breadmaker took it in its stride and delivered a firm dough that I divided into eight balls. Making the hole in the bagel essentially involves sticking your finger through the middle of the ball and twirling the thing round your finger until the hole is an inch or two in diameter – that worked ok, as well.

Leaving the bagels to rise in the airing cupboard for 15 minutes, I turned the oven on and boiled up a big pan of water. This was going to be interesting! The recipe called for the bagels to be boiled in batches – sixty seconds each, turning the bagels half way through the cooking time. I fully expected the things to dissolve when I put them in the pan, but no – they held their shape, actually puffed up a bit, and suffered the mid-cook flip without mishap.

What came out of the pan were eight slightly sticky, but essentially firm, misshapen rings of dough that I then brushed with egg and stuck in the oven for fifteen minutes.

And what came out of the oven were – recognisably – bagels! Bagels that the supermarkets would have to sell off cheap as mis-shapes, but nevertheless bagels. After a short time cooling, they were sliced, toasted and covered in Philly.

And damn fine they were too! More to the point, they were definitely bagels – in taste, texture and (just about) shape – but far, far tastier than your average shop-bought bagel.

Yummy! Mark that one down as another success!

On a roll, we had home made pizzas for tea as well – a double whammy of success today on the baking front. Not sure its doing the waistline much good though…

In between all this baking activity, my eMusic credits had clicked up another batch of downloads, so I took the opportunity to get hold of some of the stuff introduced to me by Latitude last month. Albums by the Duckworth-Lewis Method, Broken Records, The Broken Family Band and The Phenomenal Handclap Band now await listening and appraisal.

And the football season beckons, with Everton playing Coventry in a friendly (and drawing 2-2). Tellingly, Joleon Lescott was ‘injured’ and didn’t play – this, coupled with rumours about Philippe Senderos joining from Arsenal, suggests that Joleon is off to City – sadly, but hopefully for shedloads of money. And in my alternative universe, Everton finished a disappointing eighth in the league – some great results offset by sloppy defeats to weaker teams and some appalling away form. Grudgingly, the board have given me a contract for the next two seasons on the back of this. So far in the close season, I’ve offloaded that troublemaker Cahill to Chelsea for silly money, and accepted an equally silly bid from Barcelona for Tim Howard, leaving me without a goalkeeper of any quality at the moment. Carlo Cudicini is, I think, coming in as backup, but priority is a decent keeper as soon as possible!

If you recall, I mentioned reading ‘Man on Wire’ a while back – the documentary was on TV last night so we watched that, fascinating stuff and really interesting to see some of the characters referred to in the book itself. Definitely worth watching.

I saw Al Green in Manchester last year and very good he was too, although I would have preferred more of his own material rather than the crowdpleasing Motown covers he thought he had to perform. One of the great soul voices, the good Reverend combines pure soul with gospel to great effect. The Anthology is a four-disc compilation that combines the obvious stuff with a range of live tracks, some interview snippets and other curiosities. Not the best starting point for Al – the two ‘Greatest Hits’ collections are far better in this regard – but still some interesting stuff in there for those overfamiliar with the regular stuff.

I may have given you this track before, but if so, I don’t care. My favourite Al Green song, and one of my favourite songs ever, Belle describes his struggle to combine his love for a woman (Belle) with his God (“It’s you I want, but it’s him that I need”). Not sure why he can’t have both, but there you go. In any event, a more beautiful melody and vocal performance you’ll be hard pushed to find.

>Day 135: Pane Italiano!

29 July, 2009 4 comments

>Today’s soundtrack: Various Artists – Pretty Woman Soundtrack

Oh dear. Before you say anything, it’s not mine. Honest. There are nearly four and a half thousand albums in my iTunes collection. Around 4,400 of these are mine. Probably less than 100 belong to Mrs W. This is one of those albums. But, in the spirit of taking things as they come, the soundtrack to Pretty Woman is what I have to listen to today whilst typing this blog.

It will be a short one today, I promise you.

To be fair, as I peruse the tracklist, I can see Roy Orbison, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, David Bowie and Robert Palmer. But then I can also see Roxette, Go West, Peter Cetera and Lauren Wood. And the unsettling image of Julia Roberts is hovering eerily at the back of my mind. What is it about Julia Roberts? I have severe doubts about her acting ability and find her singularly unattractive, yet she can apparently command higher fees per film than just about anyone out there. Is it all down to a big mouth and a set of shiny, even teeth? What am I missing?

Anyway.

Signing on day today, so off to Warrington for the fortnightly reminder of why I have to get a job sooner rather than later. Bit of a trial today, no fights to avoid, but for some reason they were heavily understaffed and those staff who were signing on us ‘customers’ also appeared to be training other staff – and taking twice as long as they normally would as a result. But after about a half hour wait, and being mildly patronised by a fourteen year old (possibly) member of the Job Centre team, I made good my escape.

At least things seem to be progressing with yesterday’s headhunter – although holidays are holding back one of the opportunities, it looks like I might be getting an interview with the firm of accountants I mentioned yesterday. Will keep you all posted.

Took the opportunity today to clog up the new computer with all manner of games I had lying around today, so prepare to be regaled with stories of my attempts to manage Everton to a respectable position in the league soon. Whilst doing so, I found an old version of Microsoft Office that I managed to register and install. Spent a frustrating hour or two trying (and failing) to import my calendar details from Thunderbird into Outlook until I gave up and re-entered everything manually. I only bothered because my iPhone will only recognise, and sync with, the Outlook calendar. Still, I now have all my appointments (such as they are) in my iPhone, which should be convenient.

Mrs W is currently enjoying the renewed vigour that comes with recent gym membership, and translating that into a desire for healthy food in the evening rather than a plate of stodge and a bottle of wine. As a result, we had one of my Carrot and Coriander soups for tea tonight (recipe here) – but accompanied by some home-made Foccacia. This basically uses the pizza dough recipe I’ve been using for the home made pizzas I’ve been raving about here, but this time rolled and shaped into a rectangle, and sprinkled with garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, olive oil, and rock salt and crushed peppercorns.

I’d show you a picture but it didn’t last long enough. Very yummy, but the rock salt did give us both a raging thirst which, to our credit, was not slaked with a liter of sauvignon.

Right, I might have to listen to some old squit today, but I’m not going to impose the same rubbish on you. Instead, have some of this – it’s the video for ‘Just a Day’ by Feeder and is possibly the most joyous thing on YouTube. Pulled together using footage of fans miming in their bedroom to the track, it cracks me up every time. Check out the two Japanese lads about thirty seconds in!

>Days 115-116: Lights and Croques

10 July, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: The Felice Brothers – Adventures of the Felice Brothers Volume 1

A double-header today – I was too busy yesterday to do a single Day 115 write-up, and, sitting here now, I’m struggling to actually remember exactly just how I filled that day. Fannying around on the computer, probably.

116 days in, you will appreciate, and it’s getting just a touch difficult to come up with new things to write about – especially when the phone steadfastly refuses to ring and the website trawls reveal a continuing, disconcerting, lack of sensible jobs in sensible locations. Still, this is the challenge I set myself at the outset and it is, in part, the need to continually come up with something to write about that helps keep the brain ticking over.

So what to write about? Discussed this over lunch on Day 116 (of which more later) and there’s been a request for more recipes, and for more TV/film write-ups. And the ironing anecdotes are wearing a bit thin now as well. So I’ll see what I can do!

Oh, I remember what I did on Day 115. I dried off and re-packed my tent in readiness for Latitude, I hung a picture that my Mum had bought for Mrs W (two black kittens) on the staircase wall, and I fixed the kitchen lights. Fixing those lights is like painting the Forth Bridge – it’s a never-ending job. On the face of it, they look great – eight floodlights in two banks of four – but in practice they are an absolute pain in the backside. Barely a week goes by without one of the bulbs blowing – and they are the old-fashioned screw-in type rather than the bayonet fitting. Occasionally unscrewing the bulb leads to the bulb breaking and the ‘screw-in’ bit staying behind, necessitating a fiddly exercise with a pair of pliers to retrieve the broken bit. Also, there is at least one bulb that mysteriously manages to unscrew itself slightly, with complete disregard for the laws of physics, such that it flickers maddeningly while I’m trying to cook. We used to have the lights on a dimmer switch, which was fine until one day it decided to catch fire – turned out it was woefully underpowered to control the eight bulbs and decided to give up the ghost – luckily while we were in the house and able to turn the power off before the whole house went up!

Anyway, I did manage to get all eight lights working on Day 115. Of course, one of the bulbs blew on Day 116, so we are back down to 7/8 for the time being.

Out early on Day 116 to get the weekly shop done – nothing too exciting on the menu for the next few days I’m afraid – some tacos and the Guinness casserole for which you’ve already had the recipe, along with some ‘fried shite’ (also previously explained) for Sunday night. Tacos are a Mrs W favourite – I love the taste, but tend to find them a bit fiddly and messy for my delicate sensibilities. In an attempt to find a more ‘user-friendly’ variety, I picked up some taco ‘trays’ this time – they look ever so slightly genteel, but if I can eat them without spilling half a pound of taco meat and cheese down my front, I can live with that.

On the way back from the supermarket, I got a call from my old boss looking to rearrange the lunch planned for the following day, so we agreed to meet up at lunchtime for a bite to eat and a catch-up on things. ‘Things’ included dogs, cats, the fallibility of computers, festival toilets, the need for more recipes in the blog and, naturally, football. But we also got to talk about a few work-related matters, including some recent successes they have had in the marketplace which is keeping the team busy and stretched. No immediate use to me of course, but should circumstances change in the future, it is hopefully of mutual benefit for us to keep in contact. I’m certainly not going to burn any bridges or close off any opportunities for work, be that temporary or permanent. But in any event, he’s good company and it was a very pleasant way of spending a lunchtime.

Where did we eat? We went to Cafe Rouge, a pretty decent chain serving French-style food including decent baguettes and grills at lunchtime. I had a very pleasant Croque Monsieur with a Stella and a large espresso, since you ask.

After lunch, I called in at PC World in an attempt to find a solution to my immediate computer problem – how to get my machine to boot up successfully with a mouse attached! Solution came about with a new wireless mouse – made by Logitech rather than Microsoft – and, for now at least, the problem appears to be solved.

Home to rescue the loaf I’d started cooking this morning. Timings meant I had to leave the cooked loaf sitting in the breadmaker for an hour or so after baking – you are meant to take it out immedately it’s finished to cool. However the trauma didn’t seem to have hurt the loaf at all, other than to crust up the outside a touch more than usual. Which is not a bad thing, in our book. I then set some dough to mix for the bread rolls we needed to go with the sausages for the night’s tea – another success, I have to say, although I still have to get my head around the extent to which these things increase in size while they are ‘proving’ in the airing cupboard. Still, better too big than too small, eh?

Tea was consumed – naturally – watching the second instalment of the Celebrity Masterchef final. Initial predictions were thrown by a solid performance from outsider Iwan, and a stutter or two from frontrunner Wendi. Which means that all three contestants go into the final stage with everything to play for, as they say. Friday night’s garbage film is going to have to wait, I think!

Bit of ‘alt-country’ on the soundtrack today, from New York’s Felice Brothers. The Adventures of the Felice Brothers was recorded, I am led to believe, on two-track tape in a chicken coop. And the rough and ready charm of the album makes that very believable indeed…can’t hear any chickens, though. Generally only available at the band’s live shows, I picked up my copy through the wonders of eMusic, and very fine it is too, if you like that sort of thing – which I appreciate not many people do.

The three Felice Brothers are augmented by a friend called ‘Christmas’, who is described as a ‘travelling dice player’, and ‘Farley’, who plays washboard and fiddle. Honestly, what’s not to like?

Here they are performing ‘Whiskey in my Whiskey’ a year or so ago. I feel the song title tells you all you need to know!

>Day 73: Italian flavours

28 May, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: Secret Affair – Time for Action

Double Italian today, with the action in Rome (of which more later) combined with today’s culinary delights. Yesterday’s bread rolls were merely a prelude to today’s efforts, which involved the construction of home-made pizza – from base to topping (well, ok, I didn’t cure my own sausage, but be fair…)

So while I finished the ironing, the breadmaker kneaded the dough for the pizza bases. My task, when the breadmaker had done its bit, was to convert the sloppy lump of dough into a pair of 12″ pizza bases. Which I (just about) managed. The first took a bit of work, but the second stretched itself into shape relatively easily. The trick seems to be to handle the dough as little as possible – the more you wrestle with it, the harder it gets to make it go where you want. I didn’t (quite) get to the stage of chucking the dough up into the air, spinning it into a disc, but that will come, have no fear.

Once the dough had risen in the (now empty – apart from the towel collection) airing cupboard, it was time to get topping. Passata (note for next time – rather too much passata), mozzarella, salami, pepperoni, mushrooms, garlic, basil and parmesan, and we were good to go. And my, it was good. A bit sloppy (but not in a bad way) due to a surfeit of tomato sauce but very, very tasty without the cardboardy, processed taste that often comes with shop-bought pizza. I’d say healthy, if that was not an outright lie. But certainly the difference made by using fresh dough and quality ingredients was evident in the taste. Even if I say so myself!

So while we were tucking into us pizza, we settled down to watch what was happening in Rome. I’d turned down a couple of generous offers to head into Manchester to watch the match in the pub, on the basis I wasn’t sure which way my affections would lie. Always had a soft spot for Barcelona, for personal as well as footballing reasons, and still have a couple of replica Barca shirts in the wardrobe. I did resist the temptation to wear one, though. By the same token, I am probably better disposed to ManYoo than many other teams. They did provide us with the spine of our team, after all, and now I’m over the departure of The Boy, I’m keen to see him do well. Especially following his pre-match interview where he confirmed his ongoing support for Everton and his intention to bring his kid up with two loyalties. Nice one, Wayne.

So I watched the match pretty much as a neutral. Early on, it looked like United were going to rip Barca apart, and very nearly opened the scoring though Park. How different the match might have been had they scored then. As it was, Barca scored with their first attack and, from then on, the complexion of the game changed dramatically as Iniesta and Xavi took a grip on midfield. United battled to no great effect, and Barca continued to grow in confidence.

A bit of a rally at the beginning of the second half following the introduction of Tevez for the ineffectual Anderson, but once Barca had scored their second (a fine cross and header by the totally unmarked Messi) it was to all intents and purposes over.

In the end Barca were clear (and worthy) winners. At this level, United need to do something about central midfield, stop wasting The Boy out wide and decide whether Vidic has now been ‘found out’ for his lack of pace. Of course, even an average ManYoo are better than 99% of the teams out there – but Barca were, eventually, streets ahead in this final.

Anyway, the Big Game is coming up this Saturday…bring it on!

Bit of nu-Moddage on the soundtrack today, from Secret Affair, probably one of the best of the second wave of Mod bands that surfaced in the late ’70s/early ’80s. ‘Probably one of the best’ actually equates to one or two half decent singles, but ‘Time For Action’ and particularly ‘My World’ were slightly better than half decent.

Before they were Secret Affair, they were the New Hearts, a slightly punky band who supported Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers in 1977. ‘Just Another Teenage Anthem’ was their only non-hit, but again, not a bad slice of punk-pop in a Gen-X ish sort of way.

>Day 72: Domestic Bliss?

27 May, 2009 Leave a comment

>Today’s soundtrack: White Denim – Let’s Talk About It

Back to the daily grind after the Bank Holiday weekend today – which for me meant catching up on the domestic chores – including the sodding ironing.

Now I am sure the domestic goddesses (and gods – there must be one or two) would tell you that the trick is to do it ‘little and often’ so it becomes less of a chore. I am more of the ‘let it mount up until you’ve got nothing left in the cupboards to wear’ persuasion. Which is fine for about three weeks, but then you find that the door to the airing cupboard is starting to bulge at the seams.

So I got to it. In any event, I needed to free up some space in the airing cupboard for today’s little ‘experiment’ – more of which later.

Again, I suspect the expert ironers amongst you would suggest organising the pile into some form of order – so that you do all the shirts together, then all the trousers, then tops and t-shirts? No? I prefer the element of surprise in my ironing – possibly less efficient, but maybe more fun?

In any event, I didn’t finish, so the joys spill over into tomorrow.

At least my innate ability to multi-task (are you reading this, potential employers?) allows me to iron and listen at the same time, ironing to a very ‘up’ setlist comprising Hayseed Dixie (bluegrass versions of the classics – Whole Lotta Love, War Pigs and This Fire on fiddle…), The Chieftains (more fiddle, and lots of Irish jiggery) and a compilation of ’80s 12″ singles (slightly fewer fiddles, rather more synthesisers, makeup and archness).

So the ironing wasn’t all bad.

So why did I need to make some space in the airing cupboard, readers? Well, to help my dough rise, of course. And I mean that quite literally, it’s not a crude sexual metaphor. Would be a bit sad if it was.

Today, we move to Advanced Breadmaking, by not letting the machine do all the work – actually taking the dough out after the initial rise, and shaping and baking by hand (well, the baking is done by the oven, but you know what I mean). Why? You might ask. Well we needed some bread rolls to be filled with sausage and onions, but I also wanted to do a dry run for tomorrow’s slice of culinary experimentation. No, I’ll tell you tomorrow.

So did it work? Yes, it did, actually – see the evidence opposite. I have to say the round rolls were somewhat easier to shape than the ‘finger’ rolls were (unless the fingers in question are particularly fat and arthritic) but ultimately they smelt, and tasted, exactly as you would want. And the sausages did fit quite snugly into the finger rolls as well, with room for a spot of onion and some brown sauce.

Today’s soundtrack comes from White Denim, a trio from Austin, Texas who made a few ripples last year with this album, ‘Workout Holiday’. Very difficult to classify them other than as ‘indie’, which they undoubtedly are, or were, this and their previous album originally being self-financed and issued. If that makes them sound a bit amateurish and ramshackle, that does them a bit of a disservice really. They are good fun and worthy of a minute or two of your time. Sadly in pulling this blog together I note that they were playing in Liverpool seven days ago and I missed them – also that they are not doing the UK festival circuit this year. Ah well, never mind, Let’s Talk About It instead….