I was speaking again at church today. As it is the first week of Advent, my theme was the biblical patriarchs but the readings were from the prophet Isaiah and Luke’s gospel (and the other Lectionary choice was from a psalm). I’ve uploaded the audio of the talk if you want to find out how I squared that particular circle:
I like Mary Berry’s recipe for sweet shortcrust pastry. Rather than going half fat to flour, she replaces some of the flour with icing sugar. As well as making it sweet, it ups the fat to flour ratio and gives a rich pastry that seems to baste itself and doesn’t seem to stick (the one I made the other day was 175g flour, 25g icing sugar, 100g cold unsalted butter, a pinch of salt, the zest of an orange and an egg yolk and a couple of splashes of water to bind it).
Today I wanted a crust for a small chicken pie so I experimented with half fat to flour and then adding half the fat again in the form of vegetable suet. I went for 100g self raising flour, 50g butter, 25g suet and a pinch of salt, bound together with one egg (white and yolk). What was the result? Very tasty – not too fatty or soft but an excellent topping for a savoury pie… as well as a useful way to work through a bit more of the suet which has been in the fridge for quite a while and probably needs finishing off soon!
I love the song Let It Snow but I’m not quite so in favour of the lyrics! This is what we saw out of the back window this morning:
The snow was very wet and slushy and, with above freezing temperatures and a fair amount of rain today, has now largely gone. However, I’m not sure it will have been the last we see of the white blanket. I think we can fairly much discount the likelihood of making one final cut of the grass before spring!
I did three songs at today’s sing around session at The Plough Inn in Thorpe Acre, all on double bass. I started with Will the Circle Be Unbroken, which I announced as being in G and then proceeded to sing in C instead (so I… and everyone else… just adjusted the chords!). Next time my turn came up, I decided to do a bit of soul jazz and laid down a version of Sunny, much more in key although without the semitone rise between each verse of the original.
My final opportunity came a little unexpectedly. We don’t always go round in a circle if people turn up very late and I expected a couple of other people to finish the loop before it came back to me again. A little unprepared, I grabbed at a version of an old drinking song, Ye Mariners All. I think that was pretty much in Dm although I was mainly going for the singing rather than worrying too much about the nuances of the chords.
Next time, 16 December, will be the Christmas special so I’ll be preparing some suitably seasonal tunes to contribute.
We’ve definitely hit one of those chilly patches where a trip out in the car is likely to require an extra few minutes to make sure the windows are clear enough to see out of. Hurrah for the windscreen cover we bought two or three years ago although, as I was reminded earlier this week, it only does its job if you remember to put it on the night before!
Earlier this week I got to demonstrate my knowledge of Latinate binomials for plants so, in the brew I started yesterday, I decided to pick the name Helleborus rather than something with Flowers in the title. The recipe is the one I’ve tried and tested several times from Graham Wheeler’s Brew Your Own British Real Ale (CAMRA Books 2009) and is based on Flowers IPA. Given that we’re into winter, it seemed appropriate to name it after the Lenten Rose (or the Helleborus family).
I went for the same method I’ve been using recently of 10l of water for the mash plus another 3l for sparging (rinsing the grains) and hit 1.040 as the original gravity compared to the target of 1.035 even though I only used a 30 minute mash and 40 minute boil. It is into the fermenter today with 5g of Crossmyloof ‘Four’ yeast, based on the reliable SO4 strain and I should be able to get it bottled by mid-December.
The Prime Minister was due to meet with his counterpart this week but cancelled the meeting at short notice because Kyriakos Mitsotakis had mentioned the question of the “Elgin Marbles”. Apologists have been claiming that Britain obtained them legally. According to the Conservative apologists, it appears that in this case, like the laws of the Medes and the Persians, such laws cannot be changed.
Consider then the same Government’s efforts to deport refugees to Rwanda. Multiple courts in the UK have declared this unlawful and the suggestion is that the Government is going to seek to change the law. Does this mean that we value lumps of rock as being of more value than living and breathing humans who make the claim that they are fleeing under the duress of being at risk of life and limb in their countries of origin?
In the not too distant past, Mr Sunak apparently had problems using a chip and pin card. Perhaps he is also unaware that we can now digitally scan artefacts in 3D and produce highly accurate copies? Given that the majority of the British people will never be allowed to lay their hands on the marble sculptures that were created in Ancient Greece, what would be the problem with putting recreated pieces on display and shipping the originals back to the nation that has at least some degree of ancient historical claim on them? Indeed, there could be benefits. We could print perfect new copies from the digital files every few years and allow people to reach a greater appreciation of the originals by touching the facsimiles.
Or, if our laws are really that precious, then perhaps the Conservative Party could attempt to live up to the generally accepted meaning of ‘conservative’ and instead honour the laws which protect living, breathing people who claim desperate need? Instead of whistle-blowing rhetoric we could do with competent ministers who can reduce the processing queues rather than seek to increase their column inches in the tabloid newspapers.
I feel a letter to my MP coming on and I think I will copy in the prospective Labour party candidate for the constituency for good measure. This is a pair of issues that are international in perspective but both touch deeply on a locality that boasts Loughborough as a town of sanctuary and, like the rest of the UK, relies on the rule of law.
It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to let my hair down in a soul / funk jam but I had that opportunity this afternoon with a few other musicians I’ve come to know. Listening back to my rough recording, it has got a little way to go before anything becomes public but it had its moments.
It was also nice to find that not all the funk has left my fingers. Various songs were introduced but the majority were tracks that I covered back in the day with LovesJones (probably about 2002 – 2004?) (I still host a very out-of-date website for the long-defunct group). For example, we listened to a bit of “I’ll Take You There” by The Staples Singers and I had both the main riff and the little bass solo under my fingers pretty much straight away. I remember that took me a lot longer back in the day but the combination of hours playing it in rehearsals and on stage and the subsequent two decades of honing my skills with all sorts of other tracks, are paying off!
For this one, I used my Jaguar bass and a new patch I’ve created on my Helix combining the long-standing Ampeg B15 model and the fattening effect of the new Radial Bass DI model. Along with the flat wound strings on the Jaguar, it is a very suitable sound for the style.
The wine I was working on around the beginning of October has been sitting quietly in its demijohns, both inside cardboard boxes to exclude most of the light. I’ve been doing a bit more reading on how to proceed and got round to the next stage today.
Both started at a gravity of about 1.056 and both were sitting bang on 1.000. That suggests an ABV of about 7.35% which is rather low for a wine. I wonder if I should have added extra sugar to start with? Being weaker is not a bad thing in some ways but it does mean it won’t have the alcohol levels to help protect it over time. On the other hand my beer, typically a fair degree weaker, can last for months in the bottle so it isn’t the end of the world.
The two batches are quite different. The first is a very rich red but quite sharp and acerbic in taste with just a hint of fruit. The second is a pinker colour, less sharp but with a touch of buzziness. The trouble is that I’ve no idea what that might translate to in terms of mature flavour. I know that beer is drinkable just after brewing but a lot better after at least a month of bottle conditioning.
What I’ve done is rack each batch off into a fresh demijohn, along with half a Campden tablet and 0.5g potassium sorbate. The former should sterilise the wine in its current form and the latter should stop the yeast reigniting in the bottle. Unlike beer, you don’t want additional carbonation in the bottle for typical wine styles although, again, that’s another factor which means I am voyaging into the unknown.
I’ll give it a few days and then look at bottling. One factor I want to read up on is sweetening. Because the yeast should now be inactive, I can add sugar but what kind, how much and simply, should I? I’m also thinking of bottling in beer bottles (I’ve got lots of crown caps) rather than wine bottles. That will let me test smaller samples rather than having to open up a 750ml bottle each time. I reckon I’ve got about 2.5l in each one so, allowing for wastage about 6 regular bottles or perhaps three times that number if I use the smaller ones I’ve got saved. Crown caps aren’t recommended for long-term storage or for laying the bottles on their side but for what I expect needs to be drunk before the next grape season rolls around, I think it might be just what I require.
The Matrix (1999) was an amazing film, pushing the edge of visual effects and telling an intriguing story in a way that got a lot of people thinking about philosophical concepts that might otherwise have passed them by. I went to see it at the cinema, not really knowing what to expect; when I came out, I was a fan and, like many other people at the time, it was the movie that persuaded me to invest in a DVD drive for my computer, not least to watch all the included extras multiple times. I also quite enjoyed the second film in the trilogy. By the third, I felt that, although the visual game was even further up, it failed to come anywhere close in terms of intellectual interest.
I’d heard that a much more recent film had come out but, until I spotted on Amazon Prime Video (I’m briefly a member again to facilitate some of my Christmas shopping), The Matrix Resurrections (2021) had pretty much passed me by.
Was it worth watching? It generally got bad reviews but I rather enjoyed it. There was a lot of rehashing of old ground, including numerous clips from the earlier films, but it was an entertaining way to revisit the franchise. To my mind, it still falls far short of the original although I’d personally rate it some way above #3 and I quite enjoyed seeing how they coped with the challenge of having the two original lead actors back and working in the fact that they are twenty years older than in the original. However, I don’t think we really need a Matrix 5 or beyond. I hope nobody else thinks it is a bright idea to breathe the words “Let’s reboot the Matrix… again” in a producer’s ear!