For some time now, I have been following a blog written by someone who went to the same primary school as I did. Recently it became apparent that we were in the same year group, but not the same academic stream. After completing the 1st year in class ‘1a’, I was moved down into the ‘b’ stream where I stayed for the rest of the time.
The main memory that this blogger’s post triggered was leaving Primary School and moving to Secondary School. The year is 1965 and I’m thinking it is around September/October time. My father had left his job as a reasonably well paid coal miner because of health problems, and was now working as a bus conductor for what was then the West Yorkshire Road Car company. Times were beginning to get quite tough. Our house was heated by coal fires and as a miner we received, every three months a concessionary supply of coal. What I mean by the word ‘concessionary’ is free. Every three months we would have 1 cwt of coal dropped into the street, which was quickly shovelled into the coal cellar. After leaving the coal industry, this free coal stopped. That and the reduction in dad’s wages were beginning to bite a little.
I seem to remember both my parents and me sitting in the classroom, with my form teacher (may have been a Mr Woods, but I cannot remember) discussing my Secondary education. It was quite plausible it was said that I could go to the Grammar School at Roundhay. I had heard through my school friends at the time that this would be an expensive time. I would have to have a full School Uniform. This consisted of a blazer ( least one) two pairs of black trousers, a number white shirts, a school tie and a pair of black lace-up shoes. There was also a football kit, rugby kit and a PE kit. There was no way my parents could afford that amount of spend. There was a discussion around the fact, that all this uniform was available at a certain store in Leeds, but … it was possible to buy the same clothes as second hand from the school. That was a non-starter, as I had heard on the school grapevine, that everyone would know they were second hand, simply by their condition. This would automatically lead to bullying. I was not going to have that. I began to hope that I would fail my “11 Plus”.
The two subjects that I was apparently good at were Arithmetic and Religious Education. I began to wonder what would happen if I made a mess of those two subjects and I decided to ensure that I would answer some the questions incorrectly. Which is what I did. To this day nobody believes me, but I know I did get some questions wrong on purpose, so who knows. All I know is that I ended up going to the school I preferred and not the Grammar school.
I used to be a cook. From 1971 to 1986 I was a cook at the Leeds General Infirmary. In fact from 1983 to 1986, I was the Head Cook in the staff kitchen. All this is a little bit of background information for what I want to have a chat about. That chat is about pastry. Specifically short crust pastry. Now, when you watch these famous TV chefs preparing pastry (and I’ll not mention any names here) they will always tell you that it has to be done by hand .. No mixer/processor allowed!!! .. They will tell you that your pastry will be tough/dry/chewy and any other descriptive term for ‘bad’ pastry they can think of. They will tell you that you have to make it by had, if you want the best pastry. I want to tell you that’s a load of rubbish. When you are making enough pastry to cover pies that are going to feed 300+ people, making it by hand is a non-starter. Can you imagine trying to ‘rub-in’ 20lb of lard/margarine into 40lb of flour by hand!. You have to use a machine. If it works for large volumes, then it has to work for smaller volumes too. So here is my recipe for short crust pastry in a food-processor:
- weigh 8oz flour into your food processor with a pinch of salt
- dice up 2oz of cold butter and 2oz of cold lard into 1/4 inch dice
- chill butter and lard in freezer for 15 minutes
- add butter and lard to flour and process until looks like breadcrumbs
- add 3floz of very cold water and use the pulse function until the pastry starts to come together
- tip out onto a lightly floured worktop and gently kneed for a few seconds until all mixed
- wrap in cling-film and place in fridge for at least 30 minutes
- use as required
They key to this is the speed of the processing and the coldness of the fat. I takes less than 2 minutes to go from fat and flour to pastry, which means that the fat is still cold. I can assure you that it does work.
March is going to be an expensive month I think. Firstly, there’s Mothers Day and then there’s K***s birthday. This is one of those significant birthdays too. The big ‘six-zero’. Looks like I may need to move some cash from my savings account, but it should not be a problem really. We are going away for a couple of days on the weekend before the big day which will be nice. We’ve been to the hotel before a few years ago and it was a nice place. Good food, good scenery and it will be relaxing break for both of us. R*** is away for the weekend, so there are no worries about getting back for him. Just got to hope the weather is better than present. It has got a lot warmer overnight which has led to the snow staring to melt into slush. Much fun!
Now, here’s a poser. Which is the correct way? Front or back? Is there a right or wrong way? I have no real preference at all but I know how K*** feels about it. For her it has to be Front. There can be no argument and it can lead to a lot of tutting if I put it the wrong way around. I’ve been in houses that drop down the front and houses that drop down the back. I’ve also been in places that have different preferences in different rooms. I’ve also been in houses where the loo-roll is sat on the cistern behind, which is an odd if not difficult location. So this is not a poll, just wondering that’s all.
As I mentioned, the car was going in to have the ‘knocking’ noise looked at. Knowing my luck, I was expecting it to be expensive.
It had to be in the garage for 10:30 and we got it there for just after 10:00. It was booked in and we were told to go have a complimentary coffee, and they would let us know what was happening. I could see my car from where we were sitting, and by 10:45, it still had’n’t moved. Then around 11:00 I saw it being driven down to the service area. “Not long now” I said to K***.
Just after 11:45, K*** went to see if they could tell us how long it was going to be. We both thought, that they would have a look and come and tell what it was, when they could do it and more importantly how much it was going to cost. The answer she got was, I thought just the bog-standard ‘they’re working on it now’ answer.
Another 45 min later, and K*** was up and asking the question again. After about 5 minutes, I went to see where she was.
Found her talking to the Service Manager, who had the job sheet for my car (saw the registration, so that’s how I knew). She was nodding and almost smiling, so I thought it can’t be that bad then. The manager explained that it was one of the ‘suspension’ rods had broken, and that was causing the noise. I stood there, waiting for the bad news. It never came. There was no charge. It was covered. I bought a 5 year extended warranty when I bought the car, but stuff like this is never covered. Never covered! I drove home with a smile on my face that is still lingering!
It has been an stressful if not interesting week. R***’s medical team have decided that they need to reduce the dosage of one of his medications. To be specific, Lorazepam. He has been taking half a milligram every morning, Monday to Friday, with a full one milligram if needed (PRN). This has been working fine. However it’s been decided to try and get him off the drug completely, as it is supposed to be highly addictive. The issue here is, what will replace it, and what effect will that have on R***. We saw the effects of medication change some years ago, when a doctor decided that he would be better taking a form of Risperdone, which is an anti-psychotic drug. This caused severe problems at the time, and was stopped. I fear that the same thing may happen again. Not with the same drug, but something similar. We are going to tell his medics that we feel he should stay on the half milligram dosage, with the one milligram PRN for the time being, then gradually reduce the dosage, over a number of weeks. I will let you know how we get one, with that one.
I think I may have tempted fate, last posting with regard to Mrs H’s next project. Her hand has been forced somewhat. On Tuesday evening, I had given R*** a shower and decided that I needed one too. Now whether the shock of this was too much for the shower to bear, I couldn’t say, but the shower broke. What actually happened, I have no idea, but the controller made a cracking noise as I was turning it off, and then would not turn off. I eventually managed to get it turned off, but there were problems turning it back on. So a new shower is the order of the day. Mrs H went out and bought one yesterday, and the guy that did the kitchen said he would fit it. We just have to wait until he can, but Mrs H is already thinking we need a pump for the shower also. The one we have is gravity fed, so not much of a power shower. Apparently, a pump would improve this. Expensive days ahead, I think, as she also wants the whole of the en-suite replacing.