Tonight is the ‘works’ Christmas Party night. They’re going for a Christmas meal and dance at a local venue, all paid for by the boss. I’m not going for the full evening as social events are not my thing. I am not the biggest fan of Christmas either, so having a party with people I only see for a couple of hours a week, to celebrate Christmas, is possibly not going to be the fantastic fun time everyone tells me it will be. I will of course do my best to give the impression that I am enjoying myself and laugh at all the old jokes, but deep inside, I’ll be clockwatching.
I don’t get the whole idea of ‘compulsory enjoyment’. By that I mean, people seem to tell me to “just enjoy yourself” and “it will be fun” or “it’ll be good”. It’s as if they know what I like better than I do. But I’m sorry to say, they don’t! And if I say that I’m not going to enjoy myself or have fun, then out comes one of the most over used phrases “Bah, humbug!” Someone even call me a “Grinch” but as I’ve never seen the film I had no response.
So I’m out for an hour between 7pm and 8pm, on a day that the first snows of winter are set to arrive (or so the BBC Weather-planks tell us). Wish me luck.
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.
I refer to the so named “Beast From The East” weather event. Up to last night, the bad weather was more like a “Wimp From The West” as it had not been as we ha been advised by the TV weather gurus. But from about 22:30 it started to snow a little heavier than before. This morning we awoke to this. Must be about 10cm or 4” in old money. We’ve had some heavy bursts and some lighter ones, but it hasn’t really stopped. R*** has not gone to his day services today. S**** had told K*** that the motorway was quite bad, so we decided it would be better if he stayed at home. He is not good when it comes to traffic holdups and can get quite aggressive if there is any kind of delay. Its one of the main reasons he get transported in a mini-bus. He knows he has to have his seatbelt fastened and from the middle seat of the bus, he is not able to reach either the escort or the driver.
K*** has an appointment at the eye clinic today, and with the problems she has been having, decided that should keep the appointment. I would have tried to cancel it. It’s not a good driving day.
Well, the weather has not been as bad here as was forecasted. We had a bit of snow first thing yesterday morning, but it had gone within an hour or so. This morning there was more, but most of that has gone now. We keep getting the odd 10 minute shower, but we’ve had nothing like what seems to have been happening in other places. Looks like we might be in for another shower in the next hour (15:00 now). Some rather ominous grey clouds seem to be drifting in from the North East.
Now although, our weather has not been bad, in the five mile drive between here and Wetherby this morning, I did run into quite a heavy shower of snow, which needed the wipers on at double speed to clear the windscreen. Bearing that in mind, you would think that motorists would drive with a little more caution than usual. Not here they don’t. The road, a single carriageway, has the national speed limit along most of the route, only dropping to 40mph as you approach the roundabouts. This speed limit appears not to apply to some drivers. On the longest straight stretch, I was overtaken by two cars going at least 70mph and probably more. I have no idea why they need to go at that speed at all, especially as when I got to the roundabout, they were still waiting move on! I joke with K*** that it is ’… because their cars are bigger and more expensive than mine, that they in front of mine …’ but it could be true.
It’s 15:20 and those grey clouds have delivered. It’s gone from sunny to heavy snow. But now, only 5 minutes later and it’s stopped again! It was heavy enough to give a covering to the car though. Its strange, because the sun is coming out now and the sky is once again blue. It’s very confusing to an old ditherer like me. Still, the youngest lad will be in his element. He loves watching it snow. He’ll flit from room to room, looking out of the windows, just to make sure that it is snowing everywhere. It can be so funny to watch him at times like this. He should horse-riding today but I wonder if he has gone. It is one of his favourite activities, but he hates getting rain on his face so we are hoping that it will be different with the snow. You can never tell.
I’m referring to the holiday my wife is on at the moment. As I’ve not posted for some time, I’ll get you up to speed. Around the middle of April, K****s sister and daughter, returned from a week away in Gran Canaria. She returned with an offer that K*** should join them on their next trip. There was much discussion about this, with me having a lot of misgivings about the whole thing. Firstly, it’s a ‘beach, bar and pool’ type of holiday, which I understood was not the type of holiday K*** enjoyed. Secondly there was R*** to consider. How would he react, coming home from respite to find his mother not at home, and not going to be home for another 4 days. Then there is the cost. K*** tells me that it’s a ‘one-off’, but isn’t that waste of all the money it cost for a new passport? And what about all the new clothes … more expense. Anyway, she is back on Tuesday. R*** and me will both be pleased, and as I say, it’s been a long week. I had a list of jobs that I wanted to get done, which I managed to do in between the rain and the wind we had here. I suppose the worst part of the experience is the lack of conversation. I went to the pub a couple of evenings, but there is only so much you can chat about with people that you don’t really know. It will be nice to get back to what we call normality.
I’ve been a bit lazy with this blog over the past couple of months. To be honest, I’ve not really had much I wanted to say. I wanted to stay clear of politics as that is all that people have been talking about for the past month. I know from past experience, that it is one way to ‘lose friends and annoy people’. That is something I can do without any external help, thank you very much.
I tend to update this blog in the late evening. I thought, that this retirement (early) would give me lots more time to do things like this blog, but it doesn’t seem to have worked out that way. It still late at night, when K*** and R*** have gone to bed, that I think ”I must do a blog post”, and then I get distracted and end up not doing anything. I was going to look for a part-time job. That’s not happened. I signed up with a recruitment agency, but the jobs they have come up with are never appropriate. I promised myself that I would do more writing, but I don’t seem to have had any ideas that I could write about. I have done a fair bit of knitting though. A three beanie hats, five headbands, a pair of wrist warmers, a couple of scarves and I’m a quarter of the way through a sleeveless jumper. So I’ve not been sitting on my hands, so to speak.
I shall stop now as I don’t want to start rambling on about anything. I think I shall make a mental note to think about updating this effort at least once a week. I’ll put a note in my diary. See if that makes a difference!
So, after a good hearty full English breakfast, we set off for Robin Hoods Bay. This is a small cove about 5 miles from Whitby that was used in previous times by smugglers. All very romantic and exciting … apparently.
We had a good look around the few shops that had not closed down for the winter and a nice drink in the pub at the bottom of the main road.
During a break in the rain, we managed to have a look out over the bay at the the slightly turbulent sea. Now here is my moan. It was cold. It was wet. It was windy. But out there in the sea we’re four or five surfers! I can barely understand why people do this in places where the surf is high and the weather hot, but when the weather is as bad as it has been and the waves seldom get over 2 foot high, I just don’t get it. We watched them for a good 20 minutes, in which time they managed to paddle out about 100 yards. Then “the wave” came and they started to paddle back. Only one managed to get to his/her feet and they lasted no more than 3 (and I counted) seconds before they fell off! It is completely beyond me.
Got some great pictures in Robin Hoods Bay which I’ll post later. Need to get them off my camera before I can upload them.
That tickly cough I mentioned, turned into a full blown chesty experience. Not a good start to the day at all. Then to cap it all, one of my colleagues (termed used loosely) came into work, and glibly announced that he had a chest infection. No thanks mate, I already have my own (or someone’s !!)
I had to do a finance training course today. Those guys have as many weird and wonderful words and acronyms, as IT people have. At least I can understand the IT stuff. What is ‘negative credit’ actually ? Still it was a useful course, and the trainer was interesting. It should have lasted 3 hours, but we got it down to just under 2, so not bad. Testing time will be later this week, when I have to put what I learned into practice.
Day off tomorrow (Tuesday). Mrs H has a hospital appointment, so we will have the rest of the day in York. Hope the weather picks up a little as the forecast is not too good.
Eldest had an interview today for a part-time job. He has not worked in well over year, and finances have hit rock bottom. Well they hit rock bottom quite a while ago, and have not got any better. He did a couple of days last weekend, but it is not enough. Unfortunately, every student is looking for part-time work at the moment, so our fingers are crossed for him.