Blog : Posts from October 2007 : Page 2

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Nationality

In which the family seem foreign


My parents are not Norwegian. They’re English, have hardly ever left England, don’t speak any languages other than English. Until last week, my mother hadn’t had a foreign holiday for 35 years, and my dad had never had one at all.

Now, often, you can look at someone, and spot their nationality. It happened to me in Paris the other month: I only had to go up to someone and say “Um … bonjour?” and I’d get: “Hello, can I help you.” Sometimes the hello came first, so I’m sure it wasn’t just the accent or the awkward pause. I’d assume that the same would apply to the parents too, as they’ve hardly ever left Britain.

But no: they set off for their first foreign holiday together after 30 years married, and they get on the ferry to Norway. They arrive at the ferry terminal in Newcastle, where you’d think the staff would be used to spotting the difference between Norwegian and English people. All of a sudden, everyone, even the English terminal staff, automatically assume they’re Norwegian. Getting on the ship, they’re being greeted: “hello … hello … hello …” – then as soon as The Mother appears on the gangplank, the greeter switches to Norwegian.* Why, she has no clue. Apparently, people from Norway, people from Newcastle, people who meet a lot of Norwegians, automatically assume my mother is one too. Strange.

(and on their return, they brought me a giant sausage. Which appears to be Danish. But that’s a blog for another day, when I’m not too lazy to get the camera out to shoot a picture of it)

* Whether Bokmål or Nynorsk, I don’t know – as the parents don’t actually know any Norwegian of either sort beyond “Does anyone know where the toilets are?” they didn’t appreciate the subtlety – never mind the subtler still differences between spoken and written languages.

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An experiment

In which we cook a fritatta


Back in the days when I was a student, ten years or so ago,* I would be quite experimental in the kitchen. I’d try things out, new recipes, experimental recipes. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t, but it made things nice and varied.

I haven’t done that for a long time. My diet’s got a bit boring. So, I’ve been spurred on to try more things, try new things, try messing about in the kitchen just to see what happens.

The other week, we were in a rather nice cafe in York, near the Minster. I was rather enjoying my lunch, and I thought: it really can’t be that hard to cook this, can it? So, at home, I tried knocking a few things together. It turns out: no, it really isn’t that hard. So here’s my rough and ready recipe for: potato and mushroom fritatta.

You need:
5-6 baby new potatoes
7-8 closed cup mushrooms, ordinary button ones or chestnut according to taste
1 shallot
Garlic, if you like
4 very large eggs
A handful of mild grated cheese
Dried rosemary
Salt and pepper

What you do: chop the potatoes into halves or thirds, or smaller, and boil them for about 10 minutes or so. Finely chop the shallot, and any garlic that you’re using. Fry the shallot and garlic, with a little oil, in a non-stick omelette pan. When the shallot starts to soften, add the mushrooms. When the mushrooms have browned and shrunk a little, add the cooked potato.

Break the eggs into a bowl, whisk them, and add a dash of water, the rosemary, and the cheese. Pour the mixture onto the cooking vegetables, and stir slightly to make sure everything is evenly covered. Turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook for 10-12 minutes, until the fritatta is mostly firm, before putting it all under a medium grill for another five minutes to get the top done nicely. If your pan’s truly non-stick, then when it’s cooked it will slide out smoothly onto a plate. Ta-daa!

* is it really that long?

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An anniversary of nothing

In which FP remembers how things have changed


It’s rare that you can say: a year ago today, I was doing X; with any degree of accuracy. Well, I don’t know about you. It’s rare for me to be able to say that.

A year ago today, I drove up the A1, then across to Penrith, and up to Glasgow, and checked into a hotel. I blogged about it here, after a fashion, and posted some photographs too. It led to … what? Not much, on the face of it. Nothing good that lasted for very long. Plenty of disagreement and argument. But I learned things, about people, and about how people sometimes behave.

After last October, it was a long time before I had to drive up the A1 again. But now, when I do, I’m in a good mood. Despite the roadworks in the Wetherby Gap, or the traffic at the Hook Moor interchange, I’m in a mood of cheerful excitement. A year, now, seems like a very very long time.

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The Unconnected

In which we bear bad news


Breaking bad news to people is always hard to do. Even if it’s something as mundane as a dead computer. I took a quick look at a machine one of the staff had brought in from home, in my lunch break; it’s vitally important she gets it working again, apparently, because it’s got all her daughter’s schoolwork on it, and they have to have a computer now to do all their assignments on.* It only needed a quick look to show that it’s not coming back to life. Its hard disk is almost certainly now a former hard disk, with no hope of getting her homework back.** But how do I tell her?

Latest addition to my RSS reader: Bad Archaeology. The navigation is a bit awkward, and their “latest news” page doesn’t seem to get archived, but there’s some very good stuff in there, if, like me, you would love to try poking members of the Erich von Däniken Fan Club with long pointy sticks. Their latest article is on King Arthur, as an example of what happens when you set out to prove a point, and try to use archaeology to do that. I’m tempted to write something longer about exactly that, soon.

In other news: I’ve been listening to Phoebe Kreutz lately. Her songs make me smile, and make me want to listen to more of her songs. So that has to be a good thing. Hurrah for good things!

* I’m not sure I believe that. This isn’t a rich town, and there must be many many children in the area whose parents don’t have a PC.

** A normal boot sequence halts with “Non-system disk or disk error”, which, if your other drives are all empty, is never a good sign. A Linux boot CD finds the hard disk, prints out lots of nasty disk hardware errors, and then says it can’t read the partition table. Not good, not at all.

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Tourism memories

In which we wonder whether to keep posting photos here


One thing about using my Flickr account more: it’s meant, I’ve been going through all the photos I’ve taken in the past year, going: “ooh, actually, that’s not bad.” And: “Oh, yes, I hardly mentioned that trip on the blog.”

I wonder if, with Flickr, posted photos are going to disappear a bit, into a void packed with millions of similar photos from other people. If I post them here, though, then even though far fewer people will probably see them, they’ll be easier for me to find myself. Maybe that just means I haven’t learned how to use Flickr properly yet. In the meantime: the Cornish tourist-trap village of Mevagissey, back in May.

AA Road Sign Dog walkers Fishing Boat Sleepy dog

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“Is it plugged in?”

In which we muse on set design


Imported American telly has spoiled me. When I was a kid, six episodes seemed like an age-long TV series; now, it’s over almost before I’ve realised it’s started. And now, I’m disappointed that Series Two of The IT Crowd is over. It feels as if it had barely began.

What puzzled me about the series, though, was: how come their office has changed so much since series one? At the start, it was maybe bigger than you’d expect, so the actors could move around freely, but had a suitably grey and dusty feel to it. With the new series, all of a sudden, they have a nice office, with a big leather sofa in the middle! Some of the geekery-posters on the walls have changed to slightly obscure music posters.* At least the cast’s taste in clothing and comic books hasn’t changed much.** There’s no danger, either, that the phrase “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” was going to go stale, given it only appeared once in the script.

The set might be a bit luxurious for your average IT department, but never mind. It’s good for geeks to get airtime, even comedy geeks. Now, we just have to sit back and wait to find out if there’s going to be a Series Three.

* My Morning Jacket are hardly very obscure, but Mr Scruff is still fairly unknown.

** At a rough guess, I’d say about about 17.3% of the audience jumped up during one of the episodes to shout: “Look! Jen’s reading a Love and Rockets collection!”

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Guerilla art

In which we talk about art and anonymity


Over the years I’ve had all sorts of plans for art projects which have never quite got off the ground. So I’ve never had to answer the question: how would I feel if I did something Artistic, which became famous all over the place, but nobody knew it was me who did it.

The local news here was full of something similar, recently. All around Yorkshire, in Goathland, Kilburn, Arthington and Braithwell, mysterious stone heads have been appearing; and some then disappearing again. Intriguing, you could say. I’m strangely attached to the idea of mysterious heads – which are reminiscent of some of the stranger stone crosses on the Yorkshire Moors – popping up in the night. Rather like crop circles, in a way.

Unfortunately, though, the mystery of the stone heads hasn’t lasted very long. Crop circles were a puzzler for a few years, back in the 1980s. The stone heads have been a mystery for a few weeks; but they’ve only stayed a mystery for a few hours now the story has hit the national news. They are apparently made by a chap called Billy Johnson. Presumably, he’s done it all for the publicity;* as he left some easily googleable clues attached to each head, it’s fairly obvious that he wanted to be found. Artists have to make money somehow, after all. Personally, I’d rather it had stayed a mystery, though.

Mysteries are good for the imagination. An anonymous sculpture, appearing out of nowhere, is something to tantalise the mind and get you wondering about all those things sitting just around the edges of the known world. A self-publicising sculptor called Billy Johnson – whether he’s real or not – is dull and mundane by comparison.

* and I’ve just helped, haven’t I. Oh, well. Billy, if you’re a self-googler and you’re reading this, I’ll tell you where my own street corner is; you can leave one there and I’ll make sure you get some more publicity for your website.

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