seeing red…..

Bounty Bar cake – recipe from forkandpixel.com

There are, in my life, two new era defining acronyms to add to the familiar BC and AD, to wit BS and AS, which demarcate those periods in time before and after the advent of the saviour, aka Spellcheck ( interestingly, Spellcheck has just denied the existence of “saviour” which is a bit worrying). In the ancient time of BS I remember being as an immortal in that it seemed impossible for me to incorrectly spell a word in Egnlish…and there it is….. the wax drips from the melting wings of my keyboard as I spiral down into AS, a red slash of a wound waiting to bleed beneath my failure. One click of a mouse on the bloody line and that which was Egnlish is reincarnated as English. The intimate linkage of hand, pen and paper allows a direct flow of knowledge from brain to page without the intervention of another intelligence or the inconvenience of mastering a keyboard. I have minimal hand to eye coordination which defect, at school, determined that I should be banned from the cricket pitch, where I could quite easily be killed by bat or ball, and be resigned to the river where I would become the smallest rower in the history of the school and where, with any luck, I would disappear, hopefully unnoticed, into the murky waters thus avoiding bringing any more shame on the alma mater. I mention this failing as a computer makes similar demands in that it requires my fingers to accurately type on a keyboard, obscured from view, leaving my eyes to judge that the chosen letters are appearing, as chosen, and in the correct order on a screen some distance away from my hands and my person. The tactile intimacy of pen and paper is lost but convenience is gained. Welcome to AS, where convenience outweighs intimacy to such an extent that the computer empowers me to tap out words that will allow me to share intimacy with a complete stranger whilst sparing me the inconvenience and  misunderstandings that may result from a real life encounter, such as being mistaken for a fortune hunter or a white slaver, and, above all, without any misspellings. It was such a double “s”, as in the word ” misspelling”, that led me to begin this diatribe, or, more honestly, the mistaken belief that such a double “s” existed in the word “dessicated”, which of course it doesn’t: but I didn’t know that until SC, red in tooth and claw, slashed its disapproval beneath my attempt and led me to the desiccated light. Had I not decided to make the wonderful Bounty Bar Cake, that I discovered on Fork and Pixel, the packet of desiccated coconut that had lain at the back of my store cupboard since BS, or even longer, might have continued to lay therein for many more years, steadily desiccating to an irredeemable ( I didn’t spot the double “r” in that word until I saw red) dryness when all that would remain would be the plastic bag emblazoned with “Desiccated Coconut” to remind the finder of how to correctly spell that which once lay within. I suppose that’s the point of gravestones.

Posted in 2016, Baking, cake, Cooking, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Humour, Memory, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Still life, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Bakewell Crumpet…..*

bakewell_tart_0249Like a latter day Canute I do my best to keep the incoming tide of mortality at bay. Whilst the noble king was demonstrating that he did not have supernatural powers this Canute  has decided that the solution is to bury one’s head in the sand so, in due course, he will be drowned by the implacably advancing tide….but not as yet. As the anniversary of another year of life beckons I find myself well and truly past the allotted number of years suggested by the Bible although why I should take any notice of that particular declaration when I have paid little or no heed to anything  else suggested  in that best seller surprises me which brings me neatly to the subject of this ramble which is the iconic  Joan, now Baroness, Bakewell. Our chance meeting yesterday was a complete surprise. I was rushing around the kitchen making some dishes for supper later in the day when, all of a sudden, there she was on Radio 4, chatting to me about my harvest years which is the most fucking brilliant term for being over the hill that I can remember hearing and I purposely chose the defining profanity as  profadjective as no one was a more convincing and respected advocate of permissiveness than was Joan. I equally purposely used the past tense to qualify her being an advocate of permissiveness as, in 2010, she criticised the side effects of the sexual revolution of the 60’s by declaring ” “I never thought I would hear myself say as much, but I’m with Mrs Whitehouse on this one. The liberal mood back in the ’60s was that sex was pleasurable and wholesome and shouldn’t be seen as dirty and wicked. The Pill allowed women to make choices for themselves. Of course, that meant the risk of making the wrong choice. But we all hoped girls would grow to handle the new freedoms wisely. Then everything came to be about money: so now sex is about money, too. Why else sexualise the clothes of little girls, run TV channels of naked wives, have sex magazines edging out the serious stuff on newsagents’ shelves? It’s money that’s corrupted us and women are being used and are even collaborating.” with which I wholeheartedly agree. The following link will take you to Joan reading the last chapter of her book “Stop the Clocks” which is well worth a listen…..if you’re getting on a bit.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06zhhj0

  • the Bakewell tart image was used as Joan was described by Frank Muir as “the thinking man’s crumpet”, a soubriquet of which she was not enamoured….but like jam, glacé cherries, icing sugar, almond paste or any of the other delicious ingredients of this tart, it stuck.
Posted in 2016, Bakewell Tart, Digital photography, Food and Photography, Food photographer, Humour, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Sex, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

feeling like a plum in Agen….

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Nothing concentrates my mind more than nothing. After a short time, the nothing of this pale rain distorted image seen through the windscreen as I waited for something yesterday, took me away to another moment in time when I sat waiting and looking at another nothing that in its turn took me on another voyage. I have suffered or, as I now realise, benefited from day dreaming for as long as I can remember, which may or may not be very long at all as when I try to remember anything in particular, after a very short time, I start day dreaming. This time I went back to Agen.

Squinting against the brightness of the sun, out of the corners of my eyes I would, on occasion, catch a glimpse of a chateau perched high up on a wooded hill, but more often it would be the ochre colours of burnt earth  mixed with the blurred shapes of olive groves close to the road’s edge as I drove fast towards Toulouse. I was already thinking of my destination, a beautifully renovated old manoir, where I would be staying for a couple of days, taking pictures and eating and drinking with good friends. Then the engine blew up. If a car’s engine is going to blow up, it’s best that the up blowing should occur as close as possible to a place which specialises in returning engines to their pre up blown condition and such was my luck on that day. After the bang, and a post coital cigarette which was allowed in those days, I and the injured car rolled to a stop in a garage sensibly situated exactly at the point where our gathered momentum finally expired. Amongst the vagaries of French car insurance I had found that the insurer was unwilling to offer a replacement car, in the case of breakdown, but would pay a king’s ransom in other forms of transport to get the insured back to his home or to his proposed destination. Of these two choices I opted for the former which entailed an over generous portion of waiting which, in its turn, offered the exciting prospect of some extended mind travel. Instead of a replacement car the insurance company proposed the following itinerary. I was to wait at the garage for a tow truck to arrive which would transport me and the car to a recognised Jeep dealer in an ironically styled, “nearby”, town where the necessary repairs would be undertaken. Once there, I would be left to my own devices for two hours as it was now midday which is the beginning of the sacred two hour lunch break. I was told by the insurance company’s agent that a taxi would pick me up later. I questioned the “later” and was duly asked why I imagined any sane taxi driver would want to work during those hours when he could be having lunch and what sort of dangerously insane person would be looking for a taxi during that time when he too could be, and jolly well should be, enjoying a lunch of his own. So I had lunch. As I finished my coffee a taxi drew up. Was I being watched or was I day dreaming? Rather than interrupt the flow by answering the question I just got into the dream and the driver of the dream took me Agen station which itself seemed to be part of a pretty weird dream.

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The dark train that towered above me ( I should mention that I was not dressed as a Chinese girl) duly took me, in a first class seat, from Agen to Bordeaux where my dreams changed tracks once again. There I was guided to another train that whisked me a further 3 hours up the line to the town of Niort where a Peugeot Pumpkin, drawn by rats as opposed to Banksy, hied me some 60kms to my home. A week later I would have the pleasure of travelling the same route in reverse to collect my repaired car. I would have liked to have stopped at the restaurant where I had enjoyed lunch the first time around and to have asked them if they would serve me the same meal starting with the coffeee, onto the dessert and so on but sadly I didn’t.

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I’m not well known for my financial acumen but the round trip by first class trains and taxis must have amounted to at least 8 or 900€ whereas a hire car is around 50€ per day….or maybe I’m just dreaming.

Posted in 2016, Art photography, Digital photography, Dreams, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Humour, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Reality, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

Thinking of pussy…

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Picture of a cake oozing lemon and sugar for those who don’t like cats but like cake…I haven’t got anything for the rest of you.

A quiet still hour, with Molly sitting on my lap, has given rise to a Professor Higgins moment. It has made me wonder why a person can’t be more like a cat. I should make it clear that I am not referring to the mice eating, shit hiding, tree climbing or furniture destruction capabilities, nor to the inconvenience of appearing nine times in the Dispatched section of The Times,  but to the calm and the well being that their close presence can instill in us. Should one dislike cats, now is the time to look at the cake. Self gratification is the zeitgeist yet, in comparison with our feline counterparts, we humans have but scratched the surface of this mother lode of sensuality. It may well be that they are more easily satisfied or, conversely, that we humans are never satisfied and are not even sure where satisfaction lies which search is manifested by countless fingers tirelessly stroking, flicking and probing at screens, keyboards and other more sensitive regions in the hope of finding a nugget of this elusive commodity that will not turn to dust after a moment’s scrutiny which disappointment only leads those fingers and minds onward like determined yet purposeless ants.

Posted in 2016, Bad Habits, cake, Digital photography, Emotion, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, friendship, Illusion, Photographic Prints, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

Hold the lamprey…

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Cabbage rimed with frost, impersonating a lamprey

The concept of dying from a surfeit of lampreys intrigues me in that a single mouthful of lamprey could well constitute a surfeit in the mind of one unfamiliar with lamprey. Now that you are familiar, I think that you will agree with me that one look at a lamprey constitutes a surfeit. The death of King Henry I of England, who was French, from such a surfeit suggests to me that he was a reasonable man who had reached that point of frustration with his English chef’s tireless declarations of the superiority of good English fare over foreign muck up with which he could no longer put. He sent word to Chef Gordon of Ramsay to put up or shut up and Gordon, being who he was, chose the former, but chucked in a “fuck off” rather than do the latter. History tells us that lampreys are rarely, if ever, mentioned after that point in time. It had been mooted that the lamprey would be suitable to use in a unit of avoirdupoids measurement to be known as “perch, pike or lamprey” which, after the surfeit, was hurriedly changed to “perch, pike or rod” the latter of which was used vigorously on the unfortunate chef leading to the culinary term: “beat until stiff”.

Posted in 2016, Cuisine bourgeoise, Digital photography, fish cookery, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, Humour, Kitchens, lamprey, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, seafood, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

Memento Sorry..

 

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These people are clearly Unenglish.

As momentum gathers to pull up the drawbridge and lower the portcullis against the marauding bands of the Unenglish beating a path to our gates, the burning question on the lips of each and every Daily Mail journalist and radio”phone in” presenter is this : “Once here, how do we make them integrate? How do we make them more English?”

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Sorry, but this is a counterfeit Englishman

The well known master of post modern irony, Reg Dwight, mournfully sung that “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” and how wisely ironic was that old sage of the keyboard. For an Englishman, and I shall persist with that term, “sorry” is as far from being the hardest word as is the deep fried Mars Bar from being a vitamin supplement, and English spoken without its regular and meaningless usage is American, which means that when it is used it will be unbearably sincere and equally unintelligible as it will be pronounced as if it were a South Asian female garment. So, I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to teach all new arrivals how not to be sorry, ever, but to say that they are, often, and as a matter of course. It may well be possible to speak English fluently with that word alone, a full vocabulary of hand, head and foot gestures together with a sound understanding of the subtleties of mime. On reflection, there is an important section of our society that has done so for time immemorial..sorry…for a very long time.

Posted in 2016, Art photography, Digital photography, France, Humour, hypocrisy, Language, Photographic Prints, Photography, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

I can see clearly now…

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…which is a relief after the haze through which I have been looking due to the prolonged, and at times seemingly endless, Christmas and New Year celebrations. What I can clearly see now are the confirmed dates for the photography courses which I will be running in conjunction with Vendée Holidays this Spring, Summer and Autumn.

09-13 May
06-10 June
12-16 September

Check out the Vendée Holiday website for a clearer picture.

Posted in 2016, Art photography, Digital photography, Excellence, Expectation, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, French countryside, Photographic Prints, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Uncategorized, Vendee | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

…it’s a photography holiday..but not as we know it, Jim…

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Camerahols are dead, long live Vendée Holidays. Just when I thought the time had come for me to perfect the art of selfishly lazing around a pool, a vibrant young couple, Matt and Emily Clark, have recruited me to work with them on the photography, and specialised food photography long weekend courses that are a part of their exciting new activity holidays here in the Vendée. Alumni and alumnae of Camerahols will remember that the main premise of our course was to relax in a peaceful environment with plenty of good food and wine….with the option of looking through the viewfinder of your camera every now and then. Vendée Holidays aspire to the same ethos with the added benefit of enjoying their courses in a luxurious house in the heart of the Vendée countryside…..check out the details on Vendée Holidays….they also offer golfing, cycling and yoga holidays.

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Posted in 2016, Digital photography, food, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, French countryside, Landscapes, lifestyle, Markets, photography course, Photography holiday, Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

…hints of jam,..cinnamon…and a sprinkling of ….sugar.

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Doughnut pickers in West France

The disappointingly dull explanation, when recounted to me in my childhood, of how a ship got into a bottle failed then, as now, to raise more than a bored ooh, or a stifled aah. Why one should choose to put, by necessity, a thoroughly pedestrian artifact into a purpose designed container which, though suitable for a ship in that it can contain water, is unquestionably at its apogee when filled with fine wine, is a good example of the devil being asleep when a pair of idle hands could have been doing something far more interesting than erecting a mast with a piece of cotton…although, on reflection, I can see that the devil’s suggestion might have been misunderstood. It would, however, be safe to say that the medical profession or, to be fair to that legion of doctors who do not shirk their turn at the bar, its government spokespeople, would be much happier if the majority of bottles were filled with shoes or ships or sealing wax rather than strong drink which is apparently proving to be the downfall, or the fall down, of our once great nation ( I use this phrase as it must be the most commonly used on radio talk shows – why I listen to them at all is yet more evidence of the devil not doing his work properly). These medical spokespeople have wished us a happy new year by letting us know that each glass of wine that we drink is equivalent, in calories, to eating a doughnut or, more colourfully, a bottle of wine would equate to three hamburgers. I am aware, from the evidence I glean from television and radio, that obesity is becoming more and more commonplace. My New Year good tidings to all of you, who read my ramblings, are that in this small corner of France, where wine is far cheaper and more available than either doughnuts or hamburgers, the sight of a fat arse is a rarity….so drink up and Happy New Year.

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Truffled foie gras in pastry served with a small doughnut

Posted in 2016, Bad Habits, Burger, Digital photography, Drinks, Excess, Food and Photography, Food photographer, France, French countryside, Health, Humour, Photography, photography course, Photography holiday, Wine, wine, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 50 Comments

Mo-o-O-O-R-E!!

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I was surprised to see how easily the Christmas spirit was able to override my foolproof anti obesity device.

Posted in 2015, Art photography, Digital photography, Humour, Photographic Prints, Photography, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 14 Comments