Much Dampness

It’s been a tad damp of late. That’s d-a-m-p, to the point of the loch rising a metre overnight, the field at the bridge vanishing completely and both our drive and the road to the village being overtopped by the flood waters. And this on the weekend that Gill’s nephew and wife are coming up from the deep South to visit. “No problem”, we’d said, “We’re just an hour-and-a-bit from Edinburgh, so take a wander into Wonderland”. Continue reading Much Dampness

YACCC: Yet Another Crap Courier Company

It’s happened again: once more a major courier company appears to unable to tell its arse from its elbow, with both hands, a map and a GPS system. This time it’s Business Post, who promote themselves as “the” alternative to Royal Mail. Well Business Post, I’ve got some news for you: at least the Royal Mail, whatever its faults, seems to know where our bloody house is.

So here’s a hint, for Business Post and other pillocks of that ilk (UPS, Parcelfarce etc etc…): we live a few hundred metres from a well-known Scottish tourist village, our house is named on the OS map (and has been since the OS was founded), is signposted from the main road and is on a postcode that only encompasses the half dozen houses on our side of the Loch. HOW DIFFICULT CAN IT BE?

Continue reading YACCC: Yet Another Crap Courier Company

BAA, Humbug…

A news item today concerned the forthcoming Climate Change protest camp being assembled at Heathrow airport:

“We will not tolerate protesters harassing our customers”, said a particularly assertive BAA spokesperson. Which is hardly surprising since, as any poor sod who’s travelled through any BAA-run airport will tell you, that’s their very own speciality.

The Infamous Incident of the Knife-Wielding Maniac

So I was in tropically soggy Festival Edinburgh this weekend for a bit of a schmooze, most particularly for our friend Martin’s stag weekend. As such weekends go, it was notably good-humoured and civilised, with the party ending up at the Pleasance for its late-night comedy show prior to the inevitable diaspora of cheerful drunks to their various borrowed flats, bought hotels and ad hoc burrows. So far, so good, and when the survivors reconvened on Sunday morning for a relaxed brunch and coat-of-the-canine in George Street’s Tiger Lily restaurant, all was relaxed and cheerful.

Continue reading The Infamous Incident of the Knife-Wielding Maniac

Smoke Without Mirrors

Funny how quickly perspectives change: I’m a mere three hours travel time from home, and it’s a different universe, made the stranger by being one entirely familiar to a past me.

Continue reading Smoke Without Mirrors

Sky’s The Limit

Our recent move has brought me directly and painfully into contact with some of the less (and least) desireable aspects of living in the UK – despite my background in working with large companies on matters of organisation and intelligence (ie, trying to encourage them to develop some) I do try to retain – in the face of all evidence to the contrary – a cheerful and entirely naive optimism about stuff getting done when people say they’re going to do it. Silly me. This time the culprit is Sky. The Glen doesn’t have any form of terrestrial TV coverage, so satellite is in fact our only option. Continue reading Sky’s The Limit

Winter Festivals

As we approach our first Christmas in the Glen, here’s an update of a summary of the various year-end festivals that may be applicable to my friends of many religions and none and of cultures multitudinous in space and time. This is an update of a list I first cobbled together circa 1997, to accompany my first “Generic festival greeting of your choice” card…

Continue reading Winter Festivals

Crowdie Cranachan

My homeland of Scotland has produced a fair number of indigenous dishes, many coming out of the mists of time and borne abroad by several centuries’ diaspora of woad-painted Picts – there can be few corners of the planet that don’t at least have a nodding acquaintance with the haggis and it’s accompaniment of neeps’n’tatties, with the attendant skirl of pipes and hopeless wails of its victims. Other recipes tend heavily towards high quality beef, lamb and game, rich in sauce and lipids, but generally a far more pleasant culinary experience than offered by many Northern European countries – cabbage is NOT a major feature. And let’s not mention deep-fried Mars Bars here, OK?

One such recipe is the famous Scots dessert of Cranachan. While other modern recipes make this from large quantities of double cream and little else, this is my own, slightly lower-fat, variant, which starts with the fancy that mediaeval Scots would have had more cheese than cream lying around, and so eschews the crudity of cream for the subtler taste of soft cheese. Here I’m using the traditional (Viking-era) Scots skimmed milk soft cheese, Crowdie (Gruth if you’re a Gaelic speaker), updated for modern tastes with a proportion of slightly sweeter Mascarpone. If you can’t get Crowdie, Ricotta makes a passable substitute.

Preparation time: 10 minutes;
Making time: 15 minutes;
Chilling time: overnight, by preference.

Continue reading Crowdie Cranachan

Thai Poached Salmon with Basalmic-glazed Mushrooms

This isn’t a genuine Thai recipe – it’s one I dreamt up on a Saturday afternoon, and one of those, “what have I got in the fridge” moments, inspired and focussed by the imminent and ad hoc arrival of a dinner guest. But it worked, so here it is, listed for two people – adjust quantities to suit:

Total preparation time: 20 minutes;
Cooking time: Main course 20 minutes, rice 45 minutes, mushrooms 5 minutes;
Zen time: About two hours.

Continue reading Thai Poached Salmon with Basalmic-glazed Mushrooms

On Drinking a Wine That’s Older Than Me…

There are wines which pour, make a satisfactory glugging noise in the process and which caress, stimulate or assault the senses with varying degrees of complacency or excellence. These are the things we tend to drink from day-to-day, often as an accompaniment to other activities and, quite possibly, largely unremarked in their passing. There are also still a few wines which should be consistently avoided, either on the grounds of gratuitous toxicity or market-engineered blandness.

Then there are those wines which you approach on tip-toe and preferably from behind, to catch them unawares, and hopefully in a state still more fit for drinking rather than for use in hand-to-hand combat. These are the ones where you can have no idea whether they’ll come roaring out of the bottle after years or decades of confinement, looking to slaughter the innocent and drink their blood, or which will slide smoothly forth, with a casually doffed cap and a cultured ‘good evening’, in best Leslie Philips intonation. The mere opening of such requires commitment, nerve, and a brief offering to the gods of viniculture that they haven’t turned to purest paint-stripper over the years. The drinking of them requires both physical and mental preparation, and a clearing of both mind and palate in hopeful anticipation of joys to come.

Continue reading On Drinking a Wine That’s Older Than Me…