Grot

Not feeling so wonderful. I have either a heavy cold or a mild case of influenza. Fever, night sweats, aches, sore throat, coughing, sneezing and all that jazz. Nothing the Quack can do anything about as antibiotics are merely placebos when it comes to viruses.

So I’m just hunkering down, trying not to dribble snot and cough green chunks all over the place. Taking plenty of fluids and as much exercise as I feel comfortable with. Letting my immune system do its thing. Helping things along with the occasional medicinal hot toddy; 1 large measure blend whiskey (Not Single Malt you heathen!) to equal amount of hot water, stir in 1 teaspoon of brown sugar, stir until dissolved, taking paracetamol (Acetaminophen) for the fever and decongestants for the snottiness. Yes I know it’s not a cure, but the alcohol and sugar hit does take the edge off the worst symptoms.

I should be all better by the Saturday. Or Sunday. Or Monday. Possibly.

RIP Top Gear

As predicted, the BBC have fired Clarkson. The current iteration of Top Gear is no more. Ah, me. All good things must come to an end. Well, maybe the situation is not so terminal, and a return to the slower paced days of someone like William Woollard is on the cards.

Chris Evans has already publicly declined the poison chalice of following Clarkson, May and Hammond. Which for Evans is a wise move. The chemistry of the three bozo’s is a tough act to follow, and anyone taking a new, PC sanitised Top Gear on will have to be really, really, good, or more likely be so blindly ambitious they don’t realise they’re committing career Seppuku.

The end of the show will, no doubt please the Politically Correct Puritan faction. Who of course know what is good for everyone, whether ‘everyone’ likes it or not. No doubt said repressives will not be happy until all television (and the Interweb) is as anodyne and unchallenging at the Test Card or worse.

You know, I’m wondering if news of the replacement show or succeeding presenters will turn into one of those tedious media soap operas where the BBC announces Top Gears return in a “Yes it is” oops! “No it isn’t” pantomime, until a daytime TV version with the budget of Gardeners Question Time finally hiccups and gasps into life for one truncated season to fade and die in TV hell on BBC4, sandwiched between Countryfile and endless reruns of Cagney and Lacey hosted by some nonentity ‘Dub poet’.

Update: On the other hand, if David Camerons 11 year old daughter and Guido Fawkes get their way, Clarkson may not be on the scrap heap challenge just yet. Time will tell. If popular support fails against the monolithic diktats of the Beeb, then it’s Requiescat In Pace Top Gear. It was fun while it lasted.

Overdone idioms

There’s a little Polish saying; “Nie mój cyrk, nie moje malpy” which translates as “Not my Circus, not my Monkeys”. Which in context can be an appropriate and very witty thing to say. Where an employee makes ‘the dog ate my homework’ type excuse, or someone’s being a drama (Or in the case of Buddhists a dharma) queen over a trivial issue unrelated to the task in hand. It’s a way of telling them to get on with it and stop wasting your time.

However; like all sayings there comes a time when it can get a little wearing.
Not my Circus Not my Monkeys

Nothing much to say

……and no real inclination to say it. Life trundles on. On the downside, I’ve just had to set the lawyers on a family member. A situation I’ve striven manfully to avoid, but they’ve been so dumb and plain obstructive I feel that a quick lick of the legal cat o’nine tails might bring them to their senses. If not, well, That’ll be their tough luck. Not that this gives me any satisfaction. We left the last chance saloon late last week and are now in the alley out back. It could get messy and expensive. For them, certainly.

Now excuse me, I have a trip to Paris to organise.

Soup day

Every so often on non-work days, maybe once every month I have what I call a ‘cooking day’. Not really a day, usually just four hours maximum, where I cast my cares aside and focus on a manual task while my subconscious does all the heavy lifting. At the moment this is because I have a knotty legal problem which I am reluctant to hand on to my legal Piranhas because it involves a family member. However, I have firmly informed said family member that while we may not quite be in the last chance saloon, I’m definitely outside the door perusing the menu. As a last ditch measure I’ve enlisted the assistance of other family members who are trying to intercede on my behalf and talk some sense into him. I’m also trying to stay away from Mrs S, who is stressing over pension transfers, future payments and UK tax forms. Not only that, but she’s being clueless about the document feed settings on the office scanner. All the information is but a web search away, and she’s giving me grief about it. The kitchen is currently my only refuge from the stress and I’m trying to utilise some downtime in a positive way. Then there’s our trip to Paris to organise.

Notwithstanding; today I’ve been making soup. Two varieties; firstly Carrot and Coriander, then Asparagus and Parmesan. Seven litres of the stuff are cooling, ready to go into the freezer. I picked up the ingredients for less than fifteen bucks, so they’re cheap eats. They’re also jolly good for vegetarian(ish) type soups and should see us until the warm weather arrives.

For the Carrot and Coriander you will need;
5lb carrots
Two medium onions
1 bunch fresh Coriander (a.k.a Cilantro) A handful
A large teaspoon of bacon grease (I did say Vegetarian-ish didn’t I?)
Half a teaspoon of dried chili flakes or 2 dried chilis
Half a teaspoon of garlic powder or three cloves of garlic (that’s three segments of a bulb)
A teaspoon of salt
Black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon cornflour
Four litres of water (Maybe more, maybe less)
A large pasta pan
A liquidiser or blender
A second large saucepan
A frying pan

Put the frying pan on a low heat, add the bacon grease, fine chop the two onions and drop them in the frying pan. Add the garlic or garlic powder and chili and let the onions sweat until they are very soft. Take off heat and put aside for the next phase.
Wash and clean your carrots, cutting off the green tops which should be discarded. Put four, possibly even five litres of water in your big pasta pan, chop the carrots, add half the salt and bring to the boil before leaving them to simmer for at least half an hour until the carrots can be mashed into a mush with a fork. If they aren’t soft enough to be mashed, they ain’t ready.
Fine chop Coriander (Cilantro) and enjoy the smell. Dried Coriander or powder simply doesn’t work so well. It’s okay, but not that brilliant.
In suitable batches, depending on your blender or food processor, put the carrots, their cooking liquor and Coriander through blender, adding a large dollop of the onion garlic and chili mash with each batch, decanting each blendeed batch into second large pan until the onion mash and boiled carrots are thoroughly blended.
Put Carrot and Coriander mix on a low to medium heat.
Now put a few tablespoons of water in the cornflour and mix to a milky liquid. As soup mix starts to bubble a little, stir this liquid in until thoroughly mixed. Keep on the heat until you have a smooth, orange liquid dappled with dark green specks. Add rest of salt and black pepper to taste. Serve with bread of choice. A crusty bun is nice.
Let the rest to cool before decanting into a plastic container and putting in the freezer for future use.

For the Asparagus and Parmesan recipe, you will need;

Around 3lbs (2 Bunches) of fresh Asparagus (Providing it’s being sold off cheap)
Two medium onions
A large teaspoon of bacon grease
Half a teaspoon of dried chili flakes or 2 dried chilis
Half a teaspoon of garlic powder or three cloves of garlic (that’s three segments of a bulb)
A teaspoon of salt
Black pepper to taste
4 ounces salted butter
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 ounce grated Parmesan (Or more)
Half a pint (Quarter litre-ish) of milk
Three litres of water (Maybe more, maybe less)
A large pasta pan
A liquidiser or blender
A second large saucepan
A frying pan

Prepare the onion mash as per the carrot and coriander recipe. This forms the base of the soup.
Chop the Asparagus into one inch lengths, cutting off the last quarter inch of the asparagus tips. Put the asparagus tips aside for later. Put the one inch lengths of asparagus into a pan with half the salt and three litres of water. Bring to boil and simmer for half an hour.
Melt butter and mix in Cornflower, add milk and stir thoroughly until a paste is formed, add milk and Parmesan to create a moderate cheesy sauce.
Blend the onion mash, Asparagus and cooking liquor in batches, decant into second pan until all is thoroughly liquidised. Put pan over heat and when bubbles start to rise, begin adding the Parmesan sauce to the onion and Asparagus mix. Add remaining salt and black pepper to taste. Add tips of Asparagus, simmer for half an hour, stirring occasionally. Enjoy with a crusty bun. Put remainder aside to chill in freezer for future use.

Please note; this blog takes no responsibility for failure to observe the most basic of hygiene and safety precautions. They’re your fingers, and dear reader, we sternly admonish you not to cut them off as they will ruin the flavour of the soups. Nor do we accept any responsibility for your failure to keep preparation equipment in a suitable state of repair. Your exploding blenders, burned saucepans, broken utensils, ruined kitchens and subsequent breakups or divorces due to your inattention and carelessness are nothing to do with me. We also take no responsibility for your culinary expertise or lack thereof; we can only assure our reader that a soupcon of common sense will produce results that will be most acceptable.

Have fun. Or not.

Man down

Yes, Captain Ranty is gone. Last heard of on his Twitter feed 6th March 2015. The augury was not good. Now via Henry Crun and JuliaM we have the news of his passing. No whys or wherefores, just R.I.P. Colin Grainger.

Despite our differences, I always held Ranty in high regard. His blog sent a lot of traffic my way, and for that I’m grateful. We’ve corresponded privately on various matters from time to time and I actually developed a genuine liking for the man. For no matter what you think of his views, the one thing he didn’t lack was integrity. For sheer bull headed stubbornness, he never minded taking the biscuit, sometimes the entire lemon meringue. He was an entertaining fellow and regrettably this has become an alas-poor-Yorick post. There were too few of his calibre in this world and I know we’ve all got to go sometime, but not without a bit of serious kicking and screaming in the process, eh?

Now please Death, no more of our friends and favoured ones for a while, yes? There’s been too much dying of late, and frankly I need a break.

atque in perpetuum frater ave atque vale

Comments reactivated.

Peeback time

I was reading the National Post this morning, and just before delving into the Financial pages, I came across this little gem of a tale. Apparently there’s a type of paint with the property of ‘reflecting’ fluid. Originally designed to keep cars cleaner, it’s now being deployed around the Red Light district in Hamburg, Germany.

Watch the video. Yers, I know it’s in German, but who says they don’t have a sense of humour?

Suggestions for other uses on the back of a very soggy envelope please.

Update: How to make a low cost version of this moisture resistant finish using Anti-Perspirant and spray on plastic coating (Sorry about the Torch commercial);

Workplace violence

In the wake of the Clarkson incident, I’m left wondering at how the UK’s workplace culture has changed, for good or ill, in the last thirty years.

For example; when I first started work, it was a common occurrence to be abused, struck, slapped or manhandled by managers or ‘senior colleagues’. It was part of the culture. You either learned to fight back, sometimes with words, sometimes in other ways, or you walked. There was no ‘constructive dismissal’, no lawsuits and the Unions have been as much use as a wet hanky. You were expected to “Be a Man” (Pray tell, what’s ‘manly’ about letting others push you around?) or “Take it on the chin” (Not this chin matey). You stayed and buckled under, or you walked. During my working life I have done a lot of walking. Probably to my detriment, but I wasn’t prepared to take the crap that was being handed out, so I walked. Bosses who thought they could bully or intimidate me didn’t remain my boss for long. Truth be told, I’ve had a string of bad or plain abusive managers and I can count the good ones on the fingers of one hand, excluding thumb. The good ones, who took the time and trouble to show how they wanted a job done got the best out of me. Those whose management technique simply consisted of shouting until you got it right by trial and error, didn’t. End of.

70’s, 80’s and even 1990’s shop floors could be rough places. Apprentices were routinely abused and beaten if their face didn’t fit, or they were slow bringing the under foreman’s tea, or looked the wrong way at the girl on the production line that someone else fancied. Or held a tool in the ‘wrong’ way. Eventually you found out who the abusive people were and learned to keep out of their way. But sometimes you got in their sights, and then there was no way but the highway.

These were people (Most of them are dead – the world is a better place) who could make the most notoriously abusive TV Chef look like Peter Pan. People with such poor communication, leadership and management skills they could not be called managers, more sheep with delusions of being Genghis Khan. And there was no pleasing them if they took a dislike to you or thought were ‘too big for your boots’. At the time I was too bright to hide my light under a bushel, too big to hide, and too dumb to not talk back, which often made me a target. Until I developed sufficient self defense skills and a sharp, sarcastic wit (And the wisdom of where to apply it) to keep me out of the more stupid workplace fights. I also learned that people who considered me a ‘threat’ would often try and maneuver me into a fight when they had a few mates handy as backup, just so’s they could give the big guy (me) a pounding, to establish their dominance. Because I was bullying them? No, that’s never been me. I don’t bully. Quite frankly the thought horrifies me, which considering some elements of my past, might actually surprise a few people. I think I became a target mostly because my abusers mistook my gentle nature for weakness, my preference for solitude and personal space as a slight. In other words “A docile git” and not automatically their best mate or toady. Nor member of a preferred clique or peer group.

That was then, this is now; physical abuse of employees is a big no-no.

This isn’t to say that there is no longer any abuse in the UK corporate workplace; it’s just changed form. Abuse is no longer so physical, the threatening behaviour from less than competent management (and fellow employees) is still there. Now it’s more sly; meetings (More like tribunals) convened to penalise staff members into compliance. False or petty complaints. Square pegs are still hammered into round holes, but now the intent is to redesign the shape of the HR hole so that no matter what shape the peg is, it can never fit. Initiative is a thing abhorred and avoided at all costs. Likewise innovation. Employees not properly trained because they’ll only leave and take their precious ‘skills’ with them. Also if there isn’t a box to be ticked, the task does not exist and must therefore not be performed under any circumstances. Non-compliance is not an option. Bureaucracy rules UK. At least this was my experience before we upped sticks and took our great leap of faith. Canada has come as a bit of a surprise because the work culture here is geared more towards cooperation.

Anyway. My last, terminal, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die final word on the Clarkson fiasco; no film set gofer worth their salt would have dreamed of not laying on some kind of hot food for cast and crew after a cold and windy day on set. They’d have shown some initiative, asked hotel management to keep a cook on standby, called a caterer, or at a pinch gone off to the local takeaway to bring back a serious curry, maybe ordered enough fish chips and pizza for the entire cast and crew. Anything but a cold spread and surly “Snot my job” excuse. And they’d have actually gone to the pub where the cast were, or at least phoned to ask people up front what they wanted to eat. Then nobody, drunk or not, would have had any excuse to go postal.

The bad news and some good news

Terry Pratchett, the finest humourist of the late 20th and early 21st Century, creator of the DiscWorld, Knight of the realm and all around good guy, is no more. No more Vetinari, Rincewind, Sam Vimes or Moist von Lipwig. No more Death, Albert, Detritus or Cheery Littlebottom. Their stories end here. He will write no more (Unless Death accepts the petition). The Sticker household is officially going into mourning. With a litre bottle of Talisker and as many Dry Martinis as is thought undignified. Or not. Deepest condolences to his wife and daughter.

The good news is that Iceland is not going to be joining the EU. Apparently this was over the European CAP access and the Icelanders desire not to have their fishing stocks eradicated by Spanish factory ships.

One is tempted to wonder when the EU will get NATO to sponsor a fascist coup like they’ve done with the Ukraine.

Expatriate expostulations from Canada

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