Warm woollen mittens

Despite the title, I do not bear much love for any form of hand-sheath – despite some of my ancestors making their living from glove making (the “g” is, to the best of my knowledge, not silent: though late Georgian Chester may have been a hotbed of licentiousness…).  I would prefer a world in which gloves and mittens could be completely replaced by the firm stuffing of my hands into my pockets: which, as a man, I can reliably anticipate having available, unless sailing rather closer to nudity than is generally considered acceptable in a public space.  Sadly, there are occasions when I need to use my hands – and I suppose my even older ancestors did embrace bipedalism, at least in part, to free their hands and may not appreciate my attempts to turn back the evolutionary clock when its a bit nippy out.  My greatest need to use the glove maker’s art is when cycling, as I am not one of the cool kids who can operate a bicycle ‘hands-free’, but need to have both hands firmly on their bars where wind chill further reduces the temperatures being experienced by my out-of-pocket fingers.

No, I am alluding to the librettical output of Oscar Hammerstein II (“This Time Its Lyrical) but popularised by Julie Andrews during a thunderstorm.  What I had failed to realise, until researching this post, is that old Oscar had a rather fine collection of middle names: between the “Oscar” and the “Hammerstein” his parents managed to fit the words “Greeley Clendenning Ritter von“: which may have been partial compensation for otherwise having named him as a sequel to his grandfather.  The mittens were just one of a rather eclectic litany of favourite things which Maria seems to have accumulated during her time at the convent but I thought “doorbells” might be too obscure a reference, even for me!  To be fair, I’m not sure it was Oscar’s finest hour poetically but it did have a catchy tune…

Having finally dealt with the important business of the introductory remarks, we can now move, safely and smoothly, into the main body of the symposium…

This blog, despite my somewhat erratic commitment to its continued growth, exists thanks to a return to a favourite thing from the early 90s: the writing of mildly amusing skits using pointlessly obscure vocabulary and references.  In those halcyon days, I was applying my muse to the minutes of team meetings and spoof eulogies for departing colleagues: now, of course, no topic is out of bounds.  This post also marks a return to a favourite thing from my past (from much the same era): baking.  In the distant days of the late 80s and early 90s, I would bake for birthdays and attempted moderately complex icing regimes.  I was also briefly paid (at cost) by a colleague to make bread pudding for her.

I realise baking has become rather popular of late, as a result of many folk spending their evenings staring at the haunted goldfish bowl to watch other people doing it in a tent (by “it” I mean baking – well I assume I do, I’ve not watched the show).  This televisual pimping, to the best of my knowledge, had nothing to do with my own return to the form.  Instead, as with so many activities, my return was sparked by an alcohol and Thai-curry fuelled conversation in the Guide Dog.  This blog has already mentioned the development of curried porridge which continues to be a regular staple of my breakfast table.

Anyway, it was while reporting back on the success of this culinary enterprise to the chap who bears significant responsibility for its existence as co-author for the original idea (and many of the other more foolish ideas generated in like manner) that the idea of creating hot flapjack arose.  I seem to recall he was somewhat sceptical about my porridge but felt that flapjack would be the more natural marriage bed for oats and chilli to consummate their long-standing, if until recently unrequited, love.  Never one to reject a foolish idea without putting it to the test, I spent some time researching flapjack recipes which I felt could form the basis for my new creation.  Given its origins in the Americas, I decided to marry the chilli with chocolate to honour the Maya and added in some dried cherries to provide a thin veneer of “health” to my creation: it was also, entirely accidentally, vegan.  I have to say that chilli, chocolate flapjack has proven a huge success and I am now onto the fourth generation product.  As well as chilli flakes, I have experimented with chilli chocolate (which I’m afraid lacked the necessary cocoa content and was purged in generation three) and chilli-infused olive oil to create triple-chilli flapjack.

While the flapjacks have been a taste sensation, they have been a little lacking in the structural integrity department.  Generation four was the most friable, indicating that the problem was the need for a wetter (rather than a drier) mix for improved cohesion: the base recipe was rather unclear on the addition of water.  This slightly crumbly nature is not normally an issue except that in the conversation that led to its creation, the flapjack was supposed to act as the tasty, load-bearing substrate for some 38 candles to mark my friend’s impending natal day.

I was clearly in need of a Plan B and so decided to make a birthday cake which would more reliably provide the necessary load-bearing structure.  I then began to worry about the ability of a single cake to safely bear 38 candles without the cake, audience and venue being destroyed in an almighty conflagration.  So, I decided to make two birthday cakes to spread the fire hazard and vitiate the need to have a bucket of wet sand on hand.  As it was boring to make two of the same cake, I ended up making two different cakes, though both retaining the Mayan theme of dark chocolate and chilli: a chocolate brownie cake and a dark chocolate mousse cake.  I had a grand time spending an otherwise dreary Sunday morning baking away in my tiny kitchen creating cakes from recipes I had never used before and which I was adapting (a) to include chilli and (b) to use ingredients I had to hand and was looking to use up (rather than attempt to fit yet more one-off ingredients into my tiny larder).

I was then left with the challenge of how to store and then transport, on foot, two cakes (plus a box of hot flapjack: I am never knowingly under-catered) to the Guide Dog to celebrate the milestone birthday.  I came up with a complex system involving cake tins, very old paper plates, slings of baking parchment, a fair amount of tin foil and a rucksack which worked surprisingly well.

Come the fateful day, I transported my cakes and enough candles to burn down much of Bevois Valley to the Guide Dog: which seemed to be tempting fate in a location named after a chap famed for dealing with a dragon.  As it was the evening of the Swing Steady Session, I did feel some pressure to participate and justify my presence with quite so much non-musical luggage.  So I attempted to play a piece entitled Joseph, Joseph on the house guitar.  On the plus side the song only uses five chords, though I did only know 40% of them at the start of the piece.  It also required some use of swing in my strumming while madly attempting to encourage the recalcitrant fingers of my left hand to form unfamiliar shapes across the frets of the guitar.  I believe I can report that it wasn’t a total debacle: there were no fatalities and I am unaware of anyone embarking on a new course of therapy as a result of my playing.

At the interval, I inserted the candles into their little mounts – from which they indolently lolled rather than standing proudly to attention as I recall the candles of my childhood doing.  A whole team of people then attempted to light them and it became clear that that my instinct not to place all 38 candles onto a single cake was wise.  Even spread across two cakes, there was quite a decent blaze going and I did wonder whether I should have found a little wicker figurine to sacrifice: maybe just a tiny wicker heart to keep a rather disturbing Mayan vibe going.  We settled for extinguishing the inferno fairly rapidly to avoid reducing one of the world’s finest pubs (it may be the finest, but I have yet to try them all and I’d hate to be premature) to a fine ash.

Burn baby burn

Danger illustrated…

We could then tuck into the cakes to discover if they were edible and whether my chilli dosing had been broadly appropriate.  I believe the cakes were something of a success: I certainly enjoyed the leftovers over the next few days and no-one has reported any ill effects from their consumption…

So much fun did I have, that in today’s less than lovely weather – I think even the ducks are starting to mutter that they’ve had enough rain now – I’ve returned to baking the chocolate mousse cake to enjoy at home: without the fig leaf of a celebration to cover the gentleman’s agreement of my hedonism.

Given my desire to support my entire body weight in various improbable configurations using at most two hands, I shall have to keep this restored habit of baking for self-consumption to a relatively infrequent pleasure: maybe once per lunar month.  While I was rather lazy today, not having the desire to get drenched acquiring ingredients not currently in stock, I think I may create a plan to bake at least one new (perhaps experimental) cake per month.  I could be persuaded to share the results of my applied chemistry, but you will have to come to me…

*ahem*

Today’s title continues the fine British tradition of understatement – not as a matter of policy or desire, but because I am otherwise unable to spell the sound of a cough.  I realise “ahem” is more of a genteel throat clearing, but it was the best I could muster.

Ever since coming out as happy, in a recent post, something has been attacking my chest (something microbial or viral, rather than a confused woodpecker on the hunt for grubs) which I presume is the universe taking revenge for my o’erweening hubris.  As a result, I have been coughing for two-and-a-half weeks – and not usually in a genteel manner, for a start my coughing often seems to have more than a hint of a goose’s honk (though offers substantially greater volume and bass).  Despite the obvious hint for any believers in homeopathy (into which camp I do not fall), I have not been treating my condition with goose grease – for a start, is this the same as the goose fat which until so recently filled the seasonal shelves of our supermarkets?  Frankly, if we are going for seasonal unguents I’d prefer rubbing brandy butter on the affected area – though it would make a terrible mess of my clothes.

The last couple of weeks has been a tricky time to be afflicted with a cough, as a number of musical (and other) excursions had been booked back in the halcyon days when I still had my health.  As this blog has noted before, the concert hall and theatre are very much the preserve of the bronchially-challenged, but until now I have always managed to avoid adding my own input to the typical cacophony.  In an attempt to avoid becoming any more hypocritical than normal, I have been attempting to suppress the desire to cough on a rather regular basis of late.  This has generally been reasonably easy with the aid of the odd sucky sweet (one contained in a quiet wrapping and accessed in the gaps between the music).  However, early on in the world premiere of a quiet piano piece at Kettle’s Yard, I was overcome with an urgent need to cough and suppression proved very difficult, but a combination of physical contortions and a readiness to die rather than suffer embarrassment just about saw me through.  As a result, I remain (almost) entirely unsympathetic to those who cough their way through recitals.

Last Saturday, the cough appeared to be in remission and so I decided to celebrate by enjoying some live music at the Art House Cafe.  Well, of late at Fish Towers, and in direct contravention of the rules laid down by BBC Radio 2, Saturday is music night!  After the fun of the Skull Kids, the following Saturday night I found myself in King’s College Chapel listening to Dvořák’s Eighth Symphony and Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem – which provided a degree of contrast in my sonic outings.  This was also huge fun – it’s not often these days I get to see a full orchestra and choir in action – and from the front row a great wall of sound washed over me.  This Saturday was Jonny Phillips (a subset of Willowen) and Hot Feet – and once again, while being unknown to me before the evening started, they were excellent and I’d certainly seek them out again.  I’m not sure how the Art House chooses its bands, but they do seem rather good at it – perhaps the southwest is just blessed with good music?  I also love that the space is wonderfully intimate and (important for a man of my age) you get to sit down!

Anyway, having booked to go to the gig in the morning, the cough returned with a vengeance in the afternoon – with barely time to draw breath between vocal explosions.  Arriving at the Art House, I usually partake of their wares – and given how bad the cough was I threw caution to the wind.  Chocolate is not supposed to be your friend in my condition, but on the principle I couldn’t make things worse I had a hot chocolate (with my traditional shot of “medicinal” rum) and a thick slice of chocolate cake.  Delicious!  It also softened my cough to almost complete non-existence for a good three hours – in a manner not produced by any of the palliatives obtained from the pharmacy.  Now, this was not a proper medical trial – and I can’t be sure if it was the beverage, rum or cake which was decisive in effecting my miracle (if temporary) cure – but I’d thoroughly recommend it to any similarly afflicted GofaDM readers.  Even if it doesn’t work, you can still enjoy the cure – to an extent rarely offered by the stock of Boots’ the Chemist.

At some stage, I think I shall have to collect together all the “cures” for modern ailments I am discovering as I make my way through this veil of tears.  I can now fix both a bad back (using a car battery and a walk) and provide respite for those with a serious cough.  I am rapidly becoming the Galen de nos jours.

Light and shade

I’ve finally decided to produce a home furnishings supplement for GofaDM!  OK, I’ll come clean, I haven’t: though it could be an option if the supply of other ideas runs dry…

The title refers to this past weekend being one of contrasts, for example, while Friday night was spent in the psychedelic company of Django Django, Saturday night was sound-tracked to the more classical strains of the CUMS May Week concert (for the uninitiated, May Week in Cambridge is always in June).  Both took place in an ecclesiastical setting, the latter in the splendour of King’s College Chapel, and both had their percussive elements and were very loud at times.  The latter did not use amplification to achieve this effect: merely a large choir and substantial orchestral forces, including a full organ – at one stage, five cymbals were played(?) simultaneously (and with considerable vigour).  The CUMS programme offered Debussy’s La Mer followed by Hector Berloiz’ Te Deum and allowed me to return to my usual “massive”.  I felt it was particularly important to make the effort to attend as not only were CUMS involved but some of the choir were sourced from my local village college.  As you will discover later (though I had discovered earlier), I did make it needlessly tricky to do so – and Network Rail added their own barriers to success on my way back from the capital – but in the end I made it comfortably on time (in fact, given the extreme wind at my back – weather rather than diet related – I arrived rather earlier than planned).  Whilst I may have attended out of a vague feeling of duty, I was more than repaid by the amazing music on offer.  It was also my first real contact with the Jubilee: we all had to sing God Save the Queen (though only two of the less politically controversial verses, and for my money including a verse which attempts to rhyme the words “cause” and “voice” was pretty controversial) and the Te Deum unusually included its Prelude (not, as you might expect at the beginning) in Liz’s honour.

Earlier in the day, I had taken the train down to London: cycling to the station in sunshine, no less.  As the train rattled south, I spent my time laughing along with the Jon Holmes show on BBC 6Music and playing peek-a-boo with a small, pre-ambulatory child (and trying to work out which of my two entertainers was the more childish).  The child’s minder (mother?) did attempt to distract it with other matters of interest in and around our carriage, but there was no real competition to yours truly.  If only I knew what this strange power was…

I was heading to London to visit the National, but first had to tackle the important issue of lunch.  The regular reader will be unsurprised to learn that I turned to 10 Greek Street, who once again did me proud.  Lunch also produced one of these revelatory moments which occur from time-to-time.  Having swooned at the ricotta parfait on Thursday, I decided to tackle the chocolate terrine this time – and so was forced to ponder the best choice of accompanying dessert wine: hedonistic for lunch-time I know, but it had been a trying week.  The chap behind the zinc bar suggested either madeira or marsala.  As a fan of Flanders and Swann, I feared the results of imbibing madeira that early in the day and so plumped (with a degree of trepidation) for the marsala – a beverage I had only previously used for cooking.  What a marriage made in heaven (or closest atheist equivalent.  Exosphere?): a juxtaposition of buccal sensations that I cannot recommend highly enough!  (I suppose the CofE might object to the marriage given the lack of a Y-chromosome in the married couple, but as they don’t have any Xs either it probably can’t be considered a lesbian liaison).  It is perhaps fortunate that the larder is currently very low on both dark chocolate and marsala – or I might have lost several hours (or days) to sybaritic indulgence.

However, I was in town to indulge my new found taste for tragedy – and, in particular, those where the primary narrative drive comes from a strong female character.  A couple of weeks ago, it was the Duchess of Malfi and on this occasion Sophocles’ Antigone.  Whilst I don’t usually approve of spoilers, as the works are 500 and 2500 years old respectively, I feel safe in revealing that in both cases most of the main cast are dead before the final curtain (purely metaphorical in this case, as neither play made use of a curtain).  Anyway, having taken my seat, it then became apparent that someone else had a ticket for the same one.  Yup, I had arrived exactly 6 days too late (special bonus tragedy, albeit on a very modest scale) – my ticket was for the 10th and my diary confidently quoth the 16th: I presume I must have reverted to hex when I made that particular entry (well, it’s either that theory, or I’m forced to admit that my few remaining marbles have departed my cranium like so many rodents from a foundering vessel in a storm-wracked sea).  The National were extremely good about this – especially given that the incompetence was mine alone and discovered only about a minute before the play started – and whilst there were no seats left, I was able to “prom” in the circle.  The play was very powerful and has much to teach us, even after two-and-a-half millenia (it was also, luckily, relatively short given my previously abused knees).   As a plus, I will shortly be studying the play (though in a different translation) from my OU course: so the day counted as useful homework (though I fear not tax deductable).

In fact, on the tenth I was at a matinée performance in London (thinking that I had nothing on!  My diary is going to have to work quite hard to regain my trust), just not at the National.  This was a musical, Jekyll and Hyde, in the much more modest surrounds of the Union Theatre which lies ‘neath a railway arch in Southwark.  This is a tiny venue which meant that you were very close indeed to the action (the theatre is not much larger than my front room) – and it had a larger cast than most of the plays I’ve seen.  I must admit that I do enjoy a performance in an intimate venue – it feels much more personal and nothing important was lost as a result of the more modest budget and staging.

Three tragedies in a fortnight!  My theatre-going has definitely escaped its comic roots.  Is it time to introduce an element of tragedy to GofaDM?  Well, intentionally introduce it – I’m sure many readers already view much of the content (and the author) as rather tragic, but this element has come stealing in like an uninvited guest rather than as a result of considered policy.

The Joy of Ambiguity

One of the most enjoyable elements of my last (and first) OU Day School was the Philosophy session. As well as covering modus ponens and modus tollens deduction (which became trivial as soon as I converted them to mathematical logic) it also involved analysing a number of short pieces of text taken from the real world.  Each of these were, at least partly, ambiguous and could yield two or more interpretations, e.g. “Trousers only cleaned on Saturdays”.  Often the absence of punctuation was to blame, though English as a language does lend itself rather nicely to ambiguity. This may help explain both the distinctive humour of the English and the prevalence of lawyers in the Anglo-Saxon world (all the less surprising given their hostility to the humble comma – and the profitable use to which that profession is able to put even the slightest ambiguity.  Just ask Jarndyce, or indeed, Jarndyce).

The joy of ambiguity was brought home to me as I wandered, slightly aimlessly, around a Marks and Spencer’s Simply Food in search of sustenance.  I always feel these stores are slightly mis-named as it is far from simple to find anything given the use of a singularly obscure filing system for their stock.

I was rather pleased with the spinach when I eventually rooted it out from its place of concealment.  It was described on the packet as “young large spinach” which makes a nice change from the usual “baby spinach” or just plain “spinach”.  I guess even the giants of the spinach world must have a childhood and it is then that Mr Marks (or Mr Spencer) harvest them before they reach spinach puberty and become surly and uncommunicative.

However, it was an offer I spied whilst queuing for the till that really caught my eye.  A product entitled “60% Peruvian Chocolate” was being sold at a discount.  I don’t know if Peruvian chocolate is particularly good, the Swiss and Belgians seem to garner most of the press coverage, though I believe cocoa does hail from their neck of the woods which might be a good sign.  Sadly my knowledge of Peru extends little further than the llama, serious masonry and marmalade sandwiches (an interest in pre-Columbian civilisations and Paddington bear will only take you so far).  Putting aside the 60% for a moment, it was the other 40% that most concerned me.  My interest in this cocoa-based treat is going to be very strongly predicated on the composition of these mysterious two-fifths.  If they were stem ginger or dried cherries, then I might be tempted; but on the other hand were they comprised of breeze block or polonium 210 (the isotope with a hole in the middle) then it’s hard to imagine any level of discount which would attract my cash.  Or should I have assumed that the other 40% was also chocolate, but from a source less worthy of mention than Peru?

As a result of this disquietude, I declined the free chocolate offered to me as I paid for my goods: there was no suggestion of a Latin American origin but you can never be too careful, even in M&S.  Still, ambiguity is usually a source of fun allowing as it does the more playful reader to deliberately choose the wrong interpretation for (allegedly) comic effect, as on Wednesday night when passing a pub advertising “FISH SPECIALS” my mind conjured an image of an aquatic Two-Tone tribute band.

Oh, Roger!

I am well known as a tennis pundit – well, I am to those lucky listeners to BBC Radio Cambridgeshire one afternoon 3 or 4 years ago who heard me correctly predict the results of both Wimbledon Singles Finals.  Sadly, I didn’t have sufficient confidence in my punditry to back it financially, so I’m still “working” for “the man”.  It is in my role as a tennis expert that I have noticed, with the exception of the recent ATP Masters, Roger Federer seems to have become somewhat estranged from his winning ways of late.  Younger, more poorly dressed whipper-snappers have kept him from winning tournaments – or even reaching the finals.

Given the fairly generous prize money paid out for winning major tennis tournaments, and his extraordinarily successful career, I had assumed that Mr F would not be short of a bob or two.  Certainly, I am always mystified by those who go on to earn their second (or, indeed, nth million for any n>1) – as I’d be quite happy to stop and take life easy after (or, if I’m being honest, probably well before) making my first million (be it in GBP, USD or EUR).  However, recent events suggest that Roger may be on his uppers.

Over the weekend, I happened to see some sort of advertisement broadcast by one of our many commercial television providers (I never hear these presentations, well not while I am within easy reach of the Mute button).  This starred the Swiss tennis ace, who seemed to be leaving on a jet plane to destination unknown.  The little vignette focused on the scanning of his hand luggage prior to moving on to the departure gate.  His hand luggage was a rather large sports bag (rather larger than I would try and sneak through as hand luggage) and the X-ray scan results showed it to be puzzlingly packed with small spheres.  On visual inspection, his only item of hand luggage was discovered to be packed with small spherical chocolates from one of Switzerland’s larger commercial chocolatiers.

Now, I will admit that my hand luggage is usually partly filled with food – in case I become peckish mid-flight – but I would normally have a greater variety of healthier options and would also have at least a book and MP3 player to keep myself amused during my confinement.  Perhaps, Mr F was expecting a very serious case of the munchies?  Though frankly, I think he has gone beyond the munchies and moved into the territory of serious addiction – and were he to consume the lot, he would not be moving around the court with his customary grace in future.  No, I am forced to assume that he has taken to chocolate smuggling to make ends meet.  Indeed, he used some of his contraband to “bribe” the two female customs officials to allow him to proceed.

Have other tennis stars of yesteryear also been forced to turn to a life of crime?  Certainly, no others have been foolish enough to be filmed “in the act” to my knowledge.  Will Andy Murray be caught smuggling haggis to the USA (where it is banned) in the future?  Aren’t we failing as a society if our über-rich tennis players are reduced to the role of food mules to keep the wolf from the door?  Some sort of appeal or bail-out is surely in order?  We found the money to keep our bankers in champagne and Porsches (not at the same time, this blog does not encourage drink-driving), surely we can do the same for tennis players?  After all, they’ve provided a lot more entertainment and pleasure.

Talking of financial rescues, I wondered if the French, Belgian (subject to its availability) or UK governments would help Stena Line if it found itself in trouble.  The idea of bailing out the ferries is rather pleasing.

Danger HXB!

Well, Easter is finally almost upon us – and with it a slew of bank holidays which seem to have caught Mother Nature on the hop given the current expectation of hot and sunny weather throughout (either that, or I have inadvertently strayed into a parallel universe which whilst similar to my traditional home does seem to be exhibiting some striking differences).

This bunching of bank holidays, like London buses, has generated a couple of news stories about the timing of Easter.  The rather variable nature of the timing of the Easter bank holidays was apparently addressed way back in 1928 (before even my time).  The Easter Act 1928 will set Easter to be “the first Sunday after the second Saturday in April” once it is activated – rather than its current dependence on the full moon.  Presumably, as today, those wishing to celebrate the various Christian events linked to the timing of Easter may continue to use a lunar calendar (rather than the official, UK Easter) – the exact choice of Easter date going back to the ancient split between the churches of Rome and Byzantium (which could yield three Easters each year in this country, with possibly negative consequences for the current obesity epidemic and the well-being of the Easter bunny).

I’ve always found Easter a curious festival – a strange admixture of Aztec (the chocolate) and Christian/fertility (the egg) symbols, coupled with the frankly Pagan lunar timing.  In fact, chocolate goes back well before the Aztecs – with cocoa used for beverages by the Mokaya as much as 4000 years ago (and still used by the Fish today – though I don’t normally mix it with chilli at bedtime).  Chocolate in bar (or, indeed egg) form had to await the conquistadors and then the industrial revolution.  I suppose that prior to the invention of the Minstrel and/or the Frigidaire, bar chocolate would have been rather impractical in the heat of the Mexican jungle (even if you started with a bar, you’d be back to a drink pretty smartly).

The other Easter timing news comes from my own local university, where a Professor Colin Humphries has discovered, after extensive research, that the Last Supper was on a Wednesday (and not as previously believed, a Thursday).  I must admit I did wonder why this mattered given the fact that Easter can move by a whole 4 weeks, a one day shift in one of its events didn’t seem all that significant.  Perhaps, I mused, the Good Lord was an Orange mobile customer and had taken the disciples to the flicks using their 2-for-1 deal and had been able to fund the meal out of the money he’d saved – which clearly wouldn’t have worked on a Thursday (or in the 1st Century AD – well, not without a previously undocumented miracle or two).  But no, apparently this research was designed to tackle an important issue in the biblical narrative where the gospels disagree about the timing of the Last Supper and the sheer number of events which took place between it and Good Friday (though, if anyone is going to have good time management skills one feels it should be the Son of God).  The good Professor Humphries (who I like to imagine in a red-and-white striped top, and having a tendency to milk-based kleptomania) likes to think that his work will finally lead to the implementation of the 1928 Act and the fixing of the date for Easter.

But what, I hear the few of you to have made it this far whimpering, does this have to do with the title?  Well, let me tell you my chickabiddies…

I am pretty agnostic and have no great fondness of chocolate eggs, so Easter is of little import to me – but for one thing, the hot cross bun (HXB – more St Andrew than JC, I suppose).  I do rather love a hot cross bun, but have always struggled to make a decent bun of my own, leaving me reliant on the kindess of strangers (or more often, dearest mater) or the local bakery.  However, I buy very little (pre-?)prepared food (can you pre-prepare?  Or is this just before, before paring?  I do have a paring knife – but it only helps within a fairly limited scope of food production…) preferring to create it myself from the stuff of chaos – or basic ingredients, as the less poetic authors of my various recipe books would have it.  So, today I have once again attempted to make hot cross buns – well, if I’m honest they are only hot buns (I’m too lazy/agnostic to bother with the cross) – this time employing my breadmaker (a machine, rather than a member of my household staff) to prepare the dough and cutting out the need to knead by hand (and with it, one possible mode of failure and dough under the fingernails).  I do have to form the buns and leave them to prove (to be honest, they didn’t even manage the simplest of lemmas) which took massively longer than suggested at a rather higher temperature and then bake them (which took rather less time than the instructions led me to believe).

This process took place whilst I have been writing this post, and I have now sampled a few of my hard-wrought wares.  I can pronounce them delicious and an almost total success – or they are when fresh; they may only be fit for use as artillery rounds by the morning (assuming any survive that long!).

The HXB is fully and safely defused!