26 January 2012

Bero Cookbook For Ever!

We are having friends round for a late Burn's Night supper on Saturday, with traditional Scottish food (Haggis, neeps and tatties being the main course), even though none of us is actually Scottish.  I suspect my Beloved has the nearest claim to Scots blood, her father having cousins of that persuasion.

My contribution to the evening lies in the baking department, an aspect of cookery with which I have long been acquainted and, though I say it myself, with appreciable success.  I have my mother, who introduced me in the art of building rock cakes when I was a very tender age, to thank for that.

My dear old mum also introduced me to the Bero Cookbook.  This item has been my main reference for all things farinaceous, having accompanied me to university where I made many a boiled fruitcake or pastry-based pudding to stave off the hunger pangs of a beleaguered student (i.e., me) and his friends.  A large wedge of boiled fruitcake was a frequent breakfast, consumed en route to a nine o'clock physics lecture after crawling from my bed at about 8:40 am.  It was certainly enough to get me through to coffee and a Mars Bar at 10:08 am, and provided sufficient nutrition to enable me to take intelligible notes in the intervening lecture.

A lecture, it is said, is a means of transferring information from the notebook of the lecturer to the notebook of the student without passing through the mind of either.  Perhaps I can attribute the good degree I obtained only to the mental stimulus derived from the nutritional value of the Bero boiled fruitcake...

Today, I made for the very first time some shortcake biscuits.  The Bero book contains instructions for petticoat tails and shortcake fingers.  Although the mixture is the same, I had to do a bit of experimentation to get the cooking time right for biscuits.  I am pleased to report an extremely successful outcome.  If you are one of our invited guests, you will be relieved to hear, no doubt, that there is at least something edible in the offing (fret not, I jest; my Beloved has, to date, singularly failed to poison me beyond all hope of recovery).

Modesty however, and the hope of living to a ripe old age, forbids my claiming to have provided the high point of gastronomic pleasure in the forthcoming event ...

15 January 2012

Warning! Singing can Damage your Health!

You would not believe that singing in a church choir could be a danger to life and limb, especially when the choir is made up of genteel folk among whom I am, at the age of 57, almost the youngest.  However, last Thursday evening saw me in grave danger of injury by virtue of my membership...

I was running late and so left home in a bit of a hurry and forgetting to take a torch with me.  Where I live, such a device is almost a necessity at this time of year.  The path from home, along the course of a disused railway, is unlit and, on this particular moonless night, was absolutely pitch black.  I realised my lack almost immediately I left the house but, being already late, I decided to press on unilluminated, trusting in my sense of direction and familiarity with the path.  I took a shortcut to the church that leads away from the track, up some makeshift steps, round the back of some houses and into the village.

Choir practice went well and, afterwards, I started happily on my way home oblivious to the danger that lay ahead of me.  By now it was, if anything, darker as any cloud cover had dispersed, robbing me of reflected street lighting and leaving me only with starlight once I had left the village.  The darkness was made the more profound by the high hedges on either side of the shortcut.  I picked my way along the uneven surface guided only by the light from my mobile phone.  I reached the steps and could just about make out the wooden boards that demarked their front edges.  I thought it would be good if someone painted them white so as to make them more visible for the wary pedestrian.

Approaching the point on the steps where they turn abruptly to the left, I placed my phone in my pocket.  I may have been distracted by the stars, I may have been disorientated by the darkness.  Whatever the reason, I failed to turn left with the steps and was suddenly walking on air.  Not being in a cartoon, I found myself once more in the unrelenting grip of gravity (see this post for my previous encounter with this evil force) and plummeting down a bank about as steep as this backslash \ from a height of about four feet above what was potentially a doggy toilet below.

My right foot made contact with the bank but, because of its precipitous nature, I gained no purchase and was unable to arrest my descent.  My left foot struggled similarly, serving to reduce my acceleration only a little from 9.8 metres per second per second.  My right foot made a second contact near the bottom of the slope where it had begun to level out and my knee buckled beneath me, unable to cope with the impact combined with the uncertain direction of travel.  By this point my body had acquired some angular momentum and, as a consquence, my head had begun its attempt to exchange its position with that of my feet.  As I pitched forward, I threw my precious new music book away, leaving my hands free to make some attempt at saving face—literally.

I rolled and ended on my back, thankfully short of the metalled track, and apparently unsullied by anything erstwhile canine.  I seemed to be in one piece and unharmed.  My book was predominantly white so I had little trouble finding it.  I headed off along the track, annoyed with myself for not bringing a torch and for getting mud on my new book.  At home I checked for damage to my clothing and was relieved to find only mud on my kagoule and jeans.

The only physical effect turned out to be a little stiffness down my right side the next day.  For that, I am thankful.

Of course, it's my own fault really.  None of this would have happened if I had not joined the choir!