This Is A Blog Post… With A Twist

Gourmet Burger

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Some things are fine as they are yet people think that they’ve got to be reinvented, altered, made edgier, to be trendy, to appeal to the “modern consumer” who wants new experiences, blah, blah, blah. So we end up with food with unusual ingredients – Salted Caramel, Salted Chocolate, Chilli Chocolate – when I was growing up that would be the description of a Choc Ice. If there’s a left-field ingredient and especially if there’s a high-end price tag then it’ll be popular, just as if you call a coffee with milk an “Americano” or a “Flat White” then those people who consider themselves cooler than everyone else will flock to have their branded wax cups with their names scrawled on the side visible for all to witness. I’m avoiding the word “hipster” here but, they know who they are.

I particularly dislike the phrase “with a twist“. I enjoy Fish and Chips, I like them with Mushy Peas (not a pea crush, or puree), or curry sauce (not a spicy jus, thankyou), what I really don’t want is a twist, as in “Fish and Chips with a twist” or a “Bakewell Tart with a twist” – which will again indicate some odd ingredient has been used, like chocolate in a Spaghetti Bolognese. Conversely though the same phrase has now become so fashionable amongst the media that even just having different normal flavours are described as being “a twist” such as the Lemon Bakewell, which isn’t really a Bakewell but I like them anyway – this shows that some variations can work, as long as they’re in harmony with the original, a pickled onion Bakewell would be diabolical.

The “re-imagined classics” though are made all the worse when you see the portion sizes – a tiny piece of battered cod sat on top of a log-cabin shaped pile of ten chips, chunky of course, with a small ramekin of pea puree and whatever makes the twist, a tiny piece of “Beef in Artisan Ale Gravy Pie” floating on a smear of mashed potato, or a handful of chips sprinkled with chunky sea salt in a miniature galvanised bucket with fake newspaper round the edge, to look “authentic“.

Some of the best food is simple, tasty and satisfyingly filling. There’s no “twist” that can make a tray of chips, smothered in curry sauce with a battered sausage perched precariously on the top after an evening of beverages at the local pub any better than it is.

And the twist is… no twist. Not even a slice of lemon.

A Pork Pie, Out of Place

Tomato

Image by M. Maggs from Pixabay

I was once walking in the countryside of Yorkshire and saw two unaccompanied (presumably meat) pies on a dry stone wall, there was nobody within sight who could have left them there. What a waste of a good pie. A few years later and more locally…

I looked in the discounted items fridge in the supermarket, saw a twin-pack of pork pies and put them in my basket. Only much later at home when I thought that I’d need to eat them as they’d be near their “use-by” date did I look at them and realise they hadn’t been reduced at all, I looked at my receipt and I’d paid full price for them. Someone had apparently seen some cheaper ones in the fridge and instead of returning the ones they’d put in their basket to where they were on the proper shelf they’d just stuffed them on the discount shelf, for someone else to put back presumably, as it’s their job to repatriate such items, of course. I check for the yellow “oops” stickers religiously now, especially if something seems too good to be, er, reduced.

I wrote the above a while ago, but strangely I’ve been seeing this much more since the covid-19 lockdown period began, all I can think of for this is that people appear to follow the rule of not putting things back on the shelf once you’ve touched them but instead wait until they’re on an aisle where no-one can see them and then they dump the unwanted pack of chocolate deserts amongst the bread.

Unless it’s a secret tactic by the supermarkets to tempt you into buying things you might not have noticed. Hmm, maybe not.  Strange days indeed.

Stand There, Wave This

Cyclists

Image by stokpic from Pixabay

It’s probably not a new idea but I’ve only really noticed in the last few years because I’ve been watching the cricket and the Tour of Britain when it caused massive disruption, sorry, “brought valuable income”, to my home town. The idea in question is handing out flags and banners for spectators to wave during events where, unlike football, the spectators are unlikely to be wearing sponsor branded clothing.

Perhaps you’d expect people watching the Tour of Britain to be waving Union Flags as the cyclists sped past but no, they were enthusiastically waving little green flags in the faces of the lycra-clad pedellers. It soon became obvious that these flags carried the logo of the event sponsor. How does waving a piece of green sponsored plastic show your support to the event? Even national celebrations aren’t immune; I saw a clip of the Queen’s diamond jubilee celebrations and there were people waving Union Flags, nothing unusual apart from the middle of the flag was covered with the “OK Magazine” logo.

At the cricket fans wave boards with “4” on it when a player hits a boundary, again for no apparent reason – everyone actually paying attention would be aware of the fact that he’d hit a boundary – but just as prominent as the “4” of course is the series sponsor’s name which I will not repeat here as the only advertising on this blog pays for the hosting so I don’t have to. This has also spread to snooker now as at the 2019 World Championship crowd members were holding sponsored banners with “Ton Up” on it to wave when a player scores a century break, accompanied by, when I saw a bit of it, John Virgo hysterically screaming “ton ups, ton ups”… For no apparent reason.

These are examples of how people desperate to be part of what they’re watching, the selfie generation who have to show they were there, to prove it by being in the photo, are tricked into advertising for the sponsors in the hope that they might be seen on tv because they’re waving their bit of printed plastic while also feeling that they’re more involved, as people don’t seem to be satisfied with being passive spectators any more.

(The writing of this blog post was supported by Yorkshire Tea and a Kit Kat, by the way.)

Reminiscing Isn’t What It Used To Be

Box of Memories

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

It’s easy to start reminiscing about the past, particularly when you see the world as it is and you know it used to be better.  The summers longer and always sunny, the TV was better and so on.

Back in the day [here we go again] you’d half-remember something, whether it was the name of an actor who used to be on such-and-such a show or you wonder whether a chocolate bar you used to like might still be available, somewhere, and then spend hours trying to remember the details, the names, the design, until eventually you started to think you’d imagined the whole thing.

I found the other day that again our connection to the world’s knowledge is there to help.  I have looked for a few of these things recently, for the life of me I can’t remember what most of them were but one was an exact quote from Linda Smith and another was a particular chocolate bar I liked in the eighties.  To find the quote I searched using a search term that included as much of what I could remember of the quote and the fact that it was from Linda Smith, Google instantly provided me with dozens of pages quoting the exact, er, quote.  It wasn’t that old a quotation but with my memory it felt like it.

The chocolate bar was less successful, in a way.  I could remember the name but no matter how I worded it there was no sign of it, as a side effect though the Google image search did bring up many memories of other long-lost chocolate products, often from newspaper articles entitled “21 Chocolate Bars You Wish They’d Bring Back”.  Half and hour lost looking at photos of old chocolate wrappers.  I have done the same after looking for a history of a building I used to live opposite and finding a whole archive of historic photos of the town in general – just one of the internet’s many rabbit holes to fall down.

It does seem that as time goes forwards, as people upload pictures of old packaging, digitise books, photos and even old Argos catalogues the internet’s repository of knowledge is stretching further back in time.  So today reminiscing isn’t just enjoyable it can be more accurate than ever.

Slow News Days

Press

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

I haven’t got much to say today so I’ll quickly mention newspapers that seem to be similarly afflicted.

Linda Smith once said on a B-series episode of QI “My favourite ever headline was “Worksop Man Dies Of Natural Causes.”

The internet era equivalent of the Worksop man are the people from across the country who have done some DIY on a budget. The Google News feed on my phone provides me with, at least once a week, a story from a local newspaper site wherein someone has given their kitchen, bathroom or garden a spruce up for less than it should surely cost by doing something novel and amazing – buying things from a cheaper shop. Gasp.

They’re generally along these lines: “Savvy shopper Tracy transformed her home using items from [insert bargain store name here]“, and the article tells us “she got a new look kitchen for just £200.” Sometimes you’ll “never believe how she did it.”

Why is this news? Why is it unbelievable? Why haven’t I got an article written about me? Just last night I had fish, chips and mushy peas for less than the chip shop cost by buying items from Asda and B&M Bargains. Chips shop quality mushy peas too. And I’ve given my living room a makeover using stuff from B&M and Ebay no less.

When there’s a two-hundred foot UFO hovering over the town hall, that’ll be news.

[Glances out the window, just in case.]

A Tale of Two Ciders

Cider

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

It’s a Friday night in summer, half-past-eight and I’m listening to Jazz, watching the sunset and drinking a glass of Cider. It is one of my great pleasures.

Cider used to be simple, it was an alcoholic drink made from Apples, but as with so many things now it has to have more variety to appeal to wider markets so now there are Raspberry Cider, Strawberry Cider and so on. They’re not Cider. In a shop once the man stood near me said into his phone “They’ve got a Pear Cider kit mush, just wondered if you want one,” “it’s not Cider, it’s Perry” I muttered under my breath. There used to be Sweet Cider and Dry Cider, and the likes of Scrumpy, but you still got progressively pissed, or merry at least, just at a different rate. And it all tasted of Apple.  Apparently even in France Cider has to be made entirely of Apples.

Our American friends have muddied the scrumpy even more with Apple Cider and Hard Cider – the first being pure Apple Juice (it isn’t Cider, yet) and the latter is, let me think, CIDER.

As a result of the different flavours my favourite brand of English Cider now has Apple Cider on the label, though it might surprise any Americans who were expecting a soft drink.

To take this to its ultimate conclusion will the famous novel featuring the drink in the title, in future, be renamed “Hard Cider with Rosie”?

But Cyclists Don’t Pay Road Tax…

Bicycle

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

I enjoy driving yet I am currently on bike number five but car number four, I did, however start on bikes when I was at school – a Raleigh Striker, then an orange Grifter, then an Emmelle Alpine in white and green which I had with me until I moved to the centre of Newark, left it chained up outside and some nice person decided they’d prefer to relieve me of it and sell it for scrap for a few quid, after all why would I miss it, it’ll be insured, I could replace it, etc, the usual thieves excuses. I was gutted, angry. I replaced it for practical reasons with a folding mountain bike that I had to carry up three flights of stairs to store outside my apartment. When I moved again to where I had a nice secondary section of garden where my dad built me a bike shed to store it securely I took the opportunity for a change, to replace the folder which was too small and caused my back problems just from riding it with a suitable replacement for the Alpine.

I now have a really nice mountain bike having traded in my old one and being the right size is a pleasure to ride, I recently even realised that my new Orange bike is perhaps a subconscious homage to my earlier bike.  I’ve recaptured the enjoyment of cycling I had years ago.

Mostly.

Here are a couple of myths some people seem to believe: Cyclists don’t pay road tax, and cyclists are obliged to stop and get out of the way of cars when the car is on the cyclist’s side of the road because the car always has right of way.

I pay road tax on the car I can’t use during the week even if I wanted to because the fuel isn’t cheap and there’s nowhere to park at work, mainly because of people parking in the work car park who shouldn’t be there but assume that because it’s next to their houses without off-street parking they’re entitled to use it.

The other myth is something I encounter every day – on a street where along one side is residents’ parking that leaves the rest as a two-way single carriageway road. According to the highway code I have right of way when I’m passing the line of parked cars, especially when I’m on the correct side of the road for my direction of travel yet whenever a car comes the other way on what would be the wrong side of the road from their perspective they just come barrelling towards me and expect me to get out of the way, one idiot in a BMW was actually grinning and drove deliberately at me.

Which brings me to the other point – people seemingly finding it amusing to drive too close to cyclists and cutting us up at junctions – this happened where a car passed me and immediately swerved at speed across in front of me into a junction on my left I was approaching, just as I was thinking that was close the Transit van which was following the car did the same, I had to brake sharply, thanking Halfords that the bike had great disc brakes, I’d only had the bike four days. The thing is that it seems fashionable to hate cyclists and this fashion has become like a game to some drivers, like it’s expected to do your part in driving cyclists off the road by intimidation. As I mentioned earlier such drivers find it funny and so many drivers just seem to think that cyclists don’t belong on roads, hence the Road Tax reference.

I admit that many cyclists annoy me, the weekend tour-de-Nottinghamshire peleton wannabes riding in a three or four-wide pack on high-speed roads rather than single-file as instructed in the Highway Code for example, or the lads I saw once who ignored any traffic signals and shot across a busy four-way junction in front of two lanes of moving traffic, almost causing a pile-up. Then there are the ones who, perhaps on principle, won’t use cycle lanes where provided.

As a car driver and cyclist I see both sides and try to be considerate in both situations, for example while taking my government sanctioned daily coronavirus lockdown exercise I was aware of firstly a lorry behind me on a narrow road in the town and another time a car behind me on a country road. Both times I quickly found a safe place to pull off the road briefly and let them go past and both drivers waved thank you too.

There are some cyclists who ride stupidly, there are some motorbikers who do the same, there are some drivers who drive stupidly too. It’s not fair to tar everyone with the same brush.

Dirty!

Soil & Trowel

Image by walkersalmanac from Pixabay

I was thinking yesterday that at the weekend I’m going to clean the bird muck off the top of my wheelie-bin as although the bin men and women no doubt see all kind of muck it’s not nice to have to deal with.

This reminded me of the state of uncleanliness that some people are happy to present their possessions in when leaving them with someone else – for repairs, alterations, inspections and so on.

I have worked in two places where I can give examples.  There was once an infamous motor-home taken to a dealership for its annual service.  This was an expensive van, top of the range and when the technician opened the habitation door he felt the need to let even us in the warranty office see it.  The carpets looked like they were 90% dog hair, the air was 90% dog breath, or at least, er, aroma.  The corners and edges of cabinets had been gnawed, hopefully by the dogs and we could only imagine what potentially coated the rest of the surfaces.

Then there’s a regular occurrence whereby someone will bring in a piece of greenhouse glass into the shop to be cut down to replace a broken piece, rather than buy a new, shiny piece.  We don’t mind doing this but it’s inconvenient when the piece they bring in has been sat behind the greenhouse for two decades and has built up a significant, shall we say, patina.  Usually it’s springtime so the moss and soil on the glass will be damp and we have to clean it off before we can use our glass cutters on the glass itself – if not we’d end up with clogged cutters and soggy cutting table.

Personally I couldn’t do that, even if I take items to a charity shop I clean them whether it is a t-shirt or a photo frame, I tidy the car before taking it for an MOT.  As for my bin, well maybe even the cat that likes to sit on it in the sunshine might appreciate it being cleaner too.

The World Wrapped in Cotton Wool

Warning Signs

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

In recent years, it seems to me, our urban architecture has turned into a sea of yellow and red warning signs and yellow and black striped tape.

Today there seems to be a constant corporate fear of being sued that has caused so much of this kind of protectiveness. For example the Royal Mail depot near me has big warning signs at the site entrance warning of a “Trip Hazard” which may be the ends of the lowered pavement where public pedestrians are corralled between railings towards where they collect parcels. Where this public path intrudes onto the roadway a big yellow line and accompanying signage tells the humans to not stray outside the lines lest they be flattened by Postman Pat’s little red van. There are further trip hazard signs and yellow and black tape at the actual entrance to the collection office as despite there being a ramp to one side the straight ahead approach involves negotiating, unbelievably, a normal height step. OMG, get me some climbing gear. Despite all this there are still the big signs saying “Beware of Vehicles”.  When I was young we were taught the Green Cross Code to follow when near roads.

Another example of the idea of “you didn’t do enough to stop me injuring myself” are scaffolding poles – “now padded for your safety and comfort” and also wrapped in yellow and black tape. I wonder whether it was a ploy to support the manufacturers of tubular yellow foam products, maybe they weren’t selling enough as pipe lagging but at some point in the last fifteen years it was decided that every bit of publicly accessible scaffolding needed legwarmers. On pavements the world over there are lampposts, street signs, litter bins, bollards, walls and even doorsteps or whole sections of buildings jutting out into the path of pedestrians yet none of those things are padded for your protection, or edged with wasp-coloured tape. You can’t say that it’s because as a temporary structure people might not be aware that they’re there as even a lamppost is an unknown obstruction to anyone who doesn’t know the area well – and even to someone who is local but not paying attention. I’m amazed that the lampposts and railings aren’t similarly adorned. Yet.

I can see the point of helpful signage, warning of a hidden step, or low beam, or something round a corner that’s not obvious, just as I can see the point of the interlock on my washing machine that stops you opening the door until the water’s gone – it saves you having to mop up the floor, and aircraft doors can’t be opened in flight for obvious reasons – but some things can only exist because companies think they need to protect people from themselves because they can’t be trusted to negotiate the world without explicit instructions. Trains for example used to have windows that could be opened while moving, as could the doors but not any more because someone might try to depart the vehicle at speed, or perhaps just part of them.

So we end up with shops selling luke-warm coffee or cups plastered with warning that the contents may be hot. Microwave meals similarly warning that on removing the item from the microwave the contents “may be hot” – well I would hope so otherwise it’s time to buy a new microwave.

Perhaps the companies have a point, that more people today don’t have or just don’t use common sense, or maybe that people are more willing to sue if they’ve not been explicitly told not to do something.  Either way at this rate there is a risk of missing the hazards because you’re too busy looking at the signs.

All Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

I’ve noticed recently that the noisiest motorbikes and cars sound, as their riders or drivers accelerate them, like a baby crying for attention – -wahhhh, wahhhhh, wahhhhh, with each noise increasing as they go along, not a coincidence I think…

As I write this it’s a sunny weekend in May so inevitably all day while trying to enjoy the sunshine we’ve heard pratts revving their cars or bikes outside their houses, tuning them – so they seem to think – and idiots tearing out of town into the countryside at well over the speed limit and excessively noisily. At this time it’s all the more annoying as they’re supposed to be staying at home and pushing your right foot onto a pedal doesn’t count as daily exercise.

I don’t hate all motorbikes or sports cars, or all of those who ride and drive them, there is someone on this street who has a modern bike and you barely hear his arriving or leaving on it, he occasionally rides either a true classic bike or a modern replica and it’s the same with them, his friends are the same, the engines emit a not-unpleasant burble and they don’t set off at full revs. Yet the two younger riders round here have Japanese “sports bikes” with all the plastic cowlings and deliberately loud exhausts and they have to sit there making a racket before even going anywhere and arrive similarly loudly so everyone notices them and so everyone thinks they’re the next Valentino Rossi.

They would no doubt say that rather than sounding like they’ve got a dodgy exhaust their car sounds “mint”, “like a Frarri”, “badass” or “sick” – which it does, as in “broken”.  They think everyone will be impressed by the driver’s “mad skillz”, but most people who have to listen to it won’t be impressed, they’ll describe the driver with a word that beings with ass…

One reason they all rev their engines at home is so everyone can see that they have a powerful car or bike and how amazing they are that they can handle it. Whereas some of them even just seem to have the loud cars and bikes for the soul purpose of annoying people, wearing the fact that they’re so bad that they’re despised as a badge of honour, because the bad are glorified, for example the “bad lads” are supposedly the real men in society, so say Hollywood and the much of the media. One car near where I live had a decal glued to the tailgate that said “Hated Locally” on it. Whether the driver implied that he was hated because he’s so much faster and better than other drivers or because he was loud and annoying is irrelevant as the latter will have been true anyway.