Monday, 29 August 2011

Odds and Old(ish) Sods.

Final day of spending a couple of days on my own. Sorta.

Bear and 14 year old daughter (Don't call me Tots) have spent a couple of days with oldest son camping at, er... Ingomells? Where, of course, it being bank August holiday, it chucked it down at least one day.

I was pleased because it was beginning to feel like I was living with Les Dawson. I needed a bit of me time. And ye small gods knows she's earned it.

So I was left under the infrequent care of Eldest Daughter. Who is unfortunately a pretty good mix of her mother and I. Looks like Bear, but... er.... Lets just say there's a little too much of my bluntness in there. She even made ME blush, and that's hard to do :)

Otherwise, it's me, two cats. One elderly female who just wants to sleep and eat, and Smudge the young male wipper-snapper, who is a mad midget who's out all night, and wants to be let in at 04:30.


And Sigma the Dog. Oh, Dear. Dogs are not supposed to talk. Are they?

This bugger does. Let him into back garden. He's got an escape route. I'm hearing, and I mean this so sincerely folks, "I WANT MY MUM!". Daughter phones up "Um, dad, Sarah just phoned up, and she says she just walked past your place and all she could hear was "I WANT MY MUM!". He's sat outside the front gate.

So I fetch him in. Put Stuart Little on. He likes Stuart Little. Ten Minutes later, Guess what?

I WANT MY... Y'know the rest. I think he wants his mum. And Stewart Little is ok. For the first couple of times. I'm too old to be a Granddad to Grand children AND a dog.... Whatever Rod Stewart might think

Friday, 26 August 2011

Grey Hedgehog.

I've just had a pleasant shock.

I've posted a couple of times about a restoration I did on a well loved King James Bible from the 1600's?

It was a pleasure and a real labour of love. Had to be. I didn't charge, on principle. There are some things that you have to do, just because you have to.

Of course, I did my research, and took the date on the intro with a pinch of salt. These things were copied, often from necessity because of the social/political and most of all religious climate of the time.

Then there are good old-fashioned forgeries over 400 years that are actually quite valuable in their own right. But I concentrated on the handwritten annotations and and births, deaths and other bits of family history jotted, in often beautiful handwriting, to authenticate it.

Having decided it was probably an early edition, and decided it was ok to do some preservative work - one mustn't get restore (a preservative process) mixed up with renovate (attempt to bring back to standard, which can be destructive) I did what I felt I must. It is archaeology after all.

There was only one condition. No fibs. Well, that's the polite version. I presented it back to the owners with a bit bit of legalise that must be presented if it was to be authenticated by those wiser than I, or sold.

The shock? In May this year it was the 400th anniversary of The King James Bible.

I'd decided it was from mid-to-late 1600's. Turns out there were about 200 known surviving versions of the original 1611 version. You can add one to that I hope. I'm told my work has been described as "thoughtful and loving, that took nothing away"

It'll remain with the family, the ancestors of the original owners, along with a modern family bible that will continue containing the tradition of notes, annotations, births and other family history, continuing 400 years of history. How cool is that? :)

The hairs stood up on the back of my neck, and I broke out in a cold sweat. I mean, wow....

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Oh, Tom...

Don't give me any more Damsons :)

Tom has lived around here for over 20 years. When he first moved in, he planted a little Damson tree. Over the years, he and his family just got fed up of eating them, let them drop, and guess who's garden is full of Damson trees?

Then he discovered I made jams, pickles and chutneys. Hurrr... by eck.

He'll do well out of it, tho' the sugar will cost me a fortune. Being constrained by barter principle, I can't charge him for jams. Having said that, I can ask a bit nearer Christmas for chutneys and Damsons in Brandy or Vodka....

Chutneys mature and are much, much, better with age. Between now and the 'C' word I have to work out how much to charge him without making a profit. Heck.


The barter system is good tho'. Another neighbour has lots of blackberrys, yet another is having early windfalls of apples they don't know what to do with. Some are picking their 'cookers' - Granny Pippins - too early.

Stuck in the supermarket generation, they don't know what to do about them. Tired now. Perhaps expand later.

Grumbles aside, what a wonderful problem.

Monday, 22 August 2011


This'll tickle you :)

From, ahem, "The Queen-like Closet or Rich Cabinet / Stored with all manner of rare receipts for preserving, candying and cookery. Very pleasant and beneficial to all ingenious persons of the female sex"

Author Hannah Wolly, Around 1650.

What a wonderful book title!

I'm a big fan of very early recipes. I'm getting a bit overrun with Damsons, so I was digging around my collection for ideas, and came across this :-

127. Marmalade of Damsons.

Take two Pounds of Damsons, and one Pound of Pippins pared and cut in pieces, bake them in an Oven with a little sliced Ginger, when they are tender, poure them into a Cullender, and let the Syrup drop from them, then strain them, and take as much sugar as the Pulp doth weigh, boil it to a Candy height with a little water, then put in your Pulp, and boil it till it will come from the bottom of the Skillet, and so put it up.

With recipes like this, you have to get into the head of the writer and the period they live in.

Pounds are no problem. I refuse to use anything else :) But that 'Oven' could be a problem. What temperature? Without launching in to history lesson, it's pretty straight forward. A 'Goode Oven' is very hot. An 'Oven' is any oven that has been been on for a little while. But cooler than 'Goode'.

In this recipe, the clue is "when they are tender" to get that, slowly, and for how long? "let the Syrup drop from them" so they don't dry and crisp.

'Candy hight' got me for awhile, until I found in 'Book of Simples' by Edited Henry Lewer in 1910.

"Boyle your fugar till it will draw like a thread between your finger and thumbe"

The setting point of jam is around 134 degrees C. Those cooks must have had asbestos fingers.

A modern way, though there's nothing wrong with using a cooking thermometer, is to put a saucer in the fridge. When your jam froths up, and then the froth sinks again, give it a couple of minutes. It should settle to a slow, heavy boil with a slick surface - almost oil like.

Take the saucer from the fridge, and put a spoonful of jam on the saucer, and wait a few seconds. Pull the spoon gently across the puddle of jam. If it wrinkles and springs back, it's a perfectly good, but thin jam. If it wrinkles and stays, it's a thicker jam, but the difference between the two can be seconds of heating.

Oh, and it says Marmalade doesn't it. Marmalade means oranges? Guess not :)


For those who have a bit of experience in modern jam making, you may have noticed I haven't mentioned pectin. Pectin is essential in jam making to enable it to set, and nowadays you can add it separately. But they didn't know that hundreds of years ago. But they did know that some stuff did, others didn't, and if they added a bit of stuff that did, it set stuff that didn't.

But everything made good wine....

edit 25/08/2011

As a basic rule, rather than buy commercial pectin, which just adds to the cost, either add sour apples or lemon, or put lemon peel, apple cores and skin in a muslin bag, tie it up and hang it in the pan. The disadvantage is that they may add flavours you don't want, while commercial pectin won't.

Muslin can be hard to get hold of nowadays, since the dearth of local butchers. I bought a pair of tights - hand washed them in diluted lemon juice and salt solution, (a posh Elizabethan method) gave them a good rinse.

Another tip. Add a good pinch of black pepper to a fruit jam, and a tiny pinch of Chilli powder is surprisingly nice. :)

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Blimey. I didn't know they could do that.

BT I mean. My internet connection had been playing up. In the end, after checking everything my end and finding everything was hunky-dory, we bit the bullet and phoned Bt's support line.

That's something we avoid like the plague, because you'd normally get a run-around by someone at a foreign call centre following a script on their screen who one can barely understand because they've had their call centre training from watching episodes of Coronation Street and East Enders. And my Punjabi is rubbish.

Instead, we spoke to a terribly nice chap in Glasgow (Ok, so that's foreign) who dispensed with the script once The Bear explained I was "an ancient propeller head (?!) " who knew his stuff. Fair-ish comment.

I should explain my routers code is heavily modified by your truly so it does what I want it to do - and it's not BT. Hence my confidence. So while he was flattering my missus in the name of customer relations, I ran a serial console - non of your SSH nonsense - sat back, and waited.

And was totally gobstruck when my router said to me "Hello sir. If you'll excuse me..." It's never done that before.

What followed was a very thorough and rapid check of the basics of it's functions. Ploughed through my security as tho' it was never there. Even the bit where it plays a bleepy Captain Pugwash to anyone trying to hack it.

Our new Glaswegian friend announced to the Bear that everything was absolutely fine at our end, that it was a line fault, and he'd fixed it. I bet he did :) Guess who's going to be burning the midnight oil finding out how BT did that?


Bloody well went hypo last night. All I know is I woke up at silly o'clock under a blanket, with Lucazade stains all over my shirt. Much drama, apparently. I don't remember. Neighbours, Bear, oldest daughter and a card I keep in my top pocket saying "Call an ambulance and I'll chuffing haunt you" getting me a real ear-bending this morning.

I'm a skinny (and getting skinnier) type 2 on tabs, not insulin. Don't ask me. I dunno. Out for the count apparently. That's the second time this year. Tch. Perhaps I should up my carbs?

Friday, 19 August 2011

Tips for preserving a new book.

Tips for preserving a new book. Home Edition.

Tho' I have to say I'm not into that.

A book should be used, abused, read and passed on to be read again. That's what books are for. And yeh, I know that's not much of an up front pay the bills profit for an author? But look at it as an early internet. Reputation, background publicity, spreading the word. It worked for the bible :)

But if you insist, Pear-wood box. Big 'un. Walnut, an oil based wood. If you can afford it, Sandalwood. As a rule, if the wood smells nice, go for it.

Avoid plastic bags like the plague. They maintain moisture. Moisture is bad.

Make sure it has a tight fitting lid, and it's kept in a cool, dark place, like a fine wine. The important thing is to keep temperatures constant/don't open it to check more than once a year. Open/Shut/Ok. Lift them (and if you have more than one) from the bottom of the chest using Balsa wood.You don't want the oily wood in direct contact with the books.

If you have any of those little silica gel bags that come with electrical equipment? Chuck them in.

If it's a leather bound book, ask me. Separate rules for those.

Catchya :)

Preserving the future

Now there's an interesting challenge.

I've been asked to restore some early edition paperback Enid Blyton books to "their original condition".

Restoration is a fraught, time consuming and a not at all profitable business. The oldest book I've worked on was a King James Bible family from the early 1600's, complete with handwritten family history until 1950's, and notes in the margins from 40 users.

That one left me well out of pocket, but the pleasure of the work was immense. And the smell, oh, that smell - I can't look at bible nowadays without it evoking that deep, rich, musty scent unbidden. Books, y'just can't beat em.

These Enid Blytons deserve no less care. Like the bible's I've done, their likely to be be well loved Famous Fives and Secret Sevens.

Dog-eared, and I suspect, 30-40 year old reprints that'll have the ink, crayon, and later felt-tip scribblings of ages, dates, and "with love from Aunty....." on the leader pages of a few generations of little girls, (and boys fascinated by 'George') read under countless blankets by torchlight.

The description 'early edition' is a bit of a worry. Early Editions in good condition, like matchbox toys, sell for very high prices. Mess with those at your peril. And there's the rub. Better the condition (for that read 'unloved') the higher the resell price.

I have strict rules as to how anything I've worked on is presented. The description has to include the fact I've worked on it - which invariably reduces the return.

I interview the person who wants a renovation. I won't for instance, replace missing pages. I can, but the pages in an aged, but yellowing book would be a stark white contrast. Quite deliberately. Then there's the research time needed to duplicate those pages if it's an obscure book.

It wouldn't be the first time I've been accused of using my work as self promotion. But no. I simply need to know that a restored or preserved work isn't passed off as an untouched original.

Golly gosh, it's it's a hard decision. The pitfalls versus the pleasure. But if another generation can enjoy a Blyton, and be loved, complete with crayon - hey, I'm all for it :)

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Slave to love

You'd think, as a Goggle Slave, who puts up with the foibles of it's search engine (but blocks it's adverts), unsuccessfully uses Cloud Print, But has Latitude, Google Docs and Calendars and has a Google+ account, uses one of it's better inventions, blogspot, AND has a top-notch Android phone (Android is Google) a HTC Desire-S, that I wouldn't have to keep signing in all the time? But I have to, I do, I do. Sigh.


I've actually discovered a use for the GPS (Global Positioning System) on my phone. As I'm not allowed out alone, for some inexplicable reason. Sorta. Apparently, part of the reason is that I have a tendency to wander off. I'm happy with that. No bugger else is :( Can you imagine not being able to trundle down to the paper shop alone? Have the woofler take you for a drag? Pah, I tell you. Not done that for years, and it fair brasses me off.

But I think (background music: The Great Escape) I may have found a solution. First, smart phone. Google Latitude. You can share your location with others. It doesn't have to be automatic, you can choose when to share, with whom, and the recipient can pick 'real time tracking' for about an hour.

On any computer.

The other is another Google dubrie called 'My Tracks'. It's really meant for cyclists or hikers, but, if you set it going before you go out, and let it run - it doesn't get in the way of anything else if you switch to something else - and cancel it when you get back, you can save it with a lot of options you can share with anyone you choose, and they can see where you've been.

Oh, Slave to Love. One of my favourite Brian Ferry Tunes. I'm off to have some Toast... :)

Monday, 15 August 2011

Loan Shark.

Bit worried about my Bear. She's sleeping up more than 12 hours at a pop, getting really scatterbrained - forgetting appointments, offering to lend people to lend money we haven't budgeted, making arrangements to meet people when she's supposed to meet someone else, offering to give people money for stuff without asking to them to pay back. I've fought off hoards.

I understand to some extent. I've also discovered that a lot of the people we know are in the grip of either a local loan shark, and a illegal cigarette seller or a combo.

Talk about interesting times. I hate Loan Sharks with a passion. I am sick to death of locals, including my eldest daughter, saying "Ooh, I've paid off a couple of loans, now I can get another one" or the most incredible one another neighbour said "I'm p**sed off I had to borrow £700 on clothes for a fortnight in Skeggy"

Wish me luck. I intend 'shopping' the bugger, when I can find out exactly who *she* is. Hope I have some windows left.

Wish me luck.....

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Meanwhile, back of the ranch :)

I gave in and went to the docs.

Last time I went, they found evidence of macrocytosis. Otherwise known as larger than usual large blood cells. The main causes of these are alcoholism , liver dysfunction, and bone marrow disorders.

But the bottom line is vitamin B12, otherwise known as Thiamine deficiency. Our doctors - most doctors - see that mostly in alcoholism. Booze depletes B12.

The problem with oversized red blood cells is that their immature. They don't work properly, so they don't hold oxygen very long, leaving someone tired all the time, they decay very quickly, and being large, they block tiny blood vessels (capillaries) and can block blood supply and cause stuff like strokes and temporary strokes.

Which, I've had.

This caused a bit of a furore on my doctors internal network. More, you should be aware, it involved the local chemists (pharmacists) too. Their all network connected.

General opinion I was a BIG drinker. No I'm not. So I've had a series of blood tests. Liver function, kidney, cholesterol, blood sugars, urrhhg. All sorts. One result being no large blood cells. Impossible for an alcoholic.

Weight, blood pressure, no
. All absolutely fine. So much so, they've offered their apologies, and their doing an in investigation into those macrocytosis results, and whether they have me mixed up someone else.....

Weight? I'm down from 85.5K to 80K. Lost 5.5k (12 lb 20z). Wooo, hooo :)


Well, my dear sweet 14 year old butter-wouldn't-melt daughter used Her Blackberry to send a BBM (blackberry message) to all her mates - and she has a heck of a lot - saying "All rioters are w**kers!" and they all agreed.

The first raised an eyebrow. The latter enabled me to wiggle both. In their opinion, they aren't what the BBC politely referred to as 'protesters' and 'disenfranchised youth'. They're "thugs, thieves and nutters".

Couldn't agree more.

So while we head into the political quagmire that will inevitably follow these events, it probably worth remembering that most huddy-wearing, number-one haircut 'yoofs' who talk a language all of their own, are very community minded, even protective of their communities, and a good hearted lot who don't wanted to painted with the same rep.

With that in mind, I've got a get together with some of them, some 'community leaders' and a community liaison officer lined up. The idea is to discuss how to turn the bad use of the technology on it's head and use it to to BBM and Txt a positive message to their personal networks to stop this spreading and quell it. Soz if that sounds like jargon. But it seems a good idea. I know. I suggested it :)

If your interested in my political opinion, such as it is, it's simple. I'm with the local kids. Not on our patch, not on our watch. It's not spreading to here. End of.

Meanwhile, if you're London based, I've had a request from a friend in London that you take a look at this site, 'Catch a Looter' noting the disclaimer :) Cheers....

Oh, I've just had a quick look at my Twitter feed. Quote @BendyGirl Pls remember to check disabled ppl, elderly ppl & those with young children are safe & supported #disabledriothelp #riotwombles.


Saturday, 6 August 2011

I'm deeply distressed tonight. 31 American special servicemen have died in Afghanistan in a helicopter crash.

31 fathers, mothers sons, brothers, children. Oh, heck. For those who understand, Way the lads eh? Way the lads :(

Dray xx

Sugar, honey, honey...

Inspired by Rare Lesser Spotted's post. He mentioned berry picking :)

Berries? Fruit? Aaargh! We live on a nondescript council estate, where they actually found a bit of hill they found they couldn't build on, known locally for some reason lost in time as 'Maggies Field'.

After a bit of a battle, we (I) were able to get it managed by the seemingly unlikely combo of the WildLife Trust and the Freegans movement. Why the freegans? Foraging. Using what you have around you to keep costs down. They're intertwined.

Besides. They look alike :) Combat trousers with LOTS of pockets, Camouflage maybe? Anyways, they've between them planted hundreds of windflowers on something the local council tried - and failed to turn into a skate-park. More, we encouraged people to grow fruit trees.

However, the local teens (10-15) year olds have found an ancient Rowan Berry tree, in a secret place that they use as a 'den'. (Do you remember doing that?)

Word has got around I do jam. As RLS has said, berries are out early, and I have 3 Kg of Rowan berries, 5Kg of blackberries, and 10kg of plums to turn into jam and wine. Darn, that's a heck of a lot of sugar......

Monday, 1 August 2011

I read a few news sites.

Tell you what tho'. Reading readers comments? I'd rather poke my eyes out with a pointy stick.

Why is it that people, even commenting on fairly sensible newspapers such as The Times or umm, I dunno, Telegraph, find the reporting is fine, but get into stupid anal discussions about about the presence, or lack of an apostrophe? Why do people feel the urge to be bitchy, catty, and just plain nasty?

Truth is, it's a downside of freedom. Freedom allows you to say what you want. Do what you want. But hidden behind the apparent anonymity of a screen, keyboard and router, some will say stuff that would get their nose punched, or socially excluded if they said it to your face.

That's not an exercise of freedom. It's an abuse of privilege, a provocation to abuse, and I wish more moderators got their heads together and realised that.

To me, it's simple. Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself. And give the 'trolls' their own separate internet, and find a field where they can meet together on a regular basis with pointy objects.