Sunday 30 September 2018

Perfect Pizza = Franco Manca

If you can brave the BladeRunner*-esque chaos of Oxford Street and turn off down Berwick Street a little  way then Franco Manca is the place for picture-perfect pizza! An served with a flourish and a smile.


As their website says (also with a flourish) 
"Since 2008 we’ve championed slow-rising sourdough pizza and properly sourced, small supplier, seasonal ingredients. Eat at Franco Manca and you support people working close to the land. Our dough is made fresh every day, on site, and our pizzas start from just £5."

*original version 1982

Friday 28 September 2018

Scourie Friday: Don't close that toilet

Friday: Don’t close that toilet 

It was another sunny day and with a relatively calm sea we decided to have another go at the mischievous Mackerel.  

From the Shore House Restaurant   TARBET

Mackerel Fishing Kit 

After an hour or so readying the RIB and all rods set and secured in the boat, it would not start. No amount of surgical examination of the engine and electrics could persuade the thing to start and then take us fishing.

We consoled ourselves by driving the five or so miles up the road to Tarbet, a tiny village where one catches the ferry to Handa Island. Tarbet is also home to the most excellent Shore House Restaurant where there is an excellent menu of seafood: With views over the water to Handa they offered smoked salmon from the Salar Smokehouse or hot smoked mackerel from the Summer Isles smokehouse.

I enjoyed the Sweet Pickled Herring served with fresh salad, with yummy brown bread and butter. Salmon was on the menu, from Loch Duart (one of the Scourie Hotel’s beats) served with a fresh side salad and hot buttered new potatoes and a seafood Platter - fresh Handa Prawns and Crab, Smoked Salmon and Smoked Mackerel. It was a grand occasion for the Scourie team to actually be out to lunch themselves and a good way to round out a wonderful week.  

Tarbet’s public toilet is about to close! (and not just for the winter). Although the cash-strapped Highland Council has bowed to public pressure and delayed plans to axe 29 rural toilets – aimed to make annual savings £338,000 a year

Councillors Alister MacKinnon and Allan Henderson, on behalf of the Highland Council’s administration, said: “The review will be extended to October 31, to ensure we have a sustainable network of toilets across the Highlands. The Administration are also looking at ways of creating a council loan fund to help communities with conversion to community ownership.”

Thursday 27 September 2018

Scourie Thursday : Dapping

Thursday: Discovering Dapping.

Notes and jottings from a wonderful week in August at the Scourie Hotel

We went fishing Richard Fiona and I on Loch Duhaid Mor. A stretch of water that stretches both sides of the A894, the road that takes you as far northwest as you can go! We went dabbing
Dabbing is a form of fly-fishing where one is trying to imitate large flying insects carried on lake surfaces on windy days. 

On the way to the loch side

The rod and fly set up is designed to stimulate a kicking daddy long legs or other terrestrial insect. Use a busy fly or several of them, attach to twelve foot of silk line or polypropylene and suspend from a thirteen to fifteen foot rod. Hold the rod high so the breeze catches the line. Move the whole rod up and down a bit, the fly drops onto the water driving the trout below mad! The beauty of dapping is that the worse the wind is for classic fly-fishing the better it is for dapping.

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Scourie Tuesday: Ready, steady, cook

Tuesday: Time to cook.
Notes and jottings from a week (24 - 31 August 2018) at the Scourie Hotel

Delicious lobster

Marvellous Mackerel

So, yesterday’s lobsters and such had to be prepared for the menu. 

I learnt how to gut some of the Mackerel we caught yesterday and thus was ennobled with (by?) a new life skill. Once these fine were prepared they were placed reverentially in Fiona’s smoker and a few hours later were available to delight the taste buds.

Fresh sea food, langoustine, scallops, crab and lobster are available daily, dependant of course on what the local waters and Kevin the crab and his fine crew deign to delight us with. 

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Scourie Monday: Mackerel day.

Monday: Is Mackerel day

A small haul, later we caught a few more 

Waiting for Kevin the Crab's Catch
It was a day of brilliant sunshine and a fairly calm sea. Scourie Jetty sits just below the hotel. And moored out to sea sits Richard’s RIB*. So off we went to catch a fish. 

There was not that many mackerel about, I think they had still to journey further south from more northern waters. However we caught some and one Pollock, which will make fish cakes. In the evening we ventured out again with Anthony and Charlotte and caught more. 

And in between was a trip up to Kinlochbrevie to meet up with ‘Kevin the Crab’. He and his crew were out for lobster and crab that day and thus provided the hotel with a goodly catch for the menu this coming week.

Notes and jottings from a week (24  - 31 August) at the Scourie Hotel

*RIB a rigid-hulled inflatable boat or rigid-inflatable boat is a lightweight but high-performance and high-capacity boat constructed with a solid, shaped hull and flexible tubes at the gunwale. The design is stable and seaworthy. Wikipedia

The route for the RV with Kevin the Crab

Scourie Wednesday: Wandering and wild flowers.

Wednesday: Wandering and wild flowers.

This was another wonderful day of warm sun and scudding clouds, all racing one another across the big sky. 

I made a drawing of the small stretch that sits by the roadside on the way out of the village going northwest; Loch a’ Bhadiach Daraich

Then I wandered back into the village, and made some drawings of deserted buildings, sketches that one-day might make paintings.

Collected a lovely bunch of wild flowers for Klaudia to use in her table settings in the dining room. Each morning she sets the tables for the evening, ironing each table cloth, in-situ, and setting all polished tableware and gleaming glassware just perfectly. Each day the restaurant looks as if set for a wedding feast.  I was pleased to see my small blooms pressed into service that evening.

Notes and jottings from a wonderful week 26 - 31 August 2018  at the Scourie Hotel

Monday 24 September 2018

Scourie on Sunday: The wheels on the bus go round and round

Scourie Sunday: The wheels on the bus go round and round

The fine blue Number 11 bus

A welcome at the East Church

It was raining very heavily as I landed at Inverness and continued like that all the way to Scourie. 

Richard was to pick me up from the airport later. So to make good use of the time I caught the Number 11 bus into Inverness. What a friendly place. Everyone greets you and is courteous, for example letting you off the bus before themselves. I entered the East Church to get out of the rain. As I made a drawing, and the service having just finished, several of the congregation and the pastor said hello and pressed me to join them for coffee.

On the Number 11 bus back to return to the airport a bout of community singing broke out from the rear, young people having a jolly time and singing in Dutch.

Notes and jottings from a week, August 26 - 31  at the Scourie Hotel

Monday 17 September 2018

So much enjoyed and can recommend the exhibition  Magic Realism: Art in Weimar Germany 1919 - 33
My rendition of Scorners of Death Otto Dix:  1922

An exciting  show at Tate Modern on Weimar painters and print makers 
All pieces on display are beautifully drawn and painted   

A real treat and so dark as in ominous and foretelling the storm that would break in 1939. 

Interesting the works were as much a reaction to the Great War several of the artists partook of that conflict although now one see's these works  as portents.


Sunday 16 September 2018

99 Burkes Road

99 Burkes Road, now ringed with grasses and shrubs

Cheque Stub architecture in Burkes Road

Bash and build is the Beaconsfield way, especially so in Burkes Road where original homes are pulverised, minced and replaced with uncaring pseudo-classic boxes with all the ingenuity of a cheque stub.

However one house has survived the developers' purge - 99 Burkes Road. I pass it frequently and was compelled to make a drawing the other afternoon.
Number 99 Burkes Road is a lovely house. It is full of grace and quiet energy. 
99 Burkes Road - happier times
Now it is laced with high grasses, shrubs and trees.

Curiously it was sold in October of 2015 for £1.45m so perhaps someone has plans? Thoughtful plans?

Friday 14 September 2018

WHITTENHAM CLUMPS: Walking with Christopher and Anna

If you want to really understand something place yourself in the care of a passionate expert. 

Christopher Baines is just such a person. He unlocks the magic of Whittenham Clumps and artist Paul Nash’s constant fascination with this special landscape.

On September 1st cousin Wendy and I joined Christopher Baines on a special walk around the Whittenham Clumps, stopping to examine particular points of view where Nash took the landscape and made it his own.

Before we set of Christopher gave a illustrated talk, full of insight and anecdote; ideas that made the walk so very special. I was busily scribbling Christopher's words in my book as his talk continued. 

It was in September when the Nash family visited the Wittenham Clumps on holidays before the First World War. Two months from this September 2018, we will mark the 100thanniversary of the end of that conflict. A war that was, so tellingly, portrayed in painting, by Paul Nash.

BIG THANKS to Christopher Baines and his collaborator and co-guide artist Anna Dillon Nash-Clumps website https://www.nashclumps.orgis a constant visual delight 

Thursday 13 September 2018

Knowing Onions

The onion plant has been grown and selectively bred in cultivation for at least 7,000 years and is included in the cropping scheme on Siân’s allotment. 

She and also indeed, the Ancient Egyptians, revered the onion bulb. They saw its shape and concentric rings as symbols of eternal life and very useful culinary aid.

Pliny the Elder wrote about the use of onions Pompeii. He spoke of Roman beliefs about the onion's ability to improve ocular ailments, aid in sleep, and heal everything from oral sores and toothaches to dog bites, lumbago, and even dysentery.

Store your cooking onions and sweet onions at room temperature, optimally in a single layer, in mesh bags in a dry, cool, dark, well-ventilated location.

Knowing your onions.
The expression is American, first appearing in the magazine Harper’s Bazaarin March 1922. It was one of a series of such phrases, all with the sense of knowing one’s stuff, or being highly knowledgeable in a particular field, that circulated in the 1920s. Others were to know one’s oats, to know one’s oil, to know one’s apples, to know one’s eggs, and even to know one’s sweet potatoes (which appeared in a cartoon by T A Dorgan in 1928).

Tuesday 11 September 2018

#lovenhs 5 - changing rooms

During these wonderful eleven days I am seeing a lot of different wards. In Glangwili General Hospital, Carmarthen where the tour starts I am in the Coronary Care (CC) Ward (Mon – Wed)
Then by Ambulance to Morriston Hospital in Swansea, where for only hour I am in Ward ‘C’ close to Coronary Care and then moved into the CCU where I am from Wed – Fri). Then back to Ward ‘C’ (Sat – Tues) and then Ward ‘M’ until my discharge on Thursday.

As I move from one ward to another several of my fellow men are moved with me or slightly before my relocation. Thus a sort of Cardiac Quadrille takes place. 

‘P’ is one such partner in the dance who has a permanent expression of anger. The TV is one most of the time. Only he watches it, especially Police Camera ActionTraffic Copsand 24 Hours in Police Custody(Channel 4). I overhear P tell his next bed neighbour that he had to attend a psychiatric evaluation as he attacked a suspected paedophile living his neighbourhood. No harm was done as P sunk the axe (bought specially for the purpose) into his victim’s front door frame. And, Excalibur-like, the axe remained embedded, immovable.

Daffyd (my name for him) was another member of the cohort. Daffyd was very tall, very broad and amiable to a fault. He had a kind word for everyone and when in Ward M he would often steer one patient, Marion, to the toilet. Most days his family would turn up for visiting time often attended by his partner. He was a Zumba instructor; half his size and girth with tight white jeans and floral shirts.

So my days passed. Marvellous medical people determined what was amiss with me and thus began the medication program to set me to rights. When I awoke on my last morning I took off my portable heart monitor and had my first shower for a long time, dressed in clean clothes and waited for the paperwork and Sian.

#lovenhs #nhswales #medicine #lovenhsstaff #nhs70)

That was in August, 6 – 16 (Home now, after eight days in cardiac units in South Wales.... The chance to watch and listen to some of the most professional people on the planet: Nurses were #Angels and Doctors were #Jedi. All of this was a mind-expanding experience.

#lovenhs 4 - the sugar hut

I am sure everyone else on my ward voted ‘Leave’. 

Most days I am not very chatty yet perk up when the nurses are in attendance. Of course as I am winsomely obsequious when a flurry doctors alight around my bed.

I am mindful that to my fellow patients, with my head inside Vanity Fair, and making furtive drawings in my book and jottings like these I must come across a bit queer. Especially with my flamboyant use of Hjermaseeta’s

Everybody has a predilection for sugar. Most of the bedside tables are festooned with bottles of Coca-Cola, Fanta and Lucozade. When the tea trolley comes round, another high spot in these frantic days, everyone else takes hot chocolate with two sugars.

Men look older than their years. Perhaps this is because we are carrying too much weight and some of us still smoke, this is hard to believe. Such lady patients who are billeted along side us are most frail.  

#lovenhs #nhswales #medicine #lovenhsstaff #nhs70)

That was in August, 6 – 16 (Home now, several weeks after those eight days in cardiac units in South Wales.... The chance to watch and listen to some of the most professional people on the planet: Nurses were #Angelsand Doctors were #Jedi. All of this was a mind-expanding experience.

Monday 10 September 2018

#lovenhs 3 - Mattins

The lady opposite is having a telephone conversation with a relative. She appears to be doing this without the use of an actual telephone mobile or landline. 

David, two beds down, keeps asking where he is. This constant enquiry interrupted by his excessive clearing of his throat. He is always given the same answer with great civility. Every time anybody walks past his bed he says, “Hello, how are you?”

It has been an interesting night on the CCU ward; later in the morning I recalled in an email to Sian, it was about quiet as a barbecue in Basra. 

#lovenhs #nhswales #medicine #lovenhsstaff #nhs70)

That was in August, 6 – 16 (Home now, several weeks after those after eight days in cardiac units in South Wales.... The chance to watch and listen to some of the most professional people on the planet: Nurses were #Angels and Doctors were #Jedi. All of this was a mind-expanding experience.)

Sunday 9 September 2018

#lovenhs 2 - Evensong

Two late admissions, so consequently loud conversations continue until past 11:45

Admission 1: Lady with one leg immobile who get my vote for the Loudest-TalkerAward.

Admission 2: Smoking Man who is from Aberystwyth.
He claims d to be 64 years old but actually looked 84. I overheard the heroic Ambulance crew saying they completed the journey in one hour and eighteen minutes, remarkable: Google maps suggest that the 70-mile journey should take one hour and forty-five minutes

(Earlier at 10:30 this evening a registrar burst into my cubicle and did overly thorough echo sound of my heart.An echocardiogram, or "echo", is a scan used to look at the heart and nearby blood vessels.It's a type of ultrasound scan.  He has bedside manner of a terrorist but one clearly senses thorough professionalism and great ability. A Dr Jack often works along side him. Dr Jack’s boyish appearance he has just done his GCSEs. However in several enjoyable conversations across the coming days he presents all the youthful precision of a new scalpel blade and will without doubt travel far in the medical profession.)

All sorts of groans, exclamations and heavy breathing emanate from every corner the ward underscored the always-on cantata of beeping heart monitors.

Great information on a Cardiac Care Unit is here

#lovenhs #nhswales #medicine #lovenhsstaff #nhs70)

That was in August, 6 – 16 (Home now, some several weeks after eight days in cardiac units in South Wales.... The chance to watch and listen to some of the most professional people on the planet: Nurses were #Angelsand Doctors were #Jedi. All of this was a mind-expanding experience.)

Sunday 2 September 2018

#lovenhs 1 - the middle distance

Often I sit staring in the middle distance I recorded thoughts in my notebook.....

Big Chris serves the tea each day

|Everywhere is spotless, clean and lovely: Dear NHS

Visiting time and much noise and laughter

1 Clam phones appear very popular in this part of the world. Besides ring tones on most phones hark back to the days when Nokia 3310 (early 1980’s) was the number one selling phone.

2 Being overweight seems to be a problem for patients and visitors alike. Are many of us sleep walking into obesity? I telephone Siân to announce I am obese, according to one chart I discover on the Internet. I swear to make amends. One in every four adults in England is suffering from a mild or severe form of obesity, and a study shows the numbers are increasing. (World Health Organisation) 

3 At visiting times all conversations are conducted in a loud voice

4 Again amongst my fellow patients there is a remarkable incidence of tattoos on display, with no gender 
bias to this observation.

That was August 6 – 16 
#lovenhs #nhswales #medicine #lovenhsstaff #nhs70

(Home now, several weeks after after eight days in cardiac units in South Wales.... The chance to watch and listen to some of the most wonderful people on the planet: Nurses were #Angelsand Doctors were #Jedi. All of this was a mind-expanding experience.