Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Shame about the cherries

I went to a very small rural(ish) Easter fair and competition the other day and was taken aback by the rather sarky judge's comments for some of the exhibits. There was a competitive display of cherry cakes, cheese straws and flowers entered by locals of the church/community centre. One of the judges had stuck little yellow post-its with scribbled comments onto all the exhibits, both winners and losers.

Some seemed rather harsh to me, making very public the perceived failings of the entries. 'Looks ok but a pity about the cherries'; 'a bit dry and a shame about the cherries'; 'could have done with more cheese'; 'not enough cheese and not straight enough'. I suppose for a true connoisseur of home-made cheese straws, standards must be adhered to for the perfectly shaped and aligned straw, though I am still wondering what the problems were with so many people's cherries.... each cherry not equally spaced within each slice of cake? Not enough cherries? Too many? Cherry pieces chopped too small? Too large? Too near the bottom....?

If you'd spent the past year perfecting your cherry cake in anticipation of the annual competition, being written off by a judge's sniffy post-it note could be a public humilation too far. It could be the last straw for someone, as in so many Miss Marple and Midsomer Murders scenarios....  [dark warning about the strangeness of human behaviour]

Sunday, February 05, 2012


The discomfort of having toast crumbs stuck in your flesh seems disproportionate to their tiny size, for some reason. Maybe if I was morbidly obese then they would be enveloped in my blubber and I wouldn't feel them under the crushing weight of my body. Or not. I'm sure there is a medical or scientific explanation. For now, it's a minor hidden peril of marking in bed.

I didn't realise there was a scientific term for toasting - The Maillard Reaction. Sounds like an episode of The Big Bang Theory but 'proper science', named after a chemist who first described the process, rather than being funny. Apparently there was a novelty song called Toast, released by a band named Streetband, in which they attempted to use toast as an instrument, with the sound of toast being scraped incorporated into the track. Here's a useful pic from Wikipedia comparing toasted and untoasted bread to illustrate these interesting snippets.

Goodness, there's so much to say about toast when you start thinking about it.... I just eat it and sleep on its crumbs.

Saturday, January 28, 2012


I can't stay awake today.... I am so sleeeeeeeeeepy....... dissertations to mark (they're not boring, in case you're wondering if they have their own special soporific qualities). They seem to be stretching endlessly into the future at the moment. Until March??? O.M.G.

Ok, so not really endless as there is always an end, but it's still a wearisome thought today for a sleepy person.

I've had a nap, some coffee and some fresh air. They haven't worked. There is a strange smell of potatoes in my living room which is quite distracting. Where's it coming from?? It can't be the man in the flat below having a baked-potato barbeque in this weather, though he might be.... he is prone to solitary, badly executed barbeque experiences on his balcony, you know. Or maybe not, as there's no smoke billowing into the sky in stinky grey clouds.

I thought a student's brain had been replaced by Google last week, as he typed every question I asked him into it, instead of thinking about the questions and drawing on his own little grey cells* before answering, like people used to in the old days before laptops and WiFi and the internet. It wasn't a quiz with facts for answers, you know, I was just trying to find out what he was interested in. Maybe people can't be bothered to have thoughts anymore, but luckily the internet steps in to fill that intellectual gap. I was slightly disturbed by the incident, but he's been fine since. Phew. Maybe he was having an off day.

Well, writing this drivel has woken me up a bit. I think I'll have my tea now and get on with the dissertations later. Sounds like a good plan to me, if I say so myself.

* Yes, it's a Poirot reference.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Free-range office worker

We've moved offices again. I feel like I've gone from being a battery-farmed office worker to more of a free-range creature, happily frolicking in the extra space and breathing in the presumably normal, non-fuggy air that other people are used to. Sounds ok for a New Year start to me. Hopefully increased job satisfaction and then utter contentment will follow in due course. And I'm not being sarky either... the contrast between how I feel now and back then is surprising, so the environment must have affected me more than I realised. I felt like I was on a train to deadsville for a while last year, but now I've hopped off.

Next we've got a video by The Monkees, an extremely tenuous connection with my post I know, but hey ho, it's a pleasant song anyway. Not terribly good quality, but the less blurry ones available were either subtitled in Spanish or showed bizarre, unfunny 'romps' from their TV series, both of which detracted from the music in my opinion.

Friday, January 06, 2012

New Year post

It seems a bit weird to to think back to Christmas rather than ahead to the New Year, but it's a shame to waste the only photo I took at the Duckie 'Copyright Christmas' extravaganza. It's Dickie Beau in a sinister looking Santa's knee scenario at the Barbican, December 2011.

Lots of very good mini-performances about consumerism in a promenade around the Temple of Shopping that Robin Whitmore designed, though it was days ago now so I can't remember very much. The finale was brilliant and full of technical wizardry, with Scottee as Carole the Helpful Store Manager rising up from a tower of crap and the audience being bombarded with screwed up rubbish paper by assorted elves and other employees. Kath Bird's job hunting performance was very good and I'd like to see it again, as a few minutes wasn't enough. I think it would go down well alongside other political satirical performances as it was very well observed and executed. So was the VSS shopping channel - what tempting products they sell so convincingly. Their Snack Saver (below) is a great idea and so very timely in this age of enforced austerity. The Frugal Fruit and the Brush! are very good too - have a look at the videos if you're after some more money saving products.

The recycling and corporate responsibility idea struck a chord with me - it is indeed so worthy (and necessary), but can be so very dull. I'd better put that notion speedily behind me and try to get interested in it, as I've got to do an assignment this term on sustainability for that PG Cert. Must find an interesting angle on it but not today, as I'm not quite back at work properly yet.

And a belated Happy New Year to us all - let's hope so, eh.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Another new academic year beckons and a lot of things are changing. Teaching hasn't begun yet, but I've just started doing a PG Cert in academic practice at one of the places I teach at. So far it has been great, although I fear it may take up more time than I originally envisaged. Still, I'm not paying the fees (employer funded), plus it will be interesting and also necessary for the future under the current policy requirements, so I'm definitely not complaining.

It's been really interesting meeting people from various colleges and courses. Everyone seems really enthusiastic about what they do, which is extremely refreshing compared to other scenarios I've found myself in over the past year. We had the first set of workshops this month and I met a lot of very nice people, although there did seem to be a lot of slightly frantic (desperate?) networking going on too. I think a lot were sessional staff which is fairly standard in this sector, but the current changes in higher education are creating a more unsettling environment with a gradually decreasing number of permanent jobs, so it's an unknown future ahead for most of us. I suppose a number of people on the course are competing with each other for a shrinking number of teaching hours within their subject areas - positively shrivelling actually, shrinking sounds far too sedate. Despite this, I've become quite excited about what I do and I'm looking forward to getting on with it all to see where it takes me.

I've become interested in gardening again too. I neglected my plants horribly during my PhD and most of them died. How much effort does it take to water a plant, eh? Obviously far too much effort for me back then. That's what the doctoral process does to you - shocking. Still, I've resurrected the plucky survivors and got some new ones and I'm very fond of all of them now. Crocus is a great online plant site I was recommended, very well packed orders, efficiently delivered and a really interesting range of plants to choose from. A lovely and uplifting sight after a hard day's work in a noisy, airless office.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Chelsea Ducks

The other day I helped out with an event we were organising at work, a fairly formal lecture by a Professor from one of our colleges. Unfortunately I missed most of the lecture as I was doing other stuff and ended up standing by the door on the embankment for most of the evening. Events management is so glamorous.

Not all bad though. A twilight river view is always lovely and it was interesting listening to a slightly disgruntled guest who I didn't know airing his views on the event. I had to proof read the booklet published to accompany the lecture which was full of ideas and quite thought provoking, so the point of the event didn't completely pass me by.

On my way out, I was greeted by the sight of three mallard ducks nestling on a small patch of grass in the middle of the paved quadrangle of the college. I wondered whether they were part of an art installation at first, you never know as it's an art college, but I decided they must have wandered away from home, wherever duck-home is - I don't know where they might live normally, the banks of the Thames? It was very nice see their interested little feathery faces and to stop and feed them on my way home, which is quite a boring walk actually. They seemed to like the squashed banana and almond butter sandwich I offered them. I shouldn't really attribute human characteristics to them, but I do like ducks with a sense of adventure.