Weather Woes: lessons learned

Look to the top of the page and you will see an image of the beautiful Lune Valley, the M6 motorway peeling away from the side of Grayrigg Hause, and on the left side of the picture, some of the Howgills, fells that Albert Wainwright called the Elephant Hills  (they look like elephants lying down).

You can see snow on the rear fells, but the farmland in the foreground is quite green, so I suspect that I took the image in springtime last year. Might have been the year before. Maybe as late as May. High up in the hills we had snow until June both last year and the one before. You can also make out the railway, the main line from London to Scotland, wending its way alongside the road. The railway was there first.

It’s a sunny day, quite bright … the afternoon, not the morning. (I drive into the picture almost every morning, along the motorway on the lefthand carriageway, and I assure you, on bright mornings the sun shines dangerously into my eyes). You can see the shadow of Grayrigg Hause falling over the motor and rail ways, which means we are looking vaguely East (probably more sou’easterly).

Now imagine it under cloud. Or rain lashing the ground, the motorway filling up with patchy but expanisve puddles and a relentless, gusty wind. (Still sky-to-ground cloud). Yesterday it was the latter. The motorway in the picture is the windiest stretch so instead of risking being blown into the path of a wagon, I climbed the road up Grayrigg Hause, high above the motorway (actually the picture is taken from the layby on the side of that road) and took another route that goes underneath it and eventually alongside the railway.

Unfortunately the hazard was water, instead of wind. You can imagine what happened.

So here are the things I have learned from bypassing the main route to work yesterday morning:

  • Angry brings on IBS and it doesn’t make the car work.
  • Water that is deeper than the radius of the wheels is bad.
  • Squeaky car has had a part replaced; it doesn’t make her invincible.
  • White knights might come wearing waterproof chaps, wellies and a dripping wet trilby, but they’re no less white knights.

White Noise

I’m aware I haven’t written for a few days. But I have been writing … and now I know that these three little dots (…) are supposed to have a space before and after them. I received my edited manuscript a week ago and I’ve so far gone through 120 pages of the 187 page novel.

It’s okay, so far. I haven’t let myself look at the pages before I’m working on them, so each comment is a feeling of surprise and relief. (Except when I was still tantalising myself with it, a present unopened, stroking it by scrolling down and then switching it off without downloading it).

For good or for bad, I compartmentalise everything. Maybe it’s because I need structure or p’raps I’m a control freak (I know which one most people would say).

I’m happy doing it, there’s nothing wrong with it. Trouble is, there are times when the boxes into which go “Work”, “Friends”, “Boyfriend”, “Family”, and “Book” start leaking and a few overflows occur. The day job is pressured (more accurately: … is a pressurised bomb with the constant threat of explosion …), and while I’ve got other foci for my mind when I’m not at work, it’s beginning to spill into conversation at home.

In the meantime, I want to spend every minute of the day and night on my book, while Himself wants to spend every minute with me. I haven’t seen my mum in two weeks, thanks in part to the ice storm last Thursday and I’d like to repaper my bathroom with my dad.

So if you were wondering why the blogs had stopped, see above for the standard white noise that has been taking place in my blogging absence. Consider it at best to be that famous BBC TV test card image of the little girl with the blackboard, noughts & crosses (and a doll?).

Soul Salmon

Why is it, whenever I eat smoked or marinated salmon with smooth, cream cheese on a suitable vehicle of hedonism (Rivita, german rye bread, crust of fresh, steaming bread), by the time I remember to brag about it and show it off, there is nothing to show. Well, nothing but a few crumbs and a couple of sesame seeds (Rivita) tonight.

Totally recommended: Aldi’s Almare Pesto Marinated Salmon, a great product (well yeah, if it wasn’t farmed and foreign). Tastes great. A little bit of luxury for lunch, stopping me from stuffing on carb-based salad, last night’s leftovers or slices of cheese.

Hell Doth Freeze

Hell froze over today. That was the impression the weather gave. When I entered the world this morning, I’d already received 4 phonecalls from worried people telling me how bad the roads were.

The closest anyone got to describing it was Janey, who said she couldn’t describe it.

A thin layer of ice covered the ground outside; the car had drowned under it, locked in a transparent, solid film. Even the leaves of the plants were iced over perfectly. You could break off the ice leaf and hold it in your hand. Cold rain hitting freezing ground. Ice sheet.

So today featured driving down the M6 at 5-20mph for 20 miles, marvelling at the marks on the road where other cars had already slithered, skating the car into a parking space in someone else’s car park, eating cake, and Fish Pie for dinner. Oh yeah, I did some work too.


Autotherapy Update

Well… I just heard from my publisher (“My Publisher” *SCREAM*) and he tells me my editor is almost ready to send me my manuscript. No doubt concealed under a thick layer of red ‘pen’.

With trepidation I await their suggestions and pray that they don’t ask me to kill off the dog. I couldn’t bring myself to do that, in case I jinxed the real dog who is aging but still clinging to life in a determined, if stiff, manner.

BRING IT ON! I’m ready for it!!!

Comfort Food #2

Let’s get a couple of things straight: it isn’t necessary to eat loads of meat. You really can get plenty of protein from beans and peas and and nuts and egg. Even cheese, though it’s high in fat (salted cashews and pistachios aside, I can usually eat more cheese than nuts). I’ve read that you get a special good-for-you protein when you eat rice and beans together.  Who knows? It’s a filling combination.

In my latest drive for food which is healthy and interesting to the brocolli-hating, inveterate meat eater (Himself), I’ve struck gold on beans. Tinned beans of any type (butterbeans, adzuki, kidney, cannellini, borlotti are the most obvious) thrown into a big pot with celery, peppers, onions, garlic, tomato puree and tomatoes and simmered till cooked. The addition of some kind of meat, nice but not necessary, is usually fresh or cured pork in one form or another.

Take the 3 bean (kidney, cannellini and sweetcorn) chorizo stew for example. Throw everything you want to eat in one pot and simmer until it’s cooked.

Better still… ‘Confit’ Roasted Pork Belly with Butterbean Stew.
Take a look at the ingredients that went into this; then look in the fridge. Nothing has to be the same, not even the butterbeans.

1 x tin butterbeans, large handful of spinach, .75 x tin of tomatoes and all the juice. 1-2 onions, loads of garlic, a couple of handfuls of small pasta, 3 tblsp worcestershire sauce, 2 tsps sugar and a stock cube with a slug of water.

Make of what you have. Probably not baked beans though.

The roast pork belly pieces were two pathetic strips bought from a certain British supermarket, and blatantly not suitable for confit. Slow cooking method, apparently, not suitable for my time span either. Figuring that the slim pieces could cook quicker anyway, I melted some spoonfuls of goose fat in a roasting dish and fry-sealed the belly strips on the hob. The belly went into the hot fat and stayed on 180-190 C for about 50mins. No flavourings, no salt, no garlic or herbs.

When the stew became thick and gloopy and the pasta pieces cooked through, it was time to dollop it onto the plate and top with the pork, the fat rendered perfectly into a tasty crust. No bread needed, no more meat than that.

Next time I will use pieces of pork belly hewn by the butcher in Kirkby and cook it on a low heat for a lot longer. Can’t wait.