1 March 2015

SnowdropsGood morning and I hope that Spring is just around the corner wherever you are but especially to those of you in the great frozen northeast. We’ve had some tantalisingly splendid glimpses this week with an especially bright and sunny day on Friday but it’s still decidedly “fresh”. Still, the sunshine has got Molly all excited to judge by her frequent demands to be let out in the garden so that she could recline in a blanket of sunshine on the back lawn. I guess it’s warming to those old bones.

Ms Playchute and I enjoyed a very pleasant day out on Thursday; we visited the Birmingham Back to Back houses museum. We caught the train from Leamington into Birmingham (with our “old people” discount, of course) and strolled down the road to the museum, the last surviving court of back-to-back houses in Birmingham which is now in the care of the National Trust. Built to house the influx of workers in the developing industries in the 19th century, there are three surviving houses, as well as a tailor’s shop and a sweet shop. The houses are three stories high with a single room on each floor with a precipitously steep spiral staircase in the corner to go from floor to floor.

Back to Back Houses PlanThe houses were built “back to back” so the ones at front, if you like, opened on to the street while the ones at back opened on to a courtyard which was accessed by a narrow passage way. Each of the houses was on a similar model. The ground floor, of course, had the stove for cooking, a small table and a few sticks of furniture while the two rooms upstairs were bedrooms. The boys slept in the attic room three or four to a bed, top and tailed, along with, in one of the houses according to the census form, the lodger and his girlfriend. Fortunately, those two beds were separated by a draped curtain. The girls would sleep in a similar arrangement, three or four to a bed, with their parents in the room on the middle floor. Each of the houses was “as if” from a particular era – the 1850s, 1870s and the 1930s – decorated and furnished with contemporary artefacts. The last one, not surprisingly, reminded us of Tommy Gibbins’ kitchen in Radway with which many of you will be familiar although his was grandly spacious compared to the cramped quarters in these houses. It’s certainly difficult to imagine families with five or six children (not to mention the lodger and his girlfriend) living in such a small space. I have to confess, it was somewhat disconcerting being able to identify and describe the purpose and functionality of nearly all of the historical artefacts in the 1930s home – I guess that’s a sign that we really are getting “old”.

I wrote last week that Nick had given me some sourdough starter and I posted the photo of my first effort – I hesitate to call it a “loaf” as it was decidedly more pancake shape. Those of you who are “friends” of mine on Facebook will have seen this week’s two efforts. Sunday’s offering was better with a more loaf-like shape even though it was a “touch” overdone and required very strong teeth to get through it. (As my friend Miles commented, he didn’t think he’d ever seen sourdough pumpernickel but he was looking forward to the opportunity of trying some).

Thursday’s effort was better again – very much more loaf-like in appearance but the bread itself was too dense – not nearly enough of those large tangy holes I especially love. I guess I’ll just have to keep experimenting which I certainly don’t mind. Leaving appearance aside, this is very tasty sourdough “bread”. Any tips or comments always welcome.

How can the same recipe produce such different results?

Thursday evening we had our friends Paul and Mary over for dinner. They are still in temporary “holiday” accommodation following their house fire just after Christmas. The builders have finally started on rectifying the damage at their place and then, when that’s finished, the whole house will have to be redecorated so they’re still weeks away from being able to move back home. Meanwhile, they’ve been dealing with their contents insurer regarding the salvagability or otherwise of their furniture and other belongings. It seems that much of it will have to be written off because of the smoke and/or soot damage. Some stuff is easily replaced – televisions, computers – but other older pieces with their associated memories are somewhat less easily replaced with new, modern equivalents. In any case, would any of us fancy the hassle of having to replace much of our furniture and dozens of other bits and pieces? What a drag.

It’s not often I include a reference to the comic “news” which comes from Fox News from time to time (unless it’s to point out the stupidity of some of their pronouncements such as the idiotic “expert” who proclaimed Birmingham in the UK to be 100% Muslim and a no-go area for non-Muslims – note, we spent a lovely day in Birmingham on Thursday). However, the following clip features one of our very good friends who also happens to be an organic farmer considering ways in which drones could assist him in monitoring his crops for pests and other issues.

And finally, congratulations to Sallie and Rod on arriving and settling safely (we trust) in Park City. Now, if someone would just buy this place . . .

Love to you all,




One thought on “1 March 2015”

  1. Does your recipe list ingredients by weight or volume? I think using a scale makes the outcome more consistent. But I have never done sourdough…goodluck!

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