29 March 2015

You know those days when it seems that everything that can go wrong will go wrong? Thursday morning was one of those mornings.

Firstly, the latest iteration in my pursuit of the perfect sourdough loaf ended in something approaching disaster. Alright, it wasn’t a disaster in the traditional sense but it certainly was a considerable disappointment. What was so disappointing was that each of the preceding steps had gone exceptionally well – the dough rose magnificently, the second proving looked excellent. However, when I came to turn the proved dough on to the baking tray it stuck to the Banneton – I hadn’t used enough semolina to line the proving basket. This, of course, has the effect of knocking the air out of the dough as one struggles to get it out and you’re left with another (delicious) sourdough pancake!

After that disappointment I tidied up and proceeded to make Ms Playchute and myself a mug of coffee. When preparing her morning cuppa I had noticed that the decaffeinated tin was almost empty. So, I took the spare packet down from the shelf, cut the top off, and opened the tin. As I did so I realised that Penelope must have filled it in the intervening period and, because I was expecting it to be empty I proceeded to pour two-thirds of the ground coffee all over the counter. I decided I didn’t need to wait for the third calamity of the morning and so retired from any and all activities for the rest of the day.

Ladies who lunch
Ladies who lunch – Jan 2014

It’s been a busy week. Well, it’s been busy for Pen, at least. Last Saturday we enjoyed a family gathering of some substance which was most enjoyable. Annabelle has two second cousins (actually, she has more than that but these two in particular are both girls and all three are about the same age). Naomi’s Lily was three in July while Annabelle and Georgiana were both born in October about a week apart. The last time they were all together was at Penny’s mother’s birthday party in January of last year and they had such a great time together that Pen thought it would be fun to get them all together again.

And fun it was if also astonishingly noisy and rambunctious. Who would have thought that these three delightful and sweet little girls could raise such a ruckus and generate so much noise! They had the full run of the playroom upstairs (fortunately, the tenants who live underneath had been forewarned and had decided to spend the day elsewhere) and did they make the most of it. They ran up and down and round and round, they shouted and screeched and ran up and down and round and round some more. Mayhem is probably a pretty good description.

Just for reference so that you can place them all in your virtual family tree, Lily is the daughter of Pen’s brother’s daughter Naomi and Georgiana is the daughter of Pen’s sister’s son Simon. According to my research into various degrees of cousin-ness, that makes them second cousins as they share a set of great-grandparents, i.e., Pen’s folks.

As well as just having a great time running about and playing, there was also the small matter of Penelope’s fabulous catering to deal with – lunch was, as you would expect, terrifically delicious. Everyone ate until they were truly bloated and then some, like me, ate some more. There was enough to feed the proverbial army but, as always, there is method in her madness – we have enjoyed several nights of wonderfully delicious left-overs so who am I to “complain”?

Sticky WallsAnd, while we’re speaking of how busy we’ve been, Ms Playchute has just finished a massive order of sticky walls which will be dispatched to their destination this week. Most of you know how Penelope finished the playchute business and decided, with the left-over fabric, to create a new business venture selling “Sticky Walls.” If you’re not familiar with this enterprise, have a look at the Sticky Wall web site. In short, these are strips of rip-stop nylon measuring 3m by 1.2m or 1.5m sprayed with repositional adhesive and used as a noticeboard on which the notes can be easily rearranged to facilitate group discussion. Much to my amazement, these things have actually been selling pretty well and a few weeks ago she filled an order for 30 from a hotel group in Copenhagen. Imagine our astonishment, then, when she received a follow-up order for another 150! Penelope has spent almost every waking hour pushing her industrial sewing machine to its limits churning these things out one after the other. And, over the past week she’s been doing so while fighting a low-level flu-like bug – what a woman!

We had a fun day out on Tuesday afternoon – we went with our friends Paul and Mary to the old person’s matinee showing of the film Suite Française which, I thought, was very good. It’s perhaps not quite on a par with the novel which I read some years ago but now want to read again. If you’ve not read the novel get hold of a copy – it’s a great read and tragically poignant.

Interestingly, we shivered through the film – there were about a dozen similarly-aged old folks in the cinema and, for some reason, the theatre was very cold. Don’t the managers of such establishments realise that old people like us need a moderately warm room if we are going to sit still for a couple of hours?

After the film we retired to Penelope’s Playchute Palace for a lunch of some of the delicious left-overs from Penelope’s Family Party at the weekend. I told you there was method in her madness. For those of you who have been keeping score, Paul & Mary are still not able to return to their cottage after their house fire just after Christmas – they’re now in their third temporary, rented accommodation. Their builders are making good progress but there is still a lot to do and it’s looking like it will be early May before they can return.

Thank you to all of you who kept your toes and fingers crossed for our house viewings last week – there has been a flurry of activity including a second viewing so continue to keep those toes and fingers crossed, please.

donnaDonna posted a very interesting piece about the possibility of Apple going into car manufacturing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to embed the video here so you will have to go to her original piece to see it.

Inevitably, it reminded me of the old joke about Microsoft’s Bill Gates allegedly addressing a conference and comparing developments in the computer industry with the automobile industry. There are dozens of variations in circulation (all of them allegedly true stories) but the one I like best is:

At a recent COMDEX, Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the automobile industry and stated: “If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving twenty-five dollar cars that got 1,000 miles per gallon.”

Recently General Motors addressed this comment by releasing the statement: “Yes, but would you want your car to crash twice a day?”

What’s scarier is that if Microsoft had gone into automobile manufacturing and dominated the industry as they normally do, then we’d have to deal with the following:

  • Every time they repainted the lines on the road you would have to buy a new car.
  • Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason, and you would just accept this, restart and drive on.
  • Occasionally, executing a manoeuvre would cause your car to stop and fail and you would have to re-install the engine. For some strange reason, you would accept this too.
  • You could only have one person in the car at a time, unless you bought Car95 or CarNT. But, then you would have to buy more seats.
  • Apple would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast, twice as easy to drive – but would only run on 5 percent of the roads.
  • The Apple car owners would get expensive Microsoft upgrades to their cars, which would make their cars run much slower.
  • The oil, gas and alternator warning lights would be replaced by a single “general car default” warning light.
  • New seats would force everyone to have the same size butt.
  • The airbag system would say “Are you sure?” before going off.
  • If you were involved in a crash, you would have no idea what happened.

I ran across a couple of articles/photos of interest this week. The first was the photo of Mont St Michel in France which was completely cut off from the mainland due to a “supertide” this week. The so-called “tide of the century” happens once every eighteen years or so and the photo I saw was pretty impressive.

Mont St Michel

The second was a group of wacky photos of world cities which have been processed and transformed into a 360o globe-like appearance. You can probably work out which city is depicted below.


Check out the others here.

And finally, how about some of the finalists from the Smithsonian annual photo competition. Some of these are just stunning!


Love to you all,