Sunday, 20 January 2013

cabin fever

It didn't snow in the night.  Again.  In the morning the weather radar showed heavy snow out over the North Sea, which dissipated as it came ashore.  The wind had dropped, which was a relief, since it makes the house even more difficult to heat.  I sat at the kitchen table near the Aga until the Systems Administrator had got the fire going.  By lunchtime it was snowing gently, and the BBC website was talking about heavy snow at Chelmsford and difficult driving conditions and a crash on the A12, which made me feel better about cancelling lunch in the pub (on reflection a very selfish reaction, since I should have been thinking about the crash victims).

It's been such a wasted week, I feel I should have accomplished something in the time.  At least polished off the history of Prussia I've been working my way through since Christmas.  Really with a whole week at my disposal I should have mastered the basics of a foreign language, or bashed out the first two and a half chapters of what might have turned out to be the next Harry Potter or Fifty Shades of Grey.  I haven't.  There is something about the insidious creeping cold, and the awareness of being stuck indoors by circumstances and not choice, that is deeply inimical to creativity.

Instead I have spent a great deal of time surfing the newspaper websites, and reading the first half of Katie Caldesi's Italian Cookery Course, picked up in hardback (new) for a mere six pounds (plus delivery) from an Amazon vendor.  It is still available at that price on the Amazon website, and I recommend it highly.  True, I haven't actually cooked anything from it yet, but the recipes sound as though they ought to work, and there is a lot of technical advice about things like making pasta.  Twenty-nine out of thirty-one Amazon reviewers give it five stars, and the other two give it three.  I would only give it six out of ten for design, since there are too many different fonts and random coloured pages for my taste, but at that price for over four hundred recipes from someone who does actually run an Italian cookery school and two restaurants, I'm not grumbling.

I made some soup, not out of a book but invented from first principles of country soup.  Leeks and onions sliced very fine, potatoes diced very small, softened in butter for about quarter of an hour and then simmered in chicken stock with the last bits of a gammon joint, shredded finely.  The soup was good.  The milk rolls were OK, but the dough took an age to double in size during the first proving, and formed a skin on top in the process.  I was experimenting with clingfilm, but am going back to my damp tea towel, even though the bread book tells me not to use it because it will chill the dough.  Then the tops of the rolls caught slightly, even though I don't think the Aga was as hot as the temperature suggested in the book.  It is a very non-linear art, converting conventional oven settings to positions in an Aga.  They tasted quite good.  At lunch today I ate one of mine, reheated, followed by a supermarket soft white roll, and the home made one tasted more of bread, or indeed of anything.

I booked a ticket on-line for Manet, after reading an article about how well advance ticket sales were going. I opted for a Tuesday in March, after the initial rush and before the closing panic, though I dare say it will be busy anyway.  I was going for a date in February, then decided there was no point in choosing a week when we might still have wintry weather, since the trains would probably be shot.  There were disruptions on three days out of five last week according to the papers, with snow, failed trains, failed signals, and a general failure of will to live.

I thought about buying a smart phone, without reaching the point where I clicked on a Buy Now button.  Which phone?  Which network provider?  I read an article about research conducted into people's jam buying habits, which found that customers given more choice ended up buying less jam than those faced with a simpler decision.  That's how I feel about internet-enabled telephones.  Will I regret the compromise if I opt for the reduced pixel budget Samsung instead of the SII (by now SIII) recommended to me by someone much more tech savvy than me, who had done extensive research?  How many megabites do I need?  Can anybody explain 3 Mobile's pay-as-you-go pricing packages, which are about as intuitively clear as mud or the concept of an ethical foreign policy?  Do I even need a new phone?  Exactly the same number of people will try to contact me, with the same frequency and about the same things, whether I have a smart phone or not.  It's not as though in upgrading my phone I upgrade my lifestyle, suddenly acquiring a whole new Contacts list pressing me with first night invitations and Wildean bon mots.

The Systems Administrator had a good idea for an app for chicken minding, if we could fit a miniature transponder to the leg of each chicken.  Then we could track their whereabouts in the garden on-screen.  It is a drawback that miniature transponders are still rather expensive, and the SA thought the GPS signal would only allow us to locate each chicken to around thirty feet, which is a large margin of error when you are looking for something the size of a chicken.  I thought the US military had stopped degrading the signal.  We argued about this for some time, inconclusively.

It will be a relief when the cold snap ends, and I can get out more.

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