It’s a long time since I posted on this site, not since September last year. I apologise. Some major health problems have meant that many things had become far behind and catching up on them always took the time available. However, I feel I must write something about tomorrow’s UK referendum to vote to leave the European Union or to remain in it.

When the referendum was first mooted I knew immediately that I would vote to leave and nothing from the campaigns for either side has influenced that decision since – and I have followed the campaigns closely. I am not influenced by how good or bad a presentation is made by this or that campaigner; by far the best presenter of her case on yesterday’s Big Debate on tv, was the Scottish Conservative leader, on the ‘Remain’ side, but her arguments were largely based on falsehoods or presented speculation as fact.

Immigration

I resent the implication, and often outright accusation, from the ‘Remain’ campaigners that we who believe immigration should be controlled are racist and xenophobic. I have spent a good proportion of my time since a teenager contesting all types of discrimination, as I became aware of them. The first – before I was a teenager – was religious discrimination; the second, when I was 16 years old, was gender discrimination; the third, racial discrimination, shortly after that.  Others followed. I have travelled widely and far from being fearful or feeling hatred to foreigners I have always tried to ‘integrate’ in their culture and have enjoyed it when there. I’m married to an immigrant. One of the primary reasons for Leeds being one of my favourite cities is the large Afro-Caribbean population, immigrants and their descendants.

Controlling immigration is common sense – without control, sensible forward plans for health and social care, education, housing, and other things cannot be made. It should not discriminate between immigrants from the EU and other parts of the world, as it does now. It should take into account Britain’s needs in terms of skills and education. It should of course take into account Britain’s obligation to true refugees. Personally, I also think that some purely economic migrants should be accommodated as a small contribution to correcting the gross imbalance in wealth distribution. So while I think a ‘points system’ is generally the way to go, there should be some kind of bypass system to take account of the last two criteria. If outside of the EU, it is the UK electorate which will be decide what the control system should be.

Influence

The UK may have had some influence on EU decisions when the EU was far smaller but it is nonsensical to say that we have much influence now or will have in the future if we stay in it. In recent years almost every UK proposition or objection has been voted down. This will get worse as the EU grows. The Prime Minister got almost nothing from his ‘renegotiations’, and if he could not get substantial reform then there is surely no hope whatsoever of getting any reform in the future if we’ve voted to stay in.

Economics

When we had the possibility to join the Euro dire warnings similar to those we are being bombarded with now were given by the ‘experts’, of a crashing economy if we did not. Thank goodness we took no notice of them then. The ‘experts’ did not warn us of the impending bank crisis and the resulting disasters to the world economy. When Norway was deciding whether to join the club the ‘experts’ similarly warned them; it subsequently proved to be nonsense. I can’t avoid noticing that it is the ‘fat cats’ and organisations representing them who issue most of the dire warnings. Or it’s those already on the gravy train or who hope to be: the scientists who live on UK money returned by the EU, not those like Dyson who finance his own research from developing products which sell; the Kinnock family whose joint income from the EU sinecures, or something close to that, beggars belief; organisations representing big business. Finally, personal experience: when I was teaching in Romania (not then a member of the EU) I warned my students that joining would have disastrous consequences for everyday life in the country; within a very short time of the country joining the EU food shopping bills rose sharply and are now generally close to those in Britain. Salaries have remained a small fraction of those in this country.

Sovereignty

To me it is ironic that senior members of the present Government, who have argued so strongly for devolution of power from the centre in London (whether we believe they have delivered that is another argument), are now telling us we are best governed from somewhere on the European continent, on the basis that we have one seat among 28 in some decision making body of the EU, and no say at all in other EU unelected decision making bodies.

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A wish to start walking again, an activity limited for at least a year by health problems, a beautiful sunny day, and discovery of an ‘ap’ for my iPad, tempted me out for a four mile walk on Wednesday.

The map can be scaled to fit the walk to the screen, as here. The blue line is the 4 mile walk, drawn as I walked.

The map can be scaled to fit the walk to the screen on the iPad (Mini3 in my case), as here. The blue line is the 4 mile walk, drawn as I walked. It’s very precise; all those tiny diversions at the beginning of the walk are where I was walking up to the doors of houses to put something in the letterboxes.

The ‘ap’ was myTracks, which not only tracks the iPad and so the person carrying it, but draws the route on a map, continuously records the distance you have done and can be saved for reference later. Points of interest, in my case stiles or other notable points, can be bookmarked. This is the free version. A paid for version has many more facilities but I haven’t yet tried this. My walk was a little longer than shown as the start is about 1/2mile from home; the end, at a coffee shop (!), is a couple of hundred yards.

One of the enhancements in the paid version seems to be ability to take and insert pictures along the track, but without this you can still switch to the iPad camera ap while myTracks continues to record and this is what I did for all the pix below. I’ll probably go for the enhanced version in the future, £2.99 I believe.

 

 

Little did I know then, 1953, when a play I wrote with a neighbour was performed as part of the street celebrations for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, that I would spend most of my adult life writing professionally as a journalist. To my knowledge it was the second piece of fiction I wrote, the other being a fanciful short story written a few years before. Sadly (for me) neither script nor story have survived, though I remember the latter concerned a robin under the Mersey tunnel (I think it was ‘inspired’ by a choir – St Peter’s, Saltaire – trip to Liverpool)!

Black and white photo of cast of play written by me and Betty Chapman (the witch in the picture) and performed by children living on Albert Avenue for 1953 Coronation street party

Kids from Albert Avenue, Shipley, W Yorkshire, UK, dressed for the play I (wizard, left, back) and Betty Chapman (the witch, right, back) wrote and performed for the street party celebrating the 1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. My two younger brothers (Bob) played ‘the king’ and a page (Rodney, left, front). Unfortunately my mother, who could have identified the others, is no longer with us.

Still writing. Busy this weekend with a report on the Village Show (Menston, Yorkshire), with photos, to do for the local paper, write the Menston page I do for a monthly local magazine, and also report the show on the village website I edit:

http://menstonvillagewharfedale.com

While the show judging takes place, I’ll pop over the moor to a meeting of a ‘Writers Club’ in nearby Ilkley (of “baht ‘at” fame), set up, would you believe, by a young Romanian lady – Ruxandra – who now lives in the UK. She sometimes prompts us to write at these meetings or sets us a short story theme to write on for the following week’s meeting, though this week it’s just talking.

I hope to get to a post on our 7,000+km VW camper trip to Romania next week.

Just about recovered from our marathon trip to, in and back from Romania. I have yet to do the final post on the Facebook group in which I kept an (almost) daily diary and when that is done I’ll do a summary post here with some pictures. In the meantime here’s a quick vegetarian meal which turned out to be really tasty.

Vegetarian cottage pie – sort of

The 'pie' after cooking

No recipe. Just the idea as there are just two of us but we do like fairly large portions so make it to suit yourself.

Slice, 1/4in thick, a quantity of mushrooms. Saute them in small quantities on high heat (I use olive oil as I like the taste). As each batch is done sprinkle some dried tarragon on and a grind of black pepper.

Return all the sauteed mushrooms to the pan on a medium heat and add a chopped small onion, then sift over a quantity of flour while turning the mixture over. Add a good measure of dark soya sauce and then vegetable stock (or water and a veg stock cube or two), stirring all the time until there is a good thick sauce. Ensure you have enough sauce for pouring. Leave aside.

Slice some medium sized potatoes 1/4in thick (don’t peel them), enough to make two layers in the dish you use. I’ve gone over to Albert  Bartlett’s Red Rooster potatoes; they really are good. Put the potato slices in salted boiling  water and simmer till they can just be pierced with a knife point.

Spoon the mushroom mixture into a oven dish with enough sauce just to cover.  Thinly slice some cloves of garlic and arrange them on top of the mushroom mixture.

The 'pie' ready for the oven

Arrange potato slices in a layer on top. Brush with melted butter (I just cut a stick of butter and rub it on each potato slice). Give a grind of black pepper then arrange another layer of potato slices on top. Again butter the potato slices then grate some cheese on top (I used parmesan). Finally sprinkle on some paprika, just for colour.

Bake in a hot oven (I favour 200deg C) until nicely browned on top.

Plated with Savoy cabbage and runner beans

I served it with Savoy cabbage (love it) and runner beans, steamed for 15 mins. Pour the reserved hot sauce over the vegetables.

Not ‘pretty’ but filling and … Very Tasty!

Lofty, closer to home at the Cow & Calf rocks, Ilkley

Lofty, 10 mins from home at the Cow & Calf rocks, Ilkley

The hoped for trip to Romania gets ever closer; a few health and other hurdles yet to overcome but increasing optimism has prompted me to create a Facebook ‘group’ where I can keep a running diary during the trip. The group is ‘public’ so anyone can see it, but only I can post on it – that makes sense as it is intended to be a diary of the trip. Of course anyone will be able to ‘like’ and ‘comment’ and I hope they will. I’m hoping too that I might be inspired to create a few more haiku too.

The Facebook group is called Lofty2Romania – ‘Lofty’ (1972 VW crossover Bay) is, of course, camper’s name (given by the previous owner due to his high top). He has a standard 1,600cc air-cooled engine but has an LPG conversion, done by Steve Shaw at Gasure, just inside Wales the other side of Chester. Definitely recommended; the only downside is losing the storage under the rock and roll bed, mostly taken up by the LPG tank.

I may do the occasional post on the new Facebook group as things progress towards 26 July. I’m hoping Lofty doesn’t get too excited as although he knows the Yorkshire Dales, N Yorks moors, Yorkshire coast and the Lakes very well and has been as far as Cornwall (with us), he’s probably a bit jealous of his little sister ‘Mini’ (1975 classic mini) who took us to Romania and back, camping, in 2006 without a minute’s trouble, even taking hub-cap deep potholes in the Rodney mountains in her stride (I did this same trans-Romania route on a push-bike in 1994; no chance now!).

Mini

Mini - my 1975 classic miniMini will probably have a bit of treatment while we are away; her original suspension cones are rather hard after 40 years and the state of Britain’s roads now, and those ridiculous speed humps, cause her (and me) a lot of agro, especially while recovering from surgery twice this year (I’d probably have been able to drive her much earlier had the suspension been softer). I’ve only been able to drive her for about a week and have yet to drive Lofty since the surgery at the end of May.

picture showing some of the hairpin bends on the trans-fagaras highwayLofty will have to do even better than Mini in some ways though we don’t expect potholes on the trans-fagaras highway, by which we intend to cross the Fagaras mountains, visiting blogger friends we’ve never met in person.

Paint, seat, exhaust, petrol pump and …

At the moment Lofty’s still getting some new clothes (ie coats of paint – rollered). He’ll probably get a few more flowers and butterflies too. The driver’s seat needs new seat pad, back pad and cover; in fact he’s needed them for years now but maybe sitting more or less on the springs is not a good idea for a 4,000+ mile journey. For the past year I’ve not been able to do it because of the health issues.

He’ll be making a trip to Gasure soon to have a new exhaust fitted and while there have a dicky petrol pump replaced. It may not always be possible to find an LPG station on the trip though hopefully most of the time as he’s much more economical on LPG. I reckon I’ll need about 1,000 litres of LPG during the trip; it wouldn’t be much less petrol at almost twice the price!

Harwich to Holland

At the moment the intention is to go via Harwich to the Hook of Holland. Hull would be great, as I’ve done before but not with the camper, but the cost is ridiculous now. A leisurely trip down to Essex then a sleep before taking an early morning ferry, at about 1/3 of the price, makes sense to me. Anyway, I love being on the sea so a daytime sailing is much more attractive.

Back via Weimar?

To Romania we will be taking more or less the same route as with Mini 9 years ago – down the Rhine through Germany then Austria and Hungary. However, I’m hoping to come back via Slovakia, Poland, the Czech Republic then what was East Germany where I was last some 40 years ago. I really want to visit Weimar though it will not be the same. I vaguely remember playing a piano said to have been played by Liszt and Wagner (was this at the Elephant, now a top luxury hotel, or the Erbprinz – now no more?) and sitting at a table, certainly the Elephant, at which Hitler was said to have held meetings with the Nazi hierarchy. Not in a museum; they were just there.

Wish us luck to be able to make a start on 26 July.

 

It’s a while since I wrote anything about food so, having used some recipes picked up from bloggers I follow, the Chef Mimi Blog, My French Heaven and Rabbit Food, as a basis for some meals, and really enjoyed them, it seemed an ideal time to return to one of my favourite themes. But before that …

Tea

I should have a ‘grump’ about the marketing of Yorkshire tea. When I was unwell last year I completely ‘went off’ the 1/2 litre of very, very strong coffee (very sweet) I previously thought indispensable to get going in the morning, so began to drink tea (no sugar) first thing (about 6.00). At this time I also changed from ‘normal’ Yorkshire tea to ‘Gold’ Yorkshire tea (a bit stronger) but, although the shops were stuffed with teabags of the stuff, finding loose leaf tea proved very difficult. Then Taylors of Harrogate, which markets the brand, began a big push, joining up with Classic FM radio, sponsoring concerts, etc, but it was still difficult to find packets of loose leaf ‘Gold’. I wrote to Taylors pointing out that this was a cardinal marketing sin. Customer service were very helpful but that’s not the point. I have now found that the biggest Tesco supermarkets keep it though often there are only a couple of packets, if any, on the shelf. Today I found eight; I bought the lot!

Some like it hot – especially French chickens

I’m grateful to Chef Mimi as although in the past I followed My French Heaven closely I missed the ‘My Tangy Green Chicken’ in February last year. I’ve been roasting chickens for 60 years or more but I learned something surprising – to roast the chicken at 480degF ! Funny to find a chef in France using Fahrenheit (I know); we don’t even use it now in the UK – near as dammit 250degC. I suppose I could have used this temperature, unknowingly, when I was cooking on an old coal-fired range some 50 to 60 years ago (my grandmother used butter-tub slats, so wood soaked with butter, thrown out by the local coop, to get a high temperature; the oven bottom was red!) I don’t think my modern oven reaches quite 250; I shoved it on max and that’s what I’ll use in future.

Having found a free-range corn-fed chicken and all the other ingredients for Stephane’s (My French Heaven) recipe I followed his Tangy Green Chicken recipe. Wonderful. I did use olive oil, not the canola oil he stipulates, but other than that followed his recipe faithfully. Not surprisingly many queried his stipulated temperature but he was adamant. Rightly so , the result is wonderful. Chef Mimi made some changes for her ‘Roast chicken with olives‘, partly because all the ingredients seemed not to be readily available in her part of the USA, but I’m sure that her version is delicious too.

Rabbit Food

I’ve mentioned before that my wife and I eat ‘veggie’ twice a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays, so it’s always good to find something different without meat. Corrie-Louise will also give you a laugh on her Rabbit Food blog. Her recipe for ‘My Mum’s Red Pepper Lasagne‘ looked interesting but finding that it had no white sauce (I always make bechamel), to me one of the best bits, I decided to make just the pepper and tomato ragout from her recipe and serve it with a less work-intensive pasta, or rather two: whole wheat spaghetti and the little twirled ‘trofie’. Her recipe uses fresh tomatoes but I used tinned – less work – and rather then cheddar I put a good helping of Parmesan on top. Very tasty! (No idea what quinoa is).

 

Another 75 word story submitted to Paragraph Planet.


Meet at six? They agreed. Always the same coffee shop. Two minutes to six I was there. Six precisely another arrived. We sat, small talk, holding the exciting news until our trio was complete. The third appeared, outside, tidying rush-disarranged hair. A wayward bus swept her off her feet, through the window, depositing a bloody, eternally motionless mess before us. I always told her she would be too late for her own funeral, I thought.


My previous, first, attempt – ‘Playing the trout‘ – was featured on Paragraph Planet on 18 June. I’m not going to explain my prompt for this one.

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