Thursday, 11 October 2012

A Productive Time in the Shed!

4oz raisins and 2oz sliced root ginger plus...

the juice and zest of 3 lemons
and one very large marrow (this one was from our courgette plant - it grew too big for a proper courgette so I let it grow into a marrow). Once it was diced, I added... 

4 L boiling water
1 small tin of white grape concentrate
1 Campden tablet
1 tsp. pectic enzyme
the 'must' for my first go at marrow wine!

After it has steeped for a few days, I'll add (about 1kg demerara) sugar to get the specific gravity to around 1080 - 1090
and then add the 'magic ingredient' -
yeast and yeast nutrient to get the bubbles starting.
Yummy - well hopefully!!!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Rye Smile

Sorry about the dreadful pun but Karen and I spent a superb weekend at Rye on the South coast. We didn't wish to travel too far from home; for various reasons we've been feeling rather tired lately and needing a little time just to ourselves to recharge the old batteries and put a smile back on our faces. We love this area as it always seems to delight us with its fabulous wildlife, fresh air, beautiful landcsapes and 'skyscapes'.

This hut is so photogenic situated on the shingle beach accompanied by Yellow-horned Poppies.

I find being beside the sea so inspiring.

The other great feature of this weekend was the amazing food and hospitality that we received. On Saturday evening we strolled around Rye enjoying the many old buildings (these cobbled streets must have many tales to tell).
We also dined in style at Rye's superb Webbe's Fish Restaurant. Karen kicked off with 'Tiger prawn, aubergine, courgette tempuraThai cucumber and chilli dip', whilst I tucked into  'Hastings potted crab and toasted soda bread'. For main course Karen chose 'Grilled Flounder with smoked bacon, pan fried potatoes and cider sauce'. I treated myself to the 'Steamed panache of fish ( plaice, salmon, prawn, mussels, bass, cod & grey mullet!) with baby vegetables and saffron sauce. I finished off with 'Pear and blackcurrant crumble with vanilla custard and ice cream' - phew, it was sumptuous. I promise we did lots of energetic walking the rest of the time!

We were completely 'spoilt' by Tony and Diane Hayes, the owners of Oakland's B&B. In our all too short stay they made us feel like true friends and took time to chat with us and put us at our ease. Their house is on the ridge overlooking Rye and just down the road from Hastings and Battle (the whole area is known as 1066 country). Our room had stunning, uninterrupted views to the sea and over all the surrounding, beautiful countryside.  They were also responsible for the fact that we did not need any lunch - their wonderful breakfasts seemed to last us right through to the evening (well, apart from a cup of tea and cake at around 4pm)! Our breakfast cosisted of:
Fresh fruit and fruit juce, croissant pastries, perfectly cooked porridge, followed by bacon, sausage, tomatoes, eggs, black pudding & mushrooms - all made with very high quality ingredients. Then (just to make certain), toased homemade bread with their own delicious jams and marmalade. They even made tea just how we like it best - a 50-50 blend of 'Earl Grey' and 'breakfast tea'. Well we do have a certain reputation to maintain here in England!

I have NEVER seen so many dragonflies before. It is their breeding-season and the lovely sunny weather had brought them  out... all at once.

A final view looking over to Camber Castle. Henry VIII should really have named it Winchelsea Castle and I don't think the locals have forgiven him yet. In ancient times the town of Winchelsea stood on a shingle bank, behind which was situated a large bay called the Camber, which made an ideal safe anchorage for ships. In the 13th century the shingle bank was washed away and Winchelsea was submerged. Winchelsea was rebuilt on higher ground farther to the west in 1288.
When Henry VIII enbarked upon a vast coastal defence program (undertaken to protect vulnerable or important places on the south coast) Camber Castle was built at the location of Old Winchelsea.
History lesson now over; I'm off to join weightwatchers!!!


Monday, 1 October 2012

Exquisitely Sad Music!

I love listening to all emotions conveyed in music; whether it be thrillingly loud and triumphant, witty and humorous or perfectly serene, and peaceful. But why is it that sad music often has the strange ability to make me feel complete bliss, even happiness?

On a basic level, does this type of music simply help stimulate some sort of dopamine function in my brain? Or perhaps it is more to do with a thought process that allows the experience of sad emotions but in a 'safe' unthreatening way with no actual bad consequences occuring, such as when watching a good film that you know in the end is just 'pretend'. On the other hand I suppose it could be nothing more than the fact that I enjoy the music regardless of whatever feelings it is portraying; the fact that it is sad or tragic is unimportant.

Hmmm - I think I'm probably getting a bit too analytical but that, in a way, is the point I want to make. Great music can be analysed to see how it is constructed etc. but  actually you don't have to undersatand it to enjoy it. These days, most music is only heard in a half-hearted way as background to something shown on TV or the radio playing at work. However, I do find that the more I concentrate on it and engage my brain with it (often helped by closing my eyes) the more ejoyment I can get out of it.

 I could have attached so many pieces to this post but I think this short masterpiece by Thomas Tomkins is certainly one that deserves the full 'eyes closed' treatment. Tomkins was born in 1572 and died in 1656 and is polyphonic music from the Renaissance era. Polyphonic means that each part is as important as any other and this I think, helps to add to the intensity and beauty, with phrases weaving in and out - even more so as it is in five, rather than four parts. It clearly expresses so movingly David's grief at the loss of his son Absalom but the music remains tender and I think, also shows his deep love for his son.

To start with, Tomkins sets the scene and establishes the C minor key. Then the music begins to 'turn the screw' (from bar 23) with David pouring out his grief. Remarkably, E flats are often replaced by E naturals which should create a 'happier', major key feel but somehow it still feels fully minor key. From around bar 40 the expressiveness is notched-up even more as the music becomes more and more chromatic and pleading and David wishes that he had died instead. Strangely, the final bars do settle fully into C major, perhaps as if David is exhausted from expressing so much sorrow and has nothing more to give.