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Archive for August, 2008

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The New Face of Terrorism

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Only in Britain would the words ‘Terrorism’ and ‘Health and Safety’ be used in conjunction to justify the prosecution of peace protesters.

I’m referring to the 2006 amendment of the SOCPA (Serious Organised Crime and Police Act) that covers trespassing on nuclear sites licensed by the Health and Safety Executive, and was justified by the MOD as protecting “the general public’s democratic right to protest by ensuring that any such protests are conducted in a safe and controlled environment.”

The fact that sitting on the fence with a peace-flag can get you branded as a terrorist is all in our best interest, then.

Well, it has happened to one of the AWPC women. One who is braver than me, and more determined to make a stand against the expansion of the Trident program, even if it is only by sitting on the fence and not—say—entering the base, let alone threatening anyone.

[EDIT: The case has been dismissed. Phew. Looks like the judiciary is keeping government/MOD paranoia at bay. But the issue was a technical one; the new anti terror legislation stands, in all its fearsomeness.]

Tickets booked!

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

For the last week or so I’ve been so down that I’ve contemplated starting with the St. John’s Wort early (15th August instead of end of October!)

It was either that or book my flight to Port of Spain.

My worries about the dollar exchange rate evaporated when I discovered that the Caribbean Airlines booking site did not include taxes (they do now, for some strange reason). For the money they wanted, I could probably book a flight to Australia. And when I saw that BA acted as carrier on the first leg, I decided to look elsewhere. I like to hang on to my luggage, thank you very much.

Imagine my delight at spotting a reasonable Virgin Atlantic/CA flight via Barbados on—of all places— I may be using that site again. In fact I may use it soon, since I hope to book my hubby’s flights in September, if he has managed to get his passport application out of the way by then.

But what pisses me off is the fact that it is quicker to book a ticket half-way around the world than to download one lousy chapter for £1.75 from the Lonely Planet shop as they want to know your name, address, phone number, email, credit card details and whatnot. Ever heard of Paypal?

Slow-cooked Pork

Friday, August 15th, 2008

The Olympics are normally a good excuse to try out something new in the kitchen, but I suck at cooking Chinese. I therefore surprised myself by making slow-cooked Chinese pork the other day, with a slap of pork belly from the local butcher that needed eating and wouldn’t fit into the freezer.
Chinese Slow-cooked Pork: condiments
There are no hard and fast rules about making this dish. Basically, the meat is rubbed with spices and slow-roasted for anything between 3 hours to overnight, with a final blast of heat to crisp up the rind (if it does, that is.) To help with the crackling, I generally score the rind (the butcher did it this time—with a box-cutter!) and pour over some boiling water, leaving it to dry out before rubbing in the spices.

Spice Paste:
2 cloves garlic; 1cm ginger; chilli flakes, to taste; 1tbsp soy sauce; pinch sugar; 1tsp 5-spice powder (star anise, cloves, fennel, Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon); 1tsp oil

Work this into a paste and rub half of it into the skin, working it right into the scores. Put the meat into a hot oven for ½h, then turn down the heat.
Rub the rest of the spices all over the meat. Pour over ca. 200ml of water or stock. Since I had a fennel to hand, I chopped it up and rested the meat on top. Cover and roast slowly for several hours.
After the elected roasting time, you probably have a lot of liquid left. Pour it into a pot and bind it with cornflour. Rest the fennel on top. Now return the meat uncovered to a hot oven for ½h in the hope of crisping up the skin.
Slice and rest on top of the fennel and liquid. Heat through as required. You should be able to skim off a good deal of fat.

As the above picture indicates, this is best served with condiments—on top of udon noodles, boiled for 2 minutes (together with a head or two of bok choi, chopped lengthwise, if you want).

Gambling with Fares

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

I hate gambling on the stock marked and any kind of speculation, and I think that the losers get what’s coming to them (having myself being badly bitten by a house price slump in 1997), but when you book your travels you become a speculator whether you want to or not.

Yesterday, the pound’s slumping against the dollar would have added about fifty quid to my return flights to Trinidad. Today I recovered about eight quid of that. Now…do I wait in the hope of getting the return tickets down to the 500 quid mark or do I book now while cheap December flights are still to be had?

I’m tempted to go for it. But knowing me, the pound will reach an all-time high against the dollar the day after I’ve made the booking (you’re looking at someone who lost £1300 on Black Wednesday because my then German bank wired the money on that day, and they’d required one year’s notice!)

Fifty quid may not be much, but it pays for a couple of nights’ accommodation and a few meals on the road. It also happens to be the amount I owe to a friend. And after I’ve paid for the flights and insurance, it looks to be about what is left for our weekly shopping. Time to tighten the belts and bring on beans on toast then.

On the upside, it is probably what we’ll save back on the heating cost increases while we’re away.

Oh, how much money we could save by moving to Australia…

Or Trinidad.


Friday, August 8th, 2008

It’s looking to prove an eventful Olympics for the Brits, even before the games have started.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been glued to the BBC documentary series ‘Olympic Dreams’ which profiled Olympic hopefuls. The last episode was particularly evocative with Tom ‘Teen’ Daley making the grade as Britain’s second-youngest Olympian at only fourteen. He is great fun to watch away from the pool as well, and it’s no wonder that he has acquired an instant fan base. But the same episode also featured Jessica Ennis’ unfortunate setback when a fractured ankle destroyed her dream and a very real medal hope in the year that her chief rival, the world’s favourite, won’t be competing in the heptathlon.

That really sucks. I feel for her.

Then—only yesterday—the British reigning World Amateur Boxing Champion Frankie Gavin was handed his ticket home after failing to make the target for the lightweight category by a paltry 3 pounds. What a wretch. I feel for the lad because he is probably still growing (he is certainly building up muscle) and it is plain that the lightweight category isn’t his natural target.

Kavin Kayes, the leading sports nutritionist, who has been called in to help the boxer achieve the target weight, but who has not been invited to the training camp in Macao, blames possible water retention. He bemoans the failings of the Amateur Boxing Association both to plan ahead and to deal with the situation safely (link as above). I agree. Having the boxer stop drinking enough water to keep properly hydrated would have been a short-sighted and dangerous policy, as the coach rightly pointed out. You’ll have to be training at 35° C-plus for six hours a day to get an understanding of how much fluid is required (I’m talking from past experience, but it was certainly not at Olympic level—LoL).

So, mixed feelings. A lot of disappointed athletes (including the many profiled by the BBC documentary who came so close to fulfilling their dreams only to fail by a whisker), but still a lot of promise.

And (already!) slander and self-flagellation from both the press and the Great British Public alike.

Sometimes I think we don’t deserve such talent.

Another Summer BBQ (!)

Monday, August 4th, 2008

We had two BBQs this year!

Summer BBQ

We could have had even more because, in July, summer came to England (but not to West Scotland).

Now it’s just a happy memory, of course.

Nevertheless, on July 26th, we got John’s work gang and a few mates around for a proper BBQ cook-out. I had a freezer brimming with marinated meats and boxes of free-range chicken wings—bought in a moment of giddiness when the sun peeked out while we were shopping. In addition I bought mince meat, sausages, a heap of roasting vegetables, strawberries, cream, meringue, sticky chocolate pudding and icecream.

Then I made the salads, dips and sauces.

Imagine my surprise when our guests assumed it was a pot luck and brought prime steak, giant prawns, a chocolate gâteau and tinned grapefruit.

Somehow we went through it all. Except for the green salad. What is it with boys and green food?


In other news: we have been adopted by a cat