Thursday, 27 February 2014

Books.... Books... And That Library Thing

Truth to tell... what with the weather... and The Old Man's Mysterious Hand... I do get a bit blue recently. I know there's other people far worse off than me, what with floods and sinkholes and bits of coast dropping off and bedroom tax and all. But... I have been a bit stir-crazy and gloomy. may not know it, but I am my mother's daughter. And from early childhood I get marched off to the public library with Mum while she do get her books to borrow. And I join as well and do get books too. I read all I can and plainly remember reading the telephone directory one afternoon, so desperate was I. (I be that kind of girl.)
NOTE: Sorry for the use of outdated terms such as "telephone directory" and "public library". If you don't know about such historical concepts... you can try looking them up on Wikipedia.

So.... reading is what I do at the moment and even feel the urge to read something outside my usual diet of crime fiction.... Anyway... by way of virtual socialising I do join a site called Library Thing where you can do such geeky things as add your books to your "library", review them, look for similar stuff, other books by same author - and so on. But you can also join groups for exchanging views. I've joined a few now. The first was a "Crime, Thriller & Mystery" group (naturally). And the second was "Reading Globally". In fact I have set myself a global crime fiction challenge on this last ... aiming to read around as much of the world as I can in 2014. Come and visit me and check out my virtual criminal tour here.
What? I said I felt "the urge to read something outside my usual diet of crime fiction"?
Yes I did, didn't I. Well I just joined a group called "Reading Through Time".
It looks as though I just gotta keep moving whatever I read.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Sourdough - The Ideal Bread For Powercut Baking

That other day when the power went off for nearly 24 hours... I discovered something else good about baking your own sourdough bread. We have an electric oven and I have already started some bread dough to rise when... the power goes "Phut".
Do not panic, say I to meself. You can make sourdough into a really "slow food". I did whack the bowl of dough in the still cold but non-functioning fridge and....
Next day, when the power came back, I did stab the little rascal back down a bit, waited for it to get back to room temperature... shaped it, proved it... and baked it.
No problem.
The virtues of sourdough.

Monday, 17 February 2014

In The Dark...

Ooh-er, there we be this weekend... watching the ultimate phase of the excellently dark, sweary and blood-spattered "In Bruges" on the old DVD player... when the brilliant Brendon Gleeson makes an explosive point and POOF the lights go out!
Darkness  and powerlessness abounds. Followed by an early night, after listening to the transistor radio for an hour or so, then sprinting to catch the fading heat of the electric blanket.
We break out  next morning into the fully-powered nearest town to purchase a kettle! (Heating water in saucepans be a pain we do find.) Thanks be for the gas hob.
In all there be nearly 24 hours of powerlessness. Lots of torches and candles. But power is restored in time for this week's episodes of BBC4's latest subtitled thriller "Salamander". In fact Belgian-themed crime thrillers are sustained after a slight interruption.
How are you getting on with "Salamander"? I like it fine... another outsider/conspiracy fest. What a lot of bird song in the background. You noticed? And The Old Man be coping with it.... except when he thinks it is set in Denmark. He be very pleased it is in 45 minute episodes. But then he has to wriggle a lot.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Grey Doll & Criminal Reading: Parker Bilal's "The Ghost Runner"

I have become a fan of Parker Bilal's crime fiction series featuring his Sudanese refugee private eye Makana. Set in Mubarak's Egypt before the Arab Spring they feature Makana setting out to solve crimes and hang on to his own skin as he builds a circle of friends and contacts and attempts to remake a life in Egypt after his escape from Sudan and the loss of his family.
The third and latest episode is "The Ghost Runner", in which Makana agrees to take on an "honour-killing" case of a young woman whose family comes from an oasis town in the Western Desert. Naturally he has to go there... and walks into a murder case that the local police chief insists Makana helps him with. Things grow darker and more complicated.
I enjoy these books not only for the plot and suspense but for the dry-witted portraits of Makana and his friends and for the sense of place.
Read a full review over on the Euro Crime Blogspot.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

The Wind Doth Blow...

And I do sit at me desk thumping away on the laptop... and do get nervous as things do whistle and hum out there. But me and The Old Man remain safe. The power still works. We are not wet. Nor blowed away.
He still has a puffy, chapped  and scabby hand. We still wait for some kind of narrowing down of the cause... or some kind of blood test that the GP can't quite get to happen. Yesterday I answered the phone to a bright young thing who informed me that  she was ringing from the NHS Referral service... that this be just a "courtesy call" to inform The Old Man that his "referral" has been put through... As it took me a while to work out that this was the gist of the call, I sat in stunned silence for a beat too long to ask "What referral?"... and anyway I am not The Old Man so guess she could maybe not be telling me "which referral".
On the subject of medical privacy? Has you UK people had the leaflet about your own NHS GP data being fed centrally unless you object? If you read the leaflet you will find that this is not for medical purposes... i.e... it is not designed to co-ordinate your treatment, etc... except in so far as they say it will help planning. And medical researchers, drug companies, insurance companies may be able to consult parts of it...
Naturally The Old Man already has a view on this and is not convinced that individual identities will be stripped from the data as efficiently as promised.
You can opt out of the scheme. The Old Man was provided with a couple of forms by his GP.  So we have.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Graphic Passions: Snowpiercer Vol 1 - Review at Girls Like Comics

I did write a bit about the Graphic Novel "Snowpiercer" in a previous post. The good news is that I have had Vol 1 in my sticky hand for a week or so now and have read it with relish...
So just taking the opportunity to point you through to a review over at Girls Like Comics (... 'course they do...).

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Pardon Me... But The Weather Here....

... as in most of UK... has been awful. But we be safe. I do sit here in West Cornwall and listen to things rattling in the wind and wonder if anything is going to fly off the house. It hasn't so far. The Old Man already do have the aerial replaced from the last blow... before Christmas.
And we do have just a drip or two come in when it do the horizontal rain thing. The other day the rain be coming in under the side door... so horizontal be it. But... we do not live right at the seaside.... nor by a river.... nor in a valley... nor on top of the hill.... We do have an unmade lane that we live by... no tarmac to repel the water into our home. And there be a field above that.... grass and stuff to soak up the rain.. Like I said. Under current conditions, we be safe.

Porthleven is fairly close. That has had a right battering and makes it on to YouTube and the national news. A friend has his small boat there. It was in the harbour when the inner harbour timbers went. But his boat is safe, thank heavens... hauled out in the rescue mission... and now back home in his garden.

Me? I do feel  rather stir crazy. Every time I look out the window and see a break and blue skies I do walk into another room and find rain and hail being slung at the windows by a mighty gust of wind. I know I should get out there before I lose the use of me legs.....

However.. a short break to London by train do seem out of the question right now.... what with floods, storms and landslips... I believe that be about two or three more places a train can't get through... let alone the destruction of Dawlish.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Grey Doll & Criminal Reading: Arne Dahl's "Bad Blood"

A while ago I do read Swedish crime writer Arne Dahl's "Bad Blood"... part of his Intercrime police series some of which were televised and shown on UK TV last year as "Arne Dahl".

Originally published in Sweden in 1998... the story and the writing ages well. In "Bad Blood" an American serial killer comes to Sweden and Hjelm and his team must track the killer down before any more signature gruesome deaths occur. The hunt takes the individual members of the police team into the dark stories of killer and victims alike. It also takes Hjelm and Holm to the USA to work with the FBI team who originally tracked the Kentucky Killer, the name given to this sadistic killer. It is a disturbing tale with political undertones but a surprising warmth and wit in the characters of the police team... more than shown in the telly series, I think.

A definite recommend to read the books that gave rise to this series if this is anything to go by. You can read a couple of reviews over on Euro Crime here.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Bread Alone

One thing about taking over bread duties... is that I'm not so bad at making it now. (I'm not showing you the first loaf, mind.)
The Old Man do instruct on basic sourdough loaf "recipe proportions and oven heat" like so:
500gm flour of choice;
250gm sourdough starter (my starter is 100% hydration = 1 measure of flour to 1 measure liquid when feeding);
250gm tepid water;
and about half or whole tsp of salt.
(Basically that is 2 parts flour to 1 part each "starter" and water.)
Oven heat (on our oven - top and bottom heat) is 225 C and time is 30mins with another five minutes with the heat turned off.
This loaf has been proved in a well-floured proving basket and baked on a hot iron (Steel) plate that The Old Man uses for the purpose in the oven.

What makes differences can be the flours. Not just whether they are wholemeal (which can need some of the water to be added later in the kneading process 'cos it takes time to absorb the water) or refined ...but also which grain the flour is milled from ... or even ... which brand or mill. Takes practice to get to know how the different flours behave. Don't be scared if the dough seems a bit (not a lot, mind) too wet to handle or knead easily. My tip is to flour your hand rather than the dough.. and to have patience. Sometimes all you need is to let the dough sit for a few minutes and it catches up with itself in that crazy amalgamating way of bread dough. (For all the details of the process find a  good bread-making book or Google it! cos I didn't mean to do a full how-to post.... and I ain't that much of an expert.)

But.... if at first you don't succeed. Take courage. Keep baking.