Friday, April 29, 2011

Clara's Cakes

This is based on a true story. It is not a true story itself, which is why the names have been changed.


Steve: Clara, I hear your cheesecake is delicious.

Clara: Thanks. Would you like me to make you one?

Steve: Please.

Clara: Baileys cheesecake or cookies and cream?

Steve: Ooh, Baileys.


Clara (by email): I like that plan - maybe I could make Steve a guiness cake to distract him from the fact I've still not made him a bailey's cheesecake yet

Steve (by email): Mmmmm Guinness Cheesecake

Rita (by email): Hmm. Chocolate guiness cake. It just so happens I could rustle one up in no time at all...[1]

2010, New Year Eve, Steve and Val's house

Clara : Hello! I've brought a Baileys cheesecake.

Val: Thanks Clara!

Steve[2](mutters): About time

Later that evening

Nigel: Clara, your cheesecake is delicious!

Clara: Thanks.

Nigel: Would you make me one?

Clara: Sure.
Clara takes out her order book and opens it to page 2.
Clara: Baileys or cookies and cream?

The End

[1] Actual emails
[2] There was an actual Steve present so to avoid confusion I will refer to him as Stu if he appears

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Royal Hats: Charles II

Officially Charles II succeeded his father, Charles I, from Charles I's execution. In fact the interregnum of the Commonwealth intruded[1], which is why the period of Charles II reign after he was restored to the throne is known as the Restoration. Charles II was known for his dissolute ways - it was said that any vice was tolerated at court except hypocrisy - and extravagant dress. Which bodes well for his hats!

This black velvet hat is more upright than the hats we saw for Henry VIII and Edward IV. There is a distinct band and a jeweled decoration. The plume, as we might hope from a cavalier, is large and colourful. The long black curls that Charles sports is probably a wig; after 1663 his hair turned grey and he began to wear wigs.

Here is Charles wearing robes of state and a crown. The crown is wide to my eyes; it looks like the crown on the back of a 5p or 20p piece, but stretched sideways.

Here we see Charles going about his business, being presented with a pineapple. This broad brimmed black hat appears undecorated. For shame!

Although helmets were still worn in battle, advances in gunpowder weapons had changed the emphasis away from armour and towards speed and mobility. As a young man Charles fought in the English Civil War and would have worn a breastplate and thick leather boots. Whether he would have worn a helmet or a plumed hat at a rakish angle[3] I have not been able to find out.

[1] Having killed the king, the English parliament then banned the acclimation of a new king. However they were unable to agree a new constitution so to prevent the tyranny of a perpetual parliament, Oliver Cromwell launched a military coup. After Cromwell's death[2], still unable to agree on a constitution, the monarchy was reinstated.
[2] But before his execution.
[3] As all cavaliers on screen or in pictures do.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Royal Hats: Henry VIII

Henry VIII ruled only 30 years after Edward IV[1], but let's see if his hats look different.

Henry was a very fashionable man[3]. Here he is wearing a what I assume to be a black velvet hat, with several embroidered decorations and a white feather plume. He wears hats similar to this in many of his portraits, suggesting that this was a style he liked.

This early, possibly earliest, portrait shows a different hat, one more like the one we saw Edward IV wearing yesterday. Henry also has much longer hair, again more in the 15th century style.

This helmet was part of a set of parade armour given to Henry VIII by the Emperor Maximilian I. Clearly not to be actually used, this would have been armour as fashion. In his youth Henry was a keen jouster and had several sets of armour. Helmets for use became full head closed helm designs during Henry's regin, as opposed to the sallet we saw yesterday.

More royal hats, probably from the 17th century, tomorrow.

[1] Edward IV was briefly succeeded by his son Edward V, but the discovery of his illegitimacy led him to be deposed and shut away in the tower of London. His uncle, Edward IV's brother, Richard III became king. Richard was famously defeated and killed at the battle of Bosworth Field[2]. Henry Tudor became king as Henry VII and in time his son Henry VIII succeeded him. I hope we're all up to date now.
[2] This decided, but did not end, the Wars of the Roses. Yorkist claimants of various seriousness made appearances for the next 15 years. Fears of a Yorkist revival in the event of a disputed succession was one of Henry VIII's motives in his attempts to produce a male heir.
[3] Although as heir to the throne and later an absolute monarch[4], he was as much a fashion setter as fashion follower.
[4] Whether Henry VIII was absolutely an absolute monarch or whether the customs and traditional rights bound him to a degree that made his monarchy non-absolute, I leave to the political historians. His monarchy was pretty close to absolute by modern standards though.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Royal Hats: Edward IV

Edward IV was king during the Wars of the Roses. As the son of Richard, 3rd Duke of York, he inherited his father's claim and after the battle of Townton he was crowned King of England [1]. Edward loved hunting, feasting, drinking and womanising[2], was very tall and in later life became more inactive and fat, which may have lead to his death.

But today we're only slightly interested in that. What we want to know about is his hats.

As we can see he has a fairly simple black velvet cap with an elaborate decoration - probably embroidered, but it could be jewelry. Although not perfectly clear, the decoration seems to be based on a coat of arms or seal.

On this Edward IV groat from his second reign we can see him wearing a crown. The depiction is not clear enough to say a lot about it, but it seems to be a circlet with fleur-de-lis sticking up from it. Also his hair is quite a bit wilder!

Edward was a noted general and warrior. The Wars of the Roses are traditionally considered Late Medieval[3]. Armour reached it's high point during this period, as it developed to protect wearers from crossbows, longbows and early firearms. The high quality of the armour allowed the wearer to fight without a shield, and, indeed, penetrating armour from this time with single handed weapons is extremely difficult. Edward would have worn a Sallet (depicted above) the helmet of choice for all professional soldiers of 15th century Western Europe.

More royal hats every day until the royal wedding.

[1] Lancastrians preferred to continue to uphold Henry VI claim leading to Edward IV having to flee the country in 1470, only to return and reclaim the throne in 1471.
[2] Which lead directly to the illegitimacy of his sons. Viewers (and readers) of Game of Thrones may be interested to know that Edward IV was a major inspiration for the character King Robert Baratheon.
[3] Some historians date the end of the medieval era in England to the death of Richard III.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Impersonal Assistant and Jonathan Creep

Impersonal Assistant
Date: Thursday 14 April, 2010, 08:58
Subject: Arrangements

1. Items for your attention are in the IN tray
2. Items in the OUT tray have been taken to be dealt with
3. A selection of hot drinks is available in the kitchenette

Please advise if anything is needed to conform to your requirements

Jonathan Creep

This was a mishearing of Jonathan Creek. At the time I made the note it seemed interesting but now, meh.

This concludes blogging on what happened in the pub on Saturday.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Friendship Yeast

Here's how it was explained to me: You're given a sourdough starter by a friend. After 10 days of feeding it with flour, sugar and water it should have quadrupled. You divide it into 4, give 3 sections to friends and use the last one to bake with. In this case the recipe suggested is for a German Apple Cake, which is why the yeast is called Herman. Sounds like a funguy!

Yeast reproduces asexually by budding. This means that each yeast starter is a clone, and each cake will be a clone. Cloned German cakes, spreading through the population, numbers increasing at an exponential rate[1] - what could go wrong?

A swift google suggests that the canonical form of this living chain letter is Amish Friendship Bread. In fact, the article notes that there is a 2011 novel of such a bread spreading through a town and taking away their free will to become a giant asexual amorphous blob effecting the lives of everyone it passes through. This sounds like it could make an interesting Robert Altman style movie, or maybe just some kind of rubbish feelgood Hollywood tripe. Either's good, although I'd rather watch the former.

[1] This would be literally exponential, not metaphorically.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I have been informed that my notetaking was inaccurate and I should have written "A Bunty of Bunting".

Bunty was a girls comic book. As a child I never read it as it was for Girls (ugh!) and so was probably about hair and makeup and kissing and stuff. Sadly it closed in 2001 so I may never know (unless someone would like me to review some, in which case I'll take a butcher's round the charity shops for an old album, or possible see what's on ebay).

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Bounty of Bunting

My notes from Saturday Night read as follows:

A Bounty of Bunting

Friendship Yeast

Impersonal Assisstant

Jonathan Creep

It's almost a whole week of blogging material, at least once I learn to spell assistant.

One flag of bunting is known as a bunt. Originally bunting was the name of the type of material. This was the material used for ribbons and flags, including Royal Navy signal flags. Bunting is a popular decoration, and especially in vogue for the upcoming royal wedding.

Friday, April 08, 2011


Just had some Chandler and Dunn Pork and Hop sausages. Obviously I hope that I won't be turned into sausages, but if I am, I request that

1. You use my own guts for the casing; and
2. That there are hops in the mixture.

That is all.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

I Cook Food: Celery Soup

This is almost too simple and easy to count as a blog post. However it turns out that people usually want simple and easy recipes, even if I really want to show off my manly cooking skills by putting difficult and complex recipes up. So without further to do:

Celery Soup

2 small onions, peeled and roughly cut up
Half a big bunch of celery, trimmed, washed and cut into 2-3 cm chunks
1 clove of garlic sliced
Half a vegetable stock cube
A generous glug of olive oil
About a litre of water, preferably hot
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pan. Fry the garlic and onion over a moderate heat until it starts to soften, then add the celery and continue to stir and fry until that softens too. Crumble in the stock cube, then add the water. Bring it back to the boil, add some pepper (also salt if you want, but I find stock cubes usually have enough) then turn down to simmer for half an hour or so. Then bring out the hand blender and whizz it until everything is broken down. It should look creamy. Correct the seasoning and serve; it should easily make 4 bowls.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

That's Propaganda Folks!

WWII Daffy Duck cartoon, where he's an American commando.

I note that this is like just about every other Daffy Duck cartoon except that the guys he's running around and playing gags on are Nazis. And the ending makes more sense than usual.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Bat Dance

I was researching supervillains, as one does, when I came across the batusi, the dance move made famous by Adam West's Batman.

The batusi is the thing where he makes the Vs with his fingers. I need to research this further, but it's definitely in Pulp Fiction, and apparently was a brief craze when the show first went out. Especially in the kind of clubs where vigilantes in tights and masks respond to women trying to pick them up with the line: "You interest me. Strangely. I accept your invitation."

I like the fact that everyone just gets on with dancing even though Batman is there. I guess if Gothamites are used to the city being taken over by crazily dressed maniacs every week, they aren't going to bat an eyelid at Batman propping up the bar. Time enough to get excited if when a fight breaks out.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Mad Dogs And Englishmen

Still procrastinating on my review of a history of the First Afghan War. In the meantime here is an excerpt. The story so far: some "fakirs" (as described by the British) have murdered a sentry and his gear was found in their house. Due to the delicate situation in Kabul, the British fail to take any action on this. And now the conclusion:

Fate overtook the holy man a few months later when he went a-begging to Jalalabad and had the ill luck to present his alms bowl to Private Collins of the 13th light Infantry, "an Irishman of extraordinary gallantry but a great ruffian"[1]. Collins, who thought there was something familiar about the beggar, twitched aside his cloak and there, on his shoulders, were the badges of the sentry murdered those many months before. Without hesitation the Irishman seized the man by the scruff of the neck, held him face down in a pool and "quietly drowned him like a dog".
Page 151, Signal Catastrophe, Patrick Macrory

Drowning holy men is questionable but drowning a dog is outrageous!

Bulldogs were an additional peril to the occupying troops. Not long before, Mackenzie had called to Captain Troup's bulldog "Nettle, Nettle!" Next instant Nettle was clinging like a leech to his right arm, having gone mad. He managed to hold it at arm's length and throttle it with his left hand. "I never saw anything so hideous as that dog's head, his jaws reeking with blood and foam, his mouth wide open, his tongue swollen and hanging out, and his eyes flashing a sort of lurid fire." Mackenzie escaped rabies by applying caustic, which left a circular scar nearly two inches in diameter.
Page 162

Hmm. Maybe not outrageous, merely regrettable.

[1] I like this description a lot.

Friday, April 01, 2011


Tripoli is in the news, but that's not what I'm writing about. Tri-poli is obviously of Greek (also Latin) origin - Tri meaning three and Poli being city. So the name of the city of Tripoli means "three cities".

It gets it's name from the province it is in, Tripolitania, formerly the Roman Province of Tripolitania. The three cities were founded as Phoenician colonies and were named Oea (on the site of modern Tripoli), Sabratha and Leptis Magna. They fell under the sway of Greek Cyrenaica, then later Carthage (another Phoenician colony) and were seized by Rome during the Third (and final) Punic War. At some point this area was split off from the Roman province of Africa, and named after the three cities that were it's main feature. The name stuck, and the city was renamed after the district.