Tuesday 21 July 2020

It’s just not cricket!

This may have no meaning to most people outside England and the former British Empire – now Commonwealth countries, it means – it is unfair, just not done. Cricket is rarely played outside the Commonwealth – the great cricketing nations include India, Pakistan, West Indies, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Australia. 


As for “the sound of leather on willow” that is meant to represent the quintessential English summer’s day in village life: the sound of the leather ball hitting the willow bat – something that has not yielded to modernisation. 


While growing up in South Africa I listened to cricket commentary on the radio.  Not sure why but it became quite a thing in high school and I have an autograph book with all the signatures of the MCC team that visited South Africa in the 1950s.  I sent a piece of paper with a request and back came the signatures on my piece of paper.  No PRs doling out signed photographs. 


Like many sports cricket has a baffling list of terms which are completely unintelligible to anyone outside the game. I can follow a cricket match, even catch when someone is out LBW (leg before wicket) but please don’t ask me to explain where on the field silly mid-off is standing or for that matter silly mid-on, square leg, short leg and so on.


The commentators were all frightfully well spoken – even Charles Fortune who commentated for the SABC.  I remember John Arlott too.  Cricket loves nicknames – Ian Botham – soon to be Lord Botham - is Beefy, David Lloyd is Bumble and the list goes on. Commentary is always delightful to listen to, full of anecdote and humour (it isn't a very fast-moving game...) Of course there was Brian Johnston who is credited with these two: “The bowler’s Holding, the batsman’s Willey”  (Michael Holding bowling to Peter Willey) and then “As he comes into bowl, Freddie Titmus has got two short legs, one of them square”.


Michael Holding, commentating on the current Test was one of the finest fast bowlers ever and he was nicknamed " Whispering Death" due to his quiet approach to the bowling crease.  He has a wonderful voice to listen to and even makes me think I understand all the intricacies of what is taking place.  


We are at home more than usual at the moment so Number One Husband is watching the cricket – England vs the West Indies.  While rain stopped play (not that unusual) Holding was talking to the other commentators and made an impassioned speech on racism in reference to Black Lives Matter. "Racism," he said, "is taught". "No one is born a racist. The environment in which you grow, the society in which you live, encourages and teaches racism." At the end he said hoped that things were changing "Even if it's a baby step at a time, even a snail's pace. But I'm hoping it will continue in the right direction. Even at a snail's pace, I don't care".




Wednesday 15 July 2020

Friends for supper (!) and a sugar biscuit recipe

No big deal?  Normally there would have been eight or more of us but in this case only the four of us – and we ate inside instead of in the garden – baby footsteps towards normality.  


I have forgotten how to cook for more than two – and to schedule a meal.  I know this sounds pathetic but I haven’t been very creative and certainly not more than one course for the two of us.


We started with some grilled fresh prawns with the good old Marie Rose sauce with our drinks.  We then moved onto Pickled Fish followed by a chicken tagine with a tabbouleh salad made with freekeh and bulgur wheat and a berry crumble to finish off.  


It was a bit much for four of us – the good news being that we ate leftovers for the rest of the week – the crumble was the first to be finished! 


Cucumbers are so cheap at the moment that I have invested in some preserving jars and will be making a big batch of Bread and Butter Pickle.  I have made a couple of batches recently but they went very quickly.  (I’m channelling my mother here – we had a pantry full of jars of preserved fruits, vegetables, pickles, chutneys and homemade tomato paste – I won’t go that far.)


This biscuit is a favourite with everybody. They are called Nut Shortbread but the grandchildren just call them the Sugar Biscuits.

Nut shortbread aka the sugar biscuits - Bella’s

225 grams butter                          

4 tablespoons caster sugar 

60 chopped almonds*          

1 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt

280 grams plain flour (include 4 tablespoons of cornflour)

Sugar for coating


Cream butter and sugar (I find this works best if the butter is cold). Add vanilla and then salt and flour and pulse.  Add nuts and pulse.  Knead well. Refrigerate for one to two hours**.


Heat oven to 150°C.  Roll into balls about 2 cm in diameter.  Place on a lined pan and then press with a fork to give a ridged appearance.  Bake for about 45 minutes until lightly coloured.


Put some sugar into a bowl and roll the biscuits in the sugar while still warm and leave on a wire rack to cool.


*       the original recipe called for walnuts but I use almonds as no one in the family is allergic to them – you can use any nuts.


**      longer than that makes it difficult to work, less than that the mixture will spread too much. 

I usually put the tray in the fridge for half an hour before baking.

Monday 13 July 2020

It's been a bit quiet

In the beginning of lockdown, friends were telephoning each other often. That has worn off somewhat.  We don't have much to say. We have exhausted the subject of Covid-19, our government, anyone else's government, what's on TV or Netflix or anything else. Just not a lot of conversation.......

However, a useful piece of information - wearing a mask causes your glasses to steam up (who knew?).  Take a tissue fold it in half and put it under the nose bit, it works. 

The excuses for not wearing a mask are legion.  One person complained she wore a mask and the next day had a cold sore. Yup, nothing to do with that other virus, herpes. One woman complained on social media that she nearly fainted.  Just as well she is not a doctor, nurse, any other kind of health care or care worker. That was before the hairdressers etc opened and they have to wear masks. I just don’t know how my father could have operated for hours on end in an operating theatre wearing a mask.  

I rather overbought disposable gloves.  Have realised that they are excellent when doing messy baking/kneading.  

I don’t go out much but my only trip to supposedly upmarket Waitrose, no hand sanitiser, very few masks and no social distancing.  Tesco on the other hand had a huge dispenser, more people were wearing masks and far more disciplined. 

Zoom meetings are excellent. Happily I am not spending hours every day doing this but the few meetings I have had have been very efficient.  Institute of Health Visiting, where I chair the trustee board, had its annual meeting with the auditors.  We were all calling in from home.  Normally this is at least a half a day for me and I am the closest. Others travel in from far further afield.  At least one person has travel delays and starts the meeting stressed.  Our board meetings draw trustees from around the country - I am not sure we will return to face to face for regular meetings.  

FaceTime and WhatsApp have their uses.  Wonderful to see family and friends we can’t meet physically but somehow I end up feeling slightly depressed afterwards as it brings home what we are really missing

Our local nail bar opens today.  It is a family run business, husband and wife and her sister, all from Saigon.  Spotlessly clean and they are competent and just lovely.  Very excited to see sister’s wedding photographs from her wedding at the beginning of the year.  Whole family was cleaning the salon from top to toe when I walked past Sunday morning. I’m quite excited.....mani pedi here I come!


I’m still baking – more of that tomorrow.