Through a small window…

 

This is an exer­cise in look­ing at things in extreme close-up. It’s meant to give you a refresh­ing new per­spect­ive, although it’s per­fectly pos­sible that you won’t have a clue what I’m on about.

There’s a vivid, yel­low land­scape in Amsterdam’s mag­ni­fi­cent Van Gogh Museum called Wheat­field with Reap­er. Its par­tic­u­lar pathos comes from the fact that Van Gogh painted it, in all its golden radi­ance, while star­ing out of the locked win­dow of his hos­pit­al room in St Rémy. As he told his broth­er, it amused him that he should see some­thing so vibrant ‘through the iron bars of a cell’.

There’s some­thing about see­ing a view through a small win­dow that focuses the mind. Poet Paul Ver­laine, imprisoned for shoot­ing his lov­er Arthur Rim­baud, found a mourn­ful, sooth­ing rhythm in the view from his Brus­sels pris­on-cell win­dow. It’s hard to recon­cile the regret­ful but calm mel­an­choly of the poem he wrote while star­ing at the view with his more famil­i­ar per­sona as a drug-addicted, abus­ive alco­hol­ic — the restrain­ing effect of the win­dow may have had some­thing to do with it, as well as the tem­por­ary lack of access to absinthe.

Le ciel est, par-des­sous le toit,
Si bleu, si calme!
Un arbre, par-des­sus le toit,
Berce sa palme.

La cloche, dans le ciel qu’on voit,
Douce­ment tinte.
Un oiseau sur l’arbre qu’on voit,
Chante sa plainte.

Mon Dieu, mon Dieu, la vie est là
Simple et tran­quille.
Cette pais­ible rumeur-là
Vient de la ville.

- Qu’as-tu fait, ô toi que voilà
Pleur­ant sans cesse,
Dis, qu’as-tu fait, toi que voilà
De ta jeun­esse?  

A view framed by a win­dow makes the observ­er look more closely, with more intent. I love the fact that the cit­izens of Königs­berg watched at their win­dows for Immanuel Kant to walk past at exactly the same moment each day, know­ing that they could reset any errant clocks when they saw his hat bob by. (They cer­tainly weren’t wait­ing at the win­dows for a chat; a guest once arrived while Kant was eat­ing his break­fast and was asked to leave until the routine slice of toast had been con­sumed — Kant couldn’t cope with the break in his routine.)

Since today is the 400th anniversary of Wil­li­am Shakespeare’s death, I feel hon­our-bound to include him when look­ing at things in close-up. Exam­ine Shakespeare’s writ­ing minutely and you’ll find a hapax leg­omen­on — the term to define a word that appears only once in an author’s com­plete works. Shakespeare’s hapax leg­omen­on turns out to be hon­or­i­fic­ab­il­it­udin­it­a­ti­bus from Love’s Labour’s Lost. I can put my hand on my heart and say with total con­vic­tion that my own hapax leg­omen­on is Van­Gogh­Had­dock­Pasty, since I feel sure that it’s nev­er, ever going to arise again. (I’m fairly cer­tain that a Van­Gogh­Had­dock-thingey is not just my own hapax leg­omen­on but the entire world’s.) The pic­tures I’ve forced you to look at in close-up are, in fact, the ingredi­ents for a Van­Gogh­Had­dock-youknowwhat.

VANGOGHHADDOCK-ETC.ETC.

This is a vari­ation on a recipe from Sally Clarke’s excel­lent book 30 Ingredi­ents, one of my favour­ite cook­ery books.

  • 600ml milk
  • Fresh thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • I tea­spoon black pep­per­corns
  • Some freshly grated nut­meg
  • 600g undyed, smoked had­dock
  • 100g but­ter
  • 2 very finely sliced leeks
  • 2 very finely sliced sticks cel­ery (the thin­ner stalks)
  • 30g flour
  • 500g puff pastry
  • 1 beaten egg 

Add the bay leaves, thyme and pep­per­corns to the milk and bring to a gentle sim­mer. Add the had­dock to the pan and poach for around 8 minutes until the fish is cooked. Take off the heat and leave the fish to cool in the pan. While it’s cool­ing, sauté the cel­ery and leek in 50g of but­ter until soft but uncol­oured. Remove the veget­ables and put on one side. Take the cooked fish out of the cooled milk and reserve both. Strain the cook­ing milk and save. Add the rest of the but­ter to the pan and and, once melted, stir in the flour. Cook for a minute or so to get rid of the raw flour taste and then slowly add the poach­ing milk, whisk­ing con­stantly to avoid lumps form­ing. Take off the heat and very gently stir the sauce into the fish and veget­able mix­ture. Adjust the season­ing, finely grate over some nut­meg, and allow the mix­ture to go cold.

Roll out the puff pastry and cut into squares approx­im­ately 15cm square. Divide the cold fish between the squares, brush the edges with beaten egg and seal the par­cels togeth­er. Brush more egg on top of each pasty and chill in the fridge for an hour or so.

Pre­heat the oven to 200 degrees C and bake for twenty minutes. Turn the oven down to 180 degrees C and cook for a fur­ther ten minutes.

PS. The close-up images were: nut­meg, leeks, bay leaves, fresh thyme, and black pep­per­corns. You prob­ably guessed them all, apart from the bay leaves which look like traffic on the M25 viewed from the Inter­na­tion­al Space Sta­tion.
PPS. If you haven’t had enough win­dows yet, I recom­mend Ian Patterson’s super­lat­ive poem ‘Sixty Win­dows for Jenny’. He con­struc­ted it by find­ing sixty books each of which men­tioned win­dows on the six­tieth page, and then incor­por­ated each phrase, unaltered, into his poem.

 

If You are inter­ested in pur­chas­ing medic­a­ments online, now may be the when to do so. So the next mat­ter is where can you find inform­a­tion that is reli­able. You can get such inform­a­tion fast and con­veni­ently by going online. There are many ill­nesses such as schizo­phrenia which have no cure. One of the most pop­u­lar medi­cine is Via­gra. What about com­par­is­on between Cial­is versus Levitra and ? Nearly every adult knows about . Oth­er ques­tion we have to is . The symp­toms of sexu­al dis­orders in men include lack of sexu­al fantas­ies. Not­with­stand­ing sex is not vital for good health, it’s cer­tainly good for any­one. So if you are exper­i­en­cing erectile prob­lems, it is essen­tial to see a cer­ti­fied doc instantly for a com­plete med­ic­al test­ing. Cer­tainly, online phar­macy can hands-down help you for solv­ing your all per­son­al dif­fi­culties.

Dried Pea Masala: split infinitives and infinite splits

This is a split post: it’s split between India and Manchester, has split and unsplit peas, and argues the case for the split infin­it­ive. There are rules about writ­ing that I’m strict about: the incor­rect use of apo­strophes, pair­ing a plur­al sub­ject with a sin­gu­lar verb (and vice versa), using too many adverbs, and reach­ing for a cliché just because it hap­pens to be nearest. But there’s one gram­mat­ic­al con­ven­tion I’ve nev­er wor­ried about break­ing and that’s the split infin­it­ive. Where would Star Trek be if we’d nev­er been allowed ‘to boldly go’? And, in any case, just try remov­ing the split infin­it­ive from this: ‘The dough needs to more than double in size before it’s ready for the oven.’ Recon­struct­ing the sen­tence simply makes it, like the dough, more than double in size.

I’ve just returned from India, where I tried end­less vari­ations on dhal, one of my favour­ite foods. The word itself means ‘split’ and can refer to any kind of len­til, bean or pea, so long as it’s been divided into two halves. So, to use a split infin­it­ive, to eagerly cook a dhal pro­duces an infin­ite num­ber of splits. A chef I talked to in Udaipur gave me his recipe for tarka dhal, which goes like this:

FOR THE DHAL

  • 200g split yel­low mung beans, soaked in cold water for half an hour
  • I finely chopped onion
  • 1 tea­spoon tur­mer­ic
FOR THE TARKA

 

  • 2 table­spoons ghee
  • 2 tea­spoons cumin seeds
  • 4 cloves gar­lic, sliced
  • 5cm piece ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 medi­um onion, chopped
  • 2 tea­spoons chopped green chilli
  • 2 medi­um toma­toes, chopped
  • 1 tea­spoon chilli powder
  • Chopped cori­ander
Bring the ingredi­ents for the dhal to the boil, reduce to a sim­mer and cook for around 45 minutes until soft. (The chef added salt at this stage, but I prefer to leave it until the end.) Heat the ghee in a fry­ing pan, add the cumin seeds and cook until they crackle, then add the gar­lic, ginger and green chilli and sauté for a minute or so. Add the chopped onions and cook on a medi­um heat until they’re golden brown, then add the chopped toma­toes. Cook for around five minutes and then add the tarka tem­per­ing to the len­tils. Sea­son to taste and sprinkle with the chopped cori­ander.

 

 

The word ‘pulses’ doesn’t have much poetry to it. But I’ve just been giv­en some with a name designed to beguile. They’re called Red Foxes and they come from a small pro­du­cer in Suf­folk called Hodmedod’s. (Their oth­er pulses are called Black Badgers and Gog Magogs, names which I like even more.) None of these pulses are split, so they can’t be used for dhal. But they’re per­fect for a mas­ala — a dhal with spheres instead of hemi­spheres.

RED FOX PEA MASALA

 

  • 250g dried peas or chick­peas, soaked in cold water overnight.
  • 1 table­spoon veget­able oil (I used organ­ic rape­seed oil from Hill­farm Oils)
  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 6 cloves gar­lic, grated finely
  • 5cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated finely
  • 1 green chilli, seeds removed
  • 2 tea­spoons each of ground cumin and ground cori­ander
  • 2 tea­spoons chilli powder
  • 1 tea­spoon tur­mer­ic
  • 250g toma­toes, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tea­spoons garam mas­ala
  • Cori­ander leaves
Drain the peas or chick­peas and add to a large pan of unsalted, boil­ing water. Sim­mer for an hour and then take off the heat. Heat the oil in a fry­ing pan and fry the onions until golden brown (this takes around ten minutes.) Add the gar­lic, ginger and green chil­lies and cook for a couple of minutes, before adding the cori­ander, cumin, chilli powder and tur­mer­ic. Finally, add the peas, toma­toes and around 400ml of their cook­ing water and sim­mer for twenty minutes. Fin­ish with the garam mas­ala and sprinkle over the cori­ander.

This is where my post splits — we’re off to Manchester now. I think I must like dhal so much because I was brought up on the glor­ies of fish and chips with mushy peas. By mushy peas, I abso­lutely do not mean posh petit pois that have been bashed about a bit and had fresh mint added; to me, they’re an abom­in­a­tion when served with fish and chips. By mushy peas I mean prop­er dried mar­row­fat peas that have been soaked, simmered to with­in an inch of their life, and then doused in brown malt vin­eg­ar. When I was a train­ee BBC news report­er in Manchester, I lived with my grandpa in his tiny house with its riot­ous wall­pa­per. It was the height of the bit­ter miners’ strike. I couldn’t afford a car, and must have been one of very few news report­ers to be driv­en to pick­et lines and work­ing col­lier­ies by their eld­erly grandpa in a clapped-out, dark brown Ford Granada estate.  If I was work­ing the late shift, he’d be wait­ing out­side the BBC’s Manchester headquar­ters at 2am to pick me up, Jim Reeves singing Bimbo on the car’s cas­sette play­er.

 

We lived hap­pily on fish, chips and mushy peas with mugs of malt-vin­eg­ar col­oured tea. Grandpa left school at four­teen and worked down the pits him­self, before becom­ing an appren­tice paint­er and dec­or­at­or. He was always much hap­pi­er on days when I was report­ing the strike from the point of view of the strikers than he was when I inter­viewed miners who were con­tinu­ing to work. I nev­er eat mushy peas, dhal, or chick­pea mas­ala without think­ing of him and his joie de vivre. The irony is that he would have detested any recipe with spices — he was a man so tim­id about food that he peeled his toma­toes before eat­ing them — but he would have loved the gen­er­os­ity of spir­it that goes with spiced dhal. He always wanted to be an engin­eer and invent­or, but nev­er got the chance. Yet he always retained the abil­ity to keep his eyes on the hori­zon and to embrace all points of view.

 

 

 

If You are engaged in pur­chas­ing medic­a­ments online, now may be the time to do so. So the next prob­lem is where can you find data that is reli­able. You can get such inform­a­tion fast and con­veni­ently by going online. There are many ill­nesses such as schizo­phrenia which have no cure. One of the most pops phys­ic is Via­gra. What about com­par­is­on between Cial­is versus Levitra and ? Nearly either adult knows about . Oth­er ques­tion we have to is . The symp­toms of sexu­al dis­orders in men turn on lack of sexu­al fantas­ies. Not­with­stand­ing sex is not vital for good health, it’s cer­tainly good for any­one. So if you are exper­i­en­cing erectile prob­lems, it is essen­tial to see a cer­ti­fied doc­tor imme­di­ately for a com­plete med­ic­al test­ing. Cer­tainly, online phar­macy can hands-down help you for solv­ing your all per­son­al dif­fi­culties.

The Private Life of the Diary with hot chocolate

Mise-en-abyme may sound a cum­ber­some phrase, but when you try to describe what it actu­ally means — the place­ment of a thing with­in a lar­ger copy of itself, ad infin­itum — its three words  sound down­right eco­nom­ic­al. (One of the most fam­ous mise-en abymes is Van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Wed­ding, in which the mar­ried couple is reflec­ted in mini­ature in a mir­ror, in which a min­is­cule ver­sion of itself is end­lessly rep­lic­ated.) Sally Bay­ley has cre­ated a form of mise-en-abyme with her new book The Private Life of the Diary. It’s a his­tory of the diary as an art form, but with its intric­ate, inter­cut struc­ture, its intim­ate tone and its light­ness of touch, it acts as a spark­ling and highly ima­gin­at­ive journ­al about journ­als. She includes entries from the diar­ies of Pepys, Vir­gin­ia Woolf, Alan Clark, Sylvia Plath, Henry Dav­id Thor­eau and the fic­tion­al Cas­sandra Mort­main, mar­ry­ing each extract with a sharp, insight­ful ana­lys­is of intent. Plath’s adoles­cent reflec­tion that ‘I am in the mood for Thun­dery poetry now. I wish I had the exper­i­ence to write about it’, is, as Sally Bay­ley points out, ‘a neces­sary part of her ego devel­op­ment, her egot­ist­ic­al com­ing-of-age story. At the heart of this story are the thoughts of a girl who longs for omni­science.’

Amongst the most extraordin­ary diary entries come from Sally Bayley’s own journ­als. Brought up in a ‘small, stacked-up house’ crammed with six­teen or sev­en­teen people — her moth­er, aunt, grand­moth­er and scores of sib­lings and cous­ins — she longed for pri­vacy. House­hold shop­ping lists had entries such as ’20 pints of milk, 10 pack­ets of but­ter, 8 pounds of minced meat’ and the Extra Sharp Cana­dian Ched­dar had to be bought in blocks ten or twelve pounds at a time, which ‘shame­fully required a lady’s shop­ping trol­ley to pull back.’ When she was only sev­en years old, her moth­er sent her to Switzer­land alone, with a small bag, a cam­era and a diary. Her instruc­tions were to ‘bring all the big events, the sights and the sounds, back home and share them’. As she wryly points out, ‘My adven­ture, like my diary, was not my own. … From the first, my diary was nev­er private: it belonged to my moth­er, my aunt, my grand­moth­er, my broth­ers and cous­ins. My diary was already pub­lic, already owned.’

On a second vis­it abroad, but still only a child and with the same instruc­tions to gath­er import­ant inform­a­tion to bring back, she described her daily routine: ‘Every morn­ing, after choc-au-lait, in the kit­chen with the high win­dows and long wooden table, I pulled out my note­book and added more names to the list of pas­tas Madame Gros­jean had taught me.’ There’s a brave but slightly mourn­ful qual­ity to the prose of this explorer-child, gath­er­ing up testi­mony to take back to the tiny house in Sus­sex filled with expect­ant rel­at­ives wait­ing to devour her diary. It made me want to make home-made choc-au-lait for just a few rather than for expect­ant hordes.

CHOC-AU-LAIT WITH CHILLIES AND CINNAMONNOT FOR SHARING UNLESS YOU WANT TO (THESE QUANTITIES MAKE ENOUGH FOR FOUR, IN FACT)

  • 750ml full cream milk
  • 80g 70% cocoa solids chocol­ate
  • 50g good milk chocol­ate
  • 100ml single cream
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded
  • 1 tea­spoon sug­ar
  • pinch of salt
  • Half tea­spoon cin­na­mon powder

Heat the milk until it’s nearly boil­ing. Grate the chocol­ate and stir it into the milk, along with the chilli, sug­ar, salt, cin­na­mon and cream. Allow to steep for five minutes and then whisk it. Drink it on your own with your diary.

The Private Life of the Diary ends with instruc­tions on how to keep a diary like Sylvia Plath, Vir­gin­ia Woolf, James Boswell (‘buy your­self a small but sturdy writ­ing bur­eau’) and, my favour­ite, like Cas­sandra Mort­main. ‘Choose an out­land­ish pos­i­tion. Per­haps a bath or a sink.… have some Shakespeare close by for ref­er­ence. I recom­mend the com­ed­ies because things work out best there.’

Sally Bay­ley has cre­ated an eru­dite, beau­ti­fully struc­tured and beguil­ing book. It’s a life story of the diary that does full cred­it to its long and com­plic­ated exist­ence. It’s often funny, some­times bleak, always intel­li­gent.

Sally Bay­ley, The Private Life of the Diary: From Pepys to Tweets (Lon­don: Unbound, 2016)

If You are con­cerned in pur­chas­ing medic­a­ments online, now may be the time to do so. So the next ques­tion is where can you find inform­a­tion that is reli­able. You can get such info fast and con­veni­ently by going online. There are many ill­nesses such as schizo­phrenia which have no cure. One of the most pop­u­lar phys­ic is Via­gra. What about com­par­is­on between Cial­is versus Levitra and ? Nearly every adult knows about . Oth­er ques­tion we have to is . The symp­toms of sexu­al dis­orders in men include lack of sexu­al fantas­ies. Not­with­stand­ing sex is not vital for good sound­ness, it’s cer­tainly good for any­one. So if you are exper­i­en­cing erectile prob­lems, it is essen­tial to see a cer­ti­fied doc­tor instantly for a com­plete medi­cin­al test­ing. Cer­tainly, online phar­macy can hands-down help you for solv­ing your all per­son­al dif­fi­culties.