Monthly Archives: July 2014

I Was Feeling Very Sleepy

This was one of the first non-travel things to enter my bucket list when I started making it a few years ago and whilst I don’t have a video showing it I do have the ticket… to the show where I was hypnotised.

List Item: Be hypnotised
Progress: Completed Scan 24 Mar 2014 20_58-page21

So as you can tell from the ticket I scanned above this show was about a year ago. My partner and his best friend are both fans of Derren Brown and so the three of us went (with another friend, hi Rob!) to see his Infamous show.

The show was great was per usual (this is my second of his shows and my mini-crush was present) and he gets to a bit that required audience participation. In the last show I saw this required people to write down a “secret confession” but this time he tried out a mass hypnosis/trance state thing which everyone gets up and has a go at.

Now, from here my memory of it gets a bit sketchy. Considering I was still fresh from finishing my NQT year as a teacher I was probably incredibly susceptible to entering a “trance state” and ended up being one of the last twenty or so in the theatre that was under (this included a woman who struggled to wake up). At one point during this he was apparently standing right behind me talking… not that I noticed.

The whole idea was to create a feeling of relaxation and I remember during this that when the instruction was given to wake up I REALLY did not want to wake up. I saw things very vividly in my head (I am describing this in detail since the people behind me in the theatre asked what it was like).

The main instructions were to visualise things we loved and to basically walk through doors and down stairs into different places. The main things I can remember seeing were the mountains in Slovenia, a field and the lecture theatre at university we used to show films in. After I woke up I felt so contented and it dawned on me that I needed to change my job as soon as possible… about a year later and I’m feeling what I felt back when I was under. Maybe Derren Brown’s thing led me to this.

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Around The World In 100 Films – India

100WorldFilms - IndiaList Item: Watch films from 100 different nations
Progress: 29/100

ALSO!

List Item: Watch Roger Ebert’s “The Great Movies”
Progress: 171/409

This is probably the only time that this will happen in this blog where one film satisfies both the Ebert challenge and the World Cinema challenge. This is one of those films that tends to appear on lists as part of a trilogy, and it has taken me well over a year to get round to seeing the second film.

aparajito_140311Country: India
Title: Aparajito (The Unvanquished)
Director: Satyajit Ray
Year: 1956

Okay, so I have never seen a stereotypical Bollywood Indian film (mostly because I don’t like the look of them) and this is only the third Indian film I have seen after Salaam Bombay! and Pather Panchali. I know at some point I will see one of the most singing and dancing Indian movies but I guess I will get around to them at some point.

No matter how good a film that is the second in a planned-trilogy is it always tends to feel like it is just inbetween. Aparajito starts a year or so after Pather Panchali where Apu and his parents leave their ancestral home after a series of tragic incidents leaving them in poverty. Where Pather Panchali takes place in a fairly short time Aparajito initiates a time-jump half way through to age him from a pre-teen to a sixteen-year-old; something which really helps to move the film on.

Whilst the trilogy is all about the maturation of a young Indian boy into a  man this film is really at its strongest when it is examining the relationship between Apu and his mother. Where Apu is growing up and realising his potential to not follow in his father’s spiritual footsteps there is his mother who, over the previous film and a half, has pretty much lost everything good in her life. Her daughter, her husband, her social standing and now her son has discovered just how bright he is and wants to study far away. Her reluctance to allow him to move away to continue his studies and her the depression and illness she spirals into is tragic and, since this blog is a place of honesty, made me want to give my mother a big hug.

The ending of this film sees Apu choosing to completely abandon his village roots to life as an educated man in the city of Kolkata. It leaves the door wide-open for the third and final movie (mostly because this film ends part-way through the book) and I hope it takes me less time to finally get round to finish off this trilogy.

Music Monday: London Calling by The Clash

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 21/250TheClashLondonCallingTitle: London Calling
Artist: The Clash
Year: 1979
Position: #8 (Previously: #9)

Since I am over 10% in it makes sense that I make a grab for an album in the top 10 for the very first time. I have tried a bit of most of the other albums in the top 10 so I thought I would go for London Calling.

The first thing that I noticed was the album cover. It helps that I have already looked over the Elvis Presley début album for this so I could notice that this was an homage. The contrast of Elvis’s joyful playing at the birth of rock ‘n roll with bassist Paul Simonon smashing his guitar speaks to how much music and its image has moved on in the 23 years between the albums.

Whilst I have never been a fan of punk music on the whole after a few listens to London Calling I think I may be persuaded to dive into the realm of post-punk proper; compared to post-punk revival acts such as Franz Ferdinand, The White Stripes and The Strokes who all also appear on this album list at some points.

At 19 songs long and at just over an hour long it does, to be honest, feel a little bit overstuffed on the first listen. On the third listen though it all seems to slot into place but by the time you reach ‘Death and Glory’ you do think the album is about to end and there are still seven tracks to go.

The best thing about this album is the sheer number of genres that is mixed in and that in many ways it is an album that could have easily been made more recently. I know I say that often but you have ‘classic’ albums that are very much of their time (aka anything by The Beatles) but this sounds like something that could have come out around ten years ago. Granted there are references which do date the album, such as the mention of Beatlemania in the title track, but it would also mean that I would have to redact any mentions of The Clash in Gilmore Girls as well as every artist that took inspiration from it… so I guess it should stay back in 1979.

Good Eatin’: The Meal ASDA Didn’t Want Me To Have

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

Okay, I need to explain the title since this is not just a random pot-shot at ASDA this is venting after some bad ASDA experience.

Since we moved into our own place we have been ordering our groceries from ASDA (like I did when I was at university). This is not only because they are on the cheaper end of the spectrum but of all the online food shopping sites they tend to be the ones with the most offers on two litre bottles of Pepsi Max.

So, what happened this time? Well firstly I got a call at work a few hours on the day of delivery saying that due to a vehicle problem my delivery had to be cancelled and rescheduled to Monday. This was annoying, but after a call I got it moved to Saturday evening. Ok, fine. Then Saturday evening came, they were late and the delivery was missing about 2-3 bags worth of shopping. After half an hour on the phone to customer service I was assured that I would get a call about redelivery soon… and we waited until noon the next day. We called up and told to phone back in an hour… then basically told it would probably be best to go for the refund.

Needless to say, not exactly a happy consumer. So after my 3 month delivery pass lapses I will be looking for another online food shopping provider. Probably Tesco. As for today’s food, a mix of Morrison’s and Tesco to the rescue!

Food Items: Cous cous, Halloumi, Pumpkin Seed Oil

Ah cous cous, so good they named it twice. I love how versitile it is and today we had ‘Moroccan-Style’ which involved sultanas and cumin. It was earthy and delicious, much like the pumpkin seed oil. I can’t quite believe now much it tastes like solid pumpkin seeds… I know it’s weird but I didn’t. It is also a very very dark green, a colour you only see if you have a very small amount of it. You don’t need a lot of it since it is quite a strong flavoured oil which is nice with lettuce or chard.

Halloumi is great because you can fry it or grill it and it doesn’t make a horrible molten mess in your pan. I know some people don’t like that there is a slight squeakiness when you bite into a slice of it but I love that, same with the saltiness of the cheese. Apparently there is a Finnish squeaky cheese on the list called Leipäjuusto which I am going to have to look out for if I am ever in Finland.

Food Item: Nashi Pear

I can not believe I found these in Morrisons. They look really quite odd for pears, which explains one of their other names: Apple pear. They also go by Asian Pear, Japanese Pear, Korean Pear and Sand Pear.

Now I am not the biggest fan of pears (I prefer apples) but these are the juiciest pears that I have ever had. I took a big bite and the amount of juice that was released meant I was just dribbling (not a great image). They are very sweet and very much like what would happen if you combined an apple with a good quality pear.

Progress: 67/500

Good Eatin’: A Fancy Finger Moustache Lunch

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

Food Items: Cherry Tomatoes, Sherry Vinegar, Manchego, Smoked Mackerel

This was one of the best lunched I had in ages. It felt so fancy that every time I refer to this I have to do a finger moustache and call it my fancy lunch. It started out because I am very well aware of the lack of fish that I have eaten so far. A trip to the Little Waitrose that opened in the high street (still stoked about that) meant we were able to find ourselves a nice packet of peppered smoked mackerel. It was then that I thought that we should have a fancy lunch!

So we smelt the cheeses , bought the fish and went across the high street to the local Morrisons to get the rest of the provisions for lunch. Including a loaf of date and walnut bread which my partner picked up (apparently since he remembered what I said about Manchego pairing well with fruit). We got home, I tossed the salad leaves in some sherry vinegar, sliced the Manchego as thinly as I could without removing my fingertips and the below is what we had:

The great thing about this lunch is how all the flavours really complimented each other. The buttery and understated Manchego worked well with the crisp, sweet explosion of the cherry tomatoes and the acidic (yet sweet notes) of the sherry vinegar. I was a bit of a philistine and turned my plate into a big open faced sandwich (where the smokiness and meatiness of the fish co-dominated with the sherry vinegar) and consumed very quickly. We ended up having enough left over that we had exactly the same for dinner and we were more than happy to do so.

Food Item: Single-Estate Chocolate

I have been curious with the idea of Single-Estate chocolate since first reading about it in the book. The idea is to create connoisseurs for chocolate in the same way we exist for wine. To qualify all the beans used in the chocolate have to come from the same plantation. As such we had a limited selection in the Little Waitrose and settled on the Indonesian Gold since it sounded the most delicious based on the box.

Being 69% dark this was dark, rich and really lingered on the pallate (trying to use wine lingo here, how am I doing?). There was an immediate burnt sugar(almost treacle) taste that melted away as the chocolate melted to give a far more subtle note which, like the package says, resembles caramel. But I would still go for burnt caramel rather than regular caramel you find in a Mars bar. Yes it was nice but I’m happier chomping on milk chocolate (now to find some single estate milk chocolate).

Progress: 63/500

Dear Diary… I Should Never Re-Read You

This isn’t something I have have just finished, in fact it is something I did for two and a half years and they mark the years 2005 to the first half of 2007. They are also cringing to read now that I am older.

mydiaries List Item: Keep a diary
Progress: Completed

In order to write this post I picked up the 2005 diary and turned to a random page, which lead me to April 14th. Here is an excerpt (it was the first day of school after the Easter holidays):

From the moment I walked in everything was back to normal. The isolation and sheer lonleyness (sic) that can be attributed to being unpopular

I then spend the rest of that day mooning over my crush and planning to become friends with him (never happened), being glad someone I disliked stayed away from me and something about a rumour of guy in the year below who gave another guy a handjob for a tenner. A few more flicks in that year is still fairly emotional and weird to read.

Let’s see how 2006 reads. First page I open is November 21st.

Apart from the visit from the fire brigade to put out a bin that some chavs set alight it has been a relatively normal day.

Getting better. How about November 22nd.

A bunch of Vikings got on the bus. All dressed up with horned hats, armour and axes. Found it hard not to laugh, especially when they started singing “The Wheels On The Bus”, “Hail To The Bus Driver” and of course “If You’re Happy And You Know It”. Pity they got off early.

So I guess that I cheered up between April 2005 and November 2006.

It’s really odd to read these and I am glad I actually kept them since it allows me to look back on my final two years of school. Even if I am a whiny cry-baby a lot of the time.

Music Monday: Parallel Lines by Blondie

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 20/250Blondie_-_Parallel_LinesTitle: Parallel Lines
Artist: Blondie
Year: 1978
Position: #126 (Previously: #119)

After a short trip to the 1990s it is back to the 1970s I go where I am listening to one of my favourite albums of that era; Parallel Lines by Blondie. A band that I got know at a young age with the release of ‘Maria’ in 1999 which I liked so much that I was given a copy of Blondie’s greatest hits. I listened to that album a lot, falling for tracks such as ‘Atomic’, ‘Hanging on The Telephone’, ‘Heart of Glass’ and ‘One Way Or Another’ (not so much ‘Tide is High’… and I only got into ‘Rapture’ within the last five or so years). I only listened to Parallel Lines as an studio album in my final years of secondary school.

Thinking about it… Blondie actually helped to shape my overall music taste. A strong female voice. Pop music. Attitude. Never made that connection before. Cool.

Anyway, we have Parallel Lines which acted as the crossover success that propelled Blondie to the top of the charts around the world and ensured that they are an act that music will likely never ever forget. It saw them adopting pop music in the place of their punk rock roots (although it is still there in ‘Would Anything Happen’) and, controversially at the time, even take on disco in their million-selling single (in the UK anyway) ‘Heart of Glass’.

The strange thing about going from the Greatest Hits to Parallel Lines is that the latter album plays like a best of album. Half of the tracklist ended up being released as singles anyway and the remaining six songs are all so tightly written and varied that it is hard to get bored. Of the non-singles there are two stand outs that could have easily been singles in their own right; ‘Just Go Away’ and ‘Fade Away and Radiate’. The former is a bitchy schoolgirl track that I used a lot as a featured song on MSN when I was talking to people I didn’t like (I was 16) and then there is the latter… which is creepy, beautiful an unlike anything else I have heard Blondie record.

As albums go it is infinitely cool and incredibly catchy. A rare instance of pop music that can be openly listened to without derision from any passers-by. Unlike Steps…

Good Eatin’: Some Odds and Ends

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

Like with my previous post regarding snacks this food update is a bit of a hodge-podge of a number of different meals I have had over the last month since it’s hard to include multiple food list entrants in one meal unless you try hard or are doing it to try and cross a number of them off.

Food Item: Chimichurri

God bless Tesco and their incredibly wide-ranging Ingredients range. I’ve made my own chimichurri sauce before but since the recipes for this Argentine sauce are so wide ranging I figured I’d go premade for this list and maybe make my own some other time.

In this case it was used on a steak sandwich and it was a delicious blend of herbs (coriander leaf and parsley being the more obvious ones in this incarnation) and an underlying piquancy due to the presence of garlic and some red chilli.

Later that week I minced some chimichurri and lime juice into chicken to make burgers and they tasted very much like something I had in a Thai restaurant many years ago. Goes to show it isn’t just for manly steak sandwiches.

Food Item: (English) Muffin

I have never been able to poach an egg. My mum has never been able to poach an egg. For the above Eggs Benedict she learnt how to and it was the best version of the dish I had ever had. The eggs were perfect and the Hollandaise sauce we got from Borough Market is possibly the best Hollandaise sauce I had ever had.

I love muffins (and they are not English muffins, just muffins). I think they are among the lesser appreciate English breakfast breads since they have become synonymous with the (gorgeous) McMuffins. But who cares, they are bready and that odd place where airy and stodgey are able to meet. They are also delicious with Marmite and cheese.

Food Item: Coconut Milk

This was a bit of a happy accident since we bought a Satay Sauce packet and on the way to the checkout I saw we needed to get some coconut milk for this. Now I know that Light Coconut Milk is an option but… it congeals and separates as it cooks and it makes food look a bit rank unless you heat it just right. Still tastes fine… just not as good as full fat (unlike the situation with mayonnaise where I prefer the taste of reduced fat).

Progress: 58/500

Good Eatin’: £7 Sausages

List Item: Try 500 of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die

Food Items: Frozen Peas, Kecap, Basmati Rice, Chinese Sausage

Okay, I can’t quite believe that I spent £7 on Chinese Sausage but I used this as an opportunity to get myself a Fortune Cat loyalty card so hopefully this will be something I can reap the benefits of in the future since it’s where I prefer to buy my soy sauce and my Kecap Manis (something I was so happy to find in a large bottle that I danced a merry jig in the store). If you have never had Kecap Manis before (I only tried it because of the Indo-Dutch connection) then I guess the best way to describe it would be as a sweet soy sauce.

So what did I do with the following items? Chinese sausage fried rice of course! So delicious I had it the next day for breakfast!

Ingredients (3 servings as a main dish):

  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 4 cups pre-cooked basmati rice
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 4 chinese sausages, sliced
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • 4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • a dash of rice wine vinegar
Heat half the oil in a wok over a high heat (I would say flame but I have a ceramic hob) and fry the eggs in it until they make a neat circular omelette (don’t touch it too much as it cooks or they will scramble). Remove from the heat for later.
Add the rest of the oil followed by the ginger, garlic, celery and frozen peas. Stir-fry this for 2-3 minutes before adding the sausages and the spring onions. Since these are partially-cooked you only need to fry them for a minute or two. Add the rice, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and stir-fry until the rice is completely warm-hot throughout. Stir in the egg and consume happily.
The sausages were an odd taste and not what I expected, whilst they were meaty and smoky there was a sweetness to them that you don’t find in your bog-standard sausages. The way that the fat in them had melted meant the whole dish had their taste distributed throughout. If I were to make this again I would probably go for a different rice since, as much as I love the nutty taste it has, it did not really suit this dish.
So where was the kecap in all this? Lashings of it were drizzled over the rice and I was very happy.
Progress: 55/500

Sometimes I Like To Stuff My Face… So What!?

Whilst I would consider myself a foodie I am not over going for something less than formal… which explains my visit to the establishment below:

Little-WuList Item: Attend an all you can eat buffet
Progress: Completed

Now, the reason I went here with my partner was to celebrate my first paycheck in my new (and great) job. Since I had to take a sizeable pay cut to get this job we didn’t exactly go somewhere ‘fancy’ but I have not been to a Chinese buffet in YEARS. So, we went to Little Wu in London’s Chinatown on a Friday evening… which was chocca.

Considering the price of £6.95 you know you are not going to get the most amazing food. It’s fine. I mean the satay chicken was nice (if you can get over the thick layer of oil floating on top of the sauce) as were the spring rolls and the noodles.

Now whilst I do appreciate the continuous bringing out of fresh food it gets annoying that after a long queue to the buffet that the moment you get the thing you want (like the ribs or the chicken satay) that a waiter comes along, lifts a half-empty tray and takes it away. I was left standing there (twice) feeling rather crestfallen that the thing I really wanted to eat was taken away AND I had irritated people behind me so I had to move on. If that happens one, fine. But twice? Ugh.

Here’s the thing, if I was to go out for nice Chinese food I would not go there. I would go to nearby places like Lido or New World. But if you are desperate for a buffet it’s okay.

 List Item: Eat too much
Progress: Completed

 I am not at all condoning the regular act of eating until you spew…but maybe experience it once in your life. It makes you feel satisfied, then slow, then sick and then sleepy. All the descriptors beginning with S.