Thursday, 28 January 2010

Ode to a Haggis

This year I celebrated Burns Night for the first time. Actually, I got my dates mixed up and so celebrated Burns Night on Australia Day, but nevermind!

I'd never tried haggis or neeps and tatties and was keen to give them a go, especially after hearing so many good things about vegetarian haggis!

And it was yummy! Sort of like my nut roast, but more oaty, and no nuts! And the neeps and tatties, though not very traditional in terms of fat content (I used olive oil instead of butter, and didn't add any extra butter to the mixture at the end), were divine. We ate enough for about four people between two of us (not something unusual for us, actually).

Finished off with one of my favourite juices - whiskey! Again, not very Scottish as it was Jack Daniels, but we got the jist! The night was rounded off with recitals of Ode to a Mouse in awful attempts at Scottish accents. I can't say I'm keen on his poetry, but I do like Burns Night very much - hopefully the first of many for me!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Back in the swing.

It has been a busy and strange couple of weeks. Upon returning for Term 2 after weeks of staying in and writing, I was expecting to get straight back into 'normal' life, but of course this is never the case! A whistle-stop return home for a family funeral and then a lovely day celebrating Daniel's graduation made everything a little unusual. But here I am, back to my blogging, and hoping to build a new routine as soon as possible!

I don't really feel inspired to write about any particular part of my life right now. I just feel like writing something. So, I will do something I've been intending to do for a while: a short summary of 2009 from a musical perspective. I wait until the 'Best of 2009' listings come out every year, and then spend all of my Christmas money on albums which take my fancy. So here is a selection!

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion

This was named the Album of 2009 by various publications, one of which being Uncut magazine, whose opinion (or musical opinion, at least) I tend to trust. From what I'd heard on the radio, and the many comparisons I'd read liking them to the Beach Boys, I wasn't expecting to enjoy this all that much, but actually, I do like it quite a lot. In an age where you can't avoid Thom Yorke's political wailing unless you abandon the airwaves altogether, it's refreshing to hear songs about bringing up children, being happy with your lot, and all other aspects of middle-class domestic bliss. Not my favourite, but fun all the same!

Grizzly Bear - Vekatimest

This is one of those lovely, unimposing albums which doesn't grab you all of a sudden but instead carries you along until the end, when you realize that you've just been somewhere very beautiful. A lovely lilting album with some really great harmonies.

Wild Beasts - Two Dancers

I bought the first Wild Beasts album earlier in the year, and was so excited by the really daring falsetto mixed with pure mysogeny that I had to buy the new (and highly rated) album. Then I was disappointed when it didn't grab me straight away. It feels produced, and I always prefer a bit of scratchiness in an album, it makes the music more reachable somehow. Anyway, I listened again, properly, while cleaning up, and quite suddenly fell in love. It's a little more sensitive then Limbo, Panto, less raucous and wild, but that's fine by me!

The Raincoats - We Three

I first heard The Raincoats while watching a documentary about The Smiths, and the sheer energy I saw in the one-minute clip of the band made me want their album. As it happens, they re-released We Three this year, and so it was relatively easy to come by (I don't use Amazon where possible as I am on a plight to save what is left of the record shop). The Raincoats combine the energy and attitude of the 'riot grrl' genre with some really reallly reallllly awesome music; I absolutely love the grinding violin (and I never though the violin could be described as 'grinding' until I heard them) and the attention to musical detail which is often forgotten in the heat of feminism. Love it love it love it; it takes me back to my punk days without feeling like an adolescent again!

The Unthanks - Here's The Tender Coming

The Unthanks were nominated for Best Album at the the BBC folk awards, and after hearing them on the radio I decided I needed this CD. However, after the first listen I returned to my previous opinion of folk music: not for stereo. It seemed a bit too clichéd, too unoriginal, too folksy (unsurprisingly, maybe). But then I listened again. An hour later, the album finished, and I put it on again. Since then it has left the CD player once, soon to return. It's a really lovely album, and brings out the best of folk, in fact: the tradition, the storytelling, the simple but beautiful music. Suddenly it stopped being folksy and became something original, music in its own right. I'm excited to get to know this album more, and will be doing so later this evening.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Le weekend.

There are two ways I could report on this weekend.

I could talk about how horribly ill I felt, with my swollen glands causing squeamish and painful movement, my dull lead body and delirious panicking thoughts. About dissappointing days spent inside, plans of art galleries and tea shops becoming optimistic ideas from the week before. Wistful thoughts of being out with the world as it pulled away from its snowy stillness into a misty and (slightly) more hospitable stupor. About arriving back home after hours of waiting for my laundry, and being unable to open my door; so swollen from the damp and cold, it had given up on me when I really needed warmth, tea and food more than anything else. Waiting in the pub, getting drunk on a tired, recuperating body and empty stomach because that seemed like the only way to do it.

Or, I could put the other slant on it.

Failing to celebrate hand-in on Thursday night, we decided to celebrate it on Friday morning. Breakfast is one of my favourite things in the whole wide world, and so a slap-up start to the day is my favourite way to mark an occasion...

With homemade spelt buns, which worked a treat! (see below for recipe!)

And, partly because I was so poorly, and partly because I'm just a really lucky lady, I was treated to an extra special weekend after all, just not the one I was expecting.

I got to eat mini muffins in my dressing gown - NOM!

I got to snuggle on the couch with a hot water bottle and warm barley juice, while watching Orson Welles in a highly dramatic version on Jane Eyre

I got hand and foot massages, and even got my own poetry reading as I lay like a lead woman!

I can't really complain, I don't think.

Spelt Buns

Makes 14 - 16

400g spelt flour
250g plain flour
7g yeast
600ml cold* water
1tsp honey
1tsp salt

Mix the salt, yeast and honey into the water, then add the flour and stir with a spoon until mixed well. Cover and leave in the fridge overnight (or at least 6 hours).

In the morning, spoon onto a greased baking tray and bake at 220C for 20 minutes.

Gobble up! With peanut butter and jam, if that's your fancy!

*I was so sure this wouldn't work due to the yeast not being activated, but it did. I don't know how!

Thursday, 14 January 2010


Last night I finished the assignments that have taken over the past 2 months. I have never worked so hard on a piece of work, and I was so pleased to find in myself the will to give so much time, effort and angst to something. I wrote with the intention of producing my best ever, so let's hope that the results reflect that!

Now I suffer as a consequence! Yesterday morning my body just said "NO". I had to ignore it for a whole day, aching my way through seminars, reading words which I couldn't make sense of, trying my best to not be as discusting and sniffly as I felt around other people! Early to bed with Tolstoy and a hot toddy felt like a well-deserved treat (despite desperately trying not to gag as I held the mug near my face!), but the hope of feeling more human today did not materialize! Nope, I dragged me and my 36 pages of writing to campus in icy damp conditions, snuffling, moaning and groaning like the wimp that I am! Once it was handed in, however, I had my FAVOURITE lunch; veggie sausage sandwich with tomatoes, and my lovely Texan friend treated me to some Texan socks and a delish (and very posh!) hot chocolate.

Now I am snuggling at home with nothing to do, eucalyptus burning in my oil lamp, Grizzly Bear on my stereo, about to make bread and have an early night in.

Essays and illness really aren't that bad :-)

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Snow Day!

There are days when I wake up with great intentions. Actually, most days I wake up with great intentions, and it is not often that I get distracted from them, or choose to ignore them.

However, this morning I opened the curtains, and for probably the 5th or 6th time in a month, the world was covered in white. It looked so fresh and crisp and soft - how could I refuse its temptations? I have sat indoors out of good intention on many a perfect day. Resisted fresh air, fun and exercise in the name of duty.

But not today!

There will always be essays to write, carpets to hoover, people to e-mail. Life provides the wonderful and the mundane in equal measure (at least), yet we choose the mundane all to often! This is not something I intend to do everytime the world outside looks appealing, I must have restraint. But each day is a new chance to live and love completely, turning that chance down too often might have bad consequences. Best not risk it!