Monday, 30 November 2015

The Fair

The Winter Wonderland Fair is here and it seems to be bigger and better than ever.  There is something to bring a smile and enjoyment to everyone.  One of my favourites this very grand two story carousel. 

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Ted sniffs out a remedy

… The Doll has a cold and she is not the best of patients, in fact I might go so far as to say that she’s an “impatient”. So ... I thought I’d hunt down some remedies for the so called “common” cold, and in doing so I discovered that it really is “common” with each of us expected to suffer between 2 and 4 attacks every year by one or more of the 200 plus viruses that can cause it. 

The common cold has been with us since human beings started gathering in communities, at least as far back as the iron age, around the 11th century BC, and since that time we have searched for a cure. Now a gazillion centuries later we may have walked on the moon but we still don’t have a cure for the common cold.  The UK Common Cold Research Unit operated in Salisbury from 1946 until 1989 on this very remit, and while it clearly wasn't successful, the scientists there did manage to isolate a couple of the baddie head honcho cold viruses, which then led to the production of the great bulk of today’s pharmaceutical remedies, so they did ok really.

In ancient times the theories about what caused colds were complete twaddle, mainly because they didn’t know about viruses. Some of the remedies inflicted on sufferers meant it’s a wonder anyone survived a cold at all. Even as late as Victorian times people were still being subjected to "remedies" that included bleeding with leeches, drinking hot toddies made with rather unpalatable and even downright poisonous stuff like white bryony, a range of herbal "treatments", again including poisonous compounds, like sticking your head over burning herbs and various tree barks, thus you inhaled toxic smoke when you already had a bad cough!!

Some of the odder remedies included greasing your throat with chicken fat or lard and then wrapping your dirty socks around it, wearing wet socks covered with dry socks, soup made from that everyday kitchen pantry staple - dried lizards, and putting your hat on the end of the bed and drinking alcohol until you could see 2 hats.

On the more palatable side the Chinese favour ginseng and mandarin peel, the Iranians swear by turnips, the Russians and Ukrainians add egg yolk, sugar and unsalted butter to warm milk, and the Belgians recommend a hot chocolate drink.

Most of us do believe (quite reasonably) in the recuperative powers of real chicken soup with onions, garlic and lots of vegetables, and a hot drink containing honey, lemon juice, ginger, and aspirin. 

Can you avoid getting a cold – nope. You can however improve your chances of getting fewer colds and potentially even lessen your symptoms by getting at least 7 hours sleep a night (this helps keep your immune system in good shape), taking moderate exercise each day, drinking lots of non-alcoholic fluids, developing an OCD hand washing habit, and oh yeah my favourite - eating oysters for their zinc ... funnily enough the Doll seems to hiding out now that I am armed with all this helpful remedy knowledge.

What's your "swear by it as it never fails to make me feel better" remedy then?

Saturday, 28 November 2015


Black Friday is a rather new phenomenon is the UK imported from America I believe.  A time for shopping over the Thanksgiving holiday.  I'm sure my American readers can tell me the history and traditions of the event.

It began here in 2013,   This year there has been a lot of hype surrounding it with retailers claiming it would be the biggest trading day of the year.  Stores were purportedly organising staff to get ready as early as 6am. Although some reports claimed people would be fighting one another for bargains other reports stated that as much as 40% of goods bought on this day would be returned in the following days.

Crazy shopping does not appeal to me and I avoided the shops altogether (lucky I had a suitable picture from our traditional sales day - Boxing Day (the day after Xmas), now that's different, that's a tradition!

Friday, 27 November 2015

The Lego Train

Even the big boys can't resist the lego train in Covent Garden.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Wishing Tree

A conceptual wishing tree greets you as you enter the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Kalpataru is an Indian mythical wish fulfilling tree.  This one was made in Delhi by a group of artists.  Inspiration for the piece comes from nature with trees and plants used in Indian rituals being represented, including the mayo tree, banana plant, champ flower, jack fruit and lotus plant.  The parrot and bright yellow and orange make me think of sunshine.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Winter Sports

One of the prettiest ice skating rinks in London is outside the Natural History Museum.  It is always tempting but I just know I would spend more time down or clinging to the rail.  What are your skating skills like? 

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

A Tree?

At least the is Xmas tree is honest.  Towering up two stories high, covered in soft cute disney soft toys.  This is Xmas.

Monday, 23 November 2015

You can't escape it

Christmas craziness is well and truly upon us now.  The streets and stores are all decorated, we are bombarded daily with advertising, and the markets are popping up everywhere.

In front of the Tate Modern on Southbank a German styled Xmas Market has now appeared.  The little faux wooden huts selling everything from sausage, hotdogs, crepes and those hot alcohol drinks with names I can never pronounce.  Sweets in such vivid colours you just know they can't be good for you, trinkets galore and Santa's Grotto.....come in and make a wish.......

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Ted realises Christmas is coming

fast … and it’s dawned on me that I have missed the boat … the Christmas Cake boat that is.  Had I been intending to make my own cake I should have actually done it a long time ago and by now it should be well settled into its “feeding routine”.  Yes folks, Christmas cakes are soaks, and they need to be fed a little alcohol like brandy every couple of days, and turned regularly in their tin, right up to the time that you scoff them.

Christmas cakes are thought to have been a variation on the theme of steamed Christmas pudding when finding they had pudding dough left over some enterprising cook added a bit of flour and a few eggs and baked the mixture and voila cake. Christmas cakes weren’t actually always eaten on Christmas day, they were in fact a cake for the twelfth night, the end of the Christmas festival period around the 5th of January.  Then along came that legendary party pooper OliverCromwell and his puritan mates who banned public feasting in 1640, including a ban on Christmas mince pies. Christmas day however remained a festival day and a public holiday so cake consumption simply moved back to the 25th of December.

 There are many variations on a theme through the different countries where Christmas cake is eaten. The English prefer theirs dark and rich, laden with fruit and glace cherries, and in Yorkshire they eat it with cheese – the Doll does this too and she’s not even from Yorkshire.  The Scottish hark to a lighter model and “feed” theirs with whisky. In Japan it’s usually a sponge cake with cream and strawberries. In the Philippines it’s a bright yellow pound cake fed with rosewater, rum and palm sugar syrup. In Germany it’s stolen or “Christstolen”, in Italy, Panettone, and in France it’s a Yule log cake called “Buche de Noel”.

I decided that I would put myself in the hands of the Christmas cake making professionals and sought out “The Edmiston Sisters” and their range of traditional Christmas cake delights.  They really are 3 sisters, and they make their cakes to a secret family recipe that has been handed down and perfected over the generations. The Doll and I had to do a taste test of course and I can say that they really do deliver the rich, moist, sweet, nutty and fruity goods!! They even have a recipe on their website for an ice cream made with your left over cake crumbs … what left over crumbs???

Saturday, 21 November 2015

One Day....

The sun was shining on the Fishmongers hall giving it a lovely golden glow,  One of the oldest of the guilds with their building sitting grandly on the beginning of London Bridge.  I've long wanted to go inside and see if it is as grand inside as the exterior suggests.

It is possible on Open House days, however you have to be very organised and write a letter (yes old-fashioned writing!) to be on the list to be allowed in even on these days.  Somehow I always forget and then the list closes.  One day I will get organised and get that letter in on time.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Silver Stag

Covent Garden has a new Xmas reindeer this year.  I'm not sure how much Xmas cheer he instils, what do you think?

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

A Stormy Night

Looks like more rain ahead.  A few hours later very gusty winds.  Sunshine this morning.  Add to this that the farmers are worried that their cauliflowers are maturing too early due to warmer temperatures.  I don't envy the meteorologists trying to figure this lot out.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Monday, 16 November 2015

Pomp and Ceremony

The annual event of the Lord Mayor's Parade took place on Saturday.  Despite the rain and cold wind thousands lined the street to witness this ancient event.  The square mile that is known as the City of London elects its own mayor, has its own set of riles and regulations remaining elite and separate to the rest of London.  However, it still makes for a fascinating spectacular to watch

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Ted is cured

... of nothing in particular, I've too many bad habits for that to occur. One of “those” habits that I thought was perhaps a little bit bad for me was my charcuterie "habit". Turns out it’s not quite as bad for me as I thought. 

But let’s start at the beginning. Charcuterie literally translates from the French as “cooked meat”. Over time it’s expanded its empire to include not only cooked meat but also products that are “cured” in a range of ways like brining, salting, smoking, fermenting and drying. Curing came into being as a means of preservation as soon as we became meat eaters really, and as funny as this may seem if you've ever been to Italy and seen how they simply don’t follow rules (or parking laws) it was in fact the ancient Romans who first put laws in place to govern its production.  They call it “salumi” and salami is naturally and confusingly a member of the family. 

The French also have a long history of charcuterie, so between them they started spreading their salumi and charcuterie techniques across Europe and pretty soon everyone (who really already had their own techniques and products but just didn't want another war) were swapping their local produce with everyone else – serrano ham, frankfurters, kielbasa, chorizo, bresaola, pancetta, pate, terrine, rillettes, ham, jambon, on and on … all with their regional variations. Today of course they are part of our everyday food landscape and part of the reclamation of our culinary heritage, with some pretty good stuff using very local and seasonal ingredients in the products to market – especially in England. Salami flavoured with seaweed was delicious …

However folks, cured products are concentrated and while modern fermentation techniques involve a lot less salt and chemicals than in olden days, they are still really meant to give you a big flavour burst in a small serving. I recall a lesson in this relativity from my Mother that I think applies, she told me not to guzzle a glass of apple juice straight down, but rather to think that it was the equivalent of 5 apples in that glass, so I should drink it at the same rate that I could eat 5 apples … and I think the same thinking would work with charcuterie …

But I can’t leave you without giving you a little dinner party ice breaker and a French lesson all in one for your charcuterie platter – apparently according to some learned Oxford edition ... charcuterie rhymes with bijouterie and circumlocutory.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

A Car, A Camera and the Artists

A photo mosaic made up of 650,000 street pictures, how cool is that?  The art is a collaborative pieces in which I have played a wee part.

I spent an hour driving the streetcar named Hyundai around a few of the 2,000 miles of central London streets as the installed camera was clicking away taking pictures.  I am one of many drivers who will zip around over the 50 drive of the route mapped out by the Ordnance Survey team.  My section will probably be just a couple of wee squares on that mosaic above.

However, it was lots of fun, but now let me tell you about the very cool car... it's the world's first commercially available  hydrogen fuel cell vehicle that emits nothing but water.  Really!  It doesn't look as weird as those little electric cars or as tiny.  Pretty nice to drive too (even if this one was left hand drive).

I'm all for anything that makes our air cleaner in London, imagine if all the vehicles on London's roads only emitted water!

Friday, 13 November 2015

Passing a Xmas Window

The department store windows are now decorated for Xmas and the street lights are lit.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Another View of the Mill

Remember the old mills at Silvertown.........  as a reminder here is a view of the derelict building from the outside and here a little about the building itself and a bit about its history and people of the area.

Today's picture is another view inside the building that I rather like.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Ted ... the time has come

… to talk of many things, of shoes and ships, and sealing-wax, of cabbages and kings … so said the Walrus to the Carpenter in the Lewis Carroll classic “Through the Looking Glass”. There are indeed many that would consider the humble cabbage to be a king among vegetables and certainly at the head of the table in the Brassica royal family which includes, cauliflower, broccoli, mustard greens, and Brussels sprouts (and yes they were first grown in Brussels in Belgium as early as the 13th century now that you ask).

Cabbage is packed with vitamins B, C, and K, loads of minerals, and is an excellent source of dietary fibre … in short it’s very good for us. It can be eaten raw, cooked, and pickled.  The early seafaring nations of Europe and Scandinavia ensured that their sailing ships had plenty of barrels of sauerkraut on-board. Being pickled it kept well on long journeys, but most importantly, as part of the crews daily food ration it helped prevent that scourge of sailors, scurvy, brought on by a lack of vitamin C.  And let’s face it, we do all look and feel a lot better when our teeth aren't falling out on daily basis don’t we!

Cabbage leaves also have cooling properties that, along with cabbage juice, have lent themselves to use in herbal medicines like compresses and poultices, including being a treatment for “trench foot” (now doesn't that sound nasty) in World War I.

With all this going for it you’d think the cabbage would be popular with everyone wouldn't you, but not so. Many people find cabbage to have a bitter and unpleasant taste, and the culprit is the compound that gives cabbage its flavour, because it contains sulphur. This gets worse if cabbage is overcooked as overcooking creates hydrogen sulphide gas … poo stinky, sorry I mean pungent and unpleasant.

The Doll found this gastronomical quarterly “Wine and Food” from 1941 which chided the general public (i.e. non gastronomes) for over cooking cabbage, rendering it virtually inedible, and creating terrible smells. It then goes on to provide a fool proof recipe to avoid overcooking … “cut it into quarters, wash them in vinegar and water, and them put into a pan with whatever fat source you have (it was war time after all) like butter or dripping, or lard, then put the lid firmly on the pan and steam for about an hour for a small cabbage"!!!

The record for the worlds heaviest cabbage is 62.71 kg (138.25 lb) set in 2012 by Scott Robb in Palmer, Alaska … imagine how long they would have cooked that for in 1941 …

Friday, 6 November 2015

Let me tell you a story (or two)

Hitler attacks a baby, dad looks after the opium, and hundreds of ship horns are booming ... and that's just for starters!  Good grief where am I taking you today?

It all began a couple of months ago when I took you on a journey to the old Millennium Mills in Silvertown, that trip was all about the building and the plans for its future.

I have been back on another adventure. This time it was all about the local people and their histories.

I took a trip in a wee boat called the Silver Queen, and like everything on this day it has a story.  She is one of the many small boats that crossed the channel to Dunkirk in WWII to ferry the soldiers back to the homeland.  Over 8 days at the end of May 1940, 800 small boats ferried more than 300,000 men across the channel back to England.

Today's trip was not so hazardous, neither was it in the dark of night.  A lovely day and a chance to get a view of the old mills from the river side.

Prior to our boat trip we met many of the older locals who grew up during the time when the Docklands was a busy working area.  Their stories of working on the docks and dodging the bombs during the war were fascinating, funny, and scary all at the same time.

The forgotten stories of the locals are being recorded as part of a heritage project instigated by the developers of Silvertown.

Although my natural instinct is to be sceptical about anything developers do, so far everything the Silvertown developers have told and shown us is different, and that they really do seem to want to put their ethical ideal34 into practice.  However, I won't be the only one holding them to their promises - would you mess with this lot!!

Most importantly do listen to their forgotten stories and hear how it really was as experienced by those who lived it.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Light from the Past

Pre-google apps and sat-nav.  OK there are still tug boats to guide ships through the harbours and up rivers but not like this early version of a lightship.  The first ships were of wooden construction, but after 1936 they were all steel.

Lightship 93 was built in 1938 and currently is berthed at the Royal Victoria Docks.   More on the history of the area tomorrow.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

A Load of Old Rubbish

Well it is actually - a load of old rubbish - the rubbish barges that take the waste away to landfills. 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Museum Visit - Imperial War Museum

A grand building, a beautiful park and interesting exhibits. The Imperial War Museum has much to offer.  My visit was to see the exhibition "Lee Miller: A Woman's War".  A selection of photographs that document Miller's life from model to reporter for Vogue magazine in the early part of her career, and then war correspondent.   She became a reputable war photographer, one of the first women to bring back images from the war zones.

Many of the images in the exhibition are from the Lee Miller archives set up by her son Anthony Penrose following her death in 1977.   A fascinating life of an extraordinary woman.

The exhibition runs until April 2016.

Monday, 2 November 2015

A Foggy Walk to Work

Keeping a watchful eye on the early morning commuters on their way to work, the seagull tells me that this fog is all over Europe as well as London.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Ted is spooked

… to find out that Halloween and the Day of the Dead are not the same thing at all, and what’s more Halloween did not originate in North America …

While the two were the same thing in my mind until now it seems that the Day of the Dead of “All Souls and All Saints” days originated in Mexico and is a time when families go cemeteries and make offerings to their departed loved ones, sprinkle marigolds, make heads from bread and sugar skulls to honour them.  Halloween on the other hand means “hallowed evening” or the eve of All Hallows and it has its roots in the Celtic speaking countries and most likely Pagan festivals to celebrate the autumn harvests.  All Hallows day the next day then traditionally remembers their dearly departed.

Pumpkins are synonymous with Halloween and the bounty of autumn harvest. They have long been carved into “Jack of Lanterns” with their ghoulish faces and candles, although in earlier Celtic times they were more likely to have been carved from turnips or rutabaga. People would dress up and go from household to household singing songs in exchange for food and gifts, and threatening to do mischief like burning down your house if they weren't forthcoming – trick or treat has clearly become more friendly and light hearted with the passage of time.

Halloween costumes on the other hand have become far more outlandish and pretty much anything ghoulish or daring will go now, skeletons, witches, wolves, and pigs are popular in the UK this year apparently.

Halloween foodstuffs abound as well, pumpkin marshmallows, spider cupcakes, candies in all shapes and colours avec or sans hidden skeleton jellies, scary house gingerbread creations - the list is endless. In Ireland they have the Barmbrack bread that has various objects baked into it that makes what you find in your slice a Halloween fortune telling ... 

In all this Halloween excitement I somehow can’t help but feel that the all-around versatility and goodness of the humble pumpkin gets a little overlooked. Despite the fact that Halloween didn't originate in North America we know that pumpkins appear to have done so in Mexico, as far back as 7000 BC even. Pumpkins or winter squash grow on all continents except Antarctica (a tab obvious again Ted) with the US being the biggest producer, followed by Canada, Mexico, India, and China.  Oddly not everyone deems pumpkins fit for human consumption and in much of Europe they are grown purely as food for livestock.

Those of us that do eat them know that we can eat almost every part of them – flowers, leaves, the fleshy shell, and last but not least, the seeds. We roast, boil, and steam them, make soup and sweet pies, toast the seeds,
make pumpkin seed oil which is marvellous nutty dark green goodness for drizzling on … oh almost anything. 
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