Categories
photography

Lungs

This is a dying tree that we see on our daily lockdown walk. I thought it looked a bit like the way blood vessels are depicted in lungs. Sadly apt.
Categories
baking

May The Road Rise With You

One of the seemingly odd ongoing scarcities that has resulted from the pandemic is that of instant yeast. I sort of get the way in which both yeast and flour ran out early on – people suddenly had plenty of time on their hands and the one thing that bread-making needs is time. I also understand how the supply of flour still hasn’t quite recovered but I find the lack of yeast a little perplexing still.

I make a lot of sourdough so I only need a little yeast and could probably get away with none. But the fact that I cannot get it means I am all of a sudden desperate to stock up. Alas I cannot. We have recently discovered that Morrisons has started to sell fresh yeast from their in-store bakeries. I had never used fresh yeast – I did once try dried but not instant and it was too much of a faff to activate it prior to use. Besides, I could get instant easy-bake yeast very easily so why bother?

Anyway, we got some fresh Morrisons bakery yeast and I tried it in some pizza dough at the weekend with positive results. So much so that today I baked my first loaf with it. The trick, it seems, is in using a bit of sugar to activate it before mixing it in.

As you can see there is a lot of carbon dioxide generated in the dough

Today I baked the loaf and it tastes amazing.

I am sure I will return to instant yeast once it becomes available again but this is a fine substitute and the longer it goes on the more likely I am to stick with it.

Categories
music

Lockdown Lover

I have been messing about with a idea for a crooning style song called Lockdown Lover (I’ll take intensive care of you) and this is as good as it is going to get so here it is.

Categories
writing

God is Watching Us

Not really. If God existed at all, which has to be the subject of some debate, I am certain that he/she/it would have better things to do. But that’s not the reason for the title today. It is from a Bette Midler song called ‘From a Distance’ and I use it to introduce a sort of part 2 to a previous post addressing the recently introduced social distancing diktats.

It seems incredible that this concept had never been heard of until a few days ago and now it is literally everywhere. The distance we must maintain is between 1 and 2 metres depending on which advice you choose to follow. As you might recall from my post, this roughly coincides with the space between us when ‘normally’ regarding one another according to Doug Harding’s Headless Way.

Strictly speaking we should describe it as physical distancing, one of the benefits of our apparent dependence on ‘the socials’ has been the way in which we have been able to maintain a semblance of virtual closeness despite our physical separation. That being said this does feel strange. There can’t be too many people that we choose to share, what we describe as, our personal space and the size that this area comprises certainly differs form one person to the next. I think that the 2 metre rule is probably just a bit too far. 1 metre and we probably wouldn’t even notice – depending on both the situation and the people involved, of course. Generally speaking, pandemics notwithstanding, we get physical distancing about right when we get to determine what it should be.

Social distancing, on the other hand, is clearly in need of some attention. All too often, we examine the minutiae of individuals lives in a level of detail that is clearly inappropriate. We hold these people accountable to a completely unattainable set of standards. At the same time we seem comfortable to label and condemn whole groups of people we disagree with on the scantest of evidence and with little or no attempt to understand them or their plight.

This casual use of archetype and stereotype has to be addressed.

Perhaps we should see one another as what we actually are – prototypes who, if we are to reach our full potential, need a lot of development and support.

For now though let’s come together in staying apart or there will be no possibility for some of us to become anything but a mark on an exponential graph.

We all deserve a better future than that.

Categories
photography

Stop the World I Want to Get Off

I have a friend that I have not seen in many years. We used to work together and whenever things got a bit much for him he would say ‘stop the world I want to get off’.
We are living in such strange times right now and it feels like he has said it again but this time it worked and many many more people have joined him.
Will we be able to get back on again or will everything have shifted too far from its axis?

Categories
music

I Could Belong

This is the further development of something I have been working on in collaboration with my son Tom who is playing the drums. I have words but not all of them but I have no singing voice yet so it is still instrumental.

Categories
writing

We Were Talking…

We are hearing a lot about social distancing at the moment. Like most countries in the world we are in the grip of the virus known as COVID-19. The latest variant of the Coronavirus strain somehow passed from animal to human and is spreading, relentlessly, across the globe.

One of the ways we can try to control the spread of infection is to establish and maintain a distance between us. The recommendation is 2 metres. This stipulation of how much space there should be between me and you reminded me of something I read about recently called The Headless Way. According to its founder, Douglas Harding, this is a means by which we are capable of seeing our real selves. His suggestion is that humans take on a different appearance, depending on the distance at which the observer is from the subject.

Generally we see each other at about the same distance as we’re are now being urged keep between us. This is how we maintain a particular, identifiable, appearance but if you were to zoom out that would alter and we would blend into our surroundings and appear to be something else entirely. Zoom out even farther and we end up looking like a planet. Alternatively if you were to zoom in you might be able to discern a patch of skin and then if you had the capability to go beyond the barrier of flesh you would see other matter until you eventually just see cells. Harding’s suggestion is that if we practice his Headless Way we can train our minds to enable us to see this hidden level right down to our very core. Incidentally, the word ‘headless’ is used because Harding also argues that as we are unable to see our own head we therefore don’t have one and the space where we have been conditioned to think our head should be is actually filled with everything in the world.

I know.

In an increasing number of the worlds population were we to zoom in to look at them on a cellular level we would see the dreaded COVID-19 at work. This particular nasty and ridiculously contagious virus gets into its victims and can cause pneumonia across their entire lungs. Normally if you get pneumonia it will affect an area of one of your lungs and as long as you can get some treatment you will more than likely survive. This broader spread of viral infection is one explanation for the unusually high mortality, or case fatality, rate (CFR) associated with the current pandemic. The impact that the disease is having across the globe, however, with the virtual shutdown of so many major cities is producing an intriguing effect on the planet. If we zoom out to satellite level we can see that the air quality in those cities is actually improving.

That is quite a contrasting view of what is going on right now. Time, of course, will introduce its own unique perspective on events of today and there will be considered discussion and thought in attempting to understand them and prevent their repeat. But that is for a future we cannot foresee.

Today we must stand apart from each other but we must also come together in our determination to fight this unseen enemy, literally, within us and without us.

At the distance prescribed we will appear the way we ‘normally’ do to one another but some of us will be far from normal inside. The air in the gap will appear to be the same but it is actually improving along with our chances of survival.

Never has the space between us been so significant and so important as it is now.

Categories
photography

People’s Faces

“There is so much peace to be found in people’s faces.”

Kate Tempest, People’s Faces 2019

When my mother passed away some years ago we put a lot of here stuff into storage at my brothers barn. We eventually went through her photos and came across a series of headshots, clearly professionally taken, from what looked like her early 20s. I mentioned this discovery to my auntie Margaret at a family party and she said she had a matching set of mum’s brother Jack. She had no idea when or why they were taken as it was before they were married. I took some of her pictures of Jack and matched them up with the ones I had of Doreen.

I facially got round to getting some mounts and frames made and gave one to Auntie Margaret. The picture above is the one I kept and I love it.

Categories
baking

Overnight Sourdough

This is my current favourite thing to bake. Once you get into the habit of the routine it is easy to fit into a day. I am lucky in that I work from home a couple of days a week so it is relatively easy for me to do this.

I feed the starter first thing in the morning. Then about 3pm I start to mix the rest of the ingredients.

The Tupperware container is perfect for mixing.
30g of wholemeal flour
370g of strong white bread flour.
Water needs to be between 30 and 35 degrees Centigrade
Measure 310g of the water
Mix the three ingredients
After about 30 minutes add 10g of salt and 1g of easy bake yeast
Prepare a bowl of water to rinse your mixing hand in.
Use 180g of your starter
Mix using the pincer technique for about 5 minutes until everything is blended evenly
The mixed dough
Seal container and leave for about 4 or 5 hours
Fold the dough 3 times, ideally in the first hour, in the way depicted here
Once the dough has proved it should increase 2-3 times size
Tip the dough onto a floured surface and shape into a ball as above
Make sure you flour your banneton basket before you put the dough in
Carefully put the dough in the basket
Place in a carrier bag and store in the fridge overnight
Preheat the oven and dutch oven for about 30 minutes
Remove the dough from the fridge immediately before baking
Tip onto a lightly floured surface
Take the dutch oven dish out of the oven. Be careful it will be HOT
Gently place the dough into the bowl. Replace the lid and put in the oven for around 30 minutes
Remove the lid and return to the oven for a further 15 minutes
Place on a cooling tray.

The beauty of this loaf is that it tastes fantastic straight from the oven but it gets better after a few days.

Categories
writing

A Trouble Shared

He must have been troubled
He is not now
He passed his trouble on
He gave it all away
He gave some to the young lad on the platform
He gave some to the driver
He gave some to the emergency services
He gave some to the station master
He gave some to me
He should really have shared his trouble out

Before the train arrived