Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Carried by the One I used to Bear

I muse at all the little creatures I have held: tadpoles, hamsters, kittens, puppies and babies of the human kind. You hold them, feed them, love them, cherish them, rear them and scold them. Then the day comes when they seem a little bigger, and their bigness is at least as big as yours: You turn and look to see the little boy, once half a head lower but now exceeding the same as you did his. You scold him, and he holds his ground and challenges you. You fight him, but your power is spent and his is only scuffed in part..

So you surrender to him.

Next minute he tells you you are forgetting something; he has to help you out of your chair - just a little stiffness and he eases your socks on for you; cooks the dinner at the weekend, which soon extends to three days long.

And last not least he picks you up, you're feather light, and he's carrying you the way you once, in former days, would carry him aloft.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fluffy Cabbage Rice with Dahl

For the Rice you'll need:
1 cup basmati rice, washed and soaked for ½ hour.
Some cabbage cut up small (A savoy or pointy cabbage gives tasty results)
Mustard seeds, cumin seeds
Dried Mixed Herbs (optional)
A little salt
1 cup water or stock

Take some oil in a deep saucepan and heat it.
Add some mustard seeds and cumin seeds and wait for them to jump.

At this point at the cabbage and stir with the seeds using a wooden spoon.
Add a pinch of mixed herbs if required and Keep the heat to medium.

Drain the rice and add it to the hot cabbage mix.
(It will be quite wet but this is no problem)

Continue to stir in the heat.
After a few minutes it should 'feel ready' for you to add the water or stock.
Stir, and bring up the heat again, turn down to simmer and cover it.

Continue for 10 minutes, then open and give a quick stir.
Cover it, then turn up the heat again until it steams up.

Then turn the heat off and leave it to sweat.
The rice should be fluffy and ready to eat.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For the Dahl

A cup of yellow or red dahl, cooked earlier. A pressure cooker is ideal for this.
1 onion
Garlic cloves to taste (we use three or four)
Some ginger, chopped
1 green chilli, chopped
Madras Curry Powder (optional)


Again, heat some oil and put in mustard seeds and cumin seeds.
When they begin to jump, add the chopped onion, chilli and ginger and cook.


Madras Curry Powder may be added (or omitted) as desired.
When soft, pour in the cooked dahl - this one has some cooked carrot in it.

Stir and allow the sambhar to settle for a few minutes.
Just before serving, add fresh chopped coriander or mint leaves.

Serve with green vegetable of choice, or a salad.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Or The Murder at Road Hill House The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Or The Murder at Road Hill House by Kate Summerscale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a lover of detective stories I was intrigued to hear a review of this book which tracks the Road Hill House murder which occurred in 1860. It happened at the time when Detectives as we now know them did not exist, so we see the budding of an embryonic enterprise which went on to blossom into the globally-interlinked agencies we have today. We bear in mind that there were no telephones, no motor cars and no media as we know them today; however the new medium of the Newspaper was causing great excitement. These were the sheets which everyone eagerly went out to buy, in order to find out what was going on in the wider world out there.

Ms Summerscale has included many intriguing events that were going on at the time the murder occurred, and I involved myself by scanning plans of the house, from the plans of the house and grounds provided in the book, which I then printed and folded up into a separate booklet which I read along with the main volume. I'd read a section and then cogitate the scenario, mapping out the rooms and trying to calculate who had the motive and the opportunity to commit the murder, and most importantly, why. Everything you need to know is included in the volume, although if you want to explore further, websites are provided which enable the reader to dig as deep as he desires.

As my reading continued I became sucked into the web of intrigue and frequently found myself scribbling on pieces of paper trying to puzzle out what had really happened, much as people must have done in 1860 when the murder occurred. All round the country folks were eagerly scanning through the broadsheets to see if new maps or clues had been discovered as to the perpetrator of this shocking murder. Small details such as what our detective hero Mr Whicher would typically eat for his breakfast (a chop, a potato and a cup of coffee), the moods of the servants and the spats which flew around in the family brought the story out of the book and into my sitting room. Background details such as the passing of the Factories Act 1933 explained the standing which the head of the household, Mr Kent, would have held in the local community: child labour in factories had become banned, and as Factories Inspector Kent had efficiently seen to compliance of the Law. However this had resulted in the loss of about £400 per annum to the village, so in real terms this increased the poverty of the villagers. This fermenting resentment against Kent adds spice for those who speculate which persons might harbour a motive to commit this horrible crime against a 12-year old boy.

I tended to give this book short readings which were interspersed with periods of cogitation and musing. I lived the story as if at first hand and sometimes when I woke up in the night I felt a tingle of fear in my spine; for although the episode had occurred in 1860, the tale reverberated in my ears with a curiously modern tone. I was fascinated to read which characters in the story had survived well into the twentieth century, one of them even dying within shouting distance of my birth. My mind was thick with intrigue and speculation when I tried to figure out 'who dun it', I marvelled at the secrets which siblings share with one another and hide from the world, and when I drew my own conclusions, my hand went to my mouth to prevent it shouting in alarm.

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