Feeding the Tax Fairy

Self Assessment time and the crucial hitting of the end of January deadline. Not being a natural form-filler I enlist help with this chore and the deal is that I get as far as I can and the Tax Fairy oversees this in exchange for as many meals as it takes evenings to complete the tax return.

The menu:

Spicy lentil soup

yellow split peas
heaps of fresh rosemary
some fresh sage
one teaspoonful of fennel seeds, cummin seeds, coriander seeds

Served with garlic croutons

Tempeh* stuffed peppers

red peppers
Tempeh steamed then sauteed with some chopped fresh vine tomatoes, veg stock and seasonings
Stuff the softened red peppers with the Tempeh mixture and cook till done

This was served with:

Paprika Broccoli

Cooked broccoli covered with smoked paprika sauce and onion

Sultana pancakes with plum compote

Pancakes made with 50:50 flour and buckwheat flour
sultanas soaked for some hours in concentrated apple juice
a little castor sugar
teaspoon veg oil

Make as normal pancakes (Scotch Drop Scones type)

Plum compote
chopped fresh plums
castor sugar, quantity depending on how sweet or tart the plums are
generous slosh rose wine

Cook till the liquid begins to thicken and the plums are very soft

Serve the pancakes layered with compote and drench in cream

Serve all the above with a good French Rose.

*What is tempeh?
"Tempeh is a fermented food made by the controlled fermentation of cooked soybeans with a Rhizopus mold (tempeh starter). The tempeh fermentation by the Rhizopus mold binds the soybeans into a compact white cake. Tempeh is now rapidly becoming more popular all over the world as people look for ways to increase their intake of soybeans and isoflavones. Tempeh has a firm texture and a nutty mushroom flavour."

I don't really want to live in interesting times

There is a Chinese* proverb, possibly even a curse, which is along the lines of 'may you live in interesting times'. Well, I could do without any more interest right now, at least on the political idiocy front, and really do not wish for this standard of brinkspersonship by all those who are supposed to get on with legislating for the good of Scotland.

Some minutes ago, the .............. (insert your phrase/word of choice) voted against the Scottish Government Budget Bill in Parliament, thus precipitating the generation of much hot air amongst those who concern themselves with politics. My initial predictions, for what they are worth, are that at the very least, the hideously childish and dire (im)partial Scottish press will go ever further into overdrive in their non-analysis of this historic vote, leading to more bickering by those who individually and as parties have failed to mature into political beings who actually want to serve the Scottish voters.

From here on in, anything could happen and this could potentially be the precursor of great change in our country, but more likely it will be more of the same. Oor Eck looked much the same as ever, but Nicola looked fair scunnered. Folks nominally in charge of the North British branches of other parties looked as vapid as normal.

*Some sources suggest there is no evidence that it is Chinese, but fail to give alternative origins.


It’s Burns Day today and across the world people are celebrating the 250th anniversary of his birth. The Scottish Sunday’s are featuring the anniversary, and a swift look through the online versions produced this from the The Sunday Herald's article about what Burns means to some prominent Scots.


‘Jings, crivvens, help ma boab'

Alex Salmond approached DC Thomson’s Sunday Post, about appearing in The Broons as a way of promoting the Homecoming 2009. Oor Eck is joined in 10 Glebe Street by that Brown laddie from 10 Downing Street, for Ma Broon’s Burns Supper.

There is no link to this as it’s not online, and it might go too far against the grain to buy the Sunday Post and view it in person, but I may give in and pop out the newsagent later.

My own experience of Burns today is summed up by his lines penned “in answer to a mandate by the surveyor of taxes, requiring a return for the assessed taxes.”* In other words, self assessment looms in this final effort to make bureaucracy's deadline.

The Inventory

Sir, as your mandate did request,
I send you here a faithfu’ list
O’ guids and gear, and a’ my graith,
To which I’m clear to gie my aith.


I’ve enjoyed my explorations of his oeuvre and thought it worth while recording a few words about the book I’ve been using. I was given this book, along with several others, by my great aunt and uncle when I was learning about Burns at primary school, (as probably everyone of my age group did at that time). The book had belonged to their daughter Alice who won it for coming 1st in the Burns Competition of 1933.

Tragically, Alice was killed in a road accident before even reaching her teens. I felt privileged then, and still do, to have been entrusted with her small library and have always treasured it.

This old book was part of a series published as the Chandos Classics and despite a bit of a search online, only one reference to it turned up in the catalogue of an American bookseller: http://www.gsbbooks.com/cgi-bin/gsb455/9845.html?id=cykysWMP

London: Frederick Warne, [ca. 1870-1885]. 8vo, contemporary red morocco, gilt turn-downs, gilt lettering, a.e.g., 614 pages. Frontis portrait. Published in Warne's Chandos Poets series.

The print is tiny and almost defeats the magnification of even my strongest reading glasses, but for all the squinting and peering it has been worth investigating Burns in more depth for this month.

I cannot help but reflect on what the long deceased Alice would have made of my use of her book for a blog as that very likely would have been unimaginable to a 1930’s Edinburgh girl. All the same, as a relative, I'd like to think of her as a bit of a kindred spirit, as her parents were certainly not conformist or stuffy in any way even though their (to me) genteel Scottish background would have suggested otherwise.

*This is the introduction to The Inventory in Alice's book.

Current Affairs Comments

In the normal course of a year, the phenomenon known as Big Brother is a tedium to be avoided, much like watching paint dry and only engaged with when my daughter visits and insists on switching it on. The season just ended last night, of Celebrity BB got me, not exactly hooked but ensnared my attention because of the dynamics in that group.

At first, they looked like the most boring bunch, but that soon changed as the fault lines of class, gender, disability, age, race, and level of fame/obscurity played out.

None of these people came across as likeable and even with the awareness that the programme is edited and because I only saw the occasional few minutes at first, I started to judge what was going on. And my limited analysis appeared to indicate an appalling amount of sexism which the programme makers allowed to flourish whereas any hint of racism is immediately squelched.

The male/female groupings were apparent from early on and Tina, who was most spectacularly genuinely herself, at least in comparison to the self-preservatory antics of others, was quickly eliminated, but managed, thankfully, to give Coolio a well deserved dressing down. This affected him not one whit, and then she was gone and he carried on with laddish behaviour and encouraged the other ‘bro’s’ to side with him, which they did. Such is peer pressure.

The furore over his misogyny did not materialise and I was obviously naïve to expect it to. I’m not the only person to come to this conclusion about the programme. The Fword has a reasonable explanation and varied comments on it all. But thank goodness the only woman left in it won, so there is a little justice in TV land.


My other comments are on Barack and his efforts to live up to his Ms Magazine billing as a ‘feminist’. He has undone the Global Gag Rule which his predecessor signed into effect on his first day in the White House 8 years ago, thus demonstrating his vile disregard for women globally. Anyway, Barack has removed that and this means that agencies in many countries can provide comprehensive advice to women on all aspects of fertility management without risking their USA funding. Nothing can undo the devastation to women’s lives that the Global Gag Rule caused and no one can ever tally how many women died or were pushed further into poverty because of it.


Following Barack’s example, can we now expect Westminster to extent the same rights to choice to the women in Northern Ireland? In terms of devolution, one of the few things I do not complain about is that abortion is a reserved issue, otherwise the frock-wearing incense burners and their ilk would have seized every opportunity to reverse Scottish women’s rights to control their own bodies.

Equal representation

This feels a bit like ‘old news’ but in the land of uber-misogyny that is UK politics, it never gets completely resolved.

It is not just the lack of opportunity to stand for election that women are faced with, nor is it just the rigid macho style of adversarial party politics, but it is the relentless moaning, groaning and criticism that women politicians are faced with which must deter many capable women of all shades of political opinion.

Clinton is an excellent case study in this regard. During her presidential campaign, her every move, word and outfit was poured over in minute detail almost all of it from a sexist commentariat more concerned with slapping down uppity women than analysing her policies. The ever dependable Robin Morgan sums it up in her article for Women’s Media Centre:

“When a sexist idiot screamed “Iron my shirt!” at HRC, it was considered amusing; if a racist idiot shouted “Shine my shoes!” at BO, it would’ve inspired hours of airtime and pages of newsprint analyzing our national dishonor.”


More locally, in Edinburgh East, the Labour incumbent is retiring at the next Westminster election and Labour has proposed an all women shortlist. This has caused a depressingly familiar reaction amongst some in the male Scottish and otherwise attempting-to-be-fair-and-balanced (in their ain heids) blogosphere and I’m not going to credit any with links because of their persistent lack of gender awareness.

“In Edinburgh, women activists are pressing their case, circulating a document showing that only one of the 18 Labour MPs in the capital since 1918 has been a woman – Lynda Clark, who represented Edinburgh Pentlands between 1997 and 2005.”


To call that a shocking democratic deficit doesn’t begin to articulate the impediments facing aspiring women in that party. Not that many other large parties are substantially better in representation. Until people understand that the lack of women’s representation is a waste of talent and a neglect of women’s voices nothing will particularly change. If you feel able to, simply take a look at the frothing at the mouth comments below that Scotsperson article for a sadly all too common spewing of misogyny.

This attitude affects many males and irritatingly, a fair amount of women across the political spectrum. Some exception is discernible in smaller parties such as the Greens and the Scottish Socialists.



The SNP, however are not notably au fait with feminism and a cursory exploration of their (not very user-friendly website) did not produce any signs of a women’s section although there is a youth section. The article below I think is representative of their benign indifference to equal representation. That said, they have always had high profile women politicians and the deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon, is female.


And the Tories – aw, bless!


Engender has long campaigned for equal representation. Their website contains a comprehensive article on the issue.

Cooking and other stuff

Really, what I intended to post was an eloquently pointed exposition of the despicable partiality of funding for the London Olympics. Everyone is all too aware of the ghastly mistake that those egotistical politicians and over-hyped sportsmen made in the Olympic bid for England’s capital city, with the consequent and utterly predictable drain on finances for everywhere else. So, nothing new there, then, except to reiterate that these types need only snap their muscular little fingers and Westminster gives them any money they demand. Contrast this with the parsimonious response to funding a new Forth Bridge. However, since all fair-minded bloggers will already have taken note of this, I can go onto talk about the latest in weird recipes, and leave folks to read all about this injustice elsewhere.

I have had a bottle of Akvavit sitting waiting for someone to drink it for some time. I bought it in Tallinn a while back, having tried it many years ago on a visit to Aalborg (with which Edinburgh is twinned). No one has ventured to drink it, so it needed some whacky experimentation!

Akvavit Mushroom Pate
This has a mere 4 ingredients:
Half an onion
Plus some seasoning

It sounds unlikely but this is terrific. I was going to share it, but selfishly ate it all myself on rice cakes which it complemented perfectly.

Seed scone with linseed, sunflower seed, sesame seed, smoked paprika and cheddar cheese
Continuing in my belief that seeds provide my vegetarianish needs for a variety of protein, I decided to add them to cheese scones:

Bread flour and rice flour to make it less heavy, in a proportion of 3:1 plain flour to rice flour
Beaten egg to add texture
Cheddar cheese, but next time I’d use a smoked cheese like Applewood Smoked
Sunflower, sesame, linseeds
Half tsp smoked paprika
Baking powder
Milk to mix to stiff dough

The basic cheese scone recipe I use is in an old ‘Farmhouse Kitchen’ recipe book which has some of the best and easiest recipes I can find. Farmhouse Kitchen was a cookery programme which was on years ago and presented by comfortably competent women who really knew their stuff about plain food. When looking for info on the show, I came across the book for sale on e-bay for 75p, which seems a real bargain!

Anyway, being me, I can’t just follow a recipe without deviating from it in some way which is maybe why I have never made straightforward cheese scones, but have to always add seeds or change the cheese or flavouring. This is a personality flaw I could not overcome enough to pursue a successful career in chemistry as raw chemical reagents are not as forgiving as raw food ingredients, it turns out.

Orange ginger loaf with mixed nuts
Oh heaven!

Plain flour
Equal amounts castor sugar and rich brown sugar
Grated rind and juice of one orange
Grated fresh ginger, not too, too much in case you overpower the orange
Baking powder
Two eggs and a little milk
Mixed chopped nuts

Cream butter and sugar, add beaten eggs and set about it till it is suitably fluffy
Add alternate flour and egg/milk mixture
Then add the orange juice, orange rind, nuts
Cook in a lowish oven for at least 45 minutes in a loaf tin

Pear Toffee and Akvavit
Oh dear I have a dentist’s appointment coming up and how do I disguise the effects of toffee on my fillings? But what else to do with some lonely pears sitting abandoned in the fruit bowl?

Lots of castor sugar
Some butter dotted on it
Several cloves
Slosh x 2 of Aquavit
Quartered pears

Into a hot oven till it looks like the toffee may not come out of the pan without a fight

Simple Carrot, Ginger and Miso Soup
As many carrots as you can face peeling and chopping
One and a half onions
Lots of fresh ginger finely chopped
More miso than you think you need
2 tsp ground coriander
Pepper (no salt as miso is already too salty)
Oil for softening the carrots and cooking the ground coriander

When everything is soft enough, whizz in some kind of blender to a fine puree.

Some of this cooking was helped by a rather nice, if young, Argentinean Sauvignon Blanc and Freddy (what the **** did he mean in Black Bottomed Girls??). Other dishes assisted by Phil Lynott who cannot be bettered in my opinion, to the extent that I could even be tempted to revive my embryonic guitar playing*, just to begin to hope to vaguely approach his style and energy.


*In actual fact, this amounted to a very few lessons which petered out when I discovered I’d have to cut my nails, so the guitar went the same way as the piano, but more quickly, as at least I persevered for a couple of years with that.

Sunny train trip

The Artists Way group I am now attending, begins with a recap of what each member has done in the way of Artist's Dates and ends with a commitment to your next one. Artist's Dates are activities you do on your own which nurture your creativity. This can be as varied as you like and as short or long as you want.

I took time for an Artist's Date yesterday when I was on a train journey up part of the east coast. Normally, I try to sit on a seat looking east over the Forth and the North Sea, in the hope of seeing seals and other wild life. A common sight when the train passes, are the rocks and seascape littered with posing seals and paddling birds. Not that I can identify the birds, having never owned a 'Girls Book of Birds/weeds/trees and other nature-ish things'. And I was never a member of the type of uniformed organisation which taught girls such knowledge.

On this journey I sat looking west for a change. Holding my rather untrusty camera in my hand ready for action, I began with some photos as the train crossed the Forth on the old rail bridge.
North Queensferry

The sun brightened up as the train carried on northwards and I hoped for some good pictures of snowy hills, but there wasn't a great deal of snow even on distant hills. By the time the train was travelling through Angus, the weather on the Grampians had closed in so there was nothing to be seen except very low snow clouds in the distance. Things brightened to a uniform dullness in Aberdeen. Before that, though, the sun glinted off the hills in the far distance as we crossed the Tay Bridge. And the sky was a glorious blue reflecting off the water in the Montrose Basin.
By the time I returned, the sun had set and there was no more opportunity to take photos from the train.

Tuna Hugging

This appealed to my sense of the absurd.

I won't offend your or mine sense of good taste by displaying a pic of dead tuna at this Japanese market. The story is that tourists were banned from the tuna auction for a month because of their bad behaviour. At first I wondered if this behaviour was because of stroppy vegans protesting at catching endangered species of (or any) fish, but it was apparently because:

"Traders had often complained that camera flashes disrupted the bidding and that visitors had touched or even hugged the tuna while posing for souvenir photos."

Well, it gave me a laugh, but then I have a silly sense of humour. On the other hand tuna is over fished and although I don't know which species are sold at that market, national geographic has an interesting article about blue-fin scarcity here:

Women and War

The 22nd January is the 65th anniversary of Operation Shingle. Just as in all grand muck ups by the axis of eejits, more commonly known as the Allies in the conflagration lasting between 1939-45, (and ever since) this was badly executed with deadly results. However, for my purposes here I am not about to provide scholarly scrutiny of this battle or analysis of another Churchillian decision, mostly because that is beyond my competence and my interest. Rather I want to focus on an aspect of that Operation which lead to the Ballad below written in defiance of Nancy Astor’s alleged remarks comparing the troops in Anzio with those preparing for D-Day.

(A rumour started in Italy that Lady Astor had referred to the boys of the C.M.F. as D-Day dodgers).

To the tune of Lili Marleen

Once we heard a rumour that we were going home,Back to dear old Blighty—never more to roam.Then someone said: "In France you'll fight!”We said: "No fear—we'll just sit tight!”(The windy D-Day dodgers, way out in Italy).

Dear Lady Astor, you think you know a lot,Standing on a platform and talking tommy-rot.You, England's sweetheart and its pride,We think your mouth's too bleeding wideThat's from your D-Day Dodgers—in far off Italy.


Astor’s career is peppered with ill-advised remarks, many of which would not get her selected for parliament (even by the Tories) nowadays. Hers is a story of class, privilege and inegalitarian attitudes, although she managed to fairly equally offend a wide range of people. Her best lines remain quotable, but that does not let her off the hook, even if the following makes me smirk:

I would like to say that the first time Adam had a chance he laid the blame on a woman.”

I cannot help but empathise with the distress felt by troops in Italy hearing reports of her comments about them “dodging the real war in France”. This got me thinking about women and politics and war.

Some time back, Ms Thatcher engaged in conflict. Whatever the rights, wrongs or otherwise of that South Atlantic yomp, and without accurate recollection of her many proclamations, I remember she made much of ‘the boys’ fighting out there, or even ‘her boys’. Did these individuals give up their lives or suffer ghastly injury to make her the Iron Lady? It takes no guessing to know what many thought of Ms Thatcher: as her portrayal in Spitting Image immortalised her, as the only man in the Cabinet.

And now there is the Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni desperately trying to out-hard-line her competitors in the forthcoming election, by her constant justifications for the unspeakable war in Gaza. How horrible!

The question I am circuitously, even tortuously inching towards is whether women politicians are judged differently when they send troops into conflicts, or declare war on other democratically elected countries. And I have no easy answer, because my relatively pacifistic feminism can only analyse from a comparatively simplistic baseline of THERE SHOULD BE NO WAR.

Trying to take it further, it is clear that war for oil or other scarce resources is theft and immoral. Invasion and occupation, which is a hallmark of empires old and new is also inexcusable. And there is enough history around that no one can make any credible argument in favour of that. We now get to hear the stories of indigenous people, even if no one gives them proper apologies for land theft in previous centuries, or seriously tries to alleviate their continued discrimination.

The above goes for whatever gender of politician declares/supports war, so what is different about women leaders and how they are judged? Do women have to prove they are harder than the males when they are in power? Is it this which promotes the received wisdom that ‘women are worse than men in …….’ (add your own example). Is this really just another case of women having to be twice as good/hard/bad/strong as men to be taken seriously? If so, then that is more than enough reason for women in politics to examine the dynamics of the patriarchy and to search their conscience about committing to acts of war.

But what about when it is one’s own country that is invaded and occupied? How then are women who resist to be judged? Are they freedom fighters or terrorists? How do we compare Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her Noble Laureate resistance with the women freedom fighters in the PKK, or the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ of Rosa Luxemburg during the Russian revolution?

Each case is vastly different in time, geography and historical events, but these are women acting for change in their land and for their countrypersons.

I reluctantly conclude that there is no conclusion so leave this for discussion another day, or for anyone who wants to comment, and I meander back to Nancy Astor for a final quote:
Women have got to make the world safe for men since men have made it so darned unsafe for women.”


Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Kurdish women


Findin’ Yer Muse

Baldassarre Peruzzi, Muses Dancing With Apollo

I’m preparing to attend another series of the Artists Way Graduate Group. This is a group of people who have completed one or more Artists Way courses and want to continue meeting with the tutor to work in more depth and on similar issues as set out in the AW book.

This is all about unlocking creativity, and developing ways and means of tapping into the creative wellspring. Many people, including myself, hear the word creativity and conclude it is for others: them what can draw, sing, write and so on. But it is for anyone who produces anything whatever in their lives. So that could be cooking, or mothering or making your friends laugh on a night out. These are all things which without you having done them would not have happened.

I found this a strange message to grapple with, but I realise that even the angst-ridden creation of costumes for daughter’s Halloween parties, and helping with playgroup (the best contraceptive going), are creative acts, even if they are judged not as good as ‘her next door’s’.
I'm going back a bit with these examples, but they came to mind when I think about my self-judged creative deficit, which once I got into full-time work, rather than full-time motherhood, with the consequent raised confidence, helped in a long journey into creativity and, most importantly, acceptance of creativity.

One of the benefits of attending a group on creativity is that everyone is supportive and does not allow self deprecating remarks to stand without challenge. This helps shift from “A’ canae dae it” to “oh, alright, maybe I could”.

Poets of a certain era, talked (interminably, usually) about their Muse; Rabbie too. Concentrating on the need for and the drive to create which is part of the human condition and should be celebrated in all of us. This is what the Artists Way is about and this is what attending a group is about – to locate and uncover and develop your vision. And not giving up and only having the mundane in your life or listening to those who would keep us tethered to the earth rather than let creativity soar – even if it’s just a wee blog!

Extract from:

The Vision

All in this mottie, misty clime,
I backward mused on wasted time,
How had I spent my youthful prime,
An’ done nae-thing,
But stringing blethers up in rhyme,
For fools to sing.

Had I to guid advice but harkit,
I might, by this, hae led a market,
Or strutted in a bank an’ clarkit.
My cash-account:
While here, half-mad, half-fed, half-sarkit,
Is a’ th’ amount.


Info about the Muses

Find yer Muse with this quiz

23rd feb update
The Smith Gallery in Stirling are hosting a talk on Burns and the rights of women. The poster has a picture of Burns an his muse.

Great Minds Think Alike

The unmistakeable Jacky Fleming. Follow this link to see her work and be cheered up!

Do great minds think alike, across the centuries, or more aptly, do some things never change? Although few would now assert as baldly as the Bard, that it is Nature's law, they are more likely to preface the same excuses with psuedo science about 'hard-wiring' and evolutionary psychology. But it all comes to the same ancient double standard.

Let Not Woman E’er Complain

Let not woman e’er complain
Of inconstancy in love;
Let not women e’er complain
Fickle man is apt to rove.

Look abroad through Nature’s range, -
Nature’s mighty law is change:
Ladies, would it not be strange
Man should a monster prove?

Mark the winds, and mark the skies
Ocean’s ebb, and ocean’s flow:
Sun and moon but set to rise,
Round and round the seasons go.

Why, then, ask of silly man
To oppose great Nature’s plan?
We’ll be constant while we can, -
You can be no more, you know.



Ms Magazine have put Barak on their cover in a photo shopped pic of him posed as superman opening his shirt to reveal a ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ top below.

How naïve can these people be? Barak is not going to be in any way pro-women at least in the form that I would judge it. He is a male politician endowed with all the privileges that enabled him to claw his way to the top.

I’m willing to accede he is likely to be less bad than his rivals, but no one has the power to turn their country around and make it women-friendly in four short years, or 8 if he gets a second term.

Shades methinks, of the unrealistic expectations many people had in 1997 and all we got were patronising pictures of Blair’s Babes and illegal wars. Ok, we got some excellent equalities legislation, but that is under constant attack and is not balanced out by the loss of civil liberties.

The Huffington Post link has Eleanor Smeal’s explanation:

(As it’s H.P. there are fewer frothing at the mouth commenters than on other sites, but there are still the predictable numpties.)

A sensible analysis here:

And a new ranty blog for me to read:


Immortal light bulb?


Yesterday, I replaced the looooonglife light bulb which had been providing active service illuminating my sitting room for eleven years or more. I say or more as it came with the house, so it had been there for an unknown amount of time before I moved in.

I counted it ironic that this passing of what had become a permanent fixture happened in the week of the announcements about shops stopping selling incandescent bulbs. The Independent had an amusing article on this:

Probably a lot less than you wanted to know about lighting, but with links to more info:

I replaced the bulb with an ordinary 100Watt incandescent, not in a spirit of rebellion, but because that is all I had to hand. The amount of light given out by the new bulb compared to the old is astounding. I have become used to a dimmer level of light as most of my ordinary light sources are fitted with energy saving bulbs, but I’ve decided to enjoy brighter light at least until winter is over.

One thing seems not to be changing and that is categorising light in Watts, named after James Watt who did far more than I knew about, as I discovered from reading a brief biog from the link below.

"Apart from his steam research, which he originally carried out in the grounds of Kinneil House near Linlithgow, Watt was involved in many other projects. He solved the problem of how to convert the up-and-down piston movement to rotary movement (so that engines could power looms, bellows, and other mechanical devices), he created the term "horsepower", and he also invented the rev. counter, a machine for copying sculpture, and a letter copying press (a very early photocopier!). When Watt retired in 1800, he had become a very rich man. In 1882, 63 years after Watt's death, the British Association gave his name to the unit of electrical power - and today James Watt's name is to be found written on almost every lightbulb in the world."


Mixed up Moussaka and other stuff

I've been concocting in the kitchen again and thought I'd record my successes.

Mixed up Moussaka

Cooked puy lentils with whatever seasoning you fancy
Aubergine – salted and sautéed
Sliced potatoes – parboiled
Sliced vine ripened tomatoes
Fake Greek yoghurt
Conservative amount of suitable cheese (not Parmesan)
Oil for sautéing

Cook the first three ingredients separately and layer everything in a large ovenproof dish. Beat egg and yoghurt together with some seasoning and the basil then top over everything finishing with the cheese. Bake until all layers are cooked.

I use yoghurt instead of béchamel sauce, mainly because I’ve never learned to cook that sauce but also because this is healthier.

Pear & Chocolate Flan

Rich short crust pastry with the addition of some chopped mixed nuts, rested in the fridge then baked blind.
Pears quartered, cooked a bit then remove four or five quarters to keep whole while the remainder are cooked further and pureed.
Dark brown sugar
Egg – separated, the white whipped
Cocoa powder
Ground Almonds
Melted butter

Mix the pureed pear, ground almond, cocoa powder and egg yolk, melted butter, then fold in the whipped egg white. Add to the baked pastry case, decorate with the reserved pears and cook in a moderate oven till the filling is set.

Strange sultana baked objects

Complete experiment this!

Pureed cooked butternut squash
SR flour
Golden syrup
Small amount of oil

Mix all and bake in muffin-type container in a moderate oven. I added so many sultanas that this had the density of plutonium, so one bun was adequate to see me through from afternoon tea to dinner.

I got hold of a mini food processor in the sales, so now have the means to puree everything in sight, should I so desire. This is a 700ml one, so it is adequate for the quantities of cooking I tend to do, as I found my previous food processors too large and gave them to better homes!

Porcini Madeira Soup

Soak dried porcini for 20-30 mins, drain, reserving liquid, but try straining it in case there is grit in the porcini.
Chop mushrooms into small pieces
Thinly sliced leek
Half a carrot – minced
¾ stick celery – minced
Soup pasta

Stir fry the ingredients before adding the reserved porcini stock, some more water and a not too generous glug of Madeira and seasoning (with extra stock if needed) as well as the little soup pasta. Then boil up till done. If I’d had it, I’d have used little noodles instead of the pasta shapes, or maybe even alphabetti spaghetti!

Chinese-y Mushy Peas

This might sound entirely unappetising, but in fact was as tasty a dish as I’ve ever made!

Soaked and boiled marrowfat peas
Green part of a leek
One stick of celery finely chopped
Small carrot finely chopped
Pinch of chilli flakes
Couple of star anise
Pinch of Szechwan peppers
Sesame oil
Sesame seeds

Soften the leek, carrot and celery and garlic in the sesame oil, then add the spices. Stir and add in the cooked peas. Sprinkle half the sesame seeds in an ovenproof dish, put the mixture on top and cover with the remaining sesame seeds. Bake in the oven until the mixture is set.

Raspberry Jam Buns

This is slightly adapted from my Granny’s ancient cook book.*

6 oz SR flour
2 oz cooking marge
2 oz castor sugar
One egg
Small amount of milk
Adequate raspberry jam

Rub in marge to the flour, add sugar, beaten egg and milk together and mix to a stiffish dough. Roll portions of the dough into balls and make a hole in the top of each dough ball to put a generous teaspoon of jam into and cover it up. Bake in a moderate oven till golden brown.

I usually have baking sitting around for a few days before I get bored and freeze it or give it away, but these are so good I’ll have eaten them all in 24 hours.

*The Edinburgh Book of Plain Cookery Recipes
Edinburgh College of Domestic Science
This edition is from 1932.

The book advertises some of the courses the college ran:

A three year Diploma for Teachers of Needlework, Dressmaking, Millinery and Crafts.
Certificate Course in Laundry – one term
One year Institutional Management Course for Wardens, School Matrons, Housekeepers, Manageresses of Clubs, Hotels etc.
And much more.

I think I could probably do with a short course in laundry judging by what I do to some delicates I’ve owned but wrecked!

This is probably my favourite cook book as it is so straightforward and usually foolproof, despite recipes for Dressed Sheep’s Head, Brain Cakes and other (un)savoury items.

The Rights of Woman

The Rights of Woman

While Europe’s eye is fixed on mighty things,
The fate of empires and the fall of kings;
While quacks of state must each produce his plan,
And even children lisp, the Rights of man;
Amid this mighty fuss, just let me mention,
The Rights of Woman merit some attention.


As well as his oft quoted "A man's a man for a' that", and other egalitarian verses, Burns occasionally forebore from romantically addressing the lassies to ponder, albeit momentarily, on a vaguely proto-equality message as exhibited above.

Sol 3: A woeful lack of superbeings

Sol, of which we are the third planet ...

The enormous stresses of being a leader of the free and not so free world could only be withstood by a superbeing. There are none; not on this planet and no amount of mass longing for someone to take charge, do something, succeed, pull us out of this mess, and generally be our mother/fairy godmother/saviour is going to produce one. The mass longing needs to change to mature adult self responsibility and to move on from childish expectation for someone else to ‘make it better’.

Observe the encroaching greyness of Gordon Brown which is engulfing his hair and features at an increasing rate of knots. This is a common phenomenon amongst those who aspire to, or achieve prominence in political leadership. Barak has been reported as now having some grey hair that was absent prior to the USA presidential campaign; Clinton too began to exhibit a little bit of strain while McCain became so waxen it looked as though he’d fade out before the end.

We unappreciative, demanding populace appear to take this toll on those who put themselves forward for leadership. But no one ever forced those people to stick their names on ballot papers, and although I am not so familiar with the demeanour of despots and dictators, it may be that not having to pander to an electorate is less devastating to one’s looks. Concern for politicians looks is not, needless to say, a plea for totalitarianism.

Power-sharing might be more sensible. The Greens have co-leaders, a woman and a male sharing the top post. This rational idea should, in theory, spread some of the burden, but instead, it is misunderstood and complaints are frequently voiced about it not being clear who to communicate with, or that it cannot possibly work. It seems that the patriarchal ethos can only cope with one leader. Those, whose critical thinking skills are otherwise functional, often stop short of understanding the usefulness of joint leadership.

In the seventies, women’s groups chose a model of collective decision-making to demonstrate their practice of power-sharing. This differentiation from patriarchal leadership styles gave power to those who had never experienced it. Many women soared and grew into themselves and their abilities, while others could not make the break from either trying to seize power over the group or simply failing to relate to this level of responsibility and democracy.

The major criticism of collective decision-making is the time it takes to reach consensus. This is judged as a negative, but in fact, it slows things down which I now think is what is needed in a society that makes too many changes too frequently. Imagine coherent and timely discussion of actions that will have long lasting effect and the time to ponder all aspects without pressure before taking decisions. Ah, well, probably not in this solar system and not at this time.

A Winter Night

Blow, Blow, ye winds, with heavier gust!
And freeze, thou bitter biting frost!
Descend, ye chilly, smothering snows
Not all your rage, as now united, shows
More hard unkindness, unrelenting,
Vengeful malice unrepenting,
Than heaven-illumined Man on brother Man bestows!
See stern Oppression’s iron grip,
Or mad Ambition’s gory hand,
Sending like bloodhounds from the slip,
Woe, want, and murder o’er a land!
Ev’n in the peaceful rural vale,
Truth, weeping, tells the mournful tale


Turning up and being counted

The top of the banner says This is UK Foreign Policy.

Never one to miss an opportunity to stomp around the place shouting about the patriarchal hegemony, I turned up at the demo on the Mound against the atrocities in Gaza.

Better informed people than me can explain why these things are happening, some may even try to convince us all that this is a necessary response to brutality by a minority group, but that was clearly not the opinion of all those who braved the freezing cold in Edinburgh or indeed those who all over the globe came out to show their anger against what is happening to Palestinian women and children. There is more opportunity to become a bit better informed than previously, and attitudes are changing after decades of biased media reporting about a 'perceived friendly western power'.
“While 73% of Europeans were backing Israel in 1967, more than 67% are supporting the Palestinians today. With time, understanding and sensitivity have moved: populations are not blindly following the games and hypocritical stands of their political elites.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/02/israel-gaza-palestinians-islam

Quite unusually, the police facilitated an unplanned march along Princes Street and round into Charlotte Square to harangue the occupant of Bute House, but Oor Eck didn’t come out to line up with those in our civic society who choose to make ourselves heard. This, even though he has made more sensible noises on this subject than the warmongers in Westminster. He needs to do more.

As well as other assorted terrorists (in the views of the marchers) there was a fair amount of less than complimentary chants aimed at George Bush. It felt appropriate to have a last chance to aim well chosen invective at the individual who has done so much to destroy women’s safety in so many creative ways in so many countries over the past 8 years. However, my enduring cynicism leads me to think that we’ll all be out on the streets soon enough, bitterly complaining about his successor.

The thing I am really proud and amazed about is that I live in a country where a group of people can get together, decide to march and then stand right at the door of our premier politician and have speakers inform the crowd about the alternative news and views of another country. Thus I learned that the BBC, which we are all obliged to pay tax for, has embedded a reporter with the Israelis, while not one BBC reported has gone into Gaza to give us a balanced report. I sensed real disgust about the BBC today, not just for this issue, but also because they never report on minority Scottish political parties, or indeed manage to do other than attack the SNP most often lazily utilising Westminster press releases. There is a parallel here between those in power in the Middle East and those in Westminster and their relationship with the media which conspires to silence alternative and democratic voices. This is the sheer delight of the internets; we can share our thoughts and experiences and learn so much more than the patriarchal media would allow us to know.

At times it is useful to see what other media (although obviously still entirely patriarchal) than the western outlets have to say:

The police were well behaved today, and I noticed far fewer officers taking pics of the demonstrators than on previous marches, but still they recorded us, no doubt to track folks who are simply exercising their democratic rights of assembly while we still have them.

After Bute House, the march made its way to the Caledonian Hotel where more speakers talked about the Israeli ownership of that fine building. I cannot help but feel sorry for the staff who are only doing a job, and who may not even be aware of what company actually owns the business. They can’t be in any doubt after this afternoon! However, this is the rotten heart of the patriarchal hegemony, the poor i.e. the maids and other low paid staff, are faced with now making choices that could affect their livelihood because where they work has been bought by representatives of a government that the posters and chants of those on the march urge everyone to boycott. I personally feel uneasy about asking someone who has few choices to give up their job, especially now that there are fewer jobs around. In other words, why should more women and their children suffer? It is easy enough for me to boycott this hotel as I never use the services there but there are useful links to follow from the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign about retail and other boycotts.

From there we processed very loudly along Princes St to Hanover St and stopped outside Lloyds TSB. This bank, the subject of so much abhorrence already because of their take over of the BofS, are perpetrating an incredible action on a Palestinian Aid Organisation. The link for details is below. There have been and will continue to be demos outside this bank every Saturday because of their behaviour.


More speakers, then back to the Mound. By this time I’d been out in the cold for some hours, so I gave up and sought heat, but it was so worthwhile to turn up for this. I met those folks I only ever meet on marches and also learned so much about a perplexing issue that doesn’t get reported in the mainstream media.

Women, as ever, are suffering from (mostly) male violence, and it is women who are at the forefront of peace organisations, some of whose links are below. As in other complex conflicts, there are women who find it in themselves to reach out to their sisters on the ‘other side’ and create coalitions to work towards peaceful solutions.


And in Scotland:


Still tapping my toes!

I went to see Sunshine on Leith at the Festival Theatre. Brilliant! But I suppose you have to be a fan of the Proclaimers or at least have a passing familiarity with their music to really enjoy it. I say this because Sig Other came with me and eventually, (during the interval) I realised he didn't know any of their music, or at least didn't think he did. I'm not sure he appreciated it as much as I did.

The singing was excellent I thought, although the story, in common with most musicals was a bit strained in order to accommodate the songs.

The best thing was seeing my culture (with the obvious exception of the football bit) portrayed in front of me. I liked Mamma Mia (the film) and We Will Rock You (stage show) for the music, but somehow, and in spite of this not being London west end standard, Sunshine on Leith was more meaningful. The social commentary within the story added to the experience, and given the Proclaimers' politics which are so evident in their music, the story had to reflect that and it lifted the whole thing above the usual trivial (but fun) romance of those other shows. Andrew Lloyd Webber, it ain't!

Dundee rep performed the show:


This is a fair review:


Recipe Reminders

This is for myself, so I don't forget what I did and then can recreate it at some future point.
I made this yesterday and it turned out really rather scrummy!

Gluten Free Chocolate Sponge
6oz Dove's Farm gluten free SR flour
2 oz cocoa powder (Fairtrade organic etc)
4 oz baking margerine (Stork)
2 medium eggs
2 oz brown sugar
5 tbs raspberry jam
enough milk to mix to soft dropping consistency

Sieve flour and cocoa together, then cream marg and sugar and beat eggs. Add one spoonful flour/cocoa and one spoonful eggs and beat together; repeat till all is incorporated. Then add milk and raspberry jam and mix till it is of the right consistency for cake. Divide between two sponge tins and bake in a moderate oven for 15-20 mins. Cool for ten mins before removing from the tins.

I think there is no one way to make a cake, so either experiment or stick with your favoured method, but use the above quantities, as gluten free baking is trickier than that using wheat flour.

Serendipitous chocolate goo
I'd planned to sandwich the cake together with buttercream icing, but found an almost empty packet of icing sugar in the cupboard. I had to get creative, as no shops are open on Ne'er Day to buy some more.

1/2 oz icing sugar
glug of date syrup
1/2 oz butter
as much broken up dark chocolate as you can be bothered to put in
Melt these ingredients and cool slightly before spreading on the sponge cake.

This nearly didn't reach the cake after I sampled it. It is fudgy and slightly sweet and just delectable.

Sig Other's Butternut Squash Bake
Layers of butternut squash and potato interspersed with creme freche and topped with Brazil nut crust. Bake for ages until soft and serve with braised celery. Very yummy!

Jerusalem Artichoke and Butterbean Soup
Scrub the JA's and slice
vast amount of parsley
veg stock
veg oil

Prepare veg and saute in veg oil before adding stock and cooking till the JA's are beginning to get soft, then add a tin of butterbeans and cook till done.

Haloumi Kebabs
Pretty simple - shove mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, onion, cubed Haloumi cheese onto skewers, coat with veg oil and huge amount of basil. If you are somewhere with a BBQ, then use that, otherwise into the oven for a wee while. I served this with rosemary roasted celeriac and chicory.

Baktun Minus Three

In case you are not familiar with the 2012 significance to the Mayan dating system:


More traditionally, Happy New Year.

The Street Party was enjoyable last night. It is ten years since I last went and what an improvement! At that time, the event was free-ticketed and most things happened on George St then there was an almighty scrum to get to see the fireworks. I clearly recall nearly being disemboweled by a bollard on South Castle St, but I had the best view of the fireworks! Now, things are well organised and last night there were facilities like bars and loos and lots of stewards all helping the 100,000 revellers to have a great New Year in Edinburgh.

We began at the Waverley Stage where we got quite close to see a band who were good (dunno who they were), then we moved off towards the Scott Monument Stage, but that was mobbed, so we went up the Mound and into the fun fair and gasped at the bravery of those who went on the bungee ride.
We positioned ourselves partway up the Mound in order to have a good view of the fireworks. They were loud!!!!!!!! The pavement trembled with the force of the bangs. Then everyone (sort of) sang Auld Lang Syne in a record-breaking largest crowd to sing it ever.

BBC Scotland has video of the fireworks at this link:

Time then to move back onto Princes St and squirm our way through the human traffic at the foot of the Mound where it was rather a tight squeeze for fifty yards until we got past those who were crossing up and down and those who were turning right and so on. Perhaps some traffic lights for pedestrians are needed! Anyway, not recommended for those who have not honed their elbowing skills in church jumble sales as a youngster. This is one of the few times being short helps as no one notices who has elbowed them in the ribs to make them move out of the way.

There was a spectacular laser show up and down Princes Street. The pic below cannot do it justice, but may give some impression of light and movement.
We returned to the Scott Monument Stage to dance to Moishe’s Bagel. It struck me as somewhat curious to be joining in a very long and frenetic conga outside Jenner’s, but great fun!

I had not intended to stay until it all finished at 1am, but we found ourselves heading home well after one and not too completely frozen, thanks mostly to the dancing.

My one muttering though was the fear and trepidation at seeing some dads carrying small babies through the crowds. What part of 100,000 drunken Hogmanayers is it too difficult to comprehend for some overinvolved earth daddies?? But then, I’d have taking kids to football matches an offence serious enough to have them put on the child register. Luckily, L&B Police reported only three arrests and gave great credit to the Edinburgh crowd for their behaviour, so probably no children were affected by the stupidity of their carers.

Oh well, so much for not ranting. But this leopard isn’t going to change her spots anytime soon.
On a positive note, my camera has decide to work again, I hope it lasts.

Now, I’m looking forward to a relaxing day calling people and sitting around contemplating another year.