Sunday, 31 January 2010

In countdownmode - now D-8

I have been scurrying round today unearthing archives for the retrospect of my involvement in marketing science which I am due to give in Adelaide. Looking at old work files is depressing - so much effort of which so often little came. Even worse one can see looking back that much of the effort at the time was misdirected and clearer thought would have produced more at less effort.

I am now in my anecdotage - I have a repertoire of stories with which my friends are becoming regrettably familiar. At least though my tales have a beginning, a middle and an end. I have acquired a little voice recorder to which I am starting to entrust these reminiscences for the edification and perhaps amusements of future generations. There remains the slight techncal problem of gettingmy words from the voice recording onto paper. I am looking for voice recognition software which will take the files which the recorder will helpfully create on my PC and turn them into Word files ready to be edited.

Archives kept on PCs are very vulnerable - they die either with the PC or if they survive that they die with their creator. I propose therefore to go through my collection of photographic prints and discard the bulk of them. the others I shall put in albums with some annotation. But who will ever look at them? I have inherited old albums full of photographs of scenes from the past of which I know nothing and showing people of whom I know nothing. My collection therefore should be small and such as to be of interest to younger family members who would like to know something of their forbears.

More constructively I made some lamb curry for my supper - a very English curry based on cold lamb from the freezer and curry paste but I though quite successful. Cooking for oneself is an odd business - mostly it is something easy, though I eschew prepared meals, and a bacon sandwich is always a tempting option. On occasion though I take the trouble to prepare something a little better and enjoy sitting down to a table laid as for guests - Lucullus dines with Lucullus.

Catering for guests always has the problem that one cannot be in two places at once. One wishes to be with one's guests and also in the kitchen. I do not have the size of kitchen nor the ability to talk and cook at the same surrounded by guests with their pre-prandial refreshment.

Careful selection of dishes helps, with something either cold or like soup needing only serving to start with. A main course is trickier though as a celebrated chef wrote recently the trouble with amateurs is that they try to get everything ready at once - items can be kept hot.

My ambition is to serve a souffle but I have not yet attempted even the necessary rehearsals. The principle is very easy. The preparation clearly needs very close attention. Pancakes straight from the frying pan are easier - if I called them crepes, cooked them and piled them up in advance it might serve. I could then serve them flambe with flaming brandy. Catering after all is a branch of entertainment.

A few warmer days have seemed like Spring. The snowdrops are already flowering and in a neighbour's garden daffodils are already in bloom. The willow trees at Whitcombe at the bottom mof the hill on the way to Dorchester already have a pink tinge when one sees them as one comes down the hill. Whitcombe was a thriving village once but has never been the same since the Black Death. The next dip intheroad takes on past Came. Thomas Barnes the vernacular poet ot the ninethteenth century held the living as Recor, a far from onerous charge with only one or two cottages and Came House. Came House is not big as such houses go but is very grand in style. We once went to a Carol Service in the disused Came Church, very chilly indeed, and afterwards to mulled wine and mince pies in the Grand Saloon of the House, very chilly indeed.

The builder was the brother of Lord Damer who in the 1770's acquired Milton Abbey where he blended the ruins of the mediaeval Abbey with a large new mock-Gothick house, now a school.

Offended by the sight of the surrounding village he moved it away from sight to what remains a pcturesque street of cottages but to the inconvenience of the inhabitants. One man who was brave enough to go to law to keep his property was ruined. The site of the old village became a lake with a surrounding landscape shaped by Capability Brown who was very good at that sort of thing. The lake was drained it is said to prevent it being an aid to navigarion by bombers in 39-45 and has never been reinstated but the landscape as seen from the school remains delightful. Lord Damer's figure in an elaborate marble monument in the church shows his unlikely support by angels.

I have been looking for a picture to include but can see nothing that fits. I am mindful of Alice's comment in Alice in Wonderland, "A book without pictures is very dull."

So that is that.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Outward Bound.

Bound is Bound Outward again. On February 9, 20210, I am booked to fly from LHR (Heathrow to you) to SYD (Sydney) and do not plan to be home again until March 20 when the grass will need cutting.

If February 9 is D-Day this is D-17. The organisation that has gone into my trip and indeed is still going in is comparable with D-Day Planning.

My acquaintance Admiral Ritchie, formerly Assistant Hydrographer of the Navy was on D-Day in charge of the party that lasid the buoys to mark where the Mulberry Harbour was to be parked. He was there very early in the morning and the Harbour was duly mored in the right place, an achievement of considerable technical skill in the most peaceful conditions. In Southampton where my family lived there were rumours of concrete barges being built - no one knew what for.

Then everybody knew. It was a brilliant and successful device to provide an instant harbour to land quantities of heavy vehicles. Admiral Ritchie is still around and aalways wears a red tie.

I digress. I shall tell you sbout Conundrum another time, or you can look it up.

I go from Australia after a brief rest to New Zealand to visit my relations and a university visit. My plan for my rest day in Sysney is to do what I have done before and take the ferry across the harbout to Manley to go out to Manley Beach on the Ocean side of the harbour. There I shall look for a cafe where I can sit in the shade looking at the sunny Pacific Ocean, eat seafood salad and drink cold beer. Last year my similar plan met alas wet and not very warm weather. I went to the Art Gallery and looked at one of my favourite pictures "The visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon". Look at it on the Web. It has everything.

There is a serpent in every Eden. The swimmers on the beach at Manley swim within the shark nets. Nowadays I do not have to photograph such places - the Web has pictures ready for you.

It takes almost the whole day to get to Auckland and on the 150 miles to Napier. It seems a long time until one reflects that it took Captain Cook some months. As the plane flies over the watery waste one wonders if there really is land ahead as Capain Cook must have wondered. The reports of earlier navigators has been one suspects vague and it was not until Cooke with the chronometer that gave him his exact position landed and spent some weeks taking astronomical observations that a precise latitude and longitude could be establshed. Your Satnav today does it instantly of course.

Napier in Hawkes Bay on the east coast the North island claims to be the Art Deco capital of the world. Following a disastrous earthquake and fire in 1931 the town centre was rebuilt almost entirely by two gifted architects in the contemporary style in the contemporary style. I hope again to attend some of the events in the annual Art Deco Festival weekend.

Many people attend the gatherings in the gardens on the Marine Parade in period costume and some of you may remember my own picture in boater and blazer. I felt I lent a touch of authenticity to the occasion. The parades of vintage cars are astonishing.

I do try in this blog to write about interesting things and people without too much about my own doings and of course I respect the privacy of my hosts.

Lots to do - must have Oz Visa and print list of addresses. Need some cash too - $AU and $NZ more expensive than before. Using the Big Mac Index - the price of a Big Mac Burger is a guide to the general price level we have:

UK $ 3.32 £2.06
US $3.15 £1.95
NZ $3.08 £1.90
AU $2.44 £1.51 - something wrong there.

That cheers me up as a prospective traveller but not what is was.

It is all because unemplyment causes in Britain a shortage of labour. This is not just facetious. Once people are out of the job market it is hard to get them back. One reason is the very high marginal tax on the extra income from work as opposed to social security.

Enough for one posting.