As I was boarding the train from London back to Sheffield today, I thought I spotted Tom sitting in one of the carriages. I looked again and it quite plainly wasn’t him, but it set my mind wondering: when did I last see him? I had a feeling we’d met sometime in the last couple of years, but I had no idea when that could possibly have been, the last time I can think of when I might have seen him was Rob’s wedding, about ten years ago. I got to wondering what he was doing now, whether he had a new band, whether he was any nearer to making it in the music industry, whether he currently had an outlet for his incredible bass chops and OTT heavy metal personality.
So I was gobsmacked when, just a couple of minues ago, Simon phoned me to say that Tom has killed himself. Spooked too: I’ve heard of many freaky experiences happening around the time of peoples’ deaths, but I’ve never experienced it myself.
I was never really very close to Tom, he was never a friend, always a friend’s older brother, but when we were growing up (and indeed for long after), he was the epitome of coolness and the best bass player I’m ever likely to meet. As I got older I remember feeling a kind of pride,
almost a “we are not worthy”, when he started talking to me as an equal and a fellow bass player. Later I realised all was not well with him; I think the fact that music was so central to his life and yet he never managed to get the break he longed for and deserved must have been a big disappointment to him.
So, despite only having been tangentially aware of his existence for many years, and despite today being the first day I’d even thought of him in probably two years, I feel a big loss and a huge sadness that I’ll never see him again. My heart goes out to his family.
This week, I have been mostly eating home-made yoghurt, courtesy of the recipe in the Moro Cookbook.
The recipe calls for one litre of full-fat milk, 300ml of double cream and four tablespoons of live yoghurt (yes, you need yoghurt to make yoghurt, which begs chicken-and-egg type questions, but never mind that for the moment). I halved the quantities because the idea of getting through a kilo of yoghurt within a week sounded impossible, but now I’m started to wish I’d made the full quantity.
You boil the milk, and then simmer it until it’s reduced by about a third (which seems to take me about 20 to 30 minutes with the reduced amount). Then put it into a metal or ceramic bowl and stir in the cream. When it’s cool enough to hold your finger in for ten seconds, stir in the live yoghurt. Then cover with clingfilm and a tea-towel, and leave somewhere warm for about eight hours while the “friendly bacteria” do their thang.
The resulting lumpy white gloop is unlike any yoghurt I’ve eaten before: so rich and creamy tasting (a pox on all your “low fat” yoghurts). I can’t resist taking slurps of it out of the fridge. I took some camping this weekend, and toasted slices of cooking apple over the campfire to make burnt apple yoghurt (hmm). Gizmo likes it too, makes a great mixer with his dry food (and those bacteria are friendly to dogs too, apparently).
Yesterday I made a tarte tatin, from the recipe in Raymond Blanc’s Foolproof French Cookery. I was using up the remainder of the cooking apples which were in last week’s Beanies delivery (and they just sent us some: apple ideas gratefully received). Except we didn’t have quite enough, and as we have a glut of blackberries in our back garden and our allotment, I used them to fill the gaps. It was absolutely de-scrummy-licious (I was going to take a photo, as it looked pretty too, but it disappeared too soon). Except we didn’t have any of the recommended full-fat creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream to go with it, so we used the last of our extra-creamy home-made yoghurt instead. Which worked just as well. Except now we have none left to act as a starter for our next batch. Which means I have to go out and buy some more live yoghurt. Damn, what a waste.
This brings back far, far too many memories. If I had all that time back now, oh the things I could do with it.
This weekend I drove down to Weymouth to camp with some friends at the annual Jonstock. Had a wonderful weekend; on Friday night I was so relieved to have arrived, after a five hour drive, that I jumped out of the car and joined straight in with the campfire revels. The next morning I realised I had no idea where I’d left the car keys. My spares were at home, on Gill’s keyring (I remember glancing at them on my way out of the house and, on the cusp of consciousness, thinking “I don’t need them as Gill’s not coming”. Doh!)
A weekend of field-combing produced no useful results. I was all ready to get a train to Sheffield and back for the spare keys, and then drive home again, when Gill valiantly offered to get the train down to Weymouth. We met up, got the car started up, and… knocked the exhaust pipe on our way out of the farm. Somewhere around Yeovil it hit the ground and the driver behind pulled us over to tell us we were leaving a trail of sparks. A tent peg stuffed up the two broken sections of exhaust was enough to keep them from hitting the ground, at least as far as Bristol where something else must’ve given. By the time we reached Dursley we gave in to the inevitable and checked into the crap hotel at the motorway services.
Rather than be bowed by any of this, we treated it as an unexpected romantic break away from the kids (fortunately we had a troupe of understanding and very flexible babysitters). The next morning a mechanic arrived from the local garage to strap up what remained of our exhaust, and we pootled the rest of the way up the M5, M42 and M1, sounding like a fleet of boy racers.
When we got home I noticed that my rear number plate had dropped off. Next week I’m joining ETA (that’s the Environmental Transport Association, not the Basque seperatist group).
Damn! Got a speeding ticket – I was caught doing 40mph in a 30 zone on the A470 at Llyswen during the journey between our two recent camping trips (Hereford and Dolgellau). Funny thing is, I was being really careful the whole journey (in particular because I heard a while back that Welsh police now have a zero tolerance approach to speeding), trying not to go more than a couple of mph over the limit, but I seem to remember that at this point (we’d just come out of a garage where I’d pumped my tyres up – and so managed to stop my exhaust scraping on the ground – and I was talking to Rowan about something on the MP3 player [Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams]) I was a little occupied and didn’t notice straight away that we’d driven into a 30 zone. I probably slowed down a couple of metres too late. It also disproves my theory that they wouldn’t have been able to recognise our registration number in the event that we were caught by a camera, because of the bikes on the back of the car and the straps partially obscuring the number plate.
So, another £60 fine, another three points on the license. I just checked, and these things expire after three years, which means that the last set of points I picked up, in January 2000 (for doing 62mph in a 50 zone through roadworks on the M1, at 4am when I had three lanes to myself and clear motorway for several miles in either direction) have now been erased. Good thing, I would feel a little uneasy with six points on my license, halfway to an automatic ban, but all the same I had been really looking forward to having a clean, points-free license and now I have another three year wait for that (assuming that I’m well behaved in the meantime).
Still, it’s all for the greater good etc. and I don’t begrudge speed cameras or the police’s greater reliance on them if it helps to make the roads safer (especially after cycling in London this week and remembering just what tossers drivers can be, and often are), and you won’t catch me making excuses like these to try and wriggle out of it. But the sooner we get variable penalties the better (although I’ve a feeling the two point penalties will be little more than theoretical, seeing as nobody gets prosecuted for driving 2mph over the limit anyway).
I went to see Mark Thomas & Tracey Sanders Wood’s “Coca-Cola’s Nazi Adverts” show at the Foundry recently. Some good stuff there, but I thought some of the Coca-Cola Berlin Olympics stuff a bit far fetched. It appears not though. From The Sunday Times, via Protein:
“In a far cry from the high-minded ideals of humanity and tolerance embodied by the Olympics, the organizers of the Athens games have warned spectators that they could be barred for taking a surreptitious sip of Pepsi or an illicit bite from a Burger King Whopper.
Strict regulations published by Athens 2004 last week dictate that spectators may be refused admission to events if they are carrying food or drinks made by companies that did not see fit to sponsor the games.”
Some photos of our recent camping holiday, not by me this time (by my dad. My photos still coming soon. Ish)