Ipsum Lorum and all that…

As I write this, the date is April 1st. Thinking back to my teenage years, April 1st was a day filled with trying to fool others and equally not to be seen to be fooled by them. I can’t really remember the details of the kind of pranks we did but I honestly recall them as being tame and innofensive.

In 2021 the challenges of home schooling, home working and in general not having any contact with any others has certainly contributed to an already diminishing tradition. If we are not in direct contact with others, a lot more effort is probably required, although social media posts I guess are an alternative…one could argue they are just one big continuous spoof and not to be believed, but that is perhaps a blog for another day.

Even TV and newspapers used to get in on the act. In the late 1950’s there was a BBC documentary all about the Spaghetti Trees in Switzerland complete with (faked) footage of farm labourers harvesting spaghetti from trees. As a trusted and serious broadcaster, many were indeed fooled by this. You also have to remember that pasta was not normally a part of the British diet in those days other than for those of Italian origin so people would really have no clue as to where it came from.

Fast forward to the 1970’s and the UK’s trusted broadsheet Guardian Newspaper did a whole pull out section of the paper about a new overseas holiday destination called San Serrife. There were actually lots of other printing related clues and puns embodied in the article. It was very well put together with articles on climate, entertainment, how to get there and so on. Many respected uk companies even had joined in on the article and had feature adverts on the pages. Again, bear in mind the period. People did not have home computers or word processors so there would be no familiarity with font names etc. that would give the game away. Back then you would have to be in the printing trade to have familiarity with San Serif, Arial, Times New Roman and so on.

But, these days we are all quite good about being chair side experts on so many matters…often to the immense frustration of the professionals who have worked tirelessly in their fields for a lifetime.

Crime detection and criminal investigation – CSI, Morse, Vera, Midsommer Murders, The Bill. Dramas and documentaries over the years have made us all well versed in the terminology, techniques and methods of police work. Cooking, and baking…well where do I even start on this.

But the icing on the cake, if you forgive the pun is house buying, selling and onward improving of them. Here in the UK we have several TV programmes that have turned us into experts on valuing property, the of marketing challenging houses that are difficult to sell…and how to turn the ugly duckling house that you have bought into a beautiful swan!

As someone who is just involved in this process at the moment, you might think this would be helpful and added armoury to guide me in the process. Well I am really not so sure…a little knowledge as they say, is dangerous. I now see hidden dangers everywhere….that pretty stream near the back garden…well that’s a flood risk; that nice outlook over the fields…well surely that will be built on; that quaint sloping ceiling from 1800…hmmm, is there subsidence; character property?…oh, it will be expensive to modernise; modern property…difficult to add character………and so on.

But these really are First world problems, and with good judgment and some paid for professional help we can clear our heads of the confusion and enjoy the next step of the process.

Going back to the world of printing, anyone who has ever had a mock up or outline of a document prepared by a printer or graphic designer will find it full of made up Latin Lookalike text called Ipsum Lorum text. It’s there really just to give an idea of the finished product once your own personal input is there.

A bit of a life message there I think!

Catch of the day?

My teenage years are some time ago now, but as far as I can recall, none of my girlfriends mothers ever said, ‘ wow he is such a catch’…or of they did it was certainly kept from my by said girlfriend(s) of the time. Egos in teenage boys are never something to be encouraged I believe.

No, this is about fish….well actually a little bit about fish and in fact anything that people think is something worth you having or trying.

We are located in a semi rural area and in these ‘new times’ we live in, we have like many others been trying to support local businesses, avoid travel, shop for others etc. One of the places we have been frequenting is our local fish shop – the proprietor knows his fish, and in fact not just his fish but the actual origin of it and in some cases the providers of it. Considering that we live in the very middle of England, we are about 70 miles away from our nearest fishing port that is quite a feat but that doesn’t faze him.

Ok, there is probably a bit of salesmanship in this, but actually the quality is great and he does know the provenance, and more importantly will discuss how to prepare it, and based on preferences shared with him he gives suggestions on what we may like and so on.

So that is all well and good on fish, and actually we have independent butchers that will do the same…and also a couple of small artisan bakers that do wonderful bread that you can see and smell it being prepared behind them . That all great and for those nostalgic of the past it is a return to how our grandparents generation would have done their food shopping in the pre-supermarket era.

Good food for our physical well being is good news of course, but food for the mind is needed too which leads me to our local bookshop. I have mentioned them in passing, really just because they have a name for the shop that just says it as it is….. ‘Read’ ! One of the great things about this little shop, is that although its little, they not only have a lot of books in a small space but they do have an an impressive knowledge of the style, content, plot and readability of so many of the works of fiction on the shelves.

Ask them for something with just a few parameters and they come up with some ideas and personal reviews. So far , they haven’t failed to please and in fact have introduced me to some new authors.

What’s not to like about that! There is a series of TV ads running in the UK at the moment from Google encouraging you to use and review your local traders; American Express have done similar campaigns in the past where they reward their customers when using independent businesses…ok the cynics out there may say this is just PR for these organisations…it may be but if it helps keep these local businesses alive, then surely that is to the good.

Anyway, I am off to read my book now….. Happy Sunday

Exceedingly good cakes……..

If you live or have loved in the UK, (or possibly ex pat communities such as Dubai or the Spanish costas) , you will know that Mr Kipling bakes exceedingly good cakes! Not just because the advertising ‘strapline’ says this, but because they really are.

Mr Kipling alas is not a real baker but a fictitious baker invented in the UK in the 1960’s to support the evolving supermarkets.

Cakes had historically always been sold from small independent cakes shops or bakeries and Mr Kipling was devised by Rank Hovis McDougal, a large UK Miller and baker to create a brand for the supermarket shelves.

The reason for mentioning Mr Kipling is French Fancies!

I am not really one for lists of favourites…but I do have a league table of five various food inventions that are worthy of mention. At no. 5. Triple chocolate chip cookies – a slightly soft chocolate flavoured cookie featuring bits of white chocolate and milk chocolate. An amazing chocolate triple triumph.

No. 4 is Pork crackling (with apologies to all vegetarians) mmm, it might be 11pm but I could eat some now; ranking number 3, are baked crisps (for those in North America by crisps, we mean potato chips…whereas in the uk, chips are what you would call French Fries. Which in France are of course are just called Fried potatoes….and so on….. Anyway I have digressed…at number 2 has to be any cake containing marzipan… Battenburg and Simnel cake are two noble examples but far ahead, leading the no. 1 ranking…are French Fancies…..by Mr Kipling. The name has a slight hint of risque , or double-entendre but in reality it’s just a small cake. Albeit very nice being sponge cloth a fondant cream top and coated with soft icing. The whole thing is about 30% sugar!

I learnt only today that a special Christmas version of this is produced with frosted, sparky icing. It might only be March now…but I am getting excited already and look forward to introducing these into my life.

In recent weeks, for some bizarre reason I have had an immense craving for these…were it not for the fact I am male, and also aged well beyond pregnancy age, I would have been so convinced I was pregnant and showing signs of extreme food obsessions…

Have a good week…….