30 June 2011

Some days are harder than others...

There are times -- thankfully few -- when I do get a little down. Today is one of those days. One of those days where it seems the simplest things are insurmountably difficult; inanimate objects and time seem to be conspiring against you; and you end up in the wrong place (or the right place) at wrong time (or day).
I'm having that kind of day. 
The kind of day the DEB likes to refer to as instances of "No Help Britain". Basically, something that should be simple isn't, and there seems to be a system in place whereby the red tape is more than six inches thick! And, you waste hours of your life, getting nowhere. I'm having that kind of day.
I've been offered a very nice lecturing gig in London next month, and to do it, I need to register myself as "Self Employed". Not a problem, I thought. I'll just pop on line and do that. Which I did. Only after going online and completing the application do I find that it will take up to 6 weeks (possibly longer, if strike action continues...) for my application for Self-Employed status to be processed.
The school that I'm doing the lecture for want verification of my self-employed status before they authorise payment for my services rendered. So, I phoned HM Revenue & Customs to see what could be  done, and got a very friendly assistant called Tina. She promptly explained if I have applied over the phone -- instead of online -- my self-employed status could have been verified straightaway.
I wanted to say to her: "Why, thank you, Tina. That's information I really could have used before I applied online." But, I resisted. It wasn't her fault. However, that doesn't make it any less annoying! On the HM Revenue & Customs website all the information urges you to apply online, even when you phone them, they urge you to pursue your requests online. ARRGH!
Just seems that I keep running into brick walls like this, these days.

29 June 2011

How could I forget Glastonbury?!

Another key fixture of a British summer!
And, this year -- what a year! Beyonce - first woman to headline in the Festival's history!
(Does make you wonder though, Madonna? Siouxie Sioux? Janet Jackson? Tons of other women who could have and should have...no disrespect to Beyonce.)
What really blew me away was the mighty U2 showing their strength and absolute staying power. "In the Name of Love" has to be one of the greatest songs ever.
I was so impressed by U2's remarkable performance, that I have I have been forced to re-evaluate my stance on music from the 80s.

....Is it possible that U2 are in fact the definitive band of that era???

Sunshine on a rainy day

Between grey skies, sunshine and showers it’s glorious summer in England. Wimbledon. Sun tea. Strawberries. Champers. And, gardening. Doesn’t get much better than this.

Currently prepping for a lecture in London in July, on Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, Richard III and Macbeth. Devils, witches, hunchbacks and murder. Fantastic. stuff. Nice to see the work trickling in - slowly, but surely. At last.

Had a go at making one of the DEB’s all-time favourite summer time puddings (desserts): Eton mess. I was intimidated at first, but by golly! It’s a doddle to make! As my chums at the National Trust would say, it’s definitely a “quick win”!
And, an absolute joy to use fresh mint straight from the garden!

Eton mess
                300ml whipping cream
                8 x 15g meringue nests
                350g strawberries
             200g raspberries and/or blackberries and/or blueberries
                4 tablespoons strawberry jam
                Sprigs of Mint
In a mixing bowl, whisk the cream until just peaking. Lightly crumble the meringue nests into the cream and set aside. Wash the strawberries. Reserving four for decoration, hull and roughly chop the remaining ones. Gently fold the crushed meringues, chopped strawberries and jam into the cream. Pile on to serving plates, decorate with reserved strawberries and mint. Serve immediately.

Cook's Tip: This mixture does not keep for long. Do not refrigerate, the meringue will dissolve.

17 June 2011

Much Ado About Everything!

Dear Reader,

This is a cry for help. My life has been hijacked.

My darling mother has come to visit for three weeks and my life is no longer my own.
I love her with all my heart, and I shall weep as I say good bye to her at the airport tomorrow morning, but I shall be thankful to have my life back.

I must keep this short and sweet as I have to dash "Mummy" off to morning coffee at a neighbour(s) -- she makes friends quickly -- and then we're donning hats and headed to the races...

It's been a splendid time, but so much of my daily grind has come to an abrupt halt!