Wednesday, 23 September 2009

"There ain't no cure for the Glummertime blues..."

A couple of days ago we passed the Autumn Equinox and although our days have been getting steadily shorter for some time, we are now into the period when there's less day than night. I've always found this slightly depressing, but now, as someone who spends quite a bit of time working night shifts, the diminishing supply of daytime has become more significant. So it's, "Roll on Winter Solstice" when we can start to claw our way back into the sunlight.

As you'll expect, Blight-of-my-life and I employ completely different strategies to combat the onset of Glummertime.

Blight is a much more outdoors sort of person than me, so she has been getting stuck into preparing the new raspberry bed at her allotment, digging up the remaining potatoes and harvesting the tomatoes. I've been only peripherally involved with these activities. I've had to set out some boards for the raspberry bed and put up support wires, but most of my energy has gone into eating the fruit and veg that she has so lovingly grown. The tomatoes have been brilliant again, so all the aggro with the new greenhouse was worth it, but the melons were somewhat less successful; there was only one melon and we didn't realize it was ripe enough to eat until it had become too ripe to eat. Bum!

The potatoes have also been a revelation. People say it's not worth growing your own, but the flavour of a really fresh spud is impossible to deny. Grow some yourself next year and you'll become a believer too.

Another good result in the greenhouse were the Physalis (aka. Cape Gooseberry). It's the second year that we've had these weird things. If you've not come across them before, they look like a very small yellow tomato that has grown inside its own, tiny paper bag. The flavour is so subtle that I can't begin to describe it; it's not really like anything else. This isn't too helpful I know, but the best way to find out what they taste like is to try one. The variety which Blight grew this year had smaller fruit than last year's, so she decided to try making then into jam.

I don't think she'd done any sort of jam making before, so even without using an exotic fruit, this was already going to be a bit of an experiment. I have some dim memories of my Dad making rhubarb and ginger jam many years ago, so I was expecting the kitchen to become a no-go area, while it filled up with mashed fruit, vats of boiling sugar, steam and red hot jam jars.
This did not happen.
There wasn't a huge quantity of fruit, so everything was carried out at a much less industrial scale and after a few hours and very little anguish, the jam was declared "A Success".
It tastes excellent. If you want the recipe, it's at

My method for counteracting the pre-winter blues is less practical. I simply spend even more time huddled over the computer.
I'm currently playing "Champions Online", which was released earlier this month. If you fancy yourself as bit of a super-hero but haven't got the physique to wear spandex convincingly, you too may find it as uplifting as gardening and jam making.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Monopoly: The largest board-game on Earth?

I've never been terribly keen on the board-game "Monopoly". This probably goes back to the days when we played it as kids. You'd go round to a mate's house on a rainy day, spend a merry half hour dealing out the cash and arguing over who was going to have the Racing Car, before endlessly rolling double ones and "Going to (wrongly spelt) Jail". After an hour or so, everyone except whoever was playing the Banker would be getting a bit bored, so the game would degenerate into bickering and recriminations with the occasional competition to see who could make the tallest tower of hotels.

I find the enduring success of "Monopoly" rather depressing. If you ask anyone to name a board-game, this is usually the only one that they can think of. Nearly everyone has played it and if they didn't enjoy it, they are likely to have been put off board games for life. This is such a pity, because there are much better games to be found. Old favourites, like "Buccaneer" and "Formula One" were always more entertaining options, but if you want to try something a bit more modern, I'd strongly recommend "Settlers of Catan".

"Monopoly", of course, continues to thrive and is coming to a street near you, because the latest manifestation of the game, "Monopoly City Streets", allows you to play on a board that encompasses the entire planet. By marrying the principle of buying and selling streets to the global streetmap of "Google Maps", you can now play with real streets. You can buy the street where you live and build a massive block of flats on it and watch the rent roll in, or you can build a Factory or a Sewage Works on someone else's street and watch the property values plummet.

The game, which is free, has only just begun and runs until 31st January 2010, so if you sign up quickly you may be able to buy your own street before someone else nobbles it...

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

'Phone a friend?

We went to 'The Poachers' for the monthly quiz on Sunday night. It had been quite a while since we'd been able to get together enough people for a team of four, so typically we ended up with six, as Magical Dave and Alex were visiting from London.

The pub was as full as I've ever seen it, so it was fortunate that Reallyfatbloke and Chemical Al had got there early and nabbed a table large enough for our 'enhanced' team, although we had to raid the garden to get enough chairs for all of us to sit down.
While RFB was getting the beers, he said. "I had a look at your most recent blog posting."
"Ah, yes. It took me a while to work out how to do that.", I replied.
"What? Getting the video clip to work?"
"No. It was what to write that was the difficult bit. I wasn't quite sure how to get the right sort of tone."
After a slight pause, RFB said, "You were aiming for 'preachy', I presume?"
You can go off people.

The quiz itself was suitably humbling, although hardly any of the specialist rounds played to our combined strengths.
None of us had sufficient knowledge to recognise many of the (allegedly) famous bridges of the world from their photos. Once we'd got Tower Bridge and The Golden Gate Bridge we were pretty much down to, "Isn't that the really tall one in France where they went on 'Top Gear'?".
It was only slightly better on the "Name the Sports Stadium" round.
If it hadn't been for our knowledge of American State Capitals, films and wine, we'd have done a hell of a lot worse than the fourth place we actually achieved.

Oh, and here's an amusing thing if you want to annoy a Manchester City supporter.
One of the questions was: "Manchester City are sponsored by the airline, 'Etihad'. What is the English translation of the word 'etihad'?"

Answer: 'United'