Thursday, October 04, 2007

We seem to have the definitive collection of late 20th Century plastic shoe horns. I'm thinking of offering them to the V&A Museum for a special exhibition.


I’ve no idea why I picked up The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty, apart from the fact I quite liked the cover design, which is an entirely frivolous method of book selection but a method I must confess I use rather often. Anyway, I’m very glad I did because the hero, Smithson ‘Smithy’ Ide, is one of the most interesting and engaging characters I’ve ever encountered.

The book begins with the death of Smithy’s parents in an automobile accident, and this obese, virtually alcoholic, 40 year old has to sort out their affairs. Whilst in the process of doing that, a letter arrives for his father to say that a body being held in a morgue in California has been identified as that of his long missing older sister Bethany. Smithy, whose family lives in Providence, Rhode Island is not sure quite what to do. He gets on his old boyhood bike, and wearing just the clothes he stands up in and carrying virtually no money he goes out for a ride – and he doesn’t stop. The ride turns into an amazing journey as he cycles right across the USA to retrieve his sister’s remains. In the course of the journey with all it’s highs and lows, its moments of danger and of joy, he reveals his memories of his life, his family, his sister’s very challenging mental illness, and his time in Vietnam. The journey heals him, changes him and reveals true love to him. In many ways Smithy is the archetypal innocent abroad in society, and I really, really wanted him to find happiness at the end.

Some of the descriptions of the American landscape are truly beautiful, and the reader gets a real feeling for the immensity and variety of the country, and the diversity of the people who live there.

I guess I’d sum the book up as having been an unexpected pleasure – and despite the title, there is nothing about running in the book at all !

Rated: 4.5*


My local corner shop is owned and run by a Muslim family, it sells newspapers and magazines, bus passes, milk, a small range of groceries, wine, beer and fizzy drinks, and the best vegetable samoosas in north London. There are thousands of these little shops all over the UK. We get our papers there everyday, and other items from time to time. Although they are muslims and don’t drink it themselves, they choose to stock and sell alcohol. They don’t need to do so, as there is an off-licence just down the road, but they do it because the majority of Britons do drink alcohol therefore it is good business and it is legal.

So what the hell is this ridiculous nonsense with some Muslim employees in Sainsbury’s objecting to handling bottles or cans of alcoholic drink at the checkout tills, or on the shelves on the grounds that it is against their religion? Sainsbury’s is a huge supermarket chain with hundreds of branches, stocking thousands of lines of products. It seems total madness to allow some employees to pick and choose what they will or will not handle. Apparently the management have said that if a Muslim checkout person comes across alcohol in the shopper’s goods, they can raise a hand, and another – presumably non-Muslim – member of staff will come and pass the item over the laser scanner, after which the Muslim member of staff can resume checking out the goods. What a stupid, time wasting idea.

You can just imagine it can’t you; it’s 6.30pm on a Friday evening, you have a full trolley load of food, drink and household necessities, the checkout queues are horrendous, there are children crying, harassed shoppers anxious to get home asap, everyone is tired and stressed after a busy week. Your checkout is manned by a lady wearing the hijab, in every trolley of the four people ahead of you in the queue there is alcohol of some variety. The same is true of almost all the trolleys in all the queues. Every time the checkout lady raises her hand for someone else to come and scan the demon drink, there is a long wait as there are not enough staff available.
Customer satisfaction will be at an all time low. And why? Is it because Sainsbury’s think they are practicing religious tolerance? If a staff member says they cannot ever do a Sunday shift because they are Christian, are special arrangements made for them? I’d take a bet they’d either not be employed in the first place or be given their P45 pdq.

Sainsbury’s should be telling all prospective and current employees that either they handle all the goods that the company sells when required to do so, or seek a job elsewhere.

Over zealous, mistaken interpretations of religious prohibitions just lead the religion in question into disrepute.


We've only been in our new abode for six nights and as friends have brought meals round or we've nipped out for a quick bite after hours of unpacking boxes, moving furniture around and so on, I haven't really got to grips with cooking on the new stove. Today I thought it was time to get back to normality and decided to make a quick fish supper for the DH and myself before he set off for a meeting and I flopped in front of the telly.
We are now living in
Muswell Hill which boasts one of London's best fishmongers, Walter Purkis & Sons, so I bought some haddock from them and cooked it like this:

Serves 2 (just increase the number of fillets etc to feed more people).

2 good sized haddock fillets
300-400g each

150g chestnut (brown) mushrooms sliced

5 tablespoons
crème fraiche
2 tablespoons butter

Salt and Pepper

Heat the butter in a small frying pan and sauté the sliced mushrooms in it until cooked and beginning to colour. Remove from heat. Grease an oven proof dish and lay the haddock fillets in it. Season them with salt and pepper.
Spoon the saut
éd mushrooms with their buttery juices over the fish and then splodge the crème fraiche over everything as evenly as possible. Bake in a pre-heated oven, 180 C, for about 20-25 minutes until bubbling and beginning to brown.
Serve with steamed new potatoes and a green salad.


Mother of the bride said...

If I still lived in Muswell Hill I'd say welcome - but welcome anyway from a not-so-far away blog friend. Other delights in store besides the fish shop are the farmer's market at Ally Pally and the antiques shop opposite the Maid of Muswell (if you like art nouveau). But I expect you know this.

Vanessa said...

I am a Brit living in Spain now, and just reading about Muswell Hill, Ally Pally etc is making me feel really homesick.
I really love this blog-rants included. As for your rant on religious tolerance, I totally agree with you. The UK has gone to a point of insanity when it comes to religious tolerance. There has to be a happy medium, and I think the UK had it, but now seems to be losing it.When will all this craziness end??

herschelian said...

MotB: I have moved to Muswell Hill from as far away as Highgate! so I know the area pretty well. In fact where we are is what could be called Muswell Hill Bottom - half way between MH central and Crouch End. I'm loving it.

Vanessa: Welcome - I'm sure my rants must put some people off, but that's their problem not mine!