Friday, January 25, 2008



If prizes were handed out for the most unusual book-titles of the year, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday would certainly be on the short list. This is a book you may well have seen piled up in bookstores over the past twelve months as it was one of the Richard & Judy bookclub Summer Reads for 2007. I admit I had seen it but for some reason had never bothered to pick it up.

This last fortnight I have been laid low with a horrendous flu-like virus which seems to have been doing the rounds, and a friend dropped a copy of SFinTY round to distract me and stop me feeling so sorry for myself! It was the perfect tonic, and I am so glad it did not pass me by.

Dr Alfred Jones is a fisheries scientist employed by a government department. He is married, without children, to a very bossy, high-handed woman who earns more than he does and patronises him in every possible way. Out of the blue, Dr Jones is approached to do a feasibility study for a project to create a salmon river in the Yemen, something he initially dismisses out of hand as a completely daft idea. However, the scheme has come to the notice of various politicians who want the project to go ahead for a variety of self-serving political reasons. Dr Jones ends up being forced to take on the scheme, and to try to figure out how to get 10,000 salmon out to the Yemen, and how to get water in a Yemeni wadi to meet the conditions necessary for their survival.

The whole crazy plan changes Dr Jones in more ways than he could have envisaged and the reader becomes as anxious as he does that the scheme should succeed.

The book is written as a series of letters, emails, diary entries and answers to a Parliamentary Inquiry, and apart from telling a hilarious tale, satirises the bureaucratic nonsense that often passes for governance in Britain today, and the horrible culture of “spin” which has been adopted by our politicians.

A light but most enjoyable book – I think GPs should prescribe books like this for people with flu, combined with paracetamol it was ideal medication.

Rated 4.5*


I am in an absolutely foul humour, having just spent the entire morning on the telephone to the DVLA, and various credit card companies. Two days ago my purse was nicked from my handbag whilst I was in the local library. The LIBRARY, I ask you, is nothing sacred, who expects pickpockets and thieves to be operating in a library? If I had been at Camden Lock or in Petticoat Lane I would have been very much on my guard, but in the library I was completely absorbed in browsing the shelves and totally oblivious to anyone else.

Of course, like just about anyone in this venal world I have a policy with a cardsafe company whereby I just phone them up, and they cancel all my cards, and notify all the appropriate organisations; as I noticed the theft very quickly, I was able to get that underway immediately so whatever little toerag took my purse will find the cards which were in it are useless. There was virtually no money in the purse, just a few coins, so they didn't gain much there either. For me however the hassle was just beginning. New cards have started arriving promptly, but all require activation which means phoning the card suppliers and then they demand passwords, birth date, postcodes, inside leg measurements, name of the first dog I owned, food allergies and all manner of other information before the card is ready for use

Worst of all, my photo Driving License was in the purse, and that is really useful for anyone who wants to commit ID theft. I have, on the advice of my cardsafe company, registered with CIFAS, and have taken out some rather costly ID fraud protection insurance.

The purse also held my library cards (to three different libraries), my blood donor card, some drycleaning tickets for items I had taken into be cleaned half an hour earlier and various other cards that have no intrinsic value but replacing them will take time. Pissed off doesn't even begin to describe how I feel right now.

I am beginning to think that boiling in oil would not be too severe a punishment for this type of theft.


There is nothing nicer in the morning than a mug of coffee or tea, a couple of rusks and a quiet fifteen minutes with the newspaper. Rusks are very much a South African institution, whether homemade or commercially produced; needless to say, I think homemade rusks are far superior. It was probably the Dutch trekboers who first used rusks as a quick breakfast, as the double baking means that they keep well for ages. I have tried a variety of rusk recipes over the years, but this is the one I make over and over again. The quantities given make a lot of rusks - I have just made a batch, and half of them went to the DD and DDBF, as she loves them too.


1 Kg Self raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
250g firm margarine (eg Stork)
1½ cups caster sugar
500g buttermilk
175 mls sunflower/corn oil
2 large eggs
2 cups sunflower seeds, chopped nuts, candied peel, raisins and/or other dried fruits. Use your own preferred combination from the above – or just put one cup of raisins and one cup of All Bran.

Pre-heat oven to 180°C

Grease and line the base and sides of two large shallow baking tins (each approx 30cms by 20cms)

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together into a large bowl.
Melt the margarine and stir it in – it will seem lumpy at this stage.
Stir in the sugar.
Beat the oil, eggs and buttermilk together and stir the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients.
Lastly stir in the seeds, fruits, nuts etc.
Spread the mixture evenly into the two tins and press down so there are no gaps.
Bake in the oven for 45mins to 1 hour. It will rise slightly and be golden brown.
Remove from the oven onto a baking rack and allow to cool in the tins.

When cold, remove from the tins, and with a serrated knife cut into pieces.
(There will be lots of crumbs – feed them to the birds!) Stack the cut pieces back into the tins at an angle to each other – so air can pass between them.
Set the oven to very, very low heat - 50°C, and put the tins of rusks back in the oven and leave there overnight to dry out completely.

Store in an airtight tin or tupperware box.


Alan in Belfast said...

It was a great book.

And John Self liked Torday's next book.

Charlotte said...

Sorry to hear you've been ill, but at least you've had great reading matter to comfort you. Rusks are my favourite comfort food too - but I have never made them before. Perhaps this is the time to learn.

Hope your admin debacle sorts itself out.

Mother of the bride said...

What a horrid time you've been having lately - hope next week is much better.

Bybee said...

Sorry you've been so sick...seems like several bloggers fell ill this week...are we contagious to each other? Guess it's just that time of year.
I'm reading The Uninvited right now and enjoying it very much. I'm wondering what you thought of all that banquet food!
The rusks look tasty..I'd never heard of them before.

sharryb said...

I got a nudge to visit here by the reviewer on Time Goes By. What an enjoyable read. I been stuck here (at your blog!) way longer than I planned, just reading on and on. Now I have ideas for books to read and food to cook. And will watch my back at the library! Hope you are well soon.


Nick said...

Well, I don't see any sympathy over your pickpocket! I can sympathise at any rate, it's only happened to me once but what a pain in the butt it was replacing all the cards and anything else important. I didn't have a filofax at that time but if my current one was stolen, I would lose a colossal amount of vital information. Who'd have thought it in a cosy old local library?

herschelian said...

Alan - thanks for dropping in, I'm looking forward to reading Torday's next book though I've seen mixed reviews in the press.

Charlotte - rusks are easy-peasy lemon squeasy to make, and just the perfect snack for a writer like you to have with her coffee when beavering away at the magnum opus!

MotB - Thanks for your good wishes, I've been admiring your grandson on your blog, he looks a real sweetie.

Bybee - I know, I've also wondered if bugs can be passed through the blogosphere! As to your question, there is banquet food and banquet food. I've had some fabulous meals at banquets, and some absolutely dire ones; I suspect the budget has a lot to do with it ;-)

SharryB - Thanks for dropping in, and your kind comment. I'm looking forward to browsing your blog.

Nick - I'm kicking myself for not having a more secure bag, for being so naive as to think Libraries would be sacrosanct, and for putting my driving licence in my purse. I have learned my lesson.