Monday, October 29, 2012

 
A walk around the locality this morning - it's very still here but I just saw the storm was beginning to hit the east coast of the US so I expect things are going to get pretty windy there soon. Hope it is not too bad.
 
 







Friday, October 26, 2012


Leonardo looked out from the tall tower down onto the streets of Florence. The July morning sun climbed higher in the sky casting long shadows across the cobble square and terracotta roof tiles below. He had come so far since being born in the hamlet of Anchiano and the small town of Vinci. What a life he had led; charmed to be sure and so, so lucky. It was not easy to be enchanted with vision in such times and it very nearly landed him in prison. Still the day was warm and Mona was here again.

Her real name was Lisa Del Giocondo but he named her Mona Lisa and nobody would ever know why. Today he would paint more of her husband’s commission and they would eat and they would talk and she would tell him always of her great sadness. But not yet; this was Florence and first they would eat. They greeted and kissed and she began at once to make pranzo from the ingredients she brought in her basket.

And he observed her immersed in the preparation; childlike with the utmost innocence in what she was doing. Safe and secure she took the moment and let go all of the worry and strains of her life. I joked that despite her status she was born to be a ‘donna cuoco’ and her small, thin smile appeared and mocked me in return. He realised that she had kept hope alive throughout all that had been sent to trial her. A perfect, sweet human being wrapped in layers of bad experiences; but here, now; safe and warm and so loved; she could let go all the past and simply became herself.

He noted the ingredients; small sweet tomatoes, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, red pepper, and a cup of red wine. She chopped the tomatoes, onion, pepper and carrot and with crushed garlic gloves and wine added them to a pan with enough water to cover everything. She brought it to boil and now it would simmer for 2 hrs on a gentle heat. When it was ready she would add a handful of torn basil to the mixture and serve over fiorentine pasta.

He painted and she sat. They would talk of the world and all those things that only two disparate people can share lest they offend decency. Then they ate, and he painted more and afterwards they sat on the terrace overlooking the square and finished the rest of the wine watching the shadows lengthen. She did not judge, she did not pity him and after she left Leonardo took the canvas from the covered alcove and from memory began to paint the real woman he had seen.

 © Edetric Vistal

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Autumn comes with open arms but is undecided on the moment to let go its embrace and stand coldly remote. So sad that this is the season that bites and chills its audience, after first enrapturing them in its russet and ochre ensembles. Leaves fall in its northerning wind like a shower of yellow butterflies that must obey the urge to take to the air and yet fall impotent to the ground with broken wings to lie en masse and deepen to rich brown.
It was on such a day that the elves realised they could not withstand all the trials of the world and built shelters within the tall trees or sought refuge in hidden places underground the forest. There they would wait till the winter passed as I must do now. Yet loreless am I and so out of peace with the world. But no matter for nature lays a trail that none may follow for fear of certain failure. For the strip of green turns ever to brown then to white and all caught unawares on its winter path shall not ever see another spring.
 



 

Leek and Potato Soup
1oz Butter
500g Leeks
300g Potatoes
2 Carrots
3 Cloves Garlic
½ pint chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp Double Cream
Salt and Pepper to taste
 
Chop white 2/3 of each leek roughly, slice carrot and add to stock with crushed garlic gloves. Add only enough water to cover, bring to boil and simmer for 2 hrs on a gentle heat. Liquidise and season to taste. Be generous with the pepper as it needs a little heat.

Add 2tablespoons of cream and the remaining green leek part (quarter each stem and slice into 1 inch pieces.)
 
Tip:
  • If the soup tastes a little weak simmer gently after liquidising to reduce its volume before adding the cream. It sounds simple but soups do have a sweet spot with regard to seasoning and volume.
  • Worth noting that the taste before and after liquidising is so very different; so judge the final taste after liquidising.
  • Using the whitest part of the leek give a paler soup to which the green parts added later contrast.
Variations:
You could add a small amount of chicken or bacon to the liquidised mixture but hey give the animals a break.
 
 

Blueberry and Grape Jam
1oz Butter
800g Grapes (any colour)
2 Desert Apples
Juice of 1 Lemon
1.5kg / 3lb Sugar
2lb / 800g Blueberries

This will make 3 jars with a capacity of 500g / 1lb

Wash grapes and add to pan with juice of lemon and roughly chopped apples (no need to peel.) Add enough water to cover and simmer for 2-3 hrs and then strain overnight. You should have roughly 1 pint of juice.

In a large pan heat sugar, grape juice and blueberries to a rolling boil. Stir occasionally till the boil is achieved and measure set point with a thermometer. This is a wet jam so ensure enough liquid boils off before bottling. Whilst this is happening sterilise the jars in a moderate oven. Pour the jam into the hot, sterilised jars; add wax caps if you want, and let it cool. Label with date and use within 6 months.

Tip:
Don’t trust the thermometer reading (I always go 1 -2 degrees higher) - check the jam set on a cold plate placed in the freezer. Allow to cool and push your finger across the surface. If it is ready it will wrinkle and appear congealed. However at the end of the day it will be always be a softer set jam.

 

 

 




Just sent this to a friend - a Christmas menu for a Downton theme but you'd have to have watched it to understand


Aperitif and savoury appetisers from the Dowager Duchess

Starter – Mr Carson’s Red Peppers with Miss Hughes popped cherry tomatoes al la Piedmont style

Fish Course - Trio of Downton Mermaids
 
Mary Crawley’s hot and cold Prawns
Edith Crawley’s Salmon on a single bed of Cauliflower Puree
Sybil Crawley’s Toast with Crab pate

Main Course 1
The Earl and Countess of Grantham’s Roast Turkey served with all the trimming
 
Main Course 2
Isobel Crawley and Ethel Park’s well and truly cooked Goose with all the trimmings

Dessert
Mrs Patmore’s Plum Pudding with Daisy Mason’s fresh white custard

Followed by
Miss O’Brien’s sharply acid cheeses with homemade biscuits and scandalous chutneys

Thomas Barrow’s Dark Secret Coffee and Mr and Mrs Bates Christmas cake in the servants Hall

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Mary did not think that the world was her playground; she knew it was! Even though the money was always counted in on time, it was would be spent so quickly but she said there was always more from somewhere. Not that she minded about money for a moment when she was younger. A good looking girl from a solid family background could, (and still can) go much further than anyone else. Somebody once asked her if she thought about a time in the future when the attention, money and endless pleasure-seeking could possibly stop. She remembered laughing at the notion, because simply put, her deliberations led her to believe she was so much better than such a possible outcome. In actual fact it was true, because the instinctive belief in her abilities was the underpinning to it all.
It was a fine life really with her assets and income and just enough understanding of attraction to make it all work. For Mary men were the key to her unlocking the world. Although the career at the bank was hardly the stuff of dreams she enjoyed the work and it gave her so many opportunities to meet with wealthy males of her own age group. In a short time she gained something of a reputation. Not a bad one of course; she was so much classier than all that. It always seemed incredible to me that she attended so many events, dances and balls without ever once being thought vulgar. A new week inevitably brought a new man and all of them were completely smitten by her grace and bearing and to be honest; her absolutely sparkling intelligence and sense of fun. Though some tried to take things further she wasn’t at all ready for a long term recital and had the most beautiful skill of gently letting them understand. Because in truth, all bona fide men who are honest; naturally want and need a strong, independent woman.
Was I jealous? Well perhaps a little. But it was so hard not to genuinely like her and she was, and always remained my best friend. To be honest I think I basked in her glow somewhat. It was never intentional, but I soon came to realise she had something that was never coming my way in this lifetime. Some people rapidly understand that we cannot learn some social behaviours because they flow effortlessly from people as a natural consequence of their personality. As an example; they say that if you have to think during a conversation about what to say next, it is better generally not to say anything at all. A good rule of life I suppose and it usually meant I kept quiet a lot in most conversations.
I think also her thoughts were on a much bigger scale than mine. If a benefit of being her friend was a wider social group and lots more events to attend then I was not going to be downhearted about it.  I miss her terribly now she’s gone. I loved her so much.  
Goodnight dearest daughter.

Badger Cull U-Turn

Farmers were expected to start shooting badgers in west Somerset and west Gloucestershire this week to stop the spread of alleged bovine tuberculosis. But a statement to the House of Commons, said the cull will have to be delayed because farmers are not ready. The cull had been delayed by the Olympics and Paralympics because not enough police were available to manage protests until after the events had finished. The weather has also made it difficult for farmers to find the time to bait setts and carry out surveys. In addition, a survey last week showed that the number of badgers in the cull areas has increased, with 4,300 in west Somerset and 3,600 in west Gloucestershire. At least 70 per cent of badgers (or 5530 of them) must be removed from an area for there to be a reduction in TB in cattle.

Somebody has pointed out that in contrast the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and France all have badgers but NO major issues with bovine TB. The real question now in reality is if the UK cattle have infected the badgers in the first place and not the other way around. TB originating due to bad husbandry and poor stock movement controls.

In another related issue that is almost now given approval by this stupid planned cull two men have been arrested in Lancashire following a series of police raids linked to badger baiting. The operation followed reports from the Helmshore area that a number of men had been digging badgers from setts and then throwing them to dogs. A dead badger with a shotgun wound to the head was later found at the site.

I guess they just couldn’t wait for the cull to begin – what a sad world we live in! Animals today people tomorrow.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/9627975/Badger-cull-delayed-as-minister-blames-weather-and-Olympics.html

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I can offer my outstretched arm and yet who will take it? When the wind blows ever colder and the north begins to freeze; who will keep me warm on these senseless nights that are wreathed in the breath of winter to make of each hour a lifetime that falls into the embrace of the imminent winter. We wait for dawn and though it is colder than the night, still it comforts to see the renewed light of a new day pierce the gloom and bring me hope.

Caramelised Red Onion Chutney

This will make 2 jars with a capacity of 500g / 1lb

2 oz butter
9 Red onions (finely sliced)
3 Chillies (finely chopped)
Small piece of Ginger (finely chopped)
250ml Rose
300ml White Wine Vinegar
200g Dark Brown Sugar (Muscovado)

  • Slice your onions finely, (a mandolin is ideal) and chop chilli and ginger finely and put into a pan with the melted butter. Cook gently over a low heat for about 20-40 minutes until caramelised. Add the rose and reduce till the onions are rich and dark and somewhat sticky
  • Add sugar and the vinegar and simmer moderately for 30 minutes or so, until the chutney is thick and dark. Whilst this is happening sterilise the jars in a moderate oven. Pour the chutney into the hot, sterilised jars and let it cool. Ideally, you should leave it for a month or more before you eat it, to mature in flavour.
Tip:
  • To tell if the chutney is ready draw a spoon down the centre of the pan and if the mixture does not run together again for a count of 5 it is ready.
  • If you want finer chutney cut each onion in half before slicing
  • This compliments acidic cheeses so use to make goats cheese tarts or on the cheeseboard.



 

Leek and Ham Quiche
 
10 inch quiche pan (preferably metal to avoid a soggy base)
300g / 12oz shortcrust pastry
25g / 1 oz butter
6 Medium leeks (white ends)
200g/ 8oz Extra mature Cheddar
150g / 6oz Cooked Ham
3 eggs
120ml / ¼ pt double Cream
Salt and Pepper
Method
  • Wash leeks and trim off roots if needed. Cut each leek in half and reserve the leafy, greener top section for soup etc.
  • Using the bottom whiter root parts cut each leek in quarters lengthways and then into sections of approx 1 inch.
  • Cook leek pieces slowly in butter in a large frying pan till slightly golden and soft (but not burnt.)
  • While leeks are cooking
  • Line quiche pan with the shortcrust pastry – leave the edges overhanging the pan
  • Beat eggs and cream together in a bowl with salt and pepper. Cut cheese into roughly 1cm pieces and then roughly chop over with a knife to give a nice crumb.
  • Add cheese to cooked leeks and stir together. Add to pastry case. Trim the pastry case level to top of quiche pan and add the egg and cream mixture.
  • Bake for 30-40 mins at 180C (fan) 200C non fan oven. If needed rotate quiche after 20 minutes to ensure even browning.
Tip:
  • Do not overcook. Remove when top is firmly set but still has some spring.
  • Quiche pan should preferably be of metal to avoid an overly wet pastry base
  • For a vegetarian alternative add more leeks and omit the ham or substitute ham with red or a mixture of bell peppers, artichoke or fennel.
 
Can be eaten hot or cold but if serving cold allow it to come to room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.


 

Sunday, October 21, 2012


I realise that hope can only live and set free the world if it is engendered in accord and equality. Without it hope withers on the dawn into a misguided folly that takes us nowhere. Yet how inconsequential is thought; on such a perfect autumn’s day as this one.






Night gave way to dawn with the sun shining through the mist at the bases of electricity pylons that were walking away into the distance. Austere industrial towers of cold grey metal permeated and mollified by orange shafts of warm light hazing through milky white.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


A man was washed up on a beach after a terrible shipwreck. Only a sheep and a sheepdog were washed up with him. Looking around, he realised that they were stranded on a deserted island.
 
After being there a while, he got into the habit of taking his two animal companions to the beach every evening to watch the sun set. One particular evening, the sky was a fiery red with beautiful cirrus clouds; the breeze was warm and gentle - a perfect night for romance.
  
As they sat there, the sheep started looking better and better to the lonely man; soon he leaned over to the sheep and... Put his arm around it. But the sheepdog, ever protective of the sheep, growled fiercely until the man took his arm from around the sheep... After that, the three of them continued to enjoy the sunsets together but there was no more cuddling.
  
A few weeks passed by and, lo and behold, there was another shipwreck. The only survivor was a beautiful young woman, the most beautiful woman the man had ever seen... She was in a pretty bad way when he rescued her and he slowly nursed her back to health.
 
 When the young maiden was well enough, he introduced her to their evening beach ritual, it was another beautiful evening, red sky, cirrus clouds, a warm and gentle breeze; the perfect setting for a night of romance. Pretty soon, the man started to get 'those feelings' again...he fought the urges as long as he could but he finally gave in and realising he now had the opportunity ... he leaned over to the young woman cautiously and whispered in her ear,
  
'Would you mind taking the dog for a walk?'

The night stars lie above as an arc of wonder in a splendid ribbon of milky starlight that gently washes us in the light of a billion years. What marvels may lie out there beyond the periphery of vision and mans polished lenses. We see so much and yet can only still offer feeble conjecture on the worlds beyond our imagination. Time to understand that time and space are relevant to us, because we are in a world that is now beyond our capacity to be sustained. We place a machine on Mars and yet it is but a single grain of sand, positioned at the start of a vast desert. Noble and enquiring are we, but I wonder sometimes why should we seek such enlightenment on the altar of the heavens, while the world we inhabit is so full ripened for a benevolent insurrection?
I took these last night. It was an amazingly orange sunset and i haven't altered the colour of the shot.



 I did take a panorama and altered it several times though for you to see the difference. The first is the normal shot


Here is the black and white shot

 
Here is a colour saturated shot
 
 
Here is a shot with full colour saturation and tint


So what's the old adage the Production manager was always saying 'believe half of what you see and nothing of what you hear'

Finally a nice normal (unaltered panorama)



Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Who will free me of this curse of perpetual vulpine wandering? That I should always walk out into the night and where I but less resolute than I suppose; surely I should howl and bay at the very moon that guides me home.

I love words. They flow and weave across the wasteland of media blanks like literacy ants forming some kind of homogenous colony that grows from the smallest beginning to a mighty collection of order or perhaps dies in inception or during its initial formation. Writers like hidden queens in secret chambers engender growth and control all things within their realm. In life we may as individuals, be small but within our imagination and expression we can take pleasure in the impossible task that is to describe in text what the eye sees and the heart feels.

Where shall I fly today when the world shrinks around me? Where shall I land as the world turns from the greyed ash to kindled fire along an eastern ridge and the morning comes alive from the wasted night? Like a song that streams across the valley fading on the wind, ever soft I tread on ancient grounds swelling with autumn rains. The point of reverence is now almost reached and it is not defiled by the insuperable odds of reasoning. Yet who would bestow such a gift on so unlikely a champion and for what ends? When the sway of the world moves in time with the ruin of all we held to be good; what shall arise from the black of night to surprise an angry dawn?

© Edetric Vistal

Monday, October 15, 2012


Just a couple of articles I read yesterday. The butterfly art work and the badger cull each pose a moral question on the acceptability of our attitudes towards the species inhabiting the earth with us.  The badger cull is simply breathtaking in its scope and ideology. I hope it does not take place.

 9,000 butterflies died as part of an art work

 The artist Damien Hirst has come under fire after it emerged that more than 9,000 butterflies died as part of an art work in his latest exhibition. Even by Damien Hirst’s standards it was an unusual artwork – two windowless rooms swirling with live butterflies. Visitors to the exhibit at the Tate Modern in London observed the insects close-up as they flew, rested, and fed on bowls of fruit.

But whilst the work, In and Out of Love, was praised by many art critics when it featured in the gallery’s Hirst retrospective earlier this year, it has now landed the artist in a row with the RSPCA.

Figures obtained from the Tate reveal that more than 9,000 butterflies died during the 23 weeks that the exhibition was open.  Each week it was replenished with approximately 400 live butterflies to replace those that died – some of them trodden underfoot, others injured when they landed on visitors’ clothing and were brushed off.

 All life is a manifestation of infinite consciousness, and we cannot pretend to have evolved to a higher level of consciousness if we treat other sentient beings with such indifference. Butterflies may be low down in the order of sentience, but contempt for other life forms extrapolates into ever greater forms of abuse. Art should elevate the human consciousness – not debase it.

Badger cull 'mindless', say scientists

Government's chief scientist among those who dispute evidence used to justify killings, which may begin imminently. Britain's top animal disease scientists have launched a devastating attack on the government's "mindless" badger cull, accusing ministers of failing to tell the truth and demanding the immediate abandonment of the killings.
The intervention by dozens of the nation's most senior experts, in a letter in the Observer, comes as farmers prepare to begin the cull in Gloucestershire and Somerset, possibly as early as tomorrow. The governments own chief scientist has refused to back the killings.

More than 30 eminent animal disease experts describe the cull as a "costly distraction" that risks making the problem of tuberculosis in cattle worse and that will cost far more than it saves. The cull, could wipe out 100,000 badgers, a third of the national population. The cull policy is "mindless", according to Lord John Krebs, one of the UK's most eminent scientists and the architect of the landmark 10-year culling trials that ended in 2007. "The scientific case is as clear as it can be: this cull is not the answer to TB in cattle. The government is cherry-picking bits of data to support its case."

Another signatory, Lord Robert May, a former government chief scientist and president of the Royal Society, said: "It is very clear to me that the government's policy does not make sense."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2012/oct/14/letters-observer

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Today i'm dressing up smartly because there's a wedding



What I wish is to feel the warmth of the hearth within winter
Arise wakeful in a world where its people are kindred spirits
To be ruled with perceptive actions by benevolent dictators 
Blind to profit, vanity and the contemptuous rewards of blood
But it shall not be this day, nor this year, nor this long lifetime

Not while the moneylenders rule the outcome of all our plans
Usurpers in the guise of allies wreak us all a much poorer world
We become a cash cropped humanity languishing in hollow hope
Sated by our small desires and petty, yet magnificent; scandals
While the bad news is buried so deep it shines no light ever again
 
And I wonder when truth becomes clear to me; did we deserve this?
Birth-righted outcasts now within a system that takes away everything
To become so fast the lowest caste within a society evolving into ruin
And I wonder if the truth will become clear; but tis short conjecture
The skilful art of strategy is a slow lesson, learnt well over millennia

For the opiates of the working man’s life are entrenched beyond measure
The essence of humanity is a withal, fragile thing; easily bought and abused
And yet with but one small kindness or spectacle see it vigorously rebought
I do not despair; I am too old to be moved by an unending disappointment
That we are given one life and all we do is pass away its precious time

 © Edetric Vistal

Corporate greed of the week award goes to Flynn Pharma Epanutin capsules were costing the NHS just over £2m a year until Flynn Pharma, a British company, bought the rights to sell the anti-seizure medicine from Pfizer, repackaged it, and raised the price. Now the annual bill will be £46.6m. The extra money that will be spent on the drug could have paid for about 1,800 more nurses.

David Fakes, a director at Flynn Pharma, defended the price rise. He said: “It is a significant increase but to put it in context, it comes out at about 80p a dose. “The historical cost of Epanutin has been exceptionally low.”


Closely followed by the UK energy companies who have announced a 10% energy bill rise soon. Funny how they do that when the weather starts to get colder. Must just be a coincidence that it happens every year at this time.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-19927350

Friday, October 12, 2012

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I'm jumping because i've had a haircut

 
 

Autumn slides so easily into the departing embrace of summer
An avatar comes of richest bounty borne from echoes of growth
Summers departing haste slighted by a gilted world of deep hues
The coming breath of winter is exhaled softer than a new dawn
Yet it stirs the shedding mantle disrobed by majestied Beeches
And within the prostrated montages of each leaf reflects summer
By winter’s depth to be only skeletal, featherless quills underfoot
The plumage of a Robin set among lichen is again a vibrant fall fire
Reminds us of the hearths ready to be lit again in cinderless grates
All the while I will gaze upon the season more; ere a new one begins

© Edetric Vistal
Kilchurn castle


 
Rainbow over Inverary castle

 
The last Scotland panoramas
 


 
Animal, vegetable and mineral