Life Happened: The only way out is through

Honestly the only good thing that can be said about last week was that no-one died. It’s been a week full of petty annoyance. I got knocked off my feet by a guy not looking were he was going, a guy was rude to me because I didn’t get off the pavement to make way for his kid on a bike, there was a power cut at home on Friday morning. Petty annoyance made worse by me, I was tired, it was the beginning of migraine fortnight and I still have the cough that will not die and I’m a bit worried about this being a repeat of 2014’s horror where I essentially had a cold with coughing for three months. Anyway, aside from that, it was busy, not the week, apart from usual stuff you know the full time job and having to be there all day, the work week was pretty normal, the weekend was busy. Knowing it was going to be non-stop, I took Wednesday off to sort things out. Which was partially successful.img_4989Ma came to stay on Friday night so we could get to grip with the weeds on the plot although I think she just wanted to eat pizza! However, it didn’t quite work like that, Saturday was a busy, there was cake drop off, a meeting at Pathways to look at the development proposal, and much chatting. We did get some general allotment work and devising a way to deter the foxes that are intent on digging up my garlic but not quite as much as planned.

Sunday morning dawned stupidly early so I could go and hand out water to runners in the Ealing Half Marathon.I did less handing out and more cleaning up but it was good fun and all finished around 12-ish. In the afternoon, there was a special general meeting of the allotment society to discuss a response to the Pathways plans. The room was packed and it was busy, productive but busy!

My response to the weekend was pretty much this….

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Friday Links

Happy Friday! I’m at the end of the week and the beginning of a busy weekend! Here are this week’s links…

Riz Ahmed on airport typecasting.

Jeremy Corbyn and leadership. Yep

The Real Junk Food Project. This is inspiring and scary in equal measure.

This made me crave a fish finger sandwich. How to make the perfect fish finger.

I love Joss Whedon and I love this.

Millennials need to band together. Generally, I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of the millenials, as a generation, they are getting screwed over but they aren’t getting screwed over by the Gen X-er’s or Baby Boomers in my family. I have a job and hopefully, I can keep it but I’m screwed by the housing crisis too, with over half my monthly income going on housing and bills related to housing. Ma was lucky to get the sheltered housing when she did but the reason she was on the housing list was because her buy to let landlord put up the rent by £170 per month, the year she retired. Her income from pensions, state and private, is good, it’s certainly more than I’ll get but she pays tax on that and is using her time to help at a food bank and a homeless charity. So she is doing alright but it’s not like she’s swimming in a sea of cash. Actually, all the millenials I know are doing better than me because unlike me they have parents with money or have inherited money. We actually need to look at this without blame across the generations, people without money are being screwed by people who have money. That’s actually what’s happening here.



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Courgette Caviar

Guys I’m sorry, I realise that this space is turning into the courgette diaries, as it seems that most of the cooking I do nowadays seems to be about not letting any go to waste. The last five months of renting an allotment have been a steep learning curve. Mostly about time, because allotments are a time suck, sure I’ve got more time outdoors, more exercise and more heart lifting moments of  joy as I look at my 6 x 15 metre space and think about how good it looks.img_4969I also get produce and the lesson I’ve learnt about produce is that courgette plants just keep going. We are in the middle of September and the plants just keep producing, last time I looked we had 15 tiny courgettes, seems like the only thing that will stop them will be winter! So I saw this recipe and it used 2 kg of courgettes so it had to be tried.

Honestly, that it wasn’t the easy recipe it seemed to think it was, mostly down to me not having a big enough pan for the quantity of vegetables. After I put the tomatoes it, I just gave up and I tipped it all into the slow cooker and let it do it’s thing. For a day and half. What I ended up with was a paste/spread/sauce thing. img_4988It’s going to be one of those useful sauces when the produce dries up. I’ve already used some stirred through rice and roasted tomatoes.

I can also imagine that it would be great put to the same use in pasta.img_4913I made it again but this time, I cooked the onions and carrots together, then the courgettes and stuck them with drained tinned tomatoes into the slow cooker and I cooked it on high for 2 days. It looked and tasted the same as the first batch and I’ll probably do it again this week to use up the monster courgette that we somehow missed until the weekend (it’s more of a marrow than a courgette and it doesn’t even fit in the fridge!)

The only other thing, I’m changing is not keeping it in the fridge, you could hot water bath the jars, I guess to make it shelf stable, however, after a quick google, I froze this batch.

So there you have it, part 111 of the courgette chronicles….

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Allotment Adventures: The neverending weeding

We’re at a tricky point on the allotment right now. I started in May, so had missed the window on lots of sowing, so this month most stuff is coming to an end, except perhaps the courgettes, or not started yet.

Which means it time to start thinking about longer term allotment goals and clearing up and more weeding. First clearing and construction.

Last week, we bought some more compost and some topsoil to fill the two raised beds (which resulted in Ma and I having to take it to the allotment at 6:45am on the wettest day of the week!)img_4949

On Saturday we cleared the sweet peas and peas and took down the metal frames put up by Joe’s father in law because they weren’t very safe (or they didn’t feel very safe). I did manage to bash myself with the falling metal as we were taking them down so I’m going with not very safe! One of the best things about getting the allotment has been becoming part of the community there, over the course of the 4 hours spent getting the frame down we had help come wondering past to assist with the tricky bits and there were two posts we couldn’t have got out without the expertise of other people!img_4957It makes a huge difference to the plot which doesn’t feel so cut up now, there still isn’t a clear barrier between my half and Joe’s but we’ve managed so far and we are going to put raised beds there so it shouldn’t be a problem.

On Sunday we were back for another four hours. We set up the other raised bed. We filled the first one with some compost and topsoil and planted garlic in it. We covered the two beds that have chard and salad growing in them to protect them from the pigeons, my pak choi is done for but I’m going to protect the spinach and chard!img_4972Ma did valiant work on the raspberries and they got another layer of compost. The bind weed and couch grass are perennial and the only way to win will be constant weeding, although I am considering planting mexican marigold down the middle as their roots apparently kill the bindweek and couch roots. In fact I’m considering planting it everywhere to help get the weeds under control!img_4973

The rain on Friday softened up the ground so I dug over the area where the french beans had grown and weeded again.

Then we weeded the beds and cleared up. Most of having an allotment appeared to be grind and the weeding is never ending, but looking from the bottom of the plot up to the main path, I feel that we haven’t wasted the five months we’ve been in charge. Someone described their allotment as their church, their gym and their community and it’s certainly been all of those things so far!img_4979Look at how tiny those sage and rosemary plants were in Mayimg_4340

Of course we can’t do everything at once and although we spent eight hours on the plot over the weekend, there is still lots to do. We need to weed at the top end of the plot next weekend. There are lots of the things we want to do, like the base for the shed, moving the gooseberry bushes and more raised beds which are dependent on money, weather and seasons and hiring a car!

So I’m starting to think a little bit smaller and plan in monthly chunks. So by the end of this month I want to have the following done

  • Tank at the top of the plot emptied cleaned and moved to join the other one by the herbs (my current working plan is to add compost and plant squash in them next year)
  • Weed the top of the plot and mark out the areas for wildflowers, poppies and the ‘patio’ area for the shed.
  • Plant bulbs around the plum tree.
  • Rhubarb moved
  • Raspberries re-weeded and covered in compost (one more time!)

By the end of October

  • Clear the courgettes
  • Dig over and weed the bottom of the plot again
  • Three more raised beds, (155cm by 100cm) at the bottom of the plot
  • One more 100cm x 100cm raised bed
  • Clear and dig over beds in the middle of the plot (the ones that are currently growing cherry tomatoes, runner beans, courgettes and the cucumber.
  • Sow a green manure into those beds.
  • Clean and put the bamboo canes away for the winter
  • Have all the rubbish on site burnt and the ash added to the compost

That and the regular maintenance of the plot, should keep me occupied. We’ll also having a Halloween Pumpkin Trail on 29 October, so I want to get my fairy lights out and wrapped around the plum tree for that, I’ll also need some pumpkins but I can’t grow those suckers in time so it’ll be a trip to the supermarket for me!

In November, I want to lay down sand, weed fabric and paving stones for the shed but I do recognise that that may not happen until Spring but I live in hope that we’ll get it done!


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Food and Budget Update: 10/09 to 16/09/2016

Last week, the weekend went missing. I know things happened and I know I ate but I wasn’t really responsible for any of it. On Friday afternoon, I did my shopping and forgot to photograph it. I bought peppers, onions, mackerel, eggs, cocktail cherries and fruit. I also bought washing detergent and fabric conditioner but although I’m sure I bought other stuff I can’t for the life of me remember what! I do know it was below £15 but the details escape me.

Saturday night I went to Kathy’s for dinner (smoked salmon pasta was amazing!), Sunday I ate a crossiant for breakfast and had a cheese and bacon burger at Joe’s birthday party.

Monday was fruit for breakfast and work lunch. I had duck flatbread which was amazing but again no dinner.

Tuesday was more fruit for breakfast and courgette soup for lunch. Tuesday night dinner was allotment tomato sauce and pasta with Ma, I also added some grilled courgettes because I needed to make some room in the fridge for the new ones and felt we should eat something green with dinner.img_4940

Wednesday was fruit for breakfast and salad for lunch. For dinner, vegetables (onion, pepper, courgettes) cooked with spices (smoked paprika, cumin, ground corriander, garlic powder and chilli) and a fried egg. Not pretty but about right.img_4941

Thursday’s breakfast and lunch was the same as Wednesday.

Thursday night I made this pasta dish. It was loosely based on Rachel Roddy’s recipe for the Guardian that went up that day. I used my own homegrown tomatoes, it was good, you should try it.Friday night was pizza night because what is life without tradition…


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Life Happened: September Heatwave

For some reason known only to the climate, it got very warm in the south-east last week. Warm weather never lasts long in England but three days in a row of 31C weather is unusual and in London during a commute, painful.

So it was hot, I was getting over the remains of a cold and the office air conditioning was still broken, it was freezing. I was taking clothes into work to put on in the office and we had heaters running when it was 31C outside. Madness.

I was also grumpy. What’s new? I hear you ask. I know, grumpy and tired is my default setting but I was grumpy for legitimate reasons.

  1. The heat.
  2. The commute.
  3. Weird dreams on Wednesday night about my dad. In my dream he was trying to get me to agree to let some random person, that he met in the pub, live in my flat. I haven’t lived with my father for roughly 23 years and he’s been dead for 15, so it was odd. I don’t often dream about Noel, well not since the one just after he died when apparently I was burying him next to the budgie in the yard of my childhood home and he, like the budgie, was wrapped in a j-cloth. (Look I can’t help it, I don’t dream these things on purpose!). Anyway it was unsettling.
  4. The idiot on train on Thursday morning, who wanted to talk to me about what I was reading. No, I didn’t make eye contact with him or do anything that indicated I wanted to talk to anyone and I wasn’t on fire or anything that someone needed to draw to my attention. I had earphones in and I was reading, it was rush hour. People should know better than to communicate with me in those circumstances, especially when I am listening to the Hamilton soundtrack.
  5. The return of the wake up light. I finally had to give in and start using it againimg_4947
  6. Friday’s rain. The hot weather broke and there was rain. Epic rain with thunder and lightning during the rush hour. It was exactly as joyous as you would expect.img_4951

The week was redeemed by two days on the allotment.  And hearing about Oli’s first proper football match I’m still under slept and this week is going to be busy, the only way out is through….


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Friday Links

Happy Friday! You may have noticed that I dropped the ball last week and there was no Friday links (well a couple of people did!) so some of these links are a bit old…but here they are….

‘Pay to stay’ is Robin Hood in reverse for working class families. The problem is that market rent is too damn high and private renting is insecure because of the changes made to tenancy law in the ’80’s. Instead of dealing with that, the Tories are shifting the blame onto council and social housing tenants.

How to do your make up on the Tube. First, let’s laugh at the whole idea of getting a seat on the Tube in the rush hour (it’s like the magic unicorn of commuting in London). Second, let’s not do this because it’s disgusting. Why would you do this? Have you ever blown your nose after being on the tube, it’s black because the underground is a hot, sweaty place full of people and their germs and why would you rub that in your face? Come on people, we are not animals. In a civilized world, we either get up earlier and put on make up before we leave the house or wait and do it in the office toilets after the journey.

How Hilary Clinton can get that presidential look. Hilarious

Bizarre ant colony in Poland. Fascinating.

The Keith Vaz scandal seems to have fallen out of the new and been overtaken by events but this is still worth reading as a guide on whether to declare an interest.

Prince Buster died last week. This is sad news…

More Robin Lustig, this time on grammar schools.

Does every moment in a mother’s life have to be inspiring? Erm no, but no-one’s life is like that. Also there seem to be two competing cults of parenting, ‘parenting is hard’ and ‘parenting is the most magical, important thing you will ever do with your life’. So on the one hand we are telling children that they are magic and special and on the other we are telling them that they are difficult and sap everything from us. The truth is both. Having kids can be hard work, it can also be magical. As someone who isn’t a parent I don’t quite know how to react, because the narrative for non-parents is worse, I’m selfish, I’ll never understand love or sacrifice or anything important. It all worries me.

Xkcd on Global warming. It’s real, it’s happening.

How women in the White House made sure they were heard. Yes, it’s good strategy but I can be sad that women still have to do this.

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