Monthly Archives: February 2012

Happy 12th Birthday To My Older Brother

Today is the 12th birthday of my brother Simon, who is 8 years older than me and was born in 1964. Yes, he’s a leap year baby, and this year he has a birthday that is an integer for once. Last year he was 11¾, the year before that 11½, in 2008 he was a round 11.

He has a clipping from the local newspaper in Hitchin, where he was born, from the year 1968 when he reached 4, and had his first “real” birthday. It says he was one of three or four kids the same age in the area. The photo shows him in his birthday present, a pedal racing car in the sixties style.

A very happy birthday Simon, I’ll talk to you later!

I was telling a colleague about this, and point out how he’s 12×4 years old, and 8 years older than me, and I had the unpleasant realization that this website’s tagline (“30ahem Englishman in California”) won’t be accurate past June.

Bit Of A Pickle

After our recent trip to England (travelogue pending honest) I got a renewed taste for a couple of my favorite foods: Soreen Malt Loaf, and UK-style pickled onions in malt vinegar*. Our bags were already stuffed full (leading to some rearrangement at check-in) so I wasn’t able to bring any home with me. Plus I forgot. So, let’s make some at home!

(* You may notice a “malt” motif here. “Very malty”. Malty malty malt. I like Horlicks too – although that got a juvenile snicker from Friend Jason when I showed him. Horlicks actually got a mention in Robin’s Best Man speech at my wedding – some form of free lifetime supply might be in order. Must get on that.)

Malt Loaf may need to wait until I can find a good enough recipe that claims to replicate Soreen. It’s got to get chewy and sticky and so good toasted with butter. Pickled onions, on the other hand, should be easy…

Well, pretty easy. I found a recipe, and most of the ingredients are pretty straightforward. Boiling onions (small white ones), spices (ready mixed), dark brown sugar and malt vinegar. It was only the last one I had problems with. White vinegar is everywhere here, but brown malt vinegar (at least in my local supermarket) is in the gourmet-foreign-small-amounts-for-high-prices aisle. I bought two bottles that were clearly meant to be sprinkled over chips, not dumped wholesale into a pan.

I blanched, peeled and simmered the onions for five minutes, then simmered the rest of the ingredients for a few minutes, and put the onions and spiced vinegar in a Fido jar (one of those with the rubber seal and wire closure).

They’re now in the fridge for a week, so next weekend I’ll be able to test them and report back. If they’re as good as the ones from my childhood, I’ll probably eat a whole jar in an afternoon while watching Raiders of the Lost Ark among snoozing adults on Xmas afternoon, getting prune-fingers in the process.

Europe Endless

Arrived in London yesterday, to find it refreshingly not as bastard freezing as Berlin, although pretty cold anyway. After getting my pay-as-you-go vouchers from Smiths (how the old habits return!) I got on the Picadilly into the city.
It has to be said, for the glamour of international travel, when you land at Heathrow you’re basically arriving in Hounslow.
Riding through the outskirts, I listened to my current “jam” (ugh) The Advisory Circle, which goes quite nicely with snow-strewn signal boxes and trees. Upon arrival at Leicester Square, I set up shop in Pret A Manger and got connected to wifi. A few texts and messages, and I’d arranged to meet with Friend James from popular beat combo blog Both Bars On, mentioned hear many times before. We met at the Chandos, which is as charming as ever, and we had one of our usual fractally-branching conversations, as logged here before. Then it was down to Clapham to our esteemed hosts for part of this trip, Francois and Claire. I’m writing this their kitchen before heading out into the London day for a wander. Claire is a filmmaker, so she and Cassie have lots to talk about, and Francois makes very good music under the name Franz Kirmann.
Francois and I went out for a very nice French dinner at a local place, the Abbeville Kitchen, where we talked at length about, well, pretty much everything (not literally duh), including music, synths, noise, web stuff and so on. This part of Clapham is a lot like where I used to live in Tooting, but with bigger, nicer houses, better restaurants, and bilingual schools. Duly noted.
From Berlin to a London pub to French food to very comfortable bed, it’s good to be back.