No, not your blog of course. I concede that your posts are succinct, insightful, humorous and well worth reading. That is why I would appreciate it if you could spare a moment to cast your eye over my efforts and let me know how I can encourage people to read it. On the other hand it may be the most boring blog, someone's has to be.

Newark market place

Newark market place
Newark market place dull Saturday morning

Newark Church

Newark Church
Two residents at the weir

Snowy Dry Doddington

Snowy Dry Doddington
Snow on the road to not very Dry Doddington

Raleigh Runabout RM6 Refurbished

Raleigh Runabout RM6 Refurbished
Look for the "before" in the blog post

Thursday, 28 December 2006

Born to be Mild

Out for a run this morning on my 1991 Honda C90 Cub. Seen here parked by the Little Witham river in Lincolnshire. The plan was supposed to be that I renovate mopeds in the winter and ride them in the summer. The main rationale for this being that I don't fancy getting cold and wet.

My recollection of riding a Triumph Tiger Cub in the winter in the early 60's is of being frozen to the point of immobility. Mind you it seemed to cure my chilblains as I have never had them since. My grandma's remedy for them was to soak the offending finger or toe in urine so maybe I had been doing that. My memory is not what it was.

Winter riding does not now seem so bad. There could be a number of explanations for this. Am I less sensitive than I was? My family support this thesis. Maybe I now have better weatherproof clothing. Looking at the pictures of me riding the old bike this could very well be the case. Perhaps I don't go fast enough. Almost certainly true.

Or is it global warming?

I bought the Tiger Cub from Tony Gray for £9.00 in 1963 and it was either a 1956 or 1959 plunger framed model. The registration number was KTL 266 and I wonder where the bike is now. If you know please get in contact.

In those days we painted our own helmets (you can probably tell). I still have the crash hat hanging in my garage. I originally painted it with green and black house paint, but whilst it was drying someone knocked it into some sawdust. My mother probably, always trying to spoil my teenage fun. The sawdust gave it an interesting texture but not much street cred with the other young bikers or the young women we tried to impress. It looked a little like a decorated half coconut on my head. Nothing for it but to sand it down and refinish in blue, black and white. An improvement though it still had a pimply appearance, a bit like it's 16 year old owner.

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Nonna's Gnocchi Recipe

First ensure that you have the essential ingredients to hand. However to make the gnocchi you will require:

2.5 kilos of potatoes
One egg
500 grammes plain flour

Peel the potatoes and boil till tender in plenty of lightly salted water. Strain and allow to cool, but not go cold. You will be mixing them with raw egg and you do not want this to coagulate with the heat from the potatoes. Tip the potatoes onto a clean table and mash carefully as per Nonna's instructions. If possible wear a green and orange outfit like the assistant in the picture as these are almost complementary colours, but not quite. Make a well in the potatoes and drop in the egg, without the shell of course. Mix this into the mashed potatoes.

Next knead in the flour. You could nonchalantly upend the flour bag like Nonna does, but she knows what she is doing. It is more reliable for non Nonnas to weigh it out and mix it in a little at a time.

You now need to find many other people to assist with the next stage. Fast food this is not. Their job is to roll out the dough into sausages about two feet long and an inch thick. These will be cut into gnocchi about one inch long.

Like this. Use flour to prevent the dough sticking to the table, as you would with pastry.

The individual gnocchi should then be shaped with a fork to give them the authentic Italian appearance. This is achieved by rolling each piece of gnocchi down the tines of the fork to give it a ridged or grooved appearance. It takes ages but after some time you will have a table full of perfectly formed gnocchi.

Like this. A bit like the Humber foreshore after the tide has gone out but that is just poor camera work.

Now you need to cook them, and this is something that should be done just before you intend to eat. Drop them quickly one by one into a large pan of boiling water. We had two highly trained Italian ladies to do this, one Nonna and one Zia. Their hands were a blur as they transferred dough to pan. When a gnocchi rises to the surface it is cooked and should be scooped out immediately with a slotted spoon. Do not leave it and wait for the whole panful to rise as they will probably turn into mash.

These are risen gnocchi and should be removed from the water at this stage. I know they look like overcooked cauliflower.

Serve the drained gnocchi with a sauce of your choice and some grated Parmesan. Nonna tells me that the Italians also eat it brushed with melted butter that has been infused with sage leaves. An additional statin required I think.

He thinks its OK, you should try it.

Monday, 25 December 2006

No New Jersey in Newark this Christmas

I know, I know, the title of this blog was slightly misleading. Anyone who bothered to look at it would probably have thought they were going to get some snappy story of life in the States. Not so, its just another mundane bit about Christmas day in a small town in the UK, Newark in Nottinghamshire.
Our day was much the same as any other family Christmas Day. Grandson Orson woke the family early and all the adults stuck to the story that Santa had consumed the beer and mince pie left out for him on Christmas Eve. I reckon he knows his Dad drank the beer five minutes after he went to sleep. The lad is only three but he has seen the presents under the tree for about a week. So why would Santa be making unprofitable, expensive and potentially dangerous journeys across our allegedly crime infested land to visit everyone's home if no delivery was required? To check on customer satisfaction and quality of service? I don't think so. In Mr Blair's modern Britain Santa isn't allowed to do anything that doesn't improve the profit he makes for his company or his sales performance indicators.
In our house we all know that Santa does exist but, like a lot of hardworking public servants he is not allowed give the quality of service that he used to. I personally am deeply ashamed to be colluding in the myth that Santa is still going about his business as he did when I was a boy.
Anyway I digressed away from the important issue I wanted to deal with. The picture accompanying this blog is of the family pre-Christmas dinner walk at Kelham Hall near Newark. These fine and decent people all bought me presents this Christmas. Very nice presents which I will enjoy. But not one of them got me a jumper. I get one every year for Gods sake. I know they are usually unsatisfactory in some way, they don't fit, need washing, have style, or are decorated with patterns I don't like. I'm usually informed when presented with them that they came from Marks and I can take them back if I don't like them. I am always too idle to do this. I expected a pullover this year as usual but no such luck.
What rubbed salt into the wound was that my wife, Susan, told me she had in fact bought me a jumper, didn't like it and took it back to Marks. She got me some very nice cord trousers instead. I mean, the cheek. Its not for her to make decisions on what pullover she gets me on the basis of what she does or doesn't like. She should just buy one and let me not like it as usual.
I sincerely hope we are back to normal arrangements again next year. Surely somebody will get me one of those pink and white Pingle golfing jumpers with diamonds on that I can't stand.