Month: August 2010

Sanskrit Poem

Look to this day
For it is life
The very life of life
In its brief course lie all
The realities and truths of existence
The joy of growth
The splendour of action
The glory of power
For yesterday is but a memory
And tomorrow is only a vision
But today well lived
Makes every yesterday a memory of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope
Look well, therefore, to this day!

Look to this day

For it is life

The very life of life

In its brief course lie all

The realities and truths of existence

The joy of growth

The splendour of action

The glory of power

For yesterday is but a memory

And tomorrow is only a vision

But today well lived

Makes every yesterday a memory of happiness

And every tomorrow a vision of hope

Look well, therefore, to this day!

The Old Bank Brasserie, Swindon – A Review

I called in for brunch at the Old Bank Brasserie on Wood Street this morning, as on the whole the food there has been pretty good in the past (if a little pricey, perhaps). Although it runs up to 1145, the breakfast menu is pretty limited (there are about 10 items to choose from, but most appear to be egg-and-toast variations – egg on toast, egg and soldiers, French toast, etc.).

I plumped for two poached eggs on toast, with extra bacon. I like my bacon crispy, so I asked and got it just how I like (plus it was quite thick cut – again, just how I like it). I have to say, the eggs were perfect – runny inside, with just a hint of white that was yet to be fully cooked. But the toast? Oh very dear… If Mothers Pride did a bloomer (I have no idea, before you ask – and frankly I’m not sure I care), then that bastard love-child of stabilising agents and mill house floor scrapings that pass for flour was the toast that sullied my plate – doily thin, anaemic as a Glasgow tan, and not a solitary wheat germ in site. And I obviously missed the memo about butter having been outlawed.

My partner had the French toast with caramelised apples and maple syrup – it looked, and tasted, lovely. The apples were piping hot, maple sweet, and beautifully cooked, and there was enough maple syrup on the side to attend to the sinking ship that my brunch partner was rapidly becoming! But then I suddenly became insanely jealous – the bread was wonderfully moist, thick and chunky. Why couldn’t my toast have been like that, instead of the supermarket own-brand place mat offering I got? Safe to say it ruined the dish for me. Harsh, perhaps? Maybe; but then the Old Bank Brasserie looks to have standards, and this has been borne out by food I’ve had in the past, so the quest for high praise has a price.

I personally think anywhere that advertises ‘breakfast’ up to 1145 is at some point really talking about ‘brunch’ and a Brasserie should actually do a brunch menu – and when I think about brunch (which I do quite often, truth be told), I think Eggs Benedict, short stacks & crispy bacon, thick buttered hot cinnamon toast, sumptuous muffins, crumpets. I don’t think about unbuttered cardboard.

Other than the fact that there were no condiments, the toast was the only downfall. That being said, I won’t go back there for brunch until I’ve run out of places to go in Old Town.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen – A Heat Wave in Central Europe

Back in May 2005, I took a trip to Budapest in the middle of a heat wave. I’ve just found my notes for that trip, so here they are…

As Paspartout and I got off the plane in Budapest, I immediately thought, “Am I wearing warm clothes again? I am, aren’t I…?”

The coldest it got itself down to was 28 degrees (that’s Celsius – what’s known as “proper money” to all you weirdy Fahrenheit lovers), and that was at 0900 and 1930hrs, respectively. In between that, it darted up and down its own peculiar temperature chasm. No, I’m lying – it was pretty much 36 degrees and higher all the time we were there – what I like to think of as a damned good reason for a nice long beery sit down. Of course, this means that Paspartout’s itinerary went for a Burton because yours truly was lagging behind all the time with a demeanour half way between a surly teenager and a dog with a winter coat on. I’m exaggerating, of course – Paspartout had no itinerary, and I found myself looking up all time (the architecture – that has either been fixed or just not twatted by the earlier communist regimes – is quite stunning), so I wasn’t able to cover the ground with my natural gazelle-like pace. However, she does walk very quickly for a dwarf (I’d never challenge her to a race if I were you, appearances can be deceptive).

The apartment was light and airy (no, I said “airy”), with exactly the right kind of amenities one doesn’t usually make use of on holiday (still, nice to know it’s all there). We were in a building almost opposite the most stunning Parliament buildings I’ve seen, on the banks of the Danube (all together now: “dah dah dah dah dah, da-da, da-da…”).

Just as an aside, after I downloaded all the pictures to my PC, I immediately formatted the hard drive following what turned out to be a rather dodgy backup. Yes – you guessed it – three and a half years worth of digital pictures gone! Luckily, Paspartout has a copy of the Budapest ones (amongst a few others), but pretty much everything is gone. I’m a dumbass (oh, this is probably going to turn out to be a bit of a recurring theme, don’t you think!?).

I’m told that the second language of Hungary has changed over the years from German to English, but what that practically means is that they now have three languages, but English now sits as their first second language, demoting German. Everywhere you go – restaurants, bars, shops, etc. – you here all three being spoken. Which is just as well, as Paspartout and realised that we’d arrived in Hungary without knowing a bloody word of Magyar. Not a word – all we had was the frankly semi-useless bits in the back of the guidebook. Still, it’s amazing how far you can get on hand signals and ignorance!

Along with Venice, Budapest has now become a place I’d like to visit frequently.

Firemen and Pineapple Brunch!

We have neighbours of the desperately annoying variety, and I’ve been meaning to blog about their exploits for quite some time. I’ll probably get round to typing up my notes more fully sometime soon (Christ – it’s just knowing where to start; they drive me nuts) – but for now this will have to do, as I simply can’t keep this one in.

There’s often some confusion about whether they’re in or not (apart from when they’re making a god-awful racket – which is most of the time, but more on that later, perhaps); lights are on, windows are open, but no-one ever answers the door. I think they may have fallen foul of that last one this morning…

I was getting a start on brunch, after being badgered into it by Paspartout (remind me – what was it that Pat Benatar said about sex as a weapon?), when I realised that the smoke alarm was going off next door (we’re a terraced house, with the retards folk in question being the end terrace). Ah well, I thought, that’s what you get for cooking up under the hallway detector – next time perhaps you should try the bathroom, dumbass! After twenty minutes I’d had enough of trying to use cooking noises to mask the whining and pinging and general shutthefuckupedness of it all and decided to go round. At this point you might think it not very neighbourly of me to wait twenty minutes before worrying about the safety of my neighbours, but they’re twats. Anyway… I’d had enough, so thought I ought to go check it out. The upstairs windows were open, the side window was open as well as the kitchen window, and I could see a light on in the kitchen. I knocked on the front door, the side window and poked my head in through the kitchen window and shouted. No answer was forthcoming, so given that there had to be a reason for the alarm, I came back in and called the landlord (next door’s a rental), followed by the letting agent, and suggested that they might want to take an interest in the possibility of something being awry, and left it at that. They each said that they’d send someone round, and the alarm continued to wail. After a brief “I’ve done my bit” moment, I suddenly thought to myself: hang on a minute, what would I do if I actually liked these people? Hmm, that’s a bit of a no-brainer, I retorted. So I called the fire brigade, toute suite.

The emergency services said they’d send the police, which I found a little surprising (though when they asked, I had to say in all honesty that I could neither see nor smell any smoke – and judging by my barbequing exploits it’s not possible to have fire without it), but an appliance did arrive very promptly. Needless to say, Paspartout became very excited. Pah – girls, eh!).

By this time, my father had arrived, so it was back to brunch (after offering the firemen a cuppa, of course – they were all so lovely, squeal! Paspartout, get off my keyboard!). Yes indeed, they were all a friendly bunch, and IMHO members of what is arguably the finest profession. But only one of them was anywhere near cute! Oh yeah – and after all that, it turns out that someone was in next door. Twats, see!?

Anyway, brunch… I thought I’d share the recipe with you:

  • zest and juice 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp clear honey
  • 2 pinches ground cinnamon
  • few gratings whole nutmeg
  • 2 tsp icing sugar , sifted
  • 200g very low-fat fromage frais
  • 2 tsp butter
  • 1 fresh pineapple , cut into 8 long wedges, skin and core removed

Mix the lime juice and half the lime zest with 1 tbsp honey, a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg. Set this sauce aside. Stir the icing sugar and a pinch of cinnamon into the fromage frais.

  1. Heat the butter and remaining honey in a non-stick frying pan until melted. Add the pineapple and cook over a high heat for 8 mins, turning regularly until caramelised. Pour in the spiced lime sauce and bubble for a few secs, tossing the pineapple to glaze in the sauce.
  2. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the remaining lime zest and accompanied by a dollop of the cinnamon fromage frais