Friday 23 June 2023

Fave Friday

Five favourite things about June

June is a funny month in my profession. On the one hand, the pressure at school has abated; the exam classes are gone so the timetable is lighter; planning can start for next year. On the other hand, as an examiner it's always rammed with too many tasks and not enough time to really enjoy the long days and the nice weather. I think that, if I ever retire from all of my jobs, June will be the month that feels most different - rivalled maybe by September, I guess. 

Here we are, almost to June payday and I feel I haven't appreciated it at all. It hasn't helped that it has been hot for almost the entire month (UK hot is like UK cold - it's not comparable with the temperatures experienced in other parts of the world but, like the cold is that special damp kind that gets in your bones, the heat is an oppressive, sticky blanket that isn't particularly enjoyable in long bursts...for me, anyway). 

So here's some appreciation.

1. The light. I fully admit to being one of the people that likes it when the clocks change in October and it's darker in the evenings but that's mostly down to just liking a change, I think. The longer daylight hours give me so much energy; I sleep less but I don't really notice it. 

2. The green. Nature is in full swing in June: it's past that slightly fetid new bloom phase of May and not yet onto that slightly scorched later summer look. The leaves look at their best to me in June. I wish we had no-mow June. There's a man who walks his Husky up the 'wood every morning around the time I drive to work: that husky flipping loved no-mow May. It was having a whale of a time bouncing around the small patch of grass near the bus stop, as though it was making world-changing discoveries with every sniff. When I saw it yesterday it looked considerably more subdued.

3. The anticipation. The school year is coming to a close. The tests are done, the data is in. The holidays are on the horizon. 

4. The barbecues. Even if you're not having one yourself, someone else will be, so you get to enjoy the smell without having to risk food poisoning or sit near a blazing heat source in person.

5. The petrichor. I suppose this happens year round, but rain on hot ground smells better in June than any other month, imo. 

Friday 16 June 2023

Fave Friday

Five Favourite Lines from Ithaca by Claire North

It has been a pleasure previously remarked upon to get back into fiction reading over the past few years and I am now into the habit of picking up books from the library and, in the case of this one, actually reading it before it is due back (as a kid I used to take out 6 books and read them all before they were due back...woe is me). This has broadened the variety of books I'm reading and reminded me of the pleasure of picking up a book because of what's written on the back cover, rather than just because someone recommended it on Twitter/it's historical fiction/it's 99p on Kindle. 

Most recently, I finished Ithaca by Claire North. It's an imagining of what Penelope might have done with herself while she was waiting for Odysseus to return from Troy, as the suitors ate her out of house and home. I have enjoyed a few of these Greek-myths-from-women's-perspectives over the past couple of years but this one was particularly good, mainly because of the cracking bits of prose that create a very believable representation of how women operate within tightly-bounded gender roles - namely, that they largely get on and run things and nobody really notices. There's some quite interesting undertone of DV and coercive control that undercuts the humour and shifts the perspective of quite a lot of bits of Greek mythology. To top it off, the book is narrated by Hera, so you sort of know what you're getting from the start. 

Here are my favourites:

1. ...who feels the ageing process accelerating with every moment he spends in the chamber (this is sometimes a solid mood of mine in the classroom)

2. Penelope says, 'Help me, I grow faint.' Autonoe at once kneels by Penelope's side, holding her left hand in hers, and though this is a profoundly pious scene of feminine weakness, it is also now a huddle of curved back and womanly distress that hides what Eos does next from all onlookers.

3. 'Ah,' mutters Penelope. 'I see. Medon, forgive me. I find myself overcome with womanly weakness and must retire.' 

4. 'We shall now run away and hide in a ditch.'...Donning his tatty, faded grey cloak, he nods once and, with the dignity of the centaur, proudly runs away.'

5. 'How do you hide an army? What a foolish question. You hide them in precisely the same way you hide your success as a merchant, your skill with agriculture, your wisdom at politic and your innate cunning wit. You hide them as women.'

Friday 9 June 2023

Fave Friday

Five Favourite Salads

It's definitely salad weather. I've realised that the way I consume recipes has changed over the past couple of years so a lot of them are now screenshotted from Instagram and also from Mob Kitchen, because I follow their Insta and they have successfully sucked me in. So this list looks a bit weird but here we go.

1. Mexican Chicken salad

From Mob Kitchen. I make this with less cucumber, less peppers, more coriander. Mr Z cooked up the chicken and placed it on top for dinner tonight which was also delicious. 

2. Watermelon Feta salad

Also from Mob Kitchen - I told you, suckered right in - though I did see this doing the rounds last summer in a couple of other places. I've only made this once as Mr Z does not approve much of fruity salads; I also did not have any basil or enough tomatoes but it worked OK. The crispy onions go very well with the watermelon. Can recommend. 

3. Asian cabbagey salad thing give it its proper name. I don't follow That Vegan Babe but her recipe came up in my feed anyway and the dressing is banging. I have made this with a variety of grains, as I worked through the seemingly neverending stash in the cupboard last year; I think I liked bulgur wheat the best. You'll have to guess the method, sorry, but it's not particularly complex. Or I guess you could just go and look the reel up.

4. Greek salad

Very simple - cucumbers, tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, black olives, oregano, a bit of olive oil and some feta. I've been going to the good cheese shop on North Street when we have knitting group in that part of town and their feta is superb; one block will usually do us three salads, which we eat with lamb chops because we can't have meals without meat in. By we I don't mean me. 

5. Mediterranean Feel Good Salad

Aka salad from a jar. I follow Shred Happens on the gram and he has many good salad recipes, although being partial to a carb, I tend to ignore the cauliflower rice and other carb substitutes in favour of that neverending stash of grains....though that has actually run out now so I should maybe think about doing a restock of my faves. If memory serves, I made this with amaranth (I went through a whole Gillian McKeith phase back in the day; grains ancient in both genetics and shelflife) - it was good flavours but needed a better grain. 

The salad is grain (or processed cauliflower, you do you), diced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, lots of fresh parsley and some chives, a jar of grilled artichoke hearts chopped up and some jarred green olives. Then the dressing is the juice of two lemons, a third of a cup of olive oil (the tomatoes are quite oily already so less is probably more), 3 cloves of garlic, some fresh basil, a third of a cup of sun dried tomatoes and the same amount of walnuts, blitzed in a food processor. 

So that's five and I didn't even get to my favourite potato salad from my childhood, Salad Oliviyeh. I will have to save that for another post. 

Friday 2 June 2023

Fave Friday

Five swims from May

1. Turkish Baths, Harrogate

I was in Harrogate for a conference this month and extended my stay by a night so I could visit the baths and do some other northern things on the Sunday. The Turkish bath was not so much a swim spot as a series of increasingly warm rooms, a steam room that was so hot I couldn't manage more than a minute or two, a welcome cold plunge pool and a warm room for resting in. I love a spa. I wish there was a place like this locally.

Pictures not allowed of course. I found this one online. Probably. Look how gorgeous! Definitely go and visit if you're in the area. 

2. Janet's Foss

This was one of the northern things on my list to do from Harrogate (the other being Hardwick Hall) and I executed my plan perfectly. There's something deeply satisfying about pulling off a full sequence of adulting: an early night, an early start, a short walk in the sun, a splash in a fairy pool and back on the road by 11am with an ice cream and a coffee. The women who sharked my parking space were astonished I was leaving so early but I'd arrived before 9am. 

Janet's Foss is a short (20ish minutes) walk from the Malham car park, across flat ground. It is much beloved of a wild swimming Facebook group I joined a couple of years ago and I couldn't pass up the opportunity upon realising it was only an hour's drive from Harrogate. 

It looks like I had it to myself; when I arrived there were only a few hikers around and I was quite nervous about getting in, but then a family arrived and were most encouraging, followed by a dozen women who began changing, so I got in quick so I could have it to myself. Cold, but magical. Sadly no sign of the fairy queen.

Swimsuit by Batoko. I couldn't decide on a design and then they released the otters and it was a done deal.

3. Bristol Harbour

There's no legal swimming in Bristol harbour and, let's face it, it's not the cleanest place you'll ever go, but when I heard there was a swim pilot I booked myself in. It was an epic place for a dip and, as soon as I got out, I booked in for the following Saturday. The water was very clear, if a little brown. 

4. Cromhall Quarry

There were four Cromhall swims in May, bringing my total to six for the year so far. I feel a bit guilty only listing this as one favourite swim for this month as it is always a nice spot, but it was a crowded swim month. The last of the month was sunny and, while the water isn't quite yet something I'd leap into without fear of a heart attack, it was quite pleasant in just a swimsuit, particularly with the good company of my friend Rachael and with a hearty breakfast afterwards.

5. River Avon

Busted - this wasn't a swim. It was more of a wade, followed by a long paddle. This was my first trip out in the kayak of 2023. 

Definitely not the last!