Leisure

Do not say we have nothing (Madeleine Thien)

This book was our Book Group pick this month. It starts in Canada with the arrival of a Chinese teenage coming to the home of a second generation Chinese girl (10 years) and you would be forgiven for thinking that the story is going to be one of the integration of an outsider into “normal” society. Instead you are taken into a rich, complex, gripping reflection on China’s cultural history, told through the eyes of a group of young people whose talent for music takes them into the Conservatory.

I had Wiki open next to me for the first few chapters to help me work out who was who, who was real and who not, who was related to whom and how. It helped.

I was a new mum in 1989, thought myself politically aware and vaguely interested in the Tianenman Square protest as it happened (April – June) but had no idea of the lives of people involved, the cultural forces at work in China, the grip that the Gang of Four held on the minds and dreams of the people over such a vast area.

Madeleine Thien is a brilliant writer. Her words sparkle across the page. The clash between East and West, Right and Left, parent and child are all explored with wit, affection, intelligence and compelling insight.

It made me want to weep for the loss of dreams, for the awful, awful turning of the cultural wheel. The death of dreams, the dreadful stasis of fear. The mob, the overwhelming mob.

It is a long book and needs to be read when you really have time to get going with it (book group members who can only snatch 20 mins or so for themselves found it a little daunting) but it rewards the investment.

Awards and honours

  • 2016 Man Booker Prize, shortlisted.
  • 2016 Scotiabank Giller Prize, won.
  • 2016 Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction, won.
  • 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction, longlisted.
  • 2017 Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards – Writing with a Sense of Place, won.
  • 2017 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for Fiction, shortlisted.
  • 2017 Rathbones Folio Prize, shortlisted.

Food, Leisure

Mistley thorn (Sunday Lunch)

This pub / restaurant in Mistley sits a little away from the causeway, on the main road through the village. It’s menu is on the pricey side, and I will never mind making that choice if the food is excellent.

 

 

This however  was a mixed bag. The roast beef dinner was lovely – the meat beautifully cooked, melty and lovely. The veg was nicely cooked, the gravy not quite enough. But the Yorkshire (green inside, if you can believe that!) was inedible. I saw several go back.

For pudding I opted for the american pancakes with toffee sauce but was told they kitchen had run out.

Run out.

Its flour, eggs and milk, and children learn them as a first ever lesson at school.

(lesson learned – sometimes when a menu says these things are cooked at the place, it might not have been recently.) I opted for the rhubarb jelly with vanilla ice cream, thinking it a poor second place to pancakes, but I was delighted with it. The jelly was a delight, so wobbly the whole table giggled, the ice cream was soft and lovely and the shortbread biscuits were yummy.

 

At £9 a glass of red was a raising of the eyebrow (only flippin Malbec ffs, not a chateauneuf!)

 

So I may not go again, but I might. Its a bit far to go to be disappointed but when they get it right they get it very right indeed.

 

Food

Oat cookies

These are the bestest, easiest cookies ever!

 

3oz each of SR flour, sugar, porridge oats and butter

1tbs each of syrup and milk

Mix all dry (I throw in a snack pack of nuts and seeds)

Heat all wet

Mix and bake at 180 for 10 mins

Makes 12

 

Yes, there are 11 in the picture.

 

(mental image of me wiping off a crumb………….)

 

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

 

never a bad choice, even if I have got a wedding to lose weight for…….

 

Now, that is an easy recipe and I do love those – do you have any to share?

Food, Leisure

Thatcher’s Needle, Diss

Yesterday I met an old friend in the Thatcher’s Needle, Diss. It is a very convenient place for us, half way between the two and cheap food. Word to the wise here – there may be no bad choices in that cheap food will keep you alive, but sometimes being kept alive is not the main reason for eating.I decided on the Chicken Club (forgive the fuzzy photo!)

What arrived was disappointing. A decent sized dinner place, half of which was chopped undressed salad greens (not a problem, nice to have salad with a club sandwich).

Let me describe the club.

Each slice of bloomer bread was half the plate. Each, just in case there was any moisture in them to help you eat, had been lightly toasted. Not enough to go brown, just enough to go dry.

It was unbuttered, again not a problem in itself.

On top of the first slice was one rasher of bacon, and one slice of tomato. about half the bread was bare.

Then the middle slice of dry bread

Between the second and third slices of dry bread were two thumb sized pieces of chicken, each about a quarter of the size of the slice of bread, and each topped off by a small Midget gem lettuce leaf (like one leaf taken from the middle of a midget gem lettuce.)

I asked the manager how this could be eaten as was and he apologised, saying that they should have been some mayo. He took it back to the kitchen and it returned with, I kid you not, one tiny smear of mayonnaise on each slice of bread.

Luckily there was plenty of mayo on the table, so I slavered it on – enough to make the bread edible. I think I missed the meat as it was so small.

No bad choices – I knew it was cheap –  but the next time I will be asking my mate to meet elsewhere.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering, the staff were really nice. Helpful, polite, apologetic and charming. Clearly this is how Marstons make enough money to keep paying them.)

My mate had a baked potato with tuna filling, which she ate without complaint.

Leisure

Red Riding Hood – Rock n Roll Panto

Every year for the past 18 years the Wolsey theatre in Ipswich puts on a Rock n roll Panto. This year it is Red Riding Hood. I went to the late show last night (9pm curtain up to 12.15) and it was a complete riot. The caste were on for the second time and were clearing having a good time. They only have a couple more to do until the end of the run and it is sold out).

Voices were strained – they have done over 90 shows (!) but the singing was brilliant for all that.

Literally laughed til I cried a couple of times, possibly at bits that were unscripted.

It had everything you would want a Panto to have – plenty of contradictions of statements issued by the caste (“Oh no he didn’t!”) and indications of danger of which caste members were unaware (“Its Behind You!”)

The Dame was a delight, as raucous as a late night show allowed, the audience joined in right from the start, the musicianship was en pointe and the set was astounding.

 

Still not sure what Jack Frost was about but he had us in fits.

 

Go every year. Bit of a brightener in January.

Little Loves

Little Loves

I’ve seen other bloggers write about their weekly “little loves”, and I have always found them charming (and sometimes inspirational) so here are some of mine:

Read

The Picture of Dorian Gray – we read this for our book group this month and, whilst I can’t say I loved it I will acknowledge why it was a classic. To enjoy this book at all you really do have to murder your inner feminist. Women do not come out of this book well. At all. But get past that (forgive Oscar Wilde, it was a book born from his homosexuality and the times he live in) and you are left with a complex narrative based on two key assumptions – that beauty masks evil and that a magical painting can take the ugliness of the evil Dorian perpetrates leaving him youthful and lovely. Even these are now thoroughly debunked. In an age of plastic surgery such giveaway marks could be wiped away for as long as the money lasts!

The “loves” I refer to here are the many ways in which Oscar Wilde draws your mind to acts Dorian Gray undertakes to bring other people down, to destroy them, to end their place in society. When I first read the book I was left with a clear image of him taking people into opium dens, getting them hooked, engaging women in prostitution themselves………… none of which is actually described! Just as a cartoonist can bring to mind a face, full of expression and humour with a single line, so Wilde leaves you thinking he has described something when in fact he never said a word about it.

Worth a read but remind yourself that he did not live in our age, our world. Be glad of his writing and that we have all moved forward.

Watched

My shameful indulgence, the Real Housewives of Anywhere. This time it was the end of the Sydney show, and I have watched the series between laced fingers. These women really don’t like each other, they lie, belittle each other, disrespect each other and heaven help anyone that calls them out on their bad behaviour! As with the epic New Jersey Housewives, this one had me on the edge of my seat with tension. I tell myself I am watching for the dresses and the scenery, but. No. Its the stress.And the feeling that my life is actually really nice and I love my friends.

Made

A group of friends come together every couple of months to experiment with food – new ingredients, new techniques, new approaches etc. My cooking skills are severely limited, so some of my challenges are everyday meals for the others! My new Little Love is Arancini. it is an Italian rice based thing where you take the leftovers of any dish, (bacon and mushrooms and peas work really well), mix them up with cooked risotto rice, roll into little balls, cover in breadcrumbs and fry.

(perfect “on-the-go” food)

YUM! 

 

Food

Fludyers Felixstowe

We went out for a midday lunch today and decided to go to the Fludyers in Felixstowe.

Fludyers Website

It is a really old inn right at the end of the promenade at the seafront. Before it was bought by the current owners and refit their website used to say “we are a stone’s throw from the sea, and sometimes not even that!” which I thought was lovely. There is a decking patio with several tables to sit and watch the sea. It is raised up above the cars so is nicer than some of the alternatives. We have sat there in the middle of winter, summer evenings, autumn sunsets, many a Sunday morning and watched the sea go by.

They have a promotion on during January that we thought not half bad. 2 courses for £20, 3 for £25 INCLUDING 2 glasses of wine!

I had the chicken and avocado salad for a starter (over £7) and then the slow roasted pork belly (over £17 on menu) so to save cash on the menu as well as getting  175 glasses of a decent (OK bottom of price list but still fine for lunch) wine. The Mister had sweet chilli chicken wings followed by a duck hotpot. Every single mouthful was a delight, and we were far too full for pudding, even it it would only be another fiver (nothing on the dessert menu was a fiver).

No evening meal either as we were both still full.

Not a bad choice At All!

 

I have not been paid for this review, but, you know, if you felt you HAD to……………

go to contact page!

 

(EDIT  23/01/2018

In fact it was such a good deal we are going again today for lunch!- Dawn)