Saturday, 30 June 2012

In Which There is Baking

My sister is getting married in August, and some time ago, I, perhaps foolishly, agreed to make one tier of the cake. Mine is the bottom tier, which means it is BIG - 12" x 12".
All the ingredients

I woke up early this morning, and headed out to buy ingredients.. the recipe calls for almost 6lbs of dried fruit, as well as 9 eggs, over 1lb of butter, and a fair bit of brandy. All of which turns out to be quite heavy.
Brown paper and string
Once I got back to the house, I started on the weighing and measuring, and also on what turned out to be the trickiest part of the whole enterprise, the lining and wrapping of the tin. It had to have two layers of greaseproof paper inside, and two layers of brown paper outside.the purpose being (I assume) to provide some insulation so that the outer extremities of the cake don't burn while you wait for the middle to be cooked. For the same reason, you sit it on a pad of newspaper in the oven, and make it a little hat out of greaseproof paper to wear after the first hour or so of cooking.

I've never made a christmas/wedding cake this large before. In fact, I don't think I have ever made this kind of cake on my own before, and although I have been party to christmas-cake making at home with my mother, I haven't done that for about 10 years. So I was a little bit nervous, especially as the recipe I am using has quantities and timings based on round cakes (up to 9" Diameter) whereas I was making a Square cake (12" square) I spent a lot of time last night doing calculations, and looking through my recipe books for similar cakes,  to work out how much of everything I might need - at one point, based on volumes and the 1969 Good Housekeeping Cookery Book, I was up to 17 eggs, but I decided that was probably excessive, and would need a taller tin.

Actually making the cake probably took about an hour, and the actaul mixing is surprisingly hard work (physically) there's a lot of resistance in all that butter and sugar and flour and black treacle.
for size reference: the mixing bowls are each 12" across

However, the mixture ended up looking pretty much how I expected it to look, which is always a good sign, and when I ladled it all into my carefully lined and wrapped tin it filled it without having any left over, so it looks as through I got the quantities about right.

After a little over 3 hours in the oven, the cake seemed done.

It will be spending the next few weeks carefully wrapped in paper and then foil, being fed a spoonfull of brandy once a week, before it is brought out to be covered in marzipan, after which my responsibility will come to an end, as I am not going to ice the cake - I believe my mother is going to be doing that, for all three tiers.

I may cheat and buy ready to use marzipan, instead of making it, depending on how much time I have. That wouldn't make me a bad person, would it?

The colour scheme of the wedding is blue and white, and the decorations are  nautically themed (K&C met through sailing). I believe that the plan is to have sail-based decoration on the cake - something similar to this, although I think without any people.

Which reminds me - I don't think I shared the lovely invitation - each one was individually hand-made by K - the love-knot is made with real string, which is a nice touch.

And as it turned out that this June day has been characterised by torrential rain, and occasional hail, I feel that the decision to  stay indoors and bake a cake was a good one!

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

In Which there is a Dead Codebreaker and and Live Cellist

I  booked a ticket a while back, to see Zoe Keating, at her one London show, Then this weekend I had a mild panic for fear I would be too ill to go (The panic was mild only becuase I had no energy to panic properly) However, come Monday I decided that if I was well enough to go into work, I was damn well well enough to go to London to listen to music.
I am not sure whether the logic of that decision would hold up to rigourous examination, but it seemed reasonable at the time.
I had prebooked an afternoon off work, and a rail ticket, so I arrived in London at around 3.30, and decided to head across to the Science Museum, which currently has an exhibition celebrating Alan Turing's centenary.

It was a small, but interesting exhibition. As well as the obvious points, such as Turing's work at Bletchley Park during the War, and his tragically early death after his conviction for homosexuality, the exhibition included some information about his childhood friendships, as well as about his work at Manchester University following the war.

One striking piece of information, new to me, was that 2 of the papers which Turing wrote during his time at Bletchley,  were not released publically until April this year, apparently becuase it was felt that the work they contained was sstill too relevant and too important.

Which is astonishing.

After looking round the Turing exhibition I wandered into a few other parts of the museum. I admit that the section about vetinary history left me rather cold - it's hard to get interested in toothrasps and horse drenching bottles. I liked the Wellcome medical history gallery better, although possibly not for the right reasons. It is full of tableaux and dioramas, peopled by manniquins which appear to be rejexts from even the most undiscriminating shop display. The tableaux themselves range from an oddly unconcered Roman with an arrow in the neck, to a modern operating theatre, but are arranged, apparently at random. They also have some interactive exhibits where you can try out some psychometric tests, but without being told how you score, or what the normal reaction might be. I should like to think that the whole exhibition might be an elaborate psychological experiment..

The random Roman bath-tub was nice, though.

I then wandered back downstairs, pausing to take a look at the microscope made for George III (it has cherubs, and semi-naked ladies on it) and at Mr Babbage's Difference Engine, then I took a wrong turning past the Daleks  (they label them as being V2 and other early rocket engines, but you only have to look at them to see the truth =>;) and I found myself unexpectedly face to face with George Stevenson's 'Rocket'

It's pretty impressive. And I like how they keep it next to the Apollo 10 Command Module, and a few other bits and bobs of a similar kind.

There are Steam-Engines and Beam-Engines and great big Jet Engines, and bicycles and biplanes and all sorts of other fascinating things. It reminded me why I like this museum, and that I ought to come more often!

But, like all good things, the museum visit came to an end, as they like to close it in the evenings, so I took the hint, and headed out to Hackney, and the  Vortex Jazz Club, where Zoe Keating was playing.

The venue is small, and was very full. Opening for Zoe was Ruby Colley - a composer / violinist who, like Zoe, uses a computer to allow her to accompany herself.

She played a short, but fascinating set, which left me feeling that she is a name to watch - I shall certainly be keeping an eye out for any future performances.

Then, Zoe started her set (with a slight delay in starting, due to a computer issue). I can only say that her music is even more stunning live than it is recorded - and she's a witty lady, too. And despite the crowded, overheated room, the uncomfortable chair, and the nagging anxiety that I might miss the last train back, I lost myself in the music for a time.
and, although I was forced to leave before the set ended, I did not miss the last train home.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

More Art

The AFP art show wasn't the only one I went to while I was in London; having a morning free after the gig, I looked into what exhibitions were on, and then headed down to The Queen's Gallery (which is tucked round the back of Buckingham Palace), where  there was an exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci's anatomical drawings.

They were absolutely fascinating, and beautiful. The drawings in the collection cover quite a lengthy period in da Vinci's life, and the exhibition explained how in the early sketches, he was very much influenced by the accepted wisdom about anatomy - showing, for instance, a man's spine connecting to his penis, and the woman's spine going into the womb, then in later works showing much more accurate pictures, although in some cases with inaccuracies based on extrapolation from animal dissections (animals presumably being easier to get hold of than people)

The exhibition also had side by side comparisons - modern medical models displayed along side Leonardo's drawings, which showed how accurate his observations were. Amazing.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Art, and Thoughts on Art

At the gig on Monday, Amanda announced that the venue would be open again on Tuesday afternoon for the art, so I decided to go back.
The gallery was deserted so I was able to spend as long as I wanted with the art works.

On Monday, I'd  found myself wandering around, and every so often I would see a picture and thinks "that's gorgeous, I wonder who made it?" and then I would read the label and, about half the time, realise that it was an artist I already knew of - some, like Kyle Cassidy and Molly Crabapple I was expecting, (you can buy prints of Molly's pieces here)
Molly Crabapple's art
Others, like Raliel, I should have anticipated but hadn't,Other artists included Judith Clute, Michael Zulli, David Mack, (I immediately loved his pieces, but it took a long time for the penny to drop and to realise that he also did the art work for the 'I Will Write With Words of Fire' prints from neverwear)

Some of the artists were new to me - I immediately fell in love with Vladimir Zimakov's linocuts,(also available as prints)

and was impressed with the photography skills of one Neil Gaiman, who seems to be a newcomer as a visual artist...

I was impressed, too, with the ability of one Amanda Palmer to draw so well, in addition to the singing.

Kambriel's gorgeous 'The Killing Type' dress presided over all, with bullets (or shell cases?) in the bodice..

Alone in the gallery, I was terribly tempted to see if I could take it off the mannequin and try it on myself. I didn't, but when I tweeted about it later, Kambriel said she would have let me, had she been there. I wish she had been!
Kyle Cassidy's 'Bed Song' art
But there was one piece of art which I kept returning to. The set of 5 pictures by Kyle Cassidy, of people, naked, in bed. I kept returning to them because the pictures are beautiful, of course, but also because they felt so real - the people in the pictures. The pictures were beautiful, and so were the people in the pictures.Every curve, every line, every sign of lives lived. Seeing them on Monday night, during Amanda's show, I loved them. Seeing them the following day, in the quiet of an empty gallery, I was moved to tears.

(20.37 22.06.12) edited to correct errors)

Thursday, 21 June 2012

In Which There is ROCK, and Nakedness and Music

So, as everyone must know now, Amanda Palmer decided to fund her new album via Kickstarter, and was spectacularly successful. I initially signed up just for the CD level reward, but then, after failing to get tickets for the public gig on Wednesday, and realising that I really wanted the Art Book, too, Not to mention the fact that every Amanda Palmer gig I have been to has been so much fun that I would always go to one, given the chance,   I decided to take the plunge and back at that level. All of which resulted in my getting on a train on Monday, to go to London, to the Kickstarter Backers' VIP Art Opening and Gig..
I think it is fair to say that the gig lived up to and beyond my expectations!
The gig was at Village Underground, in Shoreditch, and was easy to spot. For a start, the club has several Underground railway carriages on the roof, and to be going on with, there was a typical Amanda Palmer queue outside - lots of happy people, dressed in a vast range of styles from ballgowns and dinner jackets to the most casual of clothes. While we queued, we talked, and as we got closer to the entrance a young gentleman (who we later learned is AFP's cousin) arrived and serenaded the queue upon the bagpipes!

On getting to the head of the queue there was the inevitable frisson of fear lest my name turned out mysteriously to be missing from the guest list (happily it wasn't!) and then the pleasure of being given a goodie bag, which included a mask and a free book, and stickers, and a felt-tip pen (do not forget the felt-tip pen, best beloveds). And all of this before the gig even started.

Village Underground is a big, warehouse style space - all red brick and girders, and made a good backdrop for all the wonderful art.

There was time to look around, and admire it, and to trade the little cards marked with 'The Very Hungry Caterpiller' for drinks at the bar, and to admire the outfits of the other guests, and then, and then, the music started.

First up, Princessin Hans - who sang to us of passive-aggression, got lots of audience participation, and ROCKED in a wonderful silver dress and almost equally wonderful ginger beard...

And later, Amanda chatted with us, and encouraged us to talk, and drink, and admire the art, and swap books,

And we did. and I think it was round about that point in the evening that I got to meet up with twitter-friend @MsClara, who is even more beautiful and entertaining in person,  (and her husband, the marvellous  Mr. Mitch Benn. And then there was a further musical interlude, this time with strings, by Jherek Bischoff - wonderful, beautiful, wordless music.

and it was the kind of evening where you sit on the floor of this space, and close your eyes to focus on the music, and then you open them and realise that the person who just sat down on the floor next to you is Neil Gaiman...

Then - the invasion of the Grand Theft Orchestra - there were masks, and flashlights, and a beautiful woman in a beautiful dress, and saws and knives and a loudhailer and new songs and old.

And the music spilled out into the audience, and the audience surrounded the band, and at some point there was a singalong 'last christmas' too, although I can't quite recall why..

Amanda sang 'The Bed Song', and 'Trout Heart Replica' from the new album, and Neil sang 'Psycho',

 and EVERYBODY sang 'Map of Tasmania' and the 'Ukulele Anthem'.

and then - did you remember the felt-tip pen, best beloveds?

This was the writing on a rock star part of the evening,

There was so much love and so much happiness and laughter...

And then evening started to wind down, and there was chatter, and hugs, and signing of books (did I mention there was a book in every goodie bag?) Amanda and Neil visited a couple of 2nd hand book shops in Charing Cross Road to buy books for everyone, and Amanda was telling us whether each book we showed her was a 'Neil Book', or an 'Amanda Book' (Mine was a Neil Book, and one day someone browsing my bookshelves is going to wonder why I have a copy of Micheal Chabon's 'The Final Solution' signed by Neil Gaiman, and I will explain it is because it has Sherlock Holmes, and because Neil was married in Michael's living room, and they will probably give me a funny look and move on. And I won't care, because to me it will be another reminder of a wonderful evening, full of friendly strangers and magical art, when Amanda Palmer kissed me.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Final Day in Turkey

We were due to fly home very early on Saturday - our flight was 1.40 a.m. so we had a full day to clean the flat, pack, buy gifts and such.

That being the case, we bought baklava and Turkish delight, and then, after stripping all the bed, caught a dolmus to Oludeniz where we swam, and read, and lounged, before heading back to the flat and, after some more cleaning, we went to the hamman for one final relaxing sauna, scrub and general clean.

Unfortunately, after having got ourselves all beautifully relaxed, we discovered that the flight was running late. In the absence of any official word from the airline (we saw it on Gatwick's website) we decided that we'd better go to the airport as originally planned...

It turned out that the gatwick website was correct, and the flight was then delayed further - we eventually took off at 6.15, very considerably later than we we due to have landed...

We quickly exhausted the pleasures of Dalaman airport, and spent most of the night on benches, before watching the sun rise over the mountains before we finally got to take off.

But other than that final blip, the holiday was great, and even returning was mitigated by K's fiance, C, who met us at the atation, and took us home and cooked us a wonderful breakfast, before E and I left to go home.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

In Which There Is A Boat

Our next couple of days were fairly low key. We returned the car, did a fair bit of shopping (shoes, and a wedding veil, and several souvenirs, were bought, and postcards were sent) 

We spent some time with K's friend Liz, who lives in Fethiye, and we all got pedicures (Sadly, the place K used to go had closed, so we were not able to get little flowers and things painted on our nails).  We ate at a restaurant in the market where you bring your own fish (or go with the waiter to buy it) and they then cook it for you. We had calamari, and some kind of toothy fish. (Both were delicious). I visited Fethiye Museum, which is small, but interesting - I was their only visitor..

Included to show how clear the water was..
Then on the Thursday, we actually had to get up at a specific time, (quelle horreur!) as we had booked a boat trip, so needed to be at the beach on time to embark. All of us had done the "12 Islands" trip from Fethiye, so this time we decided on the "Blue Bays" trip, from Oludeniz. We embarked from the beach, and quickly found ourselves a comfy corner with 3 giant pink beanbags, and settled in to enjoy the trip. The boat carried around 30 people, and went to 5 or 6 spots where it moored to allow us to swim. 
It's fun. The water was incredibly clear and, except in the aptly-named 'Cold Water Bay' warm enough to be able to swim for as long as we wanted.

Lest we wear ourselves out with all the lounging on beanbags, swimming, reading, and listening to the cheesy 70s pop being played over the PA system, a young crewman came round periodically to offer drinks and ice-creams. Drinking freshly squeezed orange juice while lying in the sunshine  and watching fish a couple of metres below is a pleasant way to spend time...

The trip included lunch of fresh, barbecued fish (and a variety of salads) before spending the afternoon - you guessed it - lounging, swimming, and floating.. There was one island where we were able to go ashore and scramble among some ruins (I think relatively recent ones), and look down to the boat.
Then we chugged bag to Oludeniz, where the breeze which had sprung up during the afternoon made disembarking rather wetter and more exciting than embarking had been.

It was a very relaxing day, although unfortunately we all ended up having caught the sun a bit, mainly due to suncream being rubbed off by clothing, we think. (It turns out that Banana Boat's aloe Vera gel is very, very good in these circumstances - far more so than any of the other after-sun products any of us had!)

It's possible that when we got back to the flat we may have filled glasses up with frozen fruit juice diluted with gin, and spent a very relaxed evening...

In which there are ruins, and hospitality

We had only hired the car for part of our holiday, and after our lazy beach day decided to make the most of it before returning it, by taking another trip to look at more ancient remains.  

Our chosen destination was Sidyma (Dodurga), about an hour’s drive from Fethiye. It was described as being unspoilt, and as none of us had been there before, it seemed like a good idea. It was.  

The village of Dodurga is small, and has grown up around the site of the ancient  Lycian town of Sidyma – indeed, many of the houses have made use of bits of the ancient buildings  (well, with all that handy dressed stone around, why wouldn’t you?) The village is reached by going up a long, narrow, partially un-tarmacked road, and if you are us, you overshoot and drive even further up by mistake, but the views are good so you don’t really mind)

 Once we arrived, we parked next to a rather battered farm truck, and settled down on some bits of ruin under a mulberry tree to eat our picnic before we explored. As soon as we sat down, an older lady came out to great us, and, when we turned down her suggestion that we come to her ‘café’ ( a collection of small tables in her garden, with a handwritten sign advertising hot and cold drinks) she went away, to return a few minutes letter bringing dolma, which she insisted we take, and  were delicious.

A few moments later she came out again, this time with a large jug of ayran, which we turned down as politely as we could, given our very limited Turkish. Ayran is very much an acquired taste, and not something which it’s very easy to drink just to be polite. However, happily she did not appear to be offended, but instead, disappeared again, and returned with çay, which we enjoyed (and she accepted our offer of some of our cherries, in return) 
There was no request for, or suggestion of any payment, it was, it seemed, genuine kindness and hospitality. 

Once we finished eating our lunch and drinking çay, we collected up the plate and glasses to return them. She then invited us into the house. She and her ?mother were interested in where we were from. They did, then, bring out some carved spoons and things, and some scarves, but with no pressure to buy anything! Before we left she gave us all bunches of mint picked from her garden.

After our lunch and çay, we went to look around the site – the path was stony, and some of the stones were obviously pieces of ruins – pillars and so forth – and there were other pieces in the wall.. then we came upon the first bits of  building – a tomb repurposed as a field wall, others standing at random in the centre of fields, or built into a shed.
including a small building, or tomb, with a patterned ceiling still in place.
As we wandered further, we found a whole hill covered with tombs, some of which still had lots of visible carving and inscriptions.
None of it showed any sign of being curated – there were no signs, no fences, just the ruins, among the locals farm (there was one part of the site we didn’t explore, as the ruins were surrounded with ripe, but uncut barley.

 We must have spent an hour or two exploring the site, climbing into a tomb or two, (and getting viciously stabbed by ultra-prickly thistles) it was fascinating. And there wasn’t another soul  in sight for any of the time we spent exploring the place.

 After we left Sidyma, we called in at one final Lycian / Roman site before heading home – this was Pinara, which is up a very steep, rocky road, with vertiginous drops down from the side of the road.

Pinara was very slightly more developed that Sidyma, in that there was a little hut at the entrance, with the inevitable elderly man and his backgammon-buddy to sell us entrance tickets. But as we hadn’t the right change he let all 3 of us in on 2 tickets, rather than try to make change for a large note!

We started by exploring the rock tombs. These were in a cliff, at the base of which there was a stream,  populated by dragonflies on electric blue. Visiting the tombs involved a lot of scrambling around, and in some cases, into, the tombs. It was clear that bits of the cliffs fall down from time to time, but fortunately none of them fell on us.

There was wild thyme and mint and basil, and fig trees, and bougainvillea and hibiscus. Clambering up to the tombs I saw a little yellow snake, and later, as we walked along towards the ruined bathhouse we saw lizards and tortoises and jays, too.

The baths were almost completely ruined, but there was an amphitheatre which was almost complete, and very beautiful.

More photos on flickr

The entire site was huge, and we had it to ourselves. It was fascinating, and peaceful.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Lazy day.

It came as a shocking realisation to us that despite having been in Turkey for 4 days, we had somehow omitted to spend any time sitting on the beach, so on Sunday, after a late and fruit-filled breakfast, we headed out to Ölüdeniz, which is reported to be one of the most photographed beaches in the mediterranean.

It is lovely. There is an almost land-locked lagoon, and it is a National Park (Loggerhead turtles lay their eggs there,so it's protected) - no motor boats are allowed in the lagoon, so it is quiet, as well as beautiful.

It's also very busy. The beach is covered with sunloungers and parasols, all for rent, and there are lots of little booths selling cold drinks, snorkles, ice cream and so forth. It's not the kind of place I normally go, but a little hard lounging once in a while never hurt anyone.

We rented a some loungers, and settled in for some hardcore relaxing. We'd brought along some goggles and snorkles, and I went for a long swim. The water is crystal clear, and there are lots of fish, even in the shallow water by the beach. Around the rocky banks at the end of the lagoon, where it was quieter, there were not only fish (in every size, from whitebait up to 2-foot long thin, pointy fish with blue and yellow bits on) teeny tiny jellyfish, a few sea-urchins, even sponges. If, like me, your normal sea-side experience involves the North Sea or English Channel, then the mere concept of being able to swim for more than 10 minutes without losing all feeling in your extremities and turning an unattractive shade of blue is, in itself, a revelation. Doing it in water so clear, and being able to see so much, is even more amazing.

We stayed until almost all the sun-loungers were empty, and the shadows growing long. sometimes it's nice not  to have a time table to keep to.

We dined that night up at the kale Park restaurant, which is at the top of the hill above Fethiye, with views out over the town, and the bay.

The retaurant is next to the ruins of a crusader castle, and there was, inevitably, a small selection of goats scrambling among the ruined walls!

We sat over our meal on the terrace all evening, watching night fall, and the stars come out.

And one of my favourite things about this town? The random Lycian sarcophagus in the middle of the road...