Saturday 4 February 2012

The Big Chill...

The lily-pond has been a sheet of ice for the past three days, although we haven't been having noticeable frosts - so I suppose the temperature must be all to do with the famous 'windchill factor'. It's enough for even the junior four-footed (who's choice normally would be to live outdoors, if he could) to come back inside, after only about three minutes' commmuning with nature - while his senior compadre merely peers doubtfully at 'outside', before politely looking up to indicate that No, he doesn't really think so, thank you.

I agree, and gardening has been put on hold for the time being. The locals, whipped by the media into a frenzy of concern, have been wrapping plants and shrubs in fleecy shrouds...and although I pondered doing it for some of the more tender plants, in the end I decided not to, since there were far more than I could wrap up that would be vulnerable if it got really cold (so, how to choose?)...and I wasn't entirely convinced about the threat, anyway. And in the end, I don't think it's been any colder than it normally is at this time of year, and already all those alarmingly low 'minus' figures have largely evaporated from the forecast - as I suspected they would - so it looks as though the panic should be over. The fleece-sellers will have done well from it, though!

The one thing we did decide to protect was the Madagascan Traveller's Palm in the courtyard - which isn't supposed to be this far north, at all - and the Technical Dept constructed an enormous bobble hat for it out of bubble wrap, inside which he rigged up a garden light , to keep the air slightly warm. And because the light is on 24/7, it washes upwards and casts a ghostly glow at night over the facade of the church behind, and catches the sculptural lines of the gothic windows. Rather splendid and mysterious...

Tonight's Dinner:

Courgette Souffl├ęs.

Lasagne of Green Pasta & Guinea Fowl Ragu.

Apple and Orange crumble.

Tuesday 31 January 2012

It was Brazilian Night... the V&A, on Friday. One of their 'last Friday of the month' events, when - in theory - the entire place is given over to party crowds, and carnival dress and exuberance amongst the artefacts is the order of the day. Or so it had been the last time we'd encountered one of these evenings (pretty much  by accident) a year or so ago, and had found the Cast Halls full of people conga-ing along in day-glo costumes, and en route to the third floor of the Medieval Gallery, had stumbled across some strange kind of musical event in play.  Buzzy and all rather wonderful.
So, you'd have thought that an evening arranged in collaboration with the Brazilian Embassy would have been Mardi Gras in small, since spontaneous partying is surely what Brazilians are supposed to do best. Maybe that was what was wrong, though - not enough Brazilians, and, in their absence,  too much reliance on spontaneity (which wasn't really happening). There were loads of people - loads - and the place was generally heaving; all waiting for something to happen, that they could stand and happily watch. But, in  practice, the much vaunted Samba Flash Mob turned out to be three blokes with drums, wearing brightly coloured t-shirts and banging away with great enthusiasm, but actually looking as though they'd just wandered in from Esher Rugby Club! And all the while the DJ in the opposite corner of the Hall was churning out, at high volume, what sounded like Stevie Wonder interspersed with early Michael Jackson. Which, I suppose, given that the V&A is a museum, wasn't entirely inappropriate...

I endured the war zone that surrounded the bar in the Central Hall not once but twice - having lost heart after ten minutes, the first time around, and given up; only to realise that my taste buds had been warned to expect something heartening, and I was just going to get bad-tempered if expectations weren't met. So, I tried again, and succeeded in returning with a couple of caparinhas.  Which turned out to be a glass of very expensive crushed ice, at the bottom of which was sloshing around a generous squirt of lemon juice, and some colourless and flavourless alcohol. A bit like a Pisco Sour, but without the kick.

However, it wasn't all disappointing. With an unerring nose for these things, the Technical Dept had noticed in passing that, tucked away in the direction of the Sackler Centre,  there was a new display of things recently woven from Madagascan golden spider silk  - a cope and a shawl - which is not only extremely strong, but is naturally golden in colour. Having disposed of our glasses of slush, we made our way there, and weren't disappointed. Beautiful things. And fascinating. Definitely worth the journey.

And then, on the way out, just as I mentioned that I'd be interested to see Rodin's bust of Eve Fairfax (having just read Michael Holroyd's latest book, in which it features prominently), but that it would probably be in some obscure corner of an upper gallery....suddenly, quite serendipitously, there it was, right in front of us. Which was splendid!

But not enough to keep us for long from heading out and home, and in search of a decent drink!

Tonight's Dinner:

Rotolo of Green Pasta, filled with Spinach and Pancetta.

Rabbit braised in White Wine; Fennel, breaded and fried.

Orange bavarois.