Monday, 27 August 2012

Sweet sweet cherry pie

So this one isn't perfect but has the potential to be perfect. *sigh* haven't we all?

Take a measure of vodka, cherry liqueur, the dregs of krupnik, half a measure of white rum, teaspoon of vanilla extract and shake over ice. Pour into martini glasses and top up with apple juice. Float roasted flaked almonds on top.

The rum adds a certain spiciness but I think this needs the comfort of amaretto to turn it into a Bakewell tart martini. I think my flatmate would appreciate a Bakewell Tart... afterall, she is ... [redacted]

Clare's Raspberry Apple Pie

So for reasons now unknown to me, we were talking about pie. Why were we talking about pie? Apparently we'd had it for dinner not 3 hours earlier and someone felt that a chocolate steamed pudding wasn't enough for dessert.

Not being one to judge I applied some considerable intellect and surveyed the freezer. This is Clare's Raspberry Apple Pie.

I poured 2 measures of vodka, a measure of krupnik, a measure of chambord, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and shook vigorously over ice. Divide the mix between two glasses, add a splash of apple juice and stir with a cinnamon stick, leaving it to bob drunkenly

Quite frankly, this is lovely and perfect end of summer, Bank Holiday martini.  

Shaken and Stirred!

It's been very quiet at Contrary Towers. Now that we have a lovely set of candles on the balcony, carefully measured and sourced from the local market, the weather has rather contrarily decided to go off colour in the evening. Honestly. It's rather annoying when you want to sit outside, gossiping and watching the Cotall Street mafia go about its business.

Last week involved us working hard and plotting a few things. I had decided on a weekend of study. Which is why I found myself heading off to the Barbican 007 exhibition with a friend on Friday night. It was impossible not to, the website said:
Whether you like your drink shaken or stirred, you can enjoy a selection of Bond-style cocktails at the Martini Bar and experience the 007 lifestyle for real.
That clinched the deal. We got there in time for a drink before hand and as quips fell thick and fast the Vesper did interesting things to my co-ordination. Wobbling into the Curve, I was delighted by the Bond memorabilia; costumes, gold bars, gadgets, designs and story boards. Seeing the films all in one place showed how each Bond film was defined by its era. 

The exhibition appears to take over the entire Barbican complex, with 2 other rooms being filled with Bond baddies and a mock up of the Die Another Day ice palace. In that last snowy room I particularly loved seeing the cello case that Timothy Dalton and Maryam D'Abo used to escape in The Living Daylights. After that it was off to the bar for another classic vodka martini. Lightweight, fun and fashion-filled frivolity.

Saturday was a bit of a slow start; I blame the pizza from the night before. To shake out the cobwebs and disregarding the ferocious looking weather forecast, I got on a boris bike and headed to Academicland. I spent precisely 10 mins in the library before deciding coffee with another friend was a good idea. Now the weather was being rather beautiful; light was being scattered by jewel like raindrops through the Russell Square trees, non-threatening and ... oh. Coming down in buckets. All pretense was dropped so we stayed there until it suddenly stopped and odd shaped clouds bloomed above Bloomsbury.

We toddled off to the Southbank because I needed mead. And then as if the weather gods were mildly unhappy that we'd taken their threats so lightly earlier on, they really went for it. The food stalls at the back of the Festival Hall were suddenly inundated with water; awnings bulged and torrents flowed down the street. Thunder and lightning sent people scurrying for cover. If you were lucky you scarpered with Moroccan fancies in your hand and munched whilst the gods put on a show. It was brilliant. 

After no let up for half an hour, we became a little bored and cold. So sensing a slight lull I grabbed my bottle of mead and we headed for the underground. After a brief excursion to North Greenwich to see if the cable car was running ... er no ... we got on a boat and headed back to Contrary Towers. To warm up, we opened the mead and proceeded to talk about art which is always heating! We discussed a rather interesting sound installation which is currently on at the ICA and I made plans to see it - because looking at stuff is sort of like studying, only not reading and writing.

As it happens, I was blown away by it and I will be doing something a little more academic with Bruce Nauman's Days. I bought a book and everything. This student discount thingy is brilliant. I wonder if the local furniture/bookcase shop does discounts?

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Lemons and limes

Post party we have an issue.

Specifically we have cornered the lemon and lime supply in East London owing to sending @obotheclown out to get more limes. What were we thinking? Obviously I wasn't because I believe at that point I had a wine in one hand and a cocktail in the other which, if you read my blog, is why I get in to so much trouble.


So we've been looking at recipes that include said popular citrus fruits. Which is why I sort of tried to make steamed lemon tilapia with teriyaki sauce. When I sort of I mean I'd best explain. I love living on the East End, but you can't get tilapia in Lidl. Or mirin for that matter. A recipe adjustment was the order of the day.

So salmon it was. Which Lidl do sell, freezer section if you want the unsmoked stuff. For mirin I could have substituted sherry, but Clare suggested I use Prošek as, like all respectable people, we have it in the fridge. Sensible lady my flatmate. Compared to me. As I'm neither sensible, nor... Oh you, get the picture.

What you need...

  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 75ml of mirin/sherry/Prošek substitute
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • half a tablespoon of honey
  • 1 lemon (thank goodness for that!) half squeezed, half sliced
  • 200g of rinsed basmati rice
  • 2 tilalpia/salmon/whatever fillets
  • piece of ginger, shredded. FFS Lidl, why didn't you have this?!!!
  • 1 red chilly (nom)
  • Spring onions, sliced and then left in the kitchen all forlorn.
So, preparing in advance... Glad I did as madam turned up with the ingredients for blinis, more later. Put the soy, mirin/sherry/Prošek, sugar, honey and lemon juice in a small pan, boil and then simmer for 5 minutes. Maybe more as she turned up at that point and you know how we talk. Meanwhile, rice in pan, boil with 400ml of water for 5 minutes then put the fish on top and sprinkle the ginger and chilli. Add the lemons to look a bit flash Cook for another 5 minutes, which might be more as we had a lot to talk about (had been nearly three hours!) and...

...put on a plate, which is bloody tricky I can tell you, add a drizzle of the sauce and forget to add the spring onions. Optionally you can add the spring onions. If you are conventional like that. We won't judge. Much.


So that was last night. Tonight we had a choice, the thai beef (now tomorrow) or the blinis that the Contrary One turned up with last night. With caviar. And champagne.


Don't get us wrong, I know there are some that thing we are frivolous, decadent and debauched social butterflies that have napalm on toast and carry chainsaws. It's not true, but in this case we, by chance, have three tins of caviar and a couple of bottles of fizz in the fridge. As you do.

So it was to be a Contrary Tuesday. And blinis. Lots of blinis.

The fizz of choice was Bollinger, which, unfortunately seemed to have had a little shake. So we now have a champagne flavour wall. I'm not sure exactly where the caviar came from, but I do know it keeps appearing in the fridge and comes from Belarus. So, sensibly, I don't ask questions.

I also won't mention the smutty thoughts that we both had regarding stray caviar as it explodes. Ahem.

Where was I?

Oh yes. So the trouble with champagne is, well, we only have a little fridge, and wanted to keep the yellow label for another night. So we had to move on to cocktails. Time for a new recipe, the Pippy No Stockings, which you can see in Clare's version of the evening. It is gorgeous. And used limes. And now we're both slightly squiffy. So time to hit twitter and be debauched...

Blowing Raspberries at the Week

Let it not be said I'm not persistent. Or bad at written English. Despite not having a party for which to prepare, I'm still inventing cocktails. 

We were a bottle of bolly down and then I was asked 'what shall we drink next?'. So I peered at the jewel like bottle of raspberry liqueur and thought 'vodka'. 

I took a couple measures of ice cold vodka, added fresh lime juice, a scoop of raspberry jam and shook over ice. I added the chambord and a slice of lime. 

I'm calling this a Pippy No Stockings because all the raspberry pips are caught in the shaker. And I'm not wearing any.

Tuesday is clearly the new Friday. See you next week!

Saturday, 18 August 2012


Just in case you thought my flatmate had finally done it and hurled me over the balcony, do not fear, I'm still here. And also for a change I'm writing this fuelled only by coffee rather than heady nectinis. Oh and a pie that I found in the freezer; if dirty food strays across my path, it's fair game. I was tempted by the bottles of beer in the fridge, given that it is finally that sunny time of year.


It's alcohol free. Thanks Andy! Never mind, I'll make a real drink after this coffee.

A diet update is required because we may have strayed off the curvy and wide recently because here is no doubt that we won't be fitting into the straight and narrow any time soon. I seem to be in exactly the same position as I was earlier in the year when I needed to get into a certain Karen Millen dress and attend a Christening. But this time it's even more drastic because it's a Wedding in three weeks and the lovely people getting married have been utterly dedicated to achieving their goals and are looking fab. Never mind, guests are allowed to look slightly porky and I will simply hide at the back of the photos!

Sausages 4 Sail
Exercise hasn't been entirely lacking. I managed a delicious bicycle ride last night from Hoxton to Poplar. I was in full cool elegance mode, so tucked my flowing white skirt into my knickers and wafted down the canal from Victoria Park. This was my first mistake. There were boats on the canal (shocker) but one was offering hot dogs with sauerkraut and I am weak. And it was fabulous to sit there in the melee, steed propped up, and watch the world go by. Eventually I remounted and headed home.

It was that magical time of the evening when all mundane things took on an extraordinary aspect. As I cycled a huge dragon fly flew parallel to me for a split second, the ducks swam through the calm water, with dancing flies just breaking the surface. There was also a beautiful, fully made up woman sat on a bench, clearly waiting for someone. What was her story? Why was she so thoroughly alone? The reflections of graffiti in the canal and the industrial brick chimney all glowed in the twilight.

I was sad to finally pull over into my local bike stand and exchange a bit of banter with a chap. At this point he'd watched me career down the bumpy road, big grin, legs flailing and squeaking a bit. I looked like I was enjoying myself apparently. And mama mia! I was. Exercise hasn't been this much fun in ages.

Today remains pretty good in the diet steaks (sic). I've had a run, eaten a pie and I've been promised cheesecake later so I think the dress fitting is going to go extremely well.

Who says I'm deluded?

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Kermit the Soup

There was a certain delicious irony in Contrary Towers this evening, I was making a soup of the purest green whilst my flatmate was watching an arts programme about gold, with a mention of the alchemists, on her pooter. Why? Think Blackadder the Second. Obvs.

Anyway. A few weeks back we found this ace recipe for pea and pesto soup with fish finger croutons. At the time though we couldn't make it as we were missing a key ingredient. Namely peas. And pesto. And fish fingers. And spud. In short we had stock and we had water. And a pan.

Even I can't make a really decent knife-stands-up-in-it soup with that.

Post-party we had stuff. I hadn't realised that, importantly, we had pesto. And I'd got spud for turning the other party chicken in to soup. Sooo...

You'll need...
  • 500grammes of frozen peas. We had just enough *adds to shopping list*
  • About the same again in spud, 4 medium sized ones should do it
  • Half a jar of green pesto. Which, oddly enough was exactly how much we had
  • A veggy stock cube made in to about 3/4 of a litre of stock
  • A dash of cayenne pepper as it's a legal requirement
  • Ground pepper
  • Quarter of a teaspoon of cumin
  • 10 fish fingers. 8 to use as croutons, 2 to, err, test.
Give peas a chance...
Chuck the peas in the wrong sized pan, the soup pan is in the fridge with chicken soup in it. Peel and dice the spud so the bits are about pea sized. Add the stock. Bring to the boil. Add the cayenne, ground pepper and cumin. Then simmer for about 20 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, put the fish fingers under the grill after first arguing about whether grill or oven is best. You want them crispy so grill. This also means you need to remove the now concrete like dried pitta bread from the grill, tear and throw to the ducks whilst laughing at ditzy flatmate. The ducks liked this. Fortunately I managed not to burn them, hurrah. The fish fingers not the ducks. Though at one point some cheeky mare did ask whether they were ready because she could smell burning. Some people!

I think I turned them once. I wasn't really concentrating as the whole gold programme thing was fascinating.

When the pea and spud seem about ready, take out about a third of the pea and spud with a slotted spoon then blend what's in the pan. This will end up a disgusting smooth gloop that even the hungriest babies would turn their noses up at. But it is tasty. Add the pesto, blend a bit more.

Finally add the peas and spud you took out earlier and give it all a bit of a stir.

The fish fingers should now be about done. And not burned. Cut them roughly in to threes. Eat some, offer some to your flatmate, which she'll accept and then tell her it's time to eat...

Note the gap... Ask Clare why!
When she's got off the chair, ladle out the soup and add the fish fingers in an artistic manner. At this point she may lose all signs of resistance and eat another piece of fish finger...

Sit down.


It doesn't get much easier than that and, I have to say, it was really, really scrummy.

As we ate, Clare offered a thought. We were, essentially, eating fish, chips and mushy peas. Just rearranged. And more peas than usual.

Now that has to be a win.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Extreme promming

I believe I've mentioned it before, but we have a calendar near the kettle in Contrary Towers that contains all the essential mustn't forget dates. It's a brilliant, almost infallible system that will probably win the Nobel Prize for time management. Or something.

It does though have one teensy little flaw...
Me: Ooh, you're at the proms tonight!
Clare: I am? Oh bugger...
Me: *shakes head in utter belief*
...yes, you are supposed to read the thing. Oh well. I'll cancel my Stockholm hotel, looks like I won't be going after all.

Anyway. She suggested I come too as there was some mad music expected in Prom 44. Now I quite like mad music. Things to make you think. Things to challenge the mind. Things that aren't predictable. Or expected. So I said I see how I felt later in the day as, actually, I was still feeling tired and did have an awful lot of calls to make which I hate.

Which is why I procrastinated later and ordered tickets. At least tried to. You see I've not used the Royal Albert Hall ticket system before and was at a bit of a ditzy loss. So missed out on the last ticket for Prom 43. Which meant I was going to have to get my lazy bottom over to queue for either the Gallery or Arena, which, at least, meant I would actually be promenading proper like. Fortunately I did get tickets for the mad music in Prom 44.

I believe I've mentioned this before, maybe not in our joint blog, but definitely in my personal one, if I have to be somewhere at a given time, in this case to queue, then TFL will conspire to make me at the very least late. I thought it only happened when heading East to Contrary Towers.

I was wrong.

Turns out it can muck up going West to. The sound of deep resignation from the driver was profound, a series of small issues had caused a huge backup on the District Line. True entertainment was had at Mansion House where it was announced the next train would be on the other platform. Lots of people got off. Not me, I was way too busy reading Aunt Jane's Nieces at Work. Then it was announced ours would be the next train. Everybody got on. Snorks and exchanged smiles from the wise (and lazy) ones.

So, instead of being there at 6pm to queue I was only leaving South Kensington at 6:24. I know this because my flatmate sent me a text asking if I was queuing. Because she was having a gin.

I can really go off people.

No time for that, I got to the massive queue with some trepidation and... Pre-ticket 479! I was in, yay! Does. A. Little. Dance. I just had to wait to get to the door to buy an actual ticket.

Prom 43 was nice. Well presented, well played. And lovely to listen to. But nothing challenging. I actually went to the bar during the interval, which I normally never do, as I needed a medicinal Stolichnaya and tonic. Fortunately, the Arena bar is usually quite empty as people aren't that keen on paying more for a drink than they did for a ticket. Who knew.

For the second half I positioned myself to the edge of the Arena so I could sit down. As I did so I got a profound memory of being very young in a room full of adults and seeing little but legs. It moved me, for the first time in ages, to write:
A child's view of the world
The scene blocked
The sound unfurled
A tripping note
The Rise and fall
As violins scream
In twists and squalls

People read music
Or eyes so tight
Enthralled, intense
Lost in no sight
The sound rolls on
The magic hall
The view's the sound
Behind people tall

At the end of the first prom, sometime after 9pm, we met up and compared notes. I'll not go in to details. Plus I was treated to a much needed Sprite. Full power version. At this point though the Contrary started to kick in. We had come in door 3 as door 4 was, at the time, for egress only. But then had to get to the circle. Which you can't from door 3. Or at least not directly. Great. We wandered aimlessly but, eventually, found a staircase we knew and headed upstairs. It was very quiet. At the entrance to the circle we were offered a free upgrade to the stalls. Oooh. As, I imagine, everyone else was, it wasn't the busiest of proms!

Trouble was we had to get back to door 9. Errr. We weren't the only ones. We teamed up with a lovely older lady and braved the stairs of the RAH in a bid to find the promised land. Or the stalls. Either would do.

It has to be said. They were good seats. When we arrived the Poème symphonique was already playing...

Okay. So the Poème symphonique, 100 metronomes, all started at the same time, all with slightly different settings. But you know what, it's amazing. As my flatmate said, initially it sounded like a field of cicadas, but, as the devices died, the sound changed, patterns emerged, it became something else, rain drops, or bursts of silence. As we approached the end and it fell to just two remaining metronomes the audience was in utter silence. You could hear dust fall. Eventually though there was but a single metronome left, singly rocking back and forth. Alone.

It was deeply moving. I am actually losing my marbles.

Next up was Sequenza V. Which was mad and looked like it featured @obotheclown. Yep, a superb musician (Byron Fulcher), in a clown suit. With a trombone. The trombone was less of a surprise, obvs. It was excellent to watch and listen to, with a great level of skill being needed to get the timing right. But as Byron is Professor of Trombone (there is a joke there somewhere) at the Royal College of Music, I'd expect him to be a bit good.

Moving on. Mortuos plango vivos voco. We couldn't have had better seats, or be in a better place to experience this. As sound washed around the wall, pulling your ear to different directions as the bell became a voice and back again. It was astounding. Unexpected even. I'd not heard of it. I'm so glad my first experience was here. Amazing.

Which means we have the contrary piece... Da snelheid, or Velocity, by Louis Andriessen. The composer was there. And he was asked by the idiot MC to explain what it was about. I say idiot because when he tried to do it himself the composer pretty much said "err, no". I wasn't sure what to make of it at first, but, as the piece moved on, really enjoyed the juxtaposition of fast against slow. I'm not sure it's a piece I'd want to listen to when contemplating the meaning of sausage rolls, but I would like to hear it live again.

Almost finally... 4' 33" by John Cage. There is much controversy over this. But as a concept, I love it. When you're listening to music live there are inevitably coughs and phone calls, rattling of wrappers and extraneous noises that often detract from the piece. But when the piece is just the sounds of the hall punctuated by the turning of the score on the direction of the conductor then it takes on a surreal aspect. During the piece I was playing Grumbling Belly in G Minor.

Finally. We'd been told at the start there would be some audience participation needed for Matthew Herbert's Live Remix. The idea being, on cue, we would all send ourselves a text message with the alert switched on after having listened to ambient sounds mixed from earlier in the evening. Clare couldn't participate as unfortunately her battery had died some time earlier. It just didn't work for me, and, having just discussed it with my flatmate, it didn't work for her either. And we like weird stuff. What they were trying to do was pretty clear, but it so depended on the source material and initial audience that it was always going to be touch and go.

At the end we didn't hang about for the applause to finish, it was 11:45 and we needed to get to the underground. Pronto. For me the evening ended with some cold chicken from the party and a mildly flirty DM exchange with somebody, whilst poor Clare was dying on her feet.

The after effects of extreme promming are quite severe, I'm tired, achy and have a bit of a headache. But, oh my. The music.

When do I do it again?

Monday, 13 August 2012


Shhhhh. I might have a teensy bit of a headache. If I'm honest about it, I think it was down to having three sausages when two would have sufficed. I mean, it would have been rude to have left it all alone.

That and we had an all girl post-party-party in Clare's room which might have included whiskey and may not have finished until 3am.

So. You'll be wondering whether we managed to actually stick somewhere vaguely close to the plan.

Heh. Right.

The day started well. Well, eventually the day started and there may have been a small amount of running around preparing the last things, as I wandered around scrubbing floors and arresting the last of the dust bunnies. At which point the first guest arrived. Now this wasn't at all unexpected, it was my flatmate's friend from school and her insanely talented daughter, we didn't realise quite how talented until we got to see examples of her artwork in the middle of the night. Astounding.

The vague plan was that the three of them would hop in to town, visit the Tate, as I was tidying the rest of the house, and then come back to change with plenty of time ready for the guests to arrive. Which will be why the four of us hired Boris Bikes and cycled in the general direction of the Tate. Via Wapping.

It was certainly a lovely day for it and, having deposited Clare and the daughter at London Bridge in search of a bike stand, the remainder of the party wobbled off to head along the river. A quick wander via Borough market took us on to a very busy river side. Hmm, there wasn't going to be much riding here. But that was okay because we found a Pimms seller. And, thinking about it, the cucumber that was in the Pimms may have been responsible for my current mildly delicate constitution. We did though hear the roar as the marathon runners appeared on the other bank!

Eventually, after wandering a little further, we ended up opposite Parliament and nattered the afternoon away. That was until we realised what the time was and thought it best to alert the art junkies...

And have a race.

The race wasn't intentional, but it did have a Top Gear challenge feel about it, we would pedal like demons back to Contrary Towers, as the B team would jump on the hyper-speed Thames Clipper and roar back via Canary Wharf... Or would have done if it wasn't for the fact that the boats were insanely busy.. So we won. In spite of nearly every road in the City being closed. Oh yes. Does. A. Little. Dance.

The penance was... They had to get the Pimms. And Ice. And Lemonade. Whilst we lounged on the balcony and utterly ignored the impending party start.

By this point mild panic crept in, Clare was dispatched to shower and prepare for her guests whilst her friend and I went to empty Chez Lidl of Bardolino, a favourite of these towers. And then get back to also shower, melt, wish I had a shower again, and, eventually, wander downstairs to say hello.

Anyway. It was pretty fab, the food was divine. The conversation never seemed to stop. And I only wanted to throw somebody off the balcony once. Well, maybe twice. So that was a good thing. Yes? I also was largely well behaved. Didn't get a snog and did manage to break a glass. Which I'll never be allowed to forget I'm sure.

It turns out that it was very different to University parties, I definitely remember more snogging at them. Pfft.

No brownies were hurt making this.
Of course now is the morning after. And as London slowly recovers from the party to end all parties, and something went on in Stratford too, I found myself, once more on my hands and knees, scrubbing. And not in a good way. You see that epic chocolate brownie was apparently made with the essence of cyanoacrylate. And it was epic. Really, really, really epic.

Nom, nom, nom, nom, nom
So. What have we learned? Errr. Well, that my flatmate is ace and her friends are fabulous. But I think she might have suspected that. I'd ask her what she thought but as she's been working since 7:30am, the time I normally take her tea, I suspect I might not get out alive. On the plus side... I weighed in, 88.5kg!!!!! Which means my darlings, I have finally passed a really big psychological barrier. Oh, one other thing, refried chicken and rice thingie with chilli sauce is an amazing breakfast.

Did you expect anything else?

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Catering Towers

I have spent the last few days thinking about food. This shouldn't come as a surprise but for once it doesn't revolve around my star like belly, but actually is the very serious consideration of what to feed 15 hungry guests. I have extremely high standards and a trip to Iceland for 'brown' party food was never on the cards.

After a day's perusal of Good Food magazines, for Aug 2012 the marvellous Sarah Buenfeld, my favourite 'sensible' recipe writers had put together a picnic spread. She is fabulous because she uses lots of vegetables, strong flavours, the dishes are incredibly simple, and importantly, she never fails! So the menu for Sunday is:

Roast pepper, caper and pine nut salad
Jewelled cous cous
Green bean and potato salad
Curried pasta salad
Red rice and chicken salad with pomegranate and feta

'It's not a party without a carrot stick' vegetable and dips
Pittas, bread sticks, tortilla chips

Gala pie
Quiches - various
Chilli ginger lamb chops
Hoisin sausages
Fragrant thai chicken

Peach melba cheesecake
Chocolate orange brownies

Today when I wasn't having a nap whilst the chickens cooked, I was prepping marinades, roasting and peeling peppers and having a whale of a time licking out the cheesecake bowl. There is nothing more soothing than cooking rustic food which banishes any memory of bland and brown. Summer is truly the inspiration here.

Now it's time to get cooking these brownies and hoping the flatmate allows them to cool before insisting on 'quality control'.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Problems with alcohol

The problem with alcohol:

1. Can be too drinkable
2. Can make you a little queasy
3. Red wine lips
4. Bottles aren't big enough
5. First bottle has to be good, the rest can be house of lidl

1. Sober to drunk in 30 mins
2. Too pleasant and nicely cold
3. They run out too quick
4. They cause naughtiness (honey related)

1. Haven't done the gin bar. Damn it (need dates, hint)
2. Makes you cry. We can testify to that

1. No issues
2. Can make you letchy. Apparently. *snork*

1. Chocolate stout is epic (thank you to Mr Busfield Birch for this introduction)
2. Make you pee
3. Fattening
4. Really fattening
5. Makes you smell like a tramp (tennant's extra)
6. Fruit beers are too nice. Belgian mmmm

1. Debauchery
2. Why so very debauched?
3. Causes loose morals...
4. Bubbles get up your nose
5. Too expensive
6. Too delicious

But the big problem is, it runs out.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

These boots are made for walking...

Honestly. I am actually incapable of being good. I do try, I really do, but, somehow, I managed to overeat big-time last week. Or under-exercise. Whichever it was doesn't really matter, all that mattered was that on Monday I stood on the scales and the sentence was harsh, a sudden leap back to 91.6kg meant dried bread and gruel...

Which will be why we've had cocktails several times this week.

Fortunately my lovely flatmate managed to show more self control (I know!) which meant she is still svelte, just now in a blonde kind of way.

As penance I've been walking. A lot. On Monday, in a state of lardy shock, I marched to the Tower, and the edge of Tower Hamlets, via the river path, and back again. This was lovely, I found a beach, got annoyed with tourists, was amazed at stumbling on the Danish area in St Katherine's Dock and generally had some quality thinking time. Which I did need.

A pleasant 8 mile round trip along the river and back, just what the evil exercise doctor would have ordered. The best thing was I got back home just in time to see the jump off and TeamGB win Gold in the show jumping. We might have been a little bit excited!

There, I mentioned sport.

Later we toddled over to Canary Wharf and clocked up another 4 miles of healthy exercise goodness. Which is good. Plus we saw the German centre. They've taken over the Museum of London Docklands, an event which, when announced, had us near apoplexy. But in this unexpectedly found Olympic spirit, we didn't mind, indeed rather enjoyed the sights and sounds. And Clare got a pretzel. Which she denies. Obvs.

Later that evening... We had cocktails. Quite a few. As the Contrary Party is approaching, some serious research was needed to avoid us poisoning the guests and come up with some whizzy combinations. Clare was to be the mix-meister. She was quite good.

Mile End... Honest!
Tuesday brought a slightly shorter walk, down Limehouse Cut to Limehouse Basin, up Regent's Canal, along the Hertford Union Canal and... Then I had to hit the streets. You see, owing to the Olympics, a huge chunk of the tow path on the Lee Navigation was closed. Which might have displeased me. A lot.

It took a while, but I eventually found my way back to the Lee Navigation, which meant I could wander along, go over the Bow Locks (I didn't giggle) and back on to the Limehouse Cut and the final meander home. Lovely.

Meanwhile... Clare was raiding Waitrose for the evening's experimentation. We might have had a few more cocktails, the final one being quite epic. Yay!

You might think that all these cocktails are bad for the waistline, you might be right, but it has been a giggle testing them. We didn't last night, the shopping list had to be prepared ready for the party and, well, I wasn't a lot of help having been exhausted by three hours of constant talking and thinking earlier in the day. Oh, but I did find that the walk from Limehouse DLR station, via the basin and cut to home is really very pleasant. Who knew!

As we get closer to the big day things might be quiet and, paradoxically, a hive of activity here in Contrary Towers. But it will, as ever, be an endless stream of memories. Hopefully leading us to having to worry about just one single thing on Sunday...

What to wear...

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Party Planning for contrary people

I'm having a party to celebrate a birthday and also to help the athletes close the Olympics. So we needed careful planning and consideration on how this would go.

The best way to approach these things is have a drink and make a list.

We have now had a drink and have a cocktail list.

Here's the list.

  1. Invite amazing friends and my flatmate
  2. Go to Waitrose Iceland/Lidl for pizza and spring rolls  and stuff
  3.  Dartington Crystal Poundland for glasses
  4. Lots of wine
  5. Lots of vodka. Bugger. Done that, drunk it
  6. er...
  7. Is that it?
  8. Count beds and divide by two?
  9. Sort out music
  10. Leave major problems with flatmate
  11. Invite several concurrent lovers (see 10)
  12. Ooops. Choose party frock. Wish the diet had been more drastic....
What could possibly go wrong? How is a grown up party any different from a university party? 

Experimental cocktail towers...

More cocktails this evening after a whimsical journey home. Did anyone else write a poem on the tube journey this evening?

Ruby Ruby Ruby

With ice, shake together one and a half measures of blueberry vodka, half a measure of cherry liqueur, half a lime, a splop of blackcurrant jam and a dessert spoon (ish) of ready bashed mint. Strain into a martini glass and top up with some apple juice. Decorate with a berry of some kind.

Clare's St Clement's

This one is very much an acquired taste. I like fragrant tastes like violets and roses so orange blossoms was an obvious cocktail ingredient.

Again add ice to a cocktail shaker, add a measure each of orange vodka, lemon vodka, a good squeeze of lemon and a spoon of marmalade. Pour into glasses and stir in the blossom to taste - I liked a good teaspoon to give requisite depth. Top with fresh orange juice, not the stuff I used. Decorate with a sliver of orange or a curly peel.

[One yet to have a name - Lemonberry?]

This one was so simple and pure in berry lemon taste. Shake a measure each of lemon vodka and blueberry vodka with a good squeeze of lemon juice and a spoonful of blackcurrant jam. Strain into glasses and top up with apple juice. Decorate with a berry or sliver of lemon zest

Just add cheesy music...and get party planning!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Cherry Popper: Summer in a glass

As my flatmate quaffed the East Fourteen so quickly and immediately demanded another, I definitely wanted something summery this time. You know the sort of drink. You're sitting under a tree with a lover, cherry red lips begging to be kissed and a sweet scent of summer all around. Add a deceptively innocent ice cold cocktail and grass stains are inevitable...

Lovingly take:

Juice of half a lime
Measure of orange vodka
Measure of cherry liqueur (mine was foreign but am sure you can find something)
Dregs of a bottle of vodka
A good spooning of raspberry jam

Shake over ice and pour into ice cold martini glasses. Top up with apple juice. If I had any fresh fruit I would have popped a strawberry/raspberry on the side to be sucked. Summer refreshment in a glass.

This was so good that flatmate has just licked all round the glass and used a finger to get it all out. We are not a classy joint but I like an appreciative audience.

Why cherry popper? Because you're never quite the same after your first one.

Summer? Happy Christmas...

I dream of being a mixologist and thinking up new cocktails. 

Today orange blossom water popped into my head. Would this complement the orange vodka that's languishing in the freezer? This is an academic question as I don't have any flower water. Being too lazy to go into Canary Wharf again, I considered my store cupboard. 

I took the following poured into a cocktail shaker containing about 5/6 ice cubes:

A measure of orange vodka
A measure of Croatian prosek (or a sherry)
Half measure of krupnik
Juice of half a lime
Half measure of syrup of figgy conserve

Shake well and pour into martini glasses. A dash of apple juice to top up seemed appropriate but I think fresh orange juice would work too.

Now this was intended to be a summery fragrant orange drink but I am of the impression that it would be marvellous in the depths of Saturnalia with a dash of burnt cinnamon flamed across the top.

*sigh* Even my drinks are contrary so I shall revisit. I love the eastern feeling of decadent heavy spices from the fig, wine and honey so it had to be called East Fourteen. 

In the meantime, bottoms up and Happy Christmas.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

A week's a long time...

They say a week's a long time in politics. Nothing though when compared to Contrary Towers, where an hour is an eternity filled with juxtaposing contrasts and twisting ideas. A week ago I wrote about our escape from London to escape the hype. The result of the exhaustion brought on by constant reports of doom. And Boris on the Tannoy.

But here is the advantage of being contrary. It's okay to change the mind.

On Friday we spent a lot of the morning watching the Olympics, the odd thing at first, we were both working at home, but by the end of the athletics session we were glued. There, said it. On the way to Norfolk to see my children and the nearly-ex I found myself checking the news to see how things were going. Me. Checking sport. Me. Weird.

And here I am on Saturday night. I've shed buckets over Jess Ennis, clutched my hands over Greg Rutherford and squeaking with excitement as Mo Farah did an Ennis and didn't just win, but won with style. During the day I was updating my flatmate by text with the latest news as I bumbled around the house, again, unheard of. I even had my laptop connected to the BBC as I cooked.

I've just had a text from my Irish gentleman friend, he's back from the Olympic Stadium. And, I admit it, I am actually quite jealous, I would have loved to have been there. But then as, until yesterday, I had no interest whatsoever, it was unlikely.

It's not the sport thing. It was the sheer humanity of the competitors, athletes, rowers, cyclists, every one of them. And that they could draw together not just this fucked up country but also this even more fucked up individual is, in itself, nothing short of a miracle.

I salute you all. And, when I return, might just have a Limehouse Half Cut in your honour.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

A contrary outlook?

A long time ago I came across a snippet of a piece of poetry by the inimitable T.S. Eliot hidden within the Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B by J.P. Donleavy. I first came across this book by chance in the darker corners of the cloakroom at my University's summer ball.

Don't ask why I was in the cloakroom.

Anyway, years later, when I was rather stupidly getting married I wanted to use these words, but couldn't find them. In retrospect I realise it might have been my subconscious trying to tell me something.

Ten years later I tried to find them again, nada. Very frustrating. And then, about a year ago, I did stumble across them. But, being the ditzy thing I am, I promptly forgot where. But was overjoyed that I did find them. Where I was when I found them, with my perverse hindsight, makes sense.

Last night the words came up again, owing to a quotation of T.S.Eliot on the score of A Child of Our Time.
'...the darkness declares the glory of light'
I had to hunt the words down as, I felt, they almost matched the joint outlooks of the residents of Contrary Towers.

I hope you like them.

From Little Gidding, the fourth quartet of, err, the Four Quartets by T.S.Eliot
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Being contrary

Things are a little weird in Contrary Towers at the moment. Owing to the O word my flatmate is working from home in the morning whilst I am seeking new contracts and prepping for various things. Except yesterday I wasn't, I had a lot of prep to do, but my heart wasn't really in it during the morning.

Which will be why I was pondering dinner.

I couldn't decide between pea and pesto soup with fish finger croutons, or maybe a greek salad omelette, or perhaps thai beef stir fry. My vague idea was to pick two, get in the ingredients we didn't have (namely because I ate all the fish fingers) and cook one. Sounded like a plan.

Until I looked at Twitter.

Without wearing my glasses.

Me: "Oooh, Belshazzar's Feast is on at the proms tonight!" Her: "Oooh, fancy going?"

Now the problem here was I'd not noticed that (a) the text might have implied that the person was writing after the event and (b) the post time was 15 hours earlier. Whoops.

It didn't take long for the brighter one to work out how dim I really am. By now we both liked the idea of going anyway so tickets were booked for prom 25.


The plan was set, we'd meet at South Kensington station at 6:30, what could possibly go wrong? Well, given that I'm a ditz and I kept saying Kensington High Street, quite a bit...

But it didn't. I got there early. My flatmate got there early. So we went to find a sandwich. Which will be why we ended up sitting in Little Japan on Thurloe Street. After all, I'd been listening to Japanese tourists on the District Line and had understood maybe one word in ten. Perfect.

I've just read a review on the place, hmm, I think it must depend on what you eat, my mixed meat and noodles was lovely and my flatmate is still alive after eating prawn. Hey ho. So we liked it. And the chilli sauce was astounding. In a good way.

Van Dough... An open pizza oven!
Next stop, The Royal Albert Hall. Via Exhibition Road. This has changed so much and there seemed to be some sort of festival going on. Which normally would have distracted us completely, but we did have tickets to collect and music to listen to. Anyway, there was a stage, with interesting music being played, bored looking security, fabulous eateries with silly names and...

Peter Pan eat your heart out...
...people on strings. Huh?

This had drawn quite a crowd as a group of people did a sort of aerial ballet off the side of the Imperial College Engineering faculty. This was very impressive. What was even more impressive was Exhibition Road itself. It's now been pedestrianised and the change to the feel of the area is quite astonishing. It's so nice to meander down and actually see the buildings properly without dodging, well, anything on wheels.

Oooh, orange vodka!
Moving on we passed a few more eateries. And drinkeries. Including one that had the requisite orange vodka for a Limehouse Half Cut. I doubt they had the not-so-secret recipe though.

Waiting in the queue at the Albert Hall box office was interesting. There was a druid! I kid you not. But this was good, as druids were mentioned in the programme. What wasn't mentioned was that we were standing in the wrong queue.

I know, you're shocked.

Once we got ourselves in the right queue, for pre-booked tickets, all was well. Except I nearly walked past the entrance as the last number I had in my head was 12, which Clare had previously mentioned, but we were looking for 4. Yes, I know, ditz. Honestly, I think she did it to confuse me.

The music was amazing. I might have shed the odd tear, but we'll not talk about that.

I also might have told a tourist to stop clicking away with her SLR. Grrr. And another thing... SWITCH OFF YOUR PHONES YOU RETARDS. FFS. Is it so difficult? Same with coughing. Please go and die elsewhere during the Adagio.

Anyway. It was a fabulous Contrary Towers evening. Even more so for the fact that it was unplanned and a result of me not being able to read a tweet properly.

How wonderfully contrary is that?!