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Cultural Concubine Blog

Neither here nor there…

Category Archives: Things I really won't miss…

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They don’t make ’em like that no more…

Last month I have been clearing out the stables of the small victorian farm behind the house.
Just a general rummage to get rid of general grot and grime, and to generally find out if there was really anything worth conserving.

While sorting through I found many things…
Canisters with strange names, spagettied wirls of leather tack (left behind by an old saddler who used to rent the cottage), old buckets with names of a different house, a tricycle… etc etc. I also found the most amazing old sickle. I decided to clean it up and look after it.
When digging through piles of stuff, finding old tools are like nuggets of gold. You can imagine someone using them, even making them to a clear end.

But one of the things I found, wondered at then left… was a spoon, tied to a long stick…

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Here bunny, bunny, bunny…

As it was found amongst many things in a stable, so I imagined it to be a specially made tool to feed horses (?!) or to medicate something at a distance… Bah. I gave up and I moved on to shoveling out the grot on the floor.

Then yesterday, looking at some old country footage from UEA’s East Anglian Film Archive, I finally saw that spoon in action…

http://www.eafa.org.uk/catalogue/219226
(sorry, can’t embed the video here)

It is a short documentary from 1961 about the old gamekeeper at Elveden. The good man is in his 90s… and as you see him gently totter about on the estate, his assistants go about their business, spreading out feed for the game…

…and poisoning rabbits with cyanide…

Hmmm.

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Only rabbits and rats?

So that’s what’s in that friendly looking yellow bucket called Cymag…

I doubt you would see anything like that in modern day video’s, eh?

(And yes, this is probably a response to my last post on rodents…)

 

Later addition:

… Off course… how could I forget to add:

Oh the good old days…

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Charming…

I am sure I have written about this pet hate of mine before…

Harrods.

Last weekend, upon arriving back in town by tube, the following happened…

After lugging a heavy suitcase up the stairs from the underworld of gnarly air and noisy trains, I had to swerve through the senseless shoppers on the busy back road behind Harrods…

Half way I got stopped by one of the doormen, sounding rather grumpy… He growled: No no no… heavy suitcases should go to entrance 2A on the other side…

Another good reason for avoidance…

I just looked up at him all astonishment and mumbled: Could you get out of the way please, I am trying to get home. If you don’t mind that is…

He stepped aside, but didnt even apologise.

No wonder locals avoid this place like the plague…

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It is rare that expatriated Dutch people long to come back to their ‘little cold frog country’. (NL: Ons koude kikker landje).

But a picture like this surely brings up Dutch patriotic pride and homesickness:

Skating into the sunset...

On the other hand I only have bad memories of being on the ice.
Gargantuan blisters in my skates, bruises a-go-go… and all my friends disappearing in the distance, while I fall yet again on the cracks…
No, alas. I fear I will just enjoy the aesthetic pleasure of it, seated next to the fireplace…

Making the cold bearable...

PS. Sadly the epic skating tour along 11 Friesian towns (NL: Elfstedentocht) has been cancelled. The ice was not thick enough after 11 days of frost… Pity of all those extra gallons of Beerenburg they had distilled beforehand, just in case…
Better luck next year, hic!

PPS. On a happy note, may be my tulip bulbs will make it through to spring after all!

Oh, I love Holland!

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Casualty no.5...

Yesterday just seemed an endless day. Waiting for both arms to meet up at the top.
The final day of the year, and somehow it just seemed it didn’t get any later…

It took me till well into the night to find out my watch had stopped…

And yes… I know a swatch is a crumby cheap watch, it ticks too loud and is too large for my wrist. Worse, within a year I have already had to replace the strap and battery!
The local jeweler has stopped selling parts for these as they seem to be too bad quality.
Still, with all of my travel and cooking activities I do need one. I hate grasping for a device to tell the time.
(my watch is always local time wherever I am, while my laptop, ipad and phone vary depending on my departure and arrival needs. And with gps some of them automatically zone themselves…)

So I guess I will have to contemplate an upgrade.
What would be sturdy enough to survive my lifestyle, yet not un-clunky enough to fit my wrist?
To be continued…

 

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Burn baby burn!

A lot has happened since my last post.

After surviving thanksgiving I also made it through Christmas unscathed.

But regretfully all brilliant things come to an end. US Immigration decided that two runs of three months were more than enough for a low life like me.
So I had to leave the USA at the end of January. So I flew back to the Netherlands to lick my wounds and come up with a battle plan.

Now I am already many months and a lot of confusion along, working on this mythical creature called a Visa/Greencard.

My initial plan was to get back based on ‘Extraoridinary abilities”.
So under the expert guidance of a real American Attorney (yes AA) I headed for my first failure.
She agreed that I was indeed extraordinary, but judged for her country that there was no national need for collaboration specialists as collaboration is not really any use for the national agenda. Competition (read: BANKERS) is more their cup of tea.
I will not go into this, but please see ‘The Inside Job” for more details on the real situation.

Damn that education!

So here I am now…  a new job and all my friends waiting for my return, but I have to wait till October till the new round of Visas is released. There is a maximum of 20.000 visas per year for the higher educated commercial employees. And subscriptions start in advance from April…
I am doing my best to find an alternative job for a quota exempt organisation, so I could come sooner… But off course  this would take more time to organise and mean that I would have to do something I hav eto do instead of the stuff I wanted to come over for…

But if you think it really is that simple, you haven’ seen the line of flaming hoops that you and especially your future employer have to jump through.

I will need to prove many things.
1. Most importantly I have to prove not to be a nuisance and take an Americans’ place.
Well how is one to do that? I don’t know all Americans… I am sure to make at least one or two Americans miserable with my arrival… Doing stuff that they won’t do, but could have done…

2. I should not take more or less money than an American would do and affect the job market with my arrival. To prove this they have devised the most unexplainable process in which my employer has to prove they give me enough but not too much money. Till this day I really don’t know how to understand this, but I am sure it will take 5 grand in lawyers fees to have this explained to someone who doesn’t give a damn.

3. I also have to prove that all my diplomas are in fact real and not imaginary.
At the cost of $100 I received a piece of paper with a shiny sticker stating that the Technical University Delft and Erasmus University Rotterdam really exist! An extra copy (an extra sticker in fact, costs an additional $25)

4. And lastly I should really (no I mean REALLY) be needed.
If not, well you might as well stop now, as we really don’t see  the point of you wanting to come here anyway… Or at least that is how I translated the words from the attorney.

Patience deary...

The hardest thing of all this is that it is completely un-personal. This has nothing to do with me as a person, yet it will only just completely change my life.

Thanks guys.

The battle continues…

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Fortnums does Alice's party..

Off course this Post can not be a surprise… You could see this one coming a mile off…

So let’s talk TEA…

Presently I am in the Netherlands, at my parents in Rhenen, where the tap water is the softest you will ever find.
I am sitting here sipping a cup of really exquisite Chai, warming and smooth on a tropical day…
Still tea is the most quenching beverage in the book. The hotter it is, the more it will cool and calm you down!

Off course I have had the extended privilege to some brilliant teas in the UK.

Fortnums has its own bees on the roof...

Most people flock to Fortnums (short for Fortnum & Masons) to get their kicks. Piles and piles of differently coloured tea tins welcome you upon entrance.
But don’t let this fool you. Even if their well dressed service is lovely and their marketing excellent, this is not automically the best place to buy tea.

Proper Tea at the Parlour...

Personally I prefer the Tea House in Covent Garden.
I agree it isn’t as grand as F&M, but their shop is certainly well stocked…
(and much more easy to wander round without getting lost if losing the will to live)

Taking tea is a completely different issue.
F&M is brilliant to have a casual cup of tea with a friend, on the 1st floor Parlour. You get a large lated pot of tea to yourself (and as much water to top up if desired)

Secondly I can recommend having tea in hotels. These places are usually a lot more private and quiet if you feel like catching up with a friend.
I can recommend The Chancery Court Hotel and the Athenaeum Hotel. Service and selection is excellent at both, and please remember to smile at the jolly doorman at the Athenaeum. 🙂

Alternatively Liberty’s is a great alternative. Their bustling tea room can be found on the ground floor… Please sample the rose jam on your scones! (service can regretfully sometimes be slow, but not bad to look at in the meantime)

Then thirdly there is the Tea itself.

Kousmichoff's traditional tins...

Everyone has their own favourites and recipes… (my grandmother passed on her to me, but I can not publish that online 😉
At my house you will always find a selection of at least three of the following teas:

Infusions
I love Tilleuil (lime blossom) and Verveine (Verbena) for the evenings or in between…Just add a dash of Lime blossom honey to give a light lemony sweetness to the infusions and enjoy!
Chai blends of spices are a wonderful opposite of the light and refreshing herbs above. Lovely in winter with some warm milk to warm you outside and in…

Green tea
Gen Maicha (Japanese green tea with puffed rice) always packs a punch with anti oxidants and the smoky smell of the rice.
Chung Hao (Chinese Green tea dried under a blanket of Jasmine) The Tea House and Simon Levelt in Holland have the best kind.

It's all good...

Black tea
Formosa Oolong (half fermented tea, so between black and green) reminds me of the lovely tea time by the fire in Sparham.
Troika (with bergamot and mandarin), Traktir (smoked with bergamot and spices) and Prince Vladimir (with spices and vanilla) and simply every other Russian blend from Parisian based Kousmichoff teas. If you think that the UK is the only European country with a tea tradition, you really should visit Kusmi teas old factory at Avenue Niel in Paris…

All you need is a warm fire, some soft water… a good kettle and a good friend.

(and my gigantic Spode tea cups/buckets haha)

Enjoy…

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Could do with a splash of colour, no?

Last week in the West Countries I had another run in with one of the most sides of governmental culture in the UK.

At a lavish dinner at Drogo Castle we were served the most bizarre combinations of food and wine I have ever seen/tasted.
This in itself this does not have to be too bad, but the reasons behind it are the real howler.

Castle Drogo is a wonderful Lutyens confection on top of one of the most glowing hills of Devon. It is a vast 20th century fort of granite and oak. The dining room is no exception from this general theme, heavy woods and stones surround you, while one of the bombastically laced late Victorian ancestresses looks down on you from above the fireplace.

Oaks? I see a theme here...

The National Trust, who was our more than courteous host, had laid out the full spread. (tea and scones at intervals of 20 minutes!) But there were some dissonants.
At the main course we were served an enormous rack of lamb each, while they poured Chardonnay?!

As it turns out the Trust suffers from a supreme case of blanket decision-making… Red wine is not allowed in any of the Trust’s estates, as the wine might stain the chattels! In the old days the lady of the house would surely have found a clever way to manage the maintenance while boosting entertainment… Regretfully the Trust has an average of 5 layers of manager to work through, so blanket management is the only option. So even in an uncarpeted granite vault red wine may not be touched!
No room for discussion, and certainly no exceptions…

Secondly I noticed that at dinner the tables were decorated with battery fueled candles. A completely new thing to me… I must admit that occasionally my mind wandered from the conversation to the flickering orange tipped plastic tubes, almost hidden within a fake ‘piece de milieu’. The reasons for this were not the common disease of blanket management, but the many-headed and untamed dragon queen of blankets called:

Oh the beast!

Health and Safety

This simple law is the source of one of my other confusements: the fact that our London office kitchen is not allowed to house a toaster…

Off course it is fully understandable… Toasters are terribly corrosive and evil examples of home appliances. It is no wonder that they are regionally housed in underground facilities known as Toast Bunkers.  4 foot walls of concrete secure the outside world of the terror of the toast. Only fully certified  staff (who have all fill out forms 3b, 5c&f and 39.9, stamped by the three main departments of food preparation, open fire and heat regulation and have at least completed 2 courses in health and safety management) in bullet and fire-proof suits are allowed into the chambers, stretching out long tongs grasping quivering slices of incinerated bread…

No indeed, imagine what would happen if just anyone would own or operate a toaster in their homes, the Horror!

No madam, indeed… that kind of mis management could mean the end of the world as we know it…

Smell something?

On an alternative note…
Could you imagine a life without the smell of toast in the morning, with the occasional one including the mad rush to save a burning exemplar? (you know what kind of day it will be when you do, no?) Without the sense of danger of the occasional smell of fire and burnt toast we would surely all become cowardly or foolishly brave…
Can you imagine not having the childhood memory of your amazement while watching your father/mother pick out a burned piece of toast and scraping of the back bits with a knife? (and the mess that black stuff leaves in the sink…)

No indeed.
Better be Safe then Scrumptious..

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