Monday, November 24, 2008

Ice cream Sunday

Prior to setting off for the North-East, I had acquired a copy of The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz. This is chock-full of recipes for gorgeous-sounding ice creams, sauces, mix-ins and serving vessels, and I wasted little time in making use of it. First up was a roasted banana ice-cream with hot fudge sauce and chocolate chip cookies; it's an easy, delicious way to use up those bananas that always seem to linger in the fruit bowl, reproaching you. However, that was soundly beaten by yesterday's cheesecake ice cream. Oh my! This unbelievably simple concoction involved just cream cheese, sour cream, single cream, sugar, lemon zest and salt, and tasted exactly like the best American (not Yorkshire) cheesecakes. As those cheesecakes tend to have a biscuit base, I paired it with chunks of chocolate biscuit cake and it was divine! We had to limit ourselves to one scoop each because, y'know, it's basically just frozen fat, but we will return to the trough tonight for some more.

Next week, sweet potato ice cream.

To Hull and back

Our brief vacation ended with a night in Hull. Before we went, I knew a few things about Hull:

1. The Housemartins were the fifth-best band in Hull.
2. It had its own telephone company pre-privatisation.
3. Er, that's it.

Having visited Hull, I now know that it's also a rather nice city. Our visit did not start auspiciously, what with the rain, the lack of a car park at our hotel, and getting lost (twice!) on the way to the apparently hard-to-miss multistory. However, cheap alkyhol in a local pub and a trip to the cinema to see Quantum of Solace improved our mood. The next day, we discovered that Hull has some lovely buildings, courtesy of its trading/fishing past: the guildhall, customs houses, and riverside warehouses were impressive, and there were many quaint streets and squares scattered throughout. We saw the distinctive cream telephone boxes of Kingston Communications and pavements lined with engraved, fish bricks. Cooplands bakeries abounded, selling pink iced finger buns and Yorkshire curd tarts (yum). And we chanced upon a Chinese supermarket, so stocked up on big bottles of soy and chilli sauce -- a real bonus. It could do without the giant Big Brother-esque TV screen showing 24-hour news in the center of the city and the lorries delivering what sounded like scaffolding at 5 a.m., but apart from that, Hull gets a thumbs-up from me.

However, the highlight of the trip for this bridge geek was the Humber Bridge. This magnificent structure was the world's longest single-span suspension bridge for 17 years. It crosses a massive, muddy tidal estuary and was as impressive as I had imagined it would be. We even managed to pick up some Humber Bridge-related Christmas presents in the local tourist information office; I'm sure their recipients will be as thrilled by them as I was by the bridge itself.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dracula doesn't live here anymore

And there weren't many Goths around, either, which was somewhat disappointing. I had expected to see clumps of them, drifting around town and sitting among the tombstones, applying makeup to each other and being miserable (just as they used to do by the fountains outside C&A in Norwich). But we did get some sunshine, lovely food at The Moon & Sixpence and The Magpie Cafe, and a great hotel room right on the harbour with excellent breakfasts and cocktails -- highly recommended.

Was he singing about Scarborough?

"Trudging slowly over wet sand
Back to the bench where your clothes were stolen
This is the coastal town
That they forgot to close down
Armageddon - come armageddon!
Come, armageddon! come!

Everyday is like Sunday
Everyday is silent and grey."

Actually, Sunday was windy, cold, and wet. Very wet. And a lot of places in Scarborough were closed down for the winter. But despite that, it had a lot of charm. The bay is beautiful; the amusement arcades and chip shops reminded me of Great Yarmouth, the scene of my childhood seaside outings; and it had a fantastic second-hand book shop. What more can you ask of any town?

Been fish n' chipping

Yes, we finally took our 2008 vacation -- just 6 weeks before the end of the year. Off to the glamorous North-East of England: Scarborough, Whitby, Staithes, Bridlington, Hull -- the names just trip, elegantly, off the tongue. We walked along windswept beaches, got soaked in a torrential downpour while returning to our windmill-based B&B, ate fish, climbed up hilly seaside streets, ate more fish, read books, and finally -- and remarkably -- got fed up with eating fish. Good times!

Monday, November 03, 2008

An intruder calls

Clue no. 1: all the cat crunchies were gone when I came down this morning.
Clue no. 2: a bag of rubbish in the utility room has been ripped apart and, empty packets of cat food tossed across the floor.
Clue no. 3: there's a puddle of urine on one of our chairs.

I'm not a particularly smart feline CSI, so it didn't occur to me that this wasn't our cats misbehaving in an out-of-character way. I just assumed I was being punished for some slight, as yet unknown. However, when the cats started growling at the sofa in the office, it became clear that something was underneath -- and I looked to see a pair of worried eyes looking back. The cats were kicked out into the conservatory, the sofa lifted up -- and out shot the fat tabby that hangs out in the allotments behind us. The poor thing had come in during the night, found that the cat flap was set to "in only" and so couldn't get out -- and he must have been terrified!

However, I hope that he doesn't come back to eat more of our food. And I clearly need to sign Shin and Nin up for some assertiveness classes; they are useless guard cats.