Category Archives: Longform

I was going to tweet this nugget of meta, but I realised that, somewhat recursively, it would make something to write about in itself. I’ve actually written quite a bit this year compared to previously, driven I think mainly by photos with added narrative. If you’re kicking off blogging or getting back to it, it’s something to keep in mind – writing what you’d otherwise consign to a ‘Story’, using the photos to inspire narrative. I have something to write about that, the ‘Stories’, in my head, but that’s for another day.

If you’re reading this then you’re at least somewhat aware of my blog, the site that you’re reading this on right now, and you know that I after many years of hardly writing anything I suddenly came back to this playpen and set about two massive posts about dating and dating apps, and a whole pile of small waffly bits and photos. I wonder sometimes if those pieces (and an earlier one which was about autism, or not) have intimidated me into not attempting another of that scale, or if it’s just the effort involved and perhaps I’m lazy. I’m not shy of ideas (well, for topics; writing something interesting, witty, and amusing is a whole other problem. But I think it would come to me with my usual process.).

Anyway, that’s my meta. I should start chipping away again and deliver something that people would like to read that isn’t about bread or clamped lampposts.

Last Friday, which feels like… Well, I was going to write ‘a week ago’ and that’s pretty close to being true, but actually it feels like much more. Every week that passes feels both like more and less at the same time right now.

Anyway, the morning walks are still a highlight (no, it’s not always like that; this morning, for example, it was grey, wet, and miserable, but without the commitment to truly bad weather), no matter what the weather. If the current situation of having to stay at home is a lot for you, I can recommend a morning walk, not for the exercise, but just for the routine of getting out. It’s good to get out for yourself, if even a little bit.

I know, another sunrise. We take the vistas where and when we can get them. The second image is a tree full of Long-tailed Tits, although I don’t know if you can make them out. They’re tiny. They move from tree to tree in a cloud of endless excitable chirping and twittering, it’s amazing and very joyful to hear. This is only the second time that I’ve ever seen them, and there’s every chance that it’s the same flock as before.

I’m still getting the hang of this new bird photography technique; my problem at the moment is getting the shutter speed, depth of field and angle right. Obviously, since it is by remote, I have to plan it ahead. Birds being birds, they’re never quite where you want them to be for a photo, and some – but not all – species get frightened by the shutter, so they scarper as soon as they hear something.

A Chaffinch
A Robin

So that’s why the remote images are not so sharp. I had this suspicion that perhaps my lens needs calibrating, but other things are sharp, so it probably means that my shutter speed is too low for the rapid movements of birds, or the point of focus isn’t quite where it needs to be in any given photo relative to the subject (the bird in the photo).

I got a new remote for my camera, so that I can operate it from a distance, from any angle. It also means that I can get the camera right up to the birds, and from interesting angles. I’m still figuring out what works; for example, the shutter noise bothers some birds. Magpies don’t like that the camera is there at all (no bad thing – they’ll probably try to steal it).

At last, a photo of a Dunnock. Next up, I’ll try and get a photo of squabbling Goldfinches.

The cheap remote. It sits on top of the camera.

Haha, yes indeed, the biscuit mountain that I’ve been posting photos of recently, it was great, and then I felt that maybe it deserves an explanation. I was reorganising my kitchen and then I discovered that…

A poorly-judged investment in Biscuit Futures I strongly suspect that ‘futures’ is a word only really understood in North America. And Canadia.

I discovered that I have acquired in my kitchen a very large amount of almost non-perishable foods in the form of biscuits, crackers and snacks, things that I like but don’t really eat a lot of, especially now that during most of the week I don’t eat after 3 in the afternoon (I’ll get back to this another time). And this is the sort of thing that creeps up on you; you buy some here, get another of those there, are you running out of this, and so on, until after three and a half years, I have… an awful lot of biscuits and crackers.

I had set out to rearrange where everything is in the kitchen, because stuff (such as flour, which you’ll recall featured heavily in the posts on baking recently) was starting to spread out, to get put into various places. Things were illogically placed. There were boxes of things that I started thinking about, haven’t they been there for a while? A very long while? Aren’t there a lot of these things here? Isn’t that cupboard very full? Is it possible that for a single, middle-aged man, regularly feeding a child, occasionally baking, not eating a huge amount (although probably still slightly too much, but he’s working on it), that this kitchen is stocked for a family of 6 ravenous Baboons?

Kevin, when the snacks fell.
That’s a solid Star Trek: The Next Generation reference, and I’m not sure too many people got it, which is a shame.

So that’s when I got into it, digging everything out and sorting through it. I actually planned to do this earlier in the year when I started baking and realised that the kitchen is a bit full for a one-man operation, and not very tidy. If you’re going to have people over in the middle of a Europe-wide pandemic lockdown, you’d want your kitchen to be tidy.

Look, there’s a silver lining here, which is that while it’s clearly and painfully wasteful that I’ve somehow managed to store two crates of biscuits and crackers and whatnot for no good reason, and I can’t just give people half a pack of two year-old biscuits as an act of bone-headed charity, I also… didn’t eat them. That’s right, I am sort of a hero, because I didn’t eat two crates of biscuits, which is amazing. I had that power and used it for good, I didn’t eat them. I just left them to accumulate around my kitchen until now.

And now I have to eat them.

So I bought some new mountain bike tyres, an exercise into which I put the usual amount of effort that I do into buying something like this; I started many months ago, I researched, I compared, I agonised, I procrastinated, I reasoned, I weighed, I balanced, I came up with a business case, I came up with a counter-case, I researched, I compared, I agonised all over again, and finally the tyres went out of stock because time moves on and Schwalbe had enough time to rotate their product line and had no fucks to give for my careful research process. But it is coming into Winter now, and the tyres that came with my bike are more suitable for dry conditions. They grip the mud dearly and don’t let go of it, and it makes for interesting times in the mud. And they’re a pain to clean afterwards, for the little cycling that I do (especially now in lockdown, because once again, that is where we are).

They arrived on Thursday. The bike is a ’29er’ which means that it has the great bike road bike-sized wheels that the young people like, and I much prefer folding tyres, which are lighter but also more awkward to work with, especially when they’re new and they’re ‘tubeless ready’ which means a snugger fit in anticipation of using sealant and no inner tube. Anyway, long story short, after an hour and a half I had not succeeded in fitting them. I went back and forth, I tried this and that, nothing. It wasn’t helped by me using a 26″ latex inner tube, which is fine once fitted but doesn’t really want to coöperate, especially if fitting the tyre isn’t going well.

So I watched some YouTube videos before bed, and found out some of the (with the benefit of hindsight, obvious) tricks for getting tyres on, especially here and here and also here, which isn’t a video. I also watch some other stuff and was religiously radicalised. I’ve decided that the Raëlian Church is where it’s at, and I’ll be calling each and every one of you about the Message from the Designers. Presumably, something about not using Comic Sans, and good leading practices. I’ve only just started.

Friday? 5 SECONDS. 5 FUCKING SECONDS BY DOING IT PROPERLY ACCORDING TO A SMUG GUY IN A YOUTUBE HOW-TO. Just like that. Easy. By making sure that the part I seated first was in the dip in the rim and then pulling down towards the last part to go on, I could do it easily with not a lot of effort. It was a little trickier with the tube admittedly; I use latex tubes for 26” wheels, so they’re a bit too small. It’s my compromise between tubes and going tubeless, which involves filling your tyres with liquid latex soup that instantly seals punctures.

The upshot was that I got my tyres on quickly, and I could’ve spent my lunch on Friday thinking about mountain biking instead of thinking about tyres.

As an aside, the new tyres are Schwalbe Rocket Rons (Evo Speed), replacing Racing Ray and Racing Ralph. Those tyres are good, but suited to dry conditions, and clog up quickly in mud. These are from the better range and are 150 to 200 grammes lighter per tyre. That might not seem like much, but for rotating weight, that’s a lot.

Shortbread is the purity of cake; just flour, butter, sugar, heat and long-term cardiovascular trouble requiring medication and surgical intervention.

I set myself an admittedly silly challenge yesterday as a response to an enormously stressful Tuesday, by applying the sane type of approach that gave the world USA President Donald J. Trump and outsourcing my challenge to Twitter. Anyway, the upshot was to get the divorce process moving and bake a cake of some sort, and somewhat surprisingly keeping my job.

It’s a Jaime Oliver recipe, from his Big Book, so I have no link. He probably has it on his website, or a variation of it. It’s lovely, but heavier than depleted Uranium. A small piece of this could sustain an adult for weeks (and that’s what it was originally supposed to do).

In conclusion, by way of outrageous statement, I’m pretty much an incredible guy. If you met me you would be all “wow, this is pretty much an incredible guy” and I would say ”Well, hey” because I already knew it but enjoyed your realisation of it.

I know, another crumble! Easy to make, and tasty! I improvised a little, a jazz crumble if you will (that works on several levels for an apple crumble by the way, so it’s even more clever than you realise) by adding a thin shortbread base and some frozen junk from the bottom of the freezer (that’s better than it sounds), if a little dry for crumble. The problem that I have is this; I like cake, and now I’ve discovered that I can quickly and easily make a lot of cake that I like, myself. All the time. If I wanted to, I could just eat cake, becomes a metaphor for the decadence of middle-class privilege.

Anyway, it wasn’t too bad.