Tesco to close 43 stores…

February 16, 2015

…but in Tescoville, they’re opening yet another Express (or it might be a Metro). This time in a new build block, clearly built with provision for a convenience store on the ground floor.

I have tried hard, but I cannot think of a convenience store that is not Tesco. True, in the outlying villages there is a Sainsburys local, a Morrisons [whatever] and a little Waitrose, but these are in the centre of their own little conurbations, not part of Tescoville. I’m not counting a Marks and Spencer simply Food outlet as it’s in a retail development and about the same size as the food hall in any regular M&S.

I put the tally in Tescoville as follows: 2 large supermarkets, one centre and one edge of town; 2 as part of an Esso garage shop [the little Waitrose mentioned above is in a Shell garage shop]; 1 in a converted pub, 2 in other converted retail outlets (one a car showroom). Another pub was down to be convered to a Tesco, but somehow the application failed due to a nearby existing store – and that’s a terrible place, I’ve been in there and report that first hand! There is also a Tesco metro in one of the outlying villages, being the only food shop in the entire village.

Of course there are other large supermarkets, a big Sainsburys, Morrisons, ASDA, scattered around the place, and I’ve not counted a co-op or similar, or the independents being shops pre-existing the convenience store craze. But how and why Tesco have so dominated the convenience store sector in the town is beyond me. It is of note that in the neighbouring smaller towns in the area, Tesco is conspicuous by its absence.

Mind you, it’s not sweetness and light in the villages. The above Sainsburys seems to have caused the closure of the nearby Budgens, which is now empty (despite the larger floorspace it had).

The Waitrose chain of supermarkets has, for almost the past two years, put out a weekly newspaper called Waitrose Weekend. Recipes from Delia Smith and Heston Blumenthal were very much in evidence to start with, less so now, and other people that you have heard of (not necessarily for food) also write columns. Some pages are pointless for me, for example TV listings, and their giving an review of the omnibus of ‘The Archers’ – almost a week late – was thankfully soon dropped.

Anyway, the paper is free, so I get a copy, as occasionally there is something worthwhile in it. What I did not expect was the following picture. This picture has been scanned from the paper, at high resolution, then shrunk in an attempt to make it at least – I was about to write ‘readable’, you know what I mean, ‘visible’ does not exactly have the same meaning. So apologies for the relatively poor picture.

Illustration from Waitrose Weekend, 5th Jan 2012

What was it that caught my eye? Not the Hellibore, but a series 1 Rotring Tikky pencil (the top impliment on top of the garden plan). Even without the comparison of later models, in this picture the pencil just looks sleek, a precision tool, a detail lost in the later incarnations of this pencil. It has just occurred to me that the metal collar above the taper to the point holder may in part help give this impression, although they are all the one piece of metal. One can also argue that the angle of the taper itself helps give the precision tool impression as well.

Now this must be a stock photo from somewhere, although I could not see any credit for it, partly as it is hard to see how Waitrose would have the staff and the time to put together such photographs, and secondly, where they would get hold of what is now a relatively old, and almost unobtainable pencil, especially when more modern Rotrings (and all other makes) are readily available for a pound or two.

Fruits of a (late) Autumn

November 15, 2011

A couple of days ago I took a late Autumn walk up a favourate hill.  In part it was a valedictory run out in my MB, which goes off the road in a couple of days while I try and get the parts to repair it, and then get an MOT for it.

The old girl recently broke down, but within walking distance of Mother’s, so it doesn’t count as a ‘leaving me in the lurch’ breakdown that my old Saab specialised in.  Luckily I had a spare MB at Mother’s to help me out.  Having finally repaired the MB by the side of the road, (who would suspect two or more spark plugs failing at the same moment?), and using parts from the other, to get it running and thus back-to-base (and there is much more to this than I report here, believe me) this was a run out before the MOT expired.  I know the work that needs doing to the old thing, I just have not had the chance to get it done this year.

Anyway, on what is one of my favourate walks, I was struck by the fluoresent pink ‘flowers’ – or rather fruit coverings – of a plant I’ve never seen before.  The upper branches were bare, the lower had a few leaves plus these ‘fruits’.

This does not look like a native plant to me.

And here is a photo of a leaf, with a rather unusual insect.

And so onto the hill.  And what I noticed most was the ‘fruit’ so often associated with the time before the first frost – Fungi.  I found one that I knew was edible – a puffball, but sadly I’ve forgotten more than many people know about identification of fungi (similarly with wild flowers) so I stare at it, knowing full well I used to know what it was, edible or poisonous etc, but not a clue now.  Oh how cruel the 50th year is.

In the walk, I was surprised as the hare that I surprised, in that I surprised it in the first place.  Humans, with mobile phones, and broadcast inane conversations (which suggested they had not a clue where they were, or did I just mishear that) annoyed me far more.

It was almost dark by the time I got back to the old car.  Too late to pick some rose hips (far too late for brambles despite a bramble flower I’d noticed up the hill).

November is rather late for a bramble to flower...

Apple harvest 2011 (2)

October 23, 2011

Not much more time on this today – work and some of the jobs I didn’t do yesterday because I had to work yesterday.

I made a comment previously that the two bi-annual cropping apple trees were both fruiting heavily.  True, to a point.  The Adam’s Pearmain is fruiting heavily, for a year when it normally would not.  But so far I’ve got one tray picked from the tree, one tray of windfalls.  This is rather fewer than I had expected from looking at the tree, although other comments about the size of some of the fruit still stands.  5 more trays of Mutsu (in addition to the 12 gallon containers from yesterday), loads more Mutsu on the tree, but rather fewer Adam’s Pearmain still visible.  One of the unknowns has a large number of fruit, but are beginning to fall.

I’m already running out of storage for the fruit – and they are not well stored as it is now.  Let alone finding somewhere cool.

I’ve also spent a fair bit of time trying to find ways of preserving the apples to last.  Apple puree (mixed with blackberries, rosehips and/or spices for variants) would be a good idea if I had a working empty freezer, and that’s an expensive option.  Many of these puree/preserve recipes also require straining the mix at some point, another set of equipment I don’t have or the time to produce an alternative.

Crab apples are also falling at present, and I know of a few good trees.  I love crab apple jelly – although it is a pain to make because of the straining issue (above).  Why other apples don’t make a similar quality jelly I don’t know.



Apple harvest 2011

October 22, 2011

The Food Programme (BBC Radio 4) pointed out that this year is a bumper year for tree fruit.  As if I did not know, from the orchard at what was parent’s house, and which I am inheritor-presumptive (awaiting probate)

I had no chance to pick the fruit until today, when I only had half an hour, and despite the recent windy weather, most of the fruit is on the trees.  There are quite a number of windfalls.  On occasion I’ve gone out, picked up a windfall,  and baked the apple.  I made the interesting discovery that Adam’s Pearmain turns into an apple froth when baked, just as Bramley apples (‘cookers’ to those who don’t know any more) famously do.   Another (unknown) variety does not.

The photo above shows how heavily laden the Mutsu tree is.  In the half hour, I picked two tubs of 25 liquid litres (~6 gallons) just from a few branches so laden they were pickable by just standing under the tree.  I know I’ve only taken a small percentage of that tree, and there are others I’ve not yet started on.  It is ironic that father was so critical of ‘Golden Delicious’, yet it is one of the parents of Mutsu, which obviously has Japanese parentage as well, from its name.

The orchard has four apple and one pear tree surviving.  Even the pear tree cropped this year, neighbours picked 60% of the crop early – it overhangs their land, (they gave me a slice of the pudding they made from it), but the rest rotted before it was ripe.  The Pear tree was seriously ill, I thought it would die, but in the past couple of years it has slowly started to recover. Two years ago I managed to rescue one pear before it rotted – it was, as I remembered, delicious.  Variety Pitmaston Duchess.  Two other pear trees, Conference and one so long ago I now forget have died, whereas all the apples have survived.  It has just occurred to me as to whether the pear tree is self fertile (which is questionable), or if not, where the nearest pear tree is.

The apples clearly fertalise each other, for all the complexities of apple fertility (di and tri varieties).

There are two apple trees that had been in alternate bi-annual cropping, but both are heavily laden this year – Adam’s Pearmain and Mutsu (aka Crispin).  The other two are a mix.  One has Discovery plus something else unknown, the other is a different unknown.  ‘Unknown’ means that the trees are not as advertised when purchased – one was supposed to be Lord Lambourne, I forget what the other was supposed to be.  It may be that the trees are just the rootstocks, the budding having failed.  So maybe the fruit is ‘M19’ or other rootstock variety.  The Discovery was something my father and myself added (he was showing me how to do it), budding this variety onto the existing tree.

The Adam’s Pearmain is sometimes referred to as a Cider variety, although I’ve never seen it used for that.  The tree is a bud on a dwarfing rootstock from a tree at my paternal grandparents, and the story ran as follows.

They planted a tree, probably a Cox’s Orange, but it died.  The next year, there were shoots, from the rootstock.  It soon started fruiting.  My grandfather sent off some of the fruit to the RHS, who identified it as Adam’s Pearmain.  I vaguely remember the tree as being an enormous glory – shaped just as a child would draw a tree – at the bottom of grandparent’s
garden.   The house still exists, but there appears to be a factory built over where the tree used to stand (the garden is much shorter – albeit as viewed from the road).

Some of the Adam’s Pearmain this year are enormous – I cannot remember seeing these apples this large before.  The Mutsu I do remember was an enormous fruit in any case, although this year are smaller in general, I guess due to the sheer number.

One reason to pick the fruit is because the trees over hang the greenhouse these days, and I don’t need yet more broken glass to have to replace (it’s a tricky job).  But everything is in shadow at this time of year to the sycamores literally inches beyond the end of the garden, and even put the ground floor of the house (30 yards or more away) in shade during the day when the sun passes behind them.

Clearing Aunt’s House (1)

February 7, 2010

Clearing a house is never a pleasure. This is one of the worse ones. Although we had barely sratched the surface, I decided to try and get into the loft, in part just to check the water tank, and to find out how stuffed it was.

It was a surprise; most of the loft was empty. In the middle, however, was quite a find.

1 pint Kilner jars - still in boxes of 16!

A load of Kilner jars. I knew that there were a load in the kitchen (which could be seen, but not reached) filled with preserves from who knows when. But these were still in the remains of their original boxes. There are a host of the 1 pint jars of the 1960s (I think), the first Ravenshead jars with the metal sealing ring.

But there were also surprises beyond that:

Two rather more rare jars

On the left is an unused 4 pint jar. A size I never knew existed before the clearing started. On the right is an original Kilner jar, before the “Improved”, and with an original glass lid, and original rubber ring in the bottom. This is a seriously old unused jar!

There is so much in Aunt’s place that will be binned, or if I’m involved, where possible recycled. But I do aim to keep at least a selection of these jars.

The cold continues

January 9, 2010

Fountain in Heron Square, Richmond.

Heron Square is a privately owned block on the riverside at Richmond, ajoining Richmond bridge to the north. Usually the square is opened up on Saturdays to a Farmer’s Market. (They used to have their own web site but I could not find a link to it! It was quite sparse there today, I suppose post Christmas as well as the general cold.

For some reason they had left the fountain running over the cold spell, and it produced a rather intesting effect (above).

An unwelcome puddle…

October 28, 2009

..around the bottom of a kilner jar today alerted me to something wrong. I quickly emptied the jar – at least I had another spare one to hand for the contents. But while it had been dripping, it took ages for me to find the crack:


barely visible - a crack along the glass seam.

These Ravenhead kilner jars have two seams running down the edges, and for about 10mm at the bottom of one the seam looks much brighter in certain lights – very hard to photo, but if you look at any cracked glass item and move it around the light, you will know what I mean.

So somehow or other, this jar developed a very small crack, which then dripped the liqueur inside out. Oh well.

At one point I had far more of these jars than lids. In clearing out a cupboard at parents last year, I came across an old ice-cream container, which had half a dozen lids, and a bag of white seals – still flexible, but probably too old to use.

This post has one factor that will not be apparent, but is a first – I downloaded the picture from the phone to the computer, edited it and posted it without having to reboot the computer into another system to do the download from the phone camera.

Apple Orchard

October 18, 2009

View from tree-top height

View from tree-top height

Today I had a chance to pick apples in parent’s Orchard. Two of the trees, Adam’s Pearmain and Mutsu (aka Crispin) are in biannual cropping, and this year it’s Adam’s turn. Ivy has run riot this year, so it was a great surprise once I got the ladder out and climbed, somewhat gingerly, onto father’s shed. The photo shows the size of the crop, and I could only reach a fraction of it. That still filled a “bag for life”. I found one Mutsu apple.

There is another variety, unknown, large crop of very small fruit of apparent little merit.

For the last few years there was the problem of how to store/preserve this crop. Last year’s amost entirely spoilt, the previous year’s was attacked by vermin. So finding an Apple and Orange butter recipe on The Cottage Smallholder was a great help, and will be tried. And I dug out mother’s slow cooker to try, along with the bag of apples to sort, and use up those that clearly will not keep.

Now that recipe called for cooking apples, whereas Adam’s Pearmain is listed, curiously enough, as a cider apple. I wonder if the unknown variety is a cider apple, due to quantity and smallness of fruit; who knows. i remember eating the Adam’s even when it became shrivled (an apple jack, I believe).

A few Adam’s are enormous, the sort of thing to put into a show, if there were one with such a class (and, of course, the difficulty of finding half a dozen of the same size etc). I know that it is late to be picking the crop – almost after the first frost (not entirely sure if there was one there last night, but certainly very cold today).

Silicone bakeware

March 21, 2009


I’m not sure when I first noticed Silicone bakeware in cooking shops. Kingston (upon Thames) has two department stores – John Lewis and Bentalls (now part of Fenwick). The latter is the larger store, but also is often ahead of JL in the type of stock, as in this case.

Bentall’s often stock “Americana”, such as Heinz “Chili Sauce” (actually barely distiguishable from their Tomato Ketchup, in my opinion), or items that are clearly marketed for the US, and some brought over here. This is a case in point. The round silicone mat (although JL and Waitrose now stock this as well), as well as the four finger hot item grabber are clearly US branded – but I think made in China.

In fact the first item I purchased – the mat – was to help give me greater grip in opening jam jars and the like, as due to a continuing hand-injury, I now struggle with jam-jar lids, lemonade bottle tops and the like, and this does help. I got the idea from a colleague who has an old thin, round rubber mat for the same purpose.

JL do now stock some silicone bakeware, such as a range of A4 sized sheets with moulds for – for example – muffins, yorkshire puddings etc.

Today in Bentall’s I came across individual silicone muffin cases (as opposed to paper, or a multi-cake sheet). These are also in the picture above (UK branded as well, I noticed), and come in sets of different colours (range of six colours).

Muffin, cup-cake, fairy cake. I know them by the latter name, but the “Americanism” have brought the first two into prominance – perhaps they are better named. As well as whole books on the subject of recipies, there are now whole blogs, such as this American based one on the net.

Moreover, you find this bakeware in usual places, such as Lego brick shaped cake moulds The reviews are not so complimentry though…

Muffins and the like have a resonance from my University days. A New-Zealander I knew and worked with would often have a “brew” of Muffins on the go, but it was another aspect, which I have faintly alluded to above, which made me struggle – namely the LMTO model.

LMTO stands for “Linear Muffin-Tin Orbital”, and the idea is that atoms in a crystal look like an up-side down Muffin-tin. OK, do need to adjust for spacing, and layout, but that is the general idea. From this hypothesis, one worked out (using a computer working overtime in those days), the “band structure”, from which you could predict the properties of the crystal.

This is in fact far more important than it might sound, for example in the semi-conductor industry, such work has resulted in light emitting diodes in all colours, and now “white” ones bright enough to be used in torches (and coming soon – as main lighting in houses).