Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Sitting and shivvvverrring

Summer-wise life here is hot, hot, hot. The winter’s a different matter. Those tiled floors and painted walls that help keep the house refreshingly cool when it’s 40 plus - not so nice when you’re in single figures. Outside it might be nearly 20, but inside, at my desk, I’m wearing a shirt, a jumper and a cardigan, and I’ve still got the chills.

Winter in warmer climes is never much fun, especially for those who shifted here for the heat. Anyone who’s happy to take whatever the summer can throw at them, isn’t going to fare so well when the mercury drops. In the end, though, it’s worth the pain. I would far prefer a few months of shivering (followed by a long hot summer) to 10 or 11 months of drizzle.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Back in love with Salento

It’s been an odd few months. We’ve had a fantastic summer, despite a few ups and downs (in-laws related mainly), but the overall feeling at the beginning of September was that maybe this isn’t where we should be. More than a feeling, in fact; it was enough to drive us to the UK property websites to research whether we still have the means to return to the UK.

And then, just like that, we fell in love with Salento again.

This weekend sealed the deal, for me at least. It was gorgeously warm. Saturday we swam to a small island, which was deserted. We cast ourselves away for a few hours of swimming, sunbathing and beachcombing. Discovered broken pieces of terracotta, red and green sea urchin shells and a dried-up starfish clinging to a shard of pottery.

That evening we had dinner out at a cheap, family-run place in a palm-lined square. Two plates of meatballs, a large mixed grill, chips, wine, water, bread and two plates of vegetables all came to €30 for the three of us. It was all delicious, but the highlight was greens (chicory?) with chilli.

Sunday we swam to the island again. This time we weren’t alone there, but the water was even clearer than it had been on Saturday. We forfeited watching the Singapore Grand Prix for a few more hours in the sun and sea (who wouldn’t); then swam to shore and returned home, exhausted.

There are days when the lack of cash and jobs makes life here almost intolerable. But time with family, time outdoors and good food counteract these. We’re still not convinced we’re here for the duration – but at least, while we are here, we’re enjoying life to the full.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Peach and almond tart


For pastry:

250g organic plain flour, plus extra for dusting
50g icing sugar, sifted
125g good-quality cold butter, cut into small cubes (or a mix of butter and marg)
1 large free-range or organic eggs, beaten
a splash of milk

For filling:

1kg peaches
50g sugar
50g butter (or 30g butter, 20g marg)
75g ground almonds
1 egg


To make the pastry

Seive the flour and the incing sugar into a bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingers. Make a well and break in the egg. Add a splash of milk and bind together to form a ball.
Leave to rest in the fridge for about an hour.
Roll out and line a large flan dish.

To make the filling

Mix the sugar, butter, egg and ground almonds together. Spread the mixture onto the pastry base.
Peel the peaches, cut into slices and arrange on the almond mixture.
Bake for 45-50mins minutes at 190°C.

Norway and Amy Winehouse – they’re both important

Saturday 23 July was a pretty grim day. We woke to horrific news from Norway. A bomb blast and a massacre by a cold-hearted, right-wing gunman; the majority of his victims young. Then at around 4.30 GMT Twitter rumours started that Amy Winehouse had died. Twitter’s rarely wrong about these things. The online community held it’s breath and, alas, the jungle drums were confirmed to be correct.

A pretty grim day by anyone’s estimation.

But then something strange happened. Some people started berating those placing RIP messages for Amy. Exclaiming that anyone who felt sorry for her loss was forgetting the victims in Norway. How wrong they were!

Here’s how I see it.

Whilst the two incidents both involve untimely deaths, the nature of the victims and the scale of the situations make them very different to deal with emotionally.

Amy was famous. A singer. Her best stuff was highly personal and will have spoken to many at a deep level. Fans, especially, will have felt a connection with her and the grief they experience will be similar to when someone you know dies.

Norway, on the other hand, is of a scale that is incomprehensible to most people. The number of victims and scale of the attack are still being understood. In the weeks to come victims’ names and stories will leak out into the media. The gaps in the story will be filled and people will start to be able to comprehend the full nature of the situation.

So, you see, it’s perfectly natural to feel emotional about both events – and in different ways. Sadness about the death of a troubled, yet talented, young woman and shock at a meaningless act of violence that took countless lives.

Grief is a complex emotion. It affects everyone differently and everyone deals with it in their own unique way. So to berate someone for expressing it, or to assume that because they have not said anything they don’t feel anything, is a harsh stance to take.

Next time – think before you tweet.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Today's conversation with my 5 y/o son

How to shatter your kid's dreams.

Me "Do you want to drive down the seafront today?"

Son "Yes. Can I?"

Me "Can you what?"

Son "Can I drive?"

Me "No, I meant I'll drive down the seafront."