Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Back to 3BT

Yesterday was surprisingly emotional, I confess to taking my frustration out on some dough, which did at least benefit it's rising and made a decent loaf!

Today I want more positivity, so I'm going to get myself back into the habit of 3BT

  1. An hour spent first thing this morning having reflexology with dear friend and foot wizard, P.
  2. Being taught to crochet by a very kind woman in the next village...I may yet be able to make some cute christmas prezzies.
  3. A Jay flies past the kitchen window - I love the colour on their wings.
What are your 3BT today?

Monday, 22 June 2009

More Tea Vicar?

Sometimes I struggle to think of something to write for my blog...occasionally I have a jolly good rant and get things off my chest, rarely I think of something funny to say....today is neither.

I'm feeling like a helium balloon that's been around for a bit...and has deflated....I'll explain -

In January I met our (not so new) Vicar for the first time. Between her being really rather ill, and us not being good (at all) at going to church it was our first meeting....the occasion was the Village new year party in the pub, I was dragged over to 'meet the Vicar'....mentally getting myself prepped for this torment I told myself that I must not do my usual vocab and use phrases such as "Oh my God" or worse! Ready?

Well, the Vicar couldn't have been a bigger surprise, she blew away any previous entrenched thoughts I had about women vicars. This one was VERY different. This one happily discussed any religion, any ideas. This one drank as socially as the rest of us, this one swore like a trooper, this one genuinely cared about the people in her parish....earth shatteringly this one understood what the people in our parish actually needed.

Having a Vicar that's a breath of fresh air has been wonderful, spiritually uplifting and lots of fun, and as a result of her hard work our parish wants to grow that feeling of shared community. 

The death of a much loved pillar of the parish was transformed by the Vicar and his widow into something positive and pulled the village further together. This she did with humour and huge  tenderness. 
What could be a village with little community feeling (as we are all very geographically spread out, no village shop or post office) became very strong....strong enough to make un-churchy me join in - and that's saying a great deal!

Coming from London, where culture and backgrounds are diverse and accepted, it has been wonderful to meet somebody so open minded, so untraditional, so interested by life and people, so genuine.

So why am I rattling on here? Well, because soon there will be no "more tea Vicar?" (though in her case we always offered a nice glass of Viognier).

There will be no more Vicar V in our parish...at the end of the summer another very lucky parish in Somerset will gain our loss.

Why? I hear you scream....and it is a fair question.  Why, because another more powerful village in our benefice has been so backward thinking, so closed to new ideas (any ideas), so spiteful, so unwelcoming that our lovely Vicar has looked for pastures new...
...nobody with real soul and heart could stay.

It seems to me that there is no benefit in being part of a benefice.
Villages are just that....little groups, little communities...and when the balance is good it has community - it is more than just a collection of houses.
Being part of a benefice in which a few out of touch old farts get to pick and choose who tends to our ministry seems to be very unfair.

Then the thorny issue (yes, I am deliberately using that word) of this Benefice's treatment of our fab Vicar....the hypocrisy is lost on them.....yes, you vile lot who call yourselves 'Christians'....you give the word a seriously bad name.

Real Christians never behave like this. 
Real Christian church wardens would not refuse to light candles for their Vicar, nor would they make her feel they way they have.

Since I'm not very Christian...I'm happy to say I hope their rotten souls get the attack of bad karma they so obviously deserve.

Oh God! that wasn't very nice of me was it?  That's because I'm fuming...as are the rest of our little village, we've found a collective soul through Vicar V...and now some mouldy old stick in the mud's have muscled in on our spiritual journey and spoilt the trip.

The frustration is palpable, as one little place we can't have our own Vicar...instead we are at the very un-christian mercy of the BIGGER Village...who get to call the shots.

So, what do we do? Other than organise monthly coach trips down to V's new parish (could be fun)...how do we continue our journey without her. 
If spiritual journeys were easy Vicars wouldn't exist...and they do.... because finding spirituality isn't always easy, and our little church without her vibrant energy is going to feel like a very sad and empty place...it's going to be really hard to keep momentum.

We are her flock, she is our Shepherd and sheepdog....so dear God, Allah, Buddha whoever you are up there can you look kindly on us? Don't let all her good work here stall...please? 
Take it from a girl who grew up in the smoke....this little community has something really special.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Too Much Coffee

Too much coffee definitely gives you the jitters...

We used to be happy, jitter free owners of a lovely Gaggia Titanium - a bean to cup machine that made reliably good coffee - whenever you pressed a little button! 
But woe...it died (ruptured boiler - ouch!) and the thought of sending it off to Gaggia to be fixed (on Italian time) for a second stint was too much...it was time for a change to something that didn't need a four month holiday in order to get sorted.

The trouble is the blasted alternatives ...having decided that we had progressed in our coffee appreciation enough to 'go manual' it opened a real can of worms - there are SO many choices and variations - all the coffee forums are frequented by complete anoraks who wax lyrical about buying commercial machines...and spending thousands of pounds!!!
They fiddle and tune their machines to get stronger and stronger brews...they must be sky high in the process.
One Ristretto and I can actually feel the caffeine coursing through my veins!

In the gorgeous Anthony Capella book "The Food of Love" the barista takes this to extreme heights...and kills himself in the search for the perfect espresso! 

We do not intend to go this far!!!

So, with difficulty we trod a path through to find a good 'prosumer' machine (for this read heavy duty, almost commercial but not quite, and fixable by the Engineering minded  Husband when it plays up ( because it will) and a grinder ( for those of you who haven't met the geeks - the grinder is apparently more important than the machine!). 
Can you see my eyebrows raising from here?

So...ta dah! I reveal our choice...  we've called her 'Sofia' 

Sofia is an attractive, temperamental and passionate Italian...
...and my Husband is now 'on call' to tend to Sofia's every need / whim.

He can't wait for an excuse to get her insides out and have a good fiddle!

Sofia is like a F1 racing car...she needed setting up and tuning before Gavin and Carolyn at Another Coffee would declare her ready to 'drive'....they are on standby in the pit lane as we speak... ready with spares!!!

And does all this gadgetry produce better coffee than the the nice reliable Gaggia bean to cup machine....

Mmmm....sometimes! The trouble being - we are having to make excessive amounts of espresso to learn to be decent home baristas!

 The variables for making the perfect coffee are complex and elusive...and frankly enough to make a girl's head hurt.

You need to...
  1. Have the machine on for the right length of time to be properly warmed up.
  2. Grind the coffee to the right grind setting (this is so much harder than it sounds)
  3. Fill the head with just the right amount of coffee.
  4. Tamp the coffee ...not to hard, not too soft (crucial and can result in choking the machine)
  5. Bleed off some water from the machine, so as not burn the coffee.
  6. Count while the coffee comes through the group head apparently a good espresso starts trickling through at 7 seconds and you shouldn't let anything after 25 seconds into the cup. It should be 1 fluid oz!
  7. Flush through machine and clear it up

Ok - so this doesn't sound so hard - but it jolly well is - because into this equation - for no apparent reason the blasted coffee comes through not at all (choked machine) or gallons of the stuff...and yet it feels like you did everything  just as you had for the previous cup with miraculously different results! 


And I haven't even mentioned foaming the milk yet!!!! 
Sofia does not possess a 'panerello' (cheats device for making perfect froth) so my frothy milk is looking distinctly lacklustre and 'latte art' is definitely out of the question (thank goodness for that).

Is it all worth it? I hear you cry....well....that might be a tricky question to answer...
...for the good coffee Sofia and I make is absolutely fantastic...
....the bad, sadly is unspeakably so!

And this is the worst bit...when I make a coffee for a friend - will they 'fess up if it's a vile one?
It's a Stephen Hawkingesque thing....is the perfect coffee possible every time?...is it a question of time and space?

Or in a parallel universe is there another me whose Gaggia is still going strong....and the other me is looking seriously smug and jitter free?

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Unfinished Symphony

This week I was supposed to be working my way through a never ending list of snagging on the house...the list is on the fridge door...it's very long.

...and am I painting / oiling / sanding / filling etc, etc, etc?

Well,.......no!  I'm absolutely fed up with it - the temptation to scream if I spot another pot of paint is immense!

I'm one of those people who really doesn't kick into action unless I have a deadline - we had huge ones to get the structure finished...cooking a 70th birthday lunch party for 40 the day after the kitchen doors and worktop went in, then having Americans to stay for 10 days - so the new bedroom and bathroom had to be finished!

We did it, but we did it all on adrenaline...then we stopped...and the energy levels haven't picked back up again! Working until 1am night after night, then doing a 'day job' is pretty exhausting.

The house has just gone online for B and B....but even this hasn't scooped up some little remnant of energy to finish off...I need a booking...I need a bit of pressure!

I ought to be high as a kite - our coffee machine died during the building work...and last week we replaced it - I have been trying ever since to produce the perfect espresso, but even the caffeine excesses haven't solved my apathy for DIY!

On the up side - every trace of peach has been obliterated, maybe that's the problem...nothing looks really  'bad' anymore!

Any suggestions?