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on changing tastes


This is not just about food and drink, although I might as well start there. As you age your taste buds change as does your sense of smell and both affect how food and drink tastes. What we like or dislike can change as a result, but some of that is clouded by the way regulation has impacted on the food industry.

Recipes have changed to meet new regulations on things like preservatives and additives, and there have been other changes in the interests of profit. The way some foods are grown has also brought about change. In the same way that some cut flowers are grown for looks and have no scent, fruit and veg are grown in ways that make them look good, but have little or no taste.

A combination of these factors mean that when I revisit something that I used to enjoy twenty, thirty or more years ago it does not taste anything like I remember it, or at least I don’t get the same sense of enjoyment as I remember.

The same applies in other areas, and it was literature that got me started on this train of thought. The Berkshire Belle and I are avid readers. We can both get through a book in a day if we have nothing else to do, but she will get through around 5 a week and I am on about 3 at the moment. I tend to read bigger, non-fiction books more so we are probably about even in terms of words read a day.

Recently, having got used to an e-reader, I have been going back to some of the authors that I used to enjoy, but there have been some disappointments along the way. Back in the Seventies I found Neville Shute books in my local library and became hooked. I read all of them and enjoyed most, but re-visiting them has not been a success. I’ve picked on him as an example, but there are others. Stories that I found riveting half a lifetime ago I now find contrived and implausible. Alistair MacLean is another prime example.: His books kept me amused on many a road trip a while back, but leave me cold now (and not just Ice Station Zebra).

Not all tastes have changed though, because I have tried some authors that I could not get on with and still find them wanting. Jack Kerouac and Ernest Hemingway still have no appeal to me at all and I cannot understand why they are so lauded. Another popular author, more recent, that I have also tried again is Terry Pratchett, but his work still seems to just not quite get there for me, it seems to go off in the direction of genius, and then lets me down.

I suppose that experience has something to do with it. I have lived through a lot since I first started to read sixty five years ago, and the callow teenager, whilst not far below the surface in many ways, has turned into an old man who have seen and experienced a lot. My judgement has been influenced by all of it along the way. But is seems odd that whilst I have lost my taste for some of what used to give me pleasure, I have not learned to get on with some of the others.

One constant for me has been music and I still love stuff from my younger days every bit as much as I used to. Within my playlists there is classical music through blues, jazz, pop, rock, soul, country, reggae and other genres through to about the mid-1980s. You won’t find much created since then because I don’t like most of it. In fact after a purple patch from the mid-fifties to the mid-seventies things do tail off somewhat, but I still go back to all that and love it as much as I ever did. I am also still finding things from those times that I missed out on, but have now discovered and love just as much.

So have I got into anything new, things that I didn’t like, but now do? Well curry would be one. My first experiences of curry houses on the High Street back in the early seventies was not good and I loathed the stuff in terms of look, smell and taste, but the Hastings Hottie got me into curries gently, serving me up “spicy prawns” as she called them (a prawn curry to anyone else) and we’ve gone from there. The best meal that I have eaten was an Indian one, albeit at a Michelin starred restaurant, and working in North Africa, Thailand and China where I have eaten the authentic curries from those regions has helped me come to enjoy the stuff. I now cook it at home almost weekly.

I also had no taste for whisky until the late 1990s. I had only tried grain and blends by then and was not a fan, but ensconced in a Midlands hotel for a week at a time working on a project one of my colleagues introduced me to single malts in the bar one evening. I tried a few and whilst I could not get on with the heavily peated whiskies of Islay, I have grown to like most of the other regions and have enjoyed Japanese whisky too ( a 24 year old Yamazaki). I am a Speyside fan especially, but in my decanter at present is an Orkney.

A couple of examples there of things that I could not abide, but now enjoy, so I do have the capacity to add some new things to my life. At least I am still enjoying it.

the lockdown log 52


Well, that makes it a year and what a year it has been. Ignoring the plague, as best as I can, I am still working on the transformation of the back garden and am physically a different person. Mentally I am holding it together and do not think that I am any more, nor less, weird than I have ever been. Perhaps others should judge that though.

Tomorrow I go for my 6 monthly blood test and should know the outcome of that on Monday or Tuesday. I am hoping that my blood sugar results will still be down where they were last time and that I can reduce my Metformin dose or come off it altogether. I am not losing any more weight at the moment, but muscle build up may well be part of that. All of the heavy lifting and other activity that takes upon my afternoons is having a visible presence in the way some tee shirts are getting tight across the chest and shoulders (this time last year they were tight across the belly). I did have one moment of extreme hope earlier this week when I went for a weigh in before bed and the scales had me at 98.5 kg. I moved them to find an old fuse on the carpet beneath and they then gave me a more realistic 107 kg. Never mind.

My new greenhouse has the frame up, but I have found some other problems that need sorting before I finish it off. One of these is a couple of rotten deck boards that I will replace as soon as I can find the right sized timber and another is in dealing with my neighbour’s rotten fence that is now exposed. Project management was ever thus, but I will get there soon. Once the greenhouse is up and operational I can start work on some of the rest of what needs doing to get the deck functional again as a deck rather than a construction site. This time of year is one where planting starts and I am trying to get my head around the hanging baskets and what need to go into the areas that usually get planted with annuals.

Some of the management training and experience kicks in with this sort of thing and I find myself instinctively treating it all like work. I have a day book back in use for keeping To Do lists, sketching ideas, doing little for and against lists to help decide on problems and so on. I suppose that I did it for so many years it has just become second nature and I find that it does help me.

The skip has gone now so I am starting to get a pile of discarded or unwanted stuff that will had to go to the council tip soon. Most of the old shed is getting reused for various things and to such good effect that I might not have enough of it left to build the bench for the BBQ that I had planned on. I am a compulsive hoarder of things that might be useful though and may well have enough odd pieces of timber available. You’ll find out here in the coming weeks how I have got on.

I am writing this early on Thursday with the aim of getting the bulk of it written before nipping out on a shopping run around 0800 and then being able to get out into the garden for two or three hours before the rains that are forecast arrive around lunchtime. If I cannot work outside later then there are some inside jobs on the list that can take up my afternoon and then it will be time to cook dinner and another day off will be gone. I have some celeriac soup that I made last night for lunch today and tomorrow; just diced celeriac with a little garlic and about half an onion plus salt and pepper with water to make it liquid all whizzed up with the stick blender. I am not sure how it will taste, but it shouldn’t be too bad.

Stay safe out there wherever you are.

PS.

The promised rain not only arrived early, but we had a couple of showers through the morning so no power tools in use outside today. A very frustrating morning in that, in addition to weather delays, my plan for the greenhouse would not work. A re-think over lunch fixed that and good progress was being made when it chucked it down and I abandoned further work to come indoors and study the greenhouse assembly manual to get to grips with the next couple of stages.

I may have been an interrupted day, but I have got a significant part of the greenhouse build behind me now. The rain may be a benefit in that, sitting here, I realise how much the day has taken out of me. I have had to indulge in some serious contortions as well as using a lot of physical strength, things that I could have done easily even ten years ago, but which are a lot harder now. A paracetamol beckons I think and then half an hour with the Revitive before I start to cook dinner. Sole tonight – looking forward to that.

My labours have been helped a lot, at least mentally, by wearing my headphones and getting the old iPod into action. I do love my music and find that it keeps me in a good place when all about me is not going so well. It was a big factor in keeping me sane during my 6 weeks in hospital a few years back.

See you next week

the lockdown log 36


Here in North Wiltshire it is grey, wet and cold. The days are short and whilst that does not bother me overmuch, apart from making outdoor projects more difficult, art depresses the Berkshire Belle enormously. With everything else that we have to cope with she is not doing too well at the moment and that tends to drag me down.

We have a lot to be thankful for; we have avoided catching this plague that is upon us and, even if we are a bit short on the psychological and emotional fronts, we have enough for our physical needs. That has motivated us to give the money we would have spent on Christmas presents to charity and, on the p[ronciple that charity starts at home, we have chosen charities that are supporting people in need here in the UK.

Assuaging our guilt? No, and these gifts do not provide any warm glow for us either, rather they add to the depression, for me anyway. We know that our donations are not enough to make any difference and opening up this world disturbs me; my Ostrich mentality is partly what gets me through (along with an very black sense of humour). I know that there is misery, p[overty and all sorts out and about, but choose to close my mind to it because otherwise I doubt that I could cope. What we have we have earned. I still work to make the difference between income and expenditure and we are comfortable so we have decided to give away cash that we would otherwise spent on things that might have provided pleasure, but which we do not need.

I am still losing weight and have now passed a milestone in that I have lost what we used to call three stone. That milestone leaves me a little short of getting down below 16 stone (100 kg), but it marks a point at which I will slow down the dieting a little. Weekly weigh ins will continue and any sign of gain will result in a further cut back on intake, but I am taking the focus off for now.It has surprised me just how much thinking and planning goes into dieting and I will enjoy using that time for other things. Dieting also involves time in making soups and such and that is more time that I might be able to save a little of to put to other uses.

Exercise still plays a big part in my days and I am on track to, if I can keep it up, pass the 1000 km walked mark by the end of December. I am going to get very close and so am aiming to go for it. Of course if I can do it in 6 months then I should be looking to do 2000 km in the full year 2021, but that is for the future.

My hobbies have come back into focus a little in that I have found a guitar tutor book that I have been able to connect with and that has seen me practising a little almost every day and, as always with practice, seeing some improvement. It has also helped the grey cells as I have been working on the theory and well as the physical. I am almost back at school in my approach using a little exercise book and writing stuff down, giving myself little tests and so on. It all helps to occupy my mind when there is nothing of interest on TV (most evenings). I am also reading a lot more at the moment and have thoughts of perhaps a little model-making over the Winter.

Predictive text is giving me a hard time this morning so I will stop now, quickly re-check this document for howlers and get it published. Stay safe out there wherever you are.

the lockdown log 23


The twenty-third in this series reminds me that we are almost six months into this plague. Despite the rantings of some about the way things have been handled here nowhere is doing that well overall and it seems that we are stuck with the bug until a vaccine becomes available.

Here in Swindon the sudden surge in Covid-19 cases has slowed again although we are still an area of concern to the authorities. Personally I feel no more or less vulnerable than I did back in March and plough on regardless. I have worked all the way through apart from a week off in May and will be taking another couple of weeks off from this weekend.

Some time off will help with a focussed effort on my various domestic projects and I am looking forward to making some good progress. I will so my best to get things done despite the weather.

My diet/exercise regime continues to prune off about half a kilo a week, or just over a pound in old measures. I am told that this is good and remember my first wife getting similar advice during her many diets. Loose slow and it stays off longer or something like that. Whatever, it is steady progress in the right direction, I am over a stone lighter than I was eight weeks ago and when I go back to see the medics at the end of the month hopefully they will be pleased with the results three months on.

One aspect of the weather interruptions to my outside projects is that I have dug out ukulele and guitar and started to practice a little each day. Not much, sometimes just five minutes here and there, but it brings both the pleasure of (occasionally), getting something right and the frustration of cocking it up. It is good for the grey cells apparently so I shall keep it up and, once it becomes safe to do so, will try and find some local gathering or other where I can get to play with others.

Stay safe out there wherever you are.

on the generation gap


An incident this week illustrated the generation gap to perfection. I was at one of the sites that I work at on a regular basis and where, amongst the team of twenty or so, we have people from early twenties through to me in my seventh decade. The youngsters usually have some of their music on and down the years come my father’s words about the music I and my sisters enjoyed back in the sixties; “What a racket” or something similar. Read more…