Raspberry Jammed

I’ve been a fan of raspberry jam for a long time, and it’s usually part of my breakfast. I’ve tried most of the different brands and types over the year, although over the last few years I’ve settled more on Tesco’s “Finest” offering, which is pretty well priced and tasty.  (Before that it was the Bonne Maman version, which was almost twice the price, and even now is £1 more expensive per jar)

Over the years, I’ve also always been interested in Fortnum and Mason when I visit London. I returned there in 2015 after far too long of not visiting, and have been back a few times since.

On that 2015 visit though, I saw they had some interesting jams – in particular, a golden raspberry one, and a purple one. I couldn’t get them at the time (because I was doing a ton of walking and theatre stuff, so wasn’t going to be carrying other stuff as well!) but on and off they’ve been on my mind since.

They are also ridiculously expensive – six-ish times the cost of my Tesco one, for a jar half the size! – so it’s a bit of a jump to be able to justify that kind of cost.

Anyway, back in October, I’d been to one of my favourite restaurants for my birthday meal (a saga in itself of rescheduling, lockdowns etc.) which is also effectively just round the corner from Fortnum and Mason.  So, having done an epic lunch, and needing to walk, I went in.  And having just spent a silly amount on Lunch (as well as a couple of drinks) it was probably the only time I could rationalise the price of those jams. So I did.  (Although I’m still gobsmacked at the price of them)

They’ve sat around since then, waiting to be tried, and it’s only been in the last couple of weeks they’ve been opened.

All told, they’ve been good, but definitely not worth the price. The golden one is noticeably sweeter and soft-of softer than standard raspberry jam, and the purple one is slightly different in taste (and very much so in colour) but certainly neither one is anywhere close to being something I’d eant to have on a regular basis – even if they were the same cost as the usual ones.

I’m really glad I got round to buying them and trying them, and to now know what they’re like. But I can’t see me getting them again.


Gradual Improvements

Over the last couple of months, I’ve slowly been upgrading some things around the house.  Nothing major, but a few things had started breaking or failing, so it’s made sense to replace them with better versions.

Among other things, a lot of my cookware was on the way out – my main frying pad had buckled (my own fault for thermal-shocking it too many times), my baking trays were grim and no longer non-sticking, and my wok had gone horrible with rust.  So I’ve replaced them all with better things – and in fairness, none of those bits was less than a decade old anyway, so it’s not like I’ve not had my money’s worth out of them.

This weekend, I’ve also replaced the main lamp in my living room.  I’ve had a (revoltingly cheap) uplighter for six years, that I bought while bankrupt, when the previous one’s halogen bulb died. I think it cost me £20, and it was ridiculously wobbly, but did the job – and has done the job for that six years without fail, and without any replacement bulbs.

However, during the week it started buzzing – not just from the bulb, but also from the switch, and to me, that’s not a thing where it’s wise to keep it going. So I had a look round for something new, and ended up with an interesting LED light that offers a range of white-balance colours, as well as being able to move lighting to my requirements and so on. It wasn’t the cheapest, and the lamps aren’t replaceable in the same way as a ‘normal’ bulb would be, but there’s also very little that can break, so we’ll see. Regardless though, I’m really pleased with it at the moment.

All told, I’m happy with how things are going – I’m not paying out stupid amounts for things, but I’m also not staying at the cheapest levels, because I simply don’t need to. Hopefully all these new bits will last me another eight to ten years minimum, and god only knows where we’ll all be by then…


Slouchy

This time last year, I didn’t really have any ‘slobbing out’ stuff at all. The closet closest I really came were some tracksuit bottoms that I used for workouts and the like, but there wasn’t really much else.

Since then, with the Lockdowns and so on, I’ve expanded my collection a bit – after all, there’s not really any point getting “properly” dressed on the days you’re not even venturing out.  So over the summer I had/have some thinner cotton trousers which are really comfortable, and for colder times, I’ve got some warmer ones that aren’t quite tracksuit bottoms, but also aren’t really fit for anything other than staying indoors.

My real concession though, and I’m not at all proud of them, are some slippers. I’d found that my feet were getting achingly cold, so it made sense to get *something*, and these horrors came up at just the right time.  They’re unbelievably ugly, and I’d happily burn them if I ever got a partner, but for now they’re warm and comfortable, and that’ll do me.

But I can be sure that, no matter how warm and comfortable they are, they won’t be seen outside the house…


Clipped

Way back when the first Lockdown was announced, I bought a set of hair-clippers, and it turns out it was probably one of the best things I did.

It’s already more than paid for itself – I think that since then I’ve only had two haircuts at my usual barbers, and all the rest have been done myself.

Of course, it’s also been a learning experience, but once I’d (sort of) figured out the hair length thing, it’s been useful.

I’m not perfect at using them – each use has ended up with a couple of return visits as I’ve discovered bits I’ve missed (or at least that feel like I’ve missed them) – but the results are at least passable, and I’m not worried about being seen out in public once I’ve done it.

Once sanity returns, I’ll still be happy to go back to having a barber do the job properly. For now, though, I’m just happy to be not looking like Cousin It.


Return of Warmth

Following on from the post about the car’s heating system having packed up, I finally got it sorted just before Christmas.

As usual my dealership was a clusterfuck from start to finish – although there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel on that one.

Initially, I asked them to have a look at what was wrong when I took it to get the brakes fixed. They ‘checked everything they could’ and couldn’t find a problem, but the heater pack is behind the centre console, and they hadn’t allocated the time to do that, so it had to come in again.

That happened on the 21st, at which point they told me it was “only a diagnostic visit – we’re just finding out what’s going wrong“, which was what I’d suspected might be the case, but regardless, my sense of humour started to fail. Because obviously that would mean a third visit for the same problem, which is just fucking ridiculous.

As it turned out, the problem wasn’t with the heating system itself, but with a cracked/fucked radiator that was leaking at a good pace. (The mechanic actually brought me through to the garage to show me) Apparently it was only doing so once the system became pressurised (about 10-15 mins into a drive), but still, fairly serious. And because the leak meant it was losing pressure, the heating system wasn’t working.   So we needed to get that sorted.

Then they told me it couldn’t be done ’til December 31st, and my sense of humour utterly failed. I wasn’t nasty, but I was quite obviously pissed off that they were happy to send me home (a not insignificant distance) with a close-to-broken car, and leave it that way for ten days.

Fortunately, at that point the light at the tunnel switched on, and one of their people (a sales manager) suggested to the reception that they move some stuff around, so that they could deal with my car the next day. Not ideal, but far better than waiting ten days.  Even better, he’d come and collect it from my house, get the work done, and bring it back.  (Which also meant it would be their problem if it went pop on the way there)

And that’s what happened.  I filled the rad with water before he arrived, to make sure it was as good as possible. The car got collected, fixed, and returned. (They fucked up the costs too, but that’s another story)   And since then, it’s all been OK, so it does appear that the problem’s been fixed.

Once he brought it back, we had a chat about how the service department had really let down the sales side on this – when it went in for a pre-MoT service, they noted that it was virtually empty of coolant, but never looked at why; they missed the leaking rad in the MoT itself; when the brakes were being replaced and they were ‘looking at everything’, they didn’t notice the rad pissing water everywhere; and the ‘diagnostic visit and then return to get it fixed’ was bullshit.

As it turned out, they’ve listened to my previous complaints about these practices, and that sales manager is now in charge of the service department, and has been tasked with making it run better, with a more customer-focused attitude. It’ll be a challenge, but it was good for him to have been able to see exactly why he was needed, and what the problems are with the current set up.

I hope it works – they’re at least aware of the problem, and trying to fix it – but only time will tell.


The End of 2020

So here we are, at the end of a true bin-fire of a year. Covid, Brexit, Lockdowns, it’s all been more than a bit bollocks, hasn’t it?

In many ways, I’ve been lucky this year – as I’ve said before, I’ve not been too badly affected. I’m still working, I’m still healthy, I’m still solvent, I’m still going.

I’m not saying that to be smug, or to belittle anyone else. I know that in many ways I’ve been fortunate, and that some of my privilege is probably showing. But equally, I’m not complacent about any of it, and I’m not going to tempt fate along the way.

In other ways, I’ve not done well at all. I’ve missed out on seeing friends, and on doing stuff – and again, I know that’s true for most people.

This year has definitely affected me, it’s left me with less motivation to do things, and with more loose ends than I’m used to. I don’t like not doing stuff, don’t like not having plans. I’m better at having plans changed last-minute – but that’s more because those things are outside my control.

I don’t know what 2021 will bring. (Obviously – no-one does. This time last year, no-one expected Covid) I do think there’s going to be a lot of hardships still to come, but I also hope it at least gets easier than 2020 has been.

Onwards and upwards, anyway. Have a good one, and let’s hope it’s a better one.


Colder Than Necessary

Yesterday, for reasons I’ll write about some other time, I had to drive up to Newark.

It’s not a horrific drive, about 90 minutes usually, and pretty easy. Straight up the A1 , and then down the M1 to come home.

Yesterday though, was bloody vile. About halfway through the drive up, it started to snow – not super-heavy, but enough to make things interesting in the still-quite-dark winter morning.

It was at this point that I discovered that my car’s heating had packed up.  Fuck.

By the time I stopped at Newark, it was snowing fairly heavily, and starting to settle.

When I came out to go home, the car had a good three or four inches of snow all over it, and the roads were full of it as well. The start of the drive home was emphatically Not Fun, although for me that was mainly because it was bloody cold inside the car, and no heating meant it was also steaming up a bit. The real Not Fun was more in the purview of other drivers who couldn’t handle snowy roads and/or hadn’t put lights on, and were generally utter fucksticks.

The M1 was OK – once I got down past Leicester the snow turned to heavy rain, and then it was just a slog through shitty weather and shitty traffic.

All in, the temperature (according to my car) rose by five full degrees (Centigrade) in the hundred miles between Newark and Home.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a drive where I was actually thankful to get out at the end of it. But that was definitely one of them.