Reading to escape

There were two routes I used to walk to my primary school, both of them down main roads that spanned the top half of the town. One took me down Townhead Road and offered the chance to nip in to a corner shop for some illicit sweeties, the other took me off Bonhill Road and into the lane that ran behind some off the houses, passing a piece of long (and still) neglected waste ground before arriving at the gates. It wasn’t a long walk, 10 mins if you were in a rush and hurried, not that I ever did. Depending on the time of year I’d change my route on the way home, but most days I simply retraced …

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Weekend Reading

Ditch the almond milk: why everything you know about sustainable eating is probably wrong In food and drink, we all want to do the right thing. We want to shop and eat sustainably. But, sometimes, it is easier said than done. Our willingness to jump on the latest eco-trends and unquestioningly accept reassuring labelling can lead to unintended consequences. Another week, another article about food. Time to get my own farm? The iPhone’s autocorrect is a blessing and a curse. A longtime Apple designer explains why it’s so hard to teach software to read your mind. I have a confection to make. Ugh! No, I don’t want to bake a cake. Let me type that again. I have a confession to make. …

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45 miles

My first bike was a Boxer. It was royal blue, with chunky tyres and these days would probably be called a mountain bike (for kids, it was tiny). It was the smaller version of the Grifter, which itself was a BMX/off-road kinda thing with the most totally awesomest twist-handle gear shift just like an actual motorbike! My best mate’s big brother had a Grifter and ohhh how I would covet that bike. Not that I’d ever have touched it, he was a bit scary… I can’t remember learning to ride my bike beyond vague memories of my Dad running along behind me telling me to pedal faster, nor can I recall when the stabilisers first came off and I flew …

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Weekend Reading

Innocent people with dirty-sounding last names face the “Scunthorpe problem” Sitting through roll call in school is already bad enough if you have a last name like Weiner, Butts, Cummings, Medick, Dickman, or Suconcock. But if that sounds rough, just try getting past the first stage of an online registration process. Seymour? Is there a Seymour in the room? A Mr. Seymour Butts? (yes, I am 8 yrs old!) Skim reading is the new normal. The effect on society is profound Look around on your next plane trip. The iPad is the new pacifier for babies and toddlers. Younger school-aged children read stories on smartphones; older boys don’t read at all, but hunch over video games. Parents and other passengers read …

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Gigs for the soul

“Fry your onions in garlic!”, he shouted. It was another evening in the Barrowlands, the ageless dance hall turned gig venue. It was late December, 1991, and I was there to see the Silencers, ably supported by the wonderful Humpff Family (wonderful in both name and in their rock/ceilidh stylings). As we were waiting for the Silencers to come on stage, the audience was starting to gear up and the noise was steadily increasing as more and more people came in and jostled their way into the crowd. It’s the same at every gig. A guitar tech wanders on to the stage to plug in a guitar and is given a rousing cheer, every gap between playlisted ‘intermission’ songs is …

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An ode to the slow cooker

It looks like summer is fading away and, as we head into my favourite season, it’s time to look out the blankets and (far more importantly) my old friend the slow cooker. Ohhhh wonderous maker of stews and soups! I know you can do more – I have the books that tell me this – so I apologise that I don’t make better use of you but, let’s be honest, your convenience is your strength and I am little more than a chopper of foods, ready for your welcoming pot. I tend to stick to simple recipes, brown some meat here, chop some veg there, add some stock and herbs, and we are ready to rock. I’ve done pulled pork, …

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Weekend Reading

New No’s by Paul Chan After the 2016 election, artist and writer Paul Chan wrote the following poem that he called “New No’s”. I ran across this several times at The Whitney; it’s part of their great exhibition An Incomplete History of Protest. Print and put up in every school and workplace! If you want to save the world, veganism isn’t the answer Veganism has rocketed in the UK over the past couple of years – from an estimated half a million people in 2016 to more than 3.5 million – 5% of our population – today. Science says… (as ever, it’s all about balance, something humankind just isn’t that great at) This company embeds microchips in its employees, and …

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Six by Nico: The 70s

Another menu, another visit to Six by Nico. This time round a menu inspired by the joyous food of my childhood in the 70s. I was tempted to don my flares and cycle there on my Chopper, but I was wary of being in some freak headline accident, ‘Man gets flares trapped in Chopper chain, falls under lorry’. Still, it was good to revisit some of the beloved dishes of my childhood although I don’t recall ever having SPAM! SPAM & MASH – Potato Espuma, Smoked Ham Hough, Pickled Mustard Seed PRAWN COCKTAIL – Tiger Prawn, Baby Gem Ketchup, Tomato, Shellfish Marie Rose CHICKEN KIEV – Black Garlic Emulsion, Pea Pesto, Rainbow Radish SALMON TIKKA MASALA – Onion Bhaji, Caramelised …

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Weekend Reading

Robot says: Whatever In Henry James’s intriguing novella The Beast in the Jungle (1903), a young man called John Marcher believes that he is marked out from everyone else in some prodigious way. The problem is that he can’t pinpoint the nature of this difference. Next week: We’ve made a robot that cares! From Death Traps to Disneyland: The 600-Year History of the Roller Coaster The resounding click-clack muffles the murmur of anticipation as the train inches up the wooden structure. When the riders reach the apex, the bright blue summer sky swallows everything. Then, with a lurch, gravity takes over. Everybody screams. I have not been on a rollercoaster in years. Already making plans to rectify that! Do Nothing …

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Turn off the TV

“I saw this advert in a window that said: ‘Television for sale, £1, volume stuck on full.’ I thought, ‘I can’t turn that down.’” Do you remember the TV series “Why Don’t You?”. It had a really catchy theme tune, the type that stuck in your brain for the rest of the week, I bet some of you can hear it right now? Sing along! “Why Don’t You, WHHHyyyy don’t you, Why. Don’t. You… just switch off your television set and go outside and do something less boring instead”. Ahhh the memories. It always struck me as odd though, that a TV show was suggesting I should turn off the TV. I know the late 80s were strange times for …

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