... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Friday 23 September 2022

Cheat's oatcakes

A freshly made Staffordshire oatcake, with bacon and cheese, the morning after a night in the Star at Stone, is a wonderful thing.

When I was looking for recipes, I found a number of comments wondering why, when we can buy flatbreads from all over the world, we can't buy oatcakes in the supermarket outside of Staffordshire.

I think the residents of that county, and lovers of the delicacy, are very sensible not to export them more widely. Because they do not travel. If the only oatcake you had ever known was one out of a supermarket packet - as was the case for me for many years - then you would dismiss them (as I did) as having all the appeal of wet cardboard. Fresh, they are a delight; packaged, they are not something anyone would want to be associated with.

I was looking for a recipe because I fancied one, in part as a change from the white-flour pancakes I'd got into the habit of eating as a Sunday treat. When I found the recipe, I discovered that a true Staffordshire oatcake uses a yeast-based batter, which sadly I didn't have the patience to make (and it's hard to make in small quantities).

So I invented a substitute version: it's shamelessly inauthentic, somewhere between a pancake and a pikelet, an oatcake and an omelette, but not having had the real think for years I thought it worked quite well.

Veggies look away now.

For a couple of moderately hungry people, or one very hungry one, you'll need:

  • Two and a half ounces of fine oatmeal (I whizz up oats in the liquidiser)
  • Pinch of salt
  • A half teaspoon of baking powder
  • Scant quarter pint of milk
  • An egg

Which you whizz up into a batter, and leave to rest for a while, while you fry your favoured quantity of bacon and grate a pile of strong cheddar.

Whn the bacon's (nearly) done, take it out and keep it warm. In the pan which is now well greased with bacon fat and melted lard, pour enough batter to make a thickness of about 3mm.

The egg helps hold it together but it won't work much thinner, hence the pikelet comparison. When it's set on top, loosen the edges and flip it over with a big spatula.

Put the cheese on one half, then the bacon, and when the bottom's golden, flip it in half and serve (top photo).

Tuesday 20 September 2022

Thwarted walk

And nary even a picture to show for it (I've got so out of the blogging habit it didn't occur to me to take one).

Whilst we were chugging along on Otley last week, Pete asked after Naburn, and I had to admit I hadn't been near nor by since covid (the inaugural and final AGM of the Friends of Naburn was held in March 2020 - we struggled on for a while, until both the Chair and Treasurer resigned).

So yesterday I thought I would take a stroll down to see what I could see. From my house to the Basin is 1.8 miles, and from there it's another two and a half to Tinsley so I thought I'd walk there and get the tram back.

Unfortunately, I got as far as Greenland Road Bridge, where the towpath changes sides - and which is nearly at Tinsley - to find the towpath closed. A sign said that it was due to re-open in April. April 2022, that is. Going up onto the bridge, the path down was barricaded with temporary fencing panels, and looking down at the towpath, that appeared to have been fenced off in a much more substantial and permanent-looking way (and still no photos; what was I thinking!)

I can't get any sense out of the CRT stoppages website, but local press accounts suggest this was for railway works.

So I had no choice but to turn round and walk all the way back home, making a brisk stroll of nearly eight miles in all, and none the wiser about Naburn. Next time I'll get the tram there. And back.

Still, on the bright side, my Garmin watch told me I'd set a new personal best for 10 km. I will never, ever, beat my record for 5 km, because I actually ran three miles once, and that will never happen again. But walking fast for six and a quarter miles - there has to be room for improvement there.

Saturday 17 September 2022

1195 days later

Obviously, if I had known what was going to happen, I would have done more boating in 2019; in the event, the only trip we made that year was to Braunston and back. And that was the last time I was out on Chertsey.

Until last week.

Now, we need a bit of backstory here, but I'll keep it brief. Earlier in the summer we had gone to Alvecote and among other things, tried unsuccessfully to start the engine.  Last Tuesday, Steve and Nick came over from Brinklow to have a look at it, and discovered that water has got into the cylinders. I know not how, as the cap was not only on the exhaust, but took a lot of removing when we were last there. Anyway, we are where we are, and by a substantial stroke of luck it transpired that Pete Harrison was at Alvecote that day, due to leave with Otley to collect a boat from Brinklow that same week - and I had the week off work. 

So before I could talk myself out of it, I'd accepted Pete's very kind offer of a tow and set myself up for a day and a half's boating instead of tussling with the University of Sheffield's arcane promotion process.

We left Alvecote just after midday on Wednesday and got half way up Atherstone (with help from Rod and Sarah) before the locks were closed; we were (of course) butted up to the gates when they reopened at eight o'clock on Thursday morning. The weather was pretty perfect and we got to Brinklow at about half past four,
with a perfect turn (by Pete; I was on the bank taking photos and getting the lock ready) at Hawkesbury along the way.

Coincidentally, Thursday was the thirteenth anniversary of my buying Chertsey.

After three years of neglect, she looks a bit sorry for herself, but engine aside it should (touch wood, but not the rotten bits) be largely cosmetic; the paintwork and parts of the woodwork are in a bad state, but inside the cabin and the hold has stayed dry. 

What the day and a half of boating has told me is that I love it and I've missed it; I'd lost sight of how much it means to me and how I've missed expressing that part of myself. 

Chertsey the boating blog is back.