Showing posts from July, 2016


Whenever I cook dinner, I prefer the same meal – salmon in a sweet chilli marinade, baby potatoes, kale, tomato, cucumber, peppers stuffed with feta cheese, and pickled beetroot. It is a refreshing dish with lots of taste, satisfying my unchecked theory that a meal becomes healthier when you see more colours on the plate. Despite the British ingredients, my dinner is not a standard British dish. As a country, we like our full English breakfasts, steak and chips, tikka masalas and so on, but our dishes are not seen as the healthiest, and our palates are not seen as the widest, so trying something else means turning away from that part of our national identity. This is not a plea to change what you eat for the good of us all, as I am not the sort of person that would say that. However, others have tried. To make Italy a more self-sufficient country, the dictator Benito Mussolini raised the costs of importing grain in order to wean his people off pasta, and onto rice. This act


Right now, fewer than three hundred DeLorean DMC-12 cars remain on Britain’s roads, out of a total of 8,583 made in Belfast from 1981 to 1983. However, with its gull-wing doors and stainless steel finish, and its place in popular culture as the mobile time machine in the “Back to the Future” films, the car inspires businesses and fan clubs to carry on servicing it, import them from the United States, with a US company beginning to make new cars using leftover parts from Belfast. Meanwhile, the Austin Ambassador (1982-84), an update of the wedge-shaped Princess range of 1975 that used parts borrowed from other cars, was made as a stop-gap until the Austin Montego was ready. According to, out of 43,427 cars sold in the UK, there are SEVENTEEN left, including those registered as off the road. SEVENTEEN?! The Ambassador holds a strong place in my childhood, filled with images of “Back to the Future”. With rakish lines that still feel modern, the future was


I know it is the twenty-first century, but that doesn’t stop me from buying a typewriter. My nephew recently bought a second-hand one – of course, there are no new typewriters anymore – which reminded me of the one we had at home, before computers overran it over twenty years ago. Looking at examples on eBay, I wound up bidding on a grey and brown Litton Imperial Mercury, a grand name for what used to be a very ordinary machine. Once I make room for it, how useful will I be when using it? The challenge will be not to make a mistake, and to resist throwing the paper away to start again. If I slip on the wrong key, I should find a way of justifying the mistake, and see where that takes me. Or, I could just let rip: “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog, and ran to Currys to steal a food blender. He was arrested, and was made to speak the alphabet in a loud, clear voice. ‘A’, the fox said, followed by ‘B,’ then ‘C.’ By ‘J,’ the fox broke. ‘All right, I confess! The kids wa


I am going to mention Quorn quite a bit here but, as will become clear, this is not an endorsement – for a start, I like Linda McCartney sausages as well. I don’t really eat red meat. I’m not a vegetarian either – I just prefer chicken or fish most of the time. Instead, I am more likely to eat Quorn, now preferring its meat-ish taste to what it is imitating. In fact, when I do eat actual red meat, I do get a bit surprised – “oh, so that’s what they’re copying.” Choosing not to eat meat is an ethical and lifestyle choice, and so is choosing to eat something that looks like meat, but Quorn was developed not to satisfy this sort of demand – in the 1960s, there was a fear the world would run short on protein-rich food within twenty years. The British chemical giant ICI had already developed a process named “Pruteen,” where bacterial single cell protein was turned into animal feed, so the head of Rank Hovis MacDougall, J. Arthur Rank, instructed his company’s research laborator


I see myself taking up the saxophone at some point. It’s a weird thing for most people to say, but to me, it’s almost inevitable. In fact, this is a warning to my family. If you liked “The Goon Show,” “The Simpsons,” and David Bowie’s music since childhood, it will have instilled that saxophones are expressive, outrageous, and cool. This is before you even get to jazz, where the objective appears, sometimes, to blow your aching soul through a brass tube. When Adolphe Sax patented his woodwind instrument a hundred and sixty years ago last Tuesday, they were intended for use in marching bands and orchestras. Sax would later suffer from lip cancer for a five-year period, years before his invention would use the blues to capture that pain. People have always found ways of getting that bit more out of the saxophone, which changed to suit, its keys moving from the initial oboe-inspired layout to make playing both easier and faster. Its position between conventional brass and woodw