28 August, 2006

Adventure in search of art

Before I get to the title story, the obligatory weekly round-up of gustatory highlights. Moussaka and wholemeal basmati rice, served up by Simon & Zoe as a thank-you for help installing an ADSL/WiFi modem, proved such an inspiration that we reprised the meal for ourselves four days later. Lisa has done a thorough job describing Saturday's pot-luck dinner in her new Blogger blog: A Cook's Journal. I'd just like to add that the specific jumping off point for the musical exchanges was our "Remains of Tom Lehrer" collection which particularly caught the eye of our Belgian guest.

Sunday we kept our promise to visit an art exhibition in darkest Hertfordshire where Irene, an ex-colleague of mine from a former life, was exhibiting. Google Maps told us that the venue was only a little over seven miles from the nearest railway station, a distance that seemed well within our cycling capabilities, so we loaded up the bikes on the train and set out. Once off the train at Bishop's Stortford, we tangled with the local one-way system for a while before finding our road out into the countryside which was a long uphill drag. What we hadn't realised was that the route was entirely composed of an unbroken sequence of long and/or steep hills which made the ride at least twice as strenuous as we'd anticipated. It took us over an hour to get there but the effort was worth while as the exhibition was thoroughly interesting and mounted in a delightful setting. We were also blessed with the best weather of the three-day Bank Holiday weekend. I was, of course, intrigued to see what Irene had been up to since we were both made redundant by Nortel five years ago: most of the work she was exhibiting had partly involved physically weaving multiple photographs together, a technique I'd never previously encountered and which gives rise to complex images that repay lingering attention. There was plenty of other interesting work on display too, tremendously varied in scale, style and technique. The tea and home-baked cakes were pretty good too! Knowing what faced us, we were better prepared for the ride back to the station and completed the return trip in well under an hour but certainly that was the hardest fifteen miles we've ridden together! Dinner in a rooftop tapas bar in Stortford, with friends (and their son) who'd also attended the exhibition, preceded the train ride back to Cambridge. Nice!

This weekend marked the start of the Vuelta a EspaƱa, third of the three major cycle races on the professional calendar. After the doping problems that have scarred the sport recently, the anticipation is muted but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that sporting efforts, rather than pharmaceutical skulduggery, will make the headlines from Spain over the next three weeks. Tomorrow (Tuesday) also marks the start of the rather smaller-scale Tour of Britain, I hope to have more to say about that next week.

21 August, 2006

Curry, dumplings and a haircut

We got in a curry mood this week. Our favourite indian cookbook is called Indian Essence by Atul Kochhar, largely because the food we cook from this book tastes so different from the standard "curry house" cuisine so prevelant in this country. Another "go to" book from our hundred-plus-strong cookbook collection is Shehzad Husain's Vegetarian Indian Cookery. Lisa especially likes my variation on the masala bhindi recipe from the latter volume, made with gorgeous fresh okra from Al Amin store on Mill Road.

Our friend from Changchun (now resident here in Cambridge), Wu Lejun (a.k.a. "Emma"), shook us out of our curry mood when we visited her place and she served us a delightful meal featuring superb steamed dumplings. As so often happens, Emma cooked enough food for at least twice as many diners and we didn't need to be asked twice to take the left-over dumplings away with us! Re-heated and with fresh dipping sauce they furnished two tasty lunches with ease. In contrast with the high-voltage excitement of last week's pot-luck, dinner with Emma was a perfect example of gentle, relaxed conversation which it seemed could have gone on indefinitely.

Having recently been several times acused of having had my hair cut when I hadn't, this weekend I engaged Lisa's services to trim the locks and emerged looking much neater. It is just one of Lisa's multitude of talents that she does an excellent job of cutting my hair. It remains to be seen if the real haircut will attract the same degree of comment as the suspected one(s).

14 August, 2006

Pot luck

After a week hard at work, at work, we enjoyed a total contrast on Saturday evening when we hosted a pot-luck dinner for three friends. None of the friends had been at our place before but we all seemed to be totally at home from the word "go" and the kitchen was a riot of laughter and interaction as dinner was assembled. On a day when I had to take the cats to the vet for their annual vacination boosters and we also has a couple of friends from before we moved to Cambridge drop in with their toddler, I had too much on my plate to also prepare a dish for dinner - good intentions notwithstanding. Lisa, however, contributed enough for us both with some barbecued lamb kebabs and a spectacular hummus. The evening was all too short and we'll do our best to arrange a repeat performance ASAP.

07 August, 2006

Being sociable

Seem to have been out and about more than usual this week. Between doing a bit of computer consultancy on the side, dinner with colleagues and meeting friends in town I've been out far more than I've been in, which is unusual for me.

Sunday Lisa & I took in an exhinition at Kettle's Yard in Cambrigde called "Lines of Enquiry: thinking through drawing" which featured drawings done in the course of their work by a whole range of professionals; from the obvious architects and product designers, through surgeons and astronomers to geneticists and mathemeticians. The drawings themselved ranged from purely functional diagrams and charts to polished final artwork. I felt that the functional items and the private rough workings displayed gave more insight to the subject than the more finished, public items. Well worth a visit!