Archive for February, 2012
The simple act of buying a light bulb has become unimaginably stressful. Before European regulations were introduced, the only challenge was remembering whether the fittings were bayonet or screw-in. These days, however, we are faced with a bewildering array of white curly things that take ages to warm up and give our homes all the cosiness of a morgue. Just deciphering the terminology – Energy Saving, Energy Efficient, Warm White, White – is almost impossible, as it has not yet been standardised across brands.
According to Lucy Martin, design director at the specialist lighting company John Cullen, there are many good, eco-friendly bulbs that people are simply unaware of. The key, she says, is learning what options are available and how to use them. Continue reading on Telegraph website
It is a universal truth that all Pathé newsreel films are charming. One of my favourites is a 1937 clip entitled “Do You Dart?”. It starts as one would expect, with a group of flat-capped men clustered around a dartboard in a pub. The scene that follows, however, takes one by surprise: a fashionable Thirties drawing room, full of slinkily clad women and dapper-looking men, all having a wizard wheeze with the things.
Darts, you see, used to be an upper-middle class parlour game (as well as traditional pub entertainment). Even royalty didn’t think it beneath them; in 1937, the same year as the Pathé clip was broadcast, the king and queen (later the Queen Mother) had a game at a social club in Slough. This prompted the Sunday Chronicle headline: “The queen has made the women of Britain darts-conscious”. Over the two years that followed, darts-playing pubs trebled.
At the beginning of this year, history repeated itself – sort of – when Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall made an appearance at the final of the PDC World Championships at Alexandra Palace. As the Telegraph’s Jim White noted, the main way in which the royalty stood out from the crowd was in their choice of drink. Whereas most tables were populated by hundreds of foam-smeared pint glasses (more than 250,000 pints of lager were consumed by patrons of generous appetites and proportions), the royal table was a forest of champagne flutes.
Zara Phillips is not the first modern royal to attend a major darts tournament. Last year Prince Harry made an appearance, and saw fit to give the 20st winner, Adrian Lewis, a bear hug. Even his elder brother, William, has been known to throw a move or two. Many people are starting to think that this game is migrating upwards.
According to Robert Holmes of the British Darts Organisation, the sport is increasingly popular with “City boys”. The newly formed City of London Darts Association is, he says, “full of them”. There is a Bank of England team and a Stock Exchange team. Furthermore, in this new climate of austerity chic, when traditional, cheap and folksy pursuits are cool, darts nights at home have become a feature of the trendsetters’ circuit. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
It all started in Victorian times. “One of my forebears was the stationmaster of King’s Cross Station,” says Anna Gudge. “It was a prestige job in those days. He used to wear a top hat and tails, and roll out the red carpet for the Queen. He became a big part of family folklore.”
Anna never learnt her ancestor’s name, but she certainly inherited his passion for railways. She grew up in the Fifties, in a house beside the old Cavendish station in Suffolk, and her childhood was filled with steam trains. “When I was five or six, I made friends with the stationmaster next door and his wife,” she says. “I would spend hours sitting in the signal box helping him change the points .” His wife would bring them “weak tea and biscuits”, she recalls; then she would “toddle home again”.
After Anna was married in 1968, she and her husband moved into a disused level crossing house just down the line from her childhood home. “It was a tiny two-up-two-down, with a bathroom tacked on to the back,” she recalls. “It was cramped, but also idyllic.” This was a prelude for what was to come. Years later, in October 1994, Anna and her new partner Mark spent £100,000 on an entire 1865 railway station – Long Melford, two stops down from Cavendish – to convert into a family home. Read more on the Telegraph website
Like most of the UK’s under-fives, our three have always had a daily allowance of CBeebies and DVDs. Recently, however, this has changed. One day, after trying – and failing – to demonstrate a Moonwalk, I went to YouTube and showed them that famous clip of Michael Jackson performing the move for the first time in 1983. They were enthralled, and watched in silence. Then they begged to watch it again. When they had seen it four or five times, they began to dance their little hearts out.
This experience led my wife and I to use YouTube to introduce the little ‘uns to everything from Fred Astaire to the Muppets. It’s much more stimulating than CBeebies. They love it.
Here, then, are our children’s top ten favourite YouTube clips of all time. View them on the Telegraph website
Imagine for a moment that, for whatever reason, you find yourself to be in possession of a case of monogrammed surgical instruments that in 1943-44 had been used by SS Maj Anton Burger on the inmates of the notorious Theresienstadt concentration camp. Lined with purple velour, the case contains a hacksaw, large knives, some scalpels, surgical scissors, clamps and straps, and some strange instruments that look like long-handled forks. Burger – who, it seems, had no medical training – used them on countless victims, mostly Jewish. What do you do with such an object?
To be honest, I’m not sure of the answer. There would certainly be a strong argument to destroy every last trace of these ghastly things, perhaps on the site of Theresienstadt itself; the case for preserving them in a museum, as part of a Holocaust exhibition, would probably be more compelling. Either way, it should be pretty clear what you do not do with it. You do not even consider putting it up for auction at the Villa Hall Auction House in Cornwall on Saturday 11th February, with a guide price of £2000-£4000. But that is exactly what is happening.
As Valentine’s Day looms, men everywhere are panicking. This is a day when the Englishman is called upon not only to declare his feelings openly, but also to demonstrate them with lavishness and taste. Money is tight. Options are limited. What is a chap to do?
Answer: let the pudding do the talking. That’s what Fred Ponnavoy, head chef at Gü – who invents those impossibly indulgent chocolatey things you see on the shelves – recommends. And he should know. Firstly, he is a top pastry chef. Secondly, he is French.
“There is nothing that impresses a woman like a pudding you have made with love and attention,” he says. “It says I love you, you are sweet like sugar, you melt my heart.” Ah, the French.
We are standing in the Gü inventing room. Everything is made of brushed steel. A sous-chef stands attentively in the background with an almost elegant subservience. Ponnavoy’s mission? To show me how to make “high impact” puddings that will make my wife “feel passion like when the first time she met you”.
The idea is to focus on three puddings, each of which may offer a unique route to a woman’s heart. First up is a white chocolate and ginger crème brûlée. “There are two important things to remember,” says Ponnavoy as he arranges the ingredients on the table. “Number one: to make sure the crème is cold and the sugar is hot. You need contrast. Number two: the sugar should be very thin. When you make it, put it on, tap it off. A thin layer will remain. This you brûlée. If you leave it thick, like they do on Come Dine With Me, it will not caramelise easily. And it will be revolting.”
Under Ponnavoy’s supervision, I add some grated ginger to a mixture of heated milk and cream and leave it to infuse. Then I need to melt some chocolate. Surprisingly, Ponnavoy recommends using the microwave. “I do not want unnecessary heat in my kitchen,” he explains. “The microwave is perfect.” The trick, however, is to take the chocolate out before it loses its shape. If it turns to goop – güp? – there will be a danger of burning.
All this is mixed with egg yolk and sugar, cooked in the oven “until the middle goes wobbly”, and cooled in the fridge. Then Ponnavoy demonstrates a rather stylish alternative to the Demerara topping. He cooks sugar to make a liquid caramel (quickly, to avoid bitterness), adds lime zest (which marries perfectly with ginger), allows it to harden, then reduces it to powder in a spice blender. Blowtorching a thin layer of this caramel-lime powder lends a vibrant complexity to the brûlée.
The second pudding is a passion mango and chocolate caketail. Continue reading on the Telegraph website
Listen to the audio (5 mins 13 secs)
“Church bells have been ringing in England for more than thirteen hundred years. The English ringing technique – in which a bell is swung through a full 180 degrees to allow it to sound mouth-up, projecting its voice upwards out of the tower – is quite unique; it can only be found in the British Isles, a few former colonies, and the area around Verona in Italy.
Traditionally, English bells are rung to summon the faithful to worship, to celebrate weddings and festivals, and to mark national thanksgivings. At funerals, and at times of disaster, the bells are sometimes muffled; during wartime, it’s agreed that church bells will not be rung except as a warning of invasion.
One cold January Saturday, I came across the oldest bell of this kind in the world, which dates back to the year 1260. It is a handsome treble bell, cast in solid bronze, its face mottled with the distinctive grey-green patina that has protected it from centuries of atmospheric corrosion.
Surprisingly enough, this bell is not kept in the British Museum, or in any museum for that matter. Instead, it still hangs in the belltower of the tiny Hampshire church for which it was originally intended more than seven hundred and fifty years ago . . .”