Single Not Stupid!

I’ve spent the last 15 months learning to live alone, a process I am not enjoying, neither am I doing very well at it. I still think as half of a couple and I daresay I always will to some degree. However, the bitter fact remains that now I live alone and some of the revelations that have come with that have shocked me to the core – not least because of how lacking in awareness I was before.

This is not going to be an account of the emotional ups and downs, rather a venting of the growing outrage I feel at the total marginalisation of a substantial proportion of the population. A sector which is discriminated against at will, milked financially and treated with contempt socially. It seems that if you are single you should expect to be treated in ways that would cause outrage in any other minority group, and what’s more, you should be grateful for such treatment!

The first thing that struck me was the difference in the way you are treated when you go out, going into a Restaurant, Bar or such like. You take a seat and you wait, and wait, and wait until eventually you go and find someone. Attracting the attention of a passing member of staff is impossible if you are on your own. The response to a polite ‘Could somebody take my order’ almost always results in ‘Oh, thought you were waiting for someone, I’ll come in a minute’. Whilst single discrimination is not a gender issue in most areas, it surely is in this situation. A single man will invariably be approached eventually, rarely the single woman unless it is to mutter ‘I’ll come for your order when you’re both here’ because you had the temerity to sit at a table for two rather than allowing yourself to be shoved in the dark back corner by the Toilets.

Then we come to shopping for one. Living alone is incredibly expensive. You try doing a supermarket shop for one and you will soon find out. All the supermarkets trumpet their special offers – ‘Buy one, get one free/half price’, ‘Three for the price of two’, ‘Megapack’ and so on. What is the good of that to one person. I like Pears but I can’t eat two bags before they go off, why not reduce the price? It will take me months to get through three packs of Spaghetti, why not reduce the price? I like chicken but I don’t want three at once, why not reduce the price? I realise that supermarkets are geared up to the bulk shopper and to fuel the growing obesity trend by encouraging over eating, but to ignore the needs of 29% of households cannot be good for long term business. They are discriminating against many of the most vulnerable in our society making it impossible for them to shop economically and maintain a healthy diet. I hate throwing food away, especially in the current climate where the prices seem to rise daily but it is almost impossible for me to shop in a way that I can avoid it. In many cases it is actually cheaper to buy a big pack and throw half away than it is to get just what I need. I’m not talking about the price per 100 gms here either, but the actual, physical price of an item.

SingleSupplementThe next thing to arouse my ire was the dreaded ‘Single Supplement’. I realise for many people a holiday is a luxury – and if you are solo traveller it’s a luxury you have little chance of affording. When you live alone a holiday, even just a few days away is important because there is no respite in your daily life. If you want a cup of tea, you have to make it because there is no one else there. If you don’t feel like cooking – tough, if you want to eat you have to cook – going out on your own is expensive and you are treated like a social pariah. You are responsible for everything and you have to do everything. I found a holiday the other day, £589 was the headline price which is just about affordable – until you say you are going alone then suddenly it is £1,629. It seems that as a solo traveller, not only do I have to pay for a holiday out of a single income but from that reduced income I have to pay nearly three times as much as one half of a couple! I’m told I am paying for the lost opportunity of the holiday company to sell ‘extras’ but how many extras that I can’t use am I expected to pay for?

Single person households make up 29% of all households in the UK, a figure that is rising. Around 7.7 million people live alone. I’m not even going to try to work out how many single people live in shared households, or are still living with parents etc because the numbers are horrifying enough as it is. Many of those single households are vulnerable, older people. Many of us who live alone would love to still have the other members of our family with us but through no fault of own we do not, instead we are expected to quietly accept that it is officially acceptable to discriminate against us and treat us with contempt. Even our government is now actively discriminating in favour of the family unit. Any other sector of society that is so discriminated against would rise up in arms, demanding legal redress, complaining of human rights violations, and demanding equality but those of us who live alone, often not by choice, are expected to just quietly sit there and accept that we are lesser beings, social pariahs and second class citizens to be fleeced at will. We are told that ‘that’s just how it is’ and expected to accept it.

I am hereby serving notice – I am single, not stupid and I will not accept it!

What Is It About A Moleskine?

A new Moleskine is something that gently thrills me, something that gives me a frisson of excitement like nothing else, something that will mean nothing unless you know what one is. A Moleskine is a brand of notebook that comes in various shapes and sizes. They have a long history, you sense it each time you pick one up. At its simplest, it is a beautifully crafted notebook, at it’s most complex it is storage for the rocket fuel of the intellect – ideas.

A Moleskine is a tool for everyone, not just writers and artists. These days you can buy all sorts of specialist Moleskines to record your likes and dislikes, but it still boils down to one thing, a tool to hold information. A place to capture a fleeting thought and give it space to grow.

The best tools are the simplest, they have a simple function which they fulfill simply. Whilst those wonderful multi-tools look very functional, in truth they do very few of the jobs well. A hammer hits. A pen writes. Moleskines hold ideas. It is as simple as that. For me a good tool helps you do the job, it fits your hand and encourages you to use it to it’s best potential. It makes you want to do your finest work. It helps you to sharpen your skills.

A classic Moleskine is well crafted, a thing of beauty. It has weight and substance. The solidity of the cover speaks of quality. It’s heavy creamy pages cry out to be filled. Their richness of feel makes you consider what you will put into it, makes you distill your thoughts and ideas so that only the finest go down on the precious pages. After a while it becomes habit to focus when you open a notebook to write. You know at some visceral level that what you write will have value to you. It matters not if it has value to anyone else.

My most important tools are words, each one supremely fit for purpose. They make the intangible tangible. Each word encapsulates a meaning, when joined together they give form to concepts so that they can be shared, expanded and ultimately acted upon, creating new forms to take us to new places.

Those words need to begin their journey into form somewhere and that place for me is the Moleskine. It is fit for purpose. There is no higher praise in my world than that.

So what is it about a Moleskine that gives me that thrill each time I open one? It is the promise of venturing into uncharted territory, a sense of adventure. Where will the words that are destined to fill the pages take me? It is the joy of using a tool that fits my hand, that makes me feel. It is the place where my battered spirit soars.

White Chocolate And Custard Cookies

 

Several people have asked me for the recipe for these Cookies so here you are. If you like your Cookies large and slightly chewy then this quantity will make about 15.  I like them thin and fairly crisp so I get about 30 – they go very nicely with home made Ice Cream when they are light and crisp.

Ingredients

5 oz / 140 g Caster Sugar
6 oz / 175 g Butter, softened
1 large Egg
½ tsp Vanilla Bean Paste
8 oz / 225 g Self Raising Flour
3 oz / 85 g Custard Powder
4 oz / 110 g Good quality white chocolate chopped into chunks

Method

Beat the Butter and Sugar together until the mix is really light and fluffy, then add the Egg and vanilla Bean Paste and beat well.

Meanwhile sift together the Self raising flour and the Custard Powder and then gradually add to the mix, once a dough has formed add the chocolate.

Roll the dough into balls depending on how large you want your Cookies and put on a baking tray lined with Baking parchment.

Bake at 180C / 160c Fan / Gas 4 for 15- 20 mins until they are a pale golden brown. Don’t be tempted to let them get too brown as they go bitter.

Make a Pot of Tea, and allow it to brew whilst the Cookies cool. Place two (or more) Cookies on a plate, pour Tea into a cup. Sit down in a comfortable chair and enjoy.

The recipe was originally published in the BBC Good Food Magazine, I add more chocolate than the original and bake them smaller and crisper because that’s how I like them!

Hazelnut Mocha Ice Cream or The Adventures Of The Birthday Hat – 2

It’s no secret that I love Ice Cream, not the horrible wet stuff that comes out of a tap from an Ice Cream Van but the real deal.  It should be made with all the good things that some fools tell us we shouldn’t eat, cream, sugar, fruit, chocolate, eggs and so on.  I still can’t get my head round why people say we shouldn’t eat them – why else were they put here?  The trick is moderation… except when they have been converted into Ice Cream.  However, I digress…

 Ice Cream Makers are a ridiculous price so when I came across one that was on Special Offer for an amount that closely resembled the Amazon voucher I had just acquired, it was a no brainer, albeit the postage was little on the pricey side.  However,  a £50 price reduction is not to be sneezed at so Ice Cream Maker was duly ordered.  There were a few delivery hiccups but to be fair, the company sorted it out and made it right so all was forgiven and the production of Ice cream began.

I started with a few recipes from the book that came with it but soon branched out, particularly when a close friend announced he was having a party.  Having catered parties for him before it would have been less than kind not to offer to do something, so I offered to make an assortment of Ice Creams which meant I had to experiment with some new flavours – what hardship….  We had to have Strawberry but made with Clotted Cream for a bit of something extra, that was followed by Rhubarb and Custard – a triumph even if I say so myself.  Then I decided to experiment with something chocolate related.

Among the many well known facts of the Universe is the one that I love chocolate, but funnily enough I don’t particularly like chocolate desserts, they are just too sweet so I had to devise something that would take the sweetness out but still be delicious.  The Birthday Hat was put on to aid concentration.  Much thinking was done whilst sampling Mango, Raspberry and Vanilla Ice Cream with a touch of Lemon Sorbet just to ring the changes.  An idea was born, experimenting began and eventually Hazelnut Mocha Ice Cream was born.  I decided it was far too good to keep to myself so recipe is below, particularly as it is a real ‘cheats’ recipe and very easy to do!

My next experiment is to be Peanut with Honeycomb – it will work or it won’t but watch this space for the results…

Hazelnut Mocha Ice Cream

  • 100 gms Nutella
  • 1 very strong Espresso – hot (about 40 mls)
  • 200 gms  Custard
  • 150 mls Double Cream
  • 5 tsps (heaped) Hotel Chocolat Liquid Chocolate Flakes

Put the Nutella into a freezer safe jug or bowl and mix in the hot coffee stirring til it is all well combined.  Add the custard and mix well.  Check the mix is not too hot and add the cream. Mix until the ingredients are all well combined then put into the freezer for abut 30 mins til it is nicely chilled.

Pour the mix into your Ice Cream Maker and add the Liquid Chocolate flakes, churning until the mix is at the desired consistency.  Transfer to a suitable container and return what you haven’t already eaten to the freezer for later consumption.

PS – Yes it is an affiliate link to the Ice Cream Maker, if you don’t like that – tough!

 

When I Rule The World 4

When I rule the world which will be a benign Dictatorship people who have Cats will be made to be responsible for them and not allow them to crap in everyone else’s gardens.  It is rightly unacceptable for dogs to be allowed to roam and deposit unpleasant piles everywhere so why should it be acceptable for cats to do the same.  I am sick to death of clearing stinking piles of cat faeces from my vegetable garden, deposited there by animals whose owners obviously do not care enough about them to know where they are or what they are doing.  For all they seem to care the animal could be under the wheels of a passing bus.

The sanction for allowing your cat to behave in such an antisocial manner will be to have your home impregnated with the stench and the bacteria associated with the unwanted deposits, denial of all medical treatment for the diseases you will hopefully catch from it and a lifetime ban on pets.

PS Anyone thinking I do not like cats – wrong, we had one for nineteen years whom I loved dearly, and who knew better than to mess in other people’s gardens!