Miscellany and detritus, from the writer of Is This Mutton?com

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

In Memory of David Bowie

July 6 1972 was a significant date for a generation. David Bowie performed Starman on Top of the Pops, and our collective jaws fell open. Who was this fabulous creature?

I was only 11 but it made a huge impression on me. I cajoled my mum into buying Ziggy Stardust from her Freeman's catalogue for the princely sum of 10 pence a week from my pocket money. This was rigidly adhered to. We Baby Boomers knew the value of money and also hard work.

DB became a huge part of my life. I spent a fortune on acquiring all the different formats of music as they appeared: vinyl, cassettes, CDs and then iTunes and Spotify.

I bought the albums of his friends and associates. I ordered Iggy Pop's The Idiot by mail order, without ever having heard him, on the strength of their collaboration. It was waiting for me at home after a ghastly two night camping expedition for Duke of Edinburgh's Award.

I saw him three times: the first was the Serious Moonlight Tour in 1983.  I had passed my driving test just 3 weeks before so it was the first time I drove a long way  (Plymouth to Milton Keynes) on motorways and on my own.

It was a bittersweet experience. I couldn't get anyone to go with me and being a shy sort, didn't get talking to anyone. The support acts were Icehouse, The Beat and Madonna (!). After the concert, and boy was Bowie fantastic, it took me ages to find my car, the trusty Datsun 120Y.  I had a superb souvenir: one of the helium balloons that was released at the end, from a "man in the moon" shape by the side of the stage. But it was taken off me as I left the grounds.

The next day I found out that nearly everyone staying in my hotel, the Cock Inn at Stony Stratford, had gone to the same show because we were all wearing the t-shirt at breakfast. Sheepish grins all around.

The second time I saw him was at Wembley and the third in Birmingham, in 2003 - his last concert tour in the UK. Both times with great company.

The first time that my brother Robert went to London with me and my mum, we scuttled off to Camden to watch Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence.  Mum thought she would have a nice snooze but was captivated by the action from the start  (someone being decapitated, I recall).

After the concert in 2003, we then had the long silence from DB: no albums, no interviews, hardly any TV appearances ("Extras" anyone?) until he dropped "The Next Day" on his birthday in 2013. I was having breakfast and BBC Breakfast News suddenly started talking about how a new album had mysteriously appeared from David Bowie on his birthday, and goodness knows how he'd managed to keep it quiet.  My jaw fell open (again).

And sadly it fell open again last Monday when, over breakfast, BBC Breakfast News told us that news was breaking of the death of David Bowie.  "Whaaat?" I yelled. Couldn't believe it.  I had long suspected he was ill:  there had been reports of heart problems following the last world tour. But just three days before, a new album Blackstar had appeared.  I have just listened to it for the first time since his death  (couldn't bear to, before).

What a superb way to go: so beautifully orchestrated, and dignified.  No funeral, which would have been a circus, sparing his wife and 15 year old daughter.  Immortalized forever by that album and the video, and the photos of him in a sharp suit laughing at death in the face.

I bought some roses (forefront, in black wrapping) and took them to the Bowie mural at Brixton, his place of birth. I wanted to thank him for all the pleasure he gave me over the years.

I've been slightly surprised by the volume of media attention and recollections.  I knew he was a huge star, a legend, an icon, but I was cynical that the world at large didn't realise. I know now this was wrong. And I've felt a bit jealous in a way with every man and his dog recounting how kind and special he was, and how he smiled at them or spoke to them. And how many people shared my "awakening day" of July 6 1972.

RIP our special Starman.

I'll be back tomorrow with my Spotify list of my favourite songs and albums. If you can wait :-)


Saturday, January 02, 2016

Dead Sirts and Blender Traumas

A huge bag of kale confronts me balefully when I open the fridge.  It's Jan 2 and the healthy eating programme has resumed.

photo: mediterrasian.com
I say "resumed" but unfortunately it was on hold for most of 2015 so a few pounds have crept on.

Just two and a half days into my programme, I have already lost the aches and pains and the "sugar face" that you get from eating too many chocolates. It really is amazing the difference that lots of fruit and veg, lean protein, low sugar and carbs can make.

I'm whipping up soups and adding a scoop of Nutri Shape & Shake flavourless protein powder to each serving. This makes it more filling and so I can survive on it until the next meal without climbing the walls. Soup is so nutritious, it's a great way of getting your five a day in one hit. Today I made a spinach and broccoli soup. I had sore misgivings but actually it was fine. Very important for a good soup:  use a decent stock. Those Oxo cubes and Marigold bouillon powders aren't great because they're full of salt.

The kale was bought along with some frozen fruit and berries because I planned to have a smoothie for breakfast. But I was traumatised last time I used the Nutribullet, the latest "white elephant" gadget to be consigned to the cupboard with all the other fads. I just can't face it. I can't be weaned off my daily poached eggs with one slice of seeded wholemeal toast.

So I'm having eggs for breakfast, soup for lunch and for dinner a piece of lean protein (eg chicken breast) or prawns or fish with vegetables / salad and healthy grains like quinoa or spelt.  Plus a couple of satsumas as a snack and maybe a banana if I get desperate.  I'm also throwing in as many sirtfoods as possible - all the rage - but I haven't seen "lovage" yet in the supermarkets, which is on the list of dead sirts.

As for New Year's Resolutions, today I read that it's more helpful if you ask yourself a question rather than make a statement. For example:  "will I exercise more this year?" is more effective than "I will exercise more this year."  And the answer to my qustion is yes: I have signed up for the Great Newham 10k, which involves a couple of laps of the Olympic Park. I did a 5k last year but it was a bit of a struggle. So let's see.

Here's my recipe for my favourite soup, Carrot & Almond, which even J finds acceptable:

For 2 large servings:
4 teaspoons olive or rice bran oil 
3 large carrots
50g ground almonds
1 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
2 sticks of celery
Turmeric - doesn't add flavour but is a great anti-inflammatory
500ml stock  (the Essential chicken stock from Waitrose is excellent)
200ml water
Teaspoon ginger powder

In  a large pan gently sweat the chopped onion; add the garlic, celery and chopped carrots. Add the spices. Pour in the stock and water; season. Bring to boil then simmer for 25 mins. Blend; add the ground almonds and blend again. Enjoy.

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