that was a fortnight, 29 March 2020

I mean… wasn’t it?

I suspect I’m better set up for this than most, being a committed introvert. But ask me again in 12 weeks.

All I can talk about is some of the good stuff I’ve seen or heard recently – notably Feel Good on Channel 4 (Netflix outside the UK). I’ve always loved Mae Martin’s comedy, and whilst this gets pretty heavy, it’s so well written. And funny! A proper delight.

You might not think what you need right now is Davina MacCall reviewing croissants and talking about expensive pencils, but honestly, it’s the most soothing thing.

I wish I could be as obsessed and specialist as the snowdrop bloke on Gardener’s World (4:30 in).

Clive James’ Postcard from Shanghai is probably the one for which the world has changed most since the 90s. These postcards have dated in ways, but it’s interesting to see a mainly voiceover monologue on TV. Rare these days.

a cute ferret

slomo kitten

Mainly I’ve been immersed in the new Animal Crossing for the last week. I’ve played several of the previous incarnations, but they’ve never gripped me like they have other people. The new one is… gorgeous. And there’s a slight switch in emphasis from paying off your house mortgage (though you can still do that and expand and decorate) to populating the museum with all the fish, bugs and fossils you find. Whoever designed the museum had a lot of fun, and the animals look amazing.

that was a fortnight, 15 March 2019

I mean, where to start.

Last weekend (it feels like a year) I went to see a 7 hour play, The Seven Streams of the River Ota. Amazing production, as all Lepage/ExMachina productions are. It probably didn’t need to be 7 hours long – there’s one whole act that could have been removed, even if very punchy and probably the most beautiful.

What the time does give, however, is the opportunity to show, for want of better words, mundane terror. The normally inconsequential bits of life that happen with a background of something ominous.

And here we are.

I was in Hong Kong when the first cases in China were being reported, and when the then-current mundane terror that was happening was, depending on your viewpoint, the police and government or the protesters.

The news of a new illness did prick my ears up but if it was like SARS then I thought it would be pretty well contained and everyone knew what to do.

I did consider not going to the theatre last weekend, and being cooped up in a warm room with 750 people coughing on you, I did rapidly reconsider my personal level of social distancing and didn’t go to 2 other events last week.

And here we really are, day 3 of self-isolation. I don’t know what I’ve got (it doesn’t really match the symptoms – a cough, a little runny nose, no fever) or where I caught it from – I commute, I’m in a office. I’m ok, I have enough food for a month. I’m glad I bought some sausages, bread, crisps and biscuits in the last shop. It is fresh stuff you’ll be grateful for if you can’t get out for a week, not dried pasta.

No-one tells you when there’s something really terrible happening, there’s still tv ads for whiter smiles. Celebrity Catchphrase. Your gym ringing you to upsell. So now we’ve covered the terror, here’s the mundane –

I don’t make much coffee at home. I am unhappy with my coffee program. I have an Aeropress, I have a pourover, but I never find myself using them enough to get through beans quickly and they’re messy. Also, the most important thing in coffee seems to be the grinder – and who has ever actually cleaned their grinder?

So I went out and bought a Nespresso machine. I think Nespresso is the devil – cheap coffee sold at an unbelievable markup – but I have tried a lot of the official pods and I don’t really like them. They’re generally too dark a roast for me, and some have quite a lot of robusta.

Because the general patent for the original pods has expired, a lot of companies now make their own pods, and I’ve been trying a selection, from those you can get in a supermarket to mail order from specialist roasters.

They’re a mixed bag. The first thing to realise is that, a bit like Aeropress, it’s its own style of coffee. It’s not an espresso, it’s not filter. I’ve generally bought lighter roasts because that’s what I prefer, but consequently some of them don’t appear to have a lot of flavour.

So far the best I’ve found in the supermarket are the Tiki Tonga No 10, and controversially the Starbucks Blonde Roast (made by Nespresso) are not terrible. Of the specialist ones, I’m unconvinced by any ecopods so far – they seem to put too many grounds into the coffee. The Colonna Foundation pods are the winners by quite a mile. The short ones do have some of the initial espresso kick of red berry acid. I’ve had a bit of trouble getting them to pour consistently (the machine finds them a struggle) but the recommended shake of the capsule before use seems to help.

New food TV:

There’s a new short series of Ugly Delicious. You go in thinking it’ll butcher a topic like Indian food, but I learnt something. It’s changed so much from the early Lucky Peach/Mind Of A Chef days. Everyone’s grown up a bit, had a family, realised you have to rattle along with each other, and realised how anyone’s view is inherently culturally specific. It’s made me want to go to places I’ve never really considered. And features Helen Rosner and Anissa Helou. Still don’t think they’ve covered service enough.

I’ve been enjoying the One Of Everything series by Bon Appetit. They basically order the menu at a restaurant and try everything. That’s it. Don’t know if it would work for normal restaurants – it’s diners, bars, breakfast restaurants, etc. Places with variations on a theme.
If anyone wants me to do it in London…

American podcasts are generally terrible, but Jerry Saltz is great on The Dave Chang Show.

The Millennial Aesthetic

Just some foxes

Pepsi vs E.A.T. at the 1970 World’s Fair

Why British railway stations are getting better

No ice, no ice wine