Sunday, 3 January 2010

Happy New Year People!

Location: In bed, wrapped up in a duvet, with the old electric heater on.
Mood: Slightly despairing.
Listening to: Picking Oranges
Reading: Taste: The Story of Britain Through Its Cooking
Playing: Revisiting TimeSplitters 2 on PS2

Fuck. Ing. Hell.

Woke the morning to a very miserable Fisher, who'd gone downstairs to discover the heating isn't working. This happened at exactly the same time last year, again on a public holiday, and again meaning we had to wait 3 or 4 days before getting someone in to fix it. We have to freeze until Tuesday. Is this reasonable? I think not. And when I say freeze ... it's currently -2 degrees C outside, at 12.35, so I can only predict that the temperature will get considerably less balmy as the day progresses. The night should see a drop to at least -7. For those on the other side of the pond, the conversion to silly fahrenheit is as follows:
-2C is 28.4F
-7C is 19.4F

This may not seem all that bad, in comparison to the -40 I've heard tell can hit certain parts, but I'd like to point out that most of you lot seem to follow the example of the second little pig and build your houses out of twigs, with rooms that are easy to heat and installed with heating systems that were created a mere few decades ago. Beautifully warm and functional (despite your dodgy electric circuits and bafflingly rubbish dishwashers), with sizable rooms and modern luxuries such as electric light switches that don't spark alarmingly each time you switch them on. I, on the other hand, am the proud and loving possessor of a house built some time in the 18th century by people who had no problem combatting the cold by setting fire to each other and sharing small spaces with cattle. If you're a little more fastidious than this, it turns out the house is quite hard to heat. Not only that, but if you bought the house from some eco-friendly Buddhists who, though pleasant, are not very bright, you may discover they've installed geo-thermal heating ... which is both unreliable and expensive. At least, this system seems to be. When faced with low temperatures outside it goes into a dizzy panic, believes the whole world must surely be in the throes of a nuclear winter and that we're all going to die, then faints in terror. It takes a degree of expertise to be able to know just where to thrust the smelling salts - expertise that I certainly don't have (I've only just mastered switching it on), and that even clever Fisher can't deal with. At least she has an idea of what might be wrong. She says it's probably the thermostat, which we had replaced this time last year, and is obviously shite. If it is - and if it's broken within a year - she's going to have a little stroppy-strop and tell the engineers it's bloody not good enough and it was clearly a faulty part. Meanwhile, I'm huddled in bed, she's pootling about resembling a bright pink Michelin man in her 18 layers (the top one of which is a bright pink fluffy jumper), and I'm busy contemplating alternatives to shivering it out. We have 3 days to wait. We could throw ourselves on the mercy of our friends, which I am very loath to do. They've all just finished their holidays, are going back to work feeling crabby and depressed, and have only just got rid of us anyway. Also, we have Baffie and Bridie, who aren't welcome in certain flats (owing to landlords - not friends) and cause allergies to other pals. So friends aren't a very comfortable option.

We could throw up our hands and head off to some flashy pants hotel. This would surely be the most fun option, but Christmas has placed a strain on the coffers - as usual - and I don't want to go all budget at this time of year. Budget hotels are rarely pleasant in sunny weather. When escaping the freezing wastes they're a definite no-no. Also, Fisher and I agree that we've overindulged to a ridiculous extent this year. My attempts at weight loss have been larfable, and with New Year providing no excuse not to be resolved, it seems foolhardy to head off to a swanky establishment with lavish meals provided as part of the package. So, on the whole, this is a tempting but inadvisable option.

It seems our only recourse is to stick it out. Gah! Unfortunately, because the coldest part of the whole house is the kitchen, neither of us is going to want to cook - so we'll probably end up going out anyway, getting fat and dying of a heart attack. Or is that overly pessimistic? Sorry - must be the hypothermia setting in. Even wrapped up in bed I'm starting to feel my face getting numb.

But this is a sad opening entry of the new decade - especially as the last one ended so merrily. Let me give you a run down.

We had the whole family come for Christmas. Fabulous to see everyone, and there were a lot of laughs. Of course it was hectic, with lots of meals to prepare and plan, but everyone pitched in and it was a lot less frantic than it could have been.

Once everyone had gone back to their homes we began preparing for the second wave. Hogmanay would see us host 11 for a sit down Chinese banquet. Guests were: Epona, Shah, Kai and Ina from the Glen, Janus, Badger, Pro, Koi, and Champaign Charlie - who was over for the Christmas holidays and cadged a lift up from Dumfries with Epona and Shah.

This is what I cooked:

Bao - stuffed with haggis, for that Scottish touch. I don't think they worked as they were meant to as they weren't nearly fluffy enough - but I had good reports.
Gyoza - courtesy of the lovely marvellous Badger, who made them with his usual expertise.
Prawn toast - courtesy of Ken Hom and Tesco. Cop out - but tasty.

Main Courses:
Peking Duck - with wild duck shot by Shah, homemade pancakes (not great. Too thick and tough) and homemade plum sauce (tart!).
Slow roast Chinese pork - delicious! Rubbed with salt and 5 spice, then roasted in a tight, covered dish while steeped in sherry, soy sauce, spring onions, ginger, spot of sugar, garlic, for 5 hours at 150. Mmmm. So good.
Stir fry prawns with squid rings in ginger and sherry - not sure I tasted this one!
Chinese beef stew - brisket in soy sauce, star anise, sherry, spring onions, lots of water and simmered for 2 hours - excellent! The brisket was much more tender than I imagined, and even if it produced a lot of fat, it wasn't hard to skim off and the taste was wonderful. We had a lot of this left over and had it last night for supper. Yumster.
This was all served with boiled rice and stir fry veg.

Lemongrass sorbet, made by Fisher, and ginger tuille biscuits made by me.

We finished it all off with a very un-Chinese cheese board, and accompanied it all with shedloads of booze. I have to say, I was horrified with how much I drank over the course of the night. We didn't get into bed until 4am and I was very much hammered. I think this had something to do with how quickly I was drinking. There was a lot of getting up and down for all the different dishes, and in between I'd just neck back whatever glass was in front of me. So - yeah - the following day was somewhat painful, and it was a good lesson. From now on I shall try and drink more slowly.

New Year's Day was spent in painful, lazy fashion. We did all manage to drag ourselves out into the snow to walk the pooches - and were promptly caught by Shah and invited in for a dram. I'd just started to feel less hungover, so accepted a "very weak" G&T ... which was so far from weak it wasn't even funny. I had to empty a full can of tonic into it to make it drinkable. As for the boys - they asked for small, very small, drams of whisky, and got triples. We drank incredibly slowly, drawing our drinks out for at least an hour and enjoying the chat, then went home and collapsed in front of Dr Who.

Everyone left yesterday, leaving Fisher and me to revel in our quiet house. We went to the gym in the evening, where I ran 5k then did 20 minutes on the elliptical machine, ensuring I burned at least 500 calories. My knees are feeling a bit ropey at the moment, but I'm ignoring them and hoping their complaints go away. Always a sound solution, I feel.

And now we have no heating, and I think 1.52pm is probably pushing it for being in bed - no matter how much I tell myself it's a heat-conserving exercise. So I shall leave you, wishing everyone who reads these words a very happy new year and hopes for greatness to come.


Bronze said...

So I guess I shouldn't tell you we have had no weather below 30degrees celsius since christmas ?? ha ha . Thank-you for your lovely blog its wonderful!!

Seshat said...

Thank you Bronze! I tried to leave a message on your blog, but it didn't post : (
As for temperature envy - it's lost on me, I fear. I like winter - although not when it's in my bed with me - and my parents have already bitched and complained about their heatwave in the Med. So I pooh-pooh your sweltering smugness and rejoice in the snow and ice! Or I will do, when the snow and ice is banished back outside again.
I'm now going to try to leave a message on your blog again. Happy New Year!

Lubentina said...

Well this friend would gladly have taken mercy on you - hell for once our place is normal people temperature as I'm supposed to keep warm (Joy) - despite how utterly impractical that actually would be! :) Glad it's bearable now.