A Proper Pasty

If I had to compile a short-list of my favourite foods, I don’t think there’s a lot of competition for what would take first place. It would be freshly baked bread, still warm from the oven, and butter — optionally accompanied by a good, ripe Camembert and some Ardennes pâté, washed down with red wine or Belgian beer (though the bread and butter are definitely the key thing).

Populating the rest of the list would be a bit harder as there are many contenders. One would probably be the Cornish pasty.

I remember watching an item about Cornish pasties many years ago on Blue Peter, and being particularly taken by a detail they mentioned, namely that sometimes pasties were baked with jam at one end (separated from the meat and veg at the other end by an internal pastry wall). The idea was to provide a desert course for the tin miners who would take the pasties down the mine with them to eat for lunch.

This struck me as being a wonderful idea (I was going to describe it as “deliciously simple and simply delicious” but I’m fairly sure I used that wee phrase in one of my previous posts not all that long ago). Sadly, there are (to the best of my knowledge) no commercially available pasties that include a jam end.

I have once or twice, though not for quite a few years, tried making my own pasties and I did have a go at making them with jam at one end. As I recall it worked pretty well. But I don’t really want to have to go to the hassle of baking pasties from scratch just to get a bit of jam in them.

This evening I was microwaving a shop-bought pasty for dinner when I was struck by inspiration. I was making a cup of tea to accompany the pasty and when I opened the fridge to get the milk my eye happened to light upon a jar of raspberry jam. It occurred to me that I could add some jam to the already cooked pasty.

Once I retrieved the pasty from the microwave, I made a small hole at one end of it with a fork and excavated the filling (which tasted very nice even without its pastry wrapping), before putting a spoonful of jam in the newly vacated end.

I then proceeded to eat the pasty from the other end, and very much enjoyed the jam when I got to it. There was a certain amount of mixing between the sweet and savoury but that actually worked quite nicely.

I probably won’t do the same thing every time I have a Cornish pasty from now on but it’s good to know that I can simulate a two-course pasty without having to do all the hard work myself.

Advertisements

A Fine Rain

Since writing my last post, I’ve been thinking that it was perhaps a bit too negative — essentially a moan about the weather (though admittedly that is a characteristically British pastime!).

A much more positive view on the subject is taken by a couple of the characters in the novel That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis.

It’s been several years since I last read Lewis’ Cosmic Trilogy, of which this book is the final instalment (I was going to say “third and final” but I realised this was slightly redundant since, with the notable exception of the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy trilogy, the number of books is clearly indicated in the word “trilogy”) and I haven’t had a chance to dig out my copy to check the names of the characters or precisely what they had to say about the weather. The gist of it, though, was that they enjoyed the weather in all its manifestations, not just the warm, sunny weather that most people would call “good”.

Ever since first reading the book (probably a good 25 years ago now) I have felt that this was a sensible policy to adopt, although I often fall far short of managing it and I think there are situations, when lives and livelihoods are threatened by by extreme meteorological conditions, that call for responses other than enjoyment. Most of the time, though, it’s better to aim to relish the variety of weather conditions — the warm summer sun, the soft refreshing rain, the power and majesty of a thunderstorm (a phenomenon which occurs very rarely in my part of the world – I can probably count on the fingers of one hand the number of full-on thunderstorms I’ve experienced since moving to North Wales nearly 20 years ago, and at least one of those was while I was on holiday elsewhere), the sheer beauty of a pristine snowfall, or whatever.

With that in mind, allow me to observe that I experienced a fine rain on my way home from work this evening.

The term “fine rain” is, of course, ambiguous and I must confess that the sense I was primarily thinking of as I cycled home was that sort of small, light raindrop that still somehow manages to totally get in your eyes and soak you through (despite wearing so-called waterproofs) within seconds, rather than a particularly excellent specimen of precipitation. Trying to think more positively about it, at least this sort of rain is relatively gentle (and quiet) compared to the heavy rain that I often have to contend with or, worse, hail (I still have a hard time trying to find any enjoyment in being outside in a hailstorm). Fine rain is more like a gentle, though persistent, caress and actually quite refreshing. Another nice thing about it is getting home and being able to change out of your wet clothes into nice dry, warm things. And it’s pretty good for the garden (if not experienced too often).

Despite those positives, I would definitely not think of it as being the sort of weather that would particularly make you want to eat ice cream. I was therefore rather surprised to see an ice cream van (complete with classic, slightly-out-of-tune jingle) driving down my road as I reached home.

Hearing the weather

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain lashing against my windows, accompanied by wind. This is not unusual for where I live, especially at this time of year.

More or less my first conscious thought of the day was “The weather sounds pretty horrible today”. This was followed by a time of pondering the fact that if we can hear the weather at all it is usually a bad sign.

Obviously it’s quite possible for the weather to be very bad in complete silence, for example heavy snow. However, I am at a loss to think of anything that would be considered as good weather by most people in most circumstances that would make a significant noise. All the loud weather phenomena I can think of (heavy rain, strong wind, hail, thunder etc.) would definitely fit into the category of bad weather.

Fortunately by the time I actually set off for work, an hour or two after waking up, the rain had eased off substantially and the wind had dropped quite a bit. It was actually quite sunny (albeit still moderately breezy) by the time I cycled home, though it did start raining again fairly soon after I arrived.

Figuary is finished (for now)

Figuary 2019 is now over.

As I have mentioned once or twice in recent posts, Figuary is a daily life drawing challenge set by the Croquis Café and LoveLifeDrawing YouTube channels, running through the month of February. Serendipitously, I discovered these channels (or more strictly speaking, I restarted drawing after a long gap, joined a weekly life drawing class that happens to take place in the building where I work, blogged about it mostly because I accidentally came up with a too-cool-to-ignore title for a post on the subject and was subsequently directed to the channels by my brother Wulf — I don’t know how or when he first came across them but I’m very grateful for the pointer) just before the first ever Figuary took place.

I have very much enjoyed watching the daily instructional videos from LoveLifeDrawing and trying to put the lessons into practice with the daily pose videos from Croquis Café. My results were quite variable from day to day, but I think there was a definite improvement in my drawing skills over the course of the month. I managed to keep up with all the daily videos and draw all the poses from each one (as well as a couple of extras on a day when I got fed up with the model moving too much and ended up pausing the video!). Having switched from a single page to two pages of my (A3) Figuary sketchbook each day from about the middle of the month (when they tackled the subject of drawing on a larger scale – I’d already given myself an extra page on the second Sunday to allow for the extra poses in the longer session that day) I ended up filling 43 pages of my sketchbook, as well as half a dozen A5 sheets on the first day (when I didn’t have my sketchbook ready — I did another set of drawings from the same video the next day), doing a total of 192 sketches specifically for Figuary, not counting all the ones I did in my life class or from the back-catalogue of Croquis Café videos or other sources). As well as putting copies of all of them in my general Croquis Café album on Flickr, I have now set up an album specifically for my Figuary 2019 drawings (I have another one for my life drawings done at my actual life class and one for miscellaneous figure drawings based on other sources)

Now that Figuary is over, I may not do life drawing every day, but I certainly intend to keep up my daily drawing habit. As for the figure drawing, I’m planning at least to keep going to my weekly life class for as long as possible (as drawing from life beats drawing from videos hands down in almost every respect) and to keep up with the new figure drawing resource videos appearing weekly at the Croquis Café. I’m also due to be attending the Oxford Summer School this year (at the end of July) to have 3 days of instruction on drawing from dance, so I’m hoping that the life drawing (and general drawing) practice I have done and will have done by then will give me a good foundation for that.

I gather they are planning to run another Figuary next year (presumably sometime between the months of January and March!) and I very much hope they do. If so, I fully intend to participate again. And since it’s due to be a leap year, I guess we may even get 29 days of drawing instead of just 28.

Getting there

As I mentioned the other day, I have been working through Figuary, a daily series of life drawing videos provided by Croquis Café and LoveLifeDrawing during the month of February, with a view to encouraging daily drawing practice.

One of the recent videos included a quote I rather liked, and which is applicable not just to life drawing but to a wide range of other subjects:

Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.

This quote originated with Arthur Ashe, an American tennis player (described in the video where the quote was mentioned as a “tennis legend”, though I must confess that I’d never heard of him). I’m guessing he’s more likely to have had tennis than drawing in mind when he said it.

It occurred to me that if you wanted to be slightly obscure you could paraphrase this quote as:

Getting there is more important than getting there

Cutting the cheese

A number of years ago, I made a very minor linguistic discovery concerning the geographical distribution of a certain idiom.

The phrase in question is “to cut the cheese”, a somewhat colourful description of flatulence that was quite common in the parlance of the young people of North West Kent in the mid 1990s (of whom I was one).

My discovery was that this same phrase was also current in Sussex about 10 years later, but evidently not (or at least not very widely known) in either North or South Wales. Admittedly my research was confined to the group of three friends with whom I was having lunch on one occasion when there was an opportunity to make a joke about cutting the cheese, which only one of them understood.

The reason I mention this now is that I was watching an episode of Bones a few days ago and a couple of the characters in that amused themselves with a reference to cutting the cheese, clearly in the same context. The episode was from around 2008 or so, and was set in Washington DC. I assume that the scriptwriters were from somewhere in the USA, not necessarily the DC area, so it doesn’t allow for the particularly precise location of another time and place (other than Kent c. 1993 and Sussex c. 2003) where the phrase had currency. Still, it was interesting to discover that its not a purely British idiom. I wonder whether it travelled from South East England to the eastern seaboard of the United States or vice versa, somehow bypassing Wales on the way, or if it reached both places via other paths.

While I’m on the subject of cheese, I should perhaps mention a surprisingly nice taste combination I stumbled upon a year or two back and still enjoy as a snack from time to time mdash; cheddar cheese and wasabi paste.

Deja Vu

I said a couple of weeks ago that I wouldn’t blog about my life drawing sessions again unless anything particularly noteworthy happened.

Well it did (near enough for me, anyway) today.

Last week we had a new model (new to our session, not new to modelling). This week we had her again. This was somewhat unexpected as we had been told that we would be having the model with whom we started the year (and my very first session), but she cancelled and fortunately last week’s model was available instead.

The end result is pretty much the same from my point of view in any case — a second opportunity to draw a model I have previously drawn. I’ve already had that experience with some of the Croquis Café videos but this was the first time in my 21st century experience of actual life classes. Actually, I was quite looking forward to redrawing the first week’s model, since I think my drawing has improved quite a bit since then and the progress is less noticeable since last week (in fact, I think I got better sketches then than today!). Not to worry, as it’s very likely we’ll be seeing both models again before too long (as well as the others I’ve drawn so far, and doubtless several I haven’t).

Speaking of Croquis Café, I have a cunning plan which will be much easier to do with the videos than it would with a real live model. In a few months’ time (or perhaps sooner, though I don’t want to make it too soon) I intend to revisit some of the videos I started with, and then compare my first and second sets of drawings of the same scenes. I’d expect to see  significant improvement from one set to the other. With live models, it may be possible to get more or less the same pose (and in fact, one of our poses today turned out to be quite similar to one from last week, though I was viewing it from a different angle) but it would be relatively hard to get a complete set and to ensure that they were drawn for the same duration and from the same position, with the same lighting conditions in both cases, while the videos are infinitely repeatable.

Also on the subject of Croquis Café I wanted to put in a brief plug for Figuary. This is a month long initiative put together by Croquis Café and LoveLifeDrawing, with the aim of providing daily life drawing instruction and practice for the 28 days of February (check out this earlier post or just google them if you want links). Each day, there is a short (roughly 3 or 4 minute) instructional video from LoveLifeDrawing and a pose video from Croquis Café to provide practice opportunities for the techniques discussed in the other video. The pose videos have a different model each day; I’m not sure if we’ll be getting 28 different models, but most of the ones we’ve so far had are familiar to me from the regular CC figure drawing resource videos I’ve been working through. Most days the videos are a bit shorter than the regular CC videos  (about 18 minutes), with 6 poses each day (three 1 minute ones, two 2 minute ones and a single 5 minute one to finish) but the Sunday videos are the same format as the regular ones (24 minutes, 10 poses, with 5, 4 and 1 each of the three durations respectively) — in fact, the Sunday videos are the regular videos but have just been rebranded for Figuary.

So far I’ve managed to work through all the Figuary videos on the appropriate day, and I’m just about to do the ones for today. Hopefully I’ll manage to keep that up for the rest of the month too, so my figure drawing (and my general drawing, for that matter) should continue to improve quite a bit over the coming weeks.

Incidentally, I’m putting photos of all my sketchbook pages from Figuary into the same Flickr folder as my other Croquis Café drawings but if you just want to see the Figuary ones you should be able to get them here.