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Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Blog 104. Surprise, Surprise!

You wouldn’t think I’d be easily surprised. If you are a regular bleader you will know I suffer from a certain scepticism which is nevertheless useful for a broadly satirical blog.

I’m not surprised that my soon-to-be-ex energy suppliers Scottish Power are even more crap than my previous one npower. I’m not surprised that trying to communicate with the Ombudsman service was nearly as frustrating and like talking-to-a-brick-wall as efforts to deal with the initial problems.

I was, however, surprised to find that it really did just take EIGHT MINUTES to switch to a new supplier – which is twelve minutes less than the last time I was in a queue waiting for a response from Scottish Power to find out why I still didn't have a bill - before I was cut off.

I was not surprised that within 24 hours of the results of the referendum Cameron had tied up the Brown bribes in so much obfuscation that it would take a hallucinogenic contortionist to unscramble the con. I was, however, surprised that Sir Ian Wood’s fracking intentions were not unearthed (sorry for the pun) when he was scare mongering about Scottish oil.

(for fracking cartoon go to 28th Jan post this year by clicking on the orange ‘amanda baker’ in the right hand column and scrolling down)

I am surprised at the new and ever more bizarre ways IT creates to allow communication between people who don’t or shouldn't mean anything to each other so that e-mail (which is still where I am at) looks like carving a note on a tablet of stone.
I am always surprised when the internet comes up with something that is actually useful especially if it’s useful to me and I couldn't find it in a book that I already had in the house.

A year ago, walking along the East Lothian coast I noticed the bright orange berries growing in abundance on smokey-grey-blue bushes with leaves shaped similar to Rosemary plant leaves. I could not help but think something so beautiful must be good (a mistake we humans often make).

So I looked them up on the internet. I discovered to my delight that they were not only edible but fantastically good for you and called Sea buck-thorn.
Fast forward one year and not only did I pick some (and they are horrible things to harvest) I went back onto the internet to discover what on earth to do with them. I needed pictures and descriptions and hints on how to pick and prepare them. I needed to know if they would make better jam or jelly.

And I found not just abundant information about this not-especially-common plant but more images and advice and step-by-step how to make jelly tips than you could shake a stick at.

I have to say, to the blogger with the fab coastal pics, that the stripping-from-the-branch-while-the-other-person-holds-the-bucket didn’t work for me. My berry pickin pal has the thorns to prove it. But we did manage to get enough to cover the bottom of the bucket to the depth of about an inch and a half (it was a good size bucket – we were very enthusiastic until we were reduced to one berry at a time).

After a ridiculous amount of physical labour – boiling then pressing reluctant berries through a sieve and boiling again with sugar to a temperature that would possibly melt lead and with my tiny kitchen spattered in sticky, scarily bright fiery orange goo – as if the sun had burst directly over my cooker and pans and spoons and containers and measuring jugs equally brightly painted, I finally ended up with 9 very small jars of deep orange brown STUFF. Now I have to wait and see.

And I can tell you – know one will be more bloody surprised than me if it WORKS.

In honour of the lovely afternoon by the un-frack’d coast in the surprise sunshine, do have (if you haven’t already) a listen to Casey & the Surfmen
Part 1. Down by the Sea
Part 2. Ripping the Earth
can both be found at

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