Monthly Archives: December 2011

John Hurt and some very bright lights


Sorry for the delay, avid readers, but after travelling for over 34 hours to make it home for Christmas I have taken advantage of the rest time and caught up on some well-earned sleep. I am sure you would agree that it has been quite a year of activities.

In my last few days of 2011 in the Big Apple I saw John Hurt, and that voice, perform Samuel Beckett’s one-act play Krapp’s Last Tape and followed that up with a wander around Brooklyn’s answer to the Blackpool Illuminations.

John Hurt was magnificent as expected. I am going to cheat here and link The New York Times review because it articulates everything I felt but more eloquently than I could currently achieve, sat comfy on a sofa in the North East of England.

Spiky gray hair on the 71 year old Hurt and a voice that carves through any silence with vigour

As the curtains were lowered on the BAM stage, my theatre companion Giles and I ventured out into the bitterly cold wind of Brooklyn Heights and hopped onto a subway towards the city’s other bright lights in Dyker Heights. Famous for their Christmas festivities, residents in Dyker Heights put on a spectacular show for the tourists. Competing or not homes  (we think yes) are converted into merry displays of Christmas-y splendour. Electricity bills? What electricity bills. These people don’t care two hoots about global warming, and why should they? If the photos below are anything to go by, this outrageous demonstration of jollification is absolutely worth all the energy (ahem????). We strolled, curling inwards to maintain a safe body heat, through the neighbourhood reacting to shining nativity scenes, super sized snow globes and monstrous exhibits of luminosity where one garden in particular was imitating the Terracotta Army, their version comprising toy soldiers and angels.

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Some say the Americans do things bigger and better. In this instance I would certainly agree with “bigger”. “Better”? I am not so sure.

Beckett Revision


Off to see Krapp’s Last Tape on Sunday. So today involves a spot of revision on the play itself and the playwright.

Listen to NPR on Beckett

Copied from NPR on April 8, 2006

Samuel Beckett’s legacy skips from continent to continent. He was born in Dublin, Ireland; he became an assistant and friend to James Joyce in his adopted home of Paris; and later turned the London and New York theater scenes upside down with his absurdist play Waiting for Godot.

“Mix a powerful imagination with a logic in absurdum, and the result will be either a paradox or an Irishman. If it is an Irishman, you will get the paradox into the bargain…” reads the presentation speech for Beckett’s Nobel Prize in Literature. “Paradoxically, this has happened in 1969, a single award being addressed to one man, two languages and a third nation, itself divided.”

As the centenary of Beckett’s birth approaches this week, remembrances and performances of his work are under way. In addition to plays such as Godot, Krapp’s Last Tape and Endgame, Beckett wrote novels, essays and poetry, as well.

Godot, considered an influential classic today, earned everything from apathy to anger when it debuted in 1953. The dialogue bounces back and forth between two tramps named Vladimir and Estragon, stuck waiting for the arrival of an M. Godot — who, like God, will never appear. When Godot opened in London, the British Lord Chamberlain censored some of the lines for supposed vulgarity and blasphemy.

Beckett’s plays are sometimes characterized as desperate or depressing. But biographer Richard Ellman wrote that, in stripping away the niceties of life and the filigrees of traditional theatre, Samuel Beckett entered the real territory of God — not of his plenty, but his paucity, where nothing is left but the elemental grief and joy of being alive.

Read “Waiting. Samuel Beckett’s Life in Letters” by Anthony Lane in The New Yorker

A Sunday Afternoon of Cooking


Dear Sister,

Just a little note to thank you so very much for my birthday present this year. It was truly inspired. As you know, from your recent Skype conversation, Karen Lee is absolutely lovely, so I was in high spirits as I skipped across town this morning to learn some handy hints and tasty ideas in her Upper West Side kitchen.

Luckily I, and a few others, arrived a little early and so we were able to help in the cake baking that would serve as our dessert later on. What a cake. Sour Cream Cinnamon Coffee Cake with a Chopped Pecan Topping. I was hard pressed not to grab the bowl and get stuck in pre-oven. Not being in my own home I decided against it and remained focused on Karen’s teachings. I should already know this about baking, but it was a valuable reminder that measurements are key. As mother always tries to instill upon me, “Don’t guess!” She’s right you know. It is absolutely about precision to achieve the perfect cake texture: measurements, temperature and time are all crucial in the ultimate success or failure of a cake. I made a note.

As the cosy 30th Floor apartment began to infuse with a rich smell of baked goodness, we began on our Lentil and Goat Cheese Salad with Sauteed Prosciutto. Well I do love a Puy lentil, and of course my love of cheese goes without saying, so as we boiled the lentils in a makeshift stock of one carrot, a piece of celery and some chopped onions, I was beginning to get peckish. Always taking notes and trying to soak up Karen’s expertise for future dinner party successes, my fellow students and I were all firing questions at our Culinary Master, to which she responded promptly and with a keen enthusiasm. To see a really great cook in her own kitchen, keeping the place ordered, focused and managed perfectly, was a treat.

So while the lentils were simmering, we began to prepare a Roasted Eggplant Salad with Fresh Mint. Ever the fan of ratatouille and all it’s analogues I was intrigued to see how eggplant (a vegetable that terrifies me after several failed attempts at its preparation) could achieve greatness alongside the staple tomato and shallot. As that was roasting away in the oven, following an hour of sitting quietly in a coating of salt (to minimise the amount of oil needed for its cooking), we began to put together the components of the lentil salad. Alongside our finished masterpiece came deliciously warmed bread from Hudson Bread and within minutes it was devoured. A theme of the afternoon.

Now we are in the final moments of the eggplant preparation; eggplant, tomatoes and shallots tumbled together in a pan and then loaded onto a clean white serving dish and garnished with fresh mint. I quickly snapped a few pictures with my camera, all too aware of the ferocious nature of my fellow students when exposed to Karen’s cooking.

As the last spoonfuls of eggplant salad were gobbled up we began on the meat. Four huge steaks, sister your eyes might have fallen out of your head, were plonked in front of us. After a quick discussion on cuts and preparation techniques we began mixing up two dry rubs to marinade our main course. Then as the steaks bathed in their curried flavouring we started on the couscous. A more colourful couscous I have never seen. And my tummy, already well-fed, was eagerly reserving room. We seared the steaks and popped them in the oven as the couscous began to take shape. A vivid yellow base colour was speckled with chopped roasted almonds, red peppers, green scallions, parsley and mint, dressed up in a simple olive oil and lemon juice and served to us as our chef began carving the meat.

What seemed like moments must have taken at least a few minutes and all our hard work was complete. We had been more than rewarded for our interest and Karen’s wonderful knowledge and clear love of food left me eager to begin cooking as soon as I set foot back in my kitchen. As we rounded off a beautiful Sunday afternoon with a slice of cake and a generous dollop of mascarpone cream, I was content. Blissfully content.

Darling sibling, what a great gift from you. And I only hope I can recreate these treats for you and Family Ashbridge at Christmas as a real thank you.

PS I have attached some of the photos I took throughout the afternoon.

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Karen Lee Cooking

SantaCon NYC


From the SantaCon website:

How to be a good Santa:

  • Don’t be THAT Santa.
  • Fill your Metrocard. You will need one with at least 4 rides on it.
  • Obey the law. Even open container laws. Even traffic laws.
  • Pace yourself. Santa is jolly, not sloppy.
  • Tip your bartenders or rot in Santa’s douchebag hell for all eternity.
  • Bring cash. Bar stops are too crowded to run a tab.
  • Break in your boots. When the sleigh breaks down, Santa walks. A lot.
  • Donate food. Bring at least two non-perishable items to the start point.

Should be amusing then!