To the long list of things that get on my wick:
1. Chewing gum
2. Other people’s personal stereos that sound like rattling tambourines and prevent you reading on the train
3. The vocal delivery of teenagers
4. The mere presence of teenagers
5. Come Dine With Me
6. Train guards who say ‘station stop’
7. Illogically-placed stress on prepositions and auxiliaries
…I have added TV and radio weather forecasts. Long ago, weather forecasts were often exploited by teachers and materials writers to contextualise the ‘will’ future for learners of English. This might not have been an entirely accurate reflection of real-life use, as writers had to go by hunch rather than draw on corpora as we can now. Anyway, pay close attention to the next weather forecast you hear. I would be willing to bet that there will not be more than a couple of instances of the ‘will’ future, if that. I’m not indulging in nostalgia or advancing the mad claim that only 'will' is appropriate for predicting the weather, just pointing this out. Most of the phenomena now are described using the present continuous – ‘fog patches developing overnight...’ - and the UK weather forecast genre now requires anthropomorphism (or theriomorphism?) of the elements: ‘that band of rain creeping in, temperatures struggling to reach double figures’, and an assumption that we all hope fervently for sunshine, but know that rainfall is the dull, predictable norm and disappointment inevitable: ‘parts of the north east getting away with a few hours of sunshine, but then there’s that band of rain creeping in, I’m afraid, and some pretty heavy showers in store before evening.’ What pisses me off about all this is that it’s all pitched at the lighter, higher end of the speaker’s voice range, sounding all chummy and cheery, the obligatory smile audible over the radio waves, and it seems to me to be an attempt not to sound too authoritative. Don’t sound authoritative these days, even if you know you have a right to, as every bloody ignoramus feels entitled to talk back, or click ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ after what you’ve said. I really would prefer some stuffed shirt in a dinner jacket informing me in a clipped, metter-of-fecked, early-fifties sort of way to expect skettered shahs, rather than the garrulous matiness we must endure these days in any public announcement: ‘cashier number four, please!!!’ Come on down!
How did you get me started on this? I was going to chuck in a recipe. Well, what with temperatures sweating to attain figures above minus two and low clouds pootling about overhead (but not underfoot) I decided to make fasolada, bean soup, the Greek national dish. It’s nutritious, comforting and very cheap, perfect for the climate, meteorological and financial. My last attempt at fasolada was not successful. The white beans I bought at the local health food shop must have been rather elderly. I soaked them overnight and cooked them for the better part of the day, but the skins remained tough, and eating the soup, you’d have thought I’d added a tablespoon of fish-scales to each bowl. This time, I bought tinned black-eyed beans from Waitrose, thus cutting out all the faff of soaking in bicarb, boiling, draining, rinsing and boiling again. It still required a good couple of hours cooking to get the texture right, but the result is infinitely preferable to the last batch.
So, get a couple of tins of white or black-eyed beans, or both; a lot of good olive oil, a can of chopped tomatoes, a carton of V8 vegetable juice cocktail, a few chopped carrots, a couple of bay leaves, a bunch of oregano or thyme, (I used the latter) a fistful of chopped parsley, vegetable stock powder, some garlic or garlic infused olive oil, and a fat onion. You could use chicken stock for the liquid, but I have an aversion to any sort of meat stock - quite irrational when I’m perfectly happy to eat the flesh. Fresh garlic never seems to make its mark in this sort of dish, so now I add garlic-infused oil just before eating. Fry the onion gently until it softens, add the garlic if using, then your tomatoes, carrots, and beans. Chuck in some V8, stock powder and water, and add the herbs and plenty of extra virgin olive oil. Let this cook on a low heat, plopping and burping gently, for rather a long time, adding more liquid if it gets too gloopy. The beans should cook to a creamy smoothness whilst holding their shape.
I cooked this last night and let it sit in the fridge, as it is always tastier the following day. During the night, we had about a foot of snow, so this evening the fasolada will be most welcome with a salad of cucumber, tomato, olives and feta, some wholemeal bread and a glass or two of red wine. Fasolada will happily keep in the fridge for a few days, so it’s worth making a big potful.
Today, temperatures will lunge gamely to hit the zero mark, but they’ll run out of steam and fail abjectly, having a fair old tussle to get a leg over minus two. Some of you cheeky little tinkers in the Peterborough area will be jammy enough buggers to see just a teeny, heart-cockle gladdener of a peep of sunshine there, you lucky little sausages, but it’ll be back to the same grey, mumbling, disgruntled clouds that the rest of us are having to put up with before you know it, so don’t be getting too bolshy about it, OK?