Hamble Campbell's Home Page

An occasional window on Hamble Campbell's world.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Quieten down there at the back

When I was a younger person I used to listen to the Royal Institution's series of Christmas lectures for children broadcast by the BBC. The only one I can remember is the set given by Carl Sagan about looking into space (as opposed to staring into it) and how we might find out what is going on within the solar system. Fortuitously, the subject came up in my mock "O" level exams the following spring and I did astonishingly well. Not so fortuitously, the subject did not come up in the genuine science "O"levels (there were two of them) and I did astonishingly badly.

As a diverting quiz question for this time of the year when you all have nothing better to do, perhaps you would like to solve this puzzle that Carl Sagan asked his science students - just for fun - WHAT DO THE FOLLOWING LETTERS REPRESENT?


I will supply the answer in my next post.

I mention the lectures because I was up in arms on Monday evening, having sat through the first of this year's lectures, now on Channel 5, given by Prof John Krebs on the subject of food. He gave an interesting talk to the children, but his audience was not well behaved. The rascals whooped and fidgeted their way through the 45 minutes - slowing down the lecturer's delivery and making the whole thing educationally very ineffficient. Every time the professor asked for a volunteer the lecture had to be put on hold for five minutes while the children jumped up and down in their seats screaming to be chosen. Reminded me horribly of badly taught classes of badly behaved school children that I have seen all too much of in the last few years. At the end of the lecture he chucked handfuls of Quality Street at them which made him for all the world like a zookeeper with a bucket of fish and crowd of penguins.

The good news is that yesterday's lecture was delivered to a very attentive audience of good boys and girls. We learnt that, along with the accepted tastes of sweet, sour, bitter and salt (I think), there is a fifth taste. (In fact I believe I read about this in the newspaper earlier in the year). The fifth taste has a Japanese name beginning with the letter u which translates as "tasting nice" and we would most likely think of it as referring to savoury things, or to protein - like cheese or mushrooms.

Incidentally - on the subject of happy memories from a golden age of television, I wonder if anybody else can remember a series of programmes called Shakespeare Masterclass in which some actors from the RSC discussed how they should act Shakespeare. It was so good I can still picture some of it now - Ian McKellan and Alan Howard were in it. Maybe 25 years ago or more.

Sunday, December 25, 2005


Today was mainly taken up with:

roast goose
brussels sprouts
spiced red cabbage
apple and prune sauce
roast potatoes

Too full to have the pudding so will offer it tomorrow following goose and bubble and squeak. WE HAD A bit of cake instead a little while ago and a cup of tea - luckily the icing had set - we only got round to icing it this morning. So remiss. And I only sent one Christmas card. I think I shall put a notice up wishing one and all joy of the season and break it to them that they'll not get a card from me - too wasteful, etc etc. Does anyone else agree?

I am now going to learn how to play Uno - a card game someone received today.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Don't do this at home

What's happening to Blue Peter? My children watch this programme and just occasionally I wander in to the room and catch the odd snippet of Matt and Konnie and Liz and funny Welsh name Gethyn, is it? and new girl Zoe's goings-on.

Firstly there are five presenters. Well that's not right. Traditionally there have only ever been three. Secondly, the show seems to have got very glamorous, fashionable, trendy, etc etc, - all descriptives that should have nothing to do with this institution. I was a viewer throughout my childhood and still use my signed photo of Simon Groom, Lesley Judd and (my favourite) Christopher Wenner, as a bookmark. There was never any danger of the programme being "hip" - that was left to ITV's "Magpie".

The unavoidable fact is, Blue Peter has decided to become sexy - with the on-screen flirtation between Zoe and Gethyn. Zoe is a very beautiful and charming blond girl (but with a horrible growly voice like a female Ian Paisley) who we have seen enjoying a sauna and relaxing massage while wearing a tiny bikini. She has also taken up the challenge to take a bath in green jelly, though she kept her clothes on for that - this ended up like a cross between mud wrestling and a wet T-shirt competition. In another feature Zoe, surprisingly, was spared the job of waxing Gethyn's chest hair - a stunt which would probably have terrified younger viewers (I watched, transfixed, setting the table ready for our tea). Konnie and Liz, wearing rubber gloves, held the half-naked Welshman down on a leather couch and daubed him with hot wax which they used to render his upper body bald.

I ask you - what are things coming to? I am a very infrequent viewer of Blue Peter, yet I have witnessed all the above. John and Valerie were never like this.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

An ill wind.

There was a black cloud hanging over the school all yesterday afternoon and it wasn't just the headmaster's bad mood. I believe it was a cloud of particles from Hemel Hempstead - thankfully it didn't rain. Mr HC reckoned he heard the explosion on Sunday morning, though I didn't hear anything. I wondered, on hearing that the police are saying the catastrophe was an accident, whether the government would tell us if it was in fact not an accident.

But once a year ...

But I'm never ready. I don't really like to think about Christmas until about two weeks before the day. So it is that I find that there is only one weekend standing between now and the 25th and I've yet to buy the Christmas cards, stamps, presents and whatnot. Of course, I am helped by my policy of only sending cards to people I won't be seeing and only giving presents to six people.

To be fair to myself, I did oversee the baking of the Christmas cake on Sunday (my twelve-year old daughter made it and it seems to have come out perfectly). I also looked in the decorations box in the loft to see if we'd any cards left from last year. We had, and with a sprinkling of Christmas serendipity, I found the thing I'd bought from Grand Illusions last year and had been searching the house for ever since. It was in with the box of tinsel and I don't think I shall tell you what it is. You will have to guess.

I shall go into Reading tomorrow as it is my day off and see what I can accomplish in three hours. I also need to buy myself a cardigan as I honestly and truthfully only have one I can wear. (I don't know how this happened aside from leaving my favourite cardigan at the Knitting and Sewing Exhibition and allowing for the shrinkage of a jumper in the wash. I suppose the weather has been quite clement until recently and I had not appreciated my lack of knitwear.) I'm telling you frankly that I had even resorted to wearing to school one of the man's jumpers I'd bought in the jumble sale for my rag rug making. That's how bad things have become.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Cockerel update

Just so you are up to date - I have changed the colour of his neck and am using Barry's shirt for the sky and Philip's jumper for a field.

Spud -u-like

Last weekend you could have found me having a very nice dinner in an absolutely chock-a-block restaurant in Sloane Square, London. I'd ordered roast pheasant, which was on the specials blackboard. I thought I would risk the cancer-inducing chemicals the birds have been fed on in the mad headlong-rush to encourage them to become big fat birds, too big in fact to be supported by their feeble legs, - pheasant-feed that is banned in the rest of civilised Europe but not here. But I digress.

The blackboard said the roast would arrive with beans wrapped in bacon and a dauphinoise and thyme sauce. Well, I'd never heard of a dauphinoise and thyme sauce, but it sounded just the job. My friend said, "You'll be wanting some potatoes to go with that," and having received the spud-related subliminal message I thought that dauphinoise potatoes were exactly what I wanted. The waiter took my order, with what, looking back, may have been a smirk.

Of course, when the meal arrived, I discovered that the pheasant came with its own portion of dauphinoise potatoes, - which were amply augmented (Can you tell I used to work for a cosmetic surgeon?) by my extra order - but that the waiter had neglected to alert me to this. I decided it would be politic not to make a fuss, though I did tell the waiter that I could not possibly eat so many potatoes, thank you very much. My friend paid the bill so I didn't think it my place to make a fuss and when they brought me my dessert it was the biggest pavlova you have ever seen - much bigger than those ordered by my fellow diners, and very tasty too.

However, I think that if we'd been in France, where waiters apparently are held in greater regard than they are here, this would not have happened. I certainly would not have left a tip, but I fear my friend may have.

Doggle bloggle

This is a picture of my little dog Susan. She is resting after an exhausting tussle on the sofa with her toy.

You may be fascinated to hear a story about the red chair on which she is relaxing. It used to be my chair when I was a small person in Peckham. I was, and indeed am still, very fond of its uncompromising, cutting-edge interior-design styling. In fact, a few months ago I noticed my chair gracing the corner of a trendy house featured in a Sunday newspaper colour supplement. The proud and fashionable owners said they had rescued the chair from a rubbish heap in Peckham. I suspect both chairs must have been purchased from the same shop - posssibly Jones and Higgins.

I also notice, to my shame, a splodge of white paint on the parquet - testament to my careless decorating. The parquet has been behaving very much like a weather forecasting pinecone just recently - the gaps between the wood fillets expanding and contracting according to local humidity levels. Other things to point out in the photo include the knitted patchwork cushion - made by my daughter for a school sewing project and requisitioned without a by-your-leave by Miss Susan. The plant, a weeping ficus called Reginald, survived last Christmas in our garage and has been rewarded with a sunny aspect and a shiny blue pot made in Devon.