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Month: September 2020

Home Sweat Home, uni-style

(Cat not included)

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, an episode of Studenthouse CSI


I want the best for my kids, but sometimes it’s confusing as regards what that really is.

They are now suitably installed in their second year houses off-campus, but waiting to be properly Locked Down when the inevitable happens and there’s a Surge at their respective uni.

On that, I’m not clear in the now of COVID why students have been mustered on site at their temples of learning and social enrichment when the learning can be done online using that wonderful Internet-thing that has just been invented; and the social part is looking increasingly like a mini-Lockdown for them in a damp house with people they don’t know very well. It’s good for the landlords (including the unis), I suppose, so we can all be happy about that, right?

Delivering my son to his sparkly new house which he’s going to share with three other guys – grunge alert – WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOP! – was a splendid way not to worry about Corona for a bit. But not for good reasons.

Alert! Alert!

He and his mates chose the house after as much research as you can reasonably expect from nineteen-or-so-year-olds…

Can we get Virgin Media? Yes. Tick.

Does Deliveroo come here? Yes. Tick

Is there a bedroom for me? Yes. Tick.

Where do I sign?

Last weekend was the first time that we’d seen it when we delivered him there. Mother muttered that it needed a little TLC from the outside. For that I assume she meant Take Loads of Care when walking round it. It has a gas oven where the oven knob boinggged off when turned, inviting an inspection of the rank interior of the appliance. We politely declined that invitation. Especially with a lit match. We are ordering crime scene tape – DO NOT CROSS! – from Amazon to stick over the doors and an electric oven from Amazon. He is studying History, not Bomb Disposal.

The encrusted smoke alarms provided extra excitement – Amazon will be as delighted as the Science Museum.

Then a trip around the fluorescent pink tiles of the kitchen for the kitchen-diner experience, followed by the Laundry Room – a space which has an ever-flowing tap like a permanent water feature, and a carpeted downstairs loo that doesn’t bear thinking about. As bedrooms go, his is fine, the only limitation being the black curtains with a yellow flower pattern that looks like coven meetings are held there for right-on Satan worshippers, standing room only.

Don’t get me wrong, the house is big, airy and fine when the booby traps have been de-fused – it was equally fine back in the 1960s when any maintenance work was last done to it. If this is approved or recommended by the accommodation people at the uni, they need to run the odd check every decade or so to ensure the place isn’t life-threatening. Just a thought.

So, just to be clear, I don’t expect my offspring to live in a palace for uni, but I do expect the place of their first real full-on contact with the Real World not to conspire to blow them up, smoke them like kippers or drown them. And yes, voting with your feet is a way of dealing with it, but when accommodation is difficult to get, that’s going to fly a lot less well than those witches…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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An homage to fromage

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, the wheels (of cheese) don’t quite come off at a virtual cheese tasting…


There was a time when an evening of live culture meant a trip out to the theatre, not a Zoom cheese tasting session.

We huddled around our iPad and watched a cheese making video with live commentary from the cheesemaker, a life threatening variety of his cheeses in front of us that had been delivered earlier in the day as props. To be fair, the live commentary was more entertaining than for the Carabao Cup (most things are, though, so that’s a low bar).

When I was growing up, a cheese board meant putting Dairylea triangles on a plate next to those thin – purportedly Cheddar – slices which were the colour of Donald Trump’s hair. Here, there was a landscape of craggy cheese and soft cheesebergs broken up with rugged bread and bikkies.

The cheeses included the wonderfully named Lord London created specially for the 2012 London Olympics, and making all the fuss about winning the bid worthwhile. It’s a bell-shaped cheese which we frantically stuffed with garlic and random herbs from our hubristically named kitchen garden (either that or they were weeds) and then oven baked. Yum.

And, among others, there was a blue, crumbly and creamy. Extremely yum. Delicious with accompanying red wine and apparently really good smeared over a milk chocolate biscuit to make sure that all major migraine food groups are covered.

Now that’s what I call a cheese triangle…

Things have come a long way during Lockdown, accelerating changes and how to deal with them by years if not decades. Our willingness to turn to technology to paper over some of the gaps has been awesome, if not necessarily welcome on the high street, but needs must and this type of event is becoming more and more mainstream where eight months ago they would have been more of a gimmicky side show. The cheese provider, like other industries, is scrambling to meet demand for online servicing, a prerequisite in the current vicious piranha pool of the market, the need for a USP, a differentiating feature, all too evident.

I’m now going to head off and soak my head in a cold towel (bought online a few months ago) to recover from the red wine that I cunningly used last night to counterbalance the tower of cheese. Jasper, my retriever, still has that hopeful, wistful look from last night that shows his cheese detector has overloaded.

I’m not sure I shall touch any cheese for a few days now to help to average out the wave of cholesterol that must have broken over me last night. I think Amazon sell hangover cures, right?

It’s the whey forward…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

PS Here are the details of the cheesemakers from last night. Worth a look…

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Putting the band back together

We drove down to the South Coast at the weekend for a concert. The last time was for Mark Knopfler, this time it was for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

Glyndebourne, not the Brighton Centre. A stretch for the coast, I’ll grant you. An afternoon of sitting in the gardens, eating a picnic, drinking mocktails and listening to classical music in a COVID-secure way. Not far off normal life (I’m not referring to the mocktails as the aberrration), but with the new-normal tweaks of a one-way system around the premises, two metres between each pod of audience members and far enough away from the end of the woodwind instruments to settle the nerves. No need for black tie since it was an afternoon concert; awkward for the token wearer but he seemed fine with it.

And to the orchestra. A palpable feeling that the band was back together, that they had been let out to play and would have lashings of ginger beer later and party games. Sheer relief at being able to sit in front of a crowd of people again albeit some the size of a Twitter thumbnail in their line of sight.

Sweet Home, East Sussex

A tight eight-piece band with periodic light aircraft accompaniment. It was like the Buena Vista Social Club with a bassoon. Their black suits, a couple of them in black hats, white shirts for the men, it was like an audition in the grounds for the next Blues Brothers film:

“It’s 49 miles to Glyndebourne, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes and some clarinets. It’s dark and we’re wearing sun glasses. Hit it!”

Elwood (and Jake) Blues,
musicians

For me, the music proved to be a mixed bag, Beethoven’s go at an opera – Fidelio – plus some crowd-pleasing Mozart, and some Jonathan Dove (the mixed bag). Short pieces, like flash fiction: a conversation, a Countess interrupting an argument, dancing in the dark (not Springsteen). Seven pieces inspired by the Glyndebourne gardens, with – I very much liked the image – the inspiration of Mozart rippling through the trees into the music. A faintly jazz-like feel to some of the pieces, a sketchy slightly repetitive feel to the rest. Overall, a brilliant way to spend some time, COVID or not.

Why in particular? The relief in the orchestra was mirrored by the joy in the audience. My feeling is that they could have played Mahna, Mahna by the Muppets and we would all have felt great and applauded loudly; sadly, Animal wasn’t there on his crazy drum kit. We were determined that it would be great, and happily it was. The rustling of the trees in the breeze and the twittering of nearby birds beautifully complemented the music and the feeling of being OUT. Something that was not a compromise, something that we wanted to do, something that looks like we’d wandered into another drive-in by mistake. Not that last bit.

What time does the movie start?

A festival without the mud and with a selection of cheeses. We all need to find those moments of escape, however they come packaged.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

The Blues Brothers' 40th anniversary — read all Sun-Times coverage of 'the  best movie ever made in Chicago' - Chicago Sun-Times

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Leaving the nest – again

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix . You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, the Offspring are about to return to university with their magic self-cleaning bedding and renewed thirst for knowledge vodka…


The Offspring completed their first year at uni in the chaos of this summer, the 2019/20 academic year ending in a morass of will they / won’t they have exams, hand sanitiser and no 2020 Euros.

A few months on and there is a feeling of them starting all over again but they will have some herd memory of big nights at the Students Union Bar from a strangely familiar yet brand new place. I suspect that is fuelled by both of them moving out of hall and into their respective Student Houses: the place where vodka flows like water and Wet Wipes fear to tread. The place that is disturbingly like real life but with seminars. Life with stabilisers.

They are not only required to tackle the uncertainties that lie ahead at their Ivory Towers but in a place where they need to do dangerous things like cooking and cleaning without parental back-up…Happily, Offspring 1 has some brand new kitchen paraphernalia to play with, brand new because none of the items came out of the shrink-wrap packaging the first time around. You know the sort of ting, obscure artifacts like saucepans and chopping boards, ones that will one day be described as “Mint” on Ebay. So, no need to stock up for him; we did need to re-kit Offspring 2 because we abandonned most of her things at uni during the retreat in disarray in the summer, courtesy of That Bloody Virus.

Either way, our hall is now stuffed to the brim with boxes and bags full of, well, stuff ready to be transported to the next staging post of their journeys…It looks like the store at a frontier post in the Old West, but with more charging cables. A combination of essentials like asparagus dishes, snow shoes and supplies of gin (infused, of course, with craft botanicals).

total chaos packing for university
Packing for uni

They are the lucky ones in terms of the relentless workings of the academic life calendar.

They missed the horrors of the GCSE / A-levels debacle, the students for whom we should all spare a thought. The same with uni students last year either set up to go on life-changing years out in industry or just in other institutions, all swept away by the virus. The same for final year students robbed of what in a non-crazy world would for most have been the formal recognition of their path to graduation.

In an albeit small way, I’m in the same boat. I was awarded my MA for Creative Writing from Surrey this summer, which seems to me epochs ago. That moment has passed now. At least there’s no need for me to wear a funny hat and trip up the stairs to a rickety stage to receive my presumably blank certificate (I already have the certificate somewhere or other at home). Now it feels like a dream, all those workshops and seminars, wondering whether that all really happened or were a sneaky part of my creative writing process.

There are many much worse things that have come out of COVID than academic inconvenience, but just sticking with that for now the combination of awkward drifting and confusion/frustration among many students has been palpable. Hopefully most have, like ours, at least been able to tap back into their school network friends to sustain them, with gatherings and shots games as Lockdown has eased; while in the best of all worlds for our Offspring they have ideally retained a grip on budding friendships made in their first year at uni…That has been made easier by social media, of course; the world in COVID 1970 would have been a much darker and more lonely place.

Nine days to go before launch for Offspring 2, for Offspring 1 we’re not so sure given the quarantine situation for some of his housemates. But it will happen and they will make the best of it, hopefully not resorting to cold macaroni cheese out of the tin with the remaining dessert spoon as I remember doing my first time around.

No conferring , except at a safe distance…

Welcome to Universities Challenge, this is your restarter for 10

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

Alan Camrose with beard
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When sloth is not a deadly sin

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix . You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, the joy of creation, if you get my thread…


Just a quick post to show that not all things coming out of Lockdown are bad. This is my daughter’s beautiful piece of embroidery of a sloth hanging about. It’s a piece of work that I have neither the patience, the dexterity or the eyesight to achieve.

sloth eating his or her breakfast in leisurely style
Relax, have a bite…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

Alan Camrose with beard
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