Bodies

Yesterday I went with a friend to the Beurs van Berlage (the old Dutch stock exchange) in Amsterdam to see The Bodies Exhibition.

The exhibition gave a fascinating tour of the human body, with preserved specimens dissected to particularly illustrate features such as the muscles and the central nervous system. It sounds perhaps a little squeamish, but in fact wasn’t at all.

Ouch!

Organizing a surprise holiday becomes a little more complicated when you take into account the need for your travelling companion to be vaccinated before departure.

Still, despite my concerns that this might prove to be a giveaway to our destination, a little research has shown that it is in fact a requirement for most of the European destinations that she hasn’t yet been to ….

(indeed, it seems I should have thought of this on a number of my Click’n’Go trips. Ah well, still seem to be alive and kicking!)

Where in the World?

This time next month, Mum and I will be 1 day into our mystery weekend away…

So far the only clue is that foreign currency will be required. Whether for one or both of us, I’m not saying.

Fridge Cake

Melt 250g of butter and a 200g bar of dark chocolate. Whilst this is melting, break up a 400g packet of digestive biscuits until you have a mixture of fine crumbs and some larger chunks (I usually put them in a plastic bag and beat them with a rolling pin).

Once the chocolate mixture is melted, mix the two together and then press the mixture into a baking tray. Leave in the fridge overnight, and then it’s ready to cut up and eat.

Serving suggestion: it’s lethal with whipped cream.
Possible variations: I quite fancy trying it with a bit of mint flavour.
Healthier version: may be some of the butter could be substituted with milk?

Note that the ingredient proportions are pretty approximate as I tend to just go by packet size, which differs between England and Holland… I have seen various different recipes, some of which require you to add brown sugar or syrup. So if you don’t like this variant, experiment!

Visit to York

Mum and Dad organized a surprise day-out for me last Sunday, as a birthday treat. They managed to keep the destination secret until we were about 10 miles out – a visit to York, somewhere I haven’t been in about 15 years.

We started out with, no real prizes for guessing this one, a visit to the National Railway Museum. This, along with the Jorvik Viking Museum, is the only place I remember from childhood visits, although only vaguely.

The museum is vast, with a large collection of steam, diesel and electric engines, as well as complete carriage sets. One of the most interesting exhibitions was a steam engine that looked like it was undergoing open-boiler surgery, allowing you to see how it worked internally.

My other favourite exhibit was the live replica of the signalling control system at York railway station. This gave live images of the state of the signals at the station and nearby junctions, in conjunction with feed from a video camera at Skelton Junction. The system was set up at a window, so that you watch a train coming out of the station at the same time as following its progress on the screens.


The second part to our day in York, was to attend choral evensong at the Minster.

The music list for the service was:

Responses: Rose
Psalm: 147
Magnificat: Swayne
Nunc Dimittis: Wood in Bb
Anthem: If the Lord had not helped me, Bairstow

Aside from the Rose responses, which I have sung, all the music was new to me. Both the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis settings were in Latin, which is fairly unusual. Despite the impression that might give you, though, the Swayne was a very modern setting, and sounded like quite a challenge to sing.

Also interesting to me was that the musical director, Philip Moore, is the composer of one of the settings I sung last summer with the European Cathedral Singers, in Southwell Minster.

After the service we were able to wander around the Minster for a little while. There is an astronomical clock which is well worth seeing, and also a lovely Chapter House, with a beautiful ceiling, and great acoustics (I tried them out).

SK185 – Molecules, Medicines and Drugs

Great excitement when I got home on Friday night (or should that be Saturday morning) after a relaxing few drinks at our monthly choir social, and found a parcel waiting for me.

Despite the lateness of the hour, I had to rip open the box of materials for my new Open University course, amongst them a molecular modelling kit.

This little beastie is an aspirin molecule – black balls represent carbon, red ones are oxygen, and the white ones, hydrogen.

In the Post….

… well, nearly.

My End of Course Assignment for the Open University course I signed up for last summer – Studying Mammals – is all packaged up and ready to go! The course was based on the BBC television series, The Life of Mammals, and covered many aspects of mammalian biology.

Both the television series and its accompanying book are available through Amazon (DVD, Book), and I’d highly recommend either of them.

Despite the fact that making time to study has been hard the last few months, and indeed most of my work for the course has been done in the last three weeks, my innate thirst for knowledge (or lack of common sense…) has not been overcome, and I’ve signed up for another course Molecules, Medicines and Drugs: A Chemical Story which begins in February.

Time for something a little different

As ever, my decision to go to the hairdresser today was made on the spur of the moment, mostly triggered, I suspect, by the fact that I should have been busy finishing off an Open University assignment, tidying my appartment, and generally occupying my time with worthy tasks, before I go out to Fiona’s birthday party this evening. Instead, I find myself with short hair for the first time in over 10 years!

Team Cultural Event

Well, perhaps “cultural” is a bit of an exaggeration for what was essentially a team get-together at the house of a colleague, to which each of us brought a culinary offering, in most cases something that is traditional from our land of origin.

My contribution was a steak and kidney pie, whose construction was fraught with difficulties. Lacking a normal sized oven, I took it round to my colleague’s the night before to cook, and then brought it into work on Thursday, but without the puff pastry for the lid which I was planning to add at the last moment. Unfortunately, because of the storms that hit on Thursday afternoon, I couldn’t get back home to collect as the trams to Delft weren’t running, so I had to compromise with some filo pastry that I found at a nearby evening shop.

Starters
Avocado with prawns (South Africa)
Potato pancakes (Belarus)
Raw Herring (Netherlands)

Main Courses
Pilaf (Kazakhstan)
Spruitjes (Netherlands)
Steak and Kidney Pie (UK)
Vegetable Curry (UK)

We had a very enjoyable evening, and finished up with a walk on the beach at Scheveningen.

Westvleteren

Since joining the choir last year, I’ve also been receiving education in the area of Belgian beer from my friends Darby, Fiona, Chris and Alex. Now only Fiona and I are left in Holland, but my education is continuing!

Ever since my first trip to a specialist beer cafe with them, I’ve heard stories of the almost mythical Westvleteren beer, brewed by the monks at the abbey of Sint Sixtus in Westvleteren, Belgium. The monks only brew enough beer each year to support the abbey, and despite the beer’s popularity, have no intention of increasing production, making the beer very hard to find.

Last night, we managed to get our hands on some at Locus Publicus, our usual Delft haunt. They have a limited supply, and are rationing it – we sampled all 3 varieties, and pretty much cleaned out the evening’s supply single-handedly. Even Ivo, an avowed Duvel drinker, had to sample it…