The irony of fate

I am sat here listening to the soundtrack to a Russian film called The irony of fate.


The film in fact was a television series spread over three episodes of an hour each. It was made in the late Soviet era and the plot twists around the fact that across the Soviet Uninion identical apartment blocks were put up. The blocks had the same names, the street names were same and unbeknownst to the occupants the keys were same.

On day before New Years Eve a man gets drunk with his friends. Through a combination of bad luck he ends up on a wrong plane. When the plane lands he is still drunk, stumbling a taxi he gives his address and so ends up in a apartment that is identical to his own save that he is the wrong city.

The apartment is owned by a woman who is surprised to find a strange man in her bed when she comes in from having been working the previous night. It transpires that both the man and woman are due to get married to people they don’t love.

The man can’t get home until New Years Day so he is forced to spend News Years Eve with the woman. The irony of fate intervenes and the inevitable happens.

The music is by a renowned Soviet composer, Mikael Tariverdiev. Although renowned over there until recently his music has been unknown and unavailable over here. It is now started to filter through now.

It is beautiful and beguiling and probably quite romantic.

Some of the irony of my fate hit me half way though this afternoon as I was sat at my desk staring at a flickering screen and either trying to write emails, letters and all the detritus that passes through my day. There must be more to life I thought.

What I would have preferred doing was be staring at slightly different flickering screen and trying to finish off the book about mackerel, the book of recipes inspired by the grocers or even make a start on the book trying to fathom how I ended up wanting to listen to so much music from my first single being Gimme Dat Ding by The Pipkins.

I put all aside briefly this evening and made pasta with creamy sauce flavoured with garlic, powerful blue cheese and spinach.

Having polished it off I may just curl up on the safe and press play again.

Persian Oxtail Stew

It is always a good idea before making a start on a recipe not done before to read through the instructions so that when you come across the words “leave to simmer for five hours”, they do not come as too much of a surprise.

Luckily I read through the recipe sufficiently early in the day to give me the hours needed for it to simmer quietly for the requisite period of time.

It is now sat on the stove giving away the odd bubble and filling the house with its deep and serious smell.

Before I took at a look at the recipe there was a walk along Bidston Hill. In the midday sun the air was clear and fresh ad brightened the browns and otherwise subdued shades of late autumn.

The oxtail have been lurking in the bottom of the freezer for a couple of months. They came out to defrost a few weeks ago but then had to go back in when something else came along. There was a slight frustration with this as the one the cookbooks that arrived for my birthday, The Palomar Cookbook, has what looked like a particularly recipe for them.

I knew Sunday was going to be quiet so it seemed an opportune time to take the oxtail out of the freezer again, defrost it properly and give it a seeing to with some oil and spices.

Before frying it off I made a spice mix by crushing together a large amount of cardamom, roasted cumin and coriander seeds, cloves, juniper berries and turmeric. It is the smell of these spices that is filling the house and there is now only two hours to go before it will all be ready.

A vegetarian alternative was made with butternut squash.


Too early in December

I was bound to get it wrong when I tried to impress the teenage daughter by telling her that I had been dancing to Beyoncé the previous evening. I started off okay when I told her I had been dancing to Single Ladies but then hit a gale of laughter when I went on to say I had then danced to another song about putting a ring on it. I was told firmly that these were both the same song and I was a fool for thinking otherwise.


These would appear to be the dangers to be had from an office Christmas party.

We were only on the second day in December and in a lot of ways it seemed far too early to be putting a festive look on my face. It was the first office party I had been to for about five years and the good intention was to be there for just a couple of hours, use up my drink coupons, and go home. I had even organised a tap on the shoulder about 9.30 so as to share a taxi back to Birkenhead.

Those good intentions started to slide even before I left the office as I flipped through some of my favourite Christmas songs and remembered the guitar mayhem that is Bootsey X & the Lovemasters’  – (Santa’s Got A) Bomb For Whitey. When something is better than Motorhead you know it has to be good. There may have been a half glass of wine involved.

The good intentions slipped further as some of us tucked into a couple of pints in The Ship & Mitre. There we appeared to be in the minority in not have spent the afternoon drinking. There was a temptation to find a seat, make ourselves comfortable, and spend the rest of the evening filling ourselves with good beer.

But there were drink tokens to be had in the Albert Dock and so after a couple of pints we roused ourselves and made away down there.

It was a good job we did because there was dancing to be had, maracas and I eventually came home with another garland of plastic flowers to hang with other two on the head of my bed. I did get a tap on the shoulder but the DJ was about to play some Chic so going home wasn’t really an option.


Saturday morning was slow and so I cooked a curried parsnip soup for lunch courtesy of Jane Grigson and listened to Laura Cantrell. There was also time to admire the small stock of Christmas trees at the grocers although it is still too early to be getting our own.

Pollock at Isaac At


Go fishing for mackerel too near the rocks off Owen Island then if the hooks on your line don’t get caught and lost in the seaweed it is not unusual to come up with a pollock.

They are generally a disappointing fish. When they are first on the line they feel heavy and briefly there might be an expectation of the fight that comes with half a dozen mackerel on the line all pulling in their own direction to get away. But a pollock will just hang there a dead weight to be pulled in.

Just the one mackerel will continue to thump its tail hard against the wooden bottom of the boat even after it has taken a tap at the back of its head as if it could wish itself back in the water by keeping on with that one grip on life. The pollock will just lie there grimly satisfied with the further disappointment that will come when we try to eat it.

Although the ones we pick off from near Owen Island have some size on them they are small compared to the fish we sometimes see coming in from the deeper parts of the Bay. The have a sludge brown colour about them with a flash of gold over the belly.

Whatever their size they have not been good to eat. They normally give a good couple of fillets but there has always been something watery about them and over the last few years whatever ones we have caught have mostly gone into a pot for stock.

It turns out we have been getting it wrong because pollock were on the menu at Isaac At on Saturday night and were one of the best things we ate. The fillets had been covered in salt and wrapped up in clingfilm for a few hours. The salt had drawn off some of the moisture and firmed up the flesh so once it was cooked it just held together.

The pollock came almost halfway through a meal that started with a a crisp fried salad leave laid with small pearls of taramasalata and pickled kohlrabi, then carrots done three ways followed by lamb, chicken and then a quince and apple sorbet and culminating with poached pears.

None of those descriptions do the food justice. Hopefully some of the pictures do.

Following the meal me and the son went to a local pub to drink beer and watch as people shuffled to Chic and other disco music.

He then went off to have a good time and I went to bed knowing that fate had conspired so that I was going to have to share a bed with him. He duly woke me up with a smile at 4.30 in the morning complaining that his sister had made him leave wherever he had been early just as he was starting to have a good time.

I went back to sleep and dreamed of graffiti and bright orange bomb going off of the carrots.