Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Broccoli and the art of skiving

"Do you like broccoli?"

Nine times out of ten it's not a question any of us would struggle with. In my case it's: "Fresh purple sprouting yes, big green lumps from the supermarket no."

But considering I'm talking to my neighbour June and she's standing in her veg garden with a knife, I go for an unconditional and enthusiastic "YES!". OK, I didn't shout, but I was maybe a little quicker off the mark that absolutely necessary.

The veg gardeners among you will be used to making careful plans to stagger the sowing and planting at just the right intervals and then watching as everything arrives at exactly the same bloody time.

This is about six of your five a day
Having spent a couple of minutes discussing the day and the carrot fly, June lops the top off a particularly impressive broccoli plant and I'm off back to Stoneyhall with at least one part of the night's tea. The florets took only three or four minutes to steam and I saved the stalk to cut into matchsticks for a stir-fry (Malc's handy household hints No.327). Trust me, it's great. Sweet, bright green and tender, it's nothing like the rubbish you'll get in the supermarket and I can't believe I've never grown it myself.

It proved to be an added bonus on what was already a cracking morning. We've not had the best of weather for nearly 18 months now, but October - despite some stiff winds and a few bits of squally rain - is a vast improvement.

So the other morning I decided to take doctor's advice (given to me by Karl about three years ago) and go out for a walk in straight lines on a flat surface. It's good for the knees, apparently.

I take Owen with me, telling the terriers Spike and Mij I'll give them a tour of the rabbit holes later and we set off down the road to complete the a modest square, heading down to the shore, along a bit and then back up to home - a mile and a half perhaps.

In reasonably warm sunshine, the pair of us set a fair pace and - as is usually the case with our dogs when they are out on their own - Owen is as good as gold.

He's particularly delighted, and a bit surprised for some reason, when we reach the shore. He dives in and we go through the old stone-skimming routine until my arm aches and I stop to admire the view.

And if that's not worth taking the morning off for, I don't know what is.

Yeah. . . I can't believe I took a picture of broccoli either

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Radio Ga-ga

"Are you OK to do the piece right now?" said Robbie from Radio Orkney.

"Err. . . I suppose I am," said a suddenly uncertain small-time pig farmer.

And so it was shown to the wider public in Orkney just why I spent the best part of 30 years working for newspapers.

I was on the air to plug the new community heritage project Westray's Living Heritage of which I am - apparently - project manager. In other words, I gather in photographs and video of current events in the island and upload them to the website. It keeps me out of mischief and the few bob it earns me means the pigs don't go hungry.

The plan had been to twist the Heritage Trust's chairman to go on the radio, but with one thing or another, time was running out and Robbie from the BBC gave me a call on Thursday afternoon.

It was - to put it mildly - bloody horrible. My stomach started to churn, I tried desperately not to mumble, I punctuated every fourth word with "um", my head filled with cotton wool about halfway through. It was poor stuff and the only saving grace was that it wasn't live.

That gave the team in Kirkwall the chance to knock the interview into shape and by the time it went on air (right at the end of the morning bulletin), "ums" had been kept to a minimum and I sounded like I had some vague idea what I was talking about. It's not something I'm in a hurry to repeat though.

And now back to the Radio Scotland studio in Glasgow for the phone-in - Alec Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, is something fishy going on with the SNP?