Bellerophon symbol, variation 7
Thursday 3rd September 2009

A******'s first day at school
img_2419.jpgimg_2421.jpgimg_2425.jpgimg_2426.jpgimg_2427.jpg Here's A****** in his school uniform. In the first picture, you can see on A******'s face a bit of nervousness, a bit of apprehension, perhaps . . . but I've left this picture in as this is the only full body picture of A****** in all his school uniform. It felt kind of weird saying goodbye to A****** at lunchtime (school started at 13:05 today or some such weird time). M**** walked him to school and did all the proper goodbyes. And I'm kinda thinking, "Well, what is so weird? A****** has been at nursery since he was one." But whilst nursery/playschool were not compulsory, this is. A****** is now part of the education system. It feels like the end of 'something' and the beginning of 'something else', although I'm not entirely sure what. Maybe I'm just meant to feel that way.

Friday 4th September 2009

img_2433.jpgCheck these little green freaks out. I can't remember when I first germinated the seeds but the plants have been growing throughout summer. The first entry I can find is this one but I reckon it all began some time in May before I went on holiday, as I remember asking family to give 'em a bit of water every now and again whilst I was on holiday. So yeah . . . and now we have proper jalapeños and I'm kind of wondering, "Well, when can I harvest these then?" As usual, the answer (or several answers) can be found on the internet. Oddly, these particular jalapeños had no discernible spiciness about them at all and tasted more like capsicum, if anything. Nice, but extremely mild. Maybe they need to ripen for longer.

Thursday 10th September 2009

Summer returns, wonders where everyone's gone
img_2465.jpgimg_2469.jpgimg_2479.jpg These pictures are to remind myself what a gorgeous day it was today, as was yesterday, but I was a bit unavailable yesterday and taking pictures of the sky (or much, really) wasn't really on my mind.
img_2480.jpgimg_2499.jpgimg_2498.jpg So yes . . . yet more dull pictures of chilli peppers, this being the first time I've ever tried and succeeded to grow some kind of fruit/vegetable/thing from seed. I had today off work . . . recuperation. I've probably just been going on and on about the jalapeños but I've also got a couple of 'demon red' growing as well (see picture on far right). I don't know how strong these are gonna be (they're not quite ready for harvesting, as you can see) but with a name like 'demon red', you would expect something with a bit of kick to it. The picture of A****** is him dealing out the cards for a game of snap, R****** and M**** in the background, and every inch of washing line used up to dry a back-log of clothes.

Sunday 13th September 2009

Jenny Brown's Point
Here be various pictures from today's outing to Jenny Brown's Point, Silverdale. Mouse and Simon came over at about 12:30-ish. After lunch, we drove out to the Wolfhouse Gallery, which seems like a convenient place to park the car. Went for a walk, clambered around some rocks for a bit and then went to the café.

Monday 14th September 2009

one sigma bond and two pi-bonds
I find it quite odd that I've fleetingly mentioned a recent 'operation' (at least I think I did, at least I have now) yet the exact details of this have not been specified. No, that's probably not that odd really. I went in for an operation at the infirmary on Wednesday morning and came out that same afternoon. I would have gone to work the next day but M**** insisted I took the day off and it was probably just as well that I did. I would really love to go into the details of this operation as I find it kind of fascinating, the whole process, and I'd like to keep a record somewhere. But perhaps that 'somewhere' is not here. I keep having to remind myself of that golden rule of blog-writing: "Would you feel comfortable telling your grandparents this stuff?" and on that basis . . . perhaps not then. I think most of my friends and family know what the operation was about anyway. Suffice to say that it all went swimmingly. Of course, most of the time at the infirmary was spent waiting. Occasionally I would see a nurse, a surgeon, a doctor or someone. The actual surgery itself only lasted about 10-15 minutes. The surgery wasn't part of any bigger 'issue' or anything . . . if anything, I guess you could call it 'cosmetic'. I've probably given enough away now.

Friday 18th September 2009

Stuck to my chair, I'm so not stuck to my chair
Up and down the country, I sense several thousand people moaning, "I'm not stuck to my chair. What a waste of time." I watched this stupid Darren/Derren Brown programme tonight and I really wanted to believe, I really wanted something to happen. I am highly sceptical, but also highly suggestive and highly receptive. So, yes, I suspended belief and wanted to be stuck to my chair, to be hypnotised into believing that I could not get up. What a fool I was. The guy must be laughing all the way to the bank. And don't get me started on the stupid National Lottery thing . . . grrrr . . . Darren Brown, Darren Brown . . . you changed the 'a' to an 'e' just because you got famous.

Saturday 19th September 2009


Tuesday 22nd September 2009

Agents of chaos
img_2602.jpgimg_2600.jpg I don't know what's going on here (christ, how many entries have begun like that?). I think M**** took these pictures, given that I would have been at work at the time. So this is R******, helping the universe along, increasing entropy. I don't know what I'm meant to do with these pictures, whether I'm meant to put them on the web-site or not. Ah well, here they are.

Saturday 26th September 2009

Darren Brown Ale
In honour of the mighty D[a|e]rren Brown, I named our first attempt at beer: Darren Brown Ale. You see what I did there? Anyway, I collected Lucy and Gen at about 15:00 and then we got on with the important business of beer production. The rest of this entry is my vague attempt to chronicle exactly what happened . . .

Stage 1 - Gathering Ingredients
We're making a very specific beer here: a dark, fruity, chocolately beer with a high alcohol content (about 6% - 7%, we reckon). Here are the ingredients:

  • 543g sucrose
  • 2kg dark malt extract
  • 1kg light spray malt
  • 500g crystal malt
  • 500g amber malt
  • 148g chocolate malt
  • 53g roasted barley
  • 81g fuggles hops (to be divided into 61g and 20g)
  • 10g target hops
  • 20g hallertau hops
  • 1 tablespoon Irish Moss
  • Brewer's yeast (but how much? ARRGHH! Enough for 20 litres, I guess)

Note: regarding the barley, you'll probably need to roast this yourself on a tray in an oven. Just roast at a high heat for about 20 minutes, until they go a dark colour. Of course, as well as the above, various equipment was required:

  • 2 x 20litre brew buckets (with tight-fitting lids)
  • Sterilising powder
  • Thermometer
  • 20litre beer boiler
  • Milk bottle
  • Airlock thingy (we used a 'type 2' one)
  • Various muslin bags - one large enough to fit over your brew bucket and several smaller ones for the hops

The above should be enough to get your barrel of beer happily fermenting but ultimately you'll need to syphon it off into the other brew bucket (and possibly back again) and then, finally, into capped bottles. Hence, you'll need the following:

  • Syphon
  • Empty beer bottles
  • Bottle capper
  • Hydrometer (for measuring specific gravity)

Stage 2 - Sterilisation
So, next we need to sterilise things. Give the brew buckets and lids a good clean and then use the sterlising solution to finish off. Once done, keep the lids on the brew buckets to minimise contamination. Sterilise the empty milk bottle and the airlock (this airlock should fit snugly on top of the milk bottle; hence, if you have no milk bottle, just ensure that your airlock fits tightly onto whatever bottle you use). You'll shortly be preparing the 'starter culture' (hey, I've no idea what it's really called but 'starter culture' sounds pretty good) which will involve boiling water in a pan and pouring into the milk bottle. To do this, you'll probably need either a funnel or a jug. Either way, ensure that all of these things are thoroughly sterilised beforehand.

Stage 3 - Starter Culture
So, we get about 300ml of water (two thirds of a pint) - the exact quantity isn't critical - and boil in a pan. Add three tablespoons of the light spraymalt and let it boil. Once boiled, pour into the empty glass bottle, put the airlock on the top and let it cool. Give the bottle a little bit of a shake to get some of the air mixed into the liquid. Let it cool down . . . once cooled down, we'll be adding the yeast, but don't worry about that for now.

Stage 4 - Boiling commences
So, we've got our starter culture thingy, we've got sterile containers and equipment, we got the ingredients . . . so it's time to put it all together. Now, if you wanted, you could put all the malts into your beer boiler along with 15 litres of water and let it boil but that might not be the best idea. See, stuff like amber malt is often supplied in grain form - this ain't gonna boil that well. Any malts provided in powder form, just bung into your beer boiler. Otherwise, you wanna break up whole grains (using a pestle and mortar, blender, whatever) into powder or something approaching that. Also, in order to save yourself unnecessarily filtering grains out of your beer boiler, it makes more sense to keep all these in some kind of large muslin bag or whatever. Anyway, here's the way we did it:

  1. Crush crystal malt and amber malt into something approximating to a powder (the finer the better)
  2. Place powdered grains from previous step into large muslin sack
  3. Place 61g of fuggles hops and 10g target hops into small muslin bags
  4. Place 20g of fuggles hops and 20g of hallertau hops into small muslin bags
  5. Put 15 litres of water in beer boiler
  6. Place large muslin sack (containing malts) over top of beer boiler, ensuring contents reach the water
  8. Once boiling starts (check the temperature with thermometer if you feel the need), turn the heat down and do the following . . .
  9. Start timing and add the 61g fuggles hops and 10g target hops
  10. After an hour and a quarter of boiling, add the 20g hallertau hops, the 20g fuggles hops and 1 tablespoon of Irish Moss
  11. Let boil for another 15 minutes (totalling an hour and a half of boiling)
  12. Turn the heat off, tidy up a bit
  13. Top up the beer (up to 20 litres, if you want) by pouring boiling water on top of the large muslin sack. I think we used boiling water (?!).
  14. Transfer the beer from beer boiler to your sterilised beer bucket. Hopefully, your beer bucket will have a tap, as ours did. If not, use a syphon. DO NOT just pour it from one vessel to another - that would be bad.
  15. Put the lid on the beer bucket and leave it somewhere to ferment

Stage 5 - Fermentation
Once your starter culture has cooled down sufficiently (I'm thinking below body temperature - 37.5°C), add the brewer's yeast and replace the airlock. As we did all of the above on Saturday night, it was only Sunday morning when the starter culture was added to the beer bucket, given a quick stir and the lid replaced. I've no idea how much brewer's yeast we used . . . erm . . . Anyway, also quite important is to test the original gravity using your sterilised hydrometer. This should be done after you've added the starter culture. Make a note somewhere of the reading.

Stage 6 - Further fermentation and bottling
The stuff in the beer bucket should happily ferment for a week or so. You should see froth forming after a day or two. You can take the lid off or leave the lid loosely on top at this stage, as the yeast has now established itself and the beer is well and truly brewing now. Once the frothing has calmed down (typically after a week), transfer the beer (i.e. syphon) into another clean, sterilised beer bucket, leaving all the gunk at the bottom. Leave the lid on this and allow to ferment for another week or so. Syphon the beer back into the original beer bucket (although this will of course have been cleaned and sterilised). Boil a half pint of water with 3 tablespoons of sucrose. Add this to the beer and give a good stir. Beer is now ready for bottling. Transfer into clean, sterile bottles, leaving one inch of free space. Beer should be left in bottles for 1 - 2 months before consumption.

Tuesday 29th September 2009

A****** and Abbey
img_2607.jpg So that's Abbey as in Abigail, one of A******'s many cousins. M**** picked up Abbey from . . . somewhere . . . I know not where . . . it doesn't matter. I had completely forgot about the arrangement until I got in from work that evening and . . . hmmmm, who's that at the dinner table? And then I remembered.