Adventures doon the watter

Today was an adventure involving a bus, 4 trains and 2 ferries. I was out at the bus stop at 7am for the first leg of, what felt like an epic journey to Dunoon. I’ve never been to Dunoon so I was quite excited. When I got to Gourock though the fog was so thick I could barely see my hand in front of my face.

The 'view' from Gourock pier.

The ‘view’ from Gourock pier.

It was so bad Argyll Ferries had cut back the service but luckily the one I wanted was running. I was met at the other side by Chris Carr of Argyll and Bute Council and whisked off to an event with all their service managers, their CMT, Chief Exec and Council Leader. I was there to talk about social media, how it’s changing the world, how it has evolved, how it’s used in emergencies, how and when it can go wrong, how to avoid things going wrong, how to monitor, publish and evaluate and share some of my experiences of my social media journey so far. I stuck to my time, I made them laugh, I made them sit up and take notice and they asked me so many questions we ran over into lunch. I’m told by the Chief Exec that it went well, that she enjoyed what I had to say and that it will certainly help their organisation on their social media journey. Their comms team is a small one but after an initial meeting with me it was them who suggested that I speak to the management group and hopefully I’ll have helped them on their way and they’ll get the support they need.

One of the questions stumped me though and I admitted as much and said it was something I’d have to look into when I got back to base. There were a couple of questions about cyberbullying and child online safety. As most of you know this is another presentation I can pull out of the bag and do regularly so I did all the usual stuff about parents needing to be safe online and being confident enough to pass on the skills needed to their children – we wouldn’t let our children cross the street without the safety drill first. But then one manager revealed that they were putting wifi into their children’s homes (I know that term is out of favour but it’s plain English so I’m sticking with it!) and what did I think they should do about online safety. Basically the advice is the same but these children are even more vulnerable and so probably need even more nurturing. The guidance their key workers give them in real life probably stand in their virtual lives too but I think there needs to be digital literacy taught both at school and at home, no matter where that home happens to be.

Lunch was very tasty, courtesy of the same catering team that provides the school meals in Argyll and Bute’s schools and with a school meal service almost identical to ours I can honestly say that they were given a raw deal last year and without naming names, I think you can all guess what I’m on about.

Although I’m more of a savoury person I have to say dessert was fab. I chose the mini banoffi pies which melted in the mouth and with a slice of fresh banana in each one I’m counting mine as one of my 5-a-day 🙂

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By the time I came out the fog had lifted and I finally got to see Dunoon in all its glory. I think I’ll be planning a wee day trip in the summer with HimIndoors and the Minis.

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On the last leg of the journey on the train to Hamilton who should get on but Beth who was on the school trip to Auschwitz I blogged about a few weeks back. She’s all grown up and in her final year at university and thinking about a career in the media or social work. We discussed the trip and how it still affects us both, how we remember it in the smallest of detail each day of our lives, how we get irate with people who just don’t get it and persuade people that they really should visit. It was great to bump into her as I’ve often wondered what how she was doing. She’s taken my number and I’ve offered to find out about work experience, either with us in comms or with social work.

Aside from work I’m onto fractals on my complexity course, although I’ve taken a break to bake rhubarb muffins for Leah’s birthday. They’re out the oven but still have to be frosted.

Today I have learned:

  • I love doing presentations (but not death by Powerpoint)
  • I always learn from the groups I’m there to advise
  • decent kids generally grow up into decent adults

Today’s recipe

Mexican Lasagne

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Ingredients

1 batch of chilli

1 packet of tortilla wraps

emmental cheese, grated (start with a couple of handfuls but keep it handy)

Method: Heat the oven to 180C/Gas 6. Find a round cake tin to fit your tortilla wraps. Put one on the bottom then add a layer of chilli and a sprinkling of cheese. Repeat until all the chilli is used up and finish with a wrap and a layer of cheese. Put in the over and heat until the cheese is bubbling. Serve in slices with dressed salad.

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Pornbots – because you’re worth it!

Today was CommsCamp and sad to say I couldn’t make it. Not only that, I was so busy that I only had one chance during the day to check out #commscamp13 to see what people were saying. At that point the hashtag was beginning to trend – unfortunately this was down to it being hijacked by spammers. Intervention by Twitter later on stopped this but it seems to be a sign of the times – you know you’ve made it in the Twittersphere when someone creates an account parodying yours and your event hashtag is swamped by pornbots.

At lunch time I made a quick dash over the border to North Lanarkshire to visit my hairdresser. He’s been cutting my hair since I was 7 and has rescued me from many a dodgy colour or cut done by some well-meaning hairdresser when I lived in Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen. I usually take him a photo, which he hates. He then adapts the cut and does what he wants. I’m sometimes not that keen then I wash and dry it and it miraculously looks better than the photo I took him. I have no idea how he does this but it amazes me every six weeks. What’s more I pay him in bottles of red wine – that’s my kind of exchange!

I dashed back to the office for a meeting I wasn’t even sure was about. It had been rearranged a few times and I’d never met the people coming to see me – all I knew was it was two of the homelessness team coming for a chat about a website. We had the chat and this project is something I can get excited about. They’ve done their homework and know exactly the profiles of their customers. Not only that, the customers are going to be involved in the design and the content. It’s looking like it’ll be a Facebook page backed up by a more conventional website later on but we’re planning some workshops with staff and service users to capture the language we need to be using, the ideas everyone has and the hopes and aspirations of the groups involved. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in.

I gave camera club a miss tonight because I have an early start tomorrow to get to Dunoon to present to Argyll & Bute Council’s CMT about how social media is changing the world. I also decided that I would make little chocolate brownies to take to LGComms on Thursday night for my friend David”s birthday. Tomorrow night I’ll be making frosted rhubarb cupcakes to take to the same event for my other friend Leah’s birthday. There really is no rest for the wicked.

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Today I have learned:

  • not to be afraid of service reviews – they are an opportunity for change
  • the average homeless person in South Lanarkshire is aged 18-30
  • people who sofa surf or kip on friend’s floors often don’t realise they’re homeless

Today’s recipe

Sweet potato and chilli soup

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Tonight I bought a packet of Tyrrells Habas Fritas for the first time – who knew braod beans could be so tasty. They recommend serving them as a nibble with beer but I threw some in my soup instead of croutons and I have to say – it’s genius!

Ingredients

a large knob of butter

1 onion, chopped

1 tsp Lazy Red Chillies

1 tsp ground coriander

2 garlic cloves, chopped finely

750g sweet potato, peeled and chopped into chunks

500mls veg stock

Method: Melt the butter in a pan and cook the onion, chilli, coriander and garlic for about 5 minutes until soft. Add the sweet potato and cook for a few more minutes. Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes until the potato is soft. Whizz will smooth then reheat.

I wish I was going camping

I spent most of the morning trying to get a 9Mb presentation to Argyll & Bute Council which I’m showing at their CMT on Wednesday. First it was blocked from our end because of its size. We unblocked it and sent it on its merry way then it was blocked at their end. I then tried sending it from a non-networked Mac from my Gmail account but it still hasn’t arrived. Next I’ve to try sending it from home to a member of the A&B team at home. I did think about a Prezi but decided it wasn’t a risk worth taking. I’ll be taking it on a memory stick on the day but wish me luck anyway!

I decided yesterday that I should smarten up this week what with a CMT presentation and speaking at the LGComms conference on Friday. Only problem is I grudge spending money on work clothes but I’ve discovered the Clearance pages on the Next website so that got a pretty heavy hit yesterday by yours truly. It all arrived today so I’ll have a trying on sesh after this. I have two pairs of shoes, linen cropped trousers, a red flared skirt, a patterned flippy skirt, a geometric patterned Hobbs skirt and a top – all for much cheapness. I’ll have to nip over to my hairdresser tomorrow lunch time to see if he can fit me in for that Uma Thurman haircut I’ve been promising myself.

Tonight is the CommsCamp curry before tomorrow’s event. I’m really sorry to be missing both the curry and the serious stuff. Both will be teaming with people at the top of their game, people who always seem to be at the top of their game and who will always motivate and inspire me – you all know who you are 😉 You can follow the action tomorrow by following #commscamp13 – I recommend it. They’ll also be live streaming the event but I’m guessing if I can’t send a big email easily, the tech know-how won’t let me tune in.

Just thought I’d share this pic of our little Maple cat. She’s no longer the scrawny shy thing we brought home from the SPCA home. She’s filled out, has a beautiful coat, sparkly eyes and a fabulous personality. This seems to be her new favourite spot – our recycling box – or maybe it just reminds her of the day she was found in a box in a park.

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On other news I’ve made arrangements with the museum assistant to go to the museum next Wednesday to see the war diaries and Thomas Banks’ memoirs – so exciting 🙂

Today I have learned:

  • creating a newsletter template in Word isn’t as easy as I thought it would be
  • Cormac Smith, Chair of LGComms has broken his leg – get well Cormac x
  • this house eats socks, hair elastics and plectrums

Today’s recipe

Salmon with soy, balsamic and lime sauce

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Serves 2

Ingredients

2 skinless salmon fillets

2 tbsp soy sauce

5 tbsp brown sugar

6 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 lime, zested and juiced

1 tsp ground coriander

Method: Wrap the salmon in tinfoil and put in the oven for 20 minutes at 180C/Gas 6.

Put the rest of the ingredients in a small saucepan and heat through.

Serve the salmon with some green beans, cous cous and the sauce with the extra sauce in a jog on the table.

More banger for my buck

Yesterday’s pork and haggis taster sausages went straight in a roll for my breakfast this morning. Sometimes all a sausage needs is bread, butter and a dash of brown sauce. Anyway tonight’s dinner was sausages with ideas above their station so I couldn’t be bothered being creative.

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After breakfast I made some soup then rhubarb muffins then found out it was my friend Leah’s birthday today. We’re meeting up on Thursday in Perth as we’re both speaking at the LGComms Scottish conference on Friday so I’ve decided to make her some more muffins but hers will be frosted. I’ll share the recipe later in the week.

MiniHim had a friend from school round today. It was the first time he’d visited so MiniHim spent most of the afternoon looking out the window and asking me what time it was. He finally arrived and suddenly the house was filled with boys’ laughter instead of girls’ shrieks – this will take a bit of getting used to. MiniMe and I were outnumbered by the male of the species at the dinner table – another thing that will take a bit of getting used to.

So this post will hopefully be finished a earlier than normal because I’m falling behind with my complexity course so I really need to get some done tonight.

Today I have learned:

  • sausages are good served simply and elaborately
  • rhubarb tastes of spring
  • boys are little aliens

Today’s recipe

Sausages with red wine and mushrooms

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Ingredients

2 sausages per child, 3 per adult – make them good butchers ones. I prefer pork but it’ll work well with beef too.

butter and oil for frying

1 onion, sliced

2 garlic cloves, chopped finely

a couple of handfuls of mushrooms, sliced

1 tbsp plain flour

a good glug of red wine

500mls beef stalk

2 sprigs of rosemary, de-stalked and chopped

black pepper, freshly ground

Method: Cook the sausages under the grill. As they cook, prepare the sauce.

Melt the butter in the oil as it heats in a large frying pan. Turn the heat right down and add the onions. Once they are soft and translucent add the garlic and mushrooms. The mushrooms will soak up the oil but when they start giving the moisture back to the pan, add the flour and stir well.

Add the wine and stir as it will thicken almost straight away. Add stock, stirring until you are happy with the consistency – you can add more if it becomes too thick. Add the rosemary and season well with the pepper. You shouldn’t need to add any salt.

Once the sausages are cooked add them to the sauce then serve with mash and Yorkshire puddings.

Tea for two

Popped into the butcher’s today to get sausages and bacon. Apparently his sales are up 25% since the horse meat scandal broke. I’m hoping that the people who have started shopping with him recognise the quality of the meat compared to the supermarket and stick with him once it all blows over. Scott threw in a couple of his new pork and haggis sausages for me to try. I can’t decide whether to do something creative with them or stick them in a roll for breakfast. Watch this space . . .

I spent last Valentine’s Day in London for the launch of the LGComms/LGC Future Leaders’ Programme so to make up for being away I bought some herbal tea and a beautiful little tea strainer for HimIndoors from the very swanky Tea Palace in Covent Garden. While I was there buying my one tin of tea there were two sharp suited Italian men with two little handbag dogs. They had a line of teas in front of them for tasting and I could tell just by the cut of their suits that they were worth a bob or two. As I was watching the girl bag up my tea I was listening in to their conversation and it turns out they were stocking up on tea for the Duchess, whoever she may be. Anyway HimIndoors loves tea with liquorice in it so I came home with a blend called Harmony which contains, liquorice, cardamom, rose petals, ginger, coriander and fennel. The tin got put in the coffee cupboard and pretty much forgotten about until today.

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Now I like the idea of herbal tea but in general I hate it. It smells OK but every tea has a bitter undertaste to it and, although some of the combinations sound lovely, I’m generally disappointed. This tea, however is in a class of its own. Even just to look at it you know you’re in for something special.

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Cardamom is one of my favourite spices and there are whole pods in the tea. It’s a sweet, heady taste explosion with no bitter aftertaste. I’m completely sold on the stuff and will be stocking up on every visit from now on. And I’ve just turned down an invitation to an event in London in March too – I wonder if they have an online shop . . .

Today I have learned:

  • I do like herbal tea, as long as it’s hand blended and very expensive
  • And and Dec are still the kings of Saturday night entertainment (especially the Louis Walsh bit)

Today’s recipe

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Chicken in white wine and tarragon sauce

After we had this for dinner I had a lot of sauce and a little chicken left so I ate it for lunch the next day as if it were Cream of Chicken and Tarragon Soup – nom!

Ingredients

a large knob of butter

1 tbsp olive oil

1 chicken, jointed

250g mushrooms

500mls white wine

150mls double cream

2 tbsp tarragon, finely chopped

Method:Melt the butter in the oil in a large heavy based pan. Add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides then remove onto a plate.

Half or quarter the mushrooms and add to the pan and cook till soft. Add the chicken, then the wine, bring to the boil then lower heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes till cooked through.

Remove the chicken to a board and remove the meat from the bone in big, fleshy parts.

Turn the heat up in the pan with the wine and reduce by about a third. Add the cream and the tarragon and return the chicken to the sauce. Serve with Potato Cakes and Yorkshire Pudding.

William’s extra ordinary story

Another busy but productive day with lots of webby stuff. My Friday afternoon was brightened by a marvellous email from our museums service. I’d asked them if they could find out anything about my Great Uncle William who served with the Cameronians in WW1 and was killed somewhere around Arras on May 3rd, 1917. We’re planning a trip to France at Easter and I want to find out as much as I can before we go. A search on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website shows he is commemorated on one of the memorials in Arras but I had no idea where he was killed, the details of the battle or where he was likely to be buried.

Aside from some invaluable advice about other searches I can try on ancestry.co.uk and in The National Archives, there was loads of detail from our own archives in Low Parks Museum. Turns out William served with the Lanarkshire Yeomanry and transferred to the Cameronians. They have the memoirs of a Private Thomas Banks who transferred around the same time as William and his diary mentions him thus:

our company suffered some casualties by a shell landing in one of the trenches, Willie Currie from Hamilton being killed, others wounded, the rest of us had to keep on moving – casualties had to be left for the Red Cross (Field Ambulance) then to Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC)

The researcher, Lizzie, reckons that William was actually killed on April 30 but that it wasn’t officially recorded until May 3. There was another battle on May 3 that he could have died in but April 30th sounds likely. She has sent me extracts from the Battalion war diary and has offered to get them out of storage for me to have a look at.

The real gem is a photograph from Private Banks’ of William and on the back he has written:

Killed around Arras in Trenches beside me, 3/1st Lanarkshire Yeomanry, From William Currie Townhead Street Hamilton.

Looking at the photo is like looking at my grandfather George Jack Currie who was too young when William left for war to remember him – that’s why we so know little about him.

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William was no hero, except to his family, and his story isn’t extraordinary it’s extra ordinary. Every family was touched by loss in WW1. I used to wonder why I had so many maiden aunts but it was because so many young men died that there weren’t enough left to go round. It must be one of the darkest periods in living memory, along with the Holocaust.

I will do as much research as I can and then I will take white roses to William’s memorial – it’s the least he deserves. And thank you Thomas Banks for being with him when he died and for keeping his memory alive in your memoirs.

On other news, just to bring us right up-to-date we got a phone bill in today. There were 21 calls to one mobile phone number in one day. We didn’t recognise the number. Turns out it was MiniMe phoning her boyfriend. She’ll be paying her Dad the £8 out of her allowance. She thought she was going to be grounded but I remember those phone calls when I was young – I was 16, mind you. What she’ll have to learn is how to spin out the monthly credit on her Blackberry contract instead of using it up in a fortnight, then she won’t have to use the house phone and we won’t know what she’s been up to. You see, at least Big Mum can keep table on her on the old technology!

Today I have learned:

  • so much about William Currie I don’t know where to start
  • I’m not to old to remember Love’s Young Dream

Today’s recipe

Smoked Haddock with Potatoes and Bacon

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This recipe is unashamedly taken from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries Part II but it’s the first time I’ve made it so I haven’t had time to adapt it much for myself yet. Mind you it’s so tasty I might keep it just the way it is.

Ingredients

3 slices of smoked sweetcure bacon, trimmed and cut up into postage stamp sized bits

3 tbsp oil

2 large potatoes, skins on sliced into small, short chips

2 natural, smoked haddock fillets

500mls double cream

2 bay leaves

6 black peppercorns

2 tbsp parsley, chopped

Method: Heat the oil and fry the bacon. When it begins to change colour tip in the potatoes and fry for 15 minutes, moving round the pan to colour evenly.

Put the cream, haddock, bay leaves and peppercorns in a pan and simmer for 15 minutes.

When cooked, place the potatoes and bacon on a plate, remove the haddock and place it on top of the potatoes. Tip the parsley into the cream, heat through and serve over the haddock.