Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Canoe polo, marmalade and lindy hop - my disjointed life
On Saturday, Mum, Dad and I drove up to Coventry to see my sister competing in a Ladies Division 1 canoe polo tournament. She's been playing for over 10 years, captaining the GB Ladies Under 21s, and even getting into the GB Ladies squad. However, she'll be away in Botswana for two years, so this was really our last chance to see her play. It was pretty hot sitting up in the viewing gallery of that huge pool, but great to get a view of the action from above the pitch. As with all sports, from above you see the tactics in play - how certain players try different attacks, or work together to set up defences. She got one scorching goal and made some great saves, but the standard was very high overall. Things have come on a lot since I watched her and her friends training by sprinting up and down the cold muddy waters of the canal, before I went travelling!
On Sunday, we made marmalade. We're in the three-week season of Seville oranges, too tart and ugly to eat but perfect for marmalade. It's a long process: boiling the whole fruit until soft; scraping the pips into one saucepan to be boiled up for their pectin, the natural setting agent; scraping the mushy fruit into the liquid-filled main vat; scraping out the pith and stringy bits; chopping the hot, moist peel into fine shreds; adding sugar, lemon juice and chopped fresh ginger and keeping this vast concoction at a rolling boil for hours until it reduces by a third. We made 16 large jars full: that's a lot. Today I delivered a jar each to our neighbours - those on one side will reciprocate with mincemeat for mince pies at Christmas, while those on the other side will share the illicit Limoncello they made from an Italian recipe. This is another great thing about being back at home - being part of such a great community!
Last night I went into London to meet up with friends: the travel companion I journeyed through Romania with, now a scientist and celebrated dancer; a girl I knew a long time ago from a drama group who now has a job so exciting I still can't quite believe it; my wonderful cousin Anna, always up for fun in the big city; and some new acquaintances who were keen to have a go at something a bit different. We arrived at the celebrated 100 Club thinking a little dubiously, "Is this it?" There's a modern skyscraper built on top of an ancient basement jazz club. Once through the cream and brown foyer your clamber down a dark staircase and into a sweaty, red-painted slice of authentic Old London Town.
There were well over 100 people there - a few more women than men, as should be expected. What I hadn't appreciated was that so many would be in costume! High-waisted baggy trousers held up with braces seemed to be the norm, along with two-toned shoes and debonair hats and hairclips. We started with a casual class, learning individual Charleston routines and then putting together a sequence with a partner. As the band, King Groovy and the Horn Stars, took to the stage, we began attempting to do these routines ... to the music.
The - frequently - rather fast music.
To covers of Glenn Miller, the Andrews Sisters and other 1940s classics, we had to take a partner and endeavour to sashay across the crowded dancefloor, in time, without treading on each others' feet or twisting ankles while doing the Suzy Q. This, for me, was easier while looking down at my feet and counting under my breath, occasionally sharing an anxious glance with an equally timid new partner. Of course, when you look down at your feet, you're much more likely to crash into other dancers. Well, it's a good way to meet people! You tend to learn best when dancing with people who are slightly better than you, and there were certainly a lot of experts around. The ages ranged from teenagers to spry old dapper chaps in their 70s and 80s, one of whom wiped his perspiring face with one towel and mopped his armpits with another as a courtesy before escorting me to the dancefloor.
A great time was had by all, and if I were living in London, rather than out in St Albans, I'd love to go regularly.
Sometimes you read an article that's so inspirational, such a breath of fresh air, that you sit back in your seat thinking "Wow! That's what the world should be like." That was my reaction to this: we need this guy to come and run the British trains!
As part of my getting-ahead-with-Web 2.0 mission, I have signed up for Google Reader and am adding RSS feeds from the various blogs I like to catch up with. It was amazingly easy: all my questions were answered by this video, Common Craft's Guide to RSS.