Clocks in Barcelona

Recently I was working with some PhDs near Barcelona. As you are not necessarily in my immediate social circle that might have been the first time you heard me say that.

But, if you know me on a person-to-person basis – at all – you will have heard me say that quite a lot recently.

And, you will have heard me mention that I was ‘running an interactive case study on the ethics of stem cell research, which, well yes, I wrote…’

Anyway, enough of that, I am not here to show off.

(Though if you want to know more about how good the case study is and how lovely the hotel in the mountains above the city was, or how charming and fun the 40 PhDs were, then do get in touch.)

The trip involved quite a lot of waiting around in Barcelona airport for one reason or another, and unlike the stuff above, I won’t bore you with the details.

Anyway, there is no clock in Barcelona airport.

Now an airport is somewhere where time matters, so you might think even in this day and age of watches and phones, you might have a clock that people could glance up at and be sure they hadn’t missed the time to go to the gate or missed their family’s flight arrival.

There is a fake clock in the cafe, where I spent some time waiting for a friend/colleague to arrive but, it being fake, is stuck on 9.40 – and attractive though it is, that doesn’t really cut it as a clock.

I can understand the toilets being far, far down the other end of the terminal. I can even understand that the mezzanine floor is still under construction and may have been/will be for some time.

I can even, just, understand that whilst one terminal has lots of shops and thus ways to kill time if you arrive very early for your flight, the terminal I was in has Desigual and bugger all else.

( We would not have arrived so early if the taxi driver had not decided that the half hour trip from the hotel should be done in record time of 15 minutes with near death experiences thrown in for good measure.)

But no clock?

So, I got to thinking about clocks. I had a lot of time to kill, one way or another.

Meeting under the clock at Waterloo station is one of those cliches now over-ridden with more practical solutions like meeting at a cafe on the mezzanine floor ( Barcelona airport authority please note, with no clock you should get your mezzanine floor sorted.)

And the grandfather clock belonging to our previous next door neighbours which chimed, quietly, through the walls during the night.

I have tried to get us a chiming clock for our mantlepiece, and bought two ( not the same as a grandfather clock, but nice all the same) but we can never make them work.

So, our siting room has two clocks which don’t work – though I am sure anyone with an ounce of clock experience could get them going in a minute.

But, glancing at my watch, it is now time to go and cook supper – and there are two clocks in the kitchen which work – one has bird song on the hour and an image of the bird which is singing but (please at this point see previous blog about not being a detail kind of a person) the images and song don’t quite match – we have an owl’s hoot at midday….

And for those of us of a like mind, there is the daily time keeping, just after 7pm, The Archers, after which supper will be served.




Artichoke Hearts

There are times when you just have to admit to yourself that you are a Sussex housewife.

I was in Waitrose the other day – other supermarkets are available, and I can be found shopping thriftily in Petersfield’s Lidl and Tescos, especially at the end of the month, but Waitrose has stuff that they don’t.

Tinned artichoke hearts, for example.

Now I am a big fan of the above. There is a great Cranks recipe for a pie which is artichoke, green olives and potatoes – which I roll out frequently to vegetarian and omnivore guests alike and it goes down a treat.

Tinned artichoke hearts can also be drained (well they need to be drained and rinsed gently) fried in a little olive oil with parsley and lemon and then be the basis for supper – with salmon, with finely sliced fennel, with pasta, with saute potatoes etc etc – you get my drift.

Anyway, I was shocked to see an empty shelf when I had gone to stock up. ( Lidl and Tescos, good though they are on other stuff, do not see fit to stock artichoke hearts.)

Seeing the Waitrose floor manager I approached him and said. ‘This is a very Waitrose customer question, but have you decided not to stock tinned artichoke hearts any more? If so, I will be heartbroken’

( I was laying it on a bit thick, but I do rely on those tins.)

There are a few other thing which are always in my cupboard but I am afeared that I might sound even more Sussex housewife than I can bear.

But, for example lentils, I am a big fan, and can give you any number of lentil recipes should you be in need – and really, really they don’t need to be Puy lentils….)

His colleague ( who I gathered was an area manager ) said, in a very Waitrose manager way, ‘It could just be a supply issue. We have a rather erratic supply.’

All three of us walked to the empty shelf spot and looked at it mournfully. The area manager produced his tablet, checked it and reported that indeed it was a supply issue and once there were supplies, Petersfield Waitrose would stock tinned artichoke hearts again.

‘ We do have them grilled in oil in a jar, in case of emergency,’ he told me.

I am not enough of a Sussex housewife to have an artichoke ‘emergency.’

And, I said to him, ‘ I am not enough of a Waitrose customer to not notice the difference in cost between the posh jars and the ‘frugal’ tins.’

In a hurry to get milk for the Oxfam shop’s tea the other day, I whizzed past the relevant shelf and saw, yippee, they had the tins in again – I am now the proud owner of seven tins of artichoke hearts.

So, should some Sussex siege suddenly arrive, I will be able to knock up a tasty supper.


The 80/20 rule

I have a habit of living my life by the 80/20 rule. It is a handy rule, I have to say.

So, it is really called the Pareto Principle and there are many ways to use it. You can of course look it up and get many ( indeed, very many) explanations, but here is how it works in my life.

I reckon that if you get 80 percent of a task done, that is enough. You could spend a lot of time ( say another 80 percent,) getting the last 20 percent exactly right and I am not one to bother with that ‘exactly right’ stuff. 80 percent done will be fine by me.

My Best Beloved describes it slightly differently. He says that my approach to life is like an impressionist painting – looked at from a distance anything I do looks OK, but get up close and it is a series of random dots. And, not necessarily presented as well as an impressionist painting…

Anyway, good friends gave us the book, 1001 Paintings To See Before You Die, and they use it as a planner for weekends away. ( Yes, I do realise that for some people a weekend away cannot be afforded in terms of art galleries across Europe, and is more likely to be a visit to the sister in law in Southport, but I am  talking about nice lives here in Deepest Sussex.)

Well, we went recently to Naples ( see above for apology about being able to afford that as a short break,) and I meant to look at the book to see what artistic treasures I should tick off.

But, in the 80/20 rule of life, checking the book came in the 20 percent and, essentially, I forgot to get organised enough to do that.Or bring it with me, or ask the BB to check……

So, arriving in Naples, I decided to google what were the best pictures to see and thought at least then I would have covered my bases.

Google told me there was a great art gallery and three Caravaggios not to be missed.

The big art gallery we did. And, the three Caravaggios which are considered important –  I did all of them.

I had an 80 percent hunch that Caravaggio would be on the list of artists in the book and that surely his Naples-painted pictures would be in the book too.

I have to say the best visit was one in an old bank converted to a ‘space’ ( and the lovely old counters are still in place) and and upstairs there is one Caravaggio, and a large handful of Neapolitan paintings.

On the day I trekked to it, there was a pianist playing in the ‘space’ and from upstairs you could lean over the balcony and watch and listen – and, by the way, dear reader see three Andy Warhol images of Vesuvius.

The Caravaggio wasn’t up to so much, but the Neapolitan paintings were great – as was the pianist.

So, can I tick those Caravaggios off?

Well, the book you see, is not arranged well. You can’t look up a city and check which paintings you should see there, or look up the artist and find which cities have art galleries with him ( and let’s be honest, it is likely to be a him) on show.

So, carrying on with the 80/20 rule of my life, I am presuming there is an 80 percent chance that one of those Caravaggio’s will be cite and the time it would take to check is not worth the 20 per cent satisfaction of checking…..

Perhaps my better organised friends will tell me.