February 2006 Archives

Scotland Wins the Calcutta Cup!

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But, ouch, I think my nose is bleeding.

Saturday was the Calcutta Cup, an annual fixture played between Scotland and England since 1879. England has held the Calcutta Cup for the last six years, having beaten Scotland every year.

The Scottish side is traditionally flukey and unpredictable. This year's Six Nations opening fixture was against France, widely viewed as the best side in the Northern Hemisphere, probably second in the world (to the All Blacks, naturally).

Scotland took the field and dominated France almost as if they weren't playing, with the notable exception of this one blonde headed French forward who seemed to be everywhere at once. He was amazing, but couldn't carry the side.

The Scots even scored a try off a 24 yard rolling maul. You read that correctly. Unbelievable.

At any rate, this was an amazing start to the season and a total upset, almost as topsy turvy as Wales' unexpected upturning of Englang, the reigning Rugby World Champions, in last years first game. The fact that we went on to lose to an appallingly awful Welsh side the following week had a very business as usual feel about it. I'm a Cleveland Browns fan, so Scottish sport makes me feel right at home.

But then England was coming for the Calcutta Cup last Saturday.

The mood was festive. In front of a sold out Murrayfield, Scotland gave lessons in how to conduct a surgical defense and engaged in an offence that consisted largely of drawing penalties. There was an act of atrocious incompetence on the English side (a knock on inside the two effectively cleared their chance at a try) and the final score was 18-12, Scotland. I've been humming Tchaikovsky ever since.

The streets filled with celebrants. Ingrida was working that night. She works front of house at the Hallion, a private club and supposedly was working until midnight. Some time around half-ten she sent me a text saying she might be a bit late.

I was out revelling myself, so this was fine. I packed it in at half-midnight, figuring I'd get home, collect her and then we'd head off to Charlie and Ian's for further late night revellry, since that's where the craic was.

It was not to be. Instead, I waited. And waited. And waited. At three, Suzy came home, all tiptoes and whispers.

"Where's Ingrida?" She asked.

"I don't know." I said. "Work, probably." Alarm bells were going off in my head. I'd dozed off and had no idea what time it was.

"It's three." She said. "Seems a bit odd, don't you think?"

Earlier in the evening, when a pack of us were walking back from Cloisters, we came across a man pestering and trying to molest a woman; both were hammered and about twenty. We'd yelled a bit and headed over, but other passersby got there first and were fairly forceful about the whole thing, but it was playing over in my head.

I put my boots on and marched off to the Hallion, following the path that I figured Ingrida would have taken home. Every five minutes or so I stopped and scanned the Gardens to see if she was lying unconcious and cold on a path somewhere. I was growing increasingly worried. I began to have visions of poor Ingrida, of Irma, blaming me, me apologizing to Ojars: "I'm sorry, Mr. Kalnins. If only I'd gone looking sooner this never would have happened."

I finally arrived at the imposing black doors of the Hallion. I rang the buzzer several times, but there was no answer. It was four a.m. now; Ingrida was four hours late. The streets were filled with the seriously drunken, predators, pickpockets, drugdealers and thugs. In cheerier moments I'd have described them as colorful. Now they seemed dark and ominous.

I called information, got the number for the Hallion and called. The night porter answered on the first ring.

"Are you open?" I asked.

"No." He replied.

"Are the staff still there?"

"Yes. But we are closed. What do you want?" His voice was hesitant.

"My girlfriend, Ingrida, works there. Is she still there?" I asked.

"Hold on. I'll get her." Floods of delicious relief filled me.

"Ingrida!" I heard him shout in the background. "Your boyfriend is on the phone!"

Then I heard Ingrida, the click of heels on stone, her casual tone. "Which one?" She asked as she took the phone. "Hello?"

I was silent for a moment. "What do you mean 'Which one?'" I said.

"Oh! Hey, Puika! How are you?" She asked.

"Cold." I said. I meant it, too. Inside and out. I'd just walked the length of Edinburgh at 4 a.m. checking behind dumpsters for her unconcious body and she'd been at work the whole time.

"Are you at home?" She asked.

"No, I'm outside the front door of the Hallion."

"Oh! Right. I'll let you in, hold on a second."

And she did and I went inside feeling slightly poisonous and got the rest of the story, which was that it had been a mental night, with over three hundred guests and massive quantities of alcohol consumed and she'd stayed on to help; it had been frantic. The last guests had left at half-three and then the staff had been cleaning and scrubbing to prepare the club for Sunday morning.

In the course of the evening, several guests had made passes at her and had been phoning the club asking after her and a couple had even said they were her boyfriend. She and the night porter had made a joke out of it.

When we finally climbed into bed at five, I was glad that the emotional roller coaster was over and I got to be next to my baby.

A couple of weeks ago, I had my friend Keith over for a genuine Southern meal.

It was also five courses and it brought back memories of Chris, whom I miss a great deal. Most of the food we had has been cooked at one time or another by Chris or he's given me the recipes for them.

Here's what we had:

1. Buttermilk biscuits. I started off rolling and cutting them but this was a giant pain in the ass, so I just dropped spoofuls of dough onto baking paper and slid this onto a tray. We ate them with butter and honey, as God intended. I've listed this as a course, but we just had them hot right at the start of the meal as a sort of appetizer. They don't really count as a course.

2. Corn bread. Admittedly, I copied my father's recipe on this and it was flawless, although I had to buy a nine inch square baking tin to make it correctly. There's something about the shape of the tin, and if you don't get it right it won't work. Jiffy makes a cheap, effortless and nearly perfect cornbread mix in the States; I wished I had it here. It would serve dozens of uses.

3. Fried okra. Chris and I grew okra once, out back in the small garden, along with tomatoes. It was perfect. I mean this in all seriousness - perfect okra. Perfect little pods, clean, tender, flawless. I'm almost crying thinking of their crunchy on the outside, tender on the inside beauty. The okra here is imported from Zimbabwe (!) and was small and old and the most expensive part of the meal. An absolute crime. I rolled them in corn flour and shallow fried them in very hot lard, and they were genius.

4. Greens. I made these the way I'd always wanted to make them - with much less water than is normally stated. They were, IMHO, vastly superior to "wet greens," which are sitting in water. Instead, I sauteed some onions, added a smoked hock (spelled hough here in the U.K.) and then added a half cup of water. I slowly added greens in handfuls, adding more when the previous bunch was wilted and turning them. We could only get turnip greens (I'd been craving collard, but these turned out beautifully), and they had lots of juice in them. When the greens were done cooking, the water had mostly evaporated and the greens were cooked. I'll be cooking greens this way again.

5. BBQ ribs. Okay, I prefer to cook these over a charcoal grill, slowly, drizzling BBQ sauce over them at every turn. I didn't have that luxury, so I cooked these in a slow cooker with a homemade BBQ sauce (Coca Cola, ketchup, white vinegar, mustard powder, garlic powder, tinned tomatoes, Worcestshire Sauce, some other stuff) and they cooked for a full day. They needed about three days and I should have cooked them for a day with no sauce, removed the liquid, reduced it, added it when it reached demi-glace stage, and added the sauce then cooked the whole thing for another two days. I'll remember next time. I was disappointed with the ribs.

6. Sweet potato pie. I played Alabama's "Song of the South" on repeat play while we ate the sweet potato pie, much to everyone's delight. The pie was perfect. I'd only ever made this from pie filling before, but it's really easy to make from scratch; it's just an egg custard, except with mashed sweet potatoes instead of milk. I cheated and used pre-made easy roll pie crust. Topped the pie with whipped cream.

It was a good meal.

If you were to pick a five course meal, what five courses would you choose?

Ian and Susanna came over for dinner two nights ago. Ian is good people; he's Irish, from Dublin, but has lived in Edinburgh for five years and works in the IT Security field. We have roughly the same job for different companies. Anyway, Susanna is his girlfriend. Susanna's very pregnant, about seven months, and has reached the walking slowly, sleeping on pillows stage.

They had invited Ingrida and me around to dinner in September, and because I went home to see Maman and help out, then Christmas and New Year happened, we didn't get to return the favour until two nights ago.

I'm sick

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I know, I know...you already knew that.

But I have a cold. I've been in bed all day and didn't go to work.

Instead, I geeked out. How geeky? Well, let's just say that my friend Keith came by to visit me and keep me company after work and to play a game. He left recently, after I won by getting a freakishly lucky roll which gave Germany Heavy Bombers. I bought a desparate three bombers and a single roll at tech development and got the heavy bomber upgrade, which is one of those million-to-one things.

To be fair, we didn't really play it out. We just called it, since there was still a lot of action left, but with Germany having Heavy Bombers and four bombers, U.K.'s navy having fallen to the Luftwaffe, the U.S.S.R. under heavy pressure on the Western Front and moderate pressure on the Eastern Front, Japan had taken Australia, Hawaii, India, Germany controlled Africa save for one territory...it was really a forgone conclusion.

Anyway, I'm going to lie down and get some sleep.

As a side note, of course, it's fascinating how the Avalon Hill version differs from the Games Master series. There's artillery now and destroyers. Artillery attack and defend at 2 and will reinforce a single infantry for each artillery, upgrading them to a 2 on attack as well. Costs 4. Then the destroyers attack and defend at a 3 and cancel out subs; subs become just boats that attack and defend at a 2. Costs 12. And battleships now take two hits to sink, which was an optional rule that no one played with before, but changes things a bit. Makes life interesting.

Oh, and you can no longer get industrial production as a technology, which is okay, since it made games last forever. Expect Russia to fall, and Germany too.

Right! Gotta post something!

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So my flatmate, the lovely and talented Suzy went to Morocco. She took some beautiful pictues, and I thought I'd share some of them with you.


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This page is an archive of entries from February 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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