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Doodlecat's Homepage

Picture of Doodle - a 
black cat

Welcome to Doodlecat, where we enjoy the pleasures of life (with a slight bias towards the outdoors). This page is regularly updated with news and views plus information about any additions or changes to the various parts of the site. It acts as Doodlecat’s Blog too, so the odd rant considered opinion may pop up from time to time.

I would love to be able to say that Doodlecat is all my own work, but it isn’t. Much of the outdoors content is courtesy of the splendid people who participate in the annual TGO Challenge (there is a section entirely devoted to this unique event) and many others.

To help in tracking down that elusive morsel on Doodlecat, the search facility under the title bar above is tailored to help you find it, either on this home page (Doodlecat's Blog) all the rest of the site (Main Site) or – if all else fails - the internet!

So have a rummage around the old cat basket and enjoy your time with us!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

On The Road Again

That Canned Heat number was riffing through my brain as Miss W and I set off for our first road trial on the newly restored Diana.

It was great!

After the last year I have been somewhat hampered by removal of organs, bereavement, radiotherapy and other assorted brickbats, so it has to be admitted that the fitness level is not quite what it once was. Miss W has been an absolute rock of course, but, even with the support of her iron will I have to admit to feeling somewhat depleted, especially after having had to pull out of this year's TGO Challenge.

So this evening was something of a revelation.

Firstly, my mechanical skills are still there; the bike ran silently and smoothly, each gear change a joy. Secondly, after a couple of miles we found ourselves hitting the long forgotten common cadence that irons out hills and makes a well fettled tandem the absolute queen of touring bikes. Finally, and to our astonishment, we whizzed around a nine mile circuit without feeling puffed out at all!

The old ACT computer on the bike (new contacts, a spot of Araldite and a battery coaxed it back into life) informed us that our performance was about 20% below our usual stats of a decade ago, but, for a first trial, not bad I reckon. And although we didn't get to engage top gear, we did manage a short crack at 26.5 mph, which was enough to ruffle the hair and stir memories of past rides.

Ah yes - the wind in the hair. The question of the evening is, should we invest in cycling helmets? I hate the bloody things, and point out that back in the sixties I rode my scooter with just a Parka and a cool pair of shades. Miss W thinks that it it is better to look like an idiot than to actually become one as a result of brain damage - this opinion expressed with the aside that in my case the distinction might be difficult.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pear enough...

... or enough of pears! I know this is supposedly an outdoor biased site, but at this time of year my range is curtailed by the garden and nature's bounty. We have two pear trees in our garden, espaliered against a south-facing, but shady, wall. One is a Williams and the other a Conference, and each year they produce a modest crop.

This year is different. We have had so many pears that I've had to add extra support to the branches. It would be a shame to waste them, but what to do with this bounty?

Well, a ripe Williams is lovely with a chunk of Roquefort and a glass of Sauternes, but man cannot live by bread and cheese alone, so especially for the chocolate addicts amongst us (you know who you are) here is Doodlecat's recipe for Chocolate and Pear dessert.

Chocolate and Pear dessert on cooling rack
You will need:

    8" round cake tin (preferably the sort with the removable base)

    4 oz. soft butter
    4 oz. caster sugar
    1 oz. cocoa powder
    4 oz. self raising flour
    1 tsp baking powder
    2 eggs (beaten)
    3 medium sized Williams pears

Grease and line the tin with greaseproof paper. Peel, halve and core the pears (core best removed with melon baller or small teaspoon) not forgetting the woody bit up to the stalk. Arrange cut side down in the base of the cake tin.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and cocoa powder until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs a little at a time. Add the flour and baking powder and beat in thoroughly - add a splash of milk if the mixture is too stiff.

Spoon the mixture over the pears, slightly dished towards the centre, and bake in the centre of a moderate (180C) oven for approx 35 minutes, or until the top is firm and springy to the touch and a skewer put into the middle comes out clean. Cover with a little foil if extra time is needed.

Allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes, before removing the tin sides and inverting on a cooling rack (put the cooling rack on top & then, holding it in place, flip the cake & rack over together). Gently lift the base ... and voila! It should look something like the picture.

Serve drizzled with a little of your favourite plain chocolate, melted in a warm pan, and a dollop of cream or creme fraiche.

Mmmmmm... yum!

Well, off now to pick some blackberries for another dessert for the freezer - poached pears with blackberry syrup.

Uh - oh. Our neighbour has just appeared. She has a surfeit of marrows and pumpkins. There could be some marrow based recipes to follow!

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Your very good health!

This evening Miss W informed me that her life was being made miserable – and had been for some time. Fearing that I was the cause of her misery, yet again, I was tentative in enquiring further.

“We were happy back in the eighties” she declared.

“Indeed we were”, I responded, “Aren’t we now?”

“You might be – I’m not”.

Uh oh. Here comes trouble.

“I no longer eat what I want, drink what I want or even just slob out in front of the TV when I feel like it. Twenty years ago I didn’t give it a second thought.”

“Er ... um ... Why is that? What’s changed?”

“The self appointed health police and their propaganda machine – that’s what. I'm not over weight, I don't smoke, I exercise regularly, yet I can’t turn on the TV, read a paper or a magazine without some joyless po-faced a***hole, telling me that eating a bar of chocolate or having a glass of wine will kill me. Do you know what the recommended weekly wine intake for a woman is?”
Wine glass with alcohol units
“No”

“14 units”.

“So?”

“So, as ‘they’ reckon that a small glass of wine constitutes 2 units that’s just one glass a day”.

“Ha – you’re hardly likely to get merry on that”.

“My point exactly”, said Miss W. “And that’s just the odd glass of wine that I once enjoyed and now feel guilty about – add in everything else, and we might live longer, but in a state of guilt ridden purgatory – and that ain’t living!”.

She is, as usual, quite right.

For the first time in recorded history most people now live out their natural life spans, only dying from diseases determined by ageing (i.e. cancer and heart or associated circulatory problems). Classic indices of the nation's health such as infant and maternal mortality rates have never been lower. In fact it could be argued that many of us are living well beyond our natural span - which is playing havoc with my pension prospects! But apart from that we’re all healthier, if not wealthier. So why do we worry about our health far more than our parents, grandparents or great grandparents ever did?

Just open any popular newspaper or magazine, or tune in to any 'health' feature on the radio or tv. The “public enlightenment” experts, ably assisted by our ever hysterical media, have generated a stream of false fears through the mythology of “risk factors” for common diseases.

Drumming up a "risk factor" story is dead easy, given the poor numeracy and hazy grasp of statistics that most people (journalists especially) have. Just take any group of people with a disease, ascertain what distinguishes them from a control group without the disease, and in a trice there is evidence of yet another threat to health to be concerned about.

Thus aluminium saucepans are associated with dementia, keeping cats with multiple sclerosis, drinking coffee with cancer of the pancreas, and eating the odd pork pie with virtually everything else. How my dear old mum managed to celebrate her 88th birthday last month I'll never know. She cooks in aluminium saucepans from the fifties, has always owned a cat, drinks coffee, wine and spirits way in excess of the 'guidelines', eats cheese, red meat and generally does her best to have a jolly time. According to government guidelines she should have keeled over long before I was born!

Gillian McKeith wagging fingerI used to laugh at the twaddle in the newspapers, and especially the TV programmes featuring the hilarious poo picker Gillian McKeith. But it just isn't funny any more. The combination of zealotry with the fraudulent use of 'research data' is killing off all sorts of normal fun. Take passive smoking — the proposition that cigarette smokers kill innocent bystanders by giving them lung cancer. This has now spawned the smoking ban. Not a law to confine these pariahs to smoking rooms within an establishment. No. A total ban - and country pubs are closing in unprecedented numbers. The darts teams and bar billiards teams, once part of the social fabric in my part of the world, are banished (despicable types who smoke, y'see). Not that those who banished them have rushed to fill the void – these zealots don’t drink in pubs, and would probably like to ban that too. After all, they know that a pint of beer a day could increase the risk of bowel cancer by 10%!

The truth, by the way, is that the biggest risk factor in getting bowel cancer is partly genetic predisposition, but mostly it's age. 83% of cases occur in people over (usually well over) 60. Statistically a few pints of beer are insignificant. Living too long is the real problem, as the longer we live the greater the risk of geriatric disease. We can't stop time, but we can stop enjoying a pint and thereby convince ourselves that we might avoid the reapers scythe for a few more (rather miserable) years.

Danger poison logoAnd as well as denying ourselves the odd beer, we must be careful to cut out any 'bad food' that we may read about in the morning paper, and eat loads of whichever disgusting vegetable, algae or slime is hailed as the new "superfood". It's all fad after fad. Remember those vile drinks made out of juiced grass a few years back? There were even juice bars opening with ranges of different grasses to drink. Ugh! Fads may come and go, but the idea that the key to immortality lies on our plate persists. And so we now have a new condition:

Orthorexia nervosa An obsession with healthy eating and drinking - coupled with the belief that most food and drink is in some way poisonous.

Smart companies are making huge profits out of this pseudo science and the seemingly limitless gullibility of the public - one has TV ads selling "low calorie water" (presumably vastly superior to that high calorie fattening stuff that comes out of the tap). And people buy it! Amazing! Perhaps I should start a company selling low calorie air and make a fortune.

So what is all this hysteria about? Whatever the reason (perhaps it’s to do with the loss of religion and belief in an afterlife) I think that people have simply become afraid to die, and those of us who accept a modest amount of risk in our daily lives are regarded as dangerous heretics.
"If, as many now believe, only oblivion follows death, then clinging to life is crucial. The pursuit of health and longevity becomes the nearest thing to a transcendental purpose of life on earth that anyone can have."

James LeFanu.
"I've got my own life to live.
I'm the one that's gonna die when it's time for me to die,
So let me live my life the way I want to.
Yeah, sing on brother, play on drummer."


Jimi Hendrix.

Tonight Miss W and I agreed that we're with Jimi on this one. Now then, where's that corkscrew?

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Snip snip go the scissors...

With hundreds of people carefully cutting out one particular page of the October TGO magazine, now seems a good time to add to the archive of challenges past.

This month in our TGO Challenge section, Mike Knipe explains why he is not writing up the 2009 challenge (go to the article here), and Derek Emsley recalls 1999, when he made the first "three generation" crossing with his son and grandson.

Mike Daniels' 1987 Challenge with the late Iain Matheson, taking in all the 4000' hills, attracted a lot of interest. In a similar spirit, another pair of challengers set out this year with the objective of a high level crossing - as high as possible. They achieved their crossing at an average height of 599 metres, which bearing in mind the start and finish are at 0 metres, and some of the weather in between was not exactly benign, is pretty impressive.

That's coming soon. Watch this space ...

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"I know a hawk from a handsaw"

Meandering through the October edition of TGO magazine, on the way to the TGO Challenge application form, I started reading Jim Perrin's column. What a terrific piece this is. Jim's literary references are just perfect - and anyone who progressed beyond Lilliput in Gulliver's Travels will relish the way Swift's satirical swipes find their targets so accurately today.