Kohinoor: The Story of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond – Dalrymple / Anand

March 29, 2018 at 12:05 | Posted in books | Leave a comment
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I got this book for Christmas, and read it whilst on holiday in January, so sorry it’s taken so long to get to it. It’s the story of the Kohinoor; the ‘Mountain of Light’, one of the worlds most famous diamonds that was owned by various Persian kings and moghuls before eventually arriving in England and becoming part of the Crown Jewels.

It’s a well researched and well written book; the first section (the early history of the Kohinoor, as it passed between the Mughals, Afghans and Persians), and the second section covers its expropriation by the British, as they subjugated the Indian subcontinent. The first section is written by William Dalrymple, the second part by  Anita Anand.

The second part I think is actually slightly easier to read, though that is in part because the history is much clearer and the thread of the narrative more contained. The first section deals with early myths and possible mentions of the Kohinoor; its possible origin in India and the various wars and gifts that saw it passed around various different kingdoms and treasuries in the region. The extraordinary riches, expressed in gemstones, of the region prior to the British invasion is quite staggering.

The section dealing with the way the British treated those territories; the way those treasuries were plundered and the last remaining Punjab prince, the child Duleep Singh, is made unwittingly to sign over all of his vast riches to the British is quite movingly told.

The book finishes with some discussion of the various voices still calling for the Kohinoor to be returned to India.

It’s a great book, and well worth a read.

 

 

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Arnott’s Iced Coffee Tim Tam

March 20, 2018 at 11:34 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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Some years ago, a good friend of mine married an Italian girl. (But not in Algiers). And when we went to visit, she made tiramisu. I also remember her trying to get us to say it correctly (‘Tieer – ra – meeee – su‘), with little success. Anyway, it was quite the best tieerrameeesu I have ever tasted.

If you want just a hint of how it tasted, you could do worse than go out and get some of the new Iced Coffee Tim Tams. They are the last in the new Messina flavours, and one that several of my work colleagues were particularly excited about. What is it with Australians and coffee? Just the mere mention of ‘going out to get a coffee, anyone want one?’ elicits a collective orgiastic groan, followed by excited gasps of ‘Yes! Yes! Yes!’. Honestly, no decorum. I just drink tea. Bah humbug.

Anyway, these new Tim Tams sort of taste a little like coffee, but a whole lot like tiramisu. More creamy vanilla, less coffee. That said, they are really quite good – not too sweet, with a good balance of flavour. I’m going to call it – these are the best Messina flavour so far. They get a nine out of ten.

Arnott’s Choc Cherry Coconut Tim Tam

March 14, 2018 at 11:08 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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When I was a boy we would often gather around the pianoforte as a family to sing. And if that sounds weirdly Victorian, well, yes it was. I remember Mum’s crinoline used to get terribly in the way in our small dining room.

Anyway, one of the songbooks we used was the News Chronicle Songbook. It was a very old edition, quite possible also dating from the period. And one of the songs was called ‘Cherry Ripe‘:

Cherry-ripe, ripe, ripe, I cry,
Full and fair ones; come and buy.
If so be you ask me where
They do grow, I answer: There,
Where my Julia’s lips do smile;
There’s the land, or cherry-isle,
Whose plantations fully show
All the year where cherries grow.

I remember learning this song, which I would play on the piano as my father sang in his rather fine high baritone.

Goodness, enough reminiscing. What on earth has this got to do with Tim Tams? Well, here we are with the second in the new range of Messina flavours. Choc Cherry Coconut. Now, when I think of dark chocolate, cherry and coconut, I don’t immediately think of ice cream. In fact, I have never ever seen choc cherry coconut ice cream. Is it even a Messina flavour?

You see, when I think of choc cherry coconut, I think of something else. Yes, you are thinking it too. (And here’s a question – does the name of that particular sweatmeat have anything to do with the seventeenth century English poet Robert Herrick?)

Anyway, the link between these Tim Tams and all this cherry tomfoolery is very marked. You see, these Tim Tams taste exactly like a Cherry Ripe bar. The filling even looks like it. They are more crunchy, and the chocolate ratio is greater, but to all intents and purposes they are the same. Well, I would venture perhaps ever better, as the biscuit texture and additional chocolate actually improve on the somewhat flabby original.

I like Cherry Ripe. So I liked these, and an going to give them an eight out of ten. Well done Arnott’s. If you don’t like Cherry Ripe, then steer clear.

Arnott’s Turkish Delight Tim Tam (Messina)

March 7, 2018 at 20:09 | Posted in biscuits | Leave a comment
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Oh dear. They did it again. Twice.

You see, I wasn’t that much of a fan of the original Messina flavours, but it seems Arnott’s were so thrilled with the success of the collaboration (or ‘collab’, as it seems to be called these days by those millennial types) they have done some more.

Then, it seems they based it on another dud from the archive – the Turkish Delight flavour. This one, as you will recall, holds the honour of being the joint worst Tim Tam flavour ever created (or at least reviewed by yours truly). Oh dear. My expectations for this are not high.

Still, there is some excitement in the packaging. This new range of ‘gelato inspired’ flavours is labeled not ‘Tim Tam’ but ‘Chill Me’, and you are urged to keep them in the fridge and consume them cold. This I would say is good advice for any flavour of Tim Tam, so it’s encouraging to see Arnott’s finally taking notice of my exhortations. To make the whole fridge thing even more thrilling, the words change colour when they get cold. Yes, you read that correctly. The words change colour when they get cold. Oh my goodness. Will the excitement never end?

Anyway, what are they like to eat? Well, to be honest, they are exactly like the previous Turkish Delight flavour. I did perhaps think they were slightly less sweet, but maybe this is due to them being dutifully chilled. They still have that artificial tang, they still have that strange chewy filling and still have the pink tinged creme – although perhaps a bit pinker this time? Anyway, they are still pretty ordinary, and I’m still giving them a three out of ten. I do hope the others in the range are a bit better…

 

Perfect Pass

March 2, 2018 at 12:09 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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Anyone who rides a bike on the roads occasionally experiences car drivers passing rather too close. This is, of course, illegal, but given the cops are utterly uninterested in ever doing anything about it, I don’t see that it’s going to change soon. My new commute has a few spots where this is a particular problem. I’ve been planning to write a blog about it for a while replete with hair-raising video of people skimming past whilst texting on their phones.

However, I’m also nervous such a post might be Whispering. So instead I’m going to talk about a good experience. One of the roads I ride on is Australia Avenue, going through Olympic Park. This has a ‘bike lane’ painted down the side, but as is often the case with paint (as opposed to proper infrastructure) it sort of makes things worse not better. Why? Well drivers somehow see that paint line as a magical defence, and don’t consider how close they are to you – the logic is that I have a bike lane, they are in the car lane, and everything is OK. Well, when the bike lane is only about one metre wide in total, and you are driving a large truck where the back wheels are grazing that white line, it’s not OK. It’s terrifying.

Against that background, take a bow the driver of this Toll truck. Not only did he go very wide when overtaking me, he was also aware of the potential conflict when we both pulled up at the traffic light, and waved me past to ensure I was safe and that I knew he had seen me. Well done. I took the time to send in a compliment to Toll via their website, which I hope reaches the driver in question.

And, as is often the case when this happens, I find myself thinking, ‘I bet he rides a bike’…

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