WATCHING: Hairy Bikers' Bakeation (BBC2/BBCHD/iPlayer). Normally I really dislike cookery programmes. With cooking (like sport, or sex) it's usually much more fun to be an active participant than a passive observer - and after watching someone prepare some delicious food on such shows, you don't even get to taste it! Oddly, the rare few I have actually enjoyed enough to watch all the way through have all been focused on baking. I'm not entirely sure why that is - perhaps because I'm already comfortable with basic bread making, perhaps the relatively messy aspect of baking helps avoid the soft-focus tweeness of other shows? Dunno. Whatever it is, while I really enjoyed Rachel Allen's Bake! series (her visit to Falko led directly to our choice of wedding cake), I quickly lost interest with her Home Cooking series despite following a near-identical format. And while I normally wouldn't bother watching the Hairy Bikers cooking their merry away through a series & tie-in book, I've found myself cheerfully tuning in to the Hairy Bikers' Bakeation this month.
Two episodes in, it's an odd but generally endearing mix of a) yon Hairy Bikers baking a recipe available on the BBC website (and the tie-in book), b) a baker from whatever country they're in demonstrating how they make their own particular specialities, and c) general travelogue malarkey as they make their way around Europe. The first episode was cracking, focused on Norway, complete with oodles of beautiful vistas, quietly polite people, a jaw-dropping hotel and gorgeous bakeries, culminating in a bread that looked so good the inability to taste it was infuriating (where's my Wonkavision?). The cooking highlight was probably 95-year-old Nikka, a lovely old lady who looked like she'd been drawn by Sylvain Chomet, and her decades-old waffle iron - good luck getting one of those in Lakeland. The mix of travel show and cookery show isn't the smoothest, and the second episode (cramming in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) was very much travel show first, cookery second. Still, hopefully upcoming ones will spend a bit more time back in the bakery, particularly the episodes in Germany and Austria. And while the Hairy Bikers' schtick is laid on thicker the stodgiest wholemeal ever, somehow it's on just the very edge of the right side of cheery-daftness/downright-annoyingness. Now if only they didn't have such a propensity towards nudity...
Anyway, you can get recipes from the show up on the BBC Food site, while the trans-European nature of the show has been picked up by the Open University who've produced a fascinating interactive map on the language of baking across Europe. And while there are clips available to view, there don't seem to be any embeddable ones - silly Beeb! - so we'll just have to make do with this not-safe-for-work spot of re-editing by Cassetteboy instead.
READING: For fans of all things Moominage and Moominish, I'd highly recommend this article that caught my eye, The Moomins, and their gift for tolerance written by Gordon Campbell over two years ago. It's a lovely piece of writing that captures the joy of the Moomins, the emotional heart, the depths, the things that have made the Moomins ring true for so many people over the last 60+ years.
What makes the Moomin stories so enjoyable – and so popular with parents as well as children – is the wit, compassion and energy present in such abundance. Adults and children respond alike to the same elements in these books, which is quite a rare event.
[...] One English boy wrote to her : ‘I enjoy the Moomins so much because they are so unreal in form, and so real in person.’ No author, Jansson wryly responded, could ask for a higher compliment.
It also links to this equally beautiful obituary for Tove Jansson by Shelley Jackson from 2002.
Melancholy, ambivalence, loss and disillusionment, yearning and disappointment are Tove Jansson's great themes; she is also really, really funny. The unnameable may be no farther away than the bottom of the garden, but it is also no closer. Moominland has floods, comets and tornadoes, but it also has Moominmamma, who can banish most terrors with weapons no stronger than a cup of coffee and a good spring cleaning.
LISTENING: Just getting into the latest album from School of Seven Bells, Ghostory. It carries on the lovely jangly wall of sound from their previous records with a great pulsing relentlessness, like Cocteau Twins doing krautrock. The standout so far for me is the first track, which is rather scuppering the rest of the album because as soon as The Night finishes, more often than not I'll press |< and play it again (it's great for getting a fast walking pace going, particularly for marching up Leith Walk after work).
BEING IMPRESSED BY: I'm at least a week behind the rest of the Internet on this, but stuff it - if you've not had the pleasure yet, do watch this five minute video of the Wrecking Crew Orchestra from Japan. It's thrilling stuff, using electro-techno like Daft Punk and Justice to soundtrack dancing in 'neon suits', said suits being turned on & off to give the boggling impression of video editing cuts happening in reality. Definitely one for watching in as HD as possible.