Monthly Archives: November 2010

Purple spuds

I bought a bag of those Bartlett ‘Purple Majesty’ potatoes last weekend. Instead of mashing them I made chips (well… not real chips, but part-boiled chunks that I then shallow fried to make them taste a bit like roast ones). Purple potatoes taste, believe it or not, like white ones. In case you think something nasty has been added to make them purple (like the potassium permanganate the chemist used to put in the meths I used to buy), purple potatoes are natural, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the first potatoes that arrived here from the Americas were not white but purple (note that I refrained from saying ‘first brought here by Walter Raleigh or Francis Drake’, as this is the stuff of legend. They were probably brought here by botanists. Because that’s what botanists did). The purple Bartlett ones are purpose-bred, and are said to contain more antioxidants and other goodies than white ones.

There are also purple carrots*. I remember reading somewhere that the red/orange ones were originally bred from purple ones. Not a lot of people know that.

* Just looked it up, here

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William McGonagall

I have been away for a few days, in Killicrankie. When I’m in that part of the world I always find time to visit my favourite bookshop, The Watermill at Aberfeldy (click the link, on the right). As always, I had coffee there. And, as always, I spent more money than I meant to on books. On the bookshop counter were copies of William Topaz McGonagall’s poems. I didn’t buy one because I have had a copy of these for years. My guess is that more books of his collected poems have sold than those of Robert Burns, but that is not for me to say. I’m no more struck on Burns than I am on Shelley, Wordsworth or Coleridge. For me they are men of their time, writing about a bygone age that we no longer understand and which has no great appeal to us. But McGonagall… well, McGonagall is always good for a laugh. And more importantly he provides us with a salutory lesson: McGonagall thought he was good. Not only did he think he was good, he probably couldn’t understand why he wasn’t poet-laureate, or why Queen Victoria didn’t recognise him.

No doubt she wasn’t amused. She would have been, had she read his stuff. There are Scots who believe that McGonagall should be considered as the Scots national poet rather than Burns. They might well say that. I couldn’t possibly comment.

And, if you really don’t know, click this.

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Our Kind of Traitor

I have given up on J M Coetzee’s Summertime. Halfway through it I wondered why I was bothering to read it when I could be reading something else. Perhaps it’s just me. I’m having trouble concentrating because I have a nasty nerve pain under a crowned tooth, one of those big ones at the side and I’m trying to get an emergency appointment. So it might not be Coetzee’s fault but that of my miscreant molar. I am about to read John le Carré’s latest. I shall tackle it with an open mind, having been mildly disappointed with his last two novels. I suppose there just aren’t enough spies to write about these days. If Coetzee and le Carré can’t do it for me then I’d better get back to the Beano.

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