Sunday 31 March 2013

Model railways: aesthetic considerations

This is an issue that I enjoy pondering:

Today, I was browsing the internet for images of French HO scale model railway layouts. Immediately, I came across a really striking image.

What I love about it is the rendition of the building.

I then downloaded images of other French layouts with very different styles of building rendition.

For interest I've commented on each one.

Far too childish.

Impressive: but too realistic

Too childish

Realistic but also charming

Realistic but also charming
So, I'm not aiming to achieve any of the above effects.

The next model I quite like.

And the next, I really like!

It's difficult to put into words why I prefer Chez Henriette to Cordonnier and its neighbour.

But it's this final building and its setting which grabbed me immediately - wonderful. Yes, there is something childish about its rendition; yet, to my eyes it's perfect - especially that crooked telegraph pole.

Currently listening to:

Desert Island Discs (from last week):

The guest is Jasvinder Sanghera who campaigns for the rights of women, especially the right to refuse a forced marriage.

What she had to say chimed with what I've been reading in the book "Kabul Beauty School"

It's an absolute outrage what some women have to put up with at the hands of the communities into which they are born.

Last night's dinner:

Rolled lamb, carrots, aubergine, dried apricots, ground almonds and cous-cous..

The dried apricots did not need soaking. One just chucked them into the pot and they imparted the most sweet and fruity flavour to what was, in its own right, a pretty sweet tasting piece of lamb.

Cost per head: a disappointingly expensive £8.50 (due to the lamb)

Saturday 30 March 2013

Period Instruments and One Liners

Agrivap is a National park in the Auvergne - central France - which I mentioned last week in this blog. Within the park is 85km of rail track on which various preserved locomotives and railcars run.

I'm not sure I approve of the fact that the trains have been re-painted in a new livery ie the livery of the National Park. Makes it seem more Disney than authentic.

A railcar

Sous Marin or CC65000

A railcar

A railcar

Currently listening to:

Saturday morning CD Review on Radio 3:

An interesting discussion this morning with 3 conductors who have championed the use of period instruments when performing music from the 17th to 19th Centuries.

Views are pretty polarised on this subject. But listening to the discussion I was reminded of the double-edged sword which is the "pithy remark" or the "one liner".

For example, one well known musician who was totally against the use of period instruments when excellent modern designs were available, said this:

"Why advocate period instruments? That's like advocating period dentistry."

That's a brilliant way of portraying the issue: but it doesn't close down the argument.

The counter argument is this:

The justification for using period instruments to play, say, Mozart is not that it is historically more accurate (although, presumably, it is) but that it sounds better.

Interestingly, the discussants all made the point that when period instruments began to be widely used in the late 20th Century, the people who suffered were contemporary composers. Contemporary composers obviously thought that they were producing a new sound landscape, but they were usurped by the orchestras playing traditional repertoire with period instruments; that repertoire came over as completely different and fresh; it was that use of period instruments that was the real 'shock of the new'.

Not sure I agree with that analysis.

The phrase 'shock of the new' reminded me of that brilliant book by Robert Hughes. It became a successful TV series in the 80s.

Last night's dinner:

Chicken curry at the Shenaz restaurant, Glasgow.

Approx cost per head: £15

It's difficult to get chicken curry on the bone ie chicken breast is the most common ingredient. But here is a very appetising picture from the web of fowl on the bone , albeit, it's quail!

Friday 29 March 2013

Saujon to Gemozac

These two small towns are about 20 miles apart near Royan on the west coast of France. I liked this photograph of a "Sous Marin" - see recent blogs - travelling on that route back in the 1980s when the loco was at the end of its life.

Rather mysteriously, the website for Mistral Models, the French company which makes an HO scale model of the "Sous Marin" has been suspended - whatever that means.

Currently listening to:

Everything  I have downloaded from iTunes by Hot Chip. That adds up to 4.8 hours worth.

Last night's dinner on a shoestring:

Artichokes, avocado, tomatoes and boiled rice.
Approx cost per head: £4.50

Thursday 28 March 2013

Moscatel de Setubal

The trip to Lisbon has reinforced for me the good decision to use mosaic tiles on both the buildings and the platforms of my layout.

For, tiles abound in Lisbon. The buildings are covered with ceramic tiles, 'azulejos', in the way bathroom and kitchen walls are in the UK.


I haven't done much research on this but it seems that the purpose was originally aesthetic but that coincidentally they offer protection against the weather.

Apparently, Portugal is the place to find them. My photos of various buildings in Lisbon do not do these tiles justice so I have included below a couple of great photos from the web.

First my photos:

And now some spectacular ones from the web.

Last night's meal:

This restaurant was meant to be superior to last night's. It wasn't. It was OK, the staff were nice but the modernistic d├ęcor and some of the presentational affectations just irritated me. It was poncy.

I was determined to try codfish as it is referred to all over Portugal. It was OK. Nowhere near as good as last night's octopus.

My new favourite aperitif: see below

Smoked sausage omelette for starter

Price per head including wine and totally unnecessary extras: £25

By the way: diners were smoking in this restaurant. Not a problem.

Moscatel de Setubal:

Bought a bottle of my new favourite aperitif, Moscatel de Setubal, at the duty free at Lisbon. Cost about £4 per bottle. And this one was a 2008 vintage. Only slightly more alcoholic than table wine.

Made primarily from the Muscat grape, served chilled and usually opened after 5 to 6 years.

Currently listening to:

Spent the whole flight home listening to all the Alex Smoke I've got on my iPod. Hypnotic.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Pavement update

This will be mainly a photo session of the blog.

Firstly, a suburban train waiting in a Lisbon station.

Secondly, a tram at early evening. I'd just left yesterday evening Mass at Our Lady of the Incarnation and at 7.30pm, the streets were crowded with workers going home.

And evening Mass.

Last night's dinner:

Fantastic little restaurant called O Caracol.

Began with an aperitif made from the Muscat grape. I like these cold sweet aperitifs. This was similar to my much liked Pineau de Charentes.

The first course was compulsory! But was very good: thinly sliced black pudding with orange segments and soft brie like cheese.

Will definitely try this combination when back home; especially, slicing the black pudding more thinly.

Second course was a visual triumph.

Octopus and boiled potatoes

Creme brulee to finish
Brilliant meal.

Cost per head including wine: £23

Breakfast this morning in hotel.

Large breakfast of pancakes, banana fritters, ham, cheese, fruit etc etc means no need for lunch or other snacks.

Currently listening to:

Alex Smoke:

Pavement images:

Morning Mass at Our Lady of the Incarnation:

All statues shrouded in purple for Lent.