Thursday, 19 December 2013

The mysteries of the deep fat fryer

Mali's response to my last post about deep fried pizzas made me want to do a blog post on something that's been fairly standard to my life, but probably seems a bit weird to everyone else. When I did a foreign language class at school and people asked the teacher how to say they worked in a chip shop, he used to reply that there wasn't a direct translation

I don't know why he didn't just tell us to say "fast food outlet", or similar, but anyway, this is a post to illustrate how to order in one.

First, you must pick your item to be deep fried. In rough groupings, they are:

Fish - round here, it's usually haddock and sometimes there's a choice of cod and plaice too, as well as others. Haddock is the preferred option - my Dad told me that "cod eat all the shite off the bottom of the sea", which put me off it. Fish is always fried in batter, apart from "special fish", which is slightly more expensive and comes coated in orange breadcrumbs. Scampi is usually from the freezer and comes ready-breaded.

Meat products - Some of these come without batter; smoked sausage and chicken. "Normal" sausage comes in batter, as does haggis and black pudding and king rib. King rib I've never had, but it's not a rib, it's some sort of reconstituted pork product and is apparently not very nice. Burgers can either come in batter or not.

Pies - Oh yes, we deep fry pies. Usually mutton pies, but also steak pies and macaroni cheese pies. In the chippy I used to work in, the owner used to let her dog into the cold store and a customer once found one of its hairs in her lunch.

Pizzas - the prompt for this post. I think most people probably think that a deep fried pizza is a regular pizza that's fried. However, chip shops usually use a fairly low quality pizza that's basically a big bit of bread with some cheese, and possibly onion, on top. The accompanying chips usually stick to the cheese. Deep fried pizza can be unbattered or battered and come in half or whole portions. Battered deep fried pizza is called "pizza crunch" in some places.

Chocolate bars - this is actually a bit of a myth. The only time I've ever heard of anyone having a deep fried Mars Bar was in a chip shop where I worked and one of the staff cooked one as an experiment. They're sometimes advertised in chip shops that get a lot of tourist trades, and I believe may be consumed in the North East.

If you order one of the above items as a "single", then that's all you get. Asking for a "fish supper" means you will get it with chips.

The fryer will place whatever you have ordered into the hot, bubbling fat - it used to be beef dripping, but nowadays vegetable oil is more normal.

Then there are a choice of accompaniments and sides. These normally include:

Curry sauce - normally a sort of browny yellow gravy, not dissimilar from Chinese takeaway type curry. However, I did once order chips and curry sauce from a combined Indian and chip shop takeaway and they'd run out of sauce and asked me if I wanted "Indian curry sauce" instead, which made us both smile (actually, it was very nice; it had actual coriander in it and may have had a nutritional value that wasn't made up entirely of carbs and fat).

Mushy peas - these are mashed up peas that have been chemically altered to made them lurid green and very sweet. I can't abide them.

Then there are usually beans, coleslaw, gravy and cheese.

When the main bit of your supper is cooked, the fryer will place it on a cardboard box, and an assistant will ladle over some chips, if you want me.

Just before you get your food, the assistant will ask if you want any condiments. Where I come from, "salt and vinegar?" is normal, and you can ask for tomato sauce that's been heavily watered down with vinegar.

On the other side of the country, you get asked if you want "salt and sauce", the sauce in question being brown sauce that's been mixed with vinegar.

The differences between condiments in different areas is a very heated question, and has led to allegations of human rights abuses.

Having navigated this fraught territory, the assistant will wrap your purchase in paper - seventeen years on, I still remember being taught how to do this - and you will go on your way. The smell when you open the paper will be delicious, and whatever you've ordered is best eaten by the sea.

The whole thing is a bit weird, when you think about it - not just the sauce/vinegar debate, but the question of why some items always come battered and others don't.

Some chippies are much posher, of course; some do more kinds of fish, some do gluten free batter. Some - whisper it - even grill things.

So now you can confidently stroll into a chip shop and order a pizza crunch supper.

PS - forgot. You can order a "fish tea" in some places, which constitutes battered fish, chips, a slice of buttered white bread and a pot of tea, and usually either beans or mushy peas. I had never  encountered this before working in a chippy. I think I used to put a bit of lemon on it, for the vitamans, like.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

The promised land

We are here. In our new white-picket-fence haven. Well, not literally white picket fence, but you get the idea - a street full of houses with families, Father Christmas and carol singers doing the rounds. The local community is to be awash with people volunteering to help other people, either locally or far away. It's very nice.

There's an excellent second hand bookshop, all manner of nice food shops, and some tasteful knick knacky gifty shops you only get in more affluent places. As opposed to less well off areas, where you get tasteless knick knack shops, like the one where we used to live that sold garish ornaments and lighters with naked ladies on.

It all feels a bit strange. But in a good way.

On the plus side, we've moved to an area with better housing. W People seem very friendly.

On the other hand, I'm sure next door will be wondering why we haven't returned their Christmas card (I so need to!). I think there will be more "keeping up with the Jonses" style competitiveness here, both materialistically and socially.

Other observations - the weather matters more here than it does in the inner city; there sees to be more outside. Not the great outdoors, exactly, but more than the minimal encounters with the elements you face when you live two minutes away from a train station and bus stop.

More people drive, but there are fewer fat people. I am really hoping some of this rubs off and I start to lose weight. Although part of this is that access to healthy food is easier; even the takeaways do low fat food (low fat here apparently meaning more than not putting batter on your deep fried pizza).

The Boy and the Cat are both fine. Both of them have different ways of approaching the novelty of having stairs. The Boy loves the stairs and will merrily spend his time crawling or walking up and down them - his upward crawling efforts are particularly rewarding, as he gives a hearty grunt when he pulls himself up onto each tread.

The Cat, having spent most of her life in one-level apartments, with occasional holidays to houses where she wasn't allowed downstairs on account of there being a resident dog, isn't coping as well. She sits at the top and peers down at us, and the Boy usually spots her and chases her. Sometimes she comes down to make emergency visits to her food dish and litter tray - but she seems to think that downstairs isn't for her.  We had planned to introduce her to Outside, but this might take a while.

Me, I wait until everyone goes to bed and then bum shuffle up and down between the landing and living room, cackling wildly.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013


Yay! We are moving. Starting tomorrow.

Broker trauma aside, it is a bit funny, leaving our flat.

When we moved here, we had an inkling we might need IVF. We can now reasonably say we're veterans.

When we moved think we had been used to student style moves. This meant that you had a couple of boxes and a couple of bin liners to get shifted. We got married not before we moves here and got a load of wedding presents, which are all lovely, but realistically meant that our tried and tested moving techniques didn't work anymore. We got into this really stupid situation on our moving day that we needed to ask the removal company - ie, a white van man and his pal -to do a couple of runs so we could empty our belongings out, and reuse the cardboard box for another go. All the boxes were from Lidl or similar, meaning they had holes in them. I think the whole concept of hiring crates or boxes was unknown to us.  

I am sure the next couple of days and weeks will show us as being equally inadequate to own a house rather than a flat.

When we moved here, we had no cat. We also, more to the point, had no Boy. The Boy's last day at nursery is tomorrow. He loves it and I am really sad to move him. I also know he would be even sadder at moving in a year, or two years, or three years, when he is getting increasingly more able to establish relationships. But I know he will miss nursery.

The cat has been shipped to a relative as she will be more worried by the ongoing move, rather than any disruption to her routine. I am hoping she'll be alright about finding her household relocated somewhere else with more space.

Anyway, I better go to bed. Thanks for everyone's comments about the mortgage episode - there's far more I could write about but it would be too identifying.

But, hopefully everyone has a very peaceful Christmas.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Tick tock

It is less than 24 hours until we have to sign for our house.

Still no agreement. We were promised one "in 15 minutes" at 4.50pm, after a fuckup with the paperwork on the mortgage company's part; they sent an agreement through for the wrong amount.

The broker doesn't answer calls after 5 so we don't know if he got it. I know weekends are sancrosant and no-one should work outwith their working hours, yadayadayada, but I bloody well do long hours if it is important, and part of the reason we afford his fees is that I do this. So I feel a bit Daily Mail Reader about this.

Oh, and before that, yesterday I got a message at 4.35 saying that if I got copies of my bank statement to him before 5 it'd definitely come through today. I got the paperwork through, but given I had no access to a PC at the time, this involved texting my bank login details to my husband so he could do it at his desk, as I was in town and was on the way to pick up the Boy from my Mum.

I am really hoping it will be done. There will be hell to pay if it is not, but I don't even want to contemplate that right now.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

The lost world

This blog seems to be turning into one solely about moving house, so I thought I'd blog about a recent thought provoking trip to a Central European city.

There are hardly any Jewish people where I live; I can tell you stories of people using racist language about Pakistani, Chinese or black African people, but not Jews. Because it would be a bit like being prejudiced against people from Alaska or Argentina or Azerbaijan; I don't doubt the capacity to be anti Semitic is there, but, given racists are inherently smallminded, they're not going to be imaginative enough to boil up hatred for a people they've never met.

So, while I'm not ignorant of the Holocaust by any means - I went to the Anne Frank House, have read about it extensively, seen the photos, watched films - I realised during the last visit that the context I understood the Holocaust in was hopelessly incomplete.

We went to the Jewish Museum in the city we were in. I'd - perhaps naively - thought it was mostly going to be a museum about Jewish lift in the Middle Ages, and so we bought tickets and brought the Boy.

The first section of the museum was a Holocaust memorial. Every known victim's name and date of birth was recorded. There were thousands of names. I began weeping at the scale of the murder.

Fortunately, the Boy was quiet, but he started chirping and grumbling away to himself. The immensely kind lady at one of the sections gave him a leaflet to play with and pulled faces at him. Which was tremendously kind of her.

The next section was a display of items from the concentration camp, by which point the Boy was getting quite loud so we pulled him straight out. And I was mortified; I'm sure some people must go to this museum to on a pilgrimate to try and find an understand of the fate of relatives, and I still feel bad about not doing more research and thinking this was a good thing to take a toddler to.

Then we went around the Jewish Cemetery, which, ironically, the Nazi had decreed should not be destroyed, so it could inform future generations about the Jews.

It was - massive is the wrong word - but dense with tombstones. Because the city once had a thriving Jewish population, but for most of the centuries they'd been there, they'd only been allowed to be buried in a comparatively tiny plot. I'd understood, on paper, that Jewish people had been persecuted through the centuries, but this put my understanding in context. I'd never seen a Jewish cemetery in any of the other Central and Eastern European lands I've visited, perhaps because they were destroyed.

Two days before we went to the Jewish Museum, we stopped at a pub in the beautiful old town square. The Boy had gone for a nap and we had a drink and watched the elaborate Christmas lights being set up. As the sun set, we heard the Jewish call to prayer begin.

The link between the Jewish people that had lived in the city, combined with the display of the number of people killed in the Holocaust, and the much-reduced Jewish population now, made me begin to realise how genocide has shaped the face of European cities.

The city was full of tourists from across Europe, particularly Germany, and Asia for the Christmas Markets; people of all nationalities, just like the lady in the Jewish Museum, looked out for the Boy. An elderly gentleman chuckled at him trying to drink my husband's beer, another woman told us off for not having him wrapped up warmly enough.

People from everywhere are generally kind and care about small children, and it is incomprehensible that many people from different countries and professionals colluded together from the Holocaust that killed so many innocent people, presumably including some of the elderly relatives of the people who cooed at the Boy.

I will have to teach the Boy about the Holocaust, one day. But, although my knowledge of it grows, I will never be able to answer all of his questions about it, because I cannot answer my own.

The waiting game

Mr Cuntypants has still not arranged finance for the house move. He's given us various assurances that the morgage companies involved had escalated our case and would look at them last week, but these have all fallen through.

He is still 'confident' that he'll arrange finance, but has said it will be a good idea to let the sellers know we might not be able to complete. Lovely.

It just feels horrible. I don't know what happens if the move doesn't happen - all the services we rely on here, from our broadband to our storage to the Boy's nursery place have been cancelled, as we didn't expect to need them. We've also ordered furnite to be delivered to our new place, and a removals van. Presumably the sellers can also sue us if the move falls through.

The loan gap is too much for us to put it on a credit card, and we're running out of time to arrange alternative finance. We have offered to put in more capital, and both of us are in the process of getting more hours from employers, so have asked them to give us stuff in writing confirming this.

My husband, while he is also worried, thinks I am being overly fretful and that he will sort it out.  I really hope so.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

My mortgage broker is a cunt

There are many things that have happened in the past month. But tonight, I am going to dedicate this post to my mortgage advisor, Mr Cuntypants.

Several weeks ago, we got a house move date. We advised Mr Cuntypants of this. At the time, he seemed normal.

He asked us for various ID. We provided these quickly, as our lawyer advised that 6 weeks was not long.

He asked us for more ID, some of which contained information already in the previous batch. We provided this and he applied for a mortgage.

Then - and this is the bit that alarm bells began to sound, faintly - we were turned down for the mortgage on the basis that even although our combined incomes well exceeded the minimum amount required, the mortgage company needed one of us to earn a higher proportion from one income source.

This is the sort of thing a mortgage advisor should know before applying, no? But he made a big deal that he hadn't paid a non refundable £300 fee upfront.

Mr Cuntypants said that this was ok, we would still move, and applied for another mortgage. This required more ID.

We asked if we were still ok to move. He insisted we were, so we made all the arragements associated with moving a household to a different community.

Today, ahead of the move, our lawyer pointed out we still had no mortgage, something that had been niggling away at me, but Mr Cuntypants had assured us was ok.

We began calling his office for updates. Halfway through, he e-mailed us - one of the things that makes him particularly cunty is that he refuses to call - and said, actually, he didn't know if we could move next week. Because the mortgage company had lost our paperwork.


After more e-mails, offering to put in more cash upfront, and asking him to speak to the mortgage company on our behalf, he announced that, actually, we might still be able to move after all.

But we won't know until Friday.