Friday, April 12, 2013

Bath's Big Bang Theory

It was a mystery surrounded by a riddle wrapped in an enigma.

It came in the middle of last Sunday night, when all right-thinking Bathonians should long since have trundled up the Wooden Hill to Blanket Fair.

It was weird, it was loud, it was eerie. And the following morning, on, the mystery got its first public airing:

"Bath baffled by big bangs" read the headline, and by golly were we baffled.

Not a few West Country towns and cities are known for their strange noises. Gallons of ink, for example, have been spilled dissecting the mystery of the so-called Bristol Hum

Others are not so well known: you can Google for hours without finding any mention of the Gloucester Rumble or the Shepton Mallet Whine.

And yet, and yet...

Bath, blessed in so many other ways, never had its own special noise. Until Sunday, that is, when it got The Bang.

Early reports of it came through on Twitter, as they always seem to these days. One bang was heard at 11:43pm, the other about six minutes later.

And that was it. Everything went quiet again. Except for Twitter.

Now the really strange thing about all this auditory upheaval was that Dixon Junior and yours truly heard the bangs almost exactly an hour earlier. We were watching Match of the Day, and we thought it was Mrs D thumping on the bedroom floor for us to turn the telly down. And we did, sharpish. But the following morning she denied all knowledge.

So what was it that we heard? A pre-echo of the sound reported on Twitter an hour later, transmitted through a wormhole in the space-time continuum? (There's a lot of those up our road. Not as many as there are potholes, though.)

Were they sonic booms, or fireworks, or even, as some wag suggested on thisisbath, property prices going through the roof?

Perhaps we shall never know. Shakespeare had a point, though, when he wrote in The Tempest:

"Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,/Sounds, and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not."

Perhaps he'd heard the Bath Bang.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Baking bad

After the disconcerting news a couple of weeks ago that a school in faraway Canvey Island has banned the distribution of triangular flapjacks at lunchtime on the grounds that someone might get hurt, things could only get worse.

Mrs D did the weekly shop the other day at a supermarket that shall remain nameless (they’re all the same really, only the carrier bags are different) and came back with a baguette so floppy that...

Well, so utterly bendy and unbaguette-like that if you’d used it as a wand, or a baton, which is what “baguette” means, and tried to produce a rabbit from a hat, or conduct Beethoven’s Fifth, you’d have ended up with a vole, or Air on a Penny Whistle.

All of which leads to the inevitable conclusion (in Mrs D’s mind, in any case): why not bake our own bread?
It’s the latest big thing. Every other TV programme seems to be cashing in on the bread-making craze. And how simple could it be?

Grab a bag of flour. Weigh it out, sprinkle in dried yeast. You haven’t got any dried yeast. Go to shop and purchase same. Add salt. Engage in half-hour deliberation on relative merits of adding sugar or leaving it out. Chuck in some olive oil for good measure. Add water. Mix. You’ve added too much water, dough has consistency of treacle. Add flour to correct. Mix. Dough is too dry. Add more water. Mix. Repeat until quantity of dough is twice that required in recipe. Add more salt. Taste. Feel unwell. Knead until dough is soft and pliable. Remove leavings from under fingernails.

Cover and allow to rise in warm place. If such a place actually exists.

Wait for two hours, periodically peeking into bowl. Dough oozes, bubbles and quivers.

Pummel violently, leave to prove.

Form into Gallic-looking stick, bake until done, wait until cool.

Slice, tear, rip, chew.

Outside is like reinforced concrete, inside is like Blu-Tack.

It’s not as easy as it looks, this bread-making mallarkey.

Meanwhile, though, in the kitchens at Dixon Towers, Mrs D is whipping up a Schiacciata with Olives, Prosciutto and Porcini Mushrooms. That’s an Italian flatbread to you. And what could possibly go wrong?