Regency cosplayers, green tea cake with Dog, and a mustachioed King of All Cosmos

I’ve been meaning to make a blog post for a while and just not had the time to get around to it, so this’ll be a fairly variegated one, drawing on the stuff of the past few weeks.

Serendipity

A couple of weekends ago I was finishing up my line-edit of my Regency fantasy of manners, and I walked to Hampstead Heath with Cephas. It was a really pretty day — it’s a really pretty area, and it’s nice to be close enough to escape there when you spend the bulk of your days in the centre of town.

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We visited Keats House, which we’d been meaning to do for a while. (It’s basically just a house, and they’ve filled the rooms with pictures of Keats while also trying to keep it authentic to the period, which makes everything a bit weird because you can’t imagine that he had loads of pictures of himself in his house when he still lived there. Maybe if it was Byron House!

Anyway, if you want to visit a famous person’s house in North London I’d recommend Freud House instead. Once in a while they have a Kaffee und Kuchen tour where they give you Austrian coffee and cake and a tour, and it is delicious. But also Improving!)

After our tour of the interior of Keats House I went to sit on the lawn to work on my book, and while wrangling a particularly knotty sentence I looked up and realised I was surrounded by Regency cosplayers, present for the Keats Festival.

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Here they are demonstrating Georgian music to an interested audience. Being a Philistine in all matters musical, I quietly beredar-ed and spent the rest of the afternoon on the sunny lawn. The house is kind of boh tat, because you have to pay £5 to enter, but the gardens appear to be free and they are very pretty.

Baking triumphs

Today I applied myself to the challenge of making a green tea Swiss roll, and I am inordinately proud of the result. Behold!

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I am a great big ball of vanity. The cake itself is not too difficult — it does involve working with peaky egg whites, but I always figure with this sort of thing that either it will go well and it will rise, or it won’t go that well but the cake will still taste good. (And you can see from the pockets of air in the cake that I mixed my egg whites in with no very skilful hand.) The whipped cream is also easy to do — the recipe tells you to put but 3/4 of a tablespoon of sugar in it, so you worry that it is not sweet enough, but actually the cake is pretty sweet so together they are perfect.

What is hard, and what I worried about when contemplating doing the cake, was the purely mechanical aspect of the roll — getting the cake into that shape without breaking it or turning into a cream monster. But Cooking With Dog helped me!

I don’t know if you know Cooking With Dog? I introduced Cephas to it today and he started LOLing, to my sister’s puzzlement.

“It’s just a normal cooking show,” she said. “I watch it to see the cooking. I wouldn’t link it to my friends, it’s not funny. The dog isn’t even doing anything.”

“How can you say he’s not doing anything?” I said severely. “The dog is hosting.”

Dog was very helpful with my Swiss roll mechanics today! Thank you, Francis.

Recommendations

I started following Singaporean writer Alfian Sa’at’s Facebook feed a couple of weeks ago and feel pretty good about that as a life decision. You can follow his updates even if you’re not friended (it does, alas, require you to have a Facebook account), and it is worth the price of entry if you are at all interested in local literature. His most recent status on pantun and peribahasa (Malay poetry and sayings) referencing apes, monkeys and slow lorises is a good example — my favourite of the ones he lists is:

Seutas rotan ditarik, bergegar hutan belukar, riuh bunyi kera dan lotong

‘A rattan stem is pulled, the forest underbrush shakes, the outburst from the macaques and langurs is deafening’. If someone is guilty of wrongdoing, he or she will receive an earful from friends and relatives.

If they taught Malay literature like this at school I think people would be a lot more interested lor. (Not that I didn’t enjoy Konserto Terakhir, mind you. Surprise almost-incest always jazzes up one’s school reading!)

And a final picture

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Which requires no explanation.

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