making jam
Summer is always here and for many British of the older generation, this season is akin to preserving the fresh fruits of the season. Though making homemade preserves may not be necessary today – thanks to modern processing plans – it would still be a good activity to engage in this summer. Have you ever made preserves or jam in your own kitchen? Maybe you should try out this age old tradition that our elders engaged in. Not only will you have homemade jams and jellies to consume throughout the winter months, but you’ll also have memories to last for the rest of your life.

So how do you go about making jam? Helen Gaffney of The Great British Kitchen provides tips that have been tried and tested by time. Here they are for your reading (and jam-making) pleasure.

1. It is most important to have jars, saucepan or preserving pan and spoons ready and scrupulously clean before you start, so that you prevent any micro-organisms from getting into the jam.
2. Choose sound firm fruit. A mixture of ripe and rather less ripe fruits is best, unripe fruits contain more pectin and fruit acid (both needed to obtain a good set) than ripe fruit.
3. Use fruit as soon as possible after picking. Wash only if necessary.
4. Cook the fruit with or without water for 20-30 minutes prior to adding the sugar. Simmer it gently to draw out the pectin.
5. Warm the sugar before adding it to the fruit to help it dissolve quickly.
6. When you have added the sugar to the hot, softened fruit, stir it over a gentle heat until it has completely dissolved before returning the jam to the boil.
7. Boil rapidly until set, stirring from time to time to prevent sticking at the bottom. Test frequently to avoid over-cooking.

There’s more from where this came from. I suggest that you visit Helen’s article and read for yourself!

Photo courtesy of Noah McMurray

co_335x240_roseodeacharterboatSummer is the time to get out of the confines of the house and enjoy the weather. While it may not be sunny all the time, this is the best period in the year to enjoy what nature has to offer. You don’t even need to go far or out of the country. Just take a look around you and you will find a lot of options.

One of these is a floating picnic at the River Thames. The best online resource for this kind of outing is Visit Thames, which compiles most anything that you can do related to the river. There are lots of restaurants by the river, from the outskirts of London to the Cotswolds. The Guardian recently had a feature on these floating picnic outings and suggests these:

The Beetle & Wedge Boathouse in Moulsford near Goring (beetleandwedge.co.uk) makes up hampers of cheese, salads, gravadlax, baguettes, melon and strawberries, then puts you in a wooden launch that seats up to 10 people (one hour boat hire £50, hampers from £15pp).

Or cruise the Thames in style from Marlow on the Compleat Angler’s Edwardian-style electric launch, while tucking into poached salmon, sandwiches, salads, scones, cheese and biscuits and strawberries and cream (macdonaldhotels.co.uk/compleatangler, boat hire £75-£95 per hour, hampers £25-£36).

If you want to pack your own hamper the website also lists boat hire companies such as Cotswold Boat Hire (cotswoldboat.co.uk), based in Lechlade, which has open-top motor boats from £80 for four hours for up to five people, and rowing boats from £15 per hour.

Now that sounds pretty good to me. What about you?

london undergroundThe London Underground (locally known as the Tube) is the biggest and oldest metro system in the world. It’s also one of the most convenient, serving about 20 hours on a daily basis. Each of the Underground lines has a different name and colour. This helps you easily follow your route on the map.

Upon your arrival at a station, you should have a look at the colour-coded signs that will direct you to the line you’re looking for. The London Underground system is divided into 6 different fare zones. The London city centre is of course in Zone 1. Your ticket price depends on the number of zones through which you travel. You can easily buy your ticket from an automatic ticket machine or alternatively at the ticket office at any station. Both single and return tickets are available and they are valid only on the date shown.

If you know where you want to go, I recommend you should use the ticket machines because they can save a lot of your time. The instructions are easy to follow. The ticket machines usually give change, but I would suggest that you use the correct money if possible. By doing this, you will help keep change for other passengers who really need it.

Most London Underground stations have ticket gates. You need to pass through them quite a few times throughout your journey. Upon your arrival, just insert your ticket into the slot of the machine through which the ticket will pass. You can then take it from a slot at the top and the gates will open to let you through. When you have completed your last journey, the gates will open and let you through but your ticket will be retained by the machine.

As far as I’m concerned, London’s Tube is probably one of the most famous in the world. However, I feel that there is something about being underground I am not very keen on. For instance, the massive crowds swarm towards the train platforms, rushing up and down stairs, following the signs and the annoying ‘Mind the gap’ thing. Based on my experience, the trains are also absolutely packed. I have so many times been pushed up against someone really stinky. It’s never easy to find yourself a seat, and you can hardly see anything. Having said that, I still believe it is the cheapest and quickest way to get around London though.

To sum up, The London Underground is really easy to use so long as you are equipped with a map. To avoid wasting your time, simply validate your ticket and pass through the gates, stand on the right hand side of the steep escalators, or just walk down on the left if you are in a rush. The Tube normally arrives every few minutes so you don’t need to run. In summer the tube can be really hot and smelly, but again it is another part of travelling around the capital of England.

The English Bobby

English Bobby
In England, one of the greatest advances of the nineteenth century was the foundation of the English police service. It replaced the poorly organised and rather ineffective watchman system that was then broadly seen as flawed, and introduced a better and new class of public servant to the English public, one whose duty was obviously to protect people against the burgeoning criminals on the streets.

Famous throughout the world for their considerate helpfulness and assertive authority that even extend till these days to not carrying a loaded firearm, the ordinary English police are a globally recognised figure in all respects. They have been portrayed in many TV dramas, and their everyday duties have never ceased to stir one’s imagination.

The average English bobby is much respected all over the world for his consideration, efficiency as well as ability to do his job. He is also renowned as being honourable and morally upright and is among the very few unarmed police patrols in the crime-dogged world. Even though the uniform has gradually changed over time, there is little doubt it is still highly recognisable.

The English police did and to a large extent still do represent citizen security and the spirit of community that made them such a symbol of England for a number of years. Many say that the good English bobby is simply the envy of the world. In addition, they also argue that the English police should never be stripped off their bobby status as they always handled the situations in the kindest possible manner.

One of the things that people will always remember is the good old English Bobby being marched out by their sarge at the beginning of their shift. The most popular sight was probably the police standing in the street phone boxes calling their station, or the glossy blue light flashing telling the bobby to answer the phone. Another very familiar sight was the sarge attracting the attention of the tired constable by tapping the pavement with his truncheon.

I myself am a fan of police drama The Bill in which the English police are always capable of sorting out the most difficult offences. It is also fascinating to see them getting tough on crime and giving people a sense of security watching the show on TV. The English police in the drama are always in large numbers and even the worst offenders will have a hard time dealing with them.

Unfortunately though, in reality we no longer see that many English constables anymore. I reckon there should be more police back on the streets to help tackle the street crime in England. Countless times I have heard awful stories of people being murdered even in broad daylight which is appalling. Hardly can anyone understand what is going on here. The government has apparently generated a lot more tax revenues than ever before but it seems very little is spent on street policing.