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Letter From England Number 16

August 2011

During the last month I have taken steps into the past and also into the future. I have also started to turn this blog around to being a bit more fun, albeit right at the end!

Spotlight On Fury Comics

Last month I introduced you to what is my current "best seller" TalesOfCuriosity.com and as I said it is used quite extensively in schools throughout the world. This gives me a rather nice warm feeling that in a very small way I am helping with education. But for every Ying there is a Yang and all my good work if probably wiped out by this month's site Fury Comics.

A ScreenShot Of Fury Comics

As usual this all happened by accident. A couple of years ago I was looking for an image, I can't remember what and I bumped across a 1950's comic book that was on line. I then read that a huge amount of these books, tens of thousands have lapsed into the public domain. In other words they were out of copyright and free to use.

It is really quite amazing that so much work from a multi-million dollar industry was basically forgotten.

I fought the familiar urge, for a month or two, knowing that a big project was looming, but eventually I succumbed and Fury Comics was born.

I have not scanned one single page and downloaded the originals from either Golden Age Comics UK or The Digital Comic Museum.

I now have over 2,500 comics split into different genres, that are available to read online.

Now, to explain my earlier comment about why this might not be such a good thing for employers and educationalists. It is very noticeable that Fury Comics has many more readers during the working week and the figures noticeably drop not just at weekends, but also during school holidays. I think that a few people might be bunking off!

Raking Over The Past

Over the last few months I have been involved in the major project of rewriting all my sites even the oldest ones to keep them and my skills "up to date".

Although it has been really hard work, it has been interesting to revisit code I wrote a few years ago. Some bits I was impressed with and others not so much.

Monkey Typing

As I have just finished this, it was time to update my CV (or "resume" as my American cousins call it). This is something I really don't like doing. I try not to live in the past and of course that is what you have to cover.

"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley

Apart from recollecting events, both good and bad, from long gone times and it also involves remembering many long gone people. On a more cheerful note it was strange to think that I have 'lived' over 25 years of computer development and whilst not being right at the cutting edge I haven't been too far away from it. In fact over the years I have nudged closer and closer to the forefront.

Man And An Old Mainframe

Anyway it is done now and I have put a version of my resume/CV on line. It fits nicely into my little "me site" The Face Behind .Feel free to have a nose at it!

The Press In The Gutter

The main story that has been rumbling on for a few months now is the "phone hacking scandal". It is much too big a subject to cover here, but certain journalists had been hacking into people's voice mail in search of a story.

Woman On Telephone In The 1920's

Initially, it appeared to be celebrities. So, bad and not right, but well maybe they might be considered fair game in some quarters.

Then, it emerged that politician's phones were compromised. Then it was a few "normal" people who had made the news, one I believe helped to stop a terrorist attack here.

In the last few days it has been claimed that victims of crime were also targeted. Including the phone of a missing schoolgirl, who was later found dead and the parents of murder victims and soldiers killed in action.

I found this quote that I haven't read before which sums up my attitude about the whole sordid affair.

"I am unable to understand how a man of honor could take a newspaper in his hands without a shudder of disgust." - Charles Baudelaire

Recipe For Cornish Pasties

I keep promising a bit more fun and recipes so here we are and it's a big Yum!

Simply put, these are a pastry filled pie with meat, potatoes, onions and suede.

There is much debate about what is and what is not a pasty and how one is made. Personally, I would guess that as these were originally made by poor people, who lived a very hard life, then whatever ingredients were available were used.

As times have changed, I have played safe and cribbed this recipe from The Cornish Pasty Association. They are a group of more than 50 pasty makers based in Cornwall. I guess if they don't know then no one does!

This recipe is for 4 good sized Cornish Pasties.

Ingredients

For the pastry:

  • 500 grams (17.5 ounces) strong bread flour (It is important to use a stronger flour than normal as you need the extra strength in the gluten to produce strong pliable pastry.
  • 120 grams (4.5 ounces) white shortening
  • 25 grams (1 ounce) cake margarine
  • 5 grams (0.2 ounce) salt
  • 175 grams (6 ounces) cold water

For the filling:

  • 450 grams (16 ounces) good quality beef eg. skirt
  • 450 grams (16 ounces) potato
  • 250 grams (9 ounces) Swede
  • 200 grams (7 ounces) onion
  • Salt & pepper to taste(2/1 ratio)
  • Clotted cream or butter (optional)

A Cornish Pasty Cut Open

Instructions

For the pastry:

  • Mix fat lightly into flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Add water and beat in a food mixer until pastry clears and becomes elastic. This will take longer than normal pastry but it gives the pastry the strength that is needed to hold the filling and retain a good shape.
  • Leave to rest for 3 hours in a refrigerator, this is a very important stage as it is almost impossible to roll and shape the pastry when fresh.

To make the pasty

  • Chop the filling ingredients finely, then add to the rolled out circles of pastry raw.
  • Layer the vegetables and meat adding plenty of seasoning.
  • (Optional) Put your dollop of cream or a knob of butter on top.
  • Then bring the pastry around and crimp together. Crimping is the secret to a true Cornish pasty but it really has to be taught it is almost impossible to describe.

Handy Hints

  • Always use a firm waxy potato such as Maris Piper or Wilja.
  • Put in plenty of seasoning.
  • Ensure that all your veg is freshly prepared
  • Never attempt to add carrot, this is sacrilege!!
  • Use a good cut of BEEF eg. skirt. This is the underside of the belly of the animal. Its juice produces wonderful gravy, has no fat or gristle and cooks in the same amount of time as the raw vegetables.
  • Butter or cream gives the pasty that extra richness.

Cooking Time And Temperature

Place your pasties in a preheated oven, following the instructions beneath:

  • Gas No6 approx 50 min-1 hour
  • Electric 210 approx 50 min-1 hour
  • Fan assisted 165 approx 40 mins

After being cooked pasties can be eaten on their own hot or cold. They can also be eaten with vegetables and potatoes etc. Beneath I explain a bit more about them and I am sure that you will really enjoy eating this, the most Cornish of dishes!

About Cornish Pasties

Map Of Cornwall And Great Britain

I am planning at some point to write a bit about the Cornwall and the "West County" as I have had many enjoyable holidays there. With this month's delving into the past I remembered the thrill as a kid to eat a real Cornish pasty when on holiday.

Cornwall is a very beautiful county, in a rugged sort of way. The main industries used to be mining (tin and copper) and fishing. Now I believe the main source of revenue is tourism.

Cornish Miners Eating Pasties

It is said that the pasty was designed for miners to have as their lunch. That the pasty was held on the crimped edge with the miners dusty hands and was then discarded for the "Knockers". These were spirits who lived in the mines. At sea, the crust would be discarded for the seagulls, which were believed to be the souls of dead mariners.

A Cornish Pasty

I have also read that one end of the pasty was savoury and the other sweet. A main course and pudding all in one! I am not really sure about really is the truth.

Goodbye

Well, that's another month wrapped up!

In the next letter I am hoping to announce some good news and also get some pictures taken of this year's gardening exploits!

I hope you have a good month!