The Anonymous Widower

Operation Crossbow

I’m just watching this fascinating program on BBC 2, about how we used photographic intelligence during the Second World War.

It is a program, that points to not only what we got right in fighting the Germans  and the Japanese but what we got wrong.

We certainly got photographic interpretation correct, as we were able to unlock the secrets of Pennemunde and the V-1. This led to Operation Crossbow itself, which helped to neutralise the weapons. As I said in an earlier post is our photographic interpretation as good today?

Most of the aerial photography was done by Spitfires, stripped of guns and painted blue, so they couldn’t be seen. But what surprised me that some were flown by American pilots and carried USAAF markings. I hasdn’t realised that Spitfires actually served in the USAAF.

Search the Internet and you’ll find two pages; Uncle Sam’s Spitfires and Spitfire 944.

The first describes how the USAAF had to use Spitfires in Europe because Lightnings and Airacobras were not suitable to be used as fighter escorts.

This is an except.

Uncle Sam’s Spitfires had written a little-known chapter in US fighter history. Though the USAAF used over 600 Spitfires during the war, the aircraft was never given a US designation, and little publicity was given to the exploits of the 31st and 52nd Fighter Groups – nothing like what they would get in the summer of 1944 during the wild air battles over Ploesti when they flew Mustangs. This is most likely a good example of the US military’s overall dislike of having to admit to using “NIH” (Not Invented Here) equipment.

In the end the Spitfires were replaced with Mustangs, which although they were an American aircraft, they were designed to an RAF specification and had a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine like the Spitfire. But did the Packard-built Merlins have Tilly Shillings Orifice?

The second is a film made about John S. Blyth, who was a USAAF pilot who flew the photo-reconnaissance Spitfires.  He appeared in the program.

There was also rare footage of the Mosquito being used as an airliner to bring equipment out of Sweden for the photo interpreters to use. There is very little about this use of de Havilland’s amazing aircraft, where it used nothing more than its speed to ferry important war materials and people to the UK from places like Sweden and Northern Russia.  In one case Marshall Zhukov was the passenger and as he had only two words of English, “Betty Grable”, these were to be used if he wanted anything in his cramped seat in the bomb bay.

Up until I saw the program tonight, I thought that the Mosquito had been the only British aircraft to wear USAAF markings, where it was used for weather research, as it could fly higher than any other aircraft.

They also showed pictures of Barnes Wallis’s Tallboy bomb, which was used with great effect against the sites.

I sometimes wonder if had the Americans used Tallboys and the later Grand Slams against Japan, then they might not have needed to resort to nuclear weapons.  After all in the B-29 Superfortress they had a bigger delivery aircraft than the Avro Lancaster.  They also modified the Tallboy to create the Tarzon, which was used in the Korean War, so they couldn’t have been totally against the technology.

May 15, 2011 Posted by | World | , | 2 Comments

Asparagus Egg Dippers with Smoked Salmon

I’ve eaten in some very good restaurants in my time, although these days I tend to like to cook myself, as I like the thrill of creating something. But I’ve never eaten in Heston Blumenthal ‘s, Fat Duck, as I feel that his eclectic taste and ideas may not fit with being a coeliac.

So today, as I had some spare asparagus and I was going to Waitrose, I made sure that I had the basics for this recipe of Heston Blumenthal’s that the supermarket is promoting.

It was very simple and all it required was :-

  • 250g of asparagus
  • 1 tbsp of grapeseed oil – I’m not as posh as Heston thinks he is, so I used some good olive oil.
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  • 100g of smoked salmon – I used some from Pinney’s of Orford.
  • 2 medium eggs although I think mine were large ones – Interestingly, I buy them in fours from Waitrose, which is a very sensible number for someone living alone.

The method is as follows.

  1. Remove the woody part of the asparagus stems by gently snapping off the ends (they should break naturally) – I’d never have thought of snapping them, so at least it saved a knife from the washing up.
  2.  Coat the bottom of a frying pan with the oil then add the asparagus, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and cover with a lid. Place the pan over a medium heat for approximately 5 minutes, or until the asparagus spears are cooked but still a vibrant green. Remove the pan from the heat and place the asparagus on kitchen paper to remove any excess oil – I actually tasted some after thy had been cooked and they were good.
  3. Cover a chopping board with a layer of clingfilm. Put the salmon slices on top in a single layer, then lay another layer of clingfilm over the top. Using a rolling pin, flatten the salmon so it becomes uniform in thickness. Remove the clingfilm, cut the salmon into strips and use to wrap each spear, leaving the top sticking out, and a few centimetres showing at the base – This was far too complicated and I can’t separate clingfilm with my hands, so I just separaed the smoked salmon and cut it into strips. It wasn’t too difficult and I’ll do it better next time.
  4. Using the smallest possible pan, just cover the eggs in cold water, and cover the pan. Bring to the boil quickly, over a high heat. Once boiling, remove from heat and leave to stand, still covered, for 6 minutes – I’d never have thought of boiling eggs in this way.
  5.  After 6 minutes, remove the eggs from the pan and place them in egg cups. Crack the top of each egg with a spoon and remove the top. To serve, dip the salmon-wrapped asparagus spears into the soft egg yolk.

I actually opened the eggs as I always have by battering them with the bowl of a teaspoon and then peeling off the shell with the handle of the spoon.

I also put a hole in the bottom of the shell, so that witches can’t use them to sail away on the sea.

They were very good and a wonderful combination of three of my favourite foods; asparagus, eggs and smoked salmon.

They’re gluten-free too!

It gave me a lot of satisfaction to do this recipe.  I also learned several simple techniques, that work well.

So perhaps the success of his cooking is lots of simple ideas, brilliantly executed.

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Food | , , | 1 Comment

Should The Queen Be Going To Ireland?

Probably Yes!  But on a personal note, she’s probably a bit stressed and even a trifle excited about her horse Carlton House, which runs in the Derby on Saturday June 4th.

There is also this little story from horse racing gossip in the Guardian.

The Queen’s racing advisor, John Warren, told journalists an intriguing story as to how the monarch came to own Carlton House after the colt galloped into Derby favouritism with a victory in York’s Dante Stakes on Thursday. The three-year-old was apparently a present to Her Majesty from Sheikh Mohammed and there could be wry smiles all round if the royal colours are carried to victory at Epsom.

Despite more than 30 years of trying and hundreds of millions of pounds of investment, the sheikh has yet to have a Derby winner in his own name – now he could have given away a horse with a potential worth of tens of millions of pounds as a stallion.

Meanwhile, the Queen’s breeding empire suffered from what proved to be an error of judgement in the early 1980s when her mare Height Of Fashion was sold to Sheikh Mohammed’s brother, Hamdan. She went on to become one of the greatest mares of all time and produced the 1989 Derby winner Nashwan.

So perhaps she doesn’t beware of Arabs bearing gifts. On the other hand, it was quite an error of judgement over Height of Fashion.

I have a feeling I might go to the Derby. After all, if Carlton House does justify his favouritism and win, it will be one of those truly I was there moments.

Remember though that the last Royal Derby winner was Diamond Jubilee owned by Edward, the Price of Wales, in 1900. That was the year before his mother, Queen Victoria,  celebrated her diamond jubilee in 1901.

And Queen Elizabeth the Second celebrates her diamond jubilee next year!

May 15, 2011 Posted by | News, Sport | , , | 2 Comments

Paying For What You Eat

This is a great concept from Brazil, where your restaurant bill depends on how much you eat.

Strangely, it might be good for gluten-free, as you could only choose the food you know was safe.

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Food | , | Leave a comment

Blatter Sat on Bribe Claims

The Sunday Times also has an article claiming that Sep Blatter ignored the bribery claims over the World Cup bids.

Of course he didn’t.  He’s after all one of the most honest and trustworthy men in the world!

May 15, 2011 Posted by | News, Sport | , , | 1 Comment

Party Licences to be Scrapped

One of NuLabor’s most disastrous pieces of legislation was the need for a council licence where any music was played.

It is all described here in the Sunday Times. One classic ruling means that a carol concert in a church doesn’t need a licence, but one in the church hall next door does.

This is perhaps the best bit of the article.

In one notorious ruling, the Tate Britain gallery was told it had to obtain a licence for an exhibition by the Turner prize winner Susan Philipsz because it featured a recording of her singing a Scottish folk song.

Hopefully things will get better and create more and better music and other venues. Obviously, there is the noise and alcohol nuisance problem, but that should be handled with other unconnected legislation.  You could argue that you get more of the latter, for a Cup Final shown live on a big screen in a pub, than say a folk concert in the same venue.

May 15, 2011 Posted by | News | , , | 2 Comments

The Sign Goes Up At Dalston Junction

They’ve now put up the sign at the Southern entrance to Dalston Junction station.

Dalston Junction Sign

But the barriers are still in place, with no sign of an opening.

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Why Do I Want To Win a Cake Stand?

I bought some very nice strawberries from Waitrose on Friday.

Strawberries From Waitrose

Why would I want to win a cake stand?

May 15, 2011 Posted by | Food | | 1 Comment