Archive for August 2011
So, here we are at the end of August. It hasn’t been much of a summer for me, all told, due to the amount of work I’ve had to do for OU and for my other projects. Here’s a chance to catch up on a few things.
The Open University are having to put their fees up, along with everyone else. Their page on it is here. The current student finance programme is also disappearing for new students, and being replaced with the same loan system used by brick universities. If this had been the case back in 2008 when I started my BSc, I wouldn’t have signed up. Couldn’t have. Having dropped out of two well-respected brick universities in my teens due to mental health and other issues, including my undiagnosed-at-the-time autism, I don’t think they’d have let me sign up for another loan. Getting full financial support meant I felt able to take the risk of starting a third attempt at a degree – even if they had let me borrow the fees, I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing it based on my past. I’m now three years in, getting excellent marks and hoping to do a Masters if I can get the funding. I have one year left – starting in February, as my modules mostly run Feb-Oct. Wish me luck in my October exams…
Damien Hirst at Leeds Art Gallery… I was lucky enough to go to a preview of this exhibition while it was still being installed. I therefore avoided the crowds and the alarms. I loved it, though those of us present who did seemed to be a minority. Many had problems with Hirst the man, and the fame and money. Whereas I think those things are part of the work. I intend going back to the exhibition soon, when the school holidays end, and writing the more reflective piece I had in mind. It’s funny, when I was younger I was utterly fascinated by his Pharmacy restaurant in London, but could never afford to go even when I lived down there. Now a recreation of it is practically in my back yard. But you can’t eat or sit down or hang out there. It’s like a strange living museum. Reminded me in a way of the Pre-Fab at Eden Camp. More about this later, when I have time.
I am skint, so I rarely go to restaurants without a Clubcard token in hand, but I’ve eaten a couple of interesting meals lately…
Divino in Adel was a strange experience. Along with various other Leeds Guide competition winners, I was invited to try their new Italian tapas-style (or rather size) dishes. The welcome was non-existent, service poor, drinks overpriced (my pop also tasted terrible, off tap) and they hadn’t thought to ask whether or not anyone had any dietary requirements. So I (no red meat) and some others we spotted missed out on one course and were given a dodgy substitute for another. The food itself was a mixed bag. My companion enjoyed his parma ham and what he thought might be duck – at no point were we given a menu or descriptions or even names of the dishes – to start. I had nowt. Then came whitebait with deep fried strips of courgette/zucchini. Ingredients fine, oil not really hot enough, so somewhat greasy and under-seasoned. Homemade filled pasta with pumpkin, sage and chilli was OK if a bit thickly-rolled and uninspired, and topped with too-large and soggy crumbs of amaretti biscuit. I’ve seen Rick Stein do this before, but it was a lot less heavy-handed. My companion enjoyed his freshly-made lasagne. The veggie option was an elderly portion of the restaurant’s usual spinach and ricotta cannelloni, bizarrely topped with Cheddar cheese and bearing the hallmarks of being reheated in the microwave – floppy, far too hot, bechamel sauce coagulating strangely. The final dish was an okay but rather cheap-tasting portion of tiramisu. Nobody asked if we’d enjoyed our meal or said goodbye when we paid for drinks and left, so I don’t feel that bad about criticising a free meal.
I’ve also had the pleasure of visiting Fish&‘s new “beach hut” on Commercial Street in Leeds city centre. I have written about their food before, and last time I tried their fish & chips with a twist, I felt they showed promise but a few things needed tweaking. Now they get a solid 9-9.5 out of 10. Extremely fresh fish, batter not too thick, oil a good temperature and they’ve sorted out the chips. They would get a 10 if they let the chips get a little bit more colour, for aesthetic purposes. Taste-wise they’re great, just a little pale in real life. The hut’s in town from 11-6, Tuesday to Saturday. I had my portion following a tough tutorial session, and it sorted me right out.