Stale yeast – bad news!

This could be a bit of a shaggy dog story so I’ll keep it short. On Thursday last the steam oven packed up; not just no steam but no oven at all. The engineer can’t make it until Monday afternoon, but that’s just the beginning because he’ll have to order the parts and we could be without our main oven for ten days. But all’s not lost because we have a combination oven/grill/microwave and we also have a very elderly bread machine. Over the years I’ve tried every idea in the book for ways of making steam including saucers of water and wet bricks but none come close to the real thing.

So no sourdough for maybe ten days and yesterday I fetched out the jar of dried yeast and made a quick machine loaf – the resultant brick on the right was the clearest sign that the yeast had effectively died – it doesn’t last forever and I bought a kilo of the only yeast available in the panic days of the first lockdown. This morning I bought new yeast and the difference is clear – which doesn’t mean the bread machine is anything other than a quick work around in an emergency. I know without even cutting a slice that it will be fluffy and tasteless, but it makes half decent toast. The shame is that we’re right in the middle of processing tomatoes and this will limit our capacity.

Our neighbour on the allotment has just lost much of her tomato crop to blight. When we get a wet spell like the one we’ve been enduring here, it’s only a matter of days before blight appears and it’s a tragedy. This has been a truly weird season and it’s impossible to believe that the cause is anything but the oncoming climate catastrophe. Food security is one aspect of the crisis that’s not mentioned nearly enough.

But I’m also more directly affected by air pollution than most because I’m asthmatic. It was never a problem until we moved to Bath, but the air here can be so poor that I could barely walk to the surgery. One of the health factors that is affected particularly by microscopic particles is atrial fibrillation which, for me has intensified from occasional to continuous, and the polluting particles aren’t just from the burning of diesel fuel. Very heavy vehicles like diesel SUV’s obviously emit copious amounts, but it’s also been demonstrated that because electric vehicles are so much heavier they emit more particles from tyres and brakes. Children are ten times more likely to be killed or seriously injured if struck by SUV’s as opposed to smaller cars. When children – more often poor children are exposed to pollution their lungs never grow properly. I mention this because Bath is infested with these giant vehicles, often carrying just one driver. So the argument that ULEZ and 20mph speed limits are restricting some kind of human right is so obviously wrong that continuing to advance it is the exact equivalent to promoting cigarette smoking among children. Who stands to gain from this? Big oil, and car manufacturers, that’s who.

I remember the headline from a column in the Daily Mirror when I was a child, written by William Connor whose ferocious articles appeared under his pen name Cassandra. It was “This Septic Isle”. What goes around comes around!

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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