a platitudinous observation

Isn’t it odd how little we sometimes know the people we know best?

Yeah, I know, it’s hardly an observation that’ll win me the Nobel Prize for Human Insight. The specific incident that prompted it happened the other day: I wandered into a room where my father was, whistling a merry tune. He looked startled, and said “I didn’t know you could whistle!”

Possibly part of the reaction, if he didn’t think I could whistle, was that he thought there was a whistling stranger in his house. But the point is – he’s known me for 29 years. I’ve been able to whistle for about 20 years of that time. I don’t whistle that much – I tend to hum or sing under my breath instead – but if you’d asked me, I would have said I whistled fairly often. Presumably not. It was an odd moment.


a faltering start

I haven’t got off to a very good start on the blogging thing, have I? It was a probably a mistake trying to start The Poetry Blog and stormy petrel at the same time.

I actually set this blog up initally to play with Squishdot. I’d done a certain amount of redistributing and restyling on PoBlo, but it was still very much using the framework of the out-of-the-box fancy version of Squishdot. stormy petrel was my attempt at using the code and content of a Squishdot site but building up the page layouts from scratch.

In the event, having done that, I decided that I liked it much more than the previous version, so I used a version of it on PoBlo too. This version almost eliminates the use of tables for positioning, with just a two-cell table to hold the toolbar and main column in position, and everything else done with CSS; as a result, it’s much easier to customise than the old one.

But, having set it up, I do intend to make a genuine stab at running a personal blog. Watch this space.



i.e. spinach pie.

‘Spanakopita’ is just the Greek for spinach pie. It sounds so much better in Greek, though.

Briefly wilt the spinach in a covered saucepan, with no added water. Squeeze as much water as possible from the spinach and then mix it with some crumbled feta, a bit of finely-chopped spring onion, some fresh dill and beaten egg. Then layer up half a dozen layers of filo pastry, oiling each one before putting on the next. Put the spinach filling on top, and cover it with another 6 or 7 layers of filo. Cut through the top half of the pie – i.e. the top half of the pastry – to form it into lots of little triangles or diamonds. Cook it for three-quarters of an hour at 180C.

It was the first time I’ve tried this. I used 500g of spinach, 125g of feta, 2 eggs, a supermarket pack of dill and one pack of frozen filo. If I was doing it again I’d use a bit less dill, but even so, I think it was a success. It’s easy to make – I’ve never used filo before and was surprised at how manageable I found it – and the finished thing looks really impressive, golden brown and crunchy. Smells (and tastes) good too. It would be a good choice of dish if you were entertaining vegetarians, I think.

It’s a pity, really, that despite a large Greek/Cypriot/Turkish population in the UK, their food has only penetrated the public awareness as far as kebabs, pita bread and lurid pink taramasalata. Oh, and houmous, I suppose. Anyway. I got the recipe from Claudia Roden’s ‘Tamarind and Saffron’ (though there are extremely similar versions all over the net), which is a book of Middle Eastern food – the Middle East in this case extending as far as Greece and Morocco. Her ‘The Book of Jewish Food’ is also fabulous, not just as a source for all the obvious things like bagels and gefilte fish, but recipes from Iran, India, Egypt. Lots of great filo-based pies in that one, too.


the death of Jacques Derrida

Does the death of the author include the death of the theorist?

I’m not a fan of Derrida. I think he wrote foggy garbage and damaged the study of literature, producing a generation of academics who actively valued obscurity, polysyllabic technicalism and elf-indulgent wordplay over such unflashy virtues as coherency, logic and research.

I also think that, insofar as his theories can be pinned down, they are based on an out of date and false model of language – that of Saussure.

I’m as keen as anyone on the simple truth that common sense is frequently common nonsense. But sometimes, common sense is acting as a bullshit detector. And when someone tells you that all meaning is an illusion created by the interplay of context, that the deeper you look the less language means, the correct response is: Monsieur Derrida, it is the bullshit which you are talking.

Perhaps Derrida would have made a brilliant poet, or painter, or something; he certainly had a fertile mind and a sparkly way with words. He made a crap literary theorist, though.


all about me

To be more accurate: not very much about me. I’m Harry Rutherford.

I write poetry as a hobby – hence the blog and the wiki. I’m also a mod at PFFA.

Other interests that might surface while I blog are food and birding. Or, they might not – who knows what I’ll feel the need to mention.

Anyone who knows me may have read that tagline under the blog title (‘a person who delights in strife…’) and be worried that I’m suffering from a delusional self-image. Don’t worry. That meaning of ‘stormy petrel’ just came up in the crossword and I thought it was really nice, especially since the storm petrel is a fantastic bird. And since I’ve established a marine theme for my various sites, I chose it for my personal blog.

The picture of a petrel is used courtesy of Ash Midcalf at



Ah, did you once see Shelley plain,
And did he stop and speak to you?
And did you speak to him again?
How strange it seems, and new!

But you were living before that,
And you are living after,
And the memory I started at