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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Les Deli Cumbri XX – Clotted Cream and Road Kill?

Last weekend RW and I went to Cornwall to visit the eldest child – Derwent and the butterfly expert Betsy. It's difficult picking nom-de-blog – with real names like Derwent & Betsy. How do you do anything with those names - D & B? They are soon to be parents and this was a pre visit to see their new house and get the feel of where they are living. D is very much a Cumbrian by breeding, naming and passion (though born in Joburg!) and B is from Cornwall and her parents live close by in Luckett. D & B live in Stoke Climsland. Stoke Climsland (what weird names they have in Cornwall!) is a very alternative community – lots of beards and sandals. To the south of the parish is Kit Hill, a significant landscape feature . As well as Stoke village and Luckett, the parish contains many hamlets of Beals Mill, part of Bray Shop, Downgate, Higherland, Luckett, Monks Cross and Venterdon. At one time there were seven mines employing over a thousand men, but these went into decline at the end of the 19th century, although the Luckett mines were reopened for a period of just over five years in 1947. There's a blog link with Cleator Moor at some point - but not today dear reader.

Cornwall and Cumbria have a lot in common. For a start they are as far that way as we are this way. It feels more remote than Cumbria and certainly the bits that we saw were very very rural. It's less hilly and the lanes and roads seem to run in verdant troughs. The hedges are very high – a bit like driving in a maze. I had no idea from the beginning to the end of the weekend where we were because there are no visible points of reference. In Cumbria we have Skiddaw, Grassmoor and Chapelcross cooling towers – well maybe not the cooling towers (see previous blog). In Cornwall you have hedges and …uh … er… well…. road kill. It seems you can navigate by whatever's dead on the road, though Betsy (mostly a vegetarian) will collect freshly dropped rabbit and deer and, as long as they are dead, quite happily butch, cook and eat - thus removing the aids to navigation.

The farm, next to the D & B boheme, is not allowed, under some EU ruling, to make or sell clotted cream. D, insisting that we have a cream tea, and with typical Cumbrian guile has found that for a pound the farmer's wife will rent D a dish and fill it free with clotted cream. The scones, jam and cream were wonderful, washed down with free cider in rented bottles from the farm on the other side.

On Saturday we found ourselves at a music festival on the banks of the Tamar under the arches at Calstock (now there's alternative). The Tamar is the border between Cornwall and Devon. Now I know that Cumbrians can be very partisan but there's no touching your average Cornishman. A boat sailed by - the MV Gloria (it's owner a Van Morrison fan). The captain announced over his PA system, to all 2 of his paying passengers, " Lady and Gentleman (I can only write in Cumbrian by the way – so won't attempt a Corrnish accent) … The Tamar is our border. On our left is Cornwall on our right England, Wales and further North – Scotland."

Home rule for Cornwall seems a lot more likely than for Cumbria.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Les Deli Cumbri XIX - reflux

One of the comments on previous postings said 'I bet you all have reflux'. Well I haven't. In fact the only thing that gives me reflux (apart from a bucket of red or white wine) is porridge. I love porridge to the point of putting it on my list of fave foods BUT it don't love me. One hour after an infusion of oats, RenWoman will say "porridge?" as she catches that pained look of 'the porridge afflicted'. It's much worse if I just have plain porridge made with water. The addition of cream, salt and butter (yes – butter) helps to ward of a reflux attack but not the addition of a shot of whisky. Once in the Okavanga delta darling (the ODD) and an hour after porridge, cream and whisky, and a lot of tutting from RW, I had a reflux attack. I was on the back of an open topped landrover in the presence of an interested pride of lion. There was nowhere to run and nobody helped .. I could have died. Maybe it was RW's tutting that brought on the reflux. Hah!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Popular Beat Combos - Part 359

There's probably something deeply sad about men-of-a-certain-age getting excited about discovering Youtube, but You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes by Johnny Boy is very possibly the most perfectly enjoyable piece of pop music since Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers. And it looks like Phil Spector and Martin Scorsese remade Vivre Sa Vie with that girl from The Human League. Far too clever for its own good. Oh, and a little hommage a Bob at the end. What more could you want? Sheer heaven. How about Banjaxing it?

Les Delices De Cumbria - Part XVI and XVII possibly XVIII: Ice Cream and Lemonade and...

Just struck me that the previous couple of posts, or so, should have been in the Les Delices series. I also forgot my all time favourite simple meal. 2 slices of thickish cut white bread fried and served with boiled tinned plum tomatoes (the ones without skin) with a little salt and pepper - put the salt on the bread before the tomatoes. You can add bacon, eggs, mushrooms and call it the 'full something or other' but I just prefer the bread and toms. I'm sure the Italians would have a fancy name for it. My gran called it 'Fried Bread and Tomatoes'.
It doesn't work with brown bread or fresh tomatoes by the way.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I blame Underwood’s yellow lemonade

The writer in residence and mesel found ourselves in the yard reminiscing. The reminiscence had to be, Twentyman's ice cream. Yeah we are agreed - plain vanilla with red syrup (even though it 'meks amess'). We were transported back to a time when Mr. Underwood of Maryport could have a good living making 'pop' and supplying the local pubs and some shops with yellow lemonade; dandelion and burdock; American ice cream soda and…. I think that was it. Once a week the pop van would come to Gote Road in Cockermouth. We would have left the empties on the step with the correct money and 'as if by magic' we would receive 2 full bottles of yellow lemonade which would last me and my Gran and a couple of visiting friends and family a whole week. I don't remember them being rationed but the 5 pints of bright yellow liquid (tartrazine, water, sugar, lemon essence, some gas and more tartrazine) would see us through the week. Come to think of it …. It wasn't actually called yellow lemonade. It was just, well, lemonade! Only, when new fangled 'white lemonade' arrived in the 60s, was there a distinction. Now here's a little test. If you can still find yellow lemonade (I doubt it 'cos tartrazine became one of those 'E-substances') try a Bitter Dash – 7/8ths of a pint of Jennings Bitter filled up with a dash of yellow lemonade. Nectar! I usual have a headache within 15 minutes being allergic to E102 and burnt sugar (oh and sheep wool) but for 14 minutes all is well.

We have become over stimulated by choice. How much better food tasted when it was simple and satisfied locally.

New potatoes fresh from the garden boiled in their skins, some farm butter, a little mint and a fried egg. At 9.30 pm just before going to bed.

The Co-op's choice of cheese – crumbly white or cheddar with white bread with my uncle Ted's tomatoes and a little salt (crushed with a rolling pin in a tea-cloth and kept in one of those funny jars). Saturday afternoon

Tinned peaches and evaporated milk. Sunday afternoon.

Pastry squares – Sunday Dinner with real gravy.

Rice Pudding, jam and the top of the milk (as anybody seen the top of the milk in the last 20 years?) Bi weekly Sundays.

My Gran's meat and potato slab pie with oxo gravy and HP sauce … and a cup of tea. AND a tin of peas. Monday

A pork chop, apple sauce, peas and homemade chips, white bread and butter (sometimes a fried egg!) Wednesdays when Gran got her pension.

Pickled Herring with …. I wish I could remember .. I have a feeling that it was brown bread and butter. Saturday teatime. Sometimes Thursday.

Tatie Pot, chutney and tea. Tuesday

Haig's Pork Pie with peas. .. 3 times a year!

And.. Twentyman's ice cream when Mr. Nicholson took me and Gran for our Sunday afternoon drives out.

I like a pea - as my dad used to say.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Twentyman’s plain vanilla in a tub… though technically it’s a frozen stare.

As regards (as an acquantance of mine is irritatingly prone to say) a previous posting I got to thinking about the ice cream of my formative years. There’s quite a lot to choose from - Hartley’s (Egremont), Luchini’s (Cockermouth now Keswick), Bouch’s (Aspatria), Tognarelli’s (Wukintun), Longcake’s (S’loth) and of course Twentyman’s of Allonby.

It should have been Luchini’s. We used to get a Jug of it to share with the rice pudding at Sunday dinner but the taste that still gets the teeth itching is Twentyman’s plain vanilla.

Now what about the frozen stare? Old man Twentyman used to be the most miserable looking chap I’ve ever seen. Not content with the queues round the block in the pouring rain and driving wind he would stand there (occasionally helping out or reinforcing the refusal of a serving of red syrup – ‘cos it meks a mess’) casting gloom and unhappiness on the proceedings. Outside it could be a glorious day but inside the shop it was always dark and gloomy. The current generation Twentyman seem a little happier. They now do a selection of sundaes and loads of different flavours but I still opt for a medium tub – plain vanilla then browse the out of date tins of tuna and pot noodles and plastic buckets and balls and Concorde English wine and felt tip pens .. packs of cards. I did ask for red syrup on my tub and was told that they would sell me a little carton BUT I had to put it on my tub myself when I was well out of the shop ‘cos it meks a mess..n’ that’ll be another 10p’

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Today the backdrop to my existence changed

We all have, at least I do, an image of where we are. A sort of bird's eye view of where we line up. Mine's an aerial map of Cumbria (like the one in the Keswick Museum - Flintoft's amazing 4m Scale Model of the Lake District). I saw it when I was 8 and it's been in my head ever since. The view overlooking Cockermouth towards the Lorton valley with Hopegillhead and Grassmoor and of course sleeping Skiddaw dominates the natural; but there are a couple of man made items that provide me with my in-built satnav positioning device.
The first was the pile chimneys at Sellafield and the second the 4 cooling towers at Chapelcross nuclear power station on the Scottish side of the Solway.
I declare an interest - my gran came from Seascale and Calder hall and my earliest memories were the 2 chimneys (every other Sunday teatime)- now reduced to approx. 1 and a bit.
The Chapelcross quad towers gave me the North Cumbria trig point when we had our bi-weekly Sunday outings for Twentyman's and Longcake's ice cream from Allonby and Silloth. There's at least another couple of posts on the delights of Silloth- but not today. This morning RenWoman brought the cup that revives and without the need for a second we set off for Bowness on Solway and the site of the old railway line across the water to Scotland. The 2 piers on the site of the railway line are worth a post in their own right... but later. By 8.30 am (along with an assorted thousand or so other train spotters) we were attempting to find a parking place between Bowness and Anthorn. The occasion - the demolition of the cooling towers - at 9 - at 2 second intervals the towers would be dropped. And so there they were gone.
How am I going to find my way to Silloth in future? It could explain why bendigo (the dog) got disorientated on his way back to the car. The national news informed me that migrating geese use(d) the towers to navigate - though not for Longcake's vanilla.
I would have been tempted to have left the towers, their carbon impact long neutralised, and painted them pink or found an alternative use. I actually quite like dereliction (look at Italy for instance - though not at Barrow-in Furness). RW and I drove home in subdued silence until I took a wrong turn near Newton Arlosh (now there's a place) and ended up back in Silloth. See! I've lost the in-built satnav already.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Clarence Clemons Is My Sax God

I've just been listening to some of The Big Man's finest work - largely as a result of this objectionable piece of inanity. (It's not just that I object to the phenomenon of 'list of 100 greatest all time designer sandwich wrappers' on the grounds that such enterprises are a sad excuse for a lack of critical intelligence so much as it's self-evidently the case that Born To Run isn't even Bruce Springsteen's best album of the 1980s - that accolade goes to The River - let alone The Best Album Of All Time). So I've spent the early part of the evening re-acquainting myself with The Boss's finest work - and was overawed by the god-like genius of Side One Track Two Sherry Darling, a sort of Frat Rock / Jersey Shore re-working of And Her Mother Came Too, and blessed with a couple of delicious examples of Clarence at his best. If you don't already know it go out and buy it right now.
Update: Whoops! - Erratum: for Born To Run read Born In The USA above throughout. And vice versa. I mean, obviously.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

50% of banjaxed gig at Meriendas – another list for comment please

Last Friday we performed at Meriendas. We being - RenWoman on lead vocals, shakers, bodhran, upstaging; mesel on guitar, harmonies occasional vocals; Ricardo on the 'box' (cajones – flamenco beat box). We're half of banjaxed (the local well known beat combo) and still struggling for a name. 'Not Quiet Broken' was suggested. Anyways a fiver to a charity of your choice for the best name.

The set list gives a fair idea of the age and musical experience and inclination of the band.

  1. Box Rag – Instrumental (made up on the night to warm up the audience) – reprised later in the set - but different.
  2. I once loved a lad (Eng Trad – slightly jazzes – in D with the bottom E dropped to D for the musos)
  3. Ruby Tuesday (Jagger- Richards – fair cover with the stones' usual riff duh dah dah)
  4. Mozambique (from Dylan's Desire – shaker – a bit faster than the original)
  5. Where Do The Children Play
    (Cat Stevens ~ thingie Islam now … I use the guitar effects pedal on this one if I can find it)
  6. Times They are a Changing
    (Bob - but a reggae version. Bob who? DYLAN DYLAN!!)
  7. Love and Happiness
    (I forget who by – that chap from Dire Straits and Emmy Lou I think. I can't help hearing it as Love and A Penis. Which sort of spoils it for performing seriously)
  8. The One I Love
    (David Gray – with the effects pedal again to make it sound like a helicopter – if I can find…the…. Right…. Ah …)
  9. Dimming of The day
    (Richard Thompson – great song great harmony – fun to sing)
  10. Careless Love
    (Trad – very much the Joan Baez version. For this one we become 2/3rds of banjaxed as Valeree joins us)
  11. Super Trooper
    ( ABBA – yes ABBA. I like it - though there was some resistance from RW and Ricardo)
  12. ONE (yer man BONO – but nearer the Johnny Cash version. ABBA ? U2? I don't question my thought processes in drawing up these lists)
  13. Baby can I Hold You – Sorry (Tracy Chapman – great song, difficult timing. Someone (SIMON Dawson!) dropping the dominos in the first bar didn't help)
  14. Love Me Do (Lennon & Macca. Slowed down version – great simple song – I sneak in a Steve Tilston ending)
  15. Too Old to Wrangle (not sure of the provenance – have known it for years – country harmony all the way . not sure who does the tune - me or RW)
  16. Things Have Changed (Bob again – but more recent from his gardening period – the only song I know about wheelbarrows)
  17. Every Night (McCartney via Phoebe Snow – with carry that weight and another macca song at the end. Much as I try to dislike Paul he does occasional throw in a good un)
  18. Party Doll (Jagger Richards again – great song – relatively unknown – look it up by Mary Chapin-Carpenter)
  19. Frank Mills (from Hair – really nice little narrative song with only 1 rhyme - slant - Waverley with unfortunatley)
  20. Let No Man Steal Your Thyme (Trad; Pentangled and then 50% banjaxed- good jazz feel)
  21. Wheels On Fire (Bob – via Julie Driscoll – rocks)
  22. San Francisco Bay Blues (Jesse Fuller; but I've been doing it since 1965 – long before Eric C – so there)
  23. Please Please Me (Lennon Mac; very slowed down version – more like a folk song)
  24. Pebbles on the Beach ( A gem from Paul Weller)
  25. Bobby McGee (Kristofferson with the Joplin ending – yeh I know but everybody sings along)
  26. I got you Babe (Sonny Bono and Cher? – no matter how many times we sing it I still don't know the words)
  27. Paved Paradise (Joni Mitchell – as near as we can to the original)
  28. We didn't do 'Love the One You are With' (Steve Stills) .. 'cos I forgot the timing .. weird

Any requests - for our next outing please? Apart from the usual 'Play far away' and 'I think the sax would sound good in Bobby McGee'

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Boys On Film

The Cineaste & I will once again be talking movies on Radio Cumbria at about 11:00am BST tomorrow (Thursday) on the excellent mid-morning show. Those of you outside Cumbria who want to find out our views on the latest releases can listen by clicking on this link.
You'll be relieved to hear that they've told me not to bring the saxophone.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Trane In Vain

Readers will be delighted to hear that my saxophone playing is coming on by leaps and bounds, (shurely - shcales & arpeggiosh?), and I can now pick out the very simplest of tunes and make them sound almost but not quite completely unlike real music.
In one crucial respect, however, I have begun to excel - I can now unfold and set up a music stand in a matter of minutes, and all without accidentally reprising the physical comedy of Norman Wisdom's deckchair-opening routine.

Offset This!

The Renaissance Woman mentioned to me the other day that she'd just had her household's carbon footprint measured. Size six Jimmy Choos, apparently. But there was more to come. She'd found a handy way of offsetting the carbon.
For some reason this involved making a cash payment to the nation's favourite greengrocer, who will kindly do the offsetting for you, saving you a lot of trouble and inconvenience.
Yes, that's Tesco's, the people who habitually fly Jumbo Jets full of mange-tout peas three times round the world before delivering them to an out-of-town superstore within driving distance of your home. Just spend some more money with them and they'll offset your carbon footprint.
I can't help but feel that I'm missing something important here. Or perhaps Tesco's are? Isn't reducing global warming by consuming more rather like fighting for peace? Or, in the old 60s slogan, f***ing for virginity?
If anyone can explain the rationale for this, please comment . . .

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


A few days ago V & I walked up Pillar - the great fractured theatre of a mountain that sits between Wasdale and Ennerdale, and upon whose Rock the sport of climbing can claim (perhaps plausibly) to have been born.
The walk-in from Ennerdale is long, tedious and besmirched by the wreckage of the Forestry Commission's latest vandalisms, so we drove to Wasdale Head and walked in from the pub carpark - always a good place to start and end an expedition. Our route took us up Black Sail pass via the inappropriately named Mosedale (tedious valley according to the Norsemen - I can only assume that Vikings had abnormally low boredom thresholds, what with all that baby-impaling to be getting on with . . . )
It was an April day of midsummer heat, the rocks shimmered before our eyes, the turf was dessicated, the becks bedded with white stones. At Black Sail we admired Kirk Fell and turned left towards our goal: a few hundred yards further on, at a small cairn, we dropped off the ridge and took the High-Level Route across the mountain's northern face. This is a thrilling walk that picks its way around two great basins of ice-gouged crags before revealing the east side of Pillar Rock itself. The route then culminates in the Shamrock Traverse, a narrowing ramp of grass and rock that brings you out on a level with the top of the Rock before you. We paused to watch two early-season crag-rats ascending what looked to me like a suicidally extreme crack (if anybody knows the likely route's name, please comment) and came out just opposite Pisgah in time to see a solitary walker essaying what looked like a similarly lunatic descent of the scree-chute immediately to the east of the Rock. After that we enjoyed a short steep pull up to the hill's reassuringly flat summit. The rest of the afternoon was spent on a beautiful stroll along the ridge towards Red Pike and Yewbarrow before we descended to the pub. The early evening light played on the beck as we sat outside the bar drinking beer while the weekend's walkers took to their cars. Mild sunburn, sore legs and the rock of Great Gable above us turning rich and deep in the sunshine: quite the perfect end to the day.

Blood On The Sax

Late one afternoon, the sun was shining - and I realised that my attempts to get my tonguing technique right during saxophone practice were becoming over-enthusiastic: the underside of the reed was damp with red saliva.
Note to commenters: jokes about bodily fluids and unprotected sax are inevitable, so you'd better go ahead & make them . . .