SNV30239

SNV30239

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Sunday, 19 October 2014

A day of saying goodbye to the summer

 

I can pinpoint exactly when we said goodbye to the summer this year. That last day of brilliant sunshine, heat and sheer joy to be sitting out on a Sunday and seeing friends and neighbours. It was four weeks ago today, and the weather has really changed since then.
 
It was the day of our village meet up...a new addition to the annual rhythm of village events. Apart from church services, normally there's four starting off with the Pancake Party, the Barn Dance in high summer, Harvest Supper and Carol Singing. Being a small village in the middle of the English countryside, we like to keep to the old traditions.
 
But this year Kate suggested a late September meet up , to be held on the village green. Nothing too fancy, a small marquee on the teeny green, everybody was to bring a picnic lunch, there would be a barrel of real manly ale for all the men in  the village and the women would bring their own wine. Oh, and Willie's band would be playing, and we would hire in a couple who serve gorgeous cream teas from their vintage Citroen van.
 
Well that was the plan, which so very nearly went according to plan, but there was a hiccup. The weather. Possible heavy rain was forecast, so we all decamped to Willie and Kate's courtyard. And what an inspired idea that was..it was the perfect venue for a magical afternoon....
 
 

 


Most brought a picnic
 
 
 
 
 



But the cream tea van still did a roaring trade....

And there were so many quiet places to escape to and have a natter and a cup of tea...






There were games for the children, but most of them just wanted to run around the gardens,


or sit and watch the band.


Now Willie has a band, he plays guitar and harmonica, and sings, and that was one of the reasons the venue for the get together was changed. The band were going to play on the back of a cart and plug into  Barbara's house on the green. But no one wanted the band to be electrocuted during a heavy downpour...




Especially not when Greg Pearle, Willie's friend was singing. That's not to say we would have sacrificed the rest of the band you understand . But Greg....ah,  he's special.He was staying in the village  for a few weeks , he'd entranced us and had made us cry in church the week before with the gravelly passion and pathos of his voice . And he melted my heart again, that afternoon in the sunshine as he sang some of his own material and some covers..





And as the afternoon went into early evening, no one wanted to the afternoon to end....


besides there was still time to catch those last few golden moments




before it really was time to leave




So, the last day of summer....and it's only as I write this, I realise there's no photo of Kate, whose idea sparked off such a magical afternoon. Mind you, she was hither and thither and didn't stand still for a minute. I only hope she enjoyed it as much as we did.

Today's track has to be, must be,  from the wonderful Greg Pearle, .featured here with the amazing John Illsley from Dire Straits  -it's from the album they made together back in 2008. Sit back, and just enjoy "Shine".....I love it.

 

Monday, 13 October 2014

The day I went to a supper club

 If you happened to be in the Leicestershire town of Market Harborough on Thursday, you may have come across a woman pushing a wooden table on castors plus a couple of chairs on top down a hill. It wasn't a fundraising stunt come push for charity. No, it was Katie, one half of the Secret Supper Club, taking one of her tables to the venue for Friday's secret supper event.

It's been a while since Lauren and Katie have held such an event, and the Mexican themed night was a complete sell out.

I'm not surprised, what's there not to like about going somewhere completely different to a  secret supper or pop up restaurant ? You get a chance to have a really good meal with a different menu, you can take your own booze and as an added bonus, you get to have a good nosey at someone else's home .

I took three friends along, Laura, Suzie and Fiona...Fiona was the saint who drove us home. Arriving promptly , there was a warm welcome into Lauren's Victorian, possibly Edwardian newly and beautifully renovated home.

There was a "Wow"and instant kitchen envy from Laura and I as we entered the huge kitchen. When I say huge...there's not many kitchens where 25 people can be easily seated. And it's gorgeous....


 
There were home made nachos, sour cream, guacamole and a tomato salsa on the table to tuck into while other arrivals piled in...and our booze was put into a old tin trough full of ice.
 
The main course was served buffet style and queuing up gave those people on different tables a chance to chat, and get an eyeful of what we were about to receive and be truly grateful for.



I've never tasted grilled corn like this - topped off with chilli oil, salt, lime juice and Lancashire cheese, I had to have a second piece .There was pulled pork with almond mole, green rice, mixed bean chilli, spicy chicken wings and big, fat sweet potato wedges plus featherweight soft tortillas and a tomato salad.

And what's more , there was plenty more for those who had already polished off everything on their piled high plates.
 
 


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By now, the booze was flowing and the decibel levels in the kitchen were rising as everyone sat chatting









And then Lauren arrived with some tequila






I 've never tried tequila slammers before. I've watched others knock them back many times, but not done it myself after seeing the havoc caused afterwards. Most notably at my friend Karen's hen do about ten years ago. Everyone except me had several rounds of them.(I was driving) with great merriment as they licked the salt off their hand, slammed the tequila down their neck, and then sucked a quarter of lime.

Within minutes they were all uproariously drunk , dancing outrageously and inappropriately and I ended up having to virtually carry one of the group (Hello Helen) through the streets of Leicester while trying to hail a taxi without success at 2.30am. In the end I had to drive  about 15 miles out of my way to get Helen home, with the window wide open so she could throw up out of the window. I propped her up her outside her front door, rang the bell, got into my car, watched her husband open the door, giggled at his expression and drove away into the early hours .

So there was no way I was going to have a tequila.....






As you can see , I really enjoyed it....



At least I can say I've had one, but it's not something I shall do again. But one thing I will do, is book straight in for the very next supper club held here. Did I mention the rum and lime cake after the tequila?

Such a lovely relaxed yet buzzy atmosphere, as much food as we could eat at a very decent price, with lots of smiles all round, from the organisers to the very satisfied punters.


 
And apart from a raft of "thank you's and "goodnights"...the only question  on everyone's lips as we sailed off happily down the street was "When is the next one?"
 


 

Friday, 10 October 2014

The day of the food fair

 


Another year, another Melton Food Festival....it's an annual tradition eagerly awaited by many in these here parts. There's a chance to taste something new, talk to local producers and those from further afield, have a drink with friends and perhaps at some stage sit down and watch one of the cookery demonstrations.
 
 
I've been going for a number of years...including those festivals which were held at nearby Brooksby Hall in huge marquees.
 
But again this year's fair was held at the busy and thriving Cattle market in the heart of the town itself.
 

 Obviously the cattle, sheep and hens weren't there for the food festival, and as visitors walked past the empty pens to the entrance they immediately started to feel hungry. You could hear the sizzle of sausages and burgers frying and smell the distinctive bison burgers, as well as detecting the rich smell of chocolate which was accompanying fried churros.



 I managed to slide past the street food stalls without stuffing myself full of food. After all there were 150 stalls, all piled high with produce to look at, taste, try and buy.

Alistair Mattinson was manning his Hedgerow Products stand. Everything he makes is sourced from Leicestershire, collecting bullaces and damsons, medlars and rowanberries as well as crab apples. I tested them all, well nearly all, and I have to say they were full of flavour. I only  wish my blackberry jam tasted like his.




And it would have been rude not to test more from the hedgerows near Melton, this time infused with alcohol. Ooh, Sloeberry Spirits do a really mean vodka and blackberry ....they make about 5,000 bottles a year of that plus whisky and damson and sloe gin. Quite a few people buying bottles for Christmas presents....or so they said....

Another Leicestershire producer which caught my eye  was Greyfriars Fine Foods....yes, the clue is the name....Richard III has inspired Rosie Clark to make contemporary foods with mediaeval flavours. And her products were different made with mead, marigolds and rose petals...beautifully labelled.
          
 


I think Riverford Organics have been to every local food fair I've been to over the past few years, and it was at Melton a few years ago, I met Diana who was whizzing up the most delicious sweetcorn fritters while she chatted away.



I must have eaten two or three, and promptly bought the lovely Riverford Cookbook which I use often. No sweetcorn fritters this time alas, but some very tasty kale with garlic.

Of course there wasn't just local produce at this food fair...exhibitors came from far and wide and I couldn't resist buying the most delicious hazelnut salami from French Flavour



Honestly, I put the salami in the fridge as soon I returned home, and the next minute, half of it was gone...and not by me I might add. One purchase that did stay in the fridge until I was ready to cook them were the 3 pounds of excellent fennel and chilli sausages from Saporito in Market Harborough.

By now my basket and bags were full of food...and I was so tempted by this stall....




It would have so easy to buy another  basket...to take stuff home in of course....but unlike Oscar Wilde I resisted temptation. Until next year's Food Festival of course....


 

Thursday, 2 October 2014

The day Boo gave birth

It all happened yesterday, three days before due date.

Boo refused breakfast before I went to work, and she 'd not eaten her supper either the day before. Mr Thinking of the days whose nose has not been out of the excellent "Book of the Bitch " for weeks,





said this could be of significance. She was also shivering, so I wrapped Boo up in her blanket and Mr Thinking of the Days nodded, saying this also could be significant.

I went off to work leaving him with a strict reminder that he was to call the moment anything happened. No call by mid morning so I rang quickly...he said he 'd taken Boo for a walk and she was fine. Nothing to worry about at all.

I was half way through eating a jacket potato at lunchtime when my mobile rang. An agitated man was on the other end...."Oh my God" he shouted...she's amazing, I can't believe it!"
Holding the phone slightly further away from my ear as it was hurting from the volume.....he went on "There's two of them, a girl and a boy......they're brilliant", and before I could ask any questions there was a strangled cry and in an extremely loud voice "The third is coming...I'm putting the phone down now!"

I waited ten to fifteen minutes , but no more phone calls. By now I was so excited, yet worried that something had gone wrong. I rang back....the third, another boy, had been delivered was safe and sound according the shouty assistant midwife .

 A fuzzy photo was sent by e mail, I gasped and oohed and aahed and showed the photo to any of my colleagues who would look. One of them, who I shan't name, (oh go on then, it was Giles) shouted out across the newsroom "Bridget wants to show you her puppies" ...and I assure you he will pay for that at some stage.

As soon as I arrived home , Boo came racing to the door, as always, to welcome me. I gave her lots of fuss as usual, and she ran to her whelping box to show me her little darlings. Three perfect little puppies, who are all showing signs of  their dual border terrier and patterdale terrier heritage.

So here they are today.....24 hours old.....





The little girl is the smallest with the browny, Border tinge. I'm absolutely besotted with them, and have spent a couple of hours just watching and admiring them, plus giving lots of praise and fuss to their gorgeous Mum Boo....who is looking extremely proud and perky.






 

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Days of plums, damsons and brass

September has been such a good month for plums and damsons hasn't it?

The Victoria plum tree on the allotment was heavily laden this year...



And so there was picking to be done...



I was also given a few pounds of damsons....my friend Jo didn't know what to do with all...every day she came to work with carrier bags of them, and I think she fed the whole newsroom. I exaggerate , she fed those of us who can make puddings and jam. The sports boys in the corner wouldn't know what to do with a damson if it hit them in the ear. 







I however do....and made this lovely Nigel Slater's plum cake...captured just as it was going into the oven. The flavour of the damsons and the texture of ground almonds and polenta made a delicious treat for tea.



Back to the Victoria plums, some of which I froze or stewed and served cold with ice cream.....


But I also tried a new recipe this year...plum gumbo. Made with plums, sultanas, sugar, fresh ginger which adds a certain zing, plus other bits and pieces, it's very tasty with bread and cheese.






In fact the only thing that's wrong with this batch is that I didn't make enough! In the meantime, there's still plenty to do in the kitchen with a preserving pan - time to sort the apples out.....

Not tonight though, it's now dark,  and I'm back in the kitchen just about to get the supper ready. While the vegetables are roasting and the pasta is on to boil , I've been listening to a group whose music always seems to fit this time of night.




Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are from Chicago, but moved to New York. They're a world away from my my cottage in a tiny village . but at twilight, with a glass of red wine in my hand, with my toes tapping our worlds collide and I hope that one day I can see them perform live.


Thursday, 18 September 2014

A day in my outdoor art gallery

After a fifteen car ride from my sleepy little village, I can catch a train to the big city, the big smoke. London is only an hour and five minute journey away. I love to visit for a day but haven't managed to this year at all apart from a work trip.
 
At the beginning of the year, I promised myself a trip to a nice restaurant, and a visit to an exhibition or two. Unfortunately, with work, weddings, responsibilities, illness, idleness and whatever , I've not managed it yet.
 
 
I've been miffed about missing the Matisse Exhibition at Tate Modern, The Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, and I really fancied seeing the works of Ben Nicholson et al at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Which I didn't.
 
But a week or so ago, I took Boo out for a walk , and walked up the track east out of the village. We went slowly, with Boo being in pup, and me with my poorly foot. Going oh so slowly, I looked ahead, and  realised I was in my very own outdoor art gallery....
 
 
 
 

 

Boo and I  admired the still life





And this piece with the russet toned agricultural machinery positioned in front of the earthy colours of such a rustic backdrop. I leant against the open gate nearby for a few minutes,  Boo by my feet, admiring and drinking in the view.







We ploughed further along the track, we came across this tree...one of nature's sculptures





















As we switched direction , the sun came out over another beautiful landscape......






And another
 
 
 




We stopped again, and I wished, not for the first time, how I wished I could paint or draw. Still, at least I had my I phone with me to capture the sheer beauty five minutes walk away from my cottage door.

As Boo and I made our way home, I felt as excited as I am when I visit an exhibition or art gallery. More so actually, because this was like the most exclusive viewing. Only I saw those particular cloud patterns over the fields at that moment, the way the sun glistened on the straw in that second, and from those angles.

I love and feel refreshed by my visits to my outdoor art gallery with its  constantly changing exhibitions, but there's two exhibitions I'm determined to see in the next few months...."Constable - the Making of  a Master "at the V and A, and "Turner; Painting Set free" at Tate Britain.

In the meantime, I hope you've enjoyed my exhibition.....