Monthly Archives: March 2014

Squirrel!

I
I just took a ride
In a silver machine
And I’m still feeling mean
Do you wanna ride see yourself going by
The other side of the sky

Lyrics (c) Hawkwind.  Lemmy sang on that one, you know, before he was kicked out of the band.

OK, so I fibbed a bit.  I didn’t get the opportunity to take any photos at the Chilli Farm last week, but in all fairness the plants are still in a very early stage.  I’ll try harder this week 🙂

I am no longer White Van Man, having waved goodbye to the Chillimobile and said hello to the Silver Machine…which is big, French and has a big nose.  Should really be called Gerard.  It has a vast number of miles on the clock but seems like it’s been looked after pretty well, so hopefully it’ll keep me going for a while now.  It almost has enough oomph to pull up hills as well, which is a bonus.  Almost.

I was at Lackham College Lambing weekend on Saturday.  It was really nice to see so many families out for the day, with loads of kids getting a taste of farming life.  I didn’t get the chance to see the lambing sheds myself, but I did say hello to a flock of piglets (or whatever the collective noun is) and was treated to a backdrop of very noisy turkeys all day.  Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, the sun was out, picnics were being eaten, and the ice cream van was doing a roaring trade – especially after a few of my customers tried the Septenary sauce.  Really, really, really must remember to ask for commission from Mr Whippy.  He owes me.

Squirrel!

Sunday was of course Mother’s Day so lots of people were out and about, and I was at Bradford-on-Avon Farmer’s & Artisan Market.  Out and about as well were plenty of squirrels, hence the rodenty photo above.  Somehow I ended up with the pitch under the archway, which was the coldest place in the market, and also a bit shabby.  It’s not my favourite spot – there’s nowhere to hang your banner, and being out of the sun on a nice day is hardly conducive to getting customers to stop at the stall.  Still, trade was steady and as always I met loads of lovely people, including someone that wants to use our chillies to make beer.  Now you’re talking.

Investments, Annual Reports and Financial Statements

It’s financial year end for me today, which means large amounts of paperwork.  Such fun.  I’ve just re-analysed my cashflow forecast and am now actively considering selling a kidney.  Still, once my accountant weaves his magic I’m sure it’ll look less scary.  We can always hope!

 

So what does the week hold, apart from (boo hiss) some rain in the weather forecast?  A bit of a chill out today and tomorrow, then off to help Jamie do some cooking at the Farm on Wednesday.  Lots of markets this coming weekend, starting on Thursday – Bristol Temple Quay, Tidworth, Devizes and Marlborough – so I reserve the right to be cream crackered by Sunday evening and in need of an adult beverage.

Somewhere in the middle of that lot is a quiz night at the local cricket club, where I shall be attempting to answer such nuggets of trivia as ‘who played Mindy in Mork & Mindy‘ and ‘which famous TV show was almost called Owl Stretching Time’?  This is the sort of rubbish that lodges in my head.  Is it any wonder I never made it to the higher echelons of an IT career?

(Pam Dawber and Monty Python’s Flying Circus, in case you were wondering).

 

Time for lunch, Bargain Hunt and a bit of a snooze.  I may even leave the house after that.  Rock and roll, eh?

Have a good one, keep the peace and watch out for spaghetti trees.

Hail to the Kingham

Another new week dawns bright and clear, and as the majority look forward to a 5-day slog till another period of relaxation, your intrepid bloggist gets to kick back a bit and ease his aging bones after a couple of days trading.

Royal Wootton Bassett was – as always – a pleasure, and it was lovely to see friends both old and new.  As is my wont I headed off afterwards to see the mighty reds beat Preston at the County Ground, a stirring display not much in keeping with recent performances, if truth be told.  There’s hope for the future yet, even if our big-name striker has been arrested again.  Berk.

The Pink Chilli Hobbit ran the market at Sherston on Saturday and did better that I had the month before – they must be susceptible to her feminine wiles!  I know she enjoyed it and loved the venue, which is good as she’ll be in the chair for a lot of Sherston events this year as it jumps around the calendar – it tends to clash with other regular markets.

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I traded at a new event for me on Sunday, one that’s only been going a short while – The Cotswold Table in Kingham.  Now I’d never heard of the place before recently, but it’s a lovely Cotswold village, with a pub by the green, lots of enthusiastic foodie locals, and a quarterly event that was quite lovely to attend.  Thankfully I chose to be in the marquee rather than outside, as the day brought two tremendous downpours – one of rain, and one of hail.  The first had people rushing for cover in the marquee (good for sales), the second had people giving up and going home (not good for sales).  Still, it was a very well organised event, busy enough even with the typical March weather, and I look forward to going back for the next one in June.

On my journey back from Kingham I stopped off at Burford Farm Shop for a look round.  As usual for that kind of place I found some lovely stuff for sale, and weakened by hunger and thirst as I was (yeah, right) I came away with a couple of things that can best be described as totally fab.  Fentimans Curiosity Cola is a real favourite of mine – it’s how cola used to taste when I were a lad, back before the wheel was invented and when you had to collect your electricity in buckets from the well.  It’s not good for you – full fat cola that leaves your teeth feeling rather furry – but by God it’s good.  I also found Mr Trotters Jalapeno Chilli pork scratchings – not one of your five a day, but utterly delicious.

Later this week I’m planning to head to the Farm with camera in hand to start on my process of immortalising the 2014 season on (digital) film.  Look out for a further entry when I get round to sorting the pictures out.  If I can work out how to use the super macro mode on my camera there might be some close-ups, otherwise it’ll just be wide-angle pics of Jamie looking dishevelled and knackered, as usual!

One thing to l20140324_121939[1]ook out for at markets soon is the new range – chilli powders and flakes.  OK, so the flakes are normally the people behind the table, but we have some rather medical looking test tubes of various substances – including Scorpion powder – being made up as I type (that means Jamie’s beavering away in his kitchen, folks!).  They’re being priced competitively, so come and see us at our markets soon 🙂

And with that I’ll leave you in peace.  Have a good week!

New events page – second attempt!

OK, so I can’t spell…let’s try again, shall we? 😛

Quick update – new Events page created:

www.thechillihobbit.wordpress.com/events

This is just the events that you’ll find me or Kerry – the next few Wiltshire Chilli Farm events are listed over here ——————————————————>

Hope to see you there! 🙂

New events page

Quick update – new Events page created:

www.thechillihobbit.wordpress.com/events

This is just the events that you’ll find me or Kerry – the next few Wiltshire Chilli Farm events are listed over here ——————————————————>

Hope to see you there! 🙂

Conservatoire Africain

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Hello one and all, and here we are for another slice of life from the Hobbit Hole.

As you may remember the weekend just gone was my last planned free weekend this side of Christmas, so I treated myself to a little trip to Brussels.  Now Belgium is a much maligned nation, with a reputation for being dull.  That, I believe, is a shockingly unfair accusation, and I shall attempt to back up this bold assertion with a few photos and the odd tale from their capital.

BetjemanThanks to the rather excellent service provided by British Rail (I know!) and Eurostar the trip from Chippenham to Brussels was completely uneventful, and the first challenge came with the Brussels Metro.  This proved somewhat tricky as the little orange ticket validation machine became the little orange ticket eating machine, but thanks to some friendly staff, my ‘O‘ Level French, vigorous arm-waving and rather confused shrugging of shoulders the little orange validation machine was dismembered and forced to give up its tickety meal.  It seemed to have feasted on many tickets that day!

After that kerfuffle, it was time for a beer or two.  A procession of bars ensued, some new to me, some known from a trip a few years ago.  The beer was excellent, as is always the case for Belgium.

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On the way back to the hotel we walked through the Grande Place, and even at 1am, wobbling slightly, we were able to marvel at the spectacular architecture.

Now we have some great stuff in the UK, but every Belgian city I’ve stayed in has their own Grande Place or Grote Markt, all lit up in spectacular style.

This is not like bowling out of Wetherspoons and heading for the kebab shop, I can tell you.

So did Saturday take on a significantly different stripe?  Well no, not really.  Some epic shambling was undertaken, some wonderful architecture seen, some odd things on street corners were photographed, and a few more beers were imbibed.

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The evening of course was more of the same, just in different bars.  The beer waiter at A La Becasse took the new world record as the worlds surliest; the puppets on display at Toone were still freaky; and I drank my first ever Kwak.

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And in Poechenellekelder I saw possibly the oddest thing I have ever seen in a bar.  No photos were taken on the night, but some of this lot were in there, like something out of The League of Gentlemen.  They’re call Conservatoire Africain:

The noises they were making on various instruments were as bizarre as their looks.  Quite, quite surreal – and typically Belgian.  How can anyone possibly class this as a dull country?  (And just so you know, they are a charitable organisation that collects for children’s hospitals.  They’re just nuts).

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Finally, a view of the carpet in our hotel.  If you can get back to the hotel and not throw up when you see this, you’re probably safe from a hangover.

So now it’s back to the wonderful world of chillies.  It will seem almost sensible in comparison the Conservatoire Africain, but I think almost everything will.

Have a good week, speak to you again soon.

Surprise, surprise

Every now and again life takes me by surprise.  This week has been a case in point.  I will explain.

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Several months ago, when I threw myself into the world of selling chillies, I wondered if I would be able to keep myself busy.  Notwithstanding the ever-increasing amount of general chinwaggery and thoughtsharing that goes on with Jamie at the Wiltshire Chilli Farm, there is of course the small case of a living to be made.  This generally means standing out in all weathers beseeching Joe Public to purchase our spectacular world-beating products, trying to stop short of actually begging and whimpering.

Now I didn’t really think I’d be any good at it, or even want to do that side of the business, imagining myself to be more of a wholesaler type of cove.  Imagine my surprise when I now realise that (a) I seem to be passably good at it, (b) on nice days when there are lots of fillies in short skirts at the market I love it, and (c) I now have just one – ONE – weekend free between now and Christmas, so no worries about keeping busy.  That’s a bloody long way away, I can assure you, even though I suspect M&S are already filming their uber-sparkly-tinselly barf-fest of an advert.

And, dear reader, that free weekend is this one coming.  So will I be making the most of it?  You bet your sweet bippy I am…I shall be departing from London’s St Pancreas station on Friday afternoon for a weekend of fine beer, chocolate, mayo frites and waffles in Brussels.  Now being the aged bugger that I am it will be a civilised affair – plenty of sitting in bars watching the world go by whilst I put the world to rights with my mate Paul – and only trying the mind-cracking beers as a nightcap, sure in the knowledge that I can have a good lie down shortly afterwards.  It’s a tried, trusted – nay, almost infallible – plan, which will have been mapped out with military precision by my partner in crime.

I will be doing my best not to think too hard about chillies, but they sort of seep into most conversations these days.

What else have I learnt this week?  Well, in no particular order:

–          My ginger cat gets very confused by my laptop’s screensaver and can’t work out where the wiggly lines go when the disappear off the side of the screen

–          I appear to have invented the JunkPlan Diet containing just 4 food groups – chillies, crisps, chocolate and Pepsi Max

–          Swindon Town are heading for mid-table mediocrity, which I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing

–          There is a burger bar in Hove that sells a chilli burger it claims is 9.2 million on the Scoville scale http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/chilli-burger-thats-twice-hot-3227322

None of this will change your universe, as to be fair, it hasn’t mine.  Unless you try the burger in Hove, in which case your lower intestine may dissolve.

The good work of the Wiltshire Chilli Farm will, of course, continue unabated in my absence this weekend.  Please feel free to hunt them down at markets and baffle them with logic and big words.

Now, how do I say ‘Bunny Burner’s quite mild really – give it a try’ in Flemish?

Spring has sprung

For once it was actually nice to be out and about rather than huddling under a blanket as the rain lashed down outside.  And, blinking sleepily as if they’d been hibernating for the last few months, the public came out to shop.  Not massively so in Frome it has to be said, but then I think that people were going “ooh look, sunshine” and staying outside – and I was, of course, at an indoor market.  I have impeccable timing, as you can tell.

On the other hand, my first taste of Bristol’s Tobacco Factory Sunday market was nice and busy.  If you’ve not been there before it’s worth a visit – not just a farmers’ market, but all sorts of stuff on sale – clothes, food, books, a right old mish-mash.  There was a lovely feeling (possibly due to the weather), we had 80s music playing all day, and all the stall holders were as always friendly.  I’d certainly go back there again – this time I was covering for someone who was indulging in adult beverages on Saturday night 🙂

My ex Kerry (aka The Pink Chilli Hobbit) also did her first Wiltshire Chilli Farm market in Chippenham.  We’re waiting to crunch the numbers but it sounds like it went well.

Football on Saturday wasn’t so great, but then as a 35-year veteran of watching Swindon play I should know better than to get my hopes up.  Cracking winner from MK Dons, to be fair.  Even so – dammit.

Great news from Sochi this morning, with Kelly Gallagher winning a gold for the visually impaired super-G slalom.  Having been on the slopes many, many times and had more than my fair share of brown salopette moments I just can’t imagine what it would be like to ski with a serious visual impairment.  Serious kudos to Kelly and her guide Charlotte Evans, a fantastic achievement.

A couple of days of paperwork, looking for further markets, following up potential wholesale leads and catching up with the housework beckons.  It’s a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, you know.

Catch you later in the week before (whisper it quietly) I have a weekend off.  Beer will happen, rest assured of that 🙂