Monthly Archives: September 2014

Rubber dinghy rapids

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post, mainly as I’ve not had masses to waflle about.  I thought I’d save up my random ramblings until I can pad them out a bit 🙂


Though I have little to waffle about, it’s all go at WCF Central.  We’ve been cooking furiously (mainly furious when the bottling machine has a spitty fit…thank you Hellmouth) so we now have more stock in place than ever before.  Its’ causing us a bit of a headache, what with the need for a national crate mountain, but it puts us in a decent position in the headlong rush towards Christmas.  I know it’s still only just autumn, but us trading wallahs have to be ahead of the curve, otherwise there’s a danger of us getting caught with our trousers down if something unexpected happens.  A good productive day can see over 3,000 units produced without having to work till midnight – we’re getting good at this efficiency lark, you know.  Bond will claim it’s all down to his ‘floating’ role as Efficiency Bitch – soaking up all the odd jobs that sometimes get in the way of smooth running – but for the most part it’s down to good planning and days of monster batches in the big cooker.  They’re a pain to prepare for, but once cooked it’s just a case of bottle, bottle, bottle till you get bored of hitting the pedal.  Needs must though, we need the stock, and we have a lot more days like that to be prepared.

20140921_101457On the trading front it all goes a bit quieter at this time of year.  Yes, there are still plenty of markets and festivals, but the monsters of the summer are gone and everyone’s focussed on the upcoming horror that is the festive season.  Since my last update I’ve been to Reading, Gloucester, Tetbury, Royal Wootton Bassett and Wroughton – mostly places I’ve been to before, although the day in Wroughton was unusual.  I was asked to give a presentation to the Wiltshire WI for their Produce Day, which was fun.  I suspect the average age of the audience was the wrong side of 70, and the average natural hip quota significantly less than 2, but they all listened attentively to the producers there on the day, and asked plenty of questions – thankfully no difficult ones – not to me. anyway wilogo🙂  I’ve been asked back to give a similar presentation at their anniversary event next April, so I can’t have scared them too much with my Don Estelle shorts and tales of incinerating potential Prime Ministers!

I’ve had a bit of a weekend off before that, taking a Sunday off to head to Wembley for an NFL game.  Now I know it’s still fairly new to the UK and so it’s a bit of a novelty, but it’s so much fun going to one of these games – the glitz, the glamour, the cheerleaders, the vastly overpriced pretend food, the cattle market that is Wembley Stadium Station afterwards…it’s not like that at the County Ground, I can tell you.  And you certainly don’t get Def Leppard as pre-match entertainment at  Swindon, though many would say they’re glad of that.



On a totally separate subject, something caught my eye today, and frankly I’m baffled.  I followed a brand spanking new Fiat 500 through Devizes, and I’m sure the owner is really, really proud of her shiny new toy…but why in the FSM’s name did she choose beige as the colour?  Now we all have our preferences.  I realise this.  I seem to have developed a preference for loud colours recently that can leave your retinas in a state of shock.  But beige?  For a car?  A little research leads me to believe it’s actually a colour they call ‘New Age Cream’.  Seriously, what the hell’s that all about?  It’s beige, people!  Eeeeuw.

mcglashanSince my last post one of the most important decisions in British politics ever has been taken, with the result of Scotland’s independence referendum.  The result was, of course, the safe option of the status quo – one I think is probably the best for Scotland – but it does lead me to believe that far from it being decisive, we’re just going to have to go round the loop all over again in a few years until they get the answer the nationalists want.  I think, by the time voting day had come round, everyone in England was utterly sick of Alex Salmond’s weaselly fizzog appearing on every screen, and if the English had had a vote we’d had voted a resounding Yes just to get rid of the bugger.  A really vindictive part of me would have loved to have seen a Yes vote win out, just to see how an economy built on shortbread and little drummer girls in plastic tubes would actually work in the real world.  However we’re all still one big happy family, but just wait till Andy Murray wants a big cheer at Wimbledon next year…I think he’ll find a few less supporters next time round!

I was going to buy these but they were two deer

I was going to buy these but they were two deer

A busy few days coming up – cooking at the farm followed by days trading in Temple Quay (Bristol), Salisbury, Devizes and Frome.  The Pink Chilli Hobbit will be in Marlborough on Sunday, and the WCF Massive will also be in Neath, Reading, Petersfield, Oxford, Bath and of course Swindon.  We’re always in Swindon.  We try to leave, but just like Number 6 in The Prisoner, we get caught by the balls and dragged back.  Oh…sorry…caught by one big ball.  My bad.



That’s all for this week folks, apart from one very important question.  Take a look at the poster below, spotted in a local health food establishment.  WTF?


Another promising career cut short

sackedGoddammit, I’ve been sacked.  Again.

This morning I received a rather peremptory e-mail from HR informing me that as I had contravened a number of company directives my contract had been terminated with immediate effect.  The final warning that was issued to me earlier this month had gone unanswered, and therefore I was cut loose, cast off, and sent packing.  Of course should I wish to appeal I could open the interestingly peculiar attachment to the e-mail and appeal against the decision.

Needless to say there was a heavy whiff of spam about the whole affair, not the least of which was the fact that the mail was signed by Quinn Schneekloth.  What, the Quinn Schneekloth, I hear you ask?  What a fantastic made-up name…if you’re going to try to ensnare unsuspecting victims in a viral scam then you may at least go the whole 9 yards and adopt the most preposterous name going.  And as I had never heard of the company I was being fired from, I took the news of my demise quite calmly, really…


What do you mean, wrong type of Bond girl?

On the subject of unusual names I came across a wonderful suggestion for a Bond girl on some hand wash earlier (what is it with me and hand wash lately?).  The flavour of hand wash in question was Geranium Goodness, and it just sounded to me like a 1960’s big-boobed stereotype being seduced by 007’s latest Q-powered sex gadget as the camera panned away to a tropical island paradise vista…

So I’m not going to waffle on at length this week, for a number of reasons.  There’s a heck of a lot going on, but it’s all a bit swan-like right now – all serene on the surface whilst paddling like buggery under the waves.  Markets are happening of course, and cooking is a staple of the week’s activities, but nothing earth-shattering has happened since my last missive.  OK, John Cleese did pop along to the Chilli Hut at the weekend and buy Simon’s last Chocolate Habanero, but without the silly walk he just a customer, albeit a very tall one.


I’ve been to Sherston and Bristol’s Tobacco Factory, where the public were as always very pleasant, and the Pink Chilli Hobbit has been to Avebury, where the locals were largely sheep.

Christmas looms large on the horizon.  Normally this fills me with humbug-style fear and loathing, but 2014 sees me looking forward to the busiest time of the year with a bizarre sense of anticipation.  It’s going to be oh so busy, and I fully expect to be sick of the sight of our stuff by the time the festive season is over, but we’ll be looking to work ourselves into an exhausted stupor so that we can slump over our Christmas turkey with a sense of pride and achievement.

We have to cook a proverbial – actually, literal – shed-load of stock before then, so I’ll have to get my bottling mojo on soon.  Jamie’s putting a schedule together which will allow us a few minutes between shifts to snatch a few Z’s…and somewhen before then we have a lot of chillies to pick.  Sleep’s overrated, I’m being told.

I took a bit of time off last Friday to watch a bunch of thin blokes on wheels whizz by.  The Tour of Britain wended it’s way through Devizes, so I took a walk up to Monument Hill, about a mile and a half from home, to watch the spectacle.  It was all over in a flash, as the 100+ riders hoofed past at some considerable speed…even in two groups split by a couple of minutes it was all done and dusted in no time at all.  I was really impressed by the organisation of it all thS0038145-2ough…there were a huge number of bike cops speeding ahead of the peloton to stop traffic.  When you think about the logistics of the event it’s amazing how well it all works, but blink and you’ll miss it – it’s all over so quickly (where have I heard that before?).  Still, it was a nice walk, even if I did somehow manage to walk past the pub on the way home without stopping.  Must…try…harder.

And you know what folks?  That’s going to be it for this week, short and sharp.  We have a busy week of cooking ahead, and you can find me in Reading and Gloucester peddling chilli goodness this weekend.  The Pink Chilli Hobbit is running her own stall in Trowbridge on Wednesday which sells WCF stuff…and we’re out and about in Birmingham, Abergavenny, Clumber Park, Salisbury, Bath, Oxford and Tetbury as well.  I’m not quite sure where I am on Sunday yet.  Might be Swindon.  Might be Tetbury.  Might be giants.  Make a little birdhouse in your soul.


Yellow, furry, and in my Mum’s garden


Invigorated hands

Well hello again, it’s been a while.

A full three weeks has come and gone since my last post, what with being so busy and all.  This time of year is rammed full of festivals, food shows, bank holiday events and all manner of summer shenanigans – the practical upshot being that I’ve been so busy selling/cooking/bottling/labelling/having a bit of a lie down that the blog ha remained completely untended.  You have my apologies, I know that you are all sat waiting, precariously perched edge-of-the-seat style, finger-bitingly anxious to hear what the Chilli Hobbit has been up to lately.  Or not.  Maybe the latter.


Biggest news of the last few weeks was the visit of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to the Farm.  Local prospective Conservative candidate Michelle Donelan, who we have met before, had arranged for Boris to visit Wiltshire to champion what’s going on in our lovely county.  Now as a serial chilli fan she chose us to represent the small business community, so we hastily arranged a bit of a tour of the facilities for Mr Mayor and his mad hair.  Now we all know Boris is up for a giggle, but little were we to know he was going to take a big bite out of the chocolate habanero that he’d just picked in one of our tunnels.  Now for the uninitiated, these are pretty damned hot – hot enough to stop a man Boris1who many are calling a future Prime Minister from being able to speak.  A politician lost for words?  You’d better believe it.  A swift can of sugary, fizzy stuff was procured to allow him to cool his gums before we could progress with the rest of the tour, but he now knows we mean business!  After the polytunnel he was given a tour of the kitchen, and then of a market stall we had set up for the occasion, where he was interviewed by the local BBC news – who incidentally weren’t interested in local business, they just assaulted him with questions about UKIP and the general election.

20140902_174419Now those of you that read my blog will know that I’m no lover of politics, or politicians.  But Boris came across as being – well, Boris.  No pre-prepared oily, slick responses to questions.  No twisting the conversation to national issues when asked about local stuff – in fact, he dragged conversations back to the importance of local business when reporters insisted on asking about national stuff.  He shook everyone’s hand on arrival, even the press.  He just seemed to be exactly what you expect, no more, no less.  I may not agree with his policies, and as a voter I am unlikely to put a big fat X in his box, but as a person I think he’s pretty genuine.

And of course Michelle keeps supporting local businesses – I read her articles in the local press, and it’s all I ever ask of our elected representatives to support their constituents.  If they do that, they’re all right with me.  All in all a really good bit of publicity for the Farm.  We got in to the national papers, Facebook went a bit nuts the morning after, and we all got shiny new polo shirts to smarten ourselves up with!  And we didn’t say the word ‘airport’ once…

So, what else has happened?  In no particular order of importance I have been to:

  • Westonbirt
  • Potterne
  • Reading
  • Swindon
  • Bristol
  • Ascot
  • Frome

Now, I hear you all cry in unison, did anything interesting happen at any of these events?  Of course I met lots and lots of lovely people, and sold lots and lots of lovely stuff, but what was noteworthy…?  Westonbirt was a 3-day event – Treefest – in amongst the loveliness that is the Arboretum.  It was a really nice event, although the Monday was blighted with utterly dismal weather.  The forecast was 100% correct that weekend, so I knew it would be, and took a good book to fill in the blank spaces between customers.  20140825_140448I’m not the sort to sit on my haunches whilst selling, preferring to be scanning the pack like a hungry lion looking for the kill, but when it’s bucketing down you have to keep yourself sane, and if that means a bit of Terry Pratchett then so be it.

Unfortunately the event shall be forever memorable to yours truly for the hair-raising drive home.  I packed up the van as usual, jumped in and pulled away, only to realise that I had no power steering.  Now this is not a disaster, just a case of driving more carefully than usual as quick directional changes were simply out of the question in a van loaded up with gazebo, stock and a fat biffer in the driver’s seat.  But what transpired was that it wasn’t just a power steering issue.  The serpentine belt that connect loads of gubbins (that’s a technical term, people) under the bonnet had snapped, thus robbing the Silver Machine of its ability to top up the electrics.  So, on the drive home, I was treated to a pushing-the-broken-down-van-mindocatastrophic failure of pretty much every piece of electrical equipment the van possessed.  So first, as I said, the power steering went.  Followed by the CD player.  Followed by ABS.  Followed by the wipers only just creeping across the windscreen.  Alarm bells were going off left, right and centre with warnings coming up to tell me to STOP NOW OR THE VAN WILL EXPLODE, or something like that anyway.  But I knew that if I stopped I’d never start again, so I limped home – with the engine stalling on me a couple of times and only restarting through a momentum-based jump start – in murky, rainy conditions.  I have never been more relieved and surprised to make it home in one piece.

However it didn’t quite end there.  I somehow managed to reverse on to the drive (knowing I’d have to unload fully and send the van off to mechanic cousin Alan and his big bag of spanners), turned the engine off and unclenched.  Then tried to open the door.  Now of course, like all modern cars, my central locking engages when I pull away.  So the doors had locked in Westonbirt, and now staunchly stayed that way as there was no battery power to unlock them.  Locked in.  OK, I thought, wind the window down.  But I have electric windows.  Still no battery power.  Bugger, I thought, or words to that effect.  So there I sat, relieved to have made it home…but locked in my own van, with now way of getting out!  Now I’m not particularly claustrophobic but the thought of being in there for some time was making me a smidge anxious.  I tried once again to unlock the doors and voila! there was just enough juice left to do the job…to a huge sigh of relief.

CBSo eventually the van got repaired, although it’s now at the body shop having its door fixed after the villainous exploits of Nottingham’s outlaws that I reported last time round.  To be fair it has been quite a giggle leaping in through the passenger side Dukes of Hazzard fashion, but as Catherine Bach has remained stubbornly elusive I’ve bored of it pretty quickly.

My trip to Potterne was to run a chilli eating contest at the cricket club‘s annual Beer and Cider Festival.  Now Potterne is my home village, and I have played cricket for the club since 1978, so I was really looking forward to the day.  I struggled to drum up support for the contest early doors, but as I suspected once the beer took affect, so the volunteers came, and by contest time I was actually turning people away.  I’d never run one of these contests before, and I’m IMG_9999_68-26 (Large)IMG_9999_81-32 (Large)naturally quite reserved and shy (really, I am) so the thought of wandering round in front of an audience (which included my Mum) both running and commentating on a chill eating contest was – to say the least – nerve-wracking.  But cometh the hour, cometh the hobbit and I simply engaged bulls**t mode and went for it.  It was a very entertaining interlude…there were tears…there was swearing…there was a little bit of sick…and a bit of flashing…but all in all it went very well.  The pre-match favourite Edgar won convincingly, with the scotch bonnet round getting all the other contestants running for the hedges at a speed that belied the amount of booze sloshing around their systems.  I was a bit naughty and got the crowd to encourage Edgar to jump straight to the peach bhut jolokia – the ultimate weapon in this contest – which he ate, though I think he regretted it afterwards!  I really enjoyed doing the contest, and look forward to the next one.

Thanks to Bloc from the club for all the chilli eating contest photos.

IMG_9999_134-41 (Large)

The winner

IMG_9999_103-36 (Large)

Not the winner








20140906_105527The other ‘first’ for me was a trip to the races at Ascot.  Not for the racing, but to take part in the Festival of Food and Wine, which was on a glorious day last weekend.  I’m not a horsey type, and apart from the National Lottery I don’t gamble, so a day at the races isn’t something that’s ever appealed, but it was an interesting experience.  It was really busy, everyone seemed to having a good time, and what struck me was how much everyone dressed up for the occasion – especially the ladies.  Some interesting hats were  on display, some of which could only be called hats due to their heady location…but that’s fashion for you I guess – I’m not one to criticise, what with my Don Estelle shorts and 3-for-£15 t-shirts.  But really…something that looks like half a giant Rolo with a flower stuck in it?  A hat?


The rhythm of the day was interesting.  Most markets and festivals start slow, pick up through the middle, then die at the end.  This – being a race day – was slow at the start, picked up massively before the first race, then was steady all the way till the end – apart from when the races were on when everyone disappeared!  I soon got the hang of it, when the race bell went I knew I had a five minute break whilst the punters cheered on their chosen equine quadruped carrying a tiny man in pyjamas, then they all came rushing back.  A great event though, the Ascot staff were really helpful and friendly and made sure the traders were looked after.  I like that 🙂

So I think I’ve waffled enough for one week, now that the lunacy of the last few weeks has died down I’ll be back to weekly updates.  You have been warned.

This weekend sees me in Sherston and Bristol’s Tobacco Factory. with the Pink Chilli Hobbit in Avebury and Chippenham.  You can also find us in Frome at the Cheese Show, the Holker Chilli Festival and our usual haunts in Swindon Designer Outlet, Bath Union Street and the Chilli Hut in Green Park, Gloucester Green and Summertown Market in Oxford, and Reading Farmers Market.  We were due to be at Potterne Food Festival, but sadly the event has been cancelled.

Thought for the day:  why is the hand wash I’ve just bought say that it’s invigorating?  Do I need invigorated hands?

 It is well known that a vital ingredient to success is not knowing that what you’re attempting can’t be done