Monthly Archives: June 2015

Pointless bananas

lobsterI’ve led a sheltered life.  I know this.  In my largely rural existence I’ve managed to stay away from pretty much every illegal substance, and most certainly those that are known to cause the mind to start working overtime and creating things that simply aren’t there.  So imagine my surprise when, at the event I was doing at the weekend, I started seeing giant lobsters.  No-one in the crowd seemed the least bothered – leading me to believe that these weren’t our new crustacean overlords hell-bent on world domination – but rather they were tourists on a day out in the lovely English drizzle.  They didn’t buy any chilli sauce though – maybe my spiel about using Mango Hot Sauce with stir-fried prawns was a little too close to home.

20150619_172231This all happened at Waddesdon Manor, a rather fantastic stately home just outside Aylesbury.  The estate is owned by the Rothschild family and simply reeks of money, as befits champagne magnates, 20150621_1004012but is an awesome setting for an event.  They certainly went to town on the banner front – at times it looked more like a battle scene from The Water Margin than a foodie event!  The weather was…well…shall we say it was typically British?  Relentless drizzle for most of the day on Saturday until the point where the weather gods obviously though ‘bollocks to this light stuff’ and just chucked it all down in the next hour…what the great Terry Pratchett called ‘an upright sea with slots in it’.  Sunday was sunny though, a much more pleasant day for the peasant folk to dance and sing.  All in all a fun event, very colourful and a fitting celebration of midsummer.

It's not all beer and skittles, you know

It’s not all beer and skittles, you know

Talking of midsummer and the tie-dyed types that prevail at this time of year, I heard an interesting comment that got my mind spinning its cogs in overdrive just as I was packing up.  One of my neighbouring traders was talking about chakras and ley lines and all that supremely unscientific rubbish, and mentioned that there was a major ley line running through Aylesbury, which of course was only just down the road.  Now I know Aylesbury very well as my best mate lives there, and there are a few things that you are quite likely to find running through Aylesbury:

  • Ben Sherman-wearing yoofs on the prowl
  • the boys in blue, chasing the above
  • packs of feral hounds
  • open sewage

BarkerNone of this is especially spiritual, though possibly with the exception of the contents of the pint glasses of the yoofs mentioned above.  There are few places less likely in my mind to be associated with all things ethereal.  Leigh Delamere services on the M4, maybe.  Milton Keynes Dons FC, definitely.  The only good  thing about Aylesbury is that it has a statue of the late, great Ronnie Barker outside the new theatre.

Of course the location that my colleague was thinking of was the stone circle at Avebury, which is quite spectacular and definitely right up there in the ‘whoah dude, that’s like really cooooool’ stakes.  Once again this is a location I know very well as it’s only a few miles from my front door!  It’s the only stone circle in the world with a pub in it (if that’s not special I don’t know what is), and it also has a National Trust tea shop that sells fantastic cakes.  What’s not to like?


Now whilst we’re deadly serious about the chilli world, sometimes we just have to do stupid stuff.  The ever-so-slightly barking Jamie, for example, has this very day thrown himself out of a perfectly serviceable plane at 15,000 feet, whilst being strapped to a large bearded man.  I’m not sure which of those aspects is the most terrifying, but judging by the look one Jamie’s face in the photos he enjoyed it.  I’m sure it’s a fun thing to do and the adrenaline rush much be simply epic, but I’m not sure it’s for me.


My idea of getting on a plane is of course to go on holiday, which is what I am doing next week.  I’ll be legging it back Sunday evening from my event to pack my bag, grab my passport and apologise to the cat for buggering off again first thing Monday for a wee tripette to Lisbon.  It promises to be very pleasant, and a much-needed break from the chilli whirlwind.  You will, of course, be assaulted with photos in my next post.  You have been warned.

So where are we all this weekend?  Well I’ll be in Basingstoke at the Cheese & Chilli Festival in War Memorial Park; Bond and Beard will be in Bristol at the Foodies Festival; Simon is in Nottingham at the Global Market; Jamie is at Calne’s Summer Festival; and the Pink Chilli Hobbit is at the Summer Fair in Milton Lilbourne and at Swindon’s Dragon Boat Race.  Another busy weekend!

See you soon!

 One banana counts as one of your ‘5 a day’.  Two bananas, eaten at one sitting, still count as just one of your ‘5 a day’.

Pointless bananas.

The mustard trouser count

Greetings one and all, welcome to the new week.

It’s all been somewhat hectic at hobbit central over the last few days, both professionally and personally.  I’ll not bother taking you through a blow-by-blow account of the South of England Show, rather I’ll treat you to a few thoughts from the trip to Ardingly that I feel I really ought to share.

Now each event I do has it’s own flavour, for want of a better word.  Some of the smaller markets are quite quaint, like Sherston Market.  Some are quite agricultural in their look and feel, the Royal Cornwall being the prime example on my calendar.  Some are really buzzy, like Frome Independent.  But the one word that sprang into my mind for the South of England – and this is not a word that is in everyday usage in my world – was Margohaughty.  Given that the event takes place in Sussex, which I now realise houses the EU Tweed Mountain, that probably shouldn’t come as as shock.  Now I’m not saying that anyone actually looked down their nose at me (although at my height that’s an occupational hazard), but the bearing of the ladies especially was from the Margo Leadbetter school…very proper, very well dressed. very well-to-do, and lots and lots of hats.

The male version of the hat fetish was a certain dress code that seemed to revolve around intensely starched (but somehow casual) shirts, a sweater draped artistically around the shoulders in a way that can only be done with a lot of practice in front of the mirror, and – the truly defining aspect – mustard coloured trousers.  Usually corduroy.  This is unlikely to become a fashion trend amongst chilli farmers, who of course seem to prefer jeans and nerd level t-shirts, but it was so prevalent at one point that myself and Jon & Joanne from The Rather Tasty Tea People stall next door started counting them as they went past.


Not tasty at all

Now it was, at it’s heart, an agricultural show, and the smells around the livestock sheds testified to that.  I was admiring one of the pigs one morning as I had a bimble around, and was idling thinking ‘boy or girl pig?’ when I spotted what can only be described as a frankly enormous pair of testicles.  I mean oh my God how can he walk size ‘nads.  I was truly gobsmacked  Of course I am no expert on this kind thing – there is a name for that sort of person, usually followed by something along the lines of ‘how do you plead?’ – but I was so bewildered it almost put me off my bacon butty.

Talking of which, the new diet craze for the event was the P-Plan Diet – the P standing for Pig.  Basically it revolves around bacon with everything.  Bacon sarnie for breakfast, pork scratchings for lunch, bacon cheeseburger for dinner.  I fear it’s not a diet for a healthy life, but Sam Vimes would be proud.

VestaOne diversion from the bacon theme was found in my hotel, where the towels somehow managed to smell of curry.  Now I know that when you’re doing laundry on an industrial scale you don’t use the finest ylang ylang with a hint of moonflower and rose petal detergent…but 1970’s Vesta curry flavour?  After day one I thought that it must have been a trick of the nose, but day two’s towel has the same unmistakeable Eau de Balti twang.  Odd.

I had a few other notes scribbled down to wobble on about…jellied eels…Bluetooth headsets…Keep Calm t-shirts…but I’ll rant about them another day…

Gracie and PoppyBack in personal land, this was the weekend when I had to rush back to make sure I was available for the Christening of my two granddaughters.  All went well, the weather behaved, and the elder of the two girls high-fiving the vicar was a genuine highlight, as you’d expect.  It was lovely to see everyone have a good time and both my daughters and granddaughters looked lovely.  Proud Grandhobbit 🙂

The girls

I’m the one in the middle

Back to work matters, and the week ahead.  We’ll all be out and about as usual, with myself back in commuter belt territory with a Feast Weekend at Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury, which promises to be fun.  Elsewhere, Simon M will be in Glasgow, Bond will be in Reading, the Pink Chilli Hobbit will be in Gloucester and Jamie will be in Corsham and Swindon.

Right, I’m off to prepare another cordon bleu microwave meal, feed the four-legged ginger whinger and prepare for the final episode of this season’s Game of Thrones.  I suspect I’ll need counselling afterwards.

Keep the faith, see you at our events, and watch out for them English.

Why isn’t the word “phonetically” spelled with an “f”?



Proper jobbies

Now if only I had a quid for every time I heard the phrase ‘proper job’ last week.

20150604_082849As regular readers will know I have been in Wadebridge for the Royal Cornwall Show.  This is one of my biggest events of the year, and is a challenge mentally, physically and – as it turns out – linguistically.  Now I’m from the West Country.  OK, some may question Wiltshire’s qualifications for being west enough, but it’s generally accepted that it qualifies.  So I thought I was pretty well accustomed to all forms of dialects from down this way.  That’s until about 4pm on the final day 20150606_070723of the show when, after a weekend of hearing t’s softened to d’s (bread and budder puddin’, anyone?) and seemingly billions of the aforementioned proper jobs, I was confronted with a customer who I simply could not bloody understand.  He was talking English, that much I could ascertain, but it was pure frontier gibberish of the highest order.  All I could do was nod and smile, agree occasionally and hope to God that he hadn’t just told me that chillies gave him cancer of the rectum or that his Mum’s just been nibbled to death by an okapi.  He didn’t leap across the table and wallop me, so I think I 20150604_163058just about got away with it.

The show was it’s usual windy self, with much gaffer taping and buffeting of King Gazebo – not quite as bad as last year, but a little gusty nonetheless.  There were apperances by the RAF parachute team, a singing robot, Plymouth Argyle’s mascot and many, many schoolchildren intent on tasting the hottest thing on the stall.  This time round it was Septenary, and many an innocent mouth was left a little bit the worse for chilli.  Proper job.

One consequence of trying to keep my costs down for the show was that I stayed on the festival campsite.  Now I realise that there are compromises to be made when sleeping in a tent, such as pervading dampness, and loo breaks having to be carefully planned due to the bogs being 300 yards away (those two things aren’t connected, by the way).  I can cope with most things, but for the love of all things that are sacred, what possesses the idiot youth of Cornwall to race around a campsite in a souped-up Vauxhall Corsa with it’s La Cucuracha horn blowing?  Every…bloody…night… I’m not one usually prone to thoughts of homicide, justifiable or not, but if I’d had access to an AK47 and a clear line of sight you’d have been reading about me in the tabloids by now.  At least The Fast and the Feckless went home on the Saturday, so I had the much more pleasant experience of waking up on Sunday morning to the sound of beautiful birdsong, cows mooing in the field next door, and the echoes of the guy in the tent next door snoring like a buzzsaw.

Whilst I was being blown about on the peninsula (that’s not a euphemism), the other guys made it to such exotic locations as Bromley, Swindon and Accrington.  Now I never said that this was a sexy job, with fast cars and loose women at every destination – I wish – but Accrington, as in ‘Accrington Stanley – who are they?’ fame…I ask you.  I’m led to believe that inoculations weren’t required prior to entry though, and as it turns out they really loved our stuff and the Bearded Blunder sold it up a storm.

bag-end-master-2It’s a time of much change at Hobbit Central, as I’ve just sold my house.  Obviously there’s all that tedious and nerve-wracking bull-plop to go through prior to exchanging contracts, but fingers crossed I’ll be homeless soon.  It’s an odd thing to wish for, but it’s a natural consequence of myself and the Pink Chilli Hobbit going our separate ways, and the family home was too big for just the one halfling anyway, however many cats there were in residence.  So shortly I shall be looking for a new hole to call my own, or at least to rent and pretend it’s mine.  If there are any billionaire brewery heiresses out there looking for someone to share their mansion (and anything else), feel free to get in touch.  Low standards and a good sense of humour essential.  Oh, and a fondness for elderly cats.


Answers on a postcard please

So what’s on the cards this weekend?  Well, Simon’s at the Three Counties Show in Malvern, Bond’s at the food festival in Chinnor, and Swindon will see someone show up on Sunday…I’m never quite sure who it’s likely to be.  I’ll be at another big event, the South of England Show at Ardingly, from Thursday through to Saturday.  This is the first time the Farm has been to this one, so it’s a bit of an experiment to see how it goes.  After four nights in a tent last week I’m quite looking forward to proper hotel accommodation, with it’s attendant proximity to food that doesn’t get cooked in a van and a much reduced risk of athlete’s foot.

I’ll be rushing back on Saturday evening to be ready for my granddaughters’ Christening on Sunday, so be prepared for photos in the next post of your friendly neighborhood hobbit looking very uncomfortable in a suit and tie.  That’s assuming I don’t spontaneously combust in attempting to cross the threshold of the church, of course.

Right, I’m done for this week.  Off to clean the sheets in preparation for visitors.  I’m a domestic god, you know.

 What duck?




Whither Poldark?

Hello everyone, hope you managed to have a nice weekend – the weather turned all British on us, which was fun.  A nice bit of sunshine on Saturday, but then an awful lot of dampness ensued, but we should really be used to that by now.


One for the ladies

Just a quickie this week as I’m preparing for the Royal Cornwall Show, which starts on Thursday.  This is one of my biggest events of my year, and promises to be an extremely busy few days.  I’m doing it on my own this year – the Pink Chilli Hobbit helped me out last year but I’m going solo this time round (echoes of real life!) – so that means getting down there on Wednesday and getting the gazebo up and stocked, then heading over to the campsite and sorting out my accommodation for the event.  As long as I allow myself enough time it’ll all be just fine and I won’t get too stressed, but knowing me something will come up that scuppers my plans.  Good weather would be lovely as there’s nothing fun about camping in the rain, but I’ll just deal with whatever is thrown at me.  You can find us at stand 404, hope you can find us (bit of an IT joke there…)

The Royal Bath & West was a huge success for us, well done to the guys for fronting it up and working their proverbials off over the course of the event.  It’s always one of the highlights of the year and we love going there.  Jamie, Bond and Beard shiftRBWShielded a huge amount of stock between them and spread our chilli joy (and in some cases pain) far and wide.  I’m not sure what kind of voodoo Jamie used in order to get two stands, but it worked!  We even came away with yet another award, this time for the best trade stand in the food halls.  It’s the second time we’ve won this particular award, so we’re really chuffed.

20150530_074748I was at Caldicot Castle for the Monmouthshire Food Festival, a lovely event in a brilliant setting.  The weather didn’t quite play ball, but what’s not to love about an event in the grounds of a castle?  The locals were lovely, I had the best bacon & black pudding roll ever, and came away with supplies of beer from Brecon Brewing (who coincidentally are official brewers of Terry Pratchett branded beers) and some fantastic chocolate courtesy of Black Mountain Gold, which I am trying very hard not to devour at warp speed.  Proving difficult.

As well as Cornwall this week we’ll be at the continental market in Bromley from Thursday through to Sunday, Devizes Farmers Market on Saturday and Swindon’s Designer Outlet on Sunday.  The Pink Chilli Hobbit will have her PinkBox Boutique stall up at Toby Buckland’s Garden Festival at Bowood House on Friday and Saturday, and Simon from The Chilli Hut will be deputising for us in Frome on Sunday.

Right…time to go and find the tent…it’ll be somewhere in the garage, just past Shergar and round the corner from Lord Lucan…


I would like to die on Mars.  Just not on impact.