Category Archives: Chilli

Love is in the air

Love is in the air, what with it being Valentine’s Day in a few weeks – it’s that Hallmark-inspired period of the winter when the price of roses goes through the roof, anything with a heart on it doubles in price, and restaurant prices triple for one day only – if you can get a reservation, that is.

This year, of course, restaurants are shut – so none of that desperate ringing round trying to find somewhere nice to impress your partner – but it’s got me thinking about love.  Not is a mawkish, barf-inducing, music-swelling-in-the-background Disney kind of way – more in a kind of ‘love/hate relationship with food’ way.

One of things I hear all the time at events is ‘I love chilli’…‘I hate chilli’…’I hate garlicky flavours’…  OK that last one is me, but it’s interesting to drill down into what people actually mean when they come out with statements like that.

The ‘I hate garlic’ thing, I can entirely get on board with.  I’m not as bad as I used to be, but the smell of garlic (when cooking, mainly) can easily make me a little bit queasy.  I generally have no problem as part of a recipe, especially if I can use lazy garlic instead – it’s the smell I can’t stand.  But many people adore the aroma, and that’s cool, if that’s your thing.  Just don’t invite me round for dinner, I may just barf in the pot plants.

The phrase ‘I hate chilli’ normally translates to ‘I hate heat’.  I have great fun with those customers (if they bother to listen to my insane prattling), because of course they’re labouring under the very common misapprehension that all chillies are created equal, and they’re all hot.  Of course they aren’t, though they do have one thing in common – they all taste of chilli!  It’s like saying that all beer tastes the same, it’s patently untrue.

So just like a lager isn’t the same as a stout, so equally a jalapeño is not a reaper, a rocoto or a scotch bonnet.  There are some basic similarities of course, but the flavour is different, the heat profile is different – and more importantly, how you use it is different.  Now I’m not the best example in the world when it comes to hot stuff (bit weird for a chilli farm owner to say that), but put jalapeño poppers in front of me and I’ll munch away quite happily.  Make that Trinidad Scorpion poppers and I’m tapping out, thank you very much!  Using a splash of our Trinidad Scorpion sauce in a curry – fine…chugging it out of the bottle? – not on your life!

So not all chillies are hot, but similarly, the ‘I love chilli’ statement is often synonymous with ‘I want my food to hurt’.  It always amazes me how many customers (usually blokes, ‘cos we’re a bit stupid like that) just want to eat something that’ll put their arsehole into traction a few hours later.  This always baffles me, as I have a pretty moderate heat versus flavour threshold and can quite easily sail past it.  Once it gets too hot, I can’t detect flavours – that’s the same with most people, though of course my threshold is different to the next person’s, which is different to the next, etc.  A few people I meet at shows appear not to have a threshold, and frankly those people scare me!  Don’t people want their food to taste nice?

It’s that last group that products like God Slayer and Regret are aimed at.  They are perfectly useable in everyday cooking, of course they are (as long as you have a steady hand), but we’re under no illusion that a significant percentage of what we sell isn’t simply being used as weaponised chilli.  The fact that it tastes good is seemingly lost on most people…the nuances from the chilli, garlic and bourbon back flavours are lost somewhat when someone’s just taken a swig from their pint glass, only to pint it’s had Regret smeared round the rim and they now feel like The Joker!

Textures are weird when it comes to food.  My fiancée, for example, hates bananas because of the texture, but doesn’t mind banana-flavoured things.  It’s amazing how powerful a force the mind is when it comes to these things, because evolution will have made our bodies quite happy to eat anything edible, but it’s the mind that stops us.  I wouldn’t even contemplate eating snails, but why?  It’s all in the mind, there’s no logical reason not to.  But snails just look…snotty.  Just say no, kids!

And what about those things we’re societally conditioned not to eat?  It’s not illegal in many countries, but many people wouldn’t touch horse meat on principle, simply because it’s from a horse…and they’re pets, aren’t they?  But, I say, you can have a pet cow, or pig, or chicken, or duck, or sheep, or fish…you get my point.  If someone offered me Shergar and chips I’d struggle to think of a evolutionary-based reason not to give it a go, as long as it was humanely reared and slaughtered – that’s more important to me.  And that’s before we bring religious concerns into play, which are of life and death importance to some people, and completely trivial to others.  Not touching that discussion with a 10-foot-pole (as a devout pastafarian, I would say that!).

We’re all different, that’s for sure.  For some, Mango Chilli Sauce is too hot…for others, it barely touches the sides.  That’s cool, we love everyone that uses our stuff, whether it’s the mildest chilli jam or the craziest ultrahot sauce.  We should all respect each other’s views on flavours, and heat, and textures…we’re all a bit odd when it comes to what we’re prepared to put in our mouths (stop sniggering at the back).

But if you think Sweet Chilli Sauce is hot…we are going to take the p*ss 😊

A marriage is always made up of two people who are prepared to swear that only the other one snores

Terry Pratchett, from ‘The Fifth Elephant’

We Ate’nt Dead

Hello everyone…it’s been some time, hasn’t it?  Soz.

You may be asking just where the hell I’ve been since April, when I last spewed forth my rambling thoughts about lockdown, Covid-19 and life in general.  Well, the simple answer is this – I’ve not been far.  No-one has, dammit.

Life in the pandemic is, and has been for some considerable time now, just a big steaming bag of poo.  We’re now in Lockdown 3, and just like the Star Trek movies, the odd numbers are a bit crap:

  • Lockdown 1: The Motion Picture – tedious, dull, but we’d not seen anything like it so we just got on with it.  And the weather was nice.
  • Lockdown 2: The Wrath of Khan – we knew what to expect, it wasn’t as tedious as first one ‘cos the kids were at school, and I swear I saw Ricardo Montalban in Asda.
  • Lockdown 3: The Search for Spock – proving to be a snooze fest already.  Already bored with it, and we’re only a week in.  I no longer care where Spock is, whether he’s alive, or which Transformer he’s turned himself into.

Anyway…back to reality, whatever that is.  There are now 3 vaccines approved for use, and I actually know people that have had at least one of the jabs, so it’s not just a PR stunt driven by tory propaganda.  I don’t believe for one minute that having the buffoon Latin-spewing scarecrow in charge of the country is actually speeding up the process – I have long since been of the opinion that this country could pretty well run itself without any irritating government (of any flavour) in charge, much like Belgium did the other year.  They lasted 589 days in 2010-11 without a federal government, to no ill effect whatsoever – I visited the country several times in that period, and I can safely say that beer was still readily available, chocolate was plentiful, and the ever-present veneer of weirdness that they’ve cultivated over the years was still very much present.

But with COVID-19 dominating everything over the last year, it’s been a weird old time.  Naturally, events have been decimated, especially at Christmas.  My usual festive appearance in Salisbury didn’t happen, pretty much every other big event bit the dust, and the one big market we did get into – Nottingham – was binned after one day thanks to the public not being able (whether willing or not) to socially distance.  A couple of us started local delivery services around our home locations, and that brought in a bit of extra dosh – for me, enough to pay the tax bill – but not much else. 

The last time I posted I mentioned I was working at the big Tesco warehouse in Avonmouth, which was – to be honest – not very high on the list of Great Enjoyable Hobbit Experiences.  Cold, tiring work, and not good for my dodgy knees (especially the one I buggered up skiing a few years ago) – but it was money, and for that I’m thankful.  I saw out the original 3-month contract OK, then went part-time with the agency that supplies staff to Tesco for another 3 months – and after that I got pretty busy with what events I could find, and running my local delivery stuff, so they politely told me that it would be better off if I didn’t come in any more.  To be honest I wasn’t terribly disappointed.  Still, I managed to collect 3 separate P45’s last year, that’s a new record!

The one thing that working at Tesco did do was make me fitter.  Lots of lifting heavy boxes, in a cold environment, burnt off a boatload of calories.  Now of course, those boxes ain’t getting moved, and the pounds are creeping back on.  Lockdown walks are a frequent thing, but I’d have to walk to Benbecula some days to counteract the chocolate mountain I’m working my way through.  I could go to the gym, of course…oh wait. 

And now…it’s all quiet on the western front.  The Christmas rush is over, events are – even more than is usual for January – at a minimum – and my plan to sell my body on the streets has been scuppered by social distancing (what do you mean, that’s not the main reason?).  We’re all looking for new and improved ways to generate our fortune – lots of interesting plans bubbling away – and despite everything, we’re pretty excited by what the year might bring. 

But right now, I’m keeping my head down and delaying the order for the yacht yet again.  Much like Gloria Gaynor (for whom I am often mistaken – it’s the heels, you know) I will survive…though I may have stress eaten my own body weight in snacks by then.

That’s it for now – I’ll be back before long with another update.  In the meantime – stay well, stay safe, and keep washing those hands.

“If you trust in yourself…and believe in your dreams…and follow your star…you’ll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy.”

Terry Pratchett, from “The Wee Free Men”

That’s just unnecessary

Yes folks, I’m still alive!  It’s been a long time, but those rumours that your friendly neighbourhood chilli hobbit had ceased to exist are very wide of the mark…I’m still traversing this sceptred isle flogging chilli goodies…I’m still supporting Swindon Town in the futile hope that they’ll win something…and I’m still chompy as hell about Brexit.

So why the long radio silence?

Well, it’s largely down to the fact that, despite all  evidence to the contrary, it does take a while to piece together one of these posts.  And frankly, it’s been a busy few months, what with all the chilli selling and stuff!  I seem to be out and about on a never-ending haunted merry-go-round of events – some big, some not-so-big, and lots of corporate days – which is something that I’ve picked up big time since I last assailed you with  what passes for my ‘thoughts’.  So whereas, in previous times, I’d have weekdays to fill with random acts of coffee drinking and blogging, now I’m normally found in a big office somewhere pretending to be professional.

It’s all good fun actually, it’s mostly indoor trading – which is nice – and very often comes with free coffee – if you recall, the basic diet of the common-or-garden hobbit consists mainly of chocolate, coffee and bacon sarnies.  More importantly, it’s been a tidy source of revenue, which is why I keep going back!

So what else has filled my time since my last post?  Well, the fellow Terry Pratchett fan that I met in Salisbury 18 months ago is still very much part of the picture – in fact we’re buying a house together (subject to contract, terms and conditions apply, yadda yadda…).  Alison has proved to be the perfect foil for my lunacy, inasmuch as she is quite engagingly barking in her own right, with sproglets to match.  And she likes chilli sauce.  Let’s face it, it was never going to work if she hated it!

So I’m emigrating…to Somerset.  I’m assured it’s OK down there, it’s not that far away really, it won’t really affect which events I do, and they still talk funny so I’ll fit in a treat.  Needless to say, the Weston super Mare branch of the Swindon Town Supporters Club will be small but vociferous!

Talking of sport (I know, tenuous linking Swindon Town and sport together like that), I made my cricket comeback this summer.  Having not played for about 5 years I was somewhat creaky to say the least, and in fact aggravated an old skiing injury whilst attemptimg to bowl.  On the plus side, I can still land it on a line and length…on the minus side, my knee crumbled faster than BoJo’s no deal Brexit logic 😦  Oh well, I tried.

On the chilli farm front we’ve recently brought out a new, improved, even more mental version of Regret.  I’m reliably informed that the heat level has now gone from ‘butt clenching’ to ‘you bastard’.  I’ve not tasted it myself, which makes it unique in our range – I’ve tasted everything else, including Chipotle Mustard, and I bloody hate mustard.  But I really don’t feel the need for an experience of the kind brought on by sauces measured in millions on the SHU scale, so I’m going nowhere near it.  I fully expect I will taste it accidentally at some point – I’ve ingested enough God Slayer over the years by mistake – so I’ll report back if I survive the experience.

Now…Hot Ones…yes, THAT Hot Ones.  If you’ve not noticed, we’re on it – making us the first British company to get a sauce on there.  Are we chuffed?  Maybe just a little smug?  You bloody bet we are!  To hear celebs wax lyrical about Trinidad Scorpion is just awesome 😀  My favourites quotes are:

  • Trevor Noah – “That’s just unnecessary”
  • Joe Jonas – “Holy shit”
  • Kristen Bell – “That’s good, that’s hot – put that on the bottle!”

Now of course some the celebs on he show are big in ‘Murica, which means an old git like me will be left utterly baffled by their celebness…but it’s been great viewing, and of course fantastic publicity.

And Idris Elba was on there.  Everyone loves Idris Elba.  Women loves Idris Elba.  Men love Idris Elba.  Idris Elba loves Idris Elba, but does it in a way that doesn’t annoy you, making you love Idris Elba just that little bit more…

With that, I’m going to stop ranting now.  Well probably not once I turn on the news, but I’ll stop ranting in your direction at least.

And as Johann Sebastian said – I’ll be Bach…

I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!


‘I ate’nt dead’.

And with those 3 simple words, ladies and gentlemen, I will either have spoken volumes, or you’ll be saying ‘he can’t spell, please alert the authorities’.

Those in the know will recognise the sign that Granny Weatherwax would hang round her neck when she went borrowing, in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books.  It’s become a bit of shorthand amongst us Pratchett fanatics, and if we see it, we know we’re in the presence of someone that we can say ‘Ook’ to and not be laughed at.  Someone that understands the phrase ‘the turtle moves’.  Someone that  knows what a seamstress really does.

IMG_20180105_105313Why am I blathering on about this?  Well, not just because I think Pratchett was rather splendid, but because I managed to catch the end of the exhibition at Salisbury Museum featuring his work.  It had been on for months and I promised myself that I would get there before it closed, and thankfully I managed it, along with fellow Pratchett nut Alison, who I met via a Facebook group.  I don’t go to museums very often (at my age I run the danger of becoming an exhibit), but I have to admit that I was very, very impressed with this visit.  The exhibition itself was very tastefully done, a little bit emotional (bloody onion fairy), and of course full of reminders why us fans love his work – plenty of intelligent, witty humour.

IMG_20180105_121534_01Importantly, it gave me a chance to wear a very silly hat, and for that I am eternally happy…and even more importantly than that, I met up with the rather bloody marvellous Alison who, as well as providing me with that extraordinarily modest description of herself, appears to be somewhat fond of hobbits…

Now there is a link here to my roundworld job as an itinerant chilli peddler.  During the Christmas Market in Salisbury, in which I endured the slings and arrows of outrageous weather, I see a lot of people drift by.  A lot.  and so it was one day, whilst I was in the early evening stupour of too many brunch bars and vast amounts of caffeine, I noticed a group of people walk by that were dressed…well, differently.  For a start they weren’t wearing the kind of jacket that the weather required (basically a flattened mattress) and they were somewhat flamboyant.  In fact, one was wearing a gold suit, and a hat with wings.

And that, dear reader, was the giveaway – I can spot a Moist von Lipwig a mile off.  They were Pratchett fans and had been to the exhibition, all in costume and unashamedly willing to wander round Salisbury city centre, running the risk of encounters with ‘the public’.  Now ‘the public’ are all well and good, but when Wayne and Waynetta Lagerdrinker are faced with someone dressed as a wizard it’s often not a meeting of minds, mainly because one party doesn’t possess one.  So chapeau to them, and if you read this, I hope you enjoyed your trip 🙂


‘I ate’nt dead’ could also apply to me so far this year, what with there being a distinct lack of going outdoors happening right now.  I’ve taken the decision to hibernate, albeit briefly.  Events are famously a bit crap in January, and the weather ain’t nice, so I’ve hidden away from the world and am going steadily more and more ghostly pale as the weeks progress.  I’ve been busy booking events…getting a blog or two written…designing even more spreadsheets to get all orgasmic over (ooh, pivot tables)…and the lovely Alison has been keeping my spirits up (ahem).

But I will be back on the road again soon – as soon as February comes round in fact.  And I’m trying out a few vegan festivals this year, which is a bit of a departure from the norm – going to have to brush up on my sales patter a bit, obviously a fair bit of my normal spiel revolves around non-vegan food.  But I’ll adapt, and I’ll just have to remember not to say ‘live long and prosper’…


+++ Divide by cucumber error,  Please reinstall universe and reboot +++

Spring has sprung

bluebells-in-the-snow…the grass has riz, I wonder where the flowers is?

Under the bloody snow, that’s where they are.  What’s with the weather?  It’s been a thoroughly indifferent start to the trading season – a number of days lost at events to levels of mud normally seen at Glastonbury, very few of those lovely spring days, and not much warmth at all.  And today we’re dodging snow and hail showers!  I blame the BBC and their portentous forecasts – Carol Kirkwood, with her occluded front and cheeky smirk, telling us all that it’s all gusty winds and wintry showers.

Chinense tunnelSo why does this matter?  Well, it’s high time we were putting our crop plants out into the tunnels where they belong.  They’re been happily growing for a little while now, all nicely potted and toasty on heated mats, but there comes a time in every chilli palnt’s life where they must be unceremoniously hauled from their cosy pot home and thrust into the soil, or possibly this year, a bigger pot.  Yes folks, we’ve invested in the advanced technology of autopots with a view to increased yields, better control and – this is the most important bit – not having to do as much work next year in preparing tunnels.  See, we do plan ahead!  Even as I type, industrious types are thrusting plants groundwards…

On the event front we have a couple of new guys trading for us this summer…well, new-ish, as they’ve both done the occasional event before.  Both Pete and Orry have significant baggage to carry round with them – Pete is a friend of Bond, and Orry is related to Jamie – but let’s hope that doesn’t get in the way of them inflicting Slayer-based pain on the chilli cognoscenti of the UK.  Both have started markets with mixed success (it’s a time of the year when making a decent profit is aspirational rather than expectational) but you will see them out and around the country this summer.

WorldDominationWith the pair of them on board there is the potential to be in ten or more locations each weekend, so we’re having to coordinate things a bit more these days.  We’re even considering launching into oversaeas festivals, but of course  the logistics and costs of that are quite alarming…but it might just have to be done.  Watch this space!

Meadow BarnI’ve been spending quite a lot of my time over the last few weeks helping Kerry at PinkBox Boutique with her new headquarters, a fabulous barn conversion in Coate, near Devizes.  I have a vested interest as not only am I a director of her business, but she sells a hell of a lot of our stuff as well.  You’ll find her and her partner Chris in Swindon on Sundays, as well as events around the country like the rest of us.  Her new HQ is a great place to spend time – although I hope she doesn’t decide to expand again any time soon as we’re all sick to the back teeth of painting…and painting…and WCFdisplaypainting.  The HQ was opened by the local MP last Friday morning, and we were there until midnight on Thursday putting the finishing touches on things.  How we all got it ready in time I’ll never know, but it’s a testament to what can be achieved when you set youself a stupid target and then ignore all those alarm bells that keep ringing to tell you that you’re running out of time!

WhyIsMyLaptopDead_PunchI’ve experienced one of those horrendous first-world problems this week.  You know, the sort of thing that sends you into fits of rage although in reality it’s just not that important.  You see folks – my laptop died.  Now this is of course a real problem as far as my work is concerned – I need constant access to t’interweb, I track my business on a bewildering array of Excel spreadsheets, and of course e-mails are everywhere and using a phone to do this sort of thing just doesn’t hack it.  But, in the grand scheme of things – when you hear about things like refugee crises, earthquakes, the Zika virus, and for heaven’s sake the terrifying prospect of Donald Trump merely continuing to exist – it just pales into insignificance.  Getty angry simply because I’m having trouble recovering my iTunes library seems somewhat churlish.  And of course the fact that I’m able to write this post shows that I have recovered enough data from my old laptop to set up it’s hastily-bought replacement OK.

One great, but slightly scary, piece of news is that I have my spot reserved at Salisbury Christmas Market once again.  It’s something I look forward to each year now with equal doses of eager anticipation and utter fear.  Costa Coffee’s takings will rise exponentially as I subsist almost entirely on double espressos and sugary snacks…a decent night’s sleep will be a distant memory…and hopefully the Salisbury Christmas Market Bewildered Traders Association will reform for moral support and ritual abuse…but it’ll be a laugh.

But before then – summer!  Although spring would be a nice start…


Telephone call for Mr. Horrible

Blimey, doesn’t time fly?  It only seems like yesterday since I was wobbling on about skunks and teacups and stuff, but it’s been nearly a month.  A month of more box unpacking, lots of Christmas planning, lots of arguments and lots of miles covered in the pursuit of the chilli dollar.

MrPedantSo what’s been irking yours truly this month?  Well, first and foremost was the product I saw for sale at a show a few weeks back.  Now I’m all for a bit of license being allowed with the English language in the interests of making your product stand out from the crowd, but there is a line.  And that line, ladies and gentlemen, was not so much crossed as barreled past at warp 9.9 when I noticed a fruit-based milk drink being sold as a mylkshake.  Yep, that’s a y.  Should bloody well be an i, and all right-thinking English speakers will be with me on that one, especially my compatriots in the hardcore pedantry front.  No excuse for it, it’s just so very, very wrong.  I see marshmellows being sold regularly as well, and I cringe every time I see the sign.  I want to go over to their stall and write ‘3/10, see me after class’ on their A-board.

You’ll remember that I had a bit of a rant about doggy hats in my last post.  Well, I have another fashion item to add to the list of Things That Simply Should Not Exist.  I was at the Bath Cats & Dogs Home Fun Day, which was basically a dog show with gazebos – lots of running round in the rain jumping through hoops, being judged for the waggliest tail competition, winning prizes for having the dangliest bollocks – and that was just the stallholders.  Anyway, I was next to a stall selling – among other things – doggy bandanas.  Really…bandanas?  On a dog?  See, this is why I like cats…try to put a cat in a bandana and you’ll never play the violin again.

20150828_131548_HDR 20150829_142144_HDR 20150830_145415_HDRI’ve been trying to cozy up to the TV elite since last time we spoke, but most of the celebs at the Big Feastival weren’t interested in talking to plebs like me.  Monica Galetti looked quite startling with blonde hair, Jamie Oliver stood on the tables and ponced around doing his ‘look at me I’m a Cock…sorry…Mockney’ cheeky chappie routine, and Adam Henson was as plain-speaking and down-to-earth as you’d expect him to be.  Of the three only Adam Henson stayed past his contracted 30 minutes of hogging the limelight to chat to anyone, but I was too busy with customers to get any stalker-type selfies.  Ah well, maybe next year.

7ws_5_1My mind, as we know, works in mysterious ways.  I was next to one of the lovely Glamorose cupcake ladies the other week in Swindon admiring her wares (the cupcakes, honest) when she described the tiffin brownie as having lots of tiffin-y bits in it.  Now although I’ve led a very sheltered upbringing, for some reason I had visions of a slightly ragged, over-used and aging actress in…ahem…’exotic’ films called Tiffany Bitz.  And of course, this being Swindon, I was reminded of the legendary Swindonian actress Lola Vavoom, whose monument I have yet to visit.*

Talking of actresses, when did they all become actors?  I’m all for equality, nothing against women (I should be so lucky) but what was so wrong with the word actress?  It seems that you’re not allowed to use the feminine version of the word any more, as if it’s a derogatory term or something.  I don’t get it…anyone can now be an actor it seems, but it takes a special kind of person to become an actress – only half of the population can do it!  It’s political correctness gone mad I tell you.  I blame Jeremy Corbyn, that’s a sound place to start these days.

tetrisOn the Christmas front, we’re preparing…and cooking…and cooking…my God, are we cooking.  The store room at the farm looks like a really crap game of Tetris…more and more stuff comes in but doesn’t quite fit into the space that we have left for it…until we cook some more and create some space that we then fill with what we’ve just cooked!  It’s a logistical nightmare, but we’re planning meticulously to fit quarts into pint pots, squeeze a few more crates in here and there, and somehow…somehow…have enough stock for Christmas.


But before then, we have some important news…wait, I’m not allowed to tell our readers?  Really?  Oh, you’re no fun…

* Top marks if you even have the faintest clue what I’m talking about there, by the way.


Cats aren’t really friendly, they’re just cozying up to the dominant life-form as a hedge against extinction.
Jasper Fforde, The Last Dragonslayer

Nomadic crockery

people-walking-in-rainLet’s look at the evidence, ladies and gentlemen:

  • it’s cold
  • it’s p*ssing down
  • it’s dark and dreary

Yep, must be summer.

On the plus side, since I last posted (OK that was a while ago, but I’ve been busy – more on that later) England have regained the Ashes, Jessica Ennis-Hill and Mo Farah have won World Championship gold medals, Banksy has taken over Weston-super-Mare, and Chris Froome has won a second Tour de France.  The football season is back (ermmm…yippee?), Blackadder may well be on its way back (definite yippee for that one), and a new series of Dangermouse starts next month (so much yippee for that one that I may have just had a bit of an accident).

But let’s calm down for a moment and look at the bigger picture.  No wait, that’s boring.

Instead, let me tell you why I’ve been so horribly lax in my blogging of late.  It’s not very exciting really, but justifiable – Chez Hobbit has relocated from Devizes to Calne.  Now those of you that have moved house within recent memory will recall the butt-clenching horror that surrounds a move, and this one was made all the hairier for being a sale combined with a move to a rental property that had to be fit for cats.  Now landlords the world over may love pets, but they sure as hell don’t want the pesky little buggers in their properties, and that meant a very nervous time whilst I found somewhere that was (a) large enough for all my tat, of which there is plenty (b) nice enough to sate my snobby tendencies, and (c) cat-friendly and close to family to enable cat-sitting duties when I am away.

Luckily I found a place in Calne pretty quickly, though I had to loosen the purse-strings quite considerably to make it happen.  And for a few blissful moments I was chilled about it all…even got moved in OK (though not without a few bruises and scrapes to both furniture and myself), and looked forward to unpacking.  Our big old cat Fudge was inserted into his new house which – with the expected level of feline disdain – simply became a different big box to lounge around in.  He 20150806_190404_HDRsettled in very nicely, but then after a few days started to show signs of really not being very well at all, in an oh-my-God-he-looks-so-old kind of way.  To cut a not very long story even shorter, we had to take the horrible but inevitable decision to take him for one last journey to the vet’s, where he was sent on his journey to be with his sister Cassie, who we lost earlier this year.  So after all that faffing about finding a place he could be happy in, he lasted nine nights in his new home.  To say that I was heartbroken would be an understatement, and the house feels…well, odd.  Not only does it still feel like it’s not my house at all – still boxes everywhere, new bits of furniture, can’t find anything in the kitchen, the usual things – but now I have no cat.  For the first time in 25 years I’m not opening the front door to a squeaking ball of fluff demanding food.  It doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t feel normal (for my definition of normal), and it doesn’t feel like home.  Not yet, anyway.  It will, I am sure, but right now it just feels soulless and empty.

But the whole relocation episode has introduced a new term to me, one that came about thanks to a beery discussion in a pub in Nottingham.  I was discussing the house move with Jon and Joanne from The Rather Tasty Tea People, and specifically how many of us in the western world have a propensity to hoard things and never use them.  My example was cups and saucers.  I have plates of three different sizes, dessert bowls and pasta bowls from the same Denby range – all of which get used regularly.  But the matching cups and saucers?  Unwrapped them 10 years ago in Devizes…put them in the cupboard…wrapped them up again in July…unwrapped them in August in Calne…suspect the cycle will repeat at some point in the future.  All of which Jon described as ‘nomadic crockery’, which I thought was a very romantic and lyrical way of describing migratory earthenware.  I have visions of teacups on majestic stallions sweeping across the Mongolian steppe, yurts in the distance…

Kerry stall 2Time for some congratulations.  The Pink Chilli Hobbit, otherwise known as Kerry, has been working bloody hard to develop her company PinkBox Boutique, and she has been given a Mumpreneur 100 Award in recognition of the quality of her business and her commitment to getting it going whilst dealing with the trials and tribulations of being a mother and grandmother (oh, and the difficulties of having been married to me for a few years, but let’s gloss over that bit).   Many, many congratulations to Kerry, well deserved, and of course we hope she’ll continue to be one of our band of itinerant chilli peddlers for many years to come!

You may recall in my last blog that the South of England Show was notable for the large amount of pastel-coloured corduroy trousers on display.  The New Forest Show, along with frankly epic amounts of dust, departed from that theme by going for Blazer of the Day instead.  There must be something about these country shows that brings out these kinds of people – you don’t see them anywhere else, with the possible exception of a Cotton Traders catalogue – but at least it gives us traders a bit of a giggle when we spot a candidate and start waving at each other in a ‘did you see that one?’  kind of way.

Shortly after my trip to Hampshire I worked at a very unusual event, a pet show near Coventry.  This was notable for several things.  Firstly, the wasps made their first appearance of the summer, and all I can say is that I hate the bloody things.  Nasty, stripy little buggers, coming over here and stealing our jam, why don’t they bugger off back home…  As a consequence I now have one of those zappy tennis racket-type things that makes a very satisfying BZZZZZZP noise when I catch one of the winged terrorists, so that’s satisfying my blood-lust somewhat.

20150802_084611_HDRSlighty more relaxing were the alpacas.  Very cute, very skittish, very curious about the world about them, they look fab and damned well knew it.  Proper posers.

The most surprising thing I saw, and had the privilege to hold, was a skunk.  A lot bigger than I’d anticipated, and one of the most chilled-out, relaxed critters I’ve ever had the good fortune to cuddle.  Not in the least bit smelly and really relaxed, he was virtually asleep as soon as his owner handed him over to me.  Not called Pepe le Pew though, which I thought was virtually the law, like all spiders being called Boris.

20150802_101854_HDRLastly was the Burmese Python.  Big, heavy, and lovely to hold, he was definitely not of the cuddly variety, but if any of you have held a snake before you’ll know that they are gloriously silky smooth and not creepy at all.

One thing that I saw, it being a pet show and all that, was several of what I like to call ‘handbag dogs’ – you know, the yappy little sods that are danger of being trodden on and squished – wearing hats.  Trendy baseball caps…spangly peaked caps at rakish angles…dear God, one of them was also wearing a tutu.  A bloody tutu.  Now I am well aware that people will treat their pets as children, I know all too well from recent events that they are showered with love and affection…but if I made one of my girls dress up in a tutu and a spangly baseball cap I think I’d have received a 3am visit from the paramilitary wing of the NSPCC.

20150802_102502_HDRI’m guessing that my mood at the pet show wasn’t helped by the lack of sleep I’d had in the hotel I was using.  The walls were a little on the paper-thin side, so much so that the herd of elephants in the next room managed to make more noise than two skeletons shagging in a tin bath, and to be fair I think they were only cleaning their teeth.  Repeatedly.  Banging cupboard doors at 4am in the process.  Maybe it was the NSPCC preparing a raid…

And on that note, I will leave further rambling thoughts to another day.  I’ll try not to leave it this long next time…though I think I said that last time as well 🙂



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?