Category Archives: General

+++ MELON MELON MELON +++

‘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 🙂

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‘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 +++

Friend…?

Apparently, yesterday marked the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Mary Shelley’s classic ‘Frankenstein’, a truly groundbreaking piece of literature that’s been subsequently ripped to pieces by Hollywood.  And why is this relevant?  Well, after posting what can best be described as ‘bugger all’ for a long, long time, I now get to say – in my best Colin Clive voice – “It’s aliiiiiiiiive”!!!

Yes, the Hobbit’s still here, I’m still peddling chilli stuff, and I’m marshalling what passes for thoughts for 2018…

…and yes, I’m still slightly furious, all of the time.  It’s a description I’ve nicked from a blogger I still follow (thank you Paul Smith of The Runton Diaries), but it’s definitely appropriate.  It’s been some time since I last broadcast my thoughts on the airwaves, but there’s been little to make me think that the world is any more pleasant, that the future is any rosier, that we are any more secure than when I last spewed forth.  And that, of course, leaves me with a dilemma.

When I originally started this blog it was definitively in support of my business, and nowt else.  It still is, after a fashion.  And as such, it was incorporated into the Wiltshire Chilli Farm’s blog (where I have posted a few times since the last thing I posted here), and that was great.  The trouble is – and this is self-censorship, nothing more – I felt the need to behave, at least a little bit.  I was posting as a business that was not 100% mine, and that made me think twice about saying anything too controversial.  Not that I’m ever likely to of course, I’m far too nice for that, but somewhere in the back of my mind there’s been this little voice saying “can I say that out loud…do the other guys think that way”?  Now at no point has anyone said that I should change what I say, or how I say it, but being the sensible cove that I am, I got a bit more…cautious.

Why am I saying this, I hear you say?  OK maybe not, but I’m going to tell you anyway.  You see, in 2018 I am going to attempt to write two blogs.

I know, I know, couldn’t even keep one going…

So the Chilli Farm will get something sensible, and business related, and vaguely relevant to what we do on a day-to-day basis…well, that’s the plan.

This blog, however, is likely to gravitiate much more towards the feverish outpourings of a deranged hobbit…and trust me, I’ve got VERY deranged since the last time I posted.  A lot of sh*t has happened, and I feel the need to vent, and in some cases, get a bit more up close and personal.  Simply put, there are some things that are relevant to me, and none of my colleagues, so I just want to share what’s in my head.  It’s a kind of therapy, and one that doesn’t involve illegal, or at least immoral, substances.  I could, of course, share my thoughts through the medium of interpretive dance, but anyone that’s ever seen me on a dance floor would soon be alerting the authorities.

So here we are, starting another year, and I’m wondering just how I’m going to f*ck this one up.  I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few days wondering just why I do anything that I do, and how I reconcile what I think I am with what I do for a living.

And I think I’ve come to some kind of realisation.  Basically, you see, I’m a thumping great introvert doing a sporadically good impression of an extrovert.  Or, potentially, it’s the other way round.  It’s an interesting dichotomy.  Some days, I’m all over the ‘being with people’ thing.  Other days, I just want to hide.  And the problem is this; I never know which day is which, until I’ve set sail on that day’s journey.

Now I’ve been doing a bit of light reading about ambiversion, which is basically the extremely logical state of most people – that no-one is completely introverted or extroverted, and can behave as either in given situations.  And it makes perfect sense, and I can see it applies to me.  It just seems to me that I swing wildly from one extreme to the other, especially in times of stress and anxiety.  Is this normal?  I dunno, it’s going to take a bit more research, and thought, and maybe just a little bit more Belgian beer to make it all swim into focus.  But what I know for sure is that getting my thoughts down in a post like this helps me, if only because I’m a frustrated author and I just love writing.

So whilst I feel in need of a little bit of help, you should all pray – to whatever deity you believe in – that this form of therapy works.

Otherwise the interpretive dance is going to happen…


Sometimes it is better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness.
Terry Pratchett

The Common Chilli Farmer

Conservation status

EITW3

 

 

 

Subspecies

denver-zoo

Homo capsicanus beardus

Homo capsicanus hobbitus
Homo capsicanus bondus
Homo capsicanus beardus
Homo capsicanus pinkboxus
Homo capsicanus primus
Homo capsicanus moggius
Homo capsicanus petehattus

Homo capsicanus is the binomial nomenclature for the common chilli farmer. Every example of homo capsicanus automatically falls into its own subspecies, which with very few exceptions are unique in almost every respect.

Origin

Homo capsicanus is a direct descendant of homo sapiens, also known as humans. Although superficially similar, they have mutated through continued exposure to superhot chillies to the point where they are a distinct collection of subspecies displaying behaviours not seen in the normal human race.

Homo capsicanus primus is the earliest local example and is named not for being the first observed example of homo capsicanus, but for his slightly disturbing fetish for both camping stoves and the bass guitar stylings of Les Claypool.

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Examples of homo capsicanus subspecies: bondus, pinkboxus, hobbitus and primus. Also shown are two examples of homo politicus wellinevervotedforthem

Description

The common chilli farmer varies wildly in size, although mostly they can be mistaken for human. The shortest known subspecies is homo capsicanus hobbitus, which as its name suggests has great difficulty reaching things on high shelves. Homo capsicanus bondus is tall enough to suffer from a lack of oxygen, thus giving the impression of brain damage. Many subspecies of the chilli farmer display significant plumage (especially homo capsicanus beardus), although homo capsicanus moggius appears to have run out of hair entirely. Homo capsicanus pinkboxus is mostly encountered in its female form.

Habitat

Gay Bond at RB&W

Homo bondus in his natural habitat

The common chilli farmer can often be found sheltering under canopies amongst groups of similar species such as homo cupcakeus and homo cheeseii. They seem to cluster together in these groups in order to pass on their belongings to others in exchange for coloured pieces of paper or shiny bits of metal. It is very rare to find more than one of the above mentioned homo capsicanus subspecies in the same location, but it is not unknown to find them co-located with similar subspecies such as homo grimreaperus.

When not sheltering under canopies the chilli farmer can usually be found in a type of building known as a ‘pub’. Little is known of the function of these buildings, although some kind of ritual involving liquids is believed to take place.

Occasionally the common chilli farmer is found in mountainous regions, although recent sightings of homo capsicanus hobbitus at altitude have shown the species to be extremely unstable in such locations.

Breeding

20160129_210039

Homo capsicanus hobbitus in full courtship display

The male common chilli farmer attempts to attract the female with a courtship display which consists of drinking copious amounts of brown fermented liquids, accompanied by talking a load of old bollocks. The success of this courtship display is variable from subspecies to subspecies. Homo capsicanus petehattus seems to be permanently in heat, whilst homo capsicanus hobbitus appears to have his animal magnetism on the wrong polarity. There does, however, appear to be some kind of weird symbiotic relationship between homo capsicanus hobbitus and homo capsicanus pinkboxus that baffles almost every observer. Homo capsicanus beardus uses his abundant plumage to attract females, with mixed success.

The young of the species are usually hungry. And noisy. So very, very noisy.

Feeding

sausagesThe common chilli farmer is omnivorous, eating a wide range of food from all sources. Despite being almost spherical homo capsicanus hobbitus is quite picky, although deep-frying anything is usually enough to get him to try it, with the exception of mushrooms, which he wouldn’t eat even if there was a Kalashnikov pressed against his temple. Homo capsicanus beardus is an enigma, appearing not to eat in daylight hours. Homo capsicanus bondus is simply hungry ALL THE BLOODY TIME. Homo capsicanus moggius seems to be on a restricted diet, courtesy of the female homo capsicanus moggius. Homo capsicanus primus eats only pub food and stolen crisps. Homo capsicanus pinkboxus can usually be found cooing longingly at cheese.

Status and conservation

The common chilli farmer has an extensive range, with sightings on almost every continent. However, they are extinct in the wild – no known populations are known outside of human environs. That being said, it seems to be fashionable to genetically modify normal humans into homo capsicanus, so like the humble mule there will seemingly always be a way of creating new specimens.

It is possible, though highly unusual, for a subspecies of homo capsicanus to revert to its former homo sapiens status. This is not a common occurrence, as the capsaicin contained within chillies has a hallucinogenic effect that proves highly addictive. Most subspecies have tremendous difficulty adapting back to the human world once they have been exposed, and will resist common sense and logic to remain in their capsaicin-fuelled environment.

Behaviour

Homo capsicanus is generally placid in public situations.  However, great care should be taken if encountered in the early morning – especially if this is before their first cup of coffee, in which case they are likely to attack without warning.  Homo capsicanus bondus is especially tetchy prior to midday, although he is usually to be found stuck in traffic at this time.

Homo capsicanus primus is frequently seen carrying out a ritual known as ‘going to Bookers’, sometimes as much as three times a day.  It is unknown why this behaviour is displayed, although there are theories that it relates to a circadian rhythm completely out of sync with the rest of homo capsicanus, or indeed reality.

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Homo capsicanus primus, bondus and moggius

Homo capsicanius moggius is largely migratory, spending much of his time roaming the countryside in search of a decent wi-fi signal.

Homo capsicanus beardus is a non-native species, believed to have migrated south in search of a decent pint of beer, a search he seems to take extremely seriously.

Homo capsicanus hobbitus spends much of his time watching men chase balls around fields.

Homo capsicanus pinkboxus has recently built a huge new nest, and her plaintive cry of ‘come to Meadow Barn, come to Meadow Barn’ can be heard across multiple media platforms.

Ecological outlook

There seems to be no reason why homo capsicanus won’t be around for the foreseeable future.  They are adaptable, tough creatures, not generally prone to disease and quite capable of ‘normal’ behaviour even after lopping bits of themselves off with kitchen equipment (which happens frequently).

If you encounter one on your travels please treat them with compassion – they’re normally in need of a damned good sleep, and if startled are known to inflict a substance known as ‘God Slayer’ on their victims.

You have been warned.

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One of these spends most of his time sleeping. The other is a cat.

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…

Owls

No rest for the wicked

Well here we are again…it doesn’t seem like that long since I last posted anything, but apparently it’s been six months.  What…how…have I been asleep?  Well the short answer is yes, but read on, dear reader, read on…

20151126_105857The back end of 2015 was, as expected, the full-on Christmas assault.  Now having been in Salisbury the year before I had a much better idea of what to expect from the market this time round, but it’s still a major exercise in logistics, willpower and stamina.  Twenty six days in a row is not the longest market…I get to go home every night and sleep in my own bed…and of course it’s not relentless sell, sell, sell every minute of every day…but somehow the drain on this hobbit’s reserves seems immense.  Might have had something to do with a diet consisting largely of cereal bars, meals that go ‘ding’ and caffeine…with the occasional hot chocolate thrown in for good measure.  This is not a healthy business to be in sometimes.

Of course I had stock collections to do, which added to the mayhem, but I managed to get into a rhythm with those and the days went by quickly enough.  And it really helped having some familiar faces around me, guys that I’d traded next to in 2014 – we’d formed a merry little band of bewildered traders, and co-opted some new members into Scrooge Central along the way.  Still, it was a successful market once again, and hopefully I can get in there again this year.

WCF LogoOne of the things that gave us an added headache just prior to the Christmas market was the decision to rebrand.  I’d been approached at last year’s Royal Cornwall Show by a design agency, Buddy Creative, touting for business, and after looking at their brochure we decided we’d get them in for a chat.  We hit it off really well with them, and took the plunge.  They came up with ten different concepts for us to consider, with a view to us picking one.  We failed.  Dismally.  The best we could do was keep it to two, with a bit of a third thrown in as well!  The trouble is this, and this will come as no surprise to anyone that’s met a few of us – we are all very different types of people.  Differing ages, lifestyles, viewpoints, possibly even species – so getting us to all agree on something is like getting Donald Trump to not be a pillock – it’s theoretically feasible, but the bookies ain’t taking odds.

So off the designers went to work up phase 2 – revisions of our chosen concepts.  Once again these were presented, and once again we argued long and hard.  But this time we were a smidgeon more grown-up about it and asked ourselves some really searching questions like ‘what are we trying to achieve’, ‘who are our target audience’, and more importantly ‘how can we twist the answers to give us what we instinctively want to do’? 🙂

And so…finally…a decision was made.  Further refinements were to take place, of course, and a vast amount of checking and re-checking of label text went on (we even managed to argue amongst ourselves about that)…but eventually what appeared was a great new look and feel that we are massively, humungously proud of.  We looked fine beforehand, but now we look just so damned sexyAll ProductsAs part of the process we were encouraged to look at naming conventions and have a theme.  Radical suggestions, we thought, we’d never consciously not had a theme – but that’s what had happened.  So it was goodbye to Hellmouth, and hello to Caribbean.  Chocolate Habanero is no more…to be replaced by Dark Habanero.  Both products are exactly the same recipe, just renamed.

reaperhabaneroHellish Habanero has – for now at least – bitten the dust.  In it’s place (sort of) is a new crowd-pleaser – Reaper Habanero.  Similarly smoky but a bit hotter, it’s proved to be mega popular and we don’t seem to be able to make enough of it.  Good old Septenary had a tweak as well, now being made as a Trinidad Scorpion sauce – the hottest all-natural sauce, and a real winner with the heat fans out there.  And God Slayer…well, we wouldn’t dare mess with the profane insanity of that, would we?  It’s still here, lurking under the counter to inflict on anyone daft enough to utter those words – ‘nothing’s ever hot enough for me’…

Everything else is the same as it ever was…just looking sharp in a fabulous new suit.  Much more colourful, bolder and sharper than before, but as lovely as ever.

It won’t stop with just new labels of course.  We’ll have new branded gazebos on display at events, new banners and flags, a new website should be on its way soon…we’re basically tarting up everything to be tartier than a tart’s handbag.  And if we can find enough pennies down the back of the sofa we’ll be sporting some new corporate threads as well, though right now we’re still buried under about ten layers of thermals so it’s a bit pointless.  It’s spring, allegedly, but by golly it doesn’t feel like it 😦

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Easter 2016. Storm Katie leaves her mark.

So as you can see we were busy at the fag end of 2015.  The theory was that we’d have some spare time at the start of this year to recharge batteries, take some time out and recover our composure and really plan 2016 with military precision.  Yeah, like that’s happened…the problem with embarking on a plan for world domination is that it’s just bloody relentless!

So relentless in fact that I’ll have to tell you about it another day…so, same time next month?  Don’t mind if I do…


20160316_121849_HDRNever did find the away kit.

(A gold star to anyone that understands that reference!)

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 🙂


CASSIE IS CALLING YOU, FUDGE.  IT’S TIME TO GO.