Tag Archives: Chilli festival

Wheeltappers and shunters

Firstly, a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a tin of heavily processed meat.  And contained herein, dear reader, lies a confession.

Now I know that you’ll all have been thinking that as a purveyor of fine chilli foodstuffs my kitchen must be well stocked with all manner of food loveliness.  Well it might come as a shock, but no.  Open my kitchen cabinets and you’re more likely to hit with an errant Pot Noodle than foie gras.  I am, if nothing else, a typical single bloke in the eating stakes, and that generally means one of two types of food – either a takeaway or ‘how fast can I cook it so I don’t miss the football/cricket/cycling on the telly’.  And one of those things often found Chez Hobbit is that wartime favourite – Spam.  I tend to have a tin or two knocking around for those occasions when I need something in my sandwiches and have been too busy, tired or just plain lazy to get to the shops.

spamSo why am I telling you all of this?  Well, it came to my attention last week as I opened a tin of the Python’s favourite foodstuff (with it’s attendant inadvertent self-mutiliation possibilities) that Spam has its own website.  And Facebook page.  And Twitter feed.  And Pinterest page.  And Instagram account.  Seriously dudes, WTF?  Now I know that in  this day and age everybody, everything, has to have an outlet – I am proof of that.  But Spam?  A quick perusal shows that the manufacturers are cashing in mightily on the current slew of Monty Python dates, even offering up a recipe for Spam Popcorn, which just defies comprehension.  I guess kitsch has many guises.

WFMAOn to more mundane matters, and I thought I’d tell you of a role I’ve picked up lately as a direct consequence of working with the chilli farm.  As I (or the Pink Chilli Hobbit) attend a number of markets in Wiltshire it sort of made sense to take an active role in the Wiltshire Farmers Market Association (WFMA), so I am now a full-blown committee member.  It gives me an insight into the way the association runs, and a voice in the way the markets are organised.  I’ve attended a couple of meetings so far and whilst sometimes it’s tricky doing the schizophrenic thing of representing the market community as a whole – as opposed to what’s best for the Wiltshire Chilli Farm – it’s fair to say that most of the time they go hand in hand.  One task I took on last week was to represent the WFMA at a Royal Wootton Bassett Town Council meeting.  Now I’ve never attended a council meeting before, and several things struck me:

  • it was very old fashioned in it’s language
  • it was woefully poor on timings
  • when you’re just there as an observer, waiting for your slot, it is soul-destroyingly dull
  • it’s even more dull when you can’t even play Candy Crush Saga (on silent, I’m not that much of a berk) ‘cos you’re low on battery

W&SNow to be fair, of course, the subjects being discussed were of great importance to local residents, of which I am not one.  But I couldn’t shake off the feeling that it was all a bit…well…1930’s in approach.  I got a real blast of nostalgia when some comment or another suddenly brought to mind ’70s variety show The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club, which if you’ve not seen it is worth a look on YouTube just to remind you that however tedious Celebrity Masterchef and Strictly Come Dancing are, at least they don’t feature Bernard Manning.  It was a show definitely of its era, with the host prone to cries of ‘It’s been brought to the attention of t’committee…’, hence  why it sprang to mind last week.  But nevertheless I survived the RWB Town Council experience, tired but triumphant, but only in the knowledge that it probably won’t be the last time I have to do it 😦

chilliThe other major event for yours truly was a feature in Friday’s Swindon Advertiser.  You may recall that we’d had a visit from them the week before to take some photos and listen to our random thoughts, but I was pleasantly surprised by the article when I read it.  Thankfully my age didn’t get a mention (the fact that I can remember the Wheeltappers & Shunters is a bit of a giveaway), the photos did sterling service in chin limitation duty, and it had the desired effect of getting a few punters along to the Swindon Chilli Festival the next day.  I bought a copy to show my Mum, of course.

The Festival itself was a bit underwhelming, but I’m pretty sure that our old nemesis – the weather – had the largest part to play in that.  It was, as I’m sure you will have noticed, a stormy old few days, and the rain – whilst not constant – was absolutely torrential when it did arrive. 20140719_141849 The BBC’s weather droids did their level best as always by frightening people, advising them not to leave their homes in case of Biblical floods, typhoons, krakens and other things they needed to use up their graphics quota on.  It was also the first festival of this type in Swindon, and these things need a bit of history before the crowds flood in.

The local samba group tried to liven things up, though all they really managed to do was deafen the audience (customers and traders alike) which left us flailing around in a very poor attempt at sign language, trying to describe the incendiary properties of Red Septenary among others.  And really guys, samba is meant to be a joyous thing…


Prior to that I’d tried Gloucester (or Gloooooooooooucester, as it’s spelt at Kingsholm) Farmers Market.  It was on Friday (weekdays are never fantastic), the last day of school (everyone rushing off on holiday), and it was our first time there (no loyal audience), so it was no surprise that takings were lower than Vladimir Putin’s popularity ratings.  Will I try it again?  Maybe, as long as it’s en route to somewhere else – it’s a long old trip for an experiment.

One other thing that has been cemented in my consciousness this week is just how abused our glorious English language is.  I’m not talking about the grocer’s apostrophe, or the seemingly inevitable invasion of Americanisms such as nite, donut and  pants when you mean trousers (pants are undercrackers, people!).  It’s the abuse it gets when well-meaning organisers label their event as being ‘awesome’, as has happened for the chilli festivals I’ve been at over the last couple of weekends.  Fun, enjoyable, good-natured yes…but awesome?  I have extensive knowledge of Swindon and nothing – nothing– has never been awesome in the town.  Not Diana Dors.  Certainly not Mark Lamarr.  Not even the football club’s promotion to the top tier of English football some 20 years ago, and I was there so I should know.  awesomeIt was remarkable, exciting, heart-stopping and nerve-wracking – but it was not AWESOME, especially in caps lock.  So I say to these people – just don’t.  You’re not fooling anyone.  Not in Swindon, especially.

+++ RANT OVER +++

20140720_124503Sunday was spent trading for the day at a delightful village event in Sutton Veny, down in the south of the county.  The event was a village fair at a lovely nursing home, and it was thankfully not billed as awesome, or any other irrelevant adjectives.  It was a proper village event – run by volunteers, all profits going to charity, and with no pretensions.  Everyone seemed to know everyone else, and even if you didn’t you felt like you did by the end 20140720_124406of the day.  There were proper stalls like a coconut shy where you got to win a coconut, not a fluffy toy made in a Chinese sweat shop.  There was a bouncy castle that the adults ended up playing on.  There was ice cream and candy floss.  There was a raffle, where of course one person kept winning all of the prizes.  And above all, there was a feeling that everyone there was having a good time, including the stall holders.  I went expecting to make a few quid and no more, and that’s what happened.  But you know what?  I don’t care, I really enjoyed it.  The sun was out, there was live music being played by a variety of people that could actually play in tune, and when it wasn’t busy on the stall I just sat on my stool and read a book.  I could almost certainly have made more money going further afield to a bigger event, but it did me the power of good just doing a quiet one for a change.


I shall stop burbling on now, for I fear I have overstayed my gibbering welcome once again.  I’ll just give you a quick update on this weekend’s events.  I will be in Lechlade Garden Centre on Friday, en route to the Cosford Food Festival for the weekend.  The Pink Chilli Hobbit is in Royal Wootton Bassett and Bradford-on-Avon.  We’re also out and about at the RNAS Yeovilton Air Day, Brindley Place in Birmingham, Hylands House Game Show, Glasgow Food Festival, Lincoln Food Festival and our regular haunts in Swindon, Bath and Oxford.

Another hectic weekend then, but that’s just how we roll.

Hope the weather stays nice for you, try not to work too hard, and ladies – now that I’m famous – if you really want me to autograph any body parts, just form an orderly queue…

richard-kruspe-bNo-one claimed their free lollipop by providing me with an answer to last weeks quiz.  The answer was Richard Z. Kruspe, lead guitarist with that jolly German boy band Rammstein.  Be ashamed that you do not know these things.



+++ Divide By Cucumber Error. Please Reinstall Universe And Reboot +++


A funny thing happened on the way to the market

denver-zooI hate the internal combustion engine and all its attached gubbins.

Basically, it goes like this.  I was due to work a market in Reading last Friday on my way to Sussex for a chilli festival.  A large part of Thursday was spent packing the van, rearranging things, loading up camping gear, working out which stock I needed just for Friday so as not to need to unload everything in Reading.  Got up at sparrow-fart in order to trundle off to Berkshire in good time to set up (I hate being rushed), fed the cats, set up the automatic pet feeder for the weekend,  smug_motivation_by_urchie1991-d4khzj7checked the lights, locked up, all the stuff you usually do before going away for a couple of days.  Jumped in the van, rather chuffed that I was getting away dead on time.  Put the keys in the ignition, put my foot on the clutch pedal…and realised that there was no clutch pedal.  Or rather…there was, but it was irreversibly sucked into the footwell of the van, resisting all entreaties to lift up it’s little French head and be used to enable me to change gear.  Now there are a number of ways in which I could have reacted, but it’s a testament to the rather more stable mental space I now inhabit that I didn’t go all Basil Fawlty on the Silver Machine.  I suspect that it was largely because – frankly – I’d seen this coming and knew Monsieur Clutch was rather unwell and not long for this carthrashworld.  Also, if you’re going to break down it’s best to do it at home where you can just go back indoors and put the kettle on…so much better than catching fire on a roundabout.  Which has happened to me.  That’s a story for another day.

Of course, much faffing ensued.  The good people of Enterprise (alas not the starship variety) were more than happy to rent me a behemoth of a van for the weekend, and to be fair it was rather pleasant to blat down to Shoreham in a ’14 reg Ford Transit with lots of toys, and more to the point toys that worked.  And being frankly enormous it was much easier to load up, though of course the fact that I had to completely unload the van that I had only loaded up the day before was a tad irritating.  I need the exercise, I kept telling myself.

With all of this larking about I actually headed off to Sussex a bit earlier than anticipated, and beat the worst of the M25’s Friday afternoon mayhem, so there was definitely a silver lining to it all.  Not that I can afford a silver lining this week after the hire costs and the impending clutch replacement!

So how did the weekend go, I hear you not ask?  Another one of those events that frankly left me bemused…a multi-day chilli festival that was definitely a game of two halves.  Saturday was busy enough and reasonable numbers were shifted, but Sunday had the tourists in – lost and lots of people mooching in to a free event, eating samples , and then buggering off without so much of a sniff of 20140713_074120interest in shaking the moths out of their wallets.  I know, we all do it, but by gum it’s irritating.  I don’t have it as bad as some of course, my samples being tasters on sticks, but those giving out samples on crackers were going…well…crackers.  It was if the people of Shoreham had taken their cue from the seagulls that plagued the event by coming in for a free feed.

As is usual from this kind of event I came back with several pots of other vendors stuff – we may be in competition with each other, but there’s some damned good stuff out there that we don’t make…we don’t have a monopoly on great recipes.

Still, I made enough to pay for the van hire, had a lovely stay at a nice camp site, managed a visit to the in-laws and jump-started my enthusiasm for reading thanks to there being no phone signal to distract me at the camp site.  I was even far enough from any decent pubs to keep me out of mischief, the downside to that being that I had no idea that Germany had won the World Cup until I asked my mother-in-law on Monday morning 🙂


Jamie had a much busier event at the Cardiff International Food Festival, selling more than everyone else combined.  Thankfully he’s not smug, mainly because it costs a lot more to get into these things than the events the rest of us were doing.  Everyone else’s events were pretty steady, though the Pink Chilli Hobbit had a good day in Chippenham on Sunday.  The Food Festival (essentially an expanded monthly Farmers Markets with knobs on) seems to have been well attended so that bodes well for the future.  PCH is currently on missionary work in the far north (OK, Harrogate) for her own business PinkBox Boutique.   She’ll come back talking all incomprehensible and northern after a few days up there.  Makes a change from incomprehensible and southern that we’re all guilty of!

The chilli plants are getting big…it won’t be much longer before I’m able to lose myself amongst them.  I realise that’s not much of an ask, but even so it shows they’re on the way up an a hell of a rate.


We had a nice visit from the Swindon Advertiser who wanted to interview us for the Swindon Chilli Festival, which happens this Saturday.  If things go to plan there should be a piece in this Friday’s Adver and – assuming the camera didn’t break – some piccies of yours truly trying not to look to self-concious whilst posing in front of the tunnels.  I’m just just hoping the camera angle keeps the chins down into single figures.

In other news…Jamie cuts a sinister figure in his Naga Salt making outfit…digging the marigolds….


Miss Bristol and the Mayor of Bristol appear mightily unimpressed by being asked to ‘taste’ some of our chillies for a photo shoot.  Mayor & Miss BristolI don’t think they were keen.  If this is what Bristolians think of their chillies no wonder I’m having trouble at Temple Quay!  (And before I get a sackful of abuse from Brizzle – yes I know you love our stuff really 🙂 )

So what next for this intrepid chilli adventurer?  Well, the aforementioned Swindon Chilli Fest (in the centre of town, Canal Walk to be precise) is Saturdays gig.  Before that on Friday I will be trying out Gloucester signpost-blankFarmers Market to see what that’s like.  Sunday is a mystery right now.  I have the possibility of four events spread across Wiltshire. Oxfordshire and  Dorset.  There is also the possibility of none of them happening…but we’ll just have to wait and see.  I’m not one, as a rule, to enjoy being unsure of where the heck I’m meant to be this close to the weekend, but all of them are an easy drive away so I’m less fazed than usual.  Something will happen.  It may be good.  It may not.  It may rain.  It may not.  Whatever.

We’ll be in our usual haunts, as well as more exotic surroundings such as the Bristol Harbour Festival, Tatton Park Foodies Festival and the Gower Chilli Festival.  That’s the Welsh place, not a festival held by the former England cricketer.  Really, really can’t imagine him enjoying a slug of Ghost 3.2.

And that folks, is that for this week!  Keep the faith!

SignIf you can name the gentleman in the ‘Smugness’ poster above I’ll give you a free lollipop if you see me this weekend – regardless of your age or marital status 🙂

No cheating!!!