Tag Archives: Pink Chilli Hobbit

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.

 

Rubber dinghy rapids

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was going to buy these but they were two deer

I was going to buy these but they were two deer

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

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

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Another promising career cut short

sackedGoddammit, I’ve been sacked.  Again.

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

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

bond_bug

What do you mean, wrong type of Bond girl?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Yellow, furry, and in my Mum’s garden

 

*** WARNING – CONTAINS SOBERING THOUGHTS ***

Now then, dear reader, you will be horribly aware of my predilection for the occasional rant.  In my advancing years I am finding more and more things to moan about, in true grumpy old man fashion.  However, many of the things I have a grumble about are merely speed bumps in the road of life, irritants that really do no more than wind me up a smidge, and frankly I should just get over it and move on.

20140816_075252This week, however, I feel justified in having a good old moan, for I have become a statistic.  And that statistic is to have become a victim of crime…nothing exotic, nothing that’s going to turn up on Crimewatch, nothing particularly newsworthy – but I have become one of the many, many people that have had their week ruined by the larcenous behaviour of some disgusting waste of air from the wrong side of the tracks.  To cut a long story short (phew, I hear you gasp) my van was broken into whilst I was away over the weekend in Nottingham.  The driver’s door handle was jemmied off, the skin of the door damaged beyond repair and – access gained – the perpetrator made off with a jacket that’s going to cost a fair bit of money to replace.  Needless to say, when I discovered my door handle in pieces in the hotel car park the following morning my language was something a little fruitier than ‘blast and damn’…but as is my wont I simply got on with the job of reporting it to the rozzers and getting on with the day.  The hotel staff were really good, they were as shocked as me that this had happened under their noses and were desperately keen to ensure that I was OK.  This may only have been a Travelodge – my expectations at budget chains are pretty low – but both the receptionist at the time I reported the incident and the one on duty in the evening were really, really helpful.  The PC that came out to see me was as helpful as he could be, and although it’s highly unlikely that CCTV will show up anything of note I’m sure they’ll do all they can.

In the grand scheme of things it’s a very minor incident, but it’s going to cost me several hundred quid by the time I’ve paid the insurance excess and lost some of my no cloooohaims discount, so it ain’t victimless.  And whilst it won’t leave me on my uppers, I could really do without it.  I’m not really the vindictive type, but I hope that whoever did this develops excruciating piles, and then someone gives them a vinegar enema.  And then rubs God Slayer into whatever’s left. Using sandpaper.

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So apart from that, what was Nottingham like?  Good fun actually…the event was really nice, lots of customers, lots of sunshine – though of course this being the school holidays there was rain as well – and being sandwiched between ice cream and first aid tents gave me an almost limitless line in banter when the hot stuff kicked in.  Chipotle Chilli Salt and Mango Hot Sauce seemed especially popular, I nearly ran out of both – but not quite.  I guess that means my estimation skills are pretty good!

The vagaries of the English weather came to the fore though.  It rained a bit on Sunday, fair enough, but overall Wollaton Park is pretty sheltered so, although it was a bit blowy, we weren’t really affected.  30 miles up the road in Newark the East Midlands Chilli Festival closed early due to damaging winds (stop sniggering at the back…).  Simon, our bod who was at the event, had some significant damage to his gazebo…after similar conditions at the Royal Cornwall Show back in June I can only sympathise.

A novel enough use for a gazebo weight

A novel enough use for a gazebo weight

Did somebody say Chipolata Sauce?

Apart from Nottingham not much has occurred.  A couple of busy production days at the farm last week, and catching up today with things like insurance claims and admin, so nothing exciting.

Of course the big taRWlking point of last week was the untimely passing of the great Robin Williams.  He was a comedian that I’ve been a fan of from very early on in his career…I loved his way with words, his flights of the imagination taking you on journeys that simply disappeared off at tangents barely comprehensible to most.  It’s almost impossible to imagine the pain and suffering he must have been going through to have reached the point where suicide seemed the logical conclusion.  Depression is a horrific condition – it’s hidden, insidious and devious…the victim often doesn’t know they have it until it’s too late.  It’s not like a cold where you get a bit of a sniffle, then feel a bit crap for a few days, then back to normal.  Having been a victim of it myself (thankfully not to anything like the same extent) I can assure you that simply ‘pulling yourself together’ does not – cannot – happen.  If you can do that, you do not have clinical depression – you’re just a bit hacked off.  Once you get past a certain tipping point with depression, logical thought holds very little sway.  You don’t get depressed about things, you just are depressed.  It’s disabling, it cripples your ability to deal with the real world other than just going through the motions…and without help, it does not heal. It traps you in it’s shadowy embrace, and although it may not be deadly it certainly constrains what you can achieve.

Depression-Ball-ChainIf anyone reading this thinks that they may be suffering from depression, please seek help.  Do not be embarrassed – there is no stigma attached to it in this day and age.  I got to the point where I could think rationally enough to to ask for help, though it took months to realise that…and it was the best thing I could have done.  It got me talking, it got me thinking about who I was, where I was in life, why I was here – and made me realise that I have many, many reasons to keep on keeping on.  I learned new ways of looking at things so that – although the temptation to slip back is always there, lurking behind every bad day – I can keep one step ahead and beat the bastard down.  Ultimately it gave me the courage to move on from a career that was grinding me down to one that is – whilst exhausting – full of laughter and joy.

Of course it doesn’t feel like that after the bottling machine spits Hellmouth at you.

So there you go – that’s a bit of a confession.  And yes, getting all my thoughts down in writing like this on a weekly basis is highly therapeutic – all part of the reason I now love what I do – it keeps me sane.  For a given definition of sane, that is.

Back to reality, this week sees me in Reading on Friday and Westonbirt’s Treefest on Saturday to Monday (thought our newest colleague Graham will be standing in for me in Sunday).  The Pink Chilli Hobbit will be in Royal Wootton Bassett on Saturday.

The reason I’m being subbed on Sunday is that I will be at Potterne Cricket Club’s Beer Festival for a chilli eating contest during the evening – which, after the contestants have had a few beers – could get very messy.  Now if only some outlaw scrote hadn’t stolen my waterproof jacket…

This weeks obligatory cat photo

This weeks obligatory cat photo


 Cricket is basically baseball on valium

Rage Against The Machine

If you’ll excuse the double entendre, it won’t be a long one today.  That’s partly because (a) I’m tired, (b) I’m late starting this today, and (c) it’s been a relatively quiet week at TCH Towers.

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Bertha

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Not Bertha

When I peruse my work schedule I often scare myself with the daft trips I plan…the recent bounce around England via all points motorway-shaped being a case in point.  So this weekend I had a short markets in Bristol, Sherston and Swindon – and it almost felt like a weekend off.  Pleasant enough events, steady trade, weather was OK (despite the horror stories put out by the BBC’s weather doom-mongers about Hurricane Bertha) and I got to Monday without feeling like I’ve been to the moon and back.  The other chilliwallahs were in far-flung outposts of Empire (Chichester and Edinburgh for example) – but this time I got to sleep in my own bed for the weekend and the cats haven’t disowned me for desertion.  Of course it won’t last, I’m off on my travels again this weekend.

I even got to see Swindon Town play on Saturday – that’s a real rarity in August as I usually play cricket, but with the change in emphasis this year I made the most of working a local market to get to the County Ground in time.  It was worth it as well, an opening day win in the sunshine…the defence still looks as watertight as a sponge, but hey – if they score 4, we’ll score 5.  It’ll be entertaining, if nothing else.

Wilts businessSo is there anything of real import to tell you?  Well, not really.  I did make the cover of a local magazine, but apart from that, not a lot.  No rants this time round.  No tales of Fawltyesque hotel stays.  No Biblical deluges.  No giant wasps causing havoc and carrying small children away.  No exotic locations.  In fact, I think the only other thing to mention is a minor triumph against one of the banes of modern existence – the traffic camera.  You see, I managed to pick up a ticket a few weeks back by transgressing into a bus lane in Reading.  Now I’m normally pretty good with these things and it was entirely accidental, but I thought I’d take it on the chins and pay up…until I looked carefully at the photo on the penalty notice.  I spotted a reason to appeal, and to cut a long story short, the appeal was upheld.  It’s probably a damning indictment into the banality of my existence that this is worthy of a momentary whoop of triumph, but hey – whoop!  That’s one less bill to pay 🙂

20140807_112807On the chilli product front we’ve just brought out our grinder sets – these look fab and will make brilliant Christmas pressies for the chilli fan in your family.  Come and find us wherever we are and we’ll gladly relieve you of some hard-earned cash.  Nothing new there, of course…

robin-hood-lady-1024So what’s on this week then?  Well, a couple of days cooking, a Farmers Market Association meeting, an attempt at some down time on Thursday (like that’s going to happen) and then off to Nottingham on Friday for a food festival in Wollaton Park.  It’s a part of the world I have never visited, so I fully expect to find everyone dressed in Sherwood Green and carrying a bow and arrow.  Stands to reason, really.  The Pink Chilli Hobbit will be holding up the Wiltshire fort as always, at the Wanborough Show on Saturday, and Swindon Designer Outlet on Sunday.

And that folks is that.  Told you that, like myself, it would be short and sweet this week!


Sometimes it’s better to light a flamethrower than curse the darkness

 

 

I’ve seen some things, man…

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last blog, and for that I am not remotely apologetic.  According to my calculations I’ve covered nearly 1,500 miles in that time, attended a number of events of varying shapes and sizes, got very dusty, very wet, and very annoyed.  Let me explain.

The last time we spoke I’d had a lovely event at a village fete and was full of the joys of summer.  Well folks, it’s all gone a bit south since then – but there have been highlights as well.

DSCF8001First up comes a trip to the RAF Museum at Cosford in the West Midlands.  They were hosting their second food festival, and hopes were high of a successful event.  The setting certainly was a bit different – in the shadow of a Hercules transport plane, near a hangar containing all manner of winged beasties of various vintage.  There were some really interesting things in there, and I was allowed to wander around behind the barriers unaccompanied before the site opened to the public (just mind your head, they said…do they not know I’m a hobbit?).  It was really interesting to be able to get up close to the aircraft, be able to peer inside and see just how basic some of the old aircraft were.  No in-flight entertainment here, folks.

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Another real highpoint of the show was a fly-past by a Douglas Dakota, which buzzed the festival on both afternoons.  I have to admit to having abandoned my stall on both flypasts – it’s not often you get to see that sort of thing in your work environment!  I managed to get some OK-ish photos even though it’s bloody difficult to pan a 30x optical zoom bridge camera to keep the object in frame and keep half an eye on your stall at the same time!

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The hotel I stayed at for this trip was a modern monstrosity in Telford, bland on the outside and functional on the inside.  What made my stay memorable were the exchanges I had with the staff on my second night there, which just goes to show how even a bland corporate hotel can be great.  Situation one – I managed to break the loo in my room.  The flush just broke.  These things happen, especially when loos are faced with swallowing the by-products of a chilli-based diet.  Anyway, I had to report this to the front desk, and on my way back to the room with the duty manager and the young receptionist I was asked whether I was a serial killer.  There was a reason for this – the duty manager was reading a book about a killer who was disposing of his victims down the drain, and naturally the Train-asks-passengers-to-not-to-flush-goldfish-and-ex’s-sweater-into-the-toiletobvious cause of my blockage was bound to be discarded brains and intestines and sundry other gooey bits, stands to reason, can be no other explanation.  The poor receptionist – not on the same wavelength as the two of us – looked a little taken aback, but soon got the drift of the silliness going on.  Anyway, bog confirmed broken, room swapped with no fuss.

sausagesSo then it was off to dinner, but with a complication – the bar and restaurant were shut because of a wedding reception, with one of the hotel’s conference rooms adapted for use as the restaurant for the evening.  I walked past the room first up, then doubled back to find it and asked the waitress ‘is this the pretend restaurant’?  She mocked indignation, so I changed my description to ‘temporary’ which met with a better response.  I ordered sausages & mash with gravy, which duly arrived…the waitress informed me that ‘if you want more gravy just ask…I won’t get it, but you can ask’.  I like staff like that, they worked me out pretty quickly and just had a good giggle.  I’ve spent many years away staying on business, and having a bit of banter with the staff can make even the most routine of stays a memorable one.

That’s in stark contrast to the owner of the B&B in Keswick I stayed in this last weekend.  He almost seemed to treat it as an inconvenience that I was paying him to stay in his establishment, and the fact that I didn’t see him again after checking in speaks volumes about his gregarious, victorhappy, cheerful people personality.  No names will be mentioned as I have lodged a complaint about the ‘hotel’, though I don’t expect to get any recompense for what was the most undistinguished hotel stay ever.  It wasn’t bad as such, just…well…featureless, cheerless, and depressing.  Staying away by yourself isn’t all beer and skittles I know, but I love travel and have worked out how to do it pretty well over the years.  This was one of the very few occasions when I was just uncomfortable in a hotel room, and thought long and hard about checking out after the first night and sleeping in the back of the van.  I didn’t, but the thought was there.  At least the local pub served a decent meal and pint of beer, so it wasn’t a complete disaster.

The event that led to this trip up north was the Lakes Chilli Festival, a sizable event that unfortunately fell foul of the weather.  There was of course torrential rain everywhere on Saturday, but the Lake District kept it up all weekend.  A fair number of tickets had already been sold so quite a few people turned up anyway, and of course anyone in the Lakes is used to those conditions, but it definitely kept numbers down.  It was a shame, as it would be a fantastic event on a good weekend.  The Lake District is a spectacular part of the country, one of my favourite parts of England – I seem to have a thing about any region with serious amounts of ‘up’.  Regrettably because of the weather I was unable to take any decent photos this trip, but that just gives me an excuse to go back!  The irony of event organiser Mark wearing a Superdry t-shirt – under a rain jacket – was not lost to us stall holders.

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In between Cosford and the Lakes was the New Forest Show in Brockenhurst.  Jodhpurs aplenty, tweed everywhere, and the pervasive whiff of horse poo – ah, it must be a country show!  The abiding memory of this one will be dust, thrown up by visitors as they walked around.  We had lovely dry weather for the whole show, the downside to this being that even in the food hall a hell of a lot of dust was in the air, which settled on displays, stock, stall holders and anything else that didn’t move very fast.  The normal start to a day at a show is a quick tidy-up 20140731_073045of the display followed by a cuppa – not this time.  Everything had to come off the table for cleaning, which led to the sight of bunch of male stallholders dusting – causing much amusements amongst the ladies!  The show was pretty good though, plenty busy enough, though I expect the ice-cream sellers did best of all.

One thing that did come to my attention is the epidemic of tattoos in the younger generation.  As it was a warm few days there was a lot of flesh on display – which had its good, and bad points – but I was taken aback not by the percentage of young people with tattoos, but by the percentage of flesh covered by those sporting body art.  I swear to the FSM that there were some lads and lasses Tattoos-21387475351wandering round that must have been almost entirely made of ink, such was the bewildering array of images on display.  Some of the artwork on the ladies was designed to draw attention to…well…parts of the body that you could get slapped for staring at.  There seems to have been a collective decision made by the yoof of today to not give a fig about how these things are going to look in a few years time, or in a more formal environment like a job interview.  Now although I’m not a fan of tatts in any form, if they can be covered up when necessary then that’s fine.  But unless some people are going to start wearing a burka there’s no way to hide some of these things.  Faces, necks, earlobes, kneecaps, teeth – every available inch of body space is now a canvas for something which is supposed to make the wearer unique, but when everyone seems to have a tattoo…well, it sort of defeats the object, doesn’t it?  I know this is beginning to make me sound a bit old-fashioned, but the word I have for all you walking galleries is moderation.  It’s something that a lot of people appear to have forgotten about – that less is more – and that somewhen, someday, you’re going to regret having that tattoo of your childhood hero Rolf Harris writ large across your forehead.  Can you see what it is yet?

And just don’t get me started on body piercings…

Of course none of this ranting made it into the interview I did with BBC Radio Solent for their Drivetime programme.  I’ve not heard it, but a few people said they had the next day, and apparently I didn’t come across as a gibbering buffoon.  Which is nice.

20140801_185242If you remember back to the start of this post (which is a long time ago I realise, there’s a lot of rubbish in my head to get out there this week)  I mentioned that I’ve covered a lot of miles in the Silver Machine recently.  Well, a not inconsiderable amount of that has been spent at snail’s pace on those miracles of modern transport infrastructure, the motorway.  I have had a lot of time to think of horrible, horrible ways to visit excruciating pain on those that designed the MSDFADO EC034M5 and the M6 in particular.  Were they actually designed, or did they just congeal from the fetid outpourings of some kind of asphalt hell instead?  My journey to the Lakes took 9 hours in total, a good proportion of which was spent thanking my lucky stars that I’ve just had a new clutch installed a couple of weeks back, as it was nose to tail for mile after mile after tedious mile.

alfaBut as always, my mind started wandering.  I was drawn to a number of things as I stared out at the endless sea of tail lights ahead of me, one of which was just how funky tail lights are becoming.  The advent of LED lighting has led to some whizzy designs these days, such as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta’s scrollwork…Jaguar XFs just look cool (well, they do from any angle)…and even workaday motors like the VW Golf and it’s sister SEAT Leon look pretty cool.  It makes things a little less dull in the queues.

Another aspect I noticed was the preponderance of personalised number plates.  Now I’ve dabbled with the idea of getting one in the past but then come to my senses, but they seem to fall into two schools:

  • those made up of initials that are fairly nondescript but mean something to the owner
  • those that spell out ‘humorous’ words or names

Now from what I’ve seen, those drivers in the first category are pretty normal (unless they’re in an Audi).  Those in the second category seem to drive like kn*bs.  It’s as if they’ve decided that reckless driving fits well with their zany sense of humour, my how we should laugh at them as they tailgate at 80mph in the rain, chuckling to ourselves as we notice their number plate spells out something like H 1 PPO or S 3 XXY.  The things you see when you don’t have your AK47.

fairydustAnd while I’m on one, what about the ‘Powered By Fairydust’ stickers?  You’ll see these on a Ford Fiesta or Renault Clio, driven by a lady who is almost invariably not terribly fairylike…usually quite pretty in a ‘she’d be really gorgeous if there was just a bit less of her’ kind of way, but let’s be realistic – the only dust in her house is likely to be on the exercise bike in the spare room.  And before you all say it – yes, I’m a fat knacker myself, but I don’t go round putting stickers on my car that say ‘Svelte Sex God’ or the like.

And relax…

So there we have it.  I’ve got it all out of my system, my therapy session is complete for this week.  See, this is what happens when I miss a post.

It’s still all go, go, go on the events front.  We’ve just got over one hump (Dorset Chilli Fest, Lakes Chilli Fest, Commonwealth Games among others) but we still have a bundle to do in August.  This weekend is another big chilli fest down at West Dean in Sussex – Jamie’s all lined up to do that one, it’s one of his big events.  We’re also at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta and Edinburgh’s Foodies Festival, so once again we’re covering the country in pursuit of chilli happiness.  I personally will be having a quieter weekend, only making it as far as Bristol, Sherston and Swindon.  I’ve chosen to stay closer to home as my winter torture starts again on Saturday – once more unto the breach of the County Ground and hoping Swindon Town aren’t going to make fools of themselves.  I’ll never learn, I realise that now.

TerryThe Pink Chilli Hobbit is at the ss Great Britain market in Bristol on Saturday, and Chippenham Farmers Market on Sunday.  She had an interesting encounter in Marlborough last weekend, with Terry from Kansas City.  He lit up a monster cigar with some Cranberry Kick on the end of it and described the ensuing results as ‘delightful’.  Now as a non smoker I’m struggling with that description, but each to his or her own.  Unusual is the word that springs to mind.

I think I’d better wrap up now as I think I’ve used up all the words in the world for today.  Oh…I missed out zymurgy.  How could that happen?

Just be thankful that I didn’t start talking about wasps.


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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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 🙂

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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.

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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….

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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!!!