Tag Archives: Pink Chilli Hobbit

King Gazebo is broken

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Phew.

That was a long, long few days and I’m not sure I’m allowed to slow down just yet.

Regular readers will know that I was somewhat nervous in advance of the single biggest event I’ve yet taken on – namely the Royal Cornwall Show in Wadebridge.  This had all sorts of things that could potentially go wrong, given that:

  1. I hadn’t done a show of this size before
  2. I was camping overnight – and I’ve never slept under canvas before
  3. The weather forecast wasn’t great
  4. My van was crammed to the gunwales with pretty much everything that wasn’t screwed down chez TCH
  5. There was a real potential for exhausted tetchiness on my part

So did it all go swimmingly?  For the most part, yes.  The camping bit worked pretty well.  The tent I’ve bought for doing this kind of thing (as well as holidays) was really easy to put up, and really stable in the face of some rather stiff Atlantic breezes.  And when I say breezes, I mean winds gusting up to some considerable 20140605_223053gustage.  The Showground is quite elevated and seems to catch the westerlies fair and square in the mush, but the tent was secure and I felt quite comfy in there, even when there was a terrific thunderstorm raging overhead…which was quite fun actually!  My main issue with the campsite was noise – we were all a bit crammed in, and what with generators, car alarms, partying neighbours and crying babies it left sleep at a bit of a premium.  Considering that, I’m looking forward to my next adventure in campology – I’ll just chose my pitch carefully.

20140605_124915Because of the wind King Gazebo took a bit of a beating.  Our position in the show meant that the worst of the wind came into the open side of the gazebo, and this had the effect of making it inflate like a balloon, putting a heck of a strain on the sidewalls.  One sidewall ripped its stitching, and several eyelets – pegged into the ground – just ripped clean out from the material, which is meant to be as tough as old boots.  Now it’s not terminal, but item 5 on the above list certainly came to the fore.  I suspect King Gazebo will need a bit of plastic surgery in the very near future, or possibly a transplant of some sort.

The van survived the trip well, not quite managing warp speed on the M5 but achieving decent impulse velocities nonetheless.  A few coughs and splutters along the way, but when the engine’s done that many miles smooth running is a bit of a luxury.

20140605_083831So was it all worth it?  Well I shifted a healthy amount of stock, learnt a hell of a lot about the way that these big events tick, and made a bit of money into the bargain – no more that I would have done at local events, but if you don’t buy a ticket, you don’t win the raffle.  And of course there are the less tangible benefits – good publicity, more customers in a new part of the world, new contacts and new shows to be invited to, wholesale leads and a sense of achievement for a job well done.  And, of course, there was the outside chance of getting a member of the royal family to try some out our chilli wondrousness – the Countess of Wessex did walk past the stall but I was too busy serving other customers to chance my arm 😉

Will I do it again?  Yes, almost certainly – with a few tweaks.  Same time next year then!

So after hot-footing it back from Cornwall on Saturday night it was straight back into the thick of local markets on Sunday – this time in Chippenham.  I have to admit that I struggled to bring my ‘A’ game to this one, running on empty and all, but it was a nice day and I had a bit of fun.  I did get to meet the prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for Chippenham, Michelle Donelan; she MPMaybeintroduced herself and I think was taken slightly aback by my response of ‘oh well, never mind’!  We had a brief chat about my utter disaffection with all things MP-shaped, but she promised me that she would be active in local constituency matters should she get elected – an aspiration I sincerely hope she lives up to. On the plus side she has a bit of the Kate Middleton thing going on, and both her and her equally lovely friend Emma were welcome recipients of my Free Lollipops For Single Ladies promotional campaign 🙂

The Pink Chilli Hobbit spent Sunday afternoon at the Snap Farm Fun Day in Aldbourne.  This was one of those events that you never quite know what to expect – they can be amazing or average, until you turn up you can’t be sure. In this case the locals were friendly, the local brass band were playing, and there was cider on tap! It was, by all accounts, a ‘fun day’, so job done 🙂

What else is going on then?  Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll know that the World Cup starts this week.  England have a bugger of a group to escape from, but if they manage to do that then the quarter finals are a real possibility.  Now I’m not much a fan of the preening old guard in the England set-up, but they do have some interesting young players coming through that possess real skill, so we’ll see which version turns up.  If it’s the exciting young guns playing massattacking football, then I hope we go a long way; if it’s the dour, park-the-bus mentality that tries to grind out narrow victories from a set-piece then I hope we get knocked out early to save ourselves from further embarrassment.  Of course as a Swindon fan I’ll also be supporting Australia – one of their squad, Massimo Luongo – plays for the Town.

KTI was shocked to hear of the sudden death of Rik Mayall on Monday, at the ridiculously young age of 56.  I loved his early character Kevin Turvey, and The Young Ones was inspired lunacy.  I never really fell in love with The New Statesman, but his fin de siecle Laurel and Hardy-esque slapstick in Bottom with Ade Edmonson was simply wonderful.  Unsophisticated in a brilliantly choreographed way, it had me roaring with laughter at the sheer stupidity of it all.  A great comedian, he will be sorely missed.

This weekend coming will see me in Ottery St Mary on Saturday, and at Melksham’s Food and Drink Festival on Sunday.  The Pink Chilli Hobbit will be in Bishops Cannings on Sunday at the Farm Festival, possibly the shortest journey to an event she’ll ever have – it’s about a mile from her business unit!  Other roving chilli hawkers will be in Oxford, Reading, Swindon, Malvern, Bristol and Moreton-in-the-Marsh.  I’ve just watched the weather forecast and it’s looking like wall-to-wall sunshine for the next few days (OK, not raining at least) so come out and join the fun 🙂

Time to catch up on Game of Thrones before I work at the Farm tomorrow, I was too busy drinking beer with BoTCH* last night to watch it!

Have a great week, keep the faith and beware of the trund.

* = Brother of The Chilli Hobbit

Mr Angry has spoken

anger

First up this week, an apology.

I am sorry.

There, I’ve said it.  Read into that what you will.  The gentleman that has sparked this wanton outpouring of regret, the gentleman that yesterday threatened and intimidated me loudly, aggressively – in fact furiously – will not know precisely what I am sorry for, because the full text of my apology has been written and subsequently deleted, from this blog at least.  I am not going to get drawn into the kind of foaming, spittle-flecked exchange that he obviously gets his kicks from, as his kind of verbal terrorism has no place in a civilised society that values free speech and tolerance.  I simply will not have any part of it, sir.

So, again – I am sorry.  But not what you think I ought to be sorry for.

im-sorry

And with that, we’ll move on to a life more chilled, in fact more chillied.

Having said that I’m going to move on…I am somewhat dismayed by the election results that have come out over the last few days.  I don’t hold a great deal of love for any major political party, working on the theory that MP/MEPs are either:

  1. Career politicians with no knowledge of real life
  2. Eton poshos with no knowledge of real life
  3. Junket junkies with no knowledge of real life
  4. Decent honest people that have been caught up in the helter-skelter of Westminster and have therefore lost touch with real life

upper class twit

So really – Nigel Farage is our best hope?  Here’s what I found in my dictionary:

buf·foon

[buhfoon] 

Noun.

1.  Nigel Farage

2. Boris Johnson

3.  The Chilli Hobbit, especially after a few adult beverages

Would you really want any of these people running the show?  I wouldn’t vote for me, I know what I’m like 🙂

(Gets off soap box…which is a shame really as it’s the only way I can reach stuff).

LetscookSo it was mega-busy at the Chilli Farm last week.  As Jamie’s at the Royal Bath & West Show this week we were on double shifts to cook enough supplies.  Much cooking, bottling, labelling and swearing was undertaken as we did our best to make sure our detailed estimates on stock requirements (not finger in the air guesstimates, honest) have been met.  We think we got it right…not sure though…time will tell.

20140525_105843The weekend, with the exception of what shall forever be know as ‘The Oxbow Incident’ referred to above, was a blast.  Saturday was a Royal Wootton Bassett day, Sunday was Bath Green 20140526_094647Street, and Monday was Salisbury International Market (complete with a race car for some reason).  All busy, sporadically dry, occasionally windy, amusing incidents aplenty and many, many tasters of God Slayer suffering the after-effects.  It never ceases to 20140526_100932amaze me how many people taste it, recoil in napalm and lava-fuelled shock, then say something to the effect of ‘bugger me that’s tasty, I must have one’!  It’s a remarkable testament to the endorphin rush created by the chemicals in chillies as well as the fantastic tastes that Dr Jamie creates in his laboratory kitchen.

The Pink Chilli Hobbit has returned from a lovely week on the Isle of Mull and gone straight back into the coal face, or as close a coal face as Bradford on Avon can muster.  She received a visit from a couple from New Orleans, on their hollybobs in the glorious rain of the UK, who were mightily impressed with the Chipotle Chilli Sauce and bought some to take home with them – to show Louisiana how it really should be done 🙂

nap-attackIt’s a busy couple of weeks, we all have lots of events – and BIG events.  As I mentioned above, Jamie’s at the Royal Bath & West over the next few days; also this week we’re in Frome, Bath, Swindon, Oxford, Marlborough, Bristol, Lechlade, Evesham and Kenwood House in London.  We’ll need a bit of a lie down after all of that.

Well, a hobbit can’t live on chocolate chip cookies and Planet Rock alone (try though I might).  It’s time I located the kitchen and pretended to cook.  The authorities have been warned.

Laters!

Recalcitrant owls

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Go away, it’s Monday and I’m not coming out to play

Well, where do we start this week?

Weather-wise it’s been absolutely fabulous over the weekend…unless you’re called the Pink Chilli Hobbit and have headed off to the wettest, windiest place in the UK – the Isle of Mull.  It’s her annual holiday destination these days, and I expect to hear tales of whales and discussions on puffins when she gets back next week!  It does look great up there though, it just tends to catch what the Atlantic weather systems throw at the UK square in the teeth.

So I’ve been let loose from my normal habitat of the south of England this weekend just gone, venturing up to the vaguely northern climes of Cheshire.  I know that’s not really very far north, but when all the place names are redolent of rugby league teams it must be far enough up to warrant the description.  Tatton Park just outside Knutsford (City Limits) was the destination, for a country show that turned out to be distinctly less tweedy than Thame a few weeks back.  I’m guessing it’s because the area is much more premier league footballer than rich landowner, but the comparisons are fascinating:

Thame – lots of labradors. retrievers and spaniels

Tatton Park – yappy little handbag dogs and posh terriers that have never seen a rabbit outside of the Waitrose meat section

Thame – tweed everywhere, plenty of it functional

Tatton Park – Hollyoaks chic in abundance, fake tans and tattoos on conspicuous display

Thame – accents varying from Mockney to West Country, with an abundance of Home Counties

Tatton Park – Scouse and Manc accents, with the occasional Black Country frontier gibberish thrown in to remind me of my days at North Staffs Polytechnic.  Nearly needed a phrase book at one point.

SignThe one thing that was markedly different from Thame was that my renewed lollipop supply remained firmly in place, although it was severely depleted by the end of the weekend.  Maybe it’s my sign that helped keep the felons away!

It’s certainly gained a few retweets today via Planet Rock radio.  It seems that my  attempt to ensnare a straying WAG put a smile on a few Monday faces.

And did it work?  That’ll be an emphatic no 😦 Will just have to keep putting the sign out.

What’s with the owl reference, I hear you all cry?  Alright, alright, maybe not all of you…but someone must have thought it.  Well it’s like this…there was a falconry display held in the main ring a couple of times each day, and what became apparent after watching it from King Gazebo is that:

  • Gyrfalcons are really fast, incredible agile and stylish
  • Harris Hawks are really smart
  • Barn owls are the dumb blondes of the bird world – gorgeous to look at but nothing between their perfectly formed tufty ears
  • Owls can be stubborn, ornery cusses

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The last fact was very apparent with one owl that was – to be fair – just coming back to show work after a long period on the sidelines.  After being released from his training line for the first time in 2 years he just sat on his perch and looked as confused as a UKIP politician trying not to sound racist.  After much cajoling, offers of tasty morsels and noises designed to encourage owlish types he sill sat there, refusing to budge.  In the end the handlers had to go and carry him back to his box.  Well, it was hot – why fly when someone can carry you?

As well as the falcons there were some serious outbreaks of cute…I give you…drum roll please…FLUFFY BUNNIES!!!

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I love the fluffy bunny huddle in the second picture – it’s like they’ve seen me with the camera and suddenly gone ‘sh*t, he’s seen us – how do we get out of this?’ 😀

Another thing that struck me about the area around Knutsford is the ostentatious wealth.  The houses are seriously upmarket, and the de rigueur architectural feature appears to be a bloody big front gate, preferably wedged between pillars of some considerable size.  And you know what I didn’t see whilst passing any of these houses?  People!  All the houses appeared locked and uninhabited, although immaculately maintained.  I guess when you have enough money for a house like that, you have enough money for several houses like that.

20140518_081418This was in the car park of the B&B I stayed at – a gorgeous, beautiful old Bentley.  I saw it on the road as well, and the noise from the engine was just wonderful.  It may not be economical to run, or meet EU emissions rules, but by ‘eck it has soul.

My 5-mile journey from the B&B to the Country Show took me past Range Rover, Bentley and Rolls Royce dealerships, huge cubic behemoths of showrooms with millions of pounds worth of vehicles inside.  I could almost feel my trusty 145,000-mile Peugeot van shrug with Gallic haughtiness as I drove past 🙂

Some final shots from the weekend – more hook-beaked raptors, and the guys from the Seven Dials Rapscallions – possibly the best-dressed shoppers I’ve ever had.

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Back to the farm this week, lots of production to be done to stock us all up for the next couple of weeks, which will include the Royal Bath & West Show, one of our flagship events.  For this weekend though you can find me at Royal Wootton Basset, Bath Green Street and possibly Salisbury (still awaiting confirmation on that one!).  The Pink Chilli Hobbit will be in Bradford-on-Avon on Sunday (if she doesn’t trip over a puffin on holiday, that is).  We’ll also been in our usual haunts of Bath, Swindon and Oxford, as well as Petersfield, Crabstock in Northampton and Marble Hill in Twickenham, the home of odd-shaped balls.  Blimey we don’t half get about.

Have a great week and look forward to another bank holiday weekend!

Gums are burning

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Nice weather for them

How can we dance when our stomach’s churning
How do we sleep while our gums are burning

(With apologies to Midnight Oil and their fantastic song ‘Beds Are Burning’, which they played at the Sydney Olympics closing ceremony)

Before I explain the inclusion of the rather mangled politically-inclined lyrics above, let’s start this week with some fantastic news.  Jamie from The Wiltshire Chili Farm entered four products into this years Taste of the West awards, and has come away with three golds and one silver award:

TOTW Gold Award 2014

Chipotle Chilli Salt – Gold

Lemon Chilli Pepper – Gold

Fireside – Gold

TOTW Silver 2014

Chipotle Chilli Sauce – Silver

Anyone that’s tasted these will not be surprised – all four are fantastic products that I just love selling at events, especially the Chipotle Chilli Salt – the roast spud’s best friend!  Congratulations to Jamie on the well-deserved accolades.

OK, on to the lyrics.  Well, this weekend just gone has seen me selling our hottest ever sauce – God Slayer.  This ferocious little number was hatched by Jamie and Bond a couple of weeks back when I was unfortunate enough to be working at the Farm and hence available for taste tests.  The words that sprang to mind (the printable ones, anyway) were ‘incendiary’, ‘malevolent’ and most importantly ‘why’?  It tastes fantastic but damn nearly warps holes in space-time.  Plenty of people sampled it over the weekend’s events, with the best comment coming from fellow trader Claire from Hive Originals (check ’em out, they’re great) who claimed some time after tasting that her tongue, lips and even gums were still burning.  That just makes me think we need to try harder, we want to get teeth to hurt…

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Salisbury St Georges Day stalls in Guildhall Square

No exciting tales of criminality to report this week.  Rather it was another weekend of the very British hobby of moaning about the weather.  I tried out Lechlade Garden Centre’s Friday Food Fayre (I’ll leave you to work out when) and left, after three hours of attempted trading, with a tide mark that soaked up the legs of my jeans to mid-thigh height.  Now I can hear you saying ‘that’s not very far on you’, but I do believe that if I’d have toughed it out till the end I would have drowned thanks to the capillary properties of my own clothes.  Unpleasant though it was I shall be back next month, new event organiser Laura is very keen to make it work so I’ll give it another go, and do a little anti-rain dance beforehand.

Saturday saw a regular trip to Royal Wootton Bassett, which was blowy but somehow stayed dry.  Another unspectacular trading day but God Slayer saw it’s first proper outing with me, and drew it’s first public expletives.  The wind played havoc with packing up at close of play, and I’m so thankful I invested in a sturdy bugger of a gazebo…it was a big expense at the time but is worth it in April weather.

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Jingle jingle jingle bloody jingle

On Sunday I was in Salisbury at the St Georges Day celebrations.  Lots of bunting, medieval jesters on stilts (as if I don’t feel short enough already), songs and plays, and – bloody hell – Morris dancers right in front of my pitch.  Now don’t get me wrong…there’s nothing I don’t like more than a bit of tradition…but the sounds of jingling bells all day is enough to give a man nightmares.  I can still hear them, jingling, jingling…

Having said that it was a nice event – plenty of people around celebrating the day of our favourite sainted Turkish lizard-botherer, the weather played ball during the event itself, and I managed to inflict God Slayer on quite a few customers with generally hilarious results.

So what’s on the menu for this week?  Well, it’s a busy old time I can tell you.  I’ve already spent some time at the Farm bottling loads of Chipotle Sauce, Hellmouth and Sweet Chilli…having a paperwork day today (such fun) and there’s a rumour of the press visiting the Farm tomorrow.  I’ve had my hair cut just in case.

The weekend coming is mega busy – starting on Thursday I will be at Bristol Temple Quay, Tidworth, Devizes, Frome Independent and Wanborough May Day Fayre.  Pink Chilli Hobbit will be at the ss Great Britain in Bristol on Saturday and Marlborough on Sunday.

On top of that little lot we’ll also be in Oxford, Reading, Swindon, Bath and at Eastnor Chilli Festival.  Phew.

Advance notice for any Frome-ites out there – we won’t be at the Farmers Market at the Cheese & Grain in May, due to having more bookings than I can handle!  If you need your chilli fix then come and see me on Sunday instead 🙂

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Am I obsessed by chillies?  Take a look at the shower gel I bought today and make up your own mind.

Seriously, how could I resist?

 

This weekend will see the start of the cricket season for me.  I’ve not touched a bat or ball since last August, but I’m hoping that my magnificent athletic prowess will enable me to wobble up to the crease and deliver my slow to even slower in-duckers with customary accuracy.  I’ve been saying for some time that once I lose the uncanny knack of bowling line and length I’ll give up and play golf instead, but I’m hoping that won’t be the case yet.  I still enjoy playing for my club Potterne and even though I’ll manage less games this year because of work, I’ll still support them when I can get there.

Well that just about wraps it up for this post.  Needless to say, I hope you have a good week and we’ll see you at the weekend!

PS I’ve just noticed that the bar of chocolate I’m currently munching has the words ‘easy reclose pack’ on it.  How does that work?

 

 

Blizzards of tweed

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Well, that was the weekend that was.  A busy old few days to be fair, and your friendly hobbit bloggist needed a bit of a slow day yesterday to recover, hence the tardiness of this weeks post.

So why so busy?  Well, Wednesday was, as usual, a day spent at the Farm…occasionally stirring the pot…occasionally filling large numbers of empty bottles…but mostly fighting with my nemesis that is the labelling machine.

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I have discovered a new condition – Bottler’s Thumb.  This is caused by many, many twiddles of bottles on the labeller causing some of the ink from the heat-shrunk caps to rub off on my hands, making it look like I’ve been fingerprinted by the rozzers.  It weren’t me Guv, you can’t prove it, I weren’t there, besides it was some geezer from Peckham what dunnit…

Trading wise it was a case of TCH on Tour – three events, none of them in Wiltshire.  Thursday was a visit to my old professional stomping ground at Temple Quay in Bristol.  Some former team members popped along to say hello, which was much appreciated (hello Nick & Jonathon!) and a pleasant market was spent observing the huge queues at the hot food stalls.  It was a bit slow, but I know from personal experience that the Thursday before Easter can be a bit quiet in the offices there.

Saturday saw me in Nunney (which still sounds like a Sarah Millicanism to me) for a craft fayre.  Nice place, lovely people, no-one came…luckily I had the foresight to take a book with me!  The best bit of the day came with a Dark Ghost chocolate eating competition – Sefy and Josh bought a bar and had a race to see who could eat their 50g bar the fastest, and more importantly with the least show of heatstroke.  As you can see from the pics below Sefy won.  Josh had a few tears in his eyes (I don’t think it was the emotion of the defeat) – and hence had to eat the lollipop of shame to recover from the heat 🙂

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The Pink Chilli Hobbit was at Sherston’s lovely market on Saturday – a very pleasant event, frequented by plenty of Easter Egg hunters from the event next door!  Martin and Jane always run a lovely, friendly market and despite it not being a huge event in terms of sales we just love doing it.  The one thing we’ve found out since we’ve started doing markets is that it’s hard work, physically quite demanding, but it’s also really lovely to meet people and sell stuff we believe in, often in lovely settings such as Sherston.  It somehow doesn’t feel like a proper job, even though it seems to keep us busy 24/7.

My first big event of the year was on Sunday and Monday, the Thame Country Show in Oxfordshire.  This was a much bigger event than anything else I’ve done before and I learnt a few things as a result:

  • a 4 metre wide pitch is quite a lot of space to fill up
  • the day goes amazingly quickly when you’re busy
  • hobbits can last surprising lengths of time between comfort breaks
  • Thame likes Chipotle Chilli Salt and Hellish Habanero

I was next to a pie/pasty/sausage roll/pork scratching seller who was very friendly, but who spoke auctioneer-speed East End frontier gibberish that left me completely baffled for much of the time.  He could have been a time traveller giving me hot tips on tomorrows races for all I know, but frankly I didn’t have a bloody clue what he was saying half the time.  I suspect he thought much the same of my West Country tractorese.

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The biggest shock to me was a bit of a reality check, and a sign that nothing is sacred.  All us traders keep a close eye on our stock ‘just in case’, and the vast, vast majority of visitors to events are as honest as the day is long.  Those of you that have visited my stall will know that I keep a supply of lollipops to hand out to small children/single women/people that need relief after trying the hot stuff.  I give them away for free.  I gave loads away for free over the two days in Thame.  So I was rather disgusted to find that, halfway through Monday afternoon, some larcenous scrote had stolen the jar with my remaining lollipops in it.  Now I will repeat – I give them away free – yet some lowlife had seen fit to scarper with the jar.  It’s not often that I’m lost for words, but for a period after discovering the Great Thame Lollipop Robbery I was just a bit flabbergasted.  Of course the words I was then capable of using are not fit for publication in a family blog such as this, but you can guess a few of them I’m sure.  Don’t think I’ll be submitting an insurance claim though!

Looking forward (a looong way forward) I’m pleased to say that our application for Salisbury Christmas Market has been accepted.  This is the single biggest event of the year for me, and will entail 24 days trading in a row in a chalet in Guildhall Square.  I’m really, really chuffed to have got in and am already looking forward to setting up a chilli hobbit hole for the event.  We’re also confirmed at Winchester, with other applications pending – it’s a hugely busy period for us and will doubtless cause logistical nightmares, but we will prevail.   Somehow 😉

So this weekend sees me in Lechlade Garden Centre (Friday), Royal Wootton Bassett (Saturday) and Salisbury (Sunday)…the Pink Chilli Hobbit is in Bradford-on-Avon on Sunday…and our other itinerant chilli peddlers are in Oxford Gloucester Green (Thursday), Blackpool (Saturday), Swindon Designer Outlet (Sunday), Oxford Summertown (Sunday) and Bath Union Street (every day).  You have no excuses to run out of anything these days, you know.

20140416_173257Finally, another image warning of the effects of repeated exposure to hot chilli sauce.

You have been warned.

Laters dudes.

 

 

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Today’s blog co-authored by Fudge.