Tag Archives: Pink Chilli Hobbit

It’s been a year

A year since what, I hear you ask?

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Well, it was early in July 2013 when I took my last salary from the corporate world.  After a 26 year career in IT I took the plunge into – well, initially – jobseeking.  It didn’t take me long to realise that the decision I’d taken some years earlier – to take a step away from the deeply technical side of IT and into management – had DSCF7972made things tricky.  There has been a trend amongst the big corporates to promote technical consultants into management roles and expect them to carry on their technical roles, whilst doing the management bit as well.  Now I could sit and pontificate about the rights and wrongs of that ethos for hours, but that’s just the way it is (bet you just sang that in your head).  And so, in a tactical error of the size not seen since King Herod launched his creche business, I’d become practically unemployable – at least if I wanted to earn anything like the sort of money I’d been on.

So I thought – if I’m not going to earn the same money – I may as well do something I enjoy.  And that, dear readers, leads me – via a rather tortuous and confused route – to where I am now.  Standing in fields, sunburnt/windswept/soaked/cold (delete where applicable), imploring people to buy chilli products.

And you know what?  I’ve never had more fun in a professional capacity.  I say to everyone that asks that it just doesn’t feel like a real job.  It’s hard work, tiring, unpredictable, irritating, all-consuming, confusing and badly paid…but what other career gives you the ability to tell grown men that they’re a wuss and to ask them to check their Man Licence, to inflict pain on people with Ghost 3.2, to hand out sweeties to small children and not get a visit from Operation Yew Tree, to advertise for single ladies in a brazen display of desperation, and above all to have a bloody good laugh and say that it’s imperative to the job?

DSCF7961So do I regret leaving the corporate world?  Well, it was better paid and less time-consuming, but I am immeasurably happier, and measurably healthier, doing what I do now.  And what I’ve been doing over the last week is more of the same, but in the best location ever.  I was lucky enough to wangle a spot at the Corfe Castle Food Festival in Dorset.  I say lucky because it was an event ostensibly for local businesses, but I am always on the lookout for new locations and would love to find some customers in Daaaarzet, as it should be pronounced.  Why?  Well, it’s where my Mum & Dad come from, and I spent many, many happy days in the county as a child, it feels like a second home.  My Uncle still lives there, and was happy enough to put me up for the weekend in his lovely thatched cottage with it’s rescued clay-mining paraphernalia in the garden..

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So the relentlessly cheerful Zoe at the National Trust  let me in, and I’m glad she did – what a spectacular setting for a festival.  Apologies for making this post look a bit like a photo album, but you don’t get market locations like this every weekend!

The Lollipop of Shame.  Hab Gold did this.  Wuss.

The Lollipop of Shame

But did Dorset like it’s chillies?  Well, yes it did – but this is where it gets a little confusing, as it often does.  Because you see, dear reader, I try to predict what the audience will want, and stock up accordingly.  So for for somewhere genteel and polite like Corfe I took loads and loads of jams, which I thought would fly off the table (and not just because of the inevitable breeziness that the location brings).  But no, Corfe is not a jam town.  The chutney stall next to me concurred – they didn’t do a roaring trade.  Luckily for me I have the Chipotle Chilli Salt solution to all meal questions, and quite a few of them shifted, so it was a decent weekend overall.

DSCF7978The only fly in the ointment was my second encounter with petty larceny.  I left my gazebo up overnight, sidewalls zipped shut, taking all my stock with me ‘just in case’.  What I didn’t take with me this time were my samples, which I left on the table in the gazebo.  Well, someone obviously came careening out of The Greyhound pub that night and desperately needed some Sweet Chilli Sauce for his post-binge chips, ‘cos there was no sign of it on Sunday morning.  I have checked repeatedly in all my crates to make sure it’s not me being a doofus, but no – someone’s swiped it.  Not the end of the world of course, but it’s amazing how that affected the psychology of customers…I had no sample on Sunday, so no-one bought any – whereas it had been one of my best sellers on Saturday.

Overall though, a lovely, lovely event – can’t wait to do it again next year.

King Gazebo amongst the ruins

King Gazebo amongst the ruins

A ruin within King Gazebo

A ruin amongst King Gazebo

On the flip side, I tried out Temple Quay in Bristol on Thursday and I just can’t seem to get it to work.  Now I’m not a believer in astrology – I don’t believe it matters if you were born a Libra, Scorpio, Humpback Whale, Great A’Tuin or under the sign of the Prancing Pony – but as Taurean I am of course a stereotypically stubborn cove who will plod along trying to extract a result out of a lost cause.  So I’ve been trying Temple Quay fortnightly, and whilst it’s good fun going to say hello to my former colleagues in the office, it’s not lucrative.  So I’ve made the decision to keep plodding away bullishly, but only once a month from now on – the first Thursday of the month.  So I’ll still be there, just less often…and I’m already looking at alternatives for the third Thursday of the month!

Tidworth was steady on Friday, unspectacular but it’s building slowly.  I’m not sure where everyone was on Saturday, but they weren’t in Devizes – the Pink Chilli Hobbit had a quiet morning there, though it was better in Marlborough on Sunday.

No reports back from Sheffield or the North East, will be interesting how many Ghost 3.2-powered cyclists were on the roads of Yorkshire for the Tour de France’s Grande Départ 🙂

pTerryOn  totally non-chilli note, it’s sad to hear that Sir Terry Pratchett isn’t able to attend the Discworld Convention this year.  It seems that his Alzheimer’s condition is taking its toll and that he’s not up to the task any more.  Hopefully he has a few more books in him yet, but it’s tragic to see such a brilliantly inventive mind struggle with the things that come so easily to most of us.  I’ve seen the effect that Alzheimer’s has, not just on the individual but on the family as well, and it’s heartbreaking.  You expect your loved ones to age and for body parts to fail, seize up or drop off, but the mind is the most precious organ and to see it get mired in the impenetrable pea-souper of incoherence that is Alzheimer’s is just horrible.  When it gets to the point that parents no longer recognise their children, no words can convey the empty feeling that engenders.  If you are dealing with the disease in any way shape or form, you have my utmost sympathy.

20140706_111724So shall we be a bit more cheerful for a minute?  Why, let’s do that.  Some  comments from the weekend:

  • ‘That tastes like fire’ (inspired by Ghost 3.2)
  • ‘Ooh that’s hot’ (inspired by Smoked Chipotle Sauce.  Much abuse followed)
  • ‘Eeeeeeeuw’ (inspired by Fruity Chilli Sauce, tasted by an 8-year-old.  No free lollipop for her)
  • ‘I know where you shop!’ (yours truly, spotting a customer wearing an identical shirt.  We’re not disclosing which top designer outlet we bought them from)

Looking ahead, I have an outbreak of chilli festivals coming up (if two can be called an outbreak).  I’m off to West Sussex this weekend for the Shoreham-by-Sea Chilli Festival.  I’m praying for decent weather as I’m camping it up for the weekend, just round the corner from Brighton & Hove (Actually) Albion’s Amex Stadium, which coincidentally I’m going to visit later this year for a Christmas Market.  The Pink Chilli Hobbit is at the Chippenham Food Festival on Sunday, this should be a good event so please pop along.  We’re also at Bristol’s Foodies Festival, Cardiff International Food Festival, Leicester Global Market and our usual haunts in Swindon, Bath and Oxford.

Lots going on in the background as well, looking at gift packs and clothing – I’ll keep you posted.

And on that it’s time to get back to the World Cup…don’t worry, it’ll be over soon.  At least another test series starts tomorrow, and we have another two-and-a-bit weeks of rouleurs, puncheurs, domestiques and soigneurs to talk about.  Say what now?

Your word for today is ‘apoop’  Use it wisely.

Contemplating Eindhoven

Love is in the air
Every sight and every sound
And I don’t know if I’m being foolish
Don’t know if I’m being wise

But it’s something that I must believe in
And it’s there when I look in your eyes

(c) John Paul Young

OK, so I’m not sure if gazebos (even anthropomorphised ones) have eyes, but there was definitely a certain frisson in the ether when Princess Pinkbox and King Gazebo finally met on Sunday.  As befits gazebo royalty though it was an intensely formal affair, and decorum dictated that a respectable distance was kept at all times, although your guess is as good as mine as to what may have happened whilst our backs were turned.  If Pink Chilli Hobbit starts to hear the patter of tiny gazebo legs in a few months…well, I guess we should have kept the covers on.

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That was at the Swindon Dragon Boat Race, which looked like a real hoot for the competitors.  I never knew that Swindon was twinned with Hawaii (although the football teams are on a par), but the sight of sinewy, sun-blasted youths powering their way through the surf to stirring anthemic music theme is  something I will never forget.  OK, OK…in the interests of reporting accuracy it was more like the local accountancy company (complete with Beryl from HR) trying to beat a team with Rocking Robin (Swindon Town’s mascot, for the uninitiated) as the drummer, racing to the theme tune from Hawaii-Five-O…but you get the drift.  It was good fun, I have no idea who won as we were away from the action a bit, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

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Apart from that it was routine trading in Lechlade and Reading, nothing of real note apart from a most confused response from a customer at the event in Reading.  He’d already announced himself as someone that doesn’t like spicy food, but – and kudos to him for giving it a go – he said that if you don’t open yourself up to new experiences you don’t know what you might miss.  He tasted the Mango Hot Sauce, which as we know is sweet, fruity and yet packing of a surprising wallop…and then said ‘that tastes really nice, but I hate it’.  I’d rather deal with customers like that – willing to try it out even in the knowledge they probably won’t like it – than the sort that sneer at you and pull a face like you’ve just pooed in your hand and thrown it at them.

Now here’s an interesting article.  You’ll remember the grief I was having last week in making Naga Chilli Salt – well, seems my discomfort was well placed – check out the article at this link.  It doesn’t surprise me, the basic chemical in chillies is basically a poison (as so many things are).  Don’t let that put you off though 😉

So in a bit of a departure this post I’m not going to wobble on about the weather, England’s World Cup non-performance, or any of that sort of drivel.

Instead, t20140625_123058his week I shall give you a few behind-the-scenes snippets of life in the chilli kitchen, just so that you know what we mean when we go on about cooking, bottling and labelling.  Here’s one of our sauces in its pre-cooked state, in our big cooker.  Any ideas which one it is?  (No sneaky scrolling down to see the answer now…)

That’s right – it’s Mango Hot Sauce.  I know, I know…it looks nothing like it, but trust me.  The mangoes are at the bottom of the pan, waiting to be blitzed with our monster blender, as you can see below.

20140625_123250This is not the Masterchef school of cookery, it’s pretty industrial in it’s methodology – it has to be that way to produce the numbers of units we do, even with a smaller batch.

Even so it is done with a great deal of care and attention.  Ingredients are measured out accurately, temperatures are controlled carefully, and timings are of paramount importance.  True, there is an awful lot of verbal abuse flying around – it seems to aid the flow of the day – and keeps spirits up when there’s a heck of a lot to do.

So once everything’s been blitzed it’s left to cook, usually with the blender left in situ to continue to break up the chunks so that the sauce goes through the bottling machine.  Watching the sauce get sucked into the murky depths, only to go round the pan and appear again can be quite hypnotic.  It’s almost like a screensaver…

So once that’s all cooked it gets transferred to the bottling machine for…well…bottling.  Now it’s a bottling machine with a semi-automatic process, in that the sauce gets poured into a big hopper, the operator hits the foot pedal (pretending to be John Bonham or Neil Peart whilst doing so), desperately hoping that he’s remembered to put a bottle under the nozzle.  This is almost always the case, but in the mindless repetition that is the bottling process occasional mistakes occur.  We’ve all done it…

For a batch of Mango in the big cooker like this one you’re talking in the region of 750 bottles, so you can see how the occasional lapse in concentration occurs.  We are but flesh and blood, ladies and gentlemen, and the later in the day it gets, the stupider the flesh and blood becomes.

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The Leaning Tower of Mango

But by and large it goes without incident, and you end up with large numbers of crates stacked up like the picture to the right waiting for some helpful sort to load up the sack truck and wheel them over to the old kitchen for capping and labelling.

Capping involves slipping a heat-shrink cap onto each bottle and then holding it in a cunning device that is basically an electric coil with a v-shaped plate in front of it to rest the bottle.  The caps shrink in a second, and then on to the next stage – which I hate – sticking the ‘best before’ stickers on.  There is no easy way to do this with standard bottles, as we put the stickers on the bottom of the bottle to stop them rubbing off in transit.  Tedious isn’t the word.

Labelling is another semi-automatic process.  Another machine with a foot pedal, though for reasons I’m never quite worked out we have it at counter level and tap it with a hand.

And that’s what we do…time after time after time.  It’s pretty repetitive so we take it in turns to be on the bottling machine, or capping and labelling, or making salts, or whatever else it is we do to bring our products to you.  Last week though – thanks to Jamie trying to remove his own fingers in a van door and someone taking the stabilisers off Bonds bike, guess who got be Mr Bottle for 2 days?  Though it’s a bit repetitive it’s what gives me a real buzz when I sell something on the stall – I can quite often say ‘I made that!’ – and you don’t get that from a checkout operator in the supermarkets.

So, anything else of interest out there this week?  I have to admit to having lived in a bit of a chilli-shaped bubble over the last few days, so it’s entirely feasible that the Martians have landed, taken over the White House, been ousted from office (probably by Bruce Willis wearing a sweat-stained vest) and order restored.  I just wouldn’t have noticed.

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Greener by the day

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Banksy has nothing on us

20140629_064838On the left – this is why I’m late getting to work some days.

 

 

This weekend coming will see us in Bristol’s Temple Quay, Tidworth, Devizes, Corfe Castle, Sheffield, the North East Chilli Festival, Corsham, the Cotswold Show, Frome, Shaftesbury, Marlborough, Bath, Swindon, Oxford and – after all of that – the pub for an adult beverage.  But not Eindhoven…not yet, at least.

Back to the football, such as it is. Another turgid match where the favourite goes through.  Boring!

Sayonara peeps, catch you next time.

Gorgeous stalkers

Once upon a time, in a kingdom to the west, lived a proud and honest king – King Gazebo.  He ruled over his population with a firm but fair hand, and provided shelter from the storms for all his subjects, often putting their safety ahead of his own.  With his ruddy complexion and weather-beaten visage he was much loved, and looked forward to many years of devotion to his people.

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But despite the respect and admiration of his people, the one thing that King Gazebo did not have was love.  He was content, but alone.  So it was with great interest and not inconsiderable hope that he learned of a beautiful princess, Princess Pinkbox, who had just come of age.

Princess Pinkbox

She lived in a kingdom to the north and was proud and haughty, with stunning complexion and striking pink hair.  Could this be the one, he thought?  Would his long years of loneliness finally be broken?  It was with much excitement that he sent his messengers forth to arrange a meeting, where he would impress the Princess with his worldly wisdom and raffish charm.

But alas…the reply was not what he wished for.  The Princess, although delighted by the King’s desire, had to rebuff his approach.  For it seems that the King and the Princess, through the twists and turns of royal diplomacy, would never meet.  Though both were much enamoured of the other through reputation, it seems that they could never, ever meet, and thus it appears that their tale remains a love unrequited…Princess Pinkbox would never be Queen Gazebo.

But then again…

So there we have it…there’s a new canopy on the block.  The Pink Chilli Hobbit has finally taken the plunge and bought her own gazebo.  And of course, in keeping with her predilection for all things cerise, it has quite a lot of pinkness about it.  It’s the same make and model as mine, so will get the same admiring glances as she shelters from the blistering summer sunshine (yeah I know, but we can hope).

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Summer is coming

Though slightly dissing the weather there, it’s actually been quite pleasant over the last few days.  Moaning about the weather is a national pastime amongst market traders (the collective noun for which is of course a grumble), but in all reality there’s not a lot to bitch about this week.  So of course we’ve had to find something else to whinge about – in this instance it’s the alleged economic recovery.  Now I don’t know about you, but I keep hearing about this economic indicator pointing upwards, or that growth rate being at it’s best for yonks…but I’m not seeing it in the real world.  Everyone is still understandably very, very wary about parting with their hard-earned cash. And to be fair – so am I.  It’s a natural consequence of the economical mire we’ve been in over the last few years, and I’m not sure what will fix it short of a massive tax cut – which won’t, and in all reality can’t happen.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not moaning about my lot – I’ve genuinely having the most fun I’ve ever had in the workplace – but I’ve had to postpone the order for my yacht again.  It’s just not fair! 😉

So where was I over the weekend?  Well, once again I was in foreign territory – this time Ottery St Mary in Devon, for their Family and Food Festival.  The pitch was a little challenging – basically on a busy thoroughfare with the back of the 20140615_104612stall to the continuing traffic (tricky when the Harley Davidson Owners Club went past) – but there was a steady flow of customers through the day, and Devon was pretty keen on our stuff.  I had a damned good giggle inflicting Chocolate Habanero on unsuspecting teenage girlies, thus getting some kind of belated revenge on being a sad fat wallflower back in the 70’s.  Vindictive?  Me?  Only a little.

And there were Morris Dancers.  May the Flying Spaghetti Monster help us, there were Morris Dancers…

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Sunday saw me on home territory in the form of the Melksham Food Festival.  This has a certain nostalgia value for me, as the 2013 festival was when I made my first appearance behind the counter for the Wiltshire Chilli Farm.  After a couple of months out of work I’d had this crazy idea about helping Jamie out with selling his magnificent products, and as a taster session I came along to his stall 20140615_104526to help out for the day.  I can remember being extremely nervous, feeling very  out of my depth, and really unsure about engaging Joe Public unless they approached me.  Now, 10 months later (thanks to the date of this year’s festival shifting earlier in the calendar) I can sum up my progress in one encounter: one of my customers this Sunday described me as being more shameless than JamieLet’s examine that phrase again – more shameless than Jamie.  For those of you that know our illustrious leader you will realise just how much of a stretch that is.  For your humble hobbit to have gone from meek, mild-mannered introvert to shameless hussy in such a short space of time is both remarkable and alarming in equal measure.  Penfold’s gone all Dangermouse 🙂

On the subject of this year’s festival, it was fun – but then it always is!  No chilli eating contest this year (as they’ve moved the date we didn’t have the chillies) but a steady turnout again, maybe a bit lower than hoped but I think that was a combination of it being Father’s Day and also the morning after the night before…the night in question being one where England started their World Cup campaign at 11pm our time.  I tried to watch it all, I did honest, but I don’t remember much after Mario Balotelli’s goal.  In my defence I had been up since 5am, the Devon trip was an early affair :-/

EnglandFans-300x217So were we any good from what I saw?  Well yes, it looked like we gave it a damned good go.  We attacked with purpose, scared the pants out of the technically more capable Italians, and were undone by defensive naivety and poor finishing by Wayne and his Amazing Technicolour Haircut.  Still it was a decent performance and, with Uruguay being stuffed by the footballing superpower that is Costa Rica, there’s still hope of progressing into the knockout stages.

For those of you mad enough to have read this blog before and have still come back for more, a couple of revisits.  I posted a couple of weeks back that I was being delightfully upstaged by a young lady by the name of Charlotte.  Her Mum mailed me after that post to tell me that my tiny sales rival was really proud of her appearance here and had printed it out to take to school with her – I can’t explain just how good that made me feel 🙂  I also received a short video clip of Charlotte telling people not to double dip – priceless!  (Apologies for the size of the video clip, I can’t work out how to resize it in WordPress…anyone out there know how to do it?)

 

I also received a second visit from our local aspiring politician Michelle and her chum Emma.  You may remember they popped up in Chippenham last week and were delighted by their free lollipops.  They didn’t grab one this time but have since tweeted and asked me to give them one…in fact two.  And I thought I was the cheeky one!  Always happy to oblige my gorgeous stalkers 🙂

MFF

20140613_203214I was at Potterne Cricket Club last week for an evening with former England player Matthew Hoggard.  He came along to coach some of the kids, who loved the session even though I suspect some of them didn’t have a clue who he was.  I always enjoyed watching Hoggy play – he was a top quality English-style seamer who knew his limitations with the bat.  There was always something of the earnest, unpretentious professional about him – I just can’t imagine him launching Hoggy – Eau de Yorkshire cologne.  I managed to drag him down to my level – literally – for the obligatory photo 🙂

552777_10151845396694622_666811166_nSo Game of Thrones has finished for another season.  What am I going to watch on Monday night now?  I may have to read a book instead.  I hear George RR Martin has some good stuff out there.

And with that I will wrap up for this week.  You can find me in Lockeridge and Kingham this weekend, and we’ll also be in Bath, Swindon, Oxford, Reading, Corsham, Chippenham and Devon.  And that’s a quiet weekend.  Strewth.

Have a great week, it’s nearly hump day already and the weather is playing ball…for now!

Life…good in parts, but no substitute for the real thing

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?