Tag Archives: WCF

March of the Poozers

Well, here we are again, only this time it’s distinctly murky.

20141101_085918The clocks have gone back, the nights are well and truly drawing in and – despite one last ridiculously warm Halloween hurrah – we’re all rummaging around in wardrobes for the thermals.  I have to confess at this point to being a bit weird and secretly liking long evenings, where I can lower the portcullis, pull up the drawbridge and park myself on the sofa to watch a film or catch up on some reading…all the while attempting to reduce the world’s chocolate supplies.  Not every evening, of course, because then you start to go a bit funny in the head through lack of human interaction…but once a week or so it’s sort of pleasant to hide from the world.

halloweenHalloween came and went without a single trick or treater knocking on my door.  I was at home, but  adopted blackout mentality with no lights on – in reality I was working upstairs, as I am now, in the study – but not a single ghoulish child crossed my path.  I even had my lollipops ready, just in case!  I do have mixed feelings about the whole trick or treat thing…it’s lovely to see little kiddies dress up and have a fun time, but when a surly teenager knocks on your door, mumbling incoherently at you, surely that’s a bit rich.  I veer between polar extremes of ‘it’s a lovely dressing-up event for the kiddies’ and ‘ghastly over-hyped American atrocity’ – and advancing years do nothing to change my views.  Of course when I were a lad none of this happened – it seems to have ballooned in the 21st century, driven by the crass commercial concerns of corporate retailers desperate to fill an event gap between the summer holidays and Christmas.  If I could think of a chilli-related angle on it maybe I might change my views!

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Ooh, look what I found in the tunnels

There’s been a lot of stock creation at the Farm over the last few weeks, yet we still don’t think we have enough.  Rough calculations (the kind we’re best at) lead us to believe we’re two-thirds of the way to having the right amount, even though we’ve been busy.  Of course it’s a good thing if we need that much, but it’s a bit daunting that – despite having more stock than ever – we’re still well short.  Of course this is a knock-on from being at so many events, we are victims of our own success, so I’m not complaining.  Oh well, another day on the bottling machine beckons tomorrow 🙂

20141025_154449Event-wise it all goes a bit quiet in October.  Even those events we do attend are a bit quiet – everyone is keeping their powder dry for the Christmas push, though I did win a frankly mahoosive cake at a WI function last weekend, which was a bit of a Brucie bonus.  There are signs that pressie-buying is just about kicking off – even though the number of units we’re selling is pretty stable, what we are selling is veering towards the scary end of the table, a sure sign of gift purchasing going on.  The supply of Voodoo Habanero box sets disappeared very quickly, and we’re keenly awaiting delivery of more, along with the new Fatalii sets.  The grinder box sets started flying out at the weekend, and I expect the 2-bottle sets will go just as well when we get them in.

2015 is taking shape already. frightening though that is to comprehend.  My inbox is burgeoning (yes, burgeoning no less) with mails about events for next year – some of which are repeats, some are new to us, some are completely new events with no history.  At some point in January there will be a gloves-off, no-holds-barred bunfight between all the main protagonists to discuss who’s doing what, when and more importantly why.  It’s a difficult task, with people having favourite events they want to go to again, some they think we should cover but don’t have the time, manpower or willpower to do, and a few left-field fightsuggestions that hang tantalisingly in the air waiting for someone to take charge.  2014 was difficult to plan, 2015 will – I suspect – be even harder.  I’ve learnt a few things this year though – namely, don’t fill in gaps too early, there are always events out there – even if they’re planned in at fairly short notice.

One thing I’m pretty sure about though – I reckon my cricket playing days will be extremely limited again, possibly limited to the point of extinction.  That is a real shame, but the bills have to get paid somehow.  I’ll try to sneak into a midweek  evening game or two, they’re unlikely to impinge on events too much.

Talking of events, we’re at a few this weekend:

  • Sheffield Global Market – Wednesday to Sunday
  • Bristol Temple Quay – Thursday
  • Reading Farmers Market – Friday
  • Sutton Benger Farmers Market – Saturday
  • Swindon Designer Outlet Farmers Market – Sunday

20141025_094316Pink Chilli Hobbit will be in Trowbridge as usual this Wednesday at her community market stall, selling all sorts of goodies.  At the last count she had 55 samples available for food and cosmetics…I have enough trouble coping with 10 or 12!  She’ll also be in Calne this Saturday morning selling chilli stuff, as well as other foodie goodies, so pop along 🙂

Had to drop off a delivery in Broadway (the Worcestershire variety) last week.  I may just have stopped for a nice lunch whilst I was there, it’s a lovely place – well worth a visit!

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And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I shall sign off for this post.

Have a great week, don’t work too hard, and remember to bow before your Poozonian overlords.


It’s Remembrance Day this Sunday, so spare a moment to think of the fallen from all nations, most especially the conscripts, that fought for their country.

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We shall remember them.

 

Back pressure build up

20140503_091926Yes folks, it’s now been a whole year since I was catapulted head-first into the crazy world of chilli peddling.  On October 5th 2013 I went to help Jamie at his stall in Devizes, only to be left in charge for the morning in what was to become my first ever trading day.  I can well remember the feeling of utter terror that washed over me as our illustrious leader left me to my own devices.  Although an enthusiastic fan of the product range I was hardly an expert, but I racked up reasonable sales – and haven’t looked back since.

A lot’s happened since that point, both professionally and personally.  I’ve bought two vans, which have occasionally run smoothly.  I’ve learned a lot about chillies, though it’s always a work in progress.  I’ve been loudly and menacingly accused of blasphemy.  I’ve developed a love/hate relationship with a bottling machine.  I’ve become known as the most irritatingly organised stall holder at a number of markets.  I’ve become a committee member of the Wiltshire Farmers Market Association.  I’ve been wet, cold and miserable on any number of occasions.  I’ve been hot, sweaty and bothered on any number of occasions.  I’ve had to embrace Christmas enthusiastically.  I’ve adopted market trader cheeky chappie as my language of choice on school days.  I’ve met Boris Johnson.  I’ve met the father of the lead singer of one of my favourite bands.

IMG_8554I’ve met all manner of customer, the vast majority of which are delightful, or at least harmless.   I’ve developed a Spotter’s Guide…

The Professional  You can see them a mile off.  They have the fixed stare of an addict, and they are making a bee-line for the stall, cutting across traffic flow and almost always heading to the hot end of the table.  Usually under 40, very often male, keen to find something new.  Not always the best buyers as they have cupboards full of the stuff (often our products).

The Interested Amateur  These are customers that like a bit of spice in their life, but aren’t sure if they can do the really hot stuff.  Often enthusiastic fans of our jams and Mango sauce, they don’t often go for the really hot ones but might try them for a giggle.

20140518_101617The What Have You Got Here’s?  Not chilli fans – yet.  Are the sort of person you like to see at events – they’re going to try a few things and see if they like it.  Usually go away with a milder jam or one of the less challenging sauces, but are occasionally lured into buying a hot one.

The Free Luncher  Come along and try everything, often so quickly that they can’t possibly be tasting anything.  They’ll have been spotted walking past the cheese stall, not breaking stride as they scoop up handfuls of samples for a free feed.  They are the main reason why we don’t use crackers for samples any more.

The I Don’t Like Chilli  Can be further subdivided into:

mr-yukThe Face-Screwer-Uppers – look like a bulldog chewing a wasp as soon as they get within ten feet of the stall.  Are keen to tell you what damage chillies do to their digestive tract, often at length, and quite graphically.

The I Once Had An Experience – have based all their knowledge of spicy food on having eaten a dodgy Vesta curry forty years ago, and have had nothing hotter than a korma since.  Scarred for life, they refuse to countenance anything exotic.  Probably vote UKIP.

The Will Try But…  – can be lured into trying something (usually Sweet Chilli Sauce) then run around like someone’s set fire to their tongue.  At least they’ve had a go, bless ’em.

The Can Be Persuaded – although they say they don’t like chillies, they’ll then agree that they do like sweet chilli sauce…and once they try ours you have them on the hook.

GiftThe Gift Buyer – seen a lot at this time of year.  Don’t do chillies themselves but are looking for presents for the family and friends.  Quite often go away with a product with a silly name (Bunny Burner, Hellmouth etc).

The Kids  Again, several categories:

The I Can Outdo My Dad – will try the hottest thing on the table and stand there getting redder and redder whilst claiming that they like it. Often accompanied by tears.20140412_145746[1]

The I Can Take Anything – occasionally spotted, indestructible children for whom nothing is hot enough.  Fear them.

The Lovely Children – the ones that you persuade to try Sweet Chilli or Habanero Gold who give a lovely beaming smile when they actually like it.  Often followed by excitable jumping up and down and persuasion of Mummy/Daddy to buy it pleeeeeeeeeeeease…

The Criers – persuaded by parents to try something a little too hot, will burst into tears.  Another good reason to have lollipops on the stall.

The Lad  All swagger and attitude, often approach with a bunch of mates and keen to show off.  ‘What’s the hottest you have’ is the question.  One application of God Slayer later and they’ve gone surprisingly quiet and their ears have gone purple.  Swearing often ensues.  They then buy a God Slayer to take down the pub.

bunnyThe Frightened Rabbit  An odd one, this.  They come up to the stall, start to look at the display, but if you speak to them they startle and run away.  Stallholder left in bemusement and checking to see if he’s applied deodorant that morning.

The Arm Folder  Stand five feet from the stall, arms folded in a very defensive pose.  Refuse all entreaties to get closer and don’t make eye contact.  Bizarre.

The Huggers  They’re bumped into their bestie at the market and decide to catch up on how Auntie Ida is, whether little Jack/Lily has started pre-school yet, or how fantastic their villa holiday to the Dordogne was…all this taking place directly in front of the stall, blocking access to other customers.  They are utterly oblivious and often find themselves being forcibly given samples on sticks just to remind them that they’re in the bloody way.

The Chilli Salt Convert  Don’t like chilli sauces, but will taste the Chipotle Chilli Salt, and once they’re done that they’re the biggest fan ever.  Often go away with one for their Mum/Dad/mate as well.

The I’ll Have One Of Each  Still waiting to meet this person.  One day, one day…

I’m sure there are many more…every market throws up another personality, another type of shopper, another mystery for us to unravel.  It’s what makes it fun, trying to work out which category each person fits into.

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On the product front we’ve cooked a lot lately – partly because we need the stock for the Christmas rush, partly because there’s a whole lot of chilli picking going on and we don’t have freezer space for everything – we just cook ’em straight vhbsaway.  That means we have the annual special edition box sets out.  This year sees a reappearance of the Voodoo Habanero set – Fruit Burst, Peach Habanero and Chocolate Habanero – which is already proving very popular.  We’re also producing a Fatalii set – with yellow and white Fatalii sauces.  We’re the only farm in the world to be growing the white fatalii chilli on a commercial scale, so we thought we’d better do fataliisomething with it!  The white Fatalii sauce is made with pears, so a little less sharp than the yellow Fatalii and it’s lemony twang, but they complement each other beautifully.  The fatalii set will be available in a few weeks, but orders being taken now 🙂

Of course we’ve reached the time of the year when standing outside selling stuff is getting colder and wetter, but we’re still flat out on the event front.  I’ve been to Salisbury, which was good practice for my extended stay there later in the year; a new farmer’s market opened at Sutton Benger, near Chippenham – a lovely little village, with great support from the landlord of the Bell House Hotel, 20141011_112132whose car park we used, made it a very successful event; Pink Chilli Hobbit has started running a department store under a gazebo – lots of different products, including chilli stuff, all at one pbbstall!  She’s doing a great job at combining a number of different lines in one place…it certainly adds flavour to markets where the producers don’t see benefit of going individually, but a bit of everything all adds up to a worthwhile venture.

Less of the big events in October, but plenty of regular markets to keep us busy.  This coming weekend we’re in Leicester, Reading, Gloucester, Swindon, Bath and Oxford.  We soon descend headlong into full-blown Christmas mode, so expect the Bah Humbug hat to make a reappearance!

That’s all for this week.  Keep the faith, clunk click every trip and toss me a droob.


 

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Nights are drawing in

 

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

 

Invigorated hands

Well hello again, it’s been a while.

A full three weeks has come and gone since my last post, what with being so busy and all.  This time of year is rammed full of festivals, food shows, bank holiday events and all manner of summer shenanigans – the practical upshot being that I’ve been so busy selling/cooking/bottling/labelling/having a bit of a lie down that the blog ha remained completely untended.  You have my apologies, I know that you are all sat waiting, precariously perched edge-of-the-seat style, finger-bitingly anxious to hear what the Chilli Hobbit has been up to lately.  Or not.  Maybe the latter.

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Biggest news of the last few weeks was the visit of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to the Farm.  Local prospective Conservative candidate Michelle Donelan, who we have met before, had arranged for Boris to visit Wiltshire to champion what’s going on in our lovely county.  Now as a serial chilli fan she chose us to represent the small business community, so we hastily arranged a bit of a tour of the facilities for Mr Mayor and his mad hair.  Now we all know Boris is up for a giggle, but little were we to know he was going to take a big bite out of the chocolate habanero that he’d just picked in one of our tunnels.  Now for the uninitiated, these are pretty damned hot – hot enough to stop a man Boris1who many are calling a future Prime Minister from being able to speak.  A politician lost for words?  You’d better believe it.  A swift can of sugary, fizzy stuff was procured to allow him to cool his gums before we could progress with the rest of the tour, but he now knows we mean business!  After the polytunnel he was given a tour of the kitchen, and then of a market stall we had set up for the occasion, where he was interviewed by the local BBC news – who incidentally weren’t interested in local business, they just assaulted him with questions about UKIP and the general election.

20140902_174419Now those of you that read my blog will know that I’m no lover of politics, or politicians.  But Boris came across as being – well, Boris.  No pre-prepared oily, slick responses to questions.  No twisting the conversation to national issues when asked about local stuff – in fact, he dragged conversations back to the importance of local business when reporters insisted on asking about national stuff.  He shook everyone’s hand on arrival, even the press.  He just seemed to be exactly what you expect, no more, no less.  I may not agree with his policies, and as a voter I am unlikely to put a big fat X in his box, but as a person I think he’s pretty genuine.

And of course Michelle keeps supporting local businesses – I read her articles in the local press, and it’s all I ever ask of our elected representatives to support their constituents.  If they do that, they’re all right with me.  All in all a really good bit of publicity for the Farm.  We got in to the national papers, Facebook went a bit nuts the morning after, and we all got shiny new polo shirts to smarten ourselves up with!  And we didn’t say the word ‘airport’ once…

So, what else has happened?  In no particular order of importance I have been to:

  • Westonbirt
  • Potterne
  • Reading
  • Swindon
  • Bristol
  • Ascot
  • Frome

Now, I hear you all cry in unison, did anything interesting happen at any of these events?  Of course I met lots and lots of lovely people, and sold lots and lots of lovely stuff, but what was noteworthy…?  Westonbirt was a 3-day event – Treefest – in amongst the loveliness that is the Arboretum.  It was a really nice event, although the Monday was blighted with utterly dismal weather.  The forecast was 100% correct that weekend, so I knew it would be, and took a good book to fill in the blank spaces between customers.  20140825_140448I’m not the sort to sit on my haunches whilst selling, preferring to be scanning the pack like a hungry lion looking for the kill, but when it’s bucketing down you have to keep yourself sane, and if that means a bit of Terry Pratchett then so be it.

Unfortunately the event shall be forever memorable to yours truly for the hair-raising drive home.  I packed up the van as usual, jumped in and pulled away, only to realise that I had no power steering.  Now this is not a disaster, just a case of driving more carefully than usual as quick directional changes were simply out of the question in a van loaded up with gazebo, stock and a fat biffer in the driver’s seat.  But what transpired was that it wasn’t just a power steering issue.  The serpentine belt that connect loads of gubbins (that’s a technical term, people) under the bonnet had snapped, thus robbing the Silver Machine of its ability to top up the electrics.  So, on the drive home, I was treated to a pushing-the-broken-down-van-mindocatastrophic failure of pretty much every piece of electrical equipment the van possessed.  So first, as I said, the power steering went.  Followed by the CD player.  Followed by ABS.  Followed by the wipers only just creeping across the windscreen.  Alarm bells were going off left, right and centre with warnings coming up to tell me to STOP NOW OR THE VAN WILL EXPLODE, or something like that anyway.  But I knew that if I stopped I’d never start again, so I limped home – with the engine stalling on me a couple of times and only restarting through a momentum-based jump start – in murky, rainy conditions.  I have never been more relieved and surprised to make it home in one piece.

However it didn’t quite end there.  I somehow managed to reverse on to the drive (knowing I’d have to unload fully and send the van off to mechanic cousin Alan and his big bag of spanners), turned the engine off and unclenched.  Then tried to open the door.  Now of course, like all modern cars, my central locking engages when I pull away.  So the doors had locked in Westonbirt, and now staunchly stayed that way as there was no battery power to unlock them.  Locked in.  OK, I thought, wind the window down.  But I have electric windows.  Still no battery power.  Bugger, I thought, or words to that effect.  So there I sat, relieved to have made it home…but locked in my own van, with now way of getting out!  Now I’m not particularly claustrophobic but the thought of being in there for some time was making me a smidge anxious.  I tried once again to unlock the doors and voila! there was just enough juice left to do the job…to a huge sigh of relief.

CBSo eventually the van got repaired, although it’s now at the body shop having its door fixed after the villainous exploits of Nottingham’s outlaws that I reported last time round.  To be fair it has been quite a giggle leaping in through the passenger side Dukes of Hazzard fashion, but as Catherine Bach has remained stubbornly elusive I’ve bored of it pretty quickly.

My trip to Potterne was to run a chilli eating contest at the cricket club‘s annual Beer and Cider Festival.  Now Potterne is my home village, and I have played cricket for the club since 1978, so I was really looking forward to the day.  I struggled to drum up support for the contest early doors, but as I suspected once the beer took affect, so the volunteers came, and by contest time I was actually turning people away.  I’d never run one of these contests before, and I’m IMG_9999_68-26 (Large)IMG_9999_81-32 (Large)naturally quite reserved and shy (really, I am) so the thought of wandering round in front of an audience (which included my Mum) both running and commentating on a chill eating contest was – to say the least – nerve-wracking.  But cometh the hour, cometh the hobbit and I simply engaged bulls**t mode and went for it.  It was a very entertaining interlude…there were tears…there was swearing…there was a little bit of sick…and a bit of flashing…but all in all it went very well.  The pre-match favourite Edgar won convincingly, with the scotch bonnet round getting all the other contestants running for the hedges at a speed that belied the amount of booze sloshing around their systems.  I was a bit naughty and got the crowd to encourage Edgar to jump straight to the peach bhut jolokia – the ultimate weapon in this contest – which he ate, though I think he regretted it afterwards!  I really enjoyed doing the contest, and look forward to the next one.

Thanks to Bloc from the club for all the chilli eating contest photos.

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The winner

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Not the winner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20140906_105527The other ‘first’ for me was a trip to the races at Ascot.  Not for the racing, but to take part in the Festival of Food and Wine, which was on a glorious day last weekend.  I’m not a horsey type, and apart from the National Lottery I don’t gamble, so a day at the races isn’t something that’s ever appealed, but it was an interesting experience.  It was really busy, everyone seemed to having a good time, and what struck me was how much everyone dressed up for the occasion – especially the ladies.  Some interesting hats were  on display, some of which could only be called hats due to their heady location…but that’s fashion for you I guess – I’m not one to criticise, what with my Don Estelle shorts and 3-for-£15 t-shirts.  But really…something that looks like half a giant Rolo with a flower stuck in it?  A hat?

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The rhythm of the day was interesting.  Most markets and festivals start slow, pick up through the middle, then die at the end.  This – being a race day – was slow at the start, picked up massively before the first race, then was steady all the way till the end – apart from when the races were on when everyone disappeared!  I soon got the hang of it, when the race bell went I knew I had a five minute break whilst the punters cheered on their chosen equine quadruped carrying a tiny man in pyjamas, then they all came rushing back.  A great event though, the Ascot staff were really helpful and friendly and made sure the traders were looked after.  I like that 🙂

So I think I’ve waffled enough for one week, now that the lunacy of the last few weeks has died down I’ll be back to weekly updates.  You have been warned.

This weekend sees me in Sherston and Bristol’s Tobacco Factory. with the Pink Chilli Hobbit in Avebury and Chippenham.  You can also find us in Frome at the Cheese Show, the Holker Chilli Festival and our usual haunts in Swindon Designer Outlet, Bath Union Street and the Chilli Hut in Green Park, Gloucester Green and Summertown Market in Oxford, and Reading Farmers Market.  We were due to be at Potterne Food Festival, but sadly the event has been cancelled.

Thought for the day:  why is the hand wash I’ve just bought say that it’s invigorating?  Do I need invigorated hands?


 It is well known that a vital ingredient to success is not knowing that what you’re attempting can’t be done

 

 

 

 

*** 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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

Wheeltappers and shunters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

+++ RANT OVER +++

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

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


 

A funny thing happened on the way to the market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Greenhouse

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!!!