Thursday, July 30, 2015

Tomato heaven

Some of you with long memories may remember a post I did about my ability to fail, consistently, at growing tomatoes.

Well folks, this year I DID it *Loud fanfare reverberates across continents*.
I have a greenhouse full of delicious sweet orbs of all shapes, colors and sizes. Their smell instantly takes me back to my Grandfather's greenhouse in Ellington Colliery, a small mining community in the North of England.

Granda Reid was a master gardener who could raise the most exquisite flowers and vegetables. Alas, his secrets on how he created this magic died with him at the tender age of 63. He died from Pneumoconiosis (Black Lung), a common Coal Miner's disease. The description on his death certificate said Pneumonia. Maybe it was easier to spell, but I suspect that was done so the mine did not have to pay compensation to his wife, but I digress.

As a small child, I would stay over at my Grandparent's house for large parts of the summer, and run feral with the other kids in the village. In more quiet times, I would sit with Granda in the semi tropical atmosphere of his sanctuary. He was already showing symptoms of the black disease even then and couldn't walk very far, so we'd sit on small wooden 3 legged stools called "Crackets", and he would tell me stories about growing up looking after his brothers and sisters after his Mom died.

After the story, he would pluck one of his beauties off the vine, slice it in two with a knife he always carried in his pocket, and hand it to me. As I held the fragrant fruit in both hands, he would get up and go to a little drawer in his potting bench and take out a small tin box that had salt and pepper in it. I would hold out my hands with the glistening halves of Tomato in them, and Granda would sprinkle a little on each half as if conducting a well practiced ritual,
He would then watch me pop them in my mouth and waited to see my expression.

Yesterday, I was running late to get to our weekly music session, so I grabbed a snack to eat on the way over in the car. I sliced one of my precious tomatoes, buttered 2 slices of bread, and seasoned it with salt and black pepper. I quickly wrapped a napkin round it and bolted out the door.
As I started the car and backed out of the drive, I could smell my snack. Suddenly, I was back there in the greenhouse in Ellington listening to Granda and watching him wipe his glasses on the tail of his shirt, which always stuck out on one side of his pants as if it was trying to escape.
I pulled a half of the sandwich out of the napkin and bit into it, while pulling to a stop at the end of the road. The flavor was so intense, I had to pull over by the side of the road so I could enjoy the many sensations in my mouth. The sweetness and acidity of the tomato being complimented by the salt and heat of cracked black pepper, not to mention the creaminess of Irish butter, rendered me unable to move.

I must have sat there for at least 10 minutes with the juice running down my face, relishing the memories and thinking of what my Granda's expression would be as he witnessed the pure joy of such a simple pleasure.

Got to go, I can feel a tomato snack coming on ..............

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Now, where was I?

Ah yes, I remember now.

I was wallowing in self pity and trying to write angst ridden poetry. I have learned a lot this past year, not least that I can't write poetry,....... not even close.
I promise not to inflict any more on my loyal readers.

The cause of my absence has not gone away, I have just learned to cope with it a lot better. With the help of good friends and some counseling, I have eventually taken back my life and have reentered the realm of a functioning and feeling person.

I am in London at the moment staying with my friends, Jill and Paul, after having just spent two wonderful weeks with my Dad. He is in great spirits and in remarkable health, despite having had a heart attack last year. Here is the old boy on his new mobility Trike.

Jill and Paul had to go to a funeral yesterday, so I had an unexpected day free. I took the train to Guildford, and set off into the town for a wee explore. It was baking hot, especially in the high street, and very smelly on account of the smog, so I went in search of a nice pub or restaurant to try some local produce. Sadly, the offerings were not that interesting. I made do with a lovely Italian Restaurant called Olivo, with a cool and quiet Patio.

They had a pleasant 2 course fixed price menu, so I took a seat on the empty patio and relaxed with a large glass of Orvieto. I had not been there long, when I was joined on one side by a young Italian family, and a couple from Hong Kong on the other. The twin Italian boys, started taking pop shots at me with their make believe guns, using the cutlery as weapons. Mom and Dad were deep in some loud and heated debate, so were completely oblivious at the outbreak of the 3rd world war. The lady from Hong Kong was becoming irate at the refusal of a table she wanted, despite being clearly labeled as reserved. As she was ushered into the seat closest to me, she swung around with exaggerated annoyance and cracked me over the head with her shoulder bag.
She looked at her bag to check I hadn't damaged it, and then sat down in sullen silence. Not for long though. While I was deflecting incoming missiles from the Italian front, she got up again, spinning around abruptly and cracked me on the shoulder. She looked at me as if I had just shit in her shoes, and proceeded to harangue the waiter who was trying to deliver my lunch. I have no idea what the problem was, but as she was looking at me, I presumed that there was not enough room, in the otherwise empty restaurant, for the two of us I shot her.

I didn't actually, but I sooooo wanted to.

The waiter kindly offered me another seat, so I decamped at the other end of the Patio, leaving the Italian boys to dispose of her.
The food was OK, but not worth the hassle so I took an early train back to the house, and spent the rest of the afternoon sunning myself in the garden and dreaming about a news report of a massacre in an Italian restaurant.

See you all soon

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Longest Day

A new day dawns, metaphorically and actually. On this Solstice morning, I met an old friend I had not seen in years.

He has been living in this house hidden in plain sight.

We enjoyed the Sunrise together, reminiscing about old times. I gave him a hug after breakfast and we made a promise not to be such strangers in the future.

Welcome home.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Spellinh mistakes courtesy of East Coast Raiil

I am sitting on a train heading out of Newcastle on my way back south to Londn after 2 weeks of visiting my Dad. I treated myself to a 1st class ticket ( which was not much more than a standard class), so i have free wifi and fodd and drink service. i thought i would take advantage of the 31/2 hour journy to catch up on my blogging. However, I have not aken into onsideration the lack of investment in rail travel over the last 20 years or so, which makes rail travel, even 1st cladss feel like riding a very bumpy roler coaster.
I have just ben served a large glas of red wiine and I am taking bets as to howw much gets drunk, and how much gets pored over my nice clesn shirst.
I am happy to report that Dad is alive and well on the aniverery of his 90th Birthday. He is smaller, less steady on his feet, and has a few more shakes than 6 months ago, but is remrkable, considering he had a hert attack in February last year, which nearl floored him completely.
It never gets any easier saying goodbye, as we both keep thinking this will be the last time we see each other, but we romised to see each other in 6 months which gives us both something to look forward to.

The lokelyhood of me having a clean shirt when i arrive in london has now been decreased with the arrival of lunch. All bets are off.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The day for the "Talk" is fast approaching.

I took our son to a community dance this weekend, along with his friend Sally (Not the real name) who lives next door. Legend Jr is almost 10 and Sally is almost 12, just about the right time for her to "Blossom."

I remember my old Jr School teacher, Mrs Wilson, telling us rag tag 10 year old boys that Maureen would not be changing with us anymore for Gym, as she had blossomed.
We had NO idea what she meant, but we assumed she had some nasty disease as she had to get changed in the janitor's closet, so we never did get to see what all the fuss was about. My only sex education was gleaned from the walls of the toilet block. For years I thought women got pregnant by having someone shove their finger in their ear. Obviously, the diagrams were not too accurate. One of the more enlightened boys tried to show me how it was done by thrusting his loins at a small hole in a tree trunk in our back garden. I still failed to see what sticking your spiget in a hole in a tree could possibly have to do with making babies.

I was a slow learner.

So, back to Jr and Sally.

These two have been palling around for the last two years since she moved next door. She has accompanied us on many trips and Island excursions, and to all intents and purposes was just one of the boys. However, when she came over to the house on Saturday dressed in skin tight leotard bottoms and a skimpy figure hugging shirt, I couldn't help notice that her boyish figure had vanished.
Legend Jr apparently, had not noticed any change, that is until we got to the dance.

After several energetic numbers had been played, and a lot of jumping around had been performed,  Jr came up to me and whispered confidentially that  Sally had "jiggly bits just like Mommy."
After I snorted out my red wine through my nose and all over the table, I quickly regained my composure to try and deliver his first sex education lesson.

I briefly explained to him that Sally was getting older and her body was developing in a way that would enable her to have babies some time in the future.
"What will happen to me when I am old enough," he asked in that tone of voice you know is going to come back at you and bite you in the arse.
I told him his voice would change and he would start to grow hair on his body, just like Daddy.
He asked if his Spiget would get any bigger, and I affirmed that it probably would, in time.

He thought about this for a while and then asked me if I was still waiting for that to happen.

He gets me every time. Just like a lamb to the slaughter.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

A good start to 2014

Happy New Year all y'all, as they say in Texas, allegedly.
The only time I have been there was when I got stuck in Dallas, on route to Colorado. I may have heard that very expression used, but I was full of Tequila and so jet lagged, I couldn't walk. I do remember getting a taxi from the airport into down town, as the driver pointed out where Kennedy had his brains blown out. I think he was impressed by my perceptive nature when I told him they had done a good job cleaning up the mess.

Speaking of messes, I can say without equivocation, that 2013 was one of my worst years on record. Sure there were highlights. I think I documented every one on this blog. So you see, there was much to be left unsaid.

I have a feeling that 2014 will be different. My Labor Compliance Consultancy landed a big contract, after chasing them for 2 years. Things are still slow, but at least crawling along instead of lying prone like a snake on life support.

You may remember, I have resurrected my catering skills to keep some cash flow coming in, instead of flowing out all over the floor. That has been quite lucrative and is picking up week by week. I am chefing at one of my favorite veggie places on the Island (Snapdragon) on the 18th where we will be doing an Indian Tapas night, with favorites such as Mushroom Massala, Punjabi spiced chick peas, and Pakora with yoghurt curry sauce. If it goes well, I may be allowed to make it a regular occurrence.

My wine making is going from strength to strength, with friends pushing me to make it more official, i.e. sell the stuff instead of drinking it all. I took a major risk with the 2012 Cabernet by bottling it a year early. What on earth for, I hear you ask.  America is suffering from an acute barrel shortage. Who knew?
Not me apparently.
The day before the 2013 Cabernet was due to go into the barrels, we were still missing a very important part of the process.
Ooh, you are good.
Yes, we also had a shortage of empty barrels.
I decided to bottle the 2012, to free up the aforesaid barrels, so we didn't fuck screw up the 2013 production.
As it turns out, it is delicious and very fruit forward (Think Beaujolais Nouveau.)

And last, but not least, my good friend Kat Eggleston's dad is now safe in a wonderful senior center on the Island. He is suffering from dementia and has been a handful for her to care for. This new life for Al has meant she is now free to play and travel, so Middlemarch (Kat, John Dally and yours truly) will take wings and maybe end up playing somewhere near you.

So wherever you are, whatever you do, make 2014 a year to remember.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bits and bobs and the lovely Hestia


I was back home in the North East recently to see my dad, who is recovering from a major heart attack. He is 89 and still living at home and doing a very good job of being independent. Since my last trip 6 months ago, he has become more frail and a tad forgetful, but he still insists he does not need help. I was only allowed in the kitchen to eat the food he prepared for me with loving precision. He wouldn't even let me wash up. I did get to take him out in his car for small trips to see relatives, or do the shopping at Aldi. You know time is hanging heavy when he insists on taking their catalog home to read. I couldn't get him to stay anywhere for more than 10 minutes before he wanted to be back home. I didn't understand this until my sister in law told me that home is where my Mom is in his mind, and he just wants to be back with her.

I did score one success on this trip. I found him a mobility scooter he can use to get to the local shops. He doesn't really need it yet, but it won't be long before that short trip will be out of his range. When we got home, he took it out on the pavement to try it out. As he was backing it into his garage, he looked at me and said, " Well, it isn't as exciting as my old Yamaha 250, but I will get used to it."

Apart from seeing my Dad, I had two very special surprises. A good friend of ours, Victoria and her daughter Kaitlyn, were in Greece as a present for Kaitlyn's graduation. They ended their trip by coming up to the North East to visit me. It was a very special few days, as I got to show friends from my new home, how special my old home is. I took them to see the castles and beaches, of which there are many in Northumbeland, and we hiked part of Hadrian's wall.

We stopped in for lunch at the Battlesteads Pub in Wark, a highly acclaimed Gastro Pub and had some wonderful cheese and potted ham. The home made piccalilli tasted wonderful, but it did look a bit like cat vomit. Too much sauce and not enough pickle.

I did notice a sign in the toilet that perhaps reflects the current anti immigrant feeling in the UK.

Apparently, they are not too easy to dispose of up here.

When I go back, I always have to go for dinner at the Rat Inn, one of the best pub restaurants in the country. Their Lamb is to die for, and their beer selection is sublime. The girls ended up their brief stay tucking into the best food this region has to offer.
They promised a return visit. I hope so.

I spent some time with Terry Docherty and Pete Scott in Newcastle the following week, catching up with the local music news and trying out all the new beers and watering holes down by the old quayside.

I got to sing at a folk club and found some new songs that I just have to learn. I took the train back down to London on the Friday, and got to taste a "Fantastic Pastie" at the central Station, the subject of one of Pete's songs.

When in London, I always try and see my two lovely friends Jill and Sarah, both from school days. I usually stay with Jill and her husband Paul, and we save one night for a few drinkies in Soho.

 Last, but certainly not least, I got to meet the Lovely Hestia (Alison Cross). Now to say this lady has considerable talent, is a bit like saying the Pope is a Catholic. I love her writing, her humor, and all the little ways she has helped and encouraged me to write over the last few years. She was in London at a Tarot conference where she was presenting, and had some free time for a lunch on Sunday. I met Ali and her husband and son at the Dickens Inn. We had tried to get Jo from "A Girl's guide to turning 50" fame to join us, but we failed to let her know where we were in time for her to be there:(

To use one of Ali's expressions, I luff her. We had a great lunch and a wee walk through the deserted streets of the city, before they went on their way and I headed back to Jill's for the night.

I am now back home on Vashon and straight back into the routine.

What a memorable trip