Day 320: Lay Lady Lay

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Mostly Concerning Food

so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.*

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My mother used to make “mushrooms on toast” for a weekend breakfast treat. I’ve always loved mushrooms and can think of no better start to the day. I like cutting mushrooms so I very rarely cook them whole. At the same time I don’t like them to be too chopped, even in soup. Soften these in butter gently. Once they have lost their rawness and are exuding a liquor add a tablespoon of plain flour and stir for a minute (it’s important that the flour is cooked…it doesn’t take long but it makes all the difference). Then slowly add a half pint of milk stirring all the time. A good sauce shouldn’t develop lumps. Figure of 8 stirring usually works. A few chilli flakes added either at this stage (with salt and pepper) work very well. A dash of Worcestershire sauce or Henderson’s Relish at the end works equally well. We have these without any of that but add a slice of ham to make it a little bit more special. Hello Sunday!

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Sunday supper watching the World Cup Final. I enjoy the match. It’s the first world cup I’ve watched for a dozen years and not knowing any of the players made it like watching the tournaments of my youth. I’ve enjoyed the differing styles of Germany and Argentina as much as any teams and am happy for either to win the final. I celebrate with olives, cheese, olive oil and pitta breads all of which come from Greece (who were knocked out some rounds ago). They make one heck of a football snack. I wouldn’t have them in my packed lunch at Huddersfield Town but only because I’d stand out. I prefer them to dry pies and crisps.

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It is a long time since I made tomato soup. I’ve picked up a kilo of rather good plum tomatoes and it seems time to make a classic. I slice the tomatoes in two, put them on an oven tray, sprinkle with salt, pepper and a little sugar and roast them for the time it takes to pick up T from work. Soften onion, carrot (diced small), celery and garlic. Add a pint and a half of water and a decent vegetable stock cube and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for a further 10 minutes before whizzing it with a hand blender. Adjust the seasonings and serve with fresh basil (from the garden) and creme fraiche. Blindingly good. Two bowls each!

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On Wednesday I have to chickensit. To what? To sit with chickens. Frances and Steven have recently added two more chickens to their flock and the incumbents have not been particularly welcoming. My job (and it is a rather pleasant one) is to sit in their wonderful big garden in the sunshine and read Here There and Elsewhere by William Least Heat-Moon while chickens contentedly peck among the lawns and shrubberies. Occasionally one of the resident birds will chase one of the new ones and I’ll clap my hands as instructed and peace will reign again. Reading a good book in a lovely garden, where the only sound is birdsong, is relaxing. Add the chickens and it becomes an almost spiritual experience. My friend Hazel says there’s nothing quite as perfect, as entertaining, as relaxing as watching chickens who are allowed to roam free. I know what she means.

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While I’m there I am able to perform an experiment I have long wished to perform. Frances and Steven provide almost all of our eggs and they are wonderful and fresh. I have long wanted to know just how good an egg can be when it is really, really fresh. I raided the nesting box and got two eggs that were still warm. They couldn’t be fresher. They held together perfectly in the poaching pan and the eating experience was exceptional.

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To pay for the privilege of chicken sitting I baked them a bacon and egg pie with still more really fresh eggs. The pastry was flour, butter, lard and a tiny pinch of salt. I was pleased with the appearance but felt it would look better if I didn’t eat a big slice before handing it over. Reports were favourable.

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One night T arrived home via Marks and Spencer. Happiness is a wife bearing doughnuts.

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My jaunt to Eastwood involved a lunchtime in a little restaurant that managed to explain through food and service why only two of the twenty tables were occupied. It was ok. I’d hoped for a little more.

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I’m unsure about carved vegetables. I’m greatly admiring of the skill but a big raw carrot tastes like a big raw carrot no matter how you carve it.

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I liked the cutlery.

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No trip to Eastwood is complete without a trip to IKEA and no trip to IKEA is complete without a hot dog. They are just the way you want a mass produced hot dog to be. And £1.25 for the dog and a re-fillable cup of pop is quite a bargain.

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Salads large and small.

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Thursday sees a fish van come to the village. The dressed crabs looked good so I had one for a simple lunch for one on the hottest day of the year so far. With salad and fresh bread and butter this was a treat of treats. (I’m the only sea food eater in the house so I have to take my chances when I’ve got the place to myself.)

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I’d already defrosted a container in an on-going attempt to clear the freezer. I couldn’t tell what it was in frozen state but it turned out to be a portion of the jugged hare I made after a visit to Lincoln last winter. I had no choice but to make a feast of it. Following the crab it showed the restaurant what a two course meal could be for less money. This is eating of the first order. I made it a three course meal with an ice cream cornet.

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The lady in the fish van did me an excellent deal on smoked cod.

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Add some hard-boiled eggs

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Plenty of chopped parsley from the garden

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And kedgeree (my mother’s recipe) was ready to be served in the garden for both Thursday tea.

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And Friday breakfast.

* The Red Wheel Barrow by William Carlos Williams

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Day 317: Eastwood and the Priest of Love

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An A-Z of the East Midlands: E is for Eastwood

I know of three reasons why people go to Eastwood: to go to IKEA, because they got a job interview (think very carefully and have a good look round), or to visit the place that gave the world DH Lawrence. Eastwood is like Haworth in that it provided us with literary genius working in a world that was, up to the time that the Brontes picked up a pen in one, and DH Lawrence in the other,  so alien to literary endeavour as to be almost a miracle. Haworth residents haven’t necessarily read much by their famous sisters but the town has embraced everything to do with them (and makes a comfortable living out of them.) Eastwood recognises Lawrence in a couple of excellent if under-visited museums, a few shop names (The Lawrence Snackery) and a rather gaudy pub called The Lady Chatterley. In Haworth the locals look on the tourists (most of whom aren’t particularly lovers of literature – it’s just somewhere in the list of places you go) as idiots; but amiable enough idiots who spend money in the cafés and bookshops and bring a little prosperity and fame to the town. In Eastwood there isn’t a hint of interest in the man who put them on the map. Except perhaps in the use of profanities. Lawrence wanted to see if crude and vulgar speech worked differently when elevated into poetic expression. The residents of Eastwood seemed content with the crude and the vulgar without the poetry; I have never been in a town where there is so much swearing; the swearing being often violently directed at somebody else and limited to just three words. The literary tourist stood out and wasn’t welcomed.

I like DH Lawrence enormously. I know modernism has passed out of fashion and that certain wrong conceptions of the writer have lasted longer than a truthful appraisal, but I’m not afraid to say I’m a fan. He changed the way in which working people are portrayed in novels and plays (and later films), he documented the internal dialogue of a man from the grimmest of backgrounds  and his desire to become educated: to better himself. He explored the dehumanising effects of heavy industry, the tragic crime of the set roles of men and women in late Victorian society and he wrote about love. He wrote about love in ways that changed the way that every writer has subsequently written about love. He also, along with Thomas Hardy, gave regional accents and dialects a place among the refined and cultured speaking voices that had previously dominated the English novel.

His novels are often tremendously autobiographical. His literary geography is the physical geography of this town on the border of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. I am loathe to admit that a day spent in Eastwood was a day spent coming to an empathic understanding of why someone with a busy and brilliant mind would want to get out of it. Modern Eastwood appears to be a sad place. There seems so little spark. The unemployed are as easy to pick out as they were in 1930s Jarrow. In Jarrow they marched to keep hope alive. In Eastwood hope seems to have died a generation ago. Eastwood Hall was the headquarters of British Coal. It was in that building that decisions were made that killed an industry and many such towns with it.

You don’t see all of a town by visiting it during the working week. Those with sparkle tend to be in offices and factories. There were a good number of beautifully tended gardens. There were a lot of people going somewhere in cars. There were more funeral firms than I would have expected to see.

The people at the heritage centre were friendly and helpful. The woman at the Birthplace Museum was keen not to miss out any slight detail even though the Americans in the party were keen to get onto Chatsworth and hadn’t really planned on two hours to be shown round a small terraced house. My sympathies were with them. The woman was a fount of knowledge but none of the party wished to drink at a fountain. Maybe there should be short tours as well. I wonder if anyone has ever asked a question at the end?

Lunch was supposed to be a treat. A sit down 3 course. The waitress was snappy and seemed to lose her desire to treat me well when I asked for water. (I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t like the range of soft drinks they had on offer … green Thai curry and Coca-Cola? I think not). I won’t give the name of the  restaurant but was as unimpressed with the food as I was in being short changed a pound.

But I will come back. It is a town I like for all the things I find wrong with it. Wherever you stand you can see the green hills of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, the woods around Crich, the moors on the way to Matlock, the church spire at Ilkeston. And everywhere is imbued with the spirit and works of DH Lawrence. He is one of our truly great writers. If you haven’t read him start with some short stories; Tickets Please, The Odour of Chrysanthemums, The Rocking Horse  Winner. Read Sons and Lovers and travel back in time (but feel the same emotions you felt in difficult relation with your parents, in falling in love, in starting work), read The Rainbow and Women in Love. Or just watch Alan Bates and Oliver Reed: they do a pretty good job.

I’ve walked around Eastwood. I’ve asked which was his house. “Whose house?” “DH Lawrence.” “Did he live here? I didn’t know.” I’ve stood by the lake where they held the water party in Women in Love, I’ve wandered around the wooden headstocks of the colliery where his dad worked. It is not a place of beauty. It isn’t prosperous and it lacks refinement. So what. It is Eastwood. It’s as good as anywhere I ever lived. And it’s got David Herbert Richards Lawrence. And for that it is a good deal better.

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DHL lived here.

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For readers of Sons and Lovers this is The Bottoms.

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DHL spent most of his childhood in this house on Walker Street

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Where young Bert (and Paul Morel) had to queue up to collect fathers’ wages.

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In real life The Three Tuns. In Sons and Lovers The Moon and Stars.

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“If you’re in those parts again, go to Eastwood, where I was born… go to Walker Street and stand in front of the third house and look across at Crich on the left, Underwood in front, High Park Woods and Annesley on the right. I know that view better than any in the world… that’s the country of my heart.” DSC_0216DSC_0235DSC_0247DSC_0255

Nethermere from The White Peacock and Women in Love

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Eastwood Hall

 

Day 315: On the Edge

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Getting Ready For the Next Trek

If I’m going to take Jolly on a trek then I need the practice as much as she does. Once underway we’ll be fine. I can never remember worrying very much about little things like what to eat or where to spend the night when I’ve been off on a journey in the past. At least not after the first couple of days. But normally I’m on my own. With a dog I want to try out some routes and check out campsites and other possible places to pitch a tent.

As well as getting her used to walking on open moorland  for many hours a day often through livestock, we are planning out the early stages of a possible route. I have a fancy for combining the five great attractions of Yorkshire. (Pennines, Dales, Vales, Moors and Coast.) If the Tour de France can explore the county then A Lancastrian walker and a Yorkshire dog can do the same. We plan on starting in the Peaks but hope to get onto the Pennine Way after a few days. This should take us up the “backbone of England” and along the wild exposed moors. Once we’ve passed the famous sites of mass trespass, the fast flowing streams that powered the industrial revolution, the moorland world of the Brontes and Malham Cove we intend to take a few days crossing the Yorkshire Dales. I quite fancy an amble down Wensleydale but I could be equally happy exploring Wharfedale or Swaledale. Twenty miles of flat farmland with monasteries follows. This is Herriot Country and with Sutton Bank ahead we should find ourselves on The North York Moors. Once we’ve crossed these we come to my favourite stretch of coast. The whole walk should end in Scarborough and if we manage that in less than three weeks I should be very much surprised. If we manage it at all I shall be more than proud.

She’s had a rotten start to life and even though she is happy and full of fun most of the time, it doesn’t take much to remind her of when things looked bleak and cruel. Like most of us she needs love and attention. She needs calm, patience and she needs to be kept busy and stimulated. She is much the cleverer of the pair of us. We both need a challenge. We plan to celebrate being retired (she is a big reason why I chose to take the pension) by setting off in September. The moors and campsites will be quieter and we can gloat like anything every time we pass a school. Not that there are many schools on the route we’re planning.

These are very early plans. They’ll change as I see difficulties or opportunities (often the same thing) and by September we’ll be planning something altogether different. The planning is half the fun.

Today we walked along some more Derbyshire gritstone edges. The sun shone at its best in the morning and we caught the best part of the day. I’ve got the route planned now from Newbold (in Chesterfield) to Grindleford. In the next week or so we’ll find the best way to follow the River Derwent up to Ladybower Reservoir. After that we will be in the heart of the dark part of the dark peak. I can’t wait.

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Day 313: Doughnuts in the Sun

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Mostly Concerning Food

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An unpromising fish restaurant in Derby served up this fish platter for one. The side salad is a little lost and wouldn’t impress many a  restraunter, but the fried fish was a real treat. Clockwise from bottom left are some perfectly cooked, succulent pieces of cod, the calamari was better than I’ve ever managed to cook (squid needs either to be cooked very quickly or very slowly; anything in the middle will have the texture of rubber tyres), more than a hint of spice and a crispness in the coating that gives way to almost melt in the mouth squid. Some tempura prawns and some scampi. (I’ve never quite been sure what scampi is) and some mildly spiced salmon fish cakes. A big plate of chips, a pot of tea and a happy Simon.

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I can’t remember if I included this gammon and parsley sauce last time but it is worth a reprise. The parsley is the first from the newly planted back garden.

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A tin of pea and ham soup (Aldi own brand) with bread and butter. And it is butter not margarine.

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Aldi is the only supermarket that I enjoy going to these days. Partly because it has a no-nonsense lack of pretention and partly because it often has superior products to the big English supermarkets. It does much better European food than Tesco, Sainsburys or Morrisons. Pasta comes in a range from the avoid at all costs quick cook to some, like this farfalle that is extraordinarily good. A sauce of peppers and creme fraiche is made special with a a generous addition of home cooked gammon. This was a superb meal and featured in my main diary as well as this record of food eaten.

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My once a week hearty breakfast. Four rashers of dry cure bacon  from Hartington’s of Penistone, a generous portion of chestnut mushrooms and two thirds of a tin of beans. The toast is from a loaf I baked myself for last Saturday’s picnic but never used.

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Photo of a man enjoying his morning with a mug of coffee (Waitrose French blend) and the Telegraph crossword, which I do occasionally finish. The picture is a before shot of the neglected corner. It attracts a good deal of wildlife but wouldn’t trouble the judges at the local flower show. The after shot should appear in a few months time. I want to tidy up the corner but continue to attract butterflies and birds.

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This soup was so good I had two bowls. It’s a simple seafood chowder and took less than 15 minutes to make. Onions, carrots and celery are softened before adding garlic, chicken stock (cube), seasoning and water (boiling). I have a peeler than cuts carrots into spaghetti. I usually end up with a nick or two when I use it but the result is perfect for this sort of soup. Five minutes from serving I add a cup of de-frosted squid rings, mussels and prawns. Bread and butter is all that is needed to enjoy a decent mid day meal for one. I had a small helping of baked beans left over from breakfast and mindful of recent nutritional advice to eat more pulses, they get thrown in.

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Last week’s pork pies required finely chopped pork shoulder and bacon. There was a portion left and this was cooked in hot oil in a wok. Onions and, shortly after, celery, bean sprouts and broccoli and some more carrot spaghetti. Finally noodles and a ready made hoisin sauce. I only like stir-fry if it is straight from the pan. This suited my tastebuds and my desire to enjoy different textures in quickly prepared food. There is a real skill in bringing everything to the plate without overcooking something. (I’ll continue to practice).

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Sunshine makes a meal out of a little salad and some thickly sliced ham. One on many advantages of cooking your own gammon is that you can carve it just the way you like it.

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The Cooperative is having a bad year but it still sells very good soft summer fruits. It seems a pity that they come in plastic rather than woven soft wood punnets. Is there any shopper in the world who likes these containers? I used to use the local pick-your-own for fruits but it closed down a few years ago and is much missed. Do Pick-Your_Own farms still exist in other parts of the country?

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Having decided on a day on the moors with Jolly the Collie I make bread. I start it rather late in the day and find myself putting back bedtime to make sure the rolls and a small loaf are cooked before sleeping.

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Strawberries, raspberries and even some slices of peach and apricot bring meringues and ice-cream to life. This was enjoyed while watching the highlights of the Tour de France go over the cobbles of Flanders. Another British rider mysteriously falls off his bicycle. It doesn’t seem to be our year.

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Generous slices of ham in a tasty bread roll, eaten on a convenient bench in the middle of the English Peak District. I don’t like giving dogs salty food but this ham was double boiled and Jolly enjoyed a little share of the picnic.

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Saturday lunch in a sunny garden. Slices of Topping’s chicken and ham, and pork pies (note Oxford comma) with some baby plum tomatoes and a slather of English mustard. This was followed by a cream cake (why can’t I lose those few pounds?) and a read of the paper.

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Friday in the garden, sweet peas almost ready for transplanting, some books to read and Test Match Special on the radio; oh, and a coffee gelato in a waffle cone. Very nice.

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A simple mid-week pudding courtesy of Aldi. Blackberries and Greek Yoghurt. Simple and much nicer than I expected.

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Another plug for Aldi. Their Fruit and Fibre is less than half the price of Kellogs and is, in my opinion much nicer (once you’ve thrown away the fried banana chips … please stop making these, they are horrible and a terrible thing to do to one of the great natural foods). This is my usual breakfast these days.

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Saturday breakfast at Waitrose. They warned me that the paper membership card won’t get me a free cup of coffee in a couple of weeks time. Maybe I should join properly. I really don’t mind Waitrose.

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While waiting for T to do her banking and for Charlie to have his haircut I lounge outside the cathedral in Sheffield and sketch the building next door. I make no claims to being able to draw; in fact I would go so far as to admit to a very limited talent. But, I refuse to let a lack of ability stand in the way of me spending my time enjoying architecture by drawing it. The smeary sections are supposed to be trees. I ate an iced lemon doughnut to keep my strength up. A very happy half hour in the city.

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Whose idea is it to sell iced cakes in a bag?

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Panning out.

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A little bit more.

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A decent place to enjoy a little eating and drawing.

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The building I was trying to capture. It’s not a bad life.

Day 312: Meet Me on the Ledge

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Walking on the Derbyshire Edges When Everyone Else is On Their Way to Work

A new ruck sack actually soothes the pain in my lower back. I should be up a ladder painting windows but I strained my back two days ago and have ordered myself away from anything too strenuous. I take Jolly into The Peak District for a long walk and her first encounters with sheep and cows. She copes admirably; though we take a little detour to give the cows a wide berth. My experience is that they are suspicious animals and nervous of the very concept of dog. They can either get worked up or end up following you across the field. One man followed by one dog followed by a line of thirty cows. These were Highland cattle and have a fierce appearance (if you ignore the Beatle mop top) and horns the size of klaxons. In fact they are quite a mild breed but it did us no harm to skirt the field. They continued to chew the cud.

I was really worried about Jolly and sheep. She’s fine until something spooks her or excites her. Here two thousand years of breeding kicked in. She locked onto them and was transfixed. She also became even more responsive to commands. (She is a well trained dog with occasional red mists…more and more occasional). She watched them, they watched us and everything was very peaceful. Eventually they wandered off and the magic of the moment faded. To the best of my knowledge these are the first sheep she has seen since she left the farm at six weeks old.

We dropped T off at work and were parked up near the Robin Hood Inn by 7.30. Three hours of pure delight. Breakfast was a ham sandwich and an apple near the Wellington Memorial. We walked up, along, under and beside Gardom’s Edge, Birchen Edge and took in views of Baslow, Chatsworth and most of the eastern side of The White Peak. As well as the sheep and the cows we met one farmer and a small party of silver hikers enjoying the view, each others company and the well earned leisure time. There are three or four more edges to explore in this part of the National Park. Now that Jolly has passed stage one with flying colours we will be back up on the moors next week to have a look at them. It’s perfect therapy for an anti social rescue dog that was re-housed (several times) for biting and a retiring fellow with a shocking head for heights. The long term aim is to take on a long distance  (2 weeks or more) walk carrying everything with us. We’re not ready for it yet but are a little bit more ready than we were.DSC_0021 DSC_0024 DSC_0032 DSC_0033 DSC_0038 DSC_0050 DSC_0051 DSC_0053 DSC_0055 DSC_0057 DSC_0061 DSC_0064 DSC_0070 DSC_0079 DSC_0082 DSC_0090 DSC_0092 DSC_0097 DSC_0102 DSC_0108 DSC_0110 DSC_0121 DSC_0117

 

Day 311: Derby

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A – Z East Midlands Towns: An Extra D: One You’ve Heard Of.

Frances had a course to attend at the University of Derby and that gave me the chance to be dad the driver and to have a look at a city where I’d worked for over two years without ever going into the centre.

Once I’d found at the Park and Ride in the shadow of the football ground I took one photograph and cursed my thoughtlessness in not charging the battery. All the way to Derby to take photographs with a dead camera. A well-known coffee bar sold me a decent cup of coffee, let me use their washroom, read their Daily Telegraph and even have a go at the crossword, and, best of all, were more than happy for me to plug my battery charger in and boost up the camera while I did so. I’m not going to indulge in advertising but they are a British chain with links to the brewing industry and book prizes. The staff at their Derby cafe are efficient, friendly and obliging.

I’d wanted to watch the state of origin match and found out the Australian bar (Walkabout) for this purpose. “Sorry, the regional manager thinks getting Premier sports is a waste of money”. An Aussie theme pub that shows Premier League football but doesn’t show Australian Rugby League; interesting.

Alan Bates was born in Derby. Joseph Wright of Derby, the painter, was also born here. (Well he would have been wouldn’t he?) Florence Nightingale had a lifelong connection with the city and Tour de France stage winner and discoverer of Mark Cavendish and Geraint Thomas, Max Sciandri is also a native. Dave Brailsford, the man credited with raising the profile of British cycling was born in nearby Shardlow.

The very first water driven factory in the world was in Derby. Textiles never caught on in a big way in the city but engineering did. It became the headquarters of the Midland Railway and  is the only place in Britain where railway rolling stock is still built. Rolls Royce build engines here in a huge industrial plant: mostly for the world’s airliners but also for nuclear submarines. Toyota started building cars in the city in the early 90s and are still going strong.

Culturally it has been somewhat in the shadow of Nottingham. The 90s saw the closing of a fine theatre and its reduction to a place where amateur productions were staged. With the help of the university it has re-gained some status and is back to being a fully professional regional theatre. A city without a theatre is always going to struggle. The city council have realised the importance of the arts and an arts cinema has opened in the city centre and Derby Live has been gaining a reputation as a festival of the arts.

Bonnie Prince Charlie marched at the front of his 9000 soldiers as he reached Derby without any problem in his attempt to take over the throne of England (for his father). It isn’t fully understood why he turned back from here but it was the turning point in his fortunes. Until he got to Derby he’d known nothing but success and afterwards nothing but disaster. Happily for his posterity he received a good press at the hands of folklorists and romantic historians. Historians who stick to facts tend to have been more unkind.

The cathedral is splendid. The altar is a unique feature. The building became a cathedral in 1927 and differs from most grand other English churches in having very little stained glass. This makes it much lighter and all the more glorious. There are many ancient monuments inside, including a predictably ornate tomb of Bess of Hardwick.

Football is important to the city. My request to be allowed inside the Pride Park Stadium were smilingly turned down on the grounds of them needing a little more notice and that I wasn’t a tour party. Brian Clough produced one of the finest sides in Europe and very nearly won the European cup here before falling out with the chairman and going off to bring glory a few miles down the A52 at Nottingham Forest. He remained a resident of Derby until his death.

Here are a few photos of the city as I saw it on a sunny July day.

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Day 307: Pies, Puddings and Picnics

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Mostly Concerning Food

 

I’ve been working on the house. And I’ve been enjoying it. I’ve used up lots of sandpaper and paint and wood stain. I’ve given the drill a few outings and have even knocked up a couple of mixes of mortar. There is plenty of house still in need of attention but the bits I’ve tackled are looking good. I’m a level or two fitter but have not devoted a great deal of time to the preparation of food. I’ve worked up healthy appetites though and have not gone without. Quite a lot of what follows have been the sort of meals that take no more than five minutes to make.

I’m a  hard worker (once I get started) but find I enjoy my day more (and get more done) if I have long breaks to enjoy food, coffee, tea and a read of the newspaper.

I listen to the wrong radio stations to class myself as a proper tradesman.

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First rule this fortnight has been to raid the fridge and freezer as much as possible. This is a chicken curry I froze some months ago. Simple de-frosting took place overnight. The re-heating took five minutes by which time I had girdled a couple of tortillas. Some yoghurt added an extra texture and took some of the heat out of a lively dish. Curry works just as well as chilli in wraps.

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On Tuesday I picked the gooseberries and made jam. The gooseberry bushes were few of the transplanted items to survive the flood that was last winter. I dug up all of the plants from the front garden and kept them in pots and containers. I looked the other way for a week and half of them  drowned. I didn’t expect much of a crop this year but had enough to make a pound or two of very good jam. Less than an hour from bush to toast. Every stage of the process was enjoyable; each a little more satisfying than its predecessor.

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After 55 years this is the first gooseberry jam I have ever made. It took minutes to reach setting point. So fast it almost caught me out. I presume gooseberries are high in pectin.

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Back to Aldi. The garlic sausage with juniper were £1 for two. The salad took the cost of this generous plateful up to less than £2. An ideal tea for a fellow who has been left to lead the bachelor life for a week while T takes students around the museums and galleries of London. I worked diligently until teatime each day and then ate my way through world cup football matches.

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A similar plateful eaten as a picnic lunch. All of these meals came into the five minute preparation category.

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More raiding of the freezer brought out a rather good chilli con carne. Wraps ahoy!

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Saturday was to be family picnic day. Close and extended family meet in Stratford to watch David and his colleagues perform an excellent version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The Dell Theatre. The Dell is the RSC’s outdoor performance space. It’s becoming something of an annual get-together. The standard is very high. These  actors work beautifully as an ensemble and bring a wonderful sense of fun to Shakespeare. We enjoyed it so much that we sat through two performances…with a huge picnic fitted in between… True happiness!

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I got a pie dolly for Christmas but have never made raised pastry pies. A piece of pork shoulder is cut up into small piece and a few rashers of bacon is cut up even smaller. I mixed these together with some pepper and some ground mace.

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Meanwhile I boiled a large gammon joint. (Incidentally I win an honesty award here. When buying the pork, the gammon and the bacon I got undercharged. On depositing them into he car and doing my sums I stormed back to the butchers and demanded that I repay them the difference.)

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I had two goes at the pastry and the second time got ingredients  and thickness about right if you like your pies rustic. I didn’t bother with making jelly as most of those closest to me don’t like it. I learnt a great deal and have left some room for improvement but they were very nice to eat.

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On more familiar ground I made some bacon and egg pies to my mother’s recipe. Always a winner on picnics. It’s the first time I’ve made them in disposable foil tins.

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A present from London, or Covent Garden to be more precise. A bread bag. It works rather well and is a pretty cool thing to get given.

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The gammon was half boiled with cloves, onions, celery and peppercorns before being transferred to the oven to complete the time being roasted. It made superb sandwiches with home made rolls. They certainly disappeared quickly enough.

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Boxes of salads and bags of fruit accompanied the pies and puddings and sandwiches.

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Back home we enjoyed the rest of the chilli con carne and thick slices of half boiled, half roast gammon with parsley sauce.

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I also took advantage of having the house to myself by grilling a kipper and enjoying a leisurely breakfast while reading the reviews of Dolly Parton at Glastonbury. Opinions were divided over whether she was miming but all agreed that she was fabulous.

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This redcurrant tart featured in a non-food section last week but ought to find its way into the food pages. The red currants came from Pat’s garden and were as good as I can remember eating. I think currants are my favourite fruit and red battle with whitecurrants as my absolute number one fruit.

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Every afternoon I treated myself to a strawberry ice cream. I don’t often make flavoured ice creams but this batch worked out very well.

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Simple toasted tortilla and cheese pancakes made another excellent snack for watching football. The world cup always gets better once England have been knocked out. The commentaries certainly improve once the jingoism has died away.

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I couldn’t go an entire fortnight without a bacon sandwich. Not in summer anyway. And certainly not while I’m working away with my hands.

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These sausages and dry cure bacon come from an excellent butchers’ shop in Penistone (which isn’t pronounced the way you think it might be.)

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An excellent breakfast sandwich.

 

 

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The week would be incomplete without a trip to the local bakery for cream cakes to have with coffee on the lawn. My apologies for the food blog becoming a little erratic. I have been rather busy.

Day 303: Dronfield

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A-Z of East Midlands Towns: D

This little A-Z of East Midlands towns could be turning into an dictionary of Derbyshire. For the fourth time in a row I’ve stayed within the borders of my county of abode and  found a fine town that serves the purposes of the series. It’s well populated: 21,000 people have it as their home address. It’s got a fine history. It has its fair share of local heroes. It is largely unheard of in the rest of the world and it gave me a delightful morning of wandering around and snapping. It also turned out to be one of the friendliest towns so far. Everyone I met took an interest in someone taking photographs. Some thought I was working for an estate agent. Some just wanted to talk about the lovely sunny weather and one woman confided that she had a whip secreted about her person. She seemed very happy about it.

First the matter of pronunciation. Should the first syllable contain the ‘on’ or the ‘own’ sound? I’ve always favoured the longer vowel sound. My son, who should know, favours the shorter. His case is backed up by at least 80% of the population. My case is backed up by the twin derivations of the name. The River Drone flows through the town. Perhaps there should be a clue in this. There is also a theory that the place gets its name from its history of apiculture. Dronfield has long been associated with beekeeping and the name means ‘the open space where drones may be found’. Drones are male bees whose contribution to the hive is to do buggerall for most of their lives and then have a mass fight to see who gets to have sex. They then die. My visit was for a few hours only; long enough to detect evidence for this sort of lifestyle.

It’s a town with a history going back to before the Norman Conquest. The church, which is magnificent, dates back to 1137. Coal has played a big part in the history  as have iron and steel. Lead and soap have also featured but not in the same products. Many rails were constructed here and when William Cammell moved his manufacturing base to West Cumberland, 1500 ‘Dronnies’ moved across and swelled the population of Workington considerably. Partly through weight of numbers and partly because it was the one day in the year when they had sex.

While in Workington they founded the football team of that town. Dronfield and football go together very well. A whole host of stars of the Sheffield game, both Wednesday and United, have associations with the town. Current England centre back Gary Cahill is a native. Hardman, turned bad actor, Vinnie Jones lived here, as did the last English  football manager to lead an English team to European glory, Howard Kendall. Paul Tomlinson and Kevin Gage both enjoyed successful careers before taking it in turns to be landlord of The Green Dragon pub on the High Street. Ex England international and hero of Wednesday and Leeds United, Mel Sterland still lives in the area. He called his autobiography; Boozing, Betting and Brawling. The most significant football link is that Dronfield is the current home of Sheffield FC: the world’s oldest football club.

Away from sport Dronfield has  given the world sixties pop singer Dave Berry (Crying Game) and Rick Allen, the drummer with Def Leppard. Brilliant travel writer and novelist Bruce Chatwin was  brought up in the town. In honour of him I made notes and sketches in a Moleskine notebook. (If they were good enough for Bruce Chatwin, they are good enough for me).

It’s perfectly situated halfway between Chesterfield and Sheffield. It has excellent road and rail links and a good array of shops and places to eat. There’s a sports centre right in the middle of the town and supermarkets for those who like that sort of thing. The Peak District National Park is just three miles away. (This last paragraph is included to please the old man who thought that even if I wasn’t an estate agent, I would make a very good one!)

Dronfield isn’t well known beyond Derbyshire and South Yorkshire but it should be. It has more than it’s share of good looking stone buildings and the people are as knowledgable and friendly as any in the north. I’ve always liked the town and after today’s visit, I like it even more.

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All libraries should look like this.

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Not every town has a monument to the repeal of the corn laws: Dronfield has!

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Seamstresses and cameraman at work.

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The dangers of taking a little nap in Dronfield are ever present. This family seem to have signally failed to learn the lessons of history.

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The influence of having ex-Sheffield footballers running the pub can be seen in the extensive areas provided for smokers.

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Day 301: A Walk in the Woods

Another selection of shots from a walk in a rather delightful piece of woodland near here. Most of the shots are on automatic but there are a few where I’m playing around with aperture and shutter speed. Eventually I’d like to have my own catalogue of British trees but I’ll leave that until I gain a little more competence with this new camera.

One big difference is that I take a lot more photographs with this camera than with the pocket one. Is this because it takes better pictures? because it is a new toy? or because it somehow demands to be used? Lesson 2, which is don’t delete photographs on the camera, has also been learnt.  It’s easy enough to dispense of the really awful ones once they are on the computer. I’m also becoming more aware of the potential of said computer in developing the shots. These are all as they were taken. I’ve got a good deal to learn but I’m in no hurry. Learning is what I am here for.

As ever I took along Jolly to assist and sit for the occasional portrait shot. All collies look particularly good against a green background. She had a wonderful time.

Forgive my self-indulgence. I’m interested in the learning process and also in the documenting of the learning process. I’ve done an awful lot of learning via this blog since last September.

One of these photographs wasn’t taken in the woods.

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Day 298: Walking with a Dog and a New Toy

After many months I’ve finally bought a new camera. I’ve just about got to the point and shoot stage but understand that it does a great deal more. I intend to slowly read through the booklet and the Dummies’ Guide that I bought. In the meantime I’ve taken it for a walk and tried to capture a rather dull (weatherise) late June day in North East Derbyshire. All the glorious spring colours have gone and the mellower summer shades are slowly emerging. Jolly came along to offer moral support and encouragement. We had a rather lovely time.

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From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
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Elder has so many healing powers it is called Queen of HerbsDSC_0086

My name is constable Knapweed, and I keep law and order.

I watch to see that all is well along the garden border

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Poppies whose roots are in men’s veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe,
Just a little white with the dust.

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WeeWee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!

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