Friday, 31 August 2007

Yo! Sushi, or A Glam Night Out at Bluewater

Imagine being given a menu with 130 or so dishes, most of which look like at least 20 of the others. Then have someone put the dishes in pastel-shaded hamster exercise balls and have them hurtle past you on a miniature airport carousel. Sit several feet away from the carousel, with a couple of people between you and it, and then say, 'Grab me a pink one with two small pellets of cold rice wrapped in a sort of blackish leaf with a prawn on top, would you, when one goes by?'

While you are waiting, help yourself to water from the tap in the middle of the table (£1 for as much as you can drink), exclaiming merrily when the drips from the tap pass through the hole in the table onto your feet and into your shopping.

At intervals invite the smiling staff to refill your bowl of miso soup (£1.75 for as much as you can drink), and marvel at their dexterity as they stack the bowls, refill them, then redistribute them back in a different order. Wonder as you sip from someone else's bowl whether they have washed their hands since handling the bowls of the table next door, and whether the complexion problem of the gentleman in the Burberry baseball cap is communicable.

After your empty hamster balls have been counted and you have entered your card details at the check-out, chuckle as you discover that instead of entering your pin number, you have keyed in a tip of £98.95.

Buy Kentucky Fried Chicken on the way out.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Bye, Bye Blackbird

In the woods near here there was once a lodge house. It burned down over half a century ago, and now only a few clues remain - a fragment of walling or a step overgrown with ivy. The house was once the weekend retreat of a titled gentleman from the city, who used to come down for weekends accompanied by girls of doubtful respectability, setting local tongues wagging and provoking ribald speculation in the village.

One summer evening before the war a farm hand was walking home up the lane past the entrance to the Lodge's lower drive, when he noticed a pile of women's clothes on the verge. They were of good quality and agricultural wages were low, so he gathered them up in case they could be altered to fit his wife.

A little further on, where a track led through the woods to the rear of the house, he heard cries. He hid the clothes behind a tree, and went to investigate. Tied to a white painted five-bar gate was an hysterical girl, butt naked and blacked with boot polish from head to toe. He untied her, perhaps taking a little longer than was strictly necessary, and she fled, sobbing, not towards the Lodge but away into the depths of the wood, in the general direction of London, thirty miles away.

For some months after local people would stroll out on fine weekends to view the smears of boot polish on the gate, and a new song, sung to the tune of 'Bye, Bye, Blackbird', became a favourite in the pub. It began, "Old Sir so-and-so, he's no good, he blacked his girl in Old Lodge Wood."

Monday, 13 August 2007

Peebles for Pleasure, Barbara Trapido for Sheer Enjoyment

I am reading Barbara Trapido's Frankie and Stankie, and am besotted by her style and content, as well as learning shed loads about what it was like to grow up in South Africa in the 1950s. It's not fair that people like her write as well as... er...people like her write. Demotivates the rest of us wannabees, who never will. Authors of her ability ought to be fĂȘted as national heroes and be fabulously rich like footballers, except that then they might not be moved to write.

Talking of Frankie and Stankie, K has returned from Scotland with a Scottish accent - or so she claims. Somewhat limitingly it consists of only one phrase; 'Ah thank ye stank'. I suppose this may prove useful some day, although I'm not sure that it is quite authentic. Possibly it captures some localised intonation - Peebles, or somewhere. Just the job if she ever meets someone a bit rank in the Royal Burgh. But the Peebles town guide generously offers 'a warm Peeblean welcome' to all comers, so well-meaning visitors should really rise above any minor shortcomings in personal hygiene. Of which I'm sure there aren't.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Islay Malt, Tantric Flying and the Perseids

Never put a list in a blog. I was offered a malt last night, and sure enough, it too wasn't on my list. It was a 16 year old Lagavulin, from Port Ellen in Islay. And magnificent it was, too, with mature peat tones and something special acquired from the cask. It is one of a number of distilleries owned by Diageo. Another, also not on my list, is Gleneagles. The Lagavulin brightened up an unusually dark evening. Although at about 11 pm I discovered I was still wearing my shades.

Bobby was not on the malt. He didn't need to be, getting high enough without chemical assistance, as the piccie shows:

As we got home K saw a shooting star from the Perseids meteor shower streak across the sky.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Sheep's Tale

Wandering up a track in the hills of Argyll last week we found ourselves being overtaken by an aged 1956 Massey Ferguson tractor, zig-zagging and emitting alarming noises as it dragged something along the stony surface. The gentleman on board explained that he was trying to free up a seized turnip scarifier, although I suspect he was primarily coming to investigate us. Anyway, he switched off the engine and we got chatting, as one does in such places.

Inevitably the talk turned to local characters, and he told a story about an old family friend I had last met ten years ago, who has since died. This man (let's call him Donald) was driving some sheep along a single track road, minding his own business, when a tourist drove up behind him. The tourist rapidly grew impatient, and began edging forward until his bonnet was nudging at Donald's heels.

Without looking round or breaking his stride, Donald rapped the front of the car smartly with his staff, and there was the tinkle of breaking glass. The tourist leapt out, examined the front of his car, and exclaimed 'You've broken my headlight!'

'No', replied Donald serenely. 'You've driven into my stick.'

Friday, 10 August 2007

Malt Disney

Armin has kindly pointed out that I missed at least one Scottish single malt in my list of 27 July; Kilchoman, a farm-scale distillery and the first to be built in Islay for over a hundred years.

Meanwhile Alet, who despite living within sniffing distance of the Stellenbosch winelands of the Cape apparently keeps a fond winter eye on the whisky world, reports that there are, or will shortly be, two whisky distilleries in England. These are the English Whisky Company in Norfolk, whose first batch of St.George's Whisky is maturing, and Lakeland Distillers of Kendal, whose Barley Bridge distillery in the Lake District is currently under construction. Both will be visitor attractions.

If Scottish whisky is 'scotch', will English whisky be 'englch', I wonder?


Back in January I drew attention to this undeniably accurate sign in Northumberland.

I have since spotted another, just a few miles away:

Those Northumbrians sure know how to call a spade a spade.