Saturday, 31 July 2010

The Devil's Punch Bowl

Once upon a time there was an old Victorian pub in Lewisham which boasted the sign "STOUT MILD ALE PORTER."  On weak days, I was never quite sure how to parse it... 
Something similar happened when I saw this sign by the National Trust restaurant:
A huge natural depression, a bowl in the land near Haslemere, around which the A3 currently curves dramatically (they're building a huge tunnel to avoid it).  I couldn't help but think that it would be easier to see the full extent of the Bowl in Winter. 
In which case we might have seen the full shape rather like this bronze relief near the cafe:-
As it is, we mostly saw Trees - no bad thing in itself of course...
This was a strange sight, of two mossy oaks that had fused as the grew.  The result semed semi-human, like some strange creature.
This was a strange an unexplained totem, again near the cafe.
And attentive readers will be correct - we didn't explore far enough.  We must go back.

Double Gloucester

Today - mild and a little bit creamy. 
First, quite delicious encheesing a breakfast omelette.  With fried garlicky mushrooms, tomatoes and black pepper.
Later, in sandwiches, in deepest Surrey. 

Monday, 26 July 2010

We didn't know it did this...

It glows in the dark!
(Well, a bit of it does....)

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Poem of the Week

Hommage au Fromage
Kerry Michael Wood

Aged like my grandfather's wind-up Victrola,
I love the scent of a fine Gorgonzola.

Velveeta's cheap and tastes much cruder.
Substitute a wedge of Gouda.

Cheddar's sharp but eggs taste better
Mixed with salty cheese like Feta;
Add a chunk of warm boloney
Topped with shredded provolone

.Eyes like pearls- some large, some smaller-
Wink in wheels of Emmentaler.

"Paradise is lost," wrote Milton,
"If you've used up all your Stilton."

Though I'd never go for broke f'r it,
I'd invest in caves of Roquefort;
And if I had euros to spare,
Some shares of Brie or Camembert.

Cheeses love me, yes I know.
For my tummy tells me so.

I planned a feast day in Chicago
While I nibbled Asiago.
When compiling shopping's roster,
Added in some Double Gloucester.
Chilled six packs of Danish Carlsberg
Taste just great with bites of Jarlsberg.
To make my hors d'oeuvres extra hearty -
Chip dip made from Cream Havarti.

Pizza's fine with Mozzarella.
Makes a man a happy fella.

Taco's tasteless? Man, just say so.
Order everything con queso.

Sweets to follow abalone -
Tir'misu con Mascarpone.

Cap the ev'ning's luscious fare
With port wine, pears and sliced Gruyere.

Appetite such fare appeases -
What a friend we have in cheeses!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

From a Turkish hillside

Many years ago we stood on a hillside in Turkey, looking at the remains of an ancient Temple (Apollo at Didyma, I think).  We could see across plains towards the distant sea, where a river snaked lazily back and forth, back and forth. 

In fact it snaked back and forth a lot.  Far too much, we thought.  So we looked it up.

The River Maeander - or now Büyük Menderes River - originally Μαίανδρος (Maíandros) - is where the word meander comes from.  And even the ancient Greeks, apparently, used the river's name for a twisting, convoluted thing.

And it certainly showed.

Poem of the Week

The Olde, Olde, very Olde Man; or The Age and Long Life of Thomas Parr
John Taylor, the 'Water Poet'

Good wholesome labour was his exercise,
Down with the lamb, and with the lark would rise:
In mire and toiling sweat he spent the day,
And to his team he whistled time away:
The cock his night-clock, and till day was done,
His watch and chief sun-dial was the sun.
He was of old Pythagoras' opinion,
That green cheese was most wholesome with an onion;
Coarse meslin bread, and for his daily swig,
Milk, butter-milk, and water, whey and whig:
Sometimes metheglin, and by fortune happy,
He sometimes sipped a cup of ale most nappy,
Cycler or perry, when he did repair
T' Whitson ale, wake, wedding, or a fair;
Or when in Christmas-time he was a guest
At his good landlord's house amongst the rest:
Else he had little leisure-time to waste,
Or at the ale-house huff-cap ale to taste;
His physic was good butter, which the soil
Of Salop yields, more sweet than candy oil;
And garlick he esteemed above the rate
Of Venice treacle, or best mithridate.
He entertained no gout, no ache he felt,
The air was good and temperate where he dwelt;
While mavisses and sweet-tongued nightingales
Did chant him roundelays and madrigals.
Thus living within bounds of nature's laws,
Of his long-lasting life may be some cause.

Saturday, 17 July 2010


For reasons tedious to relate I ended up in Toytown last week.  I had a somewhat complicated, difficult meeting, but when I came out I was - of course - right next to one of the joys of Toytown. 

The trainset. 

Otherwise known as the Toytown Light Railway (TLR).  I was right by South Quay.  So I had to have a go.

The TLR was always a bit of a joke.  Seen as a 1980's Thatcherite dream of what public transport ought to look like, servicing a new land of Yuppies and Fat Cats.  Originally it didn't run on weekends and was often breaking down.
But in the afternoon sunshine last week it seemed far more benign.  It is a strange and beautiful railway.  Mostly built on stilts, it still swoops into tunnels; it rollercoasters around  ridiculously tight curves; and it often ducks and dives for no visible reason.  And the area around Westferry (? - I took no notes) is a topologist's dream.

So I spent an hour or so pootling around and generally enjoying myself on the world's largest and silliest model railway, and then decided to have a go on the East London Line. 

Because everybody's talking about it and I felt somewhat left out.

So I changed at Shadwell (interesting - I took a wrong turn from the TLR station and found myself in an Asian street market before retracing my steps and eventually finding the super-posh new ELL).  And everyone is right - the new line is super - and for me the best bits are the trains themselves, with carriages you can walk between just like the halves of a bendy bus.  I just had to stand at one end and look the entire length of the train as it moved sinuously along.  A thing of beauty and grace.

After a fair bit of this, I was heading south again when I took a quick decision and jumped off.  A few hundred yards walking and I was, really and truly, in Norton Folgate.   Just a little bit of this

Just a little distance from the unnecessarily huge station of Shoreditch High Street (which would have been a quarter of the size on the TLR).

More specifically, I found myself in the beautiful Water Poet pub on Folgate St. - recommended in the sleeve notes of the album, and rightly so.  Huge and airy, with an open space at the back (I hesitate to call it a garden).  Stuffed sofas and a pool table.  Smashing. 

The pub is named after John Taylor, a water boatman and poet who lived in the 16th and 17th centuries, and who was known as the "Water Poet." 

According to Wikipedia, as I write, he was also at the Siege of Cadiz (1810-1812).  Surely shome mishtake?  I suppose I ought to go in and change it - they mean the capture and sacking of Cadiz by the English in 1596, not the French siege of the then-Spanish capital as part of the Peninsular War - but I probably won't.

Taylor also appears to have been one of those people who invents their own languages.  His was Barmoodan, which he claimed to have translated into Utopian.  From VRZHU:-

And here’s a bit from his Poem in the Utopian Tongue (1613), which I take to be his nonce language, Barmoodan:
Thoytom Asse Coria Tushrump codsheadirustie,
Mungrellimo whish whap ragge dicete tottrie,
Mangelusquem verminets nipsem barelybittimsore,
Culliandolt travellerebumque, graiphone trutchmore.
Pusse per mew (Odcomb) gul abelgik foppery shig shag
Cock a peps Comb sottishamp, Idioshte momulus tag rag.
He also wrote on poetry publishing and the politics of the water boatmen.

And then I went home.

Monday, 12 July 2010


Scrummmy, rubbery  Greek Cypriot cheese.  But also non-canonical.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Poem of the Week

In The British Museum
Thomas Hardy

'What do you see in that time-touched stone,
When nothing is there
But ashen blankness, although you give it
A rigid stare?

'You look not quite as if you saw,
But as if you heard,
Parting your lips, and treading softly
As mouse or bird.

'It is only the base of a pillar, they'll tell you,
That came to us
From a far old hill men used to name

- 'I know no art, and I only view
A stone from a wall,
But I am thinking that stone has echoed
The voice of Paul,

'Paul as he stood and preached beside it
Facing the crowd,
A small gaunt figure with wasted features,
Calling out loud

'Words that in all their intimate accents
Pattered upon
That marble front, and were far reflected,
And then were gone.

'I'm a labouring man, and know but little,
Or nothing at all;
But I can't help thinking that stone once echoed
The voice of Paul.'

Saturday, 10 July 2010


A picture of production of The Tempest on Peckham Rye that I mentioned earlier in the week....

Note the backscene of a shipwrecked ship, even though the text clearly says that the sailors aren't shipwrecked. Maybe it's meant to be Prospero's ship?

Non-canonical cheese

This week's cheeses were distinctly non-canonical.  They don't appear in the sketch at all.  But I couldn't not be tempted by this delicious piece of dolcelatte.  A lovely strong-tasting Italian cheese.
At the same time, for associations with the Spanish tour and its sheer yummyness, I couldn't not buy a slice of the Picos de Europa.  Probably a cabrales but I couldn't tell from the wrapping or label.  A distinctive taste, different from the Italian cheese.
But, still, another 'azul queso', and also quite scrumptious.

Both of these cheeses came from the East Dulwich Deli. Today it seemed to be specialising in fancy cheeses that don't appear in mid-seventies cult comedies.

The bread in the pictures is a Kentish Flute from the same place, and equally tasty.

About The Belvedere, exactly 145 years ago...

This has just been pointed out to me. 

The Old Bailey proceedings for today, 10th July, in 1865. 

Follow the link and then search for Belvedere.  This is the record of a court case at the Old Bailey centering on a possible mugging on Linden Grove ("a very retired road, shaded by trees; you can see no lamps"). 

The details are marvellous (skittles, gambling, the drinks and prices), and they have scanned in the original pages as well...  Go see.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Garden Summer

Hot in the garden last weekend.  Laundry and hollyhocks.
Crazy plants.

And crazier laundry...  

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


So.  Sunday evening last to Peckham Rye, for an open air performance of The Tempest.  Marvellous.

The Festival Players.  25th Anniversary Year.  An all-male cast.  Very well done. 

But sitting by the cafe on the Rye, watching Trinculo, Caliban and Stephano act out their drunken buffoonery, I couldn't avoid thinking about the Irish Festival on the Rye that was just closing down on the field behind them after two days of revelry.  Police Cars and Ambulances.

Bad of me I know.  We were the middle-aged middle-classes sitting avuncularly, watching the rude players go through their paces.

But further, I couldn't avoid thinking that one of the actors reminded me of Zachary Quinto (otherwise known for playing Syler and more recently the young Spock). 

I couldn't avoid it...

Live Long and Prospero...

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Poem of the Week

This is no Case of Petty Right or Wrong
Edward Thomas

This is no case of petty right or wrong

That politicians or philosophers
Can judge. I hate not Germans, nor grow hot
With love of Englishmen, to please newspapers.
Beside my hate for one fat patriot
My hatred of the Kaiser is love true:-
A kind of god he is, banging a gong.
But I have not to choose between the two,
Or between justice and injustice. Dinned
With war and argument I read no more
Than in the storm smoking along the wind
Athwart the wood. Two witches' cauldrons roar.
From one the weather shall rise clear and gay;
Out of the other an England beautiful
And like her mother that died yesterday.
Little I know or care if, being dull,
I shall miss something that historians
Can rake out of the ashes when perchance
The phoenix broods serene above their ken.
But with the best and meanest Englishmen
I am one in crying, God save England, lest
We lose what never slaves and cattle blessed.
The ages made her that made us from dust:
She is all we know and live by, and we trust
She is good and must endure, loving her so:
And as we love ourselves we hate her foe.


Peckham Rye Station

Just a few photographs of Peckham Rye station (taken surreptitiously from Platform 2).  Buried beneath all of the rust and light engineering is a rather attractibe station.