Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Measuring miles by word count

Travel writing is a peculiar discipline, well it is proving so for me, especially after writing nothing but comedy and horror for the past few years. Incidentally I have a new short story being published shortly, I quite liked it and it's rare for me to actually not hate something I've written, details will follow. I have an empathic shortfall in my comedy and horror writing, this is something that Emma does very well and I am jealous. But, starting a sentence with a coordinating conjunction is perfectly acceptable in our house, as my travel writing springs from my personal experiences, thoughts and feelings empathy is a natural by-product, or not, and I will be judged as a subject and protagonist on this basis. I guess what I am saying is that I write my observations and expect to be labelled a bell-end or not accordingly.

The other fantastic thing about writing about my experiences whilst bumming around various bits of this wonderful planet is that it's impossible to be wrong or to run out of ideas. I received an encouraging email form an old buddy this morning about my blogs, so much so that I must say that any doubts that I may have harboured have dissipated somewhat, cheers Matt I appreciate your comments.

It's very clear to me right now that I have to see this through, looking at the calendar (which should be visible at the bottom of this page) I am really excited about next year, Spain and Serbia follow my next trip to the Shetlands. Then Hungary and a few UK venues followed by the pig festival in France, Germany and finally the USA. There are already changes, a trip to Sorrento to take in Naples, Pompeii and Herculaneum in a quest for the Lucanian sausage is a must. This will be a preliminary trip for the next book, on the trail of the Roman feast (or something pretty similar).

Ok, back to writing whilst listening to Mumford and sons.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Cornets, cavities and coena

Looking back at my blogging history I realised that I'm not posting half as often as I did this time last month. It may be that I don't have time to write, or it may be that nothing interesting happening at the moment, or it may be that all of my writing time is spent laying down a few words on my sausage trail book. In fact all of the above are true,it's a little of all of them. I really need to enforce some motivational approach to writing that will get the process moving once more.

It's always the same with me; I accept a challenge (list to follow later) in good faith and before I know it the time has arrived and I have to deliver. OK, basic list here of this type of recent-ish nonsense:

Accepting a years contract in Kourou launching satellites
Leaving a perfectly good job to start my own webcasting company with no business or ideas
Working in Outside Broadcast
Accepting a job with Ken Deacon
Calais 2 Casablanca rally
Stand up comedy
Charity gigs
Karaoke in general
Timbuktu trip
Oh, and having kids

The most of which is accepting the invitation from Barbara, in Shetland, to joining their marching band for Up Helly Aa and embarrassing myself on the cornet. I used to play a lot and at one point I wasn't that bad, or so I believe, but this is a massive event with the eyes of the world upon it. Barbara and her family have played in the impressive northern brass bands and her daughter has played at The Albert Hall!! My pinnacle was a bugle call on Canadian TV (hardly close harmony in an inspired arrangement). I promise that if I can achieve this I will never, ever extend myself beyond my capabilities again. Well, not until the next time. I have opened the case of my old brass instrument and what I've found did not impress and as such I've decided to trade in my old horn for a new one, OOOH MATRON!!

On a completely separate note Eddy has been complaining about toothache all weekend, on and off at least. It even got to the point where I phoned the emergency dental help-line. The call was answered by a very helpful dental nurse who went so far as to offer us an appointment, when she learned how old the patient was, which they don't normally do. Thankfully it transpired that Ed was complaining more due to an attention seeking reason rather than any real medical requirement. He does have some back teeth coming through which causes a slight swelling and ache but I don't think he needs a Laurence Olivier 'is it safe' attack just yet. The next step was to get him booked in, as a private patient as most dentists don't accept new NHS patients without a great deal of pressure from someone. Phil Mitchell probably. He now has an appointment for this Wednesday, best of luck Eds.

Big JW has been doing a fair bit of research on the Roman lifestyle and as such has uncovered a lot of sausage related facts. I am still reasonably excited about my current writing project, the sausage trail (no capitals now) is maturing well and the aims, goals and destinations are slowly coming into full focus. The people and the subject seem to lend themselves well to my style of writing, in fact I have too much to write about; at this rate my 100,000 word target could easily be achieved in two trips. The coena was the main Roman meal that lasted from mid-afternoon until finished, a Mediterranean trait that has endured and is still the envy of all Brits.

More blogs? Perhaps.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Reality TV and Spain

Now that we are well into 'I'm a third rate cretinous loser get me out of here', back for another season, I'm glad to say that I have avoided it completely. I still can't believe that these cheap, pathetic, excuses for entertainment are accepted by the public. I realise that in the age of specialist viewing that terrestrial television has to try to cater for the widest possible audience i.e. the lowest common denominator. This is evident from the sponsor, Kerry Katona's favourite shop, Iceland. It's ironic how her financial affairs have mirrored the country of the same name, shame she hasn't been blown up and grounded, much. This reality show aside, the competition isn't that great either. Strictly come gardening, or Britain's new apprenticeship new model, or the old favourite The Eggs factor; what do they all have in common? Apart from being shite they are all relatively cheap to make. At a mad point of my professional life I worked for an outfit that dabbled in outside broadcast, their intentions were good but the practice was a completely different affair. I didn't help as I didn't fit the transmission monkey profile they wanted. In fact by tis time I had been the technical manager at an ESA site in Kourou, ran a failed innovative satellite consultancy company (we were the first to do a live video webcast transmission directly via satellite in the UK) and fathered an other brilliant young life. I suppose after my company folded I was grateful that I was offered a lifeline, under normal circumstances I would have laughed at the idea. Anyway after working 20 hour days on and off for a year I was made redundant, two days after I had returned from my Nanna's funeral. That's all very interesting but I am deviating from my original point, time for a new paragraph.

During my time as a transmission monkey I worked on a couple of reality TV shows for Endemol UK, 'The Farm' (both series) and 'Space Cadets'. The first is self-explanatory, a reality show where celebrities were forced to live on a 'real' working farm. In fact the farm was a convincing mock-up constructed in the old stables of a property owned by 'The real meat company' located just outside Warminster. I had to turn up for the live transmissions and also to transmit edited highlights back to the transmission suite at Channel 5 (how many times can you transmit the transmission word?). The most interesting thing about the production was that the common canteen area saw all teams coming together to air their thoughts suggestions and grievances. One morning I found myself sitting with a young runner who had been assigned to the writers, a really intelligent young guy he was so enthusiastic about his job. It transpired that the remit of the writers on this, and indeed any show produced by Endemol (Big Brother included), was to induce, expose and aggravate any conflicts between the idiots on the show. Rebecca Looes wanking off a pig was one of the highlights, this coupled with Orville the duck verbally abusing Paul Daniels made the time I spent on the production bearable.

At the other end of the spectrum, Space Cadets contained no celebrities and in fact no brain cells. A bunch of really thick losers were duped into thinking they were training at a top secret Russian space facility when in fact they were isolated at an ex-American base in Suffolk used predominantly as a turkey farm. I saw the turkeys a lot, in fact I had to run an armoured optic fibre through three inches of turkey slurry, thanks to my employer. The ultra irony was that I was the only person on site who had been involved with a space mission. No real highlights on this one.

I do sound like a bitter toss-pot but believe me when I say that reality TV is a convoluted, planned, scripted venomous pot of bile.

Spain? My next planned sausage trip is to the Requena, Spain. My idea of Spanish sausages was limited but thanks, again, to big Johnny W, I now have a firmer idea of what Spain has to offer.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Comedy is dead

Well my comedy is anyway. Writing this book is taking all of my time that I'm not working or arseing about I'm writing the Sausage Trail, so much so that I have had no time to look at writing anything vaguely amusing for my upcoming gigs and as such I've scrapped any future plans to stand in front of people to make them laugh. If I do in fact stand in front of a group of people and they laugh at me it will be entirely coincidental and I will probably be either fighting a wasp or losing my trousers. I asked myself on my time driving around in Shetland why I was even entering for comedy competitions and lining myself up for gigs in the time leading up to the competition.

I heard a comment today directed at someone very close to me that surprised me, primarily because I cannot believe that anyone could question the motives or integrity of the person involved and secondly that the person making the comments should know better. The comments concerned activities working within the publishing industry and why anyone would do anything without being paid a substantial amount. I have worked on the periphery of this industry for some time now, not as much as the person close to me, and understand that it is a slow and difficult dinosaur to deal with. All of the big authors, publishers and editors have done their time as journeyman in the publishing world. It is not dissimilar to any entertainment industry, movies, TV, video-games or radio; in order to achieve success many, many hours must first be sacrificed. I have the utmost respect for any writers, actors, presenters, performers or musicians who keep plugging away, never losing the faith and maintain a very real personal belief that they will, one day succeed. I don't think that it matters whether or not they ever achieve fame and fortune but that they try. My main gripe is those that achieve success without having to earn it, whether it is fame, financial security or an other form of prestige the journey is everything. Reaching the pinnacle immediately without blood, sweat and tears means nothing. Winning, inheriting or being given bypasses the mental equipment necessary to appreciate the benefits.

I hope that those that matter understand what I have written and act accordingly.

On a more positive note, cheese is great.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Take that Asda, and Morrison's

It was nearly ten years ago that Dewhursts butchers finally closed its beef curtains and stopped trading at their outlet on Gosport High Street. That left us at the mercy of the supermarkets, Asda, Safeway (at the time) and Waitrose. No interaction witha butcher was possible and the choice was limited. Lee-on-Solent, somehow, managed to maintain not only a family butchers but also a specialist sausage maker. For a town smaller than Gosport, Lee has managed to keep a high street which resembles something far more traditional than that at Gosport. We have Macdonalds, Costa coffee, KFC and Subway. OK, Lee has a subway but they also have family butchers and bakers. Where on earth am I going with this? I forgot for a second, but thankfully for all I remembered. When driving back from the caravan today I noticed that there was a new shop front on Stoke Road, if this was not curious enough the lights were on and work was being carried out within, shop-fitting work, on a Sunday. Mr. Tom's family butchers will be opening on Wednesday 23rd November. I hope that their sausages are up to the challenge.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


There's a couple of reasons for the title. The first and real reason is that the past week has been very tense. Last Friday I received a phone call from Will asking me if I had moved Sam's motorbike, the Cub90, the blue one. I hadn't. I had vowed to do so if he didn't heed my warnings, in fact it wasn't just me, my dad has also warned Sam that leaving the cub outside unlocked in full view was asking for trouble. Of course he knew better and did nothing. That's not strictly true, he did move it into the garden for a single night. A few moments later I received another phone call, from Emma this time asking me the same question, I ensured her that I hadn't moved it. It wasn't long before my phone was ringing again. Sam this time. The police had contacted him as the cub had been found abandoned in the garden of an empty house. Now I was pissed off. He recovered the cub, the speedo and key barrel were gone, cables everywhere and headlight had been ripped out. Great. His earnings from his new job already had already begun to be spent. Two nights later, after the same lad who knew better had been told to lock up the bicycles, one, Wills, was stolen. Strike two Sam. Glad you know better son.

Wednesday just past Sam had his induction day at Asda, he looks as though he will enjoy it. I hope so and of course Will starts his fitness instructor apprenticeship next Monday. Best of luck to both of them.

The other meaning of the title is that I realised that I have been writing my book in the past tense, not great if you want to engage the reader and make them feel as if they are sharing your experiences. In as much the same way as you retell stories in the present tense in stand up comedy, travel books are much better if the present tense is used.

This week has also seen the beginning of 'Sausages for Soldiers' I will almost certainly want to change that title. I've been taking sausages and baps into work and selling them, all proceeds going to charity. It's been OK, I reckon I'll be donating around 30 or 40 quid to British Legion tomorrow, if so I'll do the same next week.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Doubts, I've had a few, but then again...

It's been a week now since I was up north, really up north, and I am still catching up with writing. I've had a chance to get the audio notes onto disk and to have a quick listen, do I really sound like that? I didn't recognise the whiny nasally voice that squeaked out from the speakers on my Mac, in fact to all who have to endure that annoying whine, I apologise. Currently I am writing my account of the trip from memory alone, afterwards I will add to the text from my notes and after that I will add the bits about the Shetlands and about sausages, the facts and history, that kind of thing. The problem is that at the moment the first bit is taking longer than I anticipated, and it is due to this that I am beginning to doubt the whole concept. So much so that a coupe of times last week I considered packing the whole thing in. I aim to take it easy today and not spend any time worrying about this and pick it up tomorrow, writing a few lines here and there is not really helping and I am finding it difficult to motivate myself.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Roman sausage trail

I made it back safe and sound from Shetland, eventually. A swift turnaround at home and I was back at work within an hour, and within a very short period of time it felt as though I had hardly been away at all. Essentially a quiet day and it was over quickly, thank god. Taking time to reflect I had thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Northern most point of the British Isles, I didn't know what I expected but the reality was far better than anything I could have imagined. The bleak isolation of Unst and Yell struck a chord with me, in particular the beach at Norwick.

The whole sausage trail thing is more real to me now. I have met people already that I have managed to connect through my quest for sausages, a subject a little obscure but inoffensive a great ice-breaker. I genuinely do have an affection for sausages, for food in general but sausages in particular. Today has thrown a couple of new ideas into my path, thanks John-Boy, and I realise that to maintain momentum on my sausage sojourn I need to keep writing and in order to do that I need things to write about.

The first thing to do is to rearrange the calendar to reflect a more realistic approach to the whole affair and to book a trip into Naples in the near future with Emma. That was the other thing, the importance of the Roman Empire in the popularisation of the sausage, especially as a mainstay comfort food of the working classes. Naples will happen in due course but in the mean time walking a section of Stane Street, the old Roman road connecting Chichester with London has been suggested, again thanks John-Boy, potentially with the goal of a pub somewhere close by with a bountiful supply of sausage related tasty goodness, The White Horse Inn in (?) Petworth for example would be perfect. On the way I have it on good authority that the route will encompass paths that command spectacular views of the South Downs, I look forward to it immensely.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Home at last

I awoke. The numbers on my mobile phone indicated that it was a little before 5AM. The alarm was set for 5:15AM, I could doze for another fifteen minutes, but, and it was a big but, I really needed a shit. Although I am a little cavalier with hotel linen I draw the line at soiling the sheets, particularly as I was wearing my last pair of clean boxer shorts. I drag myself from the comfort of a strange bed and squeeze my ample frame into the bathroom and notice for the first time that there is no shower. I muse on this as I evacuate last nights sausage and mash, the idea must be to maintain a number of 'one night only, single rooms' with only the basic amenities, such as this. Keeps the overheads down and the cost to the punter (incidentally what's the term for the cross between a customer and a punter? A *unter, never mind) low. By now I have the early morning drill pretty well sorted, ablutions then pack then dress then check out. I was approaching the security desk within ten minutes of donning my trousers.

In contrast to my visit to the same hall a few days ago almost every security check-point was operating and I navigated through to flight side swiftly and without getting completely undressed. Without time for a real breakfast I bought the best alternative, a bottle of water and a rice krispies caramel square, the food of legends! Boarding was called, I boarded and fell asleep. The rest of the flight was a series of momentary waking glimpses of a fluffy cloud base far below obscuring the land further below. I shrugged and dozed off again. A pair of suited business types sitting directly behind me chatted incessantly about sailing and associated watery activities and for some reason instigated brief dreams involving a cockney snake with a hat and arms who sang like Michael Buble. I was grateful when the captain announced our imminent landing and pretended not to notice the dried drool on the side of my face and stared out of the window as Winchester and Eastleigh flashed beneath as we rapidly approached.

The landing was better than the one at Glasgow the previous evening but I didn't care. The baggage took some time to arrive, I had to get to work so I looked at my watch frequently, it didn't make any difference. Finally, with my red backpack slipping off my shoulder I exited the baggage hall and, thankfully, my dad was waiting. My Shetland adventure was over and it was time to slip back into the routine of boring, tedious, day-to-day, hum-drum, work type stuff. Roll on Up-Helly-Aa in January.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Never drink and Blog

I should be at home about now, 2045, but instead I am languishing in the Holiday Inn, Glasgow airport, deciding whether or not I should have some food before bed. I have had a coupe or three ciders and feel tired but not too hungry. To be honest, sitting here I have a descending shadowy feel of unreality, I am tired so I guess that is probably a very good reason why.

Decision made, having sausages. I am becoming increasingly aware that Emma's statement regarding my growing intolerance to practically everything is probably very true. I am becoming intolerant, but by the same token I will attempt to help anyone that I can so I will try to justify my intolerance with an increased drive to assist and be more (no, not careful) helpful.

Effort displacement syndrome. I'm not even sure that it exists but never the less I have it. I realise that I should be writing about my experiences in The Shetland's, but instead I am moaning and whinging about my current situation, which, when you think about it is very good; I am in a hotel which will be paid for by Flybe, drinking cider and eating sausages. I will be in late for work tomorrow and have had a chance to people watch and write bollocks. What is there to whinge about? I do, however, miss Ems and the kids. I should be at home drinking wine and eating sausages, not here.

Stranded in Jockland

The pilot, it may have been Sean Lock (it certainly sounded like him), announced that there was no way we were going to get into Edinburgh due to heavy fog (does that mean fog from beer?) and that we were going to divert to either Glasgow or failing that Aberdeen. There were a few anxious faces and unhappy mutterings, I was about to join in when I suddenly realised I didn't really care. Only a couple of years ago I would have worried immediately and felt very stressed and insecure. Now, well, life's too short to worry about shit that is beyond your control. When we finally landed I joined the milling throng by the hard pressed customer services desk and put my case forward. As a transfer was not inline with the demands of the remainder of the growing mob he was initially confused, but when I explained in simple terms that I was Glasgow and not Edinburgh and no I didn't want to go to Edinburgh but instead would really like to go to my intended final destination, Southampton thank you very much. A flicker of understanding crossed his face and then was gone.
'So you want to go to Southampton from Edinburgh?' He asked hesitatingly.
'No.' I started slowly. 'I have missed my flight there. Can you pay for a hotel for me here please?'
'In Edinburgh?'
'No, here. In Glasgow. I would rather not fly from here now rather than not fly from Edinburgh in three hours' (That bit will change and hopefully get funnier but I did say something like that)
He nodded vigourously. I smiled and relaxed.
'I don't know.' He finished.
I kept smiling. This was great. Wait 'til the book comes out.
'Can you find out?' I asked hopefully.
He held up a finger and disappeared behind the partition bearing the Flybe logo. I waited for a few minutes, I even turned and rolled my eyes in exasperation at the couple who were waiting in line behind me. They nodded grimly in solidarity. The young customer service facilitation engineer reappeared. I made eye contact, he looked away.
'Any joy?' I asked, already knowing the answer.
'No?' He responded simply.
No joy or no chance of getting a room I thought but instead I remained silent and allowed him to speak.
'You can get one, pay for it yourself and claim it back.' He offered almost apologetically.
'Good enough. How about a flight tomorrow?'
This proved to be no problem at al land I was duly, efficiently and satisfactorily booked on to the 0645 hours AM flight tomorrow morning.

The Holiday Inn was directly opposite the departures terminal and a room was quickly secured and within minutes I found myself down the bar with a pair of pints of cider. I need to be up at 5AM but that's OK at least I'll get back at a reasonable time tomorrow.

A writers whinge

I haven't appreciated in the past how difficult it is to maintain momentum as a writer. As I sit here awaiting my plane to Southampton via Edinburgh I am absolutely knakered.

For only two days I stuck to my self enforced schedule of arising at 6:30AM, showered, breakfasted and out the door by 8AM. On the road, phone, internet, whatever it took to line up people to talk to, research places to go and then carry it out. I was back on Saturday at 8PM, Sunday by 5PM but on both days it took me over three hours to arrange photos, write research notes, compile all to a sensible bank of information that would make sense when I came to write it all up and then blog. Following that I would catch up with emails and plan the next day. Don't get me wrong I realise that this is in no way physically demanding or taxing and I do realise that I am privileged in order to be in this position, but, and this is a big but, in order to get a travel book in a state anywhere near that required to submit in even a draft form is a very time consuming and mentally draining process.

KK, whinge over, proper blog, with photos, when I get home tonight. Oh, and Clive is back!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

It didn't look that far on the map

Another reasonably decent start this morning, not bad considering I didn't finish writing until 11PM then had to watch V for Vendetta until it finished. Great brekky again, then just a swift look at a map, in fact I borrowed one without telling Jo, I will replace it after dinner. I took another route to the main road avoiding the long windy road around Whiteness. Instead I went here:
It was the long round to the ferry but worth it for the stunning landscapes. Yell was uninspiring but thankfully the road to the second ferry was short. There were a few odd, abandoned buildings like this one:

Unst was more interesting and I finally found the deserted beach I was seeking, I even went for a paddle and suffered only mild hypothermia, I may only lose a couple of toes.

I also had a drive around the ex-RAF base a Saxa Vord. It's been converted into industrial units and holiday accommodation now but still maintains the MoD stamp of greyness and drab austerity. The road continued North until it ran out at Hermaness, I didn't fancy the two mile hike to the edge of treacherous cliffs on my own so I took some photos and retreated to the visitor centre.
I'm glad I did, as I finally managed to get a snap of a seal. I had seen a couple of the way up but by the time I had my camera prepared they had predictably submerged. The Visitors Centre looked closed. I noticed a mop of hair bobbing behind a fence marked 'PRIVATE' so I said hello and:
'Is anything open?' An innocent question I genuinely wanted answered.
'In November?' He responded in a polished Surrey accent and in the same manner as if I had accused him of selling drugs to primary school kids.
'No problem.' I answered and awaited some pleasantry.
'Have you been to the cliff?' He asked, his meaning obvious, 'There's nothing to see here so f*** off and leave me alone.' Was left unsaid but I knew. I made an excuse and f***ed off.

It was only 1230PM but looking at the height of the sun I judged I had three hours maximum to get back, I wanted to try a shortcut back to Sandness but preferred to do so in daylight. Luckily for me the Unst to Yell ferry, which was preparing to depart, re-opened their barriers to allow me onboard.
The Yell to Mainland counterpart however was a different matter. I must have just missed one as I had to wait nearly two hours. A small convenience store was open at the dockside and allowed to purchase a tasty lunch, nearly sausage but not quite, but at least I managed a cup of tea. The wait passed quickly, due in no small part to the fact that the ferry terminal (and I use that word very loosely) had an excellent and free, Wi-Fi connection. That combined with an episode of Nathan Barley made the pair of hours fly by.

The trip back was uneventful and the short cut worked, by that I mean I didn't get hopelessly lost, again. I managed a few photos at the beach in Sandness before the light faded and I returned to the B & B for dinner, a glass of wine and bed.

Checking out and off home tomorrow but not before I meet up with the guys at Globe Butchers and buy some sausages to prove I was ever here.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

First full day on The Shetlands

I am now tired!

Breakfast was excellent but I ate sparingly as I expected to have a second full Scottish breakfast when I reached Lerwick. Jo and I had a decent chat about what i could expect to achieve in research for my book and also, in addition to Jay from Promote Shetland that is, suggested I give a friend of theirs a call, but more on that later. She also proved to be a fount of information for my background chapter on sausages. The day had started well. Off to Lerwick. The drive took longer than planned as I had to keep stopping to take in the breathtaking scenery, and take photos too of course. Two hours later I pulled up at a parking spot opposite Globe Butchers.

The plan was to pop into the butchers for a quick chat then have a massive brunch at Faerdi Maet just down the road. Not so. Martin, the butcher, asked if we hold off until Monday when his more experienced colleague, Mike, would be present. Not to worry brunch, or as I prefer to be more Hobbit than American, second breakfast was still very much on the cards. I located Faerdi Maet only to discover that it was a takeaway service only.

I ordered saucermeat in a bap and waited, and waited. Subsequent customers appeared, ordered, were served then departed. I stood by the fridge in the corner and waited. Eventually I was served. I ate my roll full of sausagey goodness on the waterfront, I watched a seal just past the breakwater surface, snort then submerge and shared my bread with Clive.

He was not very chatty so, after calling in to Lerwick's Co-op for supplies, water and bannocks, I left to find Tingwall farmer's market.

I wasn't hard to find, all I had to do was to drive along the main road to Tingwall and follow the big signs pointing to the 'Farmer's Market'. This turned out to be more of a village fete than a farmer's market with jam, cake and woolly sock stalls dominating the farmer's produce stands. In fact a bloke selling sacks of spuds in the car park was about it. To be fair there we two butchers stands but I was aiming for the world, well Globe Butchers at least.

No butchers, no second breakfast and no real chance of a decent conversation on sausages in Tingwall, what next? I sat in the car park and read my notes from my conversation with Jo this morning, there was a phone number and a name; Barbara. I had nothing to lose, I was either going to chance this call or disappear up to Unst (a seventeenth century euphemism for die of leprosy I believe, or was that something else?). I called Barbara.

A lady with a strong Lancashire accent answered, I explained my quest and she was more than happy to meet up that afternoon at two. I now had two and a half hours to kill, what to do. Unsure I took a side road and spent ninety minutes lost. After finding the main road once more I set off to find Barbara's house. On the way I stopped to have my gourmet lunch of doughy, flat bread and a litre of Buxton water, Rock Star!!

Barbara was brilliant. All of the information I needed she knew, I'm saving the detail for the book so there! After a roundabout journey, another way of saying I got lost again, I found myself back in Lerwick. I needed food. The anticipated sausage feast had not transpired and since breakfast (second one included) I had eaten some bollocks, sorry, bannocks (they were OK I must confess). So I withdrew some Scottish money from the Clydestuff Bank and found an Indian curry house. This is where Blogs come into their own as what follows is nothing more than my personal opinion:


And I'll say no more on the subject.

The drive back was full of apprehension and some excitement. Jo had mentioned that the Aurora Borealis is particularly active at the moment and if tonight was a clear night, which it was, I may get a glimpse of the ethereal patterns caused by the solar winds. I stopped and gazed North with hope more than once. There was a distinct greenish glow at the edge of the horizon but no fantastic display to compensate me on Bonfire Night so far from the sparklers and fireworks back home in Gosport.

I've been back for an hour now and just about caught up with photos and blogging, all that's left is a glass of wine and to write up a sequence of events so that my scatterbrained notes, voice and written, will make sense when I write about my trip next week.

I'll finish as I started.

I am now tired!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Safe and sound and ready for din-dins

There's something highly disconcerting about the thought of an aircraft landing on water. During the safety briefing on any aircraft there is usually the statement, 'In the unlikely event that the plane lands on water...' there then follows a description of how to exit the aircraft and how to inflate a lifejacket, which, evidently can be found under every seat, I'm not convinced. I'm sure the unedited original sentence would have finished, ' In the unlikely event that the plane lands on water then death is certain.' Instead of claiming that there is a floatation device ensconced beneath each chair be honest and stash a bottle of gin there. I may have stated earlier today that the plane that I embarked for the Glasgow to Sumburgh trip was pretty small, as we approached the Southern tip of Shetland mainland and the brightly illuminated landing strip became clear I suddenly felt that the plane was enormous, far too big to land on the tiny patch of ground bordered with twinkling fairy lights which was very quickly getting closer and closer. I looked down at the choppy waters as the plane swiftly descended, just as I thought the wheels were about to set down on water and I wished that there would indeed be a bottle of gin beneath my seat, the tarmac flashed into view and we almost immediately touched down.

I was met at the airport by the car hire firm representative and was driven to my hire car. The rep was giving a lift to her elderly friend or relative and the talked quietly in the front of the MPV, I listened carefully, straining to understand their accents. It took me a few minutes to realise that the reason I could not make out what they were saying was because they were not speaking English. I hadn't expected this.

As I drove on the almost deserted road North towards Lerwick the mist thickened and darkness fell quite quickly. By the time I had visited Tesco and rejoined the road North it was fully dark. Driving on unfamiliar roads is difficult at the best of times but in treacherous weather conditions and in the dark made the 30 mile trip from Lerwick to Sandness drag on and on. Leaving the main North-South road the road climbed high above the coast and back into the mist. The suddenly, without warning, the two lane road became a single track. I slowed down until I became accustomed to the new layout, a narrow track with frequent wider sections sign-posted 'Passing Place'. This didn't present a problem as I met no oncoming traffic. Just as I began to doubt that I was still on the correct road a sign loomed out of the darkness bearing the legend, 'Sandness 6', pointing right. The new road was narrower with many sharp bends. I did meet three cars on my slow drive to my goal, and it was nearly half an hour before I completed the six miles and reached Sandness. I missed the turn for my B & B and ended up at the end of the road, literally. A car park, with public toilets right at the dark watery edge of the Western point of the mainland. Retracing my tracks I finally pulled up at 'Kalfordhame' my home for the next three nights.

The room was comfortable and the evening meal tasty and satisfying. Tired and worn down I retired to write some notes and rrelax.

Night all.

So far so good

What is it with trampolines? Approaching the wet tarmac of Glasgow airport I looked out of the window of the far too small, turbo-prop aeroplane at the sprawling residential district on the outskirts of the city far below. A seemingly middle-class random arrangement of semi-detached and detached houses all with reasonable large gardens filled my view. And every one, OK that's a slight exaggeration as I didn't really have time to scrutinise the landscape totally, but practically all of them, boasted a large circular trampoline. Then I had it, the reason. If any aircraft encountered difficulties with landing at the airport they would only have to cut the engines and bounce to safety on the hundreds of stretched rubber discs on the ground. Genius!

It's a couple of hours until I have to seek the relevant departure gate so i am killing time in a sanitised soulless lounge tucked away at one end of the airport. No doubt when the time comes I will have to walk the full length of the facility to board my tiny aircraft.

Southampton was plagued by intermittent thunderstorms and heavy rain when I left at 8:45 so I was relieved at the blue skies above when I landed at Glasgow, it has since clouded over and is raining, just how I remember Scotland. After disembarking I was struck at how quiet and empty the place was. The corridor connecting the gates was long and practically devoid of activity. I wandered aimlessly around idly seeking my booked lounge. No joy. I rang Emma as I trudged from end of the corridor to the other. Nothing. Eventually I noticed an exit and hey presto! (whatever happened to the Presto convenience stores?) a bustling arrivals area. This in turn led to a busy departures area and a not so busy security hall. I was processed, re-dressed and sought out the lounge. As I approached the entrance I passed a bar advertising a full Scottish breakfast complete with Lorne and linked sausages and a snip at only £9.95! I hoped that the fare in the lounge was up to this standard. It wasn't. A bread roll and jam was the best I could muster. Plenty of alcohol, after all this is Glasgow but no real food. Arse! Time to make some notes for the book and perhaps treat myself to a bag of nuts. There will almost certainly be another entry later.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Two days until the sausage trail begins

If there is anyone out there, and I know that there a few peculiar individuals, who actually read this blog then they will know that my upcoming journey of sausage discovery (that sounds worse than it needs to be) begins this weekend. As you may, or may not know, the format of the sausage has changed somewhat since int initial inception eight months ago.

Following the return from our epic drive to Timbuktu in 'Captain Flint', the heroic Peugeot 405 estate, I began to look forward to the next trip. There were plans for family rallies and other epic trips but due to circumstances beyond the control of the main proponents they did not transpire. Then, following a trip to Amsterdam with Sam I realised that I was imposing my wishes, hopes and dreams on others. The destinations I chose and the manner of travel were almost completely my choice, chosen to satisfy my craven need to travel and to challenge myself. For that I apologise to everyone.

I now hope that the format of the sausage trail is reasonable and correct. Again, to readers of my blog, there is a calendar at the foot of the blog with the proposed visits for the sausage trail. It is probable that I will not be able to attend all listed events but I truly intend to make every effort to try.

With the digital television revolution there is the opportunity for specialist programmes and in fact channels to appear in a financially viable format. This has led to a BBC food channel, the travel channel to show many food programmes and of course other channels to buy great formats, such as 'The Hairy Bikers' and show them with the same financial viability. This has in turn led to an increased interest in food and the impact and import it has on society and how we, as individuals, can identify with it.

BUT, and a this is a great big but, I have not seen a focus on what I have always considered a traditional British dish, The Sausage. This spark led to some light internet research regarding this ignored delicacy which revealed that it was a global phenomena. This led to a 'light bulb' moment and 'The Sausage Trail' was born.

I am looking forward to this weekend and the people I will meet on the first stage of my search for sausages.