Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year

Just a quickie as I thought I would hit the 100 post mark before the year is out. Emma and I haven't bothered with seeing in the New Year for quite some time but the boys, Sam and Will that is are doing so on their own for the first time. I missed out last year and slept in the back of a car, maybe next year will be different.

Happy New Year once more and I sincerely hope that 2012 delivers all that we wish and hope for.

Another year over

2011 has been a rather peculiar year with plenty going on and much to remember.

I saw the year in with my brother, Tony, at a security post halfway up a mountain in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. This was during or charity rally to Timbuktu, tensions were high during our time in Mauritania and their government were keen to show obvious signs that they were looking after the interests, and the lives of those foreigners visiting their country over the festive period. This entailed, amongst other things, an armed escort whilst travelling through the capital, Nouakchott and by ensuring that we in a safe, guarded area during the hours of darkness. The latter sounds sensible as all encounters of the last few years involving either terrorists or criminals had taken place at night, the bodies of the victims not being found until the following day when the perpetrators were long gone. The problem with this enforced curfew was that our guides had neglected to infer us of this fact. The road between Nouakchott and Kiffa was reasonably good but as we were moving in convoy we were restricted to the slowest, least equipped or least interested and as such managed 200km in seven and a half hours (or so).  We reached a large army checkpoint and they refused to let us pass, in fact it transpired that there was another convoy from an Irish rally passing through at the same time. We spent the evening parked up amidst years of accumulated debris and saw in the New Year with two cans of beer cooled with an emergency medical cool pack. In the morning we were awoken with cries of 'Allah Akbar' or similar, calling the faithful to prayer. We packed up and were on our way before the sun had risen very far.

I hadn't been back from my trip to Timbuktu long before it was Sam's eighteenth birthday. A rather fun night was had by all but on the negative side someone, I'm looking at you Sam, ripped the bathroom door off it's hinges. It took a while to clean up afterwards but I think Sam enjoyed it. Sam passed his driving test in January also, well done lad do, but unfortunately the price of insurance was so prohibitively expensive that it was not possible to get Sam on the road with the Micra he had inherited. Dad was still staying with us so it was decided that we would sign the car over to him until such time as Sam could could afford to run it. Sad but true.

Over a year ago Emma and I had booked a long weekend break at a Landmark Trust site in Devon. I'd almost forgotten when the reminder email popped up in my inbox. The weekend spent at Kingswear Castle in Dartmouth was relaxing and a real experience.

Dad had been staying with us on and off for some time including over Christmas when Tony and I were on our long drive to Africa. He travelled north to stay with Susan and Jimmy and also to stay with Tony for a bit. When April rolled around it was time for him to return to France. I accompanied him stayed for few days before flying home. It was good to meet up with Dawn and Jason Folley at Dad's barbecue and as usual there was plenty of wine. Dad and I discussed the upcoming plans for this years for a trip to Greece, driving through Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia. For a number of reasons this did not happen and it made it me aware that it's easy to agree to something that is due to happen in the future without considering the implications. Lesson learned.

June was time to remember Mum who passed away on my Dad's 66th birthday, June 10th. A memorial gathering was held back up North in Wallsend at the Comrades club. Many of mum and dad's old friends who still vied in the area took time to pay their respects. There are so many to thank but I was especially please to see Pat, mums longest friend and her daughters, Michelle and Katrina. It's amazing how time passes so quickly but there are some people that you can meet after many years yet still chat as though it was only yesterday. We all had a fantastic time and special thanks must go to Susan and Jimmy who have been there throughout all of the difficult times and without who I doubt if some of us, myself included, could have coped during the dark days immediately after mum passed. Cheers guys, I'll never forget your kindness and support.

The summer arrived and the time when the trip to Greece should have taken place was instead spent on holiday in a small village in Wiltshire. Sam remained at home to look after the dog but the rest of the family had a great time including a memorable day out in Avebury where we blundered through a bunch of travellers holding some festival of nonsense or something, fail to see the point. Will and I hiked along the Wansdyke, fifteen miles over some extremely hilly terrain made me realise how unfit I had become. Will, Beth, Ed and I tried our hand at Geocaching, to the uninitiated this is where you use a GPS to fid previously secreted boxes or 'caches' at designated GPS waypoints. You find them and enter your visit in the log. This was far more my pace and didn't leave me out of breath and covered in welsh and bruises. Would recommend this to anyone, especially with kids, great smart phone apps to help you out too.

August also saw a weekend camping trip for Will and I to The New Forest. Will had turned 16 in June and had taken his CBT and saved up enough money to get himself a moped. The idea for the sausage trail was forming nicely and the farm where we stayed also sold a fine example of sausage, 'Nobby's special' was made with prime pork and smokey bacon. The BBQ Will and I had that night was the most memorable for a long time. This was the first time we had take our small motorised vehicles for a jaunt, Will on his 50cc moped and me on my Cub90. The intention was that we would build up to our planned trip to Mongolia next year on two Honda Cub 90s. Once more these planes were put on hold, mainly because securing visas for some of the Central Asian countries would be difficult because Will would still be under 18 when we were due to travel. A years postponement isn't the end of the world though.

September saw us on another camping trip, this time to the rally launch party at the Bradninch music festival in Devon. Tony, Gareth and Hayley travelled down to join Sam, Will and I. We all hoped that the event would prove to be up to the same standard as the launch party last year. This, however failed to be the case. Certain undesirable elements made their presence felt towards the end of the night causing fights and attempting to set caravans alight. We learned later that there was another party for the veterans of previous rallys held at the same venue as the previous year and which went far better than the one we attended.

September was also the month when Sam and I visited Amsterdam. Predominantly for Sam to meet up with a couple of friends he had made online in the five years or so he had been playing the MMORPG Everquest II. We did meet up and Wieb and his brother took us to a lovely backstreet bar that made the weekend worthwhile. It had been some years since I had been to Amsterdam, well almost, I had been in 2009 but as we arrived around midnight we spent very little time living the whole Amsterdam experience. This time we stayed in a hostel, which I will not do again, and was right in the centre of the party district, again not a good idea.
We did manage to get to the Van Gogh museum, which was OK but I have never liked spending any time in museums and this was no exception and as Sam felt the same we ended up spending more time in the bar at the hostel than anywhere else.

October saw Dad staying with us once more, he accompanied us to the local Thai restaurant for Beth's 12th birthday party. The food at the Nateetip was excellent as usual, although Beth and the boys ordered food far too spicy for them. Emma and I attempted to help out but were also defeated. I can't believe how much Beth has grown up in the past twelve months, she is turning into a beautiful young woman albeit with a very strong and sometimes abrasive personality. Ed looks up to her immensely but she fails to see this. I hope that the next twelve months see her develop with an awareness for the feelings of others. I hope she can finally see how much we all love and respect her and realise that she holds a very special place in the family.

October was the time for Emma and I to renew our marriage vows. As 2011 was our 20th anniversary, we decided to return to Cumbria, we had met in 1990 in Carlisle so the county held memories for us both, and to renew our vows at The Langdale Chase Hotel. Charlotte had worked here as a teenager and had fond memories of the sprawling mansion house. We took the opportunity, during autumn half term holiday, to book a weeks holiday at Centre Parcs in Whinfell Forest near Penrith. Emma and the kids thoroughly enjoyed our time there, so close to nature but also so close your neighbours. I honestly felt restricted and hemmed in, a captive in an expensive money grabbing environment where nothing was included in the price other than the accommodation. The setting was lovely however, we especially loved the cheeky red squirrels who would creep into our lounge following the trail of nuts left by Will, Beth and Ed.

The ceremony at The Langdale Chase was marred only by the absence of Sam who had to remain with Dad in Gosport as he had to undergo a selection process for a job at ASDA and we all agreed that this took priority. The Hotel was fantastic and for Charlotte held many happy memories, me too now. I felt that we had made the right decision immediately, the venue was special, the staff were helpful and the registrar was perfect. I realised that my feelings for Emma are even deeper than they ever have been and  I hope to repeat this exercise once more in ten years. Keri and Michael, Emmas Uncle and Auntie were present and this made the day even more special for my wife. I wish we had more time to stay and talk with Keri and her husband but curfew back at Stalag Whinfell meant we had to be back over the wire before sunset. OK, we had a restaurant booked.

November was the time for the sausage trail to begin. I travelled to The Shetland Islands to commence my search for sausages. I won't labour the event but please take time to read the blog from this period. I am still writing up the events but made some new friends and somehow managed to agree to a return for Up Helly Aa at the end of January where I would join the British Legion Marching Bang to accompany the festivities. It has been some while since I marched and played but I am hoping it will al come back to me. The next twelve months or so will see many more trips following this peculiar, self imposed quest but I am sure it will very rewarding and worthwhile.

Since declaring my intent to follow a quest for sausages a colleague, Johnny W, has expressed a keen interest and indeed has given me many pointers and suggestions. So much so that the idea for a follow up book has already developed into quite a mature concept. The Roman trail, perhaps more generally centred on food and the impact the Romans had, was born. John and I visited Fishbourne Palace near Chichester and I for one was surprised at the fantastically preserved mosaics and artefacts. There is a recreated Roman garden which includes herbs, fruits and vegetables used at the time and prompted me to research even further. This will be an excellent project and I win to start it about this time next year, The Sausage Trail final draft allowing of course. The intention is to trace a route from the birth of certain cuisine in Rome to the British Isles and how it changed and developed when incorporating local influences along the way. (Any publishers reading please send your commissioning ideas and bids to my normal email address;-)

All in all 2011 has been busy. I am married once more, the children are all growing up very, very quickly and time is accelerating at an unpleasant pace. So much planned for 2012, so much so that the blog will continue, hopefully with more feedback from any readers I have picked up.

Happy New Year all, I hope it brings all that you wish.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Getting old and shit...

There was a time when I could remember every Christmas, New Year and birthday. This faded when I was about thirty, right about the time when kids appeared and made a massive import to my life. This year, for the first time I have had a chance to stop and think, and relax.

I realise that last year, on the drive across Europe and Western Africa, to Timbuktu, was a means to ignore my emotional state. I knew this, but yet kept myself so busy that I had no tie to consider my feelings or emotions after the death of my mum. This year has been somewhat different.

I have so much to do, so much to write, so much to research, but yet, so much to accept. Time will tell.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The important, pressing issue today - Military Wives

With North Korea and Egypt in turmoil, the Eurozone on the verge of collapse and scientists finding new Earth-like planets what is the most pressing issue as far as the Daily Mail is concerned. That's right, the VAT on military wives Christmas No 1! Let's face it I doubt if anyone who has thought about buying this worthwhile Christmas release has been put off by the fact that VAT is included. Let's break the price down a bit more. What about all costs to be recovered? I'm sure that they could be waived or at least in part to make a bit more money for this cause.

What is front page news is that the entirely awful 'Little Mix' have been put firmly in their place by the Military Wives choir, excellent. With any luck Simon Cowell will take this as an omen and desist from any future nonsensical, talentless production. As far as Christmas TV is concerned, well I don't even buy the Radio Times Christmas edition any more. It's far more entertaining watching the kids fight, squabble and break stuff through a comfortable alcohol induced haze. On that note, the note of alcohol that is, I was prompted to check out James May's man lab, the most recent one, a Christmas special no less. Oz Clark, I think, introduced the fop to a 'Whisky Cloud'. This marvellous discovery involves placing a small amount of whisky (or I assume any spirit) into a large plastic bottle. The bottle is then positively pressurised by way of a plastic bung and a pump , a foot pump was used in the show, then released. The rapid change in pressure vaporises the whisky, the subsequent 'cloud' is inhaled to give the imbiber a warm glow. I am definitely going to try this on Christmas Day.

Monday, 19 December 2011

This year/last year or even last year/this year

Can't believe that this time last year Tony and I were on the most traumatic leg of our journey to Timbuktu, ironically we were still in Europe. The drive from Burgos to Tarifa saw the worst weather I had experienced since my time in the Amazon rain forest and to compound the misery our brakes failed only a few miles from our goal. Driving through the mountains close to Tarifa we were pounded by rain and lashed with lightning, I do have a video somewhere, ah found it...

Then the brakes failed and we were stuck in Tarifa for four days. Had a great time, the car was fixed and we never really caught up, it was chasing the clock all the way to Timbuktu.

This year the weather is still a bit poo but the intention is to bring my horn out of mothballs, ooeeer missus, and go carol singing with anyone who is available. At the very least it will be a laugh, after all I do need to practice before Up Helly Aa next year.

More Jeremy Kyle than James Bond

It was 'Mad Friday' last week, the day when every workplace holds their Christmas p*ss-up, including ours. The upshot of this is that if you are with a large group of blokes you have little or no chance of getting into any decent pubs. When this transpired to be the case o Friday a small group of us filtered away from the main group opting for a visit to the Casino as an alternative to the proposed en-masse exodus to a nearby strip club. I had already made my mind up to get home before the last ferry at midnight and so looked forward to a brief interlude at the Grosvenor Casino at Gunwharf Quays. I wish I'd just gone home.

Once again my growing intolerance colours my impression as the place was packed with young drunk idiots, who were not gambling and older, shaven headed Pompey mushes with rolls of fifty pound notes who were. Of those gambling it would fair to say that they had very little idea on how to play, how to act or in most cases how to count. I have visited Casinos a fair bit, not habitually nor with a view to develop a habit, and on the whole have enjoyed the experience; from the laid back island approach of Antigua to the very cheap roughness of Mombassa they all have their own particular charm and character. Not so The Grosvenor. The usual hushed conversation hovering in the background of the sounds of roulette, slots and dice was not in attendance, instead the raucous cackle of orange skinned slappers and the frequent barked profanity of their drunk partners drifted around the packed floor. A snap shot would have given the viewer an impression of a cross between Jeremy Kyle and Hogarths Gin Lane. After losing a hundred quid or so we cashed in our chips, so to speak then chipped in twenty quid each for a final throw of the dice, or as it transpired, spin of the wheel. Red or black? We went Red and the ball landed in, predictably, black!! That was it for me, the other lads returned to the festive throng in Southsea and I boarded the awaiting Gosport ferry.

There are some things that we do well in the UK, casinos are not one of them. I will restrict my future visits to times when I am either abroad or in the company of someone who knows about these things.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Public transport, Preston and Parathas

Some weeks ago it seemed like a great idea when Emma suggested that our planned trip to Preston should take place aboard public transport. I tried to appeal to her better senses but as this was to be a potentially stressful visit to an elderly relative then I caved in with the promise that I could take a fully charged hip-flask. I should have seen the warning signs early on when the route we agreed on was to be via Reading to rendezvous with Liza, Emma's twin sister. My experiences and memories of Reading station were not great, when I was stationed in Portland I would travel back from Carlisle to Weymouth on weekends and invariably miss my connection at Reading and end up spending some time haranguing and negotiating with the station staff in order to get to my destination on time so I wouldn't be fined by the Navy. To me Reading station will always remain, cold in heart and climate, difficult and 'kin dull. But I didn't take the hint and dutifully booked the tickets and seats.
The day arrived and we began our journey from Fareham station. I ignored a sign that described the weekend working taking place, this will have an effect later, as I evidently 'knew better'. We changed at Southampton Parkway and boarded the X-Country train from Southampton to Manchester, quite a long way and an important arterial route. There were FOUR carriages on the train, there were four on the train from Fareham to Southampton for F***s sake. The four carriages were already full when we boarded, and were lucky yo find seats, we stopped at Winchester and Basingstoke taking on more passengers. We were relieved to disembark at Reading, thankful that we had seats booked for the remainder of the journey.
After hooking up with Liza and an awful Burger King breakfast we decamped to the appropriate platform to await our train to Birmingham New Street where we would change onwards to Preston. Predictably our train was a later service from Southampton to Manchester operated by none other than the ultra efficient and fore-sighted X-country. X-men yes, X-country a resounding NO!! Again FOUR coaches, unbelievable. A rather rough looking family, a couple and a young child were in our seats gnawing on chicken bones. I anticipated a Jeremy Kyle-esque argument but no, the bloke apologised, stood and ushered his family out into another carriage. Result!
Birmingham New Street was as I remembered, shit. Thirty pence to take a piss and a twenty minute queue to buy a bottle of water. I glanced into the bar briefly but any thoughts of a quick pint were swiftly eliminated when I saw the clientele, it was not unlike the bunch of mutants seen in the Mos Eisley bar in Star Wars. Instead we opted to await our train in waiting station on the platform, we didn't have long to wait. The final leg of our outbound journey was aboard a Virgin Trains carrier, who have a completely different approach to f***ing up things. Half of the six carriages were first class, which they put on presumably to entice as many passengers as possible to upgrade to this service. As the standard class were choked with humanity we upgraded and spent an hour and a half in relative comfort, free wi-fi, complimentary tea-coffee and biscuits etc. all at fifteen quid each, thanks HMRC.
We arrived at Preston to a city I first visited when England lost to Germany in the 1990 World cup. I watched the match in a friends student house and the bitter taste of defeat when they team was so close to a glorious victory has always coloured my perception of Preston. We found the hotel and checked in. A nice little guest house within easy walking distance of the station it was an inspired choice, well I thought so anyway. I will spin on a bit as the activities involving the intended purpose of our visit aren't relevant to this blog, for various reasons.
Our evening meal was taken at Tottos Italian/Mediterranean restaurant which I had come across on my trawl through the internet. Another mistake, the starters were above average, garlic bread with tomato, garlic-cheesy mushrooms and stuffed aubergines, all fantastic. The main course however was straight from the ready meals section of Asda, at least my Kleftiko was. So a massive thumbs down for that. After leaving the restaurant, unsatisfied with the value for money, we ended wandering aimlessly around a bizarre sculpture of a firing squad portrayed in a very cartoony fashion. Unsure of how to get back to our hotel I decided to fall back on the only method I was sure would give us the required information, I gave a Scottish beggar two quid and asked him. Sure enough he told me, and a few minutes later we were preparing for bed. The room next door was very noisy, it sounded like a small group of people were having a very fine time. I was disgusted and told the two attractive, blonde twins with whom I was sharing a room, that it shouldn't be allowed. And so to bed.
The morning saw Preston reveal itself as I will always remember, dank, dark and gloomy drenched in oily, greasy rain. After a very adequate half English (like a full English but without the effort of real sausages, black pudding and three types of eggs) I sat and gazed out of the first floor window at the intermittent traffic passing below as the girls packed and prepared for our early departure. We had booked seats on the 14:21 departure from Preston but we had all agreed that a journey in the future is best started sooner rather than later. We reached the station a little after nine-thirty and sat in cafe while I checked the route. Three changes were required, Wolverhampton, Banbury and Oxford; that would take us back to Reading where Emma and I would have to purchase our tickets to Fareham. So far so not so bad. The train to Wolverhampton was reasonably empty, we managed good seats together and discussed the previous evenings activities. There was a slight delay but our subsequent train as behind us and as such was also delayed, not too bad. As we stood on the platform at Wolverhampton and the X-country train to Banbury approached I knew what awaited us, four carriages and more people than there were seats. I was right, we struggled to get seats anywhere near each other but finally succeeded just before we disembarked at Banbury.
The station at Banbury was curiously quiet, no trains were evident and there was nothing on the departures board. I asked a short spotty man where there trains to Oxford were, his badge proclaimed him to be 'customer services' but when he told me that there were only buses I failed to see where the service element lay in this. Indeed the service level of X-Country trains this weekend had failed to impress to say the least. I boarded the bus and cracked open my hip-flask to dull the pain on our dull motorway trip to Oxford. Predictably we turned up at Oxford just in time to see our train pull away from the platform leaving us another twenty minutes to wait until the next rain. I had checked the timetables online and the results had prompted a massive gulp or three from my hip-flask. Train ran hourly from Reading to Southampton Central where we would have to wait for another 'kin bus to take us to Fareham and then a taxi. My blood was boiling when we reached Reading. The 14:53 had been missed because of our bus trip and gave us sufficient time to grab a burger. Liza had to leave almost immediately, back to Ealing Broadway and then home. Emma and I had some time to wait. An ice-cream cooled me somewhat but my calm state didn't last long.
Reading station has quite a few options to embark or disembark and as an extensive refurbishment project was underway some of these platforms were not obvious. We eventually found the platform allocated for our train to Southampton and joined the milling throng waiting for the train. The announcement came five minutes before the due departure time, a platform change, a platform we could see but due to the topology of the station was the furthest from us as it could possibly be. Reaching the train we were greeted by a multitude of faces pressed against rain streaked glass staring hopefully at the exterior and the wide open spaces of the platform. Emma and took our chances with the front carriage, success!!
We sat for the next forty-five minutes in our coats amongst crowds of passengers crammed in like goats in a Hi-lux. That was it, as the train pulled into Southampton Parkway, one stop before Central we got off. The taxi home was over fifty quid but at that point I had ceased caring, there was a curry with my name on it and the sooner we met the better.
As I say facing a plate of chicken rezwala, daal malsala and parathas I reflected on the past two days travel. Taking trains whilst travelling abroad to meet people and experience new things is one thing but an unnecessary journey taking three times longer than it should is something else. Emma agreed, we would never contemplate another train journey if we had any other alternative, including dog sled.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Breaking wind, and Spain...again

After the high winds in the North of England and Scotland we are, according to the Daily Doomsayer, in for a 'cold snap'. This is the same paper, remember, that predicted an Arctic winter last year and a Polish Queen on the English throne before tea-time on Christmas day. I spent a few miserable seconds reading the Mail's website and felt rather depressed afterwards. A periodical that focusses so obviously on the negative elements deserves all of the abuse it gets, just my opinion btw.

Thankfully we escaped most of the windiness on the South coast but never the less there were those who had to suffer my own personal hurricane outburst last night, sorry all!! On a positive note however it's good to hear some Christmas cheer on the radio, John Rutter on Classic FM, Tchaikovsky on radio 3 and JLS on Capital FM, lovely. Ironically I love the idea and atmosphere leading up to Chrimbo but these days, alas, I fail to see anything other than a massive commercial festival of bullish*t on the actual day. My kids have never seen the true meaning of Christmas, that's my fault I know, nor do they understand the concept of selfless giving, well not yet anyway. Only sixteen days until the day itself and as usual Emma is doing it all, I am such a sh*t when this season comes around. Last year of course I was preparing for my trip to Mali and missed it all, the outcome of this was that I had no real feeling of closure to the year, this year will be different.

Looking at the sausage calendar today, available at the foot of the page on this blog, I realised that I need to begin some planning for Spain and Serbia. The trip to Turija, Serbia will be awesome as I have someone who knows all about it to, hopefully, show me around, but Spain is different. I toyed with the idea of driving or using public transport but as time will be tight opted to fly and then to use whatever means I can to get around, but I have no-one to show me around or to share the best places and sausages. I will try a few posts on the sausage forums but there is anyone reading this with any ideas please drop me a line:

Fingers crossed!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Serbian sausages

I realise that I'm slipping back into the habit of not writing, blogs, emails and even my book. That is not a great state of affairs and in fact was feeling somewhat down about the whole creative process. Then, out of the blue, well almost, I received a phone call from an ld buddy I had not seen for ten years, when I was in Kourou. Marko, still not really sure about his surname, was from Serbia and had joined the French Foreign Legion (Legion Entranger) as a very real career choice. His wish to learn and converse in English drew us together and we had some pretty good times in French Guiana (and if he's reading I do remember the time when you returned my company supplied car with a dent in rear). I even let him have a Newcastle United shirt, as you can see. I have been in contact, on and off with Marko since I returned from South America in 2002. He subsequently left the Legion and married a very lovely Australian lady, sorry I couldn't make it to the pre wedding piss up btw, and moved to our Antipodes. A few weeks ago, must be months now I guess, I contacted Marko for a quick update and mentioned that I was looking to visit his homeland to take part in the largest sausage festival in the country. He got back to me and said he would sort something out, I waited. Yesterday Marko rang me to tell me he is in the UK this weekend, it transpires that I am up in Preston with Emma sorting out some family affairs and won'e be around, ARSE!! However he is now back in Paris and is only a hop, skip and jump away. Better that that! His brother-in-law? is a journalist in Serbia who covers the sausage festival and I am to hook up with hime for the Serbian sausage experience of a lifetime, that always sounds dubious using the word sausage in that way.
That's the good news. The bad news is that the 'kin X-factor is still on TV.
So, as I am inspired to write once more, cheers Marko, and will have the opportunity to do so on the train journey to Preston, cheers Emma and Liza, I will hopefully be up to date on the sausage trail by Monday.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

A grand day out at Fishbourne Palace

Cheers Big JW, it was a great afternoon at the thoroughly underestimated Fishbourne Palace. I was surprised at the sheer scale of the construction, I knew it was a sizeable building but failed to grasp the colossal magnitude of the place. Today there is little to see apart from a few walls and floors, spectacular mosaics would be more a accurate description of the remaining floors. Even though only a portion of the West wing has been preserved you can still get a feeling of the majesty that was once evident at Fishbourne.

The reason for the visit was an attempt to throw some light on the subject of Roman cooking in general and sausages specifically. All in all a very successful day our, not only we see a reconstructed Roman garden complete with vegetables, medicinal herbs, culinary herbs and ritualistic plants but we managed to take in a sausage and has meal at a pub.

It is sup rising to learn how many fruits and vegetables which form such a staple within our day to day cooking were introduced by our ancient Italian friends; Parsnips, beetroots, apples damsons and pears for example, indeed a great many herbs were also brought across by the Romans. I also managed to pick up a couple of good books which will help in tracing the Roman sausage trail.

Thursday, 1 December 2011


I was going to have a whinge about the sad losers who have complained about Jeremy Clarkson's comments on the One Show, but to be quite honest I can't be bothered. There will always be those who have a need to complain and will look for any avenue of attack even without need or personal context. These idiots aren't really offended or upset they just have a opportunity to make their voices heard. I get a bit pissed off how anyone, no matter how petty, can be bothered to be bothered about this, for F's sake channel your emotion into something worthwhile, raise money for charity or write a book just stop whinging. Complain about shit TV, any reality show will do. The ignorant verbal shite spouted from these shows should keep these complaining idiots busy for years.

Rant over.