Monday, 24 December 2012

My top ten Christmas facts from around the world

As we find ourselves immersed in yet another festive period I would like to share some of my recent research (and as such is beyond contestation ;-) regarding Christmas around the world.

Here are my top ten facts:

10. In the town of Ylikiiminki in Northern Finland a festival is held every year on Christmas Eve where the towns chickens are dressed as their last King, Nicholas II.

9. The indigenous people of the island of Pulau Taam have no word for Christmas, yet have 14 words for underarm deodorant.

8. Until 1974 Santa Claus was depicted in the Belgian media to have a large, benign anal tumour, it was evident in Coca-cola adverts in the Benelux countries until 1982.

7. On Christmas Day in 1993 fourteen Elvis impersonators in Las Vegas, Nevada, committed suicide by consuming a lethal dose of gelatine based gravy granules. All incidents were officially unrelated.

6. Elves were invented by Cornish child genius Colin Barnwell. He was delighted when his creatures were included in the Christmas tradition but died whilst in the middle of a vicious legal battle with the Tolkien estate after he insisted that all Elves in The Lord of The Rings were re-written to reflect his happy, rosy cheeked creations.

5. During the second world war Santa relocated from Norway to Barnsley where he was well received by the local prostitutes and miners.

4. There have been nine reindeer related incidents in Marseilles this Christmas alone.

3. Dean Martin, the famous rat pack crooner, applied unsuccessfully to act as PA to Santa's musical director. Norman Wisdom got the job.

2. In certain areas of Southern Chile they speak of the evil dwarf, Nivvi Pikki, who steals into children's rooms on the 31st December to steal their favourite presents and sodomise their pets.

1. This is my favourite. Since Bear Grylls started his TV show there have been no fewer that 8 million reports of parachuting ninja Santa attacks in Madrid.

Thank you, I'll be here all week. Merry Christmas.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Merry Sausage Christmas...almost!!!

As the festive season draws closer to the main event, that being Boxing Day when it's all over, thank Christ, the sausage trail rumbles on.

After the pretty excellent article written by Ben Fishwick for the Portsmouth News a national news agency picked the story and ran with it, the story making its way onto page three of Metro, Ok it was under the 'Weird' section but a good story never the less and excellent promotion for a book I have yet to finish.

I have received a few emails and messages through facebook asking about the sequel and in particular which sausages and places I aim to visit on my next journey. That is a difficult question to even contemplate, thinking about answering let alone coming up with a wish list and from that a schedule. Any sausagey travels will have to wait until 2014 when I have polished the book and completed my Everest hike with Will but I would really like to combine some sausage trail antics with a charity banger rally or two (or similar trip). If time does not allow this ideal combination of my travel passions then I suppose wandering off with an Easterly bent would provide ample opportunity for sausages and adventures.

Christmas will soon be upon us and with it the chance to roast some sausages with a great big bird, marvellous.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The sausage trail, the highlights

It was really nice to see a local journalist who can, not only write, but also get the facts right. Fair respect to Ben Fishwick who put together a nice two-page spread for the Portsmouth News. The piece today, which I would have loved to link in this blog, included some good photos and a great layout. When I say good photos I do of course mean that the photos included were those I sent to the paper and  not the cheesy, populist snaps (although very professionally taken) by the photographer supplied by the newspaper.

This morning I was called by a national news-agency who asked a few questions. These questions made me think, and reconsider my original responses to similar questions I asked myself during the period of my travels.

There were two main points that caused me to pause and think. The first regarded the highlights of my year long sojourn. This was not so easy as every place I visited had many high points, so much so that all I can say, now, in this blog is that the following were of great emotional and literal interest:

Up Helly Aa, Barbara and the band, and the Vikings
Kobasicijada, the sausage club taking me to their hearts
Hamburg, the BBQ with Matts friends and family
River Cottage, the loud Aussie
The Chilli festival in Dorset, hot shit
France, the Segur-le-chateau farmers market
Hungary, crazy Hungarians and pigs
Vegas, competition cooking

All memorable and massive, I could write on each for hours, indeed I intent to.

The second question, from the journalist, was even more pointed:

What did you not do?

I was lost for words, well momentarily anyway. My predictable response was that I wished to visit the places I had identified but failed to reach. To which they asked where, I answered and the journalist suggested a sequel. Marvellous.

Monday, 10 December 2012

The sausage trail rolls on

It's been over a month since I returned from the final stage of my sausagey sojourn and I have yet to finish the required three chapters before the end of December. Not to worry the material exists and I have more than enough additional stuff to amuse and astound.

Recently, over the past couple of weeks, the local newspapers have taken an interest, sufficient interest to warrant a double page spread in tomorrow's 'Portsmouth news'. That in itself would have fantastic promotion for the book, thanks to Ben for the opportunity, but tonight I received a call from a news agency. It appears that I may have a chance of making it into the national newspapers, would she even better for the book.

It's great that 'The sausage trail' is beginning to capture the imagination of the press, I can only hope that the readers can see the potential in an overweight, middle aged sausage fanatic wobbling around the world seeking the brightest and best bangers (more bang for your buck perhaps), publishers take note.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Mister Benn versus Tin-tin and procrastination

I've just finished reading Dom Joly's latest offering, Scary monsters and super creeps, a pretty good book that shows the impetuous and naive side of the author's personality. That said I felt that the fundamental love of travel and experiencing new and exciting places was clearly evident. Taking on a trip that proves difficult and beyond any expectations and assumptions is, for me, the whole joy of broadening horizons. In my experiences, when the going gets tough, lost in Timbuktu aimless in Serbia or stranded in Shetland, someone unexpected always popped up and restored my faith in humanity.

I really loved the self deprecating honesty that was clearly evident when expeditions went awry, the lack of preparation caused some hazardous scrapes where Dom was lucky to not only escape but to end up in a ludicrously vastly improved situation. Although privileged with a modicum of celebrity status which allowed exposure and support from organisations and individuals beyond the reach of most of the populace, Dom Joly does write well and conveyed his experiences with a particular bent.

One recurring analogy in the book is Dom Joly's obsession with Tin-tin citing a number of the Belgian writer and artists books e.g. Tin-tin in the Congo and Tin-tin in Tibet, during his travels. To my mind, on my travels (a pale reflection of Dom Joly's journeys) I feel more like Mister Benn than Tin-tin. That is more like a middle-aged, middle class man bored with work seeking adventure rather than a 1930s latent homosexual Belgian journalist travelling the world with financial impunity and mentally ill associates.

As far as writing the book is concerned, I was going to get up early to crack on but as yet, 1030, have not written a word. I will kick my own arse this afternoon to at least get the overall structure completed.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Un-funny television etc.

It could be my age, or it could be this combined with the quality of comedy I was brought up with but the latest crop on the Disney channel have made me consider whether or not to apply for the job of Hermit on Saint Helena. I assume that programmes such as Jessie, Good Luck Charlie, Wizards of Waverley Place, Two Kings, Austin and Ally etc. etc. are intended as comedies, otherwise why the dubbed laughter to remind us which bits are supposed to be funny. The characters are interchangeable, formulaic and dull. Making shit TV must be so cheap today, bloody digital revolution. Also, what is the  teen obsession with vampires? My boyfriend/girlfriend/babysitter/courgette/ring-piece is a vampire, most have been used.

What makes this worse is that my own flesh and blood, i.e. Eddy and Beth, use the TiVo to record this nonsense, sometimes the same episode several times. My Saturday mornings will now be spent rising early and deleting most of the recorded bollocks on my TiVo hard-drive, then topping it up with British comedy shows from the 70s, 80s and 90s, changing the password then returning to bed. I have to, a series link would enable thousands of episodes.

And then there are the paranormal investigation programmes. There are now so many ghost hunters roaming both the UK and the US that there's barely any room to shoot any reality TV shows. There's one where they visit places where serial killers may have visited or lived and a psychic manages to connect with the spirit of the murderer. Sometimes the said killer is not even dead. Now ghosts, of the living, can frequent places visited from some brief period of time. If this is the case then you have to feel for the mediums, they must be able to witness this phenomena everywhere. It's a wonder they manage to get any shopping done, or anything else for that matter. Thankfully most of these shows have to screen the disclaimer, 'for entertainment purposes only'. There is something in that. it is entertaining, but for the wrong reasons.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Sausage Trail, a reflection, well a small one anyway

As previously mentioned, now that the sausage trail is finally over the hard work of constructing a coherent book arises.

Once again, as it was when my journey began, it's British Sausage week, which I will celebrate before the final date of the 11th of November. From the Shetlands to Vegas my journey has created contacts with many, for whom, the humble sausage holds more than just a passing fascination. Along the way  I met up with old friends and made new ones, I found myself thrown into the limelight and travelling in complete isolation. There were disappointments, surprises and revelations. When I am asked 'was it worth it?' I have to say that it most certainly was, I have learned a great deal and met some fascinating new people and seen a new side to old acquaintances.

I aim to have the book finished by March with the first three chapters in a suitable form for my agent by Christmas. This will give me a publication date of June/July 2013. This coincides nicely with the start of the serious training period for the trip to Everest base camp, best fund-raising trousers at the short trail.

Not one to stand idle, the next book is in discussion. This time I will be forming a writing partnership with my wife Charlotte. We will be writing under the combined, using her christian name and my surname we will be writing under the name of 'Charlotte Gledson' (As ridiculous as this approach sounds it how Nikki French describes her writing partnership). Seriously though, we are planning something. There are a few ideas, one of which is to visit some of the most sinister deserted towns in the world. More on that later.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Still awake, jet-lagged and awaiting a curry

Stupidly after landing I drove straight to work. The flight was as good, or as bad, as any economy long-haul flight could be expected to be. I had, fortuitously, landed myself in an aisle seat, great for a large bloke with dodgy knees. My two travelling buddies turned up, young twenty-something female types, both carrying shopping bags containing two pairs of Ugg boots. I must admit that my assumptions towards their superficial and shallow leanings were unfounded as they both remained quiet and respectful throughout the journey. I did become irritated a few times when they visited the toilet, as a couple, but I realised that they were probably trying to minimise disruption to me.

I watched a couple of movies, Batman; The Dark Knight Rises, again, just as good the second time but without the trepidation of a rogue gunman in the cinema when the bullets began flying. The second, which I managed to sandwich in between the shabby excuse for breakfast and the entertainment system cutoff, was the new Aardman flick, Pirates. This was possibly the best film I have seen in years, great comedy, soundtrack and story, WATCH IT!

The usual ignorance ensued as we disembarked, the first to leave the aircraft seems to be as important as how early it is boarded, all pathetic and nonsense but it earns money for the airline companies irrespective of how hideously insane it may be. I will not bore or bring down the atmos with a description of mobile phone messages, fuel consumption nor the speed of my journey back to JOakhanger.

My time at the establishment of much mirth and consternation was thankfully short, especially as I did lose my temper a tad and left.

I am now writing this, a bit tired, watching Aardmans Pirates, again, and drinking Champagne. The celebration of the end of the Sausage Trail was to be a rather cheerful affair but, a certain female member of my family ensured that this was not the case.

No matter. I will post the Vegas conclusions and thoughts.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Leaving Las Vegas

I did actually finish the 40 oz novelty tankard of frozen cocktail last night, it was a struggle but I polished it off just before midnight as the movie I had downloaded came to an end. A quick note on the film I watched; Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, sounds so naff and rubbish that I was swift to dismiss ever watching. That’ll learn me, although not a classic, it was entertaining and more than held my attention throughout, recommended. With no itinerary and nowhere to be today I took my time packing, showering before checking out, with which came a surprise. I had pre-booked this trip and pre-payed, or so I thought. When I swiped my credit card on the ‘quick check-out’ terminal a bill for $100.80 was displayed, tax evidently. Thoroughly disgusted at this I failed to tip the baggage guy when I dropped off my pack to allow me to explore the shops and have some breakfast. MacDonalds has a completely different menu for breakfast here, I tried something new to me; breakfast burritos. A tortilla wrap containing egg, cheese and bacon served with a sachet of mild chilli sauce, and a Pepsi. Not content with this healthy option I went further and indulged in two decadent doughnuts with coffee, a major sugar overload. I managed to get a few gifts for Beth and Ed and still managed to save a hundred dollars to change back to sterling later in the week.

As I sat watching the stereotypical casino tourists pass by, yippering and yammering like chimps, something flipped inside me, an emotional switch of sorts. That was it. I had done all I had come here to do, it was time to go home, (has that tourism tagline been used yet I wonder? ‘Where to go? Togo! Genius). Within minutes I had collected my pack, this time overtipping the bar guy, and was in a taxi on my way to terminal 3 of McCarran International Airport. Las Vegas is surrounded by craggy peaks which are tantalisingly visible from the city. The appeal of these mountains and Lake Mead and Valley of Fire country parks may entice me back here but the bright lights, neon signs, show girls, casinos and other brain numbing attractions will not. If I do manage to get some interest from those I have met on my journeys the past year to compete in the ‘World’ food championships then I may come back for that too.

As I sit here, flight side, at the airport, trying to spot the Brit, I feel somewhat ambivalent towards returning to my real life. I am looking forward to everything I have missed from all members of my family, even the difficult bits, but I am not tremendously happy about all of the aspects concerned with my professional life. I will attempt to get as much sleep on the plane as possible so that I can return to work as soon as I can.

With an hour before embarkation I will watch the remaining bits of Derren Brown’s Apocalypse, part 2 and watch the minutes tick away.

Beer and clothing in Las Vegas

Well it’s over. Tonight the sausage trail came to an end. Last November saw me taking my first trip to the Shetland Islands, tonight I witnessed the final of The World Food Championships. Oh, and if you’re interested the final table drew together the winners of all seven categories to be judged by a panel of professional food critics, judges and celebrities (what the f*** is a professional celebrity?) who finally chose the sandwich category over all others.

Once again I am too far ahead.

I did attend the breakfast buffet this morning, très occupée by any standards. I opted to try some new selections, breakfast spectrum (or something) which looked like a suet based mixture of everything, which was awful. I also finally tried pancakes bacon and syrup, which was awful, far too sweet with no substance or taste to the bacon. As I left the buffet area the queue was immense, I was so glad I had left it until after nine, or had I?

Since I arrived in Vegas I had fallen into the habit of early rising and equally early attendance at the event, usually well before anyone else had really bothered to turn up. I was determined to ensure that today, the last day of the event and also the final event of The Sausage Trail, would be different. After breakfast I downloaded a Red Dwarf episode, watched it then had a snooze for half-an-hour until noon. Satisfied that I had wasted enough time and that the ‘Final Table’ event would be well underway, I showered dressed in the best clothes I had saved for this final event and departed.

I feel that I must state at this point that the my dissatisfaction with Vegas, my jaded gloom, had grown to such a point that I could have quite easily, and happily, stayed in the room downloading TV shows and ordering room service. Moments after I awoke I looked out of the window, my curtains were open, at the gaudy, coloured towers of the hotel facade. My heart sank, more than ever, more than anything, I wanted to be at home. Still, this was the final push, as Catpain Blackudder would have said, so I brushed my hair and combed my teeth, steeled my resolve and set off for Caesar’s Palace.

I had, yesterday or the day before, I forget, stopped using expensive taxis and started using the cheap and impressive monorail. The service runs from The MGM Grand in the South to the remnants of The Sahara in the North (the hotel not the desert). Today I rode al the way to The Flamingo, a rather tired and sad reflection of the glorious, shiny and shallow superficial nonsense it once was. I wandered through yet another casino and mini-mall before traversing the rat-run walkways that link all of the strip hotels and finally arrived at Caesar’s Palace.

The event was cordoned off in a car park between the plaza and the strip. The ubiquitous competition tents were present as were the bars and VIP area. I ordered a G & T as I scoped out the joint, availing myself of the VIP food, fantastic fare, especially the duck and pasta. DJ chef was manning the, whatever DJs man, and gave a running commentary. Evidently the event and judging was due to start at 3PM, I checked my watch. ten minutes to go, yet there was no movement either from the teams or the judges. It then struck me, what a nob!! The outdated colonial approach in this backwater nation was such that the daylight saving happened a week after ours. I WAS EARLY AGAIN! ARSE....

Over the road was the faded grandeur of The Flamingo. The frontage visible from the Palace car-park contained non other than ‘Margaritaville’, the inspiration of Jimmy Buffet. How could I resist? I didn’t. A rum and coke and an opportunity to use their free wi-fi later I was a tad happier and closer to the start of the final judging over the road.

I sat in, what I believe are called here, the bleachers, with another G & T and watched the proceedings.

Seven plates were brought out and sampled as the cooks/chefs were interviewed by Adam. Then the elimination began. One by one the categories were sent on their way. First chilli, then recipe then BBQ then side-dish then chef leaving burger and sandwich to contest the final. (I have not checked notes not corroborated my thoughts so I may be wrong with the order of elimination).

Amidst much whooping and additional consternation the awards were made and then it was all over. I was somewhat disappointed that the recipe category, which was based on lobster infused with butter and god knows what else, was left on the stage looking lonely and ignored. Shame about my gout otherwise I would have snaffled the ‘kin lot.

With the event finished, the celebrities shuffled off to have their photos taken with the contestants, organisers and other celebrities. I sought out Casey and Jeff to express my gratitude. Casey was very interested in the sausage trail and sort of introduced me to Harry, the BBQ entrant from Holland. He was a great guy who was struggling to bring the American approach of BBQ to Europe. We exchanged details, when I say that I do of course mean that he had prepared and gave me a business card and I did nothing. He did agree that sausages should be included. Casey then urged me to talk to the CEO of MMA Creative, the man who had made the whole event possible. I waited and finally spoke to Mike. He was obviously preoccupied but was interested in my suggestion that a sausage category is included next year and that this will increase the international appeal. Of course I offered to form the exclusive front in Europe for this...why do I do these things?

That opportunity aired I left.

The journey back to the hotel was confused by a fault on the monorail leaving only one side of the track working. On my return I was pleased to see that my room had been refreshed. I dropped most of my shit, grabbed my Mac and headed for the bar.

Which is where I now sit, writing, and drinking Bud shite as I watch THE game. It’s the Denver fundamentalists against the Atlanta racists, it’s not I’m just illustrating my ignorance. At half time there will be a raffle, I have two tickets and most honestly hope that I do not win whatever football paraphernalia is on offer.

Back to The Sausage Trail. I do feel slightly deflated and sad that my journey is over. I would like to set off on another adventure immediately but what would be the point? I need to document and journal the past year in an evocative, empathic and entertaining manner. I am highly fortunate in that I have a professional editor on hand to stop me making a nob of myself.

So that’s it. I guess from now on my blog should only be called; ‘Pirate Badgers’.

Happy? No, not really. The way I feel now I wish I was with Emma and the monkeys.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Chilli judging and bad reception

Predictably I woke on the hour every hour from 5AM. I forced myself back to sleep until it was necessary to arise around eight-thirty. After the leakages yesterday I opted to omit breakfast deciding instead to let the chilli form my morning sustenance. Once more I arrived at the venue far too early finding myself sitting in the warm sunshine until it was time for the judges briefing. This could not have been more different from the burger judging. Where yesterday the atmosphere had been jovial and light with playful banter and comments throughout the judging process the chilli category team leaders were deadly serious. 

They outlined the rules and regulations and reiterated that they would be enforced with, ‘zero tolerance, shock and awe ‘ or something similar. I had discovered that the Wiston hotel had the most powerful Wi-fi transmission known to modern science, managing to surf from across the six lane highway and in the middle of the vast parking lot set aside for the event. I was somewhat aggrieved when the announcement came for the chilli (they spell it chili, can’t afford the consonants Carol?) judges to assemble at the tent. I handed in my precious laptop bag and stood poised with my spoon, silent and deadly at my allocated table. My fellow judges were similarly poised and ready, eight judges to take on seven chillis (sounds like a line from the Lord of the Rings, nah does it bollocks).

When were given the go ahead there was definite reticence to be the first to dive in, I was not surprised after the militant approach to the rules. After the second urging we dived in. Unfortunately the first one I tried was the best, a squid chilli more reminiscent of a green Thai curry, it was amazing. Unfortunately there were no recipe cards required for this category so I couldn’t crib ( I did take photos of all the recipe cards during the burger judging). Slowly we rotated counter-clockwise round the table tasting all the chillies, a nice touch was that there were bowls of sour cream set around the table to refresh the palate, it really works. My inability to withstand spicy food is legendary, well it’s not really but I like to think it is, and as such I was concerned that in a competition where chillies were taken very seriously indeed I would not be able to pull my weight. I need not have worried as one of the firm rules was that there were not to be any ‘painful’ experiences. All of the chillies I tasted were excellent, especially the squid one, although I doubt that the other judges shared my enthusiasm for the only seafood that does not aggravate my gout.

We all silently filed out of the tent and collected our Kraft goody bags, it reminded my of Alan Partridges ‘fun pack’ from the Dante Fires episode. It contained:

Three sachets of ketchup
Two sachets of A1 steak sauce
A ‘mac’n’cheese fun bendy pen
Some nuts
Some nuts
Some nuts
A card with instructions on how to bring Kraft products into your life
A liquid water enhancement solution? (liquid water as opposed to dehydrated water)
Some post-it notes
And probably some other shit

I took some bit sand dumped the rest then took the monorail back to the MGM Grand hotel where I got lost.

I had skipped breakfast and had been denied topping up on the chillies I had liked so was beginning to feel peckish. I opted to visit the hotel buffet where I had meatloaf, sausages, mac’n’cheese and beans. I also did something I don’t normally do, I had dessert, I won’t make that mistake again. The cheesecake was like polyfilla, rubbish. Full and tired I snatched an hours kip. AH, it’s obvious now why I can’t acclimatise to Vegas time; I keep sleeping in the afternoon, what a twat. I awoke a twosie state %100 and only just made it to the shitter. This happened twice more, I even considered not going to the reception. I did though.

I had missed an email from Julie earlier and through that an opportunity to talk with her. Annoyed I decided to attend the reception and see if she was there. She wasn’t. Adam was accosted by punters at an alarming rate, the Northern English couple showed no shame and dived in for their photo opportunity, embarrassing as they had nothing to say to him. Other than another English couple banging on loudly about how shit Vegas was there was not much more to report. I returned to the hotel.

Andrew did say that every hotel has it’s own particular clientele. The Excalibur is a sordid little Chav hole with wall to wall Jez Kezzers from the UK, rednecks from the US and gang bangers from Mehico (I know). I attempted to catch up with my blog in the lounge but a band, “The Klique’ were playing very loudly. They were playing music I ‘kin hate so I opted to take my ridiculously large, 22oz, Dick’s Colada to my room and write there. This I have done for an hour and I am only halfway through the bloody rum cocktail (it has an extra double shot of rum, $3, what can I say?)

I will finish and sleep, if I can.

Blog up to date, happy as an oyster.

The first judging gig...and meeting Alan Rickman.

Once again I find myself in the Lounge bar in the bowels of The Excalibur Hotel indulging in a well earned G & T reflecting on the long day.

For some unaccountable reason my body just will not adjust to Vegas time. I intended to finish this but didn’t I went to bed instead to rest up before the main event of the day, The World Burger Extravaganza. So, once more I end up writing retrospectively whilst continuing with the Great Vegas Adventure.

I won’t bother updating my location as I write as it will change, taking, as it were, every opportunity to get my thoughts down when I can.

As I tend to do I turned up at the venue far too early. I had been awake since 5AM, even with a longer than usual breakfast and shower I was ready to hit the road at nine with nothing expected to happen at Bally’s until at least 10AM. I checked in at the judges/volunteers booth, which was as difficult to find as anything official had been for this event. I received my tee-shirt and an appointment at the judges tent for burgers at 10AM sharp. This meeting lasted approximately 5 minutes with the morning session judges to return just before eleven. I was not due to judge until 4PM. Killing six hours in Vegas is not a hard thing todo, but, I reminded myself that I was here for a purpose and as such would try my hardest to spend the time constructively and without blowing hundreds of dollars. Walking around the areas set out for the championship was interesting for a couple of hours, taking in the aromas and sounds and seeing the equipment required for top competition cooking was a real experience. The units for the barbecue teams are a complete kitchen as a trailer, including the smoker, grill, sink, water storage, gas storage and fridge. Some of these trailers must cost tens of thousands of dollars and there are no shortage of them either. There are several categories at the championships, I must confess I struggle to keep up with what is actually happening. Apart from the obvious BBQ, chilli and burger categories there are: sandwiches, side dishes, chefs challenge and recipes, I think. As I do not fully understand the competition cooking scene I will stick to what I have been allocated as a judge and comment on that. I will say, however, that I have not seen any sausages included in the competition and a time is now running short, I doubt that I will.

I wandered until I had had enough and, as has become normal this trip, felt knackered around 2PM. I decided to check out the ballroom ,which evidently had been booked by the organisers for the duration of the competition. It was completely empty. I set up my Mac and gadgets, made myself comfortable and attempted to doze. 

This was on the whole successful but I was interrupted twice. The first time some bloke drifted in looking for a friend, the second time a Northern British couple breezed in looking to pick up their tickets for the party at Ballys pool the following day. I gave them some advice, to basically nob off and leave me alone, then tried to snatch thirty-nine winks or so. Eventually the steady hum of the air-conditioning and the occasional sounds of staff moving around in the lobby outside ensured that not a wink was to be had. The rumbling in my trussocks worried me somewhat, predictably a brief series of the squirts began, less than an hour before I was due to judge I had teh ‘kin Trotts. Finally empty I found myself sitting on some stone steps facing the burger judging tent until it was time, thankfully my twosie situation was feeling, if not resolved, then better.

What can I say, the burgers were wheeled in, we tasted, rated and left. Fifteen minutes tops. I immediately leapt in a taxi and returned to the hotel. Thirty minutes later I was safely asleep in bed, after a quick G & T, hence the opening paragraph.

I was determined to collar Adam that evening and the low key reception gave me the ideal opportunity. We spoke about the popularity of sausages in the US and football, proper football. He is more knowledgable that I am about the game, asking my opinion on the Newcastle line up past and present. Looks like I chose the wrong season to lose my interest in the game. I had been joking all week about gettin ghis name wrong and asking him how he liked filming Harry Potter, really stupid thing to do as I nearly DID call him Alan at one point. 

The organisers had booked a couple of women in show-girl costumes for the look of the thing and I took the opportunity to chat and have a photo. I did take the piss a bit and I think it may have been lost on them, but they were nice enough and even collared me later for another chat and 'a hug', obviously endeared at my best Michael Palin impression. I hate myself to admit that following said 'hug' I checked my pockets to ensure all items were present and correct, I am such a prick at times.

The guy who operated my camera turned out to be a great guy. Andrew Chai from LA had won a competition on the website YELP and was, like me here on his own. We chatted about food and travel before having a couple of drinks and drifting off as the evening drew to a close.

I had the taste for a few G & Ts so trawled the bars in a mini pub crawl of the Excalibur. After an awkward conversation with a stereotypical redneck in Dick’s Last Resort I had one more then went to bed, after a burger of course. I do feel it necessary to mention that this guy had been in town for SEMA (or something, it was about cars though) he proudly showed me pictures on his iPhone of engine blocks and exhaust pipes, riveting.

Chilli judging loomed in the morning, as I fell into yet another fitful slumber visions of giant beans and armadillos dancing with Simon Cowell leapt into my head.

Friday, 2 November 2012

World Food Championships, inaugural reception

It is later, but not that much later. After a couple of beers and a blog update I returned to my room, the intention was to grab a quick hours snooze, have a spot of lunch then off back to Bally’s for the press conference. It didn’t quite turn out like that, I slept until twenty past four, that left me just over half an hour with which to get dressed and get to the hotel. A very friendly Ethiopian taxi drive got me there with ten minutes to spare. He also informed me that the president (no capitalisation) had been in town campaigning, ah well.
 The Skyview ballroom is on the 26th floor of Bally’s overlooking the strip. I met with Jeff Morris wand was awarded my ‘access all areas’ media pass. The access granted also included the VIP events which meant that essentially I had wasted five-hundred dollars, or maybe not, time will tell.

Adam arrived and the press conference began. There were prepared words from Mike McCloud the chief organiser from MMA Creative, then the expert board were introduced, this included my Vegas contact Julie Hession. Then Adam had his say, I attempted to get some pictures and capture some of the proceedings but an irritating journo sat right in front of me and performed as though his was the most important one in the room. He blocked most of my shots and placed his equipment directly in my line of sight. It transpired that he was from so perhaps he was the most important one there. Then the reason why I should not put my trust in gadgets became evident, the memory on the cam-corder filled up and my phone crapped out. From tomorrow it’s back to low tech pen and paper, and my Mac.

Afterwards we dispersed I found myself sharing a lift with Julie, I refrained interrupting her conversation to introduce opting instead to wait until we were on the casino floor. I then approached her, for all the world probably looking as creepy as any crazed internet stalker. She offered to meet up on Saturday to answer a few questions, rather than press the matter I faded back into the crowd and set off for the opening reception at The Paris.

Arriving early and showing both my media and VIF passes confused and baffled the staff manning the entrance. I won’t go into any great detail about the reception as I bloody hate the things but will instead content myself with saying that the pickings were slim indeed. Within minutes I had exhausted my free drink allowance, there was no sign of Adam, I turned my attention to the food. Small portions, no more than tasters, well prepared and flavourful but not enough to satisfy a Chinese field mouse, as the saying goes. When Adam did finally arrive I was drinking the free coffee. The speeches were made, not dissimilar to that recently witnessed at the press conference, more thoughts on the content later, perhaps. Adam then peeled away with his PA or agent or someone allocating his time anyway. They had a brief discussion, then the hordes descended. I was quite close at this point and could have easily joined the throng to await my chance, but, after watching for a few minutes as punter after punter peddled their tenuous links to Adam then had their photo taken with the celebrity, I felt somewhat jaded by the whole affair. I have access to all areas and all VIP receptions so thought it prudent to leave any contact, hoping not to seem too creepy when I eventually do take the opportunity, until a time when he was not so pressed.

There were a number of other ‘celebrity’ foodie types there none of whom I had ever heard of, they are probably all very good at what they do but with my level of interest in the toilet, I left, caught a cab and returned to the Excalibur. A couple of beers and a cheeseburger will ensure I feel better.

I have a judging commitment tomorrow afternoon so I’d better learn the rules before then.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

The food event is about to begin

My intention was to write this at breakfast but for some reason I found myself suffering from a hangover, I blame the jet-lag and the rubbish beer. Breakfast was the same excellent affair as yesterday, with added biscuit and eggs Benedict. I lay down for a short snooze which turned into an hours deep sleep. I awoke exactly at ten, my body clock still appears to work in a pre-programmed alarm mode. I checked my email from the events organisers,10AM registration for VIP tickets at the Pacific Ballroom, Bally’s. Right, time to hustle, as I believe the Americanism goes, or, more correctly time to get my sweaty arse into gear.

Whoa, just realised that I am getting ahead of myself. What did I do last night, how did really come to have a hangover and why are there dead bodies in my room? The last bit was just put there to keep the readers interesting and to confuse the invisible angels that live in my pancreas. Following a wander around the strip, checking out some the casino floors between The Luxor and Caesars Palace, I returned to the hotel, freshened up and set off to find somewhere to eat.

I didn’t fancy what The Excalibur had to offer so strayed as far as the Mandalay Bay pausing only for a beer at a Mexican themed bar. I asked for the menu, I had eaten Mexican the previous evening so didn’t really want to repeat the experience. I remarked to the waitress that there were a lot of Tequilas on the menu and that this was somewhat peculiar for an Irish bar. Without a hint of irony she responded that this was not, in fact, an Irish bar. I left.

I eventually ended up back at The Excalibur at Dick’s, a BBQ type eatery. Excellent. I ordered the pulled pork, sausages with mac ’n’ cheese and fries. The sausages were odd, more like frankfurters than bangers, slightly spicy but heavily processed. The pulled pork was marvellously tender and juicy and went well with the mc and cheese. Needless to say that I only managed half of the dish, in my defence I will say that I almost finished the meat  but left most of the sides. I had to as I was beginning to feel sick. Full to bursting I decided to hit the blackjack tables and get the gambling element of my visit out of my system. I had tried the previous evening to use drinking and gambling as a means to beat jet-lag, I failed. This was, I decided, because I was not trying hard enough. I was still suffering from this peculiar affliction so changed $150 into chips and hit the tables. It is well known that in Vegas as long as you are gambling then the drinks just keep coming, this is true but I had an interesting conversation from the grumpiest barman in the world regarding this misconception, I will tell later. I found a great bar that served a good G & T so bought my drinks there in between tables ordering from the wandering waitress when gambling. At one point I was $150 up but this dropped to $50 by the end of the night. I bought a decent bottle of red from an offy then retired to my room to polish it off, catch up on notes and get some sleep.

During the night I was awoken twice, once by an ill tempered neighbour who had been locked out and was hammering on his room door and yelling. The second was a fire alarm urging me to stay calm and await further instructions. I went back to sleep.

Right, that’s last night done. Where was I? Oh yes, getting my arse into gear.

I cashed in my chips, not a euphemism, I actually did and set off for Bally’s.

The walk to Bally’s isn’t far but is awkward when negotiating the walkways between the hotels, there is no such thing as walking in a straight line here, as in all of America, the primary mode of transport is the llama, I meant car, with drive through everything, even weddings.

I wandered around the hotel for some time until I found the Pacific Ballroom which appeared empty. I poked my head around the door and saw a young lady sitting, alone, amidst the vast array of banqueting tables and chairs. It transpired that, as a judge, I did not need to do anything until tomorrow, when I am judging. I did, however, pick up my VIP pass, or as termed by the organisers VIF (very important foodie) and was informed that the media event was at 5PM, I suppose I’ll turn up for that as it’s just before the evening reception.

Back to the hotel, some food and a couple of beers as I wait for the evening to commence. Oh, I am not bloody walking to Bally’s again, I am sick of being accosted by pamphlet distributors, homeless bums, waitresses inviting me to eat etc. etc.

More later.

Las Vegas...well..what can I say?

'The spectacle', as opposed to...'The Horror' the mainstay and the selling factor of the dream and the collection of Mega Resorts. Don't get me wrong, I honestly believe, and feel, that Vegas is an absolutely fantastic and wonderful destination, BUT, not for me. The shiny veneer and publicly facing street illusion makes me want to see what happens behind the curtains. The Wizard of Oz performed his miracles behind such drapes, allowed by his minions and ignored by his citizens, Vegas is such an illusion.

Yet, and yet in fact, it works. The gambling...'Oh my god another casino...' and the shows, go, on and 'kin on like a Brighton or Blackpool with money and no sense of conscience or propriety, yet it is accepted and enjoyed by all. I have been here for mere hours yet I have seen through the facade and have yet been impressed.

The shine and service approach make all who visit very happy, more than can be said for Blackpool.

I will say no more...I am listening to negative music...The crack of doom..................

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Vegas day 1, and some of this morning

As I sit here eating breakfast, ‘All you can eat breakfast’, in The Exclaibur Hotel, Las Vegas I finally find a few moments and some space to recount yesterdays events. I did struggle to sleep through to sunrise this morning, eventually giving up around 5AM, rising, showering then descending to the casino floor once more to gamble yesterdays winnings until the breakfast buffet opened at 7AM.

The flight was, well what can you say about long haul flights? The flight was, long, although the entertainment offered on the Virgin Atlantic flight kept me occupied for some of the time and the two elderly ladies from the midlands regaled me with their tales of previous visits to Vegas. I watched a coupe of movies, The Hunter with Willem Defoe and Prometheus. Both were nothing to write home about or indeed mention in any detail, except that the latter was a bag of bollocks, nuff said.

The countryside passing beneath, when visible was spectacular; rugged, untamed and vast there was little sign of human intervention. Indeed, when settlements were visible they appeared to nestle in convenient nooks and crannies surrounded by the harsh wilderness, brooding mountains and majestic rivers. Roads existed where they could, following the course of rivers or dry valleys in the mountainous regions and scarring the expansive plains with a arrow straight line.

Flying over the Hoover Dam Vegas hoved into view; an oasis in the desert, a sprawling manufactured habitation. Palm trees were everywhere, almost as though the original architects of this shiny illusion were seeking to recreate a Floridian paradise. The plane touched down, taxied towards the brand new terminal 3 at McCarran international airport and the engines stopped. Immediately the mayhem that always precedes disembarkation commenced. I helped my new traveling chums with their cabin baggage and dragged my laptop bag down from the overhead locker. In the cramped space available I foolishly attempted to don my jacket, I heard a sharp exhalation as I felt my elbow hit something behind me The stewardess I had just elbowed in the face staggered back into the awaiting crowd but was caught by a scowling passenger. I apologised profusely and was assured that it was OK and it was only a superficial fracture (joking, I think).  Then we were at the mercy of the US Border Control and baggage reclamation.

Nearly an hour after the plane had touched down I was in a taxi chatting with the driver about the new terminal and the recent increase of British tourists to the city. He asked me in his Western African accent about some turns of phrase in English as Monsieur Obama had used some he hadn’t understood in a recent Presidential debate. I couldn’t really help him but in my most helpful manner offered and explained the phrase ‘talking bollocks’ which he quite liked and promised to use as much as possible in the future.

He dropped me at the Excalibur entrance then, stilling muttering, ‘You’re talking bollocks mate,’ in a fair approximation of a Nigerian Michael Caine he drove off. The check staff were friendly and the process practiced and swift. Afterwards I was left standing on the casino floor with absolutely no idea where the hotel section could be, let alone my room. Shamefully I asked directions and within minutes was in my room on the 19th floor overlooking the unrealistic Disney-esque towers that formed the frontage of this gaudy hotel and casino.

It was still only just after 5PM Vegas time, I had to ensure that I stayed awake for a reasonable amount of time in an attempt to phase myself into Vegas time. A plan occurred to me, I would drink and gamble my way out of jet-lag.

Two hours later after a meal of beef enchiladas, three bottles of beer and a rum and coke I staggered through the slot machines feeling every bit as much brain dead as the middle-aged gamblers sitting with vacant expressions pressing buttons at their slot machines like automatons bereft of all emotion except a glimmer of hope which surfaced whenever a minor win materialised. It was after 2AM in Gosport and way past my bed time. I cashed in my winnings at the blackjack machine and submitted to tiredness.

It was around 8PM when I hit the soft pillows of my, all too empty, king-size bed. Nearly four hours later I awoke feeling very refreshed and ready to go, well I would it was time to get up in good old Gozzy. I forced myself back to sleep, dozing fitfully for a couple of hours at a time until I eventually could stand no more and dragged my carcass out of bed at 5AM.

Which brings me back to breakfast. An amazing affair, for around a tenner, everything you could feasibly imagine, and a few new ones; country steak and gravy (the gravy is a beschamel with additives), biscuits and plenty of tater tots.

I have one day, today, to explore Vegas before the spectacle of The World Food Championships so I am off to explore and leave my hotel for the first time (not strictly true as I ate at The Luxor last night).

More later, with photos hopefully.

Oh and for Emma, as I sit writing and drinking coffee I am at %90.

It's not even 8PM Vegas time and I'm wiped out

I have tried to keep myself going, a few drinks have only added to the tiredness problem, as did a fantastic beef enchilada. I think I've bored myself with the slot ties and my mental capacity is certainly not up to pitting my wits against a croupier (I am unarmed at the moment for such a contest).

I will post in detail on the trip, a few incidents and surprises but nothing that cannot wait until the morning; MY morning that is.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Hurricane Sandy

I realised that it has been twenty years since I was last in the USA, this was during the 1992 West Indies Guardship (WIGS) deployment on HMS Cumberland which saw me visit many Caribbean Islands as well as Key West and Tampa. After such a lengthy absence I am somewhat ambivalent towards my upcoming trip to Vegas. I am excited about judging at The World Food Championships and the associated interviews and receptions but at the same time I am somewhat nervous about interviewing for the book, I have a media pass and I will be at all of the VIP events which will give me access to the celebrities attending the event.

The current major topic of conversation on the travel forums is the disruption currently caused by the Class 1 storm harrying the Eastern seaboard of the States (not going to give the definite article a capital letter out of principle). All of the flights to and from New York, Boston and Washington have been effected but as yet no others. I am due to leave early tomorrow so I hope that the situate remains the same.

Packing done, gadget charging done, already missing my family, especially Beth who is with her cousins in London.

Stuff to do.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Looking back, one trip left

It's nearly been a year since I embarked on my sausagey (remember I DID establish this as a bona fide word earlier in my posts) sojourn, so much has happened and my perceptions on a great many things have altered. As I sit here, cider in front of me, considering the next, and final trip, I begin to realise what the past year has meant to me.

Until today I still sought a reason, a justification, for my decision to follow 'The Sausage Trail' I still could not find words to describe what I was doing, or indeed why I was doing it. Until today. I began reading reading Adam Richman's book, 'America The Edible' which is a decent account of his life as an aspiring actor and his food journal that allowed his breakthrough to the presenter of Man vs Food. There is, however, a single statement that mirrors and epitomises my approach so perfectly that I feel that I need to reproduce the words here:

'I realized that it was the firsthand experiences more than the histories and the statistics that really brought the "food story" of a place to life'

Apart from the over use of the wrong letter 'Z' this is a fantastic quote.

Last November I set off to find sausages, I set off to meet those that find this subject important, I set off to appease my ridiculous obsession. A logical set of journeys transpired:

Trumpet player at Up Helly Aa, Shetland
Sausage expert, national red tops & TV, Turija, Serbia
Offer of 'Curry Queen' sausage franchise for the UK from Hamburg, Germany
Certified sausage maker, River Cottage, UK
Rubbish sausage festival, Windsor, UK
Farmers market, Segur-le-chateau
Bekescsaba sausage festival, Hungary
World Food Championships, Las Vegas

When I say logical, I do of course mean logical only to me. There is a connecting story to link those destinations and events which will be explored and detailed in the book.

With Vegas looming close, and the end of the sausage trail, I am finalising my writing ready to submit.

With two days until I leave for Vegas I need to consider my approach and subsequent writing style for the book.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

World Food Championships, I have my judging assignments

On Tuesday I will be leaving my comfort zone in sunny Gosport for the madness of Las Vegas. The same Las Vegas where burgers can achieve fame and strippers can become president. Today I finally received notification of my judging assignments. After a couple of weeks of frantic emails and texts, the organisers answered my questions, it appears that the first World Food Championships have been so involved that the judges have yet to be contacted. This being said, my emails were answered and my assignments confirmed.

If anyone remembers my fear was that the chilli competition would demand my complete attention and that my inability to deal with spicy foods would probably lead to a situation where chilli type judging would prevail. This did in fact happen, I initially was given two days judging the chilli competition but my lovely contacts swapped one day for burger judging...yay!!

There are a few elements that I need to cover in my book when I visit Vegas including the general culture, gambling, and food apart from the competition. It will be ace.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Skyfall and how to avoid house fires

Another Bond movie is in the offing, not as bad as it sounds as the goal posts have been shifted since the Pierce Brosnan years. I lost interest during this period as product placement and pathetic stories held sway with glib comments far beyond the sexist/racist allowances of the Connery era. Casino Royale was a breath of fresh air, Bond as a public schoolboy thug. More realistic and entertaining but one which, predictably would lead to a rather shabby sequel. Quantum of Solace was a one dimensional approach to fill the gap between two good ideas, I found it disappointing and a reverse gear compared to the tempo and continued action of the first film.

That's enough of Bond, I can only take so much of franchised movie nonsense. With only a few days to go until I leave for Vegas I have started to plan my approach and consider the most interesting elements for the book. Gambling, Elvis and food are the three I will concentrate upon. Gambling; I aim to set aside $50 each for the main gambling activities, Roulette, Slots, Blackjack etc etc. Elvis, I will find as many Elvises as possible for photo opportunities and for the book. Food, nothing required to say.

How to avoid house fires...don't set fire to your house.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Un-Wellness, well emotionally anyway

I managed to get up to date with photos and blogs by just after five this afternoon and as such had a little bit of time before dinner started at six, also I am loathe to dive in when they load out the buffet as the gannets descend and the feathers fly. In as much as I have paid for half-board (I had no intention of doing this as you feel obliged to eat at the hotel) I had also paid for full access to the health spa or in this case 'Wellness Centre', so I decided that I may as well get some use of it. I had noticed a number of guests swanning toward the moist area of the hotel clad in pristine white bath-robes and twee flip-flops, I had neither. That's not strictly true as the hotel did leave a couple of robes in the room, both were a little on the tight side, besides I had no flip-flops.

In true 'Brit abroad' style I donned my Bear Grylls trousers, rolled up the trouser legs, pulled on my hiking boots, rolled my swimming 'cozzy' up in a towel and set off for the pool. I did stand out a tad, a shiny semicircular bar, which to my surprise, sold massively over-fruited cocktails to robe wearing foreigners. I nodded politely, ignoring the stares I hastily shuffled into the empty changing room where I tucked myself behind the lockers to dress as swiftly as any Mister Benn episode.

Thankfully my Asda shorts weren't out of place in the pool which turned out exactly as I had dreaded. Half an hour later I remembered why I loathed health spas, nothing had changed in the many years since I had patronised such a facility. There was a couple having full sex in the whirlpool (well probably not but I didn't want to get close enough to ascertain whether or not a pregnancy test would be needed), old couples unselfconsciously disrobed in the sauna (embarrassingly the 'old' couples were now the same age as me), fat kids screamed and shouted as they threw balls around the 'pool of serenity' and everywhere were the white robed acolytes flip-flopping their way around the slippery floor all judging my flabby, middle aged un-flip-floppedness. I doubt if I will ever find a justification for visiting a spa in the near future, I'd rather go nude paint-balling.

Rant over, beer and food time. AND, I should really start writing in earnest as I have Vegas in just over a week.

All sausaged out

As usual I awoke without any idea where I was or why I was (or wasn't) there. Nothing to do with beer, I barely had any last night (less than four doesn't count), I normally get that until I've been travelling for more than a few days and get used to the feeling of transiency once more. It was worse in Budapest on Friday night as I was convinced I was in a hotel I had stayed at in Amsterdam years ago.

I decided during breakfast that I would drive today, mainly because I wanted to beat a hasty departure following the eleven o'clock appointment and explore the surrounding area and Gyula but also because I wanted a reason not be bombarded with Palinka by the crazy Hungarians. As it transpired neither of these reasons became an issue.

I arrived in Bekescsaba just after nine with no sign of the festival starting any time soon. I drove around a bit, revelling in the bright, blue, crisp morning air, just killing time more than anything. At just before ten I parked up, paying 800 Forints for the privilege, and walked through the unmanned kiosk into the festival. Compared to the previous afternoon there was very little activity, the main marquees were empty as was a majority of the seating areas. Many grills had not long been lit and there was a marked absence of drunken activity. There was no evidence of any competition or any presentation, it began to dawn on me that perhaps Laszlo had meant 11PM. There was no way I could hang around until just before midnight, I opted to perform a brief scan and vamoose. The Hungarian sausage club stand was in full flow, a Serbian troop were giving a demonstration of carcass to sausage in five minutes flat, impressive. At this point I left.

I decided to have a drive through the countryside and through the nearby National Park where I saw something quite peculiar.

Absolutely no idea!!!

After driving around a bit I headed back to Gyula where I visited a car boot sale in the local Tesco car park then went on a hunt for lunch. I finally decided on a restaurant where I ordered chicken with parka, dumplings and goose gizzard, very nice. There was a moment when I nearly ingested a wasp, for the second time this year, but was saved by some fancy knife and fork work.

There were no shops open to buy any presents, well it is Sunday, therefore I deemed it beer o'clock and returned to the hotel to catch up on some writing and similar.

I do feel guilty about not visiting the festival for another full day but, as the title suggests, I am pretty much all sausaged out for the time being.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

From Budapest to Bekescsaba

After another long day I am, once again in a hotel bar with a beer and my blog.

Breakfast at the hotel in Budapest was fine, plenty of sausages and eggs, together or separate. Cheese and fruit, I had both, without the fruit and coffee. I checked out and was on the road before my OCD target of 9AM. With the phone fully charged and the sat-nav loaded, leaving Budapest was not half the chore arriving had been and within half an hour I was well beyond the boundaries of the city.

The drive to Gyula was simple and the roads quiet and well maintained. I stopped briefly at another massive Tesco hyper-mart to top up with toiletries, when I say top up I actually mean get some, I left everything at home.

The hotel was easy to find but the check in time was not until 3PM, it only just noon! I filled in (out?) the registration form, parked my car in the gloomy subterranean car-park then returned to reception to enquire about the buses. The helpful clerk suggested that I shouldn't gamble my life on public transport and immediately ordered me a taxi. Completely unprepared I stuffed the required electronics (I am building up a pathetic reliance on these devices an an aid to memoir) into my pockets, donned my fleece and was bundled into the awaiting car.

The 24 degree celsius exterior was somewhat warmer in the taxi and even with the window open I was sweating the whole way to Bekescsaba. After some initial confusion at the entrance I eventually managed to explain my request, to pay and get in, and was admitted with accompanying embarrassed smiles and nods.

I still had two hours to kill until my meeting with the organisers so I bimbled about taking in the ambience and photos in equal measure until, unbelievably I literally bumped into my old mate from the Turija sausage festival, Zoltan. He was very pleased to see me but, as he has no English and I have less than no Hungarian we babbled at each other for a while and both nodded as we promised to something or other, possibly, later, perhaps. I wandered off for a beer.

When the time came for the meeting with the organisers I followed the signs to the office, which I found and knocked, nothing. The door was a blank and opened into the main arena. I asked at the info point and was eventually, through my initial contact put in touch with two twenty something (if that) sisters, one a journalist for Radio One, Bekescsaba, the other acting as interpreter. We exchanged questions which ended at an awkward point when a sausage on a paper plate, complete with mustard and bread was produced. The awkwardness arose when I realised that the whole room was waitin and watching for me to polish of this monster banger. After a token slice or two I made my excuses, thanked everyone and wandered off, I did manage to finish the sausage.

Bearing in mind what Zoltan had perhaps said, coupled with the fact I may have recognised Istvan earlier, I returned to the sausage club tent where I witnesses the preparation and subsequent carving up of a full pig carcass earlier in the afternoon.

Istvan was indeed there as was Gyuri. The former somewhat sozzled and the later having no memory of meeting me in Turija. none of these guys had any English, an interpreter was frantically sought. In the end we ended up with:

A drunk Hungarian who liked to think he could speak English (think Crabtree with his French in 'Allo 'Allo)
A Hungarian who had some English
A Slovenian who had no Hungarian or English
A Hungarian who could speak Slovenian
A Hungarian who could speak Russian
Istvan who was struggling to speak

The Slovenian via many routes eventually explained that he was the President of the Slovenian Salami organisation and invited me to the National finals in March next year. Two minutes worth of words taking nearly an hour, and beer, and Palinka.

Will update with photos and a conclusion after dinner.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Hungry in Hungary

It's been some time since my last trip abroad on the sausage trail, but here I am on my way to the biggest sausage festival on the planet at Bekescsaba in Hungary. It's time to leave the nonsense at work behind for a few days and focus on the next chapter of my sausagey sojourn. My only regret is that Emma can't be with me on this trip but it's not realistic, a shame really as we both loved our trip to Romania and I think Hungary will be much of the same.

I'm currently sitting in a lounge at the airport waiting for the gate announcement, not much to report yet but I hope that the weather in Budapest is better than here. Will update tonight.

The promised update:

Th flight was of no real consequence other than to say there was, of course, the inevitable stag trip, complete with the 'stag' dressed in a giant baby grow a la George Dawes, 'kin hilarious (really?). I snoozed right up until landing in, probably, the most uncomfortable seat I have ever experienced on a flight. The usual airport experience followed, passport control an unmanned customs checkpoint and out into the main concourse. Getting the keys for the car was a great deal less painful than anything I've experienced in France, fifteen minutes after disembarking I was on the road. A confusing road system forced me back to the terminal where I queued with the taxis for a while before realising that if I didn't shift my arse I was liable to pick up a passenger, off I went.

Once more my preparation for navigating to my booked hotel left more than a little to be desired. The 10km that the directions mentioned swiftly turned into 12km so I decided it was time to leave the main thoroughfare and strike out on my own using my phone to navigate. The accuracy wasn't great until I realised that I hadn't switched on the GPS, when I did so the additional power required killed the bloody thing. I drove aimlessly around some increasingly unsavoury areas until I found a garage, broke out the Mac to charge the phone and was away, this time with a purpose.

It transpired that the crossroads at which I had decided that I knew best and set off into the unknown was only two or three hundred meters from the hotel. If I had trusted the directions I would have been there half an hour earlier.

So here I am, sitting in an empty restaurant with an empty beer glass and an empty plate. Food is on its way, pork escalope, can't wait.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Chilli challenge, part one.

As I have mentioned in more than one post, my tolerance of spicy food is not of a particular macho level. Indeed, I don't feel confident that my resilience to hot food will be sufficient to see me through the judging experience in Vegas. With this in mind part one of my chilli challenge, where I see how much heat I can stand, is below.

As soon as the really hot sauces arrive I will put the resultant embarrassing video on the blog.

Jimmy Savile, pedo, surprised?

If the press are correct we need to remember the following difference:

PDF File

I believe that it is such a misunderstanding, or similar, that led to the BBC ignoring allegations for decades regarding the predatory and consistent sexual abuse taking place on their premises. If not then what could the reason possibly be that absolutely nothing was done? It must have been fifteen years ago, or even more, when, in a pub somewhere, I remember having a discussion about Jimmy Savile and his sexual proclivities. It must, therefore have been, perhaps not wholly in the public domain, but well enough known that blokes in pubs had heard the rumours and discussed the same at length. I find it inconceivable that the BBC or indeed and organisation retaining the services of this freak would not have at least heard rumours let alone received complaints. The matter is compounded by additional allegations against other well known entertainers in company with Savile who seemed to happily engage in similar activities with underage girls. Personally I cannot accept the proclaimed ignorance, and hence, innocence of the BBC, even if it were true, leaving a trio of underage girls in the company of a group of creepy, leering celebs of the period cannot be a sensible thing to do.

Who knows where this will lead and how deep the rabbit hole goes, if too far then I fear a greater cover-up is on the cards. The greatest potential scandal is of a seventies sub-culture of rape and child abuse with celebrities of the time protected by agents and producers.

How much will be uncovered?

Time will tell.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Chilli, or chili

Ok, I admit, I am a complete wuss when it comes to spicy food, especially Chilli. This is going to be a bit of a penalty when I have to sit and judge some of the tastiest and hottest chillis on the planet. I have a rather peculiar memory when it comes to hot and spicy food in that I have none. No matter what I eat, or how spicy it is, I retain no memory of how painful the experience may have been and will always, invariably repeat the experience.

With my upcoming challenge foremost in my mind Emma has suggested that I 'man up' to a large degree and get used to the different levels of spicy goodness. A standard chilli will be cooked and a number of pepper sauces added to give an advancing level of hot stuff.

Chilli is rated on the Scoville scale, measured from; 0 - sweet bell pepper, to, 16,000,000, Blair's sixteen million reserve.

I do not aim to explore the whole range, BUT, I do want to see how I can deal with quantified chilli heat.

1 - Original Tabasco              2500 - 5000 Scoville units
2 - Habanero Tabasco           7000 - 8000 Scoville units
3 - Daves Insanity Sauce       180000 Scoville units

For me that will be enough, I'll video it all and post it of course. I may find some additional sauces, perhaps one or two, just to show a wider approach but pleas do not judge.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Dodgy pubs and chilli

If Hannah reads this she will fully understand the title. I love the idea of pubs with ridiculous names, The Slug and Lettuce just doesn't go far enough, I like the idea of pubs with names such as:

The Queens Vulva
Arse about
The scrawny bint
Mister Hinckley's banana
The York and fuckwit

You get the idea.

It seems that after recent correspondence from the organisers of The World Food Championships, that I will be, at least for one day, judging the chilli (chili in U.S.) competition. I have submitted a previous post regarding my thoughts on chills, mainly the peppers but the associated dish in general still applies. I love the idea, concept and indeed the taste of chilli, but, massive but, chillis do not like me. Emma is incredulous on the fact I volunteered for every category and as such reap what I sow, however I do like the subject and my history of chillis will make a great chapter.

My Judge Dredd post and associated popularity is fading quickly so I will have to come up with another popular post, in the mean time I hope that this will suffice.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Sausage Trail - stupid fingers, be more funny!

It's been some time since I actively travelled in the name of the sausage trail and have not, of course, used the time to collate my thoughts, notes and get the bloody thing written. In time honoured tradition I have looked to occupy my time with anything other that writing the book. When Dom Joly was writing his latest book, Scary Monsters ad Super Creeps, he often posted on his face-book page where he was and whether he was writing or not. After some time it became apparent to me that his diligence and tenacity to get thing written was not only admirable but a necessity. Still, in my defence  I must say that there are still 2 trips left, from which I will need to decide the angle and approach needed for the book. I have already been informed by a very helpful literary agent that a basic travelogue from an unknown scribbler such as myself is not likely to generate any interest and as such humour is the only way forward.

So! After Hungary and Vegas it's best writing trousers on and time for my fingers to be more funny (as the blog title suggests). The Sausage Trail journey ends in a little over a month but then the hard work begins.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Hobbit

Recently it has transpired, maybe not that recently but I have only just found out, that the film adaptation of the Hobbit is to spread over three films, probably in the same time frame as The Lord of the Rings (LOTR for the un-initiated) which means waiting three years to see the story unfold. My first feelings were of disappointment; three films for three books for LOTR and three films for one book for The Hobbit. Either LOTR was sold short, which we know it was as so many aspects and encounters were omitted: Tom Bombadil and The Barrow Wights to name but two. OR, the Hobbit has been twisted and stretched to achieve a three movie franchise. I would like to think, and hope, that the truncation of LOTR was necessary to pacify the Hollywood backers and for Peter Jackson to establish himself as one of the most talented film makers that ever lived. I would also like to think, assume and hope, that now Peter (or should I call him something else to appear less pretentious?) has established himself he is able to convince the tasteless financial backers, or even to finance the project himself, that his way is the best way. There have been a few sections of the trailer that seem to be sections missed from LOTR, perhaps he has weaved these into the new tale.

One of my favourite pastimes whilst lying awake in bed at night with Emma, apart from the obvious, is to speculate on who would be the best actor to play parts in films not yet produced. Mister Benn is a perfect example (I am still writing a screenplay). When I thought about casting the dwarfs for The Hobbit I was at a loss, yet, when I read the cast list I was so impressed; James Nesbitt, Ken Stott and Richard Armitage were fantastic names to see so were returning characters; Gandalf, Legolas, Gollum and Saruman all played by the iconic actors that first took the part in LOTR.

I hope that after the first screening I will be as positive.

Friday, 21 September 2012

What is it with British food?

With only just over a month until the World Food Championships I am beginning some research into the U.S. food culture in general and the BBQ circuit in particular. Unfortunately it is impossible not to compare the Americans approach to food to our own. It seems to me that there is a massive gap in the British restaurant business, an area not catered for at all. OK, we have seen a massive increase in the gastro pub and fine dining is now accessible to practically everybody, indeed my visit to River Cottage was a revelation, great food and a great atmosphere but, there seems to be a massive lack of grass roots, good honest, basic food. If you have ever visited the U.S. you will be well aware of their excellent service industry, particularly in the restaurant business. I remember visiting a seafood restaurant in Key West in the early nineties and spending over an hour talking to out waiter, there was no insincerity and no awkwardness, he seemed genuinely happy and keen to converse and serve us at our table. Of course we tipped well and he was grateful. Need less to say the abalone salad with raspberry dressing was awesome.

So, fine dining aside what do we have? For a country rich in tradition with culinary influences from as far back as the Romans our current offerings for basic grub is arse, at best. Discounting the standard franchises, Maccy D's, KFC, Nandos, Frankie and Bennys etc. what do we have? Our basic burger eatery is a manky wagon on a hard shoulder on the A3(M), OK the food may be OK but looking at the offerings seen on shows such as Man vs Food, You Gotta Eat here (I know is Canada) and even the Hairy Bikers Mississippi adventure its evident that for a country bereft of tradition and light on history, they sure know how to get the basics right for eating. Even when we adopt an American born approach or concept such as fast food what do we do? We remove the single element that made it attractive in the first place. I am sick and tired of asking for a burger, or whatever and having to 'wait five minutes for that is that OK?'

What is the resolution to this disparity? Is there an answer? Of 'kin course there is, massive portions of unhealthy meat based dishes. We have one secret weapon, the honest British banger. When in Hamburg I visited the Curry Queen, not a gay Balti house but a stroke of genius. These small roadside eateries are indeed a franchise but they have a winning solution. The best meat in the best sausages served with a range of awesome curry sauces. It is a franchise I would love to start over here with some of the best sausages we have to offer, and believe me there are very few sausages in the world to rival what we have in the UK.

I am looking forward to discovering what my judging appointment will be but realised that I volunteered for every and any category, including chilli. Curse my chilli memory!!