Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Feeling the years

It has often been said that it's not the years it's the mileage that wears us down. I would tend to agree with one proviso, not only is it the mileage it's the calories as well. When Emma suggested that I set myself a goal, a target by which I would need to get fit, I did of course go over the top as I have mentioned in previous posts. Booking myself and Will onto a Everest base camp trek next year, September to be precise, seemed like such a long way in the future that I would have plenty of opportunity to improve my fitness. Now that we are both committed, deposits paid and the dates set, I realise that I have set myself on a difficult path, literally.

A few years ago, I suddenly realised that I was older than every player in the Premiership and as such the likelihood that I would be able to make a living as a professional footballer was rather slim, in fact it was with some regret that I finally accepted that this would now never happen. From then on, now that I was looking for the signs I saw them everywhere and had to accept them all. For example, food; I can no longer consume a majority of seafood as it invariably leads to an attack of gout, marvellous. Red meat in any quantity, especially beef, causes bowel problems and, probably the worst, curries are almost taboo. Exercise is the most recent addition to the list, no longer can I just decide to throw on a pair of Reeboks and run off for miles, my knees disallow that, as well as my sedentary disposition for the past few years. Si a gentle approach and a gradual increase in exertion levels is the next logical acceptance.

Last year, on holiday in Wiltshire, Will and I decided to hike a section of the Wansdyke, fourteen miles of it. We managed ten. I was ruined and collapsed at the end of this walk which only mildly taxed Will. With all of these factors very much in my mind, I began my training schedule for Everest last week. Conscious that it is more than a year in the future I feel that I am giving myself a real chance of achieving the level of fitness I require. That said, my two mile walk (two and a half to be precise) tonight has absolutely knackered me. I am, however, determined to persevere and see this through.

Booking this challenge so far in advance has another added advantage, both Will and I have plenty of time to raise money for our chosen charity, The Rowans Hospice. There is also a possibility that Tony may be able to accompany us, may have mentioned that before so apologies in case. The clock is ticking.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

River cottage, black puddings and the like

First of all I must say what a great set up they have at River Cottage, well certainly from my experience. Considering the business suffered a major fire a mere three months ago their recovery has been rapid, focussed and impressive. The cookery school, which was located in the barn at the property, was completely destroyed in the first week of February this year. The ambitious response from the River Cottage crew was to set themselves the target to reopen before the end of the month. This happened on time. The resulting 'temporary' structure was not only functional but roomy and cozy.

I enjoyed the course immensely and will, at some in the future, have a 'stab' at butchering a pig in my own time. The recipes were incredible and the tuition friendly, but was it enough for the book? I think it was as other avenues and opportunities were opened and made available.

The sausage element of the course was worth attending, especially the linking of the bangers.

In other news; another trip to France looms on the horizon and the infiltration of the French 'Brotherhood of the Black Pudding' commences.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

River Cottage. Sausages any good?

Just a short post to express my opinion on the output of the 'Pig in a day' course at River Cottage HQ (Park Farm). I was so impressed at the course I suppose my disappointment at the sausages they left us with is compounded immensely. Let me explain.

First of all the course entailed the creation of both a traditional sausage and a chorizo, using River Cottage recipes. I have no idea about the traditional sausage as I was given a pair of chorizo. I have not had such an overpowering taste of aniseed in anything, (maybe Pastis in France), the fennel was too much I'm afraid. Of all paprika based, garlic sausages I have tried (especially of the fresh un-cured variety) the crazy Hungarians at Kobasicijada hold the gold cup.

Serbia - 1, England (River Cottage) - 0

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Standing by for the River Cottage experience

After a rather sedentary six weeks or so since my visit to Hamburg the sausage trail has taken off once more with my long awaited 'pig in a day' course at The River Cottage cookery school in Devon. I had given myself a fair bit of time to catch up with writing after returning from the immensely successful trip to Germany, but with the developments with Vegas and the TV show proposal I have found very little time to catch up. Not to worry though as being one episode behind the curve appears to be my best motivating factor.

Very good news on the Black Hound front, well good news only as Emma has been diligent and has endeavoured to keep the idea alive. After many nights with very little sleep Emma has almost completed a fantastic task and the brilliant 'Tiny Terrors' collection by Robert C. Eccles, will be available on Amazon from Friday. I am so proud of both Emma, for her approach and belief and also that she has kept Black Hound alive.

As mentioned earlier, tomorrow I will be attending the 'pig in a day' course, which will, hopefully, instruct me in the practicalities of pork in general and sausages in particular. So far I have taken a relaxing drive to the West country to a wonderful B & B with the tremendous name of 'Hedgehog Corner'. I have pre-ordered a full english brekky and finished the sherry left in my room, what a great idea.

The pub up the road offered up a lovely Pork escalope with West Country sauce, or a slice of breaded pig in cider; marvellous.

Time for an early night, run out of sherry.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

World Food Championships - Sausages

There are times, when I write the 'Sausage Trail' that I have doubts and consider packing it all in. Today, however my doubts and fears dissipated into the ether. Some time ago I sent an email to the organisers of the World Food Championships with very little hope of response or support. How wrong I was. Jeff, a communications specialist from the organisers has been more than helpful. The outcome is a sausage challenge, an exhibition challenge that is open to all of the BBQ cooks and chefs. What more could I hope for?

What a fantastic conclusion. Adam Richman, Man vs Food is there in Vegas and I sincerely hope that he will be there to judge the outcome.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Pirate Badgers, editing and France

Started my training regime tonight, not much at the moment but I will build on it. I realise that the Everest hike is many months away, sixteen to be exact, but as I am a rather unfit specimen, a damn site worse than Will, who will accompany me, I thought that I'd better start right away. So, I grabbed a backpack, filled it with books donned my boots and paced out a quick couple of miles. It's the first real exercise I've done for a while and certainly the first realistic approach for years. Sure, I've tried to prove I still have it in me to crack on a finish a decent walk, like the Wansdyke last year. I am fooling myself, last year I was ruined for days after a mere ten miles. That's why I will endeavour to build up properly this time, there is a structured training programme, no count geared up for an old huffer and puffer like me.

Ems has been lumbered with a monumental editing job. After trusting a colleague to get a very promising work into a state to upload to Kindle she has been let down badly meaning the she has to start from scratch. I have tried to help but I am a very poor instructor with no patience whatsoever and as such Emma has been doubly lumbered and for that I am sorry. There seems to be an assumption amongst the writing community and especially those who have an idea about basic formatting that it is sufficient to merely upload an MS word document directly to Amazon as a Kindle publication. All I can say is that but a professional Kindle book, anything through Random House and compare. On the subject of editing, I have completed the read through of the first Shetland chapter and will be seriously approaching a couple of other agents from tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

France again this weekend and a more advanced set of targets to get the give to a rentable standard. This time we will focussing on the pool and patching up the damage we caused last time.

Loads to do, more later.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Motivational issues

There was a time when I found the issue of motivation and subsequently the ability to write incredibly difficult. This was at a time when I was concentrating solely on fiction and as such without the means to stimulate my imagination I was at a loss. However, since I found a new direction and genre my muse has improved somewhat and I can write freely, well to  a certain extent. It is to those that I visit that I owe a great deal, the Barbara's and Marijana's and Matt's of this world that somehow find it in their heart to believe in my quest. I have, as mentioned a few days ago, managed to finally complete the Serbian chapter, or section, of the sausage trail and that in itself has given me a great boost. Now that I have started the Hamburg section I feel so much more positive and able to see the end of this odyssey somewhere in the distant future.

There have been a few, very real, positive lurches to my momentum today, not least the possibility of visiting the World Food Championships in Las Vegas, as mentioned in my last blog. Today, though, the organisers have been in touch and suggested that there may a possibility of my attendance in a more formal role. I won't say any more as it probably will not come to pass but as a climax and conclusion of the book it would be immense. The suggestion, from me, was that as the BBQ scene in the UK is, to be fair, a bit shit, a visit to the more developed and mature BBQ USA would provide so much more. Not only would I get an insight to grilling and smoking but also I would have the opportunity to write a fantastic chapter on the search for sausages and the whole BBQ culture and community in the US. Excited.

At the same time I am looking to getting the next few chapters/sections into an appropriate state. My 'pig in a day', course is imminent and beyond my control. The racing day at Windsor has been augmented with the inclusion of the irrepressible Monsieur A. Briggs, not sure if we can, perhaps hang on on for a few beers etc. but it would be great. After that, LA Pourcailade in France, the Lucanian quest to Pompeii, Bekescsaba in Hungary and finally the finale in the US are all taking shape.