25 April 2018

Admission

Senior blogger, Mr J.Gray of Flintshire in the principality of Wales, recently confessed to embarrassing high jinx when he was a younger man. It seems that when in drink, he developed the habit of purloining various items. He would wake up the next day and bleary-eyed focus in on his latest acquisitions which included a tea caddy, a set of silver spoons, a terracotta planter and dozens of daffodils.

This post reminded me of a time in western Ireland long ago. I was over visiting my late brother Paul. We had been out in the local villages for a "few" drinks and I had consumed far more than I was in the habit of drinking. 

It was an endless night and in the early hours of the morning we finished up in a hotel in Lisdoonvarna. Paul knew the owners but in any case he seemed to know everybody in County Clare and beyond. There was music, dancing and yet more drinking.

Around 3am, Paul decided to leave - going home to Josephine who would later become his wife. I was going to get a lift back to Kilfenora with Josephine's brother Donal.

Perhaps I fell asleep in the hotel lounge - I am not sure but when I came round I noticed a framed tourism poster on the wall - advertising the delights of western Ireland. Donal was eager to leave and for some inexplicable reason, I decided that I would have that framed poster as a souvenir. 

I took it down from the wall and made for the entrance but was followed into the street by the landlady and her ox of a husband. They apprehended me and angrily ushered me back into the hotel's breakfast room. 

I was then subjected to a tirade of abuse from the landlady - most of it focusing on the fact that I was English. My pathetic apologies probably wound her up all the more.

There was a big table in the room which I soon found myself dancing around. The landlady had whipped herself up into a murderous frenzy and had grabbed a carving knife. I wanted to fight back - perhaps to wrestle the knife from her hands but the gorilla she had married was standing there presiding over the confrontation and I knew that with one wrong move he would be joining in with the assault.

I remember shouting, "Please don't kill me! I'll pay for the poster! I am sorry! I'm really sorry!"

The man mountain decided to intervene. He held the harridan back and took the knife from her. Then they demanded my wallet which contained my driving licence, a credit card, a blank cheque and perhaps thirty Irish punts. I was led out into the street where Donal was waiting.

"What the **** happened?" he said.

We drove back to Kilfenora and mid-morning when it was light I explained to Paul what had occurred. He headed straight back to Lisdoonvarna and retrieved the wallet after giving the landlady a piece of his mind. Apparently, it was not the first time she had unleashed her crazy temper upon transgressing customers.

That night could have turned out so much worse. The idea of dancing round a breakfast table while being pursued by a wild Irish woman may seem funny but that was a sharp knife and she meant business. Thank heavens the husband was there to arbitrate and to rein her in. The moral of this story is never try to steal an Irish tourism poster from a bar in the early hours of the morning. It could go horribly wrong.

24 April 2018

Exploring

At Old Street tube station
There was a time when, very deliberately, I never took any photographs. Nowadays my camera is like a third eye, capturing images from the fascinating world around me, capturing Ordnance Survey squares too. You will not be surprised to learn that our recent trip to London was, for me, another great photo opportunity.
Statue of Amy Winehouse at Camden Market
On Friday, we had a late breakfast in the exclusive, members only, Shoreditch House. It was the morning after the night before as our beloved son reflected on Bosh!Fest. Friday was a beautiful jacket-free day.
On Primrose Hill
After breakfast we jumped in an Uber cab and headed for Primrose Hill through the grinding London traffic. Our driver was a lunatic from Mumbai who had clearly never heard of The Highway Code. There were U turns, wrong turns and failed attempts to mow down pedestrians but thankfully we made it to Primrose Hill with its unparalleled view towards central London. I had never been there before.
Reflections at Gasworks Park
Then it was on to Camden Market before following the tow path of  Regent's Canal all the way to King's Cross. It was so nice that Frances had managed to get a day off work and was able to join us on our metropolitan exploration. A family day out in this nation's buzzing capital. Selected pictures accompany this post
Loved ones on Primrose Hill
By Regent's Canal
"The Enterprise" pub in Camden

23 April 2018

Milestone

On Saturday morning, we visited Westminster Abbey. Afterwards, we strolled to Leicester Square and boarded a tube train on the Piccadilly Line, heading back up to Wood Green where Princess Pudding now lives with her consort. The carriage was pretty full but Shirley managed to bag herself a seat.

If you will pardon the expression, she was sandwiched between two young men. However, almost immediately one of them stood up to offer me his seat. This was a milestone moment in my life for never before have I, as an ageing man of sixty four, been offered a seat by a younger human being. 

The young man noticed my amusement and explained that in his "culture" it was the done thing to show respect for one's elders. A stop later he was able to sit down opposite me and we had a brief conversation.

I asked about his "culture" and he said he was from Senegal. We spoke about the weather there and how hot weather can make one lazy. He said that the best time to visit Senegal was in January and February when most days lacked the oppressive heat people endured in the long tropical summer. He also referred to the difficulties of sleeping in hot, airless rooms without air-conditioning.

What a fine young man he was. Polite and pleasant as his original kind gesture had shown. I shook his hand and wished him well. I guess we had broken the unwritten underground railway code - never converse with strangers. 

No doubt the young man  had come to England to seek a better future and despite the fact that he made me feel like an old fart when he offered me his seat, I still hope that he finds that better future and avoids being crushed by disillusionment and dead ends.

By the way, Senegal is situated on the west coast of North Africa. It has a population of some 15 million people with its capital city being Dakar. Once part of the French Empire, 92% of Senegal's people follow Islam. God knows why. Here is the translated first verse of the Senegalese national anthem:-
Sound, all of you, your Koras, 
Beat the drums, 
The red lion has roared,
The tamer of the bush with one leap has rushed forward
Scattering the gloom.
Light on our terrors,
Light on our hopes.
Arise, brothers, behold united Africa!
The flag of Senegal

22 April 2018

Report

Walking over London Bridge
with Tower Bridge beyond
Back from London now... The Bosh!Fest was a surreal experience. Shirley and I were given VIP passes to hang round our necks as fans and friends queued to get in a specially cordoned off section of Borough Market.

You might remember the place. It figured in the news on June 3rd last year when evil terrorists who had surged over London Bridge in a hired van screeched into the market intent on murder. Horror of horrors. But last Thursday night the scene was so different. Something good. Something joyous. Something to celebrate.

There was our Ian and Henry up on the stage, happily demonstrating Bosh! recipes. And there they were to the side of the stage having pictures taken with waiting acolytes. Shirley was bemused - "They are queuing to have their photos taken with our boy!" Crazy man!
Eight hundred people turned up to witness the official launch of the Bosh! cookbook. It happened in the evening of what had been a sun-blessed day. There was no thought of Brexit or Syria or Putin or Trump. You could forget all that stuff as the music played and I drank another beer in the cordoned off VIP area. There was a happy buzz in the air and the aroma of vegan cuisine.
The Bosh! Boys were in the middle of "The Sun" on Thursday. There was a three page spread yesterday in "The i" newspaper and they were on the front cover of "The Yorkshire Post" weekend magazine. Soon they will be guests on the "Today" programme in America and meantime the book has shot up to number three in the Amazon charts for all books - not just cookbooks.

Ian never went to university but Thursday night felt like a graduation ceremony and we were proud parents looking on as he collected his first class honours degree.

19 April 2018

Bosh!Fest

It's Thursday April 19th, a day that my family and I have been excitedly anticipating for quite a while. This is the day on which our son Ian's Bosh! cookbook is launched at an event in Borough Market , London called "Bosh!Fest". All being well, my trusty steed Silver Clint will be whisking Shirley and I down to the capital later this morning.

Here's our invitation...
"We’re delighted that you’ll be joining us to celebrate the publication of BOSH!, the debut cookbook from Ian Theasby and Henry Firth, at the first all-plant festival to be held at Borough Market!

BOSH! FEST takes place from 7- 11pm on Thursday,19th April at Borough Market’s Market Hall and Green Market.

The GUEST entrance/exit to the festival is in Market Hall, on Southwark Street. On arrival you’ll receive a Guest pass and a BOSH! goody bag.
We’ve got a full programme of talks and cookery demos lined up for you with special guests Anna Jones, Dr. Rupy Aujla and The Happy Pear, and some awesome DJs will be playing throughout the evening.

There will be plenty of delicious all-plant food and drinks to enjoy, with cocktails and soft drinks from Lemonaid, beer from Red Church Beer and food from Club Mexicana, Spice Box, and Young Vegans. There is one cashpoint within the festival perimeter and retailers will have card-readers, but please do bring cash if possible to avoid queues.

Don’t forget to share your BOSH! FEST experiences @boshtv @HQStories #boshfest #boshbook

Looking forward to seeing you at Borough Market this Thursday 19th April at 7:00pm!"

18 April 2018

Extinct

A list of animals that became extinct because of human beings, all now as dead as the fabled dodo....

Atlas wild ass
Aurochs
Baiji
Bali tiger
Barbary lion
Atlas bear
Big-eared hopping mouse
Caspian tiger on a postage
stamp from Azerbaijan 
Bluebuck
Bulldog rat
Bushwren
California grizzly bear
Cape lion
Caribbean monk seal
Carpathian wisent
Caspian tiger
Caucasian wisent
Cebu warty pig
Chadwick Beach cotton mouse
Chatham bellbird
Chatham fernbird
Dodo
Eastern elk
Falkland Islands wolf
Formosan clouded leopard
Saudi gazelle
Goff's pocket gopher
Great auk
Guam flying fox
Gull Island vole
Haast's eagle
Bubal hartebeest
Hemigrapsus estellinensis
Huia
Japanese sea lion
Madeiran scops owl
Martha - the last passenger pigeon in 1912
Mexican grizzly bear
Moa
New Zealand owlet-nightjar
Noronhomys
Northern Sumatran rhinoceros
Laughing owl
São Miguel scops owl
Carolina parakeet
Passenger pigeon
Piopio (bird)
Quagga
New Zealand quail
Rocky Mountain locust
San Martín Island woodrat
Schomburgk's deer
Sea mink
Small Mauritian flying fox
North Island snipe
South Island snipe
Dusky seaside sparrow
Steller's sea cow
Stout-legged wren
Syncaris pasadenae
Syrian wild ass
Tarpan
Thylacine
Wake Island rail
Western black rhinoceros
Lyall's wren

The list is not comprehensive and it grows with each passing year. Just look what we done.

17 April 2018

Drax

The Church of St Peter and St Paul in Drax
Parts of this Grade I listed church date back to the 12th century
On Saturday, in the village of Drax, two boys of about nine or ten were ambling along the opposite pavement as I drove slowly by. One of them made the famous and vulgar two-fingered salute in my direction, not realising that I was about to park Clint. When I opened the driver's door, the boys scooted off, perhaps imagining that they were about to be chased by a madman. Instead, it just made me chuckle.

Drax is a village with an ancient history. It once had a castle and an Augustinian priory. It sits in flatlands just south of The River Ouse and north of The River Aire. The landscape is crisscrossed with drains. Half a mile away on the opposite bank of the Ouse is Barmby-on-the Marsh where my family lived until 1952 - the year before I was born. There was no bridge to connect the two villages. Instead, a twelve mile round trip was required via Boothferry Bridge Lord knows what people did before that was built.
Drax Power Station
Seen from fifteen miles away in 2014
In the early 1970's something happened to really put Drax on the map and bring the old village's name to the nation's consciousness. A massive coal-fired power station was built on the edge of the place by the Central Electricity Generating Board. It has a generating capacity of 4000 megawats - the most productive power station in the nation and it looms over the landscape. You can see it from miles around.

I tootled round the area for an hour or so having never been to Drax before. With my curiosity salved it was time to continue with my journey over to Hull where I am sorry to say that in spite of dominating the game, The Tigers lost 0-1 to Sheffield Wednesday. Boo-hoo!
Drax Power Station
Seen from Drax Abbey Farm last Saturday