Monday, 26 December 2016

It's Xmas 1963.

It's 1963. Well, imagine it is. My parents have been in the habit of taking us en famille to a Methodist chapel in Newent, Glos. My sister and I are bored almost to tears by the Sunday school, but sometimes in summer the family cycles from our home in Highleadon to and from the chapel on two tandems. This very much brightens my day. My parents have soon made friends most of all with a family who live in a modern house on a dairy farm near May Hill. (Being a get-up-early farmer, it seemed acceptable for the farmer to snore during sermons. Tolerance, you see).

We have been invited to lunch with the family on xmas day, but when we arrive the mother seems to be consumed by an entirely unexpected grumpiness caused by... Her sons and... The Beatles! Waking that morning the mother had started Handel's Messiah on the family's record player, but her sons, 16 and 18, quickly swapped it for With The Beatles, the brand new album, a present that very morning from their grandfather, himself a retired Methodist minister! Incensed by their disrespectful attitude the mother returns all her sons' presents to a hiding place then hands them one quickly wrapped. Opening it, the sons, tall, confident, Mod-styled young men, both of whom went on to become doctors, find... a dead beetle in a matchbox. A few days later our family goes to visit Eric, my grandfather's brother, a lovely man, and Gracie, his cantankerous, skin and bone, rheumatism-riddled wife in their mock-Tudor house in Hereford. The adults' conversation turns to The Beatles - they were very big news at the the time - and suddenly Gracie pins me with a steely stare from the watery eyes in her skully old head, "All that yeah, yeah, yeah... You don't like them, do you!" It isn't a question, but it is an opportunity, and some force, far bigger than I was, makes me take it. "Yes, yes, I do!". It was quite untrue, I'd been surrounded by classical music only, and had no understanding of pop, but from that early age the thrill of taking a contrary standpoint has never left me, with the result that I habitually still look for alternative viewpoints at almost every turn.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

1,000 Light Years from Lonesome

Once upon a time about one thousand years ago I didn't know much at all about The Rolling Stones music, but my good friend Keith... no-o-o-o-oh, not that Keith, lent me the newly released Sticky Fingers, then several other Stones' albums, and I became, like him, a fanatic. In 1973 we persuaded Karen to take us to see the Stones in Manchester. It was my first ever gig by any well known band, and I'm not sure I've ever been to a better one. (Karen became their greatest fan for two days, then reverted to being a fan of Roxy Music. Tsk, I say). On leaving school I went to college in the Lake District and Keith went to London and became a builder. Three decades went by before we met one Boxing Day in The George in Brecon. We found we'd both been disappointed by the Stones' music ever since Mick Taylor had left (late in 1974), and had finally stopped collecting Rolling Stones' albums round about Steel Wheels, which I won in a music mag's competition. By that time (1989), we already owned about 28 each. Again we fell out of contact, but since a school reunion in August this year have stayed in touch. Exchanging seasonal greetings today we were much amused to find we'd both been given The Rolling Stones' new Blue and Lonesome album. And we like it.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Prepping and Trialling.

Today my nurse (Joanne), went to work while I stayed at home and went xmassy as I made two nut roasts (one for Will, who's not keen on cooking), and our xmas cake.

This afternoon I cycled into the little city of Lancaster, Lancashire, met Joanne and Abigail - unplanned, and Jonny and Gail - unplanned, bought a few xmas cards and presleys - undetected, and cycled home, alongside the canal, of course.

Not long afterwards Jonny arrived - planned, and for about 90mins we nattered in the cold shed, conversationally almost tripping over ourselves, as folks do when they've made only a little time to discuss adventures shared and unshared, past, historic, prehistoric, and projected.

The nut roast was good, I say modestly - really it was very good - and it was followed by baked plums in spiced red grape juice. I'm finding that as more and more people jump on board the good ship Vegan Bandwagon, the greater the need there is to tweak newly published recipes. And that's what I did today because I'd rather mess up a book with my scrawled alterations, than mess up a meal. And I'd rather fill a day in early December with food trials, than produce a duff meal on the big day. Whenever we decide that might be.