Is it an inevitable part of growing older that everything becomes shite?
Take this stainless steel vacuum flask. Alright, it's not a Thermos™ - it's a Tescos,
and OK it didn't cost me £20 it cost me £3. But still, you'd like to think it would actually work. For keeping soup hot and stuff.
Well, you'd be disappointed. Like all modern products, it works about a half-dozen times, then breaks. Or dies.
And you have to throw it away and buy a new one.
Time was, you would buy a vacuum flask and expect to pass it on to your children. Of course that was a proper Thermos™.
But then when I look at Amazon's reviews for proper Thermos™ flasks a disturbing number of people say that theirs
stopped working after about a half dozen goes and had to be thrown away.
It's actually getting so that I accept this state of affairs. I plan on things being shite, and having to throw them away in a few months.
I buy them by the dozen to compensate. I calculate my return on investment between buying one thing that isn't shite and buying twenty that are,
and usually come out with the shite ones. It's just less risk.
Particularly when most of the stuff I buy these days is sight-unseen off of the internets.
But I ask you - is this any way to run a civilisation?
Make everything as cheaply as possible in the Far East so it has to be used once then thrown away?
No wonder we're running out of resources, and money.
When everything's shite.
Malvern is one of those quietly decaying ancient spa towns which still reek of Victorian self-assurance and which were once not shite.
The place is still quite proud of being where they build Morgan sports cars - the epitome of quality artisanal discomfort.
Enormously expensive, hugely durable but vastly time-consuming roadware whose components are each carefully hand-crafted things of beauty
but which somehow fail to all properly fit together,
like the Land Rover they had the reputation of being, well, a bit shite.
Nevertheless, on the back of such pumping, pounding, pistoning shite was our empire built.
Shite that lasted.
In 1994 we sold Jaguar Land Rover to the Germans, then on to the Americans in 2006 and finally the Indians in 2008.
We had an empire once. Now we can't even make our own bicycles. Isn't it a fucking disgrace?
Anyway, I recently drove down to Malvern to visit my old friend Niel of Raha for his 50th Birthday
and it turned into a right old curry
I dropped in on my brother on the way down which mandated our traditional
Spicey Cottage curry
and again on the way back up when we were obliged to consume another round of Karahi Goshts so that I could bring a couple back home to freeze.
I booked into the handily-placed Foley Arms Wetherspoon Hotel in the centre of Malvern - handily-placed for the pub downstairs anyway -
where I met up with my dear old college chums Chris and Cathy Hardly-Home.
Robin and Marion Tart were there too and we all went out ... for a curry
at the very good,
but unadventurously titled Bengal Brasserie
[may now be closed down] opposite.
Next day at Niel's place, his wife Roz laid on a very tasty curry
buffet for lunch before we hiked up the
for a geography lesson over a plastic of Cava.
Then back down for an evening of curry
at another local restaurant, followed by Port and the Matrix.
Couldn't have been better.
In honour of his birthday I added a new vegan category to my recipe indexer - did you notice?
HAPPY BIRTHDAY NIEL!
Anyhoo, I actually wanted to talk about salads: as Shakespeare tells us -
these are our salad days, the days of spring and early dawns
Bikini weather is fast approaching and suddenly I have several days of solid curry
ing to shake off.
Once famed for its restorative spring waters, nowadays Malvern is stuffed with bookshops, charity stalls and tat emporia
for the visiting cardigan-and-pipe brigade, not to mention those curry
but it also happens to be host to a quite reasonable Farmers' market in the Priory grounds where I couldn't resist buying
freshly-picked local asparagus
from the Vale of Evesham
and a pot of garlicky green olives
to turn into salads when I got them home, though by then the asparagus was
starting to turn just a little bit leathery :(
Flora came round to enjoy the asparagus salad
with some simple fresh grilled sardines
Quoth the redhead: The sardines taste great - but I just can't be arsed with all the bones
I had to invest in a couple of avocados for the salad dressing, but they developed into a very reasonable
strawberry-mayonnaise-dressed avocado salad
of their own,
on which I used up the last of my poached eggs as a topping.
I mean I used up the last of my eggs. Obviously they weren't poached when they started.
They were just raw; I imagine the chicken would be very upset to lay poached eggs. Especially if they were boiling hot at the time.
Maybe the chicken I poached for my Coronation Chicken
would have laid one. If it wasn't DEAD.
Coronation Chicken is a salad right?
Like soup. That's a salad too.
So I made a couple of those.
I used the stock leftover from poaching my Coronation Chicken to make an extremely good
Carrot, Orange, Ginger and Red Lentil Soup
or Dark Chicken Stock
Then I asked Rachel, my ex-partner partner in our defence of the Burnside trophy
what kind of soup she'd like me to bring.
In my shiny new
shite Tescos flask.
That's Port Edgar Yacht Club's Alastair Burnside memorial two-handed trophy yacht race
that we won last year.
And again this year
as it happens. I blame the damn fine
cauliflower and blue cheese soup
And that's it.
Wow, it's been a LOOOONG spring!