Blogging about

I love blogging about...

Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Day I Finally Saw Them

If you know me, you know that going to gigs is one of the most pleasurable things in life for me. I can't count the number of bands I've seen over the years ...and I still get that fluttery butterfly sensation in my stomach before each gig, whether I'm working or not.

Sheer excitement mostly - there's nothing like the thrill of seeing old favourites...where you know each word of every song, and they all bring some happy memories.There's the pleasure of discovering new talent -perhaps it's a support act you've not come across before....and then there's the sheer serendipity of being in the right place at the right time to watch a band whose music you love but you've never been able to see before.

That happened on Sunday.I've been meaning to see Bombay Bicycle Club for ages.I love their music...have their albums, but each time they've played near me I haven't been able to go.I've either had something else planned that I can't get out of , or I've been reading the late night news .
So imagine my utter surprise when I found out that Bombay Bicycle Club were playing in Perth ----eleven thousand miles away from home. And I wasn't workingIt was meant to be don't you think?

The boy obviously thought so too....and guess what my Mothering Sunday present was? Yep, tickets to see them at the Astor , a theatre in Mount Lawley.
It's a rather lovely venue in a buzzy part of Perth. So there was me, The boy and Camo( a lovely mad Aussie who turned up at our place for Christmas last year wearing poncho and sombrero -he'd just arrived from South America) .What a night....

One thing's for sure...Bombay Bicycle Club are a tight band.From the moment they appear on stage, we're swept up into song after wellcrafted song.Jack Steadman on  vocals and guitars may be the frontman, but, drummer Suren de Saram excells.He doesn't miss a beat all night and his relentless rhythms make each song oh so much funkier live.

That's not to say that Jack Steadman doesn't shine....he's got a chameleon like voice which adapts so well to each song but he hides behnd his hair for the first few songs before letting rip.  Jamie McColl gives such solid support on guitar too.

The audience loved them....dancing and singing along to each song from the opening "How much sleep can you swallow"to the encore "Shuffle".All in all a life affirming night, and guess what the Boy and I played in the car on the way home?

In fact I've had this track on repeat every day recently. Driving to my favourite beach, with the sun and sea on my left...and smiling....I give you Bombay Bicycle Club and "Lights out, words gone"...

In the meantime I'm off for a road trip (although not on my bike) to Margaret River....home of surfing and wineries - what an award winning combination.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

days in paradise

I haven't posted for a while. I've been distracted. Busy and beguiled by life down under.

Yes I'm in Western Australia..I arrived on 5th March ..escaping dull grey skies and cold weather to sun and heat. The first ten days were quite frankly very hot.And when I say hot I' m talking meltingly and swelteringly hot. Don't get me wrong,I'm not complaining ...but 41 degrees celsius every day for over a week is pretty say the least.

I'm staying in Freo....Fremantle lies south of Perth. Not far away is the wonderful Cottlesloe Beach it -especially North Cott as it's known.

Walk down that path and white sand awaits.....

But I didn't come eleven thousand miles just to see the beaches. I came to see the boy.....who also enjoys being at the beach at anytime...

    My youngest son is spending his second year over here , and I can understand why he love it so much. The weather, the chilled atmosphere, and after  a day at work, an hour or so on the beach for a quick swim  is the perfect start to the evening.

    I'm on holiday...but the boy isn't so I'm also spending quite a bit of time here on the beaches by myself.....without him or the crowds.....just a few birds. and me....


Further up the beach at Grant Street, it's even quieter.There's something quite different about sitting on a deserted beach. Just the cry of the birds,the relentless crash of the waves on the sand, and really having the space and time to really look at what's in front of me.

And when it gets too hot, A  solitary swim in a warm sea.....

But  yesterday morning, I had company.....

What did you do yesterday?

Today's track is something we 've got on repeat in the car....and we singalong to...ou est le swimming pool and Dance the way I feel...

Monday, 12 March 2012

White Room Dining champions local food

My local food challenge for this year, where 80 per cent of what I eat has to come from Leicestershire or Rutland has been going well.

Although the variety of what I've been able to eat hasn't been as wide, the quality of the produce has been good. Kale and leeks from the allotment have been wonderful, but I'm really looking forward to the purple sprouting broccoli getting its ass into gear and actually producing something other than leaves.

Looking ahead I've been sowing lots of tomato seeds, salad leaves and herbs and the potatoes are still chitting away.

Good quality meat is so easy to find in our two counties with lots of really good suppliers and butchers around (more about meat in another post) and of course local butter, milk , cream and cheese are all  available.

The 20 per cent of my diet for other food and drinks is enough for coffee, wine and the odd lemonade plus any odd craving when I'm eating at home.I simply had to have a grapefruit the other week -nothing but the citrusy sharpness of a pink grapefruit would do!

But it's eating out that's the problem.When I'm popping out for a bite of lunch, or going out for a meal, the exact provenance of what I'm eating isn't readily available.

Until last week that is, when I attended Leicester's first pop up restaurant in Stoneygate  - it was called White Room Dining.

The joint brainchild of two friends of mine Lucy Cufflin and Debbie Johnson, it was great....two nights of dining on a really local food menu in what looked like an intimate, beautifully set posh restaurant.

Debbie Johnson runs Powder Blue, an interior design shop on Francis Street.She  also stages sets, props etc for magazine shoots etc and as you can see from the above photo she has a dramatic, creative flair......(she also has an allotment on the same site as me  and need I add that's it's the prettiest, tidiest allotment there!)

Lucy Cufflin is a cordon bleu chef who's worked around the world, owns her own catering company,  has a shop, and has written her own amazing cookbook called Lucy's Food.

The setting for the pop up was an upstairs  store room at Powder Blue...two weeks before it was full of boxes.

 The menu looked like this....

Wine and canapes for the thirty diners were served downstairs in the seemed like a party....some knew each other , others meeting for the first time,...and then we went upstairs for the main meal.

The starter was a pannacotta of hand caught Rutland trout from Rob Waddington ( with fresh horseradish and beetroot.

It looked like this

A creamy pale pink panacotta with the local beetroot mixed with horseradish adding a welcome tangy bite .The accompanying bread was locally made too with ale and honey by Jasmine Sore.

Next course up was a terrine of duck with vine fruits seved with Lucy's own muscat jelly and melba toast.The duck terrine came from just over the Nottinghamshire border -well textured and tasty with a generous proportion of brandy...and I can't forget the tingle of the intense flavour of the accompanying muscat jelly . I want more - and soon!

Individual puddings of venison with panch puren and local Everards Tiger Ale were then served. I've been to Bouverie Lodge where the organic locally reared venison comes from before  ..and I suspect many who were there at the pop up will be beating a path there to to buy some. I saw men falling on those puddings with glee, and quite frankly the gasps of pleasure from some of them  as they devoured the puddings were positively pornographic....

For the finale, Lucy's apple tart with walnut pastry with local Brucianni's ice cream.You can't buy the ice cream for home consumption and it's a shame. I'm sure it would be a profitable venture -with  people like me who want to buy local produce banging the door down in a bid to buy some.

But the whole pop up restaurant experience  isn't just  about the's about the ambience, the collective experience of everyone who's there. And that's where this pop up scored highly - the decibel level of the oohs and aahs as each course came out, the busy  happy sound of people enjoying their food and talking about it. Most tables were booked by friends, but for those of on mixed tables, meeting new and interesting people was great and especially on my table the conversation flowed as freely as the food and wine.

You can hear more about what happened at what was billed as Leicester's first Pop up restaurant by clicking this link below - and do the diners thinks there's a  good market for this type of thing?

And if you're running a local supper club, especially one using local food, then please let me know.....
In the meantime, the beautiful photos here in this post were not taken by me, but by Joanne Withers  at

Friday, 9 March 2012

Meeting the monks who make butter

Making butter by the jam jar method was interesting if not arm achingly time consuming . So I searched for somewhere in Leicestershire or Rutland where I could buy locally made butter. Thanks to @katescurios on twitter, I found out that at Mount St Bernard Abbey in the north of Leicestershire,  thousands of litres of milk  and hundreds of pounds of butter are produced each year.

So off I went to the Abbey, a beautiful, peaceful place that draws you in and  makes you want to spend more time there in quiet contemplation.

But I was there to find out more about the butter making...and met Brother Nick who is
 one of the monks who helps in the dairy.

The dairy is behind the abbey shop....before getting there though,you have to walk through the yard...where all the girls live who produce the milk......

They are all Holstein cattle, a herd of about 100 who live in the yard during the winter before spending the summer months in the lush green fields surrounding the abbey.

In addition to working in the dairy Brother Nick is completing an MSc degree....but he says he enjoys the quiet of the dairy and producing something that is of value to both the monks and the general public.

Milk from the dairy supplies the 30 plus strong community at the abbey..and one of their largest customers is an independent milkman who supplies customers within a five mile radius.That 's what I call a local delivery round!

Butter making happens three times a week - and salted, unsalted, cinammon  and chive varieties of butter are sold at the abbey shop as well as three types of milk.

I had to buy some of course, and yes, it's absolutely delicious!

You can hear more on this story have a listen to Brother Nick, the cows and I - as well as the bells of the abbey!

The butter making monks of Mount St Bernard Abbey

If you're a local butter maker living or working in Leicestershire or Rutland, then please get in touch - I would love to hear from you !

Saturday, 3 March 2012

My daily pinta

It's so easy to assume something isn't it?

When I started this food challenge, I thought I knew where the milk which is delivered direct to my door each morning comes from.

It turns out I was wrong.

If you live in Leicestershire and Rutland you'll recognise the cheery electric little milk floats of Kirby and West Dairy.There's eighty of them, and they were specially designed by the current managing director's grandfather. The dairy has been in Leicester since Victorian times -the 1860's, and each day thousands of glass milk bottles are delivered to households in towns and villages around here.

I love the fact that my milk is delivered , come rain come shine,  in glass bottles. They're recyclable  - as soon as they're empty I wash them and put them out at  night by the door to be collected.
Some of them haven't made it to the door though....I used lots of them in the summer to use as vases holding masses of queen anne's lace  one year on a huge trestle table for an outdoor lunch.

So it was a shock when I found out the other week that the milk which is delivered doesn't come from Leicestershire any more.It comes from a large dairy farm in Southampton on the south coast of England. I was so sure that it was Leicestershire milk.

And so it was until about five years ago explained Graham Smith the Managing Director of Kirby and West, who invited me down to the dairy.

Up until then there was a huge bottling plant on site, but it all came down to economics. The bottling plant had to go.....but there was nowhere else locally with a bottling plant big enough to satisfy the demands of the Kirby and West dairy.
Now if Graham had chosen to deliver most of his milk in plastic cartons, milk from Leicestershire could be on offer. But it's a fact that , like me, most of his customers prefer their daily pinta in glass milk bottles.

You can listen to the chat I had with Graham as he whizzed me around the plant on one of the milk floats here....

So, for the time of this challenge, I will be buying my milk elsewhere, from the excellent Lubcloud Diary in the north of Leicestershire, which also produces the thickest, creamiest cream .
ever. But the milk comes in - yes you've guessed - plastic cartons.

I'm already missing hearing the clink of the glass bottles being delivered on the doorstep each morning.................