Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sunset over...


My dad (who sometime ago passed on to to that great offal stall in the sky) used to eat tripe. To the uninitiated tripe is sheep's stomach that can be eaten uncooked with vinegar or cooked with milk and onions. Tripe is flobbery to touch and tastes like, well, stomach. As a child I did not like tripe or pig's trotters. Pig's trotters were another delicacy enjoyed by dad.

Pig's trotters are boiled (he used a pressure cooker) and when cooked look what they are, containers of pig fat. On Saturday afternoons at the kitchen table he sucked chewed and licked this compacted fat from delicate pig foot bones. All grease would be gleaned, it was a matter of honour, almost cosa nostra, and in the deepening gloom dad smacked sticky satisfied lips, 'mmmming' until no morsel of goo remained.

I believe this dish to be still popular in some catholic countries.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I'm currently stuck on a...

nautical theme, well, nautical and biscuit, so here we go.

Hard tack, the biscuit of choice in Nelson's Navy is a well documented comestible made entirely from daub, cement, egg white and absinthe (to drive away the senses). Hard tack is what helped make the Royal Navy, Royal, and don't just take my word for it, Jack Nastyface writing in the 1830's or 1805 depending on whom you rely for your history states more than once,

"Hmmm hard tack, for making men hard. Oops, bugger, that's another tooth gone."

This rock like substance, originally designed as paving was as popular with 18th Century Navies as it had been with the Romans before. What other product was of such versatility it could provide nutrition and be solid underfoot? In 1799 the Royal Navy secretly baked a hard tack Frigate named HMS Troubled Colon that was unfortunately lost one night whilst tied up in London's East End near Limehouse. Many rumours circulated but crumb trails showed it was eaten by urchins. The Reverend N. Strokeboy, Rector of Thrashem Orphanage faithfully recorded for some years afterwards how many of his boys unaccountably continued to gain weight. What became of the ships crew is a matter of some speculation though contemporary paintings of the local scene do show children's faces to be particularly ruddy, though that could equally have been the tuberculosis.

Jack Nastyface wrote two books in the first 40 years of 19th Century, his first and most famous 'Memoirs of an English Seaman' was popular until the turn of the 20th century when it was superseded by that more modern book of seafaring manners, 'Throw another Boy on the Boiler Lads, First Class 'Ave Rung Down Again' and incidentally whose Japanese version was subtitled 'Lets All Have a Jaunty Song.'

Jack Nastyface was close to Nelson at Trafalgar, so close in fact that every night he was able to steal sips from the brandy barrel within which pickled the great man on his long journey home. Life in the navy took it's toll of old Jack and when finally retired in 1838 he was minus the right hand, left leg and right eye that had accompanied him when originally pressed to service in 1791. At his passing out ceremony it was observed that Jack for some time had been retiring in sections and therefore what now stood before the crowd must be the final installment. Even Jack nodded at this sensible statement but then he was drunk and his one good eye was filled with a huge tear.

In retirement Jack Nastyface turned his attention from naval to childhood matters and particularly the subject of his beloved mother whose image he'd carved as the knee piece on his wooden leg. Throughout his life Jack sang in praise of this saint who both bore and named him. However, those early literary skills deserted Jack and his second book 'At Least She Never Called me Shitface Like She did our Barry.' failed to find a publisher.

Monday, January 22, 2007


snow last night, seizure of booty on beach today, hey it's just like old times. By old times I mean ages ago, or yore.

A ship has run aground on the Devon coast depositing containers packed with BMW bikes, nappies, wine and tons of other stuff. Not surprisingly the good folk of Devon have been on the beach helping themselves. Wey hey! Of course some Devonians a couple hundred years ago made a living wrecking ships, fortunately in no great numbers, but wages were shite in those days so one can perhaps understand wrecking ships to make ends meet. Your modern Devonian is much more sophisticated, as amply demonstrated on the BBC. Customs and Excise has moved on since those days too. Customs staff were out in numbers issuing forms for people to complete. Good advice, complete the form and your bounty is not theft but salvage. Of course salvage can be reclaimed by the true owners but apparently that's an expensive and lengthy business. I suspect the cargo owners will claim off the insurance and no doubt fiddle the manifest.

"No governor, there was the Gucci watches, all 10,000 of em. Oh yeah and big Geoff lost his levver jacket, well, when I say levver jacket I mean he's got more than one. Bish bosh just sign here, fank you verrrry much."

Oh to live in Devon on this bright winter morn. Sigh.

My mention of snow is also a reference to yore, when weather was rugged and winter always bitter. Wikipedia report the River Thames freezing over in 250AD, 923AD and 23 times between the fourteenth and nineteenth centuries. Ah, proper centuries with proper weather. Secretly I'm pleased not to have lived in yore, especially after learning of weevils in the biscuits. Couldn't be doing with weevils in me biscuits.

Snow, shipwrecks, salvage, and all on one day too, just like old times. Sigh.

Damn, where's that biscuit gone. It was there a second ago... why, it's moving, OHMIGOD they're all moving...noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Sunday, January 21, 2007


snow in Manchester on this Sunday eve. There's more photos on flickr, to the right>

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Oh yes...

and another thing, I got a bloody parking ticket for being 15 minutes late. Grrr.

On a lighter note, I've finally completed John Banville's novel The Sea. It took some time with many breaks but, well, it's pretty damn good. Next up is Michael Faber's The Crimson Petal and the White.

Here's a view of some novels I received for Christmas. Lucky old me. They'll be a distraction from my parking ticket woes.

So, there I was...

drinking coffee with friends in the City Art Gallery yesterday afternoon. That's about it really, though I did take this photo of a cafetiere.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

I've been thinking...

if no one was present when the tree branch fell, did it make a noise? There is evidence that it did. The impaled dog weeing on the park railings certainly heard a noise. Looking up from it's cocked business the dog paused, midstream so to speak, and was duly skewered. Old Captain Cat, cosy beneath a sea farers rug watched through his harbour master telescope and later told me everything.

Harry High Hat the top alley cat who lives outback of my house said not one animal, wild or domesticated shed a tear for the dog. The charitable blamed a weak bladder, the rest blamed mendaciousness for that dog had history, that dog would wee on anything, as well as on more than one summer occasion a basking Harry. For many, therefore, justice was done yesterday afternoon. A post 'stuck-dog' party held in Crowcroft Park last night for assorted local wildlife was a raging success, or so said Big Trev who seems to know more than he's letting on.

This morning I examined the fallen branch and found strange markings that might have been made over a period of some time with a saw. And Big Trev was seen in the park's tree tops yesterday, chasing squirrels he claimed. One squirrel thought he saw Trev with a saw but couldn't swear to it as at that time he was also busy removing dog piss from his coat.

Yesterday afternoon...

a huge tree branch fell out of Crowcroft Park onto Stockport Road. It was very exciting and I missed the event by only a few moments. Returned later to take the photo I couldn't capture earlier because handy Canon Ixus not in pocket. Grrr. Still, the bent and broken railings are impressive in their own small way. Of course I could be making too much of this tiny incident, however it has been very quiet in Crowcroft Park since the autumn fair departed.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Amanda's microwave...

oven as a shelf. But what a shelf: champagne; coffee; eggs; crisps (potato chips to my American friends); radio; oatcakes; bread rolls; something in foil and a green peg.