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Sunday, 18 November 2012

21 butchers in one small town

I have been off work for a holiday period this last week and for the first five days I have rarely been out of the house due to recovering from a major cold. However on Friday I felt a little better and went on the bus from Nottingham to the Derbyshire town of Belper to do a little research for a writing project and on Saturday I forced myself to go out to a variety of places in and around Nottingham for an equal variety of reasons.

First of all Belper. I travelled on the Barton bus service which offers a £5 ZigZag ticket which allows one to travel all throughout their routes for a day pass of £5 which is quite a saver on individual bus travel prices. So I took the Ruddington Connection bus to Nottingham and then the Red Arrow to Derby and then changed to the Barton Sixes service that took me to Belper via Duffield. The reverse took me back home later in the day.

On dis-embarking near King Street in Belper the town had a slight smell of wood smoke in the air. Looking in the remaining three butchers' windows on King Street I was keen to observe a few interesting things i.e. a link of string round a bunch of oxtail plus in the same window the Friday display showed quite minimal amounts of meat: half a chicken on one tray, a scoop of mince on another a splash of lamb rump on another, several half empty silver trays and a faded pig object on the back shelf with one squinty eye looking up at the ceiling with a slightly pained expression on its face. The pig was dressed in a baggy shirt and blue overalls.

Considering my writing for a proposed book called "Tails from the Block" I visited St Peter's churchyard with the hope of collecting and perhaps bastardising some local names for characters in my book. I wanted real, albeit historically distorted Derbyshire names to play with and found some good names among the fading graves and crunchy leaves. My notes were as follows:

Local names

Sam Kiddy – asleep until the morning. Died 1875.

Ebenezer Colledge.

Samuel Froggatt (like Garrett  - double consonants prevail)

Robert and Ann Twyford 1897

Edwin Winsome.

John Garratt. Killed in 1915

John Cooper Topham.

Bullock and Beresford.

Peter  Alexander Thomas Greaves.

Brian Bacon.

Coming back into town via Long Row (an interesting row of former Mill Workers houses - some demolished to allow the railway access to Belper Town Centre in the late 1800s.) I was particularly taken with the flagstone road with big gaps in some of the semi rectangular stones which would be a bumpy ride regardless of transport style. All around Belper long standing limestone walls were in evidence, some blackened and green with age.

After a swift pint in an oddly characterless and tatty gastro-pub ( blaring TV in the bar and a lone femme terrible staring accusingly and darkly out of the window from her bar stool) on the main Matlock bound road I made my way across the busy road and on to King Street. At an award winning butchers there I brought a very tasty pork pie from Howarth butchers on the lower part of King Street. I digress momentarily as the thought strikes me.  The bar maid in the afore- said characterless pub was actually very pleasant and told me she that worked in another pub in Openwoodgate where they have a much better selection of bitters. Back to the pork pie selling butchers, Jerry Howarth's.

Jerry Howarth is a family run local butchers that for generations have been participating in since 1898. Exclusively a pork butcher, their gold medal award winning produce is entirely locally sourced with local pork home cured and prepared by the staff. Current manager Ray Montgomery also stocks some chicken and game as well as locally made pies and dairy products.

Whilst being served I spoke to a man in a blue striped coat with red striped apron. In his forties,  he sported a bald shaved head, rosy cheeks, bright eyes, a pleasant demeanour and had with a scratch mark on his left eyebrow. He knew of the late David Grimwade and his wife Janice. He described this former co-worker of mine as a 'nice' bloke. Apparently David once commented on the Howarth shop window display claiming“Good job someone knows how to put on a good display, youth.” I neglected to reflect vocally in how I viewed the this man I knew from the past. On reflection, I must say that their smoked bacon looked very nice. It was dry bacon full of colour and the type that wouldn't leave the pan full of water or blotchy white blobs of fat. In conversation with this man I discovered that in the 1970s and 1980s there were at least ten butchers shops in the town itself, three belonging to Edward Ryde and Sons, a former employer of mine in the past.

Later on, looking at an online reference about the history of Belper, I found a directory called White's Directory dating from 1857 there were butchers in and around the town: namely, John Ash ( Queen Street) George Beresford (Bridge Street) Thomas Brown (High Pavement) Thomas Gamble (Belper Lane) Samuel Garrett and Henry Gregory (Market place) Thomas Gregory (Market Road) Jabez and William Hall (Cow Hill) Benjamin Jackson (Long Row) Benjamin Mason (Bridge Street) John Redfearn (King Street) Jacob Smith (Bridge Street) Joseph Spencer (Gutter) Joseph Walker (Bridge Street) William Topley (Bridge Street) Johannes Watson (Market Place) Henry Harrison (Bridge Street) John Malin (Market Place) Alfred Parker (King Street) Samuel Taylor (Short Rows). Astounding!!! Twenty-one butchers!

My imagination was particularly struck with the names Gutter (once a colliery) and Cow Hill.

On Saturday I went over to the Lace Market Theatre to get some lunch at their Pub Grub bar and caught up with a few friends including Peter hillier who astounded m by telling he had some Black Forest Smoked ham on offer! When I enquired of the origin he told me that he had got it from Lidl. I love this ham from my May visit to Karlsruhe in Germany and took myself over the Beeston branch where I was delighted to be able to buy two packs for under £4.

Whilst in Beeston I popped into my work place and caught up on some of the news and laughs since I broke up for my holiday a week ago. It was good to see my work colleagues. En route I paused to see the new photo exhibition at the Djanogly Centre (Nottingham University). The exhibition was based on the black and white movie, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, filmed in and around Nottingham and the former Raleigh works. A walk through the University grounds allowed me to take some nice autumnal photos of my own.


Thursday, 15 November 2012

For those who have missed my cookery.

As I sip my glass of red wine tonight I'm thinking back over the last few weeks and the terrible head cold I've endured along with regular nose bleeds. I continued to go into work as I don't get paid when I am ill by my employer and on Saturday afternoon I finally went home early with blessings from my team leader and manager for my valiant work ethics. I slept for six hours solid Saturday afternoon and coupled with a visit to the doctor earlier in the week have started on the road to recovery. My step mum had also been admitted to the Derby City Hospital on the 20th of October for an unexpected emergency operation where he had a third of her intestine removed. She too is now on the road to recovery, Thank God! At 82 this is  major event for her and she could have died.

Thankfully, on personal note, the nosebleeds have stopped and the long periods of rest this week, so far, have done me good and I am feeling a bit more normal. I realise in this blog that I have drifted away from my cooking theme and want to show you some of the meals I have had, somewhat documented, through pictures.

My old Toshiba laptop finally gave up the ghost and I was forced to buy a new laptop so that I could continue my creative writing and the photography so dear to me. I am now using a Packard Bell with the all new Windows 8. I am working around (step by step) the fact that my old Office Suite won't work anymore and I had to download a new version of Norton. That's just the start. At least I can now write my blogposts and edit photos through Picasa.

Anyway, here are some pictures of recent meals: enjoy. I've also made a Chinese chicken soup chocker with garlic and ginger (to help my health get better) and a big tureen full of lamb tagine. I didn't manage to document these though.

Roast leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic
Roast duck legs in orange and ginger
Salmon in a dill sauce with haricot vert and new potatoes
Steamed sea bass in ginger


free plums from my friend Rebecca


Stuffed chicken breast, red cabbage, carrots and salad


Roast beef with pepper and cheese.


Monday, 5 November 2012

Aaah the joys of travelling by bus

A while ago I wrote about various fellow passengers on the buses I take to go to work each day - you may well remember the swearing man whose every second word was a version of fuck. Thank f*ck I haven't encountered him since but I now have a new collection to write about.

Most mornings a late middle aged lady gets on the bus in Nottingham and hums a sad and thankless ditty with four repeats on the same theme behind me. It turns out she is knitting what looks like a very long blue scarf. I call her 'Lady Knits The Blues'.

Then there is the man in the green top who coughs violently sending an arc of fine spittle over the heads of the passengers unlucky enough to sit in the front of him. He must have missed the lessons on holding one's hand afore the coughing mouth.

My journey's peace is often broken by the person who feels the need to 'snap' the newspaper instead of gently turning the pages. Remember those 'snappers' we used to get free in comics in 1960s, triangular shaped paper toys that make a surprisingly loud crack when the holder percussed the object away from them.

Of course there are also the loud mobile phone users, in particular the black cleaning lady who works at Nottingham University. She is called Dotty or Dorothy, dependent on who she is talking to. How do I know this? She phones her family and feels the need to bellow down the phone. Her unfortunate family must all be deaf cos Dotty has to tell them several times that is indeed she and each exclamation gets louder. She once the bellowed so loud that all the autumn leaves at the side of the bus shot up Wizard of Oz tornado style turning the landscape at blur of brown, red and gold and a passing cyclist lost his cloth cap in the tremendous gust. The bus destination  panel changed instantly to Kansas.

One Sunday, on my evening return journey home from Beeston the passengers were entertained by a  decidedly inebriated skinny man fluctuating between being asleep and cursing. The prune faced guy then began alternating between swigging the remains of his sherry, singing Maggie May and then throwing up. I got off at the Queens Medical Centre and joined another bus. The new driver told me and the other passengers not to venture towards the back of the bus as someone had had an 'accident'. God save us! |After that God forsaken journey I NEEDED a drink!

Yesterday a lady who seemed to know me sat aside me for the remaining ten minutes bus journey through The Meadows and the City Centre. In ten laboriously slow minutes she told me she was off to Sutton near Mansfield and that she loved Sutton and went most days to visit. I could tell she was passionate about this from her intense stare and twitching hands and her frquent need to touch my knee.

I encounter drunk young men and women on a regular basis in and around Nottingham and one 'couple' were actually having a running battle in the Broadmarsh bus station the other night. My thoughts were "Please don't get on my bus!" co-joined by some dis-belief that they were yelling abuse at each other in a public space.

Aaaah the joys of bus travel.