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The Gift

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Anthony Trollope: Power, Land, and Society 1847 - 1980

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Friday, 28 September 2018

Where there's muck there's brass




There is fake news, and there is just downright weird news. I’m discounting the idiocies of Gwyneth Paltrew’s Gloop site where indispensable items like ‘Toxi-free casserole dishes retail at $1220. The buyer is assured that it is Gwyneth’s favourite cooking utensil. Yeah right. One presumes that Jade Eggs - $66 stone eggs ‘inserted daily’ (You figure it out) truly do ‘increase sexual energy and pleasure,’ and that a $85 Medicine bag containing crystals that have been ‘energetically cleansed with sage tuned with sound waves, activated with mantras, and blessed with Reiki’’ will cure the common cold; and that a $38 pot of Sex dust will make up for any shortcomings should the Jade egg fails.

There are scales of weirdness: intelligent bathrooms – showers that respond to barked instructions and intelligent toilets that anticipate your needs and obey your instructions. I have a personalised bladder and a fairly predictable bowel movement, for those itching to know. I’m not convinced I need an intelligent toilet to pre-empt either. Though a warm seat might be nice in winter. More to the point, much of these developments will be attuned to Alexa, and to my way of thinking, Big Brother knows more than enough about us without knowing our toilet habits, too.

And speaking of toilet habits, did you know you can make soap from cow dung? Surprisingly not a Gloop product though I suspect It’s only a matter of time—no doubt given added value via mantras, numerous Reiki blessings – and charged with sexual energy.

One final thought. In Sri Lanka paper is manufactured from elephant dung and varies in consistency and colour depending on the dietary habits of  contributory elephants. We just need one smart entrepreneur—a cross between Elon Musk and Gwyneth—to market world excrement in the interests of conservation and trees.

Friday, 21 September 2018

In Praise of Oxford Sauce




When I was a child HP sauce was ubiquitous. I abhorred it. I tolerate it if it’s there and I’m faced with a particularly bland sausage. I wanted to like their tomato sauce, Ketchup too, largely because the colour looked striking on fried egg. Similarly disappointing, sweet, slightly vinagery and a touch of something else you can’t put your finger on. Tomato possibly.



And then last year, I had a moment. St Paul discovered Jesus on the road to Damascus. I discovered Oxford Sauce. I’m still in search of the former.



It was a Christmas stocking filler for my daughter from an imaginative aunt and it lasted almost a year. Because of its richness, a little goes a very long way—which is just as well for it is a damned hard thing to find. If you're lucky, you may find a bottle in obscure village shops in the Cotswolds or the occasional delicatessen. Our last bottle was bought in Moreton in Marsh – unsurprisingly the last bottle on the shelf – though the lady informed us there was a bottle in Stow-on-the-wold. They are rarer than unicorns though Unicorns are notoriously tough, else melt like fairy dust on the tongue.

Just examine the ingredients on the bottle below and imagine the impact of them on the tongue. Apparently the decimal point on the chilli content was mis-read at the time of conception.



For those who fail in their quest for the Grail, the Unicorn or Oxford Sauce



Stokes Brown Sauce comes a reasonable second, though it does leave a residue of grunge on the top of the bottle according to one acerbic reviewer. It has body, but less subtlety, consisting of vinegar , date puree and black treacle with various spices.* But to show you how even brown sauce can arouse strong passions just read a review I discovered on one supermarket site:

Stokes is real brown sauce for people who knows what that means. It doesn't tolerate blandness in any way. It's spiky zesty taste grabs your tongue on a full out assault and then knocks you forward into breakfast. Full on, powerful a hefty dose of real time food trembles on your plate. You taste it again surely you were mistaken but no; there's molasses sweetness which punch in hard with the spicy aftertaste. It's as if it is on a full on competition with your sausage uppercut savoury and undercut sweet. Round one knockout this is a sauce that doesn't mess about and neither should you. Do your family a favour and buy some Stokes!!



And all I can say, is if he (I'm assuming it's a 'he,' women tend to be less obsessional) thinks Stokes is that good I'd expect no less than the Iliad should he ever experience Oxford Sauce.

*Stokes



Malt Vinegar (from Barley), Unrefined Raw Cane Sugar, Tomato Puree, Date Puree (9%) (Dates, Water), Black Treacle (8%), Cornflour, Seasoning (Coriander, Ginger, Clove, Cinnamon, Pepper, Cayenne Pepper), Sea Salt, Preservative: Sorbic Acid
HP
It boasts a closely guarded secret recipe, which it then prints on the bottle. 
HP Sauce has a tomato base, blended with malt vinegar and spirit vinegarSugars(molasses, glucose-fructose syrup, sugar), dates, cornflour, rye floursaltspices and tamarind. 

Friday, 14 September 2018

The Great Monmouth Raft Race




There is the Venice Film Festival, Glyndbourne, Ascot, and then there is the Monmouth Raft Race where ingenious, sometimes bizzare homemade rafts race each other along a six and a half mile stretch of the River Wye to Whitebrook. It’s necessarily a timed race because there is no starting line wide enough to accommodate almost a hundred rafts.
         Like most things Monmouth does – like the largest free musical festive in Europe – it’s homespun, organised by volunteers and the community at large.
        Below is a selection of some of my favourite rafts, one of which I thought would be a winner but wasn’t, one of which capsized and fell apart, its crew attempting to complete the six miles on individual barrels.

The river, as calm as the channel on D Day, placidly awaiting it's fate.


Vikings


And more Vikings



These guys mean business


These two also, perhaps




Sedate, stylish, but will it float?


Did you doubt it? No doubt they'll be serving tea and cucumber sandwiches 
beneath the canopy

Ah, Mr President


Pursued by irate Mexicans




Whitebrook is about to be pillaged. 


And now we have tragedy in slow motion.



No way can they keep this craft stable.


And then it collapses completely

And here we see the indomitable human spirit - a barrel and paddle, we'll get there.