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Oooo…stovetop still!


I’ve always wanted one of these little beaten copper stovetop stills. Impractical, but fun. My dad had one that he’d use to turn a bottle of cheap wine into a thimblefull of cheap brandy for the edification of guests.

They are, of course, grievously illegal in the States. They’re mildly illegal here, but still too risky for a nimmigrant who suffers residency at the pleasure of HM’s government.

This one was at a food fair went to over the weekend (of a Food Fayre, or a Fud Faire, or whatever). It was not operational, but it was at the booth of an artisanal ginmaker, so all was not lost.

It was artisanal everything there. Artisanal cookies, artisanal sausages, artisanal goat cheese and artisanal couch cushions (seriously — somebody had a handmade couch cushion in Scottish linen with the design of a hedgehog that was to die for. £75).

And that’s the thing — lovely stuff, but a good three to five times more expensive than it should be. Which is why these little artisanal shops flicker in and out of business regularly. Fun Saturday, though.

July 13, 2017 — 9:56 pm
Comments: 30

Have I got a trail for you…


In the thread below, Ric Fan asked if anyone hikes the old Roman Roads. Yes, some of them have been converted to hiking trails. But the best of the best hikes in Britain is the Ridgeway. It’s prehistoric, fam.

Eighty six miles (I thought it was 87, but it says 86 in that graphic I stole and I don’t want to look like a banana) and it’s J.R.R. Tolkien shit the whole way. It starts at Avebury (largest stone circle in Europe) and ends at Ivinghoe Beacon.

I’ve only hiked a few miles of it, although we’ve visited lots of spots along it. We walked up as far as Wayland’s Smithy once, during the foot and mouth crisis of 2001 (I remember stern warnings hanging on the fences). When we drove near the Uffington White Horse I thought sure the car was going to topple down the hill. It’s an amazing thing from one end to the other.

You get a Completion Certificate if you do a big enough chunk.

I want that thing. I want it bad.

July 11, 2017 — 10:15 pm
Comments: 13

That’s illegal, surely


Weasel baiting. Okay, it’s only part of a weasel, but still.

Terrier races from a local village fete this Saturday. Third from the left — the long-leggedy one — won three out of three while we watched. I think they ought to have instituted a size class.

This fete is currently our favorite. Good beer, superior ice cream from a local dairy, some interesting stalls.

Uncle B bought me a coat that I may or may not have the courage to show you (or, for that matter, wear in public). I wouldn’t think of modeling it today, though — it’s what passes for super hot here (mid-80s, at a guess).

If they call it a fun dog show, why was everybody so serious about it?

June 19, 2017 — 7:50 pm
Comments: 33

Perfidious delphiniums


June 23rd to July 2nd is Delphinium Week at Godinton House! The sharp-eyed among you (I realize that’s not many) will note that it is, in fact, only the 16th of June, but nobody bought the delphiniums a calendar. They are early. They are likely to be all done by the time Delphinium Week proper gets here.

Also, those are not delphiniums in the picture. They’re tulips.

Never mind. We were tipped off and went today. We’ve been to the gardens many times, but this is the first time we’ve toured the house. It’s another one of these great old country houses that accreted centuries of new build around a Medieval great hall center. The carving throughout the house was spectacular!

Sadly, no photography anywhere inside the building, so I can’t share. I bought the guidebook, but it was a little light on reproductions of the paintings – my main interest.

All that and a proper cream tea in the tea room.

Good weekend, y’all!

p.s. I didn’t owe you a Dead Pool, did I? Nobody had Adam West this time, I know.

June 16, 2017 — 9:10 pm
Comments: 15



Went to a model railway exhibition this weekend. By British standards, there weren’t that many layouts, but I enjoyed it.

I have a soft spot for miniature things. That’s why I adored Barbie — all those tiny kitchen utensils and accessories. My parents were pleased to see me do something girlie; if they bought me baby dolls that did anything interesting, I generally dissected them to see how they worked. I didn’t have the heart to tell them I’d have been just as happy with GI Joe and his tiny weapons.

(My friend had the GI Joe with the peachfuzz buzzcut and beard. I wanted that thing so bad).

Old hands might recall that my birthday is in May and I celebrate it pretty much for the entire month. I’m taking some time off work this week and next, but I will be turning up to post. Tiny weak posts.

Lazy, low-effort shit-posting — my weaselbirthday gift to you!

May 1, 2017 — 8:28 pm
Comments: 17

Googly-eyed skellingtons


From one of the churchyards this weekend. It’s hard to make out the inscription for all the lichens on the stone, but I think the date is 1744.

It’s disappointing, though — they don’t have nearly as many boneyards here as in the States, and the burials aren’t nearly as old. That’s because it’s a small, overcrowded island and they developed a tradition of stacking graves or digging people up after a few years.

Hence the “Alas, poor Yorick!” scene.

Our local church hasn’t kept good records of burials. The last time a neighbor died, a man with a pointy stick went out with the widow and they poked the stick in the ground looking for a big enough spot free of other coffins.

I’m not even kidding. shudder

sock it to me

August 31, 2016 — 10:31 pm
Comments: 18

Comes the time of the flower festivals


This weekend: flower festivals! A flower festival can happen any time in the Summer, but they tend to cluster at the end. Probably it’s a good time to harvest flowers. What do I know from flowers?

To recap, a flower festival is a church thing, a way to show off parish churches and raise money toward their upkeep (most churches that have flower festivals are beautiful ancient treasures and enormously expensive to take proper care of).

The church picks a theme, parishioners arrange flowers to suit the theme and set them up in displays all over the church (including sacred spaces like the baptismal font and the high altar). It’s wonderfully weird and I love it.

There’s a program that explains the displays, and tea and cakes. Maybe some bric-a-brac and book stalls outside. A nearby pub may host a barbecue.

At this particular one, little girls in starched pinafores circulated through the crowd with baskets of posies and sachets of lavender, a pound apiece. They and their mothers had sewn the lavender into little calico bags and tied up the posies with ribbons.

I shit you not. I bought one of each. The lavender is incredibly pungent.

Also this weekend, thousands of young lefties and brown people of foreign extraction turned out on the streets of London for the Notting Hill Carnival, a festival of the fine Afro-Caribbean traditions of vandalism and violence. Over 400 were arrested and five were stabbed.

I have chosen my side. I am on Team Flower Festival.

Her Maj turned 90 this year, and the theme of this flower festival was things that are also 90 this year. Can you guess what this flower arrangement represents? There’s a big ol’ hint on the side. Correct answer in the comments.

sock it to me

August 30, 2016 — 9:15 pm
Comments: 7

And then the fat lady sang


Welp, that’s it. We went to the circus tonight. It always turns up for the long weekend and we think of it as the end of Summer.

It’s not. There are plenty of Summery things going on right through September, which is sometimes the nicest month of the warm season. But the circus is the beginning of the end.

This one has been going on for five generations (the two guys in the picture are the World’s Two Unfunniest Clowns, and nephews of the current ringmaster). Used to be more family members in the acts, but they now hire them from circus-y places like Eastern Europe and China

There is a sense of genuine suspense during many performances, because it’s a small troupe and a bit down-at-heel and you get the impression something could go wrong. But it never has and everyone is very cordial. The acts also take tickets and dole out food; it’s that kind of little circus.

So here we go, the slide into Fall…

sock it to me

August 25, 2016 — 9:40 pm
Comments: 6

Mutton racing


Lamb racing: not a serious sport. These beasties were well accustomed to humans and not keen on running anywhere. They had to be chased by hooting farm children, and even then they kept stopping for skritchies and treats from the crowd. I think they did a best 3 out of 4 and no lamb won twice. This was from Sunday again.

On a sinister note, they’ve been pulling bodies out of the sea on a beach up the coast from us today. They’re up to five now, including two found by walkers after dusk, washed up on the beach. And Twitter tells me there’s a helicopter out looking for another.

There were thousands of people on the beaches today and the news is treating these as ordinary swimming accidents, but nobody knows anything. They have no identities, no backstory. They don’t even know if any of these people were together. Five is a real lot for one day around here, with little wind and calm seas.

It seldom gets above 80° here, but I think it was nearer 90° this afternoon. Eh. I’m off to take a cool bath.

sock it to me

August 24, 2016 — 10:13 pm
Comments: 14

Alpaca bag


We went to a tractor festival on Sunday. We almost didn’t. I’m going to level with you here: I’m not all that into tractors.

These people, these people are into their tractors. This isn’t even the first tractor fest we’ve been to this Summer (though the other, you’ll recall, was a traction engine thing. This was, like, John Deeres). This was a three ring tractor festival. Glad we went; it was one of the best country fairs we’ve been to.

In addition to my alpaca friends here, there were three-banded armadillos, a skink, a wallaby and A WHOLE TENT OF CHIKKENS! There was a pair of buff Orpingtons there that probably weighed more than my whole flock.

As dog is my witness, I shall take Buff Orpington as a username some day.

The food was exceptionally good for one of these events. Too good, in fact. By the time we decided to eat, our first (and second) choices had sold out. I had a very decent pad Thai and a cider (note to visitors: all cider in Britain is hard).

And thus the Summer fete season marches on. Next weekend is a big one; it’s a long weekend. After that, it all kind of peters out.

Ah, well. Gather ye tractorfests while ye may.

sock it to me

August 22, 2016 — 8:22 pm
Comments: 18