Back in Milford-on-Sea

It says somewhere at the front of this blog that I was brought up in Milford. This is correct, I spent my first seven years or so in Lymore, a rural outpost of Milford, before moving to Everton all of a further mile away. Life in this area carried on until I left to escape rurality to become an art student with the hope of making a success of my life as a designer in some city or another – I guess fame in London was the dream (it didn’t turn out like that).

I returned to the area SO41 we shall call it – the beginning of the Lymington postcode – in the 90’s having lived in Birmingham, Nottingham, Liverpool, Stafford, London and Colchester before returning to SO41. By this time my parents were living in Milford-on-Sea proper, in a rhododendron lined road of large Edwardian built houses on the western outskirts of the village. I lived there for a couple of years having found myself at a bit of a loss. I then moved to Lymington proper working with my sister running a restaurant.

In the summer of last year I decided to move to West Bay, Bridport, as much for a change of scene as anything else. Things didn’t quite work out for various reasons, nothing to do with Bridport, more to do with the type of tenure I had lumbered myself with – basically a flat too big and too expensive for me – I had originally intended this as a flatshare but this was not to happen.

I now find myself back in Milford-on-Sea lodging with a friend. In my first couple of days I realised that though completely familiar with the village I had never actually lived in the heart of the village, always on the outskirts in some way or another. One might think not a great difference really, true, many very small differences. Actually that is not factually correct as I did reside in a rented house in Park Road for between six months and a year as a small unknowing infant. I don’t count that as living.

One of the significant small differences was remembering that whilst I had never  lived in the middle of the village most of my school friends actually lived in the village proper, in roads such as Keyhaven Road, Carrington Lane, Solent Way to name a few. Seeing these roads on a daily basis led me to try and recall some of the names. Some of my friends came from families running shops and businesses in the village; the Knights, the Moggs, the Bells, the Berrys, the Wolstenholmes, must be more but I can’t remember.  It is possible that those of us who lived in outskirts such as Lymore or Everton my have been considered as country bumpkins.

My friend’s flat where I am living is on the site of the original Milford Laundry, an organisation which was already venerable when I was a child and which must have been one of Milford’s largest single business employers. In those days the main industry of the village was the land, both dairy and arable. The Edgar family whose Aubrey farm in Keyhaven supplied the area with both milk and employment. The family also ran a general store called Edgar’s Dairy – now the site of a Co-operative convenience store. Don’t recall knowing any Edgar children at school. There was another farmer Mr Bacon (no joke) who ran a dairy herd in school lane whose son was called Roger.

Whilst on about farmers there was another farmer, a Mr Dyer, whose farm was at the top end (north) of Lymore Lane, again I don’t recall offspring but his wife was a busy woman tearing around in a fawn gaberdine mac and had a surprising mane of bright red hair. He kept a herd too but I know less about his farm.  The farmhouse though was a handsome Edwardian building in strong red brick. The estate is now called Braxton Farm and boasts. tea rooms and the like.

Back to the village centre. Mr Knight had a grocery store, the old fashioned type who would deliver an order prior to the weekend if you presented your request earlier in the week. His daughter Janet was a friend.

A couple of doors away was a butcher (still there as a butcher). As a small child I was fascinated by the big black ceiling mounted fan. My mother called it an electric punkah  

There were two bakers Berrys and Bells.  Andrew Bell was a school friend. His shop one might say was posher as it did cakes.  Berrys just did bread and some of the best jam doughnuts I remember having.  My step-grandmother lived next door to his bakery so there was a reason for frequent visits. The doughnuts were only available for a few hours in the morning and I don’t think any of them ever had the chance to go stale. The Knights also had an off-licence and Mrs Knight had a sweet shop which also sold buckets and spades and seaside paraphernalia .  There was another sweet and tobacco shop run by a Mr Gillie (Scots) and I remember old fashioned things, even then, like tiger nuts and liquorice root.

Whilst to a certain extent I enjoy this nostalgia there is something poignant also almost depressing about it as well.  Bitter sweet I suppose.

Editor’s note, this is now a little our of date as I have moved to Bridport. About Bridport later

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The King Rufus – Eling, Hampshire

A hidden gem of a country public house

My friend Andy and I on Friday night decided that we should have an afternoon out away from the confines of Milford-on-Sea and Lymington where we normally hang out. I suggested Eling near Totton on the outskirts of Southampton. I had been there once before on a rainy spring day day to visit the tide mill there. That had been an interesting morning. I had never been to a pub there though. This Saturday was to be a pub visiting day. Andy had been to a couple of pubs there and we ended up at one of them, the King Rufus. We had already driven past it and for some reason decided to go back and try it. From the outside it looked like a small probably Victorian built country pub, no great architecture or particularly noticeable features, pleasantly unassuming, possibly dull. Anyway we tried it. I had no great hopes, just another ale house I was thinking, nevertheless worth a visit because if you don’t try you don’t know.

On entry it seemed quiet, a group of about six people round a large rectangular table and us. All was well. A pleasant lady served us and we settled down to enjoy our drinks. Looking around there were a lot of pictures, pleasant paintings. It dawned on me that they must certainly all be paintings by one hand. It turned out the one hand was that of the lady who had served us; Philippa Goold.

Phillipa told us that she had been a an art teacher at a school and hasn’t stopped painting.

The pub sign

The pub is only open 4 days a week, Thursday through to Sunday. It has regular music events, Husband Ray is a musician. They also have Friday night as a Pizza night using the wood fired pizza oven situated in the comfortable garden (well covered patio). The pizzas are made with Italian strong flour (tipo 00) and have a margharita topping as base upon which one can add extra items such as anchovies and olives (my favourite).

We shall certainly be visiting again. Most probably on a Friday night as we both fans of a well made pizza.

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Tuna – a tapenade take

I have always been quite fond of tinned tuna but my repertoire didn’t go much beyond a basic salade Niçoise wonderful as it is. Recently I have been doing a lot of snacking. I thought I would dream up a kind of tuna sandwich filling.

I did Google things a bit and it seemed that the most frequent recommendation was to use tuna canned in brine or spring water, not oil. I personally wasn’t really going to worry about which type I used, it would necessarily be whatever was in the cupboard. Of course, I ensured that it was well drained so as not to dilute any of the other ingredients.

To be perfectly honest I was messing around but confident that whatever was made would be tasty. I started with the tuna and mayonnaise pounding the tuna in a pestle and mortar then stirring in mayonnaise. On this occasion, I used Hellmans™ mayonnaise with a little added olive oil to make it more like homemade. The result was a perfectly acceptable tuna mayonnaise, fine for any sandwich. I was beginning to think tapenade, no I wasn’t going to make a tapenade just go a bit towards that kind of flavour. It was to be capers and kalamata olives. I started with the smallest tin of tuna and reckoned on a dessertspoonful of each crushed (I used a garlic press but the back of a knife would have done).

That is all, a tasty addition to tuna mayonnaise with a Provençale twist.

Well not quite all as I found the above spread dip perfect to make a tuna melt. The first time I have made a tuna melt. The result was delicious. These combos will remain in mind for easy brunch or light supper dishes.

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Condensed CV

Curriculum Vitae – condensed

Richard Anthony Westley Stokes

Address: The Penthouse, Laundry Lane, Milford on Sea, Lymington, Hants, SO41 0WJ

07783 690071

Various part time jobs:

2014 -2016 Breakfast chef, Wistaria House (Conservative Club)

I also covered the bar on occasions and relieved the bar manager on his vacations

2013 –2014 Part time assistant kitchen and bar Wistaria House

2011 –2013 Part-time bar assistant White Horse Milford-on-Sea

2006 Crewing (skipper)

Freelance website design (see; website for Wisteria (Conservative Club, Lymington) website for Kings Arms Lymington part time bar

2006 crewed Piamanzi 56’Swan Antigua to Jersey

March 2001 –March 2005

Managed Limpets Restaurant in Lymington.  I held a full-on license in this period.

March 2000 –March 2001

Worked at as news researcher and designer.  Also designed a large website for a Chinese antiques company –Red Lantern.

July 1996 –March 2000 

1998 six month Summer Hand –Wightlink (deckhand)

In this period also did some part-time work at the Gun, Keyhaven (was working for Paul Hill who is still at the Gun), and the Crown Inn, Everton.

Free-lance website design. 

6 months crewing and skippering a catamaran in the Caribbean  and thence back to Jersey C.I.  

Assistant Manager Blues Restaurant, Halkett Street, St Helier, C.I (96-97). After St Helier worked for a year at the Filly Inn, Setley (was working for Naila Webb).

Free-lance January 1993 to July 1996

Museum lighting consultant  Intelligence Software –clients Welsh National Gallery, Walsall Museum and Art Gallery,.  Book design cover for Martin Newell’s Illegible Bachelor.  

September 1993 –July 1994

Visual Arts Officer, West Midlands Arts, Birmingham.  A temporary contract to allow internal re-organisation.

October 1987 –August 1993

Chairman New Contemporaries 1988 Ltd I set up this company after producing a feasibility study for the Arts Council of Great Britain.  The company was originally sponsored by British Telecom

Director Minories Art Gallery, Colchester.  I was responsible for general management of the gallery as well as organizing a large fund-raising campaign to help preserve the 18thCentury Grade 1 listed building. £150,000 was raised

1984 –1987  Various arts consultancies for Arts Council of Great Britain and Acting Fine arts Office for West Midlands Arts (one year covering a maternity leave). Adviser to Gateshead Garden Festivel

1982 –1984  Self-employed –set up a word-processing and telex bureau called WordBusiness in Nottingham.

1980 –1982  Exhibitions Organiser, Midland Group, Nottingham.

1973 -1980  Ikon Gallery, starting as driver 1 year, Exhibitions Assistant 3 years, Deputy Director and Acting Director 3 years

1970 –1973 Mixed period of work: casual work in Birmingham; 9 months with Weatherall Green and Smith, Surveyors, Chancery Lane, London as Assistant to Surveyors; 9 months British Rail as Deckhand on Lymington Ferries.

1966 –1970 Art colleges, Winchester foundation 1 year (art A-level), Birmingham 2 years, Portsmouth 1 year.

Secondary Education: Ashley County Secondary, New Milton, Hants.

 Maths, English, French, Art, Geography O-levels.

Primary Education: Milford-on-Sea Church of England Primary School.

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Cheese Scones

I have recently moved to West Bay, Bridport from Lymington, Hampshire. One of my first visits to an eaterie in West Bay was to the Cornish Bakery. As well as a large selection of pasties (obviously) there were pastels de nata ( a kind of Portuguese custard tart – a lot nicer than the British custard tart in my opinion) and there were scones. I asked the woman at the counter as to how cheesy they were. She offered me one gratis. Sadly I had to inform her that I did not find them cheesy enough.

With this disappointment I determined to try and make some myself. I searched the internet for recipes and ended up trying Felicity Cloake of the Guardian’s recipe. Felicity is an interesting writer, she looks at quite a few recipes by well known food authors and attempts to distil the best from those recipes that she has studied. In my view her distillations work very well. Her recipe was good but not cheesy enough for me.

It occurred to me that perhaps the butter in the scone dough was watering the flavour down. Why not omit the butter and replace it with more cheese using the extra cheese as the shortening. After all it still has a similar fat content to butter. Another influence was a blogger called Annabel Langbein who promotes a 3 ingredient cheese scone (excluding extra baking powder, mustard, cayenne etc). She had basically flour, cheese and yoghourt as the binding agent. This worked well.

I can’t leave well alone it seems.

I decided to go for a proportional approach to quantities, namely equal amounts of self raising flour and extra mature cheese (Cathedral City was the one used mostly as I can get it from the store nearby). I have tried yoghourt, sour cream, double cream as the liquid. I think the sour cream came out best. I think it also makes the baking powder work harder. I just used as much liquid as would make a firm sticky dough. I always added Colman’s mustard powder and cayenne pepper.

I normally baked them in a hot oven – fan 220 c for about 15 to 20 minutes or until they looked lightly tanned. I am on my sixth or seventh batch now and am pleased with the results. I do not mind the slight variation between batches. I haven’t yet had one that I would call a failure.

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Pasta tomato and roasted red pepper salad

Pasta with tomatoes and roasted red pepper.

This recipe was devised as a bit of a take on John West’s Mediterranean tuna salad.

I like the above salad but I needed larger quantities and I also wanted a bit more control. I tend to up the roasted red pepper content.

For the bottled pepper see if you can get Freshona from Lidl, alternatively Fragata from Waitrose. A can of chopped tomatoes, Waitrose chopped tomatoes with basil are good.

I generally use half a bottle of Fragata or a third of Freshona (this different sizes obviously) and half a can of chopped tomatoes. Keep the rest in the fridge in jam jars for the next session.

Cook to well done (not al dente) some pasta shapes. I have used broken taglia telle but now use farfalle. Conchiglie might be good as it holds sauce well. Just mix all together, season with salt and pepper and refrigerate. Mix it with flaked tinned tuna (in olive oil) on your plate (best to leave tuna until last minute). My friend Andy grates cheese on top as well.
You could put a squeezed clove of garlic in but I don’t. Other additions could be thinly sliced olives. Very finely diced onions are also an option but really the whole idea is for it to be simple and quick to prepare.

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An Electric Velocipede

Late last year I purchased an electrically assisted bicycle from Figgures my local bike dealer.  I decided to go for a folding model just in case I had to lug it around in the car.  I mean lug too as the bike is really quite heavy and that is not because of the battery.

The make is FreeGo.

I am very pleased with the machine for the most part. I regularly use it to get from Lymington to Keyhaven via an old gravel road called the Ancient Highway which borders the marsh and wildlife preserve near the sea wall.  On a sunny day it is a very pretty cycle ride even though one is very close to Lymington’s large landfill site.  Actually the landfill site is quite well landscaped and if it were not for the telltale gas escape valves one might not know that it was landfill.

As for the bike, it has a  36volt 16AH battery by Samsung  which should give a range of over 40miles.  I have yet to test this fully.  I am waiting for warmer weather when I will try a a return trip to Christchurch which is probably about 24 miles in all.  I will take the charger just in case.  I have a few quibbles with the bike.  The magnetic discs which help hold the bike in its folded position have rusted as have the Top Gun hydraulic front forks.  I know this is only cosmetic but it was not a cheap bike. The odometer / speedometer got misted up owing to some damp getting in.  Figgures promptly sorted this in its first service.  The wheels are substantial and the tyres take the rough gravel track.  The front brake is a disc the rear being conventional bike brakes.

It is electrically asssisted, no pedalling no assistance, this is no problem as one only needs to pedal quite lightly.  It will do a maximum of about 17mph, I think the legal limit for them is 15mph, I find myself averaging 12mph.  It has Shimano 6 speed derailleurs and 5 positions for degrees of electrical assistance.  I mostly use position 1 or 2 with the derailleur in position 6 ( the highest gear).  Of course most of my journey is close to sea level so we aren’t talking of any serious gradients.

In the summer I am hoping to drive it to Boscombe and from there take off with a cyclist friend to Studland and Worth Matravers for an afternoon out.  We will go via the Sandbanks Ferry.

It is a clear bright day so I shall be off to the Gun Inn at Keyhaven for a brief libation.

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My New Pressure Cooker

I have always been wary of pressure cookers, possibly the fear of explosion, possibly various complexities. I have to admit I am hopeless when it comes to reading instruction manuals. I also have a rather alarming childhood experience of pressure cookers. My mother had purchased an Easicook pressure cooker from a house auction. It looked like a bomb. If you saw it protruding from the sand on a beach you would call the coastguard or the army.

Scary isn’t it. The reason for my wariness is that Mum somehow contrived to explode the contents of the thing all over the kitchen ceiling, not pleasant. I don’t know how she managed this unpleasant feat, I don’t think she wanted to admit that she might have acted in a foolhardy way by opening it when the pressure was still in it.

I purchased a Prestige six litre stainless steel pressure cooker, this was an induction capable model as nearly all my hob top cooking is done on an eight year old Stellar two ring induction cooker, noisy but effective. The initial heating up to full pressure is done on max, #8 then when pressure is reached I knock the heat down to #2 or #3.

Harmless looking isn’t it.  I bought it because I had suggested to my local pub, The Borough Arms in Lymington run by friends Terry Smith and Sarah Murphy, that another friend Sue Price and I do a curry night.  Having researched the internet a bit I discovered that many Indian people swear by their pressure cookers.  I was to make a tarka dhal and rogan josh.  I also made a fruit chaat masala, see earlier blog, this didn’t require cooking. I was to be cooking for twenty so I thought I would risk trying to do it all in a pressure cooker.  All went well apart from some sticking of the rogan josh to the bottom of the pan.  The meat certainly tenderised excellently.

Today I am doing some Northern Soul cooking.  I am making pease pudding in ham hock stock.  The yellow split peas have soaked over night an I have given them 5 minutes on 12psi.  That didn’t quite soften them enough so they are getting another 5 minutes, this time with the shredded ham hock on the top.

Just opened it up and I see that it could do with another 5 minutes.  Each of these 5 minute sessions has been 5 minutes after full pressure has built up.  Then I set the induction cooker for 5 minutes and let the pressure drop naturally.  I am hoping that these three sessions will have done the job.  Next time I shall start with 10 minutes. I hope that the bottom doesn’t burn again.

All seems well.  It looks like pease pudding for lunch or supper,  I might top it with a poached or fried egg.  I have yet to find or try making a stottie cake which is the traditional Geordie accompaniment.

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Back again after a long time

I have been remiss in not contributing to this blog for ages, years in fact. The last couple of years have been interesting, I mean interesting in the scenes of the Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times”. My mother died just over two years ago and then I was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagas. Things are a lot better now, don’t hold your breath too much but I shall be back contributing to this blog shortly. I shall be writing about things as diverse as electric bikes and pressure cookers.

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Chaat Masala

Many years ago (late sixties) when I was a student in Birmingham a new up market Indian restaurant opened in New Street, one of Birmingham’s main retail thoroughfares. It was in my mind anyway rather ludicrously named the Gaylord Indian Restaurant. This was an eye opener as far as Indian eateries go. Little sign of flocked wallpaper, no oriental knickknacks, just a cool European look to it. They did specialise a bit in tandoori, like a lot of other restaurants but what tandoori. Their chicken tandoori straight from the tandoor was beautifully made and was to die for. The rest of the menu was pretty good too. There were excellent with vegetables, the bhindi was great.

What really hit me as I had never come across it before was their chaat masala. It looked like a fruit salad but containing some vegetables such as cucumber and potatoes with fleshy mangoes, peaches, apple, and soft pear. Surprisingly it was served as a starter when it most definitely looked like a dessert. Perhaps this is where my fascination for the dish started.

The dish was very pretty, looking as I said like a fruit salad

The taste was astonishing, or should I say tastes : it seemed to have all the five primary tastes – salt – sour – sweet – bitter – umami.

Starting with the salt (black salt), well I got to learn that this sulphuric almost eggy tasting salt is called Kala Namak and can be found in any ethnic Indian, Pakistani or Bangla Deshi store. It is pinkish grey to black and is extracted in the Himalayas and salt ranges in North West Pakistan. It is the sulphury taste that gives the umami flavour.

The sour and the sweet flavours come from amchoor which is dried mango powder as well as the fruit acid from the ingredients.

Some of the bitter flavours come from the spice of cumin, coriander, fennel (saunf), black pepper, asafoetida, ginger, ajwain or carom seeds (sometimes called onion seeds but they are not from the allium), sometimes powdered mint. Some people add chilli, cayenne or fresh chopped green chillies. I don’t think you need the heat of chilli but it is a matter of taste.

I think the first taste to hit one is the eggy taste of the salt, then the amchur comes through, more so if fresh mango is in the dish. Then the fruit.The potato and cucumber seemed to add a cooling touch to the spiciness as does raita.

As soon as I got home I was determined to emulate this dish. Fortunately Birmingham was not short of Pakistani stores. I asked one shopkeeper about how to get the ingredients for this dish as I hadn’t a clue then what was in it. He pulled out a small cellophane packet with a premixed masala which gave away the ingredients. And being a good salesman he got me a packet of mango powder and a packet of black salt. All I had to do was remember what the fruit and vegetables were.

I have been making it ever since being as faithful to the Gaylord recipe as I can. Sometimes I make my own masala (mix) sometimes buy the ready mixed. More satisfying to do it your self of course. If you make curries you will already have the cumin, coriander and fennel seeds. If you are a foodie you might even have the asafoetida (a warning here, use it extremely sparingly it has a resinous kind of tang that can easily completely overpower a dish).

People new to this dish wiIl possibly be better off with a premix (check date when packed). If you are making it yourself roast the seeds coriander, cumin, fennel and ajwain seed separately and grind in a pestle and mortar ( for ease I actually use an old German manual coffee grinder for spices, the sort with a little drawer at the bottom – find one at a car boot sale)

The proportions of ingredients are entirely up to you but this might be a recommendation for beginners:-
4 tablespoon coriander seeds
4 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
1.5 teaspoon ajwain/carom seeds
2.5-3 tablespoon black salt/kala namak/rock salt
5 red dried chiles, stems removed (optional)
3 teaspoon dried mango powder/amchur
a cautious pinch of asafoetida (less than a 1/4 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger powder
1.5 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried mint (optional)
2-3 teaspoons Kashmiri red chili powder/paprika (optional, for a nice bright colour).

Ideally keep for one month but it will last three months but slowly losing pungency.
People on the subcontinent use for more than chaat masala salad. It can be used to sprinkle over cooked food, delicious with just sliced cucumber on a hot day.

By the way I went back to the Gaylord a week or so later to resample the dish only find that they had added mayonnaise or some salad cream gunk. When I complained they said it was to suit English tastes more. They didn’t last that long.

Picture to follow

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Easy Russian Salad

Recently I felt nostalgic for tinned Russian Salad. I can’t remember which company supplied them might have been Heinz or possibly Crosse and Blackwell. What I recall was something like a macedoine of vegetables but with a salad cream/ mayonnaise type of sauce. It was usually found in the half size tins.

The rumour is that Heinz Vegetable Salad (once Russian Salad) is discontinued. I cannot find it on the official Heinz website.

Unable to find the product on supermarket shelves I thought I would try and recreate the product. I did not want to create an up-market salad but get the feeling of the then popular product sold in the 50’s and 60’s possibly 70’s too. My first attempt, very easy, was a little disappointing. I bought a tin of diced vegetables from Tesco’s added Hellmann’s mayonnaise and a little Heinz salad cream for tartness. This was further embellished with chopped cornichons(Mrs Ell swood’s) and chopped capers. True it did largely resemble the original product that I remember except that there was little or no crunch. I did quite like it though but knew there could be improvements. The problem I think was that the Tesco’s vegetables were too mushy.

Undeterred I had another bash. This time I happened to find in Waitrose their own brand of diced vegetables. I also found their canned boiled potatoes. Good I tried these along the same lines as above and found greater success. The crunch was there. Waitrose diced vegetables are more al dente than Tesco’s. I still added the cornichons and capers but this time I slightly upped the potato content with some of the canned potatoes. This time Tesco’s mayonnaise was used, along with a dollop of Heinz salad cream. I rated this a success.
My easy Russian Salad
The not so good photo above shows my version garnished with halved quails eggs and slices of cornichons.

What I have described above is nothing like the original Russian Salad or Salad Olivier which was apparently created a by a M. Lucien Olivier in the 1860’s, a Belgian chef working in Moscow’s l’Hermitage restaurant, one of the city’s up scale eateries. His had chicken and or game, sometimes shellfish and other costly ingredients.

My easy version is very palatable and adaptable. Add fresh diced shallots if you want. This works. I haven’t tried chopped green olives yet but I am sure they would work. To make it a bit more high end you could serve it with pickled quails eggs ( I used Opie’s), king prawns perhaps, not necessarily mixed in but on the side. Look at for the history.

The reason I chose to go down the canned route is firstly because I am single and only need small quantities and secondly I like the idea of knocking something tasty and adaptable up from my store cupboard. If you are going to cater for a party I would probably recommend doing it the hard way and cooking and dicing your vegetables. Make sure that you have these ingredients: potatoes (preferably waxy) one quarter, carrots one quarter, peas one quarter with the last quarter being a mix of the more piquant ingredients. The piquant ingredients can be gherkins or cornichons, capers or caperberries chopped, finely chopped raw onion, shallot or spring onion. The latter can add extra green if some of the tops are used. I prefer shallot. The daring could try chopped pickled silverskin onions. Proteins can be added but I think I prefer them alongside or on top, not mixed in. The protein can be tuna, hard boiled egg, anchovies, ham chopped or sliced. Basically anything you fancy.

The salad is great accompanying cold meats left over from the Sunday roast or if you are like me just for snacking.

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Lunchtime at the Pig

Thursday 13th of March we went to the Pig. It should have been the previous day had it not been that Jersey Airport was closed owing to impossibly snowy conditions.

I had not been to the Pig before yet I was a frequent visitor to its previous carnation as Whitley Ridge. Whitley Ridge at the time was our favourite local place to eat, many of our Birthday lunches were spent there.

On arrival it looked almost the same, a bit more freshly painted stucco and a large new conservatory covering some of the previous terrace. Whilst Whitley Ridge was a little on the formal side the Pig has gone for a more everyday approach albeit with plenty of quirky twists. There are touches of shabby elegance (can’t say chic) even some faux shabbiness as in the trompe l’oeil painted cracks on the wall of the reception lounge. In this room we managed to bag the sofa and chairs around the log fire, great.

We ordered wine and a few “Piggy Bits” from the menu – devils on horseback and pork crackling with apple sauce – whilst we waited for the rest of the party.

We weren’t in a hurry so didn’t order too quickly, just as well really as it was one of those difficult menus, difficult in so far as there were too many temptations offered.

I dithered between the baked crab with mustard (and something else), scallops
and brill as main courses. A lot of the offers came in big or little sizes so for starters there were a lot of options. I chose the black pudding with poached egg. Glorious black pudding. Our family are quite piggy and we like to taste each others choices so the starters usual end up as a kind of tapas or mezzes. Mum’s tempura fried oysters were superb.

The restaurant now has been enlarged by a large high conservatory extension which must add a third or more onto the original space. The table are odd lots of things don’t match (apart from the napery) and the scene is partly agricultural with seedlings and small plants growing to the front of the glazed area. Chairs and tables are a friendly mishmash.


The slightly horticultural look of the conservatory

Our table


Waitress at our table

Our Table at the Pig

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Draw Something – or other

First of all I have to apologise that this blog has been untended for almost a year.

Wetherspoon have opened their newly refurbished premises in St Thomas Street. The premises look good and the designers have done a very nice job. The fifties feel of the place has been preserved in place. They have kept the great Festival of Britain style of electrolier and some of the chairs on the ground floor appear to be the real thing – original retro.

Snobbish Lymington seems to have done a volte face as to their attitudes towards a Wetherspoon in the town -there is much, possibly grudging, approval.

In the last year I have acquired another unhealthy addiction, Draw Something. Having purchased an iPad my friend Jane insisted that I obtain this app called Draw Something so that i could play with her. At the time she was already playing the game with her sister in law in Houston, Texas.

Well we now play almost everyday all of us being childishly stupefied by this wonderful time waster.

Below I will add some of our better artworks on Draw Something.

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Great at first sight – Firstsite Colchester

The beginning of the title of this blog is borrowed from Rowan Moore of the Guardian / Observer. A neat pun which expresses some of his caution about the architecture. As an ex curator myself (Minories – Ikon Gallery) I worry about the ratio of promenade space to real exhibition space. The promenade space can and does house free standing objects. The promenade space has little to no control over daylight so would be useless for any art which has any light fugitive properties. For me this circulation space has the feeling of a surrealistic shopping mall. The whoosh of the outward sloping curved wall to the right of the promenade has a gasp factor, but then what do you do after the gasp. The foyer is huge and suggests a much larger building behind, but in fact the building shrinks as you proceed down it, and yes it is downward in some places as there is some sloping to the floor.

Perhaps I am too much of a traditionalist wanting conventional vertical walls for flat paintings – some might say that art practice has changed so much that walls for paintings are less necessary than hitherto. The slope and curve of these walls would make it even difficult for video projection unless you required that kind of distortion.

The actual galleries when you get to them are conventional – vertically walled but they do seem quite compact after the towering space of the entrance.


As to the gold sheened exterior. it’s amazing what you can do with the Terry’s All Gold concept, but the gold in Terry’s and perhaps Ferrero Rocher’s wrappings is actually disposable – kind of temporary: this is not.

Colchester has certainly made a statement in this visual arts centre. When I worked at the Minories the the Council did not seem particularly keen on contemporary visual art, had it not been for Arts Council and Eastern Arts funding at the time I think the Council would have shown little interest in the work of the gallery. Kath Wood and her team must have done a lot to influence the Council.

Good luck Kath.

apologies for the dreadful photograph – a wet day and a smartphone

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Apple™ confusion – Leopard to Snow Leopard to Lion

My brother recently acquired an iPhone, I had the lowlier HTC Wildfire S (interesting camera though) so I was a little envious. I told him I was a bit green and he said he was a bit disappointed. It was only after he had committed himself to his iPhone, taken it out of its box etc. that he discovered it wouldn’t work with his Mac mini because his software was too aged, I think he had either Panther or Tiger versions of OSX. I asked him why he couldn’t upgrade – he said he was just sure he couldn’t. Well, I have a Mac mini running Leopard and have just contracted myself to an iPhone (jealousy). The two seemed to work relatively seamlessly, syncing contacts at least, that was until I discovered iCloud (through the iPhone) only to find that it wasn’t really meant to work with Leopard, it wanted Lion.

I thought upgrading would be easy (I haven’t come to the end of this yet) so I went to Apple Store online. This is where my confusion started – in order to get to Lion you have to go via installing Snow Leopard. Easy I thought. No not so easy I find. You can get Snow Leopard on Apple Store on line – this means purchasing discs, I thought I would be able to buy Lion at the same time in the same transaction. Wrong; you have go to Apple Store to buy Snow Leopard online as discs, wait for them to arrive, and install. Then in theory you get Mac Apps and download Lion online.

Sunday 4th March

Snow Leopard arrived yesterday so it only really took 3 days to arrive. I am currently downloading further software to upgrade it further, another two hours it says but at least I can work this time. Looking at the net people are saying it can take up to 4 hours to download on a not-so-good connection. Mine is1.45mbps which I am told is not so clever and might mean a download is going to take forever or possibly fail. I am not going to risk a failure so have ordered Lion on a stick, more expensive but safer. Ordered it today so will see how long it takes to get here. I will have to without the wonders of iCloud for a few more days.

I now read that Lion does not support my Iomega MiniMax NAS (or vice versa) so Time Machine doesn’t recognise or find the backup HDD.

This series is not over yet.

I will keep you in touch in due course.

I hope all this messing around proves worth it.

Will get back soon

Footnote – my brother thinks his processor would have been a problem anyway – not being an Intel Duo Core 2.

Mac Mini set up

Mac Mini set up

N.B The DVD/CD Read/Writer is a Buffalo as the slot on the Mac Mini is defunct. I got the logo with the iPhone.

Monday 12th March

I received Lion OSX 10.7 last Thursday and started to install it on Friday morning. I panicked slightly about my photos not getting backed up so joined Livedrive (which by the way – so far – seems excellent). Lion took an hour to install and then there were updates which took a further two hours. All pretty seamless except for some extraordinary reason I had decided to back up all pictures onto the desktop – backup panic I guess. I really can’t remember the logic for doing this, it was a crazy thing to do as it nearly bought the Mac to a grinding halt. I ended up having to learn Terminal to batch delete files with similar names, as moving stuff to trash was not easy.

Every thing is now fine although I still haven’t worked out the ultimate usefulness of iCloud. Oh and by the way Time Machine seems to be acknowledging the Iomega MiniMax (it is backing up as I write) so perhaps the money spent on Livedrive was a waste, however it is another string to my bow for photograph preservation.

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Another kind of lomography

People coming to this blog might be questioning my abilities to take a decent photograph. I do myself sometimes. Just before Christmas I saw a guy in Waitrose, Lymington’s car park taking photographs of a strangely beautiful dusk sky. I thought ‘I wish I had a camera’ then remembered that of course I did on my phone so I went ahead and took some snaps. I couldn’t believe how they were coming out not remotely like what I was seeing but very weird and in a grotesque way, rather beautiful. I hadn’t a clue what I had done wrong.

Weird Dusk

What can go wrong with photography

When I got home and in good light I checked the phone’s camera and found that I had chosen solarisation by accident. Here is another spooky picture.

Spooky House

A weird dusk - solarised photography

This photograph seasonally shows the mistletoe in the trees.


Mistletoe in solarised dusk

The next photo shows how odd sodium lighting can look.

Mistletoe and sodium light

Sodium light

Having discovered this attribute of the HTC I took a couple of photographs of my patio garden – one of which is doubly tricked up by re-photographing it on the computer display to double the amount of solarisation.

Patio Garden

Patio Garden Solarised

Patio Garden double exposure

Patio Garden double solarised

For on short time I became a bit hooked on this peculiar photography. Here are a few more.



Mystery photo

Mystery photo

Oh I have just remembered taking the last picture. It was of two pizzas at the Conservative Club in Lymington. Somebody went berserk and bought 17 pizzas for some celebratory reason.

Back to the HTC Wildfire S. Well as a phone it is a bit quirky, I found that scrolling through the phone book/ contact list gave unexpected results, like it would certainly start dialling somebody you had just gone past. So slightly sadly I have let it go and contracted myself to an iPhone 4, a much better phone but the camera is not so quirky (I think).

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Life in the Costa Geriatrica

The Costa Geriatrica is a wonderful name I have invented for the strip of coastal land stretching from Eastbourne to Bournemouth. I live in Lymington at the western end of this coast. It was named as best seaside resort town ahead of Sandbanks in an article by Richard Savill in the Telegraph 5th June 2008.

Typical of the South Coast, Lymington and the area surrounding has been losing larger industries for decades. Wellworthy, manufacturers of piston rings, a once major employer, closed in 1989. In its heyday in the 70′s the Lymington plants provided employment for about 5,500. One of the sites of its plants is now a major supermarket, the other Ampress Park now houses out of town businesses and a new hospital. According to a one time manager there the closure of the first site was a loss of about 400 jobs, the closure of the second lost about 1,000.

Webbs Country Foods ( a chicken processing factory) was another major employer, that closed in 2001. Five hundred jobs were lost. The factory was situated on a large site east of the railway line, earmarked for housing. Commercial property developer and builder, Redrow, bought the 3 hectare site presumbaly hoping to make a a bit of a financial killing. They have been frustrated though by the awkward position of the site, the entrance to the site being adjacent to a level crossing. The site is also vulnerable to tidal and fluvial flooding. So at the moment there is not even the new building work that may have provided jobs for a year or two.

The town has lost the following pubs in the last forty years:-



Crown and Anchor;

Redlion/Whitelion 1998 I think;

Anchor and Hope;

Londesborough Hotel and the Country Bar at the rear;

The Bugle;

The Lymington Tavern (a.k.a. Dorset arms, Fighting Cocks, Champagne Charlie’s);

The Tap Bar – Angel

The Hearts of Oak

What else can Lymington lose. Well it nearly lost its saltwater swimming baths which were saved due to a large public outcry.

Never mind the retirement industry is booming. Oh, and Wetherspoon might come. See Whether to Wetherspoon on this site.

Author’s note – apparently there is another Costa Geriatrica in Spain – near Suerte I believe. Obviously someone was thinking along the same lines as me. I did not knowingly nick the name.

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The Number Four

I was listening to Alex Bellos on favourite numbers on Radio 4 and was fascinated to know that he had created a survey website asking people for views on their favourite numbers.

I went to this and informed that my favourite was four, my birthday.  Also the sum of 1 and 3, 13 being an auspicious number as I was treated once as child to go and see Peter pan on Friday 13th.  I also mentioned that I liked to collect Macedonian tetradrachms.

I see in Wikipedia that four is considered by the Chinese to be inauspicious as nearly homophonous to the word death, fourteen is even worse “shi si” which sounds like “ten die” in Mandarin.  In East Asia some buildings do not have a fourth floor.  Eight however in Chinese culture is auspicious as it is similar to the word for wealth or prosper. The Summer Olympics in Beijing was scheduled to open on 8/8/08 at 8:08:08 p.m.

Back to four – Judaeo/ Christian symbolism – The Tetragrammaton is the four-letter name of God. The four matriarchs of of Judaism are Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel.  Perhaps not so good is that the four horsemen of the Apocalypse ride in the book of Revealation.  In the Kabbalah, there were four worlds of the Tree of Life. There are four creatures on the arms of Freemasonry, four primary mental functions according to Carl Jung, and four dimensions of modern science: length, breadth, width, and time.  According to Plato the four virtues were wisdom, courage, self-control, and justice.  Four is the smallest number of colors sufficient to color all planar maps.

൪ Malayalam:   四,亖,肆 Chinese: ארבע   Arba – Hebrew:   ٤,4,۴, Arabic

What else is there to say about a number.



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Changing the colour of links in iWeb

I did think that you couldn’t easily change the colours of links in iWeb.  It’s not true it’s very easy.  Mac don’t seem to tell you this in help.  All you do is go to links inspector and it says Hyperlink – Format.  Having created your hyperlink go to Format – click on your link – it will show white rectangles filled with grey.  Go to the colour palette, choose web safe colours preferably – click on the normal box and then click on your selected colour, do this again with different colour for rollover and visited.  You can apply the selection to all links on your page if you click on Use for New Links on Page.   I think MacMurphy makes it all  a bit difficult.  No, to be fair to MacMurphy he is talking about the iWeb generated navigation menu which I am now beginning to turn off because of the lack of control.  I reckon it is just as easy to manually make navigation menus.  Researching the menu topic I came across Suzanne on who is very good at educating you deep into iWeb.

I am now just worried that having put the Papyrus typeface into that it it will look bad on Windows PCs, I think it gets replaced with a Lucida font.  If any body with windows can tell me how awful it looks I would be grateful.

Inspector and Palette

And after

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City of contrasts – Birmingham UK




Ikon Gallery

Ikon Gallery



Canal, Birmingham

Canal, Birmingham

This photo was taken in Summer Row close to where the old Birmingham College of Art Experimental Workshop would have been.

A forlorn building on Henstead Street

A forlorn building on Henstead Street

Only a stone’s throw away from the brash new city centre.

The blue glass Radisson

The blue glass Radisson

Amazing - possibly awful

Amazing - possibly awful

The Cube detail

The Cube detail

Note the contrast between old and new.  This is the owners take ” A world class building which dominates the Birmingham skyline. Exceptional apartments, state-of-the-art offices, exclusive shops, water side café bars, Birmingham’s first boutique hotel and panoramic rooftop restaurant all fuse together in one extraordinary location. Put simply, a building like no other.”

The Town Hall

The Town Hall



I lived in Birmingham for approximately 10 years coming there as a student in 1968 and living there until 1979.  Starting from the genteel but declining area of Moseley, crumbling Victorian villas converted into squalid bedsits and finishing in Vicery Close on the Bristol Road, an elegant late 30’s apartment complex set in a  large garden.   Going back the change is enormous. Broad Street, once a slightly out of centre shopping street with Everymans where I could buy artists’ materials and visit if I had the money – the Rum Runner a busy night venue.  Oh and you could look over the Gas Street Canal basin- not the prettiest of sights.  Now Broad Street is the major artery of the so called Westside area.   Change was happening when I was there with the relocation of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, then on a second sojourn, working for West Midlands Arts, there in the mid 90’s the Symphony Hall was apparent.  There was talk of something called Brindleyplace, I thought it was going be just more offices,  I know the Ikon was considering relocating to an old school in Oozells Street.

The Council House

The Council House

Going back there last year to be involved with This Could Happen to You was a shock for me.  First, the new Ikon.  I was amazed at how a Victorian neo Gothic school could be turned into an amazingly trendy contemporary art galley.  Brindleyplace wasn’t merely offices, it was an upscale commercial area with culture and retail.  The canals had been opened up and re-furbished, one walked past new sculpture, good quality street  furniture. What! They used to say Birmingham rebuilds itself every fifty years, well for Westside this certainly seems to be true. Last year I stayed in a SACO apartment,  almost a penthouse, from where I could see this astonishing building the Cube going up.  Well it is finished now and open.  Now the new Library is on its way to completion.  They only built the last one in the 70’s.

Sixties signal box

Sixties signal box

This is listed thankfully.

Canal boats

Canal boats

Difficult to take a picture of a glass lift

Difficult to take a picture of a glass lift

This the lift at the Ikon Gallery must be one of the most amazing lifts in the world.  It has voices singing rising as it ascends and lowering when it descends. Go to or Google Singing lift at the Ikon Gallery.

Glazing on the Cube

Glazing on the Cube

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