BootsnAll Travel Network

Archive for February, 2005

« Home

Going the Whole Hog (1: Feijoada)

Friday, February 25th, 2005

Farmer’s markets never really took off in Stirling. In the end I gave up going to the smattering of stalls that lined the gravelly parking place on the first Saturday of every month. It may be that Stirling is actually a bit out of the way. At weekends, either Glasgow or Edinburgh are better bets for stall holders and a lot of the university professors probably buy their stuff in Perth.

But here in the South of England farmers markets are a serious movement. What they can’t provide, local farmshops take care of and since we have a freezer this means that we no longer buy meats from the supermarket (and probably not veg either, come the season).

The British farmer’s markets are not regular, twice-weekly affairs like those in continental Europe. This is because the movement insists that not only must produce be local (‘At a Hampshire Farmers’ Market all produce being sold must have been grown, reared, caught, brewed, pickled, baked, or processed within Hampshire or ten miles of the border.’) but also staffed by people normally working for the producer. This means we won’t get any Gloucester Old Spot or Devon Scrumpy here and when the farmers are busy (as in the imminent lambing season) they won’t come at all. I doubt the wisdom of all this— but when it happens, the market is quite an event.

Every two months it comes to Basingstoke.
[read on]

Trip delayed

Thursday, February 24th, 2005

My planned Asia trip has been delayed by at least a month.

At first I was relieved as I thought I had become bogged down with other projects, but this isn’t actually the case. My writing has stalled for the time being, most of my other projects (including a series of features about rural England) were scheduled for the summer, so the delayed merely gets in the way, and this isn’t the right time of the month—or in general for that matter—to focus on more mundane stuff. Not having this trip to look forward to will get me down—although not so down that I want to write my Nervous Breakdown Manual just yet.

Two days ago I thought I was busy, now I’m bored. Even reading the travel boards is boring ’cause it ain’t happening yet. The only upside is that I don’t need to register with the local surgery yet (for Malaria pills) and therefore can put off answering their stupid questions about my lifestyle.

Why oh why don’t humans hibernate like bears or dormice??

Tadley Tidbits

Monday, February 21st, 2005

Conservation in the pub on Friday night:

Man at Bar: “From listening to you I’d reckon you are European.”

“Wow…” I pondered this for a while, looked around, shrugged and added: “Aren’t we all?”

Shocked silence. The man looked at me aghast. So did the other people lining the bar three-deep.

“I mean—last time I looked, Britain was part of Europe.”

In the resulting silence I grabbed my pints and headed back to the table. For a moment I had forgotten that I live in the Tadley Universe.

Nothing but green fields…

A knock on the door on Sunday afternoon: T, a former Goldsmith’s postgrad and now maths lecturer in Reading, had dropped by for a visit reckoning the cool, clear day was ideal for cycling (he’s Dutch). He was a little addled and worn-out. Shaking his head he spread the Ordnance Survey map on the living room floor and pointed at the shortcut he had planned to take—when he had ran into a perimeter fence that looked like a scaled-down version of the former East German border.

“Ah…that is AWE—our Friendly Neighbourhood Atomic Weapons Establishment!”

“But”, he continued to shake his head: “There’s nothing there but green fields!”

We showed him the map in our information leaflet where the facility and its smaller neighbour where marked with fat yellow splotches, surrounded by a fall-out radius centred on the nuclear reactors they don’t have.

But it is true—neither facility is marked on the ordnance maps of the area. Their existence is hardly a secret, AWE even has its own website and regularly advertises job offers in New Scientist. Perhaps they reckon by not marking it on the map they make it impossible for terrorists to find and crash an airliner into it.

Round-the-World Shopping in Reading

Friday, February 18th, 2005

Farmer’s markets and local, seasonal produce are all very well, but after a while I feel like I start growing cobwebs eating English peasant food. I miss a good curry. And I miss the vibrancy and bustle of multy-cultural Deptford, the closest market to the Ghetto. But while London is close, it is just out of reach. So for my dose of bustle, it will have to be Reading.

John’s weekly visits to the university are my opportunity to mix with the city crowd. He drops me off just inside the Ring of Death of urban motorways that circle the city centre (it is the same in Basingstoke—a 60s urban planning oddity). There, within strolling distance from the station, is a tiny market. If I squint, it feels almost as if I’m back in Deptford.

In an area where so many ethnic groups collide, the idea that food should be ‘local’ soon sails out of the window. Among the cabbages and potatoes, a plethora of exotic produce is on offer: mangos from Equador, citrus fruit from the Mediterranean, curry leaves from India (yes, fresh curry leaves! 50p a bag. I put them in the freezer and they’ll last me until spring), plantains, eddies and sweet potatoes from the Carribbean, gourds and legumes from all over Asia. And in the specialist delis along the street I stock up on coconut cream from Thailand, dried cloud’s ear mushrooms from Singapore, banana sauce from the Phillipines, fish sauce from Indonesia, dried herbs from Turkey and 13 different flavours of noodles from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Korea and Malaysia. But my greatest joy was the discovery of a shop that sells sausages, pickled herring and dark, moist rye bread from Scandinavia, Poland and Germany.

There you have it—a truly global shopping trip.
[read on]

Tadley Twilight Zone

Monday, February 14th, 2005

I have had my suspicions that we have moved to an alternative universe for some time now, but it gets weirder by the day.
[read on]

Comic Grief

Monday, February 14th, 2005

The UK is currently in thrall of Comic Relief fever which, although it thankfully only comes around every two years, goes on for well over a month.
[read on]

SciFi Ramblings

Sunday, February 13th, 2005

It has gone a little quiet on this blog—my apologies. But the truth is that nothing much is going on until I leave for the trip in six weeks or so.

In the meantime, I do a little scribbling here-and-there and some research. Believe it or not: after 25 years of never-quite-getting-it-together, I am finally about to write my first SciFi story! And while that has nothing whatsoever to do with travel (not this story, at any rate) here’s what I came across on this year’s Nebula ballot: “Travels with my Cats” by Mike Resnick—a beautiful story about travel, love and unfulfilled dreams. And cats. Enjoy.

Lost in the Floodplains, Aguaro-Guariquito National Park, Venezuela

Sunday, February 6th, 2005

I’m looking through some old journals, trying to piece together another story for BootsNall, purely to keep with the travel writing game while also working on my other blog. This one is from notes for a story which I never got around to writing for the wilderness women submission call. It follows on from an earlier entry on this blog (with better pictures).

The Llanos del Orinoco region is a vast area right in the centre of Venezuela, large swathes of which are flooded during the rainy season. We kind of stumbled across it.

(ca. 1700 words)
[read on]