Monday, 3 November 2008

Cheese, free speech, snowballs and other essentials for a happy life

Well, had a lovely time out west. Didn't mamage more than a fleeting glimpse of the Hairy Bikers - on Saturday the queues to see them went on for miles, and they ran out of books for their signing sessions.

We arrived in Hereford early Friday evening. We were staying in a new hotel just south of town, on the main A49, so everything was clean, if a little barren.

We arrived at the Festival just after opening time, and had a look round all the stalls before buying anything. We then had an early lunch and started stocking up - Pixley Berries blackcurrant cordials, several cheeses, Ralph's Perry, a couple of other beers, and sausages. Also bought a serrated kitchen knife with a cover that will be useful over the allotment, a book on celtic recipes, a sourdough loaf, a few packets of Tyrells crisps (also tried their vodka), a pack of chopped mixed game, assorted tartlets, mini quiches, mini nut roast and fancy Scotch eggs.

The main marquee was crowded and the easiest way to move round was to shuffle round sideways, once facing inwards, then outwards. By 2pm, some of the stands had run out of stock. The woman from the Elan Valley Mutton stand looked stunned. She wasn't sure if she had enough back at the farm to stock the stall for Sunday.

Finished our visit with some lovely ice cream, and decided to see what else we could fit in. We headed off to Hay, via the toll bridge. As we only had a small amount of cash left, and we needed fuel for Sunday, we avoided most of the bookshops, but bought something I'd planned on getting for some time - an enamel teapot and a couple of cups for the allotment shed. Had a quick look in the yarn shop, and greatly admired the Rowan angora kid and silk range. Just don't think the time is quite right for me to start to try and learn to knit again. My childhood efforts didn't extend far beyond scarves for teddy bears, and my sights these days would be set far higher than my current ability.

Had a picnic back in the hotel room with some of our purchases, then had another early night. The weather when we woke on Sunday was as forecasted - foul, but had cleared slightly by the time we set off. However, I didn't think the conditions underfoot at the Wernlas Collection would be good, so our original plan for the day was scrapped. Being on a north facing slope, I suspected it would be boggy at best, and I did wonder if the hens may have been moved to drier ground and out of view.

Instead we went on a mystery drive home, taking as many country tracks as possible. We saw classic car graveyards, white Rheas, new born alpacas, buzzards, and lots of wonderful views. We had a lunch of the last of the Scotch eggs in a car park near the peak of the Malverns, drove over the top of the Cotswolds on a road that could have been mistaken for a farm track and managed to put in a flying visit to Burford Garden Centre just before sunset. We were already heading toward the Oxford Ring Road when the "earthquake" hit the western side of the Malverns, so I can't tell you how it felt.

As we'd made allowances for a late arrival home, Monday was another day off, and with the weather being dry and sunny (if chilly), where better to spend it than the allotment.

We dug up the courgette plant as the frost had finally taken its toll. That part of the bed could now be dug over with the rest and put to bed for the Winter. Having moved last year's haul from the leaf mould bin to store for the Spring, we were ready for a new batch. We'd managed to gather a few bags of leaves locally, and our bin is now full of fresh leaves. If they rot down as well as last year's haul, we will have some great mulch for the spring after next.

Tuesday was by comparison quiet and uneventful, until around 9 in the evening, when it suddenly started snowing, and much to everyone's surprise, settled overnight. This of course gave the local train company a perfect excuse not to run trains long after the snow had melted.

My usual reaction when it snows is to head out to the allotment and look for animal tracks. Unfortunately, Wednesday morning was when I was due to start a new job, so I had to struggle into town and missed out on this treat. I'm working at hospital, doing clerical admin for at least the next few weeks. Nye Bevan created the National Health Service to provide universal health care free at the point of delivery. It may have its problems, but I'm happy to be able to defend the principles of the NHS from within.

The Wartime Weekend Gardener has one entry which covers the next three weeks - digging the plot. Which is all well and good unless you have to deal with the amount of rain that fell on Saturday. By Sunday afternoon we still had a few patches of standing water on our plot, which is why we're working on making raised beds.

The proper news this week was overshadowed by a minor story exploited by a right wing newspaper and elevated by disgruntled work colleagues. Whatever you think of what was said by Ross & Brand and how cone it was broadcast, take into account how much any tabloid would have relished breaking the story that "Manuel's" grand-daughter is a sex worker, and how they would have claimed the moral high ground in doing so. Notwithstanding the manner in which it may have precipitated the credit panic, BBC news should be ashamed at the way it has exploited this story due to reputed jealousy felt by journalists towards Ross in particular. Does this spell the end for adventurous comedy? Will we be left with Saga TV - The Vicar of Dibley and Antiques Roadshow and little else?

The reality is that free speech has been sacrificed to appease one of the most damaging forces in the media. It may not have been in my lifetime, but keep in mind that the Daily Mail supported Oswald Mosley.

Which kind of neatly brings me on to the great news the Lewis Hamilton has won the World Motor Racing championship. He's had to put up with being made to feel an outsider, not the least by Mosley's grandson, who may have tried to explain and back track on comments, but the first interpretation sticks. Much as we may complain about them, the long anonymous expanses of the A1M and the confusing M25/M1 intersections have given Hertfordshire another sporting hero.

So some bright news to end with. Let's hope Wednesday brings more good news. Bring on Obama and let's put an end to the Evangelical Inquisition and right wing suffocation.