Saturday, 31 August 2013

Beeston day-time cafés caught for foodie book

As I said in my last posting, wearing my Beeston WEA Writing Group hat, I am pulling together contributions for a booklet we are calling Foodie Heavens. One part of the booklet will be a photo directory of Beeston Cafes along the Chilwell Road and (Beeston) High Road, from west to east, beginning at Park Road and ending at Humber Road. This morning (Saturday 31 August 2013) I went out with my camera and photographed all those places open where you could sit down and relax for a few minutes. I took all the photographs between 10 and 11am. These are the photographs I took, with no more than a few comments.

Not strictly a café, but open for coffee. It won't make the booklet because of space limitations, but it will make the web list when I do it.

John, who owns The Granary, was enjoying the sun during a quiet moment before several Tram construction workers turned up.

It's a place we occasionally use and serves good wholesome food.

Jo, the owner, makes the best goulash I have ever tasted and sells great cheeses and home made pies. I can never pass without going in and buying something. Today it was cheddar cheese to die for and she has already volunteered to sell Foodie Heavens.

Fresh @ 39 is hidden from view by the Tram works, but behind the fencing, JCBs and plastic screens is a small café with a couple of tables. Today it was full of Tram workers. This photographic shows what small businesses along Chilwell Road are having to live with for well over a year!

Another place we occasionally used and where they have poetry evenings.

A Weatherspoons pub, which we also use when I fancy a beer and has plenty of folk inside drinking coffee, but it is part of a chain, so for space reasons no photograph of The Last Post will not appear in Foodie Heavens (but its name will).

On the south side of Beeston Town Square beside Station Road and part of a chain.

Across the road from Birds, with its entrance on Station Road. In the past, an award winning coffee shop.

Part of a chain, Nero's will probably no photograph in Foodie Heavens (but will get a mention).

Another occasional haunt of ours, which serves substantial meals and does high tea in the afternoons, which we have had, and very good it was. Also have a branch in West Bridgford, on the south side of Nottingham.

The Bean is on Stoney Street, which leads off the north side of (Beeston) High Road, directly opposite Belle & Jerome. Also won a national award a few years back.

One of Beeston's newer cafés.

The Brunch Sandwich Bar won't make Foodie Heavens because it doesn't have any seating area, but it has been doing business for a good while and is open during the day. There are some 'fast food' takeaways along Chilwell Road and the High Road, but they are not open in the mornings, so I have not included them.

Another new arrivals with what seems like an American slant, selling do-nuts, aiming at adults with children in tow.

Some cafés give the impression that they established their own discreet group of customers and the Metro is one of them. I have a friend who wouldn't go anywhere else.

They have been selling sandwiches and pies etc for a good while and bake everything at the back of the bakery, which is open to view from the shop. This year they have paced a table and chairs outside, so it means that they qualify for inclusion in Foodie Heavens. On the rare occasions I buy bread this is where I come. I buy their Belgian Buns more often and those featured in the book were bought here, smaller than usual, so cheaper (just 40p each) but, as you can see from the pic below, perfectly formed.

My very last photograph shows Mason & Mason, where we go every week, and sometimes drink coffee, sometimes tea, and share a sandwich. It is more teashop than café as far as I am concerned, but I would be hard pushed to explain the difference.

This is where the Beeston Writers meet up most weeks and, at the end, some of us walk down to the Local not global Deli for a light lunch and goulash on the right day (usually a Thursday). The two establishments offer quite different eating and drinking experiences, but I would not want to choose between the two. I like both.

On reflection, what I have created here is a historical record of sorts — a snapshot in time — of where any visitor to Beeston on Saturday 31 August 2013 could have stopped and enjoyed a break. I didn't. After photographing Mason & Mason I waited a couple of minutes and caught the first bus back home to Lenton. I have three buses to choose from at the rate of twenty-two an hour. This averages a bus every three minutes at least, but buses have the habit of behaving like bananas in the sense that buses bunch.

I now going back to laying out Foodie Heaven by Beeston Writers (I'm on my fourth draft). 

Sunday, 25 August 2013

A 'foodie' week

I have listened to The Food Programme since the days when it was fronted by Derek Cooper. Remember him? Of course not. It's just me giving my age away. For a good few years now it has been the domain of Sheila Dillon, with occasional guest presenters, of which last Sunday's programme was an example (18 August 2013). It was presented by Dan Saladino and called Feeding the Detectives. Given that I also like reading crime novels this was a must programme. I was not disappointed. Food plays an important part in the life of some fictional sleuths/detectives. Most of the time, the food bits pass me by, like the fact that Dr Watson in Sherlock Holmes stories talks about food. I have to admit I have never noticed.

However, a good chunk of the programme was about the Salvo Montalbano detective stories by Andrea Camilleri, which are set in Sicily, and food is important and the marvellous TV series captures this fact extremely well. Whilst my favourite fictional detectives on paper are Martin Beck (Stockholm based) by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo,  and Inspector Wexford (set in fictional Kingsmarkham) by Ruth Rendell, my detective food memory of all time has to be of Erlendur in Jar City  by Analdur Indridason. In it Elendur munches his way through part of the story eating a half-a-sheep's head he bought from a drive-thru take-away (the film could not resist showing Erlendur pluck out the eyeball and stick it his mouth whole, then bite).

As you will have guessed by now, I enjoyed the programme no end and seemed to set me up for a foodie week.

The week before I came back from Derby after meeting someone I had not seen since we were about fifteen, and who found me because of another blog I have (mywembley.blogspot). with a lovely bottle of wine from Devon and chillies grown on a Torquay kitchen windowsill. I took the photograph below on my Lenton kitchen windowsill.

These chillies have since been distributed among friends and we have all come to the conclusion that my new found friend is a mistress of the understatement. The message which came with them, as you can see, say 'They may be small, but they're quite HOT!'. 

Well, I scraped the seeds out carefully and made the fatal mistake of placing a piece of the chilli, no larger than a pinhead, in my mouth. In the next thirty seconds, I drunk two glasses of water, and another two the minute after! It was good and it took no more than a similar sized piece to add the required heat to a chick pea and pepper dish I was making. I have yet to tell her that she could make a fortune selling her Torquay chillies to discerning food connoisseurs. I have never tasted a hotter chilli.

At the moment, much of what we eat is governed by the number of runner beans we can eat at any one sitting, Usually with a good piece of white fish and a few new potatoes and a parsley sauce. The beans and parsley are home-grown and from tubs. I love runner beans and are a passion which go back to being a child in Wembley, so I have found another topic for a childhood blog in the week or so.

We give beans to our neighbours Chris and Richard, who returned the favour this week when Richard came in with a near bucketful of blackberries he had picked on Lenton Lane, by the industrial estate. I washed them, dried them and put them in the freezer after we sampled a few. In a couple of months they will come out to make blackberry cordial as Christmas presents and we will use the leftover pulp to make blackberry cheese, the nearest we will get to jam making this year, as we are both trying to lose weight.

It's turned out to be a fishy week, as Hallam's in Beeston was selling Cornish sardines at a bargain price and I couldn't resist, so we had them with a simple green salad. They took a minute to cook with a drizzle of olive oil and were wonderful.

In the Victoria Market in Nottingham city centre, where there is a stall I visit most weeks, they were selling apricots, greengages and plums, all at 90p a lb. I cannot remember a year when fruit has been so good and plentiful. I had to pass on six peaches for 99p, even though I know from a purchase I made earlier in the week they were also good.

Saturday week, the first in September, will find me at the farmers' market at the Wollaton Co-op in the hope of some good local English apples — the first of the season. I'll get a week's supply at the most and I have no idea what will be on offer, but I can't wait.

I also spent two afternoons this week on a booklet of stories by fellow members of the Beeston WEA writing class. I will let the draft cover speak for itself…

It came out of a fun day we had together during the Easter break this year and then I mislaid all the contributions!  The good news is I found them on Monday, so I decided to make the time to put our booklet together. On Thursday, I shared the first draft with my colleagues at our weekly get together in a Beeston teashop and now we have a second draft. Like all such ventures, people will be amending their stuff until the very last moment, but there is an outside possibility of some funding, so we may be able to publish our booklet in colour instead of me doing it mono at home in short runs. More about this when we agree a publishing date and launch.

This blog has never had a food theme before. It was the chillies which got me going. I'll leave the last words to class colleague Trish. Well, Spike Milligan actually, but Trish said them well and got our Easter gathering off to a great start (it's her version I have used):

A thousand hairy savages
Sitting down to lunch
Gobble gobble glurp glurp
Munch munch munch

Spike Milligan (1918–2001)

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Another map brings back memories, this time 1951

In 1951 I was seven and, in truth, I do not remember much from the year. Even the photographs I have from my childhood are undated, so all I can do is guess, but 1951 was slightly different — it was Festival of Britain year in London and I know that I went, because I saw the Skylon. I am also sure that I went with my school, Barham School in Wembley. I was cross at being dragged quickly pass this object, which just hung there. It was years later before I found out that it was called the 'Skylon'.

I bought a book whilst there about the future and I carried from it, into adulthood, a belief that atomic energy was the future, clean, cheap and safe. The book also had a piece about the DeHaviland Vickers four-engined turbo-prop Airliner and how it was the future of air travel.

I thought it was beautiful and, as an adult, the very first plane I flew in was a Viscount. It was a memorable occasion. I had the plane completely to myself. In 1970, I was going on work business to Livingston in Scotland and the first leg of my journey was by plane from Birmingham to Edinburgh. It was an early morning flight and dark and it had been snowing. I lived close to the airport and got there in plenty of time and after I got on the Viscount, I was told by a stewardess that I was their only passenger. They treated me like royalty and the captain invited me to join him in the cockpit to see the sunrise.

At the time, I did not know that a year of so later I would be a member of Birmingham City Council's Airport Committee and, in 1981, Chair of East Midlands Airport, and got invited to sit in a few cockpits over the years, but the Viscount has always remained my favourite plane. I suspect my affection for the Viscount can be traced back to 1951 and the Festival of Britain. All these memories have been prompted by a chance conversation and finding an old London Transport map from 1951.

However, my first and lasting love has always been trolleybuses and buses. The former disappeared from our streets decades ago, but I can still see where they went, because I have a large collection of London Transport bus maps. Each one acquired from a London Underground station or, in recent years, a tourist information point.

As a child I knew where every red London Transport bus route went and which days it ran (my son had a similar skill, which growing up in the seventies and eighties, he applied to Argos catalogues).

By chance I was searching my collection for a early-1950s London Transport bus and trolleybus map to copy, so that I could place a map of bus routes in and around Wembley on my My Wembley blog. Whilst looking, I found a Festival of Britain information map, part of which I have reproduced below:

I love its boldness and clarity. Transport maps today overwhelm us with information. Perhaps because those responsible think they have to compete with the web. It is a work of art and the cover section is also a pleasure to look at and hold.

As I write this, it is winging its way to a friend in Torquay the same age as me, who grew up in the same street and went to the same schools. She waxes lyrical about her memories of the Festival of Britain and clearly remembers much more than me. On reflection, the chances are that being dragged away from the Skylon put me in a sulk and I noticed nothing else, I suspect I bought the book because I had half-a-crown to spend (2/6d in old money, 12½p in new money) and that's what I did when I was a kid. If you gave me money, I spent it. Simple as that. Well, until I wanted to buy a new bike, but that's another story.

I love bus maps and will be thinking tomorrow of two friends, opening envelopes and pouring over the transport maps from 1938 and 1951 I have sent them. The more I look at the section of the map I have captured and you can see above, the more I see a work of art, which I would love to have, about four foot square, hanging on a wall in my home.

With this wonderful thought I will leave you and go and do tea.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Edinburgh past captured on a 1938 bus and tram map

These images and map are for my lovely friend Alex, who has relocated to Edinburgh after an absence of nearly forty years. It was a brave thing to do and I miss her. Some people get under your skin and make it prickle at the thought of them. There are two or three such people in my life and I am lucky enough to be married to the woman who introduced me to feeling really good about other people.

I begin, though, with a pic of me from 1952, outside the entrance to Edinburgh Castle, when I was on holiday in Scotland, staying with my step-father's family in Port Dundas, Glasgow, in a tenement block, with a shared toilet on the landing and beds set into the walls (or so it seemed to me at the time) of the second floor apartment. I never called Jimmy 'Dad'. He came into my life too late for that, but he was an OK guy and our relationship got better over the years and I cried when in died in 2008 — which is more than I did for my mother who died eighteen months earlier. This is a story for my My Wembley blog about my childhood, so I'll say no more.

In 1952 I rode on an Edinburgh tram for the first time and managed a couple of more visits before they disappeared completely in the mid-1950s. Add this to my interest in public transport (especially buses and trolleybuses), then you might understand why I snapped up a bargain on e-Bay recently — a 1938 Edinburgh bus and tram map, showing routes on a huge map — which I am sending to Alex in the next day or two.

For now, just some images to whet Alex's appetite, for she is a rare woman in my world. She likes buses and bus maps, so she actually likes me a bit because I like them too. You can see why she is a very special person.

One side of the map is full of adverts like this.

Here is another one.

Part of the map which fills one side, with different colours for bus and tram routes. After seventy-five years a lot has changed.

The map also includes an inset map showing Edinburgh City Centre c.1938 and I know Alex will be great at finding what is still extant. It even shows the roads with trams. The new tram route which has been under construction for years will never match the city's tram network which operated until 1956. For all the skills we have in 2013, we cannot match the public enterprise and vision of those who led our communities in the days before corporate capitalism set out to destroy everything public, with the support of politicians we are stupid enough to elect.

Well, the end of this quick posting and another rant from me against a system I hate. I'm off now to have a late tea.