The Lundiary: Lunday Eve

In the real world, the frenzied preparations for Frankenmas are reaching their climax – amidst the traditional worries that the festival has become too commercial and that we’ve lost its true, horrifying meaning.  I myself may put up my Frankenmas tree later today, decorating it with silvery lightning bolts and, indeed, actual bolts.  Meanwhile, here at GofaDM, it is Sunday which means its time to turn off your phones and out the cat: this is no time for interruptions.  Yes, it’s time to settle down in a comfy chair for the next, thrilling instalment of the Lundiary…

Lunday Eve

In which our hero travels to darkest North Devon and starts a narrative….

The day started much as any other: filled with the quotidien elements of normal life admin along with the emails, MS Office documents and conference calls that make up my soi-disant working life.  Meals were a tad more eccentric than usual as I attempted to use up any scraps (some fairly sizeable) that seemed unlikely to survive in a viable state in my fridge while I was away.  I do feel that refrigerator hygiene is very important for any life to be considered truly civilised!

The morning was also spent with one eye on the weather forecast and another on my mental state as I finalised the packing for the expedition.  How could I best optimise the balance between warm and waterproof clothing? How much entertainment in the form of books (physical and electronic), podcasts, music and episodes of Only Connect and various BBC4 documentaries would I need to maintain my fragile grasp on sanity?  As a friend had noted the previous day, I would be alone on the island (other than for my friends and its other occupants: human and otherwise) with just my demons for company.  There would be none of my usual psychological props: cultural events or my continuing commitment to make the internet a stranger (and in my view, better) place.

Eventually, the die was cast and I just had to hope that my decisions would prove to be sound and enough to avoid my being airlifted from the island in a strait-jacket…

Despite my antiquity and two (count them, two) Geography O Levels, I am constantly surprised how far this country stretches to the west of Southampton. In consequence, I was rather glad that C+N had offered to fit me into their car for the drive into the setting sun: the distance to cover was rather larger than anything I have attempted in a single run for many years.  A significant chunk of this journey took place on the fabled A303: which I like to think of as the West Country’s answer to Route 66 – though it has yet to be celebrated in song (to the best of my knowledge), just in the name of a rifle. Thankfully, hold-ups were only modest – nobody wants to see a bare road – and so we reached our overnight billet in time for a sensibly-timed dinner.

We were staying in the Hoops Inn, a hostelry which worked hard to conceal its basketball theme from the casual visitor, in a settlement called Horns Cross.  Coming so soon after another settlement called Fairy Cross, I did start to wonder if the denizens of North Devon have some unresolved anger issues.

The Inn offered a very decent dinner: the rack of vegetables was particularly fine.  Don’t judge me, sometimes you do need to use enhanced interrogation techniques to get the best from a courgette.  The meals did have one little foible: every course (except desert – though I did only sample a single exemplar) was accompanied by a small mound of rocket.  Not just any mound, the rocket had clearly been pressed into a ramekin (or similar chalice) in order to hold a specific shape. I promptly decided to rename the inn as the Rocket and Ramekin  to more accurately capture its unique vibe: let’s face it, it had never really committed to the NBA.

It was over dinner that I first properly read the information pack about the island and where we would be staying: some might say this was a trifle late in the process.  It was the inventory that particularly piqued my interest. In a kitchen which seemed very thoroughly stocked with utensils, cutlery and crockery the inventory went out of its way to make clear that neither axes nor saws were provided.  By this stage, it was clearly too late to bring my own. This was clearly going to make dismembering the bodies significantly more of a chore…

Later in the evening D+J joined us, having had a few navigational issues on their journey to the west.  Equanimity had been restored by the time of their arrival and we shared a few (rather brown) ales together before retiring for the night.

My room at the inn was pretty decent, though the window proved unwilling to close (and I had no access to Task Manager to force matters).  As I lay supine in my bed, with the open window to my left and a hard-working radiator to my right, there was quite the thermal gradient across the room.  Despite this potential for the spontaneous generation of within-room weather, I slept pretty decently by my standards.

I believe I can promise that, next Sunday, the diary will actually make landfall on Lundy: stay tuned…

Describing veg

The supermarkets of this land seem to be under the impression that we will not purchase their vegetables unless they have been given some serious adjectival pimping.  I have talked before of the abomination that is ‘baby’ leaves – showing a woeful lack of botanical understanding in the nation’s grocers – and so will merely re-iterate that these leaves are merely young or small and try and leave it at that.

Waitrose is particularly keen to make its fresh herbs seems exciting.  My mint is described as ‘cool cool’ (so cool they described it twice, apparently) and my curly leaf parsley (or ‘parsley’ as we used to call it) is described as ‘versatile, vigorous and vibrant’ – something more appropriate in a date (and I’m not talking deglet noor) than a little garnish.  I would use some rather different descriptors for herbs, with basil being identified as their titular monarch with a taste for huntin’ and shootin’ and fishin’ while sage would be identified as ‘not very happy, in fact in a rage’.  However, this may say more about my childhood viewing of a stop-motion animation series called The Herbs than it does about my suitability as a costermonger’s marketing assistant.  Talking of The Herbs, it did introduce some really rather obscure leaves to my youthful mind: herbs which I have never encountered since, e.g. Good King Henry and Miss Jessop,  and are even a challenge to find using the full power of internet search, e.g. pashana bedi.

However, we are not here to discuss Waitrose’ need to paint their herbs with adjectival rouge.  My lunch today included some frozen peas: a store cupboard staple that is also a boon in the case of bruise or sprain.  These were not just any old frozen peas, oh no, they were described as ‘garden peas’.  I strongly suspect that this was not the case and that they had, in fact, come from a farm.  I’m pretty sure that ‘garden pea’ is not a Linnaean classification and so presume it must be to contrast it with a ‘forest pea’, ‘deep sea pea’ or GD Pea (probably not to avoid confusion with the ‘sweet pea’ which is grown for its decorative and often scented flora, but is rarely frozen).

This contrasts with the treatment of rocket: the cruciform vegetable rather than the means of accessing Earth orbit.  This is, almost invariably, described as ‘wild’.  My imagination is strangely torn between Rowan Atkinson in a gorilla suit and the idea of machete-wielding workers gathering the rocket from its bosky lair.  As with the peas, I’d be surprised if it had not started its journey to plastic-packed display on some sort of farm.  Is there perhaps a tame rocket that we never see?  Or was it too trusting around humans and has been hunted to extinction like the dodo?

A recent packet of mixed chillies – which I’ll admit are technically fruit, but it would take a braver man than I to place them in a fruit salad – merely carries the legend ‘pizzas, soups and noodles’.  I assume this is an uncredited serving suggestion – or perhaps Lynne Truss’ next great work on grammar?  Fascinatingly, a mere 100g of these chillies (roughly eight) would provide 1% of my daily energy needs – so I need only consume 800 for all my calorific requirements to be met (though I would rather overshoot my optimal protein intake).  A strong argument there for a balanced diet!

Of course, it was these same supermarkets that revealed the tomato as a vine fruit – though I’ve yet to find any tomato wine (presumably it would be red?).  I find my plums are now described as ‘tree-ripened’.  The world has reached a pretty pass when allowing nature to take its course has to be remarked upon as a selling point for fruit.

As so often, research via the medium of Wikipedia slightly weakens my case and does suggest some very vague logic around the naming of the peas and rocket.  Apparently, there exists something called the ‘field pea’ – but this is only available dried and I can never recall seeing it for sale.  I feel it would be unexpected indeed should some shopper purchase ‘frozen peas’ and then be disappointed that these were not field peas.  Similarly, there are two types of rocket: one from genus Diplotaxis and one from Eruca.  Sadly, both – especially when ‘babies’ – are sold as rocket.  I think in both cases, the grocers are garnishing the name for marketing rather than purely taxonomic purposes: peas need to appear friendly and harmless (no doubt to overcome their otherwise terrifying aspect) while rocket must carry an aura of danger and excitement (like the 15:17 to Cleethorpes – if you should doubt me, just ask the ISIRTA team).