Sunday, 9 May 2010


Cycled gated road this morning because I didn't think allotment would be dry enough to fork through. In the end, when I went up there in the afternoon, it was fine--if anything nearly too dry. Weird.

Things have really started to get going on the allotment over the last few days. Spuds are motoring and onions and shallots are poking through. Still, it's a lot slower up there, what with the Oxford clay and it being pretty exposed, compared to the garden, where the light soil is much more sheltered. The garden veg is well ahead.

Came across loads of Jack-by-the-hedge along the gated road (see above pic, where it's growing alongside wild clary, I think--always get a bit muddled by those low blue-flowered plants). Jack-by-the-hedge looks so bright this time of the year. Apparently you can use it in salads. See, which says:

LEAVES – the leaves make ideal sandwich fillers, and if the leaves are finely chopped and mixed with a little olive oil, they make a refreshing and delicate salad dressing.
FLOWERS – the flower have a punchy flavour and can also be added to salads.
SEED PODS – for me the seed pods are best eaten as a wayside snack, and although have the same flavour as the rest of the plant, they won’t make your breath smell as it would if you had eaten a clove of true garlic!

Not tried using J-b-t-h in salads myself, although on a related theme, Jess intends to make nettle soup this week...

Also saw a beautiful clump of white bells in amongst some nettles along the gated road--see other pic above.

Opened a bottle of CĂ´tes-du-Roussillon last weekend and finished it off today. A Sainsbury's M Chapoutier 2007. It was as good as I remember C-d-R to be, only better. So packed with berry flavours, full (but not too so) and round. You used to find C-d-R everywhere at one time but it was a casualty of the waning French wine industry in the noughties. During the nineties it became our Sunday wine (just the ordinary Sainsbury's version). It was a real treat. Those Sundays—the Classic Serial, Sunday dinner and C-d-R--were oases of happiness during those years of misery and sadness for my family.

Listened to the Classic Serial today--Laurie Lee's Cider with Rosie.

I met LL once, though I didn't believe it. It was during my first year at Cirencester and one Saturday I got in the car and drove through the lanes beyond Sapperton towards Stroud. I didn't know where I was going but I ended up in a pretty Cotswold village on the edge of a valley. I entered the pub, which was dark inside and flagged floored. When I asked for my pint one of the old men asked me if I'd heard of Laurie Lee. I said yes, because we'd studied Cider with Rosie at school. The man then pointed to another old chap sitting on a stool in the shadows and said, Well, this is Laurie Lee. I thought he was having me on--people you studied at school were long dead. We chatted for a minute of two before I went outside and drank my pint and smoked a couple of cigarettes and smiled to myself at the joke.



  1. I met Laurie Lee too, Frank. In fact I went to see him when I lived in Cirencester, and he invited me in and gave me a mug of tea. I now live at the Stroud end of the Slad valley, and the Slad brook runs past the door. I often look up the valley when I'm working, and think of him. I'd just finished my A levels when we met and was telling him of my ambition to write when he gave me a very old fashioned look and said "You don't need exams to be a writer." He was of course absolutely right.


  2. After I'd finished studying (sorry, reading) English at Keble, I went to my cousin's wedding, where I met the incoming Warden of the college. He asked me what I was doing and I said trying to write fiction. Whereupon he told me that I'd have to forget everything I'd learnt at Keble. Again, this was sound advice, although it was some time before I realised its wisdom. It took me a while to let my characters speak as if they hadn't studied English at Keble for a start.