Squid ink brioche

It was 26 years ago that we first arrived in the UK to begin the European part of our lives. Actually, it was 26 years and ten days ago, but let’s not quibble over a few days. The important thing is, tonight we went to dinner at a very special restaurant in order to celebrate this very special event. Like we do every year.

The restaurant we chose was The Elderflower. It’s down near the harbour in Lymington, on the lower, cobbled section of the high street.

For once the rain held off (obviously it rained most of the day) so our walk from the car park was pleasant rather than miserable. We walked into the empty restaurant, cheerful and dry.

(Actually, the photo above was taken after we left and were getting into the car to go home. When we arrived, there was a huge compactus, with bright orange, flashing lights, parked in the middle of the road. It didn’t look at all attractive.)

While the restaurant was empty, it still had a warm and welcoming feeling, and the staff greeted us just as warmly.

We were seated at, possibly, the best table. It was by a window looking down towards the harbour. The view was lovely. At least it was after the compactus left.

But very quickly, anything unhappy was replaced by the glory that was the seven course taster menu.

Afterwards, we tried to pick a favourite course. It was very difficult but, for me anyway, it was the Hot Cat, closely followed by everything else. And, naturally, I had the wine flight as well because I’m a foodie with a penchant for accompanying wines.

The tenth year anniversary noted at the top of the menu celebrates, obviously, how long the restaurant has been open. But, more than that, the menu is made up of the seven favourite dishes from the ten years, chosen by patrons.

We weren’t alone in the restaurant. A young couple from Ringwood were at the table next to us. It was her birthday, so they’d left the twins at home for a night out. They ordered the duck Wellington and, as far as they were concerned, it was fantastic. In fact, the four of us enthused about everything.

They recommended a restaurant in Milford on Sea which we’re going to try to book before we leave.

All up, we highly recommend The Elderflower for ambience, conviviality, wine but, most important, the incredible food. The variety and presentation was superb.

I was going to finish with a photo of the Hot Cat but I thought the souffle looked so lush, I went with that instead. If anyone would like to see the Hot Cat (which includes the squid ink brioche), I’ve posted a photo on my Instagram account.

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Healthy chocs

Now and then, Mirinda finds recipes for possible sweet snacks and/or desserts. What they lack in sugar, they tend to make up for by being quite fiddly. However, they are generally delicious and not so moreish that you have to eat a bucket full.

The other day, she sent me a recipe for Raspberry Bounty Bars. The video showing how to make them looked pretty lush and, as it was on Instagram, it claimed the recipe could be found by clicking on the link in the bio.

Bollocks it could.

Anyway, I managed to hunt down another recipe for, more or less, the same thing.

Of course, finding freeze-dried raspberries in the quantity I required was a bit of a problem. However, I managed to find them on Amazon, and they arrived a few days later. Of course, I much prefer shopping in shops, but it was an emergency. Fortunately, the rest of the ingredients were easy.

And so, a bit more late but better than never, I made them today.

They were quite fiddly, and they took a bit of time because they needed to set twice but, at the final test, they were delicious.

So, Raspberry Bounty Bars have entered the Chez Gaz menu.

Ignore the holes. They are from the toothpicks.

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It didn’t really rain today. There were a number of isolated drops on the wind occasionally and there were certainly some evil, water bearing clouds throughout the day but, there wasn’t the heavy, concentrated precipitation of the last week.

I think the reason there wasn’t any rain was because the wind blew it somewhere else.

The wind was horrendous all day. We woke to find that it had already claimed its first victim when it took out one of the chairs on the terrace.

My first thought was to wonder why the wind had blown out just the one chair and not the others. By the end of the day, the other two had joined the middle one, on the grass.

While walking to Waitrose, the wind was blowing the emptied rubbish bins around the street. The discarded lids, like oversized Frisbees, threatened oncoming vehicles, ankles and small children alike. Bags of recycling, split open by some force unknown, had their contents strewn around the streets. Even my trolley, firmly grasped in my hand, threatened to go for a wander as the wind caught it.

And the wind was not just violent, it was also cold. Almost like an Arctic blast, it threatened to snap freeze my exposed fingers and ears. I arrived at Waitrose, ruffled but safe.

On the way home, I watched parents walking their small children to school, secured by harnesses to avoid them becoming airborne by any sudden gusts. The harnesses, though, did present a bit of a kitelike situation, if you ask me.

I managed to reach the house, unscathed, and shut the front door on the devastation.

Throughout the day, the wind didn’t stop. At one point, the trampoline tried to escape over the fence. I have no idea where it thought it was going.

We also lost a couple of lights from the terrace and Freya was in danger of travelling to Oz.

We’d been warned in the house guide, albeit surreptitiously, that there maybe wind and, therefore we should keep the bin and its lid, safe from possible loss. It was a warning I’d somehow heeded. Though I’m not sure how I would have prevented the trampoline from heading skyward, had it really wanted to.

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Mirinda, though still not 100% well, decided to have lunch with Sophie today. She set off late for her 2pm date. Late lunch is always the case because of Sophie’s schedule. Of course, it means a very late return, given they both sit and talk for five hours after eating. And, when the day is wet and the sun has gone, it’s quite a scary drive home for them both.

Of course, I was inside for most of the day, venturing out only on the rare occasion it was unavoidable. We’d peek out of the front window to check the progress of the weather.

There was a lot of ball throwing for Emma and sleep for Freya.

I read on the local Surrey news that there were flood warnings for the Thames today. Obviously not in central London but in the countryside, like where we went boating back in 2015. That was another time of great rain, though I don’t remember any flood warnings.

And it wasn’t just Surrey. This was reported for Buckinghamshire:

A flood warning has been issued for the village of Medmenham, alongside Henley and Remenham, with low-lying land, roads and properties around Mill Lane, Ferry Lane, Thameside and Wargrave Road at particular risk.

Bucks Free Press. Available online at: https://www.bucksfreepress.co.uk/news/24114948.river-thames-flood-warnings-issued-buckinghamshire/

I was looking at statistics for the yearly rainfall in the UK and, basically, it’s all a bit up and down. The biggest leap was from 2010 to 2011 when it went from 1,020.7 millimetres (2010) to a drenching 1,889.2 millimetres (2011). I guess 2011 was a pretty wet year.

Interestingly, the 2015 average (the year we went boating) was 1,723.3 millimetres, which I can vouch for from personal experience as most of it fell on me.

For reference, the 2023 average was 1,381.4 millimetres. It’ll be interesting to see how 2024 turns out. (The statistics quoted come from Statista.)

Anyway, there was no real let up in the rain today. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t that impressed.

It’s all grist for the Stevenson screens, I suppose.

And, I’m happy to report, Mirinda made it home okay.

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Forest bees

Mirinda is still unwell. Her cold refuses to let go. To help with her sore throat, I was tasked with buying some local honey at the market today. Not a problem, I said, there’s a local honey stand there every week. I crossed my fingers it would be there this week.

I set off, having accidentally chosen the colours of the Swedish flag and Aldershot Town Football club to adorn my feet.

I tend to just choose my socks at random so this was a delightful chance occurrence.

At the market, I found the local honey stall and had a lovely chat with the woman there. She told me that she’s not normally there. Her husband, the beekeeper, was at a beekeeper conference and she was standing in. She also had a bit of a cold.

I asked her how local the honey was. She said that the hives are in the forest. So, pretty local, I said. I told her my wife also had a cold and wanted some of her best runny honey for some good, old-fashioned soothing. I told her I’m not a great lover of honey so she said my having a taste was pointless.

Unfortunately, I kept making her laugh in my usual quipping way, which sent her into coughing fits. I apologised, profusely, swearing that I would stop being funny, remaining sombre for the rest of our transaction. That just made her laugh again.

I left quickly as she coughed and coughed.

The market was a bit wet today, particularly while I was queued up at the most popular stall at the Lymington Saturday market.

There is always a queue at Coralbay Seafood, run by fish man Dan. It’s always the most popular stall. Incidentally, the name comes all the way from Western Australia. It’s named after Coral Bay, WA. Dan spent some time in Oz. You can read about it on his website, here.

Of course, by the time I’d reached the end of the queue, bought my fish and started heading up the high street, the rain stopped and the sun came out.

It was while I was chatting to the woman at the Sicilian stall (she claimed to be a ‘nutter’) that the rain started again. I commented on the state of the weather, and she said it was better than the alternative. I said “What? No weather at all?” She replied, “No. Dead.

As this was my final stall, and having loaded my trolley with artichoke hearts, I managed to get quite wet walking back to the house.

Still, I made it home with a trolley full of fabulous produce and an excellent jar of local honey. I know because Mirinda tried some and said it was delicious. Mission accomplished.

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Learning to reverse park

Well, what a surprise. It wasn’t raining when I headed up to Waitrose this morning. The sky was actually blue in parts, and I’m fairly certain I saw the sun at one point. Of course, it could have been an optical illusion caused by car headlights shining through water vapour in the air. We’ll probably never know.

This was the view out the back before I left the house.

At Waitrose, I was talking to the woman on the check-out. Obviously, being the UK, we talked about the weather. She said she was glad the rain had stopped for a bit. I said I was glad because it meant my dog could go to the toilet. She looked at me in wide-eyed surprise.

I have two just the same. A few raindrops and they’re back inside. They hate the rain,” She said.

I commiserated that she had two. I explained that only Freya (of the massive bladder), hates the rain. Emma doesn’t care about the weather. When she needs to go, she just goes. Rain, blizzard, storms, sun, no weather will affect her. They are pretty much the epitome of opposites.

Speaking of Waitrose, I realized a few weeks ago that there’s a back entrance into the car park that would shorten my walk considerably. The gate, however, is always locked. The other end of the alley is open, but access is denied.

I shouldn’t be surprised. If you drive a car to Waitrose, you can easily park just a short walk from the entrance but if, like me, you walk, then the distance is much greater. How is that fair? Particularly when there’s a passage that could be easily used.

It can’t be a security thing because it just leads to the car park, which cannot be locked. It’s clearly just another item on the Lymington Hates Pedestrians list.

Anyway, I guess it means I get more exercise, which is a good thing. Obviously, car drivers don’t need exercise. Well, beyond pressing their feet down and occasionally twisting their neck around to see behind them.

Which brings me neatly to the title of this post.

Out the front of this house, there’s a long, straight road with a long straight, generally free from obstacles, kerb. Apparently, it’s the ideal place for learner drivers to practice their reverse parking. It’s also handy that next door has a van parked outside, which gives the learners something to try to avoid.

There was one having a go the other day, when Mirinda was waiting for her taxi to the station then, another today. It may have been the same learner but, if it was, they forgot everything they learned last time because it was quite painful to watch as I trolleyed home.

Weather wise, by the afternoon, we’d had a bit of rain, a bit of sun then a big old rainbow.

In the meanwhilst, Mirinda had brunch with Scott, in Haslemere. She said she encountered floods on the way back, forcing a few diversions. That shows how much rain there’s been.

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Almost constantly wet

In a brief break in the rain today, I took the compost up the back of the garden and the grass squelched beneath my feet. It felt like I was walking on a massive, green, water inundated sponge. It was not pleasant. Though, it was nicer than back home in Trosa.

Photo from Nicoline

At least there was a break here in Lymington, which meant Freya could go to the toilet without raindrops threatening her, sending her into a Chicken Little territory of fear.

A complete break in the weather came late in the afternoon when the sun actually made an appearance. It prompted Mirinda to take the girls for a walk. She was feeling a bit better today and I think leaving the house possibly did her some good. It certainly made the girls happy.

As for me, I spent a lot of the day watching the rain outside while researching a few more dead soldiers. I also spent some time in the kitchen, making soup then dinner. And washing up.

Now that I roast the vegetables for the soup, it leaves me with a baking tray as well as the rest of the detritus. I invariably need the tray for dinner, so it means cleaning up between meals. Still, it’s worth it as the soup tastes better. Apparently. I don’t actually like soup.

I’m also not that keen on all the rain we’ve had. Still, it looks a bit better than Trosa.

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54 High Street

Lymington post office used to be at 54 High Street. It was housed in a pretty unremarkable 1960’s building which probably had some amazing views from the roof. The house that was originally there certainly had some great views. And before then, the meadow of primroses was a view unto itself. Or so it is written.

The building before the post office was called Home Mead (or Holme Mead, Holme’s Mead or Damerosehay) and was described as “…a very charming freehold property comprising a fine old well-designed family mansion, occupying a central and unique situation close to the Parish Church and the Post Office.” That description came from a pamphlet description, from when Home Mead was up for auction.

At around the same time, 1905, the post office moved across the road to next door. This may have been a pre-emptive strike. The Lymington post office has moved around the high street ever since it was first established.

Home Mead was, originally, owned by the Lord of the Manor. He sold it, in 1365, to the town, which then made money off the rental returns. The town’s worthies established the Lymington Corporation, which was a sort of early form of a town council.

Rental returns on the house as well as market tolls, quay charges, a couple of annual fairs, other rentals, etc, was the only source of money for the Lymington Corporation. That was until 1835, when it was sold. This was because of the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 which saw a better local structure created.

At the turn of the 20th century, there was a great house standing on the site. It came in very handy when the First World War happened. It was turned into a hospital for wounded men. A lot of New Zealanders spent time there, convalescing, preparing to go back to the trenches. Or go home if lucky.

After the war, the house fell into disrepair. A once glorious mansion went to wrack and ruin. It had a use as a furniture store for a while but, eventually, it was demolished and the less than glamorous post office was built.

In 2019, the post office relocated (again) back across the road, and down an alley. The building is now used as a sorting office, pretty much like what happened in Farnham.

This is what it looks like today.

Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find an image of its former glory. Though not for want of searching. I’m thinking it looked a lot better.

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The mystery of the barbershop thief

Mirinda decided I needed a haircut and beard trim a couple of weeks ago. While I may have disagreed, I thought I’d better get it done. Though it’s a bit annoying when it’s just reached the ponytail stage. And I can almost plait the beard.

So I booked an appointment with Jo at Bond’s Barbershop for last week. Then, of course, I had the Big Toe Issue, so I rebooked for this week. I went today.

Fortunately and strangely, it wasn’t raining, so I happily walked (well, hobbled) and arrived in the shop just before my appointed time. There was only one other customer there with a barber. When I entered Jo suddenly appeared and asked me if I had an appointment. She then showed me to the chair next to the other customer.

She declared that I had a lot of hair and gave an evil grin when I said it all had to go. She suggested a few lengths, then said I’d probably feel the cold when I left the shop. I settled back and she went to work.

While Jo and I chatted about all the wonderful places in the world and how expensive the barbers are in Sweden, another couple of chaps turned up. One had an appointment and the other wanted to book an appointment.

The chap next to me was finished and was just doing those final things that customers do in barbershops, including going to his coat which was on a hook by the door, in order to get his phone. There was a sudden hush after he said, “My phone’s been stolen! It’s in a red case! It’s hard to miss!

There followed a frantic search of the entire shop, with the customer steadfast in his belief that he had zipped it up in his coat pocket. He even showed us all, zipping it for extra emphasis. Turning it inside out to show it was not in there.

I zipped it up, here, in my coat pocket!

Everyone was confused at this stage. How could anyone sneak into a nearly empty barbershop, unzip the pocket of a coat and steal a mobile phone, then get away? I thought it had to be one brilliant thief. Maybe the amazing Assane Diop could do it but I doubt anyone else could.

It must have been the guy with the beard. Remember? He came in after I sat down.

When I declared my innocence, the customer said he meant the guy with the black beard. He had come in, then had hung around for a bit before leaving. The barber said he had come in to book an appointment.

After a while, the customer left, in a bit of a frantic tizz, determined to track down the black bearded man and get his phone back. We had visions of him accosting every black bearded man in Lymington High Street, demanding the return of his phone.

There was then a long and often hilarious discussion about how and where the phone had gone. The barber reckoned the customer probably left it in the last place he’d been. Maybe on a bar. Or in a toilet.

Things slowly returned to the normal, barber client chitter chatter, when a man suddenly arrived, brandishing a phone in a red case.

Someone put this in my coat while I was getting my hair cut,” He declared. “I was wondering why my coat felt heavier than normal. I was wondering if someone here knows who it might belong to.

Of course, it was the customer’s phone. The two coats were identical, and he’d obviously acted without really looking. Anyway, we all burst into laughter. The guy who had accidentally acquired a phone in a red case also laughed once he found out how it had happened.

I left them, wondering how they could let the customer know his phone was safe.

During all the hilarity, mystery and discovery, Jo did a splendid job on my head and face, and I left, feeling a new man.

And, for the record, my ears were a bit cold on the walk home.

I should also thank Jo and the rest of the people at Bond’s for excellent blog entry fodder.

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I likes me drop o’ rum

In 1944, David Lean directed the film version of Noël Cowards play, This Happy Breed. Coward wrote the play in 1939 but, because of the outbreak of the Second World War, it was not performed until 1942. It was very well received, as was Lean’s film. And tonight, I heard an analysis of the play using stills from the film.

I was watching a Western Front Association (WFA) webinar given by the enthusiastic Professor Mark Connelly, who I last saw back in August 2020. He is an excellent lecturer; knows his subject extremely well and is passionate in the presentation.

In 2020, the webinar was about tanks, tonight couldn’t have been more different. He took us through the play, from start to finish, almost line by line, showing how Coward understood the veteran; the survivors of the Great War.

And not just the soldiers. Prof Connelly also showed how the women, at home, waiting for their loved ones to return, were also veterans of the war. This was something that had never occurred to me. Carrying on with their lives, waiting for the inevitable knock at the door, the dreaded telegram.

Celia Johnson in This Happy Breed (1944)

There was also the fact that veterans had a need to mix with their fellow vets in order to ‘cut loose’, to be with people who understood what they’d been through; things they couldn’t speak to with other non-vets.

The play deals with members of The Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) because Coward came from Kent and knew of the regiment. Each year, the two main characters in the play (Frank and Bob) attend a battalion dinner in order to drink a bit too much, talk a lot and remember the good times that existed during the fighting.

I think that remembering the few good times was very important for these veterans. The First World War was so horrific, particularly for the young men who’d been primed for adventure, that remembering the awful things would have them quickly falling into depression.

That’s why the cartoons, Ypres Times and general black humour were so important. People like cartoonist Bruce Bairnsfather and his depictions of the ordinary man in the war, kept the men smiling even when things were at their worst.

Personally, I have to agree with this chap. His canteen would just about manage a Gaz Measure.

All in all, it was a splendid webinar and I recommend Prof Connelly’s books for anyone interested in his different style of looking at war. And other things. He’s a historian so he writes about other stuff as well. His book on Christmas looks good, for instance.

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