Listening to Dexy’s Midnight Runners

In Birkenhead this morning walking up Oxton Road and down came a fully made up scooter. It stopped at the lights. There were two sets of mirrors rising up from the handle bars, long tall whip ariels with tails hanging from them and a picture painted on the side with the words My Beautiful Young Lady. The highlight was two speakers mounted at the back belting out music. The sound was tinny and at first it was difficult to place the song. Then I had it Dexy’s Midnight Runners – something from the first album. Well you can’t get better than that.

The good news in the garden is that we have a few red tomatoes. I have been in a couple of  gardens over the last few weeks where I have been able to steal a few perfectly ripe sweet red tomatoes blush with the sun. Now I will be able to have some of my own. another few days of sun and there maybe enough to share out.

I have also been picking plums and pulled out of the ground the first of the beetroot. Although the sun is shining there is a chill edge to the wind.

Listening to Bobby Womack records in the late afternoon and hankering after a doze.

Confused thoughts on Jamie Oliver

So Jamie Oliver has been at it again. Criticising the poor for have too many large televisions when they could be spending their money on better food.

I have a love hate relationship with Jamie Oliver a lot of which is born out of jealousy. I can remember watching his first series of The Naked Chef and thinking you bastard. He made it look so easy. It was the sort of cooking I was doing at home and there he was on the tv saying to the world at large that cooking good food was not really that difficult and if you want you can do it to.

The recipes in his books worked. There was no great magic or special skill involved.  He was making it clear that all that a lot of good cooking required was a bit of self confidence and some good ingredients. So long as you kept it simple it would be difficult to cock up. I taught myself to make basic bread from his books and although I tend not to follow any recipe now I still tread the path that he set out.

I am not a great one to judge but somewhere along the way I think he has a point. It is naive of him to think that we should all be reverting to some sort of Med utopia where cheap fresh veg is piled high for the having from any market stall and available for the feckless poor to spend their money on instead of tvs. But I think he is right in that somewhere along the way there has come about a disconnect in our relationship with food and how we eat largely driven by the supermarkets (and the big business behind them).

It would be interesting to compare how the price of tvs has dropped over the last thirty years compared to the price of food and the proportion of our income they each take up. I suspect that the price of both has been driven down and the argument is more to do with the fact that any of us has to carry out some sort of balancing act between the food that we eat (both in respect of its costs and the time taken to prepare) and having that piece of electronic equipment we require be it a tv, an ipod or a new Apple Mac.

And there the debate is placed firmly in the midst of those with money to spend. Those whose shelves are groaning with cookbooks from Jamie Oliver to Moro and the new Ottolenghi, all filled with beautiful pictures and beautiful things to eat. Those who despite all that choose to opt for the convenience of their local supermarket rather than spend time and effort getting their food elsewhere. A large part of that does of course come down to time and convenience. It is only Sainsbury or Tesco that is going to be open when I come home from work and I say that because I am as guilty as anyone.

But it is here that the battle lines should be drawn. Amongst the people who do have the money to spend on good food but choose not to do so.

I suspect that this would involve a small element of shooting the hand that feeds him for Jamie. But if he is to achieve a real food revolution then maybe he needs to be looking at those who have an unused copy of one his books on their shelf?

Shovels and spades

Six men stood in the road including myself. We all stood there hands in our pockets looking down at the tarmac. The sky was bright and sunny and all the activity on the pier had shifted to the hundred or so yards between the low pump house and the Cottage. That activity was now focussed on the road that separated the Cottage from the orchard where the pump house was situated and the length of pipe that must run underneath it.

Having taken advice in the pub a series of holes had been dug. There were five of them running down the orchard and one across the road by the Cottage. Each of them had revealed a length of the black pipe that run from the pump and there was no sign of a leak.

There had been some debate as to exactly where the holes should be dug.

Some of the men thought there should be some science to it and so they suggested stamping at the ground with their feet. Tom Cronin said that if it sounded hollow with the ground being so dry that was a sure sign that there was the leak. So there was a stamping of feet and one of the men told Tom Cronin he was a feckin’ fool as all of the clumping sounded hollow to him and there was nothing to it but to dig some feckin’ holes.

We looked at the diviner but he just shrugged his shoulders and patted the air with his hands and told us to dig where we thought best and if we found the leak then there it was.

With that advice in our ears I was asked for a shovel. I fetched one from the garage and gave it to the man.

‘That’s not a shovel’ he said. ‘That’s a feckin spade you’ve given me. You can’t dig a hole with a spade. A shovel has a point you see. A spade you can use for digging potatoes but you need a shovel for digging holes.’

There was some delay whilst some shovels were found and we then set about digging the holes. There were done in a couple of hours but there was no sign of a leak.

There was a pause then for some further talk and as it was warm we took that talk in the pub. The pipe ran under the road to the Cottage and so the next place to dig was outside the Cottage near where the pipe ran in. There was concrete there and one of the men mentioned that his cousin had a small digger that would go through the concrete if he gave him a call he would have it on the pier whilst we finished off the next pint.

Twenty minutes later we stood by the Cottage and watched as the small digger tore at a patch of concrete. The pipe ran just under the surface but it was dry there as well.

Tom Cronin had the answer now and he pointed to the road. ‘There’s the leak he said. It’s in the feckin’ road. Look we’ll dig it up now and we’ll have your water back soon enough.’

I tried to suggest that perhaps we should not be digging holes in the main road up the peninsula.

‘You’ll need to wait for the council then’ he said. ‘If you wait for them you’ll have no feckin’ water for a year. Look any car coming down for the next hour we can turn it back and they can take the back road. The digger here will have the road up quickly enough and we’ll find your leak and then we’ll put the road back again and it’ll be no worse than any other part of it.’

I baulked at digging up the road even if it came with the promise of clean fresh water in the Cottage after more than a week without. Although Cork and its council felt a long way away I was sure they would come knocking if we started digging at the road.

‘Can we not pull at the pipe?’ I said.

Tom Cronin bent down then and took the black pipe is hand and gave it a hard yank. It came out loose in his hand. He pulled hard at it again and the rest of it came out a few drops of water spilling out of the end.

He scurried across the road and pulled out the other half. More water spilled out of that end. So we had the pipe in half, one piece each side of the road.

‘We have it. We have it!’ he cried. ‘There’s the feckin’ leak. It lies under the road and now all we need do is dig it up and put it together.’