Another Sunday After

We must still be in an Indian Summer. It has not rained since we came we came back from Ireland more than a month ago and outside the soil is dry and dust like as it would be in mid-summer.

On our last trip to Bantry Market I bought myself some bags of garlic to plant in the garden from West Cork Garlic. Last year I had planted some from a garlic farm on the Isle of wight and amidst the disaster of the the tomatoes and every thing else I tried to grow they came up okay. This afternoon I sorted out last years crop and then set about separating the cloves from the bulbs I had bought from Bantry before grubbing up some lines in the veg patch and planting them out.

We had a very good Shepherd’s Pie for tea listening to Woods and a little bit of Goat.


The Liverpool Festival of Psychedelia 2014

Walking down Church Street yesterday morning I was grumpy. Part of the grump was brought on by knowing that I did not have enough time and money to allow myself to be diverted into a bar and record shop and would have to concentrate on the matter at hand, which was the buying of a suit. The rest of the grump came from the sheer noise and cacophony that came from the street performers who were situated every hundred yards along the street.

Each of them had their own mini-generator that made a racket on its own and then interwoven through that noise was whatever music the performer or performers were playing be it an electric guitar or a full blown band or a drummer who seemed to be playing just one elongated drum solo which was then meshed in with the noise coming from the performer a hundred yards either side of the one you were stood closest to. Even the man performing tricks with a football seemed to be making too much noise.

All this noise was thrown into to sharp relief later that evening as I walked up Jamaica Street towards The Liverpool Festival of Psychedelia 2014 that was taking place in Camp & Furnace. A quarter of a mile away I could hear the rumble of bass loud enough to rattle windows and a guitar solo that started as it meant to go on – forever.

I stop off in The Mad Hatter’s Brewery for a fortifying pint and resolved, one day, to make a proper evening of it in there. Having finished that pint I ventured the final few hundred yards to the festival and into Greenland Street.

Walking into the venue I could feel the floor shudder under my feet with the noise. I bought myself a drink and the whole transaction was conducted in sign language. There was no point trying to say anything. Anything that could be said was swallowed up in the maelstrom of pure noise that was coning from the stage. I moved closer to see what was going on.

In Spinal Tap they doctor the lettering on the amplifiers so the volume knob goes up to 11. Saturday night in Camp & Furnace and they had been a bit more methodical about it. Someone had obviously taken the amplifiers apart and had a go with their insides with a spanner and screwdriver and rewired them so the volume had nowhere else to go but be a little a bit louder and then loud some more when a guitar was hit with sufficient force. So far as I could tell the floor was solid concrete but every so often it would shake as another wall of noise crashed through the room and I could feel the crease in my trousers vibrate.

There were three bands I wanted to see and leading up to them and in-between times I watch a half dozen or so other bands who all seemed intent on seeing how far they could push the “How loud can I go” experiment.

Five years ago I was taken to see a band called God is an Astronaut.  There were three of them on stage with a video behind. Each song started quiet for a minute or two before getting louder and louder and then louder some more. All the while the video behind the band showed pictures of bigger and bigger bombs going off. There were parts of Saturday night that took me back to that gig.

Fortunately there was a bar selling real ale so as I moved from stage to stage watching different bands see how loud they could go I was able to keep myself fuelled with pints of Liverpool Summer Ale until the first of the three bands I wanted to see came on.

Any band that calls itself September Girls is selling itself to me even if they can’t spell Gurls right. When they are five women from Dublin playing spiky guitars and songs that seem to crash into each other then all is alright. Mix into that the added bonus of songs that last for three minutes or less then we almost have the highlight of the evening. John Peel would have liked them.

After that it was Woods.  I have managed to pick up three of their albums over the last couple of years. They are difficult to put into a pigeonhole but they could be heading towards being one of the best American bands. They shook things up on Saturday night by turning the volume down and taking out an acoustic guitar for a while. They were the best band of the night for me.


After Woods the volume went up again and there were a couple more bands to be got through before we got to Goat who came on stage about 1.30am. They played a shamanistic blend of funk, hi-life, Jimi Hendrix guitar which every so often had the potential to shift into some sort Grateful Dead like gear into the cosmos and all the time wearing masks. The volume went up and at times it felt as if my ears had shredded but then they went a little bit louder and I could still hear so all was okay. It all got very hot and sweaty and I found myself wondering how many other lawyers there were down the front jerking around to to the music. I should really be doing something else with my life.

After that there was a happy 45 minutes spent trying to find a taxi home and all the time marvelling over the people in Liverpool at 3.00 in the morning.

Tea before I went out was fish’n’chips. They were very good.

A Riot of Emotion

I have been to boarding school and there is no doubt from that there is a tendency to allow emotion to rest in the back pocket where it is safe and where there is no risk it will be seen and taken.

So Saturday morning we drove down to Brighton with a car full of stuff and then some more stuff, so much stuff in fact that seats had to be put down and some of the larger stuff, but not the awkward clothes horse, had to be left at home. All this was to deliver the stuff to Kristen’s new house in Brighton ready for her to start at the University next week. The car groaned down the motorway and then groaned some more as we moved from long delays on the M40 to long delays on the M1 and then onto long delays on the M25 and then culminating in long delays on the last mile or so driving into Brighton.

We eventually got there at 3.00 in the afternoon and had just enough time to remove the stuff from the car and get into a nearby pub for a lamb steak burger and a couple of pints of good Sussex Ale. The Ale almost made up for the seven hour drive.

We then had 45 minutes to walk through the Lanes which was just about enough time for me to find the record shop I had found there earlier in the year and acquire for myself the new Goat album. (There will be more about Goat at the weekend if I survive their 1.30am slot at The Liverpool International Festival Of Psychedelia Liverpool International in Camp & Furnace on Sunday morning.)

There was then a quick walk up the steep hill back to Kristen’s house to help her finish the unpacking and then we were saying goodbye.

The journey back was not so long and we were able to stop off for the night and a breakfast with some very good bacon and sausage.

Back home and almost a week later The house seems a lot quieter and Brighton a long way away.


Ham carving lessons at Lunya

Last Christmas we went to Spain for a week and various sins were visited upon a very fine leg of Spanish ham. Probably the first sin was our failure to identify if it was a Serrano or Iberico ham. Secondly the first carver fed the thick layer of fat to the feral cats outside when he should have kept it so it could act as a protective skin to be laid back over the exposed ham once the carving had been started. After that a number of us hacked and sliced for the week without any great regard to what we were doing so long as we came away with a few clean sllces. The knives were blunt and inadequate and there was no attempt to work out the lie of the bones, to trim round them and to make sure that each slice was made up of the right combination of creamy melt on the finger fat and dark pink meat.

Last night I was given an opportunity to make amends and was sent along to a ham carving master class at Lunya.

Early evening in Liverpool in late September. It was light but quiet enough to be able to pick up the odd moment in Liverpool One without some shopper wandering about.

Inside Lunya I settled down at the bar with my first bottle Er Boquerõn – beer made with sea water. I was about half way through the glass when I was called upstairs for the start of the masterclass.

The U-shaped table was laid with about a dozen places and in front of each chair there was a plate laid out with three different types of ham, each a different shade of pink and with a different grade of fat running through it. There was a temptation to tuck in at once but I gathered that we were to wait. There were about nine of us on the course and we were joined by three staff from the restaurant there for an update.

Our master carver was Mario Hiraldo Regalado of Ibéricos de Huelva. He took us through a slide show with pictures of the various types of pig that make up the different hams, the curing process, the distinctions between the various hams, the acorns that make up the best food for the pigs, the ground that they roam in, the parts of the ham and pictures of neatly laid plates of sliced ham and a hall of shame showing the damaged wreaked on legs of ham by inconsiderate carvers. The hall of shame struck a particular note with my memories of Christmas.

As he spoke plates of food were brought out, bread with tomatoes, padron peppers and squid with mayonnaise, cheese and quince paste. As he spoke we nibbled into these and I found myself in a silent battle of politeness with my neighbours on the table as to who should have the last piece of squid and the last piece of cheese. I won both times. They were too polite!

We also tasted the ham on the plates in front of us; working our way through the two types of Serrano and fishing with the Iberico, the fat melting in our fingers as we lifted it from the plate.

The talk over we were shown how to go about carving the ham. The different knives for each job with their varying thicknesses and strength and the importance in keeping each cut flat and straight and achieving the right mixture of fat and meat.

We laid the meat out carefully on red and white pieces of greased paper. As I switched between knives (minding my fingers) so as to be able to trim away the layer of thick yellow fat on the outside of the ham and to then carve with a long thin blade I thought back to the mess we had made of it last Christmas.

We got to take home with us what we had carved and went on to be given a run through of two Spanish wines and a bone chilling dry yellow sherry.

I am chewing on a piece now, breaking down the mixture of fat and meat, so the just melted fat starts to cover the back of my tongue and I can feel the taste of it all in my mouth.