Saturday, July 11, 2015

Back to the chilli fest

DSC02131 (1400x934)Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the plant to overwinter… I tapped the leaves and soil. ‘Most people wouldn’t even try’, noted the gardener, noting the paltry £5.50 price for new plants.  I know, but I tried to balance water, food, pruned to keep the shape…  The gardener shook her head: “You keep the shape you start with, it can’t be changed, luv”

So like kids and pets.

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The Christchurch Cheese and Chilli Festival began last year, and I brought home a multicoloured Twilight variant for the windowsill.  It got leggy and thin over the winter, but seemed on the road to recovery in May.  Then the Greeks took over. 

By the time I returned from Boulder, I had naught but a pot with sticks. 

So, year 2 of the festival, and plant #2 for the sill.  It’s a bit reminiscent of my attempts to grow Olive trees:  like any relationship, you have to be present to grow them properly.

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The Festival was bigger this year, more food vendors, entertainment, family areas, and craft booths.  There was a falconry tent filled with owls (and a forlorn Golden Eagle that I immediately took to) and a pirate balloon animal dancer guy (better than it sounds).

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And, once again the festival lacked actual Texas Chili.

I am convinced that a cauldron of kidney beans and beef, liberally seasoned with chili and cayenne, would be a huge hit here. 

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DSC02141 (1400x911)I contented myself with a wild boar burger and a pint of Old Thumper (5.1), settling in to hear a singer impersonate Michael Buble (impersonating Frank Sinatra). 

No matter, I’m a sucker for a well-laid torch song.

DSC02418 (1139x1400)And, in the end, the gardener and I selected a bushy budding Twilight chilli plant, along with some second-year advice on helping it to thrive.  It seems to have a good strong fruit (not that I need the stimulation) and now has place of pride between my lily and my violet.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Summer scenes

DSC01918 (1400x903)Although summer is about theater, art, and festivals, its also a time that I look forward to leaving the crowds behind.  There should be quieter moments spent with small boats, coastal paths, and country drives, where there’s almost always something unexpected or interesting to liven the journey.

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DSC01881 (1400x933)Work is almost done on a new bridge serving the Thames Walk at Reading, workmen advancing the span foot by foot over the river at sunset.  It brought out the retired engineers along the riverbanks to advise and critique, comparing the new construction techniques with the old.

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DSC01975 (1198x1110)A series of sports playoffs are being held along Sandbanks Beach this month.  Last weekend was the CEV British Beach Volleyball competition, while the British Beach Polo finals start tomorrow. 

I expected these would be heavily commercial, spring break style promotional events, but they seem to be staged seriously and attract a lot of spectators.  The quality of play is excellent and, given some Pimms and a sunny afternoon, it’s an agreeable time at the beach.

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DSC01999 (932x1400)Cambridge is similarly settling into summer as the May Balls end and students head off for their break.  I’ve been taking contemplative late afternoon walks through town and along the Cam, taking care of myself and nudging memories and perspectives into place. 

Wolfson College is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding, so has created craft anniversary beers to enjoy each evening.  Great stuff, but it makes breakfast discussions about British history and Middle Eastern archaeology a bit more challenging.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Sunset along Sandbanks

The people were as intriguing as the landscapes this evening.  Everyone  was coupled up, enjoying the quiet change of colors, some quiet conversation, and the warm summer air.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Bournemouth F&D Redux

DSC01801 (1400x933)Last year, our challenge was to get into the Facebook Album.  This year, it was more about enjoying music, food and conversation.  The Food and Drink Festival was back in town.

Summer gets into gear in England in July and August.  The roads clog with cars (queues), the beaches fill to overflowing (heaving), and I start looking for street parties (fĂȘtes).  

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It’s fun, a chance to visit market towns across the South West, with a familiar cast of vendors (Marshwood Vale Cider Company) and the occasional charming local tradition (’barrow races).

Although the w.wezen suggests that I’m FOMO-tivated by the What’s On calendar, I prefer to think it’s an escape from the week’s work and a relaxed afternoon out.

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The B-F&D draws around 40 cooking tents serving everything from pasta to paella, venison to tapas, pulled pork to polenta.  The quality is generally pretty high, and the prices around £5 per plate, similar to the Taste Of… American equivalents.

The strategy is to pick up a couple of samplers and camp out in the beer tent, where we munch through cooking demos, people watch, and listen to live music.

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Alongside, there’s the new Seafront to explore, a multi-million pound renovation of the approach to the landmark Pier.  I was particularly looking forward to the sub-project that was to reunite the town’s river with the sea.

The winding river though the city park had stopped just short of  the beaches, diving underground at the concrete apron of the promenade.  This was to have been resurfaced and DSC01844 (1400x933)channeled to recreate the historic river’s mouth (somewhat in miniature, but I still envisioned salmon leaping upstream).

Disappointingly, it all turns out to be virtual reality.  A winding line of fountains now  marks the river’s course, and copper fish are impressed into the concrete.  It’s all a bit understated (underwhelming), although the children seem to love it.