Almanac Travel – Sausage FM: less talk, more pork!

A month on and we’re still recovering from the rush. A gargantuan week as the UK whizzed along in a mad passionate whirl. Of course I refer to October 25 to 31 which, if you’ve forgotten, was British Sausage Week.

Up in the Peak District we bought and fried six sausages from Tideswell’s butcher, but these gastronomic impostors were devoid of texture, aroma and flavour. The week was saved only when we strayed past a York pub window and read its British Sausage Week (BSW) testimonials. Mr W of Leeds wrote, and I ask you to contemplate this during the festive period, ‘My wife still talks of the sausage the chef here gave her two years ago.’

Sitting hidden among undulating green hills is the village of Tideswell. Its market square is hugged by stone shops. Tindall’s is stuffed with exquisite home-cooked breads, cakes and pasties, and apron billowing, stood the matriarch, beaming behind her wooden counter. The glass cabinet parades black-pudding, scotch eggs and streaky bacon and in their store, eternally 1952, the doorbell chimes welcomingly and foodstuffs are dispatched in thick brown paper.

Also noteworthy is the chippy (chip shop) advertising not opening hours but frying times. Courtesy of the summer sun’s disappearance at only 11pm, the Tideswell Cricket Club competes in Wednesday evening fixtures. How fantastic’s that? Time was against us so we couldn’t visit the other delightful emporium, World of Icing, but hopefully, another day…

We love rambling with our dog Roxy about the countryside, and Derbyshire presented abundant opportunity. The hamlet of Litton sleeps in an autumnal hollow. It is hushed apart from a sporadic dog bark. Their branches blazing burgundy; trees watch its placid streets, leaves like a Hawaiian lava flow. We swim through the footpaths, our shoes drowning in swirling colour.

The village green is pocket-sized, and wooden stocks speak of an unruly past. A boisterous tractor roars past, and lurches to a halt. Bounding down from his cabin, a green-capped farmer nods at us, and ambles into his lunchtime pub.

Friday evening in Litton’s Red Lion is among the finest pub experience we’ve had in either hemisphere. Tilly the Airedale traversed the antique entrance, a jovial fire bellowed and homely chairs creaked with rustic tales and belly laughter. We’d been in the bedroom-sized bar but a minute when Harold pumped my paw, thrust a Black Sheep pint at me and told me a yarn about his 1992 Australian holiday; notably punctuated by wearing his pristine Crows tie during a roasting Christmas at Christies Beach.

The grimacing Terry doles out the falling-down water in this family-run pub whilst matriarch Joyce steers her kitchen, and insists on autographing her little home-made booklets of home-spun poetry. The titles are flawlessly kitsch: Re-Joyce, Jump for Joyce and the forthcoming Orange Joyce. We bought copies for Kerry’s grandma in Gympie.

Retreating bar-side after some tremendous lamb shanks I’m button-holed by Joyce’s husband, thirty years my senior but insisting, Yorkshire style, on calling me Sir. He asks of Adelaide and cricket and St Albans as if these are the most vital things in his world. Meanwhile Kerry chats with the rugby-loving couple from Portsmouth who is also commemorating their second anniversary. Afterwards we retreat to our cottage and its popping, cracking fire. Perfect.

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York is staggeringly handsome and we liked spending our anniversary there ambling through its abbey, across the River Ouse (why it belongs to all of us!) and atop the Roman Wall, which smartly entraps the city. The Minster is a towering, honeyed church, and humbling to behold. However we didn’t venture in as the six pound fifty ‘compulsory donation’ appeared a little, well, un-Christian. Gladly, back at home St Albans Abbey demands no fixed fee but visitors may part with their pounds through a credit card machine, positioned conveniently in the bookstall at the cathedra’s entrance.

Steering our Fiat Punto at the appealingly tranquil Eyam proved fascinating for we learnt that in 1665 it lost much of its population. Shortly after unwrapping a package of cloth from London a local complained of feeling poorly. He was soon dead as the Plague again lowered its cold noose. Panicking, the minister urged his brethren to quarantine themselves in their houses, and only collect provisions from designated places, and mercifully this self-sacrifice partly confined the disease.

Strolling the 4WD-ed boulevards we read solemn plaques describing the demise of families of eight in as many days. Hundreds were claimed, but today it’s tricky to picture Eyam suffering any modern disaster beyond the Agricultural Society cancelling, due to heartless disinterest, the Strawberry and Fig Conserve Competition (Open Section).

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2017 will be the twentieth year of British Sausage Week. Check the website for details, and remember to tune in to Sausage FM: less talk, more pork!

british sausage week

About Mickey Randall

Late afternoon beer, Exile on Main St playing. Sport like cricket, most types of football, golf, squash, horse racing. Travel, with Vancouver my favourite city, but there’s nowhere I’ve not happily been. Except Luton.

Reading. Writing about family, sport, music, the stuff that amuses me. Conversation. Wit. Irony.

McLaren Vale cabernet sauvignon, Barossa shiraz, Coopers Sparkling Ale. Jazz and especially Miles Davis. Lots and lots of music.

I live in Adelaide with my wife Kerry-ann and our boys Alex and Max.

Comments

  1. Love “frying times”.

    Should have thought of that when working all those hours at Cecil Cafe, Oakey.

  2. Luke Reynolds says:

    Daylight until 11pm on Wednesday night cricket fixtures. Love it.
    Would be easier to keep the lads off the drink on a Tuesday night before the game than it would be on a Friday night….

  3. Mickey as always love how you took us along for the ride as always and as Luke points out the cricket on a Wednesday night with a few beers afterwards be interesting to no the sickie stats among them re work the next day ! Certainly sounds like a friendly and intoxicating environment in general

  4. JTH- it’s often interesting to hear the language people use when they discuss their professions. Years ago, in Fiji we met another couple from Adelaide, and the guy had a few newspaper rounds- back when they were delivered rolled and plastic-wrapped. He called his work, his vocation throwing. Fantastic. I’m sure when British chip-shop owners get together- are they chippies too, or does this confuse them with carpenters- they say things like, “Fryin’ is not what it used to be.”

    Luke and Rulebook- I was certainly taken by the concept of mid-week cricket, or more that it was possible although we didn’t see a Wednesday match in action. Driving around England just as in Australia it’d be great to happen upon a ground with a game going on. In New Forest, just west from where SK (I’m only using initials from now on) captained Hampshire we saw a match surrounded by the famous wild ponies. Mandatory shovels before the first ball, I’m guessing.

    Also, remember a ground somewhere in East Anglia, a tiny oval with a bloody big tree on the field at long on. Would’ve been interesting. Just spotting a cricket ground is very good for the soul. There’s something reassuring about seeing a patch of often prime land dedicated to this quirky pursuit.

    Thanks for commenting.

  5. Ahh, Mickey – a fine line.
    ‘My wife still talks of the sausage the chef here gave her two years ago.’

    In polite company I still talk, too, of my UK sausage experience.
    Truly, the imposters we serve in Australia are not worthy of sharing the same name.

    The sausage of the chef at the Rowlands Castle (Hampshire) has to be smelled to be believed.
    I was extremely fortunate to savour the outrageous aroma, the flavour, following play in exactly the type of weeknight village cricket fixture you describe a couple of years ago at Stansted Park.
    (http://www.footyalmanac.com.au/for-editing-posting-when-it-suits-english-village-cricket-stansted-park-cc-v-langstone-cc-eye-smiling/)

    Incomparable.

  6. Thanks David.

    In “The Road to Little Dribbling” Bill Bryson asks if we could only have one country in this world of our which should it be. He argues for England on the strength of its music, literature, art, architecture, film, TV etc. I think we can safely add sausages to this mighty list of gifts to the world.

    We’d only been living in St Albans for about a fortnight when we wandered into a pub near the high street one Saturday (I know!). The lunch menu offered bangers and mash, but you could choose either 3, 5, or 7 sausages! Fantastic. Of course odd numbers makes for a better aesthetic on the plate, and I went for 5. Sadly, within a few months the pub changed hands and the sausages disappeared from the menu. But that meal alerted me to the promise , wonder and eccentricity of the place.

    I had a couple of near misses on the cricket front. My school staff used to play other schools occasionally, but these fixtures were cancelled because of the weather.

    If you can’t live in Maida Vale or Knightsbridge in London then I reckon a small village in Cornwall or the Lakes District complete with cricket ground and proximate pub is the aspiration.

  7. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says:

    Does Portwenn have a cricket ground Mickey?

  8. Unsure, Swish. Didn’t get to Port Isaacs, but did visit Padstow, which is just down the road. It’s a Rick Stein theme park with multiple restaurants- we had fish and chips there although I don’t recall anything memorable about these.

    We did however venture to Laugharne in Wales, which was home to Dylan Thomas. Martin Clunes’ Men Behaving Badly cast-mate Neil Morrisey bought Brown’s Hotel in the middle of town on the strength of his love for the Welsh poet. As a lover of Under Milk Wood I wandered in to see where Thomas did some of his ale-sampling. I had our dog Roxy with me. Some locals sang, “How Much is that Doggy in the Window.”

    I reckon Doc Martin would bat at 8, and bowl offies that mostly go straight.

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