Category Archives: United Kingdom

On This Day – An Atlantic Storm in Cornwall

I am hoping that later this year I will be able to on annual holiday with my grandchildren.  In 2019  we went to Cornwall to the fishing village of Mevagissy and made our arrival amidst a mighty Atlantic Storm…

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A Mysterious Loss

Just over fifty  years ago when I was about fifteen I bought a fascinating book called ‘The Reader’s Digest Book of Strange Stories and Amazing Facts’.

The book was an almanac of random stories and unlikely mysteries with tales of the supernatural, mythical beasts, feats of improbable strength, a glimpse into the future and it was divided into chapters such as “Strange customs and superstitions”, “Hoaxes, frauds and forgeries” and “Eccentrics and prophecies.”

I mention this because the weather has improved sufficiently to resume walking across the footpaths around the village where I live.  A day or so ago we were in the fields quite a long way from any houses or roads and this caught my eye propped up against a gatepost.

It wasn’t dumped, it was in excellent condition.  How, I wondered did someone manage to walk into the countryside with the help of a crutch and then lose it?  How did they get home again?  Did they meet a Saint who performed an unlikely  miracle?

It’s a Bugs Life

The unseasonally good weather has encouraged the plants in the garden to grow, buds to swell and bugs and insects to make an early appearance.

There is a plethora of ladybirds…

In the USA a group or swarm of ladybirds (which they call ladybugs) is called a loveliness. How nice is that.  The wife of Lyndon Johnson, the 39th President of the USA was called Lady Bird and that is a curious fact and good pub quiz question.

Other famous people with creature names are Buffalo Bill, Bear Grylls, Seal, Tiger Woods, Michael J Fox  and Newt Gingrich,

Butterflies too in the garden, the second one seems to have been in a scrap and come off worst…

There were bees as well, but they were too quick for me to get a picture.

Butterflies are easier because a stay still…

The Little Chef All Day Breakfast

“Little Chef had its roots in the days before Britain had a motorway network, in fact, there are some who believe that our motorways were built primarily to join up all the Little Chefs.” The Caterer.

My Mum likes to tell a story about how as a boy I was a really fussy eater. It might be true. I do know that my own son was a terribly fussy eater. Once on holiday in Portugal in 1994 I had to take him every night to the same bar for a cone of boiled rice and a Pingu ice cream because it was all that he would eat.

This is a Pingu ice cream…

Getting him to eat was a real challenge but the one place he did like was the Little Chef Roadside Diner at Little Eaton near Derby so in desperation and before he wasted away completely we used to take him there now and again for his favourite meal of chicken gougons and French fries.

This is the Little Chef Diner at Little Eaton.  It was an old farmhouse with character.  It is a Starbucks now…

In 2000 there were almost four and fifty branches of Little Chef across the UK and Ireland. Barely fifteen years later there were just 70. Now there are none. The brand simply went out of fashion.

The relationship between driving and eating can be traced back to the economic boom of the 1950s. People had more money to spend, they had cars, they had time to spare, and they were taking inspiration from American culture and heading out on a road trip. What better place to stop for a meal along the way than an American style diner.

The first Little Chef opened in 1958 and restaurants appeared by the side of main roads nationwide and managed to convince families that their cheap, no-nonsense menus would be better than going to the bother of preparing a picnic.

This is a Petcher family picnic in 1959…

Little Chef was most famous for its all day breakfast which thanks to a standardised corporate menu was pretty much similar in all of the restaurants. If you went for a breakfast then you knew exactly what you were going to get.

The basic breakfast was two rashers of bacon, a pork sausage, two free-range eggs, mushroom, sauté potatoes, griddled tomato, Heinz baked beans (specifically Heinz as though this was some sort of gourmet ingredient) and two slices of toast or fried bread. For some reason a slice of black pudding cost extra. I have never really understood why, it is the same today if you buy a breakfast in Wetherspoons, you have to pay extra for black pudding.

This was most likely a rather unhealthy breakfast but Little Chef had a reputation for serving big calorific meals. The company logo was a cheerful looking chef unashamedly called Fat Charlie.

Some studies have shown the health benefits of eating breakfast. It improves energy levels and ability to concentrate in the short term and can help with improved weight management. That may be so but breakfast means means a morning meal, which literally means to break the fasting period of the prior night. I am not so certain therefore that an ’all day breakfast’ meets the healthy criteria..

A couple of weeks ago I recreated the classic Berni Inn three course favourite of prawn cocktail, steak garni and Black Forest Gateau and this week I made an attempt at recreating the Little Chef all day breakfast.

I was not straying too far from the original for this one…

Two rashers of good lean unsmoked bacon (I am not a fan of smoked food of any sort), one Lincolnshire pork sausage (it has to be Lincolnshire of course), just one egg because one egg is enough, sauté potatoes, grilled tomato, baked beans (served on the side because I don’t like baked bean juice all over the plate), a slice of Lancashire black pudding (at no extra cost) and some toast.

And here it is…

February Garden Shadows

On This Day – Paris Of The East

On February 16th 2015 I was on the final day of a short break to Warsaw in Poland…

I woke early the next morning so made good use of the time before breakfast by reading the complimentary guide books supplied by the Tourist Information Office.

I shouldn’t really have been surprised by this because I have seen it so many times but there on the first page of the ‘Warsaw Top Ten’ guide was the description, Warsaw – Paris of the East.

After Venice it seems that it is the city that more than most other cities want to associate themselves. I have yet to come across a New York of the East, a Moscow of the West or a Melbourne of the North but, when it comes to Paris, even without leaving Europe we have:

Baku, Azerbaijan; Bucharest, Romania; Budapest, Hungary; Leipzig, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic; Riga, Latvia; Saint Petersburg, Russia.  As if to make doubly sure, in a belt and braces sort of way, Saint Petersburg doubles up in this respect by also calling itself the ‘Venice of the North’ even though it has competition for this particular title from Amsterdam, Bruges, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hamburg, Manchester, Edinburgh (which good measure also calls itself the Athens of the North) and even Birmingham amongst others.

I am unable to find anywhere that calls itself the London of the East, or North, South or West for that matter but by way of compensation there are twenty-eight villages in England called Little London including one only two miles or so from where I live which is a hamlet with just a handful of farm cottages, a pub, a railway crossing, a caravan site and a farm shop but no Little London road sign.

Exciting isn’t it?  It suddenly reminded me of the small village of Twenty in South Lincolnshire.  Twenty has a road sign to identify it and a local wag had added the tag line “Twenty – Twinned with the Moon – No Atmosphere”.

By coincidence Twenty is just about five miles from the town of Spalding where I used to work and an area of the town called … wait for it… Little London.

Including Warsaw I have had the good fortune to visit five of these alternative Paris cities, Budapest, Saint Petersburg, Riga and Prague and I have to say that I can find very little similarity in any of these places with the real thing. Prague would have to come closest I would have to say but only on the basis that they have a sort of Eiffel Tower.

Beyond Europe there are a few more but the most bizarre of all surely has to be Beirut!  Paris itself if often called the City of Lovers or the City of Light but I have never heard of it calling itself the Beirut of the West and I am fairly certain that it is most unlikely ever to do so.

In addition to the French capital there are of course a number of places that are officially called Paris including nine in the United States – in Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, Kentucky, New York, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia and one that was even the title of a film – Paris, Texas. There is one missing from this list however and the one that is most Paris like of all, the one at EPCOT World Showcase in Disney World Florida.  Three other U.S. cities have at some time been called the Paris of the West – Denver, Detroit and San Francisco but these all seem just as unlikely to me as Shanghai in China!

There is also a Paris in Ontario in Canada and the city of Montreal in French speaking Québec has unsurprisingly also been dubbed the Paris of the West.

Paris at Disneyworld in Florida…

Memory Post – Chislehurst Avenue

We lived at Chislehurst Avenue for just over a year. Dad built a new rockery, I made friends with John and Michael Sparks who lived opposite, had my fifth birthday and started going to school at the Ravenhurst Primary where my first teacher was Miss Bird. Dad continued to cycle fifteen miles each way to work in the town of Hinckley.

There was a photograph by the front door of course, this time with my grandparents who were visiting from London and as you can see I have moved up a bike size.  It is quite possible that my Mum took this particular picture because she has always had a tendency to cut feet off a picture…

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Memory Post – Ledwell Drive, Leicester

After a couple of years living close to Leicester city centre in Tyndale Street my parents were ready for a move and were looking to go up a rung or two on the housing ladder, Dad had had a promotion at work at Leicestershire County Council working at the Education Department so the time was right to move on.

For some Reason Dad liked to take pictures outside the Front door of the house.

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Hardly a Beast – Only a Dusting

Despite the dire warnings of blizzards and snow drifts by the alarmist right wing press we received only a delicate and rather attractive dusting.

A blast from the Past…

A few hours before the Great Storm of October 1987 BBC Weather Forecaster Michael Fish famously said during a forecast: “Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way. Well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t!”.

The storm was the worst to hit South East England for three hundred years, causing records amount of damage and killing nineteen people.

Michael Fish has gone down in UK broadcasting history.

In reaction to the controversy, the term “the Michael Fish effect” has become famous, whereby British weathermen are now inclined to predict a worst-case scenario in order to avoid being caught out and blamed.

In the garden this morning…

… Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

The last really bad Winter that I can (almost) remember was 1962/3 when I was eight and a half years old.

You can read about it Here…

Memory Post – Tyndale Street, Leicester

Every now and again I do a memory post – something from my past.  This is one of a sequence of posts about houses that I lived in.

The West End of Leicester was developed around about the 1900s when affordable housing was required to provide accommodation for the workers in the booming footwear and hosiery industries in the city.

The land was acquired from a wealthy protestant landowner who had some residual say in the naming of the streets – Luther, Latimer, Ridley, Cranmer and Tyndale, all sixteenth century Protestant martyrs.  The area is predictably called the Martyrs and the Church of the Martyrs stands nearby.

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