Saturday 28 August 2010

Rock Robin...

I've only ever driven a Reliant Robin once. It was round about 1966, and the little car was owned by a chum who's dad owned a garage near Hastings. Generous (and actually a great chap to boot), dad had bought him one when he'd just turned seventeen. You could apparently drive one on a provisional licence, with passengers, back in those heady days.

It was bright blue, had a straight through exhaust, (very rorty that...), and had a clutch which required you to start off in third gear, otherwise it leap-frogged for about 100 yards and seriously hurt various passengers who were trying to light a Gold Leaf in the back. Meccano Sagtrouser would have been mortified, but there again, Old Elias always said he was a bit of a dreamer...

Reading this article, reminded me of a time a few years later, when I lived on the extreme west boundary of Chelsea, (opposite 'Nick's Diner' in Ifield Road, for anyone who knows the area well, and is as old as me), and one of the Aussies, who stayed for more than 24 hours, was in advertising.

Roger G. worked for one of the most prestigious firms around then, Bloxhams, and ran the Reliant account. Rog was the other party in Scrobs passim accounts of friendly Aussies coming over and using our flat as a stop-over and also a place where they could re-light their connections with most of the girls who also arrived about the same time. There were regular trips to Tamworth, and he could do these in about the same time as the average sports car back then.

We often cruised down Kings Road, parking near 'The Essoldo', or outside 'The Great American Disaster', and looking around for all the admiring gazes. Three wheelers of this ilk were definitely OK back then! You got in the car by lifting the whole roof up and forward, and the seats had no adjustment, so that was that as far as comfort was concerned. Acceleration was pretty brisk, and the local Mini Cooper S brigade had some soul-searching to do when 'Sod' sailed into view...

The square back of the car had a logo which I'll never forget: -
'Bloxhams' Executive Jet'!

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Gilead, Gilead, oh, oh, oh...

Many years ago, in the clubhouse of an unidentified rugby club, (Hastings and Bexhill RFC), Scrobs was enjoying a very special Easter evening with his chums and also the touring side from South Wales.

It was Easter, 1976, and Mrs S. was inhabiting the local maternity hospital, to produce Younger Daught, and Elder Daught was safe in the arms of her Grandparents, and none of them wanted to be disturbed.

So I headed for the club, where I had played many a game with good friends, good company, and awful beer. It was nearly about the time for me to retire from the game, but the original teams with many friends were still playing, and this Easter Tour was one to remember, or try to remember after so much fun, sport, shenanigans and laughter.

The vistors were from Caerleon College, Newport, and as I had spent many formative years near the valleys, there was some mutual interest, and much cameraderie, not to say some racial banter and a few clops on the field, but, off the field, we all formed one of the friendliest, jolliest, and heart-warming gatherings ever imagined, as was usually the case with club rugby back then.

We all went through our repertoire, (we had a concert pianist as Captain and he was ace at everything we needed to sing), and the Caerleon boys performed their list of songs which was incredibly well sung, sometimes very funny, and on one particular aria, downright moving. Some of the Max Boyce songs still echo as well...

There was one particular song I can still recall them singing in perfect harmony, it was beautiful, and serious as well, but all I can remember of this song is five words: -

"Gilead, Gilead, oh, oh, oh..."

I've tried all sorts of searching on the net, and the closest is this lovely piece. The Morriston Choir do it full justice.

But nowhere is the 'Oh oh oh' bit, and either my ears deceived me several times (which they often could do on about eight pints of the Club's PBA beer, costing 11p per pint; in fact the eyes also went a bit awry, as did most other parts of this man's body for that matter), or the great guys of Caerleon made up their own version, which is an explanation I'd rather like to believe...

Thursday 19 August 2010


Some time ago, I posted a lament on how I was being attacked by MS Outlook on my PC. It was really getting up my nose, and was taking ages to respond to anything except a clenched fist, after which the whole machine went into a terminal sulk, and I had to reinstall Windows.

I also mentioned how electricity has an unusual effect on me with the few words: - "Oh and also I'm buggered if I can work out why the bottom of our frost-free freezer accumulates ice quicker that the Great Scandinavian Glacier. In fact, it may not be long before the whole of the Turrets will be encased in a bloody great blue ice cube, eventually sliding downhill and probably reaching Bodiam Castle by 2015!"

Well, it damn well nearly happened a few days ago. Our freezer is supposed to be frost free, which means that it defrosts itself and drains any water out the back.

Well it doesn't. The warranty had long run out, and we were left with a piece of kit which feebly cooled the coldest of frozen food, ice cream etc, and used to make sudden cracking noises exactly like an iceberg would do just before it breaks away from the mainland and obscures shipping, seals and penguins etc., from the telescopes of the Globule Worming brigade.

So, out with the special socket spanner attachment (actually used to lock the windows to keep marauders out), and after several 'buggers' and a large 'sod it', away we went into the ice cavern.

We were in there some cosiderable time.

Inside was the biggest piece of ice I've ever seen out of a television programme about The Arctic! No wonder Norway groans (Nil Points), because this stuff is evil! It was at least three inches thick, and wound round every crevice, wire, bracket and panel, and the drawers were struggling to stay on track! It took me three hours with Mrs S's industrial hairdryer to melt it all, and there was water all over the place.

And why? Because the manufacturers had left out the tiny plastic insert which leads the melting water out to the back of the thing! It only took about a minute to make a new one.

But at last we can now sit back, knowing that we won't get scared out of our skin at the rifle shots of cracking ice, that the icecream actually needs an icepick, and that all the broad beans Mrs S is collecting will be nice and hard for when winter makes one yearn for the balmy days of Summer!

And the paradox is that I'm saving carbon miles by freezing our own stuff, spending them by using a hairdryer for three hours, saving them by negating food miles because we keep all manner of small creations there, and spending them again by telling everyone that frost-free freezers don't always do what they say on the label...

Thursday 12 August 2010

Marmite - an enquiry into the delicacy...

As the Speaker's wife has decided that she's a Marmite person, I assume she means that she's an acquired taste - loved by some, loathed by the rest. (Isn't a 'Bercow' some sort of statuesque ladies foundation garment or something...?)

What I want to know though, is why has Marmite become so runny?

When I was a Scroblet in the years after WW2, I could generally cope with Marmite, it could burn the top of your mouth and probably was fed it because somehow it was nearly a staple then, and acceptable at any table. However, I can easily remember that when I stuck my knife into the pot, to scoop out a dollop to spread it on the bread, it would leave a sharp indentation on the surface, which would last until the next teatime, and also leave my slice of bread (sometimes cut by my dear Aunt Con, who always liked it 'stale', and would hold the loaf under her arm to slice same), in tatters with crumbs all over the table and shrieks of indignation from yours truly!

Marmite wasn't runny then!

ED was a Marmite Baby, but YD took the title with Oak Leaves, and could put a couple of points on Unilever's share price most afternoons, just before Blue Peter! Mrs S still lives on Marmite, and, after a ten year dalliance with Vegemite, I'm back on the British brown stuff with a vengeance. I even saw a limited edition 'aged' version in Tesco recently!

But, why is today's Marmite so runny?

I think Bill Bryson referred to it as 'a brown substance or paste much loved by the British', or similar. And I suppose it is really. For that matter, I never understood the appeal of corn syrup, or bagels back then, but when we were in the US last, their breakfasts in dedicated restaurants beat anything stewed up by Little Chef into a cocked crash helmet! So at least Bill B. didn't lose the attention of half the poulation, and get bashed up by the rest of us!

So the runny Marmite question still needs to be resolved!

We've tried the squeezy plastic pots, and they gum up pretty damn quick, so we're back on the jars. We've yet to try the Marmite Oat Biccies as well. But we're totally addicted to Marmite on Multi-grain Ryvita! Mrs S would kill for the same every day, and would commit a huge felony if it was ever unavailable. She is unable to shed any light on the subject, and what's worse, I'm also in a quandary, because I immediately think that it has been diluted in some way...

And that's not British is it!

Friday 6 August 2010

Pills for all ills...

When 'Victorian Farm' was on the box, Mrs S and I immediately became addicts! We were glued to the screen at every calf born, pint brewed, field mown, and were as sad and miserable as the cast when it all folded up. Mrs S actually had to manhandle me away from watching the series for the third time, (which was actually an interesting, and enlightening experience - the manhandling that is, not missing the programme you understand...)!

So when 'Victorian Pharmacy', with the lovely Ruth Goodman in charge, was starting, we stopped the clocks, turned out the lights and silenced JRT with a juicy bone.

That was until it got into full swing. We keep going to sleep! The last one was a record as I'd started snoring by 10 past 9, and Mrs S followed soon afterwards!

It is so boring, and as John Crace says in The Grauniad, "So what we got was Victorian Pharmacy With 21st Century Health and Safety Regulations, which rather undermined the whole point of the programme."!

Not far from here, about 100 years ago, there was a Chemist just like the one they use at Blists Hill, and I have an advert which shows that he sold the following potentially dubious potions: -

Pridgeon's Moelline for the hair, Superior Old Lavender Water, Anti-tic Pills, drops for Deafness, Gout Pills, Chilblain lotion, and also a stock of other lozenges including Ipecacuanha, Tolu, Paregoric, Glycerine Jujubes, Pulmonic Wafers, etc etc...

He presumably died a happy man, and his shop is now a couple of private houses, and, judging by the average age of the inhabitants of the boneyard close by, he did a pretty good job back then!

But now we have NICE, and Elfun Saferty Brigade, Brussels rules and the Common Market (What? Ed.), and the remnants of a struggling NHS, totally mishandled by the last Labour bunch of misfits, (latterly run by an ex-work study gap year student, now after the leader's job for God's sake), and loads of foreign companies making squillions from people being ill.

Whether any of the above worry about their 'customers' getting better, presumably is not their problem. The NHS frontline staff do, but that's because they know what they're doing.

We've come a long way since chemists sold 'Woolley's Pectoral Candy', and 'Dr. Stolberg's Voice Lozenges', but don't hold your breath, as you may well need a course of 'Brown's Bronchial Trooches'.

Oh bugger; not that bloody man again...