Wednesday 30 August 2017

Cherokee Trail of Tears...

A chum sent me some seeds of ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ beans. She’s a great gardener, with lots of skill and clearly the right temperament for a shared passion. Looking up the origin of the name, I uncovered a large piece of American history attached to the Cherokee Nation, and it makes for uncomfortable reading.

In a nutshell, the Cherokee Indians were hounded around on their settlements, and eventually kicked out of their promised land when gold was found on their new territories. They were transported from their homes by boats in the summer of 1838, and about 4,000 souls died from disease, exposure and famine. The journey has long been chronicled as ‘The Trail of Tears’.

President Andrew Jackson, a Democrat no less, authorised The Indian Removal Act, not long after a force of 500 Cherokee fighters had saved his life, and what remained of his army at The Battle of Horseshoe Bend, in 1814. Nice guys these Democrats.

Back to the beans.

They were just a small part of the allowance for the Indians’ enforced travel, and some of the original black beans were taken by the refugees and planted as soon as they had enough ground to make a sowing.

They are a fabulous crop, the green early growth is a sweet, tender version of a runner bean, and has a texture unlike any other vegetable. When the beans mature on the pole, they turn black, and can then be harvested for use later on. Like all pulses, they are a rich source of protein and fibre, so are really a superveg in their own right, with a long useful growing season, and a great addition to any further menus in the winter.

We’ve grown enough to use during the summer, and also just finished podding about two pounds of the little black beans which will go in the various soups and casseroles which Mrs O’Blene creates at every opportunity! And all this from just fourteen plants!

I suppose I’ll never stop learning about growing things, and this little piece of history makes for much research and interest, with perhaps more than a little bitterness at why after all these years, a tiny black bean builds into a big and rather unpleasant record of bad times for some great people.

Friday 25 August 2017

04:15 puttering lights...

The other day, Scrobs needed to go out and get some bread for lunch, as Mrs O'Blene was planning kippers, and that elegant, delicious comestible requires the stuff of life straight out of the oven!

Now Waitrose here don't have on-site ovens, but the bread they pop out on the shelves - at least at our branch, is pretty damn good, and while we would love to remain loyal to a local bakery, there are times when even a small loaf from there doesn't get used up, sometimes goes hard quite quickly and we just hate waste.

So Scrobs enters the door to be greeted by an immediate 'Cooeeee' from a super-elegant Gloriette, who has just arrived in a fragrant cloud, as well as her white Audi TT and is studying a shopping list about three pages long!

Now as many people know, Gloriette is one of the most gorgeous visions one can ever dream of, and indeed, her ever-loving spouse, Elias Sagtrouser insists that it is only a dream. He makes exceptions to old mates like Scrobs, who is allowed one more grasp and a few pecks, but no more, and who am I to try and overstep the mark!

'Gloriette, love of my life, you look stunning'!

'Oh same old, same old, how are you Sweetheart', she murmured after the first obligatory squeeze and peck. Eyes by the carrots turned to the skin-tight jeans, casual top and perfect turnout.

'Oh fine thank you - er - Is Elias with you'? Scrobs muttered more in hope than enquiry.

'No it's a BBB day, so he's out and about. Meccano and Toniatteline are here somewhere, but I'm having a few hours off to have my hair done'!

There was a lot in that statement.

'First, Light of my Life', Scrobs started, 'you need go no further with the hair business, as you're already looking stunning, second, why is the shop at Sagtrouser and co, Suppliers of bricks, paint and electric angle grinders, left unattended then, and what, finally, on earth is a BBB day'!

(This was going to be a long shopping escapade, and a quick check on the Fitbit watch confirmed that there was ninety minutes only, which would probably be enough.)

'Ha ha ha, but thanks for the comment about the 'Barnet', Scrobs (Gloriette never forgets her London upbringing), secondly, we always leave Jeremiah on the tills when we're out. He sells more Rawlplugs and screws than anything when he's on duty'!

This was indeed a trading experience which I'd never heard of before, so enquired further.

'Rawlplugs and screws - why those'?

'Well every builder always wants a stock for that odd job, and Jeremiah always assumes that they'll need some more each time the customer comes in the shop and adds them to the account, so we get through cases of the things! It's a great money spinner' The customers love it, especially as Jeremiah is six foot seven inches tall!

Scrobs peered absentmindedly at the heaving shelf of French cheese and wondered whether he was in the right business after all...

'OK, but what does Elias mean by a BBB day then'?

We cruised past the chicken portions and sliced ham.

'Simples! It's the end of the month, and a time when in the old days, he'd have to go out and collect overdue payments, cheques and cash! The baseball bat was always left on the dashboard as a 'persuader', and never failed! That's why he now drives a Range Rover, I have my Audi TT and that's all because somehow the money arrived when we needed it, not when customers decided to pay it'!

'Our thick politicians could learn a thing or two there', I absently said, allowing a slight brush against a tanned bejewelled forearm and adding yet another expensive piece of smoked salmon to the trolley, which was filling up at an alarming rate.

I noticed Gloriette peering at me more than somewhat  in the reflection of the frozen fish, and she suddenly turned and enquired, 'You're looking a bit peaky Scrobs, If you don't mind me saying so'!

Twelve fish fingers and a lemon cheesecake tipped into the trolley.

'Oh I'm absolutely fine you lovely lady, it's - er - just the '4:15 puttering lights' have started again!

'WHAT ON EARTH DO YOU MEAN'? She yelped, grabbing my arm, and several heads turned in our direction, so I reopened a freezer door for some more French fries to avert the gathering interest.

'Well, the nights are drawing in aren't they. It's still twilight at 4:14 am, and cars need lights to get around'!

'That's true I suppose, but why does it cause you grief then'?

We spotted Toniatteline staring at a lurid row of magazines which all seemed to display hugely developed girls and boys in various stages of undress, while Meccano was rummaging around in a shelf of pictures of shiny cars and lorries with fat wheels, and they both were lost to the world.

'Oh it's not grief really, my love, it's just that every morning, my elderly friend next door has a newspaper delivered. Years ago, I'd occasionally hear a car coming out of the lane opposite, and stop, with its engine running. If I was awake, I'd wonder why this happened at the same time every day of the week, and always thought it might be someone rolling a fag, or checking a mobile'.

'After a few years of this, one early morning, I was up letting JRT out as she'd heard something in the garden, and the car arrived as normal. JRT started to bark, which annoys Mrs O'Blene, so I rushed out to get her back in, and saw a shape trotting from the car to my neighbour's house. The engine was left on and ticking over, but he didn't make a sound either'! It had never occurred to me that this was the newspaper delivery man, doing what he does best...'!

'Hmm, so it's JRT's fault then is it'?

'Aw no, but during the summer, the van doesn't need lights, and they don't shine in our bedroom window and wake me up! They're just starting to do that again now, as I'll never get back to sleep after that'!

'Scrobs, you are impossible'! Purred my perfumed chum with a huge smile, and we headed off for the tills.

Scrobs stared down at the basket, now full of bags.

'That will be £112.45 please Mr O'Blene! Would you like a coffee? Have a nice day'!

And I only wanted a small bag of mixed bread rolls...

Friday 18 August 2017


My dear neighbours went up to town to see 42nd St recently.

He's getting on a bit, and has trouble hearing lines in plays, but this one didn't present any problems!

Marvellous stuff...

Monday 14 August 2017

That catch...

Many years ago, your old idiot chum, Scrobs, played a few games of cricket with two clubs - one was the village, and the other was the Summer version of the Rugby Club, as they had a lot of serious drinkers, and at five-bob a head, the kitty wasn't that onerous!

To be fair, I was never actually going to get beyond Number Eleven in the batting (some suggested perhaps twelve, or even thirteen), but my fielding (apart from dropping a doddle at mid-off once) wasn't that bad, and when I was allowed to come closer to the bat than about four miles away, I'd shine like a beacon in a dull Sussex sky!

In the RFC Cricket section, we had a superb chap, who knew everything about the game, and was one of the best bowlers I'd ever seen. If I say his name (David Vale), someone might sue me, but who cares, I was only number eleven, so that's enough!

David always poked fun at me in a friendly way, and I usually told him to sod off, so that was that. In one particular game, however, he went all serious.

'Scrobs', he shouted, 'Get close to the bat at silly mid off'!

Bugger this, I thought! It was their number three at the crease, and he'd been clonking fours and sixes everywhere on the park!

David re-made the order.


'Over by the far canal'! I was within about three inches of the batsman's glove and still being told to get even closer! A mild repost to David was met with disdain, a smirk, and complete bollocks.

So, down came the first ball.

Tap.  Wimp.

Vale sneered.

Next ball, a tentative prod to leg.

Vale snorted.

Next ball; a superb off-spin which turned almost ninety degrees, and left the batsman in a real mess, so he tried to belt it, missed the meat of the bat, popped up an edge which went about three feet away from his pads, then turned away.

Scrobs did the unfathomable. Being right-footed, and still in diarrheic fear of a smack right in the chops from either bat or ball, (or perhaps both), the ball hovered about a yard above the batting crease like a full moon does on - er - a batting crease..

Scrobs' full length of five foot seven and three-quarters leapt straight out and left-handedly grasped the ball an inch above the grass. It was the catch of a lifetime, and while I sit here, thinking about how great life is an' all that, I'll still remember the look on the bowler's face as he notched another wicket...

Bloody man, that David...

Tuesday 8 August 2017

Is that all there is...

Last week, I was tinkering about here, reading something on the PC, when Mrs Scrobs called through to say that she'd just read that Robert Hardy had died. We're great fans of his TV stuff, and although I knew he was getting on, it was still a saddening event to record.

Just a few seconds later, she added that ''someone" Bennett had also died. I didn't hear who, and I thought she'd said 'Jill Bennett', so I Googled the lady, only to find that she died by her own hand ages ago.

So, reading the Wiki entry even further, it mentioned that Alan Price (a favourite musician here), sang a special song 'Is that all there is', while the assembled friends cast her ashes on The River Thames, together with those of Rachel Roberts, another lovely lady from the same time. Lindsay Anderson made his last film here.

The video is here. (it may need a rewind to the beginning).

It's a poignant piece, and so very thoughtful.  The slow brass piece at just over half-way (3:14) with the flowers floating on the water is heart-breaking and I fill up everytime I see it.

Bessie Smith recorded the first version, and of course, she was 'The Mistress' of such fabulous music. Her rendition is here. She was just magnificent!

A few weeks ago, I met an old friend whom I hadn't seen for forty or so years. We swapped all the old yarns, laughed a lot, had several beers, and agreed that we'd do the same again soon. I had been saddened though, to learn of one particular lovely friend from the seventies, who was losing a battle against a terminal condition. We'd been good friends, and she'd been to our wedding, and we went to hers years ago.

Just more recently, there was a big funeral for a famous old local chap, whom everyone knew and admired, because he'd overcome all sorts of physical indignities all his life, and had beaten them all. It was a huge wake, with several hundred people in a marquee the size of a small village. The drinks flowed like water, and the chat was outstanding. I'd only heard about the funeral that morning, and was determined to go - even making a collar-button extension for the only shirt that fits me at the moment...

My friend was too ill to attend, but I learned that her battle was getting harder and that made me feel a bit mortal to be honest. Her husband - another old chum from the past - was there, and must have been feeling pretty rotten too.

Getting back to the Jill Bennett story, Mrs Scrobs explained that it was indeed 'Hywel' Bennett who'd joined the 'Virgin Soldiers' on high, and that was also a sobering thought, as 'The Family Way' came out at the same time as I was wondering what to do if or when I eventually got a girlfriend...

So, as the title says, 'Is that all there is'?

Thursday 3 August 2017


Image result for fitbit charge 2

No, not a new bird, just a postage stamp sized gadget given to me by Daught and Sil for my birthday!

Even my doctor was impressed, especially as my blood pressure is normal for the first time in ages!

And I reached the target once last week, so all those onions and spuds will just fly out of the ground!