The Freehand

Emery DownGiven that I had an appointment in Lyndhurst at 5.50 this evening, I saved my walk until I could reach there, via Emery Down, by that time.  It was a beautiful day and I arrived just before sunset.  The appointment was with a GP to have a wart burned off my face.  This was a very quick, not quite painless, process.  It stings a bit and the doctor said it might blister but he wouldn’t be worried about it.  I did wonder whether it had occurred to him that I might be worried about it.

Jackie met me to take me home where I reheated the chicken jalfrezi I had prepared in the afternoon.  Jalfrezi, in this case, refers to the method of cooking left-over meat.  I don’t think any self-respecting Indian or Bangladeshi chef would recognise it.  First of all, we like our gravy, so I always add some stock.  This I make from the bones of a stripped roast bird.  Between us, we managed this morning to boil the stockpot dry.  Jackie rescued the bits that weren’t actually stuck to the pan, added some water, and got it going again.  This was indeed a labour of love because she cannot understand why I don’t use stock cubes like any other chef.

The ingredients today suggested an approach nothing short of reckless.  We were lacking some of the usual components, like broad beans and peppers.  So what were included were left-over mashed potato and swede, carrots, garden peas, and cauliflower cheese; and a tin of drained kidney beans.  Remarkably enough this was delicious, and had a sauce rather thicker than I usually manage.  The mash probably aided the consistency.  It was accompanied by Cobra.

In 1976 my Social Services Area Team in Westminster always relaxed in the William IV pub off Harrow Road after work on a Friday night.Derrick c1976  Wherever you finished up your day, you always knew that you would have company if you repaired to the William.  This is probably when and where photo number five in  the ‘Derrick through the ages’ was taken by Jessica.  More than thirty years on, that group of like-minded individuals organised the first of what are now regular reunions.  The most dedicated member of those groups at the time was Howard Leigh, who was not actually employed by Social Services, but worked for DHSS.  We felt that Howard was one of us, and it is Howard who has been the driving force behind the reunions.  The smoking tree stump protruding from my mouth is actually a briar pipe, of a model known as freehand.  This indicates that the maker has been given a free hand to follow the natural shape of the root and leave the top all knobbly and gnarled.  When enjoying a complex Dunhill mix over the hour or so it took to smoke a pipeful, the smoker didn’t usually have a free hand at all, being required to prop up the tree in order to avoid straining the jaws.  The photograph clearly shows the free hand supporting the chin.

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