Through The Underpass

This morning I decided to walk through the Malwood Farm underpass and see how far I Soggy terraingot before I gave up on what I expected to be a rather soggy terrain. It probably would have been a better idea to have stayed on the roads, or at least worn Wellingtons instead of walking shoes.
Even before I’d left our garden, I could see that more trees had come down, and the steep downhill track leading to the underpass confirmed this, so I was not surprised to see the extent of the damage wrought by the winds, once I ventured into the forest itself.

Fallen treeThe large shrub that has fallen in the garden lies across the stump of the recently deceased cherry tree. I think it is a buddleia.

Fallen tree Malwood

This is just one of the recent falls on the short stretch to the underpass.

Underpass to Malwood farmThe sight of Malwood Farm in sunlight at the end of the tunnel was welcoming, and the promised return of the wet, windy, weather did not materialise until this afternoon.

The terrain, however, was rather less inviting. It was indeed soggy.  Pools lay, and new streams flowed, everywhere. Mud patches inhaled deeply in an attempt to snatch my shoes.

It would have been unprofitable to have tried to pick out one of last year’s safe paths. The way would be blocked by either a quagmire or newly fallen trees, or both. As is usual in these circumstances, I followed pony trails.New streamFallen tree across path

Fallen trees across path
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The animals are at least a little likely to attempt to avoid the suction underfoot, although I would not have been surprised to find one or two stranded in the mud.

Malwood streamMalwood stream (3)I had thought to take a rain check on the sandbagged ford before deciding on whether to cross it or not. Forget that. I didn’t even venture across the mud bath leading to the sandbags. It seemed politic to stay on our side of the winding stream I call Malwood.Malwood stream (2)Malwood stream (1)Malwood stream (5) I walked along it for a while, then retraced my steps and returned home.

Malwood stream (4)LichenWalking back through the forest to the side of the farm fences, I noticed much beautifully shaped pastel coloured lichen clinging to fallen twigs featherbedded by a mulch of deep dark brown autumn leaves.

My share of the five-egg mushroom omelette with toast that was for lunch, went down very well.

This afternoon I finished reading Voltaire’s story ‘Le Taureau Blanc’. Here the philosopher, in advocating the search for human wisdom and happiness, is having an ironic pop at the fantasy of the Old Testament. At least, that is the sense I make of this fabulous tale.

This evening we dined on succulent sausage casserole with creamy mashed potato, crisp runner beans and cauliflower, followed by creme caramel. I drank more of the Bergerac.

Sausage casserole mealJackie’s sausage casserole has an interesting provenance. What she has done is perfect my adaptation from Delia Smith. This is the tops.

For four to six servings:

Take 12 sausages;  lots of shallots; plenty of button mushrooms; a packet of Sainsbury’s cooking bacon, chopped into bite sized pieces; 3 big cloves of garlic; 5-6 bay leaves; 1 heaped teaspoonful of dried thyme; 3/4 pint of pork stock (if pork sausages – today’s were  Milton Gate pork and apple from Lidl which provide a touch of sweetness); enough red wine to cover the contents of the dish.

Red peppers provide a bit of colour, but are not essential. Similarly thickening with the help of gravy granules or cornflower may be required.

Method:

Fry the sausages until browned on all sides and set aside.    In the casserole dish then fry the bacon and shallots with the crushed garlic. Add the stock and wine; bring to the boil, turn down the heat, add the bay leaves and thyme, pop the sausages back in and simmer for 3/4 hour. (The simmering refers to the cooking heat. It doesn’t mean you have to adopt a suppressed emotional stance).

Then add the mushrooms and simmer for further 20-30 minutes.

Jackie cooks this dish without a lid until the sauce looks rich enough, if necessary adding one of the thickening agents.

The final touch of the peppers may be added in the last few minutes.

‘Get Two’

This morning I began reading Voltaire’s tale, ‘Le Taureau Blanc’, which translates as ‘The White Bull’.  I doubt whether anyone of my generation can see such a title without thinking of Tommy Steele’s famous 1959 hit song ‘Lttle White Bull’ from the film ‘Tommy the Toreador’.  Rather as with Adam Faith’s ‘What do you want?’, I have been known to burst into a vernacular rendition of it. Both these period masterpieces can be heard on Youtube.
The year after Tommy burst on the scene was my last one at Wimbledon College. In ‘No-one Forgets A Good Teacher’, I signposted the possibility of featuring Bryan Snalune.Wimbledon College Volleyball squad 1960 I believe I stumbled upon a print containing his image today. He is probably on the viewer’s far right nearest the volleyball net. I think I am at the back of this court in jumper and tie. I’m amazed that so many in the picture wore ties. Bryan introduced the sport to the school, and brought in, I think Canadian, Air Force players to teach us the game. If they were American, I do apologise. He arranged a few fixtures for us. I have no idea how we fared.
This gentle giant, not much older than us, had that magic quality that demands respect whilst conveying equality as a human being. He was a lot of fun without losing his authority. I see his toothy smile and shock of fairish hair now. His subject was French, through which he guided me to A Level GCSE.
The smile mentioned above is probably indirectly responsible for my being awarded a punishment of two strokes of the ferula. The ferula was the Jesuit version of the cane.Ferula A small, flat, slipper-like object consisting of leather with whalebone inside it, this was wielded by a punishment master not connected with whatever offence of which you had been guilty. ‘Two’ – one on each hand – was what was dished out to the little boys. If you were a recidivist and rather older you could progress to ‘Twice Nine’. But you wouldn’t want to.
Bryan Snalune was a keen amateur actor. During my group’s last weeks at school he performed in a play where his character was called Goofy. Clearly the casting director had also noticed the teeth. I cannot remember why, but I was not present at the performance, yet my classmates came back with this priceless information for a budding cartoonist. It felt natural to draw Walt Disney’s Goofy on the blackboard just before the French lesson.
Unfortunately our friendly teacher was not the next one to enter the room. Instead, Fr Strachan, S.J., the deputy headmaster found some reason to make a brief visit. Glancing at the familiar character depicted on the board, he said: ‘Who did that, Knight?’. Maybe he recognised my style. Although a decent enough man, Fr Strachan was not known for his sense of humour. On that day he displayed a rather quirky one. ‘Get two’. He proclaimed.
I don’t remember the name of the executioner, but I can see him now, a little round chap in holy orders whose beady eyes glinted behind his spectacle lenses. He was a little surprised at his prescribed task when I knocked on his door and extended my arms. My outstretched palms were at a level which put my fingers in danger of picking his nose. He, and I, were both even more surprised when, at each stroke, a wailing chorus set up an anguished howl in the corridor outside. Although my hands stung rather more than somewhat, I was able to open the door to encounter the whole of my class doubled up with laughter.
Wimbledon College 2nd X 1959
The year before this, when Tommy reigned in the cinemas, Bryan had managed the second XI cricket team of which he had appointed me captain. Roger Layet stands second from the left. In the teacher post highlighted above, I told how Moses came to know my name. It was for this team that the performance that brought me to his recognition was played. Bryan Snalune was the umpire. When five wickets had fallen, all to me for not many runs, ‘Take yourself off now’, he suggested sotto voce. He was the boss, so I did. Mind you, I doubt that his intervention as a supposedly neutral officiator was legitimate.  When only two more had gone down and the game was, I thought, in need of my more direct involvement, I came back on and polished off the last three. Could that have been the day I would have taken all ten? I guess we’ll never know.
When you have determined on chilli con carne for dinner and you have run out of red kidney beans and live in the heart of the New Forest, you cannot nip round the corner for a tin. This means a drive out to stock up. And whilst you are there you might as well buy a few more things, which is what Jackie and I did. New Milton’s Lidl was the fortunate beneficiary of our custom this afternoon. En route through Downton we were not surprised to see that the The Royal Oak is closed and the business is To Let.
The above-mentioned chilli con carne was as delicious and appetising as usual. It came alongside savoury wild rice with sweetcorn and peas. Creme brûlée was to follow. Mine was accompanied by Llidl’s excellent value Bordeaux superieur 2012.
Now.  In grave danger of yielding my laurels to my lady, I am honour bound to satisfy the desire of a valued reader. There are a number of fans who find the culinary codas to these posts of prime interest. I will therefore detail the method of preparation of tonight’s repast.
Chilli con carne and riceLike all creative cooks it is useless to ask Jackie for a recipe. Each meal is a work of art in progress, planned and often prepared in advance with the variable brushstrokes applied as she goes along. However, here goes:
For enough chilli for eight servings take:
4 medium onions, 4 bird eye chillis complete with seeds, 4 large or 6 medium cloves of garlic. All finely chopped, fry in a little oil and set aside;
Simmer 1 lb of lean minced beef with a Knorr beef cube (Oxo too salty) until tender;
Combine everything with a small packet of passata, a small tin of tomato puree and 2 tins of drained red kidney beans. Adding water if needed, simmer until all flavours combine in a nice, thick, sauce.
This comes with a warning. We like it hot. Some don’t. Adjust chilli content accordingly.
This particular rice is boiled.
8-10 oz of basmati with added wild rice (can be bought mixed in supermarkets). When half-cooked add the contents of a small tin of sweeetcorn, a handful of frozen peas and 4 good shakes of Maggi liquid seasoning.
Bon appétit.