Tuesday 26 March 2024

Windmills and horseradish

 Mud, windmills, marshes, pubs to die for, Adnams beer. Yes, we have now left Scotland after our 4 month stint and exchanged it for a couple of days on the north Norfolk coast, visiting friends. Although only a few days on the road so far, we have had a night near Edinburgh and then one in Settle in North Yorkshire, both highly enjoyable, despite the fact it has barely stopped raining. This morning a very long walk with not just Haggis, but Rufus and Seth, our friend’s two border terrorists has left them all worn out and me with stiffness in places I didn’t know I had. Tonight we dine. The very reason we are in this neck of the woods was to visit Big Wee Eck, a Ryeland ram we sold a couple of years ago who resides nearby, but unfortunately his new owner has gone on holiday, which means we will have to come back another day and an excuse for yet more Adnams beer. Meanwhile our own few Ryeland ewes are due to drop any minute, back up there in Scotland under the watchful eye of Robert, our good friend and professional shepherd. By this time next week we will be back in our house in France, after more stopovers to see Louis, my grandson, and a few other friends en route.

On our international return home we usually stop in and buy a few bits and pieces, generally things that we can’t get in France and this time it included a trip to the Pro-cook shop in Gretna, as I wanted some more kitchen knives. Except I am no longer allowed to hold a knife to check how it feels – those of you that like to cook will know how important this is – because I might endanger someone. Seriously, all the sharp knives were enclosed behind Perspex. The scowling lady did pick one out for me which I could view from a few paces away, but not touch. Is this the internet nation we have become, where we buy things online without touch? Or is it yet more health and safety bullsh*t to save us from ourselves. I politely told the lady where she could put her knife but, seemingly, this was me now threatening her with violence. Thankfully I scarpered before the rozzers arrived with the handcuffs. Having spent thousands with that company over the last decade, I am now boycotting them and hence the name and shame! Where will all this nonsense end. Je despair.

I have to say I am not a fan of these outlet village places. The one in Gretna has dozens of high end ‘label’ stores mainly selling clothes at reduced high street prices and whenever we go there it is always totally mobbed. What is it with folks and fashion? A shirt is a shirt, surely? Because it has a Ralph Loren or Hugo Boss motif on it doesn’t make it any better. In fact I am pretty sure all these clothes are made in the same sweat shops in Thailand by people who earn sixpence an hour. And - this being my own opinion - many of the oddly shaped folks shuffling around the shops in their ill-fitting jogging bottoms at this place, don’t earn a lot more themselves. But, oh yes, stick another 500 quid on the credit card and buy a t-shirt with a polo-player logo inked onto it and, hey presto, they are in the millionaire set. Is it any wonder the economy is in such a mess?

Moving on, our next shop was the highly recommended Aldi to get some of their delightful beef. Admittedly the shop is full of similar people to above, buying cheap chocolate chips for their overweight children but, not a lot of people realise this, the steaks from this supermarket are second to none, sensitively sourced and a fraction of the price of our local village butcher. 21 days aged Scottish Angus ribeye for under a fiver each, I’ll take a dozen, please. They are also a hundred times better that the chewy horrid stuff on offer in France. Except here we also have a problem as, since Brexit, under EEC law we are no longer allowed to take meat into France in case it contaminates their own. This is despite the fact that UK has the highest hygiene status in the world when it comes to food production. Well if Mister Customs man pulls us over to confiscate it at the border, we will just hold a great big BBQ and cook the stuff on the spot. Horseradish anyone?

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