We had a typically early start, this morning;
& I set to making a hearty breakfast of our own bacon, sausage & eggs whilst Tony started on the chores. However, I’d scarce started tackling the washing up from last night’s supper, when he came hurrying anxiously back into the house with distressing news: our dear Barnevelder cockerel, Hercules, had finally been forced to give up the ghost.
A magnificent old bird sporting glossy, dark plumage & a ‘cock-a-hoop’ swagger, he’d already been getting on in years when he joined us to replace our original Rhode Island chap, Captain Mainwaring; of late however, Herc’s old bones had evidently been feeling the cold’s relentless pinch. Sadly, I’d noticed he had not been quite his usual self, sneezing loudly & off his corn a bit; as well as not chasing the ladies with quite his usual enthusiastic vigour. So it would seem that the chill evidently got to him, poor old chap; I had hoped his robust character would weather the storm with his typical charisma but I suppose it comes to us all, eventually.
The girls were somewhat nonplussed & huddled together all day rather than ranging the yards & fields with their characterisitc gossip, clearly at a loss without His Lordship to escort them to the choicest food or the cloudiest, most vigorous dust baths. It really has made this a sorrowfully sad day, for us all.
Being a Friday, I forced myself to complete the weekly excursion into the local market town: today, for some stamps for any Christmas cards we’ll be sending further afield, along with the miscellaneous veggies we can’t provide for ourselves. However by the time I got there, the open-air market was all but cleaned out; being the week before Christmas, I suppose the more determined shoppers had evidently made an early start & pipped me to the post for their fresh produce!
Thankfully, the majority of household shoppers in the area eschew the supermarket giants; preferring to patronise local grocers, bakers & butchers: not only does everyone bitterly comprehend how convenience allows the ‘big boys’ to effectively leach the heart & soul from traditional town centres, they over & above appreciate the opportunity to enjoy fresher, local produce & the indiviually attentive service offered by provincial purveyors – hence everyone (except the thwarted retail chains) benefits!
Incidentally we have been warned that there will be a national sprout shortage this year – I suspect children everywhere will be secretly rejoicing when their Christmas Dinner plate is bereft of said vegetable!
Personally, rather than drowning our sprouts in a soggy deluge of water & cooking those sad bonsai brassica for many hours, I’ll be dipping them in boiling, salted water until they’re just tender. So what makes the difference? Well, I’ll lightly fry some home-grown shallots along with our own pungent garlic; married to some home-produced, traditonally-cured bacon coupled with cooked, peeled local chestnuts tossed in a little salted Welsh butter, stirred occasionally until the bacon is nicely crisp. The whole is then scattered over the sprouts, followed by a dash of olive oil & sharpened with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Next, quickly toss the resultant concoction in a skillet until it’s warmed through, & you have the most succulent sprouts you could wish for, to accompany your individual choice of Christmas fayre. Yummy!
Back home, I discovered an agitated & very upset, poor Tony; as all the seasonal presents he’d selected & ordered for me (& indeed, still some of my birthday presents, apparently) had not yet arrived; therefore he accompanied me into Carmarthen to pick up the last few tempting morsels for our Christmas celebrations, hoping to be able to rustle up an ‘interim’ present for me; although I assured him he really would & shoud not worry as to be together at New Year will be more than pleasurable gift enough.
As predicted, despite being a weekday & with a little subtle, sensible soothsaying on my part judging by the morning’s earlier frenetic activity, it was complete mayhem in our local town; accordingly bemused & bewildered, we wondered just what the next few days will be like?!
Apparently the local Tesco supermarket expects to turn over in excess of £3m this week alone; it just goes to show the monopoly these grotesque giants have; & why small producers simply don’t stand a chance of survival against such overwhelming purchasing power. For us, on the very tip of the commercial iceberg, it really is very depressing.
Back in the sanctuary of our snug cottage, we spent a relatively relaxing evening hastily completing the evening farm chores, unpacking the myriad snow of shopping bags & – by far the most exciting prospect – booking flights & hire cars for our impending trip to Bologna, where we will learn from the experts how to make professional artisan gelato at a specialist Italian University. Thanks to my unstintingly generous & unfailingy supportive Mum & Dad, this will be a truly unexpected pleasure to really look forward to – life really does begin at 40, after all!