Midnight Oil


Tony - midnight DIY

Tony - midnight DIY

Poor Tony’s been burning the midnight oil this week – building a Victorian handcart to bring elegance & chic to the scoop cabinet which has been languishing in the back of what will – one day – be our future Gelato Laboratory & Dairy.
This weekend we attended our first major event of the year: the West Wales Food Festival; & had got to the point where the size of the event had outgrown the limitations of our current equipment.  The small serveover & fridges are great for small one- or two-day events; but just not viable for the larger food festivals.
So it was, that I felt it was time to make the scoop cabinet more *ahem* portable; & to decorate it appropriately.  Unfortunately we only had a couple of days in which to bring the plan to fruition – & it was darn hard work.  First we had to plan what was required, then source the necessary materials (some £200′ worth of wood, wheels, screws, paint etc); then actually do the work. 
Tony spent a solid 24 hours building the handcart (during which time I felt so horribly guilty at the magnitude of the DIY task I’d set him that I too stayed usefully employed in sympathy; working in the Dairy Complex Control Room to tackle the hefty task of programming all our goats’ details into the milking parlour’s Metatron P21 computer system – & I’m still nowhere near finished!).
As soon as the basic structure was completed we spent the next twelve hours, painting it; choosing the Lovespoon colours as a smart & appealing livery.  Unfortunately we couldn’t get a more advanced vinyl décor printed in time; so had to ‘make do’ with attaching our banner to the front.  The final touch was a lovely handcrafted wooden cartwheel which really set the whole thing off & looked extremely impressively when finally in situ at the Show. 
The (almost) finished article...!

The (almost) finished article...!

The big problem, however, was then getting the handcart out of the building & into our lovely new freezer van, ready for the show – far easier said than done!  And once we got there we had to get it off the vehicle (having mislaid our carriage ramps – goodness knows where those handy bits of kit have got to) & get it into position on site – & we discovered our ‘pitch’ was situated on the side of a hill!
But all was well, in the end; & with the first day’s weather proving unseasonably warm & sunny, trading was pleasingly brisk – in fact we almost sold out.  Considering the scoop cabinet displays eight full Napoli Pans with the understore freezer holding a further twelve, this was an unusually high turnover; I certainly hadn’t expected to have to refresh our entire stock overnight & I know our fellow traders weren’t quite so lucky. 
In fact what was especially flattering was that famous Welsh ‘foodie’ Nerys Howell was holding one of her extremely popular cookery demonstrations; & she asked to have some of our gelato as the accompaniment of choice to serve with the dessert she’d made.  Sadly I missed her demo & only caught the concluding applause; but as the capacious marquee was packed to capacity & by the way people were flooding forward for samples, I felt I’d better forego buying us a quick cuppa & head straight back to the stand. 
Just as well, that I did; as for the next couple of hours we had a solid queue weaving right the way around the corner & I was scooping like a thing possessed while Tony took the money for our wares.  We sold out of Nerys’ sample flavour of Honeycomb, almost immediately; but our other highly innovative flavours quickly disappeared as well – people clearly welcomed a change from the ‘same old, same old’ which are typically offered by producers at such shows.  Personally I like to be refreshingly adventurous & flex our professional Gelatière muscles with extraordinary & delicious treats.
However after such a highly successful & lucrative first day, the Festival was blighted by appalling weather on the second; gritting our teeth in the face of the storm’s freezing wind & rain Tony spent half the day hanging onto the marquee to prevent it from taking off, whilst we munched warm Welsh cakes supplied by our stallholding neighbours from Popty Bach Y Wlad.
Nevertheless despite the inhospitable second-day temperatures we did pretty well; selling out of the ever-popular but unusual Dragonfire (dark chocolate laced with the smoky, sultry fire of ancho & chipotle chillies); Chocolate & Ginger (another heartwarming favourite); & our delicious Apple & Cinnamon Crumble, with our own orchard apples poached gently with cinnamon & brown sugar & scattered with crunchy layers of crumble, crafted especially for stormy days such as this.
But it wasn’t an entire washout as we still received plenty of trade enquiries & had certainly proved a hit with hundreds of highly satisfied new customers; not to mention being delighted to chat to many now increasingly-familiar faces who are proving fiercely loyal customers – many of whom are almost evangelical when spreading the good ‘Lovespoon‘ word – we thank you all!
What did make us genuinely unhappy, however – Tony in particular – was the fact that the popular Welsh TV programme ‘Ffermio‘ was broadcasting from the Festival; & whilst the traders to the left & right of us were interviewed, we were not – purely because our grasp of the Welsh language is not considered “good enough”.  
I’m a second-year Welsh student; & whilst far from fluent I can at least ‘have a go’.  Despite my exhausting working hours I nevertheless feel it is hugely important to integrate with the local community of which I am a part by becoming fluent in the first language; & hope one day to converse as comfortably in Welsh, as I can in English.  Meanwhile Tony was of course himself born & bred in South Wales; & was extremely shocked & hurt to apparently be deliberately overlooked in this way. 
In fact having both been Equal Opportunities Trainers whilst in the RAF we felt that on this occasion we were actually directly discriminated against – after all, S4C has interviewed English speakers in the past (especially for things like trotting races – where many of the jockeys don’t speak a word of Welsh!).  Tony was crushed to feel he’d been racially abused in his own nation; & I felt deeply disappointed that we’ve worked so hard to produce a Welsh product for the people of Wales, only to be overlooked as apparently worthless just because we don’t happen to speak the language fluently as yet. 
It’s ironic & poignant that our Welsh neighbours have been so welcoming, & genuinely appreciate our efforts; whereas even though we’re trying so hard we are being snubbed & made to feel we don’t quite ‘fit in’ by those we ourselves support through our work.  
Ironically I know of another company who more recently found themselves in a similar situation; we were chuckling about it together, the other day.  They were showcased on the programme a few weeks ago but said company’s ‘power behind the throne’ – the General Manager – was not actually interviewed; as he too doesn’t speak Welsh.  And yet he’s tirelessly contributing a tremendous amount to the economy of the county in which he lives & works.  Surely that should count for so much more, than a few words in the presenters’ native tongue…?!
Ah well.  In the end you could catch sight of us in several shots of the programme – however as the ‘Ffermio‘ website archive apparently hasn’t been updated in quite a while unfortunately I can’t direct you there to see how great we looked (shame I didn’t take my camera with me!).
And if the makers of the above programme happen to catch sight of this I’d welcome their comments; as the emails I’ve sent have thus far, sadly, been apparently ignored….

About LittleFfarm Dairy

The LittleFfarm Dairy Team: Jo - Goat farmer & Gelatiere Artigianale, plus General Dogsbody; Tony - Airline Pilot & part-time Herd Manager, Product Taster, Accounts Secretary, Handyman etc!
This entry was posted in Dairy, Diary, Festivals, Food, Ice Cream, Life, Local Area, May 2009, Wales. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Midnight Oil

  1. Norman Knight says:

    I was so upset to read of the way you were ignored by the “Media”

    I am sure that your local neighbours would have been appalled at this so obvious discrimination by S4C.

    Is there anyway that those of us who would like to make a complaint to S4C can do so. I would like some guidance on this if possible?

    I have only just picked up this blog today.

    Surely it is not to late to let them know of our feelings.d

    • LittleFfarm Dairy says:

      “Hi Dad –

      sorry you’ve only just picked up on this, but there is a reason it’s only recently appeared: my tardiness! As we’re coming up to ‘peak season’ (well we will if this miserable weather improves!) I’ve been so desperately busy; & have only had the odd five minutes to dust off & brush up some posts I’d archived in ‘cold storage’ but which I felt deserved to be recorded.

      In fact you’ll find there’s another couple just behind this one – ‘Musical Goats’ & ‘Chariots of Ice’ (the latter, showing off Lovespoon’s posh new wheels; & the former, worth a look for the singing caprine…! 😉

      Thanks for your concern reference what was at the time quite a hurtful experience (& I suppose, still is actually!). Whilst at the Festival it appeared that because we were conversing in English we were at no time approached nor even asked whether we actually CAN speak Welsh…! Although ironically a member of the film crew did come up to me & enthused about having our ‘Christmas Pudding’ gelato on Christmas Day as everyone was too full for a stodgy pud – & how wonderful it was – so I’d hoped we were in with a chance of being interviewed.

      We did wonder whether we were overlooked owing to the fact that we make ‘just’ ice cream? That would be such a shame; as of course for a start it isn’t actually ice cream – it’s gelato; & there are important & significant differences between the two. We have put heart & soul into this enterprise & have achieved a finely-honed juxtaposition twixt art & technical skill; with Tony an expert at balancing even the most challenging recipe I can throw at him; whilst I have an extensive knowledge of a wide range of natural ingredients: the best varieties of fruits, herbs, & spices etc; where, & how, they are grown; their optimum seasonality & ripeness; & how to prepare & use them to elicit the very finest flavour. And of course it extends to our care of the goats; how, when & what they are fed; how the milk is managed etc etc – there’s a great deal to crafting true quality!

      So I often think it’s a shame when our knowledge & skills are dismissed as somehow ‘second class’ when we have at least as much expertise regarding our produce as, say, an artisan cheesemaker or baker would have in theirs (& I am, in addition incidentally, a fully-qualified artisan cheesemaker so I know what I’m talking about!).

      However watching the finished ‘Ffermio’ broadcast we observed that only the native, fluent Welsh-speaking food producers were interviewed; the camera drifted over shots of other produce occasionally but no English speakers were asked to comment. And inevitably, the people who get interviewed for programmes such as this appear time after time; whereas the more unusual or innovative producers in the marketplace are overlooked.

      This certainly seems to me to be a form of direct discrimination, albeit mild; as there are so many talented & passionate local food producers & farmers out there who live & work in Wales – some of them, for their entire lives – but just because they come from a non-Welsh-speaking background appear to be ignored in favour of the ‘same olds’.

      Incidentally if a prominent public figure or important Government Minister happens to do an official opening or supports some scheme then S4C might condescend to interview those concerned in English (although again if said public figure/minister speaks Welsh they’ll get the limelight).

      Whilst S4C does not have an ‘official’ Welsh language policy it actively encourages those contracted to promote the use of Welsh in business – something I do find laudable & one of the very reasons I am also working so hard to learn. The channel broadcasts over 80 hours of Welsh language programmes per week; & provides an excellent interactive learning facility.
      The ‘Ffermio’ programme itself is obviously aimed primarily at the farming community (to which we belong!) & purports to offer “portraits of countryside characters of all ages & backgrounds” (quoted from the programme’s website). However it clearly does not; or perhaps it should add the caveat “so long as they’re fluent Welsh speakers”!!

      Personally I always watch, every week; it is very informative & helpful, particularly with matters relating to the Welsh branch of DEFRA (whose policies differ slightly to those over the Lloegyr border). In addition it does assist me with my Welsh language skills; as I am able to pick up words more specifically related to the farming & business communities of which we are a part.

      So of course, I’m not suggesting for a moment, that the whole thing should be broadcast in English – far from it – but just that those who are making an effort in their local communities, & who are striving to do their very best to promote this glorious land of Cymru, should be encouraged & assisted in every way possible rather than studiously ignored or obstructed. I’m sure that the occasional smattering of English when visiting festivals & shows wouldn’t hurt (God forbid if anyone speaking only English takes any of the top prizes in the livestock classes at the Royal Welsh!) – as surely everyone deserves the equal opportunity to be showcased for all their hard work & dedication in helping to put Wales on the map…..?

      Meanwhile we are researching an appropriate line to make a complaint; however I suspect it won’t come to anything, alas. Meanwhile I’ll plough on with my lessons & study – you never know, one of these days I might become so fluent that the entire Blog will be penned in Welsh….! 🙂 “

  2. Ah yes, the age old problem of the Welsh language, which is used time and time again as a measure to gauge how “Welsh” you are. Speak it, you’re in. Speak English, you’re out. I totally understand why this came about (indeed, the Welsh language only survived because of the refusal to let it die when commanded to do so by their English “masters”) but too often, it swings the other way and that attitude does more harm than good.

  3. Huh, I thought that kind of shunning only took place in small towns! How odd (and infuriating!).

  4. And anyway, they didn’t get the award now did they! You wait, pretty soon they will be heralding your efforts and successes as they watch you become more and more successful with each passing year. It will happen of that I am certain.

  5. LittleFfarm Dairy says:

    Well, here we go again, folks:

    I received a ‘phone call from a company working on behalf of S4C & covering the Royal Welsh Show, which is next week (doesn’t time fly?!).

    Apparently they want someone to talk about the Dairy Goats at the Show.

    “We gather your husband comes from Wales. Does he speak Welsh?” I was asked.

    “No, he doesn’t; & he is not going to the Show as he is working. I’m learning Welsh myself; but I only speak a little at present” (this I said IN Welsh). “Not enough to do an interview about goats, anyway”.

    (The latter comment, in English – & yes; I HAD felt annoyed that the caller had automatically assumed that because I’m from England originally, I don’t speak any Welsh; & that because Tony’s from Wales originally, he obviously does!).

    “Oh, that’s a shame – do you know anybody with Dairy Goats who DOES speak Welsh, then?”

    I thought about it for a moment – hard.

    “No; I can honestly say, that I don’t”, I answered truthfully. “I could do an interview for you in English, if it would help?”

    “Oh, well; never mind – sorry to have troubled you.” The caller was evidently about to replace the receiver.

    Feeling somewhat annoyed by now I said,

    “Look, the luxury ice cream we craft with the milk from our pedigree herd of Dairy Goats, has just won a major UK award – aren’t you people interested? And at a recent show the food producers to the left & right of us were interviewed – having already been interviewed before, many times – but we were ignored; just because we were speaking to one another in English.

    We make a quintessentially Welsh product using local ingredients & supporting the local economy, for the people of Wales; however because our faces don’t quite fit we never get the PR support from you guys that we surely deserve; & that the Welsh speakers always do.

    Now as you pointed out, Tony himself IS Welsh; & he feels disappointed & hurt that he is being effectively discriminated against, in & by his own country – despite the fact that we’ve worked so hard & proved so successful in only our first year of trading. Now please, can you explain, why?”

    “Oh, erm – well; we might be able to fit you in for a brief interview, in English, then; we do that sometimes….will you be going to the Show, yourself?”

    “Ydw. Dw’in mynd i’r Sioe.” I replied ascerbically.

    Yes I will be there; however to be honest I’m not going to hold my breath & expect to be summoned for our ‘five minutes of fame’…..

    We’ll see.

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