Posts Tagged ‘Whitby’

Whitby-Peterborough-Rotterdam-Bruxelles-Sydney.

April 10, 2015

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The stay in London’s Shepherd’s Bush was during the time Holland won a World soccer cup or European soccer cup. Sport is not my forte, apart from a short stint of basket- ball playing, I generally have always ran away if a ball of any shape threatens to roll towards me. Of course at my age now, balls have given up all hope and never roll towards me anymore.

My Australian friend was really English and he suggested I could spend some time with his mum. His dad had died a few years earlier. Her name was Maureen and was living in Yorkshire’s Whitby and had worked as a Magistrate dealing with difficult English youth. The English seem to specialise in rearing difficult children. Already then, whenever a soccer match was being played on the Euro continent, the police forces were marshalled in by the thousands and lists of banned English fans were already in the making.

After a farewell to Lord and daily English bread pudding we took a train and after introduction to my friend’s mum settled in at a spare room at Maureen’s charming cottage at Whitby. She was a very chatty and jovial person and she drove me many times to places of interest. It included the beautiful East coast up and down from Whitby and of course we had ‘real smoked’ kippers for breakfast while viewing Whitby Abbey during lunch.

Whitby or Robin Hood Bay?

Whitby or Robin Hood Bay?

A few years before Maureen’s husband had died he had left her to live with a French women. According to Maureen they met while enjoying a week’s  stay in a Yorkshire -Dale bed and breakfast high up one of those breathtakingly beautiful hill tops that the area was so famous for. I had already heard this sad story of her husband’s philandering way with a ‘French woman’ from her son. He was less accommodating and reckons his dad had the happiest few years of his all too soon end of  life. ‘My mother nagged him to death’ was the rather merciless opinion about his mother. Even so, I was given the opposite story from Maureen.

During their stay in that B&B the father met this French lady who was asking for directions. Maureen told me that soon after many bottles of French wine were bought by her husband who, according to Maureen was much more of a beer drinker. I heard that a much clearer sign of husbands’ infidelities are the mysterious appearances of brand new underpants. No new underpants in Whitby though! She did not think much about it till out of the blue, he just left her to live in France with the French woman, leaving the French wine in her cellar next to her car.

She was still totally overwrought with this as we sat around for the few evenings I was there, she asked me if I minded drinking the French wine that her ex-husband had bought at the beginning of the ‘affaire’. “I can’t stand the sight of those French wine bottles” she added ever so sadly. It was amazing that her husband had so abruptly left his wife and mother of children on a whim, just like that! As we kept up the French wine drinking, she kept repeating her surprise and anger interspersed with much love and devotion for her husband still lingering after the passing years and his early death, in the words flooding out with tears of unrelenting bitterness and so much regret;  a conjuring act between much love lost and hatred fanned. Are they really that close?

A bay somewhere on the East Coast of Yorkshire.

A bay somewhere on the East Coast of Yorkshire.

After a few days with Maureen, listening to woes of a lost marriage while drinking her ex-husband’s, ( deceased and buried) French wine I ended up cooking her a nice tuna pasta before saying goodbye, and caught a train to York. After wandering and some sight-seeing I suffered terrifying pangs of being on my own, decided to return to Holland and Helvi and caught a train to Peterborough, booked a bus-ferry-train to Rotterdam-Nijverdal and stayed there with my mum as well. So that’s two mums within a bit more than a week.

The whole trip away from Helvi all took place with just a bit over three to four weeks. Before going home to Helvi and family, I travelled by train to Brussels of which the reason why, I have forgotten. It was a wonderful visit and as someone pointed out afterwards, the world’s best restaurants are found there. My money was short so I  used to walk around the streets of cafes and restaurants and just tried the fare for free, offered by the waiters standing outside the restaurants for passers- by to try out. I tried not to overdo this in case they started to recognize me (the third time around) as some kind of free- loader if not a vagabond. I especially liked the way some expert cook  had done the mussels on toast.

Brussels restaurants

Brussels restaurants

From there back to Sydney and my Helvi. On return she reckoned the state of my underwear was ‘scandalous!’

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Of Sardines between St Petersburg and UK’s Whitby

April 8, 2015
The Hermitage

The Hermitage

The week in St Petersburg was somewhat marred by a bout of intestinal hurry I suffered within minutes of entering The Hermitage Museum.  The origin  of this was perplexing as the night before we had enjoyed a terrific meal of genuine Russian fare. The borscht was part of it together with potato dumplings drowned in a rich sauce of red wine with lots of bay leaves, sage and pepper. As a side dish we had piroshkies.

Our dinner was very interesting in that, apart from the delicious food, it included a large Russian wedding party which intermittently  in between eating and imbibing copious Vodka would repeatedly shout gorko, gorko which actually means ‘bitter, bitter’ but bitter would only cease if the groom and bride would get up an make bitter sweet in a long-time kiss and more kiss. This would happen every ten minutes or so. The noise was terrific and soon the bitter vodka was made sweet. The bride looked lovely and very happy.

But back to this annoying intestinal hurry the day after and inside The Hermitage.. After asking for toilet directions they kept pointing towards the distance. Anyone who has been inside the Hermitage would know it takes about a week to walk from beginning to end. I did not have that much time so I started running through gilded room through gilded room. I lost care and interest. Monets, Manets, Gauguins were rushed past. Things were percolating madly to unbearable levels. I was in great panic. I remember the sad look on  Rembrandt’s The return of The Prodigal Son, the father’s eyes following me as I ran past. The moments of such great importance now  in total avoidance and ignorance of the world’s greatest art. Can you believe it?

Whitby? Captain Cook's cottage

Whitby? Captain Cook’s cottage

Final, triumph…the toilet is in sight. It was as huge as the rest of this museum.  The reader would know that Russian communism at that time was in flux but had as yet not changed with holding on to having full employment. A large seated lady overseeing the comings and goings in this huge toilet was part of this full employment. Ladies seated on chairs were everywhere in Russian society. The toilet I was in did not have a door or perhaps not a functioning door. I don’t know or remember if all the toilet cubicles were like that but mine was not door inclusive. I could not care less, I was so happy. Afterwards I calmly sauntered back and took some time to atone to The Prodigal Son  for my strange hurried behaviour, all was forgiven. The Monet’s looked so peaceful now too.

All good things come to past as so did my Russian trip. The time for departure to London had come. We all said goodbye and I made my way to the airport to fly back to Moscow and from there connect with a flight to London. Alas, the flight was delayed. Aeroflot was apologetic but made good with a ravishing lunch dish of freshly grilled sardines and salad. Butterflied sardines deeply grilled are my favourite. Soon after the sardines we took off and within an hour or so landed at Moscow. The connecting flight to London again was not forthcoming. I suppose with Russia in political flux or even without flux, patience gets rewarded. Soon a lunch was provided for the traveller. I was somewhat surprised to again be given the grilled sardines. They weren’t the last ones!

When we were finally put on board to London and dinner arrived soon. I had already enjoyed a couple of very fine Georgian white wines. As the food trolley slowly made its way towards my seat a familiar waft came towards me. You guess right, sardines again. I could only surmise a rich Russian oligarch  had gone long on the sardine option market and was forced to take the stock of a hundreds of tonnes of sardines at a loss. This loss was now shared by putting the whole of Russia on sardines including passengers on Aeroflot.

I arrived at Heathrow’s airport and was met by an Australian friend who took me to a house of a Lord and book-publisher at Shepherd Bush. Life can be very strange, even stranger than fiction. Who could imagine I would sleep in an English Lord’s house being full of sardines?

Robyn Hood Bay.

Robyn Hood Bay.

Rhubarb; a Crumble or Pudding?

January 11, 2014


Excitement is mounting in this Bowral household. The rhubarb is on the ‘cusp’ of turning into a ‘crumble’. We have had the debate about what the differences are between the delights of puddings and cakes. There is now a new girl on the block; the ‘crumble’. (The word ‘cusp’ seems to have sprung up suddenly and conquered the world within days. In 2012 it was all the rage with ‘new paradigm’. Everyone all of a sudden wanted to ‘find’ their ‘new paradigm’. I lost mine in George Street, Sydney. No one has found it even though it had my name scribbled on it with Mob phone nr.)

Apropos pudding, cake, and now crumble, the debate still rages around the world from Gibraltar to NY city, Mexico to Sydney what the differences are. It is now generally conceded, even acknowledged, that one is steamed or boiled while the other is baked. A Christmas pudding is steamed or boiled in a cloth like other puddings. What about Yorkshire pudding? (steamed in a cloth 😉 ) There is black pudding in a net or cloth, and in the case of G getting an invitation years ago in Whitby to go ‘out for pudding’ this meant a cup of tea with a muffin in a sea-side Tea establishment. Kippers at Whitby was something totally different, it was neither. For a Europhile it remains all a bit like cricket, very esoteric.

The stalks of the rhubarb in our garden are still green. Helvi reckons not all rhubarb turns red. Last year it was green too. I then made a delicious crumble with apple, some muesli and lots of butter. The apples were the green ones, very tart but snappily juicy. The addition of cinnamon and a couple of cloves did add some spice although H reckoned the cloves were a bit over the top.

Anyway, the word crumble must indicate the looseness of it all. It crumbles. I am sure no-one could call it a pudding or cake. I have seen it being called a pie. I don’t know. I suppose there are meat pies, apple pies, pumpkin pies, mince pies, why not rhubarb pie?

Yes, I googled rhubarb and the stalks can be green, green fading into pink or bright red. It is a fact of varieties and not of age or soil. Anyway, all stalks turn green when cooked. What a revelation!

untitledrhubarb crumble

I am struggling trying to make this tale amusing but I am not sure if rhubarb lends itself to humour as in lost socks or the profoundness of Pierre Cardin’s lost pyjamas, the pathos of a little boy’s lost train ticket.

Last night we had dinner at the local Royal Hotel. My favourite was on the blackboard ‘fresh pepper calamari’ with H’s choice being the ‘flat-head fish fillets and stringy chips’. A bottle of fine white ‘The Royal Chenin blanc’ in an ice bucket made it to our table as well.

Both meals were honest without pretence or concerns if they were puddings or cakes. I now will look at my rhubarb cooking results tomorrow and will call it either a cake or a crumble depending on its consistency. A cake, if it stays together, or crumble, if it crumbles. However, if it is all runny I leave the option open to call it a ‘slushy’
The RHUBARB SLUSHY.
It will take the world by storm. Phew…I made it!

Of smoked Kippers and going for Pudding

September 3, 2013

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Of smoked Kippers and going for Pudding,

Years back I spend some time in the UK. It was the year when the Dutch won the World soccer Cup or was it the Euro Cup? I was staying in London’s Sheppard Bush not far from the station. I took the train to the City several times. My fellow travellers were not the most boisterous and generally an icy silence prevailed. Life seemed grim or perhaps my fellow travellers were worried about losing their ‘privacy status’, a much beloved characteristic of so many that are brought up fearing what we might think of each other if we give in to spontaneity and exuberance.

During that stay, I took the train North-East to Yorkshire and stayed in Whitby with a very hospitable and jovial friend whom we had met earlier in Australia. She was a retired magistrate whose professional life in the past dealt with many cases of juvenile offenders steeped in petty crime. Petty crime was rampant at the time and she feared the worst for the future of England. Perhaps that was the reason for the silence on trains. Before going to Whitby I was told it was the only place in the world where kippers were still being smoked naturally. The first thing after arriving at Whitby I visited the kipper smoking factory. It coincided with a group of excitable Japanese tourists doing the same thing. They were taking close-up shots of each other holding up smoked kippers against the backdrop of the ruin of Whitby Abbey.

Smoke was embedded into me at birth. It was the first thing that greeted my tiny nostrils after my mother pushed me out. August 1940; Rotterdam was still smouldering but through sheer luck our street was spared from the nasty bombing raids. Over seventy years later, I am still here waxing about smoked kippers at Whitby. Life can be so wonderful.

It was some years after that auspicious but smoky birth that my parents introduced us kids to the hearty and nourishing delights of huge portions of pea soup with smoked sausage (rookworst). If ever I remember childhood foods it would have to be that dish. It was a simple dish. Mum would soak the peas overnight and boil them up with a couple of potatoes the next day. The smoked sausage, still steaming from having been brought to the boil, would triumphantly be put on the table by father; almost Moses like as if bringing us the Ten Commandments from a thunderous Mount Sinai. He would then ceremoniously cut the sausage in many portions and dear mum would make sure we all got an equal number of Rookworst pieces on our soup plates with the thick slurry of pea-soup ladled over it, drowning out the sausage pieces.

I distinctly remember the fart fests that all the boys, three or four of them, would engage in afterwards. I suppose the bedroom was the birthplace and possibly one of the first smoking facilities, now being rekindled in Whitby by my obstinate memories so many decades later.

Back now at Whitby kippers factory we bought a couple of kippers and I offered to make a pasta dish from them. After arriving back at my friend’s place I cut a brown onion, fried it up and added the fleshy kippers together with a bit of oil, some chili powder and pinch of sugar. Boiled the pasta, added the kipper sauce and bingo, a beautiful dish. She offered afterwards to take me out for ‘pudding’. Taking and going somewhere for ‘pudding’ in Yorkshire really means a visit to a café for a nice cup-o-tea and a piece of cake. It was lovely.

I remember it well.