Friday, 14 February 2014

Bromance and Kalashnikov (unedited) - South Shropshire Journal 14/2/14

If music be the food of love, play on; but if you’ve forgotten that it’s St Valentine’s Day today, then you’d better hope that your significant other has forgotten too. If not, I suggest you run for the hills.

I’ve only ever once gone out for dinner on Valentine’s Day and I remember it only hazily. Circa 2002, my mate Woolface (not his actual name, but near enough) and I had – I think- been both recently dumped, so we took ourselves to L’Oasis on Mile End Road in east London. We shared some cheesy nachos, had a couple of pints, one thing led to another and we ended up in a pub in Whitechapel. We chatted with a bloke called Larry who drove cars for the Krays, I presented Woolface with a red rose and a Kalashnikov that I bought from a Bulgarian fellow who I met in the gents. Cracking night. Best Valentine’s ever.

You know what? If you really want to show someone that you love them, don’t take them out for dinner. Sitting in a restaurant with a bunch of other people who can’t be arsed to cook is hardly romantic. The loving starts at home. If you don’t often cook, tonight is the night to have a go. If you do, then this is your moment to pull out all the gastronomic big guns. Whatever your ability in the kitchen, if you really apply yourself, then cooking a meal for the person you love is the greatest gift of all.

Failing that, get fish and chips and a really expensive bottle of Champagne (always Pol Roger for me darling) and enjoy it together in the bath.

This is why this column is not titled ‘ Henry Mackley on Romance’.

I love my wife more than anything, but I’d adore her even more had she not emailed me a link to the Daily Mail Online. “This might be useful for your column” she wrote. I find it hard to describe in permissible legal terms how much I hate myself whenever I have the misfortune to click on the DMO. A large part of me dies each time. But click we must (line of duty and all), and this time it was a piece about 2014’s food ‘fads’.

Thankfully I’ve almost run out of room, but apparently this year we’re going to be going doolally for deep fried fish spines and cold-pressed virgin coconut oil. We’ll see. I grew weary of this list very quickly and was thankful when I noticed a link to “Kelly Brook can’t wait to make a splash as she strips off to cool down in the Caribbean Sea”. So, click we must.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Harp Lane, and the Perils of Beard Ownership (unedited) - The South Shropshire Journal 7/2/14

Last week was a good one: we bought a shop. A higgledy-piggledy old shop that faces out, as she has done for hundreds of years, over Ludlow’s Castle Square. She sits proud and fast like a little ship in between Church Street and Harp Lane. We have called her Harp Lane, after Harp Lane. Now Harp Lane (the lane, not the shop), is narrow and forgotten and years ago I imagine it would have flown freely with Medieval filth. Robert the greengrocer who has a shop next to Harp Lane (the shop, not the lane), parks his van there by day, by night drunken couples kiss down the lane, and I suspect the odd ghost or two lurk, and that’s about it. It’s such a tiny little lane that it doesn’t even have a sign, so we felt sorry for it, and thus our shop was named.

Our shop until last week was the Deli on the Square, and thirteen years before that the Ludlow Larder, and in a few months time Harp Lane will be a delicatessen again, but our delicatessen. We hope to have a few tables upstairs too for lunching, and one or two out the front for watching the world go by. I can’t tell you how excited I am about becoming a shopkeeper, a shop owner indeed, in the most beautiful part of the most beautiful town in the whole of England. But I’m nervous too, because in Ludlow if you run a business that does food, people are watching you like hawks. And rightly so: I’ve got to make Harp Lane the best little deli that ever there was.

In this county there are so many wonderful little shops selling food and drink, so it’s tough competition, in a tough marketplace. My two favourite delis in Shropshire (apart from my own one that doesn’t really exist yet anyway) are Appleyards in Shrewsbury and Van Doesburg’s in Church Stretton. If the proprietors of either of these places spot me snooping around any time soon, they’d be well advised to boot me out. I will be nicking their ideas, shamelessly. 

So far so good though and the reaction from my fellow townsfolk has been overwhelmingly positive for the new boy. Quite a relief, and I’m truly thankful. So now I shall stop harping on about Harp Lane, because you probably don’t need to read much more about an empty shop.

As well as buying a shop, I’ve grown a beard, but I don’t think it’ll stay. Have you ever grown a beard and drunk a cappuccino, especially one with chocolate sprinkles on top? Utter carnage. Sausage rolls too. Flaky pastry sticks to a beard like the proverbial to a blanket. My column is nothing if not a mine of useless information.