Friday, December 30, 2011

Charteris final wine tasting

London, England. Thursday 20-October-2011

I have been going to the Charteris Wine Society tastings since 2005. Always interesting and entertaining and now sadly no more. It is (was) a work based wine group and as people retired or left the company it has been harder and harder for the organisers to keep the tempo up. So the mission for the final speaker was to blow the budget and dispose of all the surplus funds built over the last couple of decades.


The presenter was Robin Lane ( and his brief was "personal favourites" which, given that he has over 30 years experience in the wine trade, has got to be interesting.

Jeremy Labram introducing Robin Lane...

... and this is what he came up with:
  • Menetou Salon Blanc Jean Teiller 2010
  • Pouilly Fuisse Domaine Daniel Barraud 2008
  • Bourgogne Rouge Cuvee d'Antigny (Avery Bottled) 1976
  • Lar de Paula, Rioja, ViƱedos Viejos, 2005
  • Hermitage Alain Graillot 2007
  • Chateau Haut Batailly 1996
  • Franz K Smit 2005
  • Quarts de Chaume Chateau de Pierre Bise 2009
My favourite of the evening was the Franz K Smit 2005.


Mary was not able to make it so our old friend Bron stepped in at the last moment - what a trooper!

Carolyn and Bron

What makes a good wine tasting is not just the wines but the back story that goes with each of them; that we got from Robin. A fine farewell tasting.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

South Africa, October 2011 - Cape Town V & A Waterfront

Cape Town, South Africa. Saturday 29-October-2011.

The first day we spent exploring the V & A Waterfront - indeed our apartment was chosen for its close proximity to all the sights and restaurants therein.

V & A Waterfront - wheel 1
The Wheel of Excellence

A slightly smaller and faster whirling version than the London Eye but you do get four turns of the wheel instead of one. Good views and a nice greenhouse effect in the gondola on a cool day.

V & A Waterfront - wheel 2
Mary looking relaxed

They were re-painting the clock tower over a couple of days so we got a view of some unique patchwork effects as they did primer and undercoat - this is the final colour scheme.

V & A Waterfront - clock tower repainting

At one point being footsore and in need of refreshment we stumbled across a German style bier garten complete with oompah band. Somewhat incongruous but welcome and entertaining all the same.

V & A Waterfront - bier garten

Suitably refreshed it was back to the apartment to get ready for the evening.

Friday, December 09, 2011

South Africa, October 2011 - Wedding Licence

Talking of wedding anniversaries, Mary and I were married in *the* St Paul's cathedral. Mary would have preferred low-key registry do and sent friends a postcard from honeymoon. However courtesy of Dad's MBE we had the option of the chapel in the crypt. It cost me an antique, hand cut solitaire. Worth every penny.

Since this was not our local church we needed a special licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury no less and a wonderful document it is. Couched in positively Shakespearean language together with the legal habit of no punctuation and the liberal use of Capital Letters.


George Leonard by Divine Providence Lord Archbishop of Canterbury Primate of all England and Metropolitan by Authority of Parliament lawfully empowered for the Purposes herein written To Our Beloved in Christ Mark Sebastian McLellan of 76 Garfield Road Wimbledon in the County of Greater London a Bachelor and Mary Mitchell Galashan of the same address aforesaid a Spinster

Whereas it is alleged that you purpose to contract a true pure and lawful Marriage and earnestly desire the same to be solemnized with all the speed that may be We do therefore of Our especial grace In order that such your desire may more readily have effect and for other causes Us hereunto moving Give and grant by these presents Our Licence and Faculty (so far as in Us lies and the law doth allow) for you the Parties contracting for any Clerk in Holy Orders thereto lawfully authorised and for all Christian People willing to be present to celebrate and solemnize such Marriage between you in the Chapel of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire within the Cathedral Church of Saint Paul in the City of London between the hours of eight in the forenoon and six in the afternoon upon any day within three calendar months from the date hereof Provided there be no lawful impediment thereto

Given under the Seal of Our Office of Faculties at Westminster this twenty-fourth day of September in the year of Our Lord On thousand nine hundred and ninety-three and in the third year of Our Translation

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

South Africa, October 2011

Cape Town, South Africa. Friday 28-October-2011.

Our first trip to South Africa for two years, since our wedding anniversary in 2009 in fact. Again the timing was planned to allow us to celebrate our actual anniversary in South Africa. This time in Cape Town which we had not yet visited despite this being our fifth trip to South Africa.

After doing the tourist thing in Cape Town for four days (blog posts to follow) we went down to our apartment in Hermanus to investigate putting it on the market. It has not really been bringing in anywhere near enough rental to cover its costs and we have not been getting the use of it ourselves, partly because of our busy lives and partly the cost of the flights.

We also needed to find new agents to manage it for us. We sacked the previous agent (don't ask) and our friends Percy and Ronel had been holding the fort for us. As they are tourist guides and coming into their busy season it would not be fair to impose on them any longer. Our plan was to find a local agent who could do the meet-and-greet and arrange cleaning and laundry which we did - more anon.

Cape Town - Apartment front

Mary found us an excellent and characterful apartment just 10 minutes walk from the historic V & A waterfront - Green Point holiday cottage.

Cape Town - Apartment garden

It was great to be in such a historic building and really convenient for a short stroll into the V & A Waterfront which we did on a daily basis for the sights and the restaurants.

Cape Town - Apartment plaque

This restoration was officially opened by the Hon. Dr. Wm. Nicol
Saturday 15th November 1965
These cottages form part of the original quarters, barn, and farm workers homes erected about 1815 and attached to the De Goede Verwachting. Proclaimed to be an historic monument in 1964.

Full set of photos on Flickr:

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Olive Harvest 2011

Puglia, Italy. Friday 26 November 2011

The usual close down visit and olive harvest with additional birthday planning.

As every year we go out long after the last paying guests have departed to prepare Trullo Azzurro for the winter. That mainly consists of putting all the bedding and linens into VacuSacs but also rearranging the furniture - the garden tables and chairs get brought indoors or stacked into the antechamber of the pizza oven.

We also go out to harvest the olives. Our friends Carol and Mino had already harvested theirs so we only had ours to do. We were expecting a small harvest because of the heavy pruning in spring. This year we only picked 18kg compared to last year's 84kg. However we predict a bumper crop next year because of all the new growth plus the habit of fruit trees in general to alternate good and lean years.

We also had time, therefore, to harvest a couple of trees belonging to our neighbours, Mark and Sue, which yielded another 7kg off their two trees. At a 12 percent yield that means our combined output will be 3 litre.

Storage space is at a premium which means the nets needed to be very carefully folded away so they will fit inside the crates which can then be stacked away inside the pizza oven storage space.

Olive nets - 01

Olive nets - 02

Olive nets - 03

Olive nets - 04

Mary insisted on a shot of me stripped to the waist as proof of how warm and sunny it was even in the middle of November.

Olive nets - 05

Olive nets - 06

The other item on the agenda was finalising the date for my 60th birthday celebrations to be held at Truddhi in the local village of Trito. We fixed on Sunday 23-September-2012 rather than the Saturday. That fits in better with Truddhi bookings which are Saturday to Saturday. Also Mino is normally doing weddings on a Saturday, so by having it on the Sunday makes it much more likely he will be there as well.

Trullo Azzurro logoTrullo Azzurro: beautifully restored trullo in delightful, secluded valley near Locorotondo, Puglia, Italy. Available to rent on a per week basis, sleeps 4-6. For more information visit

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Jazz vs Blues - compare and contrast

We went to two very different concerts on successive nights: Phronesis and Taj Mahal.

Purcell Room, London, England. Wednesday 14-November-2011

Once again my sister and BIL double booked themselves and we got their spare tickets. They went off to Ronnie Scott's whilst we went off to hear someone we'd never heard of but that's fine by me; that way you to get experience things you might not otherwise.

The novel feature was the second half which was played in the pitch black which I found an intriguing and worthwhile experiment. It did allow me to focus on the music without being distracted by watching the musicians. The music was enjoyable but I couldn't write a review about avant-garde jazz so here a couple I found on the interweb:On the down side the Purcell room is not the most charming of venues and so we went to The Archduke for a post concert glass of wine.

Taj Mahal

Under the Bridge, London, England. Thursday 15-November-2011

We only learnt about this concert because we follow Marcus Bonfanti and he was rumoured to be playing support for Taj. A new venue to us, this is under Chelsea FC's Stamford Bridge ground and only a 20 minute bus ride away. Unreserved seating so we aimed to be there not too long after the doors opened even knowing (guessing) that it would be some time before the performance.

I got chatting to a man behind me who said he had been waiting 40 years to see Taj and had bought his tickets as soon as he heard about the gig. I am embarrassed to say that I "place-dropped" that we saw Taj a couple of years ago in New Orleans at The House of Blues.

As it turned out there was no support act so it was straight into a good long set from Taj. In NO he did a much more up-tempo rock style set; this time he did much more of an old-style set. He switched instruments playing several consecutive songs on each of electric guitar, keyboard, acoustic guitar, mandolin, etc.

Taj Mahal, Under the Bridge

I took a couple of photos on my iPhone but the security guard saw and insisted on me deleting them. Which is daft as they have put up their own photos on flickr for the world to see:

And back home in 20 minutes on the 28 bus. Damn I love this city!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Daddy, what did you do in the great war?

My Dad has always been reticent about what he did in the last war. I know that some veterans prefer not to talk about their experiences. Enquiring indirectly via Mum it turns out that he didn't seem to think there was much to tell - only ferrying American tanks to Omaha Beach following the D-Day landings!

Here, with his permission, is a note my Dad wrote to set the record straight:

My career in the Royal Navy.

I was called up in 1943 (18 yrs old) and they gave you the choice of Navy, Army or RAF. I chose the Navy.

You start as an Ordinary Seaman with 3 months preliminary training. A number of us were singled out as possible officer material and put into a special class.

After this you served for 3 months on the lower deck of a ship which was an invaluable experience.

You then went for officer training at Brighton (Lancing College) and were passed, or otherwise.

I was now, because of my age, a Midshipman to start with and later a Second Lieutenant.

I was posted to a Tank Landing Craft with a C.O., myself and a crew of 10 - 12 seamen. This was about 2 weeks after D-Day in June 1944.

Our job was to carry 6 American tanks and crew to Omaha Beach on continuous trips backwards and forwards to reload.* By this time the beaches had been cleared although you could sometimes hear inland gunfire. The war ended in 1945 and I was demobilised in 1946, returning to my architectural studies which had been disrupted.

Michael McLellan
Sept. 2011

P.S. In my first week back I shared a studio with a certain Margery Scales. The rest is history.

Omaha Beach
Omaha Beach

* which Dad later clarified was for about 6 months making over 30 round trips.

Edit [23-November-2023]:

When my mother died I officially became the next of kin for my late father. This meant I could apply for his military service records on my own account. This provided me with additional information on his wartime service. Included in that was a period he spent from 28-July-1944 to 8-May 1945 as second-in-command on a US-built tank landing craft, LCT1073. Built in Mare Island Navy Yard (Vallejo, California, U.S.A.) in April 1944 this craft was used to ferry American tanks from the UK to Omaha beach following the Normandy D-Day landings. He never, as far as we know, bothered to claim his medal.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Merton Abbey Mills

The other weekend it was such a lovely day Mary and I went for a wander along the Wandle. I have a soft spot for this river. We currently live very close to where it debouches into the Thames. Previously I lived in South Wimbledon and walked along Wandle Bank every day to get to Colliers Wood tube.

We walked as far as Merton Abbey Mills and had a mooch around the various market stalls.

Merton Abbey Mills - water wheel interior
Merton Abbey Mills - water wheel interior

There is a certain symmetry with our London Open House 2011 walk when we visited William Morris's Kelmscott House. It was Merton Abbey Mills that in June 1881 became the new home of Morris & Co.'s workshops. Morris refused to destroy existing buildings, and adapted them or built new ones. Learn more at

Merton Abbey Mills - water wheel exterior
Merton Abbey Mills - water wheel exterior

After a sandwich and an ice cream we walked on to Wimbledon town centre by which time our feet told us to catch the 156 bus back.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Enoteca Turi Wine Tasting Dinner - Valpolicella: The Road to Perfection

Tuesday 27th September 2011

Yet another fine wine dinner at Enoteca Turi from Giuseppe and his chef, this time with added amplification. Giuseppe is very softly spoken and can be hard to hear over the happy chatter of the diners in the main restaurant. On this occasion he was miked up with a small speaker to help us all heard more clearly - it worked very well.


As always it was a menu of regional dishes from the corresponding wine area. The wines were presented in increasing order of intensity:
  • normale - typically made from three grape varietals: Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Molinara
  • ripasso - where leftover grape skins and seeds from the fermentation of recioto and Amarone are added to the batch of Valpolicella wines for a period of extended maceration.
  • amarone - a strong wine made from dried grapes
  • recioto - dessert wine made from grapes that have been dried to concentrate their juice
All the wines were excellent with the low being the Amarone - somewhat murky - and the high being the Recioto - absolutely fabulous, nectar, a joy to drink. Almost port-like and an excellent pairing with the chocolate cake although it would be equally at home with cheese.

Traditional Venetian antipasti
Valpolicella Rio Albo DOC 2009 Ca’ Rugate
Insalata tiepida di borlotti e porcini

Warm salad of fresh borlotti beans and porcini mushrooms
Valpolicella Classico Superiore I Progni DOC 2008 Le Salette
Risotto con zucca, prosciutto e ricotta affumicata
Risotto with pumpkin, prosciutto and smoked ricotta
Valpolicella Superiore Marion DOC 2004 Fam. Campedelli
Petto d’anatra con peverada, verza sofegata e polenta
Breast of duck with peverada, braised savoy cabbage and polenta
Valpolicella Superiore Monte Lodoletta DOC 2002 Romano dal Forno
Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2002 Giuseppe Quintarelli

Formaggi regionali
Selection of the region’s cheeses: piave, asiago and embriago
Amarone della Valpolicella DOC Allegrini 2000
Torta di cioccolato
Venetian chocolate cake
Recioto della Valpolicella Classico DOC 2006 Nicolis

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Clootie Dumpling

Whenever there is a birthday in the family Mary's mum, May, makes a clootie dumpling to celebrate. Since it was my birthday in the week preceding our last visit I got the traditional alternative to a birthday cake.

Clootie dumpling in the pan
Clootie dumpling in the pan

Clootie dumpling out of the pan
Clootie dumpling out of the pan

Clootie dumpling unwrapped
Clootie dumpling unwrapped

There are many variations on the Clootie Dumpling recipe - this is May's version.

Clootie Dumpling recipe

1 1/2 lb Self Raising Flour
6oz Currants
6oz Sultanas
3 teaspoons Cinnamon
3 teaspoons Ground Ginger
3 teaspoons Mixed Spice
3 dessertspoons Treacle
3 dessertspoons Syrup
3oz vegetable suet
3oz caster sugar
1/2 pint milk (approx)

Mix dry ingredients, add treacle and syrup.
Mix until moist with milk.
Add fruit and stir through
Scald cloth with boiling water, sprinkle with SR flour
Place dumpling mixture in centre of cloth
Tie cloth with string leaving room for expansion

Steam for 3 hours.
Remove cloth, place dumpling on plate and dry in oven (100C for 15 minutes)

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Fairy rings in Battersea Park

On our way back from Battersea Park during the London Open House 2011 I saw what had to be a fairy ring. Closer inspection revealed the fungi responsible.

Fairy ring in Battersea park 1
Fairy ring in Battersea park 1

According to wikipedia they can grow to be several hundred years old.

Fairy ring in Battersea park 2
Fairy ring in Battersea park 2

Easy to spot if you know what they are. We saw several more last weekend on our way through King George's Park when we went for a wander down the Wandle to Merton Abbey Mills. Isn't nature wonderful!

Friday, September 30, 2011

London Open House 2011

London, England. Saturday 18-Sep-2011

Sunday morning looking through Time Out for something to do on my birthday the following Tuesday we discovered that it was London Open House weekend. So whatever plans we had for the day took a sudden swerve.

We got our walking boots on and headed for the closest venue - an architect's house off West Hill. There was too much of a waiting list so we headed on to the next item on our itinerary: Fulham Palace.

I know there is a park and a road of the same name but I had not realised the Palace was still extant which was a pleasant surprise. We got there in time for the one o'clock tour and spent the next 60 minutes being shown round the palace - home to the Bishops of London for over 1300 years, the grounds and the church.

Fulham Palace
Fulham Palace

Next it was a walk and a bus ride up to Hammmersmith for Kelmscott House home of William Morris and the W.M. Society. The open house-ness was limited to the stables, basement and part of the back garden. The main house was disappointingly off-limits.

Kelmscott House
Kelmscott House

Next a walk, a tube, a train and a walk back south of the river to Battersea Park and the Pump House. It is a restored grade II listed building, built in 1861 to supply water to the lakes and cascades of the then new Battersea Park.

Battersea Pump House
Battersea Pump House

It didn't take long to climb to the top and back down - not much to see really. However a side effect was that we wandered through parts of the park we had not seen before; we had mainly cycled round the perimeter road.

There was lots more to see including the Festival Gardens built for the 1951 Festival of Britain and a girder from the Twin Towers made into a memorial sculture. That ramble of discovery was the highlight of the day.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Everyday differences in Puglia: Family meal

The large Italian family meal is not just an invention of the Dolmio advertising agency. It is very real as the supermarket shelves attest. Every store has stacks of disposable plates, plastic cups and paper serviettes to save on washing up when you have all your family and friends round.

Supermarket shelves disposable plates, plastic cups and paper serviettes

Fortunately our neighbours Mino and Carole love entertaining and we often get invited round for Sunday lunch.

Italian meal - Mino and Carole

Their friend Vito prepares a specialty - raw mussels - well you eat raw oysters so why not raw mussels?

raw mussels

It was a multi-course extravaganza. First was the focaccia made by Mino's sister, Zia, which Tim declared was the best focaccia he has ever eaten; a verdict we Brits all endorsed. Then raw mussels. Then sea food pasta.

Italian meal - sea food pasta

Then a main course washed down by many bottles of Mino's own wine.

Italian meal - long table

The dessert was a mixture of cakes and pastries with a prosecco.

Italian meal - pastries with a prosecco

A wonderful way to spend a Sunday lunch.

Italian meal - relaxing with friends

Several hours later we meandered off home for a quiet evening and a very light supper.

Trullo Azzurro logoTrullo Azzurro: beautifully restored trullo in delightful, secluded valley near Locorotondo, Puglia, Italy. Available to rent on a per week basis, sleeps 4-6. For more information visit

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Puglia August 2011 - Sloe gin

For the first time in several years we have made Puglian sloe gin. Normally by the time we arrive in September the sloes are shriveled beyond redemption. This year we went earlier, the last week of August, and the sloes were looking good.

With the help of Mary's friend, Andrea A, who was visiting us for a few days we quickly harvested enough for a litre of sloe gin.

The important factor is the ratio of sloes to sugar - I went for Nigel Slater's classic sloe gin recipe which has a higher ratio than the BBC recipe as I have a sweet tooth.

Both recipes counsel patience however that is is easy when you are not there. By the time we go back in November for the olive harvest it should be perfect and ready for decanting.

Trullo Azzurro logoTrullo Azzurro: beautifully restored trullo in delightful, secluded valley near Locorotondo, Puglia, Italy. Available to rent on a per week basis, sleeps 4-6. For more information visit

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Everyday differences in Puglia: Pasta pot

As every Italian Nonna (Grandmother) will tell you, "You must lift the pasta out of the water". You do not tip the pasta into a colander which drains the water through the pasta, oh no!

We found this pot in Italy and use it all the time. When we tried to find one in the UK we had little success so we bought one and brought it back home with us.

You should not put the pasta in until the water has come to the boil and you should only add the salt at that point not before, so I am informed.

It also works well for vegetables.

Trullo Azzurro logoTrullo Azzurro: beautifully restored trullo in delightful, secluded valley near Locorotondo, Puglia, Italy. Available to rent on a per week basis, sleeps 4-6. For more information visit

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Cropredy 2011

Cropredy, England - Friday 12-August-2011

It is harder to imagine anything more diametrically opposite to the recent riots than Cropredy. Twenty thousand predominantly white, middle class, middle aged, ex-hippie / folkie people in a field sitting politely in rows chatting amiably to strangers.

If this is Middle England count me in.

I mentioned to Mary that I fancied going to see more live music. A couple of years ago we discovered Seasick Steve when we went to Hyde Park to see Neil Young. Googling resulted in a two day ticket to some folk festival and an overnight stay at the Wroxton House Hotel - Mary's home from home for five months in a previous life - sod camping for a game of soldiers.

For various reasons we ending up not driving but cycling: home to work, work to Marylebone, train, Banbury to hotel, hotel to Cropredy, Cropredy to hotel.

Friday 12 August 2011

BBC YFA Winners - Moore, Moss, Ritter
The Travelling Band
Steve Tilston & The Durbervilles
[Mark and Mary arrive]
Charlie Dore
The Dylan Project
The Urban Folk Quartet
The Coral
Seasick Steve

Seasick Steve
Seasick Steve

The bands were excellent and all unknown discoveries to me (apart from Seasick Steve, obviously). Each set was as long as you might get if you saw them at an individual concert - so that says excellent value in my book. I particularly liked The Dylan Project.

The cycle home was through unlit country lanes. The bike lights are enough to enable cars to see you but not you to see the edge of the road. So scary we ordered a taxi for the Saturday.

Duck Pond, Wroxton
Wroxton Duck Pond

Saturday morning we did a wander round the village before returning to the hotel for the taxi to take us back to the festival.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Richard Digance
The Shee
Raffle Draws etc
Badly Drawn Boy
Fairport Convention & Friends

Richard Digance, Audience
Twenty thousand people Morris dancing whilst seated

The atmosphere was great and I have to concur with the general opinion that, to a Cropredy virgin, the crowd are most friendly and welcoming.

Juggling Balls
Juggling Balls

I had to buy some new balls because my old ones swelled up and went hard when the cellar flooded. <voice="Frankie Howerd">Ooh, no, missus!</voice>


Again a welcome introduction to a variety of new - to me - bands, with music, eating, drinking and having a good time. Though I have to agree with the man behind me who, during Badly Drawn Boy's set called out "Cheer up, you miserable c***!"

Fairport Convention and Friends
Fairport Convention and Friends

A rendition of the complete Babbacombe Lee was the highlight of the FC set.

Fairport Convention and Friends
Meet on the Ledge

A pledge for the regulars. We could be tempted :-)