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 :-)