Monday, 21 February 2011

Death of a Good Companion

The last time I slept in this tent, I was about fifteen years old. We got snowed in, just down the road from the Sportsman pub in Dentdale.  My father had to come and rescue us in his Morris Traveller. Three wet, cold hungry boys have never been so pleased to hear the familiar and unmistakable noise of a Morris engine shifting down a gear. The previous day had been a sun kissed scorcher, we’d retired in the evening after a feast of three bottles of coke and fifteen bags of Seabrooks crisps from the Sportsman. The snow fell overnight, six inches of it.

Some 30 years later, imagine the wry look on my face as I opened the zip and lifted the faded orange flap to see about three inches of snow on the ground at Great Langdale campsite this weekend. I’d borrowed the Good Companion from my Dad in a twisted moment of nostalgia and curiosity. The Blacks Good Companion was the first tent I ever slept in. It was our family tent, the one in which my love of camping was nurtured. My father had bought it in 1963 and lugged it from Edale all the way to Kirk Yetholm along the Pennine way. I was curious to see how well it had stood the test of time.  Meticulously cleaned down, dried and folded after each outing. Guys tied, pegs wiped, creases smoothed out of the sew in groundsheet lovingly rolled and slipped into the original bags. It was a ritual I well remember. Look after the tent Josh, it’ll look after you’ or words to that effect.

Sorry Dad, it’s got a hole in it! The 48 year old canvas flysheet died at the hand of the boy it had sheltered for so many years. I’d got up to shake the snow off as the walls were sagging in, just as they had done in Dentdale all those years before, but as I gently pinched at the seam to give it a shake, my fingers and thumb went through the canvass. I felt sick. Luckily, I know a bloke in Wiltshire who had a similar disintegrating canvas experience, but with his inner tent. If I can persuade Steve to part with his flysheet, then our Good Companion might just carry on for another 48 years.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Not just ‘anywhen’ – a review of British Seasonal Food by Mark Hix.

First published by Quadrille in 2008, this is a new paperback edition for 2011.  Superbly photographed by Jason Lowe and peppered with illustrations by Marcus Oakley, reflecting the simplicity of the whole idea, go with the flow of the seasons.  It’s the book of ‘when’ and follows his ‘where’, British Regional Food, published in 2006. Hix argues that abstinence sharpens the taste buds, ‘the great thing about cooking with British ingredients in their true season is that you really do enjoy them that much more.’  British Seasonal Food is a culinary cornucopia stuffed with a riot of recipes set to cudgel the taste buds with the finest ingredients available.  This truly is a gem of a book.  The recipes offer a number of variations on each of the seasonal ingredients featured.  The seasons are introduced month by month in Hix’s own inimitable style.  It’s as if he’s sitting next to you and whispering in your ear, ‘shh, it’s a secret that only you know, it’s September, go pick some blueberries’.  Reading this book is like having your own personal trainer, you’ll be a toned up sage of seasonal produce.  Go buy it.

 153 recipes

Quadrille Publishing Ltd: London (2011)
ISBN: 978-1-84400-943-5

Available in the UK from 4th March 2011.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Load that Spring!

Spring is well and truly on its way, the diary is filling quickly with camping plans, van trips and holidays abroad. Top highlight will be a van trip up to Lochhouses for our tenth wedding anniversary. Found the place through Canopy & Stars who advertise on the Guyrope Gourmet website, hmm maybe I should have tried to negotiate a discount! It's up to the Lakes and Great Langdale next weekend for a stroll along Crinkle Crags up to Bowfell with pal Glyn. I've managed to borrow my Dad's Black Good Companion tent for the occasion. The Good Companion is the first tent I ever slept in, it was our family tent back in the seventies. They're rare as hen's teeth nowadays and seem to fetch a pretty penny on ebay. 

It was a light weight modern tent in its day, all 9kg of it! My father and his pal Ceri walked the entire Pennine Way with it in the early sixties. It comes in two enormous roll bags and is still in mint condition, although a little faded.