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Monday, June 30, 2014

Video trip and the canal charity event

A cut down video of our trip through Tring Cutting on the Grand Union Canal. The only solid structures are a couple of bridges and some boats. No houses to be seen as we cruise through the trees lining the cutting sides that in places are 30 feet above the canal.
Towards the end a Heron does what herons do and flies ahead several times before it gets brave and allows us to cruise by.




Just in case anyone noticed the huge crowds of walkers and runners along the towpath on the southern end of the Grand Union canal it was not surprisingly a charity event organized by Action Challenge.
The route was from Paddington to Bletchley and gave several start points and varying lengths of 25-50-75 and 100km. For the mature Brit and U.S. readers this equates to 15-31-46and 62 miles.
Tring (pictured right) was a rest/finish point that offered refreshments, toilets,first aid and massage services.
Also if you seemed to think there were a lot of folk walking the towpath through the night it was the Watford to Bletchley 50km/31m moonlight walk that set off at 10p.m. We heard people going by at 2am.
Participants have to pay to enter and pledge a minimum donation to their chosen charity. Action challenge I guess operate as a business but charities get funds which they need. At least the charity will get funds immediately unlike the people in the street who try to get passers by to set up direct debits to a charity. The charity will not see a penny for months sometimes longer as the company keeps the payments to cover costs and while I`m at it how can people be so daft and give a stranger in the street their bank details.
Chuggers is the name for these folk and I`ll let your fingers do the Googling.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

What do you think as you take a photo.

A field of Poppy's coming into bloom canal side near Tring. 
This could so easily have been that same field.  Out for a walk those were my thoughts as I took the Poppy field photo. I saw each Poppy either blooming or about to as a life ended to give me the freedom I enjoy on the canals. Those lives allowed me the freedom to cross the sea in peace and find love. Thank you. 
                

Just thoughts of mine I decided to share.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Always read the small print


A lovely canalside pub at Berkhamsted and the sign on the grass says free beer. Moor up Jaq.
Oh well the excitement was good while it lasted. Should have gone to Specsavers.


No need for your specs when Kath on Nb Bobcat approaches. You can spot the cat`s eyes from quite a distance. Kath moored up for tea and cake as all good boaters do. Had been a long time since we crossed paths so it was good to natter.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Nash and Apsley, then and now




On the left is the loading dock that was built over in the 1960`s. The dock did go further into the site as can be seen on the Google picture (right) taken during demolition. Above, the loading dock entrance is marked by the concrete piles. There has been a watermill here on the River Gade since the 11th century, now it will just be housing. Sad that so much history is being wiped out. Just one building will remain converted into flats and that is Nash House former home of John Dickinson used in later times as offices.
A lot of reading containing diagrams and illustrations about Nash Mills can be found HERE.
Another interesting page showing the developers culverting and diverting the dock and opening up the below ground water channels is HERE. Money well spent as the new `waterside` housing will command premium prices. They will have canal side housing and by exposing the river they have even more money making sites. Architect has earnt his money on this site.



These boats, held up by lock gate repairs, are waiting to enter lock 67 to the right. Nowadays Apsley marina is just out of sight around the bend along the towpath.
The same view today and the only surviving building is on the right and a footbridge has been added probably to give access to the train station for the vast housing alongside and around the marina.


































The same scene pictured looking towards the lock. Perhaps this way of breasting up the three boats is to prevent any queue jumpers when the lock re-opens.

Today and that one building is all that remains.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Chillin'!

"Light be the earth upon you, lightly rest." ~Euripides, 484 BCE - 406 BCE

Library books in hand, Kings Langley towpath
   Slowly, slowly we head North once more, leaving the crazy pressure and press of humanity in our wake. We've cruised in this way, staying a week or 10 days when stopping, to fill time while waiting for Les' consultation with the surgeon regarding next steps to reverse the Ileostomy.  It was June 6th and he's blogged about that so I won't.
Palouse photo and Big Love Tray
    We made friends with Susan and Colin on NB Carrie Ann while moored in Cassiobury Park last month. They are new live-aboards and really lovely folk, whose company we've enjoyed immensely. Our paths have crossed since then as we leap frog past one another along our way toward the summit.
   Les and I spent a week moored at Home Park near King's Langley, walking the local footpath into town for lunch and making several visits to the library to look at old Ordinance survey maps and check out historical books about the area and began a slow spring cleaning, washing all the curtains, cleaning out cupboards and drawers, making space on our wall for a Big Love Tray by Emma Bridgewater potteries--a gift from friends Lael and Larry in Idaho and in so doing, finally freeing up the perfect spot for our wedding gift from friends Karen and Jim Barron in Pullman, Washington--a photo of the Palouse in flower. The tray matches our Big Love mug--another lovely gift from dear friends Sue and Ken Deveson of NB Cleddau; we have a decor theme going!
   We puttered up to Apsley for water, caught up with NB Carrie Ann once more and spent a delightful evening aboard their lovely boat chatting, laughing, and drinking wine. The craic was grand!
   We moved on to Bourne End for a week, moored up across from Pix's Farm--a delightful pocket of countryside surrounded by the growing babble of London's ex-urbs. We discovered at the Hemel Hempstead library, that Pix's Farm Lane is an old roman Road! Imagine Romans walking along that old lane 1900 years ago!
Pix's Farm at 5 am, Bourne End, Grand Union Canal
Continuing the view around to Sharpes Lane Bridge, Bourne End
   On our first day there we saw: 4 horses and 2 goats in the field across from us; 36 Canada Geese and 6 goslings; a swan bathing in the early morning light, magpies, wrens, a mated pair of Cormorants, 4 Herons also in the field, waiting for frogs maybe??
   We watched a Moor hen make its way along followed by 8 feathery babies all looking like miniature escapees from Fraggle Rock, and a mother duck with three new babies. She sunned herself on the bank directly across from our bow while we watched for nearly an hour as one by one, her babies each figured out how to escape the water and settle beside their mother. The smallest chick was last, making several mock running attempts toward the bank, grabbing at leaves with its beak as it finally hoiked itself out of the canal.
   As the afternoon wore on were privy to a continual parade of Martins swooping and diving for sips of water, snatching insects on the wing. A walk up to the bridge allowed us to spy thousands of tiddlers (small fry) basking in a spot of sun warmed water. Later we spotted 15 Bream cruising slowly along the bank looking for spawning places. Bees hummed in the hedgerows, and life began to feel like the deep breath before bursting into glorious song.
   We spent two hectic days in Berkhamsted catching up with our wonderful friend Angela, whose home we moored in back of, checking out her neighborhood and the local market, walking along the streets of Berko with A. who played tour guide and generous hostess. We chatted about anything and everything as we three enjoyed the BEST Maple Cured, free range, Gammon (Ham) Rib Eye steak of our lives at The Old Mill Inn (Aubrey Allen--the Queen's butcher supplies the Mill Inn with cuts of meat). If its good enough for The Queen--its good enough for the three of us!
   While we were moored there another boating friend passed on her way to the Big Smoke. We were pleased as punch to see Kath on NB Bobcat coming our way. She pulled over and stopped for a cuppa and a slice of blueberry Lemon Drizzle cake while we caught up. It had been almost two years to the date since we saw Kath last in person up at Tixall Wide. Thanks for stopping. Enjoy the rest of your journey south and we look forward to seeing you again sooner than later! 
  We left on a sunny morning with a poesy of flowers resting on our bow--a sweet and thoughtful present from Ang as we headed out for Dudswell Lock where the donkeys are penned near the towpath in a huge, well manicured yard. Along the way I took the opportunity to manually haul the boat into a lock without using the lock ladders. I want to continue practising in and out, going up and down until I feel totally confident in my skills at single handing--at least in practice. 
   Moored up now in the quiet before the summit, I finally feel like I can breathe again. Five months of cruising south to London, waiting two weeks at Cassiobury in Watford, and making our way north again left my soul feeling pinched and strangled.
  On our anniversary Les took me to the Tring library, where we checked out some books and wandered around the village.
   We shared a delicious meal at Pizza Express in Berko, toasting to three amazing years of married life. We wanted to eat at Francesco's Italian Restaurant in Tring--a family affair with truly delicious food--but it didn't open until 6 pm and by the time we ate it would be difficult to catch of the final two buses of the evening back to Dudswell.
   Never mind, not only did we enjoy our pizza in Berko, we met up with another lovely friend on his way to dinner as well--Mike Wall of NB Independence. He is one of my two knights in shining armor who provided rides to Watford Hospital and the grocery store while Les was in hospital last Autumn.
  We walked up to Cow Roast Chandlery and picked up a Towpath Talk, stopping to sit on the lock gates and visit with Mike Griffin (our other shining knight). It is always a gift to see the face of a friend. As we walked back to the boat I took the opportunity to pick some Comfrey leaves from plants that had not yet set blossom, to tincture in olive oil for the making of salve later in the summer.
   We took advantage of the sunshine and washed three loads of clothes and hung it all out to dry, airing our pillows and down comforter as well. Sitting in the sun, reading our library books and eating lunch, we indulged in a bit of bank side gongoozling as we watched the hire boats and weekender's from the marina too-ing and froe-ing up and down the pound.
   Les has engaged in some handiwork, removing our Sky dish and repainting our satellite pole, cleaning up the tangle of wires on the bow and tidying things up. I whipped up wok of Kung Pao chicken with rice for dinner and we howled with laughter over Graham Norton's season finale show with comedians John Bishop, and  Brendan O'Carroll (Mrs. Brown). We've stayed up reading until 1:30 am, slept in, and finally chilled out! 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Medical catchup with pictures (of a non medical nature).

It was only when Paul and Christine (Waterway Routes) stopped by for a cuppa and a natter that I realised The medical side of things needed an update.
Having had so much support over the months I know a lot of folk are interested in the outcome of the eviction of Mr. Cancer and the re-building of the damaged accommodation he blatantly occupied without my consent.
For readers not interested in the medical side I have inserted some pics.
This is Winston a Lop rabbit that lives aboard with our friends Susan and Colin.
Anyway about 12 days ago after having two appointments cancelled it was third time lucky and had a consultation with a surgeon for the Ileostomy reversal. Not sure why Mr. Hallam, who I must say did a excellent job of the cancer removal, was not present but he was also absent from the six week post op check up. Perhaps my refusal of his advice to undergo six months chemo therapy put him off following my case to it`s conclusion. Maybe the whole surgical unit operates on a `who`s available` basis, whatever the system I saw a real nice surgeon who gave me an outline, date wise, of what will happen up until the reversal surgery.

Boxmoor common alongside the canal just before Fishery lock. A very nice mooring with footpaths giving access along and across the River Bulbourne as it flows through the common.
He said I would get an appointment within 4 weeks to attend Radiology dept. to have a contrast dye administered by enema and x-rays to check for leaks following Mr. Cancers eviction. The next appointment with the surgeon will discuss the results and all being well I would be put forward for surgery.

The surgeons appointment was arranged before I left the hospital and the other arrived by post Wednesday.......24 hrs before the appointment I have attended this morning!!!
When will the NHS get into the 21st Century and use E mail and Text not instead of but in addition to the useless Royal Mail.

Fishery lock at bridge 149. A pair of work boats are about to pass the Boxmoor common moorings having just passed the Fishery Inn next to the bridge. Dating the photo can only be by referring to the bridge itself. The modern day bridge replaced the balustraded bridge in the picture in 1969. The balustraded bridge had replaced an earlier one in 1922. So you can pick a date within those 47 years. Until the 1980`s there was a shop next to the pub that boat women would use while the boats were in the lock. Now it has been swallowed up by the pub.
This is not the first time appointments have almost been missed. One came the same morning but luckily on that occasion someone phoned the day before to confirm and was amazed she was telling me something I had no knowledge of. Another time I phoned chasing up an appointment and was told it had been sent out and she would send another letter even though she had given just given me the date! 

So today`s appointment was kept and this brings me another rung closer to the top of the ladder. Not a pleasant experience but the repair had to be checked for leaks before the final surgery.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Has it Really Been Three Years???

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY LES!  I LOVE YOU!!!
Click HERE to view the card


Sunday, June 15, 2014

For Elly: American Diner Style Hash Browned Potatoes

"What I say is that, if a fellow really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow." ~ A.A. Milne, Author of Winnie the Pooh

   In response to my last post about grocery shopping as an ex-pat, Aussie Elly who spent some lovely time over here cruising the canals with her husband Mick aboard NB Parisien Star commented:

"How do you make your potato hash brown? What binds it together? Please tell me how to make them. I hate the triangle thingies too..."
Elly (ex Parisien Star) 

  Here you go Elly! Please let us know how you and Mick like them and if they turned well for you. And the same for our other readers, if you try this recipe please let us know how your efforts turned out.
 Diner Style American Hash Browns
Four elements are key: clarified butter, potato variety, washing out the starch, wringing the potato shreds dry. 

Clarified butter: heat butter in the microwave or on the stove top in a small pan until it is melted and the milk solids separate out and sink to the bottom. Strain off the golden clarified butter and leave the white milk solids behind. This raises the temperature at which butter will burn and allows us to cook with butter without our food scorching. Clarified butter will keep on the counter top in a glass jar without souring.

Potato variety: for Americans this means Russet or Idaho potatoes. For folks in other countries, this means large baking potatoes--the kind that bake up nice and fluffy inside--for example King Edward, Maris Piper,  Rooster, Kerr's Pink, Dunbar Rover, Yukon Gold. 

Peel one large potato for each person. Shred them on a box grater--use the large, round holes. 

Rinse the shredded potato to remove the starch, which coats the grated vegetable and keeps it from browning well. It takes as many as three rinses in a large bowl of cold water to rinse out most of the starch, which will turn the rinse water a cloudy white.  

Once the potatoes are rinsed, let them sit in a strainer or colander to drain for five minutes, then wring them dry in clean linen dish towel

Using a non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium high heat, make sure you skillet is hot. Add 1 1/2 Tablespoons of clarified butter and coat the pan well. Add the shredded potatoes and spread them out in the pan. Pat them down with the spatula, sprinkle with seasoning and cook them on medium.
© 2014 JennyJonesCanCook.com
Now there are two ways to cook these potatoes--
1. Leave them until a strong, crispy brown crust has formed one one side and slide them onto a dinner plate. Add another Tablespoon of butter to the skillet and flip the potatoes over so the uncooked side is on the bottom of the skillet. Cook until browned on the second side and cut into wedges to serve. 
© 2014 Chef John, YOUTUBE
2. As the potato shreds brown, use a spatula to flip them over in bits and pieces. Keep flipping as the potato clumps brown. When the potatoes are browned and crispy on both sides, serve and eat. 

If you are cooking Hash Browns for a large crowd your best bet is to invest in a cast iron or non-stick flat griddle plate over two burners.


Ingredients:
2 large peeled potatoes
1 1/2-2 Tablespoons of clarified butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon of sweet paprika
I season mine with 1/2 tsp. of Beau Monde (a spice mix of half celery salt and half onion powder)  and 1/4 tsp. of minced dried garlic
Serves 2
 
For more adventurous taste buds: 
Add 2 Tablespoons of minced white onion per potato, mixed in with the shreds before wringing dry
2 Tablespoons of chile peppers (Jalapeños for heat; Anaheims or pepperoncinis for flavor without heat) per potato. Make sure to dice the peppers fine and if they are canned, wring out the water before adding the peppers to your potatoes prior to adding them to the skillet.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Lust and Longing: An American Ex-Pat Goes Grocery Shopping

"When I was living in England I found that the more I lived abroad, the more American I discovered I was." — Daniel J. Boorstin 

   It's true; at least it is true for me. In the three years I've lived here I've discovered the "American Me." When one is living in one's native country it is not necessary to think consciously about one's nationality or cultural identity--it is a part of the air one breathes; it is the Mother tongue. We don't miss what we've always had on hand and taken for granted. We have no idea what things we will pine for, sigh for, and jones over (American slang meaning to crave something.) And therein lies the ex-pat's dilemma.
NB Valerie moored up outside of Tesco--Frogmore Wharf
   One can eventually find--if not the very same item as in America--a product very near to what one thoughtlessly took for granted back in the States. It does require a lot of sleuthing though to suss things out.
   For example Baking Soda over here is Bicarbonate of Soda, garlic powder is called Garlic granules, etc. Some products are simply not available here and a British equivalent is necessary. Muscovado Sugar is a ready replacement for brown sugar, and adds a richer, deeper flavor than American brown sugar which is refined white sugar with a layer of molasses spray painted over it; Treacle subs for molasses, and Lyle's Golden Syrup puts corn syrup to shame! Lyle's syrup has a lovely butterscotch flavor that makes baked goods MMMM yummy! Corn syrup is thick, sweet and lacks character--period. Some American products are available here like Jif Peanut butter but the British brands are in my opinion far superior--not as sugary sweet, or greasy.
   Recently we've noticed Tesco supermarkets are beginning to provide more American products in their Foreign Foods section. Here are some product pictures and price comparisons:
Americans will faint at these prices! Will Brits pay them? What about American ex-pats? Depends on how badly you miss them.

   Let's start with Jiff Peanut Butter. Tesco charges £4.00 ($6.40) for a 454 gram jar. A 16 ounce jar is the closest American weight; 450 grams is equivalent to 16 ounces. Stateside my daughters can pick up a one pound jar for $2.78 (£1.73). 
   Smuckers Goober Grape and Peanut Butter spread is £4.50 ($7.20) for 510 grams. Again 16 ounces Stateside is the closest one will come to the actual 17.999 ounces in 510 grams. My grandsons can enjoy this spread on their bread for a mere $2.96 (£1.85). 
   Kraft Macaroni and Cheese comes in two sizes: Single dinner, and Family size. This product is a staple of most Americans for those times when one is truly too exhausted to cook. For American poor folk it is a common cheap dinner.
   Back when my kids were young I used to make a quick and easy meal by making a single box of Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese per the instructions. Before serving I added a drained can of tuna fish and a drained can of green beans. Tossed up and heated through with some lemon pepper on top I thought it was a lovely bit of cheap and cheerful. My kids however were not so keen. This dish came to be called "shitty" in our house--as in " Oh Ma do we have to have shitty for dinner?" 
   Over here the single box of Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese costs £2.20 ($3.56) for 206 grams . In the USA it costs $1.59 (£1.00). The family size box costs £4.75 ($7.69). In the States it costs $2.99 (£1.84).
  A1 Steak Sauce at Tesco costs a hefty £5.50 ($8.80) per bottle! At Walmart in the States one could buy A1 Sauce for $2.98 (£1.96). 
  Kelloggs Pop Tarts fruit filled, cost £3.50 ($5.67) for a box of eight. In the states an 8 pack costs $2.18 (£1.34). 

   A 425 gram can of Libby's canned Pumpkin costs £2.00 ($3.24). In the States a 15 ounce can costs $1.74 (£1.00).
   Tesco gouges its customers £1.50 ($2.43) for one 335 ml. can of Cherry Dr. Pepper soda pop. In the U.S. a 12 ounce can (354 ml) costs $0.58. 
    Twinkies! A well loved American junk food with enough preservatives in it to last for twenty years on the shelf. £7.50 ($12.15) for a 10 pack; Americans can pick them up at the local grocers for $3.49 (£2.15).
  A word to the wise: If you like Pepsi cola original formula made with sugar you can find 12 packs of 355 ML cans on the Foreign Food shelf at Tesco for the princely sum of £12.00 ($19.44)!  Back home in Washington State I could buy a 12 pack of Pepsi original in 12 ounce cans for $5.49 (£3.58). Talk about being gouged!!! But then out of curiosity I went to Tesco's regular soda aisle where I found Pepsi "Regular" which is also made with sugar. A 12 pack of 355 ml cans costs £3.50 ($5.67). It pays to comparison shop.
   Sometimes we run across supposedly "American" products which I've never heard of before, for example Tesco bakery is making much of their fresh baked bread, including the large, round Apple and Pecan bread on the right, whose plastic bag sports a U.S. flag. £1.90 they want for it as well! Unless this is some phenomenon from the American South, I have never heard of Apple Pecan bread and I wouldn't eat it either. I do wish Tesco would hire me to choose their American food products. Not only would I make far better choices but I would be willing to provide demos at the store to get Brits hooked on those products as well!

Spanish and Britican vs. "authentic" Mexican Food
 I sometimes long for a plate of burritos, enchiladas, a Tamal and some rice that is honest to goodness Mexican. It is the food I've grown up with prepared and cooked by Mexicans opening restaurants in the USA. It is a good thing I can make most of these favorites from scratch although I will admit to never trying my hand at making Tamales. They must be made in large batches by a kitchen full of women following their abuela's recipe in order to be any good.
   I've checked the menus in Mexican restaurants over here to find food that is mainly Spanish--not Mexican. While there is nothing at all wrong with Spanish cuisine, it is not the same as Mexican; to assume so is akin to thinking Indian food and British food are the same thing.
   Grocery store products claiming to be Mexican made by American companies such as Old El Paso are in reality what I call Britican--loosely based on Mexican food changed to reflect British tastes. There is also an assumption by grocers, restaurateurs and perhaps Brits in general that "American" means hot; blow the top of your head off and make you weep when going to the loo kind of hot!
   Les used to tease me because each time we went shopping I would slowly peruse the "Mexican" food section looking for mild green chiles. Nope, nada! The only chiles on the shelves were red or green Jalapeños--and occasionally a can or jar of Chipotles which are in fact smoked Jalapeños. When considering a pizza to go (take away) in some of the local shoppes over here, a standard menu offering is The American, littered with you guessed it--Jalapeños, which is like saying all British foods contain jellied Eels.
   At the Moscow, Idaho Saturday Farmer's market in summer one could buy literally hundreds of different varieties of fresh and dried chiles. Not all chiles are hot. Pasillos, Italian Pepperoncinis, Anaheim, Banana, Guajillo and several other varieties are lovely and mild--all that unique chile flavor with only a mild heat. 
   The Scoville scale is used to rate the heat in chile peppers in Scoville Heat Units or SHU. Jalapeños and Chipotles come in at 8000 SHU. By comparison, Poblanos rate 2000, Bananas are at 900, Anaheims are at 600, Pepperoncinis rate 500 and Pasilla peppers are a mild and fruity 150.
   Nearer the top end of the Scoville scale are peppers like Jwala and De Arbol (30,000 SHU), Aji and Tobasco fly high at 50,000, Birdseye, Habaneros and Piri Piri Peppers turn up the heat at 300,000 SHU, and The Bedfordshire Super Naga Chile is a brain frying 1,120,000 scovilles and makes my point that Brits like to spice up nearly everything--hot-hot-HOT!!
   Mexican Fajitas are traditionally cooked on a super hot cast iron oval Fajita skillet. The meat is seared as are slices of red and green bell peppers and white onions, seasoned with garlic, lime juice, paprika, cumin, and chile powder for those who like them spicy hot. Wrapped in a hot flour tortilla this is a slice of Mexican heaven. 
   Over here one can pick up an Old El Paso brand Fajita meal kit--for Oven baked Crispy chicken Fajitas. Whaaaat???? The kit contains a shaker bag to coat the chicken which is baked in the oven. The ingredients include dried onions, black pepper, tomato paste, salt, vinegar, ginger (really???), lemon juice, Guajillo peppers (2,500-5000 SHU's), garlic powder and paprika. 
    Another meal kit that leaves me perplexed is Smoky BBQ Beef Enchiladas with cream sauce packet included.
   Now the word Barbecue comes from the term Barbicoa which comes from the West Indies, and supposedly from the Taino Indians of the Bahamas. While BBQ is finger lickin' good it is not Mexican. Some of these kits contain nutmeg, bay leaf, leek, parsley, Rosemary extract, and cream cheese--none of which I have ever encountered in traditional Mexican food.    
   Finally there is Mexican Corn. Over here cans of Green Giant Mexican Style Corn includes corn, onions, black beans, red peppers, and lime juice.  
   In the States Green Giant's Mexi-Corn contains corn, green and red bell peppers.
   I will give Brits credit for their ability to borrow food from other cultures and put their own special twist on things as well as their open minded attitude to trying almost everything at least once. 
   Still when one is 7000 miles from home, one wants the real deal not the near thing. I've yet to source bologna lunch meat, sweet Italian Sausage, or La Choy crispy Chow Mein Noodles which add deep fried but not greasy crunch to everything from Chow Mein to cookies. 
   At long last Tesco apparently heard my fervent prayer for mild chiles and I found them in jars at the Frogmore Wharf Tesco in Rickmansworth.
   Les nearly had to hide in the loo while I dropped to my knees in front of the aisle and wept in gratitude.
   While the Enchilada sauce over here is adulterated with coriander, breadcrumbs, and other distinctly non-Mexican spices, I can make my own sauce from scratch and now with mild chiles my Mexican food will finally taste authentic--but not blind us with heat.
    Another American product I despaired of ever finding in England has popped
 up miraculously and I am thrilled to have access to Agave Nectar. Made from Agave cactus, it is a low glycemic natural sweetener and I've used it for years to replace sugar wherever possible.

  While progress is arriving slowly there are still things for which I long:
No!
Yes!
   Hot Dogs--or Frankfurters, and American style sausage in general. It took me a long time to find an American hot dog equivalent over here. Yes, there are Hot dogs in jars, touted as "American style!" To that I must insist that no real died-in-the-wool American would ever let a Hot dog in a jar pass their lips. To put a fine point on this theme--American Hot Dogs are also NOT sausages. They are not Brockwurst, Brautworst or some other form of sausage. I've had my heart broken a number of times after seeing a food booth at a market advertising Hot Dogs. Nothing could be further from the truth for an American and the average "wurst" cannot hold a candle in my opinion to a Ball Park 100% all beef "Plumps-as-it-cooks Frank, or a Nathan's Dog.
   I find it odd in the land of the Beefeaters that while fresh meat is generally quite tasty, sausages over here are bland, tasteless and filled with bread. I gave up eating sausages until I found Heck brand 97% pork sausages. If I want bread with my sausage I will toast a slice and put it under my meat.
  
English fry up
Britain is known for its breakfast--the quintessential English Fry Up which consists of British Bacon (for an American it is like kissing your sister), sausages grilled till very dark brown and leathery, two eggs staring (whites done, yolks raw and looking at you), fried mushroom slices, half a broiled tomato, a small bowl of baked beans, sometimes a pile of chips, and toast. 


Real hashbrowns, crispy bacon and eggs over easy!
  I jones for an All American Fry up, which includes American bacon--not British streaky bacon which is cut thin enough to see through--but thick, crisp, wavy bacon which crunches when you bite it and is known by its secret American name: meat candy.
   Keeping the bacon company are two eggs any way you want them. I like mine "over easy" which means they are flipped gently so the whites are cooked but the yolk is not, leaving a thin white membrane of cooked egg over the yolks. I once asked for my eggs over easy and the waitress thought I was propositioning her. 
  To finish the American Fry Up, accompany it with a heaping mound of freshly grated, crispy hash browned potatoes--not a triangular frozen potato cake. Add a plate of toast or a stack of pancakes. Mmmm good!
A picture of the fresh meat counter: Billy Bear Sausage, Ox Tongue, Corned Beef and Ham.
   Things I've found over here that I could never find in the States??? Freshly prepared, hot baked pasties. OH-My-GOD!!! The original British fast food--these hand held pies filled with minced meat, onions, potato, carrot, and swede are to die for. An Egg McMuffin or Sausage McBiscuit has nothing on these beauties freshly baked and filled with British love. We enjoy a walk around a village or town on a Saturday morning and stop for a fresh, hot pasty which warms our hands in winter as well as our bellies.
   Fresh baked goods in general over here are fabulous. And there is not a strawberry grown anywhere else on this planet to rival fresh British strawberries and that is not an overstatement.
   Also lets not forget Pimms! Fresh fruit and booze cannot be beat. Pimms is the sophisticated, grown up sibling of Sangria.
   With all the things I miss its a very good thing the quintessentially British life I live on the canals with my lovely English husband and our truly wonderful friends is only available Over Here; a life that makes missing out on some home grown favorites totally worth it.  

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

You never know who you might meet under a bridge.


Not having seen Paul and Christine for quite a long time, it was very nice while out for a walk to see NB Waterway Routes coming through a bridge. Paul quickly throttled back; Jaq and I stepped aboard. Coming to a lock, Paul engaged the electric drive of his hybrid engine so we might hear the difference.
Now the reason Waterway Routes has an electric drive is that Paul and Christine produce some wonderful DVD`s of the canals and rivers here in the UK and the silent drive is a must for the superb quality of the finished film. Below is a link to a U Tube sample.



The videos are without doubt very well produced but my biggest interest are the magical maps. Here is a screen shot I have taken to show you the detail that make these maps so good. They can be linked up to GPS and can be viewed on many devices. Not my strong point so click the link and check it all for yourself.


I have no shame in making this blog post like a TV advert but these are boating friends that also sell an excellent product.
Lovely to have you both aboard for tea and natter after such a long time.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Kings Langley


Canal bridges come in all shapes and sizes, some old some new and some like this one at Kings Langley, takes Water Lane over the cut, have been replaced by a modern structure. It was originally the very common narrow brick arch.
What a large number of canal bridges have in common is the history that disappeared along with the working boats. The history that once surrounded this bridge has gone leaving no trace or at least very little.As is often the case I come across this history quite by chance when researching something else, in this case I was looking into the Ovaltine history.

In the picture above looking north through the original bridge the lock can be seen. Upon the bridge to the left is the Griffin pub and shop and to the right like a mirror image is the Boatman and shop.

Looking towards Kings Langley. The Boatman, built in 1830`s, is on the left where the car is next to it was a bakers and confectionery shop. Across the canal bridge on the Kings Langley side is the Griffin, built 1860`s, just past the white fronted butchers and food store.
The drinking laws closed the Griffin early so at closing time customers would cross the canal bridge and enjoy an extra 30 minutes drinking in the Boatman that benefited from Abbots Langley extended hours. Folk have re-called the glasses were returned across the bridge the following morning.
Today modern housing has replaced the pubs and shops. The brick wall and the fence still mark out the side access to the stables behind the Boatman pub. Across the bridge the trees have taken the place of the Griffin. Stabling was available at both pubs.

 To understand what attracted so many working boats to tie up here overnight have a look at the map below. First though just count how many pubs are squeezed into this small area very close to the canal. The only one left is the Red Lion but that only exists as a private house. The beginning of the 20C. there were 14 pubs in the Kings Langley area.
The Ovaltine was just a few hundred yards along the canal and past that about the same distance again were John Dickinson's Home Park paper mills. The village wharf would receive supplies as would the timber yard opposite. Toovey`s mill was also serviced not only by their own fleet but by other canal carriers. On top of this you would get boats passing through perhaps having loaded in Brentford with goods destined for northern destinations who would want a place to spend the night.
The men would use the pub and the women would take advantage of the butcher and other shops being open till 9pm. although come wartime rationing this became 5.30pm. The most important requirement was the stabling. The horse was the heart of everything, no horse no income so the horse took precedence over pub and shop.

An interesting story came up during my research featuring the shop pictured on the right.
From 1855 to 1930 this was a butchers run by the Payne family. In 1881 Joseph Payne died and his son William came from Birmingham to run the shop.
William`s wife son and five daughters together with all their possessions traveled over several days by canal boat to take over the family business. Not one item was broken and William ran the shop until his death in 1930.

Another story was of the transport of night soil from London. This is human manure mixed with street sweepings and it cost £27 -$43 per boat load that covered 10 acres.
Newman Hatley farmed 500 acres and in the early 1800`s started to run his own boats delivering farm produce into London and returning with night soil.
His two boats cost £262-$420, he employed a bargeman and boy for £2.12.6d- $4.20c. Also another un-skilled man at 17s=$1.35. Three horses were the boats engines and the round trip took 10 days. He had tolls to pay but the boatload of night soil cost £12 at London a saving of £15-$24 but he also was shipping his own and others goods to London.


         

       The Boatman pub.
        Demolished 1963













          
            




 Home Park paper mills.











The Red Lion has a Jacobean frontage.
It closed as a pub in 1979 and is the only one
still standing.














Toovey`s Mill and land was sold in 1978 and the 1936 grain silo that was a local landmark was demolished.




















Golden Spray flour was one of the products of Tooley`s Mill.