Piano playing food critic on a rainy night in Buxton

Unlikely guest of piano playing food critic at the Buxton festival

Cheeky illegal photo inside the Pavilion Arts theatre, The Rotunda theatre for small fringe events, the Opera House in the rain and the university dome from the Kings Head

A talented writer, comic, journalist, cook and food critic, Jay Rayner also plays jazz piano. I hate him already. I suppose he did go to Leeds University. We walked into Buxton in the rain last Friday from The Manse B&B which is extraordinarily good. After two Stellas and a meal in the Kings Head we went see Jay and his wife (Pat Gordon-Smith) who is a brilliant singer. The guy on sax (Dave Lewis) was excellent as was the bass player (Robert Rickenberg). The sound he got from the double bass was just as good banging the strings with the palm of his hand as it was from horny-fingered plucking.

The evening was mostly music, in between we listened to him talking about Masterchef and The One Show etc and being the son of a famous agony aunt. A quick chardonnay in the interval.

Jay once made chips from polenta (boiled cornmeal - an Italian innovation), asking an innocent customer at the chippy what she thought. "It's disgusting, making something out of afterbirth." He fluffed the follow-up line but probably got a bigger laugh.
  Some guy, worried about the shape of his penis, wrote to the agony aunt, having carved a replica in wood, and asked for her opinion. She didn't see a problem and immediately saw the opportunity to incorporate it in her condom application tutorials. It's now a family heirloom. I'd heard of mum, but her demise had passed me by. My dear childbride upbraded me, "She would have been a big age, Jay's no spring chicken." Neither are we.

It began with a Jobim's Wave. There were Leonard Cohen, Ray Charles and Joan Armatrading numbers. And food and drink items. That Old Black Magic (Harold Arlen), Cantaloupe Island (Herbie Hancock) Eggs and Sausages (Tom Waits), and easily my favourite, One for My Baby (Arlen/Mercer). It is the ultimate drunk song, made famous by Sinatra. My flat buddy in Liverpool had a Sinatra album (Sinatra at the Sands), the one with the monologue in the middle, which included the song. Played that and Green Onions all the time or so, it seemed. Then there was Food, Glorious Food from Oliver (Lionel Bart) which started with something very similar to Miles Davis' So What.

He took some of it a bit fast, reigned in by his wife, who conducted for short while with her arms. He didn't flinch and checked her out after slowing down, "Is that better darling?" Endearing.

He even came second on Celebrity Mastermind (specialist subject Stephen Sondheim). His charity was Sense, for whom he championed sight and hearing loss in the elderly. All a bit sickening. Multitalented and a conscience. He says he is political - Corbyn you would imagine. Just lousy at cards I guess. He is not too keen on Gove, but not many people are. History Repeating (Max Gifford) was a song which nodded at the current hung parliament, originally sung by the Propellerheads in 1997, featuring Shirley Bassey.

It's a gentle and entertaining night out. Even if we struggled to hear some of it. And I admit I'm simply envious.

Breakfast the following morning featured opera goers with plums in their mouths. Stereotypes. The night before we'd been the retired demographic, simply there to enjoy and not be seen. 

And then blow me on the car radio on the way home, Kitchen Cabinet, hosted by who? Jay Rayner. Insufferable. Saturday morning Radio 4 is pretty good. The Week in Westminster was particularly refreshing, with a massive bashing of the political classes and the journalists that feed off them. I suspect Jay would have approved.

Coffee increases life expectancy and saves the world

Bloc coffee shop Facebook link
Freedman ND et al (2012). Association of coffee drinking and total and cause-specific mortality. N Engl J Med; 366:1891-904.

According to Freedman, 6 cups per day reduces risk of death by 10% in men and 15% in women. Decaff as well. So that's alright then, except there are other interpretations of the data - boo.
Angela Epstein in The Times Saturday 15th July 2017 brings it all up to date. It's a treatment for lots: premature ageing, heart problems and cancer; reduces risk of dementia; aids weight loss and fitness; cuts drug doses in parkinsonism; lowers risk of type 2 diabetes; boosts memory; helps beat migraine and depression. It's about inflammation caused by breakdown products of nucleic acids (our genes) which are cleared from the body by caffeine. Can I have an intravenous infusion please?

Walking through Holmfirth I noticed that Bloc, the new stylish coffee shop next to Ashley's, uses Darkwoods coffee grounds.
So do I! Remember 60gm per litre of water.

Coffee  helps premature risk of death and some ageing problems

Whisky - Make Mine a Small One

There is a boom in setting up small distilleries, from The Highlands to the Cotswolds (Sunday Times July 4th 2017). Apparently there are 50 businesses at various stages from planning to production. According to the Scotch Whisky Association, whisky is massively sought after and profits from these small ventures are all but guaranteed.
  The business is expensive to get going and there is a significant delay before sales. Customers can invest in new whisky/eys by joining the distillery's founders club or circle with significant benefits when the products become available. 
  The Cotswold Distilling Co Ltd filled the funding gap with gin production. Other companies that haven't include Toulvaddie and The Spirit of Yorkshire, a co-owner of which has the Wold Top Brewery.
  My current meagre collection provides an image. Big Peat is almost gone ('beachy and oceanic'), Jameson's Crested which is akin to a liqueur, frontier Bulleit Bourbon ('oak and vanilla') and cooking Famous Grouse from the duty free. Brilliant drinking for the older person with a diminishing capacity for beer.

Current whisky as an image to go with small business in Sunday Times

Honley CC renovated pavilion opening

Honley CC pavilion restored and opened after 5 years planning, fund-raising and building

After 5 years planning, fund-raising and building, Honley CC's iconic pavilion is now open for use. Great turnout from the locals.
Shalliley Books (https://shallileybooks.org) made a small contribution and sponsored a brick.

Away days in Normandy 2017. Rural quiet and an amazing barn conversion

Isigny-le-Buat, rural, nearest town Avranches.

An amazing barn conversion in the middle of nowhere, nearest village a 10 minute walk to Isigny-le-Buat. Maize and cows seem to be the crops and beasts. I didn't count the bedrooms, but individually designed, most ensuite. Lots of pools. Kitchen-dining room, upstairs lounge with TV and pool table. Outside pool with lots of open or sheltered seating. Indoor pool with jacuzzi and sauna.
  And it's seriously quiet. 
  If it's quiet luxury that's important, this is it.

Camembert salad washed down with Chardonnay

Camembert on toast salad, raw ham which I struggle with, Chardonnay, smug diner.

Castle, town hall, cathedral, traffic
Great little town with cathedral, town houses, castle, town hall and traffic.

Museum with Kings and Bishops history and something more recent
The WW2 role of General Patton and The Third Army in the Normandy Landings (1944) and the subsequent liberation of Avranches is celebrated in the local museum. The town was levelled and totally rebuilt.
  There is also a Kings, Queens and Bishops history if that is of interest.
  The art gallery contains this image of Mont St Michel, with which Avranches is geographically and historically close. We remember it as a series of cafes and tat shops. The view from the mainland is stunning, especially at night.

Lunch in the car park, followed by walk in the park
First build your own table in the car park. Croque-Monsieur, burgers, moules-frites. I have happy memories of moules, but won't be having them again. Taste moves on.
  Apres lunch walk in the park.

And finally the village bar. Crowded at lunchtime, dead in the afternoon, continuous TV horse-racing.

Isigny heartbeat