The Parson and The Publican ...
PUBLISHED: 11:19 15 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:22 20 February 2013
... at Flavours of Herefordshire Festival
... at Flavours of Herefordshire Festival
In the words of the Parson
More tea vicar? I should say so! Now dear reader, you might think find the appearance of tea a surprise. Usually the inclination is towards things with a little more fermentation than infusion but fear not there has been a fair amount of that today. However you find me now with a cup in hand and tea pot steaming gently on a tray. After a pleasant day at the Flavours of Herefordshire Festival and an evening with the Old Licensed Victualler as he recounts a tale of yore, a refreshing dose of Earl Grey is going down a treat.
Over the years I have sought the doings of a good cup of Earl Grey, loose leaf naturally. I have tried many and frequently been disappointed but I can tell you that this brew is looking like the good stuff. The Queen of My Heart is less certain but although I am usually a slave to her opinion she drinks peppermint tea and other decoctions and so in this matter I nod in seeming agreement and keep my counsel. So Trumpers Tea is doing it for me. I came upon them at the aforementioned festival, taken there with a view to sourcing my Christmas provender entirely from the locality.
It was a filthy job but in the pursuit of the good stuff I am the very model of diligence. So a perfect autumn day sees the OLV and I heading off early to be sure of pole position for the tastings. He is committed to sampling his favourite flavour of Herefordshire, the old pippin juice. He has a mission, should he wish to accept it, to seek out and secure a fine tipple for our guests at the launch of our new book. The advantage of this event in his opinion is that he gets a chance to chat to all the producers, grill them a little, talk crushing and apple varieties and so on.
Of course the OLV has hit the bulls eye (pedigree Hereford naturally). The tents, or pavilions as they are termed, clustered around the cathedral, stretching up into High Town and across to Castle Green are jammed packed full of passionate producers who are more than willing to share their excitement for what they do. That passion leads them to seek out the best, to go the extra mile in producing, to care about what leaves their kitchens or farms in a way that no anonymous food processor ever would.
So to my mission. I plunge headlong into the crowd that is filling the enormous marquee and work my way along the stalls. There cannot be a cocktail stick or small plastic tasting cup left in a 100-mile radius of this place.
Black Mountain Smokery has a wonderful range of smoked goodies. We are very traditional and start our Christmas Lunch with smoked salmon so I make a beeline for the plate of slivers and dive in with the cocktail stick. The oak-smoked, dry-cured, freedom-farmed salmon is very tasty. I try the mackerel, the duck and the hot smoked salmon as well, all in the interest of research of course. I turn to direct my companion towards the tasty morsels but Once Upon a Tree have his undivided attention as in turn will Pips Cider, Gwatkin Cider and Olivers Cider and Perry. In the meantime I discover a rather tasty combination lurking in the sausage department at Legges of Bromyard. With smoked pancetta, I am thinking that these would make a great sausage meat for the forcemeat stuffing in the turkey or twisted a little smaller they will make chunky little accompaniments alongside the bacon rolls.
There is a very pleasant pink wine, the buffs might call it ros but it is pink so pink we call it, at the Lulham Court stand. There is also a rather lively fizz and when I later discover Jo Hilditchs British Cassis I think we might have a winner for the pre-dinner snifter. The OLV glancing over my shoulder at this point mentions that we would have a very pleasant pink poo. Understand if you will the workings of his mind. You are already aware of his tendency to state the obvious, so you understand the pink. Know also that champagne is shampoo when the mood takes him, and the rest you can work out for yourselves.
Cheese at the end of the meal will be no problem with an embarrassment of riches laid out in little pieces before us. There is a blue cheese from the Monkland Cheese Dairy that is very pleasant with a long taste as well as several of their other cheeses. Not far away today but usually over the border in Shropshire is Mr Moyden with a number of very tasty offerings. Chocolate is also on offer and we sample widely and take home for them who might need a little peace offering, some of Sue Gilmours tasty truffles.
Outside the main pavilion we are delighted to find our chum James from Trealy Farm. There is among all his goodies a rather good-looking selection pack that takes the hard work out of choosing from all the wonderments on offer although just a quick word for the lamb carpaccio with rosemary. Yum.
There are pork pies for Boxing Day in several glorious incarnations and the OLV even manages to find cider in a jar as Mirandas Preserves lure him with a fruity cider jelly.
There is nothing more to be done with him after this but pour him into the old Transport of Delight, replete with good things of Herefordshire, and get him home to the fireside.
In the words of the Publican
It has been a trying day in many regards and my old chum the Parson tells me that I have been trying pretty much anything that had been within breathing distance of an apple. A little unfair perhaps I wonder? I am a man who takes my responsibilities seriously. No shirking when we are on parade I tell him.
However now the feet are on the fender, the curtains drawn as the dark closes in and my mind takes itself to a little place far from the madding crowd.
Are you sitting comfortably Old Thing? I ask of my clerical companion swirling a glass of amber goodness across the hearth from me. He nods. Then I shall begin.
From his vantage point on the landing the Innkeeper of The Basking Trout, Major James Percival Bell, R.A. (retired) was watching the wintry brown, turbulent water of the river flow past.
The sombre weather reflected the innkeepers mood and as he turned and adjusted his cravat in the mirror his thoughts returned to the immediate problem. He had always considered himself to be of an understanding and diplomatic nature and through all his military career, confrontation, with his seniors and his junior subalterns had never caused him any concern; but then no raging Sergeant Major on the parade ground at Sandhurst had conditioned him to deal with the likes of his cook, the redoubtable Mrs Davies. So, with a final glance in the mirror and a wistful look at the river he gloomily descended the stairs.
He stood hesitantly at the open kitchen door watching the cook as she glided the rolling pin across the flour-covered board. Er good morning Mrs Davies, he stammered.
Mornin, her reply as short and crusty as the pastry.
I, er see Patstight has already left, said the Innkeeper glimpsing the empty sink.
Yes, replied the cook, vehemently, He is on his way to collect your goose that you ordered and not the turkey that I ordered.
Really Mrs Davies I feel we should call a truce and agree to differ on what we are having for lunch on Christmas Day.
We always has a turkey, a turkey from Home Farm which Mrs Cooper saves for us and dresses out special.
Yes I know that but I thought this year we would have a change, said the Innkeeper almost apologetically.
You didnt consult me, snapped the cook.
The Major opened his mouth to respond but the cook turned to face him rubbing more flour along the length of the heavy rolling pin and like a beaten dog he retreated hastily to the sanctuary of his bar.
To the casual observer the mud-spattered ex-army Land Rover weaving its way precariously down the mountain road seemed to be driven by a black and white collie. For Patstight, the Innkeepers faithful, Irish, right-hand man, being somewhat diminutive in stature and the seat upon which he was trying to operate the pedals being well-worn, was all but invisible. To compound the erratic appearance of the vehicle Patstight was steering with a hand over one eye, a habit he always adopted when driving under the influence of alcohol.
Police Constable Thomas, his eagle eye having seen the Land Rover descend the hill and knowing the occupant of old, propped his bicycle against the Post Office stepped into the lane and, raising his arm in an authoritative manner, signalled the vehicle to stop.
And may I ask where you have been? enquired the policeman.
Sure, replied Patstight. Oive bin to get de goose.
Have you been drinking sir? enquired the Constable sniffing the fumes from through the open window.
Course I have, oive bin up to Morgans place, ee made me ave a few points of his perry.
Hmm not poaching are we? said the policeman choosing to ignore the ruby Irish complexion and walking towards the rear of the vehicle. You wouldnt mind me looking in the back then? And before the expostulating driver, staggering from the door could stop him, the back door was flung wide, and an extremely large white gander, seeing its moment of freedom half flew, half ran back along the lane and, driven by an aged yearning, crossed the railway line heading straight for the river.
The Major listened with increasing gloom to the story relayed to him by a shuffling Patstight and P.C. Thomas, who was consuming a large tumbler of neat whisky at the Innkeepers expense to settle his nerves.
To say that Mrs Davies enjoyed her next confrontation with her embarrassed and grovelling employer was no exaggeration and it was with barely concealed contempt that she made a call to Home Farm.
At the end of the Christmas Day lunch in the dining room of The Basking Trout the Major passed the open box of Havana Cigars in the direction of the Admiral, who selecting one, thanked his host and passed him the half-full decanter of port.
Damn fine lunch Major, best turkey Ive tasted in years. Do thank Mrs Davies, damn fine cook that one, damn lucky you are to have her.
The Innkeeper lit his cigar and felt the first pangs of indigestion. Was it the turkey he wondered to himself or was it the exorbitant price he had been forced
The Parson is The Reverend Ian Charlesworth. His co-writer and navigator is watercolourist and former innkeeper Richard Stockton. Their first book, Jolly Jaunts with The Parson and The Publican, is out now priced 10 and published by Black Pear Media.