The Stockpot

Last night Elizabeth told us she had found a golf ball on her bedroom floor (see post of 8th. September).

It was a pretty drizzly day today.  Michael came down and spent the morning with us, after which Jackie drove me to Winchester to collect the plants left behind yesterday.  As she was on holiday she thought she would like an ice cream, which she consumed with a superb chocolate eclair whilst I drank a double espresso in two mouthfuls.  A boy in his first year or so at school, with his finger up his nose, kept asking, at full decibels, what was his father’s favourite colour.  Being unable to quieten his son the man offered the opinion that perhaps his teacher should be asked to focus on his behaviour.

A young, very tanned, man sat cross-legged in a doorway.  We wondered whether he was the owner of the bicycle bearing a placard asking people to ‘SAVE TIBET’.  A rather older gentleman carrying a folding white stick told us, as he put up his rain hood and tightly buttoned his coat, that the weather was going to deteriorate from tonight.  We thanked him for the information.  The young man seemed unconcerned.

We wandered down the High Street and into the Cathedral precincts.  There was such a wealth of history in the buildings that a piece of Roman pavement in a corner of the Deanery could seem to have been forgotten and almost buried in what is now a second-hand bookshop, selling what look like donated books in order raise funds for the cathedral.  I delighted the custodian by selecting a P. D. James novel.  We held a mutual belief that it is the depth of her characterisation that marks her out as an author.  Jackie was interested in my other choice, a book on Elizabethan England by A.L. Rowse.

Following the signs to the Water Meadows we found ourselves by what we took to be the river Itchen, and strolled along it for a while.  At one point we were intrigued by a conversation between a grasshopper and a snail perched on either side of a bent umbellifer stem.

For our evening meal, Jackie fried another couple of sausages and added them to the still plentiful left over sausage and bacon casserole.  A Firs Mess (see 2nd. September) completed the meal, which, for Elizabeth and me was complemented by Villapani 2011, and for Jackie by Buddweiser.  The now very tasty stock from my original casserole turned the conversation to stockpots.  The only person I know who now keeps a traditional stockpot is my friend Norman.  This is a continuing pan of juices from cooked dishes which is constantly reused and added to over a period of time.  In the old days this never left the kitchen stove.  Because Norman doesn’t have the old kitchen range, and doesn’t cook every day, he keeps his pot in the fridge.  I can assure you it is put to good use.  Ann, the late wife of my friend Don (see 10th. August), told me she knew of a woman in Cerrigydrudion, where they had their Welsh home, who had kept a stockpot going for fifty years.  A small chain of restaurants in the very heart of Central London is one of Norman’s favourite haunts.  Given their situation, these establishments offer an incredibly cheap, very well cooked, range of basic, tasty meals.  Norman is something of a gourmet, and his recommendation is not to be discounted. I know, I’ve followed it.  The chain is called The Stockpot.  As the founder has retired they are all on a franchise now.

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