Avatar The Pernickety Dickhead turns a new leaf

Past Chris was demonstrably a nightmare: see his previous exploits, part 1 and part 2. But he wasn’t all bad. By 2007, there were emerging signs that he might have started to mend his pernickety ways.

On 26 July that year, Past Chris was disappointed to find a foreign object in a tin of custard, but – not being particularly annoyed about it, and his mood being positively influenced by exposure to custard – wanted only to help prevent any future customer from suffering the same fate. With that in mind he wrote what amounts to a downright friendly letter to Ambrosia, manufacturers of custard.

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to express my disappointment in finding something unexpected in my custard.

I was nearing the end of a can of Ambrosia custard – in fact, I should confess, I had given up trying to find something to pour it on and I was just finishing the last quarter on its own straight from the tin – when my spoon emerged with a small brown object visible as part of its cargo.

It looks to me like a flake of brown paint, though I haven’t investigated it in any great detail. I have looked at where the can was kept, before and after opening, and I can only conclude it was already in there before I opened it. In any case, I have taped it to some card and included it here so that you might be able to work out where it came from and stop something similar landing in somebody else’s dessert.

I have not included the can itself, but the date stamp on the lid reads “04/2009 18:30 7 107 D”. It is the full-fat, maximum enjoyment variety.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Marshall

For his troubles, Past Chris received a £5 voucher to spend on more custard. It pays to be nice. Past Chris was a changed man, pernickety no more.

Avatar Car sweets

I don’t know what the weather’s been like up in the frozen north lately. Maybe you’ve had a bit less snow and a few days’ break from clearing the ice off your windscreen on a morning. But down here on the tropical borders between Hampshire and France, we’ve been having some fairly warm days.

On Monday it reached about 32 degrees here, which is jolly warm, I can tell you. I went shopping to the big Sainsbury’s, partly to stock up but also partly to spend half an hour in the air conditioning, and while I was in there I bought myself a little treat. I like to have some sweets in the car sometimes, and I am very partial to jelly babies. I got myself a bag of Bassett’s finest, and when I got back to the car I pulled them out of the shopping bag and dropped them in the driver’s side door pocket so I could reach in for some tasty goodness while on the road.

Here are some things I didn’t think about when I got home. I didn’t think about the fact that, if you park your car in the sun, the inside temperature quickly reaches a point about 30ºC higher than outside, so by mid afternoon the inside of my car would have reached a nice cosy 62 degrees. I also didn’t think about the fact that the melting point of gelatin is below 40ºC.

Anyway, the point of this is that on Tuesday I got in my car to go somewhere, and mid-journey, reached into the door pocket to find some delicious jelly baby treats. My hand unexpectedly entered a large gooey mass of melted jelly baby remains. I then got it all over the steering wheel too.

The jelly babies are irretrievable and could not remain in the car. They are entirely unsuitable for mobile snacking. So I’ve brought them inside and used a sharp knife to carve the jelly morass into bite-size chunks, which have an appearance somewhere between colourful jewels and gross melted sludge.

The moral of the story is: in the summer, have non-melting car sweets, such as extra strong mints or digestive biscuits.

Avatar Bamse Mums

Hey kid, are you hungry? Do you need something to snack on before dinner?

What you need is a bag of Bamse Mums.

Joyful in every sense of the word

We take the finest things that sugar can produce and fashion them into someone that would make even a Smurf squint with glee.

Hidden beneath a veil of chocolate is something that up until writing this post I wasn’t quite sure what it was. It tasted like milk but it’s actually a marshmallow. Yeah, one of them covered in chocolate but also tasting a bit like a Kinder Egg. In the shape of a bear. Sort of shaped like a bear. In your mouth.

Trust me, with a packet full of these in your pocket, well, they’d melt obviously because it’s summer. They would melt into the sexiest confectionary you have ever seen or maybe not because they’re made in France but my sister sent some over from Sweden. Also nobody is impressed with melted chocolate unless they’ve got a hoover bag covered in holes for a brain.

English people probably don’t know what they are. They’re Bamse Mums.

Import some today and wonder why you bothered to do so in the first place.

Avatar A terrible waist

This week I’m going to a wedding in Jernsey, an island just off the coast of France near where I live. It’s been a while since I went to a fancy do, so I did the usual thing, which is to get my suit out of the wardrobe about a week beforehand and try it on.

I got a new shirt and tie, so I put those on and they look nice. The suit has a waistcoat – I like waistcoats – so I put that on, and it’s smashing. The jacket is also looking very swish. The trousers, on the other hand, are a cause of concern. They have three fastenings at the top and it’s a good job they do, because they are so tight that a single button would not have handled the strain.

I breathe in and I heave and I pull and eventually get them fastened, and then I attempt to sit down, an activity I rapidly have to abort due to the discomfort involved and the extreme risk it poses to my perfectly innocent trousers.

I contemplate attending a wedding at which I have to politely decline all opportunities to sit down and where I have to avoid eating anything all day long. I decide this is not a world I want to live in.

On Saturday I take the trousers to work with me, and in my lunchbreak head out to a tailoring and clothing alterations place nearby where the man has a look, explains that there’s enough extra in the waistline to let them out by about four centimetres, and gets this job done in the time it takes me to find a working cashpoint and come back with the money. I try them on and find this modest change is ideal – the trousers are now well fitted but with plenty of room to breathe, to sit, and to insert a three-course dinner. Problem solved.

I return to work and relate these events to one of my colleagues. Oh yes, she says, I think everyone’s going through a bit of that these days. She and her husband went to a wedding just last week, one that had been postponed since Spring 2020, and the pre-pandemic suit her husband had bought in February of that year no longer fit properly. He had to have the trousers adjusted in exactly the same way to fit his post-lockdown waistline.

It’s the lockdowns, she said. We all did less exercise and ate more food. It gets to us all. I laughed with her and agreed. It gets to us all.

In my head was a different thought. It’s not lockdown. I only bought this suit six months ago and it fitted then. It’s not lockdown, it’s just too many biscuits.

But I’m not saying that to anyone. They can never know.

Avatar BIG BA… NANAS

(Yes, it’s another stuck at home, covid post)

The virus hit me unexpectedly so much so that my cupboard wasn’t entirely brimming with food. The freezer was, thankfully, yet those perishables and little things you take for granted were already gone. I had to rely on the kindness of friends to drop shopping at my door. They could have flung it through my bedroom window and I would have been fine with that as long as I didn’t clock 4 pints of milk right between the eyes.

I asked for bananas and this is what I received:

Fruit fist

My hands are tiny anyway, they’re not the best for sizing up another item accordingly. These were the biggest, longest, fattest bananas I have ever had the pleasure of being in the company of. Sexual jokes aside (phwoar mate, get your lips round that, that’s the kind of girth ma missus would die for, someone’s gonna be happy tonight, are you sticking with the one or is the full bunch going up there etc. etc.) I found it easier to bite them along the side rather than trying to cut off a full disc. Is that the right expression? A banana disc? Let’s go with that.

Before they were fully ripened, because they turned up solid and green, you could have built a shed with one. You could have someone’s eye out with that. The option to beat a man to death with one was on the cards, if only I hadn’t been self-isolating the possibilities would have been endless.

Let us all say a psalm and remember, if you’re going to start a fight make sure your opponent isn’t in possession of a banana that’s greener than a Ninja Turtle and tougher than Chuck Norris.

Avatar Time to shape up or ship out

Do you have poorly-raised pork? Are you in receipt of rude chops or maladjusted mince? Are you berated by bad bacon and lazy lamb cutlets? What you need is the best in the business to teach them a lesson they’ll never forget.

Manners for Meat will take your ill-educated meat products and transform them into something you can show to mother and father at the next boating ceremony.

Leave your meat with us and we will put them through an intense yet fair training regime to whip them into shape.

No more crossed words. No more mumbling under their breath. No more ill-advised comments during luncheons and dinner parties. No slouching, no passing wind, no loud burps the likes of which could shake the top of Ben Nevis and drip snow on all the surrounding villages.

Manners maketh the man but they also maketh the meat.

Give us two weeks and we will put them through their paces and leave a lasting effect that will be seen for generations to come (or until your next Sunday dinner).

Come for the manners, stay for the meat.

Avatar A taste of Hampshire

People sometimes ask me: Chris, why did you move to Bordon? What attracted you to this small ex-army town in Hampshire? Was it the abundant woodland? Its proximity to the South Downs National Park? Being in easy reach of the picturesque and charming market towns of Farnham and Petersfield? Being within commuting distance of London while also being less than an hour from the coast?

It was none of these. What brought me to Bordon was enviable hilltop location on the borders of Aragón and Valencia in south eastern Spain, and its delicious red wines, a blend of 75% Tempranillo and 25% Garnacha grapes.

Wine from Bordón