Saturday 29 August

Last year the Bank Holiday was a scorcher. This year there is a north wind and it has turned very cold. I spent some time this morning preparing food for lunch, which was a raclette. This is sometimes described as an indoor barbecue. It is basically a hotplate which you cook small items on, at the table. I sliced up chicken and steak, and we also had prawns and finely sliced mushrooms and peppers. We were six for lunch which was fortunate as the raclette has 6 little dishes under the hot plate, where you heat slices of cheese to put over your new potatoes. Served always with cornichons, mini gherkins. I don’t normally describe what I eat, but this particular dish engendered some discussion so I thought it was worth a mention.

We had a great time with the 4 old (ie we have known them a long time!!) friends who came to see us. Somehow the conversation turned to food of our childhood, and we remembered Fray Bentos meat pies, spam fritters, faggots and gravy, milk jelly, evaporated and condensed milk, tinned cling peaches, tinned ham. Rod remembered the British Restaurants, which were set up during the war but continued in some areas, serving cheap but nutritious food to those who could not afford very much. They were run by the Ministry of Food. No Pret a Mangers then and soon it seems will not be in the future.

Yesterday at the garden centre I was amused by the payment method in the drive-through section where I buy compost. I stay in the car and the nice young man lobs a bag of compost into the boot. In order to pay, I have to wave my card across the machine. But this time the machine was attached to a 2m long piece of wood, rather like the TV journalists wave the microphone at people. It was funny, as if I was breathing fire and had to be kept at a distance.

I watched a very old Michael Palin episode of Pole to Pole. He was in Leningrad. That shows you how old it was (1992) just before it reverted to being called St Petersburg. He is a very entertaining presenter I find, with some great anecdotes. He even ventured to the outskirts of Chernobyl. In Novgorod he made a speech about being twinned with Watford and presents were exchanged. It was all delightfully old school.

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