Off The Beaten Track

Unless I have actual business to take care of there, I avoid large main streets like the plague. Notorious among the avoidees is London’s Oxford Street, which is a shitty thoroughfare full of tourists and other scum, all taking selfies and being fleeced by the stores selling the most awful tat (British for tchotchkes) while they try to persuade themselves they’re having a great time in the world’s best city.

Fach.

My advice: turn off the rotten thing as soon as you can — as I did when I walked down Soho’s Wardour Street, which is a narrow lane full of interesting places…

…such as the Pickle & Toast, which specializes in cheese toasties (grilled cheese sandwiches, to my Murkin Readers):

Exhausted by having had to walk a block down Oxford Street, I badly needed a cup of tea so I went inside.

I ordered my cuppa, and then sat down to drink it and relax awhile — but the smell of sourdough toast was too wonderful, so I ordered a cheese toastie. This was also because the place does not use just any old cheese, no sirree. This is the stuff they use:

It’s Quicke’s Cheddar, from Devon; and the sandwich looks like this:

Good grief. I could have eaten three, and the rest of the menu looked just as tasty — and they serve breakfast too, but I got there just too late. To say that this beats a Big Mac on Oxford Street is to utter the understatement of the century.

And just so we’re all clear on the concept: I could have eaten at about a dozen different places along Wardour Street, and I probably would have had just as good a time and just as good a meal. Now you know.

Delenda est Via Oxonium.

Forgot The Day

I was going to post the next set of my impressions of the new South Africa today, but I forgot it was Sunday, when deep thoughts are banished because mental health.

So allow me to take a look at one of the Brit TV babes, one Claudia Winkelman:

Someone once said, rather unkindly, that it’s impossible to take a decent picture of her because of her bizarre makeup and weird hairstyle — her trademark look, by the way. She also mugs for the camera when she’s aware of her pic being taken, which doesn’t help either.

However, she’s not a magazine fashion model, she’s a TV personality — and on TV she’s remarkable: intelligent, lively, animated, personable and possessed of the loudest laugh and dirtiest chuckle on either side of the Atlantic.

I think she’s very sexy — and for someone in her mid-40s who’s had a brace of kids, she’s just fine.

Fun With Art

“OMG, so I went to this like, artist’s place ’cause he said he was, like, looking for a model and he was offering like, serious cash. So I get there and he says I have to pose like, nude OMG, but he says he saw my nude pic on the Internet because that bastard ex-bf of mine, like, took those nudies of me with his iPhone? and this artist is all like, it’s Art, not just a boob pic, you know? And he offers me like, double the money and I’ve got these student loans? so I think WTF and I strip off. He starts painting me, and then he’s, like, all OMG you’re so beautiful and he starts looking at me LIKE THAT and I’m just about to get up and leave when he, like starts kissing me and I’m like ewww ewww ewww because he’s like, older than my Dad, you know? I was so grossed out, it was like, sexual harassment? but he gave me $500 for the session so I guess it’s like, okay?”

“OMG that’s exactly what happened to me? only I didn’t go nude and the artist was like kinda sexy, like Brad Pitt kinda, so I didn’t mind too much? Just promise me you won’t like, tell my bf, kay?”

The Midi

No time to post anything cultural today; I’m off to the south of France, e.g.:

…and tonight I should be dining somewhere like this:

Yeah, I’ve had enough cold weather for a while, although apparently a cold front has swept through the place, making the weather more like Hardy Country than the Midi. (I know, I know: First World Problems.)

Tomorrow: Monaco, or maybe Provence. (I’m in the hands of Longtime Friend & Drummer Knob, so I have no idea where we’re going or what we’re doing. Pics to follow, if I can get decent wi-fi access on the road.)

No Cottage No Cry

Got back to the Englishman’s Castle (i.e. farm) last night after a four-hour journey from Cornwall in the pouring rain (see: Britishland Weather, Normal Autumn Edition). Of course, after leaving the cottage at 3pm and this being Britishland Autumn, only one hour was completed in daylight and the rest in Stygian black dampness. Fortunately, The Englishman is well versed in the Dark Arts of driving a Land Rover in such conditions which is a Good Thing because as any fule kno, Land Rovers have totally inadequate and shit windshield wipers which, at any speed over 20mph, simply wave about feebly over the glass without making much contact. Being a Stout Bulldog, however, The Englishman didn’t seem to notice, even when negotiating the terror known as traffic circles (“roundabouts”) along the A303, which runs from Cornwall all the way past Stonehenge, ending I-don’t-care-where.

Of course, after such a journey some sustenance was needed, but rather than go to the King’s Arms (which could only have ended badly), we settled for a curry and a couple beers at a fine Indian restaurant in Devizes.

But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. This is.

Had my landlord called me earlier to say that the next scheduled guests had canceled their stay and would I like to stay in Boscastle for the next few days, I would have sung the Hallelujah Chorus. Why? Well, I like singing the Hallelujah Chorus at the best of times, but mostly I would have sung it because my stay in the cottage, far from being the ordeal I thought it might be, turned out to be one of the best times of my life. This was not just because Boscastle is beautiful (it is) or because the locals are very friendly (they are) or because I liked being on my own (amazingly, I discovered that I do).

It was a great time because of the cottage itself. I’ve not given a proper description of the place before because I wanted to do the place justice after I left. So here goes.

It’s called “The Old Store House” because that’s what it used to be back in the 19th(?) century. It’s a really old building, and lies smack bang on the banks of the river, just before it empties into the harbor and estuary:

It has three bedrooms and can house five people (two double beds and a single, across three bedrooms), and has two bathrooms upstairs — excellent showers and a bathtub. But that doesn’t tell the full story. The place, inside, is absolutely gorgeous: stone and tile floors downstairs, and carpets upstairs. Here’s the kitchen and the living room:

…and the pictures don’t do them justice at all. (By the way, in the bookcase are an incredible selection of dime novels in hardback; Loyal Readers will know of my love for the genre, and suffice it to say that I read four during my stay.) Simply put: I could live there quite happily for the rest of my life — and I should point out that my good friends the Sorensons (who took me there and stayed a couple days) are of the same opinion.

Enough of that. To my Murkin Readers I say: if you’ve ever thought of visiting Britishland, you have to visit Cornwall, you have to visit Boscastle, and you have to stay at The Old Store House. To my Britishland Readers I say: book your stay for next year (here). But I should warn you all that The Englishman has already booked out fifteen weeks (nearly four months) of next year, so do not procrastinate.

And I’m told that almost all the people who’ve booked their stay are “returners”, which should give you an idea.

This is not a plug of gratitude to The Englishman on my part — although I am pathetically grateful to him for getting me in there at such short notice. This post is a service to my Readers, because I promise you, you will love the place, both the town and The Old Store House.

If you do manage to get in, email me and I’ll give you all the inside scoop: where and where not to eat, tips about local beauty spots, and where to shop. Now get going.


P.S. “Sharon’s Plaice” [sic] just up the road from the cottage has the best fish & chips I’ve ever eaten. The fish comes from that morning’s catch, and fresh potatoes are likewise dropped off daily from one of the local farms. Last Saturday night there were about fifteen people (I among them) standing in the chilly rain, patiently waiting for their orders to be filled.

It was the third time I’d been there in five days.

Oh, and the Spar Foodliner across the street sells Wadworth 6X.

Worse, Not Better

I’m sorry to keep harping on about this, but I’m afraid that Domestic Goddess Nigella Lawson has lost all her charm since losing so much weight. Now she looks like just another woman: pretty enough, but kinda ordinary.

…whereas before all this skinny stuff, she was… NIGELLA!

 

It’s enough to make a grown man weep.