“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oh, I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

Today Sis and I went out for our usual Wednesday morning excursion to who-knows-where. This seems to be turning into a ritual - it's my day off from work and the only morning she has on her own. Last week we hit the wilds of Goudhurst - today was a beautiful sunny one and so we decided a little trip down to the seaside would be just the ticket. At the top of Shrubcote, we were faced with a choice when turning onto the Appledore Road - left or right? Ah, what the hell. Right.

Knock Hill.
As we sallied forth, down the glorious Reading Street hill with its incredible views across the fields stretching all the way to the Marsh, through the charming little village of Appledore, we were faced with another choice... carry on straight, or turn right onto the Military Canal Road which would take us into Rye? Canal Road, with its long open stretches of road that a car loves. Past the bottom of Knock Hill which leads back up into Stone. Eventually getting to The Ancient Town Of Rye. But whither shall we wander now? I had been to Rye last week, with my mate Andy, for a lovely wander. We had sat in The Cobbles Tea Rooms (see link on right) and had some lovely crumpets with Marmite and a pot of steaming Oolong Formosa tea, a lovely brew of loose-leaf tea with a slightly chestnutty-honey flavour. We had gone into the amazing Grammar School Records, and I could have easily wasted the entire day in there looking at the predominantly vinyl selection of albums and singles. We had popped down to the Market and purchased some more fantastic Gjetost from the cheese man down there. And we had gone into a men's vintage clothing store called Classic Chaps and marvelled at the array of Aquascutum raincoats, multi-hued waistcoats, bowler hats, cufflinks and military uniforms.
Bear right, right....

Honk! Screee!
Today, though, despite the infinite varieties of eating and drinking establishments on offer in Rye, and the Farmer's Market by the harbour, we decided to press on, through the delightful Winchelsea with its hairpin bend, which is followed by an uphill climb and an ancient stone archway at the top which you almost want to go through, and then on through some lovely quiet villages with wonderfully evocative names - Icklesham, Guestling Thorn, Guestling Green and finally, you guessed it, Guestling. Soon after we come into a small suburb of Hastings, not the best part of town, appropriately named Ore. Here it was that we first stopped because Sis had but one errand to run - she needed a few picture hangers for the house. We stopped as we saw a B&Q DIY store, and it was only as we turned into the car park that we saw what a cardinal error this had been. The car park was (a) jammed full; and (b) about the size of my bedroom. As you can see.
After negotiating our way in and out of this nightmarish scenario, being faced with cars all coming in and out at the same time and trying to utilise the same space to stop, park, slow down, turn, reverse, and load their DIY purchases simultaneously, we pressed on into Hastings and finally came to rest in The Stade car park next to the Mini Golf.

Hastings is a town I have loved for many years. We have been coming down here to shop and go to the beach and generally have fun since I was a little kid. It has what I like to call a somewhat seedy charm, parts of it are just glorious and parts are somewhat shabby
Taken today, 19th May 2010, at about 11:15 am.
and tatty, but I love it all. Aside from all that, Hastings is the town where I first experienced the delights of Cappuccino. It was in the late 80s, and my friend Nigel and I were wandering around the Old Town in George Street, just off the High Street. We saw a little place on the corner called Fagin's Diner and decided to duck in and get a little something to drink. I saw they had cappuccino coffee on the menu, and impetuously ordered one out of curiosity, and so did he. I was a fan of The Style Council whose every record sleeve was adorned with liner notes by someone known only as The Cappuccino Kid. They were cool, I liked coffee, it made sense. It was the most decadent thing I had ever tasted up until that point in my life, sprinkled as it was with crumbles of chocolate from a Cadbury's Flake. Today when we went down George Street not only was I delighted to see that the formerly shabby and run-down street was now full of eateries, art galleries and generally cool shops of every ilk, but that Fagin's Diner was still there. Good on you, Fagin's.

We wandered up the old High Street and poked about in various cool shops selling antique furniture and organic snacks and local produce and freshly baked bread, but time was cracking on and we'd only paid for an hour at the car park, so we said farewell to the Old Town and wandered back to our starting point at The Stade. We were getting hungry but time was short as we had to get back home by 1pm. So it was that I ended up going to a McDonald's for only the second time since arriving back in the UK four months ago.

Mickey D's in the UK is much the same as in the US, save for a few differences, which I can illustrate here with the aid of a quickly-snapped photo of the drive-thru menu.
Notice the PG Tips Tea on the drinks menu and the Fish Fingers (aka fish sticks) on the Happy Meal options.
Now, outside the pace was a big banner advertising their "Great Tastes Of America" series of sandwiches, 5 in all, one per week, and of course I didn't know what week we were on. I only knew that I had to see what this was all about. Evidently the fist week's burger had been the New York Supreme and the following week had been some sort of BBQ chicken sandwich whose name escapes me now. This week we were on the New Orleans Deluxe and I was all over it like a pack of dogs on a three-legged cat. Here's what we ordered.
Had to go the Coke Zero route.
Now, despite the fact that in trying to eat my fries I accidentally dropped them, causing them - all of them - to land upside down inside my sister's purse (I still ate them), the New Orleans Deluxe was quite a tasty burger, what with its oval patty shape, the lettuce, red onion and cajun mayo. The bun was good too, with sesame seeds and some sort of herbage on the top - I want to say thyme or parsley but I couldn't really tell which.

McDonald's on their UK website has a project going on where you can visit the actual British farms that supply their ingredients, which is kind of a cool idea. If more fast food restaurants took that approach there may not be as much negative press about them. There'd still be enormous people, though.

Now, time for a cuppa. Who's with me?

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