Beef Porkington

Beef Wellington is amazing. Everyone knows that. Not really that difficult to make, but a bit scary if you’ve not made it before though. I have used this really easy recipe a few times and it always turns out great.

But if like me, you are trying to get bikini fit for summer, you can’t be eating slabs of delicious pastry every five minutes, so what is a man to do?

I present to you, the Beef Porkington:

This beauty is made the exact same way as the traditional recipe, but instead of using evil delicious pastry, I just used a square of pork belly skin that I had my butcher trim for me. Score the skin with a really sharp knife when you have it tied around the meat, taking care not to cut all the way through. Rub it with oil and salt, and bang it in the oven at 400F for about a half hour.

Make sure that you put your tidy tied up little package on a rack in a roasting tin so the pork skin crisps up all the way around. You might need to baste it a bit or blast it for a few minutes at 450F to make it as crispy as you can.

Try the chimera roast and let me know what you think.

Sixty Eight

Another year rolls around and my mum’s birthday is here again. She would have been 68 today.

15 days ago, her 4th grandchild, my son, Holden, was born, so this is a bittersweet day – I am over the moon with his arrival in my life, but sad that he will never get to meet his Grandma. Of course I will tell him all about her and show him pictures and let him know that she would have loved him dearly and doted on him like she did with her other grandchildren.

I spent a lot of time looking through old photographs, I see my grandparents and aunts and uncles who are not around any more, some of which I have little or no memory of, but still feel love for, and I feel like there is a gap left where they would have fit into my life.

I look at my boy and I see my mother in his eyes, maybe that is just wishful thinking, but somehow it feels like there is a piece of her still here now with me.

As generations come and go, they will always be connected. I am going to knock a gin back and remember with a smile and a tear.

X

Find your place

“We went there for everything we needed. We went there when thirsty, of course, and when hungry, and when dead tired. We went there when happy, to celebrate, and when sad, to sulk. We went there after weddings and funerals, for something to settle our nerves, and always for a shot of courage just before. We went there when we didn’t know what we needed, hoping someone might tell us. We went there when looking for love, or sex, or trouble, or for someone who had gone missing, because sooner or later everyone turned up there. Most of all we went there when we needed to be found.”

J.R. Moehringer, The Tender Bar

Avocado boy

Avocado

So this week you are the size of an avocado, and last week we found out that you are a boy.

Avocado boy. Avocadoes grow all over the place here, and now there is one right here beside me.

I can’t wait to watch you become whoever you turn out to be and to help you on your journey through life. We have a lot to do, you and I when you get here, and you should probably start thinking about a name you like, because I am finding it hard and I know like a bazillion names.

See you in August.

A letter to my unborn child

Hey, so you were a big surprise. A happy surprise. We had been trying to convince you to join us for a long time, and now it seems you are on your way. Right now I am reliably informed that you are about the same size as a raspberry, and I love raspberries, so that is good. Last week you were a blueberry, and next week you will be a medium green olive if the What To Expect app on my phone is anything to go by.

I already love you and care about you, worry about you and wonder what you will be like. I saw your heart beating so fast while we were in the hospital making sure you were in the right place, you looked more like a raspberry than a person at that point, to be honest.

The doctors and nurses and technicians all use words that I don’t understand quite often, and so I am looking up things and when I find out what they are, I still don’t really understand what the explanations mean. Fortunately, there are people who do, so I try not to worry about that.

Years ago I made a pretty bold statement that by the time I was 40 years old, I would not be living in the U.K. and that I would also be retired. Well, you should be here with me before I am 40, and it would be fantastic if I somehow managed to retire by then so I could hang out with you the whole time. I will have a think and do my best to make sure I am around as much as I possibly can be, I don’t want to miss a single second of you.

#raspberry

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Travel with friends

sunset over the ocean at Fort Bragg

I can’t write much about this picture. I have been really lucky to meet some great people to hang out with since I left England, and the California coast is an amazing place to hang out. The perfect combination seems to be friends, location, and having dinner together.

Here is a poem by Don Blanding from his 1948 book “Mostly California”:

Sunset Wines

The sunset’s azure cloth is richly stained
With ardent wines as though the day-gods drained
The casks of Life, then lifting goblets high
Shattered their brimming goblets on the sky,
A great defiant gesture of farewell,
A pagan rite so splendid that its spell
Enchants the watchers who, each in his way,
Shares the libation to departing day,
Drinking through mortal eyes the god-wine spilled
And goes his way with thirsting heart fulfilled.

The happy watchers choose from sunset wines
Bright Burgundies distilled from magic vines;
They see confetti cloudlets through a rift
Of darker clouds like restless flakes that drift
In Goldenwasser and they taste this Midas gold,
Or sip the bright champagnes of light that hold
Bubbles of laughter, froths of mirth that float,
Sufficient wine to please the shallow throat.
Drunken with color, warm with joy they go
Leaving the sad dark dregs of afterglow.

The lonely ones who watch the sea at dusk
Choose the harsh flavor of the briny musk
Brewed of long shadows, chilled in wind and mist.
They know, these hearts of drought that sorrow kissed
How this long somber hour of dusk discloses
The sweetness of the Wine of Bitter Roses
They seek the subtler flame, the hidden savor.
With masochistic joy they taste the flavor
Of secret tears, the saline hint of blood.
The lotus flower rooted in the mud
Yields a liquor they crave, an anodyne
For aftermath of too much love, a wine
Fragrant with sad nostalgia’s dark bouquet.
For them the absinthe rather than tokay.
Elusive flavors teasing the tongue
With haunting aftertaste like songs once sung
And half-forgotten, haunting the sick heart.
They are secret drinkers, drawn apart.
They know that thirst deep-smouldering in the mind
Is heart-blood of the wine. They seek to find,
Like the mystic suppliant who begs
For crusts . . . realities among the dregs.

Don’t criticize what you can’t understand

junk made into the shape of a strange face

Art is subjective. I have often found it difficult to appreciate. I like things to be in proportion and for lines to be straight.

When I see something that looks even slightly off-kilter, I start to feel uncomfortable, which is weird, I know.

Realizing that it doesn’t matter much whether I like someone’s art or not was freeing. Previously, I felt like I should have had an opinion on whatever I was looking at. Now, I think that if someone’s art moves you, that’s a good thing, but if it doesn’t, well that’s ok too.

If somebody gets something out of anything anybody created with intention, then that is art. I think.

Reflect

Surface of a pool reflecting at night

Take time to look at yourself. Think about how others look at you. How bright is the light that you leave behind? How dark are the shadows?

I realize that I was never the best me I could be, but by realizing that I wasn’t always right, losing arrogance and stubbornness, a better me sees I can improve.

If you don’t see any areas of improvement for yourself, I can’t imagine how that must feel.

I expect it’s a pretty dull place, perfection.

See beauty every day

sunset over the ocean

If you take the time to look around you, you will see something beautiful every day. It could be the sun setting over the ocean, a pattern you like in the grain of a wooden table, or a hummingbird hanging around for an extra second or two just for you.

Even the coldest hearts take pleasure in something, something can make them smile every day. Pay attention to what is around you and feed your mind and your heart.

Take time to laugh at yourself, and make other people laugh too. Why y’all so serious?

Be still

Stationery ceiling fan lit up in a dark room

Things move pretty fast these days. We are inundated with information, piped directly to our cell phones in our pockets, only a short reach away from our eyes. It is easy to take too much in, even without trying too hard.

Bright screens and flashing lights demand our attention and interrupt our sleep. Our family meals around the dinner table are losing to whatever is more important on our iPhones. We are permanently connected but rarely giving anything our full attention.

Read a book in the bath, sit and drink tea in your garden, play cards with your friends, play board games with your family, share a meal without your devices in your hands.

Take some time to be still, even if it is just for one five hundredth of a second every now and then.

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