Sunday, 6 May 2012

Feastival Time

May?  Already?  Gosh, is it really?  I've been so busy with, um, stuff, that I didn't notice.

Ah, I can't lie to you.  It's not true.  I haven't been particularly busy, at least not with anything interesting, or semi-interesting, or even mildly amusing.  My life has evolved into a slow, steady pattern of daily domesticity and occasional semi-inspired creativity in the sewing arena.

Actually, the Sewing Arena sounds like the world's crappiest full-contact game show idea.  Like Gladiators, but with thimbles and rouleau loop hooks.  And an ironing board.  Maybe I'll pitch that idea to Channel 5.

So. What have I been doing to fill my time, other than making frilly flouncy stuff out of fabric?

Well, I have been making a lot of chutney.  That's not a euphemism.  I went to the farmers market again last week, and bought another huge box of tomatoes for a fiver, went halves on a huge box of gorgeous red peppers for another fiver, picked up a dozen brilliantly red chilli peppers for three quid, and bore the whole lot home in a state of high excitement.

I made two more batches of terrifyingly spicy tomato chutney.  Apparently you aren't supposed to eat it for two months after you make it.  We're shovelling it down before it's cold in the jar.  Mr WithaY took some away with him to his bushcraft course last week, and the people there were asking if they could buy it.  Excellent.  He said that things turned ugly and there were almost blows exchanged for the last spoonful in the jar.  He may have been exaggerating, but even so.  Yay me.

I also made Hugh Fearnley-Whatever's recipe for sweet chilli jelly.  Unfortunately, I didn't have proper jam sugar, so it hasn't set into a jelly.  I swore a bit, considered the issue, regrouped, and decanted it into the empty vinegar bottles (washed, of course.)  Hey presto!  Sweet chilli dipping sauce!  And, dear readers, it is delicious.

Yesterday I went to the Shaftesbury Feastival.  Yes, there's a FEAST right there in the name.

I drove out with a mate* to an industrial estate on the edge of Shaftesbury, from whence we took the teeny park and ride bus.  We went via every single municipal car park in North Dorset before finally being disgorged into the marketplace, where this glorious scene greeted us.  Imagine it with a blue sky, and less of a biting wind.  That's not how it was, but it might make you feel more spring-like.

There was an impressive balloon arch, courtesy of the local dairy, who had also provided a life size model cow with real squirting teats that children were being encouraged to milk.  They didn't seem keen, and frankly I can't blame them.

Look children!  It's leaking water into that bucket!  Go and grab it by the rubber udder and have a good old squeeze!


There was a Maypole, complete with white-frocked little girls with flowers in their hair.  It was charming.  They stood there in the Siberian gale, fierce concentration on their faces, clutching the ribbons grimly.  A bloke with a mandolin played folk music, and they skipped around in complex patterns, weaving a pole-long plait.  And then they did it in reverse and un-weaved it, which I found even more impressive.

The thing that appealed to me most was the fact that Shaftesbury has a special Maypole Slot in the street, usually covered with a manhole cover.  Fantastic.  How many other towns have year-round Maypole access when required, eh?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Shaftesbury, there is a gorgeous walkway along the edge of the Abbey walls, with a view across half of Dorset, and that's where the majority of the food stands were sited.

This is the start of the Parade O' Food, and this is the view across the valley in between the stalls.

There was bread, from several local bakeries, but I liked the look of this stall best.  The owner was being very cheeky, offering us his "small soft Italian." I told him I prefer mine larger and firmer, and he said "I get told that every week..."

There was a giant paella...

A whole roast pig....

 Chillies, olives, peppers, capers, garlic and all manner of savoury nibbles......

We saw posters for the upcoming Dorset Knob Throwing contest, which made us laugh immoderately.

In the craft stall area, along the main road, there was this rather excellent hearse, full of vintage handbags.

The local junior schools were selling teas and snacks in the town hall, and as we were walking back through the town to head home, several small children had obviously decided to increase their marketing area, and were standing in the middle of the thoroughfare with trays of food, holding up the crowds, asking people "Wanna buy a sandwich?" which I thought was very entrepreneurial.

So.  A grand day out.  I shall definitely be going along next year.

Other news:  It's been raining almost endlessly for what seems like a month.  My garden is battered flat, but there are strawberries starting to grow in my newly-planted tubs.

I have also applied for a part time job locally, as I am starting to go a bit mental from not being busy enough.  Fingers crossed, eh.

*Hello Jo!

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