Monday, December 28, 2009

Very New Year

This was the first Christmas I've spent away from 'home'. No matter where I was, I've always managed to get back to my mam and dad's in Yorkshire. This Chrimbo was the first one away as a married man, down in Devon at my in-laws.

Their house is perched on an escarpment over the mouth of the Torridge Estuary. It's a much loved home of well-banked wood fires, friendly dogs, wellies in the porch and old, creaky beds piled with ancient, indestructible Witney blankets.

The Shipping Forecast - still the best poem ever written - takes on a different dimension down there. An ear is always cocked for the word 'Lundy', and with nothing much between the house and Canada, a silent prayer is often given to preserve the roof tiles. I'm used to sleet - it's the normal weather for Keighley from October to late May - but this was the first time I'd experienced it coming upwards, blown from the plain below the house. Christmas day, however, was a perfect eggshell blue day. Best spent on the beach with a pair of enthusiastic dogs.


I've mentioned before the dearth of decent pubs in Bideford. The nearby, Bladerunner-esque megacity of Barnstaple (population 25,000) is even worse. Leaving Mrs TIW and her mum to go shopping, I thought I'd give the North Country a try. I'd long marked it as "my" type of pub, and online reviews backed me up. However, I found closed and for sale. I'm willing to be put right, but It seems that every boozer in town is now a half-arsed "fun" pub, a vertical drinking hellhole or a meat-raffle 'n' wifebeater stinkbin where ignoring the smoking ban is a positive virtue. Barnstaple now has two Wetherspoons, which must surely prove something, even if I can't tell you what it is. It was a defeated Ten-Inch who supped his (excellent) pint of Holdens Golden Glow at the Panniers 'spoons.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ho Ho Ho

Sincere thanks to all who visited Ten Inch Wheels this year, and thanks for all your comments. Happy Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Lazy Blogging, Part 17.

The Unthanks: 'Lucky Gilchrist'

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's still a London Thing


Back in May I mentioned that I'd shared a District Line journey with a girl playing a full-sized harp. As I said at the time, It was a perfect London moment. Well, I've finally found a way to get images off my damnably rubbish mobile phone, so that's as good an excuse as any to mention it again. Her doting companion - clearly this was another chapter in a long story of unrequited love - was topping up a handled half glass with Chimay Bleu. If you're going to stick it to BoJo's daft drinking ban, you may as well stick it with a decent beer.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Man Of Steel

My slightly dodgy hearing can be traced back to the 15th of November 1989, the night I saw the Happy Mondays at Bradford Queens Hall. The group were in all their baggydelic pomp and on the threshold of international fame. A couple of years later I was at art college in Carlisle and saw this guy, Bob Brozman, play in the café of the city museum. Brozman is the best guitarist you've perhaps never heard of. On a good day (and his days are always good) he can make Pete Townsend look like he's just picked up Bert Weedon's Play In A Day. Brozman's the acknowledged maestro of the National Steel Guitar, the beautiful instruments often associated with 1920s Blues players. Nationals were popular with Bluesmen in the pre-amplifier days because they were three or four times louder than wooden guitars, and your playing could be heard over the hubbub of the average Juke Joint. Brozman started to collect these guitars when he was about 13 and Nationals were deeply unfashionable, available from pawnbrokers for a couple of dollars. He now has one of the largest collections in the world. That evening in Carlisle was electrifying, with Brozman doing a set that encompassed everything from Gyspy Swing to Bottleneck Blues, lap steel and Hawaiian. He even serenaded us all out of the candlelit building with his ukelele. I've seen a lot of bands since, but along with the Mondays this was best gig i've ever been to, made even more memorable by the fact that It was the night I met Mrs Ten-Inch Wheels.

Friday, December 4, 2009

40 Beers - Part Seven

Three from a selection we picked up at La Cave à Bulles, a superb beer shop near the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Simon, the owner, seemed to know more about beer than anyone I've ever met, and his English was so good he could tell I was from Yorkshire by my accent. A much more pleasant experience than going to Utobeer at Borough market, about the only decent beer shop in central London. On our visit the brewer from the Leireken brewery in Opwijk was trying out a new fruit beer on some of the customers. I haven't opened my bottle yet - I'm saving it along with a scary-looking Belgian 9% brew for nearer Christmas.

20) Brasserie Uberach Doigt De Dieu (France) (bottle): Very effervescent and noisy pour, murky light toffee body with a faint spicy whiff. A bit thin in the mouth but tangy with hints of stewed fruit and distant smokiness. Some black toffee and treacle. It sort of tastes like it looks, sticky and toffeeapple-y. Overall, a bit dull. I like the cheeky label apeing Leffe's dubious abbey "heritage".

21) Sornin Clugny III (France) (bottle): Dark amber with explosive frothy head and a sherbert-y nose. Lots of mellow marmalade and honey, (my original notes say 'old honey' - whatever that means), brandy, orange peel. Complex, summery, enjoyable and satisfying. Doesn't taste like 6%. Great.

22) Corsendonk Agnes (Belgium) (bottle): Butterscotch body with a snow-white, good three inches of head. Very fragrant - lots of sweet, baking bread. Spice, caramel, brown sugar and a brief hop bitterness giving way to burnt malt and more spice. Very enjoyable.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lazy Blogging, Part 16.

Flight Of The Conchords: 'Carol Brown'