Sunday 27 April 2008

Deptford farmers' market report

I eschewed my regular Sunday morning drive up the Big Hill to Blackheath station carpark this morning, in favour of a short cycle ride along the back streets to check out the fledgling farmers' market in Deptford Park. I didn't really need to buy anything, I'd got most of what I needed in Deptford yesterday because I had no idea what sort of, or how many stalls to expect.

I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised, I found the market to be small but (almost) perfectly formed! There were about 10 stalls in total, but they offered a good range of produce, and some were frighteningly local! I'm used to seeing farmers from quite far afield at the Blackheath market, but here there was a local producer from Eltham! Steve Page of Caregrow explained how he grows a large range of different types of chillis in two greenhouses in his back garden in Eltham, and he uses them to produce a fabulous range of relishes, dips/sauces and also jams, marmalades and mustards. Not sure how to use them? There are also some great recipes on the website, including one for Peppered Pineapple Icecream!

I had been expecting some element of repetition at the market, thinking that it might just be the same producers as the Blackheath market, but only one (the excellent goats cheese stall) was there.
Artisan Foods (a long-time stall holder at Borough Market) had a small selection of goods - cakes and quiches - so happily I was able to score one of their fabulous orange and almond cakes!

As for the rest of the stalls, they were as follows (not in any particular order);

- a reasonable range of fruit, veg and plants on one stall (six cox apples for £1, a bag of salad potatoes for £1, and a bunch of purple sprouting and a bunch of rhubarb for 60p each). I liked the fact that most of the items were marked per bag or per item, which I thought might appeal to local visitors on low incomes - so that they would know how much it was going to cost before paying. He also had a good selection of eggs, both hen and duck eggs.

Core Juice had a nice range of apple and pear juices - three or four different types of apple juice, a pear juice which I chose, and an apple and ginger juice. Only the fact that I was on my bike and had only brought one pannier prevented me from buying one of each!

Meat choice was restricted to two stalls, one selling wild rabbit and venison, and the other selling pork products. The rabbit was jointed and sold in vacuum packs, I bought half a rabbit to put in a casserole later in the week.

The other stall was the Giggly Pig Company, which is based in Romford and has outdoor rare breed British Saddleback pigs, which are made into a huge range of different sausage types. I chose 'hop' sausages (which have hop flowers in them) as I thought this had a nice local ring to it, and also took home a couple of faggots to try. The range of sausage flavours was quite interesting, including 'welsh dragon' (pork and leek with chilli) and stilton and asparagus sausages.

There was a small range of bread available, but I didn't examine it closely as my bag was getting rather full by this stage.

Finally there was a stall selling pies, both meat and fruit - all of which looked delicious, but likewise I was getting a bit laden down with produce and it seemed wise to stop buying! There were treacle tarts, rhubarb crumbles, and meat pies such as chicken and ham, lamb, and so on. Next time I will make it my first stop!

Definitely recommended if you get chance to visit the next one... I just hope I manage to find out the date of the next one before it is past! There were plenty of signs all around the park at every entrance, but that's no good to anyone who doesn't pass it regularly. Just one plea to the organisers - wider publicity please!!

***Update*** I just got my copy of Lewisham Life, and according to the listings, the next market is 25 May.

Monday 21 April 2008

Mayor's appeal

To save you the trouble, I've had a quick read of the bumph I got in the post the other day, which contains the election appeals from the candidates for the Mayor of London. They are arranged in random order, and I've followed the same order in my listing. It makes for pretty sorry reading - considering that this is the only piece of literature that is guaranteed to arrive in the houses of about 99% of voters - and hence is the most likely to be read by the electorate (although I'd say that likelihood is pretty low) - some of them seem to have put very little thought into what they have used their two pages/£10k contribution to say.

1. Richard Barnbrook, British National Party.
Richard has a letter addressed to you, his 'fellow Londoner' and a selection of quotes from people 'like you' who are going to vote for him. Funnily enough they are all white, even though a lot of his fellow Londoners are black. But don't take it personally. He is going to stop asylum seekers and illegal immigrants from engulfing London, and taking all your houses and hospital places. And he's going to give all pensioners a free 24-hour travel pass (to go with the off-peak one they currently enjoy). He's also promising houses, a better NHS, better education, jobs, lower council taxes, lower tolerance on crime and yobs, and pretty much anything else you want. Apart from immigration.
Student Samantha Winter is committed to voting BNP 'because I'm Irish and the BNP is the only party that cares about the indigenous people of these islands. Our jobs are under threat from economic migrants' she says, oblivious to the irony in her words.

2. Lindsey German, Left List.
Lindsey has made sure to get her full money's worth out of her two pages by including plenty of text; unfortunately there's not much about her intentions, as she spends a lot of her space moaning about the things that are unjust and bad about London and about Labour. She has ten steps to a better London - most of them involve opposing things, which could be quite difficult without additional political backing. Many of her aims are admirable, to provide more council housing, better transport, to enforce the London minimum wage and to oppose discrimination, but I can't help thinking it's a very big ask.

3. Boris Johnson, Conservatives.
Next to a big picture of Boris looking like someone is teaching him to read (slowly), he sets out his eight-part plan to make London better. Numbers 1 to 4 are about reducing crime, including 'cracking down on the culture of casual disorder'. This focus on fear suggests either that he is a puppet having his strings pulled by the paranoia-inducing Evening Standard (surely not?!) or that he doesn't have many policies. He's also going to protect our green spaces, while in the same breath scrapping the congestion charge. He pays lip service to housing, without actually saying much about it. According to his spiel, he 'has the ideas to do it', but obviously doesn't feel inclined to share them with the electorate.

4. Sian Berry, Green Party.
Sian's election manifesto stands out among the wasteland of empty words - whether or not you agree with her aims, at least her promises are measurable and her aims relatively modest. She wants to cut bus and off-peak tube fares by 20p, impose a 20mph speed limit on all residential roads, give free insulation to all homes that need it, and change planning rules to ensure that at least 60% of all new housing is affordable. She is backing small businesses by pledging to provide affordable premises in new commercial developments, wants solar electricity and heating on 100,000 roofs in the city by 2015, and says she will cancel the Thames Gateway plans. Insisting on the London Living Wage and opposing airport expansion are also among her aims, although her pledge to bring rail and tube franchises back under public control is probably straying into the realms of fantasy.

5. Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrat.
Unfortunately someone told Brian that purple goes well with yellow and that he should use the two colours liberally (ahem) in his manifesto. I suspect few people will be able to read this without hurting their eyes, but no matter, as Brian's spiel is largely predictable. As an ex-copper his first priority, natch, is crime. He's going to cut it. He's also going to improve transport, although it seems all he is going to do is provide more buses, and more countdown information boards. Apart from making it safer and free from crime, of course.
As something of an afterthought he's going to provide more affordable homes and oppose Heathrow expansion. I'm sure he'll make them free from crime too. My lifelong political leanings, such as they are, are often more lib dem than anything else, but I have a nagging feeling that Brian is in the wrong party.

6. Gerard Batten, UK Independence Party.
"Fed up with not being listened to?" asks Gerard, perhaps a little too bitterly. Vote for him and he makes the radical promise that he will punish the guilty and protect the innocent. Having to use this as one of his election promises smacks of desperation. But wait, there's more! He's also going to say No to the Lisbon Treaty/European Constitution. Thank God for that, it's about time one of the London mayoral candidates brought that up! Oh, and he's padded out his other crime/transport pledges with a ban on 'cash for cronies and quangos'. Despite all the bullshit, he still seems to have given slightly more thought to his manifesto that Boris.

7. Alan Craig, The Christian Choice.
Alan has wheeled out his thoroughly wholesome looking family for a photo opp, although I did have to check the caption to find out whether it was his wife in the picture, or his eldest daughter. He spouts a lot of stuff about promoting marriage and stable family as the answer to every social evil, while opposing plans by a 'controversial Islamic sect' to build a 'mega-mosque' in West Ham. His opposition seems to be more on religious grounds than planning concerns. He also intends to 'end the (alleged) corruption at City Hall'. The brackets are his. Er, that's about it.
I'm slightly mystified as to why someone would want to waste their money putting themselves forward as a candidate for The Christian Choice. Surely it would be a simple matter to work out exactly what sort of chance you would have of being elected, just by digging up statistics on the number of people who attend church in the capital, or the number of couples living in 'sin'?

8. Matt O'Connor, The English Democrats.
Matt loves being English, he seems quite nostalgic for the 'green and pleasant land'. Being a Londoner, he is obviously older than he looks if he can remember that far back. There's a lot to read on this page, but I can save you some time here. Matt says we must stop giving money to Scottish people, and introduce a bank holiday on St George's Day. It's as simple as that. Bless.

9. Ken Livingstone, Labour.
Either the devil incarnate, or the saviour of London's buses, depending on how you feel about him. Or somewhere in between - contrary to what the Evening Standard thinks, there are a lot of people out there who don't necessarily like Ken, but are willing to recognise some of the good things he has done for London. In Ken's election picture he is smiling broadly, and looks like the friendly old bloke down at the allotments who gives you tips for improving your carrot crop. Take a good look, it's probably the only place you will ever see this picture.
Ken is pledging to continue improvements to the public transport network, extend discounts for students and young people, and make the Freedom Pass valid 24 hours a day (bet you never thought you'd see a BNP/Labour manifesto crossover!!!). Elsewhere it's refreshing to see someone addressing the needs of young people by promising to provide new opportunities for them in education as well as out of school hours, rather than just regarding them as part of the crime statistics and threatening to take away their free bus passes if they misbehave. Naturally Ken plans to pursue his intentions to increase the congestion charge for high polluting vehicles while reducing the tax on the least polluting.

There is another candidate; Winston McKenzie, who is standing as an independent. He didn't contribute to the booklet, for what reasons it's unclear. So if you want to read about his policies, you can see them here, including his mayoral rap. His top priorities are the congestion charge and youth crime, he obviously intends to have policies about tubes and buses, Crossrail, the Thames Gateway and green issues, but either he hasn't thought of them yet or he's still trying to find something to rhyme with gateway.

Friday 18 April 2008

Born again

What do you think? Better or worse?

Things are happening at least, an entrance has been cut out of the other side of the carriage, so work is moving on.

Sunday 13 April 2008

Deptford Park masterplan and farmers' market

The next Farmers' Market in Deptford Park will be held on Sunday 27 April from 10am to 3pm. I didn't get to the first one, and I'm not sure if there have been any since (if so, their promotion of the event has been very lacking) but I'm going to try and get along to the next one, to check it out.

There will also be a stall hosted by Groundwork, the organisation that is carrying out the redevelopment of the park, so if you want to know more about what is planned, this would be your opportunity to find out. The first phase of the works was 'tree works' (presumably trimming or felling) and this was carried out in February. The second phase involves realisation of 'the avenue' element of the masterplan, which will mean improving the Evelyn Street entrance to the park, and presumably making the park more visible to people passing on the main road. A larger surfaced area will be created, for functions, events, social activities and so on, and lighting will be installed to 'enliven' the frontage of the park.
There will be a new meeting place and circulation point with seating and planting, and signage will be improved.

A couple of artist's impressions are also available. I have to say they don't exactly inspire enthusiasm! Let's hope the finished article is a bit more dynamic!

Wednesday 9 April 2008

The Amersham Arms

A combination of circumstances ("I can't be bothered to cook, shall we eat out?" and the fact that the Royal Albert doesn't do food on Monday nights) led us to try out the refurbished Amersham Arms for the first time. Yes I know we are a little behind the times, but it's just that step further from our door, and the ambience of the Albert usually tempts us in before we get that far.

I was very pleasantly surprised with the refurb of the bar area, they now have lots of large tables with sturdy chairs and comfy built-in seating, as well as a few curvy sofas forming an intimate little area in one part of the bar.

The decor is funky and pleasingly eccentric, I'm not sure why they have half a dozen rows of keys hanging above the back of the bar, and some of the other items of decor are also slightly Montague-esque, but it's not cluttered or overbearing by any means. We did find it rather dark though, which is fine for the later hours of the night but when food is being served, can be slightly disconcerting (and as for knitting....!)

Which brings me to the purpose of the visit. Firstly, beer selection. I had a very pleasant pint of Spitfire, and the woman behind the bar topped up the slightly lively pint at my request without any question. In fact she apologised for the fact that the pump wasn't great. One up on the Albert for that! (see 8 March). The Geezer had his customary continental lager, and I was nicely surprised to be charged just less than £6 for the two! Most bars that serve real ale seem to think it's acceptable to charge £3 a pint these days, which I think is excessive. Especially when the Dog & Bell regularly serves wonderful ales for around £2.50 or even less!

The food menu revealed the answer to a question that has been bugging me for some time. Where have all Bill's pies gone?! The last few times I've been down for pies on a Saturday, the selection has been woefully thin on the ground. What happened to the lamb and veg, the chicken and ham, and the chicken and mushroom? It seems they are all going to the Amersham Arms, to be served with chips or mash, peas and gravy for £5.95!

In retrospect, I should have gone for a pie. I know I can depend on Bill's pies to be crispy, full of succulent filling, and unashamedly naughty on the calorie front. But I made a BIG mistake, choosing the veggie burger. It sounded so good, and homemade, that I was taken in by the description, thinking of all the wonderful veggie burgers I've had at Mildred's in Soho over the years.

It must have taken a lot of work to make something that could have been so promising, turn out so bland! And it was huge! I know I shouldn't complain about portion size, but you can definitely have too much of bland veggie burger in my book. It was dry, tasteless and the bun was soggy at the bottom, which added to the lacklustre nature of the dish. I won't be having it again, I will go for the beefburger, which the Geezer told me was 'fine' (high praise from him).

I'll just put in a word for the chips - they were great. Not chunky, but not your French fries either, and they had bits of skin still on so rather rustic in appearance, and tasty!

Yes, we will be going back as I very much enjoyed the ambience, was impressed by the standard and price of the beer, and there is plenty more to choose from on the menu. But will be steering clear of the veggie burger!

The Amersham also has a gallery upstairs, which I'll be checking out when I have more time, and an extensive programme of bands and DJs in the area at the back. Can't comment on them myself, as my bag was the folk bands that used to play there, er, must be a decade or so ago, but the Inspector wasn't hugely impressed by his visit. The clientele we experienced at 7pm on a Monday night didn't really match with his description, I guess it changes depending on the bands.

Tuesday 8 April 2008

Cockpit Arts; live demonstrations

The next open weekend at the delightful Cockpit Arts studios in Creekside is scheduled for 17/18 May, when they will also have FREE live demonstrations going on.

The programme will run as follows on both the Saturday and the Sunday:

11.30: The Art of Hat Making by Katty Janneh
12.30: Making Guitars by Peter True
13.30: Felt Making by textile artist Ann Dingsdale
14.30: Hand Raising Silver by Ndidi Ekubia
15.30: Using a Loom by weaver Shirley Ann Dixon

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you might guess that I'll be planning to go to the 15.30 demo of weaving....

The day runs from 11am till 6, and refreshments will be available from East Dulwich Deli and Kennard's Good Foods who will be hosting cafes on the site.

There's a similar event at the sister studios in Holborn on June 14/15. See the website for details.

Sunday 6 April 2008

Latest on the train carriage

The railway carriage which is to become our new cafe has been re-graffitied. I admit I'm rather disappointed, I preferred the previous incarnation. This is a rather misplaced idea, about a decade too late chronologically, and several miles out geographically.

Anyway, the Deptford Project, as it is known, is seeking local craftspeople to help with fitting out the carriage to become a cafe and information centre. I guess they mean electricians, plumbers, carpenters and so on. If you want to get involved, contact rebecca at thedeptfordproject dot com.