Family Friends

Families can be strange.

Friends, it has been said, are the family that you choose for yourself.

Families can be strange.

There are tracts of my family, both near and distant, that I never see and in many ways I’m quite pleased for it to be that way. On the other hand, there are family who are emotionally close though frequently geographical miles keep us far apart. Mrs Dookes and I are lucky to have a wonderful collection of nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews who fall into that latter category. The one thing we really treasure is that some of them choose to keep in touch and show that they care about us; sometimes it’s a phone call, maybe a text message or something via social media, but best of all is when they drop in to see us or arrange to meet up. They do it because they want to and because they want to know us for who we are, not who others tell them that we are and that’s pretty special.

Take for example our nephew Chris.

Now, it’s fair to say that in many ways Chris has had it fairly rough in life, with a range of medical issues and with what some White-Coat once labelled him “learning difficulties.” I prefer to say that Chris just processes things in a different way to the rest of us, but because of this he can be restricted in what he is allowed to do. These days he works as a car and motorcycle mechanic, has his own chalet in the grounds of his parents home and generally rubs along ok in his own routine. For a number of years he has been taking part in motorcycle trials and has built two of his own bikes to use (and win trophies) in competitions, so much for “learning difficulties!”

Chris on his way to winning another trophy!

Chris on his way to winning another trophy!

Because of his success with the trials bikes, the Driving Standards Authority have given Chris special permission to hold a provisional licence that allows him to ride motorcycles of up to 125cc on public roads, obviously he has had to pass the Compulsory Basic Training test as well. Riding with him, I have been able to see that he is a safe and careful rider with good bike handling skills.

I’ve been promising him for a long time that we would go for a nice long ride together, but for various reasons it hasn’t happened which has made me feel pretty bad. Fortunately, Chris doesn’t really bother too much about such things; he doesn’t worry about the level in the glass, because he’ll just get you to buy him another drink anyway!

Which leads me to today, when I finally got to rectify the situation and go for a ride with him.

Chris lives about fifty miles West of us, not far from Redruth in deepest Cornish Cornwall, the heartland of the old Tin mining region and one of the cradles of the industrial revolution. In the landscape here today frequent reminders of that industrial past are often to be seen, most notable being the monumental stone engine houses.

This morning was a bit dull and certainly cool, a gentle reminder that Autumn is progressing and what a good idea heated jackets and gloves are! On board my big Harley I was quite snug behind the faring as we munched the miles West to meet up with my nephew. His 125cc machine was parked on the drive all ready to go when I arrived and he fussed around with last-minute checks. Chris didn’t offer a cup of tea, he’s not that kind of chap and he reasons that if he doesn’t want one, why should anyone else? You get used to things like that with Chris!

It’s fair to say that we looked a pretty miss-matched pair, Chris on his Yamaha XT125 and me on my big Ultra Limited, Baby. That’s the great thing about motorbikes though, you can have fun on them whatever they are or however big they are, for once in life size really doesn’t matter!

The odd couple.

The odd couple.

I had chosen a nice gentle loop around the quieter roads of North West Cornwall, partly so that we could relax without too much traffic, but also because I hadn’t been that way for a few years.

First off we headed for Porthtowan which today is one of Cornwall’s main centres for surfing. The village is a bit dull, but it’s a place where the big Atlantic rollers sweep in from the Ocean to crash on the sandy shore in a maelstrom of boiling white water. Powerful hollow waves are frequent here, allowing for that wonderful surfing experience of “riding the tube,” it’s definitely not for beginners! At the height of summer this place is rammed full of visitors and their surfboards, but on a chilly day in October only the dedicated surfers brave the elements, mind you there wasn’t much surf either!

Porthtowan beach.

Porthtowan beach.

Just down the road is Portreath, once a busy industrial port, integral to the Cornish mining industry. Raw materials such as coal and timber were brought in, while thousands of tons of tin, copper, lead and arsenic moved out; all efficiently moved to and from the mines by an extensive tramway system that radiated from the port. Today only a few leisure vessels and the odd local fisher make use of the crumbling facilities.

Portreath harbour wall.

Portreath harbour wall.

Further West we paused at Godrevy Point where a lighthouse stands about 100 metres out to sea and marvelled at the three-mile stretch of golden sand that leads to Hayle.

Godrevy Point Lighthouse.

Godrevy Point Lighthouse.

It’s another paradise for surfers and generally fairly safe for bathers, so long as they follow the lifeguards instructions. This is one of my favourite beaches anywhere and not just in Cornwall, I love these sands and the dunes that lie between the beach and land. It’s another world on a stormy day!image

The estuary at Hayle is noted as an important spot for migratory and water birds, whilst the town itself is another former mining based harbour whose port is today largely inactive. At its peak the immediate area saw a number of foundry and smelting businesses boom, bringing great wealth to the town. The last foundry closed in 1903 and the harbour has been allowed to gradually choke with sand, quite sad really.

Hayle harbour.

Hayle harbour.

On a plus point, today Hayle is the home to possibly the best Cornish Pasties in the world! The local family firm of Philps have been making the local delicacy here for well over sixty years and as we were passing it would have been rude not to grab a couple for lunch. As they say in these parts, “Booty!”

Trundling homewards we passed through the quirkily named village of Praze-an-Beeble, which is actually Cornish for ” the meadow on the River Beeble.” The river in question is really little more than a muddy stream, but hey if it’s all you’ve got…!

I delivered Chris home at around three in the afternoon – still no cup of tea! If his smile was anything to go by, then I think he had a good day. He doesn’t greatly enthuse about things does our Chris, I think he just assumes that you get it whatever mood he is in.

Time to mount up and ride home, with the chance of a bit more speed than I had been pegged back to for most of the day!
Regular blogonaughts will have spotted that I do a lot of musing on the way home from a ride and today was no exception, It’s sort of my “Me” space/time.

I really enjoyed the day spent with my nephew and I hope he did with me, I made a mental note to do it again soon. It’s great to share my hobby with him and I think that he gets that as well.

Yes friends are the family that you choose, but…..
With some family you choose to be friends as well… and maybe that is more important.

Catch you soon.


PS When I got home I found that Chris had posted a Facebook message thanking me for the day. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.

Hunting The Cornish Pasty

Gool Piran Lowen!

Or if you don’t speak Cornish, Happy St Piran’s Day!

I’ve blogged previously about St Piran’s Day and if you would like to read it about again just click here.

St Piran’s Day is very special in the lives of Cornish Folk, not only does today celebrate one of Cornwall’s adopted Saints, but probably more importantly it signifies the start of the Pasty Hunting Season! The previous season having closed at midnight on the 4th of March.

So what is a pasty, the legendary foodstuff of Cornish people since time immemorial?

Some say that they were most frequently found around the tin mines for which the County is famous.
Others swear that the natural habitat of the true Cornish Pasty is near the old fishing ports and harbours that provide haven around Cornwall’s rugged coast from the wild Atlantic.
There are also those who claim that the finest Cornish Pasty is native to the wild uplands of Bodmin Moor, where the steep slopes give them stamina and the wild heather adds depth to their flavour!

Mindful that the Pasty Hunting Season was to end at midnight last night and not start again until the first minute of today, myself and a group of friends, who unlike me are true Cornishmen, set out yesterday to bag ourselves a few fresh pasties.

It was a hard day, the true Cornish Pasty is an elusive creature and only found west of the River Tamar in the Duchy of Cornwall. Those that know where to find the finest Pasty are often hesitant to divulge their knowledge and when asked will often just say “tiz best to find your own.” It is also a curious thing though how Cornish Folk can never really agree just what makes the best Pasty. Some like the flavour to be mild, others like a hint of pepper, whilst the arguments about whether it should be very juicy or more dry can often lead to insults being traded over a pint of cider! Don’t even mention how the crust should be after cooking. . . !

As to how to capture the elusive creature, well I won’t go into the sordid details, but lets just say that the more humane the despatch the better the flavour on the plate!

Here then is the evidence that yesterday’s hunt was completely successful and no I’m not telling you where we (shot) caught this one, as you can see though it looks like someone had two goes at it, judging by the wounds.P1050142
So there is our freshly cooked Cornish Pasty lying on the flag Of St Piran and the story above is of course, nonsense, but not so the humble, nay great, Cornish Pasty!

The traditional Cornish Pasty is a baked pastry which since 2011 has enjoyed Protected Geographical Indication status within the European Union. A real Cornish Pasty must only contain beef (normally skirt steak) sliced or diced potato, swede (which confusingly in Cornwall is called turnip, often pronounced “turmut”!) and onion, oh yes and salt and pepper. DSC_0149The filling is encased within pastry, folded over the filling then hand crimped along one edge forming a “D” shape. The crimp must not under any circumstances be along the top in a Cornish Pasty! The pasty should turn golden when baked and retain its distinctive shape hot or cold.DSC_0138

Where exactly the humble pasty first originated is open to much speculation, although its links with Cornwall are strong there is evidence that it may, just may, have first been baked in France, but we’ll leave that to history!

In Cornwall the pasty is associated with the strenuous lives of miners and fisherfolk, jobs that needed substantial food to keep you going. Tradition also tells us that a part sweet, part savoury pasty was often the norm in days gone by, the theory being that a meal of main course and sweet were contained in opposite ends of the one pastry case, very clever!

In the metal mines of Cornwall and Devon the miners were noted to eat their pasty whilst holding the crimped edge, which was then discarded, so to minimise the amount of poisonous minerals that would be ingested. Legend has it that the discarded pieces of crust were left for the “Knockers,” small spirit folk that created a tapping sound to warn of dangers such as an impending tunnel collapse.

Today the simple Cornish Pasty is big business. Locally often called an “Oggy” the simple pasty is looked on as Cornwall’s “National” dish and accounts for over 6% of the Cornish food economy. Pasty bakers in Cornwall do either very well or die. It’s no use making an O.K. pasty round these parts, there are plenty of shops selling absolutely fantastic ones and everyone has their favourite. I once had an office where in the radius of a ten minute walk there were five different shops each selling their own ‘made on the premises’ pasty; each one was subtly different, yet each one was equally superb!
My all time favourite? Well, I’m not going to name names, but it’s right at the other end of the county, 65 miles away on the quay in Hayle and it’s worth the ride down there any time!

Guess what I’m having for lunch today? Yes, you’ve got it, that wild Cornish Pasty that we caught last night!

Here’s to St Piran, who probably never ate one, and here’s to Cornwall and the Cornish Pasty!

“Oggy Oggy Oggy, Oi Oi Oi!”

Catch you all soon. 🙂


PS Yes I know there are also Pasties made all over the world nowadays and if you check it out, it was often Cornish miners who first imported them!