Cooking in France….again!

It had been a long tiring drive from Roscoff to the Val de Loire. OK, I didn’t make it easy by dropping in on friends across Brittany, but the last 180 miles were particularly tedious, especially the Périphérique around Nantes. We arrived at our friend Anne’s vineyard in time for aperitifs. She makes a rather special Coteaux d’Ancenis Malvoisie white wine that is….well….. to die for! It’s light, sweet, but at the same time quite forwardly acidic…all of which makes no sense at all, until you taste it; it’s heaven in a glass.

The road was telling and hurting, I hit the calvados.

Ask me to ride three to four hundred miles on a motorcycle and i’ll say “OK”…ask me to do it in a car and i’ll likely yawn!

Dookes don’t do cars!

Sunday morning dawned bright, sunny and warm.

I was still feeling yesterday’s miles, plus the effects of quite a lot of Calvados the night before!

Mrs Dookes and I wandered into the pretty village of Oudon and it’s Sunday market.

The Château du Oudon.

Un Marché le Dimanche matin is quite unusual in France and although this isn’t a big one it’s a good one. My mate Olivier was there with his olive stall, yeah, I know, “Olivier des Olives”!!!

I wandered over to Olivier as Mrs Dookes disappeared into her favourite patisserie adjacent to the market.

“Ça va Gallois? “Oui, ça va! Et tu?” “Ça va bien.”

Oliver paused to serve an annoying couple who were allowing their young daughter, of perhaps 10, to choose their olives. Maybe these, perhaps those…what do they tase like? Oliver was patient for a while, then just exclaimed “Ills ont tous le goût d’olive!” “They all taste of olive!” Father then decides and they go away happy!

I feel compelled to buy some saucisson from my friend..”Sanglier, noisettes, et bleu d’Auvergne!” Olivier exclaims, he knows me well!

Olivier looks around and produces a small bottle of Calvados, the Normandy apple brandy.

“Un pour la route eh?” One for the road indeed! The Calvados is rough, warm full of apple flavour and awakens my taste buds.

“Ok mon amis, maintenant tu vas cuisiner pour nous, le suis occupé”

“OK my friend go cook for us, i’m busy at the moment.”

“Cuisine une de ces recettes bâtardes de Normandie que tu et Floyd aime tant!”

“Cook a dish from those bastards in Normandy that you and Floyd like so much!”

We smile at each other. It”s been 13 years last Thursday that Floyd toddled off this mortal coil. I miss him dreadfully.

“OK mom amis, pour tu et pour Floyd!”

I scurry around the marché gathering the ingredients. A poulet jaune, fed with corn plump with yellow fat, haricot verts, carrots, a spaghetti squash, juicy pink garlic and as a surprise and only because a lovely lady is selling it, fresh Gnocchi: Floyd would approve. Oh and a rather special vin blanc du Chinon, one of my favourite Val du Loire wines.

Once back at our cottage I set about preparation: Floyd had a view that cooking shouldn’t be about being tied to the cooker and that the process should allow time to relax and enjoy the moment…so after prepping the chicken we went for a petit promenade along the banks of the mighty river Loire before returning to enjoy the meal and a gin and tonic before!

“Pour un Gallois tu cuisines comme d’un Français!” “For a Welshman, you cook like a Frenchman!” Oliver exclaimed. After a lot of wine and Calvados….that’ll do for me!

Et maintenant, le fromage!..cheese!

Oh…. and a bit more Calvados! I love this country and it’s people.

Here’s to you Floyd! I miss you.

Salut!

Dookes

Moor Wandering

Yeah, I know….”Where the heck have you been Dookes?”

When I took on the whole, “I’m retiring” thing, I thought that it would lead to sunlit uplands, keep that thought, time to do things as and when I wanted, lots of “free” time and a general slowing of the pace of life.

Let me tell you, forget that thought, even if you are only mildly toying with the idea of retirement!

When I was a young Dookes, just starting out in my working life, I remember various retired members of staff dropping by to say hello to their former workmates and the common theme always seemed to be “I don”t know how i ever had time to go to work!” Young Dookes thought this was extremely funny and that these old timers had somehow lost the plot with their transition into retirement…little did i know!

Now please don’t misunderstand me, i’m not complaining and yes retirement is great. The hours are certainly good, even if the pay isn’t quite what it was previously, but sunlit upland nirvana and time to do my own things whenever I want it certainly isn’t!

I’m always so bloody busy! I guess thats a direct result of being one of those people that finds it hard to say “No” if someone asks for help! Which kinda explains the lack of blog activity….

Certainly one great advantage of retirement is the ability to do things without much forward planning. A couple of weeks ago, Mrs Dookes decided to take a week off work; yes Mrs D is still working. On the spur of the moment, grabbing a window of nice weather, we decided to head for Dartmoor, only 30 minutes away from Dookes H.Q.

Dartmoor is the highest and biggest upland area in Southern Britain, covering 368 square miles and has been protected as a National Park since 1951. The landscape consists of moorland with many exposed granite hilltops known as Tors. It provides a wonderful habitat for wildlife. It’s hard country, with bogs and cliffs to test the adventurer that sets out to explore, add into the mix classic mountain weather changes and it can be dangerous for the ill prepared.

The highest point is High Willhays, 2037ft above sea level and on a clear day this peak is clearly visible from Dookes H.Q. and is somewhere I had been promising myself to visit for a long time.

High Wilhays.

Parts of the moor have been used as firing ranges since the early 1800’s so whilst the public is granted extensive land access rights on Dartmoor, its always essential to check if the military are going to be active where you plan to wander; fortunately for us they weren’t!

West Mill Tor (Left), Yes Tor (Right).

Dartmoor is known for it’s Tors, high hills topped with outcrops of bedrock granite, which are usually rounded and weathered formations. The Tors are the focus of an annual event known as the Ten Tors Challenge when around 2500 people aged between 14 and 19 hike for distances of 35, 45 or 55 miles between ten tors on varying routes. For our day out we weren’t looking to top Ten Tors, just a couple of the big ones!

On West Mill Tor, looking North East.

Over the past few months the UK has been experiencing abnormally dry weather and the infamous bogs of Dartmoor have certainly dried noticeibly, not good for bog dwelling animals or plants, but it certainly makes the life of a walker a lot easier.

Bog cotton dancing on the breeze.

What a glorious day we had. Starting from Meldon, we skirted the reservoir, with worryingly low water level. We started climbing and headed for West Mill Tor, one of the Northern most peaks, where we paused to take in the view, before turning South West to Yes Tor for a lunch break. After lunch we followed the plateau South to High Wilhays before cutting back across the contours towards the reservoir and our starting point.

Yes Tor

Great to be back on high ground again, good to be writing too, even if this isn’t very good, but hey I’m out of practice…!

Summit Cairn on High Wilhays.

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Through Others Eyes (Showing AGMA around)

OK, Dookes is bad…no posts for ages, again!
No excuses, other than life stuff constantly getting in the way…

Over the years, blogging has given me many great experiences and the opportunity to make many “on-line” friends. Some I communicate with on a regular basis, though few as much as the legendary AGMA, that’s “Ageing Gracefully My Ass” in case you were wondering!

It was an absolute delight earlier this year to hear from AGMA and learn that she and husband “Hubs” had decided to come visit Cornwall as part of one of her famous round Europe dashes! Would Dookes be available to show them around his part of Cornwall?
You bet I would!

Regular blogonaughts will know that Dookes lives in the far South West of the United Kingdom in the fair Duchy of Cornwall; a rocky, windswept, at times sunny, but ruggedly always beautiful place to live!

Sometimes though, just to keep things in perspective, you need to look at it through other’s eyes and realise just how lucky you are to live here!

Amongst places that AGMA wanted to visit was Tintagel Castle the world famous legendary birth place of King Arthur; yes him of Round Table fame!

Mrs Dookes and I have a bit of history with Tintagel so it was a pleasure to show AGMA and Hubs around the place and tell them of it’s history and legends.

The medieval ruins of Tintagel Castle

To stand on Tintagel’s island mount and look out at the wild Atlantic Ocean with AGMA made me so very grateful to live here and call this land home.

I’m pleased AGMA and Hubs enjoyed their holiday in Cornwall, we were delighted to meet them, show them around and welcome them, albeit briefly, into our lives.
We hope to see them again before too much longer!

Oh yes, before I forget. AGMA was insistent that she met my beloved Harls…no problem, you weren’t going to leave without saying “Hi” to her!

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus, Happy St David’s Day

Y Ddraig Goch, The Red Dragon

Bore da pawb. Heddiw yw Dydd Gŵyl Dewi, y Diwrnod Cenedlaethol Cymru.
Dymuniadau gorau i chi i gyd!

Good morning everyone. Today is Saint David’s Day, the National Day of Wales.
Best wishes to you all, from a rather dreary Cornwall!

All is not gloomy however, despite the dreadful events unfolding in Ukraine, daffodils, the national flower of Wales, are in bloom and with a freshly picked bunch on the table next to me, its like the sun has come into the house as well.

The world is a sombre place just at the moment, so it’s nice to have something to cheer me up!

OK, brief history lesson then:
Dewi Sant/St David was born towards the end of the 5th Century in the region of West Wales known as Ceredigion. Whilst alive he built a reputation for his preaching, teaching and simple living amongst the Celtic people. He founded a monastery at Glyn Rhosin, which became an important early Christian centre. Dewi died on 1st March 589 and was buried in what is now known as St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire where his shrine became a popular place of pilgrimage.

For centuries 1st March has been a national festival in Wales with parades, concerts, poetry readings and of course traditional food all being enjoyed. Around the country not only will you see the flag of Wales, Y Ddraig Goch (the Red Dragon) being flown, but also the flag of St David, a simple yellow cross on a black field.P1030045

Today is also the time when Welsh exiles around the world remember ‘The Land of My Fathers’ and try to ease the sense of “Hiraeth” that yearning homesickness tinged with grief, nostalgia, wistfulness and pride in our identity that we often feel.

I imagine that many Ukrainians are feeling something very similar today too…

In these increasingly dangerous times, as if the world hasn’t gone through enough in the last few years, have a lovely day and in the words of St David:

“Gwnewch y pethau bychain mean bywyd.” “Do ye the little things in life.”
(And maybe offer up a little prayer for peace too!)

Hwyl fawr!
Dookes

Gwlad, Gwlad, pleidiol wyf i’m Gwlad.

Bike Nights and Near Normality

The world remains strange, though there are the beginnings of green shoots of normality slowly starting to emerge.

Here in Cornwall, as one of the most popular UK tourist destination areas, we are used to visitors during the summer months, but nothing like the invasion that we are experiencing this year! The prime driver of this is the continuing restrictions that the UK government have placed on all but essential foreign travel, as a result most people who would normally holiday abroad have swarmed to popular UK hot spots….and don’t we know it!

Local journeys are on average taking twice as long as normal. Narrow roads are choked with motor-homes, caravans and bewildered drivers who seemingly are unable to reverse when faced with a large tractor hauling silage; yes there is more to Cornwall than just the beaches!

The great thing is, with a motorcycle and a bit of local knowledge, you can avoid most of the holiday making madness!

Not very far from Dookes H.Q. on the stunningly beautiful north coast of Cornwall, lies the small town of Bude. Originally a harbour and fishing village, like many small coastal towns it developed into a holiday resort in the 1800’s and with the arrival of the railway in 1879 became a firm favourite of affluent Victorians.

Today the railway is gone, closed in 1966. The harbour just a shadow of it’s former glory. As a holiday destination Bude is no longer on the “must do” list for visitors to Cornwall, but it still retains a certain charm and in places, elegance.

Each Wednesday evening through the summer Bude hosts “Bike Nights” when motorcyclists of all sorts gather on the quay to drink coffee, eat donuts, hang out together and talk motorbikes in a relaxed atmosphere.

It’s great fun to see the holiday-makers giving us a wide berth; if they looked closely though, they’d notice that most of us are drawing our pensions!

It’s also great fun to have an evening out with motorcycle mates, plus a nice ride there and a nice ride back, you can’t beat it!

Pop down and see us if you are in Bude on a sunny Wednesday evening in the summer.

Catch you soon,

Dookes

It’s Not All Bad!

Today is the Summer Solstice and here in the Northern Hemisphere our longest day of the year. It should be warm and sunny, but instead it’s miserable…which sort of matches my mood. Actually that’s been caused by a dose of computer grief, always guarenteed to wind me up!

Normally in the Dookes calendar, this time of year I would be riding Harls on the high mountain roads of the Alps or Pyrenees.

Er..don’t tell Mrs Dookes that I rode up here!!!


At present though, life is still anything but “Normal.”

It’s virtually impossible to travel abroad from the U.K. at the moment and like a lot of sensible people I’m also feeling very much less than enthused with the idea. Apart from the trifling matter of health and travel insurance, there’s also the balls-ache and cost of Covid tests before travel and the same in reverse….and that’s assuming that your country destination of choice will even let you in!

Oh and yes, I’ve had my two shots of vaccine!

Foreign travel is just not worth the hassle when I live in such a beautiful place and can enjoy riding around here.

Cornish roads, you can’t beat them.


Which is exactly what my mate Mark and I did last Friday.

First a gentle trundle to Port Isaac to collect an order of shellfish for Mrs Dookes.

Port Isaac is a working fishing village on the North Cornwall coast and if I take the direct route, only around 25 minutes from Dookes H.Q….we didn’t take the direct route!

The harbour, Port Isaac.


It’s a lovely little place with tight streets and alleys that has been made famous by a television drama called “Doc Martin.” Needless to say this has had the effect of attracting thousands of tourists, most of whom understand that the village is not solely a film set.

Hmm, tight!


There are however who, well let’s just say don’t understand and wander aimlessly around blissfully unaware that business and life is still happening.

In other words “Get out of the way!”

Fortunately, Harls rather meaty engine exhaust note has the effect of drawing attention to the fact that they are standing in the middle of the road…

Once the visitors were avoided and the food was stowed in one of Harls’ panniers, it was time to ride off and find some good coffee.

Can you spot Dookes???


A hundred miles later a very happy Dookes arrived home.

Yeah, it’s not the Alps, but it’s not half bad round here either!

Catch you soon.

Dookes

Counting Blessings

Here in the UK we are currently experiencing what the meteorologists are calling “Unseasonable Weather.” In other words, cold, wet and fairly miserable. 

Living on our island, it’s something I am pretty well used to; we don’t really have a climate, just weather and an awful lot of it is wet and cold! Today a gale is blowing in off the Atlantic with strong winds and rain, plenty of both. It could be worse, we could live in a country subject to typhoons and hurricanes or year long droughts, so look on the bright side and count blessings!

The road to Col de la Lombard, 2350m and look, a guard rail!

It’s a good day to watch the rain beating on the window and dream of sunnier places and happier times. In a way it’s a bit like travelling in my mind!

High in the Pyrenees, Catalonia.

With the continuing global pandemic situation, it is not a great time to go travelling anyway.

Lunch break, Col de la Madeleine 2000m, one of my favourites.

Now don’t get me wrong, I want to get back out there on the international roads as soon as I can, but I don’t need to nor have to. So I’m resigned to being patient and letting things get back to whatever the new normal is going to be before hitting the highway.

Heavenly twisty roads, Col de la Pierre St Martin 1766m.

In the meantime I have many memories and photos to refer to before that day comes, plus we live in a lovely part of the world too. 

I suppose also there’s also a bit of “Been there, Done that” at the back of my mind and that can straighten things out!

I just wish for now that it would stop raining….!

“I am travelling with you, just as I travel in my mind.”

Catch you soon,

Dookes.

These are Better Days….. Maybe.

Spring has been slow to arrive this year here in North Cornwall. Its early May and by midday the temperature is only just nudging 8º Celsius, that’s a chilly 46º Fahrenheit. True it’s been occasionally sunny but often with a cool North wind.

I’m not complaining though; life is beginning to take on some sort of normality. The U.K.’s Covod Vaccine programme is progressing well and infection cases are falling dramatically. Lockdown measures are easing and at the moment things have an optimistic feel.

Maybe, just maybe we are moving into better days and as if proof is needed I recently took each of my two beloved Harley Davidson motorcycles out for a short ride to get some local shopping.

To be honest, it seemed a bit weird to be back on the road with a large Vee twin engine rumbling away underneath me. Weird, but in a very nice way.

On each ride I wanted to stop and take some photos of my machines, yet at the same time I didn’t want the moment to be interrupted by messing around with a camera…so I just carried on riding and soaking up the experience.

I took it steady, it had been some time since I had ridden any motorcycles, best to ease in gradually and let the road come back to me. There wasn’t any rush to get the ride over and living in such a lovely part of the world there was plenty to enjoy…trust me I was really enjoying these rides!

I did about 50 miles in total on each bike, on two separate days, and I was mentally worn out in a nice refreshed way. Motorcycles really do move the soul!

Despite thoroughly pre-ride checking each bike, on my return home I needed to make small adjustments and tighten up a few things on each of them; nothing major, just getting them back how I like them.

It felt good to be motorcycling again….and just to celebrate I smashed out a 28 miler on the man-powered bike afterwards!

Now all we need is for the weather to get warmer and say a prayer for the pandemic to recede all around the world!

“These are better days baby 
Yeah there’s better days shining through” 

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Heddiw yw Dydd Gŵyl Dewi, Today Is St David’s Day

Bore da pawb. Heddiw yw Dydd Gŵyl Dewi, y Diwrnod Cenedlaethol Cymru.
Dymuniadau gorau i chi i gyd!

Good morning everyone. Today is Saint David’s Day, the National Day of Wales.
Best wishes to you all!

The weather here at Dookes H.Q. in Cornwall is lovely, if a tad cool.

The daffodils, National flower of Wales, are in bloom and with a freshly picked bunch on the table next to me, its like the sun has come into the house as well.

After the year we have all endured, it’s nice to have some brightness for once!

OK, brief history lesson then:
Dewi Sant/St David was born towards the end of the 5th Century in the region of West Wales known as Ceredigion. Whilst alive he built a reputation for his preaching, teaching and simple living amongst the Celtic people. He founded a monastery at Glyn Rhosin, which became an important early Christian centre. Dewi died on 1st March 589 and was buried in what is now known as St David’s Cathedral in Pembrokeshire where his shrine became a popular place of pilgrimage.

For centuries 1st March has been a national festival in Wales with parades, concerts, poetry readings and of course traditional food all being enjoyed. Around the country not only will you see the flag of Wales, Y Ddraig Goch (the Red Dragon) being flown, but also the flag of St David, a simple yellow cross on a black field.P1030045

Today is also the time when Welsh exiles around the world remember ‘The Land of My Fathers’ and try to ease the sense of “Hiraeth” that yearning homesickness tinged with grief, nostalgia, wistfulness and pride in our identity that we often feel.

I wonder how many countries around the world have a National Vegetable? I can think of Ireland with the potato and in Wales it’s the humble, yet tasty leek, “Cennin” in Welsh, it is frequently eaten on St David’s Day; in fact I’ve just been outside to dig up a few for supper!

Leeks, just dug from the garden at Dookes H.Q.


Mrs Dookes has just made a lovely batch of Welsh Cakes, little drop scones of sweet fruity tastiness which we will shortly enjoy with a cup of tea. No, not all of them at once though!

Mrs Dookes’ Welsh Cakes.

There are reasons to be optimistic this St David’s Day and thankful too.

Plus our wonderful Welsh rugby team won the Triple Crown on Saturday by beating England in a thrilling game in Cardiff!

Photo: David Davies/PA


Have a lovely day and in the words of St David:

“Gwnewch y pethau bychain mean bywyd.” “Do ye the little things in life.”

Hwyl fawr!
Dookes

Gwlad, Gwlad, pleidiol wyf i’m Gwlad.

A Little Green Cross

It occurred to me that recently I have been singularly bad at posting anything on this blog.

In a way that isn’t very surprising, after all this originally started out as a motorcycle based platform with some other thoughts and interesting stuff thrown in on the side.

With everything that has been going on in the world over the past year, you’ll excuse me if motorcycling has been quite a long way from my mind.

A quick look at my logbooks shows that since January 2020 my two lovely Harley Davidson motorcycles have done just 378 and 513 miles respectively…

Harls

The only plus side is that they both are sitting in the Dookes H.Q. workshop looking extremely clean and shiny!

Hettie

With the terrible global pandemic it just doesn’t seem right to go motorcycling. Pleasure rides are certainly a no go and even though I am a volunteer rider for medication deliveries, it’s just too risky to use the bikes…Our hospitals have enough sick people, without having to deal with some motorcyclist who has had an “off!”

Looking around for something to lift my spirits I found that today is Imbolc.

Imbolc in the traditional Celtic calendar marks the beginning of Spring and a celebration of new life with the Earth waking from the depths of winter. It’s the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Equinox. It’s also the time to start your Spring-cleaning!

In the ways of all good Celtic/Pagan festivals it spreads over two days and is very conveniently encompassed in the Christian Candlemas, also known as the Feast of the Presentation of Christ, which lands on February 2nd.

Imbolc traditionally honours the Pagan Goddess of fertility, Brigid, who was also intertwined in the Christian Church as St Bridget. 

February 1st is also St Bridget’s day.

Over the Centuries Imbolc has been celebrated in many different ways. Altars were set in homes and adorned with the earliest flowers and breaking buds of the season.

In Ireland, Brigid Crosses were traditionally made. These are formed from reeds, woven into a four armed equilateral cross and hung from doorways and windows too welcome Brigid and for protection from fire, evil spirits and illness. The crosses are generally left until the next Imbolc.

There are various thoughts about the origin of these crosses, but consensus seems to be that they pre-date Christianity, even though they have been widely adopted by Christians in Ireland.

With the current state of the world and in need of a little cheer I sat down today and made my own Brigid Cross for Dookes H.Q..

My Brigid Cross, not bad for a first attempt!!

I’m hoping some of the old ways and protection rub off with this little symbol.

Now all I have to do is hang it over a door and let Brigid do her stuff for the coming year! 

Happy Imbolc!

Catch you soon, stay safe!

Dookes

PS …Brigid, can I ride my motorbikes soon please?