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Showing posts from February, 2012


Hearty. My Dutch friends used it when they were talking about breakfast. 
'We'll have a light breakfast and leave before 9,' said A.
T didn't agree. 'I think we'll need a hearty breakfast,' he said. 'We have a long drive ahead of us.'
'Alright, a hearty breakfast then.'

It's not a word I'd ever use for breakfast. Light, maybe. Continental (when I read aloud from hotel menus - I like to clarify and share information about what's available to eat). Big. Cooked. Fried. But never hearty. 'Hearty' has a tweed jacket, green wellingtons, kedgeree and cocked-shotgun feel about it to me.

But it sounds right for T and A, perhaps because English is their second language and while they don't have a trace of accent when they speak it, and they speak it beautifully too, they occasionally use words that mother-tongue English speakers might not. But this only adds to the richness, the colourfulness, of their conversation: you only have …

Sweet Home Port Talbot

This might be the street of my hungry writer dreams, right here in my hometown.
Riverside CaféGossip CaféSweetmansJenkins Bakers and Café GreggsLynda’s Café BarFerrari’s CaféSelections Coffee ShopAll within 500 yards of each other and I’m only half way up and yet to check out the other side. Ask any writer and they’ll glaze over (a bit like a fresh doughnut) at the thought of being tucked at a table with coffee and cake, a pen and a notebook, a little condensation on the windows maybe, anonymous chatter and the random clatter of cutlery against china.
Today I’m on a mission: my mother has told me that Jenkins is renowned for custard slices. They’re a family firm from Llanelli, in West Wales, going back to 1921 when Lizzie Jenkins opened ‘The Unique Café’ on New Dock Road. Their slogan at the time was ‘Every bite – pure delight’ and even though the business has since expanded to 25 retail shops, including this one in Port Talbot, it is still being run by a t…

The path to addiction (and some maths)

I have discovered a piece of France that evaded me while I lived there. But not because I wasn't paying attention. It somehow even managed to evade my French sister-in-law, Manuela, for 38 years. She discovered it when some French language students from the west coast gave it to her as a gift when they stayed at her home in Swansea, South Wales. She gave it to me. 
This post should come with a warning of addiction. There is no way back once you start. Forget licking out the bottom of a large bag of Kettle Crisps, forget 'oh, just one more then' when the box of Ferrero Rocher comes around for the 8th time. Whatever your guilty pleasure, it will fade into insignificance if you go any further. Don't come crying to me in a month's time. You have been warned.
But let's do this slowly.

What are the things you were allowed to cook as a child? The first things I remember preparing were the batter for Yorkshire puddings and mint sauce. Late Sunday morning in the kitchen…

Back to school

I walked the route between home and Tir Morfa Primary School four times a day for six years. Heading there this morning, my mind automatically re-sets itself to the early 1960s and I start counting my footsteps as I leave my parents’ house. It’s rather satisfying when, at 55 steps, I look up and realise I’m walking past 55 Chrome Avenue.
I’m visiting the school as part of my research for Real Port Talbot. There’s a mural in the Assembly Hall by the Port Talbot born artist, Andrew Vicari and I want to photograph it for the book. 

The Tir Morfa mural is a product of its era – the stylised lips and eyes, the strong outlines – and perhaps more of a nostalgia trip for people like me than of any particular value to art history. It takes me back to a time of home knitted jumpers, when the toys we carried didn’t require a power source. The children feel unfamiliar to me but the faces of the women are the remembered mothers of my childhood: Mammy, Aunty Ruth, Aunty Phil, Aunty Beryl. They were t…