Highland Park, Raul and me…

Unlike my first beer, I can’t remember when I first tasted whisky… actually oh yes I can. I’m sure some will be shocked, but when I was about six I had a tiny sip of my dad’s glass of whisky. It was very unusual for us to have any drinks at home, apart from at Christmas, a bottle of sherry, maybe a bottle of sweet Martini, a bottle or a half bottle of rum for the Christmas pudding and a bottle or half of whisky, and that would be it. We didn’t have wine, we certainly didn’t have beer (it wasn’t so readily available then, and also we just wouldn’t have had it at home – beer belonged in pubs, not sitting rooms!) Going back to my story. I had a tiny sip of Dad’s whisky and the next day went into school and told the teacher and the class ‘I like White Horse!‘ Somehow this was mentioned to my parents, but I’m guessing as a funny story in less censorious times. I don’t remember trying whisky until much, much later; it was just too expensive to have at home, or buy in pubs… so I’m not sure when I found I liked it. This makes me sound as if I have a problem… honestly I don’t – whisky is a treat, a luxury and only enjoyed on special occasions.

On our first holiday together, my husband to be and I went to Oban in search of what was then our favourite whisky and we toured around visiting different distilleries. We went back to Scotland on our honeymoon, and our first family holiday with our two children was to Bushmills, which started a love affair with Irish whiskey and Ireland. Since then we have tried many different types of whisky and my favourite above all is Highland Park.

As you must know if you visit me here often, is how much I love the Mavericks and will travel miles and miles to see them… I didn’t travel so far last night, only to our nearest big city Bristol, a mere twenty miles away. On one occasion, one magical occasion, I went with my Dutch friend Elly (who I met through the Mavericks) to see them in Glasgow, meeting up with two other friends, Hannah and Jenna (who I also met through the Mavericks) … and a  load of other Mav-fan chums. The whole trip was fabulous, wonderful! The concert was just amazing (of course it was) – even the support act was brilliant. The Mavericks were on sensational form, and we were all high as kites on dancing, singing, being caught up in the experience of going to see this fantastic group of musicians on tour.

We hung around for a little while, catching up with old friends and then streamed across the road to the nearest bar to parch our thirst after hours of singing and shouting (well, I was shouting – got a bit over-excited!) … and there, in the bar, were the Mavericks! It was a dream come true – literally! It was very crowded and we were all jammed together talking to our idols in a completely natural way because there were lots of people in the bar who hadn’t been to the gig and just happened to be there. I had a long conversation with Eddie, chatted with Paul and Jerry Dale, and then somehow, somehow, I have no idea how, I got into conversation with Raul.

I sometimes wonder if it was actually a dream, but no it wasn’t. We were sitting at a table with others and talking… but I cannot now remember what he said – I was so entranced, overwhelmed (this is what it’s like being a fan and meeting your hero) I do know it was a perfectly ordinary conversation about lots of things and I think I probably did keep my inner feelings under control, but at one point Raul bought a round of drinks and when he asked what I wanted I just stuttered out ‘Highland Park’.

Buying your fans a drink… how many artists would do that? That is why as fans we love the band because they are so generous in every way. That Highland Park tasted like nectar… and now, whenever I have a Highland Park, I think of Raul. It has become a little tradition for me, that every time I see ‘the boys’, after the show I have a Highland Park, and raise a glass to Raul… I was driving home from Bristol last night so I had to delay raising my glass in a toast, but I did later… in fact I toasted him twice!


Tom and Jerry

Most people know that Tom and Jerry are two characters from a children’s cartoon – Tom the cat and Jerry the mouse have been trying to outwit each other since 1940, when they were created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. There were 114 short films produced by MGM between 1940 and 1958, and many more episodes created over the next  ten or so years, before there were a number of spin-offs. It’s slap-stick humour and although I enjoyed watching the adventures of the two characters trying to gain the upper hand when I was young, I grew out of finding it funny or amusing…

The names of the characters were originally Jasper and Jinx; it seems that coincidentally, the names ‘Tom and Jerry’ come from the name given to misbehaving youths in  London in the 1800’s – much as we might call someone a ‘Herbert’ (or I might, maybe that’s gone out of popular use too!) This in turn comes from something written by Pierce Egan, 1772–1849 – Days and Nights of Jerry Hawthorne and his elegant friend Corinthian Tom.

Why am I thinking about a child’s cartoon from nearly eighty years ago? Only because in looking through my tiny cocktail book, ‘Professional Mixing Guide’, I’ve come across a cocktail called Tom and Jerry!

Tom and Jerry

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp fine granulated sugar
  • ¾ oz Siegert’s Bouquet Rum (Gold Label)
  • ¾ oz rye whisky (or brandy as desired)
  • hot milk or water sufficient
  1. beast yolk and white separately
  2. after each has been well beaten, mix them together in an 8 oz goblet or china mug
  3. then add the liquor and fill the glass with piping hot milk or water
  4. grate nutmeg on top and serve

So if you want a nice warm toddy, you know how to make a Tom and Jerry!

Baked beans and boilersmiths

I love beans, fresh and dried, and I love pulses, and most things made with them, but I am not that fond of commercially made baked beans. If I had to eat them I would, but I would never choose them, they are usually just to sweet and the sauce always seems slimy.

I came across a recipe for boilermaker baked beans which sounded interesting. I came across it among some American recipes and because I didn’t know, I thought it must be a recipe made for people working as boiler makers which I guess is very hard physical labour and anyone making boilers would be very pleased to have a hearty, tasty meal of beans…

According to Wikipedia:

A boilermaker is a trained craftsman who produces steel fabrications from plates and tubes. The name originated from craftsmen who would fabricate boilers, but they may work on projects as diverse as bridges to blast furnaces to the construction of mining equipment.[1] The trade of Boilermaker evolved from the industrial blacksmith and was known in the early 19th century as a “boilersmith”

However, when I came to investigate the recipe, looking for its origins, I discovered that a boilermaker is also – beer with a whisky chaser, or beer with a whisky in it, sometimes dropped in actually in a shot glass (which always seems silly to me even though I know it’s popular at the moment – I was once given a Jägerbomb… but that’s another story…) The shot glass of whisky dropped into a beer is called a Depth Charge, apparently. Boilermakers as a named drink dates back to the 1890’s in America (I wonder if it has a differ name and a different history in the UK? – another investigation!) miners finishing their shifts in the coal mines of Butte Montana knocked back boilermakers… which they called Sean O’Farrell’s… I am very confused by all this now…

Back to baked beans… boilermaker baked beans are made with whisky and beer – hence the name!

In the recipe I came across the instructions were the ‘throw everything in a pot and cook till done’ sort of method, the ingredients being as much of the following as you had, liked, thought you needed…

  • cooked beans
  • chopped onion
  • crispy cooked bacon broken into bits
  • chilli sauce (the recipe recommended a bottle – guess it depends on the sauce – a bottle of the one I have in my cupboard would blow the lid of the pan!)
  • dark beer
  • tomato salsa/sauce
  • whisky
  • molasses
  • made mustard
  • dark brown sugar
  • hot pepper sauce (as well as the chilli sauce? Really?)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • salt – I would definitely leave salt out – with all those sauces, bacon and mustard I think it will be more than salty enough!

It sounds very sweet to me – I think if I do make it (and i really do fancy giving it a go!) I would leave out the brown sugar and use actual chillies rather than both the chilli and hot pepper sauces. I would also just use chopped tomatoes, not salsa – but add garlic and red/green peppers for flavour…

I might make this tomorrow! I feel inspired! … if I had a Nottingham jar I could make it in that!



Tasmanian adventure – Hobart

We left the airport in a shuttle bus; the driver was accompanied by a friendly bloke called Phil, the first of many friendly Phils we came across. As she drove us speedily towards the city of Hobart, Phil gave us a potted history of the city and the island, a story we would hear many times, but never tired of because each teller was so full of enthusiasm and love for the country, and pride in the people.

We drove upwards between a landscape which would become very familiar, sandy rocks, dark trees with curious coloured trunks and branches, and then we crested the hill, and there was the city, like a jewel, sparkling in the lovely sunshine. We whizzed along, past areas of housing, small single story villas with corrugated iron roofs, which I had seen in pictures so often. It reminded me of one of the Babar the elephant books I’d had when I was young, when Babar built a town, which he called after his wife, Celestville – ‘Come and see Celestville, most beautiful of towns!‘ – these homes we were passing reminded me of that.

We passed a sign for Cambridge, not only named after my home town, but the place where Sullivans Cove Whisky is distilled, named as the world’s best whisky twice! Then we were crossing the Tasman Bridge and we heard for the first time about the disaster… I do vaguely remember it happening, in 1975, on January 5th thirty-two years to the day we were crossing it, a tanker ran into several of the support pylons. It was a bulk carrier, the Lake Illawarra,  and on board was 10,000 tonnes of zinc ore concentrate. The ship was going upstream, up the Derwent River to the Electrolytic Zinc Company at Risdon, about three kilometres away. The captain apparently wasn’t paying full attention and tried to go through a too narrow part of the bridge and crashed. The ship sank within a few minutes, drowning seven of the crew. Meanwhile, up above, a section of the bridge collapsed, and despite the brave efforts of a man to slow and top on-coming traffic, several cars plunged over the edge and five people were drowned.

There are many safety measures in place to carry traffic safely across the rebuilt bridge, and we crossed over and descended into the city. My nose was pressed against the window as I tried to take everything and listen to Phil’s commentary at the same time. beautiful old buildings, the sea, trees and parks, and then we were pulling up outside the Travelodge, our holiday home.

Bushmills revisited

After a very enjoyable, but less than successful quiz night at the Dolphin with our chums, it just might be time for a little whiskey… Here is something I wrote a while ago…

Bushmills whiskey… Bushmills is so called because it is a town which grew up by the river Bush where there were as many as seven mills in the past, including a spade-mill.


Bushmills Distillery is the oldest licensed distillery in the world, founded in 1608,  and it makes a range of wonderful whiskeys. Irish whiskey is spelt with an ‘e’ and Bushmills whiskey is triple distilled…. smoooooooth! The whole process from the malted grain to the bottled spirit is all carried out here at Bushmills… no wonder it is so good!

I hope they enjoyed their visit to the distillery!


Apart from the skill of the distillers, the crucial element is the water, from the beautiful River Bush:

This bridge features at the climax of my book about the Portbradden clan… at night and the river in full spate! In my imaginary world it is the River Hope, not the River Bush!

The river is still, but a moment after I took this photo a fish leapt, a salmon or trout!




Whisky, whisky…

My husband tells the tale… before he met me he was a beer drinker, but if pressed to spirits he would have a gin and tonic as his dad was a naval officer and that was what was drunk.

It was the occasion of him meeting my family for the first time – my lovely big family,lots and lots of cousins… There was a big family party because it was Aunty Audrey’s 70th birthday. Bari and I had been together for just over a month and I was staying at another aunty’s house. Bari rang to chat to me,and my uncle invited him to come and join the party. It was true love so Bari immediately leapt into his car and within a couple of hours he was with us.

He was welcomed into the family, and my uncle asked him what he would like to drink… gin and tonic, Bari replied. No you won’t, you’ll have whisky… And my uncle poured him some Clynelish… that was 1990… Bari, now my husband has loved whisky – and whiskey ever since.

And tonight we are on Jura…