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I like a Custard Slice.

When did the common Custard Slice become a Mille Feuille? I thought we were leaving the EU, not getting nearer to it?

I do love a Custard Slice. I’m even flexible enough to accept it being called a Vanilla Slice, but all of a sudden I’m being offered Mille Feuille in Sainsbury’s. I don’t want Mille Feuille. I want a Custard Slice. Take that extra layer of pastry out and give me back my custard.

I blame those poncy TV chefs. You know the ones, they think they’re Movie stars as opposed to someone whose job it is to rustle up a cheese and piccalilli sandwich, with crusts on, on demand.

Faced with no alternative the other day, I went to purchase one of these Mille Feuilles from the supermarket’s fancy-Dan cake section to have with my cup of coffee.

By the way, they can add all the marble tops, sparkling glass cabinets and glazed fruit they want, it will never be as exciting as choosing a pound of broken biscuits from Woolworths when you’re aged seven. Seeing how many nearly-whole bourbons or custard creams you could find in the box. God, when you think of how many hands must have been through those boxes of biscuits! No wonder if one person in Edmonton got measles, we all got it.

The annoying thing is I can’t pronounce Mille Feuille. So, there I stood, at the counter, looking a right plum, stuttering, and malapropping all over the French pronunciation. The extremely short, she could only just see over the glass counter, but rotund, her arms only just reached the glass counter, aproned member of staff, looked at me as if I was having an epileptic episode.

In the end, I opted for a Rum Baba and had done with it… Now, I like a Rum Baba, but a Custard Slice, it ain’t.

Talking about Europe I was in Aldi’s car park today and four Messerschmitts flew in. Well, drove in actually, they were Messerschmitts of the car variety. Very exciting. The German pilots, unlike those flying the planes during the war, were very friendly chaps. They allowed the kids and us old folk to clamber all over their beloved vehicles. I was told that there are only 400 working examples of these wonderful little cars left, which means we had 1% of them visiting us in Margate. I’m tempted to say that I’m glad I didn’t see any other German Focke’s… but that would just be stealing Stand Boardman’s line.

Can anyone else hear voices in their refrigerator? No. It’s just me then. I’ve been meaning to ask this for years. Every fridge, I’ve ever owned makes these weird noises and I swear, sometimes in the dead of night I hear a little voice saying actual words like “help me” and “I’m in here.”

I nearly took my last fridge apart, I was certain there was a small Chinese man inside, his only way of escape from the Shandong province was by smuggling himself out, hiding in the back of my fridge/freezer that he’d been assembling.

Maybe, I need to go to see a shrink.

PS – I understand taking a fridge apart is a dangerous thing to do, so don’t try it! The little man in there will survive…

Oh, woe is me! As most of you know, I’m staying down by the seaside, for a while —

— before I go on with this story, that’s a phrase that’s dying out, isn’t it? The Seaside. You never hear it anymore. When we are kids, we always went to the Seaside. It was the highlight of the school holidays, a few days down at the Seaside. Nowadays, the Rugrats go farther afield on their hols, Cornwall, France, Spain, even Thailand, or they just go to the coast. “Oh, we’re off to the coast for the weekend.” No one ever goes to the Seaside anymore. Such a shame —

— Anyway, Margate. Tuesday night, where else to go, but uke night at the Fez? I was no more than twenty paces from its threshold when I heard the treacle tones of Ella spilling out of Morgan’s dance hall. Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the geography of Margate’s High Street, Morgan’s is two doors up from the Fez.

I was torn.

I cannot lie. Not only was it Ella, but it was Ella singing swing. I couldn’t help myself; I cheated on the Fez. I’ll own up and say it again, I cheated on the Fez. I walked into Morgan’s and witnessed some snake-hipped devil called Jerome, teaching a class of wannabe dancers, a sort of swing/Lindy hop mashup

Lord, why did you do this to me?

The only reasonable torturous equivalent I can think of is to imagine Doris Day in room 19 of the Sands Hotel and Marilyn Monroe in room 18 and I have the keys to both rooms and have to choose one or the other? What would I do?

Swing, being Miss Day in soft focus, her petticoat dress floating while she dances around singing about her Secret Love. A night of tuneful passion and breakfast lovingly served by Miss Day, wearing only my pajama top. Or the ukes being ferociously and gaily plucked, Marilyn in Some Like it Hot. A night of ravenous and unforgettable mischief and breakfast served from a bottle, with Miss Monroe wearing only her tight silk slip… I couldn’t make the choice.

It could, of course, be all my dreams come true – Entrée with Doris, pudding with Marilyn.  A man can dream, can’t he? Which, I guess, suggests that if you are taking the swing lessons in Morgan’s, then after you must finish the night off in the Fez.

Apparently, there are only four Mohican haircuts in the whole of Margate? One of them belongs to Gary Minister, the owner of The Ministry of Pies, an easy-going little restaurant in the old Town.

If you want different, this is the place to go. But, if you’re looking for a buttery, flaky filo crust top on your Steak and Ale pie, forget about it, you’re not getting that here. Everything served on these premises is completely gluten free. What you will get is good hearty food from a menu that changes daily and offers a wide variety of pies – from Kashmiri and Stilton, Haggis, Game, Pulled Pork and something called Fiery Devil. And the chilies Gary uses in his recipes are actually grown in pots in the restaurant. I had the Kashmiri pie and very nice it was too. And all accompanied by a rather deliciously cooked range of veg.

As you walk down New Street don’t blink, you might miss it. The Ministry of Pies is small; I doubt no more than a party of twenty size 14’s, on a hen night could squeeze in at any one sitting. And a long armed patron may even be able to touch all four walls without leaving his seat – but he’d be advised to follow the instructions, “Please do not to touch the live wire,” posted under an old electrical box that has a red and a black wire dangling from it. “You’d be amazed how many diners want to touch it just to see if it’s a gag or real,” Gary told me. Shocking, in every sense of the word.

Not only the owner, Gary is also, chef, waiter, and chief bottle washer, he also designed and decorated the restaurant. It’s a hotchpotch of yesteryear bits and pieces that fit right in with the current Margate trend of retro shabby chic. The memorabilia and ephemera that are scattered about the place are a great topic for conversation, while Gary prepares the food. Among the decorative thingamajigs, there’s a fully operational, Sinclair C5 hanging from the ceiling. Why? Well, why not. Which seems to be the drive behind this whole restaurant. When I asked Gary why gluten-free, “because I had friends that were gluten free,” was his answer, “so, why not?”

Going to The Ministry of Pies is like showing up unannounced at a pal’s house for lunch. You get what’s in the fridge. As Gary says on the menu, you can have a set 3-course meal, but only “when I do a starter,” if not, diners have to make do with, at most, just the two courses. Likewise, Tea is 60p, coffee at a £1.00, and are served with a biscuit, “if I have any,” Gary, again, pre-warns us via the menu. If he doesn’t have biscuits, then it’s just the hot beverage, but at that price who can complain?

In an ever-growing corporate world where multinationals take extraordinary care to ensure that exactly the same plate of fare is served in all of their nationwide outlets, at The Ministry of Pies, you get the feeling that every plate that Gary sends out of his kitchen is slightly different from the last, each with his own personal touch to ensure that a visit to his restaurant is truly enjoyable event.

It seems to me, he’s the type of restaurateur who is happier that his customers leave with a full belly, rather than them leaving him with a full cash register. A meal at Gary’s is never going to break the bank and bravo to him for ensuring that everyone can afford to eat there. Take your own booze, unless you fancy a glass of warm wine, which is the only alcohol the restaurant serves. In the winter, it doubles as seasonal mulled wine, yet in the summer, it’s remarkably refreshing, but strong, two glasses will probably be enough for anyone.

A large man, made even larger by his Mohican and sporting a huge steel chain slung from his belt band, no doubt a hangover from his punk-rock days, if you saw Gary coming towards you in a dark alley, he’d probably scare the pants off of you — but a gentler man you could never want to meet. He is kind and considerate. He’s passionate about Margate; about his food, and about his wife, Liz – who is there to help in the restaurant, whenever help is needed. Ask Gary any question and he will oblige you with the answer. He’s a hand’s on type of bloke. I’m sure, if you arrived at his restaurant with a broken kettle, he’d take it out back and have it fixed before you got your bill.

Personally, I think the Ministry of Pies is the type of place we should all be supporting, run by a man, who with his affable and caring style offers more than just good food to both locals and tourists alike, a one-man industry that makes dining out fun. I’m told Sunday lunch is amazing. I hope to go back and try it soon, but I don’t expect to see a chain of The Ministry of Pies in city centers anytime soon because quite simply the most important ingredient in this restaurant is the gentleman owner with the Mohican hairstyle.

PS – When you go, don’t show up with a broken kettle, I was just joking.

Now, the one thing no one can say about me is that I’m mean, or miserly. In fact, I’m sure the Dean Martin song, Money, Burns a Hole in My Pocket, was actually written about me. Whenever I get a few bob, it is off to a nice hotel until the kitty is bare again. It’s just the way I am. But there is one thing that I’m absolutely stingy about; I can’t help it…

Polyfilla… Or as my American friends call it, spackle

I know, stupid right!

It starts with; I refuse to buy that ready-made stuff. A £1.00 box of mix your own does a much as a £20.00 pot of ready-made. C’mon, when did we become too lazy to mix a bit of powder and water? There are teenagers reading this saying, “What? You can mix your own polyfilla, Wow? Far-Out man.” That is, of course, if teenagers still speak like that? It’s been so long since I’ve spoken to one. I don’t feel the need.

Teenagers have never had to mix their own, not in this instant world we live in. Just peel back the lid, et Voila, ready to use polyfilla.

My emotional attachment to mixing my own may come from my Nan, who was forever making cakes, which meant a lot of mixing. So, it might be in the genes. Ah, and licking out the mixing bowl. Those were the days.

It is so much better mixing filler yourself, for instance, don’t use water, use the paint of the wall that you are filling, it’ll blend right in. If you need a wood colour, drain the water through a tea bag. If you need a deeper wood colour, mix it with coffee. You can see this is a subject that I’m well versed in. I should bring out a book, My Polyfilla Methods or Filling My Way.

It gets worse; not buying the ready-made stuff is just half of the problem. Once I’ve mixed it. I can’t stand wasting it. So, if I’ve any left over after filling my designated hole, I then go off in search of other holes to fill. I walk around the house, the garden, the garage, even the neighbourhood looking for holes that might need my Polyfilla. I’ve even been known to knock on neighbours doors asking them if they had any holes that needed filling – which has got me into trouble on more than one occasion, but we’ll leave that for another blog.

And then, of course, it becomes a race against time as the mixture starts drying out. I could just let it go hard and toss it away. Oh no, not me. I add more water to keep it moist, sometimes I add too much water, then I have to add a bit more power, before long I’ve got a full bowl of filler again and I’m desperately searching for more holes.

I literally, scrape and fill as much as I can, getting every smidgen of filler off the blade. I spend hours doing it. It has been said, and I can’t wholeheartedly deny that if I can’t find a hole, I’ve been known to make one, just to fill it up again…

Hmmm. The shrink will see you now.

So, I’m getting a confession in early before I can be accused of telling fibs… about art and me saying in the last blog, “I know nothing about it.”

The reason I’m owning up to the small fib is, I know a friend is just waiting to pounce and tell the world what a charlatan I am. Yes, I did in the past, dazzle said friend, with a whistle stop tour of the National Gallery, giving chapter and verse on most of the art without the scent of a guidebook in my hands.

In my defense, I argue that knowing who painted a picture, when and why, is not knowing about art – that is knowing about the history of art. It is just learned information and does not represent knowledge of art. I argue that I do not have the eye or the emotions to understand the specifics of art, the structure of art, or the strokes.

But I cannot deny that I visit galleries often, both the National and the Portrait are always a stop off whenever I’m in London. And any visit to the National means a visit to view The Fighting Temeraire. Don’t ask me why? I am just drawn to this JMW Turner work. It ranks very high on my list of favorites.

Which is crazy because I’ve always loved it and little did I know that I’d be living in Margate, the home of The Turner Contemporary – a gallery built on the site of the boarding house that old Joseph Mallord William stayed in when visiting this seaside town. Strange.

There’s something about this picture that captivates me, it snares emotion, movement, and story and then displays them like a wild animal trapped in a cage. You don’t want it to be trapped, you want it to be free, yet you can’t help but wonder at its magnificent movement, be beguiled by the emotions in its eyes, and awe at what story brought it to be trapped.

With The Fighting Temeraire, I think it’s the story that gets me most. On every inch of canvas, there is a story being told.

The ‘Temeraire’ and its 98 guns, fought at Nelson’s victorious Battle of Trafalgar. Thereafter, she was known as The Fighting Temeraire. The painting depicts an end of British naval power and even though Turner cheated a little, the sunset is in the wrong place for the Temeraire’s last journey, showing it traveling against a sunset, evoking a feeling of loss. The amazing colours of the setting sun are clearly symbolistic against the faint and faded colours of the old warship. A newer, smaller, steam-powered tug is helping it to its last resting place. Which is surely a metaphor for life. Maybe, I should take great hope from this picture, as Turner was in his 60s when he painted it. Hmm, where are my dad’s brushes and oils, when I need them?

I was also, lucky enough, as I’ve mentioned before, in the 80s, to have met Harold Riley, one of the UK’s foremost living artists, and I was even luckier that he gave me a couple of pieces of his work, which I still have and treasure dearly today.

Actually, my last screenplay, the one that was definitely going to be made, the one that had about six Hollywood producers attached to it, the one that had all the money was in place, and the one I’m still waiting for it to see the light of day, was set in the National Gallery.

It’s funny when you talk about selling a movie in Los Angeles, selling a movie should mean someone gives you several hundreds of thousands of dollars for your script, but more often it means selling the option. This is where someone promises to give you several hundreds of thousands when the movie gets made, but they rarely do. They will however, give you modest advance, so small it’ll only just about keep you in Starbucks coffee for another six weeks, in which time you hope to write another script that gets optioned. All the option means is no one else can make your movie, while the producer is trying to set it up. The bottom line is, no one in film world has any real money. It’s all just talk. There I’ve said, it, I don’t care because I’ve dropped out of the business. So, I don’t have to worry about upsetting producers anymore.

I may have told this story before if I have, I won’t apologize because remember, this blog is about me getting old. The concept of that movie was that a gang of thieves for whatever reason; have to tunnel under Trafalgar square and the only place they can do that from, is the National Gallery. So, they had to break-in. Obviously, research was needed.

I took myself off to Trafalgar Square and walked around the National, taking pictures of whatever I thought might be useful for the script – that’s a big no-no. A curator stepped over and asked me not to take pictures. Now, I’m normally one to abide by the rules, but as I walked around, I spied a couple of interesting hidey-hole and with my camera down by my waist, I surreptitiously, snapped more pics, only to find the same curator by my side, giving me one last warning. And rightly so, but this is the movie business. People in the movie don’t think rules apply to them.

So, I continued to walk and then saw a room, I needed it in the movie. I couldn’t help myself. I snapped another shot, this time on my phone. What harm could it do? Apparently lots – as I soon found out when a security guard grabbed my arm and walked me towards the exit. On the way, I pleaded my case, “I was only trying to take pictures because I need to know how to break into the Gallery.”

As the words fell from my lips I know it was not a smart thing to have said. We immediately took a sharp diversion to the office where I found myself sitting in front of a desk trying to explain what I had meant by “I need to know how to break into the Gallery.” Obviously, once they realized it was for a film script they saw the funny side, but still didn’t let me take pictures.

I’ve noticed a few film crews around Margate lately, it was bound to happen, the town has that mix of old and regenerated which means there are great backdrops for shooting various eras. You can always tell who the director is in any group reccying an area; he or she is the one that loves the sound of their own plummy voice and talks louder than everyone else. You’ll see them, peering through a rectangle held up high formed by their index fingers and thumbs of both hands. It is supposed to represent the viewfinder frame, but basically just represents ego, and them making sure that everyone knows they are the director. Get on with it pal, make your film or documentary or whatever you’re making and jog on. Let the proper people get on with their lives.

I actually, made a rare trip to the cinema this week I went to see War of the Planet of the Most Coincidental Plotting of Any Script the World Has Ever Seen Apes. I think that’s what it was called.

I don’t know why I make myself go and watch these movies. I hate them. The sequel, Queen Nova, of the Apes, will surely be the young mute girl adopted by the apes and becoming their leader, leading them into yet another battle for the planet – if you haven’t seen the film that won’t make any sense to you. I wish I could recommend it. I can’t. It’s a sentimental load of old tosh, with the apes being about to talk, sign, and amazingly read, at the director’s behest in order to get his story over. Oh, and to try and make some sense of what Woody Harrelson’s character was even doing in the movie. Sorry, it’s tosh.

The other thing that was tosh on my trip to the cinema, was the public information announcements, you know the type of thing, “Please turn your phone off or the bloke behind you with the big Mohican is going to batter you over the head.”

But when this announcement came up on the screen, I was surprised. “Please help us recycle by leaving all your rubbish on the floor by your seat.”

When did we become such a God awful, selfish, society that we can’t even take our own rubbish out to the bin? In fact, now we are so thick and lazy that we have to be instructed how to litter?

How about, “Please help us and take your litter home with you, you lazy good for nothing twonk!” There you go, that’s a proper public announcement for you.

I was plastering a ceiling recently, the hardest job in the world, well, after a brain surgeon, nurse, teacher, support worker, soldier, policeman, fireman, deep-sea diver, mum, trapeze artist, film director (surprisingly enough) and I would imagine a table dancer, after those jobs, it’s the hardest job in the world.

Anyway, I was getting to a corner and I spied a spider hanging there, now if I was a more hardened plasterer, I would have whacked it on the bonce with my trowel and continued spreading the pink stuff into the angle — But that is not I.

I decided that the spider lived in the house as much as I did, and I would give him a little time to pack up his belongings, move out and then I’d come back and patch and make good the ceiling at a later date. So, I carefully plastered up to about two inches away from him, giving him plenty of leg room, remembering he has eight.

So, much for karma…

Ten minutes later the little bastard attacked me. He sprang from his web and landed on my head and tried to strangle me. Okay, his little legs weren’t exactly long enough to get around my throat, but by the time I did a reverse 3 1/2 somersaults in the tuck position and fell off the ladder, I could have easily died. If I believed in reincarnation, I was sure it was an ex of mine, who had passed and was coming back for a quick tilt at revenge, there were several similarities in the attack.

Anyway, this little Arachnid was clearly, a selfish little git and given his ungratefulness, his next mate that I met got plonked straight on the head with the trowel.

For those of you of a nervous disposition, you should probably skip this next section of this blog.

The thing, about plastering, is it’s a dirty job; you can’t help but get covered in plaster, especially if you’re doing a ceiling. And so, the trick I learned is to do the plastering in your underpants. It makes sense because when you’re finished, you just step out of said pants and into the shower.

Now, I personally, have a special pair of plastering underpants, they are from my old days of being heavy, in fact, they are a pair of boxers that are about three sizes too big for me. Granted, it’s not a pretty sight. Me, up a ladder; trowel one hand, mortar board in the other, and the gusset of my oversized pants hanging down by my knees…

But I’m truthfully thinking of taking my plastering-pants idea on The Dragons Den (The Shark Tank for you statesiders) because the plastering-pants are a twofold genius idea. First, you never get your clothes ruined from falling plaster and secondly, and almost more importantly, no one is ever going to ask you to come around and do them a favor and plaster their ceiling, not if you’re only wearing your plastering-pants — Two birds, one stone.

And even if the dragon Peter Jones does turn down my idea I’m certain Deborah Meaden would only be too happy to have a hand in my pants… (Boom Boom – The NewsHuddlines, 1992.)

Anyway, after a hard day of plastering two ceilings, I decided to take a break, so I nipped into the bedroom, changed and went outside to catch a bit of revitalizing sunlight. As I stood there taking in the much-needed rays, my neighbor, a nice older lady, from across the street came hobbled over to talk. It was a while before I noticed that her gaze kept slipping below my belt line, it was only then that I realized that when I changed, I had only pulled on a tee shirt. I had forgotten about the pants. So, there I was, out in the street, still wearing my oversized boxers, with the hanging gusset. I’m not sure who was the most embarrassed?

I’ve decided to cut back on the nightly steps I’m walking. I realized that the last part of my exercise regime wasn’t doing me any good, probably because it took me past the local chippy, which fortunately, those German Focke’s didn’t bomb (sorry Stan, I couldn’t resist it.) And so, I was walking the last 5000 steps with a bag of chips in my hand. Sort of negates the whole reason for walking in the first place, doesn’t it?

Haha, teenagers reading this blog, who am I kidding?

The post I like a Custard Slice. appeared first on YourAutumnYears.



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