Before returning to the UK, I was surprised to read in a BBC article about how sales of all types of alcoholic beverage in Britain had been declining during the previous year with the exception of gin.
On first entering a pub, I was interested to see the number of types of gin that were available. So many! They all look the same! But they don’t all taste the same! As I toured around I passed a number of boutique distilleries which made me wonder if they’d always been there or not. I was told that the market had been flooded with variants and that people were lapping it up.
I decided to partake just once and attempted a Yorkshire Tea gin (I kid you not). The barman suggested having it over ice was the best way to indulge and thus I did. It did taste slightly of tea, and of gin, but I doubt I’ll be rushing back…because there is a reason that gin and tonic has been around for a long time…tried and tested is often best.
“Mother’s ruin” is another historic name for gin…I wonder if the latest craze will ruin more mothers in the modern era…perhaps not if it retains a boutique price.
There are few things, for me at least, quite so quintessentially English as a lovely country pub. A place for the local community to meet, somewhere for passers-by to visit and meet the locals (and maybe make new friends), somewhere to engage in small talk about the world outside, somewhere with a real sense of history; and somewhere to delight in good British real ale!
It is fair to say that in my 3.5 weeks of UK travel I visited my fair share of good country pubs and here are some beautiful photos of some of them…and a nice pint of Tribute and a pack of Scampi Fries!
There are few things I miss while living on the opposite side of our world but one thing is British Real Ale. Pardon my grin on the photo above but when you occasionally get the treat of finding such a thing in a bar in fairly remote New Zealand, especially with the distinctive taste of Old Speckled Hen, you just have to have it (and ignore the cost).
Nobody brews beer like they do in Britain, and while foreigners may scoff at our enjoying it warm, they often forget or are unaware that it comes straight out of a cold cellar and is gloriously not gassy.
You can badge your lagers as beers, you can call them “craft”, you can pack them full of hops, you can persuade yourself it is artisan…but you’ll never make them as varied or as interesting as the British do.
I feel like the national anthem is about to play after all of that!
(Enjoy Responsibly. Drink in Moderation. Acting Like a Prize Ass while Inebriated is Not Acceptable. Drinking While Pregnant Can Harm Your Baby.)
The area of Marlborough to the North of New Zealand’s South Island is home to many a vineyard. Indeed, there are far more vineyards scattered across the country than you may expect. It is a big business for NZ.
These vineyards range from the delightfully small and boutique where you can easily meet the owner while having a taste session up to the huge business concerns. It was at one of these, Yealands Winery, near the town of Seddon, that I did a self-drive tour (yes, you read that correctly) before going to the obligatory tasting area and shop.
The business prides itself on being carbon zero (or carboNZero to localise it!) and uses old vines as fuel (and has big piles of fertiliser which are made on-site), has free-range chickens eliminating bugs and babydoll sheep (which cannot reach the vines) mowing the grass. This is a BIG vineyard though and I couldn’t help but feel that maybe somewhere the idylls fell a little flat when you saw the rather sizeable modern factory – but fair play on what they aim for and what they are apparently achieving.
Finally, here is a fun fact…they actually play classical music to their grapes as they believe it increases the vigour of the vines and their resistance to disease. Heaven knows.
When a lot of people think of New Zealand, they may think of the Kiwi, they may think of the All Blacks or they may think of New Zealand lamb!
New Zealand used to be, in essence, an extended farm for the UK. There was far more produce here than the small population could consume and as such you may as well export it. They invented refrigeration of meat here (in 1882 near Dunedin) which enabled ships to take lamb to the UK.
New Zealand continues to be an agriculture powerhouse to this day. You can grow almost anything here. One of the few fruits I haven’t seen growing would be bananas. Different parts of the country have different climates which facilitate different crops. Only the feijoa (an acquired taste anyway…slightly medicinal) apparently doesn’t lend itself to export too well. It always use to strike me as bizarre how you could get NZ apples in UK supermarkets, but not UK apples (go figure!).
Agriculture forms the backbone of the economy and of many people’s lives. Sheep farming has given way to more profitable beef in many areas but there is still plenty of lamb to go around.
While in Hastings, just south of Napier, we went to NZ’s oldest farmers market. Uncommon in the UK, these sorts of markets are a national institution and even Auckland has them. A great place to get fresh or manufactured product straight from source. Delicious!
Please check out the drummer in the band…beret and shades…possibly a contender for coolest drummer on earth…
I mentioned the potential for serious desirability effects from the purchase of Lynx Legend body spray in a previous update…well…it seems it does indeed live up to the promise.
There I was on an outing to the Ascension vineyard about an hour north of Auckland in the small town of Matakana when I happened to be accosted by not one but two vestal virgins! A photo illustrating my surprise is just below…it is not every man who has the privilege of getting in between two such beauties…and with his wife looking on aghast! Suits you, sir!
Thankfully, I am referring to their Viognier wine, of which I purchased two bottles for future enjoyment after a very pleasing tasting session…which is free in the event you buy two bottles (otherwise $5 NZD)…you can also have lunch at the vineyard – we had a nice platter of cold meats, cheese, pickles, bread and chutneys while overlooking the vines and gardens. Very nice indeed. There are a number of vineyards near Auckland and I dare say we will sample a few more in due course.
Another (less satisfying) potential side-effect I have discovered of late is my desirability to the local insect population who have taken a liking to any bare body part they happen to notice. My feet, legs and arms have all been cannibalised by the little things – most likely sandflies which you can barely even see. Peter, the resident Praying Mantis, is noticeably absent when the recriminations are flying!
Starting out in a new country has to involve a fascinating trip to the supermarket to see all of the delights that pass for local home cuisine…so how does a trip to Countdown in New Zealand go I hear you ask?
For UK readers, Richard Whiteley (RIP) and Carol Vorderman are nowhere in sight (phew!).
Well, of course there are plenty of similarities to supermarkets anywhere…but some differences I noticed to the UK is the ability to buy live mussels – big ones by UK standards. There seems to be a little less focus on pre-packaged items although of course you can still buy things like ready-made lasagne and frozen pizza. There is more cultural diversity in goods due to the demands of a diverse population. There is also a great selection of pies. I was quite pleased to see Heinz Baked Beans and Marmite…although UK Marmite is actually branded up as “Our Mate” in NZ as someone else uses the Marmite name…to be honest, I am quite tempted to try the local brands anyway – when in Rome and all that…or even in Auckland…but a love of UK Marmite can run deep…
I have also seen trolleys referred to as trundlers. Being something of an aficionado of crisps, I am able to vouch for the quality of the local produce in that regard already…although I am yet to sample the green onion flavour…
Anyway, a couple of items I thought worthy of a photograph to share with you…the first is some wine on the shelf…check out the prices!!! Who on earth pays that? At a 2:1 exchange rate to the UK, that is £400 for a supermarket bottle of red wine.
The second made me laugh when I saw it…Lynx Legend body spray…in a gold can with an “Extremely Irresistible” warning…with this much gold and a “legend” tag, now everyone can be as irresistible as Mr T. Pity the fool who doesn’t choose it.