Sunday

Heaven Scent



After having assumed the role of unwilling necroponent for a recently departed aunt in deepest darkest middle England, I was now more than ready to hasten a return to the sunshine of my hideaway. In a blizzard of hitherto ignorance and naivety, I took on the unenviable feat of arranging a green burial. We visited the 300 acre site in the brochure, of what was once prime porkery-piggery grazing land. In its place, a radically heaped slurry pile of shite of which the eco-trumpeters will unreservedly wring their hands in dismay. Couple this with the savage removal of not only the many marbled orange butterflies that once dive bombed your picnic, covered the chrome grill of your car in gore with their unequivocal lack of flight guidance, but also homeless ostrich plumed hornets and an entire array of recently murdered, native singing bullfrogs. These alone will have them baying for the blood of innocent farmers who gave up their land to the government for a subsidy grant and a 70" widescreen TV fitted between the front seats of their already bulging Range Rovers.

My point of contact was an hirsute little man complete with obligatory dreadlocks, wearing a colourful Himalayan mountain hat, who smelled strongly of cabbage-based flatulence. He had teeth the shape and colour of African Ju-Ju beads and by the look of his clothing had been up all night hugging trees. His office, a four berth sun-seeker caravanette, reminded me of a nightclub fire back in Glasgow where the cloying stench of stinking carpet had permeated my new overcoat when I was making a hasty retreat. The only time you should be in a Glasgow nightclub after 3am and past the age of forty is when you are buying it or burning it for a friend. Adjoining the green burial area was a surprisingly situated, coned off area, steeped in fresh tarmac and shiny metal, awaiting the arrival of several billion litres of carbon-monoxide belching motor cars queueing to take advantage of Oxfordshire's latest attempt at park-and-ride. Not so much green then, more a darkish, greying smudge of black.

Amongst a sea of namaste muttering, baggy-breasted, non bra-wearing, oily skinned, mantra chanting, Stonehenge dwelling miscreants, I picked out what was seemingly a quiet spot overlooking more green fields, (if you ignored the M40 motorway in the background) a smallish willow tree which hung depressingly over a wide stream full of plastic bags, supermarket-associated detritus and a fading billboard advertising lojbanised household appliances at discount prices. Having dug a few midnight holes in the countryside in my time, I soon realised that the water table would float the wicker-built casket underground long before the arrival of the next winter flood. It's never nice when you go for a ramble in the English countryside, only to come across the remains of someones aunty popping up as you bend down to sip the cool clear waters of a hidden spring.

The service was to be a shining example of multi-faith, radical green speeches on Mother Earth reclaiming her richness in the onward journey of the dearly departed. For our part, we was there to ensure that the skirl of an Irish bagpipe was heard during the final lowering of what looked like a neatly clipped hedge containing my dear aunt. Into an abyss of stinging nettles she would go, helped along by mosquito's and some enticingly tasty green appendage that would be rather fitting when mixed with a fresh garlic and pasta dish. There was to be no marker stone other than the often dropped souffle of fresh cow pats from the wandering herds of dissipated cattle as they chewed lackadaisically at great clumps of shite-covered tufts of green grass as they urinated and defecated upon not only Mother Earth, but also our dear aunty.

As I turned my rental car back towards the direction of the airport, I couldn't help but plan methodically the final resting place of myself. I had often longed to be scattered to rest beneath the single tree that stands on guard at the shore of Firkin Point next to the very picturesque Trossach waters. To drift lazily upon the summer current and become as one with Scotland and its many natural beauties. However, after seeing the evolution of our world as it turns ever quicker into a tarmac prison of eternal dystopia, I had decided to revert back to being cremated, placed into a Tupperware container upon my old friends mantel shelf at his home in Limerick. I may well end up having bits of me sucked up off of the carpet every Saturday morning, scooped into a Hoover bag and scattered amongst the tattie peelings, but at least I won't be dissolved in ancient pig-shite and left to rest smelling of cow pish.

Middle England Soup

10 oz cured pork sausage, removed from casing.
1 white onion, diced
1 cup fennel, diced
1 free range carrot, diced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp black cracked pepper
1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp freshly smashed and minced wild garlic
1 tsp sea salt
1 plump red tomato
4 oz fresh tomato juice
8 cups of homemade chicken stock
2 cups of brown lentils, rinsed for the love of all things holy, rinsed!
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
sour cream for the garnish

In a large copper pot, saute the sausage over a medium heat, break it down with a wooden spoon and cook it for 3 minutes. Add the onion, fennel and carrot. Continue cooking for a few more minutes until the sausage is fully cooked and the veg is soft. Put in the cinnamon, pepper, paprika, thyme, bay leaves, garlic and salt. Cook for a further 1 minute. Add the tomato and the juice, chicken stock and lentils. Bring it to a boil and simmer for 35 minutes. Finally, add the spuds and cook for 10 more minutes until they are tender. Remove the bay leaves, add salt to taste and serve with warm crusty rustic bread.

65 comments:

  1. It is pride of place you shall take on my mantle dear friend, in between the signed photies of JFK and the Blessed Daniel O' Donnell. Though not too soon yet ok? There be many Fridays left yet to spent sipping and singing at Jinty's eh? Off with ye now back to the 'other' Paradise and give that lovely lady a kiss from meself.

    (High stool this coming Tuesday?) :)

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    1. Ah now, John and Daniel so, I shall be in fine company, both left and right amongst the gloriously Celtic folks of yesteryear. The three of us will look down from our resting place upon your mantle and watch over your shiny pate as you struggle to look us in the with a just a hint of a tear forming on your ruddy wee cheek. Perhaps a fitting tribute of the high stool could be arranged so that you may climb up and dust the three amigos every Lent. In the meantime we shall continue our downward spiral into the alcoholic haze of non-sobriety every Friday eve. Herself sends her regards, but has requested that you stop perusing her dirty laundry basket during your visits. Me? I would only ask that you google the use of lavatory paper and stop drinking from the bidet in the guest room.

      I bid you adieu.

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    2. Put him in a paper cup, and take a marker to write "Chef's Ash-hole"... That's pretty much what my spawn have been directed to do when i finally speedball across the finish line...

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    3. Don't give him ideas hen, he'll drop the paper cup in a drunken stupor and I'll end up spending all eternity on the hearth rug watching him parading around his sitting room miming to ABBA hits.

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    4. That image will forever haunt me!

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    5. I have that effect on folk.:-D

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  2. First of all let me offer my sympathy for your loss. Green burial services are more or less consistent with Catholic beliefs. Embalming practices do tend to facilitate Catholic funeral practices but Catholics are able to participate in all of the traditional funeral rites without embalming provided there is careful planning by the family and cooperation from the local funeral director. I am assuming that a priest was in attendance at some point during the service.

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  3. You are trying hard, that I will admit, but one should never assume. Perhaps her lack of helminthophobia dictated her final instructions, it might well have been her total disdain for religion itself that swayed her final request. All that matters is that everything was carried out in accordance to her wishes and as her family we were happy to do that for her.

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  4. Perhaps my thoughts were lost in translation. I meant no disrespect or intrusion.

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  5. Once more you leave out the best ingredient known to civilised man. Garlic. Sorry for your loss. Tell me, the namaste dude, did you have the urge to wash his hair for him?

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  6. For the love of all things English, Anthony, you simply cannot add such a Franconian ingredient to a traditional middle England broth. It just isn't done. Do you not read the bible where Rapunzel lets down her shimmering golden hair and Richard the Lionheart clambers up and breaks bread with Jesus and the seven dwarfs? To deviate from the written word is tantamount to hadeharia.

    The same goes for my soup!

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    1. Garlic is as English as the works of wee Willy Shakespeare.

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    2. Anthony, have you banged your head whilst grappling with your new look stubble ensemble? For the love of all things written, Sir Francis Bacon wrote most, if not all of the words attributed to the light-footed William of Stratford. Bacon was a Freemason, deceit was and still is the name of the game with this particular mob. Even the striped ties of Bearsden mutter into their whisky and soda whenever the subject arises.

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    3. There is a possibilty that some jiggery-pokery took place but that does not mean that you can claim Franconian descent of the humble garlic herb. Garlic has been around since caveman times.

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    4. Och, Anthony son, I never actually claimed that Garlic originated from anywhere. In actual fact you are probably wrong to even consider it as a herb. Garlic is in fact an onion, or at least a part of the onion family. The first recorded usage of garlic to the best of my knowledge, came from India where it was used for its medicinal remedies as well as its flavours. I couldn't help but notice that you didn't deny the smudge I threw your way in regard to the old club tie brigade. Hard to dismiss the obvious son, eh?

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  7. I too, am sorry for your loss. And I'm at a loss for words about um, green burials.

    And not in a disrespectful way, I smiled, remembering my Grandma telling me where she'd buried her husband, even though he was no longer there. Being a teenager, I thought she meant "in spirit" until she laughed and said, "We buried him here, not knowing there was an underground stream. One day it sucked down about 10 headstones, which floated away, never to be found." I smiled and inquired if he'd just sought out a better resting spot: my Mom was apoplectic but my Grandma laughed. She always was my favorite.

    Thought of you yesterday when I replanted the Basil plant given to me as a mere stalk this summer by one of my seniors. Thing is almost a bush, so I moved it to a better spot....which no doubt will now bring on Fall and cooler temperatures. :)

    Hugs to you and your lovely lady.

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  8. Green burials are akin to green tea dear lady. It is all down to taste. Not for me I might add, both green tea and seagrass burials. The soil in which we sink our fallen must be of a certain type. Inland and gritty is best, although clay and peat bog can hold firm the caskets, but swampy and marshland is a bit like flushing a toilet. Everything is eventually washed out to sea. I am sure my beloved aunt will be laughing at the consternation caused when the priest was despatched home and a bedraggled man with a ginger beard quoted words from a Beatles track whilst the mourners stifled their true feelings.

    I also thought of you yesterday dear lady, I tried my hand at both goose and duck egg ice cream without making much headway. Needless to say that I shall continue to strive for the smoothness you described. Basil grows best and retains much of its aroma when mixed with a strong peaty mix. I look forward to its progress as we put our heads together and mix up a storm in our separate kitchens linked through the mist.

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  9. Just wait till you see my recipe for blood soup. That'll put hairs on your chest.

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    1. I remember the last thing you prepared. It had hairs in the tuna.

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  10. Tupperware me arse, you'd be better fitted in a washing up bowl.

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    1. Ah now, nothing quite like the unintelligent quips from an unintelligent metapneustic Geordie. Don't sit down for a pish, you'll suffocate.

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    2. Away man, you're just pissed because your goalkeeper is about to blow the Celts a kiss goodbye as he boards the plane to Spain and proper football.

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    3. Do you mean the one that walked away from Newcastle without so much as a backward glance at the benefits office? Or is the same keeper that stands to net us a whopping £10,000,000 profit when he is sold to the Mancs?

      I can't hear you anymore...... speak up, eh?

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  11. Sorry for your loss. Having never really heard of a green funeral, I can't comment on it either way. However anyone wishes to be taken care of after their time on this planet is jake with me. I haven't really thought about what I want in that direction. But I hope my family and friends would celebrate my life with a case of fine bourbon or rye whiskey. Celebrating a life is so much better than mourning a passing.

    That soup is my kinda dish. I'm making my homemade chicken tortilla soup this very afternoon. Cheers!

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    1. You are absolutely correct Mr Earl. Celebrating life is much better than mourning. I now plan to live forever. Save me some soup.

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  12. I will raise a glass tonight for yer loss. Not many men could spin such a tale of death and make the reader chuckle all the best tae you and yours...
    Slàinte mhòr agad

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    1. Death is merely the divils way of calling his childer home. I'll take that toast and right back at yis!

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  13. Cinnamon with garlic? Like, really?

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    1. Cinnamon with garlic, really like.

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  14. i'd take your Auntie's green burial over what my Mother has asked me to do for her... i've promised her that i'll see to it that her wishes are met. i might just have to contract a few of them out, however... we do the best we can. celebrate the life. torch and scatter the meat. (sigh)

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    1. You and I should go out in a blaze of copious drink, insane sexual acts and not forgetting to leave a few old scores well and truly settled along the way.

      I'm ready to give it a practice run whenever you are...

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    2. my scores are settled and i'm already into my drink. let's get with that other bit, shall we? i'll brnig the dark chocolate, raspberries and duct tape...

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    3. I'm on it hen, but this time allow me to shave downstairs before you apply the tape. I've not felt the same in my mankini since the honey dip and molasses episode went ever so slightly tits-up.

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    4. we can skip the duct tape. i'll bring the hot wax. two birds, one hot stone...

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  15. I thought ur-hippies like that died out in 1985.

    Oh dear... makes me wonder what else I might have been drinking during the many walks with my children round Ingleton Falls (plan: wear them out on the hills = they're quiet in the pub afterwards).

    I'm adamant that I will be buried, and returned quietly from when I came (well, intermediately--burials at sea might be administratively difficult and I can't get turned into a comet). Every day I'm getting closer to a lovely wood near here.

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    1. Excellent choice of final destination. It will save the Vietnamese guys from detouring too far off the M6 at Carnforth when they are looking to dump a rather large suitcase of body parts. In actual fact, if they divide your body-bits up into 5 plastic sacks they might be able to launch you over the fence and you could take in the wonderful scenery at Dalton from many juxtapositions, eh?

      Only saying...

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  16. Sorry---also meant to say--thank you very much for narrowing the column. It was a bit hard going reading sometimes, especially in my usual condition after "refreshments".

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  17. No need to thank me son, look at it as though I am granting someone a final wish, eh? Besides, its probably not wise of us to even mention squinty eyes at your abode as things currently lie.

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  18. COYBIG!!!:*):-D:-P:-)

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  19. The Jameson is so sweet the night! :-)

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    1. Did you see me on the telly wee man?

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    2. Missed that my tall pal! Still hangin'!

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    3. Aye, twas a good night in the Gallowgate, spirits are still high.

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  20. Mein Beileid. I don't care what they'll do with my bonesack when it's over. All I know is that I do not like to have to visit graves, so an anonymous thing will do. Your soup sounds great - and of course rinsed lentils. The cinnamon, well, it's a challenge; can taste it with the cumin, but I'm limited of course. The sausage - as always, a matter of trust. As longs as it's not Haarmann Ltd.

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    1. Haarmann meat would at least be young and tender. Bad taste Chef, very bad taste...

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  21. sorry for your loss, sweet pea.

    we share the same belief regarding the celebration of life as we say farewell to the dead. i have left instructions with the coconut krewe that after my demise i am to be cremated and my ashes catapulted over the savannah river. then, there is to be the best damn party ever held right here on the plantation! xoxoxoxox

    (thank you for this lovely recipe! it's finally soup weather here!)

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    1. Cremation is definitely the way to go hen, we can float anywhere we wish to go on the wind. I've been practising for my own wake every Friday night since the age of 17. It's been one hell of a party already!

      More soup recipes to come as the weather this side dips to just below the mid 70s. Oh I have waited so long to say that....

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  22. THANK YOU! The soup recipe did it! We FINALLY have Fall here in the South and my sweater collection is jumping up and down. After weeks of almost summer like weather, this morning was a crisp 35 degrees....1.67 C to you.

    Can we get the wee man to sing a chorus of "At Last"? ;)

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    1. More soup recipes to follow soon hen, all dedicated to receiving the long awaited change of seasons. May I suggest we collaborate in creating a fine broth between us? My sous chef, soup and I.... yes, I like the sound of that.

      Can we get the wee man to sing? He has yet to master that skill I'm afraid, but he does a damn good impression, that much I will say.

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    2. Cruelty is having to burn the expensive silk sheets in the guest bedroom after your last stay. With the stench of charred cheap cologne and Guinness skid marks on the mattress, no wonder sheep are dropping like flies from the skies.....eh?

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  23. I never knew you were a nature boy. Is there no end...?
    Time was one only needed to worry about a stray sheep above where one was sampling the sparkling burn. Now it seems there are floating aunties galore.
    Speaking of relatives I do think your grandfather is quite beautiful.
    Thanks to you I don't need to ask 'What's the Firkin Point?

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  24. My dear lady, seriously, if you were to Google 'Firkin Point, lonely tree' you would be able to see my planned final resting place for real. A beautiful spot on the shores of Loch Lomond, I am sure you will agree.

    A nature boy you say? I would have to say that I was blessed with being born in the wonderful county of Roscommon before being transhipped across to the wonderful concrete wilderness of Drumchapel. I appreciated nothing of the natural beauty of the west coast of Scotland until Siobhan stumbled across a derelict chapel that was for sale a mere stones throw away from Rob Roy's historical grave.

    The rest is my history...

    Once you have set eyes upon Glencoe, Rubha Mor and the rolling green hills that surround our home it is hard to envisage living anywhere else. I miss it daily, but am coping well by soaking up the Spanish sun and sipping iced tea from a long glass as I waggle my toes in the pool. So yes, nature boy would suit me rather well.

    I am sure my grandfather would spin in his shallow grave should he ever again be described as beautiful. However, seeing as how we Celts are naturally handsome, a fact of which you are already well aware, I shall accept your compliment in regard to my gene pool with thanks.

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  25. I'm not sure if it's morbid or just fantastic planning, but i've had my funeral arrangements made since I was in my teens. On paper and all legal like.
    One day for a wake, cremation, dump me over Niagara Falls and then have a grand "celebration of life" party. I even have a play list that I just recently put on my IPod for it all.
    Mind you, when I made my original arrangements it was the 80's and I was living a lifestyle that I wasn't sure if I would make it to my 20's!
    Now my eldest has a copy and has agreed to do as I wish.

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    1. An 80's play list would be an ideal wake-warmer hen, that much I do know. Is there not a law in place stating that Niagara Falls cannot be used for such events though?

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  26. I've seen better looking meals served from the back of a van outside of the homeless shelter in Sunderland Chef.

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    1. Who am I to argue with someone who eats frequently from such places then?

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  27. I imagine that I will die alone and be eaten by the dogs....
    but in the meantime the soup looks great!

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  28. No. I envisage that you will a long and fruitful life until you reach the age of 143. Only then will you succumb to life dear lady, but only on your terms and certainly not as kibble.

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  29. There is.
    But I know my son.
    I envision a toy boat full of ashes being sent on its way in the rapids to go on it's merry way over the Falls.

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  30. A fitting tribute doll, one I can appreciate.

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Thank you, the chef is currently preparing an answer for you in the kitchen. Do help yourself to more bread.