The evening before my hiking day in Kent I tried explaining to my daughter why I was looking forward to it so much.
“We’ll be walking all day, probably eighteen to twenty miles,” I said.
She looked at me as if I had suggested I was considering stapling my tongue to the wall.
“It’s going to rain,” she said.
“All the better. It will make the pub lunch so much more enjoyable.”
I then sought to explain that I had planned the Kentish country walk around a specific village pub, which has its own brewery. To Nicola, beer is beer, so it was hard to share my excitement at the prospect of walking all morning in the rain to reach a pub serving six real ales that can be found nowhere else. To her, that was like making a long journey to buy postage stamps in a distant post office, because they might have different pictures on them.
So I struggled to convince her I wasn’t just wasting my day. And it was only the next morning, as Jerry and I walked away from the town of Tonbridge, following the river Medway, that I appreciated exactly what it was about a day hiking in Kent that gave me so much joy.
On a walking trip in the Ardennes with two of my oldest and best friends, it was that point on the second morning when you start looking forward to finding somewhere that might serve you coffee. And wondering whether there’ll be time when you reach the station for a beer or two before the train.
We were walking on a path through some woodland, and the day was warming up, requiring the shedding of coats and jumpers. To pass the time I asked Paul and Jerry to name their favourite five tracks from the traditional prime spot (in old vinyl parlance) of ‘track one, side one’. It kept us amused for most of the morning.
Of course, the concept of even the first track on an ‘album’ is something that for many younger people has little meaning. But it always meant something to me, and for some strange reason, the task of thinking of the best list exercised and interested me a whole lot more than it seemed to engage Jerry and Paul. I could never whittle it down to just five of course (fifty is hard enough). But I did over the coming weeks settle on a list that I thought would fill a decent CD.
And here it is, with reasons (and in most cases clicking on the title will play you the song, through the magic of YouTube).
You can read Part 1 here.
About a pound of wholemeal bread (stale will do)
Pint of milk
8oz brown sugar
8oz mixed raisins, sultanas, currants
2tsp spice (cinnamon, coriander, cumin – or the commercial ready-mixed spice)
A little nutmeg
Break up the bread and let it soak in the milk in a large bowl while you sort out the music to play while cooking. I recommend “Making History” by Linton Kwesi Johnson, followed by “Blue” by Joni Mitchell. Heat oven to 180C (gas mark 4). Add the raisins etc and mix everything together vigorously with the butter, and the sugar and spice.
Beat the eggs and mix in well. Put the whole lot into one or more greased shallow ovenproof dishes. Bake for around 45 minutes or until set.
One of my favourite movies is “Field of Dreams”, starring Kevin Costner. It is a shamelessly sentimental story of a young man called Ray who owns a farm in Iowa, under the big deep sky of the American Midwest. He hears a ghostly voice in his cornfield, telling him to build a baseball pitch on his land. “Build it and he will come,” the voice says.