Fighter pilot, Royal Navy 1945, Hydrographer Iraq 1947-52 India 1952-53, Canadian Hydrographic Arctic explorer 1953-1960, Writer-producer Canadian National Film Board 1961-72, Freelance journalist, audio-visual producer 1972-2009, National Press Club of Canada 1961 - 2006

Friday, July 31, 2009

A touch of privacy

A Needless Profuseness of Entwining Palms

With all this H1N1-swine flu business swirling about the authorities are encouraging all hands to wash their hands any time they are at a loss for anything else to do. Also entering health centres now usually means the mandatory squirting of antibacterial gloop on one’s hands.

So I reckon it’s high time for our political masters of either sex to discourage the outmoded wanton habit of people shaking hands for little or no reason.

English people, and I think also the Scottish and the Welsh, and maybe the Irish, way back when, (and I mean way back when like when English people were actually called English), well all these I seem to remember, seldom used to shake hands. I mean six or seven decades ago most Brits were quite informal in a civilized sort of way. Whereas other peoples and many foreigners spent most of their days shaking each others’ hands — in between bouts of killing each other. For all I know they may still do so. Shake hands a lot, I mean. In fact I know some actually do get up at odd intervals during the night to shake hands with one another. In the morning they religiously shake hands with everyone they know or don’t know. In a group they repeat this performance even if they only left the group for a few minutes to go to the toilet for a quick pee, where they nevertheless take time to shake hands with all the other guys standing and sitting around in the bog. Then they rejoin their group and shake hands with everybody again. After, of course, one hopes, washing their hands.

A guy who sticks out his mitt directly you’re positioned face-to-face with him always strikes me as a guy who wants to sell you something either material, ephemeral or morally questionable.

I mean when I meet a very close old shipmate, squadronmate, or actual blood brother, even after years of absence, I might give such a special guy a brief arm hug but seldom shake his hand. That would be so formal and he’d suspect I wanted to con him into something.

I used to drink with Ron Power a couple of times a week for many years in the club. He came from Ilford and we had gone to the same school in the 1930s. He had spent a very long, adventurous and active war and we had a lot in common. But I can never remember shaking his hand. Same with lots of others, dead and gone. Come to think of it, I cannot remember shaking hands with my wife. Ever. Is that strange?

I wonder if this personal quirk is a social impediment? In fact when some stranger, acquaintance, neighbour, politician or friend sticks out their hand to me it takes me a while to fathom out what they’re doing. Or want. Then if I do react and pick it up I forget how long to keep it grasped and tend to embarrassingly hang on to it for no reason, which just compounds my unease, initial hesitation, and surprise.

Though when I meet with lawyers, financial advisors and other approved professionals (but not doctors) it seems ok to shake their hands.

I wonder why?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Prince Charles and The National Press Club of Canada

HRH Prince Charles visits the club

Sometime back in the relaxed 1960s I remember HRH Prince Charles, visiting the press club in Ottawa.

All we club executives were lined up waiting for the elevator door to open and Charles to step out. ‘The Major’, Mick Spooner, our manager was standing next to me. When he got to Mick, Charles said to him: ‘Oh, so you’re ‘Spooner of Africa’. Mother often mentions you’, and then unhurriedly he chatted away at some length.

Charles only spent about four seconds with me, mumbled something under his breath and moved on. Probably heard that I’d again sent my Defence Medal back to Buckingham Palace in protest of something. I should have been wearing my Fleet Air Arm tie, the one identical to the tie of the Royal Artillery but with pale blue lightning flashes instead of the RA’s vivid crimson. The same FAA tie as the one which I very often see on TV when worn by Prince Charles, as well as by Prince Andrew, and old Prince Philip himself. And I suppose, nowadays, also the younger princes, William and Harry. They all wear it these days and sport their naval wings on their left naval uniform sleeves, just as did nice old King George VI.

Later I asked Mick what young Prince Charles’ ‘Spooner of Africa’ remark was all about and he said something concerning how years earlier he had been the sar’nt-major in charge somewhere in Africa when the young Queen visited the regiment and he looked after her in some special fashion.

Mick is long gone to that big parade ground up in the sky. I believe his real name was John. It was said he earned his nickname when he became the army’s hangman over in Ireland during the troubles, circa 1917. Quite a guy old Mick. Pusser, a very military, commanding, presence, but a good drinking crony. Rather renowned as a boxer in his early army days. His wife was from the Channel Islands, and his son was a senior RCMP intelligence officer, I believe. Mick was a Kentish man and served in the Buffs — a regiment renowned for their courage in times of threat on the battlefield when responding to their famed battlefield call of, “Steady the Buffs!”.

Back in the good old days in the club. Mick and Hilary Brigstoke, then the London Times Canadian correspondent and an ex-army officer, hit it off well at the bar, as did several of we other ex-wartime service people.

In those years Mick had a little cubby-hole of an office tucked away in a corner of the dining room. At that time I was putting out Dateline Canada, the clubs annual magazine, so I had to yak with Mick quite a lot. Often when I wanted to see him I’d knock on the door, push in on it, and it would stick open just a couple of inches. Mick would call out: ‘Hold on a minute I’ll close the filing-cabinet draws’. Then the office door could be opened and I could get in. Mick’s office was indeed very small. He kept all the club’s business in ledgers written in the most beautiful compact handwriting I have ever seen. We had six hundred members plus then, in an extremely lively and well-appointed club. But, single-handed, with no computers, copy machines or secretarial assistants in fancy expanded offices, Mick had the club running as smooth as a military tattoo. Later, with more modern managers and several (unionized) staff added to no purpose, despite having far fewer members, and fettered by newly-hatched sissy social norms slithering in with the turn of the century, the National Press Club of Canada went predictably belly-up.

The NPC, sadly and totally, had gone kaputzi.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Euthanasia Deluxe

The happiest of exits

The best way to go

Our ageing population and voluntary euthanasia

Nearly fifty years ago when the abolition of the death penalty in Britain was under discussion, the New Scientist magazine published the personal preferences of several physicians for the most humane method of execution.

Today, with the debate on euthanasia gathering momentum it is an increasingly valid consideration. It may be an important factor in making a very important choice.

In their next issue the magazine published a letter to the editor I wrote suggesting that a secret and comfortable prison-cell-cum-decompression-chamber be built for maximum carefree departures.

Because I remembered the day, in 1945, when all the pilots of Fleet Air Arm 805 squadron entered a decompression chamber, four at a time, and put on oxygen and radio masks. Then the chamber was decompressed to match conditions at high altitude.

Following instructions from medical officers looking in at us through the portholes, we performed simple tasks one by one. As each person commenced his task the pilot sitting opposite him was told to lean over and disconnect his oxygen supply. The first fellow was told to keep slowly subtracting seven from 100. He started off saying “ninety three, eighty six, seventy nine, seventy two, sixty five”, pause, “fifty eight”, longer pause, “fifty...” much longer pause, “fif...”, then he fell unconscious. The medics at once told his opposite number to connect up his oxygen again. After a few seconds the fellow started saying “fifty,..” pause, “fifty... No!... fifty one, forty four, thirty seven...” Then the medic outside said that's “Okay number one, you can stop now.” "But," protested number one, "I haven't finished yet." "Yes you have," said the medic, "you passed out for a while and your test is over." "No. I did not pass out," protested number one. "Oh yes you did," chorused we other three pilots waiting our turn to perform a task.

And it was the same story for all of us. We didn't even know we had passed out, let alone feel anything untoward. It was a valuable lesson.

No need for expensive trips to Switzerland. All that is required are multi-seat, mobile decompression chambers that can easily be towed to varying locations for service on the spot.

When it came to my own turn in the chamber, I was the only one to be given a physical task to perform. I stood up at a dummy Lewis gun and was instructed to fire through the portholes at the medic outside when he waved his hand, firing at another doctor when he waved his hand, and change the magazine when nobody waved. They said no one had ever completed a magazine change and the chief medical officer had a prize for whoever did so. I managed to do so and almost completed another change of magazines. An endorsement that recommended me for high-altitude flying was entered in my log book. Ironically, considering the oxygenated nature of the test, I was presented with a large carton of tobacco as a prize.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Does God play baseball?

Probably God does not play baseball.  So just relax and simply play the game.

...but nowadays it seems, a lot of baseball players believe God does play baseball.  Batters, before settling into position at the plate, perfunctorily cross themselves, some clumsily, others covertly or ostentatiously.  Pitchers go down upon one knee upon taking the mound, and guys running the bases after hitting a home-run raise their hands and faces on high and point to the zenith to give heavenly thanks. 

What spiritual arrogance.  What utter cheekiness to accuse any probable or improbable God of partisanship, and of assuming that He or he or She or she or It or it is prepared to acknowledge receipt of, or be even slightly interested or ingratiated, by such insignificant gestures of casual worship. 

What's more, such twits obviously believe, as do many other religionists, that they are probably any improbable God’s divinely preferred favourite among probably all the other humans at present squirming about on this probably benighted planet.  What sheer imagined effrontery?

Incidentally Einstein’s quote about God not playing dice is quoted out of context by Intelligent Design ratings when trying to infer that old Albert believed in God.  Unless Albert had quaffed many, many, more steins than ein stein at the time.  Though of course, actually, he didn’t.  No, he obviously did not drink lots of steins.  If he had done so he wouldn’t have been called Einstein, would he?  

Fish supreme

Poisson royal nature

(FISH IN A BUCKET)                      

Noting the extreme confusion and ignorance in the preparation of sea food, found among chefs, cooks, food writers, consumer magazine editors and others concerned in the hospitality and catering industries our O-Zone food expert, in a gesture of pure altruism, hereby presents the most logical fish recipe ever recorded.

This basic recipe is easily remembered anytime and anywhere: drifting through the Newfoundland tickles; up along the rugged Labrador coast; in amongst the Western Isles of Scotland; off the Maine coast; through Hudson Strait and into the Bay; anywhere in the world’s more temperate zones where there is good, cold, saltwater fish to be thankfully taken at pleasure.

It is the most honest and simplest of meals.  The most simple, and for the fish lover, the most supreme.  At least when modern fishing regulations will allow.

Atlantic salmon, arctic char, halibut are perhaps the most elite species for this dish but haddock, cod and other ground fish are equally scrumptious.

The five-step recipe is simplicity itself. 

1)  Go out to sea in a good boat.  

2)  Take a nice clean galvenized bucket or  large cooking pot, lean over the side of the boat to windward and scoop up two or three inches of pure untainted sea water.  Place over a stove.

3)  Procure some fresh fish.

That's fresh fish.  Straight out of the ocean-potion.  Right now.  Not last night's.  Nor this morning's.  Fresh.  Fresh,  Fresh.  Right now.  Just out of the net or off the hook.

4)  Rapidly clean the fresh fish, then cut into large chunks and drop them into the water.  Add nothing else as it’s already superbly and naturally seasoned with sea salt.  Keep the pot or bucket at a simmer for a very few minutes.

5)  Serve as desired, with malt vinegar, pepper, bread and butter, and cheddar cheese.

Preparation time:  Whenever opportunity presents.


  Orgiastic fish to a perfection you've never had before.  Poisson de mer. Vraiment!  N'est-ce-pas?

A Fishy Aspect of Charlie Brown's Pub

Adjacent to such modern upscale developments as Canary Wharf, to the east of Tower Bridge on the Isle of Dogs, is the site of the Railway Tavern, (1893-1989), better known to its clientele as Charley Brown’s pub. This famous Victorian landmark was notable for being crammed full of weird curios and bizarre oddments brought back from foreign parts by mariners since the days of square-rigged sailing ships. Traded for pints of beer and noggins of rum, the extensive collection of prizes brought back by foreign-going old salts constantly added to the pub’s chaotic collection of the beautiful, the intriguing, and the grisly grotesque.

This spontaneous museum collection grew to amazing size over the decades following the turn-of-the-century. So much so, in fact, that in 1938, shortly before the advent of the Second World War, Charley Brown’s son, another Charley, branched off on his own to open a sparkling new public house at the intersection of Woodford Avenue and Chigwell Row, on London’s North Circular Road. The younger Charley Brown took with him the overflow from his father’s original brimming pub collection for use as furnishings to attract another flow of customers. This new Charley Brown’s pub was only a mile from our family home in north Ilford, and only a few yards from the banks of the River Roding, wherein, as a ten-year-old boy, I had first fished for dace and chub.

During the later war years, when on leave from my Fleet Air Arm squadron, I would often visit the new pub. Bright and airy, the pub stood in its own grounds and parking lot and was situated on the northeast side of a traffic circle, or roundabout as such aids to traffic circulation are called in Britain. So aptly, if somewhat unsurprisingly, the younger Charley Brown named his new pub The Roundabout. And outside Charley erected, as an eye-catching attraction, a novel and animate pub sign. Atop a very high and stout post, Charley junior placed a five-foot-diameter model fun-fair roundabout, carousel, or merry-go-round, complete with traditional prancing model horses and cockerels upon which little mannequin riders were seated. And when the pub opened in 1938, the last year before the wartime national blackout of all outside lighting was enforced, the miniature roundabout, atop its decorative post, rotated merrily round and around with its coloured flashing lights brightening the dark hours of the evening. For five years the pub sign was kept darkened until once again, in anticipation of the Allied victory a week or two before the European war actually ended in 1945, the model roundabout was switched back into merry life,

So, what is all this talk of a pub doing in a fishing yarn? Well, apart from the fact that anglers like myself are partial to frequenting taverns, Izaak Walton who wrote The Compleat Angler back around 1616, was himself partial to spending some of his leisure time quaffing draughts of ale in country inns between his hours of angling (or chatting up pretty milkmaids) along nearby river banks, there is another reason. A reason which haunts me to this day. Because when visiting that pub and wandering, beer mug in hand, around the premises looking at the enormous variety of artifacts displayed on every hand in spotless and polished display cases, I often returned for a second or third look at one particular item. For amid the marvellous chess sets and other intricate works of native art carved in ivory, plus the pickled human embryos from China, the shrunken heads from the Spice Islands, and other even more unmentionable items, there, unobtrusively in the background among all this profusion, was a single pickled fish.

Not a strange thing, really, to find in a pub—a pickled fish. After all, many pubs keep herring fillets and other fishy tidbits along with pickled onions and eggs for their peckish customers. No, not a strange thing at all. But this fish was markedly different and was pickled in a large glass jar of distinctly Asian origin. And it was a fish the like of which I had never seen before. Not even with all my borrowing of fishy library books, my constant studying of the display counters of fresh-fish shops and my visits to commercial fish markets.

This fish looked so different. Its dark, almost jet black, body was about eighteen inches long and of unprepossessing appearance. With heavy, fleshy fins warped by its long stay in the off-colour fluid inside the misshapen jar and with its dead eyes looking more dead than death itself, it was a haunting sight. People just looked at it, shrugged their shoulders, said what a strange fish it was, then passed on to more lurid items. But for me it had a certain fascination.

Later, during subsequent visits to Charley Brown’s, I noticed it had disappeared and its place in the show cabinet had been been taken over by yet another of the more shocking exhibits favoured by the customers.

I was not to think of it again until decades later when the story broke about a strange fish caught off the coast of Africa. It was an event that amazed the world’s biologists. It was hailed as the first scientifically-recognized capture of a living coelacanth—then long considered to be a fossil fish from the beginnings of earthly-creature time and thought to be long extinct. All the newspapers ran photographs of the fish. I looked at them in wonder. Those images made my mind go straight back to Charley Brown’s Roundabout public house. That fish in the jar. Could it have been a young specimen of the same kind? Well, anyway, I believe so. Who knows? Maybe Charley Brown the younger—if he’s still around. Which, sadly, isn’t very likely.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sable Island

Seals and Strawberries

The wild, lonely, treeless strand of finely rounded grains of sand known as Sable Island, far off Canada’s east coast on the edge of the continental shelf, is not open to the general public. Permission to land there must be obtained from the Nova Scotia government. But over the centuries there have been many who have had to ignore this stipulation. These are the crews of the hundreds of vessels that have been helplessly swept up on its wide sandy beaches during storms—earning the long narrow island its name as the Graveyard of the Atlantic.

In 1966 one group of people who readily obtained landing

permission from the province was a Mobil Oil Canada exploration drilling team. When I heard of this I decided, as the producer of National Film Board newspaper photo stories, to go there myself. The attraction of visiting a lonely 20-mile-long strip of sand out in the Atlantic, more than 100 miles off the coast of Nova Scotia, was very strong.

So I flew to Halifax and arranged, for the next day, to board the Kenting Aviation Services Canso flying boat that had been chartered by the oil company to shuttle several of its personnel back and forth every few days. That afternoon I met the two affable Canso pilots and we spent the evening yarning away together in the Lord Nelson tavern, discussing our separate arctic travels and flying experiences.

The next day after flying due east from Halifax for a couple of hundred miles we saw Sable Island. It showed its twenty-mile-long, slightly crescent-shaped, slither of sand as being less than a mile wide, low-lying and treeless, and with just a suggestion of low, ground-hugging plant life enclosing a series of long, narrow lakes along its central parts.

Though at times the amphibious Canso flying boat could land on one of the long lakes in the middle of the island, we made a more convenient wheels-down landing along the firmest part of the beach. There a dozen boxes of freight were unloaded onto a tracked vehicle, a few passengers disembarked, a few others embarked, and the aircraft was at once off and away again for Halifax.

The oil company people kindly gave me a small room in one of their several ATCO accommodation trailers, showed me where the dining room was, and left me to my own devices. I poked about the oil-rig taking photographs for an hour or two then I walked off looking for some of the fabled wild horses for which Sable is noted. These horses are probably the descendants of a dozen or more reputed to have swum ashore a century before when the ship in which they were being transported was swept up on the treacherous shoreline. A couple of miles away I found a herd feeding amid the sparse tufts of grass that grows on what is the island’s central height of land which is a rather imposing term for the most lofty sand dunes, their tops being but fifteen feet or so above the high water mark.

The horses were wandering in pools of water just a few inches deep. As I slowly approached them they quietly moved away from me so after taking some overall photographs, and wishing for a few close-ups, I at first just quickened my approach and then finally attempted a full run in order to close with them. They easily moved away from me as I sloshed awkwardly through the few inches of surface water. It was then I truly realized that the sand of which the island is composed is of a special type. Instead of being faceted as is most sand, the grains of Sable Island have been smoothly rounded by centuries of being rolled together by the ocean’s wave action. When attempting to run on the dry sand the foot just slips as if traversing a field of minute ball-bearings—a step forward of eighteen inches being invariably followed by one’s foot sliding back twelve. This combined with the interconnecting pools of water soon made me stop trying to move with any speed. I gave up the chase. Instead I became busy gorging upon the amazing bounty of small, intensely flavoured, wild strawberries that grow upon every small rise and dune top.

Despite the abbreviation of my equine photographic opportunity, I was surprised a few years later to see, in the furniture section of Simpson-Sears department store in Ottawa, a three-by-four-foot blow up of one of my horse pictures for sale. The Canadian Government Photo Section of the day, which processed all Film Board film, had pioneered one of the first government cost-recovery schemes. I wonder if anyone ever bought that large print?

The next day I started out early to walk several miles along Sable Island’s western shore. My objective was the island’s northern tip upon which was a lighthouse—the only place of permanent habitation on the island apart from the eight or so personnel at the weather-station situated seven miles away from the drill site.

The day was bright, yet overcast by a fine hazy fog that is frequently caused by the prevailing meteorological conditions peculiar to the region. This is the result of the southward flowing cold Labrador sea-current to the west of the island interfacing with the adjacent warmer northeast-bound Gulf-Stream waters. In fact, the island itself owes its very existence and the constant shifting of its sands to the turmoil created by these massive and eternally contesting ocean-water movements.

The remarkable haze I experienced that day, has played a large part in adding to the number of wrecked vessels on the island even in calm water. And it can play the most devious tricks on the eyes. Standing in the middle of the beach, with the invisible shore far distant on one hand and the inland low grassy dunes, also indiscernible on the other, I found myself quite disorientated and in need of my wartime blind-flying instrument panel. For as I opened my photographic light-meter to get a reading in that strange condition I saw that to whichever point of the compass, as well as from the sand-floor nadir between my feet to the heavenly zenith above my head, the needle moved not one iota. The light level, as well as the colour level, were exactly the same in every direction and dimension. Even my footprints cast so faint and diffused a shadow as to be almost imperceptible. I was in a void of nothingness, almost completely deprived of sensory information to give me direction. As I edged towards the shoreline my eyes did pick up a few objects of darker hue than all around. But upon its first sighting it was impossible to know whether I was approaching an object measuring a couple of inches a few feet distant or an object several feet wide at a longer range. In fact, upon approaching what I first decided was a small round sea shell I was startled when the object suddenly, and even shockingly, loomed up in true massive size to reveal itself as a heavy wooden cable reel of six-feet-diameter, standing upright on the sand to where it had been washed by wind and tide.

After half-an-hour of this eerie meandering in measureless space with not the slightest variation in brightness to indicate the sun’s position for direction, the haze suddenly blew away in a light breeze and in moments I was beneath a blue sky, on a golden beach and with the murmur of wavelets beckoning me to the water’s edge.

At once I could see large and interesting tracks cutting across the beach from the grassy inshore dunes to the sea. They were obviously the tracks of seals. I had read that the grey seals of Sable Island left the salt water and went inland to the brackish fresh-water lakes to have their pups. These then, were the very recent tracks of some seals returning to the sea. I followed in their wake.

The wide beach was wonderfully smooth and almost level but following along close to the water’s edge there was a slight, uniform and continuous dune about three feet in height. As I approached the dune I could gradually see over its top and saw that the inshore water, just 30 feet away, resembled the beach at Brighton, on England’s south coast, during the August Bank Holiday. This because, in contrast to the deserted beach I had just traversed, the water was alive with the heads of scores of happy swimmers busy in animated socializing and aquatic horseplay. Except that it was not horseplay, it was sealplay.

I halted and stood still, a few yards short of the low shoreline dune, so that only my eyes and topknot would be visible from the water. Unobserved by the carefree bathers, I watched in wonder for some minutes but then, with my National Film Board zeal bubbling up, I carefully advanced to shoulder level with the dune top in order to take a photograph of that happy throng. But immediately, as if as one, the seals splashed in unison as they all dove out of sight below the water’s surface.

I sat down motionless on the dune top. In a few minutes, somewhat farther off, a few heads reappeared and disappeared and then, emboldened by curiosity and my inactivity, several closed in on me. But when I stood up they again took fright and more minutes passed before some again came near.

But in time their curiously won out and soon many were gathered in front of me, less than fifty feet away and with all their heads turned towards me. We regarded each other intently. As they crowded in closer I was increasingly aware of their resemblance to a hotel convention of gynaecologists or accountants, or rather, because of their whiskers, a love-in of hippies assembled before their favourite guitar-twanging guru.

So in the role that had been thrust upon me owing to my elevated position above the crowd, I addressed them. I welcomed them to the meeting and gave them a brief explanation for my presence before them. Also, I told them of my impending visit to the far-off lighthouse. They all seemed very interested in what I had to say but when I asked if anyone had a question they all remained mute except for the odd sneeze or snort. Not a flipper was raised in interrogation. I then told them that I was well familiar with the sight of a crowd of several score bird watchers of ample stature intently staring through binoculars at one solitary little song bird, but that this was the first time I had myself been placed in the songbird’s disconcerting position. I also remarked on the fact that my audience was growing in such numbers that not only was I now literally confronted by a sea of faces in the sea to my front, but latecomers to the meeting were jostling for position to my left and right. Then, having such an obviously expectant and intent audience, I thought the situation called for more serious discussion.

I tried to explain what the advent of the oil company to their lonely habitat might mean and sought to elicit their thoughts on the matter, but to no avail. After further remarks justifying the duties and aims of the National Film Board I lapsed into momentary silence. As my huge audience still remained mostly mute with just their heads raised above the water from about where their bow-ties would have been had this meeting been planned with proper due notice, I thought a little excitement was needed to end my lecture. So I scuffed a small crenelation in the top of the sand dune and slowly stepped backwards. As I stooped down and gradually vanished from their gaze behind the dune top I was pleased to see that they were all now raising themselves several more inches out of the water, exposing their shoulders in an endeavour to keep me in sight. When completely hidden from their view I peered through the tiny valley I had made in the shoreline ridge of sand and saw they were all still energetically trying to rise even higher in the water. Then unthinkingly, I suddenly leapt to my feet with arms outstretched and gave a monstrous shout. The water was turned to foam as they all dived frantically below the water. Shocked by my own boorish action, I stood contrite, hoping none had suffered heart failure, but within minutes they all came back and I apologised at length. Then on a whim I announced that we would now begin the musical part of the presentation. So standing there, with outstretched arms, on an otherwise deserted beach in the sunshine, miles from any other human, I sang song after song to my spellbound audience. Italian operas, ribald war ditties, Persian Gulf bar-room obscenities, the top-ten jukebox hits—all these I rendered loud and long, my voice helped to carry by the gentle zephyr now being urged seaward by the morning heating of the wide stretches of clean sand beach at my back.

Finally exhausted, both in repertoire and voice, I told my throng of listeners that the concert was over, that I must now be off along to the island’s northeastern tip if I was to return to the oil-rig by sundown. So with many a farewell wave and gesture I made off along the outer strand of moist beach with its good footing.

At once I was astounded to see that I had struck a chord deeper than I knew and that our goodbyes were to be prolonged. It turned out that we were all going the same way. My audience had themselves all turned to face north and with every head turned to their right they were swimming along to keep pace with me. Those abreast of me had their faces turned at a ninety-degree angle to keep their eyes intently upon me. Those behind had their heads turned at lesser and lesser angles depending on their proximity to me.

But of the utmost wonder was that all the seals in front and ahead of my advancing position, also had me under equally intent observation with steady backward cranings of their necks, with those in the far van risking not only strained neck muscles but also broken bones as they hazarded collision with the dozens of late-coming newcomers our popular convention was now sweeping up in our northerly progress.

So with an armada of several hundred seals keeping me close company, and the cynosure of all those limpid eyes, I made my northing along the golden sands. If I increased my pace so did they. If I stopped to look at something on the beach so did they. Then with a final goodbye aria and a repeated explanation for my departure, I made inland across the low, undulating semi-green hills towards the lighthouse I could now see in the distance. The meeting had been adjourned.

On the way I noted that the little strawberries grew in even greater profusion in this northern part of the narrow island. In fact, they were so many, I could not avoid stepping on them. In addition I saw cranberries, several species of wildflowers and several nesting waterfowl. I also kept a lookout for the famous sub-species of the Savannah Sparrow—known as the Ipswich Sparrow. This is a true North American sparrow which, though found on the mainland, nests and breeds only on Sable Island.

Finally I arrived at the lonely lighthouse, a quite ordinary white-painted woodframe house standing on the sand dunes as if washed there by accident across the intervening 110 miles of ocean from some little Nova Scotian fishing harbour. The warning light and generator was housed in a short tower adjacent to the house. Even though quite unexpected, I had no need to ring the doorbell or knock on the door, as the lighthouse keeper, Norman Bell, an ex-ship’s engineer officer, was standing there to warmly greet me. And beside him was his comfortable, smiling wife, delightfully bearing her given name of Krystel, so that she was a Krystel Bell.

Over and between refreshments consisting of homemade strawberry shortcake, strawberry tart, strawberry compote, strawberry layer cake, strawberry pudding and strawberries and canned cream, all washed down with strawberryade, Mr and Mrs Bell told me stories of their years of lonely living in their small but vital, all-encompassing world, stretching as it did from horizon to horizon to all points of the compass.

I heard tales of winter storms that threatened to wreck their modest abode, of lost nearby ships, hidden by haze and close to disaster and bleating their whistles in fear. The Bells told me of shifting sands blown high against wall and door, of strange and wild sounds heard from without while they lay abed in the dark of night .

They also told me of happy times. Of welcome visits by scientists—entomologists, biologists, the VIPs of the famed National Geographic Magazine—and investigators of all kinds of flora and fauna. And just recently, of strawberry-sundae tea parties held for small groups of visiting engineers from the oil-drilling-rig who brought along with them the required ice-cream and arrived in a strange tracked motor vehicle suited in some fashion to travel over the island’s slippery sands.

Mrs Bell, Krystel, seemed always to begin each story with the statement that at the time of its occurrence, she was up on the hill, gathering strawberries. This I could well believe. For much like the fantasy houses made of marzipan, sugar-cane or chocolate in childrens’ fairy-tales, the Bells’ house was a house of strawberries set amid the golden sugar of Sable’s magical sun-warmed golden sands.

Mr Bell showed me the hobby that helped him pass the long months and years. Attached to the house was a small and bright conservatory fitted with a wealth of shelves upon which, in admirable museum style, the lighthouse keeper displayed his locally-gathered shell collection. Mr Bell had chosen to adopt a pastime ideally suited to his situation and in complete harmony with his workplace surroundings. Mostly small in size his rows of shells were all neatly identified with their common and Latin names and arranged in pleasing order and display. And behind the house he showed me the remains of a decades-old homemade forerunner of the snowmobile—a basic motorized-sleigh sort of contraption that had been made in an attempt to conquer the trying sands by some member of the small settlement of hardy fisherfolk-coastguardsmen who long years ago, before abandoning their mid-island minute settlement, had returned to a mainland setting.

And jolly, nicely-plump, Krystel Bell showed me her abundant cache of bottled strawberries, lined up in serried rows, down in her secret storehouse. More than enough to provide generous rays of concentrated summer sunshine during many dark winter months to come.

Some weeks later the Bells sent me a very nice letter to say how happy they were with my stories and photographs, published in scores of different newspapers and magazines. Many of their friends had sent them a host of clippings. Best of all was a later Christmas card I received. They warmly invited me, if I was ever to return to the island, to stay with them in their uniquely peaceful and solitary home overlooking the wide reaches of the restless Atlantic.

Easy cooking

Summertime recreational cooking (often using only one pan) can profit from traditional techniques used by professional seafarers, airmen, bush whackers and arctic explorers.

Small yachts and pleasure cruisers, inshore fishing boats, woodland cabins, tundra campsites and unscheduled flights in older long-range ex-military aeroplanes—all these environments often call for simple, down-to-earth, cooking techniques. In this way limited galley space, tiny cook-tents and tipsy-topsy oil-drum kitchen stoves can be the source of gourmet food— fully able to satisfy vigourous appetites sharpened by outdoor activities.
In fact, some of these dishes can be so well-appreciated in the wild outdoors and on the storm-tossed ocean, that they are often carried back into the heart of pampered civilisation by many a traveller returning home to a well-appointed suburban ranch house or condominium. Because many of these simple cooking techniques, especially with domestic embellishments conveniently available, can be applied to advantage even amid the luxury of modern high-tech kitchens.

For example: consider the simplicity of cooking meals for three or four people using only a single-pan. Just one main cooking pot usually means shorter preparation time, less bother cleaning up, and increased energy savings. This economy of utensils, combined with a deftness in cooking procedures, practised in the domestic at-home environment may not only earn the respect of marital partners and casual friends but for the chef bring back nostalgic memories of many an outdoor hunting, fishing or exploration trip.

So here we go. A medley of simple recipes and cuisine-related observations gathered on trips ranging between the equatorial and the high Arctic. Most of the ingredients are common enough, though some may apply to special regions and require a visit to an ethnic specialty store.


First of all make sure your single pan is large enough for the cooking job at hand. Use as big a pan as is practical for handling. You might as well. It's usually as easy to wash a large pan as a small pan (it's also usually as easy to wash a large plate as a small one).

Many recipes call for meat of some kind to be browned as a first step. In keeping with today's health-conscious world, a good quality olive oil will do this job well. You don't need expensive extra-virgin or extra-light olive oils—these are made more for dressing salads rather than cooking. If your tastes, appetite and outlook on life tend to a more vigorous wilderness viewpoint, then it is fundamentally apparent that beef should be browned in beef fat, chicken in chicken fat, fish in fish fat and so on. Apart from browning the meat, most dishes also require the sautéing of chopped onions, peppers, carrots, parsnips and other cut up vegetables. These impart essential flavours to stews, curries, ragouts, etc.

How does one carry out these two very important steps in proper sequence when using only one pan within the limited space of a small boat or patrol aircraft? The trick is to get the already browned meat (step 1) on top of the as yet uncooked vegetable mixture (step 2) without using another unheated utensil or plate. This is done by pushing all the browned meat pieces to one side of the pan, piling it up high into a mound if need be. Then in the newly vacant half of the pan’s bottom surface the chopped onion or vegetables may be piled up . Then carefully flatten the top of the onion pile. Now, using a spatula and fork, start picking up the meat pieces closest to the meat-onion interface and pile them on top of the onions. As space is thus cleared the meat on top of the onion pile can be pushed down with the spatula which in turn will spread out the onions underneath to continually take up the emerging available space. At the end of the operation all the onions or vegetables are neatly underneath and cooking while the already browned meat is on top, keeping hot.
After this is done it is simple to add the other ingredients and liquids commonly called for by the recipe in hand.

One dish suited to this technique is:


The Iraqi cooks, or bhandaris, aboard the Basra Port Directorate vessels, sixty years ago or more, used to call this: Kofta curry.
It's a very simple dish to make. For the actual curry it is truly a one-pan dish in essence but it actually takes another pan to cook the rice. Yes, I know that means we’re using two -pans for a one-pan cooking procedure (and what’s more in the first recipe offered) but that’s how the world turns, sometimes. So just forget this little blip and let’s get on. Ok?
To start just roll up ground beef meat balls averaging one-inch in diameter. Brown them in either a large frying pan (preferably of a semi-wok design—with high walls but a wide flat bottom) or a largish saucepan. If fastidious pour away the excess beef fat, then add a generous amount of chopped onions and when all is nicely fried sprinkle in one or two tea-or-tablespoonfuls of good curry powder. Even better, use a good dollop of real curry paste. The potency and richness of the curry powder or paste seems to be enhanced if it is also fried lightly alongside the other ingredients at this stage. Now add the juice of a lemon, or just cut off half a whole lemon, remove the pips, and drop it in as is—it can be fished out later after the curry has simmered for a while. Then pour in a pint or so of beef stock or gravy—a can of beef bouillon is fine—or, if really pressed, just plain water. Put the lid on the pan and simmer.
In an hour or two it will be ready to serve. It will also be ready to serve in several hours. Or tomorrow. Or next week. Or even the week after that. Because curries, not only keep well with due care, but always become tastier with age. For this reason it's always a good idea to make the curry a day or two ahead, then cool it off for reheating later. The curry spice mixture is an age-old preservative so refrigerated curries really will last perfectly for a week or more. Frozen curries will be ok for celebrating next New Year’s Eve. Or even the one after.
Optional add ins to a curry can be crushed chillies or chilli powder, But it is worth remembering that to be really good, curry does not necessarily have to be very hot. So go easy on the chillies, or even give them a miss entirely. Instead make some special hot side dishes for any luncheon companions who feel they need extra spicing up. Apple pieces, florets of cauliflower are other favourite ingredients. Some people are addicted to adding small potatoes. Parsnips especially are excellent additions as they delicately sweeten even the most fearsome of curries. But make sure you use a genuine Indian curry paste. These are widely available in these multicultural days, with some of the best made by pukka Indian specialty companies in England.

The curry is served on individual plates or bowls on top of a mound of fluffy boiled rice. To get really fluffy rice use good, clean, unprocessed rice. Pour the amount required of the dry rice into a steel colander and pick it over discarding any discoloured grains. Then rinse it in cold water and drop into boiling water. Use a wooden spoon to stir it around (the wood will not steal any heat from the water).
Stir the rice from time to time, keeping the water at a steady, low boil and the lid partly off. To get the rice fluffed up rinse it in a colander with hot water immediately after it has finished cooking and then place in a low oven to dry a little. It will fluff up beautifully and separate nicely. Use a metal strainer for rinsing so that it can safely be put, full of rice, and standing on a plate, in the oven to dry for a few minutes.
If you think this is all too much bother just to cook a mound of rice, then forget it. You’re quite right. Just buy a box of Uncle Ben’s (or some such) whole wheat rice. It works fine. And if you can’t be bothered to make meat balls, then don’t. Just stick the ground beef into the pan as she comes in the package and brown it just the same. It’s really just as good.
Though meat balls have a little more character.
Confession: This curry meal, as already described, will entail the use of two saucepans: one for the curry and one for the rice. It is included in this series of purportedly one-pan recipes simply because it is so simple and appetising. So if you have taken umbrage at my shocking duplicity then skip a couple of pages and fast-forward to the recipe for the next culinary jewel. For others of a more forgiving nature I even suggest we go for a final gourmet gesture and use yet a third pan. For such kindred souls we urge that just before serving one should take another small fry pan and in a little butter lightly fry a finely-chopped-up onion, some shredded coconut and a handful of almonds. Just barely brown this mixture and use it as a wonderful topping for the mounds of rice. It adds that final exotic touch.
And to make the whole business even simpler just forget about the rice and just eat the curry with chapatis or their almost identical al cousins, Mexican style tortillas now so readily available in supermarkets all over the place.

A simple chicken curry may be made in much the same manner. Cut the chicken into pieces, cut the breast meat into long lengthways strips, and brown them in chicken fat. Using chicken fat ensures that the chicken curry will taste like chicken curry, as will using chicken stock or soup for the liquid. In the same way beef fried in beef fat will make a beef curry taste of beef. If making a camel curry use camel fat. For dinosaur curry use dinosaur fat. It’s that simple. It is the fat of any meat that imparts its own particular flavour and taste. It is truly the fat of the land. And as renowned Canadian explorer,Vladimir Steffanson, wrote, when telling of his famous 1914 travels in his book The Friendly Arctic, it is the fat of the meat that provides its true flavour and sustenance.

Boeuf de ville Londres et les carrottes
or to come proudly right out of the pantry and be absolutely unpretentious with its proper title—
Boiled Beef and Carrots

This longtime favourite of the crews of the old Thames sailing barges is another simple but very satisfying dish. And this one actually is a one-pan dish, thus keeping us honest in regard to our introduction.
This ancient dish was even immortalised in a century-old raucous London music-hall song named, appropriately: 'Boiled Beef and Carrots', (which I keep on hoping, as so often happens to many really old-time songs these days, may well be featured on CD disk as the millennium matures).

To enjoy this turn-of-the-century staple dish take some beef braising ribs or good stewing beef. In fact, some small roasts of beef in the supermarkets are often less expensive and are even better suited as they are easier to cut into suitable pieces and require less removal of fat (to use for frying) and gristle (gristle! gristle!!! Today that is an unmentionable word from which our modern purveyors of everything excellent cringe and have managed to banish from their display counters and sweep right out of the supermarket lexicon. Such a degrading word is usually not even to be found in up-market computer spell checkers).
Anyway, cut the meat into pieces, and using good olive oil, brown in a large pan with a couple of whole onions. Then put in a pint or two of beef stock (a can, or two, of beef broth, bouillon or consommé will do). When the beef is just about cooked drop in lots of lightly-peeled robust, full-sized carrots. Lots and lots of them. Add NOTHING ELSE. Repeat, Nothing else, or it will become just another stew and the unique taste of this hearty dish will be lost. Just lots and lots of carrots. Either sliced or in big chunks. But if you like that sort of thing, for added richness of taste, you can dribble a little beef Bovril into it, also a splash of Worcestershire Sauce. Or even stir in a teaspoon of Bisto mixed into a paste, or Marmite.
Then continue cooking until the carrots, though tender, are still firm—not soggy. Even the most lukewarm carrot lover will go for this carrot dish. It's rich, savoury and so healthful with all those carrots that a halo of culinary beatitude will appear around your masthead. The only addition allowed at all maybe is a single parsnip. Well...maybe two at the very most—if you’re very partial to them.
And that's it. Just steer off a little to starboard or port, while you have a good zestful glass or two of ale, and let your wonderful carroty creation just quietly hubble-bubble its way up to culinary heaven of its very own volition.
Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, we enter paradise with:

(Rumpole of the Bailey’s favourite dish)

Steak and kidney pie has been around so long and is so common that all I want to say here is: if you do decide to make such a pie, add lots of mushrooms.
But of much more importance, don’t bother. Don’t bother to make a pie, that is.
That’s right. Forget about making a steak and kidney PIE.
Make a steak and kidney and mushroom PUDDING instead.
Because a pudding has about 16.38 Gigabytes more flavour than a pie. And that’s a mammoth basin-full of flavour when considering that in this way you can fully double a good steak and kidney, mushroom pie’s rightfully applaudable 8.19 Gigabytes. Neither of which wonderful attributes are to be carelessly sneezed at. Unless you’re a little heavy-handed with the pepper pot.

This way to Trencherman’s Heaven:

Take a large ceramic basin and snugly fit into place on its bottom and sides (its inside bottom and sides, that is) an all-in-one-piece layer of pastry. And make sure it's sealed all round—no leaks. The pastry should be fairly thick, about half-an-inch or so (in metric that’s probably about 12 millipedes, I suppose), then arrange the precooked mixture of beef, kidney and mushroom chunks together with a fair amount of their gravy and juices in the basin. Now place an even sturdier, fairly thick (perhaps 16 millipedes) lid of pastry right across the top. Check to see that that the edges of the top lid piece is well sealed where meeting the pastry coming up from around the insides. With everything properly sealed and with such a potent energy-source mixture lurking inside you now have a sort of culinary time-bomb sitting on your kitchen counter—ready to shatter the windows within ten minutes of being placed in an oven.
So for the sake of the neighbours DO NOT put the pudding in the oven. It is NOT a pie, remember. So if it looks like a pudding, feels like a pudding, and pulsates like a pudding, then it must be a pudding. And must be cooked like a pudding. So now we must eagerly advance along the culinary superhighway to reach our prime destination of gastronomical Shangri-La or, in other words—make it taste like a pudding.
But all the same, even though kept out of the oven, it still possesses latent explosive tendencies. To obviate these it is imperative that you now pierce the top layer of pastry about five times with a butter knife—once in the centre, and four other times at the twelve o’clock, three, six and nine o’clock positions. Stick the knife right through the pastry and then twist it through about 30 degrees of arc (0.027 radians in metric or something). The resulting escape holes thus formed will allow, during the delicate cooking procedure, just enough precious and flavoursome gases to filter through to avert explosive calamity. The emission of these heavenly odours from your kitchen will tantalize the gastric juices of all animal life within an audible distance of 1,246.75 decibels, whilst at the same time conserve gastronomically pure the holy essences magically forming within the enclosed sacred conglomeration.
Ok, now back to the nitty-gritty.

After making the safety holes or slots in the pastry-lid place a double layer of white cotton cloth or waxed paper over the basin to form a taut tent covering over its top and tie it down securely with string or a stout rubber band around the rim.
Place the pudding bowl in a large pan with water half way up the sides. Bring to a steady and gentle boil with the saucepan lid loosely on or very slightly raised. In the next hour or more the mixture will cook to perfection with all juices and flavours sealed in by the pastry shell. It wont be crusty, just firm and probably lightly browned—it is a pudding after all—but its flavour will excel that of any meat pie you've ever dreamed of. Not that I disparage meat pies in the slightest. But a meat pudding—wow! Excuse me, I can’t write any more just now. I’ve gone into an orgiastic gourmet's swoon.
Okay, everyone. Relax. I’ve just had a glass or two of good English ale and revived somewhat. So I will just add the following final stanzas to one of my most stimulating personally erotic, and what’s more, edible, fantasies before again succumbing to emotional exhaustion, viz:
The final additional gastronomic touch associated with the serving of steak and kidney puddings as is recounted in recipes from olden days of yore specifies that upon being brought to table, a few moments before being served, a slit was made in the puddings pastry top, several fresh oysters were inserted, then the slit resealed for a couple of minutes. It elevated this wonderful dish to the perigee of Victorian gourmet sumptuousness. Oh, for Epicurean Sakes! I’m slipping off my computer chair again. Just one last little bit and we’ll be finished with this erotic pudding fantasy and I can go and lie down for a while to recover.
Here it is:
When choosing your mushrooms, if you cannot go out in the fields and pick them yourself and must buy them at the store, then choose the large mushrooms called Portobello. They have the right kind of old-fashioned mushroom flavour for this dish.
This pudding is complemented and its succulence increased yet several more degrees upwards when escorted by new gently boiled potatoes and succulent brussels sprouts. And, of course, accompanied by the rest of the precious gravy. That’s it. I’m off in a ecstatic swoon again. I’m done for. I’ll crawl to the kitchen and partially revive myself by partaking of a quick:


A legendary mixture of history and geography has it that the Iraqi city of Basra, today 90 miles upriver from the head of the Persian Gulf, was actually on the coast in Sindbad the Sailor's time.
Over the centuries, it is said, the silt-laden waters of the Tigris, Euphrates and Karun rivers, combined into the Shatt-al-Arab, have deposited enough material to move the coastline 100 miles southwards.
Considering that in the spring flood season just one single ebb tide can lay down 18 inches of soft mud in the shipping channels, this is easy to believe.

And, just after World War II, when Iraq was still a monarchy and the neighbouring Shah of Iran was still two revolutions away from losing his everything, a more benign Iraqi government than those following looked after the workings of the Shatt-al-Arab river and its approaches. And remaining there, holding delicate sway at the top of the Gulf, was a small offshoot remnant of the hardworking British India Raj.
Part of their, and my, responsibility was maintaining a navigable channel through the muddy bar of soft silt that would otherwise block the way into the Shatt-al-Arab river for the tankers, cargo liners and freighters doing business in Abadan on the eastern Iranian side of the river and the Iraqi port of Basra, on the western side.
To this end there were five big seagoing suction dredgers constantly at work and owned by the Basra Port Directorate. The two oldest vessels had been built in Scotland in pre-war days. Their names: Tigon and Liger were derived from mixing the front and rear halves of the names of two very dominant species of amorous felines. These two variations in hybrid offspring, produced by the mating of a tiger and a lion (and depending on which cat was the male) had obviously taken the fancy of some long ago waggish empire builder. But later, taking the exotic dalliances of big cats yet one stage further, one of the new dredgers, by borrowing the rear ends of the other two mixed-up cats, was whimsically named the Onger! After this bit of nomenclature nonsense it was rather an anticlimax (especially for the mythical whiskery ones) when the two newest vessels were prosaically named the Basra and Baghdad.

Anyway, the real point of interest here, as regards primary appetites, is that every year during another fruitful and interesting mating season in those parts, the uppermost end of the Persian Gulf was alive with zillions of large and luscious shrimps or prawns. Suddenly the five dredging vessels were no longer just mhutti boats but became the world's most efficient, and leviathan shrimpers.
The spillway water pouring like Niagara Falls over the sides of the dredgers was actually green and yellow with shrimp. All that was needed was a large net under each spillway and tons of fresh shrimp were taken for the asking.
During the period of this heavenly bonanza, shrimp curries, shrimp pilaus, shrimp salads, shrimp everything-whichway became the order of the day for the entire cosmopolitan population of the region. British empire builders, oilmen, visiting naval sloops, Iraqi bigwigs, transient royalty, international seafarers—all joined in the feasting.
And the most delectable dish, acclaimed by all, was the simple shrimp omelette.
Because a dozen lightly-cooked shrimps as a topping makes a well-turned-out omelette a thing of the most shameful and wicked beauty.
And this is how to make one.

(I might remark as to the making of a well-turned omelette that if you do prepare to create one, don’t. I mean, make an omelette by all means but don’t turn or fold it. It can be awkward to do and it’s not necessary and can lead to much profane language. Instead I suggest you leave all omelettes unfolded in the following way and make a sort of omelette or pastryless-quiche—but built with the heft to carry along those juicy fat shrimps in a handsome and succulent manner).

Recipe for unturned cheese-prawn-quichy-sort-of omelette:

It is necessary to use the correct and suitable size of frying pan to obtain an omelette of the correct and suitable size for the number of lucky people to whom it is to be proffered.
The three frying pans I own for this purpose measure in diameter, eight, ten, and twelve inches respectively. They are made of stainless steel with copper bottoms by Revere Ware and are forty years old and still in fine condition. The eight-incher is suitable for a two-person, three-or-four-egg omelette, the ten-incher for an eight-egger for four persons, and the twelve-incher for a twelve-egger for six persons—more or less. Using the right size pan ensures producing an omelette with the required half-inch thickness or so needed to carry the succulent shrimps or prawns along in appropriate majesty. To enable live or uncooked shrimp to be shelled they should be lightly boiled in a minimum of water until they turn their typical colourful red. Normally, today, we would use frozen raw or already-cooked shrimp as available in supermarkets in great variety.

For the largest omelette break twelve eggs into a bowl. Add one teaspoonful of baking powder, two or three ounces of milk and beat well with a hand-held electric eggbeater. Beat at slow speed to start off and then finish with high speed. This will ensure the mixture being super-aerated with a zillion little bubbles, thus providing pleasing lightness of texture and body thickness at the same time. Meanwhile melt two ounces of unsalted butter in the big frying pan and lightly cook the shelled and drained shrimps. Have ready nearby a goodly amount of grated, well-seasoned cheddar cheese (preferably three-year-old or so Canadian). Cook the shrimp, arranged evenly around the pan, in the butter at medium heat for only a couple of minutes before pouring the beaten egg mixture over the top of them. Do this carefully so as not to disarrange the shrimp’s even spacing and then turn down the heat to low. Cook—at low heat to avoid burning the omelette’s bottom—until after three or four or five minutes the mixture appears to be gelling somewhat. This can be gauged by giving the pan a very gentle little twist and watching for the swirl at the outer edges of the mixture to react appreciably slower than it did at the outset of cooking.
When the consistency appears sufficiently turgid or sluggish and ready to receive it, sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the top of the mixture. At this time one might also clip some half-inch pieces of thin chives upon the surface with a little pepper. With the overhead grill of the oven preheated and glowing red, take the pan from the stove top and insert it on the upper rack under the grill. To protect the pan’s handle from being burned cover it with a clean, folded and dampened Jay cloth or other suitable protection and leave the handle protruding from the oven.
Stay with the omelette and watch it intently during the minute or two or three it takes to turn a golden brown. Then remove it promptly. Cut into pie-shaped sections and place on warmed plates and serve with fresh wholewheat rolls or croissants. If by chance the first small section being removed shows the bottom not quite cooked the pan can be placed back on the stove top for a further minute or two. Through its possession of a delicate thickness any remaining portion of the omelette will carry its delicious cargo of shrimp without loss of body, flavour or texture for hours or even, refrigerated, still acceptably, into the following day.

Naturally, as a precaution, when breaking the eggs they should be broken one by one onto a saucer before being tipped into the mixing bowl. Every rare once-in-a-while there will be a bad egg. You don’t want to crack a putrid twelfth egg in among eleven perfect ones and so have to jettison the whole batch. Do you?


No! This is not an arctic version of North Atlantic sea fog, just another simple version of the edible kind of pea soup. While marooned on a small arctic island with two electronic engineers and four seamen this dish became an accidental nine-days wonder universally acclaimed by our small group.
We landed on the island with a large work crew to raise a 120-foot-tall temporary navigation transmitter. But the weather blew up and the ship decided it must get away out to sea. So after we had all strained together to shove the generator up the beach away from the highest high-water mark I sent most of the men back aboard with the landing craft and off over the horizon went the hydrographic ship Baffin. Later, with a man seriously ill, they had to sail round to Frobisher Bay (Iqaluit) to have him flown down south.
Meanwhile back on the island, off the north shore of Lok's Land, our little, marooned party raised the generator hut and the equipment room living quarters hut. Then we found the feed cables were a few inches short of the generator contacts. Moving the heavy generator up the steep rocky beach those last few inches took the seven of us three cold and bitter hours.
Finally into the hut with the stove going I appointed myself cook while the others carried out other vital chores. Looking at our supplies I tossed a few cans of yellow split-pea soup into a large pot and on impulse added a couple or more cans of corned (bully) beef. I stirred the whole lot up and went outside to help the others.
When we finally got inside for the night I was just in time to stop the pea-soup from burning. It was just slightly browned in places. And it was delicious. Everyone loved it. It had an amazing chestnut taste. All hands liked it so much that repeats were called for nearly every day during the cold of the next two weeks—each time with strict instructions to scorch it to exactly the same degree!


Though a confirmed real ale drinker, there was a time when the following found some favour with me. So I’ll put them down for old times sake.
For simple, but knowledgeable, drinkers, fancy cocktails in general often work against the fine traditional products of distillers. After centuries of bringing blends of whisky, brandy and liqueurs to absolute perfection the old masters must shudder in their graves at the odd things added to their fine nectars in the cause of brash improvement or precocious fashion.
There are, however, a couple of very simple things that can be done to adapt certain drinks, mainly gin, to suit particular exotic environments.
Here are three of them:

This favourite drink aboard ships plying the eastern tropical trade routes was also sipped appreciatively in rest-house bars, port clubs and at jamborees.
Simple as ever, this drink calls for one or two drops (no more) of Angostura bitters twirled in a traditional champagne glass which then receives a tot of gin and one ice cube. The champagne glass is then topped up with plain soda-water, or soda mai (water). This benign and refreshing drink has a light, crisp, clean flavour and a very forgiving nature even when taken to excess in the warmest of climes.

Another simple addition of soda water, this time to creme-de-menthe. Widely used in hot climates among professional seamen as a contemplative after dinner digestive. Its name of course derives from its colour.

This simple concoction, despite its ingenuousness, is guardian-angel-guidance recommended. It is really volatile. But no party worth its name would ever be given in the old days in the Gulf without it being available.
To sample its dangers and delights you need a large, glass jar with a tight-fitting screw lid. One of about half a gallon capacity will do.
Make sure it is scrupulously clean and dry then fill it completely with the best selected prunes. Now fill the jar with good dry London gin. Up to the brim.
As the prunes soak up the gin you will have to keep topping it up. To get the gin circulating you will need to gently invert the jar every few days or if you keep it on its side you can rotate it carefully a quarter turn every now and then. In several weeks or a few months the gin will have become a rich purple ambrosia—thick, clear and syrupy—and a beautiful after dinner liqueur. Pour it off into fancy decanters worthy of its unique royal colour and appearance.

Remaining in the jar are the plump, sleek, gin-sated, attractive, exotic and innocent-looking prunes. These lethal depth-charges should be carefully removed from the jar as required and arranged on a plate suitable for displaying cocktail party surprises—in this case no idle term. Detail a responsible non-participating adult to watch over their safe disposal during the party—especially if the shindig has any international connotations. Their potential effects on high-level diplomatic relations call for the most rigid security precautions!

So, ok. You’ve cooked all these wonderful things and presented them to be savoured with all their exquisitely flavoured culinary attributes. You have produced masterpieces of comestible concoctions all fitting of gastronomic adulation and all worthy for placement before the crowned heads of Europe, offered to a reincarnated Marilyn Monroe, or a haughty beanstalk of a twit like General de Gaulle, or even plonked down before Her Expansive Majesty, Queen Oprah herself, BUT, did you perform the most important and closest related task of all as you went along.
Did you wash the dishes and utensils? Did you? Did you methodically clean up and repair as you went along?
Because this is very much an integral part of the whole cooking routine. A cook who leaves the kitchen all neat and tidy in addition to producing the meal itself is doubly or triply valued by all. Learn to not only endure but to actively take pride in keeping everything as shipshape and Bristol Fashion as possible and practical.
Imagine, for example, if you had taken part in a national competition and had won the first prize— which comprised having the all best cordon bleu-chef-owners of all the leading four-star restaurants of France, Timbuktu and other world culinary hotspots, prepare and serve, in your own home, a sumptuous multi-million-dollar banquet just for you and your intimates. And then, after all was done, when the royal feast was ended, and the heavenly wine and liqueurs were being finished off, with the four-star magicians all flying away in their personal business jets, if then you were to suddenly find your kitchen left with a mountain of dirty unwashed dishes and cooking pots. What would be your thoughts?
Most anyone can cook a meal. But a good cook cleans up as he or she progresses. And earns a bounty of domestic love stars.
So, wash and clean your dishes.
Or just stick to corn flakes.

Cheers! Bon appetit!