They say everyman needs protection they say everyman must fall… and after the honey moon of an early summer passed the express rides with the Heptones to the Huganought valleys around Stroud for a hill top wedding with a wild wind that blew all the clouds away and were old trees told old tales with the bending of the branches and the rustle of the leaves. Fueled by cava and cones hearts opened for all to see in a family affair of a family bound not by blood but a common cause. And then we are blown back east to London to redesign the muri cart and take it off to the book launch of Richard Johnson’s ” Street Food Revolution” in beautiful garden hidden behind Victoria and the next day its back to the Rye for another night at the eat street hawkers fortnight organised by Petra the co-founder of the street food collective eat st and Yianni of the meatwagon fame- two great doers and god bless the doers.
Much has been written about Yianni and his grilling- and why not- he makes thing happen. After his stainless trailer was half inched from a Peckham garage on a snow bound December night he set up the Meateasy for the ugly months of winter above a dive bar in New Cross. Walking into it was like entering a highly charged bolt hole from sanity were you could do nothing but let the dog loose. It was like Ronald MacDonald got lost in the swamp on a day out and appeared a year later holding an unnerving grin- unshaved, perspiring and with glazed wild eyes that spoke many things not encouraged in suburbia. The delicious mayhem of all that grilling and shaking got him back on the road with an old US ambulance( meatwagon) and a regular pitch at the Rye and an appearance in Ok magazine. Who said punks dead. And as luck will have it last night i went to the preview of his new venture Meatliquor– all dark,red and decadent, underneath a car park and just round the corner from the Wigmore Hall.A place to pollute the precious with pleasure.
There was a night down Vyner Street too for the first thursday art bash with all the vintage, haircuts, some arty goings on and a lot of continental just hanging out on the street. Steady business when the larger kicks in and after sleep park side and early swim in the London fields in the perfect blue of a Friday followed by a walk with the new trolly hawking around the Bangla (Bengali) areas of East London. Brick lane then Shadwell and the meat, fish and veg bazaars of Chapman Street that peddle Bengali fare in arches under the dockland light railway. Authentic and undiluted- cheap and good. Freezers full of fish you never heard of from the waters of Bangladesh and yes its not right on coming all the way around the world but the tastes are right off the plate and out of this world. They know about the fish- it is their great love at lunch. Just ask for help. Show a little interest you repaid a 100 times. Salam-a-lekum… a-lekum salam- peace be with you. Dhanyabaad- thank you and on we roll to Whitechapel market – more Bengali foods and household wares and surprised faces at a jhal muri cart with a white man at the helm. They are generous and kind to my version of their beloved snack but hidden in the shadows is the real thing and the only other jhal muri wallah I have seen over here. Also he governs from an argos trolly but no frills- just trolly and tray with the muri, sev, mustard oil, onion and coriander mixed, masala and hot chilli pickle. He mixes in a screw top jar and shake shake shake and into a cup at a pound a pop. Bingo. My set up look vulgar and ostentatious in comparison but thats just how it goes.
Before pitching the van for a river side residence i pop into the pop up Dishoom on the south bank which in the blurb went ” if an old Bombay Cafe strolled casually down to the beach (while perhaps on a mild acid trip), the result would be the Dishoom Chowpatty Beach Bar”- well if I got sold some acid as bland, predictable and one dimentionnal as this I would change my drug dealer.
Pooja is is a great sweet shop and chaat centre. There are many mirrors in the shop and many options to the tummy- sweets and snacks, snacks and sweets and on Sundays its alive with the excitements of what is to come. The Indian love of the pleasures of the palate is intoxicating and so grateful we should be to have them bring such colour and charm to the grey suburban landscapes. I get the dry stuff there for the muri- sev, channa and mung dal and always something from the chaat counter. This time dahi varda- a lentil dumpling (the varda) soaked in thin yoghurt( the dahi) with tamarind, green chutney, red chutney, onion , crunchy bits, masala’s and more crunchy bits and all for £2.00- giving it away. Go check out the chaat- best value, best taste.
As i leave a bus passes with a poster across its side- Muslims for loyalty, freedom and peace. The websitewww.LoveforallHatredForNone.org. Yes please i’ll have some of that too.
There was a couple of days cooking in a holy place in Oxfordshire- a place with a kitchen and a garden that provides and then way out west for the great honour to cook for one of the great voices- Salif Keita of Mali. A rear soul with a voice as ancient as the past and as pure as the first gaze of a new born. It be true to say that he appeared less impressed with the jhal muri than I with his music but his eyes came alive with the tuna cooked with ginger, coconut, cinnamon, mustard seeds and coriander leaf, served with spicy tomato sauce and rice. Rice and fish- everyone gets the rice and fish
AND on we fly-up the M5- back to the hills by Stroud for the summers heftily reported wedding with the promise of some fat cash and A list action. 5 miles out as the rain starts you’re lost in the woods and loosing it to the greens and the clutch is slipping and smelling and the gears ain’t gearing and another wrong turn and you’re starting to wonder but out of nowhere just when you least expect it there were some balloons and a small white sign and you say thank you to the unicorns. By 5 you all set and spinning out cones just in front of the dj set up with the stage just there and for the next hours you bathed in some of the best music you could wish to hear.Easing in with the love songs and into the jump and swing, calypso and skank from old school london dj’s from the blues of west London and the basements of Soho and then the band- my god the band. Warren Storm with ‘Lil Band of Gold– down home swamp music from Louisiana, the real deal with the music running through every cell of their collective body. Tight as tight as tight with a steady simmer starting and up they go and we have no choice but to follow. There was a break were micky fins and a prawn gumbo, made by the horn section, were shared and then for a second set that went into orbit and half way through its more than religious and the muri station is left to fend for itself and the boundary between upright professional and rum infused reveller has been well and truly broken. As the birds started to sing you side wind back to the van singing too, Reeling in the pleasure and the power of four fat beats to the bar delivered by people who mean every moment of it.
Were I the guilty type that ugly emotion could have raised its head for charging good money to have such fun but instead I drove in the slow lane all the way back to the holy place in Oxfordshire to provide fuel for people looking to find a deeper peace within with out resorting to rum fuelled rock and roll. While i cooked a vivid green soup with all the garden had to offer my laptop got stollen and an expensive metal box and years of unbacked up creations got smoked in a crack pipe in a Didcot bedsit. It felt wrong then, it feels wrong now. Some what stunned you head to the capital to get set for Glastonbury via the garage and get booted for your second three figure bill in three weeks and when the day before you meant to be leaving for the festival my beautiful van is back in the garage and I ain’t seeing the sunny side and the Be Good Tanyas hit it on the head – some times I don’t know were this dirty road is leading me, sometimes I don’t know the reason why but I guess I keep gambling lots of moves and lots of rambling cos its easier than waiting around to die. At the wholesale market in Southall were you shopping large for an event you not sure you get too, you see, in the office of the supplier of the Indian onions, a garland and a poster of a man in a turban with a message to the power of unity and oneness. At my veg suppliers in Covent Garden they have a calendar of a girl with vacant eyes, spread legs and a shaven snatch that looks like a bruise. Horses for courses.
A day late but the express rolls out of the garage and into the sun rising out of the western skies. Come Avebury the sun has given way to the rain and it accompanies me all the way to the churned up low-lying sodden strip of earth that is to be my home for the next week in the Babylon market area of the festival- the badlands in everyway. I got the pitch by turning up at the site office in April and opening up the van and serving up the muri. I said I can’t pay the rate and don’t do the main drag. There were nodding heads and mummers of appreciation. A week later i got a call offering a pitch at minimal rent next to a jazz bar open till three and i was thinking cool little corner that filtered out the masses and the scene of much magic and of the express being carried out on raised shoulders after a heaven sent week with pockets full of crumpled twenties- but instead you on Oxford street not just off the Kingsland Road and its going to be a long week of watching people walk past staring while eating pasties.
Alcohol inevitably becomes part of the equation and you running on tequila and cider. The local sound system shut down at 3 and the clear up truck rumble outside your tent at 5.30. By 8 you peel yourself of the ground and clear up the shit from in front of your stall, try and recreate some order, control the mud and pray for the sun. On Friday you escape to catch the last song of BB King- all silver haired and angelic, radiating a beauty that could melt a stone. He sang “The thrill is gone” and you feel it cut straight into your heart because in the drizzle that afternoon I knew just what he meant. For sure there were many lovely people who ventured throughout the cavernous mud pool in front of the stall and it was almost worth it to see Baz’s eyes on Sunday while he downed a ghungni box and yes the sun did come out on Sunday and Paul Simon sang Paul Simon sang “Slip Sliding Away” but by then my spirit had long slip slid away and you leave the next day £200 down- basically paying good money to have people crap out side your front door. Never again you say to yourself and an elephant never forgets- but i never did have a trunk.