Saturday 23 January 2010

Unlucky for some

15st 10lb, 6.8 units. Mrs H rang the butcher in Alnwick to order a leg of lamb, using some strange metric measurements that meant nothing to me but seemed to be understood at the other end. But did she want that weight boned or unboned? And, if the latter, did she realize that she was asking for more meat than a whole leg of lamb actually contained? Mrs H did not know the answer to either question, since she was merely placing a touching faith in the instructions provided by one of Nigel Slater’s recipe books. So she concluded the conversation by asking them just to save her a leg of lamb, boned, and she would trust to luck on how much it weighed.

Then we went off to Morpeth to pick up my lovely aunt and took her to lunch at Mr Blackmore’s fine pub in Alnwick, finally making It to the butcher’s just as they were clearing away all the meat from the counter and stacking it in the fridge. They had our leg of lamb all right, though, carefully put to one side. And they had evidently scoured Northumberland to find the ovine equivalent of Bao Xishun, the 8’ 1” Mongolian who is officially recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the tallest man in the world. The bloody thing cost almost £40 and would, we were assured, comfortably feed 13 people (always a fashionable number for a dinner party, I find). Lamb prices are very high at the moment, the butcher told us (a claim I subsequently corroborated via a Google search). In fact, he quoted a price per sheep that is apparently beyond the usual dreams of avarice for a Northumbrian hill farmer, and watched as I began working out on my fingers that someone else must still be making a bloody good margin if a leg was nearly £40 and each sheep had, on average, around four of them. Seeing the way my mind was going, the butcher muttered something about transport and abattoir costs, and said that the real driver of the price was a shortage of supply. Yes, that will be right, given that every field around my house seems to contain several dozen of the bloody things, bleating and crapping on their woolly coats.

When we got home I delivered a copy of The Journal to my octogenarian next door neighbours, who told me that I had missed the photographic opportunity of a lifetime, no doubt greatly to the detriment of this blog. Even in their long lives they had never seen so much snow fall so quickly, piling up to a uniform 26 inches in their backyard. (It fell in a flat calm, so there was no drifting). They regaled me with many tales of agricultural shed roofs and domestic gutters collapsing under the weight of it. I congratulated myself on returning after almost a month to find my own house completely unscathed. Then I walked back home and spotted the gutter lying on the ground beside my conservatory.

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