For more than 50 years I have taken a camera with me on trips; short ones and long ones. Far more than a diary (especially if captioned properly) photos bring back people and places that have almost faded from memory. Today, of course, keeping a picture collection is easier than it ever was because all the images can be kept on a computer (making sure, of course, that they are all carefully copied on to a separate disc, in case of accidents). Of the pictures on this page, four are mine and the vines and beef photos are library.


A great sporting pastime of the English, especially in the industrial cities of the north, is the breeding of what are called “homing pigeons”. These birds are trained to be taken away from home and then, by instinct, to find their own way back to their “residence” (“loft”). They are often taken considerable distances away – even across the English Channel to France. The majority do find their way back successfully. Here are two men at the point of releasing their pigeons, to fly back home 25 kms away.

I took this in 1991 in the West of England. I understand bets are taken on which pigeon gets home first.


Until we could find land away from our house in the Troodos foothills, we kept the unwanted donkeys we had “collected” close to home, like on a plot next to the house. Sometimes the noise they made woke us up extremely early. In 17 years, almost 400 came through our gates. We first encountered these delightful animals when we were newly arrived. Across the road from the house we were renting was a mother and foal, pictured below – it was one of the first photographs I took in 1991 when we settled in Cyprus. After a few years, the young one became unwanted and came into the sanctuary we had by then started, where it was later adopted by an English woman then resident in Cyprus. Eventually she returned to England and had “Petal” as we called her and another donkey transported across Europe in a horse-box trailer. By an amazing coincidence, she now lives a kilometre away from us in England! So we are able to see our former donkey whenever we feel like it.


As well as lots of donkeys we also had a great many pigeons, attracted by easy access to the barley in the donkeys’ food bins. Faced with a surfeit of these birds, we arranged a “cull” and reduced the number by about a hundred.

I phoned a French restaurant in Limassol to see if they were interested in offering them to their customers. They happily accepted and a day or two later I delivered the birds, which had been plucked and prepared for the table by a fellow foreign resident in the village who had great experience of game birds and butchery. However, the Cypriot customers were not attracted and none was ordered. We froze them and used a fair number in pies, terrines and stews. The only meat on them that was really worth-while was the breast, which was a nice firm, close-grained, gamey bit of meat.

On a trip to Saudi Arabia, when we were lucky to get a visa for my wife, who is very fond of horses,

we were invited to the stud and farm of a very wealthy Sheikh, to have a look at the mares, stallions and racing animals, most of which were valued in millions of Dollars. We sat, cross-legged, on fine Turkish carpets and the thoroughbred creatures were brought past for our inspection.


From the heat of the Arabian desert, to a cold cellar in Austria in deep mid-winter, in the 1990s..

Contracted to re-popularise Austrian wine in Britain, as part of our education and indoctrination, we went on a delightful “research” programme, visiting winemakers and sampling wines. The days were cold, but the inner man and woman were warmed by the country’s delicious sweet wines. On one day, we tasted 67 wines and were quite merry at the end of it, because no facilities were offered to “spit out” (eject) most of the wine tasted. Our guide and driver handsomely enjoyed all the wines and hurtled us along the icy roads to the next winery at high speed. This photo is taken in the cellars of one of Austria’s finest wineries, with the owner/winemaker Willi Bründlmayer. (My camera, but not me taking the photo)


Below: Bründlmayer’s vineyards in the Langelois hills north-west of Vienna.

You can have fabulous wine and food tours in Austria. The cooking is good, too, though rich. The great beef dish of the country is called Tafelspitz and I give the recipe below. It’s very similar to the old English dish (with its song of the same name): Boiled Beef and Carrots.


Tafelspitz Recipe – Ingredients

325 g/1.5 lb beef topside (or other quality boiling beef, such as center cut rump,

Chuck beef or brisket) plus some beef bones, if desired

· 3 large carrots

· 1 large parsnip

· 1 small celery root

· 1 leek cut in half

· 1 large onion with skin

· 1 – 2 bay leaves

· a few peppercorns

· salt

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1. Slice the unpeeled onion in half across and turn the cut side in a non-stick pan until fairly well browned.

2. Put about 3 litres of water into a large saucepan.

3. Add the root vegetables, leek, halves of onion, bay leaves and peppercorns and bring to the boil.

4. Add the washed meat and bones and, depending on the type of meat, allow to cook until softened, in gently simmering water, which will take around 2 ½ – 3 hours.

5. Meanwhile add more water as required and skim off any scum which comes to the surface.

6. After at least two hours, season well with salt.

7. When the meat has softened, remove it from the pan and keep it warm in some of the liquid from the soup.

8. Season the remainder of the soup again with salt to taste, and strain it, if preferred. Serve with semolina dumplings or frittata and freshly chopped chives as a starter.

9. Slice the boiled beef by carving across the “grain” and put the pieces on warmed plates. Alternatively, you may serve it in the hot soup in a suitable bowl or tureen.

10. Serve with roast or sautéed potatoes, a bread-crumb and grated horseradish mix, green beans in a dill sauce, or creamed spinach and chive sauce.

11. If the root vegetables are to be served at the same time, cook some of them separately to be served al dente.

Cooking time: approx. 2 ½ – 3 hours


And a rare day in England. A long lunch outdoors, with fruity chilled white and rosé wines, for once uninterruptedly enjoyed without rain! Accidentally, the picture resembled a 19th century French water colour!




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Beef Briefs from Further East

Regular readers will know that I love my food. I enjoy very many kinds of it. This is not to say I am a glutton. I am fortunate in that my disposition is to eat in moderation. As for preferences, I lean very much eastwards – to the Levant to start with, and then to Arabia, Iran and on to India and the Far East. So a large tome that I bought the other day, from an on-line bookstore “The Food of … [Read More...]

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REVIEW–The White Horse, Sibton

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BOOK REVIEW – The Undelivered Mardle, by John Rogers. “A Memoir of Belief, Doubt and Delight”. 158 pages, hard back, published by Darton, Longman & Todd at £12.99, with a foreword by Ronald Blythe..

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Sherry–a Decent Drop of Fortification

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