Monday, 30 January 2012

More Chipshop/Chipper Thoughts.

Following on from my last post.  I have decided that the best chips I have consumed in Ireland are probably the one's in a chip shop in Kenmare Kerry.  Yes I have to confess I often venture over the Cork and Kerry ( the setting for the Highwayman in'Whiskey in the Jar': Thin Lizzy) mountains for a 'nice' bag of chips.  They are definitely the best chips this side of Haworth in West Yorkshire.  If you know of a good chippy/Chipper (Irish name) please let me know?

Anyway.  I was reminsicing to myself (me, myself and I) about the time when I was growing up in Lancashire in the late 1960's early 70's.  In those days everybody (the world and his wife) used to queue up outside the chip-shop on a Friday tea time.  I think it was down to your dad getting paid on a Thursday.

Chips and fish (why is it: Fish and Chips?) were cooked in lard and beef dripping in those days.  There was none of those frozen or microwave kind of chips that we have today.  I can remember from a very early age going with me mum and brother for six penny worthy of chips a piece.

The conversation in our school playground on a Friday afternoon was usually something like the following:

"We're having a chippy tea tonight."

"So what!  We have a chippy tea - EVERY NIGHT!"

I remember the queue stretching out the door and down the street.  Everybody would be excited they were having:

"A chippy tea".

I remember looking up at the enormous counter trying to see the glistening fish and bottles of 'Strike Cola' and Tizer ("made from girders") covered in steam and condensation.   Very often (every week) a 'little old lady' would push in and elbow you in the ear and shout:

"Here Sid.  Can you put my steak puddings in this bowl and keep em warm in the back of the range."

You don't seem to get the same kind of clientèle in the Pizza shop!


  1. Yeah, not many real chip shops left, the Chinese, Indians, Kebabs, McDonalds, KFC, seem to have taken over.

    I can still smell the unmistakable aroma of the old chippies, doesn't seem the same now.
    Too much emphasis on health & hygeine to have much taste left. Not that a bit of health & hygeine is such a bad thing, and it's good to know that the food inspectors prevent some of the really filthy practices, but even in the "old days" of newspaper-wrapped fish & chips I can't remember anybody becoming ill or mass outbreaks of food poisoning.
    (No I don't know why it isn't chips & fish either)

    There isn't any tripe shops left either, at least none that I know of.

  2. Thanks Cumbrian. I agree with you. I think its the little things that becomes the big things and mean so much in England (Britain); Chippies, real ale, village greens, cricket,colliery brass bands, allotments, old churches, agricultural shows,buses, canals, football (one man and his dog)in a park,pigeon racing, rugby league, folk music, poetry, hiking and 'proper chips' again...

    Rural Ireland used to be a land of peasant farmers, blacksmiths, donkeys and carts, Spirit Grocers (shops with a bar) nuns on bicycles and every high street all the shops were privately owned.

    Now we all have to dress the same and eat the same and shop at the same high street shops.

    Thanks Cumbrian!

  3. Real pubs with real ale and real barmaids/men and real fires and real men smoking real pipes and sending streams of brown juice into the fire, and darts and dominoes and cards and ashtrays.
    Discussions about the pigeons, the allotments, the rugby, the fishing, the forthcoming darts match, the weather. Baked potatoes or pie & peas on darts or domino match nights.
    No juke boxes, no TV, no carpets, a rail under the bar to rest your foot on. No women in the bar, that's what the lounge was for. No trouble either.

    And greyhound racing and hound trailing and ferrets and lurchers.

    Nostalgia, but it's not that many years ago really.

  4. Hmm... You have got me thinking? I think you could start a chain of pubs with 'Real Pubs' for a theme. Could we also have skittles, bull ring (You had to hook (swing) a bull ring on a rope onto a hook on a wall, pickled eggs, Salvation Army girls selling the 'War Cry', club sandwiches, a quiz night, and maybe somebody like Sharon Shannon playing the accordion?

    George Orwell defined England in a bunch of sensations:

    "The clatter of clogs in the Lancashire mill towns, the to-and-fro of the lorries on the Great North Road, the queues outside the Labour Exchanges, the rattle of pintables in the Soho pubs, the old ladies biking to Holy Communion through the mists of the autumn morning...."

    I think our next topic should be Silver Service service (who invented 'Self Service?' and bus conductors.

    Do you write a blog Cumbrian? You should do!


  5. And the ancient out-of-tune piano for sing-songs that seemed to live in a corner of every pub, didn't matter how out of tune, nobody could play it properly sober, and after the right amount of pints, anybody singing along didn't know the difference.

    No mate, don't write a blog.

    Enjoy reading them though and passing comments. Amazing what I've learned just reading.

    Looking forward to your thoughts on the "silver service", I dunno who invented self-service either, but you're quite right, we used to have people to serve us and take our money, now all the petrol stations are self-service, even the superstores are self-scan machine check-outs.
    And the bankers (OK spell with a W) seem to be replacing the nice cashiers at the counter with machines.

    Wonder if we'll ever have self-serve beer, or maybe it's still a skill (or an art?) to pull a pint of (real) Guinness correctly?

    Or self-fry chips & fish?

  6. Wow! You have given me lots of ideas for future blogs Cumbrian. What happened to Park Keepers who kept everywhere impeccable, Postmen and Post-women in smart blazers and peak caps, bus conductors...?

    I hate self service and would gladly pay fifty pence + more to be waited on.

    Answer phones and not being able to talk to a human are another pet hates of mine. I will not talk to answer machines. I just send emails.

    You say you like reading Cumbrian. I would recommend a brilliant book for you: England: an Elegy. Look it up on Amazon if you want? It's fantastic.

    Guinness pouring is still an art in Ireland. Who invented frozen chips?

    Thanks Cumbrian!

  7. Yes, Park Keepers, always seemed to be pottering about, grass cutting, edge trimming, flower planting, weeding, tree cutting, all in the appropriate season. And they managed to look the part as well. And parks had band-stands, tennis courts, crown green bowls, usually with a club-house / tea room.

    Postmen in their uniforms, my dad was a postman, 25 years, retired in 1974, sadly passed away 1983 from a massive stroke, but my memories are of him ploshing shoes / boots and pressing his uniform, always immaculately presented, it was a pride in appearance. He was ex-army, 22 year man, colnels batman, so habit dictated that his shoes had to be highly polished and trousers knife-edge creased. He even carried his army experience to haircuts, I was subjected to "short back 'n' sides regularly.

    Like you say, bus conductors and drivers also wore the uniform and cap, I seem to remember they all had a stripe running down the outside leg, different colours for different "trades".

    And don't forget policemen, ambulance and firemen, also had their distinctive uniforms.

    Yeah, answer-phones, one of my pet hates as well, and being lectured for a couple of minutes about how I'm going to be recorded for training purposes and press 1 for....... etc etc, then usually listening to "greensleeves" of some other inane tune, inerrupted every 30 seconds to tell me that "all our operators are busy at the moment, but your call is important to us and will be answered as soon as an operator becomes available". If it's so important, why don't you have some real people to pick the fxxxing phone up?

    No I don't know who invented frozen chips, but he should be strung up somewhere or put in the ducking stool. Maybe both, or a spell in the stocks, inviting real chip lovers to pelt him with his disgusting invention.

    Nice to know ther's still some real Guinness available there, daren't ask how much it costs? And how long to pour? A barman (Irish in Ireland) told me 7 minutes, and to let him know in good time if I wanted another one. He also offered Smithwicks, a bit faster. The stuff we get in England just doesn't seem the same as what I used to get on fishing trips to Waterford in years gone by, or is that just my memory playing tricks?

  8. How can I follow that Cumbrian?

    I will try. Your park thoughts are very different to the Mike Reid joke:

    "Who cut your hair - was it the council?"

    I forgot about band-stands. I also remember my holidays in Scarborough (1970's)listening to the old Wurlitzer organ in Peasholm Park. Brass Bands are brilliant. 'Brassed Off is one of my favourite films of all time. There's some brilliant brass band music on You Tube.

    Guinness have been bought out like most breweries and whisky distllers. I think the Guinness in England is brewed there now? I drink Murphy's on draught. It's a Cork Porter brewery. I paid three Euro's eighty last week for a pint. I am not keen on Smithwicks and I can't understand why 'Real Ale' hasn't taken off over here in Ireland?

    Thanks again Cumbrian!

  9. Yeah, I beleive Guinness is brewed in England now, hence the difference. I didn't know it had been bought out, but that's predictable in this day and age of the merger, buy-out, accountant-driven world we live in.
    Last pint of Guinness I bought (hotel nesr Prestwick airport) about 5 weeks ago, was £3.60, not much difference, and didn't taste wonderful, I don't think they know how to keep it?

    Our own local brewery, Jennings, I think I mentioned it before, has been there in Cockermouth since 1841 I think it was (No I don't remember tham opening) and still in the same place with all the original buildings and lots of the ogiginal equipment. Very interesting to have the guided tour.

    Bought out by some major brewing concern about 12-15 years ago, I don't even know which one, but they can't do anything with it, the brewey itself is on a river and a listed building, surrounded by narrow streets, so they can't expand. They could move the operation, but the quality of the beer comes from the quality of the water taken from their own well.
    This means they can't increase production or move it elsewhere, so hopefully we'll always have a local pint. They send it contry-wide as a guest ale in these days of fast transport and free houses, and bottle some of it for export as well, I've seen it in Calais supermarkets along with Bombadier, Old Spreckled Hen, etc.

    They did, for a long time, have their own rum, Windjammer, a dark heavy navy type, which was imported as a thick syrup by the boat-load into Workington dock and kept in the (then) bonded warehouse, taken as required and watered down to selling strength. Good stuff but no longer available, at least not in its original form, maybe they kept the label as a bit of kidology.

    And an excellent port, but I haven't seen that for years either.
    But they do baseball caps, rugby shirts, etc. with the logo.
    Big business again.

    Then we had our Workington brewery, John Peel, sadly defunct now, its tower chimney was a local landmark which belched out steam and let everybody down-wind know that they were brewing.
    Then it was bought out (getting familiar isn't it?) by Matthew Brown and they started to brew a lager there called Slalom D, a fairly strong continental-type brew that was at one time quite popular. Then they departed and the old brewery buildings were abandoned and looked quite sad for a few years until some bright spark property developer bought it and converted it into a lot of up-market residences. And painted it grass green. All of it. Including the tower. It's still there.

    John Peel bitter 1/5, John Peel mild 1/4, John Peel Golden bitter 2/0. The latter for special occasions, it had a big brass bell on the pump, a real one, ring that and you bought the whole bar a round of drink.

  10. Thanks very much for that Cumbrian. I used to go to a few of the 'real ale' festivals organised by CAMRA (the most successful) pressure group in England. I once drank one called: Frog and Parrot. They only served it by the wine glass.

    I used to drink pints of Slalom D in a Matthew Brown pub. It did the job very quickly.

    I have bought bought Speckled Hen and Theakstons Old Peculiar in Tesco's over here in Ireland. You should write a book about your local brewery's. There should be a museum of 'Real Ale".

    Thanks for the really interesting comments!


Under Our Hedge.

Apparently this summer, 1976 and 1941 are the warmest summers on record.  Although I believe it was 33 degrees in Kilkenny in 1887 or som...