Thursday, May 21, 2009


The legend goes that a group of smugglers hid their contraband goods (barrels or kegs of gin or brandy) in a pond in Devizes, Wiltshire, having been tipped off that revenue men were in the area. When the smugglers thought the revenue men had left, they began fishing their goods out of the pond with rakes. However, the revenue men returned and asked the smugglers what they were doing. Pretending to be simpletons, they replied they were raking out the cheese in the moon, seen in the reflection on the pond. The revenue men laughed at them for being so stupid and rode off. Moonrakers has come to mean a term for Wiltshire people in general – though as an insult or a complement, I'm not sure.
Not to be confused with: Moonraker, the 1979 James Bond film.

Meals for Moonrakers (published in 1954 by the WI), which I picked up in Oxfam in Salisbury the other day, contains mouth watering recipes for Sheep's Head Soup, Ham Cake, Hard Sauce, Egg Snow for Invalids, An Excellent Cake, Hermits, Braised Pig's Heart, Parsnip Wine and many others.

A very simple recipe from the book is as follows:

Artichoke Crisps
Do you know that artichoke crisps make an attractive dish to serve with coffee?
Peel artichokes and slice very thinly, wash in cold, salt water, and dry on wire oven rack in oven.
These can be put in after heat has been turned off or with oven put to low.
Store in airtight tins.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Bumper Crop Circles

We stopped for coffee at an awful Italian Deli in Devizes, Wiltshire, home of Wadworth's 6X bitter. An old, bearded, rough-looking man on crutches stumbles up to us. Melanie offers to help him sit down on a chair outside the cafe. He makes jokes about not really needing crutches – it's just to win sympathy. I escape by making a sharp exit and taking fractious daughter into a posh toy shop opposite.

Melanie relates this to me which happened in my absence: the man gets out a book. Mel nosily peers over at it, and sees it's by Whitley Strieber, author of Communion, a story of alien abduction that she loves. He impresses her by telling her he knows him, and is going to be interviewed by Strieber on American radio next week. Mel asks why. It turns out he is one of the world's preeminent crop circle experts, Michael Glickman, who's been studying, writing and lecturing on the phenomenon since 1990. He is a man obsessed. Mel is quite excited. Michael says this season is going to be a bumper one for crop circles. There are already nine in the UK – all in Wiltshire. And only some of them made by humans...

Mel's (somewhat dodgy) motto: always talk to old men with beards (crutches optional).