I downed the rest of my blue Powerade and headed towards the toy plane. As we were called individually to our seats and the doors to every row of the 12 seater plane shut, I said goodbye to my family and friends in my head and agreed that I’ve had a good life so now’s a good a time as any to plunge to my death into the Solent. Yes, I am on my way to Alderney for the second time in my life.
Fortunately, the plane did nay crash and this little toy plane ride was a lot easier to handle than most flights. I scanned the Channel for pods of dolphins (none) and assessed skippers on their skills wondering what tipple they had in their hands (hard to tell), and soon enough we were touching down on the Rock.
I had a few reasons for my visit: 1) to see various friends that are running The Georgian House on the island, 2) to sample the last days of Alderney Week as I had heard hilarious things about it 3) to redeem myself for the reckless behaviour of the previous visit. Alderney 2011 was a holiday never to be forgotten and hardly remembered, probably best summed up by our accommodation; a tent we named Fort Knockers down at the campsite that a friend had found for us. Having been quite confused by the presence of six older folk sitting on our deck chairs outside our tent in the morning telling us we better clear up our mess, we told our mate who said “don’t worry sheilas” (he’s Australian and no, doesn’t actually opt for Australian stereotypical language but I want to use this for dramatic effect, so rack off) “they are friends of the camp owners and wont be sleeping there”. Okaaaay…. a bit odd, but then everything sort of is on Alderney. Only when we landed back in the UK that we were told we had actually created Fort Knockers in the incorrect dwelling – our tent was 3 doors down. So in hindsight, incredibly polite of the so-called trespassers, who actually allowed 5 overexcited ladies into their beachfront canvas haven with not so much as a question asked as to what exactly we were doing there or who we were… Ah well!
So this year was mostly based around the act of mastication. For its size and population Alderney boasts some amazing places to eat and some exceptional local produce. So my agenda was loosely based on the following: Eating and fishing. Oh and raving – more on that later.
A viking friend (not actual viking) has this year become an Alderney water taxi driver and his spare time coaxes crustaceans into his pots using a humming recipe of rotting fish that only a creature which evolved with a skeleton on the outside of its body and limbs with the same function as lego men might find alluring. Yes, you needed amour, and although I have a particularly bad sense of smell, it found it hard to stomach. (Please understand that I mean this only metaphorically).
I had never needed to question this before, but by Jesus, I began to question if I really had what it takes to be a fisherman….
Firstly there’s me holding our first catch of the day; Sergeant Snappy. Perhaps cursed by the fact I named all 6 lobsters we sent to the slaughter house (barbeque), or perhaps just awkward by the fact I couldn’t hold him (a male I assumed) with any conviction.
Yes, I was not at my most natural in the above photo. Worse was trying to take mackerel off a fish hook in order to put them on a bigger hook to catch bass. They were slippery, I was scared. They were probably more scared in fairness. It was murder after all. And if their little booties didn’t attract a bass, they were condemed to the rotting fish tub. I would put a sad face here, but I find them hugely irritating [find picture of sad man/fish on Google images].
So putting aside the fact that I am a wimp when it comes to touching fish (even sounds like something I don’t want to do) and the fact that neither Viking nor I could catch a bass whilst I was in the boat (he caught 2 the next day), I would mainly make a rubbish fisherman because it makes me even more of a hypocrite. During my summers spent diving in Indonesia I trained my eye to find any fish (bar a manta – sadly I am The Anti-Manta) under the sea for the groups of people I guided. If my eyes failed; a rock is a stone fish and you just missed a peacock mantis shrimp out of its hole my friend – simples. In the evenings I tried not to eat fish – otherwise I was effectively pointing out dinner all day long. This rule didn’t always work, namely when I walked past The Beach House grill, but generally I stuck to it out there.
I recently reinstated this challenge for myself. Similarly to the time my mother banned me from having coco pops due to my “chocolate allergy” aged 6, I now crave seafood more than ever. I order second portions of my beloved Jam Tree sotong manis, and I seem to always order seafood dishes at Italian restaurants, and then get upset that the langoustine on top of my parpedelle looks like he’s giving me puppy-dog eyes. But I like having this rule, as flexible as it comes to be when standing in the queue at an Aldeburgh fish and chip shop. I like to see things in the sea, so I can at least try not to gobble them from my plate too often.
What else can I scribble off the list from my Alderney week? Food critic I suppose. This is due to the fact that I was half way through my main course at the Georgian before I thought to take a photo of it… Too bloody delish. Though I have to say the starter is the thing that blew me away. With the afore-mentioned swerving away from ordering seafood ignored, I dive in and order the lobster (very probably Sergeant Snappy’s brother Paul Snappy). And I am so glad I did. A beautifully presented dish that surpassed expectation from its description: lobster salad with beetroot and blueberries. Had to try it if only for the trust I have in the amazing chefs in the Georgian House kitchen. Sweet and tart flavours balanced the lobster without taking anything away from the focus of the dish; very clever.
My main course of pork with cracking crackling and sautéed leeks on a sweet potato mash was also a winner – I know I have done well when I don’t have food envy.
So food critic is off the list. I don’t particularly want to spend the rest of my days analysing every detail of a dining experience out of habit. At the end of the day I am too easily pleased. If I am in good company, if the staff are friendly, and if care is taken over the food in whatever capacity, I am a happy bunny. From a scale of “good” to “the dogs bollocks”, the reviews would be sickeningly positive and ultimately boring… and just so you know, The Georgian House is at least one bollock of a dog, and that is with all bias aside. A very special place indeed.
Something I might want to pursue later in life is a career as the person who writes the blurb for food products. Similar to that voice over tease on the M&S food ads, I will find 8 words to sell anything worth digesting. Inspiration hit me when I was having lunch with Viking and he produced some Danish blue cheese. Now this food blurber knows what he’s doing. He is so good at what he does that now he challenges himself to put as many innuendos into his description as possible. Hats off. Something I can aspire to be.
Alderney Week was a fantastic thing to experience. I am sure no Aldernish/Aldernians will disagree that it is completely bonkers there. I began to realise how apt its description by a friend as “2000 drunks clinging to a rock”. And no one will disagree that these loopers know how to party. From torch lit processions to Olympic themed fireworks, music from the disproportionately large Alderney talent pool, and then the obvious rave in a quarry. The 3 mile island puts on a bloody rave until 6am: Hilarious! (I must have had a nature wee near a badgers set to my surprise the next morning, but all worth it for a fantastic night!) Alderney grows as one of my favourite places in the world. Its pace of life, its people, the quest for silliness and tomfoolery all pull you in to the fold and make it very easy to smile. Worth a visit if you dare!