Tag Archives: The Old Mill

The Sweet Taste of Success

Under starters orders…

The sixth Plumstead Pickle Festival hosted a varied array of 15 chutneys and pickles. As it isn’t clear what the difference is between a chutney and pickle it is an established tradition that all entries are peer judged alongside each other without differentiation – after all, it all goes down the same hole. An estimated 35 locals came along to sample what was on offer.

A break from the serious job of adding up scores

By now, the voting system, adjusted last year to include the category of texture, is familiar to most, with no more than 5 points being allocated between up to 5 entries in each section. Butter, biscuits and cheese were all pre-prepared and issued to tables to accompany the various offerings. No bread though, too much was wasted last time. Voting slips and pens followed shortly afterwards. Meanwhile a food-related soundtrack played in the background to add to the atmos generated by a well-liked niche event attended by a cross-section of Plumsteadites discussing the merits and demerits of everything on their plates.

Erik in full flow

First for Appearance

Second for Appearance

Third for Appearance

First for Taste

Second for Taste

Third for Taste

First for Texture

Second for Texture

Third for Texture

Erik provided the whimsical banter while the scores were totted up and told a chutney-related gag too dire to be worth repeating here. Dee and Geoff were i/c the laptop to quickly add up the scores, and Kevin was called upon to write out the winning certificates once the results were known. Rob was on hand to take photographs and record the event for posterity. This time there were some new winners which mixed things up a bit as well as seasoned regulars being placed. Anyone determined to do better next time would be well advised to make next year’s entry now and store it in a cool dark place to mature.

All tasted and judged

Passionate about Conceptual Art

Art Plumstead take Conceptual Art very seriously, to the extent that an evening is devoted to it every Plumstravaganza in the garden of The Volunteer. This year’s entries were more in the spirit of the movement in that the artefacts were relatively simple, and had to be explained for them to make sense. As usual, Alison as curator of the exhibition was suitably attired for the occasion (see above).

Themes covered a range of social and political issues, quite serious at times but without being too po-faced. it was Monday night, after all. For instance there was a short interactive performance piece involving the audience’s consumption of passion fruit, symbolising the inadequate protection of historical buildings by outdated protocols – shown by a flimsy basket made from an old magazine – which, once they are disposed of or destroyed can never be recovered.

 

The magic piece of glass highlighted the way in which it becomes possible to place one’s bum very close to someone’s face in a public situation which wouldn’t normally be acceptable when seated on the tube or DLR. The Death in Greenwich exhibit was a comment on the environmental damage wrought by cruise ships arriving at Greenwich. Erik improvised a skit about house buying with reference to a bird box that just happened to be lying around the garden along with a brimful ashtray. There was a presentation about who should be consigned to a Wicker Man for their relentless unnecessary questions, an exposition about the meaning of the letter yaz in the Berber alphabet, and a tongue-in-cheek funding bid for a series of sculptures made from found objects in multiple locations covering the themes of loss, bereavement, separation and regret.

After all the exhibits had been explained and discussed, it was time to mingle and make plans for Halloween, before making the epic journey up the hill to The Old Mill where Dee blagged a selection of bar snacks to help us concentrate.

Rain Didn’t Stop Play

Panto cast 6

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Midsummer 2019 saw a first for Art Plumstead when they presented their own pantomime Jayden and the Beanstalk. Introduced by the world weary narrator in the guise of Dick Whittington’s cat, it told the tale of the dastardly Dick Day and his plans to drive people off the Common so he could build a vast mansion there. To assist him in his plans he had ordered a dragon from the website Wickedpedia (which his friend Dirty Dee Dudwin had told him about) to terrorise the denizens of Plumstead and kill off Ron Rattail, the organiser of the Community Market. However, because he had bought it cheaply it had one fatal weakness. More of that later.

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For now, in Scene 2, life in the Community Market continued as usual, with the two long term stall holders (old friends and arch enemies) Sally and Millie selling their wares – bakery and macramé. Being unaware of Dicks fiendish plot they both had a crush on him. There was a certain amount of innuendo which naturally, none of the children understood. Quite a few adults didn’t get all the rudery but they certainly understood it when Sally and Millie raved about how much they liked Dick! The love interest came from the attraction between Dick’s nephew Robin and the new stall holder Jayden of the Uphill Gardeners on Shooters Hill. Much to the two ‘ladies’ chagrin, Ron Rattail had arranged for Robin to provide a musical interlude at the Market instead of their offering and although initially miffed, they soon appreciated the song – as did the audience. They also appreciated the – real – cakes that were distributed as Millie’s ‘new line’ to try out.

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Who can stop the dastardly Dick Day?

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Dick discusses Fire Watch with Ron

Soon, the children were besides themselves with even more glee at the water pistols that appeared in the next scene when Dick demonstrated to Ron how to use them to control fires on the Common as part of his taking over the Common Fire Watch. This scene featured a certain amount of buffoonery with both Dick and Ron squirting each other – and of course the audience, old and young. Then the duplicitous Dick sent Ron to the other side of the Common as per his plan for the dragon to pounce on Ron. Cue plenty of ‘behind you’ as the dragon sneaked up on Ron. Surely all was lost?

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The dragon is about to pounce!

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The evil Dick Day is brought on, ensnared by Sally’s macramé

Well, no. Earlier, Dick had lent his mobile phone to Jayden to film Robin performing at the Community Market before it was returned to him via Robin. It was still in Robin’s possession when a text message came through from Dirty Dee Dudwin. Encouraged by Jayden he read it and learned of Dick’s vile plot. The second text message that came through moments later gave away the one thing that could destroy the dragon. At once, they fled the scene into the woods on their mission of mercy, together with Millie who had wandered onto the scene picking flowers (much to the chagrin of one little nature boy who had earlier informed the steward that he had been looking for crickets) They emerged just in time to see the dragon preparing to swoop on the hapless Ron who had fallen to the ground. While the dragon relished the moment before falling on his prey, Ron called out ‘kick him up the bum!’ – for this was the dragon’s one fatal weakness – and with one well aimed boot up the bottom, the dragon was slain and Jayden had saved the day. The dastardly Dick was then brought on, ensnared in a piece of Sally’s macramé – so it had been useful, after all! This time, the two dames were allowed to lead the cast and audience in their song, the words for which just happened to be printed in the programme. After which, orderly bow and exeunt cast.

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Sally gives Millie a different kind of ‘flour’ from the one she was expecting. “They’re balloon flowers. Close your eyes and make a wish” said Sally – “No, on second thought, they’re Poppies!”

Now, in all the excitement at the market over Dick and encouraging the audience to admit how much they liked Dick as well, Millie and Sally had missed out a bit of entertaining nonsense which was supposed to have happened as part of their ongoing rivalry. Luckily, since the audience had enjoyed themselves so much and didn’t want to go straight home, the routine was duly performed by popular demand as a brief vignette and served as an encore, after which all the cast came on and milked the adulation with freestyle bowing and general showing off. Finally, Art Plumstead’s first ever pantomime was over. After dropping off various props and bits of costume, the cast, crew and hardcore supporters adjourned to The Old Mill for a well-earned refreshment or three.

Panto cast 6

For those who didn’t make it on the night and wish they could have seen it, click on these links in turn. It’s sheer hokum!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Preserving an Art Plumstead Tradition

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Tasting under way – which will be the winners?

By now, the Pickle Festival is an established event in the Art Plumstead calendar. As usual it was held in The Old Mill, and as usual there were a few tweaks, not for a phoney ‘new, improved service user experience’, but just to make it easier to manage. The main change was the re-introduction of texture as a category in this, the 5th Plumstead Pickle Festival. By the time the competition started, 15 pickles and chutneys had been delivered in time for judging at the start of the competition a couple of last minute entries bumped it up to 17. Butter, cheese and biscuits were pre-prepared ready for distribution to all the tables and there were also three sour dough loaves baked by Ashley that day and delivered by Julia from the Plumstead Pantry next door. 

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Her Maj at the pickle table

20181204_202808.jpgAll three categories were judged concomitantly, with up to five points to be awarded among any pickles in each category. Most of the tasters divided their plates into labelled sections to facilitate identification of the pickles. The peer voting system tended to sift out clear contenders for first, second and third place, all collated by Dee and Geoff. Meanwhile there was a buzz of lively discussion about the various offerings  – who knew the world of preserved fruit and veg could be this gripping?! Erik, as master of ceremonies exchanged whimsical banter with Alison as Badge Queen of Plumstead while the certificates were written out by Kevin. 

mine's a pint

The Badge Queen of Plumstead en promenade

The results were as follows:

Appearance 
 
1st Ross Jardine  In Persistence of Piccalilli
2nd Gilly Loader  Piccalilli
3rd Angela Fletcher  Pear Chutney
 
pickle-winner-2018-1.jpgTexture
 
1st Gilly Loader  Piccalilli
2nd Ross Jardine  In Persistence of Piccalilli
3rd Gilly Loader  Tomato and Red Wine Chutney
 
Taste
 
1st Ross Jardine  In Persistence of Piccalilli
2nd Malcolm Fletcher  Festive Fruit Chutney
3rd Keith Hawkins  Apple, Choko and Date Chutney.
 

pickle-winner-2018-2.jpgAt the end of the evening, the vanquished collected the dismal remains lurking in their jars while the victors went home clutching their certificates and corresponding rewards but there were some new faces and everyone present had got out of the house and mingled instead of sitting at home watching rubbish on TV.

Pickle winner 2018 (3)

The winners

 

Hallo again to Workhouse Wood 2018

Clown a

A horrible clown came along

Art Plumstead’s Halloween Event returned to Workhouse Wood this year in a slightly different format, with people invited to share their own ghostly stories to supplement the planned programme of entertainment. The motley crew began assembling on Winn’s Common shortly before 8 pm at the top of the steps leading down into the woods, with a hi-viz jacket or two helping nervous first-timers find the meeting place. In all, 18 people (plus one dog and who knows how many restless spirits) came along. Making a last sweeping pass of torches across the expanse of grass for any latecomers, Kevin led the party down into the bosky gloom and the divertissement began.

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The adventure begins

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Kevin reads Part Two of Abraham’s Boys by the Chestnut Tree

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Same scene, different camera!

After a brief foray into the woods the first performance site was reached. The story was an edited version of Abraham’s Boys by Joe Hill (read the full text here). As it divides naturally into three parts, the further two sections were read out as the group traveled further and further into the murky woods. Mysterious ornaments, made from bunches of herbs hung from the trees. Ever and again the more discerning noticed the faint smell of lavender. There was even a mysterious shrine to add to the eerie atmosphere, featuring Moriarty the cat who appeared in Art Plumstead’s Halloween two years ago and apples cut crosswise to reveal the star shape so beloved of witches.

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Moriarty the glittery cat peeps out from the Halloween shrine

The final part of the tale was read out at the site of the old pig sty, before John told a true tale of Mary Wickens , the Blue Guardian, who was in charge of the welfare of children at the Woolwich Union Workhouse at 79b Tewson Road Plumstead. Set in the 1870s it is the tragic story of the death of two small sisters and Mary’s ghost that roamed the hospital afterwards trying to right the wrong she had done. Then Margaret described the spooky goings on at The Cage in St. Osyth, Essex which have forced the owner to put the property on the market – no takers so far. Finally, after Erik’s recital of the 1899 poem Antigonish by William Hughes Mearnes, there was a lighthearted improvised question and answer session about the supernatural hosted by a three-headed monster performed by John, Mark and Erik. No ghosts materialised, and crucially nor did the promised heavy rain. When all the tales were over, mulled wine was served before the crowd dispersed, some going to The Old Mill for an extra drink to calm their nerves, and the rest fleeing for the safety of their own homes, vampires permitting.

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Whooooo!

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The true tale of The Cage in St Osyth, Essex

The three headed expert answers questions on the supernatural

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Taking a bow

 

A Reason to Rhyme

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No Plumstravaganza would be complete without the Finals Night of the poetry competition at The Old Mill. The audience gathered in small groups around each table to hear a selection of poems which were being heard in public for the first time. One of the supporters had traveled from Forest Hill and two of the poets had even traveled across the water from Canning Town and Camden Town respectively. The lurid green spot light added drama to the announcement by John that as the previous two winners hadn’t entered this year, it would be a new person winning first place.

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The initial stage of the competition had already run behind closed doors whereby all submissions had been scrutinised and a selection of poems earmarked for performance on the night, either by the poet or by one of the actors who had formed the judging panel. However, for the Finals Night the poems – like the pickles in December – are peer judged, with poems being heard in three groups of four in each heat. The winner of each heat goes through to be judged against the other winning poems, before the overall winning poem is selected and the author crowned Poet Laureate of Plumstead. John kept the audience entertained with snippets of information while the votes were counted, such as that William Wordsworth lived in Nightingale Vale in 1835, and Albert Craig made a tidy sum selling his poems in the first Arsenal programmes.

james

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The team of vote counters were kept particularly busy during the last stage. There was only one vote between third and second, and second and first place. As last years winner wasn’t available, the presentation of the artisanal laurel chaplet – made from locally foraged organic bay leaves  – was made by Her Most Gracious Majesty The Badge Queen of Plumstead. Third and Second place went to James Miller from Canning Town, but this year, the Laurel Wreath was won by Caroline Barnett who was born and bred in Plumstead. It had come home.

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finalists

Plumstead Pickle Festival IV – hard cheese !

Pickle 17 table

The fourth Plumstead Pickle Festival took place on the same first Tuesday of December at the same venue (The Old Mill) but there were a few changes to simplify the process. There was no distinction between pickles and chutneys this year, and only one jar was required per entrant instead of an additional display jar for appearance. This meant anyone with a leftover single jar lurking in the back of the sideboard from a previous year could try their luck with a more mature offering, since chutney benefits from being at least 3 months old before opening.

Pickle 17 queue

Each entry was judged on its appearance on the plate and its taste, unlike in previous years when texture and recipe were appraised as well. Bread, butter, cubes of mature Cheddar cheese, paper plates and pens were issued to each table along with the voting slips for appearance, before everyone present was invited to come to the table in an orderly manner and begin sampling. There were 16 anonymous jars identified only by a letter, which meant there were a variety of ways to arrange the samples and number them for tasting.

Pickle 17 plate

Pickle 17 judges

In another simplification of the voting process there were only up to five marks per category to be awarded by each taster as they wished across up to five chutneys or pickles in any combination of points. Halfway through the evening the results for appearance were announced before the voting slips for taste were sent round. In theory, it might be possible for an entrant to get all their supporters to give their entry 5 points in each category and unduly influence the result, but with well over 60 people in the pub, voting for anonymous jars that doesn’t seem likely. It means the highest scoring recipes really are the people’s favourite – and conversely the least popular are not appreciated which is a bitter pill to swallow as an unsuccessful entrant (hence the hard cheese reference in the title) but I was there on the night, and while not everything I tasted was entirely to my taste, there was nothing too horrible to eat!  It was certainly a suitable setting to promote Good Food In Greenwich and The Spiral Garden, the local community garden in Vicarage Park.

Pickle 17 Ray writes certificates

Pickle 17 3rd Appearance

Pickle 17 2nd Appearance

Pickle 1st Appearance

Pickle 17 3rd pos

Pickle 2nd pos

Pickle 17 1st pos

Pickle 17 table close up

 

 

 

 

 

Midsummer Crawl 2017- Oak to Holly

IMAG0058IMG_1100What did you do on the hottest June day for 40 years? No-one knew exactly what to expect for the second Midsummer Crawl, even those who were in on the planning, but the outline of events was in place. As before, we convened at the Apni Haveli (formerly the Woodman) opposite an oak tree for initial mingling before the assembled party read out snippets of information about how Midsummer is celebrated in various countries round the world. These gave an inkling of what was to follow. Then came the adorning of the willow headdresses which culminated in revealing John as the Oak King, with Dee as his consort, The Goddess. It was explained that tonight they would consummate their union in an act so overwhelming that the Oak King would perish and be replaced by the Holly King who would steadily gain in power until midwinter. Needless to say, there was a fair amount of innuendo throughout the evening.

Midsummer 2017 blowing bubblesMidsummer 2017 walking by Sladeimag0059.jpgThereupon all set off, blowing bubbles on the way, to the Who’d a Thought It up the road. The activity here was for the women to gather names of 9 sacred herbs written on small cards which The Goddess had strewn around the garden. Meanwhile, the men drew lots. On the women’s return the couples were matched up, willow rings were exchanged and the Oak King declared them married, since fake marriages are a Midsummer custom in some parts of the world. Meanwhile, the other customers looked on with amusement, and one bloke came over to introduce himself, see above. Once Dee had shown everyone how to dance a simple dance step, the parade danced via the back roads towards The Star, to the accompaniment of wrist bells for the ladies and The King’s Knee Tremblers* for the men, and with natural confetti showering all around. Here, we picked up a few extra punters and chatted up the locals who wondered what on earth we were doing.

Midsummer 2107 Erik reading poetry The Star

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Feasting Swedish-style on herring, new potatoes and sour cream with dill

At The Star, Erik read several Midsummer poems in the garden, including audience participation, then joss sticks were lit for the journey to The Ship. Here, the activity was to draw effigies of witches, bulls, cocks and cats. These were duly burnt in a small tin, and while the women practiced jumping, the men prepared the Midsummer Fire. In reality, this was a trio of tealights in a facsimile of a fire pit, but it served the purpose. Once everyone had jumped over the fire thrice, The Oak King led us to the holly tree that stands adjacent to the Rugby Club. After a quick group rendition of various animal noises with an ‘authentic’ Swedish accent, the old year was wound down by walking three times clockwise round the holly tree, before the new year was wound up by walking three times anticlockwise, accompanied by the hullabaloo of bellowing animal cries. As with so many Art Plumstead open air events, those who wished to, adjourned to The Old Mill.

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Preparing to jump the fire

*these are made from can lids lashed together like castanets and secured to the knee with knicker elastic from the £1 shop. They make a splendid clattering noise and are ideal for drawing attention to oneself.

The Ten Trees of Workhouse Wood

IMG_0705It was a beautiful sunny day when Kevin and Andrew met John and Dee at the top of the steps into Workhouse Wood. In a short while, more explorers had joined them. They were going to have an adventure!

Down, down, down they went into Workhouse Wood. No sooner had they gone down a few steps than they found a scattering of petals on the ground – dainty white elderflowers, bright yellow hawkweed and pretty pink dog roses.

A tiny, tinkling bell rang out. Ting-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling! They looked up. A queer piece of golden yarn had been tied to the first tree in the Tree Trail, an English Oak. It was rather mysterious.

Kevin said, “I know what has happened. The elves must have seen me walking around the wood last week. I expect they have tied golden yarn to all the trees on the Tree Trail.”

IMG_0725Sure enough, when they arrived at the next tree, the merry, tinkling bells rang out, and there was – yes, a tiny piece of golden yarn on the old Hawthorn Tree, tied in a bow. The mischievous elves were playing a trick. They had even tied a thread to a tree that was not on the trail, a Field Maple.

Kevin said, “The elves are laughing at us, but they have helped us, too. Do you see how the leaves are similar to the Sycamore next to it, but they are not the same. They are more rounded.”

They walked further on. The woods were lovely and cool. Presently, they came to a sort of clearing. The sun shone down on the path. It was simply enchanting. Soon they had reached the great Horse Chestnut Tree, then a dear little Cherry Tree. In a trice they had tied a card to the branches to help visitors know more about the trees.

IMG_0732They rubbed the leaves of the Western Red Cedar Tree. They smelt of delicious pineapple! At every tree they visited, the merry, tinkling bells rang out. (It was the elves laughing). Try as they might, they could not see the elves. They were hiding.

When they had walked past the Holly Tree and the Elder Tree, they looked over and saw that some of the logs in the Forest Schools clearing had been scorched rather badly. Some naughty children must have set fire to them. I think their nannies ought to smack them, don’t you?

At last they came to the end of the Trail. It had been good fun and they had had a busy day. They had learned a lot about trees and Workhouse Wood. It was time to go to the pub. They went to The Old Mill and talked about politics and the education system. They made plans for the Make Merry and the Midsummer Crawl. Then it was time to go home.

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