Concert: Violin virtuoso

Round & About

Hungerford

Former Young Musician of the Year Jennifer Pike will be playing the piece that won her the title when she appears at Marlborough College.

At the age of just 12, Jennifer Pike became the youngest ever winner of the Young Musician of the Year in 2002.

Three years later she performed at the Proms and has gone on to build an international career which has included many more accolades, not least being the only classical artist to win the South Bank Show/Times Breakthrough Award.

Jennifer is passionate about helping other young people enhance their lives through music and is an ambassador for the Prince’s Trust.

You can enjoy her music on Sunday, 20th January when she takes to the stage in the Memorial Hall at the college, as part of the World Class Musicians in Marlborough series when she will perform Vaughan William’s The Lark Ascending alongside pieces by Bach and Wieniawski.

Following the redevelopment of the Memorial Hall (which Marlborough College provides as sponsors of the concert series) the town now has a state-of-the-art concert hall.

The £6.5million project retains the charm of the original design while adding contemporary touches to create a state-of-the-art facility. The acoustics received accolades after a BBC National Orchestra of Wales concert recently and with improved front of house facilities, a concert at Marlborough College will be a true treat for the senses.

  Tickets available at marlboroughconcertseries.org. Enquiries: 01672 892566 or [email protected]

Literature lovers: events in Wokingham

Round & About

Hungerford

Janet Ferguson explains why you should join Wokingham Literary Society and some of the highlights to tempt you this month.

Looking for something new to do during those long dark winter evenings?

Wokingham Literary Society will begin the New Year on Thursday, 17th January, with a talk by Martin Hughes entitled Comedy Thrillers.

The speaker will explain that it is far more common to hear the phrase “comedy thriller” referring to films than books. For comedy, do we need pictures as well as words? Is it because of the ability of pictures to combine attractive people and amusing lifestyles amid sad and scary events while words alone remain too close to the event’s sad and serious nature? Martin will look mainly at three books which amuse us even amid their thriller plots; Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, Christopher Brookmyre’s The Sacred Art of Stealing, and P.G.Wodehouse’s Summer Lightning.

The society’s second speaker on Thursday, 31st January is Jill Swale who will look at The Language of Persuasion – the techniques from famous speeches, literature and the press. Jill plans to explain why Tony Blair’s “Education, education, education”, Neil Armstrong’s “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address (“of the people, by the people, for the people”), are so effective and well-remembered. She’ll look at how writers use loaded language and rhetorical questions to sway the reader, appealing to particular emotions.

New members and visitors welcome. £2 on the door.

Relationships: Going it alone

Round & About

Hungerford

A woman who found new strength after her marriage breakdown a year ago is urging others facing post-split up pain to make a New Year’s Resolution for change.

Administrator Jane Holgate was so impressed with Divorce Recovery Workshop’s Berkshire course she now helps run courses.

You can book now for the next one, on February 8th & 9th and 15th & 16th, in Earley, Reading. Charity DRW helps men and women recover emotionally after separation or divorce.

Jane, of Hurst, who works in Twyford, said: “The prospect of facing the new year on my own was daunting. But DRW made me realise I was in control of my future which might not be the same as before, but was still a future. New Year is a time to seize change. If you’re hesitating, I’d say: take the plunge and contact us. I found I wasn’t the only one feeling as I was. I’ve kept in touch with some of those on my course: they’re a fantastic support. We have a coffee or text. It’s like having a support network, a safe space.”

Jane, who is in her fifties with two grown-up children, adds: “To come to DRW you can be the one who left or the one left behind. No one judges. It doesn’t matter when the break-up was or if you were married or not.”
The course leaders, including DRW founder trustee John Kemp of Wokingham, are divorced or separated. John says: “Many people don’t know where to turn to for help with emotional recovery from the trauma of separation or divorce. People often say they grow in confidence with the help of a workshop rather than just going through it alone.”

  Call 07887 800521 or 0118 979 2770, email [email protected] or visit www.drw.org.uk

Marlow Archaeology Society

Round & About

Hungerford

Marlow Archaeology Society unearths the secrets of Reading Abbey.

A manuscript, music and a human hand are just some of the subjects to be discussed by Marlow Archaeology Society as they look at the founding of Reading Abbey.

Founded in 1121 by King Henry I to be his burial church, it was built and designed for both monks and pilgrims.

Speakers John and Lindsay Mullaney will use their research to show how Reading Abbey was founded and how Henry set about acquiring a collection of saintly relics that would attract pilgrims to it and increase the economy of the abbey and the town.

Newly discovered evidence by Dr Brian Kemp, dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries relating to the interior design of the abbey, gives a better understanding of where Henry was buried. Examples of music from the time which Dr Kemp’s research revealed were used on early anniversaries of Henry’s death in 1135, will also be used.

And a rare surviving manuscript reveals one of the ‘miracle stories’ about the town’s most famous relic, the ‘Hand of St James’ which possessed powerful healing properties, performing many miracles in the 12th century. Today the hand can be seen at the Roman Catholic Church in Marlow.

Reading Abbey has recently undergone a three-year conservation project, costing some £3.15million under the watchful eye of the restoration team, Friends of Reading Abbey.

Join the archaeology society at Liston Hall on Thursday, 24th January at 8pm to hear all these secrets and more. Members £3, visitors £4.50, pay at the door.

For more details go to www.marlowarchaeology.org

Hal Cruttenden: Middle ground

Round & About

Hungerford

One of Britain’s top comedians, Hal Cruttenden brings his stand-up show to Maidenhead’s Norden Farm this month.

Keen to involve his family in the planning as well as being one of the subjects within the act, he asked his teenage daughters what he should call the tour. Hence “Chubster”, which also gives a clue as to other subjects – his battle with weight! Now Hal’s back on the 5:2 diet and onstage in a hilarious show that not only touches on his usual moans about being a middle-aged, middle class father of fat-shaming teenagers but also introduces us to new problems like his struggles with IQ tests, political zealots and the trauma of supporting the England rugby team.

So, who were the people who inspired Hal in his career that has often seen him nominated for awards? It seems those middle-class doubts needed satisfying as he says his inspirations were people like Eddie Izzard: “He convinced me that you could do stand-up successfully and be middle-class. I thought it was so impressive and it taught me that it was more the joke than the person telling it. I just so love Bill Connolly’s charisma, I just want to sit down and listen to him. Comedians like Frankie Boyle and Kevin Bridges, I think for me it is more a case of jealousy rather than inspiration.”

Having given his family the chance to name the show, do they also get a chance to see their dad in action? “Oh yes, they always see the shows. As to what they think of them, my children are now asking for a raise in their pocket money and calling it research costs!” Hal says. Speaking of research, how easy does he find the writing? Not, it would appear! “I am anything but disciplined, I am rubbish – if I did not have a deadline to work to I doubt I would get anything done. I have the upmost respect for Lee Mack, I have absolutely no idea how he writes all the comedy scripts and stand-up shows that he does.”

Having toured the world, it seems the bright lights of New York still beckon for Hal, he says: “I would really love to perform in New York, I really fancy doing Carnegie Hall or the Radio City Music Hall.” Your chance to see him at Norden Farm Arts Centre is on Friday, 11th and Saturday, 12th January.

  For more information go to norden.farm

Blackbeard’s Treasure at Escape Hunt

Cherry Butler

Hungerford

Cherry Butler ends up all at sea in Reading’s newest escape room, Blackbeard’s Treasure at Escape Hunt.

It seems Reading residents can’t get enough of being locked in a room and trying to puzzle our way out against the clock, with numerous escape games popping up in town over the past few years. The fifth and latest, Escape Hunt, opened on 7th December.

Having assembled a crack team of sleuths – from escape room virgins to Crystal Maze Live veterans – we arrived at King’s Walk bright and early on a grey Saturday, ready to attempt to steal Blackbeard’s Treasure.

Themed on a pirate ship, the wood-clad room had been put together with great attention to detail, and was so involving that we quickly forgot that we were in a shopping centre. My “shipmates” and I had an hour to search for clues and solve the puzzles that would set us free. Sadly, our time ran out; in our defence there were a couple of technical teething issues! We left thoroughly flummoxed, but having had fun.

As well as pirates, players can channel Norse gods or outlaws in The Last Vikings and Escape From The Wild West rooms. Doctor Who fans will soon be able to immerse themselves in the first escape game officially based on the BBC series, coming to Reading in March.

A game costs £20-25 per person (£30-33 for Doctor Who) depending on the number of players (up to six in a team). They sell gift boxes, too, an alternative to giving more stuff.

Escape Hunt also has rooms in Oxford, Bristol and other cities around the UK and the world.

 You can find out more, check terms and conditions and book at escapehunt.com

Image courtesy of Escape Hunt

A cut above: best Christmas roasts

Round & About

Hungerford

Turkey is a traditional favourite but there are so many choices of meat when it comes to the festive table, and many excellent local producers

What scene depicts Christmas more traditionally than a large cooked bird being brought out to the table and carved by the head of the household?

Turkey is, of course, the popular festive choice. Tom Copas Jnr says: “Turkey is what you’re meant to have! We’ve been rearing the best turkeys in Britain for over 60 years and nothing tastes better on Christmas Day, especially knowing all the care and attention that’s gone into their welfare.” Visit www.copasturkeys.co.uk.

Walters Turkeys is a family business running since 1911 on the Yattendon Estate in the Berkshire Downs. The team are passionate about animal welfare and expert in the best way to cook and store your bird for the perfect feast; call 01635 578 251 or visit www.waltersturkeys.co.uk. Tell your butcher how many guests you have (and how greedy!) to select a bird or joint of the perfect size.

Excellent traditional alternatives to turkey include goose and duck, which are more expensive and do not give as much meat per size as a turkey. Cockerels (male chickens) clock in at about the 10lb in weight and are becoming a popular alternative to turkey. For more adventurous of home cooks there is also the three-bird roast, with a wide variety of bird breasts one inside another (such as turkey, pheasant and partridge). These have plenty of meat but need to be carefully cooked.

Hungerford butcher Christian Alba says: “In all the places I’ve worked, Christmas meat is usually turkey. But I grew up on a turkey farm, so I have beef fore rib.” Phil Currie, head chef at The Greyhound in Letcombe Regis says: “I like to use beef shin as the bone provides so much flavour which leaves you with a great sauce. For Christmas we serve it with classic bourguignon garnish and a twist with a blue cheese dumpling. It’s a great alternative to turkey.” Visit www.thegreyhoundletcombe.co.uk or call 01235 771969.

Jesse Smith Butcher & W.J Castle in Cirencester has a unique dry-aging process for its beef featuring a room lined with Himalayan salt bricks. The company, which goes back for several generations, are passionate about animal husbandry and welfare and also offer the very finest poultry, game, pork and lamb for the well-stocked Christmas larder; visit www.jessesmith.co.uk or call 01285 653352.

Recipe queen Lyn Deveson says: “I’ve always cooked turkey and a gammon; cold turkey, ham, turkey curried, stir fried, in sandwiches is a big part of the appeal. But I cooked a cockerel last Christmas and won’t go back to turkey – it has more flavour. I remember my mother cooking the turkey all night on a low heat but the French way is best; higher heat and less time. People complain it can be dry but if cooked properly, it isn’t. Good gravy makes all the difference, too!

“I also remember my mother cooking the turkey all night on a low heat, but the French way is best – higher heat and less time. People complain it can be dry but if cooked properly, it isn’t. Traditionally we cook turkey, stuffing, bread sauce, sausages wrapped in bacon etc. with the head male at the top of the table, carving! That’s the  picture we all have in our heads and everyone wearing paper hats and pulling crackers! Because turkey meat can be quite bland, you can go to town with the other flavours. A good gravy makes the difference and thanks to chefs such as Jamie Oliver, we are learning that Bisto is not the essential ingredient but I am shocked by the number of English who still use it! The trouble is we are so spoilt nowadays and can eat anything any time of the year, so Christmas lunch or dinner isn’t such a treat as it used to be.”

Enter our competition for a Christmas In A Box foodie hamper – including a 6kg turkey!

GINspiration

Round & About

Hungerford

Gin is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, with a wealth of interesting spirits produced right here on our doorstep. We chat to some of the enthusiastic local producers and offer up our favourite tipples!

History of gin

Gin may be one of the most popular liquors in the country, yet the colourless spirit has had to contend with a chequered history since it first landed on these shores more than 300 years ago.

Originally gin was sold as a medicine, distilled and supposedly capable of aiding kidney ailments, gallstones and gout after Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius created genever. Brits were first introduced to it when the English soldiers assisted the Dutch against the Spanish in Antwerp during the late 16th century during the Eighty Years’ War.

The armies were known to drink genever before heading into battle, and it’s thought to be the origin of the phrase “Dutch courage”. William of Orange then arrived here to rule in 1688 and promptly relaxed laws on making spirits. Gin, which starts with a base of juniper berries, gained in popularity – among all classes – with the upper classes drinking genever and the working classes making do with a new, cheaper “imitation” gin, substituting the costly ingredients with such things as turpentine and sulphuric acid.

Subsequently, gin’s reputation took a turn for the worse. In London alone, more than 7,000 “dram shops” sprang up with an estimated 10 million gallons being distilled annually by barbers, grocers and market stall holders. Gin became increasingly cheap to produce, easily accessible, little duty was paid on it and some workers were even given it as part of their wages. The 1736 Gin Act forced anyone wishing to sell distilled spirits to take out a licence costing £50.

Only three such licences were taken, but gin’s popularity did not wane as “mother’s ruin” remained hugely popular, before a second act was passed in 1751, which raised duty, and prohibited distillers, grocers, chandlers, jails and workhouses from selling the liquor.

         

Thankfully this was the low point for gin and the spirit has rebuilt its once-tarnished reputation to become the UK’s most popular alcoholic drink. “We’re spoilt for choice with local gins here in the in Thames Valley” says Catriona Galbraith of The Greyhound in Letcombe Regis. “Our favourite is the TOAD Oxford Dry Gin, a delicious citrus and aromatic combination or the kaffir lime and lemongrass gin from Twisting Spirits, as exotic as it sounds with a hint of Asian spice notes. “We like to serve our gins simply, with either a favourite tonic from the Fevertree range and garnish such as lemon, lime, orange, cucumber, mint or basil or even neat over ice, to allow the real complex botanical flavours to come through.”

Hobbs of Henley

“There’s nothing more marvellous than a gin at 11 o’clock on the river to wake the spirits…” Indeed, back in 1870, Mr Harry Hobbs, founder of Hobbs and Sons (now Hobbs of Henley) and publican of The Ship Hotel was renowned for his flamboyant beard and nature, often seen in his punt sipping his home-distilled gin of a morning. Mr Hobbs threw parties along the riverbanks, hiring out his boats for shindigs. Now, 150 years later the family’s gin is made with local botanicals.

 

Cotswold Distillery

Cotswold Distillery uses local raw materials, traditional kit and techniques to create its handmade gin. There’s a 500-litre pot still, (only filled ¾ full to make sure the vapours get contact with the copper during distillation). Distilled with nine carefully considered botanicals, the Cotswolds Dry Gin has an aromatic twist of juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, local lavender, bay leaf, hand-peeled fresh lime and pink grapefruit zest, cardamom and black peppercorn. The distillery building itself is a miniature version of what is usually an enormous plant and the shop and tasting rooms are more like a cosy Cotswolds cottage – you can sit by the wood burner to sip their outstanding natural spirits.

Foxdenton Estate

The use of British fruit combined with traditional recipes is what makes our fruit gin so quaffable,” says Nick Radclyffe of Foxdenton Estate. “There is nothing better as the nights draw in than the warming tipple of a fruit gin cocktail such as the Ping Pong.” Foxdenton Estate creates gin liqueurs with plums, sloes and damsons using recipes that date back several generations with father and son gin producers, Nick and Piers, choosing the traditional tipples they know and love. Sloe Gin, 70cl £24.50.