Friday, 31 March 2006

Clutch control

I took the van down to the East Greenwich Market on Saturday. As I swung round Hyde Park Corner, over the Vauxhall Bridge and through the sunny streets of Peckham spring was clearly in the air. I counted three ice cream vans heading out that morning. Each shaking off their winter coats and rousing themselves for soft scoop glory.

After my summer 'market research' experiences I have been privy to the world of Mr Whippy and his sharp tongue, so it is always interesting to clock the faces of my fellow mobilers. Apart from a couple of really sorted looking guys up in Harlesden, the comradery seems a bit bleak. On this morning each ice cream man bore a kind of grim-faced determination to shift some cones and staunchly refused any 'wotcha's with me.

I sallied forth to Greenwich where the market had been set up in a kind of Blue Peter-style garden - all stiles and urban scrubland. Eddie the juice man volunteered to manouvre the van into my spot - essentially some bracken covered earth under a tree - I think he thought we'd be there all day if I did it. I'm actually alright at parking the van, but you know...sometimes there are all these blokes around and they kind of want to lend a hand and it was a bit of an awkward spot...

Before long the place was teeming with locals come to check out the new market. It was great! I felt like I was involved in a village fete. The bunting and the rolling for a pig game weren't there but it was as close as we were going to get so near to the Blackwall Tunnel.

I spent most of today sitting in traffic, listening to old tapes and trying to be as alert a driver as possible after my shock earlier in the week. On Monday I was involved in this really full-on road accident. I was on my bike - wearing my helmet for once - when a very hairy situation occured, rendering the two other people flat on their backs on the road, unconscious and me fine. It was the strangest thing. All kind of tripped-out and slow seeming.

Anyway, the point is, Jimmy needs a good run. He can't be dealing with all this stopping and starting and I'm sure I'm getting a thick left leg from the endless clutch-control. Next week we're heading to Manchester to do a job for Topshop so that should do it. Can't wait to get on the open road!

Monday, 20 March 2006

Bitter Chocolate Tart

Today is supposedly my day off. Not the easiest thing to honour when your head is a whirl of chocolate-related thoughts: stock to order, pitches to chase, baking to organise, bills to pay, mechanics to come and check out my engine (!), bookings to prepare for. And, of course, the obligatory tasting of new products.

It's tough - I'm not gonna say it ain't - but there are a lot of recipes to try and chocolates to nibble, all in the sake of research and keeping oneself abreast of the situation. Take this bitter chocolate tart for instance. It's good. Really good. But is it heavy dependency good, or merely of the quick fix/light titilation variety? It certainly does have something. A simplicity in the deep, dark truffled filling, sitting so pretty atop its crisp, buttery shortcrust.

I'm going to persevere until I'm absolutely sure...

Meanwhile I must really knuckle down and plan for the coming weeks of heavy-duty chocolate dispatches. Things are moving and I need to be right there for every development. Planning, planning, planning...never has been a particular favourite concept of mine and, as March comes over all hostile, the impulse to jump on a plane heading for balmy climes is intense.

But so too is my commitment to Choc Star. It's not just a business for me but, rather, a tool for understanding what life's all about. That and a damn good excuse to eat all the chocolate pies I can lay my hands on...!