[Ben Reeve Lewis perfected his jerk chicken …]
Having bought my oil drum BBQ the other week (see pic) and as my search for the perfect West Indian jerk chicken continues I think I might finally have cracked it.
We have a local Jerk Take-away called ‘Cummin up’, which is as worrying a name for a restaurant as you’ll ever hear, on par with local Mexican restaurant ‘Cucarachas’…meaning Cockroaches.
A lesson in Jerk Chicken
I got chatting to the chef who fires up a drumBQ like mine on the pavement outside the shop and paid him for a lesson. Bingo.
I have a couple of West Indian cookbooks that explain how to make your own marinade but in fact, in this unusual instance you cant get it is a good as you can out of a jar.
Walkerswood Jerk Marinade is the one you want, which you then mix with honey (as it’s very sour) and banana ketchup. Even my Bajan mother in law announced “Dats de taste Ben”. The seal of approval indeed……and yes, she really does say it like that.
Jerk chicken aside I pondered this week on the divide between art and reality when I fell across a couple of websites bigging-up the architectural style ‘Brutalism’.
Brutalism for the big boys
Brutalist buildings for those that don’t know is described on Wikipedia in the following way:
“a fragmented movement in architecture that flourished from the 1950s to the mid-1970s, popular with government and institutional clients”
Institutional clients? Do you see where this description is going?….getting that sinking feeling yet?
“Brutalism was posited not as a style at all but as the expression of an atmosphere among architects of moral seriousness.”
The Londonist advertised a new show of classic prints this week of Brutalist buildings which I have to confess look well retro and impressive.
But art does not imitate life as you can see by the real examples in the photographs here.
A wee problem
Those cool modern lines in the poster are simply concrete monstrosities in the flesh. Do you think that when the architects designed them they envisaged that a design feature of their buildings would be that they all smell of piss?
I’ve never been in one that didn’t and I say this with more than average authority as I’ve spent the last 5 years working in a prime example, known locally as ‘The Bunker’.
Despite being a busy homelessness unit the back staff corridor regularly carries the whiff of the urinal when it rains. Something the building managers have never managed to eradicate.
Considering self build
My thoughts turned to architecture in the past couple of weeks investigating an alternative to renting, after realising whilst negotiating with my landlord over a rent increase that in the past 3 years I have paid them £43,000.
What could I have done with that???????????
So I looked at this intriguing site on self building as I’m quite a fan of individually designed homes as a counterpoint to nitwit architects deciding we all need to live in a ‘concept’ and selling the idea to “Government and Institutional clients” because they are cheap, while the architects themselves swan off back to some million pound Georgian manse that doesn’t smell of wee.
The Telegraph this week ran a piece on the most ridiculous self build projects of all time but actually I liked them all. They have character and individuality,
Trouble is, my enthusiasm for self build stops at the ethos and the look of them, as my DIY skills are on par with Eric Pickles’ in a bobsled. Same with gardening. I like a nice garden but don’t like bending down. All the seeds look the same to me and I cant tell the difference between soil and dirt.
Pick up a trowel
Back in March George Osborne himself encouraged people to pick up a trowel…….whatever the hell that is….and start building their own way out of the housing shortage.
The article in the Daily Mail said:
“He wants to shatter the image of self-build seen in shows like Grand Designs, where over-ambitious couples blow millions on architectural projects and instead make it a realistic option for people on modest incomes to own their own home.”
Writing in the Guardian on the same subject Oliver Wainwright said:
“If an Englishman’s home is his castle, why is it always a castle built by someone else – one of the many identikit castles with mean windows, low ceilings and tight space standards that we’ve come to accept from our builders?
If we are a nation of homeowners, why are we happy to own such bog-standard homes, which are, on average, two-thirds smaller than those in the Netherlands, and a quarter more expensive?”
The article is chock full of shining examples of different projects across the land and how this really can work. As Oliver points out:
“There is huge potential for many more people to take up the opportunity to build their own home as a cost-effective way into home ownership,” he said, adding that self-build isn’t just for retirees or “people who want to build an amazing house out of goat hair.”
Goat hair? Ha-ha….I like that.
Just one problem …
Grants are available, planning permission is getting more relaxed. In February government lifted a levy that had to be paid on self build projects saving an average £15,000 per plot (that’s a year’s rent for me) If only I didn’t have a pathological aversion to picking up tools.
As a teenager I worked on building sites as a steel erector. Even then my abilities with a hammer were so god-awful that I spent all day holding the ladders or handing screws up to the big boys who knew what to do with them.
Once I was allowed to use the acetylene torch to burn some holes in a girder and nearly blew us all up when I accidentally set fire to the gas pipes and everyone dived through doors and windows to avoid the inevitable fireball that was only narrowly averted.
So I suppose self building my own place will remain a dream, unless Frazzy would be happy to live in a house that looks like is was built by a Penguin or arriving home to find me hosing down the smouldering rubble because I don’t know a fuse-box from a radiator.
The Newham alternative
Of course there is also the option of this Newham landlord featured in the Guardian.
A family shoved into a barely converted garage @ £580 per month. Does that count as self build?
Newham Council planning officer Christine Lyons commented:
“It is not built as a dwelling. There’s no heat-proofing, no roof insulation, no proper windows,” she says, adding that greater regulation of landlords is vital if London is to avoid developing areas reminiscent of the slums of Kolkata.”
Maybe it would have been improved if the landlord used goat hair.
Sounds like I built it.
See ya next week.