THIS IS ENTRY NO.8 OF MY FOOD DIARY ENTRY – A BIT OF A TWIST AND A TALE.
So it is now 1968 and the bed and breakfast trade is in full swing where the hotel now has long term regular guests. Three such guests were the Scots boys named Huey, Eddie and Peter who hailed from Edinburgh.
They were in South Wales working on making the tips of the mines such as Tower Colliery, Fernhill and others safe. I think in total they stayed with us for about a year. The pattern would be they would go home on a Friday and return Sunday night ready for Monday morning. They were lovely men and even after working a long day would spend time with me playing snap. (the joys of being a child who could wrap them around her little finger with the sad eye look – worked everytime – suckers).
Anyway, their presence became part of the hotel routine and they made many friends whilst they stayed with us. I mentioned above that they usually went home on the weekends but they tended to make an exception to this when the Rugby was on especially the Wales Scotland games.
I think this year neither Wales or Scotland were doing very well in the Five Nations cup but the boys decided to stay for the game anyway. So as it progressed Scotland were keeping Wales at bay and the boys thought they had victory in the bag. As a consequence Eddie gave my mother the keys to his car as they thought they would be in for a victory celebration and the drink would be flowing more than usual.
Unfortunately for them Wales scored in the last few minutes and won the game. So although the drink was flowing it was to drown their sorrows of getting the wooden spoon that year. Saying this when the Scots boys came down to the Rhondda to watch the Rugby it was always a great weekend and there were never any hard feelings.
Even after they had finished working on the tips the boys kept in touch with my parents and would sometimes come down to visit.
One other guest that I remember from that time was Mr Benevive. He was a businessman based in Israel who wanted to open up a similar factory to Porth Decorations who were making Christmas trees there. He had come over to Wales to stay for a couple of months to learn how this could be done. Obviously he needed somewhere to stay and as we were based nearby Byron who was in charge of personnel had contacted my mother to see if they could accommodate him. My mother of course agreed but when he arrived I think she regretted it!!!
Mr Benevive was a very well travelled and cultured gentleman who spoke numerous languages and also played musical instruments including the Piano and Violin. He could also regale tales of his travels and things he had seen and done. As a child I was absolutely fascinated by him and he was like a grandfather figure. I especially loved it when he played the violin and I remember him being a very kind person.
For my mother it was a different story and it must have been a culture shock for him to come to the Rhondda in the sixties especially when he had stayed in some amazing places!! So it was not surprising that he came with a list of demands. These included having a board put under his mattress as he needed a firm bed for his bad back. He also had to have prunes every morning and some lemon tea. This shouldn’t be a problem in most places nowadays but for the 1960s Rhondda Valleys it was a bit of a nightmare. He also wouldn’t eat pork yet would insist on having bacon, egg, toast and sausage every morning after his prunes.
I’m not sure if he knew it was pork (my mum probably kept quiet on that one for a reason) but he really enjoyed it nonetheless!
He also became ill not long after he had arrived and my mum had to look after him, coupled with even more demands! So as she was concerned she rang the factory to speak to Byron as she felt it might be due to the fact that he wasn’t happy to stay with us. Imagine her surprise when Byron told her after chatting to him that he most definitely DID NOT want to stay anywhere else and that Mrs Ken was really looking after him and he was very happy.
To show his appreciation he invited my parents to go with him to see King Lear in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Having made the journey they found out that he hadn’t bought tickets but managed to blag 3 tickets out of a local lady so all was not lost and they all enjoyed the play (not sure how much it cost him!).
On the way back in true Mr Benevive style he asked if he could drive them home (I believe my dad hadn’t long bought a new car and it was his pride and joy so he would be very wary of anyone else driving it!) He gave in but once the journey started he wished he hadn’t as Mr Benevive started driving on the opposite side of the road – literally missing several cars by inches!!
Knowing my parents I can imagine what they must be thinking and it must have been difficult for my father not to swear! But it was Mrs Ken who came to the rescue asking him to pull over to look get some fruit from a stand to take back for me, all while quickly retrieving the keys! Despite his protests my mum did drive them home safely. Happy days.
Once again they kept in touch and he even offered to take my parents on a 3 week tour of Europe with all expenses paid with him and his wife which would have been amazing. Sadly they declined because they had no one to keep the business going while they were away.
The recipe this week just to be cheeky is a nod to Mr Benevive with a twist!
Pork with Prunes and Armagnac
This is a James Martin recipe.
250g pork fillet sliced
1 shallot, peeled and diced
15ml olive oil
Salt and pepper
100ml double cream
100ml chicken stock
100g prunes, stoned and sliced
Place a pan over a medium heat and add the oil and butter. When they are hot, add the pork and cook for 3–4 minutes. Season and then add the Armagnac and flambé.
When the flame has died, add the cream and stock, bring to the boil then add the prunes.
When the prunes have warmed through, serve with a spoonful of mash and wilted spinach.