Monday, 2 April 2012


I carried out my normal daily patrol round the reserve this morning, seeing all the usual stuff, that I won't bore you by listing. There were just two birds that stood out, a pair of Sandwich Terns making their way down the Swale between the two Harty's. There really does seem to be a dearth of summer migrants at the moment and given the lousy weather forecast for the next two weeks, that doesn't look like changing much.
Back home, I went for my customary cycle ride around Minster at lunch time and then given the unexpected very warm and sunny afternoon I spent an hour doing what I do best, laying in the sun enjoying a drop or two of chilled Pinot Grigio.

It was while laying there that I thought of, for no particular reason, crackling. Now people of my age group will know immediately what I am talking about, the younger version, brain-washed by low fat diets, won't.
When I was a curly-haired young boy living in the back streets of Sheerness, there was a small fish 'n chips shop in the next street, Clyde Street, that was generally recognised as having the best fish 'n chips on Sheppey. I haven't a clue why that was because he never seemed to do anything different to me, but then I was just a young boy in short trousers. All I know is that fish 'n chips in those days was a once a week treat and every Saturday lunch time I was sent out to get the family lunch of them.
Oh what a joy that was, to be crammed into that tiny shop with its special smell and hear people in turn ordering their "cod 'n chips" or "rock 'n chips" and sometimes even, a posh person ordering Skate! On a winter's day I could of stood in that warm and smelly shop for ever, ah, but then came my turn and those special words - "do you want crackling with it" - oh joy - do I.
A scoop of crackling - those delicious and succulent bits of batter - sheer heaven to eat, just like toast and dripping was before the PC brigade taught us different.
So anyway, off I would go, back down the back alley to home, but did it end there, did it heck. I became adept at picking a hole in the newspaper wrapping, eating most of the crackling through it and then re-wrapping the family package. Getting home, my mother who knew what I did and because I was her favourite, would always say, "it looks like the mice have been at this wrapping".

To me that scoop of crackling was the best part of the Saturday dinner, its a real shame that the rest of the family rarely got to experience it and let's face it, it and much like it, never did any of us any harm. Where have you seen an obituary that states "he died by eating crackling wrapped in newspaper".


  1. Hi Derek,

    Unrelated to this post, but I was on a Sunday afternoon bike ride up Harty with my girlfriend a couple of weeks ago. Riding back along the road, between the pub and the Raptor viewpoint, I was amazed to see a guinea pig by the side of the road. As we approached it on foot, we were even more amazed to find a whole group of them (approx 10), some way back from the road. The animals did not seem overly distressed, and didnt run off when we approached them.

    We can only assume that they had been dumped there by someone who could no longer look after them. There were a few black dustbin sacks nearby of what looked like garden waste, but nothing else around. We didnt really know what to do, so reported it to the RSPCA, who said they couldnt do anything as the animals were not injured, but they would send a warden up there later in the week- but we have heard nothing since.

    I imagine they have been lost to the foxes or perhaps the birds of prey, but wondered if perchance you had heard anything?



  2. Lee,
    Around a month ago, I stopped at the Raptor Viewing Mound where a number of birdwatchers were and was surprised to see that they were watching a family of two adult and three younger Guinea Pigs running around there. We assumed that they had been left there earlier that morning. What was really annoying was the fact that they hadn't been left in a box/cage so that someobody could of easily collected them and taken them to a pet shop or something.
    Despite the fact that there was a couple of children there, nobody wanted to catch them and take them home so I went home and made some phone calls with negative response. The next morning there was no sign of them and it was assumed that they had fell foul of foxes/harriers, etc.

  3. Hi Derek,
    I think we were up there on Sunday 11 March at around 2pm, so may well have been the same family. We saw the Guinea Pigs a good 3/4 of a mile further on past the raptor viewpoint though, and there were at least 7 of them that we could see, and they all appeared to be adults. It's a shame we couldnt do anything to rescue them as we were on our bikes- but all part of the circle of life I guess.