Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Fullwells (Bikes and Cars)

Fullwells is great because in my experience it has all the things we want for our bikes and cars, and lots of handy things you discover you want once someone tells you they exist. And the friendly blokes who run it are always ready to offer their knowledge and experience to help you get the machine back on the road.

So you go in there for a bike puncture repair outfit, having run out of patches, complaining about yet another flat tyre from broken glass in the road. "The answer" says the chap behind the counter, "is this wonderful French inner tube, filled with green slime. Get a puncture, and usually it seals itself". He was right about that, and right too about Continental tyres from Germany with a puncture-resistant band under the tread. I wouldn't recommend riding over broken glass if you can avoid it, but these tyres do what it says on the tin.

Walk in there with a broken thingy off the car, of unknown function but the car won't go without it. "Ah" says Fullwell-man, "a busted docklegrunger. £7.34 including VAT – make sure you oil it before you try to do up the retaining screw and it'll be right as rain". He also provides me with a spanner that actually fits the new nut, whereas I had to mash off the old one with a Mole wrench.

The place is a wonderland of bike bits, car bits, tools, consumables, accessories and complete machines. And if you manage to ask for something they haven't got, they'll order it for you, and phone to tell you as soon as it comes in. And it's open on Sunday morning, just when you realise the wiper blade needs replacing, or you've run out of windscreen-washer solvent, or you want a decent footpump. What's more, they never treat you as an idiot when you go in there with a dopey expression and a plaintive "Help".

Douglass MacDonald

Sunday, 11 September 2011

PG Creed (Hardware)

I don’t know why I bother to go to B&Q. My shed needed repairs and I had already, foolishly, purchased two packs of two shed door hinges on a whim whilst browsing through Wilkinsons in Ilford. The thing is I only needed 3 hinges so now I’ve got one spare. But back to B&Q. I already had enough roofing felt on a part used roll so all I needed was a generous handful of ½" clouts. I also wanted a plain brass escutchion, as the missus had stripped the front door, stained and varnished it. So, the ½" clouts come in a 2 Kilo bag and the escutchions come in pairs. Grrrr! I left empty handed and then remembered PG Creed. It’s not far from Newbury Park and it cost me 60p to park outside The Joker Public House, but it was worth it. Who says Pay & Display puts shoppers off.

It is a veritable Alladin’s Cave for the enthusiastic handyman. It probably hasn’t changed much in 50 years or more. Just like my first experience of a hardware shop in Seven Sisters Road back in the 1960s. Behind the counter is a wall of drawers containing everything you are ever likely to need or want and the service is brill – they know their stuff. Out came a generous handfull of clouts which were weighed and priced. Then a drawer full of escutchions – I’ll have that one I said. I noticed that they sell hinges in whatever quantity you want. I had a wander round and bought some more stuff. I know where I will be going next time out.

Where are they? They are in Cameron Road opposite Seven Kings railway station. Long may they stay.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Veena's Makes Barkingside even Tastier

First published at Flesh is Grass on 9th September 2009

This post is for My Favourite Shop. (Yes, me again – Barkingside’s most famous shopper and consumer of high street services.)

Food shops tend to change my life more than I expect. When I moved to Barkingside with no particular enthusiasm in 2004, the kosher food I found on sale here allowed me to finally commit to a vegan diet. Strictly observant Jews isolate dairy from meat, so Jewish food manufacturers put a lot of creativity into the so-called ‘parev’ foods which are neither, and therefore can be eaten with either. The kosher shops and supermarket sections of Barkingside brought about this positive change for me.

So it has been with Veena’s. Some time ago I attracted the attention of Barkingside 21 by complaining that the entire High Street would soon be edible. Veena’s is exempt from this complaint; it is simply excellent and I’m delighted it’s here.

Veena’s opened on July 2nd 2009 in our former Woolworths. Its large glossy sign is burgundy with a yellow ‘Veena’s’ in a stylish font. When I first saw it, I thought to myself “Barkingside is getting an enormous Sri Lankan supermarket. Now I can eat”.

But although owner Brahmma Raj is Sri Lankan, it wouldn’t be accurate to call Veena’s just a Sri Lankan supermarket, or even just a South Asian supermarket. Turkish, British, Italian, Thai, Chinese, African and other regions are represented on the shelves – there’s even a dinky Jewish section. As one of the assistants on checkout (perhaps Brahmma Raj himself – he had a certain proprietorial air) told me, they aim to have everything under one roof. This is pretty much the actuality – at least with the things I want to buy – and Veenas has taken a big share of my food money from Sainsbury’s and Somerfield. The simple fact is, I tend to shop on foot at the end of my working day, and Veena’s sells food and ingredients I want but haven’t been able to get elsewhere in Barkingside.

As soon as I saw Veena’s I decided to get out my New Internationalist ‘Vegetarian Main Dishes From Around the World‘ cookbook which had been lying dormant on the shelf because I couldn’t get the ingredients. Now Veena’s is here I can finally use it, so I’m going through taking every tenth recipe in turn. The first meal was maharagwe, an East African dish requiring rosecoco beans. I found them at Veena’s along with every other bean I have ever heard of, tinned and dried.

There was a choice of 5 or 6 coconut milks (although none were low fat – coconut fat is saturated so you have to watch out). Today I decided to skip aprapansa, the Ghanaian palm nut stew, in favour of yemesirkik, an Ethiopian lentil stew, but I feel confident I could have found palm butter. Veena’s didn’t have berbere paste for the yemesirkik, but there was a choice of 4 other chilli pastes. We ate it tonight with chapatis I made out of Veena’s own-brand chapati flour and it was good.

I have a few days before labra (spicy mixed vegetables from Bangladesh) on page 40 but I had it in mind when I last shopped there. Yes, they had panch phoron (5 mixed spices – fennel, fenugreek, onion seed, cumin and bayleaf) and all of its individual ingredients, separately.

On page 70, we have tamarind dal. Well, you can get dry tamarind, wet tamarind, sweet tamarind, salt tamarind, black tamarind. Cadju (cashew) curry, a dish from Sri Lanka, is on page 90. Veena’s sells lemon grass in jars and cashew nuts in volumes from the packet to the sack.

On special, resisted with difficulty, a platter of small sweet pastries made with vegetable ghee.
From a well-being point of view and from an excitement point of view, I feel extremely fortunate to live close to Veena’s. There’s so much there. For example, I put black sesame seeds and white poppy seeds in my bread these days. I’d prefer to see a better mix of shops here than we currently have, but what with the marvellous Ushan’s (Sri Lankan fruit and vegetable shop), Yossi’s (kosher baker), La Boucherie (kosher butchers and grocers), Rossi’s (the ice cream, coffee and chocolate institution), not one but two beautifully-kept Polish delicatessens, the eel and pie shop, the couple of unpretentious, high quality coffee, cake and brunch places, BK’s which is distinctively Turkish, Onur’s kebabs, the excellent North London Chinese take-away chain Oriental Chef, and the (“More than a”) farm shop selling local horseradish and Havering honey, we should now think of Barkingside as a cosmopolitan food-lover’s mecca.

Yes, there is meat, fish, dairy and other animal products here, and these things should never be eaten. Whenever I give money to vendors who trade in these things, I compromise something. And certainly, Sainsbury’s is far superior to anywhere else here for good booze, vegan dairy alternatives (although still poor), fair trade produce, organic produce, and environmentally-conscious produce – this is why they’ll continue to get my custom. But Barkingside has become a modern cosmopolitan food-lover’s mecca and Veena’s is central to this happy development.

(And not for the first time I ask myself, who wouldn’t live here?)