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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

Cornichon Tongs + Addendum

Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas DECEMBER. 17, 2020

Addendum 1. In coming around to reposting this blog post from December 2020, I re-read it. Well someone has to. Anyway, I still wanted to re-post it as it speaks of a time and place that will go down in history. A time of lockdowns and self-destruction by the advanced economies of the world. Many, many people tried to express the futility of the lockdown and the huge ramifications they would have for future generations but a conspiracy of silencing any dissent prevailed across almost our entire culture.

Today we read the news that John Hopkins University research now declares that all of the lives and livelihoods that were damaged or destroyed by these disastrous policies had the effect of preventing about 0.2% of all Covid deaths. Bearing in mind that the Covid death figures themselves were questionable and are themselves likely to be reduced further.

So for this post I introduce my word for the day Addendum.

Addendum- an item of additional material added at the end of a book or other publication. late 17th century: Latin, ‘that which is to be added’.

The Pandemic addendums seem to be coming thick and fast every day as it becomes more and more difficult to escape the truth of what was done to us.

In this case my addendums are addstartums and addmiddleums too because I am placing them in the relevant spot and in red, not at the end as is usual with an addendum.

[134-365] 17th. December 2020- When you are retired and move to the country, and you need to buy some little object, either a necessity or a luxury it becomes an excuse for an expedition. In the year of the Great Pandemic, at moments when it has been legal to have expeditions they have been life's little highlights. So it was we went to Bovey Tracey Mill today, which is the home of the Devon Guild of Craftsmen. We have wanted to pay a visit all year but there has always been some reason why we never got there, even getting to their door at one point and finding they were closed.

Addendum 2. The Devon Guild of Craftsmen are no more, after a deadly virus wiped them all out. No, I'm not talking about Covid, I am talking about the Woke virus which addles people's brains to the point that they deny reality, and instead take comfort from creating a parallel universe of perceived virtue which they then proceed to cleanse of all polluting contrary opinions. The Devon Guild of Craftsmen had one major problem, the three letters at the end of the word craftsmen, so in future they have been re-designated by the politburo "Woke", sorry that should be "Make", because not only have the "men" been expunged, so has the "craft".

"MAKE" Southwest was founded as Devon Guild of Craftsmen in 1955 by a small group of makers, led by Edward Baly, who were enthusiastic about the idea of promoting the best in regional craftwork.

You see they are so triggered by the "men" in "craftsmen" that they are even claiming that back in 1955 they were "makers" not "craftsmen" even though the original name said otherwise, but if you visit the mill, according to their website, the staff of eight are all women. There are currently 12 makers listed in exhibitions, one of whom is a man. So maybe they have a point changing the name and deleting the "men" after all.

"In November 2021 the organisation changed its name to "MAKE Southwest" to more accurately represent their offering."

I'm not sure they haven't shot themselves in the foot as I don't know about you, but "make" and "craftsman" are two totally different concepts in the real world as far as I am concerned. At The Devon Guild of Craftsmen I expected to find beautiful hand crafted furniture or jewellery. At "MAKE Southwest" I expect to find double glazing, curtains, or bedside cabinets. Where is the poetry or the craft in that name conjured up by algorithm. I don't hand craft objects but I make stuff all the time. I made toast for breakfast. What a shame it is that our language is daily being castrated and neutered of it's meaning.

This is the sort of thing you will see written about "Makers" exhibiting at "Make".

Her making day starts with lighting a candle “offering herbs to the fire. I use sage or mugwort and a feather to clear the energy. It gives me mental energy and the spirit is more likely to be present. I give tobacco to the torch as a way of thanking the metal for being there and me asking for its help in making something beautiful.” Then she works like any other silversmith.

The objects, despite all that, are quite beautiful.

(Below, aging cornichon tongs)

Today the mill was open and had some very nice things in it but as we are in decluttering mode not acquisition mode, we think very carefully before adding, spending most of our life subtracting. I did however spot a miniscule hand made ceramic light pull, which was something we actually did need as the one we had, had broken the other day and it is difficult to find miniscule light pulls around here, most being seemingly life size dolphins or lighthouses in garish colours. Using a life sized dolphin to switch on the bathroom light might be a novelty but is not that practical.

The restored Riverside Mill building in the centre of Bovey Tracey is home to the Devon Guild of Craftsmen. The building was never used as a mill but was built in 1850 as a stable. The waterwheel simply collected water from the river for use in the stables and Bridge House.

The café of course was closed so we had to venture into the High Street where someone has cleverly created a 1970's café re-enactment museum. At least I think that's what it was. The table cloths were lace, sealed in with some sort of sticky plastic sheet over the top, the seats were spindle chairs designed by the local chiropractor to drum up business and the menu could only be described as idiosyncratic, just like most of the 1970's.

My word for the day, Idiosyncratic- An individualizing characteristic or quality. : Characteristic peculiarity (as of temperament) broadly : eccentricity. Early 17th century (originally in the sense ‘physical constitution peculiar to an individual’): from Greek idiosunkrasia, from idios ‘own, private’ + sun ‘with’ + krasis ‘mixture’.

I think the key words are peculiarity and eccentricity. I say eccentricity as I have never walked into a café anywhere in Britain where a bacon sandwich is not on the menu. After Chicken Tikka Masala it must be the most quintessentially English comestible available nationwide. But we were out of luck, because having hand sanitised, masked up, Covid Apped, unmasked and taken off our coats and sat down, we suddenly realised we had been duped. No bacon sandwiches. Now sometimes circumstances allow for lack of bacon when you wander into a Jewish café, or a Muslim café, or a Vegan café for example, but none of these were the case in this instance because they had bacon. You just weren't allowed to have it in a sandwich, you could only have it in a scone, and with cheese. Why? I suppose we will just have to put it down to being in a 1970's café re-enactment museum.

This phenomenon of being in an establishment and being able to see the food you want right there but being disallowed from having it in the format you want is something unique to Britain in my experience.

It reminds me of a small station buffet in Gloucestershire which actually was a re-enactment of a thirties railway buffet because it actually was a steam train museum, I was lying about the one in Bovey Tracey in case you hadn't detected the sarcasm. Here we perused the menu and fancied a Breakfast Bap, this is two levels above a bacon sandwich having sausages and fried egg in it too, the bap being a large flattish soft floured bun. We went up to the counter and ordered two Breakfast Baps only to be told they were no longer serving breakfast as it was after 11.30, it was 11.35. So looking bereft she comforted us in the knowledge that she could offer us, from the lunch menu a sausage and bacon bap. Yes, that's right, it's a Breakfast Bap without the fried egg. You work it out.

Then there's the pub we stopped at one Sunday lunchtime in Norfolk, we just wanted a sandwich, and this time we weren't fussy about what was in it. So we go up to the counter and ask if we can get a drink and a sandwich. No. We don't do sandwiches on Sunday. Why? We are doing Sunday Lunch, and there's a choice of pork, turkey or beef. But we don't want a meal just a sandwich. Do you have bread? Puzzled look, Yes. Well can we have either some pork, turkey or beef in between two slices of bread? No, we don't do sandwiches on Sunday. This place probably sat 150 people and there were about 12 people in there and as many staff, ready roasted pork, ready roasted turkey and ready roasted beef, plus loaves of bread, but we left with nothing. By now you are starting to wonder if I am ever going to get around to Cornichon tongs. Well these are they. Old ones on the left and new ones on the right.

Addendum 3. It has since been pointed out to me that the article we bought, on the right, is actually not a pair of Cornichon Tongs, meaning the whole premise for this original blog post was an unintentional fraud. The item we bought is actually a non conducting (wood) tongs, for inserting into an electric toaster for extracting wedged toast without electrocution, or in my case wedged bagels without electrocution because I don't have much of a problem with wedged toast, electric or otherwise.

Having left 1970's re-enactment Bovey Tracey we headed home, only to call in at Dartington Craft Centre and Shopping Mall. (my description) home of everything overpriced (in my opinion). We discovered that after my last scathing Tripadvisor review where I had to explain that because there was only thirty minutes free parking after which you have to pay, that we had left without looking around any of the shops because our free thirty minutes involved getting a lecture on the environment and climate change before we were handed our coffee in cups made from recycled moss and regurgitated wholemeal pasta or something equally unlikely. I am presuming someone had read my review because there is now two hours of free parking, that's the popular uprising and the power of the internet for you.

As a consequence we actually spent some money this time, so the free parking paid off in spades. Now we are getting to the Cornichon Tongs. The first thing we spotted were the most expensive place mats in the world, made from recycled flip-flops, found washed up on beaches. OK, sounds really awful, not to mention unhygienic, serving up a luscious pannacotta to your dinner guests on a place mat made from someone's old flip-flop, but actually they were rather nice, no I don't mean the person who owned the flip-flop.

The beach plastic fragments are mixed with cork fragments, presumably having been washed thoroughly first, these are from Portugal, hence the cork, and then bonded together in some wonder material to make a rather attractive finish, probably more plastic. As a consequence they do actually end up looking like a heavily plastic polluted beach in The Gambia. Nice. They should sell large sheets of this stuff so you can lie on it at home imagining you are on beautiful palm fringed, plastic coated beaches in warm places.

But I still haven't enlightened you about the Cornichon tongs. About forty years ago, Cornichons were unheard of in Britain and we first sampled the delectable little pickles in France where they usually came served with a handy pair of Cornichon tongs, so of course we bought cornichons to bring back home and with them our favourite little wooden pair of cornichon tongs, which we bought from an 1880's ironmonger re-enactment shop in a side street in a small hamlet in rural France somewhere near the Loire.

Cornichons have the advantage over the traditional British pickled gherkin, which is the size of a salami, in that they are sweet and crunchy and dainty and slightly tangy with vinegar, whereas the pickled gherkin is more useful should you find your car battery acid levels running a bit low. We had noticed lately that the cornichon tongs were a little worse for wear having done sterling service in the cornichon serving world. So while we were in Dartington and buying the world's most expensive place mats we also picked up a quite stylish pair of tongs made of wood which look like a reliable replacement. I somehow doubt they will last 40 years but as I will be about 100 by then I will not worry too much about that for now.

Currently the Queen sends a special message to anyone who reaches 100, if this tradition lasts I may be getting mine from King William, now there's a thought. I was being a bit presumptuous here in assuming Prince Charles was not going to reach 112 but you never know, all that organic food and Malvern water he consumes might just pay off.

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