The Weasel

The megalithic past of Yorkshire finds an echo in some modern words of wisdom, while the delights of Rolled Pig's Spleen prove irresistible

HAVE US down as old hippies, but the Weasel family has a soft spot for stone circles, barrows and tumuli of all descriptions. A few weeks ago, we decided to renew our acquaintance with Britain's tallest standing stone. This prodigious lump is not to be found at Stonehenge or Avebury, but in a village called Rudston, a few miles from our northern bolthole on the Yorkshire coast, in the sublime high country inland from Bridlington. The monolith appears unremarkable when viewed from a distance, since it is dominated and diminished by a church that has been brutally plonked alongside. (Like the hot-cross bun, the great menhir was a pagan symbol appropriated by Christianity.) But get up close, and the impact of this immense finger of rock is phenomenal. Twenty-six feet of beautifully dressed millstone grit, weighing as much as 40 tons, looms over you. A Stone Age skyscraper.

The Rudston monolith is rightly accorded star status in The Modern Antiquarian (Thorsons, pounds 29.99), Julian Cope's encyclopaedic, if deeply quirky, guide to megalithic Britain. Yes, it's the pop chappie from The Teardrop Explodes, who now devotes his energies to researching such arcane matters. He writes: "Rudston is an eerie place, built precariously on an ancient past of true psychedelic intensity." Crumbs. It turns out that the monolith is the most substantial of umpteen ancient constructions to be found near an intermittent stream charmingly called the Gypsey Race. Mr Cope points out: "The complex of great stone and earth monuments built along the magical Gypsey Race on the Yorkshire Wolds was once a great neolithic centre which stretched for miles."

"Race" used in this context is defined by the Shorter OED as "the channel or bed of a stream". This is spot-on because anything other than a trickle is a rarity, depending on the overflow of a chalk aquifer under the wolds. It happened earlier this year when a prolonged deluge afflicted this neck of the woods. When in spate, however, it seems that the stream is more deeply magical than even Julian Cope makes out. In support of this view, I refer you to an item which appeared last month in that mystical publication known as the Yorkshire Post.

"Folklore says that when the stream flows in the village of Burton Fleming, a disaster is sure to follow," warns this journal of the esoteric. "And now, the `Woe Waters' have begun to flow once again. Their arrival has, over the years, marked the start of both world wars. It also foretold the arrival of the Great Plague in 1665." Pushing its luck a bit, the Yorkshire Post notes the catastrophe that occurred when the Gypsey Race was last in spate, five years ago: "A farmyard barn burnt down in the centre of the village."

Last weekend, when we were once again up north, Mrs Weasel and I took a close look at this weirdly prophetic channel. Drizabone, as the Aussies say. Has the terrible threat passed or is it yet to come? Of course, there can't be anything in such superstitious nonsense. You only have to look at the world to see that everything is right as rain.


THE FASHIONABLY louche crowd which was flooring champagne in the St John restaurant might have come from a Fellini film, but the cause of the celebration could scarcely have been more British. We were there for the launch of a book called Nose to Tail Eating (Macmillan, pounds 20) by Fergus Henderson, the chef-patron of this Clerkenwell eatery. It contains such hearty yeomen's fare as rolled pig's spleen, blood cake and fried eggs, and pea and pig's ear soup (temptingly described as "a very dour recipe, but no less delicious for that"). This uncompromisingly carnivorous cuisine goes down a storm with the hearty yeomen of EC1.

For all his love of the visceral and sanguinary, Mr Henderson is far from being one of the new breed of sweaty, foul-mouthed chefs. When at his customary post in St John, perhaps checking an arrangement of warm pig's head or garnishing a plate of stuffed trotter, he resembles a Thirties dance-band leader. It could be the round tortoiseshell specs (he was an architect before taking up the skillet) which promotes this likeness. Though the essence of polite restraint, Mr Henderson permitted his brow the hint of a furrow when I suggested to him that some readers may have trouble getting hold of the sheep's stomach and pluck ("the heart, lungs, windpipe, liver and some intestines") required for his haggis recipe. "Any butcher should be able to supply sheep's lights. Speak severely to him."

Our dapper host responded to my inquiry about crispy pig's tail in almost transcendental terms. "The tail is easily the best bit of the pig's extremities, such as trotter, snout and ears," he eulogised. "It provides a oneness of the flesh and the fat. Quite extraordinary. A jewel." Despite venturing into territory left unexplored by other cookbooks, Nose to Tail Eating does not give details of several dishes that crop up on the menu at St John. For example, there's nothing about squirrels. Mr Henderson explained to me that their recent appearance on his plates resulted from "a cull on the Badminton estate", presumably in advance of the horse trials taking place there this week.

But I was most interested in whelks, which I've consumed more or less happily in St John on several occasions. As I wrote here a few weeks ago, my attempt to cook them at home resulted in rubbery inedibility. "We're very keen on whelks, but people are reluctant to eat them," declared Mr H. "It's very hard to speak for whelks. They have to speak for themselves. People who try them usually like them. You just put some in salty water and get simmering. Can't remember how long. Quite a while. By the end, they should be soft and tender and sweet." Note that he didn't say "vulcanised and impenetrable and bereft of flavour". But if that's your aim, the Weasel can supply full details.


WHAT A joy to hear Stan Tracy choosing SJ Perelman's Crazy Like a Fox as his desert island book. It would be mine too, except that I've a slight preference for The Rising Gorge. What? You've never read these incomparable collections of feuilletons (Perelman's own word) by this presiding genius among humorists? You don't have to take my word for his dazzling brilliance. This is a "How to Avoid Prozac List" offered by the graphic novelist Art Spiegelman in The New Yorker a couple of weeks ago: "SJ Perelman, Laurel & Hardy, Damon Runyon, Tex Avery and the Marx Brothers." (What a pantheon!) Inexplicably, it is virtually impossible to track down editions of Perelman. My copy of Crazy Like a Fox dates from 1951. Worse still, a chunky collection of his work - The Most of SJ Perelman - has fallen out print. Some sapient publishing house should remedy this and pronto. Our national well-being depends on it.

Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower