All Aboard For Something New

Christopher Fowler
Free at last. No more hospitals for now. Apart from the unappealing carrot of another experimental trial (this one with even lower survival odds and half of it placebos) happening at the other end of the city there's nothing else, so I'm letting nature take its course. This doesn't automatically mean I'm going to vanish overnight, and my most fervent wish is to stay well enough for at least part of each day to write one last Bryant & May story. I was originally commissioned for a further volume I called 'The House That Jack Built', and see no reason not to continue with the original plan for as long as I can. If you think I wrote myself into a corner in the 'London Bridge Is Falling Down', you should know that's what writers love to do. As tricksters, we are versed in the dark art of rug-pulls and escapes, although personally I prefer to keep them a tad more plausible than say, John Dickson Carr's 'The Hollow Man'. Although that book is often billed as the best locked-room mystery of all time, its solution is also fabulously stupid. Besides, 'The House That Jack Built' is not about the detectives but the crime, which unfolds in a milieu with which Mr Bryant is entirely unfamiliar; the London suburbs. His knowledge of history won't help him now (thank God, because I feel like 'Bryant & May's Peculiar London' is the last word on that subject) and even worse, he has do deal with an actual ordinary family. Which of course means that he upsets everyone. That's the plan, anyway. As we know from our studies of mice and men, nothing will go accordingly. Meanwhile, I'll be talking for as long as my voice holds out on board the Golden Hinde at St Mary Overie Dock, London Bridge on Wednesday August 3 - what a venue! I can't wait. If you're in the area that evening, there are still some available tickets.  


Roger (not verified) Sun, 24/07/2022 - 09:12

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"With one bound he was free!"
In life as in art, I hope.

Jo W (not verified) Sun, 24/07/2022 - 09:14

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Got the tickets, Chris, we looking forward to seeing you ( this time?)
Another Bryant and May story? I wonder which suburbs you’ll use.

Des Burkinshaw (not verified) Sun, 24/07/2022 - 10:53

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I'll be there - with a couple of big fans of yours:)

BarbaraBoucke (not verified) Sun, 24/07/2022 - 13:02

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Unfortunately California is a bit far away - although I live inland from Drake's Bay where Sir Francis Drake landed having alledgedly missed San Francisco Bay. I went aboard the Golden Hinde in London when it was on view before sailing to California - where I went to see it again! It's an amazing ship and what a great venue for your talk. Wish I could be there! Have a great evening!!!

Ian Mason (not verified) Sun, 24/07/2022 - 13:38

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Sal and m'self are booked for the Golden Hinde so fingers crossed that you'll be feeling in fine fettle on the day.

This will be a new experience for me. I've sat next to the Golden Hinde countless times, staring at it from the terrace of the pub next door, once also watching the smoke rise from the bombing of the Baltic Exchange, but I've never been on it.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Sun, 24/07/2022 - 13:55

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First, considering your history, I suggest the Golden Hinde people issue personal flotation devices to all attendees. With that history in mind, it struck me that 'Holidays From Hell' would have made a terrific travel and tourism company, with you as head guide, of course, for those for whom the usual adventure travel has begun to pale. 'Bored with climbing Everest or paddling down waterfalls ? Now you can risk your life with Christopher Fowler, novelist extraordinaire and expert in natural disasters. Earthquakes and tsunamis our specialities.'

Anyway, delighted that all that hectoring from me may actually result in 'The House That Jack Built.' Knowing you, I assume you won't take the easy way out with the lads' reappearance as Conan Doyle did with Holmes and Watson by making 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' a kind of prequel, rather than a true resurrection, after that unfortunate cliff diving accident in 'The Final Problem.' Btw --- we would also expect a series of short stories after 'The House That Jack Built,' following the Conan Doyle model, with 'The Return of Sherlock Holmes.' Should keep you profitably busy for at least the next two years.

BarbaraBoucke (not verified) Sun, 24/07/2022 - 14:38

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Ian Mason - just a side note about the Golden Hinde. I "learned" about it and Sir Francis Drake in school, but I had no idea how small that ship was until I went aboard the replica in London. That Drake achieved what he did then became quite amazing to me. I hope you get to walk around the deck a bit just to get a sense of the size. Have a great evening!

Martin Kelly (not verified) Sun, 24/07/2022 - 15:07

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Oh I don't know what to say. Such good news about The House That Jack Built and yet I feel the need to continue lighting the metaphorical candle for your extended good health. I've followed the PCU from the start and I fervently hope both the old rascals and you can carry on delighting us!

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Sun, 24/07/2022 - 16:55

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Btw --- it would be a rare cancer clinical trial where you're given only a placebo. Most cancer clinical trials do not use placebos unless they are given along with an active drug. It’s unethical to give someone a placebo instead of a treatment that’s known to work or has the potential to work. Cold comfort perhaps, but there is always hope. Until there isn't.

Peter T (not verified) Sun, 24/07/2022 - 18:33

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Beware vengeful Spaniards sending fire ships!

Helen+Martin (not verified) Sun, 24/07/2022 - 18:55

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Chris, I do hope you get as much entertainment from the posts as we do. Fire ships!!!

lw (not verified) Mon, 25/07/2022 - 02:40

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Wish I could attend!
Your Bryant and May books are my favourite! I'm so glad there will be another one. London Bridge is Falling Down was wonderful and ended as I thought it should. You have made these characters so loveable and real that I was so saddened I almost cried at the end.
Thank you for all the days your books have made brighter!
Your strength is amazing and you inspire people every day.

Nick (not verified) Mon, 25/07/2022 - 11:03

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Curses! In the middle of my family holiday in Wales! Hope the event goes swimmingly.

Joan (not verified) Mon, 25/07/2022 - 15:39

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Perhaps not swimmingly Nick, that brings to mind the Jonah of the old Beano. I’ve love to be there regardless, but being in the New World can only watch in envy!

Jan (not verified) Mon, 25/07/2022 - 16:43

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You have no doubt heard of the Severn Bore an odd seasonal "high tide" set of waves whose appearances can be predicted and timetabled at various points along the Severn . Well just double check in case of some entirely unpredictable Thames type Tsunami not yet time tabled but which might just put in an appearance on Wednesday August 3rd. More than likely @ St. Mary Overie Dock along the South Bank.
Stu's got roughly the right idea but I'd recommend taking along Scuba gear.

Christine (not verified) Mon, 25/07/2022 - 16:53

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x&1§ I will leave on Monday.

Elizabeth Toews (not verified) Mon, 25/07/2022 - 20:54

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Your books have meant so much to me. I wish I could see on the Golden Hinde, but I am here in Ontario. So looking forward to Stranger than Fiction' Peculiar London, still have an old compilation of the columns. The Sir John Cass story had a special resonance as that was my Dad's school. May your voice and the rest of you stay strong.

Wayne Mook (not verified) Tue, 26/07/2022 - 00:26

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Sadly I'll be working a late in Manchester, hope it goes well. The boat does look like it's floating in that picture. And here's a random house connection, Doubleday or Transworld if you will, not to mention the Penguin, you will be on the feathered non-fiction imprint of Penguin, Pelican, which was renamed mid voyage to the Golden Hind.

I meant to say I have my copy of Peculiar London, a lovely book with turquoise blue end papers. The thing I would like to know is the best way to read the book, like most books about a place I've been dipping in and out of it, I do this with quite a few non fiction books that don't follow a linear tale. Some history books might as well be fiction the way they are written. So she I read it from start to finish or keep dipping in and out of chapters?

On the odd food front, I'm almost out of Vimto jam and have been unable to score another jar, it looks like it will become a warm memory from late middle age/early old age like Champagne Marmite.

I have tried another odd combo, and I blame my genes (Dutch and mainly North-West English bits), as pointed out to me the Dutch eat chips with mayo, it works trust me, but I know some people put mayo on their chips and gravy (I remember a friend had been to London and came back to school with the incredulous news that London chippies didn't do gravy, not even on its own. The horror though whispered soon spread around the playground.) Now if you've never tasted mayo and gravy, the gravy brings out the taste of the mustard and vinegar from the mayo (I know from experience, what can I say, I used to drink a lot more, although some people - mentioning no names, especially those of my wife and little sister, do this sober. The only thing worse if vinegar and gravy, all that happens is that the gravy tastes of vinegar, you might as well ask for lots of vinegar, at least its free, not mentioning any names, especially that of my little sister.) Why do I mention this and why don't I get to the point? Well I bought Hellmann's Gravy flavoured Mayonnaise , I know. It does taste like proper gravy and Mayo though, it does brings out the vinegar and mustard flavour in the mayo. If you like that sort of thing, you'll like this, my wife says I can buy it again, and I am tempted. What puzzles me is the bottom of the front label that says, restaurant inspired, really what restaurant does gravy mayo? I know some people will add mayo to gravy, but what restaurant have these people been going to? (I remember the Dutch Pancake House in Manchester which had an odd mix of savoury/sweet dishes - gravy on sweet pancakes, but not mayo & gravy.)

Sorry for the ramble,


Stu-I-Am (not verified) Tue, 26/07/2022 - 01:29

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@Wayne Mook Wayne --- Looks like Hellman's attempt at bridging the North/South chippy tea condiment divide in one bottle (gravy to the north, mayo below). I expect a review of the chilli and coronation chicken versions.

roy thomas (not verified) Tue, 26/07/2022 - 01:31

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WE should meet or correspond.I am a polymath.perhaps I could help you.I am a christian and agree with chris landon on the exitence of God.he is regarded by some to be the smartest man alive.but is he?I suggest you listen to his inerviews on you tube.quite an astounding man.speaks simply unlke hawkings moron.

snowy (not verified) Tue, 26/07/2022 - 11:50

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And I thought I was a bit 'Radio Rental'.

[And if the following words don't confirm it, well....]

Gravy and Mayonnaise, should work... it hits the same hot, sour, umami taste bud combination as something like Beef and Horseradish does.

There is a recipe for Vimto jam in 'The Great Northern Cookbook' by Sean Wilson:

A punnet each of Strawb', Rasp', Blue' and Blackberries, Jam sugar (with Pectin) half the weight of the fruit, 100ml Vimto.

[Make up as.... well jam.]

Copies of the book are probably available all over the place.

Wayne Mook (not verified) Tue, 26/07/2022 - 11:53

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Stu I was holding off on the other flavours but if I see them again I'll give them a go. The Chilli Marmite is I like, takes a little of the salty tang away but gives a nice mild chilli burn.


Cornelia Appleyard (not verified) Tue, 26/07/2022 - 12:13

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Did you know you can get Vimto jelly babies and flying saucers as well?

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Tue, 26/07/2022 - 14:27

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@snowy So now do you believe what can happen after an alien abduction ?

Peter T (not verified) Tue, 26/07/2022 - 15:11

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For my taste, beef dripping is the essential flavour for chips. If they are prepared with good beef dripping, no dressings are required, apart, possibly, from the smallest amount of salt. The same goes for roast potatoes. When shouldn't you cook with beef dripping? When it's better to use olive oil. Incidentally, beef dripping is, surprisingly enough for an animal product, actually good for you.

Jan (not verified) Tue, 26/07/2022 - 18:09

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Are you folk MAD?

The very best thing apart from a piece of battered haddock or cod to have with your chips + mushy peas
is a Curry Sauce. Either the gloopy stuff with sultanas and currants floating about in it - or my own person favourite a Chinese curry sauce preferably with onions and more than a few big prawns. Delicious. Quite marvellous. Northern cuisine at its very best.

Meat + Tata pie and chips is also very acceptable as is a steak pudding with chips . Steak pud and meat and Tata pie can include extra meat gravy but not just gravy + chips. That's mistreatment of chips if you ask me. Beef dripping chips are best. Beef dripping is Like the Atkins version of potato food. Honestly it is.

Do they really do Vimto flying saucers? Never! Vimto jelly babies sound very plausible but flying
Saucers - no? Whatever next?

Now because of food listings changes you have to call meat and potato pie potato + meat pie.
Cos more Tatas than meat see?

Jan (not verified) Tue, 26/07/2022 - 18:18

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Is Sean Wilson not the bloke who used to be Martin Platt on.Coronation Street? I suppose I could Google him to find out. He's become some sort of cheese making expert apparently.

I saw him once on an escalator in Manchester near Victoria station. He's got one of them faces that make you think you knew him from school.

I have decided that that Liz Truss person looks like she's suffering from a permanent toothache. I'm not being political but she just does doesn't she? Like she's got some horrible trouble with her molars or something....

Joan (not verified) Tue, 26/07/2022 - 19:50

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My Husband was Irish and when he discovered Spaghetti he used to eat it with HP Sauce. Of course he ate everything else with HP Sauce too.

Andy Morley (not verified) Tue, 26/07/2022 - 21:08

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Mint sauce on your mushy peas!

snowy (not verified) Tue, 26/07/2022 - 22:51

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Readers listening to the column in stereo should note the tearing sound they might hear is not a technical fault, but our host pulling out his barnet on discovering we have gone completely tonto and have spilt food over his nice clean book blog.

Chips cooked in anything other than dripping are not chips, but some sort of modern abomination concocted by people that hate their food tasting of anything.

Mint sauce on mushy peas can be a bit 'bright' and overwhelm the fish, [but if it works for you then crack on - a good dash of black pepper for mine, ta.]

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Wed, 27/07/2022 - 00:39

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Well, according to a wildly unscientific survey (but supported by the 'Sun,' so you know it must be true...) next to salt and vinegar, tomato ketchup, curry sauce and mushy peas are the UK chip toppings of choice.

Helen+Martin (not verified) Wed, 27/07/2022 - 04:19

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Mercy on us all! What gets in to you people? Gravy and mayonnaise? Now curry sauce on chips might just be good, but I don't care for mushy peas period. As for the jam, that sounds like a day at one end or the other of the jam season and results in a blend or melange if you're feeling fancy.
There is a book currently popular here called "Chop Suey Nation" which is a rough history of how the "not real" dish called chop suey developed and spread across Canada as Chinese families spread and opened cafes and restaurants. In every area the local Chinese restaurant picked up a favourite flavour and added it to the chop suey in one way or another. I wonder if the same thing happened to fish and chips in Britain - and we've tampered with it, too.

Jan (not verified) Wed, 27/07/2022 - 07:37

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It wasn't till I moved to London that I realised that the Curry Sauce and salt + vinegar on your chips weren't necessarily meant to go together. Vinegar sort of gave a sweet and sour element to curry sauce.

Helen I think that book "Chop Suey Nation" is entirely right if this book gets marketed in the UK will be Britain's "Chip Suet Nation"

Nick (not verified) Wed, 27/07/2022 - 09:20

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Does no-one care about tartare sauce?

Peter T (not verified) Wed, 27/07/2022 - 10:42

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Snowy, we're not going totally off topic into chattery. We're giving Mr F a gentle hint that 'Mr Bryant's Peculiar Foods' might be an interesting read, even a cookery best seller.

Paul C (not verified) Wed, 27/07/2022 - 11:34

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Moving back to bookchat, I’ve just read Rocket Man and Other Extraordinary Characters in The History of Flight by David Darling.

This contains a wonderful anecdote about the test pilot Jack Woolams (1917 - 46), a practical joker who in a strange futuristic P-59 jet flew alongside ordinary pilots when dressed as a gorilla wearing a top hat and smoking a cigar. He would then effortlessly fly away at an impossible speed (for that time) leaving the ordinary pilots shocked out of their wits. Id like to have met him. No prizes for guessing why his life was so short..........

Cornelia Appleyard (not verified) Wed, 27/07/2022 - 11:48

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Jan - I agree, I won’t be trying Vimto flying saucers, not that I liked the original flying saucers much anyway.
I agree with the rest of you that chips don’t taste proper if no beef dripping is involved.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Wed, 27/07/2022 - 12:10

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@admin Sorry. Wayne made me do it.

Stu-I-Am (not verified) Wed, 27/07/2022 - 13:54

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My friends, we shouldn't waste the little precious time we have left here before plug-pulling commenting on chip toppings. We should talk about the shocking shortage of mustard in France -- or cricket...

Joan (not verified) Wed, 27/07/2022 - 14:02

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Rocket Man will always be Elton John to me!!!

Helen+Martin (not verified) Wed, 27/07/2022 - 20:33

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Oh, dear, and the mustard shortage is a Canadian problem. The prairies didn't plant as much as usual last year and then that hot summer we had fried the crop so the total yield was only 35% of normal. In checking that out I discovered that Grey Poupon is owned by the French's people and another upscale brand is owned by Unilever. There's nothing wrong with diversifying, of course.
Is there a shortage of cricket in France or just that the world needs more cricket news? Our Football Club, the Whitecaps, just won the Canadian championship.

Stephen (not verified) Thu, 28/07/2022 - 06:07

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I’d like to say to you, Chris, before the opportunity passes me by, that your books have afforded me many merciful hours of escape from private hells these many years, and for that I’m extremely grateful.

Wayne Mook (not verified) Thu, 28/07/2022 - 21:25

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Sorry, guilty as charged governor. For the record it should have read, Chilli Marmite I like.

My favourite Vimto sweets are probably the Vimto chewy sweets, similar to Chewits in size, look and texture. (I still think the Chewits monster was based on the one from The Night of the Demon.) I have stayed clear of fried eggs Vimto sweets. Flying saucers were always disappointing, went rather soggy and the sherbet was in some very lacking, the Vimto ones the sherbet is Vimto flavours, sham they don't do a Sherbet mountain or Sherbet Dib-Dab Vimto. You ca get an e-cig liquid in Vimto flavour.

I was going to mention cricket & football (England vs germany in the Euro's final, and you can't blame us blokes this time.) but thought I rambled a little too much even though it was under the guise of splendid names, in cricket Mr. Northeast scored over 400 runs for Glamorgan, and in football in the Scottish league cup sadly Bonnyrigg Rose were knocked out, in other Scottish football news Civil Service Strollers were beaten 3 goals to 1 by Gala Fairydean Rovers.

Jan - I thought Truss looked pained as well, but I was thinking serious constipation allied to painful hemorrhoids. I hope Sunak wins as he seems less likely to sack me, err reduce the civil service, including NHS, Military and police, smaller government means cutting everyone else except parliament that seems to have more paid hang... special advisors and splendid pay rises set by an independent panel which was removed for all other parts of government, odd that.

Thanks for the recipe tip Snowy, I may have make my own, at least i came across a bottle of Vimto winter Warmer, there version of mulled wine, or should that be mulled Vimto.

Paul C - was he mauled to death by an amorous gorilla?

As Chris is nearly celebrating Scottish August bank holiday, it's at the beginning of August to catch the last of the Scottish summer, I can give you heads up to events in Bolton (local dish Meat and Potato pie (that's how it still is in the local chippies) with mushy peas, similar to what they have in Sydney, Australia) on the Bolton Food Festival amongst the celebrity chefs who can have the Fawlty Towers Dinning Experience, I wonder if the Torquay food travels well? I did note the the butter pie is now called a potato pie, so much for tradition.

I still keep dipping in and out of Peculiar, am I doing it wrong do you think?


PS I shouldn't mention this but I did come across a recipe for Vimto Chicken Curry, and there is a Vimto cookbook by by David Clare and Paul Hartley, Hartley has quite a bit of previous with odd cook books.

Diane (not verified) Fri, 29/07/2022 - 05:29

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You have completely ruled out the new trial?

Sarah Willis (not verified) Mon, 01/08/2022 - 11:10

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I was unaware of your health issues until very recently. Now I do know, I simply wanted to let you know how much pleasure your Bryant and May novels have given me, especially as audio books narrated by Tim Goodman. Great stuff. I wish you well and hope miracles do actually happen...