Author Archives: jennyridgwell

March 21st Mark’s Title – Fun Jenny’s title 2 sides of a coin

March 21st Mark’s Title – Fun

From Mark

Two amazing experiences. One on March 19th was very sad. You may have read about Anna Campbell – the daughter of Dirk Campbell, a good friend of ours and amazing musician who played in Villa Events in Grange Road. Anna died last week in Syria, working alongside women who supported the Kurdish forces. Her transport was targeted by the Turks and her body remains somewhere in Afrin, unable to be recovered. We went to the memorial meeting on a freezing night on Cliffe Bridge and it was very moving.

Yesterday I went to Jeremy for the lastest acupuncture session before he goes on holiday. Jeremy always asks how I feel and this time I said my gut and stomach had been upset for weeks – in Shakespeare’s terms it caused the ‘ague’. He put 2 needles in my belly and an hour later all the ague had gone and still not returned today. Acupuncture is a winner and how lovely to wake up this morning to another of Seaford’s cloudless, blue skies, with boats going out to the wind farms and to fish, and the shingle movers maybe bringing this 5 week session to an end.

From Jenny 2 sides of a coin

Mark is looking fitter and fatter than he has done in weeks, and his face has a suntanned glow from who knows what.  I’ve been able to spend normal time in Lewes and we plan to go to Wimbledon at the weekend as the flat should be ready after its refurbishment.

Meantime I have boxed up my ‘Just in case’ collection of medicine and instructions which are given to carers of people who are terminally ill. The pharmacist asked if I knew what to do with the stuff and seeing my puzzled face, said I needed a medically trained person to administer them. ‘Where do I magic that person from?’ was my reply – I left off the f… word.. It seems I dial 999 and the magicians will come.

Good old Google helps me out again. The Just in Case box was developed because professional help and the medicines were often not available beyond normal working hours, Monday to Friday and this led to ‘feelings of anxiety heightened in patients and carers.’ Bloody right it does. Weekends are a bugger.  ‘Fewer surgeries are open on Saturdays and GPs can opt out of out-of-hours care.’ Our surgery phone line says ring 111. I tried it one night and would have got more help from a dead cat.

So now I’ve got a toxic mix of diamorphine, midazolam, cyclizine and glycopyrronium – and some phials of water. But it’s not for me to use or learn to spell – I just need Mervin the magician to come with a syringe when I wave a magic wand.

I feel we all need to address the issue of dying with dignity and like the C word, assisted dying has been in the news. In the Sunday Times Professor Paul Cosford explained about his choice in end of life care as he has incurable lung and liver cancer. He says he would like a quiet chat with his GP when his time is nearly up and ask for medication to make it easier when the time comes.

His challenging talk to The Royal Society of Medicine is on this link

These are some parts that mean a lot  to me from Paul –

‘I wanted to explore two things to have some control at the time if I need it.  

  1. I don’t want to die with someone jumping up and down on my chest. (Jenny’s note – The form to prevent this must be done by a medical professional and not the carer or patient – we’ve got one! It says ‘Allow a natural death’)
  2. At the point that all my reasonable treatment options run out, and if it all is too much for me, I will have the wherewithal to bring things to a conclusion myself. My thinking was that, if I know that there will be an option that gives me some control, I don’t need to worry now about what might happen at that time.

We need to be much more open about how we help each other to die well. My experience is that I can live much better now if I do face this issue well in advance.

Heidegger the philosopher says  “If I take death into my life, acknowledge it and face it squarely I will free myself from the anxiety of death and the pettiness of life – and only then will I be free to become myself.”

What I want is that the last gift I can give to my family and those closest to me to be that they can say “he died well, and that came at the end of a life in which he made a difference to those around him – he lived well too.” I hope that this afternoon will be a step on the way to making this a reality for more of us than is currently the case.’

His words have really helped me to know that others don’t want to live in LaLa land but want to consider the serious options ahead and have some control.

The other leaflet in The Sunday Times was the Campaign for Dignity in Dying – their mission is to let people have a legal control over how we leave life. The late Terry Pratchett was a patron ‘ I think it’s time we learned to be as good at dying as we are at living.’’Here here’ I echo.

From Guardian 22/3/2018 

Assisted dying is illegal in the UK under the Suicide Act of 1961, punishable with a sentence of up to 14 years in prison.

Every eight days someone travels to Switzerland for an assisted death – average cost £10,000.

Polly Toynbee writes – ‘If, like me, you have watched a beloved parent die in needless pain, longing for an end the doctors denied her, then you know this is a personal right everyone deserves.’

My own mother suffered dreadful pain during her death as we had no help in place. I asked the doctor if he could help. ‘If she were a dog we could put her out of her misery, but it is not allowed.’ That was 34 years ago and now I am revisiting the story with  no more help or ideas of what to do.

The Netherlands had 6,600 assisted deaths in 2017. Death by euthanasia is 4% of all deaths in the Netherlands.


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Tic followed toc

16th March Tic followed by toc

From Mark

Last week Sarah’s business had a visit from Simon Weston from the Falklands and he kindly signed his book for me, dedicated ‘to everyone who’s helped to make it possible for me to be who I am.’


And though I’ve never appreciated it so much before, all the kind words and memories I’ve received in recent weeks do show me just how much we are moulded and rewarded in life by our family and friends and it’s good to have decluttered the brain enough and to have opportunity to see just that.


Interestingly Simon also reflects what Philip Carr Gomm believes when it comes to fears

‘I believe that in life you’ve got to approach and conquer every fear so the more frightened I am, the more important it is that I knock each fear on the head.’


Perhaps that’s what A A Gill was doing when he called his cancer ‘ the full English’. By coincidence my favourite t shirt also depicts the full English breakfast.


From Jenny

In quiet moments, funny memories, phrases or sounds, flash into my mind. Today it’s The Guiness Sea horse advert with the surfers, horses, thudding drum beat and the deep voice saying

‘He waits, that’s what he does. Tic followed toc followed tic followed toc. Here’s to waiting.’


16th March is the third day of Mark’s 2nd chemo treatment and he says he feels trapped. And so do I. We can’t leave and go away. We can’t dream of holidays for summertime, or plan European city breaks. We can’t imagine where our next house will be, or book theatre or art gallery visits.

It feels like the lull before the storm. Like sitting on the upper deck of the Titanic and knowing the iceberg is approaching.

Knowing that we are not going to get in the lifeboats or dive into the freezing Atlantic.

I hope for once we’ve booked first class and are not locked in steerage with Leonardo DiCaprio. Mark starts with his favourite Manhattan cocktail – he’s told the barman how to mix it perfectly despite the tilt in the ship – or is it boat. And I’ve got a glass of the Titanic’s finest Moet champagne. The staff have run off and left us a dinner tray covered with a silver dome in the empty restaurant – Filet mignon for Mark and Lobster thermidor for me. Just sitting there while the band plays Nearer My God to Thee as we wait.


Philip Carr Gomm on his last visit has said to focus on things that are bothering us to discover how they can diminish.

Today my word is ‘powerless’ as it’s the weekend, when the medical world is shut, no-one is working – so don’t get ill.

There’s no point being frustrated by it, just accept and enjoy the day.

Thankyou for the jokes, which I’ll put on the blog. I’m still puzzled how the Eastbourne Hospital oncology department has a zero record for people that don’t turn up for treatment – do they all survive each month?

My obscure thought for the day is ‘What would you do if you had one hour left to live?.’

Here are some results –

Sarah would listen to Mozart for Meditation and feast on her husband Simon’s chicken dinner with garlic, lemon and thyme.

Simon, Sarah’s husband, would play Rachmaninoff Vespers Songs for Cherubin and look at the sky.

Sue, my wonderful masseuse would go and sit by the sea and wait – whatever the weather.

Mark wants to listen to Elvis singing His hand in mine, with our patio doors open and eat smoked salmon and sashimi with a glass of Rioja white wine.

I want a helicopter to fly me to the derelict dockland area in Dieppe to Comptoir a Huitre where the chef has a plate of solette meuniere ready with some chilled white Gascony wine.

Betsy would phone and email all her family and tell them she loves them.

My friend Sue would go and look at the sea and walk about and do very little,

My sister Isobel would want family around and ‘To be in a light filled room with lovely fragrant oils . Rose, geranium, lavender, frankincense and listen to favourite music , ‘Let it be ‘ and ‘Bridge over troubled water’ then hear a beautiful poem ‘The owl and the pussy cat ‘

Giles, her husband, would listen to Starman.

Hermione, Isobel and Gile’s  daughter would like to dance to ‘I follow rivers’ and eat cake and be in the sun.

More responses came in

Laurence Abalone, Scallops in Ginger and Moule Marinere washed down with Puligny Montrachet, whilst watching my daughter showjumping with the Bespermark mountains or the Med in the background here in Cyprus, depending where you gaze….

Des – The last hour? Some music to play:-

Weather Report by the Tennors.
Esta Navidad by Jackie Washington.
Yes it is by The Beatles.
Food to eat also struck a chord, pun intended!
Gravadlax, steak diane and creme brulee with poached rhubarb.
Sourdough base pizza with slices of new potato, cooked beetroot, capers and blue cheese and strewn with rocket followed by semolina pudding with nutmeggy skin and raspberry jam (unseeded of course)
Pork belly with crispy crackling, lashing of English mustard, creamy mash potatoes, cumin flavoured carrot matchsticks and cavolo nero followed by tarte tatin with creme fraiche.

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7th March An Away Day

7th March An Away Day

For the first time in a month I can get away from Seaford. Mark’s sister Carole and husband Tony are staying in The Sea House so a night  in London is a welcome diversion.

Standing at crowded Haywards Heath station, after we’re tipped off the London bound train the announcements are boringly repetitive.

‘The train from … is delayed/cancelled

‘Southern apologises for the inconvenience this may cause you

‘Thameslink apologises for ..

‘On March 12th the RMT union are taking strike action – everyone apologises and check the website before you leave home.

‘Anyone hoping for a relaxing lunch before their afternoon theatre forget it – Southern apologises ..

And anyone booked for Hamilton The musical, forget it and do something fabulous instead.

It’s not a sell out as they claim – I booked tickets a few days ago. And if you want to leave at half time because you do not want to stay in your very expensive seats and listen to such ghastly hip hop, they put yellow barriers in your way and say you can’t leave. Until there are enough of the exiting audience shouting

‘Let us out’ very loudly’ and ‘do I look like a ticket tout?’

Friendships balance the turmoil of the last few weeks.

The drama has been running a month and I’ve missed London. Seaford may have seas, storms and seagulls but it’s no substitute for our many friendships, easy travel and exhibitions and art galleries.

First a visit to our Wimbledon flat which is being refurbished with new floors, plasterwork and redecoration. The place is a dust heap but work is progressing quickly with a deadline of March 21st which I hope Mark can visit to stay.

Then catch up with friends. The light, bright bustle of Carluccios by the river Thames lifts my mood and Eleanor, as always has supportive help and advice. She wisely told me to get on with Power of Attorney so that I can operate banks and stuff if Mark dies. A plate of crispy squid, a bowl of steamed spinach and a glass of Gavi from the wine growing area where Antonio grew up – then another and the future seems possible.

On top of the 93 bus Wimbledon Common glows in the spring sunshine and no doubt the purple crocuses will flower in Cannizaro Park. I’m staying in Linda’s cosy house and like me Linda is a well deserved airbnb superhost.  Unlike me, she’s not threatened with strike off as I cancelled bookings due to Mark’s illness. Harsh business renting rooms.

We share stories of happy times, odd Lancashire recipes and photos at her birthday party where Mark and Axel both look so handsome.

Then onto Bill’s to meet my great travelling companion, Eileen whose energy defies the National Grid.
When Mark and I moved to Lewes in 2008, our Sunday breakfast was a full English in Bill’s first restaurant and grocery shop. Who would have thought that 10 years later there would be nearly 80 Bill’s around the UK. He once told Mark that Wimbledon was one of the most profitable, and the venue is a strange choice for a country themed eating place, down a dull shopping precinct lined with white plastic windows next to Morrisons and the Odeon cinema? But once inside, the nourishment of the Lewes interior floods in. Chandeliers, stripped wooden tables, green, chipped enamel teapots with wired orange gerbera daisies and orange and pink raffia dangling from shelves like a Moroccan souk – Bill once told me his favourite colours were orange and pink, and he grows those colours in his garden.

My favourite tins of Gordal olives come from Bills – plump, huge, green and meaty – and I’ve stocked up with plenty – essential for our guests with their evening drink visit to Seaford.

Eileen is very much onwards and upwards and lifts my spirits with her challenges. I show her the HEAT card that the oncologist says I must read to check on adverse symptoms after chemo and we agree that the medical terms defeat us.

HEAT card for Neutropenic deaths

My Bill’s hamburger and two glasses of chilled Albarino and the future seems brighter.

She’s excited by the Ocean Liners Exhibition at the V&A and I hope I can get to see it before it closes in June.

I catch the early morning train and arrive in Lewes for a bacon sandwich in Bill’s and see Charlie, my grandson, cycling by in Simon’s bicycle, then I’m joined by the ever excitable Daisy and her mum Tamsin which is a delight.

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15th March Second chemo underway

From Mark

After a couple of days of rain and sea mists – yes it can come even to Seaford – the sun is out in a clear blue sky. Seems so strange to sit in hospital looking out at the lovely day outside and yet look around inside and everyone’s sitting and lying around with litres of poison being pumped into their  bodies. This time for me it’ll be a third more than the first batch so slightly concerned at the possible after effects. And you should see the size of chemo pills I need to take over the next two days. In the old currency they’re an inch long.

Fun to confirm how taking chemo in hospital is not a natural state. Our great friend, John Downie has long tried to get Jenny and I tuned into the perfect tic toc required to keep Jenny’s grandfather’s old clock going in New Road. And to John I can say, that the tic tic of the chemo as it’s pumped in is certainly not rhythmic. It’s completely irregular.

Great words of wisdom yesterday came from Philip Carr Gomm, the Chief Druid which were very timely. Philip brings a wonderfully spiritual insight into everything. He said not to fight pain or despair but to embrace it to reduce its strength and that certainly explains a lot of my current experiences. My mind is completely decluttered of all that’s bad and distracting. Instead sitting here with the constant background of the waves opens up all the wonderful values of nature all the way to the horizon.

Back home after chemo and with doors open even at 6pm. Thank goodness for the microclimate of Seaford. Then supper with Jenny, Simon and Annabel.

Woke up this morning with more energy than for weeks so maybe this is what Adam calls his green day straight after chemo. I shall make the most of it with today’s acupuncture and then maybe a trip to Brighton with Annabel and Simon to visit a ‘vape’ friend to explore a more direct way of taking Nigella’s liquid. This really has become a trip through so many new experiences


From Jenny

The hospital is a giant octopus swallowing us all up as we stream through the doors. Walking, limping, shuffling, zimmer frames and wheelchairs. We disappear down the long, hygienically cleaned tentacles to arrive at the oncology sucker end to find a full Outpatients area.

Walking past the closed Interview doors with signs ‘Interview taking place. Please do not disturb‘ reminds me that a few weeks ago we sat there and heard the medical pronouncement in language that still is not clear.  More tense young and old faces strain around the experts for their results and on the table, a coloured box has tissues pulled out in readiness.

A nurse brings more chairs to line up in the corridor as patients are standing, waiting for treatment.

The pen-smeared whiteboard has announcements.

‘1063 people visiting our clinic last month.. 0 (that’s zero) did not turn up for appointments.’

I wonder if they count patients that have ‘passed on’. Surely they must get some surprise cancellations?

Two jolly, grey haired ladies chat about their chemo.

‘My friend sailed through it and lost some weight. I’m really strong, never been ill, so I’m expecting good results.’

Another talks of her cruise to Norway in a few weeks. When Mark tried to get travel insurance, cruises were not covered and he had a ‘precondition’ so they needed to get a doctor’s note before they would consider us..

The day time TV choice in the waiting room shows High Court enforcement officers visiting sad debtors running unsuccessful businesses. Then another soul sapping  programme on break ins with burglars being caught on CCTV.

There’s the usual reading matter in the racks of Macmillan Cancer Support – ‘Give up smoking, Body image and cancer, Travel and cancer.’ Waterstone’s could display them under Misery Reads.

Why can’t we have a Cancer Joke Book? Here’s one from www

Old man goes to the doctor. The doctor says “The test results are back, and I’m sad to say you have cancer and Alzheimer’s.”. The old man says “Phew! At least it’s not cancer!”

Or some Poems in the Waiting room like I see in the dentist.

Two hours after arrival, I leave Mark still waiting for treatment. There are two people ahead of him, and I find the injection of toxins too traumatic to watch.

If you’ve got any jokes or poems that might please, do email us!

Joke reply from Sarah

“People who joke about cancer have no sense of tumor” .

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Mark’s Photos


Mark searching for kittiwakes


Charlie and Mark play hangman


He didn’t catch anything!


Udaipur fabulous lakeside hotel



Lewes bonfire – Mark on the left


Jenny Mark and Steve after the Kythira walk – we found steps for the football team awards


Anne Marie and Pierre Bertin with Mark with broken nose having fallen over French pavement



Pat and Des and Mark in Dorset sunshine


Annabel and Mark in Japan with cherry blossom




Walking in the moonscape of Cappadocia


Kings students in Wimbledon 25th March 2018

E type day out 21/3/2018

On top of the world

E type jaguar day out 21/3/18

Mark and Axel at Linda’s birthday party

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Philip Carr Gomm

This is the second visit by Philip to our house by the sea, and this time, in brilliant sunshine.

The first visit came in torrential rain and storms, just after Mark was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and given weeks to live.

Philip left us with great wisdom, which we turned into our ‘Ganesh moment’ where we sit quietly round our table and light our ‘kitsch’, turquoise elephant candle and wait for someone to speak about the moment, or sit in silence. Despite the raised emotions, we leave feeling very calm and Mark’s face relaxes and looks happy.

We met Philip when he gave a talk at Villa Events in Lewes in 2011.

I came away with three important messages

  1. Walk the land and enjoy the moment – live in the day
  2. Discover the ancient histories of the landscape
  3. Celebrate the seasons and pay attention to how the land and the plants change with the year.

The magical landscape of Sussex has little known stone circles, ley lines, powerful alignments to historic monuments and ancient folklore. Philip, the chief druid, talked about his work and shared his knowledge on the stories and legends of the ancient sites of Sussex. We learnt about giants throwing stones at each other across the South Downs Way, and the eight ancient rituals to celebrate the seasons. Many of these are held on the Tump at Lewes, when a group gathers to pipe in the dawn and acknowledge the power of the earth.

Today we widen the discussion. Mark shares that he is not afraid of death, just sad that he is leaving us all behind. He hopes that the tiny silver elephants that he has commissioned for us will give us strength and contact when he has gone. Philip talks about people visiting in dreams.

By coincidence, my niece has just sent a text that she had a visit from my father in a dream, and that he came to reassure her, and she hopes he will come again. So I guess you never know. As Philip say, the world is all energy that swirls around.

The elephant in the room today are the issues that surround us. I mention despair, and Philip suggests we spend time just thinking of it, and like pain, we may be surprised how a resolution is found.

It’s called ‘paradoxical intention’ – I write notes on it – where ‘what you resist persists’. A concept developed by Dr Viktor Frankl.  We need to focus on the tension or problem, not resist it, and discover how to let it go.

The brain, Philip says, if tuned into the bigger picture. I just hope we both can learn this new skill.

Viktor Frankl wrote of his time being marched to a concentration camp –

My mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her look was then more luminous than the sun which was beginning to rise. I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which Man can aspire.

I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when Man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position Man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment.

Viktor Frankl survived the war but his wife died in Bergen Belsen.

What wise words I will take with me for today.

Annabel and myself are going on Philip Carr Gomm’s Spring retreat

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Chemo cancelled March 13th

Ten minutes before driving to the hospital yesterday for Mark’s second and bigger dose of chemotherapy he gets a phone call. The oncologist has forgotten to write the prescription and she is out of the country and can’t be contacted. Mark’s cancer nurse is not in today, and no, there is no-one else to speak to. Ring tomorrow and we may be able to update you. I wonder if these people have ever experienced the wait and hope for a chemo treatment, and the impact, when you prepare mentally for the challenge, to be told you are cancelled.

Torrential rain is falling which has washed off the seagull poo from our windows.

We have time for an outing but this part of Sussex is closed, unless you want to be blown off the cliff walks.

The one journey we do make is to St Wilfrid’s Hospice in Eastbourne – this may seem a strange choice, but I wanted Mark to visit and see its modern design with its corridors filled with impressive artwork. At such a time, I love the peace, calm and kindness of staff. Unlike the hospital, people have time to talk and offer positive help but we need a doctor’s letter to be able to use the support when needed.

To avoid the storms blowing in from the sea, I drive back on the sheltered, picturesque side of the South Downs, past the road that runs below Folkington church where the food writer Elizabeth David is buried. We were so excited to discover her beautiful headstone which is carved with sprays of olives, figs, lemons, artichokes and aubergines, with a large marmite pot in the centre – the origin of the Marmite name and glass shape. On one of my birthdays, Mark and I toasted her there with champagne and canapes – I’m sure she would have approved.

Inscribed at the headstone base, ‘Her books on cookery brought joy and enlightenment to food lovers all over the world.’

I turn off the A27 and drive past the famous chalk figure of The Long Man of Wilmington cut into the steep slope of Windover Hill. He holds a stick in each hand as he gazes out over the ancient fields and downland. One year he was given a 20 foot large chalk penis, which was swiftly cleared to save his dignity.

Then on through rain soaked lanes, overlooking the flooded water meadows of Alfriston and past the signs for Toads on the Road at night.

Toads on the road Litlington

‘What do I do if I suddenly run into them?’ ‘Squish’ says Mark.

On past  Litlington Tea Gardens opened in 1870, which serves delicious Victoria sponge cake when the tourist season begins, then a glance right to the Litlington White Horse high on the escarpment with views over the sodden Cuckmere Valley and up the hill and home to Seaford for tea. Only Mark can’t taste it any more, so he has cold goat’s milk.


Cooking is my creative respite but Mark’s new diet puts restrictions on our usual meals. No brassicas, onions, seeds, nuts, high fibre ingredients like celery, oats or skins of fruit. The doctor has said to cut down on the meat as the chewy bits are so indigestible, but Mark’s iron count is down, and meat is an easy source. Our local Seaford butcher, C. Walbrin displays a pile of pigs’ trotters in the window and the man in front of me has bagged five of them. Never to be outdone, I choose 2 small ones. ‘What do you do with them?’ ‘Boil them for soup.’ ‘How long? ‘ Long as you want’ – he heaves his butcher’s knife to cleft each one  in half.

I’ve just reread Animal Farm and as I gaze at the yellow-skinned trotters with their red horny toenails laid out on my chopping board I wonder if I could rewrite the ending. Imagine that now both of Napoleon’s front feet are boiling in my saucepan. It serves him right for walking on his hind legs and pretending to be human. I’ll doctor the famous phrase to  ‘All NHS patients are equal but some are more equal than others – but only if they have private medical insurance.’

The trotters make the strangest grey liquor which cools to make a delicious savoury jelly, The man with the five big trotters might make some brawn but my little trotters have no muscle meat on them at all – poor little piggies.

Next on the butcher’s slab is a pile of lamb’s breasts and he’s busy removing the bones, then stuffing and rolling the meat to make a roast breast of lamb joint. He cuts his rolled breasts into tiny portions to sell to single pensioners for their roast dinner.

‘I thought thought breasts of lamb were sold to the doner kebab factories’ I ask the butcher.

‘Maybe, but we buy in whole animals like lamb so we get all the cuts and offal. And local Seaford people love it.’

A pile of white tripe that looks like the remnants of my grandmother’s crochet bag might be on my cook list for the future. But the shredded dried bits of pigs’ ears hanging in bags are strictly for for dog owners.

A whole breast with bones costs £3 and weighs in at 1.5 kilos – that’s £2 a kilo and mighty cheap. I’ll slow roast it with lots of rosemary and sea salt so that the meat is tender and soft to eat.

At home I look up a recipe for breast of lamb and discover that Matthew Fort has recreated Elizabeth David’s Breast of Lamb St Menehoulde’

Just as well she didn’t have little lambs carved into her headstone overlooking all the pregnant sheep on the South Downs.

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