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17 June 2003

Took a visiting crime-writer round Newcastle this morning; she was on a research trip into Victorian Tyneside, so the regular Chaz'z Walking Tour suited very well, as its bias is towards the historical. I just left out the modern section (that's over the Millennium Bridge to the Baltic, pausing en route to gape at the Sage Music Centre as it swells like a mechanical mollusc in its shell) and we spent more time in the Lit & Phil. Always happy to spend time in the Lit & Phil, and every time I show someone round, I get to show them my favourite book: Beards, by Reginald Reynolds. It really is what it purports to be, an omnium gatherum (his phrase), a sort of miscellaneous study of the beard and beardlessness throughout history. A magic thing, and I thought I was the only person in the world who knew of its existence, until I was holding forth at a dinner party and one of my fellow guests identified it before I'd got a dozen words into the description; apparently there's a copy in Brasenose College library at Oxford, and Howard's entire year had read it.

This afternoon I had to supervise removal-men, for an absent friend. On my way home, I passed through the fish market and bought a tub of crabmeat, as can happen. The world is full of simple pasta sauces, but this is one of the best: soften a clove or two of garlic in olive oil, with a chilli or two if you like it. Add a generous spoonful-per-person of crabmeat, white and brown together, and the same measure of sour cream; then a chopped handful of parsley and chives, perhaps a little basil, a little salt, lots of pepper. Heat till hot, then serve on whatever good dried pasta you have to hand, cooked al dente and cheered up with a good glug of olive oil and more pepper before you add the sauce. Parmesan if you want it. How easy is that?

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© Chaz Brenchley 2003
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.