The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 18, Number 19, May 10, 2015, Article 9


Foodies will enjoy Paul Withers' lengthy preface to his announcement of two new numismatic books. Thanks! -Editor

We are currently in our cottage in France, where, away from the tedium of office routine and the tyranny of the ’phone we can devote uninterrupted quality time to making the final tweaks to the book on Anglo-Coins, as well as working on several other forthcoming books.

There were several reasons why we were at home in Wales until the 22nd, not the least of which was space on the ferry to France ! The journey was not easy, with lots of motorway repairs and speed restrictions, and the post office from which we had chosen to post a load of last minute parcels was closed because it was a Wednesday afternoon !

Even so life is serendipitious, and nice things can happen as well as nasty ones. We believe that the journey should always be part of the 'holiday', and as our hobby is eating we like to think that a good meal should be part of the experience. Now the UK does have some good restaurants, the only problem is finding them. And in our case finding ones that are not only good, but affordable. We have given up on the the restaurants in Winchester or Fareham we have tried over the last few years, in Winchester or Fareham, and this time decided to eat in Portsmouth itself, and the road led us to part of the city known as Southsea, which had been the source of happy joint holidays for my step-parents and parents prior to WW2. That suburb has become the University area, which usually means interesting, and sometimes adventurous and cheap food

We drove past an Italian restaurant too fast and turned round at the sea front. We found a Chinese restaurant with a parking space. The menu made much of the fact that Peter Sellers was born in the rooms above the restaurant though I doubt that it was a Chinese restaurant in those days.

We clearly both amazed and disappointed the waiter, for instead of ordering a bottle of something white, nasty and profitable we wanted Chinese tea. We asked him if their chef did ‘real Chinese food’. His reply amazed us: the gist was that the chef did do real Chinese food, but that we would not like it. “Engrish people do not like hot and spicy food”, he told us. I explained that (a) we were not English and (b) we loved spicy food, garlic and chillies. He smiled and went back to the bar, and came back with yet another menu, the third he had shown us !

He warned us, yet again, that the food was very hot and spicy and not for Engrish people. It did not seem particularly cheap either ! However, there many delights, what attracted us most was “Ma po to fu” and “wok grilled squid with chilli”. I ignored the Japanese spelling and as I like squid, we pondered how you grill squid in a wok. We ordered, he went away and we waited.

We watched whilst we waited, the takeaway business, whilst not exactly brisk, was steady, attracting a good cross section of people, some of them older folk looking like retired university lecturers. There were younger folk too, wandering in and out, most of them Chinese. Had we found that place where you could tell that it was a good restaurant by the number of Chinese using it ?

The food arrived fairly quickly and the ma po do foo dish looked exactly right, and so did the squid. Judging from the size of the portions, it was not expensive either. Indeed, as the waiter replaced plates with rice bowls, and cutlery with chopsticks, Bente, wondered whether we’d eat it all. She poked around in the squid dish and triumphantly produced a piece of what she thought was a mange tout pea, but it turned out to be a chilli ! It was certainly not a meal for the for the faint-hearted. The ‘Ma po do foo’ was a delight, with bean curd in a really tasty broth with many dried red chillies in evidence, though as Bente pointed out, they should be avoided, not because of their heat, but because they had long since given up both their heat and flavour to the broth and although what remained whilst still decorative, it was woody and not worthwhile ingesting. The spicy overtones of Szechuan pepper were evident, but not overpoweringly so, just sufficient to give it a fresh and exciting zing.

The waiter came back to the table to see whether we liked the food. We did, and despite Bente’s initial misgivings about its size, we did manage to do it justice by eating the lot. As we paid the bill I told the waiter that we would return sometime and try the pig’s intestines, pondering whether it was the language of the menu that needed a revamp, but then ‘chitterlings’ is the only alternative ‘naice’ word I can think of for pig’s intestines, and that would probably puzzle anyone born after 1970 ! Given the hot and spicy nature of the food I asked the waiter if the chef was from Szechuan, the area where they make the hottest, most spicy chinese food in China. He said that although he knew that the chef was from near Beijing, but he was not sure if he was from Szechuan Province.

Anyway, this was the best, honest, non-Anglicised Chinese food, we’ve found in the area, though it was certainly not subtle. We certainly want to try it again. As we drove on our way, Bente shouted “Two for one pizza !”

“Couldn’t possibly manage it” I replied. “No”, she said, “that’s what the Italian is offering !”

Funnily enough, pizza was what we had the next night, though I made it myself, you can’t buy bean curd, or Szechuan pepper roun’ by yer in rural France.

France is as good as ever !and we have eaten well using the ingredients available in our local market and shops: new season white asparagus. Strawberry flan (made, not by me, but by a real pattissier), prawn bisque, mussels, whelks, oysters, among other things. Splendid cheeses (particularly Roquefort), and on Tuesday, that costly, but delicious fishy delight that the English call John Dory, but the French call Saint Pierre ! Better than even lemon or Dover sole.

A week or more has been spent going through the A-G book yet again. More typo’s and other errors have been found and removed, page layouts tidied uo and numerous small improvements made, and where appropriate, we have added more enlargements of high quality coins from museum and private collections.

We are also working on a book on Irish Gunmoney, but shortly before we came to France we brought to fruition two new numismatic works. The first is

Royal Commemorative Medals 1837-1977. Volume 3.
Queen Victoria, Diamond Jubilee 1897

By Andrew Whittlestone, and the late Michael Ewing.

It is difficult to believe, that the first edition of this volume was published in 1998, which was 17 years ago. It was almost as popular as the 1887 jubilee medals catalogue, and quickly sold out and has been out of print for almost a decade. In those 17 years much has changed. Photography, printing and computers have all made great advances and we have fully taken advantage of those advances to present the user with indexes of obverse and reverse legends, makers, designers, die cutters and publishers, and an index of registered design numbers as well as a general index. This new, much improved and enlarged edition has 133 A4 size pages (204 x 297mm) with glossy laminated card covers, is well-illustrated throughout with hundreds of high-quality black and white illustrations.

This is now available. We have managed to keep it at the same price as the rest of the volumes available in the series. Price £30 + postage and packing.

More details, including details of postage to the USA and other overseas destinations can be obtained from

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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