The Quality of Beatlesness

Not the Beatles -- playlist cover montage.

Many musicians have tried to sound like the Beatles and most have failed because what makes the Beatles great and enduring is an essential, alchemical quality of Beatlesness.

Before I get into this, here’s my history with the Beatles. I grew up in a family where the Beatles weren’t especially important. My Dad liked them and had most of their records, but he much preferred the Rolling Stones and the Kinks; Mum hated the Beatles, having pledged her allegiance to the Small Faces in 1965; and the other influential baby boomer in my life, Uncle Norman, was all about the Beach Boys and the Ventures. I think I decided for myself, as a teenage swot trying to work out what music was all about, that the Beatles were essentially crap – excessively revered, too sentimental, too self-indulgent. I mean, brass bands?  No thanks.

Then, during my first year at university, I got religion – a sudden conversion, listening to ‘Strawberry Fields’ over and over again during a thunderstorm, in the circle of light from an Anglepoise. By the time I was 24, my obsession had led me to write 30,000 words on the subject of Revolver in a book that got near to being published as a book before the publisher got taken over, and in e-book form elicited kind comments from various quarters including Rolling Stone. That got it out of my system, or at least the bootleg-seeking, mono-is-best part of the madness.

Get my ‘Not the Beatles’ Spotify Playlists

Every now and then, though, I come back to the Beatles and listen to them obsessively for a week or two. Or, as in the most recent resurgence of interest, their imitators.

Pastiche has always intrigued me. You can learn a lot about H.P. Lovecraft or Sherlock Holmes by reading attempts to imitate them which never quite reach the mark but, in failing, tell us something about the original. Exposing yourself to work that makes you say, “Oh, no – Conan Doyle would never do that,” is a particularly effective way of discerning the outlines of what Conan Doyle did.

The Beatles are an especially productive seed for pastiche and ‘Beatlesque’ is a word that can be applied, and has been applied, to almost every artist from ABBA to the Chemical Brothers at one point or another.

That’s partly because in their psychedelic pomp the Beatles were so much about easily borrowed surface decoration. Use a Mellotron, a piccolo trumpet, a megaphone, some backwards loops, or a sitar, and you immediately have a sprinkle of Beatle dust over your song. Reprise the opening track at the end of your album and provide the bare bones of a concept, perhaps a few spoken words to segue from one song to another, and you’re a step closer. So why does a track such as, say, ‘King Midas in Reverse’ by the Hollies, though it ticks the boxes, not sound like the Beatles? The voices, for starters.

John Lennon’s adenoidal Scouse growl and Paul McCartney’s pretty-boy, pouting purr, apart or combined into a super-weapon, don’t sound like anything or anyone else. Though just occasionally, someone else will give it a shot. One of my favourite Beatles pastiches, which I discovered 20 years ago on a compilation called Circus Days, isn’t on Spotify and so I couldn’t include it on the playlist above (Vol. 2: Pretenders) but is on YouTube. Listen to the vocal on this first verse:

For a moment, for a few seconds, that sounds so like McCartney it’s unnerving. Then they had to ruin it by doing something stupid like hiring a child chorus. In general, the most effective Beatles pasticheurs are either those blessed with a soundalike, or shameless enough simply to do an impression which, even when it sounds daft, still triggers a response in the pleasure centres. Neil Innes’s John Lennon impression is broad but basically accurate, which is a good part of why it’s possible to use Rutles songs, “do a poo poo” and all, as a kind of methadone for Beatles addiction.

The other problem for would-be imitators is that the Beatles weren’t formulaic, or at least the formula mutated so quickly from one record to the next that its shape is hard to discern. Anybody can pick a Beatles song and copy it but they’ll just have that one song, not the key to the entire sound. There are, though, certain techniques and tricks that immediately summon the spirit of the Beatles, such as what Andy Partridge of XTC has called ‘banana fingers piano’ – that insistent, rudimentary thumping that McCartney used time and again. The ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ drum beat is almost the basis of its own sub-genre; and the same might be said for the ‘Taxman’ bassline, and bubbling McCartney notice-me bass more generally.

Production, the sonic texture of the recordings, is important too. Even in an age when you can buy sample libraries of every keyboard at Abbey Road and play them through painstaking digital recreations of the original mixing desk and compressors, the sound seems somehow out of reach. Some attempts end up sounding too clean or too cold, while others lean too far the other way and end up lacking sizzle and crispness. The Beatles weren’t muddy, even when they were dense. Again, the word alchemy springs to mind: those people, those instruments, that space, in that moment, created something greater than the sum of the parts.

Finally, there’s something about energy levels. No pop song ever sounds quite as frantically exciting as ‘Twist and Shout’ or ‘It Won’t Be Long’, or as perfectly mellow and distant as ‘A Day in the Life’. Some of that I suspect came from the Beatles’ confidence, later shading into arrogance, and perhaps it’s hard to broadcast confidence when you’re imitating somebody else, because you don’t really believe who you are is good enough.

Of the bands seeking to imitate the early Beatles (see volumes 2 and 4 above) the most successful are those which manage to capture a little of the amphetamine frenzy, the bite of the guitars, and those voices. ‘Jealousy’ by the Poppees’ is a notably convincing attempt that I reckon would fool 80 per cent of non-obsessives. Wannabe Sgt Peppers get closest when they are able to wriggle into that tiny gap between shoddy (a cheap organ parps into a cheap reverb unit in lieu of a brass section; a synthesiser that sounds more like a B&Q doorbell than a Lowrey) and cheesy (Mantovani strings where they should be Bernard Herrmann; excessively harmonious harmonies).

But Beatlesness is so ethereal that it doesn’t look the same to any two people. The message boards and comment threads I read researching my playlists were full of people saying that this band or that sounds exactly like the Beatles when, frankly, they don’t. I cannot hear the Beatles in Crowded House, for example, but the chances are you won’t hear the Beatles in some of my choices, either. Sometimes it’s only there fleetingly or partially anyway.

Your thoughts on Beatlesness are very welcome. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the playlists.

If you want to listen to all the tracks from the four playlists embedded above on shuffle there’s also a master list, ‘Not the Beatles Vol. X: Everything’. I got a lot of ideas from this website in particular — do have a look.

Rogue One: The Strange Career of Bampfylde Moore Carew

Bampfylde Moore Carew.

A thief, conman, beggar, trickster, adventurer and teller of tall tales, Bampfylde Moore Carew is the most famous West Countryman they never tell you about in school.

I first learned of his existence in a book called Somerset Legends by Berta Lawrence, published in 1973, a copy of which I bought for 10p in a sale of cancelled books at Bridgwater Library when I was about thirteen. Reading this was the first time it ever occurred to me that my home county might be anything other than rather flat and rather dull, and I took the book away with me to university, and then to London, as an antidote to homesickness.

Now, thanks to the magic of online book archives, I’ve been able to go back to Ms. Lawrence’s source, namely a book called The Life and Adventures of Bampfylde Moore Carew, published in 1745. We would probably now recognise it as having been ghost-written for Carew by one Robert Goadsby, though its status as autobiography-biography, or perhaps even a form of picareseque proto-novel, remains muddy. It is almost certainly a pack of fibs built around some kernels of truth, but was nonetheless a bestseller in its day and reprinted, with further embellishments, many times in the century that followed.

Here’s the story it tells, as the precursor to the embroidered gangster memoirs of today, with a few details taken from other sources, and quotations taken from this Project Gutenberg version of an 1850s reprint.

Carew was born in July 1693 in Bickleigh, a village near Tiverton in Devon. His father was the rector of Bickleigh and his family was well-to-do. He was sent to Blundell’s, the famous West Country private school at, at the age of 12, but (according to his own account) ran away rather than face punishment for tearing up farmland with his horse-riding hunting pals and a pack of hounds. And this is where his life got interesting.

Painting of a gypsy camp.
Morland, George; Encampment of Gypsies; The Fitzwilliam Museum.

He joined a band of gypsies and made a living with them through trickery and petty crime. As a well-spoken, gentlemanly figure he was uniquely well placed to win over respectable folk and relieve them of their money, as in the case of Mrs Musgrove of Monkton just outside Taunton, in Somerset. (Now best known for its garden centre — such romance!) She called on young Carew having heard that he was an expert gypsy-trained treasure diviner. 

When he came, she informed him that she suspected a large quantity of money was buried somewhere about her house, and if he would acquaint her with the particular place, she would handsomely reward him. Our hero consulted the secrets of his art upon this occasion, and after long toil and study informed the lady, that under a laurel-tree in the garden lay the treasure she anxiously sought for; but that her planet of good fortune did not reign till such a day and hour, till which time she should desist from searching for it; the good lady rewarded him very generously with twenty guineas for his discovery.  We cannot tell whether at this time our hero was sufficiently initiated in the art, or whether the lady mistook her lucky hour, but the strict regard we pay to truth obliges us to confess, that the lady dug below the roots of the laurel-tree without finding the hidden treasure.

This is a classic con-man story in which the mark positively asks to be ripped off because of her greed, and her stupidity — perhaps one of the earliest in print?

Eventually he was convinced to come in from the field and return to Bickleigh where he was welcomed with tears of gladness and the ringing of church bells. But having had a taste of freedom and adventure, he got bored and went back to the gypsies, via their camp at Tiverton, and set out on a new phase of his career: he became a fake shipwrecked seaman.

Our hero’s wit was now set to work, by what stratagems he might best succeed.  The first that occurred to his thoughts was that of equipping himself with an old pair of trowsers, enough of a jacket to cover his nakedness, stockings such as nature gave, shoes (or rather the body of shoes, for soles they had none) which had leaks enough to sink a first rate man of war, and a woollen cap, so black that one might more safely swear it had not been washed since Noah’s flood, than any electors can that they receive no bribes.  Being thus attired, our hero changed his manners with his dress; he forgot entirely his family, education, and politeness, and became neither more nor less than an unfortunate shipwrecked seaman.

He learned the jargon and the manners of a sailor and in this persona conned multiple people out of “a considerable booty”, before reinventing himself again as a simple Kentish farmer who had lost his cattle in a flood:

His habit was now neat but rustic; his air and behaviour simple and inoffensive; his speech in the Kentish dialect; his countenance dejected; his tale pitiful—wondrous pitiful; a wife and seven helpless infants being partakers of his misfortunes; so that if his former stratagem answered his wishes, this did still more so, he now getting seldom less than a guinea a day.

Next, he adopted the persona of Mad Tom, a half-naked lunatic, roving the countryside and observing human nature, learning more “than most of our youths who make the Grand Tour”.

Carew the trickster disguised as a ghost at South Molton, Devon.

From Dartmouth in Devon He travelled to Newfoundland where he acquired a “fierce and large dog” and stayed just long enough to learn enough about fishing and sailing to take his shipwrecked mariner act to the next level. On his return, via Newcastle, he fell in love, eloping with one Miss Gray, marrying her in Bath, and settling in Bristol, where they turned heads with their dandy dress.

Going back on the road, he impersonated a clergyman to prey on Quakers; developed a wheeze whereby he would turn up anywhere there had been a notably large fire and pretend to be a survivor, with a singed hat for evidence; and strapped himself up to portray the part of a one-legged beggar. Circling back to Bristol, he pretended to be the son of a Newfoundland gentleman whom he vaguely resembled, lately arrived in England and in need of credit on clothes and provisions. On one occasion he witnessed a shipwreck off the Dorset coast and had the presence of mind to strip and fling himself into the surf to be rescued as a survivor or, as he tells it, to attempt to rescue one of the crew like some kind of superman, only to be quite innocently mistaken for a member of the ship’s crew.

Eventually, all this caught up with him and he was arrested at Barnstaple in Devon, and taken to court in Exeter, from where he was transported to Maryland in the American colonies. You might think this was the end of Carew’s West Country career but, no, he somehow escaped custody, convinced some Native Americans to remove his irons, and made his way back to England via Philadelphia, New York and various other fascinating places out of the scope of my project.

A parade of convicts.
British convicts in chains ready for transportation, via Early American Crime.

He carried on where he had left off (shipwrecked sailor act, turban-wearing Greek, French smuggler, Presbyterian parson, and so on), got caught again, and sent back to Maryland, from where he escaped a second time. (If he was making this up, he could have done with a firmer editor – who would invent this repetitive narrative structure?)

In the third and final phase of his career as a conman he tried some bigger schemes, such as convincing a group of his school friends to join him at St Matthew’s Fair in Bridgwater, Somerset, in the guise of a group of crippled, deaf, dumb, blind beggars. The mayor, though, suspected the trick and had them thrown in prison for vagrancy, but contrived to let them escape so that he could see which of them broke into a run on leaving their cell and then re-arrest them on more serious charges. (This sounds like something from one of the sillier spaghetti westerns to me.)

Although the book presents all of this with a sort of smirk, and its sales are evidence that people found Carew’s antics to some degree charming or at least entertaining, his admitted tendency to prey on the bereaved is simply grim. For example, he tricked a man whose son had died at sea into giving him money in exchange for a supposedly first-hand account of his death and burial, which of course Carew knew nothing about that he had not learned from gossip around the village. In another instance, at Buckfastleigh in Devon, he got an accomplice to dress as a victim’s dead grandmother as part of another ‘hidden treasure’ con:

In order for the execution of this scheme, Coleman put a woman’s cap on his head, washed his face, and sprinkled meal on it while wet, stuck the broken pieces of a tobacco-pipe between his teeth, and wrapping his body in a white sheet, planted himself in the road that Collard and Mr. Carew were to come; the moon at this time shone very bright, which gave an additional horror to the pretended spectre.  Our hero, by virtue of his supposed profound learning and most mysterious science, spoke to it in an unknown language, to the following effect:—“High, wort, bush rumley to the toggy cull, and ogle him in the muns;” at which command the terrific hobgoblin fiercely advanced up to poor Collard…

But this couldn’t go on forever and eventually, having made a small fortune, and growing old and ill, Carew retired to a cottage in the West Country, published his memoir, and died in 1759.

Wing’s Diner: Buttermilk and Scarred Arms

Fried chicken

Wing’s Diner, a much buzzed-about fried chicken pop-up currently operating out of the kitchen at Small Bar on Bristol’s King Street, has a more complex recipe than might at first be obvious.

Fried chicken, chicken and waffles, wings, dirty fries… Wing’s Diner seems to talk with an American accent. But when Kevin Bradshaw and Wayne Chung break down their cooking techniques a hidden influence emerges.

“We take the American aspect of buttermilking our chicken,” says Kevin, referring to the practice of marinating the chicken in buttermilk for 24 hours. “On the Asian side, we double-fry it. You do the first fry, let it rest, and then do the second fry when the order comes in, which gets the skin good and crispy.”

The name of the operation is another subtle clue: Wayne is Wing, and the apostrophe that looks at first like a typo actually indicates his ownership of the business.

“My parents ran a take away in Kingswood, called Chung’s Fish Bar,” says Wayne. “I’ve always cooked and been around cooking.” He shows forearms peppered with small burns from years spent operating deep-fat fryers. “Scars everywhere! That’s from frying fish, chicken balls, that sort of thing. The seasoning and the double-fry, that’s what I learned from my parents.”

“We used to work together in a law firm on Queen’s Square, in human resources and IT support, and we also used to live together,” says Kevin. Indeed, there is something brotherly in the way these two softly-spoken young men interact with each other, only underlined by their matching black t-shirts and red baseball caps. “We used to cook for each other and have… not cook-offs, exactly, but we would try to do outdo each other,” says Wayne. “It was therapeutic.”

After ten years working in an office, Kevin, now 35, took some time off, went travelling, and on his return began working as a cook on the summer festival circuit. Meanwhile, he and Wayne made frequent trips to London for gigs where they were inspired by hip fried chicken operations such as Chick’n’Sours and BIRD. “Seeing how busy they were, we started thinking, why isn’t there anything like this in Bristol?” says Kevin. “We started frying at home, trying techniques. We bought some books on frying chicken, tried some different recipes, different sauces. About two years ago we thought, let’s go for it – let’s do a pop-up supper club for some friends.”

It didn’t go well but was successful enough to convince them that there was the seed of something in the idea and so, after a few more such events carried off with increasing polish, they moved into operating pop-ups in short stints at various pubs around the city. They settled for good at Small Bar at the end of 2017 and expect to stay there, if not for good, then at least for the foreseeable future.

In general, attempts to reinvent or elevate junk food (or street food if you want to be dainty about it) can often be a disappointment. I don’t recall being impressed with many of the products of the supposed gourmet burger boom of the past decade, for example, and don’t get me going on the upstarts who had the nerve to attempt to reboot the East End beigel from a converted Renault van within spitting distance of the legendary 24-hour beigel shops of Brick Lane. Fried chicken, though, seems a fair target, being much talked about on imported TV shows such as Man vs. Food and in the American foodie press but hard to find in the UK outside high street chains. There is no native tradition to trample over, and plenty of room for improvement.

Wayne and Kevin aren’t pretentious and won’t be lured into criticising KFC or local legends Miss Millie’s – “There’s a time and a place,” says Kevin – but have clearly identified a gap in the market for something a cut above. “We do want people, hopefully, to be able to taste the difference between a KFC breast burger and one of ours,” says Wayne. But accessibility is also important which is the primary reason they don’t lean on organic or free range in their pitch. “We try to source higher welfare meat when possible but we can’t be charging £15, £20 for a meal that is essentially comfort food,” says Wayne, brow furrowed. As it is, £10 for a two-piece chicken meal with fries or rice feels highly competitive with standard pub grub prices, which is a fairer comparison.

But what about the food – is the bubbling hype justified? Some of the side dishes and specials still feel like works in progress (purple sweet potato waffles didn’t do much for me, for example) but the chicken, the main event, is as close to perfect as I’ve ever encountered. A golden crust of peaks, troughs and promontories, crunches like cornflakes. The meat is heavily (that is, correctly) seasoned, and the buttermilk renders it moist despite the rigours of a double-dip in hot oil. The thigh is challengingly fatty, a quite intense textural experience, while the breast is milder, cleaner and only a little less satisfying. Sweet pickled daikon (radish) and various sweet, sour and spicy sides cut through the salt and richness. The lack of bones might offend purists who like to see the remains of a vanquished enemy spread before them at the end of a meal, but it works for me, making for a neat eat in a busy bar.

But never mind my opinion – what does Wayne’s Mum think? “She really likes it,” says Wayne, not sounding quite convinced, “but I think she’d prefer me to be running a Chinese take away.”

Disclosure: I ate at Wing’s Diner twice out of my own pocket but Wayne and Kevin also provided a portion of chicken during my interview with them.

A World I Recognise

A red sports car on a council estate.

BBC sitcoms Detectorists and This Country do something previously rarely seen on TV: they capture the England in the cracks between cities.

Too often fictional portrayals of small towns and villages lean on the twee – the heirloom plate version of the England What We Have Lost, where Miss Marple ever knits socks for the eternal Home Guard unit that will return one day aboard a steam train when our country needs it most. But Detectorists and This Country both recognise a space between town and country where people live and work without necessarily thinking of their lives as ‘rural’, and without nostalgia.

The world of Mackenzie Crook’s Detectorists is gentle and idealised, but not by much. People have jobs cleaning motorway verges, polishing hospital floors, packing and dispatching vegetables; they struggle for money; they live in red-brick houses or flats above shops, not cottages or farmhouses. The pubs look like real pubs, where people more often drink lager than the ale prescribed by lore. Yes, the countryside is beautiful, and filmed beautifully, but it is also full of cars, vans, litter (“Ringpull… ’83… Tizer.”) and infrastructure. It looks free and open viewed from the right angle but is actually carved up by invisible lines into ‘permissions’, not only a human landscape but one that has been that way for thousands of years, filled with the debris of a million past lives.

Daisy May and Charlie Cooper as Kurtan and Kerry Mucklowe.

If there’s a ‘but’ with This Country it’s the sense that the writers, actually middle class, are chuckling at ‘chavs’, turning out a form of prole porn. I’m very sensitive to this as the bearer of a working class shoulder chip sufficiently hefty that it causes me to walk in circles if I don’t compensate but, on the whole, I credit Daisy May and Charlie Cooper, who write and star in the series, as acute observers rather than sneerers. Kerry and Kurtan Mucklowe live in the kind of plain post-war council houses of pre-cast reinforced concrete that you’ll find in every town and village the length of England, and any hint of the bucolic is undercut by the sight of pylons and motorways in the background. There are moments when I think, hold on, wasn’t I walking down that street last week? Didn’t my aunt and uncle live in that house?

Both shows depict ordinary people with ordinary un-town accents having complex relationships, deep feelings, and pursuing strange obsessions. If you think Kurtan taking the scarecrow competition deadly seriously is far-fetched then you don’t know Bridgwater Carnival. An obsessive detectorist would have fit in well on the estate where I grew up among the scooter fetishists, boat restorers, woodworkers, quilt-makers, Hammond organists, gooseberry growers and CB radio enthusiasts. Even the cool boys from school would gather in the playground to peruse catalogues of angling equipment.

I have a bias towards the south and the rural, of course, but I might just as well have mentioned Car Share, created by Paul Coleman and Tim Reid and brought to life by Peter Kay. It depicts an only slightly heightened vision of the suburbs, retail parks, ring-roads and roundabouts where so many people live lives nonetheless full of feeling.

If this is a golden age for British programmes about ‘boring people doing boring things’, as John Lennon once said in dismissal of Paul McCartney’s social realist songs, then it might be just what we need at a time when it feels as if half the country doesn’t know or much like the other, and when the question of what it means to be English has once again become so grimly present.

The Famous Bridgwater Manchip

Bridgwater Famous Manchips

I ate my first manchip when I was around 8-years-old.

Dad pulled up outside in the sky blue Cortina and came running into the house – actually running — holding a paper bag transparent with hot grease. He was shiny-faced with excitement, a rare occurrence in those days of night-shifts, money troubles and headaches.

“Manchips! Bloody manchips!”

He said it as if my brother and I should know what a manchip was.

We, thrilled to see Dad thrilled, couldn’t wait to see what was going to emerge from the wrapping.

“Ooh, ow, hot, Jesus wept!” he said, throwing the thing from hand to hand.

This was why he’d been in such a hurry: the manchip, we learned, is a dish best served dangerously hot.

There were two in the bag; my brother and I got half each.

What we were presented with was a pocket of flaky, rolled pastry filled with semi-molten jam and dusted with granulated sugar. It was lardy and not especially sweet, the jam a mere smear. It was, frankly, a let-down after all the hype but we played along and ate up while Dad, apparently reverting to childhood for five bites, made yum-yum noises and licked jam off his factory-scarred fingertips.

Perhaps we confessed our disappointment or maybe Dad just guessed but, either way, I never saw another manchip. That is, until December 2017, with my 40th birthday looming, when I made a return trip to the old home town.

Walking up Cranleigh Gardens and waiting to cross St John Street I saw a chalkboard sign outside Judith’s Bakery: “Bridgwater Famous Manchips Sold Here”. Bridgwater’s famous manchips? This being the 21st century I Googled it while I waited for the lights to change and was astonished to read that, yes, the manchip is Bridgwater’s own contribution to the culinary catalogue.

The origins of the manchip, like those of most even slightly interesting things, are vague. They are sometimes also called ‘manchits’ or ‘manchets’, and the Oxford English Dictionary traces the similar ‘manchet’, meaning fine wheat bread, back to the 15th century.

A more obvious Bridgwater connection occurred to me, though: I was at school with several Manchips, and the Manchip or Manship clan has been a prominent one in Bridgwater for a couple of centuries. In fact, if you look up distribution of the surname Manchip in 1881 you find that every single one, give or take, lived in Somerset.

Nobody seems to have pinned down the exact origins of the Bridgwater manchip though Glyn Hughes has tracked down a 1938 reference to lardy pastries using that name which would seem to demolish the popular myth that it was a response to rationing during World War II.

Armed with the variant spellings I was able to find a tantalising reference to ‘french rolls and manchets’ in the precis of an 1885 book about St Mary’s Church in Bridgwater and (this is a bit complicated) an 1899 letter to the Taunton Courier in which a correspondent recalled a Taunton baker, Mr Betty, “famous for the excellence of his breakfast manchips” (20/09). Perhaps most useful, though, is this letter to the Taunton Courier printed on 22 June 1946, which contains reference to the foodstuff itself:

The reference to Manchets in last week’s Herald carried my memory back 50 or 60 years to the days when small boys went through the streets of towns in this part of England very early in the morning, crying “Hot Rolls and Butter Manchets” or “Buttered Manchips” or “Buttery Mansions” or some other variation of the last two words. These Manchets, Manchips, or Mansions were a plain kind of flat dough cake, or tea cake, kept hot, cut open and buttered for breakfast…. [As] far as my memory serves me they were eaten in my young days only, or at any rate mainly, at breakfast time.

That’s odd, isn’t it? No jam. Not notably lardy.

I’m going to keep looking for more information but here’s my current assumption: ‘manchip’ was being used to describe a kind of fancy roll in Somerset during the 19th century but its use dwindled until it was reinvented during or after World War II as something sweeter and more pastry-like.

Regardless of its origins, my second ever manchip, eaten hot on the platform at Bridgwater station as I waited for a train back to Bristol, was delicious – fat slicking the tongue, just enough fruit acid to tame it, and flakes of pastry falling like gold leaf around my feet. Once I’d dusted myself down and wiped my fingers on the paper bag, I knew I owed Dad an apology.