All posts by westhillwhistler

Matthew Marke’s West Hill Cautionary Tales

Leah knew, before she had been in Brighton three months, that they meant to murder her.

With the pandemic and the introduction of working from home, the door to her office job in London had been thrown open and she had bolted south. For years she had dreamed of living in Brighton and kept a lazy eye on house prices. So when she was unchained from her desk, she ran.

She had found and bought a house quickly and moved in the first release from lockdown. Wandering her new neighbourhood, still marvelling at the diversity of shops and small bespoke businesses, she had one day bumped into Rose coming out of a grocer that sold the most wonderful bread. Leah had been in two minds whether to enter the shop next door but seeing this woman struggling with her shopping, she decided to leave it for another time and offered to help her.

‘May I?’ she had asked.

‘Darling, that’s so kind.’

On their way back up the hill, Rose had invited Leah for a drink in the pub. 

And that was that.

The two neighbours – Rose lived around the corner from Leah in Alexandra Villas – had become fast friends. Within days Leah felt as if Rose were a familiar. Within weeks Leah found it almost eerie how quickly and intensely they had become so close. 

Within months, Leah would be dead.


ose Hill lived a full life and also had her husband Fredrick, but she had made space for her new bestie. They met for drinks in each other’s homes, did yoga classes together and visited gardens in Sussex. It was as if they had known one another since primary school.

The garden of Leah’s ground floor flat on Albert Road, if it could really be called a garden, was small and paved with red brick and overlooked on all sides. There was one thin raised bed with a couple of dying ferns and a few plants in pots, one of which Rose had given her as a housewarming gift.

Rose’s garden seemed regal by contrast. Apart from a large ugly water tank in the corner, it was competition standard. It was so bursting with life and beauty that Leah had been taken aback the first time she’d seen it. The only plants, unsurprisingly, were roses. A show stopping array of colours, sizes and shapes, and indeed Rose had won prizes for them. 

‘How do you do it?’ Leah had asked.

‘Fish, blood and bone fertiliser is the secret,’ Rose had replied. ‘But it’s Fredrick’s doing really.’

Fredrick was a strange man and the only thing that gave Leah any pause in her friendship with Rose. He was nice enough – amiable, but a little reserved; and a foodie, – he had been a pioneer of locally sourced ingredients. He ran a shop in the North Laine, selling artisanal sausages and pork pies, for which he too had won prizes. What was odd about him, she couldn’t quite put her finger on. But it was unimportant. She was Rose’s friend, not his.

Rose was large, had short spikey hair and used a quantity of makeup that on anyone else would have looked gaudy. She wore long flowing dresses with big pockets that she dug her fists into. She would gesticulate from them, seeming as if she was trying to break out of bondage.


he moment Leah had understood what they were doing, what they intended for her, came just after she saw a drip from the water tank. They were in the garden one mild February afternoon, enjoying Negroni Sbagliatos.

Fredrick had come out with a wrench to fix the tank. He was telling Leah how he had rigged it up to not only catch the rainwater, but for the water to mix with his own secret recipe fertiliser and then irrigate the roses automatically.

‘That’s clever,’ Leah had offered, knowing that some sort of admiring response was required. ‘Rose said that you use fish, blood and bone. My father used to use the same stuff.’

‘I doubt that,’ he had replied, struggling with the tap. ‘And Rose wasn’t being entirely truthful. I don’t use fish.’

At that moment, the wrench slipped, and the tap came clean away. A foul, coagulated stream began to glug thick clots from the hole. Its colour, dark and evil was unlike any Leah had seen before. An appalling stench filled the air. 

Leah put her elbow over her nose and mouth and turned away. A clunk and a hollow gurgle from the tank made her turn back. A long white stick the length of her forearm protruded from the hole, stemming the discharge. A mucilaginous gob seeped out, dripped onto the grass and pooled in a vile little puddle. She stared at the stick. Then, realising what it actually was, she vomited on the grass.

Wiping her mouth, she looked up at Fredrick in horror. 

He grinned in return. 

She turned to Rose who smiled sweetly, before sighing and looking away. 

Frederick moved towards Leah with the wrench.

Moral – enter the shop next door.

The Whistler Recipe – The easiest fruit loaf ever! – Thanks to Gina Dodds


50g light brown soft sugar

75g plain flour

75g spelt or wholemeal flour

1 tsp bicarb of soda

½ tsp ground cinnamon      

200g mixed fruit and nut

200ml semi skimmed milk


• Preheat oven to 200oC 

Grease and flour a 900g loaf tin

• Put all the dry ingredients below in a bowl and mix with the milk.

• Pour into the loaf tin

• Bake for one hour

• Lasts for ages and as it gets a bit older is great toasted with butter

• When finished, take to The Whistler’s editorial offices for tasting

Sarah Taylor’s Gardening Tips – Feb 2023

Order summer flowering bulbs & seeds

It’s the perfect task for a wet and windy winter’s day. Flowers like lilies, gladioli and ranunculi can all be ordered in the winter for early-spring planting. Make the most of those days you’re stuck indoors to browse catalogues or websites for inspirational new varieties of seeds and bulbs to plant and grow this year. 

The best flowers to plant in the spring.

• Pansies, Marigolds, Petunias, Zinnias, Sunflowers, Sweet Pea, Gladiolus, Hydrangeas

Seeds to plant in March and April:

• Carrot, beetroot, kale, leeks, broccoli, horseradish, chicory, and turnips. Spring onions are also great early vegetables to plant in March, as well as spinach (make sure the soil is enriched with organic matter), peas, shallots and parsnips.

Tidy up flower beds and borders

Have a general tidy up, removing leaves and other debris from flower beds and borders. 

You can cut back the old dead growth of deciduous grasses and herbaceous perennials now, although, if you’d like to be wildlife friendly, it’s best to leave these until early spring.

Clear borders and beds back to bare soil. Put the dead organic matter you’ve cleared away into your compost pile or bin to break down. 

Remove any weeds you can see. Don’t compost them as the seeds will germinate and cause you more problems later on.

Install water butts and start collecting rainwater

Install a water butt in your garden this winter to make the most of rainfall. Most of the year’s rain falls in winter, so now’s the time to collect it! Harvesting rainwater is essential for environmentally friendly gardening. Peak demand for water in the hotter months often forces water companies to resort to groundwater reserves and streams, which is harmful to the environment and costly for consumers.

The Whistler Quiz – Feb 23


1. Christiana is the former name of which European city? 

2. What is the name of the ancient city, carved out of red rock in Jordan? 

3. The Yucatan Channel separates which two countries? 

4. Worcestershire is surrounded by six counties: West Midlands, Shropshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Warwickshire and which other? 

5. In which US state is Kansas City? 

6. Of which US state is Boise the capital?   

7. Carrots were originally purple, red, white, yellow, or black. Who started cultivating orange ones and why? 

8. The Dickin Medal, bearing the words; “We also serve” and “For Gallantry” is awarded to which members of the armed forces in the UK? 

9. Who was the cow in The Magic Roundabout?    

10. Which First Lady’s memoir is called “Becoming”?     


1. What does the Scoville Unit measure? 

2. Which restaurant won the first Michelin Star in UK? 

3. Which is used in Glamorgan sausages?

4. Which citrus fruit is used in Earl Grey tea and eau de Cologne? 

5. Which spirits name derives from a Dutch word that means burnt wine?  

6. What is the common name for the scapula? 

7. In the human body, which gland secretes a hormone which governs growth? 

8. A Snellen chart is used to test what? 

9. Where would you find the islets of Langerhans? 

10. How many bones are there in the foot? 


1. What drink did pharmacist John S. Pemberton invent in 1886? 

2. On which mountain is it said Noah’s Ark came to rest? 

3. Who was the last monarch of the House of Stuart? 

4. Who was King Philip of Macedon’s son, who succeeded him in 336BC? 

5. In which war did Florence Nightingale come to prominence? 

6. What species of bear is Paddington Bear? 

7. Which tree do we get turpentine from? 

8. How many claws
does a house cat have? 

9. Which infectious disease has a name derived from the Latin for `bad air`?

10. What is the only animal which, for both genders, is born with horns on its forehead? 


1. Why did Charles and Diana Ingram and Tecwen Whittock become famous on TV in

Sep 2001? 

2. Who wrote Islands in the Stream, a hit for Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton in 1982?

3. In the Peanuts cartoon, who is Charlie Brown in love with? 

4. Which family did David, Keanu, Ronan Best join in 1999? 

5. In Dad’s Army what is Pike’s first name?

6. Which 1979 film and set in London and Brighton is based on a rock album?

7. Who played James Bond immediately before Daniel Craig? 

8. Who played Thelma in “Thelma and Louise”? 

9. Who wrote the TV series “Killing Eve”? 

10. In which year did Channel Four start broadcasting?

Answers below (so no cheating)

Geography & Miscellaneous



3.Cuba and Mexico




7.The Dutch – in honour of King William of Orange.



10.Michelle Obama

Food and Drink & The Human Body 

1.Chilli heat

2.Le Gavroche




6.The shoulder blade

7.Pituitary gland


9.The Pancreas


History & Nature

1.Coca Cola

2.Mt Ararat

3.Queen Anne

4.Alexander the Great

5.The Crimean War

6.Spectacled bear 7.Pine




TV and Entertainment

1. They cheated on “Who Wants to be a Milllionaire?” 

2. The Bee Gees Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb

3.The little red-haired girl

4. The Royle Family

5. Frank

6. Quadrophenia

7. Pierce Brosnan

8. Geena Davis

9. Phoebe Waller-Bridge

10. 1982

In sport as in life we find art

It takes a lot of guts to be a writer, to not only put yourself in the centre of any narrative but to claim that your perspective is something new, fresh and worth reading. Les Misérables was first published in 1862 and has had countless adaptations and interpretations since then so it would be naive to suggest I could offer something new and exciting however I doubt many have looked at Les Mis through a Leeds United lens. 

The novel begins with Jean Valjean being released from 19 years imprisonment for stealing bread and few metaphors describe Leeds United’s 16 year exile from the Premier League. Leeds first season in the Championship brought a play-off final defeat so fans would be forgiven for thinking a swift return to the big-time was on the cards however relegation to League One followed the season after. Les Miserables the musical opens with the song “Look Down.”

On 26th February 2022 I watched Leeds United against Tottenham Hotspur on television from the comfort of my living room before traveling to London to watch Les Misérables the musical. Despite the 4-0 scoreline in favour of the North London side, Leeds had hit the woodwork twice and Stuart Dallas seemed certain to score when putting the ball past Hugo Lloris only for a combination of Dallas’ patience and some determined defending from Ben Davies ensured that didn’t happen. That was Marcelo Bielsa’s last game in charge of Leeds United and I found out that he had “parted company” during the interval of Les Mis. 

Susan Boyle was laughed at in her Britain’s Got Talent audition when she stated she wanted to be a professional singer and when Bielsa named his first starting 11 against Stoke City there were similar howls of derision. How had he included only one new signing in this team that finished 14th in the league the season before? Unlike Susan Boyle, Leeds fans had seen the same players only months prior and knew that they weren’t good enough to go up. If Boyle and Bielsa proved anything in their first public outing in the UK it was that looks could be deceiving. Boyle’s song choice – I dreamed a dream from Les Mis. 

Bielsa’s nickname is El Loco and his intense fitness demands and steadfast refusal to deviate from his attacking philosophy is what earned him that nickname but he lived by an honour code that made him human and in the world of professional football that is crazy. He lived in a small flat in Wetherby so he could walk to and from the training ground refusing the plush surroundings initially offered to him by Leeds United, he was often seen preparing for games in the local coffee shop, he reportedly spent hours every morning responding individually to fans messages, he didn’t give exclusive interviews because to do so would undermine his weekly 

press conference that was available to all. It’s important to remember he was doing this with Leeds United, Dirty Leeds. The team that celebrated Norman “bite yer legs” Hunter and the ground that during the 80’s became a hotbed of support for the National Front and the associated hooliganism that blighted English football for that decade. Leeds have never been popular and sometimes with good reason. 

Bielsa’s ability to get Leeds promoted is nothing compared to the achievement that is getting supporters of other teams to actively like Leeds United and causes us Leeds fans to question who we actually are – much like Jean Valjean does in Les Mis. The nadir of this honour code was undoubtedly allowing Aston Villa to score unopposed at Elland Road following what was a controversial but not illegal goal. The willingness to risk the ire of the vociferous crowd in order to do what he thought was right shows the El Loco nickname is warranted. 

The last song before the interval is “One Day More” and before I had turned my phone off to enjoy the show there had been rumblings that Bielsa was gone. The song begins with Jean Valjean pondering “These men who seem to know my crime will surely come a second time.”

But more suitable for Bielsa’s relationship with Leeds is the line “I did not live until today, how can I live when we are parted?”