Letter from Brittany 6
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It grinds me down!

Every morning I have a Bloody Mary for breakfast. Only without the Vodka. Seriously, no Vodka! For the past thirty or more years every morning I have drunk quarter of a litre of tomato juice laced with Lea & Perrins sauce and loads of freshly ground black pepper. It’s like a smack across the chops with a wet haddock first thing and without it my day just doesn’t get started.

My diurnal beverage has turned into something of a ritual. Like 007’s Vodka-Martini ‘shaken, not stirred’ mine also has to be prepared exactly how I like it. The black pepper in particular must be freshly ground. That goes into the glass first and a lot of it too. Next a couple or seven dollops of Lea & Perrins and finally 25 centilitres of chilled tomato juice. Mine is neither shaken nor stirred. I like the shock of hitting a slug of solid Lea & Perrins alternating with almost neat ground pepper to kick start my day.

There is a problem though. My hands aren’t what they used to be. Not arthritic exactly but the muscles have been damaged by years of Statin medication treatment following my MI over a decade ago. For the most part my muscles work as well as the next man’s but occasionally they can go into spasm, especially following vigorous excercise, and it’s a little like cramp. Excruciatingly painful too.

I have been the proud owner of a very fine French Peugeot Pepper Mill for the past decade and it has served me well. As one would expect. Peugeot make the finest mills in the world. However these days my furious grinding activities can set off my cramps. So I thought I’d treat myself to one of those new fangled battery powered electric versions. Only to discover that ownership of one of these cunning little devices will most probably now land you a ‘five stretch’. For damage to the environment.

“Ask Memsahib to grind your pepper for you.” Do I hear you say?

Clearly you don't know my Memsahib very well. We won’t even begin to explore this avenue and I’m not going to bore you with the reasons. Just use your imagination if you will please.

I’d heard rumours that use of a gas fired patio heater is now punishable by life imprisonment but wasn’t aware enviro-thuggery had got as far as attacking innocuous little pepper grinders. I presume electric toothbrushes will soon be on the list of proscribed items. Appearing somewhere between trying to buy an Assault Rifle for 'pest control' and an Exocet to light the Barbecue.

Global Warming we are told today has led to Alpine glaciers melting in Europe almost as fast as single currencies but I really do not think me grinding a few milligrams of pepper every morning is going to hasten their demise. The power consumed making the paper and putting print upon it to circulate such asinine legislation is anyway going to be infinitely greater than that of even a nation full of electrified Bloody Mary junkies.

This piece of bureaucratic nonsense contravenes my human rights. I will take it up with Brussels forthwith. Return to this space for updates and see how I get on.

I’ve finished grinding now.

For the day anyway.

Post Script
Thank you everyone for your suggestions. I really am overwhelmed by your interest in solving my little problem. Please keep them coming!

Thank you Dominique for your suggestion of transferring effort to my legs via peddle power. By adapting Heath Robinson's design for a potato peeler.

Whilst I am grateful for your contribution and would not wish to discourage you in any way from offering advice in future please understand when I say this will not feature highly on my list of possible solutions.

For one thing the construction work involved would, in my estimation, consume sufficient power to offset no fewer than 3,750 (give or take) Duracell AA batteries and therefore keep a Peugeot battery powered model grinding away for me until I am approximately 999 years old. A calculation that would undoubtedly be beyond most environmentally obsessed tree-hugger's arithmetic capabilities. Even with the benefit of a battery powered Casio calculator. I suspect I might have lost my taste for freshly ground black pepper well before that time even begins to approach.

Secondly, I also suffer problems with my knees.

Thanks again anyway and do please keep up your replies. They are most invigorating.

Thank you Jane for your sensible suggestion of using one of the latest model single handed ‘pump action’ pepper grinders. It would certainly overcome the problems associated with the rapid twisting motion needed for the traditional design. Though your idea of attaching it to the bottom of a pogo stick and bouncing around my kitchen every morning I must admit I did consider to be a little less practical.

Mike, your idea of buying the battery powered pepper mill that is actually disguised so as to look like a battery is wicked. A lovely irony and certainly a solution that adds that extra little kick of pleasure every morning. I may even extend your idea to making our Range Rover look like a Hummer. Thus extracting even better and more fearsome looks of contempt from other road users. As it is these already give me so much pleasure.

Thank you Bob for proposing I instead use another Peugeot design, indeed their original patent and the one used extensively by Peugeot in the 19th century for their various sister ranges of coffee grinders. I actually already have a couple of them, including a one hundred year old or more original. The problem for me is that it merely changes the motion from the horizontal to one that is vertical. All that achieves is to move the pain to somewhere else! Thanks again anyway though. I appreciated your trying to help.

Mary, many thanks for your idea. Whilst converting a Black & Decker 2.4kW Branch Shredder has much to commend it I did find that twenty-five kilos of freshly ground pepper each morning slightly exceeded my requirements. After the stitches have been removed and I am again able to use both of my hands I might however try some further modifications.

Thank you Penny for your idea of a Hamster Wheel connected to a Peugeot No. 1 Model Pepper Mill. I tried it. Really I did. Unfortunately the hamster wasn't quite heavy enough so after much huffing and puffing it fell asleep. All the commotion did not escape the notice of our cat however and who ate the poor hamster. As a punishment I put the cat in the wheel. This had some degree of success apart from all the cat's sneezes (from the pepper dust). Our cat's attention threshold is far too limited though and being somewhat soporific following her meal of Billy (the hamster) she soon fell asleep in the wheel. Thus making it difficult to extricate her from it. Even after inverting the wheel and vigorously shaking it. The good news is though that our cat now considers the wheel to be her home. Albeit without ever bothering to rotate it.

Oh yes Dominique! Now you really have excelled yourself. Live steam! A vertical steam engine connected to an environmentally friendly coal fired boiler. With belt drive to a conventional Peugeot Pepper Mill. I can't wait to stoke the boiler and get up a good head of steam every morning for breakfast. Heck! I can even use the condensate to charge my coffee percolator. To hell with Global Warming this is the solution I'm going for. You can take the kid out of the Black Country etc., but now I can bring a little bit of the Black Country here! Terrific idea. Big thank you. I'll let you know how I get on.

PS Any ideas where I can get hold of Anthracite around here?

No Janice, I appreciate they aren't battery powered pepper mills exactly but I hadn't yet heard they're about to ban those too. Probably too many women in Brussels with a vested interest I guess. Try not to worry yourself unnecessarily.

Hey Dominique. It worked!