1. My version of a salad for lunch today. Clockwise from top, Elmsthorpe tomato, red onion, celery, orange pepper, beetroot, cheese and cucumber. Ham in the centre with homemade apple and ginger chutney.
2. Dinky, the resident cat.
3. The ancient computer of Pontillius Antonius, (Tribune).
4. Henry, next doors cat, now lodging with me. Only here for the food!
I heard on the news that a man who was being interviewed in connection with the forthcoming elections in this country said “. . and being just a piece of white trash myself I can understand why the Asians see us in that light. . .etc”.
The way things are going we are all going to have to speak very slowly very soon, perhaps with a 15 second delay like they do on BBC live interviews. We have to think of every word we speak to make sure it does not offend someone or something. This country has gone mad. Starting from when they had to take that little dark cartoon character off the Robertsons jam jars, who had been their logo for as long as I can remember. It was never intended to be a racist symbol. It was adopted in 1910 by John Robertson who thought it would make an ideal mascot and trade mark.
This morning, the day after Good Friday, I travelled into the city to do some shopping when I was accosted by not one, but two, evangelists. They always seem to turn out in force at Easter and Christmas.
Whenever I am approached by an evangelist, a so-called Christian missionary, who asks whether I’ve accepted Christ as my saviour, I know I’m up against someone so obsessed and narrowly focused that it will do me absolutely no good to try and explain or share my own value system. I never want to be rude to them, but I can be if I try hard enough. I never have any idea how to respond to their attempts to convert me to their version of what being a Christian is. I have found that smiling and telling them to go away in Anglo Saxon usually does the trick.
Religion is too personal for me to take advice from people I don’t know. I don’t have a problem with God or Jesus, just pesky “Christians”!
I don’t know whether or not most of the evangelists I come across think they’re acting and being like Jesus, and telling someone they’re going to hell is not a good way to convert them. They need to go back to their version of the Bible and take a closer look at Jesus.
There are a lot of things I’d like to say to those “Christians”, like “Please respect my right to be the person I’ve chosen to be. Worship, pray and praise your God all you want, but please leave me alone. Stop trying to make me worship your God. Respect my beliefs; I guarantee they’re every bit as sincere as yours. Respect my free will”, but I would be wasting my breath.
It was still a very active farm in 1945. My grandparents, with the aid of three Womens Land Army girls kept a milking herd of Friesian cows, several pigs, chickens, geese and goats. There was also two dogs and an army of feral cats who were allowed to live in the barn and given milk, curds and whey every day provided they kept the outhouses free from mice and rats. Two fields were solely for growing all kinds of arable crops from potatoes through to lettuce in order to help feed the village during the war years and for two years after; there was still a food shortage. The other fields were pastureland.
There was also a big orchard where the chickens and geese were kept. It was my job to mix the food and feed them every morning before I went to school, and to feed them when I returned in the afternoon. My grandma was responsible for the kitchen garden and household duties. Grandads job was to look after the Land Army girls (?) and doing the milking.
My grandparents were Quakers and their views about animals were twofold. First, we should respect all animals and treat them as we would treat other people. They have as much right to be on this planet as we have. They have emotions the same as us; love, hate, anger, jealousy, etc.
They told me that with domestic animals such as dogs, cats, horses for example it is OK to build up a relationship with them and give them names. No problem there, but she said I must never get attached to the farm animals, respect them of course, but never get close or give them names because, like it or not, they are part of the farm produce.
They emphasised that eventually they would be sent to the abattoir, and to the market for food. They are sold along with the crops from the arable land to get the money to put the clothes on our backs and to pay the bills. If I did get a close relationship with one, it would be heartbreaking when the time came for it to go to market.
I tried, I really did, but being only a child my instincts told me otherwise. Nevertheless I never talked to to animals only to call the chickens and geese for their feed. The same with the cows, which was hard because they spent several years on the farm until they were too old to produce much milk, then the cattle truck would come and they disappeared forever. As for the pigs, they were never around long enough for me to get attached to one.
One day I was feeding the geese when one of them decided he was going to become my soul-mate. He started following me around, and rubbing against my legs and looking at me with those big eyes. I tried everything to deter him, but it was no good, I found myself giving in to him and even named him “Fred”. I couldn’t keep it a secret from the grandparents because Fred even followed me to the gate when I caught the school-bus, and was waiting for me by the gate when I came home. My Grandad never said a word about it, which puzzled me. I just thought they had excepted the fact that Fred was now my pet.
The weeks went by and still the subject was never mentioned. One Sunday I went to the orchard to feed the geese and chickens and noticed that Fred wasn’t around, so I assumed he had gone for a walk-about and thought no more about it. During Sunday dinner I asked Grandad if he had seen Fred anywhere. “Yes,” he said, “He’s on your plate, you have just eaten him”
Can you imagine the effect that had on me, only 10 years old, and I thought my world had just ended? I had just eaten my best friend! I remember dashing upstairs and locking myself in my room and sobbed for hours, refusing to come out.
Eventually Grandad come up and talked to me through the door. “Son, I could have killed any one of the others, but I chose Fred. I wanted you to learn the hard way that life is not just a bed of roses, and we must accept that life can be cruel and your Grandma and I have had to harden ourselves over the years. You were warned repeatedly what would happen, and what does happen to all the farm stock eventually”
I remember those words, not exactly, but the gist of what he said is there. He was right, I know that now. I never let myself get into a situation like that ever again. I had learnt my “Life Lesson” (Grandads words) the hard way.
Throughout my life I have had a a lot dogs and cats, and I loved them to bits, but it was always sad when they passed away, but at least I knew I had loved them and done everything I could to make their short lives a happy one.
“Chips” in France and America are called “crisps” in England. Just so you know.
One day last week I was using “Stumble Upon” just going from page to page when I found a site called “French-News-Online.com” showing a vastly improved French version of the good old British Fish and Chip supper. It is demonstrated by a well-known Paris chef, Jean-François Piège, who shows how to make his gourmet version in the video clip (at the bottom of this page) which accompanies his regular recipe column for Express magazine.
Forget the traditional fish & chips served with mushy peas and mint. This is an upmarket recipe of fish adorned with crisps in a delicious crispy finish accompanied by a light tartare sauce! Find out how to make it in the video, but I warn you now the video is in French without subtitles, so unless you are fluent in fast French, just watch it with the sound off. The video is easy to follow by just watching the picture.
Or if you prefer, try my version of it below.
The original recipe suggests that you make your own Tartare sauce:
I decided that it would be more expensive to buy the ingredients to make my own, so I bought a jar of ready made. Then I didn’t use it in end, I made a potato salad instead to go with my fish.
1. Take the cod and cover with coarse cooking salt. Let it stand in a cool place for 20 minutes.
2. Remove the coarse salt from the fillets and should you wish, remove the skin. Cut the cod lengthwise into four strips, or into small pieces.
(I goofed! I put the salt on after I cut the cod up!)
3. Crush already fried potato chips or the crisps into small bits.
4. In separate flat dishes place a generous amount of flour, slightly whipped egg white and finely crushed chips. Roll each piece of fish separately in the flour, then in the egg white, then in the chips.
Dinner is served, with bread and a small salad, and not forgetting a glass of French wine of course. I know one should partake of a fresh crisp white wine with fish, but I prefer a heavy fruity red wine; with everything!
As you can see this picture is dated 1947 when I was 10 years old. The occasion was the local Church Garden Fete, and our class had to perform some country dances to please our doting parents. Click picture or here.
I am the handsome, suave young boy in the middle of the picture dancing with the girl with the big ribbons in her hair. In fact she always wore enormous ribbons every day at school.
Ann Colkin, that was her name, was my first love. I absolutely adored her and I always endeavoured to sit next to her in class, stand near to her at playtime and assembly in the mornings. That is until I was challenged to a “duel to the death” by Stuart, the school creep and teachers pet, who also fancied his chances with Ann. Stuart is the boy at the front of the dancing team.
Being the challengee it was my right to choose the weapons and the place for the duel. (No, it was not behind the bike sheds with taser-guns, they weren’t invented then, mores the pity!). I chose marbles and the place was the playground at first break the next day.
The next day dawned bright and clear, ideal weather for the most important game of my life! We agreed that the winner would take the fair maid Ann for his own, and also the loser would forfeit his entire collection of marbles, his castle and estates, his livestock, weapons, et al!
The word got around the school and at playtime there were crowds waiting to see who would win the hand of Lady Ann. The pitch was drawn up with chalk stolen from the teachers desk, consisting of a “shooting line” and some distance away, a circle. We each had a certain number of marbles and the idea was to get more in the circle than your opponent.
I lost! No, I was destroyed and devastated, but I kept my composure and with the traditional British ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ (which is just above the lower quivering one) I shook hands with the victor and marched away head held high.
In my imagination I saw Ann rush up to him and fling her arms around his neck, showing him with kisses and saying “My hero!” (That was reading to many “Knights of the Round Table” tales I suppose!)
For two nights after that I cried myself to sleep; then I met my new love, Pamela! She is in the picture, but I wont say where. . .
Now 68 years later, I have met Ann again and we very often stop to chat, but sadly our dancing days are over now. Ann married and was divorced, as I was. We are both alone now. I often wonder what happened to all the others in the photo and how they fared in later life.
The General Election will soon be upon us, 7 May in fact. All the political leaders are busy preparing their speeches in which they will make all the usual promises about what they will do if they get into “power”, which in the past they have been unable to keep.
They seem to forget that it is the people of this country who are in “power”, the members of Parliament have been elected by the people to represent the people and their views in matters of state. Now it seems the politicians make laws about what they think the people should abide by, and not laws that the common people want. It’s a bit like a teacher asking a class of students what project they would like to do next term, and then having listened carefully to the ideas put forward, the teacher then tells them what project he has decided they will do. Is this what they call democracy?
Mind you, having said all that I always vote for the Party that gets into “power”, as I have always done since I realised that we the people are just pawns in the big game of Political Chess and are always stitched up anyway.
My method is very simple. When I go to the polling station. I say a little prayer, thanking God that I still have the right to vote, meaningless that it is, and accept my voting slip with gratitude from the clerk. I then put a cross against every candidates name to show that there is no favouritism on my part. So when the results are announced I have the satisfaction of knowing that I voted for the winner. Simples!
If you have the right to vote, then you should. Remember the old saying, “Use it, or lose it” could apply one day in the future if the faceless people in Government decide that not enough people turn out to vote. Remember also that if you don’t use your vote, someone else could claim to be you and vote for the candidate of their choice. So use your ballot paper, even if you just scribble all over it when you can’t make your mind up. Vote rigging is not unknown in this country.
What does it all matter anyway? Whoever the masses vote for, the Government always gets into “power”; and all the Parties are just as bad as each other, i.e., the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. We are just lambs to the slaughter (see the cartoon above).
Note: If I don’t post again for a long time then you can get in touch with me at: c/o The Governor General, H M Prisons, England.
. . as I pass along, then my living shall not be in vain”
On Tuesday morning the local District Nurse came for a home visit to change the compression dressing on my leg. I normally go to the Hospital for this, but they are having shuffle around of the various clinics’ rooms. She assured me that next week everything would be back to normal and I would have to go there as usual. Pity really, it was nice not to go all the way there for once.
After the nurse had left, I caught the local bus to the supermarket because I needed some milk, biscuits and bacon. I grabbed the items I wanted and made my way to the tills. I hate wandering around just dropping things into my basket that I don’t really need.
In front of me was a little old lady, who looked as if she was in her late eighties, with quite a bit of shopping. When it came to her turn the checkout girl was just wafting her stuff through the scanner and throwing them down the slope to the bottom where the old lady was struggling to pack them into two carrier bags and not doing very well. I turned and looked at the queue behind me to see people “Tut, tutting” and making comments to each other about having been held up.
I went forward to the lady and said “Excuse me, but let me pack your groceries for you while you pay the girl”, who by now was sitting there holding her hand out for the money.
The lady was fumbling in her purse for the correct money and it was taking a little while, I slowed down on the packing bit so she wouldn’t be embarrassed by how long it was taking. She finally paid just as I was putting the bags into her trolley.
“Thank you very much, young man” she said (obviously in dire of some new glasses, methinks!). She went off pushing her trolley. Meanwhile the checkout girl had put my three items into a plastic bag and was holding her hand out for the money. I made a point of slapping the money very hard into her hand, glared at her, turned and followed the old lady out the door.
She was just in front walking across the carpark and I fully expected her to put her groceries in a car and drive off, but no, she continued to the trolley park and lifted her two bags out and started walking along the footpath.
At this point I caught up with her and asked if she was going to the bus stop where I was going. “Oh no” she said, “I live about 200 yards further on up the hill in the big house next to the cemetery”. “So you don’t get much trouble from the neighbours then?” I asked. Joke wasted, she just gave me a blank look. “What?” “Never mind,” I said, “If you would carry my bag for me, I’ll carry your two. I’m going your way so it’s no bother”
So she passed them over to me and we continued chatting until we arrived at her house. Apparently she now lives alone, and relies on a Social Services carer to help her get washed and dressed in the morning and returns in the evening to put her to bed. She has no family, except for a son who emigrated with his wife and children to Montreal fifteen years ago and she hasn’t seen them since. She assured me that they do write regularly and send photos.
I put her bags on the step while she let herself in and I offered to take them through, but she said “Thanks, but I can manage now. Thank you once again, I really appreciated your help” then she was gone. I don’t blame her, she didn’t know me from Adam, and was being cautious about letting strangers into her home. It was then I realised that we hadn’t introduced ourselves, I didn’t know her name and she doesn’t know mine.
I did tell her a little lie though, In fact I wasn’t going her way at all, I was just curious about her, I love meeting people and listening to their stories. I wanted to catch a bus on the opposite side of the road to take me the six mile trip back to my pad! Dang! I had to walk back down the hill to catch my bus, and didn’t get a story. I wouldn’t be much good as a journalist!
Go build your cities fine and build them high.
Roll out your concrete blanket over the hills.
Push up commercial temples to the sky,
The great God progress granted you the skills.
Go build your plastic palaces of fun,
And fling your space ships out to the stars,
Until the last triumphant race is won
And all the earth is disfigured by your scars.
But man, be ruled by caution as you go;
For if you leave alive one tiny seed,
A drop of rain, and place for it to grow,
You will not notice such a puny weed.
You will not notice how the rising breeze
Begins to stir the surface of the sand.
Or how the gentle kissing of the seas
Begins the slow erosion of the land.
So when you see the first cracks appear
To herald the destruction of your dream.
Remember, as you crouch beneath your fear,
The worm, in patient vigil reigns supreme.