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Sunday, 24 June 2012

Peas in a pod.

Bigger, easier, more, faster, cheaper ... why are we seduced by these words? Does size matter or the speed with which we reach a goal?

I was podding some peas for dinner last night and whilst I did my mind turned to thoughts on the above subject.  It would have been so much quicker and easier to open a packet of frozen peas but would that necessarily have been better?  Whilst podding the peas I was transported back to sunny childhood days when I would sit with my mother on the step and "help" her to prepare peas for a meal.  I am not sure quite how many peas I actually contributed to the colander back then as many went straight into my mouth but the sound of the pods popping ( who remembers that jingle "Sweet as the moment when the pod went pop"?) last night took me right back to those happy days.  Though it took longer to produce the required amount of peas I had time to think something I would not have done had I opened a packet.
Image from Google

Then my mind wandered off to other things such as why is bigger often presumed to be better?  Bigger houses, cars, bigger carrots, bank balances and bigger portions of food.  Maybe you saw that programme on TV last week "The men who made you Fat"?  In which the thinking was that the man who introduced bigger portions of popcorn at the cinema in the USA and who was followed by others who provided "extra value" by offering super sized portions for less than double the price were tapping into the psychology which says that we will always enjoy getting a bargain, even though the smaller size was sufficient, and having bought it we will eat it.  This is apparently one of the reasons there are so many obese people in the world so obviously not a good thing unless you happen to be the executives at the top of the enterprises offering these huge portions.  Are larger vegetables better than small ones?  What about taste?  Is a bigger car better than a small one?  What about fuel consumption? As I was researching for images for this paragraph I came across this article  on why container ships may need to downsize which I found interesting - click on the link if you want to read it too.  Bigger is obviously not always better.

Cow parsley at the Chalice Gardens

Similarly is there more to life than increasing its speed?  Is the fastest way to get somewhere necessarily the best?  I am lucky enough to have a choice when travelling to some place I wish to visit.  I can use the car or I can use my bus pass for local trips and I can use the train instead of flying if I want to go to Europe (long haul might be difficult but that is a whole other story which I won't go into here!).  Now it isn't always possible to go by public transport and without the bus pass it would be expensive but for me a bus ride is so much more enjoyable than taking the car.

Chalice Gardens - spring
  I recently went to visit the Chalice Gardens at Gastonbury - a 35 minute drive in the car or over an hour on the bus.  I took the bus.  I was able to see over the hedgetops and to notice the countryside as we passed, the banks were clothed with cow parsley and the fields gilded with yellow buttercups.  The horse chestnut trees were decorated with blossom like so many pink or cream coloured candles.  The route went through villages I had never seen before where cottages with thatched roofs hugged close to the road their gardens filled with flowers - thatchers were working on one house (not often one sees that on the main road). Then again on my bus ride to London last week I was aware of sheets of moon daisies spread on the wide verges like washing laid out to dry, hedges clotted with creamy elder blossom and plenty of pale pink dog roses, the soft greenery of spring giving way to the darker, denser green of summer and somewhere along the route we passed a field of poppies looking like a great Oriental carpet spread over the field - an amazing sight I would not have seen had I been speeding along the A303 in a car.

Steps at Chalice Gardens

It is easy for me to say these things - I am not a working mother with a family to feed and only 24 hours in each day but I do wonder whether we are not missing the point sometimes?

Now for something completely different:  In our garden we have a seat just outside the back door where we sit with our cups of tea - weather permitting - or sometimes I just sit whilst waiting for the potatoes to boil or whatever.  Our garden is on a slope and there is a retaining wall, alongside some steps next to the seat, which has a couple of pipes inserted at the bottom presumably for drainage.  Sitting with my cup of tea I have noticed bees (I got my binoculars out to check what they looked like and they seem to be the furry kind - see how little I know about bees?!) going in and out of the right hand pipe (if you click on the photo to enlarge it you can clearly see the hole).  Indeed during the course of drinking one cup of tea there must have been dozens of them coming and going reminding me of planes circling above Heathrow and coming in to land (another blog post there perhaps?!).  I wonder what they are doing in there.  The pipe can't be that long and I am guessing it goes into the damp earth at the back of the brickwork so why would they be attracted to it especially this summer when it has been so wet - it must be horribly damp in there.  Any ideas?

Yesterday there was an Air Day at nearby Yeovilton and we saw these planes over our garden - the previous evening they had been practising and the sky was clearer but I didn't have my camera to hand! You will see them more clearly if you click on the photo.I am not sure if they are the Red Arrows perhaps.

If you are still with me - thanks for listening to me going on and on - it seems that I either have too much to say or can't think of anything at all - sorry!  Thank you too for all your lovely comments on my previous posts and to those of you who have decided to follow my blog - welcome.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Variety is the spice of life

This week has been a varied one.  Early in the week I dodged the showers and walked into town and noticed these lovely dog roses along the way,

On Thursday I went to London to meet up with a friend - this is Oxford Street and that number 10 bus (if you click on the photos you will be able to see them enlarged) is the one I have just got off.  It was great to see all the flags flying in the breeze. 

 We had lunch In Marks and Spencers and wandered along Oxford Street to John Lewis where we had a sit down and a cup of tea overlooking Cavendish Square then took a bus (what a blessing bus passes are for us oldies!) to the Albert Hall - seen here.  I remember going to a Methodist Youth Club jolly here many years ago back in the late 50s I think it was.  This time we didn't go in but crossed the road to Kensington Gardens.

Leanne on her blog Tales of Simple days commented recently on a photo of San Francisco saying she would hate to live in a city as there is no green - well Leanne there is plenty of greenery in London.  Did you notice the tree in the Oxford Street pic and Cavendish Square which we overlooked as we took tea in John Lewis is another little green oasis too. 

Hard to imagine we were within feet of a busy main road as we walked through the park. The dense greenery blocking out the sound of traffic.. 

We came out onto Kensington High Street where we browsed some of the shops and then after yet another cup of tea we parted to go our separate ways and I walked from there back to Hammersmith where I got my bus home.  Every time I go to London I come away thinking I must come back very soon as I never seem to see all I want to see - it was an opportunity to catch up with my friend whom I see rarely so naturally we spent most of our time sitting down drinking tea or eating lunch etc but I will go back very soon as with a day return costing only £15 by coach it is not an expensive day out.

Coffee with a friend in town on Friday and then some shopping on Saturday.  How much nicer to do some of our shopping here rather than in the supermarket.  This is Red Barn Farm shop which we discovered recently and now that we no longer have an organic veggie bag delivered each week (the couple who farmed and delivered have given up sadly) we go here for our veggies instead.

Milk anyone?  It's wonderful to buy really fresh veggies and milk and to know exactly where it's come from.

I got some rhubarb and with it I made rhubarb and rose petal jam this afternoon.

I only had rosa rugosa petals to use as we don't have any "proper" roses in our garden and although they are perfumed I don't think they are as highly perfumed as the ones I used last time I made this some years ago.  My old cook book does however say that in wet seasons the jam may take longer to reach setting point and this was certainly the case today so maybe in wet seasons the flowers don't have as much perfume either.  I noticed earlier on that the apple blossom didn't seem as wonderful when I sniffed it as it usually does.

However my efforts produced 3 pots of jam and a tiny sample sized one too!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Badger break-in!

  On Friday night just as I was dropping off to sleep I heard such a banging and crashing coming from the kitchen.  Knew the cats, even if they'd jumped on the worktops or something, wouldn't make quite so much noise and didn't think any self respecting burglar would either!  My husband is deaf without his hearing aids so it was obviously up to me so I went downstairs and realised something was trying to get in through the cat flap - we have one with a panel which slots into place on the inside to prevent the cats going out at night - and I feared whatever it was might break through that as it is only plastic.  I went into the conservatory from where I could see the backdoor and turned a light on and lo and behold it was a badger doing his/her utmost to get in!  Eventually it lumbered off when I shone the light on it and on Saturday morning we found the outside part of the cat flap was demolished!!  Dear little souls eh?!!  Cats meanwhile were sitting blinking in thier chosen sleeping places and wondering what was going on.

 So yesterday we had to purchase and fit a new cat flap and last night I barricaded the outside of the back door with the little folding table we have outside for taking our cups of tea and coffee - don't want him/her creating a habit of visiting do we?  Fingers crossed Mr or Mrs Brock will find some other entertainment in future.

Pictures from Google

What did those of you who watched the Channel 4 programme about the 50's house think of it?  I don't know where they got their information from but although many of those things might have been available I doubt if many people had kitchens like that.  I know my childhood at Grandfather's was not typical but I did visit friends whose homes were fairly normal and I don't remember their mothers having such modern kitchens at all.  Did you notice that the adverts were all American too?! 

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Back to Normal

What a fabulous 4 days we've had here in the UK.  I wonder if Her Majesty had a well deserved lie-in this morning!  Although we didn't actually partake in any of the celebrations in person I felt as if we were part of it all simply by being British and being here rather than still in France! How I wished I had been able to be in London though.

Pomp and pageant is something we do so well in England and the colour and joy were apparent in spite of the weather (sixty years ago I remember going to see the proceedings on a neighbour's television but no colour was available then!) What struck me most about it all was the fact that it is possible to have thousands of people all congregating together and there to be none of the violence and arrests which so often occur when crowds get together for whatever reason.  I occasionally feel saddened and embarrassed by the behaviour of some of my fellow countrymen and their thuggish behaviour but the Jubilee restored my faith in the better side of human nature.  It was wonderful to see so many people from all walks of life, of all ages from the elderly to little children (who will surely have memories to tell their own children and grandchildren one day), of all nationalities and no doubt of many different religions or none getting together to enjoy themselves. Just now when the world is in such a parlous state, when Europe is hanging on by its fingernails as the recession deepens, and when so many people have little to be joyful about it was wonderful to have 4 days of happy news on the television!  Long may she reign indeed!

Now the streets of our capital are gradually returning to their usual workaday selves, the nationwide street parties all cleared up and the mountains of washing up done (I wonder just how many cups of tea were drunk over the weekend!) we are left with memories of a joyous few days.  It was certainly something none of us will live to see again!

Meanwhile here at chez Marigold we too have returned to normal as our wanderer left us on Sunday to move on to pastures new - we miss her of course, and so do the cats who had been enjoying extra attention,  but at least this time she is not on the other side of the world but just the other side of London and near enough for an occasional visit.

Yesterday was such a dismal wet day here (I was pleased to see that the rain didn't reach London till later in the day) that indoor occupation was called for and I decided to make a small quilt for the office chair we use at the computer - the cats sometimes sit on it and we are prone to come in to check our e-mails in our grubby gardening clothes so something washable to protect the upholstery was called for.  I probably should have made it red, white and blue instead of yellow since it was stitched over the Jubilee weekend!  I finished off the hand stitching sitting in front of the fire we lit last night as it was so chilly!

By the way there is a programme on Channel 4 tomorrow evening at 9.00 pm about the 50's home to tie in with the Jubilee.  I shall be watching with interest as due to leaving a comment on a blog a long while ago which indicated that I remembered life in the 50s one of the researchers got in touch with me and then after a long conversation on the phone a week later she and another researcher came here to talk with both me and my husband, who probably remembers some things better than I do and had a more typical childhood than mine too.  We were asked if we would agree to being interviewed on film but we declined - we are weird enough as it is without the editing process making us come across as even more strange than we already are so we shall not be making an appearance but it should be an interesting watch for anyone who enjoys a trip down Memory Lane.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee

On this day 59 years ago the Coronation of our Queen took place - she acceded to the throne the year before on 6th February 1952 hence the Diamond Jubilee takes place this year but we are to celebrate it on the date of the Coronation rather than in February (hardly conducive to street parties in the UK!)

I still have the local paper from back then and thought you might be interested to see bits of it.  I was living at my grandfather's in the Forest of Dean when the coronation took place and if you click on Childhood in my list of post headings you will see more about life back in the 50s should you be interested.

The weather forecast for this weekend is for cloudy weather with the possibility of showers and not as warm as it has been this past week - not so different to how it was on Coronation day - nothing much changes and here in the UK we are used to having "rain on our parades"!!! (If you click on the photo you should be able to read the little article)

I couldn't help but notice how different this paper is to the local paper (The Western Gazette) this week which I show below.

How different it looks for a start we now have colour photography - it's odd how little colour we had in our lives back then even our homes seemed to be furnished in shades of beige and brown, paintwork was often brown or dark green and if not then a deep cream and things got so dirty too what with coal fires and so on.

The layouts in our magazines and papers are now so different and far less formal. We have different typefonts and are much more creative.

This article interested me and brought back many memories.  It speaks about living conditions back in 1952 and reminds us that Britain was still recovering from the war - I remember how much bomb damage was still in evidence then.  We still had food rationing and tea didn't come off ration till October that year - imagine us not having unlimited tea!  We Brits to whom tea is a national drink and the answer to all life's problems having only limited supplies!  The paper says that our standard of living back then was what would now be regarded as Third World - only 1 in 3 households had a bath, 1 in 20 had no piped water - young people today probably cannot imagine it.  Only 10 percent of homes had a telephone installed (and those were often a shared line) Who remembers having to go to the telephone box and put your coins in and then press button A to speak to anyone - remember too always pressing button B just in case the previous caller hadn't got through and had forgotten to get their money back?

Notice the price of a day trip to London by train - only 26/3 which would be about £1.32 in decimal coinage.  Now you'd be lucky to do it for less than about £40!  This brought back memories of travelling by train though and how filthy it always was.  Trains being steam driven in those days one always arrived feeling dirty.  London was a dirty place too what with all the smoke belched out by factories and homes whose only form of heating was probably a coal fire.  I remember as a teenager in the early 60's visiting my aunt who lived in London and how dirty I got after a day on Oxford Street - if you used a hanky you could see just how much black dirt was breathed in!  The lace on my petticoat (yes we all wore one then) was grubby and cuffs always got grimy too!  I was a country child though so the smog and dirt of the city was a novelty rather than a constant in my life.

So to anyone who hankers after a vintage lifestyle or talks about the good old days - it wasn't all so wonderful you know.  And the past 60 years have brought many changes some good and some not so good and this weekend will be a time for many of us to reminisce no doubt.  Do take a look at the Diamond Jubilee card on the Jacquie Lawson web site if you can - it made me smile