Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Blessing of the Animals ...

Off to Church we went … with two horses – something different to do when farming family visit from Vancouver Island … the dog had to stay behind … 


... there’d have been too much barking and general kerfuffle … after all we don’t want to upset the congregation, visitors or rattle the village any more than necessary?!

Being blessed - a friend's pony

The Service was on the village green, known as the Tye, in front of the Church … there were lots of hymns or songs, four readings with prayers, and the Blessing of the Animals … 

St Andrew's Church on the Tye

... the Vicar visited each and every critter there: mostly dogs, three ponies and I expect a cage or two with some little critters as Lenny would say in it …

At a friend's house post having a carriage ride

As an aside: apparently the hymn “Morning Has Broken” was written in Alfriston in 1931 by Eleanor Farjeon … probably better known and to a broader audience through Cat Stevens’ recording - with the same title.

Cara wanted to play - one
boy wanted to zizz!

The family were entertained with carriage riding, horse and pony grooming, dog outings, walking to see the Long Man of Wilmington … lunches and suppers … some slept!

Extended table - with
fun Beachy Head mats

It was a lovely relaxed time … dinner and lunches were served, left-overs eaten and added to … 

Fresh from the tree in
the garden

... mulberries, by the squishy squashy ‘millions’, were used … 

Aga meringues

.... home-made Aga meringues – this is how they should be … 

Feeding the boy!

... the kids made sandwiches of whatever they chose … a goodly mix!

Fresh Salmon on offer, along
with Pork Pie, Cheeses, salads etc 

one evening Roast Lamb, another Salmon, et al ...

Henney's Dry Cider

...a local wine from West Sussex, Cider brought up from Frome in Somerset … more wine and champers – sadly I was driving!

Aaah - siblings!

Lots of nattering and catching up was done … even with your sibling!

A place to relax in the pergola
out of the full sun ... 
Well that was an easy post … lots of photos, bits of information, some captions … Bank Holiday 2016 remembered …

Ripening grapes

The family had last visited in March thirteen years ago – on an incredibly hot day – so hot – we moved lunch outside – my mother was up from Penzance, Cornwall … another fun day … It was Mother's Day - March 30th 2003.

Before we went down ... 

… the weather was the same this year … but it was a bank holiday … though this time we went to Church … to Bless the Animals – we hadn’t done that on their last visit … and the ponies weren’t around … dogs and cat were …

That’s it … it is incredibly hot – as I write this at the beginning of the month … 
The Prayer for all Creatures

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Herbs, Spices and Herbalists – part 3: Cloves …

Seeing as we’re nearing Autumn … with plenty of apples to be found … there are many herbs or spices I could choose from … but the clove came to mind – the aromatic flower bud that in fact I’d associate with Christmas – oranges stuck with cloves for a perfumed pomander ball, bread sauce made with a clove studded onion, or pierced into the baking ham …

Roast Pork with apple sauce

… or at this time of year apple sauce with cloves … delicious with roast pork, or cold sliced pork …

Clove bud flowering

The evergreen tree of the myrtle family is native to the Spice Islands and the Philippines, but now is grown elsewhere … Sumatra, West Indies, Sri Lanka, India and even Brazil. 

Mauritius - centre of air travel ...
as it was a stopping off point for those
early discoverers or seafarers

Pierre Poivre (1719 – 1786) was a French horticulturalist, who worked as a missionary in China and Vietnam … who is remembered for introducing the clove and nutmeg plants to Mauritius and Reunion.  

Very early Oil of Cloves
bottle found in Coventry

The Persians, Arabians and Egyptians spread these little aromatic buds around the Mediterranean ports … until in 1511 the Portuguese discovered the plants for themselves … the Dutch soon gained monopoly of the trade.  However in 1797 Sir Joseph Banks introduced the clove to Britain.

It seems the oldest medicinal use was in China where it was reported that they were used for various ailments as early as 240 BC.  A Chinese leader in the Han Dynasty required those who addressed him to chew cloves to freshen their breath.

Bread Sauce with cloves - (they
need to be removed before eating)

More recently archaeologists have found cloves in a ceramic vessel in Syria, with evidence that dates the find to about 1720BC. 

Medicinally however cloves are used for flatulence, for most liver, stomach ailments, as a stimulant for nerves - amongst other 'sufferances'.  Clove oil is a tried and trusted friend for troublesome toothaches.  Each culture has its own uses for the clove …

Dried Cloves

As I mentioned for culinary purposes many a dish is not complete without the addition of these highly scented little brown ‘nails’ (cloves) derived from the Latin clavus.

Pickling Spices with cloves centre stage

Marinades, curries, pickles – all use cloves … while in Pickwick Papers, Dickens describes a mulled claret and clove-scented punch as being part of the traditional Christmas fare.

Almost ready for picking and drying

The dry, unopened flower bud can be used to flavour a wide variety of sweet and savoury dishes …. used whole or ground to impart a strong sweet but spicy and peppery flavour – which does need to be used in moderation to avoid over seasoning.

The Moluccas - Spice Islands
situated in South East Asia - forming an
archipelago within Indonesia

So those ‘nails’ from the Moluccas (Spice Islands) give fragrance to so many recipes – far too many to write about … while offering healing remedies for anyone interested in traditional routes … 

Ham studded with cloves

It's a little early for Apple Day (often 21st October) ... but the fruits are nearly ripe (especially here in the south) ... and so I look forward to a few delicious meals using cloves ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Blog Sandwich Update 11: Airbourne, Fish and Chips followed by Hedgehog Icecream …

The madness of summer is almost behind us … we might get a few more hot dry days before the autumnal cool starts misting about us …

Summer in the Downland

Life in the Eastbourne skies was awash with noise from the Royal Air Force, international military air forces, non-military aircraft, helicopters, wing walkers putting on their displays in August for the annual Seafront Airbourne.

Red Arrows swooping in over Eastbourne

Now living on the seafront I expected to be drowned out with excessive noise, not the waves!, windows rattled, my heart rate frightened into overdrive … and yes a bit of that happened … but I was surprised how relatively quiet it was – bearing in mind it’s an airshow.  The noise seemed to be worse when I was living in town …

Eastbourne was hearted more than once ... 

The noise stopper was the Eurofighter Typhoon … that ‘sat’ outside my 6th floor window and then went up – the afterburners really ‘nobbled’ my ear-drums … but it was fine – it’s not all the time – and was extraordinary to watch.

Packed streets with mobile homes ... 

I had some good views … it was wonderful weather and brought the crowds in … they park at Beachy Head, all along the streets – moving in for the few days … engine head ‘aircraft - spotters’ … wonderful to see Eastbourne absolutely full.

I went to the other side of London to a friend’s birthday party – my goddaughter’s mother – and became part of their family for a few days.  

Patio Rose and display

I’m good at washing up glasses!  While there I also saw a cousin and caught up with them and their family … they were in SA during my time …

Fish and Chip pocket or cone

So very few shown here of the lots of photos of aircraft … fish and chips,

It looked and tasted delicious!

 ice-creams various … 

No 26 token here 
depending on your hedgeliehog token – 

we drank ........... 

some Porcupine … and Pimms, beer and champers … there were lots of soft drinks too …

We ate some Gardener's Cake - cooked by the Birthday Girl's Daughter - my clever goddaughter!

That’s that Blog Sandwich Update … more to follow …

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Bran Tub # 3: Wayzgoose, Printers, Hay and Meadows ...

Once I’d come across the word “Wayzgoose” – I felt it ‘necessary’ to write about it … this, if you can believe it, is an annual dinner, picnic or ‘BEANFEAST’ given to those employed in a printing house!  That is Brewer’s definition … and continues …

in Grimsby, Ontario

Wayz is an obsolete word for a bundle of hay, straw, stubble; hence a “STUBBLE GOOSE”, a harvest goose or fat goose, which is the crowning dish of the entertainment.

Jan Steen: The Bean Feast - 1668

I knowz no more!!

Scything, making a windrow,
before the hay is gathered up

But it is hay time … and they are out scything – using the old method … hand scything … this is in celebration of Lammastide, which marks the beginning of the grain harvest (it was the end of July) … but I could not pass up Wayzgoose!

Traditional Wooden

I’ve posted the link at the end to Spitalfields Life “Haymaking on Walthamstow Marshes” … it’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and was originally drained for agriculture in ancient times.

Conjectural map of a Medieval
Manor c/o Wikipedia

The post links to William Morris and what we term Common Land … for that extra history lesson!

We are being treated to a fair number of articles on our meadows … and how we must protect them.

Coronation Meadows china - by Burleigh
In 2013 – the Prince of Wales set up a project for sixty “Coronation Meadows” commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.  Again – more can be read in the link at the end of the post …

Meadow plants in situ

Variety is the spice of life for us … for meadows too – insect population increases: nourished by lots of nectar rich flowers, extra seeds produced – which can be garnered and spread around … then these plant varieties offer us salves, oils, vinegars … a meadow is nature’s healing …

Scythed hay with windrows

Meadows thrive on poor soil and now the seeds have set – the pastures need cutting – while we need to ensure that the cut grass is raked off … creating a windrow … which can be seen in the Spitalfields Life post … also, an essential, the cut grass should be removed, so the soil is not enriched.

Achillea: Sneezewort

The variety of names for these ancient plants are like a gateway to how the plants could be used in other ways ... ancient remedies and healing properties … eg: Sneezewort, or how about Granny’s Toenails

1778 Notice ... re the annual Bean Feast and its
cancellation ...
 in the village of Litcham in Norfolk
Before the Wayzgeese get out of hand and demand more ‘beanz’ … I’ll wrap this up – and send us on our way to Ontario perhaps to the Grimsby Annual Bookarts Fair in April … or just let our imaginations wander as to a feast of our making … or what plants we might find as we look for our picnic spot …

Here’s to Wayzgoose … last weekend was a bank holiday and party time for British families, while this weekend is Labour Day in the States … so enjoy your goose …

Spitalfields Life - Haymaking on Walthamstow Marshes  

Coronation Meadows - BBC Nature News

We have been having the most incredible weather recently - particularly here in the south-east ... very much Wayzgoose picnic times!

Have good Labor Day weekends ... the rest of us will get on with life!  Our Bank Holiday was last weekend ... I have written about them.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday, 28 August 2016

St Nicolas Church, Pevensey and William the Conqueror, storms, North American students ...

I went to a talk on St Nicolas Church in Pevensey – of William the Conqueror fame – well he conquered and left us, Angles or Saxons as we were, with a new world … talk about change – but we are what we are now 1,000 years on …
St Nicolas Church, Pevensey looking east

I have written briefly about Pevensey, as too Herstmonceux Castle … but nothing as thorough as this recent post from Mike at “A Bit AboutBritain” on the Battle of Hastings

Dr Scott McLean, an archaeologist from the Canadian School at Herstmonceux, gave the talk … and wondered why no recent detailed excavations of Pevensey had ever been made … particularly with the tools that we have available to us today …

We have no idea where the harbour was that William, with his huge fleet of ships, landed – it was Pevensey … but was it north of the castle, or to the east … were there two harbours even … no major archaeology has been found, nor has a recent serious search been made.

The coastline of Pevensey c 340 AD
that expanse of water is now the
Pevensey Levels

To go back to the Roman era (2,000 years ag) – this part of the Sussex coast was very strategic with its ‘deep water port’, a number of salt works … Pevensey was a peninsula … and the coastline had many more deep water inlets …

Graveyard surrounded by trees - not of the Saxon age!
Through the trees and over them is where
Pevensey Castle stands

The thick forest of Andredsweald (c/o Mike for the name of the forest) … offered the Romans all the necessary raw materials to increase the already present iron industry (wood and iron) … together with clay for tiles and bricks, hogs, deer, and at the coast – fish … to feed the population.

Less manicured part - but it was a lovely day to be
at the Church and walking around

The forest provided a natural barrier … trade would be south to the various ports along the coast … the ‘Classis Britannica’ or Roman fleet, an imperial organisation, as well as a navy, supplied the inhabitants with necessities … while encouraging some form of farming at the various farmsteads dotted around the various forts.

… as the trades were established the land became relatively settled – albeit of a coastal tract – as trade was by boat … and these were  Harold Godwin’s lands … so William’s invasion – was war on King Harold as he might have been.

Early Medieval France - the Germanic tribes were
to the east, Armorica was settled by the Celtic Britons
escaping the Anglo-Saxon invasions

Yet – why did William land here … he came with the winds – but it was because there was this major connection with Normandy and western France – rulers hadn’t settled, as we know them, their lands yet … and so Pevensey became the centre of people movement and of ideas …

Pevensey Castle outer wall - the east entrance

… a Mint was established, the new church of St Nicolas was built to the east of the castle, but on a previous Saxon church … while in 1207 Pevensey was given the status of a Cinque Port.  The Cinque Ports were a trade and military confederation along the south and east coasts of England.

… but a harbinger of disaster was ‘brewing’ - the climate was changing – so much so that there were major storms in the 1286 and 1287 seasons … which changed the coastline for ever.

Compared to the Pevensey Bay coastline
above - the shore line is very different today

The wide open harbours were silted up, cliffs collapsed leading to harbour settlements finding themselves landlocked, while others that had been inland found themselves with access to the sea.

This was the wide bay - now silted up

The Pevensey levels were swamped with silt so that Hailsham became landlocked … Pevensey was left without either of its major harbours … trade ceased: impacting in a major way life along the Sussex coast … 100 villages were deserted … and these storms continued on and off until 1430 …

Trade moved to larger open water ports … such as Portsmouth, or north Kent where the London ports became established … perhaps Pevensey could have been ‘a Portsmouth’ … and our lives here in Eastbourne and East Sussex would have been very different.

They are still farming at Church Farm hundreds of
years later - pigs were in this field

Dr McLean brought some Canadian students from Herstmonceux to experience a dig … they were not impressed! with the square of old farm yard next to the Church … which needed to be carefully dug/trowelled out … looking for Neolithic, Roman, Saxon, Viking, Norman, Medieval finds …

Emperor Allectus of the Britannic Empire
with a Classis Britannica galley on
the obverse

… relatively few were found – they found some Roman coins, pottery, the base of a medieval road, a beach and a wharf that would have been nearby …

… all leading to the fact that the Church would have been at the centre of a community – on the harbour, surrounded by a Mint, Customs House, homes, shops, farms etc …

Unusually the nave and chancel are almost
of the same length - it is slightly off true;
the thinking is that it was intentional - a
deliberate feature to create an illusion of
greater strength, or to depict the
drooping of Christ's head on the Cross.
The students however loved the new born lambs, baby pigs … meeting the locals … but not the mud and farmyard yuck – but archaeological digs cover all things …

… then one day – they were ushered into the Church … and had a seminar in the Medieval Church that is 800 years old … something that they’d have never have experienced in north America.

So as you can see I hope from my brief foray along our coast and through the two millennia back to Roman times, and even another 4,000 years further back in time to the Neolithic Age – confirmed by other finds in and around Eastbourne … that history uncovers much … including storms that completely change the way of life.

Flint Wall, wonderful picket like fence, white roses
taken from the graveyard

History is weird and wonderful … so much to learn, so many mysteries to solve – where did William the Conqueror land … exactly where is that harbour, and the underlying archaeology …

To the Sacred Memory of Thomas Pierce - mariner and
pilot who died, drowned in sight of home in the gale
of June 6th 1870 - aged 70 years.
… someone one day will decide it’ll be worth the expense and effort to unravel that historical unknown … much as they appear to have done for the Battle of Hastings – where William conquered, and Harold lost his eye, before death cut him down.

It was a fascinating visit … and now I need to revisit and find out more …

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories