Tuesday, 31 March 2009
Sunday, 29 March 2009
Saturday, 28 March 2009
Friday, 27 March 2009
Smuggling has been rife around the coasts of Britain and no doubt Europe for over a thousand years .. and started when it became “the custom” to 'give up' some of the wine cargo being imported into London and a few other ports in the 1200s.
Initially the Customs Service was only there to collect the duties at the port, and not to prevent smuggling. Wool, in the Middle Ages, was the mainstay of the national economy and was in great demand on the continent, however export duties, and subsequently import duties, provided a new source of revenue for the Crown and its wars, and so taxes started to rise.
The Ages of Exploration opened up trade routes and brought in exotic new cargoes. The most popular smuggled goods were silks, spices, tea, tobacco, spirits, wine and china as these found an easy market for resale, so as you’d expect law breakers of all kinds were among the first to jump on the contraband wagon, encouraged by this public support.
Amazingly in 1784 it was estimated that over half of the tea consumed annually in Britain had been smuggled in. While at much the same it was thought that nearly half a million gallons of brandy a year were being smuggled through Cornwall, and it was also known that ships returning from India and China would 'hover' off shore in the west country and sell untaxed goods such as china, silks and cottons!
The law at the time made it an offence to smuggle goods but it wasn't a crime to sell them on, so smugglers would often leave their wares in a cave to be fetched by another person who would not be committing a crime by selling them – hence here I’ve loosely used the phrase “The Law is an Ass” in the title!!
Smuggling along the south coast adapted to the locality .. Kent and Sussex were nearer to both Europe and London .. so plenty of goods could be “traded” more easily – whereas smuggling is synonymous in the far west of Cornwall, the goods coming from the continent sometimes via the Channel Islands, or from Ireland to the north Cornish coast.
The poorly paid farm labourers and the hard living mining communities ensured there was a constant demand for cheap goods, including tea, brandy, gin, ‘baccy’ etc, so for all of the legends and stories, most smugglers were said to have been more concerned with feeding their families than making fortunes.
Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem about the Smugglers and the Gentlemen (Revenue men) – “The Smugglers Song” .. please click the link to read it in full ..the poem is full of resonance of times gone by .. and it starts like this ..
If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse’s feet
Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street
Them that asks no questions isn’t told a lie.
Watch the wall, my darling, while the Gentlemen go by!
Trotting rhrough the dark – Brandy for the Parson ........
Or you can listen to The Smugglers Song here read by Murray Lachlan Young – it’s a great poem .. the children will love it .. enjoy!
Thank you, thank you for that lovely poem .. we will enjoy listening .. Rudyard Kipling wrote some amazing poems and stories .. Mr Postman .. you do remind us of such an interesting way of life and how much has changed over the years ..
Thursday, 26 March 2009
The Cathedral of the South Downs, as it has come to be called, is the parish church, built in 1360, in the village of Alfriston. The Church sits on a small, flint-walled mound in the middle of "the Tye" (the village green!) overlooking the River Cuckmere - and was unusually built in the shape of a cross.
The Cuckmere River was navigable inland for about 4 miles and the Steamer Trading cookshop in Alfriston reminds us of that trading history in the 1500s through its name, .. so goods could be brought up away from the coast, initially sailed up before the invention of the steam engine. The Smugglers Inn a few doors away from Steamer Trading had at one time 21 rooms, 6 staircases, and 48 doors .. making it ideal for the purposes of the smuggling gangs. To my surprise tea seems to have been one of the first major contrabands, as well as the expected brandy and gin ..
If you would like to see an idyllic English view from the Downs above Alfriston .. where my brother lives & is their view, when they walk to the top - straight from their house! - this site is advertising the 100 mile walk from my town of Eastbourne(above) to Winchester along the South Downs (in stages, I hasten to add, an essential element is the dropping down to the pubs at night .. Alfriston being the first or last stop!!).
As you can see the area has a magnificient backdrop .. and yesterday's post shows the picture of the coastguard cottages used as the postcard in the film "Atonement", while the beach was used for Kevin Costner's Robin Hood film, and in the Harry Potter "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" movie.
Well Mr Postman I must say you do keep us informed and I can see a few more interesting positive letters and articles flowing from these stories .. what will you bring tomorrow, I wonder .. thank you for visiting us again .. it's always so lovely to see you with one of your positive letters ....
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
Steve Jones in his article above is talking about oxbows and since I was a kid and loved Geography - oxbows always fascinated me ... Geography was about the only subject I was any good at at school .. other than some sport.
So when I returned from South Africa and settled in Eastbourne, I was delighted to see that the Cuckmere River has the most wonderful flood plain full of oxbows, and that this was one of the two routes I could take to reach the village of Alfriston, where my brother lives.
Steve Jones mentions two things that amused and interested us .. "one of my (his) observations is that the length of a meandering river as it flows across a flat landscape is always the distance (in a straight line) from the spot where it reaches the plain to its estuary multiplied by 3.14, the famous constant Pi"; this applies to all meanders .. the mighty Amazon, the Thames or to the tiny tributary The Fleet that runs below Fleet street - that hot spot of journalists! - into the Thames.
The Cuckmere is a fantastic area to visit and travel around .. I love using the slower coastal route, as the colours can be the vivid spectrum of sky and sea .. blues of all hues, turquoises and from here I know why sea green is a colour: artists love it. It's just inspiring to get to the top of the Seven Sisters - the chalk cliffs between Eastbourne and the Cuckmere - and come across this magnificent view - either by driving, or using the Seven Sisters park and walking the Downs.
There's so much history here Mr Postman .. do you think you could bring us some more information? - we love hearing about smuggling, Saxon cathedrals and the modern day films using the area as a backdrop .. - it is so kind of you to bring us our positive letter .. we do so appreciate you .. til tomorrow .....
Tuesday, 24 March 2009
Monday, 23 March 2009
The origin of the name is not clear .. but it's accepted that a cake was created in honour of the marriage in 1884 of Queen Victoria's granddaughter to Prince Louis of Battenberg, with each of the four squares representing the four Battenberg princes. However Prince Louis had a greater heritage to come .. he is the grandfather of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who is married to our Queen.
We loved marzipan and I always looked forward to a proper rich Christmas fruit cake covered in real home made marzipan, and then coated in royal icing - resembling snow drifts .. decorated with fir trees, a snowman and Father Christmas.
Marzipan is one of those historical sweetmeats that has travelled from Persia, with its wonderful orchards of almond trees, across the Mediterranean bringing with it the Arabic influence of sweetmeats .. very likely going both north into the Austro Hungarian empire and skirting south, via the Moorish lands, to Iberia .. again laden with almond orchards.
Marzipan was so pliable that in medieval times it was moulded to create elaborate sculptures - this was when food was an acceptable form of theatre for the rich .. and was used as entertainment ... the staff utilising all their imaginery skills to create incredible buffets.
Now-a-days marzipan is made into imitations of fruit and vegetables, filled with chocolate, or made into simple animal shapes or figurines .. apart from the uses for Christmas cakes, stollen and simnel cake as mentioned in my previous post. A particularly well known piece of confectionery is the Mozartkugel (Mozart ball) ....
The “Original Salzburg Mozartkugeln” are still produced manually by the confectioner Fürst in Salzburg, Austria according to the original recipe, 1890, and using the original technique and was named after Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: First, a ball of green pistachio marzipan covered in a layer of nougat is produced and is then placed on a small wooden stick and dunked in a dark chocolate coating, which is then allowed to cool off and harden. Finally, the stick is removed; the hole that it leaves behind is filled with chocolate coating, and the ball is wrapped in blue-silver tin foil by hand.
Well Mr Postman .. you continue to surprise me .. what next? .. lucky dip is it .. perhaps I'll go and get some marzipan chocolate to help wait for your next positive story ..
Sunday, 22 March 2009
Saturday, 21 March 2009
Dear Mr Postman .. what's the news today .. ah! Hah! .. I see the letter gives me some interesting facts about the start of Spring .. that's fun and reminds me of my grandparents' positive stories ..
Do you remember the days of coal fires to heat the house (if you were lucky!) to cook the food on, heat the water? ... those were hard times ... and the sooty dust that went everywhere making all the surfaces and the fabrics a slightly darker shade of pale? Spring cleaning could start when the days were getting warmer and longer .. more time to complete the job and the extra light meant crevices could be looked into!!
Our pioneering ancestors could only refill their straw mattresses once the hay was dry enough and the chimney sweeps could only do their sweeping once the winter fires were out. Did you know that the occupation of chimney sweep is considered to be one of the oldest as chimneys have been around since ancient times?
Is it today March 21st or yesterday March the 20th - the start of Spring? Well a little bit more information here .. more detail is available from Wikipedia on the Equinox
* the equinox occurs twice a year: Spring & Autumn
* on the day of an equinox - yesterday 20th March - everywhere the sun rises at 6.00a.m. and sets at 6.00p.m. (except at the poles) (NB: remember to adjust in time zones!)
* equinox is derived from two Latin words 'aequus' (equal) and 'nox' (night): hence equal daylight
* high in the Artic Circle - there's 15 minutes extra daylight each day until the Summer Solstice, whereas in Singapore the variation is a few seconds, as Singapore is practically on the equator
* because the Sun is a spherical source of light (rather than a point) .. it takes 33 hours to cross the equator
* the equinox gets later by 6 hours each year .. amounting to one full day every 4 years, which is offset by the leap year!!
* Resulting in an absolute shift of about one day every 70 years. This explains why in the last century the dates for the equinoxes and solstices were entrenched in our minds as 21 March, 22 June, 23 September and 22 December .... where as now in the 21st Century .. they are 20 March, 21 June, 22 September and 21 December.
So the start of Spring was officially yesterday for us northern hemisphereans .. March 20th - per the Gregorian calendar and its compensatory century leap year rule.
Enjoy your Spring .. the extra light .. about 15 minutes each day and the higher sun.
I enjoyed the chimney sweep titbits, Mr Postman, and it reminds me of the faerie stories I loved reading when I was growing up and the wondeful pictures .. while the 'facts', as you know, I've always liked .. great letter - and I'll enjoy re-reading it .. til tomorrow ..
Friday, 20 March 2009
Dear Mr Postman .. oh how lovely! a letter telling me about the flowers I received today .. do you know them - these Kings of the Floral Kingdom? ....
Nature must have been well satisfied with the creation of the most distinctive and beautiful of all African landscapes - the garden lands of southern Africa: the Cape Floral Kingdom - containing a veritable domain of wild flowers, with 16,000 - 22,000 species flourishing to perfection in a climate of ample winter rain and snow, warm dry summers, balmy springs and autumns.
In Europe the recent ice ages wiped out old vegetation and the new plants have not yet had time to produce so many variations. The "Cape Garden" has been carefully protected for over 200 million years from any drastic variation in climate allowing so many species to mutate and proliferate. The Protea family is an ancient one ... its ancestors grew on Gondwanaland 300 million years ago .. and there are subfamilies in Australia and South America. Proteas attracted the attention of early botanists visiting the Cape of Good Hope in the 1600s and were introduced into Europe in the 1700s.
Heathers and heaths, under the botanical name of the Erica genus, flourish here in great monthly swathes of colours across the valleys and mountain slopes - the fading blooms of their predecessors gently seem to dissolve into the fresh new colour of successors.
The Coast of Flowers is at the heart of the spectacular natural garden of the western Cape, and reigning over this whole floral kingdom is the king of all flowers - the Protea. Carl Linnaeus, the Swedish botanist, named these spectacular flowering plants after Proteus, the Greek god of the sea, who was gifted with the power of infinitely changing his appearance.
The protea family are noted for their varied appearances and extraordinary individuality ... and they're protected from the elements with a covering of white woolly hairs. There's a variety called the 'sugarbush' .. and flowers in light yellow or red and are noted for the unusually large amount of nectar they produce and were prized by the early settlers for its sugarbush syrup.
I'm so pleased you liked your letter to go with your Mother's Day bouquet of Cape Floral sprays - treasure it - until tomorrow ....
Thursday, 19 March 2009
In 1986 I had a nasty accident outside my house in Johannesburg .. about 30 feet away were some traffic lights, it was Friday afternoon & I was off to visit some friends .. very fortunately I'd set off slowly, as I was mentally checking if I had everything .. and the next thing I knew: wham, spin, buffet, shudder, bang, bang, bang .. & shake to a stop on one of the said traffic lights. My beautiful orange beetle, I'd travelled round South Africa in, was written off in one fell swoop.
Fortunately I hadn't hit my head .. but certainly my brain had wandered around inside & I felt pretty awful .. - after 'sorting things out' as you do with passers by and the local householders in that situation, I rang my mother back in England .. who announced that I should on no occasion go and play a game of squash (racquet ball) that night or that weekend .. I should rest in a darkened room and let my brain settled down - I did as my mother told me to & certainly didn't want to do much else!!
Today I heard of a young man, 30, who competed in triathlons .. and so was you'd think 'super fit' .. but he'd had a stroke: his fiance saw the three symptoms and acted on the 4th point: fortunately they'd both watched the BBC advert for recognising strokes and so he was in hospital pretty quicky and is on his way to near recovery - but remember the brain continues to adjust and adapt after illness. (see my post).
Sometimes as this week - a mere apparent bump can mean death - as has happened to Natasha Richardson - and just because someone can talk and seems ok .. they need to be monitored, so if there are changes an immediate response and quick medical diagnosis can be set up.
Hilary luckily you didn't hit your head in that car accident - so you're here to tell this cautionery tale and remind us all of our mortality .. we need to be aware and protect it .. - I'll bring you a happier letter tomorrow!
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
We love new knowledge .. and love the scent of Jasmine .. so I came back and Wiki'ed it .. it's turned out to be really interesting .. Jasmine is considered the queen of flowers and is called the "Belle of India" or the "Queen of fragrance" as it is exquisitely scented to soothe and refresh.
Jasmine was traded across the seas from Asia to Europe .. eventually reach England in the latter part of the 17th century - the 1600s: & by the 18th century, jasmine scented gloves had become popular in Britain!!
The jasmine in the Mysore district - a city south west of Bangalore - is named Mallige (elsewhere it is known by different names .. the one I like is 'Moonlight in the Grove'). Jasmine is prevalent extensively in the surrounding areas and to the north in the land of SlumDog Millionaire .. though probably not the slums .. apparently every home in the Mumbai coastal region has 1/2 to 1 acre of land in front of the house for Jasmine growing!
Jasmine is used for garlands at weddings, auspicious occasions and for the temple deities. The women in the south wear jasmine in their hair, while there are various medicinal uses as well as the essential oil production.
Jasmine is one of the key scents in some of the most celebrated perfumes in the world .. Chanel no 5 and Joy .. a single ounce is still known as the 'costliest perfume in the world'.
The state of Karnataka, where Mysore is situated, has been given Geographical Indication (GI) status for the Mallige jasmine - which provides exclusive Intellectual Property Rights to the local community to cultivate the crop for 10 years .. the GI Tag or Patent protects that jasmine industry & excludes others outside the specific geographical region to sell under the same name.
So there's the connection .... and my mother was inspired by the knowledge ...
Tuesday, 17 March 2009
She's never much liked tv, nor radio: so we don't have those on 24 hours a day as some people do .. thank goodness! I guess she was out in the garden .. growing the vegetables, fruit, tending the animals etc & generally caring for the garden as well as being an exceptional cook & producing food for the family .. she was training to be a doctor before the war and has always loved knowledge ...
We lived outside London, but my mother was brought up in Cornwall and her first husband's family was up in the Lake District, while my father's mother moved to the south coast when I was quite young after the death of my grandfather .. so our holidays were always away from home. We did go to Italy and France on separate occasions .. but didn't travel to Europe really until we were older as teenagers and were able to go off on our own, or as I did go and live in Africa. My father's family had global interests .. tobacco, toys and bridges .. so I can really pinball around happily!
So .. as you can see I still have my work cut out for me .. providing titillating snippets of information for my mother to help her wellbeing and to bring laughter to her .. I constantly work at it .. always making a note, or taking a cutting if something amuses or interests me .. the ideas come from all over the place ..
My mother believes I'm writing a book .. and asks me about the cover, what does it look like, what colour is it, what title have you in mind .. etc! .., why isn't it ready yet?! I'd like to let others access these posts .. so that they can be read to all those many people in hospital, in care homes, in the community who don't receive regular visitors or letters so that they will have something to look forward to every day .. what's new today? and something to discuss with others or think about .. hence positive letters, positive stories etc
So please keep reading, let me have your ideas and your comments .. so I can provide others less fortunate with a different type of service they may enjoy ...
Mr Postman - thank you so much for imparting some more background information .. it's good to be reminded ..
Monday, 16 March 2009
So as with my posts .. each day something will crop up and my mind springs into action - as to a main topic .. but then other ancillary thoughts creep in and are bolstered by a reference source at home: a book, an article, a letter, a conversation .. or by Googling or Wiki-ing = always something that will interest my mother and perhaps make her laugh .. and therefore I hope others ...
These ancillary discoveries just add another dimension to each post .. and bring a lightness of knowledge, or an interesting snippet to your attention - hopefully setting your minds off in other directions to unrelated discoveries of your own.
I rather like the inter-relationship of various ideas within one post .. linked by a main theme .. it amuses me (as Queen Victoria said!!) & gives you dear reader food for thought .. What do you think? I'd love to know .. so look forward to hearing from you ....
Sunday, 15 March 2009
Before the blog started .. I was writing to relations and friends & ex employees of my mother's (she used to own a Care Home in Newlyn, just outside Penzance, in Cornwall - near Lands End) and I've always made these letters positive in content, while at the same time informative & have always included some of the stories I've told Mum - we've found interesting or funny ..
... so important to provide interesting information for various reasons .. people don't want to be depressed by the news, nor does my mother .. & I hope people reading them may pick up some tips for dealing with their elderly .. and my letters will encourage or give hope to others when they read them - my mother likes hearing them & she likes my posts (luckily! - she keeps asking when is the book coming out!! & what does the cover look like!) ..
My mother can't take in too much .. and these kind of posts just provide some stimulation for her & can lead on to other related discussions, connections etc - quite often leading her to asking me to look it up in the dictionary, or Google it!! In fact I have one now ..."subhirtella" ???? I had no idea - do you? ... post coming up!
The ricocheting in my brain as it spins, probably out of control, across the universe bumping into topic after idea ... eagerly searching for a brief snippet that my dying mother would be interested in - cheering her up and bringing a laugh to her soul ...
So I get my ideas from all sorts of places .. and add my own spin - as there are so many professional erudite bloggers out there and I wanted to do something different - where you'll all come back to have a read - as you'll never know what's coming ... nor do I!! I want you back .. & I don't want you bored ...
Saturday, 14 March 2009
In Asia the explorers' motives were also mixed - they were impelled by their love of adventure, their thirst for knowledge and, of course, the political considerations from their respective Kings, Queens and governments of the day... these constantly changing over the years ... eg:In 1534 the Portuguese appropriated the Bombay islands from the Gujaratis, and ceded in 1661 Mumbai (Bombay, India) to the British as part of the dowry provided by Catherine de Braganza to King Charles 11.
New York was originally called New Amsterdam in 1624, before coming under British colonial rule in 1664. San Diego long inhabited by the Kumeyaay Indians, before falling to the Spanish in 1542. In 1602 a cartologist arrived in the San Diego flagship and the town was renamed on San Diego day, November 12th. There was another mix .. as Mexico held sway for a while under the label of secularisation and the Franciscan friars, until it became incorporated as a city in 1850.
So much has changed and we've had the good days .. during which time America has taken over a great deal of the European trade; now ceded out to China, India and the far east .. but with the present downturn and globalisation who knows what's coming.
It'll be important to know how to do things for yourself and to shop locally supporting your farmers' markets and outlets .. technology does however provide a wonderful window to the future, if you're prepared to look.
Friday, 13 March 2009
Spain was a little behind with Columbus discovering the New World: America in the late 1400s .. 1492 as the rhyme goes: initially colonization was the main objective, but once gold was discovered trade in earnest began. The continent showed its true colours with the various empires already in place - the Incas, the Aztecs .. these were overrun by the conquistadors and were also devastated by the pandemic diseases brought over from Europe.
The East Indies Spice Islands were explored by the Spanish via the Magellan Straits (south of Chile & north of Tierra del Fuego) .. connecting both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. At that time it was not possible to develop that route .. it was far too inhospitable and the innovations required in hull design and rigging had not been thought up.
The French, English and the Dutch were learning from the opportunities provided by the Portuguese and Spanish, together with the new technologies, maps and charts emanating from the Iberian peninsula and were not going to be held back in their thirst for trade, land, conquest, wealth and new possibilties .. it was a fertile time for exploration.
Most parts of the planet had been discovered by the early 1600s, with the Australian east coast finally being mapped early in the 1700s and at that time the Pacific was being more thoroughly explored; the centre of America was reached in the 1500s, but continued to be explored during the 1700s and into the 1800s. The centre of Africa and Australia providing challenges with the tropical diseases prevalent .. were explored during the mid 1800s and into the 1900s; while the seas of Antartica and the Artic had been explored, Antartica and the Artic are still being investigated, albeit the area is known.
Part 3 - the global impact with its economic and cultural influences on the Age of Exploration and Discovery
Thursday, 12 March 2009
Our western civilisation only really started trading with the wider world once advances were made to sea faring vessels, which could withstand the open seas and long trips away. We'd traded with Europe and the Mediterranean - looking mainly for gold, silver and spices, while in the 1200s the Silk Route opened up across Persia, the Spice Routes extending along the shores of Asia, India & on to Indonesia with its Spice Islands.
It was with the advances in navigation and a greater understanding of the seas, that the Portuguese became the great explorers of the 1400s .. sailing down the west side of Africa, round the Cape of Good Hope and on to India .. thus bypassing the controlling Turks of the Ottoman Empire.
The Spanish from 1492 went west and found land in the Caribbean Islands, before setting foot on the north American continent ... Brazil was found at much the same time in 1500, but by the Portuguese .. amazingly a Papal Treaty in 1494 divided the world .. the Portuguese being given control over Africa, Asia and the Eastern part of Brazil, while the Spanish received everything west of this line ... only later realising their good fortune.
The decline of the Spanish and Portuguese controls .. see part 2
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
Squash is played on a smaller court without a roof, the ball is made of synthetic rubber and each time the ball is hit it must hit the front wall - above the "tin" (a 19" tin strip) , though it may hit the other walls (other than on serving) before hand. The game originated (confusingly!) as rackets at Harrow School, and then developed in the 19th century into a racket-and-ball game played, before turning into the game we know now ... squash rackets.
Whereas British Racketball is played on a standard Squash court, American Racquetball is played on a Racquetball court, which is slightly longer and narrower. All surfaces including the ceiling are used. There are no wall markings and no tin.
Squash, of course, refers to the many vegetables .. the Cucurbita family ... and there are so many varieties .. with descriptive names .. some obvious: "spaghetti squash"; some just fun "patty pans"; numerous names .. courgettes or zucchinis; the summer squashes, the winter ones - the pumpkins .. Hubbard, butternut - tastes delicious just thinking about it .. it's such a versatile vegetable.
And, of course!, the squash I like best .. the big, big HUG .. - which I give my mother every day I visit her .. so essential to her wellbeing and we laugh with joy - it lightens the day ..
Have a great Hugging day .. every day!! and a distant hug from us both ....
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
Did you collect stamps .. did you realise any value from the stamps .. not monetary - but knowledge? As a child I'm quite sure my knowledge of places in the world would not have been so vast .. if I hadn't pored over Atlases trying to find the place printed on the stamp in front of me. Names I'd never heard of, places I certainly hadn't been to .. evocative names, such as Tonga - where Queen Salote reigned ...
Tonga is an archipelago of islands in the south Pacific & Queen Salote attended Queen Elizabeth IIs coronation in 1953 - she was one large lady .. tall too! Apparently a friend of Noel Coward asked: "Who's that little man in the carriage with her?" Coward is alleged sarcastically to have replied: "Her lunch." The Coronation was the first piece television I ever watched - aged five & a half!
Stamps taught me so much .. collecting is different from philately - the study of stamps. I spent hours for a few years sorting through stamps given to me by various relatives and teaching myself about the country - geographically where it was, the currency in use, the heads of state, the crops they grew etc .. they're an amazing source of reference.
The Penny Black is the iconic stamp and probably best known stamp in the world - issued in 1840 .. thus showing the world their first picture of Queen Victoria at the start of her reign.
Now stamp collecting is a major past time for numerous peoples around the world - lots of children and some serious collectors. The souvenir packs issued in recent years continue the educational tradition .. we've just had two issues recently here ..
- St David's Day (1st March)- Celebrating Wales - see my post
- Charles Darwin - 150 years since the publication of his book "On the Origin of Species ..". The stamps - a four set Galapagos Island sheet; and six stamps showing Darwin and the five sciences his knowledge encompassed: zoology, ornithology, geology, botany and anthropology: see picture above.
Thank you Mr Postman .. that was a good reminder about my childhood days ..
Monday, 9 March 2009
The Zanzibar Archipelago is 15 - 30 miles off Tanzania, near the eastern coast of Africa, just north of the equator. It's got a wonderful heritage and I've always wanted to visit (my mother will be interested in the new information).. some friends have just come back & I skyped them in Cape Town! My life to be .. six months here in the summer & six months in Africa & travelling the world ....?!
Spices .. ties in with yesterday's post on saffron .. the islands became part of the historical record of the wider world when Arab traders discovered them and used them as a base for voyages between Arabia, India and Africa ... one of the things that fascinated me as a child was the dhow plying its trade up the coast to the Arabian Peninsula - idyllic looking .. deep blue and carmine sails, turquoise seas, sunny skies and yellow sands .. what more could a girl dream of?
Stone Town was a safe haven from which to trade with the East African coastal towns - before the Portuguese, during the Age of Exploration, took control; in 1698 Zanzibar fell under the Sultanate of Oman - developing plantations to grow spices .. hence the moniker of the Spice Islands. Again as a child I seem to remember reading that you could smell the spices (nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and pepper) on the breeze and as you approached the island .. I'd still love to visit - wouldn't you?
The history makes interesting reading .. & I felt enlightened me on the complexities of that part of the world .. and is perhaps worth a read - it is a shortish piece on Zanzibar in Wikipedia.
A totally inconsequential piece of information supplied .. which amazed me .. is that apparently Zanzibar was the first region in Africa to introduce colour television in 1973 .. while mainland Tanzania did not introduce television at all until the early 1990s!
.. another snippet I found interesting is that the Red Colobus (old World Monkeys) and the Zanzibar Leopard, amongst other animal species, travelled across from the mainland during the last ice age.
Oh Mr Postman .. you do make life interesting for us .. we all enjoy your positive stories ..
Sunday, 8 March 2009
Saffron is obtained from the three orange stigmas of the true crocus flower; which when dried constituted one of the most valued and expensive spices in the world.
Saffron has been around 'for ever' ... in biblical times saffron was of the highest importance, not only as a spice and perfume, but for its food & colouring properties; the Greeks used saffron - Homer mentioned it; Pliny said that the benches of public theatres were strewn with the flowers, and the petals placed in small fountains to scent the banqueting halls. Saffron-scented essences were made to descend upon the people like dew ... from the roof of the ampitheatre: how wonderful that must have been?!
The Arabs, Greeks and Romans used Saffron in perfume, medicine and dyeing; it was tansported from Persia (Iran) to India for the colouring of curry. It is cultivated in France, Spain, Sicily and Iran, and it is native to Greece and Asia Minor.
We grew it here in the 16th century - the market town of Saffron Walden became so famous for its production that 'Market Walden' became Saffron Walden. There were small cultivations elsewhere .. but it's likely that the Saffron in Cornwall was originally imported from Persia way back in the middle ages .. when there was a fair amount of trade with the Phoenicians for the minerals, particularly tin, found in Cornwall.
Another interesting snippet - is that in the 19th century .. it was used, combined with sandalwood, cochineal and talc powder, in the making of rouge!
Saffron is used today in many dishes made in countries around the world: risotto in Italy; paella in Spain; garlicky mayonnaise rouille served with French fish soups; in creamy Indian desserts; and, of course, as part of our Cornish heritage - rich yeast buns with currants, or the crumbly cake slices .. served with a spread or lashings of butter or simply eaten on their own.
Saturday, 7 March 2009
The climate is stuck at February. We are in a national state of mildew.
What a patriotic spectacle is the great British public in a great British snit (state of irritation!) about The Great British Weather (anagram: harsh bitter wet heritage). Everyone is complaining about the weather and, as usual, no one is doing a damn thing about it.
The human body is, of course, mostly composed of rain, and for the past few weeks rain has seeped into every corner of our consciousness.
The thing about this British rain is that it is, meteorologically speaking, exceptionally wet. It has a peculiar, merciless quality that Somerset Maugham described precisely: “It did not pour, it flowed. It was like a deluge from heaven . . . it seemed to have a fury of its own. And sometimes you felt that you must scream if it did not stop, and then suddenly you felt powerless, as though your bones had suddenly become soft; and you were miserable and hopeless.”
We cannot do anything about the rain, we don’t know exactly what has caused it in this quantity, and we can’t find anyone to blame. This makes the Daily Mail even more furious. Rain is one of the last aspects of our world over which we have no control.
(Actually, we can do something about it: in the north Indian region of Kumaon, the traditional remedy for stopping rain is to pour hot oil in the left ear of a dog. The animal’s howls are heard by Indra, God of weather, who stops the rain out of pity for the animal’s suffering. Simple, really.)
And yet, while we worry about global warming and pick the moss out of our socks, there is also something in the British character that welcomes the downpour as an old, if annoying, friend. In prose and song, we sentimentalise raindrops on roses, and rain driving against the window, “bringing back sweet memories”.
No other nation gets dressed up for the rain as we do. This is the country that invented the Wellington, the Barbour, galoshes with fake rubber laces, and those special elderly-lady hoods that fold into a concertina and emerge from handbags at bus stops with the first spot of drizzle. Asda sold 220 per cent more slippers last month compared with June 2006.
Two rain-pelt Scotsmen, John Loudon McAdam and Charles Macintosh, gave us waterproof roads and waterproof raincoats. The British umbrella is our national foliage. We spend £65 million on umbrellas every year, and one in ten people manages to lose or destroy at least four a year.
Bad weather is our history, language and literature. Elizabeth and Darcy only fall in love because inclement weather forces them indoors in Pride and Prejudice. In English, it rains cats and dogs, buckets, stair rods, tacks and pitchforks.
Only Afrikaans can compete in rain idiom, with “ Ou vrouens met knopkieries reen” (It is raining old women with knobkerries). Dolly Parton, living embodiment of all that is uplifting, puts it thus: “The way I see it, you wanna rainbow, you gotta put up with rain.”
Rainfall helped us to win at Crécy (1346, by dampening their crossbow strings), Agincourt (1415, by turning the battlefield to mud and bogging down the overarmoured French knights) and Waterloo (1815, by forcing Napoleon to delay his attack, thus giving the Prussians time to turn up). Without rain, we would definitely be speaking French.
So keep complaining, pop on those fashionable galoshes and thank the Rain God you are not in South Africa where, even now, it is raining old women with large wooden clubs."
Friday, 6 March 2009
I looked forward to tea .. scones & cream ... we, as children, loved the thick, crusty cream topping with the thick yellow cream underneath .. taken in great dollops onto half scones (we'd get double then!) and as children topped off with a good spoon of golden syrup - which oozed its way off the scone towards the plate .. we needed to whisk it up to our mouths and suck the rich cream and lightening: sticky sugary treacle (as we called it) into our mouths as fast as possible - so none was wasted! Delicious .....
I remember many a tea at my uncle's .. whereby I scoffed loads of them .. - we deserved our treats .. we'd been to the beach .. a long walk down & an even longer walk back up from high above St Ives, then games of tennis & rumble tumble with my uncle - into the long summer days before returning to our bed and breakfast base along the road.
"Thunder" used to be made by the small holders everyday .. Cornish Clotted Cream or clouted cream as it was originally known, is in fact scalded cream. In the late 1800s .. no separators were used and the thick yellow cream, sometimes tasted of furze (gorse as it's more commonly known) where the cows had pastured and was delivered, with the milk in large pitchers, brought to the door - into which pint and quart tins were dipped for the household consumption.
It's now available everywhere .. but at one time we had to wait for someone to bring some up for us, or bring some back if we visited .. Cornish cream awaits a tasting from you ... - a picnic on the granite cliffs, overlooking the gentle crash of waves below, the gentle hue and scent of yellow gorse around you, the sun shining down or setting across the ocean .. evocative scenes for a thermos of tea and thunder and lightening to be consumed - gluttony at its best - don't you agree?
Thursday, 5 March 2009
I'd taken some wax flower sprigs up, together with some irises and yellow & cream narcissi ..that smell so nice. The wax flowers looked liked tea-tree flowers to me .. and to my Ma .. like heather .. spiky leaves with pale creamy flowers .. both right .. but they are from the myrtle family and are endemic to South Western Australia .. I was told (but I'm not sure!!)
Well murder and mayhem .. can be read about in two of my previous posts. William Bottrell 1816 - 1881 spent his early years living on a farm near the Lands End peninsula, listening and absorbing stories from his grandparents, while sitting by the fire in the kitchen. He was well educated and gained a love for the classics and mathematics. He subsequently travelled greatly, as large numbers of Victorians did in those days, and settled in the Basque area of Spain .. this time collecting local Basque folk tales .. & tending his Spanish garden.
His Spanish lands were confiscated and given to the Catholic Church, so he returned to Cornwall before setting out for a teaching post in Quebec, Canada; he returned again to Cornwall before setting out to Australia, where his wife unfortunately died.
He'd collected folk stories and tales on his travels and continued collecting Cornish ones .. these were published, under the psdudonym "Old Celt" and absorbed into others' volumes for posterity .. but he settled as a recluse in a tumble down cottage on the land at Hawke's Point, near Lelant, where the railway line splits the Point in half, leaving a tiny picturesque meadow.
A description of Hawke's Point is given by a Mr Glasson, who lived there after William Bottrell, and who'd emigrated to Australia but returned for a nostalgic visit:
"In the seclusion of hazel bush and wild briar, a rich little three-cornered meadow of beautiful potato and vegetable soil led down to the very edge of the cliff, just where it turned north towards the headland. Here was a well of water, somewhat similar to the Holy Well of St Uny, but far more secluded and silent, being so enshrouded in the shadows of the overhanging ferns and foliage, of hazel and briar bushes, that it was scarcely known and seldom visited. So secluded was this precious little nook overlooking the beach and Bay, that only in the early morning could the sun ever get a peep at it. Here the maidenhair fern developed as in no other place along the cliff." Beautiful description of a miniscule corner of Cornwall, as it was.