Saturday 31 December 2011

Auld Lang Syne ... here comes 2012: Welcome New Year ..

The song we will all sing (or hear the next day for those sleepyheads!) is the classic that was spread by the Scots, English, Welsh, Cornish and Irish as they emigrated around the world.

Happy New Year card
Geraniums ca 1880

Robert Burns (1759 – 1796) even plagiarised the old song – when he sent a copy of the original song to the Scots Musical Museum, he remarked “The following song, an old song, of the olden times, has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man”.

Burns collected folk songs from across Scotland, often revising or adapting them and whether we use the original melody as Burns intended ... or not it is the one that is widely used today.

The phrase “Auld Lang Syne” is also used in similar poems by Robert Ayton (1570 – 1638, Allan Ramsay (1686 – 1757) and James Watson (1711) as well as in older folk songs predating Burns .... and appears to be an ‘equivalent’ of “Once upon a time ....”

Old long since”, or more idiomatically “long long ago”, “days gone by”, or “old times” – consequently “for auld lang syne”, as it appears in the first line of the chorus, is loosely translated as “for (the sake of) old times”.

Auld Lang Syne: English translation (minimalist version)

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne ?


For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a wearyfoot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.


Cover to Banjo Paterson's seminal
1905 collection of bush ballads,
entitled The Old Bush Songs
These old songs were the ballads that we now know and were often a narrative set to music (before writing became commonplace) from the later Medieval period (1300s and on) until the early 1800s ..

The term ‘ballad’ probably derives its name from the Medieval French dance songs or “ballares” (from which we also get ballet).  The storytelling concepts would have come in from Scandinavian and Germanic traditions as reflected in that great poem: “Beowulf”.

Literary ballads today we know reflect the work of Burns, Wordsworth, Coleridge to name a few ... and were encompassed by the Ballad Operas (eg The Beggar’s Opera 1728)... as well as stories from north America ... “The Ballad of Davy Crocket” ...  or the "Bush Ballads" that gained a foothold in the rural Australian outback.

A statue representing Janus Bifrons
in the Vatican Museums
So today we sing the words “we’ll take a cup of kindness yet” as Janus, the God of Gates, Doors and Beginnings, with his two faces ... looking forward and back ... awaits the pagan New Year.

Tomorrow: New Year’s Day is the one true global public holiday – celebrated by many with fireworks to spark 2012 into life ... and Auld Lang Syne to “ ‘remember our trusty friends’ as we’ll take aright good-will draught .... for auld lang syne”.

Happy New Year and a very successful and joy-filled 2012 ... busy year ahead.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Thursday 29 December 2011

Alice’s Story .... Jam Jars ... and my goddaughter’s remembrances ...

Do you remember going to the cinema and paying with a jam jar, a piece of lead pipe, tin cans, or rags .... Or?

In the 1930s, those Depression years, and during the War – children could gain entry to the Matinee cinema performance by paying with a jam jar!!

1930s children
Children came from all around, usually on bicycles if they were in the country, eager to join the queue – every effort was made to earn or have the 2p admission ... but, if not, a jam jar would do!

Extra farthings, half-pennies or pennies went towards sweets, oranges or buns ... Ice-creams only becoming available from the usherette in the middle of the 20th Century when refrigeration became cheaper.

A farthing - 1/4 of a Penny
The Corporation trucks would collect the jam jars to go to the jam factory; the rags and rabbit skins would go to be cleaned and made into rough blankets; the tin cans and lead pipe were headed to the aircraft factories .... all legitimate for the War effort.

The glass collection continued on into the 1970s when beer and pop bottles were collected and returned for cash ... great for pocket money and/or recycling.

The Curzon Cinema Eastbourne:
opened its doors in 1913
Nutty neighbours? – well one man used to tell the local kids that he would go to the cinema and pay with a jam jar – they assumed he was off his rocker or nuts ... he was usually    - but just not with this particular remembrance!

One question – if the jam jars were at the cinema:  “Where did the children keep their minnows and sticklebacks?”
Large! minnow in jam jar!

This raised a point with my honorary goddaughter D – as mentioned in my last post ... she reminded me of the time when (her twin) Amy and Simon came down with their mother and Gogo (grandma) to stay.  They must have been 8 and 5 at the time .... when we went to see my uncle.

Derek’s big garden was wonderful for children – lots of shrubs to run around amongst, trees to hide behind, the raised house with its ‘stoop’ (African balcony) for us to sit on and have tea – keeping an ever watchful eye on darting youngsters.

Similar full bordered pond to
my uncle's
Then right in front my aunt had dug a huge pond – she was petite, probably less than 5 feet, which to clean (my uncle told me!) she took off her clothes and went in up to her neck to sort it out!  She had fisherman’s waders for the lighter jobs!

This pond was a relative monster having been based on a Dew Pond ... my aunt was a perfectionist ... and it had been very well constructed (a necessity coming from an engineering family).  She had planted it with rushes, water lilies, added goldfish and Koi ... it was a lovely sight from our balcony vantage point ...

There was a slightly wobbly path running around the back, with a tall, full border of perennial shrubs – azaleas, roses, et al (can’t remember in other words!).  Not really room for adults and kids ... but that’s the way it goes.

Public Pond - Yacht Racing
Derek had all the mod cons out – or ancient much loved relics of childhoods gone ... two model sail boats ... that would get marooned in the middle and our tall stick couldn’t reach them ... til the wind blew them free.

The kids delighted in these running around, rescuing the ships out of the rushes, darting to the back as they sailed further out of reach to the far shore .....

.... then a Cri de Coeur – Hilly, Hilly ... can we have a jam jar?  Why?  There’s fishes here and we want to catch them ... oh look there’s babies too .... oh, oh please can we have some jar jars ...

Fish in the Faroe Islands:
 Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) – 
Faroese stamp issued 7 February 1994
... so jam jars they had – poor fish extracted from their watery living quarters to be fair and square deposited on the hot paving slabs of that path ... where they slithered unhappily ... as the kids squealed and screamed with delight.

A good memory from D of happy days in Derek’s garden ... which ties in well with Jam Jars ... so the chap was right to question – but what about the sticklebacks and minnows .... ours didn’t last long as they quietly ‘fried alive’ .. my sloshing with water didn’t help much I don’t think!

Still these are good laughter memories – the jam jar trip to the cinema – was new to me ... as well as D’s remembrance of another time over at Derek’s .. that resonates very happily in her mind to this day .... so Jam Jars too have stories to tell.

Quick update on my mother ... I think presents trigger her interest!  Christmas Day went .. but Boxing Day she came too and I asked if she wanted to open some presents ... we did – and she raised her head up trying to look round me to see what I was doing as I was setting something up – quizzy as ever, not wanting to miss out! 

Garden Dew Pond with water lilies
She was really interested ... and then I read the cards and Christmas notes/letters I had up in her room ... but that was enough.  The main thing she was happy and interested ... and today I read some of my A – Z short blog posts ... we read A – D ... not bad.

My Dew Pond post ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday 19 December 2011

Birthdays ....

An Aga

I’m sure we all know people at this time of year who have birthdays, but in the melee of festivities their actual birth-day is glossed over.  This is to remember all those who will and have been over the years missing out on a celebratory day – unless of course they’re really clever and have a half-day – in June or July on this side of the hemisphere.

Stuffed Mushrooms
I have a few great friends round this time – and one on Boxing Day – who just vanishes to warmer climes – she came from South Africa, but I knew her years before I went over there.  I simply cannot blame her for escaping!  I made hay while the sun shone for my own day in January when I lived in Johannesburg.

Fresh veggie = essentials
My uncle’s birthday was today ... and since my aunt had died he’d almost been forgotten about – friends would come down, but the rest of us many relatives were tied up with our Christmas rush.

I just decided one year to give him a surprise party .... and invited a few people that he knew, some relatives, cousins of ours, my family and a few locals ... keeping it very small and quite open ended.

Cold meat selection
(ours were in finger pieces)
Not a good time – but if everyone was told ... party time with a buffet lunch from 11.30 onwards, then I reckoned I get a few more takers ... and we did.

My honorary god-daughter D (she was born on the same day as my real god-daughter .. and they’ve remained friends – great isn’t it) aged 12 or so .. was very happy to spend a night at my house ... playing games, having a sleep-over, while I grafted and organised the food: a surprise is a surprise.

Herby bread
Derek knew D and I were going over to have lunch with him – so he was expecting us ... but the first thing on our arrival was .... “well dearest Derek – we have invited a few friends to come round for lunch”.  Help – he then wanted to rush around ... nope – D ordered him to sit down – gave him a cup of coffee ...

Devils on Horseback
... we did have to ask him to get up to turn the central heating back on ... but after that – it was fairly plain sailing.  Finger food, plenty of choice for elderly palettes, was unloaded, for simplicity and to save on washing up - paper plates, plastic cups and cutlery were laid out, Christmas baubles, decorations and tinsel were ‘decoratively’ strewn around ...

... the Aga was ready for the few things that needed heating or warming ... the platters were laid up and we were set to go ... all in about 45 minutes ... as the first guests came through the door – I’d asked some special friends of his to come early to soothe his rattled soul ... at the suddenness of party time!

Winter Garden
Langata was a typical Kenyan house ... large windows onto a stoop (balcony) overlooking the garden ... which my aunt had designed and laid out, as she’d done for the house!   Some lady!  The garden stretched out before us ... crispy and even in its wintry cover ... but beautiful in its form.

As each set of guests stepped through the door from about 11.45 onwards to about 2.30 ... my uncle’s eyes popped out ... people came and went – which was ideal ... never too many at once.

Cheese and Grapes
The Birth Day became an annual event ... and even last year after he had died and the house had been sold – the new owners invited the next door Garden Nursery people to drinks on the same day – so as it happened the tradition continued.  Melanie said to me .. it was so strange going round knowing Derek was no longer there.

My uncle was thrilled and said nobody had thrown a party for him ... he proclaimed he’d never had a birthday party .... perhaps true in that week before Christmas – so I was glad I could treat him to something special.

Gooey no bake chocolate cake
waiting to be cut into squares
He was amazed .... everyone helped clear up and sort things out ... the fridge was packed  with some delicious left-overs and he was happy in his excitement of the day ....

Happy Birthday to all who get the rough end of the stick by being born at this time of year – it’s not their fault though is it?!

Thank you for your support, friendship and wonderful comments during the year and now a very Merry Christmas to one and all ... and an exceptionally  happy 2012 in the year ahead ...

Blessings and Peace to all in the world – may we become a compassionate, caring and thoughtful race –

Please remember the Filippinos, who are very worried about their family and friends in the recent storms in Mindanao ... Perla (our carer my mother calls Cleopatra) being one of them ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday 13 December 2011

The Christmas A – Z has come early ...

Hi everyone – I’m over at Lee’s Blog reminiscing on the A – Z Challenge with a few extra mulled creative thoughts A to Zed threaded in .. I hope you’ll join us ...

Designed by Ada Z 

One, Two, Three, Four, Five
Once I caught a fish alive
Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten,
Then I let it go again ...

Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen Gad’s alive
It’s Lee and Wifie’s Anniversarie
Fourteen years to the day: the thirteenth
Of that devilish twelfth month end of
Two Thousand and Eleven.....

Congratulations Lee and Happy Anniversary to you both ...

JD's book
Now for the ‘serious’ bit ...  J D Meier ( an amazingly well organised man and his blog!) .. has a new post up entitled “How to Market Your Book” – and it’s a resource that some of you may find useful to read and mull over during this Christmas period – and perhaps take advantage of his thoughts in 2012 ... so please click on over: Sources of Insight.

Happy Christmas!
That’s me done, dusted and icing sugared for this post ... head on over to Lee’s Blogging Challenge Blog ... it’s just so much fun being a part of this great group of supportive bloggers – wonderful friends from around the world ...

12 Days of Christmas
A to Zed, is as simple as ABC or One, Two, Three Buckle My Shoe – and apologies to all Nursery Rhyme lovers!

Last but not least ... Ada Z as she is usually known by (Ada Zdanowicz - of CollagePodge) designed the amazing A-to-Z badge - and this needs to be enlarged for you all to see the crossword detail - clever isn't she?!  Lee's post for Ada.

Have fun – enjoy all the posts on the A – Z reflections ... Cheers from me and Hello to Lee .... here’s to a wonderful year end and successful 2012.

Happy Anniversary – you two Birdies .....

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Tea Bags!

Christmas aroma – mince pies, plum pudding, brandy sauce, rich Christmas cake baking away ... what was that all pervading spicy smell that my little nose could smell all the time – Eureka – I found the culprits ... Tea Bags!

Yogi Products
via Amazon
Some German friends of my mother’s had sent us over a pack of Christmas Collection teabags ...  so the ‘warm holiday notes and exotic spices’ have been wafting around making me wonder where the scent came from.  I am not complaining .. they really do smell Christmassy.

Described as a perfect cup of Christmas .... it’s the ideal tea to share ... twelve different types:

Sweet Chilli
Glucks Tee/Bright Mood
Ingwer Hibiskus/Ginger Hibiscus
Inger Zitrone Tee/ Ginger Lemon
Abend Tee/Bedtime
Black Chai
Hotel Louis C Jacob Hotel, Hamburg

The Herb and Spice Infusions (ingredients) make for some interesting reading:

Cinnamon         Liquorice         Ginger                 Rooibusch      Cocoa shells 

Fennel       Basil           Cardamom         Roasted Chicory          Hibiscus

Black Tea            Peppermint                  Carob                    Lemon grass

Barley Malt            Black Pepper                Anise                   Spearmint

Chamomile               Cloves         Dried Lemon Juice               Orange Peel

Lemon Balm                 Hops          Citrus Extract (natural flavour [nf])

Nettle                  Lavender Flowers              Sage           Lemon Peel

Orange Extract (nf)              Cinnamon extract (nf)            Ginger Oil

Turmeric Root             Beetroot              Chilli Pepper          Nutmeg

Fenugreek                           Yarrow flower                     Cardoman Oil   

                            Vanilla Beans               Vanilla Extract

The Library at the Hotel
The soggy tea bag has come a long way since being first marketed in hand-sewn silk bags over 100 years ago; a New York merchant shipped his loose tea around the world in these bags, which were meant to be emptied, but convenience quickly became the norm – and tea bags, coffee bags etc were born.

The silk teabags resembled paper sacks, before the invention of the rectangular one in 1944.  Silk gave way to paper fibre. Now we have all sorts of shapes and sizes for our loose teas made with many varieties of tea infusions, herbs and spices.

The Bistro - part of the Hotel
The Yogi Tea range, from which my Christmas Spiced teas have come, is by a company formed in 1969 when Yogi Bhajan, a teacher of holistic living started sharing his knowledge of Ayurveda.

It’s interesting how that quintessential English drink “tea” now reaches all corners of the earth ... in various guises and where herbalists have created brews for the 21st century .. that come back to Eastbourne, England, via Hamburg, Germany but with roots in China and India, transhipped to America ... using many Asian herbs and spices.

Similar Ice Creams
Interesting snippets – Tetley’s introduced the tea bag into England after rationing had ended (not during rationing) ... I expect we thought we were getting more tea for our ‘bucks’ ...

Ever thought about collecting tea bags?  Apparently there are sites for tea bag collectors – strange idea!

Teabag folding – is a form of Origami – whereby the fronts of the tea bag sachets are turned into rosettes .. and can be used to decorate gift cards ...

Hamburg on the Elbe -
pink splodge just above here!
Sunburn (not in this neck of the woods now – it’s rather cold) can be treated with recycled (used) tea-bags ...

Finally I have to thank the Hanseatic League (that economic alliance of trading cities and their merchant guilds that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe: the Baltic to the North Sea and, later on, inland during the 13th – 17th centuries) for allowing ships to penetrate right up the Elbe to the hub of Hamburg.

The Terrace on the banks of the Elbe
These trade links allowed my mother and I to stay at an old coach house on the Elbe, on the outskirts of Hamburg where these German friends live ...  the Louis C Jacob hotel is on the list of the best small hotels in the world .... it was a big treat!

A few years ago, when they were excavating to update and improve the hotel ... the digger nearly fell into a hole 100 feet x 80 feet .... that was a shock?!  The Hotel is on the old coach road along the river’s edge – which runs for 80 miles or so before reaching the North Sea ... that hole turned out to be the ice cellar from those early days.

Their expansion occurred over the road and they had to put in a pedestrian bridge from one side of the hotel to the other ... it’s a beautiful place – and when I’m wealthy!!??!! I’d love to go back.

Fine dining watching the kitchens at work
(where the boys had their ice creams)
The hotel does mini tours – when they take guests around and show them the hotel ... so we went one afternoon with the boys – Jan-Philipp and Tom Benedict – when they were given chefs hats to wear, then treated to ice-cream in the kitchen .... 

.... the Chef then appeared and decorated their plates with candles, smarties, chocolate dots, and goodies – they couldn’t wait to get stuck in – despite being overwhelmed with the situation.

The Ice Cellar
We took Swantje and Christian for a drink in the Cellar bar ... you can see how deep the hole is from this photo – I’m glad I wasn’t the digger man!  The cellar was the old ice-store room – where contraband and legitimate trade would have been stored.  The river is heavily tidal .. and unloading wouldn’t have been too difficult ...

... in the Middle Ages – the huge deep water dock area had not been thought of ... so the marshy bank on the other side of the Elbe would not have been suitable for the Excise Men.

Quite honestly who would have thought Tea Bags could produce a blog post at Christmas time – still I thank Jan-Philipp and Tom Benedict for having such a clever mother .. and for sending us these deliciously scented teas ...

I’d have never have thought that nettle, barley, beetroot and hops would be part of the ingredient list included in my tea bags  ...   Well now – I can go and have a ?well-deserved cup of tea!

Well done Jan-Philipp and Tom Benedict ....

Louis C Jacob Hotel, Hamburg

Photos from Expedia re Louis C Jacob Hotel

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Pop Songs of Fragrance and Symphonies of Perfume ...

The orchestra of the perfume world used to be ‘au  naturel’ ... then Coco Chanel came along introducing in 1921, what would become the world’s most famous perfume, even today, Chanel No5.
No 5 CHANEL, Paris
Eau de Parfum
in iconic bottle

Perfumes are a mixture of fragrant essential oils used to give the human body a pleasant scent – and have been known to exist since the earliest of human civilisations.  Modern perfumery began in the late 19th century with the commercial synthesis of aroma compounds, such as vanilla or coumarin (that newly-mown hay ‘sweet scent’).

Chanel No 5, firstly, was a landmark in fragrance chemistry – as it finally made a synthetic ingredient acceptable, although most of its components were still derived from natural products. 

Secondly, Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel launched her perfume to complement her collection of clothes, whose themes were elegance and mystery.

"Coco before Chanel" is a
2009 French film about the
early life of the famed
designer Coco Chanel
So now-a-days those wonderful perfumes you may be receiving/giving at Christmas are just chemicals with attractive aromas - ?

The melodies of the fabric softener and the air freshener are the pop songs of fragrance chemistry, whereas the symphonies of perfume are a much richer harmony, among which there may even be a few discordant notes, deliberately introduced to contrast with the harmonic ones.

Le Grand Nez’ (the big nose) Monsieur Ernst Beaux composed Chanel No 5 – he chose an oil derived from the flowers of the Philippino ylang-ylang tree, as the middle note of the perfume; the purely artificial fragrance material, called 2-methylundecanal, for the top note.

Ylang-Ylang blossoms
The top note is the most volatile part of the perfume and the one we detect first, the middle notes take a little longer to register, and are often derived from flowers that give off a heavy, almost overpowering aroma, such as jasmine, tuberose, lily of the valley, lilac, carnation, rose and ylang-ylang.

The base notes of a perfume are the least volatile – we may not even notice them to begin with – and yet they are the most tantalising and the most erotic.  The base note is there to stir emotions and suggest experiences, such as the mysterious East, a wood at night ....   Base notes also serve an important chemical function in ‘fixing’ the top and middle notes by slowing their evaporation over the lifetime of a perfume.

Drawing of Vanilla from the Florentine Codex  (ca 1580)
and description of its use and properties - written in
Nahuati language (see a previous post)
The secret of Chanel No 5 is not only its chemical components but also the proportions in which these are blended.  Before modern methods of analysis came into use the original formula of Le Grand Nez was a trade secret, however today we know the secrets ...

Neroli Orange
Neroli Oil is one of the minor top notes, while ylang-ylang is the major middle note – I seem to have heard of Neroli Oil recently – see my previous post on ScentingYour Gloves. 

The basic ingredients and methods
of making perfumes are described
by Pliny the Elder, in his
Naturalis Historiae

But what a way we’ve come ... only about 130 years ago we were still using essential oils within 40 years or so - chemical compounds were becoming acceptable ... and now we have 'Scratch ‘N Sniff” – which that clever young man, Lenny, suggested in my Neroli Oil post.

How do these youngsters ‘beam’ these things up ... amazing it’s come true – Lenny!!

My flat has been scented with Christmas cake spice for the last week or so – not from any introduction I’ve made to my kitchen or sitting room ... just that wonderful pervasive aroma of Yuletide spices ... mmmmm  - delicious ....

Can the Plum Pudding mix be down to a few sheets of newspaper?  Well now to try ...  from a Saturday’s Times pull-out title “12 easy treats for children to make:  The first EVER recipe pullout that smells!!” – scented paper ... rub and sniff .....

Knickerbocker Glory – smells (chemically!) fruity ....
Banoffee Pancakes
Mars Bar Cakes
Fast berry Ice Cream
Banana Split
Mini Gingerbread Cakes
Iced Biscuits
Peanut Butter Cupcakes
Oreo Choc-Fudge Sundae
Marble Loaf Cake
Icy Lemon Meringue Pie
Orange Cake

Mincemeat .... mmmmmm!
Not sure about the 'Scratch 'N Sniff' ... but something is wafting around that’s rather pleasant and Mince Piey .... and I knew you’d want to know which recipes were given ...

I pass my judgement on the scented paper ‘Scratch ‘N Sniff’ ... but the Mincemeat aroma is rather delicious ....

So Lenny – your prediction was very accurate – any other predictions you’d care to let us know about ... 

Finally ... Marilyn is back in town... over at Talli’s masquerading as Willow Watts within Talli’s new book “Watching Willow Watts” ... launched in paperback today – Go TalliGo ...

The screen icon Marilyn Monroe was once asked what she wore in bed, and then scandalised many by replying “Only Chanel No 5” – a curvaceous, sensuous woman’s perfume that’s for sure ... personally I use Lanvin – and have done ever since (ever since!) a friend’s  mother brought me a bottle back from Antigua ... I bet June and Judy never thought I’d never change .. it just immediately suited me and still does.

Congratulations to all of you who have finished NaNoWriMo ...  now – Good Luck with the Christmas countdown ... no time to rest on your laurels ...

PS - this post from The History Girls came up on 23rd June 2015 - giving further excellent details and comments ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letter Inspirational Stories