Tuesday 31 May 2011

Memorial Day, Memories and recognition ...

Pink Peony - my mother's favourite
at the moment

We all like to be recognised, but none more deserve to be rewarded with gallantry medals than those serving and protecting our shores – whatever we may think of war, at least all members of the serving forces are or were trying to keep our lives free, letting us live in peace at home, giving us values we appreciate doing their best to keep tyrants and dictators at bay.

This is a meant to be a light piece, though with reminders that will bring back memories of our time, or our parents’ and grandparents’ eras ... not having children, nephews or nieces, my first-hand knowledge of service life is practically nil, however like many others we all have our fair share of troubles.

So it is wonderful to receive awards for an art form I had no idea I was capable of ...  I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone – apologies if so! - as I sincerely hope I can say thank you for all the awards I’ve recently received: a big and huge HUG!

So to Munir of “Focus Through a Lens” for the Kreativ Blogger Award and I’m directing you to her Zest for Life post on the A – Z challenge ... where it gives some background to her arrival in America from India via England and a link with Hyderabad that we both have.  

Munir also gave me her “Straight from the Heart” award – which I’m humbled to receive.

Thanks to Michelle for highlighting my ‘enjoyable’ blog along with 9 others ... that she’d come across during the A – Z Challenge ... it’s a pleasure and it’s great meeting new people and being directed to other bloggers – Michelle offers creative encouragement to fellow aspiring authors and readers.

Next – I know ... I have been very remiss in acknowledging these -  improvement needed ... Ros from “Ros is Writing in the Rain”, has recently lost her mother to which I can empathise with her journey.  She has written a poignant post – Sepia Memories.

Ros writes and gives us tours around Leicester, an area to the south I know reasonably well, while she and her husband visit London for hospital visits and go near where my mother was first hospitalised ... again an area I can envisage – let alone their central London musings.

Ros passed on the 7 Facts Sunflower Award ... I love asparagus (it’s that time of year), fresh strawberries and raspberries straight from the bush, cooking (when I get a chance), chatting to friends and exchanging ideas, interesting films and entertaining informative programmes, along with love for all family and friends.

Then there’s Madeleine of Scribble and Edit – who rambles about her trials and tribulations as an aspiring author – who lives down in Devon – the land of John Cleese and Fawlty Towers ... an area that may ring in a bell for the laughter stakes – awarded me the Fearless Follower award ... with Blogger having wobblies all the time ... personally I think we must all be Fearless Followers ...

Though all of these things pale into insignificance when we read, remember or live with the dangers of this world ....the loss of someone in a war, the love of someone still with us - who experienced so much of this life, or the life of a beloved, who was so nearly lost, but who through exceptional care remains with us – nursed and nurtured by their near and dear.

British troops evacuating Dunkirk's beaches.
Many stood shoulder deep in water for hours,
waiting to board the vessels.
The rewards we can garner from sheer patience, love, care and understanding, perseverance, courage and that driving force to steady our own boats shines through so many within this blogging community – at this time we must remember us too.

Let me tell you about a small piece of history (lest we forget) that occurred during the week of 26 May to 4 June 1940, when Churchill was sure we had lost the War .... as many British and French soldiers were trapped on the beaches at Dunkirk.

The “Little Ships of Dunkirk came to the rescue ... 700 ‘shallow draft’ boats ... fishing boats, pleasure boats, paddle steamers and launches ... were requisitioned, either with permission or without, ... and set sail for those shallow beaches of Dunkirk, which the Navy’s vessels could not breach for the recovery of the exhausted troops.

When they reached France, some of the boats acted as shuttles between the beaches and the British Destroyers marooned in deep water ferrying soldiers to the warships.  Other vessels made round trips carrying hundreds of the troops back to English ports, protected by the Royal Air Force.  

Sundowner, a motor yacht, one of the Little Ships;
formerly owned by Charles Lightroller, 2nd Officer of
RMS Titanic (100 years ago today, the Titanic (as the
ship's shell) rolled into the waters off Belfast Dockyard,
before its fateful journey 11 months later.)  Sundowner
is a museum ship at the Ramsgate Maritime Museum.
In 9 days more than 331,000 British and French soldiers were rescued by those 700 little ships and around 220 warships from the beaches ... the rescue operation that turned a military disaster into a story of heroism and saved invasion by Nazi Germany ... wouldn’t life be different if those little ships hadn’t come to the rescue so early in World War II.

Immortalised by Churchill in his speech We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender ...”

The phrase “Dunkirk spirit” is still used to describe courage and solidarity in adversity.

To The Independent newspaper where the truth hits home “Was my son’s death in Afghanistan a price worth paying?” is an article by the journalist Stuart Alexander ...  written two and half days after that fateful call ... it is an article worth reading – and I hope you take the time to click over: The Independent – 30 May 2011.

Mr Alexander has some very relevant and pertinent thoughts both as a grieving parent, who lost his son last Friday, but as a journalist ... and I would recommend his words very worthwhile considering.

I was going to end on a lighter note, but I’d encourage each of you to click over and gather a greater understanding of humanity and conflict.

Tributes and awards ... which is the greater and sadder ... we all know ... in Memorial week 2011.

Be at peace, be the best you can, let your soul sing for all on earth and beyond.

Dear Mr Postman – my mother hasn’t really come to sufficiently to make her draw for Judy’s prize (previous post) .. but she will do soon .. 30 entries so far .. all will be revealed on the next post.

Judy’s 6 week promotion campaign for her eBook "Dancing in the Shadows of Love."   Occurs every Friday until 1 July 2011, a variety of prizes will be up for offer in two different competition categories as described:  So click on over to enter.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Judy Croome – how much pleasure a parcel can bring ...

I just love Judy's banner - so I've put it here ... 

My mother ... exuberance is ... ebullient - bubbly ... giving my mother an afternoon of lots of smiles, laughter and interaction ... what could be more satisfactory for a daughter.  She was wide awake when I walked in ... so I sat her up ... thank goodness for electric beds! ... and showed her the parcel that had arrived ...

I explained I’d entered a competition and won a prize on a South African blog and that was how the parcel had arrived ... my mother loved to visit me when I lived there and we travelled all around South Africa ... so I was saying ‘lucky me’ – back comes ... “you’re not lucky, you’re fortunate”!

I’d been out to tea with a friend, whose sister had died of Parkinsons up at the home .. so Nancy knew that my mother loved flowers as we always have a few vases, and had picked some brilliant cornflowers and a deep red rose for me to take back with me.

My mother was truly delighted ... and after arranging them ... we got down to the serious business of opening the parcel from South Africa.  Mum loves getting letters and cards – so a parcel was a little special ...

... and I slowly opened it ... were there any stamps? - no!  My mother collected stamps – hence the memory recall.  I explained about Judy’s HRH Theodorable the Cat .. got a big smile and probably a purr to match Theodorable's purr as she padded her way to the post office to post the packet.

Judy's desk and HRH Theodorable!
Out popped a large packed packet, tied up with raffia, which I let Mum feel ... sent with love from typical gardening hands (perfect for us - as Mum was a real hands-on excellent gardener) ...

... the wrapping paper was African showing southern African ecosystems from the range of mountains at the top, the yellow ochre dusty savannah lands, the grey dusty elephant mopane, another layer of acacia burnt ochre, then the dry grasslands for the giraffe to lope across ... very African.

Camel thorn - Giraffe Thorn
Kameeldoring: Afrikaans for Giraffe
What’s in it ... I could see my mother waiting with baited breath .. while I made the most of the interesting wrapping .. like a small child ... there was a pleading in her eyes ....get on with it!  Open up!!

... from the compliment’s slip listing ... a book, an anthology of short stories, some fridge magnets, a shopping bag, and a tea net - Mum immediately says 'like Aunt Dolly (my father's aunt) used to make' - well yes I guess ... as Judy has said she's sending things that the ladies at the side of the road sell ... as she likes to support the street sellers ... 

The prizes, but no tea net
A set of four fridge magnets with views, which are quite difficult for Mum to focus on ... but I describe each one .. and she's happy to look contemplatively ... I open the shopping bag, which she tells me is the shopping bag .. and have a look at the pictures: the flip flops and football etc ...

... barefoot football “Hoza Africa” Come to Africa ... where they’re making barefoot footballs from waste, creating support for the ball makers, while re-using Africa’s waste.  The balls are made from a combination of available materials – paper, vine, banana leaves, string, plastic or cloth ... recycling to the maximum ..  ending up with something for the kids to play with.

Now – the tea net comes to the fore ... slightly (much!) larger than I was expecting and definitely not the sort Aunt Dolly made .. which were muslin circles with beads sewn round the edge to hang over the milk jug (as my mother reminded me) to keep the flies off.  This tea net is magnificent – a huge rectangular net, edged with ribbon and decorated with ribbon bows – in pure white.



c/o Judy Croome

Another friend, Linda, who does teas for Care Homes - Royal Garden Party teas, or tea teas - explaining about the different teas ... and who spent time in Bulawayo in Southern Rhodesia/Zimbabwe .. and whose father was in the Home with us .. so we had Africa connections - lots to chat about .. I thought I'd give the tea net to Linda - as I know she'll make use of it, explain its provenance  ... and I can give her photo copies of both books .. as someone may like to make a purchase.

Then we get to the book .. and I'm thumbing through .. it's quite dark in Mum's room - she likes it cool and dark .. so I couldn't see properly .. but said ... ooooh it's got poems, short stories etc .. I am at this point corrected by my mother – “an anthology is a mix of everything  ... not just short stories” ... Mum says - you must get it right .. an anthology is a hotch potch!!!

Anthology: Notes
from  the Underground
So we're looking at the cover and the thorn tree .. and chatting away .. in comes Jaitema (from Kerala in India), the nurse on her drug round .. oooh what have you got there .. and big smile to Mum .. and discussions all round .. 'Notes from the Underground' ..  

JJ says your mother is always so stimulated when you're around .. sitting up and wide awake ..  we show JJ my prizes .. and then the book .. at which JJ .. has a look inside and finds to her total surprise .. some Hindi .. quite a lot of Hindi ... so please let me have a look when you can .. !!

So you have a hit on your hands Judy .. the anthology - hotch potch mix .. is ready to be absorbed by us ... read and devoured ... chatted over and lent out ... Africa and India .. a better prize on a day like today I could not have wanted.

Dancing in the Shadows
of Love
I told Mum about the Smashwords coupon for downloading Judy's book "Dancing in the Shadows of Love" - and she looked at me in blank amazement .. just so impressed that we can do these things and connect across the universe .. 

So you can see excitement for many of us .. the staff love it when Mum is like this .. it's just great .. 

So stars for you Judy .. great success over here ... Judy’s doing a book promotion and blog tour for her book “Dancing in the Shadows of Love” and she’s coming over to the blog to see us sometime soon: I know you’ll love her books, her blog and her pictures ...

Launch Competition - Prizes Galore - courtesy Judy - at her blog ... 

Chapter One - can be read here:  The Curtain Rises ... Lulu (The past) ... it is very evocative, very African, a tale with a story to tell .. a tale of heartache, a story that reaches out .. that teaches us things ... inspires us to think ... 

The book trailer can be seen here ... Dancing in the Shadows of Love 

Hilary, to say thanks, I’d like to ask you to draw the name of a random commentator, who will win an Amazon US$15 gift voucher (or UK Amazon equivalent.) If anyone would like me to do a guest post on their blog, please email me at judy@judycroome.com to discuss a suitable topic and a mutually agreeable date.”

I will ask my mother to draw a number ... she'll love to do that ... so I hope we have many commenters!  Thanks everyone .. so much .. 

Dear Mr Postman – this time I don’t think I need to tell you about my mother!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday 20 May 2011

Food and snippets – more glorious food – Dinner a la Royals ...2/2

Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

This is my last eclectic post of the Royal Wedding covering letters, inspiring stories, fun tales, and amazing statistics, as well as some salivating foods ... 

‘Police Rescue’ – a 91 year old woman whose tv had been stolen, was able to watch the Wedding at home, after the local bobby dashed back and brought her his spare set = good deed for the day ... blessings to the bobby .. and must have made the lady’s day.

At least life went on ... the police were working ... I expect the bobby above, like the following cartoon portrayed, wished otherwise ... the cartoon shows two Guardsmen outside Buckingham Palace .. saying under their breath to each other “I could have done with the day off” ...!

Castle of Me
Two billion people worldwide are estimated to have watched the wedding on tv ... getting up at all hours of the day and night ... 9 horses made up the Grey Escort – but did you see the poor Trooper fall of his horse?  His pride dented – the horse very sensibly went straight on home passing the newlyweds in their carriage ...

.. one interesting fact is that apparently the new Duchess is allergic to horses – perhaps joining the Royal Family is not such a wise idea .... bearing in mind their love of all things equine!

At the marriage service at the Abbey  – most of the 1,900 guests being described as the Peacock Parade; 650 then went on to the lunchtime reception at Buckingham Palace; while 300 of their close family and friends returned for the evening reception – the Night in White Satin ...

Kate’s walk down the aisle took 4 minutes ... the whole event at the Abbey from the first guests arriving to the RAF fly-past was 5 hours and 15 minutes.

Elderflowers steeping before being
turned into cordial
Of the guest breakdown ... there were 50 members of the Royal Family, 40 members of foreign royal families, 200 members of Government, Parliament and Diplomatic Corps, 80 guests drawn from Prince William’s charities, 60 governors-general and realm prime ministers, 30 members of the Armed Forces .... and more than 1,000 family and friends ... it was remarked that there were very few celebrities (blessing!).

The chefs could have done with a day off too – but who would have made the 10,000 canapés - fortunately created and served by the Queen’s head chef and 21 staff.  That chocolate cake was made of 1,700 Rich Tea biscuits – well I’d have used chocolate digestives! – but I guess the 40lbs (18 kgs) of chocolate that went in to it made up for the loss of chocolate digestives.

Everyone present at dinner was deemed “equally important” to the newlyweds, the tables were a mix of royalty, family members and friends of the couple.  And in keeping with the ‘organic and local’ theme – the guests were treated to a menu of British food – created by Anton Mosimann, the leading chef and owner of the Mosimann’s private dining club in Belgravia, where the Prince and his wife often dine.

Peach Bellini

The Evening reception menu was as follows:

Drinks:  Champagne, peach bellinis, elderflower cocktail and soft drinks ..

Starter:  Dressed crab, served with mini crab timbale, crawfish and prawns from Wales, salmon from South Uist and Hebridean langoustine

Main Course: Lamb came from Castle of Mey, the former Scottish residence of the Queen Mother, – done three ways ... served with spring vegetables from Prince Charles’ organic farm at Highgrove (this reminds me of the old days when the big houses sent produce from their estates to feed the family when they were at their London homes).

Desserts:  Three mini puddings served together: trifle, chocolate fondant, ice-cream in brandy snap baskets.

Wines:   White Mersault Burgundy         Red Pomerol Claret

Speeches: brilliant apparently ...

They then collapsed onto sofas to chat, or to dance and disco til nearly dawn ... at 2.00 am bacon butties were served up - and the official last dance was “She Loves You” by The Beatles ... finishing off with ‘spectacular fireworks’, complete with Catherine Wheel ...   (must have had a special dispensation for that – fireworks have to be over by 10.00pm ...?!)

Ferry leaving the Hebrides for Skye
Prince William was affectionately called ‘Wombat’ by his parents, or ‘Wills’ as he was more often known by the general public ... and it was reported that at age seven, the Prince said to his mother that he thought he’d like to be a policeman when he grew up, so that he could protect her – a statement to which Prince Harry replied “Oh, no you can’t you’ve got to be King” – bit of a letdown by his brother I’d have thought for a small boy ...

Both William and Kate, after finishing their schooling at Eton and Marlborough College, took part in the Raleigh International Programme ... (a UK-based youth and sustainable development charity) before going on to St Andrews University – where they both achieved their degrees – William in geography, and Kate in the History of Art.  While there the students called Prince William ‘Steve’ to put journalists off track.

View of Caleta Tortel
with its wooden walkways 
William went to Tortel in Chile, as part of the Raleigh Programme, for ten weeks teaching children in the town; it was here that he shared common household chores, including cleaning the toilet, and volunteering as the guest radio jockey for the local radio station.

Tortel is a Chilean commune located at the outflow of Baker and Pascua River to the Pacific Ocean between the Northern and Southern Patagonian Ice Field.

The pair holidayed and became engaged at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya.

To change the subject - Anyone like crosswords?  In a letter to the Saturday Times – a man had written in saying:  “Sir, determined to ignore the royal wedding, I settled down to do Friday’s crossword only to find the compiler at anticipated my resistance and imbued it with a form of Chinese torture: so I gave in and watched the whole thing on television.  It was magnificent.”  .... fun comment-letter!  ... and to finish ...

Wildlife Sanctuary in Lewa,
north Kenya.
The Princes have matured, one with great dignity and the other with more than a streak of impishness.  They have accepted their father’s remarriage with equanimity, fully realising the import of seeing a parent settled and happy ...

And now that Prince Charles’ day has been made – he has a daughter, and has seen one son happily married to his soulmate ... something many of us wondered if the Royals could ever achieve .. to me it heralds a new beginning.

It’s been a glorious time in this green and pleasant land of ours ... well please send us some rain here in the South-East and we’ll be happier ...

The Queen has become the second longest serving monarch, and if she is still reigning on 10 September, 2015 - then she will be the longest, beating Queen Victoria's reign.  Prince Charles is now the longest monarch in waiting. 

Dear Mr Postman – my Mama has certainly had times when she’s been awake and chatty – so that makes life fun for her and for the staff, our therapists and I ... we can enjoy and give her some caring chit chat, lots of laughter and smiles, and I've read some quite serious articles, which she always interacts with ... 

Most of the information in this post has been extracted from the print versions The Saturday Times and Sunday Telegraph, while I also used Wikipedia for extra material.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Food, Food Glorious Food ... fit for a future King and Queen ... 1/2

Mousehole and its harbour: Newlyn and
the crabbery are back towards
Penzance Bay in the background

Bubble and Squeak – ever heard of that .. an old favourite from many moons ago in our home – fried up left over cabbage and potato – oh boy was it good!   This was made into a goat’s cheese roulade – and I must say I think I might try this one day.

Cornish crabs – when my mother had her Care Home – the crabbery was down the hill and we’d enjoy the fruits of their labour .. so I was delighted to see Cornish crab on lemon blini made it into the menu for The Wedding Lunch Menu.

Iridescent blue-black-white
speculum feathers of a
male wild mallard

Duck terrine featured – I think the ducks, from the duck race in Bucklebury (the Middletons’ local village, were safely kept away from the Palace kitchens .. I don’t think Alice said ‘off with their heads’ .. but she could have;) and I learnt something: a Gressingham duck is a cross between a mallard and a pekin .. I thought it was a place?!

More blini – beetroot ones this time – topped with Scottish smoked salmon ... and miniature watercress and asparagus tarts sound delicious ... poached asparagus (now I boil mine and eat each piece, no peeling – just getting rid of the woody bits) with hollandaise for dipping – or would that be dripping?  The asparagus season traditionally starts on St George’s Day – April 23rd.

Asparagus ready to pick
Scottish langoustines with lemon mayonnaise – home-made I hope (well Palace made, I guess) – I wouldn’t change that ...   they had quails’ eggs with celery salt, which was exactly my aunt’s request for my picnic visits to her Cornish home earlier this year; however I gather .. gulls’ eggs would have been more traditional ...

... and another matter for anyone interested – there’s no such thing as a sea gull (though no-one here in Eastbourne would believe you either) ... they’re all plain gulls and they cry and squaak as they whirl around in the sky above!

Now this sounds moorish ... pressed confit of pork belly with crayfish and crackling ... an up market version of surf-and-turf?  Wild mushroom and celeriac chausson .. actually I can’t find what that means!  Chausson doesn’t seem to feature ... Palace special?

Bubble and Squeak cakes
I’m a-thinking that my source – The Saturday Times – might have a couple of things a bit muddled .. eg the bubble and squeak roulade .. or is it a goat’s cheese and caramelised walnuts roulade, while the shoulder of lamb confit is served with bubble and squeak ... each sound rather good .... lamb from the Windsor estate.

Glad to see middle-class food such as chipolatas glazed with honey and grain mustard have crept in ... as too have miniature Yorkshire puddings with roast fillet of beef and horseradish mousse  (nearly had a typo here .. moose?!).

Next up pea guacamole – corrected from guaco .. by Word for me! – I thought guacamole’s main ingredient was avocado .. so where do the peas come in?  Still served with smoked haddock fishcakes .... it must have tasted pretty good ...

Champagne at the Carbis Bay Hotel
in Cornwall
Want a drink anyone .. well you can have Pol Roger NV Brut Reserve Champagne ... or you can go across the road and have a Becks beer – none served at the Palace .. or other drinks as available – but not listed!  Moet et Chandon Imperial Champagne was advertised in the press – but Imperial was not good enough for this table.  Talking about social media ... no cameras or phones were allowed in to the Reception.

Now deez – ee – ee - rt ... sounds rather good too ... Gateau Opera – now what might that be ... Blood Orange Pâté de Fruit ... still I say: what is that Pâté de Fruit?!  Ever heard of a raspberry financier – well if there’s one around and it’s human please send him over!  I like raspberries too very much?! But the picture of a financier is rather dull! 

Rhubarb burnt creams – described as rhubarb crème brûlée ... now Word inserted the accent graves on crème all by itself .. isn’t it clever – the thing is I need to find all the other dots and dashes to ensure my French cookery terms are ‘purrfect’.  Then of course PASSION ... we need passion after our deez-ee-ee-rt ... this time it’s a praline with fruits ... personally I’d just prefer passion and the fruit.

British cheeses from Paxton and Whitfield – the shop at 93 Jermyn Street, London – shown are four fantastic cheeses made in and around the lush countryside of the Cotswolds.

Ah now we’re at the coffee stage – but that’s not mentioned ... just gorgeous chocolats .. can’t help thinking about Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp here ... sweet canapés of white chocolate ganache truffle, milk chocolate praline with nuts and dark chocolate ganache truffle ... someone enjoys a sweet tooth.

Well that’s a delicious, mouth watering menu – chosen by the future King and Queen – and in keeping with the rest of the day .. a totally British Buffet – produce from around the United Kingdom celebrating the best of British ...

Then to round it all off – a cup of tea – after the Balcony scene – with two cakes .. one made from a mere 17 fruit cakes, with 8 tiers, decorated in cream and white icing complementing some of the Palace’s decor .. including 900 flowers and 17 varieties of flora for their symbolism, tied together with garlands ... based on the language of flowers.  This was cut with the ceremonial sword – whose I don’t know! – possibly from William’s regiment.

But how about the second cake .. a chocolate biscuit cake ... Prince William’s favourite ... to my surprise made with Rich Tea biscuits ... and lots of real chocolate no doubt ... but, like you possibly, I have made this sort of cake/slice with crushed Chocolate Digestive Biscuits, melted butter and some golden syrup – mixed together and left to set.  Simple.  On the other hand I’m not serving it to nobility!

And I failed to be short – so I hope everyone, like me, likes to read about food .. as this has become part one?! 

From what I read .. it appears that the lunch was a huge success – much happiness and laughter all round, with a few complements and smattering of jokes thrown in .. a good family wedding party – despite the Army officers in flamboyant uniforms, and kings and queens it was a very intimate wedding – a fun, effervescent and ebullient affair.

Good to know – the bald patch was admired by his father ... that bald patch loved being ‘in love’ ... while the father revealed joy at finally having a daughter, describing her as his son’s “soulmate” .. saying he was incredibly happy for his son and heir. 

An aerial view of Windsor Castle: (l to r) the Lower Ward,
the Middle Ward and Round Tower, the Upper Ward,
with the Long Walk in the lower right hand corner.
The River Thames can be seen in the upper left of the picture.

Dear Mr Postman - my mother has had lots of excitement recently .. and has been very cheerful, chatty and enjoying her visits ... still interested in everything .. 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories