Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Theme Reveal … Aspects of British County Rare Breeds …

Theme Reveal … Aspects of British County Rare Breeds …

At long last I can release my posts drafted for last year's A - Z into the ether ... beyond the boundaries of my scheduled posts ... relief - they're all written (almost!) ... no change to my approach.

None of these will you find in this year's
A-Z of British County Rare Breeds!
(A poster I had block boarded)

I do somehow need to master the new mechanics of the A - Z … I can’t quite see how I find new people if there’s no list – but I’m sure there’s a way.

Also how do we find new ‘contenders’ in the next ten days  … again I’m sure there’s a way …..

I’m only blogging – it is a blogging challenge:  social media and I don’t mix – until (of course) I decide it and I must, then mix and match it will be!

Nor will you find any of these in the A-Z ...
though some genes might be there!
So on to rare breeds and the posts will definitely will match the theme!

 I found this rhyme – where … who knows – a year is a long time … actually not so long considering my tender age, but for me the threads of memory search have gone!

The Giant Canada Goose
This English protest rhyme was probably voicing concerns about the Enclosures, the loss of common land to common folk and the gains made by the landed gentry. 

However it still has resonance today …

The Goose and the Common
(Authors unknown … a 17thC protest against English enclosures)

They hang the man and flog the woman,
who steals the goose from off the common,
yet let the greater villain loose,
that steals the common from the goose.

For all the verses see hereThe Goose from Union Songs    The research archive was set up by Mark Gregory – an Australian … not sure if they are rare breeds yet?!?!

By the time we get to April 30th - we
might need some of this ... ?!

If you wish to see a horse’s backside, or a very wide cow … the please visit last year’s theme reveal …

Enjoy the Challenge and the themes - there seem to be some interesting ones - creative bunch we find we are ...  

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Herbs, Spices and Herbalists – Mint: Part 7 …

Tis coming up to Easter … the time of roast lamb, new potatoes glistening with butter and mint, mint sauce, home-made gravy, baby leeks, and new carrots … a delicious Easter lunch welcoming in the early Spring …

Garden Mint

… garden mint is not that convenient … desperately easy to grow, but incredibly keen to spread – keep it in a pot … however an essential for lamb and/or new potatoes – Jersey Royals perhaps …

Mint Jelly - so so good!

… yet the Lamiaceae (or Labiatae) is a ‘huge’ family of flowering plants commonly known as mint or deadnettle … they include Mentha, the strongly scented herbs, and include Peppermint and Spearmint … as well as many other varieties: apple mint, orange mint, pineapple mint …

Winter Savoury
To my surprise the Mint Family also includes a large number of herbs, lots of small shrubs and a few medium to very large trees … including basil, rosemary, thyme, savoury, lavender, sage, marjoram and others … also the tropical hardwood tree ‘teak’, which I would never have put into the ‘Mint family’ …

Jersey Royals simmered in Mint, tossed in butter,
sprinkled with parsley

We will concentrate on our Garden Mint … which George Orwell proclaimed that new potatoes simmered with mint and tossed in butter were superior to the fried potato dishes traditional in other countries … he has a point …

Jersey - highlighted in the Channel

Keith from Keith’s Ramblings reminded me in my Boxty post that it can’t be long before the Jersey Royals are in the shops – heralding the start of Spring in a foodie way … the first outdoor produce from the warmer Channel Islands – that has led to this ‘Mint’ post …

Freshly made mint sauce

Pliny the Elder (AD 23 – August 25, AD 79) was keen on mint … ‘the smell of Mint doth stir up the minde, and the taste to a greedy desire of meat’, so it looks like mint sauce has been around for 2,000 years + and more I expect …

Mint is known to have originated in Asia and the Mediterranean region … the Greeks used it to clean their food tables, bathed with it … whilst the Romans used it in sauces, as an aid to digestion and as a mouth freshener.

Growing potatoes on Jersey
with Mont Orgueil castle in the back ground

Medieval monks developed further culinary and medicinal uses … as mint symbolised hospitality and was a welcome of friendship to guests.  The Jews strewed the floors of their synagogues with mint so that its clean and aromatic perfume scented the place as they entered to worship.

Shakespeare loved his plants and wove them into his tales … as here “The Winter’s Tale (Act 4, Scene 4):

"Hot lavender, mints savoury, marjoram,
The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ th’ sun
And with him rises weeping.  These are flowers
Of middle summer, and I think they are given
To men of middle age.”

Mint Chocolate Ice Cream

Mint goes with so many things … chopped mint and sugar on pineapple, or grapefruit slices – can I say chocolate – let’s move on … how about finely chopped mint with some sour cream, or cream cheese, served with a baked potato …

Mint leaves added to refreshing lemon water

… while at home as a deterrent for the ever present clothes-moth, or ants and the cabbage white caterpillar in the garden … then our bathrooms, our mouths … we would not be same without the tingle of our toothpaste cleansers …

Twinings Mint Tea

So here’s to Mint – enjoy a cup of mint tea, a cool glass of minted lemonade, or mint water … peppermint is a native to these shores … and is good for indigestion … I will not make an obvious link to Brexit …

Rack of Lamb with Mint Sauce

… but I am looking forward to British Spring Lamb, with new potatoes, mint sauce and freshly dug vegetables … simple foods that nature provides from the earth …

Melon Salad - so refreshing in summer
with the sprinkling of chopped mint

One final idea – a recipe I came upon as I was starting out in life which inspired my love of herby bread – that’s a standard when I cook – how about a melon salad … melon, cucumber, tomato pieces … with a vinaigrette of choice, fresh chopped parsley, chives and mint to sprinkle over … served with the herby bread – oh so good!!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Bran Tub # 10: Controlled Commodities - "The Two Cheeses” ...

In World War 2 many items were unavailable, or rationed and only available with coupons … but I had not realised quite what this meant.

Princess Elizabeth on
her wedding day 1947

Food was one thing … and fuel … and clothing – borne out by Princess Elizabeth having to use coupons for her wedding dress … a lot of donations ensued, I’d guess.

But … furniture, soap, paper, razor blades, baby bottles, pots and pans … well these were controlled too – hence the phrase “Controlled Commodities”. 

Living Room Furniture

New furniture was rationed and issued under the “Domestic Furniture (Control and Manufacture and Supply (No 2)) Order 1942” to newly-weds and anyone whose home had been bombed out.

Utility Furniture Design
(1943) continued after the War
- this was made by Heal and
Son in 1947
Life and times were frugal … all items were kept to be re-used, all food was used up (or composted), there were no extras … with the government encouraging food production, making everything for ourselves … toys would be made …

The aspects I most remember, as I was born after the War and rationing, other than sweets, has evaporated from my mists of memory time, are the ones that have come to prominence in later years relating to the Queen’s wedding in 1947 …

I used to live near here ... so this
orange box had to go in!

The two royal kneelers, used during the wedding, were covered in rose pink silk, made from orange boxes, due to war time austerity, but controlled commodity date stamped 1946.

The utility clothing symbol

Now where did the enticing title of “The Two Cheeses” come in … the same logo was used for Utility Furniture as had been developed for the Utility Clothing Scheme: two capital letter Cs with a two digit year date – referring to “Controlled Commodity 1941” … rapidly becoming known as “The Two Cheeses” …

It's easy to see here ... how it
got its name ...

However - ‘The utility symbol … also became recognised as a guarantee of high quality materials and workmanship …’  … even spawning the run of Utility Furniture Catalogues from 1943 – 1952.

There are some wonderful stories that came out during the war tales of British spirit and determination to get by … sadly tales of woe – but that is war.

Utility bedroom furniture

Austerity and pulling our belts in is never easy … but the Controlled Commodity symbol did its bit for Britain … including reminding us, through its symbol, that ‘there was food ahead’

I guess I had one of these,
but never saw it

… with the winding down of rationing after the War, the increasing availability of materials such as aluminium, plywood, various timbers and fabrics … the British public were starting to demand choices other than ‘utility’ – so “The Two Cheeses” disappeared into historical records.

Thank goodness for the range of items and foods we have today – we should remember to count our blessings and be glad we’re not living in the era of “The Two Cheeses”!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Shrovetide …

At the moment we have an exhibition at the Royal Academy entitled “Revolution: Russian Art 1917 – 1932” which is being widely marketed.

Shrovetide (1916) by Boris Kustodiev

So seeing Wikipedia’s picture of the day 12th February 2017 caused me to take note more intently and look further than I might otherwise have done.

This quick search gave me the content for this post … with a few creative additions … who could not resist Boris Kustodiev’s (1878 – 1927) “Shrovetide” painting and want to know more … ?

Maslenitsa (1878) by
Leonid Solomatkin
… I had never heard of ‘Maslenitsa’ or the last week of Shrovetide … an Eastern Slavic (particularly Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian) religious and folk holiday celebrated during the last week before Great Lent, also known as Butter Week, Crepe Week, or Cheesefare Week … of as you might expect pagan tradition.

Then the next link on Kustodiev’s art work is to Shrovetide – hence the title of the post … here we learn more of the Christian pre-Lenten Season. 

Shrove Tuesday: Pieter Brueghel the Elder,
"The Fight Between Carnival and Lent" (1559)
To many of us this means pancake day … the last day before Lent and Ash Wednesday (tomorrow) when we keep to a fast … in today’s age we are meant to eat frugally … but in earlier times the extras were meant to be used up: so having lots of pancakes helped the extra milk, butter, flour, sugar, eggs to go down … the larder is now sparse … until Easter – six weeks hence.

Kustodiev- a self-portrait (1912)

So this one Wiki picture of the day introduced me to a Russian artist – Kustodiev, who has a fascinating history (do read – positivity here for all his challenges) … while his paintings totally enamour me, and I hope you.

Gave me and you a post on folk traditions of Maslenitsa (Butter Week) … also very well worth reading, with some other amazing artists being shown.

A Polish priest sprinkling ashes
on the heads of worshippers

Then Shrovetide is our last day of feasting before Ash Wednesday tomorrow … when fasting, abstinence from meat, and repentance are followed at the beginning of Lent.

Many are not so disciplined now-a-days … but it is good to remember the days of the past and the reasons for these religious seasonal occasions.

English pancakes with sugar and lemon

So if you are having pancakes – do enjoy them, remember our ancestors with their practices, and perhaps learn a little more about some artists, Ukrainian and Russian folklore …

… and if you are living in medieval times … then this is the required day for confessing our sins … or if you live in the Netherlands it is the Dutch tradition to eat salted herring on Ash Wednesday to conclude the Carnival …

English scones with Cornish Cream
and Strawberry Jam

It is also a time to make us think … as well as to enjoy our English pancakes, English scones, Scottish drop scones, latkes or boxty (in famine times made very simply with raw grated potato) … different names for ‘similar’ items … per my previous post on Boxty ... 

Happy Pancake Day and take time to appreciate Kustodiev's paintings ...  this page will take you to the others mentioned.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Istvan …

As you know I’ve been reading the Patrick Leigh Fermor books – and keep posting snippets as he reminds me of things … relative to today, or in the centuries gone – albeit he wrote his books about eighty years ago … travelling in the 1930s from Amsterdam to Istanbul.  Exquisite language!  Excellent knowledge!

The Broken Road from the
Iron Gates to Mount Athos
Fermor's last book in the tilogy

I’m about to embark on reading the last of his trilogy “The Broken Road … From the Iron Gate to Mount Athos”

… the Iron Gate (or the Gate of Trajan) is a gorge on the Danube River between Serbia and Romania; … Fermor has a sad story after the building of two hydro-electric power stations requiring the removal of an indigenous and special peoples, who had lived on an island for centuries that is now submerged.

It's tea time and as you can see I have a
steady hand for giving you an idea where
the Iron Gate is to be found!

… while Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in north-eastern Greece: it is governed as an autonomous polity within the Greek Republic - its status is unique, but it is technically part of the EU …

However between my devouring of the first and the second books in the trilogy, I read “Before the Glory Ended” by Ursula Zilinksy … an author I’d never heard of … but her book had returned with me from South Africa, all those 25 years ago.

Greek peninsula of Mount Athos is
shown by the splodge in red!

I was hooked – it’s fascinating and romantic, and covers the 1930s – 1956 (the early years of which Fermor travelled) … (Anschluss 1938 [annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany] to the Hungarian revolt against the Russians in 1956).

Before the Glory Ended by
Ursula Zilinsky

Sadly it’s not cheap … otherwise I’d recommend it – still worth it though … I could write up the cover frontispiece and back cover – which make informative reads … so let me know ... 

“… with the lightest of touches she (Zilinsky) moves her settings from Paris, to Vienna, to Budapest, London and back to Europe …”   perhaps you can see what I’m trying to convey from this sentence …

Stephen 1 of Hungary

So back to the title of the post “Istvan” .. why Istvan? – because the name crops up with both authors … and I’d never heard of it before – yes we’re dealing with Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria … but could these people be the same – a noble house full of romantic heroes – counts, dukes, gallant knights … ?

That got me to looking up “Istvan” … I reached this website … “Behind the Name” … and what did I find … but the Hungarian form of “Stephen”!

Well that surprised me … seeing as I’d just written about “Good King Wenceslas last looked on the Feast of Stephen” … talk about co-incidences.  So all these romantic hero guys were ‘Stephens’!!

Istvan Meszaros - Professor Ermitus University of Sussex
(Hungarian Philosopher)

But the site is interesting … I found a list of ShakespeareCharacters

Istvan Ferenczy - Hungarian Sculptor
- who walked to Rome to further
his knowledge and art

You never know what you’re going to find as the day starts … but I couldn’t resist telling you about this website – perhaps you’ve come across it …

So my hero ‘Istvan’ … is the romantic “English Stephen” … this was one of those times I’d made a fool of myself …  such is life … but I’d learnt something in the process …

Here’s to each and every Stephen, Steven, Eztebe, Stephanos, Estienne, Stjepan, Estevan, Stefan … et al …

PS let me know re the Zilinksy idea ... I'd quite like to do it - it'll be after the A-Z ... probably summer time ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Write ... Edit ... Publish ... bloghop - Back of the Drawer

Who was this … the old sepia photo showed a woman from long ago … and this fragile piece of paper with a few words on it …

They had inherited the desk with the house … it had been a useful piece of furniture … storing all sorts and “preshishes” as the children grew from toddlers to teenagers.

Now that she was alone, her husband had died peacefully, the children with their own families … occasionally she had been entrusted to look after the grandchildren … today had been one of those.

They had been playing around the desk – hers now … where she wrote her stories looking out over the garden, down the meadow to the brook and into the copse beyond – the sharp staccato ‘pop’ had made her realise the grandchildren had found something.

A hidden drawer had popped out so the desk could reveal its own story … this must, as the note told her, be Donna Marie Joseph, who had been buried in the wood a hundred years and two ago, after being killed on 15th February 1915 …

… and that: Donna loved the desk more than her brute of a husband … I had watched as the drunken rage ensued … she had hit her head on one of its corners …

… then he carried her down the garden far into the depths of the wood, where in due time her bones would be found … the War had come and intervened … her husband went to War, the house was let out …

I know the secret of this photo and note ... please God at the right time ... Donna will be found and given her due peace ... 

The village now has its answer to the sorry tale of a dead woman dumped in dank woodland without care or concern. 

Who was the person who wrote the note … we will never know, but they must have been a kindly soul to have tucked the note and photo into the hidden drawer … knowing one day the truth would be told.

She and the village would make sure Donna Marie Joseph would have a proper burial and peaceful resting place … looking towards the cottage where she, Donna, once lived in … and where the desk resided … it too would be at peace – its secret revealed.

She realised forensics would find out more details, and local records would help … but the most important thing she felt was that the desk had told her what had happened to Donna Marie … there was nothing else to do – except to say:

Rest In Peace Donna Marie Joseph

The next WEP challenge will be April 19th "Peace and Love" ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories