Sunday, 26 March 2017

Turn of Events - Changing the Course of a Life

18:04:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography , , , , , , , , , 1 comment
My Dad at about the time he became a Bevin Boy


I've written before about how I believe in fate - or chance - whatever you want to call it, so this week's blog was right up my street.  There have been numerous times in my life when one event has set off a chain of others.  I love the way this can happen.  As in the film, Sliding Doors, I'm always aware that one decision can send things flying in a different direction. In my case, there has usually been a happy ending. 

This morning, pondering on what to write for this post, I spoke to my dad about an incident he'd told me about in his earlier life.  I was thinking I might include it in the post.  As we talked, I was impressed with his memory of events, the details that had obviously stuck in his mind.  In passing, he told me he'd once written it all down and if he could find it he'd send it to me. 

Half an hour later (after a few blips and phone calls) an email appeared in my inbox. My intention was to include some of the story in my post, but having read it, and been transported back to the 1940s, I took the unprecedented decision to include the piece in its entirety.  It was written in 2011, and the only amendments are that he has now been married sixty eight years and has eight great grandchildren, and two step great grandchildren. 

So here, without further ado is dad's account of a Turn of Events that began in 1943. (With apologies for quality and different sizes - they were sent as PNG files and try as I might, I can't get the images of the pages the same size)





The Reason I am Here by Jill Reidy 

Who would have thought
That a loose shoe lace 
Could have caused such a turn of events?
The serendipity of a random digit 
The lace undone
That decision
To stop and tie 
While others overtook 
And sealed their own inevitable fate 
Is the reason I am here 

Once a pacifist
That eager boy 
Dreaming of the fight
To save his country
Initial disappointment 
A small price to pay 
For seventy more years
A wife and family
And a life well lived

Scarred knees 
The only reminders 
Of a lace untied 
The decision
The lucky pause
That changed the course 
Of a young man's life 

And the reason I am here


Thanks for reading      Jill



Saturday, 25 March 2017

Turn Of Events

Sometimes these blogs almost write themselves (if you know what I mean). At the beginning of the week I was trying to figure out how I would interpret Turn Of Events, but the terrorist attack in London on Wednesday has pointed the way (as it did for Adele and Kath on Thursday and Friday).

What turned Adrian Elms, later Adrian Ajao and ultimately Khalid Masood into a terrorist? By all accounts the 52-year old had led a problematic, often violent life. He was brought up in leafy Kent among affluent surroundings. He was a bit of a tearaway as a teenager. His first wife divorced him because he was a 'controlling psychopath' and she lived in fear of him. His mother had had nothing to do with him for the last twenty years. He had a string of petty criminal convictions and had spent four terms in prison, during one of which he converted to Islam.

Normally when a troubled soul adopts a religious belief it is in an attempt to give greater meaning to his/her life, to become a better if not a different person. Is that how it started for Mr Elms/Ajao/Masood? Did his reading of the Koran (one of the great religious treatises) not teach him that all life is holy?

Faith systems are all very well in their place but what is required is a questing and a questioning spirit and a sense of perspective. One of the dangerous tendencies of fanatical organisations is to blur the divide between the religious and secular worlds, imposing the strictures of the former on the latter. Such organisations, like any tyranny, can only succeed in doing so through a combination of unquestioning adherence and sheer terror. It seems they usually gain a foothold via the former and then stamp down with the latter. That's certainly the impression I have of how the Taliban and the ISIS caliphate work; ditto fundamental branches of Christianity in less enlightened times and totalitarian secular states in the 20th century.

It has to be assumed that the man was disturbed, imbalanced, highly impressionable to be so taken in by the twisted mantra of religious fundamentalism that he would launch a one-man crusade against the seat of British democracy. Maybe he was living out a delusional fantasy and the fifty dead and injured souls were just unfortunate collateral in his movie. Kurt Vonnegut, bless him, would have put it all down to a surfeit of bad chemicals. Maybe Elms/Ajao/Masood was in need of a little medication. By all reasonable assessments he would be classified as a fairly fucked-up individual, albeit an intelligent one. Clever fucked-up individuals are the hardest to counter, as events at Westminster showed.

Did he feel that we, as a community, had failed him somehow? Did he even think of us anymore as his community or was he striking a blow in some kind of misguided holy war against foul Britannia? We shall have to wait and see. We may never find out.

The important things in the aftermath of such a heinous act are two-fold: to stand strong and to learn. Unity in the community is what is required. If anybody can give the appropriate lead to Londoners, Sadiq Khan is the man. As for learning the lessons, that's more complicated. The security services will analyse and make changes to procedures. Society as a whole needs to think about why such things happen at all and we probably need to take a good look at ourselves in the first place. None of the learnings will be easy. Some of them will not be pleasant.


Today's poem tries to give a sense of the senselessness of the destructive urge as perpetrated on a daily basis in parts of the world less liberal and ordered than our own.

The Speed Of Dark
The space where my car stood
was ominously empty,
a heart-stopping moment;
cats and chickens patrolling
where its shadow should have been.
No sign, no clue.
If you were in my shoes
you'd want to kick them off.

'You can have any colour
as long as it's black,'
the salesman had said,
that rusty old Henry Ford joke.
It's called giving the people
what you want.
Fifty down and fifty a month
for as long as the future might be.
Fool poverty -
limited options based on limited means.

Stolen to order for those
whose snake words squirt venom
into troubled souls,
it was driven racing away,
packed with destruction
and pressed into carnage.
I watched it explode
again and again on the evening news,
my trusty old Henry Ford joke,
killing fifty, maiming fifty more;
heart-stopping moments.

It's called giving the people
what they deserve
by those arrogant zealots
who are breaking the bonds of humanity...

Never underestimate the speed of dark.


Thanks for reading. I wish you a peaceful week, S ;-)

Friday, 24 March 2017

Murder etc....

I have just returned from the Lake District, so haven't had time to think about this week's ( now somewhat ) apt subject.

Briefly I was concerned , as my son is a London policeman. However I've got used to his job, his responsibilities and don't worry about him too much. I couldn't spend my life anxiously awaiting some catastrophe...which might never occur. His family is the "Met". Every officer injured or killed affects him deeply, as it does every member of the police force.

So forgive me if I haven't got a poem today. I ask you , instead, to say a few words for all people affected by conflict anywhere in the world.....thank you.


A moment's reflection ......Kath 

Thursday, 23 March 2017

A Turn of Events - Murder, mayhem and madness.

I wasn't going to write this week. Couldn't really separate one turn of events from another. I suppose that, now I that I am well into my third-term, (my mother is 97 this year and definitely reaching the end of her fourth), past events develop a blurriness at the edges. Dates and times become less well defined but some events stick clearly in your mind. They are indelibly imprinted on your memory, in clear photographic detail.

In the early 1980's I worked for several companies, including The House of Carmen, demonstrating their products in large department stores around the UK. I enjoyed the work and did very well, enjoying the company of regular store staff but also the change and challenge of each new location. My first assignment was pre-Christmas product promotion at Lewis's store in Liverpool.   One day the store was packed with shoppers when a bomb alert was sounded. I followed training procedures and took the escalator to the ground floor but on the way down, spotted a young boy around 9 or ten, taking the escalator up to the toy department.

Instinctively, I got to the bottom, went back up and collected him, then walked the outside of the building holding his hand until eventually we located his mother. I was 22 years old. The IRA had an on-going campaign of bombing on the UK mainland and when I think about the evacuation procedure that day, I realise that if a bomb had gone off, most of the people who left the building would have been killed. The modus operandi at the time was to stuff bombs into dustbins or cars.  An alert often triggered the evacuation and then the bomb was timed to explode as people crowded out.  Perhaps the boy and I might have survived.

Two weeks later, I began a four week stint at Boots 1600 store in The Arndale Centre, Manchester. In 1983 I worked for a week at the Conference Centre in Brighton. It was the same year that an attempt was made on the heart of Government during the Conservative Party Conference: A bomb in the Grand Hotel. The event sent shock waves through our Nation. Then in 1996 The Arndale Centre was virtually demolished by IRA bombs.  Cities and major conference centres are always the most desirable places for acts of terrorism.  It is easier to find a needle in a haystack than to spot someone different in a cosmopolitan environment. Although, my parents' village pub was also an IRA bomb plot target because of its proximity to an active army barracks.

Our own security forces, police and intelligence services have averted many bomb plots in recent years. They are constantly changing their procedures and tactics. Security at airports, railway stations  and stadium events, perhaps covert, has never been stronger. They are doing a great job, despite cuts in Police numbers. The turn of events that has changed the effectiveness of the current wave of terrorism, has been its simplicity. A high powered vehicle is stolen or hired by an assailant who drives at a crowd of people, armed with only a large knife and in ten minutes changes 'business as usual' into mayhem, murder and madness.

This type of act is almost impossible to prevent. So I ask, during troubled times, how can we protect ourselves? How can we protect our cities and events from random attacks? I am certain that we must not surrender our way of life to this extremist pressure. We live in a wonderful country, where we are free to express our dissent by peaceful protest, petition and in person to our MP. Those freedoms have been hard won over centuries. Those who challenge our freedoms, by acts of terrorism against our freely elected representatives, should be treated as traitors. There is a gate in our great city that once bore their severed heads.

Yesterday, many of the victims of the blind fury that drives such attacks, were young people, some children. Let's stop treating terrorists differently and assigning them kudos that they do not deserve. They are murderers, criminals and bad people. There is no 'just cause' that mows down innocent children. There is no 'just cause' that uses a moving vehicle as a battering ram with human flesh as a target. It is time to tell those who plan such acts that we do not acknowledge their terrorist status. We need to let them know that we do not recognise their 'cause'. If they disagree with our way of life, if they were born in our country, they need to be taught that they have a grievance platform. We all do. It is called democracy. It is our greatest asset, our treasure, it is who we are. And I for one am very proud of who we are.

The poem below is partly my own work but also a tribute to the power of written word. The original version was written by William Wordsworth, whilst standing on Westminster Bridge on 3rd September 1803. His poem expresses many feelings about the city, about that day but also about the nature of the country in which he was born. Apart from the wonderful view of London, Big Ben and The Palace of Westminster, 'Upon Westminster Bridge' may itself, be the reason that many tourists make a pilgrimage to that same spot. It is with great sadness, that I present my own 'mashed up' version today.




Upon Westminster Bridge

March 21, 2017 (with deference to William Wordsworth, Sept 3 1803)

Hell has not anything to show so foul,
Void would they be of soul who could pass by
A sight so tragic in its circumstance:
This city now doth like a garment wear.

The madness of this carnage: frantic, raw,
As innocents abroad, lie murdered, maimed.
Strewn broken bodies, looking to the sky 
All wrapped in blood-soaked sirens’ wail.

Never did dark shadows deftly seep,
Into our courtyards of democracy.
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a shock so deep!

The river flows against an unjust will.
The mother of all parliaments with never sleep
And all our mighty heart is beating still. 

Adele V Robinson

(In tribute to the bravery of PC Keith Palmer and the valour of MP Tobias Ellwood).

Thank you for reading.  Adele

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Turn of Events - Roehampton, 1971

In my mid-teens, I loved going to London to stay with my aunt. Often, the whole family would go by car, but my favourite trips were the ones I made alone, on the train. I felt so grown up travelling InterCity from where ever we were living at the time. I would be met at Euston by my aunt, accompanied by my cousins who were young children, and we would head off to Roehampton and the large, detached house where they lived. Chatter, laughter and a bit of sibling rivalry would last for the entire car journey, until we all tumbled out on to the drive and raced for the front door. My cousins would want to hold my hands. There were three of them, so the two youngest had to hold one of my hands between them.

One of my visits took place during the Whitsuntide half-term in 1971. I have previously written about being uprooted from the familiar to the unknown when my father’s job meant a move to Cheshire. This little holiday was in the middle of that, so I was not at my happiest, though being with my cheerful, extended family brought me joy. My aunt had given me one of the big bedrooms over-looking the front garden. It was bright and welcoming, decorated in pale yellow with a grey satin bedspread and matching cushions. The printed cotton sheets were a jumbled mass of giant flowers in yellow, white and grey. I had fun with my cousins but I wasn’t expected to play with them all the time. The eldest was almost ten years younger than me and I wasn’t entirely sure where to fit in, but my aunt had it all organised.


The two of us had lots of together time, chatting over a coffee at home, or going out into London. I was completely spoiled by her generosity.

We wandered around Kensington and Chelsea, where my aunt bought me a flowery, summer dress from Biba and a smock style top in cheese-cloth and lace from a tiny boutique. She refused to let me donate my spending money.

Another day, we went to a hair salon, where I expected to wait with the magazines while my aunt had her appointment, but no, the appointment was for me. This was my first ever ‘cut and blow’ and I was delighted with my flyaway fine hair tamed into an easy, carefree style minus a few inches of straggles. We had a night on the town planned, so wearing my Biba dress and new sandals, we went to the theatre. It was a variety show with Tommy Cooper and was hilarious all the way through.

My week away was soon reaching an end and I was beginning to dread going home and returning to the school where I had no friends and no encouragement from teachers. The only thing I looked forward to was sending letters to my friends in Blackpool and sharing news of my time in London. I was about to be cheered by a welcome turn of events.

I’d spent the warm, sunny morning out in the back garden playing ball with my little cousins. After lunch, the eldest child and the middle one had been taken somewhere, the sunshine had turned to rain and I chose to have some quiet time in my room. I sat in the comfy armchair in the window, half-reading Animal Farm, for school, and watching the raindrops make perfect circles in the puddles as I twiddled with the necklace of love-beads I’d bought from Carnaby Street. The blossom covered tree branches hung low with the weight of water. Occasionally, I had another look at the essay I’d started to write, dismiss it and return to the book.

My aunt, with a sleepy looking toddler on her hip, came in smiling.

“There’s good news that I think you should hear right away.” She said. “Your dad wanted to surprise you, but he’s happy for me to tell you. You’re all moving back to Blackpool more or less immediately. He’ll phone after six to speak to you and tell you more.”

I burst into an emotional mix of tears and laughter. From feeling so miserable, I was the happiest girl ever.

 
A Haiku

A turn of events
Brought tears and laughter to me.
Emotional times.
 
Thanks for reading, Pam x

Sunday, 19 March 2017

The Healing Powers of Cheese

14:25:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography , , , , , , , No comments
As a family, we have always loved cheese.  Of us all, my dad is probably the biggest fan, waxing lyrical at the sight of a Stinking Bishop or a dark veined Roquefort.  He can often be found by an open fridge door, mouth chomping, a chunk of cheese in his hand, looking slightly guilty. 

Not long ago I visited my parents. My mum has a medical condition which means she's lost her sense of smell, and my dad (probably like most men) wouldn't notice if you let off a stink bomb under his nose.  Hence, my mum's request, every time I visit, to 'have a sniff around and tell me if you smell anything bad.' 

As the front door opened the smell hit me. It was horrendous: a combination of dirty dishcloths and kitchen waste.  Mum's face was a picture, as I gave her a quick kiss and marched purposefully towards the kitchen, nose on full throttle.  Dishcloths looked clean, the bin wasn't full, there was nothing in the sink.  

I turned to the fridge and opened it. The smell didn't seep out, it burst out!  On the top shelf was a large Camembert in a box. I opened the lid and nearly passed out. Inside was the softest, ripest , runniest, stinkiest cheese ever to be contained in a box. Plucking it from the shelf I ran out of the back door and into the garden, as if transporting a bomb.  There I deposited the stinking item onto the path and stood back. Mum and dad peered at me through the window. 

Don't get me wrong, I love strong cheese. Stinking, runny Camembert is one of my favourites, I just don't want visitors to my mum and dad's to be put off before they've even got in the hall.  These days, cheese with the slightest potential for being smelly, is immediately confined to a locked lean-to at the back of the kitchen.  Visitors are warned to venture in with extreme caution.  Or a face mask. 

I've written in a previous post about my visit to France between 'O' and ''A' levels.   I stayed in a Children's Home, high up in the mountains, and, unless it was blowing a gale or pouring with rain, all meals were eaten outside at a long table.  

On the first evening, after we had finished the main course, in an effort to appear helpful, I leaned across the table and began to gather the used crockery.  Shocked faces turned towards me and, gabbling in French, grabbed back their plates.  I didn't need my limited grasp of the language to understand I had made some terrible faux pas.  

As a large bowl of freshly sliced peaches was passed down the table and the children helped themselves it dawned on me that the same plates were used for each course.  It was at this point I offered up a silent prayer to an upbringing that had ensured no meal was over until every plate was scraped clean. As I deposited peaches in the remains of the gravy on my plate, I made a silent note to utilise the bread for a final wipe round before dessert the following day. 

Having eaten the peaches, and just as I was debating whether to risk a second attempt at plate collecting, a huge, circular cheese was produced from the kitchen and a loud cheer went up.  I was a little surprised that both adults and children would be getting so excited by a cheese, but little did I know what was to come.  

If I remember rightly, a barbecue was wheeled out (or perhaps it had been there all the time), the cheese was introduced to it for some minutes, then swiftly removed from the heat and held above a plate. With a flourish, thick, semi melted cheese was scraped from the cut end to plop unceremoniously into the remains of the peach juice. 



Now, I've always loved cheese, any type, any strength, but never have I enjoyed cheese as much as I did that night.  Sitting atop a mountain with a lot of strangers speaking in a foreign language as the sky slowly changed from pink to dusky grey, I broke off a piece of crusty baguette, mopped at the gooey  melted cheese (infused with peach juice) and just for a moment forgot I was homesick. 

The memory of that first night has stayed with me for lots of reasons, but mainly because it was the night I felt the healing powers of cheese. 


The Healing Powers of Cheese by Jill Reidy 

It was strange
That first night 
At the top of a mountain in France
Surrounded by excited children
And serious adults
Speaking in a foreign tongue
I was sad
I felt lonely
Homesick 
I sat at the table 
And ate the stew
Which rolled around my mouth
Was difficult to swallow
And the freshly sliced peaches
Which slid down 
All from the same plate
I thought about home
And roast dinners
My mum's sherry trifle 
In a clean dish 
Tears were just below the surface

Then

The cheer
The huge cheese
The smouldering coals
The scraping of the melted mess
Onto the twice used plate
The crispy bread
Ripped and dipped
Cheese dripping from my chin
Pure gluttonous enjoyment
Laughter
Sky turned from pink to dusky grey
For a moment 
I was lost in a delicious, healing, cheesy bubble



Thanks for reading      Jill








Saturday, 18 March 2017

Cheeseboarding

Cheese. I love it. Time for some fun, it's a 'feel good' foodstuff. Let's go cheeseboarding.

Everyone has heard of Laughing Cow cheese (la vache qui rit) but cheeses from other animals of origin have been slow to join the happy parade. For instance, what about Chortling Goat (la cabre risueno)? Or Sniggering Sheep (le mouton riant sous cape)? Where are they? Some intrepid farmers are even producing pig's milk cheese...Giggling Pig anyone (porcellus cachinnabilis)? And in Sweden they milk the Mildly Amused Moose and turn that into cheese. So what else could intrepid cheese-manufacturers conjure up? Howling Horse Halloumi perhaps? Tittering Buffalo Brie? Any takers for Psychedelia Smith's mind-blowing Unicorn Cheesecake recipe? OK - stop the blog, I want to get off!

Seriously, cheese has to be one of my favourite foods. I eat it every day. A good ripe Camembert with a crusty baguette is a meal in itself. Feta with olives and tomatoes can't be beaten. A piece of Blue Stilton and a glass of port are the perfect way to end a dinner party.

All cheeses start out as milk, most commonly cow's or sheep's. Then with the coagulation of the milk protein casein, triggered by the addition of an enzyme - usually rennet - plus the way they are treated as they solidify and mature, many with bacteria or moulds added,  they become the diverse array of shapes, colours, textures, aromas and flavours that comprise the tantalising array of over 1,000 classified cheeses. At a portion of cheese a day, it would take over three years to sample every different one.

The making of cheese dates back at least 5,000 years. The earliest known evidence comes from Poland where utensils containing sheep's cheese residue have been found and there are references to it in early Greek and Roman literature. For instance, the Cyclops in Homer's Odyssey was a cheese-maker and had racks of sheep's cheese maturing in his cave.

Cheese is portable, relatively long-lasting (compared to milk) and very versatile. As long as it is not eaten to excess, it's an excellent foodstuff, rich in fat, protein, calcium, phosphorus and many vitamins. Soft cheeses are generally thought to be better than hard cheeses as they are lower in saturated fat but there is no conclusive evidence that eating cheese in moderation raises bad cholesterol levels. In fact in controlled trials in Denmark recently it was found that older people who were given a couple of slices of cheese for breakfast each day over a six month period were on average both happier and healthier than those who had  no cheese at all.

Eat cheese, be happy - but not if you're a mouse, apparently. The notion that mice like cheese turns out to be something of a myth. They will eat it if there's nothing else around but they much prefer dried fruit and grains. It is thought that mousetraps were primed with cheese in the belief that the smell would attract the rodents. In truth, they're much more likely to go for a tasty sultana.    


This handsome fellow knows a good Havarti when he sniffs one - but he'd rather have a sultana!
As to the old wives' claim that eating cheese before bedtime causes dreams, that's another myth ripe for the shattering. There is no scientific evidence to support it.

I did toy briefly with the idea of writing Ode To A Wensleydale ( "My stomach rumbles, as a gnawing hunger pains my sense..." etc), but thought better of it. I couldn't get the image if Wallace & Gromit out of my mind. So no poem I'm afraid.

Instead, I bring you this week's fabulous Cheeseboard Top Twenty Chart courtesy of world-renowned cheese-jockey Tom Fromage, including two non-movers and four new entries (last week's positions in parentheses). Yum!


1   (1)  Camembert (France)  Of all the world's great cheeses there's none that can compare!
 2   (2)  Stilton (England)  Best blue on the planet.
 3 (11)  Feta (Greece)  Shooting up the chart on account of its healthy credentials.
 4   (3)  Gruyere (Switz)  Always a rich and tangy delight.
 5   (5)  Parmesan (Italy)  King of Italian cheeses, grate with everything.
 6 (13)  Epoisses (France)  Smelliest of the smelly - banned on the metro - but tastes just fine.
 7   (8)  Chevrotin (France)  Flying the flag for the goat.
 8   (4)  Mozzarella feat. Buffalo Girls (Italy) Slipping slightly but still a subtle treat.
 9 (12)  Reblochon (France)  Former number one making something of a come back.
10  (7)  Gouda (Neth)  Consistently the top cheese from the Low Countries.
11(14)  Cheddar (England)  When it's on its best form, it's one of the best.
12  (-)   Milleens (Eire)  Highest new entry, a soft and pungent Irish beauty.
13  (9)  Chaumes (France)  Gloopy dream of a pongy cheese.
14 (10) Pont L'Eveque (France)  The authentic odour of the cowshed.
15  (6)  Crackerjack feat. Jalapeno (USA)  Monterey Jack with chillis, on the slide.
16   (-)  Sulguni (Georgia)  Fabulous new entry - a pickled cheese.
17 (20)  Beacon Fell (England)  Local Lancashire talent on the rise. 
18   (-)  Limburger (Belgium)  Goes a treat in a club sandwich.
19   (-)  Pecorino (Italy)  Doing it for the sheep. 
20 (17) White Stilton feat. Cranberries (England)  A novelty beginning to fade fast.

Bubbling under... Raclette (Switz)  Perfect for that apr├Ęs-ski fondue.

As if that wasn't enough, here's a musical link to Robyn Hitchcock's cautionary tale: The Cheese Alarm

Thanks for reading. I wish you a tasty week, Steve ;-)

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Cheese... and wine of course.

I have always loved cheese. I prefer savoury to sweet. When the desert trolley is wheeled out on family birthdays of celebrations, I watch others burst into raptures over chocolate concoctions and cream filled sweetness but am totally unaffected.  Wave a cheese board in my direction and I would find it hard to resist.

I love cheese. Cheese is the basis of one of my earliest childhood memories, probably because it was a traumatic event. Oh yes.  Cheese can be traumatic. Let me elucidate. When I was a very little girl, probably three years old, my family lived next door to a certain Mrs Love.  Mrs Love, so I am led to believe, lived up to her name and was a truly lovely lady.  Mrs Love had a pantry and in her pantry, Mrs love had a china cheese wedge from which the lovely Mrs Love would often cut me a small piece of cheese.  I loved cheese and I loved Mrs Love.

One day, my Dad took me by the hand and took me to visit Mrs Love. Then he smacked the top of my leg in front of Mrs Love.  He said that I was being smacked for stealing cheese from Mrs Love's pantry. Apparently I had left my teeth marks in the cheese. It was my first encounter with corporal punishment and also forensic science. Strangely enough, I no longer liked Mrs Love but I still love cheese. Lesson learned.

I suspect, although I don't remember, that Mrs Love's cheese may have been Lancashire.  There are three types of Lancashire cheese: Crumbly, creamy and tasty.  I have progressed through the three tastes during my lifetime, probably in conjunction with developing, (or perhaps even deteriorating), taste-buds. In my late teens, I started to enjoy mouldy cheeses too and now prefer them with a little port or a glass of red.



In the 1970's a cheese and wine party was quite the thing but as always, I was away dancing most nights and weekends, so I missed out on that trend. I never got the idea of cheese fondue. It seemed boring and a bit sickly. My sister did a great steak fondue with gorgeous sauces and it was a party hit from day one.

Travelling around Europe, I have discovered many foods before they came to the UK.  I ate my very first spaghetti in Switzerland, aged 11, my first pizza in Trieste when I was 15 and I dined on lasagne in St Mark's Square, Venice the same year. I have eaten the native cheeses in Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, Austria Italy and The Netherlands.  My first encounter with Feta was on a Greek Island but there is one cheese producing country that has not yet received my serious attention.

The French produce thousands of different cheeses, so before I shuffle off to Buffalo, (pun intended),  I have every intention of tasting my way across the entire landscape, cow's, sheep's, goat's and all. After all, every Chateau has a cheesy neighbour. By the way - if you hold your nose when you eat smelly cheese, you will completely miss out on the delightful taste. Receptors in the back of your nose, combine with your taste-buds to detect flavour. Like cheese and wine, taste and smell cannot be separated.  Enjoy.

Little Stinker
Thou stinking lump
with wrinkled skin,
immersed in brine
and shrinkled in.

Thou puke infested,
rancid clot
with fragrance
of an unwashed sock.

Thou humming pile
of seething cream,
thy honking whiff
is so extreme.

Thou nauseous, noxious
teeming turd,
thy oozing guts
are too absurd. 

Thou putrid pat
with urine reek,
have moulded, rotted,
reached a peak.

Come gasping gourde
of tingling bite
infusing taste-buds
with delight.

Thou Stinking Bishop,
Gorgonzola,
I love thy flavour –
Hate thy odour.

Have a delightful week. Thanks for reading.  Adele 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Everyone Say Cheese

17:07:00 Posted by Pamela Winning , , , , , , , , , , No comments

Say ‘cheese’. No, it’s not a continuation of my Selfie blog from last week, though this started at around the same time. It was the typical chat between me and a colleague during one of the rare moments that we had chance to pass the time of day.

“What’s for tea tonight, then?” She asked me.

She took a phone call as I thought about what to do with the left-overs from our Sunday roast.

“Cold meat and boxty, with some cabbage and leeks, I think.” I replied, starting to feel hungry and looking forward to some sauce or pickle to go with it. I remembered the rhyme, but kept it to myself – Boxty on the griddle, boxty in the pan, if you can’t make boxty, you’ll never get a man. – It made me smile.

“I’m doing homemade cheese and onion pie. Not done it for ages.” She was typing frantically and didn’t look up straight away.

“Oh, now you’ve done it. I’ll crave that all week.”

I love my own cheese and onion pie and I hadn’t made one for a long time, either. Served with jacket potato and baked beans, it’s a favourite family meal I have grown up with. I would make it on Saturday. It was only Monday but we would be out for three evenings and Friday was ‘chippy tea’ and not to be missed. If I made a large pie, there would be enough to enjoy cold for lunch the next day.

Cheese and tomato sandwiches are a favourite lunch. If the cheddar is just the right flavour, it takes me back to my childhood and the pub we had up in the hills near Glossop. I attended the local village school that was very close by, and for the only time in my school days I came home for lunch. It would be there, waiting for me on the kitchen table. Fresh white bread filled with grated cheddar cheese and thinly sliced tomato. It might have been an odd choice for an eight year old, but I loved it, even more than chicken paste or potted meat. How lovely it is for something so simple to transport me back to a time full of fond memories.

Saturday couldn’t come soon enough and the afternoon found me elbow deep in plain flour and grated cheese with eyes watering from finely chopped onion. The end result was delicious, with the longed for jacket potatoes and baked beans. Comfort food at its best. The next day, I was delighted to see my toddler grandson devouring strips of the cold pie and dipping it in a tiny spoonful of pickle. Can’t beat Nanna’s homemade snacks.

“Did you make your pie at weekend, then?” My colleague asked, during a lull in the Monday morning mayhem.

“Yes, it was perfection. Can’t you tell?” I pointed out my increasing girth, which of course, isn’t the result one cheese and onion pie.

I found this poem.

 

A Parable

The cheese-mites asked how the cheese got there,

And warmly debated the matter,

The Orthodox said that it came from the air,

And the Heretics said from the platter.

They argued it long and they argued it strong,

And I hear they are arguing now;

But of all the choice spirits who lived in the cheese,

Not one of them thought of a cow.
  
                                                                                                   by Arthur Conan Doyle
 Thanks for reading, Pam x

 

 

 

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Selfies

18:03:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography , , , , , , , No comments
Strange as it may seem to anyone under the age of about thirty but it's only in the last few years that the word, 'selfie,' has come into being. 

Before that, people used to set up a camera on self-timer and then run like the clappers to be in the correct place before the shutter clicked.  I have several unintentional photographs of my backside to prove that the ten seconds delay wasn't really long enough.  In fact, I have a whole series of pictures of me from the back, desperately scrambling over rocks to join the husband who was posing happily in the waves on some beach holiday.  I think I gave up in the end and just took one of him on his own.  

As he's never been the practical type (see previous blog post, 'Masonry' which details precisely how he failed in the DIY stakes) I've never trusted him to set the timer whilst I draped myself elegantly over a rock, and smiled like I'd all the time in the world.  As his usual method of photography (under extreme sufferance) is to vaguely point the camera in the right direction and click (disregarding the fact that the resulting picture might just be a headless, legless torso) I think giving him the responsibility of the self timer could be a step too far. 

And now, the ubiquitous selfie is to be seen everywhere you go.  Facebook is full of them:  groups of girls in nightclubs, couples on romantic strolls, individuals smiling at their reflections in smartphones.....there's no escape.  I must admit, I did have a hankering for a selfie stick when they first appeared.  It looked like the answer to all our problems (mine being short arms and the inability to hold the phone steady and press the button at the same time).  

Thankfully, although tempted, I never actually bought one, and now they seem to be a bit of an embarrassment.  Recently, down on the prom, I watched a couple produce a selfie stick from a rucksack and glance furtively around before attaching a phone, posing, snapping and shoving the gadget back in the bag. It was all done with the air of somebody dealing in drugs - and quite frankly, I could see why.  

My four year old granddaughter recently got hold of her mum's phone and not only expertly took about a dozen 'peace, pose and pout' (that's pouting whilst making the two finger peace sign) selfies, but also made a short video of herself miming to some pop record.  I mention all this, not as a proud grandma but as someone amazed at (a) how these poses come naturally (or have been learnt) even to four year olds (b) how quickly technology has moved on and (c) how tech savvy these young kids are.  

Recently, I worked with my fellow Whipper Snappers practitioner, Claire, to run a workshop for ten and eleven years olds, around the subject of self image. It was interesting to see their initial reactions when a camera was pointed in their direction.  They went into automatic pose mode - usually with a pout, and it seemed quite difficult for them to look natural.  Discussions around apps that altered their look were enlightening - they had all added animal ears and noses to their self portraits, but some had also used more advanced apps to smooth out wrinkles (on an eleven year old??) and make skin totally blemish free. 

I do worry that these ideas of 'perfection' are becoming the norm, and the reason so many young people (women, in particular) are turning to Botox and other methods of 'improving' their looks.  I understand that we all want to look our best but I fear for the future if facelifts and other 'enhancements' are set as a baseline at a younger and younger age.  

For the time being, I'm happy to let nature take its course and revel in the wrinkles, double chin and age spots.  After all, they've been earned, they are the result of a life lived.  I do have to admit, however, that maybe my backside, so frequently captured by the self timing camera, wasn't actually so bad in comparison to that sixty four year old face that now stares out at me from my phone....

The Anti-Selfie - showing it like it is... 



Peace, Pout, Pose by Jill Reidy

Peace, pout, pose
Head up, chin down
Lights on, lights off
Turn to the right
To the left
Eyes wide
Flutter lashes
Swap places
Link arms
Don't blink
Look over your shoulder
Squeeze in
Duck down
Stretch up
Ready? 
Smile
Pout again
Say cheese
Hold it

Click

Now where's that app
That makes us all look
Practically the same?

Perfect
Post it!

Thanks for reading    Jill