Not just fish

Everyone knows about the Great Exhibition of 1851. Prince Albert’s genius idea to showcase the brilliance that had grown from the fledgling roots of the Industrial Revolution. How many of the objects featured in the exhibition became part of the collection of what would become the V&A.

Of course, it wasn’t the first. That honour goes to Prague. In 1791 an industrial exposition was held to coincide with the coronation of King Leopold II. Then the French held seven from 1798 to 1827. In fact, the Great Exhibition was the 21st but seen as the first World’s Fair. All of them were epic endeavours and they spawned many exhibitions around the world. It was the beginning of something huge.

By the way, the first Australian exhibition was in Melbourne in 1854 and was held in conjunction with the French Exposition Universelle the following year.

These exhibitions were very successful and, it would seem, rarely a year went by that there wasn’t one somewhere in the world. Then, in 1883, there was the International Fisheries Exhibition, held in South Kensington on the Horticultural Gardens. These gardens were between the Albert Hall and the V&A (a rather large area) and, after the exhibition moved in, virtually ceased to exist.

The exhibition was due to open on May 1 and the preparations were intense including the installation of massive aquariums (20 of seawater and 20 of fresh) and miles of exhibition cases in order to showcase the fishing industry of the entire world. The original idea had to be enlarged when the response from international exhibitors was an unprecedented enthusiasm to take part. As an example of this willingness, the Russians demanded an area of 10,000 square feet for their exhibits alone.

The most unusual aspect of the exhibition (at least as far as the Times correspondent was concerned) was a Cookery Demonstration held every day in order to show how lesser known fish could be used for food rather than manure. (I had no idea that fish could be used as manure and wonder how awful it must have smelled…possibly worse than blood and bone.)

Given there was to be cooking flames, there was a worry that the whole place could wind up in a huge conflagration (ignoring the 40 tanks full of water) but this was easily resolved. (Ironically) the United Asbestos Company stepped in and coated everything in their wonderful product, ensuring fireproof visits for all and sundry. They even set up a demonstration prior to the opening. A wooden shed was coated and then attempts were made to set it on fire. The fire didn’t take and everyone cheered. For a few years, anyway.

By March 19, the buildings had been finished and plans were well advanced for the opening ceremony. Queen Victoria, naturally, wanted to cut the ribbon and pronounce it open for business. London was awash with anticipation for this wonderful enterprise.

The organisers decided that it would be so popular that it should be kept open at night so the whole thing was “…brilliantly lighted by electricity.”

As it turned out, Queen Victoria didn’t open the exhibition (I don’t know why…however, her favourite and confidante John Brown died on March 24 so maybe she was inconsolable) and she sent her son, the Prince of Wales to do the honours in her stead, something I don’t think he was too keen on. After all, one much prefers to be oneself rather than one’s mother. Still, even without Vicky, the ocassion was a riot of pomp and circumstance with all manner of dignitories sat on a massive wooden dais erected for the purpose. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury had a seat on it.

The ceremony started with a Royal procession, headed by Mr and Mrs Wales and various family members, then such important people as their Commissioners, Foreign and Colonial Acting Commissioners, the Executive Committee, the Superintendent of Works, the Architect and the Contractor. It’s interesting that the more work you do, the further down the procession you walk. I guess it’s always been that way, really.

During the procession, the hoi poloi and gathered dignitaries were entertained by

“…the National Anthem…sung by the choir consisting of 400 voices, accompanied by an orchestral band of 70 performers…” The Times, May 1, 1883

Once opened and the trappings of pomp were stowed away for the next event, the public flocked to the exhibition. In the six months it was opened, there were 2.8 million of them. I’m thinking that there wasn’t a lot that they didn’t know about fishing by the time the exhibition closed.

For instance, one of the highlights was a practical demonstration by a Native American. To quote the Times (and apologies for any insensitive language but this was 1883, after all):

“…a Mileceto Indian, who will put up his wigwam on the border of one of the lakes [yes, there were lakes too] in the grounds, and will show, not only the fishing tackle and appliances used by the Red Men, but will go on the water and display his skill in the management of a birch-bark canoe,” The Times, May 11, 1883

One of the most popular exhibits were those of the fish. Monsters from the deep (and not so deep) completely unknown to the Victorian gentry. Here is part of a sketch in the London Illustrated News showing just a few of these alien creatures.

The stuff of Victorian nightmares

The stuff of Victorian nightmares

But, like all good things, the International Fisheries Exhibition had to come to an end. The poor Prince of Wales once more dressed up as his mother and went along to shut it all down. It all came to an end on October 31. To celebrate the end of such a successful undertaking, the Illustrated London News printed the following image. It shows various images from the Exhibition including, at the top, a piece called ‘the last fish supper.’

From the London Illustrated News, 3 Nov 1883

From the London Illustrated News, 3 Nov 1883

All in all, the Exhibition was seen as a great boost for not just the fishing industry around the world but also for Britain. Most important though, and I guess this was intentional, the International Fisheries Exhibition of 1883 created a new love for seafood throughout Britain.


Today saw the first steps towards making our garden once more a haven on fine days. After the devastation visited upon it by the builders throughout 2014, it needs anything we can throw at. So we threw Chris.

Chris the Gardener (apparently everyone has him down as Chris Gardener in their phones even though his real name is Webster) turned up with a very cheerful chap, both ready to attack the now sodden beds. Sodden because it rained in the night.

What followed can only be described as a mud bath. It was everywhere and on everyone. Fortunately, I kept the dogs inside (except for going to the park for a walk) but even so, Emma managed to get muddy just by looking through the big glass doors.

In spite of the mud and the ocassional spitting rain, Chris and his buddy worked with smiles on their faces and songs in their hearts. They really were a very happy couple of workers. If he was a King, he’d be King Chris the Positive.

The bed on Dave and Gail’s side was finished in super quick time but then came the Crazies bed where the ground has been compacted by the digger and countless mounds of fill for the terrace. Chris almost let his smile escape but managed to catch it in time and return it to where it so rightfully belonged.

With minimal breaks and much jollity, the two of them finished both beds by about 4:30pm. They tried to wash the terrace but gave up after a bit and I did it after they’d gone…well, some of it anyway.

The border on the Crazies' side

The border on the Crazies’ side

I’m very happy with the results and am looking forward to a lot of planting to come so we can have a lovely garden for the summer.

The bed on Chutney's side

The bed on Chutney’s side

Beans and cheese

Heinz announced its intended merger with Kraft today. If the merger goes through (and there’s no reason to think it won’t) it will make the new Kraft Heinz Company, the fifth largest food company in the world.

The biggest food company in the world is NestlĂ© (that’s pronounced ‘Ness-lay’, mum, regardless of what you called it when you worked there!) which employs more than 300,000 people world-wide. In 2013, they had revenues in excess of US$100 billion (that’s an American billion rather than a real one) and profits to the tune of US$11 billion. That’s one hell of a return to shareholders.

The biggest food company in the US is PepsiCo. They don’t just make fizzy drinks but own various food manufacturers as well. Last year, PepsiCo took in US$44 billion in revenue.

In 1974 (or 1975, depending on your reference) Denis Healey, the then UK chancellor, announced that the British treasury would be adopting the US billion. Ever since it had occured to anyone that we needed a name for it, a billion was a million million. At some stage, the US decided it should be a thousand million instead (fewer zeroes).

The two nomenclature have logical justifications and are known as the long and short scales. (There are several more large number naming conventions in the world but no others that really apply in world finance terms.)

I have no idea why the US decided to call 1,000,000,000 a billion while the UK were happy with 1,000,000,000,000. (Incidentally, this second number is now the US trillion.) I guess it’s a bit like driving on the other side of the road (a ridiculous idea) and is a left over from not wanting to have anything to do with Britain after the Revolution.

However, it might also be because it makes people sound richer than they actually are. Take, for instance, Bill Gates. As at March 16, he was worth US$79.2 billion. It sounds better than US$79.2 thousand million and fits better into a column of the world’s richest people.

Not that today had anything to do with the naming of numbers in our house. I spent the day converting the miss-named coat cupboard into a storage cupboard with shelves. I’ve been threatening to do it for a while and waited for a lovely sunny day to do it.

It took most of the day, cutting, fixing and swearing. There was also a bit of chasing Emma round the garden when she decided she’d rather take my pencil off somewhere for a chew. She also stole a screwdriver but I managed to catch her doing that and stopped her before she could hide it too well.

By the end of the day, the shelves were in just waiting for some filler and a couple of coats of paint.

Misnamed coat cupboard

Misnamed coat cupboard

After lunch and once I had the shelving supports in place, I took the puppies up to the Park for a lovely walk. The newly named Mugging Field, looked gorgeous and almost empty as we safely strolled through it. Well, to be honest, Day-z and I strolled through it. Emma doesn’t know what ‘stroll’ means.

Queen's Bottom

Queen’s Bottom

It was a good, productive day, delightfully topped off with Mirinda coming home.

New York for the squirrels

This morning, walking back from the shops, I watched as a woman tried, in vain, to get her retriever to come back.

“Sophie!” She yelled, “Sophie, come here!”

Clearly, Sophie was more interested in chasing the squirrels as they darted around the trees and across the path. She was having a terrific time. When I reached her owner she was all exasperation and annoyance.

“It’s the squirrels,” I helpfully said.
“It happens every day on this very spot!” She explained with a lovely Irish lilt. “This little spot is the New York of squirrels!”

I laughed and left her to it.

Today, Emma had to go back to the vet to have her chipped tooth looked at. Though ‘chipped’ doesn’t really give a proper idea of the damage she’s done to her upper canine on the right side. The vet was not happy with it. She warned me about it getting infected and developing an abscess. This isn’t a possibility, it WILL happen, she told me.

Suffice it to say, the tooth will have to come out. This could mean that the bottom canine will grow longer than nature designed and she could possibly have a strange looking jaw. Still, better that than the alternative. It would make life a lot easier if she didn’t chew rocks.

Mind you, her other favourite game is to try and grab the daffodils in her teeth as she runs passed them. While they won’t hurt her teeth, it’s very annoying when we’ve waited since last spring for them to re-appear. They are just starting to spread their own brand of sunshine in front of the office. Perhaps that’s what Emma’s doing: Grabbing her own bit of sunshine.

A daff before Emma

A daff before Emma

After the vet, we went to the Park for a walk (no sign of muggers), giving Mirinda a chance to get a bit of sleep. She’s been struck down with the dreaded lurgy and tries to rest up between phone meetings and document amendment. At least the house is nice and warm.

It wasn’t so warm in the Park although the sun was out and the hail storm we experienced earlier had gone a long way away. (Actually, Mirinda wanted to toss Emma out into the hail to give her the experience but, fortunately, I managed to dissuade her.) Not that the dogs notice the temperature…EVER! They find much more interesting things on our walks. What this was is anyone’s guess.

Something interesting at the stile

Something interesting at the stile

Emma never finds time to get very cold anyway as she’s far too busy running around like a maniac at a gym. She runs so much that her tongue lolls out of her mouth like some long pink snake trying to escape from her mouth. She really has a very long tongue. I’m surprised she can fit it in her mouth.

Avenue of Trees

Avenue of Trees

But the day wasn’t just about daffs and walking and vets, first thing I replanted the pyracanthas and the honeysuckle. The pyracanthas are very spiky and need to be planted with great care. The branches then needed to be spread out along the new fence. I was pricked and scratched a fair few times. Still, it was worth it.



The honeysuckle was much less vicious. Mirinda suggested moving it to climb up the gazebo rather than the fence. Given there’s a Japanese clematis climbing on another leg, they can meet in the middle and create a lovely bit of shade.

Speaking of gardens, we then went up to the Bagshot Lea garden centre to look at trees. The new and improved garden will need some nice new specimens. Sidney was full of a load from the lock-up so there was no fear of buying anything. It was an exploratory mission only. We took no prisoners.

Flat cleaning

Before I go on about my day, an update on yesterday’s park mugging. It wasn’t in the cow pasture, as the Bush Telegraph would have us believe. It was on the troll bridge, along the all weather path. It’s a spot where the trees grow close to the path and a popular route into town. To be fair, it’s just around the corner from the entrance to the cow pasture.

It seems that two teenagers mugged a 23 year old lad on his way to work. They sneaked up behind him and took his iPhone and earplugs before divesting him of his bag and running off.

One of the reasons I don’t wear earplugs while walking is because I can’t hear anything going on around me. Clearly this young lad was listening to something personal and didn’t hear the danger. I see a lot of people doing it; listening to something, oblivious to the world around them. Hopefully it was a lesson well learned for the poor victim.

Being Safer Surrey, a member of the public alerted the police and they swooped. The Neighbourhood Watch team, the dog squad and a chopper were all scrambled immediately and the two thieves were apprehended with a swiftness expected of the council rates we pay. While the mugging surprised me, seeing as we live in a very safe part of the world, the quick and decisive response by the police reassured me. Well done!

By the way, the muggers were two teenage losers from Aldershot and somewhere in Berkshire. They were caught and were before a magistrate this morning. A pity the helicopter didn’t drop a piano on them.

So, safe in the knowledge that the status quo had been restored, I set off into London. Mirinda worked from home today so I took the chance to go and tidy the flat.

It was a lovely day (Mirinda actually opened the big glass doors all the way to enjoy the outside inside…though she did wear a fleece because it was still a bit chilly).

It was also quite chilly on the curvy bridge, as usual, as I walked from the Tube to the flat.

The curvy bridge

The curvy bridge

After a shop I set to work on the flat, noting as I arrived that the shop downstairs is being fitted out, finally, for a new occupant. It seems that the Co-op has taken over the lease and will soon be open for business. This is excellent news…in part. It means that access to important supplies will be a lot easier for Mirinda. Unfortunately, it also means that groups of unpleasant youths will once more congregate around the doors.

Anyway, having finished my cleaning (and delicious sushi for lunch), I left the flat at around 3pm for the trip home. My last sight of Canary Wharf…

Canary Wharf

Canary Wharf

A little over an hour later, I was back in safe and quiet Farnham.

Long Garden Walk

Long Garden Walk

The Hankley Gorse

Today was perfect for a walk over Hankley. And so that is exactly what we did.

My girls at the start of the walk

My girls at the start of the walk

The sky was blue, there was no wind and, while there were a few people about, it wasn’t crowded. And, as a salute to the arrival of spring, the gorse was out all over the place. It’s coconut fragrance was even starting to make itself known.

The gorse

The gorse

Yes, it was all lovely and, to cap it off, Emma didn’t manage to get muddy at all. True, she did go into the stream for a much needed drink after her miles of running, but that was clear water and just made her feet wet.

From from the hill

From the hill

And the roast this week was lamb.

Finished fence and sausage rolls

Carl came round this morning, as promised, and finished the fence. Mirinda went off to guitar class so I waited with the dogs for her return.

While I waited I made sausage rolls for our lunch. I used Delia’s mother-in-law’s recipe, as I did for Christmas. They looked perfect and, by the time we had them for lunch, tasted as good as they looked.

But, back to the fence…by the time Carl had finished, had a chat with us both and packed up, we had a complete fence, once more dividing us from the Crazies’ garden. Here’s the final section behind the raised beds…


…and the long bit down the back, bisecting the holly tree…

Through the holly tree

Through the holly tree

The hot border was left in a bit of a state, leaving me with a bit of work but, otherwise, it’s all excellent. Speaking of ‘excellent’, Mirinda rang up a couple of references for the garden guy (Chris) and both people raved about him. She then rang him up to book him, hopefully, for next week. If he’s that good, he’ll probably be very busy. Fingers crossed he can come and dig our beds just off the terrace, ready for some planting.

Late in the day, we went up to the Park for a walk to the Castle and back. On the way home, we met Dave and Rodney who Emma played with maniacally. Dave told us that someone had been mugged in the ‘cow pasture’ as he called it. It’s what we call the Queen’s Bottom. Apparently the police had the chopper out looking for the perpetrator.

It seems a very odd place for a mugging. Firstly, it’s a big open space with, generally, just a few dog walkers and their dogs and, secondly, most people walking through it wouldn’t be carrying very much on them worth mugging for. I know when I walk the dogs, all I have is my key and my phone. It’s not a thoroughfare after all. Anyone heading towards the town would follow the all weather path rather than walk through a field.

I’ve checked for news reports but, so far, without any success. I’ll have to check the paper on Friday. It’s all a bit odd.

But, enough of such stuff. Here’s a photo of Emma and Day-z mid run.