Shirley’s blushing

This evening, we took a rather late walk at Frensham. It wasn’t exactly intentional, it was just the time Mirinda finished work and, therefore, the time we left the house. And, while we saw a few people, the place was pretty close to empty. By the time we started back, the sun had set and half a moon was in the sky. The pond looked lovely yet not very inviting.

Both of us acknowledged it was the darkest we’d ever been there. Which was great because we like seeing old places in a new light…or dark. Best of all, though, it was very quiet.

By the time we returned home, it was all hands to the pumps as I hurried to make dinner. ‘All hands’ there indicates me in the kitchen and Mirinda feeding the girls.

Mirinda couldn’t decide between having fish or meat tonight, so I opted for both and made cod and chorizo parcels. Which was delicious. There’s something creamy and luxurious about a big old Icelandic cod loin.

I bought it from Pamela at the Fish Counter, who I hadn’t seen for ages. I was a bit distressed to see her wearing a mask but that’s the new rule, I suppose.

Speaking of which, I didn’t go to Starbucks today and probably won’t for a very long time. Mirinda said it was like having broken up from a love affair (Lockdown) then deciding to give it another go (July 4) before realising why you broke up in the first place (pandemic).

Shopping aside (and there was a lot of shopping to be done today) the day was basically spent doing housework and feeling completely overwhelmed with the problems at the cottage. The former helped ease my mind while the latter kept it on edge. Mentally, not a good day.

However, there was a very bright moment when I went up to the greenhouse and discovered that, finally, after what seems like years, the Shirley tomatoes have started to redden. They were even slightly soft to touch. They may be eaten yet.

The above photo may not look like much, but they have been a deep, deep green for so long I was beginning to wonder whether the photo on the plant label was wrong. As far as I’m concerned, they are now red.

Actually, given the successful tomato jelly I made yesterday, it’s a pity it wasn’t using my own grown Shirleys. Still, you can’t have everything.

Here’s a final photo of Frensham at the beginning of our walk. I was trying to get the setting sun shining behind the dogs but realised the limits of my phone camera.

Today, this happened

Anhui opera is a Chinese local form which was presented to Beijing in honour of the Qianglong Emperor’s 80th birthday today, in 1790. I haven’t found anything to indicate how he felt about the performance or the opera. At 80, he probably slept through it.

Anhui opera was influential in the creation of Beijing Opera a style that combines music, vocal performance, mime, dance and acrobatics. It became very popular though was exclusively for the well-to-do back when it started. Ordinary people would never have seen a performance.

Dowager Empress Cixi was a huge fan. Mao, however, clearly was not. Or rather, his actor wife wasn’t keen. I have no idea whether she was knocked back for a role and that may have been the reason, but she declared that it was not in keeping with Maoist doctrine.

During the Cultural Revolution, performances of Peking Opera were banned and replaced by something a little more in keeping with the ideals of cultural purity. In other words, it was really, really dreary and, presumably, the ordinary people were forced to watch it.

Eventually, Mao’s revolution ended and the people could eat again and choose whether to go to the opera or not. And, it seems, they don’t seem to like it. So they don’t go.

The popularity of Peking Opera (or Beijing Opera…the names seem interchangeable) has been waning for some time. Attempts have been made to ‘jazz it up’ a bit with improved presentation and new plays but the audiences are not improving.

Mind you, you can watch it on TV if you like. Chinese TV channel CCTV-11 is dedicated to broadcasting classic Chinese productions which includes Beijing Opera. As long as it’s on the telly, I guess it will never really die out.

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There’s a hail stone under the mirror

Juliette Gréco died today. She was an amazing woman with an equally amazing life. Jean-Paul Sartre said: “Gréco has a million poems in her voice. In her mouth, my words become precious stones.” Which is pretty cool. John Lennon and Paul McCartney fancied her like mad. She had many lovers, including Miles Davis. She belonged to a world which, sadly, no longer exists. She has left this one a little more bereft.

But, back in the world of the ordinary…just after lockdown in March, we ordered two pieces of gym equipment. A bike and a treadmill. The bike turned up quite quickly and I’ve been using it a lot rather than going to the gym which was impossible. The treadmill was another matter.

Firstly we had an email saying that the treadmill we’d ordered was out of stock so we’d have to wait a bit. Following the ‘bit’ we were told it was cancelled and our money was paid back. I then ordered, in July, another one which was due to be delivered somewhere between September 2 and 19.

Come September 18 and I’d heard nothing. I had already checked the Amazon policy on third party companies who didn’t deliver and their helpful advice was to wait until the delivery time had elapsed. So, obviously, I was waiting for September 20.

Then, on September 18, I had a message from the company (in China) asking if I was happy with the treadmill. I told them it hadn’t arrived so was unable to express my pleasure or otherwise. This received an almost immediate reply that they would look into it.

It took a couple of hours but the company got back to me and said it would be with us by the following Friday and to let them know.

Now, I have no idea where it was and why but it turned up and I put it together today.

This has now become our Covid Corner Gym. And it was quite handy that it turned up today because the weather was anything but predictable. Blue sky then rain then blue sky then thunder, lightning, hail and rain. It meant Mirinda could go for a walk. Inside.

In fact, the hail was so violent and so sudden that a hail stone managed to shoot in through the bathroom skylight, bounce on the tiles and land at the base of the mirror in the upstairs hallway. This prompted a yell from Mirinda upstairs who had gone to check the windows…which is the title of this post.

As for the walk, she approved, having walked a few miles at a speed of around 3mph, while listening to a podcast.

Emma, on the other hand, was very confused by it. She stood and stared, cocked her head on one side, baffled. She walked back and forth. She was mostly confused because Mirinda was going for a walk without her but while in front of her. Poor puppy brain.

Freya gave it a sniff then went and curled up on a cushion.

Apart from building workout equipment, I was busy tidying the extension ahead of our important guests on Saturday. I was very happy with the finished result and, as usual, wished it would stay that way forever.

Mind you, I love dusting the ornaments on our display shelves and would miss doing it if they somehow remained dust free. Though I do wonder why we didn’t add glass doors over them in the original extension design.

And speaking of design, I am always needlessly entertained by foreign attempts at simple English instructions. Not out of any malice. After all, my Chinese version of how to put together a table would not be very good. Or entertaining.

Step 2 above is a classic.

Today, this happened

Today was once known as Shaka Day in South Africa in honour of a Zulu warrior king. Shaka was responsible for a lot of Zulu tribes coming together and becoming more a nation than warring factions. He died in 1832 and 24 September was a best guess at the day.

People would gather at his grave and pay homage at his great achievement.

Then, in 1996, the new democratic government of South Africa put forward a National Public Holiday Bill but didn’t include Shaka Day. This upset the Zulu strong Inkatha Freedom Party and they voted the Bill down.

Being a democracy, the Bill was amended and presented again, for a vote. This time, the date was included but, rather than being called Shaka Day, it was now South African Heritage Day.

And, being a national holiday, there are lots of celebrations throughout South Africa as the ‘rainbow nation’ declares how great it is having lots of different cultures getting an officially sanctioned day off.

In 2006, it was proposed that Heritage Day should be renamed Barbi Day because everyone had barbecues to celebrate. Okay, being South African, the name was going to be Braai Day but, being Australian, I quite like Barbi Day. The guy proposing it was known as Jan Braai, so I reckon he may have been a bit biased.

In 2007, Desmond Tutu endorsed the National Braai Day idea. He even put on an apron and cooked a sausage over a barbecue. And the debate continues with some commentators suggesting that renaming it after a barbecue waters down the original intention of the day. They say it should be about the South African heritage and history and not so much sizzling steaks and onions.

I don’t know about that, but I kind of like the fact that it was originally called Shaka Day and commemorated a native African who united the previously thought un-unitable Zulu tribes. But maybe that’s just me.

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Leo the legend

Today saw me performing the sad task of cancelling four weeks of restaurant bookings ahead of tomorrow. It was also bittersweet that we went out to Pulpo Negro, possibly for the last time, and sat at the Chef’s Table. But I don’t want to talk about sadness when I have Leo to discuss instead.

I’ve mentioned Leo before. He is a beagle that regularly takes his human for a frustrating walk in the park. Leo is very sociable and single-minded. He rarely does what he’s told, but he is adorable enough to get away with it. I call him the Naughtiest Dog in the Park.

Today I was told that he peed on a boy’s jumper yesterday.

The jumper was one of four, piled on the grass as crude goalposts, and the boys were kicking a ball about on their makeshift pitch. Leo has no concept of sport, but he does know he has to leave his scent everywhere. So he did.

I remarked that that was very Leo-like behaviour and his owner sighed, nodding.

Out and about today, I noticed a few things other than Leo.

Firstly, there appears to be a new bench being installed not far from our entry to the park. The concrete base has been laid so the bench can’t be far behind.

It’s a good idea. There are a few benches dotted along the all weather path, but they end rather abruptly just behind the green covered structure in the distance of the photo above. The next one, if you continue to follow the path, is beyond the Avenue of Trees, roughly 1,590 feet away. Or, in my case, a lot more less workable feet away.

The next thing I noticed was that the loose bricks in the alley leading from the park to Park Row are finally being fixed. They have had orange dots on them for quite a while now, which, to be fair, was enough to indicate they were best avoided.

But, because humans are inherently stupid and accident-prone, someone had to fix them.

Barriers were put up, which made me think that they were just waiting for the big planters to replace the barriers in the Borough before they could use them, and work started this morning.

I know the guy in the photo looks like he’s cutting up a black sock, but he’s actually looking at his phone while wearing a glove and holding the other one. When I first cropped the photo, I was convinced that someone had come up with an ingenious way of fixing bricks by using odd socks.

Something I noticed a while back was that Holland and Barrett in West Street had been gutted. My first fear was that they were going to be the latest in the string of dying businesses but, no, they were renovating. I know because they very helpfully put big posters in the windows telling us so.

They seem to have finished and today was the grand re-opening.

I don’t want to tempt fate so, I’m finishing this happy post on that note.

Well, apart from…

Today, this happened

In 1776, The Battle of Flamborough Head was fought in the North Sea off Yorkshire.

Teaming up with the French, the Americans attacked a couple of British escort ships wanting to take charge of the 40 merchant ships they were protecting.

The Battle was a bit odd because the Franco-American force was not, on the whole, very experienced in Naval tactics. To be fair, there was one very experienced French Captain but that was it. On the other hand, the two British escorts were very experienced. One was a British Navy warship (HMS Serapis) and the other (Countess of Scarborough) a ship of mercenaries hired specifically to escort the merchant ships. In short, the Brits knew what they were doing while the Franco-Americans didn’t. Really.

As things turned out, the British naval ship was more or less destroyed as was the Franco-American flagship, the Bonhommie Richard, and the Franco-Americans lost more men, though numbers are merely estimates. The Battle is insane and really worth a read of the Wikipedia entry but, by some strange twist of fate, the Franco-Americans won the battle but lost the convoy, while the British officers were heralded as heroes.

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Lockdown by any other name

Today, the government announced tougher restrictions from this Thursday. What they amount to is an end to our Date Nights. Having gone through the awfulness of mask wearing in the Cotswolds we do not want to go through it again. The poor waiting staff and us having to wear a mask when not seated, was too much. I hated it.

So, no more Date Night. No more Holly Bush brunch. No more Starbucks. No more Chesil and all the other restaurants we’ve been supporting.

And it’s not like our lack of support will do any harm. There are far more frightened people in this country who blindly do what they are told regardless of the discomfort. They can wear masks and go out and eat, to be served by faceless staff, sweating behind the cotton on their faces. Or have coffee with friends (as long as they don’t have more than five from two households). Our support is a drop in the ocean.

It’s a shame because a lot of places will go under. And for what? Plenty of people die of lung cancer in this country but cigarettes are not illegal. People die of liver disease but alcohol is freely available. People die suddenly of heart attacks but people aren’t forced to stay at home and not do anything strenuous.

But, of course, none of that is Covid-19.

Still, we can continue to enjoy taking the girls for walks and, at the moment, I can still chat to people in the park as I walk to Waitrose. I’m not sure what I’ll do if they introduce masks every time we leave the house. I guess we’ll just starve. It’s not like there’s any online delivery slots for groceries these days.

However, that aside, we had a lovely walk around Frensham Little Pond today. The evidence of Autumn was lightly scattered everywhere.

Autumn arrived yesterday but I’ve already noticed trees starting to change the colour of their leaves. Odd though given the very summery weather we’ve been having.

We didn’t see that many people at Frensham this afternoon though a couple of brave souls were paddling in the pond and another family was having a picnic. This latter was interesting given it was starting to rain (a little less than a drizzle, to be fair) and they weren’t making any moves to leave. How very un-English. I mean, they might catch a cold and die.

Back at home, we had the pasta free lasagne that I’d prepared at lunchtime.

The lasagne is always a good one to make ahead then just stick in the oven for half an hour when we get home. Best of all, though, it tastes bloody good.

Today, this happened

Ellen Church was born today in 1904. I wonder what dreams little Ellen had about her future. When she was but a little girl, did she dream of one day being an air hostess? I somehow doubt it because she was the first.

She became a nurse straight after high school working in San Francisco Hospital. She wasn’t the first nurse, so perhaps that was what she dreamed of being. But, most of all, she wanted to fly. And she did.

Ellen was also a pilot but, because the fledgling air industry didn’t allow women to fly commercial aeroplanes, she couldn’t do it for a living. Instead, she told Boeing Air Transport that having a trained nurse on board a plane, who could also act as a hostess, would be of great benefit and calm the passengers who may be a bit frightened of air travel.

In 1930, she became the first Sky Girl, as Boeing called them. She immediately took on seven other nurses. And so it all began.

It’s important to note that while she was officially the first air hostess, she wasn’t the first flight attendant. This was German waiter, Heinrich Kubis in 1912, when he would serve drinks aboard early flights. He is also famous for surviving the Hindenburg disaster.

It’s odd how, when Heinrich was the only one, it was a flight attendant (non-gender specific) but the moment there was a woman doing the same job, it had to become a hostess. Mind you, that might just be because it was an American innovation. It was in the US, after all, that actors suddenly had to be genderised.

Anyway, having achieved the dream she didn’t have, Ellen only worked as an air hostess for 18 months because she was involved in a car accident. She returned to nursing and did really well, eventually becoming Director of Nursing at the Union Hospital, Terra Haute, Indiana.

She was also much decorated for her nursing work during World War II.

Recently retired from nursing, she took up horse riding. She died aged 60 following a horse riding accident. Given her defining moments were dictated by accidents, perhaps it was a good thing she wasn’t a professional pilot.

She is remembered today by being the name of the airport in Cresco, Iowa, where she was born. It was named Ellen Church Field in her honour.

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They were not passive victims

Something that irks Nicktor is my habit of wearing different coloured socks. He claims it upsets his sensibilities somewhat. His OCD, as he calls it. The reason I wear different coloured socks is because it’s easier than having to pair them all the time and it means, if I have to throw one sock away, I still have the other. Also, no-one has given me a reason why I shouldn’t.

Not many people (other than Nicktor and one chap at the Talking Newspaper) comment on it or even care, which is good. I have seen a few other people doing the same and I applaud them.

Today, as I walked back to my seat in Starbucks, a woman commented on my socks. She said she liked them. Naturally I thought it was because one was red and the other blue and said so. I was actually wrong. One was Flash and the other Superman and, being the mother of two pre-teen boys, she said, she had an eagle eye for super hero merch.

She then said that she thought wearing non-matching socks was cool and that she used to do the same thing. Until her husband insisted that it was time to grow up and stop doing it. If she wanted to be seen with him, he said, she would have start matching her socks.

I was stunned. Here was a strong woman; or at least I thought she was strong. I have seen her before with her sons in the park. She has a strong, confident voice, she is almost six feet tall. She is confident. She has the appearance of a strong woman. And yet, she is not ALLOWED to wear non-matching socks because her husband insists she matches them.

I’m glad I’m not her husband. You would have to be pretty pathetic to feel threatened by unmatched socks.

Equality of expression and fashion aside, today was mostly about the gardeners. Upon my return from the shops I was informed that I was to accompany Gardener Dave to Squires to buy some grass seed and compost so he could attempt (for the millionth time) to make our patch of grass into a lawn.

Having donned the hated masks, we collected what we needed and headed for the till. The woman scanned it all and stood aside. Dave then informed her that he had a trade card. She asked to see it. He told her it was for a different branch and he didn’t have it. The manager was called.

We stood and waited, dodging other customers as they made their purchases and shied away from any human contact like frightened little molerats.

Eventually the manager turned up and thus ensued an argument between him and Dave regarding the fact that Squires only gave the company one card and he didn’t have it. Rightly so, in my opinion, the manager couldn’t accept Dave’s word for the fact that he had a card…but didn’t.

On our way back to the house I asked Dave what his time was worth. I told him that the £5 we would have saved on the purchase was not really worth my standing around doing nothing and wearing a mask. I don’t think he understood what I was saying.

To round the day off nicely, I attended a WFA webinar about the Canadians at the Front called The Secret History of Soldiers: How Canadians survived the Great War by Dr Tim Cook.

It’s rare that I find someone who views history in quite the same way as I do but Dr Cook (no relation) is very much like me. He sees history through the lens of the individual, the normal everyday person, the people who make up the vast majority of the world. The cannon fodder for those that don’t see eye to eye but can’t fight their own battles.

His lecture (based on his book) looked at the common Canadian soldiers and the culture they created in order to survive. Cartoons, trench newspapers, black humour, all of it contributed to the survival of the soldier while the soldiers on the other side were trying to end that survival.

They were not, as he pointed out, passive victims like we see in such films as Gallipoli. They were human beings who laughed and loved (1 in 9 Canadian WWI soldiers contracted some sort of venereal disease) and angered like all of us. It was what Dr Cook called the Wartime Culture that brought and kept them together, preventing them from ‘going crazy’ as one survivor put it.

It makes me wonder about the soldiers on the other side. I realise that our propaganda would have us believe that they were all serious death dealing monsters but surely they were exactly the same. Are there German trench newspapers? Are there cartoons of the German soldiers not understanding the simplest things? Was there a German Hugh Farmer or Captain Bairnsfather? Surely there must have been.

I bought his book on Vimy Ridge and realised that I’m becoming far too obsessed with the Great War.

Today, this happened

From today’s London Gazette of 1880, there comes the news that the corn situation stood at the UK importing 3,507,860 cwt while exporting 21,671 cwt. Corn, in this instance, was an all encompassing word meaning various grains including wheat, barley, oats, rye, etc. It does make me wonder whether 21,671 cwt of corn was exported from the imported column at a highly increased price. Probably not.

The biggest import, surprisingly, was wheat at 1,823,858 cwt. From what I’ve read on the subject (not much, I admit) this was due to the slow yet purposeful progress towards globalisation which, in part, affected the amount of land being used for arable in the UK. More specialised growing could be achieved if the country is importing great bags of wheat from overseas, for instance.

These changes were possible with things like the railway network in the US allowing easy transportation of cheap grain from the farm to the sea. And the invention of freezers on ships allowing for cheap meat to arrive from Australia and New Zealand, the first of which was successfully shipped aboard the Strathleven in 1879.

Both of these things led to a huge depression in UK agriculture, eased only slightly by the First then Second World Wars. And that was only because the enemy was sinking the ships.

This fledgling global market economy is what created the market forces from which grew organisations such as the WTO. This is where the rules governing trade were introduced, deeming it unfair for countries to undercut importing countries with their own products.

In a nutshell, this means the cost of bread is going to be standardised somewhat given wheat is coming in from outside the country. And because of ‘competition rules’ homegrown wheat will cost more than the imported grain so local bread will be more expensive.

While appearing to be fair, it is an insidious way of reducing the capacity of local industry. This, in turn, reduces the chance of a country reducing greenhouse emissions because it has to buy grain from distance rather than the farm in the next village.

On a worse level, it allows exporting countries to insist that importing countries, which buy its products, not label them as harmful in any way. Even when they are.

In a world where tribalism seems to be so important, where people seemed to glory in being defined as patriots of whatever country they were born in, it seems odd that the same ‘tribes’ are content to be dictated to by other ‘tribes’ regarding the price of bread.

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Move away from the dog poo, kids

I have been trying to make a tomato based jelly. I have not had a lot of luck. Then, late today, I managed to knock something together which, well, held together. It wobbled in a very jelly-like way. I will have to wait for the morning but, at present, I am faintly confident.

Hopefully it’ll be a little less violent than the foam I squirted all over Mirinda at lunchtime. It was in my brand new CO2 canister foamer. I loaded it, chilled it then let fire. I had no idea it would explode. Honestly. Well, possibly not explode so much as ricochet off the plate all over Mirinda who was watching intently.

The foam worked (if I ignore the violence of the delivery) except it needed more gelatine to thicken it up a bit. I shall perservere.

That was it for the food based experiments today.

For our Sunday Afternoon Adventure, we headed down the M3 to the little village of Littleton and the Featherdown Barrows. They are quite difficult to find. Eventually, though, having parked Max and set off on foot, we found them.

Mirinda insisted on sitting in the bowl barrow because it reminded her of the first NGS garden we visited because it had an artist-made bowl in the garden. We returned to the garden last year but that first visit was with Farelli, and she sat in the bowl. So it goes.

Flowerdown is a 4,000-ish year old, Bronze Age site featuring uninvestigated barrows. Or so the info board says. The main feature is a disc barrow and is quite large. Even so, it doesn’t take that long to walk around the raised rim. It also has a ditch that goes all the way around. Small as it is, it’s still quite impressive.

We also took a small, circular track which goes through a small wood and behind a group of houses that are on a private road which ends in a secret place. I know it’s a secret place because it has a big sign on the gate which says it is bounded by the Official Secrets Act. Unless it’s just the gate that’s the secret in which case I shouldn’t have written about it.

While we were sitting, admiring the grass, a couple with a golden retriever arrived. The dog, quite happily took herself off for a walk and the couple sort of followed on behind. The woodland track had many entrances, hidden by trees and the dog and the couple each entered by different paths. They would then reappear in different places, as if they were all in a French farce. It was very entertaining.

On the way out, I noticed this sign:

It made me wonder why dog poo, in particular, is marked out as being dangerous to children. There’s plenty of things that are more harmful to children and yet, it doesn’t stop people doing them. There’s second hand smoke, exhaust fumes, sugar, soft drink, bad food, etc. Sure, bag dog poo because it’s gross but there’s surely no need to highlight children as being the ‘particular’ reason.

Eventually, we returned to Max and drove home via Avington Park, a place we once stayed at on a holiday where Mirinda first heard Katie Melua sing. Sadly, it’s a victim of The Great Fear and, therefore, closed.

At home, I made Persian chicken, which is always a treat.

Today, this happened

In 1920, the Guardian newspaper reported today that the Gentlemen’s Concert Society was to disband. It had been around for quite a while (200 years or thereabouts) but, due to apathy was to cease being a thing.

The Gentlemen’s Concert Society was in Manchester and, the newspaper piece claimed, was only attracting audiences of about six. It wondered where the music lovers were. It wondered at the decline of audience members. It wondered at the shrinking of musical culture.

This was far from the glory years when the society had its own orchestra and would shop around for world renowned conductors like Charles Hallé (1819-1895) to front the band. He conducted from 1853 then went on to form a small orchestra to entertain Prince Albert in 1857.

Now, I’m no expert but I can imagine that a lot of the downturn could be because it was only gentlemen allowed to attend. In the 1920’s, I reckon women might have wanted to have attended as well, possibly along with their husbands. Also, men who weren’t considered ‘gentlemen’, may also have had an interest in these concerts.

I have to say that their issue may have been with nomenclature rather than general public apathy. And to prove that point, the society returned a short time later, renamed The Manchester Beethoven Society, boasting that anyone who loved music could attend. Though, again, the name may have put off the music lover who preferred a bit of variation in composer.

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I blame Tony Soprana

I have loved cannoli ever since watching The Sopranos. I was intrigued by their seemingly constant reference to them. It was as if Cannoli was another one of his family. It was a bit of a surprise to discover they are a sweet Italian delight completely unrelated to organised crime.

Having tried my first one, in real life, I was hooked. While they vary in quality, they are usually beyond delicious. So, whenever I’d see one in a shop window, I’d have to buy and eat it. It was almost an addiction.

And today, for the first time, I made my own.

I admit that I left the shells in the oil for too long and it was too hot but, even so, they tasted lovely. The fill, especially, was excellent. I was very pleased. Georgio Locatelli, I thank you.

Of course, I made my cannoli late in the day because, being a Saturday, we had our usual brunch at the Holly Bush.

We sat in the Shack again, the weather being excellent, and I enjoyed the poached egg on harissa yoghurt, pitta bread and crispy prosciutto. It really is the perfect way to start the day. Not that it marked the start of my day given I’d been up since 6am, and we ate at about 11.

In fact, Freya, it seems, had already worn herself out to the extent that she was falling asleep on Mirinda’s lap with her head raised. I have no idea how she does it.

Her weariness reminds me of Poor Dave.

Poor Dave was fielding for one of the teams playing cricket today at Frensham. I have no idea who the teams were as there was nothing online to indicate their identities. I only know Dave because he was fielding below me when he misfielded two consecutive balls that ended up going for four. He also fell over a couple of times, which didn’t help.

He did make up for his mistakes a little later though because he took quite a sharp catch at square leg which brought cheers from his teammates as they crowded around him, avoiding hugs and handshakes. Sport without physical congratulations is one of the sad victims of The Great Fear.

Poor Dave is the white haired chap with his hands on his hips and his back towards the camera in the photo above.

And, for the first time since I’ve started watching the cricket at Hollowdene, I was required to do a bit of fielding. A couple of off side strikes saw the ball mount the hill and head into the car park. To save Poor Dave the climb, I chased the ball down and returned it to him.

It occurred to me during one of their numerous hand sanitising rituals that I probably shouldn’t have handled the ball. But Dave wasn’t bothered, so I didn’t care for long. In fact, I found it quite odd that the wicket keeper removed both pairs of gloves in order to sanitise his hands. Why? If he was concerned for the transmission of disease then surely he should have sanitised his catching gloves.

While it would have been more enjoyable knowing who I was watching, it was still very pleasant. I managed to see some good batting, bowling and a few excellent wickets during my two and a half hours of watching. I even saw two consecutive sixes which were beautifully struck though not so beautifully bowled.

Eventually, Mirinda returned from her very long, yet satisfying walk and we went home so she could have her fortnightly guitar lesson and I could make some sugary treats.

I should add that, during her walk, she sat down in something foul and quite possibly dead which Emma then rolled in. As soon as we reached home Mirinda went straight into the shower, her clothes in the washing machine and Emma into the laundry sink. Freya went to sleep.

Today, this happened

In 1883, Thomas Alva Edison applied for a patent for a system of lighting which would retain the same amount of light regardless of how far the lights were from the power supply – up to about six miles. He called it an Electrical Distribution and Translation System.

My reading of the patent application seems to indicate that this invention would give an even light across a string of bulbs. Like Christmas lights. Apparently, prior to this invention, the bulbs would flicker and did not glow as brightly as each other. It begins with a central power station which then feeds electricity out using Direct Current.

I can’t even begin to understand how electricity works, let alone the different between AC and DC. It seems, though, that Edison’s invention, while using DC was soon eclipsed by the more far reaching and powerful Alternating Current. His business was in jeopardy as everything he’d created worked with the lower voltage version. (This is very much like the railway gauge argument in the UK where networking beat passenger comfort.)

Anyway, for Edison, the whole thing turned into a Battle of the Systems with companies engaging in a war of words, illustrating the benefits of their own system while highlighting the lack of their opposition’s.

To show just how inhumane he was, Edison set out to prove that AC was more dangerous by electrocuting various dogs, horses and cows without any thought for the inherent cruelty. It heralded the first ever death by electrocution…if you ignore lightning strikes.

I guess there’s a sort of happy side in that this Battle of the Systems saw the end of Edison’s involvement in electricity. He was once the most advanced man of his age but was brought down by his “…steadfast resistance to a more advanced technology…[Andre Millard – Notes]” which is exactly what happened when the gas companies fought against the introduction of electricity in the first place. And, of course, the same sort of thing happened with the Luddites and their hatred for farm machinery.

Technological advancement always comes at a price and I’m very surprised that Thomas didn’t realise that.

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In a noisy Little Mountain tavern

Today was another glorious one with blue sky and sunshine and just enough breeze to make it all bearable. My trip into town was sprinkled with greetings as happy people walked dogs and jogged and rode their bicycles. It was all very lovely.

In the meanwhilst, 10,000 miles and a hemisphere away…it was mum’s birthday so, Denise, Trace (it was also Tracey’s birthday) and various family members took her out for dinner at a nearby tavern. And, to sort of be there with them, Denise called me for a video chat.

The tavern was excessively loud. So much so that no-one could hear me. Most of the conversation was when people put the phone up to their face which negated the video aspect somewhat as I stared at eerie close-ups of eyes and ears and blurry hair.

Not that I had a problem hearing. As I tried to say, I could hear everything and they could have just talked. But, it was a bit crazy so, after I was passed around to most of the table (why didn’t Nathalia say hello?) Denise said she’d call back once they were outside.

A while later, they were sat in Tracey’s parked car. It was very quiet though still a bit eerie. Mum was very tired and couldn’t remember anything. I think she knew who I was.

Anyway, it wasn’t long before they all said goodbye and took mum home. All a bit weird, but it was lovely seeing Mum, Denise, Tracey, Kelly, Maddy, Jaxon and, of course, the minimally bearded Mitchie.

Following our very short video call, I spent most of the rest of the day continuing with work on the website for Mirinda. I had to create some buttons based on staff photos which was fun. It was all a bit more focussed than I’m used to. Still, I enjoyed it. Immensely.

Today, this happened

Alice Middleton Boring died today in 1955. She was 72. She was a biologist, zoologist and herpetologist. She was also a teacher and a Christian.

Born in the US, she taught for a time in China. From 1918 in fact. Firstly at Peking Union Medical College then at Yenching University. The first president of Yenching was another American, John Leighton Stuart who eventually became the US ambassador to China.

The Peking Medical College had been set up in 1906, mostly with American funding, all from Christian organisations devoted to missionary work. The idea, I assume, was to teach the ‘heathen’ Chinese, medicine and Christian values at the same time.

Of course, this all changed in the 1950’s, mostly by The Cultural Revolution which described the Peking Medical College as elitist, cosmopolitan, and failing to “serve the people“. They promptly renamed it the Beijing Anti-Imperialism Hospital. The Americans had long gone.

Particularly Alice Middletone Boring. She had left the Peking Medical College in 1923 when she moved to Yenching University. And she was still there during World War Two.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbour, as an alien, she was put in a Chinese internment camp, where she remained until the end of the war. She eventually returned to the US but often returned to China.

She is most noted for her study of Chinese reptiles and amphibians. Her Survey of Chinese Amphibia, published in 1940, is still cited in Zoological papers.

It has to be said that Alice may have been Boring by name, but she was not boring by nature. She was, clearly, one amazing woman.

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Easter in September

I was up bright and early today. That’s not unusual. I’m up bright and early every day. I don’t always need or want to be but there you go. This morning, however I had to be in order to be ready for Vinnie.

Vinnie was coming to service the boiler following last week’s fix by Tom. And, true to Tom’s word, he turned up exactly at 8am. He gave the boiler a damn good servicing and was gone before 9am. A thoroughly efficient and pleasant fellow. He then walked across the road for his next job.

My morning was spent sorting out yesterday’s issue with the cottage. Which I did. I have to say, I reckon I’d have been a brilliant lawyer. Better than some, anyway.

The afternoon was spent in building a website for Mirinda using Wix. An excellent bit of software, I have to say. When I think back to the days of hard coding and how much better Dreamweaver made it all, Wix is something else again. I was so enthralled, the afternoon just slipped away.

Then it was Date Night. And this week we were back at Pulpo Negro and its tapas delights.

This marked my second trip to Alresford this week and, while the first was fun, the second was totally delicious. Of course, not everyone was happy that it was Date Night.

While we headed off to Spanish Hampshire, she made do with a Twistie stick, something which took her mind off our departure. Well, for 30 seconds at least. Freya, on the other paw, made her Twistie treat last twice as long.

In keeping with their usual practice, there were some new tapas to be had at our favourite restaurant. Sadly, the smashed egg had gone but, in its place, there was an amazing, burnt salad which really defies description. Well, apart from the fact that it was delicious.

The combination of flavours was superb but the addition of charcoal just made it exceptional.

There were a few other new plates (Mirinda had a tempura oyster and slider or tiny burger) and a few oldies that are definitely still goodies. However, everything paled into almost insignificance when we were presented with dessert. Which, incidentally, was brilliantly sold by our waitress. She used to sell houses, now it’s desserts. She’s very good at dessert selling so a loss to real estate is a major gain to dining.

I didn’t really need the hard sell as I had seen the dessert on Instagram and my mouth was already watering.

Presenting, the Pulpo Negro torrijas:

Traditionally served at Easter in Spain, it is just amazing. What a perfect end to Date Night.

Today, this happened

In Farnham in 1896, Charles Sturt wrote:

The hop-picking has been in full swing for over a week, – a week of the miserablest weather. It has rained in all possible ways, from the insidious drizzle to the roaring impatient thundershower, but always it has rained, and for the most part a steady business-like downpour has prevailed. In this, sheltered or not according as they can contrive it with an old umbrella or so, the wretched pickers have stood by their baskets, ten or twelve hours a day…

The Journals of Charles Sturt (1890-1927) Volume 1

My dad often told me about his awful Christmas holidays spent in the hop fields of Kent. His ‘holiday’ was all about picking the horrid, sticky stuff with any little wages going to his father. He was eight at the time.

The other thing is that while the weather was clearly rubbish in 1896, we are now enjoying a wonderful period of September summer. No umbrella required.

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Can you ride a horse through the park?

I am constantly amazed with my own statistics. Though I’m also amazed at how I miss milestones. For instance, I recently passed 2.5 million words on this blog. The total was 2,484,065 words on July 20 this year. Whatever, that’s a lot of writing, mostly my own. They are contained within 4,333 posts. Actually, 4334 if I include this one. For something that started as a way of recording our holidays, it has taken on a life of its own.

I think the most amazing thing is how I still write, every day. I am not known for persevering at things, particularly regular things, so the fact that I still write every day after more than a decade, is pretty much a shock. I often wonder what I find to write about.

Take today, for instance. Being a Wednesday, I went shopping.

After shopping I went to Starbucks where I chatted with Katy as she made my latte. She asked me if I’d walked in. I said that I don’t drive so I don’t really have a choice.

Katy suggested the bus but I turned my nose up at that suggestion, saying I don’t care for the idea of sitting, masked and isolated while being driven around by a masked driver, surrounded by people too scared to breath.

I then wondered whether it was allowed for people to ride a horse through the park. Katy thought this was probably okay, but she wasn’t sure how I’d go once I reached Castle Street and Long Garden Walk. I did suggest that there was a perfectly serviceable hitching rail outside Waitrose. Though the horses would probably have to share it with a dog or two.

Walking home, I wondered if it would be possible. Mind you, I’d need a stable in the back garden. And a horse. And quite a few horse riding lessons. I quickly dismissed the idea, thinking it made more sense to stick with Shank’s pony rather than a real one.

Back at home (possibly the most written phrase in this blog) I noticed that Nicktor had put some of his photographs of the Alresford game on his Flickr account. Unusually, for Nicktor, there were only a few. This possibly says more about the game than some change of habit from Nicktor.

I don’t generally like photographs of myself but Nicktor took this one of me last night which I think is great.

Mirinda reckons it looks a bit like a still from a Scandi crime drama. I reckon it’s delightfully moody and highlights my beard perfectly.

Speaking of Mirinda, she managed to finish work at a reasonable hour, and so we took the girls to Frensham which, given the heatwave we are currently experiencing (30° on my office outside thermometer) was full of kids paddling in the Pond. The delightful squeals and safely distanced swans were delightful.

It’s great that there are still some people unconcerned with The Great Fear, allowing their children to behave like normal kids.

I made Messina style lamb for dinner and, not for the first time, Mirinda raved about it as if she’d never had it before.

Today, this happened

Today, in 1831 and in the House of Commons in London, Colonel Evans, the gallant gentleman MP, presented a petition from a Mr and Mrs Deacle. He had been accused of not presenting the petition as soon as he received it but, he claimed, he presented it as soon as he was back in the House. Which was today.

The Deacles, a farming family from Owlesbury in Hampshire, were victims of the Swing Riots the previous year. A ‘modern’ threshing machine owned by Thomas Deacle had been taken out into a field, set upon and destroyed by the rioters. Obviously the family felt not a little bit concerned for their safety. Though they didn’t figure their safety would be compromised by the authorities.

During the riots, and because the army wasn’t doing anything to help, Thomas Deacle and a couple of local farmers, decided the best way forward was to talk to the rampaging mob and buy them off with a couple of shillings in increased wages. This would only work, said the rioters, if the farmers would go and demand the same from other farmers who were not so generous.

Following this, Thomas Deacle, and his wife Caroline, were arrested and, they claimed, manhandled by William Bingham Baring in the course of the arrest. They were arrested because the Hampshire Magistrates, incorrectly as it happens, accused them of aiding and abetting the rioters.

The charge against Caroline Deacle was that she had ridden a grey horse at the head of a bunch of rioters, leading them to destruction, inferno and pillage.

While the use of handcuffs was deemed unnecessary by the Court, Baring thought they were essential. It was also considered necessary to carry Caroline Deacle across the yard and plonk her unceremoniously into a “…cart without springs until a post-chaise could be procured…” Baring is also said to have hit Thomas with a stick. Presumably not at the same time.

Poor Caroline collapsed in court and was, subsequently, not charged with anything. I guess the image of a Boudica riding at the head of a rampaging army did not quite go with the poor farmer’s wife collapsing at the thought of a court case.

Thomas, on the other hand, was charged for having a hand in the riots. He stood in the dock to be judged. Except the court couldn’t find any witnesses and ended up throwing the case out of court. So, a big waste of everyone’s time.

According to Hansard, MP Fyshe Palmer said that, Thomas and Caroline Deacle were victims of circumstance. The Swing Riots had surprised the Magistrates of various counties and their actions were all a bit haphazard and based on reflex rather than facts. Mr Palmer said that the Deacles demands for some sort of restitution for what they had been put through, were only right and correct.

Eventually the matter was returned to the Courts who decided that the Deacles should be paid £50 in compensation for what they were forced to go through at the hands of Justice.

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