Saturday, 31 January 2015

The little yellow car

There has been quite a storm this past week, a storm caused by a little yellow car.  This car, a Vauxhall Corsa, has become almost as famous a little yellow car as the one driven by Noddy.  But perhaps I should start the story a little farther back, especially for our overseas readers.

One thing we are not short of here in England is picturesque villages.  You may well think that some of the hilltop villages of southern France or Tuscany provide lovely views, but I would suggest that for pure chocolate box prettiness only English villages will do.  You will find them right across the country, from the Isle of Wight to Northumberland, from Cornwall to Norfolk.  Some of them have featured in the television dramas of the Midsomer Murders series, much of which was, I believe, filmed in Buckinghamshire.  But it is the area known as the Cotswolds, a part of southern central England containing the rolling Cotswold Hills, that is particularly associated with chocolate box villages.  Among these is Bibury, which the nineteenth-century artist and craftsman William Morris called the most beautiful village in England.  Bibury is noted for the cottages made from honey-coloured stone under steeply-pitched roofs.  In particular, Arlington Row, a row of cottages that was built as a wool store in 1380 and converted into a row of cottages for weavers in the seventeenth century.

Picture by Saffron Blaze via Wikicommons

This delightful row is possibly the most photographed row of cottages in England and is visited by tourists from across the globe, anxious to take home with the perfect picture as a souvenir.

But photographers have complained about the little yellow car "photobombing" their pictures.  It seems that the resident of a cottage in Awkward Hill, leading off to the right in the picture above, has no garage and the only place he can park gets in the way of many of the photos.

Photo: SWNS
A lot of the photographers have complained about the car getting in the way, but my reaction is the same as many of the locals': tough.  Bibury is not Disneyland or one of those almost make-believe places like Jamestown, Virginia - it is a real, lied in place and those cottages are peoples' homes.  Besides, as the big picture demonstrates, it is quite possible to take a picture that doesn't feature that corner where the car is parked.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Looking back

I just happened across this on UTube.  What memories came flooding back!

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Food, glorious food

We ate a truly international meal the other evening.  The main course was confit de canard (a French dish made with the leg of the duck) with hasselback potatoes (Swedish roast potatoes), broccoli and French beans.  The duck actually came from France - no, not on its own; I brought it back in a tin - while the potatoes came from Scotland, the French beans from Kenya and, I think, the broccoli from England.  Dessert was baked bananas, baked with lemon juice and soft light brown sugar.  The bananas came from Colombia, the sugar (I assume) from the West Indies and the lemon juice was 'produced' in Belgium.  Yes, that's what it said on the label - although I'm not at all sure how lemon juice can be 'produced' other than by squeezing lemons, which don't grow in Belgium.

Here in the mist-enshrouded, dank area known as England ("this scepter'd isle. This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars. This other Eden, demi-paradise."  Shakespeare must have been on the mead when he wrote that.)  Here in England, this is the time of year for comfort food.  A good, steaming Lancashire hotpot; shepherd's pie; steak and kidney pudding.  Food for the gods!  One of my favourites is toast and Bovril.

One of the things I like about Bovril - other than its unique taste - is that the bottle in which it is sold has stayed the same shape and colour for as long as I can remember.  The label has changed only a little.


I don't know how widely available this very British product is, but there was a scare only last week in Canada when it was reported that Bovril, Marmite and other British foods were banned because of some of their ingredients which are not allowed in that country.  A later story tells that these products are allowed in Canada, provided they are made to a Canadian specification.  I have to wonder what the changes in the ingredients do to the taste of the products.

And how to describe the taste of Bovril?  Well, that's quite a tricky one.  Bovril is essentially a beef extract with yeast and has been made in England since the 1880s.  It does have a salty flavour, but I'm not at all sure that I really want to look at the list of ingredients which probably include a whole lot of chemicals.

Bovril is not only scrumptious on toast, but it also makes a very tasty hot drink.  Just a good teaspoonful in a cup of boiling water is all it takes.

And while we are on the subject of peculiarly British foods (such as Gentleman's Relish) I was astonished to read this week that Marmite Easter eggs are to be sold this year.  Now that really does sound disgusting!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Let's be thankful

Given that even after the atrocity of the holocaust mankind still practises inhumanity to man, I think it is useful to remind ourselves occasionally that the world is not overflowing with evil.  There are good people out there, and many of them.  For a start, there are those amazing doctors and nurses who have volunteered to go to west Africa to tend people suffering from Ebola.  People like Pauline Cafferkey, who was critically ill after catching the disease and who has only recently recovered.  people like William Pooley who also caught the disease, was cured in London, and promptly returned to Sierra Leone to continue nursing Ebola patients.

Let us be thankful that there are so many people like that.  Like the members of mountain rescue teams and lifeboat crews who voluntarily put themselves in danger to rescue others, others who are often in trouble through their own foolhardiness.

However, let us also remember what Edmund Burke said: "The only thing necessary for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing."

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Two things...

First, the wonderful Quote of the Day that Blogger (or whoever) has thrown up: "Idleness is not doing nothing. Idleness is being free to do anything."  Apparently by Floyd Dell, whoever he might be.

Second, to day is Holocaust Memorial Day.  It sickens me that similar atrocities have happened and are continuing to happen in various places, even if the extent of them is not so great.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Profligacy and shirt buttons

It may have escaped your notice, indeed, if you live outside Europe there is probably no reason why it should have been drawn to your attention, but there was an election yesterday.  In Greece.  Now, elections in Greece are not something that we in Britain would normally get worked up about, but this time the result could send shock-waves throughout the so-called euro-zone - and possibly even throughout the European Union.  It was therefore quite understandable that the BBC television news late yesterday evening should devote time to the result of the election.

But did they really need to send to Athens not only Gavin Hewitt, their Europe editor, but also Clive Myrie, one of their top news readers?  Could not Mr Hewitt simply have covered the matter, reporting to Reeta Chakrabarti as she headed up the studio presentation in London?  And I wouldn't mind betting that Mr Myrie spent at least two nights in a top Athens hotel.

The Beeb seems to be making a habit of such extravagance these days.

And they are not the only ones.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, moonlights as a writer for the Daily Telegraph newspaper with a column published every week.  OK, I have no problem with that, always assuming that he writes in his own time.  But this week's column reports on his trip to Kurdistan where he met Peshmurga fighters and refugees driven out of their homes by the so-called Islamic State terrorists.

I have to wonder if the trip was undertaken in his capacity as Mayor or if it was in a purely private capacity.  Was it undertaken during his annual leave - and who paid?

Another momentous matter covered recently in the said newspaper concerns shirt buttons.  Well, not so much the buttons as the button holes.  Why, asked a correspondent, is the bottom button hole on men's shirts horizontal when all the rest are vertical?

What's that?  You'd never noticed?  Shame on you!

Anyway, an answer was provided by somebody with specialist knowledge, a shirt maker or some such.  And the answer was not, as one gentleman opined, so that the dresser knew when the last button had been fastened.  It is to stop the shirt gaping (and displaying the wearer's stomach) when the wearer turns in his seat.

I have since examined all my shirts.  Only one of them has the bottom button hole set horizontally.  Maybe I'm just a cheapskate when it comes to buying shirts!

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer

It is about this time every year that I get a sort of stir crazy.  It's not that I have been confined to the house for any length of time; far from it as I have been out every day.  usually twice a day, in fact, walking the dog, on top of all those other excursions to such exciting places as the supermarket and the doctor's surgery.  But it is at about this time that I suddenly wonder, did I really walk through the woods in shorts and t-shirt with sandals on my feet?  Was it really only a few short months ago?  And will it ever happen again?  I get so accustomed to swaddling up in a thick coat with hat, scarf and gloves and wellies on my feet that it really doesn't seem possible that summer will ever come again.

I don't think I would want to live in a place where it's summer all the time; that would just get boring.  One can, after all, have too much of a good thing.  And I'm equally glad that I don't live somewhere like Finland - or Winnipeg.  I've been watching the weather reports for Winnipeg - it just happens to be the last place in the "Rest of the World" list on the back page of the paper - and they have endured temperatures well below freezing, as low as -30 Celsius, for weeks.

Oh well, warmth will come again and in the meantime, I must just look at some of the photographs I have taken in warm weather, like this courtyard in southern France where we bought some wonderful wine direct from the producer.