Thursday, 30 October 2014

Plus ca change etc

"As far as I can judge, children were more robust and healthy, and less sensitive to external influences than they are at present, but I doubt if there mental faculties were so acute, which might be due to the less exciting lives they led, to the less early educational pressure and to the more wholesome and plain food.  Especially the bread, which, being made at home, of pure wheat flour, much less white and finely ground, was far more nutritious and sustaining; in fact, men could almost live on it alone.  There were none of those "prepared" foods, whose value as food has generally been impaired or destroyed by the preparation they have undergone."

One hears those same, or similar, views expressed today but that paragraph is copied from a book originally published in 1906 about "Sussex in Bygone Days".  The author, Nathaniel Paine Blaker,  was reminiscing about his childhood.  He was born in 1835 and became Consulting Surgeon at the Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, dying in 1920.  I have been lent a copy of the "New Edition, extended and largely re-written" which was published in 1919.  It makes interesting reading.

I wonder what the author would say about the food we buy these days with all the E numbers and additives?

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

This morning . . .

. . . there was no hope of counting the sheep.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Get a life!

I rather think I should act on my own advice and get a life.  I spend far too long either gazing out of the bedroom window, watching the birds on our neighbour's feeder or simply observing the shadows cast over the fields as clouds pass across the sun.  And every day I seem to find another blog to follow.  It's getting to the point of there being no time left for the things that really matter.  But the I remember those lines by William Henry Davies:
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
Talking of staring at sheep, it's the time of year when our local farmer brings in hundreds of the critters.  I have yet to determine if he simply lets out some of his fields or if he buys in the sheep, but if he were to install floodlighting in this field, it could solve a lot of people's insomnia.  Just enlarge the picture taken from the bedroom this morning and try counting them!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Gasping for a fag

It's more than three years since I last smoked a cigarette - or anything else, for that matter.  The date of my last cigarette is engraved on my memory as that was the day I was introduced to my Macmillan nurse.  Fortunately, the shadow on my lung turned out to be a plug of mucus and not a tumour.  All the same, I found it surprisingly easy to quit, even when others around me were smoking.  I simply found that i didn't want to smoke.  Previous attempts to stop smoking had lasted four months and six months, so I was expecting to feel the urge again in a short while.  But it has rarely happened - for which I am truly thankful.

But this morning I have felt the pull.  Twice. 

I had finished my oats - porridge oats, not wild ones.  At my age? - and was sitting at the breakfast table (it's also the lunch table and the dinner table and the supper table.  Very versatile.) with a cup of coffee when it struck.  Although, strangely perhaps, it wasn't the act of puffing that I wanted as I felt that would choke me.  It was the whole rigmarole of taking a cigarette out of the packet, lighting it and holding it in my fingers.  Anyway, the thought was soon displaced.

And then, while walking the dog in the park, I saw another dog walker with a cigarette and it reminded me how good a cigarette in the open air used to taste.

But it's alright - I'm over it again.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Juigné Forest

Compared with English woods, the Forêt de Juigné is enormous, although it is not exactly huge compared with areas of woodland in America or even France.  It stretches roughly five miles by about two and a half, and for most of the length - at least four miles - there is a road running straight as a die.

The forest road in spring . . .
. . . and in the autumn.

One of the side lanes.

This is in the part of France that was occupied during the Second World War and, not all that many miles away there was a prison camp, Choisel, at the edge of Châteaubriant, where were interred Frenchmen that the Germans didn't like such as Communists.   In December 1941, it was decreed that 100 Jewish or Communist hostages should be shot (in reprisal for something I have not managed to discover), nine of them coming from the Choisel camp.  They were driven into the forest for their execution.

For many years, their only monument was a hand-painted, wooden board, but about two years ago this was replaced by a smart, brick pillar with a stainless steel panel.  Somehow, the old monument seemed more personal and more evocative, but I do agree that the newer memorial is more fitting.

Apparently, there is another memorial in the forest, on private land, where one tree that was used as an execution post is still standing, complete with bullet holes.

(Photo Patrice MOREL)

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Big Saturday

Just seems to be one of those days.  I started the day with a big breakfast.  Well, bigger than usual.  I had decided yesterday when shopping that I would have porridge for breakfast instead of the usual cold cereal and as I had finished the muesli yesterday, today was the day to start.  Because I have never before done porridge, I was uncertain of just what quantity to use and ended up with rather more in my bowl than I really expected.  All the same, I thoroughly enjoyed it - even if it did mean having to wash up a saucepan.

Then lunch, which was simply a couple of slices of bread with jam.  The jam was some raspberry given to me yesterday by a fellow Lion made from the autumn fruiting raspberries in his garden.  He calls them "my" raspberries as they were canes from my garden when I dug some up to split.  But what jam!  Really zinging with a big flavour.

And this afternoon, as Fern and I walked around the ramparts of the Roman Camp, there rose from the middle the biggest charm of goldfinches I have ever seen.  There must have been getting on for three dozen of them.

And glancing out to sea, I spotted what looked like a floating island going down Channel.  Having checked since I got home ( I see that it is a ship called Euphrates Highway, a 59,000 ton, 200 metre long vehicle carrier en route from Bremerhaven to Southampton.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Low cloud over Patcham

Just back from a walk in Stanmer woods - wet, muddy, leaves and twigs sticking to her.  i just love having a dog in weather like this!  It wasn't really raining when we left home, but it changed.  Boy, did it change!

We have had low cloud all day.  Sometimes I have been able to see the downs, sometimes not.  This was the view from the bedroom first thing.  Well, just a bit after first thing.