Monday, 4 May 2009

Collapse of Aunt and other stories

Our daughter relays this snippet of a conversation she had with our 6-years-old grandson:

Grandson: I'm going to join Beavers.

Aunt: Are you? That's good!

Grandson: Mmm. I'm not sure if it will be a help; I want to be a postman.

Collapse of Aunt.

* * *

Today is a bank holiday, which means, of course, that I don't have to go to work and I can lie around enjoying myself. But since I retired a few years ago, it's not a day off work for me, so I can't enjoy it the way I once did. On the other hand, every day is a bank holiday for me now.

Most other countries call these odd days off public holidays: in fact, I think that even here in England they are known officially as public holidays, but people still call them bank holidays. I heard once that this dates back to Victorian times when the banks were generous enough to give their staff a day's holiday which became known, naturally enough, as a bank holiday. The practice gradually spread throughout other professions and industries, but the name stuck.

We have fewer bank holidays in England and Wales than they do in most other countries. Our annual total is eight days, and even in Scotland and Northern Ireland they have more! I see that France has eleven, as do Belgium, Italy and Sweden, whereas Spain has ten, Portugal thirteen, and Germany as many as fifteen. Only Holland is on a par with us with eight. Even the USA has twelve. There has for some time been a rumbling that we should have another one, but there doesn't seem to be a consensus of opinion as to when it should be. Trafalgar Day (21st October), which would plug the gap between the August bank holiday (last Monday in August) and Christmas Day, has been suggested, but some people say that would upset our French allies! (Now I come to think of it, Christmas Eve has almost become an unofficial holiday, with most businesses closing down before lunch.)

I can remember when we had just six bank holidays: Good Friday, Easter Monday, Whit Monday, August Bank Holiday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Then we moved into line with Scotland and made New Year's Day a bank holiday. The Scots promptly retaliated my declaring 2nd January an additional holiday! May Day was also to be celebrated, but as this would fall on a different day each year, it was standardised as the Early Spring Holiday on the first Monday in May. Whit Monday was therefore abandoned in favour of the Late Spring holiday on the last Monday in May, and the August Bank Holiday was moved from the first Monday to the last.

* * *

Yesterday afternoon I had a few memories stirred when I walked out along the Downs. Visibility was exceptionally good and I could clearly see the Isle of Wight some 50+ miles away. As children, my brother and I both suffered badly from asthma and our doctor suggested that we should attend what was described as an open air school for delicate children. The chosen school was at Ventnor, on the Isle of Wight, and was run by Church of England nuns.

Our lives at Ventnor were to run to a very regular routine. We were given a cooked breakfast every morning and I particularly enjoyed the baked beans on fried bread.

Wednesdays and Sundays were the best days: those were the days when we were allowed to choose sweets. Sugar, and therefore sweets, was still rationed even though the war had been over for more than seven years. We were allowed to choose two sweets, either boiled fruit sweets or chewy spearmint flavour, or if we were feeling extravagant, we could choose a chocolate flake.

Sweets were chosen immediately after the midday meal and before our daily rest. On sweet days we were also taken for a walk in the afternoon. This would involve a crocodile of children walking over the downs behind Ventnor or along a disused railway track and through a tunnel (great excitement) to St Catherine's Point.

1953 was the year of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Shortly after the event all the children from the home were taken to the local cinema to watch a film of it. I also remember Mum visiting us and taking us across the island to Ryde or Cowes, from where we could see all the naval ships that had gathered in Spithead for the review of the fleet. There was a second visit to the cinema, to see The Cruel Sea. Thinking back, I am amazed that the nuns would let us watch that film, an adaptation of Nicholas Montserrat's epic novel about the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II.

Enough of this!

* * *

I'm not knowledgeable about roses, but I do know the names of a few of the varieties that we have in the garden. Possibly my favourite is Maigold, which blooms earlier than most. Ours usually flowers sometime about the middle of the month, sometimes by my brother's birthday (8th), sometimes not till after mine a couple of weeks later. This year the first flower is already out.

One of the things about this variety is that it blooms for a longer period that most roses, and always has a second flush in late August or September.

* * *

And then there's this; possibly the best sandwich filling ever. Slices of avocado with crisp streaky bacon. Or fry pancetta and mix with chopped avocado and a little mayonnaise to bind it all together, and spread on open rolls as we did at lunch yesterday. Not a bad alternative, but not as good (in my opinion) as the sandwiches.

* * *

Why I won't be going into town today.


Uncle Skip, said...

"...possibly the best sandwich filling ever."Liverwurst and onions with Dijon mustard.

Brighton Pensioner said...

I've not tried that, but it sounds interesting.

Uncle Skip, said...

I don't think I'd have gone anywhere near town either!!!

I suddenly have a craving for liverwurst?

genviver - there must be a way to use that word?

Brighton Pensioner said...

I wouldn't have gone into town anyway. I don't go there unless I really have to.

Genviver - reminds me of genever

Uncle Skip, said...

I used to work with an Englishman named Ginever. He was from Walton-on-Thames.

Brighton Pensioner said...

He was from Walton-on-Thames.I don't recall ever going there or even through the town, although it's really not that far away - 50 or so miles, I suppose. I might be wrong, but I always think of it as a rather posh place.