Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Suffer the little children - Manchester Monday

As on other occasions recently, I find myself unable to write to theme for this week's blog. In fact I have been sitting here for over an hour trying to find a word, any word that might be of comfort to those who have lost their loved ones in the atrocity of the Manchester murders on Monday evening.

There is no comfort on earth for the mother of a murdered child. No place of safety for the heart of a teenage daughter of a murdered mother. Who can give comfort to the parents or partner of a woman from Blackpool who had kindly gone to the arena to collect her friend's daughter? There are no words. There can only be love.

I have listened to the press coverage over the last two days with as much emotional detachment as I could muster. I have been to concerts in Manchester many times. I was at the same arena when 'Blondie' made their comeback . I saw the genius Michael Flatly perform there too. I go to Manchester often in celebration of The Arts, literature, music, theatre and rock concerts. For me it is a place of excitement and wonder.

Today I saw a piece today about the background of the young man who carried out this heinous and barbaric act. It is clear that his father, who a fellow mosque goer called 'a good man' in a BBC interview today, has had an overwhelming influence on the lives and theological reasoning of his sons. I cannot help but wonder how any parent would want to sacrifice his own children for the sake of any organisation that misrepresents their faith. What kind of madness is this?

In The Old Testament, God asked a father to sacrifice his own child as a test of faith - I am thinking here of Abraham and Isaac. The God of the Hebrews intervened to prevent the act.  It was only a test. The only comparison I can draw to Monday's carnage took place after the birth of Christ when the paranoid king Herod the Great slew all the male children in Bethlehem. It was an act of pure evil: An attempt to protect his own crown from a child who it was foretold would be the new king.

The deliberate murder of innocent children is pure evil. I believe that we must all recognise that evil does exist in our world and that it can only be overcome by love, forgiveness and the rule of law.  These are the three great pillars of our remarkable British Constitution. Our belief in fairness and redemption is what makes us British and our laws make us free. The madmen and women who seek to divide us will not overcome.

Our laws follow the teachings of the kindest man ever to walk the earth. His words and his teachings bore no anger, no fear and no hatred. They are for everyone. Hold each other close dear friends - with only love in your hearts.

The Beatitudes of Jesus Christ

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.

Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Gospel of St. Matthew 5:3-10

Thank you for reading.  Adele

Thursday, 18 May 2017

The Fibonacci Sequence

Named after Fibonacci, also known as Leonardo of Pisa or Leonardo Pisano, Fibonacci numbers were first introduced in his Liber abaci in 1202. The son of a Pisan merchant, Fibonacci travelled widely and traded extensively. Math was incredibly important to those in the trading industry, and his passion for numbers was cultivated in his youth.

Knowledge of numbers is said to have first originated in the Hindu-Arabic arithmetic system, which Fibonacci studied while growing up in North Africa. Prior to the publication of Liber abaci, the Latin-speaking world had yet to be introduced to the decimal number system. He wrote many books about geometry, commercial arithmetic and irrational numbers. He also helped develop the concept of zero.

His calculations first centred on the problem of how many rabbits would be produced by a single fertile pair in one year.  Although his method of calculation relied on a perfect case scenario - that all the rabbits lived for the full twelve months and that each became fertile - the resultant figure of a total of 233 was derived from what is now known as The Fibonacci Sequence.

The Fibonacci Sequence is the series of numbers:
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, ...
The next number is found by adding up the two numbers before it.
  • The 2 is found by adding the two numbers before it (1+1)
  • The 3 is found by adding the two numbers before it (1+2),
  • And the 5 is (2+3),
  • and so on!
Example: the next number in the sequence above is 21+34 = 55
It is that simple!
Here is a longer list:
0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610, 987, 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765, 10946, 17711, 28657, 46368, 75025, 121393, 196418, 317811, ...

A Fibonacci spiral is a series of connected quarter-circles drawn inside an array of squares with Fibonacci numbers for dimensions. The squares fit perfectly together because of the nature of the sequence, where the next number is equal to the sum of the two before it. Any two successive Fibonacci numbers have a ratio very close to the Golden Ratio, which is roughly 1.618034. The larger the pair of Fibonacci numbers, the closer the approximation. The spiral and resulting rectangle are known as the Golden Rectangle.

The amazing truth is this sequence recurs throughout nature  - in the seed heads of sunflowers, the petals of a rose, in the development of a mollusc's shell, the eye of a hurricane, the curve of a wave, even the spiral of the galaxies. When trees and plants grow, their branches and leaves appear at the exact point of the Golden Ratio, maximising their exposure to the sun. Supercharged photons from the sun's rays give them life through photosynthesis. All life on earth is attributable to the power of our sun - our earth is heliocentric. The spiral of the cochlear in our inner ear follows the Fibonacci spiral.

So were we designed or did we evolve? Fibonacci didn't have the answer to that one. Generations
since have not taught the geometry that comes out of his startling sequence.  The patterns that occur in nature are used to express the beauty of Allah in Muslim art. The Golden Rectangle is present in the Mona Lisa - to those 'in the know' it is a magical formula, aesthetically pleasing and tantalisingly mysterious. So please keep it to yourself...

from beginning
was encrypted to deceive
a written code devised by my forefathers
a means of subjugation, of suppression, devaluation of her value, denying education.
evolving simultaneously with sequential spiral structure equally consequential when the word began.
The unborn foetus spiralled in the womb of every woman, a child of human nature,
I am a wonder of the spiral universe,
the measure of a man
from beginning
I am

Thank you for reading. Adele

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Sequence Of Hatred and The Impact on Mental Health Sufferers

I'm going to use this week's theme of sequences to explore what no body really tells you about OCD.

Before I begin, let's nip the illusion that everyone who is clean and tidy is suffering from an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and point out the fact that by throwing the term around, you're actually harming the real sufferers of OCD.

Not every sufferer of OCD has to turn a light switch on and off a certain amount of times, or wear the same jacket each time they go to Tesco. OCD can manifest itself in ways that we could never imagine. I once knew a girl who everyone thought was crazy, she was openly mocked within her social circle for thinking if she hadn't heard from someone in a while that they were dead, but this is all part of her OCD, all of these emotions were real for her. Imagine, not hearing from a friend or relative for a while, and then getting an overwhelming feeling of dread and frantically trying to reach out to them, and not being able to rest until you know with absolute certainty that they are alive.

It may be hard to accept that reality doesn't always have to go hand in hand with rationality because everyone experiences the world differently. No two realities are the same and the sooner we realise that the sooner that stigma over people with mental health issues will end. All too often OCD is overlooked and not even considered as a mental health issue.

I've seen an amazing level of acceptance spread for sufferers with anxiety and depression, yet mental health is more complex than a label we use to categorise human beings with.

The truth is that OCD can be debilitating. The mind can obsess over anything macabre, your very own narrative of horror replaying in your mind in infinite repetition. Some people even fear that they're psychotic, and they will end up killing the ones that they love. It's no wonder people with mental health issues often become alienated. This is just one of the reasons why mental health stigma is a killer. OCD sufferers are often regarded as freaks, just because people fail to see life through the eyes of someone that's suffering. This is the sequence of mental health stigma that allows people to become ostracised and ultimately too afraid to speak out.

People who suffer with OCD and any other mental health disorder need social support to recover, because the worst thing that could happen is for the person suffering to stigmatize themselves, thus completing the self-fulfilling cycle of hatred.

Thank you for reading, Amelia Vandergast

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Fabulous Fenugreek

Your Saturday Blogger returns after a two-week hiatus. Blackpool Supporters' Trust claimed my time and energies in the lead up to the end of the football season. You'd think that after a couple of weeks away I'd come back inspired...but the theme is Herbs And Spices and it didn't really grab me. Nevertheless, I need to get back on track.

Fortunately, watching the BBC MasterChef finals this week has helped. I think it's great that Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed won - such a talented and unassuming young woman and her fusion of eastern and western cuisine was mouth-wateringly inspiring. Quite how she managed to keep on top of being on MasterChef, raising a two year old son and being a junior doctor in a busy Hertfordshire hospital I really don't know, but she smashed it, clever girl. I liked the fact that she'd written out detailed plans and flow-charts to aid her in the MasterChef kitchen... and did you see how many herbs and spices she used? Fantastic. (Watch it in catch-up mode if you missed out.)

Like Jill Reidy (our recent Sunday Blogger), I too went on an Indian cookery course a few years ago. Mrs Patel was most exacting. We had to wash our rice four or five times and then put it in hot oil for a minute before adding water. We learned how to make bhatura, puri, vura and various bhajis in addition to kidney bean curry (shahi rajma), dahls and meat curries. I still occasionally devote a day to knocking out a great curry. Methi Gosht is my favourite dish, so I thought I should wax enthusiastic about its keynote ingredient, the fabulous Fenugreek (methi in Hindi).

Is it a herb? Yes. Is it a spice? Again yes - so that's both boxes ticked right off. It's also a vegetable, a fodder crop for livestock, a source of green dye and a traditional medicine into the bargain. Tell me more, I imagine you saying - and so I shall...

To start with a bit of etymology, the name comes from the Middle French word fenugrec, which in turn derived from the Latin faenum Graecum, literally "Greek hay". It was certainly cultivated in Greece and thoughout the Middle East in classical times and was used both as a vegetable and a medicine. Fenugreek seeds have been recovered from bronze-age sites in Iraq (circa 4000 BC) and were found in the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Various components of the fabulous fenugreek plant
Nowadays, India is the biggest producer of fenugreek (and 80% of its crop is grown in Rajasthan). Other notable sources are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, France, Iran, Morocco, Pakistan, Spain and Turkey, though interestingly not Greece.

As a vegetable (or legume, because it is a member of the bean family), its fresh leaves, sprouts and microgreens are used in salads, giving a distinctive sweet aroma. As a herb, its fresh or dried leaves are used to flavour curries and stews, especially in Indian and Persian dishes. As a spice, its seeds are used to flavour breads, soups, stews and pickled vegetables. I remember having pitta bread in Egypt that had been made from maize flour and fenugreek seeds.

The medicinal properties of fenugreek (which derive from the presence of saponins) include its anti-inflammatory effects, its ability to reduce cholesterol levels and its ability to treat digestive disorders.

All told, it is a most versatile and beneficial plant and we should probably be tucking into great mouthfuls of the stuff on a regular basis. When I lived down south, I used to know where to buy fresh fenugreek (or methi). I need to find a reliable supplier in the jewel of the north.

Don't go expecting a poem about fabulous fenugreek. There's no way on God's earth that is going to happen. However, I have been working on something inspired (not quite the right word, but you know what I mean) by the recent rise in the incidence of spice zombies. Let me explain.

'Spice' is a synthetic cannabinoid, devised to produce the same artificial rush of endorphins as cannabis or ecstasy. However, it is much more potent and reacts more strongly with the brain's receptors. It has been described as having the physically addictive qualities of heroin and the psychologically addictive qualities of crack. Until a year ago it was a legal 'high' and was sold in a more or less controlled way through high street 'head' shops and mail order businesses. I'm not condoning its use, by the way, just stating the facts.

In May 2016 the government, in its far from infinite wisdom, introduced the Psychoactive Substances Act which made the sale of spice illegal. Predictably two things have happened in the intervening twelve months: firstly, whatever quality control there was has gone, so the recipe for the drug is unpredictable and increasingly potent; secondly, the supply chain has become criminalised and moved wholesale to the streets (and parks, squares, playgrounds) of every town and city.

The effects of spice can be bizarre and frightening. It is a drug capable of inducing seizures and psychotic episodes and can render users temporarily zombified - as TV footage from Manchester (where 90% of rough sleepers are spice users) has shown recently. Users freeze slumped in the street, unable to move or speak - sometimes for up to half an hour - and then just unfreeze, get up and shamble away. It's most unnerving to see and is causing a strain on paramedic and police services as its use reaches epidemic proportions in some areas.

It is a situation that the former drugs tsar Professor Nutt had warned the government about when he opposed the introduction of the Psychoactive Substances Act: "The whole thing was utterly predictable. The trade has passed from the head shops to the street dealers - and on the black market people don't care whether their 'customers' live or die. The Home Office have closed their minds to the reality of what is going on - and have done for a very long time." Home Secretary Amber Rudd was invited up to Manchester to see the problem for herself - but the calling of a General Election intervened.

This is the poem. I'm not sure about it - it's still a work in progress but presentable enough to grace the blog. If you don't know the legend of Pandora's box, Google it.

Pandora's Spicebox
Paradise was lost
the day Pandora's spicebox
was prised open.
The lid was scored,
its contents poured
evil into the world.

We are the zombie plague,
pale, weak, wasted people
caught in a spice nightmare,
blighting your cities
and living our hell on earth.


But please,
don't spout that strong and stable fable
in our faces, on our turf
where the pimps are running the playground.

We know we are nothing worth,
we who steal to get by,
we who deal to get high,
we who screw to survive - and for what?
Life is shit in our sewer.

Sure, we can scrabble around
at the bottom looking for hope
but to our utter dismay
all that's left is dope.

Thanks for reading. Eat well, stay clean, be healthy, Steve ;-)

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Spice Up Your Life

Where to begin? What are little girls made of? Well 'sugar and spice and all things nice' of course. Not boring old herbs - they are growing at the bottom of every ordinary garden.  When spices were first traded they were very expensive commodities: So expensive that the people who unloaded the cargoes from ships were often paid in cloves. Nutmeg was literally worth its weight in gold and the island of Run where it was grown had the most expensive real estate on earth. 

The Spice Routes were maritime routes linking the East to the West. Pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg were all hugely sought-after commodities in Europe, but before the 15th century access to trade with the East was controlled by North African and Arab middlemen, making such spices extremely costly and rare.

Exploration between the 15th and 17th centuries brought about by new navigation technology made sailing long distances possible, Europeans took to the seas to forge direct trading relationships with Indonesia, China, and Japan. Some have argued that it was the spice trade that fuelled the development of faster boats, encouraged the discovery of new lands, and fostered new diplomatic relationships between East and West. It was probably with the discovery of new sources of spice in mind, that Christopher Columbus set out in 1492 and ended up finding America.

The blue line shows the extent of the maritime Spice Route: The red line - the Silk Road. 

The Dutch and English especially profited from the control of the spice trade in the East Indies—modern-day Indonesia, especially the area known as the Moluccas, or Spice Islands, which were the only source of nutmeg and cloves at that time. Wars were fought, lands colonized, and fortunes made on the back of the spice trade, making this trade route one of the most significant in terms of globalization.

These days the chocolate industry thrives on spicing up our lives. I am a chocolate ginger girl myself, but think nothing of throwing cinnamon into chocolate cake, or indeed a stew.   I love the taste of and colour of saffron and recently went up into the hills near Alicante to sample saffron honey - the taste is really incredible.

I grew up with spice. I cannot imagine how food would taste without. I love to smell a baked egg custard, warm from the oven, smothered with freshly grated nutmeg, (even though I can't eat eggs). I mull my own wine at Christmas and bake a strudel full of spice, nuts and mincemeat. I love spice. I even put black pepper on my strawberries.

One of my all-time favourite things in life,  is popping cloves into the scored fat of a ham -  coating with brown sugar - the smell of it cooking makes my mouth water, filling the house with a warming smile and evoking happy memories of family, childhood and love. Spice is an adventure. Go on - I dare you - spice up your life.

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory.
And Apes and peacocks.
Sandalwood, cedarwood and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon, coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amethysts,
Topazes and cinnamon and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rail, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware and cheap tin trays.
                                              by John Masefield (1878-1967)

Thanks for reading

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Herbs and Spices - Scarborough Fair

09:44:00 Posted by Pamela Winning , , , , , , , No comments

Such beautiful, natural, autumnal colours when spices are placed together on the photo I’ve chosen. I confess, I’m not a very adventurous cook. I like to try new recipes and I don’t shy away from herbs and spices if required, but mostly I’m aiming to serve nutritional, healthy food as quickly as possible. It’s that work-life balance thing that I never seem to get right.

In the early 70s, dining out for me was usually at a popular Italian restaurant where I would be wary of eating anything with ‘bits’ on. Little has changed just a different Italian restaurant and I’m fine with herbs now. I no longer think that ground black pepper is the most exotic condiment and if I’m cooking Italian I add plenty of basil, oregano and marjoram. A homemade quiche always has a liberal sprinkling of tarragon.

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. I drove everyone mad with my rendition of ‘Scarborough Fair’ and I think they were relieved when a couple of snapped guitar strings meant I could no longer pick out the chords on the cheap ‘made for tourists’ instrument I bought from a local market in Palma Nova. I was enjoying my first trip to Majorca and musical by nature, I’d picked up on the Spanish guitar sound from the trio of players that provided evening entertainment in our hotel. I soon gave up trying to copy them and instead concentrated on ‘Scarborough Fair’ from the Simon and Garfunkel cassette that was part of my birthday present. My main present was a Sony portable cassette player, before the days of the Walkman and long before CDs. Nearly every Simon and Garfunkel song brings back memories of that first of many holidays and birthdays in Majorca; the fresh, sweet fragrance of the hotel, the tapping of my sandals on the marble effect flooring, the lights along the coast-line seen from our balcony and yes, the unfortunate episode with Bacardi and Coke as mentioned in last week’s blog.  I don’t think I’m responsible for setting a trend. Majorca was becoming a popular holiday island as going abroad was easily accessible in the mid 60s. I haven’t been for decades and probably wouldn’t recognise Palma Nova or Magaluf anymore. ‘Scarborough Fair’ will always be special and I apologise to anyone who had a room close to mine at the time.
I found this,
John Clare (13 July 1793 – 20 May 1864)
          And where the marjoram once, and sage, and rue,
And balm, and mint, with curl’d-leaf parsley grew,
And double marigolds, and silver thyme,
And pumpkins ‘neath the window climb;
And where I often, when a child, for hours
Tried through the pales to get the tempting flowers,
As lady’s laces, everlasting peas,
True-love-lies-bleeding, with the hearts-at-ease,
And golden rods, and tansy running high,
That o’er the pale-tops smiled on passers-by.
Thanks for reading.
I'm off on my travels and will be back in a few weeks. Pam xx



Sunday, 7 May 2017

Herbs And Spices

19:42:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography , , , , 2 comments
Despite - or more likely, because of - a lack of money in their early years of marriage, my mum was always a marvellous, inventive cook - we lived off the recipes in the free Fray Bentos cookbook for years, where corned beef was revealed each meal in a different guise.  As far as I remember no herbs or spices were involved. That would have been a step too far for good old Fray Bentos, whose red and cream flecked block of meat, complete with the odd tube, epitomised post war Britain.

The only herbs that saw the light of day in our house were the sage in the packet of dry sage and onion stuffing - just add boiling water and shove into the cavities of a floppy pink chicken - and the mint In the jar of bright green mint sauce that accompanied our lamb on a Sunday.  Occasionally, a few mint leaves would be plucked from the only herb that survived in our garden, and thrown into a pan of boiling new potatoes. The smell was of late spring with a hint of the summer to come. Pans boiling, lids clattering, kitchen windows steamed up and streaming, this was Sunday in the Carrington household.  When cooked, add a generous amount of butter to the pan and savour the aroma of buttery, minty potatoes.

In those days salt came in large packets, pepper was a grey dust and mustard a powder to be mixed with milk or water - and bring you to excruciating tears if you happened to put too much on your meat.  Herbs and spices were for the Asians, the Chinese and the Jamaicans who were beginning to filter into our towns and cities.

In 1976 the husband and I, newly married, moved to Leeds for a year so he could do his PGCE. The city was a multicultural novelty to me, with its tiny corner shops crammed with their displays of unusual fruit and vegetables. The smell of herbs and spices wafting from the doorway as I walked past on my way to work, led me to peer in, nosily, but I had no idea what I'd buy or, more importantly, how on earth I'd use it, so the shops remained an exotic mystery to me.  Women would emerge, in their brightly coloured saris, chattering in an unknown tongue, baskets overflowing with pungent smelling packages, misshapen fruits and dark, drooping leaves.  This was a world of which I knew nothing, but as a keen cook, I was anxious to discover the secrets of those dingy shops.

The opportunity arose when I saw an advert in a shop window for an Indian cookery evening class. I turned up on the first night in an old school Domestic Science (remember that?) room.  We were a motley crew, both sexes, all ages, all white British, keen to learn.  The teacher was a strikingly beautiful young Indian woman, dressed in a sari. Her long tapered fingers, expressive hands and soft voice were mesmerising.  We all watched as she calmly talked us through our first dish, adding handfuls of flour and other dry ingredients, abundant pinches of aromatic spices and bowls of chopped and grated vegetables. She gave us their Indian and English names, and waited while we wrote them down in pristine notebooks.

This was a new experience for most of us. Nothing was weighed or measured, the bowls, handfuls and pinches of ingredients were the products of years of Indian cuisine (although that was probably far too grand a word back then) passed down from generation to generation until it became second nature. Now, we inexperienced British were to learn this method, which meant using our senses in place of the scales. She showed us how to look and smell and feel if a dish was right, dipping our fingers into bowls and sniffing at the spices. She even taught us to listen for the correct sizzle as something small and tasty was dropped into hot, bubbling ghee.

There  was such an art to this lovely lady's cooking, I felt I could have sat all night just watching as she mixed and stirred and threw ingredients into pans, all the while talking softly and repeating the Indian names  I remember walking home that first night with a still warm pan, puffs of aromatic steam escaping into the cold night air, excited to taste this exotic dish when I got it back to our basement flat.

I had my list for the following week and on my way home from work the next day, instead of walking past the Indian shop with a quick glance, I ventured in. It was the smell that hit me first, sweet, spicy, pungent, rich with promise. No tiny jars or packets here, but huge bags and sacks of cumin, turmeric, garam masala, cardamom seeds bursting out of their woody pods, fresh chillies of every size, shape and colour, huge onions and tomatoes.  My goods were expertly wrapped in twists of paper and small bags, aromas escaping as I placed them in my basket.  It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I still have some of those spices in my cupboard to this day. The cardamom pods smell as sweet and musky as the day they left the shop.

At the end of term we planned a banquet, each of us cooking a different dish.  Partners were invited, and we sat in the domestic science room with tables pushed together and a makeshift cloth, while the table groaned with every Indian dish imaginable. Sadly, mobiles and cameras were not a necessity and no record remains on that night. My one abiding memory is of someone's wife innocently biting into an unbearably hot chilli. The look in her face as she struggled to cool herself down will stay with me forever.

Over the years I've worked my way through many an Indian cookery book, as well as referring to those original recipes in my little blue notebook.  Maybe it's time I finally released the few remaining cardamom seeds from their pods and made us all a banquet to celebrate the night I was first introduced to Indian cuisine over forty years ago.

Those forty year old Cardamom pods

Just to redress the balance with herbs as well as spices.....

Scarborough Fair - one of my favourite Simon and Garfunkel songs
Are you going to Scarborough Fair
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine
Tell her to make me a cambric shirt (deep forest green)
Parsley sage rosemary and thyme
Without no seams nor needle work (blankets and bedclothes the child of the mountain)
Then she'll be a true love of mine (sleeps unaware of the clarion call)
Tell her to find me an acre of land (a sprinkling of leaves)
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (washes the grave with silvery tears)
Between the salt water and the sea strand (A soldier cleans and polishes a gun)
She'll be a true love of mine
Tell her to reap it with a sickle of leather (War bellows blazing in scarlet battalions)
Parsley sage rosemary and thyme (General order their soldiers to kill)
And gather it all in a bunch of heather (And to fight for a cause they've long ago forgotten)
Then she'll be a true love of mine
Are you going to Scarborough Fair
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine

Written by Arthur Garfunkel, Paul Simon

Thanks for reading, Jill xx 

Friday, 5 May 2017

No bottles please.

Originally I thought I'd not have time to write today as I'm off for a few days, but since I'm awake early, here goes.

It's rather romantic and exciting to imagine that a message put into a bottle might reach an exotic destination...and true enough they sometimes do. However in the world of plastics the act of throwing a message in a plastic bottle seems very foolhardy. Every week in Cleveleys there is a group of volunteers who clear the beach of flotsam and jetsam that is a danger to the environment. Plastic products seem to be the worst culprit . Not only are they unsightly, but the toxins released by their slow decay are poisoning the oceans. The bits are swallowed by sea life causing slow and painful deaths. Birds get entangled in nylon lines and beer can ' ties'.

So whereas many years ago one put a message in a glass bottle (and mind you this was a danger too...remember going to the seaside and standing on a shard ? Ouch!) and it floated off into the great unknown - nowadays one is more likely to use a plastic bottle. Please DON'T! Don't add to the plastic menace that is spoiling our oceans and indeed our countryside too. Take the bottle home, put it in the recycling bin, let it be made onto something more useful like a bench or a cosy fleece blanket.

Yes, discard your bottles carefully.

My poem today was hurriedly composed whilst eating my morning porridge, so it might not be perfect.

                   No messages in my bottles

     Don't put a message in a bottle. Don't cast it to the sea.
     The whales and dolphins eat them, and slowly cease to be.
     The turtles and the porpoises throughout the oceans blue
     Are dying from the plastic carelessly dropped by you.

     So this message that I send to you came over waves anew-
     Came to you by Internet and that's what you must do.
     Don't put your message in a bottle- keep it close to home,
     Keep in touch with those you love - use the telephone.

     Bottles, bottle tops, plastic toys and the like,
     Take them home from your walk, take them on a hike.
     Recycle them from home, weekly as they do.
     That's the bottless message that I send to you.

           Thanks for reading, bye for now....Kath

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Message in a Bottle - Bacardi

12:50:00 Posted by Pamela Winning , , , , , , , , , No comments

Bottle sorting. A smelly, sticky way to spend a few hours on weekend mornings and probably the dirtiest job I ever did in our pub. Depending on which bars we’d had open, there would be two or three huge bottle-skips to wheel into the yard and empty the contents into the correct crates ready for returning to Schweppes, Britvic, Guinness and many more. The sweet smells of Cherry B, Babycham, Zing and Pepsi mingled with Pale Ale, Newcastle Brown and assorted lagers and ciders. Tomato juice was popular, as was pineapple. The bottles were tacky with dribbles and spills and I had to beware of the wasps. The last part of the job was swilling the skips out with the hose and not soaking myself in the process.  There was a message somewhere for me amongst those multi-coloured bottles.  Probably along the lines of ‘earn your ice-skating money’. I hated doing that job at the time, but I look back on it with fondness now. I used to wish I was eighteen and worked behind the bar. I was fifteen collecting glasses, emptying ashtrays and wiping tables, and if rowdy young men came in, I got sent away to do the washing up instead.

I’ve mentioned before that most of my family ran pubs. None of them could be described as anything more than an occasional drinker and never touched it when they were working. My father and my grandfather were of the opinion that having a taste for the ale can be the downfall of a landlord. They had acquaintances in the business that had a different opinion, and some customers needed a gentle word as they were guided towards the door. From quite a young age I was aware of the negative effects of alcohol, though not fully understanding the consequences until I was much older. I’ll never forget the important lesson I learned from Bacardi and Coke when I was too young to be drinking it. Some things just stay with you. There was certainly a message for me in that Bacardi bottle.

I have Victorian bottles in ornamental clusters. Collecting them started off as a hobby but didn’t get very far. My favourites, the blue 'poison' bottles, are hard to find so I think I gave up actively searching, though I like any and tend to buy them. If anyone has a blue, green or brown bottle embossed with ‘Boots Cash Chemists’ that they would like to re-home, I’m your person.


One Reason Why I Don’t Drink


Oh pour me another Bacardi

And top it right up with some coke

I’d better have ice and fresh lemon,

No pips, though, I don’t want to choke.


It takes me right back to Majorca,

When fourteen was really grown up

And Pedro, that sweet Spanish waiter,  

Brought me more Bacardi to sup.


I drank it until I felt funny

And something went wrong with my eyes

Walking was all of a wobble

Then being sick took me by surprise.


My dress was a sea of brown liquid

Warmed coke still bubbly and fizzy

And I was the worst ever mess,

Scratching the ground, feeling dizzy.


I don’t really want a Bacardi,

I don’t want to relive the pain.

I might have a Tia Maria

On the rocks, just now and again.


                              PMW 2017


Thanks for reading, Pam x 






Monday, 1 May 2017

Message in a Bottle

Everything seemed simpler in the 1950s when I was growing up. 

In the summer holidays (which, incidentally, consisted of endless days of constant blue skies and sun) we went to the local recreation ground - or 'rec' as we called it - most days. Sometimes our mum came with us and we took a cobbled together picnic - sandwiches, crisps, an apple and, if we were lucky, a Penguin biscuit. If mum was busy we went on our own. It was about a fifteen minute walk or a ten minute bike ride away.  My elder brother had a second hand bike - his pride and joy - from a jumble sale. Mum had paid seven shillings and sixpence for it - a lot of money at the time - but it turned out to be a sound investment.  So, sometimes we walked, sometimes we biked it, but either way we used to go and spend most of the day there, playing in the bushes and round by the pond. These days it would be unheard of for three children, between the ages of eight and fourteen to spend a whole day playing out, fifteen minutes from home, but in the fifties this was the norm. Men were at work, their wives were busy at home and so the kids entertained themselves.  

I only remember two incidents connected with the rec. One was when a man appeared from behind a tree and asked me to come and see what he'd got in his hand. I hadn't got a clue what he was talking about and took a step towards him, smiling politely.  Luckily my much more streetwise friend pushed me back and told him in no uncertain terms where to go  He turned tail and legged it across the rec, while we continued to play quite happily. I don't think I even bothered to mention it to my mum when I got home.  The other incident was far more worrying to me.  After a few hours at the rec I returned home, only to discover I'd left my brand new cardigan (hot off my mum's knitting needles) on a bench. Mum was fuming, promptly donned coat and shoes and raced up to the rec. Needless to say, in those days of common poverty, somebody had taken a fancy to my cardigan and it was no longer abandoned on the bench. My mum wasn't happy and my main worry was not that I'd lost my cardigan but that I might be banned from ever returning to the rec. 

We played out after tea - cricket, the stumps chalked on to our front wall, the bat another jumble sale find; 'keep uppies' - until Gilly's mum came out and shouted at us for constantly banging on her wall; 'Keep the Sunny Side Up' with Iris Whitewell and Christine Archer - two big girls who, in all honesty, struggled to keep anything up, least of all their beefy thighs. I was self appointed choreographer and star dancer, with absolutely no ability in either field. We practised for hours for the show in my dad's garage, stopping abruptly if my dad or brothers dared to come in; we played Mothers and Fathers where my poor younger brother was always the baby; we held sales in the front garden, goods set out on kitchen stools, signs made from cardboard boxes. Our mums took pity on us and came and bought our old rubbish back. 

Back then, everyone had a local milkman, complete with super slow milk float, delivering to every doorstep. We had a baker, too, who left us our daily bread. He still had a horse and cart, which was a great novelty to us kids.  Most days we had a couple of pints of milk delivered. Sometimes my mum would leave a note in the empty bottleWhat I really wanted was the half size bottle of orange juice that teased me from a crate on the back of the milk float. My mum said it was a waste of money - and at that time money was tight and certainly not to be wasted on such frivolities. The more I was told I couldn't have the orange juice, the more I wanted it. I devised plans of how to get hold of a bottle. I worked out how long I would have to save to buy one, but on 1d every other day for pocket money I soon gave up on that idea. Christine Archer had the bottles of orange regularly, but then she was allowed most things, including staying off school if she so much as murmured that she felt a little poorly.  In contrast, I had to be at death's door before missing a day's schooling. 

My lucky break came the day I was offered sixpence to go off with a man lurking at the bottom of our street.  I was highly temped to take the sixpence and leg it, but after the rec incident I was a bit more wary of strange men asking me to accompany them, and raced home to tell my mum.  The police were called, a description given and a police officer led me by the hand around the local streets, looking for the culprit.  I decided that any man who was willing to throw away sixpence on the off chance of getting a young girl to go off with him wouldn't be hanging around after his offer had been rejected, and sure enough, he was nowhere to be seen.  I actually felt it was all quite exciting being the centre of attention but my mum obviously thought I'd been scarred for life and was desperate to minimise the trauma.  She came out of the kitchen and handed me a scribbled note.  

"Just stick this in the milk bottle outside, love," she said, handing me the note.  I was about to complain when I glanced down at the piece of paper.  I grinned, went to the front door and poked the rolled note into the empty milk bottle.

The next day, my bottle of orange juice stood next to the milk on the step.  My brothers looked on enviously as I peeled off the foil top, raised the bottle to my lips and took a large mouthful. I never admitted to anyone, least of all my brothers or my mum, that the orange juice wasn't actually all that it was cracked up to be.

An Early Lesson in Disappointment by Jill Reidy

Eyeing up the bottles
On the milkman’s float
It wasn’t the white stuff that drew me
It was that amber nectar
Highly coloured
Reflecting the light

So many times
I’d imagined
The sweet, smooth orange
Sitting on the doorstep
In its half sized bottle
Next to the milk

It took a minor drama
To produce results
A simple message in a bottle
Foil cap peeled off slowly
Bottle to lips, head tipped back
Large swig...

An early lesson in disappointment

Thanks for reading     Jill