I was one of those ignorant types who thought ‘gull’ and ‘seagull’ were interchangeable terms. In fact ‘seagull’ is a fairly meaningless word, though often used to describe herring gulls. But not, definitely not black headed gulls. These birds we so commonly see round here, some fifty miles from the sea, are quite at home here in the fields. They’re sociable: they’re quarrelsome: they’re noisy. And they’re happiest snatching a meal when tractors are out and about, sowing seeds or harvesting and generally making free food available. As you can see. These scenes are from exactly this time last year, from a farmer’s field just up the road.
I thought a ditty, a bit of doggerel was called for, helped along by memories of a Harvest Festival hymn.
They plough the fields and scatter
the good seed on the land.
Black-headed gulls will follow -
rapacious thieving band!
‘All good gifts around us come from the farmers’ fields
We’ll scoff the lot, not care a jot and decimate your yields.’
We’ve had some snow in winter.
The gulls have had it rough.
Now seeds and rain and sunshine
mean life’s no longer tough.
‘All good gifts around us come from the farmers’ fields.
We’ll scoff the lot, not care a jot and decimate your yields.’
Six Word Saturday
Today I’m taking you to Jagalchi Market, in Busan, South Korea, to one of the largest fish markets in the entire world. We’ll go first into the village-sized hangar where more stalls than you could possibly count are selling single fish, several fish, restaurant loads of fish to buyers who come here knowing that what they choose will have only left the sea a very few hours previously.
More interesting though are the stalls outside. Here are small-time stallholders who come with the family catch, in among larger set-ups who specialise in certain kinds of fish and seafood. I’d like you to meet this woman. She has squid to sell. And I can assure you they’re fresh. I know this because they’re still alive, and they spend their entire time breaking out from their surroundings to lope off down the street, until Our Woman in Pink retrieves them, until the next time … or until they’re sold and become somebody’s supper.
It astonishes me that there are any fish still left in the sea. Look at the header photo. These tiny dried fish are sold in vast quantities by any number of stall-holders, and garnish many of the dishes we ate there.
Everybody but us was there to buy what they needed that day. We contented ourselves with eating what someone else had brought and prepared as our wanderings came to an end, at a neighbourhood restaurant just down the road.
Last Monday in South Korea we went shopping for string, elastic bands and spam – oh, and books.. Today we’ll go instead to one of the large shopping centres – Shinsegae in Seoul maybe (where I was astonished to find a branch of Waitrose) or Lotte Trevi (yes really) in Busan. We could spend the day there, strolling around the sleek and elegant displays. Maybe we’ll stay for lunch in the food hall, and choose from the many outlets featuring foods from around the world, though particularly from the Far East. Out of town shopping centres like these are popular, as in Europe, but the average city shopping street is busy from morning till late into the evening too, with young people toting large carrier bags full of new clothes . ‘Shop till you drop’ seems to be the motto.
Oh … er … I’m quite out of the habit. Nobody’s been round for tea of coffee for a year now. Haven’t you heard that there’s a pandemic on? Still, a Virtual Gathering, to which all of my blogging pals are cordially invited: could I manage that? Let’s see. An old favourite might be best for a cake. Lemon drizzle maybe. It’s one of those cakes we all seem to have a recipe for if we bake at all. These days I use about half the recommended amount of sugar both in the cake itself, and in the lemon drizzle topping. Nobody seems to notice. I also usually bake with wholemeal spelt flour rather than with common-or-garden plain white. So you could even pretend this cake is the healthy option. I’ll pop it on a plate in a minute. Or maybe you’d like a cashew-nut butter cookie? Would you prefer tea or coffee? I warn you now, everyone says my tea’s dreadful. Since I rarely drink the stuff, I can’t tell the difference between gnat’s pee and Builder’s Brew.
Um. Where could I sit you all? Luckily it’s a nice day, so let’s go into the garden, where we can do Social Distancing. Could you carry a tray out for me please?
You’re young, female and Korean. Perhaps you’re a student, a worker, even a mother. You’re slim, stylish, beautiful, have enviably flawless skin, and shiny long dark straight hair. Just like all your friends.
One night however, you go to bed, and you wake up in the morning as an ajumma, an auntie, an older woman. You’ve shrunk four inches, your hair is shorter, perhaps even curly. You’ll put on nice comfy trousers and no longer remain silent on bus rides: in fact putting the world to rights with your fellow ajummas is what you like best Most importantly, you’ll wear your badge of office. This is a quite enormous visor, worn to protect your skin from damaging rays from the sun. You won’t go out without one.
There is no half way house that I can see. You’re young. Or you’re an ajumma. That’s it.
Who doesn’t enjoy a bit of window shopping? And perhaps particularly in parts of South Korea, which can offer a few differences from the high streets that many of us are used to. Let’s start in Busan. in Bosu-Dong Book Street (보수동 책방골목 문화관). There are books, and only books on offer – but of little use if you’re as slow as me in decoding hangul script.
On our first day in South Korea, in Seoul, jet lagged and in need of a gentle day of orientation, we mooched round the markets area. And we found not only whole shops, but whole streets dedicated to shops selling just one product: it might be string. It might be elastic bands, or electric cables, or empty cardboard boxes to be filled with other products. or even gift-packs of a product beloved of Koreans since American soldiers had been part of their lives during the the Korean War – spam. We arrived in time for Chuseok, the festival that’s the time for families to get together and exchange gifts, as we do at Christmas – though historically, Chuseok was more of a Harvest Festival. Trust me, the perfect present for your granny is some gift-wrapped spam. And jumbled in among these workaday products are streets of jewellers’ shops. Come window shopping with me.
That man making his choices from among the books on offer is Just One Person from around the World, enjoying browsing and deciding whether or not to buy, just as we all do, wherever we live.
I am an occasional contributor to the Bird Weekly Photo Challenge: and this week’s appealed. Birds that eat fish as their primary diet. Well, I have images of gannets, gulls and guillemots. I have puffins, though not a single photo features one with a beak crammed with sand eels.
But the fish-eater I love the most is the bird I so often see snaffling goldfish from our landlord’s pond: or as I walk the banks of our neighbourhood River Ure : the one I spot as I hang over the sides of bridges and boats in Spain: the one fishing in among the townhouses of Dordrecht, the Netherlands: the one in my featured photo who was flying down the canal-side in Busan South Korea. It’s the heron, the grey heron.
My last sortie to India for the present shows just a few souvenirs of Pondicherry as it looked when it was part of France’s colonial empire. Those days are long gone. Only the older inhabitants were taught in French-medium schools. These days, as throughout India, English is the first foreign language taught. But policeman still look reassuringly French in style, wearing a smart kepi: a military hat with horizontal peak.
And while the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (Basilique du Sacré-Cœur de Jésus de Pondichéry), at the end of the street where my hotel was, might look European-inspired rather than specifically French, it was the then Archbishop, and two parish priests, all French, who were responsible for its inception in 1895.
Well, this is awkward. Just One Person from around the World is supposed to feature a single person in the main photo. But a second policeman got himself into the frame here Never mind. The school entrance features just one security guard, the Department of Public Works just one visitor. I may just get away with it.