We’re back. Just in time for That Meaningful Vote. Let’s not go there. Instead, let’s focus on something that England is undoubtedly good at: mid-winter hope.
I’ve known this notebook all my life. It’s battered, scruffy … and almost empty. I could use it for shopping lists or for all kinds of casual notes. But I don’t. And I don’t because this little book turns out to be an historical document, a recipe book from times when recipes were about so much more than food.
Here are instructions for making horse powder (what?); cow drink; paste blacking (in fact several recipes for blacking); blue ink; black ink and crimson colour for show bottles (eh?). There are instructions for making stomach pills; an efficacious receipt for the rheumatism; red oils for bruses (sic) and sprains and two cures for cholera. If you read this little book, you’ll know how to etch on glass; clean brass, copper and tin – and note that brass is spelt the old-fashioned way, with an ‘f‘ in place of the first ‘s‘ when writing ‘brass‘. This spelling fell out of use in about 1800 in England: and yet the index pages of this book are machine-cut.
On the other hand, cholera didn’t arrive in England till 1832, and was rife until 1854, when John Snow discovered the connection between contaminated water and the disease. Does that date my little book to somewhere between the mid 1830s and 1850s?
I’ll leave you with one recipe, because I know you will want shiny black shoes in time for Christmas.
SUPERIOR BLACKING FOR BOOTS & SHOES
- Ivory black 1 lb (that’s black pigment made from charred ivory or bone)
- Treacle 1/2 lb.
- Fuller’s earth 1/2 lb
- Sweet oil 1/4 lb. (that’s olive oil).
Mix with water.
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Last time, we had to get to York to catch the coach to London. This time, York had two coaches stuffed with its own. Harrogate and Ripon had two, up from zero. And Leeds had upped its game from two to five.
Coach to London? Yes, to support the March for the People’s Vote. You’ll know there were about 700,000 of us. You’ll know the arguments. So let’s just talk about a fun day.
A day in which I could take few photos, because I was on Team North Yorkshire, and often doing duty carrying one end of our banner. We did sing though. All the Yorkshire marchers who could be found as we passed the Grosvenor Hotel were rounded up for a photo call. A passing marching band (there were musicians….) struck up with ‘On Ilkley Moor baht’at‘ and all right-thinking Yorkshire folk joined in with lots of enthusiasm but little melody.
We talked. How we talked. We made common cause with voters from Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency, from Devon, from Northumberland, from Leicestershire – the banners proved that no part of the nation was unrepresented.
And we carried flags. EU flags, Union Jacks, Yorkshire flags, Italian flags. Progress was slow. We snuck off to coffee shops (staffed by Italians) and pubs (staffed by any and every nation) for a quick breather and still easily regained our places.
Have you ever tried to fit 700,000 people into Parliament Square? No, can’t happen. In any case, thousands and thousands of us were still marching as the speeches started, as they continued, and after they had finished. That was disappointing, as last time, I’d been inspired and energised by so many fired up and dynamic contributions.
Instead we got street theatre. Anarchists on wildly decorated bicycles, a Boris Johnson look-alike, a tricycle. It was, despite our serious purpose, lots of fun. And tiring.
But I’ll end on this story, which makes me in equal measure sad and angry.
On the bus down, a French woman who has lived in the UK for 32 years told us that she no longer feels welcome in the UK, has suffered abuse, and has been told to ‘go home’. She’d always previously loved Britain’s diversity and felt us to be accepting and tolerant.
And sadly, after two years of this different treatment, she’s decided she and her British husband have had enough and they’re moving to France. Even though she has considered Yorkshire her home for over 30 years. This is not the first time I’ve heard tales like this.
It’s no secret that I voted Remain. But nobody, however they voted, seems happy with how things are going. If you believe that, having been given the chance to vote on continued EU membership, we should now be given the opportunity to vote on the Final Deal (including an option to remain), please write to your MP. Here’s how.
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I’ve always loved looking at the contributions to Thursday doors, where bloggers from around the world share images of their favourite doors. Somehow, I’ve never got round to joining in. But looking through my photos for something or other yesterday, I realised that I had the makings of a post about windows. Here it is.
Here’s an image from the last March for Europe in London in June. I’ll be there again, probably as you read this, marching for a People’s Vote on the Final Deal. I’m not sure how much I believe in another referendum, but what other hope have we got to turn the tide against the national disaster that is Brexit?
Happier times, happier pictures. I started off by including images from Europe too. But I’ll do England today, and maybe travel further afield another time.
Hull Minster, as seen from the office buildings opposite.
And Ripon Cathedral glimpsed through a camera obscura in early 2017.
There’s an osteopath in Ripon who always has a delightfully quirky window display. Here’s winter.
And the more rural landscape from the Wensleydale Railway.
I’ll finish with the photo I found that started me off. This was the view I took outside our house on Christmas Eve morning last year.
We’ve just landed home from our epic car journey through France and Spain. 2,715 miles on the clock. The worst of those miles were those completed here in the UK.
I’m not being entirely fair. We had more than a few traffic-jam moments in Barcelona and Toulouse, but we’ve also enjoyed miles and miles of empty motorways and other roads, particularly in France, where driving was nothing but relaxing.
What really makes a difference though, are the motorway service areas. I’ve written before about France’s quiet uncommercial aires, which complement the ones with restaurants, shops and all the trimmings. Even these can be havens of peace though. Look at the Aire de la Porte de Corrèze. Yes, it’s got all the usual facilities. But it’s got space and peace too: a country path, a woodland walk, and a quiet pond.
Now look at the ‘Extra’ service area on the A1 M near Peterborough. Outside space is strictly for parking in. Land is scarce and ruinously expensive in the UK of course. But if only we could have stretched our legs and breathed a little fresh air as we took a break in our journey north. It would have made so much difference.
PS. I arrived home to some good news from the Police in Barcelona. They have recovered certain items following last week’s thefts. I still don’t know what. Watch this space!
The weekly photo challenge posed by WordPress is taking a week off. I don’t have to. I thought I’d add to the piles of photos clogging up the internet showing snow. Snow in the garden, out by the lake, up a mountain, shutting down the motorways, whitening city streets ….
We woke up this morning to bitter cold. Minus One Celsius. This will make my American and Canadian readers laugh. Look at this post from my blogging friend Kerry. Where she wakes up it’s -32, and steam is rising from the frozen lake. She’d better not read this. Where she is, nobody ventures out, not even – especially not even – the cats.
This is snowy weather British style. Just a couple of inches. Just enough to snarl up the transport system and fill the airwaves with ‘Is your journey really necessary?’ type warnings. It’ll probably be gone tomorrow.
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PS. Happy New Year!
Once upon a time – 1989 actually – two babies were born: a girl in England, a boy in Spain. They each had siblings more than ten years older than they were. They each went to school and did well, and in due course they went to University.
When they graduated, they wanted to train or work as teachers. The reality was that one of them could only find a job in a call centre, the other by working in a bar or restaurant It wasn’t what they wanted.
By chance, opportunity knocked. The English girl got the chance to work as a teaching assistant in Spain. The Spanish boy became an au pair in England. They worked and learnt hard, and within a year, both had found regular teaching posts.
Since then, five or six years have passed. The English girl speaks Spanish with ease. The Spanish boy is very comfortable speaking English. Their careers have developed nicely. Each considers the country that they ended up in, almost by chance, as home.
Have you guessed yet that the English child is my daughter Emily? The Spanish child is my new Spanish teacher Javi. If they wanted, it’s not impossible that they could swap the lives they’ve chosen by exchanging their jobs, their homes and their social lives with each other, and go back to their countries of birth. But they don’t want to. They’re settled, and feel enriched by the choices they’ve made. It’s called ‘Freedom of Movement’.