A Foodie Childhood?

When I was a small girl in London food was a big part of my life.  I don’t mean eating, but shopping for food and cooking it – I’d made my first Christmas cake when I was four after all.  It’s possible I had some help.  And I certainly licked the bowl.

This Sainsbury in 1950’s Streatham is a close cousin of the one we visited in Victoria (sainsburyarchive.org.uk)

Because my mother taught all week, weekends meant a Saturday morning trip to Sainsbury’s in Victoria. I would watch as the shop girls reduced large yellow slabs of butter to half pound blocks using large wooden butter paddles – look, we still have some domestic-sized ones –

while others weighed sugar into dark blue paper bags. I looked on impressed as the man on the bacon counter turned the whining, shining wheel of his slicing machine – ‘Thick or thin madam?’.   After she’d bought all we needed, my mother joined the queue for the cashier’s window and fumbled in her purse to find the right change.

This is the kind of sight that greeted us as we shopped for groceries – counter service only (sainsburyarchive.org.uk)

It was the greengrocer’s stall on the market next.  I liked collecting the decorated tissue squares that oranges and tangerines were wrapped in.

This is a market stall in Cádiz 2020, not London in 1950-something. But you get the idea.

 I liked helping to choose the weekly vegetables, and learnt when to expect the different apples coming into season.  Discoveries came first, even before the autumn term started. Then James Grieve, Worcester Pearmain, Laxtons (Supreme and Superb), and round about Bonfire Night, the brown-skinned Russett.  Oranges and tangerines were for Christmas time.  I always hoped that there might be enough money left to buy a seasonal treat – perhaps a single peach.

Best of all  was the delicatessen.  This shop wasn’t at all the preserve of the moneyed middle classes, reviving holiday memories by buying exotic food stuffs.  Instead it was a refuge for the stateless, rather rudderless foreign populations of shabby 1950s Britain.  There were huge numbers of Poles who’d served out the war in the UK  –  my father was one; Italian ex POWs;  Hungarian Jews –  all the flotsam of Europe.

A cheese counter, probably in present-day Germany. (Waldemar Brandt Unsplash)

Here we’d buy Polish boiling ring, cooked simply in water and eaten with buttery mashed potatoes and sauerkraut or cabbage. I loved the wizened dried sticks of kabanos, a thin sausage that my school friends assured me was made from donkey meat.  There was Polish rye bread, speckled with caraway.  It was at the delicatessen that my mother learnt about pasta. We started eating spaghetti bolognese in about 1954, long before it became a British standard.  We bought Samsoe from Denmark which makes the best toasted cheese in the whole world. My school friends found our food odd.  That was alright.  I found theirs odd too.

A selection of sausage, quite possibly from Argentina (Edi Libedinski, Unsplash)

Very occasionally on Saturday afternoon  we would catch the tube all the way to Trafalgar Square and walk into Soho and the Italian store there.  Those impossibly long packets of spaghetti!  Those solid piles of Italian sausage:  pink fat-studded mortadella; Neapolitan salamis the colour of dried blood!  A great wheel of parmesan from which some cheery Italian with lots of smiles but little English would hack crumbly fragrant slices with a seriously stout and heavy knife! Aromatic roasted coffee beans clattered into special scales used for nothing but weighing coffee! And Italian voices, laughing, chatting, shouting and thoroughly at home. I don’t think we ever bought a great deal here.  We were there for a spot of sensory overload, and a few small treats.

Impossibly exotic in the 1950s: pasta neither hoop-shaped nor in a tin with tomato gloop (Markus Spiske, Unsplash)

Many of my childhood memories centre around preparing the food that we bought.  But that’s a story for another day.

Seven Kinds of Smooth

Jude’s Photo Challenge this week invites us to consider texture: Smooth.

It immediately made me think of that English folk song, Dashing Away with the Smoothing Iron – I’ve included a YouTube clip at the end just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about. But I’m so un-keen on ironing there’s no chance at all I could submit a photo of a pile of neatly ironed, beautifully smooth clean and dry washing.

Back to the archives then.

I’ve ended up choosing these: click on the images to see them full size and to read the captions.

Jude at Travel Words‘ 2029 Photo Challenge #9

A Different Perspective

This is my second response to a photo challenge this week: that’s what happens when you get a bee in your bonnet.  I’ll settle down soon, don’t worry.

This time, Patti invites us to change our perspective when taking a photo.  Don’t just stand, point, shoot, she suggests.  Crouch, squat, get above the action, take a tour round it.

The weather being what it is, I can’t get out much with my camera, so these are all from the archives.

This first one is perhaps my favourite, taken in Gloucestershire.  I had to lie at the edge of a flower bed to get this shot of a house barely glimpsed through the ox-eye daisies.  Photography as exercise class.

Our friends Sue and Brian’s garden at Horton.

Here are some more shots, taken in much the same way, in gardens and fields.

And here are two more.  The back end of a festive lunch, and flags at the EU Parliament in Strasbourg.

Click on any image to view the caption, and to see it full size.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge # 86: Change your Perspective

 

Saying ‘Thank EU For Being Here’

North Yorkshire for Europe made the best of a very bad job yesterday: a party for locally-resident EU citizens, to say ‘thank you’ for making their home here.

It was a great night, with fun, friendship … and tears.  More tomorrow ….

An entry for Six Word Saturday.

The Secret Diary of a Garden

As promised earlier, I’ve kept a photo diary of a month in the life of the walled garden.  Too bad that my recently-repaired camera turned out not to have been repaired satisfactorily, and I’ve had to rely on my not-very-smart-smartphone.

So here we are, Sue: the walled garden, as it puts itself to bed for winter.  The Changing Seasons.

1st November. Here we are. Come in and explore.

 

5th November. You want me to go out in THIS?
12th November.
16th November.
23rd November. Oops. I forgot.  Until dead of night.
30th November. And just in time for the end of the month, a good hard frost. Winter’s on its way.

An entry for both Six Word Saturday, and The Changing Seasons.

A Dock, an Art Gallery: Liverpool

Liverpool’s tourist Mecca:  the Albert Dock.

Tate Liverpool: park your umbrella inside….

Beyond the gallery window: industrial life.

Snow? Shifting perspectives? Infinite space?

Concentric lines, unsettled steps – careful! Zobop!

Jim Lambie: Zobop 1999

Arte Povera: a classical figure commentates.

Water within, water without: a view, a statue.

Beuys/me: two self-portaits in one.

Josef Beuys: Felt suit, 1970.

Time for a smartphone moment: Sue?

And a bike moment:  Sue again?

And a pause for reflection.

Before the rains came…. yet again.

An entry for Six Word Saturday – on Sunday…

Returning to my roots

My life has come full circle.  Many of my earliest memories come from Sandhutton, current population 260, where my mother was head teacher of a two-teacher school which educated all the village children between five and fifteen years old.  These days I visit the village weekly – it’s less than ten miles away.  The school no longer exists, but my Spanish teacher lives there.

There we are. Sandhutton School, c.1951, just before I started there.

When I was five, my life changed a bit.  We went to live in London (current population 8.13 million).

A trip down the Thames: nearly at Westminster now.

I was a student in Manchester (538,000).  Then I went on to live in Portsmouth, in Wakefield, in Sheffield, in Leeds: all cities numbering their citizens in the tens,or even hundreds of thousands.  I loved city life.  I relished the opportunities only a city could usually offer, and the diverse populations living in them.

One of my favourite places in Manchester: The John Rylands Library. Who wouldn’t feel a real scholar in these surroundings?

When we moved to Harrogate, some twenty years ago, I announced we were moving to a small town.  A mere 75,000 people lived there.

Harrogate: one of its many open spaces: the Valley Gardens.

But that was before we went to France.  Laroque d’Olmes has a population of some 2,000 people, and its county town, Foix, has only 10,000. We came to appreciate small town life: its neighbourliness and our sense of belonging – the space to appreciate the countryside and mountains beyond.

The street near the church in Laroque, with the Pyrenees in the distance.

When we came back to England, that small town of Harrogate suddenly seemed horribly large, traffic-infested and in every way untenable, despite its green spaces and lively community life.  So here we are in North Stainley, population 730.

In fact we’re not even in the village, but in a little enclave just outside, with that walled garden I showed you last week.  Population 8.  It’s perfect.

One of North Stainley’s three village ponds.

 

Lens Artists Photo Challenge #64: Countryside or small towns.

‘Wish You Were Here’

Summer used to be a time for postcards.  Sending them.  Receiving them. Receiving was better.  What to say to your friends and relations with only such a small space to play with?  ‘Wish you were here’ maybe?

The views were standard, wherever they came from.  The castle.  The cathedral.  The fisherman’s cove. The crowded beach.

Today I’m reviving the tradition, but with a different angle on the standard shots.

St. Paul’s Cathedral, seen reflected in Angel’s Wing (2000) by Thomas Heatherwick, Paternoster Square, London.
The Leeds-Liverpool Canal passing under a bridge near Gargrave.
The Port Olímpic area of Barcelona seafront, reflected in nearby buildings.
Hull Minster, as seen in a nearby office building.
An honest view of a British holiday? The countryside near Penrith on a soggy Sunday.

This is my contribution to Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #59, Angles. Leya so often joined in when I was contributing to the Ragtag Daily Prompt that it seems only fair to return the compliment.  Thanks, Leya!

 

An Amateur Bird-Fancier visits Slimbridge

We’ve just come back from a long weekend in Gloucestershire.  The highlight was to spend time with William, Zoë and their parents at the home of Sarah (daughter-in-law)’s parents, who had invited us all: the highlight of this particular highlight was watching Zoë  discover strawberries…

Another highlight was to visit Slimbridge, the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust site founded and developed by Sir Peter Scott.

So much to see: water birds of every kind.  But I’ve come away with memories of three in particular: three species of wading bird who spend much of their lives fossicking in the shallows for the small creatures on which they depend for their diet.

All three of the birds that so engaged me shared similar characteristics.  Impossibly long, fragile-looking legs, giving them a delicate and graceful appearance: impossibly long, unmissable beaks.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you various varieties of flamingo…..  Who can fail to be entranced by their pink plumage, sometimes almost embarrassingly vivid, at other times delicately pale?

….black tailed godwits ….

… and the distinctively patterned black and white avocet.

Follow the links for a natural history lesson.  For now, enjoy as we did simply observing them.

 

Click on any image to view full size.