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.

Keep Right on to the Top of the Road

‘Look for converging lines’, instructs Jude.  They’re there to add depth and distance, so she wants to see what we can find as illustrations.  So I went to Cádiz, I went to Brussels, I went to Yorkshire – of course.  And finally I went to London.

Here we are on the road by the seafront in Cádiz. The road, our eyes are lead inexorably towards the Cathedral.
Now we’re in Brussels. I quite like it that the street’s more easily seen in the plate glass reflection. And that the lines on the window, and on the pavement are also working towards converging.
Since the Tour de France started in Yorkshire in 2014, dear old Buttertubs has been elevated to being called Côte de Buttertubs. You can cycle it yourself … or not. Look at this picture and decide.
Nothing can top your very first ever walk in the snow. This was William’s first chance, back when he was three.

2020 Photo Challenge #16

#Squaretops 22

What Are You Going To Meet ….?

…. if you turn this corner?

An art installation, ‘Around the Corner’,  in the Culture Mile, City of London, by Karsten Huneck and Bernd Truempler, KHBT .

William needed to explore.

This sentence is a a quotation from Virginia Woolf’s novel Jacob’s Room: ‘What are you going to meet if you turn this corner?’

An entry for Six Word Saturday.

 

 

 

A Walk to the Planetarium

I’m in London on Half Term Duty.  Zoë’s at Nursery, but William’s four, and at school these days, where an early encounter with the planets quickly turned into an all-consuming passion.

So I thought I should take him to the Planetarium in nearby Greenwich.  There’s not much he doesn’t know about the solar system (Makemake anyone?),so ‘Moons beyond counting‘ seemed a likely hit.  Twelve thirty, I said, that’s when we’ve got to be there.

At 8.30, William was all present and correct, dressed; rucksack packed with essentials such as a pencil case and an I-spy book of birds; shoes on; coat organised, demanding to leave.  I fobbed him off for a while, but by just after 9.30, we were on the top of a double-decker bus bound for Blackheath and Greenwich.

Not the normal view of Blackheath: a bit of a fairground and a rubbish lorry doing its work.

Greenwich has one of London’s lovieliest parks.  There are wide avenues, trees, green space – hills even – and if you walk to the far end, a wonderful playground.  William was persuaded that this was a good place to spend the two and a half hours before the show.  We trotted down avenues and gravelly paths.  We chatted to dog walkers – William, having given his full address to one, informed him that I was a visitor who didn’t normally live here.

We examined tree bark.

And we reached the playground, where William climbed, chased, crawled, bounced, made new friends and finally announced, round about 11.30, that he was hungry.

We climbed one hill and then another, looking across at the views of Greenwich below, and the City of London, just across the Thames.

And we picnicked pretty much on the Greenwich Meridian line.

Visitors to the Observatory and the Meridian Line enjoy the view.

Finally, it was time for the show.  We sat next to a boy called Jack who turned out to be just as much of a planet geek as William.  The performance over (it was very good thanks, and back home, William gave a far better account of it than I did), Jack and William hurled obscure facts and quiz questions at one another, and were half pleased and astonished, half vexed that each knew as much as the other.

We decided enough was enough, and took a different route back through the park to the bus stop and home.  Where we spent the rest of the day doing – what else?  – a jigsaw of the solar system.

The moon, seen not at Greenwich, but on the Rotterdam to Hull ferry, June 2019.

A walk for Jo’s Monday Walk.

Winter Walking on the South Bank

We love a walk along the South Bank in London. It reminds us of happier times, when during the 2012 Olympic Games, London was for a time the capital of the world: inclusive, happy, welcoming, proud. The South Bank was full of festivity, fun, food, friendliness and foreigners – all welcome.

For a bleaker view of the legacy of that time, turn to Stuart Heritage in Boxing Day’s Guardian:‘ … a moment of optimism that destroyed the decade’.

But it’s still Christmas-tide. Let’s stay happy.

We’ll begin our ‘walk’ on the train into town. Now then. Baffled by the window, it’s hard to pick out which are the city-centre monoliths, and which their reflections.

Not far from London Bridge Station.

We arrive at London Bridge. Here’s street art under the bridge by Nathan Bowen.

Union Jack Dripping by London Bridge: Nathan Bowen.

Long-established buildings reflected on new facades.

Borough Market. Is it too early for lunch? Sadly, yes. Just looking, then.

Buying bread at Borough Market.

And all those buildings, new and old juxtaposed, on the opposite side of the Thames.

Ah! This is fun. This is Zoë’s moment. A Bubble Man, providing unalloyed joy to dozens of children. And to Zoë.

Time for a coffee-stop (no cake, Jo).  We dive into a narrow alley, which opens up to this: we’re not so far from Shakespeare’s Globe here.

But just as we’re getting a little tired of walking, the rain starts. The team divides. The younger members head off for a spot of retail therapy at South Bank’s Winter Market. The oldest and the youngest join forces and return to London Bridge on the river bus. For us, our winter walk of sights is at an end.

Not quite. Back at Hither Green, this is what awaited us just outside the station.

For Six Word Saturday, and Jo’s Monday Walk.

 

‘Let us Sing in Celebration of a Union Proud and Free’

On Saturday, about a million of us descended on London, all committed Remainers, demanding a Final Say on the Brexit Deal, which even as we marched was being debated in Parliament with as much dissent as usual.

Our own little patch of Yorkshire sent three coaches.  Nineteen coaches from Yorkshire altogether. Everyone had their own important reasons for being there.

But the Yorkshire Remain Voice Choir had come to sing. We had permission to commandeer Wellington Place, right next to Trafalgar Square, and sing below the Duke of York Monument. And that’s what we did. 

We’d come into being about two years ago in two ways. Over in York for Europe, Martin and Gill were crafting clever lyrics with a view to starting a Remainers’ choir.  And in North Yorkshire we began to sing at our street stalls.  Arnold conducted a few singers, a tuba, and a guitar. Small beginnings …. but now it’s county-wide, with members from Settle to Sheffield – almost 80 miles apart. Dozens play their parts.  Composing lyrics; practising; arranging; securing singing spots; keeping song books up to date; booking coaches. 

We have SODEM’s support in London, and an official photographer in Bedford-based Chiara Mc Call. We’ve sung all over Yorkshire, in London, even (thanks to Louise in South Yorkshire) in Brussels. Whenever the going’s got tough, we’ve had North Yorkshire’s Richard S’s boundless enthusiasm and hard work to keep us going.  These days, apart from the original small team, we have a Yorkshire band’s worth of brass, and drums and various stringed instruments.

In London on Saturday, we had a large and pretty much captive audience.  Slow-motion marchers inevitably listened – enthusiastically – as they passed. Many stopped off specially to listen, applaud and join in too. Demonic Cummings and Boris Johnson, those two splendid images fresh over from Germany, unsurprisingly pushed off towards Trafalgar Square as we began.

 

Our audience, viewed from the choir (CM)

There are thirty eight songs in our repertoire – all, with one exception, pastiches of well-known numbers.  Our signature number is of course:

‘We’ve come from Yorkshire just to say (just to say)

Your Brexit deal is naff…‘(to the tune of ‘On Ilkley Moor’, naturally).

But we can do other folk songs:

‘What shall we do with….‘, not a ‘Drunken Sailor’, but ‘this Rotten Brexit?’

…..drinking songs: ‘I’ve been a Remainer for many’s the year’ rather than the more traditional ‘Wild Rover’.

We can do Old Time Musical: ‘I’m forever European’ (‘I’m forever Blowing Bubbles’).

Radio Two standards such as ‘Delilah’ ask:

‘Why why why deceive us?

More lies won’t appease us’.

We can reference American traditions:

‘We’ve had quite enough of Brexit it’s a con’.  (‘She’ll be coming round the Mountain’)

While ‘The Battle Hymn to the Republic’ becomes ‘Our eyes have seen the threat to all the freedoms we hold dear’.

Hymns too …. ‘Bread of Heaven’, and the Last Night of the Proms (‘Land of Hopeless Tories  ‘).

There’s one song in our repertoire that’s not original: ‘Ode to Joy’. It moves many of us to tears every time we sing it. 

 

Brexit or no Brexit (no Brexit please!) we’d like to continue.  A pro-Europe Choir and Band for Europe?

 

Photos and videos labelled ‘CM’ are by our wonderful friend and supporter Chiara McCall. Follow her on Instagram @chichi76.myreflection