Here’s ablast from the past: from November 2012 in fact, when we were hunkering down for winter in France. It was round about now that The Orange Man arrived …
THE ORANGE MAN
Winter has arrived. How do I know? Although the nights are cold, the afternoons are still for going walking or tidying up the garden wearing a tee-shirt, beneath a duck-egg blue sky. So until the other day, I thought we were clinging on to autumn.
But on Thursday, the Orange Man arrived. This is exciting enough news for it to be worth phoning a friend. Every year, once winter kicks in and the orange harvest is well under way in southern Spain, a huge container lorry arrives in Lavelanet. It parks up at a disused petrol station on the main road into town and becomes an impromptu shop.
The man with the lorry, the Orange Man, speaks only Spanish, and sells only oranges. Not singly or by the half-dozen, but in large 10 kilo boxes. 10 kilos, 10 euros. What a bargain. These oranges, though sometimes a little knobbly and in irregular sizes, are the juiciest and tastiest you’ll ever eat, and it’s no wonder that whenever you pass, you’ll see someone pulling up their car and opening the boot for a case or two. Our Spanish friend won’t have to stay long. In a few days the entire container-load will be sold, he’ll return to Spain …. only to return when he’s loaded up again.
When he departs for the last time at the end of the season, we’ll know for sure that spring has arrived.
We seem to have been to Castle Bolton quite often recently. It reminded me that shortly after we came back from France, one of our early walks was here. Maybe it’s time to revisit my blog post about it, to remind myself, if nobody else, about its history.
A CASTLE FIT FOR A CAPTIVE QUEEN
We travelled the road in thick white mist, fearing a dank and gloomy day. But the higher we climbed, the more the mist fell away, and the brighter the sun shone.
As we began walking, Daphne shared some of the castle’s history with us. It has belonged to the Scrope family since the time it was built in the 14th century, and has always been admired for its high walls. It’s a proper castle, looking exactly like the ones you will have drawn when you were eight years old.
Tudor history is largely about the constant religious and temporal battles between the Catholic and the Protestant church, which Henry VIII had made the Established Church, with the king as its head: the Fidei Defensor – Defender of the Faith (unbelievably, Henry hung onto this title, awarded him in his pre-Protestant days by Pope Leo X, in recognition of his book Assertio Septem Sactramentorum which defends the supremacy of the pope). His son Edward briefly succeeded him, and then his daughter Elizabeth, and both were Protestants.
But Elizabeth’s rule was threatened by the Catholic Mary Queen of Scots, and she was held captive first at Carlisle Castle, then at Bolton. Here she was attended by 51 knights, servants and ladies-in-waiting, not all of whom could be accommodated in the castle itself. She also had cooks, grooms, a hairdresser, an embroiderer, an apothecary, a physician and a surgeon, while furnishings fit for a queen were borrowed from nearby Barnard Castle. She went hunting, learnt English – for she spoke only French, Scots and Latin – and spent time with local Catholics. She made an unsuccessful bid to escape from captivity. It’s said she climbed from an upstairs window in the castle, and fled on horseback past the nearby market town of Leyburn. It’s here she dropped her shawl and so was discovered and recaptured. And that is why, so they say, the long escarpment above the town, nowadays a playground for walkers and sightseers, is still called ‘The Shawl’.
As we enjoyed our history lesson, we passed a field of Wensleydale sheep. We very much admired their sultry fringes.
And onwards. Autumn colours.
A completely pointless stile in the middle of a meadow.
Then Aysgarth Falls. What a wonderful lunch spot. The crashing waters made conversation quite impossible, but we sat enjoying the surging waters, the coppery leaves above our heads, and the all-encompassing percussion of the tumbling River Ure.
And then it was time to turn round and head back by a different route. Another great day’s walking, with an added history lesson.
But wait! This post was all for Fandango’s Flashback Friday, when we’re invited to dig up a Post From the Past. But Becky’s Past Squares demands a look at the past too: here’s Bolton Castle, square style:
Somehow, we forgot all about Masham Sheep Fair last weekend. We forgot about the dozens of different breeds of sheep on show; the sheep-shearing demonstrations; the sheep dog competitions; the children, some really quite young, demonstrating their knowledge and prowess as sheep-handlers. There’s no help for it. We’ll have to revisit this post from October 2014 instead. And by the way. Please don’t show yourself up. Pronounce Masham correctly. Mas-ham. Anyone who lets the side down and calls it Mash’em is immediately recognised as an outsider.
On Saturday we called in, far too briefly, at the annual Masham Sheep Fair. This is the place to go if you believe a sheep looks just like this.
Saturday was the day a whole lot of sheep judging was going on in the market square. Here are a few of the not-at-all identical candidates. And yet they are only a few of the many breeds in England, and in the world. There are 32 distinct breeds commonly seen in different parts of the UK, and many more half-breeds. I was going to identify the ones I’m showing you, but have decided that with one or two exceptions (I know a Swaledale, a Blue-faced Leicester or a Jacobs when I see one), I’d get them wrong. So this is simply a Beauty Pageant for Masham and District sheep.
And if you thought wool was just wool, these pictures may be even more surprising. Who knew that sheep are not simply…. just sheep?
I was brought up foraging. At four years old, I’d get up with my mother at half past five in the morning and go scouting for mushrooms on the now-deserted wartime air-strips near our house. At five years old, I went as part of the autumn school day to gather rosehips for Delrosa. Expert pickers got a tin badge. Smaller fry like me got nothing. Blackberrying of course we took for granted.
Later, much later, Malcolm and I moved to France. There, foraging is a way of life. Nobody leaves the house without their ‘Au cas où’ bag – ‘just in case‘ they find something for the cooking pot. It might be wild asparagus, wild garlic or Alpine strawberries in spring, cherries later, then blackberries of course. Autumn was bonanza time. This was the time to stagger home with sacks full of walnuts, of chestnuts, of sloes, of mushrooms of every kind. Autumn hikes were constantly interrupted by the need to squat down and fill a bag with yet more free food. You can read all about it here, for Fandango’s Flashback Friday, when I described how ‘all is safely gathered in’.
Now we’re back in England, the custom continues. I’ve discovered that locally, we’re regarded with good-humoured curiosity because of our inability to pass free food by without snaffling it. It starts with wild garlic, sometimes dandelion and nettle leaves in spring. During the last month we’ve picked several kilos of bullaces (wild plums) from Nosterfield; ditto blackberries from wherever there have been good supplies; windfall apples and crab apples from beneath village trees; a magnificent puffball weighing in at more than a kilo, which – thickly sliced and dredged first in beaten egg, then breadcrumbs and grated parmesan and fried in butter – made splendidly tasty steaks. Finally, this weekend, I glanced upwards on a familiar woodland path, and spotted golden mirabelles winking down at me. I summoned reinforcements (Malcolm, with bags, boxes and a useful stick) and now there are jars of tart but tasty mirabelle jam to see us through the winter, as well as plenty more waiting to be made into tarts and puddings.
Simple, but very real pleasures to add interest to our daily walks.
For today’s Fandango’s Flashback Friday,here are two – yes two posts from previous Septembers – one from 2011, the next from the same day in 2013. One’s a quick and useful French lesson, and the next might already be history. Who knows what first names are doing the rounds in France now?
Voilà! The most useful word in the French language.
Here’s what happened at the baker’s this morning. Translations appear in brackets.
Me: Oh! Isn’t the pain bio ready yet?]
Madame: Voilà! (Nope. Quite right)
Me: So if I call in after 9, you’ll have some? Could you please save me a loaf?
Madame: Voilà! (Yes, and yes). Would you like to pay now, then it’ll be all done and dusted?
Me: Voilà! (Makes sense. I’ll do that)
By the way, I was all grottily dressed inmy oldest paint-spattered, holes-in-the-knee-ready-to-face-a-morning’s-tiling gear. This is Laroque after all: no shame in working clothes here.
Madame: You’re looking very chic today, if I may say so!
Me: Voilà! (And don’t I know it).
Why bother to learn more French? Voilà donc!
What’s in a Name?
When I was at school, my French text books were peopled by characters such as Jean-Claude, Jean-Charles, Jean-Paul, Jacques and Georges. There were Marie, Marie-France, Marianne, Jeanne and Jeanette.
My own classmates answered to names such as Valerie, Jean, Judith, Janet, Susan and Mary while the boys’ school along the road had types like Alan, Norman, Brian, Keith, Bob (not Robert or Rob), Bill (not William or Will) and inevitably, John.
These names identify us firmly as children of the 1950’s.
So over the last week, on our journey through France, I’ve had fun looking for evidence of the latest trends in French first names, via Coca-Cola’s latest marketing scheme of personalising drinks bottles with the current most popular given-names.
This post from August 2016 reflects the melancholy I always feel at this time of year: that summer is departing, and with it the long days and short nights whose absence so depresses me each winter. So I’m choosing it for this week’s Fandango’s Flashback Friday, particularly because it brings with it memories too, of the beauty of Anglesey in Wales.
BRITISH SUMMER TIME: THE FINAL DAYS
We’re more than half way through August. It ought to be high summer, but autumn’s on its way. As we walked down the road yesterday, a few crisp brown leaves blew across our path. Mornings start later, night comes sooner. The combine harvesters trundling round the fields seem almost to have completed their work. The shops are full of neat school uniforms and bright pencil cases ready for the new academic year.
Before it’s too late, here are some summer time views, from Moelfre in Anglesey. And because it’s British Summer time, the sea isn’t always blue and nor is the sky. But that’s fine: we expect that here in the UK.
There we were at Roquefixade, showing our favourite walking destination off to two of our Harrogate friends, when a butterfly discovered me. Then another. These two creatures played round my wrist for more than half an hour before finally dancing off into the sunshine. They made our day.
I’m thinking they’re the Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus). Any dissenters?
I’ve never been much good at twiddling with the controls on my camera. I even joined a photography course recently, in an effort to get to grips with apertures, shutter speeds and ISO controls. But it just made my head hurt, and I reverted to ‘Automatic’ as my default modus operandi. I decided I’m a snaphot-ist, not a photographer.
Yesterday however, just for a bit of fun, and having an hour to spare, I turned to the ‘palette’ settings and took an identical shot using every single one. Though I forgot to take one on ‘Automatic’, so the tale isn’t quite complete. Can’t do it now. This little twig of blossom (cherry?), a chance discovery found in the road, wilted in the night.
Which do you like best? As ever, click on any image to see it full size. They’re in strict alphabetical order – no favouritism here.
Three posts in three days. That’s a bit much. But I’ve pushed out all my last thoughts before taking a blogging break. I just might post the odd thing – such as Six Degrees of Separation at the start of next month – but so total will be my break that – sorry – I may not even read your offerings, fellow bloggers.
Last week the visit to my London primary school way back sixty years ago seemed to go down quite well, so today for Fandango’s Flashback Friday, we’ll go back to that era again, to the post I wrote in 2016. But this time, we’ll go shopping.
Off to the shops
In 1953, my family moved from Yorkshire to London. At first we lived in Earl’s Court. In the years following WWII, it was where Polish immigrants congregated and lived, so that’s probably how we ended up in this busy, grubby, cosmopolitan area.
It had shops – exotic shops to country hicks like us. There was an Express Dairy, a supermarket, one of the earliest of its kind. Rummaging round on the shelves, my mother found unknown surprises such as yoghurt. It was thin, acidic, an improbable shade of pink and none of us liked it. Not even my father. Yet my father taught my mother to set out soup bowls of milk to sour and eat as a cold, refreshing soup. It was a part of his Polish heritage.
She found chinese gooseberries. We didn’t like those either. These days we call them kiwi fruit and realise the ones we had bought must have been rancid and fermenting.
Now let’s go on to Tachbrook Street Market. That’s where we mainly shopped, once we’d moved to Victoria. I loved it. It was a whole community of shopping streets and market stalls. Even though I didn’t then drink coffee, I loved to pass the coffee blenders’ shop, and smell the rich aromas drifting through the door as the coffee beans gently roasted and toasted on giant metal grates.
I remember the neighbourhood Italian restaurant. We didn’t have the money to eat there, but I could see through the window and watch as waiters wielded those giant pepper grinders they seemed to like so much.
We’d pass the neighbourhood grocery store – ‘Home and Colonial’ . I seem to remember we actually got our groceries in Sainsbury’s. There was a Tesco store, a very early example of a supermarket. We didn’t shop there (‘Supermarkets won’t catch on’ opined my mother).
There was a MacFisheries. I was fascinated by the glistening fish laid out on the marble counters of the open shopfront and watched as my mother’s choice for the day was expertly de-boned and filleted in seconds.
There were fruit and vegetable stalls. I loved to hoard the richly decorated tissue papers that protected each orange, each tangerine. Occasionally, in late summer, my mother would buy us a peach each, as an exotic treat.
Once I got to be about eight or so, I’d be sent off to Apple’s the Hardware Store to buy a gallon of paraffin (Aladdin pink, as opposed to Esso blue) to feed our paraffin heaters. There was Mr. Apple himself, with his bristly grey moustache and his grubby brown overalls. The paraffin glugged out of its storage tank into our can. I’d count out the money, then I’d struggle home, the heavy can banging against my shins, the contents splashing my socks, along the street, and across the busy Vauxhall Bridge Road.
Because my father was Polish, we did quite a bit of shopping at the delicatessen near Buckingham Palace Road.
Here were thin sticks of kabanos, the drier the better. Nobody but me ate this at school, and my friends assured me it was donkey meat. There was Polish boiling ring – a horseshoe shaped sausage that was my favourite meal, boiled and served simply with mashed potato and cabbage. Sauerkraut of course, and bigos. The plain cookery of 1950s Britain was largely unknown to me apart from school dinners, but that’s a whole other story.
Besides Polish foods, we’d often have pasta or risotto or wienerschnitzel. Oh – apart from two things. On Saturdays, my mother always bought a pint of brown shrimps from the above-mentioned MacFisheries. Saturday tea times would see us all sitting round the table with a pile of brown bread and butter, peeling those fiddly shrimps. And she was very partial to a kipper too.
I can’t leave out ordinary grocery shopping though. We went to Sainsbury’s in Victoria because it had fresher, better goods according to my mother. It wasn’t a supermarket. We’d go into the shop, with its brightly-tiled floor, and there, to left and right were the counters. Dry goods, dairy products, bacon and ham… and so on.
Young women, their hair concealed under net caps, skilfully wielded wooden butter pats to reduce great slabs of butter into manageable half-pound portions.. Others bagged up sugar into dark blue ‘sugar paper’ bags. There was always a man at the bacon slicer, turning a lethal looking metal disc to slice bacon and ham according to the customer’s particular requirements (Thin? Thick? Gammon rasher?) .
There were glass-topped tins of biscuits – digestives, custard creams, Lincolns, nice, arrowroot…..: these were sold loose. People on a restricted budget would choose a mixed bag of broken ones. My mother regarded all of these with disdain. We made our own.
And when it was time to pay, we’d find that all our receipts, from each counter we’d visited, would have arrived at a small wooden kiosk near the centre of the store. An efficient type would add it all up, we’d pay her ( it was always a ‘her’) and we’d go off with our groceries.
The scenes played out here are so clear in my mind, but I can’t find a single image to support them. Not one. Can anybody help?
One thing we never had to buy at the shops was milk. That was delivered, every single day including Christmas Day, in glass bottles which we rinsed out and returned, on an electric-powered milk float something like this….
I remember our shopping trips fondly. They were time-consuming, certainly. But the rich variety of a morning walking from shop to stall to shop again was quite a highlight in my week.
I have another blog, now more or less discontinued, called Notes on a Family. I wasn’t so much concerned about a wide audience, as about recalling my family and personal history for my children. It’s one of my regrets that I never talked enough to my parents about their own past. To my Polish father, who came over, like so many of his countrymen, during the war. To my mother: a clergyman’s daughter. He himself was Cambridge educated, despite being raised in poverty in a large family. Why did I never ask her how that came about? I was born in Yorkshire, but spent most of my childhood in London. All of these stories are told in my blog, and others too.. Here’s one from 22nd May 2016, for Fandango’s Flashback Friday.
ANOTHER YEAR, ANOTHER SCHOOL
A few posts ago, I told you about my first London school. It became pretty obvious to my parents that it simply would not do. But still … I was a Bulge Baby, born, like so many thousands of others, shortly after World War II ended. There was still enormous pressure on school places. My mother had found a good job teaching classics at Mayfield School, a Girls’ Grammar School in Putney, so really needed a place for me in a Putney school, so we could travel to and from school together.
There were no places.
Finally, they found somewhere. It wasn’t a state primary, though, but a tiny, old-fashioned private school, Ebley House School. Even for the time, its fees were modest.
It was a funny old place, run from a church hall, because its original premises had been bombed during the war.. The head, Miss Egleton seemed a rather frail old lady, with wispy hair gathered into a skimpy bun. The only other teacher I remember was Mrs. Coate-Bond, whom my mother thought rather racy, as she read the left-leaning Manchester Guardian.
The ‘babies’ or kindergarten class, were in the vestry, and the rest of us were divided into two groups, Lower Transition and Upper Transition, and worked at opposite ends of the hall. Once I passed the 11+ and got to grammar school, I realised what an old-fashioned seat of learning it was compared with the lively places my new friends had been to. I remember some of the lessons:
We copied line after line of this stuff, with scratchy steel dip-pens which at the least provocation spattered unwashable ink onto our books and over our cardigans.
PE: We didn’t change out of our ordinary clothes, but stood just as in this picture here, doing star jumps, running on the spot and similar. No games pitches, therefore no outdoor games.
Monday mornings after break were worst. The boys went off to …. hang on, I have no idea what the boys did. The girls did embroidery. Tray cloths. Every single week. We gossiped instead, of course. It took weeks and weeks to complete a cloth. At the end of every class, we’d line up and show what we’d done that week. It was always a total exaggeration. The only times we were compelled to put a bit of effort in was on those rare occasions when we had to start a new cloth off, and we really couldn’t pull a fast one about our achievements. Like every girl in the school, I loathed Monday mornings. It put me off sewing for life.
Most of the other lessons were reasonably conventional for the time. I enjoyed English, spelling, maths, singing, and scripture (though I wondered for years why a good man like Jesus would promise to make his disciples ‘vicious of men’). At play time, my earnest little friends and I wrote, illustrated and put together magazines with an extremely limited readership ( just us, I think). In my final term, I wrote a dashing tale in which boarding school chums (modelled closely on the girls in Angela Brazil‘s school stories) got the better of a dastardly burglar. It was performed at the school prize-giving.
In the morning, I travelled to Putney with my mother, and at the end of the school day, walked over to Mayfield to return home with her. When I was eight, though, she got another job teaching Classics at Fulham County School. By then we were living in Victoria. So every day I walked to the station, crossing two busy main roads. I caught the Tube, the District Line to East Putney, sometimes changing at Earl’s Court.
Then there were two more busy main roads to navigate. I was a nervous little thing, but it never occurred to me to be frightened of this journey, which is not one the average eight year old would do alone these days, I think.
It wasn’t a stunningly exciting education. But I was happy enough. Apart from the time when I missed almost a whole term because I was in Isolation Hospital. But that’s another story.