Tell me where all past years are

New bread in very old tin given to me by Firebeard

Living in this windy little corner of the world with its ever changing weather, mini heatwaves and sudden downpours,  visited still by millions of people each year, not to mention the birds that fly here in the winter to find food and in summer to breed, it still feels like a relatively quiet backwater on the world’s stage.

Tucked away with our memories of empire and our numinous literary history, sometimes I think England floats on a bulky, yet fragile reedbed of dreams; a palimpsest of stories. I meet so many people with dogs who tell me their memories as we wander round and across the woods each day:  there is always a new tale, “Look there was the wild life park and there, hard up against that rock, was the cafe…there where we ran as children and collected hazelnuts… there were prefabs there under the cherry trees after the war…Here we climbed the fence and swam in the lake after dark’.

My childhood was spent by the Thames to the South-west of London, messing about in boats, wandering along the  towpath that ran from Kingston to Hampton Court,  reading books, spending hours racketing along on Tube trains and overground trains that had that weary smell of old cigarettes and drying umbrellas.  Holiday and weekend afternoons we explored the grand old deer park behind the Palace where the kings of England hunted;  full of deer and sheep, rabbits and dark trees, tussocky grass and old earthworks, parasol mushrooms in the long grass in autumn, swans nesting in the summer.  An old icehouse tucked into one corner, small secret ponds; visited by tufted ducks and Canadian geese – more recently Egyptian geese and rose-ringed parrakeets – then you would come through the trees to the Long Water, leading your gaze up to the Palace behind its iron gates. The park was always empty of people, the Palace crowded with visitors from all over looking for the ghosts of Henry V111’s wives. He, I fancy, thundering heavily on some large horse down the radiating avenues of trees.

But the past is ‘ a foreign country, they do things differently there’. All that exists is a current thought, a fleeting thought that looks into the realms of imagination, harnessing that mystery called memory.  There is no past, no future, just a moment and then another moment and another.


Looking back briefly at the blackberry picking pictures, the loaves baked and long ago turned into toast,  I recall why I took their photos in the first place. I bought a camera so I could take pictures of the breads I made, so I could remember them and in a funny way honour them and the miracle of life that makes them possible in utter defiance of the second law of thermodynamics,  from water, grain, salt and leaven to a loaf – I still can’t get over the magic; on one level so everyday, on another so extraordinary.

Time for breakfast again

Thank you for reading my 100th post all of you, and thanks in particular to Celia who started me off. It’s been fun!

And when you have the time bake bread and make cakes – feed your loved ones, your friends and neighbours; treading gently on this old Earth that we all share.

The title of this post is a line from a John Donne poem that begins, ‘Go and catch a falling star…’
The other quote is the famous opening line from  The Go-Between by L P. Hartley.

25 thoughts on “Tell me where all past years are

  1. cityhippyfarmgirl

    Joanna you have made me sigh. A contented sigh as I feel I was transported to your place of memories and was able to really take a glimpse of the way things were…the magic of words.
    I’m still amazed at the wonders of bread making like you, I can’t imagine that I would ever be tired off it, and how it all works still puzzles me.
    Happy 100th post and may there be many more.

  2. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    Happy 100th post, love. Beautiful words, thank you for sharing. I think part of the reason I blog is that it provides me with a record or journal of my time, in some way reassuring me that it has been spent well, and evoking some small joy in remembrances. The other reason of course is that I get to spend my time with wonderful friends like you! :)

    Celia xx

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      @ Brydie – Glad you liked the post, thank you for all your visits and comments and @ Sally who I think I met over a Dundee cake online bake in and @ Celia – no idea why I do this, but it is good fun xxx

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Hi Spiceandmore – it’s a funny old tin, some people would scrub it bare, but I like it with its history worn into it. It’s had a very hot wash since I got it :)

  3. heidiannie

    Happy 100th post, Joanna!
    And thanks for sharing your past and present with us. And hopefully part of your future as well.
    Bread is a miracle for me, too. I believe it is a gift toward creation from the Creator. Making bread always draws me to prayer- it is a holy thing, this mixing and stirring and patting and baking- and then there it is -BREAD!!!
    I love Donne- you got me reciting… which drives my family crazy.
    “And find
    What wind
    Serves to advance an honest mind. ”
    -a global wind of course.

  4. Choclette

    Jo, congratulations on your 100th post – so glad you started blogging. Loved your memories of childhood. Just saying to CT yesterday how childhood seems mostly wrapped up in a golden glow now. Strangely, no bad weather, or if it was it was proper snow with snowmen or a crashing thunderstorm.

    The post I was looking for wasn’t any of those you’ve highlighted in your sidebar, but thank you for trying and please don’t worry about it any more. I did enjoy reading about the cultures though and realise I couldn’t have dreamt up the whole thing as you must have talked about these cultures somewhere (but no post on 27 July that I can find). I see that viili wasn’t your favourite either – must try piima.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      That was a merry dance last night Choclette :) The 27th July post I cut and pasted late last night in the side bar was from Dan Lepard’s forum, where I carried on a conversation with the author of the Piima bread recipe. Otherwise it is something that you remember maybe from comments on a post? Who knows? Frustrating though…

      Here’s the link to that thread/conversation on Dan Lepard’s forum:

  5. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

    Thank you all of you for the lovely comments. I’ve been told to stay off the computer today, so I can’t write much right now! I’ll be back :)

  6. Tutak

    lovely piece of writing, I was just thinking it would be ironic with all the aspirant writers in the family if you got picked up by a publisher and turned into a book…..meanwhile here in cloudy Normandy there are ladies who bake artisanal bread for stalls in the market, and we bought a delicious chewy sourdoughish loaf and thought of you….William has brought his starter with him from North Wales and is in quest of interesting flour…..will post a picture of the resultant loaf if I can…xxxx

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Would love to see William’s loaf Tutak, give my love to everyone – we’ve had torrential rain here, so you are getting away lightly in cloudy Normandie. I was just given some lovely Panibois containers to try out, so I will briefly pretend to be a French artisan baker at some point soon. xx to all

  7. Jan

    What a beautiful piece of writing Joanna. I want to read the rest of the book. It brought to mind a line I have in my head from a book – and I can’t remember which one – which goes “and the clock ticked slowly on winter afternoons” Part of my childhood, spent in SW12, I spent with an old kitchen spoon digging up fragments of tiles from demolished Victorian or Edwardian houses. I remember the thrill of holding up shards with discernible patterns – shards of other peoples memories. As for where all the past years are, I sometimes think I’ve landed here and now with a whoosh and a thump and a rather surprised look on my face! Happy 100th-blogday and thanks for taking the time to share.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Oh, I remember those tiles Jan, I lived in Putney, SW15 till I was seven, and they were always appearing in the flower beds – what a vivid memory that brought back – thank you! And I know the whoosh and the thump and the surprise of being ‘here and now’. Did you ever read Aldous Huxley’s last book “Island”? A book of its times, but I did enjoy it years ago with the birds shouting ‘Here and now”. I googled your quote just now and got Middlemarch? Is that the one… it does sound very familiar… x Joanna

      1. Jan

        Yes, Middlemarch, thank you Joanna – isn’t google phenomenal. I haven’t read ‘Island’ but will look for it on my next sortie to the Library. This evening I cooked a Romertopf meal spurred on by Celia – and I photographed it! … I’m ‘seeing’ in blog-time now!

        Ed: I’ve put in a link to one of Celia’s Romertopf posts for the curious…..

  8. planejaner

    What a very lovely, rich bit of writing this was! I felt I could see everything as you described.
    thank you for taking me along for the journeying–

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