Category Archives: Childhood

Graves Memorial St David's Park

John Woodcock Graves and The Hobart Connection

The Cockermouth Poets

The New Bookshop, Main Street Cockermouth

My blogging style has become like that of the proverbial London bus. You wait for hours, days, weeks and then two come along together. Why is that? I have no answers as usual.

This is another looking back and ‘here and now’ post, this time about Dad’s anthology of the Cockermouth Poets, design and typesetting by Karen Sawrey. I don’t know if you remember if you have been reading this blog for a while but there were terrible floods back in November 2009., as now across Somerset, which hit the small market town of Cockermouth where Michael lives. I was reminded by seeing Prince Charles on the news that he too visited Cockermouth at that dreadful time.

The town of Cockermouth has a new flood risk management scheme in place which has been operational since 2013. This is a video of the new scheme from the perspective of David Duck at the Environment Agency. It has some interesting shots of the rivers Derwent and Cocker and a good description of the new scheme and you get to hear the distinctive tones of the Cumbrian accent and brings home how each situation is unique and needs a bespoke solution to its particular landscape.

Michael’s response when Cockermouth was getting back on its feet was to organize a poetry trail to brighten up the shop windows of Main Street which had been under so much water. 

The trail was a great success and many people asked if he could produce a book with the poems from the trail which he duly did with the help of Joan Petherington his co-editor and muggins here the typist and sub-sub-sub editor. The Guardian’s Northern correspondent Martin Wainright helped give the book some publicity and took it on holiday with him and wrote about it here, where it sat on a sandy beach many miles from home. The book has been reprinted now, the first run sold out and has done very well indeed for a poetry anthology, raising funds for the charities, Mountain Rescue and Save the Children.  Edit: Michael says to date they have raised £1500!

The Poets in Sydney by Celia of FigjamandlimeCordial

The Poets in Sydney courtesy of Celia @ FigjamandlimeCordial

The Cockermouth Poets visit Faaborg, Denmark, courtesy of Misky @ The Chalk Hills Journals

The Cockermouth Poets visit Faaborg, Denmark, courtesy of Misky @ The Chalk Hills Journals

Copies went to Sydney and to East Sussex and thence to Denmark and I was sent these sweet photos by Celia and Misky respectively which pleased the mighty editorix greatly.  

Michael however (never satisfied) hankered longingly after a photo of the book in Hobart, Tasmania.  Why?  Because one of the most famous poems in the book “D’ye Ken John Peel’ was written by one John Woodcock Graves,  who emigrated there and made a new life for himself as a sheep farmer. “It would be so nice” he said, with a far-off look in his eyes, ” if the book were there one day…”

And now we jump forward to the present day and across the world to a park in Hobart where we find Fran! 

Photo by Fran at Serendipity Farm, Tasmania

Photo by Fran at Serendipity Farm, Tasmania

There is a monument in St David’s Park to John Woodcock Graves and when I read that the glorious Fran of Serendipity Farm  had been to Hobart with her daughters and was planning a return journey in 2014,  I emailed her cheekily and asked her if she would maybe take the book to the park and take its photo at the monument. Fran embraced the project with her usual amazing enthusiasm and has sent me masses of photos. I wish I could have perched at the other end of the monument and basked in that hot Tassie sunshine for an hour!

This is my favourite of Fran's photos taken by her daughter Madeline

This is my favourite of Fran’s photos taken by her daughter Madeline

 I am going to surprise Michael with these photos later today.  

The Cockermouth Poets on John Graves Monument in St David's Park, Hobart

And a close up!

Thank you so much Fran and thank you Celia and Misky for playing ‘Pose the book’ ! You are all stars and treasures  and deeply kind people.

D’ye ken John Peel

D’ye ken John Peel with his coat so grey,

D’ye ken John Peel at the break of day,

D’ye ken John Peel when he’s far away,

With his hounds and his horn in the morning.

For the sound of his horn brought me from my bed

And the cry of his hounds which he oft times led,

Peel’s ‘view hullo’ would awaken the dead

Or the fox from his lair in the morning.

Yes I ken John Peel and Ruby too

Ranter and Ringwood and Bellman and True,

From a find to a check, from a check to a view

From a view to a death in the morning

Then here’s to John Peel with my heart and soul

Let’s drink to his health, let’s finish the bowl,

We’ll follow John Peel through fair and through foul

If we want a good hunt in the morning….

John Woodcock Graves (1795-1886)

I do not support hunting, but I am very fond of this song as Michael would sing it to us as small children along with ‘Molly Malone’ and ‘I went to the Animal Fair’ as part of a going to sleep settling down the children ritual. I can hear his deep almost mournful voice softly singing away in the dark as we snuggled down under the covers right now as I write. I have a feeling we all joined in with Peel’s ‘View halloo’ which was the dramatic climax of the song.

Funny the things you remember as you write a blog post. Here is a lovely recording of it being sung by Peter Dawson, not as good as Michael’s of course!

Did your parents sing to you when you were little and do you sing to your children and grandchildren if you have them? 

Joanna  – February 2014.

 

For the curious ….

John Peel the Huntsman celebrated in the song was a real person who was buried in Caldbeck, Cumbria:-

Left and Right Socks

Conviction, Uncertainty  and Falke Sensitive Trek Socks

P1070188

I read a piece about this yesterday and various points hit home and sometimes I wonder how we all survive the battleground of human communication and relationships, at times so complicated and yet I suspect it could all be much simpler if we all stopped taking our thoughts quite so seriously and just got on with the task at hand and then the next task and the next. I think it would all be easier if we focussed on being interested, compassionate, loving and trusting. Those seem to be the core healthy emotions to nurture. Continue reading

Growing Asier

I am possibly the most beautiful curl in the world

I am possibly the most beautiful curl in the world

Once upon a time there was a little girl whose Great Aunt Gerda lived in a wood far away across the dark North Sea. It took a night and a day to get there on a big ferry boat.  When the child visited her great aunt and other relatives she ate all sorts of exciting things that she didn’t eat at home, lots of the foods were fishy and salty, or smoky or pickled with herbs and vinegar and sugar.

One of the foods she thought of often but never tasted again till almost half a century had passed by was a delicious white firm pickle that her Great Aunt had made.  The little girl thought it was a special snow-white cucumber or maybe a marrow and that only her Great Aunt grew them –  she didn’t know much about pickles or growing vegetables and as far as I remember she thought that vegetables only grew on farms like the pictures in her books.

She didn’t know what the vegetable was exactly because the relatives called it asier. It was crunchy, golden-white, sweet and fragrant and she remembered it with longing for many years.

At home there were imported Polish gherkins with exotic names like Krakus and Globus which were also very good, but not the same and all the time she carried in her taste memory the flavour and the texture of the white asier, the sort her Great Aunt Gerda had made and given her in the house in the woods all those years ago.

Many years later the internet arrived and online shopping arrived fast in its wake, amongst the sites that sprang up to take advantage of this brave new world were many food sites. The woman found that she could order pickled asier from one of these sites and ordered several jars, but even though the taste was close, it wasn’t quite right and she was a little bit sad and downcast.

Then one day she mentioned the asier to her friend Misky the Poet,  who knew about these things on account of being married to Peder the Dane and Misky knew all about the asier and wrote an Asier Pickle Post specially for her old chum about how to make the pickle and advised her on how to nurture the plant.

Kind Misky sent her special asier seed and asier pickling spices from the country of the Great Aunt, so that she could not only make the pickle but grow her own asier.  She sowed the seeds as instructed and waited patiently for the asier to grow.  It was a very cold and long winter and an even colder and longer spring and only one of the seeds germinated.

Hiding but growing

Hiding but growing

The asier grew and grew and got put into a bigger pot. She watered and waited and watered and waited and soon the asier grew flowers and tendrils and the bumble bees visited the bright yellow flowers and hummed and hawed and left again and then one day there was a Baby Asier!

By George I think it's growing!

By George I think it’s growing!

The weather got hotter and hotter and the asier got bigger and bigger…

"My vegetable love should grow vaster than empires and more slow" John Donne

“My vegetable love should grow vaster than empires and more slow” John Donne

…until it was nearly the size of one of Peder the Dane’s shoes and she took it off the mother plant.

Asier Glory

She ate the first asier just as it was because she was over-excited and wanted to see what it tasted like and it was So Much Better than the watery hydroponically grown idenitikt cucumbers from the shop. This asier had  firm white flesh, very few seeds and was crunchy and just delicious!

Now she is waiting for the four new babies that have appeared on the plant to grow and hopefully she will finally make the pickle just like her Great Aunt made all those years ago. If not this year, then next year – when she will grow more than one asier –  she is very patient.

Here's looking at you kid!

Here’s looking at you kid!

The moral of this story is (with apologies to James Thurber)

Don’t pick your asier before they are size 42 as one asier on its own will never make a jar of pickle!

Have you ever grown anything just for the sake of a memory ?

NB: To read all about the fascinating history of the cucumber, one of ‘the ancient foods of Ur’ you could do worse than start with Wikipeda whence originate all the factoids you could possibly want.

I came across this Danish article about growing cucumbers for making this variety of pickle and put it into Google Translate and they suggested a variety called Fatum, which I see is sold by Marshalls in the UK as another alternative which is apparently less prone to mildew than the Langelands Kaempe variety.  I do like growing these big cucumbers !

Cheese and Onion Crispy Soft Rolls

4th July 2013

cheese and onion crisps Golden Wonder

I used to be completely obsessed with cheese and onion crisps and I suspect I am not alone in this. So you are in for a rambling old post today with a recipe at the end if you keep reading. Golden Wonder were the brand of my childhood, now overtaken by Walkers I believe, who have coloured their cheese and onion packets blue which confuses me utterly, because in my mind cheese and onion will always be green.  The power of the brand is strong in my mental map.

I ate these every day on the 716 Green Line Bus that swooped down into Hammersmith Broadway on its cross-capital journey (from Welwyn Garden City to Chertsey and Hitchin)  and away to Kingston on Thames after a long school day. Continue reading

Soup and Pancakes

Mainly out of curiosity and a dash of nostalgia I recently bought a copy of Scandilicious  (Saltyard Books May 2011), by Signe Johansen. I was just watching her promotional video on Amazon today and reflected on how different her upbringing was from mine!

Min Danske Mor arrived in England in the fifties from Sweden, where she had lived from the age of thirteen, armed with two Swedish cookbooks and only the vaguest notion of how to feed a family.  She struggled with the butchers, who cut the meat up differently, the imperial weights and measures, unfamiliar dishes with names like Yorkshire Pudding and relied on a handful of suppers which she could make. We never had puddings, but ate large quantities of salad as our second course, always with a mustardy  French vinaigrette.  Continue reading

The Magic Glove – Searching for childhood treasure!

The Magic Glove

This is a page from a dimly remembered childhood picture book called The Magic Glove (or The Magic Mitten). It is based on a Ukrainian folk tale and was translated into English by Irina Zheleznova and illustrated by Evgenii Rachev.

The story begins…

An old man was walking through the forest one day with his Dog. He walked and he walked and he dropped his mitten…

A mouse comes along and makes his home in the glove,  and, one by one, ever bigger and bigger animals turn up to join Crunch-Munch the mouse who welcomes them all in to the cosy interior of the mitten.

The glove mysteriously manages to accommodate them all, their common need to be warm and hyggelig in the cold winter overriding their natural differences.

I always thought of this magic glove as being somehow like my parents’ bed, where we would climb in on cold mornings and get toasty warm together – we probably read this book there too, reinforcing the connection in my mind between story and family.

Smiley Wiley The Fox The Magic GloveI looked for it on and off over the years in secondhand bookshops and then one day came across the Booksleuth forum on Abebooks, a wonderful place where you can go and post messages saying ” I read a book which had a magic glove and it has characters called Smily-Wily the Fox and Hop Stop the Frog” and someone, somewhere knows, or has a good guess at what that book was.  It’s a great game and test of your memory too, I found myself making suggestions at the same time.

Once you have a good idea of the title and author then you can post a ‘Want it’ on Abebooks and if it turns up in a secondhand book store or if it is listed on their huge site, you’re sorted!  I’ve found all sorts of lost book treasure that way in the last few years.  The Internet at its best is the most amazing Magic Glove! I found the cover of my Moomin book for the Piima bread post through the Internet and people are in general so helpful, even though we are strangers to one another.  It’s as if we are all enthused with the magic of the connections offered to us in this extraordinary way.  This post is beginning to sound suspiciously like Thought for the Day, so I think I’ll stop now…

Have you got any search tips or absolutely favourite sites that have helped you find something special?

Edit: I’ve looked up the illustrator, Evgenii Rachev – there’s a retrospective of some of his work here and if you go to this lovely site created by his son-in-law you can read the whole story and see all the illustrations, not just the ones I’ve scanned in here from my copy  and two other stories online.  There’s lots of information about Rachev here whose illustrations are in museums now. It’s amazing what you find when you start looking!