Monthly Archives: February 2011

Bread Pudding

Bread Pudding has been around since the 11th century and is an excellent way of using up stale bread.  Nowadays, shop bought bread doesn’t go stale in the same way as home-made bread, because of the preservatives, but crusts or loaf ends sometimes get left behind, so you can use those.  I had a bag of white rolls which Boy the Elder brought back from Scout camp.  We ate a couple, but we’re not really white bread people, so they went into the bowl with some seeded, wholemeal crusts which were on the turn.

I made this yesterday evening and we had it hot for pudding with cream and then we all had a slice, cold, for breakfast.  And very nourishing it was too; bread, milk, eggs, dried fruit and not too much sugar – that’ll stick ‘em to the ground.

BREAD PUDDING

Utensils:
1 x large mixing bowl
1 x grater
1 x pair of freshly washed hands
1 x oven-proof dish, about 8×10” – buttered
Foil

Ingredients:
8oz / 240g bread
10oz / 300g dried fruit (I used raisins)
2 teaspoons mixed spice (pumpkin spice for the Colonies…)
½ pint / 300ml milk
1 large egg (or 2 bantam eggs)
3oz / 90g dark brown sugar
the grated zest of 1 orange OR lemon
3oz / 90g butter – melted
2 tablespoons demerara sugar*
a little nutmeg to taste

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 160 / 3 / 325
Tear the bread into pieces and place in the large bowl with all the other ingredients except the butter and demerara sugar
Leave to soak for 20 minutes
Mash it all up together with your hands, squeezing and squelching until it’s well mixed
Add the melted butter and stir in well
Pour the mixture into the ovenproof dish
Sprinkle with the demerara sugar and a little nutmeg
Bake for 1 ½ hours, covering with foil for the last half hour to stop it browning too much
Cut into squares and serve hot or cold

* If you haven’t got Demerara sugar, mix 1 tablespoon of white and 1 tablespoon of dark brown sugar together

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Filed under Food, Leftovers, Recipes, Storecupboard

Sunday Poem 77

Francis Thompson was an English poet and ascetic. He was born in Preston, Lancashire in 1859 and was the son of a doctor.  He began studying medicine at Manchester University but had no real interest in the subject and never practiced as a doctor himself.  In 1885, he decided to move to London and become a writer.

Things went horribly wrong and he ended up selling matches and newspapers to earn money and during this time he became an opium addict, although it had originally been prescribed for a medical condition.      In desperation, in 1888, he sent some poetry to the magazine ‘Merrie England’ and the kindly proprietors, seeing value in his work, rescued him from his destitution.

Although he eventually achieved success with his poetry, a life of poverty, addiction and poor health  left him virtually an invalid.  At one point he attempted suicide, but a vision of Thomas Chatterton (a Romantic poet who had killed himself 100 years previously) appeared to him and changed his mind. He eventually died of tuberculosis in 1907, aged only 47.

His most famous poem was ‘The Hound of Heaven’ and G. K. Chesterton said shortly after his death that “with Francis Thompson we lost the greatest poetic energy since Browning”.

Today’s poem is a request from Outa Spaceman Being: 53, a regular reader of and commenter on this blog.  I’m going to take the unusual step of including a musical version of this song which I think is very lovely.  You could listen and read the words at the same time.  Listen here.

No Strange Land – by Francis Thompson (1859-1907)

O world invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air–
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumour of thee there?

Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!–
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.

The angels keep their ancient places–
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
‘Tis ye, ’tis your estrangèd faces,
That miss the many-splendored thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry–and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob’s ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry- clinging to Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Genesareth, but Thames!

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Shire Books and The Joy of Lavatories (as well as many other subjects of note)

We are blessed in Market Harborough, as we have a Waterstones, an independent bookshop – Quinns, and a couple of excellent second-hand bookshops.  As you go through the door of Quinns, there is a rack of Shire Books which will have any right-minded person drooling and cooing at the boggling array of deliciously English subject matter.

Shire Books was set up in 1962, producing low-priced, factual paperbacks on the most astonishing range of subjects which catered for the enthusiasms and niche interests of ordinary people all over the country.

The only problem was, that despite the indisputably interesting content, they began to look really dull and old-fashioned in their layout and with black and white photography and illustrations.

But then in 2007, the owner retired and sold the company to Osprey Publishing.  In 2008 a major revamp of its list of titles as well as an overhaul of content and cover designs, was undertaken, resulting in the gorgeous and irresistible collection of books on sale today. Even the paper they’re printed on feels lovely. And they’re still cheap.

I have taken the reckless step of obtaining the current Shire Catalogue and, because I am a dangerous obsessive, I have typed up the list (leaving the catalogue untouched for posterity) so that a) I can remember what I’ve got and b) I can mark the books with which to treat myself each month.

The First Six

My latest purchase is entitled ‘Privies and Water Closets’ (making this a Bog Blog?) and the front cover features a delightful illustration c.1814 by Martinet of Paris, of a large gentleman with a rather strained expression, sitting on a commode.  The book contains a beautifully written, lavishly illustrated history and technology of the lavatory, beginning with an interesting explanation of where we get our words for ‘toilet’ from.

I am allowing myself two Shire Books per month and I now have four weeks to agonise about which two to buy next.  Shall it be:-

British Family Cars of the 1950s and 60s?
British Pigs?
The Victorian Workhouse?
Old Medical and Dental Instruments?
Fields, Hedges and Ditches?
Women of the First World War? or
Nailmaking?   Who wouldn’t want to own a book about nailmaking?

Then again, it’s still February, and March is only a matter of days away…

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Filed under Collecting, Leisure, Poetry, Literature, Music and Art, Reviews

Home Made Sweets 3 – Coconut Ice

Coconut Ice

I love coconut ice.  Unfortunately my children do not. 
Their friends do, though, and they love me for it.
This is a good recipe for you to do with your children over half term.

You might also like to have a go at Fudge and Truffles.

COCONUT ICE

Utensils:
1 x large heavy based pan
1 x cooking thermometer (ideal but not necessary)
1 x shallow 8×10” cake tin (20x25cm ish?)

Ingredients:
1lb / 480g granulated sugar
¼ pint /150ml milk
5oz / 150g desiccated coconut
pink or green food colouring
a little butter for greasing the tin

Method:
Grease the tin with a little butter
Put the milk and sugar into the pan and put it on a low heat, stirring continuously until the sugar has dissolved
Bring to the boil, then continue on a rolling boil, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches soft ball* or 14oC
Take great care not to let it burn or you will completely spoil the flavour
Take the pan off the heat and add the coconut, mixing it in well
Pour half the mixture into the tin and pop it in the fridge to cool
Add a little food colouring to the remaining mixture and stir well in
Pour the coloured mixture over the first, white, half in the tin
When cool, mark into bars or squares with a sharp knife
Leave to go completely cold then cut it up properly

* I would recommend buying a sugar thermometer if you don’t already have one, as it saves a lot of time dropping boiling gloop into saucers of water.  If you don’t have a thermometer, the mixture has reached ‘Soft Ball’ when a teaspoon of the mixture dropped into cold water forms a soft ball when rolled between your finger and thumb.

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Filed under Children, Food, Food Presents, Recipes

Black Swan – A Review

Natalie Portman as the Black Swan

As it is half term, we threw caution to the winds and went to the pictures on a Monday night.  We normally go on Wednesdays to Kettering because a) we can get a free ticket through Orange Wednesdays and b) parking is free at Kettering.  However, I couldn’t face the idea of sitting through any of the films the boys wanted to see, so we agreed that they would watch ‘Big Moma’s Fathers and Sons’ (which they enjoyed enormously) and I would finally go to see ‘Black Swan’ as they were showing at practically the same time at the Leicester Cinema de Lux.

I don’t think I’ve ever come out of a cinema feeling so emotionally exhausted and generally troubled.

Now I must explain what it’s like going to the pictures with me.  I take it very personally.  When I watch a film, I am with them in every scene; I cry pitifully when I am sad, happy, emotional, empathising or sympathising.  I jump out of my skin when I’m startled and I offer audible advice if I think the characters are about to make a terrible mistake.  I hide behind my hands to avoid unpleasantness and I have been known to complain out loud if a film doesn’t end as I think it should.

So.  First of all, the lead character, Nina (Natalie Portman) is thoroughly unlikeable and is undoubtedly the sort of woman I would never tire of slapping.  Her bedroom is pink, full of soft toys and screams of her emotional and sexual stunting.  She is constantly on the verge of tears, uptight, unable to express herself, repressed and neurotic.  Of course, she is a ballet dancer in search of perfection, and is consequently distastefully thin and obsessive. 

However, no-one else seems to like her either.  Her mother is a failed ballet dancer who lives vicariously through her daughter and is, herself, a frightening, pantomime witch of a woman.  She wants her daughter’s success but hates her for it with the same breath.

The crux of the film is that Nina is chosen to play the Swan Queen in Swan Lake which requires her to play both the White Swan who is sweet and lovely and the Black Swan who is dark, visceral and treacherous.  Nina cannot find the Black Swan within herself and the bullying, sexually predatory habits of the company’s director do not help.

She hallucinates all the way through the film and we are left wondering whether this is because she’s psychotic, anorexic or simply stressed out of her brains trying to draw from within herself a character that simply isn’t there.  But we never really know what’s real or imagined and she’s treated so manipulatively by everyone round her that even when something potentially nice happens, you’re on the edge of your seat waiting for it to turn nasty.  And it frequently does.

The sound engineer on this film should have won many awards.  Whenever she pulls a muscle, strains a ligament, splits a toenail or obsessively scratches her back, we are treated to an auditory manifestation of the fragmentation of her body and consequently her mind.  It’s like people who see numbers as colours – we are made to hear corruption as sound, and very unpleasant it is too.

Skin is also used as a metaphor for protection, safety and a covering to keep the nastiness inside.  Nina scratches her back as others might bite their nails.  I was put in mind of Eustace in ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ in which Aslan makes him tear off his dragon skin to reveal the pure, re-born person within.  At any moment I expected black feathers to erupt, bleeding from her shoulder blades as she struggled for her inner darkness.  But enough about that.

As for the lesbian sex scene (which I know has lured many into the film), we are not allowed to enjoy the potential eroticism of it because, by this time, we know how the film is working and there is the terrible fear that something horrific and disgusting is going to happen. Again, the sound effects lead us down a very uncomfortable path and, when it didn’t end horribly, I felt dirty, as though I was colluding in an abusive pornography of my own invention.

The ending is a terrible, horrific and tragic fragmentation of mind and body and yet… and yet…. it felt like the only humane and satisfactory outcome.

See the film by all means (if you think you’re hard enough), but give yourself time to think about kittens and snowdrops and rainbows  for a while before you go to bed.

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Nettles – the free alternative to Spinach

In which the Wartime Housewife points out that nettles gathered from the hedgerow are free whilst spinach costs over £1 per bag.  Plus a recipe for Egg Florentine Au Naturel.

Nettles - free food

While Boy the Elder was tramping through the Brecon Beacons this weekend, Boy the Younger and I decided to strike out into the countryside ourselves.  When BTY fell off his scooter for the 3rd time, he got, complaining miserably that he had been stung.  And so he had.  The very first nettles were peeping through the brown, sodden remains of last year’s foliage, vivid green and packed full of venom.

It won’t be long before we can start having Nettle Soup again! we cheered.  But nettles are a perfectly good vegetable in their own right.  The other dish I really like to make is Egg Florentine which is usually made with spinach (which is the ‘Florentine’ bit) but can be made equally well with nettles. It would make an incredibly nourishing breakfast dish as well as a light lunch.

How to prepare nettles for eating

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you to wear rubber or thick gardening gloves when harvesting nettles.  Always use the young tender leaves or the tender tops off older plants.  Get rid of any tough stalks and give them a good wash to get rid of any insects or anything else you wouldn’t want to eat.  Then treat them just like fresh spinach.

EGG FLORENTINE

Utensils:
Rubber gloves
1 x small saucepan or poaching pan
2 x medium saucepan

Ingredients:
½ carrier bag of nettles
4 eggs
1 knob of butter
1  quantity of cheese sauce – see below
a little paprika

Method:
Make the cheese sauce and keep it warm
Place the nettles into a medium saucepan with a little water and a knob of butter
Cover and steam until tender
Soft boil or poach the eggs
Drain the nettles and divide between 4 plates
Place one egg onto the top of each pile of nettles
Pour cheese sauce over the top of each
Sprinkle with a little paprika and serve immediately

Cheese sauce
2oz / 60g butter
2oz / 60g wholemeal flour (or 2 really heaped tablespoons)
4oz / 120g cheese – grated
½ pint / 300ml milk
1 pinch mustard power / ¼  teaspoon ready made mustard

Method:
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan then slowly
Stir in the flour and mustard powder to make thick paste (a roux)
Add the milk a bit at a time, stirring constantly
Simmer gently until the sauce has thickened slightly and then stir in the cheese

The sauce can also be done in a bowl in the microwave.  Follow the steps above but instead of simmering in a pan, pop the bowl in the microwave for about 3 minutes, taking it out to stir occasionally.

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Filed under Food, Hedgerows, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes, Seasonal

The Two Minute Review – 9: South Riding

TV Mini Series:   South Riding
                                  based on the novel by Winifred Holtby

Time:                      BBC1 – 9pm

Starring:               Anna Maxwell Martin, David Morrissey,
                                 Penelope Wilton, John Henshaw,
                                 Douglas Henshall

I remember this series from the 1970s and I’ve been looking forward to it for weeks.  It didn’t disappoint.  It’s 1934 and a young, glamorous and progressive teacher, played by Anna Maxwell Martin,  arrives in the South Riding of Yorkshire after years of teaching in London, applying for the post of Head Mistress at the local girls’ school.  She is given the post but she’s a controversial choice.  One of the Governors in particular, the endlessly charismatic David Morrissey, is particularly unhappy, but he has problems of his own…

Stellar cast, engaging characters, breathtaking photography, some lovely train shots at the beginning – I can’t wait for the next episode. 
Catch the first instalment on iPlayer if you missed it.

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Sunday Poem 76

Edwin Arlington Robinson was born in Maine, USA in 1869. His family was poor and, although he attended Harvard for two years, he could not afford to continue.  He moved into a house in Greenwich Village with other artists and writers and, in the 1890s, he started to publish poetry.  With the help of President Roosevelt, he published more work and acquired a job, which meant that he was able to support himself and devote his spare time to his poetry.

His poetry was popular and he won three Pullitzer Prizes. Although he wasn’t groundbreaking or particularly innovative in his style or subject matter, he certainly gained legendary status in America.  He died in 1935.

This poem* is a stern warning to all of us that we never truly know what people’s lives are like and that the grass is rarely greener on the other side.

Richard Cory – by Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935)

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favoured, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
and went without meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

*  I found this poem in a lovely anthology called ‘Best Loved Poems’ ed. Neil Philip.  It has many familiar pieces but also poems I haven’t come across before, by people I haven’t heard of.  It’s also beautifully illustrated by Isobelle Brent.

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Shortbread: If it’s good enough for Camilla Parker-Bowles…

 

Assorted Shortbread

In which the Wartime Housewife gives two recipes for Shortbread: one plain recipe with variations and one recipe using ground almonds.

Any of you who listen to The Archers will have heard about the appearance of Camilla Parker Bowles (Duchess of Cornwall and wife of Prince Charles) and the great Shortbread Debacle.  The Archers was accused earlier in the week of advertising Duchy Original Shortbread, but this was cleverly counteracted when Camilla visited Grey Gables and enjoyed their shortbread so much that she requested to meet the diffident chef, Ian.  Marvellous stuff.

Therefore, in honour of The Archers’ storyline, I am giving you not one, but two recipes for shortbread, which you can sample to see which one you like best. 

To ring the changes you can add other nice things to give a bit of variation.  I used 2oz/60g of chocolate drops to one batch and 2oz/60g dried chopped cranberries to another.  You could also use a tablespoon of finely grated orange rind, raisins, or other dried fruit.  Add these at the ‘binding into a thick paste’ stage.

The utensils and method are pretty much the same for both types.

RECIPE 1: BOG STANDARD SHORTBREAD

Utensils:
1 x large mixing bowl
1 x greased baking tray OR
1 x 8” / 20cm shallow cake tin
1 x wire cooling rack
1 x rolling pin

Ingredients:
8oz / 240g white self raising flour
a pinch of salt
3oz / 90g white granulated sugar
4oz / 120g butter
2floz / 60ml milk

Method:
Preheat the oven to  160 / 3 / 325
Sift the flour into a bowl with the salt
Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs
Stir in the sugar
Add the milk and mix with your hands until it forms a thick paste
Turn out onto the work surface and knead until smooth
Roll out to a thickness of ½”/ 1.25cm
Cut into desirable shapes or press into a cake tin
Bake for 15-20 minutes until just starting to get a bit of colour
Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the baking tray
When cool place on a wire rack to harden off

RECIPE 2:  SHORTBREAD USING GROUND ALMONDS OR RICE FLOUR

Ingredients:
4oz / 120g plain flour
1oz / 30g ground almonds OR
1 oz / 30g rice flour
a pinch of salt
3oz / 90g butter
2oz / 60g castor sugar (plus a bit extra for sprinkling on top)

Method:
Preheat the oven to  160 / 3 / 325
Sift the flour into a bowl with the salt and sugar
Rub in the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs
Start to squash the mixture together with your hands until it forms a solid ball of dough
Press the mixture into the cake tin with your fingers, making sure it’s nice and even
Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes
Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes
Cut the shortbread into12 and sprinkle with sugar
Leave it in the tin until it has become complete cold and hard

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Wills’ Cigarette Cards No 3: A Broom Rack

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Filed under General DIY, History, Household Hints, Wills Cigarette Cards

Freelance Unbound says useful things about online journalism

I know that quite a few of my readers host blog sites of their own, all excellent in their different subject matter and many of them are listed under the Useful and Interesting Blogs in the sidebar.

One of these is Freelance Unbound.  Freelance is a successful, working journalist and lecturer in Internet Journalism.  Without him, The Wartime Housewife would never have ventured into the ether and he is a constant help and inspiration to me.

He has recently written a couple of articles which would be extremely useful to anyone who writes on the internet or hosts a web or blog site.  Have a look at these:-

5 key skills for online journalism students

 

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6 Clicks from the Wartime Housewife

Please can everyone read this article in The Dabbler, an online, cultural magazine blog that is well worth reading.

Today it features your very own Wartime Housewife plus considerably more varied and interesting stuff from other people.

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The changing face of breakfast … and hopefully my bottom

 

 

My breakfast table

In which the Wartime Housewife takes a look at our dietary habits and why breakfast used to be more important  than it is now and what the implications of that may be.

Sister the First gave me a ‘Modern Cookery Illustrated’ for Christmas which I am struggling to date, as the bookplate is inscribed in 1949-50 but the pictures are clearly pre-war and there is no mention of rationing of any kind.  They also refer to ‘ketchup’ as ‘catsup’, if that’s a clue. There is, however, talk of economy and of  helping to build a fitter, happier Empire.  Now she’s talking my language.

Now another event which has made me look at this book again is one which, I have to confess, fills me with some embarrassment. Deep breath.  Three weeks ago I embarked on a diet.  I have become rather wobbly and I need to lose three stone.  The diet I have chosen is a low carbohydrate, high protein affair which suits my metabolism very well.  One of the important aspects of this diet is having a decent breakfast which will keep you full and give you energy until lunchtime, although they do recommend a healthy snack mid morning and afternoon to try to stop you eating chocolate or cake.

I have talked about the importance of breakfast before, but why do we feel the need to snack all the time?  If you read household manuals or cookery books from the past, there’s no talk of snacking – a small slice of cake at teatime perhaps, where one sits down with a cup of tea in a social way – but no snacking.  I think it’s probably bad habits, not eating sufficiently satisfying food at mealtimes, combined with lack of satisfaction at work and home leading to boredom and dissatisfaction, and lack of exercise. 

Here is a sample of the breakfast menus for a typical week from ‘Modern Cookery Illustrated’.

Sunday:    Baked Apples, Grilled Kidneys and Bacon

Monday:  Porridge, Grilled Bloaters

Tuesday:   Cereal, Brawn

Wednesday:   Fresh Fruit, Fried Mackerel

Thursday:   Cereal, Savoury Omelet

Friday:   Porridge, Kippers

Saturday:   Stewed Prunes, Scrambled Egg

They then go on to eat two more decent meals, the main one being at lunchtime, with a marginally lighter affair in the evening – both with puddings.  There’s plenty of protein and roughage, a little lighter on the veg. than I might be, but they usually compensate for this with fruit.

Now, not everyone was doing manual work, although women were much more vigorous in the cleaning of their homes and probably did more walking.  The other key point is that portions were smaller and I really believe this to be one of the biggest dietary problems and one which is flagged up by all the pedlars of diets.  Control your portion sizes.

In the last three weeks I have only lost half a stone (all of which came off in the first week) but I have lost inches off my wobbliest bits.  The biggest inch loss has been since I started exercising.  I am engaged in manual occupation for chunks of my week and I have found that having a bigger breakfast has given me so much more energy.  I do a bit of stretching and crunching in the evening (and I mean ‘a bit’) and I have also started having a fast walk every day, starting with two miles and then I shall build up to longer routes.  I am convinced that this is how I will regain my former, slenderer shape. 

You see, it’s official.  Bacon and eggs makes you skinny!  Hurrah!

For more hearty breakfast ideas, click on the links below:

https://wartimehousewife.wordpress.com/2010/08/16/breakfast-is-all-the-raj

https://wartimehousewife.wordpress.com/2010/02/16/shrove-tuesday

https://wartimehousewife.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/breakfast-plus-a-recipe-for-crepes

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I hate digital television

I hate digital televisionWhen I moved into my house, I had to call out an Aerial Bod to sort out my TV.  As I was under the impression that we were all going to transfer over to digital at any moment, I opted to receive only digital signals, which was also cheaper.  I really wish I hadn’t. 

  • I am absolutely sick to death of sound blanks which often result in critical dialogue being missed
  • I am sick of the picture stalling
  • I am sick of momentary pixellations
  • I am sick of channels being removed with no notice, only to find that if I call out The Bod again, they can be re-tuned – at a cost naturally.
  • I am sick of not being able to record programmes unless I buy expensive and unwanted equipment
  • I am also sick of digital radio with it’s poorer quality transmission that is out of sync with analogue.

If it wasn’t for BBC4, Yesterday and Dave, I would be tempted to return to analogue – except it would cost me another £100 to call The Bod out again to change it.

Bollocks.

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Sunday Poem – 75

We’ve heard from Mr Hughes before so there’s no need for lengthy introduction.  This was a request from Dave Stewart, one of our regular readers and, seeing as lambing has started, it seems an appropriate time to wheel it out.

Sheep (Part 1)  from ‘Season Songs’ by Ted Hughes (1930-1998  )

The sheep has stopped crying.
All morning in her wire-mesh compound
On the lawn, she has been crying
For her vanished lamb. Yesterday they came.
Then her lamb could stand, in a fashion,
And make some tiptoe cringing steps.
Now he has disappeared.
He was only half the proper size,
And his cry was wrong. It was not
A dry little hard bleat, a baby-cry
Over a flat tongue, it was human,
Like no lamb I ever heard. Its hindlegs
Cowered in under its lumped spine,
Its feeble hips leaned towards
Its shoulders for support. Its stubbly
White wool pyramid head, on a tottery neck,
Had sad and defeated eyes, pinched, pathetic,
Too small, and it cried all the time
Oh! Oh! staggering towards
Its alert, baffled, stamping, storming mother
Who feared our intentions. He was too weak
To find her teats, or to nuzzle up in under,
He hadn’t the gumption. He was fully
Occupied just standing, then shuffling
Towards where she’d removed to. She knew
He wasn’t right, she couldn’t
make him out. Then his rough-curl legs,
So stoutly built, and hooved
With real quality tips,
Just got in the way, like a loose bundle
Of firewood he was cursed to manage,
Too heavy for him, lending sometimes
Some support, but no strength, no real help.
When we sat his mother on her tail, he mouthed her teat,
Slobbered a little, but after a minute
Lost aim and interest, his muzzle wandered,
He was managing a difficulty
Much more urgent and important. By evening
He could not stand. It was not
That he could not thrive, he was born
With everything but the will –
That can be deformed, just like a limb.
Death was more interesting to him.
Life could not get his attention.
So he died, with the yellow birth-mucus
Still in his cardigan.
He did not survive a warm summer night.
Now his mother has started crying again.
The wind is oceanic in the elms
And the blossom is all set.

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