Archive | August, 2014

Seasons sewage and services

27 Aug

Yesterday, as part of my shopping, I bought some toilet paper. It started me off thinking about our dependence on technology and disconnectedness from nature. Living in a hamlet means that I am a little short of mains services. We have electricity and water and telephone lines, but no mains gas and no sewage. The toilet paper, together with the wee and poo, are flushed into a settlement tank. The overflow from the first tank goes into a second, and the second feeds into a third in which there is a pump to push the ‘grey water’ into a soakaway in the field behind the house. Every other year I have a waste tanker come around and suck out the sludge from tanks 1 and 2. It sounds a bit disgusting, but at least I know what happens to my waste.

Many children now have very little idea where their food comes from and are unable to connect milk, eggs and burgers with living animals. Food that was once seasonable is available throughout the year. The food I have in my garden follows the seasons. In winter I have leeks, parsnips and kale. In store I will have potatoes and apples and squash and things I have frozen or bottled. There is wine from my grapevines and liquers made from the soft fruit to warm us.

Currently I have a lot of beans to process, and tomatoes to make into soup and ketchup. The apples are almost ripe and we have had some windfalls. The damsons are nearly ready to harvest and there are raspberries and blackberries enough to be going on with. The courgettes are still coming in quite regularly. This is a fruitful time of year. I have just pulled some beetroot and will cook those for our evening meal. Food fresh from the garden tastes much better and you know how it has been produced.

I heard a complaint recently that the supermarket, Tesco, stocked over twenty varieties of apples and none of them were English. This made me laugh at the ignorance of the complainer. The apples on the hundreds of acres of orchards around here are not ripe yet, not even the earliest varieties. If English apples were in the shops they would have been in storage for ten months. Much of our remaining feasting culture comes in midwinter and many of the traditional foods are preserved, such as ham, redcurrant jelly, potatoes and carrots from store. To demand seasonal goods all year is to devalue traditions and to ignore the seasons.


Rat and Mouse

20 Aug

Ratatouille and Moussaka, that is.

The garden is full of courgettes, sweetcorn and beans. In the greenhouse are peppers (capsicum) and aubergines (egg-plant), not to mention the tomatoes. Then there are the onions and garlic, already gathered in. It feels like I am making an almost endless pot of ratatouille. I try to finish one before starting another. The surplus aubergines, tomatoes, garlic and onions go to making moussaka, with the addition of some minced lamb. It’s a good job my partner, Hazel, likes both of these. 

It seems like the beans will carry on producing for some while. I have been freezing some for a while now, and the salad compartment of the fridge seems to be constantly full of the green and purple things. The tradition in the UK is to grow runner beans, eaten as pods. These things climb high and crop heavily. The pods are eaten while quite young. They are just about inedible when the beans have set inside. The other beans I am growing are purple climbing French beans. The variety is Blauhilde. I prefer these as they have a good texture and an excellent sweet taste with no ‘string’ to remove from the sides. When cooked they turn a dark green.

The beetroot and leaf beet are also ready, and I have loads off raspberries to jam or freeze.

I am busy trying to publicise the new book, Eating the Owl at the same time. At least that is a metaphor of eating!

Getting there – wherever there is

18 Aug

The drafts have been edited and the graphics worked on. I am just about to order a draft copy before a print run. Many thanks to Hazel and Katie for working their way through the text and making helpful suggestions and more basic changes. I’ll do a quick visual check and prepare the copy.

Sincerity and extremism

12 Aug

Sincerity is the key to success. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.

I have lived on this spinning ball of rock for sixty years and can state that the worst things to happen in my time were all perpetrated by people who sincerely believed that what they were doing was the right thing.

From Pol Pot to the Islamic State they all claimed the moral high ground, and all caused the mass deaths of innocent bystanders. Because this was justified by their philosophy, be it political or religious.

They all claimed to see a Brave New World they were aiming to create, and all suffered paranoid delusions of persecution. And because they really believed, sincerely believed, it made any actions justifiable.

These movements can never allow doubt to creep in, or awkward questions to be asked. There is never tolerance of diversity of opinion. You are either with us or against us. My enemy’s enemy is my friend.

If we want to live in a pluralistic, liberal world then the worst sin is intolerance of the type described above. The only mortal sin or unforgiveable curse is in those categories. This kind of intolerance is the the one rule that is absolute. Tolerate almost anything except intolerance.

Cover mock up

7 Aug

Here is the mock up of the cover of the new book. Let me know what you think of it. All comments, even rude, will be read!


Perceptions of Palestine

6 Aug

It was far from being Britain’s finest hour. Britain controlled large parts of the Middle East from the end of the 1st World War. At the end of the 2nd World War they were given a mandate from the UN to keep peace in the area.  This they singularly failed to do. The problem, as I see it, is that policy was largely dictated by Richard Crosssman MP, who was unable, or unwilling, to differentiate between the local inhabitants of the area, the Palestinians, and the Arabic tribes who inhabited the neighbouring states, such as the Hashemites of Jordan. This was the British attitude at the time. All the Moslems were simplistically lumped together as ‘Arabs’.

To anyone who has visited Jordan, the difference is clear. The Palestinians do not share the same culture as their rulers, the Hashemites. They are primarily farmers and business people. The majority of the population of Jordan is now of Palestinian descent. As descendants of refugees they do not enjoy full political rights, but at least they were given shelter. In many cases their grandparents came across the border landless and without money. They had, in many cases, been dispossessed by the new state of Israel where their land was needed to support new immigrants.

After WWI the Ottoman Empire had disintegrated and there was officially no ‘country’ of Palestine. People still lived there, but they had no political protection. Britain could effectively do as they wished to the populace. After WWII around one hundred thousand Jewish survivors of the extermination camps and other vicious and irrational policies against their people, asked for leave to enter Palestine. It was Crossman who was largely responsible for granting them permission. The problem with that is that the land they settled in was inhabited by other people. To maintain that these peoples had no rights because they had no country is the height of sophistry.

The British Empire was fast disintegrating at the time. The country was exhausted from a lengthy war and effectively bankrupt. It could no longer maintain the control of the colonies. When trouble broke out between the Jewish settlers and the ‘Arabs’ the latter group was protected by the British. Some of the Jewish settlers became terrorists, the Irgun. The blowing up the King David Hotel in 1946 with 91 deaths, mostly British, was their doing. The hotel was the site of the central offices of the British Mandatory authorities of Palestine.

There was no enthusiasm in Britain to be stuck in the middle of such a dispute and they pulled out two years later. The United Nations passed the implementation of the partition plan of Mandatory Palestine in November 1947. On 14 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization, declared the establishment of a Jewish state of Israel, a state independent upon the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine the following day. The armies of the neighbouring Arab states invaded Palestine immediately and were all defeated in a series of brilliant victories by the nascent Israeli state.

No-one is arguing that the state of Israel has no right to exist. What was done was done and the inhabitants have every right to live there, even if they took the land by conquest. I just have huge sympathy for the Palestinians who have been right-royally shafted by just about everyone else who has had any influence in the region. It is about time that they were granted some political status; that their country is recognised and the Israeli economic blockade of the Gaza Strip is ended immediately. Or don’t the Palestinians deserve their own country? The US has to stop vetoing every attempt in the United Nations to recognise these people, and the British should admit that the current and ongoing problems in the region came about largely because of their failure to take care of the people who had lived there for many centuries.

In the garden

4 Aug

It’s been a pretty good summer in the garden and some things are developing.

Firstly, the main vine has produced a lot of grapes, if a little late, There should be enough for a decent quantity of wine.

Grapes - another sucker on the vine

Grapes – another sucker on the vine

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The following pictures are of some olives growing in Herefordshire, a rare green spider that forms a nest in a web, bending the edges of a (fig) leaf over and hanging upside down. black tomatoes in the greenhouse and the purple beans I am growing.