25 September 2017

Wrap

Last week The Yorkshire Pudding Wrap went viral. Essentially it's a medium sized flattened Yorkshire pudding filled with roast meat, some vegetables and thick gravy. The pudding is then wrapped - rather like a burrito. No knife or fork required - you just bite into the thing.

Customers have been queuing up to get their paws on Yorkshire Pudding Wraps at the various York Roast Co outlets across the country. Below a blonde food journalist from London has her manicured fingers wrapped around one of the said items, preparing to plunge it between her pink lips. She will not be disappointed.
And below these words, Yorkshire Pudding Wraps are being prepared for hungry customers who are banging their fists on the counter while chanting, "We Want Yorkshire Pudding!"
Her's a snip from the menu of York Roast Co.
If the popularity of these wraps increases further, it is perfectly possible that I will be asked to appear in TV commercials endorsing Yorkshire Pudding Wraps. The end slogan will be "It's a Wrap!" - delivered in the manner of a famous film director - perhaps someone like Alfred Hitchcock who was, I understand, often mistaken for a giant Yorkshire pudding.

24 September 2017

Blinded

The Blind Girl in Hiroshima (1963)
Photograph by Christer Strömholm

23 September 2017

Shane

One Christmastime, during my university days, I secured a job as a temporary night watchman. It was at a caravan (American: trailer) factory on Swinemoor Lane in Beverley.

The first night I turned up early for my shift so that Bob, the head security man, could show me the ropes. I entered the small reception building by the factory gates and was taken into the back room.

"Don't be scared!" laughed Bob. "He'll not hurt you!"

A massive hirsute Alsatian or German Shepherd was nuzzling my groin with his big snout. Bob said that his name was Shane, Every three hours through the night it would be my responsibility to lead Shane round the factory complex so that he could sniff out potential trouble such as intruders or electrical faults.

After showing me the key box and providing emergency phone numbers, Bob walked me round the factory where thirty odd caravans were in different stages of construction - from skeletal chassis to upholstered palaces on wheels.

Soon I was back in the reception building. The working day was finishing. Workers clocked out and before too long there was just me alone on that five acre factory site with Shane. It was already pitch dark

I made myself a mug of tea and switched on the radio. Shane seemed to be eyeing me as if I was a massive juicy bone but Bob had promised that he would not hurt me. At about nine o'clock it was time to do our first tour of the factory. I picked up Shane's lead and he was up off his bed under the counter like lightning with his big pink tongue lolling and his tail wagging like a huge furry metronome.

We circled the factory, checking doors and entered the administration building with its shiny boardroom. I even had a swivel on the chairman's leather seat. It was like a throne.

Over the next four weeks I became very attached to Shane. He was always excited to see me. Between factory tours, I did university work, listened to the radio and drank tea.

One bleak, wintry night someone pressed the buzzer on the locked side gate. Shane went wild, barking like The Hound of the Baskervilles. It was two night cops. They were after a rest and a chinwag in the warm reception building and perhaps a cup of tea too. Apparently, they had been expecting Steve, the regular nightwatchman to be on duty. I think Shane recognised them so he soon settled down. They never came back which was fine with me. Police officers always made me feel rather uncomfortable.

Another night as we were walking round the factory perimeter, Shane growled and then barked. He pulled me to one of the rear doors. I unlocked it and let Shane inside. Thirty seconds later he returned with a workman's flat cap clamped in his jaws.  What an amazing sense of smell he had!

And one lazy Sunday afternoon as I was reading "As I Lay Dying" by William Faulkner, Shane's ears pricked up. He was up from his bed and barking like crazy. I led him to the perimeter fence and far away - perhaps half a mile - across the flat marshland that bordered the factory I could just make out  two or three kids playing. That's what Shane had noticed. What amazing hearing he had!

That month long temporary job was the best one I ever had. I was paid handsomely and most of the time I was sitting in a warm room, reading or studying, drinking tea and listening to the radio with my new best friend - Shane. So you see that in spite of my antipathy towards dogs, I have known that special wordless bond that dog owners often feel.

22 September 2017

Dogs

Above - it's the new South Korean President Moon Jae-in with his rescue dog - a four year old  cross-breed called Tori. The President has another older dog called Maru and a stray cat he adopted called Jing-jing. The image suggests that Koreans really do love dogs... and not just on their plates.

In recent years there has been a marked decline in the consumption of dog flesh in South Korea. At the same time there  has been a corresponding growth in the ownership of pet dogs and a shift in attitudes towards dogs. President Moon Jae-in has been happy to promote a more westernised relationship with dogs even though it was always the case that thousands of Korean families had pet dogs in their homes.

To the majority of Muslims the very idea of eating pork is horrendous. To millions of Hindus the thought of eating beef is outrageous. According to legend, the French eat snails and frogs' legs all the time. One's meat preferences are frequently linked with one's particular cultural heritage.

British people are generally averse to eating horse but viande-de-cheval is widely available in French supermarkets along with animal brains, eyes, lungs, hooves and trotters. The British have forgotten the potential culinary joys of such products and even turn their noses up at liver and kidneys these days.

Here in the blogosphere there are many dog lovers. People often blog about walking their dogs, taking them to the vet's or even sleeping with them. However, dog ownership has never appealed to me. My family didn't have dogs when I was a child and frankly I don't see the point of them unless they are being used to round up sheep, guard property or sniff out drugs.

You have to walk dogs, clean up their faeces and feed them. It's not for me and another thing - dogs smell. Dog owners may become accustomed to dog odours but those of us who live in dog-free homes can usually detect the sickly aroma of dog when we enter a dog  owner's home. The level of smelliness will depend on the size and  number of dogs in the home, diet, gender, the age and breed of the dog and how often the dog is shampooed.

No wonder that my father-in-law - who was a Lincolnshire farmer - kept his two working dogs in a kennel or locked up in the barn. He loved those animals but never wanted them in the house.

I realise that in expressing my latent aversion to dogs I risk being pilloried by dog owners everywhere. They are a fearsome lot and what is more some of them snarl and bite. I'm talking about the owners, not the dogs!

21 September 2017

Brexit

Last week the odious Boris Johnson, who has a rapacious desire to become Britain's next prime minister, was accused of back seat driving. He was, commentators said,  attempting to call the shots on our nation's journey out of the European Union. Later, his noble leader, the current prime minister - Theresa May - protested that on the journey to Brexit she would be driving from the front. There would be no back seat driving on the road to Brexit.

I thought to myself, where is this place called Brexit and what is it like there?  So I did some research...

Brexit lies between the shire villages of Narnia and Neverland. In the centre of Brexit, upon the village green, there is a maypole bedecked with blue, red and white ribbons. It's just across from "The Farage Arms" from which communal singing emerges on weekend evenings -  for example "We'll Meet Again", "Down at The Old Bull and Bush", "Jerusalem" and "Yesterday" by The Beatles.

In the quaint village shop, run by jolly Mrs Goggins, village children can buy traditional confectionery. They come running in after school, with their rosy cheeks and knee socks, slapping their sixpences and shillings on the counter before running out with liquorice,  sherbet dips and gobstoppers.

Most of the houses in Brexit are thatched with hollyhocks and old-fashioned roses growing in cottage gardens. The palatial Elizabethan manor house on the edge of the village is occupied by tousle-haired Squire Johnson and his progeny. He often screeches up to the shop in his muddy Land Rover to buy "The Daily Telegraph" and twenty Woodbines, heartily greeting fellow villagers who he privately refers to as his "serfs".or "loyal subjects".

In Brexit, people go to the village church every Sunday - St Theresa's with its  ancient Norman tower. There is still a youth club and a village hall. The annual Brexit Flower Show is always well-attended and most years The David Cameron Memorial Trophy for the biggest vegetable is won by either Farmer Gove or Mr Fox. Their beaming smiles are as legendary as their bitter rivalry and their giant courgettes.

All is sweet in Brexit. It's a place which seems to have been by-passed by the troubles of the world. Gentlemen still doff their caps and ladies curtsy. Children skip or play marbles in the playground. The village is twinned with Braunau am Inn in Austria and has featured in several TV period dramas including "Vanity Fair". Yes. Somewhere over the rainbow, the living is good in Brexit. We'll get there one day. Yes I want you to know today, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.

20 September 2017

Yesterday

St Peter's Church, Old Edlington
Yesterday I went to The Lakeside shopping centre at Doncaster, I bought some new shoes and a pair of trousers. I had no luck with regard to new underpants and a new belt. That was rather frustrating. For me shopping for clothing  has always been a painful chore. I hope the trousers fit me as I couldn't be bothered to try them on. To be honest, I am the opposite of a fashionista.

Feeling  hungry, I parked up at McDonald's and ordered a quarterpounder "meal" with a latte. It was so warm in the sunshine that I sat outside to consume this "meal" and it really felt like a summer's day.

Earlier I had driven to the shopping outlet via back roads that avoided the motorways. I went to Maltby then  north to Braithwell and on to Old Edlington. This is a small settlement I had never visited before. I got out of the car to have a look at the village's  cute twelfth  century church - St Peter's. Sadly, it was locked up and clearly it was no longer a functioning church. The windows were boarded up . Apparently and tragically it suffered some vandalism in the past.
Once  known as Aepling-Tun - a Saxon settlement
I would have loved to get inside that church to see the Norman stone carvings within, However, it was only when I got home and Googled the church that I discovered where I might have borrowed a key from. It was too late.

I wore the new shoes to walk up to "The Hammer and Pincers" for the Tuesday quiz and I am happy to report that Mike, Mick and I achieved the top score. It helped that we knew that Florida is bordered by Georgia and Alabama and it also helped that we knew that the comic actress Rebel Wilson has recently won a landmark  defamation case in Australia. To tell you the truth, Mike pinched that answer from a quiz sheet abandoned by a couple who had to leave early. 
Back Lane, Old Edlington.
The building to the right is an old dovecote.

18 September 2017

Striped

Between St Edmund's Head and Hunstanton town in the county of Norfolk, there's a very interesting cliff. It is striped and it runs for almost half a mile. You might say that it is a natural monument to the geological epoch known as the Cretaceous Period. This was a time when dinosaurs were alive and the planet was generally much warmer. It lasted for seventy nine million years between the Jurassic and Paleogene periods. Of course it occurred many millions of years before the first apes appeared.

I am sure you will agree that seventy nine million years is a very long time. During those  79,000 millennia an enormous amount of plant and marine animal debris sank to the bottom of countless inland lakes and seashores gradually forming layers that were compressed and ultimately petrified.

It is those layers that we see in the striped cliff at Hunstanton. The bottom brown layer was of course laid down first. It is made up of carstone and contains very few animal fossils. The next layer is the Hunstanton Red Rock layer. It is actually chalk but was coloured red by iron pigmentation. The thicker white layer above is also chalk  and part of the Ferriby Formation. This was laid down towards the end of the Cretaceous Period.

In both the Hunstanton and Ferriby layers many primitive fossils have been found and in a lump of the red rock I quickly spotted several wormlike fossils of creatures that were wriggling around more than a hundred million years ago. They were like these:-
The first time we went to see the cliff, the tide was right in so we didn't get to see much but on the last afternoon the tide was right out and late sunshine was illuminating the striped cliff so that is how I was able to get pictures like these:-