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Monday, July 28, 2008


Happy Lammas Everyone!

The Pagan Festival of Lammas ("Loaf-Mass") is a quarter day (1st August) between Litha (the Summer Solstice) and Mabon (the Autumn Equinox). It represents the festival of the first wheat harvest of the year, the cutting of hay, the picking of fruit. On this day it was customary to bring to church a loaf made from the new crop. In many parishes in Great Britain it lingers on as the "harvest festival".

Hay has been cut and lies in windrows to dry before gathering up

In this Cumbrian farm, the hay is already safely baled up - see the rows of black plastic-coated bales in front of the farm? Whatever happened to the haystacks if yesteryear in which kids hunted for needles?

Lammas can be a little wistful, the "tipping-point" of summer. Swifts and Cuckoos have largely left on their migrations; the spring and early summer spurt of green growth is slowing down; birds are looking scruffy and moth-eaten as they commence their annual moult; and swallow families line up on telegraph wires thinking of migration.

This Black-headed Gull is moulting out its handsome breeding-season hood for winter plumage

Swallows in line consider their route to South Africa

There are of course compensations...

Silver-washed Fritillaries are on the wing...

Country lanes are pervaded by the sweet scent of meadowsweet...

...and wild honeysuckle...

...while Harebells after a thunderstorm abound in the sand dunes...

...and blackberries are turning pink (blackberry and apple pie only a week or two off!)

And how should I celebrate my own Festival of Lammas?

What nicer than a rustic wholemeal loaf, a wedge of Blue Wensleydale cheese (and maybe that little jar of jam stolen from a posh restaurant) washed down with ice-cold elderflower drink that has been, errrm... shall we say, fortified...

Happy Lammas Everybody!

Since publishing the first edition of this post, I have discovered this!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Full English

Most English people know that the expression "Full English" refers to breakfast, though it is seldom, if ever, spoken. Words like "Happy birthday darling, can I make you a full English?" or "Lord, I'm starving, I think I will have a full English" simply do do not ring out around the suburban households of England every morning. In fact, you are more likely to come across the term on the menu of a café on the Costa Brava. In England, we would simply say "cooked breakfast".

Normally I settle for a light breakfast of tea and cereal, but sometimes after a very early start Rassing or Tetradding, I will indulge myself in a "Full English". As my runcible sister Lorenzo the Llama has been teasing me lately about my culinary habits, I thought I would describe my own ideal "Full English".

First, a nice cup of tea, preferably Russian Caravan from my favourite tea merchant, Mecca of Aberystwyth

Next, a slice of fresh pineapple

Third course a bowl of porridge, made with milk and water in the ratio 2:1 with sugar in, and topped with golden syrup and squirty cream

Cooked entreé, a grilled kipper (Loch Fyne kippers are especially tasty). The advantage of this course is that it fills your house with the delightful aroma of smoked fish for the rest of the day.

The main course. Going round the dish: mushrooms; fried bread (x2); fried eggs (x2); grilled sausages (x4); grilled bacon rashers, unsmoked, back (x4); fried tomato. Side dish: baked beans. Preparation of this requires up to half a bottle of olive oil (the fried bread and mushrooms soak it up beautifully) and so this is really healthy. Some would add a slice or two of black pudding, but I am not partial to this myself.

Finally, toast and Robertson's Golden Shred marmalade. If you have stolen a little pot of luxury jam from some restaurant, that is a satisfactory substitute. Washed down with more Russian Caravan tea

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The restaurant

I am grateful to my old school-friend Clive for drawing my attention to this interesting restaurant in China. As I am rather fond of Chinese food, I am considering adding this location to my "gap-year" experience (you know, the one I never has as a student). If any readers would like to accompany me, I will gladly pay for the wine. Clive has kindly supplied illustrated directions to the restaurant.

Click on any picture to enlarge for detail.

First - take the tram up to the start of the trail

Now follow the path

Be sure to hold on to the 'railing'

Keep an eye on the person in front of you

Be very careful when passing someone going in the opposite direction

Now just up a few steps (they are on the left in the picture)

Gets a little steeper here - so put your toes in the holes

A few more steps to go

Finally in sight

So, my friends. anyone for lunch?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Growing up

Last September and December I reported the arrivals, respectively, of grandson Jimmy and granddaughter Heledd. I have made quite recent visits to their respective homes to see them. Here are some pictures of their progress.

In South Wales:

Mum Kathryn with Heledd

Father and daughter

Heledd look a s little apprehensive

Carwyn shelters Heledd on a stroll around Burry Port harbour

Whilst in in Portsmouth:

Jimmy has already forsaken his bottle as Alun ("Worzel") gives him some water

Trudy ("Strudles") helps Jimmy find his feet

Jimmy's favourite mode of transport on Dad's back

Jimmy enjoys the ferry to the Isle of Wight - maybe he has "salt in his blood" like his forefathers

A variety of options for a family coffee break

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Maalie seems pleased with his sample of crabs (including hermit crabs) caught in warmer climes. Just the picture to brighten up a wet miserable day in Cumbria

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Just another Sunday in Vienna...

When I booked flights to see the Kirov Mariinsky Theatre Ballet performing on Sunday 21st June in the Vienna Volksoper, it seemed perfectly routine. However I didn't realise at the time that was also the date set for the cup final of the European nations football (soccer) tournament, also in Vienna. The tournament had spanned several weeks, and football-mania had overtaken the city, with a large portion of the centre cordoned off as a "fan zone" where football fans could safely congregate to watch games broadcast live on huge TV screens and to cordially foster international relationships.

Big screen in the fan Zone

When I arrived in Vienna it was known that the cup final was to be contested between Germany and Spain, and the city was already filling up with their fans. I couldn't resist the temptation to visit the stadium before the game and to mingle with them in the Fan Zone to soak up the convivial atmosphere.
German fans arrive by bicycle at the Ernst Happel Stadium in Vienna....

...while Spanish fans posture in their sombreros

Fans without tickets flock to the Fan Zone in front of Vienna's Rathaus (City Hall) to watch the game on the big screen

A multitude of European nationalities but sadly England not represented, having been knocked out in the preliminary rounds

Before the match kicked off it was time to calm down with a coffee and to locate Vienna's Volksoper for the more gentle pursuit of watching the ballet.

Coffee break Viennese style, with cherry strudel

I had already seen the Mariinsky Theatre Kirov Ballet company performing in St. Petersburg and was eagerly anticipating their production of Swan Lake (Schwanensee).
Vienna's magnificent Voksoper...

...stages the Mariinsky Theatre Kirov ballet Company

Inside the Volksoper

The principals Viktoria Tereschkina (Odette/Odile) and Andrian Fadejew (Prince Siegfried) with the corps de ballet and orchestra conductor Boris Grusin take their well-deserved curtain call after a wonderful performance

After the performance it it was back down to earth from the magical illusion of a moonlit Transylvanian lake-side to the reality of noisy triumphant Spanish fans flooding the streets and the public transport services!

Oh yes, just another Sunday in Vienna...