The Vickers Supermarine Spitfire is rightly seen as the greatest British fighter ever built, an inspiring blend of elegance, power and speed. So successful was the plane that over 22,000 were manufactured in 19 different marques and more than 52 variants, with production lasting right up to 1948.

But it was not an easy beginning. In October 1931 the Air Ministry issued specification F7/30, calling for a new day and night fighter to replace the ageing Bristol Bulldog. R.J.Mitchell, Supermarine’s chief designer, came up with an all-metal monoplane, the Type 224, but, though innovative initial trials not a success, the lessons learned lead to the eventual creation of the Spitfire.

The maiden flight of the Spitfire prototype, K5054, took place at Eastleigh near Southampton, on 5 March 1936. Joseph ‘Mutt’ Summers, Supermarine’s test pilot, wrote in his appraisal that “The handling qualities of this machine are remarkably good,” The Air Ministry were so impressed with his assessment that 310 were ordered immediately. Despite some severe production difficulties and numerous political crises, the Spitfire finally entered service with the RAF. Nº 19 squadron, based at Duxford, were the first unit to receive the plane, and pilots were reportedly optimistic about the new fighter.

But, as early as 1938 the Spitfire was regarded with disdain by the Air Ministry who merely saw it as a stopgap until the arrival of other supposedly more powerful and versatile fighters while others saw it as little more than a commercial venture for raising revenue from exports. Barely two years after the Spitfire prototype was flown, the plane was described by some senior Ministry figures as “obsolescent” Even Winston Churchill, though an eloquent advocate of a strong RAF throughout the 1930’s, was guilty of this flawed thinking. He too had little faith in the Spitfire before 1940, preferring to pin his hopes on two-seater fighters with rear-mounted turret guns.

The Spitfire first went into combat against the Luftwaffe on 16 October 1939 when aircraft from 602 and 603 squadrons took on Ju 88 bombers over the Firth of Forth. At the first sight of the Spitfires, the Germans turn and try to escape across the North Sea. As one surviving German pilot was to recall afterwards, it was ‘not a pleasant experience’.

Spitfires went on to play a major role in The Battle of Britain which reached its most climactic day on 15 September 1940, when a massive Luftwaffe attack on London led German high command mistakenly to believe that the RAF were almost broken. In truth, Britain’s fighter forces were stronger than earlier in the battle.

Latterly Spitfires were based on aircraft carriers and on 7 March 1942 Spitfires from HMS Eagle in the western Mediterranean flew to Malta, where the island was under siege. Their heroic fightback against superior Luftwaffe and Italian forces, with regular reinforcements arriving from aircraft carriers, began to turn the tide and their victory in the skies above Malta marked the beginning of the end for Axis in the west

In May1942 the Spitfire Mark IX was unveiled, with its two-stage, two-speed Merlin 61 supercharged engine. Widely regarded as the greatest of all Spitfire marks, Squadron Leader Ron Rayner described it as “marvellous, absolutely incredible”. Throughout the war, the Spitfire was in a constant state of evolution and revision.

The final combat flight of the Spitfire was undertaken on 1 May 1951 by Wing Commander Wilfred Duncan Smith during the communist insurgency in Malaya.

At the height of the battle of Dunkirk in May 1940, the brilliant New Zealander Al Deere was on patrol in his RAF Spitfire over the French coast. Suddenly, through the haze of smoke drifting upwards from the raging combat on the ground, he spotted a German Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighter below him. He instantly gave chase. Soon, both planes were descending earthwards at high speed. “Down we went, throttles fully open, engines roaring, each determined to get the last ounce out of his straining aircraft. From 17,000 feet down to ground level I hung to his tail,” recalled Deere. Desperate to shake off the Spitfire, the Bf 109 dramatically changed course, levelling out from his dive and then going into a steep climb. But Deere could not be beaten. “I continued to close range until at about 15,000 feet I judged that I was near enough to open fire. A long burst produced immediate results. Bits flew off his aircraft.” Moments later, Deere watched the Bf 109 plunge into a field near Saint Omer and “explode with a blinding flash”.

Engagements like this were typical of the Spitfire’s formidable combat performance during the retreat from Dunkirk. The battle was the first time during the war that the plane had engaged the Luftwaffe in significant numbers, and the results shook the Germans, undermining their belief in their own invincibility. The effectiveness of the Spitfire was demonstrated even more graphically in the months that followed, as the aircraft played a central, heroic role in the defeat of the Luftwaffe during the battle of Britain. Adored by its pilots and feared by the Germans, it grew into an enduring symbol of British determination in the struggle against Nazi tyranny. The Vickers Supermarine Spitfire is rightly seen as the greatest British fighter ever built, an inspiring blend of elegance, power and speed. So successful was the plane that over 22,000 were manufactured in 19 different marks and 52 variants, with production lasting right up to 1948.

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Tofu Or Not Tofu

Following on from ‘Veganuary And The Meatless Monday’, we come to Tofu, or bean curd, a popular food derived from soya.

Like many soya foods, tofu originated in China. It is made by curdling fresh soya milk, pressing it into a solid block and then cooling it in much the same way that cream cheese is made. The curds are pressed to form a cohesive bond. A staple ingredient in both Thai and Chinese cuisine, it can be cooked in many ways to change its texture from smooth and soft to crisp and crunchy.

Legend has it that it was discovered about 2000 years ago by a Chinese cook who accidentally curdled soy milk when he added nigari seaweed. Introduced into Japan in the eighth century, tofu was originally called ‘okabe‘. Its modern name did not come into use until around 1400.

Tofu is a good source of protein and contains all nine essential amino acids. It is also a valuable plant source of iron and calcium and the minerals manganese and phosphorous. In addition to this, it also contains magnesium, copper zinc and vitamin B1. Soya-based foods like tofu can be an invaluable part of the vegan/vegetarian diet.

The 1960s saw a swiftly growing interest in vegan/vegetarian food as part of a wider interest in a healthier diet which, in turn introduced tofu to the western world.

Given its neutral taste and range of consistency, tofu has an amazing ability to work with almost all types of flavours and foods. Extra firm tofu’s are best for baking, grilling and stir-fries, while soft tofu is suitable for sauces, desserts, shakes and salad dressings. Of course, it is up to you to experiment! Try slicing marinating and grilling it or chopping it up into smallish pieces and fry it with garlic until golden. Silken tofu is a creamy, softer product.

Tofu can be acquired in bulk or individual packages, both of which are refrigerated. It should be stored in sealed containers and kept at room temperature. It does not require refrigeration until it has been opened. It can be kept in water for up to a week provided it is kept in water that is regularly refreshed.

Tofu is made from dried soybeans that have been soaked in water, crushed, and boiled. The mixture is separated into solid pulp (okara) and soy “milk.” Salt coagulants, such as calcium and magnesium chlorides and sulfates, are added to the soy milk to separate the curds from the whey.

Tofu is bean curd, but bean curd isn’t exactly tofu. Bean curd is the curdled soy milk that you get when you mix it with a coagulant. Technically speaking, bean curd becomes tofu once it is pressed and formed.

Before it has been cooked and seasoned, tofu tastes sour and is quite bland. However, this food is an excellent absorber of flavours, which makes it a favourite for anyone who knows their way around a kitchen. When prepared correctly, tofu can be savoury, sweet, crunchy, or soft.

The volume on which this series is based was printed in the early eighties as veganism was slowly growing in popularity.


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Ten Things You Can do With NaHCO₃

Sodium bicarbonate, commonly known as baking soda or bicarbonate of soda, is a chemical compound with the formula NaHCO₃. Sodium bicarbonate is a white solid that is crystalline, but often appears as a fine powder. It has a slightly salty, alkaline taste resembling that of washing soda (sodium carbonate). It’s a component of the mineral natron and is found dissolved in many natural mineral springs.

Because it has long been known and is widely used, the salt has many related names such as baking soda, bread soda, cooking soda, and bicarbonate of soda. The term baking soda is more common in the United States, whilst bicarbonate of soda is more common in Australia and Britain. In many northern/central European countries the term used is Natron and can often be found near baking powder in stores. In colloquial usage, the names sodium bicarbonate and bicarbonate of soda are often truncated; forms such as sodium bicarb, bicarb soda, bicarbonate, and bicarb are common. The word saleratus, from Latin sal æratus (meaning “aerated salt”), was widely used in the 19th century for both sodium bicarbonate and potassium bicarbonate. It is also known as food additive number E500.

1)  In fact baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is just too useful to be true. It is an alkaline substance that helps regulate pH, making something either an acid or a base. When baking soda gets mixed with an acid, it automatically alters the pH level, which leads to a quick pain relief or covers bad smells.

2)  Baking soda is well known as a paste for whitening teeth. In fact, it is a widely known secret that many toothpaste manufacturers use baking soda as a primary ingredient. It follows therefore that   you can feel free to use baking soda as a natural toothpaste to polish your teeth and get wonderful whitening results.

3)  Baking soda will also clean a kitchen sink product. Sprinkle baking soda all over the surface, let it fester for 5 min then scrub it with a sponge. Add lemon juice to the mix for a fresher smell!

4)  Baking soda’s mild abrasive capacities make it a useful all-purpose cleaner. Two cups of baking soda mixed with several drops of essential oil can be used clean the entire house.

5)   Tarnished jewellery, especially silver jewellery can benefit from baking soda! Take an aluminium foil-lined bowl, fill it with hot water and add baking soda. Then, soak your silver jewellery and leave until the tarnish transfers from the silver to the water. Remove the jewellery and wipe it with a soft lint-free cloth, to remove the remains of the tarnish. This also works for decorative silver.

6)  Another use for baking soda is stain removal. For example, it can work miracles on carpet. First, sprinkle a little of baking soda on top of the stain, let it sit for a few minutes until it dries then finally vacuum the stain away!

7)  In addition to being a mild abrasive, baking soda can be a very strong deodorizer. An open box of baking soda in the back of your refrigerator will effectively neutralize odours, as well as absorb bad scents and freshen up the air!

8)  Putting half-a-cup of baking soda in with the detergent in the washing machine will freshen up towels and get rid of smelly odours.

9)  Baking soda can absorb excess oil in your hair, making it an effective and natural dry shampoo. Mix a pinch of baking soda with hot water and then, sprinkle it over your scalp. When dry brush out naturally.

10)  Baking soda is also great for a calming bath. It can relieve muscle pain, ease tension whilst exfoliating and softening the skin as you enjoy a wonderful and relaxing bath. An inordinate amount of salt in the body’s tissues can lead to swollen legs. Baking soda can be used to relieve this. 1½ tsp of baking soda dissolved in 1 cup of boiling water then used to soak a pair of cotton socks worn for several hours then removed and the legs wrapped in plastic food wrap will produce


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Veganuary And The Meatless Monday

Vegan FrontVegetarianism is  practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat (red meat, poultry, seafood, and the flesh of any other animal), and may also include abstention from by-products of animal slaughter.

Vegetarianism may be adopted for many and various reasons, for instance objecting to eating meat out of respect for sentient life. Such ethical motivations have been codified under various religious beliefs, as well as animal rights advocacy.

Other motivations for vegetarianism are health-related, political, environmental, cultural, aesthetic, economic, or personal preference. There are variations of the diet as well: 

An ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products, while an ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products, and a lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products but not eggs.

An Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food, as a Moral Dutyvegan diet excludes all animal products, including eggs and dairy.

The word Veganuary is a portmanteau of ‘vegan’ and ‘January’

Veganuary is an annual challenge run by a UK not-for-profit organisation that promotes and educates about veganism, encouraging people to follow a vegan lifestyle for the month of January.  Founded by Jane Land and Matthew Glover in 2014, participation has more than doubled year on year with some 400,000 people signing up in the 2020 campaign. It is estimated that this represents the carbon dioxide equivalent of 450,000 flights (not necessarily returns) and the lives of more than a million animals.

Vegan 01 DairyParticipants sign up online and receive an online ‘vegan starter kit’ with restaurant guides, product sources and a recipe database. Participants are also encouraged to share images and recipes on social media to promote veganism as easy and fun. Take-up has been surprising with 50,000 taking the challenge in 2017 rising to 4000,000 in 2020.

Vegan 02 DairyGQ magazine noted that ‘it’s a clever way to introduce a new way of nutritional thinking at a time of year where our mind is hardwired to explore ways to better ourselves’ which could also explain a 2019 slump in UK pub receipts was ultimately blamed on ‘Veganuary’.

Vegan 04 DairyThe popularity of the campaign may be partially due to the emphasis being put on trying veganism as opposed to going vegan allowing participants to decide not to continue with an all-vegan diet without feeling as if they failed the challenge.

Vegan 05 DairyFood businesses and restaurants in the UK had been introducing new vegan products in January to coincide with Veganuary and a number of supermarkets were beginning to run advertising for the event.

Vegan 06 DairyWorld Vegetarian Day is observed annually on the 1st of October. A day of celebration to that effect was established by the North American Vegetarian Society in 1977 and was endorsed in 1978 by the International Vegetarian Union ‘To promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism’ which brings with it an awareness of the ethical, environmental, health, and humanitarian benefits of a vegetarian life-style.

World Vegetarian Day then morphs, quite organically of course, into October becoming Vegan 08 DairyVegetarian Awareness Month, which ends on the 1st of November also known as World Vegan Day that naturally transposes into Vegan Awareness Month. Other dates in the Veggie yearbook would have to include :

27th September – Hug a Vegan/Vegetarian day,

29th September – World Heart Day

1st October – World Vegetarian Day

2nd October – World Farm Animals Day

4th October – The Feast of St Francis of Assisi & World Animal Day

Vegan 09 Dairy4th October – Hug a Non-Meat Eater Day

1st to 7th October – International Vegetarian Week

16th October – World Food Day

25th November – International Vegetarian Day (India)

20th March – The Great American Meat-out.

And finally, every Monday of the month is a Meatless Monday! 

Sadly I have come across no reference to an official Tree Hugging Day but hey, who knows! 

Vegan Cover

I have had this volume in my collection for a good few years. It is dated 1983 when veganism was becoming more attractive to the general public and represents a good beginners guide to meat, dairy and egg free recipes,

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Ten Things You Probably Didn’t Want To Know About . . .

The Venerable Bede

Christmas or ¡Navidad!, Noël or  Weihnachten, God Jul or Sretan Božić, Crăciun fericit or Ziemassvētkus!

The languages of the world have quite a variety of names for Christmas. That’s not surprising, what with the language issues involved but it turns out that our Christmas is arbitrarily loaded with words that mean something else. And while many people frown upon the seemingly modern abbreviation of Xmas, X stands for the Greek letter chi, which was the early abbreviation for Christ or the Greek ‘Khristos’. The X also symbolises the cross on which Christ was crucified. The Angles, Saxons and Jutes, the original Germanic invaders, were not Christian, but nevertheless still engaged in celebrations on the 25th December in a festival known as Yule, which is still celebrated by Neo-Pagans across the world. In the 8th century, The Venerable Bede wrote: ‘They began the year with December 25th, the day we now celebrate as Christmas; and the very night to which we attach special sanctity they designated by the heathen mothers’ night, a name bestowed presumably on account of the ceremonies they performed while watching this night through. (De temporum tione)’

2) The pagan festival has some association with fertility and possibly involved ceremonial copulation creating a link between Yule and Christmas. When the date of Christ’s birth was decided, by Pope Julius I a link was forged with the pagan’s celebration of birth by which the Roman Church sought to create a mandate for the early Christians to continue attempting to convert the pagans of Europe by pursuing a policy of continuity.

3 ) From the time of Charlemagne, the great Frankish king, who was crowned Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day 800 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the ‘Christian’ Christmas slowly grew in importance despite the longer established Anglo-Saxon Christmas traditions. According to Egbert of York, a contemporary of Bede: ‘the English people have been accustomed to practice fasts, vigils, prayers, and the giving of alms both to monasteries and to the common people, for the full twelve days before Christmas’. Alfred The Great whose stepmother, Judith, was great-granddaughter of Charlemagne, was greatly influenced by the Frankish Court. It seems he shared their view of the importance of Christmas as a festival. One of Alfred’s laws stated that twelve days of holiday was to be taken by all but those engaged in the most important of occupations from Christmas Day to Twelfth Night. It has been noted that Alfred’s rigorous observance of his own law left him so vulnerable to his Viking adversaries that it led to his defeat in battle on 6th January, 878: the day after Twelfth Night.

4 ) One of the most interesting aspects of the Christian Christmas is the mention of alms-giving which can be seen as the predecessor of modern day Christmas presents, a tradition that almost certainly came about in imitation of the Three Wise Men bringing the infant Christ Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. Alms were charitable relief given to the poor, without expectation of payment during both the Anglo-Saxon and Christian communities. These can also be seen as the start of the more traditional fund raising organisations such as the Salvation Army and linked to numerous other charitable Christmas acts.

5 ) Carols flourished in Tudor times as a way of celebrating Christmas and to spread the story of the nativity but came to an abrupt end in the 17th century when the Puritans under Oliver Cromwell banned all superfluous festivities including Christmas and Easter. Carollers on the doorstep is in fact a result of carols being banned in churches during this time, although carols remained in a virtual wilderness until the Victorians reinstated the concept of an ‘Olde English Christmas’. This included traditional gems such as While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks By Night and The Holly and the Ivy as well as introducing a plethora of new hits such as Away in a Manger and O Little Town of Bethlehem, to mention but a few. The earliest recorded published collection of carols dates back to 521 and is by Wynken de Worde which includes the Boars Head Carol.

6 ) Mince Pies were originally baked in rectangular cases to represent the infant Jesus’ crib and the addition of cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg was meant to symbolise the gifts bestowed by the three wise men. Traditionally the pies are not very large and it was considered good luck to eat one mince pie on each of the twelve days of Christmas. The original mince pies were made of a variety of shredded meats along with spices and fruit. The out-pouring of Christmas spirit might entice a Lord to donate the unwanted parts of the family’s Christmas deer, the offal, or ‘umbles’, to make the pies go further.  The poor could be said to be eating ‘umble pie’, an expression now used to to describe someone who has fallen from the pedestal of high achievement to a far more modest level. It is only since the Victorian era that the recipe came to include only spices and fruit.

7 ) Over the intervening centuries, serious Christmas day feasting would have been the reserve of royalty and the landed gentry. In medieval times goose was the most common option while venison was also popular alternative, although the poor were not allowed to eat the best cuts of meat. Turkey was first introduced into Britain in about 1523 with Henry VIII being one of the first people to eat it as part of their Christmas feast. The popularity of the bird grew quickly and soon around October large flocks of turkeys could be seen walking to London from Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire on foot; a journey which they may have started as early as early as August! And while many poor people made do with hare, rabbit or if they were lucky, goose, the Christmas Day menu for Queen Victoria on the other hand included both beef and a roast swan or two. By the end of the century 18th most people feasted on turkey for their Christmas dinner. With feet clad in fashionable but hardwearing leather the unsuspecting birds would have set out on the lengthy hike from their rural farms to arrive somewhat tired and on the scrawny side they must have thought London hospitality unbeatable as they feasted and fattened up in the last few weeks before Christmas!

8 ) The burning of the Yule Log is thought to derive from the midwinter ritual of the early Viking invaders, who built enormous bonfires to celebrate their festival of light. The word ‘Yule’ has existed in the English language for many centuries as an alternative term for Christmas. Traditionally, a large log would be selected in the forest on Christmas Eve, decorated with ribbons, dragged home and laid upon the hearth. After lighting it was kept burning throughout the twelve days of Christmas. It was considered lucky to keep some of the charred remains to kindle the log of the following year.

9 ) Christmas Day was a national holiday, spent by the gentry in their country houses and estates. People went to church and returned to a celebratory Christmas dinner. Boxing Day on the other hand has traditionally been seen as the reversal of fortunes, where the rich provide gifts for the poor. In medieval times, the gift was generally money and it was provided in a hollow clay pot with a slit in the top which had to be smashed for the money to be taken out. These small clay pots were nicknamed “piggies” and thus became the first version of the piggy banks we use today. Unfortunately, Christmas Day was also traditionally a “quarter day”, one of the four days in the financial year on which payments such as ground rents were due, meaning many poor tenants had to pay their rent on Christmas Day!

10 ) The Christmas Crib originated in 1223 in medieval Italy when Saint Francis of Assisi explained the Christmas Nativity story to local people using a crib to symbolise the birth of Jesus. When seeking information on a Georgian or Regency Christmas, who better to consult than Jane Austen? In her novel, ‘Mansfield Park’, Sir Thomas gives a ball for Fanny and William. In ‘Pride and Prejudice’, the Bennets play host to relatives. In ‘Sense and Sensibility’, John Willoughby dances the night away, from eight o’clock until four in the morning. In ‘Emma’, the Weston’s give a party.



What do you want to do ?

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Battle of Britain 80th anniversary 2020

How Australia’s ‘brave few’ helped to stop the Nazi war machine

Eighty years ago this year, the Battle of Britain was being fought in the skies over southern England. Hitler’s Luftwaffe was trying to destroy the Royal Air Force to pave the way for a German invasion of Britain. A successful invasion and occupation would complete the domination of western Europe by Hitler’s Third Reich and to this end German commanders believed a massive bombing campaign would bring Britain to its knees and lead to its ultimate surrender.

The Battle of Britain opened with raids against key airfields and radar sites across southern England in an attempt to destroy the RAF on the ground but despite Britain’s perilous state in 1940, it had developed a strong air defence network of ground observers and radar that would prove crucial during the Battle of Britain in providing early warning of German attacks. And Australia was among the first nations to come to Britain’s aid.

Thirty-five Australians flew combat operations during the Battle of Britain, 10 of whom were killed in action. One of them was Flight Lieutenant Pat Hughes of Cooma, New South Wales, who had at least 15 credited kills to his tally and was among the top aces of the time.

Each day between July and October 1940, British and German aircraft clashed in the skies above England and, although outnumbered the RAF had superior fighter aircraft in their Spitfires and Hurricanes.

The Australian airmen were among those international airmen immortalised by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in his tribute to the men of Fighter Command:  “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

One of the last few surviving Spitfires in the world is housed in the Temora Aviation Museum, New South Wales.

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Halloween – A Romantic Poem

Robbie Burns wrote some weird stuff. From the ‘Address to a Haggis’ to ‘The Cottars Saturday Night’ his poetic works range far and wide.

Halloween is a romantic tale for an ethereal night though somewhat tongue if you can actually separate the tongue from the cheek within the jaw-breaking dialectic form in which it is written.

A far cry from the prosaic, ‘From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggetty beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord deliver us’


Robert Burns – 1759-1796

Upon that night, when fairies light
On Cassilis Downans dance,
Or owre the lays, in splendid blaze,
On sprightly coursers prance;
Or for Colean the route is ta’en,
Beneath the moon’s pale beams;
There, up the cove, to stray and rove,
Among the rocks and streams
To sport that night.

Among the bonny winding banks,
Where Doon rins, wimplin’ clear,
Where Bruce ance ruled the martial ranks,
And shook his Carrick spear,
Some merry, friendly, country-folks,
Together did convene,
To burn their nits, and pou their stocks,
And haud their Halloween
Fu’ blithe that night.

The lasses feat, and cleanly neat,
Mair braw than when they’re fine;
Their faces blithe, fu’ sweetly kythe,
Hearts leal, and warm, and kin’;
The lads sae trig, wi’ wooer-babs,
Weel knotted on their garten,
Some unco blate, and some wi’ gabs,
Gar lasses’ hearts gang startin’
Whiles fast at night.

Then, first and foremost, through the kail,
Their stocks maun a’ be sought ance;
They steek their een, and graip and wale,
For muckle anes and straught anes.
Poor hav’rel Will fell aff the drift,
And wander’d through the bow-kail,
And pou’t, for want o’ better shift,
A runt was like a sow-tail,
Sae bow’t that night.

Then, staught or crooked, yird or nane,
They roar and cry a’ throu’ther;
The very wee things, todlin’, rin,
Wi’ stocks out owre their shouther;
And gif the custoc’s sweet or sour.
Wi’ joctelegs they taste them;
Syne cozily, aboon the door,
Wi cannie care, they’ve placed them
To lie that night.

The lasses staw frae ‘mang them a’
To pou their stalks of corn:
But Rab slips out, and jinks about,
Behint the muckle thorn:
He grippet Nelly hard and fast;
Loud skirl’d a’ the lasses;
But her tap-pickle maist was lost,
When kitlin’ in the fause-house
Wi’ him that night.

The auld guidwife’s well-hoordit nits,
Are round and round divided,
And monie lads’ and lasses’ fates
Are there that night decided:
Some kindle coothie, side by side,
And burn thegither trimly;
Some start awa, wi’ saucy pride,
And jump out-owre the chimlie
Fu’ high that night.

Jean slips in twa wi’ tentie ee;
Wha ’twas she wadna tell;
But this is Jock, and this is me,
She says in to hersel:
He bleezed owre her, and she owre him,
As they wad never mair part;
Till, fuff! he started up the lum,
And Jean had e’en a sair heart
To see’t that night.

Poor Willie, wi’ his bow-kail runt,
Was brunt wi’ primsie Mallie;
And Mallie, nae doubt, took the drunt,
To be compared to Willie;
Mall’s nit lap out wi’ pridefu’ fling,
And her ain fit it brunt it;
While Willie lap, and swore by jing,
‘Twas just the way he wanted
To be that night.

Nell had the fause-house in her min’,
She pits hersel and Rob in;
In loving bleeze they sweetly join,
Till white in ase they’re sobbin’;
Nell’s heart was dancin’ at the view,
She whisper’d Rob to leuk for’t:
Rob, stowlins, prie’d her bonny mou’,
Fu’ cozie in the neuk for’t,
Unseen that night.

But Merran sat behint their backs,
Her thoughts on Andrew Bell;
She lea’es them gashin’ at their cracks,
And slips out by hersel:
She through the yard the nearest taks,
And to the kiln goes then,
And darklins graipit for the bauks,
And in the blue-clue throws then,
Right fear’t that night.

And aye she win’t, and aye she swat,
I wat she made nae jaukin’,
Till something held within the pat,
Guid Lord! but she was quakin’!
But whether ‘was the deil himsel,
Or whether ’twas a bauk-en’,
Or whether it was Andrew Bell,
She didna wait on talkin’
To spier that night.

Wee Jennie to her grannie says,
“Will ye go wi’ me, grannie?
I’ll eat the apple at the glass
I gat frae Uncle Johnnie:”
She fuff’t her pipe wi’ sic a lunt,
In wrath she was sae vap’rin’,
She notice’t na, an aizle brunt
Her braw new worset apron
Out through that night.

“Ye little skelpie-limmer’s face!
I daur you try sic sportin’,
As seek the foul thief ony place,
For him to spae your fortune.
Nae doubt but ye may get a sight!
Great cause ye hae to fear it;
For mony a ane has gotten a fright,
And lived and died deleeret
On sic a night.

“Ae hairst afore the Sherramoor, —
I mind’t as weel’s yestreen,
I was a gilpey then, I’m sure
I wasna past fifteen;
The simmer had been cauld and wat,
And stuff was unco green;
And aye a rantin’ kirn we gat,
And just on Halloween
It fell that night.

“Our stibble-rig was Rab M’Graen,
A clever sturdy fallow:
His son gat Eppie Sim wi’ wean,
That lived in Achmacalla:
He gat hemp-seed, I mind it weel,
And he made unco light o’t;
But mony a day was by himsel,
He was sae sairly frighted
That very night.”

Then up gat fechtin’ Jamie Fleck,
And he swore by his conscience,
That he could saw hemp-seed a peck;
For it was a’ but nonsense.
The auld guidman raught down the pock,
And out a hanfu’ gied him;
Syne bade him slip frae ‘mang the folk,
Some time when nae ane see’d him,
And try’t that night.

He marches through amang the stacks,
Though he was something sturtin;
The graip he for a harrow taks.
And haurls it at his curpin;
And every now and then he says,
“Hemp-seed, I saw thee,
And her that is to be my lass,
Come after me, and draw thee
As fast this night.”

He whistled up Lord Lennox’ march
To keep his courage cheery;
Although his hair began to arch,
He was say fley’d and eerie:
Till presently he hears a squeak,
And then a grane and gruntle;
He by his shouther gae a keek,
And tumbled wi’ a wintle
Out-owre that night.

He roar’d a horrid murder-shout,
In dreadfu’ desperation!
And young and auld came runnin’ out
To hear the sad narration;
He swore ’twas hilchin Jean M’Craw,
Or crouchie Merran Humphie,
Till, stop! she trotted through them
And wha was it but grumphie
Asteer that night!

Meg fain wad to the barn hae gaen,
To win three wechts o’ naething;
But for to meet the deil her lane,
She pat but little faith in:
She gies the herd a pickle nits,
And two red-cheekit apples,
To watch, while for the barn she sets,
In hopes to see Tam Kipples
That very nicht.

She turns the key wi cannie thraw,
And owre the threshold ventures;
But first on Sawnie gies a ca’
Syne bauldly in she enters:
A ratton rattled up the wa’,
And she cried, Lord, preserve her!
And ran through midden-hole and a’,
And pray’d wi’ zeal and fervour,
Fu’ fast that night;

They hoy’t out Will wi’ sair advice;
They hecht him some fine braw ane;
It chanced the stack he faddom’d thrice
Was timmer-propt for thrawin’;
He taks a swirlie, auld moss-oak,
For some black grousome carlin;
And loot a winze, and drew a stroke,
Till skin in blypes cam haurlin’
Aff’s nieves that night.

A wanton widow Leezie was,
As canty as a kittlin;
But, och! that night amang the shaws,
She got a fearfu’ settlin’!
She through the whins, and by the cairn,
And owre the hill gaed scrievin,
Whare three lairds’ lands met at a burn
To dip her left sark-sleeve in,
Was bent that night.

Whyles owre a linn the burnie plays,
As through the glen it wimpl’t;
Whyles round a rocky scaur it strays;
Whyles in a wiel it dimpl’t;
Whyles glitter’d to the nightly rays,
Wi’ bickering, dancing dazzle;
Whyles cookit underneath the braes,
Below the spreading hazel,
Unseen that night.

Among the brackens, on the brae,
Between her and the moon,
The deil, or else an outler quey,
Gat up and gae a croon:
Poor Leezie’s heart maist lap the hool!
Near lav’rock-height she jumpit;
but mist a fit, and in the pool
Out-owre the lugs she plumpit,
Wi’ a plunge that night.

In order, on the clean hearth-stane,
The luggies three are ranged,
And every time great care is ta’en’,
To see them duly changed:
Auld Uncle John, wha wedlock joys
Sin’ Mar’s year did desire,
Because he gat the toom dish thrice,
He heaved them on the fire
In wrath that night.

Wi’ merry sangs, and friendly cracks,
I wat they didna weary;
And unco tales, and funny jokes,
Their sports were cheap and cheery;
Till butter’d so’ns, wi’ fragrant lunt,
Set a’ their gabs a-steerin’;
Syne, wi’ a social glass o’ strunt,
They parted aff careerin’
Fu’ blythe that night.

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10 Things You May Possibly Not Have Known About Halloween

Sometime in the 8th century, Pope Gregory I (540 – 604 AD) had the date of the All Hallows’ feast moved from the 13th of May to 1st of November. It is thought that in doing so, he was attempting to replace or eradicate the Celtic festival of the dead (or Samhain) with a more church related and therefore controllable celebration. Samhain transposed initially into All-hallows-even and then still later into Hallowe’en and then of course Halloween. Many believe that Halloween is a time when the spirit world can make contact with the physical world, a night when magic is at its most potent.

Throughout Britain, Halloween has traditionally been celebrated by children’s games, telling ghost stories and the carving of faces into hollowed-out vegetables such as swedes and turnips. These faces would then be illuminated from within by a candle to be displayed in windows to scare off any evil spirits that may be lurking. The current use of pumpkins is a relatively modern innovation imported from the United States, as has the ultra-quaint  ‘trick-or-treat’ tradition!

1) It is commonly believed that 31st October was an ancient pagan festival associated with the supernatural, but it also has religious connotations. There is disagreement among historians about when it actually began. Some say it was introduced as All Saints’ Day in the 7th century AD by Pope Boniface IV, as All Hallows Eve in the 8th century by Pope Gregory and as a celebration to commemorate the martyrs and saints of the Christians in the 9th century. In medieval Britain, ‘Halloween’ was the eve of the Catholic festival All Saints or All-Hallows, from the Old English ‘Holy Man’, on 1st November, followed on the 2nd by the feast of All Souls.

2) The tradition of carving a face on mangel-wurzles, swedes and turnips on the last Thursday in October to make them into a lanterns to be lit by candles was for children to carry them through the streets to ward off evil spirits.

3) Much of the modern supernatural lore surrounding Halloween derives from the 19th century when Scots and Irish settlers took the customs and traditions of All-Hallows to North America, where it became known as ‘trick or treat’. Ironically the revival of interest in Halloween during the 1970’s came from America through American TV programmes and the 1982 film E.T.

4) Although there is no evidence the pagan Anglo-Saxons celebrated Halloween, the Venerable Bede cites that the month was known as ‘Blod-monath’ or blood month, when surplus livestock were slaughtered and offered as sacrifices to the pagan gods. Besides that reference there is no written evidence that 31st October was linked to the supernatural in England before the 19th century.

5) Halloween as a festival of evil other-worldly forces is an entirely modern invention. Razor blades in apples, cyanide in sweets, poltergeists, swamp-things and being haunted by malignant shadows of the dead on or around the 31st October is more common ‘rip ‘em up an’ slash ‘em’ in horror films, reflecting modern fears and terrors.

6) In pre-Christian Ireland, 1st November was known as ‘Samhain’ or summer’s end, the date that marked the onset of winter in Gaelic-speaking areas of Britain. It was also the end of the pastoral farming year when cattle were slaughtered and tribal gatherings such as the ‘Feis na Cara’ (a celebratory dance festival) It was not until the 19th century when the anthropologist Sir James Frazer popularised the idea of Samhain as an ancient Celtic festival of the dead when pagan religious ceremonies were observed.)

7) In medieval times on the 1st November, prayers were said for souls trapped in purgatory. It was believed to be a sort of ‘halfway house’ on the road to Heaven, and it was thought their ghosts could return to earth to ask relatives for assistance in the journey. From this grew the Catholic tradition of offering prayers to the dead, the ringing of church bells and lighting of candles and torches on 1st  November to provide a link with the spirit world

8) ‘Souling’ was an early form of carol singing where groups of adults and children in traditional wearing costumes would visit big houses to sing for the occupants and collect money and food. Souling was common in Cheshire, Shropshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire on 1st and 2nd November while in other parts of northern England special cakes were baked and left in churchyards as offerings to the dead.

9) Until the 19th century, bonfires were lit on Halloween in parts of northern England and Derbyshire. Some folklorists believe the enduring popularity of the Guy Fawkes celebrations on 5th November harks back to memories of the older pagan fire festivals of the 17th and 18th centuries.

10) Halloween has also been linked to romance, spreading to England from Scotland as a result of the popularity of Robert Burn’s poem Halloween in Victorian times. One love divination mentioned by Burns includes placing hazelnuts in the fire, naming one for yourself and the other for your partner. If they burned gently and then went out, this indicated a long and harmonious life together; if they coughed and spluttered or exploded, this was a sign of problems ahead. Apples were also used for divination purposes, the fruit floating in water or hung upon strings, to be seized by the teeth of the players.

What do you want to do ?

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What do you want to do ?

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A Further Taste Of India

Returning to the Little Indian Cookbook mentioned previously I include here a few more recipes worth a second look.

Spices are used in many different forms: whole, chopped, ground, roasted, sautéed, fried, and as a topping. They blend food to extract the nutrients and bind them in a palatable form. Some spices are added at the end as a flavouring and are typically heated in a pan with ghee (clarified butter) or vegetable oil before being added to a dish. Lighter spices are added last, and spices with strong flavour should be added first.

Curry is not a spice, but a term used by Western people and refers to any dish in Indian cuisine that contains several spices blended together, whether dry or with a sauce base.

An old favourite of the wedding buffet, the public bar on a Saturday night or the takeaway after a night out with the lads.

Very much an ‘anglicised’ dish, properly made it is well worth a try.

Dhansak on the other hand is a fairly unusual lentil and gram curry garnished with carrot, aubergine and potato.

Use either chicken or king prawns for a traditional Parsi (Persian) dish.

More to follow

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The Collegiate Church of St Mary, Warwick

IMAG0032The Collegiate Church of St Mary, or rather the foundations thereof, date back to 1123 when they were laid by Roger de Beaumont, 2nd Earl Warwick.

It is located in the county town of Warwick, a mere stone’s throw from Warwick Castle, traditional home of the Earls of Warwick for many generations.

IMAG0030When de Beaumont also established a college of secular canons its ecclesiastical status was elevated to the point where it’s governance and religious observance were similar to that of a cathedral. But although there is a Bishop of Warwick, but it is merely an episcopal title coming under the aegis of the Diocese of Coventry.

IMAG0034Great parts of the church were extensively rebuilt in the 14th century by Thomas de Beauchamp (later anglicised to Beecham), a later Earl Warwick in the Perpendicular Gothic style


The Beauchamp Chapel

His descendants later built the Chapel of Our Lady, more commonly known as the Beauchamp Chapel which houses monuments to Richard de Beauchamp, the 13th Earl Warwick, Ambrose Dudley the 3rd Earl Warwick and Robert Dudley, the 1st Earl Leicester

In the chancel of the church is William Parr, 1st Marquess Northampton, brother of the Queen Consort, Catherine Parr.


The Memoriam to Robert Dudley

St Marys, along with much of Warwick, was devastated by the Great Fire of Warwick in 1694. The nave and tower of the building were completely destroyed. In 1704, the rebuilt church was completed in a Gothic design by William Wilson. The current tower rises to a very creditable height of 130 feet.


Heraldic Symbols of Warwick, Warwick Castle





The only part of the building that remains of the original 1123 structure is the crypt beneath.

Unfortunately these pictures were all taken about two years ago, during a working visit to the area, on a camera phone and are not of the best quality. Enjoy anyway!


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