A Series Of Grim Warnings

GW ScruffyAh, how times have changed.

In these days of self empowerment and political correctness even to suggest that a person of a certain age (generally under sixteen and, gasp, female!) should have any kind of minor defect would be a personal affront that would demand immediate repudiation and or significant retail therapy!

But not so in these quaint little ‘cautionary tales’ taken from Bunty, a story book from the seventies aimed at teenage girls.

Alongside the usual pony stories and pretty-boy pop group pin-ups I found these amusing treats.

There are six in all and I begin with the Scruffy Story, the Hair Care story and lastly the Nail story.

GW HaircareWhat teenager these days in anything even approaching  their right mind (if such a mythical beast actually exists) would care to be insulted by the suggestion of such ‘anti-social’ traits.

Suggestive of possible fatal consequences, as in the ‘Scruffy Story‘ I think it would be difficult to publish such subversive material today.

I shall add the the final three cautionary tales concerning the dentist, untidiness and slimming, later.

But in all honesty alongside the nifty drawing and nicely composed verse there is a rich seam of rather black humour!

GW Nails

I rest my case! And on that note I fade away myself.

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Belisha And The Zebra Crossing

belisha-advertsBelisha is a card game first published by Castell Brothers Ltd (Pepys Games) in 1937 that utilises the rules of Rummy with the traffic signs in the United Kingdom making up the theme.

Instead of the standard suits and numbers in a 52-card deck, Belisha’s cards can be grouped into numbers, colours, and types of traffic signs using period illustrations highlighting safety in motoring situations.

Belisha 1002Based on a car journey from London to Oban, Belisha was produced to make a helpful contribution to the national “Safety First” 001campaign that followed the introduction of ‘Belisha’ beacons, (named after Leslie Hore-Belisha, the minister for transport)

The round yellow flashing lights on black and white striped poles at zebra crossings were designed to reduce road casualties, particularly among children.

By 1951 the black and white stripes, with Belisha beacons on either side of the road, were approved as ‘Zebra’ crossings.

Rummy 1

As with Rummy, the players are dealt a hand of cards. Each player then takes turns in drawing a card from the deck or the first card of the discard pile with the aim of disposing of all the cards in their hand by playing them in sets or straight sequences.

They can also play their cards to extend sets or sequences laid out by their opponents.

The turn ends when a card is discarded. The game, or the current round, stops when a player has played or discarded his last card.

Players then calculate the value of the remaining cards in their hands and take that as their score for the round and begin the next by reshuffling the deck and dealing new hands.

The game ends when a player has accumulated a pre-arranged score (usually 250) at which point the player with the lowest accumulated score is the winner.

Belisha 3


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Sarajevo And All That

Britain Needs You at Once -WWI recruitment poster._-_Parliamentary_Recruiting_Committee_Poster_No._108Despite having written a great deal of articles on the second world war I find I have done very little on the first world war (or The War To End All Wars)

The recipes I have found that represent the wartime diet of 1914 are not dissimilar to the ones used during the second world war some twenty years later.

Proving, I suppose, that when it comes to recipes and food preferences there is nothing new under the sun. I find the sight of grown men prancing about on national television glibly taking the credit for ‘creating’ their ‘own’ (insert name here) recipes always makes me smile somewhat sardonically.

They are only doing what housewives across the world have been doing for generations, namely creating something tasty and wholesome from available ingredients.

But what do I know! I’ve Sarajevo - 1912only been cooking my way across Europe for the last thirty (well alright, nearly thirty-eight, but who’s counting) odd years! And some of them were seriously odd!

Pietzner, Carl (1853-1927) Emperor Franz Josef I (c. 1885)

But be that as it may, in Sarajevo (right) on 28th of June 1914, Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, (left) heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary triggering a serious diplomatic crisis. Austria-Hungary sent an ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia that set in motion the invocation of complex international alliances created in the previous WW1Adecades.

On the one side stood Russia, France and Great Britain, (the allies) on the other stood Germany and Austria-Hungary (the triple Alliance or Central Powers)

Within weeks, from 28th July 1914, the major nations were embroiled in a war which rapidly developed into the first ever global conflict.

Both alliances reorganised and expanded as more nations entered the war. Italy, Japan and the United States joined the Allies, while the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria joined the Central Powers.

WW1EDescribed as the “War to end all Wars” the conflict involved more than 70 million military personnel, mainly European, and directly affected many times that of civilians.

In the course of the conflict over nine million combatants and seven million civilians died, a figure exacerbated by the major nations technological and industrial advances. Regarded as one of the deadliest conflicts in history that gave rise to major political change in the majority of the nations involved

On 4th November 1918, the Austro-Hungarian WW1Cempire agreed to the Armistice of Villa Giusti, and Germany, which had its own trouble with revolutionaries, agreed to an armistice on 11th November 1918, ending the war in victory for the Allies.

First National Kitchen, London, 1917

Soon after, the German Empire, Russian Empire, Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire ceased to exist. National borders were redrawn and nine independent nations restored or created.

WW1DGermany’s colonies were divided up by the victors and the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 saw Britain, France, the United States and Italy impose their terms in a series of treaties. From this also emerged The League of Nations, formed with the aim of preventing any repetition of such a conflict. This effort failed, and economic depression, renewed nationalism, weakened successor states, and unresolved rivalries at the end, contributed to the start of the Second World War twenty-one years later.

Euston Station, free buffet, xmas 1917

First Wounded arriving at Charing cross hospital

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A Word From Our Sponsors . . .

TalaIt seems an awful long time since I last did an ad break but that doesn’t stop me from continuing to collect them.

From decade to decade, generation to genaration the same things crop up with almost predictable monotony.

Food and drink, cooking utensils, clothing and shoes (the fashions and foibles of the time), washing, (ones clothing , ones children and oneself), cars, entertainment and holidays.

In the wake of two world wars and years of on/off austerity people were beginning to think there was more to life. Foreign holidays grew in popularity as soldiers returned from far flung places with new ideas and more open minds.

ad 1 OvaltineThe world was shrinking.

New products and foods were entering the normal world.

With transport becoming ever faster and more efficient items from around the globe were no longer out of reach of the ordinary household.

But the old form of written, drawn, photographic, colour and black and white images are gradually being replaced by media ‘events’, short ‘arty’ films, stories and ever more complex images that can frequently bear little or no relationship with the product (Perfumes and cars being prime examples)

Ad 3 PersilGive me a good, old fashioned Marmite advert every time. The kind of simple, honest product advertising that does exactly what it says on the tin! (Or the billboard or in the favourite magazine or newspaper)








Ad 5 Peas

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I’ve Been Sold A Pup . . .

Slovenský čuvač, archive 1DSC02703For the past four years I have believed that my Poppy was a Golden Retriever. She has the look, the temperament and the possessive nature so why should I not?

And then in the course of a conversation with a young Hungarian care worker I met in a nursing home near here when looking at some photographs, I was told quite firmly that she was not a Retriever but a Slovenský čuvač (Slovakian Koovass) or sheepdog!Slovenský čuvač, archive 2

It turns out that the girls father was a shepherd in northern Romania and used to breed them and she grew up surrounded by these lovely white dogs.

DSC00028 When I questioned this, certain that she was pulling my leg, she pulled up some photographs on Wikipedia of the  Slovenský čuvač. It can be either straight or curly coated and weigh anywhere between 32 and 52 kilos, the females tending toward the lower end , the males to the higher.

Slovenský čuvač, archive 4 Used on sheep farms and mountain ridges as well as homes and frontiers the Slovenský čuvač  is boundlessly loyal and strong willed, resisting every enemy including bears and wolves. By tradition the animals are always bred white in order to make them distinguishable from ‘the beasts of the night’

Slovenský čuvač, archive 3A good watchdog, guard, shepherd and companion, the Slovenský čuvač  proved itself invaluable in watching sheep but cattle, hens and other domestic animals as well as its master’s property.

P3Slovak sheep farming has a very old tradition, well documented as far back as the 17th century. However, as wolves slowly began to disappear from the European mountain ranges and modern herding practices were instituted, it was faced with becoming a mere relic of the past.

But full credit for reviving the breed and establishing the standard is owed to Dr. Antonin Hruza  who registered breeding of the čuvač  at the Veterinary Faculty of Brno University on June 4, 1929. (Brno is the second largest city in the Czech Republic)

The Club of the Breeders of Slovenský čuvač  was established in 1933 and a written standard was established and approved in 1964. Holiday makers and visitors to the mountains and spas of the region took to the  breed, leading to its appeal as a family friendly dog and its growing popularity.

All of the images on the left are from Wikipedia while those on the right are of Poppy.

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Ten Things You Never Knew About . . . Eggs

Since the domestication of the chicken, people have been nourishing themselves with eggs. As a long time symbol of fertility and rebirth, the egg has taken its place in religious as well as culinary history as an important and versatile ingredient for cooking, their chemical make-up being quite literally the glue of many important baking reactions.

In Christianity, the symbol of the decorated egg has become synonymous with Easter and there are lots of different types of egg available although the most commonly raised are chicken eggs. More specialist choices include duck, goose, quail and even emu.

Eggs are a very good source of inexpensive, high quality protein which as part of a controlled diet can help with weight loss. Egg whites are rich sources of selenium, vitamin D, B6, B12 and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper while egg yolks contain more calories and fat. They are the source of cholesterol, fat soluble vitamins A, D, E and K and lecithin, the compound that enables emulsification in recipes such as hollandaise or mayonnaise.

1) The colour of the egg shell is not related to quality, nutrients, flavour, or cooking characteristics. White shelled eggs are produced by hens with white feathers and white ear lobes while brown shelled eggs are produced by hens with red feathers and red ear lobes. Brown egg laying hens are usually slightly larger and require more food meaning that, as a rule, that brown eggs cost more than white eggs.

2) All 150 breeds of chicken are descendants of the red jungle fowl, gallus gallus spadiceus that can be found in Asia. (right) Chickens were among the first domesticated animals, appearing in China somewhere around 1,400 BC.

3) China produces the most eggs, at about 160 billion per year, the United States produces more than 65 billion eggs per year, while the UK produces just under 11 billion.

egg 134) A hen requires about 24 to 26 hours to produce one egg. Older hens tend to lay bigger eggs but double-yolked eggs are produced by younger hens whose egg production cycles are not yet synchronized. The average hen will lay an average of 266 eggs per year.

egg 95) Quail eggs have a similar flavour to chicken eggs, but their petite size, 5 quails eggs equate to one chickens egg, and their pretty, speckled shell have made them popular in modern cookery. The shells range in colour from dark brown to blue or white.

6) Duck eggs resemble chicken eggs but are larger. As with chicken eggs, they are sold in sizes ranging from small to large. Duck eggs have more protein and are richer than chicken eggs, but they also have a higher fat content and more cholesterol. When boiled, the white turns bluish and the yolk turns red-orange.

7) In traditional Chinese medicine, eggs are recommended to strengthen the blood and increase energy by enhancing digestive and kidney function.

8) Eggs are a useful source of Vitamin D which helps to protect bones, preventing osteoporosis and rickets although the method of production whether free range, organic or indoor raised can make a difference to vitamin D content.

9) To ascertain whether an egg is fresh or cooked simply spin it. If it wobbles, it is still raw while if it spins easily it’s cooked. Also, a fresh egg will sink in water while a stale one will float.

10) Eggs contain all the essential protein, minerals and vitamins, except Vitamin C, but egg 14egg yolks are one of few foods that naturally contain Vitamin D while unusually there are about 70 calories in an uncooked egg and 77 calories in a cooked one.

Contrary to popular opinion, eggs are not a dairy item.

To the best of my knowledge cows do not lay eggs, nor are they vegetarian. According to the Food Standards Authority eggs are classified as meat, being when all is said and done the dead foetus of a chicken. The vegetarian who claims that an egg is permissible because it is unfertilised are those same vegetarians who wear leather shoes!

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Ten Things You Never Knew About . . . St Patrick

1) St Patrick’s name wasn’t actually Patrick. His real name was in fact Maewyn Succat. His father, a Christian deacon, owned a small estate in a place called Bannavem Taburniae. It is not certain where this place actually was but it was probably on the west coast, near the southern border of Wales and England. A saint of the Catholic Church, St Patrick spent most of his adult life converting the pagans of Ireland to Christianity. St. Patrick went to his reward on 17th of March, 461 AD and subsequent entrance to heaven, rather than the day of his physical birth

2) At the age of 16, Patrick had the misfortune to be kidnapped by Irish raiders who took him away and sold him as a slave. He spent the intervening years in Ireland herding sheep and learning about the people there, until at the age of 22 he managed to escape. He made his way to a monastery in England where he spent 12 years growing closer to God.

3) The shamrock is a popular Irish symbol, but is not a symbol of Ireland. Many claim the shamrock represents faith, hope, and love, or any number of other things but it was actually used by Patrick to teach the mystery of the Holy Trinity, of how the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit could be separate entities, yet one in the same. Obviously, the pagan rulers of Ireland found Patrick to be convincing because they quickly converted to Christianity. Incidentally, the odds of finding a four-leaf clover are about 1 in 10,000.

4) There is a legend which states that St. Patrick drove all the snakes, (or possibly toads in an alternative version) out of Ireland. As there is no evidence that snakes have ever existed in Ireland, the climate being too chilly for them, certain scholars suggest that the term snakes may be figurative and refer to pagan beliefs rather than reptiles or amphibians.

5) Contrary to popular belief, the original colour associated with St. Patrick is blue, not green. In many early artworks depicting the saint, he is shown wearing blue vestments. King Henry VIII used the Irish harp in gold on a blue flag to represent the country. Since that time blue has been used to represent the country on flags, coats-of-arms and sports jerseys. Green was later adopted by the country because of the greenness of the countryside and may also have led to the country being referred to as the Emerald Isle.

6) Besides the colour green, the activity most associated with St. Patrick’s Day is drinking. However, Irish law, (1903 – 1970), declared St. Patrick’s Day a religious observance for the entire country meaning that all pubs were shut down for the day. That meant no beer for public celebrants. St. Patrick’s day was a dry holiday in Ireland until 1970 when the law was overturned, allowing the taps to flow freely once again.

7) One night Patrick dreamed that Satan tested his faith by dropping an enormous rock on him. He lay crushed by its weight until dawn broke, when he called out, ‘Helios! Helios!’ (the name of the Greek sun god) and miraculously the rock vanished. Taking it as some kind of epiphany, Patrick later wrote ‘I believe that I was helped by Christ the Lord’ In another vision back in Bannavem Taburniae, he was visited by an angel with a message from the Irish: ‘We beg you, come and walk again among us’ Thereafter Patrick retrained as a bishop and went back to Ireland.

8) Another legend tells of how Patrick fasted for 40 days atop a mountain, weeping, throwing things, and generally behaving very badly until an angel came on God’s behalf to grant the saint’s outrageous demands. These included permitting him to redeem more souls from hell than any other saint, that Patrick, rather than God, would judge Irish sinners at the end of time and that the English would never rule Ireland. Perhaps God will keep the first two of those promises!

9) Traditionally, every year, the Irish leader hands a crystal bowl full of shamrock to the US President. The shamrock, grown in Kerry, is immediately destroyed by the Secret Service after the exchange. For security reasons it is not permitted to give a food or floral gift to the US president.

10) St Patricks day is also a national holiday on the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean, a tiny island with around 4,000 inhabitants which became home to a large number of Irish emigrants in the 17th century. Montserrat will be holding an entire week of celebrations, including a Patrick’s Day dinner, a calypso competition and a church service.

‘Lá fhéile Pádraig sona dhaiobh


Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.

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