Monthly Archives: December 2022

The Importance of Onions

It’s the little things that count. I think we all know that, as it’s driven home in childhood.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

The first small loss was the ten minutes I spent reading Wikipedia on this subject, including stories about pigs and camel’s noses. So if you find me moaning tonight that I didn’t finish my submission for Blithe Spirit, you will know why.

Meanwhile, I direct you too the question of pickled onions.

We have good crackers and we have an excellent selection of cheese (though the chilli cheddar, as I discovered last night, is hot enough to make me sweat. This is probably slightly hotter than I find ideal in a cheese.) We also have some good chutneys. However, as the bill for Christmas shopping mounted I made a few concessions to cheapness, and decided to use the pickled onions we already had.

They are just silver-skins. I bought them based on price and regretted it on first taste. They are just a cheap vinegar delivery system. The best pickled onions are the ones I used to make myself, but I don’t have time or the inclination these days. My favoured shop-bought onions are spiced pickled shallots, which have flavour, bite, depth and heat and are good to eat on their own. They are good, but not cheap, and I decided to economise. It was a bad move. I only saved a few pounds and I have now regretted the lack of decent onions several times. It hasn’t exactly spoiled Christmas, but it has caused a few regrets. For the sake of a few pounds, which really make no difference, I have gained nothing and lost much.

I am now off to ponder Ruskin and consider the wisdom of buying better onions. I may drop a few dried chillies and some peppercorns into the next lot I buy,  to ensure they have flavour.

So, next time you are tempted to save a little money, think before you do so. And remember that if you need to save money, you are probably better off doing without onions totally. Doing without is easier than eating poor quality onions. I can vouch for that.

Amazing! I have over 8,000 photos stored on WP and not one of them seems to be of pickled onions. You will have to make do with a slightly allegorical shot of Julia walking into a sunset. Happy New Year everyone!

Old Oaks of Sherwood Forest

Some Haiku

I’m always a bit worried about posting poetry because it’s not really a poetry blog. It seems a little unfair to force people to read poetry if they haven’t signed up for it, particularly as people feel obliged to be nice. That’s why I rarely post poetry that hasn’t been published elsewhere first. At least that way, it has been filtered by a proper editor and should be OK.

However, a while ago I did say that I would post a few, so here are a few haiku and senryu to start.

Three lines and a web of rules/definitions/restrictions don’t really suit me. I’d love to be a competent writer of haiku, but I’m locked in a circular system with them. I find them difficult so I don’t write many, and because I don’t write many I don’t improve. It’s also why I struggle with haibun too, as I can write the prose, but can’t nail the haiku. They are, as I say in an unpublished essay on writing haiku, slippery. Give me a tanka, with five lines and freedom from restrictions and I find it a lot easier. The same goes for Tanka Prose, the clumsy name for the Haibun equivalent that uses a tanka in place of the haibun.

I suppose if I were a serious poet, I would accept the challenge of haiku but I actually write for the pleasure of seeing words do things, not because I like difficulty.

Here are a few with a vaguely Christmas/Winter theme. The first has been adapted from a senryu that originally had the first line “Birthday” but it still works.

bright paper packages
-the disappointment of socks

Failed Haiku April 2022

melting snow
rooks stalk
the dappled field

Presence Issue 69

a robin
sings from the blackthorn
we queue for the shop

Wales Haiku Journal Spring  2021

lighter nights
the bus passenger smiles
on his way home

Presence Issue 72

I put them in two columns to make the layout slightly more interesting, but it has the effect of altering the formatting for the ones that  are in the second row. Many people do centre their poems so I think I can get away with it. I tried using three columns but that involves right hand justification and that definitely looks odd. I’m sure there’s another way to do it but I’m not sure I have the spare thought capacity to devote to it at the moment. I have ten poems to submit before in the next 38 hours and they aren’t cooperating.

Robin of Sherwood

A New Record

I sent a group of poems out yesterday evening, and had an acceptance later that night. It’s a new speed record for an acceptance, and probably a sign that I’m not the only one champing at the bit after a few days off.

There is one more set of submissions to send off before the end of the year (or within the next two days, to put it another way, though that sounds a bit more desperate). I am just about on top of that, but as soon as that ends I am straight into a month with five more submissions needed. That’s quite daunting as this hasn’t been a productive month and I have little left to send.

I thought I had plenty down on paper but when i looked again a few weeks ago I realised I had quite a bit written, but nothing finished. A good number of the pieces had bits missing as i struggled to find the right words and I’m still no closer finishing them. This isn’t unusual and most of them will eventually be completed. It’s just that if I get myself in the position of being unable to finish I often find it can take months to get it right.

I’ve been going through things tonight and have tinkered with several I’ve also cut a couple substantially because both language and thoughts were sloppy. None of them are actually finished yet, but I have four weeks until they really need to be sent. Fortunately I have another selection in draft form – either as notes or in on paper, so I have not yet run dry.

Pre-Covid I had myself organised so I was able to send things out on the first day of a submission window opening. I always feel that puts you at an advantage. Submit early and you only have to be good. Submit late and you have to be good, and be better than the people who submitted earlier.

Since Covid, and my several months of inability to write, I have not yet caught up. I will, but it won’t be this year.

My Orange Parker Pen

Note to self – Parker Pens seem impervious to my attempts to earn money, or free pens, from product placement.

Cheese, Chutney and Cholesterol

I’ve reached the balance phase of my extended Christmas holiday. After five days doing very little, whilst wearing layers of flannelette I am now bored. Tomorrow I will dress and go out. It’s now feeling like I need to do something in preparation for going back to work. By “something” I mean something other than watching TV, napping or checking eBay.

It’s time to start work on the book of poetry, catalogue my collection and declutter the house. To be fair, I often say it’s that time, so don’t expect too much in the way of actual action. The only difference this year is that we are within two years of retirement and moving.

I have about 18 months to go and Julia has two years longer than that – she’s younger than me, and because of that we fell on different sides of the divide as the government raised the retirement age. I can draw my pension at 66, she has to wait until she’s 67. As the retirement age for women was 60 when we married (compared to 65 for men) she already nurses a grudge against the government, even without the additional year. That is why I will now remain tactfully silent over the matter and not remind people seeking equality to be careful what they wish for.

We just had cheese and biscuits so I can now report that the Onion and Date Chutney I mentioned in the last post was as good as the Sweet Root chutney, and both go well with Lancashire cheese. They also go well with garlic and herb soft cheese, though I don’t want you to think I’m showing off about my cheese supply with all this name dropping.

We actually don’t have much variety compared to previous years, as I always used to buy Camembert or Brie and at least one variety we’d never had before, plus Stilton, something else blue, cheddar, Wensleydale with fruit, and some of those Xmas novelty truckles. This year we have Stilton, Red Leicester, Lancashire, a truckle of Chilli Cheddar and the soft garlic and herb cheese. We still have enough cheese to block a major artery, but we have less variety, which makes it easier to use in an orderly fashion. I try my best, but we have found a few furry surprises at the back of the fridge in our time. One year I actually developed a semi-soft blue Cheddar, which was very good, though possibly poisonous. I’m still here so it was probably OK, but according to the internet you need to be careful with mould. On the other hand, I can’t help noting that Alexander Fleming got a knighthood and a Nobel Prize from messing about with mould.

The Big Reveal

I was just looking over a post from a couple of days ago and really must apologise for the quality of my proof-reading and typing.

The title refers, in case you are concerned, to a discussion of the chutney I was given for Christmas, rather than a malfunction of my outfit. I am still ding my impression of a plaid mountain, though tomorrow I must dress properly as I need to use the car.

Before the countdown I will just mention that I have had a complaint from a reader. She has asked me to point out that she cooked plenty of stuffing and that the reason for the stuffing deficiency is that I eat too much. I off course replied that we always had plenty when I did the cooking, and that if I was unhappy I could cook the Christmas Dinner myself.

I am too experienced at the ways of husbandship to fall for that one, so muttered and left the argument. Thirty-three years of avoiding housework helps you develop an instinct about that sort of thing.

Anyway, back to the countdown.

At three we have onion and date chutney, a thoughtful general purpose chutney which I haven’t opened yet as we have a number of similar chutneys on the go.

At two, we have sweet root chutney. It’s the colour of piccalilli but with a sweeter taste, and, according to the contents, contains celeriac.It was excellent with pork pie and I am looking forward to using more of it. I suspect it will be good with cheese too.

Finally, in first p[ace for oddity we have Brussels Sprout Ketchup. I confess, the more I thought about it, the more I delayed. We had it on Boxing day and, despite the fears and the primeval green glow it gave off (like the scrapings of a an ancient swampland) it was really good. It doesn’t taste sulphurous, as I expected, and doesn’t produce any digestive upsets, so I have to give it 9/10. It’s tangy, spicy, hot and just about perfect, but if you have to eat it with your eyes closed (due to the threatening green colour) it can’t have 10/10. It comes from Nottingham and they plant a tree for every order they get, so if you need an excellent ketchup from a great city and want to plant a tree, this is the one for you!

Pictures are from past pickles and produce, as I’m too lazy to take new photos.

The Old Farm Shop


The New Year Looms

I’m just starting to get used to the holiday. It takes a few days to get Christmas over and relax. Unfortunately we start again next week, though in my case it’s probably only a day and a half. Wednesday and Friday are the target days though I may do more if we have a flood of parcels to pack. Julia is back to work on Thursday and that will be it for another year. The days will be longer by then – 12 minutes longer in fact, and progressing, by that time, at two minutes a day. By the end of the month it will be 3-4 minutes a day and things really get moving. However, I won’t get too enthusiastic just yet as it’s still a long way to Spring.

It’s a sad time of year because it reminds me that I can no longer walk amongst the spring flowers without  a lot more planning and equipment than I used to need. Snow drops, crocuses (my favourite spring flower), daffodil, bluebell, tulip . . .


The RHS has Lily of the Valley as Number 20 on their list of spring flowers. To me, even the very name is like a cold hand round the heart. It’s the scent of drawer liners and ancient aunts and, even today we end up with it in the shop when widows bring in stamp collections that have been stored in wardrobes. We use the mint condition stamps to stick on envelopes and there is little worse than licking a stamp that smells of Lily of the Valley.

I see irises are listed as spring flowers, with a flowering season starting in January. I vaguely know that they are earlier than I think, but always mentally pigeonhole them as May onwards. hat’s despite the pictures I am going to use, which clearly shows them being earlier. The mind plays tricks on us all, though not as cruel as the one that makes me think I am 19 and slim. That’s why I prefer internet shopping – no shop windows to reflect the dreadful truth.

For lunch, we will be having turkey sandwiches with mayonnaise and redcurrant jelly. If I get my act together we may have stuffing too, but it will involve cooking more as someone, and I will point no fingers here, didn’t cook enough stuffing when she did the Christmas Dinner. That never happens when it’s my turn to cook it.

Daffodils in the Mencap Garden

We have a number of taste sensations coming up for the rest of the month – Julia bought me Jeyes’s sauce for Christmas. It’s a poor choice of name in my mind, as Jeyes is the manufacturer of excellent disinfectant ((Jeyes Fluid), not the product of Philadelphus Jeyes of Earls Barton. According to Wikipedia James Jeyes, the disinfectant man, was the son of Philadelphus Jeyes the sauce man (who used to work for Perrin of Lea & Perrins. That’s still no excuse for launching a dark brown sauce that has the name of a dark brown disinfectant. It’s about on a par with the French firm that makes Pschitt, which is never going to sell well in the English-speaking world. To be fair, it was launched before the concept of eurobranding took hold.

However, you won’t believe which condiment Number One Son bought me for Christmas . . .

Sorry about the woeful selection of Spring flower photos – I know I have better ones, I just can’t find them.

Snowdrops, though I expect you knew that

New Horizons

My original plan was to buy enough food so that I could pass the Christmas week without going out to shop. As I take stock, it’s possible that I overdid things. Apart from milk and bread I probably don’t need anything until the second week of January and there are certain things, like Christmas pudding, that won’t be eaten until Spring. I find a little goes a long way and as we ate the one that Number One Son brought with, we don’t need more for some time.

Because we broke the microwave we did at least boil the one we had, which made it more palatable. Microwaved Christmas pudding is rarely a success, but after a Christmas season of large roast dinners I cannot be bothered with the palaver of boiling a pudding. It’s one of those circular things – the less you like pudding, the more you fail to treat it well, and the worse you treat it, the less you like pudding.

I’ve just been reading a book about writing. It’s the first book I’ve read properly for over a year. I really need a reading lamp because my eyes are dimming (which sounds like a cue for half-remembered song)  and I should buy a reading lamp. Julia bought me a new Kindle for  Christmas, which is pretty much the same thing.  In terms of light, that is. In terms of books, it’s still quite different. I don’t buy expensive books for my Kindle as you don’t really get anything from your money apart from renting a few pixels. (t’s a bit like NFTs).

I tried reading that link – it still makes little sense. basically an NFT is a picture which people believe is worth something. It’s a bit like buying a suit from the same tailor that made the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Or as Jimmy Carr put it last night on TV – and NFT is a con trick bought by an idiot. I think that’s probably the best definition I’ve heard yet. Don’t Google him, you probably wouldn’t like him as a comedian. But as a social commentator he’s spot on.

Anyway, the book, which I last mentioned some paragraphs ago, was talking about how to improve your writing. The author writes 750 words a day. I’ve been knocking out my 250 a day fro so long it’s become the norm. I used to do a thousand in various forms, but gradually reduced to a single blog post with a minimum target of 250 words. Then I allowed the 250 words to become the limit. That could be the cause of several of the problems I am finding with writing. Looks like it’s time to set some new targets.


Hard Times of Old England

To me, the week between Christmas and New Year has always been a strange time. The presents are done, I can go back to disliking my fellow men with a clear conscience and there is nothing left to do apart from wait for the forced jollity of the New Year.

I’d be happy to start the New Year on Boxing Day and get back to work, but tradition means we have to wait a week. Historically we celebrated the Twelve Days of Christmas, but as there was no TV and no annual holidays I suppose you needed a good feast. When we think of life as historical characters we rarely think of ourselves as peasants do we? Dirty, downtrodden and destined to die young, it’s not really a life that holds any appeal to me. But life as a courtier, with all its pox and politics is hardly more attractive. If I was able to go back in time I’d not want to go back far – some time with anaesthetic, antibiotics and civilised dentistry would do me nicely.

Anyway, here I am, with a laptop and one earphone in. I’ve listened to Feelgood and am now making my predictable way through all the old favourites. I don’t do carols, and I’m very predictable. I really should listen to some modern music. If they ever write any that’s worth listening to i may try it. I’m going to put both earphones in now and listen to a group of old blokes knocking out a song about the state of the nation whilst fronted by a woman who looks like a member of the Women’s Institute. Ah, the Rock and Roll lifestyle. The song comes from the eighteenth century, which tends to support my view that we don’t need modern music. Sadly it also supports my view that there is nothing new in politics and that we will never learn to stop fighting wars.

Now I’m going to go through and do family stuff.

Happy Christmas

I surfaced rather than rose on Christmas morning, having spent the evening before grazing on finger food, our traditional start to the Christmas season.

Number One Son was already pottering around then kitchen and the smell of cooking sausages provided an extra inducement to get dressed and go downstairs. I use “dressed” in a fairly loose sense – I’m wearing double flannelette and a dressing gown in various colours and patterns. Coordination never was my forte.

I’m not sure when “double denim” became a thing, or why they call a denim jacket with jeans a “Canadian Tuxedo” but for the modern day miser-chic look, double flannelette has no equal. Team up your checked pyjamas and nightshirt (note the layering effect to keep out the cold – we haven’t switched the heating on yet – with a nice striped dressing gown and you are well on the way to dressing like me. I’m sure I have some paisley somewhere but for now am accessorising with black fingerless gloves and a woolly hat.

If you happen to write a life-style blog and you are cringing at my fashion tips, good. It’s about time we chose our outfits based on warmth, practicality and what we have in the wardrobe. As a planet we throw a lot of clothes away, and 5hey are hard to recycle. The easy way is to buy fewer clothes and wear them for longer. Forget fashion and don’t throw anything away until you can see daylight through it. This is my serious thought for the day.

This article is an interesting read. I particularly like the idea of compostable clothing. in the past I have composted cotton underwear and leather/cotton gardening gloves. Unfortunately a lot of stuff is mixed fibres. I once composted socks and they left a fine mesh behind – the synthetic portion of the wool mixture.

Anyway, have a great holiday, despite me preaching about recycling. This year I cut down on waste by refusing to wrap anything I was giving. Julia went mad. Apparently this isn’t in the spirit of Christmas. But it did save me a lot of time and I didn’t have to buy wrapping paper.

An Accidentally Thoughtful Post

Well, I went to sleep again last night instead of blogging. It seems to be my new routine. I will do my best to start a better habit over the holiday. However, my good intentions tend to last as long as a mayfly so don’t hold your breath.

Today is my last day at work for a while, as I won’t be back until 3rd January.  That’s plenty of time to try a new routine and drift away from it.

Meanwhile, the turkey is thawing in the kitchen (Julia remembered to do it – I merely thought about it then forgot to check and went to bed).

Happy Christmas to you all. Unless you don’t celebrate Christmas, and find the whole thing incomprehensible. It’s a sign of modern times that I have to worry about things like that. Life was much easier when we could just wish everyone a Happy Christmas without worrying whether it would upset someone. Christmas hasn’t suddenly become offensive, because just like every other religion, I like to see lots of people enjoying themselves, and I’m sure that most people do. No, the big change is that people have suddenly become so sensitive and willing to take offence.

Robin at Clumber, Nottinghamshire

My Christmas message to the world is therefore to stop taking yourself so seriously. People my age were brought up to talk and think in a way that will be offensive to modern snowflake sensibilities ( and I may have done it there) . You can take us as we are, because we really aren’t that bad. Or you can grow up all twisted inside because the world is unfair and you aren’t given enough respect. Your choice. Over the last few years I’ve seen lots of things change, some for the better, some not. I can’t change them so I’ve decided that as I approach the downhill slide to the crematorium I am going to laugh while I’m doing it.

That’s strangely philosophical for a wet, grey Saturday morning, but I had a short slot for writing before  setting off for work and let my fingers wander over the keyboard. That’s what emerged.

Tonight I hope to be back to my normal lightweight self.

Robin at Clumber, Nottinghamshire