Author Archives: quercuscommunity

Scone Chronicles – 38 – Tea in the Garden

We had tea and cake in the garden this afternoon. As Julia had gone to the trouble of baking banana bread I thought this called for a revival of the Scone Chronicles.

She has been working away in the garden all lockdown and the patio is looking like the sort of place you might find a new species of beetle. Or even a lost tribe.

As you can see, we also had Battenberg, though that came from the shop. Life really is too short to make your own Battenberg. We’ve had Battenberg nearly every week since the start of lockdown, which is one of the brighter spots of the last couple of months.It’s a very reliable cake, and usually cheap. Other budget cakes can be a bit hit and miss, while other, pricier, cakes can be be covered in calories and three or four times more expensive. There is a case to be made which suggests Battenberg is an aid to dieting, but that might be pushing it a bit, even for me.

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Banana Bread and Battenberg

The banana bread was excellent – moist, tasty and light without being soggy or crumbling. Fortunately we still have some left. This is the advantage of afternoon tea at home – plenty of chance for second helpings. I won’t recommend it too heartily as I don’t want to have to queue for a table next time I’m here. It is possible for venues to become too popular and I don’t like crowds.

It’s back to work tomorrow. However, the good news is that I have two days off after that.

As I sit and think, it occurs to me that about 68 years ago my parents were married in the time of sugar rationing. I’m now, despite the recent shortages from panic buying, able to buy more sugar than is good for me. History can be a strange thing.

Later we had banana bread for supper with a nice cup of tea. It was slightly drier than when we had last eaten it, but still good. We have enough left for a couple of good slices, but will probably butter them.

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Is it just me. or does the position of dried fruit and plate decoration make this slice look like a face?

 

A Cheap and Easy Meal

Take a bag of ready chopped stir-fry veg, a pack of noodles and some sauce. Put them in a wok, mix them together and let them heat through.

It takes ten minutes, is very simple and is safe for those of us with poor knife skills.

I ordered it from TESCO as a special offer package deal on our last Click & Collect order but they didn’t have any sauce so they just sent me the veg and noodles. I wasn’t happy and really, if they don’t have all three offer items, they shouldn’t just send you two. Fortunately I had suitable sauce so we were OK.

Cost about £2 for two large portions. It could have been cheaper if we’d cut our own veg into little strips but a few pence seems good value to avoid cutting my fingers. It’s healthy, though I’m sure the sauce has a lot of sugar in it.

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Stir Fry Vegetables

Note how I have avoided mentioning flavour. It’s quite bland, even with a good helping of plum sauce, and the bean sprouts can be overpowering. It would probably benefit from some prawns or meat, but as we are trying to cut down our meat consumption, we are trying to like the taste of vegetables.

That isn’t quite fair, as I do like the taste of carrots, parsnips, peas, beans, chickpeas, broccoli, cabbage and onions, to name just a few. It’s bean sprouts I’m not that keen on, they are watery and they somehow seem to kill the flavour of the meal. They aren’t just tasteless, they seem to drain flavour and make everything else seem less tasty. When we are doing our own stir fry we tend not to use them, though I suppose we really should start growing our own as they are cheap and easy.

Adventures on eBay

If you look up “Sweetheart Brooches” on the internet you will find a few links to eBay and a leading dealer, then you find a link to a post of mine. That is a ridiculous state of affairs, partly because there should be more information out there, and partly because I only made a couple of short mentions of them. The highest-ranked entry of mine isn’t even the most informative post I wrote about sweetheart brooches. The internet is indeed a mysterious place.

Cambridgeshire Regiment Sweetheart

Cambridgeshire Regiment Sweetheart

The Cambridgeshire Regiment was a small unit and the badges are hard to find. This one is mounted on a wishbone, a symbol of luck, promise and potential. Nickel-plated brass.

As usual, when things have been slack, I have reverted to spending too much time on eBay. Whilst it is a pleasurable activity it can also be a disastrous way of spending time as I can’t resist buying things, and it soon starts to add up. Fortunately, having spent many years as a dealer in collectibles, I have a built-in aversion to paying full price, which tends to keep things within bounds. Despite this I’ve still managed to add eight items to my sweetheart collection.

Sweetheart brooches are strange things, because they weren’t even called that until the 1970s. Well, not in the UK – they may well have been called that in the USA, where there is a wide range of sweetheart items. Until that time, in the UK, a sweetheart brooch was a brooch bought for a sweetheart and they tended to feature motifs of birds, hearts or flowers. They were not military themed, as the brooches are that we now call sweethearts. These are mentioned in various news reports before the Great War, often cropping up in breach of promise reports. Those were definitely different days, when a man’s promise to marry could be enforced in court, and the gift of a brooch could be used in evidence.

Lancashire Fusiliers Sweetheart

Lancashire Fusiliers Sweetheart

The Lancashire Fusiliers badge is stamped “Sterling” on the back, showing that it is silver but offering no dating evidence. I would guess it’s late WW1.

In contemporary newspapers the brooches we now call sweethearts are known as Regimental Brooches or Badge Brooches. They are to be seen in newspaper adverts and feature in reports of weddings, when the groom gives a regimental brooch to his bride. These reports are mainly from the 1920s and 30s and I suspect they are the high-quality brooches which rarely feature in my collection.

The type of brooch known as white-faced enamel sweethearts (as featured in the header picture) are usually well made, and are made from brass and enamel. A cheap brass and enamel brooch could cost as little as  4d, the white-faced enamel type would cost you 1/6d. (That is fourpence and one and six (one shilling and sixpence) for those of you who don’t know.) Fourpence is worth 2 new pence and 1/6 is worth 7½p.

Yorkshire Light Infantry Sweetheart

Yorkshire Light Infantry Sweetheart

Nickel-plated brass again. Cheapish quality but with the military motif of crossed rifles, which you don’t often see. This is the first of its type for my collection.

At that point I had better stop and deliver a quick word on British pre-decimal currency in 1914. There were 240 pennies in a pound, 12 pennies in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound. We also had farthings (¼d) and halfpennies, pronounced ha’penny, (½d).

When we went decimal, with 100 pennies to the £1 a new penny (1p) was worth 2.4d. The abbreviation became p for penny rather than d for denarius (even though it was pronounced penny).

That’s about as clear as I can make it. I have condensed two thousand years of coinage into six lines, but I think I’ve covered the basics.

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WW2 Aircrew Sweetheart – silver

RAF Pilot’s Wings are quite common, but the half-wings for other aircrew are not so easy to find. The style of this one is distinctively WW2 with the brooch bar and dangler style. The “S” for Signaller brevet was issued from 1944 onwards to the aircrew who used radar and similar technology, which was all developed during the war.

 

To put this in context, an infantry private in the British Army was paid a shilling a day (1/- or 5p in decimal terms). He was also fed, and got meat every day, which was better food than most of them got at home.

The header picture is a white-faced enamel sweetheart of the Scots Guards. It cost a day and a half’s wages and would have been bought by a new recruit for his mother, girlfriend or sister as he embarked on a great adventure. There are eight brooches pictured here. On average, one man in seven was killed, which means that it’s likely one of the men who bought these brooches didn’t make it back home.

Sweetheart Brooch - 10th Royal Hussars

This is a sweetheart brooch of the 10th (The Prince of Wales’s Own) Royal Hussars, consisting of a regimental badge on a cavalry sword. It is a nice brooch to obtain because the ones with swords are difficult to find, as are brooches to cavalry regiments. In 1914 there were 733,514 men in the British Army, with less than 16,000 being cavalrymen, so you can see why the cavalry brooches are difficult to find.

There is a fault with the brooch, which is probably why it was reasonably priced (I hesitate to say too much about prices because Julia reads this blog). The hallmarks on the reverse are, unfortunately incomplete.

You can tell that the maker is MB in two circles which is Marshall Brothers, that the item was marked in Birmingham (Anchor) and is sterling silver (Lion), but the final element, the date letter, is under the hinge. This is irritating, but not unknown, and it’s a nice addition to the collection, even without a date letter. It’s likely to be around 1912-16, based on the dates of similar items.

Hallmarks

Finally, we have a sweetheart brooch of the Welsh Regiment, hallmarked Birmingham 1898 and again made by Marshall Brothers. The hollow silver horseshoe was a common design at the turn of the century and persisted until the early years of WW1. This is a nice early example.The regiment was known as the Welsh Regiment from 1881 – 1920 and the Welch Regiment after 1920.

Welsh Regiment Sweetheart

Welsh Regiment Sweetheart

Hallmarks - Birmingham 1898

Hallmarks – Birmingham 1898

This example has the regimental motto on it – Gwell angau na Chywilydd (Better Death than Dishonour) – rather than a scroll with “The Welsh” on it as brooches sometimes deviate from the official badge pattern. There’s some minor damage to it, but what do you expect from a brooch that has survived for 122 years?

Along with the personal link, that this was originally a gift with  a great deal of meaning to it, the wear is all part of the charm.

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Silver Brooch HMS Celerol

 

Hallmarks - Birmingham 1915

Hallmarks – Birmingham 1915 Frank H Mannox

RFA_Celerol_Dazzle_painted

 

The final brooch says “Well Done HMS Celerol”. I’m not sure what they did well, and can’t find any record of it. Celerol was a Tanker/Oiler, a class of ship used to escort convoys, import oil and refuel other ships. Launched in Sunderland in 1917, Celerol stayed in service until 1958. She was a hard-working ship, serving in two World Wars and the Russian Intervention, but she seems to have avoided both fame and disaster. Although several of her sister ships were sunk by enemy action Celerol survived to meet her end in the breaker’s yard at Bo’ness.

 

A Disaster Averted

I’m giving myself ten minutes for this as I have other things to do.

I decided I would make us brunch this morning as I was up late and Julia was already busy with meetings. The menu was welsh rarebit (using up some poor quality grated cheese from ASDA), rye sourdough toast and scrambled eggs. It sounded quite sophisticated to me, and goes some way towards redressing the meat which has been creeping back into our diet. We never intended going fully vegetarian, but we were going to cut back. Lockdown has seen us eating quite a lot of sausages and bacon, so it’s time to cut back a little.

The problem came with the sourdough. I often cut it with a sharp carving knife rather than the bread knife as the crust can be a bit tough. This loaf was a few days old and was tougher than normal. The bread knife, allied to my poor grip, didn’t make much impression and I reverted to the sharp knife, using both hands to press down at the end and cut the tough bottom crust.

Obviously it wasn’t the best way to treat a foot long blade and it shouldn’t have been a surprise when the bread and breadboard slipped and I found a sharp knife approaching my abdomen at high speed. It shouldn’t have been, but it was. Old age and arthritis seem to have dulled my common sense. Just like the time my grandfather nearly severed his thumb cutting kindling or my grandmother stood in the kitchen sink to change a lightbulb. It’s a worry, though it’s also nice to think I’m taking my place in a long line of family stupidity.

Julia, alterted by the clattering and bad language, came to complete the cutting.

That’s the ten minutes, so I’ll stop there. The description of my scrambled eggs will wait.

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Blue Iris

I selected the owl picture because we all need wisdom at the moment and the iris because I like irises.

Time to Plant a Tree

Sunday tea was a simple affair – roasted vegetables, Cornish pasties, Yorkshire puddings and gravy. The gravy was made from granules.The puddings and pasties were bought in. All I needed to do was cut up some vegetables.

The vegetables were leeks, brussels, sweet potato, carrot and parsnip. With a banana at breakfast, beans on toast for lunch and a pear in the evening that gives me eight portions of fruit and veg today. It might not have been exciting, but it was healthy.

It sounds simple, but as I mentioned before, it’s not quite so simple with arthritis. Even cutting vegetables becomes tricky when you have no grip. I will have to examine ways of coping with this new problem. I’ve already been buying pre-cut vegetables for various things, but that won’t work for roasted vegetables as they don’t come cut into the right size.

It was, to be honest, a bit of a shock, but worse things happen. It doesn’t seem as bad now as it did a few hours ago.

I’m just watching The Real Marigold HotelHenry Blofeld (yes, his father went to Eton with Ian Fleming so it is possible that he shares his name with the famous Bond villain) and Paul Chuckle are exploring the facilities of an Indian retirement community. It includes flats with rounded edges where walls meet (so that falling geriatrics don’t injure themselves so badly) and a chauffeur driven golf buggy service. It is a worry that I’m seriously starting to think about things like this. It is time to start making adjustments.

This is a worrying thought, as it’s an admission that I’m getting old. I’m also thinking that it’s time to begin looking for a bungalow.

I just looked up career development, as I still have five years before I can officially retire and, despite everything, I live in hope of something good happening. I might even have another ten or fifteen years to work if I find a job that involves sitting.

I was surprised to find this question when Googling – Is it too late to start a career at 25? Too late at 25? Someone answered by saying you could still start a new career at 75. That was good to hear, though I’m not sure I really believe it. However, the link also contained this quote, which I knew, but had forgotten. I seem to forget more things these days.

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

Figs at Wilford Mencap Garden

Figs at Wilford Mencap Garden

 

 

 

 

Musings

If a picture truly is worth a thousand words, I have just loaded 12,000 words from my photos to this post. The theme of my 12,000 words is, initially, that although WordPress can, it seems, develop a new improved editor, they cannot work out a system to allow me to access photos from old posts. They charge me for unlimited photo storage every year but I note, on an old post, that some photos have disappeared. I also note that if I want to access photos from old posts it gets progressively more difficult as I get back beyond a couple of weeks. Once past that the system starts to grind and lock up and flick back to newer photos. At that point it is easier to give up or to search out old posts and either link to them or recopy the photos. That is what I did with the last post.

It would have been a much more exciting post if I had been able to simply access the photos by scrolling down the media file.

If I could access old photos easily, this post would be more interesting too. However, due to the clunky and ineffective scrolling system I can only really access photos from the last couple of weeks. They are nice enough photos but they lack a bit of variety, you have seen them all recently, and they are not necessarily my better flower photos.

If I were developing a proper 12,000 word piece, I would then move on to muse on the mutability of life and how we change and improvement are not the same things. Life is simply a jerk progression, like the WP photo storage, where we jerk from one imperfection to the next. The final display is, like our lives, a poor reflection of the quality of material available, which has been severely limited by circumstances beyond our control. I think that makes sense, though it may just be self-absorbed twaddle. If that’s the case let’s agree to call it “deep”. That’s a useful neutral word to cover many eventualities.

 

There are several things I could move on to discuss as an ending. Cooking with arthritis is a current topic of interest. As a condition, not as an ingredient. Despite the new medication my fingers are actually getting worse. More fingers are being affected and more joints within those fingers are being affected. The index finger on my right hand now has painful swellings in all three joints and I could probably find hand modelling work as something out of Lord of the Rings or for those appalling Versus Arthritis adverts we now have on TV.

It seems to me that the name Versus Arthritis was developed by an idiot and approved, probably at great cost, by a board of idiots. Same goes for the TV adverts they run. In fact, despite the advertising I have spent the last two years not seeking help from them because the adverts are so bad. Today is the first time I’ve actually been on their site, and though some of the stuff appears useful, I may not rush back.

I was amused to see that one of the organisations that merged to form Versus Arthritis was formed in 1947 as the British Rheumatic Association (BRA). Even in 1947 I’m sure bra was a well known term for women’s underwear. Assuming that the organisation wasn’t formed by 14-year-old boys, it looks like the pitiful naming tradition has continued over the years.

Cooking with arthritis used to mean that my fingers ached after kneading bread. Now it means I can’t grip a vegetable peeler properly, can’t (on bad days) cut through veg single-handed and can’t fetch and carry without using both hands, as my grip has gone.

Tonight’s tea is roasted veg with pasties, Yorkshire puddings and gravy. I may be arthritic, and dreading the new improved editor but I’m not malnourished.

Note on the Dominic Cummings cut-out I mentioned a few days back (though I can’t actually find the reference, so I may just have thought I mentioned it). It was taken down but my sister sent me a links after seeing something on Twitter. Here is a link if you want it. I find it amusing, even if the story is now dead and brushed under the carpet.

And at just over 700 words, I think there is just time to sign off, and take my tea, carefully, from the oven.

Photographs and Percentages

It seems that one or two of my readers are suffering from damselfly envy. There are two ways of coping with this – either with tact and sympathy and empathy, or by publishing loads of links to previous photos. This second was would obviously be unkind and tactless.

So, here is the first dragonfly picture I took, after building a miniature wildlife pond when we were on the farm. Within days it tempted a dragonfly to appear from nowhere. In two years it was the only one we ever saw.

Common Darter

This is a common darter at the gardens in Wilford – the background and composition leave a bit to be desired, but you have to take your shots where they happen.

There’s another  dragonfly here too, and here. And here.

Finally, and it took some finding, is a picture of a ruddy darter from Strumpshaw Fen. This was one of my better days for photographing dragonflies and damselflies.

Ruddy Darter, Strumpshaw

Ruddy Darter, Strumpshaw Fen

The truth is that after walking miles round nature reserves and taking hundreds of shots, I’ve managed three or four shots I’m happy with.It’s much the same for butterflies, but make that thousands of shots and a dozen I’m happy with.

I really must start targeting dragonflies and try to get some better shots. If you want to see some good insect photos try Eddie the Bugman. He is an excellent photographer, even if he does hide his light under a bushel and spend his days sitting next to me photographing lots for eBay.

Big learning experience of the day was that I must use better links – I hard to search dragonflies, dragonfly, damselflies and damsel flies to find all these links and photos.