Category Archives: History

The End of an Era

Jillian here. This month, I’ll be truly sharing what many are discussing today over backyard fences all over the world. A true end of an era. 

For most of us, we have only been alive during the reign of one monarch in the United Kingdom. Some were alive before she took the throne, but would have been young people or children at the time she ascended. Yes, of course, I mean Queen Elizabeth II. 

Even though I’m an American through and through, I have a special love for our neighbors across the pond. My ancestry is both English and Scottish. My paternal grandfather’s side of the family comes from the clan MacDonald and my paternal grandmother’s side were Londoners from a very long time ago. Both sides came to the USA early on—late 1600s.  My fifth generation back great-grandfather enlisted in George Washington’s army when he was only 15 and almost froze to death at Valley Forge. My MacDonald relatives fled Scotland near the time of the Glencoe massacre so we’re definitely long term residents of the North American continent. 

That doesn’t take away from the fact that I love the United Kingdom. In fact, every time I visit, I feel like I’ve come home. It’s kind of weird how that feeling just comes over me from the minute I step off the plane. 

I don’t know that I’d call myself a monarchist, but I do enjoy reading about and studying the history of the various countries making up the UK. I have followed the lives of the current royal family since Lady Diana became engaged to Prince Charles. She and I were the same age and both had two sons so I felt an affinity for her. 

Queen Elizabeth was a woman to be looked up to. She worked hard in the time of WWII and made herself useful. From the time she took the throne—and even before that—she served her country tirelessly. Even up to the Tuesday before she passed away on Thursday. That’s admirable. Ninety-six years old and still working. Very impressive. 

I didn’t think she’d live long once she lost her husband. It’s a sad fact that many long term partners pass away in close proximity to each other. They become so dependent on each other, they seem to deteriorate faster once one is gone. She had been looking quite frail lately which was worrisome. 

I was saddened by a lot of ugly comments online about the queen’s passing. I get that some people do not admire her nor the institution she represented, but at the end of the day, she was a woman. A human being. A mother, grandmother, aunt, cousin, friend. Her family, no matter  rank or standing, has a huge loss to cope with just in their personal capacity, not even considering succession and all that entails. I wish the people making such unkind comments would take a moment and remember that.  Can you imagine having to grieve in such a public way? And subject to nasty comments? It would make it so much harder, I think. 

The end of the second Elizabethan era comes to an end and the beginning of the third Charles era begins. What do we call it? Charlesian? 

It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes to change over all the currency, beefeater uniforms, post boxes, etc. Not many of us would have been witness to those kind of mundane changes when Queen Elizabeth took over from her father. History. We’re living history right now. A front row seat, so to speak. 

My County’s American History Fair 2022

Jillian here. Happy February!

I was lucky enough to be part of the judging for the American History Fair in my county this year again. There were fewer entries which made me sad, but the students work really hard and it definitely shows. Some are in middle school and some in high school. This year’s theme was diplomacy and debate. I’m sharing a sampling of the displays I liked the most.

I wasn’t really sure what the La Belle Epoque one had to do with diplomacy or debate, but it was very visually appealing. I can’t recall what the paper the students had to provide with their display said, but I liked the board. LOL

Hoping everyone has a great month and stays warm– it’s even cold here where I am- 30s Fahrenheit in the nights and into daytime. Brr!

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Wild Side of the Street

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Yesterday, once the frost had lifted and the temperature rose a few degrees, in the bright sunshine I ventured out for proper walk, the first one for many weeks now lockdown restrictions here in the UK are easing. I took … Continue reading

‘Tis The Season To Be Jolly

And suddenly Christmas is almost upon us once more. Despite the difficulties of the past year, it has crept up seemingly faster than ever. I should have been more prepared, after all the shops were playing seasonal music since November, cards and decorations and seasonal food on sale back in September and the Christmas movies on TV since the summer! Not that I have much to prepare. As it has been for the past 20 years, ours will be a quiet time, just Dave and me and my mother, who finally decided yesterday she did indeed want to come to us again. No presents, no fuss, no crackers, just enjoyable food and a little drink or two and even more enjoyable company with the Christmas tree twinkling in the corner, and hopefully a good movie or two to watch on TV.

Talking of TV, the Christmas advertisements haven’t been up to their usual standard this year, in our opinion, although there is one that has moved me to tears. No silly song, indeed, no dialogue whatsoever but the sentiment is so strong it brings a lump to my throat every time I watch it.

https://youtu.be/yg4Mq5EAEzw

With my mother being German, we were bought up with many of the German Christmas traditions, from the Christmas tree never being put up until Christmas Eve, when us children were in bed so it became an extra special magical Christmas morning, to the Advent Calendars, sent from Germany by our grandmother (Oma), years before they became available or popular in the UK. They were simple affairs, a little religious scene behind every dated window or door, and lots of glitter. No chocolates or treats or perfume or even bottles of gin that are so popular nowadays – the ones for adults, that is. These came each year in a large parcel sent from Germany at the end of November, along with a homemade Stollen, Lebkucken, iced gingerbread hearts, packets of Dr Oekter vanilla sugar (because Mum couldn’t get any in the UK), special coffee beans, our presents from Oma, along with other items for Mum and Dad. I will never forget the aroma that filled the house those days when the parcel arrived and opened. Now Stollen and Lebkucken and other German treats are readily available here, much to my family’s delight although nothing yet beats Oma’s baking.

Lovely memories of childhood Christmases fill me each year, and for many a year I have been on a quest to find a recipe my mother would make just after the festivities were over. Years ago you couldn’t buy beer in the supermarkets like you can now. If you wanted to drink beer at home, especially for parties, you bought glass flagons of it from the off-licence section in the pub. When you needed more supplies, someone had to take the empty bottles to the off-licence to be refilled. Of course, the beer went flat very quickly if not drunk and, rather than waste it, my mother would use some of it in beef stews and casseroles and as a special treat, make beer soup! I can taste it now, in my mind. But I have never been able to find the recipe for it. Mother cannot remember the recipe now, nor can she find her German cookery book in which it was written. All I can remember is she used to put custard powder in it.

I have spent many years trawling recipe books and the internet to no avail. Yes, there are recipes out there, but they all include cheese and made with lager, all claiming to be the original German beer soup, but cheese nor lager was ever used in ours or in that Oma made. Try as I might to recreate it adjusting from those recipes, I failed every time. However, a few days ago I came across a site that had many old German recipes from a cookery book dated 1897 and low and behold, there was one for beer soup that sounds very much like the one I know.

Beer Soup
1 cup dark beer
1 cup water
1/2 cup light brown sugar
Pinch salt
1 egg yolk
1 heaping tablespoon flour
Place egg and flour in a heat safe bowl; set aside. Heat beer, water, sugar, and salt until just before boiling. Pour beer slowly over egg and flour, constantly whisking.  Return to pan. Serve hot.

I haven’t tried making it yet, but I intend to.

Of course, Christmas isn’t Christmas without a carol or two, so here is one of my favourites “Oh Holy Night” sung by four gorgeous hunks to sign off with. But before I go, I want to thank you all for your friendship and support during this difficult year and wish each and every one of you a Happy, Safe, Merry and Enjoyable Christmas, no matter how you are celebrating yours. See you in the New Year.

https://youtu.be/a5j_XuATgRU

Kit Domino’s website and blogs

Moving Day

Are you are sitting comfortably, as I’d like to tell you a story. A true one.

Once upon a time there existed a village called Charlton nestled on the edge of the county of Gloucestershire, England. Surrounded by farmland, there were some large houses, a pub, post office, and several small cottages clustered around a village pond. Through modern eyes, it might seem idyllic but life then was simple, but harsh especially in winter as cottages were small, two-bedroomed buildings with no hot running water. Each had a kitchen and a small living room but there was no bathroom and the toilet was outside at the end of the garden.

Charlton was close to what was then the largest factory in Europe (later to become part of Rolls Royce) which designed and built aircraft, including engines and spare parts. Due to its manufacturing importance and its runway, it was a prime target during WW2. Thankfully the village survived the bombings, however, after the war, a compulsory purchase order was issued by the air ministry who wanted to extend the runway to accommodate take-off and landing requirements of a new aircraft, the Bristol Brabazon, and to build what would be the largest hanger in the world to house this experimental plane. The village was demolished, the government rehousing all the residents in brand-new houses in a larger town close by, thus keeping most of the community together.

In 1947, Vera and Albert and their two sons became the first family from Charlton to move into the new semi-detached homes, the national press on hand to record the event. With three bedrooms, a kitchen with storage cupboards plus larder, an anthracite boiler in the corner for hot water, a dining room, a living room with a large open fireplace, and joy-of-joys an indoor toilet, and an even bigger joy, a bathroom with a sink and airing cupboard with an immersion heater, Vera felt like she had won the football pools. Outside was a shed with a coal store and another toilet attached to the house, all surrounded by a large garden in which to grow vegetables and flowers. Some nine months later another son was born – a celebration of the new house Vera would proudly boast.

Reader, 30 years later I married that new son, and a month after, moved into that house to look after my terminally ill mother-in-law. It is where we still live. Whilst for Vera the house was wonderful, for me it was not. The kitchen was cluttered, small, had only one electric socket sited under the wooden draining board by the sink. The boiler created constant battles with soot and ash, as did the fire in the living room. There was only one electric socket in each room, nor was there any central heating. I truly hated the house but put up with it all.

Over time and the years we have altered and changed the house to the extent Vera would never recognise it or the gardens, and slowly I have come to like it. We are happy here. And we’re still improving and changing things. Whilst the majority of it is now as we want, the kitchen is desperately in need of updating again, but a chance situation last week changed that, putting its refurbishment on the back burner once more. Instead, we had a new drive laid. The old concrete one we installed some 30 years back was cracked in several places and breaking up and was always frankly too narrow. Laid within a day and a half, we are delighted with the result. Dave still parks right on the edge, still steps onto the grass to get out of the car, but he’ll learn soon enough. And I’m in no hurry for the new kitchen. It’ll come in time.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my story and trust I haven’t bored you with it. Oh, and the photograph of Moving Day? That’s Vera alongside her father who helped that day and the little boy is my brother-in-law, Bev. Funny thing with Bev too – his wife has the same name as me. Often causes confusion!

 

Kit Domino’s Website and Blog

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Oops- Missed My Day

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Jillian here. I had been thinking about what I’d blog about this month and knew the 9th was my day, of course. I got derailed as my paralegal has been out all week waiting for results from her COVID test. … Continue reading

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Busy November

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Jillian here. Happy November. This month is chock full of happenings. The first weekend, I spent with writer friends at a lake house about 2.5 hours from me. My friend’s uncle owns it and he allows her to use it … Continue reading

Montesano Washington

220px-Grays_Harbor_County_Courthouse_03Last week Karen and I resumed out trips to small towns. It was a beautiful day to visit the Montesano courthouse and walk along the residential streets.

The courthouse was damaged in the 1999 earthquake and I didn’t know if it was open. It was, in fact, the work to repair the quake damage led it to be restored to its former glory. The courthouse today is considered one of Washington finest and is an important part of the state’s architectural history.

The entrance is through the side making the building look like it is closed. Karen and I took a self-tour of the building. The murals in the rotunda B6B29826-E0D5-448B-B6FB-2925752DC32Aare some of many throughout the courthouse.

Just seeing the courthouse is worth the trip but the town itself is an experience. The 1987 survey made by the state referred to the county’s collection of homes as “the richest in the state”.

It was a beautiful day so when we left the courthouse we wandered down some streets. Many of the homes looked to be in the process of renovation but the Hubble House was in perfect condition and is for sale.  The listing reads 5 bedrooms – 5.25 bathrooms and 5352 square feet.  It was built in 1903.Grays-Harbor-Historic-Homes-Hubble-House-Montesano-Historic-Homes

Of course, we finished off with lunch stopping at a Mexican restaurant recommended from people we met at the courthouse.

Visiting small towns are one of my favorite out and about days.

 

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Shakespeare's BirthplaceLast week, we spent a few days in leafy Warwickshire (Shakespeare Country) and, since we lived in the area about thirty five years ago, took the opportunity to visit some of our old haunts. Stratford-on-Avon, where we spent many happy hours showing visitors around Shakespeare’s town (especially his birthplace, pictured), then on to Leamington Spa, where I used to work, and a day spent in the city of Coventry which, for me, was the highlight of our trip.

Coventry is probably best known for it’s medieval cathedral, which was bombed in November 1940 and left in ruins. At the end of World War II, it was decided to build the new cathedral beside the ruins of the old one as a symbol of hope, peace and reconciliation.  Unfortunately, the photo I took is too blurry to post, but there are many great images on Google if you’d like to check them out.

20190519_125326Another reason for Coventry’s fame is the story of Lady Godiva. According to legend, she was the wife of a powerful tyrant lord who demanded high taxes from the people of Coventry. Lady Godiva asked her husband to stop this tax since she knew it was causing such hardship amongst the people she loved. He allegedly told her that he would do so if she rode naked through Coventry.

Lady Godiva took him at his word, and with only her long blonde hair covering her naked body she rode through Coventry on market day. Pious and modest, Lady Godiva is said to have sent word to the townspeople that they should go inside their homes and not watch as she rode by. Because they loved her and knew she was doing it to save them hardship, they complied. Except one young tailor who couldn’t resist looking. He became known as Peeping Tom and was blinded by heaven for not adhering to Lady Godiva’s instruction.

On the plinth below the statue are words from Tennyson’s poem:

“Then she rode back
clothed on with chastity.
She took the tax away
and built herself an everlasting name” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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History Fair

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Jillian here. Happy February. I, for one, was happy to see January leave. I literally was sick the entire month. Kept the cough until February 5, but at least wasn’t sick. Today, I had the privilege of being part of … Continue reading