Category Archives: History

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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

Welcome to My November

Jillian here. I hate to say my life is dull compared to some of you. Laurie with her cider making, Jane with her bike/car adventures, Lavada with her hidden state treasures visits, Kit’s gardening and Tricia’s trip all sound so much fun. I’m here trudging along with the day to day grind. Working the day job and writing on a new story for NaNoWriMo on my lunch hour and at home in the evenings. I was supposed to go to New York City in October but my traveling companion had an emergency arise with her mother in law so we postponed.

My older son is in for a visit this weekend so that’s a very nice thing. He’s always a pleasure to be around. We both have long been Liverpool football fans and usually both watch the matches and text each other while they are being played. This week, at 6:30 am central time, we’ll be up and watching in the same room for the first time in ages. Looking forward to it.

I have a new Christmas anthology out that was a lot of fun to write. I am working on this NaNo story that’s a pretty heavy subject matter and is much slower going as the level of angst is pretty deep. My inspiration for the story is the true experiences of Oney Judge. She was a slave owned by George Washington. She escaped and he never freed her -even after his death, so she technically died a slave even though she’d been living in a free state for years at the time she passed away.

The law in Pennsylvania at the time George was president was that if a slave lived there for six months, that slave became free. A lot of owners removed their slaves just before the time ran—even for a day or two—as that act would start the six months running again. George did the same thing.  It was a shameful time in our history and I’m tackling it in this story. It’s clearly not a romance though she does eventually find happiness as the true life lady did. It’s difficult to write how the slaves were treated as less than human. I can only hope I’m doing them justice.

Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate. And bless the families who lost loved ones in WWI as we come up on Veterans Day and the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. Would that their sacrifices in the War to end all Wars had been true.

One Final Grab at Summer

We took advantage of some glorious late summer/early autumn weather this month to grab a few days away on the south coast of England. Sidmouth in Devon has been a favourite spot of ours ever since we moved to the south west area well over thirty years’ ago. The town is considered the gateway to Devon’s Jurassic Coast. Sidmouth has amazing beaches situated at the foot of prehistoric red cliffs and surrounded by the beautiful green hills of the Sid Valley. 20181010_160357

During one of our mega walks along the coast we stopped off at Jacob’s Ladder Beach and managed to find enough puff to climb the Ladder itself up to a rather splendid tea shoppe. Afternoon Devon tea served with a huge slab of coffee and walnut cake helped give us the energy to walk back to our hotel.It had some lovely views, too.20181009_180911

The hotel we stayed in was incredibly interesting. Some parts of the hotel date back to the 13th Century and boasts connections with Sir Walter Raleigh and the Prince Regent. It has fabulous gardens where you can sit and enjoy the sunshine under the shade of ancient trees like the one in the photo.20181009_161801 The hotel was one of the first buildings in the UK to achieve listed status in 1951. During renovations in the 1970s, archaeologists discovered some of the oldest structures in the town consisting of a spooky network of ancient tunnels and a domed subterranean chamber. Alas, we didn’t experience any spooky goings-on while we were there, just a lovely relaxing and enjoyable break.

Viv and Me Oct 2018Unfortunately, Ms. Vivvy couldn’t join us, although the hotel was incredibly dog-friendly, because she is not the best traveller. But we know how much she’ll love the beaches, so we’re going to dose her up and take her with us when we visit again over Christmas. She was pleased to see us when we got back, and as the autumn chill set in, she snuggled up with me under our furry blanket. The very best welcome home after a great trip away.