Friday, 6 June 2014

D-Day Dodgers

With all the news going on around us about the 70th celebrations of D-Day, my Littleun asked about his Grandpa and if indeed he had been at D-Day. So I started to do some research.

Granddad didn't talk much about the War, he had a few stories that he would tell but that was it. I respected his choice of not talking about it but it did mean there were gaps in my family history that we might never fill in.

Today I saw my Aunt and collected some items that were about Granddad's service history. This included his medals and a pipe that he has engraved with the names of all the towns and action he was involved in. Nowhere was there a mention of D-Day. That is until I found an article he had writen for a reply to a newspaper about D-Day Dodgers. It seems that this is what my Granddad was. He was in fact a member of the 8th Army and in Italy during the D-Day campaign. Not really knowing what that was about I read up online and am saddened to find that it is actually what Lady Astor called those not at D-Day, seemingly ignoring the service others were making across the War.

So in honour af all those who served I thought I'd leave you with my Granddads own words, the letter he wrote at the 60th Anniversary, and a link for the reply to Lady Astor, in song format, from the D-Day dodgers...
 
In a small cardboard box I have a tiny strip of orange ribbon. Attached to the ribbon there is a small shaped piece of metal, known as the African Star. These stars were awarded to those who served in the Middle East during 1942. It also has a little figure eight upon it, indicating that the wearer fought in the 8th Army at El Alemein. It’s not very valuable but, at a time, pinned to our uniforms we were very proud to wear it. Therefore, I must say those who think the recipients were D Day Dodgers could have another thought coming to them.

Many of us joined the army in 1939, found ourselves with the B.E.F in France fighting a rearguard retreat to the beaches of Dunkirk, where eventually in mid channel, my particular rescue ship The Queen of the Channel was bombed and sunk. Nethertheless, when we were wrung out and dried it was not long before we were on our way to the Middle East to join the Western Desert Force, long before the 8th Army was formed. After the siege of Trubruk, which we held for several months, we nroke out to join the newly created 8th Army. Mnay battles later, and a retreat to El Alemein, we attacked and completely defeated the German Africa Korps. These were formidable German Troops, not old men or schoolboys!
Guess what? Just in case we dodgers became to idle, the Middle East forces, by sea and air, attacked the mainland of Europe through Sicily and Italy. Therefore being the first British troops to successfully set foot in Europe almost a year before the Normandy landings. D Day Dodgers? Don’t you believe it. At the end of 1943 it was thought necessary to reinforce the troops in England with battle experienced soldiers from the Middle East. Thousands from the 8th Army were convoyed home to prepare for Normandy. Then, through Belgium, Holland and Nijmegan we eventually crossed the Rhine to victory.
 
Yes I have the African Star with its little figure of eight, and the Italian Star. Of all the other bits and pieces bestowed upon me (He actually had several other stars and campaign medals) it is the African Star I prize the most. My medals have remained on their cardboard box for the past 60 years or more. Even so I cannot remember a medal being struck for the D-Day landings…
 
May I remind those who scoff, of one particular soldier who was brought home from the Middle East. He was put in charge of all the troops that took part in the D-Day landings, British and American. He was Field Marshall Montgomery. Another D-Day Dodger?

I would have thought we had become a little wiser as the years passed us by. But now, in my wisdom, when I stroke a piece of shrapnel that has remained embedded in my face for the last 62 years, I consider myself very lucky not to have joined those of the Middle East who also missed D_Day. They remain in their silence beneath their headstones in the desert or the olive groves of Italy…

 
 
 
 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Scrap books and families

Making scrap books is a rather lost art form here in the UK, you hear a bit about it but not much. Well a while ago I thought about keeping one but didn't like the suggestions that websites and magazines were offering. What I wanted was something I could pass down to Littleun for him to use with his family after I have gone. Something that contained memories, recipes, smells and reminders.

I found a simple plain page book, nothing fancy and an A5 size with good quality paper inside and I started adding. Now bulging there is still plenty of room to add more but if you choose to peek inside you'll see that I have started with the recipes, some of which you'll find here in these blog pages, that are for our feast and celebrations days. Sabbat foods and offerings. Further in and you'll see pressed flowers from my gardens and from gardens where I've visited (am lucky to normally find the resident gardener who will often allow me a cutting or two).
 
The odd smudge of something adorns corners, a thumbprint in chocolate powder form Littleun nestles amongst the back. Suggestions for natural methods of removing stains, for stopping greenfly, for cleaning windows. Ways to do that without using chemicals.
 
There are photos waiting to be stuck in, days of running through poppy fields with bubbles, picnics on hills and beaches and so many more memories.


 
Chasing bubbles in the poppies
 


Sleeping Jack in the middle of our garden living salad bowl
 
I told my partner that I was doing this, said please make sure Littleun gets it when the time comes and he mentioned that his grandmother had done something similar and it got me wondering if this is as lost an art form as I previously thought. So am throwing this out to find out, how many of you keep scrapbooks, what sort of things do you include and why?

Monday, 2 June 2014

It's June, so that must mean it's Litha soon

We moved a while back to pastures new. A good place, with a garden for Littleun, with the hills just a few yards away. One of the things we are enjoying is finding out how the locals do things.

It is very different from where we have come, there yes they celebrated many things but it was a bit of a split community. Here everyone knows everyone. Before we had even finished unpacking I could tell you the names of all our neighbours. I didn't know the names of my old neighbours, even though they had been there for the 13 years I'd lived there!

So we turned the calender over yesterday and started the countdown to Litha/Summer Solstice and had a look around in the area to see what they do for it. And boy are we spoilt for choice. After looking through it all we have decided to go and join our friends the Pentacle Drummers at their celebration a few miles over in the next town.

Here be a few things from their site about it all:

This Summer Solstice come and Join Eastbournes most popular drumming group, The Pentacle Drummers, Lords of Earthen Drums at their spectacular Summer Solstice event in their home town.

A fun filled day for all the family, with Ceremony, Drumming, Morris Dancing, Bouncy castles and slides, Sand pits, Fancy dress, Stoneage games, Belly dancers and much more, followed by an evening of Great music and dancing under the stars.

FREE PARKING & FREE CHILDRENS ACTIVITIES

This event will be held on secure private enclosed grounds, so the whole family can play in a safe private environment.

The Line up so far.
Evening Entertainment:
Emma Harrop
DC Fontana
Roxircle
Inkubus Sukkubus

Daytime entertainment will be from:Devilstick Peat
Pentacle Drummers
Emma Harrop
The Sea Gypsies
More to be announced.

For the Kids there will be a free Bouncy Castle and Bouncy Slide, plus FREE professional Face Painting (not just for the kids though)

Other traditional summer fayre entertainment will include:
Have a Go Archery run by the
Herstmonceux Archers, Hook A Duck, Splat The Rat, Kids Coconut Shy, Pick a Straw, Penny Roller, Tin Can Ally, Teddy Tombola, Bottle Tombola, Water Splat Stocks (filled with your favourite Pentacle Drummer!), Toy Stall, Bric'a'Brac, Books.

There will also be stalls selling magnificent items and crafts.

This event will also be supporting
WRAS, a local wild life ambulance service.

Link to the Pentacle Drummers Facebook Page
 
Please do click on the photo above for a link jump to their Facebook event page.


So mixed up with our personal celebrations and family gathering, we are looking forward to it all.


Friday, 30 May 2014

Testing Testing

Wow well its been some time since I was last here. I decided after my Grandfather died and a few difficult months that I needed to cut back on things I was doing. That added to the changes that Blogger was making meant I closed down for a while. A long while.

Today I started searching online for some ways to celebrate Lammas on the move (we will be traveling for holiday come Lammas) and in the searches up popped my old blog site. It had completely entered the memory storage section of my brain. I signed back in and had a look around.

Now I might not have anything interesting nor frequent to add but I thought I'd try every now and then. Hence this is really a test post to see if I have managed to turn the settings back so it can be viewed in general again and also a big waving hello to those of you I disappeared without a by or leave. My apologies, I was in a bit of a dark place.

So please, if you can see this post and remember this old girl, do drop a comment in the box for me, just so I can see it's still working!

Ta, J.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Whats Samhain?

“So what do you do at Samhain, I mean it’s all just Hallowe’en isn’t it” asked a friend today. And you know what it took me a min to think about the answer. Because for us obviously it is about the turning of the wheel, the life continuing but with remembrance too. So I came up with the following. It’s a short answer, not as in depth as I might have given to someone who was interested in more than the passing and slightly “I don’t really care” comment that my friend had made.

Wonder what you think?:

What we do for celebrating our Samhain is rather similar to that of any new year, we eat and we drink.


But with the added part of including our ancestors and descendants. We will have a feast, mostly if possible made from food we have grown and home cooked. The table will be set for all attending, and an extra place for representing our ancestors who have passed. In this case this year will be for a few of my family in particular my grandfather who died in the summer. Then during the feast there will be speeches, recognising the wisdom of our ancestors, the comfort of our peers and the promise of our descendants. Finally everyone will write a memory, promise or wish onto some card which is then bound and given to the newest members of our family for them to have for guidance in the future, recognising that we cannot be who we are without the influence and love of those around us. That family and friends matter in this world. Often any new babies in the year will be Named, a ceremony for us where you take it in turn to name the ancestors from as far back as your line can remember welcoming in the newest additions by adding their name to the Tree of Life.

A celebration of old and new, reminding us of our place in the Circle whilst giving thanks for what we have.



By the way, Hello, Its been a while, this year has been one of ups and downs, but here is to many more ups in the new year to come.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Pardon?

For years now I have had problems hearing properly. It has been a gradual decline but about 6 months ago it got noticably worse. Off I troted to the doctors for a referral and this monday gone it finally arrived.


Sadly it seems I am loosing my hearing, it isn't glue ear or excess wax but Otosclerosis. For now I am getting hearing aids for both ears but that doesn't stop the problem, just helps amplify the noise around me.


I've been a bit shaken by it. Not too sure why as being a bit on the deaf side is something that I was expecting. I decided though that wallowing wasn't going to help me (after about 2 large bags of coconut mushrooms) and that I should look into the silver lining side of it all.


As such I have today signed up for BSL1 course. I did a refreshers course throughout June which was a social course but the BSL1 is an exam course so a bit more study required. After this I am going to try and get through the next course stages so that I can qualify as a translator. It will be something I can do for a limited time as I will eventually not be able to hear enough to do so, but after that I can go and work with people who have deaf issues and other problems that means they require help, if that makes sense? Feeling much more positive about it all with a goal in sight.


Other upsides; I get discounted rail tickets, better seats in theatres and the ability to turn the aids off when it all gets too much!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Lammas Lughnasadh crown

Happy Lammas to you all.


We are sat in the countryside, not 20 feet opposite a lovely large corn field which was harvested last night. The French it seems harvests at night all the time (we might too, it's just I've never seen it done then before) and the smell this morning is beautiful. The sun is shinning and the heat is high already (yeast out bubbling ready for the loaves in a moment).



So we asked if we could have a lttle of the corn, the farmer has left some in what appears to be no-man's land, amazing how far those seed throwers spread, and have started to make some dollies and a John Barleycorn crown for littleun.


All we did was plait 6 together for one side, six for the other and then with some course string tie them to form a round.

After that we weaved the remaining heads into the plaits and very quickly the crown formed. Littleun will wear it later when we have our meditation and give thanks. Later we are heading to a Dolmen, been there before and its lovely and peaceful, tucked away in a corn field we can connect with the earth so easily there.



Hope you all hve fantastic day, wherever you may be. BB

(ps sorry about the spacing on this post, blogger is being stubborn wth a mind of its own!)




Sunday, 31 July 2011

Things change

Well it finally happened. After all our years as and up and down relationship it's come to an end. My grandfather died this month after a short illness. We thought it was his usual problems but it was in fact cancer.


I never knew where I stood with him; he wasn't one for showing much affection and had a rather Victorian outlook on our lives. There were days of fun as a child, I can remember him making us mermaid princess' out of large flat seaweed we found when playing on the beach. I can remember his attempts to prove that everyone has the ability paint and draw if only they tried hard enough (really I can't paint, mine always end up looking like painting by numbers) and my efforts sit on the fire mantel, initially because my littleun liked them but now with new view to them as in clearing the house I have found a new man. One I didn't know but rather wish I had.


He didn't keep much in the way of possessions, given his age when he died you would expect a lot more than there was. But some of the things he did keep were the postcards we sent, pictures and photographs and when you look back you see a possible new meaning to the expressions on the faces in them. And it made me think. Did he really not love us or was it more a case of he had absolutely no idea how to show that he did.


I remember lecture after lecture on how we were all meant to behave in life, how some of us had been dissapointments to him and on how hot air doesn't rise, cold air sinks! Oh and prisms. With sadness I remember far more of these than of the cheerful fun.


Re-reading a lot of the emails that he sent, the ones that reading at the time felt like he was being cantankerous , I read a different plea, one that said "come visit". And now I wonder if I had whether we would have enjoyed each others company that bit better. Don't get me wrong I did visit, and often, but it felt like a chore not like fun. Strange then that when we did talk it was interesting to hear what he had to say. If you wanted to know how to maintain and strip any form of armoury or if you wanted to know about Tobruk he could tell you, he was after all in the thick of it.


I told Littleun that he had completed his Circle and I expected confusion and tantrums. Littleun is probably the only one in this family who loved him unconditionally, he can remember happy things, playing with the birds that granddad used to keep, watching tom and jerry, both laughing hard. But he didn't do that. Litteun understood and it is the matter of fact way that he has asked questions about granddad that has helped me.


Will I miss him? Yes, but not in the way that one would normally miss a grandparent who has died and certainly not with regret, that is after all pointless. But for not knowing him properly. If there is one thing that has come out of all of this it's that I will make sure that I never do that with any grandchildren I might be lucky enough to have.


My grandfather: Man of photos, magic lanterns, poems and lectures. Who might just possibly, be right about hot air. Returned to the earth, 2011.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

So its the Solstice

And although sunrise was technically 4.42am it has yet to appear here. One of the wettest and grayest solstices I have ever known. Even the wood for the fire is so damp I doubt it will light first go!


However dancing and music abound as Littleun has a new rhythm he wants to play for his drums and we have food on the go already.


I also have a new beginning today as I go for the first of my BSL course. I have started to accept that my hearing isn't getting better and at the rate the NHS works will be a very long time before they do anything to help so decided to take matters literally into my own hands and start a course to help refresh my sign language abilities.


Hope you all have a lovely day and that the Sun finally makes an appearance!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Litha Feasting: Lemon preserving and Lamb Recipes

If you are like us any Sabbat requires celebrating the good fortune of food around us. For this Sabbat we are lucky to have some lamb from the nearby salt marshes and I thought as we are celebrating the longest day of sunshine we would go for a Moroccan dish as this has some lovely ingredients such as apricots and lemons, reminiscent of the sun in shape and colour. In searching for recipes I found that the one I wanted to use needed preserved lemons. Now I know you can buy these, but half the fun of this path is learning together with Littleun so we decided to make ours (plus it’s a lot cheaper!).

For the lemons we have the following recipe and all I’d say is if you have any cuts do put on some food gloves first!

Ingredients
8-10 Meyer lemons*, scrubbed very clean
1/2 cup salt, more if needed
Extra fresh squeezed lemon juice, if needed
Sterilized quart canning jar


* You don't need to use Meyer lemons, regular lemons will do, it's just that the milder Meyer lemons work very well for preserving in this way.

1 Place 2 Tbsp of salt in the bottom of a sterilized jar.
2 One by one, prepare the lemons in the following way. Cut off any protruding stems from the lemons, and cut 1/4 inch off the tip of each lemon. Cut the lemons as if you were going to cut them in half lengthwise, starting from the tip, but do not cut all the way. Keep the lemon attached at the base. Make another cut in a similar manner, so now the lemon is quartered, but again, attached at the base.
3 Pry the lemons open and generously sprinkle salt all over the insides and outsides of the lemons.
4 Pack the lemons in the jar, squishing them down so that juice is extracted and the lemon juice rises to the top of the jar. Fill up the jar with lemons; make sure the top is covered with lemon juice. Add more fresh squeezed lemon juice if necessary. Top with a couple tablespoons of salt.
5 Seal the jar and let sit at room temperature for a couple days. Turn the jar upside down occasionally. Put in refrigerator and let sit, again turning upside down occasionally, for at least 3 weeks, until lemon rinds soften.
6 To use, remove a lemon from the jar and rinse thoroughly in water to remove salt. Discard seeds before using. Discard the pulp before using, if desired.
7 Store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Now that we have done this we can use them on Litha to add to our Tagine recipe:


Moroccan Lamb Tagine

Ingredients
1.5kg shoulder of lamb
1tsp coriander seeds
1tsp cumin seeds
olive oil
2 or 3 preserved lemons, chopped
2 onions
1 good handful dried apricots, chopped
1 good handful sultanas
Black olives
Fresh mint, roughly chopped to serve

Instructions


In a non-stick fry pan gently toast the coriander and cumin seeds until they become fragrant but don't allow to burn.
Tip the seeds into a pestle and mortar and crush with a pinch of salt.
Add the ground seeds to the lamb with a good drizzle of olive oil, black pepper, and the preserved lemons. Work all the flavours into the meat and leave to marinate.
Roughly chop the onions and put in the base of your tagine.
Then add the apricots and the sultanas followed by the lamb.
Next add some black olives, mix well to distribute the flavours and put the lid on.
Cook for about 3-4 hours at 160°C.
When cooked, sprinkle with the chopped mint and serve.

Oh I can’t wait!