I love bacon. I love a bacon sandwich. Nowadays, usually a toasted bacon sandwich. I happened to catch a snippet of a TV programme about Wiltshire cure bacon… Mmm, thought I. Let’s investigate this further.
Bacon, as you probably know, is pork meat. The process starts by curing – usually with large quantities of salt, which dries the meat, or with brine (generally known as Wiltshire cure). The first bacon produced is known as green bacon (I don’t think I’ve seen this cut for a while, but I remember my Mum buying it when I was a child – green back bacon) otherwise known as fresh bacon. Bacon is then usually dried for several more weeks, or boiled or smoked. If it’s boiled, it’s ready to eat; otherwise it usually needs cooking first.
Wiltshire cure bacon originated in the 18th century, apparently it has a milder flavour than traditional bacon, which was more popular at the time. It means soaking the meat for four or five days, and needs less salt than the traditional method.
Boiled bacon (or bacon ready for boiling) is usually bought by the joint. Bacon for cooking comes in rashers. It’s also incredibly useful for laying over chicken to be roasted or to make “pigs in blankets” – sausages rolled in bacon rashers.
Bacon is distinguished from ham by differences in the curing process, and ham is traditionally made only from the hind legs of the animal.
Cuts of bacon vary around the world, but here in the UK, we commonly eat the following:
Streakybacon (also sometimes called side bacon) – this comes from the belly of the pig, and tends to be alternating layers of fat and lean. (It’s the most common bacon in the US.). It’s ok if very well cooked.
Back bacon is from the loin in the middle of the back. It’s very lean, with a layer of fat around the side.
Cottage bacon is usually a thinly sliced, oval shaped cut from the shoulder.
Jowl bacon is smoked and cured meat from the cheeks, known as guanciale in Italy. I don’t believe I have ever seen this.
Slab bacon (and again, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this) comes from the side of the pig and is usually not sliced into rashers. It tends to be quite fatty and is the same time of cut as salt pork but differs in that the latter is not cured.
My favourite bacon is probably smoked back bacon, but I’ll eat any of it, as long as it’s well grilled… Got to go, it’s just about ready to eat.
A is for August Bank Holiday, which is this weekend, yay!
In England, we have eight public holidays per year. The easy ones to understand are Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday and New Year’s Day. The others are not quite so straightforward. Why do we have August Bank Holiday, for example? And why do we call them bank holidays? We need to go back to the nineteenth century to find out.
The Bank of England, founded in 1694, observed around 33 religious festivals, including saints’ days, as holiday, but that changed in 1834 when they reduced to four! And slavery had been abolished in the previous year. Just for interest, they were
May Day – 1 May
All Saint’s Day – 1 November
These holidays became known as Bank Holidays because, in general, if the banks didn’t work, there was no point in other businesses working.
In 1871, the Liberal MP John Lubbock, who himself had been a banker, put forward a bill to go through parliament to give workers an extra four days off:
The first Monday in August
Whitsun Monday (the first Monday in May)
Fortunately for the rest of us workers, the Bank Holidays Act of 1871 was passed. Good Friday and Christmas Day weren’t included because they were already recognised as common law holidays.
In 1971, the Banking and Financial Dealings Act was passed, which is the legislation that regulates the bank holidays that we have today. It covered most of the bank holidays that we have today, except for New Year’s Day and May Day. These two days were introduced in 1974 (New Year’s Day) and 1978 (May Day). In 1965, the date of the August Bank Holiday was changed from the first Monday in August to the last Monday of the month. In 1971, Whitsun Bank Holiday was replaced by the Late Spring Bank Holiday, the last Monday in May.
What I didn’t know until I started researching this was that bank holidays are proclaimed every year by way of Royal Proclamation, and to move any bank holidays that fall on weekends (so that we still get two bank holidays when Christmas Day falls on a Saturday and Boxing Day falls on a Sunday, for example).
I recently had a conversation about a subject close to my heart – Greek Mythology. I don’t profess to be an expert in mythology, Greek or otherwise, but here’s the abridged version of what I do know:
The ancient Greeks, like the ancient Romans, and many other cultures, didn’t believe in just one God, they believed in many. In Greek mythology, the Gods originated something like this:
In something akin to evolutionary theory, first there nothing – Chaos – out of which came Gaia (the earth). There was also Eros (love), the Tartarus (the Abyss, which I think is perhaps most easily described as hell), and Erebus (a dark shadow). (Rightly or wrongly, I always associate this with Freud’s shadow.)
I don’t see any of this as being very different from the earth, air, fire and water that we see in other cultures. Maybe not exactly the same, but there are analogies in the properties.
Gaia gave birth to Uranus by means of asexual reproduction (as happened with all life on this planet in its early days), then, as a result of a union between Gaia and Uranus, the first of the Titans (the elder Gods) were born.
There were six males: Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus, Oceanus and Cronus.
And six females: Mnemosyne, Phoebe, Rhea, Theia, Themys and Tethys.
They all had different attributes, good and bad. Cronus was the youngest of the Titans, and Mum and Dad decided that there should be no more offspring after this. However, Cyclopes (with the one eye in the centre of his forehead and Hecatonchires (hundred-handed ones) soon appeared.
Both Cyclopes and Hecatonchires were thrown into Tartarus, which did not impress Gaia one bit. In fact, she was decidedly pee’ed off (she was their mother, after all), consequently, Gaia persuaded Cronus to do a Lorena Bobbitt on his father (for those of you who don’t know, Lorena cut off her husband’s penis. Technically that is not castration but it’s a pretty effective way of making a point). Cronus castrated his father and became the ruler of the Titan’s. Rhea, his sister, but also his wife (how weird is this?) was his consort.
Rhea and Cronus were the parents of Zeus (thus, Rhea is known as the mother of the Gods). Cronus feared that his children would behave towards him as he had to his father (quite a reasonable concern, I should have thought) so whenever his wife gave birth, he ate the child.
Strangely enough, Rhea was not happy with this, so when she gave birth to Zeus, she hid him. When Zeus was grown up, Rhea drugged and poisoned Cronus and he vomited up all the other children. One wonders whether Cronus had a history of indigestion?
Long story short, Zeus and Cronus had a disagreement and, with the help of Cyclopes (whom Zeus had freed), they beat Dad. Cronus and the rest of the Titans were imprisoned in Tartarus and so the reign of the Olympian God’s began.
Zeus’s wife, Metis, was expecting, however, there had been a prophecy that she would give birth to a God greater than him, so Zeus ate his wife. (There’s a bit of a theme emerging here.). The daughter Metis was carrying at the time of her demise – Athena, the Greek Goddess of wisdom, reason, intellect and the arts and literature, burst forth through Dad’s head, fully grown when he ate her mother. (That’s what I call girl power!).
Greek Mythology continues to be equally complicated and violent. Here’s a quick overview of the Gods and Goddesses:
Zeus – became the supreme God after he kicked his Dad’s butt.
Hera – the Goddess of marriage and family, wife of Zeus. Zeus was a bad boy, but Hera didn’t take it lying down.
Aphrodite – was born out of the foam when Cronus threw his father’s testicles into the ocean. She was reputedly bad-tempered and jealous, as well as being the goddess of sexual love, and was married to Hephaestus.
Apollo – The son of Zeus and Leto, the God of music. He was the twin of Artemis (the huntress) and is usually known as the sun God.
Artemis – One of the virgin goddesses, and the huntress. She is called Diana in Roman mythology.
Ares – son of Zeus and Hera, he was the God of War and Aphrodite’s lover.
Athena – Daughter of Zeus and Metis. As well as the attributes I listed above, she is also the Goddess of War.
Demeter – sister of Zeus, goddess of agriculture and vegetation. She was the mother of Persephone, the goddess of the underworld.
Dionysus – the Greek God of Wine, (yay!). Otherwise known as Bacchus, he was the son of Zeus and Semele.
Hades – sometimes known as Pluto, the brother of Zeus. He ruled the Underworld and was married to Persephone.
Hephaestus – husband of Aphrodite, apparently he was a bit lacking in the looks stakes. He was the God of metallurgy.
Hermes – the messenger of the Gods. Son of Zeus and Maea (she was a nymph, and a daughter of one of the Titans, some serious interbreeding going on here).
Hestia – the eldest daughter of Rhea and Cronus, the goddess of the hearth, home and family. In Roman mythology, she was known as Vesta, she of the virgins fame…
Poseidon – aka Oceanus, the older brother of Zeus, ruler of the oceans.
Now doesn’t that little taste make you want to find out more?
I went, with fellow blogger Gianni Washington TK link to see Daydreaming with Stanley Kubrick at Somerset House. I confess right here that I am not an artsy person and what art I do like is mainly confined paintings or photography of wild life. I do think its good to push your boundaries a bit sometimes, so when Gianni suggested going to see Daydreaming, I was up for the challenge.
It was probably one of the weirdest events in my life. I am not someone who just goes to see a film because it is directed by a certain person, and I didn’t realise I’d seen so many of his films until today. The only ones I knew to be his were 2001: A Space Odessey and Full Metal Jacket.
Somerset House gave all the visitors a little guide book, although there were places where I found it too dark to read it!
The exhibition started with a display of a sort of three dimensional image of a chimp looking through into a space helmet – then went straight into a load of electric, log effect fires. Apparently, this referred to a scene in The Shining. That was pretty normal compared with the rest of it. I tried to photograph this but it just turned out as an orange blob.
Two big teddy bears on cardboard boxes, apparently with a scent in the room that I couldn’t smell (Gianni could, so it was clearly there) seemed OK, until I read what it was depicting a reference to the pantry scene in The Shining.
I completely missed the sinister aspects of some of the paintings I thought some of them looked quite nice, while others were just a bit.. Well, plain, I suppose. The picture of the barn for the final duel in Barry Lyndon fell into this category for me.
I did like the breathing camera, although I didn’t realise that was what it was until afterwards. I started by thinking it was a peacock feather, but the eye of the peacock seemed to be the centre of the universe.
I had to take a photograph of the concrete penis on top of a crushed car Partly because I could actually understand what I was looking at and partly because it just epitomised the weirdness of the exhibition.
If I say that I didn’t really enjoy it, that doesn’t mean its a reason not to go – I did say at the start, I am not an artsy person. I feel a bit sorry for these artists, all their work was wasted on me, but if you like that kind of thing, go along.
So the Olympic Games in Rio has just started, with all the attendant controversy about athletic enhancement. It takes me back to the Olympics in London four years ago.
The 2012 Olympics were amazing. I am not a huge sports fan, but I will remember the Olympics until the day I die, and not just for the sport. The main site for the Olympics was an ex-industrial site in Stratford, London E15 (thinking back now, I struggle to think what it was like pre-Olympics, although I have a photograph somewhere, and I’ve lived over that way for a long time).
The opening ceremony was directed by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting fame, to name only one). Most of us Londoners were pretty impressed.
A highlight of the games was that Qatar, Brunei and Saudi Arabia entered female athletes for the first time. Female boxing was admitted as a sport for the first time, which meant that every sport had female competitors. Yay for London 2012.
Transport for London built the cable car across the Thames between Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Docks (which was a very under-developed area before the games) to make travel between venues easier. It is called the Emirates Air Line, because of the sponsorship.
Something that made the games stand out were the Games Makers. They were a team of (in the region of) 70,000 volunteers who helped everyone (visitors, athletes, etc) to make their way aroud the venues. They were amazing the whole way through, with some of them even handing out sweets to visitors. I know we should never accept sweets from strangers, but when it’s a chocolate…. Lol.
The Olympics was followed by the Paralympics, which was renowned as a success for the athletes involved, and the number of countries who put forward paralymians. And the number of medals Britain won. (Sorry if that’s not very sporting but it was good for us Brits.)
I was fortunate enough to attend the winners’ parade. It was amazing. All these people who had worked so hard to get themselves to their peak of fitness and bring home the goods. Oh yes, the 2012 Olympics were good. Here’s hoping that Rio is just as good.
I took my brother and my sister-in-law on a little walking tour the other day. We passed the site of Baynard Castle, which was originally a Norman castle in the area that is now Queen Victoria Street in the City of London. Baynard Castle was, like so much of the rest of the City, destroyed in the Great Fire of London, but well before that, Henry VIII gave it to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon as a wedding present. Researching that, I found out a few things, so here are ten things I’ve learned about Catherine of Aragon:
She was the great-granddaughter of Catherine of Lancaster on her mother’s side.
She had a stronger claim to the English throne than Henry VII and Henry VIII – her ancestors were born on the right side of the blankets, the Henrys’ weren’t. That was why they were so keen to make an alliance with her.
She was betrothed to Arthur, Prince of Wales, at the age on only three years.
Had Catherine not married someone else in the royal family after the death of her first husband, Henry VIII’s brother Arthur, her (rather large) dowry would have had to be repaid. Not an appealing thought for the king or his son.
Henry VIII was five years younger than his wife.
Catherine’s mother died before she re-married, which reduced her “value” as a bride. (Hey, I know it’s sexist, but that was the way of the world then.)
Catherine served as Spanish ambassador to England in 1507 – the first female ambassador in European history.
Although she had six pregnancies, only one of her children survived to adulthood – she later went on to become Queen Mary, also known as Bloody Mary.
When Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn, Catherine was retitled “Princess Dowager,” a huge slap in the face.
When Catherine first arrived in London, she brought her African attendants with her. They were the first Africans to have been recorded as coming to London, and were said to be luxury servants.
A visit to Windsor and Runnymede the other day made me think about the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta (Great Charter) was issued by King John in 1215 because he was facing a political crisis – to put it bluntly, he’d upset all his barons and they were raising arms against him. He didn’t really have a great deal of choice but to try to appease them. (As it happened, he didn’t stick to the terms, so his troubles were far from over, but I’m jumping ahead of myself.)
I’d always wondered why John chose Runnymede as the spot for the agreement. It turns out that this lovely little place, along the bank of the Thames, was the traditional place for assemblies at the time, but also, it was about half way Windsor castle, the rebels base at Staines. It was neutral ground and did not confer a military advantage on either side. That must have been an important consideration for the barons as King John had a reputation for being somewhat duplicitous.
I hope you’ve all got over your shock and horror at learning that someone in a position of power had a reputation for being a bit of a cad. Outrageous behaviour. Wouldn’t happen nowadays. Ahem.
John was the younger brother of Richard the Lion Heart. Richard, loved as he was by the people, wasn’t actually the best king ever, he spent a lot of time away fighting in the Crusades. (Good for him but bad for us peasants.) So John, although not the greatest king, and a bit of a cowardly custard compared with big Bro, wasn’t totally to blame. He didn’t help matters though, he didn’t have his brother’s charisma, nor his sense, and he lost a lot of the family jewels to France. The long and the short of it was that John owed money to his barons and had no intention of paying them back. That was possibly a good short-term plan, but was never going to work in the long-term.
The Magna Carta didn’t, if John complied with the legal terms, give him a lot of wriggle room. Many historians say that there was only one way out – civil war. And, sure as eggs are eggs, war broke out within three months of the signing of the Magna Carta.
There were several more “Great Charters” over the years; to be honest, the territory becomes quite technical in terms of legal issues, and I have no intention of going into them here. (Two reasons: one, I am not a lawyer, two, I am not a historian.) Suffice it to say that the Magna Carta had a huge impact, conferring a number of rights on the barons of the day (not on the rest of us, those of us that were peasants were really unaffected by it). The rights conferred were built on over time, who knows where we would all be now, if not for the Magna Carta? Although, somehow, I suspect we’d have reached a place not far from where we are now, just maybe with far more bloodshed.
I am, and always have been an animal lover. I don’t like all animals – I don’t like slugs, not crazy about snails, and would really prefer not to be close to wild rats. Aside from that, I like animals. So when I found an injured stray cat in my garden a couple of weeks ago, I was in a bit of a flap.
Regular readers will know that I have four cats, all female, all beautiful, so it’s no surprise that the local boys like to come for a visit, but my girls are not very friendly. (They are to me, but they know me.). They don’t like these male interlopers staring in through the windows at them. I’ve even see Artemis “fighting” through the window because she doesn’t think they should be there.
This little stray – I knew he was male because of his behaviour – had been hanging around in my garden for some weeks but I still didn’t know his distress call, and anyway, he didn’t make a noise until he saw me. I don’t generally feed the strays because my girls don’t like it. (Very jealous.). He had taken to sitting in Telesto’s favourite spot under one of the trees, which didn’t go down too well.
So it wasn’t until I got up to let my girls go outside that I realised that he was injured. He did his usual thing when he saw me and got up to move away from me so I could see he was limping, holding his right back leg at an angle and not putting any weight on it.
I knew I wouldn’t be able to just catch him, so what to do? I rang the RSPCA.
“Feed him at the same time every day, try to catch him. When you do, give us a ring and we’ll give you a reference number so you can take him to a vet to get him treated.”
“I don’t think it’s going to be that easy.”
“We’ll get one of the inspectors to give you a ring.”
Sure enough, one of their inspectors did give me a ring, a few days later, and came round. Of course, the cat had disappeared by the time Michael turned up. He told me that he didn’t think the leg was broken as the cat would have been dragging it rather than holding it up. My plan to try to get the little cat in one of my pet carriers had failed miserably – I’d bought some cheap food that little boy cats could have, put a bowl in the carrier but when the lovely Oceana went outside, she went into the carrier, ate the food and pushed the door “to” behind her. Well, she can open cupboard doors, provided the spring is not too strong, and very nearly open drawers, so why was I surprised?
Michael told me that they use humane traps to catch cats but they didn’t have any spare at the time so he suggested I try Celia Hammond or the PDSA. I did, but they couldn’t help me. A few days later, Michael called me back,
“I’ve got a trap. I can be round in fifteen minutes.”
“Great, thank you.”
The little stray cat had been injured for a week now, and although by now he was able to jump, he still wasn’t putting his full weight on his back leg.
Michael showed me how to operate the trap. I didn’t try to catch him straight away, I really wanted it to be a day when I didn’t have to go out, but I was also conscious that the poor little boy was still in pain. Oh the best laid plans…
To cut a long story short, I did manage to trap him – it was actually much easier than I thought, but due to a break down in communication, he was in the trap for 24 hours, which upset me and him.
Joe, another inspector, came round the following day and took him. He told me that he could see by looking at him that the cat was not neutered, which probably meant that he wasn’t micro chipped. He also told me that only about one in 20 of the cats they collect has a micro chip. This little stray cat has gone off, and hopefully will be neutered and found a good home.
No-one knows exactly how many cats there are in the UK at the moment, but between July and September 2012, there were over 24,000 calls to the RSPCA and Cats Protection alone reporting strays or unwanted cats. As a nation of so-called animal lovers, we really aren’t doing very well.
If you do have a pet (cat or dog), unless you are a serious breeder, please get it spayed or neutered. It’s better for the animal, and it will help to reduce the number of strays. Some of the following charities are able to help with neutering if you are in financial difficulty:
A comment made by one of the men at a workshop I attended this week reminded me of the well-dressed Beau Brummell. I’ve seen the 1954 film starring Stewart Granger and Elizabeth Taylor, but apart from reading that he was a “Dandy” didn’t know much about him, so I decided to find out more about Mr Beau Brummell.
Anyone who has ever watched any period dramas will know that Henry VIII and Charles II were very flamboyant in their dress, complete with the elaborate wigs the men wore in the seventeenth century, yet somewhere it all changed… Beau Brummell was the catalyst for that change, which included spending a lot of time in the bathroom. And frankly, in a good way, because hygiene wasn’t high on the list of things to do in Tudor and Stuart England. Brummell changed the fashion from men wearing multi-coloured outfits to wearing just a few, usually more sombre colours, and jackets closer to the ones worn nowadays.
Brummell was born George Bryan Brummell on 7 June 1778, in London (apparently in Downing Street), the son of Lord North’s secretary (Prime Minister from 1770 to 1782). Brummell went to Eton and Oxford, although he only spent a year at the latter, having requested to join the army. (In those days, you had to pay to join, so he had to get the money from the executors of his father’s estate.)
He joined the Prince of Wales’ own regiment as the lowest officer rank, a cornet, however, within two years he had been promoted to captain. No-one is really clear how Brummell came to the notice of the Prince, but come to notice he did, and they became close. When the regiment was sent to Manchester, Brummell resigned his commission; clearing being out of London would not assist him in staying close to the Prince.
By 1799, Brummell had come into his inheritance and soon became known for his understated style of dress. He became very powerful – if he liked you, you would be in the “in” crowd, or not as the case might have been.
He was also known for his wit, and, some might say, rudeness, and this is, allegedly, how he lost favour with the prince – he asked, “Who is your fat friend?” when referring to the prince. Yep, that’ll do it every time.
Brummell also ran up a lot of debts through gambling, and someone to whom he owed money, Richard Meyler, found out that Brummell intended to renege on them. Meyler took the opportunity of telling anyone who would listen about Brummell’s behaviour, which was the nearest thing to challenging him to a duel without actually using those words that he could do. Brummell did a runner. He made his way to Calais, where he could go without having a passport.
Beau went on to become British Consul in Caen, which enabled him to pay off some of his debts, but he probably knew his days were numbered – he was suffering from syphilis. When the job as consul came to an end, the debts started to mount again, and he was eventually imprisoned as a result. A contact agreed to return to the UK to try to get some money, which he did, so Brummell was released from prison.
Within a few years, however, he was growing increasingly ill, leading to insanity that is so often characteristic of the disease. He died in a mental asylum in March 1840.
I’m not a political animal but even I haven’t been able to avoid the events of the past week – the Brexit, David Cameron resigning, the Euros, Labour front bench MPS resigning, and a vote of no confidence against Jeremy Corbyn. I’m not sure whether this counts as a constitutional crisis or not.
In fact, there is no official definition of a constitutional crisis, although much of the world press seems to think it’s on the cards that one will happen. Whatever, it’s an unsettling time for us all, and not just in the UK. My fears that the EU will fall apart now have been echoed across the water. I’m amazed that no-one in any position of authority (other than the wonderful Mark Carney at the Bank of England) appears to have planned the next move in the event of a leave vote.
Will Scotland leave the Union? (I think that’s a resounding yes, if Nicola Sturgeon gets her way, but then, surely, Scotland will have to apply to join the EU in its own right? That doesn’t happen overnight.) If so, that would push us closer to a constitutional crisis, surely?
In order for a constitutional crisis to occur, it’s usually necessary for there usually has to be a situation in which the constitutional principles do not answer a serious issue of governance. To add confusion to the mix, Britain doesn’t have a written constitution. It has its written laws, it’s institutions (eg parliament itself) and its customs, all of which have worked pretty well together up until now.
As we don’t have a written constitution, technically, the referendum is not binding on the government. (That said, ignoring the result might be enough to trigger a constitutional crisis.). Not only that, there is a body of legal thought that says that the Scottish Parliament has to give its consent to Britain leaving the EU… That’s an interesting thought.
Has there ever been a constitutional crisis before in the UK? By gad, yes. In 1215, there was the Barons Revolt, which led to King John signing the Magna Carta. That was pretty serious for the King. And then again in 1936, when Edward VIII abdicated so that he could marry Wallis Simpson. (Rumours about his being Nazi sympathiser still abound.) So if this does become a constitutional crisis, we will survive it, things just might be messy for a while.
The truth is that none of us knows how this is all going to play out yet, but I might just write to the FA and offer them my services as a career coach…