One Down…

25 04 2021

And if my typically obsessive nature plays out as usual: 499 to go.

Let’s back up a bit.

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to find myself in Victoria, the capital of our lovely province of BC, here in Canadiania. Popular legend has it that BC moved its provincial capital from New Westminster on the mainland to Victoria on the island. (Originality wasn’t a strong suit in the days of colonial expansion when it came to naming towns and cities). The supposed reason, if you look at a map, is that Victoria is in the south of the island, and the 49th parallel passes well to its north.

Unthinkable to dispossess the province of its capital, so the Oregon Treaty extension in 1846 to the 1818 convention that negotiated the border betwixt Canada and the former colonies to the south follows the 49th line of latitude only until it gets to the Georgia Strait, then detours to the south, leaving Her Majesty’s island possession whole, to the north. A cute story, but the island colony was only unified with the mainland (i.e. became part of BC) and made into the provincial capital in 1866. True that the island colony’s own capital was still Victoria prior to then… but only from ~1854.

Source: Wikipedia

Further east – well into the mainland and not far from my home in White Rock, there are a couple of square kilometres of peninsula to the south of Tsawwassen called Point Roberts that dip below the 49th, and the US had no qualms about planting their flag on this scrap of land, so I think the reality of the island remaining whole is likely more subtle. Perhaps some more learned visitor to these pages can educate the rest of us further…

Source: Wikipedia – Point Roberts, WA State

So anyway – back from that vaguely meandering history diversion… and we were enjoying a quiet weekend in Victoria. I took the opportunity of visiting Munro’s, the book shop. Well – it would be rude not to really! The store was founded in 1963 by Jim Munro and his first wife Alice Munro… the well known Canadian author. (Echoes of a Monty Python sketch somewhere there!)

Source: Wikipedia

More to the point – it’s right next to Murchie’s tea shop!

I was recently fortunate enough to win a copy of a book from Charlie Rufus’ Indian Marmalade Company blog site. It’s a companion volume to the Grimm TV series (which I’ve been voraciously devouring in typically obsessive mode), which includes a character named Munro also. No relation, I hasten to add. One being literary, the other literature. (Or as I sometimes need to tell Mrs. E when she gets too invested in a TV drama- “it’s not real, you know!”).

I ended up buying a copy of Marcus Aurelius’ “Mediatations”, admittedly not in the original Latin, but I did also flirt with a copy of 500 Writing Prompts by Piccadilly. I regretted not buying it as soon as the opportunity was no longer possible. Such is life.

Yesterday though – I happened across a copy in my local Indigo bookshop, and this time I didn’t hesitate. The book is essentially an empty journal of “toothy” paper with writing prompts to encourage creative thought. 500 in fact (I know – shocker! Complete surprise, given the title.)

Source: Amazon.ca

It isn’t PERFECT paper for fountain pens, and my first attempt with Pilot Iroshizuku Asa-gao in the Fine nib of my Narwhal Schuylkill Porpita Navy did produce a hint of feathering, but it’s far from terrible either. I’d go as far as to say I quite liked it. The paper has a strong ivory tint, and I suspect the nature of the paper would preclude any sheen, though I’m hopeful of shading. We’ll see.

Source: Cult Pens – Narwhal Schuylkill Porpita Navy (Mine has much more chatoyance).

The paper’s quite thick, but even the pre-printed prompts have a touch of ghosting, so I wasn’t expecting great things from fountain pen ink. Not bad though. Not bad at all. I’m sure as I work through the prompts, I’ll find some ink/nib combinations work better than others, as is true on most papers. And the primary reason for purchasing it was actually the prompts to creativity… the opportunity for fountain pen use was just a (huge) bonus. The binding is interesting, attached only to the back of the book (“open bound”) and allowing the pages to open completely flat.

I can see this book being a useful kick-start for those moments when I’m staring, pen in hand, at a blank page begging to be filled with words, thoughts and above all else… ink! At my good wife’s suggestion, I opened the book randomly for my first exercise, resisting my tendency to work methodically through each prompt in order. Having freed myself from the need to work sequentially, I felt equally liberated from starting with the prompts offered on the first pages I opened at. Eventually, I settled on Name something you wish was “glow in the dark.” I offer you the results of my warped mind, more as proof I responded to the prompt than anything else:

It occurs to me that the world might be slightly more sanitary if animal poo, and dog poo in particular, was glow in the dark. Though by no means a fool-proof solution, it would at least reduce the frequency of stepping in something unsavoury whilst perambulating after sunset.

As for naming it though… that seems an odd request. I thought long and hard. My friend has a Russian girlfriend called Yulia – like “Julia”, but more exotic. By extension, I assume there are Yuliettes too. So, I therefore suggest to name this proposed glow in the dark item “Yuliette L. Shit”.





Of Blood, Dutch Bulbs and Market Gardening

11 04 2021

Funny old day. More co-incidences (which a little like with Vinyl CafĂ©‘s Stuart McLean, is really just an excuse for stringing scenes into a loosely coherent whole).

A couple of days ago I got an email from 23 and Me, which is often an amusing read. As their data volume increases and the statistical treatment and research gets more refined, the statements made about my DNA make-up slightly change over the years. Of course, it’s all massively skewed by the fact that most of their customers are from the US, though they do include other databases of DNA traits, and continually sponsor and include other analysis and research.

Over the years that they’ve had my spit to analyse, the percentage of my DNA has gradually become less British and more “French/German”. I think I’m up to 15% or so non-British now, and drilling down, they’re confident enough to say it’s a specifically French 15%, though they’re reluctant to specify it closer to one wine region or another.

I actually enjoy the thought that by sitting at home enjoying well-priced French varietals grown in our own Okanagan region my blood is gradually becoming more French. I’m sure my good friends from France, Olive’s parents, would be horrified to think one might become more French so easily. About the same as my dear departed pater would be that one could lose one’s Britishness so easily. (Though he’d possibly argue that Britishness is already a loss of Englishness).

Of course, nothing in my DNA has really changed (plus or minus damage from cosmic waves), but the data relating to its make-up and the origin of the various bits of it (technical term) has gradually become more refined. One of the things reported on is when those non-British elements might have entered the ancestral, er, bedroom.

According to the company then, my genetic heredity looks something like this…

Source: 23 and Me – Mixing of Cultures and Bodily Fluids

Neither of my parents have had their DNA tested, so I can’t speak with much certainty about how French, and even more surprisingly, Levantine genes entered my hitherto apparently parochial Yorkshire bloodline. Indeed, I thought my dear departed Nana was exotic when I discovered she was from Lancashire!

To be fair though, my mum’s maiden name is French-sounding, so I suspected the solution to at least the French question might lie in that direction.

It being a slow Sunday morning then, I called the UK to have a chat with the mater and see how things were faring back in God’s Own County. Snow, it seems. Somewhat ironic as I spoke to her from a sun-bathed, warm BC in “the great white North”! I was quite surprised that she knew next to nothing of her own family history or grandparents, let alone further back. She believed her dad was originally from London, but that was about it. (I vaguely remembered a conversation where he mentioned Leatherhead actually, but to most Yorkshire folk that’s just London as it’s south of Watford Gap and maps get vague there. “There be dragons”, etc…).

More coincidence/irony – Leatherhead’s as close to Guildford as I am to BC’s own Guildford in our own Surrey. (Colonists are rarely very imaginative with place naming).

With that line of investigation brought to a screaming halt, the conversation wandered around the usual filial subjects, including COVID, vaccinations, Brexit (actually – no, not this time), how I manage to spend so much money on cameras and pens, and gardening.

As I was chatting on FaceTime, I gazed out of the French window (coincidence?) and noted to mum that one of the tulips the local squirrels had spared this season looked to be only a few days away from blooming. We seem to get fewer every year, and I’m sure the little buggers chow down on them when I’m not looking. Sadly, Spiketta the Devil Dog has recently gone to the great kennel in the sky, so now they don’t even have her pedestrian chasing to contend with.

Spiketta – sadly no longer with us, along with the Canadian pennies on the bench

The mater related how on a trip to The Netherlands the parental units had bought lots of fancy tulip bulbs, but many of them had reverted to boring red after their first showing. Personally, I’m always grateful when my very basic horticultural ministrations result in an actual flower, no matter the colour!

Suitably reassured that mum was in as fine a fettle as usual, I briefly sat in on the conversation Mrs. E had been simultaneously having with Middle Offspring – currently studying in Den Haag. Since her grandma was about to celebrate her 80th circuit around the sun, I suggested perhaps some fancy tulip bulbs might be suitable, since Second Born had herself mentioned a desire to visit the tulip fields this Spring anyway. Nothing more socially distanced than standing in a field I’d have thought, but I suppose it gets popular this time of year. (Not a lot to see, the rest of the time!)

All this talk of tulips had reminded me of the hardships the Dutch had faced under occupation, late in the war – to the extent that they’d been forced to eat tulip bulbs. There had been a post D-Day plan to bring the war to a quick end by the Allies launching the largest airborne assault in history, in an attempt to capture the bridges over the Rhine in The Netherlands and liberate it.

The bridges in and around Arnhem were the target, and Operation Market Garden turned out to be one of the most ill planned operations of the war, with vast numbers of allied airborne troops being slaughtered and cut off due to poor support and intelligence. My grandfather was a survivor of the operation, and this was one of the points in history that helped us do a little genealogical sleuthing. Via Wikipedia, I discovered that his unit – 11th Parachute Regiment, 1st Division was actually formed in 1943 in Egypt, and I remember him telling me about his time in Alexandria, so that fit too.

I once had a business trip to Sicily and remarked to him of the bullet-holes I’d seen in the Palermo courthouse and my assumption it was from the Mafia. He divulged that he had actually fought in Palermo during the war and with a glint in his eye that perhaps the holes were even of his own doing. He didn’t voluntarily speak of his wartime experiences, but small remarks like this hinted at quite the trove of stories he might have told, were he inclined to do so. I was previously unaware he’d ever been to Italy, though have since learnt that airborne troops had extensive involvement though mixed success in the early assaults on Italy.

And so we came full circle. I found hints that his own father may have been in the army too. That he was probably born in Norfolk rather than London. We discovered things on my father’s side too, and Mrs. E’s – including a dark and terrifying Lancastrian connection! No hint of Asterix or indeed any other Gallic connection though, let alone a connection with the Levant.

Oh well – the Internet, like 23 and Me, is continually increasing the access to historical and research records. Who knows, one day I may even discover I’m related to the Syrian refugee family I helped a few years ago!





All Teas are Equal…

11 07 2020

… but some are more equal than others.

As a Yorkshireman living in BC, I drink gallons (sometimes quite literally) of tea a day. Being of Yorkshire, I’m always on the lookout for a good deal on prices, but need to balance it with quality and strength of the tea produced. Of late, Mrs E and I have noticed that Red Rose, and even Tetley branded teas have become a bit “meh”. The Red Rose tea is now sold in weird organic plasticy fibre mesh bags which I’m sure are better for the environment than the paper mesh, but make for a weaker brew.

Anyway, we recently ran out, so picked up a 216 bag box in the local supermarket. Red Rose brand. Owned by Unliver (as many brands in the food and household cleaning industries are). I think the price was around $13. Pretty much the going rate. It’s worth keeping one’s eyes open for when Tetley are on sale for around $10. Anyway, as we continued to shop, our meanderings took us down the “Asian cooking” aisle where all the currey pastes and powders are (from Sharwoods of Lancashire – proper authentic curry! 😉 ). Don’t ask me why, but on the top shelf, sat quite unassumingly were boxes of 216 Brooke Bond Red Label tea bags. For a mere $8 or so! Not on sale – that is their normal price.

Image Source: Wikipedia

As I kid I remember Brooke Bond PG Tips in the UK (suspect chimp TV ads anyone?), so the brand is well known to me and I had no issue buying the box, despite it being weirdly considered “Asian Speciality Food”. Do the shelf planners understand where much black tea comes from, I wonder.

 

My grandparents were big PG Tips drinkers and used to save all the cards they used to have in the tea boxes. You could get albums to stick them in. I particularly remember The Saga of Ships (set B22  from 1970) and The Race into Space (set B23 from 1971).

bbtheraceintospace

The Race For Space. Image Source: Brooke Bond Collectables

So, once I got home and had access to Uncle Google, I discovered that in fact Brooke Bond & Company was founded by Arthur Brooke, a Lancastrian in the late 1800s. In 1903, Brooke Bond launched Red Label in British India, and this is the tea we bought in our local Canadian supermarket as an “Asian Speciality Food”. By 1957, Brooke Bond was possibly the largest tea company in the world, with one third share of both the British and Indian tea markets. Something akin to selling coal to Newcastle, methinks!

The company was acquired by Unilever in 1984 and the Brooke Bond name was significantly downplayed by Unilever. However, the brand was reintroduced in 2019 in the UK after a 20 year absence.

Ironically, I found that in North America Brooke Bond’s primary product was Red Rose Tea! Red Rose is still sold by Unilever in Canada as I mentioned, but in the United States is now marketed by Redco Foods. Red Rose brand tea has been available in the United States since the 1920s, but their Original Blend is a different blend of black pekoe and cut black teas compared to the orange pekoe sold in Canada.

Image Source: Wikipedia

So, with not a little irony, I am prefering Unilever’s Brooke Bond sub-brand over Brooke Bond’s own Canadian sub-brand, despite the fact it was targeted for an Asian market and costs 2/3 the price. And – most importantly it is better tea! hopefully the word doesn’t get out too soon or they’ll put the prices up. Another irony is that Tetly’s tea – originally from Yorkshire – is now owned by TATA, a huge Indian conglomerate, so technically more deserving of being in the Asian Food aisle!

Anyway, must go now, the kettle’s just boiled…


EDIT: In case you wondered… PG Tips was originally marketed as “Digestive Tea”, implying that it could be drunk prior to eating food, as a digestive aid. It was renamed Pre-Gestee to sound more fancy and grocers and salesmen abbreviated it to PG.





Elysian Fields

20 06 2020

Years ago I was gifted a fountain pen when I was asked to be a friend’s best man. Around 1991, if I recall. I knew nothing of the brand at the time, and though the nib declares itself as an M, I found it decidedly F-like, and at the time totally unsuitable to my writing style. Sadly therefore, it languished in the back of a drawer, though happily it wasn’t discarded in our move to Canada, and I recently rediscovered it.

It’s a sleek matte black Ă©lysĂ©e series 60 Dynamic, and now I know a little more about fountain pens in general I have come to respect and appreciate it a lot more. I’ve even come to realise my writing looks a lot better (not yet “good”, but better) with a nib on the F side of M, and this one now comes a close second to my Sheaffer Sagaris with its steel but smooth F nib.

So, thanks largely to the research performed and kindly shared via the Internet by N. Dean Meyer, I’ve learnt a lot more of this slimline little beauty.

Firstly, let me precis the company’s history from N. Dean Meyer’s research.

Despite the decidedly gallic name, élysée is in fact a German brand, though sadly now defunct.

ElyseeLogo

Late 1920s: Jeweller Paul Dummert founded R. Dummert Co. in Pforzheim, Germany.

January, 1974: As the global economy slipped into recession, Reinhold, Paul’s son, sold the company to watchmakers Heinz Benzinger and Wolfgang Klein. They focused on writing instruments with plated finishes and sold primarily to international firms that had their own brands.

1975: A lacquered instrument line was developed, an innovation that encouraged the company to create its own brand.

1980: The brand “Ă©lysĂ©e” was registered (despite the prior registration of “Elysee” by the Pforzheim-based watch-maker owned by jewellery-maker Harer).

October, 1981: The firm R. Dummert officially presented the “Ă©lysĂ©e” brand at the Frankfurt Book Fair. That year, it introduced the 60, 70, and 80 Lines. At that time, the logo (derived from “D” for Dummert) was introduced; it persisted unchanged through until the end of the brand.

April 1, 1991: Staedtler took over 100% of the company, which was renamed élysée SchreibgerÀte GmbH. Management moved from Pforzheim to Nuremberg in late 1991, and Dummert KG was dissolved in 1992.

June 30, 2000: With a falling stock market production ceased and Ă©lysĂ©e disappeared as a brand. The “lifetime” Ă©lysĂ©e warranty ceased at the end of 2002.

The 60 series, and my matte black Dynamic model in particular was in production from around 1983 to approximately 1994. It was available in matte finishes with epoxy lacquer and stainless steel in Black / Blue / Burgundy / Brown / Steel Gold Trim / Steel Chrome Trim (nib chrome plated). It has a characteristic flat 14K gold-plated steel nib, slender body, spherical top, clip attached to top, metal section threads, and a length of 136mm.

All products were designed and specified by élysée. The production of the parts was outsourced from companies like Mutschler, including stamping, lacquering, plating, nib assemblies, etc. élysée then assembled, finished and distributed.

Like my own example, I read that several owners find their 60 series pens prone to rusting on the barrel trim near the nib assembly.

img_7217-1

My black élysée series 60 Dynamic clearly showing the top-attached clip with branding

img_7216-1

Close-up of cap showing etched name and “modified D” logo along with top-attached clip and matte lacquered finish

img_7218-1

Close-up of cap showing “Germany” impression. Manufactured after reunification in 1989.

img_7219-1

Close-up of cap showing “Ă©lysĂ©e” impression on opposite side to “Germany”.

img_7220-1

Close-up of flat gold nib, showing logo and M. Note some failing of plating around barrel trim

Source and further reading: N. Dean Meyer.

There’s also an excellent write-up at 7heDaniel.





It seems one can’t have too many fountain pens after all!

17 06 2020

My very first fountain pen was a plastic bodied Parker 45.

11 year old me thought it was soooo fancy because it had a gold, medium width nib and a stainless steel cap (more properly “Lustraloy”). To this day, it writes with a sublime smoothness, though it has suffered from the slight collapse in the section that stalks the Parker 45 due to the cap’s clutch being a little too aggressive for the plastic section’s softness. Unfortunately my handwriting could never do it justice, but I still love that pen.

My contemporaries at school often had the more modern-looking (late 70’s – all things are relative) Parker 25 with it’s all metal Flighter design.

img_1608

Parker 25 Flighters (i.e. steel bodies) – unfortunately not a mating pair

Over the years I’ve come to realise that there were in fact many variations on my basic black Parker 45, and amongst them was indeed an all-metal Flighter. There’s also a Flighter with a black plastic end, but my preference had always been for “the full metal jacket”. Today, The Pen Workshop near Aylesbury, UK delivered my dream pen. Paul Baker there kindly listened to my preferences and found the perfect match. He even located a pen with a section that shows minimal caving, and managed to find me one with a fine nib. The cap has the all important “Made in England” imprint and a lack of letter stamps puts it as likely pre-1980. I think I’ll just gaze a bit longer before inking it up.

parker45

New Old Parker 25 Flighter, c1980

Pen number two started out as simply an “oh, that looks nice” moment whilst perusing for the Parker. It has a gorgeous green marbling which I ultimately found irresistible. Never having heard of the Wyvern brand previously, I did a bit of research and discovered that my parents actually used these Wyvern Perfect Pen NÂș 81’s back at high school in the early ’50s, and so with little more than that connection and a desire to own a small bit of British pen history, I added it to my shopping cart at www.penworkshop.co.uk.

Wyvern is long gone now, closing its factory in 1955. Founded in Leicester, the Wyvern Pen Company was named after the mythical creature that appeared in the crest of the borough. According to Wikipedia:

A white (Argent) wyvern formed the crest of the Borough of Leicester as recorded at the heraldic visitation of Leicestershire in 1619: “A wyvern sans legs argent strewed with wounds gules, wings expanded ermine.”

Production of pens began back in the 1890s and Wyvern made several models as well as manufacturing nibs for other pen companies and promotional pens for a variety of campaigns.

The barrel still has the faint imprint of “WYVERN Perfect Pen NÂș 81” despite its ~70 year age. I hope I look this good when I’m that old!

wyvern

WYVERN Perfect Pen NÂș 81 in green marble finish





6th of June 1944 – D Day

6 06 2020

In 1944, the 6th of June marked the beginning of Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy by the allies to push back the fascist occupation of Europe. According to Wikipedia, Fascism took inspiration from sources as ancient as the Spartans for their focus on racial purity. The countries allied against fascism in that one operation alone numbered upwards of 15 – ironically including Greece.

By May 1944, around 1.5 million American troops had arrived in Britain in preparation for the invasion – to fight, and in many cases give their lives, for freedom and equality on foreign soil. Some of those American soldiers were black.

They fought in a segregated army.

Let that sink in.

Again, from Wikipedia:

“At the onset of World War II, the [US] Army remained segregated, and with the notable exceptions of units like the 92nd Infantry Division, very few African American soldiers were permitted to serve in Frontline Combat units. … However, many of these soldiers did see combat in Europe and the Pacific, particularly those in artillery batteries. Among the units going ashore at Normandy in 1944, was the 320th Anti-Aircraft Barrage Balloon Battalion which did see action on D-Day. Another unit that saw considerable action in Europe was the 761st Tank Battalion, which fought with George S. Patton‘s Third Army in 1944 and 1945.”

The war was won. Fascism failed. (That time.) Having played their role in defeating a system that dehumanised and routed out “the other”, those men returned to a country that itself considered them second class citizens, despite having sent them to war to fight against that very concept.

D Day was 76 years ago.

America subsequently revoked the laws that embodied segregation, but only after prolonged campaigning and protest – some of it violent. But there’s much more to a society than what’s written in its statute book. People need to embody the change and call out those that don’t. Especially those in positions of power and influence.

And don’t think for one second that racism and many other -isms are not alive and well in even the most liberal of countries. This is not solely an American problem.

“I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

– Edward Everett Hale

“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”

– George Orwell





The shame brought to us by youth

26 11 2017

I was appalled to read this on the BBC.

Personal politics aside, this showed a huge lack of empathy for the wonderful people of Durham and its surrounding area.

I was fortunate enough to be a student of Durham, and was actually studying there during the miners’ strike. The population of the city pretty much doubled during term time and despite the attendant distortion of the local demographic, I never found the “townies” to be anything but friendly and accepting of the “gownies”. Along with many other students I volunteered in the community and tried to “give back” a little to my host city during my stay.

The strike heightened town/gown frictions to be sure. I believe there may have even been a few beatings of students – presumably those showing their unjust entitlement a bit too readily.

For a group of today’s students (admittedly rugby players – rarely the brightest bulbs) who weren’t even born at the time to be so disrespectful of the city’s social history and its positive interaction with its transient student guests was shameful. Back in the ’80s Trev’s college was female only and a much more thoughtful place. Higher education is a privilege and its recipients should be more grateful to the wider community that makes that learning experience possible. Many in that community do not have the same access to that privilege yet still add to the positive experience students graduate with.

I hope to read soon about a complete and unreserved apology from Trev’s rugby team – hopefully accompanied with some community volunteering to help redress this ill-considered move.

BBC News: Durham students miners’ strike-themed event ‘disgraceful’





Relatively Speaking

26 11 2016

 

Source: Goodreads

Did Einstein really illustrate relativity with an easy to grasp example?
“Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.”

It seems numerous variations of this theme are reported going back as early as “The New York Times” in March 1929. The phrase “nice girl’ was used instead of “pretty girl”:
Numerous anecdotes are being circulated concerning Einstein. He once told a girl secretary when she was bothered by inquisitive interviewers, who wanted to know what relativity really meant, to answer:

“When you sit with a nice girl for two hours you think it’s only a minute, but when you sit on a hot stove for a minute you think it’s two hours. That’s relativity.”

The quotation in the paper was not directly from Einstein. The reporter simply noted that the tale was being circulated.
It seems fake news is not new news.
For a full analysis, check out Quote Investigator.
Or did I just make that up?




The North is dripping with history

13 11 2016

I subscribe to the print version of the BBC’s most excellent History Magazine. As is often the case with magazines, the letters page is usually quite entertaining and informative – if only for the occasional ill-informed vitriol from a reader. Being in one of the distant reaches of empire commonwealth, I receive the magazine a little later than most, but it’s a history magazine anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.

As I mentioned, the letters page was interesting, and one contributor was making the point that “collective memory” can be extremely localised. He recounted the history of the Leeds Dripping Riot of 1865 – an event I was totally unaware of, despite growing up less than 20 miles away (to be fair – significantly later than 1865, despite what my kids may think).

For those not educated in the culinary arts, “dripping” is the collected fat drippings from roast meat – particularly beef or pork. Though much less common now because it’s allegedly “not good for you”, the best tasting fish and chips of my youth were from shops who deep fried their offerings in beef dripping. As a youth, a quick snack at home would be a knife-full of dripping (collected over several sunday roasts) on a slice of white bread. A pinch of salt would just top off the snack and make sure you were hitting all the right food groups. :S

Dripping (Source: Wikipedia)

Dripping (Image source: Wikipedia)

It’s actually sold in Germany, if you go to places selling “authentic rustic food” and ask for Schweinshaxe, it’ll often come with a starter of crusty bread and a little pot of dripping.

The Yorkshire stuff – as illustrated in the Wikipedia image above – would be left to separate, and you’d get this meaty jelly at the bottom, under the thick crust of solid (at room temperature) fat. Anyway, there’s no argument that it is pretty hard (pun intended) on the arteries, but a wonderful taste sensation. It is also laden with class implications. Having read out the magazine letter to my dear wife, she commented about her family “not sinking to eating bread and dripping”. Being of English origin, and therefore not communicating often anyway, she’s still not realised I’m not talking to her. (I expect this to become more apparent as the month wears on.)

I jest of course, but the comment about sinking to eating bread and dripping was true enough. It remains one of the pointed North/South divide issues, though is making a slow comeback as we learn more about nutrition and the importance of fat in our diet. The Daily Mail valiantly tried to rehabilitate it a couple of years ago too.

Bread and dripping (Image source: Daily Mail)

Bread and dripping (Image source: Daily Mail)

So anyway – getting back to the point: I paraphrase the Wikipedia entry of the events…

In January 1865, Eliza Stafford was a cook employed by Henry Chorley, a well to do surgeon and local magistrate in Leeds, Yorkshire. He apparently discovered that Stafford had disposed of about 1kg of dripping to a local dressmaker and took umbrage and had her arrested. Being well connected, he pressed for her to be prosecuted for theft.

Stafford’s defence was that although she admitted disposing of the dripping, it was a perk of the job. (We’re not talking about stealing the meat remember… just the fatty waste that comes off it during cooking and which might simply be disposed of immediately today, without comment.) Chorley claimed that this was one of several similar incidents but that this was the only one he had any direct evidence of. The magistrates convicted Stafford of the theft and sentenced her to one month’s imprisonment in Armley Jail.

Armley Jail (Image source: Wikipedia)

Armley Jail, Leeds (Image source: Wikipedia)

The local populace were upset and many people considered the prosecution petty and the punishment harsh. Attention was also drawn to the circumstances of the trial which for reasons unexplained had been heard in private rather than in public as normal, and before magistrates known personally to Chorley. The protests culminated in a demonstration, estimated at being between 12,000 and 15,000 people, outside the prison on the Saturday before Stafford was due to be released. A smaller number of people, about 700, went on to protest outside Chorley’s house. Apart from some snowballs being thrown (how very English), these protests all passed off peacefully.

The riot itself occurred on the day of her release. She’d been let out earlier than scheduled and missed all the fun. The crowd, disappointed they’d missed her, largely dispersed but about a thousand people marched from the prison to Chorley’s house and threw stones that broke several windows in the house. The Chief Constable of Leeds, William Bell, and some police officers managed to form a cordon round the house and withstood several attempts by the protesters to break through to the house.

During lunch the numbers of people in the square increased as workers came to view the affair. (There was no telly in those days). The Mayor of Leeds, John Darnton Luccock, called for assistance from Bradford police and from the army at York. At 1 pm, lunch break over, many people left, and the police decided to try and clear the square. After issuing a notice ordering the crowd to disperse, the police charged and drove everyone out of Park Square. During the charge one man, George Hudson, was trampled and severely injured – injuries so severe that he subsequently died – and a number of men were arrested for “riotous conduct”. This effectively ended the riot and reinforced by the Bradford Police with two troops of the 8th Hussars from York on standby, the Leeds police prevented any further attempts at disturbance despite a sizable number of people assembling nearby in the evening and attempting to march upon Leeds Town Hall.

The men arrested were tried for riotous conduct but the magistrates took a lenient view and only one was imprisoned and then only for a week. The sentencing magistrate described the incident as “very silly excitement” and the other four defendants were bound over in the sum of ÂŁ10. Henry Chorley died in 1878, of Eliza Stafford there is no subsequent history.





Late to the celebration of Ms Earley

13 03 2016

So, as I mentioned elsewhere, I recently read an edition of Canada’s History that highlighted some of Canada’s great women. 20? 30? Let’s try closer to HALF THE POPULATION! OK – that would be quite a thick magazine, I suppose.

Anyway, though the 20 that were featured in the magazine had been selected by a group of themselves relatively well known Canadian women, there seemed to be a skewed representation towards authors. Not that they were any less remarkable for that. They opened up the Canadian literary scene to more earthy examinations of inner city issues, feminism (of course) and simply great story telling. One or two I’d heard of. One or two I’d even read – such as Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel.

Of the 20 that were featured though, my “favourite” – if that’s even a valid concept in this context – was Mary Two-Axe Earley. The accompanying illustration was an interpretation of a CP/Toronto Star photograph on the magazine’s website, and she looked like anyone’s kindly nanna. But what a force!

Canada’s History: Mary Two-Axe Earley

As I read about her life I was struck by how Canadian history – even relatively recent history – was completely unknown in the UK. Things we might reasonably expect and take for granted have been hard fought for by strong women such as Two-Axe Earley. The world – and in this case Canada in particular – is undeniably a better place for the things women like her have achieved.

Born as a Canadian Mohawk on 4th October 1911, she moved to the US and married an Irish/American engineer – Edward Earley – and had a brace of little ‘uns. Because Edward was non-Aboriginal, she fell foul of the 1876 Indian Act and lost all her rights along with her Indian status. As well as the loss of the right to live on the land she was brought up on, she couldn’t vote in the reserve’s elections or even be buried in its cemetery. None of this concerned her at the time. She was living in Brooklyn and was very much in love. Then…

A friend of hers died in 1966 and she discovered that her friend had been ordered off her own reserve for marrying a Mohawk from a different reserve. No such penalty was suffered by men, and she was pretty sure the stress had contributed to her friend’s death. Written in the Victorian era, the Indian Act simply reflected the prevalent view at the time that women were basically possessions of their husbands.

Enraged into action, Two-Axe Earley founded Equal Right for Indian Women, which later became Indian Rights for Indian Women. The Royal Commission on the Status of Women in Canada was established in 1967 and gave a platform to present the case. The commission duly recommended that the relevant clauses of the Indian Act be repealed such that First Nations men and women should have the same rights with respect to property and marriage as any other Canadian. So naturally not a lot happened.

It wasn’t until the 1982 Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms though that her campaign really got the teeth it needed. In 1985 the government finally amended the Indian Act so that it reflected the equality provision in the Charter. As well as returning rights to women who had previously lost them through the archaic clauses in the act and “marrying out”, there were two generations of children from those unions that were now eligible for status. More than 15,000 women were affected by this decision!

When she finally died in 1996, Mary Two-Axe Earley was laid to rest in the cemetery near her birthplace, Kahnawake. A right she had fought long and hard to gain.

If you’d like to learn more about this remarkable lady, check out her bio at Windspeaker.