Contemplating Being

So many facts from the internet that heretofore would have passed unnoticed, now cause a ripple of consciousness, a chance to remember or learn something new, even to ponder a new concept.

Turns out that Václav Havel, writer and politician was made President of Czechoslovakia almost to the day, almost thirty years ago. Not exactly an anniversary obviously and perhaps not earth shattering to know. But wait, now there’s Google.
Although but a mere stripling at the time, I do remember the sense of excitement and wonder when he was spoken of; a writer who became a politician, because it meant a slow unpicking of the Communist stranglehold on ‘the Eastern Block’, when that seemed of paramount importance. Now of course there are other infringements of liberty to worry over.

Something he said gave pause for thought, and further pause to filter it to the ether. ‘I’m convinced that my existence – like everything that has ever happened – has ruffled the surface of Being, and that after my little ripple, however marginal, insignificant and ephemeral it may have been, Being is and always will be different from what it was before.’

pork pies and the power of suggestion


Not lies, not even hats, but the pie itself.  Although a  blue and white number in straw at a jaunty angle over butter yellow curls,  did evoke this memory.

The woman in the hat smiled generously when she saw me staring. I expect she thought I admired her fashion statement so at odds with grey granite and glancing grey rain, but I was again a podgy teenager  carving up a pie.  I was lost in one of those bittersweet moments from the past that stabs the senses from time to time, delicately abandoning clear jelly and fat globules on the side of my plate.

A while back, when I was home alone with my mother, rather than our current status the other way around, after both my sisters had fledged to university and we were left with no one to talk to, my mother had a penchant for pork pies. Perhaps it was a grieving process but there was no other meal in the house for almost two years. Surely not, my memory chides, but then insists. The weekly shopping done, the pies lined up in the fridge in their blue papery wrappers, a little disc of paper holding tight pleats together to prevent air entering.

I have tried to make a pie, twice.   Nigel Slater’s recipe appeared in a weekend magazine and did what it was supposed to do, I guess, inspired me to try.

Firstly hot water pastry is amazingly easy, but more salt would be my advice. If the thought of lard, actual white, creamy pig fat fills you with disgust, I suppose a vegetarian option would work just as well. There is after all vegetarian suet.  As for the filling, lots of pork in a mincer, or chopped small by hand to give it more bite and the pastry shell filled up with jelly and labour intensive stock.  I did all that and the result was disappointing although it  was given a hearty send off by very loyal family members.

The amount of fat in a home-made pie is alarming. Fat, we are assured is what gives food taste. So the amount in a mass produced pork pie, even a melton mowbray shop favourite, is probably mind boggling. No wonder my arteries are furred.
It has taken well over thirty years even to begin to acknowledge pork pies again, but the sight of that hat has set up a longing. Pork pies in the local butcher’s look fresh and meaty and very tempting.
Shame I’ve recently gone veggie.

Nigel slater’s Pork pie
1kg boned pork shoulder
250g pork belly
250g streaky bacon
2 bushy sprigs of thyme
2 sage leaves
½ tsp ground mace
½ tsp ground white pepper
2 good pinches ground nutmeg

For the pastry:
200g lard
220g water
575g flour
1 beaten egg
1 x 20cm cake tin

For the stock:
bones from the pork (left)
2 pig’s trotters
1 onion
1 small carrot
1 small bunch of parsley stalks
1 rib of celery
6 black peppercorns

For the method try or google


Lost and Found


I had decided I would never blog again because I had nothing to blog about then this picture of Margot Fonteyn in today’s paper prompted the following which I share with you.

The lost and found BBC footage of sleeping beauty dredged up memories.
‘I think we saw it.’ Sunny boy said,  which will have been on the tv their dad built with his own hands from army surplus stuff
I think I remember it too, (me)
Did you have tv in 1959? (Him)
Not personally. We used to line up outside Mr and MrsTibbett’s house and watch theirs through their window.( me)

In my memory quiet and kindly, the Tibbett’s had no children of their own and did not shoo us away from the outside oftheir living room window or threaten us for standing on the flower bed.
They fed robins with chocolate biscuits.
Mr Tibbett had been a prisoner of war in The Far East.
‘He came back emancipated’ Mrs Tibbett told us once.

The Singing Nun and Pacifism


Memories play false sometimes. Yesterday my brother in law gave me the vinyl of Dominique by the Singing Nun: a thoughtful gift and a joke.  A find, that perhaps he had searched out, trawling retro record shops or the internet, rather than happening on it in the Oxfam shop. The character, Dominic, from Murielle’s Angel sings the refrain ‘Dominique, nique nique,’ to explain his name.

‘Can’t believe you did that to him!’ My BiL quipped.  Pleased to know he’d read it and intrigued by the merging of fact and fiction, I may have glowed like a first time author.

I played it today on my mother’s old record player – that of course she still has and of course still works, once she had reminded me to plug in the speakers. It was the jolly ditty I remembered, like something from a holiday camp. Occasional words were recognisable: – Dieu, of course. that you would expect from a singing nun. The flip side, ‘Entre Les Etoiles,’ (Amongst the stars the Lord has written your name near him in paradise – possibly- over and over.) I remember with more affection, together with the vague hope, belief even, that the universe was looking out for me. ( I was only eight or nine at the time.)

I’ll frame the record and think fondly of my brother in law every time I look at it.

It was the stash of 45s kept on top of  the speakers, that I had forgotten, that we had played incessantly in the sixties. Listening again the words were a stab of memory, almost like a guilty conscience.  ‘ The Universal Soldier,’ by Donovan; Joan Baez and Bob, ‘Blowing in the Wind,’ even Marlene Dietrich, ‘Where have all the flowers gone?’ We used to be pacifists. We used to feel, strongly, righteously that we could change the world with words and flowers. Maybe they don’t write songs like that anymore. Maybe  we just don’t listen.    Now we have jingoism. Young men and boys have not been slain in battle, they have merely fallen. Our boys, soldiers are heroes. Perhaps they are, but war is still wrong.  We never hear of putting an end to war anymore.