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Cultural Concubine Blog

Neither here nor there…

Springing...

Can’t wait for summer days spent picking wild flowers…

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Mixed with cream, baked in butter…

It is funny how most nationalities really believe in their national specialities. 
In Holland we are proud of many things, we have the best cheese (conveniently forgetting the French and English varieties) best football (not sure about Brazilians though…) and best beer (hmmm Trappist monks will probably not agree)… 

One of the things I always thought the Dutch to really be the masters of, is Pancakes…
(best made with cream and water instead of milk, as the milk will make them rubbery instead of crispy…)

Where else do you find restaurants dedicated to this flipped floppy disk?

Today however I learnt that the English really have one up on the Dutch, by dedicating a special day to eating pancakes…

Shrove Tuesday

For the sake of my Dutch friends I will try to explain. 
It is the last day before lent, where people finish up all the rich ingredients they have left in the pantry before fasting for 40 days. 

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Carnival… festival of dropping meat?

Sounds plain and simple, but why then do the English keep their pancakes so simple?! Simply served with sugar and lemon juice, or in some extravagant cases Rhum.
Surely they should be able to come up with something more vice riddled? 
I was surprised that no one here had ever tried a bacon pancake with syrup… I’d say that is pretty rich, while even incorporating it with the Catholic meat referenced in Carnival….

It made me think about what I would give up for lent. In other words, what I would put on my pancake as a farewell for 40 days… 
But I couldn’t come up with anything, as at the moment I am living a rather moderate lifestyle. Most of the food is locally sourced, no biscuits, no chocolate, no smoking… There’s an occasional glass of wine with dinner. And a small piece of cheese after…

I don’t drink or eat enough of anything to worrying about giving it up. 
The only two possible items I would worry about are Tea and Butter
But tell me honestly… is there really life without either of those two? 

How will I cook without butter? 
I could try giving up tea and replacing it with herbal infusions? 
Would my niece and nephews start calling me Aunt Woopsie Tea instead?!

Hmmm. 

Thank God I just found out it will be next week instead of today… So I have a week to think about it.

So, what habits will you break, and what will you give up for lent?

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They don’t make ’em like that no more…

Last month I have been clearing out the stables of the small victorian farm behind the house.
Just a general rummage to get rid of general grot and grime, and to generally find out if there was really anything worth conserving.

While sorting through I found many things…
Canisters with strange names, spagettied wirls of leather tack (left behind by an old saddler who used to rent the cottage), old buckets with names of a different house, a tricycle… etc etc. I also found the most amazing old sickle. I decided to clean it up and look after it.
When digging through piles of stuff, finding old tools are like nuggets of gold. You can imagine someone using them, even making them to a clear end.

But one of the things I found, wondered at then left… was a spoon, tied to a long stick…

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Here bunny, bunny, bunny…

As it was found amongst many things in a stable, so I imagined it to be a specially made tool to feed horses (?!) or to medicate something at a distance… Bah. I gave up and I moved on to shoveling out the grot on the floor.

Then yesterday, looking at some old country footage from UEA’s East Anglian Film Archive, I finally saw that spoon in action…

http://www.eafa.org.uk/catalogue/219226
(sorry, can’t embed the video here)

It is a short documentary from 1961 about the old gamekeeper at Elveden. The good man is in his 90s… and as you see him gently totter about on the estate, his assistants go about their business, spreading out feed for the game…

…and poisoning rabbits with cyanide…

Hmmm.

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Only rabbits and rats?

So that’s what’s in that friendly looking yellow bucket called Cymag…

I doubt you would see anything like that in modern day video’s, eh?

(And yes, this is probably a response to my last post on rodents…)

 

Later addition:

… Off course… how could I forget to add:

Oh the good old days…

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When the cat's away, the mice...

… eat your silk shoes.

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This morning I was surprised to find something I had not seen since my childhood.
A sight I only remember from early mornings after sleep-overs at my grandparents….

Everyone with central heating will probably not know what I am going on about.

Frozen florals...

Frozen florals…

Ice flowers…
or: IJsbloemen, as we call them in the Netherlands.

I haven’t found a similar name for it in the UK. Here it is simply called frost on the windows, or slightly more poetic ‘Frost ferns’.

Beautifully intricate crystal patterns are formed from the condensation, blooming gradually up onto the glass.. As the sun gently grew stronger, they slowly melted down onto the window sill…
The sight was so pretty I almost forgot how freezing my bedroom had gotten…
Brrrrrr and chattering of teeth.

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Wow, air… really?

I wish my nose would stop taking itself so seriously. 

When running, why not just stick to a gentle jog? There really is no need for this continuous mad dash…

The world is really not going to end today.

 

 

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Keep up…

I hope this drama will be done before Christmas… It would be sad to see everyone while making the most vile noises… (even if it would be nice to just once return the favour to my small cousins, who usually know how to surprise me with gifting me their exotic colds…) 

More importantly it would be a waste not to taste the lovely wines at Christmas… 

 

Sigh…

Snarf… 

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

 

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This place will never be the same again...

This place will never be the same again…

On a friend’s facebook page (Gijs Nagtegaal, thank you dear for the link) I found this rather haunting picture.

It is a digitally collaged picture of a streetscape in Amsterdam’s Dam Square, mixing the present day with a real view of old.

It is the work of Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse, who is a historical consultant, living in Amsterdam. You can find more pictures on her Flickr site called Ghosts of History or the Facebook group, where she writes short descriptions for each of the juxtaposed collages.

I find it an inspired way to help people understand about the life and context of a building, recreating the sense of place. Old buildings have not always been used in the same way they are used now. Some have quite horrific chapters as part of their building biography. Others have been left for dead for decades…

It is impressive how a building will quietly bear their scorn and in some cases even pay any retaliation from the mob afterwards… Some survive, others do not. Those are left forever in the mists of history.

Work like this shows you quite aptly how in the end it is the people in the place it that bring the space to life. Like a stageset seems fake until the actors come onto the stage…

Are you looking at me?

Are you looking at me?

During my building conservation diploma this thought has never been far from my mind. If you consider a building a living being (anthropomorphism in a long word), with the windows for eyes (aren’t the eyes the windows to the soul?), the hearth or fireplace as the heart, the door as the mouth, and the sewage drains, well…
In a way you could see the people in it as it’s soul.
A house left empty loses it’s gloss and shine, and after a while may be even die entirely…

So show me how you live, and I can tell you who you are.

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