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Cultural Concubine Blog

Neither here nor there…

Tag Archives: british

Wet feet on the stairs...

After earlier negative posts on English plumbing I should now eat humble pie and pledge my eternal devotion to bathtubs…

Last week my course on Building Conservation at West Dean College started in earnest.
Apart from the actual course I really looked forward to spending more time at the house itself…

The house is a wonderful place to just be. It is the ideal space to learn (in all her studios), study (great library in the old billiards room, including a nook) and spend time with a large variation of creative and cultural types (especially at the cheap college bar!).
The wet footprints of Tilly Losch (the last lady of the house) woven into the carpet on the stairs are only one of the many eccentric touches that surprise you when wandering around.

But this time for me the largest attraction must have been the shared bathroom.
In it was the most enormous Edwardian Bath.

It is me...

It was the first time since I was a little girl that I actually could float full length in the tub.
And just to add to the experience the original fittings revealed a strange looking tap, with a sweet note on it:

But it is me, I am your plug!
If you turn me and drop me I will hold your water.
Lift me and twist me and I will GULP it!

Imagine this one steamy and filled with bubbles....

All of a sudden I remembered the incredible bath described in ‘The Bolter’, a freestanding green onyx monolith at Idina Sackville-West’s Kenyan house.
She made it part of the daily attractions of being her guest.  As part of the experience she would invite her guests to witness her bathe and dress before dinner…

Lying in that West Dean bath I could imagine how roaring the 20’s really must have been.

The tank...

Hahah, shows you the importance of actually experiencing old buildings and places for yourself.
Even if the National Trust now occasionally allows visitors to sit on their sofas, it will take a little more before we will be allowed to have a proper soak!

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All clotty and nice...

You know how people say that you can never have too much of a good thing…

After a week of travelling in the deep south – or west countries as they call it in the UK – I have definitely had too much of one of the isle’s greatest delicacies…

Clotted Cream…

It only has a minimum of 55% saturated fat, what could possibly be wrong about that?!
(please note that normal cream has around 30% and heavy double cream has a maximum of 40%)
I am amazed that after an overdose of cream (3 times a day and I just couldnt resist!),  I can still fit into my clothes…

Creammmmmmm...

May be it is all a lie…
May be cream is not fattening or unhealthy for you… or may be there is just something special about the happy cows in Devon and Cornwall?
Surely it has to be the process of the clotting… Or the fact they use un-pasteurised milk… right?
Could it be that the scones somehow balance out the multi saturated fat? or has all the creamy goodness simply got better?

Hmmm off course this can’t be true…

Have mercy!

But I dare you all to try a regime of 3x clotted cream a day…
As a pudding after lunch (meringue pie is a sure killer),
at tea time on a pile of scones (yes how could you resist) and lastly
as a final stroke of mercy after dinner (why not try it in on and next to Summer pudding with red fruit… a mere trifle… This is the British summer equivalent of Christmas pudding… anyone still able to stand?! Get off the floor you or simply roll to the nearest bed…)

Cream cream glorious creammmm

Hope I will be able to find some in the States…
Then again may be I shouldnt…

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Stiff-upper-lip Disgruntlement...

Another brilliantly British word I ran into this week.

Disgruntled…

Everyone knows that Brits are famous for their reserve and cool response to the most extreme circumstances…
Please note that feeling Grumpy in this country is actually considered good and healthy!

A common joke that has been circulated via email demonstrates this with the following wording:

‘The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved“. Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross”.

The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies all but ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to a “Bloody Nuisance”. The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was during the great fire of 1666.’

Proper disgruntled...

However today there is ‘Disgruntled’ to be added to this list. This really is the best possible word to describe. With its sharp ‘Disss’, rolling ‘Grrrr’ and ending with a short thin ‘TL’ it grruntles brilliantly over the tongue, mimicking the growl and scowl it represents.

This level of irritability is only reached in the most extreme cases. But it seems that after the fall out of the elections we are getting there…

There has been a strange haze of obstinancy around town this week. All traffic has been hell since the cab drivers have gotten disgruntled and started to block main parts of town in their anger. (all because of the foreigners taking their jobs etc etc.)
Add to this the disgruntlement of the Motor Cyclists that refuse to pay council tax and several days of brilliant sunshine and a national tendency for queuing and you are stuck with the most exquisite hot mess of grid lock…

Disgruntlement of a completely escalated kind was reached by cabbie Derrick Bird in Cumbria yesterday.
For unknown reasons he got in his cab and went on a gun toting rampage along the coast, shooting 37 and killing 12 people on his route.

The country is still stunned…


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Stroop - Dutch Treacle

There is something sticky in the state of Britain…

It is hard to put my finger on what it is exactly, but since I started working in Education for the British government I have had to learn a lot about the ways of getting things done around here.

Where in Holland people in general give their opinions first and make decisions later, here in the UK there has to be a gentle kind of banter first followed by an unpermeable process that leads to some kind of progress…
(if this method had been adopted in Holland, Utrecht would be by the sea and the rest would be paddling water…)

Treacle Management they call it.

Funnily enough Treacle originally was said to be an antidote to poison (something sweet usually appears to be),  also known as Theriac.
“Henry of Grosmont, 1st Duke of Lancaster
wrote that “the treacle is made of poison so that it can destroy other poisons”. Thinking by analogy, Henry Grosmont also thought of theriac as a moral curative, the medicine “to make a man reject the poisonous sin which has entered into his soul.”
But from my experience in government I can’t say it improves the soul…
Fight Fire with Fire I say…

So I am not holding my breath to find out what will come of all the new bills that Lizzie read out yesterday as Treacle runs in this country’s veins.
Please let me demonstrate management by Treacle by the short clip from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 7…
it will all become clear in the end:

St Margaret's (Treacle) Well in Binsey...

” ‘Once upon a time there were three little sisters,’ the Dormouse began in a great hurry; ‘and their names were Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie; and they lived at the bottom of a well—’
‘What did they live on?’ said Alice, who always took a great interest in questions of eating and drinking.
‘They lived on treacle,’ said the Dormouse, after thinking a minute or two. ‘They couldn’t have done that, you know,’ Alice gently remarked; ‘they’d have been ill.’ ‘So they were,’ said the Dormouse; ‘very ill.’

Alice tried to fancy to herself what such an extraordinary ways of living would be like, but it puzzled her too much, so she went on: ‘But why did they live at the bottom of a well?’

‘Take some more tea,’ the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
‘I’ve had nothing yet,’ Alice replied in an offended tone, ‘so I can’t take more.’
‘You mean you can’t take less,’ said the Hatter: ‘it’s very easy to take morethan nothing.’
‘Nobody asked your opinion,’ said Alice.’ At any rate I’ll never go there again!’ said Alice as she picked her way through the wood. ‘It’s the stupidest tea-party I ever was at in all my life!’
‘Who’s making personal remarks now?’ the Hatter asked triumphantly.
Alice did not quite know what to say to this: so she helped herself to some tea and bread-and-butter, and then turned to the Dormouse, and repeated her question. ‘Why did they live at the bottom of a well?’

The Dormouse again took a minute or two to think about it, and then said, ‘It was a treacle-well.’
‘There’s no such thing!’ Alice was beginning very angrily, but the Hatter and the March Hare went ‘Sh! sh!’ and the Dormouse sulkily remarked, ‘If you can’t be civil, you’d better finish the story for yourself. ”No, please go on!’ Alice said very humbly; ‘I won’t interrupt again. I dare say there may be one.”One, indeed!’ said the Dormouse indignantly.

However, he consented to go on. ‘And so these three little sisters—they were learning to draw, you know—’
‘What did they draw?’ said Alice, quite forgetting her promise.
‘Treacle,’ said the Dormouse, without considering at all this time.

‘I want a clean cup,’ interrupted the Hatter: ‘let’s all move one place on.’
He moved on as he spoke, and the Dormouse followed him: the March Hare moved into the Dormouse’s place, and Alice rather unwillingly took the place of the March Hare. The Hatter was the only one who got any advantage from the change: and Alice was a good deal worse off than before, as the March Hare had just upset the milk-jug into his plate.

Better be civil than clear...

Alice did not wish to offend the Dormouse again, so she began very cautiously: ‘But I don’t understand. Where did they draw the treacle from?’
‘You can draw water out of a water-well,’ said the Hatter; ‘so I should think you could draw treacle out of a treacle-well—eh, stupid?’
‘But they were in the well,’ Alice said to the Dormouse, not choosing to notice this last remark.
‘Of course they were’, said the Dormouse; ‘—well in.’
This answer so confused poor Alice, that she let the Dormouse go on for some time without interrupting it.

‘They were learning to draw,’ the Dormouse went on, yawning and rubbing its eyes, for it was getting very sleepy; ‘and they drew all manner of things—everything that begins with an M—’
‘Why with an M?’ said Alice.’Why not?’ said the March Hare.
Alice was silent.

The Dormouse had closed its eyes by this time, and was going off into a doze; but, on being pinched by the Hatter, it woke up again with a little shriek, and went on: ‘—that begins with an M, such as mouse-traps, and the moon, and memory, and muchness— you know you say things are “much of a muchness”—did you ever see such a thing as a drawing of a muchness?’ ‘Really, now you ask me,’ said Alice, very much confused, ‘I don’t think—’
‘Then you shouldn’t talk,’ said the Hatter.

This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear: she got up in great disgust, and walked off; the Dormouse fell asleep instantly, and neither of the others took the least notice of her going, though she looked back once or twice, half hoping that they would call after her: the last time she saw them, they were trying to put the Dormouse into the teapot.”

You see?
It all makes sense now…

So in case the country is paddling in a deficit if Treacle Muchness, may be we should all change places again…
At least everyone is Civil (does this explain why Civil Servants are called Civil?!) and unpersonal throughout.

More Tea anyone?

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