Kitchen detail

Of all the rooms in a human dwelling, the kitchen has probably metamorphosed the most over time.
First a fire out in the open or in a cave, around which everyone sat, able to catch the eye of all their friends partaking of a meal together. In the best of circumstances it was a moment of great enjoyment, collective comfort and ease, a time to connect and share in the feelings of the company.
Some stones, wood and the heat of a fire, to nourish the body and soul.
Kitchens were central to the running of houses, one kitchen usually, which prepared the food for everyone involved within the household. There was a pecking order, developing society demanded it. The best food went to the house owner, then down through the ranks to the very least, who if he was crafty, would still find a way to fill his belly to his satisfaction. Control of the kitchen meant control of the household, the ability to provide food marked a person as worthy, someone to defer to, to labour for.
Every day in Celtic households the evening meal was taken by everyone together, it was a time to exchange, through the giving and receiving of food, the usually unwritten laws of fealty to the Lord of the manor, and honour, by one’s presence, the outward expression of his power and ability to maintain his people.
For a very long time the chance of there being more than one kitchen in a building was very rare, it took a long time before the practice of communal eating, however varied its doing, was broken, and people began to shift for themselves when they wanted a meal.
The rich continued to have their private kitchens; servants prepared the food and moved it to another well-appointed place where it would be eaten. The cooks and the servants were excluded from the meal and were expected to eat from what was left of the dishes, which in the best of houses meant the best of victuals. However the connection between the lord and his people had been cut, no more could he look his household in the eye, and gauge their worthiness.
It is an interesting point, one that in this age seems rather silly, but companionship and the nurturing of good feelings between people is best achieved in groups. The big crowds at games offer the chance to cheer for the team, but also recover a sense of group solidarity, and it’s no surprise that food is doled out and eaten by all at the event. And, regardless of the result, everyone leaves strengthened by the close contact with their fellow men.
By the time of Dickens many people had begun to live on their own, small rooming houses and apartments detached from their place of employment. When it came to eating, there was the choice of going out to get a meal, or have it delivered to the home by someone who cooked in a kitchen for many people in a similar situation. The rent could include meals or not, whatever was wanted.
When did it come about that every house had its own complete kitchen and the owner took time out of every day to cook his own meals? Something gained: privacy, individuality; much lost: companionship, collective understanding, and the kitchen, which once fed many at one sitting, now fed a few at a time. There is now costly duplication of location, food, tools and furnishings, and those gadgets and fixings, fuel and water needed to make a meal, have been blown out of all proportion to the task at hand.
Kitchens in every house have become a drain on all economies; they are costly to set up and run, and while there is still the sense of it being the favourite room in the house, nevertheless its powerful original purpose has been greatly watered down. Parties are a poor substitute, the taking of meals together on a regular basis has to be much better. Restaurants are an expression of wealth or poverty; they can bring people together collectively, but that is not their main purpose, and they make their money only if the clients choose to visit.
The point I am trying to make is that individuation is potentially divisive and definitely expensive. It will be difficult to maintain the status quo, as the populations increase, costs rise, food becomes difficult to get, and fuel costs go beyond the ability of individual householders to pay for them.
Eating together again will make economic sense, which, in time, I think, will lead to better understanding between people. Problems shared have a habit of diminishing in impact, creativity is supported and there is an increase in well-being that directly reduces health costs.

This is a huge subject, I’ve only slapped at it with a thick noodle, but I hope the premise is quite clear: get in the way of sharing food and eating together as often as you can. You’ll like it!

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From whence doth come mine aid

I to the hills will lift mine eyes, from whence doth come mine aid?

The words ‘From whence doth come mine aid’ were used for our school motto. The story was that in olden days wolves would come down out of the hills and attack the townsfolk, hence their need to call on the Lord to rescue them from the wild beasts.

After I wrote Cataclysm’s Day I was concerned that the fate for the few who survived would be very bleak indeed, that this story could also become apocalyptic and self-terminating, which was not what I had wanted to have happen at all.

I already had the makings of an answer to the dilemma, Rachael’s Prayer; the shaman woman had asked for assistance of the Guv’nor, she had deliberately sought him out, had brought the plight of Earth to his surprised attention, and she had no doubt that once the message was received, something would be done to help the situation on Earth.

Immediately the emphasis of the story shifted from a tight earthbound focus to one that was so broad it took it all the Universes, for the Guv’nor was the Gatherer and Balancer of the energies of Light and Dark, no less.

Suddenly ‘from whence doth come mine aid’ had real relevance for the telling of Earth’s story, but also for myself, for I had to let my thinking expand as far as I could get it to go, trusting that the words I needed would turn up out of the blue, as it were.

The Blessings of Dis, the second book of The Gatherers Trilogy deals with what is happening on Earth, but also with the way the Guv’nor and his two administrative assistants offer their aid.

When one has no doubts, everything is possible.

In a way I did not expect, the cosmic trio were immediately very droll, they became the comedy act, the light relief in what might have otherwise been a very gloomy and slow-moving saga.

With their appearance the writing was happily able to move to where I wanted it to go, the horror of Cataclysm was left behind, the journey towards a pre-utopian condition on Earth was started, and a new direction for the planet Earth and all the species there, could be suggested.

Accept from whence doth come thine aid, it may greatly surprise you!

It’s all relative

Note: During the months of February and March, the farmers get into their cow sheds and piggeries and cart off the mass of manure that has accumulated over the winter, and take it to the stubble fields. This is a time-honoured way to return goodness to the land and ensure fine crops later on in the year. Farming is a cyclical affair, which if done properly will produce food for everyone on the planet till Hell freezes over. But once the cycle is broken or interfered with, and artificial fertilisers are used instead of the natural organic ones, the long term result will be disaster for the land, the well-being of farming, and the quantity and quality of food grown, a domino effect that will be hard to set up again.
I digress; the above is food for another blog.

The folk at the farm next to ours, about a quarter of a mile away, we’re engaged like everyone else in manuring their fields. Great trailer loads of steaming manure left their sheds, and we’re dumped off in piles on the fields, regularly spaced, so that after spreading, the manure would evenly enrich the land when ploughed in.
There was a father and his son and daughter over the way, and while the young ones were tending to the milking and the thousands of chores that farmers seem to be able to do simultaneously, the father was out spreading the manure.

On one particular day, rather cold, but dry and a little sunny, the father returned from his morning’s work, had his dinner of soup, meat and potatoes and pudding, sat in his favourite chair, lit his pipe and promptly died.
Grieve, dear reader, but not too deep, he was ninety-seven, his going was not unexpected, but of course there were consequences.
Grandpa and I were outside, communing with Nature through the seat of our pants, when a great rumpus got going over the way. The son and the daughter could be seen racing in and out of the farm buildings, running round and round the corn stacks, yelling and shouting at each other, although we couldn’t make out a word.
As we watched Grandpa said something rather strange. “Well, well now, maybe herself is about to get a bit of her own back.” I heard what he said, but I didn’t understand the implications of it until I was much older, and it was a bit dark!
I am translating the gist of what Grandpa said into English, for fear in the original those reading this wouldn’t get any of it now!
The chase continued on for a while, but suddenly the man was running straight towards us, across fields that were newly ploughed, soft earth forced into ridges, the hollows full of puddles, the tops muddy and impossible to stand on, but all that muck apparently wasn’t going to stop him. On he came, crying out, falling down often, till, if he hadn’t been moving, it would have been hard to pick him out from the general landscape, so messed up and wet he was.
We went out to meet him as he reached the corner of his field and our lane; he hung over the fence, exhausted, haggard, mighty short of breath, but determine, we could see, to get whatever had set him going off his chest.
“The auld man’s deid,” he gasped out.
“Aye,” replied Grandpa, to keep the story going.
“Aye so,” the man went on, “but he hasna finished the back field yet!”

Is an explanation needed? It would be a kindness, I think. Remember the father was in his late nineties, which meant the son and daughter were in their mid seventies. So at this busy time of the year on a farm, with so much to get done, it was past thinkable that they’d have to go out and spread manure on top of everything else.

Teetertotter

All of us have experienced the extremes of good and bad, hope and sorrow, the negative and positive of all sorts of situations. We are also aware that it will take resolution, sharpness of mind and an open heart, to approach that centre in ourselves where everything is in exact balance.
It seems so small a place, like sitting on the head of a pin; one wrong word, or inappropriate action, and oops! there we go again, down into the pit of despair or hanging off the curtain rails.
What we think creates our reality; therefore it’s not impossible to make that tiny spot we’re teetering on very much bigger and safer. By conscious effort it is possible to believe you are sitting in the centre of a playing field, with no likelihood of falling off in any direction.
It is an exquisite feeling to discover personal balance, and it is not so hard to achieve. Control of the flusterings of the mind helps, so does taking regular rest and bringing the body into good health. Dancing and singing and using the hands to create all manner of things, will quickly lead to ease of being.
There is no one road to a place of equilibrium; make a connection with yourself, and look forward to enjoying a great time

Gold

A few days ago I was thoroughly entertained and moved by the last opera in Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Götterdämmerung (The Twilight of the Gods), played to the world live from the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center in New York. The three previous operas, Das Rheingold, Die Walküre(The Valkyrie), and Siegfried had been amazing also. It was, therefore, with great anticipation I took my seat, not at the Met, but a continent away in a little theatre in my home town. Where else, for less than twenty dollars, could you witness the unfolding of the final stages of a story built on the Norse Sagas, when listeners of times long past were reminded, by example, of the need for Truth and Honour in all actions.
It was the role of the gold, however, that caught my attention; it wasn’t just a precious metal, but the distilled essence of Earth, sacred, mystical and magic, and it was stolen from the Rhine Maidens by the dwarf Alberich, who sought to avail himself of Earth’s natural feminine energy, and further his own ends by trapping that power within a ring. In so doing he disturbed the natural balances that control the duality of our reality, and set off a chain reaction of greed, malice and deceit. Wotan, the King of the Gods, also coveted that ring, for with it he would not have to share power with his wife, Frica, who was the Earth Goddess.
It’s a long story, one that took Wagner twenty-six years to meld into his Ring Cycle, and no matter what the Gods and heroes were doing, the real story was always the passage of the ring back to its place of origin, the Rhine River, and the return of balance to the world. The ring never sings a note, but all those who do are committed throughout the story, whether they know or not, to follow the ring’s purpose, and many die in the doing of it.
Once there existed a pact between the Gods, heroes and men, but when the Gods and heroes were gone, men were left to stagger on alone, without wise counsel, and a proper understanding of their relationship to the Earth and the Heavens.
Sacredness, mysticism and magic in compelling motion, high drama and great sound, make for great theatre, and the Ring Cycle currently underway at the Met, is one of the best in recent times, to my mind.
All of that drama the singers and the orchestra, the set designers and stage crews had to grapple with minute by minute. They sweated blood and tears over the entire time it took to get the four operas done. They were very successful, and audiences around the world will hold in their memories and hearts the wonderful experience they were treated to.

Opera? Let it rip!

Opera is simply one of my greatest passions. I can’t think of a better way to present a story. The wonderful presentation of music on stage and in the orchestra pit, the drama of the story sung out by marvellous voices, the amazing costumes and unbelievable sets, all combine to give audiences a most satisfying experience.
Very true, many of the plots are a bit thin, leading lady gets killed before the marriage or shortly afterwards, as one of the leading sopranos of our day has been heard to say; but who hasn’t read stories of a similar tackiness in our daily news papers or reported on TV?
True also, much of what is performed has its roots one hundred, two hundred years ago, but that is not a weak point, for the quality was there from the beginning and hasn’t degraded one note since.
Opera has often taken a heavy rap from the public for its lack of spontaneity and sluggishness; a condition of history, I think, when the older directors didn’t have the technical means to close the gap between the singing element and the acting out of the story, or the willingness of the singers to disport themselves on stage. But when one is listening to a singer like Pavarotti or Domingo in their younger years, or Caballé or Sutherland, it’s OK to let the action grind to a halt while those great stars sing an aria; opera audiences know how to hold the plot in their heads and pick it up again went everything moves on.
Gradually that stultification has left the opera stage; these days the performers are actor singers, they work out, are as fit as fiddles, can keep moving and sing the most complex music all at the same time. I have watched Netrebko hang over the front of the platform on her back and sing her heart out (try it sometime), and Terfel declaim with powerful voice his stubborn resistance at the end of Don Giovanni, while the whole set was collapsing under him and taking him down to Hell.
Opera is theatre par excellence; modern sets are transitory works of art, beautifully made and complex, controlled by computers and seasoned stage hands in a way never contemplated even twenty years ago, and sadly always dismantled the minute the performances end. Thank Heavens for DVDs to keep those heroic efforts current and fresh.
To be continued in our next…

Sing a little song for me

I have taken a day or to think of topics and ideas to write about; not that there’s a shortage of words, an unfortunate carte blanche or a black board with no chalk marks on it. Somewhat the reverse; my head is always popping with thoughts, but as far as this Tetralogia blog is concerned, I’ve decided not to be so focused on the content of my four books.
I haven’t revealed much of them at all, in fact I imagine a few folk are itching to get their hands on the whole text: I’ve been going on and on about it for long enough. Publish or perish or get lost as the world goes flying by. The flavour of the nanosecond, instant connection and disconnection, it’s the delight and the nemesis of our age, Here today, gone today. “Hey ho,” said Roly.

But let’s move around a bit, smell some different kinds of roses, for the lives of the people we meet and hear about are generated in so many ways, often coming as a complete surprise to those who have to live them.
Becoming a professional singer is a great case in point. It is not at all usual that a child will decide to sing opera, for example, and get on with it; they may decide to be a doctor or lawyer, maybe, a football or tennis player at a stretch, the acceptable down the middle sort of careers that create no waves with parents or friends.
It’s also OK to say I want to play an instrument, piano, violin or French horn, be good enough to perform in all the major concert houses around the world, for if there is talent, the training will guarantee results.
Maybe it’s best to say that singing picks the singer, not the other way round, for many great singers have been well set on other careers before lightning struck, and they had to make a complete U-turn and start all over again. A glorious voice, developing inside a person, subject to all the stresses and uncertainties of that body, may not choose to show itself early, and when it does, it may cause consternation and disruption until the rightness of the course change becomes clear. Many highly successful singers, from the safety of established careers, will admit that singing for a living was the last thing on earth they wanted to do.
To be continued in our next…

Painted Posies

posy

The bright, colourful header that caps off Tetralogia: Four Books To Change the World, these days, was scanned from a daub I did when I was twelve or thirteen. An art class effort, if the memory is still accurate, produced on real paper, as a reward for having made progress with earlier tries on printed newspaper.

To go back a bit: Our art teacher, Sammy S, was really something of a different sort of person. I’ve come to realise that now, although at the time we quietly accepted the fact that he turned up each day to work dressed in an immaculate deep grey suit with a fine white pin stripe in it, black shoes, polished, had his hair carefully brushed, and spoke in a very cultured accent. Sammy was genteel, didn’t get down and dirty, but must have done something, because dozens of small tins of poster paint were mixed up and ready for use every morning: black, white, red, yellow and blue. There were also dozens of good pencils sharpened and awaiting our command. We did a lot of line drawing, drawing a posing model, still life with fruit or flowers or both, and lots and lots of painting with large brushes and the poster paint.
In those days schools in my part of the world put aside decent amounts of class time for art and music. Both studies require a great deal of skill and practice, and therefore are excellent for developing the body and mind; for offering children the opportunity to express themselves anyway they liked, without undue criticism or censure. If you don’t use it you lose it, but if you never had it, believe me, you have missed a great deal.
Wednesday, from eight in the morning till lunch time – one pee break allowed, you didn’t get off that easy – we made paintings of flowers, usually dahlias, big beautiful specimens in lovely colours of red, violet, cream yellow, orange. Perhaps Sammy had a garden, and that’s where he let his hair down.
We were encouraged to do as much as we could in the time, spreading the wet paints over sheets of old newspaper, which someone must have torn apart and provided for our use. Or maybe we did pencil sketches of the same, to get a better idea of what we were looking at.
I have never forgotten Sammy, nor have I ever not done some kind of art. I got the bug back then, and have lived with it ever since.

Ditched

This is a bit of a long tale, very much about Christmas time years ago, so here we go.

I loved to visit the farm at Christmas and New Year, because there was always something going on, and one of the very best events was Nell’s Christmas party, Part 3!
Nell and Will lived in a tiny apartment in town, so minute that idea of entertaining ALL the relatives at Christmas was ridiculous!
She did though, by dividing us into three parties and serving dinner three times. I think it was twice on Christmas Eve and once on Christmas day. There was method in her madness, namely to keep clashing elements of kith and kin safely apart. Grandpa was in the favoured group, I suspect. Anyway, there we were, at least twenty of us, in Nell’s kitchen – she’d only two rooms – a twelve foot square filled with tables, loaded down with the marvellous food she’d cooked herself, turkeys, roast tatties, peas and carrots, gravy by the bucketful, buns, coffee and tea, and then an enormous trifle, which was always a complete delight.
Sixteen that year, I sat with the adults and not with the wee kids, which burnished my ego no end, and as after the meals cards were to be played, we were sent to the movies in the town, for there wasn’t any room for childish high jinks.
Nell wasn’t big on drinking, but nevertheless a tot or two passed lips, and by the time Grandpa and I left, he was grinning from ear to ear and feeling no pain. The world was a great place, and he’d had a great time baiting a couple of the silly young lads.
I don’t remember why we weren’t driven right home, but left at the lane end to walk the last bit ourselves. It was very cold and frosty out, no moon graced our way, and a sharp wind cut right through my thin coat and my stockinged legs had to totter along in high heels! Grandpa had on his best suit and shoes, bespoke for him sixty one year’s previous, for in those days one preserved best clothes very carefully. He had a torch, with flat batteries, but as the lane was straight we headed down it, confident of being home in no time at all. Everything was going fine until we reached the big tree growing on the bank to our left – the only thing we could make out in the pitch dark – when our plans for hot tea and warm beds were put back quite a bit.
Grandpa, glowing with the fumes of whisky said it was thirty odd paces from the tree to the farm road end. “Fifty,” I said. I’d counted the distance many times over the years.
“Thirty,” said Grandpa confidently, turning sharp left, and walking straight into a ditch, partly full of water, and far too deep for him to get out of on his own. I couldn’t pull him out, I weighed a hundred pounds soaking wet, Grandpa was well over two hundred and six foot tall to boot!
Problem!
“Get the tractor and pull me out,” he said, and off I went as fast as I could go on my high pins. I quickly shed shoes for Wellies, and my fine coat for an old Burberry and a hat.
In those days tractors were started with petrol(gas), and ran on paraffin, so getting going in the dark was tricky; so was Grandpa’s predicament. Speed, therefore, was needed, no matter what!
There were no lights on the tractor that worked (it was never out at night, so why wire them?), which left me to grope for a storm lantern. Once it was lit, I hung it on the end of a pitchfork and drove off on the mission of rescue.
It was successful: with a strong rope Grandpa was skidded up onto the road and driven home none the worse for the experience; cold definitely, sober certainly, despite two more whiskies. A bit tired, of course, he was 79 years old after all, as far as I can work it out.

Memoirs of a Child on a Farm

In the tetralogia and wiggledywoo blogs will appear selections from Memoires of a Child on a Farm. Happy, youthful reminiscences with the added bonus of examples of Scottish cookery, which were eaten with great enjoyment.</FONT.

wee me

The life we’re all born into isn’t exactly perfect. But that’s the whole point! If it were perfect, there’d be no reason to be born at all. We’d be Gods, every last one of us, basking in the warm, brilliant, eternal Golden Light. Ta Da! What could possibly follow that?
Here on Earth, in this Universe, as far as we know, there will always be change, which allows for choices to be made, different places to visit, many people to know, amazing events to encounter, including that Golden Eternity, eventually.
What is being born anyway?
Some see it as the direct physiological result of lustful activity between a man and a woman. For others, being born means their spirit has exercised choice, and the soul has returned to this dimension to experience life again in the raw. The last option seems much more interesting; it implies a degree of control, of personal selection, and maybe even imagination.
There’s a catch!
If we came into this world fully formed, conformed and informed, things would go really well. But we didn’t, arriving, after nine months of noisy confinement, stark naked, pulled and pushed out of our private hot sauna and plunked down in what appears to be a hotel foyer, full of bright lights, draughty, and with action going in every which direction. Complaints are ignored, pleas to be allowed to return to the Light are not understood, other people have plans for you, and they’re not going to be put off.