A photographic journey around the Potteries, 30th August 2017
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St Milburga’s Sweet, Sour & Spicy South Shropshire Sauce
This recipe was the result of an afternoon of experimentation with damsons, which, other than for jam, are pretty difficult to find a use for. The idea was based upon Worcestershire sauce, and I was expecting it to be revolting, but it's actually rather lovely. The recipe should make a little over 1 litre.
Named in honour of St Milburga, after whom our village Stoke St Milborough takes its name. Milburga, ironically, was anything but saucy, but she did purportedly have something of a way with geese.
Put the two types of vinegar and damsons into a saucepan to heat to boiling point. Then simmer gently for 20 minutes or so to soften up the damsons.
In the meantime, whizz all of the other ingredients in a blender until it produces a fine paste.
Add the paste to the vinegar and damsons and bring back to the boil. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.
Take off the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes, then pour it into a sterilised jar with a tight lid. (To sterilise the jar, either run it through the dishwasher at the hottest setting or thoroughly clean it before heating it in the oven.)
Let the jar sit in the fridge or a cool place for a couple of days. Shake it periodically to encourage the fermentation process. (For a stronger sauce, let it ferment for up to a week.)
When you are happy with the strength, rub the sauce through a fine sieve to remove the larger pieces and the damson stones.
Reheat to boiling point and simmer for five minutes. Let it cool for ten minutes and then pour into bottles that have been sterilised in the same way as the jar was.
Seal and keep in the fridge or somewhere cool until needed. Always shake before use to revitalise the flavour. Keep in the fridge once opened.
Serve with a good fried breakfast, beans on toast, cheese dishes or as a flavour enhancer in meat dishes.
Song For Those Who Don't Complain
After Wilfred Owen
They listen. They do not raise a question
To the announcer's pacifying prattle.
Street-lame, nostrils charged with congestion,
They have the time to spare to stare. Strange cattle
Swaying with sandwiches, numbered tickets;
Patient to join the pay-per-viewers,
To ohwell the early loss of wickets,
A nation of shoppers, silent queuers.
On Sundays, when we get the mower out,
That ticklish sweetness speaks of ancient walks
Along riverbanks, with Grandfather's tales
Of Victory, of Glory that never pales.
We jab the rusty blades with garden forks.
We are tired. Not much else to moan about.
The Elephant in the Room
Inspired by 'Countdown' by Alan Weisman
We welcomed it in as an infant:
It seemed very cute way back when.
But now it’s a grey brutish giant,
It’s a bit late to think: Think again.
Its bulk has spilled out to each corner
And it’s damaged each table and chair.
The whole room feels stiflingly warmer
Like it’s breathing the last of the air.
And after it’s cleaned out the larder,
And its trunk has drunk everything dry,
And it’s left us neck-deep in its ordure
Still then we won’t ask ourselves why.
Only when walls all start falling,
The whole house rocks on its foundation,
And even the elephant’s bawling...
Then we’ll discuss population.
We’re looking for a leader, since the former leader’s quit
And we really need somebody who will be a perfect fit:
A candidate who’s fully Democratic to the letter
(And if you are a Liberal than that would be even better).
Dear Applicant, please heed our firm and sensible advice:
If you’re not that tolerant, you maybe should think twice.
Our leader must be fully signed up for equality,
So if that piques your conscience, why not join the DUP?
If you’re rather troubled by what others do in bed,
They’re crying out for vicars. Why not go do that instead?
It’s really not that relevant who is and isn’t sinning.
What we need is someone with an appetite for winning.
The Gap in the Hedge
Some sheep always find the gap in the hedge
And dip into the lane to nibble dock.
Freed from the field, they find a better place
Of open hills and pastures with no end.
Exploring, they go onward, round the bend,
Then looking back there’s no familiar face.
Spooked, they trot back home to join the flock,
Forget they’d ever ventured to the edge.
Pulling the Perse Strings
Dedicated to everybody stuck indoors revising
So, how has Tom been doing since the start of Autumn term?
He tells us he’s been trying hard and we’ve been rather firm
About how much he’s going on the internet at home
Except for when he’s Skyping with a French boy called Guillaume.
We’ve tried to get him up for maybe doing an exchange
But Tom seems quite reluctant, which I’m finding very strange.
His appetite is dwindling and his sleep is getting worse,
So what we want to know is: is he on track for The Perse?
This latest comprehension test he did the other day
His tutor took him through it all and I’d just like to say
That Tom was really anxious that he’d got a lowish score:
He’s used to getting ninety-plus and this was eighty-four.
He wants some more past papers just to put his mind at rest,
To boost his inner confidence so that he does his best.
D’you know whether the passage will be prose or be in verse?
Please tell us how to help him so he gets into The Perse.
The entrance tests are just around the corner and we think
That Tom will thrive on learning how to swim and not to sink.
All his friends are going there, he hates to be left out,
And academic rigour is what he cares most about.
He ought to pass the interview, and though we’re loath to push,
Some practice questions would be great to help him not to blush
And while you’re at it how about some answers to rehearse,
Since standards keep on rising for the entrance to The Perse?
Our biggest worry’s Maths. Tom, darling, wouldn’t you agree?
So the tutor’s had him tackling things beyond GCSE.
(Sadly, I can’t help him with his homework anymore.
I only got an A myself. I know! Terribly poor!)
In your opinion, have the extra sessions upped his grades
Or do we need to book some more and lay it on in spades?
Hard graft’s a thing, you know, to which our Tom is not averse
And all he ever talks about is getting to The Perse!
If he weren’t to get a place there it would really be so cruel.
We just can’t see him fitting in in any other school.
It’s way up in the league tables and wonderfully near...
Sit up, Tom, and listen! It’s for you that we’re all here!
Oundle’s gone too nouveau riche and Rugby’s gone too rowdy
And if he goes to Eton then we’ll have to swap the Audi.
Tom’s heart is set, he’s driven and it’s too late to reverse,
The world will crash around us if he can’t go to the Perse!
Their firebright words lit up the air
In rhythmic reds and rhyming blues.
Unseen, he smiled to sit here where
He'd struck the match that lit the fuse.