Saturday, 30 June 2012

Queen Queen Caroline

Queen, Queen Caroline, 
Washed her hair in turpentine,
Turpentine made it shine,
Queen, Queen Caroline.
This skipping rhyme was unknown to me until two days ago: my experience never progressed beyond...
The wind, the wind, the wind blows high.
The rain comes scattering from the sky....
which had no political references as far as I know.
This gap in my education was prompted by my photograph of The Queen's Head pub in Wolverley.  The pub sign clearly depicts Queen Caroline rather than the more common (not quite the word) Queen Victoria.
Caroline of Brunswick, about whom this rhyme is reputed to have been written, was married to King George IV.  Contemporary reports describe her as fat, ugly, tactless and never changed her undergarments.  She did have one quality which attracted her to the then Prince of Wales: she had money.  This was particularly attractive as the prince was in debt to the sum of £630k.  Two hundred years ago that even exceeded bankers' bonuses.That amount of dosh was even more overwhelming than her body odour. After their first meeting the Prince demanded a glass of brandy! He drank brandy for the next three days until the wedding and was so drunk on his wedding night that he collapsed in front of the fire and slept there all night.  Nine months later they had a child so he must have done his duty at some time.  The prince refused to live with Caroline and she  moved to Blackheath and later to Naples where her behaviour became bizarre to say the least.  On the King's death and her husband's accession she returned to England to attend the coronation but the door of Westminster Abbey  was slammed in her face.  She died about three weeks later and was buried in Brunswick.
However, none of this is really of interest to us because the pub sign depicts an earlier Queen Caroline - Caroline of Ansbach, who married George II.This Caroline was a different kettle of fish: she had eight children and was very involved in politics.  As Princess of Wales  she joined her husband in stirring up trouble for his father, George I, and became great buddies with Sir Robert Walpole, the rebel Whig. She was also reputed to be very attractive and well educated.
When her husband became King her political influence with Walpole was immense and during  the king's trips to Germany the law was changed to appoint her as regent rather than their eldest son who was rather feckless.  She was intellectually  superior to her husband and engaged in correspondence with luminaries of arts and science.  She even had her children innoculated against smallpox which drew commedation from Voltaire thus:
"I must say that despite all her titles and crowns, this princess was born to encourage the arts and the well-being of mankind; even on the throne she is a benevolent philosopher; and she has never lost an opportunity to learn or to manifest her generosity."
After a long and happy married lifeshe died in considerable pain she died on 20 November 1737 at St. James's Palace. She was buried in Westminster Abbey on 17 December. Frederick was not invited to the funeral. George Frideric Handel composed an anthem for the occasion, The Ways of Zion Do Mourn / Funeral Anthem for Queen Caroline. The King arranged for a pair of matching coffins with removable sides, so that when he followed her to the grave (23 years later), they could lie together again.

So what is this thing about washing hair in turpentine?  I really don't know. However I did come across this reference in the Diary of Samuel Pepyes
17 July 1664
.....and by and by comes my uncle Wight, Dr. Burnett, and another gentleman, and talked and drank, and the Doctor showed me the manner of eating,turpentine which pleases me well, for it is with great ease. So they being gone, I to supper and to bed.
Apparrently eating turpentine give one's urine the odour of violets.  However, according to  a 19th century dispensary report.....
 ... The oil is a diffusive and exciting stimulant, arousing the stomach and circulation, strongly influencing the kidneys, and presently being absorbed so as to mark the exhalations of the lungs and skin with its peculiar odor. It also gives to the urine the odor of violets. Any considerable dose, or small doses continued for a number of days, may occasion burning of the stomach, scalding urine, strangury, irritation of the kidneys and bladder, painful looseness of the bowels, and even bloody urine.
So perhaps turpentine might make hair smell sweet too. I think I'll stick to cleaning my paint brushes with it.

Friday, 29 June 2012

The Last Word on Horses?

There has been an interesting conversation around the use of horses for heavy haulage in the comments of two recent posts
Anchos Away  
Traction Engines in the Black Country
I think I have foound the reason for heavy horses being used at time when traction engines could have been available.

They were used to circumvent the  parking regulations

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Back to School for Henley

The Royal Garden Party at Henley-on-Thames on Monday took place at the Henley Business School.  Guests were advised with their invitations that a shuttle service would be provided between the railway station and the Party.
How to move 80 people in Henley
They were not informed that the 'service'  would be provided by one people carrier.
Guests we spoke to had been waiting  over an hour for the the shuttle and then the journey took another 30 minutes due to the traffic congestion.

Was this an MBA exercise?  It would be interesting to see the project plan.

Wolverley Tapestry


High above Wolverley is the Church of St. John the Baptist: it stands on the hill like the church at Kinver but the walk up to it is much easier.
Just inside the door is a tapestry made by the local Women's Institute for the Queen's Golden Jubilee .

It is beautifully made and depicts the sights around Wolverley.  The tapestry work appears to have been done from photographs and is very realistic.


Other detail has been added in applique and machine embroidery.

Even Mr. Brindley gets a mention.


The quest for realism even extends to including the CCTV cameras on the depiction of the Queen's Head pub.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Kidderminster Carpets

On our way back from Stourport to Wolverley we came through Kidderminster - The Carpet Capital of Britain as we were taught at school. There is very little evidence of carpet production in the town now but in the library, where they appear to have no librarians, there is a carpet mural on the stairs.

The most apt section is this one: Kidderminster seems to be all houses and roundabouts.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Royal Brownie


Yesterday elder son and wife attended the Roayl Garden Party at Henley-on-Thames.

Cameras and mobile phones were not permitted but this picture of a Royal  Chocolate Brownie  somehow escaped.

Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret were Brownies in 1937

There have been previous Royal Brownies.

Pricesses Elizabeth and Margaret were Brownies in 1937

OK I'll come Clean

It is true that I wouldn't recognise a begonia if it bit me (do they bite?) but I do know what a rose looks like!

A Rose by any other name....

Let's get the quotation straight first...... 

What's in a name? That which we call a rose, 
By any other word would smell as sweet.
Juliet, Act II, scene ii

"These roses were donated to the village by the WI"
How about Begonia?

Friday, 22 June 2012

How Others Live

 When we sold our family home seven years ago and moved onto Gecko we bought a converted mews house in Bath which we let weekly for holidays.
Over the past seven years we have welcomed visitors from all over the world and the UK. This year 66% of our bookings are people returning to stay with us.  Each Saturday our housekeeper, Jackie, arrives at the house at 10am to replace linen, clean the house and make everything ship-shape in time to welcome the new guests. A few weeks ago she called us to say that she was concerned the current guest - an IT expert seconded to a local firm - may not leave the property as clean as he found it. Despite having an afternoon tea-party in Buck and a Thames Pageant to attend we hired a car and  raced down to Bath like the 7th cavalry.
What we found stunned us.  The guest had been away overnight and had left the bathroom lights and fan on: in the kitchen the coffee machine was still on, coffee burnt into the jug and the central heating was set high and running 24hrs.
They say a picture paints 10,000 words so here is a short story.

Every pan and piece of crockery had been used and not washed
Two weeks ago the oven man deep-cleaned the oven and hob!

These pictures were taken an hour after the guest should have vacated the property. It took Margaret and I two hours to clear up just the kitchen.
He appeared to have slept on the lounge floor with the electric iron!
I don't think I could have made such a mess if I had been trying.
What does not show are the burns in the duvet covers and the shoe print which we have been unable to remove from one of the sheets.
If the compensation does not arrive soon I shall publish the name of the company whose employees live like this.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Bigger Pictures

If you click on any of my photos they will appear in a new window where you can enlarge them almost without limit.  You may have to use your browser back arrow to return tot he blog. Try it.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Back Home - Where?

Three rain-free days and the River Severn is no longer on Red so all the  boats which congregated in Stourport whilst the river was in flood had disappeared when we arrived at lunchtime today.
Winter Moorings 2006/7
June 2012

We have moored exactly where we spent our first two winters aboard Gecko.

 Moored opposite us is the PushMe-Pull You boat built by M &D Engineering here in Stourport. It is pointed at both ends rather in the style of the Duke of Bridgewater's first canal boats back in the 1760s.  The reason for this is that it does not have any propeller.  It is powered and manoeuvred solely by jet thrusters which can be directed electronically.  It must be one of the few canal boats which can move itself sideways.  Of course Gecko can do this too - whenever there is a side wind.

Stourport-on-Severn is where Gecko was built back in 2005 and so this is something of a homecoming.( But none of her friends is here - Sob, sob)

Traction Engines in the Black Country

Dear Famous Author,
I have not ignored your comment on Anchors Away  but have not  yet heard from the local historian to whom I addressed your query to.  My initial feeling was that the reason for Rees using horses rather than traction engines to move large castings was because that is what they had.  However I have enquired of an eminent Black Country historian whether he is aware of any underlying reason for this situation.
Clydesdale horse at Kinver Fair
By the way, The Bugle report states  These huge horses had the pulling strength of up to two tonnes each and were a common sight on inland waterways....of the Midlands.

On water,  a horse can pull perhaps 50 times the road weight.

Towpath tunnel by Wolverley Lock

 Although Clydesdales are generally smaller than Shire horses I think they are also too large for many of the Midlands canals - particularly the Staffs and Worcs where towpath tunnels can be very low.

This picture from the HorseBoating Society shows the likely size of a canal towing horse.
(Often pairs of donkeys were used in the 18th century.)

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Kinver Fair

British Waterways dissuades visitors to Kinver by restricting mooring to one day in any 28 -day period.  How they regulate this when hire boats return every week with a different crew I am not clear. We were able to stay for four days thanks to the rain.  We received an email from a reader with a permanent mooring in Kinver who was unable to return to it because the River Severn was too high to navigate. We took advantage of the offer to use their space allowing us to visit the Country Fair on Sunday.
The High Street at 11.30am
For this event the High Street was closed and traffic diverted around the town centre.
Burrell Engine Endurance arriving for the fair
People seemed to hve come from all over the Black Country and thronged the streets ...

...which were still this busy five hours later.

The day started at 11am with a parade of traction engines, classic cars, motorbikes, 


heavy horse carts, Morris dancers etc. etc

Even the District nurse found time to attend on her scooter.

New to me was the Pearly King and Queen tradition which I had thought was a feature exclusively of the East End of London.

Some things are universal.

Elderflower Tme Again

It's time for she who must be obeyed to make her annual batch of Eldeerflower Cordial so our route is being planned by the proximity of well-developed flower heads.
2012 Vintage in production
Every time we pass the brew we have to stop and shake it about.

The recipe is below if you wish to try it out.
 Do not expect to buy Citric Acid in a pharmacy without an inquisition as, apparently, it is used by cocaine addicts (not to make elderflower cordial).  If yo want ot  spice it up a little you can add some ginger at the end of the process.

Elderflower Cordial
Recipe by Margaret Lloyd

Ingredients for Syrup
2.5 pints boiling water
3lb sugar
2 lemons, finely chopped
2oz Citric Acid

Sterilize all equipment before use

Pick 25 heads of Elderflower –full and fresh.
(Traditionally with dew on)

Steep the Elderflower heads in the syrup for two days
Agitate frequently

Strain and bottle

Makes almost four pints (or 5 x 500ml bottles)

Can be frozen

Dilute to taste – particularly good with sparkling water

I Blame Kenneth Grahame

On BBC Radio 4's Farming Today this morning a dairy farmer in Cheshire broke down whilst talking about TB.  On Wednesday and Thursday 74 of his cattle had to be shot as they reacted to TB tests.  The last TB on the farm was in 1956: the last animal bought into the herd was sixteen years ago. So where has the TB come from?  His opinion, as a trained zoologist, was that wild animals are to blame and top of his list is the cuddly badger.  He estimates that through the loss of these animals, the reduction in milk prices and loss of market for six weeks when his milk buyer went bust he has lost £330,000 this year.  His business may not survive.
I carry no flag for either the farmers or animal  rights but surely we as a society have gone wrong somewhere when 74 cattle who provide us with milk have to be shot but it is illegal to shoot wild animals with TB.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Slow Boat to Cookley

We left Kinver this morning and cruised down to Cookley - all of two hours.

The rains over the past few days have washed away part of the towpath in Kinver.


At Cookley there is a very short tunnel.


Using the BW calculations: 3 minutes to cruise 59 metres produces an interesting result.  Assume the boat is 21m long that means 80m to pass through the tunnel in 3mins which equates to 1mph. 
Perhaps BW calculations are based on legging it through.

We moored opposite the park homes at Austcliffe where Gecko tried to keep a low profile.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

A New Feature

You can now search my blog for particular topics using the field at the top of the right-hand panel.

Friday, 15 June 2012

When ON Means OFF

In the early 1980s an Israeli supplier of mine called me a pedant because I insisted on him complying with the terms of our purchase contract.  I took that as a compliment: I am not sure it was intended  as one.
But here I go again.

Can you see the bone?

Nor can I.

So this is really Ham off the bone

By the way, the ham was delicious

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Best Ale in Britain

The undisputed champion ale in Brittan is produced in the Black Country by Daniel Bathams & Sons Ltd.  This may be considered a provocative remark but even fans of Enville will admit defeat when put to the test.

I first experienced  this brew in Kinver at the Plough and Harrow  (known locally as The Steps) whilst on a hired narrowboat with Dave the Rave and Ron from Tollemache country about 20 years ago and abstinence has made the heart grow fonder. It's one of those ales that is so good you want to keep it to yourself.  This is assisted by the brewery who have never shown an inclination to flood the country or adorn the shelves of Tesco - both routes to ignominy.

 They produce two ales all year and one extra at Xmas.

They have eleven tied houses;

Eighteen freee houses serve their ales

Two breweries resell the products

Bathams Bean Truck
The restored 1931 lorry

They also have one of only three existing Bean lorries from 1931 which they bought at auction in 2009 and have restored to the Bathams livery.It is on display at The Lamp pub in Dudley.

Bean produced cars and lorries in Tipton and Dudley  and Bathams original vehicle from 1930 is now in the Black Country Living Museum.

Bathams original Type W  30cwt lorry

We are moored in Kinver again and will be revisiting The Steps asap.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Calling the Fudge Boat

Does anyone out there hav the contact details for Heather and Tony on the  Fudge Boat - Sanity? I wish to pass a message from a mutual acquaintance.

Message for Steve (you know who you are)

Many thanks for your offer.
We are a day ahead of schedule and passed said location this morning.  As elsan is currently out of action we may acccept your offer so we  will be on site when it is repaired.
Happy cruising.
Margaret & Peter

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Not All Bad at Merry Hill

The shopping centre here at Merry Hill is vast: the car park capacity is 8000.
When we ventured in yesterday we stopped at the first junction to get our bearings and a young couple approached us looking for an exit - any exit!
We are made of sterner stuff and returned today without topee or assegai.

Tucked away in one of the cul-de-sacs we encountered this sculpture of a man legging a boat full of locally made chains.

From the BCN Guaging Plate number 1493 I have been able to trace the original boat details.  It belonged to the LMS (London, Midland & Scottish) Railway and was a Station Interchange Class open day-boat named Tom. That is, it had no cabin or motor and was used to carry goods to and from the LMS rail interchanges.
Tom would have looked like this
Tom was built by W.J. Yarwood at Northwich on the R. Weaver and launched on 4th August 1929
When the railways were nationalised  in 1948 the canal fleets were transferred to British Railways: When BR withdrew from canal carrying six years later it was sold to British Waterways Board for £50.  Its current whereabouts is unknown.Built in riveted iron it measured 70ft long x 7ft wide with 3ft6ins sides.

I have been less successful in tracing the origin of the other canal exhibit in that location.

28 Locks Before Noon!

As you know, we take things easily on Gecko: not interested in travelling every mile of canal in the country or in the shortest time possible. Not even before we die.
So why did we descend twenty eight locks before noon today? We succumbed to a spot of opportunism.  the Tipton Lockwheeler - John W - offered to give us a hand down the Stourbridge Sixteen and the weather forecast was for NO RAIN. 
Delph Nine- well the middle six

What else  could we do? We left Merry Hill at 6am and John caught us up at 9am as we were clearing carrier bags from the prop in the top lock of the Stourbridge flight.  We had, by then, already descended the Delph Nine (which are only eight since two locks were replaced by one).

With the extra pair of hands we made good time down the 16 and also the Stourton 4

We tied up for the day at 12.05h and felt happy to be back on the Staffs & Worcs canal after so long away from my favourite waterway.

How can a canal with such elegant sluices not be my favourite?

Vienna Steak

As a youth I was told that Vienna Steak on a restaurant menu was horse meat.
I have looked all over the web and found nothing to corroborate this belief so what went wrong?
Was I misled?
Did I misunderstand?
The disappearance of this dish from menus around 1960 tends me to believe that for a period after WWII Vienna Steak may well have been made from horse meat.

Indeed this restaurant in Vienna is advertising a sausage made from horse meat.  Is that where the idea originated?

Why do we consider it inappropriate to eat horses just as we eat cows, pigs, sheep, goats, deer, chickens, guinea pigs and Welsh Rarebits?

For those of a culinary, but PC, bent, here is a recipe I have found which does not use horse. 
Vienna Steaks Recipe
Serves 4 - 8
700 g raw rump steak or any lean stewing steak, minced
1 tsp chopped parsley
1 tsp dried mixed herb
a little grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
2 eggs
1 tbsp plain flour (All purpose) for dredging
1/3 cup (75 g) or dripping (fat from roasted meat) or 75 ml oil
250-350 ml Espagnole sauce

for the garnish
2 medium sized onions
1 3/4 cup (200 g) flour for coating

1. Put the meat into a bowl. Add the herbs, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste, and mix well.
2. Separate one of the eggs, reserve the white, and add the yolk to the other egg.
3. Beat the whole egg and yolk until liquid, add to the meat and mix well to bind the mixture.
4. Divide the mixture into 6 portions and shape into round cakes 7cm in diameter. Dredge lightly with flour.
5. Heat 25 g of the fat or 25 ml oil in a frying pan and fry the 'steaks' for about 7 minutes on each side or until cooked through; then drain.
6. Transfer to a warmed serving dish and keep hot.
7. Skin the onions for the garnish, and slice them thinly.
8. Separate the onion rings and coat them with flour.
9. Whisk the remaining egg white until stiff.
10. Dip the onion rings into the egg white and then again into the flour.
11. Heat the remaining fat in the frying pan and fry the onion rings until golden-brown and crisp.
12. Remove with a perforated spoon and drain on soft kitchen paper.
13. Serve the Vienna Steaks garnished with the onion rings.
14. Serve the Espagnole Sauce separately. 

We are moored this evening by Stewponey lock.

Is this something I should investigate?