L I C H F I E L D’ S     F A B L E S


“And I shall definitely lie to you, and I shall probably put the lie on the exam,” he told his new intake of novice culinary students. “It’s important that you know that,” he continued, “because everyone around here will lie to you. But, they don’t know the difference anyway, so it doesn’t really matter for them. For you, I think, it should be different. Regard anything I say not as a statement of fact; but rather as a question.”

— On Theoretical Foods, Prof. G R Lough, Toronto, c. 1978

 

— or —

 

‘to be continued’s tale’

…thus the unfacts, did we possess them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude…

— Joyce, J., Finnegans Wake, Faber & Faber, 1939, p. 57, l. 6

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A prologue

WITHOUT a stable food supply, there can be no history. There can be no culture. These are only words, history and culture. Everything around us is speculative, and unfortunately our species is ill-equipped — for all its arrogance — to comprehend significance in the external world. For at least two centuries we have been so involved with sciences that we have given no thought to possible side effects, for example, our obsession with toys and other trivial pursuits has expedited our loss of the higher philosophical ground. Now, we find ourselves in that dark wood that Dante described in his Commedia at perhaps the precise moment that our progenitor established dominion over High Whittle.

Humans appear to enjoy using labels like these little words. Why it was only yesterday that most of us were nomadic foragers. We were on the move looking for our next meal. The day before that we did not need language, our senses were attuned with the wild, as far as our species went — and the indicators suggest that we were better off then. Remember most indicators must be speculative. After all none of us was actually there. But, as we like our stories and our faëry tales we shall begin with this one:

Faëry Tale № 1

SINCE cookery has always been a primarily female activity; AND since it is the only art which benefits all humankind, it should be considered as the premier Art, most certainly the first of the fine arts.

Additionally, the cook has always been in the business of nourishing people; AND it follows from these unpretentious beginnings in our near past, say, about ten thousand years ago, that all of the other arts have flowed and developed, and thereby a canvas has been arranged upon which Culture may be outlined. Artists were able to apply their colours to that sketch; AND as time passed different artists have applied different colours to that same canvas and thus the painting changes. So, culture evolves.

Language is motivated by music; early history was sung. Beside the language and the song, dance cannot be too far behind. Elemental symbols, perhaps simple bar-coded lines on bone, and later reed-written cuneiform on clay; AND then those sophisticated hieroglyphs appear and we then only begin to experience the quanta of written language.

Furthermore, closely following that music, one may notice the first poetry, that ’language charged with meaning’; AND in that way, literature commences.

 

Intermezzo

Memories of yesteryear Yves Montand at the Paris Olympia, and …

“Les feuilles mortes” (Autumn Leaves)


Faëry Tale № 2

Charles Lough was a character. In an ‘age of certainty’, he had already envisioned a world in which food stocks were scarce, and he published a significant research paper on Scientific Co-operative Farming for the benefit of mankind. This was before Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, before the global movements literally shook the world.

He was a short man, almost elf-like with a red nose, a real Original. Following, on the dawn, the horse-drawn milk wagon making its rounds — collecting the raw milk from the country lanes — he cut an incongruous figure in his habitual habit: the impeccable morning dress, the long coat, muted greys, the spats, and shoes that shone like sunbeams.

Later, of course he led Lady Sabina, his wife, around the gardens of Earl’s Hall. “Keep walking, my dear, hold on tight,” to keep her alive. Why it was only yesterday but she had been a girl, then presented as custom pleases at court, and

blenheim palace

blenheim palace

introduced to the King. Edward VII had just, with inner trepidation, commenced his reign. Her birth place had been in the same house as Winston’s, Blenheim Palace. Now, however, she tired so easily. Easily fatigued, with difficulty breathing, stentorious breathing. Charles knew the signs. He thought if only he might keep her walking, she would stay with him just a little longer. He had to keep her living; after all, loneliness was there for all of us, and in good measure too. We are all in the process of dying, every day.

— Would you like some tea, Charles?

— Just a thimble-full, Jane … just a thimble-full.

Yes, he had always been a character. But, he was a gentleman. From a successful bakery business in Whitley Bay, a thriving seaside town in the northeast, his parents had left him £60,000, before the Great War. It was said that he placed most of the capital in a government sinking-fund and purchased property on the Côte d’Azur, near Antibes, and that they lived in Switzerland throughout those terrible hostilities.

Jean was apparently promised something … from Charles’ estate. She lived then in the first bungalow ever built at Earl’s Hall, on the Colchester Road. She was left with three boys to raise by herself. Her husband, Sid Atkins, died suddenly, massive coronary; he was only thirty-five. That was in 1935 and Charlie passed away about a year later, in ’36.

In recent time, the family has been consistent with respect to the so-called ‘death-bed wills.’ No-one really ever talks about it; but this malfeasance has been a common thread. For more than a century, it has been common knowledge. It seems also that this tradition continues and is alive and well. Is anyone left who really understands that it simply does not matter?

As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods,
They kill us for their sport.

                                                                                                                                     — Lear, Act IV, Scene 1, l. 32-33

 

Continuing this theme, and revisiting the practice, no-one really knows what happened, so it would seem, to Charles’ estate … all was apparently washed clean on the seashore by the surf and the smooth swirling sands. Of course, Jean has gone now, too … and all her sons: George, Neville and Vernon (the youngest most stable brother) — was the first to go — along that way at last alone, and that was thirty-five years ago. or is it more? only the secrets remain … yes they remain?

Faëry Tale № 3

Faëry Tale № 4

Faëry Tale № 5

The Apple and Blackberry Pie

He breeds orchids in that wild Iceland of the north at the family farm called The Greens. Like his famous fellow Northumbrian, ‘Capability’ Brown, had done close on two centuries before, he landscapes noble estates, following perhaps a little his distant kinsman John Graham Lough (with all those brilliant sculptures). Matthew Lough was a kind and noble soul who remade and wove the language with ‘ne’er to be forgotten phrases,’ and he loved food. He loved to cook, and to talk about history.

Remember, the single-line race to St. James Church at Shilbottle, and the vast crowd who gathered to see him, and pay last respects to one who was unique among the multitude, as he passed that way upon the final journey, so many years later?

But now, it was Bramble Time — strange, not used much in catholic lands, are they? didn’t they form Christ’s laurel on the

verdant lane

verdant lane

cross? Matthew wandered along Gt. Bentley’s lush arboreal and verdant lanes, when sun was low in the west, picking blackberries. A little boy carries the basket.

— Yes, Charlie was a character. They say, ‘it takes a lean dög for a lange hunt.’ Well, he was no ‘paralysed frog!’ He was the most eccentric I had ever seen, till now. But, you are more; you’re the biggest character in the family, ever!’

— Wonder if he’d have remembered that? He did like that short black, cigarette-holder.

bramble pie

bramble pie

Back at The Oaks the berries were cleaned, pie dough prepared and some Granny Smiths quickly peeled. Add Demerara to the filling, a little butter, no lemon here. Beat the eggs, brush on the glaze, sprinkle with castor sugar. There’s nothing like a wood-fired oven; the pies bake so quickly; but, the aroma remains. It never yet dissipates but stays; lingers like an all-knowing alchemist’s experiment on the quest for gold. The very best the kindest the most golden memory of childhood

— Night, night, my dears, dear wee Bairns, my dear ones, night night

Faëry Tale № 6

Faëry Tale № 45

Buon giorno. Thank you again for your long and sympathetic response which I enjoyed reading into the wee hours. I digress, a moment …

Preamble

Let freedom ring!

It was only two hundred and twenty-two years ago to-day, Bastille Day! The French go ‘wild’ today. La Marseillaisse is in the air (à la Casablanca with Bogart and Bergman). Now, my first boat was named Jolie Brise (trans. ‘Fair Wind,’ with the embedded connotation of safe journeys — and of course the allegory & spelling betwixt the old French [AD 1066] and Middle English), after that famous, strong and fast, gaff-rigged ocean cutter. However, when I went to register that name instead of ‘Brief Encounter’ in 1987, I found that someone had ‘just stolen it’ from under me.

Next, I requested, Blythe Spirit [the older spelling]; but, alas that was taken. The play was written by Noël Coward. I think that I mentioned to you that I had lived and worked in Dartmouth in South Devonshire. Indeed, my eldest son was born there, and I ran “Glenies,” the celebrated fish restaurant of that region, in the old bastion of sea power. [I had also launched my first high-end traîteur, which served the emergent luxury yachting demographic]. The restaurant was literally vis-à-vis that most ancient wharf where now trawlers of the Fleet parked, juste en face.

Up-river, on the higher ground, the Britannia Royal Naval College surveys the whole scene. It was here, in Dartmouth, at this time that the successful BBC series The Onedin Line, with its resonating ocean-going theme music from Spartacus, commenced filming.

Like that music, the adagio of the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto № 2 conjures up happy memories of ocean passages; AND THAT led me ineluctably to the winner of the coveted Palme-d’Or at Cannes, and the Academy Award nomination for Best Picture of 1945, Brief Encounter, with its touching tender love story of a bye-gone era and its theme music played by Eileen Joyce (a pianist of ‘no fortune, but with a name to come’ [ed. note cf. Elpenor and Andreas Divus, AD 1538]).

Hence, her name!

Faëry Tale № 46

My Dears,

On this Bastille Day (as incidental music) the chorus sings “La Marseillaise,” &cetera, with gusto.

You know, it’s really always so uplifting chatting with you. You’re so good! AND clever “… and cute, too! Now, we shan’t go there! Shall we, Riccardo? Down, boy! piano, piano.

I say, my dear, ‘Do have a ‘cuppa’… Pardon, Dundee cake? No, not now, not yet. It’s strawberry shortcake time …with lots & lots of really heavy whipped cream. We should get out to the boat this weekend, while the weather holds. Any thoughts?’ Yr’s,

 

 

Faëry Tale № 105

A parable

When my wife and I purchased our first yacht, over thirty-five years ago, we appeared to be ‘financially embarrassed,’ to put it in the vernacular. The sellers, however, were a son-in-law and his wife’s father. The son-in law had been relocated by his company to Calgary, and the father-in-law being the principal partner resided in Oakville.

The sale being one of necessity, the father-in-law accepted our one year promissory note without interest, which required four instalments due and payable on the quarter days thereafter — for example, on the 29th day of September (Michaelmas) and the 25th December (Christmas) 1921; and the 25th day of March (Lady Day) and the 24th day of June (Midsummer Day) 1922. This was done by an automatic bank transfer. My wife was in possession of an engagement ring from her first marriage, which was an attractive coronet three-diamond set made in the ‘old’ style. It was valued for insurance purposes by Birk’s at its replacement cost, which oddly enough coincided precisely with the amount named in the promissory note. He accepted this artefact at that same value, as a gift to his wife who had not received an engagement ring … and that sealed the deal!

All for now. Yrs, Richard.

 

Faëry Tale № 106

 

L I C H F I E L D.

EOS® —“education on sustainability”™

EOS® —“education on sustainability”™