Hedgerow treats… or not

I wrote yesterday about ‘bread and cheese’ not a loaf and a chunk of Cheddar, but the  name given to edible shoots of young plants; I’ve spoken to a couple of friends about it today, and one from Surrey remembered calling young hawthorn by that name, and nibbling it as a child,another from Somerset remembered eating mallow seeds and calling it the same name. I must investigate further!

I remembered a story about a friend who ate wild sorrel in the same way. She worked as a post-lady for a while, and one day out on her rounds on a country lane she picked a couple of leaves of sorrel, and nibbled them as she walked. They didn’t taste as nice as she remembered from her childhood. She began to feel light-headed and by the time she finished her round and got home she felt quite poorly, and slipped into sleep… from which fortunately she woke feeling better.

When she looked t the plant again, and then checked it in a plant book, she realised it was not sorrel… it was cuckoo pint, also known as lords and ladies, and extremely poisonous! She was lucky indeed, but it was a lesson to me about thinking one knows what ones doing when foraging!

What I call cuckoo pint is actually arum maculatum , which has a large number of other names: snakeshead, adder’s root, arum, wild arum, arum lily, lords and ladies, devils and angels, cows and bulls, cuckoo-pint, Adam and Eve, bobbins, naked boys, starch-root, wake robin, friar’s cowl and jack in the pulpit. Pint of Cuckoo pint, is a shortened version of pintel, which is part of a male anatomy.


I thought for some reason the term Greenwood referred to the ancient forests of Britain, and implied  a mythological location which maybe could only be glimpsed as an echo of a past time when the land was covered in trees. I think I must have imagined it because I can find no trace of it; Thomas Hardy wrote a book ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’, Greenwood the Great is another name for Mirkwood in ‘Lord of the Rings’, but Greenwood, or the Greenwood, doesn’t seem to exist.

Hardy published his novel, his second in 1872 and took the title from a song in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, ‘Under the greenwood tree, Who loves to lie with me, And turn his merry note, Unto the sweet bird’s throat, Come hither, come hither, come hither, Here shall he see no enemy, But winter and rough weather,’.

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Mirkwood was an archetypal British deciduous broad-leaved forest where the elves lived.

Green wood, is timber which hasn’t been seasoned, it can be used for a particular sort of furniture and tool making, where the ‘greenness’ of the wood is essential in the process of making the items. Greenwood can also be a surname, and there are many places called Greenwood, one in Australia, six in Canada, nearly thirty-five in the USA, and various companies, schools, businesses, and even a cemetery and an observatory called Greenwood.

Maybe I should write about the Greenwood; in many of my novels there is an area of ancient forest and woodland called Camel Wood… maybe that is part of the greenwood… I must think about this!

Playground games

Like most people my age I remember playing all sorts of games in the playground at playtime; there were running around games like ‘tig’ which other people call ‘tag’ or ‘it’. There was a variation which I liked which I think was called twosies, where once the person chasing the other children ‘caught’ one, they held hands and ran round as a pair chasing the others. When a third person was caught, he or she ran round on his own, the other pair continuing holding hands still,  until they caught a person when they two would hold hands. Eventually everyone  would be caught except one and he or she would be the winner. A further variation was ‘stringer’ when as people were ‘tigged’ they held hands until there was a long string of people running chasing; this was banned in the end because the strings of children would swing round and people,, especially little people would fall over.

There were skipping games too, not as complicated and difficult as they do these days, but just two people turning a rope and another running and jumping in the middle while everyone chanted a rhyme. Sometimes the ‘jumper’ had to do things such as hop on one leg, or touch the ground, sometimes a second rope was used to have a double skipping game – in fact I think it might have been called ‘double skipping’.

There were ball games too, just throwing backwards or forwards, or using two balls and saying or singing a rhyme. There was another one bouncing it against a wall and doing various things such as turning round or touching the ground between the throw and the catch,. Piggy in the middle was a game I didn’t really like; everyone stood round in a circle and someone stood in the middle. The ball was thrown at random across the circle and the piggy in the middle had to try and catch it. If the piggy got the ball, the person who threw it became the pig and the former pig returned to the circle.

There were also singing games, such as ‘Illy-ally-oo’; I can’t really remember it properly, except there was a line of children holding hands, and the end child had his or her hand against the wall and then as they sang the line would pass under the child’s arm, going round and round again and again until there was just a big bunch of kids! I’m sure there were more but it’s all a bit blurry now!

MY favourite was hopscotch; there were two games, one where a curly path was drawn in chalk, like a concentric circle, divided off into square. There were random symbols chalked into a couple of the squares, such as a star which meant either you could put both feet down or you had to hop over it – I can’t remember now! If you hopped all the way round without treading on a chalk line you could put your initial in any square. Next time it was your turn, when you got to that square you could stop with both feet down; however if you came to someone else’s initials, you had to hop over it! The winner was the one with the most squares with their initials in.

The other hopscotch game was a set of squares was chalked  out in a line, a pair marked 1 and 2, then a single marked 3, then 4,5, then 6, and so on, as long as you agreed with your friends but usually ten or twelve squares. You each had a stone or pebble and would start by throwing it onto one and hopping and stepping down the numbers to the final pair, then jumping round and hopping and skipping back – without touching any of the lines. The next time it was your turn you had to throw the stone onto the next number; if you missed then you missed your go. So, you had to be good at throwing your stone as well as hopping. The winner was the first one to get to the last number and then and hop and skip it without treading on the chalk.

I’m sure there were more games which i can’t remember… no doubt they’ll come back to me over the next couple of days!


In Time

The clocks changed today… we moved an hour forward; it was such a lovely day, full of sun, so it was especially nice to be outside at nearly six o’clock and it still be warm and pleasant… because of course it was really nearly five o’clock.

I was thinking about time, and being in time, and keeping time or being out of time, or not having the time or not having enough time, and wasting time… I’m really good at that! I wrote a short novel many, many years ago, which wasn’t very good, I guess I was practising, and it was called ‘Out of Time’. I see on Amazon that there are five other books already called that, so I won’t be using that title again!

Something I always have time for and is always in time, is the Mavericks’ music; from their CD In Time:


Bread and cheese

Spring has been with us today an everywhere there are buds bursting into leaf; the colour new leaves is a green like no other and it’s almost impossible to capture it on film, it almost glows. Someone told me when I was little, I think it was my mum, but maybe it was my dad, when they themselves were children they used to take  beech leaves just new and soft and fresh, and eat them, and they called them ‘bread and cheese’. I’ve never tried them, so I can’t say whether they really are nice, but I don’t think they actually would taste of bread and cheese!

I looked this up and found that lots of new spring leaves were eaten by children and called ‘bread and cheese’, hawthorn leaves for example. The author of the piece I found about it mentions that this was in Buckinghamshire, and it was also found historically in the Bristol area; young miners on a protest march ate them, but maybe that was from hunger. Sorrel and wood sorrel were other plants eaten by children, and pink sorrel too, although pink sorrel is not a native British plant but an ornamental one. Bentgrass in Scotland, and the seeds of mallow in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, were also called bread and cheese by children.

I am sure that the origin of the nick-name was from a time when people were hungry, and those fresh young leaves were sustenance for them in times of need; those hard times became forgotten but lingered on in the games and names of children.




Marmalade gin

Some time ago a friend asked me whether I liked gin and I had to say that I didn’t; whisky is my favourite spirit, but I would never so no to a cognac, an Armagnac or a vodka… and some tequila too! Not altogether in the same glass, obviously! There is just something perfumy and nasty about gin to my taste… however, sloe gin is fine so maybe I need it to be flavoured. I ruminated on this with my friend and she asked if I had tried marmalade gin. I hadn’t and i was a little reserved in my enthusiasm, but she very kindly gave me a bottle with about 10cl in it to take home and try at an appropriate time.

Which i did, sharing with my beloved of course… and it was wonderful – delicious! I decided to have a go at making some with the left over gin I had from using it with sloes, and it was brilliant! It is a beautiful golden colour and is not sweet and sickly but has a nice bitter flavour and since we put black treacle in our marmalade there was that lovely brunt caramel undertone to it. Shortly after making our 2014 marmalade we bought a bottle of gin and measuring precisely this time, 50cl to a small jar of marmalade we’re doing it again. We used the other 50cl with a jar of vintage 2012 marmalade… I’ll let you know the result!