I’ve shared this before, but I think the debates need renewing… ponder these… and so will I and share my thoughts another time:

For or against…

  • Tif vs mif? – When drinking tea should it be tea in first or milk in first… ( and/or, should it be cif vs mif – coffee in first or milk in first?

  • Should there be an English national costume?

  • Should bicycles and bike riders have right of way over pedestrians and other traffic?

  • Just as the French have L’Académie Francaise, should there be an English Academy to properly govern and regulate our language?

  • Cream tea – is the Cornish way correct (jam on first then cream) or the Devon way (cream on first then jam)… and is there a Somerset way? … or a Dorset way?

The cream tea, clotted cream, jam and scones

  • U or non-U? Did it ever matter, does it still matter?

  • Is it acceptable to dunk biscuits into tea/coffee/drinking chocolate?

Coffee, Eccles cake, giant custard cream

  • Should privet hedges be banned?

  • Should St George’s Day be official?

  • Should there be a list of acceptable names for children in the UK, as there is in such countries as Germany and Iceland?

A serious post

I have two children, now grown up, and from the moment they were born we have done all we could to love, nurture, protect and keep them safe. Sending them to school was part of this and we chose schools carefully to ensure that the environment was loving, nurturing, protected and safe. I am sure this is the hope for all parents across the world and I cannot begin to imagine the horror the parents of the seventeen children slaughtered at school in Florida last week – or should I say ‘more children’ because these dreadful events are shockingly, unbelievably regular in occurrence. I am not going to enter into an argument about guns and gun-ownership, and facts and figures, and the political power of the gun lobby, but I would like to share a moving post I read on Instagram.

This is from a father of three children who  lives in the USA:

I went and did something different today. I went to church  and prayed. I lit 17 candles for the families who lost everything a few days ago. Losing a child is so unfathomable we don’t even have a word to describe the parent who does.
So it is within the spirit of trying something new that I’m going to use whatever influence I may have to beg us to do something different. Instead of leaving me a comment, send your local and state representatives and congressmen comments. Engage in conversations with neighbors. Engage with people that don’t agree with you. Let your hunting friends know you’re not going to take anything away from them.
On the other side, hunters, (and I have many friends that are) something has to give. We’ve heard your arguments for years. People are dying. This kid bought his weapon legally. There is no reason whatsoever for him to have had access to that weapon.
Will a ban stop all the killings? No. But can we at least make it difficult for them to happen? Yes. Isn’t that better than not? Children are dying in our schools! Churches! Concerts!
Undoubtedly our division is real. Notice how many country music stars have spoken up about this subject even though they were witness to one of the worst massacres in recent history in Las Vegas.
Why? Because if they bring it up or support any sort of gun control, the backlash would be substantial. Such is our divide. Which is why I’m asking us to engage in conversations. And if you don’t agree with a weapons ban, at least think about going with it.
Why not? You have nothing to lose. Had there been one in place there would be 17 families doing what they would do on a Saturday instead of burying loved ones and suffering immeasurable pain for the rest of their lives…I repeat…17! Sure It’s easy to be cynical and throw blame all around and continue the status quo. Or we speak up and try to make a difference. Let’s not let these kids die in vain, or the next ones…or the next ones. Peace.


Soap making

I’ve been thinking recently and writing about the number of products we have at home and think nothing about at all – if we run out we simply remember to buy some next time we go to the shop. Not only can we just go out and buy them, but we have choice! Size, price, quantity, colour, scent, flavour… whatever. I appreciate we are very lucky and most fortunate compared to others today. In the past many things could not just be bought but had to be made – even things such as… soap! Now we can have hard soap, liquid soap, soap in all manner of dispensers and packaging and soap for different uses too.

A hundred and fifty years ago, in Australia, here may have been soap available in stores in towns and cities, but many people did not have easy access to such ‘luxuries’ and would have had to make their own.

Here is a recipe for soap… It would have made a large quantity, and I daresay because it doesn’t seem a pleasant thing to have made that was an advantage – to make it only every so often! Maybe this would be a recipe a store-keeper or his wife would have used, or maybe a group of neighbours would have come together. However, as it used ‘strained grease’ (I’m guessing animal fat left over from cooking) I have to wonder how that smelt after a few months! Whoever wrote the recipe had never actually trialled it ‘the following is said to be a good recipe‘… The lye referred to is an alkaline solution used for washing in the past…

Soap making -The following is said to be a good recipe :- Six pounds washing soda, 6lbs. strained grease, 3½lb. new stone lime, 3lb. borax, four gallons soft water. Put soda, lime, and water into a large kettle, boil till all is dissolved, stand to settle ; when quite clear pour the clear lye into a clean vessel, throwing away the lime sediment; wash out the kettle, put back the clear lye, adding grease and borax; boil until the mixture becomes soapy, or about two hours (if boiling fast), then pour into shallow pans or boxes until next day, when it can be cut into square pieces and put away until dry. For soft soap, when boiled pour into a tub or barrel, and stir it slowly about six or eight quarts of water; it will become a white jelly.

I have to say when we were in Australia last year there were some wonderful soaps available and I brought home a lot as gifts of Blue Rocks Soap for friends and family! Here is what I wrote about them:



Household recipes

These days when we see something in a newspaper or magazine headed ‘recipes’, we expect instructions on how to make certain dishes, or cakes,  or pastries, something baked, or casseroled, something for lunch or dinner, or some treat for teatime. A hundred years ago recipes were for other products… look at the selection in a newspaper published in 1876:

  • macaroni
  • hot slaugh
  • ginger beer powder
  • mock brawn
  • walnut catsup
  • family oil
  • German silver
  • to preserve potatoes
  • to preserve  cream for several, months.-
  • to make oil-skins
  • soap
  • shaving paste
  • calf’s feet jelly
  • Banbury cakes
  • to purify the air of a sick chamber
  • Norfolk dumplings
  • bitters
  • to keep apples

Isn’t that the most random list of home recipes and remedies? In the middle is a short article about German silver which doesn’t seem to be silver at all but a mixture of different metals such as copper, zinc and nickel.

Just in case you fancy the hot slaugh, here is the recipe:

HOT SLAUGH -Take a fine hard head of white or red cabbage, shred it very finely, and put it into a stewpan with a piece of butter the size of an egg, salt, pepper, one tablespoonful of chilli and one of tarragon vinegar. Cover the stewpan and toss gently for about five minutes, when the cabbage should be thoroughly hot through. Care must be taken not to overcook hot slaugh, as it should be borne in mind that this very agreeable dish is a hot salad, and not stewed cabbage, and should therefore retain its crispness.

… and maybe later with a cup of tea, a Banbury cake:

Banbury Cakes.-Work one pound and a half of butter into the same weight of dough as in making puff paste ; roll, it out very thin, and then cut it into oval pieces. Of moist sugar and currant’s mix an equal weight, and wet them with brandy ; put a little upon each piece of paste; close them up, and place them on a tin with the closed side downwards and bake them. Flavour powdered sugar with candied peel, grated, and sift a little over the cakes as soon as they are drawn out of the oven.

Were you jiving at the Mavericks’ Manchester gig?

I was so lucky to be able to go to not one, not two, but three Mavericks gigs… and the final one was the last of the UK part of their tour, yesterday night in Manchester. It was at the Apollo, a very famous venue but which I had never been to, despite living in the city for years and years and years!

Obviously the Mavs were absolutely fabulous, fantastic, and amazing (but more of them in another post) but here I would like to say ‘wow, you are great dancers!’ to an anonymous couple who were jiving in front of me.

Within a couple of numbers, half the audience were on their feet – however, on my side of the auditorium there had not been a very positives reception to the few who had stood up – words were exchanged… now in a way I can understand that you might feel miffed if someone stands up in front of you and starts dancing – but come on! it’s what you do at a Mavericks performance!! The solution to the difficulty is to stand up and join in! Of course if someone isn’t very nifty on their pins, then standing up and leaping about might not be an option, and I guess the fans in front would respect that and sit down…

There are aisles at the side, and sometimes up the middle, and there is a space at the front – perfect for dancing and not making it difficult for anyone else. I know that the band really like their audience to join in, and in fact, in the past, when security has been heavy-handed, they have threatened to stop playing until fans can really ‘enjoy’ themselves!! While I was waiting for the gig to start I noticed a lot of security up and down the side aisles and I just hoped there wouldn’t be a problem…

… and there wasn’t! So the people sitting next to me, and me, leapt up and went to the side and danced the night away big time… and then the jiving couple appeared. I think they had been at the front, with others standing by the stage and I think they were asked to move to the side, which they did and arrived in front of me.

It was difficult to gauge their ages, maybe in their forties, maybe a little older. The lady was wearing a fabulous sleeveless dress with blue and green patterns on it (it was dark!) the chap was just dressed normally in shirt and jeans… but wow could they dance!! In a restricted space they moved gracefully, but considerately of those around them – the only trouble for me was they were so watchable they were a little distracting – I think I managed to keep one eye on them and one of the Mavs when they were actually dancing as opposed to swaying in time to the music.

It must be wonderful to be able to dance so well, to be so in tune with your partner, that even with your eyes shut you know where their hand is going to be so you can take it, you know which way to turn, which way to lean, when to move forwards, when to move back… they were perfectly in time with each other – pretty much like the band!

Towards the end when literally everyone was on their feet (an old lady in her wheelchair had elevated it so she could see over people’s heads) the jiving couple moved back to the front where there was now more room and they could dance a little more freely.

If by some chance you are the jiving couple, thank you! You were fabulous, you really added to the enjoyment of the evening, and I am so envious of your skill!

PS the featured image has nothing to do with jiving, or the mavericks, it is just jolly and happy, like the gig yesterday evening!

Glasgow 2018


Cottoning on (ii)

Yesterday I mentioned the unusual names of jobs in the nineteenth century cotton spinning industry, and set a little quiz about what the jobs actually were… here are the answers…

  1. beamer/beam twister/beam warper – hundred of cones of cotton thread need to be loaded onto the beam, ready for weaving -the beam is a giant bobbin.
  2. crofter – I was nearly right with the idea of a croft, but it’s not for cows, it’s to spread the cloth after bleaching or dying
  3. doffer – someone who loads and unloads bobbins (puts empty bobbins into the machine to receive the thread)
  4. fly -maker – an engineer who makes the fly which is part of the spinning machine mechanism
  5. masher-up – someone who works in the bleach room
  6. mule-spinner – someone who operates a spinning ‘mule’, the equipment on which the cotton is spun into thread
  7. scutcher – someone who separates  the cotton fibres from the seeds of the raw cotton

Did you get them all right? Here are some more, with my facetious suggestions:

  1. setter on                      – obviously someone who sets something on (maybe to do with the tea making, see masher above!)
  2. sizer                               – the person who checks what size something is
  3. slasher                           – security
  4. stripper and grinder    – I’m not even going to hazard a guess
  5. tackler                           – someone who’s given all the difficult jibs to do
  6. tenter                            – in a cotton mill they might have a side-line in making tents
  7. throstle spinner            – a throstle is a thrush… so someone who looks after the throstles?
  8. twister                           – a Lancashire tornado
  9. warper                            – someone with one leg shorter than the other

… and here is a link:


Cottoning on (i)

One of the intriguing things about genealogical research and looking at old documents and censuses, is the number of jobs and trades which not only no longer exist, but are completely unknown in the modern world. I was looking up someone who lived in Oldham, and I was immediately interested because I lived there for many years. Oldham was one of the great cotton mill towns in the nineteenth century, they’ve all closed down now and most have been pulled down too.

The person I looked up, didn’t work in the mills, he was on the stage, he was an actor – but the description intrigued me, a self-actor minder… Of course when I tried to find out more it turned out that in fact he did work in the mill, he  ‘minded’ or supervised a ‘self-actor’, a self-acting or automatic part of the machinery.

I looked up other names – and some of them sounded quite comical (although the life and times of a mill-worker were hard and tough). So what do you think these jobs were?

  1. beamer            – someone who smiles a lot? Someone who is involved in building the mill, dealing with timber – i.e. beams?
  2. beam twister  – someone who twists beams – for a spiral staircase?
  3. beam warper  – ditto above!
  4. crofter              – crofts are small parcels of land farmed by a crofter, so why might they need a croft at the mill? For a few cows to provide the workers with milk for their tea?
  5. doffer                – someone who checks the workers doff their caps when the management comes round?
  6. fly maker           – someone who makes fishing flies for the workers to catch fish in the many streams and rivulets in the area
  7. masher-up         – in the north of England the term for making the tea is ‘mashing’ – is this the tea lady or man?
  8. mule spinner      – obviously this can’t be someone who spins mules – but maybe he or she takes the mules used to transport things out for a walk.
  9. scutcher              – it must be someone who scutches!

To find the answers, check here:


… and I will also give you the answers tomorrow!

My featured image is from Oldham