30 November 2014

I have to confess to feeling a certain degree of nostalgia and/or envy this week (not sure which). Thanksgiving, of course, is not a holiday we tend to celebrate in the UK. Not that we don’t have plenty to be thankful for, I assure you! But, last Thursday when our American readers were settling down to their respective tables, each sagging and groaning with the weight of their Thanksgiving fare (the tables, of course, not our American readers), I couldn’t help but remember those times when all of us Stragnells/Tolls/McCombs, etc. gathered beside similarly laden tables. We were always on the “kids’” table, of course, but there was still more than enough to eat and plenty to be grateful for. Is this where my love and affection for fine food was fostered?

I appreciate that these photos are not of a Thanksgiving gathering but they are the best/only ones I had available to illustrate the extended familial gatherings we used to enjoy.

The Jonathon Club Jonathon Club

Libby's Pumpkin PureeHaving said that we Brits don’t tend to celebrate Thanksgiving, I did run across an article in the Guardian which suggested that as many as one in six families do, in fact, have some sort of Thanksgiving gathering. Not only that, but one of the best-selling items for the Thanksgiving table from Waitrose is Libby’s Pumpkin Puree. It seems that the Brits have discovered what a great cook my mother is.

Penelope and I enjoyed a splendid evening on Tuesday on the occasion of our 42nd anniversary – thank you to all of you who sent greetings in various forms. Doesn’t time fly when you are enjoying yourself?! We had a lovely meal at the Inn at Farnborough, one of our favourite local places. The food’s always pretty good but I do think it’s about time they thought about re-jigging their menu – it hasn’t changed very much in the few years we’ve been visiting.

Wedding Guests Jordan and Greg

We also had fun on Monday with the weighty responsibility of collecting Annabelle from nursery and seeing if we could enjoy ourselves for part of an afternoon. Guess what – we didn’t have any trouble. We went to the reservoir on what was a pretty lovely day, had a lovely stroll and fed some bread to the ducks – two in particular who recognised that we were a soft touch and who followed us from place to place and who got braver and braver with each bit of bread which was flung in their direction. Back home and Annabelle decided she would have a story – or perhaps twenty-seven or so. She wanted all the books out and instructed Grandma to read each one of them. Unfortunately, time ran out and Daddy came to collect her before they’d made more than a small dent in the library.

We’ve reached a significant milestone on one of the activities we’ve been engaged in for some time. For the past several months, Pen has been working on her mother’s memoirs. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that she’s been working on them for years.

Pen’s mother kept a diary most of her life and, some time ago, Pen and her sister J encouraged her mother to transcribe the diaries into a more narrative form so that they could be enjoyed by the whole family. This she did and, for several years while her health permitted, she and Pen would sit at the computer typing up the memoirs, Beryl reading and Pen bashing the keyboard. When Beryl’s health began to fail, Pen and J carried on with the task which was finally completed earlier this year.

Then, Pen began to scan several thousand family photos with which to illustrate the memoirs and began to pull it all together, the intention being to have the memoirs published and made available to all the family. Many trials, troubles, curses and tears later they are finally ready to go off to the publisher and they will be of great interest to the family and to anyone who knew Beryl. It’s an amazing story of an extraordinary life and she tells it very well.

memoirs_cover memoirs_page

immigrant_graphI ran across an article a month or so back which struck a chord. You will remember that I occasionally “rant” about the misleading information published in the tabloid press. The Guardian published the results of a survey which makes interesting reading. People were asked to estimate what proportion of the population was Muslim, what percentage are immigrants, what percentage of teenage girls get pregnant each year, and so on. The answers are compared with the actual figures and compared across a number of countries. As you might guess, the tabloid press have clearly managed to get their misinformation across. For example, those in the UK figure that 21% of the UK population is Muslim; the actual figure is 5%. In the US the average guess was that 15% of the population is Muslim when, in fact, it’s 1%.  Interestingly, the UK ranks as the fifth most accurate in the “Index of Ignorance” – Sweden is first with the most accurate guesses; the US is 13th (out of 14). Only the Italians are more ignorant!

And while we are on the subject of misinformation, the Daily Express published a fascinating “new” definition of immigrants to bolster their continuing claims that the UK is being over-run by scroungers and benefit tourists. Their definition of migrants, (admittedly they called them “hidden” migrants), now includes the children of those who have immigrated to the UK at some point in the past. By this definition, my children would be defined as “hidden immigrants” and, even more amusingly, so too would the children of the loony leader of UKIP (the anti-European party) whose wife is German (and there, of course, is another irony).

You would think you couldn’t make it up but, as the tabloid press demonstrates time and time again, they can and do make it up!

Love to you all,

Greg