Advent 2012 (Part Two)

The second week of Advent has arrived, with many in a shopping frenzy already. And who can describe it better than our old friend Charles Dickens, in “A Christmas Carol”:

“… the customers were all so hurried and so eager in the hopeful promise of the day, that they tumbled up against each other at the door, clashing their wicker baskets wildly; and left their purchases upon the counter, and came running back to fetch them, and committed hundreds of the like mistakes in the best humour possible…”

I love looking through “A Christmas Carol” every year, and revel in the rich verbosity of Dickensian storytelling! Another favourite part is when The Ghost of Christmas Present arrives:

“The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy, reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney as that dull petrifaction of a hearth had never known in Scrooge’s time, or Marley’s, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up upon the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, suckling pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum puddings, barrels of oysters, red hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth cakes, and seething bowls of Punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam.”

I have also seen several film versions of A Christmas Carol, as well as countless stage productions. The Muppets film version is, however, still one of my favourites! Take a look at this clip:

For the second Advent week I wish everyone:

Time to sit down with a friend for a cup of tea and a chat

Inspiration

A moment to read a poem or part of a favourite book

😀

Parsley the Lion

The Herbs was a UK children’s TV series in the early seventies. Each character was the personification of a herb, with their own song, and the episodes took place in the Herb Garden.

Did you ever see it?

Among others, there was Parsley the Lion, who was extremely shy, but very friendly and lovable! (His mane was of parsley!) Then Dill, the neurotic dog, who was constantly chasing his tail. Sir Basil and Lady Rosemary. And Bayleaf the Gardener! I also remember the chive choir, conducted by the schoolmaster. But when I looked up his name (Mr Onion!) memories of other characters came flooding back! Senor Solidago the singing teacher, Sage the owl, the policeman Constable Knapweed

Here are a few links. It’s dated, but charming!

Parsley’s Song

Sage’s singing lesson

The Herbs

The Herbs and episode descriptions

The Herbs Homestead

The Herbs and Parsley DVD

How Many Beans…

My Dad has a  good saying about beans:

“The 8th of May the beans will stay”

I’m not sure if he made it up, but he always sowed his runner beans on or after the 8th… and we always had tonnes of runner beans!

Well, I only have a few plants. I sowed them early in containers, so they’re sprouting already. It’s the first time I’ve tried growing them, so we will see…

Another of my Dad’s sayings:

How many beans make five?

A bean, a bean, and a half a bean, a bean and a half, and a bean!

(I have inherited my Dad’s sense of humour! 😉 )

~~~

By the way, in German, if someone refuses to listen (especially to advice) they are said to have beans in their ears. (Sie hat Bohnen in den Ohren -She’s got beans in her ears)! I suppose we would just say in English “She never listens!”

ROOOObarb!

WORD OF THE DAY:

rhubarb [ˈruːbɑːb]

Rhubarb: noun

  • a plant which has long green and red edible stalks, usually eaten sweetened and cooked
  • US and Canadian slang a heated discussion or quarrel
  • the noise made by actors to simulate conversation, esp by repeating the word rhubarb at random (also a verb)

Is it a vegetable or a fruit?

Well, celery stalks are a vegetable, so in my eyes rhubarb is too!

However, Wikipedia writes that in 1947 the US declared rhubarb to be a fruit! As a result it was categorized as a fruit for import purposes – very lucrative for the business, as tariffs were lower for fruits than vegetables! (Someone must have had interests in a rhubarb farm abroad! LOL!)

The garden variety used for cooking is Rheum x hybridum. The leaves are toxic, containing oxalic acid, but the stalks have been used as an ingredient in fruit pies ever since sugar became readily available… without other sweet fruits or added sugar the stalks are so sour that they are barely edible! Sweeter young stalks are now sold in early spring as they are grown in hothouses.

Garden rhubarb can also be “forced” by raising the temperature – usually with an upturned bucket over the new shoots, or with a more sophisticated pot made especially for the purpose. In parts of northern England rhubarb is cultivated outdoors and then in the winter moved into sheds which are heated. The resulting shoots which sprout in the dark are tender, sweeter and paler than normal rhubarb. (See this article on the Rhubarb Triangle)

I’ll be posting a recipe for rhubarb tomorrow, so if you don’t have any in the garden, go and buy some! 😉

I remember watching an ancient film with Eric Sykes in it called “Rhubarb, Rhubarb”. The only word uttered in the whole 30-minute film was “rhubarb”! Five minutes of it is funny, but half an hour gets a bit tedious, even though the cast was excellent (with Jimmy Edwards, Beryl Reid, Roy Kinnear, Charlie Drake…).

Sadly there doesn’t seem to be a YouTube clip of it anywhere…

… There is however another famous rhubarb:

“Roobarb”

Roobarb is a disagreeable green dog who is full of silly ideas, and his neighbour –  Custard – is a pink cat  who takes great pleasure in laughing at Roobarb’s mishaps! Does anyone remember this cartoon?

Click on the picture of Roobarb to see the cartoon intro!

Word of the Day/British Humour

Pun (noun)

  • the usually humorous use of a word that has two meanings, or of words with the same sound but different meanings.
  • e.g. Anne has been a pilot for a some time now, but last year her career really took off.

Trying to translate puns into a foreign language hardly ever works. I am not good at telling jokes, but when I have made the effort to relay one in English to German students, I am frequently met with blank faces and perhaps a polite grin seconds later! A classic example was a vocabulary activity involving ambiguous newspaper headlines such as “Drunk gets nine months in violin case”, or “Crash course for private pilots”, etc.

The English language lends itself to the use of puns in jokes and comedy, satire or simply for the sheer pleasure of letting them roll off the tongue. They are often worthy of a groan, sometimes a giggle…

Shakespeare was a master of the pun. But I’m not going to quote Shakespeare. I’ve got a more modern example… This is an absolute classic, worthy of more than a giggle. (It has me laughing my head off!)

The Two Ronnies: Four Candles Sketch

Have a good laugh! 😀

World Poetry Day

In 1999 the Unesco organization declared 21st March to be World Poetry Day.

This day aims to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world.

This calls for a special poem!

(Choosing only one was difficult!)

Since the gardening year is just beginning for me (and spring officially began yesterday), I have chosen this one by the Czech poet Karel Capek (1890 – 1938).

~~~

Gardener’s Prayer

O Lord, grant that in some way

it may rain every day,

Say from about midnight until three o’clock

in the morning,

But, You see, it must be gentle and warm

so that it can soak in;

Grant that at the same time it would not rain on

campion, alyssum, helianthus, lavendar, and others which

You in Your infinite wisdom know

are drought-loving plants-

I will write their names on a bit of paper

if you like-

And grant that the sun may shine

the whole day long,

But not everywhere (not, for instance, on the

gentian, plantain lily, and rhododendron)

and not too much;

That there may be plenty of dew and little wind,

enough worms, no lice and snails, or mildew,

and that once a week thin liquid manure and guano

may fall from heaven.

Amen.

by Karel Capek