Bill Rossington wiped his wellingtons, grunted and straightened up painfully. Thirty-four well-tended acres trailed away in an indistinct haze of wheat and barley.
"Aye, Mum." he mumbled. "Snatched ye from yer big city to the dales, now, didn' aye? Forty years be comin' to whet now belong to we alone. E'en tho ye not be seein' er now nor again eh, lovie?" The can cap screwed down with difficulty but was done. "Well then." He moved forward slowly, boots clomping. "Two down, seventeen to go, I'll warrant. God save the Queen, me arse."
"The same today as yesterday. And the day before and the day before that." Byron gave one last flick to his brows and marched to the tubes. God, he hated the Underground. Teeming masses, jumbling, skittering as one live organism going to make a "living" And he hated it. Same route day in, day out. All faces looked identical. Dulled. All on auto-pilot to slave away the day just to bring bread back home.
He jumped into the flow. The tunnel walls blurred by monotonously. He'd be at the job site all too soon, he knew. Then what? "Why, work the bloody day away as yesterday. All for country and Queen," he grimaced.
"So you think they'll be missing us for half a day then?" It was Harry, his coworker. They had taken this same route together all these days, weeks, years - who knew how long? Acknowledging one another, yet rarely speaking.
"I say, mate. Will they be missing us for a bit? I mean, what with all the other workers about the site, who would know?"
Ah, Harry. Always the free spirit. "But this leg takes us direct to the job," Byron said. "We'd be seen skipping."
"May'nt be the case, lad. Aways up and to the right is a new excavation for a tube spur to the downs. Not far now. Whadya say. Offboard and scamper out to God's green fields, a bit 'o sunshine and clean air - no crowds. Think fast!"
Byron saw a darker splotch on the tunnel walls ahead approaching quickly. Yes, he thought. Why not, indeed? Who would miss us? We're hard workers. They owe us.
"I'm in!" Byron said.
"We're out!" Harry yelled.
They swayed alone in the darkness as the masses faded into the blackness of the underground. Slowly, as Byron's eyes became accustomed to the darkness, a faint light was noticeable.
"This way, mate," Harry said, pushing him forward. "Next stop, freedom!"
They slowly picked their way towards a pinprick of light that grew with each passing step. "New earthworks for the Bywater Terminal juncture, this," Harry said.
On they went, never given notice by the teams of excavators, backs bent, asses busting to meet the deadlines for the new tube station opening.
Finally! They were above ground. Fresh air washed their faces and they laughed, scampering a distance to a patch of wonderful heather beneath skyscraper trees. They collapsed on the ground laughing. "Gawd almighty in the mornin'," Harry said. "#$@! the bosses and #$@! the job!" He took a bit of grass between his teeth and grew somber. "What ya suppose it's all about, friend?"
Harry and Byron spoke of many things yet nothing at all that afternoon. Byron dreamed of owning his own plot of land, away from the city crowds, working only for himself. Harry said his antennae were pricked for the first eligible damsel that would give him hearth, home and kiddos, be she ugly as the gawdawful Queen Mother herself.
"But who are we kidding, mate?" he asked Byron. "We're just working stiffs, born to our class and probably to die in it."
"No, Harry. I'm sure you're wrong," said Byron. "We work hard and keep our noses clean, get the attention of the bosses, show them what we can do. We climb the ladder. Fuck the Queen and those born to favor. We can make our lives count with hard work and succeed in the bargain. The royals will eat our dust!"
"Yes. Yes, I believe you. We must have a goal. We'll show the bosses. We can do 'er. But, er, first we must make sure we still have bosses. Off we go now to the underground. To the tubes and to work before we're missed and fired. . .or worse."
Sweaty but happy, Byron and Harry rejoined the throngs on the underground. Indiscriminate faces, dulled by the workaday world, all looking identical. Except two. Two who smiled with new purpose and a goal.
"Aye, we can do 'er Harry. We can. And we must." Off in the distance, a faint light grew at the tube terminus. Soon they would vomit out onto the work site with all the other dour faces - but now they didn't dread it. They would not be just any other workers. They were going for the prize.
But traffic slowed abruptly. The crowds ahead looked back, brows raised in question. Behind, workers strained to see what the slowup was about. "What's that?" said Harry.
There was a dull tremble. Soon it became distinct. Whump, whump, WHUMP - then fumes, noxious, choking! Panic - bodies flailing and banging. Harry was down and still. Byron choked, eyes streaming. He fell beside his friend. Sloshing darkness. His last thought was, "Why? Why me? Why now?"
Bill Rossington wiped his wellingtons, grunted and straightened up painfully. "Aye, my land now, free and clear. Ain't no swarmin' beggars to be gettin' naught off it but me."
He screwed the gas can cap down with difficulty, but it was done. Hand shading eyes, he spotted another brown mound by the fence on the hill.
"Well, then." He moved forward slowly, boots clomping. "Three down, sixteen to go, I'll warrant," he said. "And God save the Queen my arse."
My great grandfather William Meyers ran away from home several times, starting at the age of fourteen, intending to enlist to fight for the Union in the Civil War but each time his parents dragged him home. Finally they gave up and
let him enlist at 15. He survived the war and was discharged in the state of Tennessee in 1865.This is his certificate of discharge from
the 10th Ohio Cavalry following the general order to demobilize [click to enlarge]. He was eighteen at the time of the discharge and had served since
Here is a picture of William wearing a very small hat. He was my maternal grandmother's father and all the women in his family were members of the Grand Army of the Republic Ladies' Auxiliary.
This is a real mood-elevator. Laura says it's Thai-Indian fusion soup, which describes it pretty well, maybe with a touch of Japanese or Korean:
2 thin “Thai” eggplants, salted, drained and cubed
1 medium sized yellow onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, mashed
1 ½ inch thick slice of fresh ginger, mashed (comes to about a tablespoon)
1 ½ quarts of chicken stock (more if needed)
10 cooked fish balls, disks should work fine as well -- you can find these at any asian food store with a freezer section. Squid rings would work too.
salt to taste
handful of chopped cilantro
½ tsp coriander
2 ground cloves
T ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp turmeric
Sauté garlic and onion until translucent
Add spices, sauté until covered uniformly
Add chicken stock, simmer for ½ hour
Add eggplant, cooked fish balls, and cilantro
Cook until hot, about 15 minutes
Serve over rice noodles
This is heavenly the next day, but don't try to save it with the noodles -- they'll dissolve.
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
5 oz. unsweetened chocolate
¼ cup cocoa
1/2 cup bourbon
2 T half and half
½ tsp. salt
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 T. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
Fresh raspberries and mint leaves, optional
Preheat oven to 325
1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler
2. Put the cocoa in a 2-cup measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to come up to the 1 cup measuring line. Stir until the powder dissolves. Add the whiskey, salt, and half and half. Let cool.
3. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar, and beat until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, baking soda and melted chocolate.
4. With the mixer on low speed, beat in a third of the whiskey mixture. When liquid is absorbed, beat in 1 cup flour. Repeat additions, ending with the whiskey mixture. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top.
5. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour.
6. Transfer the cake, still in its pan, to a rack. Unmold when the pan is cool to the touch. and sprinkle warm cake with more whiskey (At this stage I had to do some reconstructive Cool completely before serving, garnished with confectioners’ sugar, raspberries and mint leaves.
I sauteed onions, garlic, eggplant, and lamb and then cooked them covered in
white wine (Barefoot Sauvignon blanc), lemon juice, tomato sauce,
oregano, salt, pepper, a few peas for color, and a dash of curry powder (to offset the
bitterness of the eggplant -- you can't taste it.) It's delicious with the little red potatoes and I'm sure it would also work well with rice.
If you're cooking eggplant for something like this, be sure to peel it, cube it, salt it liberally, and let it drain for about a half hour in a colander, then rinse off the salt and dry it in a dish towel. This USUALLY gets rid of the bitterness. If there's just a little bitterness left, you can add a touch of curry or brown sugar, but if there's too much then you just have to throw away the damn eggplant and buy another. Our grocery stores have had a run of bad eggplants, so we were really happy when this one (grown by a local farmer) turned out perfect.
We have referred in the past to the economy which used to be practiced by our fore-fathers. Thus, for instance, it was customary to use leeches over and over again and there are instances of infection with syphilis by leeches that had been previously used on luetic patients. But we believe that the everlasting cathartic pill beats everything in the line of economy. This pill was a little bullet composed of metallic antimony which had or was believed to have the property of purging as often as it was swallowed. It is not conceivable that it might have had such property, for it is possible that a minute amount was dissolved by the gastro-intestinal juices and this amount, plus the suggestion, was sufficient to produce cathartic action. Then again the everlasting pill probably aided peristalsis by its mechanical weight and motion. The bullet was passed out, recovered from the feces and used over and over again. This, as Dr. J. A. Paris says, was economy in right earnest, for a single pill would serve a whole family during their lives and might be transmitted as an heirloom to posterity.
The "everlasting antimony pill" is mentioned by Dr. Stephen Maturin in The Ionian Mission.
"It appears," writes B.C. Seeman (1860) "that human flesh is extremely difficult to digest, and that even the strongest and most healthy men suffer from confined bowels for two or three days after a cannibal feast." Here is Seeman's account of the vegetables which "in Fijian estimation" are properly eaten with human flesh (bokola), from a collection of nineteenth and early twentieth century botanical writings called In Pursuit of Plants by Philip S. Short:
There are principally three kinds [of vegetables] which, in Fijian estimation, ought to accompany bokola [human flesh], -- the leaves of the malawaci (Trophis anthropophagorum Seem.), the tudauo (Omalanthus pedicellatus Benth.), and the boro-dina (Solanum anthropophagorum Seem.). The two former are middle-sized trees, growing wild in many parts of the group; but the boro-dina is cultivated, and there are generally several large bushes of it near every Bure-ni-sa (or strangers’ house), where the bodies of those slain in battle are always taken. The boro-dina is a bushy shrub, seldom higher than six feet, with a dark, glossy foliage, and berries of the shape, size, and colour of tomatoes. This fruit has a faint aromatic smell, and is occasionally prepared like tomato sauce. The leaves of these three plants are wrapped around the bokola, as those of the taro are around pork, and baked with it on heated stones. Salt is not forgotten.
The botanical illustration shows Solanum uporo or Solanum anthropophagi, AKA Cannibal's tomato. Via Wikimedia.
If you've read Moby Dick, or seen the movie, you'll know what a crow's nest is . . . but did you know it originally had crows in it? According to the US Navy's Origin of Navy Terminology:
The crow . . . was an essential part of the early sailors' navigation equipment. These land-lubbing fowl were carried on board to help the navigator determine where the closest land lay when the weather prevented sighting the shore visually. In cases of poor visibility, a crow was released and the navigator plotted a course that corresponded with the bird's because it invariably headed toward land.
The crow's nest was situated high in the main mast where the look-out stood his watch. Often, he shared this lofty perch with a crow or two since the crows' cages were kept there: hence the "crow's nest."