30 January 2010

Pretty Fair Maid In A Garden

Take This Tune this week is all about love returning. Fairweather threw me a bit of a curve with the selected song and write up as she sent ye olde brain in three different directions:  Classic Literature, true Love, and erotic poetry.  Rather than go for any phantom lovers returning or myths of various kinds, I'm opting for both sensual and true love.

One of my favorite bits of sensuousness comes from a somewhat unexpected place:  Robert Frost.  It is easy to think of him as old and grizzled with the chill of snows in New England, but I suspect Bobby may have had a past of doing more interesting things out of doors than building walls or driving horses.

I crave the stain
of tears, the aftermark
of almost too much love,
The sweet of bitter bark
And burning clove.

When stiff and sore and scarred
I take away my hand
From leaning on it hard
In grass and sand,

The hurt is not enough:
I long for weight and strength
To feel the earth as rough
To all my length.

For undying true love that always promises to return, then my favorite is 10,000 Miles.

Fare thee well
My own true love
Farewell for a while
Im going away
But Ill be back
Though I go 10,000 miles

10,000 miles
My own true love
10,000 miles or more
The rocks may melt
And the seas may burn
If I should not return

Oh dont you see
That lonesome dove
Sitting on an ivy tree
Shes weeping for
Her own true love
As I shall weep for mine

Oh come ye back
My own true love
And stay a while with me
If I had a friend
All on this earth
Youve been a friend to me.

29 January 2010

Wishing Well

While prowling through old blogs, I found one that deserves a retread.  Everyone has impossible wishes. The things some big some small that we would change if we were playing God.  Most of mine from two years ago hold up very well.  Your mission should you choose to accept it is to add more wishes to the list.
1. Peter Allen would still be alive. He along with all those phenomenal talents, particularly those of stage and screen, who died too young before medical science started making it possible to "live with" AIDS. We lost a generation of unbelievable talent and I wish we had them all back.

2. The religions of the world would leave each other alone and in peace. My God, Your God. Who cares? Who has the best invisible friend? All the morals are basically the same and come down to "be good to each other". Why are you killing your fellow man?

3. Everyone could learn to giggle and have a good sense of rhythm. Being "tickled" by life is one of the essentials to a happy existence, and it's more fun if you can dance through it.

4. Politicians would actually care more for their constituents than they do for money, power and prestige.

5. Everyone should have at least one "Great Love". However it ends, the memories will carry your through the rest of your life.

6. The population of the world would be 3 billion people smaller tomorrow. Just go "poof" without the ugliness, pain, and anguish that is bound to come in the next 50 years.

7. In addition to the great love. Everyone would have one great "call in the middle of the night when things are rotten and you need a shoulder to cry on" friend. They would last for decades and would always think you are under 30.

8. No child would ever suffer just because the adults were behaving badly.

9. No adults would ever be fighting in front of the children or at war.

10. I would be young, beautiful, and independently wealthy (oh well they are impossible wishes).

Please add your thoughts.

28 January 2010

Happy Birthday Mischa

Yesterday Fairweather put up birthday greetings for Mozart with an aria to drool by sung by her beloved Thomas Hampson. This may make January the month for spectacular geniuses because today's birthday boy is Mikhail Baryshnikov

He may have given up trying to defy the law of gravity, but he's still dancing.  About two years ago I wrote about the picture above and how it related to the one and only autograph I ever requested. Dancing Sitting Down.

27 January 2010

Loaves & Fishes

A small online group of friends started out trying to collect enough money for one Shelter Box.  Thanks to announcements by Craig Crawford, Keith Olbermann, and Don Imus we are now up to 20 boxes in the space of just one day with the contributions climbing by the minute.  That will house 200 Haitians with basic survial gear for the next six months.  If you would like to join us, just click on this link:

For news on the Shelter Boxes already delivered to Haiti and the difference they have made, here is their main website.. You can donate there as well if you choose not to be a part of our group.

Thank you to everyone who has made this project such a huge success.

26 January 2010

The Queen's Meme #22 ~ Come On Baby, Light My Fire!

Sometimes silly. Sometimes serious.
Always fun!
Step out of the box. Be creative.
Use your imagination.
No one's answers are quite like yours.

Once upon a time in a faraway Bloggiverse there lived a maiden named Queen Mimi Pencil Skirt. She slayed her own dragons, stoked her own fire and well.....wrote memes by the light of the Bloggingham moon. One day a kind blogger from England noticed her meme lovin' ways and royally crowned her Mimi Queen of Memes. As time passed in the peaceful kingdom of Bloggingham, her Royal Highness found comfort in the company of fellow bloggers who also loved memes. But the Queen had a wicked disposition too. It is widely reported in historical Blogosphere archives that any and all bloggers found guilty of not completing their memes were promptly thrown into the dreaded Bloggingham dungeon. If I were you, I'd do the meme.

Come On Baby, Light My Fire!

Before you get carried away and let your mind wander down a trail of romantic and erotic intrigue, stop. We're not talking about that kind of fire. Not today anyway. We're talking about intellect, entertainment and adventure. I'd like you to take a look at the what makes you happy and brings you joy. Pretend you are talking to a new friend. Answer the questions as enthusiastically as you can and share with your friend what lights your fire. Recommend your favorites, what you're passionate about - and tell us why. If it's too hard to choose just one, narrow it down to the best of the best. Everyone who reads your answers will not only get a better sense of who you are but we might be inspired to check it out upon your expert recommendation. I like learning something new everyday. If you open the door of my imagination, I just might step through. Tell me!

1. Which historical figure do you admire the most? Why? - While there are many historical characters I've admired through it all one stood out simply because she made a lonely child's life less friendless, provided wisdom and guidance all while instructing that you didn't have to be trapped by your era or position in life or the opinions and dictates of others. If you saw the recent PBS special about her, you can't help but admire: Louisa May Alcott.  Favorites of her books:  Eight Cousins & Rose In Bloom

2. Name the band or artist you'd like to see live in concert before you leave the planet or tell us about a concert or album that has already rocked your world.  Music is practically the air I breathe and her majesty wants ONE.  Sheesh dream on demanding one.  Two performers I'm glad I got to see perform live before their deaths:  Peter Allen and Sammy Davis, Jr.  Both were absolute marvels at holding audience focus from the instant they hit the stage until they waved goodbye to a crowd on its feet screaming for more.  Recently discovered a whole raft of guitar gods that I vaguely knew about but hadn't paid attention.  There is a problem with only having one pair of ears.  One has been around and lauded for a few decades:  Ryland Cooder.  The other fairly new on the scene, but I've just come to appreciate how well he plays and started digging around for the early things where it really shows up:  Keith Urban.

Ry Cooder: Dark End of the Street

Keith Urban and The Ranch - Walkin' In The Country

3. What's your favorite television show or series of all time?  Why should I care?

From the day it debuted until the last Goodbye laid out in the rocks of Korea - M*A*S*H

Do you really need reasons to care about the funniest, most sensitive depiction of the horrors or war ever brilliantly conceived?

4. Movies! I am so behind on the movie scene. What should I watch this weekend? Should I watch it alone or with someone? If you have never seen it and are renting, try to find Harvey Fierstein's "Torch Song Trilogy"  The times have changed a lot since, but the issues discussed are still very real in too many lives.  If you want a new one, why head on out for fun and adventure with Sherlock Holmes.  This is the great detective as comic book hero and Robert Downey gets more than a few laughs along the way.  Movies are always better with unless you are looking for something to sob over into a bucket of ice cream.
5. You are hopping on a plane tomorrow morning. Where did you choose to go and why? - Book those tickets for Australia.  I've done Scotland so the next group of relatives up for a get together are all those Bisset and Durward descendants under the Southern Cross.  Who knows maybe I'll bump into a somewhat elderly drover while I'm there - one must remain hopeful.

6. Who is your favorite author? What about their writing inspires you or simply entertains you? Recommend at least one book that you feel I must read. -  Number 1 took care of Louisa.  I have a feeling most of the "classics" in my library are already in your library.  There are scads of novels, but since you have me shipping off to Australia, there is a remarkable book that became a wonderful movie:  Rabbit Proof Fence  It is the story of the aboriginal children stolen from their parents and taken to British orphanages and schools who became, "The Lost Generation" and the escape made by a few girls. 

7. Hobbies and passions. What brings you joy in your spare time? How did you get into it? - Genealogy, but you all knew that. It started as a way to get to know my father's family who had never been a part of my life.  It uses my skils as a researcher and writer plus I can listen to my music while doing it.  Now all I need is the lottery to chase down these people world wide.

It should be fun to see her majesty's answers to these questions. 

Under Construction

Things have been a little disordered around here for the last week and big burly types have ripped, torn, cut, and hammered.  It will be a while longer before it is usable, but we will soon have a second bathroom and it will be downstairs near me .... Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee

While all of this is going on, I'm drowning it out with my I POD "Guitar Gods" Playlist.  Here's Ry Cooder and The Chieftains playing and singing a lovely traditional song of farewell and longing:  The Coast of Malabar

25 January 2010

Happy Birthday Rabbie


by Robert Burns (1759 -1796)

Is there for honest poverty
That hangs his head, an' a' that
The coward slave, we pass him by
We dare be poor for a' that
For a' that, an' a' that
The rank is but the guinea's stamp
The man's the gowd for a' that

What though on hamely fare we dine
Wear hoddin grey, an' a' that
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine
A man's a man, for a' that
Their tinsel show an' a' that
The honest man, though e'er sae poor
Is king o' men for a' that

Ye see yon birkie ca'd a lord
Wha struts an' stares an' a' that
Tho' hundreds worship at his word
He's but a coof for a' that
For a' that, an' a' that
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that

A prince can mak' a belted knight
A marquise, duke, an' a' that
But an honest man's aboon his might
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that
For a' that an' a' that
Their dignities an' a' that
The pith o' sense an' pride o' worth
Are higher rank that a' that

Then let us pray that come it may
(as come it will for a' that)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth
Shall bear the gree an' a' that
For a' that an' a' that
It's coming yet for a' that
That man to man, the world o'er
Shall brithers be for a' that

24 January 2010

Witty and Wonderful

This week's "Take This Tune" is the funny side of love. Fair warning, there may be mildly risque stories ahead. My first thought was a delightful song.

Boy, do I wish I were in love again. I have been unusually fortunate in the men in my life. They may have departed for various reasons, but they are fondly remembered for wit, humor, and charm. Therefore you get two stories:

It's 1976 and a somewhat long term lovely man (grey streaked beard professorial looks) is about to head for Canada but at the time we are moving me into a new place. As we are about to bed down on a mattress because the frame hasn't been connected yet, we note that the rain outside is leaking inside. Being very adept he rigs a plastic catchment to flow the water into a bucket. The sun rises. We awake from a dream of sleep (and other things) and there above us is a bulge. Instead of flowing, it has gathered. He does a magnificent leap to the top of the dresser to try to recapture his creation only to be drenched in ice cold rainwater as it gives way.

There is nothing quite like a bearded, dignified, totally nude, master of the understatement, drenched, Canadian, standing in all his glory as God made him atop a dresser while peering down at an equally nude, hysterical female stuffing a sheet in her mouth as she screeches with hilarity while he proclaims,



It's Westwood in California where multiplex theaters abound and lines to be in lines proliferate.  It's 1981 and my companion and I are standing patiently in one of those lines when a woman rushes up, "Is this the line for Endless Love? to which my dearly beloved responds, "No maam, just the movies".  How could you not hang on to this man for as long as possible?


The stories could go on forever, but I retired from the game about five years ago, but oh my I Wish I Were In Love Again.

23 January 2010

Hope For Haiti

Thank you to all who helped pay for the Trail Mix Shelter Box.  We are starting to pay for Box Number two and are over a third of the way there.  If you would like to help the Trail Mix Gang, just click on the link above or down at the bottom on the "Trail Mix Fish Camp" picture.
Here is my favorite number from last night's Hope For Haiti Concert.  Keith Urban, Sheryl Crow, and Kid Rock showing how guitar playing and harmony are supposed to be done.

The Queen's Meme #21 - The Wisdom at 21

Queen Mimi of Bloggingham has once more issued a royal edict  under threat of the dank and moldy dungeon as follows:

This is a royal twist on an old meme. I just wish I'd found these gems when I was actually twenty-one.This is how it works: You must follow the directions to the letter.

1. Find the nearest bookshelf of your favorite reads, cookbooks, tech books, magazines. It doesn't matter. This will work for all print media. If you don't have seven books lined up on a shelf, grab the first seven you see around the house.

2. Book #1: Turn to page 21. Read the 21st sentence (you may have to turn the page).

Write it down.

3. Do the same with the first seven books or articles you see. The sentences will make a paragraph. You must write them down in the order you found them.

4. When you are finished, read over your "story" and title it.

5. Show us your bibliography at the end of this meme. Hmmm...I wonder if we'll be surprised at the reading material we may find. I just did mine. It was rather shocking! I didn't cheat. I promise! Don't you either....or it's you-know-where for you.
What, Why, Where, When And How

So one day she's walking past the church and runs into a couple of the nuns and they comment on the new surge in my popularity and say, "Corpus Christi was all over the Class Clown album."  The instincts of the ant are very unimportant, considered as the ant's; but the moment a ray of relation is seen to extend from it to man, and the little drudge is seen to be a monitor, a little body with a mighty heart, then all its habits, even that said to be recently observed, that it never sleeps, become sublime.  In the spring of 1991, however--his finances shattered, his employees suing him over a variety of charges, his daughter accusing him on national television of sexual abuse--Erhard fled to Russia, where he reinvented himself as a sself-actualizing guru for government bureaucrats.  However, both he and his German source agreed that "an Englishman's home is his castle."  Isn't it marvelous the way they all have music in them?  How true, but the apprehensive, small boy who waited in the head master's flower-filled garden on that warm summer evening, saw nothing of the architechtural and landscaped beauties around him. Harold was killed by an arrow in the eye, the battle was lost, and William earned himself the title "Conqueror".

George Carlin - Last Words
Ralph Waldo Emerson - "Nature" (The man could write some freaking long sentences!!!!)
Kevin Starr - "Coast of Dreams, California on the Edge, 1990-2003
Judith Flanders - "Inside The Victorian Home"
Dorothy Parker - "Arrangement in Black and White" from "The Best of Dorothy Parker"
David Niven - "The Moon's A Balloon"
George Chamier - "When It Happened"

18 January 2010

What's Inside The Box

You may notice a button off the the right. A group of friends is buying a Shelter Box. If you would like to join in, please just push the button to go to our collection site as each box costs about $800.  Or if you would like to form your own group or buy a box on your own, you can go to the Shelter Box site. £6.30 is the equivalent of $10.00

What's inside the box?


At the heart of every ShelterBox is a ten-person tent. It is custom made for ShelterBox by Vango, one of the world’s leading tent manufacturers, and is designed to withstand extreme temperatures, high winds and heavy rainfall. Internally, each tent has privacy partitions that allow recipients to divide the space as they see fit.

A smile

Every box contains a children’s pack containing drawing books, crayons and pens. For children who have lostmost, if not all,their possessions, these small gifts are treasured.
Warmth and protection

In addition to the tent, the boxes contain a range of other survival equipment including thermal blankets and insulated ground sheets, essential in areas where temperatures plummet at nightfall. Where malaria is prevalent mosquito nets are supplied, as well a life saving means of water purification. Water supplies often become contaminated after a major disaster, as infrastructure and sanitation systems are destroyed, this presents a secondary but no less dangerous threat to survivors than the initial disaster itself.
Self sufficiency

A basic tool kit containing a hammer, axe, saw, trenching shovel, hoe head, pliers and wire cutters can be found in every box. These items enable people to improve their immediate environment, by chopping firewood or digging a latrine, for example. Then, when it is possible, to start repairing or rebuilding the home they were forced to leave.
Fit for purpose

Every item is durable, practical and brand new. The box itself is lightweight and waterproof and has been used for a variety of purposes in the past - from water and food storage containers to a cot for a newly born baby.
Only new equipment is used and is carefully selected for durability, practicality and suitability for where it is needed. Tough, lightweight and waterproof, the box itself can also have many useful functions from food container to cot. We also continually work with a range of manufacturers to improve the quality and extend the range of equipment that we have available.

A range of equipment is kept in stock. This lets us adjust the contents of the box according to local conditions and what is most urgently needed. Sometimes particularly if other resources are available locally and the overwhelming need is for shelter we will just send tents and pack two in each box.

Each box costs an average of £490 including all materials, packing, storage and distribution to individual recipients worldwide. Based on six months use only this equates to 27 pence per person per day.

17 January 2010

Take This Tune - Heartbreak Hill

The Take This Tune subject this week is heartbreak.  Fairweather wants sobs and no painter expresses the sensuousness, hope, and loss of love better than Jack Vettriano and no one is better at left and bereft than Judy Garland in a Star Is Born .  Put them together and you get:  "Cocktails and Broken Hearts" to the tune of "The Man Who Got Away".

The Man Who Got Away

The night is bitter,
The stars have lost their glitter;
The winds grow colder
And suddenly you're older -
And all because of the man that got away.

No more his eager call,
The writing's on the wall;
The dreams you dreamed have all
Gone astray.

The man that won you
Has gone off and undone you.
That great beginning
Has seen the final inning.
Don't know what happened. It's all a crazy game!

No more that all-time thrill,
For you've been through the mill -
And never a new love will
Be the same.

Good riddance, good-bye!
Ev'ry trick of his you're on to.
But, fools will be fools -
And where's he gone to?

The road gets rougher,
It's lonelier and tougher.
With hope you burn up -
Tomorrow he may turn up.
There's just no letup the live-long night and day!

Ever since this world began
There is nothing sadder than
A one-man woman looking for
The man that got away....
The man that got away.

P.S. I did actually consider "One For My Baby""Angel Eyes", "In The Wee Small Hours", and "Here's That Rainy Day",  but then it would have been the playlist of Sinatra/Blues on my IPOD.  I don't know about others, but if I'm miserable for any reason, there is nothing like the saddest music possible to snap me out of it.  You can only sing along with the deserted and depressed for awhile before it gives you the giggles.

08 January 2010

I'm My Own Grandpa

Over the holiday I had the time to get back to genealogy and having recently seen the movie Australia decided to concentrate on the relatives who went walk about to a truly different continent. 

Now you all know about my "stream of consciousness" manias ... not a whole lot of actual family fact finding got done.  There was simply way too much fun stuff to learn that will eventually get woven into the history of a family.  For starters I looked in the white pages for Australia  for one surname.  Not counting all the surnames for women joined to male offspring or the men that daughters might have married for merger, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that  should I finally visit where I have longed to go for ages, there are 137 phone numbers I could call to say, "Hi Cuz!  Guess who's in town?"  Now this is true because in 1857 Mungo Bisset, his wife Elizabeth Paterson and seven little Bissets hopped on board the Forest Monarch in Glasgow and hopped off in Hobart, Tasmania.  From that point they proceeded to farm and begat.  They seem to have been very good at both farming and begatting.

Forest Monarch

Then I started reading the Study Guide for the movie because I had some major gripes about the historical accuracy and time compression and and and .... Jackman, Kidman, and the continent look great and it is a fun movie, but I wanted some explanations for playing a little fast and loose with actual events, place names, conditions, people etc.  The Study Guide is an excellent read and has both a juvenile and adult section that I would recommend to parents who want to introduce their children to Australian history in a way that is at least colorful and interesting as opposed to the coma inducing methods found in most classrooms.

The "Back Story" for The Drover is provided by the song "The Drover's Ballad". Great song, but excuse me ... At 39/40 Jackman was too young to play the drover. (See what happens when I get off on one of my "I have to know everything" obsessions).  He's gorgeous and you could get stuck on the shower scene, but back to history.

In Australia April 25 is a major holiday. It commemorates the first day of invasion in Gallipoli in 1915 by ANZAC troops. Immediate sideswipe, if you haven't seen the movie Gallipoli run don't ... you know the rest. Assuming an age normal for the period of 20 for women and 23 for men to marry in 1915 and a location of ANZAC troops in either France or Turkey, The Drover would have been born before 1895 ... forward march to opening of film in 1939 and you have a man of 44 at the least ... okay, it's "let's pretend" and I'm quibbling, but quibbling counts in history.  Sidenote:  This particular detour of history means a multi "great" aunt who happened to be a nurse serving with the Red Cross is buried in one of those Turkish ANZAC dedicated cemeteries.

Now you have the matter of "The Drover's Wife" which takes us to something I honestly didn't know and why I love history.  Sometimes facts become human beings and the stories of those human beings can make you cry. It is never totally explained why "The Drover" is so angry, but in some early scenes before the cattle drive in the movie Australia, you see the aboriginal women riding as well as the men with the idea of their taking part on the drive.  Found in my roundabout of the internet because you really, really have to follow the links, there is this tribute to those women:

Ted Egan, an Australian songwriter and folklorist wrote the song The Drover's Boy in recognition of the many Aboriginal women who worked as drovers in years past. With their hair cut short and breasts flattened with scarves, they were made to conceal their identity and live and work as men did, because Aboriginal women were not permitted to work as drovers. The lyrics highlight the nature of the close, yet hidden relationships that existed between many white men and these Aboriginal women.  So enjoy Nicole Kidman being tall, blond, beautiful and the next romantic love for The Drover, but don't forget this piece of the past:

By Ted Egan

They couldn’t understand why the drover cried
As they buried The Drover’s Boy,
For the drover had always seemed so hard
To the men in his employ,
A bolting horse, a stirrup lost,
And The Drover’s Boy was dead
The shoveled dirt, a mumbled word,
And it’s back to the road ahead
And forget about The Drover’s Boy.

They couldn’t understand why the drover cut
A lock of the dead boy’s hair.
He put it in the band of his battered old hat,
As they watched him standing there,
He told them, “Take the cattle on,
I’ll sit with the boy a while,”
A silent thought, a pipe to smoke,
And it’s ride another mile,
And forget about The Drover’s Boy.

They couldn’t understand why the drover and the boy
Always camped so far away,
For the tall white man and the slim black boy
Had never had much to say,
And the boy would be gone at break of dawn.
Tail the horses, carry on,
While the drover roused the sleeping men,
“Daylight, hit the road again”
And follow The Drover’s Boy,
Follow The Drover’s Boy.

In the Camooweal pub they talked about
The death of The Drover’s Boy.
They drank their rum with a stranger who’d come
From a Kimberley run, Fitzroy.
And he told of the massacre in the west,
Barest details, guess the rest,
Shoot the buck, grab a gin,
Cut her hair, break her in,
Call her a boy, The Drover’s Boy,
Call her a boy, The Drover’s Boy

So when they build that Stockman’s Hall of Fame
And they talk about the droving game,
Remember the girl who was bedmate and guide,
Rode with the drover side by side.
Watched the bullocks, flayed the hide,
Faithful wife, never a bride,
Bred his sons for the cattle runs.
Don’t weep… for The Drover’s Boy.
Don’t mourn… for The Drover’s Boy.
But don’t forget…The Drover’s Boy.

And that is where we end for now.  The photo at the top is a story for another day  because I got distracted, as I always do, in the middle of the afore mentioned research by the "I have to know" mania.  It comes from Picture Australia a place that has photographs of a whole century or more from all the libraries in Australia.   If your tears have dried for The Drover's Boy, have fun prowling through the collection.

Oh, one last little P.S.  If you have never read Banjo Paterson's  "Clancy of the Overflow" and why you need to go where the lights of the city don't block out the the "Everlasting Stars", here it is:

CLANCY OF THE OVERFLOW - A.B. "Banjo" Paterson

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just "on spec", addressed as follows: "Clancy, of The Overflow".
And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written in a thumbnail dipped in tar)
'Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
"Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are."

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving "down the Cooper" where the western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.
And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wondrous glory of the everlasting stars.

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.
And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.
And I somehow fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cashbook and the journal -
But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of "The Overflow".

And for the Drover, The Southern Cross

"It says the outcast is a free man If he sleeps under the stars
and makes the blanket of the southern skies his home"

06 January 2010

Up To My Eyeballs

Doing some necessary research for an article ...
back on Monday.

05 January 2010

12 Drummers Drumming

With the twelfth day we have reached the end of the song and have arrived at the last day of Christmas known as Twelfth Night on which the partying and feasting continued. Twelfth Night is the night before Epiphany which is the day the three Wise Men, also known as the Three Kings or Magi, from the East arrived in Bethlehem bringing gifts to the Christ child.

By the Middle Ages the drum, which was probably introduced to Europe from the Middle East by knights returning from the Crusades, had become a common instrument. Among its other uses was to combine it with the trumpet to get people's attention when making a big announcement such as the arrival of the king or the reading of an important proclamation. In this case the drum was used to announce the serving of the next course of the feast.

This was also the night of plays and performances.  Even such as Shakespeare would be commissioned to write something special for this last night of Christmas frivolity with the result of Twelfth Night.

Among other customs in England as well as France and other West European countries was the making and serving of a special Kings' Cake for this twelfth night celebration (the practice of making and serving a special King's Cake survives today in the U.S. as a part of the Mardi Gras celebrations.

NOTE! You may NOT prepare and serve this before Twelfth Night (Jan. 6) or after Mardi Gras Day!
Here's an excellent King Cake recipe, provided courtesy of Chef Emeril Lagasse.
2 envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1-1/2 sticks (6 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup warm milk (about 110°F)
5 large egg yolks, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 plastic king cake baby or a pecan half
5 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Purple-, green-, and gold-tinted sugar sprinkles

Combine the yeast and granulated sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the melted butter and warm milk. Beat at low speed for 1 minute. With the mixer running, add the egg yolks, then beat for 1 minute at medium-low speed. Add the flour, salt, nutmeg, and lemon zest and beat until everything is incorporated. Increase the speed to high and beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, forms a ball, and starts to climb up the dough hook. (If the dough is uncooperative in coming together, add a bit of warm water (110 degrees), a tablespoon at a time, until it does.)
Remove the dough from the bowl. Using your hands, form the dough into a smooth ball. Lightly oil a bowl with the vegetable oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it to oil all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the filling. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese and 1 cup of the confectioner's sugar. Blend by hand or with an electric mixer on low speed. Set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Using your fingers, pat it out into a rectangle about 30 inches long and 6 inches wide.

Spread the filling lengthwise over the bottom half of the dough, then flip the top half of the dough over the filling. Seal the edges, pinching the dough together. Shape the dough into a cylinder and place it on the prepared baking sheet seam side down. Shape the dough into a ring and pinch the ends together so there isn't a seam. Insert the king cake baby or pecan half into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough.

Cover the ring with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm, draft-free place. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Brush the top of the risen cake with 2 tablespoons of the milk. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the icing. Combine the remaining 3 tablespoons milk, the lemon juice, and the remaining 3 cups confectioner's sugar in medium-size mixing bowl. Stir to blend well. With a rubber spatula, spread the icing evenly over the top of the cake. Sprinkle with the sugar crystals, alternating colors around the cake.

The cake is traditionally cut into 2-inch-thick slices with all the guests in attendance.

The song and the twelve day celebration have now come to an end. But it is not the end of the season. For the day after Twelfth Night is the Feast of the Epiphany, another religious holiday associated with Christmas. While mainly just a religious observance in the U.S., Epiphany is also a day of both religious and secular celebrating in other countries.  How could I resist a chance of putting up Hugh Jackman singing.


04 January 2010

Eleven Pipers Piping

As if we didn't have enough noise with all the birds chirping, squawking, and whistling, Bring on The Bagpipes.

At the big feasts held during the holiday celebrations the guests were often entertained by musicians, dancers, jugglers, etc. as well as singing and dancing themselves. Bagpipes were popular instruments for dance music. While we usually associate the bagpipe with Scotland, they were also a common instrument in France as well. Since Queen Elizabeth I was succeeded by the Stuart kings of Scotland, bagpipes and other aspects of Scots culture were common among the upper classes in England as were elements of French culture due to intermarriage of the English and French nobility.

03 January 2010

Ten Lords A Leaping

On the Tenth Day of Christmas...Ten Lords A-Leaping
Our suitor is getting serious as he is now hiring the entertainment for his lady.  The ten lords a-leaping most likely refers to leaping dancers (called morris dancers) who performed between courses at feasts (more eating of the birds). This type of wild and strenuous dancing probably evolved from more ancient war and fertility dances and would have been a popular form of entertainment for this type of function. Unlike the nine ladies dancing in the previous stanza where the dancers appear to have been guests dancing for enjoyment, these were professional dancers brought in to entertain the guests while they dined.

Morris dancing itself was a popular form of folk dancing in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Both King Henry VIII and his daughter Queen Elizabeth I had professional morris dance troupes perform as part of the entertainment at feasts. Many parish church records from this period show both expenses for the purchase of costumes and the bells that the dancers wore while performing as well as income from the rental of the costumes to neighboring parishes.  Morris dancing declined following the English Civil Wars of the mid-seventeenth century which brought Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans to power with their dislike and banning of any type of frivolity such as singing and dancing. The twentieth century brought a revival of the morris and other folk dancing traditions in the UK and other parts of the world including the U.S. Today there are local morris dance troupes and competitions in the UK as well as other parts of the world.

Only eight lords a leaping, but it will give you and idea of the Morris Dancers

02 January 2010

Nine Ladies Dancing

On the Ninth Day of Christmas...Nine Ladies Dancing

The nine ladies dancing evokes images of music and dancing which were a big part of the celebrations at this period of history in England.   These are the noble women as in a Lord and his Lady or a lady in waiting (high born ladies who waited on the queen at court – not servant women).  These are the ladies on display to signify their rank or to attract equally high born men for marriage.

Again, the emphasis is on celebrating and having fun during this nearly two weeks of non-stop nightly partying.  Only three more days of people traveling to come together in large groups.  By such means are dynasties preserved or established.

In the church calendar, January 2 is dedicated to St. Basil the Great, the Patron of hospital administrators.  By tradition this day is often given over to the visitation of the sick or elderly.

01 January 2010

Eight Maids A Milking

Finally after all the gift giving, the true love is getting around to his actual goal:  SEX!!!!

Until refrigeration, milk was not a common drink because it spoiled quickly. However, milk based products that did not spoil, such as cheese, sour creme and custards were prized treats. The maids, of course, are the women who would milk the cows to obtain the milk in the first place. However, the term maid is also the shortened form of maiden which is a young, unmarried, woman. By combining the images of maiden and milk (which can also bring to mind a woman's breasts), it is easy to get the idea that this particular gift has more to do with sex and romance than with cows.

While the people of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were not as prudish as the nineteenth century Victorians, it was still considered advisable for women to be at least somewhat chaste in public. Young upper class (both merchant class and nobility) women were usually chaperoned when in public and when being courted by young men. However, during the Twelfth Night celebrations not only were many of the rules of behavior relaxed but the environment in which the parties were held provided opportunities to escape watchful eyes. Masked and costumed balls increased the opportunities for secret liaisons as well as providing additional means of denying your actions the next day. The opportunities offered for some passionate time alone with a lover or a quick one night stand with a stranger were a major attraction of these parties.

Further evidence is the fact that during this time period in England the term to "go a-milking" had romantic and sexual connotations. Asking a woman to go a-milking was a code used by men to test a woman's response to their intentions. Now if one of those milkmaids was named Susan, there might have been a price to pay for being a wee too generous with her favors and we are back full circle to the birds with  "The Lark In The Morning".