“Would you like to see the pudding menu?”

“I beg your pardon.”

“Would you like to see the pudding menu?”

Oh joy, oh unbound joy!  Not in a hundred years did I expect a young waiter to utter those beautiful words.  Not “Wouldja like any sweets?” nor “Would sir desire the dessert directory?”.  No, just the plain speaking, the word “pudding” which means so much, which forbids deceit, has no truck with falsity, nor the hyperbole associated with so much modern sweet food.  My heart skipped beats, my mind thought first of my mother, my memory raced and my salivary glands wobbled in anticipation.

When one hears the word “Pudding” (how often can I say it without joyous delirium setting in?) there can be no pretense.  You know a Trifle offered as Pudding is not a mere trifle, certainly not to be trifled with, it will have been started days ago, (usually by the grandmother) and all the sherry in the house will have been used in its making.

PuddingPerchance there is steam pudding, perhaps ginger steam pudding, with a brilliant caramel sauce.  Or maybe, just maybe (and this is the one thing that leads me to admit a chance of there being a God) – just maybe a Hot (gooey) Chocolate Pudding.  With Clotted Cream.  Proper Clotted Cream lovingly skimmed from the top of carefully scalded fresh milk from a Jersey cow.  Thick and lumpy, with a satiny feel.  Against that Nigella Lawson has no chance, even with her fabulous assets.

And what about all those other wonderful Puddings?  This really is validation therapy writ large.  I implore therapists the world over – forget the therapeutic gardens, forget pets, go for the Puddings.  Bread and Butter Pudding, Sago-plum-bago, Christmas Pudding (and the Brandy Butter!) Baked Rice Pudding, Treacle Sponge or Rhubarb and Pear Crumble…oooh.   And what about Plum Pudding, Clootie Dumplings, Spotted Dick or a Jam Roly-Poly?

Baked, steamed, boiled, I remembered so many of the ways Mum used to cook them.  I can picture the dishes in which they were cooked, the tin the dried fruit was kept in, the old flour sifter, the wooden spoons, the double boilers, the balance, the measuring cups and jugs, and the old black stove.

This young waiter, gloriously unpretentious, utters the words that bring me such joy, such happy memories.

I had just eaten what can best be described as a mediocre steak at the Yacht Club where I was a guest.  I was deep in reverie contemplating the Orkney, mobility scooters, and absent friends – my mind was wandering.  (However, “not all who wander are lost” as the saying goes.)

“No thank you” I say, and head for bed.

The Ruins of Rousay

As I scaled an ancient castle wall on the Island of Rousay in the Orkneys, I looked outwards from a craggy defile of gathered rock and observed the wall of stone, dark, wet, tessellated, the crashing waves, and the steps worn smooth by millennia of use, I pondered the power in this history lesson.

It reminded me of the Cornish Engine House at the old gold mines in Fryerstown Victoria, Australia. (sketch) We’d take visitors there, re-learning the story of mining and the industrial revolution in one easy step.  We delighted in walking over it, balancing on the lintels, walking into the mouth of the furnace, and gaze upward at the chimney, and the bright disk of light, heaven’s portal as a subtext for gold, immigration and the craftsmanship of the Cornish.  Its message is eternal, in stone and expresses a gravity of construction and optimism. It lived.  As a structure that “spoke” it was irredeemably Cornish in scale and texture.

Then, one day we returned and it was fenced off.  Pronounced dead!  More stuffed than Pharlap. (The champion Australian racehorse whose taxidermic form is the prize display in a major museum)

The perimeter fence is affronting – like those around jails, detention centres or government buildings in remote Australian Aboriginal communities.  And with the cordoning off, the whole has been spoilt, degraded, decontextualised, trivialised. You cannot appreciate one without the other.

In the Orkneys, on Rousay, you can only get there by boat… It’s all there in front of you. A burial chamber five and a half thousand years old, a structure which is always open to the public with a cover built by the Whiskey magnate Walter Grant, “God bless his Soul”, to protect it from the weather, and that’s all there is.

The rest, a few signs, invite you to explore, touch, feel, the memory of lives lived, through generations on the windswept coastline beyond Scotland.

We crawled through crevices into chambers, scaled walls, and delighted in the discovery, the sheer physicality of crawling on dirt into the darkest recesses, part cave, part labyrinth, Theseus would’ve been very happy here.  The most overgrown and the most inconsequential, buried, and now opened, just slightly enough to admit one at a time.  No exclusionary fences, no issue with pubic safety, just the nobility of sharing the real with the romantic.  The absence of interference, interpretive signage, sponsors logos, interpretive walks, brochures, kiosks, accessories, special packages, fly overs, membership offers, group packages, unit processing, visitor metrics, satisfaction surveys, the ongoing and unstoppable processing and commodification of digestable, packaged vignettes into a glutinous over-processed pap.

I get emotional about this because you cannot understand history unless you have an affinity beyond the mere visual of what went on, you need to touch it and to feel it. It then becomes intuitive, and then, only then can you decipher the clues, and make a form of contact with those who went before.

You can’t get that at Stonehenge, where, strangely, the new interpretive centres, the carpark, the streaming, and the vehicle circulation render sympathetic interpretation impossible.  It’s like Borats’ interpretation of America, “In U.S of Arrr everything BIG”!

At the Orkneys they’ve solved it…. You need a boat, and a good pair of legs, and even then if you arrive on the road, you must walk the best part of three quarters of a mile down the hill and then up again.  In doing so you see the ruins, you understand the geography, topography and natural history enough to understand how they and the much more recent Celts flourished, until they were removed in the 19th Century by the Clearances.  This part is shared in Scotland, and in Ireland, the buildings rendered roofless, their walls standing as tombstones for a forcibly evicted community, the link unbroken those thousands of years now severed for ever.  The ruins describe a multiplicity of individuals and a multiplicity of voices.

Afterwards you walk back the five miles to the little dock and you realise, that history, like humanity, is based on interpretation, self exploratory, self defined, and eternal.

For those who are aesthetically dead the interpretive centre and the wire exclusion beckon, but beyond that there’s a real world that invites exploration. Seek and ye shall find.

Quentin Cockburn.

The Commemorative Scuttle

This is an indulgence.  If you are not a child at heart, and not tutored in Commando Battle Action Comics, Rider Haggard, Alistair Maclean, and G. A Henty you need to follow these instructions:
• Adopt a crouching position, count to ten, and then fall over.
• You then will have assumed the profile of a parachutist reluctantly bailing out of your Spitfire, just like old ‘tin-legs’ Bader.
• Right, Good!!.
• We have established a sympathetic mood.  

This is all about spending billions of dollars on Battleships, or Collins Class Submarines, Joint Strike Fighters, F1-11‘s, Brewster Buffalos and onwards, the list of arms races fades into history.  Read on.

Towards the close of the nineteenth century the German Grand Admiral, Alfred von Tirpitz, having captured the imagination and support of the newly unified German peoples through the German Navy League, (funded in large part by Krupps, the steel and engineering conglomerate – six decades before Eisenhower mentioned the “Military-Industrial Complex), became the principal architect of the boldly named ‘German High Seas Fleet’.  Tirpitz, among others, wrested influence from the Euro-centric Bismarck, using widespread European disgust at Imperial Britain’s bully-boy tactics in southern and northern Africa (and elsewhere) as a lever, and encouraged Germany to become a world power.

In the twenty years from 1894 to 1914 Germany went from having virtually no navy to having the second largest in the world.  Built of new ships, with superior steel and with superior designs, this fleet, supported by a quickly growing submarine fleet put a fear into the British, a fear they had not known for more than a century.  However the German leaders did not have complete confidence in their navy, and lost the First World War with their land forces once the United States entered the fray in April 1917.

The Armistice (11/11/1918) saw the imprisonment of 74 ships of the German High Seas Fleet in Scapa Flow, a deep water natural harbour in the Orkney Islands, just north of Scotland.  Here at last, after five long years of war, the most stunning asset from the vanquished was at the victors feet.  And then, on 21st june 1919, GONE.  Scuttled under the very eyes of the guarding British Navy.  As a sullen riposte to the victorious, the bumptious, the greedy and the embittered it remains unsurpassed!  Admiral Ludwig von Reuter, (German Commanding Officer) defiant at Scapa Flow, proved for two reasons the depth of German humour.  By scuttling the entire fleet he aided the British and angered the French and Italians.  They, the French, having opted out of being a first line naval power since 1805 wanted those ships.  As did the Italians.  They were worth having, materially and symbolically.  The British wanted no Naval competition.Royal Oak

HMS Royal Oak, 13 Oct 1939

Just over twenty years later, on 14th October 1939, the Germans laughed again.  Gunther Prien in U 47 crept into Scapa Flow and took a pot shot at one of those battleships that had once stood guard there with guns armed and trained on the proud German Fleet.  HMS Royal Oak (A Revenge-class Battleship) sank almost immediately, and without a murmur, U 47 made its way back to safety, Germany and a heroes welcome.  A punchline twenty years in the crafting, the teutonic, “Ve haf returned”.HMS Royal Oak British battleship sunk

HMS Royal Oak 14 Oct 1939

As we anchored in Scapa Flow in July of 2013 we knew that the the embodiment of  “Blood and Iron” were the silent hulks of battleships quietly rusting beneath us.  We were building our own commemorative fleet from cardboard and masking tape.  I had endured a paper cut. I now understood the importance of blood “spilt for country”.

At 11 pm on that cool summers night, as a pale sun slipped beneath the horizon we put our commemorative flotilla onto the stilled waters of Scapa Flow.  We knew beneath us the fleet waited as it had waited almost a century without recognition, nor the honour of acknowledgement.  

alight 3The first vessel to go, a large battleship, fireworks strategically placed fore and aft blew up, and burnt to the water line. Then followed a cruiser, back broken from a central blast, showering sparks from a Roman Candle, gracefully sinking.



U47 drifted off burning at the stern, but somehow remaining buoyant.

And so, with a toast, our commemoration of the scuttling was concluded.  We trust those ships may find comfort in a new found camaraderie of cardboard and masking tape. We owed them this much, in acknowledgement of all they are now worth.  Not ‘Blood and Iron, but  ‘soggy cardboard’, and burnt paper.


Weekly Wrap 29 July 2013

Shame, shame.  No weekly wrap for 22 July, However as Errol said a fortnight ago “I have a genius for living, but I turn many things into crap.”
(From My Wicked Wicked Ways, by Errol Flynn 1959), and that is so true.
Well, lets look back and see what we’ve done, and might I say, we have yet to miss a daily post!

That week we missed included a piece on dogs by Ira Maine “As legend has it”, another titled “Plonque“, by our resident sage Tarquin O’Flaherty, thence to the noted Orcadian writer George Mackay Brown on the origin of stories, who really owns them – “Whose art is it”.  (PC will re-visit this theme at a later date in terms of Intellectual Property, very much from the sense that “no man is an island”.)

Quentin contributed a Gallic piece on Cigarettes, followed by a disturbing story on weather, “The Shipping News” by Ira Maine.  Our Musical Dispatch for the week contrasted Kerala with the situation of indigenous Australians.  Our poem for the week was The Windhover by Gerard Manley Hopkins, “an extraordinarily  accomplished poem.”

BarkingThis was Monday’s post.  You have to ask “are they getting lazy?”

However Quentin made up for this (in part) with correspondence regarding the privileged birth of a child into inherited privilege titled NBT.

Major Trauma at Endette Hall was reported on by Ira Maine, a most disturbing story.  From there Cecil reported on Boats, with a rejoinder from Tarquin.

On Choosing a Wife was the title of Friday’s post, an extract from John Stewart Collis’ “The Worm Forgives The Plough”, and we ask what relevance this has today.

castlemaine gaol 088Our Musical Dispatch takes an ‘Irish’ look at the implementation of the Governments farcical and racist approach to Indigenous Affairs.  

“Winter” is the title of our Poem this week, written by Orcadian poet Robert Rendall.

Thanks for reading, hopefully our Weekly Wrap will be … Weekly.

Cecil and Quentin
Burnham on Crouch, Essex.


Poetry Sunday 28 July 2013


Vanish the vernal
Joy that was Spring’s
Remains but the kernel.
The true and eternal
Inscrutable things
Existence – and Death
With his shadowing wings

Darkness, the sources
Of Life and of Birth
The Stars in the courses,
The Ocean-pent forces
That circle the earth
These with their sadness
Chasten our mirth.

Powers primeval
Stir in my breast.
In strange wild upheaval
Virtue and evil
Rise to the test
Of issues immortal
By Winter exprest.

Vain the devices
Which blossom in May
The sweet summer spices
Whose fragrance entices
Our manhood away –
Winter reminds us
“Cold is the clay”

Robert Rendall, Orcadian Poet.  1898 – 1967


MDFF 27 July 2013 Paddy and Murphy

Today’s Dispatch is from 9 November 2012.  (As always you can use Google Translate)

Dia duit arís mo chairde,
Paddy and Murphy bought a small truck. They drove out to the countryside and bought a load of cabbages from the farmers. They paid € 2.00 for each cabbage.
They drove back to Dublin and started knocking on those magnificent doors
doorshttp://youtu.be/QZN4qLSwS5U People are Strange…. The Doors…

They very quickly sold the cabbages. Their asking price? € 2.00 for each cabbage.

Back they raced to the country side and acquired another load of cabbages. They paid € 2.00 for each cabbage.

Back in Dublin they again did a brisk business and sold the whole load. They sold this lot at € 2.00 for each cabbage.
“Patrick there is something not right, we’re not getting anywhere”
Patrick thought for a bit. “Maybe we should get a bigger truck”
Before writing their business plan (so as to get a loan to buy the bigger truck), Patrick and Murphy went to a Rory Gallagher concert:

A Dispatchee kindly alerted me to the following:
Northern Territory: Addressing The “Crime Problem” Of The Northern Territory Intervention – Alternate Paths To Regulating Minor Driving Offences In Remote Indigenous Communities
Thalia Anthony, and Harry Blagg, 2012
Report to the Criminology Research Council Grant: CRC 38/09-10
For the sake of brevity I’ll cherry pick the 90-page (excellent) report (the emphasis are mine):
“…This study of the incidence of Indigenous driving offending was conducted by the authors in the Northern Territory from 2006 to 2010 on two central Australian communities. It demonstrates how new patterns of law enforcement, set in train by the 2007 ‘intervention’, inevitably led to a dramatic increase in the criminalization of Indigenous people for driving related offending….
Our research suggests that the criminalization of driving related offending represented an attempt to construct a new form of coercive, neo-assimilationist governmentality in the NT through which the state seeks to discipline, normalize and incorporate elements of the Indigenous domain into the mainstream. In Simon’s (2001, 2002) phase the state is effectively ‘governing through crime’: amplifying and dramatizing a particular crime problem (child sexual abuse) to legitimate an aggressive annexation of Aboriginal space….
….the processes and outcomes have been solidly fixated on eradicating key cultural differences between mainstream Australia and its Indigenous Other. Over the lifetime of the study we witnessed few indications that the state was effectively uncovering, let alone prosecuting, cases of child sexual abuse and/or family violence, but we did see significant changes taking place in the physical layout of the community and a significant increases in the numbers of Indigenous people being prosecuted for failing to adhere to new rules. The issue of driving and roads became a site of contestation and conflict between mainstream government and Indigenous communities…..”

The report is based on two Warlpiri communities, Yuendumu and Lajamanu.
Since the mid-2006 to 2010 the incidence of driving criminalisation increased 250% in the NT.
castlemaine gaol 088The prison population includes 25% driving offenders.
More than 80% of the prisoners are Indigenous.

“Mr. Attorney-General there is something not right, we’re not getting anywhere”

The Attorney-General thought for a bit. “Maybe we should build a bigger gaol”

…Walk with me, talk with me, tell me your story, and I’ll do my best to understand you….





On Choosing a Wife

On choosing a wife
from The Worm forgives the Plough by John Stewart Collis  1973

Farmers themselves, alone in the British community, know how to choose their wives.  They are the only people to show vision in this matter.  Thus in the agricultural world there is no such thing as a nagging wife.  The farmer’s position is extremely favourable for keeping her down.  He is up early; he is on the move incessantly; he is always grappling with difficulties and anxieties; he is invariably in a hurry; he is continually let down by man and nature; there is nothing abstract or invisible in his work, it can be clearly seen, it is hugely writ; he is tired and hungry at the end of his hard day’s work.  This puts him into an impregnable position.  You can hardly be petty with a man thus fortressed.  You can’t suggest that a little pleasure would be nice, since he foregoes pleasures, the hard-working careful man.  The only thing to do is to out-do him in virtue and also renounce relaxation.  This is the line taken by farmers’ wives, and one wonders whether the nation, while handing bouquets to the men for work done, fully realizes the part played by the wives.

William Cobbett, wise in everything, provides here also the prototype of how to choose your wife as a farmer.  He spotted her in New Brunswick.  ‘It was dead of winter, and, of course, the snow several feet deep on the ground, and the weather piercing cold.  In about three mornings after I had first seen her I had got two young men to join me in my walk; and our road lay by the house of her father and mother.  It was hardly light, but she was out in the snow, scrubbing out a washing tub.  “That’s the girl for me,” I said, when we had got out of her hearing.’ In due course they married and lived happily ever after.

Publisher’s Note
Collis was born 1900, a scholar, wrote extensively on GB Shaw, among other subjects.  He did not enlist in WWII so worked as a farm hand throughout.  The book from which this piece comes is written from his notes of that time.
We here at PC would be interested in your comments about this and wonder if the comments would differ city to country.

Boat Notes

‘Chantilly Lace’* is perhaps the saddest “Gin Palace” I’ve ever seen.  Calm waterways the world over are populated by boats like this.  They are known colloquially as “Gin Palaces”.  To name this boat ‘Chantilly Lace’ seems a travesty to anyone who grew up with The Big Boppa belting out the song of the same name:

Gin Palace“Chantilly lace, and a purdy face, a pony tail a-hangin down, a wiggle in her walk, and a giggle in her talk, makes the world go round round round……”  I may be imagining it but this boat seems way older than the song, yet the song is from the 50’s and the boat from the late 80’s.
And this, from what I’ve seen,  is what I imagine the story to be.
The boat’s owner lives aboard.  Alone.  Each day he washes the deck, with bucket, brush and detergent.  He sprays the clear plastic awnings and wipes them down.  He rubs the superstructure with a soft cloth.  The boat looks tired when he has finished, it seems to groan and resent the attention.  It has indelible stains down the sides and a thick ribbon of weed growing at the waterline.  Each afternoon at about 6 the owner appears on deck with an ice bucket and glass.  I never see him drink, and I never see him with company.  The boat has not moved from it’s mooring for a long time.  Neither has the owner.
(OH, how wrong I was!  See * below.)

Mincarlo PC

Mincarlo6On the other side of our dock is another sad boat.  The last of the side winding trawlers built in this town.  Built in 1963.  To a design of 1863.
This boat is named Mincarlo, after the Charitable Trust that bought it as a museum to the Trawling Industry that once flourished in these ports, fishing (out) the Dogger Bank in the North Sea. Mincarlo5 Volunteers of immense personality man and maintain the boat.  Their infectious enthusiasm cover the flaws of both the boat and the industry far better than the bright fresh paint covers the rust.
Mincarlo3 These volunteers, invariably small wiry men, who have lived the fisherman’s life, tell almost as much through their bearing, and through their pride in the boat and industry, as they do through their words.  And what a hard life – ten to twelve days out, three days back on shore before going out again.  Mincarlo4The routine on board – fish for 4 hours, rest for four hours, over and over and over.  Resting and sleeping in the same clothes for all this time.  Just stripping off the wet gear and perhaps an outer layer at the end of the shift.  They spoke of the effort needed to pull in the nets, then the speed with with the fish were gutted then packed in ice.

Mincarlo1Yet the boat seemed so ancient, so lacking in refinement.  It seemed that the British were blind to any engineering or metallurgical advance, that unless the design was British then it was not to be considered.  This boat looks crude and agricultural.  Grossly over “engineered” in the sense that the metal plate it is made of would do a Battleship proud.  And in 1963 the plate was still rivetted!  And the quality of the steel so obviously inferior.

It makes me wonder what it is that forces Britain to ignore lessons learnt elsewhere in the world?  For example they repeated mistakes in their South African adventure (the Boer War) that had been made forty years previously in the Civil War in the USA, their manufacturing industries – motor vehicle and heavy engineering – particularly shipbuilding – ignored advances made in Europe, Asia and the USA.  Perhaps creativity was stymied in these fields and that is why they produced such wonderful popular culture through the fifties sixties and seventies.

* Postscript:  Chantilly Lace is owned by a local born skipper, a fellow who at one stage owned a fishing trawler and then with the demise of the industry turned to skippering supply and service vessels for the oil and gas exploration industry.  He has a wife and two grown children.  The boat left to cruise the Broads yesterday, and spent a number of years in the Mediterranean.

And Notes from Tarquin O’Flaherty
Two thoughts on your trawler/British engineering observations.
The first of these  is a point I have made elsewhere;
Empires, apparently without exception, rise to the point where a type of stasis of the mind is achieved. The Empire may go on expanding, acquiring territory, may appear, to all intents and purposes to be alive and well. Wealth acquisition, however, is a limited philosophy, and the type of mind that needs power, that drives Empire building is, paradoxically, unsuited to the climate that will exist when this goal is achieved. Once power is assured, the associated wealth, comfort,and ease allows mediocrity to flourish, and blinding stupidity begins to undermine the whole edifice. Stupidity begins to believe, for example, that the rest of the world has somehow ceased to exist, except, of course, as either a provider, or a consumer. Stupidity believe this so strongly that it becomes philosophically blind to economic challenge from without the Empire. But we all know this story.
Only two things are certain; death and taxes. I would add inevitable, brainless stupidity as the third certainty.

My second point is this;
The British, to my mind, are brilliant, original engineers. They have invented more things than there are stars in the sky. They invented the modern world by inventing the Industrial Revolution. However, unlike the Germans, they lack the capacity for attention to boring, tedious detail. This is why Brit. Eng. falls apart and the Germans make the best cars in the world.


Dear Ira

Look here….. you need this… terribly impressed that it’s snowing at Tolmie… real real snow…  which begs the question were you relieved or dis (expecting a report from Diss, the town in East Anglia, any moment) when you awoke to find it all gone??….

Whilst here in the Old Dart it’s humid, people are purchasing cooling devices, (ice blocks, wetted towels, Conder fans), and as there is no air conditioning nor decent air circulation (and not much decent air actually), we suffer sleepless nights made worse by the fact that it’s not really very hot at all, it’s just they don’t understand the concept of cooling, an absence of verandahs, etc…. windows are openable to a height of three inches, (there’s something Dickensian in that)… and the corridors of these hotels are so stiflingly bereft of air, and the milk is off, and the internet connection is ten pounds, the car park an additional 35 pounds and the vat included, and sundry taxes another 20%… and the lady down at the off license doesn’t like my chatty asides…

Though what really irks me, I am made aware of this as the kids are watching the telly (which in itself tends to make confinement more oppressive…  I am flabbergasted by the excitement surrounding the imminent arrival of Prince William’s kid…. It’s nauseating… serious interviews on the BBC… creating non issues from non problems, live crosses to the U.S, to gauge the royal fever there… and some twat being interviewed in Australia, for an antipodean perspective…. it’s not that I’m anti royal, apathetic would be more apt, but I get it… the poms need royalty because their lives are so bloody miserable… it needs a class system, and noble born tonks, (that’s NBT) to forelock tug to stop them from thinking about their non engaged lives….. tons of media, the papers full of it, big questionnaires in the Times, “what name for Kate’s baby”, and it goes on and on and on and on…..

So there!!!!

and above it all this jingoistic bumptious boosterism about the utterly pathetic state of the australian cricket team… and what makes it worse… they’re absolutely right on that score!!!

Respectfully yours

Publishers Note:  Despite asking I have been unable to get “trauma discounts” on account of our showing at the cricket.