applepiewithwensleydale

Writer and Director of FieldBees, a marketing, PR and creative agency www.fieldbees.co.uk
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Alien Encounters of the Half Term Kind

Half term, school break, recess, Children running out of a school in black and whiteI worked out today that I have spent roughly 2/3 of my life in thrall to the academic calendar.*

The concept, post university, of marking years by dates and not by term starts took some time to sink in.  It was a shock to the system, despite having had jobs since my teens, to have to work a whole year and only get 4 weeks holiday. I was aghast at the notion of the world not working like that, giving everyone regular breaks and a lovely long summer holiday. I’m laughing a lot at my naive early 20’s self, by the way, there’s no need for you to do it for me.

As I don’t have children, yet, the notion of half terms and terms has, by and large passed me by of recent years. I might notice the traffic go up and down, or the fact that a teacher friend is not able to go away somewhere due to term time, but that’s it.

The modern half term seems to be catered for so well. Round here signs have sprouted over recent weeks, advertising activities, play groups, sport activities, a positive cornucopia of opportunities to relieve parents of their children and their cash.

I remember half terms of holidays in the Yorkshire Dales, running about with my brother building dams and climbing hills, usually in the rain, before heading back for cake with Granny. Or going to an arts group at the local college with my best friend, where the most memorable activity was making ice-cream sundaes out of candle wax and washing powder.  One half-term we were signed up for a day in Grassington where we were forced to paint our faces green and wander round pretending to be aliens, only ‘beeping’ at each other not speaking. It took a long time for me to recover from that one, I tell you.  Or sports camp, which seemed to be made up of never ending swimming and rounders.  One big treat was to go to Daddy’s work and play offices, which involved being very quiet for the day and cutting up lots of paper before using half the Tippex supply to stick it back together. A couple of sleepovers usually snuck in there as well, involving much giggling and many midnight feasts, eaten at I would guess around 10pm before we all flaked out.

Yet one of the biggest realisations I have had looking back on all this is that I didn’t make these choices.  They just ‘happened’.  If the local sailing club had a free day, off we went with a packed lunch and instructions not to drown.   If the weather was nice, out we were thrown with our bikes and a promise not to talk to strangers.  Being of a less athletic frame of mind and body than my brother, I usually had a book packed in my rucksack and quite happily whiled away a couple of hours with my nose stuck in a story whilst he flung himself down hillsides and slogged back up again.  Then we both ate our sandwiches, and returned home.

My parents weren’t complete autocrats, there must have been some element of discussion, but what wasn’t up for debate was doing nothing at all for the week. Both my parents worked, my father full time and my mother part time, and we were very fortunate to be able to do all these activities.  It must have taken hours of research and planning to make it all happen, in those pre-internet days.  By the time we got to senior school, we were more settled into our individual pursuits.

Who knows what the future holds for me, and what decisions and compromises will be made about work and childcare.  I hope I do as good a job as my parents did of trying to give us loads of experiences and then letting us choose our own paths and find our own passions.

One thing is for sure. There will be no beeping alien activities.

*Disclaimer, I am rubbish at maths so this figure may be more than a bit inaccurate

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Courgette and smashed pea pasta

Last night’s meal was one of those real ‘throw together’ easy efforts. Which turned out to be unbelievably flipping scrumptious. And quick. And cheap. So I thought I’d share the results of my latest fridge forage.

You could get fancy with this, adding in some toasted breadcrumbs, chopped parsley, a dash of white wine or strips of bacon. But I think the basic version is pretty darn good. Let me know what you think!

Courgette and smashed pea pasta

Ingredients

Linguini / spaghetti – enough for 2

2 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 large courgette, grated

2 handfuls of frozen peas

2 tablespoons of grated hard cheese (Grana Padano or Parmesan)

Half a tub of crème fraiche

Dab of olive oil

Method

Put pasta on to boil according to instructions.

Warm the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, before adding the onion and softening for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic.  After another couple of minutes, add the courgette and the frozen peas. Leave to cook through for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the peas are hot, add the crème fraiche along with the cheese, and stir through the vegetables. ‘Smash’ a few of the peas up with the back of your spoon whilst stirring to add texture.  Allow to bubble for a couple of minutes whilst you drain the pasta.

Stir the sauce through the pasta, serve in warm bowls with lashings of black pepper and some more grated cheese, if you wish.

Love and Loss, Hope and Fear

Cover Image of Birdsong, a book by Sebastian Faulks.I loved Birdsong when it came out (and Sebastian Faulks’ other novels, especially Charlotte Grey) and I was greatly relieved to see that the humanity which Faulks brings to World War One in his writing was carried through to the screened version. The brutal reality of trench warfare was brought into our living rooms last night, along with a sense of comradeship and love which went far beyond World War One.

With much twitching of moustaches and many significant looks, we began the slow build up of Stephen and Isabelle’s emotional involvement, touched on the rising tension of the mill workers, and wondered about the issues clearly faced by M’seur Azaire. The criss-crossing back and forth in time, the relationship between Stephen and Jack Firebrace, and the portrayal of Stephen as An Officer Conflicted, all conspired to paint a picture of love and loss, hope and fear. I look forward to next Sunday. I shall have a large handkerchief to hand.

The course of true love never does run smooth, Eddie, and I fear that you and Fleur Delacourt are about to find this out for yourselves. But if you could just let me know whether it was your carriage you escaped in last night, or whether you stole it from the textile baron, I’d be ever so grateful. It’s been bothering me.

I am still struggling to understand why, with a history degree behind me and an interest in history generally, I was very happy to watch Birdsong last night but have not the slightest desire to go to see Warhorse. Is it the desire to avoid the Hollywood schmaltz which tugs at the heartstrings, or the fact that I don’t want to see ‘acting horses’ who, despite all assurances to the contrary, must have been traumatised in some way by reenacting scenes from World War One? If not by doing that, then being paraded down the red carpet in the full glare of the paparazzi lenses?

They’re not Mr Ed. They can’t tell us.

I did wonder if some level of economy had been practiced and a set share had been arranged between Mr Spielberg and the BBC. It would have been prudent, surely, and might have appealed to the license fee payers as an austerity measure.

I read this morning that Birdsong is now a compulsory set school text. I am glad, for Faulks’ portrayal of the mud, fear and hell of the Flanders trenches is a masterpiece. And the BBC has done it justice. Hopefully this programme will do for World War One what Spielberg’s ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ did for cementing awareness of the horror of World War Two in the minds of a generation.

Pick Up Thy Soapbox and Walk

According to a university study, women who wear skirts in the office are perceived as more confident and higher earning than their trouser wearing counterparts. Almost 100 women were made directors of top companies in 2011. Lord Davies’ report told the Government to tell businesses that 25% of their directors have to be women by 2015.

I’m depressed by all this. Also by the ridiculous radio and TV ads for Lemsip and Boots which infer that men are weak creatures who are unable to struggle on given the merest hint of a sniffle (and in the case of Lemsip, are unable to look after their own children if their partner falls ill, meaning she has to struggle bravely on). I cannot do justice to a description of how incandescently cross hearing this dross at 6.40am this morning made me. There was rage. And I don’t even have children. Or a cold.

It’s like all these ‘Women in Industry’ awards. They also make me see varying shades of red. Oh, well done, you’re a laydee. Now, haven’t you got lovely shiny hair and an ability to be nice to clients? Just scribble your name there, petal, and we’ll pop you up for an award. I am making a sweeping generalization here but they make my teeth itch. If there was a ‘Men in Industry’ awards there would be an outcry.

I want to go out and conduct my own survey which reveals men should wear skirts to be taken seriously in the office. Throw in a painful pair of heels and we’ll soon see who’s left standing at the end of a long day.

We’re in 2012, not 1220. Let’s stop martyring ourselves, or allowing ourselves to be martyred, whether in adverts or in the office or in the home.Women sat around doing their work - click for photo credit

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