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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The sirens now are silent

Years after, they said Britain's national diet during WW2 was utterly healthy. That we ate only what was good for us, held obesity at bay and kept fit by walking. Perhaps. But we didn't enjoy it. I didn't anyway.

The emphasis was on vegetables. since they weren't rationed. No one could persuade me to eat those woody orange discs called carrots. Turnip had a rank taste plus hard bits. Onion I found slimy. And cabbage...

Desperate to keep me alive my mother drained off the cabbage liquor, added an Oxo cube and gave me the resultant drink in a cup. I can bring back the taste now - compost! You've never drunk compost? Damnit, you've got imagination haven't you?

Scroll forward sixty years. Even Tesco - poor humbled retail giant - offers a choice of cabbage. And especially Sweetheart. I ask myself is that really cabbage? How then did it leave its ancestors so far behind?

Cabbage's rehabilitation pre-dated my discovery of Sweetheart. VR served up Savoy, or whatever, as a sort of stir-fry - including lardons and fragments of onion (its sliminess forgotten). But that's comparatively elaborate.

With Sweetheart remove even finest stalks, chop small, add caraway seeds, sauté 1 min in knob of butter, cover, simmer on very low heat, S&P. Kinda luxurious. Goes with pork - Hell, it goes with anything. Reminds you WW2 is over.

Four lines in:

Straight I loosed her chain, and stepping in
Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth,
And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice
Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on;

Reasons why. Forget technique. "It was an act of stealth, And troubled pleasure" grabs you on its own.



  1. Those highlighted words do grab. I like them greatly.

  2. Damn your instructions!

    With ones and twos this verse is over full.
    Please work in some with three like "syllable".

  3. MikeM: Careful you savage Appalachian, you. This is part of WW's magnum opus, The Prelude, though I confess I didn't immediately recognise it from the extract in my anonymous source book, The Poet's Tongue (it's very long). Prelude contains one of my mega-favourite lines, which crops up in a passage about skating across a frozen lake at night:

    to cut across the reflex of a star

    In fact I gotta write a sonnet in tribute. Thanks for the boot up the backside.

  4. That is a good one. I read about a hundred lines of it before posting my critique, and there were one or two three syllable words. Just wasn't in the mood for it last night. Given the beauty of the line you've cited last, I may give it another go, from the top.