Saturday, October 18, 2008

Vive le vin!

My mother accused me of being a boozer. I don't think so, but I do enjoy a glass of wine with dinner - it's so civilized. So I cannot resist sharing a few quotes about wine. Music, poetry, and wine - plus a little gooey French cheese - what more could one ask?

I am currently reading I'll Drink To That: Beaujolais and the French Peasant Who Made It the World's Most Popular Wine by Rudolph Chelminski. Near the beginning of the book, Chelminski offers a short history of wine and its health-giving qualities. He mentions Dr. Guyot (1807-72) who wrote a massive study on the French wine industry. He recommends that a family of four (mother, father, and two children) drink at least 1500 liters of wine a year - that averages out to almost 1.5 US quarts per day per individual, children included. He goes on to quote a twentieth century maxim: "vegetables make merde, meat makes meat, wine makes blood."

And a few quotes from

"Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing."
Ernest Hemingway Death in the Afternoon

"If God forbade drinking, would He have made wine so good?"
Cardinal Richeleu

"They are not long, the days of wine and roses;
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream."
Ernest Dowson 1867 - 1900
Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam [1896]

"How simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. . . . All that is required to feel that here and now is happiness is a simple, frugal heart."
Nikos Kazantzakis 1883 - 1957
Zorba the Greek [1946], ch. 7

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Fields and Flowers

Finally, some photos from Shaftesbury - heritage apples and flowers from the Abbey gardens and then a view from top of the hill down to the neatly-hedged fields that are so quintessentially English. There is also a photo of fuschia, which were blooming everywhere in August.

Pubs and Houses

Just two images of British architecture. First, a pub sign in Salisbury. And secondly, barley twist columns decorating a former merchant's house in King's Lynn.

Janet and Richard's house is near the village of Fosdyke, near Spalding, Lincolnshire. The house is one of 4 almshouses that were built in 1615. There is a jewel of a garden that is very British - lavender bushes border the path, and roses and clematis frame the windows. Beyond the garden there are fields of wheat and large expanses of sky. The houses were enlarged and doubled in size in the 1980s but maintain the heritage appearance.

Lincolnshire Fens

I spent 2 weeks in Lincolnshire and was surprised by how flat it was. But the scenery grows on you, and I really enjoyed my walks on the sea walls. Here is the River Welland at low tide on a foggy morning. Then there's a photo of cabbages - fields of flowers in the spring might be more attractive, but the cabbage leaves with their intricate tracery are also beautiful. And then there's a fine herd of Highland cattle.

Garden of Surprises

The Verity clan had a family outing to Burghley Park's Garden of Surprises on my last weekend in England. Burghley Park is near Stamford, a lovely old stone town. The grounds of Burghley Park are large and inviting with tall trees, a lake and a stream - and an amazing variety of sculptures in unexpected places - globes fishing in the lake, masks on cliff tops, and human figures running along the bough of a tree. There is also a water garden for the children with water fountains and streams in all sorts of creative combinations.

Photos of England - Family and Friends

I have been asked to post more of my photos from my recent trip to England. So here we are.

Family and Friends John Bound's wife went to university with my father. They were wonderful hosts to all of the McKinlays over the years. John has recently made a number of trips to Canada so we've had an opportunity to return his hospitality.
Sheila and Peter Walker were in Africa with Mum and Dad, and Sheila went with Mum to Dar es Salaam to wait for me to be born. When I visited this summer, she pulled out letters she'd written to her mother at that time. There were wonderful descriptions of the wedding dinner they hosted when Allison and Brad got married as well as serving as a reminder that baby Penny cried every afternoon from 3 to 4.
Frances and Emma are Janet and Richard's daughters and my second cousins. Adam is the most recent addition to the Verity clan and much loved by the whole family.
Janet is my cousin. She and her husband Richard have known me for years. Richard says I was very moody when I was 16. I remember them introducing me to the delights of Indian curry.

Life in the Undergrowth

I have been thoroughly enjoying David Attenborough's 2005 television series about insects. There is so much diversity and complexity on such a small scale. And they have found some ingenious ways to not only survive but to thrive.

There is a blue, European butterfly that lays its eggs on the gentian flower. The eggs hatch and form larvae that smell and sound like ant larvae. So the ants haul the larvae off to their underground nest where they feed them and care for them.

But that isn't the end of the story. There is a wasp that is able to detect which ant nests contain butterfly larvae. They crawl down the tunnel to the nest and release a pheromone that overwhelms the ants so that they start attacking each other. While the ants are preoccupied, the wasp injects the butterfly larvae with its eggs. The wasp leaves, and the ants continue to care for the larvae as they develop into chrysalis.

Eventually the chrysalis splits open. And sometimes it is a butterfly that emerges, crawls above ground, dries out its wings, and begins to fly. But other times it's a wasp.

Nearly the entire life of an insect is dominated by a powerful urge to reproduce. Sometimes their lives are very, very short - as is the case with mayflies who live only a few hours, just long enough hopefully to mate. And, on other occasions, insects like the butterfly and wasp find creative ways to ensure that their eggs will survive.