The Korean War – a little bit of family history

I came from a mother who nursed in the army

Korean War, Singapore

Raffles Hotel, The Officers’ Mess

Tweed perfume and evening dress

 

Some who know me will be aware that I am in the process of writing a novel, the meticulously researched backdrop for which is the The Korean War, which was the first armed conflict of the Cold War. An astonishing fact: the British Army lost more men in Korea than the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan combined and yet many people today have barely any knowledge of it – little wonder that it has been referred to as The Forgotten War.

My interest is personal – my parents met during this time when both were in the army. My mother was an officer in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps – QARANCs. Initially stationed in Kure, Japan she was later posted to Singapore. Her photograph albums document the period from 1952 to 1954 and contain many souvenirs in addition to her treasured photographs. I’d like to share a few of these. About half way through her albums photographs of my father start to appear (before they began courting). It looks as though she may have taken the photo of him below without his knowledge, don’t you think? Smitten before he knew!

All sorts of mementos were collected: the labels from drinks bottles, tram and bus tickets and menus.

My favourite is the menu from the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore where my parents dined on 31st December 1953.

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QARANCs were granted commissioned  officer status and the rank of Lieutenant. My mother is the one in the darker uniform

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Hours of work were long but there was still time to enjoy the sights and play tennis (or in the picture below, to umpire)!

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During my research I have read numerous books on army life during the Korean War, and was pleased to see in one, reference to The Belles & Beaus hockey match which took place on Boxing Day 1952 at the BCGH (hospital)  in Kure. My mother was one of the Belles but unfortunately the photograph which gives evidence to this is now badly faded. In later years she gave talks to women’s groups such as the WI about her time in the army. I remember looking through her albums and being interested in the pictures of kimono-clad Japanese women but it is one of my greatest regrets that I did not show more interest in her experiences. In my book I have used some of the tales my parents recounted but I have so many questions which will sadly never be answered.

The main source of entertainment for officers on the hospital site would have been the social events and formal dinners which took place in The Officers’ Mess. I recall snippets of information as, when very young,  I sometimes accompanied my mother to her talks. This picture, with her seated on the far left of the picture, shows a Christmas meal in 1952.

Xmas Party Wo Sang - 1952

My short poem above refers to Tweed perfume and evening dress. When ever my parents went out my mother smelt of Tweed – such an old fashioned perfume now but back then it seemed the height of sophistication along with her deep pink lipstick.   My father liked to her wear Tweed because it reminded him of when they first met. When I was about seven years old she took me to a dressmaker along with one of her beautiful evening dresses which were kept in a metal trunk. Covered in travel labels, this had been the trunk which had accompanied her in her army days. A silky pale green brocade  formed the underneath part of the dress in question and over the top was a deeper greenish-bronze organza. I cannot imagine that by then she had any cause to wear such a dress so each of the luxurious fabrics were made into a party dress for her little girl. Unfortunately I can find no photographs of me wearing either, and I have no idea what happened to the rest of her dresses.

I’m unsure if this was taken in Kure or Singapore but here is my mother wearing one of her lovely evening dresses. I don’t believe my waist was ever that tiny!

Japan X

I have hundreds of photographs similar to those below and I have donated a number of images to Japan’s Kure City Hall Historical Collection. I’m delighted to report that, following an appeal I made for background minutiae some time ago on the ‘Memories of Kure’ website, just last week I was contacted by a gentleman from Queensland, Australia who has very kindly and generously  transcribed many of his handwritten notes from the time and emailed them to me. I am both touched and thrilled to have received this first hand account and will, undoubtedly, incorporate some of his memories into my story.

Postscript:  I have just discovered that my gentleman from Queensland is in fact rather more well known that he’d have had me believe! Mr Ron Callander -author, playwright, poet and journalist has written many articles and television scripts, and has received several awards for his writing.  Furthermore, he has served as State Secretary of the Australian Radio Television and Screen Writers’ Guild and Committee Member of the Fellowship of Australian Writers. How lucky am I that he saw my appeal for information!

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Updates: August food challenge and the new job

 

Regular readers will remember that I decided to challenge myself to try at least two new recipes each week during August. In week!

Week 1 coincided with my starting a new job and although it’s only sixteen hours a week, I arrived home mentally exhausted. Not that I’m using that as an excuse for not meeting my target – I did, but you might have been expecting something a bit more complex than soup and bread.

The minted pea soup was made using a recipe from Margaret, one of my favourite blog writers. I already had the ingredients (petit pois – I always buy these rather than regular frozen peas,  potato,  onion, stock cube  and mint concentrate) so didn’t need to buy anything specially.  Although I’ve eaten pea soup, I’ve never before made any.  I like my soup thick and with texture but it could easily have been made thinner by adding more liquid and smoother by blending for longer.

The rustic-looking rosemary and seed loaf recipe came from a Sunday Newspaper supplement torn out months ago with the intention of making it that weekend. It didn’t happen at the time but I thought it would be the perfect accompaniment to the soup. The recipe called for a tablespoon of rosemary (I added two since it is one of my favourite herbs) and 80g of mixed seeds). Made with oats and yogurt, it is quite dense with a scone-like texture (though not crumbly). It was very filling. I experimented with freezing a couple of slices and defrosting today, a week later. It was fine.  I will also add that it tasted very good when spread with crunchy peanut butter (but please don’t tell my Slimming World consultant!)

Both the bread and soup were very tasty and I will definitely make them again even though Husband wasn’t keen on either! Unsurprisingly he was quite happy with the lemon cake I made!

I think that the new job will be fine; I’ve gone back into HR. It’s a branch of an international freight company and everyone is very friendly. The systems and processes are different to those I used to in the past but I’m getting there. There are a lot of advantages over my previous job.  Most of all it’s really nice to do my job sitting down! My ankles and knees were very uncomfortable after standing for several hours in the shop. Add to that – no more climbing of 42 stairs dozens of times a day, working only three mornings a week with no Saturdays,  and that there are no screaming children (some upset, others  undisciplined) to contend with – it was a good decision, a very good one!

 

In defence (or celebration) of the dropped ‘t’

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Gallimaufry. Did you wonder when you read my post the other day from whence came that peculiar word?  As an ex student of linguistics, which relates to the scientific study of language and its structure, I love all things word related and enjoy discovering their origins; it is nothing less than delightful to discover a new word.  There are, of course, a great many words in our language that are rarely used. Who, for example, ever describes someone as magniloquent? And yet we probably all know someone who perfectly fits the description. For your information it relates to someone who uses high-flown or bombastic language. Haha, I am probably leaving myself open to accusations of exactly that by writing this post!

To condense several centuries of linguistic history into a sentence – the spoken word in Britain as we know it today is derived from a combination of Celtic, Germanic (from the Anglo-Frisian dialects of the 5th century), Latin (thanks to the Romans), and French, (courtesy of the Normans). And, of course, each of these has its own, sometimes complex, origins. No wonder we have such a rich and varied language. I believe that we should celebrate this diversity rather than condemn those who use alternative turns of phrase or pronounce words differently to how we, as individuals, do.

What people refer to as the correct form of English is in fact a relatively modern version officially known as Standard English (grammar and vocabulary) and is closely intertwined with ‘Received Pronunciation’ which is an accent and considered by some to be the ‘correct’ way of pronouncing words.  It may surprise you to know that Standard English is in fact a minority version of English, spoken by less than 15% of the population. Even more astonishing is that only 3% use RP  and yet its demise is something most of us will have heard bemoaned by those who consider it superior. Why is it that a soft Dublin accent is thought attractive but a Brummie or cockney one just the opposite, when each is simply a variation of that standard?

Although there is a need for a prescriptive convention for the written word, the now defunct Queen’s English Society (which railed against what they considered to be a deteriorating standard and ceased to exist in 2012), incorrectly believed that there should also be a single way of pronouncing words but do we really want accents to disappear?  I don’t.  I enjoy the gradual softening of vowels as I travel from the centre of the Midlands closer and closer to the South West. And when I visit my family in Ireland I would hate to find that the accent I love had given way to the harsher, clipped consonants of RP.  The glottalisation (or dropping) of  the ‘t’ sound in ‘water’ is not lazy or wrong; it is simply a feature of a different accent, not an inferior one, and as such is no less valid. Indeed, it is a common feature of many other languages.

Language is a constantly changing entity; new words are absorbed, older ones fall out of fashion. With regard to accent, some object to the ‘Eastenders factor’ and television has, of course, had a marked effect on the way in which accents have spread. Both the unique vocabularies and accents of different regions are now less bound as we become an increasingly mobile and culturally diverse population. People travel to work in difefrent areas and students often do not return to their home town after university – these factors will continue to affect how we speak.

David Crystal, author of more than a hundred academic books on the English language has produced, in conjunction with his actor son, Ben, a wholly accessible, non-academic tome on this very subject. Described as ‘a celebration of the myriad ways in which the English language is spoken’, You say potato is a brilliantly entertaining book which, very much more eloquently than I, reinforces the delight of accents.

‘Gallimaufry’, by the way, derives from the archaic French word galimafrée, meaning an unappetising dish. You might have found this post defending accents exactly that, but as you may deduce from these pictures of one of my bookshelves, it is a subject about which I am passionate.

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Fabian Perez

A totally self-indulgent post about something which brings me great pleasure (but which I shall sadly never own – lottery win notwithstanding!)

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Perhaps we all have a favourite artist, one on whose work we would spend our lottery win.  Despite my liking for light, airy rooms, I imagine a large dark oak pannelled study where I would fill the walls with the paintings of Fabian Perez. Included would be the one above: Marina with red light.

Perez - Saba on the balcony in a black dress

The inspiration for many of the paintings of Argentinean artist Fabian Perez come from his unconventional upbringing and his memories of his the brothels and nightclubs owned by his father. It is the powerful sensuality in Perez’s paintings that has captivated me. I love the contrast of sombre tones and rich reds that he uses (it is rare to see blues or greens in his work). Working mainly in acrylics, Perez claims that the darkness of colour is intended to give an impressions only. The atmospheric haziness of some of his subjects lends weight to the mood.

Perez Lettizia

Official artist to both the 2010 Winter Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics, Perez has achieved international acclaim for his work and, having been fortunate enough to have seen exhibitions of his paintings, I can understand the oft-made comparisons between his work and that of both Lautrec and modern Scottish painter, Jack Vettriano, despite the fact that these two quite significantly differ from each other  in style.

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I have also attended a couple of public discussions regarding the likeness to Vettriano. Some disagree vehemently whist others, quite reasonably, point out the similarities in individual pictures. For me, with a few exceptions, Vettriano’s work is flatter, more simple and contains little of the emotion that permeates the paintings of Perez. The artist himself has commented on the resemblance to some of Lautrec’s work, saying that he is flattered by such comparison and recognises a similarity in the slight humour in some of their paintings.

Whilst I admire the seductiveness of many of his paintings, my personal preference is for Perez’s series of Flamenco paintings where is able to bring the dancers alive with the energy and movement he manages to incorporate in his paintings. he is an extremely prolific painter with an obvious love of the female form. If you’ve enjoyed these, just Google ‘Perez paintings images’ to see dozens more.

Perez Gitania

Perez 3

 

 

 

A confused jumble or medley of things

Today’s post is a gallimaufry. I shall explain. It means ‘a confused jumble or medley of things’. If you already knew that, forgive me for assuming that you may not have done. I didn’t – at least not until I recently read a post on one of my favourite blogs. Which only goes to prove that, in order to expand one’s vocabulary, studying English Language is no substitute for reading an excellent blog!

First up is the dreaded weight subject …though, not quite so dreadful as it might have been. Regular readers (and there are now around 60 a day, which is fabulous) may remember that I gained 2.5lb on my holidays. Well, at the next weigh in I had lost FOUR pounds! The following week I stayed the same but am trying hard again this week. I will be weighing in again on Thursday this week. I’ve been out for lunch today with my gym friends. There were eleven of us and several chose a starter in addition to their main course. I feel rather virtuous to report that I was not one of them. My salad topped with poached pear, goats cheese and quinoa was delicious. I’ve eaten quinoa several times in restaurants and enjoyed it, but when I recently cooked some at home, it was horrible. I wonder if perhaps I didn’t cook it for long enough.

Favourite TV dramas

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Have you been watching Poldark on TV? I’ve really enjoyed it and will be sorry to see it finish next Sunday but I’m pleased that a fourth series (which will cover books 5 and 6 of Winston Graham’s series) has been commissioned. Filming begins in a few weeks time. Since the series contains twelve books, one can hope that filming will continue for a while yet. One of the things I really like about Autumn (apart from the wonderful earthy smell in the air, the vivid colours as the leaves change and the fact that it’s time to wear boots again) is that both BBC and ITV usually offer a few good drama series. A second series of Doctor Foster with the brilliant Suranne Jones (one of my favourite actresses) was filmed last Autumn but I can find no information on when it will be shown. Another drama that I enjoyed was The A Word which centered around a young boy with Asperger’s syndrome. Set in the beautiful Lake District, the second series has recently been filmed. I know this for sure because my brother was one of the on-site lighting electricians. He gets to meet some interesting people in his work and sent me a photograph of himself lunching with the female star, Morven Christie (the pregnant one in The Replacement). I am really hoping that Happy Valley will return too but understand that a third series is yet to be written. Since I am a fan of Sarah Lancashire, I’d also love to see another series of Last Tango in Halifax but can find no information to suggest that this will happen.

Something else that I mentioned on an earlier post is that I was looking for an August food challenge. I am undertaking to cook a minimum of two new recipes a week and have come up with a not-so-shortlist of around fifty potential recipes. When you have been feeding people for more than forty years, cooking something completely different is not easy, so I’m sure to have made something not too dissimilar from each recipe. Nevertheless I’m looking forward to seeing how they turn out. I’ll update you as and when.

Talking of cooking – we were given some plums at the weekend. Using a dozen of them in place of the apples in my favourite apple cake recipe (with a couple of ounces of ground almonds to counteract their wetter consistency) I was rewarded with an incredibly moist and very tasty cake. I had to try a very tiny slice of course, just to check that it’s edible! Husband loves it. I think I shall be making it again.
I start my new job tomorrow and  I’m very glad to see that the dress code is smart casual since that is mostly what I have nowadays! I can just about scrape a couple of business outfits together if needs must. Many years ago a manager told me that one should never decide whether they like a job or not until they had done it for three months. I’ll report back in November!

The school holiday period means that some of my spare time is taken up with grandchildren. I already look after my two baby grandsons (10 months and 2 years) one day a week but during holidays also help out with my two granddaughters (12 years and 6 years) when I can. Last week, along with my daughter-in-law, I took the girls plus my 10 year old grandson (that’s the lot – all five now accounted for) to a new play centre that has opened in town. Whilst it’s not the kind of place in which I’d actually choose to spend several hours, it was a definite hit with the children. Not only does it have a large soft-play area but there are mock-ups of several shops for imaginative play, a Lego room, a ‘messy-play’ room, merry-go-round and dodgem cars. The concept is wonderful and I’d have liked something like that when my children were young. It was expensive though so our next outing is more likely to be a picnic in the park!

And finally…I received a very special gift this morning. My granddaughter proudly handed me a bookmark she had made specially for me.

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I’m off now to pack my bag for tomorrow.

My scented garden

Before I begin this post I’d like to leave a message for owners of Blogspot Blogs which I comment on. For some reason I am no longer able to do so. I keep getting the message saying that my credentials cannot be verified. I hope to sort this out soon.

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What do you think of these gorgeous lilies? I love both their appearance and their divine scent. This one reaches around five feet in height and stands at the side of my front door. A single bulb, last year it sported just a couple of flowers but this year there are at least thirty flower heads. More lilies grow next to the French doors at the back of the house, close to the sweet peas which are doing well, but nowhere near as well as a couple of years ago when we were picking large bunches daily. So far this year we have picked three small bunches. I much prefer to see them in the garden but regular picking is the way to get a good display. Ironic, isn’t it?

For years I have had in my garden a robust climbing rose called Madame Gregoire Staechelin….at least, I thought I did!  It’s glossy green leaves contrast beautifully with the fragrant creamy white blooms. Before writing this post I wanted to check the spelling so turned to Google and there it was, Mme. GS on the RHS website – a lovely PINK rose! Well, they’ve got that wrong, I thought. I looked at other sites. and discovered that, needless to say, the RHS know what they’re talking about: Mme. GS is indeed a pink rose and it seems that the flowers on this particular rose give way to ‘attractive hips in autumn’. Not in my garden it doesn’t! Time to turn detective. A trawl around the internet leads me to belive that my rose is, in fact, Madame Alfred Carriere. I’ve been duped!

Indian Summer rose

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Indian Summer is the most fragrant of my roses. Strongly scented, it is a delicate shade of a creamy peach. Alongside other roses it lines the path to my front door. Beautiful Britain has a far more subtle scent but its vibrant vermillion/orange with shades of gold outstrips Indian Summer for colour and its abundant blooms outdo most others in my garden (except for Starlight Express which I’ve mentioned in a previous post).

Beautiful Britain

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In between the roses in the front garden are lavender bushes. Lavender is reputed to drive away aphids. It seems to work as we have very few. Unfortunately this means we also get few ladybirds since they like to feed on the aphids. Nevertheless, for the benefit of the roses, I can do without the ladybirds. I’ve sometimes dried the lavender heads and used them as a pot-pouri. Having recently found a recipe for lavender shortbread, I wondered whether my varieties (Munstead and Hidcote) could be used. The recipe calls for ‘culinary lavender’ but I found this information:  “Though most varieties of lavender can be used in cooking, some varieties are more widely used, including Lavandula angustifolia, particularly the “Munstead” cultivar. These lavenders have the sweetest fragrance among all species of lavender, which creates flavor in cooking”.  I think I’ll give it a go.

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Another favourite floral scent is lilac. I have a large and abundant purple lilac but sadly it flowers for such a short time.  Finally, the scent of honeysuckle is quite beautiful especially on a warm summer evening, even if its growing habit is somewhat untidy.

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I really like to grow Lily of the Valley but, despite several attempts, success eludes me. Our clay soil is quite heavy and I thought this might be the cause but according to Alan Tichmarsh  it is happy in a clay soil and has no preference for acid or alkaline conditions. Maybe next year.

AlthoughI refer to my garden and what I grow in it, it’s only fair that I own up to the fact that it’s not me who maintains it. Husband is the one who does the work, and it’s thanks to him that dinner this evening included this year’s first runner beans. Freshly picked, they were delicious.

Blackwell Arts & Crafts House

 

Blackwell July 2017

We recently visited Blackwell, a Grade 1 listed building close to the shore of Lake Windermere and overlooking the Coniston Fells.  Designed by the architect Baillie Scott, it was built in 1900 as a holiday home for the wealthy Holt family. Imagine – a holiday home of these proportions! As if that wasn’t enough, the family also owned a 45 foot steam yacht.

Many will be familiar with the colourful  designs of William Morris. Along with social reformer John Ruskin he was a leading light in the influential Arts & Crafts movement which, as a backlash against the increasing effect of machines, advocated using local materials and traditional building methods with the aim of creating buildings that were harmonious with the surrounding landscape.  Baillie Scott  was hugely influenced by these two and it was he who was responsible not only for the design of the house but also the furniture, wall coverings and fabrics.

The Main Hall

Main hall

Unfortunately, whilst Blackwell retains many original features like leaf-shaped door handles, carved wooden panels and spectacular stained glass windows,  none of the original furniture or artefacts remains. The house, however, offers a few classic pieces from the period, some designed by Baillie Scott himself.

A beautifully carved frieze runs around the Main Hall

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Four window panels. Unfortunately the day was overcast but imagine the sun streaming through and the colourful reflections on the plain walls opposite.

Window panels

Typical period designs may be seen on chinaware, a rug and a chair back 
Various Blackwell

This canvas stretches the entire length of the dining room wall (and the dining room would house the entire ground floor of my house!)Wall canvas

It was an enjoyable visit in terms of architectural interest but disappointing in that the rooms were very sparsely furnished and gave little idea of how they would have been presented at the time.   If this is a period you like, visit The National Trust’s Coleton Fishacre in Devon for a better representation.