Friday, 8 November 2013

Lest We Forget

One of the things I was surprised to miss last year was Remembrance Sunday and November 11th. So this year I thought we would do a little something this weekend. It’s not a lot but we feel it’s important to teach Isaac about it and what it means. I know this year he won’t really get it, but just to let him know what it’s about and that it is part of his culture and history. All his great-grandparents played a wide range of roles in WW2, serving soldiers, military soup kitchens, land army and making Mosquitoes for the RAF. His granddad Powell was in the army serving in Northern Ireland and Cyprus. I also do some work for a charity, The ReOrg Trust.  who work with veterans from the British Armed Services. We’re looking forward to teaching him about it and I hope he continues the interest in military history I have. We seemingly mark the day in Britain with more ceremony than France, although I’m not sure if that is due to the region we’re in.

The Correze had a very strong resistance presence during WW2 and you can find small monuments all over the countryside with two or three names on, marking where resistance fighters were found and shot on the spot. Sadly, like all villages across Europe, even a small place like Viam has a memorial with far too many names on it from WW1. Our nearest town, Bugeat, has a plaque on the hotel de ville (mayor’s office) listing the names of Jews from the town who were deported to concentration camps and never returned. Just outside Limoges is also the town of Oradour-Sur-Glane. A small town where, on the way up to fight back against the D-Day action, a SS division walked in one morning and killed everyone. Men were marched in the woods and shot, women and children locked in the church which was set on fire, grenades were thrown in and shot if they tried to escape. Perhaps the memory of WW2 is still too raw in a different way to the experiences of Britain and the Allies.
To mark it this year I have tried to explain to Isaac why he has a day off school on Monday (Nov 11th) and we coloured in a poppy. I have made one from craft foam to wear at rugby on Sunday which he “helped” with. 

 The button in the middle belonged to Michelle’s nanny Nellie who worked in the docks and lived in Southampton during the war which was very heavily bombed. It was also an important part of Britain in the run up to D-Day so I’m sure she would have seen the build up. I think he understood a little. I explained that war is bad because lots of people die and that “once upon a time” there was a very big war where lots of people died but in the place where they did, lots of poppies grew afterwards. So, we wear the poppy to remember them and the people who died/die in other wars all around the world. When asked why do we wear the poppy he replied “...because people died and we stopped the soldiers and things” I think he gets the idea if not exactly what it’s all for. We’re going to play the last post on Sunday so he can hear it and, like his daddy, he’s got quite a good memory for music. Hopefully this will help as well.

Unfortunately people are still dying in wars all over the world. Whatever your political stance is on involvement or non involvement, (By this I mean our choices on when and where to “intervene”)  I think you should still remember the men, women, children and animals who die in them. My hope is that one day we (the human race) will look back and learn from our mistakes. It is only by reminding future generations of what it has cost us can we achieve this. In many ways war destroys lives including those who survive them. We will take Sunday and Monday this year as an opportunity to think about those who died for our freedom, those who continue to die for “other reasons” and those who survive.

Please check out the ReOrg Trust Contact them if you can help or if you/anyone you know could benefit from their unique service. They do fantastic work, here's their a bit from the website explaining, far better than I can, what they do.
The Re-Org Trust provides servicemen and veterans the opportunity to experience sustainable living. Unlock your military skills with “Fresh Air Therapy”. Our Mission is to provide assistance to both current and former Service Personnel who, for whatever reason, may be in need of “support through transition” helping them to re-adjust and resettle into the wider community. The Re-Org can address the issues surrounding homelessness, mental health, offending behaviour and drug/alcohol misuse whilst giving new skills and opportunities.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Bread. Bread. Bread. And one mention of beer!

Although we went off track a little this summer, we make all (well, nearly all, this is France after all and the boulangerie is only 5min down the road!) our own bread. This autumn sees the return of a favourite of ours, sourdough. This can be the ultimate in thrifty bakery as you only need to buy flour because the yeast comes from the air around you. This also means that everyone’s is slightly different as the mix of microbes in the air varies a great deal place to place, year to year, season to season, even room to room. The principle is exactly the same as shop bought yeast. They use the sugars in the ingredients (flour, sugar, honey etc depending on your recipe) as food and produce carbon dioxide as a waste product which, if you have gluten and have kneaded your dough properly, makes your bread rise. Being wild, the yeast in a sourdough isn’t as controlled as shop bought and produces a whole load of other chemicals as well. Mostly weak acids which account for the sour taste of the bread. Incidentally this is also how Belgian brewers make lambic beers. In Brussels, the Cantillon brewery simply open the windows to start the fermentation of their beer. The resulting beer is amazing, especially after they then age it in barrels with fruit.
So how do you make it? It’s very simple. We use the instructions laid out in the River Cottage Bread book (As with all River Cottage stuff I can’t recommend it enough). Get yourself something to keep it in. We got an earthenware jar from the local charity shop.
 Mix 150g flour (wholemeal is best as it contains more food for your new pets) with 250ml warm water, beat it and leave until it bubbles and starts to smell. This will take about a week, depending on conditions. After this put the same flour/water mix in again. This is now a daily/every other day task. Take half your mix and put in your bread recipe instead of yeast. Feed it again with the flour/water mix. Done!

Your bread will take longer to rise but this actually makes it easier to fit in to your daily routine as you can leave it nearly all day to do its thing. A simple method is to knock up a “sponge” the night before. Half your recipes flour, all the liquid and one or two ladles of your sourdough mix. In the morning before work/school etc add the rest of your flour the salt and the extras (fruit, nuts, fat seeds etc) Knead. Leave to rise. Knock back and rise again as many times as you have time for. (At work all day? Leave it somewhere slightly cooler and leave to rise until you get back.) Prove. Bake. Cool. Eat.
Your starter can be added to any recipe containing flour and liquid. We’ve put in pancake batter, scones, cake. Next time we have Yorkshire pudding/toad in the hole it’s going in that too. It’s better if you can leave it for a bit for the yeasts to ferment a bit. We make our pancake batter the night before for example. But if you don’t have time to do this it will still add to the flavour and make your chosen cake/scone/crumble taste better.

You can give a starter to a friend as a present. A couple of ladles of yours in a nice jar with some instructions would make a different pressie for someone.