A Year on the Mansfield Road: Winter

Smell of Vicks. Smear of sleet.

Tedium of wheels. Turn up heat.

Roadworks. Standstill. A38.

Belper, Coxbench, Brackley Gate.

Black road blurring through the rain.

Red rear lights on northbound lane.

Southbound, white headlights streaming.

Wipers beat, wet road gleaming.

Southbound white, northbound red.

Thousands of cars. The road ahead.

Due caution. Speed cameras. Give way to the right.

Bantering school kids wait for the light.

The lights turn green, the lights turn red.

Mansfield, Newark, Ravenshead.

Come away mum, he was too young to die.

Wind turbines turning in the wintry sky.

Hands on the wheel. Eyes on the road.

Eddie Stobart, Knights of Old,

James Wilby Deliveries, Lynx, Great Bear.

Exhaust fumes rise in the clear air.

Tossed on the wind, the seagulls flying.

Blue light flashing, siren crying.

Fling down the flowers. He was too young to die.

Wind turbines turning in the fog-bound sky.

A Year on the Mansfield Road: Autumn

A38 down Abbey Hill.

Ripley, Heanor, Langley Mill.

Frosty trees. The morning star.

Fly-tip sofa. Abandoned car.

Blue lights flashing, siren’s wail.

UPS, Hermes, Royal Mail.

Flowers on that lamp post. He was too young to die.

Wind turbines turning in the cloudy sky.

Rose hip, red hawthorn, bramble, pine.

Sutton in Ashfield, A619.

Too young to die but now he’s dead.

Hands on the wheel. Eyes ahead.

Merge in turn. Give way to right.

Young mums with pushchairs wait for the light.

The lights turn green, the lights turn red.

Hucknall, Newark, Ravenshead.

High above, the storm gulls fly.

Wind turbines turning in the autumn sky.

A Year on the Mansfield Road: Summer

Horsley Woodhouse, Heage and Shipley

Alfreton, Somercotes and Ripley.

Pinxton cranes gleam in the sun.

Mansfield, Chesterfield, A61.

Flowers on that lamp post. Cars go by.

Wind turbines turning in the blue sky.

Soft summer verges, hot and hazy.

Red poppy, blue cornflower, oxeye daisy.

Windows open, engines roar.

Skegby, Holllinwell, B6014.

In among the teasels, the finches fly.

Wind turbines turning in the summer sky.

F IS FOR FAINT FOOTPRINTS

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Daffodils and aconites on the rec. , Cowley Street, Derby

Yes, here is the Golden Age has not quite vanished.

Here are the last, faint footprints of the Goddess …

(Publius Vergilius Maro, writing between 70 and 15 BC, loosely translated by M. E. Rose)

 

R IS FOR RHUBARB CAKE WITH MASCARPONE FILLING

Rhubarb is a surprisingly good cake ingredient.  There are many recipes for rhubarb cake but this one is the simplest.  It is made in a rather old-fashioned way, but sometimes, the old ways are the best.  

RHUBARB CAKE WITH MASCARPONE FILLING

Before you start…

Take 3 large eggs and weigh them in their shells.  Whatever their weight it, you need that amount of butter, sugar and flour.

Ingredients

  • Eggs, 3 large
  • Butter, see above. It must at room temperature and soft.
  • Sugar, see above
  • Self-raising flour, see above
  • baking powder, 1 tsp
  • Rhubarb, about 3 sticks
  • Mascarpone, 125g (half of a 250g tub)
  • Icing sugar for dusting

You will need 2 x round cake tins 18 cm or 7 1/2 inches

 To make

  1. Heat oven to 180/350 or Gas Mark 4.
  2. Grease the cake tins and line with grease proof paper.
  3. Chop the rhubarb into pieces about the length and width of your little finger.
  4. Weigh out the ingredients, as described above.
  5. Cream the butter and sugar together, until the mix is light and fluffy.
  6. Add the eggs one by one, beating well after each egg.
  7. Sift the flour and baking powder together, and gently fold in to the mix with a large metal spoon.
  8. Put the mix into the two tins and scatter equal amounts of rhubarb pieces on top of each, enough to cover in a single layer. The rhubarb sinks into the mix as it cooks.
  9. Put in the oven and cook for about 25 minutes, until the cake feels firm to the touch.
  10. Remove from the oven, allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes.  Then carefully turn out onto a wire wrack and peel off the greaseproof paper.
  11. When cool, spread the mascarpone in the middle, sandwich together and dust with icing sugar.

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A word to the wise: this cake will be eaten very quickly!

A IS FOR ALDER

Alder cone & immature catkin2
Alder, or to give it its botanical name, alnus glutinosa

A very lovely elderly lady I used to garden for, had a stand of five alder trees at the bottom of her garden, next to a brook.  She called them her guardians, and there is indeed something solid and reassuring about this tree.

Alder binds up river-banks.  Like willow, it flourishes naturally  by the edge of rivers, with its roots in the water.   This preference of the the wild tree can exploited by planting alder along river banks to prevent the erosion.

Alder has an ancient reproductive system , harking back to a time before angiosperms. Like hazel and birch, it has catkins, but alder is the only broad-leaved deciduous tree to have cones as well.  You can see them on the photo above, persisting from last year, along with the unopened catkins and the young cones.  In the late-winter sunlight, alder trees have a purplish haze to them, because they are covered with purple catkins.

 

Alder catkin

The catkins are the male part of the alder’s reproductive system.  They are produced in the winter, and as mentioned before are a purplish brown.  In the early spring they become long and dangly and are full of yellow pollen which is dispersed by the wind.  The female parts are the little nubbly structures which you can see in this photo.  They will be fertilised by the wind-blown pollen from the catkins and will swell into cones.

You can understand what D.H. Lawrence was banging on about in ‘Women in love’: trees are surprisingly sexual.

And here is a bit of local lore: alders can form alder carr, which is a dense thicket or stand of alder, usually small in height, growing on wet swampy soils.  And Aldercar is an old area of what is now a joint parish with Langley Mill, just north of Derby.

Our history is in our place names.

G IS FOR GREASY JOAN

Here’s a poem  written by Shakespeare, one winter 400 years ago.

WINTER

When icicles hang by the wall,

And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,

And Tom bears logs into the hall,

And milk comes frozen home in pail;

When blood is nipped and ways be foul,

Then nightly sings the staring owl,

Tu-whit, tu-who! a merry note,

While greasy Joan doth keep the pot.

 

When all aloud the wind doth blow

And coughing drowns the parson’s saw,

And birds sit brooding in the snow,

And Marian’s nose looks red and raw,

When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,

Then nightly signs the staring owl,

Tu-whit, tu-who! a merry note,

While greasy Joan doth keep the pot.