Water Lilies by Jim Harris

I have just returned from Provence where one of the great pleasures for me is the range and quality of locally produced fish, meat, fruit and vegetables.I bought bundles of the large male courgette flowers from one of the ladies who has a morning stall in the main square in Vence and, with the help of others, stuffed them with farce from the local butchers and roasted them in olive oil in the oven. I fried slices of noix de veau with mushrooms and served them with fresh green beans and the litte rattes potatoes. I filleted 30 little Mediterranean sardines by hand, butterflied them, tossed them in seasoned flour and fried them. Another of our party poached wild scottish salmon one day and roasted on another day some loup de mer ( not sea bass in this case but a filet of an Atlantic monster called the wolffish). We had stewed apricots, bowls of peaches, wonderful pates. I might have roasted a chicken: the butchers all have the pricey but very tasty poulet fermier.But nothing can ...

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I doubt if anyone in the 1930s who protested about the pylons going up across the countryside to form the first National Grid imagined that the same battles would be fought more than 80 years later. Opposition to the first pylons was, in fact, quite muted. Electricity was then still a novelty for a large part of the population and it was the grid which would make it both cheaper and more widely dispersed. If you wanted electricity in your neck of the woods than you had to put up with pylons. They were a novelty then, too, symbolising what the poet Stephen Spender called " the quick perspective of the future. " Some saw in them a kind of grandeur.

When, in 1929,  there was huge controversy about the prospect of electricity pylons scarring the Sussex landscape the artist Eric Gill sent a letter to the Times: " I write not only as an artist but as a Sussex man–born and bred­–to whom love of the South Downs is as natural as it is enthusiastic. Anyone who has see the ...

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Reel History


I was enticed by excellent reviews to see the Canadian "art house" film  Meek's Cutoff  recently. It was one of the most tedious pieces of cinema I have ever endured without a beginning, an ending or a plot and featuring only two just about recognisable characters. The director, Kelly Reichardt , was quoted as saying she wanted to portray a different, feminine view of the great trek westwards in mid-nineteenth century America. Sure enough she has a heroine who challenges the macho trapper and guide Stephen Meek's crude and bloodthirsty attitudes towards Native Americans and attempts to bring some civility to the desperate lost wagon train that is the cast of the film.

In itself, the film made no sense at all. We just saw the three ox-drawn wagons rumbling over a barren landscape not at all sure where it was headed as their guide seemed to have lost his way. What they are short of is water. We have no idea where their food comes from or what it is. A lone Indian ...

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The Myth of the Baby Boomers

Gavin Weightman

I might as well inaugurate my Blog with a bee in my bonnet.  There has been an awful lot written in the past year about the "baby boom" generation born after the end of the war in 1945. Two books began a journalistic frenzy in which I, and few million others, are accused of indulging in a kind of unwitting exploitation of the nation's resources. Born in 1945 I am, according to the popular accounts currently in circulation, a "baby boomer". My contention is that I am not. The year I was born was not a bumper year for babies. Nor was 1948, or 49, or 50, or 51, or 52, or 53, or 54, or 55 or 56. Yet David Willetts author of The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers took their Childrens Future ( Atlantic 2010) and Francis Beckett who wrote What did the baby boomers ever do for us? ( Biteback 2010) believe they are baby boomers: Willetts was born in 1956 and Beckett in the same year as me. Whatever else the "baby boomer" debate is about it is predicated on the notion that there ...

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