Sunday, 26 October 2014

Exotic Packaging: Romanian Wine

The other week was a positive social whirl. On the Thursday we went to see the fabulous Stacey Kent and her band at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, and on Friday we were out for dinner with friends.

Not in bed before midnight two nights running. Pretty hard going for people who like to go to bed at about 9.

Anyway, it seems that our friends have a lovely Romanian cleaning lady who brought them a bottle of wine the last time she went home on holiday.

I've got to admit I'm not the sort of person to be attracted by crazy-shaped bottles of alcohol. I've never bought one of those Italy-shaped bottles of limoncello; every second shop in Venice (and no doubt many other places in Italy) sells these bottles but I don't think I know anyone who has bought one.

And when completely different friends bought a bottle of liqueur shaped like an Easter Island statue I was a bit gobsmacked. I can't remember now if they ever dared taste the contents. Which might be terribly good for all I know but I'm not sure I could fancy it.

Call me terribly dull, but basically I prefer my drink from a bottle-shaped bottle. I suspect that Friday evening friends feel pretty much the same way.

Call me extra dull but I don't want bottle of drink with worms or snakes in, or made from lizards or baby mice. Or seagulls. Really? Seagulls? Let's have alcohol made with fruit or grains and leave the protein out.

However, the Friday night friends asked if I would be interested to try this bottle of white wine masquerading as a lady wearing Moldovan national dress. And being, I hope, a polite guest I said yes of course. Why not?

And you know what? Properly chilled it wasn't half bad. Not as dry as I would usually drink; it is labelled demidulce after all, which I suppose must mean semi-sweet and I guess that's what it is.

The traminer grape is (I read online) grown extensively in Austria but also in Moldova, where this wine was made. And the Garling Collection seems to have a variety of interesting bottles for their products. I was very taken with the violin-shaped bottles. I gather that the violin is the national musical instrument of Moldova.

Do you suppose the UK has a national musical instrument? I have never heard of such a thing before.

Anyway, all the wine was drunk. Which has got be be a good thing as I don't think our friends would like to offend their cleaning lady.

Plus, we got home made soup for dinner. And you can't beat a good home made soup.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Tree Identification № 3: Tulip Tree

The Tulip Tree, Liriodendron tulipifera (what a great name: it means lily tree producing tulips) is a handsome tree native to the Eastern United States. Or maybe South Eastern Canada to mid-western USA. Books tell you different things. So you don't get that many in North London. We have a little group near where I live which have grown very tall and straight (Tulip Trees can grow up to 36m) and when I have been to look, the flowers seem to be mostly right at the top. Obscured by the plentiful glossy leaves.

The saddle-shaped leaves are pretty unusual so definitely worth a look, and the butter yellow autumn colour is lovely, but this tree is really notable for its beautiful green and orange flowers. If you need a pair of binoculars or a camera with a long lens to see the flowers properly it's a real shame because they are stunning.

So I was thrilled when by chance I found a Tulip Tree in the garden of a local pub. It looks as though it was planted underneath an existing tree so that it has grown rather low and sort of sideways in an attempt to reach the light. And because the tree grows so low you can get a really great look at the flowers. As luck would have it the tree was in full flower when we went for a drink.

Luckily I had a camera with me. Well, you never know when you are going to need one.

Of course, if you are a real expert (which I'm not) you can tell a tree from the bark and buds when there are no leaves at all. Although you can often cheat by looking under the tree. Fallen leaves frequently lie around for longer than you might think (especially if there is a shrub or hedge to protect them from the weather) so take a look around and impress your friends with your expertise.

However, if you want to know, the bark is dark grey and ridged, the shoots are alternate, and the fruits or seed heads are brown and papery; you're looking for the centre of the flower turned a papery brown. The fruits persist through the winter, but you can often spot fallen seeds or entire seed heads lying under the tree.

For me, though, with a Tulip Tree, it's all about the leaves and the sensational flowers. I read that in its native North America the flowers are a source of nectar for humming birds. That would be something to see. Obviously we have no humming birds in North London.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Exotic Packaging: Peruvian Connection Label

I bought a new skirt. It's the first printed garment I have bought for years and years. Almost all my clothes have no pattern at all, but I have a few with embroidery or interesting knitted/crocheted patterns. Then I saw this lovely skirt in the Peruvian Connection catalogue, very long with a nice yoke and pretty pleating at the front, and I thought why not?

And didn't it come with a beautiful label?

Friday, 10 October 2014

Remembering WWI: My Grandmother Winifred Quigley

Winifred Quigley married my Grandfather Goff in 1918. But during WWI she was a nurse.

I have two photographs one of which I think must have been kept because Granny is standing in the background. I'll call her Granny because she didn't like Winifred and my Great Grandfather Martin Quigley carelessly only gave her one name so she didn't have a second to fall back on. Martin must have been a busy man as by the time he got around to registering her birth he had forgotten when she was born.

Granny came from Sligo on the West coast of Ireland. I believe she trained as a nurse in London but she never talked about that, even as she never talked about her wartime experiences. The only thing she would say was she didn't get paid very much and she had to buy her own uniform. The stockings, it seems, were very expensive.

King George Hospital
I'm fairly certain that Granny is the nurse standing under the palm at the back; the nurse to the right. Because otherwise why would my grandparents keep the photograph? The photograph is firmly labelled 1914 but various websites assure me that the King George Hospital was in a commandeered warehouse in Stamford Street in London, and it did not accept its first patients until May 1915. 

I found an interesting blog about women who served as military nurses and one of the images of a ward in King George Hospital is very similar to this one. You can also see it is the same building as the windows are the same as those shown in a view of the front elevation. 
I'm guessing my photograph was not labelled until years later and it's easy to get dates wrong.

10 Stationary Hospital 1915
This hospital was opened in late 1914 in the building previously occupied by the School of St Joseph in St Omer. It's now the Lycée Alexandre Ribot. My Grandmother is not in this photograph; she's certainly not the stout one with glasses, and the one at the window has the wrong colour hair. 
So again I'm guessing that Granny must have nursed here.

This is Winfred Quigley.

And here are my Grandparents Tommy & Winifred.
The photograph is dated 1918 so perhaps this was taken to celebrate their engagement. 
The wedding was in Chelsea on 3 October 1918
My cousin Josephine always used to insist they met when Granny nursed Tommy during the war. 
My mother told me that in fact they bumped into each other turning a corner in London. 
They were married for 55 years and died on the same night, both in their late 80s.