If there is no tradition, one like this would be nice

I read somewhere that the pistol taken from Saddam Hussein when he was captured was provided as a gift to the U.S. President.

I don’t know if that is true or if it isn’t.

But I do know that something resonated positively with me when I learned that something evil was transformed into something peaceful, in the fountains of Trafalgar Square in London,

which were made with the melted down cannons and armaments captured from Napoleon after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Is the umbrella sommellier in?

John Wick: “Is the sommellier in?

Receptionist: “I have never known him not to be.”

Like John Wick, I am a man of focus, commitment, and sheer will.  In the brilliant film John Wick 2, John consulted with the weapons sommellier while planning his party in Rome.

Similarly, I plan to return one day for a session with the sommellier of this place:

This is not one of the cheap stores in a cheap district that sells cheap Asian luggage. This is a 200-year-old upscale boutique in London that has walking sticks in glass cases that cost thousands of pounds (the walking sticks, not the cases), and umbrellas that cost much more.

The pubbing of London

I don’t know when it started.

I don’t know how it started.

But I do know that today London is covered with pubs that have very fancy exteriors.

I took this snap on my second visit to London:

But then I quickly realized that just about every pub had a pretty exterior, such as this one:

And this one:

At this point I stopped taking snaps of pubs. If they are all like this, I am sure there are coffee table books that can do a better job at capturing them than me!

That’s not gorse, you idiot, this is

I’ve written about trees in the heath and the Gorse of York.

But since my last blog just over 2000 readers have left comments that I made an egregious error!

I showed this picture and referred to it as gorse:

My dear readers, mea culpa. I did make a mistake ad attached the wrong picture!  You were right, that wasn’t gorse, it was heath.

This is the gorse:

Interestingly, there is some speculation that certain types of thorny bushes that grow in nutrient poor areas are in fact carnivorous: the thorns are not designed to retard animals but rather to capture them, so the remains of their dying carcasses can fertilize the ground.  Gorse seems not to be in that category, as the thorns tend to repel rather than hold trapped animals.  But an interesting theory nonetheless.

Sheep, heath, gorse, moors – and high-tech radar!

Recently a friend took me on a tour of Yorkshire, England, including the famous Yorkshire Moors.   But the most stunning part of the landscape was a huge radar installation, operated as part of a giant system deployed in the Cold War to protect the U.S. against nuclear missles:

At first, it was a bit difficult for me to understand why a radar installation in northern England would be much use to safeguard the U.S.  But when you look at how the different systems overlap, it becomes quite clear:


Fish, chips, and mushy peas

Even though I am an American, I’ve long known about fish and chips. In fact, I can still sing the Arthur Treater’s (“the original fish and chips”) jingle – and what you might not know is that Arthur Treater’s is an Ohio establishment, from just a few miles from where I grew up!

So when a good friend of mine invited me to try some real fish and chips and mushy peas – in the part of Northern England where it’s most famous, no less! – I immediately thought: Peas? Mushy peas?  What do peas have to do with fish and chips? And are English cooks so bad they can’t cook up nice, firm peas – do they have to be mushy?

Well, here is what one of the best fish and chips restaurants in the seaside Yorkshire town of Whitby:

And those green things: that’s the mushy peas.  I would have never believed it until I tried it, but mushy peas do go well with the fish. And of course the fish itself – I can tell you, this batter fried fish is in a completely different category than anything I’ve ever tasted.

Oh, and that plastic bowl in the middle contains little pieces of batter that have dripped off into the oil. Not shown is the mash vinegar that the English love to pour over their fish.

(Correction:  Above I stated “one of the best fish and chips restaurants” but I have since learned that this was Hadley’s, which has been rated THE BEST fish and chips restaurant!)

Where’s Mrs Hall?

I think the most amazing room in the Herriot Musuem is the kitchen, which guests are free to enter and examine. It is a 100% accurate reproduction of how the kitchen would have looked in the 1930’s.

Some items are instantly recognizable: such as a bag of flour or a tin of salt.  Some items take on a new light when you see their intended purpose: such as a cabinet that today would hold decorative plates, but back in the day displayed mason jars of canned food. And some items were a real mystery (and still are): the clothes drying rack positioned above the wood oven is a wonderful idea – but was it only used for drying clothes, or also for adding a bit of humidity to the room?

To quench one’s Thirsk

The famous fictional books All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriot and set in the Yorkshire village of Darroughby were actually written by Alfred Wight and were based on his veternary practice in Thirsk, Yorkshire. Thanks to a good friend I got a wonderful chance to see this town.

This is a historical picture of Thirsk, what James Herriot before WWII would have seen:

And this is Thirsk today:

So you can see, it hasn’t changed much.  Interestingly, Dr. Wight wasn’t intentionally trying to trick anyone. There were very strict laws in England at the time that prevented doctors and veterinarians from advertising, so it was necessary for him to change the names and places.

PS. What I find fascinating is the color variation you can see on the lower photograph, which approximately follows the original road shown in the top drawing.  Are we seeing visible signs of the archeology?  Only one way to find out: dig a test trench!