Sunday, November 05, 2006

Remember, Remember, the fifth of November

The gunpowder treason and plot.

I see no reason why gunpowder treason

should ever be forgot.

Guy Fawkes Guy, 'twas his intent

to blow up king and parliament

Three score barrels were laid below

to prove old England's overthrow.

By God's mercy he was catched

with a dark lantern and lighted match.

Holler boys, Holler boys, let the bells ring

Holler boys, Holler boys, God save the King!


Whilst waiting at Kings Cross Station for a train to Scotland, I decided to kill time in W.H. Smith's. There was one of those 3 for 2 offers on selected paperbacks, and I couldn't resist. I picked up
A Winter in Madrid by C. J. Sansom (never having heard of it), along with two
others, and I am so glad I did. By the time I'd read the first few pages I was deeply absorbed.

Set in Madrid during the late autumn and winter of 1940, when, in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, a post-Dunkirk Britain is desperately trying to keep Franco from joining Nazi Germany and the Axis nations. The three main protagonists are men who were all at the same English public school together several years previously. For different reasons of personal history they have all ended up in Spain and their lives become linked together again by a series of events.

Sansom has written a book which is a classic spy thriller with echos of Graham Greene and John le Carre, and also a poignant romantic tale of missed opportunities, and the compromises people make in emotional relationships. He manages to convey a terrific sense of place, the reader is IN Madrid, feels the cold, senses the tensions within the country and the raw wounds left bleeding after the civil war. All this is bound together with a very impressive dollop of history, which has whet my appetite for more reading about this period. Before reading A Winter in Madrid my knowlege of the Spanish Civil War, Anglo-Spanish relations during WW2 and the role of the Catholic Church in the Franco regime was scanty to non-existant.
This one of the best books I have read this year, and I recommend it highly.


Last week I had a young person appearing before me in court who was charged with “possession of an ADULT firework” – WTF?? Neither of my colleagues nor I had ever heard of such an offence.

After making some enquiries, and doing a little digging this is what I found out:

it is now illegal for any person under the age of 18 to have in their possession, any firework (apart from sparklers I think). They may not buy fireworks either, but that is a separate offence. So if you have a teenage daughter aged 17¾ (or any other kid of less than 18) who is going to a firework party at the neighbours’ house, do not ask them to carry the fireworks you are contributing to the event or they will be breaking the law and could be arrested, charged and brought to court. Give them the sausage rolls, and YOU carry the fireworks.

Bloody ridiculous don’t you think? I discovered that this is just one of the 3000 (yep – you heard it right – 3000) new criminal offences which have been created by the Labour government since it came into power in 1997.

Three thousand new criminal offences is virtually one for every day that Blair and his cronies have been in office. They are running wild with legislation, I think they need medical help. Here, for your delectation are a few of the other new offences:

It is now against the law to impersonate a Traffic Warden – why would you want to? They are amongst the most reviled people out on our streets, and most fancy dress parties stick to conventional themes like Vicars & Tarts, Traffic Wardens & Lollipop Ladies just doesn’t cut it when planning a fun evening, at least not in my book.

It is now illegal for anyone to buy or sell grey squirrels - like who does?

It is illegal to buy Brazil nuts from Iran, but buying pistachios from Iran is ok.

It is illegal to set off a nuclear explosion – bit of a no-brainer this; but if you did, we’d all be dead, probably including you, so who would know you were the guilty one and come and arrest you?

From 1925 to 1987 a period of some 60 years, there were 6 changes of the Criminal Justice Act. From 1997 to 2006, a mere 9 years, there have been 11 changes to the Criminal Justice Act. Magistrates, judges, clerks, solicitors, barristers, and probably Rumpole of the Bailey, are struggling to keep up with it all. I’m reminded of an old army saying “If it moves, salute it. If it remains motionless, paint it white.” Some how this government have got it into their stupid heads that if something happens, legislate against it, if something doesn’t happen, legislate to make it happen; and they apply that formula to absolutely everything – including grey squirrels, brazil nuts, traffic wardens and fireworks.

Just don’t blame me – I never voted for the buggers, and what is more I told you they would be like this.


This is my husband's favourite soup, and so it is one I make often during winter when parsnips are plentiful. It is so quick to make, just as quick as heating up some ready meal from a supermarket, and it costs next to nothing. You can vary the amount of curry powder you use depending on your taste. I like the soup to have a slight curry flavour, but not for the curry to overwhelm the slightly sweet taste of the parsnips.


1 kg parsnips, peeled and chopped into chunks
2 onions, roughly chopped
1 large potato, peeled and chopped into chunks

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
50g butter
2 heaped teaspoons curry powder
1.5 litres hot chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
200ml double cream (optional)

Melt the butter together with the oil in a large saucepan. Add the chopped onion and sauté gently until translucent. Add the curry powder to the onion and cook for a few moments, stirring all the time. Add the parsnip and the potato, stir well.
Add the hot stock, bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are very soft.
Whizz the soup to a smooth consistency using a hand-held blender, or use a liquidiser or mouli.
It should be really velvety. Season to taste.
To make it really luxurious stir in 200ml of double cream, mixing well.

Serve piping hot, garnished with finely chopped spring onion.


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