Stirring Up Mud


These people were a feature of my listening about the time I went off to university, following hard on the heels of John Mayall’s Hard Road album  and the Crusade, once Peter Green had sought something beyond Mayall and Mick Taylor had stepped in. I watched a fine documentary on early Fleetwood Mac on Youtube this evening (started last evening, but things keep coming up), and it was stimulating to revisit this from another perspective, both in terms of the time of my life and seeing things through another’s eye.



Of course, all the connections with people would come back, floods of those feelings about the boardinghouse where I lived, the beginning of classes, the weather, the food, and the feeling of connection with bluesy music. It’s amazing what’s hiding in the old mental storehouse and how little it takes to evoke floods of images, tastes, smells, tactile sensations and emotions.

In Praise of..

…the old, the full-sized, the connected.



I pulled all the quinces off our tree this morning. We tried through several nurseries over several years to find a full-sized quince without any luck. Finally, we found one in a nursery on our way out to Vesuvius to get a ferry home from a visit to my mother who was recuperating at the time from a fall that had severely curtailed her mobility. The quince in question was a pretty sad specimen, and the nurserywoman refused to sell it to us, but asked if we knew anyone who had a named variety, a situation that would allow us to take cuttings to start. So back we went to my mother’s place and snipped a dozen cuttings from her quince, wrapped them in moistened paper towel and went for the ferry. That was ten years ago, and the tree isn’t forty feet tall because we keep it pruned pretty strictly lest it become impossible to pick. Starting the third year, it gave us a couple of dozen quinces, increasing quickly to a hundred or so, and this morning I picked a full wheelbarrow full of fuzzy yellow fruit that are sized somewhere between a baseball and a softball and hard as rocks. A couple that were split I winnowed out, trimmed up and made into quince paste this morning.


Few people seem to be familiar with the fruits and it unlikely that they would appear in a market. We like to rub the fuzz off them, quarter them and roast them in the pan with pork or chicken and quartered onions. They are really tart, but a nice foil for the onions and the meat. We have also juiced them and made quince jelly: they are loaded with pectin and will jell easily, producing the loveliest pink transparent jelly that goes as well with yogurt as it does with toast. The leavings from the juice get put through a Victoria Strainer and sweetened to make something like applesauce. If you have a food dehydrator, it also makes delicious fruit leather, or it could be made into something like turkish delight, or quince newtons or who knows what else.


My mother is no longer with us, so the tree is something of a living memorial in the yard, along with the bay laurel that we got as a wedding present from Dad’s father, via her and Dad (been in the back yard for 32 years as of Thursday). I like carrying all this lore around with me as I reach deeper and deeper into old age, and the bay leaves and quinces liven the culinary happenings in a way that stirs up lots of fond memories without venturing into maudlin nostalgia. The lore makes for a nice counterpoint to all the fury out there.

None Of The Above



Above is a bit of a rogue’s gallery of major players, at those front and centre, in the disputes taking place in the Ukraine, which came to mind because of this piece on The Real News Network. Of course, some of the same players would be in an analogous gallery relating to Syria and the Iraq redux (re-redux? re-re-redux?), or Libya, Egypt, take your pick, as there seems to be no end of selection for trouble in the current state of statesmanship. Our little graphic is also missing the IMF and World Bank, but their faces coincide with this lot, except Putin, perhaps, and perhaps only in this instance. The lead-in to the piece in question reads:

Political economist Aleksandr Buzgalin says the Russian state is pursuing geopolitical interests in Syria and Ukraine for its elite – to the detriment of ordinary citizens.

The implication is that ordinary Russians are taking a beating over Ukraine and its discontents, a likely scenario, and one would have to think that perhaps Petroshenko represents the same routine when it comes to the general populace of the Ukraine. A lot of this came to mind while reading the current post on Northern Reflections in which Owen muses on the foolishness of Stephen Harper’s adventures in trying to emulate Winston Churchill’s war prime minister persona. I left the following comment:


This is all pretty Alice in Wonderland stuff, though actually, it reeks of people who used Catch-22 as a user’s manual. It also reminds me of reading Barbara Tuchman’s March of Folly and finally discerning that the case studies, while about nations acting contrary to their national interests, were actually cases of nations working for the narrow self-interest of the forces behind the governments in question.

This surely describes the great preponderance of world leaders, people who consistently lead away from any manner of society that would smooth our the edges of conflict, provide a decent living for all citizens and encourage broad participation in the moulding of public policy. Our parliament is right in the middle of a debate on the current mission proposal, a debate mooted before its start by the very fact of a Con majority, and by the tepid nature of the opposition. The Libs want a humanitarian mission, and while the NDP makes noises about diplomacy in this case, they fall flat on a laundry list of environmental and some social issues. Elizabeth May, the only elected Green (Hayer being a refugee from the NDP), often makes complete sense, but the party itself often goes wide of the mark on social and economic issues. In effect, none of the choices in Canadian politics will be able to get us to a nation that will be preparing actively for the survival of humanity a century from now. The same situation exists at the provincial level and in a lot of municipal governance. It is encouraging to see, in our little neck of the woods, the emergence of a broad spectrum of candidates for city council and mayor’s chair, some of whom stand steadfastly for the status quo (though they may not entirely own up to it), some of whom are feeling their way toward a new path, and a few who already understand the engagement necessary to move our community toward being a vibrant and inclusive place to live.