Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Saturday, November 30

We all came back from our visit to the pub feeling quite jolly. Not because we’d over indulged, although Martin did have a second drink, but because there was a good selection of produce there and Robert Proud, our farm butcher, had come with cuts of beef. He is not demanding goods in return, but is taking note of what everyone has and says we will put it right when life gets back to normal. We all think it’s very decent of him and all agreed to honour what is owed.

No one took very much, as everyone worries about meat going off, but I came away with minced beef, several pounds of chuck and skirt and, as a real treat, some steaks. The vegetables were good too, with carrots, cabbages and potatoes available, so we shall do very well this week. I  exchanged my confit duck legs for two dozen eggs as my hens are doing so badly at present.

Yet in spite of the cheerful atmosphere and the plentiful supplies, there were frowns as well as smiles. We learnt that there had been a terrible fire in a house in the village. It seems the owner had tried to use paraffin in an old oil lam and it had exploded. The occupants escaped, but the house is burnt out. And Mick, our publican, said some of the younger residents are struggling to fend for themselves as they simply don’t have the know how. It really seems that the older villagers are managing very well, as long as they can get hold of supplies, because they were brought up to cook properly as well as make do and mend.

I overheard a few mutterings about scavengers too. I’m not sure if that means people local to the village or from outside, but I suppose it is inevitable.

When I was feeding the hens and collecting eggs ( 4 today)  I thought I heard rustling in the woods nearby, but I expect it was just a deer.

Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Friday, November 29

Martin shot half a dozen duck yesterday, which we’ve plucked and dressed today for today’s supper. They are much smaller than the commercial Aylesbury ducks and, as everyone knows, no duck has a lot of meat. However, it will make a welcome change so I’m planning to panfry the breasts, then confit the legs in the fat that frying releases. The birds are not as fat as I’m used to either, but I think if I render down the whole carcass after jointing them there will be enough fat to cook the legs this way, which has the advantage of ensuring that the meat will keep well for some time.

I think a couple of confit legs, set in their fat in jars, will be good for bartering at the pub tomorrow. It’s no good us going if all we achieve is more on the tab because Martin and Stephen can’t resist having a beer. We need more vegetables as we’ve eaten all our first crop of winter lettuce and soon there will be no wild greens to pick.

The girls helped pluck the birds. That is, Jane helped and Anna started but then said it made her feel ill. In fact I think she was actually went outside to be sick. It’s not a job everyone can do I suppose. So she ground some acorns instead as we have a constant need for the flour and we’ve become used to the background noise of the grinder going round and round.

We’ll have apple sauce with the duck and maybe some fried potatoes. The weather has become a little milder, though still very grey, but the hens did better for me and laid four eggs.

Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Thursday, November 28

I think Anna is missing her family. They are so far away, in Cornwall, and however much we tell her we’re sure they’ll be coping just as well as we are, I quite understand how worried she must be when she can’t speak to them. We’re all fretting about friends and family elsewhere, especially those who living in cities. After Tony’s recent account of the horrors in London, we dread to think what is happening elsewhere. In the country we have better resources and Anna’s father can get fish from the sea and there are nearby farms which are sure to still have meat and milk. I’m sure they will be managing.

Communication is also something we are all missing terribly. It’s not like being abroad on holiday, when it’s quite a relief to be far away from the daily blather of constant news. Lying in the sun or sightseeing, you know you can always ring family members or be contacted if there is a problem back home. Now, we can’t even get in touch with friends in the nearest town. In fact our main points of contact are now the pub and the church.

And it’s also very frustrating not being able to Google answers to questions, like the one that occurred to me this morning – how can we use our central heating oil? We had filled up the tank early in the autumn when the prices were low and here we are, in the freezing cold, not using a single drop. Martin thinks it might be possible to use it in one of the cars and I think we could use some for lighting the house and filling the two old paraffin heaters we have. They might make a bit of a smell, but it would be wonderful to have more heat. Martin’s going to see what Tony thinks, as he’s very practical and knows the answers to a lot of things.

I dug over the hen run today, hoping a diet of worms will help them lay more. Only two eggs.

Star Stone Trilogy Book One: Yii – Chapter Two: The Colonel, the Doctor and Rudyard Kipling meet Yii

Yii woke from his violent dream, sweating with fear and the effort of running for the steps, frustrated at not reaching them.  Disoriented at first, then gradually becoming aware of being trapped in the strange place and the events of yesterday – the tiger, the deafening noise, the white people with crowns, the amazing structures, the cage; wondering, as he still wondered, where he was, and what was happening. Was he in a heaven, or somewhere else?  He wasn’t afraid, but he was deeply puzzled.

And the stone.  He felt in his arm band, and again that extraordinary sense of something beyond him, utterly mysterious.

The tall white figure came by with several other people, including a female.  Yii thought she was very strangely dressed – a long white spreading skirt, a white top, and a very odd adornment on her head. If he weren’t in a heaven but somewhere else, he couldn’t imagine how she could tend a fire, cook food, make clothes from leather skins, or any of the other things the females did in his tribe. The others were mostly white figures like the first one, but not wearing their crowns.

They seemed to have come to look at Yii, who watched them talking to each other and pointing at him. Were they discussing his destiny?  Puzzled, he could understand nothing of what they said. He watched, part fearful, part puzzled and part curious.

 

*

 

 ‘Well Doctor, what do you think?’ The Colonel was saying, indicating the boy in the cage.  ‘Do you think he is a wolf boy?’

They were outside the cage in the grounds of the Colonel’s house, for that is where Yii had landed up, in a time many, many centuries removed from his own time.   In the 1880s India was part of theBritish Empire. The Colonel and his regiment were General Roberts’ support system for defence of the infamous North West frontier of India from attack by Afghanistan.  Out hunting he had been wearing his white uniform and on his head the traditional white toupee – which Yii had taken to be a crown.

 ‘I think he might be a wolf boy.  How did you find him?’ asked Dr Raybourne.

The Colonel explained how he had been out to shoot a tiger, a known man-eater which had been raiding the native villages, had already taken two women.  As they tracked it through the jungle, the beast suddenly appeared out of nowhere, and was just springing at its prey – this young boy. He had managed to shoot the tiger as it leapt at the boy, trapped in a curved rock face. 

‘He was crouching down with his hands over his ears. We noticed the bites on his arms, and he growled at one of the servants – quite ferociously; poor chap leapt a mile. So we concluded that he must be wolf boy.’

‘What about you, Kipling – you’ve travelled enough; do you think he’s a wolf boy, or just someone from a village somewhere?’

The Colonel had introduced Rudyard Kipling to the Doctor the previous evening:  ‘We were at the same school,’ he had said.

Kipling looked at the boy, intrigued. ‘Well, I’ve never seen anything quite like him, but I can’t pretend to know what he is. How do they become wolf boys, these fellows?’

‘No one really knows,’ said the doctor. ‘A baby may just crawl away from its hut and a wolf mother finds it – if the tiger hasn’t eaten it.- and takes it to her lair thinking it’s a cub, raising it with her own cubs. If they survive they find it really hard to be human again and learn human speech’

‘I’ll tell you what,’ said Kipling, ‘that’s given me a marvellous idea for a story, a simply wonderful idea: Jungle Book story about a wolf boy and his life with the wolf pack in the jungle. Lots of other animals can come into it, a bear, a black panther, a big snake, and the arch enemy will have to be the tiger.   I must start making notes at once. He’s a bit like a frog squatting down like that. I’ll call him Mowgli,the frog.’

 

Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Wednesday, November 27

Anna doesn’t seem very well. I hope it isn’t the food. I was a bit worried that our meal last night of steamed mutton pudding could be a little indigestible. All that suet and fatty meat was tasty and filling but I dread to think what it is doing to our bad cholesterol levels. Martin said bugger the cholesterol, when I mentioned this,. He said he’d gladly eat pure cholesterol if it keeps him warm and stops his stomach from grumbling. I don’t think there’s any danger of that happening, but I do hope this unbalanced diet doesn’t have long term consequences for all of us.

We are going to have mutton again tonight, but I’m going to cook it as a Lancashire hot pot with vegetables. I’ll slice the potatoes and put them on the top about half way through and though I know I won’t be able to brown them as I would if it were cooking in an oven, I think it will be quite satisfying and tasty.

Martin said the wild ducks have started coming to the pond and there may be more down by the river, so he is going to try and bag some soon. That will make a nice change and I’m keen to have them for their fat as well, as that would be very useful for cooking and for potting meat.

Four eggs today, two brown and two blue.